Year Zero

East Coast and Down

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

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

Summary: Xander and Paige travel through some East Coast cities, meeting old friends for the first time, making new friends, and searching for one who's on a mission of her own.

Warning: Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

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.


October 27th, 1995
90 Tremont Street
Boston, MA

"Ohhhh!" Paige threw herself down on the plush bed, arms splayed out to the side, and just lay there for a few moments. "This feels SO good."

Xander just chuckled as he checked out the room, "Enjoy it. It's been a hard drive."

"You're telling me?" She moaned into the pillow.

"Hey, you got some sleep..." Xander grinned. "Not my fault you took the night shift."

"Out!" Piage growled, throwing a pillow at him.

"Alright, alright..." He grinned back at her, tossing the pillow back. "I'm right through the door here, you need anything just come on through. I'm going out when it gets dark, I need to find the local demon hotspots and see if they know anything about a Slayer in town."

Xander left the room through the door that connected it to his own, smirking as Paige curled up on the bed, pulling the pillows into a tight embrace.

As the door closed, Paige suddenly turned on her back and her eyes opened wide. A slow smile crept along her face as her dark brown eyes glittered.

"Room Service!"

Xander ignored the bed himself, he wasn't tired enough for sleep even though his body was weary from the trip. He found himself a clear spot on the floor and sat down cross legged, taking off his old shirt and drawing deep breaths.

It had been a couple months since he or rather, the universe, had been thrown back five years, but he could already tell that his change in lifestyle was affecting his body. The softer parts of his body were firming up, and the few solid parts he did have were developing at an accelerated rate compared to the last time he'd had to work out.

One of the better side effects of the Dreaming was that it placed his mind in better sync with his body, enabling the two to communicate more effectively. When the body knows what the mind wants, it actually tends to cooperate.

He slowly centered himself and let his body relax into the near sleep state that was now a familiar forerunner to the Dreaming.

The two vampires stood quietly in the shade of the large building, watching as the sun set across the water front. The blond growled and shook his head as he waited impatiently.

"Bloody well get on with it already..." He said, glaring at the slow motion of the shadows across the water. "We've got to get outta town!"

The brunette smiled, her eyes far away as she spoke. "Oh my Spikey... What is coming is so deliciously wonderful... why does it scare you so?"

Spike looked back at Dru, and forced a smile. "Come now, Pet. You know me, I'm not 'fraid 'o nothing. But Kakistos isn't going to be happy, pet... you know that."

Dru frowned, slumping down as she pouted. "But it's so nice... why would the nasty one be unhappy?"

"Pet... Dru," Spike sighed, "Kakistos was supposed to be here to control 'im, now wasn't he?"

"But that nasty Slayer chased Tricky away..."

"Right." Spike agreed. "And you know what happens if it happens and the spell isn't cast..."

Dru jumped up, clapping her hands in childish joy. "They'll all burn!"

Spike growled, vamping out as he snarled at Dru. "And what about us!? We don't react well to fire, you know!"

Dru fell back, a piteous expression on her face. "Miss Edith says that we'll survive."

"I don't suppose she mentioned if we'd be in any condition to move afterwards? Survival doesn't mean living pet... and that kinda burn... it'd take us years to recover."

Dru whimpered a little, "But the Carnage would be so lovely..."

"Hey, I'm all for a little carnage, Pet..." Spike said, "But I like to be the one doing the killin, no don't I? I don't like to be on the receiving end... and neither should you."

Dru wavered, "But I want to watch the city burn... Do you think I could learn to play the fiddle?"

Spike sighed again and tried another tack. "Dru, Pet, Luv... If the city burns... what are we gonna eat?"

Dru whimpered again, looking out at the slow fall off the light. "But Miss Edith says that it's not going to stop here..."


Xander touched down lightly, smiling as he felt his heart race from the thrill of flight. He looked around quickly and spotted Elanthielle as she walked out of a mist bank toward him.

Xander mock bowed, his hand passing over his heart so that his fingertips brushed lightly across his shoulder. "Lady Kine."

Elan rolled her eyes, "Such mocking does not become you, Alexander."

"Sorry," He grinned, "Couldn't help it."

"Sometimes I think you would have been better off had you located Seinele rather then me. His sense of humor is a mirror of your own."

"Save me." Xander muttered, "I like being the annoying one."

Elanthielle smiled tolerantly, "I suspected as much."

Xander sighed, "Do you think she's still here?"

"I do not know." Elan said, "I am surprised that you have not thought about it until now."

"I didn't want to." Xander admitted, "It was hard enough to get it through my head that I was stuck living through the last five years again... I didn't want to think too much about the others, what they were going through."

"I understand." Elan said simply, "However the fact is, that Mr. Giles, Faith, and at least Dawn have all returned with you."

"What about Buffy?"

"I do not know." Elanthielle admitted, "I can not understand why there were two of them present in the Dreaming..."

Xander sighed again, "I know."

They had gone around and around this train of thought a dozen times since the infection but it always came back the same. Too little data.

"Shall we?" Elanthielle asked, finally breaking the silence.

Xander nodded, "Let's."

The two squared off, slipping into their respective fighting stances and began the evenings training session.

Paige groaned, "Oh... that's perfect."

"Thank you miss."

She inhaled deeply as the masseurs hands worked her back and shoulders, breathing in the spiced smell of the oils the man had brought and closing her eyes in genuine pleasure.

"If you don't mind my saying, you're terribly tense..."

"I know...." She groaned out, "It's been a rough week."

"Anything you'd like to talk about?" The man asked, his voice friendly.

"No... thanks but no..." Paige said, "It's just... one of those things."


Paige opened her eyes in shock as she reviewed what she had just said, frowning suddenly. <My god. I just spoke like Xander... Is that cryptic bullshit contagious??>

She groaned, this time in worry, but it was soon replaced by a moan of pleasure. "Oh... That's great... just a little higher?"

"Of course..."

Xander opened his eyes, looking around for the sound that had brought him out. <What was that?>

He got up, looking around, when he heard it again.

<That's coming from Paige's room.>

He walked over to the door, hesitating before he finally opened it silently and looked in.

He barely suppressed a snort of laughter when he saw Paige laid out on a portable massage table, groaning under the apparently talented hands of one of the Hotel's masseurs.

He shook his head, finally managing to wipe the grin off his face, then cleared his throat. "Ahem."

Paige almost jumped clear off the table, which had both Xander and the Masseur leaning forward for an instant seeing as how she was topless. Both of them sighed as she grabbed the towel and clutched it to her chest.

"Xander!" She glared at him, "Don't you know how to knock!?"

Xander shrugged, unrepentant. "If you'd told me you were going to be ordering a massage on our account I suppose I might not have wondered about the odd noises."

She blushed, "Well.. You know... it was..."

Xander laughed, "Relax. Enjoy yourself. I'm going to head out in about an hour, would you care to join me for supper before hand?"

Paige thought about it, finally nodding. "Sure... now if you don't mind?"

Xander chuckled, "Sure. Oh, and Mister?"

The Masseur looked over, "Yes?"

"Treat her well. She's had a rough week."

Chapter 1

Paige finished up her meal, smiling over at Xander as he picked through his. "What's wrong?"

Xander shrugged, "I should have gone with the Steak... I think I'm allergic to... what is this anyway?"

Paige looked down, shrugging. "Linguini in a white sauce... why?"

"Next time I'm asking for Cattelli."

"Xander." Paige scowled at him.

"Sue me. I like the basics."

Paige shook her head in disgust as Xander pushed his plate away. "Fine. Next time, you order."

"I will."


"I know It's good."

Paige looked up form her plate to see Xander grinning mockingly at her, and growled for a moment before finally chuckling. "You're insane."

Xander didn't say anything for a moment, then he finally spoke. "You know... I'm starting to take that comment seriously... I mean, can everyone I meet be wrong?"

Paige smirked at him, "probably not."

Xander chuckled, rolling his eyes. "Ah well. Until the guys in the white coats come for me... again... I'll just keep on the way I am."


"Long story." Xander grinned, "The Sun's set, I'm going to find a demon bar and see if I can't find a lead on Faith."

Paige nodded.

"You want to come along?"

Paige hesitated, uncertain. Finally she shook her head.

Xander nodded, "I understand... Next time?"

"Sure..." Paige replied weakly. "Next time."

Xander nodded slowly, then got up and headed back to his room for his things.

"Barkeep!" Spike growled, slamming down on one of the stools, "Gimme a pint, and some Vodka to spike it with."

The bartender walked up, dropping a bottle of Vodka down on the bar and a large mug of blood beside it. "What are you doin still in town, Vampire? I heard you was gonna run."

Spike growled, vamping out, and grabbed the bartender by the neck. "Now you listen 'ere you arrogant bastard, if I wanted ta listen to this crap I'd be back at 'ome with Dru!"

The bulky demon shrugged off the vampire's grip and smirked at him, "Hey, if you ask me I don't know what that babe see's in you, William."

Spike's hand snapped out, gripping the Demon by the nerve cluster behind it's ear, and slammed the bartender's face down into the hardwood surface of the bar.

"The name..."

He lifted the demon up again, then slammed him down.


He smashed the demon into the bar a third time.


Spike took a sip of the vodka and blood, watching as the demon slipped down behind the bar. "You sodding bastard."

Xander spotted the demon bar fairly easily, for some reason they hadn't bothered to hide it terribly well. He shook his head, hoping that it wasn't the same situation as San Francisco.

As he walked in something about the place gave him the shivers, a tingle of familiarity that he didn't understand. He walked down the stairs to the sub level bar, looking around himself, then finally shrugged and walked into the bar.

Inside it was even worse. Every step he took was like Deja vu, but he couldn't figure out why. He shrugged it off as quickly as he could and strode through the bar, setting his face.

Around him Demons and Vampires shied away from him, some unconsciously, some with fear in their eyes. That was taking some getting used to as well but, Xander had to admit, it was an enjoyable change.

Spike was halfway through his blood and Vodka when he heard an odd muttering behind him. He turned around on the stool, leaning back against the bar as a crowd of demons and vamps made way for someone he couldn't see.

He reached out, grabbing a demon by the scruff of the neck and pulling him back against the bar. "Cor, whats goin on?"

The demon shivered, "It's one of *them*."

"Them?" Spike craned his neck and caught a glimpse of the figure as he moved toward the bar. "What them?"

The demon swallowed, and pointed a long spindly finger straight up. "THEM."

Spike's eyes widened, "Bloody hell. You're kidding?"

The demon shivered, "No... The grapevine has been going nuts for weeks... San Francisco, Texas... now here. One of *them* is walking the Earth again."

"That's not bloody well possible." Spike hissed. "What proof is there!?"

The demon looked at Spike as if he were insane. "Can't you feel THAT?"

Spike looked up, shivering as a warmth passed over him. It felt uncomfortably... good. "Is that from him?"

The demon nodded. "That's not all... He was seen talking to the Voice!"

Spike let the demon go, pushing him away from the bar. "Bloody hell."

Xander walked up to the bar, glancing at the others standing around. Most of them were quite a distance away form him, all but one who was sitting with his back slightly turned. All Xander could see was the long black duster and a hint of blond hair.

Xander shrugged, it didn't matter. He was here for information, not a fight.

He slapped a hundred dollars down on the bill, looking around for the bartender. "Hello?"

A nervous man came out from a back room, glancing awkwardly around the room before he slipped into the large island bar. "Can... can I help you?"

"You hear about a Slayer who went active in this area recently?"

"A... a slayer?" the man quavered.

"Yeah. You know, cute, spunky, kicks ass... usually talks too much..."

There were chuckles from around the bar, some of the demons relaxing as they saw that the new guy wasn't looking for trouble.

"O... oh... a Slayer..." The man shivered, "Ummm... well, I don't know..."

Xander dropped another bill.

"Almost two months ago?"

Xander nodded.

"Yeah... but she left..." The man answered, grabbing at the money before Xander could take it away.

"Any idea where?"

The name shook his head fervently. "No... Sorry! I'm sorry!"

Xander looked at him oddly, "Relax. You'll give yourself a coronary, Pal. What the hell's wrong with you anyway?"

"N... nothing... Can I go now?"

Xander nodded, watching perplexed as the little man scrambled away. "Weird."

"Cor Mate," A voice came from beside him, "What do expect? Not every day one of *you* come in here and ask questions."

Xander turned at the familiar voice, his eyes widening. "Spike?"

Paige sat back, watching the TV glumly. She couldn't stop fidgeting, couldn't enjoy the show or the comforts around her. Finally she sighed, getting up and shutting the TV off.

"Damn you, Xander."

She walked over the windows and stared down at the Boston Public Gardens, sighing. "You better come back alive, Xander...."

"You know me, Mate?"

Xander snorted, "William the Bloody. One part of the infamous group of vampires led by Angelus, the Scourge of Europe himself."

Spike rolled his eyes, "Right. Like that bloomin poofter was ever the leader."

Xander shrugged, drawing one of his FiveSevens. "You know, I usually have a rule about no killing in a demon bar... but in your case..."

Spike laughed, "Sod off. Bullets don't hurt me, I'm a Vampire ya git."

Xander's arm shot out, toward a stray vamp on the other side of the room. He fired a single shot that echoed through the bar.

There was a moment of shocked silence, then the vampire screamed and vanished into dust.

"You were saying?" Xander asked, leveling the pistol on Spike again.

Spike swallowed, holding up his hands. "Come on now... you're a white hat... you're not going to kill a bloke who's unarmed and just enjoying a spot of blood in his favorite establishment, now will ya?"

"I've done worse."

Spike watched as Xander's fingers tightened on the trigger of the gun, then threw up his hands. "Wait a minute! Just wait! What if I've got something to trade?"

"Like what?"

"The Slayer! I know a bit about the slayer!"

"Not enough." Xander shrugged, "I'll find her anyway. Good bye Spike."

"Wait! Bloody well WAIT! The City! The whole freaking city! Maybe more!"

Xander paused, "Huh?"

"The city is going to burn! I swear it, mate!" Spike said, backpedaling. "The whole freaking city! Maybe more! And no one is in place to stop it!"

Xander's finger tightened reflexively on the hair trigger of the FiveSeven, if his heartbeat so much as jumped the gun would probably go off, but then relaxed slightly. "Talk fast."

Spike looked around, uncomfortably aware of the presence of other vamps and demons all around him. He shook his head, "Not here."

Xander glanced around, tempted to call Spike on the bluff and shoot him here and now. Instead he sighed, and gestured to the door. Spike nodded, keeping his hands in plain sight as he moved toward the exit.

"Put your hands down, Spike." Xander muttered, "You're making a spectacle of yourself."

Spike growled, but lowered his hands and led the way out of the bar.

They walked past the gathering of demons and vampires, cutting a path through them without any trouble. As they reached the door, Xander half turned and looked back at the bar, his face perplexed.

"Why the hell does this place look so damned familiar?"

Spike half turned around, "You don't recognize it?"


Spike laughed, fumbling for a cigarette. As he lit it he mumbled through the cig, "It's the place where everyone knows your name."

Xander's eyes widened and looked back over the bar as the phrase clicked, "Holy shit. Christ, these demon's need to stop watching so much TV..."

"What else they gonna do, Mate?" Spike shrugged, "Not like they can go for a walk in times square..."

Xander looked at him, eyebrows raised and Spike shrugged again. "Ok... bad example... still, you get my meaning."

Deep below the city, in an unfinished section of the subway systems, a shudder ran through the normally stable area. Rocks shifted, dust settled, and a single crack appeared in a segment of reinforced concrete that was eight feet thick.

A hellish red light pulsed through the crack for a moment, then faded back down again.

Deep under the city, a sleeper was awakening.


Spike shifted nervously, "Look... you mind pointing that thing somewhere else...?"

Xander tilted his head, "You ever wonder what it would feel like to have a cross buried in your gut? Keep it up and you'll find out."

"Fine... fine. Cor, Mate. You don't have ta get snippy about it." Spike muttered. "Look. You can do me a big favor here..."

"I'm not here to do you favor's Spike, and I don't owe you jack."

"No, but you do want to save the city, don't you now?" Spike smiled, taking a puff of his cigarette.

"And how does saving the city help you?"

Spike shrugged, "I like a little mayhem and madness, same as the next bloke... but total destruction ain't my speed now is it? Nothing left to eat after Armageddon you know."

Xander let out a breath of mild amusement, half smiling at Spike. "Well, I guess maybe you were the brains of your group."

"Right." Spike smirked at him, "So here's the deal. I tell you want you need to know... you let me and my girl go. No questions asked, no harm done to either of us."

Xander thought about it, remembering his previous dealings with Spike. The offer was in character for the blond vampire, Xander knew, Spike was primarily interesting in two things. Dru, and survival. The odd thing was, that Xander was pretty sure they came in that order too.

"You don't get out of my sight until whatever it is, is over." Xander countered. "That means that if you try to jerk me around, you die first... then I track down Dru."

Spike snarled, vamping out. "You'll not touch her...!"

"Not if you do what you promise." Xander replied calmly. "Not yet anyway. But I also want to know what you know about the Slayer."

Spike shrugged. "Easily done. I have to tell you that story to explain the problem we have."

"So," Xander repeated himself. "Start Talking."

Paige flipped through the spell book Xander had given her, taking time to read the titles of the various spells and skimming through the components list. She had been at it for over an hour now and her eyes were getting tired, but refused to give up.

The last time she had been blindsided, and blinded, because she wasn't prepared in either magic or mind. She was determined that wouldn't happen again.

She flipped to the next page, eyeing the sign of a tear along the spine where she remembered Xander making a big show of ripping a page out. He had done that to all the books he was keeping, giving the excuse that the spells inside were of no use to her and were too dangerous to keep around.

That still left quite a few pages though, and Paige was determined to read through them all.

"So that's the story..." Spike finished up, twenty minutes later. Still eyeing the pistol in Xander's hand.

Xander frowned. "An Elemental? What in the name of hell was Kakistos going to do with an Elemental?"

"It's not so bad for 'im, now is it?" Spike asked rhetorically. "He's over seven hundred years old... makes a bloke tough, that does. He had a Mage on 'is side that was gonna harness it when it woke... He'd have ruled this city inside of a month with that kinda power."

"Instead it's going to go on a rampage." Xander finished.

Spike nodded, taking another drag of his cigarette. "Right. And I don't have to tell one of you what kind of damage that can cause."

Xander frowned. "What the hell are you talking about? One of what?"

"You. One of you..." Spike frowned, "You know."

Xander looked confused.

"You don't know..." Spike's eyes widened, "Bloody hell... they've got it all wrong, don't they!"

"Three seconds to tell e what the hell you're talking about, Spike." Xander said as he gesture with his pistol.

Spike, by this time, was nearly laughing his head off. "Bloody fools... I should've know they had their knickers in a knot over nothing!"

"Spike." Xander growled warningly.

Spike finally got himself under control and snickered at Xander, "They think you're one of them!"

Xander frowned as Spike jerked his thumb toward the sky. "Huh? Who? Goa'uld? Yautja?"

Spike sobered up fast. "How'd you know about them!?"

"Never mind that. Explain." Xander ordered tersely.

"They think that you're a bloomin Angel." Spike laughed out loud.

Xander stared, then snickered himself. "I guess that makes sense."

"Huh?" Spike looked up, "Why?"

"Well, they do tend to hang around me for some reason." Xander said enigmatically, then he jerked his thumb toward the red Charger. "Get in."

"What the 'ell are we doing here?"

Xander didn't look over at Spike. "Shut up."

Spike rolled his eyes and slumped back into the seat, crossing his arms. "Fine. Be like that."

Xander pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number to Paige's room.

Five rings. Six. Then finally an answer.

"Paige. It's me." Xander said, "Looks like we have trouble... I need to know... you feel up to it?"

Xander paused, listening to the phone. "You're sure? You don't have to... Ok. I'm parked outside... Good, I'll see you in a few."

Xander shut the phone and Spike looked at him curiously. "What was that about?"

"I said shut up."

Spike growled, but didn't do anything else since he could see that the butt of the pistol was still in Xander's hand.

A few minutes later Xander spotted Paige and waived her over. He got out of the car, quickly ordering Spike to stay put.

"Xander!" Paige, ran over, "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine..." Xande replied, "Listen... I've got a tip that there might be a big time problem coming down here..."

"What kind?"

"Something called an Elemental..." Xander explained, "Think of them as a force of nature, but worse. They aren't exactly evil, more... chaotic... In their natural environment they are part of the balance..."

"But in a city?"

"It'll make a tornado in a trailer park look like a light breeze." Xander finished.

"Oh god."

"Right." Xander said, "But that's only part of it."

"What's the other part?"

"You see the bleach blond in the car?"

"The one in my seat?" Paige asked.

"Tonight it's his seat."


"Because, I want you behind him with your pistol." Xander said coldly. "If he makes a wrong move... empty your clip through the seat."

"Whoa..." Paige looked shocked, "Why?"

"He's a vampire... and I trust him about as far as I can throw the Charger." Xander said. "You still in?"

Paige swallowed, "Yeah... I guess. What's first?"

"First, we have a pub to check out... I need to see if Faith is still in town." Xander said, "If she is... we're going to need the help."

"Oh no..." Spike protested from where he was leaning on the hood of the car. "No bloody way are you getting me in *there*!"

Xander looked up at the name of the pub, then frowned at Spike. "Why?"

"Why!?" Spike asked incredulously, "Maybe cause vampire's 'ave been vanishing from this part of town since the Slayer passed through!? Or maybe cause any place named 'The Orange and the Green' ain't exactly the best place for someone wit my accent to be seen!?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Spike shook his head, "Never mind. I'm not going in there!"

"Oh yes you are." Xander growled, going to draw his pistol.

"Alright! Alright!" Spike relented, walking ahead of Xander as the three of them headed for the entrance to the bar.

The music was fast and lively, bringing a slight smile to Xander's face as he walked in. <I like.>

He also noted that the roar of the patrons dimmed slightly as he, Spike, and Paige walked inside. The drop in volume was barely detectable, but it was there. He felt eyes on him as he headed to the bar. His own flickered around the bar, looking for the watchers, but he couldn't find them until he was almost to the bar.

Most of the bar was looking at Paige, the men at least, though a sizable portion of the women's stare's were split between Spike and Xander. But the feeling he had was nothing to do with that sort of innocent, or not so innocent, appraisal. No he was feeling something considerably more... professional.

It was two men, sitting in a corner table that was slightly isolated from the rest of the bar. The first was a hulking figure of a man, but something in his eyes told Xander that there was more under the surface then brawn. The second was a thin man, a little shorter then the first, scarred face that seemed to have a permanent smirk. Their eyes were staring in the general direction of Xander's group, but Xander couldn't be certain exactly who they were looking at.

Xander shrugged it off, filing the two men in the back of his mind as he approached the bartender.

"What kin I get ye?" The man asked, a little gruffly, but friendly enough.

"Information." Xander replied.

The bartender's face closed up instantly. "Sorry, we're fresh out."

"I'm not asking for charity. I just need to find a friend." Xander said earnestly. "A young girl... almost two months ago... the word on the street is that she was in here."

"No minors served here, boy. That goes fer you too."

"Look, I'm not trying to get you in trouble," Xander began, noticing out the corner of his eyes that the crowd was starting to develop an ugly side. "I just need to find a friend."

The bartender shook his head, "Don't know no one by that description. And I think ye should be leavin."

Out of the corner of his eye Xander saw the two men in the corner table get up and start in his direction. <What the hell is going on?> "Look pal, her name was Faith, she's a friend of... Hey!"

The big bastard had dropped a heavy mit on Xander's shoulder, growling. "I think ye should listen to the nice gentleman."

Xander looked over at him, "Unless you know Faith, I think you should stay out of this."

The man's grip tightened until it reached a painful pressure on Xander shoulder. "Yer the one who needs to stay out. Of. This. Pub."

Xander winced, reflexively reaching up and grabbing the man's hand. He dug his fingers into the nerves between the thumb and forefinger, twisting the thumb back until it reach the breaking point. He quickly sized the massive form up and tapped Elan's power reserves, drawing her strength into his.

The crowd of the Orange and Green stared in wide eyed shock as the fifteen year old boy dropped the hulking man to his knees in a split second move.

The man yelped in pain and surprise, but quickly got himself under control and glared up at Xander. "Ye took me by surprise, child. That won't happen twice."

This time it was Xander's turn to stare in shock as the man started to come back up from the nerve grip, not attacking but simply gritting his teeth and reversing the pressure as he started to climb back to his feet. <Great. Not only is he built like the hulk, but his brain is either too slow to realize that it's supposed to be in crippling pain, or all that muscle is insulating his nerve points.>

As the figure got halfway to his feet Xander decided that letting him up would be a bad idea. He quickly centered himself, drawing in energy form around him and refocusing it. He leaned back, bringing up his right leg, planted his foot in the mans chest, then snapped it out. Between his own strength, the slight boost from Elan, and the tight focused release of the energy, he managed to send the hulking figure flying back into a table and it's occupants.

Xander heard a racking sound and paled, turning around to see a pump shotgun aimed solidly at his chest.

"Get out 'o me bar." The bartender growled low in his throat.

Xander slowly brought his hands up, hearing the clicking of weapons from all around him. "I just want to find a friend of mine."

There was a crash and a muffled curse, causing every eye in the room to flicker to where the big man was picking himself out of the tangle of limbs and wreckage of the table he had smashed. "Ya little punk!"

Xander twisted slightly, in case the man decided to charge, but then heard the bartender growl. "Freeze!"

Xander shot him a glare, "You want me to wait here for the incredible hulk over there to smash me into the floor!?"

The Bartender grinned evilly at him.

"Oh great."

"Help him!" Paige hissed.

"Why?" Spike grinned, shrugging. "That bastard has held a gun on me all night. Serves him right."

Paige growled, looking around at all the guns in the room. "He's not the only one."

"What do I care?" Spike kept grinning. "Not likely that any of them are packing those special bullets of yours."

"That's so comforting." Paige growled.

"Hey!" one of the patrons jabbed her with a pistol. "Shut right up there, Lass... and ye might make it out o here."

Paige shut up, closing her eyes and reaching deep down and trying to feel the pulse of magic within her.

Xander shifted nervously as the big man stalked up to him, growling. The hulk glared at him for a long second before speaking. "How did you do that, lad?"

Xander shrugged. "Luck?"

The man lifted his fist menacingly, causing Xander to shift back a step.

"Ah ah, laddie." The bartender growled. "Hold still."

Xander froze, still not willing to force a test of his armored coat.

Paige's eyes snapped open, a hint of glittering energy in them. "Shotgun!"

Xander's eyes widened as the shotgun in the man's hand vanished into a familiar glittering of energy. His head snapped around just in time to see the shotgun appear in Paige's hands behind him.

<Nice move.>

Paige was as shocked as anyone else when the shotgun appeared in her hand, but she recovered quickly. She swung the weapon back, smashing the butt into the gut of the man behind her, then into his face as he doubled over. The man went over on his back, hitting the floor with a solid thud.

Xander grinned, then reached out and grabbed the big man's fist and twisted it hard.

Again taken by surprise, this time because his attention was taken up by the mysteriously vanishing shotgun, the man yelled out more in shock then pain as his arm was twisted around hard. His body twisted involuntarily in response to the motion as he slapped at his shoulder to dull the stinging sensation.

"Nice move, boy." He growled, "But not nice enough."

He twisted back the other way, then managed to untwist his arm in a lightning move that belied his impressive size.

Xander lost his grip on the arm, then fell back into a fighting stance.

Three people tackled Paige, knocking the shotgun from her hands, and driving her to the ground. She screamed as their weight fell on her, "let me go!"

Above her, Spike looked around as four rather heavy looking gentlemen stalked toward him. A lot of things ran through his mind, he could run, but then he'd wind up back where he was... trying to convince Dru to leave town before the Elemental ripped Boston to pieces. Besides, this was his element.

He grinned nastily, then bellowed at the top of his lungs. "BAR BRAWL!"

The Spike threw himself bodily into the four men, driving the whole group to the tavern floor.


The echoing scream was the signal for the entire bar to snap into action, some entering the fight, most stepping back to the sidelines or running for the door.

Xander groaned, ducking a sweeping punch thrown by the hulk, then jumped up and snap kicked to fast blows to the man's head. The force of the double kick snapped his head back, bloodying his nose. He smiled, wiping his nose clean. "Nice kick."

"Thanks." Xander shrugged.

"My turn." The man grinned, then charged.

"Ooof!" Xander let out a breath as the man plowed into him and lifted him off the floor, driving him back across the room.

Xander struck at the man's shoulders and neck, clapped his ears, did everything he could think of to loosen the mans grip, but nothing worked. He looked over his shoulder and saw the wall approaching fast and swallowed hard.

Xander grabbed the man's shoulder, then twisted hard, managing to leverage himself around until he was facing the wall.

"Oh shit." He muttered as the brick surface rushed closer.

As the brick wall closed on him Xander brought his feet up, planting one then the other on the wall and pulling a trick that he had learned from Neo in the Dreaming. He 'ran' up the wall, twisting out of the hulking man's grip and rolling over the big man's head.

Xander hit the ground, his legs flexing to absorb the shock, then he planted his left elbow as hard as he could into the big guy's back, right between the shoulder blades. The extra energy slammed the man face first into the wall, stunning him.

Xander spun around as the man slid down the wall slightly, slamming his right elbow full force into the man's head.

As the big body hit the floor, Xander screamed in pain and hopped around cradling his elbow. "Shit! Shit! Shit! Damn! I hit my funny bone!"

He heard a loud laugh over the roar of the general raucous and looked up to see the thinner man laughing his ass off. "He does have a hard head, don't he Laddie?"

Xander smirked, then snickered, nodding as he cradled his right arm. "Tell me about it... I can't move my damned arm!"

The man nodded, "Well, I'll give ye moment to recuperate before I kick yer ass."

"Gee, thanks." Xander muttered dryly, rubbing his elbow briskly.

Paige squealed as she saw the ground coming up to meet her face, slammed her eyes shut and wished to be *anywhere* by there. Her assailants were rather surprised when the 'dangerous' person they had tackled vanished in a shower of light and they hit the ground face first.

Paige reappeared more or less where she had been, though she was standing up straight. She glowered down at the men who had tackled her, and started kicking them repeatedly.

"Don't you know better then to beat up on a girl!?"

Her feet caught one in the ribs, rolling him over as he grimaced at the pain her shoe was inflicting on his body.

A short distance away a small group of spectators look on in sympathy.

"Don't you think we should help them?" One man asked.

Another one laughed into his beer, "Not bloomin likely. Look at 'er eyes and tell me again how close you want to get to that lass."

The first guy looked at the fury and indignation in the petit woman's face and shivered. "Ye've got point... I'll not get myself mired in that."

"Smart lad. Have another beer." The second man grinned, passing a beer over. "And enjoy the show."

Both men chuckled a bit, then grimaced in unison as one of Paige's pointed shoes found their way sharply between one assailants legs.

"Ooooch.... that had ta hurt."

"Ye ready now, Laddie?"

Xander shrugged, shaking out his arm. "Sure. Let's do this."

The thin man bowed his head slightly, "Tis'nt right to fight someone without knowin their name. I'm Richard Sharpe."

"Xander Harris." Xander returned, relaxing into an easy stance.

"Good ta meet ye, even if you are an bloody idiot for pickin a fight here." The man grinned, charging in toward Xander with a fast right to Xander head.

Xander blocked, countering with a left jab under Sharpe's arm. "Pick a fight!? I'm just looking for someone!"

"Same thing." Sharpe grinned, dropping his arm to trap Xander's and hammering a solid blow to Xander face.

Xander fell back as far as he could, only to be pulled back into a second blow because of his trapped hand. He flexed his wrist, then tightened his hand into a claw and dug into the man's armpit, tearing at the tendons that were there. Sharpe winced and fell back, losing his grip on Xander's arm.

Xander gingerly checked his nose, but it wasn't bleeding. "Same thing!? What kind of bullshit is that!?"

Sharpe flexed his arm a bit, then grinned and resumed the attack with a series of kicks aimed at Xander's head. "It's just our way to protect our own, laddie."

Xander dropped under the kick, sweeping out with his foot. Sharpe jumped over the sweep, then dropped one kick down vertically onto Xander's shoulders.

Xander winced under the heel strike, but wrapped his arm around it and drove himself up to his feet and powered the leg up as far as he could reach, driving Sharpe over onto his back.

"Protect? Faith? Now wait just a sec.. Whoaaaaaaaaaa!" Xander screamed as a huge pair of arms grabbed him from behind in a bearhug and lifted him clear off the ground.

He slammed his head back automatically, smashing the big guy hard in the face and forcing him to loosen his grip. A nerve strike to the arms and he was free, dropping a whole two feet to the ground and landing with his legs apart and coat rippling over him.

He forgot what he was going to say as he realized that he was about to be attacked on both sides.

Xander threw up his hands in a 'stop' gesture, and yelled out. "Wait!"

Both men paused, looking mildly confused.

"What is it, Lad?"

"Just a second." Xander unsnapped the storm flap on his coat, then unzipped the long garment and shrugged out of it. He held it up with one hand, then let it drop to the floor.

Both men's eyes widened as the heavy garment hit the ground with a thud that was audible even over the sound of the brawl.

Xander grinned, stretching himself a bit, and motioned both men closer. "Come on. Let's do this."

Spike was having a grand time. The brawl had grown into a general melee as various occupants of the place were taking the opportunity to rehash old arguments, or settle old scores, imaginary and otherwise.

Spike, on the other hand, was just clubbing away at anyone who got in range.

As his fighting took him over closer to Xander he paused for a moment, ducking and weaving to avoid kicks, punches, and the occasional beer bottle.

"Hey, Brat!"

Xander ducked under a kick from Sharpe, hopped over a sweep from Harper, then glanced over at Spike. "What do you want!?"

Spike grinned widely at him, "Do you White Hat's get to fight like this all the time?? Cause I LIKE!"

Xander growled, blocking a punch from Sharpe and a kick from Harper, "Shut up Spike!"

Spike just smirked at him before diving back into the fight, fists flying.

Xander turned his attention back to the two fighters he was facing off against, only to find that they were staring quizzically at him and Spike.

"What?" He asked, looking around.

"Oh... nothing..." Sharpe said, "It's just... you're friend there seems a little... enthusiastic."

Xander scowled, "Him not friend mine." They stared at him blankly and Xander sighed, "I'm just marking time until I shoot him."

Sharpe grinned, "Tell me about it... I've been doing the same thing since I met Harper over here."

Harper fell back out of his fighting stance and turned to his friend, "Hey!"

Xander shook his head violently, "No! I'm serious... I'm really planning on shooting him!"

Sharpe shrugged, grinning, and jerked a thumb toward Harper. "That's ok... I really have shot him."


Xander growled, "Would you cut that out and try to beat me up again! I don't want to talk about why the bleached wonder isn't dust!"

The two of them look at each other, faces puzzled. "Dust?"

A sudden scream behind them caught all their attention.

Spike tossed one man to the side, grinning as he caught a punch on the chin from another brawler. He smiled ferally and nailed the man with two heavy blows that knocked him back. "Yes! Best bloody brawl I've had in weeks!"

He was turning around when a large bottle of liqueur smashed across the back of his head, spraying him with rum and glass shards. Spike spun around, still grinning as he spotted the waitress that had nailed him.

She was cute, and seemed to be enjoying the fight just as much as he was. "You're a pretty bird..."

The girl was taken back by his feral smile and stammered. "I... umm... thanks. I think."

Spike stalked toward her, knocking back a couple other brawlers with contemptuous ease. "You hungry?"

She kept falling back, "No... I'm fine..."

"Really? Cause I'm feeling a bit peckish..." Spike vamped out, "I think I'll have a bite!"

She screamed as the vampire came at her.

Xander spun at the sound of the scream to see Spike spinning a girl around and lowering his teeth to her neck from the back.

"SPIKE!" Xander screamed, drawing his guns in a smooth motion, "Bite her and I swear that's the lat thing you'll ever do!"

Spike glanced up, a look of mock hurt on his face. "I just wanted a little nip..."

"Spike." Xander growled, taking a step forward.

"What are you going to do?" Spike asked mockingly, "Kill me? You still need what I know."

"I'll find the blasted Elemental on my own!" Xander growled, stepping forward.

Spike wrapped his hands around the girl's neck, "Ah ah! Back off or I snap her neck! Come on, 'Angel'..."

"Do NOT call me THAT!"

"Fine... fine..." Spike shrugged, "So what should I call you? Oh, I've got it... You were seen with the Voice, right? How about Seraphim?"

Xander growled, but Spike kept on talking. "Come on... think about it...Her life against the city... not a bad deal... just admit it."

Xander could hear the grumbling around him, and the guns that were being cocked.

"Spike..." Xander growled.

"Shove it, Kid." Came a voice from behind him, "No vampire comes in here and lives."

Xander could see the movement of armed figures moving toward Spike's position, "NO! I need the bloodsucker alive!"

Spike smirked at him, "You say such nice things, *Seraphim*. So how 'bout it? Just a little nip?"

Xander was silent for a moment, reaching out with his mind. Then he focused back on Spike, "No. Touch her and I'll find another way."

"Like hell you will." Spike growled, enjoying himself. "You don't have time."

"What is he talking about?" Sharpe growled, practically in Xander's ear as he came up from behind.

"He has information about a Fire Elemental that about to awaken under the city... if I don't get to it on time, the city will do down in flames." Xander growled, shifting his aim. "That's why I'm looking for Faith... I need all the muscle I can get if I plan to take on an Elemental."

Sharpe snorted. "Now I believe you when you say that you're one of that girl's friends..."


"Cause she's the only other person I know, sides myself and Harper, who can get into this much trouble."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Please. When it comes to getting into trouble, Faith has got nothing on me."

Spike growled, and started inching away while the others were talking.

That brought Xander right back to him, "Stay where you are, Spike."

"Or what?" Spike sneered, "You gonna shoot me through the little lady here?"

"No." Xander said coldly, "I'll take your head off with the sword that's floating right behind you."

A chill ran up Spike's spine as he listened to the cold tone that the kid had used, and saw the wide eyed stares of shock of the people around him. He loosened his grip slightly, and turned his head around to check behind him.

A few inches from his neck was a gleaming Katana, literally quivering in place as if it was being held in check, but only barely.

"Cor..." He whispered, "What in hell?"

"You're call, Spike." The boy called out, "Let her go, and our deal stands. Don't... and I let the blade loose."

Spike's arms dropped away, falling nervelessly to his sides. The girl gasped and bolted, running to the bartender, and hiding behind him.

"Dust the vamp!"

Xander spun around, his gun's still drawn. "NO! I told you, I *need* him!"

Many in the bar scowled, growing angry at the mere suggestion of letting a vamp walk, but Sharpe waded in on Xander's side.

"Calm down, all of you! If what the boy say's is true, then it's bigger then one bloodsucker!"

The grumbling faded to a dull roar, many of the guns lowering slightly, but none of them disappeared.

Sharpe turned back to Xander, "You sure about this... Elemental thing?"

"Sure?" Xander asked, "No. But if he's lying, then he's dying... and He knows I'll take out Drucilla too."


"His main squeeze." Xander explained, "Vampire bitch that's completely loco."

Spike smirked, "You say like it's a bad thing."

"Shut up!" Sharpe and Xander both ordered.

Spike growled, but the sword danced around his face and he fell back.

Harper nudged Xander's shoulder.


"How are you doing that thing with the sword?"

Xander glanced over at the floating weapon, shrugging. "Long story."

"I'll bet."

He reached out his hand and the sword flipped through the air, landing pommel first in his hand. "Let's just say it's magic and leave it at that, ok?"

"Sure." Harper muttered dryly. "Why not? It's not like this has been a normal year anyhow."

"Tell me about it." Xander grumbled. "Look, I really need to know... Is Faith around anywhere?"

Sharpe shrugged, "Sorry, Kid. She left town almost two months ago... took Connor and Murphy with her."


"Brothers... real troublemakers." Harper replied. "They took a liking to her I guess."

Xander raised his eyebrows, "Boyfriends?"

The two older men snorted, then broke out laughing. "Connor and Murphy are troublemakers sure as shit, kid... but they don't go in for jailbait."

Xander shook his head, smiling slightly. "Faith is older then she looks."

The two men glanced at each other, an appraising frown passing between them. "What do you mean by that?"

Xander sighed, "Nothing. Look, I don't have time for this... I've got an Elemental to track down."

The two glanced at each other, another look passing between them, then nodded. "You need help?"

"More the merrier." Xander muttered, "But this isn't going to be a cakewalk. Elementals tend to be real grumpy when they wake up."

"Sound's like me fifth wife." Harper grinned, "We need to stop by our place for some gear."

"What have you got?"

The two shrugged, "Nothing much... some anti-tank weapons, assault rifles... my Mini-214..."

Xander stared at him, "You're kidding."

Harper grinned, "Nope."

"Alright, fine." Xander shook his head, waving a gun at Spike. "Let's move."

Outside the pub Xander immediately walked to the trunk of his car and sighed.

"What is it, Laddie?" Harper asked.

"You guys know a good body shop in town?"

"Why?" Sharpe asked as he and Harped walked around to the back of the classic Charger.

Xander pointed to a hole that had been ripped in the top of the trunk.

"What the hell caused that?"

Xander sighed, "My sword needed a way out."

Xander popped the trunk while everyone in the group was looking at each other in confusion. He glanced inside, retrieved the scabbard, then glanced at the blade. "Hey, Spike... some here."

"What?" Spike asked looking over.

Xander slashed out with the sword, cutting a long slice along the vampire's upper arm.

"Ow! You bleedin wanker! What was that for!?"

Xander shrugged, sliding the blade back into the scabbard after passing it smoothly between his thumb and forefinger. "The sword doesn't like being drawn without due cause."

Spike snarled, holding his arm, "Next time, cut your own self!"

"I have." Xander replied coldly, "But it's your fault the blade was drawn, so you get the honor."

Spike growled, but didn't reply.

"Ok," Xander slammed the trunk shut, "let's go."

At Harper and Sharpe's stash they loaded up some antitank weapons and other heavier ordinance, but Xander shook his head when Harper appeared with the Mini-214.

"That won't do much good against an Elemental."

Harper grinned, a nasty smile. "Faith didn't think it would do much against Vampire's either."

"Vampires can be killed by enough trauma..." Xander said, "But an Elemental? I doubt it."

"What are you packing that's so special?"

"Vamp killers." Xander said, "Blessed silver. But, I doubt they'll do much against a Fire Elemental either."

"So what do we use?"

Xander sighed, shaking his head. "I don't have a damned clue."

The group were silent for a few moments before Harper looked up, "You know... I might have an idea..."

Deep in the abandoned tunnel the red glow returned, pouring out of the crack like pure fire. It brightened and brightened as the seconds went by, until the cement itself was glowing with the intense heat.

Slowly the reinforced material began to bubble and fall away, until finally the last gout of cement turned white hot and evaporated into the smoke filled corridor.

From the smoking hole a hand emerged, its clawed grip melting its own handhold in the cement it grabbed as it pulled itself up. Then a blazing head of fiery hair emerged, followed by the oddly humanoid body that was composed of liquid fire.

For a moment the Elemental looked around, as if mildly confused by something, then it took a deep breath of air and let out a blood curdling scream that echoed through the myriad of tunnels that composed Boston's underground.


Stale, impure, almost tainted. But still Air.

The Elemental screamed it's joy as it pulled in another breath of fuel that drove it's body heat up another dozen degrees, and then it turned and began to trudge up the incline of the tunnel, instinctively heading up and toward the surface.

"There?" Xander asked, pouring over a map of the Boston underground.

"There." Spike parroted, pointing for a second time to a point on the map.

The group stared at the map for a long moment.

"Ok," said Sharpe, "So we know where it's going to come up... but where is it going to come out?"

"Came up." Spike corrected.


"It came up there. It's already on the move."

"How do you know!?"

"Because it's past time, isn't it?" Spike said mockingly.

"Alright." Xander interrupted, "Stop bickering."

Sharpe scowled at Spike, who just smirked back at him, but finally nodded. He looked back to the maps, his finger tracing a route. "This is the shortest route... It comes out in a subway station under Ninth."

Spike shook his head, "Not likely. This thing don't have a map, you know... and it's not the brightest of birds."

"Then what do you suggest, Blooddrinker?"

Spike looked at it, "I don't rightly know, now do I? And if I did, I sure as hell wouldn't be going anywhere near that place."

"Ok, so the shortest route is out... too many turns. What about the most direct?" Xander asked.

Sharpe looked back, "The tunnel elevates in this direction, and leads straight to the surface at the point where they're building that new car tunnel..."

Everyone looked around, uncertain.

"We don't have enough people to cover more then one place..." Harper said.

Xander sighed, "Let's get moving. We'll wait for it on the surface."

Sharpe nodded, "I agree."

The elemental continued to trudge up the incline of the tunnel, breathing in sweeter air with every step. Ahead it could see the first sign of the night sky, the first twinkling of light at the end of the long tunnel.

It increased it's pace, leaving splatters of molten cement in it's footsteps as it began to run to the surface.

It bellowed, a sound that was joyous to it's ears as it reverberated off the walls. Fresh air. For the first time in millennia, fresh air.

"Where did you get these guys?" Xander asked, looking around the street as firefighters cordoned off the area and set up their trucks and equipment.

Sharpe shrugged, "I've been in Boston for a long time. I have a lot of friends who owe me favors."

"Nice to know." Xander sighed.

"You don't think this will work?"

Xander shook his head, "Maybe... I don't know. My knowledge of Elementals is sketchy at best... they're rare. Most of them don't even like Earth."

Sharpe raised an eyebrow, "Why's that?"

Xander shrugged, "Too hot for Ice, too cold for fire... not enough lakes for water... atmosphere is too thin for the air types... The balance we humans love... just pisses most of them off."

"So what is our boy doing here now?"

"Every species has it's renegades." Xander said quietly, "Every culture needs a prison."

"You've got to be shitting me."

"I wish."

Sharpe was silent for a moment, "If this doesn't stop it... what then?"

"Plan B... and maybe C."

"B I know... what's C?"

Xander looked over to where Paige was reading a book, "That's her right over there."

Sharpe blinked, then spoke slowly. "I hope you know what you're doing?"

Xander snorted, "You're not the only one."

"We have company."

"I see them... I wonder how they learned of it?"

"Same way as us I suppose... we are not the only ones with contacts in the underworld."

"Do you suppose they know what they're getting into?"

"Not a chance in hell."

"Get ready." Xander said, staring at the tunnel ahead of them. "Here it comes."

"Ready!" Sharpe bellowed.

Behind them the crews of two fire engines snapped into position, manning their hoses in teams of two.

A dim light began to filter out of the tunnel ahead of them, changing the dark hole to an ominous reddish pit. Slowly the light grew brighter, changing the tunnel to a brightspot, even in the surrounding city scape.


From the tunnel a figure seemed to materialize from the glow, moving towards them with a stolid motion that seemed like the movement of something inevitable.

Xander stared, shaking his head, <I hope this works.>

The Elemental cleared the tunnel entrance, pausing as it stepped out into the open air, and bellowed at the sky. The tone reverberated through the air, the utterly alien sound sending chills down the spines of every human present.

When it began moving again the men tensed, waiting for the order.

A hundred yards. The started to feel the warmth in the air.

Ninety. A trickle of sweat beaded on the foreheads of the firefighters as they felt a wave of heat pass over them. The figure that was approaching seemed to grow brighter with each passing step.

Seventy yards.

"FIRE!" Sharpe bellowed.

The two man teams leaned forward and there was a snapping sound as the hoses were turned on. Four jets of water lanced through the air, arcing toward the Elemental with a fearsome power.

In seconds there was a hiss and the air was filled with steam that blinded everyone. Sharpe, Harper, Paige, and Spike flinched back as the scalding cloud washed over them, but Xander didn't seem to notice. Even as his skin grew red from the heat he held still, staring into the mist as if he could see something no one else saw.

"Shit!" He cursed finally, stepping back. "Call them off, Sharpe!"

"WHAT!?" Sharpe yelled over the roar of the water. "What are you talking about!?"

"The water is boiling before it hits the fucker!" Xander yelled back, "It's not even touching him!"

Sharpe stared for a moment, before finally cursing. "Shit!! CEASE FIRE!"

Hoses snapped off as men watched nervously, peering into the cloud of steam as it slowly dissipated.

The white cloud slowly grew red with the reflected glow of the Elemental as it continued on it's implacable path.

"Back off!" Sharpe yelled, sweat pouring down his face as he shoved at the firefighters, pushing them back.

The men scrambled away, running past the fire engines as the Elemental stalked closer.

"Holy hell!" One of the firemen cursed as the creature reached the hood of one of the engines, the tires on the big truck exploding from the radiated heat alone. "Get moving, men! Run!"

Xander was retreating along side Sharpe and Harper, and glanced at them. "Plan B?"

"No, ya think?"

Xander ignored the sarcastic comment and fell back to the second group of trucks. "Aright! Grab the chemical extinguishers!"

Everyone grabbed at the extinguishers, and Xander grabbed two of the large insulated hats and threw one to Paige. "Put it on!"


"Put it on! Your coat should protect you from the heat for a bit... but your face is too exposed!"

He slipped one over his head, nodding as Paige slid one over her own head and grabbed a chemical extinguisher. "Let's GO!"

"They fight bravely."

"They'll lose."

The two companions watched as the defenders rushed back, braving searing heat as they surrounded the cranky Elemental.

The woman nodded, "True. But only because they are ill informed."

"Information is the key to war." The man said. "Bravery will lose to intelligence, every time."

"Are we prepared?"



"Go! Go! Go!"

Men screamed and yelled as they rushed closer, chemical extinguishers held at the ready as they braved the searing heat to close around the stalking elemental.

"Let him have it!"

The extinguisher roared and hissed as they sprayed their contents into the air, raising a cloud into the Boston air for the second time of the night.

As the cloud of chemicals filled the air around it, a roaring scream ripped through the air.

"It's working! Keep it up!"

At the center of the group of people the chemicals were surrounding the Elemental, cutting it off from the oxygen it required to burn. And it hated that.

It roared again, surging forward in a fast move that took the surrounding people by shock. It came up on Harper in a surge of motion, belting him out of the way with enough force to send the huge man in a flaming arc that carried him well clear of the area.

"Harper!"" Sharpe yelled, snarling as he began spraying the Elemental with renewed vigor.

"Keep it up!" Xander yelled as some of the men were shocked into inaction by the attack on Harper. "It's weakening!"

The group closed again, feeling the searing heat through their protective gear as they again triggered their extinguishers.

"They're weakening it." The man said, a tone of mild surprise in his voice.

The woman looked up from her preparations. "Good. That will make our job easier."

The Elemental screamed as the chemicals surrounded him again, falling to one knee as it's flames dropped lower and the heat faded off.

"It's working!" Xander yelled, "Keep it up!"

It roared again, crawling as it tried to reach fresh air again, and the people kept it covered with the massive pouring of foam.

Unfortunately, chemical extinguishers are not bottomless and soon the first one sputtered out.

"I'm out!"

"Me too!"

Xander swallowed hard as his own sputtered to a stop, and around him he could hear others do the same. "We need more of them!!"

Sharpe looked around, but saw the fire chief shaking his head. "There are no more! That's all we've got!"

Every one felt a wash of heat pass over them as the dim glow pulsed and grew.

"Shit!" One of the firemen screamed.

"It's getting up!"


"Fall Back!" The Chief yelled, pulling his men back, away from the growing heat.

Xander stood his ground for a moment longer, gritting his teeth against the growing heat, but even he had to fall back soon enough as the searing heat grew. He growled in frustration, but didn't know how to fight something he couldn't survive long enough to get close to.



"Good. They aren't faring so well down there..."

"They bought us the time we need... they've served their purpose."

"You're terribly cynical, you know that?"

"I'm alive. Anything else is just icing."

"Fall back!"

The firefighters kept running back as the Elemental regained it's feet and roared, this time in rage.

Xander's eyes widened as he saw tow balls of pure flame form in it's hands, "Take COVER!"

About half the men listened to his order, including Sharpe and the Fire Chief, who repeated the order though he didn't have a clue what was going on.

Some though, were caught looking around as the Elemental flung it's first offerings to the Boston Fire Department. The spheres of flame exploded on impact, scorching men and machines, and swallowing two fire fighters entirely in a second of scorching flame.

A moment of shock passed over the group as they saw the two incinerated bodies fall to the ground, a single moment when an unearthly peace seemed to fall on the area.

Then it was over.

"I said TAKE COVER!" The Fire Chief screamed, hitting one of the men who had paused. "And I mean NOW!"

Men broke and scattered, heading for whatever cover they could find.

"Bloody hell." Spike cursed, "I'm out of here."

He turned, his duster flowing as he attempted a 'tactical retreat'.

A shot went off, and Spike flinched as a spark was struck off the ground a few inches from his feet.

"We have a deal, Spike." Xander called from where he was ducking behind a cement divider.

"What the bloody hell do you want from me!?" Spike screamed, turning on him. "I'm a bleedin Vampire! Me and fire don't exactly mix, remember!?"

"Ask me if I care! You're not going anywhere until this is all over."

"Fine! Fine!" Spike growled, taking cover with the rest. "Makes more sense to run then to hide here, if you bloody well ask me!"

"No one asked you!"


The Elemental stalked closer to the second line of trucks, it's temperature increasing with every step. Xander growled, popping off a few shots at it, more out of frustration and any thought that the silver bullets might work. They might have worked better, he supposed, if the damned things didn't melt to slag by the time they hit the blasted thing.

"Now might be a good time for that plan C of yours!" Sharpe yelled from across the street.

"What plan C!?" Paige asked Xander. "No one told me about any plan C!"

Xander looked guilty, "That's cause... umm... You're plan C."

"I'm what!?"

"I'm hoping you can tell him to get out... and make it happen." Xander smiled wincingly.

"WHAT!?" Paige glared at him.

"I didn't want to worry you..."

"You, well, I'm worried!"

"Just try, ok!?"

"Fine. I'll try!" Paige glared at him, sticking her head up just as the Elemental let loose another shot.

"Down!" Xander grabbed her and yanked her back as the molten ball splashed into the cement divider and exploded.

The two of them hit the ground rolling, getting clear of the splash of flames and covering up against the spattering of molten cement that was being thrown clear. They came to a stop a few feet further on, Paige lying on top of Xander as he held her around the waist.


"Are you ok," Paige asked, concerned.

"I'm fine."

"Good. Could you let go of me?" Paige grinned as Xander blushed and let go.


"No problem," She said, picking herself up. "And Xander?"



Xander's head dropped back to the pavement as Paige got up and headed back for the action. He sighed, "No problem." Then got up wearily and followed her back toward the Elemental

"Think you can do it?" Xander asked, eying the Elemental warily as it approached them with its slow, stolid pace.

"I don't know." Paige said, "I really don't know..."

"I'm right here with you," Xander said, dropping a hand on her shoulder.

"I know..." She whispered, then tried to focus on the task at hand.

Paige's eyes glittered with the reflected light from the Elemental's fire, as she tried to find a way to turn her powers on the Elemental. After several seconds she shook her head, "I'm sorry... I can't do it..."

"Paige... just try it aga-" Xander was cut off as two figures stepped out of the darkness from either side of the Elemental, their eyes reflecting the heat and fire as they approached it with their hands outstretched. "What the hell?"

Marion Simms approached the Elemental form the north, muttering the spell under her lips as she forced herself to walk into the ever increasing heat of the surrounding area. Across from her, she could see her husband do the same from the south.

Each step quickly became torture as the intense heat was added to the strain of managing the exceedingly dangerous spell. Marion didn't let that stop her as she force herself forward, she knew that the fate of the city, and perhaps a large portion of the state might well depend on the next few moments.

"What are they doing!?" Sharpe yelled as he ran over to Xander.

Xander's eyes were on the pair as they boxed the Elemental in with their magic, "Banishing spell."

"Will it work!?"

"Don't know." Xander shook his head, "I don't know how strong they are."

"Fuck!" Sharpe cursed, "Can we help them?"

Xander's eyes flew around the scene, "I don't know... I'm thinking... I'm thinking..."

"Think harder!"

Michael Simms roared out the last words of the spell, yelling the words more to distract himself from the heat that was searing at his face and hands, more then to add any real effect to the spell. As he spoke the last word, a pulse of energy flew from him and his wife toward the blazing Elemental. A pulse that surrounded the being, encapsulating it, and closing in on it.

Then it suddenly broke and surged back, throwing him and Marion apart, as the Elemental surged back to it's feet and roared it's rage at the sky and the spectators.

As the two Witches hit the ground Xander was already moving toward the closest, the woman. He waved at Sharpe to see to the man as he skidded to his knees where she had landed.

"You ok?"

She was gasping for breath, the impact having apparently winded her, and Xander didn't take time to hear a response. He grabbed her arm and drug her bodily away from the Elemental before it got the idea to roast it's attackers.

By the time she got her breath back he had her behind the Concrete divider, under cover for the moment at least.

"T... thanks..." She gasped.

"No problem," Xander said, checking over the top of the divider. "Nice try by the way... I haven't seen that variation on a banishing spell before... of course, I haven't seen that many... usually I don't run into demons that I can't shoot to death."

She groaned, holding her chest as she sat up. "It's not a..."

"Demon." Xander finished, "yeah, I know... Unfortunately, I didn't have anywhere near the training I'd need to take on an Elemental."

She grimaced, "Apparently neither did we. We were so sure we have the spell right... Information is half the war... that's what Michael always said... Michael! Is he!?"

"He's fine... Sharpe pulled him clear on the other side... Oh, and he was right," Xander agreed, grinning. "What he missed was the other half..."

"What's that?"

"Brute force."

The man was shaking his head as Sharpe drug him over the curb and behind a pile of dirt left behind by the tunnel builders earlier in the day.

"No... power. Not enough power."

"What?" Sharpe asked, then shook his head, "never mind. Look pal, just keep quiet for a minutes."

"No! Marion... where's Marion!?"

Sharpe assume he was talking about the woman who had come on the scene with him, "If'n you mean the gal that attacked that thing with you, then she was pulled off to the side by one of my group."

"Is she ok!?" The man grabbed Sharpe's arm in a death grip, "Is she!?"

Sharpe frowned, sticking his head over the embankment for a moment, trying to catch sight of the boy on the other side. When Xander finally stuck his own head up, Sharpe waved to catch his attention. Sharpe flashed Xander a thumbs up, then spread his arms wide in a questioning expression. He nodded when he got a thumbs up in reply. <I hope we're talking about the same thing...>

"She's fine." He said easily to the man, who relaxed. "That was a good try... whatever you did."

"Not enough power." The man groaned, sitting up. "We had the right spell, but it was stronger then we were."

"We couldn't hold it," Marion muttered as she hunkered down behind the concrete. "We just couldn't hold it."

"Not enough power..." Xander muttered, thinking fast.

"That's entirely it." She agreed, "Not enough power..."

"Not enough power..."

"I think we covered that." She said bitterly.

"Power..." Xander muttered for a third time, then the number clicked in his mind. "Power! Three... threefold rule."

"What?" Paige asked from beside him.

"Threefold rule." Xander repeated, "Basic precept of magic."

"Yes..." Marion agreed, "But we didn't have a third... we didn't have time... Michael and I have been married for a long time... we thought we could handle it..."

"You have a third now." Xander said, "Paige... you've got a spell to memorize."

"What!?" Paige asked, her voice rising.

"What?" Marion rose up, "Are you a witch?"

"She is." Xander answered, "And I assure you that she has power to spare... even if she needs a lot more practice and experience."

"Excuse me!?" Paige growled, "I'm right here! And how do you know I have power to spare?"

"I know your bloodline, Paige." He responded simply, "Now listen tight... cause Marion here is about to give you a crash course in a very high level spell."

"What are you going to be doing?"

Xander smiled, summoning Elan to his hand and activating the weapon. "I'm going to run interference... don't want extra crispy out there leaving the part early."

With that he vaulted over the divider and vanished.

Paige growled, "I wish he'd stop doing that!"

Xander landed on the other side of the divider, staring calmly at the figure of the elemental as it cast about for the sources of it's pain. He knew that wouldn't last for long, Elementals had short memories and this one would shortly start to wander off again.

"Hey!" He screamed, attracting it's attention by noise even though he knew it didn't understand English.

It glanced at him, but didn't really pay him much attention, it had already forgotten him from earlier if it had ever realized that he was one of the ones with the chemical retardants. As it glanced away, Xander figured that he'd have to grab it's attention more permanently.

He collapsed Elanthielle again, then wound up and whipped the foot long cylinder at the fiery figure as hard as he could. Xander had flashbacks to the battle for the SGC as the spinning staff whirled toward the fiery Elemental.


At the last instant the small cylinder snapped for its full seven foot length, piercing the Elemental through the shoulder.

It screamed, a sound of rage rather then pain or fear, as it clawed at the staff in it's shoulder.

Xander recalled Elan and, at the same time, summoned Kagi'Maro from the car. <Damn. That's probably another hole in the trunk... I have got to do something about that.>

The Elemental spun on Xander as the silver staff reappeared in his hands, roaring its anger for all of Boston to hear. Xander winced, tossing the staff from hand to hand as it burned at his fingers, because even as fast as Elanthielle was able to shed the heat it was still sufficient to burn skin.

"Have you got it!?"

"I think so..." Paige muttered, her lips moving as she repeated the spell words over and over.

"You have to do better then that!" Marion snapped, "We won't get a third shot... it's growing stronger every..."

She broke off as an inhuman scream reverberated around them, "What the hell!?"

She looked up, noticing that people all around the scene of the battle were doing the same, to see the boy that had drug her to safety fending off fireballs as an animated sword danced through the air, cutting at the Elemental. She knew that it couldn't kill the beast, no physical force could, but somehow he was managing to hurt it.

"My God..." She whispered, "What is he?"

Paige rolled her eyes, "If I had a dime for every time someone asked a question like that... Can we get back to the spell?"

She shook her head, "Y... yes... yes. You know what to do??"

Paige swallowed, but nodded.

"Good. Let us move."

Michael Simms stared in shock at the incredible battle that was forming just a few scant feet from where he was hunkered down, "Good God..."

Richard Sharpe smirked dryly, "We can only hope that He has something to do with this."

Michael shook his head, clearing it, "Yes... of course..."

"Say... ain't that yer wife?" Sharpe asked after sticking his head up again.

Michael jumped up, looking over the dirt and nodded vigorously. "Yes... what is she... My god."

"What is it?"

Michael smiled as he exchanged hand signals with his wife, "I think we may just have a chance."

Xander threw himself to the side as another ball of fire exploded nearby, barely escaping the blast radius of the lethal explosion. As he rolled to his feet he saw Paige and the woman take up position at two points of a equilateral triangle, and the man take up the third point.

<It's about damned time.> He thought to himself as he regained his feet.

The three witches began chanting their spell, beginning with a low mumble, but soon rising in volume until the three of them were screaming it over and over as they tried to close on the fiery elemental. The intense heat continued to rage around them until they could feel their skin blistering under the radiant fire, and began to involuntarily fall back form it.

Xander looked around, feeling the heat himself. "It's too HOT!"

The Firefighters were watching the fight from where they had taken cover, not able to believe what they were seeing. Several of them paused to cross themselves before looking back.

The Fire Chief looked up as he heard the scream from the boy in the middle of the fight.

"It's too HOT!"

The words shook him from his stunned stupor, striking a chord in the man. Heat was his business, and even if he couldn't fight that damned whatever it was, heat was something he knew about.

"Man the hoses!" He screamed, hitting his man on the backs as he ran to the truck.

"What!?" One of the yelled back, "We already tried that... the blasted thing is too damned hot!"

"Not the monster, Pauly!" The Chief yelled back as he flipped the switches to activate the pumps. "The Others! We may not be able to fight that thing, but we can sure as hell cool them down a tad!"

The men jumped into action, grabbing the hoses and twisting the nozzles to their widest dispersion. As the pumps came online and the hoses filled up, the men opened them up full and turned them on the warriors fighting only yards away.

The witches had fallen back several more steps from the unending waves of heat and were losing the contact with each other that was required for the spell to work when waves of water washed over them. The water didn't eliminate the heat, but it reduced what they felt of it, and the three witches pushed back together and renewed the chant that they had begun.

Step by step the pushed closer, followed by Firefighters who were carefully raining water down on them. The ground was covered in water, steaming as it evaporated off the heated pavement, and the air was thick with steam. Still the three witches ignored it all, the raining water, the searing heat, and the choking steam, and continued their chant as the forced their way together.

The magical energy of the spell converged on the Elemental, staggering it with the first pulse, then encapsulating it with a bright field of pure energy that obscured it form view. The heat tapered off almost instantly as the creature was kept solidly contained. With a final push the three witches sealed the spell, and completed it.

There was a tremendous flash of light, then nothing but darkness, and the street was suddenly empty save for the still rising steam, the still spraying water, and the group of men and women standing in the middle of it all, wondering if it was really all over.

As the hoses died out and the tensions calmed, Xander leaned heavily on Elan and reached out his hand. The floating katana flipped back through the air on command, landing easily in his palm. He let out a deep breath, feeling the tensions leave him, and cracked a smile. "Nice job people... smoke em if you got em."

Nervous chuckles broke out around the place, and a voice came back from behind the group. "Oh, I'm smoking alright... does this count?"

Xander turned around and saw Harper stagger back toward him, wisps of smoke rising from his ruined clothes. "Harper... you're alive!?"

"Don't sound so disappointed, Kid... I landed in one of those dirt piles... put the flames right out."

Xander just nodded slowly, "Sure... why not."

"I take we won?" Harper looked around, blinking.

Everyone sort of nodded slowly.

Xander looked over to where the two witches were hugging each other, then he glanced around at the others. Several firemen were injured and being tended by their own, he could see heat blisters on Paige's face and feel them on himself.

"Hey," He called out, approaching the two witches.

"What?" The man asked.

"You natural born?"


"You're powers. Have you had them since childhood, or did you learn them?"

They looked around as if he was insane. "We learned them."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Great. Paige,"


"Call Leo."

Paige looked around, nodding slowly. "Leo!"

A pillar of gleaming lights appeared in the middle of the street, depositing the Whitelighter in the center of the group. He looked around, his expression going from concerned to shocked in about two seconds.

"What the hell are you doing!?" Leo asked in shock, "You can't call me into big groups like this!"

"Don't blame me!" Paige held up her hands, "You never gave me a rule book... besides, this was *his* idea."

Xander walked past him, grabbing the angel by the shoulder. "Come on Doc, we've got some patients for ya... so get your angelic butt in gear..."

"Huh? What?" Leo spun around, following along behind Xander. "What are you talking a... , what happened to these people?"

Leo immediately started tending to the wounded, even as he continue glaring at Xander. "What are you getting my charge involved in!? Elementals, Werewolves... What's wrong with you anyway??"

Xander snickered, "I take it Metatron didn't have much to say..."

Leo grumbled some more but didn't reply as he went about healing the injured firefighters.

Sharpe grabbed Xander by the arm, "Who is this guy... and how did he get here??"

Xander shrugged, "You didn't think that only the bad guys got cool powers did you?"

Sharpe stared at him as he walked away. "That's IT!? That's ALL your gonna tell me??"

Xander paused, looking back. "What do you want to know?"

Sharpe stopped, trying to think of an intelligent question, but found that he didn't have a clue where to start.

Xander shrugged, and turned away again. "Thought so."

A deep rumbling laughter came from beside him, causing Sharpe to turn on his old friend. "Shut up, Harper."


Spike turned to see the boy he'd jokingly called Seraphim walk towards him. He put on a mocking smile, "So now it's over then?"

"So it seems."

"I kept my part of the deal, so I guess I'll be going." Spike grinned, "Its been a blast, but I don't like the company yer keeping."

Xander glanced in the direction of Spike's gaze, noting that he was looking right at Leo. <Figures.> "About the deal."


Xander drew his twin FiveSeven's, aiming them straight at Spike's chest.

Spike took a step back, "Hey now... what's this? We have a deal."

Xander shook his head, "Sorry. We don't."

"I thought you white hat's were all about honor..." Spike said nervously, shuffling to one side a bit.

"My honor isn't worth the lives you're gonna take, Spike." Xander said, "I can't cut a deal with someone I know will go out and start killing again."

Spike actually grinned, "Bloody hell... I'm starting to like you, boy..."

"Too bad, I don't care." Xander said tonelessly. "Good Bye, Spike."

Xander's fingers tightened on the triggers just as Spike threw himself to one side. The first two three round bursts missed, holing the Vampire's black coat as he dove to one side. Xander immediately tracked on him, firing again and again.

Somehow the bleach blond vampire managed to stay one step ahead of the shots, barely avoiding each round as Xander tracked on him. Suddenly Spike was simply.... gone.

Xander ran forward, cursing. "Shit!"

He reached the spot that Spike had dove for, and found that one of the manholes had been pried open earlier, presumably by Spike in preparation for just this. Fired two bursts into the sewers, but hit nothing but water and cement. Spike was long gone.

"Goddamned slippery son of a bitch!!" Xander cursed again, not noticing the crowd that had gathered around him.

"What's wrong!?" Paige asked, breathlessly.

"Spike got away..."

"Didn't you have a deal with him?" Sharpe asked.

Xander pinned the older man with a stare that could have melted steel. "You can't make deals with Vampires."

With that last comment Xander staled away from the group, heading back to his car, sullenly kicking at the debris that was scattered over the road.

Spike ran through the sewers as fast as he could. He didn't think the kid would chase him, but it was better to be sure of these things. He chuckled a bit to himself after a while, slowing down to listen for pursuit. When he was satisfied that there was none he pulled out a fag and lit it, clenching it in his teeth as he walked through the storm sewers toward his current flop house and his Drucilla.

The kid, The Seraphim, or whatever he wanted to be called was going to be a fun one, Spike decided. Unpredictable, dangerous, maybe even as bad as the Big Bad himself. Spike briefly wondered why someone like that was on the other side of the line, it was obvious that the kid had what it took to take what he wanted, do what he wanted.

In the end, it didn't matter much to Spike. Truth was, he didn't give a damn about good or evil. Spike was a simple soul, and he knew it. He liked Blood, a spot of violence every now and then, and his Dru. Not necessarily in that order. Keeping that in mind, Spike decided that it was time to leave Bean Town. Head west perhaps, since there was no way that he'd go looking Kakistos as long as there was a Slayer on the ancient vamps trail.

Spike took another drag, wishing that he could draw the smoke into his lungs as he did. Being a vampire had its drawbacks, he supposed, but all in all it was a sweet deal.

West it was then, Spike decided. Maybe California, there were some lovely birds in Cali... He and Dru could have some fun with that. Besides, if Spike remembered rightly, he thought that Lothos was working out of California at the moment. <Some shit burg in the mountains or something like that.>

Xander popped the trunk and grabbed the scabbard that was laying inside. He quickly wiped the sword clean of the soot and solidified matter that was tarnishing it's surface, then slid the blade back into the sword.

"Hey kid."

He looked over to see Sharpe and Harper coming up. "What is it, guys?"

"We want to know about the sword." Sharpe said evenly.

Xander snorted, then thought better of it. He turned and tossed the sheathed blade to Sharpe. "Draw it."

Sharpe tried to do so, but found that he couldn't budge the blade from it's scabbard. He passed it to Harper to tried the same. The big man's muscles bulged, but even he couldn't get it to move. He frowned, but returned the blade to Xander.

"What does that prove?" He asked.

Xander sighed, stowing the blade once more in his damage trunk. "It's a sword in the stone deal... just... just leave it at that."

Neither man liked that response, but something about the boy's tone kept them quiet and they only nodded.

"If you say so, Kid."

Two days later found Xander and Paige standing at the very back of a long line of people who were walking solemnly through the well tended grounds of a graveyard. The crowd slowly gathered around three freshly dug graves.

Paige watched, a tear forming in her eyes as she watched the families of the three men gather closer to the graves as the priest said some words over each casket. When the small service was ended she glanced to the side, looking at Xander.

His face was solemn, but no trace of emotion showed on it. His eyes were dry and clear, though they had a dull look to them that was at odds to the normal lively glint he carried with him. That was the only thing she could see that might give away his emotions however.

He stood at parade rest like a soldier, but Paige didn't think he had taken up that stance consciously. There was something about it that seemed unplanned. He didn't move until well after the gathering had dispersed, leaving the two of them, and a few of those who had been present two nights before, the only ones in the area.

Then he walked up to the first grave sight, summoned his staff to his hand, and kneeled down at the foot of it. He gently touched his forehead to the staff, then let the ancient weapon rest in the crook of his arm while he drew out the cross he always wore around his neck.

Paige watched him, could see his lips move as he whispered something, but couldn't tell what he was saying. Around them, the others also watched his ritualistic behavior without really understanding what it meant.

When he was done, Xander rose to his feet and then moved to the next grave site to repeat the process.

With the last one completed he rose for a final time, then tucked the cross back under his shirt, and walked back to Paige. Just as he reached her he looked over his shoulder one last time and spoke softly.

This time she was close enough to hear him.

"Good Job."

A few hours later, Paige found herself at the bar they had tore to pieces only two nights earlier. This time the mood of the bar was somber, everyone was drinking, and the only people present were those who had been at the battle. Anyone else was being quietly, politely, but firmly turned away at the door.

Even so that meant that there were nearly twenty five people in the place, talking in subdued tones as a jukebox pulsed out melancholy songs and the waitresses rushed around to keep everyone's drinks topped off.

Paige was nursing her own draft beer, on the house from the bartender because 'he couldn't *sell* alcohol to a minor', when she noticed that some of the men were becoming angry as they drank.

"Why'd we do it!? Answer me that, I bloody well dare ye!" One man spat, "They died to save the whole damned city and no one will ever know!"

There were angry murmurings through the bar, some in agreement, some not, but Paige could feel the tensions rise and had a bad feeling that something was going to give.

She was surprised when Xander pushed his chair back and slowly rose to his feet, one hand filled with his own mug of 'complimentary' draft. The scrape of his chair had caught everyone's attention and they were all staring as he lifted the mug above his head.

"We know." He said simply, waiting a moment for that to sink in, then he looked up. "And *they* know. Everyone else... can go to hell if they have the balls to speak ill of those men."

If it seemed odd to anyone that a fifteen year old boy was making such a toast, no one said a thing. Tere was a moment of silence, during which men began nodded and, one by one, rose to their feet and lifted their glasses high.

Sharpe spoke next. "To unsung heros."

"May someone always remember." Harper finished.

A general shout of agreement roared through the bar as men banged their drinks together, spilling as much beer as they managed to swig down. Suddenly the entire mood of the bar had shifted, still solemn, but suddenly it wasn't depressed anymore.

In the back of the room, unnoticed, a tall man in a custom tailored suit smiled lightly. "Someone always does."

Three Days Later

"You Harrison?"

Xander nodded, leaning on the hood of his Charger. "You got the package?"

The man nodded, eyeing him suspiciously. "You seem a little young to be picking up stuff from Andy..."

Xander smiled, "I get that a lot."

The man sighed, frowning at the delivery order. Finally he shrugged, "Whatever. I'd say sign here... but I don't know you. I never met you. And I sure as fuck never gave you this."

Xander nodded, slapping an envelope into the man's hand. "That's ok... I must've miscounted the money in my wallet too... cause I have the feeling it's going to be mysteriously lighter when I check it later."

The man grinned, taking the envelope. "Take care. Delivery's from Andy are usually scary things."

"Tell me about it." Xander grinned, "See you."

"Bye." The man said, then turned and left.

Xander turned to Harper, who he had managed to con into coming along with him. "Give me a hand getting this in the trunk."

Harper nodded, grabbing one end of the first crate and helping Xander manhandle it into the trunk, then they did the same for the next one. In a moment Xander slammed the lid down, taking a moment to brush his hand over the newly redone surface of the trunk, then they walked around and got into the car and drove off.

"So what was this delivery that was so important?" Sharpe asked as the two got out of the classic car after parking it in his garage.

Xander grinned and grabbed a crowbar from the tools hanging on the wall, "Come on and have a look."

They quickly dragged the two crates out of the trunk and Xander pried open the first lid. Nestled inside was a smooth black weapon that looked like something out of a science fiction movie. Xander grinned and hefted the odd gun checking its balance as he sighted along it's short length.

"Blimey." Sharpe snorted, "What the hell is that? It shoot death rays or somethin?"

Xander laughed, "Nope. This is a FN-P90... they're still perfecting the design, though I understand that Andy has already spotted some flaws that he's fixed for us... fifty round clips, armor piercing, and ready to kick ass."

Xander handed the weapon off to Sharpe who held it awkwardly for a moment before handing it off to Harper.

The big man did much the same, frowning. "That don't feel right."

Xander shrugged, "Feel's great to me... but I've had some practice."

"What else you got in there?"

Xander shrugged, glancing down. "Another one of these babies and enough ammo to stop a small army... speaking of which, let's pick up Paige and put these to the test at that range of yours."

Sharpe smiled slightly, "Now yer talking kid."

Paige looked out the window, spotting the Charger as it pulled up. "I have to go."

Marion Simms nodded, "It's been good having you."

She smiled at the older woman, "Thanks... and thanks for the lessons."

Marion waved off the gratitude. "It's the least we could do. I wish you had more time."

"So do I," Paige admitted, "But Xander is already close to two months behind his friend... and he seems worried about her."

"Then he has to go." Marion said, "You could stay if you like? We have a lot we could teach you I think..."

Paige smiled, "Thanks... I'd like to take you up on that... but..."

"But... you won't."

Paige shook her head, "No."

"Well, take care, Paige... Blessed be."

Paige smiled, and returned the greeting slash blessing. "Blessed be."

That evening, after a couple hours at the indoor range that Sharpe kept for himself, Harper, and a few select friends, Paige and Xander spent one last hour at the Orange and the Green.

The place was in full swing this time, music blaring full out, and men and women were spinning and twirling in time to the raucous music.

Xander, smiling for the first time in several days, got up as a song changed and stood in front of Paige. He bowed lightly, one hand behind his back, "May I have this dance, Milady?"

Paige flushed slightly, but nodded and allowed him to take her hand and help her to her feet. She did a mock curtsey in response to his bow, "But of course, Milord."

The two of them quickly joined the dancers, laughing and yelling as much as anyone else in the bar as they moved in time to the fast paced music coming form the live band.

At the Bar Sharpe and Harper turned to watch them, a slight smile on each man's face.

"Ye do know that our lives are officially in the crapper...." Harper grinned.

Sharpe sighed, smiling ruefully. "Tell me about it. So much for retirement."

"And it all started with that little lass, no less." Harper muttered, "Diamonds and Dynamite."

"What's that?"

Harper laughed, "Dangerous and precious things, me friend... they come in small packages."

Sharpe shook his head, laughing, then eyed his hulking friend. "So what does that make you?"

Harper grinned at him, "Ye don't want to know."

Sharpe rolled his eyes, "and I never did... didn't save me though."

"Hey! Watch yer tongue."

The next morning, at the crack of noone, Xander and Paige left their suite and turned the charger out of town.


"Sharpe said that Faith was heading for New York... but he hasn't heard from them since..." Xander said, "Shouldn't be too hard to pick up some kind of trail though... even in New York, a Slayer is sure to make some waves."

Chapter 2

New York, New York
November 3rd, '95

The charger was parked in a lot that overlooked the water, and left Xander and Paige a view of the Statue of Liberty as they chewed quietly on some hotdogs they had bought form a vendor.

"You know," Xander said thoughtfully, "I've seen a lot of things in my life, but it's funny, this has to be one of the more meaningful... weird."

"Weird? Why weird?" Paige looked at him oddly, "That's the statue of liberty!"

Xander shrugged, "I've traveled halfway across..."

Xander paused, looking over at Paige who was staring back. He shrugged, then smiled. "I've traveled halfway across the Galaxy, Paige. I've seen and used pieces of working machinery that were older then the pyramids. I've insulted beings that call themselves Gods, been marked for death by good guys and bad... after all that, I'm sometimes surprised that anything means something to me."

Paige blinked, not sure how to take that statement. "I don't know where to start pointing out how insane that sounded."

He laughed, chewing thoughtfully on a bite of his hot dog. "Tell me about it."

"Why do I get the feeling that there is so much more going on that you haven't told me?"

Xander smiled, "Cause you're a fairly bright girl?"

"Right..." Paige stopped, then glared at him. "What do you mean, 'Fairly'??"

Xander raised his hands in surrender, "very bright... I meant Very!"

"That's better." Paige smirked at him.

Xander rolled his eyes, muttering, "You'd think that after spending five years in the company of amazons I'd have learned to watch my mouth."

"What?" Paige snapped around at him again.

"Nothing." Xander said quickly, "You done?"

Paige glared at him, but nodded. "Sure. Where are we going now?"

Xander tapped a newspaper he had bought earlier, "We're going to look up a friend of mine."

Paige eyed him skeptically, "Let me guess, another one who doesn't know you, has never laid eyes on you, and has no idea your about to drop in on them?"

"Actually," Xander grinned, "This time it's only number three."


"Whaddya want?" Leo growled looking up form his paperwork.

Detective Gatti grinned at his irritable partner, "Guess who just came back to town."

"Look, Francis, do I look like I want to play guessing games?"

Gatti grinned, "I'll give ya a hint... She's tall, beautiful, and she made you look like a shmuck last year."

Leo growled, "I heard she was in Europe."

"She's back..." Gatti said grinning, "Arrived through LaGuardia this morning."

"Please tell me that Interpol has something on that we can pick her up for?"

Gatti lost his smile, "Fraid not. She's still squeaky clean."

"Damnit, Francis!" Leo banged on his desk, "Start digging. If she's back in town I'll lay odds she'd got a job to do! Find out what it is... and get a tail on her, like yesterday!"

"You got, Leo." Francis Gatti grinned, moving off to fo his job.

Detective Leo McCarthy, Midtown South, growled as he pulled out his personal log book and flipped the makeshift scrap book open to a dog eared page. "Amanda Devreau. This time, you're mine."

"You've got to be kidding me." Paige grimaced, watching as a tall green monster with tentacles walked past them, rudely pushing its way between the two of them.

Xander frowned over his shoulder at it, but shrugged. "Nope."

"What kind of friend could you possibly have *here*?"

Xander opened his mouth to say something, but stopped as he watched a slim red devil walk by, his eyes falling to the wiggle of her ass.


He looked up, "Huh? Oh... sorry..."

"Well answer the question!"

He shook his head, smiling mysteriously at her. "You'll see."

Paige grimaced slightly, looking around her with distaste. "You've taken me to some strange places before Xander... but this takes the cake."

Xander shrugged, "At least no one here is likely to try to kill us..."

"Says you." Paige growled, stepping out of the way of a pair of slimy green things that couldn't seem to see where they were going.

Xander just chuckled and grabbed her hand, leading her off in a specific direction.

It had been a long day, and things were just getting worse and worse. The man often wondered why he did these things anyway, but it was part of his life now. He sighed, down the last of the coffee and sat back down. He forced a smile and looked up, "Hey there... what's your name?"

He almost lost the smile as he found himself looking into a familiar face.

"Oh hell. What are you doing in New York??"

"Oh hell. What are you doing in New York??"

Xander grinned, "Hey Kev. Been a few weeks."

Kevin Sorbo grinned and stood right back up, clasping hands with the younger man. "Good to see you again, Xander."

"You *know* Kevin Sorbo??" Paige stared at Xander in shock.

Xander grinned, "Yeah... he and I ducked it out with a couple vampires a few weeks ago."

Paige looked around, shocked that Xander had said that so loud when she heard a voice behind her.

"Hey! That sounds like a wicked cool episode! When is it airing?"

Xander grinned back at the kid behind him, "Won't be too long, man... hope you enjoy it."

The kid nodded, grinning. "Cool!"

Hercules grinned, covering his face for a moment, "Xander... stop helping... you know you shouldn't be giving away episodes."

Another kid perked, "Hey Way Cool! Exclusive spoilers!"

Xander looked away, wagging his eyebrows at Herc, who just groaned. "Look, Xander, I've got to wrap it up here... You want to talk later?"

Xander grinned and nodded. "If you've got the time, movie star."

Hercules glared at him, but shook his head finally. "I'll have some time between this and a little Q&A I'm doing later..."

Xander laughed, "Cool. Back to the papyrus Herc... sign those autographs."

Hercules grimaced, but then grinned and sat down, looking to the next guy. "'s it going?"

Xander let out one last call before he walked off, "Hey! Don't I get my autograph!?"

"Get out of here!" Herc yelled, grinning for a moment before turning back to his duties.

Amanda Devreau, or so her current passport said, sighed as she slid into the large tub. It felt good to be relaxing in the tub after that long flight, and doubly good to be clear of Europe.

<That is the last time I do a job for a 'friend'.> She groaned as the heat soaked the tensions out of her muscles, <Plain and simple greed is my only motivation from now on...>

"Amanda, Darling!" A voice called out form the next room, "I am SO glad to have you back in town!"

Amanda smiled tolerantly as the door opened and Lucy came in, a bundle of clothes in her arms. "Here... you'll need these."

Her smile turned to a frown, "Why on earth would I need evening wear? Am I going somewhere?"

Lucy looked at her oddly, "The Dulcea Diamond.... that IS why you came back, right?"

Amanda's eyes lit up, "The Dulcea is in New York??"

"You didn't know?" Lucy suddenly frowned, "Then why did you cut off your time with Duncan?"

Amanda waved it off, "We had another little spat... it's of no concern... tell me about the Dulcea."

Lucy rolled her eyes and retrieved a large manilla envelope from the pile clothes, "It's being displayed tonight at a Charity ball...."

"Leo! Leo!"

"What have you got, Francis?"

"We've got a lot of possibilities... but here is something that might just stand out to her."

Leo took the folder and looked at it, nodding slowly. "Nah... She'd never be able to pawn it... Come on, this thing is wortha fortune, yeah, but it's recognizable..."

Francis Gatti nodded, "yeah, but Leo, check this out... Someone has tried to steal it two other times, and both times the key suspect was..."

"Amanda Devreau." Leo finished. "Good work, come on... We've got to get ready for a party.

"So, Xander," Hercules smile as he took a drink of water, "What brings you to New York?"

Xander shrugged, "I'm hunting down a friend of mine, Slayer by the name of Faith."

Herc frowned, "Faith... Faith... Isn't that the cute brunette...?"

"You remember that do you?" Xander smiled.

Herc nodded, "Yep... I also remember the young lady here, though we weren't introduced at the time."

Paige looked around wide eyed, "Ummm... what are you talking about?"

Xander chuckled, rolling his eyes, "Kev, this is Paige... Paige, Kevin Sorbo. And you two have met... in a way."

"I think I'd remember."

Xander shook his head, "Fraid not... but it's understandable."

Herc nodded, "Definitely. So, Paige, How'd you hook up with this lunatic?"

Xander rolled his eyes and Page snickered a little. "Met him in San Francisco... He was saving a brother and sister from some mobsters."

Hercules looked questioningly at Xander, who shrugged. "Yakuza. They had stolen the little disease you helped me out with... were planning on marketing it I guess."

"And the brother and sister?"

"Children of the government scientist who developed it." Xander sighed, "They're orphans now... I was too late to save their parents."

"Hey," Herc slapped his arm from across the table, "You got the kids out. You did what you could. That's good enough."

Xander shook his head, "No. Not good enough. All I could do, maybe... but never good enough."

With that Xander pushed away from the table and got up, walking off.

Paige looked after him, a look of concern on her face. "I worry about him..."

"Don't." Hercules advised her, "He'll figure it all out for himself... Just be around to give him a hand when it comes down."

Paige sighed, nodding reluctantly. Finally she turned back to Hercules, "Mr. Sorbo..."

"Please, call me Kevin." He smiled at her.

She nodded, "Ok... Kevin, What was that you and Xander were talking about? How could I have met you and forgotten it?"

Herc grinned wide, "Well... you didn't exactly forget it... you never experienced it."


"It was in a dream." Hercules grinned, "We met each other, briefly, in a dream... then we were fighting for Xander's life."

"You've completely lost me."

Hercules chuckled, "Don't worry about it... Why are you driving around with Xander?"

She hesitated, uncertain what to respond, "Ummm..."

"She's a witch." Xander replied, finally returning and taking a seat. "And my partner..."

Paige's look of shock changed to a beaming smile at Xander's words.

"In training." He finished, grinning.

Paige scowled at him.

Herc laughed, "Another Knight?"

"Something like that." Xander nodded.

"Why do I get the idea that Xander has even more secrets then I thought?" Paige muttered, looking at the ceiling.

Herc laughed, loudly. "You haven't heard the half of them, I'm sure. Neither have I, and I still have bad dreams about this kid."

Xander shrugged, "You should see mine."

Herc shook his head, "No thanks. Have enough bad ones of my own."

"Could someone tell me what the hell you guys are talking about!?"

Xander chuckled, shaking his head.

Herc eyed her appraisingly, then shook his own. "Trust the kid here, Paige. I have a feeling he'll tell you when you're ready to hear it."

"Ready!?" Paige growled, "I've seen demons, vampires, black mages, and werewolves! What else could there possibly be!?"

Herc shrugged, "Gods..."

"Aliens..." Xander continued.


"Portals to other planets..."

"Demons who sing Karaoke..."

Paige reddened, growing angry, "Alright! That's it! If you don't want to give me a straight answer, just don't say anything! I mean, come on... Karaoke Demons???"

Xander and Herc chuckled.

"Like I said," Hercules said, still grinning, "He'll tell you when he thinks you're ready to understand."

Paige grumbled, but didn't add anything else.

Herc turned to Xander, "You have any plans for tonight?"

He shrugged, "No, not really... why?"

"I a guest of honor at a charity banquet.. Wouldn't mind a few friendly faces around, if you're game?"

Xander glanced over at Paige, who was looking back at him hopefully. He grinned, "Sure, Kev... Always game... But I don't owe you anything for these tickets do I?"

Herc laughed at the reference to the last time Xander had owed him a favor. "No, you don't need to worry about getting knocked around by Hercules this time."

"Cool." Xander grinned, relieved, "Where and when?"

"The Michelangelo??"

"That's right..."

"Oh, but Lucy... I can't possibly go to the Michelangelo without..."

Lucy grinned and held up a dress bag.

Amanda grinned, "Lucy, you're a life saver..."

"I know."

"Whatever would I do without you?" She asked, grabbing the bag and turning on her heel.

"Die horribly of embarrassment," Lucy called as the door shut, "Over and over and over again!"

"You're not getting a raise, Darling!"

"Darn." Lucy snapped her finger, turning away.

"What am I going to wear!?" Paige raged as she ripped apart her, very limited, selection of clothes.

Xander sighed. <I can see where this is going.>

"No... No. No! No... Arrrgghhh... no." Paige tossed clothes around the room, before turning to Xander. "Xander..."

Xander held up his hand, his bank card tucked between two fingers. "You're lucky I'm used to this sort of thing."

"Let's go." She grinned, hauling him out the door by the arm.


The dark man looked up and nodded, "We will be."

"Good." The first man said, picking up a H&K MP5K and checking the action briefly before slapping a clip into the stubby weapon and slapping the bolt with a practiced motion.

Around the dark room men and women slipped into SWAT assault harnesses, fitting grenades and flash bangs into the pockets and extra clips for their weapons.

"Do we have the security plans yet?"

"Just came in, including the positions of the major players and new security guards."

"Good." The man took the CD and passed it back, snapping an order to one of his men. "Review this. I don't want any surprises."

"Yes Sir."

"Ok, Xander... what do you think of this one?"

Xander would have thought that his jaw should be immune to dropping by this time, this being the sixth dress that Paige had modeled for him, but found that it wasn't. His eyes bugged out, his jaw hit the ground, and he did his manly best not to drool.

"Ummm... Very... nice."

"You think so?" She frowned, smoothing away a wrinkle on the form fitting black dress, "What do you really think? Come on... be honest... like you do during magic lessons."

Xander couldn't help it, he laughed. "Paige... Magic lessons are something that you are only now learning to handle... that dress... fits you like you were *born* to it."

A saleslady came up behind them, all smiles. "Oh my god! That looks so great on you!"

"See!?" Xander waved at the saleslady, "A professional opinion! Will you just believe me?"

"Xander!" Paige protested, scandalized. "I do believe you, but we were invited by *Kevin Sorbo*! I have to look great."

Now it was the Saleslady's turn to do the jaw dropping thing. "The Kevin Sorbo??"

Xander laughed.

"What are you laughing at??" Paige glared.

"Paige," Xander grinned, "Trust me on this... Kevin won't have a problem if you show up in rawhide. Fashion isn't his biggest concern, believe me."

"So... your saying that this looks bad??"

Xander groaned as the saleslady and Paige vanished into the back room, talking animatedly about what she should wear.

The old Dodge K-Car pulled up to the Michelangelo Hotel fifteen minutes early for the party and was met by a parking attendant who looked at the old car with some skepticism.

"Jeez... what's holding this thing together? The rust?"

"Ha Ha." Leo McCarthy said dryly as he got out and handed the keys to the attendant. "Just park it wise guy, and don't scratch the paint."

The Attendant got in, muttering, "How could you tell?"

Leo growled as the car pulled off, "Wise guy."

"Come on, Leo," Francis Gatti grinned at him, "Let's go in."

At the door they were met by a burly doorman, "Tickets?"

"I've got yer tickets right here." Leo growled, pushing his badge in the big black man's face.

The man didn't look happy about it, but he stepped aside and let them through to the lobby.

"C'mon, Leo, lets find that diamond..."

Leo shook his head, "Naw... I want to wait here and watch the arrivals."

Gatti shrugged and nodded, "Awright... let's see who shows up."

The two cops from Midtown South watched the arrivals for th next half hour, starting with all the standards for such a high profile event.

"The Mayor?" Gatti shook his head, "We'd better be real careful, Leo... you're not his favorite guy right now..."

Leo sneered, "Like I care... who's this? Hey... isn't that the guy from Tv?"

"Hercules... yeah... What's his name?"

"I don't know... I don't watch that crap." Leo shrugged, "Nice threads... I guess pretending to be a hero pays well..."

"Hey, didn't Rollie say he was working on an episode of that?"

"Yeah... yeah, they're shooting it around here somewhere... Guess that's why he's in town."

"Guess so. Wonder why he's Stag?" Gatti asked, "Guy like that... he should have a couple starlets on his arms or something..."

Leo shrugged, "Who knows? Who cares? He's nobody, we got bigger concerns."

"Yeah, right Leo."

A few moments later Leo whistled, "Now that is a sight to see."

"The car or the dame?" Gatti grinned.

"The car." Leo shook his head appreciatively, "There's a girl?"

Gatti reached up and directed Leo's gaze slightly to the side and was rewarded by a second whistled. "Jeeez. Some guys have all the luck. Classic Car, Classic gal..."

Gatti frowned, "Yeah... but tell me, Leo, does he look old enough to drive to you?"

Leo shrugged, "Who knows? If he's in with this crowd he could be old enough to be my father... You seen what Rollie can do with makeup..."

Gatti shrugged, "You gotta point there, Leo."

The young man walked past them with his girl, both dressed in clothes that would have taken a hefty chunk out of Leo's monthly salary. The girl had a form hugging black dress that was cut high on her thighs and low on her breasts, the guy had a long black duster that looked like leather and Leo could see what looked like a tailored suit underneath it.

McCarthy shook his head, "Breaks my heart to see these playboys wearing more money then I make in a month."

"Thems the breaks Leo," Gatti replied, "Check out who's coming in..."

Leo looked up, and noted the classic Ferrari drive in. "Come to papa..."

Amanda Devreau got out of the car, smiling around at everyone as if they were all her best friends in the world. Leo growled unconsciously as he watched her, remembering the debacle from a year before. He had spent the better part of three months setting up a sting on this woman, only to have her rob the penthouse *above* his setup. He'd had to listen to jibes and jokes form the entire department for the next three months despite the fact that his personal clearance rate was closing on the best in the entire state.

Amanda Devreau walked into the Michelangelo as if she owned the place, which she may well have for all Leo knew. Her personal finances were impossible to track, he'd never even found out who or what was paying for her Penthouse suite. On the books the place was technically empty, but it hadn't been put up for rent since the place had been built over forty years ago.

She was a world class mystery, and for a man like Leo McCarthy that meant she was a world class pain in the ass.

"Ok," Leo said, watching as Amanda walked into the ball room. "Now we can go in."

Xander and Paige were greeted by Hercules almost as soon as they stepped into the huge room.

"Xander, Paige," The big man grinned at them, "I'm glad you could make it... I'd like to introduce you to someone..."

They spent the next few minutes being introduced to a who's who of New York high society. When it was over Herc pulled them both aside and flashed them a grateful grin, "Thanks for coming... I really hate these things."

Xander shrugged, grinning. "It's for a good cause... It is for a good cause right?"

Hercules nodded, "Yeah, all the money raised tonight is going to various foundations that are sponsoring Cancer research..."

Paige looked around, "That is so cool. God, I can't believe I'm here..."

Hercules rolled his eyes, "I wish I could say the same, but good cause or not these things bore me to tears and I have to go to at least a couple a month... more if the show is in the off season..."

Xander grinned, "Give me the grunt work anyday, Kev."

Hercules nodded, "yeah... I miss it sometimes... hell, I miss it all the time... but I do a lot of good like this."

Paige scowled at the two of them, "You two are such... men."

Hercules laughed for a moment, "Isn't it amazing how women can make that sound like the most hideous insult in the language?"

Xander shrugged, grinning himself. "That's ok, you haven't heard it until you get it from Two Slayers, Five witches, An Angel, and a Mom at the same time..."

"Two Slayers?"

"Long story."

Hercules was about to respond when an older lady came up beside him, "Oh, I so hate to disturb you Mr. Sorbo, but you simply must come and mingle... the guests are paying to meet you, you know..."

Herc smiled and nodded, "Of course, of course..."

He took her arm in his and the two walked off, Herc shooting them a combined apology and 'help me' expression over his shoulder as he was swallowed by the crowd.

"Well, I don't know about you..." Paige said, "But I'm going to mingle myself... I'll see you later."

Xander smiled, shaking his head as she headed off. "Have fun."

Amanda moved smoothly through the crowds, smiling and laughing and saying the right things to the right people. She had spent decades learning the techniques of socializing with the upper crust, and it was a skill that had changed very little in the last thousand years.

Only the subjects changed, never the manner of their delivery.

"Oh, Mr. Mayor," She gushed as she came up on the Mayor and his wife, "It's so lovely to see you again... and your wife looks positively radiant this evening..."

The two smiled at her and they made polite chit chat for several minutes before Amanda moved off. She smiled as she heard the mayor nudge his wife and ask, "Who was that?"

The irony of it was that they actually had met, on at least two occasions. Of course, the first time Amanda hadn't been exactly at her best. Wearing a black stocking over her face was hardly a flattering image for a lady. The second time had been at an event much like this one, but the Mayor could hardly be expected to remember everyone he met at such things. That was a fact that Amanda made use of every chance she got.

She paused to take a glass of champagne from a waiter and was taking her first sip when a voice surprised her from behind.


She turned around and was greeted by a face that she had never before laid eyes on, but that brought such a wave of familiarity that she grew dizzy for a moment as if with vertigo.

Xander noted Amanda's odd reaction and grasped her elbow lightly, worried she was ill. <Do Immortals get sick?>

"Are you alright, Amanda?"

She shook his off lightly, regaining her senses. "Yes... I'm fine, thank you... Do I know you?"

Amanda was peering at him so intently that for a moment Xander had to fight off his own wave of vertigo. He shook his head, "I don't think so. In another life perhaps?"

"Then how do you know me?" She asked, then frowned. "And who are you anyway?"

Xander smiled, and took her hand, lifting it to his lips. "Alexander Harrison, at your service..."

She raised her eyebrows at the forward actions of the, apparently, young boy.

Xander ignored her reaction, instead mustering all the little things she had taught him over the summer. "Would you care to dance?"

She smiled at him, genuinely amused by his advances. "Young man, I'm old enough to be your... older sister."

Xander laughed, "I'm older then I look, Milady... of course, so are you... so, about that dance?"

Her eyes narrowed, but she lifted her hand and allowed him to take it and lead her onto the floor. "Joking about a lady's age is no laughing matter, young man."

Xander shrugged, still smiling as he led her into the slow dance. "I never joke about such things... well, hardly ever."

"I see."

"So... tell me, Amanda," Xander's eyes flickered around the room, "What is it tonight?"

"Pardon me?"

"What's the target? A jewel I bet... you do love your jewels..." Xander grinned.

"I have no idea what you're talking about." She said calmly, following him as he circled them around the floor.

"Relax, I'm not interested in stopping you..." Xander smiled lightly, "Though I do hope you plan on waiting until after the party... I'm not interested in being tied to whatever caper it is that you're planning."

Amanda brushed his words off, "I really don't know what you're...."

Her last words were silenced by the sudden arrival of twelve heavily armed men, firing rounds from their machine guns into the high ceiling of the room.

"Everyone freeze and you won't be hurt!"

"Check it out, Leo..."

Leo watched the kid as he walked over to Amanda. "It's the kid with the Charger, right?"

"You got it, Leo."

They watched as the two talked, and quickly wound up dancing. Leo shook his head, "Kid's got problems with his taste in women."

Gatti laughed, "You got that right, Leo."

"I wonder what they're talking about?" Gatti said after a moments silence.

Leo frowned, "I don't know... but she doesn't look happy about it."

Gatti was about to respond when a sudden commotion at the doors caused them to look away from the 'couple' on the floor. They saw twelve men in combat gear, armed with MP-5s and M-4's bust into the room, fire a few shots in the air, and scream out, "Everyone freeze and you won't be hurt!"

"Oh Jeez." Leo muttered, eyeing the dozen gunmen with trepidation. "I don't believe this."

"You think Devreau is behind this?"

Leo shook his head, "Nah... she's a thief, she's not into armed robbery... Too violent for her tastes."

"Yeah, but... then who are these guys?"

"I don't know, Francis," Leo muttered, shifting so he could grab for his pistol at an instants notice. "But I think this party just jumped from page one of the society page straight to page one period."

Gatti nodded, slipping a couple buttons out of his jacket to clear room to draw his Berretta. "I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again... You got that one right, Leo."

"Friends of yours?" Xander asked dryly as he and Amanda stood, still holding each other for the dance.

"Oh Please." Amanda said disdainfully, "I gave up my armed robbery days... Ummm I mean..."

Xander chuckled, "Back with Corey Raines, I already know."

She stared at him, "How do you know that!?"

"You! Shut up!" A gunman jammed an MP-5 in their faces.

Amanda felt Xander tense against her, and tightened her grip. "Not now." She hissed after the man had moved on.

Xander forced himself to relax and nodded. "Not now."

Amanda could hear the promise left unsaid. <Not now, but later... that's fair game.>

"Alright everyone! Men will be coming along, please give them you're money and any valuables and this will be all over in a moment!"

Leo growled as the men started to split up and move through the crowd. "I can't believe that these yahoos are gonna ruin my shot at grabbing Devreau."

Gatti sighed, "Thems the breaks."

The men came around, covering Amanda and Xander while one came up with a pillowcase. "Money and valuables!"

Xander sighed and unbuttoned his jacket slightly, then pulled out his wallet. He made a show of pulling the cash out and flashing it before dropping it into the pillow case. "That's about two grand."

"What about that watch? Looks expensive to me." The man jerked the pillow case toward Xander.

Xander looked at his wrist in surprise, having forgot completely that he was wearing a Rolex. He snorted, and flipped the gold watch off his wrist. "Sorry. Forgot about that... I stole it myself, easy come..."

"Easy go." The man said mockingly as he turned to Amanda. "Come on, Lady... you too."

Amanda stiffened at his tone, but grudgingly emptied the contents of her small purse into the bag. The man immediately growled, "What do you take me for? The jewelry too!"

Amanda frowned, her body stiffening, but she felt a sudden pressure around her waist and realized that Xander giving he the same message. <Not now.>

Grudgingly she unlatched the diamond necklace she wore and it's matching bracelet. She dropped both into the bag. "I'll be coming after those."

"Sure you will, lady. Now shut up!" The man advised her as he moved on.

"Twenty bucks and a parking stub!?" The guy glared, "What the hell is this? Some kinda joke?"

"Hey pal, I'm sorry if I wasn't expecting to be robbed tonight." Leo retorted, "Next time give me some advance warning and I'll break the back for you."

"Wise guy." The man growled, "Hey Lou... cover him for a minute."

A thug with an MP5 came in closer, and the first one set down his pillowcase and frisked Leo. A moment later he stepped back, dangling a set of keys. "Jesus... he wasn't foolin... cheap bastard even drives a K-car..."

"Leave him be then... we've got others to hit."

"Yeah... right..."

As the two moved away Gatti leaned over, "Hey Leo... I gotta know... where'd you hide you gun?"

Leo grimaced, "Don't ask."

"Hey, It's Hercules!" The bag man grinned as he came up beside Kevin and Paige, "Guess I'd better watch out or he'll pound me into the ground, huh?"

The men around him laughed a bit, "Better watch out, man..."

Herc kept his hands visible and just shrugged, "Just take the money and leave and no one will have any problems."

A gunman drove the muzzle of his Colt M-4 into the Demi-God's throat and snarled, "We'll decide who has problems, Hero."

Hercules remained impassive, his eyes flitting the room. He spotted Xander across the room, and their eyes met briefly. Herc could easily read the question in the boy's gaze but shook his head imperceptibly. Xander reluctantly nodded in return. Neither would make a move, at least not so long as money was the only thing at risk.

"Alright, hand it over girly..."

Paige glared at him, waving to herself. "Hand what over!? Does it look like I have pockets in this thing!?"

The guy looked at her sheer dress and leered, "Maybe I should frisk you to make sure..."

Paige growled low in her throat, automatically tapping her powers.

Herc swallowed, he could feel the rise in energy beside him. <By Zeus... Xander's been working with this one...> He put his hand out, "Leave the lady be."

The man with the colt jammed it back into Herc's neck. "Watch it, Hero!"

Hercules reached up and grabbed the barrel of the Colt and pushed it up toward the ceiling. The man tried moving it, but couldn't make the automatic weapon budge so much as an inch. He grunted as he tried to pull it loose.

Hercules leaned in closer and spoke in a low voice. "Leave the girl alone."

Then he let the gun go and the man dropped to the ground, flat on his ass. As he scrambled to his feet he nudged the bag man beside him, "Come on... we'd better keep moving..."

Both men moved on to the next victim, each shooting glances at 'Kevin Sorbo' as they moved off.

"Thanks." Paige said quietly.

"No problem." Herc said, "I didn't want to have to scrape either of them off the wall."

"Oh, I can't do that... but I might have teleported them outside..."

"Outside? We're on the tenth floor..."

"I know." Paige snarled.

Xander watched as the gunmen swept through the room, taking everything that wasn't surgically attached. He was fairly glad that they had been satisfied with his 'contribution' and had elected not to frisk him. He'd have been forced to act if they pulled his FiveSeven's from under his newly tailored jacket.

"Say, Amanda," Xander spoke softly, his voice conversational. "How does it feel to be on the other side?"

"Insulting." She hissed. "That jewelry was a gift from someone who meant a lot to me."

Xander took a breath, "We'll get it back."


He shrugged, "If you like."

She smiled, "Ask a girl to lunch first... A felony isn't a first date kind of thing."

Xander snorted, "Not like being caught while trying to steal a Monet from a bunch of old British farts."

A second wave of deja vu flashed over her, flashes of something she was sure she'd never done running before her eyes. She blinked away the feeling and looked at the kid, "Who *are* you?"

He just smiled at her, "The best friend you've never met."

Amanda's smile remained in place, but it was obviously stuck on by nothing short of pure will power. She hissed through her clenched teeth, "We're going to have to talk about your screwy concept of friendship some time."

Xander shrugged, "Whatever you like... Darling."

She blinked, staring at him as she heard her own expression and even tones being parroted back at her from a stranger.

Xander just flashed her another ear to ear grin, then it dropped as he watched the three man group robbing a young couple not to far from where he and Amanda were standing.

"Give me the rings!"

"No! These were our wedding rings!"

"Just give him the rings, Jeff!"

"Yeah, Jeff!" The man snarled, "Give me the damned rings!"

The man refused again and was promptly clubbed over the head on the butt of an M-4. Immediately the wife moved to help him, and receive the same treatment. Things quickly escalated as one of their friends moved to help, belting the attacker, and quickly being hit back by one of the other three.

A short scuffle broke out, and suddenly two shots rang through the air.

Xander's face tensed as he watched the man hit the ground, his white shirt reddening by the second. He barely kept himself under control long enough to check over his shoulder. He locked eyes with Herc and received a nod from the man. He nodded back and started moving.

"Now?" Amanda asked from his side.


"Xander's moving." Hercules said softly to Paige, "You ready?"

"You better bet I am." She growled, incensed at the violence that had just occurred.

"Let's back him up." Herc said, leading Paige toward the closest group.

"Something's going down, Leo..." Gatti muttered, his eyes flicking around the room.

Leo nodded, "I see 'em..."

"What do we do?"

Leo growled, "We do what he have to."

The wife of the man who had just been shot fell across her husband's body, either to see if he was alive to attempt to shield him from more shots. The man with the M-4 growled and stepped forward, his carbine held on both of them as he yelled.

"Get up you dumb bitch! Or I'll out two more through that stupid bastard!"

His finger tightened on the trigger to make good on his threat.

Xander struck first, he jumped up as he reached the gunman holding the M4 on the couple and kicked out twice. The first kick snapped into the man's wrist, numbing his hand and causing his fingers to go limp. The second impacted hard on the barrel of the carbine and sent it spinning into the air.

The three robbers present didn't have time to react as Xander and Amanda ripped into them. As his feet hit the ground, Xander spun around and nailed the man he'd just disarmed across the bridge of the nose, mashing the bone with a sickening crunch.

As the first man went down, Amanda struck out at the second using a modified French savate style. Mentally she blessed Lucy for selecting a dress with a high split that allowed her a longer range of motion as she struck her man across the cheek with her heel, knocking him cold.

The third man had a bit more time and was bringing his weapon to bear on them when Xander reached up and plucked the Colt M-4 from the air as it fell. The man froze for just a second, staring down the barrel of the carbine, just long enough for Amanda to relieve him of his own weapon and knock him out with it.

"Well... that was exhilarating." Amanda sighed with pleasure, "I can't remember... are these the asses that stole my necklace?"

Xander looked at her as if she was insane, "Can we talk about that *after*?"

Their attention distracted by the sudden scuffle at the other side of the room, the three thugs that Hercules walked up on never noticed his approach.

Two big hands reached out and clasped two small heads, and in an instant slammed them together with enough force that people who happened to witness the event *swore* they heard the comic sound effects from the Hercules tv series as the unconscious forms hit the ground.

Beside him Paige slammed a hastily borrowed chair over the head of the third guy, dropping him to the ground.

Hercules grinned at her, "Nice move."

"Well, I use what I can..." She smiled back, "Hey, we can't all be demi-gods right?"

Hercules chuckled at her little joke, wondering if it was a joke for a moment, then shrugging it off. "Let's help Xander and that woman get the rest."

"Yeah.... Who is she anyway?" Paige tossed a glance over to where Xander and the brunette were already moving.

Herc shrugged, "Not sure... I think I may have met her before though..."


"Hey, I meet a lot of people..."

"I bet."

"Get him!"

"I got him, Leo!" Gatti yelled from where he tackled his man, driving both of them to the floor. They rolled around for a bit until Gatti managed to club his man solidly with the butt of his Berretta.

Francis grinned and rolled off the unconscious man, to fins himself staring into the big bore of an automatic inches from his head. "Uh... Leo?"

"Got ya covered Partner." Leo said, the bore of his snub nose gracing the temple of the gunman, while his Colt covered the third man. "On the ground! Now! Hands over your heads!"

As the two slowly obeyed his command Leo looked around, surprised to note that he didn't see anymore gunmen in the room. He did a quick mental tally, <We got three... looks like the kid and Devreau picked off another three... what happened to the other six??>

He was still asking himself that when a dozen more men and women walked in the big double doors of the room and stared straight at him.

They stared at him, he stared at them, neither moving or making a sound for a long moment. Then the silence was broken by the leader of the group.

"Kill them!"

"Oh hell..."

Xander saw them as they came in the door and his mind worked quickly, tallying the odds. <Not good. How many more of these guys are there!?>

He noted the weapons as they came up, and let out a yell. "Everyone get down!!"

Then he started moving. He covered three strides before he spotted Paige and Herc through the rapidly dropping crowd. "Paige! I need my coat!"

Paige's head snapped around when Xander yelled to her, her eyes seeking out the coat check she remembered Xander grumbling about. He hadn't wanted to give up his armor, but she'd cajoled him into it. She grimaced, that one was going to bite her in the ass later.

She growled, looked around to see that everyone was looking the other way, and reached her hand out, <I hope this works... I've never done this blind before...>

"Armor!" She snapped out in a commanding tone.

Inside the coat check room a long black coat vanished in a shimmer of heavenly light, only to reappear in the hands of a very young witch. Paige almost dropped it in surprise that it worked, then she started to run toward Xander.

Hercules stopped her, "What's up?"

"Xander needs this!" She gasped, lifting up the coat. "It's body armor."

Herc nodded, taking it from her. "Gotcha. Xander! Heads up!"

Then the big man heaved the 30+ pound coat through the air.

Xander looked up at the shout, not pausing to stop his run. He grinned as he realized that Herc had lofted the coat right for where he was heading. <Man should try football...>

Xander grinned at the thought, then picked up the pace, keeping his eyes on the heavy coat as it flapped in the air.

"Excuse me!" He grunted to a man who was kneeling on the floor as he planted his foot in the man's back and jumped.

As he left the ground, Xander mentally flipped the switches that shifted his perceptions into full enhanced mode and simultaneously tapped Elan's energy to the maximum he was capable.

Time seemed to slow down as he floated upward, his arm outstretched. A wide grin passed over his face as he realized what he was doing, after the fact. He intercepted the jacket in mid air, his arm sliding smoothly into the sleeve as he continued twisting in the air.

Dimly, in the distance, he could hear the order snapped out. "Kill them!"

Leo was still bringing his guns up, knowing even as he did that he'd be too late. He swallowed as he tried to remember the old prayer he'd learned from the nuns as a child but the words wouldn't come to his mind.

Suddenly a blur came down, hitting him in the shoulders and driving him to his knees. As the blur stopped moving he could see the kid with Charger grinning at him.

"Keep your head down." The kid said, his words almost drowned out as the automatic weapons behind him opened up.

Hercules and Paige looked at each other in surprise as they watched Xander's acrobatics.

Herc actually paused and pointed at Xander, with an little grin on his face. "That was really cool."

Paige just nodded dumbly.

Xander felt the bullets strike his back, and was pleasantly surprised to note that the coat worked as advertised. All he felt was a little pressure as the 9mm and 5.62 rounds flattened themselves against the material of his coat.

"Cool..." He whispered, smiling at the realization.

"Cool?" The grey haired cop growled, "Why aren't you dead?"

"Body armor." Xander grinned.

"Body armor?" The cop looked at him oddly, "You don't know a guy named Rollie Tyler do you?"

Xander frowned, "No... why?"

"Never mind."

Xander shrugged it off, drawing a pistol with one hand as his other kept the coat covering the two of them.

The cop looked at him, eyes widening.

Xander grinned, and shrugged, "On three?"

"You got it." The cop muttered, "Leo McCarthy, by the way..."

"Xander Harris... I'd shake your hand... but..." Xander grinned.

"Yeah, yeah... you gonna count, or should I? I'm sick of being a sitting duck!"

"One..." Xander began slowly.

"Two three!" Leo shouted and jumped up, snub nose revolver in one hand, automatic in the other.

Xander cursed through a stupid grin and spun around, his FiveSeven seeking out a target.

"Wow..." Hercules said slowly, as he watched the shots spark off Xander's back. "That's... really good armor."

"It better be." Paige said dryly, wincing with ever shot. "He paid a hundred grand per coat."

"A hundred thousand dollars?" Hercules asked as he weaved through the people on the floor. "He's come up in the world."

"That's a matter of opinion." Paige grinned. "I'm pretty sure he stole it."

"Wouldn't surprise me." Herc grinned.

Xander spun around in a kneeling position, his free hand sliding into the arm of the coat as he tracked on the armed robbers. Above him he could hear the sharp bark of Leo's automatic, punctuated by the slower report of his revolver as the cop fired into the group.

Xander's FiveSeven barked out in short bursts, the silver rounds seeking out their targets across the short distance, and dropping a man to the ground. As his hand slid completely into the coat, Xander shrugged the coat on properly, then drew his second pistol.

As the two of them fired the men began falling, but it wasn't long before they started to get back up.

"Jesus!" Leo cursed, "They've got body armor!"

Xander gritted his teeth, "Then aim high."

Jacob Grand drew back in shock as the man next to him went down with a clean headshot. "Jesus Christ! I thought we took care of security!?"

"Security hell! These are guests!" The man next to him yelled, jumping back himself. "Jesus! Fall back to cover!"

"It's only two guys with pistols!"

"Three!" another man yelled as they spotted another guy open fire, then cursed as a brunette picked up one of the Colt M-4's. "Shit! Four! Who the hell are these people!"

"I don't give a damn! We got what we wanted! Let's get out of here!"

No one needed to be told twice, they scrambled for cover behind the massive doors and then retreated down the hall.

As the last of the armed men vanished down the hall Xander rose to his feet in a fluid motion, transferring the pistol in his left hand to hold both in his right. He hit the clip ejector on both pistols, catching the empty clips in his left hand with an easy motion.

Leo and Gatti rushed past him, moving quickly to the sides of the door with their pistols ready.

Xander watched silently, dropping the empty clips into his pocket and drawing a pair of fresh ones from under his jacket.

"Gone!" Leo cursed.

"Come on, Leo," Gatti urged, "Lets get after them!"

"I wouldn't do that." Xander said quietly from where he was standing, slapping the new clips into his pistols and racking the slides on both pistols simultaneously.

"Who asked you!?" Gatti asked, "We're cops! This is what we do!"

"Call for backup. Those guys were armed with submachine guns and they still outnumber you by at least four to one." Xander said, "Trust me, Officer..."


"Detective," Xander corrected, zipping up his coat and fastening the large flap across the front. "You're job isn't to run into an ambush."

"Why you...!" Gatti growled, but Leo put a hand up in front of him.

"Calm down, Francis... We're not letting them go." Leo said, "Come on."

Xander sighed, shaking his head, and started after them. He was stopped by a light hand on his shoulder, "You're not going with them?"

He turned to see Amanda, looking at him with odd concern on her face. "I can't stand by."

Amanda grimaced, "Damn you boyscouts."

Xander flashed her a grin, glanced back at Paige, nodded towards the fallen man, and walked off.

Amanda watched for a moment, then cursed fluently in French and Spanish, before following him. <Damn boyscouts... and why do I care!?>

Paige caught Xander glance, and followed his gaze to the man who had been shot, and nodded. She stopped in her tracks, causing a surprised Hercules to do the same.

"What is it?"

"We have to check on the man who was shot." Paige replied, changing direction.

Hercules looked between the door and Paige, uncertain and not liking the fact that he was sidelined. Finally he sighed, this was the life he had accepted in this decade or so, and followed Paige.

They reached the couple on the floor and Hercules started to clear the people from around the bleeding man. "Give them some room, people... come on, back up!"

Paige fell to her knees by the couple, her hands flying to the bloodied shirt.

"W... who are you?" The crying wife looked up.

"A friend." Paige said curtly, "I'm here to help."

The wife nodded, looking at Paige through bloodshot eyes.

Paige quickly checked the wound, feeling Herc look closely over her shoulder.

"He's going into shock..." Herc said.

Paige nodded, looking around at all the people. "Pick him up."


"Pick him up!" Paige ordered Herc as she climbed to her feet.

Something in her voice told him to obey, and the big guy kneeled down and picked up the bleeding man. He easily hefted him in his arms and looked at Paige, "What now?"

"Follow me." Paige headed for the door.

"I'm coming with you!" The wife cried out, causing them to pause.

Paige hesitated, then nodded curtly, and the three of them ran out of the room as the guests of the party stared after them in shock.

Xander and Amanda followed Leo and Gatti down the hall, moving cautiously when they reached the corner. Xander moved up, tapping Leo on the shoulder.


"Let me go first." He said, "I'm the one wearing armor."

Leo looked the kid up and down, not quite sure what to make of him, but he finally shook his head. "No way kid. I'm not letting you do my job."

Xander rolled his eyes and brushed past the two cops, ignoring their protests.


"Come back here!"

Amanda rolled her eyes, <Boyscouts.>

Paige led Hercules and the man's wife into a dead end, then looked around for witnesses.

"What are we doing here!?" The wife wailed, "My husband needs a doctor..."

"No." Paige said, "He needs a miracle... and I'm going to get it for him. Leo!"

Hercules and the woman looked at her in confusion, until a shower of white light descended from the ceiling and formed into the figure of a man. The woman's eyes rolled up into her head as consciousness fled. Paige squeaked and rushed forward, barely catching the woman before she hit the ground.

"Paige?" Leo looked around, spotted Hercules, and groaned. "Oh, What now?"

"The guy's been shot, Leo..." Paige grunted, "Can you heal him?"

Leo shook his head and examined the injured man, placing his hand over the wound. A golden glow basked the wound and it swiftly closed up. Leo sighed as he completed his task, "He'll be fine... care to explain what happened?"

Paige grunted under the weight of the woman she was holding up, "Can it wait? I'm a little busy..."

Leo wiped his forehead, sighing. "Alright... But we really need to talk about the trouble this guy is getting you into..."

"Not now, Leo..."

"Fine." Leo shook his head, then orbed away.

"Well... that was interesting." Hercules said, looking up.

"That was Leo, my..."

"Whitelighter... yes, I know." Hercules smiled, "We'd better get these two downstairs..."

"How are we going to explain this?" Paige wondered.

"We'll think of something."

Xander broke out onto the ground floor, his pistols up and tracking, with Leo, Gatti, and Amanda right behind him.

"Clear!" He shouted out, lowering his guns as he ran through the lobby.

Leo grabbed a bystander, "Which way'd they go!?"

The frightened man pointed out to the street.

They ran out of the building, just in time to see a black van with Police SWAT markings squeal around the corner.

"Goddamn it!" Leo cursed, then he grabbed Gatti. "Get to a it in, I want an air unit looking for that damned van! Now!"

Gatti nodded, "You got it, Leo."

Leo let Gatti go, then looked back down the street and cursed again. He turned around to see the kid carefully replacing his pistols under his coat, and Amanda Devreau meticulously wiping her fingerprints off the Colt she was holding.

"What do you think you're doing!?"

"What do you think you're doing!?"

Amanda looked at him with an expression of almost sickly innocence. "Why, I wouldn't want to give you a dirty gun, Detective."

Leo snarled and grabbed the gun from her hands, "That's evidence you're destroying!"

Amanda shrugged, "Oh you have plenty more guns upstairs... You don't need the one that had my little fingerprints messing everything up."

Xander chuckled, shaking his head.

"What are you laughing at!?" Leo growled, "You've got some questions to answer, Kid! Starting with 'do you have a permit for those pistols?'"

Xander smiled, "What pistols?"

"Awright! That's it!" Leo looked over his shoulder, "Francis! Get your butt out here and cover these two!"

Francis Gatti stepped out, looked around, "What two?"

Leo looked back, and they were gone. "What the hell??"

Xander and Amanda were still laughing quietly to themselves when they broke into the parking garage and located the keys to their respective cars.

"So," Xander said as they looked through the ranks of vehicles, "What do you suppose they were really there for?"

"You don't think they were there to steal wallets and purses?" Amanda asked with a false surprise.

"Please." Xander muttered dryly, "All those people for a glorified pick pocket job?"

"True..." Amanda smiled, "My money, were I a betting girl, would be in the Dulcea Diamond... It's worth a mid sized fortune if you know the right collectors."

"As I'm sure you do." Xander said, chuckling.

"Possibly." Amanda grinned, "Oh look... my car."

"And mine is right next to it." Xander said, "We must have come in at practically the same time."

"Imagine that."

They quickly got into their vehicles and started them up. Then Xander leaned out the window of the Charger and flicked a card into Amanda's Ferrari.

"What's this?"

Xander grinned, "My number..."

"Good," She called back, shifting the car into gear. "I might need the help to recoup my necklace."

Xander frowned, "Won't that be in the police impound?"

Amanda grinned and winked at him as she pulled out of the lot. "Ta, Darling.!"

The Charger rumbled as Xander did the same, shaking his head as he grinned. He quickly dialed a number into his cell phone, hoping that he had the right one.


"Hey, Kev... It's Xander.."

"Xander, are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, but I have to ditch the area... that cop wants me to answer some questions I'm not ready to dal with right now... can you get Paige out of there?"

"Can do. I'll drop her off at your Hotel."

"Thanks man, I owe you one." Xander flinched, regretting the words as soon as he said them.

"Oh, don't worry... I'll find something for you to do to repay me."

Xander groaned and cut the connection, wheeling his car out of the parking Garage, and took off down the street. He just slipped out of sight a hairs breath ahead of the first police cruiser on the scene.

He shook his head, <Great... Now what?>

He sighed and picked up the cellphone again, dialing another number.

Los Angeles, California

Andrezj Konzaki grabbed the phone on the third ring, "hello."

"Andy, It's me."

Andy groaned, "What dya need now, Kid?"

"I need to know if you know anyone in the New York area who can help me smooth out an altercation with the cops?"

"Jesus, kid... you didn't shoot a cop did you?"

"Not hardly. Helped one put down some robbers... but he's asking questions about my pistols."

"I'll bet... Ok, hang on a second." Andrezj flipped over to his computer and opened a folder. It asked for his decryption key and he quickly typed it in, "Yeah... I know a couple people in the area who could help if they were motivated."

"What kind of motivation are we talking about?"

"Depends. One of them likes cash, the other is a bit more of a straight arrow, he'll want details... and probably a favor."

Xander let out a breath that Konzaki could hear over the line. "Which one do you trust more?"

"The second one."

Xander sighed, "ok. Can you put me in touch with him?"

"You better be sure about this kid... This guy *will* collect."

"I know. I'm game."

"Alright, I'll give him you're number. He'll contact you."


"Don't thank me now, Kid. You might wind up wishing that you'd taken your chances with the cops."

Silence reined over the phone for a long moment. "Great."

"See ya, Kid." Konzaki said, grinning ear to ear.

"See you, Andy."

Leo looked over the crime scene, still cursing to himself as he reviewed what had happened. <How the hell did they just vanish like that?>


Leo winced, turning to greet his Captain, "Hey... Captain... how's it going?"

"What the hell happened here!?"

Leo sighed, "It looks like a hit by the same group that hit the wires from Washington last week."

"The SWAT Imposters?" VanDuran growled, "Oh great. This is just what I need... What were you doing here anyway?"

"I was following a lead," Leo said, "I had a tip that Amanda Devreau might..."

"McCarthy, you are *not* on about her again?" VanDuran growled, "We got lucky last time, but she could have sued you for busting into her apartment like that!"

Leo shrugged, "That's not her style. She's not interested in getting back at me... she gets a kick out of proving that she's better then I am."

"Reality check, McCarthy." VanDuran growled, "She IS better then you are."

"Captain VanDuran?" A deep voice sounded behind them, startling VanDuran.

He spun around, "Mr. Mayor... Are you alright? I was quite worried when I heard..."

"I'm find VanDuran." The mayor snarled, "What I want to know is what are you going to do about this travesty!?"

The Captain swallowed, "I'm putting my best men on it tonight. We'll catch these perps."

"You'd better." The Mayor growled, "Need I remind you that your budget allocation is coming up for review soon, and the last thing you need is the press talking about a Rogue SWAT team?"

VanDuran swallowed, "Yessir... As I said, my best men."

"Good." The Mayor growled, stalking off.

VanDuran turned to McCarthy, "You and Gatti are on this, McCarthy. Don't mess it up."

As the Captain walked off, Leo flipped him a one finger salute. "No Sir, Of course not Sir."

"Are we done here?"

The officer flushed, nodding quickly. "Yes sir... if you remember anything else, give us a call... ok?"

Kevin Sorbo smiled, "Of course, Officer."

The patrolman stepped aside and let him past, watching with undisguised envy as the actor walked out with a lovely brunette on his arm. <Man... some guys get all the luck.>

After he was gone the patrolman turned back to the next person, taking their statements.

Leo scanned the room, frowning.

"What is it, Leo?"

"Say, Francis... Where is the brunette dish that came in with the kid?"

Gatti looked around, "I don't know... She should still be up here."

"I don't see her," Leo cursed under his breath, "Damn it. First the kid pulls a vanishing act that would make Rollie jealous and now his girl just walks out of a crime scene... What the hell is this city coming too?"

Gatti didn't have an answer.

Paige and Hercules walked into her room at the Astor and quickly knocked on the connecting door to Xander's room.

She sighed in relief a moment later when Xander opened the door, grinning at her. "Hey, some night huh?"

She had this sudden desire to smack him, but held it back and only growled. "What happened?"

He shrugged, "Nothing really, they were driving away when we got downstairs. After that the cop, McCarthy started asking questions that Amanda and I didn't want to answer so we ditched him."

"And just who is this Amanda??"

Xander chuckled, "Amanda... defies explanation."

Paige glared at him until he relented slightly, "She's a professional thief, and a damned good one at that."

Paige rolled her eyes and threw up her hands, "Of course! Why not?"

Xander chuckled, "Amanda's trustworthy, Paige."

"She's a thief!"

Hercules rubbed his cheek for a moment, then spoke up. "I've known one or two that I'd trust my back too... not my wallet, but my back."

Xander nodded, laughing. "That's Amanda. She'd rob me of every last cent I had, then turn around and ask me for a favor... and I do it for her too, because I know she'd do the same for me."

Herc was chuckling openly now, "I know the type."

Xander grinned, nodding as he watched Herc laugh. "Yeah... I guess you do, don't you?"

Paige looked between them, confused. "What are you two talking about!?"

Hercules looked at Xander, a little curiously, "You haven't told her, have you?"

"Hell no!" Xander held up his hands. "Not my place, not my secret."

"What secret!?"

Hecules laughed harder, "I thought a couple times that she knew from the way she talked... It's weird, you know... everyone knows, but they don't know it."

Xander was leaning on the wall, laughing so hard he need it to stay on his feet. "I can't even begin to imagine, man."

"Imagine WHAT!?" Paige raged.

Both men were laughing too hard to respond.

It was seven thirty the next morning when Xander was awakened by the buzzing of a phone. He opened his eyes and blearily stared at the hotel phone, daring it to ring again. When it didn't ring, but the sound didn't stop, he groaned and rolled over, grabbing the cell phone he'd left on the other side.

"Talk." He mumbled.

A deep voice came over the receiver. "A dead man told me you needed some help."

Xander came awake, "Who is this?"

"That's my question." The voice corrected him. "I'll be in the city in a couple hours. We'll meet."

It wasn't a request, and there was no hint of room to negotiate in the voice. Xander sighed, <Great. A hard ass.> "Fine. Where?"

"Your suite at the Astor will do fine."

That brought Xander up even faster, "How do know about that?"

"I checked your money trail, Mr. Harrison."

Xander relaxed. Harrison's money trail, it was obvious. <Note to self, get a couple more identities and use cash.> "Fine. When?"

"Two hours, Mr. Harrison... Oh, by the way..."


"You'd better not be wasting my time." The voice said before the line clicked dead.

Xander stared at it, and sighed, wondering if Andy was laughing his ass off right now.

Leo McCarthy downed the last dregs of his cold coffee, stared at a pile of paperwork, and willed it to be completed. When that didn't work he sighed, picke up his pen, and got back to work.

"Hey Leo!"

He looked up, nodding tiredly at Francis Gatti as the younger cop ran up. "What have you got?"

"You remember that kid from last night?"

"How could I forget?"

"Well, we think we've narrowed down the bullets he was firing..."


"Yeah... well, look... you had your .45 and your .38, right?" Gattid continued without waiting for an answer, "Me I had my nine mil, and the Devreau chick used one of the Colt M-4's... that's 5.56... right?"

"Yeah? So?"

"So... we had another caliber ammo in some of the bodies." Gatti said. "But this is where it gets weird."

"Weird? How weird can it get? Much as I hate to admit it, it was a righteous shoot... he saved our butts."

Gatti nodded, "Sure, sure... but check this out... The Caliber ammo he was using? There ain't no pistols that fire it."


"I'm serious, Leo." Gatti pushed some papers over, "Get this... the Caliber exists alright... but it's only been recently released... for Law enforcement personnel *only*, and they don't make a handgun that fires it... not yet anyway."

Leo frowned as he looked over the papers, "So you think he might be a Cop or something? Then why'd he run off? Wait a sec... What do you mean... yet?"

"Well, my pal down in ballistics is a real gun nut and he keeps up on all the latest stuff and he says that the company that makes the submachine gun they developed this round for has some prototype pistols that they are considering as an accompanying piece, ya know?" Gatti shrugged, "But nothing's been marketed. And before you asked, I got on the horn to the company, Fabrique Nationale, this morning... every prototype model is accounted for."

"What guns..." Leo muttered.

"What's that?"

"What guns." Leo said again, "He knew... that sonuva bitch *knew*."

"I'm not following you, Leo."

"When I asked him about his guns, he looked me straight in the eye and said 'What Guns?'..."

Gatti shrugged, "The guy is a piece of work. And that's not all, here's the really weird part."

"It gets worse??"

"Oh yeah." Gattie grinned, "The bullets they pulled out of the bodies? They can't get a ballistics match on them..."

"What? Why!?"

"The metal is too soft... the bullets are so badly deformed that they may as well be modern art." Gatti cracked a grin, "The guy was firing honest to God *Silver* fuckin bullets."

"You're shitting me."

Gatti shook his head, "I swear to God. Silver bullets. One hundred percent, grade A, no bullshit, Silver."

"Great." Leo muttered, sitting down, "Just great. First Devreau is back in town, then those SWAT Imposters... and now I have to deal with the freaking Lone Ranger!"

Two hours after the phone call, to the minute, there was a knock on the door to his room. Xander walked over to it and opened it a crack, then back off back into the room. He trusted Andy, but there were limits to the trust he was willing to extend to anyone he hadn't met.

The door swung open slightly and three men came into the room, sweeping it with their pistols. Xander tensed, ready to dive for cover and draw his own, but didn't move when they looked at him and the assault rig he was wearing.

"You'll have to give up your guns, Sir." The lead man said, actually sounding almost respectful.

Xander frowned, but like he had once told Walker, he was never unarmed. So he nodded and unsnapped the holsters and slipped the guns out. He ejected both clips, and cranked the slide on each to eject the round in the pipe. Then he slid both pistols back into their holsters, handing the clips off to the lead man.

"Best deal you're going to get." he said, "take it or leave it."

He thought for a second the man would object, but a rumbling laughter came from the door and he looked to see a big black man walk in. The man took his clips from the bodyguard, then motioned them to the door.

"Sir, I object." the body guard protested, "this isn't wise..."

The man growled, then broke into a hacking cough. "Get out."

The three men looked distinctly unhappy about it, but finally stepped out, leaving Xander and the black man alone. The man sat down in one of the comfortable chair's in the suite and looked at Xander for a long time.

Just as Xander was starting to get nervous the man spoke. "Why don't you tell me what is so important that I was woken up by a call from a man I thought was dead, and asked for a favor that I thought I'd never be able to repay?"

Xander sighed, then told him.

"So," The man began, then broke into another long coughing bout. "Damn cold... So, you want me to smooth things over with the Blue, huh? What's in it for me?"

"What do you want?"

"Why don't you tell me, Mr. Harrison, how you came into your money."

Xander sized the man up, remembering what Andy had warned him. <He'll want details.> Then he recalled what the man had already known this morning. His assumed name, his hotel room, his money trail. "I took it from a man in Texas who wasn't going to be needing it anymore."

"Mr. Mitchell." The man said, suppressing a cough, "yes... I'm aware of that. Why?"

"Mitchell brainwashed a man into killing for him." Xander said coldly, "I helped the ranger assigned to the case track him down and he was killed in the ensuing conflict."

"He's dead?" The man seemed surprised. He hadn't known that.

"Not officially." Xander replied, "And he won't be anytime soon either. His company is being run by proxy for the moment."

The man nodded, accepting that for the moment. "You were in Boston a short while ago. What did you do there?"

"Nothing that will show up on your Radar." Xander said.

"You'd be surprised."

Xander sighed, "With the help of one of Boston's firefighting units and some other assets I prevented a 'terrorist' attempt to destroy the city."

"Who were these... 'assets'?"

"I'm not going to tell you that."

"And if I told you that I wouldn't help you otherwise?"

"Then I'd say goodbye and handle things myself." Xander replied coldly.

The big man laughed, his body shaking with each chuckle, until he broke out into another coughing fit. "Alright. I'll help you out."

"You don't want to know what happened here?"

"I already know." The man said. "You saved two cop's lives, uncountable civilians, and successfully managed to evade the local PD when they wanted you for questioning. I'm impressed."

Xander shrugged. "So what do I owe you?"

The man stood up, "Keep a low profile, as much as you can... I'll contact you if I need your services. I have to admit... you're younger then I expected, even though our mutual friend warned me... I might be able to use that."


The man extended his hand, a white card in it. Xander accepted the card and read it.

"James Greer..." Xander looked up, "CIA?"

The big black man smiled, his teeth gleaming white.

Xander groaned. "I'm gonna kill Andy for this."

"I'm gonna kill Andy for this."

James Greer laughed for a long moment, "Its been tried."

Xander shrugged, "Yeah, but I know how to make it stick."

"Good luck, you'll need it with that ornery coot." Greer laughed.

"Probably." Xander got up, and extended his hand. "For what its worth, it's good to meet you. I have a friend who thinks very highly of you."

"Other then Andy?" Greer asked, shaking the offered hand.

Xander shrugged, "Other then Andy."

"That's good to know." Greer smiled, "Maybe you'll introduce me to him someday."

Xander nodded, "Maybe I will."

Greer nodded, then turned to leave. "I have to be going. It was only curiosity that brought me out here really... But I will be calling you."

Xander rolled his eyes, "I'd say I'd be looking forward to it..."

"If you did, and I thought you meant it, I'd have you shot." Greer laughed, "The CIA has enough lunatics working for it now."

"I am NOT looking for a job, Mr. Greer." Xander said.

"That may be true, Mr. Harrison... But sometimes jobs come looking for you."

Then the door shut on James Greer, leaving Xander to fume mentally at Andy for not warning him. Finally he sighed, and went to knock on the next door. When Paige answered he grinned at her.

"You ready?"


"Let's go."

"Hey Francis!"

"Yo, Leo..." the younger cop called out, waving Leo over to the computer he was working.

"You find anything on that thing?"

"Yeah... you could say that." Gatti said, "Turns out these guys have been busy little Bee's."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, check it out... They hit *three* targets in Washington, and that's just the latest..."

"You don't mean..."

"That's right. These guys are mobile. So far they've struck in Chicago, Miami, Washington, and now here. They make two or three hits... maybe more, then vanish."

"And last night was their first..." leo mused, "We need to figure out their next hit..."

Gatti nodded, "That or give them something they can't pass up..."

The two cops looked at the computer for moment before turning to each other and grinning. "Tyler." They said together.

Xander and Paige walked through the open air set, looking around and generally dodging those people who were actually supposed to be there.

"Hey, Xander! Paige!"

They looked up to see Herc coming towards them, grinning widely.

"Hi Kev," Xander grinned.

"Hello, Mr. Sorbo..."

"Paige... It's Kevin, please..."

"Ok... Kevin."

The three of them grinned and walked along the et for a minute, until they passed by a young woman who was coaching another actress in her lines. Xander stopped dead and stared at her for a long moment.

"Xander? Xander?" Paige waved a hand in front of his face. "Xander!?"

The woman looked up, caught his stare, and sort of half smiled and half frowned. She got up and walked over to them. "Hello?"

"Ummm... Hello." Xander managed to get out, looking at her with a puzzled expression.

"You a fan?"

"Fan?" Xander shook his head, "Um... no... You just remind me of someone I know."

"Someone gorgeous, I hope." She smiled and winked at him.

Xander laughed a little, finally noticing the confused expressions around him. "Well... She likes to wear black skin tight leather, dark sunglasses, and more guns then a Marine Battalion... so, yeah."

The woman stared at him for a moment, before nodding with a sort of tolerant 'humor the lunatic' smile.

Herc shook his head, "Xander, I'd like you to meet Lucinda Scott... She's coaching some of the actors on the set."

Xander shook off his daze and smiled at her, "Pleased to meet you, Lucinda."

"Likewise... I hope." Lucinda grinned at him, apparently feeling that the weirdness was over.

"Good." Herc grinned, "Come on, I want you guys to meet someone..."

They left Lucinda to her work and Herc led them to a big black truck that was parked behind a stand of trees. On the side of the vehicle was a logo that read, 'Tyler FX'.

Herc led them inside, "Xander, Paige... I'd like you to meet Rollie Tyler and his assistant, Angie Ramirez."

"How's it going?" A man with an Australian accent said, glancing up from a small robot he was tinkering with.

"Hey," A blond woman said, not bother to look up from the bank of computer monitors she was looking at.

"Hey, Rollie," Herc asked, "How are we for the volcano sequence?"

"Good to go, Kevin," Rollie grinned, "I'm just letting Blue here know the frequencies he's gonna be transmitting on..."

"Great." Herc looked around, "Look, I've got to go and check with the director... you know how he is... can Xander and Paige hang around her?"

Rollie shrugged, "Sure. No prob."

"Thanks. I'll be right back..."

Herc left, leaving Xander and Paige to looked around the area with interest. Or Paige at least, Xander was staring at Rollie.

"Rollie Tyler..." He said slowly.

"Yeah? That's me..."

"You wouldn't happen to know a stubborn ass cop by the name of Leo M..."

"McCarthy...." Rollie grinned, "Yeah, I do. You know him?"

"Met him last night at the charity ball." Xander grinned, "Real class act."

"You were at the charity ball?" Angie looked up, "I heard it was a real mess."

Xander shrugged, "No big. Just some losers dressed like SWAT cops raided the place. Seen worse."

Paige rolled her eyes, "Here we go again."

"Seen worse!?" Angie looked at him as if he were nuts, "Are you nuts?"

Xander looked at Paige, "Maybe I do need to see a shrink... everyone *keeps* asking me that question."

"Duh. I wonder why?"

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute..." Rollie looked up, "What happened last night? We've only heard rumors..."

"Just a hit and get gone wrong." Xander shrugged, "They were doing fine until some shmuck wouldn't give up his wedding ring... then they lost it... one of them shot the guy, threatened to shoot his wife... that's when things went to hell."

A voice came from behind him, "That's understating things just a bit, don't you think?"

Xander smirked, turning around. "Detectives... how are you this fine morning?"

Leo growled, "I don't know who I have to thank for you turning up here, but I owe him a big one."

"As big as the one you owe me?" Xander grinned.

"What are you two talking about?" Rollie asked, confused.

"Look, whoever you are," Leo growled, "You've got some explaining to do... and right now, I'm thinking that we'll do it downtown."

"Leo?" Rollie stepped between them, "What's going on here?"

Xander shrugged, grinning. "Fine by me. Want to take my car?"

"Awright, you wise ass..." Leo growled before pausing. <What the hell? Why's this kid so calm about this... He couldn't wait to get out of there last night.> "You have a permit for those guns?"

"What guns?" Xander smirked.

"That's it!" Leo growled, pulling out a pair of cuffs, "You're coming with me!"

"Leo! Wait!" Rollie held up his hands, "What the hell is going on?"

Leo pointed at Xander, "This kid was at the charity thing last night..."

"I know, he told us... was he one of the robbers?"


"Then what are you arresting him for?"

"I'm not..." Leo said with a great deal of restraint, "I'm taking him in for some questioning. That's all."

"I'm taking him in for some questioning."

"Oh no you're not!" Paige growled.

Xander could see her face shift as she focused, and he immediately brought his hands up to stop her. "Whoa! Paige, calm down... I appreciate the thought, I really do... But not to worry, ok? I handled this."

Leo raised an eyebrow at the kid's use of the word, "What do you mean, *Handled*?"

Xander quirked a grin at him, "That's for me to know and you to find out..."

"Awright, wise ass." Leo growled, "Come on..."

Xander calmly walked out between Leo and Gatti, a stupid grin across his face. When the got to the parking area, Leo led him to an old K-Car and he groaned. "Hey guys... can we use my car? Please?"

"Get in!" Leo growled, shoving him into the back seat.

Xander sighed, "Alright, alright..."

"Wise ass." Leo growled over the roof of the car to Gatti, before getting in himself.

Hercules came back to the FX truck, only to have Paige literally run into him as she barreled out. He just managed to catch her before she bounced off and hit the ground.

"Whoa! What's going on?"

"Xander! They took Xander!"

"Who... slow down, who took him?"

Rollie Tyler stepped out, "Leo McCarthy. Friend of mine from midtown south, he said he just wanted to ask him some questions."

Herc growled, "He could have asked them here."

Rollie shrugged, "The guy didn't fight him... told the little lady there that he had it all 'handled'"

Hercules relaxed a little, and even smiled at Paige. "If Xander say's that he has it handled, then you can trust him."

Paige looked up at him, uncertain.

Then Herc continued, "Still... I think I'm going to go down and make sure he doesn't need a lawyer... Rollie, could you show me the way?"

Rollie nodded slowly, "Sure, Mate..."

Xander sat back in the chair, grinning at Leo, who was pacing the length of the room while holding Xander's guns in the assault harness.

"If you can't answer some questions real fast, I'm going book you on weapons charges!" Leo snarled, letting the guns clatter to the tabletop.

Xander winced.

Leo grinned, <I've got him!>

"Hey, do you mind being careful with those?" Xander asked mildly, "They are rather unique you know..."

Leo growled and pushed himself up from the table again, "God damn it! I am not screwing around here!"

Xander shrugged, "Whatever turns your crank."

Leo grabbed up the guns and stormed out, "I'm starting your paperwork now. A Sergeant will be down to run you through processing."

The door slammed and Xander calmly put his hands behind his head and leaned back in the chair.


Leo looked up and groaned, "What is it Captain?"

VanDuran growled, "What the hell are you doing with this Harrison fellow?"

"I'm about to book him on weapons charges, Sir."

"Oh No you're not!"

"Captain?" Leo looked confused.

"We just ran his ID through the computer.... you want to guess what happened next??"

Leo shrugged, "It's a fake?"

"No! I got a phone call from a Mr. Jack Ryan..."


"Of the CIA!" VanDuran snapped, "He wants to know why we're holding a man who saved the lives of our officers, almost a hundred civilians, and the MAYOR! Is this an accurate description of what happened last night?"

Leo looked back to the interrogation room, growling. "So that's why he's so damned calm!"

"What?" VanDuran shook his head, "never mind! Cut him loose!"

"But Captain!"

"No Buts McCarthy!" VanDuran snapped, "Give him his stuff back and get him out of my precinct!"

"He was packing machine pistols! And a goddamned hand canon!" Leo sputtered, "Not to mention two of the weirdest daggers I've ever seen in my life! Hell, we haven't even searched his car yet!"

"Did that sound like a suggestion to you, McCarthy?"

Leo growled, but finally backed down. "No Sir."

"Then do it!"

Xander grinned as he stepped out of the precinct, his guns a comfortable weight under his coat.

"I don't know how you did that, Harrison," Leo began, "But I'm going to be watching you."

Xander grinned, "I'd think twice, Detective... I wouldn't want to give you nightmares."

Leo grabbed him by the shoulder, "Listen here, you...."


Xander turned to see Hercules, Paige, and Tyler coming up the stairs. He easily shook free of Leo's grip and smiled at them, "Hi Paige."

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine." He grinned, "I told you I had it handled."

Herc grinned, "That you did. How did you?"

Xander just smiled mysteriously, but Leo wasn't in a mood to let it pass. "We got a call from a guy at the CIA..."

Paige stared at Xander in shock, "CIA??"

"Long story." He said, shaking his head.

Herc just laughed. "You done here?"

Xander nodded, "I think so."

"Let's go."

Rollie looked up at Leo as the others walked past him, "What did this guy do to get you so pissed off?"

Leo growled, but shook his head. "Nothing. I just don't like mysteries."

Rollie laughed, "I guess that's why you're a Detective, huh?"

"Get outta here." Leo growled.

Rollie shrugged, still chuckling, "Catch ya later, mate."

Leo watched Rollie run off to catch up with the others.

"Yeah... Mate." Leo sighed, then slapped his forehead. "Damn. Rollie! Rollie!"

But the big black van was already pulling out of the lot.

Back at the set Xander was walking along with Herc, having left Paige where she was avidly watching a shoot in progress.

"What's up?"

Herc looked at Xander, "What do you mean?"

Xander shrugged, "You seem a little off..."

Hercules sighed, "Well... I'm trying to get this spinoff series made..."

Xander frowned, "Spinoff?"

"Yeah. It's about someone I used to know... She was something else. Her name was Xena..." Herc smiled a bit, remembering.

Xander shook his head, "Never heard of her..."

Herc snorted, "Maybe that's a clue. I should give it up."

"What's the problem?"

"Finding someone to play Xena..." Herc admitted, "The studio's keep auditioning supermodels..."

"And the problem is??"

"Xena was a far cry from being hard on they eyes... but she was no supermodel." Herc muttered, "She had more character in one eye then all of the ditzes they've auditioned so far have combined."

"What was she like?"

Herc talked for a while, smiling at some of the reminiscences, frowning at others. When he was finished, Xander frowned.

"So, let me get this straight... You need someone who will pass the studio's muster, but who can put a really scary presence onto the screen..."


Xander stopped, then pointed his finger. "Audition her."

Herc frowned, looking in the direction he was pointing. "Why her?"

"Trust me. You put her in black leather armor, drape weapons over her, and tell her to look mean... and she'll intimidate the pants off you're audience." Xander paused, "In more ways then one."

"I don't know..."

"What have you got to lose?" Xander asked, "Just give her an audition."

Herc sighed, "Alright. I'll give her a shot."

Across the lot Lucinda Scott looked up to see Kevin Sorbo and his young friend looking at her. She smiled and waved at them before going back to her work, coaching one of the shows 'Amazons' in how to present her lines without seeming like a vapid airhead.


Tyler looked up, surprised to see Leo again so soon. "Hey, Leo... what's up?"

"I need a favor..."

Rollie shook his head vigorously, "Oh no! Not again, Leo! I told you, I'm in movies, I do FX... I'm not a cop, I don't do criminals!"

"Come on, Rollie," Leo wheedled, "It's about those SWAT imposters from last night..."

"No..." Rollie said, "No!"

"You owe me one, and you know it, Rollie..." Leo said, cajoling his friend.

"Me?? Owe you!? How do you figure that!?"

"Hey, I helped you out when they tried to frame you..."

"That bust was the biggest one you've had in a year! And *I* gave it to you!" Rollie protested, "Besides that, I just helped you save the city from that lunatic bomber!"

"So what?" Leo objected, "You broke a world record while doing it..."

"By flipping a damned car over more times then anyone else ever has!" Rollie said, exasperated. "That's not something that's good for your old age you know."

"Come on, Rollie..." Leo went back to wheedling, "We just need some help to set up bait for them..."

Rollie sighed, flopping back into his seat. "What kind of bait?"

Leo knew he had him, and his ear to ear grin broadcast that knowledge to the world. "They like to hit high profile places... lots of loose cash, and usually some very expensive items on display."

"Like the Dulcea Diamond..."

"Right. Which they got, last night." Leo said, "So we need something that will bring them out of the woodwork again."

"Any idea's of what they might hit next?"

"No... it'll be a few days probably before they make another move..." Leo said, "So we're not sure... we're tracking some possibilities though."

"So you might not need me..."

"Rollie...." Leo grinned.

Tyler sighed, "Alright, alright... I'll see what I can come up with..... wait a minute..."

Leo waited a moment, before speaking. "What?"

Rollie was grinning and nodding to himself. "The Chronos Gemstone!... Sure!"


Rollie shook his head, "It's a prop I made for this episode... come on."

A very confused Leo McCarthy followed Tyler through the set until they reached a closed set.

"Rollie, Hi... what's up?"

"Oh, Hey Kevin... I was wondering, do you need the Chronos Stone right now?"

Herc shrugged, "Not right away... why?"

"I want to show it to Leo..."

Herc turned to look at the detective and smiled, "Hello Detective."

"Yeah, howdy Leo."

McCarthy turned to see Xander grinning at him and growled, "Don't push me kid."

"Oh relax, Leo..." Xander grinned, "I didn't really do anything wrong did I?"

"Kid, you're walking around with restricted weapons and you simply can NOT be old enough to be a fed."

Xander shrugged, "believe me, I'm older then I look."

"Yeah, right."

"Hey. Did I risk any lives last night? Did I take chances with anyone else but myself!?"

Grudgingly Leo shook his head, "No... you did alright, kid."

"And did I or did I not save *your* ass?"

"Don't remind me."

"Ok, so cut me some slack!" Xander snapped, grinning. "You can't arrest me, and I haven't done anything to endanger anyone... so be nice."

Leo lifted his finger, his mouth working as he tried to say something, but finally he just lowered his hand and shook his head. "Who ARE you?"

Hercules laughed, "If he told you that... you'd have to kill yourself."

Everyone laughed, Leo looked more confused then ever.

Xander was watching Tyler work, silently shaking his head in awe at the way the man set things up. <This guy manages to pull of tricks that would impress a Mage.>

His cell phone rang and he stepped out of the truck to answer it. "Hello?"

"Hello, Darling..."


"Who else."

Xander grinned, "What's up?"

"I find myself curious about you, Darling... I want to meet."

"Where and when?"

"I could come to you..."

"No, I don't think the good detective would like that." Xander grinned.

"Dete... McCarthy?"

"Yep. He caught up with me this morning."

"And I'm not calling you in prison?" Amanda sounded surprised. "Why is that?"

Xander laughed, "I didn't need to hide from him, I just needed some time to setup a cover."

"I see... well, in that case... do you know the Gotham Bar and Grill?"

"No, but I can find it."

"Good. Tonight, seven. Don't be late, Darling."

The phone went dead and Xander grinned, Amanda was a piece of work. He pocketed his phone and went back into the truck.

Inside Tyler and Angie were working out a detail with the prop they were working on, while Leo, Paige, and Herc watched with varying degrees of interest. Leo grimaced when he caught sight of Xander again.

"Do you have to be here?"

Paige had had enough. "Hey! He saved your butt last night!"

"He had body armor." Leo muttered derisively.

Xander burst out laughing.

"What are you laughing at?"

"Nothing much... it's just that last night was the first real test I've put that coat too... the guy I bought it from said it would work... but no one's shot at me lately... until last night."

Leo stared at him, "You're kidding me."

Xander shrugged, "nope. I'd say the test was a rousing success though."

Leo stared at him in shock while everyone else sort of looked at Xander with jaws dropping.

"Um... How many guns did you jump in front of?" Rollie asked.

Xander shrugged, "A dozen or so..."

"Geez..." Angie muttered, "He's crazier then you are, Rollie."

Xander just laughed and shook his head, "Anyone know where the Gotham Bar and Grill is? I have a 'date' tonight..."

Gotham Bar and Grill
7:00 Sharp

Xander walked into the restaurant, spotting Amanda almost instantly in the crowded place. He waved off a waiter and walked straight to her table, smiling as he took the seat across from her. "Hello Amanda."

"That's Miss Devreau," She corrected him mildly.

"Please." Xander replied, "I figure I may as well use the one part of your name that actually belongs to you."

She rolled her eyes, "You know, the cryptic routine is really old."

"You should know." He grinned back at her.

"And just what is that supposed to mean?" She asked testily.

Xander shrugged, "Just that in the last thousand years or so, some people have developed cryptic into an art form."

Amanda glared at him from across the table, her expression a cross between worry and fury.

"A DATE??"

"Calm down, Paige." Herc said lightly.

"Calm down? Xander is out on a *date* with a thief!"

"Could be worse." Hercules shrugged.


Herc grinned, "He could be out on a job with her."

Paige glowered at him, "Don't. Just... Don't."

"Are you sure this is about her being a thief?" Hercules asked lightly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know..." He shrugged, "You just seem a little touchy is all..."

"Wouldn't you be!?"

"Maybe." Herc nodded, "Maybe not."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded.

"I think it means that you need to ask yourself why you're worried about him... After that, I might be able to answer the question better."

Paige fell silent. "She could hurt him."

"From what I've seen Xander can take care of himself." Hercules reminded her gently.

"She could get him into trouble."

"Another thing that Xander can handle on his own." Herc smirked.

"I don't trust her." Paige said finally.

Hercules nodded, "That sounds closer to the truth. But is it the whole truth?"

Paige shifted before admitting. "I don't know."

"And that," Hercules suddenly grinned, "Is the crux of your dilemma."


"Until you do know," He said seriously, "This reaction may prove typical."

"Hey!" Rollie glanced in, "Kevin... can you help me convince the director to let me borrow the Chronos stone for a couple days?"

Herc winced.

"What's wrong?" Paige asked.

He shivered, "Just the concept of 'loaning' the Chronos stone to someone... sent a shiver up my back."

"Why? It's just a prop..." Paige said, then her eyes narrowed. "It *IS* just a prop right?"

About halfway through the meal Xander decided that he'd had enough fun at Amanda's expense, for the moment.

"So," He smiled at her, "Why am I here?"

"You know so much," She replied sourly, "Why don't you tell me?"

He shrugged, "Don't have a clue. You certainly don't trust me enough to work with me..."

"Perhaps I'm trying to decide..."

He chuckled, "Amanda, You don't 'try' to decide anything. You have something working in that conniving little brain of yours, and I'm part of it. So why don't you see if you've got the hook in?"

She smirked at him, "Flattery will get you anywhere, darling."

Xander was silent, waiting.

"Oh, fine. Be that way." She mock sighed, "I've decided that I haven't decided."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Ri-ght."

"Really. I'm just curious." She said, her expression open and 'honest'.

Xander laughed, drawing a couple stares form nearby tables until he toned it down. "I tell you what... I think I might have something for *you*."

"Oh? She smiled slowly, "Do tell..."

"How would you like to........."


"Ok... We're ready." Rollie announced, "This is gonna be good."

"It always is." Leo grinned, "Ummm What is it?"

Rollie rolled his eyes, "Come on Leo... don't tell me you don't recognize the 'Claupman Diamond... the rarest, most valuable, and most jealously guarded gem of all time..."

Hercules raised his hand, "Actually..."

Rollie didn't notice. "It's perfect! We setup an unveiling... somewhere flashy... we get the papers to print a nice little story about it on the society page... and make sure that they mention that the diamond is *priceless*, and we've got a sure thing...."

"I don't know Rollie... How could they fence something like that?" Leo objected.

"Actually..." A voice broke in from the back of the van, "I have it on good authority that gems of this nature are worth quite a lot to certain private collectors who aren't too picky about how they were... acquired."

"Xander!" Paige greeted him.

"Hey," he smiled genially as he walked in.

"Exactly what he said." Rollie smiled.

Leo frowned, "And how would you know that?"

Xander grinned, "I have my sources."

"Right." Leo muttered, "I'll just bet you do."

Rollie ignored the tension, "So how went your date, Mate?"

Xander shrugged, "Could have gone worse... at least she didn't try to take my head off."

"That happen a lot to you?"

"No, but with her? There's always the possibility." Xander chuckled.

"Right..." Rollie shook his head, turning back to his work. "Hey, what do you think?"

Xander checked out the diamond, catching it as Rollie flipped it casually through the air. "Nice... Too bad it's a fake."

Rollie grinned, "You'll never see a real one that big."

Xander snorted, Hercules laughed.

"What are you mates laughing at?" Rollie asked, confused.

They looked at each other, grinning, then back to Rollie. "Nothing." They spoke together.

"Ri-ght..." Rollie took the fake gem back from Xander. "Let's get ready."

"Yeah... right." Leo muttered, shaking his head. "This place is becoming a zoo anyway."

"Check this out, man."

The man walked across, picking up the proffered paper and reading it. "The Claupman diamond? Never heard of it."

A guy across the room frowned, "I've heard of that... damned if I can remember from where..."

A mild sort of buzz went around the room, but no one could quite place the name.

"I Know!" One of them snapped his fingers. "It's supposed to have a curse!"

Men nodded, still frowning, but in agreement. "Yeah... Yeah, that sounds right."

The leader cursed lightly, "I don't believe in curses. Priceless hmmm? If it's that rare, I can probably negotiate a good price with the Arab."

"It's not on the list." A man reminded him.

The leader grinned, "I make the list."

Xander looked over Angie's shoulder as she finished the last minute adjustments to the camera emplacements. "This is going to work right?"

Angie rolled her eyes, smirking at the mildly teasing tone he had taken with her. "Absolutely."

"Good." He smiled, glancing at the screens in front of her. His smile changed to a curious frown when he saw that one of the screens was showing a chat room. "Conspiracy Theorists?"

Angie actually blushed lightly, "Yeah well... you know, a girl needs a hobby."

Xander chuckled, "Whatever does it for you I guess. I grew out of my Theorist days a long time ago."

Angie frowned over her shoulder at the young man, knowing that he was several years younger then her at least. "What do you mean by that?"

He shrugged, "You can't theorize anymore once you learn the truth."

She smirked, "Yeah right."

He leaned in close to her, whispering. "You want to know who really built the pyramids?"

Then he chuckled, turned and left the Van. Angie watched him leave, shivering a little, but uncertain whether it was from his proximity or the cool tone of voice he had used. She shook it off and went back to work.

"Ok, People!" Rollie said as he rushed through the room of expensively dressed and important looking people. "We're in countdown now! Places!"

The room milled, people moving around and getting to their assigned places as quickly as they could.

Across the room someone yelled 'Action!' and everyone slipped into character, chatting amiably and smiling widely as they sloshed around the glasses of champagne and ate at the free food.

Leo sidled up to Rollie, "You really think this is going to work?"

Rollie shrugged, "Who knows?"

"Not the kind of comfort I was looking for, Rollie."

"That's show business." Tyler grinned, then moved away.

Leo shook his head and growled, but didn't follow.

"Everyone ready?"

Nods followed the question as the men finished checking their weapons and equipment.

"Alright. Let's go."

The high class 'party' was in full swing with the men dressed as SWAT members crashed into the main ball room, brandishing machine weapons and screaming orders.

Tonight was their lucky night of course, since no one in the room gave them the slightest problem or balk talk. Instead they found their pillowcases loaded with jewelry and valuables faster then ever before, a fact they attributed to the debacle of a few nights previously.

Had they known that the jewelry was costume fare, little more then plastic and paste, and that all the green they saw flashing around was merely one dollar bills dropped fast enough to make them indistinguishable from various other denominations, they might have worried. But they didn't know and the various teams were congratulating themselves on a job well done when the main group burst into the ballroom.

"We've got it! Let's go!"

The groups broke from the crowd, backing out and retreating to the lobby of the hotel. Form their they piled into their SWAT van and were quickly underway.

Back in the hotel, an odd sight was unfolding.

"That's it! That's a wrap! Good work people!"

The party goers cheered as Rollie announced the success of the operation, most of them off duty police officers or friends from the set of the latest Hercules episode. Cops and movie folks, some of the craziest people on the planet.

Leo rushed up to Rollie, "Is it working?"

Rollie grinned, holding up his custom PDA. "Oh Yeah. They're driving down fourth street now... stopped at the lights."

Leo grinned, "Excellent. When they get to their hideout..."

"Bam!" Rollie crowed, "We got em."

Leo laughed, "come on, let's go."

Rollie waggled his eyebrows, "Yeah... we have to recover the 'Claupman Diamond'."

A near hysterical laughter broke out behind them, and Leo turned to frown at the source. "What the hell are you laughing at?"

Xander managed to get his breath back, "You called it the Claupman Diamond?? Oh God, that's rich!"

Rollie grinned, "Hey... wait t'ill I spring the curse on them."

Xander was leaning against the wall by this time, gasping for breath and laughing harder then he had laughed in over a year and a half. "Oh god, I can't wait!"

"What the hell are you two talking about!?" Leo growled. "You don't know?" Xander gasped, still cracking up. "Of course you don't... no respect for the classics."


"Leo, Leo, Leo..." Rollie patted him on the shoulder. "Come on, we'll explain on the way."

The signal had stopped in the warehouse district, and the gang was slowing to a halt a couple blocks from it a scant twenty minutes later.

"So let me get this straight," Leo muttered over Rollie's shoulder, "You named the diamond after a *Garfield* cartoon??"

"Yep," Rollie grinned, "And like I said, just wait t'ill we unleash the *curse*."

"Curse?" Leo muttered, "What curse!?"

Xander snickered beside him, and spoke in an ominous booming voice. "The curse of Odie-Hotep..."

"You're both bonkers." Leo declared, shaking his head.

"Relax, Leo... sit back, and enjoy the show." Rollie grinned as he got out of the drivers seat and moves back to the equipment in the rear. "We ready to roll, Angie?"

"Oh yeah. Just said the word." Angie grinned.

"Do it." Rollie smiled nastily.

"Check out the haul!"

The men were grinning as they dumped out the bags of jewelry onto tables, and scattered them around to better see them. "Man, this is something else!"

The leader just ignored them, instead pulling out the enormous gem that the newspapers had dubbed the Claupman Diamond. He smirked as he took in its beauty, <It'll be a shame to sell this one.>

As he stared at the gem he caught sight of movement reflected in the facets of the gem and spun around, only to find that there was nothing there.

<ok, calm down... just a flicker of light...>

He frowned to himself and walked the gem to his 'office', basically an old janitors room that had been cleaned out. He put the gem down on the desk and took his seat, <That was the smoothest run we've ever pulled... Things are really coming together.>

Just as he thought that a whisper sounded through the room and he sat bolt upright in his chair, looking around. "Who's there?"

No reply.

When the whisper echoed around again he got up and drew his gun, "Who are you!?"

Still no reply.

Suddenly the lights throughout the entire building went dead.

Leo was cackling. "God, that's great! How'd you do that?"

Rollie shrugged, grinning manicly to himself. "I put a CCD camera in the base of the 'Gem' and hid it with the setting, after that I used a set of micro airspeakers I developed for 'Day of the Dead' to do the whispering and a small projector to put the image of the 'Mummy' in the facets of the gem..."


"And the lights?"

Rollie stopped, "I thought *you* did the lights?"

Leo and Rollie stared at each other quizzically, "If you didn't do it... then who?"

Neither noticed Xander smirking subtly behind them.

Spooky lights and sounds were echoing through the warehouse, accompanied by shouts and cries of fear and anger, but Amanda ignored them. She slipped silently past the dead security system, sliding down the slim black rope in the murky blackness of the warehouses interior.

<Have to hand it to that guy... Xander...> She corrected herself mentally, <When he say's he can get something done he gets it done.>

Killing the power was a masterstroke, she had to admit, especially considering that the security system was tied into the mainline and didn't have the backups of a more modern system. There was a certain irony, Amanda supposed, in that most crooks have the worst security systems.

She hit the ground moving, knowing that she only had so much time before the police sting went into full gear, and she had to be ready for when that happened.

Men coughed and gagged as they tripped over each other in the main room. Moments after the lights had gone out they had smelt the first hint of smoke, and now it was almost overpowering.



"I don't know! Fuck, it's got to be somewhere!"

"I don't see any fire!"

"Maybe it's in the damn walls!?"

That was when the noises started.

Nothing big at first, but quickly growing in volume.

Rattling chains.

A low eerie moan.

"Ralph!? Was that you!?" One man yelled when he heard it.

He didn't hear an answer. "Ralph!? Ralph??"

Suddenly he heard a hacking cough, "Over here, Frankie! And no... it wasn't me... come give me a hand, I tripped over somtin..."

"All units... prepare to move in..." Leo said over his radio, as he clapped Rollie on the shoulder. "I'm going to join them... knock em dead."

Rollie grinned, "You got it."

Men were screaming by this point, and Amanda heard the first random shots go off as they fired at the spooky lights that were dancing off the ceiling. She shook her head, <God I hate Amateurs.>

She found the office she was looking for, using an FM receiver on the frequency Xander had told her to use. It was dark, but there were eerie green lights and odd noises coming from inside. She took a breath as she opened the door and slipped in.

A gun went off, causing Amanda to hit the ground as the bullet smashed the glass window on the door.

She heard a quavering voice from inside. "W... who... who's there?"

Amanda rolled her eyes as a whispering voice echoed from the air, "Odie Hotep..."

The man fired another two shots, but they went over her head as she crawled through the dark room.

"Pssst." She hissed when she was close enough.

The man started, bringing his gun to bear on her, but Amanda moved faster. She hit him under the jaw with the pommel of her sword, then nailed him lightly across the temple. He folded like a wet towel and she moved away from the unconscious man.

She easily spotted the fake gem on the desk and quickly tossed a black bag over it.

"What the!?" Rollie muttered as the eyes of 'Odie Hotep' suddenly went dark. He grabbed a radio, "Hey Leo, I can't see inside the office anymore!"

Leo nodded into the radio, not responding. Instead the keyed it to the tac channel and ordered his men in. "Go Go Go!"

SWAT teams in full gear, the *REAL* SWAT teams, blew in doors all over the place, tossing in flash bangs and tear gas before they rushed into the office.

"Down! Down! Down!" They screamed, covering the confused and dazed criminals with their assault weapons.

The assault went like clockwork, few of the criminals were even able to put up a meager resistance due to the flash bangs, and the outright fear of the 'ghosts' that were haunting them.

Within ten minutes the first of the gang were being led out in cuffs, escorted by SWAT officers who were rather peeved at having to defend their reputations because of a bunch of scumbags who liked to dress the part.

Each of the team members were checked as they emerged, ensuring that they had the blue band over their shoulder and the code phrase that identified them as the real deal, as opposed to the imposters. So no one questioned when one tall thin officer walked out, since she had the right band and the right codes, or bother to keep track of her when she walked around the corner of the building and vanished from sight.

Leo burst into the office, only to find the man they had managed to peg as the leader, unconscious on the ground. Leo roughly pulled him up and slapped him away. "Come on... Wake up!"

The man sputtered to consciousness, looking around in a daze. "Wha??"

"You're under arrest." Leo informed him, "You have the right to remain silent, if you give up that right..."

Leo droned of for a bit, finishing the man's Miranda rights, then picking him up, "Now where's the stuff you stole!?"

"What stuff?" The man tried to bluff, but his eyes flickered to a painting on the wall.

Leo grinned, "What stuff huh?"

He walked over, pulling th painting down to reveal a large wall safe. Leo raised an eyebrow when he saw that the safe door was slightly ajar. "Huh?"

He pulled it open and was gratified to see a large supply of money and jewels, that he was certain could be traced. Then he frowned, "Where's the Dulcea Diamond?"

"I just don't get it!" Leo muttered, pacing through Rollie's workshop.

"What's to get?" Rollie asked, "They must have shipped it straight off to their buyer."

Leo sighed, sitting down. "Yeah... that must be it."

"Where are you guys going?"

Leo and Rollie turned upon hearing Angie's voice and saw Xander and Paige slipping on their heavy armored coats. Under their coats they could see that Xander was fully armed, and Leo caught sight of a familiar shape under Paige's belt.

The sight sent a chill up Leo's spine. "Where the hell *are* you going? And why do you have all that hardware and armor??"

Xander smiled, zipping up his coat, "As lovely as your company has been, Detective, Paige and I actually didn't come to town to meet you."

"Oh yeah?" Leo got up, "You mind telling me what you did come to town for?"

"Missing person."


"A..." Xander hesitated, "A colleague went missing from Boston a few weeks ago. Word is she was coming toward New York in pursuit of a very nasty piece of work."

"So..." Angie repeated herself. "Where are you going?"

Xander chuckled, "Club hopping." "What!?" Leo shook his head.

Xander shrugged, "We, my colleagues and I, operate in a very tight community. If she passed through town she'll have left ripples we can follow."

"By Club hopping??" Leo asked in confusion.

Xander chuckled.

"What club?" Angie asked, curious.

Xander tilted his head, thinking. "Well, we're starting with a place called Faust's Last Circle... we'll go from there."

"Faust's?" Angie perked up, "I've heard of that place!"

"You have?" Xander looked mildly surprised.

"Yeah... A guy we used to work with went there all the time... he said it was really an off the wall place." Angie said, "I've always wanted to go..."

Xander caught the look and started shaking his head, "Oh no... I don't think that's a good idea..."

"Aww why not?" Angie complained, "We need to celebrate!"

"Angie..." Xander started, "This isn't..."

"Well I'm not letting you run around my town without supervision." Leo declared, cutting him off.

Angie looked over at Rollie, "You in?"

Rollie grinned and shook his head, "Sounds like fun."

"Yes!" Angie pumped her arm and grabbed for her coat.

"This is a bad idea..." Xander trailed off as everyone ran around getting ready. "A *really* bad idea..."

"Can it, kid." Leo growled, grabbing his coat. "If you think its bad, then I KNOW that I'm coming along."

Xander groaned, hiding his eyes in his hands. <This can't be a good omen.>

Paige snickered under her hand as she watched everyone getting ready.

Faust's Last Circle
New York, New York

The five of them walked into the club, Xander and Paige taking the lead.

"Whoa..." Leo muttered, "This place looks like something out of Rollies nightmares."

"Hey." Rollie shot his friend a piercing glance.

Angie grinned, "Cool."

The club was filled with various demons and Vampires who were surrounding the dance floor in small groups, watching the dancers who were predominantly human. Xander frowned, nudging Paige. "This could get bad."


"Look around... does the dance floor remind you of anything?"

Paige shrugged, "Soul train?"

Xander rolled his eyes, "I was thinking more along the lines of a buffet."

Paige paled.

At this point Leo noticed something odd, "Hey... is it just me or all of the freaks watching us?"

Xander felt a shiver climb his spine as he noted the same thing, "It's not just you. I told you, I have a reputation."

Leo grimaced, "Why does it not surprise me that these weirdos know you?"

Xander smiled, shaking his head, and nudged Paige again. "Stay with them. I'll be right back."

She nodded.

Xander immediately strode off, heading for the bar.

"Hey! Wait up!" Leo called, following after him.

Xander half turned, about to object, but gave it up when he saw the look on Leo's face. He looked back to Paige and shrugged before continuing on.

Paige sighed, looking at Rollie and Angie, "So... what do you want to do?"

Rollie smiled at her, "Would you care to dance?"

Paige smiled, "I'd love too... but uh... I think we should stick together."

Angie quickly masked her expression, "No... go ahead... I'll be fine."

Paige shook her head, "No... let's get a table and some drinks."

Rollie shrugged, "Sounds fine to me."


The bartender eyed Xander cautiously as he walked up and grabbed a stool. "Look man, we don't want no trouble with your kind in here."

Xander shrugged, masking his annoyance that the 'rumors' had already reached New York. "I'm not looking to cause any. Just need some information."

The demon behind the bar sighed, a gurgling sound that caused Leo to stare a bit. "What do you want to know?"

"I'm looking for a Slayer... Word in Boston was that she came through here a while back."

The demon nodded reluctantly, "Yeah... I heard of her. She passed through though... gone now."


The demon shrugged, "How should I know? Slayer's don't leave forwarding addresses with my kind ya know."

Xander sighed, nodding. "Alright. Thanks."

Xander turned away, only to have the demon speak up. "You know... She was known to frequent a club across town... don't know if it'll help at all..."

"What's the name?"


Xander nodded, "Thanks."

The demon shrugged, smiling after a fashion. "Thanks for not causing trouble. I'd hate to clean up the mess if you got in a brawl with my clientele."

Xander nodded, smiling back. "As long as your clientele remember their manners I won't start a war in your club. But you'd better be careful, I can see them eyeing the humans from here... and I don't like that."

The demon looked nervous, "I'll have someone warn them."

Xander locked his gaze to the demon, "Tell them that the hunting is a lot better if they don't shit where they live."

The demon swallowed, nodding nervously as Xander turned a left with Leo at his heals.

"What the hell was that all about!?" Leo demanded as they walked through the crowd.

"Just talking shop." Xander said brusquely.

"Like hell!" Leo muttered, "And what was that crack about 'eyeing the humans'?"

Xander didn't reply, instead he pointed to where he had spotted the rest of their group. "They're over there... come on."

Leo growled as he followed Xander through the crowd. The crowd, he now noticed, that was parting like the red sea for them. "What the hell are you not telling me!?"

Xander actually laughed, "You have time to write a book, Detective?"

Paige looked up, smiling with a little relief, when Leo and Xander slipped into their seats. "Thank god," She hissed at Xander, "I've been having a hard time keeping these two together."

Xander looked over, frowning, "What's up, Rollie?"

"Man, I have to find out who does these guys costumes!" Rollie craned his neck as a Polgara demon ambled past. "They must cost a fortune."

"Less then you'd think." Paige muttered.

Xander frowned at her as Rollie snapped his attention back, "You know about the designer?"

Xander couldn't help it, he let out a snort that brought everyone's attention to him. "What?"

"You know who designed these costumes?" Rollie pressed.

Xander half smiled, "Yeah... you could say that. I met her once."

"Her?" Rollie looked around, "I bet it was Tracy... she's damn good... I didn't think she was *this* good, but still..."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Rollie... no one is this good."

"Huh?" Rollie frowned at him.

Xander was about to reply when a hulking form cast a shadow over their table.

"You HIM?" The imposing Polgara asked.

Xander put on his best 'who me?' face, his hand brushing over his heart. "Who?"


"I'm going to kill Spike for this." Xander groaned, pushing his chair away from the table and getting up. "How'd you hear that?"

"Vam-piiiresss talk."

Xander rolled his eyes, "No shit. Now, what do you want?"

The demon lifted one of its arms and closed it's massive hand into a fist, ejecting a long bony spike from it's forearm. Xander was waiting for it and twisted to the side just as the three foot implement skewered the air where he had been standing.

"Bounty." The demon rumbled, pulling back for another swipe.

"Bounty!?" Xander gasped, hooking his foot into his chair and kicking it into the air between him and the Polgaran, he caught it and used the aluminum furniture to fend off the demon's skewering attacks. "What bounty!?"

The Demon battered at the lightweight chair, bending and warping it with every blow, "Two hunnnn-dredddd and fifttttyyyy thousandddd doooohhhhlaaarrrs..."

Leo rolled to his feet from where he had jumped to avoid the attack, "Jeeez... Two hundred and fifty grand? Hey, big guy! You need a partner!?"

"Shut up Leo!" Rollie and Xander chorused.

"Alright, alright... just checking..." Leo muttered pulling his Colt.

Xander growled, hopping back to avoid another swipe from the demon, "You know... Usually..."


He ducked low, "Don't like to fight in a..."

He grunted as he used the chair to block another shot, "Demon bar! But..."

Xander twisted away, blocking the demon's blow with the chair, only to have it pulled clear of his hands and sent flying across the bar. "In your case..."




"Exception!" Xander gritted out, summoning Elan and using the ancient weapon to block the next blow.

The Polgaran grunted as his arm was stopped solidly in mid motion, prevented from reaching it's target by a long silver staff. His eyes widened as he tried to force his bone skewer closer to the target, but was prevented by a sudden surge of strength accompanied by a silver gleam in the boy's eyes and a truly nasty smile.

"Paige, Leo... leave him to me!" Xander called as he noted them drawing weapons from the corner of his eyes, "Keep the rest back."

"Rest? What rest?" Leo looked around for more like the attacker.

Paige swallowed, "Everyone."

Leo's eyes widened as he noticed that the whole place was watching with a more serious eyes then he'd normally ascribe to a bar fight. "You've got to be kidding me..."

"Polgara Demon." Xander announced calmly as he held the demon back. "Generally in excess of seven feet tall..."

Xander let the block go, ducking under the uncontrolled motion of the surprised demon, then he snapped Elan around and hit the creature in the right knee. "Weak points include the kness..."

He reversed, jabbing the Polgara in the groin, "... the genitals are located three inches higher then on a comparable human and are protected by a bony plate that must..." There was a loud crack and the demon let out an impressive howl, "Be shattered to achieve significant damage." Xander concluded blandly.

The demon bent over in pain, still emitting a keening howl. Xander spun around, whipping Elan in an uppercut motion that left a silver streak in the air as it passed. The tip of the ancient weapon caught the demon in the face and flipped it onto it's back. It instantly curled up in a fetal position, groaning. Xander stepped over it, Elan vanishing in a sparkle of silver, and pulled a pistol from his coat. "A Polgaran's heart is located in approximately the same location as a human, but it protected by a massive plate of bone that is nearly impossible to penetrate... on the front."

He jabbed the pistol under the demon's arm, digging the barrel in. "From the side, on the other hand..."

He trailed off, his voice dripping menace. "You listening to me?"

No response and he jabbed the pistol in deeper, "Listen to me!"

The demon groaned and nodded, "Lissten... Lissten!"

"Good." Xander said, "As you've probably guessed, you're not getting a penny from my scalp. Spread the word, Polgaran... I'm not easy prey... got it?... I said Got It!?"

"Gooottt itttt!" It screamed.

Xander got up, slipping his gun back under his coat and smoothing the soft material down. "Two hundred and fifty thou?? That's insulting."

"Xander..." Paige's voice was uncertain.

He looked around to see that a crowd had gathered, surrounding them and cutting them off from the rest of bar. He looked around at them, his expression daring them to make a move. "You all got THAT!?"

Nervous demons immediately backed off, the ones that didn't really want trouble in the first place, Xander noted. The rest consisted of the more hostile demons and, of course, vampires. They were obviously uncertain if they wanted to start something at the moment, but they were unwilling to back down either.

"Next round on the house!"

The bartender's call decided it for most of them, they backed away slowly and made their way to the bar for their free drinks. Xander caught the bartenders gaze and nodded his thanks, the bartender just sort of half grinned and shrugged. Xander pulled a wad of cash from his pocket and discreetly held it up for the bartender to see, when the demon's eyes widened, Xander stuff ed the money in a beer stein and inverted the mug on his table.

"Come on," He motioned to the others, "Let's get out of here."

"What the hell was THAT??" Leo demanded as soon as they were clear of the area and he had dared to put away his pistol.

Xander sighed, "Welcome to the wonderful world of demons and things that go bump in the night."

Leo paused in midstep, then quickly caught up. "What!?"

"You're kidding right..." Angie asked, "Tell me that you're kidding!"

"I wish." Paige muttered. "I almost got barbecued a couple weeks ago..."

Xander shrugged, "Wish you guys had just listened to me when I said it was a bad idea..."

"Hey!" Leo slapped his shoulder hard, "Don't screw with me, kid! Demon's don't exist!"

Xander spun on him, his eyes flashing silver as he materialized Elanthielle in his hand, "Really?"

Leo fell back in surprise, but recovered quickly. "So what!? I've seen Rollie pull that trick!"

"Uh... Leo..?"

"And he did it better then you!"

"Umm... Leo?"

"So don't expect me to buy that crap!"


Leo turned on Rollie, "What!?"

Rollie swallowed, "I use lasers, mirrors, precisely placed equipment, and computer graphics to do that trick..."


Rollie looked around, "Do you *see* any of those!?"

Leo paused, looking around the empty parking lot, suddenly realizing that the thing he had just witnessed had a more 'on the spot' look to it then Rollie's brand of magic. He shook his head, "It's gotta be a trick... it has to be!"

"I'm afraid not, Leo..." Xander said, his voice sympathetic. "On the bright side, you've had a much nicer introduction then I did."


"My best friend was turned by a vampire... I had to drive the stake through his heart myself." Xander said, his voice somber, but his face oddly confused. He finally shook his head, "Anyway... go home. Go to sleep, by tomorrow you'll be able to convince yourself that I'm a con man and that your world is the way it should be."

"Yeah... right." Leo muttered, "And what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to look for my friend."

"You're going where? That club?" Leo asked, "The... what was it? Cyberd... whatsits?"

"Cyberdelia!?" Angie asked, finally speaking through her shock.

"You know it?"

"Know it?" Angie actually smiled slightly, "My father founded it... Rollie got the workshop, I got the club."

Xander stared at her for a long moment, pondering the odds, but shook it off after a bit. "Oookay. Let's go."

"Yo yo yo! Dude dude dude!" Joey jumped into the seat across from Dade and Kate, but grinning at Phreak from ear to ear.

Phreak lifted his had to smack the younger kid, but sighed and shook his head. "You know man, if you don't cut that out I'm gonna give up on you."

"Sorry man..." Joey said, not looking sorry in the least. "Hey I was thinking, how about Jedi Master??"


"My screen name, man!" Joey babbled, "You keep promising to help me come up with one, but you never do! I need an identity man!"

Phreak looked around the table, his face screaming a cry for help. He first saw Cereal, who was stealing fries from Dade while the other guy was making goo-goo eyes at Kate. Phreak sighed, <I knew we should never have fixed them up.>


Everyone at the table looked over, surprised to see that Cade had actually been paying some attention to the table.


"He needs a name, right?" Cade asked, "And he did hack the Gibson... That's where he made his name, he should take it from there."

The people around the table nodded slowly, accepting that.

"So!?" Joey looked up, exited that someone, anyone, was paying attention to him.

"Just shut up a second, Joey!" Phreak flipped him off, "Let us think here."

Cereal smiled, nodding slowly as he thought about it. "Heavy Metal Du-ude."

The group shook their heads.

"How about, Master Hacker?" Joey grinned.

Kate looked at him with a withering stare, "How very *manly* of you."

"Really?" Joey grinned, looking happy.

Cade shook his head, "Joey... from Kate, that is NOT a compliment."


"Never mind."

"Welcome to my club." Angie grinned, feeling more secure now that she was on familiar territory.

Xander looked down on the dance floor from the office, "Nice place. I've never seen anything quite like it."

"Thanks." Angie said, flipping through some papers, "I don't get here as much as I'd like... but I'm like dad was."


"Yeah... he loved the movies too much to hang around here..." She said, a little sadly.

"He sounds like a nice guy." Xander said.

"He was."

Xander didn't respond, he didn't know anything to say that would help so he decided to keep quiet.

The quiet didn't last long.

"Whoa... Ange," Leo grinned as he walked in, "This is some place you've got here... How come you never told me about it?"

Angie turned away, composing herself, "I don't come here much..."

Leo looked down at the wild club beneath them and whistled. "Man, this place must really be a really hot spot..."

Angie shook her head, glancing down. "Not really. The Cyberdelia does a little better then break even... some nights it even turns a half decent profit... But that's all."

Leo frowned, "Then why keep it open?"

Angie shook her head, but didn't answer.

"It was her father's Leo," Rollie said quietly, walking up to his friend's side. "He set this place up when computers first came into private homes... He always said that even geeks needed a place to party."

Leo shook his head, "If you say so, Rollie."

Xander looked around, "I'm going to go down and start asking questions."

"Uh... Xander?" Angie looked up.


"These kids don't react well to outsiders poking around."

Xander half smiled, "I'll be careful."

"I don't give a damn about you," Angie grinned, "Don't hurt my clients."

"Dudedudedude, check it out...." Joey interrupted the conversation to point out something on the other side of the club.

The rest turned around and looked in the direction he was pointing. The saw a stranger walking down from the office, his eyes obviously roaming the room.

"So?" Dade asked, shrugging.

"So? So?" Joey looked around wide eyed, "You remember a couple weeks ago? The... uh... you knows? Lot o them dressed like that!"

Dade rolled his eyes, "So what? I dress like that... and don't you look at me like that, Joey!"

"Sorry..." Joey mumbled, reaching in his pocket for the three crosses he had taken to carrying. The way he figured it, if one worked, then more was better.

Kate rolled her eyes, smirking. "Trust me Joey... Dade's heart is beating just fine." She reached down and Dade jumped, his eyes widening as he yelped out in shock. Kate smiled wider, "And the blood is pumping right where I want it."

"Ooohhhhhhh!" Cereal grinned, slapping hands with Phreak across the table.

Dade sank a little deeper in his chair, blushing furiously.

Joey ignored the entire thing, staring at the young man as he walked up to the bar and started talking to the man behind the counter. "He could be one... he could, you know..."

Joey's focus had started to bring the others a little closer to his opinion and Phreak was checking the figure out as well, "I wonder what he's asking Fred about?"

The group shifted in their seats, paying more attention now that Phreak was curious too.

"Like... maybe we should find out??" Cereal grinned, looking around the table for support.

Dade nodded slowly, not really agreeing, but willing to go along. "Sure. You and Phreak go up and check it out... but be smart."

"Oh heyheyhey! Can I go?"

"NO!" Everyone yelled at Joey.

"So you haven't seen anyone like that?"

The guy behind the 'bar' shrugged, "Sorry kid... we get all kinds in here... Cute dark haired chicks are a dime a dozen, have at least eight of 'em in the place right now... The crowds that hang out here are kinda Goth you know?"

Xander frowned, looking around. He had to admit that the guy was right. Dark clothes ruled, the fashiond trended toward the darker side of the human condition.

In some ways the place looked more vampire then vampires. <Of course, like Jack always used to say... the only way to tell a vampire from your average teenager was to stake 'em and see if they dusted.>

Stubbornly he turned back to the guy, "Look... this girl you wouldn't forget. Her name was Faith and she'd have had energy to burn."

"Do you know what these kids drink!?" The guy asked sarcastically. "Jolt Cola. The stuff has more caffeine in it then should be legally allowed, ALL of these kids are bouncing off the damned walls, man."

Xander sighed, <Great.> "Fine... Thanks for your time."

He shook his head and walked away from the bar. He was turning back toward the office when something caught his eye.

"Whoa man..." Cereal mumbled, "This is like... not good, man."

"I know..." Hissed Phreak, "Come on... let's tell the others."

The two of them quickly made their way back to the table, sat down, and looked around with a conspiring look.

"Well?" Dade prompted them.

"He asked about Faith." Phreak said finally.

"I knew it!" Joey crowed, "I told you! didn't I tell you? I told you!"

"Shut up, Joey!" They all chorused.

He slumped back into his seat, pouting. "I did tell you guys."

"What do we do, guys?" Phreak looked around. "We can't let a v... one of them come around here... this is *our* turf."

Dade frowned, "We don't know that it's a vamp. Could be she has some people looking for her..."

"Dressed like that!?" Joey put in.

"Heyheyhey!" Cereal waved frantically at them, "check it out..."

They all looked over to where they saw the guy suddenly slip between a cute girl and a hacker they knew. They watched him chat the girl up, and saw how fast he steered her toward the door.

Kate paled. "Joey was right."


"Don't you get it!?" She asked, her voice just below a scream. "That's what *they* do! They seduce people into being alone with them... then... then..."

"Then what?" Joey asked.

Everyone glared at him and he shrunk back down. "What'd I say??"

"Come on." Dade said firmly, "let's go."

"We got no weapons man..." Phreak said, looking around, already frightened to death.

Dade waited until he was partially obscured from the bar and smashed his chair. He picked up the pieces and handed them to the group. "Now we do."

Everyone nodded, a little worriedly, but followed as he and Kate led them out.

Xander led the blond out into the alley, checking to see if there were any witnesses and noting with some amusement that she was doing the same. "You come here often?"

She smiled at him, "First time, you?"

"First time."

She grinned, "Then I guess we're both lucky then."

"Something like that." Xander said, purposely turning his back for an instant.

"Or maybe it's just me." She said, her voice taking on a sinister edge.

Xander smiled and spun back around fast enough to grab her wrists before she could grab him. "Tsk tsk, it's not nice to bite on the first date."

She growled, ripped free of his grasp, and then charged him. Xander sidestepped, spinning around, and caught her with an elbow to the back that propelled her screaming into the wall. She hit the bricks, and sort of slumped down into a pile of trash that was decorating the alley. When she looked up, Xander was standing over her.

"W... who are you?"

Xander glowered at her, but didn't answer the question. "I don't think that's going to matter to you for long."

The Vampire fell back, cowering as she shifted out of her game face. "Please don't hurt me..."

Xander looked at her oddly, "What makes you think I'm going to listen to anything you have to say??"

The answer didn't come from the vampire.

"I got him!" Joey screamed, jumping on the vampire's back.

The guy was taken by surprise, but spun around in an instant, throwing Joey clear. "What the hell?"

"Get him!" Dade screamed.

"Joey! You idiot! You were supposed to stick him through the heart! Not get a piggy back ride!" Phreak screamed as he charged alongside his friends.

Xander ducked, wild eyed, as the first person reached him and he heard them scream about 'sticking him through the heart'. <What the hell?>

He put it together as he straightened up, throwing one guy over his back and too the ground. A wooden stake clattered free and it was enough to make things into a coherent picture for him. <They think *I'm* the vamp!?>

"Now wait a second..." He tried, lifting his hands, but they didn't give him any time to speak. A second guy charged him, this time using a bit of common sense, and managed to strike him hard in the face.

Xander rolled with the punch, thinking furiously. <Great, great, great.... What the fuck do I do now!?>

He came back to his feet a short distance away, glaring as three of them, two guys and a girl, came at him again. He glanced around and then up, finally spotting something he could use. Xander spun and ran at the wall of the alley, planting a foot on the wall, then hopping over to a Dumpster, and using that as a footstep to propel himself higher. He stretched out and caught the edge of a fire escape and pulled himself up.

From that vantage point he decided to try talking again. "Listen, whoever the hell you are, I'm NOT a..."

Kate Libby watched as the vampire tried to make it's escape to the fire escape. As it paused she dug out her 'subway defense system' and pointed upwards.

"Listen, whoever the hell you are, I'm NOT a..."

She fired the compact flare gun and felt it buck in her hand as it launched a flare at the figure.


<Not a vampire?> Kate thought as the flare streaked through the air. <Ooops.>

Xander's eyes widened as he saw the flare coming straight at him. He didn't think, he just planted his feet on the wall and kicked off, propelling himself back into the alley. In mid air he crossed paths with the flare, and flipped over it as gracefully a the weight he was carrying would allow.

He did a single somersault and landed with his knees flexed. Behind him he heard the mini explosion of the flare striking the wall, and felt a shower of sparks fall around him and the others.

"Jesus! Kate!" Dade cursed as he covered his face from the shower of sparks.

The others all hit the ground, brushing at little fireflies of light that were eating at their clothes.

"Holy shit!" Phreak cursed, belatedly staring at the vampire as it stood there looking at him.

The guy looked *pissed*.

He walked up to Phreak, growling, and pulling something from under his jacket. Phreak flinched back as he held whatever it was up and let it dangle for a second. Phreak belatedly recognized it as a cross and his heart sunk.

"Oh shit."

"Exactly!" The guy yelled, "Do I *look* like a bloodsucker to you!?"

Everyone sort of stared at him for a second, unbelieving looks on their faces.

He looked down, mumbling to himself. "Oh. Yeah. Bad Example."

Xander almost blushed as he realized the stupidity of the question. <Of course I look like a vamp... if I didn't they wouldn't have mistaken me for one would they?>

He growled again, drawing one of his FiveSevens as he cast about for the running vampire, "I'm not the freaking vamp...

He spotted her, almost a to the exit of the valley despite the fact that only seconds had passed. He flipped the weapon to three round burst. "She is!"

He fired a single burst that caught the fleeing vamp in the center of the back and propelled her along for several steps before she burst into dust. Xander shook his head, stuffing the pistol back under his coat before anyone else saw it, then turned back to the group that had ambushed him. "What the hell are you kids doing out here anyway!?"

"What the hell are you kids doing out here anyway!?"

"Hey!" Kate objected, "Who the hell do you think you're calling 'kids'?"

Her friends nodded in agreement, they didn't like being called kids by adults, so they sure as hell weren't going to take it from someone their own age.

Xander turned to answer her and stopped dead, frowning.

Kate got a little nervous at his staring after a few seconds and took a step back, uncertain what the hell he was looking at. Dade steppe between them, frowning himself. "Hey man, back off."

Xander shook his head clear, "Sorry. She looks a lot like someone I know. Weird... That's two in a just few days..."


Xander glanced around, "Let's get back inside... Those shots could bring the cops."

Everyone nodded, frankly they didn't want to be in an empty alley with this guy anyway.

Dade reluctantly led the group, along with Xander to their usual table and stole a chair from nearby to replace the one he's smashed. Everyone sat down, mostly sneaking suspicious glances at Xander while he stared calmly back at them.

"Why are you looking for Faith?" Joey blurted out.

"Joey!" Everyone yelled as Cereal grimaced and pantomimed hitting him.

Xander grinned, things suddenly becoming clearer. "Faith has been busy. She almost got me killed in the last bar I asked about her too."

"So maybe we wish they'd finished the job." Cereal said sullenly.

Xander rolled his eyes, "At least none of you is the Incredible Hulk... Took me two hours to get the feeling back in my arm after I hit him."


"Never mind," Xander waved the question off, "Look... I'm not trying to hurt Faith, ok? I'm a friend of hers who's looking to catch up."

"How do we know that?" Dade asked quietly.

Xander sighed, shaking his head. "You don't."

"Then we can't help you."

Cereal, who had been looking at Xander oddly spoke up again, "Yo dude... what are you packing in those rods of yours?"


"Shooters, pieces, rods... you know, guns?" Cereal grinned.

Xander shrugged, "Blessed silver. Why?"

"You're the guy, aren't ya?"


Cereal looked back at his friends, "This is the guy!"

"What guy?" Xander asked, only to be ignored.

"He could have gotten the recipe off the net like we did..." Dade said noncommittally.

"I'm telling you, I know about these things," Cereal said, "This is THE guy."

"What guy!?"

"What do you know about these things?" Kate demanded, "You don't even know how to tie your shoes."

Cereal looked around self consciously, "Burn... come on, I told you I wear the velcro for convenience..."

"Ri-ght." She said sarcastically.

"What guy!?" Xander tried again.

They finally decided to notice him again.

"The guy who posted the recipe for those things on the internet..." Cereal grinned.

"Oh." Xander shrugged, "Wasn't me."

"See?" Kate grinned at Cereal.

"I was the guy who gave him the recipe though." Xander finished.

"Ha!" Cereal crowed, "Chalk up a win for the Killer!"

"Killer?" Xander looked around, confused.

"Cereal Killer." Phreak said, rolling his eyes. "You know, like fruit loops?"

"Ah..." Xander grinned, "I'm a Cap'n Crunch man myself."

"Like, wow!" Cereal exclaimed, "Someone who appreciates the wonder that is modern breakfast cereals!"

Groans echoed around the table as someone else walked up to join them. "Hey guys... Who's the fish?"

"Nikon!" Cereal jumped up, "Hey man, is it alright if I stay with you tonight?"

The black kid rolled his eyes, his face foreboding. "Again?"

Cereal just looked at him entreatingly for a moment, and Nikon broke down and grinned. "Alright."


"So," Nikon continued, "Who's the new guy?"

"He says he's a friend of Faith's." Dade answered, staring across the table at Xander with a distinct lack of trust.

"Oh? He done anything?" Nikon asked.

Everyone looked at Xander, who just looked confused, "Excuse me?"

Nikon rolled his eyes, "Great. Another illiterate."


Dade shook his head, but Kate responded. "He wanted to know if you were a hacker."

"Ah." Xander said shaking his head, "Sorry, not my bag. I do ok with computers, but I'm mostly a shooter. I usually leave the hacking to others."

"Shooter?" Nikon asked.

"As in 9mm." Dade responded.

Nikon's eyes widened, "What is it with that chick? Everyone around her is packing..."

"What others?" Kate asked.


"You said that you leave the hacking to others... what others?"

"Yeah..." Cereal grinned, "Do you know the frog too?"

"Frog?" Xander asked, still confused. "You know, Kermit... as in, The Frog?"

Xander frowned, "The only guy I've heard named Kermit is a cop up in Toronto... Never met him though, friend of mine did."

"Kermit's a COP!?" Preak blurted in shock.

Xander shrugged, "I don't know if it's the same guy..."

"So who do you know?" Nikon asked.

Xander thought about it, remembering all the times he had teased Willow over her 'screen name'. He smiled, "Will-o-the-wisp."

Everyone looked to Nikon, who nodded slowly. "Wisp... hacked the national DMV database two weeks ago... also wrote the SDK bruteforce password cracker... Elite."

That simple pronunciation had a profound effect on the group, they didn't lose their mistrust, but they did look at Xander with a bit more confidence.

"You ever talk to him, Nikon?" Dade asked.

"Her." Xander corrected.


"Willow..." Xander said, "is a girl."

Nikon nodded, "He's right. And yeah, I talked to her a couple times."


Nikon shook his head, "She hasn't been on the boards much... busy."

"With what?" To this group, being to busy to visit the boards meant that someone's priorities were severely messed up.

Nikon frowned, "She hasn't said specifically."

Xander frowned himself, <Willow? Too busy to be on the net? That's a little odd.>

"So do we trust this guy?" Joey looked around, honestly confused over that issue.

Everyone looked at each other, gauging responses.

"He did take out a vamp..." Dade said.

"He didn't take ME out." Phreak muttered, "I say that's a point in his favor."

"He dumped me in the trash pile!" Joey objected.

"That would be another point in his favor." Kate smirked.

Dade grinned, shaking his head. "Ok... He seems to be ok."

Everyone nodded in agreement.

"So now can I know where Faith is?" Xander half smiled.

Dade shook his head, "She didn't tell us much... But she did say she might be going through Washington."

Xander nodded slowly. "That makes sense. Her parents are from there."

The gang looked mildly surprised at that but didn't say much.

Finally Cereal spoke up, "So dude, what are you doing next? Got some more vamps to nail?"

"There are always vamps to nail." Xander shrugged, "and lots of other things."

"Other things?" Kate asked, wincing.

"Demons, ghosts, aliens... stuff like that."

"Whoa dude!" Cereal grinned, "Aliens? Are you like saying that little green men are for real!?"

"More like seven foot tall ugly green men," Xander shrugged, "But yeah... basically. You want to know the truth? I wouldn't be surprised at anything at all anymore... But hey, I spent over three months off planet just over a year ago... well, a year ago my time."

Everyone gaped at him in shock.

"You're kidding... you have to be kidding..." Kate said.

Xander looked her in the eye, "Join the Air Force and specialize in an exotic field like cutting edge computing or exo-biology... then in a few years you can come back to me and ask me the same question... only you'll already have the answer, and I won't be cleared to know it."

Silence reined for a long moment.

"Nooo waaaay!" Cereal grinned like he was expecting a punch line to be uttered.

Xander just shrugged and started to get up, "Thanks for your help guys... oh. I'd be more careful hunting vamps if I were you... you don't want to nail a human by mistake."

They all winced.

"Lead with crosses and holy water." Xander advised, "If they don't start smoking... driving a hunk of wood through their chest would be a mistake."

"You didn't need those to spot the vamp..." Dade said.

Xander smiled, "I have a friend who would say... 'Evil is visible to those with the eyes to see.'"

"What the hell does that mean?" Kate growled.

Xander tapped Elanthielle's energies just slightly, bringing a visible sparkle of silver to his eyes.

"Whoa... Dude." Cereal whispered in shock. "How'd you do that, dude?"

"Practice." Xander smiled and turned toward the office.

Dade watched him walk for a few moment, then acted on impulse. "Hey man!"

"What?" Xander turned back, confused.

"You need any help?" Dade asked, ignoring the looks of shock on the faces of his friends.

Xander shook his head, "Thanks but.... hmmm..."

"Hmmm?" Kate asked, her heart dropping as she smacked Dade.

"How are you guys at finding people?"

Angie looked up from the club reports as Xander led a small gang of kids through the doors. "What the hell is this?"

The kids looked around, circling and staring like they were in Mecca.

"Like, this is so cool!" Cereal grinned, "Like, the inner sanctum!"

"The what?" Angie looked confused.

Rollie grinned, recognizing the reaction as the same one he received when people came into the work shop. "That's right, guys... this is where it all happens..."

"Where what happens?" Angie demanded.

Rollie shrugged, "How should I know? I do FX. You're the computer whiz."

Instantly everyone of the kids circled around Angie and the computer screens she was pouring over. She glared her outrage over their shoulder, and silently mouthed, "Thanks a lot, Rollie!"

Rollie grinned back at her, shrugging, "No problem."

Angie groaned as the kids huddled around her, looking at the screens.

"Hey, what kind of operating system are you running?" Dade asked, looking at the unusual screens.

Angie smacked his hand away from a keyboard, "A Unix Shell with a custom GUI... son't touch that!"

"Hey Cool! Are those, like, touch screens!?" Cereal tapped a few icons on the screens.

The lights went out, plunging them into darkness that was lit by the blue glow of the screens.

"Yes! Don't touch that!" Angie growled, tapping the icons and turning the lights back on.

"Cool." Nikon boomed, "You have an X10 setup..."

"It's a little more complicated then that." Angie said, "Look... why are you guys up here?"

"He invited us." They all pointed to where Xander was grinning.

Xander tried to wipe the smirk off his face, with little success, and put up a transparent 'who me' look.

"Why!?" Angie demanded.

"He wants us to hack into tax records and birth certificates to find someone." Kate Libby growled, not happy with the situation her boyfriend had gotten them into.

Angie shrugged, "I could do that."

"I'm not hearing this!" Leo announced, turning toward the door.

"What's his problem?" Phreak asked.

"Uh... He's a cop." Rollie grinned.

The gang looked at each other, suddenly very nervous.

"Cop?" Kate looked at the door nervously.

"Relax." Xander advised her, "He'll look the other way... This time."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Cause if he arrests you, he'd have to arrest me too... and Leo isn't looking to do that again anytime soon."

"Ooohhhhh Kay...." Kate muttered, shaking her head. "Let's get this over with."

"I said I could..." Angie started to protest, but fell silent when Xander just motioned her to one side. "Uh.... ok, fine... here, I'll drop it to a UNIX environment."

"Too cool." Cereal Killer grinned as he pulled up a seat to one of the terminals. "You guys ready?"

Kate smirked at him, taking a seat on the other side of the main terminal and opening her laptop. "I'm always ready."

Dade grinned, taking a seat in the center, and took a look over the UNIX display. "T1 line? Very nice."

"And expensive." Angie growled, "Don't get traced."

Over their shoulder's the other two, Lord Nikon and The Phanton Phreak, watched the process as the three synced their efforts and made quick work of the first level of security on the Federal computers they were hacking.

As they breached each layer Nikon would rattle off codes and security from memory, while Phreak kept a close line on the communications ports to ensure that no one traced the hack.

After about four minutes Dade and Kate leaned back, grinning. "Who do you want to find?"

"Her name is Tara McClay." Xander said softly, citing the name of the only member of the Scoobs that he didn't have the slightest clue of where she came from.

"How old?"

"About fifteen."

"Fathers name? Mothers? Anything else?" Dade asked tersely.

"Sorry no."

Dade let out a long breath, "Damn. I thought this was going to be easy."

"Ok... don't panic, let's just shuffle the numbers." Kate said, her fingers rapping the keys quickly as she entered a fast and dirty program to eliminate the names and ages.

"That's only going to get us so far." Dade said, "This the National database we're talking about... There has to be thousands of McClays... maybe more. We could get fifty hits if we're lucky."

"So think of something else." Kate snapped.

"Hey hey hey!" Phreak yelped, "They've started a trace... They've got you back through to the local DMV server!"

"Cut it off!" Angie snapped.

"No!" Dade said, "Phreak, swap us over to anther server."

"You got it man!" Phreak tapped out a command over Cereal's shoulder. "Got it... ok, you're coming in through Carolina now... don't know how long this will last..."

"Just stay ahead of them, Phreak."

"You got it, Crash."

"Ok..." Kate announced, "We've got birth certificates coming up now... about a hundred of them."

"That's alright," Dade said, his eyes flicking over the screen, "just get them down, we'll sort by age once we're safe."

"Right." Kate said, nodding.

"They've started another trace..." Phreak announced.

"Hop servers!" Joey said over his shoulder.

"I can't!" Phreak snapped, "If I change servers Kate has to start over again."

"Thirty seconds..." Kate said.

"I'm sending a virus to close their ports." Dade said, "Just two more sec... got it..."

"Trace just went dead." Phreak grinned, "Nice moves man."

"We got em." Kate grinned, "Closing the connection. We clean?"

"Clean." Nikon announced, smiling.

Xander glanced over at Angie, a question on his face. She shrugged, looking back and nodded. "Not bad. A little overly dramatic, but not bad."

"How many names?" Xander asked.

"I'm eliminating by age... how sure are you of that guess?" Kate asked.

"Give or take a couple years." Xander shrugged.

"Ok... Let's see... three names..." Kate announced, "One in Alaska..."

"Scratch it."

"Ok, one in New Mexico... and the other here in New York."

"Here?" Xander asked, "I don't think that's her... She said that she grew up in a small town."

"New Mexico it is." Kate said, sending the document to the printer. "Darynville, New Mexico."

"Thanks." Xander said, smiling as he accepted the page. "Nice work."

"We try." Kate smirked.

Xander chuckled, "You succeed. I like that... Interested in a job?"

"I don't think so..." Kate said, thinking about MIT and how much she *didn't* want to risk that.

The sentiment was held by everyone.

"What kind of work?" Cereal grinned, and even Dade leaned forward interested.

Xander shrugged, "For now? Nothing. But later? Sky's the limit... maybe not even that."

"You serious?" Dade asked, a light in his eyes.

"Dade!" Kate objected, "This is NOT happening!"

"I'm deadly serious." Xander replied. "You play with me I can guarantee only a couple things."

"Like what?" Nikon asked.

"Trouble." Xander replied, "And lots of it. But along with that, you'll get to play with the latest and greatest toys I can find... and believe me, I know how to find some computer systems that will knock your pants off."

"Coool-io..." Cereal grinned, "I don't know about you guys... but I'm in."

Everyone rolled their eyes, "You're always in."

"What do we have to do?" Nikon asked.

Xander smiled, pulling a wad of cash from his pocket, "For now? Buy yourselves the latest toys and get really good at using them... legally, of course. Stay out of trouble, keep up your skills."

Xander flipped the cash to Dade, who caught it and goggled at it. "How much is this?"

"A few thousand." Xander said, "I'll leave you some more before I leave."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because you guys are good, and the world I live in..." Xander shrugged, "I need the best if I want to stay alive and do my job."

"What's your job?" Kate asked sullenly, seeing that the conversation was going the wrong way.

Xander looked surprised, his eyes widening. "I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself... I'm Xander Harris, Independent Demon Hunter. I save the world."

"A little dramatic and arrogant, don't you think?" a voice echoed from behind him.

Xander groaned, wincing. He turned slowly, grimacing. "You."


Cereal Killer nudged Preak, "Hey... Where'd the dude in the suit come from?"

"I don't know man, shut up, I'm listening."

"Not that I have anything against drama, you understand," Metatron continued calmly, "But arrogance is a dangerous thing for a human to cultivate."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Last thing I need or want from you is lectures on melodrama or arrogance. You are hardly in a position to give that sermon anyway, Voice."

The Seraph smiled slightly, "Drama *is* my personal vice, I suppose... But I'm not arrogant, *I* really am as good as I think I am."

Xander snorted. "Right."

"Need I remind you of the errors you've made in the past?" Metatron asked calmly, walking up to Xander.

Xander glowered, but dropped his gaze. "Fine. You've got your point across. You have any other tidbits of wisdom for me?"

"I didn't come here to give you a lecture, Alexander." Metatron said, "But I decided that it might be prudent, considering that the footsteps you are walking in have also followed that path... to their ruin."

"Fine. Why are you here."

Metatron sighed, "Always right to the point, you know the art of conversation is an vanishing skill..."


"We have a problem."

"So fix it." Xander said.

"We decided that you would do that for us."

"I'm not your errand boy, get the PTB's to send a champion."

Metatron smiled, "You misunderstand... We didn't decide to ask you, or to tell you... We decided that you'd do this job of your own free will, so we figured why waste out own people?"

Xander seethed, "Now you listen here... I still have Jarod to check on..."

"He's already escaped." Metatron said simply, "Quite some time ago... and I fear that even your intrepid little band here won't be enough to hunt *him* down."

"Fine, but I still..."

"It's about the Key."

The single word seemed to electrify the room. Everyone could feel it, even if only two people in the place understood it.

"What about h... it?" Xander asked, snapping practically to attention.

"The monks have put considerable resource into finding it..."

"What monks?" Xander asked.

Metatron smiled, "I forget that you never got that far... I suppose I must be starting to buy your recent publicity..."

Xander groaned. "That wasn't my idea."

"Of course it wasn't..." The Voice grinned, "But you've bloody well managed to piss of the Archangels *again*."

"It wasn't *me*!"

"Hey..." Rollie hissed to Angie, "Did that guy say *Archangels*?"

She just nodded.

Meanwhile Metatron continued, enjoying himself. "Oh, we know... and you wouldn't believe how angry they are with Mr. William the Bloody... It was bad enough to give you an Angelic nickname... but to place you higher in rank then THEY are... I wouldn't enjoy being that particular vampire anytime in the near future."

That brought a slight touch of a smile back to Xander, until he remembered what the conversation had begun with. "What's this about monks?"

"Ah yes..." The Voice said, "They were the guardians of the Key for... well, a long time now. They sent it to the Slayer for safekeeping... When you shifted the timeline, they were naturally perturbed to find it suddenly missing."

"Why did D... the Key," Xander said hesitantly, "Make the trip back?"

Metatron shrugged, "The monks asked God for a favor when they 'recreated' the Key... The favor granted was... a permanent one."

<Her soul, Alexander. To create a new life, the monks had to have the support of the Creator... She was given a soul. A Soul is sacred... once granted, it cannot be taken away... not by anything.>

Xander's eyes widened as Elanthielle entered the conversation, filling in the blanks. "Ok. Still, whats the problem? Go chat them up and tell them that the Key is safe."

"But it isn't safe." Metatron said, "And that... is the crux of the dilemma."

Xander's heart dropped, "What do you mean?"

"The Key is highly sought after... by those who out use it, and by those who would destroy it." Metatron said simply, "Your interference has place the key in a vulnerable position. Do you know of the Knights of Byzantium?"

Xander frowned, about to say no, as Elan's voice echoed again through his skull. He listened for a moment, then looked back up. "They're about two thousand years old as an order... supposed to be the good guys."

"So are the Watchers." Metatron reminded him.

Xander cursed under his breath, "What's their game?"

"They wish to save the world..." Metatron smiled, "Horning in on your action so to speak."

"I don't have a problem with that."

"You might with their methods." The Voice said, "They wish to prevent a Hell Goddess by the name of Glorificus from obtaining the Key... They believe that the best way to do so would be to destroy the Key."

Xander slumped back onto the desk, his heart pounding as his stomach tightened into knots. "Oh my God."

"Precisely." Metatron smiled.

Rollie, who had been trying like hell to follow the conversation, hesitantly stepped forward with his hand raised. "Uh... what happens if... Glorificus? Gets the Key?"

Metatron shrugged, "Dimensional oblivion... Total collapse of this universe and, since this universe is a central pillar of creation, several others as well."

"Then wouldn't it be a good idea to let the Knights destroy the Key?"

"No!" Xander snapped, his eyes blazing. "No."

"Why not?"

"Just... Just... No." Xander said firmly. "Have they found her?"

"All three are now converging on Los Angeles." The Voice said, "The monks to take possession of the Key until the Slayer can protect it... The Knights to destroy it... and Glorificus to make use of it."

Xander got up and paced around, "Oh God... I have to get back... I have to stop them... protect... Jesus."

"We thought you might say that." Metatron said, "Good luck."

Then he simply vanished.

"Where the hell did he go!?" Angie blurted in shock.

"A better question might be, who the hell was he?" Rollie asked.

"The Voice." Xander said absently as he leaned on a wall, thinking.

"The voice of what?"

Xander grabbed Paige from where she was sitting, and hustled her to the door. As they both rushed out a single word filtered back. "God."

"Whoa. Personal message from the big guy..." Cereal said in a hushed tone, "I think we just got called up from the minors guys..."

"Xander!" Paige said as he pushed her into the Charger and slid across the hood of the vehicle. "What the hell is going on?"

"Trouble." He said tersely, "Give me some time to work, I'll explain soon."

He picked up his phone and dialed a number, waiting impatiently for it to ring through. "Amanda? Xander. You have them? Good. No... Airport, Now. I'm leaving town.... L.A. Bye."

He hung up then dialed again, again shaking with impatience as he waited for the thing to ring through. "Kev, it's me... no, I've got big time trouble. I'm leaving town... Airport... I'm on my way now. Do you know a charter that has transports? A C-130 would do... yeah that's right... L.A. It's bad. Thanks man, I owe you."

He hung up and put the gas down, heading for the airport.

"What the he; is going on!?"

He sighed, still focusing on the road. "It's a long story..."

"I seem to have time."

He nodded, "It all starts in about 7 months..."

The Charger skidded to a halt on the tarmac of the strip that Herc had told him to head to, and Xander could see an ageing C-130 Hercules transport being taxied out of a hanger. He got out, noticing two people walk up to him.

"Amanda, Kevin..." He said by way of greeting.

"Xander," Herc said, "What's going on?"

"You know anything about a Hell Goddess by the name of Glorificus?"

Hercules paled slightly, "She hasn't found it has she?"

"Not yet..." Xander said, "But she's getting close."

"It's in LA!?" He boomed, "My God... I never knew...."

"Excuse me, Darlings... But what on earth are you talking about?" Amanda interjected.

"Did you bring them?" Xander asked her.

"Of course." She smiled, handing him a manila envelope.

He tapped it, sighing. "Thanks."

At Herc's raised eye he shrugged, "Nothing like an Immortal to know how to make the best ID's..."

Amanda stared at him, her face utterly shocked. Her mouth worked for a time, but nothing came out.

Herc suddenly laughed, "I knew that I'd seen you before! Paris in 1824, you robbed a party I was attending..."

Amanda paled, "But... but... how? You're not... I..."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Not everything on the planet is as it seems, Amanda. You know better then most. But I don't have time for this right now... I have to get to LA."

"How long do we have?" Herc asked.

"I don't know."

Herc nodded, "I'll take the Lear back as soon as shooting wraps... it won't be more then a day. I'll probably get there just after you."

"Thanks." Xander nodded.

"Hold on now," Amanda objected, "What's this all about?"

"Armageddon." Xander said, then hesitating. "And the life of a young girl who deserves better."

Amanda frowned, she knew more then a little about the dangers that existed in this world and wasn't one to take the word 'Armageddon' lightly. "Are you serious?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah. Hell God serious."

"He's not joking." Herc said, "I know who he's talking about... She's a flake, but she's ruthless."

Amanda closed her eyes, groaning. <God DAMN all boyscouts. I can NOT believe that I'm doing this.> "Could you use a hand?"

Xander looked at her in surprise, but nodded. "Yeah... Yeah, I'm sure we could."

"Then I'm in." She said, sighing. "Excuse me while I call Lucy..."

The Immortal thief walked off, leaving Herc and Xander alone. Herc shook Xander's hand, "Good luck. I'll be there right behind you."

Xander nodded, "Thanks."

"Oh, hey..." Herc said suddenly, "Before I forget... I meant to give this to you earlier..."

Xander accepted the card from the big guy, "What is it?"

"It's the address of a place called the Mixer... It's a little like Caritas I guess, but more... ummm... grown up?"


"It's a place where... well... you see..." Herc fumbled through his words, actually blushing. "People go to... get acquainted with other species."

Xander looked down at the card, "Ooohhh Kay. I'll remember that, if I ever feel the need to... 'get acquainted.'"

Herc growled, "It's not just that... the owner is an old friend of mine... he's in the same business as you... and he'd like to meet you."



"I'll keep it in mind," Xander said as he pocketed the card. "Thanks."

"No problem."

"Are we ready, Darling?" Amanda walked back, pocketing a cell phone.

Herc looked over at the plane, noticing the engines start up. "Yeah, looks like they're ready."

"Good." Xander said, "Come on, Amanda... let's move."

He led her to the Charger and held the seat forward for her. As she got in, she paused and glanced back. "Oh Kev, Darling?"


She tossed her keys to him, "Could I trouble you to take care of my car for me? Please?"

Herc shook his head, grinning. "Sure."

"Thanks ever so much, Darling."

She got into the car, and Xander flipped back the seat and slipped in behind the wheel. A moment later he was driving the vehicle up the ramp and into the big airplane.

"The only way to tell a vampire from your average teenager is to stake him and see if he dusts."
- Comment attributed to Jack Crow by Xander Harris in Year Zero - East Coast and Down


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