I Kill Them!

Xander glared at the man walking toward him in Walmart, looking him over so he could memorize him. "What do *you* want?" he asked the nerdly man in the suit.

"I wanted to talk to you about your daughter," he said calmly. "She could do great things with what she is."

"Yes, and she will, but not for you. If you come near my child again, I'll deal with you," he warned, stepping away from him as he caught sight of a security guard walking toward them. "I'd leave."

"I'm a Federal agent," the man reminded him. "You'd be the one in trouble."

Xander shook his head. "Me father. You idiot." He smiled at the guard. "This man is bothering me, he's making threats about my child and I'm going to kill him," he said.

The guard grabbed the Federal agent and pulled him away. "We've noticed him following you around and I was supposed to check on him. Do you want us to call the police, sir?"

"No, I just want him to go away. The police are my *next* step," Xander told him, glaring at the man again. "Thank you," he looked at the guard's name tag, "Mr. Symthe. I really can't stand it when people threaten my children."

"Not a problem." He dragged the man away, going to have a discussion with him in the security office.

"I'm a Federal agent," he protested.


Xander walked away, heading to the meat department. They needed more steaks, it was almost time for Oz to change again and he always craved steak.


Oz answered the phone, frowning at it. "Xander?" he called, holding it out. "Someone's wanting to talk to you about the guy taking hostages in town that wants you."

"Huh?" Xander asked, walking into the kitchen.

"Some guy is taking hostages in town and wants to talk to you."

Xander took the phone. "Huh?" he asked to the voice on the other end. He listened to the nice police officer then snorted. "He's been trying to kidnap my children. Yes, *that* one, for that very reason." He leaned against the counter, resting his head on the cabinet. "Then shoot him and make me happy," he suggested lightly. He sighed. "Fine, I'll come down. You do have bulletproof stuff, right?" He hung up and turned to find both Blair and Oz standing behind him. Blair had come back up to play with the kids for the weekend and to help Xander with werewolf duty. "The nerdly nerd took all the workmen in Doyle's school hostage," he told them. "He wants me to come down and talk to him."

"They've got bulletproof gear, right?" Blair asked.

Xander nodded. "I asked and he said he'd give me a vest." He grimaced as he looked around the kitchen. "This sucks. It's a trap and I can't figure out how to counter it."

"You let it spring and then you beat the crap out of him," Blair told him. "Can you wait long enough to get Jim up here?"

"Nope. He's going to shoot someone if I'm not there in the next half-hour." Xander pushed himself off the counter and checked himself. "I look okay, right?"

"You look good enough to deal with the insane," Oz agreed, coming over to give him a hug. "Remember to duck if you have to," he whispered. "Be safe and come home."

"I will," Xander promised him, giving him a hard squeeze. "Watch out for the kids." He started for the door, Blair beside him. "Where are you going?"

"With you."

"You have a pregnant wife napping upstairs," Xander reminded him.

"And with any luck, we'll be back before she wakes up and finds out so she doesn't follow us and beat the crap out of this guy," Blair told him, jingling his keys. "Come on, we'll take my car. My vest is in there."

Xander climbed into the passenger's seat and buckled in. "So, you're going to wait outside and feed me the right things to say through a microphone?"

"Yup," Blair agreed, starting the car and backing down the driveway. "And if I have to, I'll be your backup. Won't be the first time."


Xander looked around the new gym space, counting how many people were in there just like the officer who had given him the bulletproof vest had asked him to. "So, guys, Doyle only has you eight working on this monster of a project?" he asked as he walked in. He screamed as a loud squeal went off in his ear. "Not cool," he told the man holding the little black box with the button. "I'm not staying if I can't hear the outside."

"You're not going to leave," he said, raising the gun. "Leave!" he ordered. The workmen ran out of the gym and the building. "Now then, we should have a small discussion."

"I don't think so." Xander looked the man over. "What makes you think you have anything to say that I want to hear?"

"Oh, you'll stay," he said, pointing his gun at Xander. "Or else my people will kill your mate while they take your child." He smirked. "See, I knew I would win."

Xander heard a quiet voice in his ear and sighed. "Man, you have no idea what you're doing. Oz isn't the only adult in the house and the girls will protect themselves."

"Not when we tell them that we have you and if they don't cooperate you'll get hurt."

"You bastard," Xander hissed, stepping closer. The gun was waved. "Yay, shoot me. That's the only way you'll get away with trying to take my children. And even if you kill me, I'll come haunt you until you join me in being dead," he said coldly.

"FBI!" Blair shouted, coming into the room, his gun pointed at the man. "Cuff him!" The cops rushed in and cuffed him.

"Blair, he's going after the kids," Xander said, hurrying as fast as he could to his friend's side. "We've got to get home."

"I heard," Blair soothed. "I already called Sam. They won't get anyone."

Xander gave a significant look up. "It's *that* time, Blair."

"Oh, yes, your *mate*," the rogue agent said. "I'm sure we'll have a *pleasant* time figuring out what makes him tick."

Xander shrieked and lunged for him but one of the cops caught him around the waist and held him back. "He's going after my children!" he screamed. "I'm going to kill him!"

"Not yet," Blair soothed, coming over to take control of Xander. "If you hit him, I'll have to arrest you and you won't be able to go home and make sure your kids are all right." He turned them both so Xander couldn't grab the idiot. "Xander," he tried, trying to keep him calm. "Xander! Stop it," he ordered, sitting them both down. "You can't beat his ass. You can't."

"I can and I will!" Xander shouted after him. "I'm going to kill him if he comes near my kids."

The Chief of Police walked in and looked at Blair. "You need help with him?"

"The guy just said he's got an assault group headed for his house," Blair explained. "He wants to kidnap the kids." The Chief blanched. "Yeah, so he's got a right to be pissed."

"I'll give him ten minutes alone in a cell with the guy if you want."

Blair smiled. "No, I don't think I want to encourage his anger at this point. We're going to go beat the shit out of the people who are trying to storm the farm," he said as he got them both standing. He helped Xander out of the vest and handed it over. "Thanks for the loaner." He steadied Xander on his feet then they left together, hurrying to the car.

The Chief waited until they were gone to look at his second in command. "Wait until they call and tell us it's over, then go clean up the mess." His second in command nodded and left to go give out the orders.


Sam looked up from watching the cage's monitors as she heard the engine on the road. Almost no one lived down the road anymore, so it had to be the people Blair had warned her about. She checked her watch then picked up her gun and chambered a round. She nodded at Homer to take her place and went to the kitchen to watch with Wesley. "Can you handle this?" she asked quietly, turning off the lights in the kitchen to match the rest of the house.

"I can and have before," Wesley told her, reaching back to squeeze her hand. "Don't worry about me, Doctor Waters-Sandburg. I made my first kill to protect this family, another few won't bother me as much as that one did. I even know how to dispose of the bodies profitably now." He smiled at her shudder. "That just proves to me that you're a decent and good woman, Samantha." He looked out the window as a light hit the porch. "I'd say they're here."

"How many?"

"I can hear six heart beats but I may be miscounting."

"That's okay, I've handled worse odds. Where's the kids?"

"Safe," he said as he slipped out of the house and onto the porch, going to stalk a few of the people in the dark camouflage gear. "Got you," he whispered to the first, sinking his fangs into the stiff neck. He felt a dart hit him and pulled it out, turning to give the person who had shot him a smile. "You know, these don't work very well when your heart doesn't pump," he said, dropping the first body. He lunged toward the one with the weapon, snapping his neck. He heard a gunshot and lunged at the second one, taking the opportunity for another snack. It sounded like Sam had everything well in hand.

Overhead, a helicopter was coming toward the farm.

Sam aimed at the man with the gun, but a shot closer to her alerted her that she had been snuck up on. She groaned as she hit the back porch. Then her heart broke when she heard the cruel laughter and the sound of running feet from inside the house. "No," she groaned, grabbing the man's leg as he tried to pass her. She had to stop him from getting into the house. Another person came up and hit her in the head with the butt of his gun, following the first into the house. They both went flying backwards onto the driveway.

Sam came to as the helicopter started to land. About the same time as headlights turned at the bottom of the driveway. She prayed that they were both help and that she wouldn't have to bury anyone she knew. Then she passed back out.

Xander jumped out of the car as the helicopter landed, frowning at the people in black getting out. "They're yours, right?" he called as he headed for the porch. "Blair, Sam's down!" he shouted when he caught sight of her. He grabbed a weapon off one of the people lying on the ground and shot him in the foot, then headed to where his children should be. He hoped he was in time. One of the guys from the helicopter got in his way and he shot at him. "Out of my house!" he yelled, going for him. He knocked the guy down and stepped on him, but the man caught his foot, sending him crashing to the ground. He rolled around, getting away from the firm grip on his ankle, but it wasn't fast enough. The man landed on top of him, then for some reason he stiffened and fell sideways. "Thanks, Dad," he whispered, forcing himself to get up and go help in the fight. He started to feel lethargic, like the air had gotten heavy, but he had to get to the house. If only to release Oz from the cage so he could get free and run away to safety. He made it up onto the porch, where Blair was trying to help his wife. "Heavy," he whispered, then fell down.

Blair dove for him, checking him for injuries. He found the dart and groaned. He set off Sam's emergency button, then his own, and hoped like hell that Jim was being his overprotective self and was only a few minutes away. He grabbed the gun and jumped off the porch, going for the men gathering on the side of the house. The kids weren't in the house so they were going to search the woods for them. "I don't think so," he muttered, taking his shots and knocking out two of them before they figured out where he was and started firing back. He ran away, hoping to lead at least a few of them out of the way. Of course, he headed right to the cage. "Crap," he muttered, punching in the code. He didn't want Oz to die in that cage, but he didn't want to die letting him out either. He punched in the emergency release code a second time, and the door clicked and opened. He got out of the way, opening it so he could shield himself with it. "Oz, they're going after the kids!" he yelled. He heard a growl and a cold nose sniffed at the separation between the wall and the door, but Oz left him alone and went after one of the guys coming around the house. He ripped into the agent's throat and shook him, then ran off into the woods, stopping only to sniff a few times.

Xander woke up slightly and looked up at the roof on the porch. "Daddy?" he whispered. "Help me, Ethan. They're after the kids. They're going to imprison them and make them work for them." He felt a lightening of the drugs coursing through him but he still couldn't move.

Blair took a deep breath and shot another agent, bringing his count up to five now. It'd been a long half an hour and he was hoping like hell that his crew was coming. He really needed Jim and the other strong, killer-type people. He ran off toward the woods, hoping to catch any of the people who had gotten away from him. Maybe he could spare Oz's conscience a few deaths. Overhead, another helicopter was coming in. He made a split decision and headed back to meet them. It had to be his people. Jim ran off the copter first and Blair tossed him the rifle. "We've still got at least an assault group after the kids and Oz, who are in the woods. Sam's lying on the porch with a minor gunshot wound and a head injury. Xander's been tranqed and Wesley is eating a lot tonight," he yelled over the rotors. He gave Bailey Malone, the head over all the VCTF units, a grateful look. "This is gonna be strange, but we've got to find and protect the kids. That's who their after."

Jim grabbed Blair. "How many have you seen?"

"A vanful from what I could see when we showed up, and a helicopter landed and let out at least six more. Wes has killed four, I've gotten five. There's one lying on the driveway and one that crawled back to the van and passed back out. Everyone else ran into the woods after Oz and the kids." Jim looked up and Blair nodded. "He's gotten at least one himself."

"All right," Bailey said, pointing at the woods. "Jim, go track him. Blair, go with him. John, I want you to go get an ambulance and more people up here, *our* people." He stopped as he heard running. "Who's that?"

Jim sniffed . "Vampire. Spike. Guardians of the family and their job."

Bailey nodded. "Take them into the woods if they can handle it. Leave everyone else here to help with cleanup." He headed out with Jim, going to try and help those poor kids. He touched Blair's shoulder. "You're sure Sam's all right? It was only minor?"

"They got her in the thigh, but it wasn't bleeding that badly. I wrapped it in her sweater and tied it tightly. She looked like she had been headbutted with a rifle." Bailey nodded and let him go, both of them running into the deeper and darker woods.

Spike was stopped by John. "Any of you that can stand it, go help find the kids and kill the assholes, but leave at least one living," he said with a grim smile. "Everyone else, cleanup."

"Got it," Cordelia said, pulling out her crossbow. "Coming, Spike?" She headed into the woods, her whole group following her.

"Okay," John said, heading into the house to make sure no one was hiding in there. He noticed the cage monitors were on and said a silent prayer for his own people, and that Oz wouldn't kill them too.


Xander woke up on a hospital bed and groaned, rolling to his side and throwing up. "Well, that's usual," Blair said from the corner. Xander glared at him, then he remembered why he was here, giving him a pleading look. "Calm down, everyone's fine." He opened the curtains, showing him that it was now morning. "We won. All the kids are safe, Spike and Jim found them. Oz only killed two people last night and he seems fine with it." Xander nodded for him to go on. "Sam's fine, I was right about both wounds being minor. We left enough living and they spilled their guts to everyone that would listen, including the press." He smiled. "Everyone downplayed what Miri and the girls can do by the way. Jim made sure of it." Xander laid back and sighed, then he grabbed his throat. Blair walked over to look down at him. "Yeah, you were almost used as a hostage. A guy picked up your sleeping butt and held you by the throat. He's not in good shape at the moment. John and I took great offense to his stupidity."

Xander croaked, then coughed and tried again. "Thank you," he whispered, reaching out for a hug. "Love you."

"You're welcome, Xander," Blair told him, giving him the requested hug. "Oz will be back in about an hour. He had to make sure that the kids were fine again." That got a smile. "He threatened to bring them with him when he comes back." Xander nodded. "Okay, I'll call him and then I'm going to go back to Sam, okay?" Xander nodded again, giving him a faint smile. "Jim'll come sit and glare at the door for you."


"Because the guys said they weren't the only ones," Blair said, sitting on the edge of the bed. "The nerdly nerd, who by the way is named Jones of all things, was just a minor idiot in the chain. The bigger idiots want your kids still. They're willing to kill everyone that they have to get them. We're bringing them down as we speak. Bailey came with Jim and he was *not* pleased." He stood up. "Anything else?"


"Sure. Let me get a glass and Jim will help you with that." He poured some water and said something quietly, bringing Jim jogging. "Here, he wants to drink. I want Sam." He handed over the cup and walked out with a wave.

Jim smiled at Xander. "He's worried about her."

"Me too," Xander croaked. Jim held the cup, letting him sip at the water. "Thanks. Truth?"

"Everyone's fine, Xander," Jim told him, pulling the chair closer. "What Blair told you was right, but we're working on destroying them permanently. They messed with the *wrong* people this time."


"Should be back any time now," Jim soothed. "Why don't you rest and let me worry, okay?" Xander nodded and closed his eyes, wiggling to get comfortable.

A little while later, Oz walked in with the kids, giving Jim a nod. "He okay?"

"He's been awake. His throat's sore." Jim stood up and handed over the cup. "No update yet."

"Hey, you're always welcome at the farm," Oz told him dryly. "We like you guys." Jim snorted and patted him on the back. He helped the kids up onto the bed, watching as they all crowded onto their other father's stomach. "He's really okay?" he asked quietly.

"He's good, Oz. He's even worried about how you took last night."

"A lot better than I would have if the kids had been hurt," Oz sighed. "I remember, Jim, every minute of the hunt."

Jim gave his shoulder a squeeze. "Oz, you did the right thing. You never would have forgiven yourself if you hadn't helped the kids."

"True," Oz agreed, taking the chair. "Are you staying close?"

"Nah, it's time for John to take over for me," he said with a faint smile. "He's been wanting to talk to you again anyway."

Oz nodded. He liked John, he had lived with the guy before he had come home to help Xander with Miri. John was one of the more important people in his life. He settled himself in, watching the kids hug their father as hard as they could. "Guys, let him breathe," he said quietly. "He's sleeping, he'll be up soon and you can hug him then. Just lay there," he said at the sniffling that started.

Jon walked in and smiled at the scene on the bed. "Bet you're glad they're all here, huh," he asked.

"Definitely," Oz agreed, giving him a grateful look. "Tell me everything."

"All right, you asked for it," John said as he sat on the floor, facing the door.


Xander walked onto his back porch and looked around, noticing that there were no signs of the night before's fight. "Oz?" he whispered, holding his throat.

"Sileya and Homer cleaned up," Oz told him, leading him into the house. He stopped and sniffed, nodding Xander back onto the porch. He walked into the living room, glaring at the man lounging on the couch. "You've got six seconds before I rip out your throat," he told the man who was supposed to still be in jail.

The nerdly nerd, Jones, stood up and smiled at him. "You have good friends, I have good friends," he said simply. "Don't think this is over."

Miri screamed and squinted, glaring at the man as she lifted him up and slammed him into the ceiling. "You bad!" she yelled. "You go 'way and never come back!" She slammed him again. "Never, never, never!" each one accompanied by another slam. "Bad you!"

"Honey," Oz said, picking her up and moving her so she couldn't see him. "Let him go. You hurting him is making him want to hurt you more." She growled and tried to get him with her bare hands but her father walked her away. "Jim!" Jim went running past him, going to clean up this mess. Oz walked out and sat down on the porch swing beside his lover, cuddling his daughter. "She's fine."

"Her head probably hurts," Xander whispered, taking her to hug. "You didn't have to," he told her. "We love you and he won't ever come near you again. I promise you that if he does, Daddies are going to do something very mean and bad to him to make him want to run away screaming. Okay?" She nodded and laid her head on his shoulder. "Thank you. We'll get you something for your head in a second, after Jim says it's okay."

"Unclie Jim nice," she said quietly, watching as the man was led out of the house. She made him trip. "Bad you," she hissed. "You go 'way and never come back."

"No," Oz warned, holding up a finger. "You have to let Uncle Jim work on this first. If what he does isn't good enough, then the daddies will go after him. Got it? You're not to act to hurt him anymore unless you're protecting yourself or the other kids."

"Yes, sir," she said sadly. She thought about pushing him again, but Uncle Jim had him in the car now. She had something she could do, and it would make her happy and feel safer. That man would never come back for her. All she had to do was slip away from everyone tonight. She shook herself mentally and went back to cuddling her father. He had big boo-boos, he needed her.


Miri groaned as she was caught again, this time by Uncle Jim and Spike both. They'd caught her each time she had left her bedroom. "Me go outside," she demanded, stomping her foot on the stairs. "Go visit horses. They 'tect me good."

"I know they will, little bit, but you can't go out there tonight," Spike told her, sitting down and putting her into his lap. "It's not safe. We don't know that someone's not out there waiting on you." He patted her on the back and set her back on the stairs. "Go back to your room and that bloody nasty cat of yours."

"No," she said, using her ultimate weapon. They'd wake up in a few minutes. She snuck out, tapping on the side of the house to draw Unclie Doyle to the house. He'd watch over them while she was in the woods. She made it to the side of the barn as Doyle rounded the house and slipped into the woods as soon as she was sure he went inside. She headed right to the grave she visited every few days, sitting down next to the nice carved headstone Daddy had made. "Strifey?" she whispered. "I need Grandpa badly. There's bad guys here and they want me. Daddies are sick because they had to fight. Daddy Oz even bitted people." She touched some of the dirt, feeling a small vibration. "Thank you, Strifey, I knew I could count on you. We need you back. The bad guys would never come if you were still around." She stood up and ran into Auntie Cordy. "I needed to talk to him," she said firmly, not apologizing for what she had done. "I go to bed now."

"Who does that belong to?" Cordelia asked, squatting down to get on her level.

"My Strifey horse. He was special." She nodded a few times. "He was really special. He comes back now and then to play with us."

"Oh." Cordelia picked her up and stood up. "Come on, it's time for you to go back to your room. Maybe you'll dream about him."

"I hope so," she said, looking at the grave again. She saw some of the dirt move and was comforted. There was someone watching out for them again.


Somewhere above the farm, a slim, pale man shuddered and looked at the dark and deadly man beside him. "She asked," he pointed out. He'd been told he couldn't interfere unless someone had asked.

"Yeah, she did," the dark and deadly one said, running his hands through his hair. "Be subtle. We don't need to draw too much attention." The other man disappeared and the dark man looked over at his own child. "This should not have been allowed to happen," he said quietly. "It wasn't just." He walked over to look down in the cradle. He needed the comfort the small body gave him.


Miri woke up as she felt something touch the side of her face. She opened her eyes, smiling at the two ghosts standing beside her bed. "You're back?" she asked hopefully.

"No, sweetling," Ethan told her. "We're not really back, but we will protect you. I had no idea that this had happened already. I promise you, I won't let them come back. I will protect you now that I know it's started." She nodded and he gave her a smile. "Rest easy, Miriam, you'll need your rest. You'll have to watch William tomorrow for a bit." She nodded and snuggled down again, closing her eyes.

Strife bent down and kissed her on the cheek again. "Don't worry, kiddo, I've got it too. Between us, those guys are toast." She gave him a blown kiss and a smile. "You rest. Got me?" She nodded so he tucked her in. Then he turned to look at Ethan. "You didn't know?"

"I was out of touch dealing with the other me that I trapped here."

"Oh. Okay."

"Why didn't you help?"

"Because I was told I couldn't until someone asked," he said with a shrug. "Which sucks shit, but I couldn't buck it. Now that I'm here though, we've got some mischief and distress to sow. You in?"

"Definitely," Ethan said with a cold smile. "I think we can work together quite well in this instance." They disappeared together, leaving the little girl alone.

Miri smiled as she fell asleep, content and feeling safe.


Giles stopped his pacing as his ribs started to hurt again, looking around his apartment in alarm. "Hello?" he asked. He started when the two ghostly figures appeared in front of him. "It's you," he said softly. "I had nothing...."

"We know," Strife told him, giving him a once over. "We need a physical body to act through. You'll be wasted but safe when we're done with ya."

"Ripper, we need you," Ethan put in when Giles didn't agree right away. "The attack was much more serious than what the news said. Miriam has begged us for help and we intend to do so. We need you to help us though. We're bound by the rules to not act directly on this plane."

Giles opened his arms. "Use me if you need to," he agreed, knowing he could do this for his family. It would help him make up for some of the bad things he had done to them.


Blair opened the newspaper and sighed at the whole page story about the attack. One little paragraph near the bottom caught his attention, making him reread it a few times. "Jim?" he called quietly, bringing his friend into the kitchen. He pointed at the section. "Read that and tell me that I'm hallucinating?"

Jim sat down and read the whole article, one eyebrow going up when he read that part. "Nope, not a drug-related incident at all," he reported, handing it back. "Miri snuck out last night."

"She's not capable of that," Blair told him.

"She was found out by her horse's grave," Jim added.

"Oh, crap," Blair sighed. "She was always so certain that her horse was more than just a horse." He picked up his coffee and took a sip. "You think?"

"Blair, with all the strange stuff around here, I never even wonder." He stood up and left his Guide alone, heading back to finish checking his mail so he could catch a nap.

Blair read the whole article this time, skipping over that part. He turned the page to see the end and froze at the final note. "Maybe she was right," he whispered, carefully putting it aside. He would give it to the boys, they could deal with this. It was their sort of thing. He finished off his coffee and stood up, heading out to go get his wife from the hospital.


Xander took the paper Blair handed him as soon as he walked into the kitchen, sitting down as he read the story. "Yay," he said, handing it back. "Dad said he was going to do something about that asshole."

"Watch your swearing," Oz said as he walked in. "Probs?" he asked Blair, who was staring at Xander.

"There's a story in the paper about the kidnapping at Doyle's school and about some gunshots heard in the woods out here."

"And part of it was that the guy responsible was found staked out in his driveway, bloody without any visible wounds, and babbling incoherently," Xander finished.

"And Miri visited her horse last night," Blair put in.

Oz shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised if Spike had something to do with that." He looked at his lover. "Xander, did you get funky Ethan dreams last night too?"

Xander nodded. "Yup. He said he had been too busy with the other him to realize this line had started, but that he was going to deal with it with some help." He shrugged at Blair's hard look. "It was a one-way dream, sorry. Couldn't ask him any questions about what he was doing."

Blair looked at Oz. "Also in the story was the report of a man leaving Jones' house after the lights on the block had went out. Someone near middle age, white, male, dark hair, and wearing a white shirt."

"Oh, hey, Giles," Oz sighed, shaking his head. "Blair, we figured out long ago that it's best if we don't think too hard about those sort of things. If it was Giles or Ethan, than they did it for a good reason. If it was someone Spike sent, then they probably had fun doing it." He shrugged. "If I know, I have to react."

"Point," Blair said, relaxing. "You didn't ask anyone?"

"Just Ethan," Xander admitted. "I remember asking him for help after being darted."

"You sound better this morning," Oz said, coming over to give him a hug. "Did Blair's tea help?"

Xander smiled at their former therapist. "Thanks, Blair, it helped a lot. No more scratchy feeling and no more crawling/itchy feeling either. Just a little sore."

"You're welcome," Blair said, smiling at them. "Personally, I'm starting to see the sense of not knowing about these sort of things." He stood up. "I'm going to go out to the barn."

"Miri's on it today," Oz told him, going over to make breakfast. "Xan, when did you tell the work crew to come back?"

"Tomorrow. Why?"

"Just wondering since Metz' truck is coming up the driveway." Oz watched as his husband got up and walked out, shaking his head at his stubbornness. "That brace isn't enough to help you walk all day," he reminded his lover.

"I'm fine," Xander called as he closed the door, sitting down on the stairs. He'd never tell Oz, but he was sore. He smiled at his boss. "Hey, problems?"

"No, not a one, just wondering why you sent us away for a few days," he said as he sat down beside the young man on the stairs. "Did you know something was going to happen?"

"No, but that guy had followed me around Walmart a few days earlier," Xander admitted. "Stopping work for a few days was something else entirely," he told him, looking over at him.

"Was it what the Shaman was talking about? Bad times of the month?" Xander nodded. "Oh. Happen often?" he asked after a long, quiet pause.

"Every month," Xander agreed, giving him a smile. "What did you want to know?"

"How about when we can really come back?"

"Tomorrow's fine," Oz called out. "Coffee?"

"Please," Xander and Metz called back in unison.

Xander snorted. "That was weird." He shrugged off his uneasy feeling. "Metz, don't worry about it. I've got the strangeness around here covered and I know how best to handle it. I've been dealing with this one a *long* time. I just didn't want the other guys to get a hit by the strange and I thought they might like a few days off instead of changing the hours on the work."

"Oh, they did, but the boss put them on the other site in town to help them catch up." Metz scratched his chin with one of his calluses. "It'll be safe tomorrow?"

"Yup, last of the strange was last night," Oz said as he walked out with two mugs of coffee. "Here." He sat down behind Xander. "It's days like these that you really can't come out until ten or so anyway, which means that you wouldn't get much work done."

"Agreeable," Metz said as he took a sip of his coffee. "Better this time," he said in appreciation.

"Made by Feds who are former cops," Xander said with a shrug and a faint smile.

"They'd know their coffee," Metz agreed, taking another sip. "So, will the stuff from the attack be over by tomorrow?"

"It should be, but we might still have a guard or three," Oz said lightly. "The boss of our guards is actually the wife of our former therapist, who's due in about a month. I think someone's trying to talk her into taking a rest out here while her minor gunshot wound heals."

"It's a very tangled weave of life we live," Blair said as he walked out. "And yeah, if you wouldn't mind, Sam and I could use the relaxation. Jim and John have promised not to blow up the office while we're gone." He smiled at Metz. "And we won't even get in your way if we come down to watch you work."

"Not an issue," Metz said quickly. "You couldn't be worse than the twins, who helped us mix the mortar and put it on the pool's walls." He smiled at Oz. "Nice save there by the way. One or two of the guys was all for hunting down Xander and handing them over after they'd been thoroughly dried."

Oz raised an eyebrow. "I would have made them chip it off," he noted.

Blair patted him on the arm. "I know something to get mortar off people. I worked road crew one summer in high school. Stuff works on tar and mortar." He looked back toward the kitchen. "Xander, can you please not show off today? Sam's feeling really awkward on her crutches."

"Sure," Xander agreed easily. "I'm on my brace again today but I can pick up one of my canes."

"Yes, you will," Oz said firmly. "You're already limping worse than usual. We don't need the muscle cramps again today, right?" he asked when Xander turned and glared at him.

"I'm fine," Xander said clearly and coolly. "I haven't had a cramp in months."

"And we'd like to keep it that way," Oz agreed. He gave Xander a squeeze. "I'm very proud of the way you haven't cramped in months, but now's not the time to get stubborn and pushy with your knee. It's finally starting to heal right so you've got to continue the good stuff until it's as good as it'll get." Xander sighed and shook his head. "Trust me, this is just like you giving up on your cold medicine once your stuffy nose is gone, and then it comes back worse in a week."

"He's got a point," Blair agreed. "Now is the time to be strong and to push ahead with the program, not jump ahead to the end."

"Yeah, whatever," Xander sighed. "Metz, man, they can come back tomorrow and I promise I won't even go do any work today." The crew boss smiled at him as he stood up.

"We'll be back bright and early," Metz said, patting him on the head before walking down the stairs and leaving in his truck. He wanted *no* part of that argument.

Xander turned to look at his lover and his friend. "Really, it's nothing at all like a cold. Yes, I have moved to the next step in my healing process, but that's okay, I'm ready for it."

"No, you were tired of the cane," Oz argued. "Big difference. If you were ready to move to just the brace, you wouldn't have used your cane last week while grocery shopping." Xander slumped a little bit. "I know it's irritating, but you really shouldn't jump ahead. Slow and steady progress means that we won't have to do this a third time, Xander. I'm sure you'd like that, right?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah, I'd like not to have to go through therapy for a third time," he admitted, leaning back into Oz's arms. "And I am tired of the cane, but sometimes I can do without it."

"Then by all means do so," Blair agreed, "but not at the risk of a set-back. I know you don't want to spend a week in bed with your leg propped up again."

"Nope, I don't really like those weeks," Xander said dryly, forcing himself to stand up. "I'll go get my cane."

"Thanks, babe," Oz said quietly, touching him on the outer thigh as he walked past. "You left one in your office."

Xander grumbled but he went in to get his cane anyway, if only to stop the nagging.


Giles looked over at the police officer questioning him and sent a silent plea to the people who had taken over his body to do those abominable things. "Really, I was home all night. Unless I blacked out and did this, there's no way I could have done anything. I was sleeping peacefully in my chair when I woke up around midnight, and went up to my room."

"I see. Do you black out often?"

"I've done it twice in my whole life and the last time I was in my twenties," Giles said stiffly. "And as I wasn't drinking last night, I doubt it would have happened. I fell asleep reading my book and then, when I woke up, I went to bed."

"Someone saw you though," the officer persisted.

"Then put me in a bloody lineup and get it over with," Giles demanded, losing control of his mouth momentarily.

The cop shrugged. "Sure. We can do that. Give me a few minutes to get everything arranged." He left him alone.

Giles relaxed, listening to the voices that were whispering in his ear.

The woman who had seen Giles frowned as she looked at the lineup. "I think it's number three," she said, pointing at Giles, "but it's very hard to tell without the war paint."

"War paint? You never mentioned that in your statement," the cop said, frowning down at her.

"Well, it was rather odd. And now that I think about it, it may not be him. He's not quite as tall as I remember. Yes, yes, the man I saw was taller, just a smidge but taller." She looked at the officers. "It's not any of them," she said firmly. "Now, may I please go home, my grandchildren are coming over and I have to clean up the living room."

"Of course," another officer said smoothly, leading her from the room.

The one officer laid his forehead against the wall as he touched the intercom button. "You're free to go," he announced. He couldn't watch as the men filed out. He *really* had wanted to get those freaks and stop them. The chief came in a few minutes later. "She said it wasn't him," he said simply. "No war paint and not tall enough."

The chief patted him on the back. "Some powerful people are guarding them guys, maybe you should give it up. They've done some really good things."

He turned to look at his boss. "And as long as they're here, the strange things will keep happening!"

"No, they're here to control it," the chief said calmly. "I had a long talk with the Sheriff, who had a talk with them about what they do. They protect people like you and me, normal ones, from the strange stuff. This time, it came for them in a more permanent way and it caught some other people."

"Feds?" the cop snorted.

"Nah, you've got to know their history. One of the Feds, that pretty boy, was also their therapist. His wife heads the unit and she's a shrink too. They're working against serial killers and the like. Real helpful and nice sorta people actually."

"So they've got *two* shrinks? Figures."

"Nah, not anymore. *Used* to be their therapist. That one boy's anyway, the one with the body problems." The cop opened his mouth then shut it and nodded. "Anyway, they work with cops, took the best cops they could find and formed this unit of theirs. There's 'nother one in Atlanta. Their boss was up here dealin' with that assault the other night." He shuddered. "Scary guy. Used to be some greater sort of Fed from what I could tell."

"So they're guarding us from the bad guys?" the cop asked, looking confused.

"Yeah, they all do. That's why they're here. That's why those Feds help them so much." He clapped his man on the back. "Going after them, even their ex, will probably create more problems for us normals. I'd rather not have that."

"Me either," the cop admitted. "I'll go file this as 'it happened and no one's saying anything'. That's where we stick all the other ones like this." He left the room, going to do his duty and forget all about this incident. Cases like this cost people their sanity and their jobs.