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One Tin Soldier


Part Nine

Xander winced at the censure in the older man's voice. "Sorry about that, Giles. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I'd lost my job, again, Anya went on an Oprah rant and dumped me, and you guys didn't need me anymore. You hadn't needed me in a long time." Xander shrugged. "After all that, I got back to my lovely basement apartment to find Spike watching TV. One of those ads came on, you remember them don't you? Be all that you can be? Spike made a snide comment and I figured, 'What the Hell?'. I went to the recruiter's office and signed up."

Giles shook his head, "I knew he had something to do with you leaving like that."

Xander shook his head. "Don't blame him, Giles. Joining up was the best thing I could have done. Let's face it, I was going nowhere, fast. When I got to boot camp, well, everything just clicked." Xander grinned at his old friend. "You should be proud of me, Giles. I graduated from boot with honors, and then I got fast tracked straight into the squad as a Second Lieutenant."

"What exactly is 'fast tracked', Xander? Does it have something to do with you becoming an officer?" Giles asked curiously.

Xander propped his feet up on a chair and grinned. "I got jammed into a lot of extra classes, earned a degree in Military History, got a waiver and that was it. I've been with the squad ever since."

"Xander, what did you mean when you said Willow knew where you were all along? She never mentioned anything to me or the others."

Xander's face went cold, "Like I said, Giles, the Army keeps records. Willow hacked into the database the first time a couple of weeks before I graduated from boot."


September 2, 2001

Xander stood at attention in the center of the room, his eyes locked on a spot on the wall. The officer behind the desk completely ignored him for over an hour then suddenly started asking questions. "PFC. Harris, is there something that you'd like to tell us?"

"Sir, no Sir!"

The officer opened a file on his desk and picked up the report inside. "This is the background investigation for your security clearance, Harris. It's my job to either approve or deny this request for clearance. If the request is denied, many of the educational fields in the Army will be closed to you." The officer put the report down and started tapping his pen on the desk, "Are you sure there isn't anything you'd like to tell me, Harris?"

Xander's mind was racing, wondering just what was in that report, but when all else fails, punt. "Sir, no Sir!"

"Do you know a Willow Rosenberg, Harris?"

"Sir, yes Sir! Since we were kids, Sir!"

"Then maybe you'd like to tell me why Ms. Rosenberg would be hacking into the United States Army personnel database, Harris!" The officer shouted, coming to his feet.

Xander winced slightly, "Sir, I don't know, Sir!"

The security officer sat back down and stared at Xander silently for a moment before continuing, "At ease, Harris. Have a seat."


"He kept me in there for hours, Giles. Hell, they even gave me a lie detector test to make sure I wasn't helping Willow hack into the base computer system. They finally decided that Willow was just checking up on me and hadn't actually taken any secured files. They warned me then that they would be keeping an eye on her. About six years ago, she got a lot better at hacking and they never caught her again."

"You said something about Willow not calling when you needed her, will you tell me what happened?" Giles asked quietly.

Xander started to change the subject, but the concern in Giles' eyes convinced him to tell the truth.

"When I started with the squad, I had a mentor, another officer to help me out since I didn't go through OCS. His name was Christopher Baines. We went to Sierra Leone together, spent four months there chasing down rebel cells. Me and Chris used to do sweeps together, sometimes we wouldn't see the rest of the squad for days on end. It got to the point where we spent all our time together, we even shared quarters."

Xander was quiet for a couple of minutes, lost in his own memories, then he shook his head and continued. "I don't know how it happened, or even when it started, but we became lovers. The Major knew about us, but it didn't really matter to him. We had a job to do, and we were the best. Then about eight years ago we went on leave together. Just the two of us. No phones, no beepers and no demons for miles around."

Xander laughed bitterly, "For four years we'd been shot at, blown up, fought some of the biggest, nastiest demons around, and a bunch of rednecks killed him. They didn't appreciate 'faggots' contaminating their air. One of them bashed me over the head and knocked me out. I woke up a couple of hours later, Chris was dead. They beat him to death. I wasn't in the greatest shape, couldn't walk and my jaw was busted in a couple of places. Some tourists found us the next day."

Giles stuttered incoherently for a moment before he could actually speak. "Xander, I, I had no idea. Of course I heard about the incident, but names were never mentioned."

Xander shrugged, "The Army didn't want anymore trouble."

"And you're telling me that Willow knew all about this, knew that it was you, and didn't call." Giles said incredulously.

"Yeah, that was the last time she got caught in an active hack. Marshall didn't have her arrested because he was hoping that she would come see me in the hospital. Then when she didn't show...I told him it didn't matter anymore so he dropped it as a favor to me."

Xander looked at his watch, he and Giles had been talking for over an hour. "I've got to go check on the programmer that's trying to fix Spike's chip. I'll tell the MP's that you can stay here for now. I'll have Jamison arrange for some better quarters for you." Xander stopped at the door and turned to look at Giles once again. "I'm trusting you to stay out of trouble, Giles, please don't make me regret it."

Giles hung his head, wishing for once that his memory weren't quite so good. He recalled the reports in the papers and on the television. The officer who had been killed, had died from having his skull crushed. The other injuries he had sustained were too numerous to mention.

The man Giles now knew to be Xander had survived only by the grace of God. The reporters took a gruesome delight in giving all of the gory details. Internal injuries, broken bones and a concussion so severe that the doctors had to operate to release the pressure on Xander's brain. It had taken weeks for him to come out of the coma.

Giles shoved away from the table and opened the door to find two MPs standing in the hall. "Has Ms. Rosenberg been removed yet?" he asked in a deadly voice.

"No, sir. She's still in holding waiting for transport."

"I'd like to see her if I may."

The two men shared a look, the Major hadn't said anything about keeping Mr. Giles away from the prisoners..."Yes, sir. Follow us please."

Giles entered the cell and marched to where Willow sat on the edge of her cot. He looked down at the woman he'd come to trust and respect and felt nothing but disgust. "You knew." He said quietly. "All these years, and you knew. Xander almost died and you knew!"

Willow flinched with every harsh word that came out of Giles' mouth. He leaned down until he was only inches from her face. "You sicken me. Your friend lay in hospital for weeks and you didn't even bother to call. Of course you didn't need to, did you? You hacked into their computer files and read every minute detail of his injuries. His lover had been murdered and Xander himself almost died, but you didn't even send flowers. Why didn't you tell me it was Xander?" Giles saw Willow's eyes dart over to where Buffy sat against the wall and Giles realized the scope of their betrayal.

"I'm going to help Xander in any way that I can." Giles said to Buffy, not the least bit surprised when she glared at him, but her reaction did help him come to a difficult decision. Turning back to the MPs he said, "I need to speak to Xander, I'm sorry, I mean Major Harris, if possible."

"Yes, sir. Follow us please."

Giles turned back to Willow one last time, "I still don't know exactly what you did that resulted in Sgt. Montoya's death, but I sincerely hope that the punishment fits the crime."

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