Year Zero

Family Ties

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]gmail.com>

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

Summary: Vacation's over, and the road beckons.

Warning : Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating : R. For mature themes, sexual content, and all the other fun stuff that rarely makes network TV.

Feedback, It's the coin of the realm.


Xander slowed the powerful car down as he approached the shabby sign that announced his arrival.

"Welcome to Darynville, New Mexico."

"Jesus." He said, looking at the 'main street' of the town as he dodged the potholes and tried in vain to keep from taxing the Charger's suspension. "What a shit burg. Hazard county has better roads."

He looked to see a old pickup truck pull out of an intersection and nearly cut him off, three people in the cab and four in the back. All of them three sheets to the wind. "Note to self... don't leave the keys in the car."

He shook his head and pulled the Charger up to a classic barber shop, complete with the barber pole that seemed to be digging itself into the ground. Xander made a snap decision, deciding that if he wanted to get some basic intel on the place maybe he could find some gossip. Besides, Paige had tormented him enough about his hair so he pulled the keys and slipped them into his pocket, and walked into the shop.

"Kin ah help ya?"

Xander blinked. <People actually talk like that outside of TV?>

He shook his head, clearing it. "I need a trim."

The old man nodded, smiling at him. "You shur do. Saddle up, I'll do what I kin."

Xander smiled back, revising his opinion on the fly. It didn't matter how the guy talked, he seemed like a nice enough old man. What might be called an old coot, maybe, but a nice one. So Xander got up on the stool and sat back.

"What kin a do for ya, exactly?"

"Cut it back... I'm tired of the biker look."

"Shave?"

Xander felt the rough stubble on his face, then nodded, "Yeah... but leave the mustache."

"Alright... just relax... we'll get right on that."

"Thanks."

"You new in these parts?"

Xander flicked his eyes to the mirror, locking on the guy who had spoke from another chair. "Yeah. Just passing through."

The guy nodded. "That your car out front?"

"Yeah."

"Nice."

"Thanks," Xander replied.

With that over, the place slowly returned to normal conversation as Xander relaxed back and let the old man go to work.

"So, what brings you to town, lad?" The man asked conversationally as he snipped away.

"Checking on a friend."

"Here in town?" The man asked, "What's the name?"

"Maclay." Xander said easily.

The scissors stopped for a moment, then slowly started up again. "Jed Maclay?"

"No." Xander said, "Her name is Tara."

"What do you have to do with her?"

"I... owe her a favor of sorts."

"Of sorts?" The man asked as Xander noticed the scissors moving easier now.

"Yeah. She helped a friend of mine a while back..." Xander said.

"So yer in town to pay back the favor?"

"No... not really," Xander shrugged, "I was coming this way anyway so I wanted to check up on her, see that everything is ok."

The scissors stopped again and Xander could see the men behind him exchanging glances. He carefully kept his face neutral as the scissors started again, forcing himself to relax through the chills that ran up his spine. There was no further conversation as the barber silently finished his hair, then began swiping the long straight razor on a leather belt.

Xander shivered again as he watched the razor in the man's hand, but locked down on the sensation. <Jesus. If I'm so freaking paranoid that I can't get a damned shave then I need to get some help...>

He forced himself to remain still as the barber lathered up his face, then slowly began running the old straight razor over his face.

Stroke.

Stroke.

The razor scraped away the stubble, slowly scraping along his skin. It slid down Xander's face, moving along his jawbone, then down along his throat. Xander's heart was running like a locomotive, his breathing even only because he willed to so.

After an eternity, Xander heard the man speak.

"All done, young fella." The Barber held up a mirror, letting Xander see the work. "It to yer liking?"

Xander looked at himself in the mirror, noting the conservative cut and nodded. "Yes. Thanks very much. How much do I owe you?"

As the barber considered thoughtfully, Xander let out a repressed breath and finally managed to force the tension out.

"Fifteen for the cut and shave."

Xander nodded, fishing out a twenty and handing it to the old man, "Keep the change."

"That's very kind of ye, young man."

Xander shrugged, "No problem. Thanks for everything."

The man looked quizzically at him, but Xander just waved and walked out.


Xander shivered, still thinking of the blade of the razor as it slid along his skin. <Damn it. I am paranoid!>

<It is, as you would say, a hazard of the job, Alexander.> Elanthielle said softly. <You begin to lose the ability to trust... or at least to trust easily.>

"Spare me." Xander muttered under his breath as he leaned against the Charger and looked over the town.

Elanthielle didn't respond, though Xander could feel an empathic surge from both her and Kani'Maro. For a moment he shut his eyes and let the emotions pass through him, after a moment he straightened up, feeling more relaxed and nodded. <thanks guys.>

He shook his head and started down the street, just walking around as the small town. He checked his watch. <Almost three... I wonder where the local school is?>

He walked a couple blocks, looking around curiously. It was a pretty small town, making Sunnydale look like LA. A few minutes after three he heard a bell and started walking in that direction.

It didn't take long before the first swarms of school kids passed by, mostly ignoring him in their enthusiasm for the end of the school day. Xander smiled with a feeling almost like nostalgia, then remembered the hell that was school and smiled even wider.

<Small town, shouldn't be that hard to find her... if the Hacker Hacks found the right Tara...> He thought to himself as he navigated the kids that passed him, noting their wide range of ages.

He came around a corner and found himself looking at the school.


Tara Maclay stepped out of the school and looked around. She wasn't certain whether she was disappointed or relieved that her brother wasn't there to pick her up. On one hand, it meant she had to walk, but on the other Tara was more then happy to have time to herself.

She looked up at the blue sky and took a deep breath as she started out of the school yard. Home was about two miles outside of town, less then three miles walk from where she was now. All and all it wasn't a long walk, though Tara figured she might drag it out a little bit if she could.

She didn't notice that she was being watched until she passed within reaching distance of the strange looking guy. She frowned, but only slightly, and shied away from him as she kept walking.

"Hi." He said.

"H... h.... hi..." She replied nervously, still moving.

He didn't move to stop her, or otherwise bother her so she just kept moving.


Xander frowned to himself as he watched her move on, not knowing what to do. Tara was even more nervous now then when she had been when he first met her. He fell into pace behind her as she headed back into town, his mind spinning as he considered what that meant.

After a half a block she looked back over her shoulder and quickened her pace, and Xander realized that he was scaring her. That hurt. He'd never frightened Tara, not even when he went after Walsh in full armor.

"Wait..." He called out, mostly on impulse, never expecting her to stop.

But she did stop.

She stopped and waited for him to catch up, and Xander could see that she was shivering with fear as he approached.

<My God. What the hell is going on here?> He shook his head, and smiled at her, "Please... I'm not going to hurt you."

She, still shaking, nodded her head and looked at her feet.

"Tara..." He spoke slowly, "I'm a friend. I swear it..."

"H... h... how do y... y... you k... k... know my name?"

Xander sighed, then flashed on something. He smiled at her, "You believe in magic, right?"

Her eyes widened and she took a step back from him, and suddenly Xander knew that he'd said the wrong thing. She was absolutely terrified of him now.

But still she didn't run. And that bother Xander almost as much as the fact that he was scaring her.

"Whoa.... whoa..." Xander lifted his hands, palms out, "I'm not going to hurt... God I swear it."

"Who a... a... are you?" She stuttered out.

He produced a card from his pocket, it held his first name and a phone number. "My name is Xander... Here."

She took it, looking at the odd card and blinking. "D... d... demons give c... c... cards?"

"Demon?" Xander looked around, "Who said I was a demon?"

"Y... you asked m... me about m... m... magic."

Xander stared at her for a long time, completely and totally befuddled. "I think you lost me at that last corner... can we back this up and try again? What does magic have to do with demons exactly? I mean, other then the obvious..."


Tara looked at the young man, barely older then her, if that, she quickly realized. "M... m... magic i... is bad."

"It's what??" Xander couldn't believe his ears. He glanced around, as if looking for a camera. "You're putting me on, right?"

Tara just looked terrified.

"You're not putting me on..." Xander concluded. "What the hell happened?"

Tara just looked scared.

"Right... of course, you don't have a clue." Xander looked around, he gently put an arm behind her back and started walking, gently guiding her along with him. "Who told you magic was bad?"

"My father..." She said meekly.

Xander growled almost imperceptibly under his breath as he wracked his memory for any information that Tara might have spilled about her family. There was depressingly little, he quickly realized. <Damn it. I should have noticed this...>

He turned side to look at her, still incredibly disturbed by the fact that she was meekly walking along side him without making any attempt to escape. Sure, he didn't want her to run away from him, but if she was this scared of him she should be running like hell. But something was keeping her obediently in place beside him.

Finally he found a stray memory that seemed important, "What about your mother? What does she say about magic?"

Tara's breath hitched, memories of her mother flooding her mind against her will. "M.. M... mom w... w... was b... b... bad..."

Xander's eyes widened when he heard that, he had never heard Tara say anything bad about her mother before. Her mother brought her up in the arts, her mother taught her everything she knew about spells and Wicca. <What the hell happened between now and the next four years to change her mind??>

"Did your mother hit you?" He asked, hating himself for the thought, but it was the first thing he could imagine.

"No!" Tara's eyes were wide, and for a brief second Xander could see the iron behind the flimsy curtain.

"Did she hurt anyone else?"

"S... she... she tried to..."

"Who?" Xander's heart fell. If Tara's mother had taken the Path that Willow had started to walk, then that might explain things.

"D... daddy."

"Did you see it happen?" Xander asked, his heart heavy as he sympathized with the young girl.

"N... no..."

Xander frowned. Something was off here. "How did you know?"

"Daddy... he told me... after..."

Xander blinked. "After... after what?"

"A... after she... went away..."

"Left? Or..." Xander hesitated, stopping and looking at the small blond. "Tara, did your mother die?"

Tara just nodded.

Xander frowned, his heart going out to the girl. But he just couldn't quite wrap his mind around it. What kind of man tells his daughter that her dead mother tried to hurt him? Tara didn't need that kind of weight on her shoulders at this age. "What happened?"

Xander looked at her, suspicions growing in him. Suspicions almost confirmed when Tara began to actually tell him what he wanted to know.

"T... the d.. Demon in her... w... w... woke up... and it tried t... t... to k... k... k... kill daddy."

"Demon?" Xander asked again, now knowing that someone had beaten Tara down to such a point that she was meekly following any person who wanted to order her around. Then he frowned again, <Any person... or... any man?>

While those thoughts ran through his head, Tara began speaking. She was telling him things that he *knew* she didn't want to, things that the Tara we remembered would have never spoke of.

"T... the women in m... m... my family h.. Have a demon in them. T... that's where the Magic comes from..."

Xander blinked. That was a new one on him, he never heard of a demon that followed one particular gender before.

<Other then the Slayer, Alexander?> Elanthielle asked with a mild tone of humor.

<The Slayer isn't a demon.> Xander retorted in his mind, and then added, <Besides... it's not the same thing, the Slayer's aren't called within a family line. Are there demons like that?>

<Some... perhaps.> Elanthielle conceded, <But those that I know of capable of such a thing would never have allowed one of their hosts to come to this level... they prefer powerful, willful, hosts... and they prefer to take them young.>

Xander scowled at the thought, until he noted the fear in Tara's face increase. He quickly buried the frown and smile at her. She just cowered back even further.

<God I HATE THIS.> He raged internally, his gut churning and his heart pounding as he watched Tara look on him with fear. "Tara... please, don't be afraid of me... I'm here to help you."

Tara actually looked up at him, and for an brief second, little more then a sliver of time, he thought he saw hope in her eyes. Then her eyes fell down again, "H... how?"

Xander sighed, "First things first."

He brought his hand up, wincing as she flinched back, and summoned Elan to his hand. The silver weapon shimmered into existence in his palm and Xander flipped the cylinder around a couple times and then offered it to the girl. "Take this."

"Wh.. Why?"

Xander smiled as gently as he could, "Because this will tell us how much, if any, demon is really lurking inside you."

Tara swallowed, reaching for the cylinder hesitantly. Xander held it steady and patiently waited for her to take it. When she did he instantly queried Elanthielle. <So?>

<Nothing, Alexander.> Elan said simply. <There is no sign of a demon, nor any conduits through which one might enter. She is a mildly talented practitioner, nothing more... nothing less.>

Xander sighed, shaking his head.

"W... what?" Tara asked fearfully.

"Nothing." Xander said, "Nothing at all. No demon, no hint of a demon... You're a normal human who happens to have a talent for casting spells."

Tara looked around, her eyes darting around, and her face disbelieving. "N... no demon?"

Xander shook his head, "None. Not a sign of one."

"B... but m... my mother?"

Xander shrugged, "I don't know... I'm sorry, Tara... I don't know."

"Oh."

Oh. Was all she said, then the two of them turned and began walking again.

Xander remained silent this time, walking along side of her as they continued along her path. He hoped she believed him, but he didn't really expect it. The most he could hope for, he figured, was that he had planted a small seed of hope in her. That, and that he hadn't completely screwed up her chance of becoming an independent woman.

They walked for another short while before Tara spoke up, for the first time initiating a conversation. "W... who are you? R... really, I mean?"

Xander sighed, hesitation a moment before responding to that. Finally he spoke, "I'm a friend of yours, Tara. My name is Xander Harris, and I am now at your service. You have but to ask, and I will give you whatever I can."

Tara looked at him, her eyes searching him for any sign that he was making fun of her, or any sign that he was baiting a trap. She found none. No sign of either was in his face, his eyes, or his posture. She actually thought he was serious.

"I... I don't want anything..."

Xander smiled. Now *that* was true to the Tara he knew. Offer her the moon, an she'd just reply that she was happy with what she had and, besides, the moon was of no value to one person. "Then keep my card, Tara... and when you do want something... or when you NEED it. You call me. I'll be here as soon as I humanly can."

"S... so, are you... human?"

Xander grinned wide, "I'm more human then most, Tara. Cut me, and I bleed... Tickle me, and I laugh... Poison me... well I might not die, but that's cause I've learned a few tricks along the way."

"Oh." Tara looked up at him, and he saw the small twinkly of curiosity there. "What... kind of tricks?"

Xander paused, considering, then spoke. "Mostly how to control my body... make it do what I want it to do, rather then having everything work on autopilot."

Tara looked surprised, "Queri'anna Takan?"

Xander looked at her oddly, until Elan filled him in, then he smiled. "You know a lot about Pre-Summarian languages?"

Tara looked down again, driving a spike of frustration through Xander. "M... mom taught me."

Xander sighed, but outwardly smiled. "Well yes... that's very close to what I study... but I use an older term for it."

"O... older? Then Pre-Summarian?"

Xander smiled, nodding as he started to speak. Before he could say anything they were shocked to hear a scream of pain and terror come from a little further along their path.

Xander was on the move in a flash, his body reacting before his mind processed the sound completely. The wind was rushing in his ears as he heard angry shouts and the sound of many, many, voices ahead of him.

As he ran, the angry shouts grew stronger and he heard the wailing scream again.

Behind him, Tara had also began to run, her nature forcing her to respond to a scream of pain even as her fear and terror mounted.


Michelle Mirri ran as fast as she could, the angry yells behind her getting closer as she instinctively took the chase into the trees of a nearby park. She had just made it into the cover of the trees when she felt something rap solidly against her leg and shin and then she went down in a tumbling sprawl.

The twelve year old scrambled along the ground, trying to get back to her feet, but a crunching pain in her chest sent her tumbling along to the side as she heard the angry voices crowd around her.

In another second there was nothing but pain.


Xander came to a skidding halt as he rounded a corner, Tara just a second behind him as they both stared in shock at the events unfolding before their eyes.

Tara gasped in shock, her eyes widening in terror and disgust. "Th... they're going to kill her..."

Xander growled low, "Not fucking likely."

He started striding toward the mob, his eyes noting little details as he moved. He could see a large number of makeshift weapons, mostly clubs and the like, but also a couple shotguns. He'd have to settle this fast. He smoothly drew his Desert Eagle from his hip holster, then closed his coat and made sure the flap was over his chest.

The big gun boomed once into the air, startling the mob away from their prey as Xander kept moving. In an instant all eyes were on him, and he glared at all of them as he spoke.

"What in the..." He ground out, eyes keeping close track of the shotguns, "the *FUCK* do you people think you are doing!?"

They slowly parted as he strode through their ranks, looking for the leaders of this particular mob.

A man stepped forward, glaring at Xander. "You've got no cause to interfere, boy. This isn't any of your concern!"

Xander ignored him until he reached the center of the group and saw the badly beat young girl lying at the center of the of the group. He slowly circled around, the big bore of the .44 pistol causing the mob to shy away as he created room to move. Only then did he acknowledge the man who had addressed him, "*THIS* is none of my concern!?"

The man shifted, a little nervously. "This isn't what is seems like, boy..."

"Oh? SO you aren't beating a little girl to death!?" Xander glared up at the man as he knelt by the girl, his pistol never wavering from the direction of the man.

"That is NO little girl!" The man insisted. "She is a demon spawn! We are doing God's work, we are demon hunters."

Xander checked the girl's pulse, and sighed as he felt that it was strong. Then he looked up at the mob, "*I* am a demon hunter. YOU are a mob."

"You believe in demons?" The man actually relaxed, "Then you know they must be destroyed."

Xander nodded, "Most of them, yes... but there is a difference between killing and torture. If she were truly an evil demon, then all you had to do was kill her. Clean. None of this Klu Klux Klan shit!"

"She IS a demon!" The man insisted as some of the mob actually began to fall back, looking a little ashamed.

"We'll see." Xander said, summoning Elan to his hand. That act alone drew an instant gasp from the mob and angry murmurs around them.

"Demon!"

<Demon!?> Elan's voice echoed the word angrily in his ear as Xander wrapped the barely conscious child's hands around her. <How DARE they!? I am NO...>

<Not now, Elan.> Xander urged, <The girl. What is she?>

Elan quieted down, and after a moment Xander gingerly hefted the child into his arms and lifted her up. "This girl is no demon."

The leader of the group glared at him, "And we should take your word for this, *Demon*? We saw her with our own eyes! We saw her change!"

"You saw a Lyncanthrope. A Were-Jaguar to be precise." Xander snapped, keeping his gun ready. "A pure blood at that, so unless you tried to hurt her it's not likely she tried to hurt any of you."

"She's not Human!" The lead man shouted, "Even he admits that! She must be put to death!"

"Try it and the first person who moves will be getting a much needed .44 caliber lobotomy!" Xander growled loud enough for everyone to hear. He could see the shotguns coming to bear on him as a younger man strode forward.

"He can't get us all!"

"Says the hillbilly with half a brain." Xander snapped, "I can get seven of you with this gun, and you better believe that if I can take out a vampire nest on my own, you guys aren't going to stand against me!"

The leader glared, but didn't do anything right away. "You can't get away from us, boy. You shouldn't have gotten involved."

"Oh, I'm walking out of here alright." Xander said coldly, "Unless you want a ton of corpses gathering flys in this lovely park, none of you are going to try to stop me either."

"Leave the abomination. You can go."

Xander felt the little girl clutch tighter around his neck and laughed lightly, "I am leaving the abominations. I have no interest in taking any of you anywhere. I'm fairly certain that someone a lot higher up then me will be booking your travel arraignments even as we speak. I'm a patient man... I can wait for you to get what's coming to you."

He started moving slowly, most of the mob moving out of his way as he approached, but was soon faced with the leader and the young hotheaded idiot. Both of them refused to move, and the fact that the hothead was one of those with a shotgun made things potentially sticky.

"You aren't taking that little monster anywhere."

Xander was silent, merely matching the two men's glare for glare and he shifted the girl around. He whispered to her softly, "I need you to hang on to my neck... can you do that?"

She nodded, and Xander shifted her around until she was perched on his back with her legs wrapped under his arms and holding tightly around his neck. Through it all the Desert Eagle didn't waver from the young man holding the shotgun.

"The way I see this," The leader said, almost reasonably, "you can't get more then one of us... then the shotgun get's you... if the little monster worth that? We'll get her anyway, you know..."

Xander almost smiled, remembering giving a similar ultimatum before in the past. Unfortunately for these two, he was better equipped then the Knights of Byzantium had been. His smiled grew and then turned cold as he matched the lead man, glare for glare. "Are you so certain? You already think I'm a demon... Steel shot doesn't kill demons."

The man smiled back, "This is blessed silver. From the Vatican itself."

Xander smile dropped, but not into fear as the man expected, instead he grew furious. "Bastards. I hate having to repeat myself, but it seems that I'll have to pay Rome another visit."

"Give us the monster!" The man screamed out, losing patience.

"No." Xander said, "You'll get her over my dead body."

"I can live with that."

Xander cocked the Desert Eagle, an ominous sound. "Are you certain of that?"

The tension rose, spiraling higher and higher as the three men glared at each other, none willing to back down. Just as it seemed the air itself would crackle between them a blond blur through herself between both groups.

"Daddy! No!" Tara yelled out, holding her hands up. "Don't!"

"Damn it!" The man swore, "Get out of here, Tara!"

"Let him go! He's leaving with her, you don't have to worry about her if she's gone, daddy!"

"The monster has to die!" Tara's father snapped, roughly pushing her aside.

Tara pushed back, her eyes glittering dangerously as she got back between Xander and the two men. "Why!?"

"Because she is an abomination to God!" The man growled out.

"No." Xander said quietly, coldly. "She has to die because she's different then you are. She has to die because you didn't grow up a hundred years ago when you could safely go out and kill a black person or an Indian to satisfy your blood thirst. She has to die because you're a racist bastard that makes me ashamed to be human."

The man glared at him, fury dancing behind his eyes, but didn't respond. He turned his attention to Tara. "Tara, get out of the way and go HOME. NOW."

Tara shifted, started to move, but then suddenly seemed to change her mind. She stood there, shaking with fear, but raised a defiant eye to her father. "N... NO."

His eyes widened with anger and he pulled back his hand and struck her, sending the blond girl to the ground.

"Oh that's IT!" Xander snarled, his pistol coming up dead on with Tara's father and his finger tightening around the trigger.

"No!"

Xander hesitated, his eyes flickering down to where Tara was lying on the ground looking at him with terror in her eyes.

"Please..." She said, "Please don't..."

Xander reluctantly stepped down, hatred burning in his eyes as he glared at the man over the sights of his pistol. "You owe your life to your daughter, Mister."

Sweat beaded down the man's face as he stared at the huge barrel of the gleaming pistol.

Xander glanced down at Tara, "You're wish. My command. But I won't let your father kill her."

Tara nodded, "I... I un... understand. P... please... go."

Xander felt himself torn. What the hell could he do? If he stayed, all he would do is probably wind up killing some of these bastards. It wouldn't do Tara any good, and would probably wind up with him being hunted by a sizeable portion of the State cops, maybe even the FBI. Even his friends in the government wouldn't be able to save him from a manhunt for murder.

Xander nodded to Tara, his eyes shifting between Tara and the other two. "I'll be leaving now. Don't make me break my promise to your daughter and kill you."

He started sidling past the man, keeping an eye on the shotgun in the hands of the younger man.

The young man looked at the leader, his eyes pleading for permission, but Tara's father just kept staring at the big bore of the Desert Eagle that never wavered from his eyes and shook his head.

Xander slipped past, backing out of the trees, then moved with lightning speed. He flipped the Desert Eagle back into it's holster, swinging the little girl around until she was huddled in his arms, then he turned and ran.

He could hear shouts behind him and just kept running flat out, drawing power from Elanthielle into himself to power his strides.

There was a scream that Xander recognized as Tara's, then a boom shattered the air. Xander ducked his head and hunched over the girl as he ran, feeling the pellets picking at his coat as he ran. A second boom followed the first as Xander fled, the silver buckshot pelting him as he got out of the park and ran into the town proper.


Xander glanced around fast, wondering how much of the town would be under the thumb of the Maclay man, running flat out as he held onto the little girl and headed for his car.

He hoped that Tara wasn't going to catch too much flack for what happened, but had a feeling that he might have just witnessed the turning point that eventually brought Tara to the person he knew later. Or, at least, one of the turning points. Seeing her father like that had to be an eye opener for the girl, at least to serve to show her that humans were quite capable of evil in themselves.

He bolted out onto mainstreet, spotting his car a good distance down, and never slowed down. He hurtled a pared car that was between him and the Charger, then slid across the hood of the Charger from Drivers side to Passenger, and quickly got the little girl into the car. He showed her how to do up the four point belt system, then closed the door and slid back across the hood to the drivers side.

As he slid behind the wheel he spared her a quick smile, "Hi. I'm Xander."

She looked like she was in shock, her face was so covered in smeared blood that Xander couldn't quite tell where it came from. But still she looked over at him as he started the car. Over the engine's roar he heard her whisper.

"You're bleeding."

Xander's hand flew up to his neck and his eyes widened as it came back red with blood. His eyes unfocused briefly, then he smiled at her. "No worries, kiddo. Got a little chunk of silver in me, but I'm human... won't kill me."

"Mikki."

"Huh?"

"I'm Mikki." She said softly.

Xander flashed her a smile, slipped the car into reverse, and hit the gas. "Nice to meet you, Mikki. Now, let's blow this town before it decides to do the same to us, huh?"

Mikki nodded silently.

Xander turned the car out onto Main Street and had the Charger in first and moving when he saw the first sign of pursuit. An old Dodge pickup squealed around the corner with a bunch or armed yahoo's in the back.

Xander shook his head, looking at the truck in his rearview. "You've got to be kidding me."

He put the pedal to the floor, and the Charger leapt forward, leaving rubber and smoke in it's trail as Xander started working the powerful car through it's gears. He smiled widely and glanced over at his passenger, "So... you like driving fast?"

She nodded slowly, her eyes wide as she was pressed back into the seat.

"Good." Xander grinned, deciding to go for overkill. He thumbed up a safety catch and depressed a button simply marked NOS.

The front of the car lifted clear of the ground for a few moments as the rear tires bit into the rough pavement of the small town's mainstreet, then slapped back down as the car roared. Xander couldn't see the truck anymore, not because they'd left them behind but rather because the blue smoke from the tires was obscuring their vision.

"Damn. I've been dying to really let this thing out since I bought it." Xander said out loud as he held the car steady through the heavy vibrations.

He risked a glance beside him to see that Mikki was staring straight ahead as the big car roared out of town, her eyes wide as saucers as the big seat seemed to engulf her small form. "You ok?"

She nodded, still staring straight ahead.

Xander shook his head and turned his focus back to the road and the gages in front of him. The needle on the spedometer was already edging past seventy-five and was moving fast toward the north side of a hundred.

"Glad I didn't try this in downtown L.A." Xander licked his lips as he watched the parked cars of the small town blur past as he shot out of the small town and into what might be laughingly called the suburbs.

Behind him the truck was still in pursuit, but it was dropping back as it couldn't match the acceleration or top end of the Charger. Xander adjusted the rearview slightly, smiling. "Well... that was fun."

His passenger didn't smile, which brought Xander back to reality as he kept the pedal to the floor and kept the Charger on course. After a few more seconds he glanced to the side again, "Hey... you ok, Mikki?"

She nodded.

"Did they hit you with Silver?"

She shook her head.

Xander breathed a sigh of relief. No silver meant that she'd pull through in record time, unless they had a magical weapon. The only other thing that could take out a lyncanthrope would be massive overkill type damage, like maybe a rocket launcher, but there was no evidence of that on her body. And that kind of thing wasn't really easy to hide.

"Ok... You'll be fine, Mikki." Xander said, "I've got to get you somewhere safe... Where's your..."

"Dead."

"What?"

"Family." Mikki said, stone faced, "You want to know about my family? They're dead."

Xander swallowed, "How?"

Mikki just shrugged, but wouldn't say anything.

Xander nodded, "Ok... I still need to find you a safe place..."

She didn't say anything, now what little enthusiasm she had shown was gone and her eyes were dying even as he looked on. Xander looked around, wondering what he was going to do. He had to at least get back and check on Tara, but he couldn't simply leave her somewhere in this condition.

He sighed and grabbed his phone as he kept one eye on the road. After checking the review and seeing that the 'pursuit' had given up, he flipped open the phone and quickly dialed a number and hit send.

"Hello, I'd like to speak with Mr Brognola please." He said when the line was picked up. "Tell him that it's Alexander Harrison."

A moment later a gruffly familiar voice came on the line. "Kid? What's wrong?"

"Other then the fact that I just got shot at by a bunch of hillbilly dimwits who were trying to beat a little girl to death?" Xander asked sarcastically, instantly wincing as he noted Mikki's face twitch in pain.

"What!?"

"Really long story. Listen, I need a safehouse for the girl while I check something out..."

"Her parents?"

"Dead."

"Making a habit of this, I see." Brognola muttered as he pulled out a directory, "Listen I can get you social services..."

"No." Xander said instantly, "Not an option. Trust me on this. I just need one night, safe."

"Where are you?" Brognola sighed.

"New Mexico... leaving Darynville, heading due East." Xander said.

"Ok... ok... one moment..." Hal said into the phone, "Give me a second..."

"No problem."

Xander could hear the Head Fed snapping orders to someone else, looking for something nearby.

"Ok... I don't have a lot in the area... unless you want to drive for a few hours...?"

"No." Xander said, "As close as possible."

"Ok. Go into Roswell, I'll phone ahead and have the Sheriff wait for you. He'll look after your kid while you do whatever it is you have to do. Do I want to ask?"

"No." Xander replied.

"Right." Hal muttered, "Alright. Roswell, I'll have the locals waiting."

"Roswell." Xander said, sighing. "Right."

"Good luck, kid... and watch out for little green men." Hal said with a smirk in his voice.

"I'm not afraid of the little green men..." Xander said, "It's the seven foot tall green men that terrify me."

With that he hung up before Hal could respond.

Xander looked up at the next road signs as they ripped past.

Roswell, New Mexico - 35 miles.


Sheriff Jim Valenti hung up the phone and frowned at it.

"Something wrong, Sheriff?"

He shook his head, "No, Deputy... nothing at all. Why don't you take the patrol tonight... You've been wanting some over time, right?"

"Yes Sir... thank you..." The deputy grinned and bolted for the patrol car before Valenti could change his mind.

Valenti watched as the patrol car pulled away and frowned deeply. It wasn't often he got a call from the Justice department, let alone that he was asked with almost excessive politeness to do them a favor.

Either event was odd enough that he would have acceded to any reasonable request without question, both together had him pondering the cryptic request. He was still thinking about it a while later when he heard an engine rumble outside.

Valenti got up and walked outside to see a young man get out of a classic Charger and tiredly walk around the car to the passenger side. He frowned, concerned as he caught sight of the red stain along the young man's neck. He didn't look like any agent that Velenti had seen, but the Sheriff decided that probably meant he had infiltrated some group or other.

Valenti's eyes widened as he saw the man heft a young girl out of the car and carry her up to the steps of the police station. His eyes hardened quickly when he saw the injuries the child had suffered, his gut rolling into a tight ball as he took in the damage to her face alone. "What the hell happened?"

The young man shook his head, "You don't want to know. I need you to look after her for a few hours... until morning maybe. I'll be back by then."

Valenti nodded slowly, still looking at the little girl. "My god... She needs medical attention..."

The young man shrugged, "It's not as bad as it looks... but if you can clean her up, and get someone discreet in here to check for broken bones, I'd be grateful."

"I'll call a nurse I know." Valenti promised. "She'll keep quiet."

"Good." The young man said, setting the little girl down. "Now Mikki, I have to go for a few hours..."

The little girl, Mikki Valenti realized, suddenly clutched to the young man as if for protection.

"No..." She whispered.

"I have to go..." Valenti heard him whisper back, "You remember the blond girl?"

Mikki nodded.

"I have to make sure she's ok... then I can come back. Ok?"

Mikki stepped back, shivering despite the warmth of the air. She nodded slowly.

"Ok." The young man said, "I'll be back as soon as I can. Can you do me a favor?"

She nodded.

"No changing. Stay like this. Ok?"

She nodded again.

Satisfied the young man straightened up and turned back to Valenti. "I really appreciate this..."

"Valenti. Sheriff Jim Valenti." Valenti said, shaking the young man's hand.

"Pleased to meet you," The young man grinned, "I'm Xander Harris."


Jim Valenti made some calls as the young man, Xander, talked urgently on his own phone. "Listen Mary, no, I don't care... get over here and bring your black bag. No, don't tell your supervisor. Don't tell anyone. Thanks... oh, and Mary? I owe you a big one, thanks."

Jim hung up the phone and looked over to where the young man was talking.

"Dade, listen I need an exact address on that one. That's right, Tara Maclay. Ok... get on it, call me back at my new number."

"What's going on?" Valenti asked as he watched Xander flip his phone shut and pocket the small device.

"I ran into some assholes making like they were God." Xander replied, frowning as he looked over to where Mikki was sitting. "I have to get on the move."

"Hang on." Valenti said, "You're bleeding..."

"It's nothing." Xander said, annoyed.

Valenti walked up, frowning as he pushed Xander's head to one side. "You've got shotgun pellet in there... I've seen it before... buncha hunters shoot each other by accident."

Xander nodded, feeling the small lump under the skin of his neck. "You have a knife?"

"You can't be serious?"

"Get it." Xander said, reading Valenti's face.

Valenti made a face, but went and grabbed a folding blade from his desk and offered it to Xander.

Xander shook his head, "No... I can't see it. You do it."

"What??"

"Just do it. The shot is right here..." Xander pointed, "Don't worry about me, I can take the pain."

Valenti moved slowly, hesitantly, as he placed the knife at the young man's neck. He winced, then gritted his teeth and dug the point of the blade in.

"Cut a little slice, then dig the pellet out." Xander told him.

Valenti let the blade slide through the skin for a bit, then managed to flip the point of the sharp blade under the pellet and popped it out. He caught the little piece of metal and held between his finger and thumb. "Hey... what is this? It's not lead..."

Xander frowned as he looked at the small pellet with distaste, "It's silver."

"What??" Valenti looked at him oddly, "What the hell are you doing with Silver in your neck?"

"Good old boys have a Lone Ranger Fetish." Xander shrugged, grabbing a paper napkin from the sheriff's desk and holding it over his wound. "Thanks for the help. I've got to go now."

"Are you sure you don't need some help?"

"It's outside your jurisdiction, Sheriff... and you don't want to be around for this anyway." Xander said coldly, "But thanks for the offer. I'll be back by morning."

"And if your not?" Valenti wasn't a fool.

Xander sighed, then scribbled a number on a card and handed it to Valenti. "Call this number... ask for Kevin and tell him that Xander left someone here who needed help. He'll know what to do when he talks to Mikki."

Valenti nodded slowly, taking the card, and watched Xander turn and walk out. "Hey..."

"Yeah?" Xander looked back.

Valenti looked over to where Mikki was still bleeding and looked like she'd been through a war. "Good luck."

Xander nodded, then vanished out of the police station.


Xander turned the car back west and headed out of Roswell, not looking back as he drove. It took him twenty minutes to approach the town limits, where he pulled the car to one side and waited.

Just after night fall his cell phone rang and Xander flipped it open and put the small device to his ear. "Go."

"Xander? It's Dade. I've got that info you wanted..."

"Good." Xander said, "Tell me."

"It's some sort of ranch house well in the outskirts of the town... still in Chaves County though..." Dade said as he rattled off the address. "What happened man?"

"I caught these bastards beating a little girl to death just because she was a Lyncanthrope." Xander gritted out as he started the car.

"Shit." Dade sounded a little stunned, "Ummm not to sound dense, but when you say Lyncanthrope..."

"Were-Jaguar." Xander said easily, shifting the car into first as he cradled the phone under his chin. "She has control over her change though, she's a pure blood... so she's a non-threat."

"Damn... What are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet. It depends on what they've done to Tara for helping us." Xander replied, "I have to go."

"Call me when you're done."

"I will. Bye, Dade."

"See Yah, Seraph."

Xander growled into the line, but the phone had gone dead. "Wise ass."

He flipped the phone shit and tossed it onto the passenger seat as he focused his attention on the road.


Tara Maclay lay down on her bed, curled up as she tired to make the pain go away. It wasn't the physical bruises that bothered her, though they were worse then she'd felt in years, it was the image of the look of blood lust on her father and brother's face. She knew they weren't the nicest people, but what she had seen today, it just couldn't be good.

How could anything 'good' be born of that kind of hatred? Tara didn't know, she could think of any answer that would excuse her father and brother in her eyes. The only that she was certain of, was that if Xander hadn't been there, then they would have killed that little girl.

Tara got up quietly, ignoring the pain in her side from where her father had thrown her roughly into the truck, and ignoring the bruise on her jaw from where he had struck her down earlier. She went quietly to the door and cracked it open slightly, looking out nervously.

She could hear her Father ranting downstairs, talking about what he would do to Xander and the little girl when they found them. She shivered, but crept from her room silently and made her way to the stairs that led up to the old attic.

She wasn't allowed up there, hadn't been since her mother had died. Truthfully, she hadn't wanted to since her mother had died either, but tonight Tara felt a need to connect with another side of her family. She crept up the stairs and silently unlocked the door with the trick her mother had taught her long ago. When she was inside she closed the door and leaned back on it, breathing heavily as she looked around the old room.

It was her mother's spell room, as she used to call it as a child, the place her mother called a sactum. Tara knew that her father wouldn't come up here, he never had. Tara swallowed thinking about the events of earlier, not able to understand why her father had wanted to be with her mother if he hated magic and the supernatural so much.

She crept silently over the old floor to a chest that sat just under the lone window. She opened it slowly and looked inside. She knew this was where her mother kept all the spell books, but that wasn't what she was looking for. She ignored the old books and pulled out a newer one.

It was leather bound, same as the others, but it was new and the paper was white. Tara slowly opened it and looked inside, staring at the inscription on the first page.

The Journal and Grimoire of Marrissa Tara Maclay.

Tara's breath caught as she read her mother's middle name. <Tara... She never told me the name was from the family... I... I wonder where it came from?>

She turned the page and began reading.

Tara was a fast reader, she had mastered that skill early because it was something that her brothers couldn't take from her. Even if they took her books, they couldn't take what she had read.

She read through for a few pages, smiling at the memory of her mother. As she read she imagined her mother's voice coming from the pages, speaking through the mists of time, and she felt a warmth wrap around her.

After twenty minutes she looked up, her face shocked and her eyes wide as she considered the words on the pages in her hand.

That was when the quiet voice startled her.

"What did you find out?"

Tara turned around, her moth working in shock as she saw the figure in black crouched on the window sill. Crouched in the window she hadn't even known could open, let alone heard when it opened. "You!?"

Xander smiled at her, "Me. How are you, Tara?"

She looked down instantly to her feet, flinching when he hissed in anger.

"None of that." He hissed, "Look me in the eyes, Tara... or at least at my face."

She looked up slowly, looking at him, but her eyes shied away from his.

Xander sighed, "What have you learned?"

She looked down at the book in her hand, sighing. "My... my mother was afraid of daddy..."

Xander nodded.

"H... he threatened h... her." Tara said after a moment, "H... he told her tha... that he'd kill me if she left him."

Xander slipped down and sat on the sill, "So... What do you want to do about it?"

Tara looked at him, fear in her eyes. "Don't... hu... hurt him."

Xander shook his head, "That's not what I meant. I'm not offering anything, I'm not some demon who is looking for you to make a careless wish. I'm just asking what you want to do."

Tara looked down again, "I... I don't know."

Xander nodded, "That is a very good place to start. I'm going to repeat my offer, Tara... No magic, no trickery... Ask me for anything and I'll do my very best to give it to you."

Tara shook, thinking about the book in her hands, and then looked up to meet his eyes for the first time. "I... I want to leave..."


Tara crept back to her room and started packing away her things. She thought about what she was doing, but refused to change her mind. It would be easy to stay, but she knew that it would continue to eat at her if she did. Eventually she would leave on her own, but right now she had someone offering to help.

For a second Tara paused, her hands freezing as she considered the offer. Her hands shook as she wondered if maybe, just maybe, Xander was as bad as her family? He certainly wasn't a stranger to violence, and he admitted to being a demon hunter.

She shivered in fear for a moment, thinking that he was maybe trying to get her away from the protection of her parents in order to kill her. Then she shook her head, telling herself that that was a silly thought. He'd already shown that he could get to her, practically whenever he chose. Maybe he wanted her alive for some reason? Tara shook her head clear, trying to decide as she was assaulted by doubts.

Could she trust a stranger over her family?

But this stranger had saved a little girl, a child, *from* her family.

Tara kept packing her few belongings.

She didn't have much, just a journal and a few dollars she had managed to save, a few clothes, and one other thing. She had to dig it out from where she had buried it a long time ago, deep in a dresser drawer that she never opened anymore. It was a photo of her and her mother, a picture that she couldn't bear to throwaway, but had hid in shame after her father told her what happened.

<What he said happened.> She told herself as she clutched the photo to her chest and and pushed the drawer closed. She packed up her things, tossing them into a small backpack she had, and then crept back out of her room.

Right into her brother.

"Going somewhere, Sis?" He frowned down at her, his face a mask of distrust.

"I... I... ummm..." She stammered.

He grabbed her pack from her and opened it up, looking inside. "Where were you going with this??"

She didn't respond.

"We'll see what Dad says, then." He grabbed her arm, yanking her toward the stairs.

They had gotten only two steps when a shadow seemed to detach itself from the wall and Tara saw Xander appear from nowhere. Her eyes widened as he struck out twice, two silent strikes that dropped her brother in his tracks. As he fell, Xander caught him and then drug him back into Tara's room.

"I... is... is he?"

"He's fine." Xander whispered to her as he closed the door, "He'll wake up in the morning with a wicked headache, but everything intact and operational."

"W... what did you... do?"

"I'll explain later..." Xander whispered, then smiled. "I'll even show you how to do it, if you want."

Tara looked at him with wide eyes, but didn't respond.

"Ok. We need to get you out of here..." Xander said, "Can you sneak out past everyone?"

She nodded slowly.

"Good. I'll go back out the way I came." Xander replied.

He turned to leave and she hesitantly put a hand on his arm, when he turned back questioningly she spoke haltingly. "H... how did you k... know where to find me?"

He smiled, "I had some hackers find your address... when I got to the house I just looked for the cleanest aura in the building..."

With that, he vanished back into the shadows, leaving her to stare after him.


Roswell, NM

"My god, Jim!" Mary Evans glared at the Sheriff, "What happened to this child!?"

Jim Valenti shook his head, his face dark. "I don't know, Mary. I got a call from a fed up in Washington early today and he told me one of his people needed a favor... looking after her for the night was the favor."

"This girl should be in the hospital." Mary said as she went about cleaning the blood and checking the little girls wounds.

"I don't think that would be a good idea." Jim said.

"And why is that??"

"I don't know for sure," He admitted, "But I can only think of a couple reasons why the Feds would be desperate enough to call me for help... and none of them are good for us, or her."

Michelle Mirri looked between the two adults, not cooperating but not resisting as the woman in the white uniform cleaned her off. She didn't really know a lot about the police, her parents always told her to be careful of them, but her parents told her to be careful of everyone.

Mary sighed, smiling gently at Mikki and dabbing at a relatively small laceration on her forehead. "There... all clean now."

Mirri didn't smile back at her, but nodded slightly to acknowledge the woman's help.

Mary turned back to Jim, "I certainly hope that you're going to do something about whoever did this."

"I don't think I'll have to lift a finger."

"What?"

"Mary," Valenti said softly, "You didn't see the young man who brought her in... he went back after another girl and I don't think anyone is going to last long if they get in his way."

Mary Evans turned back to the ugly bruise that was growing along Mikki's chest and shoulder. "Good." She said softly as she continued her task.


"Xander?" Tara whispered quietly as she looked around the dark shadows that were flickering around her backyard.

"I'm here." He said, appearing again from the shadows.

"Oh!" She jumped, startled, holding her chest.

"Sorry." He smiled gently, taking her hand. "It's a bad habit I know, but I use to hang around some people who were a really bad influence on me."

"O... oh?" She asked timidly as he led her away from her home of seventeen years.

He smiled, "Oh yeah... Deadboy alone used to pull this same damn thing on me all the time... You wouldn't believe how often I wanted to just wring his stupid neck for that."

Tara actually smiled slightly at him, "Oh... I... I c... can imagine."

Xander shot her a surprised look, "Was that a crack at my expense, Miss Maclay??"

She instantly looked ashamed and scared. "I... I'm sorry..."

Xander chuckled warmly, "Don't be. That was a good one."

She felt an odd warmth as she realized that he meant it, and then they were on the move.


"Tara?"

Tara's father rapped on her door, then pushed it open without waiting for a response. "Tara?"

He frowned, looking around for the darkened room. He fumbled for the light and finally found it, flooding the room with light.

A moment later he cursed as he saw the body on the floor and instantly turned and ran out of the room.


They were a hundred meters from the ranch house when all the lights went on behind them, flooding the field with light.

Tara looked back, fear in her eyes, as she saw a milling of action at the front of the house. "What now?"

"We run." Xander said calmly. "Come on."

He grabbed her and they both took off running through the field to where Xander had left the Charger. Behind them, a few seconds later, they heard the sound of engines start up and Tara squeaked in fear as she recognized the sound of the family 4x4 and her brothers ATV.

"Go!" Xander told her as he slowed down, "Straight ahead... you'll come to a road."

She nodded, pausing to look at him ."I know... w... what are you going to d... do?"

Xander drew a pair of pistols, "Don't worry. I'm not going to kill anyone unless I have absolutely no choice. Now Go!"

Tara stared at him, fear plainly written in her eyes, but she nodded and then turned and ran.

Xander crouched down, bringing his FiveSevens up as he silently willed himself to become part of the night. Part of the shadows, part of the very earth itself.

He silently waited, watching the approaching ATV, his mind noting that the truck was leaving by the driveway even as the smaller bike came straight toward them. <Moving to cut us off...>

He put on pistol down, carefully extending his arm as he watched the ATV bounce and josstle as it flew toward him. As he'd hoped the driver was focused on Tara, and missed him completely as it went by.

The FiveSeven spat once, blowing out the rear tire of the ATV as it passed, causing the driver to lose control and start to lose speed. Xander picked up the second pistol and rose from the ground, silent as a wraith, and jogged toward where the bike was coming to a stop.

He could hear the driver curse as he jumped off the bike, looking at the tire and kicking the ground. Xander leapt up just as he turned to look back.

"Wha...?"

Xander snapped out a kick that caught the man in the chest, then landed and spun around and chopped the man across the neck. As he crumpled to the ground, Xander looked around again.

<Truck's out of sight... damn. Probably circling around.> He broke into a flat out run, his feet barely touching the ground as he ran. <Tara!>


Tara broke out through the sparse trees onto the old road, looking around. She easily spotted the car that was parked along the road and made her way towards it, nervously looking over her shoulder for any sign of Xander.

Suddenly, a light fell on her from ahead and she looked to see the family truck pull onto the road ahead of her and start toward her.

Tara froze.

The truck came to a slow stop and she saw her Father get out, looking sternly at her.

"Get in the truck, Tara."

She shook her head.

"Tara. Get in the truck!"

"N... No." She said.

He took a step toward her, snapping, "Tara Mary Maclay! You will do exactly what I tell you..."

He was cut off in mid word and mid step as Tara lifted up her hand reflexively, her eyes glittering in the headlights of the truck. "Immobilize!"


Xander came out of the trees to the odd sight of Tara's father frozen in place as she sat in a crumpled ball on the ground in front of him.

Xander walked silently up to them, checking the father's pulse. <Well... she didn't kill him.>

He turned to Tara, crouching down beside her to find the girl weeping. "Hey... it's ok... come on..."

"I... I... I used m... m... my magic on... him..."

Xander shook his head, smiling gently at her. "Never change, Tara. Come on..."

"Huh?" She snuffled out as he picked her up, actually carrying her past her father. He paused and looked at the frozen man.

"What spell did you use?"

"P... p... p... paralyzing..."

Xander nodded and carried her to the car. He set her inside and smiled at her, "I'll be right back."

He walked back to the man and looked the frozen eyes of the man in front of him, knowing that the man could see him. "You are a very lucky man, Mr Maclay. If your daughter had an ounce of you in her, instead of her mother, then you'd be lying on the ground, dead or dying right now. I don't know how you managed to raise someone as good hearted as Tara..."

With that last parting comment he turned and walked back to the Charger.


Well out of Darynville, Xander glanced to the side where Tara was staring at the road with a look of shock on her face.

"You ok?"

Tara swallowed, her eyes coming to look at Xander with a mixture of fear, shock, and wonder in them. "I... I j-j-just ran away from h-h-h-ome..."

Xander nodded, "Yes you did. How does it feel?"

"Scary."

Xander smiled, "I left my home a long time ago... My parents aren't a prize catch either. I have a lot of regrets on my soul, Tara... but getting out from under my dad's thumb isn't one of them."

Tara was silent for a bit, then spoke softly. "C... could you tell me now?"

"Huh?" Xander looked over, not following, "Tell you what?"

"H... how you did that... in the house?"

Xander blinked, thinking back. "Oh. You mean knocking the guy out?"

Tara nodded, "Y.. You didn't make and n-noise..."

Xander shrugged, "You know about life energy right? Basic Wiccan stuff?"

Tara nodded.

"Ok, same basic thing... You can call it what you like. In the orient it's Chi, Christians refer to it as the Soul even though the concepts aren't exactly compatible.... they're close enough." Xander said as he drove. "The trick is to learn to focus it. You do it every time you cast a spell, right?"

"Y-yeah..."

"Well, I do the same thing... though I don't have the same power reserve you have, or the talent to use it." Xander shrugged. "Spell casting is a little closer to the source then what I do... But that's neither here nor there I guess... What I do is focus that energy and then add it to the strike..."

"Oh..."

"Right. When I use it as a blunt force it can add enough power to shatter a cinder block, or splinter a four by four... you know the drill from the martial arts competitions?" Xander asked. When she nodded he continued, "Well same thing... only for what I did then I used finer control and used the energy to overload his central nervous system... Instant knockout."

Tara nodded, blinking. "Wow..."

Xander shrugged, "Not really... just something that comes with a little applied knowledge."

"Oh." She said, taking the perceived rebuke meekly.

"Anyway, we'll be in Roswell soon... I need to check up on Mikki as soon as I can... then we can get some rooms." Xander said.

Tara paled, her eyes growing fearful again. "I... I d-don't have m-much money..."

"It's ok... don't worry, Tara." Xander said easily, "Money isn't an issue for right now, I've got it covered. After we see what you want to do, we'll figure something out. Ok?"

Tara nodded slowly, "O-ok..."


Jim Valenti looked up when he heard the rumble come into his driveway. He parted the curtains and looked out to see the Charger's go off and two figures get out of the sleek car. He met them at the door.

"Hey." Xander said, nodding politely. "You're desk man told me where you lived."

Valenti nodded, stepping aside. "I told him to let you know..."

Jim looked at the blond who came in with Xander, noting the bruising that was evident on her face and the pain that was obvious in her eyes. He winced, then nodded politely to her. "Ma'am."

"Hi..." She practically whispered as she looked at the ground.

"How's Mikki?" Xander asked.

Valenti tore his attention from the blonde, turning it back to Xander. "Sleeping in my room... do you want to wake her up? She looks like she needs some sleep..."

Xander nodded, "If you don't mind losing the bed for the night, we'll let her sleep... You know a place around here I can get a couple rooms?"

Valenti frowned, "We have another bed here, if you young lady wants it... You can have the couch..."

"What about you?" Xander asked.

"I've got a cot in my son's room." Valenti said, "No problem."

Xander hesitated, then sighed and nodded. "Thanks, Sheriff."

"It's not a problem." Valenti said, smiling. "Come along, Miss...?"

"Tara..." She whispred.

"Tara." Jim smiled, "I'll show you your room for the night."

She swallowed, nodding. "Thank you."

Valenti nodded, showing her to the room.


Xander was sitting back on the couch, staring at the tv when Valenti came back into the room.

"Works better if you turn it on."

Xander smiled slightly, nodding. "So I've heard."

Valenti walked to the fridge and pulled out a six-pack of beer cans, pulling one off. "Here."

Xander caught the beer as it was tossed to him and looked at it, a little moodily.

"I shouldn't give you that," Valenti said, "Seeing as how you don't look much older then my son. But I figure if you can drive, work for the Feds, and rescue two girls from whatever the hell they were in... well getting stinking drug should be an option too."

Xander snorted, popping the can and took a gulp.

Valenti took a beer of his own and set the four remaining down on the table between them as he took a seat in the chair. "So... can you tell me what happened?"

Xander shrugged, "Mikki was caught in a lynch mob... without the rope. She just wound up in the wrong place to be who she is."

Valenti frowned, bringing to mind an image of the little girl. She was pretty, certainly, and looked like she might have some hispanic blood. "Racists?"

Xander nodded.

"Damn it." Valenti looked disgusted. "That shit was supposed to be over fifty years ago."

Xander shrugged, "It never ends. People like that will always find something to hate."

Valenti nodded, taking another sip. "What about... Tara?"

"Her father was leading the mob." Xander said sourly, taking another long pull. "She stepped in to help me save the girl... I couldn't leave her there after that."

Valenti shook his head, "Sounds like you've had a lousy day."

Xander snorted, draining the can. "Yeah. You could say that."

Valenti drained his own beer, then pulled another one off the pack, handing it to Xander. "For what it's worth I hope you made them hurt."

Xander shook his head, "Not even close. But I will."

He smiled wickedly over the beer, "Oh yeah... will I ever."

Valenti looked at him worriedly for a moment, but then just shrugged and took another drink of his own beer.


Late the next morning Valenti wandered out to his kitchen, thinking about what he was going to make for breakfast for a group of hungry guests. He almost stumbled into Xander, who was cooking up a storm while talking on a cell phone.

"Hey, Morning..." Xander grinned at him, "I'll get you a plate... sit down, relax."

Valenti went to sit down, looking at the young man oddly as he started talking into the phone again.

"Huh? No... no not you, Hal." Xander said, "Yeah... yeah, you heard me right. I want the whole town investigated... Complete federal investigation... I want the FBI crawling out of every hole in that damned place."

"Due cause? How about checking into missing persons reports for this area over the last decade to start... I'm guessing you'll find something there." Xander said, flipping an egg into a plate alongside some bacon. "Alright... thanks. Also I think you might find some arms dealing in the area... the locals were using some custom rounds that are *very* hard to find, Hal... Tell your agents to keep an eye on the church, they'll be using it as cover."

Xander smiled into the phone as he dropped the plate down in front of Valenti.

"That's ok, Hal... I'm going to give Jack Ryan a call in a few minutes and give him the same thing. Why? Cause I happen to know that the source of the ammo isn't in this country, and I want to send a message to those idiots." Xander said, smiling nastily. "One more thing... What would it take to get the IRS looking into this town? I mean *really* looking?"

Xander laughed nastily. "Hal, these people chased down a twelve year old girl and tried to beat her to death. If Lucifer himself popped by I'd give him directions to their fucking homes."

Just after saying that Xander's eyes flitted around the room for a minute, as if half expecting some response. After a moment he shrugged and went back to the phone.


Xander closed up the cell phone a bit later and made himself a plate of food and sat down opposite Valenti.

"You didn't have to make breakfast, you know.."

Xander shrugged, "Least I could do. I left a few twenties on the fridge to cover the food by the way..."

Valenti instantly protested, "That's not necessary..."

Xander cut him off with a wave, "We're taking up your beds, eating your food, and drinking your beer. Let me at least pay our way, it's the least I can do here. You've put yourself out a lot for me and my friends."

Valenti relented, but didn't look happy about it. "Are they up yet?"

Xander shook his head, "No. I expect that Mikki will sleep a lot though... and Tara needs almost as much... so I'm not going to disturb them."

Valenti nodded, "I can see that."

"You're son is up and gone though." Xander said, "Seems to be a good kid."

Valenti smiled, nodding. "He is. A bit over confident sometimes..."

"He's a jock, right?" Xander asked as he chewed, "Comes with the territory. He'll either make the big leagues, or someone will deflate him... either way, he'll get by."

Valenti grinned, nodding. "Interesting view of life you have."

"I've had to get by with less by times." Xander smiled, "Tough times teach you the things that really matter."

Jim Valenti nodded at that, his expression thoughtful."

"So... what are you going to do now?"

Xander considered, "I think I'll get some rooms here in town for a few days. I'd rather not move out until Tara, Mikki, and I work out some plans..."

Jim nodded.

"Besides..." Xander said, looking around. "A friend of mine has been badgering me about doing some survival training... A nice bit of desert training will keep her quiet for a while."

"Her?"

Xander shrugged, "Another friend."

"Ah."

"Besides..." Xander said, "I still have one more phone call to make."

Valenti's eyes shot up, "You just called the head of the Justice department and someone at the CIA... How high can you go? You got the President on that speed dial?"

Xander shook his head, smiling. "Not how high... how *low.*"


Jack Crow grabbed the ringing phone, brushing the female arm off his chest as he rolled out of bed.

"Crow." He snarled, wiping his eyes. "This better be good."

"Jack. This is Harris, I met you on that..."

"I remember." Jack muttered. He didn't forget people who butted into his Ops. "What do you want kid?"

"Just calling to warn you that you might want to lean away from any operations in New Mexico for a while."

"What? Why?"

"Because I've informed the CIA that some arms dealers are selling specialized ammo using the church as a cover."

Jack's eyes bolted wide open, "What? What the fuck are you talking about, kid?"

"I ran into some Hillbilly's yesterday Jack... packing Vatican issue silver if you get me. They were beating the crap out of a twelve year old girl who happened to be a Lyncanthrope. I don't work that way, Jack... and I know you don't either..."

"Slow the fuck down. Who did what? Give it to me straight."

Jack Crow listened, his grip tightening on the phone as he heard the story. "Motherfucker."

"That sums it up, Jack."

"What did you do, kid?"

"I've sent every contact I have in the FBI and the CIA against these people, Jack. Tell your bosses that if I see this again, I'm going to pay Rome a visit... and trust me when I say, that I don't give a damn what kind of security they have... I can get in."

"What do you want?" Jack Crow sighed, cursing to himself.

"Simple. I want you to tell the dear residents of Darynville EXACTLY why their lives are going to be made into a living hell for the next little while."

Jack nodded, "Alright... I'll handle that."

"Good. Oh, and Jack?"

"What?"

"Go back to bed. You sound awful."


Xander grinned as he hung up the phone and walked back into the kitchen. Valenti noticed the smile. "What's so funny?"

"Just dropped a nuke on an acquaintance, then told him to go back to sleep." Xander replied, "It provided me with a nice mental image of him tearing through his house, cursing up a storm."

Valenti raised his eyebrows, "Right. Remind me to stay off your speed dial."


Jack Crow tore through his house in his underwear, cursing up a storm. "Damn it! Padre! Padre!"

The old priest came out, blinking from his own late night writing reports. "What is it Jack?"

"There's been a fucking pooch screw in New Mexico!" Jack snapped, "Who the fuck is giving the yokels Silver ammo out there!?"

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Some fucking yokels nearly beat a 12 year old girl to death just cause she was a fucking were-jaguar!" Jack snapped, "A 12 year old, Padre! I thought the rules forbid hunting non-hostiles!"

The old priest crossed himself, paling at the words. "I... I don't know..."

"Well you better find out. They guy who put a stop to it knows about out operations! And he's pissed off, Padre." Jack growled. "He's already got the FBI and the CIA looking into that town, Padre... He called me as a fuckin courtesy call! Hell he even sent the goddamned IRS down there!"

The old priest thought fast, "I... New Mexico? I think that's Cardinal Garen's territory..."

"Well get that old moron on the fucking phone!" Jack growled, "And you'd better tell the home office to pull all their people out of that town... FAST."

"Yes... Yes... Of course." The priest moved toward the phone.

Jack stopped him, "Before they leave... Make fucking sure that they inform those yokels WHY this shit is coming down on their heads."

The priest nodded slowly, face still pale. "Alright Jack... alright."


Xander was sitting in the living room with Valenti when Tara woke up and finally wandered out, looking deeply ashamed for sleeping in.

Xander smiled up at her, "Hey Tar, How'd you sleep?"

"O-ok..." She said.

"Good." Valenti smiled also, his rough face beaming at her. "There's some breakfast in the kitchen... why don't you help yourself?"

"No..." Xander got up, "I'll serve it up."

"N-no...! I can get it..."

Xander shook his head, smiling. "Not on your life... This morning, my treat all the way."

Xander walked the mildly protesting girl into the kitchen and served her up a large breakfast plate complete with Toast, bacon, eggs, and juice. He winked at her as he placed it in front of her with a mild flourish. "Voila. The lady is served."

She looked at the table embarrassedly, but thanked him in a whisper.

Xander just shrugged, winked again, and went out to the living room. When Valenti looked up at him curiously he shrugged, "I didn't think she'd get enough to eat if I let her get it herself..."

Valenti nodded, "They did a number on her, didn't they..."

Xander nodded, sighing. "Yeah. But she's strong... She'll pull through."

Valenti nodded, "I think you may be right."

Xander was about the respond when Mikki stumbled out, wiping her eyes tiredly. He smiled at her, "Hungry?"

She nodded.

"Then it's Xander the waiter to the rescue again." Xander joked as he got up and let the little girl into the kitchen.


Later that day Valenti suggested they do some sight seeing and he'd meet them for lunch. After getting three connected rooms at a local hotel, Xander led his little group around the small town. He smiled to himself as they went through the Alien Museum, even grinning wide at some points when he recognized artifacts in the old photos.

<Funny how much stuff is hidden out in the open.> Xander thought. <I wonder if Frank ever... ummm... I mean, will ever come by here for laughs?>

Tara was fascinated, or at least pretended to be, by the accumulated evidence of alien visitations. She even looked longingly at some of the 'genuine out of this world' souvenirs.

Xander sidled up to her, "If you want one, I'dd get it for you... but I have to tell you... they're fakes."

Tara looked at him, smiling weakly as a hint of mischief flickered in her eyes. "Oh? And how do you know that?"

"Because the real thing is a little bigger, and has a couple more buttons." Xander said, smiling almost serenely.

Tara gaped at him, her mouth working a bit as she tried to decide whether he was kidding or not.


They all gather later for lunch at a caf´┐Żcalled the Crash Down.

"Hi, can I get you anything?" A smiling brunette asked brightly.

Xander looked up, smiling as he read her id badge. "Yeah, Liz... a couple cheese burgers, some fries, and two vanilla shakes... that right girls?"

The two girls nodded.

"And for me I'd like a hamburger steak with some onion rings on the side... and give me a large Coke."

"Right... is that everything?"

"Yes, thanks." Xander said after polling the table.

"I'll be back as soon as it's done." Liz promised as she headed back to the kitchen.

Xander looked back to Tara and Mikki, "You two doing ok?"

They both nodded, but neither smiled. Xander suppressed a sigh, knowing that it would take time just to pry basic information out of either of them, and that he shouldn't expect miracles. "Well... We'll be here for a few days... SO I want you two to think about what you want to do now... where you want to go... ok?"

They both nodded, Tara looking at the table and Mikki just looking somber.

Xander forced down another sigh and shrugged, "Well... for now we'll just play by ear... ok?"

"Ok..." They both whispered out almost simultaneously.

Xander blinked in surprise, then beamed widely at them both.

END

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