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By the licking of my thumbs

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This story is No. 2 in the series "One beautiful morning". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Xander Harris, The African Explorer, meets another African Explorer

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Xander-Centered > Pairing: Luna Lovegood(Current Donor)vidiconFR1816,2735307,33113 Oct 1213 Oct 12Yes
Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta’s on this, Letomo and Cordyfan

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Telepathy: %Who’s that in my mind?%

I own neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter.

By the Licking of my thumbs

Ghana, Ivory Coast

Xander Harris looked out across the hilly country of Northern Ghana, taking in the routes available to him through the thick forest of the Eastern Guinean Jungles. He was dressed in khaki and standing in a Range Rover, a pair of binoculars to his single eye and machete at his back. A satellite phone sat, dish by its side, in the back of the car.

He lowered the binoculars and glared at the phone, then sat down and drove off, his wheels ripping up the dirt road. “Bitch,” he muttered, growling. “Still doesn’t think I can do anything, help. Bitch.”

He thought back to the phone conversation earlier that morning. *The gall of that bitch!*  he swore internally. *First she tries to block me from going to Africa, then she tells Giles she doesn’t trust me to do my job, doesn’t think I can do it, then she calls me! Calls me out of the blue to wish me luck and to be careful!*

He remembered how Giles had told him before he’d left that Buffy had certain reservations about his being able to deal with the problems of setting up the African House, of finding African Slayers. But that he, Giles, had full confidence in him.

He’d also hinted that once Xander was tired of Africa, he might get an assignment in Australia or back in the States, far away from Buffy and possibly even Willow.

Xander smirked at the memory of Giles taking off his glasses and telling him quite bluntly that if he picked up a woman, he should cast a spell to identify her species. It had been embarrassing at the time, but now he could grin about it. And the small book of spells Giles had pressed on him, with a very Ripperish look in his eye, had certainly been useful. Xander wasn’t the greatest wizard in the world, not by a long shot, but he had a small amount of power and a little talent, mostly at messing up. But what he had was enough to keep the mosquitoes off him and to know what sort of things he was facing. That Giles had told him to practice every night and that if he slacked off he, Giles, would personally find out about it and make him learn Aramaic, had sorta warmed Xander’s heart.

Which had needed it, because it had frozen upon hearing Buffy’s opinion of him. And then he’d reported in, to say that he was going into the back country, to check upon a rumour about a possible Slayer, and she’d called him. As if there was nothing between them but happy-happy and joy-joy.

Xander gritted his teeth. He admitted that he’d made a mistake when he voted to kick Buffy out of her house. Okay, he admitted it to himself. He’d never actually apologized to Buffy. But he still felt betrayed that she didn’t trust him more. He gunned his engine and tore down the dirt track, ignoring the dust clouds and racing through the wilderness, heading straight for the area where the drunken demon in Accra had told him there lived a girl of exceptional strength.

******

Northern Ghana, several days later

The hill country was rugged and lonely. The village he was looking for, using a small tracking charm Willow had provided him with coupled with as good a map as existed of the area and a compass, still eluded him. Xander wearily set up his tent, thinking of his friends. *Or are they still my friends? Willow was pretty absentminded the last time I spoke with her. Buffy thinks I’m useless and Dawn?* Xander gritted his teeth and pulled the tent pole and canvas up and towards him. He could have taken a lovely lightweight tent, but he preferred slightly more rugged versions that didn’t quite fall apart when an African bramble ran up against it.

The man who’d sold him this one assured him this one could survive an assault by a rhino.

Xander swore as the canvas slipped and fell. “He might also have told me the stupid thing needs two people to set it up,” he muttered. He hooked the ring on the canvas back onto the point of the tent pole and started again.

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The next morning Xander tried to fold up his camp bed. It seemed intent upon closing upon his fingers, arms, ankles and whatever other extremity came into contact with it. As he leant down to study it the evil thing even tried to close upon his neck.

Xander glared at the innocent looking object and then decided to pack up the rest of his camp first. His cooking and sleeping gear, the mosquito net, the tent, everything was packed and stowed away. The camp bed stood alone and defiant in the small clearing and Xander approached it warily. Suddenly it jumped up, and scampered away into the bushes.

Xander blinked. “What the…” He drew his machete from his back, tested the edge lightly, felt to see if his .44 Magnum was at his side, the swift reload cartridges ready. The silvered dagger was hanging at his other side and three others made of different alloys and metals were elsewhere on his body. “Right. Let’s go see what’s going on here.”

He carefully entered the bushes, weapons at the ready. There was his camp bed. It was standing, enticingly, in a small clearing next to the larger one he had camped in. He’d explored it the previous night and thought it most likely had been used by some sort of ruminant to give birth. He looked around cautiously.

“Okay. If this is someone’s idea of a joke, I’m not laughing. Willow?”

Only the chirping of a cricket greeted him. “Right. Okay. Here I come,” Xander hefted the machete and took a step towards the camp bed. It moved, it’s folding legs scraping on the hard-baked ground.

“Oh no you don’t!” Xander growled and jumped at the bed, machete at the ready.

“That won’t work, you know,” A dreamy, breezy voice with a definite Gilesian accent said from behind him.

“Who’s there? Where are you?” Xander spun round, hand on the butt of his revolver.

“I’m Luna Hecate Lovegood. And right here.”

Xander watched in amazement as a girl stepped out from behind a bush. She wore the outfit of a traditional, nineteenth century lady traveler, pith helmet, wide skirt, sensible boots. None of that really surprised him. What did surprise him was the colour scheme and the fact that despite that colour scheme he’d not seen her before. The pith helmet was brilliant neon green. The boots were red. The wide skirt was a deep, iridescent blue. And the shirt…

Xander grinned. *A Hawaii shirt. Cool.*  Mindful of Giles’ orders he muttered the spell that would reveal any non humans as such and looked at the girl again.

She frowned at him. “That wasn’t very polite you know. You could just have asked if I was non-human or part human. And even then it’s fairly useless, not all demons want to harm you. And others are only dangerous at certain times.”

Xander smiled. “Well, several times almost eaten, so I’ll hope you’ll forgive me. Might I ask what you’re doing here?”

Luna sat down, tailor fashion. “Looking for Crumple-horned Snorkacks and various other creatures,” she answered. “And who are you? And what are you doing here?”

Xander hesitated. “I’m Xander who-admits-to-no-middle-name Harris. I’m… exploring.”

“Exploring? Just wandering about with a goal or target? Or exploring as in trying to locate the source of the Nile?” Luna asked.

Xander smiled. “A bit of both. What are Crumple-horned Snorklebacks?”

“Snorkacks,” Luna corrected him gently. “Wonderful magical creatures,” Luna declared brightly. “My father is certain they originated from Sweden, but I’ve come to the conclusion they’re actually migratory and I think they spend part of the year in Africa,” Then her face fell slightly. “But I can’t find them.”

“Ah,” Xander intoned wisely. “So do you know what’s wrong with my camp bed?”   

“Oh yes, it’s inhabited by an Anansi demon,” Luna told him airily.

“Anansi? Like the Spider-trickster?” Xander eyed the camp bed suspiciously.

Luna nodded happily. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

“Wonderful. Right. Sure. It tried to bite me,” Xander pointed out. 

“It has no teeth. At most it could have compressed itself upon your neck and slowly and painfully strangled you to death,” Luna replied, in a matter-of-fact but still quite cheerful voice.

Xander had to grin. “Yeah. Or that. So, how do I get my bed back?”

“Well, that’s easy. We have to soothe it until it’s not expecting it and then we tickle the demon out, capture it in a bottle and negotiate for its release,” Luna explained.

“Right. Easy. So how do we soothe it?” Xander asked, trying to hide his skepticism.

Luna smiled. “Know any stories?”

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*It’s strange how quickly you can get used to person’s weird little personal habits if you’re thrust into close quarters with them. Well, or accept their presence in your tent,* Xander mused as he watched Luna use her ‘wand’ in intricate motions and Latin-sounding incantations to ward out a variety of creatures she assured him would prey upon them during the night if she didn’t.

But he had to admit that her method of dealing with the Anansi demon had worked. Her stories had calmed the thing and the judicious application of some warm condensed milk and rum had put it to sleep, allowing Xander to perform a minor exorcism. His camp bed was now merely animated by the usual perversity of the inanimate.

Luna hummed as she finished her ‘incantations’. Xander smiled as she started to lay out her own bedroll. She’d cheerfully thrown her scanty gear into the back of his Land Rover and proceeded to talk his ear off. Questions about driving, the car, America, California, everything. She bubbled with a sort of inner joy, curiosity and light that illuminated his own battle-weary soul. From what he could gather she wanted to study the magical creatures she was sure existed and Xander was equally certain didn’t. But he didn’t have the heart to tell her.

It was a bit like Anya’s constant talking about sex, the way Luna spoke of Nargles, Whifflers and Snorkacks.

Xander had watched Luna cast her spells yesterday too. Shocked at seeing she had no tent he had invited her into his. She’d cheerfully accepted and spread out a bright purple blanket she’d taken from her tiny backpack on the canvas floor. His offer to take his camp bed had been refused.

He wasn’t quite sure if she’d known that the thing would fold in on itself after a few hours, trapping him within its wood and canvas confines, from which she’d laughingly liberated him.

He was a little sad that she might come to realize that there really was magic and that there were magical creatures but that they weren’t as full of fun and joy as Luna’s image of them.

“There, all done,” Luna smiled happily.

“Oh, good,” Xander blinked, realizing he’d been focusing a bit too much on Luna’s shapely backside as she performed her ritual. “What will they keep out?”

Luna sank gracefully into her usual position, tailor-fashion on the floor and tucked her wand behind her ear, adjusted her necklace made of champagne corks and started ticking off on her fingers. “Well I put up multiple wards. Anti-apparition and Muggle-repelling wards, a Notice-me-not-charm, Generic Anti-Demon charm, anti-vampire charm and a charm to ward off mosquitoes and various other bugs. Oh, and one against jungle pixies.”

“Errr, okay,” Xander blinked. “Met many vampires have you?”

Luna’s cheerful smile fell of her face. Her hair seemed to go limp and her bright blue eyes darkened with memories. “Three.”

*Oh, shit. She does know about the supernatural,* Xander swore internally, rose from his folding chair and knelt by the suddenly drooping girl. “Shhh, I’ve got you. Don’t worry.”

“I thought they were just, you know, vampires. I’d met Sanguini. He came to my school. He was all pale and kept looking at our necks hungrily. A bit sad really. B-but R-Riddle had one in his dungeon…” Luna seemed to be lost in her dark memories.

Xander’s mouth hardened as he held the now shaking Luna. “You don’t need to tell me what happened Luna. I understand.”

Luna sobbed and hid her face in his shoulder. “I was so frightened, Xander!”

Xander rubbed his hands in circles over her back, making shushing noises, letting Luna cry and beat out her anger and her grief. “I know, I know. Vampires are monsters.”

Luna sniffed. “He bit me. He drank my blood,” she gestured at the scars on her neck, so faded that Xander could barely see them. “B-but the vampire wasn’t the worst,” she looked up, eyes blazing. “Men, Xander. Humans, us. We are as evil, or more evil than any magical being or creature. Because we ought to know better.”

Xander looked mulish. “I don’t know, I think vampires are pretty bad. I know men can do terrible things, but vampires? In a class of evil all of their own.”

Luna shook her head. “Are you sure of that, Xander? Have you truly seen the evil in men’s hearts? What about the hypocaust?”

“Holocaust. Yeah, okay, that was bad,” Xander admitted.

“And I heard Hermione talk about all those dictatorships,” Luna continued, her voice hard. “And the-”

Xander put a finger to her lips. “Yeah, I know. Lots of evil men. I met some really evil men. Lots of misguided men. But I’ve met lots of vampires and only two of them were even passably acceptable. Some of the time.”

Luna sighed, her anger spent. It was replaced again by her tears and she sobbed in Xander’s arms until she was cried out and fell asleep.

****

Waking up with a warm body in his arms was nothing new to Xander. With Anya they were usually surrounded by the smell of sex. Luna smelled slightly of flowers, and tears. Her necklace of corks poked into his chest.

He felt her stir and then she blinked awake, her large blue eyes meeting his brown ones. “Good morning, Xander.”

Xander smiled down at her. “Good morning, Luna.”

Luna quirked a smile at him. “Will you tell me now what you are really doing here?”

Xander hesitated. *Okay, she had some bad experiences with vampires and humans. She thinks she can do magic… Hmmm. I forgot the repellent last night and I’ve got no mosquito bites… Maybe she can do magic.*    

He sighed. “It’s not really my secret to tell,” he admitted. “I can’t just tell someone I just met in the jungle, no matter how much I like them.”

Luna nodded. “I understand. I was in the War, I know how it is.”

“War? What war?” Xander asked confused.

Luna pushed herself up against his chest. “The Second War against Voldemort! What else?”

Xander shook his head. “Never heard of it. Can you tell me?”

Luna looked uncertain. “I-I…” She nodded, her lower lip and chin trembling. “Yes. I and-and I will. I should talk about it. If I don’t, the Framjurls will congregate around me and my brain will rot with only bad thoughts.”

Xander nodded. “Okay. I don’t know what Framjurls are, but that sounds nasty.”

Luna nodded so empathically her cork necklace bobbed. “It is, and they are,” She took a deep breath. “Okay. It all started when Harry Potter came to Hogwarts-”

“Harry who? And that sounds nasty, is it a disease?” Xander asked.

Luna rubbed the side of her nose. “Ah. Hmmm. Xander, you’ve never heard of Harry? Or Vol- Riddle?”

“Nope,” Xander admitted cheerfully. “But the number of things I’ve never heard of is so humongous you could use it to fill up the ocean.”  

Luna giggled. “Okay. Then we’ll start at the beginning,” she drew her wand from the tangle of her hair and sighed at the mare’s nest that her long blond locks had become.

“I can brush that for you,” Xander offered. “I’ve got lots of experience brushing girls’ hair.”

“No, thank you. I’ve got it,” she gestured with the wand. “Tergeo Capili!”

Xander gaped as her hair straightened and took on more volume and shape, flowing round her head and shoulders for a few seconds before settling into a wavy curtain around her shoulders.

“There. Normally I prefer using a brush but this is faster,” Luna told Xander. “Shall we make breakfast? We can talk then and during the drive. Wherever it is that you need to go.”

“You can do magic,” Xander whispered. “With a wand!” He grinned. “Willow’s going to be really annoyed.”

“Who’s Willow?” Luna asked.

“A frie- Someone I know,” Xander replied tersely.

Luna just nodded, thoughtfully. “I see. Well then. Wizards and Witches have been hiding from Muggles-”

“What does that word mean? You said you had put up a Muggle-repelling charm yesterday?” Xander asked.

“People who can’t do magic,” Luna explained.

Xander’s face tightened. “And you call them Muggle? And is it a good thing to be a Muggle compared to being a wizard or witch?”

Luna opened her mouth to reply. Then her usual airy expression became grave and a slight flush rose up her face. “No. It isn’t. It’s really rather offensive, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Rather,” Xander confirmed. He leaned over and touched her shoulder, pained by her guilt-ridden and woebegone expression. “It’s not your fault. You were never told, helped to understand.”

Luna nodded, her eyes sad. “I’m just as bad as any Pureblood,” she mourned. “Why didn’t Hermione tell me? Or Harry?”

“Hermione? And I assume this Harry is Harry Potter? Know what, just begin again,” Xander said.

Luna bit her lip. “What word should I use? Instead of Muggle?”

Xander shook his head. “I don’t know. NMP? Non magical person?”

“I’ll try. I may slip up sometimes,” Luna admitted. “I-I‘ve used it my entire life.”

Xander nodded. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re willing, that counts for a lot. So. Witches and wizards…” he prompted.

“Have been in hiding for centuries,” Luna continued. “NMP’s,” she smiled slightly, “Have wanted to use them and their talents for centuries. They were jealous and, well, rather nasty about it.”

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Once Luna was done with her tale Xander sat silently in the driver’s seat. He’d pulled over when Luna had gotten to the part where the Death Eaters *My God, what a ridiculous name,* he thought, that had caught her and held her in the dungeons below Malfoy Manor. He’d held her while she sobbed again.

He’d seen her regret at the fact that the young man she’d worked with so hard at Hogwarts had told her they never could be more than friends, but her acceptance of the fact as well. He’d seen her anger when she told him that many Death Eaters had escaped justice, this time not by bribery or blackmail but by being physically absent, unfindable.

Several of her friends were looking for them but even the most powerful spells couldn’t locate the terrorists.

Xander looked at his hands, gripping the steering wheel until his knuckles whitened. *Willow. Willow could probably find them, pierce any shield that they can erect. From what she told me of what these people can do Willow’s magic is different. But she’s way more powerful, I think. But would Willow help?* he snorted. *Of course she would. She might not like me very much anymore, but she’s still Willow.*

“I have an… acquaintance… who might be able to help,” he began.

“Do you have any friends? It doesn’t sound like it,” Luna asked, her voice still scratchy from the crying she’d done.

Xander opened his mouth to reply and then sighed. “It’s a long story.”

“Tell me. You know more about me than anyone else. Thi-things I never told anybody,” she swallowed. “You can trust me, Xander.”

Xander looked aside, then back at the road. “Yeah. I think I can,” he was silent again. Then he started to talk, in a rather hesitant voice. “So it began when I was sixteen. There was this blonde girl walking up the steps to the school…”

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The next morning

“You are an idiot, Xander Who-admits-to-no-middle-name Harris!” Luna told him after he had finished his story. She’d gone to bed, and finally fell asleep in his arms again. But she had been pensive, and apparently had now come to a decision.

Xander winced. He still wasn’t sure if Luna was joking or if she seriously thought that was his middle name, but it was getting close to the point where he was ready to get his passport out and prove to her what his middle name really was.

Though that was really no guarantee. She’d fastened onto the name like a leech. She loved the sound of it. Xander had to admit it did have a certain musical quality the way it tripped off her tongue.

“Okay, what did I do?” Xander asked wearily.

“Not enough. Do you really think that after everything that happened you’d get away without apologizing? So your friend Buffy thinks you’re not adult, not responsible enough to deal with being in charge of Africa. Have you shown any maturity? Have you walked up to her and said, “Buffy, we need to talk. We’ve hurt each other badly over the years, and here’s a list and I’m gonna apologize for each and every one of these things? And then I’d like to talk about the things you did to hurt me?” She glared. “Have you?”

Xander opened his mouth. Then closed it. “It’s not that simple.”

“Why not? Isn’t it true? You’re still angry with her for not accepting you as a boyfriend. For preferring a v-vampire over you. And yes, that’s not the smartest thing for any girl, let alone the Slayer to do. B-but even Hermione fell for Lockhart,” Luna blushed slightly.

Xander grinned. “Had a little crush on teacher yourself, didn’t you?”

Luna raised an eyebrow. “Can I say Miss French? Miss Calendar? Mrs. Summers?”   

Xander huffed. “I did not have a crush on…” his voice trailed off as he noted the amused and disbelieving look in Luna’s silvery eyes.

He shrugged sheepishly. “Okay, maybe a little crush. How d’ya know?”

Luna smiled. “I could tell, the way you talked about them. I had a crush on Harry and I thought I really loved Neville. But he was probably right and very wise and honest when he told me that he didn’t think that we would work as a couple. But I do think you and Buffy and Willow should talk. And soon. And not yell. Well, maybe a little. Yelling can be very cathartic.”

Xander chuckled. “Glad to hear it, we do plenty of it,” then he glared at the road ahead. “I wish that I knew where to find this Slayer. I’m really getting worried. Some of these distant villages can be less than tolerant.”

Luna frowned. “Hmmm, I seem to recall…” she took out her wand and gestured, and intricate, beautiful yet harsh series of wand movements. “Invenio Venatrix.”

A soft green glow surrounded the carved piece of wood and then the light grew harsher and brighter. It seemed to hesitate and stutter and then a small ball of green light with a red core shot away from the wand and hovered in front of the car.

“I think that will take us to the nearest Slayer. What with there being more than one now. I hope it won’t go looking for your friend Faith. She’s the last Slayer who was truly called, after all.”

Xander noted that she stressed friend again. *Okay, she’s really serious about this. She gets pretty scary when she’s serious, rather hot, really,* he whimpered and nearly banged his head on the wheel as he realized he was at the very least developing some sort of crush on Luna. “Okay. So I just follow the pretty lights?”

“Yes, it should take us right to her. I hope. This wasn’t a spell I studied much. I didn’t think the Slayer would appreciate my showing up and just asking about how her life was. I thought she’d have better things to do,” Luna smiled sadly.  

Xander looked thoughtful. “Actually, I think it might have done them good. Though I don’t know how Kendra would have reacted to having a girl appear in her room swinging a stick.”

Luna smiled. “Follow the light, Xander Who-admits-to-no-middle-name Harris.”

“Would you please call me Xander, Luna?” Xander begged. “Pretty please with sugar on top?”

Luna tapped her wand to her lips. “I’ll consider it, Xander Who-admits-to-no-middle-name Harris. Once you’ve started to make up with your friends.”

Xander sighed. “Will you call me Xander if I promise I will call Willow and Buffy as soon as we get back?”

Luna gave him a look. “Pinky promise?” she held out her hand, little finger extended.

Xander blinked and then hooked his pinky in hers. “Pinky promise. I’ll call Willow and Buffy as soon as we get back.”

Luna smiled. “Good. It’s a bad thing when friends fall out.”

Xander looked at his hands again. “Yeah. Yeah, it is.”

********

The little green ball of light danced and swung in front of the hood of the car, happy and oblivious to its surroundings. To Xander it looked a little like its creator, who was slumbering in the seat beside him. He cast an occasional glance in her direction, as she slept and started awake and slept again, oddly flattered that she trusted him so much with all that had happened to her. A fluttering of eyelashes, as small smile and then she’d nod off again.

Luna whimpered. Xander wondered if he should wake her, his eyes on the road and the ball of green light that mercifully followed it. He heard a small sucking noise. Luna had put the tip of her thumb in her mouth and was sucking it. Xander almost closed his eyes. It was the most innocent, the most sensual, the most incredible sight he’d ever seen.

He sighed. It was going to be a long drive, and an even longer drive back. He adjusted his pants a little and followed the little green light.

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Ambangwe village, Upper Ghana

Like most of the villages they had passed through and by in their journey this one was not very attractive, being partially constructed of local materials and partially of modern ones, like corrugated iron roofs and half-baked bricks. What made it even less attractive in Xander’s mind was the presence of a large cage with a small girl in it. A small, naked, beaten girl, huddled in the corner, crying. She couldn’t have been more than nine, if that.

There were four men around the cage, jeering and poking her with sticks. The broken ends of sticks littered the cage and the men kept a considerable distance from the girl. Obviously they had learned the hard way that she was not to be taken lightly.

A man wearing what Xander, after encountering a few of them since he’d come to Africa, mentally described as ‘standard idiotic shamanic get up’ was standing by, singing, dancing and chanting.

He gritted his teeth and lowered the binoculars, blinking his one eye and thinking. Most villages and tribes were accepting of Slayers, even if they realized that their presence meant that some great evil was coming. Xander had to talk a lot, explain a lot, for them to realize that there was more than one slayer now, that taking away the one they had was not going to harm them. It was quite obvious that was not going to be the case here. These people saw the Slayer, this girl, as something frightening, something evil. Or in the case of the shaman who was leading them, as something to be used.

Xander sighed and walked to the car, digging through the back to find his weapons. Luna sat on the ground looking up at him as she checked his shotgun.

“You are going to fight them,” she stated quietly.

“I’m preparing to do so. I’m hoping I don’t have to,” Xander explained.

“Is it more important to get the girl or to punish those men for what they did?” Luna asked.

Xander stopped as he a was about to crack the shotgun to double check it was loaded and looked at the blonde. He opened his mouth. “I-I don’t know. Seeing her like that, it makes my blood boil.”

“Mine too. But if we go in there with wands firing, won’t there be a risk of injuring her? Or that they injure her before we can save her?” Luna inquired.

Xander sighed. “We can’t do nothing. I see no other option.”

“I can apparate into the cage, grab her and be out of it in less than half a minute, if it is only to here. You could deal with those who follow, or see us,” Luna rose. “It will be less risky.”

“Apparating. That’s teleporting right? Willow can do that but it tires her out tremendously,” Xander mused. “Sure you can do it with two people? Willow almost collapsed when she did it with four, and she’s very powerful.”

Luna nodded. “I’d never side-along with more than one person. I can do it. It’s easier with this new wand.”

“Yeah, Willow will want to look at that,” Xander smiled. “If you’ll let her.”

Luna’s eyes widened. Her fingers slackened and she almost dropped her wand. “Merlin… she can Apparate four people without a wand?” she whispered. “You-you were really serious when you said she could have destroyed the world…”

“Yeah, afraid so,” Xander answered seriously. A wail from below made him wince.

Luna frowned, turned on her heel and disappeared.

Xander whirled. He saw Luna appear in the cage, grab the girl, turn again and then she was back by the Landrover, stumbling slightly. She put an arm around the girl and gestured at Xander to hand her a blanket. “We can deal with them later. First we get her out of here,” Luna ordered as she wrapped the girl in the thin wool, waving her wand to remove the blood and dirt from the young Slayer’s skin.

Xander nodded, helped Luna load the girl in the car, and drove off, as fast as he could on the bad roads. *Okay. Now I need to find a way to make those bastards pay.*  

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The girl was called Joyce. It had shaken Xander badly. She had been named ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ by her devout parents, who had rejoiced in her birth. The activation of her Slayer Powers had convinced them she was possessed by a demon. The local priest had wanted her to be examined by a doctor, but a witch-doctor had arrived before he could convince them. The witch-doctor had told tales of the ‘Strong Girl’ stealing the masculinity and virility of men to power her own abilities.

The other men in the village had immediately taken action and locked her up. Her parents and siblings had quickly fallen in with it. Joyce had been locked in the cage, with minimal food and water, for two weeks when Xander and Luna appeared. She would have been sacrificed to transfer her strength to the men of the village, and the witch-doctor, at the next full moon.

Xander very dearly wanted to go back and use his shotgun on the man’s manhood. As far as he could see the only positive thing was that Joyce had not been sexually assaulted, all the men being far too frightened she would rob them of their virility.

She was sleeping now, sated by the food that Luna had prepared, rolled in the blanket, cuddled up against Luna. Luna was sleeping too. Xander stood watch. There had been cars in the village, backward though the inhabitants had been. He didn’t want to be surprised by them and allow Luna and Joyce to fall into their hands.

He heard the engines clearly in the quiet night. It sounded like an old truck and another smaller car following. He rose. He saw Luna’s eyes open and her hand, the one holding her wand, appeared over the blankets.

The cars stopped. Loud, drunken voices sounded, and laughter, boisterous laughter. The sort of laughter men produced who were frightened and had fanned the failing flames of their courage with liquor.

Luna gently disentangled herself from Joyce, who whimpered and crawled under the blanket, hiding. Luna’s eyes hardened. “Have you ever killed a human, Xander?”

Xander nodded, his hands seeking out and finding his weapons and ammunition. “Yes. I don’t like it, but I will protect my Slayers.”

“Good. Then let’s do this,” Luna stated quietly. She looked at him. “But don’t forget, Xander, that we are the side of Light.”

Xander opened his mouth to ask what she meant. Then he remembered the thoughts he’d had about the shaman. And how during an earlier expedition, it had taken one man who had killed a Slayer very long to die. He closed his eyes and swallowed. “Yeah. You’re right. I need to remember that. Thanks, Luna.”

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It hadn’t been pretty. Death, violent death at least, never was. What was left of the men of the village lay scattered in the road or had fled into the jungle, screaming, chased by whatever images Luna had conjured up and trying to escape the hail of bullets Xander had unleashed upon them.

It was bad, Xander knew, but he was quite cheered by the fact that the shaman had died clasping what had been left of his balls and calling for his mother. He looked at Luna. She was as pale as a sheet and holding onto Joyce. She looked up at Xander, her eyes haunted. “Did we do the right thing, Xander? Did we? These men are dead because of us? They’re dead, Xander. We gave them no chance.”

Xander looked at her, and then himself. He was covered in blood and gore. Luna was less spattered, but still the evidence of violent death clung to her. He closed his eyes, listening to the soft dying whimpers of the men scattered on the ground around him, their life’s blood and breath escaping. “I think we had to, Luna. They wouldn’t have had mercy on us, or on Joyce. Sometimes, sometimes we have to do things we’d rather not, things we despise doing,” he opened his eyes again, looking into her eyes. “It was us or them Luna. They had stopped being men and had become beasts. As long as we don’t do the same… As long as we remember we are on the side of the light and what that means, we can do what has to be done.”

Luna hugged the trembling little Slayer in her arms. “You’re right Xander. You’re right.”

She looked at the corpses and started to make gestures with her wand, changing them into sticks, removing the blood from the road with quick spells and finally changed the car into a boulder. Xander stood gaping at her. “Wow, that was really… LUNA!”

He caught her just in time as she collapsed into a dead faint.

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Luna woke to the smell of coffee and a soft humming. A child laughed delightedly and Luna decided that was a good sign. She opened her eyes and saw Xander, knife in hand, carving a piece of wood into a doll’s head. Joyce was looking on and smiling, her hands behind her back, clearly having been told not to touch Xander while he was working.

Deft flicks of the knife gave the little wooden face expression. Even without any paint or dye, it was remarkably life-like.

Luna laughed from sheer, simple joy. Xander’s knife slipped and hit his thumb. “Ouch! Dammit!” He stuck the injured digit in his mouth, sucking it.

Luna was beside him in an instant, face apologetic, “I’m sorry Xander, I wasn’t thinking. Here, let me,” she pulled at his wrist.

Xander shook his head. “No, you used too much magic yesterday. You’re exhausted.”

Luna smiled at him enigmatically, then lifted his other hand, took the knife and put it down and took his thumb, then licked it gently. “Some magic, Xander Who-admits-to-no-middle-name Harris, needs no wand.”

 

 

 

 

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