/// = flasbhacks.

Legacy Revealed

"So, if I call and ask for help *this* time do you think you can come?"  Xander was having to do something he didn't like to do, call on his cousins who also knew about demon hunting.  Not that they participated but they did know enough to protect themselves and handle any major emergencies near them.  This first call.... Don was upstanding but uptight and hated to be bothered but it was nearly an emergency.  Four kids couldn't do it on their own.  Not this time.

"What is it this time?" the tired voice asked.  "Gotta say, this can't be that bad.  Last time's wasn't."

"No, he managed to close it and go to hell with his soul, because somehow Willow did something that last time took seven people to do just after waking up from a coma.  But thanks for that.  Oh, and by the way, the ascension coming up?  Could use some help."  He hung up.  He rubbed his face.  Someone had to handle this better.  He was grunt support.  He called a cousin he hadn't talked to recently.  This one was slightly less uptight.  Mostly. "Tony, if I ask, would you please send a few Marines to my graduation this Saturday and make sure they're armed?  Especially if they can handle strange things?"


"Because we're going to need some.  Frankly, I'm tired, we're all tired, we're having a giant demon coming to kill us all and we've got five of us.  So, did you make out a will yet?" he said dryly.

"It's not that bad.  You can banish most of them."

"He's been working on it for over a century.  No we can't.  We can't kill him before it either because he did something to make him invincible until he changed.  Tried and failed already before you suggest it."

"Well, I can tell you how bad the plans are if you send them to me."

"I already know they're bad.  We've got five or six people and a hundred foot pure demon coming.  During graduation if I didn't mention that part."

"Eeeeh."  He sighed.  "Can you manipulate the plans so he's not summoned there?"

"Can't.  He's speaking at graduation then changing sometime during it."


"Ascension," he said slowly and clearly.

"What's that got to do with anything?  That's a spirit rite."  He heard a beep.  "Is that you or me?"

"Probably you.  My friends aren't talking to me right now because I'm only useful.  But can I please have some backup this time?  We solved the Acathla thing.  We solved the second slayer going dark thing.  We solved the hellmouth opening again thing.  I'd really like to not have to handle this thing with no backup."

"Call the others yet?"

"I basically got told I was a drama queen."

"I'll see if some who knows more about this stuff wants to go."  The beep happened again.  "That's probably my boss.  Be safe, call me later tonight?"

"I'll be making bombs tonight," he said bluntly.  Then he hung up.  "Maybe I should try to sink the whole town while I'm at it."  He went to the library to work on the bombs.  The overall plan was laying out and he looked at it.  "Won't work," he moaned.  He stared at it, making changes.  Their watcher, Giles, came out.  "We forgot stuff."

"What did we forget?" he asked.

Xander looked at him.  "Spectators."

"Oh, dear."

"Yeah."  He went back to it.  "We need more people," he decided.

"Let me talk to someone," Cordelia said from her seat.

Xander looked at her.  "You sure?"



"If I can."  She got up and went to talk to some people.  This was not going to be pretty.  She was too hot to die of being eaten by a giant demon worm.

Xander sat down to rework the whole plan.  The bombs, he'd let stay.  He hoped his cousin came through with some backup.  Sometime soon.  Really.  He hated that his cousins didn't believe how bad it was where he was because no one else in the family had ever been here.  Hell, the weekend they had all been told hadn't been that fun either.


Two Years Earlier, give or take a few months

The old man looked at the people he had called to be here.   Most of them looked confused.  A few were trying very hard not to look confused.  Two clearly had enough experience in things not feeling right that they were casually relaxed but watching.  He came out of the shadows the youngest in the room was staring at.  His mother had been a troublesome thing in the family for years.  Her own training had went to hell thanks to her husband.  He hadn't wanted to believe so she had shown him, nearly getting them both killed.

She had never forgiven herself and he had never forgiven her.  So now they drank to forget that they hated each other most of the time.  That one, he was strong though.  He cleared his throat, getting the attention of the two that were talking.  "I'm Darryl.  I'm the present head of this family," he said calmly.  "I've called you here because someone forgot to do their jobs and tell you about us."

"We're related?" the young boy said, glaring at him.  "Really?  I've never seen you at family reunions or anything."

He looked at the boy.  "I'm your mother's godfather, Alexander."  The boy snorted at that.  "I knew her long before she started to drink."

"Whatever.  What's with the problems?"

"We need to talk about things.  Family things.  As you can see, I'm not all that young.  You are all entitled to come out to the family home now and then when you need help from one of us, but there's things that people should have told you about the family and didn't."  He looked around, seeing the confused looks.  "This is not going to go over well.  There are...situations that the family helps handle now and then.  Most of us anyway."

"So how are we related?" a young man in his early thirties asked with a New York accent.

Darryl pulled out the chart.  "This is the family chart.  You're about a fifth cousin to most of those in the room.  Unfortunately the more direct members have had some problems in the last few years so there's not many of them left."  He let them see it.  He pointed at one for Alexander's benefit.

"I saw.  And I know who you are," he said bluntly but quietly.  "Mom spilled a bit when I got the letter."  He stared him down.  "Not that some of us don't know."  He sat up.  "So, what's the sitch?  Big, horrible family news?  Just a reunion?"

"Mostly just a reunion though there are a few gifts within the family that could be of help to all of you."  He looked at the boy.  "You know?"

"Yeah, I help a nice British guy and his charge."  Darryl stiffened, staring at him.  "I have for the last six months.  Mom doesn't know, but I do."

"Oh, dear."

Xander snorted.  "Ya think?"  He looked at the rest of the family.  "What he's not trying to say is that a lot of the people on there have died due to protecting others from things that they don't want to think about.  And neither do you most likely.  The same as I do most nights."  They all stared at him.  He grinned.  "Welcome to the family," he quipped.

"Alexander," Darryl sighed, shaking his head.  "Not the best way to break that news.  Yes, the ones who have died recently have mostly been due to helping protect people against things that were going to kill them.  A few have been car accidents and one did die of cancer," he told the boy.

"No he didn't.  He died of AIDS."

"He did?" Darryl demanded.

"Um, yeah.  Saw him in the hospice.  He called and asked Mom to visit.  I had to drive her since she couldn't."

"I never got told that."

Xander looked at him.  "I don't think he wanted you to freak."

"Probably."  He shrugged and sighed a bit.  "As it happens to other families it does to us as well.  Even the mundane things can get one of us."  He lit something and put it down.  The boy glared. "It's simple incense.  The air outside stinks."

"You're in silicon valley.  Yeah."

"Kid, you need a shrink or just drugs?" the New Yorker asked.

Xander looked at him then snorted.  "Neither, thank you."  He looked at Darryl.  "Tonight?"

"Tonight?" Darryl asked back.

"Fine.  Who's going with me tonight on patrol?" he asked the others.  "That way you can see and touch and ask questions to before he has to make you huff off."

The others stared.  "Why would we huff off?" one messy, dark haired guy asked.

Xander smirked.  "Let's go.  Field trip."  He stood up.  "Seriously.  C'mon," he said when they didn't.  "That way he doesn't have to explain."

"That's not good when they're not trained," Darryl told him.

Xander stared at him.  "Neither was I the first time."  He walked them out.  Darryl had a minivan so he got them into it.  Darryl took the others.  Xander knew exactly where he was going.  He was going where his mother had taken her husband.  "For the record, my mother did this same trip with her new husband.  They weren't happy with each other."  He pulled in.

"This is a crypt cemetery," one said.

"Duh," Xander agreed.  "Very observant."  He pointed.  "We're going there."  He walked them that way, taking one and hauling him along by his arm like Willow would.  He was not going to explain the supernatural to anyone.  If they needed to know, it was better they had things in front of them that they couldn't refute.  He looked at the door then knocked it in.  The two creatures in there hissed.

"What the hell!" the messy haired one demanded, looking at the boy.

"Welcome to the family business."  He walked them inside, hauling the well-dressed one in with them.  "These, well, they're kinda obviously what they are."  Darryl walked the others in, grimacing at the two creatures.  "Which kind are they?"

"Stakeable," he admitted.  "Holy water killable as well.  What kind are nearest you, Alexander?"

"Xander, not the full name.  We have Aurellian around us.  A lot of them."  He pointed for the ones staring at them in horror.  "Yes, they're vampires.  They do exist.  There's about thirteen, fourteen species of them."

"Why aren't they attacking?" the New Yorker asked calmly, hand on his gun.

"Why would they attack?" Darryl asked.  "They fed well last night from some local cattle."

Xander looked at him then at them.  He smirked.  "Hi, guys.  Have you been to Sunnydale?"  They glared at him and one hissed at him.  He smacked it on the head.  "Bad vamp!  No blood for you."  The other one lunged.  Xander got it down but not easily.  And staked within a heartbeat of it hitting the floor.  He got up, pushing back his hair.  "That's what the family does."  He looked at the others.  "Like I said, you guys wouldn't believe without a show and tell.  No one does."  He looked at Darryl.  "What else was on the agenda for today after they follow in my mother's footsteps?"

"To talk about the family's gifts."  He stared at the boy.  "You're very brash."

"Life doesn't last long enough to dance around things," he countered.  "And they'd go off pissed if you only told them."

"That could be but they know.  It calls out to them through the family's blood."

"No, if it did, they would've found it on their own," Xander countered.  "We're fifth cousins.  Not that much blood."  He looked at the two nearest him, one of whom was making quiet whimpering noises.  "Welcome to my world," he said bluntly.  He gave the whimpering one a slight nudge, getting attention on him.  "Want to try it," he asked.


"You'll find that they're pests," Darryl told him.  "There's many other things that could be handled instead.  Don, I know you're an officer.  You as well, Tony.  Both of you had training that will keep you alive if you have to protect someone, even this way.  We look to add to it so you know how to handle it if this comes up on your job."  He looked at Xander.  "You could use some as well."

"I know.  Tell Giles that."

"I don't know him but I'll look him up."  He smiled.  "There's much we can teach you about how to handle things, boys.  Let's go back to the house."  Xander pointed at the other one, getting a subtle shrug since everyone else was walking out to try to clear their minds.  Xander staked the other then joined him.  "There's not usually all that many here."

"I saw the cow mutilations," Xander admitted as they walked.  "Figured it had to be with the way the bites ripped."  Darryl hummed and nodded.  "Anything else that has to be handled?"

"No, I keep the town mostly clear, Xander.  How is Sunnydale?"

"Active.  Unfortunately."  He got in to drive them back to the house.  Tony was rubbing his forehead.  The messy haired one was staring out the windows.  "Just because you know doesn't mean you have to participate," he said a few blocks later.  "Plenty of people in my town know and ignore it so heavily that nothing's abnormal at all to them.  Even with a very high death rate by gangs of kids on PCP."

Tony gave him a horrified look.  "That's a stupid cover story."

"Yeah but it's not mine.  I can make up better stories."  He glanced back at them.  "Nudge him."

"I'm fine," he said.  He looked back at Don, who was still whimpering.  "Hey," he said gently, waking him from his thoughts.  "You good?"

"No!  He killed that thing!"

"Because it eats people," Xander told him.  "They can eat and kill two or three people a night."  He parked and looked at them.  Those three and the other two in the car were staring at each other.  "Like I said, even if you do know, you don't have to use it.  You don't have to react unless it's trying to get you or someone you know.  I'm not going to tell you it's easy, fun, will make you new friends, any of that.  Sometimes I will admit to stress relieving, but otherwise no.  It's the anti-friend maker really."  They all looked at him.  "But if you know, you can take precautions.  If they want this family because we're known hunters, things will come for us."

"Is that why you know?" Don asked.

"No.  I know because I jumped in to help when a friend was taken," he said honestly.  He got out of the van. "Into the house, guys.  Get a drink if you need one."  They walked in, not looking at each other.  He looked at the others.  "Just because you know doesn't mean you have to react and hunt," he told them.  "It means you can take precautions so nothing gets you and yours.  It also means you can call in people who do know faster so less people die or have to see it."

Darryl nodded.  "That is true," he agreed.  "Most of the family does hunt in one way or another but it is not an occupation for everyone."  He looked at the young boy.  He was so young.  "You obviously do hunt."

"Yes I do.  We have nightly patrols because my town's so damn dangerous.  That's why we have a slayer there."

Darryl nodded.  "I've heard things about your slayer being atypical."

Xander nodded.  "Preppy yet emo cheerleader girl?  Yeah."  He walked inside and sat down again.  The seating had shifted so he had a seat by the door.  Clearly they were worried about what he'd do.  "Guys, I only hunt the things that eat other people."  A few gave him a nervous look.  "If you don't want to hunt, we'll teach you how to protect yourself, your family, your home.  If something happens near you that makes you think it's related, you'll call one of us who will handle it," he said bluntly.  The others nodded at that.  "The very least you can do is protect your families."

"It's one less for the rest of us to handle," Darryl agreed as he came in.  He lit a new stick of incense, getting an odd look from the boy.  "There are family gifts that can help you if you get into a serious situation," he said calmly.  "A way to call in help faster.  To exchange information.  There's also a library here for those who need information."  A few looked at Xander.

"We hang out in a library with our watcher.  Got any language reading spells?"

"There's not much magic in the family.  A few aunts who can use it."

"I could use some higher reading Latin and a few other languages' skills for research."

"They're in *Latin*?" the messy haired one asked, giving him a look.

"Giles' books are."

"Why haven't they been translated?" Don asked.  "That makes no sense."

"It's supposed to be a secret," Xander said dryly.  "So no one freaks out and heads for the Scotch Express."

"Or the vodka," the messy haired one decided.  Xander smirked at that.  "Drink of choice."  He looked at the older one.  "Okay, how much do we need to know to protect ourselves?"

"There's a few good things that can help with that.  Later on I'm going to introduce you to one of the family's best secrets.  We can mostly dream-walk to talk to each other."

"I'll pass," Xander offered.

Darryl looked at him.  "You more than most need it, Xander."

"Magic goes screwy around me," he said bluntly.  "Really, really badly around me. Which is why I can read Latin but not speak it after a book lit itself on fire."

"Please don't read out loud in our library then either," Darryl said dryly.  "This isn't a spell.  It's to unlock it, not to change anything.  You already have this gift inside of you.  All I'll be doing is opening you to it so you can explore it."  He looked around then at the boy again.  "I will ask the aunts if they have anything on language learning spells."  The boy smirked at that.  "Now, are there any concerns so far?"

"You're all insane," a silent cousin said.  "How can you think that's normal!"

"Because last year, my town lost forty teenagers to them," Xander said bluntly. "This year we've only lost ten so far."  The cousins all stared at him.  "Seriously.  They can eat two, three people a night if they're in buffet mode."  He leaned on the table to look at that one.  "In my town, there's probably more of them than there are living people at the moment.  Do you want me to sit back and watch everyone else get eaten?"

"But...but, officers," she spluttered.

"Made up a nice story about gangs on PCP for it," Xander told her.

Don shook his head.  "No, I'm NYPD.  We're not trained to handle that stuff.  Shoot a running perp, not staking the undead.  Unless there's bullets that can help?" he asked Xander, then Darryl when Xander shrugged.

"You'd have to carry four different types due to the different species," Darryl told him.

"It'd be easier to carry a stake," Don complained.

"Well, it's easier if you carried a small case with stakes," Xander corrected, pulling out his own.  "My traveling kit.  If anyone asks I say it's for a pagan ritual."  He slid it down the table to him.  "One wood, one lead, one silver, one iron.  All blessed but the wood.  Oh, and if you leave the stake in, it goes poof too."

Don stared at him.  "Poof?" he asked, trying not to smile.

"Poof, tinkle, tinkle, whoosh," he said mimicking dust falling with his hands.  "Cloud of dust, dust falling, whoosh on the ground."

Don shook his head but he had to smile at that description.

"Two do leave bodies," Darryl told the young boy.

"They never come to Sunnydale."

"Good point I suppose.  They're mostly on the east coast I believe."  He shrugged.  "One's a soul sucking one that can also cause psychic harm.  The other's a regular blood drinker."

"Would a watchery sort have those books?"


"Then I'm sure he does."  He shrugged.  "Or can get them from another one somewhere."  The messy haired one took it to look at.  "It's not that hard to conceal.  It'll stay in most jacket pockets."

"Which is good," John agreed.  "Without looking like a weapon being carried too which is even better."  He touched each one.  "How would you get the iron one?"

"I found a piece of iron and a really sturdy file," Xander admitted.  "The steel and silver you can find online.  You might be able to find iron.  Look for one that's as unforged as possible.  Cold iron works against a lot of things according to what books I've seen."

Darryl nodded.  "It can, yes."

"Expensive?" Tony asked.

"Pure silver?  Yeah.  That's why mine's silver plated in good silver.  Took me nearly all summer at a crummy job to save up for those."

Darryl looked it over, nodding.  "It's not a bad kit, Xander.  You have two loops for vials of holy water if necessary as well.  Very nice."

"Thank you.  The pouch itself was for diabetics to carry around their insulin and things."  He took it back and zipped it up, putting it in his lap.  "That's not for patrols but as a traveling kit, it's not bad.  For patrols I carry more than one wooden stake and a big knife.  Sometimes a sword around town.  We kinda need it now and then," he said at the odd looks.  "And for really huge things, I have a battle axe I borrow," he finished with a grin.  Might as well let them think he's insane.

"Don't your local cops mind?" Don asked.  "We'd mind someone running around with a sword or a battle axe."

"Our cops are on the take, craptastic, and ignore everything upon the orders of their paychecks," Xander said bluntly.  "They don't come out at night.  They hardly come out during the day except to cover things up.  Our hospital is so crappy it's selling parts of people they couldn't save, and there's some speculation in the group that it's on purpose.  That's another thing I could *really* use.  Medic skills."

"We have books that cover that," Darryl assured him.  "A lot of us have had to use them. It's not like most ER's would appreciate bite marks that took off part of your leg."

"No, they don't tend to," Xander agreed.

Tony stared at him.  "How dangerous is this?"

"Very," Xander said bluntly.  He took off his shirt to show off his pretty new scars.  A few of them winced.  "Vampires are faster, stronger, and have teeth that they enjoy using.  Some demons are also faster.  A lot of them are slimy but we've found a few species around town that don't want to hurt people.  They're hiding from the normals."

"Sunnydale does have that reputation," Darryl agreed with a slight nod and a smile.  "Many species aren't harmful that we've seen."

"Then there's the others," Xander said bluntly.  "They like to hunt, hurt, kill, maim, eat or screw, possibly destroy.  Some like to want to end the world.  That's why there's slayers."

"What's a slayer?" Tony asked.

"A girl gifted with extra speed, healing, stamina, fighting skills, that stuff.  It's her sacred duty.  Watchers watch over them.  Watchers are British guys as far as we know."

"There are pre-slayers all over the world," Darryl told him.  "Some Watchers are local instead of British but mostly he's right.  There's one girl, one Watcher until one dies."

Xander nodded.  "They have an administrative council thingy back at home too.  Giles is our slayer's second watcher.  The first got taken out by a master vampire."

"I saw the incidence in LA last year," Darryl admitted.

Xander nodded.  "That was Buffy, yeah.  Her high school gym, all of it."  Darryl nodded at that.  "Now she's in Sunnydale.  So who knows."  He shrugged.  "There's some of us who jumped in, and the Council hates my ass thank you, but oh well."

"Many of our family have taken to being roving hunters," Darryl offered more gently.  "Some settle in an area and hunt it clear then protect it.  Xander's town will *never* be clear from what is rumored about it."

Xander shrugged.  "We're making a dent.  We've only had ten vampire deaths since the start of the school year among the students."

"Students?" Tony asked.

"Yeah.  Prime hunting age," Xander said bluntly, staring at him.  "Teenagers taste better according to some.  If they're turned, they're at that pretty age to hunt later on.  Buffy spends a few nights a week sex baiting them in the local club."

The messy haired one shuddered. "That's not a good idea."

"She can handle it.  I try now and then but I get laughed at," Xander admitted.  "Which one are you?"

"John."  He grinned. "I'm at the Air Force Academy right now."

"Coolness.  You'll probably see some overseas then."

"Maybe.  Most of the time I'm going to be on base as a pilot."  Xander nodded at that.  "What about you?  What happens when you graduate?"

"I'm looking forward to a road trip.  I decided that recently.  Other than that, I haven't made future plans yet.  Let me actually graduate first."

"If you want to go military, let me know and I'll send a good recruiter your way."

"K, I can do that."  He looked at Darryl again.  "Are we sure there's no magic?"

"No, Xander, no magic."  He stared at the boy.  "How does it go strangely around you?"

"No clue beyond reading a book's page and lighting it on fire.  Oh, and demons are really attracted to me.  The preying mantis teacher kinda proved that one.  I still haven't heard the end of that from my friends."

Darryl stared at him.  "A shape changer?" he demanded, looking disgusted.

"She was really pretty in human form.  She wanted to lay eggs."  He shrugged.  "By the way, that sort are driven off by bat noises."

"I'll mark that down," he said, watching the young one.  "Why did she pick you?"

"Purity issues," he said dryly, giving him a dirty look.

"Ah!"  He nodded.  "That makes more sense."

"Me and one other guy.  He bragged about conquests though.  Then told people he'd sue them if they said differently."

Darryl smirked.  "Yes, the bragging probably got him caught."

"I was cute," Xander said with a smirk.  "And geeky.  She took our biology teacher first."

"Shit, I'm getting laid tonight," Don muttered.  "Just in case it's been too long and they start to like me."

Tony looked at him and nodded.  "I'll meet you at the bar to troll?"

"Sure, that'll work," Don agreed.

Xander rolled his eyes.  "There's always slutty incubuses and succuba, guys.  Be careful and play safely."  He grinned.  "Wouldn't want to see you guys with nasty things that would mean no more dating."

"Yeah, us either," Don agreed.  He shifted in his seat.  He looked at Darryl.  "We won't be turning into him, right?  It's not going to warp us?"

"Not in the least," he assured him dryly.  "Xander is very unique."

"I should try that as a pickup line," Xander quipped to show that comment had stung a bit.

John cleared his throat.  "Combat changes people, guys.  It's not contagious."  He looked at the boy then at Darryl.  "What are you planning on teaching us this weekend?"

"Some warding symbols.  So you can put them up around you.  I'm going to teach you how to access the dream plane.  Then I was going to let you into the library and the armory.  It's nothing spectacular, nothing overly powerful, but it's standard equipment if you feel like you can use some of it."

"That's cool," John decided.  "This dream walking thing, how hard is it?  Meditation or otherwise?"

"We have something that can let you access it easily enough.  Most of the others meet in a few specific areas someone set up for them.  The aunts who can use magic are going to be setting you up a virtual meeting area of your own or you can join the rest of the family," he promised.  "Or you can go astral traveling to see the other planes of existences but that can be dangerous so warn us if you're going to try that.  That way we know to pull you back if you get stuck."

"That'd be cool to do after dinner," John decided, standing up.  "Let's rest and let things sink in for now?"  Darryl nodded that was fine.  He smiled at the boy.  "Relax," he said quietly as he walked past him.

The others filed out.  "That was dangerous, Xander," Darryl chided.

"No one is going to believe that it's real unless you show them," he countered.  "With the way they were behind me, I could've gotten both vampires before they got attacked.  Even if one got around me, at least two of them know hand-to-hand and could've held him off for a few seconds so I could've gotten them.  Or you."  He stood up.  "Remember, most of them are normals.  A few live in the world of science.  Their sort don't even watch horror movies usually.  There's no way they would've believed you even if you had a show and tell of magic."  He stomped off.


Maybe some day they'd see and understand, and then maybe they'd get some help for the apocalypses and semi apocalypses that seemed to happen all too often in Sunnydale.  A few might come if they were closer but he didn't have *their* numbers.  Yet.  These days, even Darryl didn't like to hear him call.  He had decided that he was being a drama queen too.  Which he wasn't.  How did they expect six kids to stop something that had taken an exploding volcano the last time?

But they'd have to, yet again, because it was their duty even if it wasn't a pleasure or even life prolonging.  Maybe tonight he'd sit down and work on his will once he finally went home.  That way someone he respected and liked his things.  Because they'd die if they didn't get more backup.

Cordelia walked in.  "Jocks," she told him.  He relaxed and nodded, but wasn't happy.  "It's the best we can do."

"Yeah, it is," he agreed quietly.  "Thanks, Cordy.  Get some of the geeks too and join us for the talk?"

"Definitely.  They won't listen to you."  She went to talk to others.

Maybe there was some hope left.


Xander limped into the ancestral home three days later and fell down in the foyer when he tripped over the foot he was dragging, looking up at the ceiling.  "We lived," he told the painting up there.  "Damned if I know how."  He let all the pain, guilt, and other bad feelings wash over him for a moment then tried to get up.  "Shit."  He tried again.  Still not going to work.  He made a whining noise.  "Why can't I have cool skills and be able to float?" he muttered.  He got to his knees and crawled to the stairs, using them to brace himself as he stood up.

"Master Xander, what are you doing?" the maid demanded.

He fell back down, wincing some.  "Trying really hard to stand back up.  Can I have a hand?"

She looked at him.  "You smell like chemicals."

"That's because we had to fight earlier today and I had no backup," he said bitterly.  "I thought the family was supposed to help each other when we ran into major problems."

"They are."

"Then this generation is fucking failures at it."  She gasped.  He managed to stand up this time.  "Two apocalypses and no help even when I asked multiple members."  He stared her down.  "Now, can I have some help up to a room and the first aid box?  I could use it."

"Why didn't you let them stitch you up?"

"Sunnydale General?  Did I need to be killed tonight too?" he snorted.  "Just get me the box.  I can do most of my own stitches anymore.  Really."  She huffed but did that once she had him in a bedroom on the bottom floor.  It was nice, had a soft bed, nice bathroom, and no stairs.  She came in to find him stripped down to his boxers and gasped.  He looked at her, then in the mirror.  "It's demon slime from where it exploded."  He went to shower it off.  "Leave it, I'll do them in a minute."

"I can find someone to help," she offered.

He looked at her.  "Yeah, I heard that before and they still didn't come so screw the family at the moment.  All my cousins."  He went to shower it off.  He was sweaty anyway from driving three hours in pain.  If he'd had a safe hiding and healing spot he wouldn't have come here at all but this was all he had until he could set up his own apartment.  He came out to find an older man in his bedroom.  "Hey," he said, staring at Darryl.  "Still think it was a spirit?"

"Ascensions are spirit things."

Xander turned on the tv to the local news, letting him see the story about the school exploding during graduation.  He pointed at a burning part of demon.  "Does that look like spirits to you?" he asked bluntly.

The older cousin gaped in horror then at him.  "What the hell was that?"

"That was Olikvan or something like that.  Who our mayor turned into during his ascension."

"No, that's not...."  Xander handed over the book from his bag.  He read it and shuddered.  "Damn it!"

"I tried multiple cousins.  I could care less if they run into problems right now.  For the second time none of them believed me and you didn't believe me either!" he finished.

"But hellmouth's...."

"Are that town there.  It was under our school library.  That's why I radiate dark magic most of the time.  Congratulate me," he finished sarcastically.  "Let me do my stitches while you go panic somewhere else please?  I'm tired and I only got done a few hours ago."

His cousin came over.  "Let me help.  You can't hope to do your own back."

"They're not that bad.  Those are from debris."  He swatted him.  "You didn't believe me then.  You still don't."

"I can still help, even if I think you're wrong."

"Then you go patrol.  It's slower in the summer."  He sat down to work on his stitches.  He was fairly used to doing his own stitches these days.  He swatted his hand again when he tried to help.

"Fine.  I'll go file this in the library."  Xander pulled out something else and tossed it at him.  "Journal?"

"Something like that."

"Thank you."  He went to file them and talk to the other cousins.  He wasn't that good with the magic stuff.   Maybe some witch had cast on him or something?  Because hellmouths weren't real.  He heard a door slam a few hours later and went to check.  The boy was gone.  This was not good.  He was clearly upset with them for not believing him but it wasn't real.  It couldn't be real.  The family's journals said so.


Xander looked around the place where his car had died.  Well, this was not going in his current note to Willow, he decided.  She did not need to know about demons having their own larger towns.  Complete with strip clubs since he spotted one's winking sign.  Yeah, this was not good.  Because he still radiated hellmouth energy.  He nearly laughed hysterically.  He was doomed.

The tow truck driver gave him a look.  "What?  Not to your liking?"

Xander looked at him then looked up.  "Cosmic joke?" he asked the sky.  He looked at the driver again.  "I'm from Sunnydale.  We just got done with graduation.  Do you think this is a cosmic joke too?"

The driver gave him a worried look.  "No one here'll hurt you, kid.  I know they won't."

Xander slumped then nodded.  "Is there a cheap place I can stay until I can find a decent part-time job so I can get the heap fixed?"

He shook his head.  "With where you come from, I'm going to introduce you to someone first.  It'll be safer for everyone."

"I won't hunt if they're peaceful," he said with a sigh at the end.  "Vampires are bad enough, okay?"

"I know, kid."  He walked him up the street to City Hall.  "Got a person in here with a clue.  We've had some of your town's people run here before.  They always want to know in case you brought any hellmouth taint with you."

"I was born there.  Does that count?"

"Apparently."  He walked him inside, ignoring those people watching them.  Yeah, the kid was in major trouble if the town's leaders didn't like him.  He walked into the leaders' office, smiling at his secretary.  "I just picked him up when his car's engine blew."

"He need to know where the local rooming house is?" she asked politely and a bit cheerfully.

Xander pulled out his wallet and held up his ID.  She lost all perky cheer when she read it.  "Part time job would be helpful too since I need to fix the car."

"Why...." she started, staring at him.

"Post graduation roadtrip.  See all fifty states...."

She made a whining noise.  "They're in a really bad mood today," she complained.

"I don't tend to make people cheery either," Xander admitted.  "But if they're going to kill me, at least they'll hopefully make it fast instead of having me turned, or letting something eat me?  I imagine that's got to hurt more if you're awake."

"They won't eat you, kid.  Maybe give you a lift out of town."  She buzzed someone with her intercom.  "Boss, incoming," she called.  "Go ahead."

The driver opened the door.  "His car's engine blew up.  I had no idea when I picked him up or I would've taken him the other direction.  Sorry, Leaders."  He left the boy there.  The secretary could show him the rooming house if he could stay.

Xander took a deep breath and walked in.

The three demons in there stared at him.  One sniffed delicately.  "You're injured," he said.

"It's from the graduation battle."

The other two gave him horrified looks.  "You're from Sunnydale," one said after a moment of staring.

"Yeah.  Xander Harris.  Great thing to have my car explode.  I think it's a cosmic joke."

The three nodded.  "Could be," the one who had smelled him admitted.  "Clearly you're not favored of the PTB."


"The Powers That Be.  They're over girls like your friend the Slayer and champions.  Those sorts."

"Oh.  Yeah, they probably hate me as much as the Council does."  He shrugged.  "It looks like I'm going to have to fix my car.  Is it okay if I get a part-time job and a room for a bit?"

They looked at each other then shrugged.  "No hunting," the sniffing one said.

"Unless they're trying to eat me or someone's screaming 'help me' I'm probably not going to have a problem with that.  I can't guarantee if I get drunk or something but that's not in my plans in the least."

The other two nodded.  "We heard you babbled nearly as good as the redhead."  He cleared his throat.  "Jobs aren't plentiful right now.  We had a large influx after Wilkins did his problem."  Xander nodded at that.  "I can tell you to start with the local strip club. It's a nice enough place and they always need kitchen help.  Maybe even a bouncer.  Though, I'd get someone to look at your injuries, young man."

"Can't afford an ER visit.  They need to be pulled so I'll do that later, once I'm alone.  Am I safe?"

"As long as we are," that one assured him.

Xander nodded.  "Thanks.  Hopefully it won't take that long to fix the car."  He walked out.  "Rooming house?  Or is there somewhere cheaper?"

"Rooming house is about as cheap as you can go.  It's seventy a week."  The boy gave a relieved sigh.  "It's nearly on my way.  Any bags?"

"In the car."

"We can pick them up on the way."

"I don't want to be a bother."  She gave him a pointed look.  "Or pull out weapons in front of peaceful sorts."

"I understand, sir.  Come on."  She walked him down to her little Honda.  It wasn't a long drive to the garage.  He got out and got the stuff out of his car.  She did wince at the obviously heavy weapons bag but that was his problem.  She knew hunters had to be paranoid.  He got one last box and got back in.  "Heirlooms?" she guessed.

"First aid box so I can pull stitches later.  The higher guys I talked to said I needed to look them over anyway."

She nodded, taking him to the rooming house.  She even helped him check in by telling the nice older demon who ran it who he was.  She gave him a special rate of sixty a week if he'd help with the demonic plant out back that wouldn't die when she tried.  Xander killed it easily enough and they went up to his room.  The nice matron got him some washclothes when she saw him without a shirt.  Then she left him alone.  He had paid for two weeks.

Xander sat down to work on his stitches.  Then take a nap.  He'd do the job hunting in the morning.  Damn his life sucked sometimes.  He finished cleaning his body up and laid down on the pretty white sheets with little blue and pink flowers, relaxing himself down into a meditative nap.  And soon he was on the dream plane with a fussing John.  He cleared his throat.  "Bad?"

"Very bad.  I'm being sent to Afghanistan."

Xander gave him a hug.  "It's cool.  You'll make it and you'll protect people."

"I know."  He looked him over.  "You look like shit," he said bluntly.

Xander smirked.  "I haven't logged in since right before graduation."

"No you haven't.  Why is that?"

"Because I called Tony and Don for backup and didn't get any.  So I just led my first battle with teenagers for backup."

John stared at him for a minute.  "I know you told me about being possessed that time by a soldier."  Xander nodded.  "Did he have command experience?"

"We didn't have anyone who did, John."

"I see.  Why didn't you call me?"

"You had tests."

"I could've gotten a few days off for that."

"And probably been killed," Xander said bluntly.  "We had to redo the plans.  Giles' plans forgot the spectators."

John considered that information.  "So who made the plans?"  Xander waved a hand with a grimace.  He pulled him into a hug.  "You did what you had to do," he soothed.  The boy clearly needed it.   Xander sniffled but didn't let it go.  He pulled back to look at him.  "How many?"


"Anyone a civy that got hurt?"

"No.  That's why I lost seventeen.  Some got injured slightly because the oh so wonderful mayor pulled in people to harass those leaving the graduation.  Since it was an eclipse...."


"Yup."  He shrugged but didn't try to get free.  Hugging was nice.  "Did you get to see the news on the gas explosion?"

"That was ... oh, damn, Xander."

"It had to happen.  He was about a hundred feet long and a giant demon worm."

"So it killed him and it was necessary but still.  You blew up your school."

"Yeah, I had that moment of elation," he admitted.

John gave him another hug.  "It's okay.  You did good.  You did the best you could."  He made the boy look at him.  "You did everything you could, right?"  Xander nodded.  "Then you did the best you could and no one's going to blame you."

"Everyone's already forgotten.  Even the people who were there."

"I won't.  You won't.  Your friends won't."  That got a snort.  "Still?  I thought their bitchiness would've been solved when they figured out you had saved them."

"They never got told."  He shrugged.  "I'm good though.  Thank you."

"Not a problem."  He stared at him.  "You'll be writing me all the time, kiddo.  I mean it.  Tony too."

"Tony was too busy to help when I asked him for some backup.  Don decided I was a drama queen.  Again.  Darryl decided I was delusional because it wasn't mentioned in the books."

"Don's getting my foot up his ass."  He ruffled his hair with a grin.  "I'll be just as good and as lucky as you were, Xander."

"I'd worry about you but right now my car's kinda broken down.  Apparently you sucked all my luck up when you got the special letter."

John smirked. "Maybe."  He patted him on the cheek.  "Be safer on the rest of your roadtrip?"

"I'll try.  You too.  They do shoot at pilots you know."

"I know.  I'll do what I can."  He winked.  "Go nap.  You clearly need a nap.  And some bandaids."

"I just pulled the stitches, John.  Relax.  It's been two weeks."  He winked and strolled back to his head.  He felt better after talking to John.  John was a lot like him in many ways.  And hey, he could yell at the others.  Xander flipped onto his side, drifting into a true sleep.

John looked around then started to pull people into a conference.  "Why didn't anyone else tell me that Xander was going into a real battle without backup?  No support other than a bunch of kids!"

"He didn't sound that panicked," Don defended.

"That gas explosion on the news?  That was his graduation," John told him.  "After a battle.  It's what killed the demon, Don."

"He said something about an ascension but everything I know about those is a ghost thing," Tony said.  "I asked a few who I know knew about that stuff and they said the same thing.  That the team out there should be able to handle it."

"He handled the last one with the Acathla or whatever," Don said.

"You mean Buffy's boyfriend trying to send the world to hell, him having to lie to her so she could do her job, and then her running away?" John countered.  Don slumped.  "There's some things a team can do that a military unit would do better.  I'm thinking a *battle* would be one of them."

"You were busy," Darryl pointed out.

"I would've taken time off!" he shouted back.  "Xander's possession is good but mine's real experience, including planning strategies!"

"He did fine," Darryl said calmly.  "I saw him later that night and he was upset but he's calmed down."

"Now he's grieving for the seventeen people he had to put in death's way to let other's escape," John told him.  "That's not calmed down.  That's kicking your own ass because you had to let them die to save others."  Darryl and Tony both flinched at that.  "I don't give a damn if I'm in the middle of a battle myself.  At the very least *some* of us would've been there."

"I tried.  Gibbs said I couldn't come, we had a case," Tony sighed.  "We were in the middle of a national forest searching for a Marine that got himself killed out there."

"I had my own homicides," Don admitted.

John stared at them.  Then he shook his head.  "Fine, then make sure *I* know."  They nodded, backing off from that.  "Also, you can make sure I know in Afghanistan.  Even if I have to ask for leave and hurry back somehow I will."  He went back to his own body.  His roommate was probably wondering why he was mumbling in his sleep again but oh well.  He could count it as a funny dream brought on by dinner.

Don looked at Tony.  "I didn't think it'd be that bad."

"Me either."

"Xander wasn't happy when I helped him with his stitches," Darryl admitted.  "He did most of them himself and didn't want help from anyone."

"I'd be mad too," Don admitted.  He went back to his body, thinking about that.  He had failed majorly that time.  He really had to start hearing news other than from a CSI's lips on a case.

Tony went back to his own body, going to sulk to a movie.  He had to find some way to get Gibbs in the know so he could help handle major situations.  Not that he thought there'd be another one that bad but you never knew.  He had to make some plans ahead of time for the next possible one.


Xander walked up to a desk in DC.  "Long time no see."  It had been nearly a year since he had seen Tony.  He had quit dream walking to talk to the others since they didn't seem to like him.  He didn't need to put up with more people like that in his life.  He had more than enough complaining, whiny, bitchy, people who thought he was a roach to put up with it from family that he barely knew.

"Xander?  What are you doing here?" he asked quietly, glancing around.  "Every time you show up around me things go badly."

"Well, I'm not going to make you happy today either.  If I give the name, service type, and rank of some people can you please investigate them and their little torture program out where I am?"

"Huh?" he demanded.  "There's not...."  Xander held up the list.  He took it to look at.  "Some Marines, a lot of Army guys."  He turned the page and wanted to get sick.  "What's that?"

"What we found when we had to go rescue a friend," he said bluntly.  "Those are the pictures of him when we rescued him."

Tony looked at his cousin.  "Why are you pissed at me?"

"Because I asked for backup the last time I needed it and you never came through.  Right now, if you guys don't help me do something about this mess, I'm going to say fuck the family and leave it."  He stared him down.

"You're not making any sense.  The last I heard from you was last spring."

"You didn't hear about the convenient gas explosion during my graduation?"  Tony nodded his head.  Xander turned his monitor around and took his keyboard to type in something, getting the story.  He pointed at it.  "My grad.  Which I asked for help because of," he said quietly.

"You said...."  John had said a battle but ....

Xander got into another site, showing him the video someone had taken of their kid's graduation.  Tony did get sick at that.  He stared at him.  "Now we've got some of your kind trying their hand at apocalypses.  Do you think, maybe, we can get just a tiny bit of help?"  He heard someone coming.  Tony was still getting sick.  "Never mind.  It was stupid to even hope.  We'll solve it like we always have."

"No, wait," he said between heaves.  "Boss?"

"What?"  He looked at the kid.  "Who're you?"

"Unfortunately one of his distant cousins.  I came to see if he'd like to do something about the idiots torturing people in my hometown who're some of yours and some are army.  Apparently it was a wasted trip."

"The military doesn't...."  Xander held up the pictures.  The guy turned green.

"Our friend we had to rescue from them.  Yes, they do.  They seem to enjoy it a hell of a lot when they go around tazing victims, chaining them up, experimenting on them, implanting control chips in some, and then trying to end the world with their newest creation.  I was hoping my cousin would like to investigate since that's what you guys supposedly do.  If not, me and my friends will make sure they're stopped one way or another.  Wouldn't be the first time."

"Let me have some of the names, I'll look into the project, see if it's sanctioned."

"It's called the Initiative."  He held up a DVD.  "One friend's a hacker."

He took it to run on his own machine, letting Xander watch him.  "This is disgusting."

Xander looked then at him.  "We know.  I have him on my couch some nights.  He's got a nifty control chip in his head now."  He flipped ahead to something else, watching him go green again and sip his coffee.  "That's their current toy."  He looked at him.  "Would you guys like to stop them or would you like us to stop them?  Because if we stop them, you might be getting some back in pieces if we have to."  He stared him down.

"Can it be stopped?"

"Please do.  You guys started it with Doctor Walsh.  She got dead from her own toy that she made from parts; now it's got a general in direct oversight."

He looked up the program's information.  It was classified well beyond his means.  The kid typed in a passcode.  "That hacker?"


Gibbs read it over, nodding slowly.  "This isn't real."

"Yet they're doing it."

"No, it says it was a pipedream and they never started it."

Xander pointed.  "That's the guy who's doing oversight.  I have a list of most of their extraction team members and some of the scientists."  It got taken and he looked them up.  "Missing in action?"

"Secret project, Homeland Security," he read.  He looked at the kid.  "How massive?"

"Few hundred people at the most.  Underground base.  Some pretending to be frat boys."

"I see."  He looked up the next one.  That one said the same thing.  So did a scientist he looked up.  He looked at him.  "We'll look into it."

"If you can't act, we need to know.  They're doing dangerous shit in my town for fun and trying to end the world by ruling it."

"If I can."

"If not, let me know."  He walked out, not even looking at his cousin.

"Boss, you can't...."

"You can't photoshop pictures like that," he said bluntly.  "Why is he mad at you?"

"Last year he asked for some backup and none of us believed him."  He had convinced himself that it couldn't have been as bad as Xander and John had said it was after the fact.  Something like a battle on US soil would've been in the news, right?

"So this is your second chance?"

"No, I think this is our last chance. I heard he asked for help the year before but none of us believed him then.  The thing that happened last year resulted in a poorly done coverup of a gas explosion inside a school with carnage outside the school at the graduation ceremony.  With a lot of cutting injuries."  Gibbs came over to look.  He showed him the news article.  The other film he didn't want to think about.  At all.  "He asked and I didn't believe him," he said quietly.

"I wouldn't have either.  Who does things like that?  It's not like terrorists or gangs to attack graduations."

"No, I think the explosion was to stop the attack," he admitted.  Gibbs stared him down.  He let him see that other film.  "It's not been altered that I can see."

"That's...  not real."

"It is."

"It can't be.  It's a giant snake."

He enlarged the photo.  "Still think it's not real?" he asked when one kid got cut and fell down bleeding to death before the worm ate him.  He stared at him.  "That's my cousin.  I'm stupid apparently."

"You couldn't have believed...."

"I could have.  I didn't.  He asked for some backup; I could've went and didn't because of that Marine in the forest.  He has every right to be pissed at us."  He shut them both down.  "Can I have some of that to help with?"

"Please."  He went back to his seat.  His computer now was shutting itself down.  "Someone knows he was here."

"Yay."  He came to get the list.  "Let me talk to Abby, boss."  He got to miss people in dark suits coming off the elevator but they did catch up to him in the lab.  He stared one down.  "Get out of my way."

"Agent DiNozzo, we need that information you have."

"I don't care what you need."

"Sir, it's a matter of national security.  You can comply or be sent to jail for helping terrorists."

"Who?  The unit that's torturing people?  I guarantee you won't stop the people stopping them from their fun and games."

"Sir, you can't be involved in this."

"Really?  Because my cousin's not out there?"

"If he is, he's in deep trouble, sir.  He's not supposed to step into federal matters."

"It's his town.  He's supposed to be there.  You're not."

"We're everywhere."

"Clearly."  He handed it over.  "Choke on it and die, boys."

"Come with us, sir?"

"No.  Arrest me."  He stared them down.  One pulled out cuffs.  So he zapped them both, making them fall down.  He loved his mini tazer.  "I don't think you need that," he said bluntly, taking the information back.  He handed it to the watching, horrified, young woman.  "Find them, help me find a way to stop them."

"Done deal," she agreed.  "Tell me what's going on?"

"Nope.  Should be evident."  He walked over them, going to help her.  The director came in.  "Butt out," he told her.

"You're interfering...."

"With people in the military who believe torture is good science, yes I am.  Before my cousin, who they've already gotten a friend of, has to help take them down."  He stared her down.  "Get over it.  They're military, that's our jurisdiction, Director."

"Agent DiNozzo, you're suspended."

"That's fine, I'll be with my cousin then."  He handed her his badge and gun.  "I'm quite sure I can help."

"You're treading on Homeland security, boy," the agent with her said.

"I don't want Homeland to be torturing young people to see how they're put together either."  He pulled up a picture that he recognized as being from his cousin.  He had sent it to Abby.  He let it run.  "My military doesn't do that.  Neither does my government.  Any solider doing that is going against the laws and regs.  If you don't like it, fuck yourself," he said bluntly, to the director.  She gasped and backed away.  He looked at the other agent.  "Anything else you and your happy little team want before I go to see him for a vacation?"

"Sir, we can't allow you to go," he said bluntly.  "If we have to, we'll take you into custody."

"No, you won't.  And you can't keep me.  Even if you put me in Gitmo and keep me from contacting the outside world, I can still help him.  See, I'm not the average stupid agent."  He zapped him too.  Then he glared at the director.  "You want that to keep going on?"

"The president himself...."

"Is apparently sucking the wrong dick," Abby said bluntly.  "They're torturing people!"

"It's not our call...."

"If they're soldiers, it is our call," Tony shouted overtop of her.  She glared at him.  "We are to stop soldiers doing stupid shit that's against the law.  Welcome to the worst they can do.  Because I'm not going to let our military turn into Nazi's.  If you are, move."

"We're still under orders from the president himself to stop this investigation."

"What do I care?  You suspended me," Tony said bluntly.  "You have no right to say a thing about what I do when I'm suspended or on vacation unless it goes against US laws.  If you want to charge me, you go right ahead.  I'm sure I can find the people who're helping stop this to help me with my defense as well."

"You're not suspended, therefore the order does apply to you," she said smugly.

"You can't do that," he reminded her.  "If you suspend me, it has to go to a hearing board.  That's the NCIS rule."  He smirked at her.  "Now, go away."

"She's not...."

"Then I'll quit if you let them keep doing this and that will shut down this lab for months while you try to hire someone efficient to do this job."

"There's other forensic techs."

"They specialize," she said smugly.  "I didn't."  The director stomped off.  She got back to work as fast as she could, handing him two DVDs she burned down.  "There, go."

He walked off after patting her on the arm.  "Boss, the director suspended me," he said as he walked past his desk, grabbing two things around the agent going through it.  "Sorry, I doubt you need to talk to any of the women I've slept with since I'm not with them anymore."  He walked off.  "I'll be back sometime."

"DiNozzo, don't do anything stupid."

"I won't, boss.  Stupid is them.  Not me."  He got onto the elevator and went down to his car.  It was booted, but hey, it was DC.  There's cabs and he could hotwire Gibbs' car if he had to.  He called Xander back.  "Okay, I'm coming.  What can I do to help since the president is apparently thinking it's Germany in the forties?  Yeah, he's trying.  Oh well."  He got into the car once it was hotwired and took off for the airport.  "I'm coming.  Even if the do try to arrest me.  Might, yeah.  No, I'll talk to them."

He hung up and called the one that usually complained Xander was a drama queen.  "You know, we should probably listen to Xander more since the last time he asked for backup it ended up with an assault during his graduation to kill all the people attending it by his town's mayor."  He listened to the spluttering.  "No, agents are trying to cover up for a military op out there that's torturing people and things for fun and to make new super soldiers.  That's what I said.  Because he even brought film," he said bluntly.  "And pictures of the friend that they took.  Heading now if at all possible.  You?"  He smirked.

"Yeah, we might.  From what I heard, last time was the last straw.  Because we missed two bad things we should've stepped in on.  I think maybe we should step in this time or else."  His phone beeped.  "Huh, I had a full battery," he said, turning it back on and calling another one.  "Call Don.  Xander's got serious troubles.  Yeah, I heard about that.  What did he say afterward when we all screwed up by not listening?"  He listened to the rant.  "Well, we did screw up.  Yes, it is.  Even Abby knows that, Darryl.  So yeah, we screwed up."  He hung up.  It'd spread around to the other cousins that way.  No mere agent was going to stop this family.


On a base in the deep south of the world, a phone rang.  "I'm still out of the US," he said in greeting.  "Excuse me?" he demanded.  "Yeah, I can do that, but I might get into trouble.  Who's blocking it?"  He got up and went to the base's control room.  "I've got to look up a project that's trying to have two of my cousins arrested for stopping them from torturing others," he told the base's CO when he found him in there.  "They've suspended one who was an agent because he was looking into it."

"How bad is it?" he asked calmly.

"Let me look it up."  He moved to the system and looked up the website Xander had sent things to.  He looked at the tapes.  "How did he get this?"  He nodded once and got into another file.  "Aw, shit," he said, hanging up.  "Sir."  He let the CO see it.  "That's tape that was downloaded from their security cameras.  I do have to admit the first one I looked at was ours, because his friend was curious about me being her friend's cousin, but she hacked their program to have information for the cousin that's an agent at NCIS."

"They're Army."

"Not all, sir.  That's a Marine," he said with a point.  "And that's a victim of torture they're walking back bloody and cut up."  The CO shook, going through the other things.  He sent it to his boss.  Who sent back a swearing email.  So he sent it to the head base's CO.  That was one unhappy general.  "Is there any way for me to get back there to help him?" he asked quietly.

"None that I know.  Who tried to block the agent from helping him?"

"Homeland.  He said the president liked that project."

"Damn it."  He sent that to his boss as well.  The boss sent back a growl but said he'd handle it.

"No, I think my cousins will handle it," John told him.  "But I'm not real sure how many people will survive."

"Your cousin, does he do things like us?"

"No, sir.  Nothing like us."


"Because his town's like that."  He got into another file and let him see.  "If I had been *anywhere* near the US I would've been there for that.  He did call for help and got told he was overreacting from what I got told in my letter from him."

The CO stared at it then sent it to his boss as well.  That one, his boss wanted to know more about.  He sent back what he knew.

John smirked.  "My cousin's nice, calm usually, kind of joking now and then, likes construction from his letters.  He just has to do this stuff."

"How many times has he called in help?"

"He's tried twice and no one listened to him.  This would be the third."

"I see.  Do you think they might like to join us?"

"No.  I think they'd screw up worse than I did and my cousin is hyperactive.  He'd drive any drill sergeant nuts, sir.  Worse than I did."


"Because ...."  He got into another journal site, showing him what was actually going on out there.  "That's my cousin as well," he said with a point at the boy.

The CO stared at the fight, could've been a battle with a few more people on each side.   "He's not trained," he decided.

"Nope, and the girls around him are his best friends but they don't seem to like him too much."

He rewatched it.  "How close are you?  If we can recruit him, I can almost guarantee him a spot as long as he's not homicidal."

"Not as far as I know and we're not.  We've talked a few times, but we're not close.  Actually, we're so distant of cousins, we're almost out of the incest range."  His CO gave him an odd look.  "One of the aunts suggested a few times."

"Oh."  He sent that to his boss, who sent back a happier note that time.

"He's one of the few defenders out there, sir.  I doubt it'd happen until the blonde one died."

"He's how old?"

"Twenty-one this upcoming month if I remember right."

"He'll have a few years to decide."

"I'll suggest but don't hold your breath, sir."

"That's fine.  We could use people who shrug off strange things."  He shut that down.  "That one project will be canceled.  Even if the highest boss has to go out there to help."

"From what I heard, he could've used them last year.  He asked and the cousin that's an agent basically laughed it off."  He went back to where cellphones worked, calling his cousin back.  He got an agent so he called someone else.  "Tony was captured by the agents in Homeland who want the Nazi-era project going on in Xander's town to keep going.  Yeah, it's that bad.  Because it's our thing since some of them aren't real human," he hissed.

"Beyond that, we shouldn't stand up for torture of any being.  Yes, that thing.  No, he went to Tony.  Well, gee, Don.  If I had been able, I would've went to back him up last year."  He looked at his phone then put it back against his ear.  He smirked.  "Yeah, we screwed it up.  Badly.  Because I don't think Xander will trust any of us anymore.  He might come if we need it, but I'm doubting we'll hear from him again.  Even if the world does end.  I do stranger things than he does."  He listened to the current excuse.  "Then look it up!" he shouted.

"I'm quite sure it is since one of the people down here came from it.  Yay you."  He hung up.  "Now I know why he hates the rest of the family," he decided.  He also decided to find the guy he knew came from Xander's hometown.  "Hey," he said, finding him in the mess.  "Call your family if they're in your hometown and tell them to take a good, long vacation.  Something bad's going down," he said next to his ear.  "It's going to get bad out there soon."

The guy stared at him.  "I was there last year."

"I'm Harris's cousin."  The guy shuddered.  "This year, there's a Homeland and military joint project using torture on the people."

"I can tell my mom to go visit my aunt," he decided.  "Did he warn you?"

"He called another cousin to help him stop the project.  Homeland is stepping in to keep it going.  So they might have to solve it their way."

"Uh-huh."  He went to call someone at home.  No answer wasn't a good sign but he did get his mother on her cellphone.  "Mom, it's Dave.  You should go see your aunt.  Mom, things like graduation are going on and there's agents involved this time.  Go see Aunt Marge?"  He smiled.  "Thanks, Mom."  He hung up and went to get something to settle his stomach.  He found the guy in his room.  "He need help again?"

"He's trying to round up some higher help but idiots are stepping in the way.  If not, they might have it.  I'm not real sure.  I know if we could get up there, I'd offer you the seat next to mine."

"It'd take three days to get up there," he agreed, frowning some.  "Thanks for letting me know."

"Not an issue.  I don't want anyone to have to go through what they went through last year."  He laid down, considering his cousin.  He called him back.  "It's John.  Tony may be in Homeland Security custody for trying to help but I did talk to the others and my boss.  I know I'm military but we're not like that.  My boss did say if it was solved to see if you wanted to join us.  I know you've got to be there.  Thanks, kiddo.  Yeah, if I could.  It'll take me three days though."  He smiled.  "Wish I could've been there last year.  I know.  They're asses sometimes.  Every family has at least one."  He laughed.  "Ours more than most, yeah.  You sure you're good?  Good."  He hung up and laid back down.  He couldn't do a thing to help it but he could link in with the other cousins to see if they could.  Dream walking was a family skill.


Xander came out of the mess six days later, looking around at the daylight.  He watched the girls walk off and stared inside then back at them.  "Buffy, the prisoners?" he asked.

She stared back at him.  "Release them."  He nodded, going to do that with Riley's help.  She went to destress and calm herself down.  "Movie night, my place?" she asked Willow.

"Sure," she agreed quietly.  "Xander?"

"I'll text him."  She did that and they headed off together.  It was worse than last year in a lot of ways.  She hated this duty.

Xander came out, looking at the men stomping his way.  The demons flowed out, running away from the new agents.  "Thanks for supporting the project that was going to kill us all," he sneered.  "Good job protecting the US."  He walked around them.  More demons came out, some more injured.  "Healer's are probably open," he called.  "If not, I'll stop by the clinic myself."  Some were being carried out.  He went to Buffy's to relax and destress.  Things were still wrong and odd between them but he wasn't sure how to solve it.  He wasn't sure if it could be solved now.  He called Tony.  "Did they let you free after we had solved it?"  He smirked.  "Of course they did.  You can thank them for supporting a project that nearly ended the world too."  He hung up.  At least they had tried to help.

Well, Tony and John had tried to help.  The others....  He wasn't talking to ever again.  They didn't want to help him, so be it.

The End.

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