Year Zero

Fallen Angels

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

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

Summary: A convergence of forces in L.A. bring the world to the brink of the apocalypse, leaving only a small band of heroes to hold the line against the impending destruction.

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.

The low rumble of the big plane's engines was a constant background noise that soon faded to the back of their sensibilities as the C-130 headed west. Paige found herself still sitting in the front seat of the charger, staring out the windshield with unseeing eyes as she tried to process what Xander had just told her.

He had as much as admitted that it wasn't the whole story, but it was enough to send her mind spinning as she considered the implication.

<Time travel... The End of the world... Angels... God...> Paige shook her head, trying to understand it all. <I knew he was hiding things... but this much??>

Outside she could see Xander and his new 'friend' Amanda talking as they cleaned their weapons. Xander was methodically stripping and cleaning the pieces of his pistols, while Amanda was calmly sharpening a slim sword that she had drawn form somewhere that Paige didn't really want to think about.

<How can he handle this? An Angel from *heaven* just charged him with saving the whole damned universe! And he sits there cleaning his guns!?>

"Is she going to be alright?" Amanda asked, nodding back over her shoulder to the Charger.

Xander sighed, reassembling his Desert Eagle and racking the slide back. "I don't know for sure, but if she's got any of the strength of her family line in her, I'm sure that she'll be fine."

"What do you mean?"

Xander smiled, glancing back at where Paige was still sitting in the Charger. "You ever hear of the Charmed Ones?"

"They're a myth." Amanda said flatly. "I heard stories about them just after the Salem trials while I was helping a family of witches escape."

"They won't be a myth in a couple years." Xander said.

Amanda was silent for a moment, "What does that have to do with her?"

"Same bloodline. She's their sister."

Amanda fell silent again, "Does she know?"

Xander shrugged, "Yes and no."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"She knows about her sisters, but she doesn't know that they will be witches... and she doesn't know anything about the Charmed Ones yet."

"Don't you think you should tell her?"

Xander sighed, "I'm not sure how. You know she just learned about being a witch a couple months ago. Since then she's been attacked by demons, vampires, human crooks, an Elemental... and now she just found out that a Hell God is trying to destroy the planet..."

"Seem to me, and you can correct me if I'm wrong here," Amanda said, "that a little confidence boost might be just what the doctor ordered. Finding out that she comes from a line of powerful witches might be what she needs."

"Or it might put that extra bit of pressure on that's needed to break her." Xander said, disassembling one of his FiveSeven's with a fluid motion.

"Well, I don't know her as well as you do," Amanda said, "But I think that you might want to find out if she's the breaking type before you count on her to back you up against a Goddess."

He sighed, checking the firing pin of the weapon and brushing a spot of dirt from the ejection port. "You might be right about that, but I just don't know."

Amanda sighed, "The difference between a master's blade and a piece of scrap iron can be a single degree of heat in the forge. But are you trying to forge a blade... or are you trying to help a friend?"

Xander slid the last components back into the FiveSeven and locked it all into place. He slapped a clip into the weapon, and racked the slide. "Point taken. I'll be back in a bit."

Amanda nodded, and continued to slowly slide a whetstone along the edge of the four hundred year blade.

Paige looked over as Xander slid in the open drivers side window. "Hi."

"Hey." Xander said back to her, lowering his seat back to match hers. "How you doing?"

"Not so well." She said flatly.

"It's a lot to take in." He said softly, "More then I ever had to deal with at one time."

"You... You take it all in stride." She said, "Nothing phases you."

"Lots of things phase me, Paige." Xander admitted, "When I first learned about Vampires my best friend was killed and became one of them."

"I know. You said that you had to stake him."

"That's what I said," Xander replied, "But it wasn't as noble or as strong as you seem to think. He was talking to me from just a couple feet away, I was so terrified that I thought I was going to dirty my underwear. I mean... This was my best friend... My *brother* in all but blood... and he was talking about how great it was to be a vampire."

Paige swallowed, hearing the pain in Xander's voice as he talked.

"You know the worst thing? I think... I think..." Xander spoke haltingly, "That had things gone a little different, he could have talked me around to his side of things... then turned me or killed me at his leisure. That's when it happened..."


"There was a panic around us," Xander said, "People were running around trying to escape this massive attack that had come down on us... One of them ran into him... He stumbled forward and ran right into my stake."

Paige's breath hitched.

Xander laughed bitterly, "Can you imagine how much that galled me? My *BROTHER*, and he wasn't killed in some epic manner... he wasn't even taken out by a Slayer or someone who matter. He died because some yahoo wasn't looking where they were going and he was pushed on a stake. MY stake. It seemed... Ignominious."

Xander was silent for a moment before he spoke again, "And that was my introduction to the 'night life'. I spent the better part of the next three years running scared, oh I had my moments here and there, saved some lives, even saved the world, but for the most part I lived only because no one thought I was worth killing."

"Xander... I..." Paige tried to speak.

"I'm not done." He said firmly, "Paige, I know that the life I've involved you in is tough... I know how you're feeling... But I want you to know, you're up to this... if you really want it."

"I don't know." She said quietly.

"What? You don't know if your up to it? Or if you want it?"

"Either... both..."

Xander sighed, "Well... I can't help you with the second one, but I can tell you something that might help you with the first."


"You remember when I asked you about why you were watching the Halliwells?"

Paige nodded.

"You said they were family..." Xander hesitated, "I think that there is something you should know about your family... about your half sisters."

"How..?" Paige looked at him in shock.

Xander waived the question off, "Not important right now. What is important is this, Paige... Phoebe, Piper, and Prue are your sisters. They are of your blood, you are of theirs."

"What does that have to do with..."

"Your sisters are the Charmed Ones." Xander said, "They are destined to become the most powerful white witches on the planet... When you were born, you were tagged to be there if one of them should fall... You have the blood of one of the most powerful families of witchcraft ever known running in your veins."

Paige stared at him for a long moment and Xander thought that he'd lost her, that he'd loaded too much on her at once and broken her. He waited, his breathing tight, until she finally spoke again.

"H... how do you know all this?"

"Some of it I know because I've lived it." Xander said, "I knew the Charmed Ones before the hitch."

"Hitch!" Paige laughed suddenly, everything coming down on her at once. "Hitch!?"

Xander chuckled along with her, "What else am I going to call it? Like I said, I knew your Sisters... and if you've got their blood in your veins I'll trust my back to you anyday."

"Maybe you shouldn't." Paige said softly.

"Fine." Xander said suddenly, his voice growing a little harder. "Let's forget about your sisters. Let's talk about you."

Paige snapped around, to see him staring at her with an intense gaze that almost frightened her.

"You went up against an *Elemental* and came out on TOP. You cast an aversion spell after only a few weeks of training that was given to you by a magic *Illiterate*." Xander said earnestly, "You have more magical potential in you then any five witches out there. You're *powerful* Paige."

She shook her head, "Don't you understand? It's not the magic that I'm scared of... It's *me*!"

She waved her hands around, "I'm scared that *I'll* break! That I'll run when you need me... That I'll hurt you or an innocent person because *I* screwed up. We're not talking about saving a few people here and there from vampires or muggers anymore... An *ANGEL* came down from heaven and told you to save the Universe! I'm sorry, but I'm feeling a little out of my league here!"

Xander nodded, "I get that. Believe me, I get that. I guess what you have to ask yourself is, do you really think that your presence is going to endanger the world?"

She was silent.

Xander continued, "We might fail to save the world. We might die in the process... but the thing is that we'll BE there to try. If we go down, then so be it... Can you think of a better way to go?"

"Gee, you're making me feel so confident here."

Xander chuckled, "Don't get me wrong... I don't plan on dying. Everyone I care about is riding in this little boat with me, and I don't plan on letting them down."

"I just don't know how you can be so calm about it..."

"Calm?" Xander laughed, "I'm terrified. You don't understand what this mission means to me."

"Save the world? Duh. Seems pretty clear cut."

Xander shook his head, "The Key that we're going to stop the bad guys form using?"


"Is a little girl that I know very well..." Xander said, "Who doesn't know a thing about any of this... well, she knows about demons and vamps and such... but she doesn't know how important she is. She's innocent and she doesn't deserve what is going to happen to her. *That* is more important to me then a hundred universes. Saving the world is easy, but it's saving the people who live in it that makes the lifestyle worth it."

"A little girl?"

Xander nodded, his face serious. "Her name is Dawn... and if we don't save her then she'll either be killed by people who want to save the world but don't give a damn about the people, or she'll be killed by someone who wants to use her power to destroy everything she knows and loves. In the end, it's the people that matter."

Paige swallowed, nodding slowly. "I guess I forgot."

"We all do from time to time, Paige." Xander said, "That's why we need people around us who care."

The C-130 touched down relatively smoothly on the runway at LAX and quickly taxied to a prepared hanger that was awaiting them. As soon as the plane slowed to a stop the co-pilot slipped out and grinned at them.

"L.A., Last stop. Get yer Arses off my plane!"

Xander shook his head, "That's the last time I ask Kevin to set up a flight."

The co-pilot laughed and flipped a lever, causing the plane to rumble as the big rear doors slowly lowered. "I'll be sure to tell him that."

"Don't bother." Xander grinned, "I'll tell him myself in a couple days. Thanks for the lift."

"No problem. Good luck with whatever it is that you're up to." The guy grinned as Xander slid back behind the wheel of the car.

Xander flashed the man a wave as he heard the rear door touch dirt, and then backed the car carefully out of the plane. Once he was on the tarmac he followed the waved directions of one of the airport ground crew and drove off the tarmac.

"Los Angeles," Amanda mused as they headed for the city, "I haven't been here since that dreadful incident with Mr Kennedy..."

Xander and Paige turned to look at her oddly.

"What?" She asked, "A girl can't have a fling?"

Paige opened her mouth, but Xander shook his head. "Don't ask. You'll just be playing into her hand."

Paige shut her mouth and turned back, and Amanda folded her arms over her chest and frowned at Xander. "Spoilsport."

As they drove through L.A. Xander checked his watch and sighed.

"What?" Paige asked.

"School's out. We'll have to wait until tomorrow."

"Huh? Why?"

"Because I don't know where she lives." Xander replied.

"Who?" Amanda asked curiously.

"The little girl we have to protect."

"I thought you knew her?" Paige asked.

"I do, but she moved..." Xander answered, "So we have to wait."

The two women looked at each other, shrugging. "Ok. What now?"

"We find a place to stay... then I'm going to visit a friend or two." Xander replied.

Amanda smiled, "I know precisely the perfect place... Your treat of course?"

Xander groaned, "Why do I get the idea that this is going to cost me a fortune?"

"Because you've come to know me so very well in the short time since we've met." Amanda smiled.

Xander glanced around his room and had to admit that Amanda certainly knew how to pick them, of course for the price he was paying for the three rooms he probably could have put a down payment on his parents house.

The on thing they had managed to do that he did support fully was what he had made a habit of since he had begun traveling with Paige. They had gotten joined rooms, his was in the center with each of the women on either side. Considering how many times he and the people around him got attacked, Xander slept easier if the group could reach each other without having to stumbled through the hallways and possibly be intercepted by someone unfriendly.

Xander dropped his single duffel bag to the floor by his bed and shrugged out of his armored coat, feeling like he'd shed a thousand pounds instead of merely thirty. He stretched easily and glanced at himself in the mirror.

The reflection stared back at him, wearing black jeans that had seen too many hard days and too few washings, a skin tight black sweater that he had picked up from K-mart over two months ago, the shining Desert Eagle, and the shoulder harness that was snugly fitted with his twin FiveSevens.

He'd hardened a lot in the past few months, but he was still mostly indistinguishable from the gangly child that had woken up in a hospital all those weeks ago. Exercise or not, his body had yet to fill out to it's adult proportions and he looked like any other fifteen year old.

<Fifteen?> Xander paused, mentally reviewing the date. <Holy shit... I just turned twenty one... sort of.>

He blinked in surprise, even though he was accustomed to having his birthdays pass without anyone else noticing, this was the first time he'd ever forgotten. He let out a vaguely amused breath as he shrugged out of his shoulder holsters and stripped off his shirt.

"Well Happy birthday." He told his reflection, wrinkling up his nose at the thick smell of sweat coming from his shirt.


Xander spun around, seeing Amanda leaning against the door frame that led to her room and smirking at him.

He briefly considered asking if she knew how to knock, but decided that she'd just use it to get some jab in at his expense so he simply smiled, "Hi, can I help you?"

Amanda smiled right back and pushed off the door, walking in. "Perhaps. So, how old are you anyway?"

"Twenty One." He answered candidly, using his actual age rather then the age that was imposed on him by circumstance.

"Really?" She looked mildly amused.

"Really." He replied, his voice dead serious. "I told you, I'm older then I look."

"You'd have to be." She smirked at him, then slowly circled around him as he stood there.

Xander fought back the urge to blush as she checked him out without bothering to hide it in the slightest.

"Not bad," She finally commented, still smirking. "I can see that you're going to be tasty... if, that is, you ever get around to looking older then you really are."

Xander tried to think of a quick comeback, his mind spinning at full speed. Unfortunately it was spinning in place, mired in the fact that Amanda was a hell of a beautiful woman and her proximity was seriously screwing with Xander's mental capacities.

Amanda leaned in, sniffing daintily, "Of course... you do need to take better care of your personal hygiene."

That got his mind moving slightly, "That would be what I was about to do when you barged on in here... So, unless you'd like to join me?" He motioned to the door to her room.

She laughed, running her index finger lightly along his jaw before stepping back. "Perhaps some other time, Darling. I never shower with someone who actually needs to *wash*."

With that parting comment she vanished back into her own suite leaving Xander to ponder the benefits of a cold shower for the evening.

After washing up Xander stepped out of his bathroom, wearing nothing more then one of the hotel towels, only to find both Amanda and Paige waiting for him.

He stopped in mid step, grimacing as they both grinned at him from where they were sitting on the bed.

"See?" Amanda nudged Paige, "I told you he wouldn't be wearing much."

Paige grinned, "How'd you know?"

"Are you kidding?" Amanda asked, "He doesn't *own* much."

Xander shook his head, thanking Faith mentally for passing some of her casual attitude about nudity and sex over to him, then calmly walked over to his duffel bag and pulled out some clothes.

"You're not wearing that, are you?" Amanda demanded as he pulled out a faded pair of jeans and a wrinkled shirt.

"What's wrong with this?"

Both women looked at each other and rolled their eyes. "Men."

He sighed, tossing the offending clothing aside. "Fine. How about this?" He asked, holding up a black pair of jeans and a blue button up shirt.

Both women again rolled their eyes.

Xander sighed, and tossed those aside. He dug around and brought out the cheap black dress pants and jacket that he had bought for the party in New York.

"Please." Amanda said dryly, looking mildly disgusted.

Xander was about to toss those away as well when Paige let out a little giggle and something clicked in his head.

He grimaced ruefully as he straightened up, "You're just trying to keep me from getting dressed aren't you?"

Amanda lightly smacked Paige, "I told you to keep a straight face and we'd be able to run him through his entire wardrobe... and probably get him to mix and match for twenty minutes as well."

"Sorry." Paige said, still smothering her laughter.

Amanda sighed, "Oh well... he's drying off anyway."

She got up and headed for her room, letting her hand slide across Xander's chest as she passed him. "Not bad..." She repeated, "Not as good as Mac... but not bad."

Xander let out a shuddering sigh of frustration as she passed then growled at Paige, who quickly slid off the bed and headed back to her own room. Xander could hear her finally break out in full laughter as the door between their rooms closed.

<Maybe having connected rooms wasn't such a great idea after all.> Elan said in a laughing tone.

He growled at the bubbling laughter coming from Elanthielle, but silently went around to getting dressed and trying desperately to ignore the laughter coming from both sides and inside his head.


Xander finished buttoning up the maroon shirt he had selected and glanced at himself in the mirror, grimacing as he did. <All I need is a tie and I'd be a perfect ass.>

<No one is perfect.>

<Shut up Elan.>

Xander shook his head ruefully as he checked the time. About three hours to sundown, more then enough time to grab a bite and meet up with Andy. After that, he'd check in with Gunn and see how Lorne was doing.

First night into town, and he was already booked solid, Xander mused, it was going to be a long Hollywood night.

"Paige? Amanda?" He called, rapping first on one door, then the other.


"Yes, Darling?"

He rolled his eyes as they both opened the doors, "I'm heading out. You guys staying here?"

"And leave you alone in L.A.?" Amanda sniffed, "I think not. I'll get my coat."

Xander groaned, "Great. You, Paige?"

"Leave you alone with her?" Paige laughed, "I don't want to have to bail you out of prison."

"I heard that!" Amanda called form the next room, "And I'll have you know that I never get caught!"

"Never?" Xander asked.

"Well," She huffed lightly, "hardly ever."

"That's so comforting." Paige said mockingly.

Amanda slipped on her long trench coat, absently adjusting it so it hung loosely over her blade. "You try outrunning twenty eight police cars, three federal agents, and Elliot Ness and we'll see how far you get."

Paige watched as Amanda walked out the door and grabbed Xander before he could follow, "Do you *have* to hook up with every nutcase on the continent?"

Xander smiled at her, "Please, Amanda is as normal as you and I."

Paige nodded, then paused as Xander walked out. "Hey! Not funny!"

"Why are we here?" Amanda looked up at the rough face of the old building with some distaste.

"Friend of mine works out of here," Xander said, "Oh and keep your sword under your coat... He's a little touchy about his head."

Amanda looked at Xander sharply, just as the buzz washed over her. "This better be some friend."

Xander opened the door to the shop and found himself staring down the very thick barrel of an Atchisson shotgun. "He is."

Andrezj Konzaki let the barrel drop slightly as he grimaced at the young man. "Kid, you should know better then to walk in here unannounced. I almost shot you the first time."

Xander grinned and brushed past him, "Nice to see you too, Andy... These are Paige and Amanda... friends of mine."

Andy looked between them, scowling for a moment at Amanda who merely smiled semi-politely at him. "How do you do?"

"Fine." he said gruffly, shuffling back into his shop on his prosthetics.

Amanda watched him walk, her face dissolving into shock as it registered on her. "My God... What happened?"

"None of yer business." He muttered before turning to Xander. "What do you want kid?"

Xander shrugged. "Armageddon."

"Again!?" Andy grimaced. "What is it with you, Kid?"

Xander chuckled a bit, "I guess I'm God's whipping boy this time around."

"What is it this time? Demon?"


"You want to repeat that?" Andy asked in shock.

"Not especially." Xander grinned, "besides, you've got no legs... but last time I checked your ears were working fine."

"Wiseass little punk." Andy muttered, "What do you need?"

"Don't know yet." Xander replied, "This is just a courtesy call... let you know that L.A. is about to go south..."

"Gee thanks, kid." Andy scowled, "And here I am without a gift for you."

"I'll settle for a wish good luck and the latest shipment of the silvertips."

Andy snorted and pulled a large box from under his workbench and flipped off the lid, then he motioned to Xander. "That's the next batch. You running low already?"

Xander shook his head, "Not really... but I'm really not sure what to expect this time."

"Better armed then dead, huh?" Andy actually smiled for the first time since they had walked in.

"You know it." Xander muttered, checking the crate. He looked over the ammo, nodding until he notice some clips for the Desert Eagle that were taped with a red stripe. "What's this?"

Andy glanced over, "Oh, those. I was tinkering with those when I had a special job to work up, you remember you made an offhand comment about magnesium flares?"

Xander glanced down, "You made some?"

"Yep." Andy replied, "The magnesium is pretty light, so they don't penetrate too far..."

"Hope not." Xander said, checking the clips, "You don't want the bullet to go through the target."

"Exactly." Andy replied, "Anyway, I thought you might be able to use those."

Xander nodded, "I will... thanks."

Andy nodded, shuffling a little closer to Xander while tossing suspicious glances at Amanda. "You sure you know who your traveling with, kid?"

Xander smiled, "Yeah. I'd trust her with my life... and yours."

Andy scowled, "I don't like other people making that decision, kid."

"Relax Andy, she's not headhunting." Xander said, drawing another startled glance form the gunsmith. "Just don't leave any loose change lying around."

"Enough games kid, you got something to say, you say it now." Andy growled.

"Fine." Xander said, "I know that your Immortal, I know your history in Nam, and I know that you don't have a lot of trust for others of your kind."

Andy swallowed, "How...?"

"Not important." Xander waved the question off, "Just trust me, Amanda's ok."

Andy rolled his eyes, "Right. Says the guy who's walked in here with three different babes in the short time that I've known you... and none of them were exactly dogs you know."

Xander laughed, sensing that Andy was accepting him at his word. "Not my fault they all want to follow me around."

He could hear Paige growl all the way across the room, but as frightening as that was, it was Amanda calming her down by saying, "don't get mad... get even..." That really scared him.

Andy chuckled himself, "Yer living dangerous kid... not only by hanging around with them, but by saying stuff like that when they're in earshot..."

He let out a sigh, but tempered it with a mild grin. "Oh, they'll get even with me... but I'll make sure that the karma keeps coming back around."

Andy shook his head, and spoke in his gruff manner. "You need to have yer head checked kid."

"Andy," Xander said seriously, "I'm a demon hunter who hangs out with Immortals, Witches, and occasionally speaks to the voice of God... I pity the poor bastard who tries to psychoanalyze me."

Andy laughed, "You got that... wait a minute... did you say 'voice of god?'"

Xander crouched down and hefted the small but heavy box as he stood up. "Ask me another time, Andy... I might even tell you about it. For now I want to check in with Gunn and then I'm going to Caritas for a couple drinks."

Andy shook his head, blinking. "Sure... you do that kid... oh, and if you need any help against the Goddess... Call someone else."

Xander laughed and headed for the door, he paused and turned back to the women, "Are you two coming?"

Amanda looked at him archly, "Do we want to follow you around, don't you mean?"

Xander groaned, but his face was amused. "Well, if you like I could say 'heel'."

Amanda's face took on a resolute look as she scowled at him, "Oh you do NOT want to go there."

Xander grinned, unrepentant. "Probably not, but at least I don't break into your room while you're taking a shower in the hopes of getting a floor show."

Both of them looked at him in shock, then glanced quickly at Andy. Paige blushed, but Amanda just got a little more determined. Xander knew he was going to pay for the comment, but he had to keep the board even and by his count he had definitely just evened out the score.

Andrezj Konzaki watched, his face passive until all three were gone and the door shut behind them. Then he broke out into a wide grin, guffawing as he shook his head. "That was better then TV. Kid knows how to pick the ladies... but if he's not careful they'll probably dump him in an alley by nightfall."

"How could you!?" Paige smacked him on the shoulder as he put the case in the trunk of the car.

"How could I what?"

"Embarrass me like that!" She was still flushed red as she scowled at him.

"Collateral damage." Xander said, unrepentant.


"What he means," Amanda said, "Was that he was getting back at me for earlier... you just got caught in the crossfire. And don't think I'll be letting this go, young man."

Xander grinned at Amanda and slammed down the trunk, "I know you won't... You wouldn't be you if you did."

Amanda looked at him oddly, but didn't reply as they walked around to the front of the car.

"I wouldn't worry about it, Paige," Xander grinned, "Andy's a war vet... that story didn't even qualify as hiccup on his embarrassing stories meter."

"That's not very comforting, Xander." Paige growled over the roof of the car as she opened the door and slipped into the back seat, leaving the front seat for Amanda.

Xander shrugged, getting in behind the wheel, "Wasn't meant to be."

"Would you two give it a rest," Amanda said, rolling her eyes, "God, I get enough of this bickering between Mac and Richie..."

"Who?" Xander asked.

Amanda shrugged, "Two friends... Ma..."

"MacLeod," Xander finished, "I know about him... Who's Richie?"

"Mac's student."

"Oh..." Xander said, "Huh... never heard of him."

"Well, he is new." Amanda said, "Anyway... where are we going now?"

"Going to see if we can't find another friend," Xander said as he started the engine. "Then we'll hit a club."

Amanda smiled, "Good, I do so love the nightlife here in L.A."

Xander burst out laughing as he pulled out on to the street.

"What?" Amanda asked.

Xander shook his head, "Nothing."


Charles Gunn cricked his neck as he smiled at his sister, Alonna, before looking back to his sparring partner. "Come on Frankie boy... let's see what you've got."

Franklin Simms sneered lightly at him and lunged at him, kicking out with a forward snap kick.

Gunn sidestepped, and extended his right arm into a clothesline move that caught Simms in the chest and put him flat on his back. Gunn chuckled lightly and extended a hand to his fallen opponent. "You keep falling for that, man."

Simms growled a little, but nodded. "Sorry, boss."

"No problem," Gunn said, "We'll work it out."

A low clapping sound caught all their attentions, causing Gunn and Simms to spin around.

"Nice moves, Gunn." Xander said from where he was standing, clapping slowly and calmly. "You've been taking lessons."

"How the hell did you get in here?" Gunn demanded as he stalked up to Xander, taking note of the two women on either side of the young man.

"Picked the lock." Xander candidly, "You should really be careful about that you know... this is a rough neighborhood."

Gunn growled for a moment as he glared at Xander, but finally broke down and grinned. He reached out and clasped Xander's hand as he laughed, "How the hell have you been, man?"

"No complaints..." Xander said, then he grinned. "None worth taking up your time with anyway. You?"

Gunn sighed a little, "We lost Jose a few weeks ago... couple other guys too, but we're holding our own."

Xander shook his head, "Damn man, I'm sorry to hear that."

Gunn nodded for a moment, "Come on, I want to introduce you to someone."

Xander nodded his assent, but gestured behind him. "First, Charles Gunn, this is Paige Mathews and Amanda."

Gunn nodded at them, "Good to meet you."


"Yeah... hi."

"Come on," Gunn motioned, "You've already come in, so I guess I don't have to worry about you being vamps."

The chuckled a little and followed Gunn into the wide open room that was serving as a makeshift Dojo. Gunn led them to a group of people on the other side who were just now putting away their weapons. Xander noted several micro and full size UZI's as well as various handguns in the hands of the group. He hoped they were semi-competent with the weapons.

"Xander, this is my Sister, Alonna." Gunn said, "Alonna, Xander and his friends, Paige and Amanda."

"Nice to meet you all," Alonna smiled from where she was standing.

"You as well," Xander replied, looking absently around the Dojo. "You've done a lot of work here."

Gunn nodded, "Well, I decided you had a point about training. We managed to get a couple recruits who had some skills in Tae Kwan Doe and Ju Jitso... These two over here,"

Xander followed Gunn toward a couple other members of his crew.

"Pedro Vasquez," Gunn said, "and Joseph Cardle. They're both black belts..."

Xander nodded to the two guys, who nodded back.

"Pedro ran with a gang until the vamps decided they wanted the gang to run with them. He was the only one to get out alive." Gunn said, patting Pedro on the shoulder as the young man's face tightened up. "Joe's story is pretty much the same... right down to the group of vamps that killed his crew. Only difference is that up until that night, he and Pedro had tried to kill each other at least a dozen times."

Joseph, a big black kid, just nodded impassively.

"We found them ripping three vampires apart with their bare hands," Gunn said with a slight smile at the memory. "The fucking vamps wouldn't stay down, but these two didn't stop."

Neither of the individuals in question said anything, they just stood there impassively. Joe was almost at attention, while Pedro had a lazy sort of stance that Xander could easily tell was as phony as Gunn's membership in the KKK. Both of them were ready to fight and kill even as they stood there.

"They don't say much." Gunn said, "But they are a couple of the best fighters I've ever seen, and they're good at teaching my crew to fight vamps."

Xander noted that the praise meant something to both of them, even if it only kindled a slight flicker in their eyes. He guessed it had something more to do with Gunn being the one giving it then the praise itself though. "It's good to meet you."

Neither responded with more then a nod, and Xander left it at that. He turned back to Gunn after glancing around the room and its occupants. "Good crew."

"They are." Gunn said, then grinned. "So... you want to try me on the mats again? I've gotten better."

Xander looked at him and chuckled, "So have I."

"Well come on then, boy." Gunn grinned at him, "Show me what you got."

Xander nodded, still smiling. "Ok... come on, then."

"Aren't you going to take off your coat?"

"Nah." Xander said.

Gunn shook his head, "Ok..."

Gunn took up an offensive stance that Xander recognized as textbook Tae Kwan Doe, so he smiled and slipped into a Kani'Maro stance that would counter the style.

When Gunn lunged at him, Xander bent slightly out of the way and let the kick flash past him. He smirked, but didn't counter, which seemed to annoy Gunn to no end. The black youth attacked again, this time punching with two fast jabs that Xander twisted away from without actually moving his feet.

Gunn growled and lunged for him, intending to grab Xander since he couldn't seem to hit him.

This time Xander had to move, so he jumped straight up, planting one hand on Gunn's shoulder as the young man swept by and catapulted himself over the lunging figure. He did a neat flip and landed squarely in the place he had been standing a few seconds earlier.

Gunn, on the other hand, hit the ground in a skid that brought him right up to his sisters feet.

"Well, well, well," Alonna smiled down at him, "The great Charles Gunn... taken down without even so much as a punch... I like this guy already."

Gunn growled, but was trying to keep from smiling up at Alonna. She was the only one who talked to him like that, and truthfully he appreciated it. Where everyone else looked to him for strength, Alonna looked to him for love. Without her, Gunn sometimes wondered what he'd do. He rolled over onto his back and slowly got to his feet. "What the hell was that?"

Xander was looked at him with amusement, "You can beat what you can't hit."

Gunn rolled his eyes. "How long do you really think you could keep that up?"

Xander grinned and shrugged, unbuttoning his coat. "Oh I don't know..."

He shrugged out of his coat and tossed it to Gunn, who caught it on reflex and almost instantly dropped it to the floor where it made an audible thunk. "Jesus Christ! How heavy is this thing?"

Xander grinned, "About thirty pounds."

"Jesus." Gunn muttered as he picked it up and hefted the heavy coat. "Why the hell do you wear this thing?"

"Armor." Xander answered walked over to him, "It's pretty effective against bullets."

"Bullets? Vamps don't use bullets!"

Xander turned to look at Simms and shrugged, "Not often, but I don't always go up against Vamps."

Gunn handed him the coat back, "I can't believe you went all Jackie Chan on me while wearing an extra thirty pounds."

"I told you I got better." Xander grinned.

Gunn chuckled finally, "Yeah... you did. One of these day's your gonna have to tell me where you learned that shit."

"One of these days."

Simms had had enough of the buddy buddy stuff by this point and rolled his eyes, "C'mon Gunn.. We've got to get ready for patrol... and we don't need no help from the boy wonder."

Amanda looked archly at him, bristling slightly at the tone of his voice. "Well, the Neanderthal can talk... imagine that."

"Hey bitch!" Simms growled, taking a step toward her. "You can't talk to me like th... urk."

He suddenly stopped in midstep as a gleaming blade appeared at his throat. Simms blinked, <Where the hell did she pull THAT from??>

Amanda leaned closer, letting the blade dig in a little as Simms started to back away. "I'll talk to you in anyway I want you annoying *child*."

Around them the members of Gunn's crew went for the guns the instant they saw Simms in trouble. Xander got in the way fast, his hands held up. "Whoa! Whoa! No problem here..."

"Of course not." Amanda said primly, her sword vanishing as mysteriously as it had appeared. "I was just reminding my little friend here that manners *do* have a place in society."

"Alright, everyone put your guns down." Gunn ordered, scowling at Xander. "You have the weirdest friends, you know that Xan?"

Xander shrugged, "What do expect? It's not like your crew is a bunch of Harvard graduates, you know."

"I went to Harvard." Amanda said, frowning.

Xander looked back at her, his face unbelieving.

"What?" Amanda asked, her expression hurt, "There were plenty of... opportunities there."

Xander pursed his lips, holding back a laugh. "I can imagine what kind of opportunities you were looking for."

Amanda smiled, but didn't reply.

Gunn looked at her oddly. "Ok..."

He shook his head and turned back to Xander, "What are you up to tonight?"

Xander shrugged, "I'm going to hit Caritas, then grab some sleep. Something big is going down here in L.A. pretty soon."

Gunn groaned, "How big?"

"Boom." Was all that Xander said.

Gunn groaned again, "I should have known."

"Well, that was interesting." Amanda said lightly as they walked out of Gunn's place.

Xander rolled his eyes, "You didn't have to pull the sword on Simms."

"Please, Darling." She waved him off as he opened the door for her and Paige, "I know his type, you have to come on strong to earn his respect."

Xander snorted, "Come on strong? Amanda, you went for his jugular with a sword!"

"Like you wouldn't have done the same thing." Amanda sniffed as she slipped into the car after Paige.

Xander shut the door behind her and walked around the car, shaking his head. He got into the drivers side and looked at her for a moment before starting the car. "I don't have that short a fuse."

"Well neither do I," Amanda said, "He's still breathing isn't he?"

"Too bad."

Amanda and Xander looked back at Paige in surprise.

"What? He was checking me out." Paige said defensively, "I feel like I need a shower."

Xander shook his head and pulled away from the curb while Amanda chuckled. "Oh I do like you, Paige."

Paige rolled her eyes, "Like I care."

Amanda glanced up at the mirror, catching a slight smile on the younger woman's face as she spoke and smiled herself. <So much like me at the same age... cleaner and better behaved of course, but she does have potential.>

Xander meanwhile was negotiating traffic as he headed for Caritas, trying not to think too hard about what Amanda might do to or with Paige in the near future.

"An empty lot?" Amanda sighed, "I thought we were going to a club...."

Xander smiled, glancing sideways at Paige. "Can you see it?"

"See what?" Amanda asked

She shook her head, her face tight. "Sorry."

"See what??"

"It's alright," Xander said, putting his hand behind Paige's shoulders.

"Hello?" Amanda waved her hand in front of them, "Am I still here? See what?"

Xander hooked her arm in hers, smiling, and tugged her along over the threshold of the club. "Caritas."

"Cari-what?" She asked, then her jaw dropped as she saw a teeming bar materialize around her. "Oh Jesus...."

Xander led them both to a booth that was free and they sat down. He glanced at Paige, who was staring in shock at the stage. "What?"

"You weren't kidding..."


"Kareoke demons..." Paige muttered in shock, "You were serious."

Xander shrugged, "This guy isn't bad."

In fact the demon one stage, a Tanathian with two sets of vocal chords, was doing a hell of a job on Bryan Adams 'Everything I do'.

Xander glanced to one side and noticed that Amanda had a vaguely ill look on her face. "What's wrong?"

"You could have warned me that we were going to a demon bar."

"Why? What's up?"

Amanda winced, swallowing as she did. "There are several Vampires here, and a few demons of their ilk. They make me nauseous."

"Huh? Why?" Xander asked in surprise.

Amanda shrugged, "Immortals and Demons... well, some demons at any rate, don't mix."

Seeing Xander's confusion, Amanda continued. "Most Immortals don't even know that demons exist... mostly because we avoid them almost as much as they avoid us. Look around."

Xander glanced around the club, noticing that several vampires were edging away from where they were. <Is it me... or something else?>

Amanda shrugged, "Vampires especially don't like us..."


"Blood." Amanda said simply, "Immortal blood is like holy water to them... gives heartburn a whole new meaning. They stay well clear of us, we do the same for them."

Xander shook his head, "Wow."

Amanda smirked at him, her eyes twinkling even through her discomfort. "So, I've managed to surprise you with something after all... How nice."

"Baby face! Bubula!"

Xander looked up to see Lorne coming his way with a tray of glasses in one hand and a bottle of scotch in the other. "Hey Lorne, How's it going?"

Lorne took an empty seat, smiling all around. "Great, fantastic, superb..."

"Baby face?" Amanda and Paige looked at Xander as they spoke together.

Xander groaned.

The two women grinned at each other, a light flashing in their eyes as they registered the term for future use.

Lorne beamed at Paige, "Hello dumpling, I don't think I've ever seen you in here before..."

Paige nodded hesitantly, "No... I'm new here..."

"And you..." Lorne trailed off as he looked closer at Amanda, "My oh my... we don't get your kind in here usually..."

"I wonder why?" Amanda asked, looking at a table of vampires across the room.

Lorne glanced over his shoulder to where she was staring, "Yes... I see, well, if it makes you feel any better, they don't like you either."

Amanda forced a smile, "It does a little."

Lorne nodded, smiling, as he poured drinks all around the table. "I'm glad for you, peach pit." Then he turned back to Xander, "So what brings you back to my little gin joint?"

Xander accepted a glass from Lorne, taking a sip before speaking seriously. "Glorificus."

Lorne looked shocked, then slammed back his drink. "I can't help you."

Xander pegged Lorne with a stare, "Talk to me, Lorne. I'm not going anywhere until you do. What have you got?"

Lorne looked around nervously, "This isn't a safe place or topic, sweet cheeks."

"I need to know. This is personal." Xander said, speaking softly.

"In this place the walls don't need ears, Bubula." Lorne said, shying around the topic, "Most of the people in here have better then average hearing you know..."

"We can talk here, or anywhere you want Lorne." Xander said, "But we *are* going to talk."

Lorne sighed, "Look, I can't tell you much anyway... Her Gloriousness isn't the type to frequent a place like this, the most we'd ever get is one of her underlings..."


Lorne curled up his lip a bit, "Horrid little things, they really are rather hard on the eyes... One of them came in about a week ago..."


"He was pumping the crowd for information, looking for someone who stole this thing he called the 'key'."

"Stole?" Xander asked, concerned.

"Apparently someone stole this mystic key from some monk... no one knows how they did it," Lorne confided, "The monks just woke up one morning and it was gone... like magic."

Xander sighed, nodding. "What else?"

Lorne shrugged, "Nothing. No one had a clue. That's all I know about her... but..."

"But?" Xander asked sharply.

"I *might* know something that could help you..." Lorne said, uncertain.

"Tell me."

"The monks are in town, and they've been followed by a group of fanatical bozo's calling themselves the Knights of..."

"Byzantium." Xander finished, "I know about them."

"You also know where they're basing themselves?" Lorne asked, mildly annoyed.

"You know where they're working from?" Xander sat up straight.

Lorne nodded, "Something like that. They've been seen down by the docks... I mean, seen a lot... and in numbers. Listen, kiddo..."

Xander locked eyes with Lorne, "What is it?"

"The Monks are the key to the key, so to speak..." Lorne said, "They're the only ones who know the magics to track it... Glory can only find it if it's in its natural form, but if it was then she's already be there. That means that the Knights and Glory's minions are following the monks."

Xander looked down, "Who will lead them both right to what they're looking for."

Lorne looked glum, "You got it, baby face. The monks aren't exactly Nobel prize winners, they are bringing all kinds of hurt down on their own heads."

"And on ours," Xander said, frowning, "because there's more then enough hurt to go around."

"Ain't that always the truth?" Lorne asked philosophically.

Xander left Caritas with Paige and Amanda in tow, when they were all safely in the Charger, Xander looked over at Amanda and frowned. "Vampires and Immortals really don't like each other?"

Amanda shrugged, "It's not a conscious thing... Most Immortals and Vampires don't know the other exists. We exist in parallel worlds that rarely cross, close but always apart. We can feel their... stench... and usually shy away from areas that are heavily populated by vampires... They can do the same with us, but it's not a choice we make."

"You just don't like the smell?" Xander asked with a grin.

"Something like that." Amanda smiled in response.

Xander shook his head and started the car. "Very nice to know... say, how'd you find out about vampires in that case?"

As they drove through the streets of L.A. Amanda related her story.

St Anne, 864 AD

The streets of the small city were dirty, as was the norm. Amanda ran through the crowded avenues without really noticing the grime that was clinging to her. Truth be told she was dirtier then the worst offal that was to be found even in this depressed part of the city. The fourteen year old girl scowled at those she passed, daring them with her eyes to block her path as she rushed hurriedly along.

"Stop! Thief!"

She doubled her pace, pushing her way through the crowd as the city guards behind her picked up their own pursuit.

"Move! Move!" She cried as she ran, ducking around a corner and slipping into a tiny slip of a crack between two of the stonework buildings.

"Get her!"

Amanda let out a yelp of fear for an instant as an armored hand grabbed at her shoulder, but then she managed to slip clear.

"Damn! I lost the little brat!"

Amanda threw the grasping guard an ugly look, but didn't respond out loud as she turned and continued to run.

"Brat..." She whispered, tears streaking down her face. "One day I'll make you eat those words you old son of a...."

Whatever the young street urchin was going to say came to a halt as she ran full tilt into a tall man and was thrown back. She looked up at his stern bearded face and instantly turned on her 'poor lost little girl' act.

"Oh! Please Sir! Won't you help me? I'm being chased..."

The man smiled wide, "Yes... I can see that. Aren't they wearing the livery of the Count?"

Amanda glanced back, fearful that they had found a way to get to her, but the guards weren't in sight. "How di..." She gasped in surprise, then immediately changed to an indignant tone. "No, of course they aren't!"

"I see." The man smiled, his eyes twinkling. "I must have been mistaken then."

"Yes. You must."

"Well, in that case I guess that I had better help you out child," The man nodded to an old building behind him. "Go in there, child. I'll send them along."

Amanda shook for a moment, but upon hearing the approaching guards she bolted for the old building. She had just ducked inside and was pressed up against the wall under an open window, panting heavily as she heard the light rattle of the mail armor the guards wore.

"Hey! You!"

Then the old man's voice, still calmly unobtrusive, "Me?"

"Yeah, old man! Did you see a little piece of gutter trash run through here."

Amanda scowled from where she hid, cursing the guard with every insult her 'gutter trash' mind could come up with. <Who does he think he is? Calling me Gutter Trash!? I'll show him... I'll show them all.>

"A little urchin, you mean?" The old man asked, "a little slip of a child... Is that the fearsome culprit you four are chasing?"

"Watch your tongue old man." One of them snarled, "Lest you wake up on the morrow with it missing."

"Now now, there's no reason to get hostile... I did see a child come through here... she ran right into me, in fact."

<No no no!> Amanda panted hard, her heart racing as she looked for another way out of the building. <That old bastard trapped me!>

"Where'd she go!?"

Amanda waited, her breath baited, for the old man to speak again.

"She ran off that way..." She heard him say, "Around the corner as fast as her little legs would carry her."

"After the little brat men!"

Amanda heard the men run off and her breathing slowed and she slumped down to the floor and let out a long sigh. She missed the approach of the old man.

"So, child, what was it you stole?"

His quiet voice startled her almost back to her feet, but she saw black spots flash before her eyes and crumpled to the ground. She never felt the surprisingly strong grip of the old man as he moved like lightning and caught her before she hit the old floor.

L.A. '95

Xander pulled the car into the parking garage and turned off the engine as Amanda paused in her story. In the backseat, Paige was sitting in mute shock.

"Are you alright, Darling?" Amanda smiled at her, "you look a little pale."

She shook her head, "When you said... Immortal, I didn't think you meant... well... Immortal."

Amanda grinned at her, "What, pray tell, did you think I meant?"

Paige didn't reply and Amanda sighed, "Come on, let's go up to our rooms. I'm tired."

"You aren't going to finish the story?" Paige asked, finding her voice in her rage.

"But I'm so tired..."

Paige growled and Amanda relented with a smile, "In Xander's room, I'll meet you in a few minutes, I have an absolute *need* for a drink."

Xander and Paige were waiting a few minutes later when Amanda appeared, wearing a rather expensive looking robe that Xander had the sinking feeling she had charged to her room. She had an ice bucket filled with Champagne and crushed ice under one arm and three long stemmed glasses in the other.

The Immortal thief smiled at them and walked across the expensive suite toward the beautiful view she had insisted then get. She flipped a switch on the wall and smiled to herself as she looked out over the city lights.

"L.A." She sighed, "I remember when Paris was the city of lights... now a days, pretty much any half hitched burg could make the claim..."

"So what happened?" Paige asked.

"Electricity." Amanda said simply.

"Not *that*!" Paige snapped, "The story!"

"Oh," Amanda said dismissively, "that..."

Xander smiled as he watched the Immortal bait and taunt Paige, but didn't comment for himself. He knew that Amanda would tell the story in her own good time and be damned to anyone who tried to rush her.

Amanda smiled at the young witch and set down the ice bucket, shucking her rob in a smooth motion. Paige's jaw dropped and even Xander blinked as Amanda once again picked up the bucket and walked past her, wearing only a very sheer black bikini.

"What are you doing!?"

"You don't think I'm going to sit up all night and talk do you?" Amanda asked, "I'll tell my story, but I feel like a nice soak and I can think of nothing better then some ice cold champagne and a bubbling hot tub."

Xander shrugged, "I'm game."

"Of course you are." Amanda smiled, "I got you some lovely trunks... they're in the bag by the door... oh, and there is something for Paige as well."

Xander fetched the bag and look in it. Wordlessly he winced and handed the bag over to Paige.

She glanced in and gasped. "Where's the rest of it?"

Xander pursed his lips. "That's all of them."

"Them!?" Paige asked, "You mean that's for the *two* of us??"

Xander reached in an pulled out a slip of dark green cloth and nodded. "I *think* this is mine..."

"I am NOT wearing this!" Paige said as she drew out the two slips of light peach fabric."

"Well, then..." Amanda smiled, "I guess I don't have a story to tell tonight... goodnight all."

Xander smirked, "Oh, I'm still in. This is one story I would love to hear."

"Well then, do hurry up and change, darling." Amanda grinned as she strode toward the hot tub.

Xander appeared a few moments later, studiously focusing his energies to prevent his entire body from blushing as Amanda stared unabashedly at him as he walked over and slid into the tub.

"*Very* nice." She told him, her voice approving.

"Thanks." He said dryly. "The story?"

"Ah ah..." She smiled, "Paige."

"You really think that she's going to..." Xander trailed off as Amanda smiled over his shoulder. He looked over his shoulder and his jaw dropped, almost hitting the edge of the tub, as he caught sight of Paige coming hesitantly forward in her new peach bikini.

"Wow." He managed.

"Wow, indeed." Amanda smiled, patting the water over the tubs third seat lightly, "Come, come... you have no idea how good this feels after a tense day."

Paige walked over, frowning, but dutifully slid into the water at the indicated space. Her expression shifted in an instant to one of sublime pleasure as the heat soaked into her skin. "Ahhhhh..... God..."

"I told you." Amanda smiled as she watched Paige slide deeper down, until her chin was touching the surface of the foaming water. "Now... where was I?"

Paige's eyes snapped open, "You blacked out...."

"Oh yes..." Amanda smiled, "Well you see, it was some time before I woke and when I did...."

St Ann, 864 A.D.

The world swam back into view, bringing pain and pleasure with it.

Pain because Amanda's head was pounding with every beat of her heart, driving spikes of surging pain through her skull.

Pleasure because she could smell the wonderful aroma of a meal on the stove, an odor that Amanda had not smelt in recent memory.

"Ah, you're awake." The old man she recognized from earlier walked up to her, "Here. Eat."

The food smelled so good that the young waif didn't even take umbrage at the tone of command the older man had used. She simply tore into the bowel of stew with gusto. The old man just smiled at her until she finished off the bowel and wiped her face with the back of her hand. He accepted the empty bowel and then gave her his own and watched as she polished off the second helping.

Finally sated, she again wiped her mouth clean with the back of her hand and stared at him, her expression a little defiant. "Who are you? Whaddya want?"

The man smiled at her, admiring the spirit in the young girl, but his eyes were sad. "My name is Merrik... and I've been looking for you."

Merrick watched as the young girl stared at him with defiantly sparkling eyes. He could see the intelligence in this one and had high hopes that she might be up to the task, unlike all the others.

"Watcha talkin bout?" She demanded, her accent harsh against his ears.

"What I *am* talking about is your destiny child." Merrick said, his tone mildly reproving as he corrected her speech as well as answered her question.

"Right." She put the bowel down and stood up, "I'll just go outside and check on that then..."

As she edged towards the door, Merrick sighed. <It always comes to this.> He casually reached into his pocket and drew out his old dagger, then he casually flung it at the young girl's head.

Amanda, long experienced with dodging the local guards, moved the instant she saw his arm flicker and barely ducked under the flying blade as she screamed in terror. The razor sharp dagger slid through the air where her head had been the barest fraction of an instant earlier and she felt a sharp pain along her scalp.

As she struck the ground her hand flew up to her head and came away sticky red as she looked at it in shock.

"Good god!" Merrick shouted in shock, "You were supposed to catch it!"

A red fury blanketed Amanda's senses as she glared at the old man. "Catch IT!? You *threw* a knife at my head!"

"Yes, well... you see I was..."

"You. THREW. A KNIFE. AT MY. HEAD!" she gritted out, her fury still reigning as the old man seemed to falter is his own defense.

"You see I was merely attempting to expose your..."

"My WHAT!?" She screamed as she climbed to her feet, "My blood?? The inner workings of my 'ead!? What the 'ell did you think??"

Merrick blinked in shock, "I.... I don't know..."

"You don't know!?" Amanda grabbed the knife from the wall and held it up menacingly, "'Ow about I see if you like having this bloody thing thrown at *your* head!?"

Merrick put his hands up, "Now now... calm down, I meant no harm..."

That was the last straw. Fury blinded her, and before Amanda knew it she had thrown the heavy dagger. It spun threw there air and struck Merrick square between the eyes, hilt first, and the old man crumpled to the ground in a heap.

Amanda gasped, her anger melting away instantly. "Oh God... I killed him."

L.A. '95

"You killed him!?" Paige broke in, her face shocked.

"Well no..." Amanda admitted, "The dagger just knocked him out... but he was very lucky."

Xander was laughing so hard the water was splashing all around him.

"What's so funny?" Paige demanded, "She almost killed a man."

Xander tried to get his breath under control, "I'm sorry... but I recognize the 'technique'... He was a watcher wasn't he?"

Amanda nodded, smiling. "Yes. The old fool was looking for a Slayer in the same area and because I was a Pre-Immortal he mistook my 'aura' for hers."

Xander was roaring.

"Oh god..." He wiped tears away from his eyes, "I'd love to have seen a Watcher... ANY watcher's face when their precious Slayer got so angry that she decided to skewer them with their own test!"

"I still don't see how any of this is funny..."

Amanda reached over and gently patted Paige's shoulder, "That's because you've never had the displeasure of meeting an average Watcher... They can be terrible boors."

By this point Xander was laughing so hard he slipped off his seat and slid under the bubbling water. His limbs flailed around and muffled sounds came from under water as he tried to get his bearings, and after a moment he popped back up and looked at the two of them with a sheepish look. "Sorry."

The two women looked at each other, a slight smile passing between them, and they both reached out and pushed his head firmly under water again. Xander sputtered and snorted under the water for a moment, then he reached out and grabbed one silken smooth leg in a firm grip and pulled.

Amanda yelped in surprise as she was pulled completely under water in one swift motion leaving, for the instant, Paige alone above the surface of the bubbling water. The young witch took quick stock of the situation and scrambled out of the tub without a glance back. From a safe distance she looked back to see both Xander and Amanda surface.

"You impudent little... scut!" Amanda coughed out as she looked over at the smirking face that was only a few inches from her own.

Xander, for his part, was cheerfully smirking at the Immortal thief. "Serves you right."

"Why you little..." Amanda growled, then grabbed his head with both hands and dunked him again.

Xander flailed about underwater for a moment, his arms splashing about as he struggled against the surprisingly strong grip of the slim Immortal. Finally his hands vanished under the water and Amanda suddenly let out a shocked yelp as she jumped back.

Xander popped up, grinning despite the fact that he was gasping for air. His right hand came up, holding a slim piece of fabric. "Lose something?"

"Give that back!" Amanda lunged for her bikini top, but Xander slid back, still grinning.

"Make me."

Amanda glared at him for a moment before smirking at him and simply standing up. "Keep it. I charged it to your room anyway."

Xander's jaw dropped as the half naked Immortal thief simply walked out of the tub and slowly, tauntingly, slid her robe back on.

"We'll finish the story another time," She said with a wide smile in his direction. "I really am tired and we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

Paige and Xander stared at her in shock as she walked out to the door that connected it to her room. As the door clicked shut Xander slid back against the seat of the tub and stared after Amanda with an admiring smile on his face. "Have to respect anyone who can turn the tables so effectively."

Paige stared at him in shock, her mouth working but no sound coming out.

Xander casually slipped the bikini top around his finger as he considered it, shaking his head. He sighed, "She's right. We've got a long day tomorrow, Paige... I think it's time to call it a night."

"Ummm... yeah... right." Paige muttered, watching as Xander climbed out of the tub and stretched briefly. He wasn't exactly a body builder but she could see the changes that had worked in him over the last couple months, his muscles were tight and his body was quickly shaping up to being a very fit one indeed.

She suddenly forced her gaze away, blushing as she quickly headed out of the room in an attempt to mask the fact that she'd been checking him out. "Night."

Xander, for his part, had completely missed the actions of his partner/student and walked toward his bedroom, grabbing a towel on his way. He got himself ready for sleep and crawled into bed, flipping the lights off as images of Paige in a bikini and Amanda is somewhat less replayed themselves over and over again in front of his eyes.

And He dreamed.

Xander looked around the dreamtime, examining the well crafted world with approval. It still had it's rough points here and there, of course.

Here he could see a deep rent in the earth that brought memories of glistening black carapaces and acid blood. There he saw a dull red stain in the sky that held hellish memories of fighting a losing war against an infinite army of demons intent on his soul.

But other places held an unparalleled beauty.

Here was a grove of such pure glory of nature that he felt tears well up to look at it, but he couldn't take his eyes away as a fiery mist sat atop the wavering image of his Willow. There was a obelisk of solid stone that steadfastly provided him with strength simply by glancing in its direction, and Xander smiled as the rock suddenly shifted slightly until it seemed to be covered in tweed. The most powerful symbol around him was a statue on a high pedestal, carved from the hardest marble it rose dozens of feet into the air and look protectively over everything else. A woman warrior, with a gleaming sword in one hand and an intricately carved wooden stake in the other. Even from far below Xander could see the green glint of emeralds that were her eyes and he felt them turn on him and a feeling of safety surround and permeate him.

"She's very beautiful."

Xander smiled, glancing back at Elan as she walked up to him. "So are you."

The ancient warrior smiled back at him, "Thank you, Alexander. But that isn't exactly what I meant."


Elan shook her head, but didn't expand on her statement. "You are perhaps more balanced now then you have ever been, Alexander."

Xander nodded slowly, "I know... I can feel it."

"As you should." She replied simply. "Your mental skill is at it's highest point ever."

"But physically?"

"As good as can be expected." She shrugged, "Perhaps better then you deserve..."

Xander looked at her oddly, "What's that supposed to mean."

"You're frustrated, Alexander." She said, "can't you feel it?"

Xander looked around, frowning. "I..."

He paused. She was right, there was something not quite right in the air, a slight buzz that was harsh against the overall pleasant feel of his dreamscape. "What is it? Glory?"

"No." Elan said, "She is a problem for another time. You are far from ready to deal with a Goddess... even one who has been cast down."

"Then what?"

Elan rolled her eyes, growling with scorn. "Men."

Xander stared at her in surprise. Elanthielle didn't usually talk to him like that, but she didn't seem interested in explaining there problem to him either. Which, he knew, meant she wanted him to figure it out.

"In other words," Xander said, pursing his lips, "If I don't know what's wrong you certainly aren't going to tell me."

He didn't wait for her response. Instead he let himself drift off into a dreamless sleep, his last word echoing with equal scorn as it bounced around the dreamscape.


Hemery High

"Why are we in front of a highschool?" Paige asked, sounding bored.

Xander smiled suddenly, "Waiting for her."

Paige followed his eyes to see a small clique of girls stride confidently from the school. They were giggling and looking around themselves with a superior air that Paige recognized. "Oh god. Cheerleaders."

Xander chuckled. "Imagine. One of them will save the world more times then the rest of them can count."

"That doesn't mean much." Paige said sourly.

Xander chuckled mildly and started the car as he watched Buffy break from her group and slip into the front seat of an expensive sedan. As Joyce pulled away Xander fell in behind her, watching the small brown head bob in the rear window.

"Hello Dawn." He whispered.

They pulled to a stop outside a rich looking home and watched as the woman and two girls got out of the sedan and went inside.

"Well, we know where they live now." Amanda said, "Which one is the target?"

"The youngest." Xander replied, "They'll be coming for her soon."

"Interesting." Amanda said calmly, "What do we do now?"

Xander took a breath, "Tomorrow we follow Dawn to her school... unless..."

"Unless what?"

Xander pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. He watched the Summers house while he listened to the phone ring.

"Tyler FX."

"Angie. It's Xander."

"Hey Xander," Angie said, "What's up?"

"I need some help getting some information on some people."

He could almost hear her frown. "I take it your not asking me..."

"No, do you know how I can get a hold of the kids?" Xander asked calmly.

"Xander... I know you think this is important..." Angie said, "But these are just some kids..."

"I know, Ange." Xander said, "But this is life and death."

"Alright..." She sighed, "Just a sec... Dade Murphy, 917-555-2929."

"Thanks Angie," Xander said and hung up. He dialed the number, letting it ring. Finally an unfamiliar voice answered.


Xander took a guess, "Mrs. Murphy?"


"May I speak with Dade please? I'm a friend of his, Xander Harris."

"One moment."

A long silence, then a hesitant voice came on the line. "Xander?"

"Hi Dade. I need a favor." Xander said.

He could hear the heavy swallow come over the line, "What is it?"

Xander looked around, "Can you get into school records for L.A.?"

"Sure... no sweat." Dade said, "Why?"

"I need to know everything about one Dawn Summers... daughter of Hank and Joyce Summers... she goes to a school here in L.A."

"What school?"

"I don't know... it would be close to Hemery Highschool though, that's the local neighborhood. We need to keep an eye on this girl... she's in danger."

Dade sighed, "Ok... I'll see what I can find... Where can I get a hold of you?"

Xander told him, said goodbye, and hung up. He looked at his companions and smiled, "Let's go. We won't do her any good if a cop arrests us for stalking."

Xander led Paige and Amanda back into Andy's, calmly shoving the large barrel of Andy's customary 'welcome' to the side as he walked past.

Andy growled, "Whaddya want now kid?"

Xander slid his FiveSevens from the assault rig and laid them down on the workbench, "Can you make me some silencers for these?"

Andy stared at him blankly for a long moment. "What?"

Xander shrugged, "Look, We might be fighting in a rather exclusive part of town soon, and I'd just as soon not have every cop in the city on my ass... I know a couple of them, and frankly I don't have a death wish."

"Kid, these are machine pistols..." Andy said quietly, "You have any idea how fast they'll burn through a pair of silencers?"

Xander shrugged, "I can afford it."

Andy sighed, "Leave 'em here... I'll see what I can do."

"Thanks man," Xander paused, "Say.... I need a Lawyer I can trust... you know any?"

New York, New York

Dade Murphy wiped his brow as he waited for his laptop to finish cracking the L.A. district School Board's password. It was child's play really, it just took some cycles and a copy of the SDK cracker he'd gotten from Nikon a couple nights earlier. What had taken some skill was finding the phone number of the school's modem line.

He glanced outside, the sun was coming up and he quickly checked his computer clock.

<Eight am... shit. I've been at this all night.>

"Dade?" his mothers voice came from the kitchen, "Are you awake? You have to get ready for school..."

The door opened and she walked in and her face turned into an instant frown. "Dade Murphy! I told you no more late nights on that infernal machine!"

"Ma, I'm doing a favor for a friend... It's a matter of..."

"Life and death... yeah, yeah..." His mother growled, "It always is... Dade, get ready for..."

She paused as a nock sounded at their door. "I'll be right back."

Dade turned back to the computer.

His mother stepped out to the kitchen and opened the door. "Hello?"

"Mrs. Murphy?" One of two men in suits asked politely.

"Miss." She corrected.

"We're here to see Mr. Dade Murphy..."

"Why?" She asked suspiciously, remembering the FBI agents. "Has he done something?"

"No Ma'am." The man assured her quickly, "He's not in any trouble."

"Oh..." She said, confused. "What is this all about?"

"We'd rather explain it to him... and you of course, Miss Murphy..." The man said earnestly.

"Ok..." She leaned back in, "Dade! You have... visitors..."

Dade stepped out of his room and frowned at the men, "What is this?"


"Yeah... who's asking?"

"Dade!" His mother reproved him, "Don't be rude!"

"It's alright, Ma'am." The man smiled, "I'm paid to put up with a lot worse."

"Not in my home you're not." She said, glaring at her son.

Dade mumbled an apology that momentarily appeased his mother. The man smiled and placed a briefcase on the desk and clicked it open, "I've been contracted to deliver this to you..."

Inside was the black case of a new laptop, slimmer and lighter then even the one he had been given by 'The Plague.' Dade's breath hitched as the man slid it out and handed it to him.

"What's this for?"

"Mr. Harris employed our firm to deliver the following things to you." The man said, "And to inform you that he had arranged a substantial stipend to be paid to the account of this debit card..."

Dade took the card in a numb hand, "substantial?"

The man nodded.

Dade's mother looked around in shock, "What the hell is going on?"

"Mom... I... uh..."

"Mr. Harris has asked Dade to accept a position of employment..." The man said, stepping in.

"What kind of position?"

"An independent security analyst Ma'am." The man said.

She blinked. It sounded impressive, but she still wasn't certain. "Nothing Illegal?"

The man shrugged, "Not to my knowledge ma'am. Dade here has proven himself to excel at computer security... a talent that Mr. Harris apparently has great need of..."

"Who is this 'Mr. Harris'?" She asked, frowning.

"A friend, mom..." Dade tried to explain while he growled under his breath.

"Don't take that tone with me, young man!"

"Mr. Harris anticipated your problem, ma'am..." The man in the suit smiled, actually his employers did the anticipating but it was always better to credit the client. "He insisted that you have a controlling power in this... if you'll examine here, you can see that the debit card is in your name... at least until Dade here graduates and accepts formal employment."

Mrs. Murphy stammered, uncertain what to say. "Uh ummm... What's the money for?"

"The purchase of equipment so he may maintain his education..."

"Oh..." She considered, "Well.... that's ok..."

"Excellent... so if you'll just sign off on this so I can get back to my breakfast?" The man smiled.

She looked up in surprise, then quickly read over the sheet and saw that it was just a delivery receipt. She scribbled her signature and look at him in a daze, "Thank you?"

He smiled at her and nodded around, "Have a nice day..."

After the man left Dade's mother looked at him with a long stern glare, "You have some explaining to do."

Xander grabbed the phone as soon as it rang, flipping it open. "Hello... Oh, hello Mrs. Murphy... yeas, I was told you might call... No, no... I assure you, the offer is genuine... Illegal? Certainly not, Ma'am... I do some work for the government myself... Yes, I'm aware that I sound very young, I'm afraid that's a condition... yes... no, that's alright, everyone asks... I'm used to it. No... No, No strings, I promise. You'd like that in writing?"

Xander chuckled as Paige stared at him oddly. The call had come while they were eating breakfast and she wasn't certain she was following it completely.

"I tell you what, write something up... or have a lawyer do it and charge it to the debit card I sent you... I'll look it over and sign it if everything is ok... No, no that's fine. I have no interest in forcing anyone to work for me Mrs. Murphy... No, I only deal with volunteers... it's the nature of my business." Xander paused, "What is my business? I deal in futures mostly. Beans, rice, cattle? Well, something like that yes..."

Paige gave Xander the oddest look but he just suppressed a snicker and continued talking.

"Yes... could I speak with Dade now? Thank you. Dade? How do you like the laptop? It was the best I could find commercially... I'm told it's quite fast... well, as long as it does the job... Did you find her? Huh? Oh... ok, good. Hemery Elementary?" Xander rolled his eyes, "I suppose I should have guessed... ok, what's that? Oh... Oh... Yes, that's good... can you do it? Ok, do it."

Xander said goodbye and hung up the phone.

"Well?" Paige asked

"Dade found out something interesting." Xander smiled.

"Really?" Amanda asked as she took a sip of her orange juice, "What is it?"

Xander smiled and stared at her for a long moment.

Amanda shifted uncomfortably, looking around. "What?"

"Bienvenue a ma classe de francais, mes petits..." The new substitute teacher greeted the class, "Mon nom cest Amanda puis je vais remplacer Madame Smith pour the reste de la mois... Je vais commencez avec la role... est-ce-que Dawn Summers et ici? Ouis? Parfait... alors le prochen seras..."

Amanda fumed inwardly as she looked over the students, HER students. <I'm going to get him for this.>

Xander glanced up at the sun as he walked through the battered old warehouses that made up the docks. Truthfully they weren't that old, but the ones in this area had been neglected for so long that Xander was hard pressed to find how they were still standing. He shook his head. <Why does it always come down to the docks or the warehouse district or whatever?? I mean, why can't they get a nice suite like a sane person?>

<Most people and groups are not as free with their money as you are Alexander.> Elan said dryly.

Xander shrugged, eying a group of men who were walking toward him. He tensed imperceptibly as they passed, but they didn't pay him any mind. When they were gone he responded, <Easy come, easy go. I'm not going to live like a pauper when I could get my ticket punched by a vamp who got lucky.>

Elan shrugged mentally, but didn't respond. Talking economics to a fifteen year old was impossible, to a twenty one year old it was even worse... To a twenty one year old in a fifteen year old body... well, Elan didn't have *that* much patience, or that much time... Eternity was, after all, only eternity.

Xander, on the other hand, took her silence for agreement and happily went on his way. Or as happily as he could for someone who was looking for an ancient order of knights that were trying to save the world by killing a little girl.

"What of the monks?"

"We have men following their representative as we speak."

The man nodded, "Good. And the Beast?"

"She is in the city now, Milord." The younger man responded, "She has acquired a penthouse downtown."

The older man frowned his displeasure. "Too fast. Too fast by far."

The younger man bowed, "Yes Milord."

"Have the men tighten their watch on the monk. We must not lose this opportunity... We have waited far too long for this."

The younger man bowed deeper and backed out.

"Nothing." Xander muttered, standing on the docks and glancing up to see the sun begin it's dip to the horizon. He glanced at his watch, a timex he'd picked up to replace the Rolex he hadn't bothered retrieving from the police evidence locker in New York. <School will be out soon. I guess I'd better get back.>

He turned and walked off the old wooden docks, heading back to where he had left the Charger several blocks away in one of the few security lots in the area.

"Miss Devreaux?"

Amanda looked up, forcing a smile as she hid her frustrations in the face of Dawn's appearance. "Yes?"

Dawn fidgeted slightly, looking around as if she didn't want to be caught talking to a teacher. "I uh... I need help with the assignment..."

Amanda blinked, "Really? What problem are you having?"

<I'm spending too much time kicking my own ass for not paying attention to French the first time around, THAT's the problem.> Dawn inwardly cursed herself, but outwardly she just sighed. "I really don't get the whole imperfect stuff..."

Amanda smiled slightly, but inwardly her mind was racing as she tried to remember the rules for that herself. Truth was she'd learned the language gradually over several lifetimes, some of them while the 'rules' were still being ironed out, so her French was beyond reproach, but she didn't know most of the rules any more then the child in front of her did.

She silenced a groan as she cracked open a textbook and motioned for Dawn to sit down.

Dawn didn't look too happy herself, but she remembered the punishment she'd pulled down for failing French this term and had decided that an ounce of prevention beat the hell out of being grounded over Christmas. As she sat down to look over the rules with her new substitute, she briefly wondered where her regular teacher was and why she'd never met Miss Devreaux in the last timeline.

Xander parked the car outside of Dawn's school, watching as the kids broke for the day and waited for the little girl to show herself. He frowned, reminding himself not to make a habit of this. In this part of town someone would definitely call the cops on him if he was noticed watching little girls get off class.

The yard emptied quickly and still Dawn didn't show up, leaving Xander to start to worry. He checked his cell phone, dialing up the voice mail, but there were no messages so he decided to wait it out a bit longer. After fifteen minutes he was relieved to see the familiar face of Buffy's little sister appear and quickly turn down the road toward her home without glancing in his direction.

Moments later Amanda walked out and quickly made her way to the Charger and slipped into the front seat.

Xander stared the car and drove off slowly in the direction Dawn had taken. "What took you so long?"

Amanda glared at him, "She wanted me to teach her *French*."

Xander chuckled, "Imagine that... asking a teacher to teach. The nerve."

"Oh shut up." Amanda snapped glaring out the window.

Xander decided to cut his losses and shut up.

"Where is IT!?" the beautiful blonde screamed as around her, her minions fell to the floor and shivered in terror.

"We don't know, oh Iridescent One..." One of the said, bowing continuously.

Glorificus raged, "It's here! I know it! How hard can it be to find one tiny little key in this city!?"

"But Your Fabulousness..." The Minion said, quaking as he did, "There are millions of humans in this city... thousands of buildings... miles of underground... the key could be anywhere."

"No!" Glory spun around, glaring at the terrified henchmen. "Not anywhere! Here! I want it HERE! NOW!"

"Yes, Your magnificence..." The henchmen bowed continuously. "I understand..."

Glory was silent for a few seconds, but when no one moved she screamed again. "What are you waiting for!? Go GET IT!"

The minions practically ran out of the room backwards, bowing as they did.

"Why don't you tell her what's going on?" Amanda asked, breaking the silence as they watched Dawn climb the hill that led up to the impressive Summers home.

Xander frowned, "I'd like to handle it without scaring her if I can..."

Amanda looked at him oddly, "There are people trying to KILL her, Xander... A little fear could keep that girl breathing."

Xander sighed, "I know... It's just..."

"Not Fair." Amanda finished for him.

Xander nodded in the affirmative.

"Hate to be the one to tell you this," Amanda said, "But that's life. It's not fair. It hurts, it's scary, and it sucks... but it's the only game in town, and she deserves the best hand you can deal her."

"I know." Xander sighed, "But not yet... Not yet."

"Don't wait too long." Amanda said, watching the large white house as Xander pulled away.

Amanda looked at Xander oddly as he pulled into a motorcycle dealership. "What are you doing?"

"We need some more transportation." Xander replied, looking up at the Ducati and BMW trademarks over the door. "I'm going to get myself a bike."

Amanda smirked at him, "How nice for you. What about me?"

Xander stopped halfway out of the car and looked back, "Someone has to drive the Charger."

"Oh, this really isn't my style..." Amanda said, smiling at him. "And you do owe me a big favor."

Xander looked at her, shaking his head. "A motorcycle's worth!? Teaching isn't that bad."

"You want to make a little wager on that?" Amanda growled.

"Amanda, I am NOT buying you a motorcycle." Xander said firmly.

"Fine." Amanda sat back, her arms folded over her chest. "You teach the class tomorrow."

Xander wiped his face for a long moment, sighing. "You have a color preference?"

The Salesman looked up, noticing the entrance of a young man who looked roughly sixteen and in dire need of a barber. He sighed and turned back to his paperwork, ignoring the kid.

He didn't notice the tall woman walk in just behind the boy, casually following

Xander, for his part looked over the bikes that were propped up on their stands checking out the various tags that were hanging off the bikes. After several bikes he stopped by a shiny Monster M 900cc Special. Xander casually flipped his leg over the bike, kicked the bike off it's stand, and casually checked out the feel of the handlebars.

The salesman looked up at an odd noise and saw the kid playing with one of the Ducati 900cc's and frowned, but didn't say anything because the kid simply shook his head and put the bike back on it's stand and dismounted.

Xander shook his head, he didn't like the feel completely. He moved across the room to where there were some BMW bikes on display and looked them over. He finally settled on a big black K1100R series racing bike.

It wasn't quite up to what he had received from Jarod for Christmas, but it was an impressive bike. Bigger then he'd have been able to handle if he hadn't toughened up considerably in the last few months, but as it stood he'd be able to handle the imposing machine with little problem. Xander smiled and straddled the bike, flipping it off the kickstand. <Oh yeah.>

"Excuse me."

Xander looked up and saw the salesman walking up to him, "How much?"

The salesman stopped in surprise and blinked for a moment before responding. "Umm... Sixteen thousand..."

Xander nodded, "Get me the keys."

"What? Now wait just a second here..." The salesman recollected his wits.


Xander glanced up to see a Sales lady toss a set of keys in his direction. He caught them and slipped them into the ignition, starting the bike. The roar echoed through the place as Xander twisted the throttle slightly to hear the engine. A moment later he turned off the bike and kicked the stand down, dismounting.

He looked at Amanda, "Good enough?"

She nodded, smirking slightly.

He walked past the first salesman, who was still clapping his hands over his ears and cringing. Xander shot him a dirty look as he walked past, "Do you even drive a bike??"

The guy didn't hear him and Xander walked up to the woman who had thrown him the keys. "You have another one like that? Same model, same color?"

The woman smiled, a little unsure, but nodded. "We do."

"I'll take them." Xander said, flipping his credit card onto the desk.

"Them??" The woman blinked.

Xander nodded. "Can you deliver them?"

She nodded and he scribbled down the address to his hotel and looked up. "Have them call room 902 and ask for Alexander Harrison."

"Will there be anything else?" She asked, looking at the gold colored card in her hand.

Xander glanced over at the selection of racing armor that was lining a couple walls. "Helmets... and something else... Amanda?"

He looked over to where Amanda was leaning against the wall. "What do you think?"

She smirked at him, "You just want to see me in Leather."

Xander shrugged, smirking back. "I have to get something for my money."

Amanda kept smirking and shook her head, "I don't need it. As you well know."

Xander sighed, "True. True."

Then he turned back to the saleslady, "Alright, give me a pair of leather pants and a pair of those Kevlar and leather gauntlets too."

She nodded and rang up the register.

Back at the hotel Xander didn't stay long, just taking the time to get changed and head back out the door.

"Where are you going?"

He glanced back, smiling at Paige, "I thought you were studying."

She shrugged, "This magic stuff is getting tedious."

"Trust me, there's lots of good stuff too..." Xander said with a smile.

"I know..." Paige muttered, "SO... where are you going?"

"I'm going to drop by Andy's and pick up my guns." He replied, "Then I'm going to run past Dawn's place and keep a watch..."

"Oh..." Paige said, "What's with the pants?"

Xander glanced down to the leather pants he was wearing, "In case I wipe out on my bike, I'd rather not spread my skin all over the road."


"I just bought a new one." Xander said with a smile, then flipped her his credit card, "Hey... why don't you go out and have a night on the town? Just try not to get into trouble."

"Har de har har." She muttered, fumbling as she caught the card.

Xander smiled, "I'm serious... It's a Friday night... go out shopping or something... get Amanda to go with you, I'm sure she can show you how to put a dent in that card's limit."

She blinked. "You're serious?"

"Uh huh."

She smiled. "Cool."

Xander shook his head, grinning, and left. <At least I got out before getting drug along.>

Xander drifted the bike to the side of the road by Andy's place, looking up at the setting sun through the tinted visor of his helmet. He kicked the stand down and got off the bike, walking into the small shop.

The bell chimed and, as per usual, Xander found himself looking down the barrel of Andy's Atchisson.

"That's getting real old, Andy." Xander said as he brushed the weapon to one side.

The other man muttered gruffly, "It wouldn't happen if you'd stop coming in after business hours and picking the damn lock!"

Xander smiled, "Where would the fun be in that?"

Andrezj Konzaki shook his head, "You after your pistols?"

Xander nodded.

Andy nodded, pulling out the two pistols from under his bench and handing them to Xander. Xander accepted them, looking at the silencers that made the barrels look almost ridiculously long.

"Those'll be good for five clips or so..." Andy said, "Then you'll have to swap them for new ones."

"Thanks, Andy." Xander replied, trying to slip the pistols into the assault rig he wore. He frowned as he realized that the extended barrels poked too far out the back. "Crap."

Andy grinned, "Forgot about that did you? Here."

Xander accepted the sling that Andy handed him, and slipped out of his coat and replaced his normal assault harness with the three point sling. When he fit his guns into that, he found that the barrels were aimed more downward and the weapons were held comfortably against his body. He nodded to Andy, "Thanks."

"No problem kid," Andy smiled, "It's on your tab."

Xander rolled his eyes and slipped his coat back on, as he was fitting his new gloves on he stopped and glanced at Andy. "Hey, you got a pair of scissors?"

Andy looked at him oddly, "Shears... those do?"

Xander nodded, "Yep... thanks."

Andy watched, them shook his head as he watched Xander shear off the index finger on each glove and hand the shears back. Then Xander pulled the gloves on and drew his pistols to test the feel.

"Not bad..." Xander said, running his bare finger over the trigger of each pistol. "Not too bad at all..."

Andy shook his head, but didn't comment.

"I'll catch you later, Andy." Xander grinned as he put his guns back and headed for the door.

"Take care, kid!" Andy said, watching as the door closed. <Right. Like that's gonna happen.>

Xander turned his bike toward the hills as the shroud of twilight descended around him. If anyone was going to make a move, it would be a night, and something inside told Xander that time was running out.

He idled the bike to a stop in front of the Summer's house, watching the lights come on as people moved around inside. Reluctantly he tore his eyes from the home and looked around carefully.

He didn't like where he was parked, the place was too well lit. He shifted his bike and started it again, driving a little distance away before pulling completely off the road and hiding the BMW in the bushes. Then the doubled back, sticking in the trees and bushes as he approached the Summers home.

As he got close Xander froze in place. He looked around for a moment, shifting his eyes to full enhancements and examined the area carefully. Even with that little trick all he spotted was a shadow moving toward the Summers home. But then a moment later he saw several more shadows following it.

Liam Tanner shook his head, not understanding the results he was getting from the ritual. Of all places on the planet, why would the key be in Beverly Hills?

He sighed, in the end it didn't matter he supposed. He had finally found it's location, now he just had to deduce it's form. Perhaps an artifact bought by the owners of the impressive home?

He slipped closer to the house, pressing against the white wall as he snuck a glance inside.

It looked like any normal family to Tanner, at least what he had always imagined them to be. There were two younger girls, and an older woman eating around an old oaken table. They seemed happy enough, smiling and laughing as they ate. Not what he had expected of the people that stole the Key.

Sighing, Tanner stepped back and ran into an obstruction behind him.

"Hello Monk." A cold voice spoke in his ear, sending shivers of fear up Tanner's spine. "Let's have a little talk, shall we?"

Xander spotted the first sentry as he closed on the Summers residence. The man was good, he had to admit, disciplined. But he didn't have Xander's advantage of nightvision, and for some reason the damn fool was wearing chainmail. Xander shook his head as he slipped up behind the man and easily looped his arm around the guards throat.

The man gasped briefly, but Xander's eyes flared with a silver gleam as he tapped Elan's power and drug the larger man into the shadows. A moment later Xander emerged and moved towards the Summers house.

"I have nothing to say..." Liam quaked as he spoke the words, looking up at the sinister faces that were glaring down at him.

"Oh, you'll talk, Monk." The leader muttered, drawing a slim dirk from his belt. "I promise you that."

Liam shook as he watched the dull blade of the dirk descend toward his eye, glinting slightly from the light streaming from the windows of the house.

The terrified monk opened his mouth, drawing air to scream, but an armored gauntlet slapped across his mouth with enough force to send stars sparking across his vision and the cold voice hissed. "Be silent until ordered to speak!"

Liam nodded in fear, his eyes still bulging as he looked at the lethal edge. His eyes widened further as he noted a shadow detach itself from the surrounding darkness and approach one of the Knights that surrounded him.

Xander took only a few moments to size up the situation before he slipped from the shadows and grabbed the closest Knight. The man struggled briefly, but went down fast as Xander hooked him around the neck and pulled him back.

The struggle attracted the attention of the others, and suddenly the fight was on.

The fight was eerily quiet as no one wanted to alert the residents of the community, only the low grunts and impacts as hits and kicks connected. Xander ducked back into the shadows, using the Knight's lack of night vision against them, striking out like a wraith as they moved through the night uncertainly.

He caught one with an edge hand across the neck that dropped the man to the ground as his nervous system was briefly overloaded by a reflexive reaction. Even as the man dropped, Xander brought his knee up and caught him in the face, knocking the Knight cold.

He did a quick head count and saw that there were three figures left. Two knights, and a man in dark robes that were fairly easy to place. <If that's not a monk, I need to rent Robin Hood again.>

Xander stepped out of the shadows, drawing his pistols from the three point assault rig and aiming one at each knight. When he spoke, his voice was quiet yet it carried easily to the three men who stared at him in shock. "Let the monk go and leave... Or don't and die. You're choice."

The Knight who was holding the monk spoke in response. "What are you, demon?"

Xander shook his head, his brown eyes glittering dangerously in the weak light of the Summers home. "I'm no demon. Now do what I said."

"I will not go back on my vow." The Knight hissed, "I am not afraid to die."

Xander shook his head, "Then you're an idiot. But that's beside the point, you can't win here. I have you covered. If you die, I still get the Monk... If you live then maybe... just maybe, you can turn the tables on me later. I'm not asking you to give up and go home, just admit that you've lost a battle."

"Milord..." The second knight hissed under his breath, "He is right... The war continues."

The apparent leader tightened up, considering the demand though it went against his grain to do so. "You killed my men."

Xander shook his head again, "I did not. They'll recover."

Then the leader smiled, "Then you won't kill us."

Xander clicked the pistols over and his face tightened, "I've done worse then shoot a couple assholes who don't know better then to walk around LA in chain mail."

The leader snarled in response. "Our armor is traditional... It is a badge of pride."

Xander shrugged, "Mine looks cooler and stops bullets. Unless yours does the same I think you'd better take my offer. Last chance."

"Milord..." The second knight swallowed, eyeing the weapon pointed in his direction.

"Silence, Smithy." The leader said before turning back to Xander. "What guarantee do we have that you won't kill us anyway?"

Xander looked at him, "My word."

The leader shook his head, "Not good enough."

Xander's face tightened, his fingers doing the same on the trigger. Suddenly he stopped and his head tilted slightly as he listened to a certain inner voice. When he spoke next it was in Latin, {"I give you my oath, sworn on my soul and the souls of my line. From Knight to Knight, I swear that you will leave here alive if you do as I bid."}

The Knight blinked in surprise, his hand shaking slightly. "Where did you learn that!?"

"I did." Xander replied, "That's enough. Now hurry. Decide! We don't have time, someone will see us eventually."

"To what order do you belong?" The Knight demanded, ignoring Xander's statement.

Xander growled, his patience running thin, but he did respond finally. {"To the First Order, the one whose legends birthed all those that followed. I am Kine."}

The Knights hand shook, the dirk he was holding nearly falling from his hands. "That's not possible."

"We don't have time." Xander snarled. "You have my word, my oath. Walk away now and you live. Stay and I will kill you."

For a few more instants Xander thought the Knight was going to refuse, but finally he nodded and pulled back his hand and sheathed his dirk. "I accept your oath... will you allow me to take my men?"

Xander nodded, motioning to the Monk. "Get over here, Monk... now."

The man in the robes shook for a moment, but obeyed without comment. He rushed across the clearing and Xander slipped his pistol from his left hand into it's holster, and grabbed the monk. He backed away into the shadows, keeping the knight's covered as he moved back.

Once they were out of sight he urged the monk into a run. "Move!"

They ran, Xander holding the monk by the neck of the robe as he stumbled through the bushes and out into the well lit street. Xander pushed him quickly to where he had hidden his bike, not giving the man time to breath. When they reached the bike the monk looked up at Xander with wide eyes as he panted.

"Who are you?"

"None of your business." Xander muttered, "Get on the bike."

"I will not." The monk replied.

Xander looked him over, "Fine. I'll hand you back over to the Knights."

The monk blinked and mounted the bike behind Xander.

Xander slipped his helmet on and immediately started the bike, gunning the engine as he slipped it into gear and took off. Xander aimed the bike for the safest place he knew in town.

"You what!?"

The Knight kneeled, "I lost the Monk, Knight Commander."

"How?" The Commander demanded.

"There was interference, My Lord." The Knight explained, "A young man appeared, no more then two decades old, if that... He easily incapacitated my fellow knights and offered me an ultimatum... surrender the monk and live, or die and lose the monk anyway."

"And you chose the cowards route." The Commander's voice was thick with disgust, "You should have died rather then give the monk up to an Agent of the beast."

"He was no agent of the beast, My Lord." The man said, "Of that I am certain."

The Commander shook his head in disgust, "What makes you believe that?"

"He swore an oath to me, My lord. In the old way."

"And you believed it??"

"Had he been an agent of the beast, he would have killed us." The Knight said, "He did not. He kept his oath."

"As you should have kept yours." The Commander muttered, waving at his guards, "Take him away. Strip him of his rank and armor."

The Knight lowered his head in acceptance, rising to the feet as the guards surrounded him. "As you command, My Lord."

Xander shoved the monk ahead of him, holding him up by one hand as he pushed him ahead through the doors.

"Where are we?" The monk asked fearfully, "I hear minstrels..."

"Minstrels?" Xander muttered, "Who talks like that?"

The Monk straightened stiffly. "I do."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Duh." and pulled the blindfold off the monk's eyes.

The monk's eyes widened and he recoiled in shock and terror as he looked around him at the splendor that was Caritas.

"What do you mean you haven't found it!?"

"I'm so very sorry your transcendence..." The demon bowed and groveled in front of the petit blond.

The blonde growled and seemed ready to burst out in anger, but suddenly shifted in a remarkably fast change of attitude. She sighed and smiled wearily at the demon, "Oh I know Minion... You always do your best for me..."

The demon didn't respond immediately, uncertain of his changing fortune.

The blonde hell goddess sighed and waved her hand, "Leave me, minion... I need to think."

The demon bowed again, backing out quickly as it did. "Yes, you're all encompassingness..."

"Relax before you give yourself a heart attack." Xander advised the terrified monk as he waved a waitress over.

The monk went for his rosary, holding it up to Xander. "Back! Spawn of Satan!"

Xander reached out quickly and grabbed the rosary, hissing, "Cut that shit out! I'm no demon, not that a cross will cut you a lot of slack with most demons..."

The monk sank into his chair, still looking terrified as he realized that his little outburst had been noted by the occupants of the bar.

"Look..." Xander paused, "What's your name anyway?"


"Name. You do have one?"

"Liam..." The monk managed to get out, "Liam Tanner..."

"Cool." Xander replied, "Xander Harris. Let's have a chat."

"I won't tell you anything about the Key."

Xander shrugged, "Fine. I know all about it anyway."

"What!?" The monk looked startled.

"I'm not here to get information out of you, I'm here to give you a message." Xander replied.

"Wh.. What message?"

"Get the hell out of L.A. Take your fucking order of monks with you."

"No..." Liam muttered, looking shocked. "No... We cannot. We must protect the key."

"The Key is under my protection as of now." Xander replied. "And you have already lead both the Knights of Byzantium and Glorificus herself to this city."

Liam blinked, "You stole the key?"

"I stole nothing..." Xander said, then amended, "Well... I did help steal a diamond a while back... but that's another story."

Liam just looked confused.

"Just get out of the goddamned city." Xander said firmly, "With luck you'll lead them both away with you."

Liam looked around the bar, "I... don't trust you."

Xander looked around, looking bored. "Do I have to go through this with everyone I meet? What's wrong? You don't like Karaoke?"

The monk stared at him in shock, "This place is filled with demon spawn..."

Xander was about to reply when a cheerful voice broke in, "Well that's what my mom always called me... Hey baby face, how's life treating you?"

The monk started in fear as Lorne sat down beside him, causing Lorne to look at him with a bit of worry. "What's wrong with Drab Man here?"

"He doesn't like demons." Xander explained.

Lorne frowned, looking at the monk. "Have you met many demons?"

Liam just muttered a prayer under his breath, over and over again.

Suddenly Lorne frowned, "Wait a moe... This is one of those monks that Glorificus is looking for... Are you insane!?"

Xander shrugged, "Why does everyone keep asking me that?"

"Maybe because you do things like bringing this pup to a demon bar when one of the most dangerous Hell Beasts on the planet is looking for any of his kind!" Lorne exclaimed.

Xander shrugged, "I needed a safe place to talk... and I wasn't sure where to take him since he already have a half dozen Knight's on his tail..."

"And you brought him to MY club!?"

"You know as well as I do that not even Glorificus herself can lift a hand in violence in here." Xander replied, "This is the safest place in the city for him."

"What about ME!?" Lorne sputtered, "Now I'm going to have her minions in here asking questions... and they give me the willies..."

"So tell them what you know." Xander said with a shrug, "It won't do them any good anyway."

Lorne looked at him oddly, "What are you up?"

"Who? Me?" Xander asked with a smile.

"You." Lorne replied, "What are you planning??"

"Just the usual." Xander replied with a grin.

Lorne groaned. "I'm one dead anagogic demon."

"Buck up," Xander slapped Lorne on the shoulder. "Maybe Glorificus will get the key and we'll all join you."

Lorne gave Xander a look of disgust. "Oh, you have no idea how much that *doesn't* make me feel better."

Xander laughed, Lorne just shook his head, and Liam Tanner stared between them with an expression that screamed both sheer terror and complete confusion.

"So..." Amanda smiled as she slipped behind the wheel of the Charger and smiled over at Paige, "What shall we do next?"

Paige looked at her with wide eyes, then glanced at the bags that were filling the backseat. "Are you kidding? We must have spent a fortune already..."

Amanda glanced back, "Oh please... I've spent fortunes before and this isn't even close. You know, I could get to like hanging around with Xander... Mac never let me borrow his credit card before... well, not willingly anyway."

"Xander *didn't* let you borrow the card," Paige objected, "He gave it to me... and now I have to explain all this stuff..."

"Pshaw." Amanda said as she drove along, "He told you to ask me along... that's close enough."

Paige shook her head, grumbling. "Right."

"Odd though," Amanda said musingly. "He really doesn't care about money does he?"

Paige shrugged, "No... not really."

"I wonder why?"

"Probably because he stole it." Paige said, grinning slightly.

"Oh?" Amanda perked up, "This is a story I simply must hear... hmmm, I know!"

Paige looked over at the gleam of anticipation in Amanda's eyes and felt a shiver of apprehension run up her spine. "What?"

"You'll see..."

Hercules took a deep breath as he stepped off the plane, looking around at the airport for his car. He spotted it and quickly headed toward the chauffeured sedan.

"Welcome back, Mr. Sorbo," The driver said politely as he held the door for the actor/demi god.

"Thank you."

The driver closed the door behind Hercules and walked around the car, once he was inside the vehicle he looked back. "Where to, Mr. Sorbo?"

"Home." Hercules responded as he settled in for the drive. He had to get home, then contact Xander and arrange a meeting. He hoped the young man was ok.

The luxury sedan accelerated smoothly, heading for the road.

Lorne forced a smile back on his face, "Whatever you're planning I don't want to know, I'm sure... but I guess that the infamous 'Seraphim' can handle it..."

Xander groaned. "God damn it. Has that blasted rumor reached here too?"

"Fraid so, bubula." Lorne grinned, "You've made quite a reputation for yourself in the community... Taking down that Elemental in Boston was a crowning touch..."

"That wasn't even me." Xander objected, "A trio of Wiccans and some of the local firefighters are the heros there."

Lorne shrugged, "I'm afraid that you've taken center stage in the spotlight, baby face. Must be your looks."

Xander snarled slightly, shaking his head. "If I ever get my hands on that damned Spike..."

Lorne chuckled, "Don't like being famous, huh kiddo?"

Xander groaned.

Liam, having finally decided that no one was in a hurry to harm him, hesitantly spoke up. "Ummm... what are you talking about?"

Lorne looked over, smiling at the monk. "What, you don't know who you're hanging around?"

The monk shook his head, a little fearfully.

Lorne grinned wide, while Xander groaned and muttered a warning. "Lorne..."

Lorne ignored him, looking at the monk. "This young man here is the terror of the continent..."

The Monk stared wide eyed at Xander, fear in his eyes.

"Oh don't worry," Lorne grinned, "It's demons that are scared of him... tales of his exploits keep getting better and better every time I hear them... Why, just last night, I heard that he killed a dozen vampires and eight Polgarans in New York..."

"Oh for the love of..." Xander cursed under his breath, "It was ONE Polgaran... and I *threatened* a few vampires! That's all!"

Lorne shrugged, still looking at the monk. "He's so humble..."

Xander thumped his head down on the table, groaning. "I don't believe this crap."

Suddenly, Xander looked up curiously at Lorne. "Wait a second... How'd you connect that to me??"

Lorne smiled, "I didn't... There was this rather morose vampire with bleach blond hair that cursed out your quaint nickname and ran like the devil himself was after him when you walked in."

Xander gritted his teeth. "Spike..."

The Host shrugged, "Whatever... He's been a regular for a week... comes in here for blood and vodka everynight... Poor guy, he got so drunk a couple nights ago that he got up one stage..."

Xander watched as the Host shivered at the memory. "What is it?"

Lorne shook his head, "Sorry I don't talk about my clients... professional discretion and all that."

Xander frowned, but didn't press the issue. He sighed, "Well, I guess we'd better get going..."

"Unnnnnnnghhhhhhh...." Paige groaned out in a long guttural release of breath.

"I told you this would be good." Amanda said, her own voice thickly laced with bliss.

Paige didn't look up, she just groaned out a completely unintelligible moan.

Amanda smiled blissfully, "My thoughts exactly."

Xander pushed Tanner out of Caritas and motioned to the bike. "Get on."

The Monk looked sick to his stomach. "Do I have to?"

Xander smiled, "Unless you'd like me to leave you here."

Tanner got on the bike.

Xander slid on in front of him and hit the starter, revving the engine slightly before shifting into gear and slowly starting down the road.

They were about two blocks away when Tanner spoke, yelling above the sound of the engine. "At least you're driving slower this time!"

Xander flipped up the visor on his helmet and looked back, "That's cause I don't want to lose the guy's who are following us!"


Hercules tossed down his baggage and stretched slightly, "It's good to be home."

He walked over to his closet, stripping out of his travel clothes and pulled out what he humorously termed his 'action wear'.

It wasn't, he supposed, far from what he used to wear when traveling with Iolus. An old pair of frayed blue jeans, some brown leather hiking boots, and a leather vest over a checkered shirt. Basically the type of clothes that would encourage the average person's eyes to slide right off him.

Of course, that wasn't enough with his physique and, recently, his famous face. So lately, Herc had also taken to the art of disguise in some small ways. Nothing big, but working with the best FX men in the business did have its benefits. A quick spray darkened his hair, and a brief tussle made it look like it hadn't been combed in a few days. His face was harder, but after a pair of dark glasses covered his eyes and large sections of his upper face, it would take a more then observant die hard fan to recognize him.

He glanced in the mirror and nodded in approval before pulling out his cell phone. He quickly dialed Xander's cell phone, waiting and growing more worried with every moment as no answer was forthcoming.

"Damn it." He muttered, "I shouldn't have let him come ahead of me."

Hercules put his phone back in his vest and stepped out of the house, hopping into his convertible vette and taking off.

Xander felt the phone ringing in his pocket, but couldn't spare the attention from his pursuers to answer it. There were at least three of them, hooded faces hidden in shadows, all crammed into an old Cadillac Deville.

They couldn't drive worth shit, so the biggest problem Xander was having was keeping them on his tail without looking like he was keeping them on his tail.

He turned the bike downtown, mentally calling up images of the downtown core from previous visits. He looked over his shoulder, yelling over the noise of the engine. "You have a way to get a hold of your friends?"


"Can you contact the other monks!?"

Tanner hesitated, but finally answered. "Of course!"

"Good." Xander said, turning his attention back to the flow of traffic.

"Oh God..." Amanda groaned this time, "This was, if I do say so myself, one of my better ideas..."

"Mmmmmm hmmmmm." Paige responded, almost melting into her recliner as she felt the mudpack dry on her face.

The two women were sitting back while masseurs worked on their legs this time, kneading and gently rubbing the muscles.

"Can I get you two anything?" A female voice asked.

Amanda nodded waving her hand, but not bothering to open her eyes. "Two more glasses of champagne... and you could you bring in some grapes and a cheese plate?"


"Cheese plate?" Paige asked.

"Trust me... Champagne, grapes, and cheese..." Amanda let out a long groan, "It's a match made in heaven."

Xander twisted the throttle, accelerating suddenly through the thick traffic and running a red light as he cut the bike around a corner.

"What are you doing!?" Tanner screamed over the sound of aquealing tires and blaring horns.

"Losing them!" Xander yelled back as he ducked into a parking tower.

He tossed some change into the machine and cut under the gate as soon as it rose, taking the bike quickly up to the second floor of the parking tower. He stopped the bike, "Get off."


"Get off." He ordered, "I don't need you, and I sure as hell don't want you along with where I'm going now. Take my message back to your pals, tell them that I'm not kidding... Get the hell out of town, before you all get caught in the crossfire of what's about to come down."

Tanner shuddered as he dismounted the bike. "What are you talking about?"

Xander shook his head, looking over the way the monk was dressed. "What do you have under on under those robes?"


"Never mind." Xander muttered, "Just get back to your pals and give them the message... but wait until a few minutes after I leave before making your move."

"What are you going to do?"

Xander gestured down to the street below them and Tanner looked down to see an old and battered Cadillac stuck in traffic.

"I'm going to pay a visit to whoever is giving the orders to those three." Xander said with a finality in his voice. "I told you, Tanner... The key is under my protection now."

Tanner watched as Xander waited for the traffic to lift enough for the Cadillac to get underway again, then the young man twisted the throttle and spun the black bike around and headed back down to the ground floor of the parking tower.

For a long moment after the black bike roared back out into the street below him, Tanner watched the traffic with his heart pounding as he tied to make sense of everything that had happened in one night. Finally he turned around and walked away.

Perhaps the elders would be able to make sense of this night, of this... unlikely as it seemed, Seraphim.

Hercules walked into Caritas, looking around calmly to see if Xander was by chance there. Nothing. He walked up to the bar, about to speak, when an altogether too familiar voice sounded behind him.

"Kevin, baby, you make the grunge thing work..."

Herc sighed and turned around, "Hi Lorne..."

Lorne grinned at him, "So, what brings the silent partner of the hottest demon club on the west coast in? Any chance of getting a musical episode out of you tonight?"

Herc groaned, "Now cut that out."

Lorne shrugged and grinned.

Hercules looked around, frowning. "Business is booming tonight..."

And it was, the place was more crowded then usual by far leaving the rather large bar as standing room only.

Lorne smiled, shrugging. "They all heard that the big bad Seraphim was in town and decided it was safer to spend the night here then be caught out causing trouble."


Lorne frowned, "You haven't heard?"

"No... I've been in New York, what's going on?"

"You were in New York?" Lorne smiled, sighing, "Ah the big apple... one day, my friend, one day..."

"Yeah, that's very nice, but what the hell is going on here? Who's... Seraphim??"

"Huh? Oh... You know, the kid... Xander." Lorne said, waving his hand. "Apparently he was seen talking to one of the higher ups a few times and then he killed a black Mage in Texas... and now every time a demon vanishes while he's within two hundred miles, he gets the credit... Never mind that he'd have to be a *real* Seraph just to hop around the country fast enough to do all the things he get blamed for."

"I don't believe this." Herc muttered, "Are you telling me that all of this..."

He waved his hand at the maximum capacity crowd, "Is because *Xander* is back in town?"

Lorne nodded, "Sad isn't it?"

"This is ridiculous!"

"Well, the one redeeming quality his newly acquired 'mythos' has maintained is that he doesn't like to start trouble in demon bars..." Lorne smiled, "So he's *very* good for business."

Hercules rubbed his nose, "Has he been in here tonight?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes... just left maybe a half hour... hour tops."

"Did he say where he was going?"

"No, sorry Muscles..." Lorne smiled, "But he did have one of those Monks that Glorificus has been looking for with him."

"What!?" Hercules exclaimed, then added belatedly. "And don't call me muscles."

Lorne shrugged, "He had a monk with him... said that he needed to bring him somewhere safe to talk."

"That makes absolutely no sense." Hercules muttered, "Xander wouldn't take one of the monks to a place they'd be recognized... unless..."

"Unless what, Kev?" Lorne asked.

Hercules paled and headed for the door, "Bait."

After several hours of driving Xander slowed the bike to a stop about a block behind the old caddy and watched as the robed figures went into a very upscale building. He looked up at the thirty story building and nodded. "At least someone doesn't live on the waterfront."

Hercules tossed his cell phone to the seat of his vette and turned the powerful sports car toward the Drive.

Alexander Harrison had just paid for a three hour spa make over at one of the most exclusive places in the city. Hercules didn't think that Xander actually had anything to do with it, but there was a fair chance that it was one of the girls and they might know where Xander was.

He shook his head, frowning with worry as he negotiated his way through the evening traffic. <I should have come straight back.>

From down the block it was simple enough to deduce the destination of the three figures. The top floor radiated enough magical power to blind an untrained observer.

Xander did a quick check of the building and found that it was a security building, and fairly well designed. No obvious breeches in the security, but it wasn't as tight as it could have been either. The door security wasn't going to let him by though, not looking like a reject from a outlaw biker gang.

Xander sighed, <Maybe Paige is right and I need to start thinking about a haircut.>

<Alexander...> Elanthielle spoke with concern, <What are you intending?>

Xander didn't answer, he just walked past the door, looking like anyone else just walking past, but came to a stop under the over hang that covered the front door. He glanced around briefly, noting that the street wasn't overly crowded but it wasn't deserted either.

<Fuck it.> He thought and jumped up, hooking his hands over the overhang and flipping himself up and onto it. He heard some exclaims of surprise from the street, but ignored them as he quickly examined the wall of the building.

He wedged himself into a crook in the concrete and started to make his way up the sheer wall.

Amanda lounged back, eyes closed, as she felt the warmth of the sauna sink into her pores. She smiled lazily, and took another grape from the platter that lay between them. "So, what's the verdict?"

Paige smiled in return, though she didn't open her own eyes, "Just what the doctor ordered."

Neither of them looked up when the door opened, Amanda just waved her hand slightly. "Put it over here..."


Both women opened their eyes, blinking as they saw Kevin Sorbo leaning against the door with a light frown on his face.

"Kevin!" Amanda smiled, making no move to cover herself up. "Come in, have some champagne...."

"I can't." He replied, "Do either of you know where Xander is?"

Amanda shrugged, "He went to scout out the Summers home... nothing big..."

"It got big."

Amanda and Paige sat up straight.


At the fifth floor Xander finally reached the first balcony and swung himself clear of the crook he had used to leverage his way up and nimbly hopped over the wrought iron that surrounded the small ledge.

He pulled his lock picks from his pocket, but tested the door first and shook his head when he found that it wasn't open. Since there was no light inside he slipped in and quickly made his way to the door.

He let himself out just as quickly as he had slipped in and glanced around. The hall was empty, but he could see the elevator at the far end and quickly made his way over to it.

<Alexander... this is unwise!> Elan yelled in his head, but he shook it off.

<I'm just scouting. Relax, Elan,> He cajoled, <It's not like I'm going to challenge a hell god to single combat...>

The rune weapon muttered at the back of his mind the whole time Xander was waiting for the elevator, and then the whole time he was riding it skyward. She didn't fall silent until the doors opened on the roof, where she decided he would need his concentration for the plan that she could feel forming.

"He did what!?" Amanda muttered, buttoning up her blouse and glaring at Hercules.

Herc held out his hands, "Hey don't get mad at me! I just got back to town. You guys have been here with him."

Paige looked guilty. "He said we should go out and have fun... said it was a Friday, and to spend some money..."

"Which you have, I'm sure." Herc said, shaking his head as he looked around the spa.

Amanda snarled, but steered the conversation back to the topic at hand. "He took one of the monks to Caritas??"

"Right." Herc said, looking away as Amanda dropped her towel and pulled on her pants. "And I can only think of one reason to take the monk to a place he'd be recognized."

"If Xander wanted to be followed." Amanda said, pursing her lips. "Why that conniving little boyscout."

"It's a good plan." Herc conceded, "But he should have known better then to go it alone."

Amanda shrugged, "He'd have had a harder time pulling it off with... us along..."

Herc shrugged, "Maybe, but it's still dangerous. For now we have to find him..."

"Have you tried calling him?" Paige asked.

"No answer." Hercules said.

Amanda pulled out her cell phone. "Well, I'll give it another shot."

Xander was lowering himself over the roof of the building when the cell phone in his pocket buzzed silently, startling him. Luckily he'd managed to instill a bit more discipline in himself over the past twelve months and a repeat of last December's events didn't occur. He didn't yelp, or accidentally leg go of the ledge, but neither could he respond to the call in the position he was in so he ignored it.

He let himself drop the dozen feet to the top floor balcony, landing silently in a squat on the carpeted area. A dull glow coming from inside would have told him that there was someone there, if his enhanced vision hadn't already informed him of the massively powerful aura that was present.

He tested the door, found it was also unlocked, and slid it silently open. After listening for a moment he slipped inside, moving through the darkened room to the half opened door that the light was coming through. He quietly peered through into the lavishly decorated room on the other side.

"What do you mean you don't have any news!" Glory raged, "You told me that you had a monk in your sights when you left the bar!"

"We lost him, you're overwhelming magnificence..." The lead demon groveled as he spoke.

"Lost him!?" She growled. "How could you lose a MONK in downtown Los Angeles!? He's about yay tall and wears brown ROBES!!"

"Please forgive your humble servant or illustrious one..." The demon groveled even lower, rubbing his nose on the ground.

Glory threw up her arms and growled in frustration. "Out! Out! Get out of my sight!"

The demons practically ran backwards, tripping over each other in their rush to leave the room. Glory sighed, "It is SO hard to find good help in this lousy dimension."

She growled and turned around, and walked into her bedroom. She flicked on the lights and shook her head, "What does a girl have to do to get one lousy key anyway? It's not like I want to rule the world or anything... like there's anything here worth ruling..."

A male voice actually startled her, causing Glory to spin around in shock. "Be it ever so humble, we call it home."

"Who are you!?" She snarled in anger, "And how DARE you invade my sanctuary!"

The figure just shrugged, "Name's not important. But I have to tell you, I have a little problem with you finding the key."

Glory relaxed a bit, whoever he was he wasn't a threat. "Oh, what business is it of yours?"

"Well, the whole world go boom thing kind of makes it my business." He replied sarcastically.

Glory shrugged, "No loss."

He turned his head slightly to one side, his expression tensing in anger, but it melted away a moment later as he turned back. "Like I said, this planet may not be much... but we like it. And we'd like to keep it."

Glory stretched her arms, smiling at him. "You should be honored to sacrifice yourself for a Goddess."

He rolled his eyes, "Right. Hate to tell you this, but I've met the real deal... You don't compare."

She bridled at the insult and took a step toward the figure, but in a flash his hands were filled by two nasty looking guns.

"You don't really think those'll stop me do you?" Glorificus eyed the weapons with some amusement.

He shrugged, "Not really... but their loaded with demon killer ammunition... so they'll probably sting like a bitch, and ruin that lovely dress."

Her hand flew to the her breasts, unconsciously feeling the silk fabric of her custom gown. "You wouldn't."

He actually smiled at her, "Try me."

Glory backed off the for the moment. "What do you want?"

"I want you to leave town." He replied.

"So do I." She said, "Give me the Key and I'll be on my way."

"Ah ah," He waved his right pistol in the air. "No Key for the big bad hell bitch. I like the planet just the way it is."

"Then we have a problem." Glory replied.

"I suppose we do."

"Lucky for me," Glory said, tensing, "My only problem is how much energy I'm going to pull from your useless mortal BRAIN!"

As she leapt, Xander slid to one side, firing both pistols on full auto. Every round struck home and, as he predicted, they stung like a bitch. AND ruined the eighteen hundred dollar custom tailored red satin dress.

Unfortunately, as she predicted, they didn't stop her for more then a few instants and she quickly gathered herself and charged for him again.

Xander turned and ran, tucking the weapons into their slings as he did. He burst through the open door of the thirty story balcony and vaulted over the wrought iron barrier at a full run.

As he flew over the balcony rail, Xander reached down and grabbed the cold iron and arrested his forward momentum. He dropped vertically down just as Glorificus reached the rail and grabbed for him.

He spared enough concentration to wink at Glory as her grasp for him missed, grabbing the base of the balcony as he passed, Xander swung in and under the balcony, landing easily on the one directly below.

He heard Glory scream in rage and grinned as he checked the sliding door.

<Damn. Of course, *this* one would be locked.>

"Minions!" Glory raged above him, "Minions! Get IN HERE!"

Xander fumbled with his lock picks, but belatedly realized that there wasn't an external lock on this door and growled. He drew one of his pistols and smashed the glass out, rushing in through the darkened apartment as Glory continued to rage above him.

"All units in the vicinity of The Palace Royal on Rio Boulevard, Please Respond."

The two cops looked at the radio, then at each other.

"Don't you touch that." The driver warned.

"I wasn't going to." The passenger said defensively. "Hey, there are probably a lot of cops in the area..."

"Right." The driver said, "We don't have to respond to every crime that happens in L.A."

"Absolutely right." The passenger replied, "I mean... we're not even that close..."

"Th... thats's right." The driver replied. "We're a long way from there."

"Oh yeah," The passenger agreed. "I mean... it's like... what? Two blocks away?"

"Two and a half."

"Well there you have it... Two and a half whole blocks..." The passenger said, agreeing.

"We are NOT answering that call!" The driver said.

"Hey! I'm agreeing with you here!" The passenger said, grinning.

The driver nodded. "Right."


After a few moments the driver sighed. "Damn it."

The passenger grinned even wider and picked up the radio. "This is Three William Fifty-Six, what have you got? Over."

The radio crackled back a moment later. "Roger, Three William Fifty-Six, Report of a 10-459 at the palace royal... can you respond?"

The passenger looked over at the driver, who shook his head no. The passenger grinned, "Roger that Dispatch, Three William Fifty-Six responding to 10-459 at Palace Royal."

"I hate you." The driver muttered as the passenger grinned wide enough to crack his face as he put the light on the top of the car. As the revolving red light started up the driver put the pedal down and broke out of the traffic snarl he was in, heading for Rio Blvd.

Xander bypassed the elevator and ran down the stairwell, skipping the steps five and six at a time as he rushed down. He could hear shouting above him, but ignored it, mentally counting off the floors as he ran.

<Twenty three....>

"Stop in the name of her glorious magnificence!"

Xander almost stopped to throw the shouter an incredulous look, but thought better of it as he rushed down. <Who the hell talks like that!??>


"Are you sure you can do this?" Amanda whispered as she watched Paige twirl the small crystal pendant over a map of the city.

Paige shook her head, not taking her eyes off the map. "No... Xander was just showing me how to use the scrying spell... I... well I haven't had anything to look for yet."

"No time like the present." Hercules said.

Paige nodded, letting the crystal spin on the end of the long string as she tried to focus her mind on Xander.

She thought about his smile, and the way he cracked bad jokes. Then she imagined the way he always seemed to have something to say, no matter how bad things got, that seemed to make things better. Finally she envisioned the way he always seemed to be ready to stand up and fight when someone was threatened.


The crystal pulled from her hand and thudded to the map on the table.

The three of them leaned and looked closer.

"Rio Blvd." Hercules said.

"Let's go..." Amanda replied.

"We'll use both cars..." Herc responded as they all headed for the door. "You guys follow me."

Amanda nodded, then grinned at Paige. "I'm driving."

At the third floor, Xander hooked the rail of the stairwell and brought himself to a jarring turn, kicking open the door and running into the hallway at full speed.

He looked from one side to the other, quickly spotting a window at the end of the hall, and ran down. At the window he glanced out and down, quickly spotting what he was looking for.

"Definitely not your finest hour, Xander." He muttered as he put a single armored elbow through the glass and then cleared the shards away.

He hopped up onto the ledge and braced himself for a moment before jumping clear. Xander stretched out, latching on to a long flag hanging from the side of the wall and sliding down the long length of material emblazoned with the logo of the Palace Royal.

Twenty feet from street level, Xander stopped as the flag ran out. He glanced down briefly, and let go. He dropped the twenty feet, flexing his legs, rolling back, and slapping the sidewalk to absorb the energy of the fall.

The robed figures burst from the building, running straight at him as he kipped up to his feet and took off running.

The car squealed to a halt as the passenger thumbed the radio, "Dispatch, this is Three William Fifty-Six, we have some sort of an altercation developing into a foot chase at the Palace Royal heading west..."

"Roger that, Three William Fifty-Six," The dispatch radio crackled. "Proceed with caution."

"Right." The cop replied with a grin, "I'll take that under advisement. Over."

There was no reply but he didn't wait for one either. He opened the car door and jumped out, even as his partner hit the gas and took off to try to get ahead of the runner.

"Stop! Police!"

Xander glanced over his shoulder, not slowing his pace as he ran full out despite the extra weight he was carrying. He could see three of Glorificus' minions chasing him and someone who seemed to be a plain clothed cop right on their tail. He shook his head, <Dumb bastard. Hope he doesn't catch up to them.>

A flash of red caught his attention and he looked to one side to see a cop pacing him in a car.

"He... hey! Stop! Police!"

Xander shook his head, but didn't respond as he tapped Elan's energy and sprinted for his bike.

As the runner started pulling ahead of him the driver of the car looked shocked. "What the?"

He looked down at his speedometer and blinked. He was driving thirty-five and the kid was pulling away.

"Damn it!" He muttered, putting the gas down. "I hate drug users."

The running cop caught up to the closest of the group he was chasing and launched himself into a flying tackle that brought both of them sprawling to the ground. He quickly rolled the robed figure over and growled, "Alright, buddy! What the hell is... Holy Fuck!"

The figure under the robe was by far the ugliest thing he'd ever seen. He was still staring in shock as the figure punched out at him with a blow that lifted him clear off the figure AND the ground, dropping him over five feet away.

He rolled on the ground, gasping for air as the robed figure scrambled to it's feet and ran away.

Xander reached his bike just as the car with the cop pulled past him. Without taking time to look, Xander reached down and ripped the license plate off the bike, stuffing the twisted metal into his pocket. Then he hopped on the bike and hit the starter, smiling as the powerful BMW engine roared to life.

<This little excursion has gotten way more attention then I wanted.> He mused as he spun the bike around away from the cop and headed back toward the Palace Royal.

The cop struggled to his knees, groaning for air, as a black bike roared by. He stumbled out into the street, drawing his pistol instinctively. There was a squeal of tires and he looked up to see his partner bring the car to a stop.

"Get in! Get in!" His partner waved.

He ran around the car, staggering as he pulled the door open and literally fell into the seat and gasping out, "Go! Go!"

His partner hit the gas and the car squealed off.

Sirens were blaring all around them as Amanda slowed the Charger almost two blocks from their destination. The Immortal thief instinctively winced whenever a cop came close, but tried not to show it.

"What's all this for?" Paige asked, confused.

"I don't know." Amanda admitted, "I wish I had my police band radio here."

"You don't think Xander has something to do with this do you?"

Amanda looked over at the young woman, shrugging in an elegant motion. "I would not put it past him."

"Oh god." Paige looked sick. "What is he's...?"

A black bike whipped past them, the drivers long coat flapping in the wind as he leaned over the handlebars. Right on his tail an unmarked cop car with a black driver ripped past them with its siren and lights blaring.

"I'm guessing that he's still alive... and that he *is* the cause of all this." Amanda said dryly.

"Come on, Roger, step on it!"

Roger Murtaugh shot his partner, Martin Riggs, a glare. "Shut up, Riggs!"

"He's getting away!" Riggs said, waving his hands at the windshield in exasperation.

"So call ahead for a road block!"

"Oh, uh... right!" Riggs grabbed the radio, "Dispatch, this is Three William Fifty-Six, we are in pursuit of a black racing bike..."

Riggs let go of the transmit button, looking around. "Where are we anyway?"

"Uh..." Roger Murtaugh looked around, "East on Rio...."

"Right..." Riggs put the transmit button down again, "heading east on Rio blvd... request additional units, a road block, and air support."

Roger looked at him oddly and Riggs took his finger off the switch, "What? I got a feeling about this, Roger..."

"You and your feelings." Murtaugh groaned, putting the pedal down a little further as he tried to keep the bike in sight.

Xander risked a glance over his shoulder as he turned the bike away from the downtown core and tried to decide where he'd have the best chance to lose the pursuit.

"Man, I like being on the other side of the chase..." He muttered, twisting the throttle, killing the lights, and amping his vision as high as he could.

He twisted and wove the black racing bike through the traffic, until he saw a flash of red up ahead of him and then saw three cruisers blocking the road. <Crap.>

He let go of the throttle and slowed the bike to a stop, looking behind him. The cops from the front of the hotel were already there, trying to block that pass, and the cruisers were doing a pretty good job of blocking the other side.

Xander looked around the street carefully, noting everything as he idly revved the engine.

"W...we got him!" Roger said, "He's gonna give up."

Riggs shook his head, smiling slightly. "Oh no... he's not giving up... he's just checking us out."

Roger let out a breath, "Damn it, Riggs, how do you know that?"

Martin Riggs pulled out his Berretta and cranked the slide back. "Trust me, Roger."

With that Riggs got out of the car and aimed his gun at the biker. "Police! Freeze!"

"Trust him, he says..." Roger muttered, "Yeah right.... trust him to get me killed..."

Roger Murtaugh sighed and pulled his service pistol, half stepping out of the car and aiming the .38 at the biker.

Xander watched as the white cop started to walk down toward him, an automatic pistol leading the way. <Well... getting caught is out of the question... which leaves...>

He gunned the engine and spun the bike around, head west again, and twisted the throttle all the way. The back tire squealed and the big bike took off, straight at the cops.

Riggs held his place for a few seconds as the black bike closed the distance, then shifted nervously.

"Riggs." He heard Roger mutter from behind him, "Riggs!"

"I got it, Rog..." He muttered tightening his stance as the bike raced closer. He drew a bead on the front tire, his finger tightening on the trigger.

The instant before he fired the bike suddenly shifted and changed course. Riggs eyes briefly flickered along the bike's new course and he cursed. "Roger! He's getting away!"

"Are you nuts, Riggs??" Murtaugh shouted back, "We've got him penned in!"

Riggs was already running, "He's not staying in the pen!"

Xander flinched instinctively under the helmet as he popped the front tire and burst the bike through the department store's huge plate glass window, scattering the window display and crashing through into the lingerie department.

He skidded the bike to a stop briefly, pulling brassieres and panties off his helmet so he could see.

"Whoops..." Xander muttered, gunning the bike as the white cops made a flying leap for him. The bike shot forward and the cop crashed into a mannequin sporting a sheer lace teddy. He kept the throttle on, running the bike through the store and looking for a way out.

Martin Riggs yelped in surprise as the bike suddenly spurted out of the way, his eyes widening as he crashed into a department store dummy. He and the dummy fell to the ground, rolling a bit until he wound up on top of the mannequin.

He looked down at the painted face, then further down at the lace teddy. "Hey, I wonder if I could get Lorna to wear one of these?"

Then he shook his head, clearing it. "Later... later..."

He gave the mannequin a quick kiss, and muttered, "Thanks doll, I've been trying to think of the perfect Christmas gift for hours now..."

Then he got up and started running along the path of destruction cut by the bike. "Oh I hate it when they cause destruction of private property..." Then he laughed, "That's my job."

Xander paused the bike again when he found an aisle that seemed to lead out of the lingerie section. He let out a suffering sigh as he pulled a pink bra off his handlebars and tossed it to one side. He glanced back and saw the cop running, or trying to run, through the wake he'd caused.

He turned back quickly, causing a piece of material to twist around and block his vision. He grabbed it off his helmet, and looked at it for a second.

It was a cream colored silk nighty that was cut extremely sheer.

<Hmmm... I wonder if Amanda would like this?>

Xander smiled, hung it over his handlebars and gunned the bike again.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" Riggs screamed as he broke out of the path of destruction into the aisle just as the bike took off again. "Damn it!"

He aimed his gun, but didn't fire as he noted the people all through the place.

Riggs cursed again, and took off in pursuit.

<Damn. Where the hell is the way out?> Xander asked himself as he stopped the bike by the sporting good section and looked around.

"Hey!" He yelled to a guy who was cowering behind the knife display. "You!"


"Yeah you!" Xander yelled, "What direction to the exit?"

"Which one?"

Xander cursed, a muffled sound. "Any one that doesn't come out on Rio!"

"Y... you can cut through the mall and come out on the other side..." The guy said hesitantly, pointing, "That way..."

"Thanks man. I owe you one."

"Please don't hurt me." the guy said, shaking.

"Consider it done." Xander laughed, quoting the Simpsons as he revved the bike and took off.

"God... damn it!" Riggs cursed as he skidded to a halt in sporting goods, just in time to see the black bike take off. "I'm starting to get pissed... really pissed."

"Oh my god!" A guy yelled hitting the ground as soon as he saw Riggs and his drawn weapon.

"Relax pal," Riggs muttered, "I'm not gonna shoot you... I'm a cop."

"That's supposed to make me feel better?" The guy asked from the ground.

"Wise guy." Riggs growled, chasing off after the bike.

Xander skidded the bike to a halt at the checkout counter, flipped up his visor, and looked over at the frightened clerk. "Hi... how much for this?"

She stared in shock at the peach nighty and stammered. "F... four hundred dollars... Sir."

Xander pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket and looked at it. He quickly peeled off about three grand and gave it to the clerk. "The rest is for the damage... Oh, and here..."

She stared in shock as he handed her another hundred.

Xander winked at her, "For you... Thanks for the help."

Then he revved the engine and squealed off into the Mall proper.

"What did he want!?" Riggs asked, sliding to a halt beside the checkout counter.

The girl screamed when she saw his gun and he groaned. "Relax, I'm a cop!"

She kept screaming.

Riggs groaned, "Damn. The LAPD really needs a better PR department."

Then he shook his head and ran off into the mall.

"One side! Move it! Coming through!" Xander yelled as he wove his bike through the crowds of shoppers.

He pulled the bike up beside a fountain and a sign that had a red arrow saying, 'you are here'.

"Hmmm..." He muttered, "Let's see... I could take a shortcut through the Gap... nah... ah, here we go... North entrance... That's the ticket."

He squealed the big bike around, heading more or less north.

Riggs slumped against the sign as he watched the bike take off again. "Oh for the love of..."

He groaned and pushed himself off the sign, running along the wide hall of the big mall after the motorcycle.

Xander slowed the bike as he approached the big automatic doors, impatiently muttering. "Come on... open.... open..."

The doors opened and he smiled, driving the bike out and into the street. He quickly turned the bike east and took off.

Riggs ran out the doors just behind the bike, diving at the rider again just as he gunned the engine. As the cop hit the ground rolling he just flipped over onto his back and lay there. "God DAMN IT!"

"H... hey! Riggs! Come on! Get in!"

He rolled over and looked up to see Murtaugh throwing open the door of his car, waving at him. Riggs pushed himself up and dove into the car as Roger gunned it.

As the door slammed shut Riggs forced himself up to a sitting position and muttered, "I'm gonna get this guy, Rog... I'm gonna get this guy!"

"He... hey! *WE*. *We're* gonna get this guy!"

Riggs nodded, "We... we. We're gonna get this guy."

"Right. We." Roger muttered, looking between his partner and the road.

Xander hooked a left and ran a red, driving against the flow of traffic up a one way street. Behind him he could hear the squeal of tires and the blaring of horns as the cops followed him.

He grinned and shook his head slightly. <Damn, these guys are bulldogs.>

Idly he wondered if there was an off chance that he was being chased by one of the LA cops he knew. He'd caught a glimpse of the driver and knew he was black, but that was it. Xander knew the odds of it being Harrigan or Terrel were pretty slim, but it was funny to consider it.

He squeezed the bike through a crack between two cars and gunned the throttle as he broke out into an open space. Behind him he could hear the squeal of brakes as the cops were stopped by the block.

<Too bad. So sad.> Xander grinned, cutting another left and getting on the right side of traffic ion the process. <Via con Dios, guys.>

He had just finished the thought when a spotlight pegged him from the air and the sound of chopper rotors filtered into his helmet.


"Shit!" Roger cursed, banging the steering wheel for a second before shifting the car into reverse and stepping hard on the gas.

Smoke billowed from the tires as he backed all the way back to the intersection, cut the wheel, and spun the car around until he was pointing west.

"Go! Go! Go!" Riggs screamed from the passenger side, waving his arms like crazy.

"I'm going! I'm going!" Roger yelled as he shifted the car into drive and hit the gas again.

Riggs grabbed the radio, keying the transmit button. "Dispatch, this is Three William Fifty-Six, heading west on... on..."

"Belmont! God dammit! We're on Belmont!" Roger roared.

"Belmont!" Riggs yelled into the mike, "Suspect is heading west on Tremont, moving VERY fast!"

The radio crackled back, "Roger that, Three William Fifty-Six, we have an aerial unit in pursuit. Suspect turned north on Pine."

Riggs looked up just in time to see the street sign for Pine coming up and started yelling, "North! North! North!"

"North! I get it, already!" Murtaugh growled, cutting the wheel and tapping the brakes.

The unmarked car skidded around the turn and squealed as it started to accelerated up the road.

Xander turned the bike and headed for the industrial section of town. He'd never lose the chopper as long as he had to dodge traffic and watch for pedestrians. As the traffic started to thin he let the throttle out a little more, grinning as he watched the needle on the speedometer crawl up past seventy and start reaching for eighty miles an hour.

Then there suddenly came a moment of peace. His every sense was keyed up as he roared through the night on the powerful black bike, he didn't even notice the tint of the helmet visor, or the dampening effect the helmet should have been having on his hearing. The wind was roaring past like a freight train, but that sound was tuned way down in his mind, as was the sound of the bike itself.

He heard a person curse at him as he roared past, saying something about 'damn kids and their joy riding', and saw a cat perched on a ledge licking its fur four stories up and three blocks ahead of him. For a brief moment the euphoria of the sudden rush caused him to feel like he was floating and he felt almost like he was in the Dreaming as his senses hypertuned.

<Alexander!> Elanthielle's voice slipped through the pleasant feel, bringing him back to his senses.

<Whoa.> Xander thought as the roar of the wind and the whine of the bike rushed back into his mind. <What the hell was that!?>

Elanthielle's voice sounded vaguely pleased, <You jumped to the next level, Alexander. Excellent progress. However, it might be best if you experiment with it under less trying circumstances.>

He shook his head, suddenly conscious of the glare of the chopper's spotlight again. <Yeah... Good idea.>

Xander twisted the throttle all the way open and turned his entire focus back to the task, not noticing the needle pass one hundred.

"What are we going to do!?" Paige asked, looking between Herc and Amanda.

"Well... Honey..." Amanda said, consoling. "There really isn't anything we can do..."

Herc nodded, "She's right. We're going to have to wait this one out... Either Xander will escape pursuit and meet us back at the hotel... or we'll have to bail him out of jail tomorrow."

Paige let her arms drop to her sides, where they swung limply. "He could get killed..."

"I don't think that's going to happen." Amanda said reassuringly. "Xander can handle himself in a crisis."

Paige nodded, and allowed Amanda to steer her gently back to the Charger.

Hercules watched as Amanda closed the door on the young woman and walked back around, "I'll follow you back to the hotel... we can wait for news together."

Amanda nodded and got into the Charger.

Xander felt the ground drop away as he and the big black bike soared through the air over the L.A. aqueduct. The landing was a far cry from soft, and Xander could hear something scrape, and saw a shower of sparks in his peripheral vision, but the bike kept accelerating on command as he straightened the slight shimmy and aimed the bike along the long uninterrupted straightaway.

He grinned as his enhanced vision spotted just what the doctor ordered at the end of the run.

Riggs was listening to the radio as the chopper pilot report back on the chase.

"Suspect just entered the Aqueduct channels at fifth and Dunn... now moving at a hundred and twenty miles per hour and accelerating."

Riggs grabbed the mic. "Don't you lose him, Air One!"

The Chopper pilot's voice came back a moment later. "Not planning on it Riggs. Shit! He just hit 130!... 140!"

Riggs growled, "Oh this guy's good, Rog.... This guy's real good."

"We'll get him, partner! We'll get him!"

The Chopper pilot muttered another curse over the radio. "One sixty and still accelerating!"

"Stay with him!" Riggs ordered over the radio.

The pilots voice came back, a little uncertain. "He's got to slow down soon! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph... he just passed one seventy..."

Murtaugh looked over at Riggs, "Christ Riggs... this guy is crazier then you are."

"I resent that." Riggs muttered in response. "I'm much crazier then this guy."

Murtaugh shot his partner a dirty look, but a crackle over the radio interrupted him. "Shit! Fuck! We lost him! Sorry guys!"

"What happened, Air One?" The Dispatch asked dispassionately.

"The crazy son of a bitch went into the sewers at a hundred and seventy eight miles an hour, that's what happened!"

Riggs and Murtaugh looked at each other in shock for a second, then Riggs spoke. "Never mind. You're right, this guy IS crazier then me."

"Right..." Murtaugh muttered as he looked out the windshield in shock. "Crazy..."

Riggs thumbed the transmit button, "You did your best guys... thanks."

"We're sorry, Riggs... nothing we could do..." Came the response back.

As soon as the huge culvert engulfed him, Xander let up on the throttle and tried to slow the big bike down. Unfortunately, the small amount of water that had gathered at the bottom of the cement drain caused his bike to hydroplane almost instantly, and in short order Xander found himself fighting against the rear end as it tried to over take the front.

He tapped the brake, causing the rear tire the drag slightly, which snapped the bike straight again and then hit the throttle before the big motorcycle could start to shimmy on him. The engine whined, the rear tire bit down, and the bike straightened out again and came back under control.

Xander let out a deep breath he hadn't known he was holding and rocked the bike up and out of the water, climbing the side of the huge tube, and slowed the bike down on the incline. He mentally ticked off the space to the ninety degree turn up ahead, hoping he could get the bike down to a decent speed before he had to negotiate it.

Fifty meters.

He gently applied the brakes, leaning to keep the bike upright on the inclined surface.


Xander started to sweat. Under optimal conditions it was an easy stop, but having to do it while the bike was on a thirty degree slant wasn't optimal.


He tightened his grip on the brake, letting them do their work with more gusto as the bike's speed was quickly reaching a controllable level.


Xander's heart was racing.


He dropped the bike back down into the middle as the area flattened out into a T shape, hitting the brakes again and pulling the bike into a controlled skid.


Xander skidded sideways, putting his foot down to keep the bike from laying flat, and sent up a spray of water that soaked the cement around him.


The bike came to a stop, Xander's leg pressed uncomfortably against the cement wall of the culvert. He breathed for a moment and then pulled the bike away from the wall and just sat there.

One breath. Two. Three.

Xander unbuttoned the storm flap of his coat, unzipping the armor part way, and did something he'd never done in his life.

He pulled out his Celtic Cross, lifted it to his lips, and kissed it while thanking God for the fact that he wasn't pulverized against the wall. Consciously, he knew that it was his skill and luck that kept him alive and not God's intervention, but for once he just had to thank *somebody* and God was elected.

Then he dropped the cross back inside the coat, revved the motor of the bike, and started off down the tunnels.

"This the place?"

Murtaugh looked up, waving at the chopped hovering above them while he waited for Riggs to get an answer. A moment later Riggs looked up from his radio and nodded. "Yeah, he went in there."

"Let's check it." Murtaugh muttered. "You know, Trish is going to kill me for missing dinner."

"Hey, at least you get to wait that long..." Riggs muttered, "Dispatch just told me that Lorna was coming down here."

Murtaugh laughed, "Better you then me."

"Hey, you were driving." Riggs said, shaking his head.

"Shut up and let's get this over with."

Riggs nodded, "Yeah. I've got three hundred riding on this one."


Riggs grinned, "The guys in the chopper say that the guy plowed his bike into the far wall... they found out that it's just a few hundred meters in."

"What makes you think he didn't?"

Riggs shook his head, "Oh this guy still alive. Trust me on that."

Murtaugh shook his head and the two cops walked into the huge culvert, playing their flashlights over the cement walls as they walked.

A few meters in Riggs stopped, crouching down in the water and aiming his light at a patch of cement. "Nasty..."

"What?" Murtaugh asked.

"He almost lost it here..." Riggs said, "See the twist of the skid mark here... his back tire was sideways when he started this..."

"How can you know that?" Murtaugh demanded.

Riggs grinned, "I've been hanging around the forensics guys... I'm picking it up pretty fast."

"Yeah, yeah..." Murtaugh muttered, "Like defusing a bomb, right?"

Riggs shot his partner a dirty look. "We said that we'd never mention that."

"No. You said that we'd never mention that, I said that we should have waited for the bomb squad."

"Semantics." Riggs shrugged. "Tomato, Tomahto."

"Yeah, I've got you tomato right here..." Murtaugh growled, but Riggs was already moving further in. He quickly moved to catch up. "Hey, you think they'll get all the exits covered?"

"Oh, yeah..." Riggs said easily, "They'll have every hole big enough for a bike between here and beverly hills covered long before this guy can find his way out. Don't worry."

"Don't worry he says..." Murtaugh muttered, but followed his partner in further.

Xander took a few turns at random, mostly to put as much distance between him and the cops as he could, but was starting to worry about getting lost. He was slowing to a stop when he saw a dim glow up ahead, a glow that wasn't being caused by any light source.

He got the bike moving again, taking it slow as he approached the glow, and stopped when he reached it.

"You may as well come out." Xander said, speaking to a section of the wall. "I can see you."

The concrete shimmered for an instant, and then a piece of it broke away and formed into a lone figure. "Don't hurt me ok?"

"Relax... You're Nebu Tribe, right?"

The demon nodded.

"Then you're not on my hunting list." Xander replied, "Got nothing against people who just want to live and be left alone. Thing is I need a bit of help, you know these tunnels?"

The Nebu Demon nodded nervously.

"Think you can find me a way out..." Xander asked, "Preferably something big enough to fit my bike through, but that won't show up on the mortal cops radar?"

The demon's eyes darted right and left for a minute, but it didn't answer.

Xander shrugged, "I'd be willing to pay..."

The Nebu quivered. "Cash?"

Xander nodded. "On the barrel head. I've got about a grand in my coat... it's yours if you get me out of these tunnels."

The Nebu shifted a couple times, still not looking really trusting.

Xander sighed. "Here. In advance."

The Nebu's hand darted out and grabbed the money. He counted it quickly, then turned and darted away. "This way! This way!"

Xander smiled, and followed after the small demon.

"Well that settles it." Roger muttered, "He didn't plow into the wall."

"Nope." Riggs said with a grin, "But he came close... check this out..."

Roger walked over and looked to where Riggs was pointing. There was a long stretch of rubber that came to a halt right up against the wall. "What? So he came close...?"

Riggs nodded, "Real close... I'd be surprised if he didn't nudge the wall before he got stopped... man... This is some heavy shit, Rog... Hea-vy shit."

Murtaugh shook his head, "What are you talking about, Riggs?"

"You know I'm pretty good on a bike, right?" Riggs asked, not waiting for Roger's nod. "Well, if I'd done this... you'd be picking my teeth out of this wall right now. Assuming I didn't lay the bike down and ricochet the whole length of the tube when I hit the water back there... This guy is good, Rog."

"So he's good..." Roger shrugged, "So what?"

"No... no, man... you don't get it." Riggs shook his head, "I'm not talking 'good'... I mean *Good*."

"I don't get you..."

"Professional good." Riggs explained, "Stunt driver good... maybe even better, cause he seems to have done this on the fly... a stunt driver would have taken days, maybe weeks to set this up."

Roger shrugged, "Maybe he had it planned..."

Riggs shrugged, "Maybe." but didn't sound convinced.

"C... come on, Riggs... lets leave this to the forensics boys." Murtaugh urged, "I want to get home to Trish."

Riggs nodded, "Alright... I'll hook up with Lorna... I want to ask some questions back at the mall."

Murtaugh rolled his eyes, "Sure, Riggs... you do that."

Xander stopped the bike outside Caritas, kicked the stand down, and dismounted. He took a deep breath, and glanced around.

It was late enough that no one seemed to be hanging around the area, or no one human at any rate. He walked to the back of his bike and pulled the license plate out of his pocket, glancing at the twisted metal.

<Damn.> He winced as he pulled the plate more or less flat again and fitted it back into it's place. When he couldn't get it to stick he growled a bit, and pulled out the small toolkit that came with the bike. After a few minutes of tinkering he had managed to get the plate more or less in place and holding well enough to last until he got something better so he put the kit back and walked into the club.

Lorne glanced up when Xander walked in, smiling at the familiar figure in black as he walked across to the bar.

"Baby face," He grinned, "What can I get you?"

Xander sighed. He needed a drink, and a stiff one, but not while he still had his bike to drive home. He shook his head, and asked with a semi-embarrassed grin "You have milk?"

Lorne laughed, "Of course... private stock. I get tired of the hard stuff... one of the dangers of running a bar I guess, right?"

Xander nodded. "Right."

Lorne poured him a tall glass of milk and peered at him closely. "You ok, kiddo? You look like you've been through the mill..."

"Long night." Xander said, taking a long sip.

"I know the feeling." Lorne said, pouring himself a glass. "Been crowded here all night... been scrying my horns off."

Xander chuckled, "As long as it pays the bills, huh?"

"You know it, Baby face." Lorne agreed, downing his glass in one gulp and pouring another. "Kev was in here earlier, looking for you."

"Yeah?" Xander nodded. "I'll look him up tomorrow."

"You do that." Lorne grinned, "And now I think you should be getting home... You look like hell, kiddo."

"Thanks." Xander said dryly, but then nodded. "Yeah... I guess I need to crash..."

He finished off the milk, dropped the last dollar bill he had in cash on the table, and turned to leave. Abruptly he turned back, remembering why he had actually come in. "Hey Lorne... You know any magic shops around here open this hour?"

Xander walked back into his suite a little less then an hour later, still counting his blessings and shaking his head in wonder over the events of the night.


He looked up, barely reacting in time as Paige hugged him rather energetic. "Wha!?"

Hercules and Amanda were looking at him, an odd cross of emotions on their faces.

Paige pulled back, "How'd you get away from the cops?"

Xander's face dropped. "How'd you know about that?"

Amanda smirked at him from across the room. "We witnessed the start of the chase."

Xander goggled, "You were there!?"

"Kevin was worried about you, so I scryed and we went to where the crystal pointed and..." Paige said quickly.

Xander threw up his hands, grinning at Paige. "Whoa, whoa, whoa... you scryed? That's great Paige!"

Paige sort of shrugged and smiled at the praise. "It was nothing..."

Xander shook his head, "It's way more then nothing Paige... scrying is a very useful spell, and it's not easy to do..."

"This is all very interesting," Hercules said, "But I'd really like to know how you got away from the cops..."

Xander shrugged, "got lucky... ducked my bike into the sewers and..."

The TV crackled to life as Amanda turned up the volume.

"This is Don Jenkins reporting from the Mid Town Mall where an extraordinary police pursuit has left a trail of destruction through this exclusive shopping facility... Earlier tonight a daring escape from police pursuit began when the driver of a black racing bike evaded the LAPD by driving through the plate glass window behind me, traversing the mall, and coming out the other side..."

The rooms occupants turned to glare at Xander who shrugged, "Ok... so I made a couple detours before the sewers..."

"Detours..." Herc shook his head, smiling. "Right..."

Amanda was laughing openly, "God I wish I'd been there..."

Xander shook his head, chuckling. "No you don't... You know this one cop chased me all the way through the mall? On *foot* no less... and he almost got me too... Hey! That's him!"

They all turned back to see the camera's aimed at a weathered yet handsome looking man who was coming out of the wreckage Xander had left of the window with an attractive woman behind him.

"Sargent Riggs! Could we have a word?"

The guy turned on the camera, "Sure... how about this, 'Mary had a little lamb, whose fleece was white as snow'. That enough? I'll give you three more, Kiss my <BEEP!>"

The woman pulled Riggs away from the camera as the reporter stared in shock for a moment. "Uh... right... This is Don Jenkins... reporting for WNLA..."

The news changed to another story, leaving Xander laughing as he stared at the screen. "Oh, I really like this guy! He almost caught me on *foot*..."

Amanda was laughing lightly, Hercules was sort of ruefully shaking his head, while Paige was staring at him in shock.

Finally Herc spoke up, "Why were the cops after you?"

Xander shrugged, "Well... it's like this..."

"Jesus Christ, Riggs!" Lorna Cole muttered, "Calm down for a minute!"

Riggs broke free of her grip, growling as he slammed his fist down onto the hood of his truck.

"Hey! Hey! Cut that out... we can't afford the detailing work!" She objected.

He just stayed their. "Did you hear that crap?"

"All they did was ask you a question, Riggs..."

"Not that!" Riggs muttered, "I mean inside! What kind of fugitive stops and buys lingerie for Christ sakes!? And pays for all the damage..."

Lorna grinned, "You're just pissed because he figured he had time to do it, even with you chasing him..."

"You're damn right!" Riggs turned around and slumped back against the side of the truck.

"Then you're really going to hate this..." Lorna said, looking up from a notebook.


"You know that call you guys responded too?" She asked.

"Yeah..." Riggs looked lost, "What about it?"

"The Palace Royal is now claiming it was a false alarm." She said, "Turns out they had a new clerk on duty and he pushed the panic button when a guest accidently smashed their patio door."

Riggs blinked.

Lorna just waited, she knew him well enough to recognize the signs.

Then he blew.

<Yep. Those signs.>

"You mean to tell me that there wasn't even a crime!?" Riggs exploded, slamming his fist into the side of the truck again.

"Dammit Riggs!" Lorna yelled, "Cut that out!"

"Why'd he run, huh? Tell me why he ran!?" Riggs muttered, his eyes a little wild as he considered the information. "Come on, honey... tell me that..."

"I don't know..." She shook her head, "You said he was being chased by some guys when you got there? Maybe he thought you guys were with them..."

Riggs nodded, not in agreement, but because he was thinking fast. "Yeah... yeah... and you know what? One of those guys was the ugliest SOB I've ever laid eyes on..."

"Uglier then you?" Lorna smirked, "I find that hard to believe."

He looked up grinned, "Lorna, my love... light of my life, if I thought you really meant that I'd have to take you home right now and reclaim my manhood."

"Can't reclaim what you never had, Riggs." She smirked.

He just grinned, considering. "Strong too..."

Lorna looked confused, "What?"

"The ugly guy... he was strong." Riggs muttered, "He took me out with one punch... threw me off him and back over five feet..."

"Well..." Lorna shrugged, "Maybe the guy was running from them... and you just happened to be running in the same direction..."

Riggs shook his head, "Yeah, but what does that leave us? Gang war? Organized crime?"

Lorna laid a hand on his shoulder, "I don't know Riggs... sleep on it, it'll come to you..."

Riggs nodded, then grinned. "You know, Honey... I saw the perfect Christmas gift when I was running through the lingerie department..."

She shook her head, "Oh no you don't Riggs! You are not buying me lingerie for Christmas..."

Riggs shook his head, "No, no, honey! I meant that you could buy it and wear it for me on Christmas... I still haven't decided what to get you yet..."

Lorna Cole shot her boyfriend and dirty look as she got into the pickup truck.


"That's some story."

"Are you NUTS??"

The last comment came from Paige, but the general sentiment was echoed by Amanda and Hercules.

Xander shrugged. "I just wanted to check out the opposition."

There was a long silence.

"How does it look?" Hercules asked finally.

"Not good." Xander admitted. "I put two clips into her... no real result."

"So... now what?" Hercules asked, knowing from personal experience that killing a God was not an easy task at the best of times.

Xander shook his head, "I don't know... We need to know more about her."

"Great." Paige said sarcastically, "I'll just go pull her biography from the local library..."

Xander looked over at her, a puzzled expression on his face, then he suddenly broke into a wide grin. "Paige... You're a genius!"

Paige looked around, confused. "Thanks?"

The phone rang.

In the darkness as form turned in bed, trying to ignore the piercing sound.

It kept ringing.

"Bloody hell."

An arm snaked out of the twisted covers and felt around the end table blindly. Finally it gripped the phone and pulled the receiver under the blankets.

"Do you have any idea what time it is, wanker?"

"Man, G-man..." Came a voice from the past... future... whatever. "Did you get up on the wrong side of the planet or what?"

Giles sat up straight in bed. "Xander??"

"Well, at least your memory hasn't started to go in your newly acquired youth."

"What took you so bloody long to Call!?" Giles demanded. "Daan'aal delivered the number ages ago!"

"Been busy." Xander replied, "Also, Elan didn't think it was a good idea to tell me until just a short while ago. She's a bit of a stickler with the whole time travel thing... I don't thing she's really happy with me..."

"I wonder why?" Giles asked sarcastically. "Why did she only tell you now?"

"We've got problems." Xander replied. "You remember the Key?"

"You mean..." Giles cut himself off. "Yes. I remember."

"A Hell Goddess has come to claim it. Her name's Glorificus." Xander said, "I need information, ASAP."

"Goddess?" Giles asked, trailing off. "Good Lord."

"A bad one actually." Xander said, "And a tough one. I emptied two clips of demon killers into her... head and torso shots. No result."

"I see..." Giles said, "Very well. I'll run this through the Council."

"Good. I need whatever you can get me."

"Xander, do you have backup?"

"Yeah... I've got a heavy hitter, and powerful, though inexperienced witch, and Amanda is here."

Giles laughed out loud. "Amanda?"

"Yeah... why?"

"Tell her that Rupert Giles thanks her for returning the dagger... and that if she comes near my museum again, I'll see to it that she has an opportunity to ponder the benefits of Immortality from behind a bricked up closet."

Xander chuckled, "I'll relay that. Talk to you soon?"

Giles nodded, though he knew Xander couldn't hear him. "Very well. Where can I contact you?"

Xander told him, "Oh... and G-man?"


"Good to talk to you again."

"You as well, Xander." Giles said before hanging up.

The once and soon to be field watcher sighed and looked around his room. "Bloody hell."

Xander hung up the phone and sighed. "Well... He'll see what he can find... oh, and Amanda?"


"I don't know what you did in London, but Giles seems a little ticked with you." He said with a grin.

Amanda blanched. "You know that wacko?"

Xander started laughing. "Yeah, I know that... wacko."

Amanda sighed. "I suppose that explains how he knew me."

Xander shrugged with a smirk, "Probably."

Amanda sighed and sank into a chair.

Laughing slightly, Xander turned to Paige. "I picked up something you might like..."

Paige looked up, "Gifts are good."

He laughed and pulled out a small box, and walked over to her. "Turn around."

She did and he pulled a crystal pendant with gold leafing from the box and slipped it around her neck. "Here."

Paige held the pendant up and let out a breath. "It's beautiful..."

Xander nodded to her she turned around, "It's a bit more then that..."


"It's a Wiccan symbol of protection and power." Xander explained. "I thought you might find some comfort in it."

Paige looked at the small crystal a second time, and whispered. "Thank you, Xander..."

"Your welcome." He smiled.

"What?" Amanda said, "Nothing for me?"

<Bingo.> Xander cheered inside. <I KNEW she wouldn't let that slide.>

"Not that I should have, seeing as how you blackmailed me into buying you a motorcycle..." Xander muttered, "But as a matter of fact I did get you something..."

Amanda's eyes lit up, "Oh? Do show me..."

Xander walked over to her, reaching into his jacket. "Now you have to promise me you'll wear it... I want to see how it looks on you..."

Amanda smiled, "Certainly..."

Xander drew his hand out with the cream nighty, grinning. "I hope it's your size... I was in a bit of a rush when I picked it up..."

The unexpectedness of the 'gift' actually broke through Amanda's composure and she blushed hot red as she considered how little the slip of silk was likely to cover. Finally she growled, but accepted the nighty with as good a grace as she could muster.

"You do realize that this means war, right?" She asked him.

Xander laughed lightly, hearing Hercules and Paige trying to keep from laughing behind him. "I think war was declared when you bought me the thing that even Speedo wouldn't make."

Amanda smirked slightly, still pink skinned. "But you looked so good in it."

Xander shrugged, "I'm betting that you'll look good in that."

She looked at the garment a second time, this time taking time to examine it. She had to admit, he was right. She would look good in it.

"True." She said simply, shrugging. "Thank you for the gift... I will be certain to 'repay' you for it... *soon*."

"I can hardly wait." Xander smirked at her unabashedly.

"Yes, well..." Hercules said, "as fun as all this posturing and innuendo is, I have to get going... Call me tomorrow, Xander, and we'll get together and figure out a war plan."

Xander nodded, "Sure, Kev. Thanks for coming..."

Hercules shook his head, "Not a problem, Xander. I'm glad you're alright."

"Yeah," Xander grinned. "Me too."

They laughed and Hercules left.

Martin Riggs sat on his front deck, staring out at the crashing waves. <What the hell is the deal here? A break and enter call that didn't happen... Monsters in robes chasing a guy on a bike... Who just happens to be suicidal by all accounts...>

He got up, tossing his beer can down the beach in frustration. He shook his head, and growled for a second. "Ah hell..."

He walked down the beach and retrieved the can. Lorna would kill him for littering their back yard.

As he walked back he looked up at the sky and shuddered, remembering the face of the monster that had slugged him. In LA he was used to seeing lots of weird stuff, but he wasn't going to forget that face for a long time.

Roger Murtaugh groaned and hit power on the TV remote, silencing the news report. "God damn it, Riggs..."

"What is it, Roger?" His wife asked blearily from the bed.

"Oh, it's nothing, Trish... Riggs just got on the news again."

"He didn't knock out another reporter did he?"

"No, Lorna was there to hold him back." Roger said with a slight smile.

"Good." Trish turned over, "Now come to bed, Roger... it's late."

"Ok, Honey..." Roger said, climbing into bed.

He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. It wasn't every day he ran into someone that could out crazy Riggs... and it was disturbing that the person was on the other side of the law.

"I'm getting too old for this shit." Murtaugh whispered before closing his eyes.

Xander stripped down, getting ready for bed. He was sore in places he'd rather not consider, but all things concerned it had been a marginally productive night.

He'd located Glory's current base, and though she knew it, he didn't think she was going to move. She struck him as too arrogant to bother.

Granted, testing her power level hadn't worked out as well as he'd hoped. Xander briefly pondered her fortitude, and whether or not she'd likely be able to stand up to anti-tank weapons. Unfortunately, he had to conclude that she wouldn't have much trouble shrugging off a rocket attack.

In the end that left only one weapon that he *knew* capable of harming and killing her. Unfortunately, to use that weapon he'd have to tap power levels high enough to fry his internal organs into a very well done casserole.

He paused and looked at himself in the mirror, his eyes passing over the hard muscles that had just begun to stand out noticeably on his body briefly, sliding up until he was staring himself in the eyes. <Am I up to this, Elan?>

Elan's response wasn't quick in coming. <I do not think so, Alexander.>

Xander nodded. "I didn't think so."

"Didn't think what?"

Xander spun on his heel, and found himself looking at a smirking Amanda as she leaned on the door jam that led to her room. He sighed, shaking his head. "What do you want, Amanda?"

She smiled, "Well... You did say you wanted to see how this looked on me..."

Xander's heart stopped and his stomach tensed as she shrugged out of the robe she was wearing and he saw she was wearing the sheer cream colored nighty. He tried to catch his breath, and then swallowed. Finally he managed to croak out, "Wow."

"You approve?" She asked, spin lightly in place and then walking up to him with a sultry look on her face.

Xander just nodded.

"Good." She whispered, inches from his face. "I wouldn't want you to think you'd wasted your money."

Xander's legs buckled and hell fell back onto his bed.

Amanda smirked down at him, "Tell me something... did you really stop and buy this during your getaway?"

Xander shook his head, trying to clear it, and managed to grin back at her. "Yeah. Something told me that you'd appreciate that as much as the 'gift' itself."

She smiled, "I do."

Amanda crawled onto the bed, straddling his legs as he sat there, and lowered her mouth onto his. Her lips brushed lightly over Xander's, and he pressed up, kissing her back. They lingered for a long moment before Amanda drew back and smiled at him.

"Good night."

She turned and walked out, the sway of her hips exaggerated with ever elegant step.

As the door closed, Xander flopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. <That woman is going to be the death of me.>

The next day found Xander trailing an ever increasingly petulant Dawn Summers around the city. He never got close enough to see what was ticking her off, but even he could tell that she was driving Joyce up one wall and sown the other.

Of course, to be fair, Buffy wasn't much help as far as he could see. Both sisters spent the day at each other's throats for one reason or another, leaving Xander extremely happy that he only had to watch it and not listen to it.


Xander shivered. Joyce's exasperated scream reached his ears across a busy street, loud and clear. The sound of a mother who had been pushed too far.

He wasn't close enough to hear the rest of the conversation, but it was clear that the law had been laid down and if the girls knew what was good for them they'd respect the lawmaker.

Xander smirked silently to himself as both girls quieted down.

<No fair.> Buffy complained internally, <She started it.>

But the teenager was smart enough to keep her mouth shut in the face of her mother's righteous indignation. <Maybe calling the little dweeb a bloodsucking leech was a little bit much...>

The older girl sighed and faced forward, determining to avoid eye contact with the aforementioned leech. "What are we looking for here, Mom?"

Joyce silently counted to ten before answering, knowing that the question wasn't meant to irritate. "I need to pick up a china set for the Party next weekend."

Buffy smiled, "You're throwing Dad a welcome home party?"

Joyce winced. Hank Summers had never been one to let the moss grow under his feet, it was true, but it seemed that lately he spent more and more time in the office or even out of the country on business. She knew that she shouldn't complain, he was paying for their extremely comfortable lifestyle, but with every passing day she had to ask herself if she wouldn't settle for a little less money in exchange for a little more of her husband.

Finally she nodded. "Yes."

Buffy smiled, "Cool."

Neither of the older Summers ladies noticed, but the youngest of the Clan stuck her tongue out and made a disgusted face behind their backs.

Xander sighed.

Crazy as it sounded, it was even worse watching women shop when they *weren't* spending his money.

He sighed again, almost theatrically, and settled in on the back of his bike for the long haul as the three Summers ladies walked into another high end boutique. Even through the inner complaints, however, Xander's eyes kept flicking around the area as he looked for any sign of trouble.

He had to laugh though. Amanda's 'revenge' on him may have been executed the night before, but she hadn't cut him any slack for this morning. She enforced the deal they had made when he talked her into taking over Dawn's French class, namely if she got the weekdays, he got nights and weekends.

After the night before, he really could have used some time off but, until he figured out a way to remove Glorificus and the Knights from the equation, he was in this for the long haul.

That said, he still had to wonder. <What's Amanda up to this morning?>

Amanda Devreau, Also known under countless aliases and 'nom de plumes' over the centuries, smiled dreamily as she rolled over in bed and stretched out luxuriously. She had made it a point of honor to sleep in this morning, even though it wasn't her normal habit nor was she especially tired.

Tormenting Xander the night before definitely had it's price though, and not for the first time in the past couple weeks Amanda regretted the fact that Mac wasn't around. Xander was an odd duck to her, and in some ways the constant flirting and posturing was becoming as frustrating to her as she was sure it was to Xander.

Problem was, he looked like he was sixteen, and she hadn't been into sixteen year olds even when SHE was sixteen.

<Doesn't act like it though.>

Well, not completely, she conceded to her mental voice. He certainly didn't act grown up though either, he was far to playful for that.

<Like you aren't.> Came the snide voice again.

Amanda growled, losing the lovely sensation of comfort she had been enjoying. Most people have a voice in their head telling them to do the right thing, Amanda had one telling her to break every rule in existence. Especially her own.

Sometimes it seemed to Amanda, like she was on one of those cartoons where the little angelic figure would pop up on one shoulder and the cute devil would show up on the other, both giving advice. In her case, much to the ire of many of her friends, the devil had a habit of fighting dirty. And winning.

It certainly would have won out last night if Xander had been a few years older, but as it stood the Angel was still firmly in control. Of course, even Amanda's Angel had a wicked side.

She smiled again, this time remembering the look on Xander's face as she backed off and left him frustrated on the bed. Men were so easy to mess with that it had lost all semblance of a challenge *centuries* ago. Of course, even she had to admit, Xander had a fairly easy time getting in his own return digs.

He was a lot like Mac in some ways, but considerably less set in his ways. MacLeod worried too much about Honor and such, living his life according to a code written for mortal men who lived and died in a few short decades. It didn't fit the lifestyle of an Immortal, but the Highlander was slow to adapt. Xander, on the other hand, was living his life much closer to the way she felt an Immortal should. Amanda felt a touch of sadness pass over her, knowing that Xander would age and die, like all mortals, in just a few decades.

<Time is short.> The voice snickered back into her head, <And you're wasting it.>

Amanda scowled and got up, putting the voice firmly away. Even if she did want to make a move on Xander, <Which I don't.>, there were other factors to consider.

<Name one.>

<Paige.> She replied to her own thoughts, quickly and certainly. For once her subconscious didn't have a snide reply for her, so she set about getting dressed for the day.

Just as she thought the subject was settled, the voice rallied again. <If she wanted him, she'd have made a move by now, you know...>

Xander leaned casually on the handlebars of his bike, and looked over at the three Summers ladies as they walked out of the store, laden with bags and looking extremely happy with themselves.

<What is it with women and shopping anyway?> He wondered, <From the looks on their faces you'd think they just won the lotto or something.>

Elan's voice came back, <Who are you to talk? You spend more in a month then those three are likely to spend in the next year.>

<Hey!> Xander defended himself, <I buy things I *need*.>

<Oh, of course...> She muttered sarcastically. <Three suites at one of the most expensive places in town, more weapons then even *you* can possibly use, and it seems to me that your vehicles are certainly more then you need for mere transport.>

<If I have to pay for something, I may as well enjoy it.> Xander replied in rebuttal.

<Really.> Elan said, her tone entirely unconvinced. <At least women are honest about shopping. You have to rationalize everything you do.>

<Leave me alone, Elan.>

<Would that I could, Alexander.>

Xander sighed and turned his attention back to where the Summers ladies were packing the car with their 'finds' and preparing to leave. He suddenly frowned as he noticed a flash of steel glinting just across the street from them.

<They wouldn't.> Xander thought, <Not in the open like this... Not in downtown LA??>

Keith Dangstrom, Knight in the service of the Order of Byzantium, watched the three women as they went about their chores at market. He scowled unconsciously, frightening any passers by who might have been inclined to approach him about his odd apparel. He did not like the assignment at hand, and he would take no enjoyment in the task, but he understood that it had to be done.

They had captured a monk three nights earlier, and he had finally broke. Keith had to give the holy man credit, he was strong of will. Too bad that he had not kept up his body in equal proportions.

The monk had finally confessed that they had tracked the location of the key to the home of the three ladies he now saw before him. It was obvious to Keith, that the man of the house had either stolen or purchased the key from those who did. All that remained was to take the women and hold them against the return of the Key.

His orders were simple. Capture the eldest woman. If the daughters or anyone else resisted, he could use lethal force so long as at least the mother survived. The council had decided that she was the most likely to know of the location of the Key.

He gripped the modern weapon he held in his hand a bit awkwardly. He didn't feel right without his sword in hand, but in a city this size there carried a heavy risk of encountering the authorities and a sword against a gun was not likely to result in a victory for his Order. For that reason he and all his men were carrying weapons purchased from a gunrunner to the South, despite the misgivings voiced by the Council of Elders and by he and his men.

Keith sighed, his grip tightening on the lethal weapon. <What the Commander orders, I pledge my life to accomplish.>

He nodded to his companions. "It is time."

Xander was on the move as soon as he confirmed the presence of the Knights, but he was too far away and he knew it.

Joyce Summers fumbled with her key, trying to unlock the door while she juggled two bags in her arms and her purse. Just as the slim piece of metal slid home she was grabbed from behind by two powerful arms.

"Wha!?" She managed to squeak out as she was pulled away from her car.

In the confusion she caught sight of two men similarly grabbing her daughters, and others waving guns around to scare off the people in the area. She heard a squeal of tires against pavement as a black van came to a stop next to them and the doors opened.

A squeal caught her attention and Joyce's eyes flicked back to Dawn in time to see the little girl tramp her heal down into the bridge of her abductor's foot, eliciting a scream of pain from the large man. Joyce's eyes widened as the man bent over in pain and Dawn suddenly straightened up, slamming the crown of her head into the man's face.

He fell back in pain, his nose broken and bleeding, and let go of Dawn. She instantly spun around and hit him with a right jab to his broken nose, mashing it further. Even as he cried out again in shock and pain, she snapped her foot out in a precise kick that nailed the large man in the groin. As he gasped in pain and began to wretch the small girl balled up her left fist and caught his nose again with a hook that put him down for the count.

"Dawn!?" Joyce managed to get out, her voice shocked. Then the sounds of yelling from the men around her and the clicks of their weapons being primed broke through her surprised haze. "RUN!"

Dawn glanced around, uncertain for a moment, then she turned and ran as fast as she could.

Joyce screamed as she saw the men lift their weapons to track her youngest daughter. She struggled vainly against the large man holding her, trying to do anything to stop the death of her child.

She watched, opened eyed and slack jawed, as a figure in black swept Dawn off her feet just as she heard the order that dropped her heart.


The guns opened up just as the man in black spun around and covered Dawn with his own body.


Dawn pumped her legs as fast as she could, a chill running up her spine as she imagined that she could feel the guns coming to bear on her.

<Oh God!> She wailed internally, <Why us!? What's going on!? This isn't supposed to happen!!>

She was so focused on running and her inner dialogue that she didn't see the figure in black leather and a motorcycle helmet until it was far too late.

He reached out with one arm that hooked her across the chest as she ran, sweeping her off her feet. Dimly she could hear a scream from her mother and someone yelling a word she couldn't pick out, then she was engulfed in the man's arms as he hugged her tight.

She could hear the sound of guns firing and she screamed, mentally and vocally. "Mom! Buffy!"

A tiny flare of anger burst into being and she growled, suddenly stamping her foot down hard in the same way she had taken on the brute that had tried to kidnap her.

There was depressingly little effect, other then an oddly hollow chuckle and a voice that was familiar despite the muffling of the helmet saying, "Nice try Dawnie... but don't forget who taught you that trick. *I* wear steel shanks in my boots."

She tilted her head up, looking in disbelief at the tinted visor of the helmet above her. "Xander?"

He chuckled again, "Nice to see you again, Dawn Patrol."

"Xander!" She screamed, this time a wide grin on her face. Then suddenly the sound of bullets striking around them filtered through her joy. "What?"

"When have you ever known me to walk around without Body armor?" Xander asked, humor filtering out past the muffling sound of his helmet. "Just stay tight, kiddo, and when I turn around stay right behind me..."

She nodded slowly as he released her, doing as he said and pressing close against him as he fumbled with the flap of his coat. He finally pulled two guns out from under his coat, familiar to her except for the long additions that even she could place from all the movies she watched. <Silencers...>

"Ready?" He asked.

She nodded, tensing.

"Stay close." He ordered again, then he spun around in a fluid motion that brought the two pistols to bear.

Joyce watched, her heart all but stopped, as the figure in black pulled her daughter into a tight embrace that hid her little girl from the guns of the men trying to abduct her. Her eyes widened as she saw bullet strikes spark off his back as the kidnapers guns found there mark, but the man didn't go down.

For a few long seconds he didn't move, then suddenly he spun around with two pistols filling his fists.

Joyce screamed automatically, her eyes slamming shut as the first puffs of smoke erupted from the long barrels of the man's pistols.

Xander targeted the shooters first, leaving the ones holding Buffy and Joyce alone for the moment. He fired on semi-automatic for fear of losing control of a burst and hitting one of the hostages, or a passerby further up the street. The pistols bucked lightly in his hands with every shot, as Xander fired into the group.

His first rounds ripped into a Knight who was carrying a full size Uzi, punching through the chain mail he had with little effort and ripping into the soft tissue of the Knight's heart. The second pistol puffed its silent death at another Knight, ripping the man's jugular and blowing a hole the size of a silver dollar out of the back of his neck, severing his spinal cord.

Two down. Eight to go.

As he shifted targets he felt the rapping impacts of more bullets and the stiffening of his coat as it hardened under the impact of the rounds. The coat's peculiar properties may stop bullets, Xander reflected as he shuffled along, but under a constant barrage the continual stiffening of the material didn't make for a full range of motions.

He ignored it, shuffling along toward the targets with quick but short steps as he kept firing.

The twin FiveSevens puffed their silent death, the five point seven millimeter tumblers ripping through another Knight as Xander shifted his aim.

Joyce screamed again, while Buffy remained oddly silent, their abductors drawing them back toward the van. Xander shifted his aim momentarily away from the shooters, and emptied his twin pistols into the tires of the van.

As the tires hissed and the van settled to one side Xander ejected the clips, letting them clatter to the ground, and drew two more from his coat pocket. He slapped them into his pistols, ignoring the minor slaps of the Knight's bullets as he racked the slides and primed both weapons.

The Knights looked at their vehicle for a long second, the fact that their tires had been blown out barely registering. When it did register they cursed and turned their attention even more fully on Xander as he approached them, still firing.

Dawn flinched back, hiding behind Xander as he moved slowly toward the kidnapers. "Xander! Is Mom and Buffy ok!?"

She barely heard his muffled response over the racket of the gunfire.

"So far!"

<Great.> She thought, <So far... Isn't the Xan man supposed to be supporto-guy??"

Xander shifted his aim, nailing another two of the Knights and already tracking on to the next ones.

<That's five for five.> Xander thought, already squeezing off more shots.

<Seven down. Three left.>

Xander turned, the face of his target looming in the sights of his pistols, and began to squeeze the trigger.

Suddenly a wrenching force lifted him off his feet, snapping his head back and around, and spun him around in mid air until he landed flat on his back.

<Uhhhhhhh....> He thought, not able to tell if he also groaned out loud or not. He tried to move, but found that he couldn't tell if he even had his arms and legs at the moment, let alone move any of them.

Dawn screamed in shock as Xander went down and she was suddenly uncovered.

"Xander!" She dropped to the ground beside him, grabbing his coat and trying to move him. "Xander!? Wake up!"

Approaching footsteps caught her attention and she looked up to see one of the Knights approaching her position slowly.

"Sir!" He yelled over his shoulder, "It is the one from last night! The one who knew the old oath!"

"How can you tell!?"

"The coat, sir!" The man said, still approaching slowly. "I know it!"

There was a brief silence. "Kill him! Take the girl... If he was willing to die to protect her, she may be more important then we thought!"

The Knight nodded and raised his weapon toward the fallen man.

Dawn screamed, not a scream of terror, but rather a focal scream that coincided with her sudden launch into the air.

Her foot kicked out, hitting his wrist and knocking the weapon clear, then she landed and screamed again as she launched into a reverse spin kick that caught the shocked Knight across the jaw and knocked him back.

He growled, regaining his balance. "Why you little...!"

A huge echoing boom caused Dawn to flinch in surprise as the man was suddenly thrown back. She looked behind her to see Xander, still on his back, a huge gleaming pistol in his hand. The visor on his helmet had been smashed out by the impact of a bullet and she could see a weak smile in his eyes.

"Now *that*, I don't remember teaching you..."

She smiled at him, putting her hands together gently as if in prayer, and bowed slightly. "Master Caine is an excellent teacher."

Xander nodded, barely managing to push himself to his feet as he looked at the two remaining Knights. They were looking at each other nervously as they held their captives.

"Let them go." Xander said, his voice steady despite the fact that his ears were ringing and he was still seeing spots of light crawling across his vision.

The Knights didn't respond. They just gripped their captives tighter and glared at him.

Xander switched to Latin, {"Let them go, I give you my pledge that you will leave this place alive!"}

The men finally answered in kind, {"We will not. We won't be dishonored like our Lieutenant!"}

Xander frowned, "Who?"

The other man switched to English as well. "The man you met last night. He has been cast down for letting you rescue the monk and preventing our move on these people!"

Xander blinked, then cursed. "Dawn... get me my pistols."

Dawn stared, wide eyed between him and the Knights who were holding her family captive. Then she nodded and rushed back to where the pistols had hit the ground. She quickly brought them back to Xander, who accepted them after slipping his Desert Eagle into his hip holster. He looked up at Joyce as he held the pistols calmly in his hands. "You ok?"

Joyce nodded slowly, "I... I don't understand..."

"It's alright... You'll be fine..." Xander said, trying to sound reassuring. Then he turned his attention to Buffy, "Are you alright?"

She shivered, nodding, but didn't speak.

Xander growled as he glared at the two knights, "Is death truly preferable to dishonor? Are you willing to sacrifice your lives for no gain? I'm not talking about a noble death here... If you die here, it is for no good cause. Your lives will not gain your comrades anything of value."

The men began to look uncertain, giving Xander some hope until he heard the wail of sirens in the distance. He immediately lifted his guns to aim at the Knights even as they hid behind their captives, and snapped out, "Decide! We have no more time! You know my word is good!"

The Knights shook with indecision for a moment before the apparent leader nodded and released Joyce, who stumbled forward and grabbed Dawn while looking fearfully at Buffy. The second Knight followed his leaders lead, releasing Buffy who stumbled and fell. Joyce moved to go to her, but Xander blocked her for a moment. He glared at the Knights. "Go!"

As they run off, Xander allowed Joyce past and she ran to Buffy.

Xander turned to Dawn, "I have to go... I don't want to deal with the cops right now. You'll be alright?"

She nodded quickly, "Go on! Get out of here... Just... come back when you can."

Xander nodded and staggered a bit as he rushed back to his Bike. He had to get clear before the police noticed him, he didn't think he was up to another high speed chase.

"Three William Fifty-Six, please respond."

Riggs leaned forward, grabbing the mic and grinning at Roger. "Roger, Dispatch, this is Three William Fifty-Six... Go Ahead."

"We've got something that might interest you, Riggs." The Dispatch said, "There was a shooting on the Boulevard."

"Well yeah, that's interesting..." Riggs muttered, "But what's it got to do with me?"

"One of the shooters was all in black leathers on a black racing bike, Sarge."

Riggs stared at the mic, then over at Roger for a moment. "No way."

Roger shook his head, "Not a chance."

Riggs nodded, "I mean... what are the odds?"

Roger shrugged, "Million to one."

Riggs snorted, "More like thirty million to one."

Roger nodded, agreeing with his partner, then tapped the breaks and hit the siren.

"Thanks Doreen," Riggs said into the mic, "We're on our way."

The police officer who was first on the scene had slipped blankets over the three Summers girls, as per standard procedure, but by the time Riggs and Murtaugh arrived only Joyce and Buffy were still huddled up. Dawn had shook her way out from her mothers smothering as quickly as she could.

She watched as the two cops walked up, flashing their badges and nodded at the patrolmen who had arrived first. She watched as one of the figures in blue pointed them in the direction of her and her family, and mentally Dawn prepared herself to lie through her teeth.

"Hi," The white guy said to Joyce, "I'm Sergeant Riggs... I'd like to ask you a few question..."

Joyce nodded, swallowing.

"Could you tell me what exactly happened here?"

She hesitated slightly before speaking. "I'm not really sure... I... We were grabbed by these men... they were trying to drag us to the van over there..."

Riggs glanced over to where a black van was cordoned off and the forensics boys were just setting up. "Go on..."

"My daughter... Dawn," Joyce looked confused as she tried putting it into words, "I don't know how she did it... but she got free and I told her to run... So... she did."

"Then what happened?"

"The men... they were going... God, they were going to shoot my baby..." Joyce looked so stricken then that Riggs backed off for a moment as she broke down and reached for Dawn.

He noted with mild amusement that the little girl who almost got shot was in considerably better shape then the parent or the sister.

"Mom!" Dawn pushed away, "Not in front of the cops!"

After a few moments she managed to break away and Joyce looked a bit better so Riggs sighed and stepped in again. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I really need to know..."

She nodded, "Yes... of course. They were about to shoot when a guy in a long black coat and a motorcycle helmet grabbed Dawn..."

"He was with the kidnapers?" Riggs asked.

"No!" She looked up , her eyes wide with surprise. "He saved my baby. He shielded her with his own body when they opened fire."

Riggs blinked, then turned back. "Hey guys! Do we have a blood trail back there anywhere?"

The answer came back fast. "Not a drop, Riggs! We've got about five hundred rounds of flattened nine millimeter though!"

Riggs really needed a place to sit down. He sighed and looked back at Joyce. "Ok... what happened next?"

She frowned, "He... he turned around and he was carrying these two guns... He just started firing... after that I don't remember anything until he came up close and started yelling to the people who were holding me and Buffy..."

"What did he say?"

"He... he said that if they didn't let us go, he'd kill them." Joyce said, her voice firm.

"Then what?"

"They let us go." Joyce replied, her voice sounding a little surprised. "And then they ran off... and he got on a black bike and left just before the police arrived."

Riggs turned slightly to the side, cursing under his breath. "Did you happen to see a license number, or what make of bike it was?"

Joyce shook her head.

He turned to the girls and asked the same question.

The blond said no, but the dark haired girl nodded and smiled.

"You saw what kind of bike he drove? The model or make?"

Dawn nodded, smiling, She had indeed saw it, and knew the basic lines well. It was an older version of Xander's old bike, and she knew it well enough. He'd even given her a few rides on it before, and promised to teach her to drive it herself over Buffy's objections. BMW's were fairly distinctive if you knew what to look for.

"What kind of bike was it?"

"A Kawasaki Ninja." Dawn replied without hesitating. "All black..."

"Ninja..." Riggs muttered, hemming slightly to himself. It could have been, he decided, one of the Larger Ninjas. "Thank you, little girl."

"No problem." She smiled at him.

Xander stumbled into his suite, hitting the wall heavily as he blacked out for an instant.

"Xander?" A worried voice came from the right, and he turned left. He frowned, not able to find the source of the voice, and kept turning. Finally he saw Amanda standing in the doorway that separated their rooms.

He blinked, then stumbled again.

She was at his side instantly, yelling as she did. "PAIGE!"

Amanda caught Xander under the arms, and drug him to the bed.

Paige came through the door, "What!?"

"He's hurt." Amanda replied, swallowing as she noted the trickle of blood that was running down his neck.

"Oh my god." Paige hesitated a moment, then looked up. "LEO!"

"What do you think, Partner?" Riggs asked, looking over the scene.

"I don't know." Roger admitted, "This guy... *if* it's our guy... is just too weird."

"Yeah." Riggs agreed, "He ran from us last night... and saves this family today. What's the game?"

Roger shook his head, "I don't know... Still, there's a bright side here."

"What's that?"

"He shot these scumbags, right?"

Riggs nodded, understanding instantly. "We can get a ballistics match on his pistols."

"You got it, Riggs."

Riggs grinned, "Beautiful."

"My god..." Leo muttered, carefully unstrapping Xander's helmet. "What happened to him?"

"We don't know..." Paige admitted.

Leo winced as he slowly pulled the helmet off, "Hold his neck straight..."

Amanda nodded and slipped her hands around Xander's neck and held him steady. She winced along side Leo as the helmet finally came off. Leo tossed it to one side and looked over his patient. After a moment he sighed in relief.

"It's just a scalp wound..." He said, laying his hands over the bleeding and allowing his power to heal the damage.

Xander blinked, his eyes opening slowly and looked up at the three people hovering over him. He blinked again, them grinned weakly and joke, "Wow... waking up to three angels... not too bad, but... no offense intended, Leo, I like the other two better."

Leo grinned, shaking his head, while Paige blushed and Amanda smirked. "I think he's going to fine."

Paige snorted, "Are you kidding? He's delusional."

"Huh?" Leo asked, "What do you mean?"

Paige glanced at Amanda sarcastically. "He thinks Amanda is an Angel. That has to be a sign of mental illness."

Xander chuckled weakly while Amanda pursed her lips and glared mildly at Paige.

"That's the last time I take you to a spa." Amanda smirked.

Xander pushed himself up, then fell back. "Whoa..."

"Calm down..." Leo urged, "Just wait a minute before you try killing yourself again."

Xander shot him a dirty look, then sighed. "Pass me my helmet."

Leo did, handing the black helmet over. Xander looked at it, sliding his finger easily into a narrow tunnel that marked where a bullet had entered. "Jesus..."

"What?" Paige asked.

"The bullet was just a glancing hit," Xander explained, "But the helmet trapped it inside... it ricocheted around the inside and came out through the visor at the front. It's a miracle it didn't take a chunk of my skull with it."

"Miracles seem to follow you around." Amanda said, gently smiling at him.

"Luck has to run out some time." Leo said, shaking his head. "You need to be more careful."

Xander nodded, slumping back. "Tell me about it."

"What the hell happened?" Amanda asked.

"The Knights made a move on Dawn."

Silence followed those words until Xander spoke up again and told them what happened.

Next Day

"What have you got Riggs?" Murtaugh asked, just knowing from the look on his partner's face that something was wrong in a BAD way.

"We got shit." Riggs said flatly, "That's what we got."

"What are you talking about?"

"You know all those witnesses that say the kid was firing pistols?"

"Yeah? What about 'em?"

"Either they're lying... ALL of them..." Riggs muttered, "Or we're looking at some heavy shit here."

"What are you talking about?"

"The only rounds picked up by ballistics that weren't matched to weapons found on the scenes should belong to our boy, right?" Riggs asked.


"So... The rounds that killed all the bad guys?" Riggs said sarcastically. "Don't exist in any pistol being marketed now, or ever at any point in the past."


"You know the new toy the SWAT boys are playing with?" Riggs asked, "That tight little subgun that looks like it belongs in a movie lot?"

"Yeah... Henderson say's that it's the best gun he's worked with..."

"Henderson say's a lot of things," Riggs muttered flippantly, "The point is that those were the rounds that killed the bad guys."

Roger blinked. "I don't get it."

Riggs tossed up his hands, "The company doesn't MAKE pistols for that caliber. Never have. They've got some prototypes on the board, but they're a year away from field testing. What's more, even if they did, the company doesn't sell to anyone but government and law enforcement."

Roger sat down heavily, "This case just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?"

Riggs laughed, smirking at Roger. "Oh, that's not the best part..."

Murtaugh groaned, rubbing his forehead. "What next?"

Riggs tossed a sheaf of papers across the table, "You know Mary from Forensics?"

Roger thought for a moment, "Yeah, yeah... isn't she the one with the... you know?"

Riggs nodded, "Yeah, but that's a medical thing... she's a little touchy about it..."

"What about her?"

"I got her to run her findings through the national database..." Riggs paused, "Guess what?"

"She got a hit?"

"She got two hits." Martin Riggs smiled nastily. "San Francisco, and New York... San Fran was a while back... September..."

"New York?" Roger asked, flipping through the papers.

"Just last week." Riggs said, smiling. "And they've got a name to go with the bullets."

Roger Murtaugh looked up and smiled. "Beautiful."

Xander was walking a little slowly, still rubbing his neck as phantom pains shot through him. Leo did a great job, but he still felt like he had whiplash from the impact of the bullet on his helmet. He settled down and sighed, glad that he didn't have to watch over the Summers home today.

He chuckled a little dryly. It was safe to assume that the Knights and the Monks would be wary of going near that place for a while, at least until the police presence died down. And if they stayed away then there was no way that Glory would be able to pinpoint the Key. That, at least, bought him a little time.

For now though, relaxation was the order of the day.

He was settling into the hot tub, sinking in past his neck and really enjoying the heat on his tendons when his cell phone went off. He sighed, reached out, and pulled his pants closer. He pulled the slim phone out and flipped it open. "Yeah?"

"What the hell are you up to in LA?" A deep voice growled over the line.

Xander opened his eyes, "Greer?"

"Damn right it's..." The man on the line broke out coughing, finally coming back a moment later. "Listen. You've got the LAPD about ready to knock on your door."

"What?" Xander was out of the water, dripping across the floor as he headed for the main room of his suite.

"You're little shootout yesterday." Greer growled, "They ran a ballistics check on your bullets... they weren't able to match the guns to your little stint here in New York, but they did match the caliber..."

Xander cursed.

"Exactly." Greer muttered, then broke out coughing again. "They got your name from McCarthy, they'll be following your money trail within the hour."

Xander stopped in mid panic and relaxed. "OK... No problem."

"Excuse me?"

Xander smiled into the phone, "You think I'm a slow learner? You tracked my money trail once. *Once*. I'm not using the Harrison ID here in L.A."

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone, then Greer spoke up again. "It would seem that I've underestimated you."

Xander chuckled, "No, not really. If you hadn't caught me with my pants down once already, they would have got me this time. But I do try to learn from my mistakes."

"That's a good policy." Greer said, "A better one would be to not make ANY. Now, tell me why you're in L.A."

"Nothing?" Murtaugh asked.

"Nothing." Riggs muttered. "No sign of Alexander Harrison on any of the credit hits. They're still looking, but if he checked in under a false name and used cash... he could be anywhere."

"Yeah..." Murtaugh sighed. "Damn. I thought we had something there."

"Yeah. Me too, Partner." Riggs muttered.

Murtaugh sighed again, "Yeah..."

There was a long silence as Murtaugh leafed through the papers they had gathered. "Hey... listen to this... In San Francisco this guy was associated with Mack Bolan..."

Riggs looked up, his eyes wide. "Your kidding."

Murtaugh shook his head, "No... interesting huh?"

There was no response, causing Roger to look around. "Riggs? Riggs?"

"You're telling me that these wacko's are trying to kill a ten year old girl?"

"That's the basics." Xander confirmed.

"For the love of god, why?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Now you listen to me you little..." Greer snarled, only to break down in a coughing fit.

Xander frowned, "Are you alright?"

Greer caught his breath, "Yeah... yeah... I'm fine. Just a cold."

"I thought you were going to the hospital for that?"

Greer growled, "Don't you start. I pushed my appointment up... I'm a busy man, Harrison. Now you tell me why they're after this kid..."

"I can't tell you that," Xander said, then added. "Not over the phone."

Greer growled, but reluctantly accepted that. Security was one thing he respected. "Fine. About that favor you owe me..."

"Mr. Greer..." Xander said, hesitantly, "I don't want to sound ungracious, but there is nothing on this planet that is going to pull me out of LA and away this little girl right now."

"I understand that." Greer said, "I think I have about two more weeks before this thing hits the fan... I'm going to need you to be ready by then."

Xander sighed. "Mr. Greer... I don't know if I'm going to be alive in two weeks."

The man laughed, "I'll take my chances."

Xander sighed again, "I'll do my best to be ready."

"Good." Greer said, "I'll let you handle your business then... but for god's sakes, don't get any cops killed."

Xander chuckled, "I'm not planning on it. Thanks for the heads up and look after that cough, Mr. Greer."

The man grumbled something that Xander didn't catch, then hung up the phone.

Sergeant Martin Riggs sat in his truck, out in the police parking lot, and pulled out his cell phone. He looked at it for a long moment before sighing and dialing a number he had just read from an old yellowed scrap of paper.

The phone rang once. Twice. Three time.


Riggs didn't speak for a moment.


"Hello Pol." He said quietly.

There was a silence.

"Riggs?" Rosario Blancales said in surprise. "Is that you, Riggs?"

"It's me." Riggs said.

"Jesus, man... It's been... shit, how long?"

"Ten years... give or take."

"How's Vicki?"

Riggs breath hitched, and he drew in a long shuddering breath. "She's dead, Pol."

There was a shocked silence, then Pol came back. "Christ... I'm sorry, Martin..."

"I... it happened just over nine years ago." Riggs said, steadying his voice. "I got the bastards."

"Shit." Rosario sighed, "Jesus... I wish I'd known, man..."

"It's ok." Riggs said, "I'm not calling about that anyway..."

"What's up?"

"I need to know something... I need to know it straight." Riggs said, his voice tense.

"Always." Pol said, "You know that."

"I know about you and your two friends..." Riggs said.

"Martin... listen, I can't talk about..."

"I know about you." Riggs repeated, "What I need to know is this... Can you get a hold of the Sarge?"

Another shocked silence. "I should tell you no flat out, Riggs. But I have to know... why are you asking?"

Xander settled back into the hot tub, sighing as the heat went to work on the soreness that was left in his muscles. He'd just barely closed his eyes when a loud explosion startled him and he slipped, sliding under the water.

He quickly pulled his way out of the tub, gasping and gagging as he looked around.

<No sign of anything outside...> He thought, hopping around as he pulled on a pair of jeans. He quickly headed out to the main room where he nearly ran into Amanda.

"What was that?"

Xander shrugged, "I haven't got a clue."

They looked around, and spotted a waft of smoke coming from under Paige's door.

"Oh dear."

"Oh crap."

They rushed over to the door, rapping on it. "Paige!? Paige!"

When there wasn't an immediate response Xander opened the door and they two of them rushed in. Inside there was thick smoke billowing around the room, but for some reason it wasn't setting off the fire alarm. Xander didn't stop to worry about, he quickly rushed through the room.

"Paige? Paige!"

A quiet voice came from behind the couch. "Over here."

They walked over slowly as Paige slowly climbed out from behind the couch. Her clothes were tattered, and she was covered in soot. Xander winced as he saw a large bruise forming on her cheek. "Christ, Paige... what happened?"

She wiped her face, smudging the soot more then cleaning anything. "I was trying one of the farseeing spells in the book you gave me..."

Xander blinked. "Farseeing spell?"

He looked around, finding the book while Amanda opened a window. He read the page it was open to and frowned, "I don't get it... This shouldn't have blown up..."

Paige just looked helpless for a moment.

Xander looked around, "And what's with this smoke anyway?? We should have half the hotel up here by now..."

Paige didn't say anything.

Xander looked at the page again, "Hey! Where'd you find a crystal of purity anyway?"

Paige blushed slightly and looked around the room.

"Paige...." Xander groaned.

"Well I kinda thought I could mix and match it a bit..."

He sighed, "Paige... if the crystal you used isn't perfectly clear then the results of the spell would be a little... unclear."

Paige winced, picking up something and handing it too Xander. "And if I used this?"

Xander looked at it, puzzled. "What the hell is this?"

"A piece I took off that colored wind chime the hotel hung in the window..." Paige explained.

Xander groaned.

Amanda came back over, "I don't know what the hell is going on, but this smoke isn't going anywhere..."

"Of course it's not," Xander muttered, "It's not even smoke."


"It'll wear off in a few minutes." Xander said, shaking his head. "I'm going back to the hot tub."

Amanda looked around, skeptically. "Are you sure?"

Xander nodded, looking tired as he walked back to his room.

Paige looked worried, "You think he's mad at me?"

Amanda frowned, "No... I think he's just tired."

Paige nodded, then looked around the room. "I guess I'd better clean this up, huh?"

Amanda laughed, "That would be a good idea. I'm going to go check on Xander... When your done, grab your bathing suit and join us..."

Paige pursed her lips at the Immortal thief, "Right. Like I'm ever putting on that piece of tissue paper again."

"Suit yourself, Darling." Amanda smiled and left.

The phone rang and the big man glanced at the ancient device before picking it up. "Hello?"

"Hey Boss."

"Pol. What's up?"

"Can you talk?"

Bolan looked around the dirty room, "Yeah. But the line isn't secure."

"I don't think it matters." Pol answered, "I just got a call from an old friend... You remember Martin Riggs?"

"Sure. Good shot."

Rosario Blancanales chuckled. Mack Bolan saying that someone was a good shot was a rare compliment. "That's him."

"What about him?"

"He called me up and asked me about someone he said you know. A kid you met in Frisco a couple months ago?"

"Xander." Bolan said quickly. "What about him?"

"Riggs is a cop in L.A. now, and it seems that this kid is pulling one of your old tricks on his turf." Pol said, "He iced a bunch of guys yesterday... they were trying to kidnap a family."

"Pardon me if I'm not crying for them." Bolan responded. "What's your point?"

"Riggs is jonesing for this guy," Pol said, humor evident in his voice, "And you remember how Riggs can get."

Bolan nodded and laughed, taking a seat as he cradled the phone. "I remember."

Both men did remember. It wasn't a common place occurrence, even in the insanity of warfare, for a man to track a single target through the jungle for three weeks. Riggs had a reputation for tenacity, and Bolan knew firsthand that it was well deserved.

"Apparently Riggs and his partner were chasing the kid the night before," Pol said, still chuckling, "or at least Riggs thinks that it's the same guy... It took me a half hour to get the whole story out of him."

"What happened?"

"The kid ran his bike through a shopping mall... stopping only to pay for damages and buy some lingerie..." Pol burst out laughing, "I think that's what really has Riggs ticked... He doesn't like being ignored when he's chasing a guy down."

Bolan chuckled, "So what does he want?"

"The kid." Pol answered, "Behind bars."

"Not by me." Bolan responded. "Kid saved my ass."

"I figured you'd say something like that." Pol said, "Riggs says that he'll settle for a neutral territory sit down..."

Bolan sighed, "I don't think that's a good idea."

"Hey, I just told him that I'd run it past you." Pol said defensively.

"I know." Bolan thought about it. "Look... I'm going to be busy for a while... What are you up to?"

"The team is on break. We just wrapped up that situation in Seattle." Pol said.

"Do me a favor," Bolan said, "Contact the kid... tell him about Riggs and let him decide."

"You want us in L.A?"

"If you have time." Bolan said.

Pol was silent for a bit, "Carl probably wants to go home anyway."


"No problem, Sarge."

Bolan told him the number of the kid's cell phone, said goodbye, and hung up. Then he got up and walked over to the window of the cheap room and looked outside.

Below him the morning light was just starting to break on the small market place as men and women began leading livestock into stalls and started to open their booths for business. An ancient Russian military jeep rattled down the street, three soldiers armed with AK's and Kalishnikov's grimly looking over the gathering of peasants.

Bolan let the drapes fall shut. The soldiers weren't his reason for being here this time.

"Well you're in a grumpy mood today."

Xander opened his eyes, struggling to keep his heart rate down and his eyes from bulging as he took in Amanda's practically non-existent bathing suit.

He watched, his eyes glued to her skin as she slowly sank into the water. He watched the water climb up her legs, then past her thighs. The bubbles of the tub popped and burst as her waist sank beneath the surface, then her navel.

"Sorry." He managed to get out as the water level finally crept over her breasts.

"Don't apologize to me." Amanda smiled at him, enjoying the look on his face. "I'm not the one who thinks your pissed at me."

He shook his head, "Huh?"

"You were a little short with Paige." Amanda said.

Xander sighed, "I know. I'll apologize later."

"Rough day?"

"Maybe." Xander said, "I'm not sure."

"Not much of an answer." Amanda smiled.

"I don't know how I'm going to handle this one." Xander admitted. "Glorificus is out of my league... even when I was at the peak of my game, I wouldn't have stood a chance against her. Now..."

Amanda listened as he trailed off and frowned. She shook her head, "Then don't."


"Don't take her on." Amanda said. "Run."

"I can't.... Dawn..."

"Take her with you." Amanda said simply.

Xander sighed and admitted. "I've thought about it. I really have."


"It's a last resort." Xander said, "I could drag her across the country if I had too... the world even... hell, I know a couple ways I could get her even beyond that. But dammit, her life is here. Her family is here."

"Her family can't protect her. Her life is where she lives it." Amanda said.

"It's a last resort." Xander repeated.

Amanda shrugged, "Whatever you say, darling."

Xander sighed and sank a little deeper, closing his eyes. He heard Amanda move in the water, but didn't look to see what she was doing until he felt her weight settle in beside him and her arm come to rest gently on his shoulder.

"You'll find a way," She said softly. "I'm confident of it."

He reached up and laid his hand on hers, "Thanks. I hope your right."

"Mack wants us to do what?"

Rosario 'Politician' Blancanales rolled his eyes and shoved the heavily muscled form of his team leader onto the small lear. "I already told you eight times, Iron Man."

"Hey, I just want to get this straight." Carl 'Iron Man' Lyons muttered, "This isn't our usual assignment."

"Think of it as a vacation, Carl." Herman 'Gadgets' Schwartz grinned as he hopped up the steps and into the small plane. "We've just got to arrange a little tete-a-tete in L.A., then we can spend the rest of our time on the beach me mano."

Carl growled, but nodded as he took his seat. "Yeah. It'll be good to see some of the old crew again."

"That's the spirit." Gadgets clapped him on the back, eliciting another growl.

"Whose the punk the boss man wants us to talk to?"

Pol shook his head, "Don't know. Just that Mack said that the kid saved his ass in Frisco a while back."

Carl was quiet as he digested that. Carl was a simple man, and Bolan was the one man in the world besides his teammates that Carl would both lay down his life for in an instant and trust with his back without question. If this kid saved Bolan, then this kid saved a piece of Carl as well.

"That don't happen every day." He finally said.

The pilot looked over his shoulder, grinning. "You got that right, Iron Man."

Carl allowed himself a small smile. "Hey Jack, how's it going?"

"Good as gold, Carl." Jack Grimaldi replied as he flipped switches and a low whine echoed through the small plane. "You?"

"Same as always."

"That bad, huh?"

Carl laughed, a low rolling chuckle, then nodded. "That bad. So, Jack, what do you know about this?"

"Not much more then you do," Jack said calmly. "I flew the boss back to the Farm after that mission, but he was silent the whole way. Not exactly out of the ordinary you know... but this was different."

Jack paused for a moment, and requested clearance from the tower. A moment later he started taxing the plane and kept talking over his shoulder. "You guys know Mack... He's not exactly talkative at the best of times..."

Able Team smiled slightly, knowing what the pilot was talking about.

Jack pushed the throttle forward, and the small plane accelerated fast down the runway. "But this time was..."

"Different." Carl finished. "You said that already."

"Oh, yeah... Sorry." Grimaldi said as he pulled back on the stick and the plan climbed into the air. "So anyway... This was the first time I ever saw Mack look like... He had The Stare."

The men of Able Team looked at each other, shifting nervously. They could hear the capital letters in the words the pilot uttered. The Stare. They each knew what the pilot meant, but couldn't ascribe The Stare to Mack Bolan. It didn't seem possible.

Gadgets leaned forward. "You sure?"

Jack nodded, "Yeah. I wish to hell I wasn't. I never want to see Mack like that again."

The three seasoned warriors settled back, looking at each other nervously. Who the hell was this kid, and what did he have to do with a mission that affected Mack Bolan like that?

"Riggs!" Murtaugh muttered as he watched his Partner walk in, "Where the hell have you been?"

"Just making a call, Rog." Riggs said as he sat down at his desk.

"Calls... fine... ok," Roger muttered, "Look... are we going to get back on this or what?"

Riggs looked up, then shook his head. "You know what, Rog? I'm not in the mood for it right now."

Then Riggs got up and walked away. Murtaugh looked around, stunned. "Not in the mood? Riggs!? What the hell does mood have to do with it?"

"You know..." Amanda smiled and leaned a little closer as she lifted a glass of champagne to her lips. "You should try some of this... it was a very good year."

Xander smiled in return but shook his head, sipping slowly on his ice water as he felt her press up against him. "I'll drink when Dawn is safe."

Amanda looked at him, her expression sulky. "You're no fun."

"I know." Xander shrugged, still smiling at her.

She rolled her eyes and shifted away from him. "You're as bad as Mac."

"Duncan didn't seem that bad." Xander smiled.

Amanda rolled her eyes, "I can't do a single job around him... not one simple little job, without him lecturing me on stealing..."

"I don't lecture." Xander said.

"That's true." Amanda replied. "I do like that about you. But you're still a boyscout."

Xander chuckled lightly. "Am I?"

"You are." She pronounced, waving her glass through the air. "Only a boyscout would fight demons and vampires of their own free will."

Xander took a deep breath, exhaling for a long slow second. "Maybe. But let me ask you something... why are you a thief?"

Amanda paused in mid sip, looking up at Xander. "I enjoy it... It's fun, I like the rush... and I'm damned good at it."

Xander nodded. "I enjoy making a difference. I like the rush of facing the boogey man and kicking his ass. And it's the only thing that I've ever been good at."

Amanda was silent, not certain what to say. Part of his answer was the standard line of a boyscout, who else wants to make a difference? But the second part, that was something that came right from her own psyche. Stealing was something she was good at, the first thing she had ever been good at. And that was why she kept doing it even after she became good at other things.

She understood suddenly, that Xander wasn't like Mac. He wasn't a boyscout, not any more then she was. Her mouth felt dry as she began to understand that the young man sitting in the bubbling water beside her, was more like her then anyone she had met in a long, long, time. He was a victim. A victim of life itself, someone who had taken some of the cheapest shots one could take in life and managed to turn them back on the world.

His fundamental motivation wasn't doing good in the world, or even saving lives, though those did have meaning to him. It was proving to himself, over and over again, that he was better then the world thought him to be.

Amanda blinked, her face suddenly frozen as she feel away from Xander in shock. He didn't seem to notice, his mind having gone somewhere else for a moment. A dark place, that much she could tell from his eyes.

She gathered herself, looking at him with new eyes.

"Are you alright?"

She started at the sound of his voice. He wasn't looking at her, but she could feel his attention on her. "Y... yes. I'm fine. Just... a thought struck me."

Now he turned to look at her, and she could see that his mind was back in the now, his face etched with curiosity. "Penny."


"Penny for your thoughts."

She smiled, letting out a breath. "This one isn't for sale."

He nodded, a light smile on his face. "Ok."

"What about you?"

"What?" He looked confused.

"Are you alright?"

He nodded, "Just had a thought."

"Penny." She smiled.

He laughed, a quiet chuckle. "It's not worth the penny."

"Ok," She answered, "I'll take the freebie."

He snorted, shaking his head. "I was just thinking about how sad that really was."

Her eyes narrowed, "What?"

"That the one thing I'm good at... is killing."

Before she could respond he straightened up and got out of the water. Amanda hesitated, watching as he walked out of the room, back to his bedroom. She swallowed heavily, thinking about the times when she had thought the same things.

Thief. Worthless thief. Lowlife pickpocket. Street Urchin. And a thousand other names that she'd been called, or called herself in the past.

Amanda shook looked around the expensively decorated room, frowning. For her, THIS was her proof. She desired the best, and she got it. Whether she paid for it or someone else did, didn't matter to her. Living in wealth was how she justified herself, how she established her worth.

Or, at least, that was how it started. Over the centuries she had learned a lot about self esteem, confidence, and even loving who she was. But it had taken centuries to truly achieve an inner balance, and that was time that Xander simply did not have.

Amanda wasn't an overly emotional person. She didn't get angry often, she didn't get sad often. She almost never cried.

But this once she felt a single tear run down her cheek, and she cried. Not for Xander, not for herself, but for the memory of a little girl who lived in filth and poverty and swore that one day she'd show the world how much she really was worth.

She got out of the tub, not bothering to towel herself off, and followed after Xander.

She found him in his room, laying back on the bed and leaving a growing damp spot under him as he stared at the ceiling.

<If he doesn't care about his bed getting wet, then I don't either.>

Amanda laid down beside him, rolling on her back and staring up at the ceiling. "You know, from what I've seen... Killing isn't what you do best."

Xander shrugged silently. He didn't bother pointing out that he had yet to kill while she was around, so how could she know anything about it.

"What I've seen you do best, is love." She continued speaking from where she lay by his side. "You love Dawn so much that I have no doubt you'll die for her if that's what it takes. You love Paige, enough that you're teaching her something that you feel is completely out of your reach. You love people, Xander. And if you have to kill to protect them, then maybe... maybe it's alright."

Still he didn't speak. After a while she looked over at him, and his eyes were closed, his breathing regular. "Am I that boring?" She whispered, amused.

After a moment she looked up at the door. "You can come in now."

Paige showed herself, looking at the two mostly nude bodies laid out on the bed.. "How'd you know I was here?"

Amanda shrugged, "I felt you. He would have too if he wasn't so deep in self pity."

"I heard."

"I know."

Paige looked away, "What are you going to do?"

Amanda took a breath, then shrugged and closed her eyes. "I'm going to sleep."

The phone rang, and Xander groaned. He rolled over, and was shocked to find Amanda's face only a fraction of an inch from his face. He froze, then blinked, as he felt her warm breath on his face. <Whoa... ok... think... no... no unexplained blank spots in my memory... phew... ok... nothing happened. Hmmm is that a yay thing or a damn thing?>

The phone rang again and Xander slowly slipped out of bed and went looking for the ringing cell.


"This Xander?"

Xander frowned. He didn't recognize the voice on the other end of the line, and that didn't strike him as a good thing. "Who's this?"

"Friend of... Mike's." The voice said, "You can call me Pol."

Xander nodded, walking over to a chair and sitting down. "Alright Pol. You've got my attention. How is Mike anyway?"

"Still fighting."

Xander chuckled, "And the cannibals?"

There was a brief pause, then a chuckle from the other end of the line. "Still dying."

Xander nodded, "What does Mike want?"

"Nothing. An old friend of his, and mine, called me up yesterday... He wants to meet with you."

"No offense, but I'm in the middle of an op right now... I don't have time to meet anybody." Xander replied.

"That's what he wants to meet you about... Actually you've already met... in a way." The voice chuckled.


"He chased you through a shopping mall."

Xander choked, then broke into a light chuckle. "That cop... what's his name, Riggs?"

"You knew him?" Pol sounded surprised.

"He told a reporter to kiss his ass on live TV later that same night." Xander explained.

Pol laughed. "That sounds like Riggs."

"Look," Xander said after a moment, "I'd actually like to meet this guy... Not too many people can catch me on foot... and he almost got me while I was driving my bike... That's damn cool... but how do I know he won't try to arrest me on the spot? I'm not interested in fighting cops."

"He's asked for a neutral territory meet." Pol explained, "He'll bring his partner... You can bring one other person... and I'll bring my two teammates to play referee."

Xander shook his head, "I don't know..."

"Mike said that the decision is yours." Pol replied, "But I should warn you, Riggs is a pitbull. He'll track you across the planet if he has to... He once followed a guy for three weeks through the jungle with nothing but his Remington and three chocolate bars."

Xander chuckled, "I think I could probably keep him off my tail. Look... How do I know that you guys are with Mike? Can I talk to him?"

"No. He's out of the country at the moment." Pol said. "We could get Hal to give you a call?"

Xander wracked his mind for a moment, suddenly placing the name. "Brognola?"

"That's him."

"Do it." Xander said, "I want to ask him how the Osaka's are doing anyway."


"I'll tell you later, if your interested."

"Ok. Expect his call within the hour." Pol said.

"Ok." Xander replied, then said goodby and hung up.

He set the phone down and looked at it for a moment. Then, making his decision, he crossed the room and picked up the hotel phone and dialed Herc's number.

Herc caught it on the second ring. "Hello?"

"Hey, Kev."

"Xander... what's up?"

"I just had an odd call." Xander said, then went on to explain the conversation he had just had.

"So..." Hercules said slowly, "You're actually going to meet with this cop?"

"If Brognola confirms the story Pol gave me... yeah, I think so." Xander said, "I'm going to need a neutral place to meet though."

"You could use Caritas." Herc said, hesitantly. "It'd give you a one up on the meeting."

"Maybe." Xander considered, "But it's not exactly neutral... Everyone in that place knows me, and that could get us off to the wrong foot."

Herc hesitated a moment, then spoke again. "The Mixer."

"The what?"

"Remember that card I gave you?" Herc asked. "The place is owned by a friend... I can ask him if he'll permit us to meet there."

Xander frowned, "What's the place like?"

"It's sort of a... social club for demons, humans, and various other races. Strictly no violence permitted, and there is an armed security staff just in case." Hercules explained.

"Social club?" Xander asked, his voice laced with amusement.

"If it were strictly human, I think it would be called a Swingers bar." Herc said, laughing a bit himself.

Xander laughed out loud. "Well, that should keep the cop off balance if nothing else."

"Especially if one of the less... human clients starts hitting on him." Herc laughed.

"Ok. See if we can meet there."

"I'll call Dragan now."

"Thanks." Xander said, then hung up.

"Who was that?"

Xander looked up to see Amanda coming out of the room, tightening one of the hotel's robes around her. "Kevin."

"Why'd he call?"

"I called him." Xander said, "I got a call earlier from a friend of a friend that wants to set up a meet with that cop who chased me through the mall..."

Amanda goggled. "You're not going... right?"

Xander grinned, "Depends."

"On what!?" Amanda asked with a very 'are you insane?' tone.

"On whether or not I can confirm their story." Xander replied. "If I can, then I'll meet with this Riggs guy... if only to try and smooth the police angle a bit. I'd rather not have to run from the LAPD every time I go up against the Knights, or Glorificus."

Amanda was silent for a moment, frowning. She could see his point, but making any sort of accord with the police grated on her. "Ok fine. But don't expect me to break you out when they lock you up."

Xander laughed. "You really think a prison would hold me?"

She frowned at him, "What?"

"Never mind." He laughed, then grew a little more serious. "How'd you sleep?"

She flushed lightly, "Well enough."

He smiled, "Good."

Amanda looked away, "So when are you going to do this monumental insanity?"

He smiled and shrugged. "Don't know. Maybe tonight..."

"Count me out."

"I'll ask Kevin if he'd come along." Xander replied, grinning.

Amanda frowned, "Will he be much use if you get in a fight?"

Xander couldn't help it, he started laughing. "Oh, I think we'll manage. Besides, if I'm arrested at least he'll know a good lawyer."

Amanda kept frowning, but was prevented from responding by Xander cell phone going off.

"Hello." Xander said.

"Hey kid."

"Mr. Brognola. Good to hear from you."

"I understand that Pol wants a sit down with you?"

"That's right. I don't know him though..."

"If he's asking for... Mike, then you can bet that the words are coming from the man." Hal replied.

Xander took a breath, "Ok... ask him to call me back in a little bit. I'm checking on a neutral place to meet... I'll give him the address."

"You got it."

"Hey Hal," Xander said, "How are the Osaka's?"

Hal hesitated, his voice a little grim. "They're doing better... but it's rough on them."

"Yeah... I knew it would be. I was in New York a little while back, but I got called back to LA for an emergency before I could swing by Washington."

"I'm sure they would have liked to see you again." Brognola said, "Do you mind telling me what emergency is in LA?"

Xander sighed, "It's a long complicated story... one that I can't tell over a cell phone."

"I see." Hal said, "Well, I'll tell Pol to call you back then?"

"Do that. Thanks."

"Not a problem. Goodbye."


Xander hung up the phone, and glanced over at Amanda. "Looks like the meet is on."

"Oh joy." She muttered sarcastically. "Where are you going to meet?"

Xander actually laughed, "If everything checks out, we'll meet them at a multi-species swingers club."


Xander winced under the sudden screech from Amanda.

"You're meeting in a swingers club??" She looked at him incredulously.

He shrugged, "Technically it's a human/demon alternative relationship bar I think... but yeah I guess you got the basics."

Amanda rubbed her forehead as she stared at Xander. "You're completely insane."

Xander frowned, shaking his head. "I'm really starting to take that remark personally."

Before Amanda could reply the hotel phone rang.

"Hello?" Xander answered, listened for a minute, then nodded as he spoke. "That's great, Kev. Ok, ok... thanks. You mind being my second for this? Thanks again. I'll see you then. Bye."

He hung up the phone and nodded. "It's on."

Amanda shook her head, "I want nothing to do with this."

"Luckily," Xander grinned. "I didn't ask you."

Amanda growled at him, as Xander just kept grinning back at her.

LAX, Los Angeles, California

The Lear taxied to it's private hanger and came to a stop near two waiting men. The steps folded down, and three men descended.

"Hello Pol. Gadgets." Riggs said, nodding to each of the men in turn.

"Holy shit." Murtaugh muttered, staring at the third man.

"What is it, Rog?"

Murtaugh ignored him, looking at the man. "Carl Lyons. Jesus Christ, Riggs... Are you insane!?"

"What?" Riggs asked, curiously.

"These guys are a walking disaster area!" Murtaugh muttered. "The last time they came into town the city had to shell out three million in repairs alone!"

The three men smiled, "Nice to have a rep, huh Carl?"

Ironman shrugged, "Whatever."

Riggs shook his head, "Come on, Rog... You know the rookies say the same thing about us. Trust me."

Murtaugh shook his head in shock, and muttered to himself. "Trust him... That's usually my first mistake."

Riggs looked at Pol, "We good to go?"

Pol nodded, "He's agreed to a meet. Neutral territory, a place called The Mixer."

"How do we know it's neutral?" Murtaugh asked.

Carl looked him over, "That's what we're here to ensure. No ambush, no arrests. You and the kid walk in... you both walk out."

Riggs and Murtaugh looked at each other, and spoke in unison. "Kid?"

Xander eyed the sign that read 'The Mixer' for a moment, then looked over at Herc. "You sure about this?"

"A little late to be asking that." Herc grinned.

Xander sighed and nodded. "Alright. Let's go."

Herc grinned and led Xander into the club.

They were stopped just inside the door as a pair of guards nodded respectfully at both of them, then turned to Xander. "If you want to drink, you'll have to check the guns."

Xander blinked, then glanced back and noted the unobtrusive electronics embedded in the doorframe. He considered briefly, then shook his head. "I'm not here to drink."

They nodded and stepped aside. As they passed they looked at Herc, "Dragan is expecting you."


Herc led Xander into the odd club. Xander had to smile as he considered what he'd have thought of this place just a few years ago, but now it barely registered. <At least there isn't a movie or tv theme in this one.>

They walked in and took a small table. Xander looked around at the rather eclectic gathering of beings and shook his head. "What now?"

"We wait for someone to pop by and tell you the rules." Herc said with a slight grin.

Xander frowned, "What rules?"

"The Rules." Came a voice from behind him, causing Xander to turn around to see who had managed to sneak up on him.

Xander started as a miniature dragon fluttered past him and landed on the table. He stared for a moment, considering how *wrong* it struck him for a dragon to *flutter*.

"The Rules," The small dragon continued, her voice pleasant as she even smiled at Hercules. "Are simple... for most people."

"That's good to know." Xander interrupted her, mostly just to make certain that his mind wasn't locked on the fact that there was a small dragon sitting on his table.

She gave him a dirty look, but quickly continued. "Rule One - no approaching a new guest until they know the rules. Rule Two - if a guest indicates not being interested, *back off*. Rule Three - No offending the other guests; if you have a problem with their choice of partners, *keep it to yourself*! Rule four - when and if you find a partner and you mutually decide to go beyond just drinks, check out a room*! They are included in the cover so there's no extra charge. And finally, Five - prostitution is strictly forbidden. Anyone found to participate in it will be punished and barred for life."

Xander looked between the dragon and Herc, finally he spoke. "Hey Kev, I never pegged you for this kind of place."

Hercules started choking about halfway through a gulp of the complimentary glass of water. He slammed the glass down, spilling water across the table and looked up at Xander, sputtering, only to find both Xander and Chyra laughing at him.

"Not funny." He muttered.

Xander shrugged, stilling laughing. "I thought it was. How about you... say, your name wouldn't happen to be Chyra would it?"

The small dragon stared at him oddly, "Do I know you?"

Xander shook his head, his eyes widening with wonder. "Damn. She was right. What the hell happened to you?"

"Do I Know You?" The small dragon repeated, sounding annoyed.

Xander blinked, then he started. "Oops. Sorry. Elanthielle of Atlantis extends her regards, Chyra of the Hidden Vale."

The small dragon scuttled forward, across the table, and peered into Xander's eyes from only inches away. "Her?? The young Kine is Her bearer?"

Xander stared back at her and spoke dryly, "You can talk to me you know, I'm right here."

Chyra backed off, looking slightly embarrassed. "I'm sorry... I haven't heard that name in a long time... She vanished, along with her bearer, almost a thousand years before... well, before."

Xander nodded, his face a little grim. "I know."

Chyra nodded, an odd little bob of her head in her long neck, "Yes... you would know, of course."

Xander nodded, then turned his attention to the patrons of the club, and changed the subject. "Interesting place you have here."

Chyra took the hint. If it had been Dragan she probably would have kept pushing, but until she grew to know this young Knight, she wasn't going to risk alienating him. Time for that would come later.

"We like it," she said matter of factly, surveying the small place with a measure of pride.

Xander's eyes roved the room as he catalogued the races currently lingering around. He quickly noted representatives of at least four species that considered humans to be a good source of protein, and saw that many of them were currently in the process of 'playing' with their food.

Chyra followed his gaze and spoke up, "Oh don't worry about them... They're not here for food, we don't serve their preferences here. They're checking out how the other side lives, so to speak."

Xander snorted, "I'd hate to think what the elders of that Tahk'nara over there would think if they saw him necking with her."

Chyra shrugged, "He'd probably be branded a pervert of the highest order... if he hasn't been already. Not our concern."

"Not mine either, as long as he doesn't move from nibbling to biting." Xander smirked, then shifted his gaze back to Chyra. "It always this peaceful here?"

Hercules snorted into his drink again.

"You let Xander go to a Brothel??" Paige stared at Amanda in shock.

Amanda shrugged, "It's not a brothel... more of a swingers club."

"Oh like that's so much better." Paige snapped sarcastically. "I thought you and he..."

Amanda looked up, confused. "What?"

"Well... you did sorta sleep with him..."

"Emphasis on the word *sleep*." Amanda said sharply. "It wasn't a sex thing you know."


"Besides," Amanda said, looking sideways at Paige, "Even if it was I wouldn't stop Xander from doing anything."

Paige just stared at her.

"Listen Paige," Amanda smiled, "If you're not confident enough in your ability to keep your man, you're gonna lose him for damn sure."

Then she stopped and considered, "Of course... I wouldn't be stupid enough to let him know that."

The unmarked sedan pulled into the parking lot and looked up at the unobtrusive sign that simple read, 'The Mixer'. The five men piled out of the vehicle and looked around.

"You sure this is the place, Pol?" Ironman asked as he glanced at the rather seedy section of town.

Pol nodded, "This is the place."

"Well come on." Riggs said, "Let's go."

"Hold on, Riggs..." Murtaugh muttered, "I really don't think this is a good idea. This guy could have anything or anybody waiting for us in there."

"Hey." Carl turned on Murtaugh, "The Boss himself vouched for this guy, and so did a damn good friend of mine. You're safe."

Riggs glanced between Gadgets and Pol, who simply nodded in agreement with what their partner had to say. Riggs nodded back, "Ok. Come on, Rog... Let's go meet this guy, huh? Huh?"

Rog groaned as he looked at the wild gleam in his partner's eyes. He hadn't seen it there for a while now, not since Riggs had shot the man who tried to kill Lorna. Roger Murtaugh shook his head, "I'm getting to old for this shit."

Riggs grinned, gesturing with his head toward the club. "Let's go... c'mon, let's go..."

The five men turned and walked up the narrow stairwell that led to the Mixer.

Xander's eyes were on the door when the five men walked in, and he instantly recognized the cop from TV. He smirked for a moment before his eyes roved to the rest, then his eyes slowly widened as he recognized three of them from the fight in the Dreaming.

It wasn't until his eyes came to rest on man number five that he was truly floored though.

<Mike?> He frowned, <Jesus... what the fuck happened? He looks a decade older...>

"Chyra," He said, shifting his body to cover her. "Do me a favor and make yourself scarce until we get our talk over with ok? These guy's are new to the scene."

"And you chose to meet them here!?" The small dragon stared at Xander incredulously.

He shrugged, "The cops are looking to jail my ass. I figured it would be better to have proof of my claims."

Chyra shook her head, "After you drop the bombshell give a call... they'll have to be Ruled."

Xander nodded, "Thanks."

As the Dragon flitted off he caught the eye of the lead man and waved at them until the whole group walked over.

The lead guy stopped at the table, "You Xander?"

Xander nodded, "That's me. You?"

"Rosario Blancanales," The man said, "You can call me Pol."

Xander stood up and shook the man's hand. "Good to meet you. Your friends?"

Pol nodded to a solidly built man with graying hair, "This is Carl, we collectively call him Ironman. Over there is Gadgets. These two are Roger Murtaugh and..."

"Martin Riggs." Xander finished, smiling at the man in question. "I caught your television appearance the other night."

Riggs blinked, looking at Xander with distrust. "Are you the guy?"

"The guy you chased through the mall downtown?" Xander asked with a smile, "That's me."

Riggs looked at him, his face disbelieving. "How old are you?"

"Twenty One." Xander answered truthfully, then grinned. "Or sixteen if I need to dodge a prison term"

Riggs growled and took a step toward Xander, but Pol blocked him. "Hey! Calm down, man. Take a seat while we figure this out."

Riggs nodded reluctantly and took a seat.

Murtaugh looked around, "What kind of place is this anyway? Some sort of movie hangout?"

Hercules grinned, "Something like that."

Murtaugh looked at him for the first time, then actually paled as his face registered shock. "Jesus Christ... You... your... My kid's watch you on TV every week!"

Herc smiled patiently, "That's nice to hear."

The rest of the table stared at Hercules for a moment, all except Riggs, who refused to take his eyes off Xander. "Tell me something kid. In the mall, you stopped to do something... what was it?"

Xander grinned, "You mean picking up the lingerie?"

"Jesus Christ!" Riggs muttered in shock, "It was you!"

Xander chuckled, "For what it's worth, if I'd known your were insane enough to stay on my ass through the entire mall I'd have come back later for it."

Murtaugh broke out laughing, attracting Xander's attention.

He looked at the man oddly, shaking his head. "Do you have a brother!?"

Riggs blinked at the sudden change of subject, "look kid, what the hell are you on? We're not talking about us here. This is about you. And why we shouldn't run your ass in right now."

Xander ignored him, still staring at Murtaugh. "Well?"

"Well what?" Murtaugh said.

"Do you?"

Riggs interrupted again, "No he doesn't have a brother! Now can we...."

Riggs trailed off as Roger looked away from the table. "Rog?"

"Mike Harrigan." Xander said, "You're brother's name is Mike Harrigan."

Murtaugh sighed, "Michael Emmanuel Harrigan."

Xander snickered, "Emmanuel?? Oh god, that's rich."

Riggs was looking at Roger like the black man had just shot his puppy. "You have a brother??"

Roger sighed, "Look, I don't talk to him much ok? He's a cop out in the 13th, got promoted to Lieutenant a couple years ago."

"You have a brother??"

"Riggs... we're not here about this." Roger turned back to Xander, "Listen kid, about that kidnapping attempt..."

"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Slow down the freight train, Rog." Riggs interrupted again. "You have a brother??"

Xander chuckled as Murtaugh rubbed his forehead.

"He went to live with my dad when my parents split up, ok? We don't see each other a lot... and we never get along."

"I can't believe you never told me that you had a brother." Riggs said, looking hurt.

Roger growled, "Look. He's my kid brother, and I don't get along with him, ok? When we were growing up he was always getting into trouble and guess who had to come along to save his....."

Roger Murtaugh trailed off as he looked at his partner. Riggs started to look around nervously as Roger didn't look away. "What?"

Roger cupped his face in his hands and groaned. "I can't believe this shit."

"What??" Riggs looked around, confused.

Xander was laughing, trying to hold it back, but failing miserably as Murtaugh's forehead thumped to the table.

"What!?" Riggs asked again.

"Never mind, Riggs." Roger scowled at Xander, who was still laughing. "How do you know my brother."

Xander quieted down, "Know of him is more like it. He's got quite a reputation."

Roger groaned, "Yeah. I read that."

Carl Lyons looked around the table, shaking his head. "Can we get this back on topic, please? The freaks in here are starting to..."

Carl trailed off as a red skinned woman with bat-like wings walked over and pulled at chair up, then stared at Xander. "You been ruled?"

Xander blinked, "Umm... yeah."

She smiled at him, her teeth gleaming white and razor sharp behind the glistening black of her lips. "Are you him?"

Xander closed his eyes, reluctantly asking, "Who?"

"The one they call Seraphim?" She smiled, leaning in close enough that Xander could smell a waft of cinnamon and a heavier spice he couldn't place off her. "A Polgaran in the corner swears it's you... say's one of his friends tried to collect on your scalp in New York."

Xander groaned, while Hercules grinned. "Now you know how I feel all the time."

Xander shot him a dirty look, but the big man just grinned and watched.

"Yeah. I'm the guy. I hope you're not planning on trying to collect," Xander said as he looked over her well rounded curves and tight clothes. "I'd hate to put a bullet in you."

She smiled wider, her razor sharp teeth making the expression look absolutely lethal even though her eyes sparkled with genuine humor. "No worries. I was just curious if you were a real one? Could be a kick, you know?"

Xander flushed red as he realized what she was aiming at, and quickly shook his head. "No. I'm not. I'm just human, nothing special."

She licked her lips, causing the black to lighten to an almost iridescent purple, and leaned in close enough so he could feel the heat of her breath on his face. "Oh, I don't know about that... the offer still stands."

Xander shivered at her proximity, but intercepted her hand as it brushed up against his face. For a moment he looked at the almost dainty fingers that ended in gleaming black talons, then he gently pushed her back. "Thanks... but I have some important business to take care of before anything else."

She shrugged, smiling. "Your loss."

She got up and walked away, leaving them alone again.

"What the fuck was that?" Carl Lyons asked in shock.

Xander shook his head, "Nothing. I just have a reputation here that interested her."

"Some reputation." Gadgets said, watching the red woman's ass as she swayed back to the bar. "That's an incredible costume... and was that body paint? It looked real..."

Xander shrugged, "Can we get back to the reason behind this meet?"

The men nodded slowly, taking their eyes off the retreating figure and focusing again on Xander.

"That's some reputation." Riggs muttered.

"Yeah..." Murtaugh muttered.

Riggs shook his head, managing to muster a glare to aim at Xander. "Look, kid. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't run you in."

Xander grinned, "You probably don't want a call from the CIA."

Everyone stared at him in shock.

"What?" Riggs asked, shaking his head as if to unblock his ears.

"You raided Leo McCarthy's report." Xander said simply, "Didn't you read it?"

"I read it." Riggs muttered defensively.

Xander stared at him for a moment.

"I... leafed through it." Riggs said, shifted nervously. "Oh alright... I read the summary... mostly."

"Riggs!" Murtaugh growled. "You told me you read it! I get the San Francisco file... you get the New York one... that was the deal!"

"It was boring ok?" Riggs said, "That McCarthy guy writes like an encyclopedia salesman! I didn't give a damn how many little old ladies lost their bracelets!"

Murtaugh groaned, "Riggs..."

"So sue me!" Riggs said, "anyway... no way this kid is CIA."

"That's true." Xander nodded, "I'm not."

"See?" Riggs said triumphantly.

"But I do work for them from time to time." Xander smiled.

Riggs shook his head and slumped back in the seat, "Christ. What the hell is the company coming too? They're getting kiddies to do their hatchet jobs now."

Xander scowled at him, but only shook his head. "Actually it's more of a traded favors kind of deal. My... profession isn't illegal in the strictest sense, and our interests generally coincide... In New York I helped the police capture a group of armed robbers that were posing as SWAT officers to pull their jobs."

Murtaugh shook his head, "I bet the local SWAT loved that."

Xander smiled, "They did when they raided the crooks HQ and got to drag them out by their fake SWAT harnesses."

Carl Lyons chuckled at that. "I'll bet."

"Alright," Roger muttered, "What about San Francisco? Was that helping the police or the CIA or what?"

Xander shrugged, "None of the above. I just lucked into that one."

"Some luck." Roger muttered.

"You can say that again." Xander agreed, "I was motoring down the street on my bike and damn near hit this kid who comes running out... I barely got stopped in time, and when I did the kid looks at me like I just killed his favorite pet... I still get shivers remember the look on his face. He just stared at me, through me, beyond me... You guys know the look."

Four of the men around the table nodded soberly, only Murtaugh was slightly confused.

"The thousand yard stare." Riggs said softly, "You remember that kid we pulled out of the crack house that got hit by the rival gang?"

Murtaugh paled. "Yeah..."

"That look." Riggs muttered.

Xander nodded. "Yeah. Next thing I know, this big bruiser comes out and claims that he's the boy's father... Poor kid damn near wet his pants he was so scared of this guy."

"What happened?" Carl asked.

Xander shrugged, "You can ask your friend Mike sometime if you want details. I don't really want to think about it... He and I... well we got the kid's sister out of there and found out that the Yakuza, those were the bad guys, had a bio-weapon being shipped to the middle east. We took out the shipment and disposed of it."

"Hey... who's this Mike guy?" Roger muttered. "I thought you were hooked up with Mack Bolan on that one?"

Xander blinked. "Bolan..."

He was about to shake his head when he caught the wincing looks that passed between the three men that had come with the cops. His eyes widened, "Jesus Christ. That was Mack Bolan? Shit... My dad used to idolize the guy..."

Xander shivered. He could remember his father reading the paper and talking about how it was about time that someone went out and did what had to be done. He'd grown up hearing about 'Mack the Bastard's' exploits.

Riggs glanced at his friends, "Pol... Gadgets... You believe this story?"

Pol nodded slowly, "Yeah. Mack didn't tell us the details, but the story matches. Mack said the kid here saved his life."

Riggs swallowed, frowning to himself. "You know that you're wanted to answer to some serious charges... Fleeing the scene of a crime, evading police pursuit, god knows how many traffic violations..."

Riggs started laughing slightly.

"What are you laughing at, Riggs?" Murtaugh asked, confused.

Riggs shook his head, "We can't drag his ass in, Rog... We can't."

"Wh... why not?" Murtaugh demanded, "We've got a ton of charges to lay him with..."

"There all piddling shit." Riggs said, "Traffic violations? Please. Evading pursuit? If he really does have contacts in the Company he'd have that knocked right the hell out... same thing with leaving the scene of a crime."

"Guns." Murtaugh said, "What about weapon's violations?"

Xander slid a California carry permit across the table. He smiled slightly and neglected to mention that his gun's weren't actually covered by it since they were, now, silenced machine pistols. Murtaugh examined it, then tossed it back.

"Anything else?" Xander asked.

"Yeah..." Riggs leaned in close, his eyes gleaming. "What the fuck was chasing you that night? I tackled one of them and it was the ugliest bastards I've ever seen..."

"Other then Carl?" Gadgets cracked.

Carl growled, but otherwise ignored his partner.

"One of the strongest bastards too." Riggs went on, "He clobbered me with one shot..."

"Still sounds like Carl." Gadgets said, grinning.

Ironman closed his eyes, but still ignored the younger man.

Xander smiled, "Now that... is a long story."

"I've got time." Riggs said.

Xander nodded, "Ok... I think I should get a friend to help me out on this one... Hey Chyra!? We're ready for you now!"

The group turned to see who Xander was waving too.

Paige sighed and slammed her newly christened spell book shut. The leather bound book was another gift from Xander, who had simply smiled and told her to use it to record the spells that she would create. Tonight, though, she wasn't in much of a mood to create spells or record the information she'd gained over the last few days.

Tonight, she was thinking about the mess she'd recently made of her life.

She was a witch. Ok fine. She could deal with that. It wasn't easy, but hell, she managed to come back from losing her parents. She'd managed to grow up knowing that her birth parents didn't want her. She'd done a lot with her life, so Paige was fairly confident that she could handle the witch thing.

The Xander thing, on the other hand, was starting to driver her nuts.

She liked him. A lot. And, if she did say so herself, they had gotten off to a rather typical start for her when dealing with a potential boyfriend. Flirting, lots of it, and all A grade stuff too. Some posturing, some nicely pointed innuendo, and even drinks and dancing. He was cute, and she knew that he had been interested.

But it all sort of petered out after a little while and, frankly, Paige was confused.

It wasn't only on his side either. She'd cut out the flirting herself, and the kicker was that she couldn't figure out why. Or rather, she hadn't been able to figure it out until she looked at the inscription on the inside of the book.

She flipped open the leather bound cover and looked at what Xander had written there.

<To a student who surpassed the teacher before the first lesson was finished.>

She sighed.

Paige knew that her record with relationships was pretty rocky. She had a habit of cutting boyfriends off with little to no warning, and those were the good ones. The bad ones tended to self destruct in her face.

Looking at the inscription, Paige knew why Xander had stopped flirting with her and why she had done the same. Or, at least, she knew for sure why she was backing off. Paige had to admit it, at least to herself, that she was scared to death of destructing another relationship. Especially one with someone that had become more then potential boyfriend material.

Chyra flitted out of nowhere and landed on the table, looking around at the group with a smile.

The group, on the other hand, wasn't smiling.

"What the fuck!?" Riggs yelled as he jumped back.

Murtaugh upset his chair as he slid back, barely staying on his feet as the chair tumbled to the floor.

Able Team came up to their feet, their hands not quite reaching for their pistols.

Ironman glared at Xander, how was chuckling along with Hercules. "Real funny, kid. What the hell is this?"

"Hey!" Chyra interjected, puffs of smoke jetting from her nostrils, "You want to ask questions about me, you talk to me! Unless you enjoy third degree burns."

"It can talk." Gadgets muttered dumbly. "Man, I've never see animatronics this mobile..."

Chyra spun on Xander and glared at him, "You were supposed to tell them BEFORE you called for me."

Xander shrugged, "Oops."

The tiny dragon glared at Xander, her eyes burning. "OOPS!?"

Xander leaned back, waving his hand to dispel the smoke that was forming between him and the diminutive dragon. "Hey... I specifically asked for a non-smoking table."

Chyra huffed out another burst of smoke, accompanied by a small jet of flame. "You're not better then Dragan."

With that pronouncement the tiny dragon turned around and fixed her stare on the men who were still standing far back from the table. "Alright, babes. Gather round."

No one moved.

"NOW!" Her tiny voice reverberated with command, deepening and acquiring a tone that only a fool wouldn't listen too.

Able Team retook their seats. Roger Murtaugh retook his seat. Martin Riggs did not.

"Hey, if you think I'm sitting down with a talking iguana, you guys are all out of your minds."

Hercules winced.

"IGUANA!?" Chyra screamed, his voice turning shrill again as she launched herself at Riggs.


"I'm sorry, your ever brightening luminescence..." The demon bowed low, practically scraping the ground.

"You *still* haven't found out who invaded MY sanctuary!?"

"We..." The demon hesitated, "We think..."

"You think?" Glory asked sarcastically. "That has to be a first."

The demon sputtered, trying to say something that wouldn't come out.

"Well?? Out with it! Your Goddess commands it!"

"We think it might be the one the vampires have begun calling, Seraphim."

Glory blinked, then looked disgusted. "You think one of *them* would use guns?? Please. They go in for theatrics, flaming swords, raining fire... They don't use guns."

"All I know is that the vampires and lower demons talk of him as if he were one of them." The demon managed to get out between bows.

Glory rolled her eyes, "Like that means anything."

Then she paused, thinking. "Still... If they know of him... then they might be able to find him. Put out the word."

"Yes, your Eminence..." The demon bowed and began to back away.

Glory ignored it, and turned out to the cityscape in front of her. "I'll find you. And then we'll have a little talk about my Key."


Riggs lifted his hands, barely managing to defend himself against the flurry of blows that came from the small dragon.

"Hey! What the... Cut that out!" He yelled as he stumbled back, batting at the small target as it continued to rage at him.

"How would you like it if I called you a chimpanzee!? Huh!?" The enraged dragon growled as she batted Riggs arms with her wings.

"Chyra!" A hand came out of nowhere and plucked the small dragon from the air.

"Let me go!" She screamed, "Let me go, Dragan! You heard what he called me!"

Dragan rolled his eyes, and carried the struggling dragon back to the table. He looked around at the gathered people, "Sorry... She's a little sensitive about her size."

Murtaugh looked over to where Riggs was rubbing his arm, "No kidding..."

"Behave." Dragan ordered, dropping Chyra on the table, "You know you can't abuse the customers... well, not unless they've been Ruled and are willing."

Chyra forgot about Riggs instantly and turned on Dragan, "And just what are you trying to imply!?"

Dragan shrugged, "Imply? Me? Nothing."

Martin Riggs staggered up to the table, staring at the small dragon with wild eyes. "What the hell is that thing!?"

"That *thing* has a name!" Chyra turned up him, "and unless you want a third degree burn in a very painful place."

Riggs hopped back as a jet of flame scorched the table. He grabbed at his crotch, covering it with his hands. "Hey! Whoa! Ok, I give up! Jesus Christ... When I get my hands on whoever is pulling the strings of this maniac muppet I'll rip him a new..."

Dragan barely managed to grab Chyra before she launched herself at Riggs again. The small dragon wriggled and squirmed in the tight grip as she huffed out an enraged, "Muppet!?"

Dragan slammed the small dragon down on the far side of the table and growled at Riggs. "Sit down and shut up."

Riggs approached slowly and cautiously sat down.

Dragan looked around the table, glowering. "What the hell is going on here?"

Xander grinned, "Just introducing these nice men to things that go bump in the night."

Dragan's jaw dropped, "And you chose to do it by dropping a dragon in their laps??"

Xander shrugged, "Better then my introduction."

"In *my* club??" Dragan muttered, turning to Hercules. "Please tell me this isn't the kid you told me about?"

Herc grinned, "Sorry."

Dragan groaned. "Great."

Chyra grinned up at him, "Get's better. He's carrying Elanthielle."

Dragan covered his face with his hands. "Lovely. One of the Five, in the hands of a teenager."

"With your sense of humor." Chyra said helpfully.

"With my sense of..." Dragan stopped, and glowered at the dragon. "You cut that out!"

Chyra just sat down calmly and just looked smugly up at Dragan.

He shook his head and tried his best to ignore the dragon. "Fine. Fine. Where were you?"

Xander grinned, "I was about to yell surprise."

Dragan scowled, "That's really helpful."

Xander chuckled, "Hey, one of these guys chased me through a shopping mall a few nights ago and almost caught me on foot even though I had my bike."

Dragan blinked. "That was YOU??"

Xander shrugged, still grinning. He nodded at Riggs, "And him."

"Oh yeah, bring me into this." Riggs muttered, sitting down as he kept a close eye on Chyra.

Dragan sighed, "This is going to be a long night."

Carl Lyons looked around, "What the hell are you two talking about!?"

Dragan glared at Xander, who just shrugged and grinned.

Xander finally grinned and looked at the group, "The reason I'm in town is because I'm a demon hunter, and LA just got real hot."

There was a long silence.

Finally there was a sharp laugh and Riggs started to get up, "You almost had me going, kid. Come on, Rog. This is a waste of time."

Dragan rolled his eyes, "That's the best you can come up with, Kid?"

Xander shrugged, "Well, I usually follow it up by dusting a vampire or two... that's always a showstopper."

Dragan shook his head, "Great. Subtle you ain't kid."

He got up, checking under his long coat and pulling out a large pistol.

"Hey! Whoa!" Murtaugh muttered, "What the hell are you doing?"

Dragan shrugged, "Getting ready to go on a vampire hunt."

Riggs actually paused. "What!?"

"You want proof of demons, right?"

"No!" Riggs said, "I want the kid committed to a nice psychiatric facility."

Xander looked around, "Why does *everyone* I meet SAY that??"

Dragan rolled his eyes, but ignored Xander. "Come on... We'll dust a few vamps, and hit a bar for a few rounds of drinks... on the kid."

Everyone considered that. The vampires idea wasn't really popular, but free drinks were always good. Everyone, including Riggs nodded, "Done deal."

"Hey, wait a second!" Xander objected, "Don't I get a say in this?"

"No!" Everyone yelled.

"Where the hell are we going?" Martin Riggs asked as the group trudged along the sidewalk, heading east.

Dragan shrugged, "There's a club a little ways up the street that usually has a few vamps hunting in it."

"Right." Carl Lyons grinned. "And zombies need bulletproof vests."

He and the other men of Able Team grinned and chuckled a bit.

Xander looked at Dragan, who frowned back at him. "Bulletproof vests?"

Dragan shrugged, "Don't ask me, kid. These are your rookies, not mine."

"Rookies!?" Carl stiffened, "Who are you calling a rookie!?"

Both Dragan and Xander stared pointedly at Carl for a long moment, the glanced back at each other and shrugged. Xander started speaking casually, "It's been my experience that Zombies don't have much use for body armor... you pretty much have to tear them limb from limb to put them down for the count."

Dragan nodded, "Yeah. I remember the first time I saw a zombie... I snapped his neck three times before I finally had to go to work on him with my sword."

Xander chuckled, "I drug one along beside my car and smashed him through every mail box on the street until his head fell off."

"His head fell off?" Dragan asked, puzzled, "How'd that happen?"

"One of my neighbors had popped for the deluxe mailbox... those things are surprisingly sturdy." Xander said with a smile.


Riggs and Murtaugh looked at each other nervously, "These guys are insane, Rog... and not in my charming, devilishly cute way either."

"Shut up, Riggs." Murtaugh said, looking around nervously.

"Why is it always, 'shut up Riggs.'?" Riggs complained, "How come I never get to tell you to shut..."

"Shut up, Riggs!" Pol, Murtaugh, and Gadgets said together.

Martin Riggs scowled at them, but shut up.

Amanda opened the door softly, looking in. "Paige?"

"Yes?" The younger woman looked up.

"How are you?"

Paige smiled, "Better. Hey, I was thinking..."

Amanda raised her eyebrow's at the tone in Paige's voice, "Oh?"

"You still have Xander's credit card?" Paige grinned.

"Oh, my dear..." Amanda grinned in return, "Now you *are* talking my language."

Murtaugh winced as the blaring music suddenly assaulted them as the club doors opened, then sighed as they music was cut off when the closed. He sighed, "I hate that crap."

"Yeah." Riggs muttered, "Me too... Can you believe they're still playing that stuff? It dropped off the charts three months ago."

Roger looked over at his partner, "How do you... Never mind."

Riggs smiled at him and winked.

Carl shook his head, "Jeez. The LAPD has gone to hell since I left."

Gadgets grinned, "Yeah... someone let a sense of humor in."

Pol shook his head and looked at Xander and Dragan, "So? Are we going in?"

Dragan frowned, and Xander winced before speaking. "Are you nuts? I can barely stand that noise from here. We'll check out the alley around back."

"Lead the way." Pol shrugged, motioning to the two.

As the group walked into the alley Riggs looked around, "So... Where's the boogey man?"

"In San Francisco." Xander replied.


"Long story." Xander grinned, "Let's not get ahead of ourselves, first we'll cut your teeth on vampires... then we'll move up the chain."

Riggs looked around, "Oh yeah... sure... Hello vampy vampy vampy... come on out... yoo hoo..."

Dragan, Hercules, and Xander leaned up against the wall at the far side of the alley and watched, mildly amused looks on their faces. After a moment of Riggs antics, Xander turned to Dragan.

"This we should tell him?"

Dragan shrugged, "He'll figure it out."

Murtaugh looked at them, confused. "Figure what out?"

They both turned to look at Riggs, and smiled. "That."

Murtaugh looked back at his partner, and his eyes widened to see a form appear from the shadows of a fire escape above Riggs. "Riggs! Look out!"

Riggs stopped and looked back at his partner, "What's up Ro...!"

Riggs was cut off by a sudden weight dropping onto his shoulders and driving him to the ground. He spun on instinct, managing to land on his back as he hit the ground. His hands came up, just in time to grab the guy's throat and struggle to hold it back as it tried to force itself closer to him.

"Rog!" He managed to strangle out, "A little help!"

"Hang on, Riggs!" Roger Murtaugh said as he rushed forward, grabbing the attacker by the back of the coat and pulling. "Get off my partner you wacko!"

The thing barely seemed to notice Roger, just paying him enough attention to bat him away with one hand.

"Holy!" Gadgets cursed under his breath as he ducked to one side as Roger Murtaugh came flying by him.

As Gadgets pulled himself off the ground, the rest of Able Team went for their weapons instinctively. Pol drew the Berretta 92 he'd had for the Seattle mission, while Carl slid his Python from under his belt. "Get off him you dumb Punk!"

While they confronted the lone Vampire, none of the other men noticed Dragan and Xander look at each other. Dragan made a move to draw his large pistol, but Xander stopped him and drew one of his own. Dragan looked at the extended barrel of the unfamiliar pistol and nodded. Xander calmly aimed above the group, and triggered off a silenced burst that no one heard over the ruckus.

Up on the fire escape, a second vampire burst into dust as the three silver manglers destroyed what passed for it's heart.

Dragan nudged Xander, pointing down the alley. Xander nodded and casually fired off another burst into a vampire that was trying to sneak up on Gadgets as he picked himself off the ground.

After briefly checking around and seeing that there were no more vampires trying to enter the fray, Xander slipped his pistol back under his coat. Then he and Dragan turned their attention back to the fight.

Riggs had just managed to curl his legs between the vampire and himself and he suddenly kicked out with all his force, throwing the vampire off.

Xander and Dragan nodded approvingly as they watched the move. Riggs didn't realize it, but he had exploited of the few weaknesses of creatures like Vampires. As strong as they are, they are still only encased in a human body, and that meant that they had a human mass.

The vampire was thrown well clear as Riggs scrambled to his feet, gasping and choking. "What the hell!?"

The vampire was back on it's feet almost as fast as it hit the ground, running back at Riggs with a terrifying speed.

As it crossed the halfway point, Carl snarled and squeezed the trigger of his .357 magnum. The big pistol roared once, and the vampire twisted in mid air from the impact. But as soon as it had hit the ground, it was up and running again, this time straight at Carl. Ironman's eyes widened and he fired again, catching the vampire center mass with a shot that should have knocked him on his ass, but did little more then slow him down.

Riggs rushed it, sliding along the ground and scissoring the vampire's legs in a practiced move that sent the thing to the ground on it's face. He moved fast, unlocking his legs and rolling around to drive his elbow into the back of the creature's head. Riggs growled, and rolled onto the vampire's back, locking the creatures arms into a tight hold.

Finally he looked up, "Rog? Rog? You ok?"

Roger Murtaugh looked around from where he'd landed, "Y... yeah... yeah, I'm ok, Riggs..."

Riggs nodded, "Good." The snarled at the man under him, "Alright buddy... talk! Why'd you attack me?"

The guy under him just snarled and started struggling, testing Riggs strength despite the cop's superior position.

"Jesus, this guy is strong, guys..." Riggs gasped out, "I don't... I don't know how long I can hold him!"

As if to prove him right, the vampire surged up and knocked Riggs clean off him. As it came to it's feet the men surrounding it caught their first look at it's 'game face'.

"Holy shit!" Gadgets muttered in shock.

"What the fuck?" Riggs asked, from the ground where he had fallen.

Carl Lyons shrugged, "Movie magic."

With that pronouncement he shifted his aim and blew the vampire's legs out from under it. As the guy hit the ground, Carl smiled. "See? Nothing but some fancy makeup and a ves....!"

He was cut off by having his own legs pulled out from under him. Ironman hit the ground hard, his Colt Python clattering away as it was knocked from his grasp. As the vampire crawled up on Ironman, Gadgets and Pol waded in and grabbed at it, struggling to hold it off even as Ironman struggled to keep it back.


Martin Riggs looked up to see Xander holding a slim dagger in his hands. He caught it reflexively as Xander tossed it to him, hilt first. He looked at the dagger in confusion.

"Through the heart!"

Riggs looked at the oddly shaped dagger, recognizing the cross that decorated the hilt. "I... I can't..."

Xander shrugged, "Even all of them won't be able to keep it from killing one of them soon enough. Your choice, Riggs."

Riggs shuddered, looking between the dagger and the struggle that was going on in front of him. The guy was unarmed, sure, but he was trying to kill people. Riggs shook his head. "Fuck it."

He dove over to the fight, knocking Pol and Gadgets away and straddled the vampire's back. Riggs snarled, not hearing the objections of the other two men, and drive the odd dagger into the back of the man trying to kill Ironman.

The vampire suddenly went stiff, then slack, as it snarled out an obscenity and crumbled into dust. Riggs, surprised, lost his balance and landed solidly on Ironman, barely twisting the dagger away in time to avoid perforating the other man.

"What the fuck!?"

Pol and Gadgets stared in shock, then looked at each other. "What the hell was that?"

Ironman, for his part, didn't worry about the vanishing attacker. He glared up at Riggs and snarled, "Get off of me!"

Riggs grinned down at him, "Don't worry, Lyons... You're not my type."

Carl snarled again and pushed Riggs off, then rolled to his feet. "What the hell happened here!?"

"Vampire's turn to dust when you kill them."

They all turned to look at Xander, Herc, and Dragan, who were still leaning casually against the wall.

The five men swallowed, considering. They didn't want to believe, but what the hell turns to dust when you kill it?

"You know..." Riggs muttered, "I think I need that drink."

Roger Murtaugh nodded, but didn't say anything.

Xander sighed, "Well... come on. Drinks on me."

"I just want to make sure I have the facts straight." Riggs said, gripping his stein of beer tightly in his right hand. "That guy on stage... isn't a demon??"

Xander looked up at the stage where Simms was belting out California Girls badly off key and sadly shook his head. "I'm afraid not."

"Fuck." Riggs said flatly. "There ain't no justice."

Xander chuckled quietly and shook his head as he tried to block out Simms singing. He, Dragan, and Herc had decided that Caritas would make a decent place to get a drink and explain the facts of life to the newbies. What Xander hadn't realized was that Gunn and crew had made Sunday nights their weekly visit to Caritas to get intel and shoot the breeze with Lorne.

Xander shuddered and vowed to avoid Sunday nights at Caritas from now on. Simms had a singing voice that would make a bull elephant in heat cringe. The weird thing was that the demons seemed to think he had real talent, Xander noted with disgust. Simms actually received a standing ovation from the nearer tables when he finished.

Other then that, the little meeting had gone fairly well though. He, Herc, and Dragan had given the group the standard 411 on the demon situation, including the most popular methods of killing the more common varieties and various methods of defense. Between the vampire earlier and the demons on stage singing, things had gone fairly smoothly.

"Hey, kid..." Carl Lyons looked around, "How come we have the corner to ourselves?"

Xander looked around, and groaned. He should have known that things were going too smoothly. All the nearby tables had cleared out since they'd arrived and no one was filling them up. Xander had a sinking feeling he knew why, and really didn't want to explain, so he just shrugged. "No clue."

Hercules laughed. "Bull. You know damn well."

"Kevin..." Xander growled under his breath.

Gadgets leaned forward, looking around with a gleam in his eyes. "What?"

"Nothing." Xander said quickly.

Hercules sat back and grinned.

Carl looked over, "Come on, kid. Spill."

Xander shook his head. "Nothing to spill."

"Hey baby face, glad to see you again so soon."

Xander groaned.

Lorne sat down at the table, looking hurt, "Is that anyway to say hello, sweet cheeks?"

Xander groaned again, seeing the grins and gleams in the eyes of Able Team and the two LA Cops.

Riggs leaned forward, "Yeah 'sweet cheeks', be polite to the... uh... green guy."

Lorne blinked, then sighed himself. "You brought more rookies in didn't you?"

Carl stiffed in his seat. He really hated being called a rookie.

Xander shrugged and nodded to Lorne.

Lorne looked exasperated. "Are you planning on telling everyone in this city??"

"Well why not?" Murtaugh asked, "People have a right to know!"

Lorne started sputtering and Xander, seeing a chance to change the subject, waded in. "It's not that easy, Sergeant Murtaugh."

"Why not?"

Xander shrugged, "Panic. Paranoia. Riots. A new era of racism... Human supremacist groups hunting down everything that seems even remotely out of the ordinary... and I'm not just talking about demons here... There are a lot of humans who would suffer too."

Murtaugh sat back, his face confused, "What are you talking about?"

Xander shrugged, "Witches, Werewolves, a handful of other groups that are actually what you might call 'Altered Humans'... People who were born normal, just like you, me, and everyone else... but were changed by contact with the supernatural."

Riggs snorted, "I can't believe we're talking about this."

Murtaugh waved his hand, motioning Riggs aside. "No, I'm interested in this. Aren't vampire's 'altered humans' as you call it? You seem to think they can go to hell without any recourse..."

Xander shrugged, "Vampires are dead and the people who used to live in those bodies are gone. It's as simple as that. The memories are there, but the soul of the person isn't. Vampire's have... no remorse... They don't feel guilt for the lives they take. To become a vampire, you have to die. And the last time I checked, the dead weren't accorded too many rights under the law."

Murtaugh sat back, his face pensive.

Carl took the opportunity to interject a question, "That's real interesting but I still want to know why we rank the buffer zone?"

Lorne grinned and pointed at Xander. "You don't. He does."


Xander groaned.

Lorne grinned, "What's the matter, baby face? Fame rubbing you the wrong way?"

"Lorne..." Xander seethed.

Lorne ignored him, and kept grinning.

"What are you talking about?"

"Sweet Cheeks here," Lorne nodded toward Xander, "Scares the hell out of the local bad boys."

Able Team stared at Xander in disbelief. "Him?? He's just a kid."

Dragan laughed, spilling some of his beer as he quickly put it down. "You remember vampire you five took out earlier?"

Able Team and the LA Cops nodded. "Yeah, so?"

"This... 'kid' took out two others that were going to ambush you during the fight... without you even noticing." Dragan laughed.

"No way..." Murtaugh muttered.

Lorne shrugged, "When word hit the street that Sweet Cheeks here was back in town, this bar filled up so fast that we had to call in all our waiters and waitresses. Every demon walking the streets of LA knows that The Seraphim doesn't start fights in demon bars."

Xander shook his head, groaning.

Dragan actually goggled. "*You're* the Seraphim!?"

"I'm gonna rip his head off." Xander promised. "I'm gonna take his head off with my bare hands..."


"The freaking vampire sack of shit that gave me that damned nickname, then spread it through the entire demon community!" Xander growled.

"Wait a second here," Murtaugh muttered, "You're telling me that all the super strong vampires and demons in here are scared of... what? A sixteen year old boy??"

"Bullshit." Ironman said succinctly.

Lorne shrugged, "believe what you want... it's no skin off my horns."

Dragan shrugged, "I believe it."

Riggs looked at the imposing figure skeptically, "Why?"

Dragan just tilted his head. "Because demons and vampires are incredibly superstitious as a group... A young boy who manages to fight and kill demons, vampires, black mages, and whatever else? It fits the old legends of the Seraphs... the true angels... The real killers of Heaven's armies always put forth an image of innocence and youth. You ever hear of a Cherub?"

Murtaugh nodded, "Yeah... Trish, my wife, she hangs them all over the tree at Christmas... little babies with angel wings and halos..."

Dragan nodded, "Right. But that's only recent Christian mythology... Originally the Cherub were warrior spirits who appeared to be young men and women in the mid teens... One of the greatest warriors in the celestial war is a Cherub... You might have heard of him, he goes by the name Lucifer."

Murtaugh choked on his beer, staring wide eyed at Dragan. "You've got to be kidding me."

"What?" Hercules chuckled, "You think that you can have demons without the flip side? You'd be surprised at how much truth is hidden out in plain sight... just waiting for someone to believe."

Xander nodded, "He's got a point. Vampires are pretty obvious for anyone who wants to see. Truth is, people don't want to know about the terrors that haunt the night. They want to feel safe, they sure as hell don't want to know that the world might be coming to an end in..." Xander checked his watch, then looked back and grinned. "Well... let's just say soon and leave it at that."

While Able Team and the LA Cops traded nervous looks, Dragan pierced Xander with a stare. "Which reminds me... What brings you to LA?"

Xander shifted a little uncomfortably.

Lorne got up, "That's my cue to leave..."

Dragan's eyes followed Lorne as he left, "Ok... now I know something is up. What the hell is going on??"

"You ever hear of Glorificus?" Hercules asked quietly.

Dragan swallowed. "Please tell me your joking."

Xander shook his head, "Fraid not. She's in town, and so is the Key."

"Oh shit." Dragan muttered in shock. "I thought the monks had the key safely locked away..."

"They... lost it." Xander said after a moment.

"LOST IT!?" Dragan bellowed. "Are you freaking kidding me? They lost the one thing that could cause the utter destruction of multiple dimensions and collapse and entire segment of creation!?"

Able Team, Riggs, and Murtaugh stared wide eyed at the conversation and tried to understand exactly what was going on.

Xander sighed, "Well... they had a little help. But that's all I can tell you right now."

"Shit." Dragan cursed, "A goddamned hell goddess is in town... this is fucking wonderful..."

"Umm..." Murtaugh interrupted. "Hell Goddess?"

Xander answered quietly, "Demons, in general, are classed by nine distinct power levels... Vampires are Ninth Circle demons inhabiting a human host... so basically they are the lowest scum of the demonic register. As you climb the ranks, the demons get stronger and more powerful... until you hit First Circle demons."

"What are they?"

"A first circle demon could potentially annihilate all life on Earth with a snap of it's fingers." Xander replied. "They have no known limits to their power... well, except one of course...."

"What's that?"

"They can't create." Xander replied. "They can't create life, or energy, or matter... They can only warp and twist it... or flat out destroy it."

Gadgets leaned forward, "And this Glorificus is one of these?"


Xander shook his head, agreeing with Dragan's statement. "Glorificus is a Hell Goddess... Basically that means she belongs to a pantheon that exists within a Hell dimension of some kind... A first circle demon would likely worship her."

"Oh, you do have potential, Child." Amanda grinned as she watched Paige step out of the dressing area in a form fitting top and mini-skirt. "But I don't think that'll do you much good if you get in a fight."

Paige shrugged, "Even the saviors of the world need some time to relax every now and then."

Amanda laughed and hefted her purchases, "Now don't you get a swelled head. You've got saving a city under your belt, but the world is yet to come."

Paige grinned back at her, "So... tell, what does a well dressed thief and fighter wear today?"

Amanda grinned, "I thought you'd never ask. Come, child, the night is young..."

"Do you have to call me child??" Paige as petulantly as she paid for her purchases and followed Amanda out. "You don't call Xander that..."

Amanda laughed, "Xander's a weird one. He's older then he looks, and younger then he thinks. But you... well, I have so much to teach you, Child. Come along."

Paige pursed her lips, but didn't comment as Amanda led her along the boulevard.

"You can't be serious." Roger Murtaugh objected. "Some... something like that can't exist."

Xander just shrugged while Hercules sighed and Dragan looked on impassively.

"She does." He said quietly. "I faced her the night you guys chased me. Emptied my guns into her... both clips loaded with demon-killer rounds... Barely slowed her down enough for me to get away."

"How do you plan on beating her?" Ironman asked quietly, his voice tense.

Xander shrugged. "I don't have a clue."

Gadgets looked around, "I thought you just said she couldn't be beaten... More powerful then a First Circle demon and all that?"

Hercules shrugged, "It's not as bad as all that, thankfully. Though, even God's can be killed if you have the right tools."

The Team looked at each other and shivered.

Xander nodded, continuing. "Luckily she's not at her strongest on Earth..."

"Why not?"

Dragan spoke softly, but his voice carried over the din of the Karaoke. "Wrong dimension. She's cut off from her worshipers... God's draw their power from the support of others... without them, she's a shade of what she once was."

"That," Hercules said, "And the fact that this Dimension isn't really beneficial to her."

"Huh?" Murtaugh shook his head, things were getting wasy too confusing. "What are you talking about?"

"She's out of her element... and living in this dimension without the countenance of the local powers..." Herc said, "That means that she has to expend a lot of her residual power just to stay alive."

"Which doesn't mean she's a pushover." Xander said grimly. "She's still a Goddess... and that has some basic benefits... She's inhumanly strong and fast, practically invulnerable, and utterly ruthless. Humans don't matter to her, we don't even register as existing unless she needs something from us."

"Which brings us back to the start." Riggs said sarcastically. "How do you plan on stopping her?"

For a moment no one spoke, then finally Dragan leaned forward. "Any way we can."

"Well?" Amanda let the word drawl as she looked at Paige, "What do you think?"

Paige looked at her, her eyebrows raised, and nodded. "Very nice...."

Amanda smiled, tugging lightly on the sleeves of the black silk blouse to even them out. She spun on one heel and smoothed out the soft fabric of the tight but flexible pants she wore. "Not every one can pull this look off, but if you've got it... flaunt it."

Paige grinned, shaking her head as Amanda beamed proudly at herself in the mirror.

Amanda caught her look in the mirror and turned, "What?"

"This is your idea of fighting wear?"

Amanda shrugged, "This is my idea of versatile and fashionable It's tight fitting, won't get hooked on anything... it let's me move... and I looked good in it."

Paige laughed, but nodded. "Alright... I get the point. It's better then that damned coat Xander bought me."

Amanda shrugged, "I thought it was a very nice coat... you could hide a sword under it easily."

Neither of them paid attention as a clerk who was approaching to ask them if everything was fine abruptly turned around and left.

"Well yeah," Paige rolled her eyes, "But the damn thing weighs thirty pounds."

"What!?" Amanda asked, shocked. "Why?"

Paige shrugged, "It's armored to the hilt... don't ask me to explain it..."

Amanda shrugged, "Well... there goes your mobility."

"Tell that to Xander..." Paige pursed her lips, "He's a regular jumping bean even with the coat on."

Amanda shrugged, "Still... That's a lot of weight."

"Tell me about it, and the damn thing is hot as hell too..." Paige muttered.

Amanda rolled her eyes, "Come on... you can use the coat when you need it, but for now let's get you into something practical... yet stylish."

Paige grinned, "Now your talking my language."

"I'm getting a headache." Murtaugh muttered, cradling his head.

"Welcome to the club." Ironman muttered, "I tuned this conversation out back when Gadgets asked about the existence of God."

Both men nodded, but contrary to their words they returned their attention to the discussion in progress.

"So... your saying that God isn't God?" Gadgets asked, obviously confused.

Xander laughed, shaking his head. "No... I'm saying that man couldn't keep a story straight if his life depended on it. The word god, doesn't mean *God*."

There was a double groan from Murtaugh and Ironman, and Riggs just looked bored. But Pol and Gadgets leaned forward, interested. "Care to explain?"

Xander chuckled. "Ok... let me have a go at this... Gods are... a species of sorts... like humans are. Just really, really powerful. Ok so far?"

The two of them nodded.

"Ok... Now these gods tend to live in clans or tribes that we call Pantheons..." Xander said, trying hard as hell to explain something that he barely understood himself. "Pantheons tend to congregate around societies of low technical level, that had strong roots in the supernatural... Still with me?"

"Yeah..." Gadgets said slowly as Pol nodded, "But why?"

Xander shrugged, "A lot of reasons... but the core thing is power. They draw immense power from worshipers..."

Both men nodded, they understood that at least.

"Ok, now the thing is that gods tend to be arrogant, mean spirited, and generally annoying as hell..." Xander said, grinning at Hercules. "But that doesn't mean evil per say. The ones who have sided with... I don't know what to call them, let's just say the good guys ok?"

Xander didn't wait for a response before continuing. "So as I was saying, the ones who sided with the good guys tended to bow out of a culture as it grew beyond it's need for the comfort and security that the Gods provided."

"Wait, wait, wait...." Gadgets broke in, "Slow down. I thought you said that the gods were assholes?"

"They are." Xander grinned, "Most of them anyway. But for a lot of people, it meant a lot just to know that there was someone up there watching out... even if he was a prick. And to the gods, well, as far as they were concerned they were the only ones allowed to pick on humans... if a demon tried it, he'd better be prepared to face down one pissed off god. Call it the big brother syndrome... No one was allowed to pick on their little bro..."

Gadgets and Pol nodded, and Murtaugh actually smiled as he recalled some old memories. "Now *that* I get."

"Right." Xander grinned, "But on the flip side you have Pantheons like the one Glorificus belongs to... same basic species, but we call them Hell Gods because they don't follow the same rules. They foster superstition and ruthlessly oppress free thinking among their worshipers, preventing them from reaching forward to the next level... keeping them dependant on the Gods for protection..."

This time it was the three Vietnam veterans who nodded, as Riggs, Gadgets, and Pol remembered some memories of their own. Gadgets leaned forward, "So what does this have to do with *God*??"

Xander laughed, "'God' as you call him... Isn't a god... Human's just mucked things up completely and assigned the name to him a few thousand years back because they couldn't comprehend the differences between him and the gods. Humanity didn't invent the term, god, you know... the gods were calling themselves that long before the Earth cooled... we just assigned it a new meaning."

"So what is 'God'!?" Gadgets asked, exasperated.

"The Creator." Xander said simply. "The Creator of all. As simple and as complicated as that.... there is no word in any human language to describe 'God'... Well, none that are accurate at anyrate."

Dragan shrugged, "Kia'tuatha'vernosam."

Xander looked at him sharply, "I said 'Human' language."

Dragan shrugged, taking a sip of his beer. "Sorry."

"What was that?"

Xander scowled at Dragan, but turned back to Gadgets. "A very poorly pronounced word in the Angelic language..."

Dragan grinned, "Sue me. You can't pronounce anything in that language with human vocal chords.

Xander rolled his eyes, "Anyway... suffice to say that things are really really complicated..."

Riggs snorted, Ironman rolled his eyes, and Murtaugh muttered, "No shit."

Xander smiled slightly, shrugging. "And bear in mind, that even we don't have the full story. We think we have a slightly better idea then most, but we also know that there is a hell of a lot more out there."

Gadgets nodded thoughtfully. "Hmmmm..."

"And on that note," Xander said, "I think we should call an end to this night. I have some work to do before I can crash..."

"Work!?" Riggs asked, looking at his watch. "What kind of work do you plan on doing now? It'll be eleven o'clock soon..."

Xander grinned, "That's when my world wakes up, Riggs."

Across the bar three demons watched as the men encircling the table in the far corner stood up to leave. One nudged another, and growled in a low voice. "Go... tell them to get ready. The Seraphim dies tonight."

Glory looked up in annoyance as one of her minions burst into the room. "What do you want now?"

"Pardon me, your fabulousness..." The demon said as he bowed, "But they have located him..."

Glory smiled, "It's about time. Where is he?"

"At Caritas, your awe inspiringness..." They are preparing to confront him.

Glory nodded, reached out, and casually snapped the neck of the monk she had been torturing. "Good. These monks have been a waste of my time. Show me this... Caritas. And bring the other one too."

The demon bowed and backed out of the room as Glory followed him. On the floor behind them the glassy eyes of the monk stared out into oblivion as his soul joined the rest of his Order.

Able Team looked back at the empty lot that they had just left and shook their heads.

"Damndest thing I've every seen." Carl muttered, "And I had a fling with a Voodoo priestess."

His two friends chuckled, but Riggs and Murtaugh just stared at the lot for a long moment.

"You thinking what I'm thinking, Rog?" Riggs asked.

Murtaugh nodded, "Yeah... I think so."

"What are you guys talking about?"

Riggs shook his head, "I chased a runner through here a while back... He just vanished into thin air..."

Xander chuckled, "Looks like you've had a brush or two with the shadows before."

Riggs growled, kicking the ground. "I knew that bastard couldn't have outrun me... I knew it!"

Murtaugh shook his head, "Yeah, yeah... whatever."

Riggs suddenly grinned at his partner, "I was right, you were wrong... Come on, Rog... you can say it... I was right, you were wrong..."

"Shut up, Riggs." Murtaugh muttered.

"Come on, it's not that hard..." Riggs kept pushing, "I was right, you were wrong... come on, say it with me now... I.... come on, Rog... you know you owe it to me..."

"Owe you!?" Roger Murtaugh turned on him, "You nearly got me killed at least once a month since you became my partner!"

"Is that all?" Gadgets asked, grinning.

"Shut up, Herman!" Riggs muttered, then turned back to Murtaugh, "Come on... I was right and you were...?"

"I was stuck with a lunatic for a partner, that's what I was!" Roger Murtaugh muttered walking away.

Riggs jogged up beside his partner, "Hey! Come on... I admit it when I'm wrong..."

Murtaugh stopped and stared at Riggs in shock, "You *what*!?"

"I admit when I'm wrong!"

"Name one time you told me you were wrong!"

"Well, I never have been wrong since I met you." Riggs grinned.

Murtaugh's eyes bugged out, "Are you nuts!? What about jumping off that building with the jumper cuffed to your wrist!?"

"Hey, you wanted him down. I got him down."

Murtaugh growled, "What about the building you blew up!?"

"Hey! I did not blow it up," Riggs protested, "The asshole who planted the bomb blew it up! You have absolutely no proof that the bomb squad could have done any better... besides, we rescued the cat didn't we?"

"We got busted down to patrolmen!"

"And stopped an armored car robbery because of it..." Riggs grinned, "Isn't it funny how things work out?"

Murtaugh gave up, throwing his hands into the air and stalking off.

Riggs chased along beside him, "Come on, Rog, I'm not going to stop until you..."

A low, slow, clapping sound caused both of them to stop and the rest of the group to come up behind them.

"Oh dear..." Lorne said as he watched some of the nastiest demons in the bar walk out as if on cue. "I don't like the way this looks."

He got up and walked to the door, looking out. "Oh this is gonna be bad for business..."

"Yo, Lorne... What's up?"

Lorne looked back to see Gunn walk up with Jaina and Alonna walk up. "Looks like Xander's getting some excercise..."

"Say What?" Gunn asked, frowning as he walked over to the door. As he looked out he paled. "Oh damn. Tell me this isn't what it looks like..."

Lorne frowned, "No can do."

"Damn." Gunn muttered pulling a small hand axe from under his coat. "This was my night off..."

From the shadows demons began appearing, quickly surrounding the eight men and staring pointedly at Xander.

"You two can take your friends and your vaudeville act somewhere else." A tall demon said in a gravely voice. "We're only here for The Seraphim."

Every one stopped and looked at Xander, who was stepping forward with a "who me" look on his face. "Moi? What have you got against little old me?"

The lead demon smiled, a feral grin that exposed his blackened teeth. "Nothing personal. You just pissed off the wrong lady."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Don't tell me that Glorificus is holding a grudge over the ruined dress?"

"You know women." The demon replied. "So. You gonna save your friends a lot of pain and come quietly?"

Xander chuckled, and undid his coat, letting it hang open. "I think my friends can make their own decisions. You want me, you're gonna have to work for it." The big demon shrugged, "Fine with me. The boys here want to have a little fun first."

Xander's hands flashed to his pistols as Dragan drew his Bren10. Around them Able Team and the two cops pulled their hardware, and Hercules just rolled his head around once and lifted his fists.

"Sounds like fun all around then." Carl Lyons said, leveling his Colt at the lead demon.

"You really think I'm scared of that popgun?" The demon asked.

"Guys..." Xander said, "Aim for the small guys with the acne problems... Drag, what are you packing?"

"Silvertips in my Bren, magnesium in my custom." Dragan said quietly.

Xander nodded, "Ok. I've got leader boy."

"Gotcha." Dragan said, shifting his aim to another demon.

"Get them!!" The demon shouted with a growl and the gang of demons charged in.

The demon's scream was his last, as a three round burst from Xander's right pistol tunneled into it's head and ended it's unnatural life. Before it hit the ground, Xander was already tracking on the next target and firing.

Behind him, Drag's Bren Ten barked twice and ended another threat. Able Team had their pistols out, and following Xander's advice, were aiming for the smaller demons. The three commando's were gratified to find that those were as mortal as any other threat they had ever faced.

Riggs had his Berreta out, firing rapid fire into a demon that just wouldn't go down. "Hey Rog?"

"What do you want now, Riggs?""

Riggs got hit hard by the demon and driven back, his gun clattering to the ground. He gasped out, slamming his elbows hard into the demon and knocking it to the ground. "Maybe I was a little wrong about the bomb thing!"

Murtaugh was busy trying to keep a vampire's teeth off his throat. He managed to gasp out, "Not the time, Riggs!"

Riggs clapped the demons ears, or what passed for it's ears, and was gratified to see it hit the ground in pain. "Best you're gonna get, Rog!"

No answer.

"Rog?" Riggs slammed his boot into the demon at his feet. "These guy's aren't so tough..."

No responce.

"Rog? Roger!?" Riggs cast around, looking for his partner. He finally spotted him under a vampire a short distance away, blood running on the ground as the vampire dug it's teeth into Murtaugh's throat.

Riggs cursed and rushed over, kicking the vampire hard in the ribs and forcing it to let go. When it did, he followed the kick up with a shot to the face that mashed the vampire's nose into a pulp and threw it back off of Murtaugh.

Riggs fell to his knees, "Rog? Come on, Rog!"

He quickly pulled Murtaugh's head up and checked the wound on his neck. As he was doing so the vampire scrambled back to it's feet and charged at him. Riggs looked up, barely in time to see Carl Lyons hit the vamp with a tackle that would to a line backer proud. The Ex-LAPD cop turned urban commando hit the ground with the creature of the night and the two of them rolled across the lot.

Politician turned his attention back briefly, "Riggs! He alright!?"

"I don't know!" Riggs screamed out, "He's bleeding all over the ground man!"

Pol nodded, snapping off two more shots that dropped another one of the demons and then turned back. "Tell him to hold on!"

Riggs nodded, looking down at his partner. "Come on, Rog... Hold on... Just hold on..."

Xander looked up from the body of the dead demon, looking around. "This wasn't so bad."

Fully half of the demons were dead or dying, and the rest were taking a savage beating, so Xander felt justified in saying that. Of course, the instant he did, things went to hell.

Xander jumped back in shock as a body hit the ground at his feet. Xander almost jumped out of his skin when he realized that the body was headless. "Oh shit!"

"Tsk tsk, such language..." Came a voice, clear as crystal. "You should really watch that mouth."

Xander looked up and his heart hammered as he recognized Glory as she stood there, holding a human head in her right hand by the hair. Xander grimaced as he recognized the face of Liam Tanner as the ex-monk's sightless eyes stared over the small battleground.

A silence fell across both sides of the fight as they paused to watch the newcomer.

"Who's the chick?" Lyons asked before his eyes fell to the macabre sight she was holding in her hand. "Umm... Never mind."

Xander took a deep breath, stepping back from the body in front of him and ejecting his spent clips from the duel FiveSevens.

Glory smirked as he slapped two fresh clips into his pistols. "You already know those won't stop me."

Xander nodded slowly, casually fitting both pistols into his left hand and fishing out all his spare clips for the FiveSevens with his right. He took to steps back to where Pol was standing and passed the weapons off to the older warrior. "Here. Don't waste the rounds on here... these will kill the others though."

Rosario 'Politician' Blancanales wordlessly accepted the two machine pistols and instantly handed one off to his closest partner, Gadgets.

Glory growled, "Why are you wasting your time. You're dead already, even if your monkey brain doesn't want to admit it."

Xander still didn't respond, accepting whatever time her constant verbal diarrhea would buy him. Instead he slipped the big .44 magnum Desert Eagle from his hip holster and handed it off to Carl Lyons. "Same rules. Don't waste the ammo on her."

"What the hell are you going to do kid?" Carl asked under his breath, hardly believing that the battle had paused in mid fight for no apparent reason.

Xander shook his head, "I don't know. You have to keep the rest of them off me and Kevin though... and Drag."

Ironman nodded slowly. "You got it."

Xander nodded once, but didn't respond. Instead he turned back to Glory and unbuttoned his jacket all the way down, then slid the zipper to the end. "Come for a fight, I guess, huh Glorificus?"

The Hellgoddess shrugged, "I came for the key. Give it to me and I've got no reason to kill any of you."

Xander laughed slightly, a single chuff of breath that held no humor whatsoever. "You know that's not going to happen."

"You told the monks that you were it's guardian now." She said, "That means I need you alive. Your friends, however, are expendable."

Xander shook his head, looking vaguely amused as he shucked the coat and let it drop to the ground at his feet. "Appealing to my humanity when you know that I'm aware of the consequences of your plans... Real bright."

Glory growled, her face becoming a mask of anger and fury as his mocking tone grated on her. "I'll have what I seek even if I have to rip every last detail from your dying breath!"

Xander just planted his feet and faced her down across ten meters of asphalt. He looked her in the eyes and smiled, "Come on then."

Glory screamed and tossed the decapitated head away with a casual flick of her wrist, and then charged in a blur of motion.

Gunn watched over what could only be termed a battle ground, his eyes wary. "Jesus Christ."

Behind him he felt someone approach and half turned to see Simms, Jaina, and Alohnna come up behind him.

"What's going on?"

Gunn didn't look back at his sister, ""Lohnna... You should get out of here. Take Jaina with you."

Jaina frowned, "Like hell! You ain't getting me to turn tail and run, now what the hell is going on?"

Gunn frowned at the younger girl, but didn't press the issue. He turned his attention back to the odd conversation that was happening between Xander and the blond chick. He didn't know what was going on, but he could see that Xander was taking her lethally serious just by the look on his face.

Gunn shook his head, trying to figure out why Xander had given up his guns.

"Holy shit." He whispered in shock as the woman in the red nightgown rushed Xander at a speed that made her seem to blur.


Xander's call instantly brought the silvery staff into his had, the silvery shimmer of the weapon casting shadows across the lot for a long instant before it died down. He tensed, bringing the staff up to intercept the mad rush of the Hell Goddess, only to have someone else beat him to it.

Hercules rushed forward, his own speed a blur that matched Glory's, and intercepted the Hell Goddess in mid stride. He slammed a heavy right hand into her with all the strength he could muster, holding nothing back as he knew she could take all he had and probably a good deal more.

The force of his blow lifted her off her feet, throwing the Goddess back in a flying arc that ended abruptly when she slammed into a brick wall about fifteen meters back. She slipped down the rough stone, falling to her knees from the surprise more then anything, then slowly looked up with an angry leer on her face.

"That *hurt.*" She growled, standing back up and turning her attention to Hercules. "What are you!?"

Herc smiled, "Someone who doesn't like bullies."

Glory growled and charged at Hercules with the same speed she had used earlier. The two of them met in the middle, throwing blows that would have crushed any normal persons skull. After a brief exchange of blows Glory landed a solid shot that threw Hercules back, over the heads of his allies, through the illusionary shield of Caritas, and into the solid cement structure of the demon club.

Glory threw her hair back out of her face and again turned to Xander. "Next."

Xander glared at her, wanting to check on Hercules, and even on the cop who he knew was lying wounded behind him. Instead he summoned his control and amped his senses up to the first level, instantly seeing as clearly as if the sun were overhead, and hearing the slightest breath taken around him. Then he erached out with his mind and tapped the energy well that was now resting in his hand, drawing Elan's power into himself.

Glory paused in her approach, puzzled as Xander's eyes began to glow a flickering silver color. The glow was echoed almost instantly in the staff her held out defensively, and then it slowly began to climb his arms, slowly wrapping itself around him.

Inwardly Xander's muscles jumped, his every nerve singing with the sudden influx of power. He forced his heart down, regulating his breathing with every ounce of will he had, and drew more power from the Rune Staff.

<Alexander!> Elan's voice echoed through his mind, warning him. <This is unsafe! You have already tapped far too much power!>

<No choice.> He though back grimly, <She's cut off any escape.>

<Retreat into the club!> Elan snapped.

<Then what!?> Xander demanded, <Murtaugh needs treatment. Fast. She could wait us out easily... She isn't like a vampire, she can stand out here day and night... forever!>

Elan had no instant answer to that. Glorificus could easily wait them out, hell she could come in and sit down beside them for as long as she wanted and there would be nothing they could do.

The internal conversation lasted only an instant, but before it was over an ancient battle cry split the night.

Xander looked up to see Dragan charge at Glorificus, a blood red sword in his hand. The blade seemed to be glowing with an eerie red light as Dragan brought it down in an overhead slash at Glorificus.

There was a dull smack, a sound of metal striking something soft, yet unyeilding, as Glory lifted her forearm and intercepted the blade on her own flesh. Dragan instantly swept the blade back and around, striking at the goddess from the other side, only to have her block it on her other arm. He sped up, striking out with a series of lightning strikes that she intercepted each time, almost contemptuously batting the weapon away.

Drag snarled, his green hair a wild mane as he stepped back and pivoted away from Glory long enough to reverse the angle of his blade and drive it toward her with a powerful thrust that ended with the blade emerging eight inches from her back.

Glory looked down in shock at the gleaming, glowing blade that was impaling her belly. Then she reached out with a lighting motion and trapped Dragan's hand on the blade. With an inexorable strength she drew the blade in further, pulling the powerful warrior along with it. Finally the hilt came to rest against the newly tattered dress she was wearing and she snarled into the face of it's wielder.

"I. LIKED. THIS. DRESS!" She screamed, and smashed Dragan with a blow that ripped his grip from the sword and threw him straight back over twenty meters, where he tumbled across the asphalt and came to a rest face down and unmoving for a moment.

Growling, Glory grabbed the hilt of the red blade and drew it from her body. As it cleared her skin she looked at it, her face a mask of anger and hatred, and threw it away. She growled into the air, turning around, "Does anyone *else* want to DIE!?"

"Not especially, but I'm always game for new experiences."

She turned in shock at hearing the voice so close, just in time to see a silver blur flash toward her head.

The blow was powerful enough to knock Glory back several feet and throw her to the ground, but Xander didn't stop there. He instantly pressed the attack, not waiting to see the effect any of his blows actually had.

Before she could move he caught her with another shot across the head, knocking her down to the ground, then instantly reversed his grip and drove the tip of Elan down at her heart.

Glory rolled clear and the silver staff shattered the asphalt where it stuck, sending a noticeable tremor through the lot. She quickly rolled to her knees, turning around in time to block another strike with her forearm.

Xander let the weapon bounce off her arm, using the motion to speed his spin as he whipped the staff around and struck at her from the other side. This time he got through her defense, landing a heavy blow just under her ribs. Glory let out a small yelp of shock and instantly put a hand over the place where he struck her.

She glared at him, her eyes burning with rage. "What *are* you!? That actually HURT!"

Xander didn't respond, he simply lashed out with a blow that caught the Hell Goddess by surprise, striking her across the face and rocking her head back.

Even more shocked, Glory lifted her other hand to her lips and stared at her fingers with something akin to fascination as they came back red with blood. She looked between her hand and Xander for a moment, a rage building in her eyes.

Xander struck out again, the staff a whistling blur of silver light as it traced a path to Glory's head. She lifted her hand in a lightning motion and easily caught the weapon in an iron grip. She glared at Xander. "You made me bleed..."

The shock and fury in her voice had reduced it to a quivering, shaking, well of emotion and Xander swallowed as he heard her finish her sentence.

"Allow me to return the favor."

She struck out with a single punch that Xander never saw coming, and the last thing he felt before everything went black was the ground rushing away.

Gunn let out a muttered curse as he saw Xander leave the ground, his body going limp as the woman in the red dress struck him with a single blow. He winced as he saw Xander's body hit a solid wall with a boneless thud and fall to the ground. Gunn made a move toward him, but was stopped by a shocked whisper behind him.

"Holy shit."

Gunn glanced back, surprised at the emotion in Simms voice. "I thought you hated Xander."

"I do." Simms said, his face stunned, "He's a pissant bastard who's way too full of himself... but he's also the best fighter I've seen... We aren't up to taking on something that could do that to him!"

Gunn turned away, then glanced back for an instant. "We've got to at least try to help!"

With that Gunn ran off. Simms shook his head and growled for a moment, then followed.

Hercules groaned as he stumbled out from the confines of the spell that hid Caritas. The Greek Demi-God rubbed his jaw lightly and shook his head to clear it. <Damn. I haven't been hit that hard since Ares nailed me with that boulder...>

He looked around to see Dragan flat out on the ground and Xander crumpled against a wall. When his eyes came to rest on Glory, the Hell Goddess was standing in the center of a stunned group of demons and human warriors, complaining about her dress and raging about the blood that was dripping from her lip.

"He made me bleed!" She raged, spinning around, completely ignoring the human commando's and police officers still in the area. "Minions! Minions!"

From nowhere the robed demons appeared, groveling. "Yes, you're illustriousness?"

"Go!" She commanded, pointing at Xander. "Check him, make sure he's still alive... then bring him to me!"

"Of course, your eminent magnificence..."

Before the demons could follow through with the command, Hercules stepped forward and cleared his throat.


Glory turned to look at him, shock evident on her face. "You're still alive!? And conscious!? *Who* are you!?"

He smiled, "What? You don't watch my show? I'm hurt."

"Not half as hurt as you're going to be." She snarled. Then she looked around, snarling at her minions. "Minions! Go!"

The three robed demons nodded quickly and rushed away, heading toward Xander, leaving Glory to meet Hercules once again in the center of the ring of demons.

Dragan moved slowly, his hands stretching out reflexively and gathering dust and dirt in a clenched fist. His eyes rolled back in his head as he came back to consciousness slowly, bringing pain along for the ride.

"Ohhhhh..." He groaned, rolling over on to his back and blinking open his eyes. "Shit....."

With a sudden burst of power and will he forced himself to a sitting position, his hands instantly flying to his head as he moaned at the sudden pain. "Oh fuck! I haven't had a headache like this since I spent that weekend in Prague drinking Absinthe..."

Memories of *that* weekend quickly chased away the pain as he forced himself to his feet and staggered a couple steps before regaining his balance. <Shit. The babe hits like a grown dragon with a mad on...>

The sounds of fighting and screams of cheering caught his attention and he looked around, blinking the reddish haze from his eyes. As he tried to focus on the source of the sound, he finally managed to make out the sight of Hercules and Glory once again trading blows. He frowned as he realized that Herc was fighting slower this time, taking less chances as he worked to hold Glory off more then to actually fight her. That wasn't good in Drag's opinion. If Hercules didn't pour on the power, he wouldn't stand a chance of defeating the Hell Goddess.

Drag took several halting steps toward the Demi-God, intent on helping the man. Then he stopped, realizing that in his current condition he'd be of little help.

<Draca...> He cast about, looking for his sword. <Where is Draca!?>

Gunn slid to a stop on his knees by the motionless form of Xander Harris, his hands instantly reaching out to shake the young man.

"Gunn! No!"

His hands stopped in mid motion and he looked back, "'Lohnna! Get you of here!"

"Don't touch him!" She cried as she ran up, "He could have severe injuries! You could kill him if you move him without checking him out!"

Gunn growled, casting a worried glance at his sister as she dropped to her knees beside Xander's still form and began gently checking him for severe injuries.


Cursing under his breath, Gunn turned around to look at Simms. "What!?"

"We've got company!"

He followed the young man's eyes to see three robed demons approaching them, ugly short swords in their hands. Gunn struggled to his feet, pulling his small hand axe in one hand, while his other drew the Glock 21 he had begun carrying since Andy had supplied his crew with the silvertip ammunition.

The darkness was pervasive, it coated his every sense, it dulled his every thought. But through it all, Xander was awake. Dimly, as though through immense distance he heard the conversation and the excitement around him, but he couldn't seem to gather sufficient interest to do anything about it all.

His mind jumped from one place to another, though he found it hard to tell as they were all black, and they were all filled with pain.

A silver light was his only companion, following him through step and leap as he found himself drawn inexorably by the varying stimuli and wayward thoughts that entered his mind. The light wouldn't leave him, thought when it approached him he felt the pain mor readily, more sharply.

"Go away." He finally muttered to the light, not wanting the pain that the light brought.

He didn't realize it, but that one act, that one focus of his will, was exactly what the light had been waiting for. It seized upon that single act of will, and held it by sheer force of it's own indomitable will.

"Alexander! Concentrate!" The voice came from the light, piercing his ears with a sound that was unblunted by the darkness, a sound that rang clear as crystal despite the pain and blackness that enshrouded him.

"Go way..." He muttered again, trying to drop back into the peaceful oblivion of the darkness that was trying to cradle him.

"Focus on me, Alexander." Came the voice, laden heavily with concern. "Remember the techniques..."

"Techniques..." He felt his head loll to one side, but didn't try to straighten it. "No... No pain..."

"Go way..."

"What's he say?" Jaina asked as she bent over Alohnna as the older girl checked on the fallen figure.

Alohnna frowned, "He said go away..."

Jaina snorted, "Sounds like Xander."

Alohnna frowned, "I think he's hallucinating... He's not really responsive."

Jaina frowned, "How bad is he hurt?"

"I can't tell..." Alohnna said, shaking her head. "I can't find anything broken... but god alone knows why, after the way he hit this wall."

A sudden burst of noise from a short distance away caught Jaina's attention and she suddenly straightened up. "Look after him... Gunn and Simms are in trouble."

Dragan stumbled and tripped as his ribs were racked with a blinding pain, and hit the asphalt hard. He groaned through clenched teeth, his eyes slamming shut as he grimaced in pain. When they opened, he saw a familiar glow against the black tar of the asphalt and smiled through the blinding pain.

One step, one sliding crawl, one dragging motion after another, he drug himself closer to the glow. <Draka.> He thought to himself as his right hand closed around the hilt of the blade. He felt an instant warmth radiate from the weapon, running up his arm, and slowly returning his strength. He jammed the point of the blade into the ground, and forced himself to his feet despite the daggers of blinding agony that ripped through his chest. He growled, his face pulling back into an ugly grimace as he finally reached his feet and turned around.

A short distance away he could see Hercules and Glory, still trading blow after blow, and he took a long agonizing breath before he began to hobble toward them. With each step, the red glow of his sword pulsed and ebbed, and more heat rode the long conductor into his arm.

"NO!" Elan screamed at him, driving a searing spike through his thoughts as Xander tried to marshal the techniques to cancel out the pain. "You need the pain!"

"Don't... want it..." He mumbled.

"Alexander! Listen to me!" She ordered instantly, "The pain is the only thing keeping you conscious! If you kill the pain, you fall asleep!"

"Sleep... good." He said, his mind reaching longingly for the comforting blackness he could feel around him.

"If you sleep, you DIE!" She yelled again.

Xander started from the sound, wincing. "Not so loud... hurts..."

Elanthielle shook her head, "That's the idea you foolish child."

Hercules caught a blow from Glory on his forearm, returning the favor with a powerful left hook that jarred her back a step. She growled, lashing out with a savage uppercut that caught him solidly and lifted him off his feet, and sent him back five feet before he landed again.

He paused, wincing as he gingerly felt his chin. "Not bad."

She smirked at him, "Your not so bad yourself... Why are you fighting me? I can smell godhood on you... what are they to you? What does it matter if a few humans die to elevate a God?"

"We're talking about an entire planet!" Herc returned, "Over six billion people, and their entire civilization!"

She shrugged, "So what? There are countless more where this came from."

Hercules shook his head and was about to attack again when he caught sight of Dragan limp up behind a demon and cut a swathe through the creature with his blade. The glow of the blade intensified and Dragan straightened slightly, moving easier as he moved on to the next.

"You wouldn't understand." Hercules said finally. "These are my people."

She looked disgusted, "And you allowed them to become... *this*!?"

"I told you," Herc said as Dragan sliced down another demon, starting a minor scuffle behind Glory. "You wouldn't understand."

Glory rolled her eyes, "You've lost them now. They'll never worship the gods again... they're worthless."

Herc shook his head, "No. They're worth more to me then you can possibly imagine. And that's why I'm going to stop you."

She sneered at him, "You don't have the power."

"Maybe not." Dragan's quiet voice came from behind them, causing Glory to start and turn to see him casually standing over a half a dozen dead demons. "But he's not alone either."

Gunn grunted as he buried the head of his hand axe into the closest demon, firing off a quick double tap from his Glock into another at the same time.

"Who are these fuckers!?" Simms growled, firing a spray from his micro-Uzi that tossed another demon on it's ass.

"How the fuck should I know!?" Gunn asked, exasperated. "I think that's all of them."

"Look again." Simms growled, pointing.

Gunn looked, then groaned. Their brief skirmish had cost them whatever stealth they'd enjoyed, and now they were facing several demons who had been on the sidelines until this point. "Oh shit."

He leveled his pistol, firing off into the advancing group. The lead demons took the hits first, causing the rest to scatter as they realized that they weren't up against normal bullets. Gunn's eyes widened as he saw one of them palm a fire ball, the ugly creatures evil smile glinting with reflected light, and toss it in their direction.

"Incoming!" Gunn screamed out, diving to one side and covering up as he did.

Blinding pain assaulted him as Xander opened his eyes, causing his to instantly slam them shut again. "Don't wanna..."

Elanthielle growled. "Your friends are fighting and possibly *dying*, Alexander!"

He grimaced again under the sharp assault of her voice on his already screaming brain, but nodded and forced his eyes open again. The air assaulted his eyes, feeling like daggers driven into them, but he kept them open and found himself staring into the face of Gunn's sister, Alohnna.

She jumped back in surprise, her own eyes wide as they were transfixed by the unblinking stare that Xander pierced her with. She let out a gasp as he started to move.

"Don't move..." She urged, "You could have internal injuries..."

"I do." He rasped out, then slowly forced his way to his feet until he was standing unsteadliy and looking at the battle that was shaping up between Herv, Dragan, and Glorificus.

Glory blocked a blow from Hercules, twisting with the same motion to avoid a swipe of Dragan's sword. She backhanded Herc with a return blow that knocked him back off his feet, and turned her full attention to Dragan for a moment.

"You're nothing, mortal!" She snarled, "You have some small power, that I can sense, but you are no God."

"I never claimed to be." Dragan growled in return, his blade flashing out twice only to be blocked both times by the forearms of the Hell Goddess. "But I'm not... entirely... mortal!"

Glory blocked the three strikes that puncuated Dragan's last words easily, then slammed a palm strike into her opponents chest. He was flung back a dozen feet, slamming into a demon and falling into a tangled heap.

Glory, flushed from the exertion, flipped her hair from her eyes and grinned at Dragan as he tried to extract himself from the tangle of demonic arms and legs. Her misplaced attention cost her dearly as a light touch on her shoulder caused her to turn.

"Hi." Herc grinned, "I'm back."

Glory opened her mouth to speak, only to be instantly silenced by the hammer like blow from the Demi-God's right fist. She was blasted back, knocked to the ground, and skidded along the asphalt for a dozen feet before she managed to hook her hands into the ground like claws and drag herself to a stop.

She stared back at him from her position on the ground, her face a mask of outrage. "How... DARE... YOU!"

Hercules rolled his eyes, "If I had a penny for every time someone asked me that I'd be... Well... actually I probably do have a penny for every time someone said that to me..."

Glory growled and picked herself off the ground, examining her increasingly tattered dress. "I'm going to rip your innards out and feast on your entrails!"

Herc paused, thinking. "Well... I haven't heard that one in a few decades at least..."

"Gunn! Down!"

Gunn obeyed the order without thinking, hitting the dirt as three booms echoed through the air. He rolled on the ground and looked up just in time to catch sight of a particularly ugly demon folding like a broken table, ichor spurting from three respectable holes in its chest. He glanced over to see Jaina smiling from over the iron sights of her Colt .45 auto.

"Thanks." He gasped out, rolling back up to his feet.

She grinned. "No prob, boss man. I'll save that ass anytime."

Gunn closed his eyes briefly, shaking his head as a smile came to his lips involuntarily. Quickly he remembered where he was and returned his attention to the fight.

Simms was hacking his heavy Kuri blade into a fallen demon, severing it's head with two strokes. Around him were three others, dead of similar wounds, and another two stitched with 9mm holes. Simms looked up, his face covered with slime and demon ichor. "You know, Boss... you throw one helluva party..."

Gunn chuckled, reminded again of why he put up with Simms attitude. He turned back to his sister, and his eyes widened as he saw Xander standing and actually starting to walk. "Shit."

Simms and Jaina followed his gaze, and their jaws dropped.

"Fuck me." Simms muttered in shock.

"You wish." Jaina said, but her voice was flat as she too stared in shock.

Able Team had formed a loose circle around Riggs and his partner, firing sparingly into the demons around them for fear of running out of ammunition. They weren't overly hard pressed, thankfully, though it grated on them to admit that it was mostly because the opposition didn't consider them a significant threat.

"Riggs!" Gadgets snapped over his shoulder, "How is he!?"

Riggs shook his head, "I think he lucked out... seemed to miss the jugular... but he's lost a ot of blood man, I think he's going into shock... we have to get help!"

Gadgets nodded, "Just keep him alive, Riggs! We'll find a way to evac him!"

Riggs nodded, pale as he kept his hands pressed tightly over the rip in Murtaugh's throat. "Come on man... stay with me... you stay with me Rog!"

"Riggs...." The weak voice of his partner rasped out.

Martin Riggs leaned in closer, "Yeah Rog? What is it?"

"You're bad luck Riggs." Murtaugh said, grinning weakly up at his partner.

Riggs started laughing, the tension of the situation making him sound almost hysterical. "I know man... that's what they told me when I asked why you were the only guy who would partner with me."

Murtaugh broke out into a painful chuckle, then winced in pain. "Don... Don't make me laugh..."

Xander staggered another two steps, shaking his head from side to side despite the stabbing pain. <This is never gonna work.>

He took a deep breath, the air filling his lungs and sending more surges of pain through his chest. <Oh fuck...> <Focus.> Elan's voice was soothing now, having lost the jagged edge it had held when she was waking him. <You know what you must do.>

He nodded, bringing his mind into tight focus. He could feel his body trying desperately to heal itself, the process sped up to such a degree by Elan's teachings that he was able to follow it's progress at times. This time, though, he forced himself to ignore it and trust in his body to see to it on it's own. Instead he amped up his senses to the first level, his eyesight instantly becoming clear, and his every other sense jacking up at the same time.

"AHHH!" He stumbled, the pain intensifying along with the other sensory stimulus. He caught himself before falling, barely staying on his feet.

"Please!" Alohnna ran alongside of him, "You have to lie down... Please!"

He ignored her request, painfully fishing his cell from his belt. He glanced at it, and groaned as he saw the smashed plastic and exposed circuitry. "Shit."

"You're injured!" Alohnna's persistent voice was joined by her fingers, soft but firm, on his shoulder.

She shook her off and turned to look at her. "Do you have a phone?"


"Phone." He enunciated clearly. "Cell phone. Do you have one?"

Hesitantly she nodded, "Yeah."

"Give it to me." He said, then snapped when she didn't move fast enough. "Now!"

Hastily Alohnna pulled her small cell phone from her pocket and handed it over, noting that even speaking loudly had caused him to wince in pain. "You're really hurt... you have to lie down."

He flipped the phone open, dialed a number, then handed the phone back. "Keep hitting redial until someone answers. Ask for Paige, tell her that Xander needs Leo outside Caritas. You got that?""

She nodded.

"Repeat it!" He snapped, then winced as his own voice almost drove him to his knees.

"X... Xander needs Leo outside Caritas..." She stammered.

"Right." He nodded, turning away.

"Wait!" she called to his back as he continued to stagger towards the fight. "You're hurt! What do you think you can do!?"

"Whatever I have to." He said, not turning back.

Xander took a few more halting steps, his attention shifting inwards as he began to retune his mind. He quickly shifted his senses again, preparing them for the next level as best he could. Slowly his breathing evened as he walked, and with Elan's help he burst his consciousness through to the next level.

Xander's scream of pain echoed through the lot, drowning out the sounds of fighting, as the almost inhuman sound was ripped from his throat. As his senses hypertuned again, every nerve in his body leapt into a hyperactive mode and began shooting several times the voltage through his pathways as they screamed out to his brain int heir attempt to report the damage he had sustained.

He hit his knees before he could catch himself, the pain washing over him like a wave. He could hear people rushing to him from behind, but didn't pay any attention as he reached out his hand and summoned Elan to his grip. The silver battle staff appeared in his hands, fully extended, and he used it to brace himself and slowly climbed back to his feet.

Around him the world looked eerie, everything was incredibly clear but also everything was running slowly as his mind began processing the information presented to it at a much greater pace. <Now, Elan?>

Elanthielle's reply was reluctant, but grudgingly in the affirmative. <Now, Alexander.>

Xander reached out with his mind and, like flicking a light switch, turned off the pain that was wracking his body. He suddenly straightened up, his eyes clear and his face set as he locked onto Glorificus.

Amanda looked up from the silk blouse she was examining as she heard a cell phone ring. She glanced back and realized that it was coming from her coat, which was flung casually over a chair in the rather elegant private are of the shop she was in.

"Paige, be a darling and pass me my phone?"

Paige shrugged and reached down, pulling the small phone out of the coat while being careful to keep the slim long sword hidden under the folds of the fabric. She walked over and haded the phone to Amanda.

Amanda flipped it open casually, "Hello?" After a moment she paused, frowning. "Yes... She's right here."

Paige matched her frown as Amanda handed the phone to her. She took it and placed it to her ear. "Hello?"


Then is was broken. "What!?"

"We're coming!" Paige snapped, hanging the phone up. She looked around, her face blanched white.

Amanda looked concerned, "Paige? What is it?"

Paige grabbed Amanda's coat and tossed it to her, "Come on." She said, dragging the Immortal thief into one of the private dressing rooms.

"Paige!?" Amanda protested lightly.

Paige ignored her, looking up at the ceiling reflexively as she called out. "Leo!"

It was like turning off a light. With one single command, Xander banished all the pain from his body and was moving like he had no limits. He instantly drew power from Elan, igniting a silver glow that pulsed over the ancient weapon as he strode forward with single minded purpose.

His imperfect channeling of her power was visible first in his eyes. The Silver light bled through almost instantly, pouring from his eyes like water through a sieve, creating a glow that illuminated his face with an eerie flickering light.

Three demons moved to intercept him as he made his way toward the ongoing battle between Glorificus, Hercules, and Dragan. Xander disposed of the first one with a contemptuous swipe of his staff, catching the four hundred pound demon with enough force to crack it's skull like a melon and flip it's body back a dozen feet.

He whirled the staff single handed for an instant as the remaining two flanked him, issuing the command to Elan to return to her compact state as they closed. When they were close enough his casually positioned the ancient weapon and reactivated it, skewering both demons with a single blow that left them staring in shock at him even as they died where they stood.

Through it all, the silver glow that was growing around Xander continued to increase in intensity. His skin was glowing, the eerie light penetrating the black material of his shirt like a million stars. His appearance was such that other demons, rather then moving to attack, fell back in terror and awe. They knew his reputation, and the almost heavenly glow that was surrounding him merely confirmed it to them.

It would later strike Xander as Ironic, when he realized exactly what had happened and the results of it, that his imperfect control of Elan's power gave him the appearance of a being far beyond his power level. The worst of it was that it, all of it, was merely an illusion. The power he actually possessed was far less then the power he was wasting with every passing moment. In fact, in his current state, he was as much a danger to himself as to any demon that might cross his path.

Better, he would later decide, that they never know that.

Hercules struck out with a hard right that jarred Glory's head back, taking the Hell Goddess by surprise. She retaliated instantly with a powerful, but slow, punch to his stomach that lifted the Greek Demi-God off his feet and rushed the air from his lungs. As he regained his footing she struck out with a snap punch to his jaw that staggered him.

Glory was moving in to do her best to finish the fight when Dragan reentered the fray, his sword whistling through the air as he struck out at her head.

Glory snapped around, pivoting on one heel, and tilted her head at such an angle that the red blade sliced nothing but air as it passed a fraction of an inch above her ear. Then she snapped out her right foot, catching him in the lower stomach. Dragan jumped with the blow, lightening it, and landed back on his feet an instant later. He thrust in with a neat pass of his blade, aiming to once again impale her on the red metal.

Glory sidestepped, striking simultaneously at Dragan's head and wrists. Draka went flying as the warrior's wrists went numb and his head snapped back.

Dragan didn't let that stop him. He instantly nailed Glorificus with a snap kick that knocked her back a dozen paces, then charged her at a full run.

She met him, blocking his first blow, but reeled back as he caught her with a staggering left hook. She retaliated, kicking out at his leg hard enough to knock it out from under him and send Dragan to the ground with a bruise the size of a dinner plate forming on his right leg. On the ground, he rolled on instinct just as her foot cracked the asphalt where he had been, and kept rolling as he kicked out at him.

Glory's attack on Dragan was aborted quickly as a hard blow spun the Hell Goddess around, and threw her to the ground. She looked up, her face a mask of rage as she once again looked at the Demi-God. She quickly rolled to her feet, growling as she struck out at Hercules.

He blocked easily, then struck out with a powerful right that staggered the Hell Goddess back several feet, where she paused to regain her bearings. She snarled at Hercules, and then at Dragan, who was just getting to his feet. "You can't win! You aren't strong enough!"

Neither of them replied. They were both staring, not at her, but just over her shoulder.

Glory glanced back reflexively, just in time to see a silver blur flash toward her.

The press of demons was gone, leaving Able Team some much needed breathing room. The three urban commandos took the opportunity to look around and one by one their jaws dropped.

"Sweet Jesus." Gadgets muttered.

"What the fuck?" Lyons swore.

Pol was silent for a long moment, "Hey guys... is it just me, or is the kid not only up and walking, but also making like a night light?"

There was a long silence.

"It's not just you." Gadgets finally replied. "But I wish to hell it was."

"Kin A." was all that Lyons said.

A shimmer of light deposited three figures in the center of the lot, each of them looking around in surprise.

"Damn.? Leo muttered, "This place looks like a battlefield."

Amanda nodded, "It is a battlefield."

"Right." Leo said, looking around. He quickly spotted a figure lying on the ground with a small group around. "I'll be right back."

He moved quickly toward them, only to find himself instantly covered by an array of hardware. "Whoa! Guys... I'm just here to help!"

"Who are you?" One of the men, a powerfully built man with greying hair, asked.

"I'm Leo." He said hesitantly, looking down at the man on the ground. "I can help him..."

The three men standing up looked at him suspiciously, but the one kneeling over the prone form waved them away. "Let him through!"

"You sure Riggs?"

The man nodded, "I'll take any help I can get."

The men stepped aside and Leo rushed in, dropping to one knee and gently prying Rigg's hand from the black man's injuries. Leo gently laid his own had over the wound and a golden glow quickly surrounded it. A few seconds later the wound was vanished, as if it had never been.

"He'll be alright." Leo said, "But he's lost a lot of blood... He's going to be weak for a while."

"Holy shit." Riggs muttered, "How'd you do that?"

Leo smiled, "It's my... gift."

A loud noise distracted them from further questions as they all looked toward the main event. Leo's jaw dropped as he caught sight of Xander. "By all that's holy... Is that Xander?"

"You know the kid?" The solid man asked.

Leo nodded, shaking his head. "He's a friend of my charge."


"Long story."

That was enough. There were no more questions forthcoming as the men turned their attention back to the fight.

Xander didn't give her time to turn as he struck, the heavy blow of the Ancient Staff catching the Hell Goddess across the side of the head as she half turned to see him coming. The force of the blow threw her off her feet and to the ground several feet away. She rolled instantly and came back to her feet as he closed on her.

Xander spun, the staff sweeping out and hooking at her feet, but Glory hopped over the blow and closed the distance in the blink of an eye. As Xander rose back to her feet she struck out at him with a palm strike to his chest with enough force to collapse his rib cage. Xander pivoted, turning the solid blow into a glancing strike that skipped off, but the sound of his ribs breaking was audible to everyone in the area.

Xander didn't feel a thing. He swept the staff up, catching Glory hard under the chin and forcing her back again. As she staggered to regain her balance, he spun, swinging the silver weapon around in a fast arc aimed at her skull.

Glory stepped in like lighting, getting too close for the swing to be truly effective, and caught his arm in a solid arm bar. With a contemptuous motion she twisted and snapped his left arm like a twig.

Xander shifted the staff to his left without missing a beat and nailed the Hell Goddess across the temple with enough force to pulverize a cinder block. His left arm hung uselessly at his side, but his expression never changed as he watched the Hell Goddess fly off her feet and spin in mid air.

The whole process seemed like it was running in slow motion, as Xander's mind processed the visual input at tremendous speeds. He jumped up, snapping out a kick that caught her in mid air and sent her flying across the lot toward Hercules.

Hercules saw the Hell Goddess flying towards him, his eyes widening in shock at the force Xander had managed to put behind his blows. As Glory passed by him, Hercules doubled up his hands and slammed down with a double axe handle blow that drove her straight down into the asphalt, cratering the pavement.

Before Glory could think of moving, Dragan took a step in and drove his sword through her stomach, all the way down to the hilt, effectively pinning her to the earth.

Wordlessly, Xander joined them. His left arm was hanging at an awkward angle, but he didn't seem to notice as he whirled the staff in his right arm. He drew it up high, then drove it down into the Hell Goddess's chest with a single strike.

Glory's eyes opened wide, a spray of blood erupting from her mouth, and a look of utter shock appeared on her face. Then, she simply went limp, her eyes and mouth closing.

There was a long moment of silence.

"Is she dead?" Xander asked dully.

"I think so." Hercules nodded slowly, realizing that he couldn't feel her anymore.

"Good." Xander muttered, his knees buckling as he suddenly folded up and hit the ground. As his head bounced off the pavement, the silver staff shimmered and vanished from Glory's body.

"Xander!" Paige screamed in shock as she and Amanda rushed forward. "LEO!"

"I'm coming!" He shouted as he leapt forward to the fallen form of his charge's friend.

Amidst the shock of the moment, none of the assembled warriors noticed as the surviving demons made good their retreat.

"Holy shit!" Gunn uttered as he rushed forward.

He, and everyone else, winced as they watched Xander's head bounce off the ground, his body simply collapsing.

Leo dropped to his knee's beside the slumped form and began running his hands over the obvious injuries, muttering quiet utterances of shock as he did.

"My God." He said, healing a spot of internal bleeding. "His ribs are crushed... I think his jaw is fractured... his left arm... every bone in his foot is broken... his right hand has multiple fractures... Internal bleeding... deep tissue burns everywhere... Jesus."

"Is he going to be alright?" Paige asked quietly.

Leo shook his head, a sheen of perspiration on his face and forehead. "He'll live. I'm not promising anything beyond that. What the hell happened here!?"

Hercules' voice was quiet, but it carried. "He killed a Goddess."

Leo snapped around, "What!?"

"Later." Herc said, "Right now we have to get him out of here... and clear the area."

As Hercules spoke, everyone began to hear what he was hearing. The sounds of sirens in the background. Gunn instantly began snapping orders to his people. "Ok, move it! Grab your empty clips, and any hand weapons, and get back to the truck!"

Simms and Jaina nodded, instantly sprinting back to where they had been fighting, and retrieved their personal weapons and clips. Gunn looked around briefly, "Tell Xander that I'll be expecting a visit when he's up to it."

Paige nodded to him and Gunn turned and left quickly, pausing only to do his own cleanup before he too vanished into the night.

Leo looked up, "You guy's better get out of here."

"Hey, we can't leave the kid here..." Lyons objected.

Leo smiled, "Don't worry. Paige? Amanda?"

The two women nodded and closed in, and an instant later they, and Xander's still form, had vanished in a sparkling array of light.

"What the fuck?" Lyons muttered in shock.

"Later." Herc ordered. "Move it."

The order in the big man's tone was enough to stiffen the backs of the Able Team members, but they obeyed. Riggs growled, and hefted Murtaugh up, looking around. "I don't why we're running..."

"Do you really want to explain why you're standing in the middle of a warzone?" Dragan asked as he followed Herc around to his car.

Riggs followed behind, still lugging his unconscious partner. "Downtown is used to us being in the middle of this shit."

"With demon bodies lying all over the place?" Dragan grinned.

"Ok.. Well, that would be new..." Riggs admitted, then frowned. "Hey, what the hell is going to happen when the cops see this?""

Dragan shrugged, "Don't worry about it. The bodies won't last long enough to reach the ME... most demon's don't leave a body trail here on Earth."

Riggs grunted, sliding Murtaugh into the back of the car as everyone piled into the two vehicles that brought them here. "Huh?"

"Long story." Dragan said, keying the ignition. "I'll tell you later."

"Right. Great..." Riggs glanced back, shaking his head. "How the hell am I going to explain this to Lorna?"

Dragan reached out and pulled him into the car. "If we get the hell out of here now, you won't have to explain it to anyone! Move!"

Leo, Amanda, Paige, and Xander glittered back into existence within Paige's suite at the hotel, and the three of them quickly moved Xander into his own suite and put him into bed. He didn't move the entire time.

"Are you sure he'll live?" Paige asked, her voice skeptical.

Leo nodded, "Yeah. But I'm more worried about what caused those tissue burns... those weren't like anything I've ever seen..."

"He'll be alright." Amanda said firmly, brushing Xander's hair back out of his eyes.

Leo shook his head, but didn't say anything.

Paige nodded, taking a deep breath. "Yeah. You're right. He'll be fine."

Xander looked around, sighing.

The environment had been scorched, as if by the wrath of God himself. Ashes drifted across the ground, blowing up on nonexistent currents of air, and settled across everything that was. The tree's were ugly skeletal shades of their former selves, and Xander couldn't hear the formerly omnipresent sounds of water and wind in the leaves.

"Damn. I need a better hobby." He muttered, trying to crack a joke even though there was no one around to hear it.

Almost no one.

"You need to learn that you are not prepared to face some things, Alexander." Elanthielle said, appearing from a section of air that seemed to fold in on itself. "You were not ready for this."

Xander snorted. "Like that mattered. It had to be done."

"That is perhaps true," Elan said, "but the price you have paid, and will pay, is quite dear."

Xander nodded, "How bad is it?"

Elan shrugged, an elegant flowing motion. "You will live. The Whitelighter has seen to that. However, you must once again rebuild everything you see here... that will take time."

Xander nodded. He knew from experience that healing the body was relatively simply compared to healing the mind and soul, and utter childs play, compared to keeping all three in harmony. He turned around, looking around at the ruined landmarks that had once stood proud in this inner sanctum of his mind.

"Damn." He said again, sighing.

Elanthielle walked up to his side, gently laying a hand on his shoulders. "Like before, you may rebuild... and it will once again be stronger for the cleansing fires. If you burn a forest to the ground, it will return stronger and healthier then ever..."

Xander nodded, his face morose. "But how long does it take?"

"Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Decades." Elan said, "Time is not voyage with a destination at the end, Alexander. You can not measure it by mortal comprehension."

Xander shook his head. "I don't need the mystic monk stuff right now, Elan."

She smiled, "No. You do not. Now, you need to rest. I will bring you back in a few hours so you may accelerate your healing."

Xander opened his mouth to object, but she slipped a thread of control through his defenses and uttered a single word. "Sleep."

His head nodded, and the world went black.

"Where are we going?"

Herc glanced over to where Carl Lyons was sitting in the passenger seat of the Vette. "Xander's. I want to check on him."

Lyons nodded, glancing back over his shoulder to where the dark sedan was following.

Finally the warrior turned back to Herc. "You guys do this a lot?"

Herc chuckled. "Sometimes. We don't have a schedule or anything."

Ironman snorted. "Yeah. I got that. How often do you do this?"

Herc shrugged, "I've been retired for years... so other then take out a few vampires and such every now and then I don't get too involved. So... maybe a couple times a year?"

"A couple times a year..." Lyons parroted. "And your retired!?"

Herc nodded. "Xander took out a demon here in LA in September, did that thing in San Fran a few days later, nailed a black mage in Texas a couple weeks after that, helped put down a fire elemental in Boston, and got involved in a police action in New York just a week ago or so. And now this."

Lyons shook his head. "Fuck. You telling me that a sixteen year old kid is running around the country saving the world?"

Herc shrugged, "I've seen stranger things."

"I'll bet." Ironman muttered as he settled back and stared out the windshield.

"Jesus Christ."

The cop looked around the are in disgust. "What the fuck happened here?"

His partner shook her head. "I don't have a clue... What do you make of this?"

He looked over to where she was lightly toeing a bulk that was one the ground. He knelt down, covering his nose. "Ugh. Some kind of wild animal?"

She shrugged, "We'll have the ME try to figure it out."


"Hey!" A cop yelled. "We've got a live one here!"

The double timed it over to see two paramedics pulling a young man to his feet. "Is he alright?"

The Paramedics nodded, "Yeah... ummm... 'He' will be fine."

The young man looked confused, and more then a little insane given that he was wearing a tattered red ballroom gown.

"Do you know your name?"

He nodded slowly. "Yeah... Ben. I'm Ben."

"Well hello, Ben... I don't suppose you know what happened here do you?" The cop asked, keeping her laughter buried.

He looked around, completely lost. "Sorry... I don't remember a thing."

Amanda answered the door when it rattled slightly with three rapid knocks. She smiled a little and stepped back to allow the assembled group the room to enter.

Hercules and Dragan came in first, glancing around, and behind them came Able Team, Riggs, and Murtaugh

Herc nodded in greeting, "Where's Xander?"

Amanda frowned, "Still unconscious."

Herc blinked, frowning. "That doesn't make sense..."

Amanda nodded. "I know."

The assembled Commandos looked confused, "As bad a beating as he took? He should be dead. If your worried about his being unconscious, don't you think you should get him to a hospital?"

Leo came out of the bedroom, shaking his head. "There's nothing they could do. He's not waking up because he hasn't chose to wake up yet."

"What?" Lyons looked at Leo as if he was insane.

"I've heard of things like this," Leo said, "But I've never seen it. He's shut down most of his body to conserve energy. If I'm right, he'll start healing very quickly in a few hours."

"Healing?" Dragan asked with a frown. "I thought you healed him?"

Leo grimaced, "More like a patchwork job. He was hurt too bad for even my abilities to completely heal. He has some deep tissue trauma that needs to be healed internally, and while I knitted his bones they still need time to set and strengthen."

Dragan grimaced. "Damn. I've never seen an injury that a whitelighter couldn't heal... except for the fatal ones."

"A white what!?" Riggs asked as he looked around the suite.

"Lighter." Dragan responded. "He's a guardian Angel."

Riggs blinked, his eyes shocked. Beside him Murtaugh, who was still looking weak, shook his head. "I need to sit down."

Amanda smiled, "Take a seat... I think you'll find them comfortable."

Riggs and Murtaugh looked around to find that pretty much everyone else had already thrown themselves down on the furniture and was easily making themselves at home. Riggs shrugged and did the same, while Murtaugh sat down, but looked uncomfortable doing so.

"Angel huh?" Murtaugh asked, looking at Leo. "Were's his halo?"

Leo rolled his eyes, "Yeah. Like I've never heard that one before. For the record, there's no such thing as halos, ok? That story got around because the upper hierarchy has this penchant for melodrama... they thought it looked impressive to arrive in a golden glow of light. Me, as if I had a choice, I'd rather knock on the door and walk in."

Herc chuckled and Dragan smiled, but the rest of the men in the room just looked confused. Leo suddenly frowned, "Wait a second. Who *are* you people anyway?"

Everyone looked at each other, even more confused.

Leo turned to Paige, "Paige... What have you done?"

"Me?" Paige held up her hands, "Don't look at me, I don't know any of them... Well, except Kevin over there."

"Kevin?" Leo frowned, looking around.

Hercules smiled and waved. "Hi."

"Um. Hi." Leo shook his head, "And the rest?"

"LAPD." Riggs offered.

Lyons looked around at his teammates and they shrugged.He sighed and nodded, "Government Commando Unit."

Leo closed his eyes, pinching his nose hard. "I don't believe this. And you?"

Dragan shrugged, "Semi-retired mercenary."

Leo looked over at Amanda.

She placed her hand delicately on her chest, her expression innocent. "Friend of Paige's."

Leo sighed, turning to Paige. "You do know that you aren't supposed to take out a full page ad announcing your identity and powers right?"

"Hey!" Paige growled, "if you have a rule book or something, I'd like to see it!"

"There is no rule book, Paige." Leo sighed, "But you have to be careful."

"Hey, what's the big deal?" Riggs asked, "With all the crap we've seen tonight, how much of a secret could she have?"

Leo looked around, "They don't know?"

Paige smirked at him, "They didn't have a clue until you shot your mouth off, big boy."

Leo groaned.

"So what's the big secret anyway?" Riggs looked around, confused.

Paige looked between Leo and Amanda, uncertain what to say.

Amanda held up her hands, "Don't look at me. Not my call."

Paige nodded, looking miserable. "I think we'd better hold off until Xander wakes up... not that I don't trust you guys but... ummm... well, I don't trust you guys."

Riggs grinned, nudging Murtaugh. "Gee, you think it's something I said?"

Murtaugh just looked ill. His hand kept running up to his throat, and he rubbed the are where he had been bitten. "What the hell happened?"

"You were bitten by a vampire." Dragan said simply.

Murtaugh somehow managed to look even more ill. "Oh god... I'm not going to catch anything am I?"

Dragan chuckled, "No. Vamps don't usually have diseases, and vampirism itself isn't contagious like that... you have to ingest a lot of blood, and you have to die first."

Murtaugh grimaced and sank back into the chair. "Great. I really needed to hear that."

"Hey, you asked." Dragan grinned.

On the other side of the suite, the members of Able Team were looking at each other oddly.

"You don't suppose Mack knew what he was sending us into, do you?" Gadgets mused, mostly to himself.

"Mack wouldn't do that to us." Lyons said confidently.

Pol shrugged. "He wouldn't send us into a warzone without warning... but he might have dropped us into the demon thing if he thought the kid was just going to give us the standard meet and greet."

Lyons pondered that for a moment, then scowled. "You're right. He would do that."

Gadgets chuckled, "You realize that we have to get him back. Honor is at stake."

Lyons rolled his eyes, "Right."

"So, what are you thinking?" Pol grinned.

"Give me a while to think it over." Gadgets replied, "Hey... you think we could get Kissinger into The Mixer?"

The other two members of Able Team grinned at the thought.

Dragan frowned, looking over. "You guy's mean Cowboy Kissinger?"

"You know him?"

Dragan grinned, "I got him to do some work for me about eight years ago... Nice guy, but I don't think you should bring him to The Mixer..."


"You'd never get the horny bastard to leave."

Ben frowned as he looked out through the bars of the holding cell. He wished he could remember the events that had obviously occurred while Glory had been in control. Whatever they were, they were damned big.

He could barely feel her presence anymore. She was there, certainly, but her essence was weak and unfocused. He could feel his heart pounding as he realized that, for the first time in as long as he could remember, he was in control of his body without any strings.

Whoever, or whatever, Glory had gone up against, had managed to do one hell of a number on her. Ben wasn't even certain why he was still alive considering the damage she'd apparently taken. There had been blood on his lip, and on the red dress, and that was something Ben hadn't even thought possible.

Glory had bled.

It was an incredible thought. He had never even realized that she had blood. Of course, he wouldn't even know what she looked like if the vain bitch hadn't had her portrait painted once.

He sighed again, looking up at the bars.

It really wasn't fair.

The first time in years that he was free, that her presence was too weak to even attempt breaking free, and he was in jail. How long he'd be here, was another question, of course. If any of her minions had survived the night, one of them would be by to get him out soon enough. Either that or...

He looked up at the sound of approaching footsteps. A guard was escorting a young woman to his cell where she stopped and waved the guard off. The uniformed officer nodde reluctantly, but left.

She smiled at him, and Ben flinched. He recognized the smile of a predator when he saw it, having felt it before from deep inside himself.

"Hello Ben." She smiled, "I'm Lilah Morgan... We have a lot to talk about."

Two Days Later

"Why isn't he awake yet?" Paige growled, looking over at Leo.

Leo shook his head. "I don't know, Paige."

"You're sure we shouldn't get him to the hospital?"

"There's nothing they can do yet." Leo assured her. "He's somehow holding his own when it comes to liquids, don't ask me how... and he's drawing energy from somewhere to supplement his diet... He can't last for long like this... but for now, he's stable."

Paige shook her head. "I don't like it."

"What's to like?" Leo asked, shrugging. "Just accept it."

"Says the guy who's already dead." Paige growled under her breath.

"Hey! Low blow." Leo said, a quarter smile creeping along his features.

"Would you two keep it down?" A low voice grumbled. "A guy can't get any sleep around here."

"Xander!" Paige shouted, rushing over. "Are you alright!?"

He groaned, "I've been better."

Leo walked over, speaking gently. "You've been asleep for over two days... do you know where you are?"

Xander snorted. "I'm in my bedroom, which is in my suite, which is currently populated by more people then is conducive to me getting a decent rest."

Leo chuckled softly as Paige glared at Xander, "Rest!? Two days isn't enough!?"

Xander groaned and forced his way up. "After frying every organ in my body and nearly shorting out my nervous system? I think I could use some more."

Suddenly he stopped, sniffing. "What's that smell?" He paused, then looked down and grimaced. "Ugh. I'm that smell. I need a shower."

"No argument there." Amanda's voice came from the doorway. "I can smell you from here... and you wouldn't believe the reek when I stripped your clothes off."

Xander abruptly paled, then lifted his covers and checked under them. "Amanda!"

"What? You wanted to be left in the blood and demon slime soaked stuff for two days?" She grinned. "Besides, you've got nothing to be ashamed of."

Xander glared around the room, causing Leo to hold up his hands defensively. "Hey don't look at me. You're not my type."

Xander growled, then threw the covers off and got up. "Not much point in modesty then, huh?"

"None at all." Amanda smirked.

Xander brushed by her on the way to the shower, walking stiffly but confidently. "I'll have to return the favor sometime."

Amanda shrugged, raising her voice as the door closed. "Hopefully not when I'm unconscious!"

Xander showered quickly , wincing as his muscles pulled uncomfortably as he washed. He seemed to have full mobility, but not without some tenderness. He actually smiled through the pain though, enjoying the ache because it let him know, in no uncertain terms, that everything was operational.

He shivered, remembering how it felt when he had simply shut off all the pain signals and gone into battle without them. Invincible. Indestructible. Immortal.

All an illusion of course. Now that he had reactivated that part of his mind, he could remember with disturbing clarity the feel as the bones in his hands fractured. Not because Glory hit his hands, not because he hit Glory either. No, they fractured because he hadn't been able to tell how tightly he was gripping Elanthielle. He broke his own fingers because he couldn't judge his own strength.

He shivered, the heat of the shower obliterated in the sudden chill that encompassed him, and turned the water off. He got out and toweled off, the memories of the fight still haunting him. It was so perversely attractive, he thought, being able to simply disconnect and feel no pain.

He wrapped the towel around himself and walked out, trying to shut out that seductive train of thought.

In his bedroom he found Amanda sitting there, smirking at him as he entered the room. He shook his head, smiling sarcastically, "Where's Paige?"

"She didn't want to press her luck." Amanda said, "apparently she felt that being here when you walked out might get her caught by more "collateral damage?."

Xander smirked, "Gee I wonder where she got that idea?"

"Beats me."

"Tempting, but not really my style." Xander replied, ruffling through his things in search of decent clothes. "A spanking on the other hand..."

"You wouldn't *dare*."

Xander smirked over at her as he pulled out a pair of underwear and slipped them on under his towel. "Wanna bet?"

Amanda just glowered at him, her demeanor defiant, but she didn't say anything outright challenging so Xander let it drop along with his towel as he dug out a pair of jeans.

Amanda frowned suddenly, "Where are you going?"


"Out?" She got up, "Xander, you just woke up from what looked a hell of a lot like a coma..."

Xander shrugged, buttoning the jeans up. "It wasn't, and I'm fine."

"Where are you going?"

He smiled, "Out."

Amanda closed her eyes and silently counted to ten. By the time she was done, Xander had buttoned up his shirt and was looking around for his coat. "Where's my armor?"

Amanda sighed, "It's in the next room. Your lucky Kevin remembered to pick it up."

Xander snorted, "Thank god. If I lost a hundred thousand dollar coat, Terry'd probably laugh me out of the shop when I asked for a replacement."

"It cost you *how much*!?" Amanda asked, wide eyed.

"A hundred grand," Xander said as he walked out.

Amanda followed him out, "And you think I spend too much on clothes."

Xander smirked over shoulder, "You know... I'm a slave to fashion."

He grabbed the coat from where it was lying on the couch, and scooped up the guns that were lying under it. He quickly fitted the weapons into his assault harness and buckled on the Desert Eagle in it's hip holster.

"Xander!" Paige glared at him, "Where do you think you're going!?"

Xander shook his head.

"Out." Amanda replied, "Or so he tells me."

Leo looked at him, "You know, you might want to rest up a bit..."

"Jeeze." Xander muttered, "Weren't you two the ones who woke me up and told me two days was enough?"

"That's different!" Paige objected.

Xander sighed, "Look. I'm not going looking for trouble ok? I really need to stretch out some, and I have to check on Dawn."

"What? But you got Glory..." Paige looked confused. "Isn't she safe?"

"Glory was never the closest threat," Xander said, calmly checking his clips. "The Knights and the Monks are the ones who were close."

"Oh." Paige said, her heart dropping as she realized that the trouble wasn't over.

"The bright side is that the world isn't at risk anymore." Xander replied. "But we still have the little girl to protect."


"Don't worry," Xander smiled. "I'm fine... really. I'll be back later."

"Wait!" Paige objected again, "Are you sure you should go alone?"

Xander smiled, "Yeah. I'm sure."

And with that he walked out the door.

Paige growled. "That... that... *man*!"

"Indeed." Amanda smiled, checking her watch. After a few moments she grabbed her coat and headed for the door.

"Where are you going!?"

"To keep an eye on him..." Amanda said over her shoulder as the door shut behind her.

Paige fumed for a moment, then turned to Leo.

Leo held his hands. "Hey, now wait a second... I'm not a taxi service!"


Xander slowed to a halt after driving three blocks past the single unmarked police car sitting outside the Summers residence. He quickly doubled back, jogging silently through the grove of trees that marked the residential area and quickly came to a halt by the stone wall that separated the Summers yard from their neighbors.

He flinched as he drew in a portion of Elan's power, and leapt up. He barely caught the top of the wall, but managed to pull himself up and over it, resting for a moment in the shadows as he examined the are on the other side.

<Now... let's see...>

Dawn Summers threw herself on her bed, smirking up at the ceiling. She'd been having a pretty good time lately. It was Tuesday, and she'd managed to guilt her mother into letting her stay home because of the "incident".

She rolled her eyes. <Like those yahoos were real scary after seeing vampires and demons.>

Then she frowned. She didn't know why they had attacked her family, but it had really shaken up Joyce. Buffy too, but Dawn had to admit that her sister was handling it better then she would have expected considering her pre-slayer personality. True, Buffy had gotten off to a rocky start, especially with the sudden attack of the shakes that had hit her when she got home afterwards. But a couple hours later and the cheerleader in her was using it to her best advantage, gleaning sympathy from Joyce and cementing her reputation with her fellows by treating it as a non-occurrence.

Dawn, for her part, was just as happy with Buffy's treatment of the events. Her playing on Joyce's protective side had effectively distracted their mother from asking too many questions. Not entirely, of course, Joyce had been rather determined to learn how Dawn had learned to fight. Dawn still couldn't believe that her mother had bought the "I picked it up from TV" line.

"Heya Dawnie."

Dawn leapt up off her bed in shock, spinning around to look at the smiling figure crouched in her window.

"Xander...?" She whispered, then grinned wide and charged him.

Xander's eyes widened and he hissed. "Dawn! No! Not here!"

Xander's fingers tightened onto the window sill as Dawn crashed into him. His feet slipped, and he suddenly fell out the window and onto the slope of the roof, his eyes widening in shock as his fingers clasped reflexively for any purchase at all.

Dawn's eyes widened in shock as she realized what she'd done, and she instantly grabbed onto Xander and tried to hold him in place, only to find herself being drug out with him.

Xander's hands finally found a grip and he arrested his slide before his feet went over the edge of the roof. He glared up at the little girl who was holding desperately onto his coat and hanging halfway out the window with him.

"Sorry..." She said, her face cringing under his glare.

Xander pulled himself back up and looked around to see if anyone had noticed. He didn't see any tell tale signs, so he turned his attention back to Dawn and frowned. "We need to see about teaching you a better way to greet people."

"I said I was sorry..." Dawn half whined, sounding more or less repentant.

Xander shook his head and grinned, "Do you have idea how embarrasing that would have been? I've taken out vampires, demons, and god... knows what else... "Here lies Xander Harris... Night Stalker, Warrior, Knight... Killed by ten year old girl while peeking in her room.?"

Dawn quickly smothered a giggle, clapping her hands over her mouth and staring at the door to her room apprehensively.

"How have you been, kiddo?" Xander asked, his smile turning softer.

"Freaked out!" She hissed. "What the hell happened? One moment I was in Toronto with Mom and Master Caine... the next thing I know, I'm back in LA... Buffy's a ditz, Mom and Dad are still married, and my pet turtle is still alive!"

Xander blinked at the last comment, but shook it off. "Well... you remember why we sent you away with your mom?"

"Mom and Buffy didn't tell me," Dawn replied, "But I'm not stupid. I got the idea something bad was going to happen."

Xander nodded, "Someone acme and opened the Hellmouth."

Dawn swallowed, but nodded.

"We couldn't get it shut... we arrived a few minutes too late." Xander said, his voice tightening. "Giles went into the portal to seal it... Faith was with him, trying to hold the demons off. Buffy... I don't know what happened to Buffy. When it became obvious that we were losing, I had Leo bring me and a friend to a military base that had a time machine."

Dawn's eyes widened. "You never told me about..."

Xander's looked silenced her. "I haven't told you a lot of things, Dawn. And that's the way it's going to stay."

She looked so downcast that he softened, "But in this case, we just found out about it before we sent you and your mom away. Anyway, when I used the time machine, something went wrong."

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Well duh."

Xander chuckled. "I was flung back five years, and somehow brought you, Faith, and Giles, along for the ride."

"Faith and Giles are here too?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah. Faith is running around the country somewhere, I can't find her. Giles is in Europe. I think the fact that they were actually inside the Hellmouth when I jumped is what caught them in the backlash."

"And me?"

"I don't know." Xander said. "I just don't know."

Which wasn't entirely true, but he wasn't going to tell her that the reason she had been sent back was because her soul didn't exist in this timeline originally. A soul, once given, could never be taken away. But, that wasn't something she needed to know.

Dawn nodded. "Wild."

Xander smiled, "Yeah. How have you been?"

Dawn shrugged, "Bored as hell... I've already seen every episode of my favorite shows... and all the latest movies... what am I supposed to do for entertainment for the next five years?"

Xander chuckled, "Don't ask me. I haven't seen a movie since Jarod rented that ninja flick marathon."

Dawn groaned. That hadn't been a pleasant night.

"Hey, I like those movies." Xander grinned.

"You would." Dawn said dryly.

Xander smiled, then sighed. "Anyway, I wanted to check on you..."

Something in his voice caused Dawn to look up at him sharply. "Your leaving aren't you?"

He knew she didn't mean leaving her room. He nodded. "Yeah. I have a couple more details to wrap up here in town, and then I have a debt to pay. But I'll check in from time to time... and you'll be in Sunnydale before you know it."

"Oh goody." Dawn said dryly. "Home sweet hellmouth."

Xander grinned, "You know you love it."

Dawn snorted, but a slight smile tugged at her lips. "It wasn't boring..."

Xander chuckled low in his throat. "That's true enough. Look, I can't stay... Your mom'd skin me alive if she caught me up here..."

Dawn smothered a grin, "I'm not so sure about that... Not once I explained that it was you that shielded me from those bullets. She's been going on about that to all her friends... You're a hero, Xan man."

Xander groaned, "Please. Spare me. You don't want to know what I've been going through since I ran into Spike..."

Dawn's eyes widened, "You met Spike?""

Xander looked at her for a moment, his eyes narrowing. "I know you liked him, Dawn... but don't forget, he doesn't know you now and he doesn't have a chip. He's a vampire, and a very dangerous one."

Dawn looked a little downcast, but nodded. "He wasn't all bad you know..."

Xander reluctantly nodded himself, "I know. But he is mostly bad, Dawn... even when he's good, it's because it's good for him... not because it's good for others. If you see him..."

"Run." Dawn finished, her face set. "I know."

"Good..." Xander said, then hesitated as he heard a sound.

"Dawn?" A light tapping came at the door as Joyce spoke through the door. "Can I come in?"

Dawn looked at the door in horror, she choked off a negative answer. "Just a second...!"

The door opened and Joyce walked in, a little hesitant. "Dawn? Are you ok? I thought I heard voices?"

Dawn turned from the door back to the window, but Xander was already gone.

<How'd he do that!?> Dawn shook her head clear and turned back to her mother. "It was just me mom... just talking to myself."

Joyce smiled gently, "Well... don't make a habit of it. You wouldn't want people to think you're crazy."

Dawn laughed lightly, "I won't mom."

Joyce turned to leave, but hesitated. "Dawn?"

"Yeah Mom?"

"You know I love you right?"

Dawn smiled wider, shaking her head. "I know mom. You've been telling me that for days now."

Joyce nodded, "I know... I know... but I almost lost you... lost you both."

"Hey," Dawn walked over to her mother, hugging her. "I'm still here. Buffy's still here. We're still here."

Joyce hugged her daughter back, walking her over to the bed. "Are you ok? I mean, really ok... You're not worried that it'll happen again are you?"

Dawn thought about it, remembering Xander's promise, and shook her head. "No, mom. I don't think that it'll happen again. I don't think those men are brave enough to try it a second time."

Joyce frowned slightly, "what?"

<Oops. Damn.> Dawn berated herself. "I mean, I don't think that the guy who helped us scared them pretty bad."

Joyce nodded slowly. She'd had dreams about that instant in time when she thought her youngest was going to die. They'd have been night terrors of the highest order if it wasn't for the fact that every time, every single time without fail, the figure in black stepped between her daughter and death. "Maybe you're right, dear."

Joyce got up, "It's time you got ready for bed, dear..."

"Awww, mom!"

"Don't 'Aw mom' me." Joyce scolded her youngest daughter, ruthlessly smothering the smile that was threatening to appear on her face. "You have school tomorrow. No more playing hooky for the Summers girls."

"Awww, Mom!"

Xander smiled as he listened to the conversation from his perch on the roof. He missed Joyce a lot. He drew in a deep breath, trying to ignore the pangs as he realized that he might never have the same relationship with the Summers family again. Joyce would look on him differently when the 'met', that much was certain. The only real question was how. Would she seem him as a threat this time around"

Xander didn't know. And he didn't have time to worry about it.

He silently padded to the edge of the roof and leapt off, landing squarely on the stone wall. He hugged the top of the wall as a car came around the corner, then slipped down into the neighbors yard as it passed.

Moments later he was back to his bike.

"Not bad."

Xander jumped, spinning around in shock to see Amanda leaning against her own bike in the shadow of a large tree. "Jesus, Amanda... You damn near gave me a heart attack."

She smiled and shrugged. "Sorry. You're getting good at sneaking around... Maybe I should be worried about the competition?"

Xander snorted. "I don't think we move in the same circles."

"True." She smiled, straddling her bike. "So... where to now?"

Xander shook his head, smiling. "Caritas."

Caritas was unusually subdued as Amanda and Xander walked in, no one was really paying much attention to the human who was on stage singing and playing the guitar.

Xander took a seat at the end of the bar, catching Lorne's eye and motioning him over.

"What's up, Sweet cheeks?" Lorne asked with a smile.

"Knights." Xander said simply. "I need their HQ."

Lorne held up his hands. "Hey now, I told you... I want no part of this."

Xander leveled a glare at him, "Glory's handled. I need the Knights out of the picture before I can move on."

Lorne chuckled, "You really are an equal opportunity trouble maker aren't you?"

Xander just kept staring.

"Fine." Lorne sighed, "Give me a few minutes and I'll see what I can dig up. I think I know a couple Tremini who were run out of that part of town by the Knights. They'll be anxious to move back into their home... too many humans where they're living now."

Xander snorted, "I'll bet. Tremini think we stink worse then the sewers."

Lorne shrugged, "Right... but what do they know? They tried to get me to redecorate the bar with rendered blubber."

Xander shivered, but nodded to Lorne. "Go. Find out."

"Be right back, baby face."

After he left, Amanda leaned in. "Why does he keep calling you baby face?"

"Wipe that smirk off your face." Xander replied. "And unless you want to pick up a similar pet name from him, I suggest you don't sing along with anything in here."


Xander scowled, "Lorne's an Anagogic demon... if you sing, or even humm, in front of him he'll get the low down on your destiny."

Amanda chuckled. "So he knows your destiny does he?"

Xander shook his head, "I don't have one."

"How's that!?"

Xander shrugged, "I don't know. Neither does Lorne. He say's that it looks like there's a hole in my aura... like I used to have a destiny, but something massive happened and the universe sort of... misplaced me."

Amanda looked at him for a long moment, trying to judge whether or not he was joking. "You're kidding."

"Fraid not." Xander said, "Lorne doesn't really know what to make of me because of it. He can't get a reading."

"How does that explain the baby face comment?" Amanda asked with a smirk.

Xander rolled his eyes, "Apparently the one thing he did get before the door slammed shut in his face was that I was older then I looked. Anything else... well, either he didn't get anything else, or he's keeping his mouth shut about it."

Amanda shook her head, smirking. "You have an interesting effect on people."

Xander was about to respond when Lorne suddenly reappeared. "Heya baby face..."

Lorne broke off as Amanda snickered slightly. He frowned, "Ok... someone's been talking about me behind my back..."

Xander waved it off, "What have you got?"

Lorne smiled, "What you asked for. Turns out there are a lot of demons out here who don't mind sending The Seraphim over to the Knights for a chat. Confidentially, I think they'd be plenty glad if you run them out of town... they're making a real pain of themselves."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Give."

Lorne did, and Xander thanked him and led Amanda outside.

"Let's go." She said.

"You don't have to do this..." Xander replied, grinning, "This isn't your style.. No sneaking around."

She scowled at him, "I can hold my own."

Xander chuckled, shaking his head. "Ok. Let's go."

They easily found the warehouse that Lorne had directed them too, approaching it carefully. The place was completely lit up, every light in the place brilliantly illuminating the surrounding area.

As they got closer, Xander frowned to see that the door to the building was also open. "Something's not right here."

Amanda just nodded, her hand gripping her sword under her coat.

Xander drew his pistols and slid forward, and into the big building.

Inside he gagged at the smell that suddenly assaulted him.

"Oh my god." Amanda whispered.

The place was a slaughter house.

"What happened here?"

Xander grimaced as he stepped over a fly ridden corpse. "Glory maybe... or some of her people. Or maybe they just pissed off the wrong group of demons..."

The walked through the open area of the warehouse, attempting to sidestep as much of the blood and gore as they could.

Finally Xander shook his head, "Let's get out of here. It doesn't look like the Knights are going to be much of a threat."

"Except to the coroner." Amanda grimaced as she gladly turned and headed for the door.

Xander shivered, pausing at the door and looking back. He sighed, shaking his head at the waste.

"Go with God, and may He forgive you for any trespasses you may have committed." Xander said softly to the scene of the massacre, inwardly forgiving the Knights for their actions against him and Dawn. They may have been wrong, but they didn't deserve this ending.

Amanda laid a hand gently on his shoulder and he nodded and turned away. "Let's get out of here."

Four Days Later

Xander grinned along with Paige and Amanda as the three of them watched Hercules pound into a group of various evil doers.

"You know," Paige said musingly. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think that Kevin was Hercules..."

Amanda laughed, "Well he certainly seems to be strong enough..."

Paige nodded, "Yep."

"And he did recognize me from a long time ago..." Amanda said, suddenly frowning as her voice turned thoughtful.

"And..." Paige stopped and thought about it, "You know... he knows an awful lot about demons and stuff..."

The two looked at each other for a long moment, then turned to Xander, who was studiously keeping a straight face. They seemed about to ask him something, but both of them came to the same conclusion at the same time.

"Nahhhh..." They said together.

Xander masked a silent chuckle as his cell phone rang silently in his pocket. He pulled the new phone out and flipped it open. "Hello?"

"Damn it, kid." James Greer growled over the line. "Next time you change your phone number, let me know will you?"

Xander shook his head, laughing slightly. "Sorry man. Last phone was destroyed in a fight. What's up?"

"Time." Greer growled. "I need you on a plane to Arkansas in the morning."

"Arkansas?" Xander asked in confusion. "What the hell is in Arkansas?"

"My favor." Greer said. "It'll all be explained when you get there. I've booked you a flight."

"Now hang on a second..." Xander said, "What about my car? My bike? How am I going to get around when I'm there?"

"Don't worry about that." Greer replied, humor in his voice. "I've got your cover all planned."

Xander didn't like the sound of that. "Why doesn't that comfort me?"

"Because your not the trusting type?" Greer grinned.

Xander groaned.

"Ticket will be at the American counter at LAX under the name Alexander Harrison." Greer told him. "Be there, tomorrow, nine AM."

Then the line went dead.

"Shit." Xander muttered. "This just sucks."

"You're what!?" Paige asked, her voice just a couple decibels below a shriek.

"I'm going alone." Xander said, tossing some clothes into a bag.

"Oh no you're not!"

"Paige," Xander said calmly. "I'm leaving my bike with Kevin, you can take the Charger and a credit card and go home... We've got barely a month before Christmas... spend some time with family and friends..."

Paige was silent for a long moment. "But... what about my lessons?"

Xander put down his bags and walked over to the young witch. "Paige," He said gently, "You knew more about magic then me once you cast your first spell. I've just been teaching you how to teach yourself."

Paige shook her head, "No... no."

Xander smiled, "I wish I had half your power... Paige, you'll be fine. Especially without me around to drag you into trouble..."

"But what if trouble finds me?"

Xander smiled gently. "Then I'm a call away... between you and Leo you can orb me in to help if you have to..."

"What? This is... it? Your not my teacher anymore?"

"I stopped being your teacher a long time ago, Paige." Xander said simply, "You're strong enough to teach yourself."

"I want to go with you."

"Do you?" Xander's voice was sad. "Do you really? Now that you've seen what my life is like... is that what you really want?"

There was a long silence.

Xander finally broke it, "I didn't think so."

"Xander... I..."

"It's ok." Xander replied, "It's the story of my life. I don't live in a way that any sane person would want."

He turned away, only to feel Paige pull him back. His eyes widened in shock as he felt her lips cover his, he pulled away. "Paige... what?"

"Shut up." She said, smiling. "And let me say goodbye." She kissed him again, pushing him back onto the bed. He pulled back again, pulling his mouth from hers. "Never goodbye, Paige. I won't be gone long... I'm like a bad penny... I always turn up."

"Good." Paige smiled, "Then we'll be able to do this again."

"Mmppph..." Xander managed to get out before her mouth covered his again. <Where the hell did this come from!?>

In the morning, Xander found himself flanked by Amanda and Paige as they walked him to the desk. He found his ticket waiting for him, coach class, and shook his head. "Excuse me, Ma'am?"


"How much to upgrade this to First Class?"

"Fifteen hundred, Sir."

"Do it." He said, handing her his credit card. <Damn CIA.>

He turned to Amanda and Paige, "This is it."

"For now." Paige replied, smiling.

He nodded. "For now."

He looked to Amanda, "What are you going to be doing? Or do I want to know?"

She smiled, and shrugged.

"Right." Xander said, turning back to Paige. "Take care of my car. I'll be coming back for it."

"You'd better." She smiled, her face sad.

Xander matched the expression, sighing. "Ok... well... I guess this is it..."

"I guess..."

Xander took his ticket and walked toward the gate.

Paige looked at Amanda, "What now?"

Amanda shrugged and grinned. "How about some cheer up shopping?"

Paige smiled weakly. "Sounds good."

The two walked out of the airport together. "He'll be fine, you know."

Paige nodded, "Yeah... I know."

The End


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