Xander looked up from his staring at Buffy's grave, finding someone standing there. "Are we in a dream?"
"No, we just got back in contact," John said quietly. "I've spent the last three days with military commanders crawling up my butt for us having to solve things the best way we could."
"I have girls who do that to me," he said quietly. "Why are you here?"
"I came to check on you. The last few times I couldn't reach you, Xander." He moved around the end of the grave. "What happened?" Xander shrugged. He made the boy look at him, holding onto his arms. "What finally got her?"
"A hell god."
"You didn't call anyone?"
"They don't seem to give a damn, so no." He grimaced but let it clear up. "Want a beer?"
"I could use a beer. The last year has been hell." He walked Xander off, not talking. He pointed at someone. "Isn't that your friend, Willow?"
"Yeah." He waved her off, getting a glare. So he sent one back. "I have no idea what her problem is today." She stomped over. "This is one of my distant cousins, John. He wanted to have a beer. He just got back stateside."
"He's not Riley or his bunch, Willow. He's a pilot."
"Oh." She still glared at him but less. "Why are you here?"
"Because I hadn't heard from him recently. I heard from him every month but the last few months for the last six years. Including all the stuff that you go through monthly out here."
"That's how they knew," she sneered at Xander.
"No, Riley told the hearing panel that they started due to the Judge incident. Not the weapons borrowing but firing it off in a mall at a demon." She went pale. "John doesn't talk, Willow. He never has and he served his unit honorably. He's not one of them." He walked off again, John following. "I'm sorry."
"It's fine. With what happened last year, I wouldn't like us either. I would've stopped it from the inside if I had been made part of it."
"That's because you have ethics," Xander pointed out.
"Battles can change that but I generally do."
"Don't remind me. Please?"
"I won't." He patted him on the back. "How's the girlfriend?"
"Her back got injured during the last battle but she's mostly fine. She'll be good within a few days. I popped the question."
"Good for you." He smiled. "If she's good to you I'll try to be here for it."
They walked another block in silence. "Have you ever gotten to the point where you've seen one too many deaths and are going to make sure no one else you know is going to die one way or another?" he asked finally.
"Twice now. I have a good team that got there in time before I had to start any plans I could devise." He looked at his cousin. "I wish you had one of those."
"Me too." He pointed. "Human bar or demon bar?"
"Demon for all I care as long as we don't get jumped. We could both use less combat."
"Yeah." They went into the human bar. It was dark, scummy, and no one came near them. Two guys saluted John with their beers and another bought him a round but he only smiled and saluted back. He watched Xander down his first few and decided he could be the mostly sober, good boy today. He waited until Xander felt like talking, tapping the back of his hand. "What's wrong?"
"Beyond everything, what's wrong?"
Xander finished that beer, staring into the empty glass then looked up at his cousin. "It's like things haven't changed from before that one problem you called about." John nodded at that. "But everything's changed."
"You don't have to stay," he pointed out gently. "I could sure as hell use you on my project, Xander."
"No, I need to be here. Not like Willow can hunt. It's me and Spike hunting. We both make crap Buffy's. We're doing better as big brothers to Buffy's little sister."
"She has a sister?"
"Yup, longer story there. Since her mom and now her sister are dead, it's up to the rest of us." He took another drink. Then he looked at his cousin. "What happens if we have major problems now?" he asked quietly.
"The last one you called in help for proved to a few others that you weren't kidding," John said. "Tony definitely."
"Tony's not really great in the middle of the sort of fights we have around here."
"No, not really from what you've said," John agreed. He took his own drink and thought about it. "If you guys could get me back and forth, you know I'd come."
"I can't even hear you during meetings anymore."
"Good point." He grimaced. "That does suck. Oh, we do have email." He slid over a folded piece of paper. "That's mine and I work with people who make your sarcastic streak look like a kindergartner's on a playground."
"Oooh. Is he cute?"
"In his own mind."
"Never mind." He took another drink, shrugging at the look he got. "I can still look, even if she wouldn't agree."
Some clues clicked in his head. He hadn't been sure before.... "Is this the same girlfriend that you took the prom?"
"Yup, she came back like the kitty cat I fed," he said with a wicked smirk.
"And I keep the kitty cat very happy in some ways. The rest, she complains about to everyone."
"I get to meet her, right?"
"You drive her off, I get to come to your project and date," Xander joked.
"There's plenty of the sort that you seem to draw, Xander." Xander snickered. John took another sip while Xander drained his beer. "What else is going on?"
"It's just...horribly normal around here," he admitted. He heard the bad sound outside and groaned, putting down money for the tab. He pointed for the waitress' benefit, getting a nod, and he walked out. John followed. "No offense, but I doubt you can do very much, John."
"You'd be surprised."
"No, not really." He staked the vampire running toward him, ducking around a victim that was trying to flee. He moved in to get the next one. "I still suck at this!" he decided.
"It's because you've had a few."
"No, he can't fight," a vampire told him from beside him.
John shot him in the head. Xander tossed back a stake for him to use, making him grin. "Thanks, cousin. You know, you're not bad." He staked the next few too. One more got shot and it was bleeding. "Um...."
Xander looked at him. "No, you need steel, don't you?" It smirked and nodded, opening its mouth wider. "Fuck." He pulled out his pocket knife and stabbed it in the stomach, making it howl. "Go away. Before I have to get more mean. Anya's still in the hospital." The rest of them fled. Xander growled.
John walked slowly up behind his younger cousin, just as slowly holding him until he quit growling. "Calm down," he said in his ear. "It's all good, Xander. I'm here for right now. We'll handle what we can." Xander looked back at him. "I promise, we will."
Xander nodded. "How long are you in for? I could use some sleep."
"Six days but I can ask for another week or so. If I need to. My CO will understand an emergency when I send film."
"No, you're doing important things. You need to do that wherever you are." He got free and gave him a weak smile. "Thanks."
"Welcome. Haven't heard you growl in a while." He nodded in a direction and Xander pointed, walking him back to his place. "So things are that bad nightly?"
"I should finish my patrol," he groaned.
"Xander, missing three graves isn't going to make a huge difference at the moment," John said, sounding practical. "Get some sleep, then we can do a daylight hunt. You guys have daylight until around eight at night right now. That means you can go to work too," he suggested when Xander started to shake his head.
"Maybe," he admitted. "I have to pick Anya up tomorrow so I'm off anyway."
"So we'll do a daylight hunt then pick her up, have lunch, and do whatever."
Xander nodded. "Sounds like a plan."
"Good. Now let's get you down on a soft surface to nap in." He grinned. "I'll even tell you a bedtime story if I have to."
"Nah, those always turn out bad. Did I tell you about Hansel and Gretel demons?"
"Yup, I heard about that. That one witch still a rat?"
"Too bad. Maybe someday soon."
"It's not high on her priority list right now," Xander admitted. He let them into his apartment. "It's messy and tiny but it's home."
"I've lived in barracks, I can stand a messy apartment." He saw Xander stomp on something. "Bugs?"
"No, demons." He picked it up to toss it out the window, then shut the window and took of his shirt.
John stared at all the scars. "Xander, the last time I saw you in person, you were eighteen. You only had a quarter of those," he said, letting the boy stare at him. "Are things that bad? Even when she was here?"
Xander sighed as he flopped onto the couch. "A good few came from graduation and the Initiative thing." John sat next to him, letting him lean against his arm. "The rest, yeah."
John put an arm around his shoulder. "If you ever want to leave, you call me and I'll recruit you in a heartbeat," he said quietly.
"Thanks, but I think Captain Corncob Up His Ass blacked out my records so I can't be."
"We can get around that." He smirked. "We do pretty cool things and have just as much danger as you do."
"Yay. Many bad girls?"
"Many too many bad girls." He smirked. "You'd have fun."
"Yeah, maybe. Maybe soon," he admitted, yawning.
"You rest. I'm here and I'll make sure nothing gets you tonight." Xander nodded, letting the beers in his blood do their job so he could finally sleep, hopefully without nightmares. John kept watch over his cousin, making mental notes. Yeah, something had to be done.
John reported to his overlording general when he got back. "Can I have some advice?"
"About?" he asked, looking at him.
"Your cousin's a nutball," Jack said bluntly, putting down his pen. "He has to be to put himself into that situation."
"He was born there. He got sucked in barely into his tenth grade year." His general winced. "And it's now worse."
"How can it be worse than that graduation?" he demanded quietly.
"The blonde one died, sir."
"Hell. Sit." John sat. "He want recruited?"
"He thinks that wonderful little program they had to stop put a block on his records."
"He'd be right. I can get around that if I need to." He watched the younger guy. He could see a lot of his own traits in the colonel. "What else is going on?"
John looked at him. "He's basically one of four adults out there, he's helping raise the blonde's little sister since her mother died just before she did, they just got done fighting a hell goddess, literally, and he's got more scars than anyone I've seen outside of the guy I know who went through a plate glass window when he was a kid. Half of them look to be under a year old." The general winced. "There's bad signs from the rest of the town that things are only going to get worse."
"We've got the reserve base out there alerted in case they have to step in to help."
"That's some help." He sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. Then he looked at the older man again. "I'd love nothing more than to take him away from that town. It's not good for him. He's settling for a young woman that wants sex, money, and complains loudly about other things."
"I've met women like that."
"So have I but she's worse. Much worse. She complained that he hadn't shown up in the hospital to give her sex. Though she called it orgasms." The general shook his head with a small moan. "That the stay was going to cost them money that they couldn't afford. She'd have to give up sex toy or bra shopping."
"She sounds like a winner," he said sarcastically.
"I think he cares for her but he's settling because she's there, she's seen how bad his life can get, and she's slightly in the business herself, sir. I don't know what to do to help him."
He looked at the young guy for a moment. "All you can do is offer non-judgmental advice. If you get too preachy he'll ignore you." John nodded at that. "If you offer good, solid, caring advice, he might listen."
"I did. I also spent most of the time making sure he got *some* sleep."
"That's good of you."
"I told him I'd talk to you about recruiting him if he wanted. He said he had to stay."
"Sometimes duty is all that we have," the general agreed. "It motivates us more than anything else."
"Yeah, but I'm seeing even worse portents of the future hellish problems. His friend Willow? They were complaining that she was getting addicted to her skills."
"You can do that?"
"I'm assuming it's like any power you have, sir."
"Good point I suppose." He considered it then nodded. "Have him keep in touch."
"We are. You don't know anyone who used to work here who might want to move, do you?"
"Not right off the top of my head, but I'll suggest it to a few I trust not to screw things up worse." He smirked at the younger guy. "That could help."
"I'd hope so." He shrugged. "I want to help but I don't know what I can do to help beyond advising him."
"Unless you want to leave and move there?"
John shook his head. "No. I love Atlantis, freaky problems and all." He stood up. "Thank you."
"Welcome. We all have family problems, Sheppard. Sometimes it's got to be more important than even a duty is though."
"I know. But he'll let me know and I'll do what I can to help. If another thing like that one battle happens...?"
"You apply for leave time and head."
"Thank you, sir." He went back to rejoin his teammates waiting on transport back to their base. His boss and teammate both gave him long stares. "My cousin's having some problems I'd dearly love to solve with a lot of C-4," he said bluntly. "And watch him giggle while it burns."
"Relationship issues?" Elizabeth Weir asked.
"No. Not totally. No, his whole town needs to be sunk. Someone needed to do it a few years ago actually." He walked past them. "Let me get something to eat. Are we going home now?"
"Twenty-two hundred," she called after him.
"I'll be there." He did think about sending Xander the name of some of the guys who used to work in the Stargate project. O'Neill seemed pretty cool. He had handled weird things for years before having to retire. Maybe he could be a good mentor for his cousin? Demons couldn't be any stranger than aliens, right?
Willow stopped her scrying spell, staring at Xander. Who she had forced to watch. "See, he's trying to do the same thing Walsh was."
"By giving us some potential backup?" he asked. "I'd like it if we have another battle the size of graduation, Willow. Plus his project handles things that're stranger than we are." She glared, huffing and stomping a foot at him. "I don't adore him not liking Anya and me but she wasn't exactly at her best right out of the hospital. I'm sure she'll grow on him too."
"He's in the military! He's doing bad things!"
"He's not doing bad things. I know what he's doing and it's not evil. There's no experimenting on people. There's no eating people. There's no creating super soldiers. There's no demons. If you actually looked up his project, you'd see they're doing the same thing we are, basically, and by the same method, whatever works does. He's not bad. He's not the one who got the Initiative sent here. That was us having to hit the Judge in the mall. Mall security tapes got leaked to the police department and someone there leaked them higher up so the Mayor could try to get us in trouble and out of his way." She stomped off. "That's what their own people said," he called after her.
"They lied!" she shouted, slamming a door.
"I doubt it," he called after her. "Unless they all lied the same story since each one said the same thing." He cleaned up her mess, finding Tara watching from a doorway. "Not my fault."
"I know," she agreed quietly. "Is he a good man?"
"John's a very good man. If he had been able to get here, he would've helped us with all of it."
She nodded. "You trust him with all this?"
"He does stuff that's just as weird."
She gave him a slight smile. "She's worried another one will come."
"Then we'll talk to the same people who tried to stop them last time but Homeland Security got in their way." She nodded, walking off to calm her down. "I'm taking Dawn to the mall. Let her fume, Tara. She'll calm down eventually." He went to find Dawn at the house, taking her with him. She didn't need exposed to Willow's issues.
Tara found Willow trying to do a spell but it wasn't working. She walked in and stopped her. "You are not in vengeance," she said bluntly. "That is not the light way." She stared her girlfriend down.
"They're going to start another one."
"They can't do that. Too many people know." She sat across from her. "You can't hurt him, Willow. If you do, others can pay for that." Willow slumped, shaking her head. "He does important work. If you looked him up, you might see that. Instead you're trying to do what Anya would."
"I'm not anything like her!" she complained. Tara simply stared at her. "I'm not," she pouted.
"Then you wouldn't be trying to hurt him for being a good friend and cousin to your best friend. Plenty of people are military and not like Riley." She stood up. "Clean up and come help me. Xander took Dawn to the mall." She grumbled but did that. Tara made sure all the spell components and books were locked up. Willow had a bad habit of reaching for magic when she wanted to do bad things. It was a trend that had to stop. Before worse things happened.
It was a year before Xander decided he had to contact his family again. A few letters with John, and a few more emails, weren't exactly staying in contact. A year later, Xander was panting and in pain. He was heaving blood and bile. He was miserable and alone. Buffy was taking care of Dawn since she was back and had been hurt by Willow. Tara was dead. Giles was in British 'oh dear' land. And he was in deep shit. He called Tony, gasping into the phone. "Know anyone who can demagic me for a bit?" he hissed. He dry heaved. "No, not the flu. Willow," he moaned. He passed out, letting the phone drop.
Tony looked at his phone. "Xander?" He listened. "He's passed out and sick, boss. I've got to go."
"DiNozzo," he started.
Tony stared at him. "He passed out while asking for help, boss. I *have* to go." He gathered his things. "Fire me if you want." He walked off, heading right to the airport. It was a long trip and he hoped like hell someone would find him before he got there. He called all the numbers he had out in Sunnydale, not finding anyone answering. "That's charming," he sneered. "Really great friends."
He tried Xander back, getting him. "Hey, I'm coming. What happened?" He got the short and dirty version, making him hiss and wince. He finally made it to the airport security screening gate, pulling out his ID. They pointed at him to move to the hand-wanding line. They took his firearm to box up for the trip and let him through once he was done. "I'm coming, Xander. Is anyone closer? No, I doubt John is," he admitted. "Isn't Darryl closer? I know but right now you can't be too picky." Xander hung up on him so he went down his list of contacts. He found one who might be able to help, stepping into the bathroom to talk more privately.
"It's Tony DiNozzo," he said quietly. "My cousin Xander needs some extreme help." He listened. "We all felt something the other day? That stuff was his best friend losing it. She got him by the same means. He's blacking out. Sunnydale. I'm in DC and flying out in about an hour. Anyone closer to there who might be able to help?" He relaxed and smiled.
"That could, yeah. Thank you. I'll be there by tonight. Thanks, Bobby." He hung up and called Xander back, not getting an answer. "I've got someone I know and trust sending someone to help you with that. Just hold on until I get there, okay? I'll be there by midnight, Xander." He hung up and went to board.
This was not fun. He hated emergencies. Xander never came with simple ones.
Xander blinked at the pounding on his door. "Who is it?" he croaked hoarsely. "Aw, fuck it, break the door in," he called, letting his head thump back down. A man he didn't know walked in and kicked the door shut, putting down something. "Killing me?"
"What happened, kid? I got told to come help you because a witch got you pretty badly. I'm a hunter the same as you are."
"She was lost in her grief and magic addiction," he said quietly. "I was stopping her. She tried to stop me."
The older guy stared at him. "Is she dead?"
"Heading to a higher coven," he gasped, then winced and rolled onto his side to start heaving again. "Seven magical hits," he moaned between heaves.
"Damn it." He came over to help the kid to the bathroom, stripping his shirt off him. He could see impact marks, they were glowing in the dim light he had in there. "That's not good."
"Feels worse. I feel like a toddler Potter," he moaned. "Was even green."
"I'm hoping you're wrong about what it was."
Xander looked at him. "It was black magic. She sucked some up first."
The older hunter just nodded. "Someone should handle her."
Xander shook his head. "We need her, it was grief."
"If you say so." He kept his opinion to himself. Someone else pounded on the door. "Relatives?"
"Dawnie," he said.
He went to look at her. "Miss, I'm helping the young man with the damage he took." He saw her cast and sighed mentally. "Did the same woman hurt you?"
"Yes she did. No one's come to check on him." She tried to get past him. "Move. Xander's like my big brother."
"I'm going to have to do things to weed that out of him," he told her.
"I have some magic that I don't use," she said simply, pushing him out of her way. She walked into the bathroom. "Damn it, why didn't we check on you." He let out a bitter snort. "Yeah, I know. Shower?" He shook his head, heaving again. "Hmm."
"We need to leach the magic out of him."
She looked at him. "I'm not a bad cook. Do we have a potion?"
"I do," he admitted. "But I should have enough. I really don't have time to teach you this."
She snickered. "My sister's a slayer." He winced at that. "Yeah, I'm helping." She came in to wet a washcloth so she could wipe off his face. "That's only six bruises. Did she hit the same place twice?" He nodded, pointing at his right side, right about where his liver was. "That explains why you're puking that way." She helped him into a coolish shower. Then she looked at John. "I'm helping you how?"
"That's a good first start," he admitted. "I need a containment circle drawn."
"Picture?" He pulled out his journal and opened it for her. She got the top sheet off the bed and settled in to draw on it with a permanent marker. He smirked. She wasn't half bad. He pulled the kid out when he started to look a bit less pukey, taking him out to lay him down in the center of the circle. He took another marker to do the other half and it was quickly done. Then he let her rub the potion onto the bruised areas for him. She could fuss that way. The rite was simple, something like an exorcism for magic. He watched as she started to glow too. "Back away from the circle, girl."
"My name's Dawn," she told him, but she did back up. She quit glowing. She wasn't used to what he was doing but she'd do whatever she had to do to help Xander. Her phone rang and she went into the kitchen to answer it. "I'm helping the guy helping Xander weed out the magic she hit him with," she said in greeting. "It's not pretty. She may have bruised his liver or something. No, he's doing it. I'm helping. You stay there." She hung up and came back. "My sister."
"Hopefully we won't have any demons show up."
"She might send Spike or his ex, Anyanka," she offered. "He's a vampire. She's in vengeance."
He gave her the oddest look. "Huh?"
"They help the local team. Same as he does."
The hunter shook his head quickly. "That's just...wrong on so many levels." He went back to it, finally making the boy heave and let the magic go. "It usually takes less time."
"He keeps possessions too," she admitted. He gave her another strange look. "He does. Twice now."
He groaned. "We'll make sure he's all right." Someone pounded on the door. "Which one is that?"
"Spike." He walked in. "We're working on it, don't go near the sheet."
"What are we doing?"
"Weeding the magic out of him," the hunter said bluntly. "I got a call from a friend of his cousin who asked for my help."
"Who're you?" he demanded.
"John Winchester, a hunter." He smirked. "I'm told you're *helping*?"
"Leave him alone," Dawn said tiredly. "He's my favorite babysitter." He gave her a horrified look this time. "Someone's got to watch me while they're on patrol." She shrugged. "We're wacky like that. Will we need the ER? Because ours is horrible around here. Or do we need more weeding out since he's floating?"
John looked and got back to it. This was worse than that old show _the Addams Family_. A young blonde woman walked in and slammed the door. "Stay back."
"What are we doing?" she demanded.
"Weeding the bad magic she hit him with out of him," Dawn told her. "See, bruises. Making him puke blood," she said with a point. "Bad things, Buffy."
"Very bad things. Who's he?"
"A hunter who got asked to help him," Spike said, watching him. "Heard of him. He's some big, badass hunter in the other sort."
John smirked. "I'm always happy to hear that I have a scary reputation but can you wait to spread it more? It's distracting me." He went over the rite again.
"Oh, here," Dawn said, getting frustrated and taking it from him. She chanted it and the power came easier to her. Much easier than it did to him. She had to keep herself from absorbing any of it but it did flow out of Xander faster when she did it. She felt something off and looked at him. "I feel a wall-like thing but it's still got bad magic."
"He did live here all his life," Buffy pointed out. "Hellmouth taint, Dawnie?"
"No, it's not the hellmouth. We all carry that, this is different." He took over and the wall thing broke but less magic came out this time. He was glowing now, but it looked more healthy. "Huh."
John looked at her. "It's probably a family gift."
"Not unless it's related to alcohol," Spike said dryly. "That's the only gift his family has."
"Except he has some really cool cousins," Dawn told him. She looked at John. "He has a few of them and one older one that has some sort of house down in Revelatto or something like that." John stiffened and nodded. "We know them?"
"Some mutual contacts. They have a few hunters in their family," he told her. "That would explain that family gift." The boy groaned, then started to heave again. Spike grimaced but pulled him out of the circle and into the bathroom before he made a mess on the floor. He looked at her. "Do we know any of them outside of the one who called my friend?"
"I know an email address but he said that most of his cousins didn't believe it was that bad out here. Something about him asking for help and them calling him a drama queen."
"Find me his phone or wherever he keeps the main address and number?" She went right to it and brought it back. He called it from his phone, moving into the kitchen for privacy. "This is John Winchester. I'm here in Sunnydale helping one Xander Harris after a witch got him with some black magic for stopping her grief-induced suicide attempt," he said quietly. "I've been trying. We've weeded it down to the family gifts. No, a friend got called by a Tony DiNozzo, and he called me since I was nearby and could handle it." He listened.
"He's in pretty bad shape," he admitted. "It does look like she may have done some organ damage. Two of seven hits went to his liver." He listened. "Exactly. I have but I can't be sure since he's still getting sick. Not like I use magic. All I have here is a friend's sister who is a light witch." He nodded. "Please do. He's on his way out. Thank you. His place." He hung up and walked out there, ignoring the blatantly eavesdropping people. "One of his older cousins is calling an older witch who hunts to come help," he told Dawn. "His cousin will be here about midnight probably since he said he's in DC."
"Will he need an ER?" Buffy asked. "Ours kinda sucks badly."
"It's possible. I'm not real sure. Magic is not my forte," he said.
She nodded. "I understand. Thank you for helping him."
"I can stay until someone more qualified gets here. I will say that it's a good thing we started as soon as we could. Or else he'd need a morgue," he said bluntly, staring at her.
She nodded. "I should've checked sooner," she agreed quietly. "Things have been insane. She's part of our team out here."
"I understand how it is when friends go off the deep end." They stared at each other for a moment. "Do you need some help hunting for a few days until you can focus again?"
"I might," she admitted. Xander's phone rang. "Dawnie?"
She took it from John's hand. "Hello?" She smiled. "You're his cousin John, right?" She smirked. "I'm Dawn. No, he's majorly sick. Black magic poisoning from someone shooting it at him." She heard a beep. "Speaker?" She snickered. "Even better. His place. Tony, whoever that cousin is, is coming out. We have a hunter here to help. Sure, I'm sure he'd like to see you. He said you're a cool cousin. We're here. Call his phone, I'll have it." She hung up.
"Isn't that the one Willow was grumpy about because he's military?" Buffy asked.
"Yup, but he does weird stuff too."
"Bad weird stuff?"
"Nope. Not according to Xander."
"Good." She smiled. "How soon and can I help you get to the motel?"
"I can find it," he assured her. "It'll be fine, Miss Summers. People have come back from being worse injured than this." She nodded, relaxing some. "For right now, we need to make sure no magic goes on around him." Buffy looked at her sister. "I'm sure she wouldn't in front of me."
"Nope, not even a healing spell because I'd have to read straight from the book," Dawn assured him. "And they're all locked up anyway."
"You will not go down Willow's path," Buffy ordered.
"Not my thing anyway," she pointed out. "I don't go to a magic dealer. No one ever broke up with me because of me overusing it. I never did memory spells, changed my clothes and hair, or even moved furniture with it."
"I know, just setting a limit."
"Fine, whatever," Dawn assured her.
Spike came out of the bathroom. "Not really the time for that, nibblet," he complained.
John coughed. "I need to make sure," he told Buffy. "She has been made safe?"
"The coven in Devon has her," she assured him. "They're higher witches. It was grief. She backslid when her girlfriend was killed while standing next to her."
John nodded. "I've seen alcoholics do the same sort of slipping under pressure," he told her. "But they will either strip her magic totally or make her safe?"
"They're the ones the Watchers Council goes to," Buffy told him.
"Not that I trust them," Spike said dryly. "They'll make her bleed her magic if nothing else," Spike said.
"I have to make sure for the safety of others," John pointed out. "Someone that dangerous could destroy cities."
"She tried to destroy the world this time," Dawn said. "I don't think a single city is any problem." Buffy swatted her. "She did!"
"Still not the time." She stared at John. "She'll be safe or they won't let her come back."
"Good. Then I won't nag." She relaxed and let out a small smile at that. "Now, let's go over the problem areas while he rests?" She nodded, sitting him down with the map Xander had on a wall. Dawn and Spike put Xander to bed for now. At least until someone could help him better.
John hung up and threw his phone at the wall. The people in the meeting with him gave him a lot of dirty looks. "I have to leave, General O'Neill." The general gave him another dirty look. "Someone tried to kill my cousin Xander."
"That nutjob one?" He nodded. "How bad?"
"They're calling in outside reinforcements. I just talked to his friend's sister. They were saying there's possible organ damage from what happened." He had done some research into black magic and the possible consequences when his cousin had said that his friend Willow was addicted. "Permission to go there?"
"Granted. Let me know if you need more than three days." John nodded and left. He sighed. "That cousin of his has the worst luck sometimes. His town's worse than some of our bases are."
Doctor Weir coughed. "That bad, sir?"
"Yes, that bad. I'd tell you more but it was sanitized and classified higher than we are, Doctor Weir." He looked at her. "We have been trying to recruit that cousin however."
"Is he a scientist of some sort?"
"No. He's very good at what he does. He'd remind you a lot of your military head, only younger." He smirked. "I'm hoping the boy pulls through." He went back to his notes. "I see we have two irregularities?"
She sighed and nodded. "Yes, sir, we do."
John ran into Tony outside Xander's apartment. "C'mon, I have keys," John told him, leading the way up there. He knocked then let himself in, making Buffy and John jump. "Hey, I'm his cousin John Sheppard. This is his other cousin, Tony DiNozzo. Is he here or in a hospital?"
"Here," Buffy said with a point. "He's slightly better. He kept down water and quit puking blood."
"That's good," Tony said, walking that way. He smiled when the young woman next to him jumped up. "Easy, I'm his Cousin Tony, this is his Cousin John."
"Hi, I'm Dawn," she told them, smiling at John. "We talked."
"We did. Thank you for that update when you called. Is he going to be all right?"
"No clue," she admitted. "You'd have to ask whoever John Winchester called up for help. She came in, did something funky, went to the motel and said she'd be back tomorrow. That's why he quit puking." She got out of their way.
"Don't try a healing spell," Winchester warned from the doorway. "The witch Darryl called up said not to."
"We're not skilled that way anyway," Tony said with an easy grin. "Should he be in a hospital?"
"The local one would kill him," John said bluntly, looking at his cousin.
"They do it a lot," Buffy agreed.
"How do they get away with that?" Tony asked.
"It's Sunnydale," Dawn said with a shrug. "The whole town's one big hunting preserve for deadly things."
"Which is why I wanted to use C-4 the last time I showed up," John quipped dryly.
Winchester nodded. "I can see doing that."
"There's still the hellmouth under the high school they're rebuilding," Buffy said, looking at him. "They'd come back and haunt the rubble until they could uncover it."
"Our whole family was taught hellmouths were myths," Tony told her.
Winchester shook his head. "Our circle thinks that mostly too but they're not. Those of us who know about them know not to show up on them. That's why so few hunters go to Cleveland and none show up here."
Buffy looked at him. "Cleveland?" John Winchester nodded. "Wow. Didn't know that." She looked at Dawn. "Let's let them fuss. We can come back to help the witch tomorrow."
"Go on patrol, Buffy. I'll stay with him," Dawn told her. Buffy stared at her. "I won't get in their way but I doubt they want to get him into the shower and things. Not like I'll perv if I have to."
"We can handle him," John Sheppard assured her. "I'd never let anything hurt Xander. If I had any way, I would've been here for graduation, the Initiative battles, and Glory's crap." Dawn flinched at that. "Unfortunately I was too far away."
"It's good he's got people who like him like that," Buffy said. "Dawnie?"
She stared at John. "I have his phone. You will be calling if he's going to get worse?"
John nodded. "I can do that." She smiled. "He told me you were like his own little sister." He glanced at Buffy then back at her. "I was here after," he said more quietly.
"I remember kinda. He didn't let you hang out then." She patted him on the arm. "Don't make me find Willow's spell to turn you into a Colonel rat." She left with her sister.
"She's one strong girl," Tony decided.
Winchester nodded. "She's got some power too. She helped with the draining ritual."
"Even better," John agreed. He looked at the hunter and smirked. "Some of us know more about her than you do. Xander told me." Tony gave him a pointed look. "Longer than average story and did he call you about Glory?"
"He called to ask about the possibility of getting someone moved so the freaky, Gucci wearing hell goddess couldn't get her."
"That her was Dawn."
"Oh!" He nodded once. "He said she's been taken a few times."
"Now and then," John agreed. He checked Xander over. "We should probably get him into a bath. He's starting to spike a fever." John Winchester went to run it for them. "Thank you."
"I've had some medic training and you don't let a hunter go down this way."
Tony smirked at John. "I've got to call Gibbs."
"Tell him it'll be a few days if you can." He called his own team. "McKay, John. It's as bad as we thought. He's still unconscious. We're waiting to hear if it's going to be a long healing session or not. Right now, he's running a fever. I can't take him to the ER, McKay, they have a fifty percent or so death rate there." He gasped and said something. "Carson would have so many fits, we'd get popcorn and be able to kick back and watch him rant if he was here. I know he doesn't rant but he would about this town's hospital. Anyway, we've got someone with some medic training coming and someone to help handle the problem tomorrow. I'll let you know after we talk to her." He hung up and picked Xander up. "You've lost weight, Xander," he complained as he carried him that way.
Tony finally got through. "Gibbs, me. Still unconscious, we're worried about liver damage and other organs maybe failing at the moment. We've got a specialist coming to help tomorrow. No, not the ER or local hospital. Because they suck worse than any unit hospital we've *ever* seen killing patients on purpose," he said bluntly. "Have Abby look up Sunnydale General's records, boss. They're so unpretty even the director would scream at it. Bathing him to get down his fever right now. I'll know sometime tomorrow." He hung up when he heard the thrashing, going to help. "What did we do?"
"I blessed the water so it's holy water," John told him.
"With black magic, won't that cause more problems?" John Sheppard asked.
"No. It could help weed it out more. Bobby said so and I trust him. He's our best research person."
"Okay, I'll trust that," John decided. He and Tony moved to bathe the poor guy. His fever was coming down but it was a harsh way of doing it. "Tell me Willow's in captivity?" he asked finally, looking at the hunter.
"They said a higher coven has her. They'll keep her if she's dangerous and if not, they'll help her."
"What happened?" Tony asked. "I got the barest info when I called. Willow hit him with black magic to stop him from stopping her pull up a temple?"
Winchester sighed, leaning against the wall. "I got the full story from Dawn earlier. Willow has a magic addiction. She was dabbling with black magic on top of it." They both nodded slowly. "Her girlfriend got her cleaned up from it. Mostly. Then her girlfriend got shot right after they got back together."
"That's going to send anyone over the edge, especially an addict," John Sheppard agreed.
"Which she did. She sucked black magic, killed her former dealer to get his stores. Broke Dawn's arm and shoved her and Buffy into a grave together. Xander apparently went to stop her from pulling up some temple that was to some demon goddess or someone like that who could destroy the earth." Tony shivered. "She hit him seven times trying to make him go away. He got her down and crying. The coven took over. Then he came home to collapse. They were all dealing with their things and didn't check on him last night. Today he was still feeling the effects and called in help I guess."
"Yeah, he called me asking if I knew anyone who could demagic him," Tony admitted, looking at the boy. "So she's captive and being helped in her grief?"
"From what they said. I made sure in case they needed her hunted before she hurt someone else. Buffy was certain it was handled."
"Good," John Sheppard decided. "Because I wouldn't hesitate to kill her for this." Tony gave him a worried look. "Xander and I talk all the time, Tony. I've seen some info on the black magic addiction. I met Willow, who was trying to convince him I'm bad because I'm military and going to restart the Initiative stuff because I know."
Tony shook his head. "Can't happen. The guys over it are in jail for treason."
"Huh?" Winchester asked.
"Crackpot military project to breed or somehow make better soldiers," Tony said bluntly. "Who tortured a lot. Xander came to me for help getting them stopped but Homeland stepped in to stop me from helping."
"I was in the southern hemisphere at the time," John admitted. "I did talk to someone on our project who was from here so he could get his family out of the way."
"That's a coincidence," Winchester said.
"No, our project draws and requires people who can be mentally flexible now and then. Fortunately, the soldiers who were left of the Initiative are now hunting demons for the UN, mostly in South America."
Winchester groaned. "I heard a rumor about them."
"Yeah," Sheppard said, giving him a look. "More than a rumor."
"I'll let that be known in case it comes into the open," he decided, stepping into the kitchen to call Bobby and update him. The boys could take care of their cousin well enough.
John and Tony shared a look then shrugged and got back to helping Xander. Tony did call some of the members of the family he liked and trusted to let them know. Including that hellmouths were real and there was one here. He could get them information on it from Xander's books if he had any; if not the watcher out here probably had some. He came back to help get Xander back into boxer shorts and into bed. He needed rest to heal.
Sheppard walked back on base a week later, saluting both generals waiting on him. "Sirs."
"At ease, kid," O'Neill said. "How's your nutjob cousin?"
"Better. The physical damage was healed." That got a nod and a small smirk.
"From liver damage?" General Landry asked. "In a week? Do they have something like a healing device perhaps?"
"No, but they have ways of speeding it up, sir. He's down to aching and able to keep down food again. Once the original cause was solved, the damage was able to be fixed faster than average." He looked at O'Neill again. "He had a strange thing happen though."
"Coming from his town that doesn't surprise me."
"Visions don't surprise you?" he asked.
"Not really from that town. Speaking of, do you know where the rest of those soldiers went? I tried to check to make sure they weren't here."
"UN hunting squads, sir."
"Charming," he said sarcastically.
"Yup, and a few are in Homeland Security." He smirked. "Captain Finn is related to the project though. His new wife, according to Buffy, has a grandfather named George Hammond."
"Oh, shit," he muttered, shaking his head. "He'll freak."
"I think he knows. She said that his wife was injured and he had to call him to make him aware of that fact, General." He smirked. "She was of the opinion that the butt chewing lasted for a good, long time."
"Was the general aware of what he used to do?"
"What are you two talking about?" Landry demanded.
"A sealed, classified, sanitized project," O'Neill told him. "That NID was helping." Landry shuddered.
"That was to breed or make better soldiers, sir. It included neat things like torture." He looked at O'Neill. "I'm sure General Hammond was more than able to get his point across, sir."
"He did with us plenty of times." He walked him off. "How is he really?" he asked quietly.
"Angry, confused, sore, aching, and not real happy with the universe in general at the moment. By the way, something bigger's coming but he's not sure what. That was the vision he had. Something about 'from beneath you it devours'."
"Interesting. I'll keep an eye on the town for you, kid. Make sure they don't get sucked into something bigger again."
"Thank you, General."
"How are they doing now that they're down their main hunters?"
"Part of her problem was that she returned the blonde to her duties."
Jack O'Neill stopped him to look at him. "No technology?"
"No. She's never needed it and that's what she was addicted to. What she shot into my cousin when he tried to stop her from ending the world. She was a bit upset when her girlfriend was killed next to her."
"I felt something the day before that call...." he said, letting it trail off.
"What she was doing."
"Damn it," he muttered.
"And she's convinced herself that we're going to bring the next incarnation of that problem project to life. No matter how many times my cousin has told her we're not."
"She sounds a bit unstable," Landry said.
"She's grieving and recovering from an addiction to the same power that she shot into my cousin, sir. She's been in the bad life for a long time helping protect that town. My cousin, a few of his teammates, I'd trust at my back if I was handling things. Her, I'd have to judge it on how she was recovering at the moment." He looked at the other general. "He thinks, based on that one vision, that things are going to get worse, sir. Much worse."
"I'll keep an eye on it for you," he promised. John smiled and nodded his thanks. "Now, can you get McKay off my base before I punt him through a space gate?"
"I can see what's bothering him," he offered. "There's been times I wanted to punt him myself, sir." He walked off, finding Rodney fussing over everything in a lab. "It's not yours, quit that."
Rodney spun, staring at him. "You're back already?"
"My cousin will be fine. Others are watching over him again. His town's still hellish." O'Neill snickered at that. He handed over a USB key. "That belongs to Agent DiNozzo, NCIS DC, sir. He's another cousin. He was getting that information for the family." He looked at Rodney. "You done? I can head back. He's good enough to be on his own again."
"You're going to abandon him?"
"He's got a fussy teenage girl who's like his little sister there, her bigger sister to complain, his ex girlfriend or an enemy turned helper to nag him, and the group's adoptive father. They're already nagging enough that he went back to work early to get away from them."
Rodney stared at him. "You're still worried."
"That's because I know what they do there. Anyone sane would worry about what they do there."
"I certainly do," O'Neill said, moving to a computer to read the file on there. "If they lose, we've got people in LA at the moment."
Sheppard grinned. "So's one of their former team, sir. He's at the Hyperion."
"Good to know." He went back to reading then stared at him. "Can I show this to Jackson?"
"Go for it. Their research nerds might like to hear some of that. Our family ones definitely would."
"Good." He removed the small USB keychain device and walked down to the linguists area.
Sheppard looked at McKay. "Are we done?"
"Nearly," he admitted, getting back to what he had been fussing over.
John sat down to watch him. "We can go whenever you're done."
"You could go eat," McKay complained a few minutes later.
"Fine." He went to get them both something to eat. He knew his friend needed it. He had been getting lost in the lab again.
Buffy woke up panting from the very bad slayer dream she had just had. She pushed her hair back, looking around her room. She had to let others know. This wasn't the first but some of the potentials had escaped. The one she had seen had. She found her phone and the numbers she had taken down from Xander's phone. She called it, getting a message to call another number for problems. She wrote that down and called it.
"Hi, you don't know me but I worked with John Winchester once to help one of my team. I'm Buffy Summers." The guy on the other side said his father had told him about her. "We've got a bad sitch going on. Something's taking out girls like I am. All over the world but some are here in the US and running this way to safety. There's guys without eyes, wearing robe thingies killing them and their watchers. I have no idea how to kill them, none of the girls have been able to. Please. If you run into them, I need them here to protect them. Because he said that you guys ran on a lot of contacts," she said bluntly when he asked how he could help. "Please?" He said he could pass that on.
"Thank you. I have no idea why yet so if you hear, please let me know?" she asked quietly, hanging up and calling the next one she had gotten off Xander. "Tony DiNozzo?" She smiled. "Buffy Summers. Head's up. Something huge is happening, taking out girls like I am all over the world. Some managed to get away. They may be heading this way along with the guys who watch them. Exactly. Please do. Thank you."
She hung up and called the other one, getting a voicemail box. She decided to email him instead. Xander had said he was working in some secret location in the middle of nowhere. Then she went to talk to Giles. "Hey," she said as she walked into the Magic Box. "The last slayer dream I had showed one got away." He stared at her. So did everyone else of the group. "We need them to come here to protect them."
"I'll call around."
"I called the guys who came to help Xander after Willow hurt him," she said quietly. "What are the guys without eyes?"
"I haven't found them yet," he admitted. She nodded, going to the kitchen to get something to drink while he called the Council. "Patricia, Rupert Giles. Buffy's been having slayer dreams about potentials being taken out with their watchers by beings wearing robes or cassocks and no eyes." He listened. "Yes, I do believe it should be noted. She's seen at least three potentials dying. She said she saw one get away. Send whoever you have our way. She said she can protect them. I didn't ask how she knew," he admitted when she asked. "She was sure though. Thank you." He hung up. "They'll figure it out."
Xander was looking at his phone then called a number. "Don, Xander. Shut up and listen for a second. There's girls like Buffy being killed all over the world by something evil. We're not sure what. Some are making it past them and running. Make sure they get to us out here please. We can protect them. Because you're in New York and have one of the biggest incoming immigration points."
"I called your cousin Tony," Buffy said as she came back out. "Plus that Winchester guy's sons. His phone said to call them."
Xander smiled and repeated that. "Let it spread. Thank you." He looked at her. "He's in New York City."
"That's a major place for people coming into the US," she agreed. "I know Kendra said she crawled into the storage space on a plane to get up here." She took a sip of her soda. "We'll have to see but I hate seeing the dreams and being able to do nothing to warn them."
"That's why they have Watchers," Giles reminded her gently. "Because we can talk to each other fairly quickly." She nodded, relaxing at that. "Go make sure the town isn't going to be a problem. We don't want them to die of vampires when they've managed to get past whatever." She left with Xander to do that. He and Willow went back to the research. There had to be something on them. The fax machine in the corner started to spit out papers so he went to look at it, gaping in awe. "Someone among the hunters may have found it."
Willow took it to read over, dialing Buffy. "We think we have it. It's bad. It's a huge bad. Huger than Glory, Buffy." She hung up and moved to research that topic. Now that they had a place to look it was better.
Buffy came in to get that information, taking it to read as she walked off. "Damn it," she said.
Xander looked at her, carefully taking the papers. He read them over then nodded. "Let me call some of the more distant cousins." She gave him an odd look. "A few of the cousins can dream walk and pull us all into it, even if we're asleep." He jogged off to his place, sealing himself in so he could sit down and get into the right mindset. "Hey, cousins?" he called once he was on the dream plane. He felt a blank spot where John was but that was normal. He wasn't anywhere nearby. "Yo, we need to have a meeting!" he bellowed into the other's spots of holding. More of them showed up. "Guys, major sitch in Sunnydale and the world going on. Tony, those girls being killed are potential slayers and their watchers."
"Got that part."
"By the First Evil's minions, called Bringers."
"Aw, shit," one of the cousins said, glaring at him. "Who got resurrected?"
"Buffy. Willow did it last year." He looked at him. "We had no idea, guys, but she's getting prophetic dreams showing her some of them are going down quickly. We need the remaining ones *here* because we think we can protect them."
"The Seal of the First is supposed to be inside a hellmouth," one of the older cousins said more quietly and calmly.
"Really?" Xander asked. "We just got told what it was today. Can you send us that info?"
"I can. To Rupert at the store?" Xander nodded. "Have you seen any?"
"No, none in town. I'm guessing they're taking out the weaker, future links and then coming for Buffy and Faith last. Speaking of, Tony. Faith's in prison by LA."
"I can find her in the system and warn someone that way."
"Warn Angel and them. I gave you their number. Cordelia's gone to a higher calling now but they're still there." He nodded once. He looked at the others. "We need to hear any sightings and get any of the survivors to us." He felt something going on and winced. "Something's happening somewhere to John." He looked at his blank spot. "That's probably not a good thing. I'll write him later since he can't help where he is," he decided, looking at the others. "We're still figuring out how bad this is, guys. Please?"
"You did say fuck the family that once," his cousin Darryl said dryly.
"Yeah, right after you guys let us handle an ascension without backup. That meant that I had to get some of the school kids to form a line so we could get civies out of the way," he said bluntly. "After we lost seventeen of them and I had to command my first real battle...."
"Calm down," Don ordered. He glared at Darryl. "He did try to call in help and we ignored it because we didn't believe his town was that bad. Or that hellmouths were real."
"They can't be!" one said heatedly.
"It can be. It's under the school my construction crew just rebuilt," Xander said dryly. "Under the library same as always." He looked at Tony. "You and Don are on hot incoming spots. Kendra, who was before Faith, snuck onto a plane."
"I've got some people in immigration who know," Don told him. "They can spread it around."
"Thank you." He looked at the others. "Herd anyone in your area to Sunnydale. Buffy says she can protect them." John showed up. "Wow, ET. Long way to phone home."
"I think I'm unconscious again," he admitted, rubbing his aching head. "How are you feeling?"
"My side's fine." He grinned. "The doc doing the bloodwork said that it's working at normal levels again. Thank you and Tony for helping me through that."
"Not an issue," Tony assured him. "We'd hate to see you die of liver failure due to black magic poisoning from her going off the deep end."
"She's better now."
Tony nodded. "Hopefully she doesn't slide again." Xander nodded at that. "Okay, let's break this up. Do what we can. I have the feeling this is going to be hugely bad." They all faded out. Tony blinked as he woke up, looking at Ducky. "I didn't pass out, right?"
"No," he said quietly. "What happened?"
"Family conference," he admitted just as quietly. "We need to warn some people. Ducky, do you know any Watchers?"
He stared for a moment then nodded. "I have met two or three and their girls in my travel. Why is this relevant?"
"Because something's taking them and their girls out all over the world."
"I'll try to find the ones I know," he said. He stepped back. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm better after my nap. Gibbs call?"
"McGee did. You scared the life out of him."
"I hope I never have to have another sudden conference nap again," he said dryly. "But it was too important."
"Indeed." He went to check on his former acquaintances. Two were already gone it seemed. Another was able to be reached. He did warn him of what he had heard. He also called a friend at Immigration to warn them. They knew of some of the strangest things. Tony was probably doing the same. He hoped.
"Fuckity fuck fuck FUCK!" a male voice shouted as he woke up. Don got up and went to call someone he knew. Fortunately he was home, it was his day off. Well, had been his day off. "Why can't Xander live somewhere normal with normal problems?" he complained as he got dressed. "Why does he have to live *there* and have the end of the world show up every single year?" He stormed out. He knew the idiot watcher in his city. The guy was a pussbag of delight but he wouldn't want the little kid he was raising to be killed.
John Sheppard woke up from his latest head injury and blinked, then went down again. He had looked something up. Sometimes a personal visit was better than an email and this one needed to be explained in person since he wouldn't be able to get to the one he wanted. But his best friend would be close enough and would probably understand. He let himself drift, finding the man he needed on the astral plane. Anyone who had been ascended was still partially there. You never came back whole. That's why he was missing memories. Of course, he found someone else too. A young brunette woman was giving him a strange look. "Hi, Cordelia. I need to talk to him."
"You read like Xander," she said, looking confused.
"I'm his cousin John."
"He talked about you," she admitted.
He smirked. "I heard it all too." He yanked on the line linking Daniel Jackson to the astral plane, smirking at his surprised look. "Hi."
"How are we doing this? I was at my desk....." He stopped to look around. "Are we ascended?"
"Well, she is. We're on the astral plane."
"Once ascended, always at least partially ascended," Cordelia quipped. "Why come up here, Cousin John?"
"Because Sunnydale's going to cave in and bring everyone with it," he told her. She gaped then went to check on that. He looked at Daniel. "I know General Jack showed you the information I brought back last time on Sunnydale?" Daniel nodded slowly. "That vision he had, it's coming true now. All the girls like his blonde friend, all over the world, down to newborns, are being taken out by the newest highly evil thing. This is worse than the battle that killed his blonde friend."
"You can't email him?"
"It won't get there in time probably."
"Good point. Are we in danger?"
"I don't know but I do know that there's at least one Watcher in your program and he is."
"Damn it," Daniel muttered. "Okay and we do what?"
"For right now, the Sunnydale team is facing something called the First Evil. His or her minions, called Bringers, are taking out watchers, potentials, and whoever they think can get in their way. We might be on the list, I'm not really sure."
"Why would we be in their way?"
"Because if something happens, we'd be the ones called to step in and help contain it," he told him. "Because I'm like my cousin, there's a watcher there, and you guys are warriors for the light even if it's on a different battle."
Cordelia showed up again. "They are and they're in deep. Riley's people too," she told Daniel. "Yeah, you're kinda listed the same way, even though you're on another battle. They know this. Some of your people are already missing."
John looked at her. "Any that have made it to other places?"
"No, she's earth bound. I was told to tell you that. They can't get here. They can't get wherever you are, whatever, just around the normal earth." She looked at Daniel. "And you're a huge ass target because, once again, once ascended, always at least partially ascended."
"Which was how I pulled you up here," John admitted. "My family can dream walk. Most of us do that to conference and talk."
"Okay, I can understand that. So we're in danger from the mystical forces instead this time?"
"Bringers mostly look human, but they're wearing robes, they have no eyes," John told him. "Scars or holes in place of them from what I got from Xander. He called them super vampires. He passed over extra information in case they came for me." He stared at him. "You guys have to be ready to step in out there because Xander felt this battle, it won't stay inside Sunnydale."
"The Powers aren't sure either. They'll have to go into the Seal, therefore the hellmouth, to battle her probably," Cordelia agreed. "That means that there's a huge battle in hell's waiting area basically. Earth won't have the protectors it used to have if she wins."
Daniel nodded. "I can let him know."
"Make sure they told my former team in LA," Cordelia ordered. "Since I can't. They'll need some more fighters." She looked at John. "Sparky, you abridged what the Powers thought was going to happen so you get to sit out."
"Figured I'd be on the second wave anyway," he admitted. He lied but oh well. Daniel looked at him. He grinned. "Xander only has to ask."
"I'll make sure he remembers that," Daniel said. "Thank you both." He looked around. "How do I get back?"
John pointed at his stomach. "Belly button line."
Daniel looked at it then gave it a test yank. He sped off back to his body. He woke up with a gasp, looking at his current teammate. "Cam, I need Jack ASAP. Tell him it's a Sunnydale thing, Sheppard called, we're on alert." He went to find him. Daniel calmed himself down, making notes on everything he had been told so he didn't forget anything. Jack stomped in. "It's even worse. We have personnel in trouble too and we're on the front lines if they fail."
"How did you and Sheppard talk?"
Daniel looked at him. "As some young woman named Cordelia said, once ascended, always partially ascended. Sheppard said his family can dream walk."
"Good to know." He took the notes to look over. "Anything else I have to know?"
"She said we're on the same list." Jack looked at him. "Different battle but we might be able to stop her apparently. We might already be missing people."
"I'll have them recalled to base and check into this."
"She said to make sure her team in LA knew."
"I can do that too. You find this puss sucker. I want pictures of these minions as soon as you find them, Danny. And everything else."
"On it." He moved to his historical odd thing books. Jack had gotten him started collecting them. He had no idea why at the time until he had seen that information from Sheppard about that town. He had even subtly pointed some scientists to studying the energy output of it in case it was needed to be known.
Cordelia looked at John. "Sneaky," she said with a smirk. "Not on the game board but sneaky."
"Had to warn them," he pointed out. "No one else knew to."
"Good point. Which is why you're being allowed to go back to your body."
He pulled her closer, staring at her. "There's a reason Xander and I are a lot alike, Cordelia."
"I'll warn them you'll pull a plan out of your butthole too," she said dryly. Then she stole a kiss with an eviler smirk. "He kisses better. You have bad breath."
"Yeah, I ate an MRE on a mission. They're foul." He shrugged and went back to his body, groaning and holding his head. "Damn I hate doing that." He flipped onto his side, closing his eyes and laying there until the headache eased some.
One of the younger nurses came over to check on him. "Are you awake, Colonel?"
"Barely," he admitted. "I have a thumping headache and I could use some sugar."
"Um....." She started to blush. She had heard rumors about him and various alien women but the nursing staff too?
"Like actual sugar. Sweets, that sort of thing?"
"I'll test your blood sugar," she decided, going to get the meter to do that. It was on the low side of normal so she sent someone to get him something from the cafeteria. Sam Carter walked in with it. She pointed.
She walked over to nudge him, making him blink at her. "What happened?"
"I so believe that too," she said dryly, handing over the pastry. She stared at him.
"I had to talk to an ascended about something," he said quietly. "My cousin's in deeper than usual and all your team is on the same hitlist for different reasons."
She stared at him. "Can it get here?"
"Which ascended did you talk to?"
He smirked. "One who was mostly back. With my cousin's ex girlfriend."
"Interesting. Jack told me about him over beers one night."
"I don't need to know," she decided. "Does this have to do with why Daniel was having people study your cousin's town for strange energy surges?"
"And why you had to take a few days back there when he was injured?"
"The reason he was injured is the direct cause of this incident," John admitted. "But she had no idea. It opened a doorway."
"Do I need briefed?"
"If so I'm hoping he does it. I only got a good bit of stuff from Xander, but he's got research I don't by now hopefully."
"I'll ask him then." She walked off, going to email her former teammates. That was strange, even for Atlantis. Sheppard clearly needed a long vacation somewhere more sane. Nowhere near his family but more sane.
Buffy looked up as two men walked through the store's door. "Hi, if you need some help finding something let me know."
"I know what I need to find, Miss Summers," the older guy said. "I'm Jack O'Neill, this is Daniel Jackson." Giles choked, coming out of his office. "He has some information for you and we have three watchers, four girls, and a very worried young hunter who wanted to come help you." He stared at her. "I was also warned that if something happened here, it was my team's job to contain it to this area."
"Do you work with Riley?"
"No, and frankly if I had seen that project, I'd have kicked his butt all the way to DC and prison," he said bluntly. "I do work with one of your people's cousins."
"You work with Xander's cousin," Willow said from her seat, looking at him.
Daniel cleared his throat. "I talked to John and a young woman named Cordelia?" They all groaned. "We were warned that we were on the same hit list for doing the same thing in a different battle and with different problems as she put it." He looked at Buffy, who relaxed. "I'm also a very good researcher." He handed Giles a lot of papers bundled together. "Everything I have on the First."
"Thank you, gentlemen. Is the military planning on quarantining the town?"
"If this gets out of hand, yes. Beyond the city's borders, yes."
"I'd almost rather have the town cleared if it's going to get that bad," Buffy said.
"Which means we'd step in and seal it anyway," Jack assured her. "We're not going to get in your way, Miss Summers. We're here to make sure it gets no farther than your town. If you can handle it, great. If not, we'll step in if you fall."
She relaxed and nodded. "That's very comforting in a lot of ways." He smiled. "Have you talked to the people in LA?"
"I have and they're coming this way," Daniel told her. "When necessary."
"That'll work," she decided. Xander walked in. "Your cousin struck."
Xander stared at their backs, then came over to look at Jack. "He said his general called me a nutjob and still wanted to recruit me."
"If something happens and you want to go that way, we can talk about," he assured him.
Xander grinned. "And leave the huge party?" he asked dryly. Jack snickered at that, shaking his head. "Anyway...."
"We'll make sure it doesn't get past the town's limits. If you guys contain it, wonderful. If not, we'll make sure it doesn't spread."
"Good," Xander agreed. "Anything else that got heard?"
"A lot. Including that there's three identified hellmouths on this planet that are currently radiating." He looked at Buffy. Then at Giles when she pointed at him. "Cleveland, Sheppardsburg, England, and here are all picking up on energy output. We've identified a few other areas that have minimal energy output like this one, but those other two are higher and leaking a lot."
"It's possible that if this one does shut, one of those two would open," Giles admitted. "That one in England is near the Council's headquarters."
"Which just exploded," Willow reminded him quietly.
"I hadn't forgotten," he assured her. He looked at them. "If that one should open, or Cleveland, we'd be able to handle it as soon as we could."
"We'll let you know," Daniel promised. "Also," he said, looking at Buffy. "We pulled a few strings. One of the people in the van waiting is already called."
"You got Faith out?" she asked.
"We did. We figured you could use the help."
"I can," she agreed. "Xander?" He went to talk to her and the others. She smiled. "Thank you, guys. It's comforting to know that not all the military is like Riley's people."
"No, they're not," Jack agreed. "What's left of his unit is being reassigned in the US for right now. They're going to be outside St. Louis officially and traveling to handle things. The president was furious when he heard what had went on, and why, and how it got stopped. Also that so many hadn't went to jail." She smirked at that. "So they're on permanent duty. If things slow down, they're going to be moved to Homeland Security and their own quiet unit there."
"That's fine. It won't bother us hopefully," she admitted.
"My former general is the grandfather of Mr. Finn's wife," Jack told her. "I asked him and he said he chewed him a new one pretty often."
"I'm sure he was happy with that," she said, but she was a bit happier now. Xander came in with Faith. She stared at her then walked over to hug her. "Welcome back."
"Thanks, B. Is it that evil?"
"It's all that and more," she sighed. She looked at Jack again. "I know others have managed to escape them."
"They're all heading here. There's people in the US government who know about the council. They've talked to people in immigration to send them all here."
"Thank you." She held out a hand. He shook it. "Tell his cousin he's nosy?"
"Backup is always welcome when you're in a huge battle," Jack reminded her.
"Yeah, but he's still nosy."
"He can be," Daniel agreed dryly. "Cordelia is too."
"Yeah, she was," she agreed dryly, shaking her head.
"My ex Cordelia? Queen C?" Xander said dryly. "Why would she be nosy?" He gave them a look.
"She said you kissed better than your cousin," Daniel told him. "He had eaten an MRE recently so he had bad breath." The boy giggled all the way back to the kitchen. He looked at Buffy. "If we can help, you let us know."
"How long have you known?"
"That something strange was going on out here? Since we formed," Jack admitted. "What was actually going on? Since Sheppard had to come see his cousin when he was injured. Since he heard that one had a vision, he passed back that we had to watch out this way in case something huge was going to get free of you."
"So you've been doing all this for about nine months?" Faith asked.
"Some of it for longer than that," Daniel said dryly. "Some of us knew some of this history way back during our undergrad and ignored it." Buffy snickered but nodded. "I know, a lot probably do. Then we find out we have a watcher in our program who was there to make sure we didn't make those same sort of mistakes, we have two former potentials for the same reason, and then we find out that there's a few more who know. Because we're drawn to the strange stuff."
Cordelia faded in. "Hey, you do the work, you get the bennies of creepy things going on around you," she said bluntly. She looked at Xander when he came back out. "Don't let it go to your head, Harris."
"Why would I?" He shrugged. "It happens." He sipped his soda, handing Faith a bottle of water. "How bad, how many, how soon?"
"Soon but not too soon. Bad? There's a reason we're putting a fence around the town," Cordelia admitted. She looked up then at him. "Bad depends on for each person," she said finally. "Welcome to the big league, guys. Graduation was a warm-up exercise and test. Have fun in her waiting area with the scythe." She left them alone.
"She clearly learned how to be cryptic from Angel," Buffy decided, looking at the two military guys.
"If you need us for direct intervention, you can call," Jack assured her. "Even through Sheppard since he seems to like his cousin so much." He smirked. "If not, we'll be outside town having a practice exercise when it's time." He left with Daniel.
"I told you he was telling them stuff," Willow said, glaring at Xander.
He looked at her. Then at Buffy. "I told John things because the family's calling is to help with this stuff."
"He's a hunter?"
"Damn. That makes sense then. How did he go military?"
"He's a pilot. He wanted that more."
She smiled. "He was kind of cute too."
"He's surrounded by hugely strange bad girls. He's like my earlier prototype," he quipped.
"But...but they're military!" Willow complained.
"Whose job it is to protect this country from things that might hurt it," he told her. "They're not like Riley, Willow. That's the same project you hacked once to see what my cousin did." She groaned, rubbing her face. "They won't harm us. I don't trust the normal military but those guys? They do the same thing basically in a different war. I didn't until John told me exactly what was going on in great detail." During that dream talk, John had sworn for many hours that the SGC was his version of Sunnydale and wondered if there were protection runes against cranky scientists and those sort.
Buffy shrugged. "It's good the Powers stepped in to give us a way to make sure even if we fail, she won't get out." She looked at Giles. "Anything good?"
"Much information I didn't have," he told her, looking up at her. "He is a well known researcher who had a few strange ideas about pyramids in his earlier career then he seemed to drop into a black hole."
"He's being a researcher for the military," Xander told him.
"Clearly." He went back to it. "What does your cousin do?"
"Way beyond classified," Xander sighed. They all stared at him. "Cordelia?" She reappeared. "Should I?"
She shrugged, looking at Buffy. "You know that one slayer dream you had with the blonde girl in Texas and her going with her daddy so she was safe?" She nodded slowly. "They do that. Same job, different war, and some day Xander hopes he can grow up to be that general guy because he's the original prototype for what he wants to be." She faded out again.
"My cousin does stuff that not even Andrew could believe in," Xander told her.
"Wow. The military does that?" Xander nodded. "Well known?"
"Nope. Only a few and the president know."
"I guess that's good then." She shrugged and went to see the new research. She'd worry about this cousin some other time. When it wasn't an apocalypse knocking on their door. "Faith, you can stay with us if you want. We've got a spare room." She looked at the other slayer. "Or we're setting up in Angel's old mansion. We've heard we've got refugees coming."
"I can start that," she decided. "I don't want to creep out anyone like your mom."
Xander shook his head. "Can't anymore and she wouldn't unless you suddenly came in furry, singing Disney songs, and waving your new tail around." She giggled at that image, walking off shaking her head to get the new refugees that way. Buffy gave him the oddest look. "She wouldn't."
"If she came in singing Disney songs, I'd tie her down and see what infected her. Being furry Mom might've been able to take, but not Disney." She went back to the research. "Get the others from my place there, Xander. Play dorm mom for a few hours."
"Sure." He went to do that.
"I still don't like it," Willow complained.
She looked at her. "They said they already knew, Willow. It's good to know that she won't get past us. Afterward, we can complain about him telling his cousin stuff. For right now, they've been subtle, Cordelia said that they're doing the same job, and we need the help this time. I'll welcome the help even if I can't trust them yet."
"We can talk to Riley, see if he's heard of them," Giles offered.
"I might do that," she decided, going to the office to look up his number. She came out a few minutes later. "He's heard of O'Neill and Jackson. There's all sorts of rumors of what they do, nothing is ever confirmed, and they're so classified he said people show up on your doorstep after midnight when you wonder about them." She grimaced. "He did say he had heard they were responsible for keeping us out of a major war we couldn't win and that they're the reason that stopped a few bigger things that even slayers can't handle. He did say that if one of them came to him, he was told that they were totally trustworthy, to follow along with their orders, don't talk back, and pray that you survived the battle."
"So, like Cordelia said, they do weird things in a different battle but they're the same sort of warriors," Willow said, looking displeased.
Buffy looked at her. "Not all the military can be like Riley's former project, Willow. Some have done some great things."
"Can you imagine what would happen if we failed?" Buffy asked her quietly. Willow shuddered. "Exactly. I'm comforted that someone is going to be standing guard outside the town to help us. Right now, I'll take all the help I can get because she scares me."
"I understand." Willow gave her a pat on the arm. "What are we going to do about Xander telling his cousin things?"
"Nothing," she said. "I told my mom, eventually. Giles tells the council. He's another hunter. Someone has to know and I guess his cousin is better for him than a diary would be." She walked off to see how Xander and Faith were doing.
"I still don't like it," Willow muttered.
"Yes, but you have to accept it," Giles reminded her from where he was verifying some information. He looked at her. "Not everyone is like someone we've had to deal with, Willow. We need to move past that. Especially right now." He went back to his research. If this wasn't an emergency he'd have been fascinated to read up on this history. As it was, he was going to have nightmares very soon.
Jack looked over the inefficiency of the town, sneering at how bad it was. "Why can't we replace some key personnel with military people?" he asked Daniel.
"We have no reason to."
"Even the hospital? That's the seventeenth victim they've had die of minor things in four months."
Daniel sighed, nodding. "If we could find a good reason, one of the president would like....."
"Or we can be sneaky and have someone switch to there," another of their people said from behind him. "Sir, we had to rescue two of our guards from the local police station earlier. We did chew them a new one for arresting our people because they were having a burger at the local crummy, nasty burger place." Jack groaned. "That's all they were doing. Talking football, eating a burger that's worse than our mess's, and watching traffic. They decided that they were evil. Even though they weren't in any form of uniform."
"Did they tell you what charges they were arrested on?" Daniel asked.
"Loitering. They were going to give them thirty days in jail. I kindly told them that they didn't have authority to charge military people without going through JAG. I said I'd get their number for them."
Jack had an idea. "Marines, Air Force, or Army, Sergeant?"
"Call this guy," he said, finding a number online. "He's out of the DC office. He's involved in this mess too by family bonds." He handed it over. "Let him straighten it out. That way he's closer." Daniel gave him a pointed look. "Another of Sheppard's nutball cousins," he said with a smirk. "Who's NCIS."
"So he can be closer." He smirked at the sergeant. "Anything else happen in town I need to know about?"
"Sir, some of the men wanted permission to go hunt down the things with the glowing eyes and brow ridges. They were sure they weren't snaked after two snuck into the camp to eat someone. Fortunately someone remembered their horror movies very well."
"We'd need wooden bullets," Daniel told him. "I don't think we have any."
"I'll have the guard increased," Jack told him. "Anything that gets in, if it's trying to hunt, kill it. If it's peaceful, make friends with it as long as it's not a pet."
"Yes, sir." He saluted and went to hand that number over and issue that order to the troops. That was a sneaky move, getting them more hidden support right before things went to hell. Maybe literally.
Gibbs looked up as a desk phone rang, grumbling at it. "Stupid people," he muttered, getting up to get it when it went to voicemail and started to ring again immediately. "Yeah, Gibbs," he said dryly. He listened. "Why can't you call the local office?" The other end got taken over. He settled down to log into that computer and look up the name of the general. "Has he worked with DiNozzo in the past?" He heard the hissed, coded reason and smirked. He knew that family thing was going to haunt him. "Was it a legal arrest?" He heard the reason and snickered.
"Petty politicking. Fine, I'll let him know you want called back, Sergeant. Thank you." He hung up and called Tony's cellphone. "One of your family things is going to bother you soon," he said in greeting. "A General O'Neill called to have you personally come out and investigate why two marines were arrested for having a burger while on leave from their special training and field exercise camp." He hung up. Then he went back to his own desk.
Tony came strolling in a half hour later, gathering things out of his desk. "He works with my cousin John, Gibbs. They're presently stationed where Xander is." Gibbs stiffened, looking at him. "Yes, it's one of those things I'd be called in for as family. He's being sneaky to get more of us out there sooner. Apparently this year's problem isn't in the spring."
"Are you going to take leave?"
"Let me see how bad it is first. Xander's warning said that it was going to be really bad. That's why I consulted with ICE recently about some refugees that needed to hit the same town."
"Huh?" he asked.
"Some of the same group he works with is being hunted by the evil thing this time, Gibbs. They're running for his town as a fall back spot. And then they're going to have a major issue. I'll call tomorrow to let you know if I'm coming back immediately or not." He left, and it was a nicer trip to the airport than the last time he had headed out to Sunnydale. Not so frantic so he could get a better seat than coach.
Tony reported to the command tent, nodding at the general and the others in there. "You called for me to investigate why two marines were arrested by townies, General?"
"I did." He handed over the arrest report he had gotten. "I was highly amused that they were going to put them in jail for 30 days for having dinner and talking about football, especially since their local jail hasn't had anyone living in it for years. The last few have mysteriously disappeared."
Tony looked at the information then at him. "Want me to call the FBI in about their jail?"
Jack looked at him. "If we're right, it probably won't matter past this spring and no one threw a fit."
"Interesting." He walked off reading. Yeah, that jail and PD were seriously crooked. So he'd turn them in anyway. Having agents in town might help things. At least a little bit. He ran into one of his cousin's friends in town. "Hey, Dawn."
"Why are you here? Xander's not injured."
He grinned. "Local cops arrested two marines on training exercises for having dinner."
She snickered. "Yeah, they're that pathetic," she agreed. "They tried to arrest my sister for killing a robot."
He grinned. "Is Xander still here?"
"Somewhere. Probably at work."
"Tell him I'd like to see him for dinner?"
"As long as you don't nibble too hard on him," she quipped.
"No, the aunts wanted him to marry John."
She cackled. "He said John's like an earlier prototype of who he is."
"In many ways," he agreed dryly. He walked off. "I'll talk to you soon."
"Sure." She texted that to Xander.
Tony looked at his phone as it rang with a text message. //Don't bring more agents unless the gov't wants to lose them. Not now, and only if we win this spring please.// He sent back a 'fine' and left it there before erasing it so he could go inside the station. He pulled his credentials. "Is your supervisor in please?"
"Special Agent DiNozzo, kid." The guy made a whining noise. "He tried to arrest two marines. That's my job. Where is he?"
"Office," he said with a point. "Please don't piss him off? He'll beat us."
"If he does, I'll help you press charges, Officer." He walked that way, tapping once before walking in. "Special Agent DiNozzo, NCIS," he said bluntly. "I want the file on the arrest of the two marines."
"Who're you to...."
"Marine and Navy crimes are NCIS's jurisdiction, Sergeant, and I've seen scarier FBI agents sleepwalking so don't try to do anything else," he said when the man started to stand up. "If there's a legitimate charge, well arrest them. That is the way the system works. Now, may I have their files?"
"No, you can't. That's a local crime."
"So?" He gave him a look. "You still don't have the authority to arrest any service member, Sergeant. It's against the laws of this country. Not to mention this state."
"Not ours," he said bluntly. "Boys, come get him."
Tony held up his ID. "Do it, watch the FBI invade within minutes, guys. Because I do have the name, number, and the agent on speed dial who is looking into your crappy town statistics at the moment." They all backed off and one actually ran at that. He stared at the sergeant. "I didn't want to make this a pissing contest. I really didn't." The man growled and started to change. Tony pulled out his service piece and shot him. He died. "Silver works on a lot of things," he told the watching officers. "So, the records on why two of our service members were arrested?" One got them for him.
"Thank you. Have a better day, gentlemen." He walked off reading it. It was so laughable it wasn't even close to funny. He did fax that back to Gibbs so he could be amused too. Along with a short, hand-written report that he had to shoot in the line of duty but no one was thinking about investigating anything. That the officers had given him awed looks or were ignoring he existed. So if NCIS wanted one they could do their own. He'd make sure they weren't eaten when they came to town. He found the Magic Box and walked in, nodding at Buffy. "There's an opening for a new officer if someone wanted to apply."
"There has been for six months," she told him. "No one wants that job. Even the people who can ignore everything don't want that job. Did one attack you?"
"Yes, but I have silver." She smirked back. "Is Xander still in the same apartment? I was going to make him dinner since I'm local."
"No, we're all huddled together," Buffy admitted. "I'd never ask you to cook for all the potentials. Take him to the pizza place. He likes it."
"I can do that. Thank you, Buffy. By the way, if you do win and the town is still standing? Federal agents will be swarming this town afterward."
"Thanks for the warning. We'll go on vacation."
"That's fine," he agreed. He walked off, going to find Xander at work. It was nearly three. He could slightly follow the feeling of Xander that he got from dream walks to find him in real life. Xander spotted him and came off the job site to give him a hug. "Hey. Dinner? Buffy suggested pizza when I saw her."
"If you want."
"Cool. When do you get off?"
He looked at his listless crew. "Yo, guys?" They all stared at him. "How much longer do we have?"
"Another day," one complained. "This heat is killing us, Xander."
"If I let you go today that means we have to finish the new roof tomorrow." They all groaned. "Give it a half-hour to do more work, then clean up. I'll let you go at four." They cheered and got back to work. "I get off shortly after four." He grinned.
"Why are you here?"
"The general asked for me personally to see why your local cops arrested two marines."
"Because they're dumb."
"The cops? Yes they are."
"And missing a sergeant because he was turning purple and growing about seven feet tall," he said more quietly.
"Oh, him. Not a problem. He ate an officer the other day for giving his wife a speeding ticket." He shrugged.
"If you guys win this thing, agents are coming."
"We'll try to make sure they don't get eaten."
"Good." He smirked. "Let me tell the general that. I'll meet you at the pizza place?"
"Okay." Tony walked back to his car, getting in to drive off. Xander went to help with the work. It was really hot on the roof. The type of demon who lived here expelled heat like it was a heater.
John was pulled into a dream conference a week later, smiling at Tony. "How's things out there?"
"Bad. Really bad. Getting worse. Xander's injured. He's stubborn and injured."
"How injured? Like last time?"
"No, this is a permanent injury."
"Handicapped sort? You're dancing around the subject."
"He didn't want you to know. He thinks you're going to have an issue soon on your base. For some reason he's had a few visions since the insane preacher popped his eye."
"As in out? And someone put it back in?" he asked, sounding hopeful. He moved to look at Xander's spot in the room. It was quiet, almost drugged feeling. He laid a hand on it but he didn't feel like he woke up. He let him go.
"No, as in popped the eye itself; it had to be removed. General Jack's medic stepped in to save him and the slayers who needed it from the local hospital. I'm *so* having agents tear apart that town for being so bad."
"Why is he being stubborn?"
"He said he's still going to help," Tony said.
John considered that. "What sort of problems is my base having?"
"I don't know but he said bad ones."
"Got any handy warriors you can spare?"
"Maybe. I'd have to ask Ronon and Teyla."
Tony gave him a hug. "That might help. People are fleeing town of their own free will."
"And you've still got problems coming."
"Super shit." He disappeared, waking up in his room on base. He sighed and went to talk to someone. "McKay, my cousin seems to think we're going to be coming up major problems soon."
"No clue yet. He didn't tell Tony that part." McKay gave him an odd look. "Don't ask."
"How would he know?"
"That's a more complicated story and I haven't heard it all yet," John admitted. "I have heard that whatever major problem they're having has just maimed him."
"Maimed.... what is it that your cousin does again?"
"Lots and lots of odd shit," John admitted. He walked off. "Fair warning."
"Thank you, I didn't need to sleep anyway," McKay called after him. "How can I prepare if I don't know what's going to happen?" he muttered, getting back to fixing what he was working on. "It could be anything anymore."
John went up to Sam Carter's office. "Hola."
"That bad?" she asked, looking up at him. "Need time off to visit that cousin?"
"Not yet. Another of the cousins did ask if we could spare some warriors. I'd like to go shake my cousin about him being stubborn but he said we're about to have problems here."
"Okay," she said slowly. "Any idea what or what his source is?"
"For both answers?"
"He may be having visions now. He had one before that pointed at the current crisis they're having down there."
"Jack said he was by their town," she admitted, leaning back to stare at him.
"In case the bad thing breaks past his team and tries to go further than local."
"I suppose that makes sense," she admitted. "How long should this take?"
"I think it's soonish. Probably within the month. If I do get a sudden 'we're going tomorrow' call I'll let you know as I'm having someone dial out for me."
"Thanks for that warning."
"He didn't want me to come, said that we'd be having our own problems."
"Huh. Okay, well, see if he'll give us an idea? At the very least we can make plans in case it happens sometime. It's always good to have emergency procedures laid out ahead of time."
John smiled. "Thanks, Sam."
"Not a problem, John. Some day I'd like to meet your cousin."
"You remind me a lot of his friend Buffy but she's an airhead and you're not." He walked off happier.
"At least I don't come off as an airhead. I guess that's good," Sam Carter decided, writing Jack an email. When the next message package went later that night, she found one waiting on her from him about the problems the kid had foreseen. "He's having detailed visions," she said, reading it over. "That's... not very good." She called John to her office, letting him see it.
He read it then nodded, handing over the copy of his own email from Xander. "Normally I wouldn't trust a vision, but..."
"We've seen weirder come true," Sam told him. "Really."
He grinned. "Most of the time?"
"Quite often. The stories I can't tell you without giving you blackmail material." He snickered. "Let's set up a protocol to deal with that. If there are Ancients who will try to take over the city, we should be prepared."
He nodded. "We should be but we don't have to gather them. We can tell someone like an Asgard."
"We could," she agreed, sending that suggestion to Jack. "That might uncomplicate matters. At least for a while."
"The new ZPM's would be handy though," he admitted. "McKay might sell all our souls for a few new ones."
"Maybe they'll teach us how," she decided. "Without making us leave the city."
"Maybe," he agreed. He went back to talk to McKay. He logged in down there, pulling the head scientist over to see what he did.
He read then looked at him. "Those things are for crackpots," he said bluntly.
"I'd trust my cousin with my life," he said simply. "He also told them about the problem that's currently making the SGC worried about his town beforehand."
"Fine. We'll make a totally speculative plan to deal with that if it should happen. Just to soothe you."
"Thank you." He walked off after erasing that email from the system. Some day he'd have to blow McKay's mind by showing him demons. He could watch him freak out for *years* because of that. The rants about magic being unscientific and illogical would be amusing for months on end. Well, maybe Xander needed some more help? He sent an email back to him. If they could divert the problems maybe he'd have the time to go down. He did want to kick his ass about not sitting out the battle with that severe of an injury. Not even John was that stubborn. Most of the time.
Xander looked up as someone walked over to his seat. "Daniel," he said with a smile. "What's wrong?"
"When is it?"
"Two weeks," he said quietly, glancing around the mostly empty street. "If you're talking about John's problem?"
"I was." He sat across from him. He stared at him. "We can divert that problem onto someone else's shoulders for a while."
"If you do, they'll die up there."
Daniel considered that. "There's hope of more ZPM's without them."
"There's always hope," he agreed. "If it goes the way I saw in that dream, then there'll be people to move to the newest project."
"How much farther ahead did you see?"
"Fairly. I've had a few since then. If it goes that way, John will be here for a majorly bad problem that will get national attention."
Daniel stared at him. "Ours?" he asked finally.
"That's going to be a problem."
"Yeah, especially for LA that spring." Daniel shuddered. Xander nodded. "It'll be an all-hands plus whoever jumps in thing."
"Year and a bit."
"Then we have some warning."
"Have someone figure out what they're going to be telling people." He waved at someone. "Wes." He walked over with a smile. "Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, this is Doctor Daniel Jackson. Daniel, this is Wesley, he works in the LA group."
"Pleasure to meet you. Giles said you had done some of the research for us," he said, shaking his hand.
"I did," Daniel agreed with a smile.
"In a little over a year, you might be seeing him again, Wesley." Wesley gave him a pointed look. "Not my fault the insane preacher decided to start off visions."
"Like Cordelia had?"
"Dream style instead of splitting head open style."
"That's a benefit at least," he decided. "Why will we be seeing him?"
"Something about a black rose's thorns and a shitload of demons running through LA."
Wesley stared at him. "I've heard something about the Black Thorn part of that."
"The other will be televised. For many hours," Xander said, staring him down.
"Oh, dear. Will we need special weapons to take out the head thing?"
"No head thing. I'm seeing a portal."
Wesley muttered something, making Daniel snicker. "Well, it does fit, even though he's becoming a bit cryptic."
Xander shrugged. "Normals are still around, Wes."
"True. Thank you for that timely warning, Xander. How are you feeling?"
"Better if I could get sleep at night."
"That can suck, yes," he decided, patting the boy on the shoulder. "We're up to help."
"Cool. They're still at the mansion."
"Even better." He smiled at Daniel. "Nice meeting you. I'm sure we'll get to chat more next year." He shook his hand and walked off to tell the others what Xander had been dreaming up. He hoped that was only a dream due to a bad midnight snack but Rupert did seem to know something when he told him so he guessed they were getting an early head's up from the Powers That Be for the worst apocalypse to date. Giving them a year's warning probably meant it was going to be so bad they might not live through it, but that did happen to fighters all the time. He ran into Gunn and Fred with Angel. "Xander's having true visions."
Gunn stared at him. "Why do we need to know? Something about this one?"
"No, he's had one about our apocalypse next year."
"Isn't that a bit early?" Angel asked.
Rupert walked in with a book. "Here we are. The Black Thorn. It was in the dangerous artifacts pile." He let him have it. "When it does happen, call us and we'll come, Wesley." He left to oversee the screaming match in the kitchen. "Do stop that now, thank you!" he called as he walked.
Wesley opened the book to the paper stuffed in it, reading over that section. He let out a bitter little laugh. "They want to take over the world." He let him see it. "Xander did say we'd be seeing the military person he was speaking to next year when it was televised for many hours as he put it."
Angel stared at him. "That's an invasion, Wesley."
"I saw that."
"Whoa," Gunn demanded. "Invasion? In LA?"
"Which will end up televised?" Fred asked. "That's going to suck."
"At least we shan't be alone," Wesley said dryly, sitting down. "How are things progressing here?"
"They're debating having people evacuate," Fred told him.
"I think it might be a good idea," Buffy agreed, leaning into the room. "Did Xander have another night of non-sleep?" They all nodded. "Bad?"
"Next year's apocalypse."
"Ooooh." She winced and hissed. "Let me get through this one first, guys. Please?" They all nodded. "Will we need mystical weapons?"
"I dare say we'll need more quantity of weapons than specific ones."
"Talk to Xander. He does that." Xander walked in and slammed the door. "Bad dream while driving?" she guessed.
"Daniel showed up to talk. He said Jack wants to evacuate."
Buffy nodded. "That makes it about unanimous. They can even do a cover story when we can't. How long do we have before we can beat her?"
"Two days," Xander said.
She considered it then nodded. "Let him do it if he wants." She walked off.
"I think it slows down after that one," Xander called after her, making her happier. He'd keep his opinion about that being because no one was alive to handle it to himself.
John woke up from another horrible dream, holding his forehead. "I could use that sleep," he complained. He got up and trudged to the infirmary. There was no way he could function on this little sleep. The doc in charge spotted him and pointed at a bed. "Sleeping pill?" She got him one and he went back to his room. He had no idea why he was seeing things about a demon invasion of LA, with Jack and Daniel in attendance to help out, but it sucked and he really needed that sleep he was missing. He had even gotten six hours when someone banged on his door. He got up and trudged over to it. "Sam?"
"It's nearly time."
John stared at her. "I thought I was needed up here."
"You are. There too. Jack said it's worse than he thought it was going to be. Xander's still going into battle injured. He said to tell you it's really bad and he needs someone to help him." John nodded, moving to get dressed and pack his weapons. The Midway station could get him back to SGC fairly quickly. Quarantine or not. They bypassed quarantine for him and Ronon. He smiled at him. "Welcome back to earth, big guy."
General Landry walked down to meet them at the bottom of the ramp. "The Apollo is taking you there," he said quietly. "I'm hoping O'Neill is overreacting."
"I've never heard he was a princess, sir."
Landry choked, shaking his head. "Me either and that's a bad image. Thank you."
"It's lack of sleep, sir, sorry." They got beamed up and sent to the spot by Sunnydale. "General, reporting as ordered," he said, putting down his bag so he could put on his weapons. Ronon was doing the same.
Jack pointed. "See that? They're getting ready to go in there, beat her ass, spill blood on the altar, and come out." He looked at John. "It won't be pretty, she has an overwhelming force, and they've got a lot of young slayers who were just called. Tony's down there. So's your nutjob, stubborn cousin."
"Going," he agreed. "I'll make sure as many make it out as possible, General."
"Why do you look tired?" Daniel asked.
"Some dreams about a demon invasion in LA."
"So's your cousin."
"I wish he'd keep those to himself then. But hey, I saw you there bs'ing the press about the six hour long invasion."
Jack shuddered. "We'll shut down what we can around that date. When you get concrete details I need to know."
"Of course. Let me go beat my cousin for sharing."
"He does say that you're his older prototype," Daniel said with a smirk.
"Clearly." He walked out and broke into a jog, going to join the people walking that way. He nodded at Tony, who pointed at Xander's back. "Ronon, see the blonde girl in the lead? She and the other girls have to get to whatever altar is set up in there," he told his teammate. He nodded. "She's a very good warrior."
"I'll help where I can."
Buffy looked back at him. He smirked and grinned. "Jack sent us."
"Okay." They paused at the opening and looked around. Buffy gave her last speech and they went inside to do battle.
John stared at the people in the beds later, watching his cousin mostly. Tony was on Xander's other side. The military medics were taking care of the others but he had only exhausted himself. He looked at Tony. "He does things like this every year."
"I heard. The rest of us probably should've been closer," he admitted quietly.
John nodded. "I would've if I had been able to." He leaned forward, staring at Xander for a minute then at him. "Think we can talk him into switching careers?"
"No," Tony said. "I think he's stuck on this one. No matter how bad it is for him or our nerves."
John sighed but nodded. "That's what I thought you'd say." He looked over at Ronon. He had been having his newly stitched arm cleaned up against his will. "They done fussing over you?"
"Yes they are." He looked at Xander then at him. "He's your cousin?"
"Yup, both of our cousins," John said with a smile. "We're both more distant cousins than not."
"Some of the aunts wanted John to marry him too," Tony said with a smirk.
"He clearly needs a warrior at his back to keep him from jumping into things that can kill him," Ronon said.
John shrugged. "They've had fights every year for the last three, Ronon. The ones before were lesser but just as bad."
Ronon sat down, staring at the other people in there. Then at him. "They're insane to do this job."
"Someone has to."
"I agree." He considered it. "If I were to get stuck down here for some reason, I would probably move to help them."
"I'd probably lock Xander in the house for a few weeks," John admitted. "Then we'd have to see." Ronon smirked at that. "They might need an arms master or someone." He shrugged at Tony's chuckle. "Have you checked in with your highly overprotective, growling boss yet?"
"No, I didn't think he wanted to hear about this stuff," Tony admitted. "I'm on leave. Why?"
John pointed. "He growls worse than my father's old dog."
Tony looked back there. "Hey, boss. Just a few cuts this time." He looked at Xander again. "I'm glad someone had something to knock him out tonight."
"I want to know why I got them from him," John complained. Tony smirked at him. "Don't even say it."
"Besides, he'll be grieving for a while."
"I saw." Tony looked back after he was smacked on the head. "Boss, you remember Xander, right? This is another cousin, John, and his teammate Ronon."
Gibbs nodded. "We good?"
"He only got a few cuts protecting his flank and some of the younger girls, Gibbs," John said.
"Good." He looked at Tony. "Do I want to know what went on?"
"The director thinks she does."
"I can take pictures of the town. We can make her a nice presentation on the way back so she can have something to make her puke too." He stood up with a groan, nudging Xander's side. "Xander, my boss is here. I'll see you in a few hours." He walked off with Gibbs. Gibbs paused to stare at the town then shuddered and walked away from it. Tony followed. "He thinks it'll slow down after next year's in LA, Gibbs."
Gibbs turned to stare at him. "Next year in LA? Do we have some prophetic crap now?"
"Well, he is getting visions," Tony said dryly. "Some people have written about the group doing it as well." Gibbs growled at that. "Basically. A little over a year. But hey, the rest of the problems are moving closer. To Cleveland." Gibbs shuddered. "It'll be a shorter flight when he's injured the next time."
"That's not much of a positive, DiNozzo. Other agents are asking what happened."
"Tell them to find and ask General O'Neill. He's in charge of the coverup this time."
"I can do that." He stared at him. "You're coming home?"
"Hell yes! I want a beer, a cute girl to take some of the nightmares away, and a few good weeks of sleep, Gibbs. I'm the National Guard for this, not on the main line like O'Neill's people are. I feel sorry for John, he's on the front lines of it, but this isn't me."
"Good." He smirked. "How long?"
"Tomorrow afternoon. LAX is shut down until someone tells them if there'll be more major earthquakes."
"I can see that." He texted that to someone. "Abby. She said to paddle you."
"She'd enjoy it too much, boss." He walked off. "I'm going back to watching Xander sleep. He hasn't been."
"I'll catch you in the morning." He went to the command tent.
Daniel looked back then nudged Jack. "Special Agent Gibbs, what's wrong?"
"People are starting to ask for the official reason."
Jack looked at him. "I suck at making covering stories."
"Earthquake that caused a sinkhole into an underground pool, like the one that got the lake in South America," Daniel told him.
"People won't believe that, Danny," Jack complained.
Daniel looked at him. "There's always going to be conspiracy people, Jack. Some will think the town got sucked up by aliens too. We can prove it wasn't a bomb. No one's radiation meters went off."
"There have been aftershocks reported as far away as Nevada," Gibbs said.
"So earthquake might work," Jack decided. "When the military unit on training exercises locally started to feel tremors, we talked to some scientists the Pentagon has on duty and they told us that it was going to be very bad this time based on some sort of new satellite photos. Somehow they picked up the river or something." Gibbs nodded. "So they suggested we pull an evacuation just in case. Thankfully most of the residents left without a problem and only a few casualties happened because some people refused to leave."
Gibbs nodded, writing that down and faxing it to a number in DC. "That way someone can say something decent to the press." He looked at them. "Are you guys going to need DiNozzo for anything else?"
"Not until maybe next year if we have an all-hands," Daniel told him quietly.
"Then I'll take him home tomorrow. Once his insane cousin is awake again." Jack snickered. "Anyone who does this stuff daily has to be insane. Especially when they volunteer and keep going. Even when we volunteered for wars, we knew they'd end sometime."
"This one won't but there'll be others who handle it somehow," Jack told him. "We always do."
"I don't want to know if the military is doing the same sort of thing."
"We helped remove them, boss," Tony said as he walked in. "Finn's group is active that way for the US." He looked at the two military people. "We good?" They nodded. "Then I might see you next year in LA. If you have more mundane problems, feel free to call us in DC since we realize that you do strange things."
"There's an open investigative spot on the base for JAG," Daniel teased.
"Don't even think about it. I'd charm everyone so much that they'd all be friendly again." Jack snickered, shaking his head. "I would." Gibbs swatted him again. "Ow, boss." He rubbed the back of his head. "That's mean." He looked at Daniel. "Xander's up and complaining that we sedated him."
"That's fine. Our medics are used to it," Jack said smugly.
"Figured they were with the way they laughed as they walked off. Let me grab my rental car and head, guys. Pleasure working with you. Let's not do the same thing in LA next year?"
"Invasion, so in the open," Daniel said.
"Hey, no sucking portal into hell then," he decided dryly. He walked out with Gibbs. "See you soon, John?"
"Maybe. No clue," he admitted. He smiled. "Though I'll probably show in the damndest places."
"That's why you're my earlier prototype," Xander joked. "Later, Tony. Call for normal news?"
"Please do, Xander."
John looked at him. "I dress better than you, kid. And I get good women who don't want to kill me. Much. Before I went to my current posting anyway." Ronon was coughing to keep himself from laughing.
"See, I knew they had some bugs they had to work out for later models," Xander quipped. "My bad girl attracting power is so I have more hunting times instead of being bored."
Tony gave him a look like he was insane. "Keep it up, Xander. More of us are going with the aunt's plans to keep you both out of trouble." He walked off with Gibbs. "Talk to you guys soon one way or another."
Xander watched him leave then looked at John's silent partner. "I think the aunts would be unhappy that you're already taken by a very silent, overprotective, warrior sort," he decided. John swatted him. "Ow!"
"Shut up, Xander. He's not my boyfriend."
Ronon shook his head. "I'd rather not have a male. Females make nicer noises."
"Yes they do," Xander agreed. "Especially the slightly evil ones because they're not afraid to get loud."
John sighed but nodded. "I had noticed that." He looked at his younger cousin. "Think you can keep the brain damaging dreams to yourself?"
"No clue," he admitted. He fiddled with his eye patch. "Shouldn't you be up there handling things?"
"In a week."
"That's going to suck for you."
"Yeah," he admitted with a small sigh. "But we'll handle it." He patted him on the back, seeing the hiss and flinch away. "Let's get you to the hotel so you can take a shower and soak that bruise for a bit." He waved at Jack. "Taking him to the others."
"That's fine, kids." He waved them off. Ronon went with them to talk to some of the girls. Jack shook his head. "They're all insane."
"So are we," Daniel pointed out. "Sam's even worse."
"Good point," he decided. "She volunteered to do that insane project after all our years of insanity." He went back to doing General things that required telling people to shut up and leave him alone for a while. He liked those jobs the best sometimes. He was not the one to talk to the press.
Xander woke up on the dream plane with a few of the other cousins, yawning some. "Thanks for getting me out of the nightmares, guys." He looked around. John and Tony showed up last. "We're all here."
"What happened?" Don demanded.
"We went into hell to fight the First Evil. We won, barely," John told him.
Don stared at him then at Xander. "How did you do that to them!" he shouted. "They were normal people before!"
"Sunnydale did it to everyone now and then," Xander said dryly. "You should have visited while you had the chance."
"Why are you wearing an eye patch?" another cousin asked.
"It's missing thanks to Caleb, one of her upper minions," Tony told them. Xander looked at him. He grinned back. "It is."
"I know, I was there."
"You'd be more graphic," John reminded him. "Why the confab, guys? Some of us need our sleep. I've been getting bleed-over from Xander for a few days now and have my own emergency on my base in another week."
They stared at the trio. "Is it solved?" Darryl asked. Xander nodded. "Fully?"
"She's tied back down. There's a whole lot of slayers heading for Cleveland later this month," Xander reported. "Next year's is warned about."
"Next year?" Don demanded.
"Could probably use everyone to jump in," Tony admitted. "If they can't stop it beforehand."
"I'm not sure if they could stop a secret cult," John admitted.
"Who knows," Xander said. "Angel's not bad. Still don't like him but he's not that bad at the warrior thing." He stared at him. "You're probably mumbling in your body and worrying your hovering, overprotective, silent mother-hen."
"He is not!"
"He was trying to fuss over me."
"You need it! You went into a major battle a few weeks after losing an eye," John shot back.
"Why weren't we called?" Darryl asked.
Tony looked at him. "Not like you can fight, Darryl. What good would having you in the hellmouth with us have been?"
"Fine. Don still could have been called."
"I tried in the past," Xander pointed out. He looked at Don. "Still think I'm a drama queen?" He looked up. "Gotta go. Slayer needing a cuddle." He disappeared.
"Let's lay off Xander," John said.
"We all failed when he tried to get some of us into it," Tony agreed. "It royally sucks to be him sometimes." He and John disappeared too. Tony woke up on the plane, glancing over at Gibbs.
"Good nap, DiNozzo?"
"Family meeting, boss." He shifted and got comfortable. "I'll nap now." He leaned against the window and went back to sleep. This time, Playboy bunnies were nicer than demons, or his cousins.
Gibbs shook his head. He'd get a report on that sometime soon.
John and Ronon came out of the gate back on Atlantis, looking at Sam Carter. "Hey."
"Hey." She took the box from their hands. "From...?"
"Thanks." She smiled at them. "You both all right?"
"Large cut on my leg, already stitched," John reported. "Few bruises that're fading."
"About the same for the bruises," Ronon offered. "The girls around his cousin are insane."
"Yeah, and they're going to drive him to leave soon," John said, looking at him. "He was talking about going on a long trek somewhere to think."
Ronon nodded. "That could be good for him. He is grieving."
"I still didn't like Anya all that much but I know he did so I'll be supportive," John decided. "I still can't see how someone could date any woman who complained the way she did."
Ronon shook his head. "Some women do fuss."
"That bad?" Sam asked.
"The last time I talked to her, she was complaining, a lot, that Xander hadn't given her sex the night before because he was tired. In public. Not in front of friends but in a burger joint." Sam winced. "And she called it orgasms. She was whining that she didn't get her multiple ones that night. I respect that my cousin liked her and possibly loved her, but I'm not real sure how."
"I can't either," Sam admitted. "Most women aren't like that."
"Only deadly ones like him," John said with a smirk. "Want to meet him, Sam?"
She punched him on the arm. "Maybe if I were back there," she said dryly. "Hit the infirmary then your bunks for a few hours, guys." They went to check in and then get some sleep. She carried the box up to her office, smiling at what was in it. Jack had clearly snuck some things in, making her laugh at the new DVD's. She found a pill bottle in the bottom with a post-it.
"To make Sheppard sleep when his nutjob, stubborn cousin broadcasts?" she read. "Okay." She put it aside and kept digging. Some chocolate, some new bras thanks to someone picking up her order. That was a good present. Rodney McKay came stomping in. "They're back, heading for their rooms by now." She handed him the pill bottle. "O'Neill sent that for John."
He read the post-it then glared at her. "What happened?" She put on the DVD marked 'Sunnydale' so he could see it. It wasn't the full thing. The battle clearly took place underground or something. Then they got to watch the town be sucked in while people ran from the hole. "That's not logical!"
"It happens," Sam told him. She looked at him. "Give him those and then you can ask him."
"Fine. Why are there so many females there? That's an extremely high concentration to be a military unit."
"John was the only military guy there," Sam told him. He shuddered. "That's why he got called to help. Make sure he gets those." He stomped off again. She put the DVD carefully away. She wouldn't want to be there. It made base invasions up here seem slightly more sane sometimes.
Xander woke up in another dream a few weeks later, staring at his cousin Darryl. "What's up?"
"Have you still given up on us?"
"It was nice some of you helped when Willow magiced me," he admitted. "But if I called would any of them show up?"
He considered it. "Not many have the skills to do what the family demands, Xander. Many of us weren't trained."
"Neither was I when I jumped in."
"But.... You handle battles, you hunt...."
"I jumped in," Xander repeated. "Because it took one of my best friends. It was the right thing to do."
"Right now, I'm think I'm heading to Africa," he admitted. "Very soon. I need time to think."
Darryl nodded. "If you should have problems over there, let us know?"
"I'll try. I doubt Don or anyone would come."
"Possibly true," he agreed. "It's not like it was in Grandfather's day. Then you were trained for the duty and your family knew."
Xander nodded. "They also didn't pay attention to the spawn of them."
"Also true." He looked at him. "You've done good. Are you thinking about retiring?"
"I don't know. John said I could talk to his general about things if I wanted to go that way." He shrugged. "I have no idea. That's something to deal with while I'm thinking."
"Good." He smiled. "If you called, more of us would come."
"Next year in LA if I'm not there," he said bluntly.
"Many of us will be there. Tony and Don can use the cover of a family reunion." He faded out. "Be well and better, Xander."
"You too." He went back to his body. He had some things he had to do before he could leave but he'd probably be leaving soon. He needed a nap too. Fortunately the run of dreams were slowing down to one every few days. Because the girls were going to drive him nuts. If he was right though, he'd get to visit John in his fantastic city when he landed sometime soon though. It would be nicer to have him closer.
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