Author: Katar Hol <silveragent99[at]>

Criticism? As hard as you want.

Try to be specific.

Summary: Sappy Faith/Xander. Sort of. No really.

Rating: PG 13. Adult language. Action.

Type: Romance

Ships: Faith/Xander. Sort of.

Disclaimer: All characters herein belong to Mutant Enemy and Joss Whedon.

Chapter 1

Xander looked at his car. And sighed. The beat up Celica had definitely seen better days. It was an open question if it would even get him to work today. Not the greatest of rides, he thought. Maybe it was the rear bumper, slumping down to one side. Or the paint peeling off the top of the hood, and the trunk. It did match his mood he thought. And his own physical condition. Even the left front headlight was out. Just like me he realized.

Vivica beside him gave a snort. "This car sucks, Alex. Get rid of it for gods sake and get a real car." Vivica did not like his ride. He definitely liked Vivica. What wasn't to like? She was like Salma Hayek, Except slimmer. And taller.

"Hey, it's paid for."

"So pay for another one. A better one." Vivica pouted.

Great, Xander thought. Another fight over his car.

Vivica's cell phone rang. Interrupting the nascent fight. He didn't know if he was happy about that or not. She was talking to HECTOR. He hated him. Tall and smooth and probably married, he figured. Hector was always sniffing around Vivica.

"Hector," Vivica cooed into the phone, turning away from him. She looked up and saw a Jaguar XJ maroon sedan bearing down the street towards her. "Gotta go," she said quickly and hung up, putting her cell phone away, furtively.

The dragon lady approacheth, Xander thought. He shuddered at the idea of Cecilia as his mother in law. Please god, deliver me from evil, he half-thought. The one thing they had in common, he figured, was membership in the "I hate Hector Society."

The Jag pulled to the curb, smoothly and in control. "Get in," Cecilia shouted to her daughter. She was a matronly woman in her mid sixties, heavily made up and elegantly tailored. "We have to get to one of my beauty shops now," she told her daughter. "You're filling in for Jada. She's sick today."

"Mom!" Vivica protested.

"Were you on the phone to that awful Hector again?" Cecilia demanded?

"Of course not," Vivica shouted.

"Then you won't mind helping your mother out," Cecilia stated calmly.

"Hello Alex."

"Hello Mrs. Hernandez." Xander was respectful.

"We'll see you at my house on Sunday." Mrs. Hernandez was firm.

"Of course." He was defeated, he knew, before he started. He'd just have to do what he could. Mrs. Hernandez was on a crusade to get Vivica married off. Hmmm. Hector must be married, he figured. Otherwise Mrs. Hernandez would have had Vivica hitched to him already. She kept her daughter on a real short leash, he realized. He didn't look forward to the same on his neck.

Vivica blew him a kiss as they drove off. He sighed and tried to recollect himself.

"Mr. Harris! Mr. Harris!" His landlady, Mrs. Peevers, shouted down from the landing of the run down rooming house where he lived, in lovely East Los Angeles. Home to more graffiti than anywhere else per capita, the gangs certainly kept the hospital where he worked in business. He idly wondered how many gun shot wounds he'd get today. Sometimes he hated being a nurse, working the ER. The young ones were the worst, the innocent bystanders hit in the crossfire. They were always so afraid. They got to him the most.

Mrs. Peevers looked like she dated from the first Cleveland Administration, and Xander half-believed she was some forgotten demon remnant, aging along with the rooming house. Well, he thought, at least she doesn't want to eat my head.

"Mrs. Peevers?" He moved up to the landing, shouting. Mrs. Peevers was nearly deaf. And tended to mis-hear or misunderstand things.

"You won't forget the front step today Mr. Harris." It wasn't a question. The loose step had been a sore point for her during the last several days.

"Of course not, Mrs. Peevers. I'll fix it when I get home tonight." Xander told her. Why oh why did I tell her I used to work construction, before I became a nurse, Xander wondered. And not for the first time missed his old life. A building went up, it stayed up. People were so hard. They tended to fall down too often. No matter how hard he tried.

"And the railing." Again not a question.

"Of course not Mrs. Peevers." Xander paused. "Did you take your medication today?" His landlady had a heart condition and sometimes got confused, forgot to take her medicine. He had to remind her more than he liked.

"Yes Mr. Harris. I did." Mrs. Peevers nodded. "I'll take fifty dollars off your rent when you finish the railing and the step." Mrs. Peevers tended to focus on his tasks like a laser, once she got started.

"Thanks Mrs. Peevers." Xander nodded. The money helped. And he was half afraid Mrs. Peevers would get taken by a handyman who saw an easy mark in the old lady. Despite her deafness which sometimes caused embarrassment, particularly when his girlfriend Vivica was around, he was fond of her. He still wished he understood why Mrs. Peevers thought Vivica was his sister. He sighed.

"I'll have Peever stew ready." Mrs. Peever told him proudly.

"Thanks Mrs. Peevers," Xander forced a smile. Good god, he thought. The woman's stew was possibly the most vile concoction he'd ever tasted. And considering what Willow had him taste back in the day, that was saying something. He'd have to think of something to get out of it. He still didn't know what was in it. He was afraid to know.

As he walked back to his car, watching Mrs. Peevers carefully and slowly make her way back into the house, he thought about Willow. What in the hell was that phone call, out of the blue, about last night? Willow had been kind of evasive, talking about needing his "specialty," whatever that was. Probably some sort of woodwork. He still had the touch, he thought proudly.

Just as long as Willow didn't pull her into the craziness of Buffy's life. He'd shot his mouth off once too often around one of her boyfriends, and the next thing he knew he was on a plane back to California. Which, the more he thought about it, was just as well.

Girlfriend who wouldn't try to kill him, and was 100% human? Check. And gee wasn't it convenient he even had the blood sample to prove it? Though he wasn't too sure about Cecilia, he thought uneasily. Car? Well OK it wasn't the nicest ride, but hey it RAN. Check. Luxurious accommodations? Well, that last one was a stretch, but it was affordable. And an easy commute. Nobody wanted to live on the East Side. And if he didn't look after Mrs. Peevers, who would?

Hmm, he thought. What's that sound? A van pulled up on his blind side. But he heard it. He turned. And was in shock.

He recognized someone at the wheel. It was ... Vi. Rona was in the passenger side.

"Huh? What?" Was all he could get out.

The side of the van opened up. Willow beckoned him in. "Hurry," she said. He idly noticed Buffy sitting next to Willow, holding a little girl's hand.

"Will. Buffy." Xander wasn't overwhelmed to see them. And hoped neither the neighbors and god forbid Mrs. Peevers saw them.

He moved into the van.

There was a young woman on the cot set up in the back of the van. She looked pretty bad. Her face was one massive set of bruises. As was her upper body and arms. Her left leg looked broken but splinted. She looked like hell. Xander didn't recognize her, but she looked like she was in a world of pain.

Automatically the words came out of his mouth. "It's OK honey. You'll be OK." He looked at Buffy and Willow. And the little girl sitting next to Buffy. She was six years old, he figured. Banged up but not seriously hurt.

He later often wondered what it was, exactly, that hit him. Was it her big brown eyes wide with fear, and not finding any comfort? Was it the tears that had coursed down her face? Was it how *small* she'd made herself, trying to hide from whatever it was?

It didn't matter. All that mattered was that he instantly wanted to protect and care for her. She'd been battered around, he could see the bruises on her arms, and she had a shiner on her face. He remembered what that was like, and all the times he'd lied to Willow about getting beat up. Though that happened too.

"What? Who?" were the only words he'd gotten out. The girl really got to him.

"This is Nicky," Willow told him. "Robin's little girl." She looked at him straight on, eyes telling him what he didn't want to hear.

"Robin? Is he?" Xander asked.

"He wouldn't listen to me," Buffy told him angrily. "I told him but he wouldn't listen."

"Vampire?" Xander asked.

"Yes," came the reply up front from Vi. "Vampire." The word was bitter.

"Who's the woman?" Xander asked, adding to the girl, "It's OK honey. You're safe now."

"Monsters killed my Daddy," the girl spoke. It nearly broke Xander's heart.

"I know honey," he told her. And moved to examine the beaten woman, who seemed to be one massive bruise and set of broken bones. Her breath hissed through her teeth as he checked for bleeding.

"You're a nurse, Xander," Buffy told him. "We need you to look after Nicky and ... " she nodded to the woman who was grimacing on the cot.

"I'm not a doctor, Buffy," Xander protested. "And these two need a real doctor. And a hospital."

"We can get you all the stuff you need, Xander, " Willow told him.

"But the vampire that did this is looking for them," Buffy nodded towards the woman again and the little girl. "So they can't go to a hospital."

Xander's heart sank. Robin was dead. His little girl run through the beating machine. And where the hell was Faith? Buffy was holding back a card or two. If not the whole deck. He suddenly remembered how happy he'd been a few minutes ago. And how unattractive Buffy's life could be. But the girl had a hook on him. He couldn't take his gaze off her eyes. She was so scared. He had to do something.

"Where's Faith?" Xander demanded. "Well?" he asked, as Buffy and Willow just looked at him funny.

"Please help my Mommy," the girl tugged at his arm. "Please!"

"Hey. Xander." The beaten bruise on the cot spit out the words laboriously, the effort costing her.

It was Faith.

He called in sick that day.