Year Zero

City by the Bay

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me.

Summary: Xander's search for his former life yields new friends, and new foes.

Warning: Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.) This Story contains implied acts of rape and other adult content. Absolutely NO graphical descriptions, but the implications are there. Readers beware.

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.

San Francisco

"Bring them here!"

A few moments later there was a scuffling sound as the tall Asian man's order was obeyed. Four people, also Asians, were dragged out into the bare room, a ring of guards around them. An older man and woman, perhaps in their forties. A young boy, who looked to be perhaps eight, and a girl who was in her mid to late teens.

The man who was in charge glared at the elder male prisoner. "You will do what I demand!"

The man shook his head, "Never!"

One of the goons snapped out with a back hand that dropped the man to his knees. Two others quickly hauled him back up. Blood streamed down his face as he once again shook his head. "I Will NOT!"

The man in charge sighed and pinched his nose. "Osiro... You force me to be uncivilized... Please, just do as I ask."

The man swallowed, but shook his head. "I... I cannot."

The man drew a gleaming pistol and casually pointed it at the man. "One last chance."

The man was sweating, staring at the big bore of the pistol that was only inches form his face. "Please...."

"Do what I say!" The tall man snapped out.

"I can't!" Osiro snapped in panic.

The tall man suddenly shifted his aim and pulled the trigger.

There was a cry of shock and pain, and the woman beside Osiro staggered in shock, then fell to the ground.

"KAMI!" The man screamed in pain as he looked down at the dead eyes of his wife. Tears ran down his cheeks as he surged up in rage and attacked his captors.

Taken by surprise the lost their grip as the enraged man flattened three of the burly bodyguards in seconds. As he stood there, blood raging in his eyes, he turned and screamed at his daughter in Japanese. *Run! Take your brother and run!*

The girl, though shaken, obeyed without question. She grabbed her brothers shoulder and literally dragged him as fast as she could toward the door, his young eyes never leaving the still form of his mother until the door blocked the macabre sight from him.

Xander downshifted as the old Manor house came into sight. He heart was pounding, the way it did whenever he came close enough to touch a piece of his past. Or future. Or whatever.

Xander pulled the bike up to the curb and kicked the stand down. He had a headache.

He casually flipped off the helmet and stared moodily at the Manor house, waiting. Waiting for what he wasn't sure, some sign perhaps, maybe something else. He sighed after a couple moments and shook his head, and fingered the Celtic Cross Andy had given him.

"That's a good choice for you, very appropriate."

Xander jumped, almost knocking the bike over. He spun around to see a familiar form in a custom black suit walk out of the shadows. As he caught he breath he tossed a sarcastic look at the figure, "What? No bonfire handy tonight?"

Le Metatron shrugged. "I don't always go for the theatrics."

"Couldn't prove that by me." Xander muttered, "What are you talking about?"

"The cross, it's very fitting."

Xander glanced down at the Celtic Cross. "Huh?"

"That particular design actually," Metatron said quietly as he reached out and lifted the cross lightly from Xander's hand.

"What about it?"

"Not only is it a symbol of faith in God..." Metatron smirked at Xander as he reached the word 'faith', "But this design is also a powerful symbol of the old worshipers of the Sun."

Xander looked at the cross, "I didn't know."

Metatron shrugged and passed his hand of the cross for a moment before handing it back, "A fitting symbol for a vampire hunter... don't you think?"

"Yeah..." Xander said as he accepted the cross. "Now... Why are you here?"

"You." Metatron said simply, "You shouldn't be here."

"Why?" Xander asked bitterly, "This a part is Wisconsin now?"

"No. But you have to know that the destiny of the Charmed One's is not something to be trifled with."

Xander sighed. "I know... but..."

"It bloody well hurts." Metatron said as he leaned on a lamp post. "I know. Believe me, I know."

"I just can't start living my life like my future is fixed..." Xander said quietly as he slumped on the black motorcycle.

Metatron nodded, but spoke quietly. "Your future isn't fixed... but some things are best not to trifle with."

Xander grunted slightly.

"What were you planning? Go in, tell the girls that they're witches?"

"I don't know... No... I don't think so. I... maybe just introduce myself... try to be friends..."

"You're a little young for Phoebe right now." Metatron smirked at him.

Xander stared at the manor house and nodded, "I suppose your right."

Metatron sighed, "You're going to have several very hard years... Be friends with them if you must... but don't interfere with their destiny..."

Xander sighed and nodded. "I'll... be careful."

"Good." Le Metatron smiled, "Still... since you're here, you might be able to do some good after all."


Metatron nodded at another figure who was staring at the Halliwell Manor. "She could use some help herself."

Xander looked over at the lone figure who was staring sadly at the old manor house. She had a familiar look to her, but Xander couldn't quite place it. He watched as she turned and began to walk away, her every motion screaming with a sorrow that dug into his soul.

Xander hit the starter on his bike and drove off in pursuit.

"We have a situation in San Francisco."

"What kind of... situation?" The man asked of the voice over the phone.

"A man with extensive knowledge of a top secret bio warfare project was been kidnapped... The evidence we've managed to dig up implicates the Yakuza crime syndicate."

"What do they want with this project?"

"We're not sure. I'm still working my way through the red tape to find out what the project was. All I know is that it gave a dozen people on the hill minor coronaries when they heard this man went missing."

The big man sighed, "I'll start packing."

"Thanks Striker."

Naomi Osaka ran as hard as she could, trying to get away from the horror she had just seen. Her little brother was little more then dead weight as she dragged him through the alley. His heels scraped small tracks in the dirt and grim that coated the ground, but she still ran.

Behind her she could hear the beginning of pursuit as yells and a clattering chased her up the alley.

She didn't look back, she just ran as fast as she could. Until she ran straight into a chain link fence.

"No!" She screamed, trying to claw her way up the fence while dragging the nearly catatonic form of her little brother.

Strong, cruel, arms dragged her down an instant later. In moments her own feet joined those of her brothers as they dug little furrows in the grim of the alley.

"Naomi!" Osiro Osaka whispered in dread through the sheen in his eyes as he saw his son and daughter being dragged back into the room.

"Father!" Naomi cried out in shock as she looked at the pulp that was left of her father's face. She rushed to him, falling to her knees as he caught her in his arms. "I'm sorry, father... I couldn't get away."

"It's alright... It's alright. I know you tried." Her father whispered to her through his own pain.

The tall man allowed the moment to last a few seconds more before he waved his hand. "Take her away."


Both father and daughter screamed as she was dragged out of the room. The tall man walked over to Osiro and kneeled down beside him. "Do as I ask."

The man slumped, his breath coming in short and ragged puffs. "Don't hurt my daughter."

"I promise nothing." The man spat. "Do as I ask, and then we shall see to your children."

Osiro swallowed, tasting as much blood as saliva in his mouth, but finally nodded. "I'll do it."

"NO!" Naomi screamed as she was dragged into a small room and forced down onto a small cot. Her arms and legs were quickly tied to the frame and a leering man leered down at her as she screamed and struggled.

"This will shut you up." He said, pulling out a needle that was filled with a murky brown fluid. He flicked the hypodermic a couple times and squirted out the tiniest amount of fluid, checking for air bubbles.

Then, as she screamed and fought he lowered the needle to the crook of her arm and pressed the plunger home.

A few seconds later the screams and struggles died down, and other noises began.

The man called Striker quickly packed up his gear. He slipped the Berretta 93R into his shoulder leather, added three clips for it to the other side to balance the load, then snapped it all down. Next he fitted the big Desert Eagle Forty Four into the hip holster, then wrapping it all up and dropping it into a black duffel bag.

Ammunition for both weapons was next, and quickly joined the Desert Eagle in the duffel bag.

He walked outside and got into the big RV he had recently purchased from his war chest, stowing the duffel bag under the drivers seat. For a brief tour he checked the weapons store3d in the RV and looked over the electronics systems that Gadgets had upgraded the vehicle with.

A cool smile touched the lips of the big man as he started the big RV and listened to the engine purr.

The Yakuxa didn't know it yet, but they had called a blitz down on the city by the bay.

A Bolan Blitz.

Xander drove the bike slowly alongside the woman, glancing over at her. "You want a ride?"

She looked over at him, sneering at him. "I don't think so."

Xander shook his head, accelerated just ahead of her, and pulled to the side and stopping the bike. She walked up to him and started to pass right by.

"So..." Xander drawled, unsnapping his helmet, "Why were you spying on the Halliwells?"

That stopped her in her tracks. "I was not spying!"

"Looked that way to me."

She stopped and glared at him, her eyes narrowing. "What were you doing?"

"Spying on the Halliwells." Xander answered truthfully. "But I'm kind of a family friend. What's you excuse?"

"I'm..." She paused, and went silent for a moment. "What do you mean, kind of a family friend?"

Xander shrugged, "It's a long story... many things not meant for tender ears."

She smirked at him. "Whatever."

"So, not going to tell me, huh?" Xander said, "Well... How about your name? That won't hurt will it?"

"Why should I tell you anything?" She demanded.

"No reason," Xander shrugged, "But I tell you what... How about we play twenty questions over coffee?"

"Why should I?" She repeated.

"Cause I'll play too." Xander grinned.

"Why should I care what you know?"

Xander looked in her eyes, trying to decide how to answer. Surprisingly he noticed that he found himself liking this woman, of course she did have good references, he smirked. "Cause I bet I know more about the Halliwells then you do?"

She paused and nodded. "You got a deal."

Bolan drove through the streets of San Francisco, moving with the traffic toward his first target. His sources told him that the Yakuza had a high scale brothel operating in the area of town he was heading for. True to the reputation of the town, deserved or not, the place catered to every taste and every kink.

He found the address easily and pulled the big RV into a parking space and shut the engine down. He sat back in the big captains seat and flicked on the RV's portable surveillance unit to work.

Outside, the RV extended a small antenna system. And inside a small screen came to life. The Soldier fine tuned the system and waited. It didn't take long.

Inside the brothel a cell phone rang.

Within twenty seconds his scanner locked onto the frequency and Bolan sat back and turned up the volume on the radio.


"It's me."

"Is it done?"

"Of course."

"Come to the bath house. Bring the sample."

"I'll be there in thirty minutes."

"So, what rules do you want to play by?" Xander grinned at the girl across the table.

She smirked back at him, "Twenty question. Take turns, fair enough?"

"Any refusals allowed?" Xander smiled as he took a sip of his coffee.

She shrugged, "Refuse and the other person gets an extra question."

"Sounds interesting." Xander smiled cockily. "I'll even let you go first."

"What's your name?" She asked.

"Alexander Harris, call me Xander." Xander replied, "Yours?"

"Paige Mathews. Why were you watching the Halliwells?"

"Checking in on some people I care for very much." Xander replied. "You?"

She paused. "I don't think I..."

"You sure you want to refuse?" Xander looked her in the eyes, his face serious. "I'm not looking to hurt you..."

She looked away for a second. "They're family."

That threw Xander. "What?"

"My turn." She said, "Why didn't you go in?"

Xander smiled, "Ah the tough ones. They don't know me, even though I know them."

"How do you explain that?"

"Ah ah," Xander said softly, "My turn. What did you mean, Family?"

"They're... I'm... I'm..." Paige looked away again.

"Refuse?" Xander asked.

"Looks, this isn't easy for me... I... I don't tell people this." Paige said defensively.

"Ok," Xander said, "New question... Why not?"


"Why don't you tell people?"

"I... I just..."


"What!? No!" She said defensively.

"Good." Xander said, "I like people who are proud of who they are. Your question."

She blinked. She hadn't expected him to let her off so easily, "Uh.... I... How come the don't know you?"

Xander shrugged, "Long story. But simply put? They've never met me, they don't know me, they probably aren't ready to know I exist. But I know them, and I'll be there for them when the time comes."

"Sounds nice." She said, "But it doesn't answer the question."

He smiled, sadly. "You aren't ready for the answer."

"I see." She nodded skeptically. "Will I ever be?"

Xander shrugged, "I'd say that depends on you."

"This is a dumb game." Paige said after a length of silence.

Xander shrugged and grinned, "But it got me a coffee date with a pretty lady."

She let out a breath of mild annoyance, but smiled and blushed slightly. "So game over. Tell me what it is you do, besides spying on my... family."

Xander shrugged, "I'm between occupations right now. You?"

"I'm in school..." She said in a matter of fact tone, "I'm going to study Social working when I go to college."

Xander nodded. "Interesting."

"Don't you have plans for the future?"

Xander laughed, then tried to apologize as she looked insulted. "I'm sorry... it wasn't anything to do with you. The future is a touchy subject for me."


"That's another question that..."

"I'm not ready to hear." Paige finished for him. "Gee, why does this sound familiar?"

Xander shrugged and smiled. "Easier questions then, would you like to go to a movie tonight?"

Paige blinked.

Xander waited patiently, smiling slightly as he waited for her response.

"Look..." She finally said, "I'm sorry, but I have a boyfriend... sort of..."

He raised his eyebrows, "Sort of?"

"Yeah... well, its complicated."

Xander shrugged, "It usually is. But I don't think I ever knew someone who had a 'sort of' boyfriend before. Does he clock in by the hour, or is a time sharing thing?"

"It's not like that!" She protested, her voice pitching upwards. "It's just... well... I don't know exactly."

Xander shook his head, "Alright. How about I give you a lift home and w call it a night... but I wouldn't mind permission to call you sometime."

She closed her eyes and smiled. "That's fine."

"Good. We'll go when we finish our coffee."

The black luxury sedan pulled up in front of the Brothel exactly thirty minutes later, disgorging four figures that Bolan pegged instantly as hard guys. Italian, Russian, Mexican, or Japanese Bolan knew that look a mile and a half away.

It was still full daylight outside so he wasn't dressed in his blacksuit, opting instead for a casual business suit that wouldn't impair his movement. The 93R was a comfortable weight under his arm and the Desert Eagle was riding high on his hip, hidden by the tailored jacket he wore.

Bolan calmly got out of the RV and walked straight into the brothel, acting like he belonged there.

The lead man of the four who had just arrived didn't speak as he walked in, but he was instantly recognized as he walked into the brothel. The headman was instantly at his side, bowing obsequiously and motioning him to a set of stairs at the back of the room.

The four nodded and followed the headman up the stairs, not noticing the door open behind them and another man walk in.

"May I help you sir?" An attendant rushed forward to greet Bolan as he walked in, "We have many services to offer."

"No thanks." Bolan brushed past him, his eyes focusing on the staircase and the people who vanished up it.

"Sir, you can not go there... off limits, yes?" The man chased after him, trying to steer him to another area.

"Off limits, no." Bolan growled, snapping open his briefcase and palming a smooth cylinder from inside. "Fire in the hole!"

Bolan chucked the grenade underhand as he continued toward the stairs. The sudden rush and commotion was enough to allow him unmolested passage. Behind him he heard a light pop and a sudden hiss as the smoke grenade went off and began to flood the downstairs area with thick white smoke.

He ignored it and strode up the stairs.

The Ninja rumbled to a stop and Xander held it steady as Paige climbed off and handed him his helmet back. "This where you live?"

She nodded, "Yeah... I live in the dorms."

"Must be fun." he smiled.

"It can be a drag sometimes."

"Everything can be a drag sometimes." Xander responded with a smile, "So... you gonna give me that phone number?"

She smirked at him, "I don't know... you have a pen?"

"No, but I have a damn good memory." Xander grinned.

She rolled her eyes but rattled off a number, which he repeated to her satisfaction. "You really think you'll remember that."

He grinned at her, his eyes dancing with humor. "If I don't I may just have to shoot myself."

She rolled her own eyes again and gave him a light shove before walking away. Xander watched her go, still grinning. <Score! Got close enough for her to start the physical abuse. Damn I'm good.>

"You have it?" The man asked sternly.

The lead man nodded, his face solemn.

"Good... show me. Show me." he ordered.

The man stepped forward and lifted the briefcase up when they all heard a commotion from below.

"What's that?"

"Check it out!" The lad man snapped to his men.

The three of them nodded, turned on their heels, and rushed out the door.

The 93R had cleared leather before Bolan hit the top of the stairs and it led the way as he started down the hall.

Ahead of him a large set of double doors burst open and Bolan paused just long enough to identify the men from the car before his finger caressed the trigger of the Italian machine pistol.

Three 9mm tumblers ripped into the first man, stitching him from stomach to throat, and sent him falling back into his comrades. Before they could recover Bolan had closed more then half the distance and loosed another trio of 9mm death that dropped the second hard man into a crumpled heap.

Bolan barreled in, the Berretta spitting fire as the third man tried vainly to draw his piece. He stepped over all three as he walked into the room, his icy blue eyes glaring at the two people still standing.

Tall Man from the car was standing impassively, and Bolan could see that he wanted to go for his gun. Bolan waved the Berretta slightly, "Don't even think of it, Yoshi."

The man's eyes blazed but he didn't move.

The man behind him, though, was another story.

"What is the meaning of this! Do you know who I am? You'll be dead before nightfall!"

"Heard it all before," The big man grunted, and reached for the briefcase. "I'll take that."

He took the case and stepped back, looking around the room. "One chance to walk away from this. Where is Osiro Osaka and his family."

The man looked left and right, appearing genuinely confused. "Who? I don't know what you're talking about."

Tall Man though reacted slightly. It wasn't much, just a shift in his eyes, but it was enough for Bolan. "Your pal here knows the score. So he's going to talk, or I'm going to send you both to whatever afterlife you believe in."

"I will say nothing." Tall Man spoke stiffly.

Bolan shrugged and fired a round into the man's leg. As he went down, gritting his teeth agains the pain, Bolan stepped closer. "I don't have time to play games. I want the Osaka family, I want them alive, and I want them NOW."

"Shoot me now." The man said through gritted teeth, "I will not tell you anything."

Bolan walked across the room to him, reached out and grabbed his shirt, and ripped it away. As the man's chest was revealed Bolan cursed.

The man's entire torso was tattooed with dragons, samurai, and symbols of the warrior spirit. Bolan shook his head, knowing that while he could probably get what he wanted out of the man it would take to long. He straightened and looked at the older man.

The man cringed away from him, "I don't know anything!"

"I believe you..." Bolan said coldly, advancing on him with the Berretta held high. "when you say that you don't know about the Osaka's... but I think you might know something of use to me."

"What? What could I possibly know?"

"I want a list of all the Yakuza safe houses, businesses, warehouses, and everything else in San Francisco."

The man shook his head, "I do not know them all, there are too many."

Bolan shrugged, "I don't mean all the ones you have in your pocket. I mean the ones that you actually OWN. I want to know where this piece of slime..."

Bolan gestured to the man on the ground, "Would stash a family if he needed one of them to do some work..."

"Tell him nothing!" The man groaned form the ground.

Bolan kicked out and clipped him on the jaw, knocking the man for a loop and sending him sprawling. Then he turned back. "Talk."

The man nervously wiped the sweat from his face and nodded. "Alright... alright... I'll give you what I can."

Joseph Osaka huddled in a corner as he heard another scream echo through the dark building. He was shiver, not from the cold though it was damp and chilly, but from fear and a deep down anger directed at himself.

It didn't matter that he was only eight years old, it didn't matter that he wasn't strong enough, he should have been able to protect his sister. Or at least he shouldn't have slowed her down. But he did and it was his fault that they had been caught. He rocked and shivered until he heard the bolt to his door slide open with a clang.

A large man walked in, glaring down at him. "Come with me."

He scrambled back as the man reached down but couldn't get out of the way fast enough and the man's big beefy hand locked down on his arm. Joseph cried out as he was dragged out of the cell and down the hall. As he passed on door he heard another scream that sent a thrill of panic through his gut, causing him to struggle even more.

"Behave!" The man snapped, cuffing him stiffly and dragging him away from the screaming voice he recognized as his sister's.

As they reached the end of the hall the big man stopped and fiddled with a key. Joseph took his chance without thinking. He clamped down on the man's arm with his teething, tasting blood as the big man screamed out in pain.

When the man's grip went slack Joseph bolted. He ran straight down the hall as fast as he could, scrambling blindly as he tried to find his way through the maze of hallways. He turned left, then right, then left again, until ahead of him he saw something that gave him hope.

A red sign all lit up that read, exit.

Xander was whistling under his helmet as he drove through the seediest part of town. He had a few grand in the bank now, but he figures he shouldn't be wasting it on hotels so he was looking for the cheap places again.

A young boy suddenly burst out of nowhere and crossed the street as Xander was heading right for him. Xander hit the brakes, feeling the bike start to snake a little as the rear tires bite into the asphalt and the bike started to slow.

The twin headlights of the big Ninja seemed to strike the boy like a paralyzing beam and he just froze in the middle of the street as Xander struggled to keep the bike from laying down and wiping both him and the kid across the road.

Xander's hands were clenched on the brakes, his knuckles white with tension as the tendons stood out along his hands and wrists. The bike skidded to a stop just inches from the cowering boy.

"Shit! Kid, what the fuck are you doing!?" Xander screamed as the adrenaline and blood poured through his system.

The boy feel back on his ass, unable to speak as he seemed utterly panicked.

Xander immediately felt like a heel. "Jesus, Kid... Are you ok? Come on... let me know you're ok... Shit..."

The kids eyes flicked sideways and he suddenly squeaked in terror and started to scrambled backwards. Xander followed his eyes and was surprised to see a burly Asian man in suit come rushing his direction.

"What the fuck is going on?" Xander muttered as he looked back to the boy. Whatever it was, the kid was absolutely terrified of the man who was approaching.

"Get out of my way." The man said as he lumbered up to Xander.

Xander shook his head and stepped between the man and the child, refusing to move. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see people suddenly turning around or finding something in another area to be of the utmost interest.

<Shit. What the fuck is this?> he thought, but out loud he spoke firmly, "I don't know who you are bozo, but this kid is scared to death of you and I can't say I like what that says for your character."

"None of your business." The big man snarled, "He is my son. I must punish him."

The hairs on the back of Xander's neck stood on end at that declaration and Xander was about to tell the man off when he heard the boy speak from behind him.

"N... no! He's... he's not my father... he kidnaped us... He hurt my sister..."

Xander didn't take his eyes off the big man, and saw the man go blue in the face as he trembled with rage. "The boy lies! He's disobedient!"

The boy protested, but Xander didn't need to hear it. "Tell you what. How about we call the cops and get them to..."

He didn't get to finish as the man bellowed in rage and charged him.

Xander sidestepped, just moving enough to dodge the big man's outstretched arms. He lashed out, nailing the man under the arms hard enough to hear a crack. As the man fell back in pain Xander shifted back to his place between the man and the boy, "You wanna talk about this now?"

The next thing the big man did was reach real fast for something under his jacket. Xander didn't have a lot of experience fighting other gunmen, usually the vampires he dealt with were stupid enough to bring their fangs to a gunfight, but every instinct he had screamed not to allow the man to complete the move.

He charged the man, hitting him with his full weight and driving the burly man back a few steps. Unfortunately Xander's full weight wasn't what it once was, and the man recovered quickly. He wrapped his huge arms around Xander and clenched him in a bone crushing bear hug, lifting Xander's feet clean off the ground.

The pain was brutal, and Xander clenched his teeth against the scream that wanted to erupt as he heard popping and crackling noises through his body. Through the pain Xander suddenly felt a comforting warmth spread from his chest, a sensation he had never felt before.

As it spread the man's grip began to falter, until suddenly the man stumbled back screaming in pain. In the center of his chest there was smoke rising from a blackened hole burnt through his suit. The hole was large enough that Xander could see a cross shaped burn on the man's skin.

He looked down to see that his cross had swung loose during the fight and he looked around in confusion. He looked up to see a bright blue sky and a brilliant sun above them. Xander gently cupped the cross to find that it was still emanating that comforting warmth.

<What the hell?> He thought, but had to shake it off as the big man stumbled to his feet and reached inside his jacket again.

Xander leapt forward, putting everything he had into a snap kick to the man's groin that dropped the burly Asian man to the ground. As the man rolled around groaning, Xander pulled his hand out of his jacket, revealing a 9mm smith and wesson.

"Not nice..." Xander chided, taking the weapon and tossing it a safe distance away. "So who are you anyway?"

Xander mulled that over as he checked through the man's pockets for Id. Nothing. Xander's eyes narrowed as he straightened up, and he snapped another kick to the man's jaw that rocked his head around and knocked him cold. "Bastard try to pull a gun on me, will ya?"

The Xander turned back around to look at the boy. "You alright kid?"

The boy nodded but still glanced between Xander and the fallen man with fearful eyes.

"Relax, kiddo..." Xander said, trying to sound comforting but probably failing miserably as fas he could tell. "I'm not gonna hurt you."

The kid looked like he was in shock, his eyes staring not at Xander but through him. Xander frowned, he really didn't know what to do even though his deepest memories of the soldier spirit told him what that look was. In another time, in another place, it would have been called the thousand yard stare.

And it shook Xander to his very soul to see it in an eight year old child.

"Come with me, ok? Please?" Xander reached his hand down and lifted the unresisting boy to his feet. He quickly led the boy off the road, looking around in disgust as other people continued to find things of utter fascination in whatever they were doing.

He cast about, and quickly spotted a payphone. He pushed the bike and pulled the kid to the phone. He hesitated only a moment before he called the only person he knew in San Francisco, or the only one who knew him back at least.

"Hello?" The girl twiddled with her hair as she spoke on the phone.

"Is Paige there?"

"Yeah, hang on a sec." She set the phone down and screamed. "Paige! You got a call from a guy!"

"Jeeesh. Tell the whole city why don't you?" Paige muttered as she thumped down the steps and reached the phone. "Hello?"


"Xander? I didn't think you'd call so soon." She smiled into the phone.

"I need help."

Paige dropped the smile instantly, hearing a desperation in his voice that she somehow couldn't associate with Xander. "What's wrong?"

"Look, I hate to ask this... I almost hit a kid who ran into the street..."

"Oh my god! Is he alright? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine... and he looks ok physically... but..."

"But what?"

"But he said something about being kidnaped, and this big bruiser came out and tried to pull a gun on me..."

"My god... You're kidding me, right? This is a joke for you?"

"I'm deadly serious, Paige." Xander's voice matched his verbal attestation.

"What do you need?"

"Can you come down here? He said something about his sister being hurt... I want to check it out, but I can't leave him here."

"Isn't there anyone around there who can help?"

She heard Xander laugh bitterly, "I don't know what's going on but everyone is suddenly turning into the three monkeys around here."

"Three monkeys?"

"Yeah, you know... See no evil, hear no evil..."

"Do no evil. Yeah I know... Xander... I don't know if I should..."

"Paige... Please. I'm know I'm asking a lot... I know that, but I need you to trust me?"

His voice was so plaintive that Paige crumbled in a few moments. "Ok... I'll come. What's the address?"

Xander gave it to her and she jotted it down. When he hung up she cast around, "Nicole! I'm borrowing your car!"

"What!?" Nicole screamed back, coming into the public room, but Paige and her car keys were gone.

Bolan parked the RV a couple blocks from his next target. It was an old warehouse in a pretty bad section of town, but the intel he had managed to squeeze out of the Brothel owner indicated that the Yakuza had recently put a large chunk of cash into renovating the interior.

That made it the prime suspect for somewhere they would stash a Bio weapons expert that they wanted to mix something up for them. He frowned as he approached the building, Brognola still hadn't been able to slice through the red tape protecting whatever project this man had been working on. For all he knew, the Soldier was walking into a biohazard.

He shrugged it off, not willing to let that baggage drag him down before a battle. He'd worry about that when he came to it.

Xander breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Paige pull up in an old Mercury. He quickly hustled the boy into the car and got him seated in the back seat.

"Is he ok?" Paige asked, looking at the boy with concern in her eyes.

Xander shrugged and shook his head. "I don't know. He hasn't spoke since before the fight."


"The guy who tried to pull a gun on me."


"Paige, I need to leave this with you." Xander said, depositing his saddlebags in the front seat. "I can't leave it out here on the street."

"O... ok. Xander... What are you going to do?"

Xander glanced back, "I think they came out of that building over there..."


The two of them looked at the boy.

"That building... right there?" Paige asked, pointing.

The boy nodded.

"Can you tell us who's inside?" Paige asked, as gently as possible.

"Father... Sister... M... Bad guys."

Paige caught the start of an 'm' word, but didn't press it. "What kind of bad guys?"

The boy shuddered. "They hurt Naomi... I heard her screaming."

Page swallowed and Xander shivered as an anger began to build inside him. "I'm going to check it out. Protect him, Paige."

She nodded.

Xander walked toward the old warehouse, undoing the belt strap that kept his jacket closed. Under his jacket his twin FiveSevens thumped lightly against his ribs with every step, now loaded with normal 5.7mm armorpiercers that Andy had made up for him, like the big forty four on his hip was loaded with .44 magnum hollowpoints.

He'd left most of the silver ammunition in the saddlebags, though he had a few clips for each weapon stashed on his person.

He took a deep breath as he checked the emergency exit door the boy had pointed too finally and went in.

As the emergency door closed behind him Xander drew his FiveSevens and let them lead the way. The interior of the warehouse was in considerably better shape then the exterior, and he suddenly found himself wondering why as he tried to navigate the maze he found himself in.

An echoing scream snapped him around as he tried to locate the source, and started moving a little quicker as he worked his way through the halls.

Bolan let himself into the building through a second floor window, jimmying the lock was easy enough and the window slid open smoothly. He drew the Berretta and quickly examined the room he found himself in.

It looked like a prison cell, or a barracks room. For all the Soldier knew it could have been used for both, knowing the penchants of the Yakuza that was eminently possible. He made his way to the far door and tested the lock. It was unlocked and he slowly pushed the door open slightly.

The hallway was empty.

The Soldier stepped out and got his bearings from the blueprints Bear had managed to find on the building. He started walking down the hall, but broke into a jog when he heard a scream break out from somewhere below him.

Xander found the door the scream sounded through, he knew this because he could still hear noises through it that told him he probably wasn't going to be happy when he went through. He quickly checked the door.


He stepped back to kick the door in when he noticed something. The lock was on the outside. <Weird.>

He put one of his FiveSeven's back in the assault rig and quietly slid the bolt open, then slowly pushed the door inward.

He moved into the room as quietly as he could, but when he looked around he realized that he probably could have made all the noise he wanted and no one inside would have noticed. He snarled silently as he saw a big man with his pants down around his knees, hovering over a nude body that was bound to the bed.

He saw the girls face, her head just lolled to one side as she ignored the attentions of the man above her.

Xander took two steps forward, grabbed the man's hair with his free hand, and ripped the big man off the girl with a surge of strength burn of rage. Even as the man stumbled backward off the bed, Xander spun around, dragging the man by the hair, and slammed the big figure into the small bureau beside the cot.

The man's head reduced the small wooden bureau to splinters as Xander lifted him again by the hair and guided him full strength into the far wall. There was a sickening crack that Xander couldn't tell whether it came from the wall or the man's head.

At this particular moment in time... he didn't much care either.

Xander turned back to the nude figure on the bed, swallowing hard as she looked at him with eyes that had little more then a dull fear in them. He glanced at the ropes tying her down and drew one of his daggers.

"It'll be alright," He whispered softly as he sliced through the coarse ropes that held her down. He made her age at slightly older then his, well his apparent age at anyrate. She was probably very pretty, with classic Asian looks. She seemed a little tall, though, at almost five foot ten he guessed as he finished slicing the bonds that held her down.

When he was done, she still hadn't moved, her eyes still following him with terror hidden in their murky depths. Something else was wrong besides the fear, Xander could practically smell it, but he couldn't figure out for the life of him what it was.

Not until his eyes, while roving the room, fell upon a small syringe that lay among the wreckage of the small bureau beside the cot. He picked it up and growled. He didn't know much about drugs, not beyond what they had taught him in school, but Xander remembered the day the police officers came into class with their demonstration kit and all the samples. From that he could make a fair guess at what he was seeing.


"Bastards." He growled, not looking at the girl as she lay there without moving. He softened and leaned down, wincing as she whimpered at his touch. "Come on... We have to get you out of here... are you Naomi?"

The fear faded a little and she nodded.

"You're brother found me... he asked for help." Xander said, still speaking softly. "Let's go see him, ok?"

She nodded slowly and tried to get up. Her coordination was shot, either from the drugs, the abuse, or simply being tied up for god knows how long. Probably all three Xander assumed, so he helped her to her feet.

As he stood her up he looked around for clothes, but those that he assumed were once hers were sliced and ripped to pieces. He held her steady as he reached down to grab the blanket off the cot when something in her eyes caught his.

Terror. But not directed at him, directed behind him.

Xander's right hand flashed for the FiveSeven in the assault rig while his left retrieved the one lying on the cot, and he spun towards the door.

Bolan just reached the bottom of the stairs when he heard the first echo of a gunshot. The echo didn't have time to die out before there was suddenly a small war playing out somewhere in the warehouse around him.

He jogged through the corridors, looking for the source of the noise, the 93R leading the way as he went.

Coming around a corner he ran almost straight into three Yakuza hardmen, their guns already out but they weren't expecting trouble quite so soon. Bolan threw himself to one side as the Berreta barked out its war cry.

The FiveSevens had just come level with the door when the first shot went off, making Xander flinch. The shot destroyed a small mirror that was just behind him, somehow missing him by some luck that Xander could only attribute to a higher power.

His fingers caressed the triggers of the FiveSevens and suddenly there was a war on.

Xander shifted his position to completely cover the girl, Naomi, with his own body as he fired back. There were two men at the door, and both were cut down in an instant as the twin pistols bucked in Xander's hands. He felt a rage boiling in him as shouts of warning went up through the halls.

"Get down!" He snapped over his shoulder, but didn't have time to see if she obeyed him. The next wave came through the door a second later and Xander let loose another trio of tumblers from each pistol to greet them.

A brief firefight later, Xander's pistol slides locked back on empty chambers. He swallowed as the two men who remained standing, grinned and took aim on him.

The shot came out of nowhere, holing the closest man through the cheek and splattering blood and bone across the wall and the man's comrade. Both Xander and the remaining Gunman turned in shock to see the naked girl holding a big smith and wesson pistol from where she had retrieved it from the man Xander had ripped off her.

Her eyes were burning with hatred as she aimed at the last man, a hatred that was suddenly echoed in Xander as he broke and run.

Something clicked in Xander's mind, his right hand dropping the FiveSeven and flashing for the Desert Eagle on his hip. As his fingers tightened around the big weapon his eyes narrowed and he felt a switch be thrown in his minds eye.

Suddenly he could see the man as he ran down the hall.

No. Not the man, but his aura.

Xander pivoted and lifted the big gun, tracking the fleeing image. He tracked and fired. The tracked again and fired. And once more.

There was a brief pulse of intensity in the aura with the last shot... then nothing.

Bolan slipped the empty Berretta into its holster and drew the Desert Eagle from his hip, stepping calmly over the three bodies of former Yakuza hardmen

He came into the corridor a moment later, in time to see one of the Yakuza men running straight at him, his eyes filled with terror.

As Bolan tracked on him with the Desert Eagle a roar filled the hall, and a huge chunk of plaster was ripped form the wall as a bullet reached from another room and ripped into the Yakuza's hip.

The impact lifted him off the ground, twisting him in midair as another roar ripped a second chuck from the plaster walls and tunneled into the shocked man's chest.

The third roar sounded as the man was falling to the ground, already dying. This one caught the unfortunate gangster somewhere around the bridge of the nose and practically decapitated him. The body hit the ground with a solid thud that only a dead body can manage.

Bolan stepped forward cautiously. The Cannibals had run into someone who was willing and able to dish their own medicine back at them.. The only question that remained to the big soldier was whether it was another Cannibal, or something else.

Xander bent down and retrieved his FiveSeven, reloading it and slipping it into his assault rig, then doing the same for the other one. He replaced the Desert Eagle in the holster on his hip and walked slowly over to the girl who was still trembling with the gun in her hand.

"It's ok..." He whispered. "Maybe you should let me have that..."

She shook her head, pulling the gun back from his extended hand.

"Ok... ok..." Xander held up his hands. "Could you do me one favor though?"

She shivered, but looked at him quizzically.

"See that little latch by your thumb?" He asked softly.

She nodded.

"Just flip it up ok? That's the safety... you can put it back down if they come back... ok?"

She hesitated a moment, but nodded and flipped the switch up. Xander relaxed marginally and lowered his hands. He was turning back to the door when he heard a scuff of feet against something and his hand flashed for the Desert Eagle again.

He came to a stop a second later, his hand cannon pointed straight at the head of a tall man with Icy blue eyes. While his own eyes stared at the nearly identical hand cannon aimed directly for his own head.

Xander swallowed.

The big man was impassive.

The silence stretched for a few long seconds before Xander spoke.

"Who are you?"

The man ignored him, his ice blue eyes flicking over the room and taking in every detail. "You're not Yakuza." He said finally.

Xander looked confused for a second, "Yakuza? Is that who these assholes are?"

The big man looked at him with a flicker of surprise in his eyes. <Is it possible this kid doesn't know who he's fighting?> "What's your name kid?"

Xander shook his head, smiling as he heard the faint click of the safety popping off Naomi's Smith. "We've got you outgunned. You first."

The big man smiled coolly and turned his left hand so the contents were visible to Xander.

Xander paled. "Uh... Naomi... put the safety back on the pistol."

She didn't respond and he could see her shaking out of the corner of his eye. "Naomi! He's got a grenade in his hand. If you shoot him, we all die."

He breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the safety finally click back on.

"Good call." The big man said, noting that Xander hadn't lowered the big Desert Eagle yet. "What's your name?"

Xander took a half breath, "Xander. Call me Xander. Your turn."


They nodded, still staring at each other.

"So, Xander... We going to stand and stare at each other all night, or until the Yakuza get reinforcements?"

"Gee whiz, I don't know, Mike." Xander said sarcastically, "You think maybe we might have a little trust problem here?"

Mack almost smiled at the kid's tone. He watched as the nude girl shifted, moving behind the boy for protection. He had seen marks and scars like that before and knew what had happened to her. The fact that she trusted the kid said a lot for him in Mack's book. So Bolan decided to extend the olive branch.

He put the Desert Eagle back in the hip holster and replaced the pin in the grenade.

Mack saw the boy breath a sigh of relief and nod, then his silver Desert Eagle vanished under his jacket.

"Nice gun." Mack smiled coolly as his eyes swept the room one more time.

Xander snorted slightly, "Yeah. You too. What now?"

"Is she Naomi Osaka?"

Xander glanced back at her, and saw the girl nod slowly, hesitantly as she finally moved to cover herself. He looked away and nodded to the big man. "Yeah."

"Then I have to locate the rest of her family."

Xander nodded and walked over to the thug he had brained against the wall earlier, rolling him over and stripping his shirt from him. He quickly handed it to Naomi who shivered in revulsion but put it on anyway. "Her brother is safe. Who else is in here?"

"Her parents."

Naomi let out a sob, attracting the attention of both men. "Father."

"Only him?" Bolan asked.

She nodded.

The Soldier didn't say anything but his eyes grew harder. He watched as the boy walked over to her, and gingerly touched her shoulder.

"Come on, I'll take you to your brother..."

She shook her head suddenly and violently. "No! Have to see my father..."

"That's not a good idea, miss." Bolan said, "I'll find him, you go look after your brother."

"No!" She yelled out, hefting the Smith again, and then stumbled almost falling over.

"Naomi..." Xander said softly as he caught her, and simultaneously lifted the gun from her shaking hand. "You're not in any shape for this..."

She fell into him, leaning heavily against Xander. "I have to know... I have to..."

Xander looked over at the bug guy and saw him shrug. Xander looked at her, <Fuck. I should drag her out of here... but she's going to fight... I know it.>

Finally he stuck the Smith in the back of his waistband and looked at her sternly. "You stay *behind* me.. I mean it."

She nodded, stumbling back to her feet and Xander shook his head. <I don't know whether to be pissed off because she's so fucking stubborn, or admire her for not backing down.>

Bolan watched the pair of them with misgivings. This was a bad idea, but short of knocking the girl unconscious he wasn't sure there was any way to get her out of here quietly. And this child had been hurt enough.

He checked down the hall, and led the way out as Xander and the girl brought up the rear.

"They'll be warned." Bolan warned as he stepped up to the door that Naomi had told them about. "I'm surprised they didn't come after out after us."

Xander nodded, using an arm to push Naomi back behind him protectively. He checked the action on the two FiveSevens and nodded again. "Ready."

Bolan stepped back, and gave the big double doors a powerful kick that knocked them wide open. Then he dropped into a crouch and ducked for the cover of the left side while the kid used the cover of the right.

No response.

The both walked into the big room, guns seeking out any targets they could find. There were none except a lone figure tied to a chair in the center of the room. Both Bolan and Xander approached cautiously, blinking in the bright sunlight that was flooding the entire room from above.

Naomi suddenly let out a scream. "Father!"

She tried to rush forward, but Xander held her behind him as he approached.

"Let me pass! That's my father!"

The man on the chair looked up and groaned. "No... Stay... back."

Xander swallowed as he approached. The man on the chair looked like hell, almost literally. His eyes were yellow, his forehead ridged almost like that of a vampire. Xander could see smoke rising from the man's skin where the sunlight was touching it, and heard a faint sizzle. He looked around, confused. "What the hell?"

By reflex he flipped the cross out of his jacket and let it hang loose. He didn't know what the fuck was going on, but it didn't seem to be normal.

Bolan stepped closer and spoke urgently. "Is this the bio-warfare project?"

The man nodded weakly as he moaned again in pain.

"Are we infected? How contagious is it?"

The man looked up, the intelligence and humanity in his eyes fading in and out. "Eighty... eight five percent... but you're safe. Sunlight destroys... the strain almost instantly."

Xander winced as he saw a pustule break on the man's neck and blood as black as crude oil begin flowing out.

"Do you have a cure?" Bolan asked urgently, "We need it to save you!"

The man shook his head, staring at the cros thumping on Xander's chest. "No cure... Ask him... hey knows."

The man broke off in a cackle of insane laughter.

"Father!" Naomi tried to break past Xander again, but he held her back.

"That's not entirely your father anymore!" He hissed urgently, "He's insane... stay back... look away, you don't want to remember him like this!"

But she wouldn't she kept trying to get closer.

The man's head came up again, his face broken out and bleeding the same black blood as he smiled at his daughter. "That's right... come to daddy... come here."

Naomi broke free of Xander and rushed to her father, but when she got within a couple feet he suddenly surged in his seat and attacked her. She jumped back in shock as his teeth snapped at the air where her face was. Xander grabbed her and put her behind him again.

He lifted the cross to the man's eyes, and saw it entrance him. "Who did this? Who turned you?"

The man cackled with laughter. "Who? Who!? ME! ME!! I did!"

Xander fell back, shocked and uncertain. "What?"

The man started in a sing song voice. "It's airborne now... It can fly through the air on the breeze of a wind... comes in through your lungs it does..."

Xander started to pale as his mind tried to put it together, he shook his head. "No... No.... that's not possible."

For a moment the man's lucidity seemed to come back, "Oh but it is... its pretty simple really... just a little splice here and there... and it works... only one factor we can't figure out... we don't know why they die so fast..."

Suddenly he stared at them in shock, his mind seeming to snap back in control. "You have to stop them! You can't let them sell the strain!"

"I intercepted the briefcase," Bolan said gently, "Don't worry..."

The man shook so hard in his chair that it creaked and Xander wondered if it would break. "No! No! That was just the sample! He's flying the shipment out tonight by plane! He said he had a buyer already... someone in the middle-east!"

Bolan paled.

"Middle east, middle east... just to the right or the far east..." The man suddenly broke down again, his voice taking on a sing song as his features began to decompose in a sudden rush and he breathed his last breath, a soul shaking death rattle that echoed around them.

Naomi buried her face in Xander's jacket and he found himself holding her while he stared in horror at the fast forward decomposition as the... creature on the chair in front of him turned to dust over a period of a minute and a half.

Bolan stared in shock and horror at the scattering of dust that was all that was left of Doctor Osiro Osaka. "My god. A contagion rate of eighty to eighty-five percent... airborne... in the hands of a terrorist...."

Xander's voice filled the next void, calmly, coldly. "The man who did this is a dead man."

Bolan looked at the dust, his mind still trying to process it. <What in god's name would possess him to develop something this lethal?>

He immediately started searching around the room, looking for any clues.

"What are we looking for?" Xander asked, reluctantly leaving the girl where she was for the moment.

"Anything." Bolan said, "A flight stub, a charter reservation, the name of an airport... anything."

Xander started pulling drawers out of desks, and flipping through paper as quickly as he could as Bolan did the same on the other side of the room. "We have to find these people!"

"I know that kid, trust me. I know that."

Xander nodded and turned back to the sheafs of paper in front of him. <Thank you G-man and Jarod... I never thought I'd be grateful for being forced to learn speed reading.>

He flipped through the sheets as fast as he could, his eyes skimming the pages of notes and supplies. Halfway through he stopped and cursed.

"What is it?"

Xander glanced over at 'Mike', "I just found the good doctor's notes."

"What about them?"

"I know what he was doing." Xander said flatly, "and why it didn't work."

Bolan shook his head, "Tell me later. For now we have to find where they are loading this shit."

Xander nodded and tossed the doctors notes into a metal waste bin. Then he turned back to his work.

They were searching for three minutes when a soft voice behind them spoke up. "I think I found something."

They both turned to look at Naomi, where she was standing over the chair her father had been tied to.

"What is it?" Xander asked quietly.

She pointed silently to the arm of the chair. Xander walked over and looked at the marks she was pointing to.

"B... Y... F... L... D... S... T... R... P..." Xander read out loud. "Damn... it looks like he clawed those into the wood with his fingernails.

"What does it mean?" Bolan looked at it.

Xander shook his head slowly, "I'm not sure... wait... we're looking for a landing field right? An Air *strip*?"

Bolan nodded, "S T R P could mean strip... ok, so the rest is... what, Bay Field?"

"It's a shot." Xander said.

Bolan nodded, glancing around. "Best one we're going to get. Let's go."

"One sec." Xander paused over the wastebasket he tossed the notes into and took out a lighter. He lit a sheet of paper and dropped it in the wastebasket.

Bolan raised an eyebrow as Xander turned and walked back to the girl as the flames began to lick around the edge of the wastebasket. He didn't say anything through and the three of them left the building quickly.

Paige was waiting in the car with Joseph when she saw Xander emerge from the warehouse with a large man, and a shaken and nearly nude girl. She quickly threw the door open as Xander and the man hustled the girl into the car.

"Paige, can you give Mike a lift? Just a couple blocks?" Xander asked as he looked around, hearing the wails of police sirens in the distance.

She nodded. "Uh huh... what about you?"

"I'll be right behind you." Xander promised as he headed for his bike.

Xander pulled the bike to a stop, hiding it behind the RV that Paige had stopped behind. He dismounted and walked around to check on Paige and the siblings.

"You alright?" He asked quietly as he slipped into the passengers seat.

Paige glanced at the backseat and spoke softly. "What happened in there?"

"Better you don't ask." Xander said quietly.

"Xander," She whispered, "That girl looks like..."

Xander just nodded.

"My god. What happened." Paige asked again, "and don't tell me not to ask, cause I just did."

Xander took a breath and looked back at where brother and sister were holding each other tightly. He whispered softly, "They were taken for something their father was working on. Their parents were killed..."

"Oh my god." Paige whispered back. "What... what happened to the people who did this?"

Xander looked at her evenly. "Are you sure you want to know?"

Paige hesitated and sat back in her seat. A moment later a tap on the window caught Xander's attention. He rolled down the window and leaned out to speak to Mike. "What is it?"

"We have a hit on the airfield." He said, hesitating a moment. "You want in on the mission?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah. I'll be with you in a second."

Mike nodded and straightened up, heading back toward the RV.

"Mission?" Paige hissed, "What mission?"

Xander didn't respond right away, he just lifted his saddlebags up and pulled out a box of AP ammo for the five sevens and quickly started filling his spent clips.

"Xander?" She hissed in shock, "Is that what I think it is?"

Xander just nodded. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this, Paige. I'll be gone in a few minutes..."

"I don't under stand..." Her eyes widened as Xander pulled out the Desert Eagle and quickly fitted three .44 slugs into the clip, replacing the clip when he was done. "What are you going to do?"

Xander looked over at her, "Make sure that the monsters who did this don't get a chance to do it again."

Paige stared at him in shock as he got out of the car.


They both turned to look at the two people in the backseat.

Xander swallowed, "Yeah, kid?"

"Are you coming back?"

Xander blinked. "Yeah. I'm coming back."

Both of them half smiled for a brief second before becoming solemn again. Naomi nodded, "Good... be careful."

Xander nodded, then looked at Paige. "I'll come back... ok?"

Paige heard the question in his voice and knew that he was asking permission. She hesitated, then nodded. "Ok. I'm going to take them to my dorm for now... until we figure out what to do."

He smiled at her, nodded, then turned and left.

Bolan watched as the kid walked around to the side door of the RV. He didn't know if he wanted a child as young as this anywhere near his blitz, but the kid knew something about what was going on. Something that the Solider needed to understand. Also, the kid could walk the walk, and the kid seemed like the type to put himself in the middle of the mission even if he tried to cut him out.

No, the soldier decided, it was better to have the kid where he could see him.

The Soldier's thoughts were cut off as Xander stepped up into the RV. "What have we got?"

Bolan looked over at him, seeing no childhood in the teen's eyes, and took a breath. "Bayfield Airstrip is a private runway to the north of the city. It's been rated for private planes, up to personal jets. We have a flight plan filed tonight for a Japanese corporation that we know to be a Yakuza front."

Xander nodded, glancing up at the sky where the sun was starting to dip. "We should go now. We don't want to be anywhere near that shit after dark."

Bolan looked at him, "Alright. Now's the time, what do you know?"

"We don't have the time. We have to get there and deal with this before nightfall."

Bolan frowned, but remembered what the doctor said. <Sunlight destroys the strain almost instantly.>

Finally he nodded, "Alright. Settle in, I'm driving."

Xander grinned, but shook his head. "I'll follow on my bike."

"Suit yourself." Bolan replied. "See you at Bayfield."

"God damn it, Bubba!" The man exclaimed as he walked through the carnage. "What happened in here?"

"I don't know, Nash Man." The second man said, but it looks bad.

"Gee, ya think?"

Around them the best forensics people of the SIU were combing the area for any clues they could find.

"We getting anything outside?"

"Nothing, Nash." Joe shook his head, "A hundred potential witnesses and no one saw a thing."

"Same old story." Nash muttered, stepping over another body.

"Yep." Joe said, "So, what's your take on this? Yakuza?"

"What tipped you off?" Nash said with a wry smile, "all the dead Japanese 'businessmen', or the fact that half our corpses have more art on them then my entire apartment?"

Joe gave him a dirty look, "I've seen your apartment. That doesn't mean much."

Nash Bridges looked around the small room he and his partner, Joe Domingues, had entered. It was in pitiful shape to say the least, bullet holes in the walls, blood all over the floor.

"We've got a live one!" A man called from where he was leaning over a man.

"Get the paramedics in here" Nash ordered, then continued to look around. "Tell me something, Joe... what do those ropes on that cot tell you?"

Joe shook his head, "Someone wasn't too happy about staying at this motel?"

Nash snorted. "Yeah. And by the looks of the pants around lover boy's ankles over there, I'd say it was a she."

"Hey, you never know... this is San Francisco." Joe grinned.

"I'm going to pretend you did say that." Nash grimaced as he looked around the room again. Something caught his eye and he looked up. "There. See that camera? Find you where the tape is!"

"You got it, Nash." One of the officers said and ran out.

"Somehow I'm getting the feeling that I'm not going to be shedding any tears over this budge of stiffs." Nash said as he and Joe walked to the door.

"No kidding."

Nash and Joe stepped out, and found a woman kneeling over a particularly mangled corpse. "What have we got, Sheryl?"

The woman shrugged, lifting a piece of bone with a pen. "Three bullet wounds... .44 caliber hollow-points... One to the hip... second to the chest... third one right between the eyes. Nice marksmanship."

"How can you tell that?"

She nodded toward the wall, "Because from the angle of entry and points of impact I'd say the shots came from the next room over."

Nash looked between the body and the holes in the wall. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me."

Bolan examined the air field through powerful binoculars, taking every detail as he swept the area twice. Beside him the kid was sitting patiently on his bike, calmly watching for anything out of the ordinary as the big soldier finished his recon.

"It's a soft target." Bolan said finally, "I don't see any enforced areas where they can defend."

Xander nodded. "But if they've got that shit loaded, they might be able to make a run for it."

Bolan nodded. "Agreed. Suggestions?"

"Blitzkrieg." Xander said simply. "We don't have enough personnel for anything fancy."

Bolan nodded, surprised at the kid's suggestion. "Agreed."

Xander took a breath, "We'd better get to this... The sun is getting too low in the sky for my liking."

Bolan looked up to where the sun was starting to head toward the horizon and nodded. "Alright. I'll come in from the east. You take the south."

Xander looked over the lay of the land, noting the airfield, and nodded. "You got it, Mike. Be careful, that shit is not something you want crawling around your lungs."

"You too, kid." Bolan said as he checked his weapons and then took off.

Xander waited a few minutes, to give the soldier time to get into place, then moved off on his own.

"What have we here?" Nash asked as he walked into the large well lit room.

"Bad news, Nash."

"What? Worse then the bodycount out there?"

The cop tossed Nash a small item. "Yeah."

Nash turned the small item over in his hands and cursed. "Ah hell. He's back in my town!?"

The cop nodded.

Nash shook his head, his fingers rolling the plastic bagged Marksmen's medal over and over in his hand. "Call the morgue. Tell them to order more body bags. We're gonna need 'em."

Bolan hefted the MP-5 he had selected from his limited armory as he approached the aircraft hanger, looking for any Yakuza hardmen.

He spotted the first two easily as they stood guard outside the large hanger doors. Normal people at an airstrip don't carry UZI 9mm's.

Bolan circled around to the back of the hanger and climbed up on a dumpster stacked against the back, pried open a window and slipped inside.

"We've lost contact with the warehouse."


"One of our shopkeepers in the area said that a boy went in a short while ago, and there was shooting."

"Who was this boy?"

"We don't know. The shopkeep saw him leave a short while later with a young girl and a man."

"He is still alive!?"

"Apparently. The police are all over the warehouse now. The shooting attracted them."


"I'm going to tell the pilot to prepare the plane."

"Sir, our flight plan..."

"May be compromised. We leave now."

"Yes Sir."

Bolan crept up on the closest guard to the back of the hanger, moving silently as he came up behind the man. He let the MP-5 hang on its three-point assault strap and pulled a coil of wire from his pocket.

As he got close he gripped the hardwood handles on either end of the wire and looped the wires noiselessly around the man's throat and pulled hard. The man got off a single strangled sound as the soldier pulled him back into the crates, the wires slicing into the tender flesh of the man's throat.

A moment later Bolan emerged silently and circled around toward the next guard. His heart jumped when he saw the doors open and heard the Lear's engines rev up.

<No!> He thought as he gripped the MP-5 tightly, flipping the weapon to full auto and leaping out into the open area of the hanger.

The guards saw him almost instantly, but he dropped the first two with short bursts then caught a group of four with a figure eight motion on autoburn that emptied the clip. He ejected the clip, caught it and flipped it over, then slapped the fresh one taped to the side into the weapons feed.

He ran out as the plan taxied onto the runway, trying for a shot at the Lear, but had to pause to blow away another two guards.

His clip spent, the soldier let the MP-5 hang loose on the harness as he went for the Desert Eagle. The plane was accelerating up the runway when the big cannon came to bear, and Bolan fired seven booming shots at the retreating aircraft, but it didn't stop.

"Damn it!" He cursed, his mind racing. <Call Grimaldi... He's in L.A.... if Hal can get him a fighter we can still splash the plane over the pacific... might be safer that way anyw....>

Bolan's thoughts were cut off when he saw a black figure on a motorcycle come to a stop directly in the path of the jet.

"Kid?" He stared in shock, "What the hell are you doing?"

"Get us in the air! I do not care if you have to run him down, just do it!"

The pilot shrugged, helplessly, knowing that to do anything else would probably mean his death. His hands gripped the throttle of the plane and he pushed it forward, feeling the sudden acceleration as the plan began to climb to takeoff velocity.

Xander shook his head under the black helmet. "No way do you get out of here alive. No fucking way."

Images flashed through his mind as he revved the engine and kicked the bike into gear. Images of Naomi tied to the cot, her brother shrinking back in fear, her father crumbling to dust in that god damned warehouse. Xander held the bike steady as it tried to shimmy on him, keeping it pointed straight at the plane.

He had the throttle all the way to the handle, taking every ounce the bike could offer and turning it all into speed.

Ahead of him the plan was getting closer and closer as Xander's mind went over the nebulous plan that had been forming in his mind. Calling it a plan was giving it a lot of credit, mind you, and Xander had to grin to himself despite the situation as he thought what Elan would have had to say about it.

The plane was a hundred feet away, the distance closing incredibly fast, when Xander made his move.

He cut the wheel and laid the bike out, kicking away form the hurtling chuck of machinery and skidded on his back, hoping to god that his jacket kept most of the skin on his body. He felt the burn creep through the thick leather, followed by the pain as the leather protection was worn and ripped away. But through it all he kept his eyes on the bike's path toward the plane.

The Pilot saw it coming, his eyes widening with disbelief as he cursed himself for not considering the possibility and cursed his employer for being a fool. He tried to lift off, but the plane didn't have the speed yet.

The heavy 750 cc motorcycle struck the front landing gear at a combined speed of over two hundred miles per hour and ripped the mechanical wheel array off the fuselage like it was made of tissue paper. The Lear struggled to stay straight up as the pilot put all the juice he had into the twin jet engines mounted on the sides, but it was in vain and the nose of the multi-million dollar plan dipped forward and mashed into the pavement.

The plane skidded like that for several seconds, heading straight for Xander as he rolled to the right as fast as he could, teeth gritted against the pain. As the friction twisted the plane off course the nose dug into the soft dirt by the side of the strip and stopped. The rear of the plane lifted up into the air, going almost vertical, before crashing back to earth.

The Lear came to a rest like that, with a shaken crew and passenger inside, and a shaken Xander Harris outside.

Xander slowly climbed to his feet, he could feel the blood run down his legs from the wounds on his back, and shuffled toward the plane. He walked slowly, dragging one leg that wouldn't respond properly, until he reached the door of the aircraft.

He pulled the door open with a grunt and looked in.

The silver Smith and Wesson came out of nowhere and Xander batted it aside out of reflex, wincing as the gun roared. He stripped it from the man easily, as a hiss of escaping gass could be heard through the plane.

Xander turned toward the sound, only to get a face full of gas from a cylinder that the stray bullet had damaged. He staggered back against the doorway, shocked and panicked. Inside the plane he could see the man scrambling back away from the gas, screaming.

"We have to get out! Get out into the sunshine! Shoot the windows!"

Xander growled, his mind still not completely wrapped around what had happened, and dove in. "You fucker! You wanted this shit!? You're gonna fucking well get it!"

He grabbed the man and dragged him back up to the cylinder that had sprayed him and forced the man's face into the spray. The man struggled but couldn't break Xander's grip.

"God damn you!" Xander screamed, "You had to dig up shit like this!? WHY!? Wasn't killing by the thousands enough??"

The man didn't answer, just sputtered as the gas washed over him. Xander finally dropped him and sat heavily against the door of the plane. "Well shit."

Outside he suddenly heard a voice. "Kid!? Kid!?"

Xander turned in panic, "Stay back! The fucking tank blew! Stay the fuck back!"

"Kid! Are you alright!?"

"No, I'm not fucking alright!" Xander yelled, pissed off. The he sighed, "I'm infected... we all are in here. How much daylight left?"

"Not much... twenty minutes maybe..."

Xander sighed. "You'd better get clear."


"Get clear!" Xander screamed. He grabbed the pilot and pulled him up and threw him out the door the grabbed the boss by the jacket. "I should leave you here... but I think you'll suffer more if I don't."

Then he threw the boss clear of the plane as well.

Xander climbed out of the plane, staggering as his ears suddenly popped for no reason, and looked around until he spotted Mike. "We're going to need a nice fireball here, Mike! Something that burns real hot!"

Bolan nodded, "The jet fuel! There's an access panel under the wing! Pop it!"

Xander looked, and found it. He popped the panel and pulled a hose out, ripping it clear of the plane. He nodded. "Good enough. Got one of those grenades?"

Bolan nodded and tossed the lethal egg to Xander, who palmed it easily then started dragging the two men away from the plane. When he had reached what he hoped was a safe distance Xander shook off the feeling of faintness and the lights popping in his eyes, and pulled the pin on the grenade.

He tossed it under hand and hit the ground, covering his head and ears with his arms.

The grenade went off with a sharp bang, that was punctuated a moment later by a low rumbling roar as the jet fuel caught and the flames reached the tank. The plane went up in a massive fireball that rose up a hundred feet in the air.

Xander looked up, his imagination filling in the thought of particles of the virus floating free of the explosion, only to be fried by the last lingering rays of the day's sunlight.

Then a sudden weakness overtook him and he collapsed back to the ground, unconscious.

Bolan stood back as he watched the kid collapse, waiting as long as he felt he could in the hopes that the lingering of the suns rays would eliminate whatever vestiges of the virus was left around the three victims.

Finally he refused to wait any longer and rushed in to check on Xander. He knelt of the boy and examined his wounds, which were surprisingly light considering. Lots of blood loss, but nothing permanent from the crash. It was what happened after the crash that was going to cost the kid.

Bolan quickly flipped the kid over his shoulder and jogged back to his RV.

"Hal, it's me."

"Striker! Are you ok?"

"Yeah. Mission accomplished.. Have a problem though."

There was a pause. "What kind?"

"I need a biohazard team sent to Bayfield Airstrip ASAP. Better make sure they have support as well. Two infected individuals are out cold by the burning wreck of a Lear."

"Infected... Are you alright!?"

"I'm fine. The kid I told you about... he was exposed. He warned me off, probably saved my ass, Hal."

"Where is he?"

"With me in the wagon." Bolan hesitated, "I cuffed him... he's resting on the bunk now."

"How's he look?"

"Not good." Bolan said, staring at the pallor of the kid's face and the darkening of the visible veins on the kid's neck. "Not good at all."

"Striker, this stuff is supposed to be lethal within a few hours... watch him, it makes its victims turn homicidal before it burns them out."

"I know." Bolan said, "I watched a father attack his daughter while dying from this shit."

"It'd be kinder to..."

"No." Bolan said, "The kid's a fighter... I've got a good feeling about him."

"Alright. I've already sent a team... Get out of there before someone connects you to this."

"You got it."

Xander slowly climbed to his feet, looking around the landscape that stretched before him. "The Dreaming... I'm in trouble aren't I?"

His question was answered by a black cloud that appeared on all sides, surrounding him as it closed in on his position from the horizon. Xander swallowed, watching it grow closer and closer. "Oh yeah, I'm fucked."

He steadied himself and stood his ground as the cloud came close enough for him to distinguish the particles that made up the blackness. Vampires. Millions and millions of vampires.

"And they can fly." Xander rolled his eyes, "Oh joy."

He stretched his hands out, palms up, and growled as a ball of fire appeared in each hand. "You ain't turning me without the mother of all fights!"

Then he lifted into the air to meet the army of demons that faced him.

Bolan glanced back over his shoulder when he heard a groan come from the boy. Xander was sweating now, and his muscles were spasming as he arced and twisted on the small bunk. Bolan swallowed and turned back to the road.

<Kid deserves to have a friend around...> He tapped a license number into the computer and waited for the name to come up.

<Nicole Prest... Who's that? That Paige girl must have borrowed the car... Living at... hmmm, that's not good... but at least I should let the girl know.>

Xander twisted in mid air and launched two more fireballs to roast a pair of demons that got too close. They were pressing in on all sides, forcing him to run more then fight as they sought to drag him down from sheer mass of numbers.

He ducked and flashed low toward the landscape, throwing fireballs over his shoulder as he skimmed the ground and ducked behind a hill. He paused, frying the first dozen that appeared around the corner before the next hundred flashed into sight and he had to run again.

One by one, ten by ten, even a hundred at a time, Xander was destroying the invaders. But there were millions of them to fill the holes left by their destruction and Xander was starting to feel the pressure.

He whipped around and fried another vamp as it flew close to him, but suddenly he felt hands on his ankles, dragging him down. He glanced down and dropped another fireball on the vamp clinging at his legs, but an instant after that one dusted three more grabbed him from all around. Then suddenly they were everywhere, dragging him out of the sky and crashing him into the ground.

He felt their clawing hands scraping at his skin, and their fetid breath as they sought to bite him.

That's when Xander burst.

He screamed, a scream of primal rage and unmasked fury that echoed through the landscape from one end of infinity to the other. He surged up, his arms flying outward, and the vamps from all around him were suddenly thrust back. A field of pure power erupting in a hemisphere that grew and grew and grew until they were forced back almost to the edge of vision.

Xander fell to one knee, his face sweating and red as he felt the strain of maintaining the shield that was protecting him. As he felt the first faint signs of being light headed he knew that he wouldn't be able to hold it for long.

His voice weak, his body weaker, he did the only thing he could think of.

He called for help.

"Is he going to be ok?" Paige asked quietly as she looked over at the shivering body that belonged to a very vibrant young man only a few hours earlier.

Bolan shook his head. "I don't know."

"What happened?" Paige asked, "I mean... everything. What happened today?"

Bolan sighed, not certain what to say, but finally decided to tell her the truth. As much of it as he knew and could say with violating National Security at anyrate.

So Paige listened while Bolan talked, and neither noticed the little shiver of power that ran through them or the fact that a small portion of their minds was now paying attention to a much more pressing concern.

"Call for a hand, huh Kid?"

Xander turned around in shock, "Andy?"

Andrezj Konzaki stood before him, on two good legs, hefting his patented Konzak Atchisson. The Immortal smiled at Xander, "Yep. Damned if I know how I got here though..."

"Where am I?"

Xander spun around, his eyes widening in shock. "Jarod?"

"That's me... Do I know you?" Jarod asked in confusion as he looked around. He suddenly shivered, "What's that out there?"

Xander swallowed, "A disease that's trying to kill me."

Jarod nodded, his face setting, but all he said was, "Oh."



"Hey, Man!"

Jessie, Willow, and Jonathan appeared beside him, a little confused but glad to see him.

"Hey, Bro... what's up?"

Before Xander could answer a blur came out of nowhere and knocked him down. "Xander!"

He looked at her, "Dawn!?"

"Hey! Get your hands off my sister, you perv!" Buffy appeared from nowhere as well.

"She's my sister you little imposter, and I trust Xander to keep his hands away from places they shouldn't be... Jeeez... Xander... you look so young!" An older version of Buffy stepped into the light.

Xander shook his head as people continued appearing all around him.

Paige and Mike. Prue, Phoebe, Piper, and an older woman that he recognized from pictures, their Grams.

"Where are we?" Piper asked, her voice small and scared.

"Hush, Piper... It's a dream." Grams replied, "But a very important one. You called, young man?"

Xander nodded, swallowing as more and more people flowed into the scene.

Amanda appeared, Duncan on her heels. Nick Wolf, Adam Pierson, A young man that Xander didn't know at all. Behind them a man with a hawkish face and serious eyes soon appeared, he and Duncan were carrying very similar swords.

On another side Lara walked out of the mists, Giles on one side of her, and a tall Elf that Xander recognized as Daan'aal on the other. Giles was most definitely not in librarian mode, he had a long flowing brown leather duster and his eye glasses were no where to be seen.

"Xander?" Giles looked at him quizzically, "What's going on?"

Daan'aal touched the man's shoulder. "He is real. We have been summoned to help him fight the evil around us. Do you not feel it?"

"I..." Giles stopped and turned around, focusing his attention dull circle. His face hardened, his eyes narrowing "Yes... I do."

"Giles... I..." Xander began, but was shocked by another voice.

"Yo, Boytoy!" Faith grinned as she appeared, "Long time no see... what's the haps?"

Behind Faith two more guys that Xander had never met before appeared, both looked confused but more then ready to back Faith up in whatever happened.

"That's my fuckin question." Jack Crow growled as he appeared from nowhere, an entire gang of people around him, all armed to the teeth. "Who the fucking hell are you people?"

"Harry...." A voice called as five more people appeared from the mists. "Who are these people? Where are we?"

"I don't know... I... Dana?" Harry Tasker suddenly shouted in surprise, "How'd you get here?"

"Relax, Dad." Faith said nonchalantly. "I think the explanations should pop up real fast."

"They better." Spencer Trilby growled as he looked around, noting that his old service pistol was tucked into the webgear he was wearing.

"Tell me about it." Harrigan growled as the big black man stepped into sight, a huge double barreled pistol in one hand, and an ancient flintlock in the other.

"Yo, Xan!" Gunn said, coming out of nowhere with his crew around him. "What the hell is this about?"

Xander spun around in confusion, around him were all the people he knew and trusted and more. And people were still arriving. Miss Parker, Broots, Sidney. Master Lee and his daughter Joy arrived to stand by Jessie, Willow, and Jon. Terry appeared beside Konzaki, and eight battle hardened men he didn't know moved from the mists to back up Mike. Not understanding what was happening, Xander just stared around him with wide eyes, until one more voice appeared from nowhere. This time above him.

"Oh, Alexander... You have grown so much in power since I first met you."

"Elan!" Xander yelled in joy, floating up off the ground to meet her.

Around them the people stared in shock at him.

"Awright, who's the punk and why isn't gravity paying any attention to those two!?" Crow growled.

Jarod stared up at them, fascinated. "Incredible... I wonder how... Hooooow...!"

He floated up towards them, a little unsteadily. "How!?"

Xander reached out and steadied him. "This is a dream world, Jarod. It reacts to your will."

Jarod blinked. "I see."

Xander looked at Elan, "Elan, what's going on!? Where have you been!?"

She smiled. "When we were thrown back, I was returned to my location at that time... and my powers were sealed as they were before we met. Your summons was powerful enough to breach the seal... and I am here."

Xander shook his head, "How'd I do this?"

She looked down, still smiling. "You sent out a summons to everyone you had a connection to... and it was powerful enough that is swept along their threads as well, summoning those they had a strong connection to. I'm very impressed."

"Hey... Xander," A figure flitted up toward him, "What's going on?"

Xander turned around, surprised. "Neo?"

"Well, yeah... last time I checked." Neo grinned at him.

Below them Xander could see that more people had joined the group. Morpheus and his Crew, and the people who would eventually make up SG1.

"Ummm Daniel? Aren't you supposed to be... on another planet?"

Daniel looked around, "I am... aren't I?"

"Who are you people?" Samantha Carter looked around.

"I am also uncertain as to your identities." Teal'c said stoically as he stiffly held his staff.

"Baldy ain't the only one!" Jack Crow shouted out again, "Someone want to fill us in down here!"

Xander sighed, "Shut up a minute, Jack!"

"Hey!" Jack O'Neill snapped up at him.

"Not, you the other Jack." Xander said, sinking to the ground wearily.

"Oh... well, you know, he did say Jack..." Colonel O'Neill said, embarrassed.


Everyone turned around to see four women plowing through the ever growing crowd. Xander swallowed as he saw the Halliwell sisters and the Grams bearing down on him.

"What's going on here!" Prue demanded.

"Yeah!" Phoebe said.

"Hush, you two. I'll handle this." Grams said, looking at Xander. "Why did you call us?"

Xander swallowed, looking around. "I think everyone is her... oh, Hiya Kev."

"Xander," Hercules said amiably as he pushed his way up to the group. "How is everything."

"I'm dying."

"Ah, That's too bad." Herc looked in the distance, "Those the culprits?"

Xander nodded.

"Called for backup, huh? Smart move. What are they?"

"A genetically engineered airborne version of vampirism."

"WHAT!?" Jack Crow blew up. "Are you trying to fucking well tell me that some god damned researcher made that shit AIRBORNE!?"

Xander nodded.

"Fuck! Why the hell do we bother trying to save these dumb fucks anyway!?"

"Man has a point."

Xander turned to the new voice, <Jeeez I'm getting dizzy.> "Angel?"

The Vampire known as Angel looked pretty bad. His clothes were tattered, his face was pale, and his hair was a mess. He looked depressed and altogether uncaring as to how he had gotten where he was. "I know you from somewhere?"

Xander opened his mouth to answer when a new figure burst out of the mist. "There you are! Christ, Angel, how am I supposed to teach out anything if you wander off like... hey... who are you people!?"

The whole group all around started to babble back and forth as Xander began to feel more and more strain from the barrier he was holding. Finally he blew. "EVERYONE SHUT UP!!"

The silence dropped across the field like a heavy blanket. Everyone looked at Xander, as he looked around. He did a quick headcount and realized that even more people had been added to the mix, including Father Cranston. He shook his head, <it's a damn good thing that this space is technically infinite. It's getting crowded in here.>

"Alright!" He yelled over the strain, "My name is Xander, and I need your help!"

The group seemed inclined to listen so Xander continued. "I've been infected with an airborne version of a condition some of you know as Vampirism."

"That's not possible." the Elder Halliwell said confidently. "Vampires are not spread in the manner of a disease."

"Right and wrong." Xander responded. "It is basically a sexually transmitted disease with a twist... it's only effective on dead tissue. The Demon can't properly take possession of living tissue... or more specifically, the soul of a living being won't allow it."


"But." And Xander stressed the word, "The scientists that created this virus managed to isolate the factor in a vampires blood that extends the 'invitation' to the demons... and I've been exposed to millions of those particles... those independent particles."

Penny Halliwell paled. "That means..."

"That I have millions of independent demons trying to take over my body... between their infighting and my soul's attempt to resist, I'll literally fall apart in a few hours.... real time." Xander said, taking a seat on a nearby rock.

The people around him looked at each other oddly.

"I don't know what's weirder... his story, or the fact that I believe him." Jack O'Neill grumbled.

Similar rumblings echoed around them.

"Hey, Mack..." Carl Lyons whispered to the big man, "Where do we stand on this one?"

"With the kid." Bolan said calmly.

"Ok... Just checking for Able and Pheonix." Carl said as he turned around and flashed a thumbs up to the guys.

Bolan was staring across the group. "Carl... look over there and tell me that's not who I think it is."

Carl followed his gaze, then paled. "He's dead... isn't he?"

"Damned if I know." Bolan said, walking toward Konzaki. "Andy!"

Andy smiled wearily, "Hi Mack."

"I buried you." Mack said, almost accusingly.

"I got better." Andy said, still smiling slightly.

"When we have time..." Mack said, growling.

Andy nodded. "When we have time. Xander needs help now."

"How do you know him?"

"He showed up one day and started snapping orders. Reminded me of someone." Andy said, grinning slyly at Mack.

They turned back toward Xander when they heard his voice raise. He sounded tired.

"Guys..." He said wearily, "I can't keep them back much longer... In or out?"

"Let's get you out of here Dawn." the younger version of Buffy said.


"Dawn..." The Older Buffy sighed, "Both of you... whoever *you* are... go. You won't be much use here anyway."

"I'm not leaving!" Dawn closed her arms over her chest and glared at them both.

"I'm in." Paige swallowed and stepped forward.

"As am I." Penny Halliwell said firmly, her granddaughters stepping up behind her.

Amanda stepped forward, looking at Xander oddly. "I know you... don't I?"

He nodded wearily, "From another time... another life."

She nodded, "I'm staying."

"As will I." Duncan said proudly.

"You're all insane." Methos muttered. "Ah hell... I'm in."

One by one, and in groups, everyone of them agreed for one reason or another.

Xander nodded around the large group. "Thank you... thank you, all... get ready... I can't keep the shield up much longer."

Everyone nodded, drawing weapons if they had them and, in a couple cases, creating weapons from the air around them.

"Let's fucking well get this over with." Jack Crow growled.

Xander nodded and let the shield drop, sighing in relief as that weight was lifted from him. In the distance they all heard the screaming rush of wind and howls of rage as the enemy came at them.

"Get ready." Xander said, "Here they come... and they're fast."

Elanthielle stepped up beside him and smiled, tapping her wrist and letting her armor snap into place around her. "I'm not worried, Alexander."

Xander flexed his muscles, smiling and feeling whole for the first time in a long time. "You know... I'm starting to feel pretty good myself."

Behind them the others moved to prepare.

Morpheus half turned instinctively. "Tank. Guns."

The stocky man looked at him like he was insane, "How!? I don't have my...... computer?"

He trailed off as he glanced to one side and his panel was sitting there beside him. The man swallowed. "Ok... Guns..."

He tapped a couple keys and an array of guns slid into the center of the field at high speed, startling the people around them.

"Whoa!" Gadgets jumped away from one rack of weapons, and almost got hit by a second one.

"Cool!" Jonathan grinned grabbing for a weapon.

"How in the hell?" Prue muttered under her breath.

"Hey Mack," Manning grinned, "You think we can recruit this guy?"

"Somehow I doubt it," Mack said, grinning. "Take what you need... set up a perimeter."

Lyons nodded gruffly, and hefted an M-60 complete with three full belts of 7.62 NATO ammo. "You heard the man, Move it!"

Gadgets grinned and grabbed an M-16, a dozen clips and several grenades. "This is looking like fun."

Pol shook his head and grabbed an old Stoner, checking the drum mag. "Let's set up."

The three of them moved to an outcrop of rock and setup. Lyons laid out flat, perching the '60 on its bipod and making sure he had a clear firing arc. On either side of him his two partners settled down against the rocks and laid out their gear.

"Reminds me of that time in New Orleans." Gadgets joked as he eyed the approaching horde.

"Wrong monsters. Those were zombies, remember?" Pol smiled slightly.

"Undead is undead." Gadgets grinned.

"Right." Lyons grunted. "Let's make these ones just plain dead, shall we?"

"Deal." Gadgets and Pol grinned as they spoke together.

Bolan looked over the weapons, impressed by the selection. He grabbed an Remington model 700 and several clips. He added two MP-5's and a micro Uzi to the rifle and double timed it to a higher position.

He set up in seconds, lying prone with the rifle balanced against a handy rock. He squinted through the scope and eyed his first target.

Bolan took a deep breath, then let out half of it. He held the rest, and gently squeezed the trigger. The big rifle bucked, sending a heavy bullet straight between the eyes of his target. Bolan worked the bolt and shifted his aim before he had a chance to see the bullet strike, firing again.

Katz looked over the weapons and quickly selected a full size Uzi submachine gun and plenty of clips. He remembered the old legends and frowned before selecting a heavy machete to back up the tough Israeli subgun.

Around him, Phoenix force followed their leaders lead and selected weapons as quickly as they could.

McCarter grabbed a Heckler and Koch CAW, grinning as he slid clips for the imposing weapon into his belt. "This is looking like some good ol fun, mates."

Manning shook his head and retrieved an M-16 and several clips, as well as a Remington pump shotgun. "Us against a million demons... hardly seems fair, y'know?"

"Think we should give them a chance to surrender?" Encizo grinned, plucking up his own weapons for the coming fight.

"Nah," Calvin James grinned. "Their problem if they don't check who they're messing with."

The group chuckled quietly as they moved to cover a section of the clearing.

"Got that right." Katz grinned, resting the Uzi instinctively on the arm that normally had a prosthetic attached. He blinked as he realized that he now had two good arms, then shook his head as he realized that it didn't really seem that odd to him for some reason.

"Pucker up, sweeties." McCarter said to his friends, watching the approaching cloud of demons. "Here come the wall flowers."

Konzaki grinned at his friend, "So, you need to go get a weapon?"

Terry shook his head and grinned right back, bringing an identical weapon to Andy's from behind his back. "Brought my own. By the way, thanks for the Christmas present."

Andy grinned, "No problem. You still owe me for the dollhouse though... You have no idea how hard that was to find."

"My little girl, and recently quiet home, thank you." Terry grinned. "Shall we?"

"After you." Andy grinned, motioning toward a free spot in the perimeter.

The two men walked to a defensible crop of rock and settled in.

Crow shook his head, "Alright guys! Get ready to dust some bloodsuckers!"

"YAHHH!" The men screamed, hefting crossbows, axes, and spears in the air.

"What are we doing here?" Phoebe stared at the preparations around her nervously. "This is way out of our league."

"For once I have to agree with the ass pain." Prue said.

"Hey! Shut up!"

"Would you two please quit it!" Piper wailed, "We have enough trouble here!"

"Piper is right." Penny said calmly. "And I assure you that we are not 'out of our league'. We merely have to take our place in the line."

"Shouldn't we get some weapons?"

Penny shook her head disdainfully, "We are the weapons."

Nick Wolfe quickly retrieved a AR-15 from the weapons rack and grabbed some clips. He looked around, uncertain of why he was here, and moved into position behind the three men who were setting up a gun nest.

"Mind if I join you?" Nick asked a powerfully built blond man who's entire being screamed 'cop'.

Carl Lyons glanced back at him, sizing Nick up as a cop instantly, and nodded. "Join the party."

Duncan, Adam, Methos, and Amanda stared at the approaching horde.

"So," Methos turned to Amanda, "How do you know this guy anyway?"

She shook her head, "I don't... but I get the weirdest feeling when I look at him..."

"Great." Methos shook his head, "The weird thing isn't even that I'm standing here you know..."

"What," Duncan began, "Pray tell is the weird thing then?"

"I'd say the weird thing is how this guy managed to summon a Jaffa into his Dream world." Methos said cryptically, then shut up.

"What are you talking about?"

"Nothing." Methos said, smiling. "You know... we could just leave..."

Connor smiled lightly, his eyes taking on an almost sinister look as he spoke in a whispery voice. "I don't think so."

Paige shifted and looked around nervously. "I really don't know what I'm doing here."

A man dressed in black, wearing a fedora and a scarf. "You'll do fine."

"I wish I was sure of that."

"Just remember one thing," The man said, "This isn't the real world. This place does what *you* want."

"I don't understand." She looked confused, "And how do you know these things?"

The man laughed, semi-maniacally, and a shadowy mist seemed to envelop him as he took a step back and vanished from sight. "That shadow knows...."

Giles walked up beside Xander, "I see you've managed to scrape the bottom of the barrel and still dig up more trouble then any normal person could manage in a lifetime."

Xander turned and looked at him, "Why is it you know who I am?"

"Duh." the older Buffy walked up behind him. "Why wouldn't he know who you are?"

Xander shook his head, "And why are you old anyway!?"

"Excuse me!?" The Slayer's eyes flashed dangerously.

"Yeah, Twinkie." Faith looked at her, "Why are you old? And you, loverboy... aren't you supposed to be in school right now or sumpin?"

Dawn walked up, "Are you all mindless, or did you take lessons?"

The three of them turned to glare at her. "Dawn!"

"Well, it's obvious!" Dawn said, "Whatever time dealy that happened included all of us... well, except my younger older sister over there... and what's with Willow and the geeks anyway?"

"Hey!" Jessie objected.

"Yeah... we aren't geeks..." Jonathan stammered, "We're just... misunderstood."

Xander buried his face in his hands. "Guys... GUYS! Can we do this later!? We kind of have a major fight on our hands here..."

Everyone looked to the approaching horde and swallowed.



"Well... this isn't over!"

Xander turned to Elan, Giles, and Daa'naal. "I think that we, and Neo are going to be the front liners in this one..."

Elanthielle nodded in agreement, "I think we should prepare."

Xander smirked and lifted his hands, a fireball burst to life in each. "Ready."

"I believe that we should go out to meet them." Daa'naal suggested.

Giles smile a very un-Giles like grin. "Yes. Let's."

Xander closed his hands into fists, snuffing the fireballs out as he turned to look at the others. "Neo, You're with us. Let's take this game to the air."

With that he lifted up, Elan and Daan'aal pacing him easily, Neo following a second later, and Giles taking up the rear with Jarod... both a little unsteady.

"Here they come." Xander said as everyone formed up beside him.

The all looked at the black cloud, now with the individual components becoming visible to the naked eye.

"I have to hand it to you lad," Daa'naal said, shaking his head. "You do have a knack for locating the most fascinating troubles."

Elanthielle grinned at the Elf, "Imagine... I have to put up with it on a full time basis."

"You have my most sincere sympathies, Lady Kine."

"If you two are done insulting me, could we get on with the battle?" Xander asked sarcastically, "I mean, it IS my soul at stake here."

The two ancient entities looked at each other and shrugged. "If you wish."

Xander rolled his eyes and formed two more fireballs in his hands, and then willed them to strike out at the approaching horde. The twin bursts of fire corkscrewed away from him and homed in on two flying demons who were instantly reduced to dust.

"This would be much easier if they weren't immune to that!" Xander jerked his head at the bright sun above them.

Elan shrugged, "This is a shared dreaming now, Alexander. Their will against ours, and they know that the environment itself is harmless."

"Tell me about it," Xander muttered, flinging another pair of fireballs.

Beside him Elan and Daa'naal had similarly begin firing into the enemy, Elan using brilliant bursts of silver light, and Daa'naal firing arrows of pure energy from a bow he had willed into existence.

Neo had calmly pulled two MP5-K's from his belt, and was emptying the weapons on full auto into the horde, firing at a range that would be ludicrous in the real world.

Giles shivered slightly and cast a very old spell, almost stammering in shock when the tiny flame he had meant to summon turned into a blazing wall of fire that cleared a half degree arc of the sky. "My word!"

"Way to go, G-man!" Xander grinned, "Do it again!"

"Be careful, Rupert Giles." Daa'naal said calmly, "You're magick is based on your will and your intent in this place. Do not lose control of your feelings or the magick may consume you."

"Right..." Giles muttered, the brown duster flapping in the wind as he shifted and began muttering his spell again.

Jarod looked around from where he was hovering, a little helplessly. "I don't know how..."

Xander grinned and sank down to him, "S'ok, J-man. Looks at it this way... You're dreaming, right?"

Jarod nodded.

"So the world reacts to your thoughts... you ever read a comic book?"

"A... comic?"

Xander sighed, frying another pair of vamps who were pushing into medium range. Below him he could hear the long guns of the groundside defenders open up on full auto. "Try this... See one of those rocks down there..."

"Ok..." Jarod said.

"Pick it up."

Jarod started to move toward the rock, but Xander held him back with one hand as he fired another blast with the other. "Not like that... just reach out your hand and... throw it."

Jarod swallowed, but nodded. He reached his hand out, trying to imagine the feel of the hefty rock, then he suddenly jerked his hand up and the rock flew clear of the ground and up into the horde. It bounced and ricocheted through the demons, killing and maiming them by the dozens on the way up and then again on the way down.

Jarod stared in shock. "Cool..."

"Here they come!" Lyons called out, his finger tightening on the M-60's trigger. The big gun bucked as he steered the muzzle of the weapon to the thickest concentrations of the flying pests. The 7.62 NATO wounds ripped into the demons at long range, ripping them apart and sending their dust scattering to the winds.

He heard short bursts start around him as Pol, Gadgets, and the new guy, Nick, started opening up with their assault weapons.

"Damn, there sure are a lot of those things." Nick muttered, firing short bursts as he looked through the scope mounted on the AR-15's rail.

"More to aim at." Lyons grunted, never taking his finger off the trigger as he hosed down dozens and dozens of the approaching demons.

Pol chuckled, "Yeah... You ever wonder how we get into these situations?"

Gadgets shrugged, dusting another pair that came into his sights. "At least these guys don't leave nasty corpses to clean up."

"Hey Sarge!" Andy called out, "Mind a couple old spotters watching your flank?"

Bolan didn't look back, he just kept working the bolt and firing into the mass of inhuman things. "Always welcome. Both of you."

Andy and Terry grinned as they took up positions on either side of the Executioner and settled in to wait for the horde to get close enough for their shotguns to be effective.

They didn't have long to wait. In a matter of minutes the horde was upon them, swooping down out of the sky with blood red eyes and hideously distorted faces. Andy and Terry opened up with the Konzak Atchissons on full auto, dropping three and four of the demons with every round they fired.

As the two of them opened up, Bolan abandoned his Remington and aimed his MP-5's into the sky, the staccato report of the two subguns quickly joining the echoing booms of the bigger Atchisson. Around this trio, the demons had found one of the quickest routes back to hell.

Phoenix force opened up about the same time as they heard the gunfire erupt from Able Team's location, Yakov Katzenelonbogen firing first with his Uzi submachine gun. The staccato burst of the Israeli made weapon was a signal to the others and they followed suit seconds later as the demons quickly found that this section of the sky was no safer then elsewhere.

"Get ready." Methos muttered as the black forms of the horde swept in at them.

"Oh yeah, really easy for you to say..." Richie said nervously, his sword held out in front. "We're not all jaded five thousand year old grumps who've seen everything, sone everything, and would rather be at home drinking beer."

"You mean, you wouldn't rather be at home with a brew right now?" Methos asked.

"That's not the point!"

"Whatever you say, pup." Methos grinned.

Duncan and Connor grinned at the exchange, but took a few steps to remove themselves from the group to avoid putting anything but the approaching demons in reach of their swords. "Good to be by your side again, Old Man."

Connor grinned, "Watch it, boy. Or I'll have to put you over my knee when this is done."

The two immortals chuckled slightly, then moved forward as one to meet the approaching horde.

Amanda swallowed. "What am I doing here!? If I didn't have that weird feeling about that guy... I swear I'd be gone so fast..."

Methos grinned at her, lifting his sword to and enguard position as the first demon charged out of the horde. "Please. You have the heart of a boyscout that's worse then anything McCloud can manage..."

Amanda snarled savagely and disembowled a demon who came too close. "Take that back, Adam!"

"Or what?" Methos grinned nastily, decapitating his third demon of the battle. "You'll revoke one of my merit badges!? You've always had a soft spot for strays and runaways, Amanda."

"Oooooohhh..." She growled low in her throat, slitting one demons throat, then decapitating another on the backswing, "When we get out of this, I'll...!"

"Children, Please!" Richie grunted as he drive his blade through a demons heart, "More Carnage, less playacting like an old married couple!"

"They aren't as fast as Agents." Trinity muttered, firing into the creatures as they approached.

"Count your blessings!" Morpheus yelled over the sound of his pistols as they ripped through the ranks of demons. "Though I'm just as glad that Agents can't fly!"

Trinity had to admit that he had a point there. Beside her she could hear the sound of Singer and Lark firing away. She also had to grin as she caught sight of Tank's wide smile as he made use of the weapons he normally only saw through a computer monitor.

<Boys and their toys.> She shook her head, still firing away with uncanny accuracy. She tossed a longing glance up to where Neo was engaged in ariel combat with those demons still flying above them. <Good luck, Love.>

Trinity turned her focus back to the matter at hand, the muzzle flashes from her twin Ingram subguns casting harsh shadows across her face as she kept firing.


"Closer." Buffy nodded, smiling at the look on Faith's face.

"Uh... B, I'm not trying to sound like a wuss here... but why the hell would we want them to get closer?"

"Trust me."

Faith rolled her eyes, "Says the girl who put a bagger through my gut... Alright, fine! We let them get closer."

Behind the two bickering Slayers stood Willow, Jonathan, Dawn, the young Buffy, and Jessie. All of them were shifting nervously. Just behind them Master Lee watched the approaching horde with equanimity, as his daughter shifted nervously beside him.

"Father.... perhaps we should..."

"Trust the young lady." Lee said softly. "She wishes them closer, we shall allow them to get closer."

"Yes Father."

The horde closed in around them, surrounding the small group.

"Now?" Faith shifted nervously, stake in hand as he itched to get into the fight.

"Not yet." Buffy said, drawing a gleaming blade from its scabbard.

The circle of demons drew tighter and tighter around them, as the demons rushed inward.


"Not yet!"

Buffy lifted the sword over her head as the demons rushed to within a few feet, and suddenly swung the sword in a powerful circle over her head. A gleaming glow like the first light of day emerged from the blade, and suddenly the group was blinded by a burst of pure light that erupted form the blade and flashed outward in a brilliant hemisphere.

Demons died in droves as the magical sunlight burned through their ranks and left them little more then as cinders of dust that blew in the nonexistent wind of the dream world. For two hundred yards around them there was left no trace of demon, save the dust that marked their passage back to hell.

Then the light faded, and Buffy lowered the blade and screamed. "NOW!"

The group rushed out into the fight, those with guns firing as soon as they had a clear shot. Master Lee and his daughter led Willow, Jonathan, and Jessie into the battle, the Master protecting his students and daughter as best he could.

Faith screamed as he charged into the battle, the twins on either side of her with shotguns blazing.

The younger Buffy fearfully stayed with her Sister, trying to protect her 'helpless' younger sibling as Dawn began to apply lessons learned from Master Caine to the world around her. She was pleasantly chocked to find that they worked much, much, better in the Dreaming.

The older Buffy was about to charge into the fight when she heard an odd sound.

"Oook oooo ooooo!"

She looked around, the suddenly looked up to see a man hanging upside down from a tree limb and grunting like an ape. "Frank!? What the hell are you doing up there!?"

The future chrononaught shrugged, "I figured that as long as I was hallucinating I may as well let it all out..."

"Get your Ex-SEAL ass down here and help us fight these demons!" She snapped.

He thought about it for a second, then nodded. "Ok."

The Ex-SEAL dropped lightly from the tree and joined the battle.

"Uh... Grams....?" Piper backed up nervously as the horde closed around them.

"Relax." Penny Halliwell lifted her hand and muttered a phrase under her breath. A single flame lit in her palm, and she stretched her hand out to the demons palm first.

A second later a blast like a flamethrower erupted from her hand, incinerating the demons in a wide arc around her.

"Whoa! Grams!" Phoebe grinned in glee. "How'd you do that?"

She shrugged, "A simple flame spell... augmented by the dream."

"Umm... Right." Prue muttered. "Not to be a downer or anything... but here come a bunch more of them!"

The demons rushed in on them at blinding speed, startling Prue as she jumped back, screaming and waving her hands. A shock wave erupted from the young woman and ripped the demons limb from limb in a massive display of carnage.

Penny allowed herself a maternal smile. "Very nicely done, Prudence."

Even Phoebe smiled, staring at her sister with something akin to respect. "Yeah, Sis... that was too cool!"

"H... how'd I do that?"

Penny Halliwell was about to respond, but the sudden influx of demons suddenly occupied her full attention.

The press of demons forced the four women into a tight huddle as the struck back to the best of their ability, but without sufficient force to repel the monsters.

Suddenly the press was lifted, Demons on one side flying away left and right, Demons on the other being swallowed up by an eerily spreading shadow never to be seen again, and eerie echoing laughter the only proof that something had actually happened. The pressure lifted, Penny muttered her spell again, and roasted a dozen vamps that had gotten too close.

Piper squealed as she was pushed down by three of the demons, their claws scraping at her skin. Her hands flashed out in reflex motion that froze the demons where they were. A moment later they were ripped away and thrown through the air by a powerful blow.

A smiling face appeared, "Need a hand, young lady?"

She nodded wordlessly and accepted the outstretched hand, as a very familiar face pulled her to her feet. "This is a nightmare!"

Phoebe grinned, looking at Piper's 'savior'. "I don't know... You just got rescued by Hercules... sounds more like one of my dreams...."

Prue grimaced. "You *would* dream about being rescued like some helpless damsel in distress."


Penny Halliwell sighed, "Would you two please STOP bickering long enough for us to help this poor young man?"

"Sorry, Grams...." Both young women chorused like repentant little children.

Penny sighed and looked at Hercules. "Thank you, Mr Sorbo."

"No problem, Ma'am." Herc grinned.

"No fair!" Phoebe complained, "This is a dream, right? Why can't he be Hercules!?"

She rolled her eyes, and turned back to the fight. "Piper, be a dear and help Grams kill these demons..."

"Let me get this straight..." Samantha Carter muttered, firing into the horde with her M-16. "You're Colonel O'Neill?"

"Right." Jack muttered as he fired his own '16.

"And that's Doctor Jackson??" she nodded to where Daniel was fighting off three demons with a primitive looking sword and a government issue colt.


"Didn't you report him as dead on Abydos?"

"Yeah... wait... no! I mean... How'd you know about that!?"

"I read your file." Sam answered between shots.


"So, now I have only one more question..."

"Only *one*!?" Jack asked incredulously before shaking his head and asking, "Ok, what's that?"

"Who the hell is THAT!?" She asked, nodding to where Teal'c stood stolidly blasting away at the horde with his staff weapon.

"I was hoping you'd know actually..."


Gunn hit the deck as an axe passed over his head and dusted the vamp that was about to bite him. "Thanks, Jose."

"No Problem, Man."

Gunn gave his crew a quick once over and nodded, things were going well enough considering how outnumbered they were. For some reason the vamps didn't seem to be as strong in here... Or he and his people were a lot stronger.

Gunn shook the thoughts off, and dove back into the fray.

"You gonna help the kid out?"

Angel shrugged, a little hopelessly. "Why?"

Whistler sighed. He'd been trying for months to shake some ounce of life out of a corpse and it was starting to get to him. "Cause he needs you?"

"No one needs me." Angel said, "He has lots of friends."

Whistler growled. "Look, its simple. They are going to lose. They don't have the numbers."

"And I'm the only one who can save them?" Angel asked sarcastically.

"No. Even your strength added to their's won't keep the kid alive."

"Then what's the point?"

"Sometimes... fighting a lost cause is the only time we can win." The balance demon tried to explain to the ensouled vampire.

Angel didn't answer, he just stared at the battle around him morosely.

"Where's Dana!?" Harry Tasker bellowed over the cacophony that ruled around him.

"I think she's over there!" Gib yelled, pointing to a knot of fighting off too their left.

Harry bellowed a battled cry and charged through a mass of demons, tossing them one way and the other as he fought tooth and nail to get to his daughter. Gib, Helen, and Spencer Trilby followed in his wake, eliminating any demon unlucky enough to survive Harry's enraged assault.

"Hey, Helen?"

"Yes, Gib?"

"You want to remind me to never piss Harry off?"

"Gib, you ask me that every second week... and I keep telling you, yes, I'll remind you."

"Ok... just checking."

The fighting around Buffy and the others had intensified, the reinforcements of the demons coming at them from all sides as they were pushed back into tight huddle. Buffy, Faith, Dawn, Master Lee, and Frank Parker kept the worst of them at bay while the rest mopped up stragglers who managed to escape the fury of the initial contact.

"This ain't good, B!"

The Older version of Buffy didn't reply immediately, being too bust gutting a vampire with the Sunblade. "What else is new!?"

Faith shrugged and conceded the point, "Still... Stakes are high... The X-man's soul... heavy shit."

"Yeah..." Buffy grunted. "I almost wish we had the good old days, when it was just the end of the world..."

Faith chuckled grimly, slashing at a vamp while kicking at another.

Gunn spun around when a scream echoed out behind him, yelling in shock as he saw Jose and Jaina go down in a tangle of limbs from a dozen demons. He bellowed an order to his crew to cover him and he dove in to save them.

Duncan and Connor stood back to back, vampiric dust so thick around them that it was forming into drifts that slowed their footwork. Their blades flashing like gleaming scythes, harvesting a crop of death around them.

The two Immortals were breathing hard, pressed heavily from all sides, as they dealt death to their opponents. But as effective as they were, the demons just kept coming.

Xander grunted as a vamp tackled him in mid air, driving him down into the ground with a massive crash. He fried the vamp with a flick of his wrist, but three more took its place a second later. He screamed and an energy pulse threw them off, but it was weak and he was winded. He got to his feet as quickly as he could, sending out an arc of flames that roasted a dozen vamps, only to seem three dozen more land around him.

"Oh shit."

Elanthielle looked around the battle from where she floated. This were not going well. The battle had started off well enough, but the sheer numbers were quickly wearing down the warriors who faced the demonic hordes.

She herself was hard pressed, as one by one her fellow flyers had been dragged down until she and Daan'aal floated alone in the skies while the others struggled on the ground below them. The tide of battle was inexorably turning against the gathering of warriors, and there was little that even a thirteen thousand year old mystic weapon could do to turn the tide.

Around him, one by one, he saw the demons he hated drag down one warrior after another and a rage built in him. As valiantly as they battled it was doing them no good, the demons outnumbered them by thousands to one and were coming forward without pause. The fires built and built in his gut as he watched the horror that had ruined his life take drag down so many others. It was a slow burn, but when it reached the boiling point, the vampire named Angel roared in rage and entered the battle.

Whistler shook his head and breathed a long sigh of relief. "God damn. I was wondering if anything would get to that guys heart.... Thank god... I almost started looking for a girlfriend for him."

Angel snarled and grabbed at the closest vamp, ripping it off the person trapped below. He reached down into the cluster and pulled the person clear.

Gunn paled, patting himself down quickly. "Thanks... whoever you are."


Angel glanced back, to see Whistler materialize an axe. "Catch!"

He reached his hand up, catching the weapon in mid air and swung it around and decapitated three vamps in a single swipe. He looked over at the black man he had helped up. "Angel."


"Angel. My name's angel."

"Right." Gunn said, retrieving a sword from the ground, "Well, Angel... thanks for the hand..."

"No problem." Angel muttered, his axe slicing through another four vampires.

Gunn stared at him in shock, "Right... no problem."

The black vampire hunter swallowed and then dug into the fight himself.

Xander shook himself free of the horde surrounding him, blasting the demons to dust and rising from the ground. He quickly attained altitude and looked over the battlefield.

"Jesus." He breathed. "We're losing... we're really losing..."

He eyed the scene in shock. He really hadn't thought it possible to lose, not with all his friends... past and future, here to help. But it was impossible to shrug off. They were losing.

Below him he watched as Angel pulled vampires off of Gunn and his crew. Xander silently thanked the vampire, but knew that the effort was hopeless.

"Elan!" He yelled out, rising higher.

"Yes, Alexander?" Elanthielle spoke softly, but her voice carried over the sounds of battle that surrounded them.

"We're not going to win this are we." Xander's voice was even, his words a statement instead of a question.

She frowned, then shook her head. "No. We won't."

"What happens to my friends!? If we lose here?"

She swallowed. "The stronger ones will be severely hurt by the neuro-feedback."

"And the others?"

"They will die."

"I can't let that happen."

Neo ripped through the horde of vamps around his friends. "Trin! Are you alright!?"

She nodded, shaken, as he helped her to her feet. "We're not going to make it are we?"

Neo looked around, his face grim. "I don't think so."

"What are we going to do?"

Neo looked up, and his eyes narrowed as his face became concerned. "I don't know... but I'm not sure I like the look of that."

Trinity looked up, "What is he doing!?"

"It looks like Xander and Elan have figured out the odds."

Xander looked at Elan and smiled sadly. "It was good to see you again... one last time."

"You do not have to do this, Alexander."

"I go... or everyone else does... and then I go anyway. Not much of a deal, ya know?"

"Alexander...." She hesitated.

He smiled, "When I'm gone... I want you to go to Buffy or Faith, or even Dawn. I hope you will anyway, but below us now are dozens of warriors... any of whom are more fit then I ever was... find a new partner."

With that said he looked up and rose away from her, accelerating rapidly.

She watched him go, knowing that this was one path that she could not follow him on. It was a path that was forever denied to her.

<Sometimes...> She thought darkly as Xander rose away from her, <It sucks to be Eternal.>

"What's he doing!?" Prue called out when her eyes happened to glance skyward.

Piper looked up, a tone of indignation in her voice. "He's running out on us!"

Penny Halliwell and Hercules shook their heads sadly.

"No... He's not." Hercules said. "If running was an option he'd have done that before calling us."

"What is he doing?" Phoebe asked, almost fearfully.

Penny sighed, already noticing a break in the fighting around her. "The demons are part of his mind... he can't run from them, they go where he goes... We don't."

"Oh my God."

Oblivious to the sudden reactions from those below him, Xander pushed up and away from the shared dreaming as fast as he could. He continued to accelerate, knowing that the demons would be waiting for him no matter where he went. Finally he came to a stop, far beyond the shared dreaming, and waited.

He didn't wait long.

Bolan's RV

Xander arced in his bonds suddenly. Startling Paige and Mack from their conversation.

"Oh my god! Is he alright?"

Mack frowned darkly. "Seizures... He's going into the final stage... I'm surprised that he hasn't woken up."

"Final stage? What does that mean?"

Mack shook his head, but didn't say anything. He didn't have to.

Paige paled. "Oh no..." She whispered.

Xander's Dreaming

They came in waves, and he didn't fight them.

"You want me!? Come get me!" He screamed, his arms held wide as they charged at him, and into him.

He staggered back as demon after demon charged *in* to his body, absorbing them into his mind and soul.

Shared Dreaming

The gathering of warriors looked up to the distance that Xander had vanished into, seeing brief flashes of light that seemed to have no explanation.

"What happened?"

Those words echoed around the gathering, voiced by most of the gathering at one time or another. Only a comparative handful, though, knew the answer.

Elan spoke to Giles, Jarod, and Neo. "He is being consumed by the attack..."

"No..." Giles said, pain thick in his voice.

"Consumed?" Jarod shook his head, not able or not willing to understand.

"He is dying." Daan'aal said, as gently as he could. "He has accepted his death as the price for the lives of his friends."

Jarod blinked. "But... he doesn't even know me."

Giles laid a hand on Jarod's shoulder, "You may not remember him... but he remembers you, and counts you as one of his best friends."

"How... how could I forget?"

Giles smiled sadly. "You didn't. You had nothing to forget, I'm afraid... but he had a lot to remember.

Xander's Dreaming

He screamed.

And screamed.

The burning was intense as the demons rushed into his soul, first one by one, then in small groups, but now they were rushing into him in an endless wave of blackness that sought to blot out everything that he was.

The pain was so intense that he didn't notice the dim glow that began, centered on his chest. The glow that increased in strength with every passing moment.

"What's that thing?"

Mack turned back to Paige, his face set. "What?"

She pointed to Xander. "That."

He looked at the kid and his ice blue eyes widened. There was a glow coming from under the boy's jacket. Bolan moved cautiously over to him, carefully lifting the jacket flap and looking under it. He reached in with his hand and gently pulled out the source of the glow.

It was a gleaming, glowing, cross.

Bolan frowned. <What's this?>

Shared Dreaming

"What's that!?" Bolan asked, pointing to a steady glow that was growing in the skies above them.

No one responded. No one knew.

Xander's Dreaming

The glow had grown so bright that Xander couldn't help but notice it anymore. It was blinding, surrounding and permeating everything about him. He couldn't avoid the light any more then he could the dark, both were eating at him with an incessant vigor.

The image of a cross was burned on his retinas as the blight surged around him. He couldn't see the demons anymore, but he could feel them all around him.

The only think that comforted Xander was the fact that even as he screamed in pain, so did the demons.

Then the pain, the light, the dark, and Xander himself... *pulsed*... and vanished.

Elanthielle felt the connection as it broke.

"He's gone..." She said mournfully.

She began to sink to the ground, but Daan'aal laid his hand on her, drawing her back up. "I do not believe so, Lady Kine. Expand your senses, reply not only on your connection to him."

She looked up, expanding her senses as the elf had bade her. Her sea green eyes widened in shock. She could feel a great power still in existence in the dreaming above her, one that eclipsed all others. "What..."

She stopped in mid question, she didn't have to ask what it was. She already knew.

Then the power vanished, and the connection she had with Xander coursed through her again. She looked down, the warriors below her were vanishing, the thread that held them no longer being held by the one who had needed them. She knew that since Xander had summoned then unconsciously, could only have let go of that thread if he were dead, or if the crisis had passed.

One by one they winked out around her, and she felt the irresistible tug that drew her back to her partner. She looked at Daan'aal as he began to fade.

"Good bye, Master Mage."

"Until the next time, Lady Kine."

Then he was gone, and she was pulled toward Xander as if she were attached to him by an elastic band that was snapping tight.

Bolan's RV

The seizures ceased as quickly as they began, and Xander fell limply to the bed. The glow of the cross faded quickly, leaving only the memory and the retinal after image of it's existence in Bolan.

He checked the kid's pulse and was shocked to find that it was steady. "He's still alive."

Paige looked over in shock. "Is... Is he going to be ok?"

Bolan shook his head, "I don't know... but... he may be..."

As Bolan finished talking, a weak voice rasped out. "You better bet on it..."

As the two looked down at him, Xander managed to smile weakly before passing out again.

"Nash! We got the tape back!"

Nash looked up, "Well, don't just stand there... get the damned TV and pop it in."

The cop nodded and a cluster of officers were soon forming around the portable trolley with the TV and VCR. The uniform put the tape into the machine and hit play.

"The lab clipped the beginning of the tape and started it when the girl was brought in." The cop explained as the tape started up.

The cops watched as the guard hauled in the young Asian girl, kicking and screaming.

"Well, well, well... There's Mr Wheelchair..." Nash said, referring to the fact that the sole survivor of the Bolan Blitz on the warehouse was now a paraplegic, and would never walk again.

"Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Joe said as they watched the man inject the girl with Heroin.

"Do we have an ID on the girl yet?"

"Nothing. Still working on it though."

"Good... Make sure they... Oh shit." Nash muttered in disgust, "Someone fast forward through that shit, I don't need to see this."

The cop with the remote nodded, an expression of distaste on his face as he hit fastforward. On the screen a progression of people came in and out of the room, revealing that the first rapist may have also been the last, but he wasn't the only one.

Finally Nash spoke up again, "Wait! What was that? Wind it back..."

The cop did. On the screen and figure came into the room and proceeded to rip the rapist off the girl and ram him repeatedly into some very hard objects.

"Oh! That had to hurt..."

"Good for the bastard." One of the female officers said with feeling.

The watched as the figure gently cut the ropes on the girl, and helped her up. Then the fish eye lens of the camera caught sight of movement in the doorway.

"Watch out man!" Joe muttered involuntarily as the figure spun around.

Everyone flinched as the first bullet shattered a mirror behind the two figures, then the mystery man opened up with his own guns.

"Is that Bolan?"

Nash shook his head. "No way, Bubba. Too small... look, he's only a little bigger then the girl... and a lot smaller then the guy he put down. We may have a copycat on our hands."

"Well... that's a relief... At least it's not Bolan."

"You got that right... but this guy, whoever he is, is still lethal."

"Yeah! Get that fucker!" One of the female officers muttered as the girl plucked up a gun and shot one of the men. She quickly reddened, "Sorry, Inspector..."

Nash shook his head, but just kept watching the screen. "There! Rewind that!"

The officer quickly hit rewind, and they watched as the last of the Yakuza cut and run. Then they watched the boy track and fire three shots. Only three shots.

"Jesus." Nash muttered, then turned to the rest as the cop paused the tape. "Look at this! Any of you who think this guy isn't as dangerous as Bolan, or is some hero for rescuing the girl... LOOK at this! He just tracked and SHOT a man who was fleeing the scene. A man who was not a threat any longer... and he did this *through* a solid WALL! If anyone see's this guy, I want them to call for backup! No heroics... and for god sakes, don't let this guy go out of some misguided hero worship!"

"Hey, come on man... no one here is going to do that, Nash... relax..." Joe spoke calmly.

"Hit play." Nash said.

They did, and the next thing they saw caused Nash to wince.

"Now THAT is Bolan." He said, motioning to the new figure on the tape.

"Looks like they don't know each other..."

"Well, they do now." Nash muttered, "Let's see the photo we've got of the mystery man..."

Joe winced and handed Nash a sheet.

"This is the best we've got!?"

"Sorry, Nash Man... The lab says that with that kind of lense they can't do any better... It's not built for detail..."

"God dammit, Bubba..." Nash flipped the paper down on the desk, "Who is this guy?"

When Xander woke up to several voices coming from a short distance away. He shook his head, <Damn... I feel like shit.>

<Wouldn't be the first time.> Elanthielle's crisp voice echoed through his head, causing him to simultaneously grin and grimace.

"Oww..." He held his head for a moment, then quickly centered himself and shut off the pain receptors.

<You're getting better at that, I see.>

"Practice." He muttered as he got up, noticing that he was dressed in his underwear and a pair of socks.

<Be careful, Alexander. Used without proper care that technique can be as dangerous as a wound. Pain exists for a reason.>

Xander nodded, "I know, I know... I'm careful, Elan... Never much more then an Aspirin would do."


Xander looked up to see Paige come into the RV, looking around curiously. When she saw him she looked away, flushing slightly. He grinned and shook his head, "Hiya Paige."

"You should be in bed..." She scolded, still staring out the windshield of the RV.

Xander shrugged, picking up the remnants of his leather jacket and grimacing. "I should be a lot of things... and I'm not any of them... Sue me. Damn. This is totaled."

"What?" She asked, glancing at him again, involuntarily, before looking away again with her hand cupping her eyes.

Xander grinned and shook his head. Experiences with Faith, Phoebe, and even Buffy had long ago burned out any embarrassment at showing a little skin. "My jacket. I shredded it when I laid my bike down."

"Could you... like... cover up or something?"

Xander shrugged, "Depends... You got any clothes for me?"

"Use a blanket or something!"

He chuckled and flipped a blanket over him, quickly tying it over his shoulder. "Fine..."

"Are you decent?" She asked, still cupping her eyes.

Xander shrugged, "Not if you believe my friends."

She peeked. "Oh, ha ha. Very funny."

Xander chuckled, retrieving his things form the pockets of his jacket. He didn't have much, a couple pieces of ID and a bank card. His guns were laying on a small counter top near the bed, along with holsters and clips. He checked the guns actions then put them aside and checked under the counter. Sure enough he found the rest of his cloths, though only the pants were serviceable.

"You should be in bed." Paige repeated, then gasped as he dropped the sheet and reached for his pants. "What are you doing!?"

"Getting dressed." He grinned and pulled on his pants. "Could you ask Mike if he has a shirt I can borrow?"

"Yeah..." Paige turned around quickly and vanished outside.

A few moments and Mike appeared, "Check next to the bed, third drawer down."

"Thanks." Xander pulled the drawer and grabbed a blue shirt off the top. He quickly fitted it on, and buttoned it up. It was too big, but he figured it would have to do.

Xander stepped outside, blinking in the sunshine as he did. He shaded his eyes with one hand, "Damn... How long have I been out?"

"Only a few hours." Bolan said. "It's morning. You should come see something."

Xander nodded and followed Bolan, seeing Paige nod at them and then lead them into the dorm.

"Lab just finished up the second tape."

"Show me." Nash ordered.

The cop nodded and slid the second tape into the machine and hit play.

They watched as a family was dragged into the room, and the wife shot.


"Check it out, Nash... there's the Girl."

Nash nodded, watching as the father entangled the gunman, screaming something. The girl made a run for it, taking her brother with her. "Good man."

"Too bad she didn't make it."

Nash nodded.

A short while later the girl was dragged back in and the man nodded, apparently agreeing to something. The tape skipped ahead, a large section cut out by the lab. The next scene was the man working on something, with lots of chemicals and biohazard gear.

"Oh brother. What have we got here?" Nash breathed.

"Maybe a new designer drug?" Joe suggested.

A few moments later the shooter came back in, and a fight broke out between him and the man. The shooter pulled out a knife and sliced off the man's biohazard gear, then sprayed him with whatever he had been working on. Then the man was overpowered and tied down to a chair.

"What's he doing?" Joe asked, as the man opened all the shutters and let in the sunlight.

"Damned if I know, Bubba." Nash said shaking his head.

The man laughed at the struggling figure who was tied to the chair and then left. The tape ran on longer and they watched as the man slowly changed, his face becoming swollen, and blood pustules bursting on him. Then the three figures burst into the room.

"That's Bolan and Mystery man..."

Nash nodded. "Come on, Mystery... look at the birdie... come on..."

The tape ran on, showing the emotion of the girl and the sudden attack of her father. Then it climaxed with the man disintegrating into dust.

"What the fuck is that!?" Nash demanded. "Did they do something?"

"No man... its whatever he cooked up that did it... it has to be."

"Jesus. What the hell is it?"

Joe shrugged, "Something pretty bad."

Nash looked at him as if he was insane, then looked back at the screen as Bolan and the mystery guy started searching through the room. "What are they doing?"

Joe shrugged, "Looking for something..."

As the tape came to the end they saw the mystery figure drop some papers into a trash can, then light it a short while later.

"He knew... He knew what it was." Nash said, "And he didn't want us... or maybe anyone to find out. Who the hell is this guy?"

Joe looked at the best photo they had of the figure and shook his head. "I don't know, Nash Man."

Bolan, Paige, and Xander stepped into Paige's bedroom. On the bed of the small room lay Naomi Osaka, shivering and sweating as her brother replaced a wet cloth on her forehead.

"What's wrong with her?"

"Withdrawl." Bolan muttered, "They injected her with an exotic heroin varient... I've seen it a few times. We should get her to a hospital."

"What can they do?" Xander asked.

"Make her comfortable... maybe wean her off onto a softer drug..."

Xander grimaced. "Damn it I'm going to be ravenous when I'm done."

"What?" Paige asked.

Xander sat down by Naomi's head, "I'll be gone for a few seconds... See you in a bit."

Then he closed his eyes and laid his hand on her head.

"Xander... What are you...?" Paige cut off as Naomi slipped into a more peaceful looking sleep, her face composing. "... How?"

Xander opened his eyes and tried to stand up, stumbling and almost falling until Bolan caught him by one arm. "Are you alright?"

Xander nodded weakly. "Yeah... It's just really hard... doing that to someone else."

"What did you do!?" Paige asked, her voice was almost accusing.

Xander steadied himself. "I put her into a deep sleep... think 'Coma-Lite'... That was the easy part..."

"Easy part?"

"The hard part was setting it so she would wake up in about twelve hours... probably hungry and thirsty as hell... but she should be over the worst of the withdrawal."

Paige looked between Xander and Naomi, her face a mask of confusion. "How did you do that?"

Xander shrugged, holding himself upright by leaning on a chair, "I slipped a temporary block into her mind... Consider it something like hypnosis with a kicker. She'll be fine... I think."

"You think!?"

Xander slumped down, "Can we get something to eat? I'm starving..."


Xander rolled his eyes and staggered out of the room, glancing at Bolan on his way by. "You know, this is the problem with strong women... they think that they know better then we do."

"No." Bolan shook his head, following Xander out, "The problem with strong women is how often they turn out to be right."

The two of them chuckled quietly as Paige glared at their backs until the door shut behind them. All she heard was Xander's last words to her. "We'll be back after I've found a mountain of food or two..."

"You weren't kidding." Bolan said as he watched Xander polish off his fourth cheeseburger and reach for a fifth.

Xander shrugged and shoveled more food into his mouth. "Takes a lot of energy to heal up, and working in someone else almost wiped me out... I think I'm gonna be cross eyed for a week."

"How did you do that?" The big soldier asked quietly.

Xander tilted his head and shrugged. "It's not too hard I guess... I have a friend who is into all that mystic monks of the orient stuff... She's been teaching me for a while now."

Surprisingly, Bolan nodded. "I've known some people who were able to do some things I could never explain... Never knew anyone who was as young as you are doing it though."

Xander let out a bitter chuff of laughter. "I'm a little older then I look."

Bolan looked at him skeptically, but didn't comment.

"Anyway... Now that you got the Yakuza dudes, you're done... right?"

Bolan shook his head, "Doesn't work that way. I've got some more visits to make."

Xander blinked. "Why?"

"So the cannibals understand the price of doing business." Bolan replied candidly.

"Cannibals?" Xander asked, then nodded. "Never mind. I get it. Cute."

Bolan picked at his hamburger and looked at Xander oddly. "Cute?"

Xander grinned, "Sorry..."

Bolan rolled his eyes and took a bite of his burger.

"Nash Man!" Joe yelled, waving an envelope in the air. "We've got the lab work on the bullets..."

"Let's see it." Nash snatched the envelop from his partner and broke the seal.

"Hmmm... Let's see...." He pulled out a sheat and looked at it. "What's this? Some kinda joke?"

Joe shook his head, "No joke. The lab guy pinned me down and interrogated *me* for an hour before he gave me these..."

"What? Why?"

Joe rolled his eyes and shrugged, "Apparently these bullets are some new prototype of a new ammo type... He was real interested when I said that they came from a pistol."

"And why is that?"

"Because, no such gun exists."

"What!?" Nash looked up from the papers sharply.

"Just what I said. There is a gun that shoots this ammo, but it's a next generation submachine gun... real experimental stuff too. The lab guy said that a SWAT team in LA just got a shipment for field testing..."

"So maybe out guy is from LA?"

Joe shook his head, "No... I call the company... They insist that there is no pistol in the world that is chambered for that caliber."

Nash shook his head, "Ok... so it's a custom job then..."

Joe nodded, "Well you see, that's what I thought... so I made a couple calls and found out something interesting."

"What's that, bubba?"

"Well, I found out that a set of molds for this ammo was sent to an arms smith in LA... on the request of the SWAT Captain."

"That sounds promising..."

"It would, except that he just got the shipment a couple days ago..." Joe said, shaking his head. "No way he could have machined two custom pistols in that amount of time... besides, the guy has an impeccable record... here, I ran a make on him."

Nash looked over the sheet. "Andrew Connors... Jesus... This guy is rated with the CIA, the NSA, and the Armed Forces as trustworthy..."

"Yep." Joe said, shrugging. "We can't point any fingers at him without hard evidence."

"Great." Nash tossed the papers down, "A Mystery man, guns that don't exist, and Mack Bolan to top it all off. This is shaping up to be one hell of a week, Bubba."

"Why do you do this?" Xander asked quietly as they drove back to the dorm.

"Do what?"

"Go after the... cannibals."

Bolan was quiet for a time, "It's personal."

Xander nodded, "Most things are."

"What's your story?"

Xander was silent for a time, thinking about it. "A few years ago I met a girl... she was involved in something that terrified me."


Xander shook his head, smiling. "Things that go bump in the night. It's a long story."

"So... This girl, what was she like?"

"You ever meet some one who lit up the room just by walking into it?" Xander asked, smiling.

Bolan nodded. "I've known one or two."

Xander chuckled, "There's something about powerful women... anyway, this girl... she's a fighter, a real, honest to god, kick ass, fighter."

"What did she fight?"

Xander took a deep breath, "Things that make the cannibals look polite."

There was a long drawn out silence before Bolan spoke again, when he did it was a simple challenge.

"Prove it."

Xander smiled, it wasn't a pleasant smile. "Tell you what. You show me the cannibals, and I'll show you the jackals."

Xander and Bolan walked into the dorm room, garnering various stares from the girls and security as they put a call in for Paige at the front desk. She arrived shortly afterwards and led them to her room.

Inside they found Joseph had woken up and was sitting with his sister. He looked up, his eyes widening when he saw Xander. "Is she going to be alright?"

Xander looked away for a second, then looked back. "Yeah... I think she'll be fine... but it'll probably take some time."


Xander hesitated, not certain what to say.

Paige took that as a cue and spoke up. "Your sister was hurt... and it was more then just her body, Joseph... That mean's that she's going to need some time to get better... and she'll need you to understand and help her... do you think you can do that?"

Joseph swallowed, but nodded with a certain determination in his eyes. "Yeah..."

Xander smiled, watching the two of them.

"But what am I going to do until she wakes up?"

Xander considered the question, remembering how hard it was to sit around and do nothing while a loved one was hurt. He fished something out of his pocket and walked over to the boy.

"You see this?" He asked, kneeling in front of Joseph and dangling the Celtic Cross in front of him.

The boy nodded.

"Just yesterday this very cross was in the hands of an Angel... you know what that is?" Xander whispered in a conspiring tone.

The boy nodded, his eyes widening.

"I want you to hold on to this, until I get back... Just sit with your sister and think good thoughts for her, ok?" Xander said, handing the cross to Joseph.

The boy accepted the cross, but then frowned. "I'm not a Christian..."

Xander chuckled, "You want to know a secret? No one who really matters, cares... It's not what you believe in, or who... it's how you live."

The boy thought about, then nodded. "That makes sense."

Xander smiled at him, "Too bad adults can't figure that out. So, look after your sister until I get back... ok?"

Joseph nodded, and Xander stood up and walked back to Paige and Bolan.

"You're going to what!?" Paige asked, eyes wide.

Xander grinned, "A little shopping."


Xander glanced at Bolan, "Imagine... a woman who doesn't appreciate shopping time."

Bolan shook his head, but didn't respond.

"Xander! Are you crazy? Naomi is..."

"Asleep, and will be for quite some time." Xander said calmly. "Can you look after Joseph until she wakes up?"

"Well yeah." Paige said, "But..."

"Cool." Xander said, "Thanks. Ciao."

Xander ducked out the door while Paige stared after him, growling in rage. "That... That... *man*!"

"That was a nice story you told the kid." Bolan said as they drove through the streets of San Francisco.

Xander gave the big man a slight smile and tilted his head. "Well... You know kids, they'll believe anything."

Bolan shot Xander an odd look, feeling something a little off center about his tone, but didn't respond.

"So, where are we going?" Xander changed the subject.

"You first."

"Oh no, it doesn't work that way. We have to wait for night fall to explore my world."

Bolan grunted, but nodded. "Fine. Here in San Francisco the organized crime is heavily tilted toward the Far East. Yakuza, Triads, and to a lesser extent, the Tongs have power here. The old mafia families still have a toe hold in some places, but its fleeting."

Xander nodded, "Ok. And it's the Yakuza we want?"

"Specifically we want members of the same group that kidnaped and killed the Osaka's." Bolan said.

"You have a lead on them?" Xander asked.

Bolan nodded. "To find out where they were holding the Osaka's I hit a 'massage parlor' owned by the group. While I was there I got some information on their other operations, not the businesses they squeeze in the protection rackets, but the real fronts."

Xander nodded, "Ok. Sounds good. What's first?"

Bolan nodded to a building just down the block as he parked the big RV. "See the old brownstone on the corner?"

Xander looked down, "Yeah."

"It's the headquarters for the local money lender."

Xander raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Yeah, You need cash and the banks won't help? These guys will be glad to help you out. Only their interest rate is on the sunny side of fifty percent, and if you can't pay it's not your house they'll repossess." Bolan said darkly, "They'll take the cash out of you one way or another, or your family if they can."

At that last statement, Xander's eyes narrowed. Up to that point he had been only mildly interested, frankly if someone was dumb enough to get caught in a web like that then it wasn't really his concern. But for them to target family members of the dumb bastard, that was a different matter to Xander.

"You've got my attention."

Business was good, and it was a beautiful day. Mike Hoshi figured that was a winning combination no matter how you looked at it. Mike was a Japanese/American, born and raised in San Francisco, who had spent the last eight of his twenty years working his way patiently up the ladder of the local rackets.

He'd begun in simple protection, squeezing nickels and dimes out of store clerks in his old neighborhood. He'd been good at it, though he wasn't too big or imposing, and he'd been noticed. Before too long he was collecting from a half dozen neighborhoods, and running money all over the city.

A few months of that, and he'd moved up the ladder again. That was the good thing about working his side of the law, Mike figured. If you're smart and don't get caught, then the trip to the top was pretty damned short.

And Mike was very smart, and he'd never gotten caught.

So no, at the ripe old age of twenty he was in charge of the very lucrative business of lending money to suckers in the need of fast cash. Whatever their misfortune, Mike didn't give a damn. They came to him, he gave them what they needed, and he made damn well sure that they paid back what they owed.

Hey, it was just good business.

Mike smiled secretively. Ok, so it was also a lot of fun. But who said you couldn't love your job?

He'd just finished counting up the day's take when a commotion sounded from downstairs. It didn't overly worry him, there was always someone who didn't want to pay or who objected to a visit one of Mike's guys paid on a family member. The boys downstairs knew how to handle that.

When the gunshots roared through the building, Mike knew that some serious shit had gone down. His guy's were under orders to leave the shooters in the leather unless there was no choice, gunfire was bad for business.

He got up from his desk and stalked to the door, flinging it open. "What the fuck are you idiots do..... ing?"

He trailed off as the big bore of a huge gun introduced itself to his left eye.

Bolan stalked into the room, pushing the slight Japanese man back. He shook his head, the guy looked barely out of his teens, far too young to be causing the misery that he was.

"Wh... who... are you?"

"Not your problem right now." He snarled, hearing Xander step casually in behind him. "Where are the records?"

"W.. What?"

"Records. Where are they?" Bolan emphasized his question with a jab of the Desert Eagle, causing the man to fall back.

"I don't know what you...."

The man didn't get a chance to finish before Bolan backhanded whim with the heavy gun and knocked him to the ground.

"Alright, alright! The floor safe... they're in the floor safe!"

"Where is it?" Bolan growled.

"Right here." Xander said quietly, kneeling down. "Nice rig... what is this? A SecurMax model nine?"

The man on the floor shrugged, still shrinking away from Bolan.

"You know something about safecracking?"

Xander shook his head, "Not enough for this... but I've known a couple experts in the field..."

Bolan shook his head, "You know some interesting people, kid."

Xander shrugged, "I like to learn form the best."

Bolan tapped the cowering man with the barrel of his gun. "Open it."

The man nodded and moved to the safe, fumbling as he tried to get the combinations right. When he was done and moved to open the safe, Bolan pulled him back. "Cover him."

Xander nodded, leveling a FiveSeven on the man as Bolan opened the safe. Inside was a Berreta 92F, several files, and stacks of wrapped cash. Bolan pulled out the gun and waved it at the man, "Not smart."

Then he retrieved the files and examined them, nodding finally. "These are the records."

He put them back, took the cash out, and dropped a thermite grenade into the safe, sealing it afterwards. "Let's go."

Xander dragged the man out of the room, following Bolan, and behind them there was a muffled thump as the grenade went off. Bolan let Xander go past, then tossed a couple more grenades into side rooms, and double timed it down the stairs.

Out on the street the three of them watched the place burn for a moment before Bolan turned to the terrified man. "Give your boss a message for me."

The man swallowed and nodded vigorously.

"Tell him that I'm coming for him, and if he wants to see another sunrise he should do it from Japan." With those words Bolan pressed a small object into the frightened man's palm and walked away, with Xander following.

Mike Hoshi looked down at the small medal in his hand and shook. He didn't know what it meant, but he did know one thing. He may be smart, he may not have gotten caught, but his ladder to the top had just gotten a lot longer.

What have we got, Bubba?"

Detective Andrew Trudeau looked up with an annoyed look on his face. "Get out of here, Bridges. This is my balliwack."

Nash grinned and chuckled, "I don't think so, Andy. This is my case, has been for 36 hours."

"What are you talking about? This just happened a few minutes ago."

"This one has all the earmarks of a Bolan hit. And that makes it mine." Nash said, waving the SIU officers to take over for the regular PD detectives. "Joe check and see if we've got a medal kicking around... Harv, canvas the witnesses. I want to know if Mystery Man showed up."

"Whoa! Wait a second here!" Andy objected, "No one said anything about Bolan being in town!"

"That's cause city hall don't want a panic, Bubba." Nash said, walking past Trudeau so he could get a better look at the burning building. "What happened here?"

Andy sighed, but relented. "Two men came in, shot the place up, had a few words in private with the guy who rand the joint, then they burnt the place down."



"How'd they burn it?"

"Don't know yet. Firefighters can't get close enough, fire's too hot."

Nash glanced back at Joe, "Sound familiar?"

"Bolan likes to use Thermite and White Phosperous grenades." Joe said, nodding. "Nobody's found any medal... but they say that a guy ran off after two men dragged him out of the building."

Nash cursed, "Damn it. Bastard sent a message."

Andy looked between them, confused. "To who?"

Joe looked at Nash, Nash looked at Joe. The both spoke together, "Tetsuo Nagashi."

"Who are these men!" Nagashi roared as he watched his lending operation literally go up in smoke on the five o'clock news.

"Hoshi is here sir..." A man said quietly.

"He lives!? Bring him in!"

Mike Hoshi was led in, looking extremely nervous. He bowed respectfully before anything else.

Nagashi waved the respect off, "Tell me!"

Mike did. He stammered his way through his story, ending it with the big man's final message.

"Show me!" Tetsuo demanded, holding out his hand.

Mike dropped the medal into the master's hand and backed away.

Tetsuo stared at the medal for a long time, finally clenching his fist over it and growling. "Get him out of here!"

Two men grabbed Mike by the shoulders and dragged him out.

The old Japanese man stood alone in the posh office and stared at the American Marksmen Medal in his palm. <The Devil comes for me... Finally.>

He tossed the medal onto his desk and walked over to a cabinet on his wall, unlocking it with great solemnity, and pulling out a intricately carved blade from inside. His family had owned this sword for generations, going back over eight centuries. He smiled as he considered the old stories of his grandfather, how the sword was a living extension of his family and its honor.

Tetsuo lifted the blade from its rack and examined the lovely blade, only sliding it a few inches along its scabbard so he could see the gleaming blade. Family honor or not, the blade cut true against many of his enemies in the past, and Tetsuo was confident that it would do so again.

"Interesting life you lead." Xander said neutrally as they walked away from the third hit of the day.

Bolan didn't say much for a while, "The job has to be done."

Xander nodded, he could understand that after all, he'd been doing the same thing since he was sixteen... the last time he was sixteen anyway. Xander supposed that he should be more affected by the deaths of human beings, but the truth was that his views had changed over time when it came to that.

On that planet two years ago, Xander had take his first human lives. And they were innocent. He had spent months despising himself for the decisions he made on that horrid night. Since then he had been directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of demons and non-demons alike, some of them were just following orders like the Jaffa at Cheyenne Mountain and others were monsters who were demons in all but name.

When the Vatican team struck the poor people at Orwell, he had killed again. And it had hurt him, but not to the extent of the first time he had dropped the hammer on a human. Xander hadn't really considered the difference then, it hadn't come up until the Watchers kidnaped Faith. And again he had to use lethal force against a human being.

Xander was a little disturbed now that he wasn't concerned about Mike's actions, or even his own part in it. These criminals had performed acts that Xander couldn't even imagine Angelus himself doing, and they had wanted to sell a biological weapon as horrible as anything Xander had ever known.

In short, they had willingly joined the other side of the line. <And that, is worse then being turned. They had a choice, How could they make this one?>

<Humans have that choice, Alexander.> Elan said quietly into his mind, <To be human is to constantly walk on the cusp of that decision. Taking care to stay on the right side of the razor is what makes a hero.>

<I don't want to be a hero, Elanthielle.> Xander said formally, <I just want to live my life, and not have to worry for my friends safety every minute of every day.>

<With friends like yours,> Elan said dryly, <You may be asking for far too much.>

Xander rolled his eyes, the looked over to Bolan. "What's next?"

"Tetsuo Nagashi."

"You again." Andy Trudeau growled as he watched Inspector Bridges walk up to the crime scene with his partner, Joe Domingues.

"Me again." Bridges grinned at him, pleased with himself.

"You just can't stay away from my crime scenes can you?"

"Uh uh, Bubba." Bridges said, pointing to a plastic bag in Trudeau's hand. "The medal in that evidence bag say's that this is *my* crime scene. And you PD boys are walking all over it."

Trudeau growled and took a step toward Nash, but his partner put a hand on his shoulder. "Relax, Andy. We're all on the same side here."

Andy calmed down and nodded, "Alright... alright. You want it, Bridges, you got it. Ok, every one! SIU is taking this one over, stop what you're doing and pack it up."

Andy and Darryl walked away, but Nash put a hand out and stopped them.

"What now?" Andy growled.

"Two things." Nash said, "First... the medal?"

Andy looked down at the evidence bag in his hand and reluctantly handed it to Nash. "And second?"

Nash looked around, and finally spoke grudgingly. "If you want to hang around... we could probably use the help."

"Why?" Andy asked, waving his arm around the scene. "You've got all your crack shot SIU boys on it. What do you need us lowly PD flatfoots for?"

Nash chuckled a little, "This is what I get for being nice, Joe. Look. We've got a line on his next target... you want in on the bust, or not?"

Andy stopped, looking between Joe and Nash. "You serious?"

"Oh yeah," Joe grinned.

Nash just fitted his sunglasses back over his eyes, "As a heart attack, Bubba."

Tetsuo Nagashi didn't blink when the gunfire erupted from downstairs, he merely opened his eyes and finally drew his family blade from the black sheath and remained sitting cross legged on the floor of his private Dojo.

The gunfire rose and feel in intensity, finally coming to a complete halt. Then he heard footsteps approach the Dojo and he got up in a single smooth motion and turned to the door.

The big American walked in calmly, a pistol in his hand. His eyes glittered a glacial blue as spoke. "You should have taken my advice, Japan is lovely this time of year."

"You should have taken my advice," Tetsuo listened as the big man spoke, carefully gauging the distance to the American. <Seven feet. 9mm automatic, excellent reflexes, strike first.> "Japan is lovely this time of year."

As the big American finished his sentence, Nagashi lunged and struck.

Bolan fired on reflex, loosing three 9mm parabellums into the Dojo as the old Japanese man moved like lightning.

Nagashi twisted in motion, anticipating the trajectory of the bullets, and lashed out with his razor sharp Katana.

A lesser man would have lost his hand, but Bolan jumped back out of range as the glittering arc of the sword flashed past his eyes. He felt a stinging sensation run up his arm and reflexively lifted it to examine himself for injury. What he saw was the carbide steel barrel of the Berretta, almost two inches shorter then it should have been.

Bolan saw the next swipe coming, and dropped into a roll that brought him clear of the door way yelling as he did. "Watch it kid!"

Xander spun away from the door as Bolan rolled clear, just getting clear as the glittering arc of the sword bisected the space he had been in a second earlier. The blade slashed clean through the hardwood doorway, leaving a seven inch slash in the solid door frame.

"Jesus!" Xander muttered, calling Elan by reflex and almost smirking as the cool metal gently slid into his hand from nowhere. He commanded the ancient weapon to activate and muttered, "Nice to have you back, Elan.>

<Good to be home, Alexander.>

As he rolled, Bolan dropped the useless Berretta and went for the Desert Eagle on his hip, drawing the big gun in a smooth motion as he came back to his feet. As the big gun came up, the glittering blade was coming down in a smooth over hand strike aimed straight at the big soldier's head.

It was a race as both weapons tried to reach their mark before the other and time slowed for Bolan as he realized that he was going to lose this race.

The smile of victory on Tetsuo Nagashi's face was abruptly interrupted when a gleaming silver staff appeared from nowhere and stopped the arc of his sword mere inches from his target. He turned and screamed at the interloper, "This is not your BATTLE! This is MY vendetta!"

Xander looked at the Japanese man, his eyes glowing a glittering silver as he smiled dangerously. When he spoke it was in accented Japanese, {"A Vendetta without honorable conclusion is a weight on a man's soul for eternity."}

As the Japanese man's face dropped in shock Xander did the best he could to hold in the high pitched giggle that he knew would ruin the moment. <Thanks Elan. *That* was cool.>

Tetsuo stared at the child form standing in front of him, challenging *his* honor. No matter what else, the apparent child was anything but. The Silver glow to his eyes was proof of that, as was the iron strength in the boy's arms. "Who are you!?"

Xander shifted to English, "Does it really matter?"

"I suppose not." Nagashi responded, taking a step back and pulling the blade free of its contact with the silver staff. As his weight centered on the new foot he reversed the arc of the blade and slashed it back at Xander from the other side.

Xander dropped into a half crouch and shifted Elan's position to catch the blade on the lower half of the Staff, deflecting the blade away from him and downward toward the ground. Sparks struck off the two weapons as they met and clashed, casting dancing shadows across the room.

Nagashi took another step back, again changing the direction of the blades arc to strike at Xander from the opposite side. Xander easily deflected the blow, letting the glittering blade strike sparks along the length of the battle staff as it directed the lethal weapon away.

Bolan looked for an opening, trying to get a clear shot at the Yakuza head master with his .44 Desert Eagle, but couldn't get a safe shot past Xander. The sparks were leaping off the two weapons, showering the floor as Nagashi continued to slash at Xander and the teen continued to block. Bolan blinked, if he didn't know better he'd have sworn that there was a silver glow emanating from Xander as he moved with lightning speed.

Xander flipped the staff up, holding it parallel to the ground just above eye level, just in time to catch a vertical slash right in the center of the staff. He flinched as the vibrations ran through the weapon, and the sparks struck in his eyes. <Damn it, Elan! I need more! This body isn't as strong as it was a couple weeks ago!>

<And that is precisely the reason that you can not take more energy, Alexander.> Elan's voice echoed through his mind as he shoved the Katana blade away.

<I was over twelve percent! Now I can't go higher then *three*!?>

<Body and mind, Alexander. Mind *and* body.>

Xander growled and went on the offensive.

Nagashi saw the strike coming and barely managed to lift the Katana into position to block. <By the gods! His strength is impressive, but the young devil's speed is unnatural!>

He kept moving back as the silver staff came up him, blocking strike after strike as the boy pushed him to the wall. He twisted as he followed the motions, looking for a pattern. When he saw it, Nagashi shifted his stance and moved to strike.

<He's going to thrust, Alexander!>

Xander spun the staff like a windmill as the Katana slid through the air toward his gut. Metal met metal and the blade was knocked away. Xander moved and stopped the spinning staff in one hand, preparing to strike.

Nagashi pivoted with the motion, swinging in a complete circle as he brought the blade back around to strike from the opposite side and struck out again.

Xander's eyes widened as he felt the blade bite into his left arm, cutting deep. He fell back, his left arm hanging limp as the burning pain began to seep through to his brain. He fell back, waving Elan in front of him in an effort to ward off the swordsman.

Behind him Bolan shouted, "Kid! Move it! Give me a shot!"

Nagashi moved fast, keeping Xander between him and Bolan. "Move and I will cut you from gullet to groin, child!"


<Not now, Elan.>


<Cut it out, Elan!>

<This is important!>

Nagashi held the blade in a ready strike position, watching the boy as his eyes shifted inward for an instant. Then a cold smile appeared on the youthful face, and the boy gazed straight at him and almost through him. The touch of silver that seemed to linger around the boy faded away, and he casually flicked the staff to one side.

Nagashi was disciplined, his eyes only flickered to watch the staff's flight, but they widened when the seven foot staff vanished into thin air. As he quickly brought his eyes back to the boy they widened even further as he saw the staff swing in a lightning arc, then he saw stars as it collided with his head.

Nagashi fell backwards, stumbling into the wall as he tried to blink away the stars. He managed to clear his eyes just enough to see the next strike coming and dodged, just getting below the strike that dig into the wall.

Xander was swinging Elan with one hand, his left arm hanging limply against the wall, and trying to press home his advantage. Strike after strike he lashed out with, only to be frustrated as the Japanese swordsman ducked and rolled just clear of each attempt.

Xander whipped the staff around, and over his shoulder as he brought it down in a powerful vertical blow. Nagashi managed to bring his sword up, blocking the staff and striking sparks that showered the older man. Then he stood up, twisting the sword over the staff and reversing his pressure, forcing the staff into the ground.

As the staff struck the floor, Nagashi stepped on it and jerked it from Xander's hands. As the metal staff hit the ground, pinned under his foot, Nagashi swung his weapon true and straight at Xander's throat.

Instead of the shocked look of pain that Nagashi had been expecting, he was treated to a wry smile as his own sword simply *stopped* in mid air. There was nothing touching it, the blade simply refused to strike the boy down.

As his muscles strained to push the sword through Xander's throat, Xander smiled and stepped back. He summoned Elan to his hand, right out form under the Japanese swordsman's foot, and stood there with his arm hanging limp at his side with blood running the length of his left side.

"That's a very nice sword you have there..." He said, tiredly, as his temporary energy boost began to wear off. "It's very old... older even then you know, I'd bet."

Nagashi growled, still straining to move the weapon that was stuck in mid air as if the legendary sword in the stone itself. "It has been in my family for centuries... what have you done!?"

"Me? Nothing." Xander said, glancing to one side as Bolan stepped up to his side. "That sword has existed for thousands of year, you idiot. And you believe you can use it without consequence?"

Nagashi didn't respond as he tried to yank the sword from its position. Finally he simply let go, expecting to pick the blade up after it hit the ground.

It just hung there in mid air.

"How are you doing this!?"

Xander deactivated Elanthielle and placed the collapsed silver staff in his belt behind his back. He reached out and closed his hand around the handle of the beautiful Katana and easily plucked it from the air it had been stuck in. "I've done nothing. You did it."

Nagashi shook his head... "How!?" He demanded.

"You dishonored the blade." Xander said simply, "For years, you've bloodied this blade with the blood of innocents... What can I say? Karma's a bitch."

"Xander?" Bolan looked around uneasily, "What's going on?"

Xander half turned his head, but didn't look away from Nagashi. "Justice."

Nagashi fell back another step, thinking furiously. <If the old ways do not work... use the new.>

His hand flashed for a pistol hidden behind his back.

As he saw Nagashi's hand jump, Xander merely released the ancient sword and let it ride his energy to accomplish what it desired to do.

The Katana leapt forward, dancing through the air as it slashed a cross motion that took Nagashi's hand off at the wrist, then it reversed and decapitated the man with a single stroke. As the body fell to the ground, the sword flashed back through the air and into Xander's hand. He looked at it for a moment, then nodded and used his nearly limp left hand to wipe the blade clean with a single long motion. It only took him a moment later to locate the weapon's sheath, and slide the ancient weapon home.

"What the hell was that!?" Bolan hissed as he watched Xander tie the sword to his belt.

"I'll explain later," Xander said, cocking his head to one side. "Sirens."

Bolan fell silent for a second, listening. He'd be damned if he knew how the kid heard them, but now that he was focusing on it he could hear the faint sound of sirens in the distance. "Move it."

The two warriors double timed it out of the mansion, the sound of sirens growing in the distance as they reached the RV where they had left it just down the street. The two of them jumped into the vehicle and Bolan slid behind the wheel.

The big RV drove off, mere moments ahead of the first cop car.

As they cleared the expensive neighborhood Bolan pierced Xander with a steel blue stare, "Now. Talk."

Xander sighed, but nodded. "Can I use your phone first?"

"God damn it, Bubba!" Nash swore as he looked over the mess that was left in the expensive mansion.

Bodies were everywhere, laying scattered in haphazard fashion throughout the house.

"Hey, Nash, if you liked that you're gonna LOVE this." Harvey muttered coming out of a room, his face white.

"What now?" Nash muttered, heading into the room.

Inside there were forensics people working over a body. And another set working over its right hand. And a third group working just as diligently over it's head.

"Jesus Christ." Joe said, turning away.

Nash shook his head and walked in, frowning. "This doesn't make any sense."

The forensics examiner looked up at him, an incredulous look on her face. "NO kidding."

"I mean," Nash said, "This isn't Bolan's style. He uses bullets, and he's not into maiming the body."

The examiner shook her head, "These cuts were cause of death, and the gun in the hand would indicate it was a defensive measure..."

Nash shook his head and looked at Joe, Joe looked back. Both spoke together. "Mystery man."

Xander looked up at the bar and frowned.

Bolan noticed the look, "What's wrong?"

"That," Xander pointed to the sign that read 'Dracula's Daughter'. "Someone has been reading *way* too much Anne Rice."

Bolan just raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

Xander shook his own head and led Bolan inside. Inside the bar even Xander, who'd been warned what to expect, felt his jaw drop in shock.

The bar was filled with people in costume, dressed in black velvet costumes and wearing Egyptian jewelry. Others were wearing outrageous demon costumes that were so ridiculous that Xander, who had already picked out several real vamps and demons, was hard pressed to stop staring at the fakes.

"Only in San Francisco." Xander muttered as he headed toward a corner boot that would provide some privacy.

Bolan looked around distastefully, "What are we doing here?"

Xander shook his head and sat down, "I'm suddenly not sure. I figured it would be easier to explain in a Demon Bar, but I should have known that when Lorne said the atmosphere was 'fabulous' he meant something like this."

Bolan locked unto two words. "Demon Bar?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah... see that little click of people who look normal over in the corner?"

Bolan looked over, "Yeah..."

"Vampires. Real ones." Xander said simply, waving a waitress over.

"Vampires... Right."

Xander grinned as the waitress arrived, "Give me a scotch... Not Scottish."

Bolan looked at him oddly, but the waitress just nodded, then turned to Bolan. "And you Sir?"


"Very good. Anything else?"

Xander nodded, "Sure. Could you tell my friend here about the house... specials?"

She looked uneasily at Xander, "Which specials would those be?"

Xander smiled at her and let his eyes flash silver.

She nodded, smiling back. "The house special is an exceptionally fine O Negative... it's quite pricey, but well worth I'm told. We also have fresh draughts of all types... and stronger drinks for those with hardier constitutions."

"Such as?" The big soldier asked neutrally.

"Absinthe is quite popular among many demons..." She said cheerfully, "Though we don't serve it to humans or vampires for obvious reasons."

Xander nodded cheerfully and shook his head as Bolan just looked confused. "Thank you, what we ordered will be fine."

"Very good."

Bolan watched the waitress walk off and turned to Xander. "What the hell was that?"

"Just what it sounded like." Xander said, "This is a vampire and demon bar. They cater to some rather disturbing tastes."

"They sell blood." Bolan stated coldly.

"Yeah, don't worry about it though..." Xander said, "I checked the place out before I came here. They have a deal with a local blood bank, pay top dollar to donors too."

"They *sell* blood."

"And other things I probably don't want to know about," Xander confirmed. "Look... remember the sword?"

Bolan nodded slowly.

"Magic." Xander said, grinning. "Real Magic."

"Like your eyes?"

"What? This?" Xander let his eyes flash again. "This isn't magic. This is... something else."

Bolan shook his head, looking around the bar. "And all these... 'people'?"

This time Xander shook his head in the negative. "No... Let's see... see the big green guy over in the corner?"

Bolan nodded.

"Arelok Demon. Not a nice guy..." Xander paused, "Well... I don't know him personally... but not a nice species anyway."

"The blue guy next to him?"

"Terul Demon. Scavenger type... not dangerous to humans in general, but nasty if cornered."

"The red woman with the horns?" Bolan nodded in another direction.

"Ummm Not a demon, just a costume..." Xander frowned, looked closer, then grimaced. "Not a woman either..." He shook his head, muttering, "Only in San Francisco."

Bolan shook his head, "Kid... You're out of your mind."

"Probably," Xander conceded, "But I'll take you on a vampire hunt after we finish our drinks... then I'm fairly sure that you'll join me in my mental infirmity."

Bolan looked at the smirk on the kid's face with some distaste, but nodded his assent.

There drinks came and both warriors nursed the drinks slowly, both staring around the bar with mixture of amazement and disbelief coloring their faces. Finally Bolan spoke up.

"If you're so used to this stuff," He began, "Why are you looking around like you stumbled into Oz?"

Xander shook his head, "The demons I'm used too... It's the wackos in costume that scare me."

Bolan just stared at him.

"I mean, in my hometown, no human would be caught dead in the local demon bar... if they did go in they'd likely BE caught dead. In L.A. my favorite demon bar has a no violence rule, like here... but the place is protected by some very high level magic... so most human's can't find it..." Xander continued, staring around him. "Here, they let in all the weirdoes and the demons and vamps look like background decoration..."

Finally Xander shook his head, "And they say Hollywood is weird."

"SO what are we doing here?" Bolan looked around the graveyard skeptically, "You said that there were vamps back at the bar..."

Xander shook his head, "Not a good idea. The Bar's are neutral turf... And it's better for the city if they stay that way."

"Why?" The big soldier asked.

"Cause there are too many vampires to wipe them out, and the bars give them a place to acquire blood without killing for it." Xander explained, "Same for demons. Sometimes, even some of the violent races don't want any part of the fight... we take out hte bar or make then leery of going to the bar then we open up new fronts in the war."

That was something the soldier could understand. The kid was talking about limiting the battles one had to fight, and limiting the number of enemies as well. Bolan took a breath, it was also something he wasn't certain he agreed with. He himself had opened up more fronts in his war everlasting then he could ever hope to win on, and yet was still here and still fighting. For the moment the soldier decided that he would allow the kid time to prove his case, then he would decide how to proceed.

"So..." Bolan said finally, "Where are they?"

Xander shrugged, eyeing a tomb off in the distance, "Patience."

Bolan fell silent and walked along with Xander as he meandered their path toward the old tomb. As they passed it three men jumped out and confronted them.

"I love it when a meal is delivered." The first said, a huge grin on his face.

The other two just nodded stupidly in agreement as the trio advanced on Bolan and Xander.

Bolan rolled his eyes, <Muggers, and clumsy ones at that> and drew his Berretta. "Back off."

"Oooo... big man has a gun." The leader mocked, "I'm shaking in my boots, man."

It went against Bolan's grain to fire on an unarmed man, so when the leader grabbed for him he simply belted the man across the bridge of the nose with the pistol. Bone crunched and the man fell back a step, holding his face.

When he looked up, he had changed. "You're gonna pay for that!"

Bolan's eyes widened as the... creature... charged for him again. This time he didn't have any quams about using the Berretta as it was intended. He loosed two bursts into the creature's chest, but it didn't stop coming. Bolan emptied the clip, hearing the sound of gun fire come from beside him as well, but the figure quickly had him in a fiercely powerful grip.

Bolan struggled to break free, but found that the arms around his throat were unbreakable. Suddenly the pressure was gone, the creature flying back and yelping in pain. When Bolan looked up he saw Xander step into place between them, staff in one hand and pistol in the other.

As the creature got up to charge them Xander fired one shot that seemed to surprise the thing as it charged, but it kept coming. Bolan's eyes widened as the thing vanished into dust as it swept past and around where Xander was standing.

The kid turned around, quirked a grin, and slid the pistol back into its harness. "That was a vampire."

Back in the RV Xander checked the tape his had used to 'stitch' his cut with and saw that it was holding just fine. He rewrapped the dressing and put his shirt back on, then moved up to where Mike was driving the big rig in silent contemplation. The big guy looked over at Xander as he sat down in the passenger's seat.

"You should be in an emergency room, that was a bad cut."

Xander shook his head, "It'll be stiff tomorrow, but the cut will be sealed. Within a week the arm will be good as new, probably won't even have a scar."

"Care to tell me how you do that?" Bolan looked skeptical, despite everything he'd seen.

Xander considered what to respond with, finally decided the truth. "Accelerated cell division... it's a trick a friend taught me."

"Handy trick."

Xander nodded agreeably, "Yeah, it is that."

Bolan fell silent for another short time, then spoke up again. "Ok... Vampires are real... I guess I have to acknowledge that... How come your bullets killed them?"


"Isn't that for werewolves?" Bolan asked, half joking.

"Them too." Xander said, seriously.

"Are you kidding me?"

Xander shook his head. "Has to be specially made though... from silver that was once part of a cross. Other then that, well... they don't like crosses... a wooden stake through the heart, or decapitation is your best bets."

Bolan digested that, "Ok... I guess I have to accept that. What was that bit with the sword though?"

Xander chuckled dryly. "I'm still figuring that out myself. Long story short, the sword is alive."

Bolan blinked. The kid was going too far, too far for one night at least. But he sighed, "Alive?"

"In a way." Xander amended. "Basically the guy pissed his sword off... Honor is a big thing to the blade."

"Do you have any idea how insane that sounds?" Bolan asked rhetorically, "Besides... why the hell did it start now? The guy probably had that sword his whole life."

"It was bound." Xander said simply, "It couldn't really do anything before now."

"What changed?"

"Blood contact with someone who had a way to link to the blade." Xander replied. "It also didn't hurt that I wasn't a sleazebag... most of the people he used that sword on weren't exactly boy scouts themselves."

"So... what?" Bolan asked after another long silence, "The sword just decided it wasn't going to work for him anymore? Weapons don't *do* that."

"These ones do." Xander replied. "But I'll tell you the truth, I'm not fully certain on what happened or why myself yet... some things take time."

Bolan shook his head, finally decided that he had enough 'answers' from the kid for the moment. Frankly it was over his head anyway, and he knew it. All he could do was keep his eyes open, now that the kid had lifted a bit of the wool from them, and try to piece things together as best he could on his own.

In the meantime, he had to check in with Hal.

"You have a place I can drop you, kid?" Bolan asked.

Xander shrugged, "A hotel will be fine... close to the Dorm house if possible."

"What's next for you?"

Xander let out a long breath. "First I have to get some new transportation... My bike is totaled...."

Bolan let out his first dry laugh of the day. "Ramming it into a plane will do that."

"I guess," Xander tossed the man a grin. "Still... I need new wheels."

Bolan nodded. "And then?"

"Some new clothes... maybe some equipment... depends on what I can find I guess. I can't afford to be choosy." Xander smiled a bit, "But I'll get by."

Bolan would have bet cash money that the was right on that score. He pulled into a motel that was advertising vacancies and checked the streets. "The dorm is a few blocks up there..."

Xander looked out and nodded. "Thanks."

"No problem, I'll have a friend of mine be ready to pick up the kids whenever you want to bring them down to the FBI plaza. They have family waiting for them, I'm sure."

Xander nodded slowly, thinking. "Naomi...?"

"I'll make sure that she has help." Bolan said, "The best. It's the least the government owes her."

"And the bio-warfare crap?"

"That's next on my list." Bolan said coldly, "I'll be looking for whoever started its development."

"It wasn't planned as a disease." Xander said quietly. "I never got around to telling you what I found out... other things got in the way."

"Can't argue with that. How about now?"

Xander smiled, "Sure. It started as an alternate research into steroid replacements. They grabbed a few vamps for their research... that's how I recognized it."

Bolan's eyes hardened.

"The idea was to refine whatever gave a vampire its strength, and take away the side effects... like homicidal tendencies." Xander chuckled dryly. "Thing is, they never realized that they were dealing with a whole new level of things. It wasn't just science... it was deeper then that. So even with their 'purified' strain all that would happen is that the subject would go insane, get superstrong... then die as his body fell apart."

Xander shuddered, thinking about how close it had come to happening to him. "So Mr Osaka filed the project as a failure. Insurmountable obstacles, he wrote in his notes... My guess is that some Jackass is upper planning saw the failure as a having potential in 'Urban Pacification'"

"Neutron Bomb." Bolan said quietly.

"That's it, only better..." Xander replied. "Think about it... eighty-five percent casualties from the virus... nothing but dust left. The rest of the people in the are would be ripped to pieces by the infected before they died... any survivors would be shellshocked, they'd probably never be able to talk about... let alone give a coherent statement."

Bolan shook his head, taking a breath. "I'll track them down."

Xander looked at him. "You do that. If you need help..." Xander let himself trail off, leaving the offer open ended.

Bolan nodded, but privately couldn't see himself call on the child for anything. He preferred to work alone, that was the way things were for him. Still... it didn't hurt to have another intelligence resource. He handed the kid a card that hand a single phone number written on it, "Same here. If you need help, call this number... say you need to talk to Stony Man."

Xander accepted the card, nodding. "I'd give you one too... but I haven't got a cell phone yet..."

Bolan shrugged, and plucked one out of his pocket. "Take this. Government picks up the tab, but don't run it into the ground..."

Xander eyed the device, a little uncertainly, but finally accepted it. He smiled as he remembered telling Buffy basically the same thing once. "Thanks."

Bolan shrugged, "Not a problem. I've got to go.."

Xander shook himself and nodded, getting out of the RV. "Thanks for the help."

"That should be my line, kid." Bolan grinned, then grabbed a black satchel by his feet. "Here."

Xander caught the bag as it was tossed to him, "What's this?"

"What's left of my war chest for this mission... plus what I grabbed from the Yakuza this time around." Bolan said, "It'll get you your new transportation and then some."

Xander shook his head and made to hand the money back, but Bolan pierced him with an icy stare. "Keep it, Kid. Lot's more where that came from."

With that last rejoinder he started the engine and reached ver, closing the passenger side door of the big RV.

Xander got his room and half staggered to the bed. It had been a trying day at best, and things probably were going to be tense tomorrow as well. He sighed, he wasn't looking forward to seeing Naomi after she awoke.

He wincingly pulled off his shirt, then looked at the taped and wrapped wound and sighed again. He reluctantly sat up and crossed his legs under him, if he tried to meditate lying down in his current state he'd just fall asleep and not get any work done.

Xander took deep breaths and centered himself as he felt his body become light and intangible. A moment later he was deep into the Dreaming.

"Elan." Xander said, smiling as he spoke the simple greeting.

Elanthielle smiled in return, "It is good to see you again, Alexander... without the mass of demons trying to invade your system."

He chuckled, a little easier then he had in a long time. "Thanks for the reminder. Where is he?"

Elan nodded to a shimmering mist that was occupying a section of the Dreaming. Xander frowned. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Elan said, her voice a little sad. "That is the best he can manage... Not all of use are as capable of communication as I, Alexander."

Xander frowned and walked to the mist, "Can he understand me... us?"

She nodded, and Xander felt a simultaneous emanation of humor and peace flow through him. "Whoa..."

Elan smiled, gliding to his side. "That is his way of communicating, Alexander. You would call it Empathy I suppose. He projects emotion on a very powerful level."

Xander nodded, "I can feel that. What's his name?"

This time a well of sadness passed through him, causing Xander to almost choke with the sobbing sorrow.

"He has forgotten." Elan said, her face etched with the same sorrow Xander felt. "No one has used it in a very long time."

She stepped closer, her hand lightly grazing the flowing mist. "Old friend... Your name is known to me... Kagi'Maro."

A pulse of recognition flashed through the mist and then a light wash of contentment followed it.

Xander smiled without thinking, then frowned. "That sounds familiar."

"It should, Alexander." Elanthielle smiled at him, "You use a fighting style invented by and named after one of his line."

"Kani'Maro..." Xander whispered. "It's a name?"

She nodded, "It was... but it came to mean much more."

"I remember." Xander said, "Kani'Maro... Never without weapons."

"It is good to see that you are not completely addled by the time loop." Elanthielle smirked at him.

"Hey!" Xander objected, "What's that supposed to mean?"

She rolled her eyes, "I don't suppose you have considered the ramifications of your actions since the time jump?"

Xander shifted defensively. "I can't live my life in the past, Elan. I have to keep moving... I can't help what changes are made."

"That is not what I mean." Elan dismissed the comment with a wave, "The form of time travel you utilized has already seen to that. Changes were set in motion with the instant of your arrival, many of them will continue to multiply as they move. No, you could not help making changes."

Xander frowned, "Then what are you talking about?"

"Have you considered what would happen if the Slayer arrived on the Hellmouth and you were not there to protect her?"

"Huh? I never protected Buffy...." Xander started to object.

"You've saved her life more times then she even knows, Alexander. You yourself saved the planet from Armageddon... Now imagine what would have happened had you not been there to protect her. The Master's cave? The time with the Swim team? At the very beginning, it was you who pulled her clear of the vampires attacking her in the sewers. Dozens of other times as well. You kept her alive so she could save the world, Alexander... and now you are risking your life before you can save hers?"

Xander blinked in shock, he hadn't considered that. He slowly sank down onto the ground, sitting on the hard dirt. "What am I supposed to do? I can't go back... I don't want to go back. I've lived through that already, I can't do it again."

"Alexander... This is your decision... but you have to remember who and what is riding on your survival. Not only those you love, but everyone else as well. You may not have a personal destiny in the way that the Slayers do, but your own free will has irrevocably tied you to their path. You are free to walk your own, but you can not do so without affecting theirs... and the Slayer's path is entwined deeply with the safety of the entire world."

A deep pulse of emotion swept over Xander and he looked up in surprise to see that the mist had closed on his location. He felt a comforting confidence come from it, as well as an almost fatalistic acceptance of life that he wasn't as sure about.

Elan frowned at the mist, "Please. The last thing he needs is your brand of Warrior's resignation."

The mist pulsed again, this time feeling as if it were chuckling in a mildly mocking manner.

Elanthielle shook her head, "Men."

Xander lowered his head and chuckled, shaking his head as he observed the odd bickering.

"Do not start with me, Alexander." Elan said warningly.

"I'm not... it's just good to have the voices back in my head." Xander grinned mockingly at her.

Elanthielle sighed, staring at the sky above. "And sometimes I deeply miss the solitude of my binding exile."

"Liar." Xander said mildly, no bite to his voice.

She turned and smiled at him, "perhaps."

The Elanthielle looked around, "You've done as much healing as you can for one night, Alexander. It is time to sleep."

Xander nodded, "Alright... Elan?"

"Yes, Alexander?"

"I'm glad to have you back."

"I am glad to be back."

The phone rang at four thirty am and Nash blearily grabbed for it on the third ring. "Bridges. This better be good."

"Nash, you'd better get down here..."


"Yeah, man. We got feds crawling all over the place, they've got federal warrants and they're taking everything on the Bolan case."

"What!?" Nash snapped awake. "I'm coming right down. Stall them."

Nash stormed into the SIU headquarters less then twenty minutes later, only to find a distinguished looking man sitting in his desk.

"Alright, Bubba." Nash said as he strode up, "You've got thirty seconds to wow me before I have you locked up for sitting in my chair."

The man smiled and slid a piece of identification across the desk. "I'm Hal Brognola... Justice department. I've heard about you, Inspector."

Nash looked at the ID, then back at the man. "I don't care who you are. You're not getting what we have on the Bolan case."

"I beg to differ." Brognola stood up and handed Nash a sheaf of papers. "This will confirm that we have the right to take anything associated with this case because it has infringed on matters of national security."

"Whoa! Slow up, Bubba." Nash said, flipping through the papers. "How does Bolan's war on the Yakuza interfere with National security?"

"I'm afraid I can't tell you that." Hal said calmly.

"Well then, I'm afraid I can't give you those files." Nash said, somewhat irritably.

Brognola sighed, "Inspector, you and I both know that I'm going to walk out of here with those files and every scrap of evidence you have on this case. Why play the games?"

"Maybe I like games, Mr Brognola."

Hal allowed himself a private smile. "Yes... that was also in your file. Which is why I am allowed to tell you one thing."

"Make it good."

"The Yakuza in question kidnapped a man who was a leader in bio-warfare research. Bolan learned of this and made certain that the things he developed would never see the light of day."

Nash swallowed, remembering the tape. "Shit. So that's what happened to the guy on the tape."

"Tape? You have a tape of the effects of this toxin?" Hal looked up.

Nash winced, but nodded. "Yeah. We've got a tape... it looks like they infected your researcher with his own bug."

Hal shook his head, "His family are going to be devastated."

Nash looked at him, "Do you have any information on what happened to the kids?"

Hal nodded, "We know they got out alive... but that's all."

"That's good to know at least." Nash muttered.

"It is." Hal confirmed, "Now can I have those files? Or am I going to have to wake your mayor up?"

Nash grimaced and considered for a bit, but finally gave in to the inevitable. "Harv... get him the files... the tapes, everything."

Harvey nodded. "You got it, Nash."

Xander pulled his ripped shirt a little tighter as he walked up to the dorm, knocking on the door and waiting to be buzzed in.

"I'm here to see Paige Mathews..."

The security guard nodded and hit a buzzer, and a few moments later Paige came down the hall. She waved to the guard and quickly drug Xander back toward her room.

"How's Naomi?" Xander asked as they moved.

"She's awake..." Paige said curtly, shoving Xander through the halls and into her room.

Xander looked around the room as Paige closed the door behind them. He frowned when he saw Naomi curled up at the foot of the single bed, whimpering as her brother tried to comfort her. They both looked up to see Xander, Joseph looked at him helplessly while Naomi almost looked through him.

He walked up to the siblings softly, smiling a little soberly. "Hey."

"Hey." Naomi whispered.

Her brother just nodded at him, wordlessly pulling the cross from his pocket and handing it back to Xander. Xander took it just as wordlessly, flipping the silver chain over his head and letting the heavy cross thump to his chest. He offered Joseph a small smile that was returned weakly.

"How are you feeling, Naomi?" He asked softly.

She didn't answer and Xander flinched, inwardly cursing himself for the stupid question. "Hey, you remember the big guy who helped us out?"

She nodded.

"Well, I was talking to him last night and he's arranged for you to get special treatment... vip all the way home... I have to ask, you have grandparents? Or uncles or something?"

She flinched, tears welling up again and Xander cursed himself another time, but she nodded. "Grandparents..."

He tried to smile reassuringly, "Well they'll be notified, and they're going to be really anxious to see you two very soon..."

Joseph spoke up, "I want to see them too..."

Naomi looked at her brother, nodding slowly as if considering the statement. "Yeah..." She finally said, "Yeah."

"Ok." Xander smiled again, "Then it's settled... we'll get you down to the FBI guys and they'll get you to your grandparents... ok?"

They both nodded and Xander breathed a sigh of relief, then glanced back to where Paige was smiling and giving him a thumbs up. He smiled weakly back and her and nodded.

Outside the federal building Xander sat in the passenger side door of the car and looked over at Paige, "Wish us luck..."

She frowned at him, "Luck nothing. I'm coming in with you."

He grinned and got out, opening the rear door for Naomi. They all walked into the big building, and headed uncertainly to the reception desk. Naomi stayed close to Xander's side as he nodded to the receptionist.

"Can I help you, Son?" The man asked.

He nodded, "I was told to ask for a Hal Brognola?"

The man nodded, his eyes widening. "Mr. Brognola just arrived in town last night. I'll page him and see if he's in."

The man picked up the phone and dialed a number. A moment later he was talking quickly on the phone, then he hung up and looked at the odd group. "Mr Brognola will see you immediately."

The were led to a small office on the same floor where a man was shuffling through a mass of paperwork while chewing on an unlit cigar. He looked up, his eyes widening as he recognized Naomi and Joseph from their photos. "Mr. and Ms. Osaka... I'm glad to see that you're alright..."

They flinched back, causing Brognola to soften his tone, "I'm sorry for your loss. I've contacted your grandparents... they're flying in today... if you'd like to come to the airport with me we can pick them up in an hour..."

The two kids nodded softly, and Hal nodded at them. "We have a room with cable TV... some beds, stuff like that if you like?"

Joseph looked at his sister, his expression almost hopeful. She smiled sadly at him and nodded, "I think I'd like to sleep a little."

Hal nodded, and buzzed for an Agent. In seconds a pretty female agent was at the door. "Could you take the Osaka's to one of the VIP rooms?"

"Of course, Sir."

The agent started to lead them out but Naomi halted and looked at Xander, "Will I see you again?"

Xander shrugged, "Who knows? I'd like that though."

"So would I..." She said softly, "If you're ever in Washington?"

"I'll look you up." He promised.

After they left, Hal looked at Xander. "I understand we have you to thank for their rescue."

Xander shrugged, "I got there too late. No thanks are needed for that."

Hal looked at him for a long moment, "Most people wouldn't have bothered with the boy, let alone gone in after the girl."

"I prefer not to believe that." Xander said calmly.

Hal shrugged, "I've been around longer then you, kid. Trust me. Striker was impressed with you, that's not something that happens everyday either."

"Striker? You mean Mike?"

Hal smiled, "Right. Mike."

"He seems like a good guy." Xander said noncommitaly.

"He is." Hal said simply, "One of the best I've known. His opinion carries a lot of weight with me, which is why you aren't the subject of a federal warrant right now."

Xander smiled, "I see."

Hal shook his head, <Mack was right, the kid is cool under pressure.> "usually I would be very interested in someone who displays your apparent knowledge of top secret information. You knew just which papers to burn, didn't you?"

Xander shrugged, frowning as Hal lifted a videotape to emphasize his point. "You have it on tape?"

Hal nodded, "Don't worry. You never looked at the camera's... probably cause you didn't know they were there, so you weren't identified when the cops got a hold of it."

"That's nice to know." Xander said, keeping his cool as he dealt inwardly with another ramification of his actions.

Hal shook his head in admiration, most men twice the kids age would be sweating by now. "I confiscated the evidence from the SIU, they can't use it anymore. Just do me a favor and keep your nose clean."

Xander hesitated almost imperceptibly before nodding, but it was enough for Hal to read him. <Keep his nose clean. Right. I don't know what this kid is, but staying out of trouble isn't in his future.>

He didn't say anything though, just motioned to the stacks of paperwork, "Kid, you've given me two weeks worth of paperwork to deal with... and I have to get back to it if I want to see my family anytime soon."

Xander nodded, taking a step back. "You'll look after them?"

"Like they were my own." Brognola said firmly, "And they are Uncle Sam's own. The Government will look after them."

"I'll be checking on them." Xander promised.

Brognola shrugged, "So will I."

Xander nodded, then he and Paige left.

"So..." Paige said, "What now?"

"How do you feel about shopping?" Xander asked with a grin, "I need some clothes."

Paige smirked. "A guy who wants to go shopping... if it weren't for the guns I'd think you were too good to be true."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Don't get used to it."

Four hours later, three hours and forty minutes longer then Xander would have liked, they were finished with the cloths shopping. Xander had himself a new wardrobe of sorts, mostly clothes he would never had bought for himself in a million years. Paige seemed determined to put the color back into his wardrobe, and he now found himself the hesitant owner of several shirts of various vibrant, yet tasteful colors. A few new pairs of pants, mostly black jeans, and new shoes.

Speaking of which. <What is it with women and shoes!?> Xander asked himself for the eight time in less then an hour. He now had a nice pair of hiking boots, but when he offered to pop for Paiges purchases he had ignited a maelstrom. She had tried on every shoe in the whole place, many of them twice.

He shook his head as they walked toward the front doors of the mall, purchases in hand.

"So..." Paige began, "What's next?"

"A car."


"I wrecked my bike, so I need a new vehicle... I was thinking a car..."

"Do you have a license?"

Xander grinned, "I called a friend this morning and got the name of someone who can help me out with that..."

"Why don't I like the sound of that?" Paige asked as they left the mall.

"Xander... I really don't like the look of this place."


"Easy for you to say," Paige muttered, looking around. "You're not the one parking a borrowed car on this street."

Xander chuckled, "Come on... unless you want to stay with the car?"

"I don't think so." Paige sped up a bit to stay with Xander.

Inside they were greeted by a rather rude voice. "Whaddya want!?"

"Andrew Connors sent me."

The source of the voice appeared a moment later, "Andy sent ya? Why?"

"I need a custom job like you gave him a while back."

The woman looked him over for a moment, "Ok... Just you? Or her too?"

Xander smiled, "Just me."

"Come on in."

Xander followed the blond woman into her 'office' which barely deserved the name. It was dirty, dingy, and barely liveable, but it also had a bank of some of the best computers available and a bulky digital camera setup.

"Show me the cash."

Xander nodded, pulled a wad from his pocket, "Twenty grand right?"

She nodded, "That's right."

He handed it over and she counted quickly in front of him. When she was done she nodded her head toward a green section of wall. "Go stand over there."

He did and she quickly snapped his picture, then checked it out on her computer. "You want the works?"

"Yeah. Drivers license, passport, ident cards... everything."

"Cost you extra to put them into the national database..."

"How much?"

"Another twenty."

Xander nodded again, "Ten now, the rest when its done."

She frowned, but nodded. "You got a name preference?"

He thought about it, and decided to keep it simple. A lesson he learned from Jarod. "Alexander Harrison."

She nodded, "It'll take me a few hours to do your papers... a couple days to get them into the system."

"Fair enough. I'll be back this afternoon."

Paige looked at him strangely as they left. "You're starting to freak me out, you know that?"

Xander smiled, "Well... In my experience that's not always a bad thing."

She growled, but only asked, "What next?"

"Used cars..." Xander replied, "Maybe a couple buy sell and trades..."

Paige tapped her foot impatiently a she watched Xander drool over an old Mustang, rolling her eyes. <Men! What is it with men and cars? Just get something with four wheels and a motor already!>

She finally walked over to him, "Would you just get it already?"

He straightened up, frowning. "I don't know... I mean, I like the Mustangs and all... but I don't know."

She rolled her eyes, "What's the difference? If it runs, great... if not, don't buy it!"

He shot her a dirty look, "I sat through your shoes shopping, you can wait while I get a decent car."

"Oh, that is SO not the same thing." She growled.

"Oh yeah, what's the difference?"

"Shoes don't cost..." She glanced at the windshield of the car, "fourteen thousand dollars."

"Right." Xander muttered, "hand me the buy sell and trade again."

"Again?" She whined.

Xander sighed, reached her, and grabbed it. He quickly flipped through the pages. "Hmmm... no... nope, no... no... I don't think so... whoa... wait one second... oh yeah, Come on, let's go check this out?"

Paige looked at Xander, who was grinning like an idiot. "Where too?"

"A body shop on third and eighth."

"You got it." She said, starting the car.

"Is this it?" Xander grinned as he walked into the shop, staring at the red beauty with black accents that was sitting just inside the door.

A man came over, looking at the paper in Xander's hand, and nodded. "Yep. That's her. Going to be a pain to let her go too..."

"I'll bet... how's she run?" Xander asked, looking over the car.

"I'd say she purrs like a kitten, but with a 454 Hemi big block under the hood there ain't a kitten on the planet that makes that kinda noise." The man laughed.

Xander looked over the ram-air intakes on the hood, whistling with appreciation.

"Can you start her up?"

The man hesitated, but the grinned. He figured, <what the hell, no way this kid can afford her but I like to hear the engine anyway.> He reached in and turned the key.

The engine caught almost instantly and the deep throaty rumble echoed off the walls of the shop.

Xander grinned appreciatively. "How much?"

The man shook his head, "I don't know if you can afford it kid... besides, this isn't a first car kind of thing... this is really for collectors."

Xander grinned and flipped out a stack of bills, "How much?"

The man's eyes widened, "We're asking forty three thousand... she's been completely restored from the frame up. Everything is mint."

"Perfect." Xander replied, "It's just what I'm looking for... One thing, what kind of tires do you have on her?"

"Street tires... why?"

"You do special mods here?"

"Some... what are you looking for?"

Xander smiled and started rattling off a list. Whenever the man started to object he added another couple bills to the wad of cash.

Finally the guy nodded, "Ok... It'll take a week or so easy to get all that done though."

"Fair enough. I'll leave you the cash to pay for the modifications, the rest you get when it's done. Fair?"

The guy nodded, "Fair enough. You want anything else?"

Xander laughed out loud, "Well... I suppose an orange paint job with a confederate flag on the top is out of the question, huh?"

The man laughed himself, then mock threatened, "Get your ass out of here before I plant my boot in it."

"Kidding! Kidding!" Xander chuckled, backing up. "I'll see you in a few days."

The guy shook his head, "Yeah, yeah... let me get to work on this thing."

Xander turned and left with Paige, leaving the lovingly restored red and black '69 Charger sitting in the shop, waiting for it's new soon-to-be owner to return in a week to claim it.

Behind him the owner of the shop looked over his prize car and smiled, both sad and excited. He was sad to see her go, but it was going to be fun as hell putting in all the extras the kid wanted.

"Ok, your turn." Xander grinned stupidly as they drove away from the shop.


"You choose what we do next." Xander explained, "It's your turn."

Paige checked her watch, "Well... you've been looking at cars for hours... let's go back to that... *place* and get your fake ID's... Then I'll pick."

Xander shrugged, "Sounds good to me."

"Here... Birth certificate, Drivers license, passport, social insurance card, it's all in there..."

Xander smiled at the woman, she sounded bored as she handed him the manila envelop containing the documents. "Thanks."

"I've got my guy fitting them all into the databases now, but give it a couple days before you put any of them to the acid test. Got that?"

Xander nodded, handing her a wad of cash.

She accepted it, looking at him oddly. "I thought the rest was on final delivery."

"Andy said that you're ok." Xander replied, "That's good enough for me."

"Thanks." She said, dropping the cash into a metal drawer and slipping it shut. "That concludes our business."

Xander nodded, "Thanks."

She nodded curtly and turned back to her computers, leaving Xander to walk out to meet Paige.

"Alright," Xander said, slipping into the seat beside Paige, "It's your show..."

"How about... dinner and dancing?" She asked, grinning at him.

Xander leaned back in the seat and smiled back at her, "Sounds... heavenly."

She looked at him oddly, but Xander didn't explain his comment so she just started the engine and they drove off.

Dinner was simple, a gift that Xander thanked god for. Paige chose a fairly nice Italian place that had excellent food. Afterwards, however, Paige managed to throw him for a loop.

"Where do you want to go next?"

Paige grinned, "I heard about this great club called Dracula's Daughter that I'd love to check out."

Xander stammered, his breath catching in his throat. "Umm... Are you sure you want to go there!?"

"Yeah! It's supposed to be really cool... everyone is in costume, and they have really goth names for their drinks... some of my friends even said they heard one guy one guy order a drink called O negative... isn't that just freakish?"

"Yeah..." Xander choked. "Freakish."

"Isn't it though?" Paige asked, not paying attention to him. "I wanted to check it out, but its not the kind of place I'd go alone... I mean, who knows what kind of freak or weirdo would hit on me..."

<Probably all of the undead guys, and half the women...> Xander thought to himself. Outloud he said, "You know... maybe another place would be better...?"

"No. I get to choose, and I want to see Dracula's Daughter."

Xander sighed, and reached for his guns. "Alright... let's go."

They walked into the bar/club just after nightfall, Paige having taken most of the early evening to get ready. Not that Xander was complaining, especially when she came out of the bathroom.

She was dressed in tight blue jeans and a purple top that Xander didn't have a clue what to call. It was long sleeved on the right side, off the shoulder on the left, and came to a sudden halt just above her belly button.

In short, she was a knockout. When he saw her he swallowed, and added the second FiveSeven to the one already tucked into his belt under his shirt. <This is going to be a loooong night.>

Paige was grabbing his arm as they entered, pointing out the stranger costumes that she saw, and occasionally squealing and laughing at some of the sights. Xander, for his part kept an eye on the vampires and occasionally nodded as Paige pointed out something exceptionally strange.

<Weird...> Xander frowned as they took heir seats, <She's picked out every single demon in the place, and ignored the ones in costume...>

<Really Alexander. I'm surprised at you.> Elan smirked in his head.


<Look at her closer.>

Xander frowned, and looked at Paige as she talked. She noticed rather quickly and frowned herself.

"What? Do I have something in my teeth?"

He shook his head, and smiled. "No... Just had a thought hit me is all..."

She nodded, smiled, and continued glancing around and soaking up the atmosphere.

The waitress stopped by, "What can I... Oh, hi there..."

Xander smiled up at her, "Hi. I'd like a Scotch..."

"Not Scottish. I remember." The waitress smiled, "And your date?"

Paige looked at Xander suspiciously, "You've been here before?"

He shrugged.

"Oh sure, he came in last night..." The waitress grinned, "He and his friend were good tippers too."

"Oh they were, were they?" Paige growled at Xander. "You left me babysitting last night so you could go club hopping!?"

"Ooops. Sorry, Sir." The Waitress grinned.

Xander groaned, "You know, I'm taking this out of your tip."

She made an embarrassed face and turned to Paige, "What would you like to drink, miss?"

"Red wine..." She replied, "Whatever the house specialty."

As the waitress jotted that down, Xander spoke up. "Wine... nothing of a more... recent vintage? Ok?"

She smiled encouragingly at him, "Of course Sir, we keep track of such things."

"Good." He nodded.

As the waitress walked away Paige frowned at him, "What was that all about?"

"Just making sure you didn't get the cheap stuff." Xander said, covering.

"Oh..." She didn't sound convinced, "ok...."

When Paige looked away, her attention captured by a Dracula wannabe in black velvet, Xander wiped his forehead and sighed. <Man, is this going to be a LOOONG night.>

By the time they had been served their drinks Xander was already itching to get the hell out of Dodge. He'd spotted no less then three vamps checking out Paige, and as much as he hated to acknowledge it at least two more checking him out. That, he supposed was normal, but the fact that it was girls checking Paige out and guys checking him, well that had him a little edgy.

They finished their drinks and Paige got up, hauling Xander to his feet. He was relieved for all of thirty seconds before she started hauling him to the dance floor. <Oh crap.>

He gave in though, his eyes scanning the room as he twisted on the floor in time to the music. Faith had been good for him in that regard, she enjoyed ripping the dance floor apart so he had to learn to keep up. They had been dancing for a few minutes when the music switched to a slow song and they got closer.

Xander quickly found himself staring into her eyes, as Paige stared back. For a few seconds he let his guard down as they danced, his arms around her and hers around him. It was as her arms ran down his back and brushed against the pistols he had tucked in his waistband that the moment was ruined.

"Xander!" Paige hissed into his ear, "You brought guns to a club!?"

He winced, but nodded. "This club? You better bet."


The slowly turned around the floor, still swaying in time to the music, before Xander answered. "Because when I came here last night with Mike I was on business."

"What!?" Paige looked around fearfully, expecting to see Japanese gangsters coming at them from all sides. "The Yakuza own this place?"

"Oh, no... nothing like that." Xander assured her, and she relaxed a bit.

"Well that's good."

"Maybe not." Xander muttered seeing a small group of vamps eye them both from the corner, "I think we should go..."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"We've attracted some bad attention." Xander said, "Come on..."

Paige allowed herself to be led from the floor and past their table, where Xander dropped a tip as he passed. He led her right outside, watching the vamps out of the corner of his eyes. "They're following us."

"Who is!?" Paige looked around, "Xander... your scaring me."

Xander resisted the temptation to tell her 'good', and led her out and down the street. "I wish I'd picked up the car today..."

"Why?" Page kept looking around, "I don't see anyone..."

"Just keep moving," Xander said, leading her down the block. "We should have borrowed your friends car again."

"She needed it tonight, she's hitting a club across town."

<Now she tells me, we should have double dated.> Xander thought to himself as he glanced around to see where the vamps were.

Xander stumbled to a stop as he realized that he'd lost them. He looked around, his vision slipping into enhanced mode almost unconsciously as he searched. <Where did they go?>

"Xander... what is it? What's wrong?"

"I don't see them any more..."

"Well... that's a good thing... right?"

"Maybe..." He took her hand and turned back in the direction they were going, "Let get ou... Damn."

In front of them were the five vamps that had been watching them.

"Well, hello there tasty." One of the women said, staring at Paige.

Paige shrank back, staring distastefully at the leather and chains that the five were wearing. "Is she talking to me?"

"I'm afraid so..." Xander said, holding his hand up as one of the men opened their mouth, "And if you say anything even close to that to me I'll make it hurt when I dust you."

The guy closed his mouth in shock.

"Hey, we got a tough guy..." One of the female vamps pulled a slim blade and flashed it around a bit, "I'm gonna enjoy bleeding you... both ways."

"Paige... behind me." Xander ordered.

She obeyed quickly, not certain what else to do, and Xander took a step toward the five.

"Elan." He commanded, his hand outstretched.

The vamps jumped back as the small cylinder shimmered into existence in his hand, then snapped out to its full size.

"What the fuck are you man!?"

Xander didn't answer, just slipped into a defensive posture.

The leader of the gang, the woman who had been eyeing Paige, slapped two of them forward. "Get him!"

Xander whipped Elan around, catching the first one across the wrist as it lunged at him and snapping the second across the face hard enough to shatter its cheek bone. Both fell back for an instant, cradling their injuries, but only for an instant. Then all five of them charged him.

Xander pivoted and struck out with Elan, intending to pierce the chest of the closest one, but instead caught it on the shoulder and sending it spinning to the ground. The other four quickly surrounded him.

He spun the staff around, striking out and keeping them at bay.

<You're rusty, Alexander.>

<I noticed that, *mother*.> Xander snipped back at Elan.

He felt her mental shrug, <You should have kept in practice.>

<Practice!? It's not practice! It's the fact that my body doesn't react the way it's supposed to anymore.>


Xander snarled and spun about, driving the flashing silver of the staff into the unguarded chest of the closest vampire. The creature let out a gasp of shock before vanishing into dust.

The remaining creatures took that as a sign to leap at Xander from all sides.

As they went down in a tangled ball Paige came up behind them, holding a piece of debris she had plucked from the side of a building. She raised it above her head and slammed the chunk of garbage down onto the closest vampire.

It snarled and cursed, detaching itself from the huddle and glaring at Paige. "That HURT Bitch!"

She trembled, but glared back. "That was the whole point, Moron!"

The vampire, one of the men, snarled and lunged at her.

Xander twisted in the mass of clawing and biting undead flesh, retracting Elan as he did. He quickly jammed one end of the staff into the ground and pointed the other end at the closest mass of flesh that wasn't his.

When the staff snapped back out the vampire was thrown clear off the ground and back several feet, crashing into the one that was attacking Paige.

One the ground, Xander retracted the staff again as one of the female vamps grabbed him by the throat and dragged herself up level with his face. "You're dead bloodbag."

"You first, fang face." Xander growled, jamming Elan up between her breasts and activating the ancient weapon. The look of astonishment on her face was wiped away by the shower of dust she became just a moment later.

Xander was struggling with the last one, managing to hold his own when he heard a scream from Paige. Quickly he dusted the last vamp and scrambled to his feet in time to see two vampires charge at Paige as she screamed.

His eyes widened as she shimmered in a very familiar shower of energy just as the vamps reached her, they collided with each other at full speed and fell back on their asses. A soon as they hit the ground she shimmered back into the same place she had been standing, looking around in confusion as much as in terror.

"W... what happened!?"

"No time!" Xander yelled, charging forward and slamming Elan down, first into one vamp then the other with smooth strokes. "The fight might attract some others. We've got to go!"

She nodded and he took her hand and they ran.

They slowed to a fast walk a few blocks further down, glancing back over their shoulders.

"We're clear." Xander said at last.

"What *were* those things!?" Paige asked, fear and anger in her voice.

"Vampires." Xander said simply, "Real ones."

She shook her head, "No... No, that's not possible... They can't be."

"They are." Xander said calmly, catching his breath.

"Why... why didn't you use your guns?"

"That close to the club? We'd bring more of them down on us." He said. "Besides... there were only five of them..."

Paige blanched white. "You... you can't mean..."

He grinned wryly. "That we were dancing it up in a demon bar? Yup."

She shook her head again, "This can't be happening... I'm dreaming... that's all..."

"Sorry, Paige... I really am... but you're not dreaming." Xander said quietly, still urging her on.

"Vampires and demons don't exist!"

"Yes, they do...." Xander said quietly, "And so do witches."

She looked at him as if he were insane, "Witches!?"

"Come on... let's get a cab... I'll try to explain it to you when we're safe. Ok?"

"Yeah... safe is good... safe is very good."

A little less then a half hour later they were standing outside Paige's dorm, and she was pacing and shaking her head. "No way... uh uh.... I can't be a witch!"

"Paige, please... voice, down, volume?"

She looked around, "Sorry... but it's not possible... Do you *see* any warts??"

Xander snickered. "Believe me, Paige... from my experience with Witches, you fit the bill."

"Huh!?" She looked insulted.

"They've all been Stellar knock outs, from what I've seen." Xander grinned.

Paige paced again, then paused and looked back. "You think I'm a knockout?"

"Can we stay on topic here?" Xander covered his face with his hands.

"Well, I'm still not a witch!"

"Voice..." he reminded her again.

She lowered her voice, "Well I'm not."

"Ok, how do you explain what happened when they charged you?"

She shook her head, "I don't know... maybe someone spiked my drink and I hallucinated it all... maybe you spiked my drink!"

Xander slumped, "Do you really think I'd do that!?"

"I don't know... I just met you!"

"Look, Paige... try to do it again..."

"Do what?"

Xander shrugged, "I don't know... Orb..."


"Whatever it was you did. Ok?"

Paige looked at him, "This is so stupid..."

"Just try."

"Fine..." She stood there, crunching up her features. "I'm trying... nothing... nope, not weird shimmering thing..."

Xander looked at her for a second, then shoved himself to his feet and lunged at her, screaming.

"AHHHH!" She screamed and vanished into a shimmer of light, just as Xander passed through her position.

Xander stopped on the other side of her and tapped her shoulder when she turned around. "Nice."

"How... how'd I do that?" she asked, looking around in shock.

"A Witches power is usually triggered by an emotional event..." Xander mused, "In your case I'd say fear or shock."

"Oh great." She said, rolling her eyes. "I need to get the crap scared out of me to do anything."

Xander chuckled, "No... That's just your instinctive defenses kicking up. You can control it with practice."

"What can I do?" She asked, looking at her hands and arms for some reason.

Xander shrugged, "No clue. I've never met a witch with your power before... It almost looks like..."

"Like what!?" She demanded.

"A Whitelighter..."

"What's that?"

"A guardian angel that looks after witches," Xander explained, "They can teleport themselves and others, and heal people."

"So maybe I'm one of those?"

"Doubt it..." Xander said, frowning. "I think that you'd know it if you were..."

"You think!?"

"Sue me, I don't know *everything* about them. I just had a couple as friends is all."

"Wait a minute. Did you just say that you used to hang out with Angels!?"

"Something like that."

Paige shook her head, and walked over to a concrete embankment and sat down. "What does this mean?"

Xander shrugged, sitting beside her. "Well... it means that you can do magic..."

"Like what? I can cast spells and stuff?" Paige looked up, a smile on her face. "What kind? Love spells?"

Xander's hands came up, "Whoa! Slow down... spells, yes.. You can cast them. Love spells, BIG no! Bad idea..."

"Why?" She sounded disappointed.

"Cause messing with free will is a sure way to get a threefold kick in the ass."

"Three what?"

Xander sighed, "We really need to start with the basics..."

"Well, yeah..." Paige said sarcastically.

"Let's go inside, I'll try to explain..."

She nodded and the two of them walked into the Dorm, Xander talking quietly as they did. "The threefold rule is one of the primal rules of witchcraft..."

"Ok... so let me get this straight..." Paige said slowly, "I can cast spells... but I shouldn't? That sucks."

Xander sighed and tried again, "Not shouldn't... but you have to be really careful. Magic is kind of like an art form more then a science..."


"So... art tends to be really *really* subjective." Xander said, "You don't always get the same results when you follow the same process."

"Great." She folded her arms on her chest and slouched, "And I failed art class."

Xander looked at her oddly, "You *failed* art? How do you fail art?"

"Oh shut up."

Xander opened his eyes blearily from where he was slouched uncomfortably in the chair, he saw the sun coming in the window and for a moment forgot where he was. He looked around, and spotted Paige in a similarly uncomfortable position across the room, though she was at least on her bed.

He groaned as he got up, feeling his bones creak. <I have to remember not to do that anymore.>

He actually paused a moment, waiting for a crack from Elan, then stretched out a bit when none was forthcoming. He walked over to Paige and gently lifted her feet up into the bed and slipped a pillow under her head.

She moaned a little as he moved her and he smiled. He didn't see any extra blankets around, so he left her like that, figuring it wasn't cold enough to bother her anyway. Then he let himself out of her room and left the Dorm.

<What the hell am I doing?> Xander thought to himself as he walked down the sidewalk, a little aimlessly. <I sure as hell can't train a witch...>

<Excuse me!?> Elan sniped at him, sounding a little insulted.

<Oh, you know what I mean.> Xander muttered, <Even with your help this is way out of my league.>

Elan, surprisingly, didn't have anything to say about that.

He wandered for a while without watching where he was going and was surprised, though he probably shouldn't have been, when he came to a stop outside the Halliwell Manor house.

Xander looked at the house for a few moments, taking a deep breath, then he walked up the walk to the house.

"I'll get it!" Phoebe Halliwell yelled as the door bell rang out. She reached the door, opened it, and saw the kid standing outside. "Ummm hi... can I help you?"

Xander's breath aught for a moment as flashes of times past hit him, but he managed to speak up. "Yeah... I... I guess I'm looking for your grandmother?"

"Grams!" Phoebe yelled, "There's some kid here looking for you!"

"What was that, Phoebe?" Penny Halliwell asked as she came down the stairs, looking confused until she laid eyes on Xander. Then her face dropped in shock, and it took her a few moments to compose herself. "Hello, young man. I'm glad to see that you are alright."

"Thanks." Xander smiled at her, his voice emphasizing the word and its meaning on multiple levels.

"Not a problem...."

"Xander." He extended his hand, "Xander Harris."

"Xander." Peny said, smiling as she accepted his hand. "Why are you here?"

Xander glanced at Phoebe, almost involuntarily, "I have a friend who just... ummm... blossomed? I need some advice."

Penny looked like she was about to burst out laughing, while Phoebe looked at Xander like he was insane.

"Blossomed?" Phoebe asked, "What are you talking about!?"

"It's alright, Phoebe..." Penny smiled, "I'll talk to him alone... it's private."

"Ummm right." She looked at them skeptically.

Penny led Xander to the kitchen, "We can talk here... none of my Grandaughters would be caught dead in the kitchen."

Xander paused, "Huh? But Piper is a..."

She snapped around and stared at him, "You know Piper?"

Xander groaned, and sat down in a chair. "I know a lot of things... but I can't talk about it..."

"That is not a good way to start a conversation with me, young man." Penny admonished him.

Xander looked around, "Look... I have a real big problem. I have a young witch who just figured out her powers exist..."

"How old is she?"

"Seventeen... maybe eighteen."

"Not good." Penny shook her head, "That's too old to adjust to magic..."

Xander raised his eyebrows, "I've seen older people who worked out well."

She shook her head, "I can't see it..."

"Trust me." Xander said quietly, "I have seen it."

"Then you know more the I do, child." Penny stressed the word child, sarcasm dripping from her voice.

"I wouldn't say that..." Xander replied, "But I've maybe seen a couple things you haven't."

She turned her back on him and retrieved something from a cupboard. She turned to the stove and set a pot of water boiling. "What do you want from me?"

Xander shrugged. "I don't know... pointers? Help? Maybe you could talk to her?"

"No." Penny shook her head, "I... I can't be responsible for training someone that old. I've seen what happens when a witch goes bad... I won't be party to it."

"Then what do you suggest?" Xander said.

Penny was silent for a moment, mixing things in the pot until an odd smell filled the room. "Why do you care so much?"

"Why?" Xander paused, "I don't know... I just do."

Penny kept mixing ingredients. "That's not much of an answer, young man."

"It's the only one I have."

She finished mixing the things and let the pot simmer as she turned back to Xander. "So, young man... tell me about yourself..."

Xander chuckled, "Too much to tell and not enough to talk about."

"Well, at least tell me something."

Xander sighed, "Alright. I'm 15 years old, and I've been hunting demons for longer then I've technically known they exist..."

Penny blinked. "That's... very interesting and equally useless information."

Xander laughed, "I know. Imagine how messed up I am over it."

She smiled, in a confused manner, then got up and walked back to the pot. She sniffed the brew delicately then straightened and retrieved something from a cupboard. She added a pinch of something to the brew, and smiled as a puff of smoke erupted from it. She quickly emptied the contents into a vial and turned back to Xander.

"Give your friend this..."

Xander took the vial, looking at it curiously. "What is it?"

She hesitated, "It's a power stripping potion."

"What?" Xander shook his head, "I don't think..."

"Listen to me, youn.... Xander." Penny said earnestly, "You have no idea of the temptations a witch has to fight... coming into her powers this late will make them almost impossible to resist. Most witches grow up with their powers, they learn young what is right and what is wrong... Your friend doesn't have that advantage... this is for the best."

Xander swallowed, staring at the vial of liquid in his hand. "I don't know... Miss Halliwell... this isn't why I came here."

"I can't do what you want..." Penny said, "I can't teach the craft to someone so old... believe me, I've agonized over this for years. I still am."

Xander set the vial back down, "I can't do that to her."

"Then take it and ask her what she wants." Penny said, pushing the vial back at Xander. "Tell her the whole story, demons, monsters, all the things that will try to kill her. She's old enough to know what she intends to do with her life, and witchcraft will destroy that."

Xander looked at the vial, still shaking his head.

"Take it. Give her the choice."

Xander's hand closed around the vial uncertainly, <This isn't what I wanted... this isn't why I came here...>

<She may be right, Alexander. Remember your young Wiccan friend...>

Xander shook his head, <She screwed up... but she got better. She learned.>


Xander took a breath, pushing himself away from the chair, the vial still clenched in his hand. He got up slowly, his face a mask on confusion and conflicting emotions. He turned and began to walk dully out of the house.

Penny Halliwell followed him, her own face a mass of rippling emotions. "Ask her, child. Give her the choice."

The door closed behind him as Xander fled, leaving Penny Halliwell staring at the door with tears welling in her eyes. "And I just hope she makes the right descision."


Penny quickly wiped her eyes as she turned around to see Phoebe staring at her with concern.

"What's wrong, Grams? Was it bad news? Did that boy do something?"

She smiled sadly as she stared at her granddaughter, who was already older then the young witch she had just sent a power stripping potion to. <How can I trust my own grand children with powers that tempted me, even though I had an entire life to adjust to?>

"Grams?" Phoebe walked closer, her hand outstretched. "Are you alright?"

Penny Halliwell clasped Phoebe's hand, "No darling... I'm not alright... But I'll be ok, thank you for asking."

Xander trudged through the street of San Francisco, glumly considering his options. The potion vial was a lead weight in his pocket, dragging his every footstep down.

<Any opinions Elan?>

<You're actually asking me?> Elanthielle smirked mentally at him.

<I don't usually have to.> Xander shot back, <You usually offer advice whether I want it or not.>

Elan ignored the jab, <The advice is sound, sane, logical, and most likely entirely wrong.>


<Paige is a witch. She has always been a witch. The fact that she only now realizes her powers does not imply that they were never there. Taking them away at this point in her life is a drastic measure that will undoubtedly have long lasting effects on her life.>

Xander let out a breath of fatigue. <That just makes it more complicated.>


Xander shook his head and kept walking.


"Hi Paige," Xander looked up from where he was sitting on a concrete railing. He had been sitting outside her dorm for a couple hours, thinking.

"What's wrong?" Paige frowned as she saw his face, "Why didn't you ring for me?"

Xander sighed, "I went to talk to someone about... witches."

She blinked and glanced around her, "And?"

"She gave me this..." Xander held up the vial.

Paige reached out tentatively, taking it. "What is it?"

Xander took a breath, "It's a power stripping potion."

"What!?" Paige looked at the vial uncertainly.

"She told me that it's hard for a witch who comes into her powers when they're older..."

"I'm only seventeen..." Paige objected, uncertainly.

Xander shrugged, "Born witches usually grow up with their abilities..."

"So... what? What'll happen?"

"Maybe nothing... maybe everything." Xander said, "It's not the powers themselves... It's how you react to them."

"What are you talking about?"

"I've seen a witch walk the line with reckless magic... from there it's a stones throw to the black stuff." Xander said.

Paige sat down heavily beside him, "You think I'll go bad?"

"I don't know." Xander confessed.

Paige looked at the potion moodily.

"There's another factor to consider, Paige." Xander said.



"What about them?"

"They don't like witches... they'll come for you." Xander said, "Being a witch is like painting a target on your back... you don't have to go looking for trouble, it'll find you."

Paige looked at the ground, "What does that mean?"

"Being a witch is like joining the Army in wartime." Xander said, "You're on the front lines of a war that most people don't know exists... fighting things you'll soon wish you had never heard of."

"But your doing that... right?"

Xander nodded. "But I chose it. You didn't."

"What should I do?"

"I don't know." Xander said, "I guess... think about it. Think about what is going to change in your life and what you're willing to accept. I'll say this much, I've known several witches... and they all loved what they were, but they all hated what they had to do because of it."

Paige nodded, his face moody as she pocketed the vial. She forced her self to smile and look cheerful, "Let's not worry about this now... We can think about it later."

Xander smiled back at her, "Ok... what do you want to do?"

The next several days passed quickly, Xander exploring the city by day and spending time with Paige by night. By a sort of unspoken agreement they never mentioned the potion during the whole time.

Xander called Willow for the first time, though he'd called Jessie a couple times already. It took him a half hour to talk her out of telling anyone who'd listen that he was missing, though she'd already talked her parents into filing a report with the Sunnydale PD.

That in itself didn't concern him, Xander knew it would be a cold day in the hot place before Sunnydale PD let a missing persons report filter out to the outside world. The Mayor had too much at stake in it. No they'd go through the motions locally, and maybe even make a few phone calls for show, but it would die there.

Once he calmed her down they had a long, if someone one sided conversation. Xander had to grin whenever he thought about it, Willow was mastering the art of the 'guilt trip' from her mother and he had almost promised her that he'd be coming home soon.

Unfortunately, Xander knew that wouldn't be happening. He had other places to go first, and other people to see again for the first time.

On the night before he was supposed to pick up his car, Paige finally brought up the subject of the potion again.

Paige looked nervous, even scared. "Xander... I've been thinking about what you said..."

Xander looked up instantly. There was no doubt in his mind of what she was talking about. "And?"

Paige took out the potion and looked at it, brooding. "You've shown me how to do things that I never thought were possible... and I have to say that I loved it... I love helping people, and I know that I could do that with these powers so... so I really wish I could keep them."

Xander breath caught as she uncorked the bottled. "Paige... are you sure?"

Paige nodded, a single tear rolling down her cheek. "I... I couldn't stand it if I hurt someone with these powers... You told me about how a witch can go bad without even noticing it happen... I don't... I *can't* let that happen."

Paige lifted the vial to drink it, when a hand blocked it at her lips. She opened her eyes to see Xander smiling at her.

"If this is how you feel about it, and how much you're willing to sacrifice to avoid it... I don't think it's going to be a problem." Xander said, "I don't think you have to worry about hurting anyone."

She hesitated, but Xander pulled the vial from her hand.

"Xander...?" She asked hesitantly.

He looked at her seriously, "If your sure that you're willing to join the fight and help people... then I think that's all that matters now."

She swallowed, then nodded.

He smiled and upended the potion, dumping the liquid down her sink.

The next day Xander caught a cab to the body shop and walked in. The man recognized him and walked over.

"She done?" Xander grinned.

The guy nodded soberly. "I'm damned sorry to see her go."

"I believe you." Xander said, "Why are you selling her anyway?"

The guy shrugged, "I bought her as a project... fix her up and sell her... The time has come is all."

Xander nodded, "You did a heck of a job."

The guy smiled, "yeah. I did."

"How about the extras I asked for?"

"All installed. From the four point belt system to the Z-rated tires.." The man confirmed, "I even hooked up the NOS injection, though I don't see why you'd need it in this baby."

Xander grinned, "Hopefully I won't ever use it."

The man looked at him oddly, but let it pass. "If you say so. Everything checked out. The engine is running great, turbocharger is humming along... the works. I even got the papers here for you to sign, we can run them down and get the paperwork pushed through this morning."

"Cool." Xander said, looking over the papers. He quickly signed his name to them, adding 'son to the end of Harris as an afterthought. "Let's do it then."

Less then an hour later he was driving his new car through the streets of San Francisco.

That evening he said goodbye to Paige after a meal in her room, and walked out to his car feeling a little heavy as he did. He got into the car and turned the key, the motor roaring to life in an instant, and shifted it into first.

As he was pulling out of the parking lot he hit the brakes as his headlights fell on Paige, standing there with a bag in each hand. She didn't say anything, just climbed into the car on the passenger side and grinned at him. "So... Where are we going?"

The End


Valid XHTML 1.1! Valid CSS!