Notes: Putting this in the same time frame. So grad was during season one of Numb3rs. I know it's screwing with it. Sorry, only way it worked thanks to the challenge I got off the Imaginings list.
Not the Usual Son
It was the afternoon after graduation. Everyone who had been there was exhausted. Most of them had drifted to the Bronze for a party celebrating surviving, waiting to see who didn't show up. Buffy's crew was no exception to that drift. Modern teenagers congregated together like herds of wildebeest, it was a well-known fact. Which was why the FBI was also congregating there. Not all that unreasonable since an unknown cause had blown up a graduation ceremony at a public high school in California. Especially with it being only hours from a major metropolitan center.
Yup, the Feds were there. Which was nice. They weren't being pushy yet. They were listening and wondering. Because people were talking about a battle, not a gas explosion. The town's cops had said a lot about gas explosions and blowing up the principal - though one cop had said it wasn't really a tragedy in his case. So when the agent in charge watched a new group of teenagers come in and people getting quiet, he wondered. Then a few of the kids cheered him and the blonde girl walking behind him.
"No fair, I lured it and had to get nasty," Buffy complained, cracking a few of them up.
"Should've been up front, Buff," the boy said dryly, giving her a look. "Giles could've run."
"Yeah, right," she shot back. She looked around. "Look, a parent. Must be a designated driver."
Xander looked then shook his head. "No, Buffy, that's a Federal agent," he said dryly. He walked over to him. "Hey."
"Afternoon," he said in greeting, putting down his beer. "So, was it a gas explosion or not?"
"You want the real truth?" The agent nodded. "Okay. But if you have nightmares, I do not want to hear about them. None of us." That got another nod. He nodded. "I'll be back, guys. Save me a drink," he called, leading him out.
The agent followed along, thinking it was a teenage prank gone wrong... maybe some revenge against the mean principal that had made his life hell. It was nice the kid was confessing. So when the kid brought him back to the school, that wasn't a big shock. The fact the kid took him around to the side of the building was. The fact that the fire department was trying to lift a huge, scaly head definitely was. "Um..." He pulled out his badge, always a good thing to do when you're uncertain and dealing with locals. "FBI. Why are you removing evidence from my crime scene?"
The head of the fire department looked at him. "Because we were told to."
"Not by me. That's my evidence."
"With all due respect, sir, no one's going to miss this if we burn it."
"Won't burn," Xander said, getting glares sent his way. "It won't or it would've burned in the explosion. Isn't that simple science?"
"How would you know?" one sneered. "You flunked."
Xander looked at him. "And yet, I can make thermite easily." They backed off and one ran. "Laters," he said, waving at the others. "The Fed wanted it and wanted to know what really happened. Too late now." The others ran off to report that. He grinned at the agent with a point at the head. "That thing was huge. That thing was going to eat us all and then move onto other areas. Happy nightmares." He walked off, going back to the Bronze. One frozen agent, good enough for him to get out of town on his road trip so the agent had enough time to forget and ignore the strange stuff.
The agent looked at the head, taking a picture of it to send his boss. Then he called. "Boss, sent you a picture." He waited while he downloaded it. "That's what really happened here in Sunnydale. We've had the fire department trying to remove it and probably tampering with the crime scene." He looked at the head, noticing the eyes were fluttering. "Can I have some help? I'm not sure the thing's dead. The eyes are moving." The one pointed in his direction opened. He took another picture then shot it. "I need people without tact, sir. There's already a coverup since we got the gas main explosion story and I'm thinking there's going to be a few more found. I'm here at the school." He hung up and turned around, finding a police officer there. "If you had told me, we might already be done." The officer shot him non-fatally in the stomach.
"Can't do that. Mayor's orders. Sorry," he said, then he walked off, leaving him there for a later snack.
Too bad he didn't realize the FBI had helicopters and a call like that mobilized a few good people. So they found their agent bleeding and alive. Able to talk even. And boy, was the hell going to be pretty. They started by sealing the town.
Xander pulled up to the blockade and groaned. He rolled down his window, smiling a bit. "I'm headed out for my post grad roadtrip. Am I really this evil you had to stop me?"
"We had an agent shot earlier," one of the State Troopers manning this road told him.
Xander frowned. "Blond guy?" He nodded. "Hmm." He stared at him. "I was with him earlier. Was he still at the school?" That got a nod. "Lead me to talk to someone. I may have a clue."
"Oh, we know who, sir. We're trying to figure out some other things. Can I see your ID please?" Xander pulled out his driver's license. He grinned at the boy. "Looks like you're talking to someone anyway, kid."
"Yay me. Where can I park?"
"Back at the station in town. Need escorted?"
"Probably not," he sighed. "Anyone else I know that might be called in?"
"The one with the switch? The librarian?"
"I'll call." He turned his car around and headed back, stopping at Giles' house. "The local cops shot the first Fed handling the scene." Giles moaned. "So they called in more. And they confiscated video because they saw you with the switch. We're both wanted at the police station."
"Give me a ride down there, Xander."
"Sure. Can we get drunk later?"
"If we're not in a cell," he agreed. "It'd be a good night for it. I haven't had to go into one of these in years." He got into the car and let Xander drive him down there. They parked and found two agents already outside waiting on them. "Oh, dear." He took off his glasses to clean them.
"Not like they can say it wasn't an emergency, Giles." He got out and walked up there with a grin. "Hola."
"Mr. Harris, you failed Spanish and French. Let's stick to the native tongue," one said dryly.
"A bit of humor is a good thing when you've had a crappy day. Is the other guy all right? He seemed decent and willing to listen."
"He'll be fine. It wasn't anywhere near something important." He looked at the older man. "Mr. Giles. We'd like to have a few questions answered."
"Of course you do," he agreed, following them inside. He saw the head and frowned. "It's still living?"
Xander looked then walked outside and came back with his shotgun, shooting it with the specially blessed silver bullet. It died that time. He handed it to the agent with a grin. "Silver. Blessed silver." He looked at Giles. "We caught the fire department doing the coverup thing earlier."
Giles nodded. "They are very good at that around here."
A man whistled and everyone stared at him. "Thank you. I want answers. Now."
Xander frowned at him. "Do I know you? You look familiar."
"No. Not that I know of. You are...."
"Good. Then you have my answers." He pointed at a table. "Sit. Now." They walked over and sat down, looking at him. "First of all, you've known for how long?"
"Most of the year that something was going to happen. About the holidays for the specifics and about a hundred and three days for the person. Unfortunately the last step left him unkillable for a hundred days."
The agent nodded. "Would you happen to have a reference?"
"Not on me."
"We can help you find it," he said smugly.
"It's in the blue bunny ice cream box," Xander told him. "Or Willow has it." Giles reached for the phone to call her. He looked at the agent. "If we had called would you have helped or locked us up to give us funny pills?"
"Probably given you drugs," he admitted.
Xander nodded. "That's why we didn't call." The agent nodded at that. "We did what we could, when we could. I did my damndest to make sure that everyone got out of there safely. You can't yell at Giles for my battle plan." The agent gaped.
Giles patted him on the shoulder. "It was just as much my fault as yours, Xander." He smiled when the phone was answered. "Willow, it's me. The agents want the reference material on the ascension. At the police station with Xander. Please. He said either you have it or it's in the blue bunny ice cream box. Thank you, Willow." He hung up. "She'll be down as soon as she finds it." A police officer sneered as he handed over a folder. "Missing your payoffs?" Giles asked. The cop took a swing and Giles blocked him. "That was frightfully rude."
"And illegal," the head agent said, glaring at him. "Go sit down." He did that. He looked at Giles again. "All right. Until then I would like an accurate version of what happened. In timeline order if possible."
Xander took the paper and wrote it out with a sigh. Giles pointed out a few spots where he had found information but otherwise he knew it was his duty. It had been his plans, his battle, and people had died. So now he had to face the agents and the music. He looked up. "Can I at least have a soda?" One went to get him one. He took it with a faint grin. "Thank you." He sipped it while he wrote, handing it over after a few minutes. "As far as I remember it."
The agent read it over, nodding slowly. Then he looked at him. "How did you get involved?"
"Tenth grade when my best friend got eaten by a vampire. They're epidemic around here. You should see all the reports of gangs on PCP, barbeque forks that bite people, and wild animals that we have."
"I've looked at those." He glared at a cop that tried to move from his seat. "I said sit down." The cop sat back down. He looked at him again. "So I'm taking it you two are part of a hometown protection detail?" Giles nodded. "How did a museum person from England get involved?"
"It's my sacred duty," he explained. "I am, was, a member of the Watchers Council." The agent winced at that name. "My girl is in this town. She was there today. Xander and Willow both help us."
The agent sighed, sitting down to look at him. "All right. All I know is that your people are nosy, step into investigations, and get pushy with the higher ups."
Giles smiled. "That does sound like them, yes." He heard someone complaining and looked out. "Let her in please. She has my reference materials." They let her in and he took the box. "Thank you, Willow."
"Should I start looking for bail money?" she asked the agent.
"Not yet. We think. We haven't fully decided yet." She sighed but sat down too. "We don't need you yet."
She snorted. "I was there. Yes you do. If you take Xander and Giles you take me."
He stared at her. "Then you'd be...."
He checked his list. "It was noted you were there but weren't responsible for any of the mess. You weren't giving orders, you weren't the one who pushed the plunger. You were a foot soldier this time, Miss Rosenburg. Take it like the gift it is and run."
"No. They're my friends and we work together."
"I see." He looked at the book Giles had been paging through, taking it when it was held out. He looked at it then at him. "He was how old?" Xander shrugged. "Can you prove it?"
"Find the last election," Xander quipped.
"Find that out for me," he told one of his people. She looked online then shook her head. "When?"
"Pre-newspaper archive. Which started in the forties. They've got the back issues online." She looked at him. "The mayor looked like he was in his forties, Don. Unless it was great plastic surgery...."
"He was working on this for over a century," Giles told her. "There are faster ways but he wanted the most power so he did it this way."
Xander nodded. "He's been the one doing all the coverups, paying all the dirty cops, saying we were doing things when it was his buddies and other demons. Not us. I don't go around attacking people with neck-eating barbeque forks. Though it is very nice that we can go on patrol around here and no one sees a thing."
"I noticed no one jumped when you walked in with a shotgun," Don Epps told him.
"Why would they?" Xander asked. "They're mourning their lost extra paycheck."
Don nodded. "You're both staying in town."
"I can't stay in town. I don't have a place to stay. I left for my roadtrip and my parents changed the locks."
Don frowned at him. Then at Giles. "Can he have your couch or something?"
"There, settled." He looked at her. "You, go home. I don't want to deal with whining parents and I'm sure you have a set."
"They're in Philly doing a lecture."
Don shook his head with a sigh. That explained a lot to him. "They do what?"
"They're shrinks," Xander told him with a small grin. "The last time she saw them they tried to burn her at the stake." Willow pinched him. "Have they come home since then?"
"No. Still TMI, Xander."
"Sorry." He shrugged. He was happy, he wasn't in a jail cell yet. So maybe he wouldn't have usual Harris luck and end up arrested, in chains, raped in prison, any of that.
Don Epps stared at him. "We'll figure out if you have a reason to stay happy, Xander. Go back to Mr. Giles' house tonight. Stay there." They nodded, heading out. He settled in to read the book then gave it to Megan. "I have a headache."
"I don't blame you. Looking over their local stats is giving me one. The kid's right. Fifty people have died in the last year from neck-eating barbeque forks. Last year it was only twelve but they had over a hundred who died from kids on PCP chewing on them."
Don frowned. "That's impossible. That much PCP would've flooded into LA. The DEA would've called." He glared at the officers. "Go home. Now. Stay home. Then we'll figure out what we're doing with you too." They trudged off. The state troopers had taken over crime details for them while they investigated since the whole department was implicated. "Anything else I should know?"
She looked at him. "One of the people listed, the girl playing bait, was nearly arrested and charged with manslaughter for pushing a robot down the stairs when he tried to hit her mother, who didn't realize she was dating a robot."
Don grimaced. "This is going to take some rolaids. Not even Charlie's math stuff can make this make sense."
She nodded. "It gets worse." She pulled up the chart she had made. "Missing. Dead," she said, pointing at the two biggest blocks. "Natural causes." The smallest block on the screen. She looked at him again. "Over three hundred last year, Don."
He shuddered. "Why didn't we hear about this?"
"Because most people want to ignore strange things," she warned. "They'll make up excuses, tell themselves they were seeing things, all that."
He nodded. "I wish I had." They both looked at the head then shuddered. That thing was gross. He stood up. "Let me get some coffee."
"Sure. Get me some too, please?" She handed over a folded bill. "Black, sugar."
"Sure." He went to do that, needing the fresh air. It was nearly dusk and he had no idea what they were doing tonight. At the coffee place he ran into someone who looked familiar. He frowned, staring at her. She stared back. "Do I know you?"
"You slept with me back in our senior year," she said bluntly. "How are you, Don?"
"Decent. You?" That gave him some clue. It must be... Jessica Prentiss? "Jessica?" She nodded, looking smug. "Why are you in town."
"I married Tony right after graduation and we moved here. Why are you here?" He held up his badge. "The gas explosion?"
"Wasn't," he told her.
She snorted. "Figures. That no good son of mine was probably there too, right?"
"Depends. What's his name?"
"Harris?" She nodded, giving him a disgusted look. "Yeah, he was there. He was the reason so many people got out alive." She looked stunned. "He seems like a good kid."
"You don't know him very well then." She walked off. "By the way, you might want to avoid the town's parks tonight and every night. My son runs in some wild gang of kids with a few girls. Don't know why since he doesn't get any. Must be gay." She walked out drinking her coffee.
Don grimaced. "I have better taste now," he told himself, getting himself and Megan coffee. He went back to the station, finding the head state trooper there. "Sergeant. Any new news?"
"A few things. There's a lot of empty houses around here." Don pointed at Megan's chart. He looked then winced. "Why haven't we heard?"
Don pointed at the head. "From what we've been told, that was the mayor a few hours ago."
"Wonderful," he said flatly.
Don nodded. "It gets worse. The whole department was dancing to his tune. That's why there we so many barbeque fork attacks."
The sergeant gave him an odd look. "Tell me they didn't go that weak on cover stories?" Don pulled up the numbers for him, letting him see. The sergeant moaned. "Damn they're dumb. Anything we should know?"
"I was just warned to stay out of the park at night. There's been a group of wild kids supposedly hanging out there."
Xander walked back in. "Stay inside at night," he ordered. "Just ...don't go out. It's easier and you'll live." He grabbed his shotgun. "Should clean it." He walked off again.
"Hold up," Don called. Xander trudged back, handing him the shotgun. "Not what I wanted. You can clean it later. I just ran into your mother."
Xander shuddered. "I'm sorry. Was she already drunk?"
"She was getting coffee."
"She has rum in the car for her coffee. And?"
"She said you ran with the group of wild kids in the park?"
"No, I've been patrolling with the others now and then in the park," he sighed, giving him a look. "My mother's not all there. Last month she showed up for work at a place she hasn't worked at in ten years. Totally soused, dude."
Don nodded. "I knew her back in high school."
"I'm sorry. Did you catch something from her? She always complained she married my father because she caught VD off him." Don snickered. "Honestly."
"No, not that I remember."
"Then you're amazing." He wrote down a number. "That's Giles' number. If someone gets hurt, at least call us?" he asked. "And don't take them to the local hospital? They'll probably die."
Don nodded. "I can do that." He looked the boy over. "Where were you headed?"
"Post grad roadtrip. Anywhere but here." That got a nod. "Can I go clean it?" That got another nod so he left with his gun.
The sergeant looked at Don again. "You sure you can be objective?"
"We dated for three weeks. She got me into the backseat and dumped me two days later. I have better taste now." The sergeant laughed. "Let me know if someone gets hurt."
"I will. Have an easier night."
"You too hopefully." He gathered up things and went to the car since Megan was waiting out there for him. "Small issue."
"I dated Harris' mother back in high school. I ran into her at the coffee shop."
She gave him an odd look. "Flashback?"
"No. She dumped me after finding I was good in a back seat."
She just nodded. "Odd how those things come up. You can be objective?"
"Yeah. The kid doesn't seem to want to lie to me. I think he's more than ready to confess everything if only so someone else has to bear some of the burden." He finished his coffee and put the cup into the plastic bag for trash. "Tenth grade is a long time to be protecting people who're ungrateful. Even his mother thought so."
"Doesn't surprise me. Drunk?" Don nodded. "Almost classic, Don." She backed out, taking them to the motel. "Now what?"
"Now, I file a report, see what the boss wants. Check on that agent? The Harris boy said that the local hospital liked to kill people." She went to do that while he filed his report. The boss wasn't happy but he decided that it was expedient since they couldn't get any help. No one would've believed them. The boss was happy someone had thought to get the civilians out of the way. He was all for giving the kids a medal at the moment. So that pretty well wrapped up that part of the investigation. The boss did say to stay and investigate the local PD. That the state had asked for that help.
Megan came trotting back in. "A few of the officers went to shoot at Mr. Giles' house." Don grabbed his gear and headed out with her. "The boy's been taken to the ER. He's pretty injured. Mr. Giles has a few grazes and one through his wrist." They got there in time to see Willow Rosenburg, who was so nice and sweet, lose her temper and slam one of the officers into the building hard enough to crack the bricks. "How did she do that?"
"Magic?" Don suggested, getting out. "Rosenburg, let him down," he ordered. She glared at him. "He's under arrest. Let him down." She dropped him and walked over him, heading inside. "Megan?" She cuffed him and called for backup from the troopers while he went inside. "How is he?"
"Not good," she said. "He needs blood and they're down because the vampires already came to buy their weekly meals." She grimaced at the nurse. "Mine's not a match and Giles is injured. He's the only one I know that does match."
"He's what blood type?"
"I'm B negative."
She considered it. "That might work. You sure?"
"Don't drain me."
"No. I'm not the vampire me. No leather." She walked him into the back. "Would B negative work?" The nurse taking care of Xander nodded. "He's volunteering."
"Should we check for any abnormalities?" He held up his badge. "That'll do then." She got the things they'd need and started to draw from him. It was the best they could do. The nurse pulled Willow aside. "He should be moved. It's better for him."
Willow nodded. "I have no idea if we can do that. He's barely under eighteen and you know his parents."
"I can make sure he goes," Don told her calmly. "It's an emergency and the local hospital doesn't have what he needs. They can do that without parental consent."
She smiled. "Thank you." She gave him a careful hug and went to call someone. "Buffy, me. They're shipping Xander to a better hospital. LA probably." She listened. "Thanks. No, he bled a bit too much before the ambulance got there. The idiot officers tried to stop them from helping him too. No, I'm kinda glad Xander didn't get more of the thing we used in the mall," she admitted. "He'll probably want to use it on them. Giles is here, he's awake. They stitched his wrist and the few grazes up so he'll be here overnight. Sure, that's fine if your mom doesn't mind. He could probably use a guard." She smiled. "I'll try to go with Xander. If not, I'll follow or something. Thanks, Buffy." She hung up and jogged back there. "Buffy will come guard Giles tonight." The nurse nodded at that. "Where are we sending Xander?"
"Beth Israel is closest."
"He's only on the state medical card for another three weeks," she pointed out.
"They have to treat him," Don told her.
"Then we can do that." She signed the paperwork, forging Xander's signature with a wink for the nurse, who let it ride. The transfusion was started while they got someone to take Xander there. Don assigned a guard to go with it, just in case. Then he pulled Willow aside to get the full facts of what happened and why she wasn't shot since apparently she had been there.
Xander blinked at the nurse waking him up. "Not Sunnydale?"
"No. You're in LA, Mr. Harris."
Xander patted her on the cheek. "Don't call me by his name."
She smiled. "Alexander?"
"Xander then. How are you feeling?"
"Like shit. Why?"
"You got shot about six times." He frowned then rubbed the sore spot on the side of his chest. "We have local around the others because you just came out of surgery an hour ago. Do you know what happened beyond that? Why they shot you? Was it a gang thing?"
He shook his head. "The FBI came up to see what happened at our graduation," he said weakly. "Found out the cops were dirty as crap."
"Oooh. And you exposed one?"
"Or ten or so, yeah," he admitted. "They had barbeque forks eating people."
"That's dumb," she said with a smile.
"Even I can make up better excuses," he said dryly. "When can I leave?"
"A few days. We had to give you some blood. The Sunnydale hospital didn't have any or any surgeons on call so they sent you here." He nodded once. "We've had a few girls call to check on you. Girlfriends?" she teased. He shook his head quickly. "You sure?"
"Wouldn't date them if they asked," he admitted. "Dating sucks."
"Okay. You're in your room. The remote control is next to you." He nodded, yawning a bit. "Sleep all you want but dinner's in two hours. We're having fish and potatoes tonight."
"Sorry, has to happen. Feel lucky you get solid stuff, Xander." He nodded and drifted off so she checked his bandages and went back to the desk. "He's been up, heard, went back to sleep. Said 'eww' at the menu tonight."
"That's fine," the head nurse told her. "Anything we should know?"
"He helped expose some dirty cops in Sunnydale to the FBI."
The head nurse's pen paused above the paper. Then she looked at her. "Excuse me?"
"He said he pointed out a few had barbeque forks eating people."
She moaned. "So they shot him?" She nodded. "Shouldn't he have a guard?"
"I'm going to call the number left for the head agent up there to find out whether or not he has one. Oh, those girls aren't girlfriends. He said dating sucks and looked like he had a bad breakup recently."
"Good to know." She went back to her note making while the call was made. "Ask if we should pull anything for an identification kit."
The junior nurse said that then nodded. "We can do that. Sure. I'll mark it that way and send it over for you, Agent Epps. Thank you for letting us know. Have a better night." She hung up. "They've alerted the local cops in the local precinct in case there's a problem but all the cops up there are now under arrest. They don't think they can get free. We can pull hair and blood for the identification kit; have it sent to their lab under his name." She handed that note over.
"We'll do that at bandage change and blood drawing then." She put it aside and got back to her charts. "How's your other one?"
"Doing okay. Restless. Wants to go home. I'm sure Xander will be too. He seems like the sort. Lots of scars on that boy's body." The head nurse looked at her again. She nodded. "Pretty sure of it. His records say he'll be eighteen in three weeks."
"Then we'll tell our social worker and let her make the decision to talk to someone up there about it." She sent that report down and finished up, going to see her patients.
The lab tech at the FBI got the identification kit and frowned. "Living." She looked at the other boxes checked then frowned. "Why are we doing an ID kit on him?" She flipped to the paperwork sent with it and nodded. "Okay, that's a good reason. Just in case he disappears." She started to run it, looking it over. "No listing for parents or next of kin. You know better, Agent Epps," she muttered. She decided that running it through the system would only take a few more minutes. If a kid his age was involved in something major like that, most likely his parents were in one of the criminal databases.
It only took a few clicks of a button and could run while she was working on her next sample anyway. When she got a fast beep she looked over. "That was too fast for anything but our database." She looked at the link, then she blinked. "Huh. I wonder if he knows." She called him. "Agent Epps, Melanie in the lab. I'm running that ID kit you wanted me to, for Harris?" She smiled at his nice words. "Can I see you immediately in the lab please? We just got a funny result." She hung up on his trying to evade coming down. Then she moved to her other station to get to work on her next sample. Her screensaver would cover up that one.
Don made it there a few hours later. "I was in the field. This had better be important."
"Oh, it is," she said, pointing at the monitor. "You didn't put a next of kin or parents listing so I ran it through the system; I figured if he was involved in something this big his parents probably had a criminal record."
"His mother does. I dated her in high school."
"You did more than that." She canceled the screensaver and walked away, closing the door behind her while he stared at her monitor. It was a good time for a coffee break.
Don stared at it then sat down to stare at it. "This can't be right." He looked around. "Get back in here!" She didn't come back so he could wait. When she did come back. "Rerun that please?" She canceled the result and reran the sample. "This is his sample, right?"
"From the hospital. Dark hair, blood, small piece of skin from a wound." She stared at him. "I take it you didn't know?"
"If I had, he never would've been in that town," he said grimly. It came up again. "Fuck."
"Yup. Basically how it had to happen." She grinned at him. "Is Charlie going to throw a fit? We like him too much to witness him killing you."
He snorted. "Wait until my father hears." He looked at her. "Print that for me please?" She did that. "Thank you. Don't tell anyone else, okay?"
"Definitely." She watched him walk out. That was not going to be pretty. Oooh, she wished she could capture it on camera. Nothing seemed to fluster Epps and he was so huffy at the moment.
Don knocked on the house's door, looking at the man who answered it. "You must be Tony. Is Jessica in please?"
The man sneered. "Why do you want her? More insurance?"
Don held up his badge, getting a gasp. "It's about your son, sir. I'm the agent who had him transferred to a good hospital."
"Just get me her before I arrest your ass on child abuse charges," he sneered back. The man backed off and Jessica came to the door. "Would you like to tell me anything about Xander, Jessica?"
She gave him a hesitant look. "Why?" He held up the paper. She went pale. "Um... It could be."
"No could be about it. That's a DNA test." He stared her down. "Is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
"No." She shut the door.
"That's fine. My father will be very pleased after he quits screaming and sues you," he said to the door. He walked off, handing the sheet to Megan as he walked past her. "I'm stepping back from the case."
She looked then at him. "That's a good reason. Have you talked to him yet?"
"No. His mother." He smirked at her. "The social workers are wanting to talk to him too."
"Good!" She handed it back. "I'll hide while you tell Alan and Charlie."
"I want to hide while I tell Chuck and my dad." He looked around. "Let me get the boys up here." She nodded, going to make that call for him. He had a lot on his mind. He called his boss. "Sir, small glitch and I'm removing myself from the case. Doing that ID kit for the shooting victim led me to a relation." He listened to him splutter. "I'm having the rest of my team come up to support Megan while I go wait for my father to kill me. Yes, sir. I'll wait until they get up here. No, he's still in the hospital. Thank you, sir." He hung up. "I'm here until they get here, get briefed, then I'll have a headache later." He called his father. "Can you, me, and Charlie have dinner tonight? A late, calming dinner tonight? Yeah, bad case and some bad news too. Thanks, Dad." He hung up and did his reports now. Might as well. It'd take the rest of his team a few hours to get up there.
Don walked in and looked at his father, who was smiling. "Just promise I can have a head start?"
"Why? Are you leaving LA's office?" he demanded.
"Worse." He stayed near the door.
Alan looked at his body language. "Get fired?"
"You got turned by one of the vampires in the town?" Charlie asked as he came out of the kitchen.
"Not quite that bad." He cleared his throat. "Remember Jessica, Dad? Senior year. Lasted all of three weeks?"
"Vaguely," he admitted. "You ran into her? How's she doing?"
"She's a drunk. An abusive drunk. Got married right out of high school to a drunk. Has a son. The one we had moved to LA after he got shot by the dirty cops." Alan nodded slowly at that. "So I put in an ID kit request, just in case."
"Sounds reasonable," Charlie agreed. "What came up?" Don handed him the paper and walked off to get a beer. He could reach the back door from the kitchen. Charlie stared at it then into the kitchen. "Run now," he called. He heard the back door shut. He handed it to his father then ran himself. He found Don in the backyard. "You okay?"
"No. Not really. The social workers are into it now. He's eighteen in a few more days."
Charlie patted him on the back, wincing at the yelling going on inside the house. "Hopefully the neighbors don't call the cops." Don laughed. "What're you going to do?"
"I'm going to see him tomorrow. I checked, he's been lucent recently. He's already packed for a road trip. I was hoping I could at least convince him to stay in town so we can talk for a few weeks." The back door opened. "Sorry, Dad. You know I play safely."
"You came from a condom breaking, Don. I know these things happen. Where is my grandson?"
"Beth Israel." He looked at him. "I haven't told him yet."
"That's fine, you can do that tomorrow so we can all visit." Don nodded. "Does this mean you're done with that case?"
"Personally. The rest of my team is up there. I had to take myself off since Xander, the kid, is the one who planned and ran the battle to get the kids out of the way."
"How does an eighteen-year-old boy know how to plan and run a battle?" Charlie asked.
"I don't know," he admitted. "I never asked that. He did a good job. He only lost eighteen out of over sixty kids and over three hundred civilians. Seven of those from the reinforcements the mayor had called to help herd them for easier eating." He finished his beer and looked at his father again. "His mother's a drunk. His father's a drunk."
"I'll keep that in mind. We won't scare him."
"We probably will on some levels," Charlie corrected. "He has no idea what a family is like, Dad. We're not going to be like his."
"His best friend's parents haven't been home in over a year, since they tried to burn their daughter at a stake for being a witch," Don told him. "They're lecturing shrinks."
Charlie looked at him. "Really?" He smirked. "I know a few people who should probably hear that. People like that shouldn't be practicing."
"Her last name is Rosenburg."
"I laughed at their last lecture I think," Charlie said, going to call someone. He came out a minute later. "Dinner's nearly ready, guys. Clean up." They went to do that while he finished calling a friend in his college's psychology department. They definitely needed to hear that. Plus maybe he could find him a few good books about how to deal with a newly found child. People weren't his best subject.
Xander looked up as the agent came in. "Hey, you managed to stay alive."
"I did. So far so has my team and all the troopers but one. He got bitten." Xander nodded. "That Mr. Giles told us what to do so it's safe." He looked at the boy then sat down. "Because of what happened I ran your ID kit."
"In case you disappeared due to this or other reasons."
Xander nodded. "That sounds reasonable. Did I come up demonic? Because, there was kinda a situation last year that got me exposed to some demon parts in a sauna."
"No, nothing like that," he said, looking at him. "But I'd like to hear about that later."
Xander looked at him. "You've got that freaked out look. What came up?" Don handed over the paper. Xander looked at it then frowned at him. "Huh? I'm not into science stuff. I took chemistry to learn how to make thermite."
Don smiled. "That's not a bad reason. That's a paternity test, Xander. I briefly saw your mother in my senior year." Xander groaned. "Lasted all of three weeks before she dumped me."
"Do you still have bad taste?"
"No. I have good taste now." He smiled. "Thankfully. I was in it for the sex."
"Looks like you got some," Xander said dryly.
"Yeah, it does. So I was hoping I could suggest you spend your road trip locally so my family could talk to you. My dad and little brother are both still alive and they'd like to meet you too. Actually, I'm surprised you haven't seen my dad yet."
Xander frowned. "Um.... I don't know what to say." He handed it back. "I'm kinda freaked out."
"Yeah, I was too," he agreed, standing up and coming over to look at him. "You won't want to travel with those healing anyway. That'll give us a few weeks to at least see if we can stand each other."
Xander stared at him. "This isn't because of the case, is it? Because if I'm going to be arrested, just do it."
Don shook his head. "I don't work that way, Xander. I never have."
"Okay. Still majorly wigged."
Don smiled. "Charlie was nearly yanking his hair out while he thought last night. So, can I get you to stay locally for a bit?"
Xander considered it then nodded. "I guess I can put off my road trip but I'll have to find somewhere pretty cheap to stay."
"Sure. We can do that. I know a few of the not-quite-a-slum places." That got a nod. He knew the kid wouldn't accept an offer to live with them for a while. He was still too freaked out and his question had shown that he didn't trust people easily. "When are they going to let you go?"
"Four days. Is my car still okay?"
"It's at Mr. Giles' house and Willow's been patting it daily for you."
Xander nodded. "That's good to know. Thank you, Agent... Um, what do I call you?"
"Don then. You can stick with Xander. I'm not that complicated."
Don snorted. "You're pretty complicated, Xander. Most kids your age are more shallow." He patted him on the head. "Want some time to process?"
"Okay. If the curly haired guy or the older guy with silvering hair shows up, be polite. Dad's still upset but he won't yell. Charlie's not used to people. He's a math guy and the numbers are sometimes more real to him."
Xander nodded. "Willow had that now and then when she was hack.... um, never mind."
Don smirked. "I heard already."
"That's good. Is she in trouble?"
"Only if I catch her."
"Even better." He grinned. "We're not going to hug, right?"
"Nope. Not my style either."
Don laughed, patting him on the arm. "We'll work it out. We're pretty nice and maybe Charlie will drop his chalk for a few extra days." He nodded. "I'm going back to the office. If something happens, call. If Dad freaks you out by hugging, call." That got a nod and he left after resisting the urge to hug him. The kid looked so confused! He had definitely seen that look before on Charlie's face when faced with strange human things. He called his father. "It's me. He's awake and we talked. No, he's pretty cool. A bit wary but not too freaked out. He needs some time to process but he'll do okay. Just don't descend like a flock of pigeons, Dad." He hung up on his complaining.
Don looked up as his name was called a few hours later, leaning back in his cubicle so he could see the hallway. "At my desk," he called back. His boss stormed his way. "Is Megan having a problem?"
"No. Have you been at Beth Israel today?" he demanded.
"Not since nine this morning." He stood up. "Tell me they didn't try," he begged.
"They did. Though somehow they were all defeated. They said they thought someone who was in law enforcement was there to protect the boy?"
"No, I didn't have any guards on him. They were all under arrest so I alerted the local PD station. Is he all right?"
"He's fine. Ripped a few stitches." He stared at him. "He's more than a witness. Why did you take yourself off the case?"
"Because I used to date his mother in high school."
"No prosecutor would look too hard at that." He stared him down.
"She got married about three months later to some other guy to cover up the pregnancy." His boss moaned. "I found out with the ID kit. He's definitely okay?"
"He's fine. Ripped a few stitches disarming one to get his gun and shot the others." Don winced. "He's not in trouble. LAPD said he was defending himself and the nurses on the floor. Looks like the genes do tell sometimes." He walked off happier. His agent hadn't walked away from a bad scene to come do paperwork. That was a good thing.
Don grabbed his things and headed out to check for himself. He found Xander under guard at the hospital. He held up his badge. "Agent Epps, I'm the one who had him sent here."
"No visitors, sir," the officer said.
"Xander?" he called.
"Let my father in," he called back.
The officer looked startled. "You should have said that."
"It's new," he muttered. He walked in, wincing at the injuries the nurse was rebandaging. "You good?"
"Been happier. Could use a twinkie." Don smiled at that. The nurse did too. "I'm having deja vu. Am I under arrest?" Don shook his head. "Then why do I have the huge guy out there making me feel really puny?"
"Safety precautions. I don't know how they got bail."
"Did you go through the Sunnydale judges?"
"No, federal ones."
"Then no idea unless one of ours made it to the bench."
"I called Megan on the way over. She's looking into it." He shifted closer. "Want to talk about it?"
Xander looked at the nurse then at him. "I was on patrol since early in my tenth grade year. I shot to wound, Don."
"That shows skill," the nurse said. "My brother's an officer and they don't even try to tell them to shoot to wound when they train them." She finished up and smiled. "We'll see about the twinkies. You probably deserve one." She patted him on the head. "Not too long, Agent Epps. He needs rest to heal." She left them alone.
Don looked at the boy. "She's right, it does. They teach us to shoot to kill too." He moved closer. "Sure you don't want to talk?"
"No, I'll be fine. Just ... don't hug me or anything strange like that," he said with a grimace.
Don laughed. "Didn't consider it. Charlie's the hugger in the family. He said you were asleep when he showed up yesterday."
"I seem to do a lot of that," he admitted.
"So did I after my last one." The officer leaned in. "Yes, Officer?"
"Sir, there's a small redhead here to see him?"
"Willow, Buffy, and Giles can all come in," Xander told him. That got a nod. "Cordelia Chase if she wants to but I'm doubting it."
The officer nodded. "I'll make a list, sir." He let Willow in and shut the door.
She pointed. Xander shrugged then hissed and winced, grabbing a sore spot. "Someone gave them bail," Don told her.
"Ah." She came over to hug Xander and fuss over him, getting swatted at. "You need it, Mister. Quit complaining."
He looked at her. "Big shock you wanna hear now?" he countered.
She stared then at Don. "I know already. Your system is really not that secure." She went back to fussing over her best friend. "I'll expect him to be healthy from now on, Agent Epps, or else you will know the wrath of my temper and I am one you don't screw with." She stared at him, getting a nod. "Because I learned a lot on patrol and from Giles' books." Xander smacked her on the head. "Hey!" She scowled at him. "I can give him the shovel talk!"
"Everyone's jumpy today since I had to shoot two of them," he told her. "Tone it down before the nurses cry on me."
"Fine." She finished fluffing his pillows then opened her backpack and pulled out a bag of cookies. "Buffy and I want you to get better. We made you chocolate chip peanut butter cookies." She presented them.
He beamed. "Thanks, Wills. Anything bad happening that way?"
"Not right now. The demons are not happy. Buffy's not patrolling due to orders but they're all laying low anyway. Only two new vamps and she got them sneaking around." Xander nodded, nibbling on a cookie. He even handed Don one, making her smile. "Good, it's clear you can help take care of Xander." Someone knocked then walked in. "Doctor?"
"My dad," Don told her. "Dad, this is Xander and his best friend Willow."
"Hi." He smiled and shook her hand. "Cookies?"
"He needs sugar to live," she said, looking serious. "Once he found Hostess, that was a food group to him." Don laughed. "Not kidding, guys. Just watch out for bouncing." He swatted her again. "You do."
He shrugged then winced again. "Quit doing that," Don ordered. "You'll pull another one and then the nurses will have to fuss more. Trust me." His father swatted him. "He yelled at me for doing it a few times."
Xander grinned at his grandfather. "Is that where I get it from?"
"Must be, I lay there and let them fuss." He smiled at Willow. "You apparently do a good job with him if he can stand any. Don can't."
"I had to teach him that fussing was nice. It took a few ropes and a weekend in my closet but oh well," she said happily. Don gave her an odd look. "What?"
"Nothing. How's my team?"
"They're alive. Seem frustrated. I introduced them to someone who could help last night. It helped a lot. Half the fire department went to jail yesterday. The city's services are nearly gutted."
Xander nodded. "Good. Maybe they'll get someone who doesn't cover up things with gangs of kids on PCP." He nibbled another cookie, holding up the bag. "Want one? And what should I call you?"
"You can call me grandfather or Alan for now, Xander."
"Sure, Alan. Want a cookie? She does good cookies." He took one with a smile and he looked at her. "Other news?"
"Your parents tossed out the few things you left. They're in Buffy's storage area."
"That's cool. And?" He smiled. "I don't usually get the great cookies unless it's really horrible."
"Anya's looking for you." He grimaced. "She thinks you're still dating."
"Nope. Tell her to find Angel. I'm sure I'll be checking in with him in a few weeks when I'm feeling better. Any other news?"
"The governor came to take a tour. The nice FBI agents showed him the mess and the head. He said it answered a few questions that had been floating around in Sacramento for a few years now. He said we did good."
"We did but I still wanted to lose fewer lives."
She gave him a hug. "You did what you could, Xander." She pulled back to look at him. "I'd probably better go. My parents came home to make sure I was alive."
"That's nice of them. Are you staying in Buffy's storage area too?" he asked dryly.
"I'm starting college in a few weeks, Xander. I can always take a late summer session if I have to." She smiled sweetly. "Behave on your trip. I will be checking." She handed him a book. "Because summer cable is disgusting." She waved and bounced out.
Xander nibbled on another cookie. "Yes, she was serious. I was eight." Don shook his head. "Her mother told her I needed to learn what normal human contact was."
"Her mother had a duty by law to turn your parents in," Don corrected.
"Sunnydale doesn't have CPS."
"Oh." He grimaced. "The mayor?" Xander nodded.
"Isn't that a state agency?" Alan asked, looking confused.
"He had twenty eaten nearly as soon as they showed up at the local office. They decided it was too risky and closed the Sunnydale office. The county office is nice but overloaded and not inclined to deal with Sunnydale cases since they get eaten."
Alan nodded. "He's gone, right?"
"He got blown up when he turned into the giant snake," Xander told him. He put his bag of cookies aside and looked at Don. "Are you sure I'm not going to be in trouble for earlier?"
"Very. If you were in trouble you'd be at LA General in the prison ward by now, kid."
"Oh, good to know." He grinned. "So, what's going on in your office?"
"Nothing much. My boss knows. He came to make sure it wasn't me who had shot them." Alan moaned. "Some of the people who put him here got bail and tried again, Dad. He disarmed one and shot the others." He looked at Xander again. "Nice job."
"Thanks. Kinda sucks though."
"It should," Alan agreed. He looked at his grandson, seeing the frailness of his spirit. He was stubborn, any child of Don's would be stubborn, but he was hurt too. "When you get out, you're coming to dinner, Xander." Someone knocked then walked in. "Megan."
"I heard some of our scum got free and came here. You okay, kid?"
"I'm fine," he said with a fake grin. "Just dandy actually. Waiting to get out of here."
"It's safer if you're here," she told him. "Then we can put a guard on you."
Xander grimaced. "I'll be fine. They're in jail again, right?"
"We don't know if they have helpers or contacts in town."
"Probably. The LA to Sunnydale demon underground is pretty strong. Find Angel. He'll know. He's a master vampire and he ran part of Sunnydale's underground for a while. He's moving here so he'll know."
"Any idea where he is?" Don asked.
Xander shook his head. "Not at the moment. I know he left right after graduation and came here to set up. I know he's got that mansion in Sunnydale plus an apartment so I doubt he's going to be taking over a warehouse or anything since he's working for the Powers That Be as a champion. Look at rental and building records?"
"I can do that," Don agreed, looking at her.
"You're involved," she said bluntly.
"Putting it mildly," Xander said dryly. "I can protect myself, really."
"I don't care. You don't get to make that call until you're eighteen." She stared him down.
He considered it then looked at his father's watch. Then at her. "That's in two weeks. I can disappear and hide for two weeks, dear. Half of everyone in Sunnydale thinks I'm invisible anyway."
"I've seen that. Don't care, doesn't change anything, but yay," she said with a smirk. "You're underage. It's this or foster care."
Xander grimaced. "Fine."
"Thank you for being reasonable. I'm sure your dad can handle part of that for you." She patted his foot with a smile. "Good boy." She looked at Alan. "Can I get you to look over some building plans?"
"We think he built the town to be sacrificed."
"He did," Xander agreed. "To raise his power he had to make alliances and all that. Drawing demons there and getting on their good side helped with that."
"The town's built on a pretty shaky base. If one of those sewer tunnels collapses so goes a good portion of the town."
Xander nodded. "We figured that when one went about ten years ago. Killed about a- hundred-nineteen people since it was under the hospital at the time. Got it rebuilt really fast," he finished dryly. "There's some methane demons who live down there. The city goes to clean them out now and then so they don't do it again."
"That explains that problem and why some have newer vents and airholes."
"To keep the buildup down," Alan agreed. "Anything else going on?"
Xander nodded. "Something's been going on up at the college." He looked at her. "We don't know what but we've seen some heavy construction gear up that way and the college isn't expanding for another year."
"I'll look into that. Think it was the mayor?"
"Don't know," Xander admitted. "We were all confused why they had heavy digging equipment in the forest when they weren't cutting trees to build anything. Ones that weren't there when we went to look. So maybe a portal of some sort. No clue."
"I'll look into that. Thanks, Xander. Behave and let them spoil you. Alan's a very good cook." She smiled and left them alone.
Don looked at him. "This assignment is driving her insane."
"Sunnydale does that to sane people. I figure that's why my parents drink."
"Could be," Don said. He glanced at his father then at Xander, who rolled his eyes slightly. "I'll let you two talk for now. I'll see you tonight, Xander." That got a nod. "Don't eat all the cookies at once." That got a grin. "I'll be back during late visiting hours." He left him alone, heading back to his desk to do a background check on Xander. There had to be more information on him than his birth and graduation announcements. The kid acted like a trained combat veteran. Combat veteran he could see but that Mr. Giles didn't have the training to teach Xander commando moves. Something strange was going on there. Then again...this was Sunnydale. He was starting to get his own headache and the little voice in the back of his head was warning him that he was going to slip and go insane himself soon. Not a good thing.
Charlie peeked in and smiled at the awake boy. "I missed you last time."
"I heard I was asleep. Thank you for not drawing equations on me. Willow said you were the sort of guy who had a moment's thought and wrote on whatever was at hand."
"I learned how to carry around paper and a pen," he said with a grin, walking in to sit next to him. "So, have you met Dad yet?" Xander nodded, letting him have a cookie. "Not our recipe."
"Willow. She freaked out your dad and Don earlier."
Charlie smiled. "I have a few friends like that," he admitted.
"I think most geniuses do. So I guess I'm her freaking out friend."
"I think you're very bright, even if education isn't your forte," Charlie told him. "Don't put yourself down. Dad will yell."
"I'll try not to." He stared at his uncle. "So."
"You get out when?"
"A few days. If I don't sneak off to get away from the people outside the door."
"There's people out there?"
"There were cops out there earlier."
"Some of them got bail and tried again," he said honestly.
"Oh. So someone caught them at it. Maybe the threat's over with." He called Don. "Is Xander still supposed to have guards on his door?" He grinned. "I am and he's awake and sharing cookies." He listened to him. "Sure, I can stay." He hung up. "He said you are, he has no idea where they are so I've got to stay until one comes back."
"That's fine. I don't mind company. Better than soaps."
"I try really hard not to be that slimy," Charlie said.
Xander grinned back, you had to. "My friend Cordelia would fuss over your hair."
"Some girls do. Amita would protect me."
"Girlfriend?" Charlie nodded. "Then that's nice. Is she nice?"
"Fairly so. She's my former graduate assistant and I had to wait but we're taking it slowly. We work together a lot." Xander nodded at that. "You?"
"Briefly had one for the prom. She thinks we're still dating so if the loud ones shows up, sneak away when she's ranting about wanting sex."
Charlie gaped. "She's blunt?"
"She's absolutely blunt. She's also due here in a few hours." One of the nurses peeked in. "I'm still here."
"That's good to know. Your guest?"
"My uncle Charlie."
"Ah. He's doing much better today. Even with the two popped stitches from earlier." She left them alone to talk but made a note on his chart that a friend had brought him cookies. He seemed a bit hyper so they'd have to watch him if he got too much sugar.
Charlie looked at him. "They worry about you."
"If they think I'm cute that means they're evil," Xander said, looking totally serious. Charlie laughed. Oh, well. He'd see eventually. "So, what do you do?"
"I teach math at Cal Sci. I help Don with cases now and then."
"That's kinda cool. I know I don't have your brains. I barely passed business math."
"Sometimes it's how it's presented. We've heard bad things about your former school. Most of them have to take a lot of makeup work to make standards at my college. Speaking of, are you going anywhere this fall?"
"Didn't apply. School and I aren't friends."
"Some people aren't. Your dad played ball instead."
"He seemed too short."
"Oh." He shrugged a little bit, not enough to make him wince. He had learned that lesson well. "I only do good in dodgeball. Sorry."
"No, don't be. You aren't going to be great in the same things we are. You're not us. You're Xander and you'll figure out what you're good at. As long as it's not crime or anything like that we'll probably be happy for you, Xander." Xander relaxed again. Someone barged in and he knew this *had* to be Xander's ex. "Hello. Charlie Epps."
"Uncle Charlie, this is my ex, Cordelia Chase. How's the back thing?"
"Better. What the hell happened to you?" she demanded.
"When the FBI came up to investigate one of the agents asked me what happened, wanted the truth. So I showed him the remains." She groaned and rolled her eyes, swatting him.
"Hey! He got shot," Charlie protested.
Xander nodded. "The cops got caught covering it up." She laughed, shaking her head. "Shot the first agent. So they sent another team up and they ended up looking at the crime stats. They didn't like the people-eating barbeque forks either." She smirked at that, crossing her arms over her chest. "So they had them all arrested. Since I showed the first agent, they decided to shoot me and Giles. He had a few grazes. I have a few more serious ones. And then I find out I have a real father."
"Charming. Is this one a drunk?" she asked.
"Doesn't rule it out."
"No, but he's not," Charlie assured her. "My brother's actually a very upstanding guy, Cordelia."
She stared at him. Then she looked at Xander. "At least the geeky one dresses better than you. He can help you with that." Xander flipped her off. "Tried that, didn't get it good enough, Xander."
"Not what Anya said," he said dryly, giving her a look. She sneered. He smirked. "And then the cops showed up this morning so I'm under guard. By the way, my father wanted to ask Angel about some of the connections between the LA and Sunnydale underground. Any idea where he is?"
"Somewhere in town. He left right after the battle." She flipped her hair back over her shoulder. "Are you staying locally?"
"Somewhere. At least until I heal. That way I could get to know Don and his family. Then we'll see." Charlie looked happier at that. "Did the guard come back?"
"No, not one was outside except a nurse and some big, hairy guy."
"That's the guy who stitched me up," he told her.
"They let guys like that into medical school? It seems like he'd scare patients." She shrugged. "Anyway, should I make a card?"
"No, I'm good. Willow dropped cookies on me earlier and threatened people for me."
"Good. You may be a dickhead but Buffy would be a dead bitch if it wasn't for you." She kissed him on the head. "Get better soon so you can leave my new town." She left.
Xander watched Charlie's face. "She wasn't the one I mentioned earlier. She's less blunt than Anya. Cordy broke up with me for her image."
Charlie looked at him. "You need to date better women."
"Only the evil ones like me."
"Obviously." He shook his head quickly. The door opened and Xander tensed but it was the doctor so he relaxed again. "Hi, Charlie Epps."
"Doctor Scordian. I decided I should wait. Did you want to file a restraining order against that one?"
"Why? I'm not sleeping with her anymore." Xander gave him an odd look. "We haven't dated in nearly half a year, doc. My last one was even more blunt than she was. For us, that was foreplay."
"Should I have someone come talk to you about good relationships?"
"I think the family can," Charlie promised. "So, how is he doing? Dad's doing dinner the night he gets out so he needs to know when." He looked at Xander. "Is there anything you won't eat?"
"I'm not picky. Sugar's nice. I mostly live on microwave stuff at home."
Charlie snorted. "No, Xander, Dad can *cook*. Anything you like a whole lot?"
"Baked macaroni and cheese?"
"I'll let him know. Need me to go for a few minutes, Doctor?"
"Please." He watched him leave to go call the family. "New?"
"They did an ID kit and found out I have a real father. That's my uncle. Willow said he's a math genius."
He nodded. "That's probably why he was uncomfortable with people. How are you feeling?" He came over to check his bandages and the wounds underneath. "Not too bad."
"So can I escape?"
"Two days, Xander."
"Good boy." He patted him on the head. "Any questions about after care?" Xander gave him an odd look. "Peroxide, not alcohol, over the stitches. By the time you go home you can shower. Clean them gently."
"I can do that."
"Good. Any other questions?"
"Think he was really freaked out?"
"I was. She's ...loud."
"The last one was worse."
"Then maybe I should have someone talk to you about healthy relationships?"
Xander shook his head. "Why date? There's plenty of evil women who're drawn to me to sleep with me."
The doctor laughed. "At your age that is an important matter. You're being safe?"
"Of course. I don't want Cordelia to be the mother of my future spawns."
He laughed louder. "Good. Then I'll let you and your uncle talk some more. I noticed your guards were gone."
"So did we." He shrugged a bit. "We'll figure it out."
"Thank you for protecting the nurses earlier. They don't get paid enough to be shot at."
Xander smiled. "If it happens again I'm going to go wherever they are and finish the issue."
"Good to know, son. Be calm for now. You need to heal before you can do that." He made notes in the charta as he walked out. "I'm done," he said as he walked past Charlie.
"Gotta go." He hung up and walked back in there. "Dad said he has three very good mac and cheese recipes so he'll pull them out later." He sat down again. "So, tell me about your friends?"
Xander nodded and gave him the stuff he could. He didn't want to endanger Buffy.
Don walked up to the officers who were supposed to be guarding his son. "What did they say?" They stared at him. "About the Harris boy. What lies are they feeding now?"
"He's a thug!" one sneered. "Proved it earlier."
"Actually, he's on the protection patrol in his town. The cops never came out of their station." That got a groan. "He turned them in for being dirty cops, guys. That's why they're trying to eliminate the witnesses."
"He still acted like a street rat," another told him.
Don nodded. "He's trained that way. Him, two girls, a librarian, a few former girlfriends." They groaned. "Someone had to do the stuff since the cops wouldn't."
"They said he caused the explosion."
Don grimaced. "Something was attacking their graduation. We had an agent shot because Harris showed him the coverup in progress." They all groaned. "He did lead the defensive action. They did have the bombs for that reason. He also made sure as many people as possible got out of the way."
"You hear things about Sunnydale," one said quietly.
Don looked at him "It can't possibly be as strange as the reality is. The snake attacking their graduation was large enough that even Hollywood wouldn't film it." They groaned. "Now, do we have anyone on his door?" They shook their heads and one went. "Thank you." He looked at the others. "He's not a bad kid. He's been forced to do things to protect people when the cops up there failed."
"He still has some bad reflexes," the knowledgeable officer pointed out. Don nodded. "He stripped one of his gun and shot the others before we heard more than a 911. The shots were on the call, Agent Epps."
Don nodded. "Sometimes you have to. That was trained into him."
"The kid needs to calm down then. He nearly stabbed a guy who walked in to get his statement earlier. Had to take the knife from him."
"I'll talk with him about it. Thanks for letting me know." He went back to the hospital. He got there in time to see his brother mortally embarrassed by the ranting young woman in there. "This isn't the same one as earlier, right?" he asked as he walked in.
"No, this is my last ex, Anya," Xander told him. "Anya, it was only for the prom. I'm not dating you for real. I made that clear. Sex on a casual basis not dating you. Even if I was feeling up to sex after being shot, I'm not having it in the hospital bed in front of relatives."
"You're the reason I'm this way!" she shouted.
Xander gave her a look. "You're the one who granted the stupid wish. Next time, don't." She stomped off. He slumped back against his pillows. "I'm never dating again. Casual sex, but not dating."
Don pointed. "Who was that?"
Xander looked at him. "Anyanka, over Women Scorned before she granted a wish to Cordelia and lost her power center. I stepped on it." Don gave him a horrified look. "I had that look a few times when she told me how she tortured boyfriends then wanted sex immediately afterward. So yeah, Cordelia was the nice girlfriend."
"No she wasn't. By that standard she probably was, but by normal dating standards they were both shrews," Charlie said, giving him a pat on the wrist. "We can help you find some nice girls. I teach a few very nice ones."
"Still not planning on doing the college thing," Xander warned.
"So?" Charlie grinned. "You can come have lunch with me and I'll introduce you." Xander nodded that might be okay. "Good." He stood up. "I'll let Don monopolize your afternoon so I can get back to work. You've given me some very good ideas, Xander." He gave him a careful hug and left.
Don sat down, smirking at him. "I told you Charlie hugged."
"He does it pretty good."
"I'll let him know you said that. No college?"
"For some," he agreed. "I played baseball out of college."
Xander grimaced. "I'm good at dodgeball. Not major league since the movie said there was one."
"That's only the movies, Xander. We're not that desperate for violent sports. If we are, we borrow from the English and Australians." Xander smirked at that. "And hockey from Canada," he admitted. Xander laughed. "You okay? It sounded like she tore a strip from you."
"She wanted sex."
Don shook his head. "You're injured."
"I'm in a convenient bed, with some privacy. Yeah, she wanted sex. She even got to tell a fun and neat story about her past work."
"I don't want to know. I might have to arrest her."
"You won't find records for her, Don. She's over a millennium old."
"That's... one experienced woman," Don said, the only polite thing he could. Xander cackled and nodded. "Still not nice enough to date."
"I only attract the evil ones."
"I'm starting to see that. Hopefully we can help." He looked over as the door opened. "Yes, Officer?"
"Sir, there's a Mr. Harris here to see him? I'm assuming it's his father?"
Xander frowned. "Tony Harris?"
"Oh, Uncle Rory. Sure, why not." The officer nodded, letting him inside. "Hey, Uncle Rory."
"Boy." He looked at Don then at him. "Under guard for doing something bad?"
"No. The dirty cops the Feds found came after me this morning since I'm a witness."
His uncle blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Just what he said," Don said, pulling out his badge to show him. The man stepped away from him. He looked at Xander, who shrugged. "Are you here because Jessica and her husband had a talk?"
"No. Why would I be?"
"Mom was pregnant when they got married, Uncle Rory."
"I'm not his," Xander said bluntly.
"Oh. Then...." Don nodded. "I see." He looked at the boy. "That changes things, huh?"
Xander smirked. "Yeah but I'm told all my stuff is somewhere else already. Since *I* bought it...."
Rory snorted. "Wouldn't want it anyway, boy. You buy junky crap."
"As opposed to them, who turn nice things to junk?" Xander suggested. Rory glared. "Truth hurt?"
"Not me. Still not polite. That girl of yours tried to beat manners into you."
"She threatened Don too."
"Good." He looked at him then at the boy. "The car?"
"Willow. Since I bought it off you. It'll be brought to me when I get out."
"Fine. You coming back?" Xander shrugged a bit. "Don't know yet?"
"Depends on how things work out and if the girls need me."
Rory sneered. "Why would they?"
"Because he led the assault that got the spectators out of the way?" Don suggested. Rory went pale at that. "He's a very good boy and very skilled from what we've seen. His smartass tendencies come directly from me and my father, Mr. Harris. We like the boy so far."
"Fine." He stared at the boy. "Be careful who you rile."
"I usually am. Most of them go poof." His uncle walked off shuddering. "Sorry."
"Not a problem. How did you hunt vampires?"
"With a stake." Don gave him a look. "Cemetery patrols."
Don shuddered. "I couldn't do it, kid."
"Someone had to. She couldn't on her own."
"True. That makes you one hell of a man in the making." Xander gave him a sheepish, shy grin for that compliment. "You good for tonight?"
"Hopefully. Anya shouldn't come back. Cordelia might. I think finding out I had you guys freaked her out a bit. She was a lot more blunt than usual." Don gave him an odd look. "She was."
"Uh-huh." He stood up, patting him on the head. "Be safe and I'll be back later or tomorrow."
"Sure. Thanks, Don."
"Welcome, kid." He walked out, happier now that he had helped drive off the evil bitches. Because his son had to have better taste. He had grown into his, Xander could grow into better taste with help too. His dad would help with that. He went home and found Charlie describing both women to his father. "Is Cordelia that bad?"
"Yup," Charlie said simply. "Not as blunt, which is what Xander said. A bit nicer. Less horny."
"We made sure Don had better taste after high school. Xander will grow into better taste too," Alan assured him. He looked at him. "Won't he?"
"He said only evil women are attracted to him."
"Maybe we can help there too. Surely there's some evil women who are still *nice*. At least nice enough?"
"I know a few but they're grad students and with Xander saying he doesn't want to go to college, that might be hard to set them up," Charlie admitted, frowning some. "The school there was really horrible. We might be able to show him that it's better in other cities."
"Some people have a better feel for hands-on education," Alan told him. "I did. He might too."
"He might," Don agreed. "Maybe we can introduce him to Amita, she might know some nice younger girls."
"I was going to invite her to the first night out dinner," Charlie assured him. Don and Alan both smiled at that. "Larry too. For some reason I think Larry and he will click very well."
"That's a scary thought," Alan told him. He went back to dinner. "So, two loud, obnoxious, demanding girlfriends. Has he had any others?"
"I got an email from Willow saying he should not date, I was to handcuff him before he dated something worse that killed them all," Don told him. Alan dropped the spoon he was using, staring at him. "I'm not sure if she was being literal or not, Dad."
"Then either he needs better friends or better taste in women," Charlie told him. "The psychology teacher I talked to said it's not uncommon for abused children to find others to hang with. They feel that normal people won't understand them, and they're usually right. Since you said her parents were absent most of the time, that makes sense. Any other information?"
"His friend Buffy's mother wrote me. Said she's glad that he has an upstanding father figure finally. That she's more than happy to help the social workers if they would finally show up. That she had done a lot of mothering of Xander since her daughter and he had hooked up." Don stole a bite of dinner to nibble on. "She agreed with Willow, he shouldn't be dating anyone right now. She did warn me about Anya and Cordelia though. Said they were blunt and loud as she put it." He finished that bite while Charlie laughed. "Then she said that at least this one was normal, living, and wasn't trying to kill him." Alan glared at him. "Honest. Want me to pull up the email, Dad?"
"No. Then again, you hear things about Sunnydale."
"That's nothing compared to the reality," Don assured him. "Megan had to stake a vampire the other night at the bar." He shuddered. "So, we're figuring things out. She's got it mostly sealed shut. The federal prosecutor is not happy that the ones who got bail went after the kid. They're back in jail. Mostly in the infirmary. I still want to know how Xander learned that move."
"Doing some background sniffing might help you relate to him," Alan said. "But be very careful. Those girls might tell him."
"I asked Willow after she sent me that email. She promised she'd write me a better history later and wouldn't tell him." He leaned against the counter. "I think I'm doing okay. He's not tense around me. I got a real, shy smile from him earlier. His shields dropped for a few minutes."
"It's going to take time, Donny," Alan pointed out gently. "Like gentling a wild animal. He's had some bad examples of parents. We'll have to move slowly and cautiously, the same as he is. If he had jumped into your arms I would've worried he needed saving from something."
"I met his uncle earlier. His stepfather's brother. From what he was insinuating, the kid's never been saved," Don told him.
"I'd figure that," Alan agreed. "Gentle him like you would a new puppy. Any rough edges you can work on later as long as they're not too bad or racist."
"No, he hasn't seemed like that so far," Charlie admitted. "We talked for a good few hours. I do know that he has some serious self esteem problems. Megan is going to freak out trying to profile him. He's got a lot of layers."
Don nodded. "I've seen that. At least she got us to the point where he'll let us protect him if we have to." His phone rang. "Epps." He listened. Then he moaned. "When did this happen?" He nodded. "Are you and Colby okay? I know David's back in LA tonight to report for court tomorrow." He smirked. "Good to know. Anything on that construction?" He blinked. "Excuse me?" He walked off listening to her. "That's illegal and they know that, Megan. Yeah, I'd worry more about needing backup. Sure, you let me know. Let me call someone. See if they can get it into the right ear."
He hung up and looked up a number, smiling when it was answered. "Ian, Don Epps. My team ran into a problem on a case I'm not on. Longer than average story. They're in Sunnydale...." He listened to the muttering. "We know. Megan had to stake someone at the bar last night. There's a commando group moving in under Pentagon, Area 51, and NSA authority. We don't know why. She was warned off. Have you heard anything?" He made notes. Ian had some good military contacts. "Thanks, man. Can you pass that back? I know it's illegal. It's nearly treason from what Megan told me. A secret base they're building, some commandos. Yeah, please." He hung up and called her back.
"Worse than you thought, Megan. Edgerton has heard of Sunnydale. He said to get out of there. They're under orders to handle what Xander and his patrol team did and they don't have any mandate on *how* was how he put it." He nodded as she spoke. "I know. We're trying. You done with the primary case? Then let's work on that from the home office. That way it'll be harder for them to cover up what they're doing. Thanks. Be safe. Sure, let her know. She seems to know those things. Or Mr. Giles. Ah, she's the girl then. That makes sense. Tell them Xander gets out in a few days and he's fine. To bring his stuff down here. Sure, if he's willing to drive the boy's car down for him that'd be great. Tell him I owe him one. Thanks, Megan. Be careful." He hung up and moaned. "This is going to be so bad."
Charlie hung up his own phone. "Of the people I used to work with, one said he'd heard of the town and the project. He said they can't protest, it's from a higher decision." Don looked at him. "But it's being put around that others do know and it's a bad idea to keep going."
Don's phone rang. "Yeah, Epps." He listened. "How did you hear that, Xander? I just barely heard." He nodded at the 'redheaded information highway' answer. "Anything you know?" He grimaced. "Probably not a good idea. Oh, crap, not your group?" He winced. "I'll let her know. Thanks, kiddo." He hung up and called her back. "Xander just got a head's up. There's a higher something who heard too and they're going after the base tonight, Megan. Evacuate now." He hung up and went back to the kitchen. "Not good news. Something higher is going to destroy the base since they heard. Apparently our questioning hit the wrong ears." He turned on the news. Another explosion that way would be covered on the local news. About three hours after dinner it was. Don called Megan. "You okay?" He nodded. "Decent." He smiled.
"Yeah, I kinda figured it was a piece of crap car. Most kids his age can't afford something great and Xander didn't seem like a car nut. Need a tow?" He laughed. "Thanks, Megan. Sure, park it here. Tell Colby I said thank you and he's probably sorry too. Sure." He hung up and called Xander. "Your car died on the way to LA. One of my guys was driving it down. We'll have the tow truck park it in the driveway here, Xander. Sure, we can make sure you get at least your clothes from it. Sure. Seen the news?" Xander said something smart. "There could've been people...." Xander said something else, making him wince. "You sure?" He nodded once. "That's pretty sure. Have him come see me tomorrow night so I know if any other threats are coming from that way please? Because it's my job to protect LA too, Xander. I need to know. If I get a head's up about the bigger things we might be able to help. Sure, I'll be at work then. Thanks, kiddo." He hung up and leaned back. "The demon who had the base blown up took all the commandos with him."
"Is the military going to rescue them?" Charlie asked.
"Buffy did. The demon's gone too. They're heading back licking their wounds according to what he heard." He looked at his father, who was shaking his head and muttering behind his book. "His former coworker Angel showed up. He's taking over some of LA's protection detail."
"Good. Think it's going to be that bad?"
"Yeah. I think it already is but they hide it from us."
"Should," Charlie agreed. "Humans might have a real problem dealing with demons." He shifted. "I told Amita about Xander and she nearly freaked out at hearing the name Sunnydale. Larry's 'interesting' calmed her down but she's majorly freaked by him." Don patted him on the arm. "What was he driving?"
Charlie laughed. "I've seen many of those on campus. The engine go?"
"According to Colby the whole thing died with a wheeze and nearly fell apart there in the middle of the road. He had to push it off to the side. Now we know why they made Xander buy it from him." Alan looked at him. "His other uncle."
"Uh-huh. Maybe he can get a good deal for scrap. Those are usually steel and iron instead of fiberglass."
"He might," Don agreed. He stretched out, watching the coverage. Megan got there an hour later, hading him the keys. "Thanks." He looked at the old convertible. "Put the top up for me?"
"Sure. You don't want to look?"
"I think he'd have a fit about his privacy," Don told her honestly.
"Okay." She went to do that then came back to hand him a disc. "The reports. Not pretty."
"Usually aren't," he agreed. "Thanks."
"Welcome. Colby's getting drunk tonight. One of the vampires would *not* let him go. I put the tow on the corporate card since he's a witness." She smirked and left him alone for the night. She'd see him in the morning to bother him and ask more questions about his son. She might even be able to fill in some information that the girls wouldn't. After all, ignoring the boy made them look very bad to his new family.
Don got Xander checked out. "Your car's at the house."
"That's fine. I can grab clothes on the way to the motel tonight. Plus my stash. If Anya or someone didn't break into it."
"Shouldn't have. Megan had it impounded after you got shot." He gave him a look then moaned when his phone went off. "It had better be an emergency," he answered. He listened. "That is one I guess. Sure. On my way with Xander." He hung up. "I have to stop back at the office to brief the prosecutor. Should take an hour. It'll give dad time to finish dinner without having to try to hover over you too."
"I'm not a landing strip," he said quietly.
"Dad fusses, Xander. You'll get used to it. Charlie gets it from him." He pulled out of the parking lot and headed for the office. When they parked, he smiled. "C'mon." He walked him into the elevator, getting him signed in before they headed upstairs. He pointed. "Sit there. I'll be back in a few." Xander nodded, sitting down to look over the pictures at his desk. Don went to deal with the fussy prosecutor. "You couldn't wait?"
"No. Why did you recuse yourself from the case?"
"Because I found out one of the kids protecting the civilians was my son."
She blinked. "Oh. Huh."
"After he got shot. I ran into his mother and I warned Agent Reeves. She said she'd handle anything between me and the boy's mother. Then the ID kit after his shooting came up with a positive paternity match."
"Interesting. Is he all right?"
"You interrupted me taking him home from the hospital."
"I see. That's fine. I'll do this as quickly as I can. We're moving on those judges tomorrow, Agent Epps."
"Fine. He's at my desk." She nodded and they sat down to deal with this issue.
Xander looked up when he heard someone coming closer. "You sneak nearly as good as a vamp," he said in greeting.
"You changed, Don," he shot back with a glare.
Xander grinned. "Don's in the conference room with some uptight suit woman who has her thong too tight and twisted up her crack. I'm Xander." He held out a hand.
"The longer than average story?" he guessed, shaking it. "Ian Edgerton."
"Probably, yeah. I don't think he's told everyone. You can ask when he's done. It might relieve some stress."
"I can do that. Why are you here?"
"He was taking me to dinner when the uptight suit ho called."
"Ah. Are you two...dating?"
"Eww, no. Way too old for me. Well, I guess on Anya's scale not *so* old but Uncle Charlie would get pissed with that association. He's very anti my ex girlfriends."
"Uncle Charlie? You're Don's son?" Xander nodded, smirking a bit. "How did he find out?"
"The dirty cops I helped expose shot me."
"Ow. You good?"
"Better. Few stitches I'll pull next week." One of Don's team gave him an odd look as he came in. "Don said so."
"Sure, kid," David agreed. "So I heard there's news?" he asked him.
"Ask Don. He's with the uptight suit woman with the too tight, twisted thong."
"The prosecutor," Ian told him. He could barely see into the conference room. The kid was right, she was an uptight suit with her thong on the wrong way. Had to be a lawyer of some sort and with the cheap suit, she had to be a prosecutor. Defense attorneys dressed better.
"Oh, her. Yeah, that describes her." He walked off shaking his head. He'd watch the kid for now. He was out of the gossip loop again. He found Colby coming in and looked at him. "You probably know why Don brought the Harris boy in."
"His son? Yeah. He's bringing him home from the hospital."
David gaped. "His son?"
"Yeah. Apparently Don had questionable taste in his youth. The kid's nice though." Xander smirked at him. "Most of the time."
"Buffy talk to you?"
"I blanked out when she tried," he admitted.
"She does that to others who aren't prepared." He looked at Ian. "I'd be that mean but Don might get pissed at me."
"Alan might spank you," David agreed. "You dated the Chase girl?"
"Yup. Then we broke up because her friends were being mean to her. Long, dramatic issue afterward. Did you meet Anya too? I took her to the prom. Uncle Charlie did and nearly started a crusade." They all shuddered at that.
Don leaned out of the conference room. "Xander, quit horrifying people with your exes please?" He looked at Ian. "Edgerton. Welcome back to civilization."
"Couldn't find decent coffee in the desert. I've got one locally."
"It'll be a few hours."
"Fine." He looked at the kid then at him. "He's cute. Should I buy gifts?" he asked with an evil smirk.
"If you do, don't get me the POS gun you're wearing," Xander said dryly. "Those tend to stick and jam too easy." Everyone stared at him. "I was on the patrol, guys." That got a mass shudder and Ian patted him on the head before walking off. Xander went back to trying to identify some of the people in the pictures.
Megan leaned over. "That's Don's mother. She died a few years back," she said quietly. "That's Amita and Charlie in that one. That's... I think that's Don's last girlfriend actually. That's Larry, you'll meet him tonight at dinner. He's Charlie's best friend. And that's the rest of the family."
Xander looked at her. "Thanks."
"Welcome. How dangerous are you?"
"I guess that depends on if you're attacking me or not."
"Good point. Good answer too." She smiled and went back to work. Her profile on the boy was growing but it was iffy in some spots. He was a hard one to pin down.
"Remember, I was raised by girls and the drunken things. I'm not like others," he said in her ear, making her shiver. "Not to mention when Sunnydale things happened." He looked around. "Bathroom?" She pointed. "Thank you." He went to the bathroom, noticing the agents watching him. Not all on his father's team either. He came back from the bathroom and found Ian reading something. He looked. "The report?" Ian handed it over. Xander skimmed the parts about the demons. "Hmm. Graduation made it slow down and so did the freaks in masks. Buffy's going to be overrun this fall. Summers always slow down due to the heat." He handed it back. "She'll handle it and I might be back by then."
"You sure you want to do that?" Ian asked calmly.
"No but I don't see anyone else stepping in. It's not right to make her handle it on her own."
"Duty versus common sense. It's a classic argument."
"Duty has to win. Common sense is great but not easily applied to Sunnydale."
The agent nodded. "That's been said a few times." Xander stared him down. "I've heard rumors and things. Had to hunt someone through there a few years back. I'm on fugitive retrieval."
"I'm sorry. That must suck."
"It does sometimes. The hunt's nice though."
Xander nodded. "I can see how that is. Patrol is always better than the outcome."
Ian smiled. "Mind me coming to dinner?"
"Not in the least. Are you going to geek out with Uncle Charlie?"
"Probably not. I like him, he's a nice guy, but he's way too smart for me."
"Me too," Xander admitted dryly. "I can't see how anyone likes *school*. I mean, it's *school* and therefore has major suckage."
"It can, but I found I learned a few useful things. Like how to parachute. How to shoot."
"I'm not really wanting to learn how to parachute. With my luck I'll die from the chute not opening and I can already kinda shoot."
"Thinking about going military?"
Xander grimaced. "I can't see any DI or any officer dealing with me," he said dryly. "I'd drive them nuts."
"Probably," Don agreed as he joined them. "But if you wanted to go, I know a few good drill instructors I could have talk to you about your options."
Xander looked at him. "I'd still send them to the mental hospital. I sent my kindergarten teacher to one."
"That's skill," Ian joked.
Xander beamed. "I know. I'm damn good."
Don patted him on the back. "I'm done so let's go. That way Megan can worry about your skills while we eat good food."
"Can I tag along?" Ian asked.
"Sure. We can go over the case after dinner. See if I can help."
"Decent." He looked at the kid. "I drove."
"Sure." He walked out with Don. "He seems nice."
"He's pretty decent if you're on his good side."
Xander nodded. "I can understand that feeling very well."
"Who did the bomb in the school's basement a while back?"
"The zombies I stopped."
Don shook his head quickly. "Good to know. Not the others?"
"They decided I was too normal and couldn't keep up with the stuff I'd been doing for two years at that point. So I handled it on my own. Got jumped by Faith too."
"Uh-huh." He got him into the car and said a silent prayer on his way around to drive. His son was very strange and very hurt. He wasn't sure if even his father could make Xander normal.
"Enjoy me as I am, Don. It's easier and less frustrating."
"The look on your face."
Don turned to look at him. "How did you know how to plan the battle and lead it?"
"Possession from Halloween."
"A chaos sorcerer turned us into our halloween costumes that we bought from his shop. I went as a soldier."
"So.... The missing rocket and launcher from the National Guard base?" Xander nodded. "I'm assuming it was necessary?"
"Good. Did you take extra?" Xander just grinned. "Please tell me it's safe?"
"Pretty much. I kept it from Buffy. She might use it on us since she's got 'I'm special' syndrome now and then."
"Good to know. Maybe you should empty it? Before something finds it or some terrorist finds it? Just in case?"
Xander looked at him. "I'll think about it."
"Thank you." He drove them back to the house, watching his son think. "I'm not down on weapons, Xander. I know they're useful, the same as mine is to my job. I'm more worried about something finding them and using them on something like a mall."
"I'm worried about that too. That's why it's sealed shut and no one but me knows where it is."
"Good. That's even better. Can they come across it accidentally?" Xander shook his head. "Great then. Then I'll keep it at the level of mild suggestion and you tell me if someone gets into it." Xander nodded. "Thank you."
"You have to worry about those things like I have to worry about apocalypses."
"There's been more than one?" he asked hesitantly.
"Every spring and sometimes a few minor things in the fall."
Xander laughed. "Basically, yeah. But we handle it so you don't have to."
"Thank you for that."
"Welcome." He went back to looking at the scenery. "Sunnydale looks like the same sort of normal."
"Sunnydale tried too hard to look normal," Don told him. "It was all a bit too perfect to attract people. Too many good points, none of the bad you'd hear about any other town. Every town has at least one crazy person the others gossip about. Yours didn't."
"We gossiped but it was about who was cheating on who."
"Uh-huh. Still too perfect. Like the flower that's pretty and smells nice to attract things that it can eat."
"Which would fit with why it was built," Xander pointed out. Don nodded. "So, this new friend who gave me a very long look over when I said we were having dinner, your boyfriend? Because I'm not against it or anything but he seemed kinda decent, if a bit harder than average."
Don laughed. "No, not my boyfriend. I like women, Xander."
Xander looked at him. "After sleeping with my mom you still like girls?" Don had to pull over he was laughing so hard. "Really."
"Really. She wasn't that bad back then. It was before she started to drink."
"She said she did that the night of the wedding and hasn't stopped since then," Xander said dryly. "Guess she figured out she made a mistake in there somewhere."
"But I doubt you're it." He gave him a shoulder squeeze, as touchy as he could be with as macho as he was. Charlie hugged, he patted now and then. "C'mon, Dad's waiting."
"Good point." He checked traffic then pulled back into it, heading to the house. Where Charlie was nearly bouncing in anticipation. "He's had way too much coffee today. Willow said you look just like that on too much chocolate," he teased. "Only you don't have curls."
"I'd look silly. Some people can do curls and some can't. Don't ask me how I know." He got out and Charlie nearly ran over to pounce him. "Hey! Easy! You aren't Hagrid's dog."
Charlie laughed, leading him inside. "I'm anxious. I'm allowed to pounce. I was the youngest in the family until we found you."
Xander looked at him. "You're not that much older than I am."
"I can pull big brother duties," he said with a grin. "Including fixing you up with nice girls."
"They'd probably leave me alone. I only draw evil women. Willow thinks it's a pheromone problem and wanted to dissect me, Uncle Charlie."
"I'll stop her," Alan promised. He gave Xander a hug and let him go quickly since the boy was stiff. Clearly not ready to give group hugs. "Charlie brought Amita and Larry with him." Don walked in. "What kept you?"
"The federal prosecutor. Oh, I invited Ian Edgerton. He looked starved."
"I'll add a plate to the table," Alan promised. He walked back into the kitchen.
Larry and Xander were staring at each other. Larry finally grinned. "Picard?"
"My man," he agreed, getting a laugh. "Kirk?"
"The original had much better story lines, so much more original."
"I know, but Voyager had a good first season. So did Enterprise. It was the repetitive problems that got them."
"I didn't get to see that one. Though I can't really see him as a captain after Quantum Leap." Xander laughed.
"Boys," Amita sighed. She smiled at Xander. "Hi, I'm Amita."
"Xander. Though I guess it's pretty self explanatory." She nodded. "So, you do the math stuff Charlie does?"
"I do. Are you interested in math and science?"
"Hell no. School bad. School very bad. Kinda had a happy moment when it went boom it's so bad." She laughed at that. "Sorry but not my thing."
"Xander, science could help you learn how to build better bombs," Don pointed out.
"I'm sure it could but so can manuals."
"Then you'd understand the reason behind how they act," Don offered.
Xander nodded. "The battery charges the wire and sets off the plastique." Larry gaped. "Sorry, had to learn. Kinda practical now and then. Sunnydale is kinda strange that way."
"I've heard." Larry walked him off to talk to him. "So, you know demons?"
"A few. Dated a former one."
Larry frowned. "You can give up your position?"
"She screwed up so her boss fired her. She was in vengeance."
"So not a born one, but an employment in her case. That's more understandable. Was she nice?"
"Ask Charlie. He met her."
"Ah, that one. I heard that rant. Twice now." Xander giggled. "Prom date?"
"Yup. She came up looking for sex since I was in a bed anyway."
Larry shook his head. "Some women need to appreciate the finer things in life. In my own wild youth I had a few of those myself. It might be a rite of passage into adulthood for a male to have those sort of girlfriends."
"Plenty of us do and would look at her strangely," Amita assured him. "Alan, can I help?"
"Or me?" Larry called. He smiled at Xander. "I'm passable in the kitchen."
"I didn't fail home ec. but I mostly microwave. It's safer."
"You're young. When you get ready to woo a mate that may change." He smiled at the play fight Don and Charlie were having. "Sometimes they act like they're younger than you."
"That's not a bad thing. It's good to play and forget the stress now and then. Good for the soul."
"It can be," he agreed, seeing some depth in this young man. "Was that your graduation?"
"Yup, and our mayor that turned into the huge ass demon snake."
"Language," Alan warned.
"It was ninety feet long, estimated, Dad. Even I called it that," Don told him. Alan nearly dropped the bowl he was carrying so Amita rescued it. "Yeah. Xander had to finish killing the head since the explosion didn't. That's how we knew the something wrong going on wasn't the kids, it was the cops. They didn't do anything when he walked in with a shotgun and fired it."
"The head made it out of the library before Giles pushed the button."
Alan shuddered. "Let's switch to happier topics. Xander, what were you going to do after your roadtrip?"
"If I went back, it was going to be 'get a job, survive' again. Did the commandos get formally shut down, Don?" He nodded. "Good. One less reason for Buffy to complain."
"Oh, she did. Colby said she did," Don promised him. "She also wanted a letter."
"I can do that later tonight." They nodded. "Can I help?"
"No, you're injured. You sit," Alan ordered. "We'll look around later." He went back into the kitchen and came out with more food. Don got the door. "Ian, welcome back."
"Thanks, Alan. Met Xander at the office and couldn't resist watching him drive Don nuts."
Alan laughed. "He's been a good boy so far. It's a generation and life experiences difference I'm sure." He went back to get more food. Then he came back. "Done. Go clean up." Everyone headed to wash their hands then came back to sit down. Alan pointed at a chair, letting Xander sit there. He handed over the requested mac and cheese, watching his face.
"It has crunchy stuff. I've never seen that."
"Bread crumbs. Adds some texture," Charlie told him.
"Cool." He dug into it once it was on his plate, handing over the other things, giving them a sheepish look. "Oops, you guys say grace, huh?"
"Not always," Don promised. "Eat. You've got to be starved since you've been on hospital food for a week."
"It wasn't *so* bad. They gave me soda finally." He added more to his plate and passed it to Ian, who grinned and nodded his thanks. "So, how was everyone else's day?" he asked when conversation stopped for a few minutes.
"Paperwork," Don sighed.
"Me too," Ian agreed.
"We had a new test to give today," Larry said. "It was not making any of the graduate students happy."
"Neither did my 102 class's test," Charlie said. "It has to be done though." He ate another bite. "What sort of job were you thinking about, Xander?"
"Not sure. There's always openings in Sunnydale. Usually a lot of manual stuff but I figure it's a decent enough job to get an apartment and something will click sometime."
"That's how I got into engineering," Alan told him. "I was doing some construction work, then the war happened and I used my GI bill to pay for college. What about the military?"
"Can you see a DI putting up with me?" Xander asked with an evil grin. "If I could send a kindergarten teacher to the funny farm ward, I'm sure I can do it to them."
"Megan thinks the officers would worry about his past combat experience as well," Don told him.
"They talked about me?"
"I think she asked Colby his opinion on the way back from Sunnydale. He's recently out of the service. He was in Afghanistan."
Xander nodded. "That's a tough gig. Not a good one, or one I can agree with since it doesn't seem to have a lot of sense to me, but a tough one."
Don nodded. "It is. He saw some pretty hard combat. Megan said he had some flashbacks so if you need to talk about that stuff...."
"I put it into a bottle and send it into the sea," Xander told him simply.
"That works for some," Ian agreed. "I can't stand to talk about stuff like that." He stuffed his mouth. He looked at the kid. "What about staying local? More jobs in LA than there are in Sunnydale."
"Buffy might need me," Xander pointed out gently, for him. "If so I need to be there. We don't have a lot of people who realize and want to jump in. The town's citizens tend to forget easily."
"Denial is great for mental health," Ian agreed. "I tried after I had to hunt someone through your town once. Nearly got eaten."
"Megan too," Don joked.
"Yeah, but she's female. The gay vampire hitting on me had *no* clue."
"According to the ones we know, all vampires are bi and could care less as long as they don't have to work too hard."
Ian shuddered. "Sorry but not my thing."
"Vampires? That's probably safer for you," Xander teased. Ian laughed and nodded. "Gotta say, I gagged a lot at Angel and Buffy's cuteness."
Don dropped his fork. "She did?" Xander nodded. "Why?"
"Not really certain," Xander admitted. "She didn't give me more reasons than 'he understands me' and 'he's cute, right' when I protested it wasn't a great match." He gave him a wry look, cracking Charlie up. "Then again, who am I to talk. I nearly ended up with the life sucking mummy girl." He ate another bite while the others choked. "Foreign exchange student," he quipped. "Kinda nice most of the time." He ate another bite. "The crunchy stuff is nice, Alan, thank you."
"You're welcome, Xander. Don, where are you sticking him for the next few weeks? That way we can make sure it's safe."
"Haven't decided yet," he admitted. "I'll figure that out soon." He looked at Ian. "Cheap and mostly safe?"
"The pro place down on East?" he suggested.
"Car's dead," Xander told him.
"That must be your heap in the driveway then."
"They made me buy it off my uncle when he wanted a new one. It got me around. Even managed to smash some demons with it one night."
Don shook his head quickly. "We have a few good places that'll buy it for scrap at a good price, Xander. Then you can get something that's less a heap and more a car that runs."
"Could, yeah," he agreed. "It's a classic."
"Yeah but it's a dead classic," Don told him. "Let someone use it for parts to shore up a classic that isn't dead yet."
Xander nodded. "I guess I could but that'll mean unpacking it. Which means you can't say anything about my battle axe."
"Sure," he agreed.
"Battle axe?" Ian asked.
"Sometimes it's better than a stake."
"You got that close?" he demanded. "That's suicidal, Xander."
"No, it's kinda necessary. Though it's nice, I haven't had a concussion in nearly three months." He grinned. "I can hit one with a crossbow but I might hit the others since we got out on patrol teams. Buffy and I both stake. Willow floats stakes."
Don blinked. "That's a handy skill. Maybe you'll find a better way. Maybe wooden bullets, Ian?"
"I haven't heard of anyone making any but I'll ask around. How many guns do you have, Xander?"
"Don't ask, don't tell."
"Un-huh. Didn't ask how you got them," he said dryly.
"I took them off the stupid vampires. It's easier and cheaper. Another good reason to stake instead of doing long distance things. They'd be dust too."
"That's probably a public service where you are. Get anything good?" Ian asked.
"I shouldn't say anything that you'd have to admit to if asked," he quipped with a grin.
"They had something trying to kill everyone in a mall. It required artillery," Don told him.
"Oh." Ian winced at that. "That's a tough decision."
"Not really. The National Guard base is really nice." He stuffed his mouth at Larry's choke. "Sorry. Forget I said that please? Any more beef, Don?" It got handed down. "Thank you. You cook really good, Alan."
"You're welcome, Xander. There's more in the kitchen if you're still hungry." He looked at the young man. "You lifted artillery?"
"Only when necessary."
"That's something at least. Think it's a weakness Don's going to have to look out for in the future?"
"Only if the guy making them all zombies succeeds. We've been watching and interrupting his fun so he shouldn't be able to."
Don shook his head quickly. "I'll have someone check up there. Thanks for the head's up, Xander."
"Welcome, Don." He looked at Larry. "I didn't mean to freak you out."
"No, you do what you have to so we all survive. That's a higher calling than the law. I'd hate to be in hell for eternity because someone opened your hellmouth."
"Many have tried and died for it," Xander assured him.
Amita swallowed some water. "What do you do for fun, Xander?"
"I read some comics. I hang around with Willow and Buffy. Not much else do really since I don't do the mall stuff."
"Which series?" she asked. She figured with all the geeks at the table someone would understand.
"I'm an X-Men fan mostly."
"Think they're real?" Alan asked.
"Don't know. I know Buffy ended up telepathic for a while after a bad fight. Not sure about others. But hey, she stopped the lunch lady with the arsenic."
"Do you like sports?" Amita asked, still trying to find a normal and inclusive topic.
He shrugged. "I guess they're all right. Not my thing really. The only one I did good in during gym class was dodgeball." She nodded at that, eating another bite of dinner. "You?"
"Not really. I've never done more than watch. Anytime I'd have to practice, an equation would call out to me and I'd have to go solve it." He smiled at that. "Would you consider a semester at college?"
"With the grades I have, no college would take me. Even with an 1100 SAT score." Don blinked at that. "No idea how. The principal decided I had cheated somehow." He ate another bite. Then he swallowed. "Besides, what would I take? I have no idea what I want to do. Most of the classes at that level are lecture classes, which means I'll sleep through them and flunk out of school. That's a big waste of money for me, Amita. Some people dig school and some of us dig trenches."
"I guess that happens," she agreed. "What about your female friends?"
"UC Sunnydale. Buffy's tied to the town by her duty. Willow helps. Plus she still wants to learn from Giles' spellbooks. So we'll see how it plays out. It'd be a huge change for Willow. She's used to having the whole house to herself."
"Her parents won't let her stay at home?" Alan asked.
"They decided it's a good mile marker on the road to adulthood and an important step to independence," Xander said dryly, giving him a look. "She pointed out she did very good with that since they were never home. They ignored her."
"Some parents need beaten," Ian said.
"Hers are lecturing shrinks," Don said with an evil smirk.
Charlie smirked too. "So I kindly talked to our local psych department about them. They had no idea they were absent parents so often." Xander moaned. "It'll be fine, Xander."
"She'll kill me."
"No she won't. They don't know who turned them in. I made sure of it, Xander."
"She'll still kill me."
"Willow won't kill you. If she tries we'll stop her and point out parents have gone to jail for things like that in the past," Don assured him.
"She can kill me from a distance."
Don smirked. "We've already warned your Mr. Giles."
"Then maybe he and Buffy can hold her down while she screams," he said, looking glum. He sighed and dug in to finish his dinner. "Thank you, Alan, it was a great meal."
"Get more if you're still hungry, Xander. Growing boys need food."
"I'm not growing."
"You're growing new flesh, that's growing," Charlie told him, adding more to his plate.
Xander looked at him. "You'll make a scary dad some day, Uncle Charlie."
Ian laughed. "He will, to kids that will drive us all nuts," he agreed. Xander grinned and dug in anyway. He was still a bit hungry. The others switched to work related topics while Xander ate, which made Amita much more comfortable. She was clearly freaked out by him at the moment.
Don looked around the efficiency motel/apartment room. "You sure you want to stay here? There's a spare room overtop of the garage."
Xander gave him an odd look. "I'm not ready for that yet."
"I get that." He patted him on the back. "No calling in prostitutes, Xander."
"Why would I? I could call Anya. It'd be cheaper." Don shuddered. "Fine, I won't."
"Thank you. I'll see you again tomorrow night?" Xander nodded. "Okay, you rest. I'll see you then and Charlie or Dad might pop in later. We can call around about the scrap heap then too. Just relax for tonight." He smiled and left without a hug. He might've given one but the kid was still tense from earlier. He and Amita didn't hit it off that well. Then again, the kid scared her and Ian a few times. He went home and flopped down on the couch, looking at Ian. "So?"
"He's a good kid. He's got a lot of the skills I use daily. If you could get him into college I might take him on fugitive recovery."
Don smirked. "I'll suggest it to him. Amita?"
"Went home to have a bubble bath with some wine. She'll be fine. She's never been exposed to that sort of life."
"I hadn't either," Alan said. "Is there some way to calm him down so it's not all 'I killed this' now and then?"
Don shook his head. "As he gets used to normal people and situations he'll calm down. Colby did. Remember how tense he stared out being?" Alan nodded, eating another bite of cheesecake. "Any more, Dad?"
"Last piece. Sorry."
"No, it's okay." He got up with a moan and went to find sweets, coming back to find Charlie on the couch in his spot. So he sat in a chair and put his feet up. "So, I guess that's my son." He stuffed the first bite of ice cream into his mouth.
"He's one hell of a kid," Ian told him. Don smiled and nodded. "How are you handling being a father?"
"I'm trying very hard not to go kill his mother. So far I'm batting a thousand for that urge."
"Me too," Charlie agreed. "I'm not normally a violent man but I do want to take one of Don's bats to her." His father scowled at him. "She deserves it."
"She might. You can't do it anyway. You'd die in prison," he pointed out bluntly.
Charlie nodded. "Which is why Amita said she'd do it for me and so did Larry."
"I did think it was cute Larry could identify which Star Trek Xander liked best after a minute of staring at him," Alan offered, cracking Charlie up.
"I've only seen him do it once before," Charlie admitted. "Back in college as a drinking game." He reached over and stole his big brother's ice cream.
"Hey! I scooped it out. Get your own." He took the bowl back.
"Just don't spill it on me. I can't do laundry this week," Ian complained.
Charlie looked at him. "If I introduce you to some of his exes, do you think you could give me an opinion on how to make them go away permanently?"
"You need them shot?"
"With Anya, that might be a reasonable solution, but I figured you'd have brushed off more annoying women than Don has."
"Xander joked and said he wouldn't call in a pro, giving in to Anya would be cheaper and probably more satisfying." He didn't know why he added that last bit but it felt right to do. Go gut instinct, but he wasn't sure they weren't under watch. He looked around. "Does anyone else think we're being watched or listened to?"
Ian nodded. "Some witch is scrying. Felt it before." He looked up. "Go. Away. Before I hunt you down and make you sorry." The feeling stopped. He grinned. "Welcome."
"Thanks," Charlie said, moaning as he sat up. "How do we help him dump Anya for good?"
"All young men have to date one loud, obnoxious woman," Alan told him.
"In the twenty minutes we were in the same room, she requested orgasms, not sex but actual orgasms, about twenty-three times, Dad." Alan moaned. "Then she complained that in the old days she would've tortured him for not giving in if some woman had called her about a similar situation. Then she asked for sex again! That's more than obnoxious and pushy. The one he said was nicer wasn't much nicer, but she had more tact, just sneered and swore at him for him being him."
Ian shook his head. "Some guys have bad taste, Charlie."
"If we introduce him to nice women he'll start to appreciate them," Alan told him.
"He said only bad and evil women like him," Don reminded him. He finished his ice cream and put the bowl down. "Which would explain the history email I got from his friends."
"There's worse?" Charlie asked.
"A shape shifting teacher who wanted him while he was still a virgin. She was going to use him and kill him. The extremely nice, quiet, gentle young girl he mentioned earlier that had to suck souls to stay alive. He liked her a lot until she went after Buffy. The one girl who stabbed someone. Then Cordelia, he had a short kissing relationship with Willow, then broke up with Cordelia after she got shivved on rebar." Charlie gaped. "Anya came to grant a wish for her and got it totally screwed up so she got fired and that's how she ended up being Xander's prom date."
Ian shuddered. "Okay, so maybe it was the town instead of his taste. Maybe not. We'll have to see."
"Megan said she feels confused around him. She's seen the deeper side. The nice, goofy kid he is when he's not in danger is one she likes more." Don looked at his father. "Think he'll stay in town?"
"No," Charlie said. "His duty is back there. He'll be back as often as possible but he's right, the girls would need him. He would come back once that's done with."
Ian grimaced. "With those commandos shut down she might not need him as much."
"They'll have to talk and figure that out between them," Alan said.
"The problem is that the girls went on a normal guys can't do it kick," Don said grimly. "Totally discounted Xander and all he's done because he was too normal to handle something. Tried to push him aside."
Alan shuddered. "Then maybe he will stay."
"Maybe. It'd be safer and I'd like to get to know him better," Don said, stretching then standing up to put his bowl into the dishwasher. He took his father's plate too since it was held up. He came back out. "I've got paperwork tomorrow. I warned him one of you two might be popping in on him but I'd see him tomorrow night. Edgerton, need a ride back?"
"Nah, I drove." He stood up and waved. "Thanks for dinner, guys. Better than I could buy somewhere." They smiled as the two agents walked out together. "You do have one hell of a son."
Don smiled. "I know. Even if he does scare Colby for some reason."
"Colby has the same training your boy does but he has an allegiance. He probably sees the kid like some nutso commando's kid that got the training but only swears allegiance to his father's ideals."
Don nodded. "Maybe. Thanks for the advice."
"Not an issue. See if you can get the kid to go long enough to get a BA. I could use someone to follow my footsteps. I've got to retire some year and by then, he'll do." He got into his jeep and headed off.
Don was smiling as he drove back to his apartment. His son wasn't too bad. Not easily healed and not really able to conform to the family yet but he'd learn and they'd get easier with each other. Even if Amita would keep freaking out.
Xander looked around his hotel the next day. No one had come to see him so he wasn't sure what was going on. Maybe he had made a bad impression? Maybe they didn't like him after all? He had no idea and he was starting to drown in the strange, emotional ocean he hadn't even been to on vacation to in the past. He frowned, going out to lean on the balcony around his room's walkway. It was a decent enough motel. Especially if he was in the mood for porn. Not that he wasn't, he really wasn't, but he was tired and not in the mood for it right now. He was a normal guy and he had reminded himself he was a normal guy who liked those things. One of the prostitutes that rented a room up the walkway walked behind him, teasing his neck with a finger. He grinned. "Can't pay for it. On a road trip."
She smirked. "Just graduated?" He nodded. "You should be out having fun."
"I have to wait until they pull the stitches." He let her see one and she winced. "I turned in a dirty cop."
"Oh, you poor thing." She moved closer to look. "It looks okay. Not infected."
"I'm about to pull the stitches."
She smirked. "Think you can?"
"Did in Sunnydale." She went pale and backed up a step. He held up a hand. "I help the good guys. The ones who defended others, not the mayor's people." She relaxed. "As a matter of fact, all the cops, half the fire department, and the mayor's office were all just cleaned out. The Feds caught them covering up what happened at graduation."
She shuddered. "Yours?" He nodded. "Poor thing." She patted him on the shoulder. "There's a club down near the bordellos that'll take you even though you're underage. It's a bit rough but they'll respect the wounds if you show them." She stared into his eyes. "Just don't mouth off to anyone."
"I try really hard," Xander said with a grin. She walked off laughing. "Thank you. Have a productive and safe night."
"Your mouth to God's ear, baby boy." She waved. "Don't be so noisy tonight."
"Sorry." He went back inside to think about heading down there. He could use some lack of stress. He found a tank top and a pair of jeans. Plus an overshirt. If it was gang kids, they'd respect the obvious gunshot wounds that outfit would flash. Anyone else would think he was having a sucky life and leave him alone. He was pulling on sneakers when someone knocked, opening the door to find his father. "I was almost worried. No one showed up today."
"Chuck had a hostage situation at the college," he admitted. "Dad had a meeting." He looked him over. "Going out?"
"One of the girls up the hall suggested I should find less stress."
"Button that," he said, shaking his head. "C'mon. I'll buy pizza. Then we'll go club." That got a grin and the boy did that, locking his door behind him after he made sure he had his wallet. "We good?"
"Not like I'm leaving anything."
"Good idea." He let him into the car then walked around to get in. "You were going to a club around here?"
"She said the guys would leave me alone if they saw the wounds."
"Ah. That sort of club. That's a good way to need another few stitches."
"I need to pull these," Xander told him.
"We can have them pulled, kid."
"My health insurance runs out in two days, Don."
"I can. I have in the past." He shrugged. "No big."
"If you're sure." He drove them to his favorite pizza place. The boy clearly fit in with the other teens hanging out there. He got a few appreciative looks. Don smirked at one. "Give me an hour then hit on him." The kid blushed. "I know her mother."
"She work with you?"
"ATF." They ordered and sat down to talk while it was brought to them. "How was your day?"
"Pretty boring. Not a lot on during the day. No interesting fights in the parking lot."
"Hmm. We did tell you we found one of your hiding spots?"
"No. Which one?"
"Someone in a ship found your trunk when he was diving." Xander shrugged a bit. "That's a good hiding spot but he was horrified when he opened the trunk and found the two cases."
"No one like a terrorist could find it."
"Good point. That wasn't a bad one. Megan nearly freaked and the National Guard base commander said thank you for giving them back." He smirked.
"We might need them."
"If so, I'll figure it out."
"Uh-huh. You could turn those links in."
Xander gave him a look. "Then they're not there if we need them again."
"That's a good point." He stared at him for a minute. "Edgerton wanted you to go to college so he could train you to follow him," he said finally.
"You have to go to college?"
"Or military service."
Xander snorted. "Can you see a commander dealing with me?"
"No," he admitted. "I can't. Though you're pretty well trained."
"Memories." He gave him a look. "Halloween memories."
"Good to know." Their pizza came. "Go ahead. I know you're hungry." Xander dug in first and Don got his first slice, eating slowly. "You could. Even a PE degree. A Criminal Justice is preferred but anything would do."
"I didn't even apply. It's a waste of energy on my part."
"I can see that but it might not be so bad. Dorms can be okay. Free cable at the ones around here. You could come into the office to gopher now and then."
Xander looked at him. "And if she needs me?"
"That's a problem," Don admitted. Xander nodded. "Will she? She doesn't think she does."
"She was also having her head up her butt recently. She hasn't figured out that she'd be dead if it wasn't for me. So would a lot of people at graduation." He ate another bite. "We'll see. I wouldn't mind following him. Sounds a lot like hunting."
"It is. Just hunting men who escape."
Xander nodded. "I could do that. No other way?"
"Sometimes. It's not that bad. A lot of the time they're easier than high school classes. A few papers a semester and some reading for tests. All but the language and math requirements."
"Which I do suck at."
"As long as you get a C and pass, no one says a thing, kid."
Xander considered it. "If she really doesn't need me, I might think about it for the spring semester. By then I can qualify as an independent student."
Don nodded. "That'll work. Means you won't have to have your parents tax information." Xander nodded. "So we can do that. Staying on the road trip that long?"
"I don't know yet." He shrugged then looked at his shoulder. "That one's pulling. I need to pull them later."
"Give it a few more days, kid. Let them do more healing." He ate another bite, glancing around. He nearly swore. "Xander, just be cool if she comes over, okay? That's Liz, I work with her now and then."
"Sure, I'm not going to turn into a hellbeast."
Don smirked. "Can you?"
"Depends on your definition," Xander snapped back with a smirk. Don laughed. That drew her attention and she came over. Xander ate a bite when she got closer so he wouldn't say anything about the clear invitation in her clothes.
"Don Epps." She smirked. "What are you doing here?"
"I just found out this young man is my son," he said with a grin for Xander. "So we're having dinner. Liz, this is Xander. Xander, this is Liz, she's another agent."
"Hi," he said, eating another bite. He swallowed. "Sorry, recently out of the hospital."
"No, I turned in a few dirty cops." She swallowed. He grinned. "They got pissed." He ate another bite. He looked at his dad, who shrugged subtly. "Want to have a slice with us? I can't promise I won't finish off most of it but you can have one."
"Sure." She sat down next to Don. "So, you're how old?"
"That's a good age. College?"
"A good learning experience," she said, smiling at him then at Don. "Any interesting cases cross your desk?"
"I met Xander through the dirty cops he turned in. We had to catch half a small town's administration being dirty and trying to cover up problems."
"Charming. How bad?"
"People eating barbeque forks," Xander told her.
She burst out giggling. "No one would believe that!"
"Exactly," Xander agreed dryly. "So they attacked my graduation. He found them covering things up after they shot an agent in the stomach. He's okay, right?"
"He's still fine. He'll be back on duty next week. When I found out about him I had to let Megan and the boys do the rest of the work while I watched but it's worked out okay."
"That's good I guess. So things are going okay at home?" she asked him.
"Pretty much. The campus was in lock down earlier because of a hostage situation at the science lab." Xander got up and headed for the bathroom. He watched him then looked at her again. "What're you doing in town?"
"I came in on a case. I was going to look you up when I got done. He seems like a nice kid."
"He can be. Dad's a bit worried about him being so tough but he's okay." He grinned as the kid came back. "What did you do?"
"Snipped the single one that was pulling." He sat down and dug in again. "I tucked it under and tied it around the ones around it."
"As long as you don't infect, Xander."
"I'm not. Really, Don. I promise."
"Good." He grinned at her again. "Xander's thinking about college starting in the spring."
"That sounds like a good idea. A good way to get a good job."
"Edgerton wants him to follow him."
She blinked. "That's a tough job." The kid stared at her and she shivered, looking away first. "I can see why he's recruiting you, kid."
"Thanks, Liz." He looked at Don. He nodded outside since she was glancing at her phone since it had just gone off. Don nodded they were still on. Xander got another slice and nibbled on it. "So, which type of agent are you, Liz?"
"I'm regular FBI. I'm in town to protect a witness."
"That sounds interesting." And dangerous.
"We all do that now and then," Don assured him. "It's no less stressful than any other part of job or what you used to do."
Xander nodded. "I can see how that is. Did you only find the one hiding spot?"
"I had the regular storage area and the other two."
"I should look?"
Xander smirked. "I took them off the people who had them."
"I'll see if I can get you a reward for that," he said smugly. "Did we call around about the heap yet?"
"I'll do that tomorrow from work. Colby knows a few guys who salvage too." That got a grin. "By the way, he's still scared of you."
"Pity but not my fault."
"Well, yeah," he admitted.
"Uncle Charlie still on his Xander should date better girls kick?"
"Definitely. His boss heard and asked him. Half an hour of the hour and a half he talked about you was ranting about Anya and Cordy."
"Hey, I could've dated Buffy," he said dryly.
"No, that's probably worse." Liz gave him an odd look. "His last girlfriend and his prom date came to see him in the hospital while Charlie was visiting."
"They're both a bit blunt and loud," Xander told her.
"They make Megan look like a girl scout on crack," Don said, giving him a look. "Dad does understatements, not me."
"He's my grandfather, I had to learn it from somewhere," Xander quipped.
"That bad?" Liz asked.
"Yup," Xander and Don agreed, both nodded.
"Charlie's still ranting, days later," Don told her. "He said he wanted to beat them both. Physically beat them both. Probably with one of my old bats."
"Charlie's a sweet guy. He doesn't hit anyone."
"Yeah," Don said smugly. "Xander's prom date he especially wanted to beat a few times."
"Not my fault she wanted sex," Xander told him. "She had some valid points by her way of thinking. I was in a private room. There was a bed. Uncle Charlie would've fled."
"He would've pulled her out of there by her hair and given her to Dad if she had gotten to more than complaining," Don assured him. "Dad would spank better manners into her."
"With her past jobs, it's reasonable to be how she is," Xander countered.
"You can still date better."
"Only the evil ones like me," he said smugly.
"Willow told me."
Xander quirked up an eyebrow. "How graphic did she get?"
"She's incredibly sorry after Dad reminded her it wasn't just your fault you two kissed." They shared a look and Xander snickered. "The other two who heard agreed. They decided it was unfair to you to treat you that way. Buffy called too. Dad talked to her. I think he blacked out for a few minutes too. They were talking about you staying."
Xander snickered. "Yeah, and Buffy's going to do what the next time someone nearly kills her?"
"Die," Liz said.
"I did CPR the last time," Xander told her. He looked at Don again. "We'll have to see won't we?"
"You don't have to."
"Maybe," Don admitted, leaning closer. "But you can be safer."
"Of course I am. Not like I'm dating her."
"Fine." He leaned back. "We have a fugitive warrant out for another of them."
"Faith? She's in a coma in England."
"Hmm. I did not know that. Edgerton was sent after her."
"She and Buffy rumbled the night before. Faith had ... Liz, can we have a few?" She went to the bathroom so he leaned closer. "During a patrol Buffy shoved what she thought was a vamp at Faith," he said quietly, staring at him. "It turned out to not be a vamp. The mayor used that to turn Faith. She was always a bit edgy because we all knew she wasn't Buffy and she was a former street kid. She got turned because he was nicer than the slayer patrol. I tried but she nearly choked me." Don nodded once at that. "She was trapped and ended up tangling with Buffy the night before grad. She poisoned Angel and Buffy had to let him feed. During their fight, Faith fell and got injured. She's in a coma and I'm sure by now the Watchers have her." He leaned back. "He used that warrant to keep her and to apply pressure to the cracks that were already starting to appear."
"I can see why. That's pretty classical breaking," Don admitted. "I'll let him know. Expected to wake up?"
"No idea. Absolutely no idea. If they don't have her, she's still up in the hospital under the mayor's name."
"Okay, I'll let him know the whole thing." He smiled. "Thanks."
"Not a problem. I liked Faith, even though she had some issues. She doesn't deserve to be put away for making one wrong move under pressure. If it comes to trial, I'll have to help her."
"She might be able to plea to probation."
"Not with how long it was before they can probably catch her. Even with the coma. Because she'll wake up and realize she's still got enemies in Buffy and Angel."
"So we're predicting her to come back and do something?" Xander nodded. "Why?"
"Because the council are bastards, Don. They have been. Faith's first watcher saved her from a bad life and got killed in front of her. Literally. Not pleasantly either. I got sick when she told me details." He gagged. "Exactly. Then she showed up and the council tried to give her some psycho who tried to kill Giles and the girls. The next one was a toady who had to grow up. He was way too inexperienced in anything to have any sense and we had to keep going around him. He was a spout of Council's crap really. That and the pressure from Buffy to be her and all that. The pressure to be the perfect, perky, blonde girl with the boyfriend she can't touch, and to have a good mom and friends when you don't have that already, plus Wes and Giles both going off on how she should be better at her job like Buffy is." He scowled. "I tried. I even tried after they tried to push me away as a way to get back in the good graces. That's when we had our thing and she tried to strangle me. By then the Mayor had her."
"So not fully irredeemable but she's cracked from the pressure after the mistake so she'll need some support," he paraphrased.
"It could help her. A lot. Someone who won't put her on happy pills for doing what she had to do."
"There's some. I'll slip that his way too." He smiled. "It could help her if he does find her. If you see her first, let her know and then call. If we don't have to break in somewhere it's better for them."
"If I see her."
"If the Council doesn't wetworks her."
Don glared. "They could?"
"They tried with Buffy. I'm pretty sure they tried with me once."
"Damn it," he muttered.
"They're like that. They have total control over the girls and they like it that way. They don't over Buffy or Faith. If they're gone, it goes back to their specially raised ones."
Don nodded. "Their private army."
"One girl at a time. Faith's the one who calls the next one, not Buffy. Which means it's extra important we keep Buffy alive."
"I'll see what we can do, Xander. Let me talk to him later." Xander nodded. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He finished his slice. "You really want that?"
"She's a friend."
"Who's sporting enough cleavage to be a canyon," he shot back.
Don snickered. "Some women dress that way even when they're not looking."
"Look at the shoes, Don." They looked and she came back. He gave him a look and Don rolled his eyes. "It's true."
"I know. Fine, we'll see."
"I can duck out."
"No you can't and no picking up bad girls tonight either."
"Sure." She sat down. "We're going clubbing tonight. Since you're already dressed and in heels, coming?"
"I wouldn't mind. Though I wore this at work earlier."
Xander looked at her shoes then at her. "Don't those hurt if you have to run?" She blushed. "I ask because Buffy wears the thicker heels when she has to run."
"A bit. I was in the office most of the day waiting on my new assignment. You don't like me, do you?"
Xander shrugged. "Don't know you yet. You haven't hit on me so you're not evil. We'll have to see." She smirked back. "Though I think you have to get past Uncle Charlie. He's determined we're all going to date good girls like Amita."
"She's got a naughty streak."
"Her version of naughty is a dirty text message suggesting they do math in the car on their laptops, Don."
"That could be," he agreed with a grin. "I'll have to share that."
"Just don't let him swat me on a tender spot." He looked at the pizza then at her. "Finish up and we'll get the rest so Don can have a midnight snack when he runs out of energy." She blushed but did that while Xander went to get a box for the rest of the pizza.
"He's a bit blunt," she said quietly.
"He is, but he's a good kid most of the time," he said with a smirk. "Though Charlie is trying to make him date a good girl like Amita."
"I gave her a headache and she went home to have some good wine to take care of it," Xander reminded him as he came back. He sat down to slide the rest of the pizza into the box. "There we go. Perfect to sit it the car." They finished up and Don got the keys out so they could go. The club they went to was a lot nicer than any he had been in. The bouncer gave him a disgusted look so he unbuttoned the shirt and got a nod of appreciation for the tank top and how it clung to his muscles. "Gotta cover the wounds, man," he said as he walked past him. He slid away and went to find someone nice to dance with while the two adults got down with each other. Maybe she'd tap him here so Don could have a full night's sleep. Because she was kinda creepy in many ways. He ran into Cordelia and shrugged, moving up behind her since she was alone. "Hey, Princess." She flinched and turned to look at him. "Dad picked it."
"Yup. Dad wants me to be an agent too." He pulled her closer. "You have to have a good partner so you get the hotter guys later." She swatted him, making him wince. "Ow."
"Sorry." She danced with him and it was good again. She looked into his eyes, seeing the amusement. "You're not stalking me?"
"Hell no. Don picked this place." He had a girl come grab his shoulder to pull him off. "Ow, ow! Stitches, woman." She let him go. "I got shot by a dirty cop. Be more gentle," he said with a frown. She purred and moved closer. He shrugged. "Have fun, Cordy."
She snorted. "Whore." She took Xander back. "He's my ex. If you hurt him, make him beg." The woman giggled and drug Xander off to the other side of the dance floor. Cordelia frowned but went to get a drink, getting hit on at the bar. Having a guy dancing with her did help her get picked up. She walked past Don and whoever the pro he was sitting with was. "Xander got stolen from me," she said, wiggling her fingers.
Don watched, then looked for his son. "Crap. Liz, isn't she on our list?"
She looked then nodded. "He really does like the evil ones."
He found a bouncer to get them some help herding her. He texted Xander's phone when they were ready and he made his move, getting a laugh but she took him up on his suggestion to go to the back hallway for some. They moved in and caught them together. "Xander?"
"Let her have a second, Don." He finished getting her off and smirked. "There, the last one you'll have for a bit." He walked off licking off his fingers. "Have fun with my dad." He went to find his next evil woman, getting a horrified look from Liz. "What?" he asked with a small shrug. "Not any worse than the others I've dated." Cordelia was alone so he went back to her. "An assassin. How cheesy."
She gaped at him. "She was?" He nodded. "Looks like your bad girl radar is on target," she said dryly.
He smirked. "That's why we look so hot together."
"I'm too royal for your peasantness, Xander."
He smirked and pulled her closer, making her moan. "Really? Because you know, most princesses slum now and then to get away from the inbred cock that's too tiny." She blushed but danced with him for a bit longer. She was stolen and he went to find his next target. This one wanted him for his firm, young body and asked how much he charged. He quipped back an 'I don't, no one can afford me' and she nearly melted on the spot. She paid him anyway when she was done with him but that was fine. He could use the money. He slid it into his pocket and went back to finding fun. Liz came back without Don and was looking around so he snuck around her, heading outside. "Hey," he said when he found Don. "She that evil?"
"Wanted by Interpol."
"Pity. Who's she here to hit?"
"Some rock star who left a baby behind." He shrugged and called Liz. "He's out here." He looked at him. "You done teasing your ex?"
"Yeah, she left with some actor wannabe. I got hit on by the aging mother of two who wanted young dick. It was nice, I told her I don't charge and she paid me anyway." He shrugged. "Works for my roadtrip fund." Don gaped. "I wasn't about to hand it back, Don. She didn't listen."
"Fine. Don't do it again, especially not where I can see."
"Sure." He looked at the assassin in the back of the car. "Me or her?"
"She'll behave for me."
"I don't want to see you having sex with her, kid." He opened the front door and Xander got in. Liz came out. "He snuck around you?"
"Which way did he come out?"
"The front door."
She rolled her eyes. "He's going to cause you problems."
"Probably not." He let her into the back then got in to drive them back to the office. He could hand her over.
The night duty agent looked at the assassin then found her on the wanted list. "How did you find her?"
"She hit on my son," Don said dryly. "They were making out in the hallway when we caught her." The agent gave him an odd look so he pointed at his son. "Only bad girls like him," he said sarcastically.
"She's cute," Xander said with a grin for her.
She winked. "I'll be free in a few days. Want to go again?"
"If you're not busy. I'm on Alameda." She purred. "Look me up. We'll see if we can play with the handcuffs before Dad comes again."
She looked at Don then at him. "You clearly got the good genes."
Xander stepped closer. "I'm from Sunnydale." He grinned when she shivered. "I learned from watching the old ones."
She moaned, coming again. "I could use some old world courtesy."
"Maybe if you get out." He strolled off, letting her see his ass. It was a good feature.
She watched then looked at Don. "Could you sell him to me?"
He growled. "Leave my son alone, lady. Besides, you won't be getting out." He strolled off too.
"Yeah, he got his daddy's ass," she said with a sigh of pleasure. "Damn." She looked at the booking agent. "Can we get on with this so I can pick up a bitch for the night? I could use one."
He looked at her. "Solitary tonight then a new cellmate tomorrow, ma'am."
"That'll work too." She took off her handcuffs and he pulled his gun. "I needed the room."
"You can wait for an hour," he sneered, leading her off. One of the agents gave him an odd look. "She can pick cuffs." They put on the plastic zip strip cuffs. Those had no lock. They had to be cut off.
Don walked into his brother's office the next day for lunch. "Xander helped us find an assassin."
"How?" he asked.
"We were at a club and she wanted him." Charlie moaned. "Cordelia tried to keep them apart but she wanted me to sell him to her when she was at the office."
"Did he have fun?"
"Yeah, a mother of two thought he was a pro. He said he protested but she tipped him anyway." He sat down, putting his feet up. "He made two hundred. She must've been happy."
"She go bad today?"
"Don't know." He smirked. "Could be. He did protest at least."
"Uh-huh. We need to introduce him to better girls. Not club prostitutes."
"But they're fun," Ian said as he walked in. "Very fun."
"They can be." Don smirked. "I have news on your warrant."
"Knew I'd be around here?"
"Figured you'd be around the library doing research." He smirked. "Faith...."
"Oooh, that one."
"Was Xander's first time. Buffy's sister in the duty." Charlie moaned, thumping his head on the desk. "She's in a coma."
"Could be Sunnydale or the Watchers could have her. They're mercenary enough that she might be dead by now. They tried to wetworks Buffy and Xander thinks they tried to do him once too."
"Charming people," Ian said sarcastically. "Any other good news?"
"She was a street kid before the duty got her," he said quietly, glancing outside then at him. "Then she got a lot of pressure. Her first watcher was brutally killed in front of her." He tossed over the report he had found. "It has pictures I couldn't eat after. Colby had a daytime flashback."
"Okay," Ian said, flipping through it. He grimaced at the pictures too. "Her?"
"Something after her. She came to Sunnydale to get help and help Buffy. They assigned a psycho to take over, then an, and I quote, inexperienced spout of Council's crap, to be her watcher. The reason she's wanted happened during a fight. Buffy shoved one at her and didn't warn her it was living. Hence the kill. Then the mayor used that to finish fracturing the fragile bonds she had since most of the group was pressuring her to be more like the son's friends. By the time he went to see if he could help, she was in too deep and tried to strangle him. Trace the mayor's money. If she's in Sunnydale she's in under him somehow. She got a lot of pressure to be perfect and bouncy."
"Okay. I need to know this?"
"If she wakes up, Xander thinks she'll go after one of them. The last thing she knew was the battle line they were over. The one that caused graduation."
Ian nodded. "So, she probably isn't a remorseless killer but she'll need good psych help." Don nodded. "I'll remember that. I'll look into where she is too. Taking her from them could help."
"Could," Don agreed. "I don't remember the new statutes on what to do if they're comatose. Talk to your boss. That's all I could get you."
"That's more than I had. Where are these people?"
"England." Someone knocked. "We saw you listening, Buffy."
She walked in. "There's a warrant for Faiths' arrest?"
"For the assistant mayor," Don agreed.
She grimaced. "We were that bad?"
"Put yourself into her shoes," Ian said. "Did you and others try to make her be more like you?"
"She was strange and wrong," she defended. "She was mouthy, strange, she didn't want to do the job."
"Some girls probably don't," Charlie agreed. "For some girls this ruined their lives. Look at all you gave up."
"I had to get used to it and she needed to too."
"Some people never get over losing things," Ian said. He flipped back to the pictures and held it up. "That was her watcher when we found her." She shuddered, looking away. "She was emotionally damaged. No matter what you could have done, the girl needed support. If she wasn't getting support to heal over that, then there's no way she could have. Even if you had been best buddies. You don't forget things like that."
She nodded, sighing a bit. "I can see that. She's in Sunnydale, in the hospital."
"Then we'll see if we can move her somewhere the Watchers can't try to take her out," Don told her. She gaped. "Xander said they tried to do it to you."
"Yup. Twice. Him too."
"He wasn't sure but he thought so. Will they do it to her?"
She nodded. "A slayer in a coma does no one any good. Especially since Faith's considered a rogue slayer since she went bad."
"Guys like the mayor come with very seductive deals," Don said, sitting up and putting his feet back down. "They prey on every weakness to get you onto their side. They can read every weakness your soul holds and give you whatever balm you need to soothe it." She shivered at that, hugging herself. "He moved in when she was vulnerable."
"I heard," Don told her. Well, he hadn't but she needed it. "If we can get her somewhere she'll get help if she wakes up, it can help her. She might not have to go to jail if she does get help."
She nodded. "Thank you. I ... I worry about her. I saw a lot of myself in her sometimes. She was a lot more wild. She let the instincts guide her. She lived on want, take, have principles and she scared Willow."
"She grew up like Xander did," Don corrected. "She probably learned that to be able to survive. The part of Boston she's from is like the ghetto here in LA." She nodded at that, swallowing. "So she had her reasons. We're trained to deal with the reasons behind the criminals too."
"Good. If she can be turned back to good, she deserves a second chance. She had crappy luck so far."
"Xander told us."
She smirked. "He'd know." She straightened up. "I came to ask permission to take Xander out for some fun."
"If he's at his room, go ahead," Don said with a small smirk. "No hunting."
"Not an issue. Where is his room? He didn't give it to us." Don wrote out the address. "Thanks." She smiled. "We'll be good. I'll call if something happens." She bounced off to take her cab to his place.
"She's too uptight," Ian said.
"She is but she's lasted a long time thanks to her support crew," Charlie told him. "I've done some digging into that subject area." He handed over a CD. "All I could find on the slayers and their people."
"Thanks, Charlie. I could use this." He smirked. "Still enjoying the nephew?"
"He really hit on an assassin?"
"She dragged him away from Cordelia since he found her at the club I picked. She tried but the one won according to the statement we took from her later on. We told him and he helped us capture her in the hallway. He asked us to give her an extra minute so he could make her limp and happy, but he said it was her last one for a while so she might as well enjoy it." Ian burst out laughing. Don smirked, putting his feet back up. "The booking agent this morning said she finished herself up later on and grabbed a new bitch first thing this morning once she was moved into general population. She wanted to know how much I'd sell him to her for."
Ian smirked. "He'll be one hell of an agent someday, Epps." He walked off shaking his head. That kid was trouble incarnate. If he could get him to join the team and play bait for him, he'd catch everyone.
Don smirked at Charlie and turned on the tv to where a lawyer was giving a press conference about the lawsuit she had just filed against the local school board. "The mother of two from last night. Apparently she needed to hype her evilness for this."
Charlie gave him a look then shook his head. "I've got to introduce him to better girls." He went to find Larry and have him help. He'd need help with this project.
One of the pros on the balcony gave Buffy a look. "He pays for the higher girls," she said to the one next to her.
Buffy scowled. "I'm his best friend. I don't do bad girl things like that." She blushed and knocked, getting a shirtless Xander with his toothbrush in his mouth. "Um," she said, blushing brighter. "Fun?" she squeaked.
He pulled out his tooth brush and nodded, letting her inside. He waved at the girls. "Thanks," he mouthed, going to rinse and spit. He came out and she was still blushing. "Feel lucky I was this close to dressed."
"You don't answer the door naked," she said, scowling at him.
"It'd be one of the girls and it'd give them a nice peak. What's up? Fun?"
"Mom wanted me to go have fun. She got us both tickets to Universal Studios."
"I could go for that." He pulled on a t-shirt and then an overshirt. She scowled. "What?"
"You don't look like Cordelia," he said dryly, giving her a look.
"You're going to be seen with me, Mister, and it's possible someone might think we're together. Go match yourself." She waved a hand. "Before I have to pick out clothes." Xander sighed but went to change shirts for her pleasure. "Still doesn't." He glared. "The blue overshirt, Xander." He growled but put it on. Then he grabbed his money and they headed out. He locked the door and looked at the manager, who was giving him an odd look. "Who's he?"
"That's the guy who runs the place. Problems?"
"Hired?" he asked, looking Buffy over.
"Eww!" she said loudly. "I'm a good girl! I don't do things like that! I don't even let guys grope on the first date! I'm not some...." Xander covered her mouth before she insulted someone.
"She's a former cheerleader," he said with a grin. "One of my two best friends."
The manager nodded. "Maybe you should try something else. She seems a bit mouthy."
Xander smirked. "She's not evil enough for me." She bit him. He grinned at her but kept his hand there. "You're not." He moved his hand. "How are we getting there?"
"Died on the way to LA." He sighed and called a cab. Once there they could see if they offered a bus going anywhere near the motel. They headed to the theme park and it was nice. They got to wander around, have some fun, ride the rides. Get flirted with. He was a happy boy.
Alan found Xander walking and pulled over beside him, rolling down his window. "What are you doing, Xander?" he called. The boy flinched before turning around and spotting him. He came walking back. "What are you doing?"
"Coming back from Universal Studios with Buffy. The shuttle dropped me a few blocks back and it's only two more to the motel."
"This neighborhood is dangerous."
Xander frowned at him then looked around before frowning at him again. "Not really. My mother's house was more dangerous." Alan pointed at the guys chasing another guy. The first guy looked scared to death. "Guys, Sunnydale Protection Patrol! Don't make me call a cop," he shouted. They ran off in another direction. He looked at his grandfather again with a grin this time. "So, why are you down here?"
"I could eat." He walked around and got in. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He drove him off, calling in the chase scene going on. The local cops would handle that. His grandson was too tough for his own good. He really was. You didn't mess with drug dealers that way or gang members. He glanced at him. "Have fun?"
"A lot. Buffy had to go home but we had a lot of fun."
"Good." He smiled, pulling onto a better street to be driving down. Of course, that was counteracted by someone shooting at the car. They even came over to try to shoot at the car so Xander slid out and used the hood for cover, getting him back with his mini crossbow. The kid shrieked in anger but he fell down screaming in pain and holding his stomach too. "Xander!" Alan shouted, sitting up. "Don't!"
"I can't leave him there!" He walked over to look at him. "You're going to live," he said, glaring at him. "Shut up!" The man whimpered more quietly so he got down to put pressure around the wound. "I don't usually want to kill anyone. Shoot at my grandfather again though," he said, staring him down.
"Yes, sir," he whimpered. Cop cars came screaming up.
"Guys, I'm holding his wound closed," Xander called when one got out with his gun already out. "He shot at the car, I got him with a mini crossbow bolt. He could use an ambulance since it has barbs." One of them radioed it in. Xander was led back to the car. "Sorry, instinct," he excused, looking at his grandfather. "Sorry."
"I'm hoping this isn't about the chase scene you made change streets by yelling at them you were going to find a cop," Alan complained.
"New initiate," one of them called over. "His mentor pointed at the car since it was upscale. He was supposed to shoot and come rob it then kill you two."
Xander looked at him. "How stupid are you?" he sneered at the guy on the ground. He walked back over there, staring down at him. "I'm from Boca del Inferno," he said quietly, staring into his eyes. "I've seen worse eating things on my street," he finished in Spanish. The man nodded quickly. "Never bother my grandfather again."
"Yes, sir." He panted. "Who are you?"
He smirked. "Buffy's Xander."
He swallowed, staring at him, trying for pitiful. "I'm sorry."
"Thank you. Don't try it again." He walked off, going back to the staring cops. "I'm from Sunnydale."
That got a few nods. "Heard it's a town rough in spots," one said.
"My parents are drunks," Xander said quietly. "It was instinct."
"Where did you get the crossbow?"
Xander put it onto the hood. "I made it." They looked then at him. "High density resin. Doesn't set off metal detectors. I was at Universal Studios earlier. Again, instinct."
The officers nodded, confiscating it. The ambulance got there to take the guy off. They let Xander go once the gang member said he wasn't pressing charges. They did keep the crossbow and the rest of his bolts though. One cop car followed Alan back to his home, wincing when he saw the Federal Agent looking pissed in the driveway. He got out and walked over. "Gang initiation. A kid fired on the car. The kid in the car returned non- fatal fire with a crossbow he said he made," he said quietly. "They're fine. Just a bit shaken." The agent nodded once at that. "The kid was told to shoot them, rob them, then kill them, sir."
"I understand how that happens. Is the kid in trouble?"
"That one? No. He's not pressing charges and he told the paramedics he considers him a higher power. They're going to leave him alone." He walked off, going to report to his boss. He didn't know what the good kid got into at home but it was clear someone knew him.
Don looked at his son. "You did WHAT?" he shouted.
"Protected Alan?" he asked weakly.
"He did," Alan agreed, getting out of the way of the yelling. He walked inside and found Charlie pacing. "We're fine. Don will need something for his throat."
"You got shot at!" he shouted.
"And Xander fired back. The guy's very scared of him." Charlie moaned, going to the garage to work on something until he calmed down. The shouting outside stopped so he looked out to find a cop in the driveway telling Don to stop it probably. Alan went to start dinner. Don walked in and slammed the door. "Get Xander in here," he called.
"The cops said he was a good boy for protecting you."
"He is." He went to the door. "Xander, come get ready for dinner." Xander said something to the cop, getting a nod and heading off. "More issues?"
"No. He wanted to know how I learned how to make a crossbow." He shrugged. "I told him where I found the plans online." He looked at his father, flinching away from the angry face. "Sorry! It was instinct."
Don calmed himself. He didn't want his son scared of him. "I know it was," he said once he was calmer. "We'll work on that so you can get it back down to where it's only when you're under fire and you don't take a crossbow with you to Universal Studios."
"Buffy had hers."
"Buffy's not you. You can't wear the outfit she had when she came looking for your room number," Don said, pulling him closer to give him a hug. "We're all okay, Xander. Relax. Calm down." The boy shook a bit but he was finally calm. "Thank you for protecting Dad."
"I had to."
"Good boy." Xander looked at him. "It was. It was a good job. You picked a non-fatal area to hit him. A lot of pain but not a lot of blood. Easily fixed in the prison infirmary." He smiled. "Now, go finish calming down in the backyard. Charlie's in the garage." Xander nodded, going to do that. He looked at his father. "Are you all right?"
"The kid protected me, Don. I'm fine. He's fine. You go finish calming yourself down in the bathroom. I couldn't believe he did that on the main road there." He went back into the kitchen, going to give Xander a hug and a few cookies, getting a weak smile. "You did the right thing." Xander nodded. "I'm happy you did, Xander. Proud you're okay too." He went back to cooking. They all needed something calm.
A few minutes later Xander called out. "Alan, can you please pry Uncle Charlie off me?" he called. "Pretty please? I promise I won't ever do it again!"
Don laughed as he came through the kitchen, leaning out the back door. "Get off him, Charlie."
"He needed a hug to finish calming down."
"You needed a hug. Come hug Dad to make sure he's all right." He let him past him and shut the door, heading out to talk to his son. He always needed to talk after shooting someone. His son should too. Xander gave him one of his cookies. "Dad's spoiling you."
"I had to."
"I know. We all know. Let's talk by the water." He led him over to the small water feature his father had put in and sat there to talk to him about it. Now that he was calm and not reacting.
Megan looked up as Don came in the next morning. "Is Alan all right?" she demanded. Colby and David both stared at her.
"He's fine. Xander protected him from the little bastard. He still in jail?"
"Listed as in the infirmary. Why did Xander have a crossbow on him?"
"Buffy came down to take him to Universal Studios."
She shook her head with a slight moan. "Where did it come from?"
"Him. He made it. He found the plans online." He typed into Colby's since his was online right now. "That's where he got the plans from." He looked at her. "Charlie tried to strangle him with a hug once he calmed down and realized Dad was all right."
"As long as they're both okay."
"They are. That remind me, I need to go to the ATF people later." He went to do that now since he could see his boss heading his way.
"Epps." Don stopped and looked at him. "Is your son joining us here?"
"He doesn't want to go to college but if he does, Edgerton's already claimed him."
"Pity. Boy's got good reflexes."
"Is it all over the building?"
"One agent's son shoots a gang thug trying to shoot him and the agent's father? You're lucky it wasn't on the news," he said dryly, walking off.
"Wonderful." He went to the ATF office, finding an agent he liked. "My son has found things that he's taken off various beings in Sunnydale over the last few years. He was wondering about rewards."
"What sort of things? Guns?"
"He won't tell me but the two we've already had reported to us came from the local National Guard base."
The agent whimpered. "Will he tell us?"
"Not without a good reason." He leaned down. "My son's helping up there." He straightened up.
"That explains why he used a crossbow. Hold on, that means your son is Harris." Don smirked and nodded. "Shit, man. Yep, we want it. We'll reward him if we can."
"I'll let him know. Thanks." He walked off calling his son, waking him up. "The ATF agent I talked to said there may be a reward but they want an index list. Think you can?" He smiled. "Thanks, kiddo." He hung up. "He'll try," he called before he walked out of their office.
Two days later Xander looked around his storage area. "Hmm." He looked at the agents, then smirked. "Let me do one thing." He went to talk to the manager, who told him who had emptied it. He led them right to their warehouse after stopping to check his other two storage areas. One still had things. Xander, well, he was in a vindictive mood now. Pity. The warehouse got raided after a few minutes' watching. Xander had called Buffy so she went in at the agent's signal to handle the demons. They knew what they were and what she was thanks to all the problems the FBI had when they came up to bust. The agents took the rest of the humans and it was nice. They got to get a nice, big haul. Xander got a nice reward. Everyone was happy.
Xander smiled at the agent. "Tell Dad I stayed to have lunch with Buffy and I'll cash this to get myself a new car and drive back?"
"Sure, kid. Thanks."
"Welcome." They walked them head off and Xander looked at her. "Hi."
"We could've used some of that," Buffy complained.
"Not really. It's Sunnydale. In two weeks we'll have someone else here with weapons. Besides, they only got one clan. The other moved right before graduation and I'm not sure where."
She frowned at him. "What other clan?"
"Same demons, different family clan. They used to be on eighth."
"That was this one, Xander."
"No, this other one used to supply the mayor. That one that we just sent off weren't picky, they'd sell to anyone. The other is exclusive." He smirked at her. "Lunch?"
"Sure. Mom wants to hug you too."
"We can do that. Then I'll find a new car." They walked off together, heading for Buffy's mom's gallery.
Six hours later, Xander smiled at the agents who were once again back. "I wasn't sure if there were two clans or not earlier. Buffy and I talked and we found out there was one. We made sure nothing too bad was kept for the local protection society," he told the agent who he knew what was going on. He patted the case he was on. "This baby, you're going to sweat about."
"Why?" that agent asked casually. He looked around. "The other stuff?" Xander reached behind him to flip on the light switch, making them moan. There were racks and shelving units full of equipment and weapons. He looked at him. "Good haul."
"Thank you. We kept a few minor things, just in case."
"I can see that. Where?"
"That'll work. I know he won't let her use them unless necessary. What's that?"
"This, you need someone who can disarm it right away."
"I brought our bomb tech. Are you sitting on the trigger?"
"No, and it was already running when I opened the case. I did a safe distance check and saw the numbers had been running for a while. There's six spots and only four have numbers left." He slid off and waved the bomb guy over. He opened the case. "I already checked," he said at the flinch. "I did a safe check and saw the numbers had been moving already."
He looked at the device then at him. "You should've warned us it was this sort, kid."
Xander looked at him. "If we had done that, it would've caused a panic in the town. We have time to move it and disarm it. There's seven thousand hours left. It's only changed three since I checked it."
"That's 291 days and a bit," the agent said, nodding at that. "We should be able to do that without causing a panic. Any triggers to moving it?"
"No, I checked. I even shifted it an inch to check underneath. No wires, no press levers, nothing." They looked and got it moved into the truck. Xander grinned at the agent. "Aren't you glad I'm a nice guy. That would've gone off during our usual spring apocalypse."
"We're very glad you're a good guy. You heading back behind us?"
"I got invited for dinner. I already called Uncle Charlie to warn him he'd be hearing strange things about me." That got a smirk. "Have a fun ride, guys. There's a basement too." He strolled off.
"What's in the basement?" the agent demanded.
Xander smirked. "Not a whole lot." He winked. "You'll be amused." He finished his stroll to complete his plan. He and Jesse had found some very interesting storage areas playing around town as kids. Without Willow because girls didn't explore according to her. Pity. It was time for the town to pay him back for making him live this life. He checked before heading down into the sewers and found the area he wanted after losing the agent tailing him down there. He found the storage area and smirked at the trunks of things. He walked out and helped the agent back topside. "Demons are coming out soon," he said, closing the grate and going back to it. He checked, some of the stash had been found but not all of them. He took out the rest, hauling it to his new trunk. Then he drove to the other two spots and did the same thing. Two more trunks went to Giles when he went for a Scooby dinner. Giles gaped in horror when he checked one. "We found the mayor's stash." He smirked. He couldn't get rid of gold bars but Giles could and use it to benefit the group. They settled in to eat dinner, him checking on his new car now and then. He saw a state trooper looking and went out to talk to him. "Problems, Officer? I just bought it today."
"It was listed as belonging to a person who got eaten last week, sir."
"I bought it off eighth. Most likely, he rose and sold it for cash to escape the town before someone got him."
"I can see that." He took the new registration and nodded. "Dealer's tags?"
"He's getting them for me in an hour."
"That's fine." He handed it back. "The agents?"
"Demons who sell weapons. Found a nuclear one with a 291-day countdown left." He shuddered all the way back to his car. Xander walked back in. "Have you guys seen the agents hauling the stuff?"
"The rest of what you found earlier?" Giles asked.
"Yup. Including one huge bomb that would've spewed nuclear waste around in 291 days." Giles did the mental math. "March sometime."
"Oh, dear Lord," he moaned, staring at him. "How long had it been running?"
"It was down to quadruple digits out of six in hours. That's why I called them back."
"We like that idea because I can't fight that," Buffy said, adding more to his plate. "I like the new car, Xander."
"Thank you. Charlie wanted me to pick something that would help me pick up good girls. Saw Cordy the other day."
"We heard from Buffy," Willow said smugly. "Assassin?"
"And the lady who filed the lawsuit against the LA County schools. She thought I was a boy pro."
Buffy whimpered. "You need to come home."
"I haven't even started my trip yet. I'm heading off in another two weeks and then I'll be back in October after another stopover in LA."
She moaned, shaking her head. "All the bad girls will follow."
"That could be good for us," Willow offered.
"Could be," Buffy agreed. "We'll have to see." She looked at him. "Bringing weapons?"
"Yeah. Even though I lost my mini crossbow the day we went to Universal Studios." Buffy gave him an odd look. "I had it on me when a gang kid shot at my grandfather's car with me in. The cops confiscated it."
She whimpered. "Damn it. You can't stay out of trouble, can you?" she asked while Giles choked.
"It kept him from killing us. He shot four bullets into the car and was going to rob us and kill us."
"Then it's going to die a noble death," Buffy decided. Someone knocked on the door. "Agents?" she guessed. "Way too polite to be a problem."
"Let me," Xander said, going to get it. He grinned at the agent, stepping outside and shutting the door. "What? Needed an inventory?"
"No. Wondering what's in your trunk, Harris."
"Something else I found a long time ago thanks to the Mayor." He walked him over to show him. "Totally clean. It was his getaway fund."
The agent stared at the money then at him. "I can't argue about that. He's dead. You found it." He walked off shaking his head. "Get dealer tags."
"I am before I go."
"Thank you. Should I tell your dad?"
"Probably. Make sure it's not a problem."
"Going to tomorrow." He locked things back up and then staked the vampire watching. He went back inside. "Sorry, have to eat and run. I forgot to get the dealer tags and Dad wants me back in LA." He gave everyone hugs.
"More like the bars you gave me?" Giles asked.
"Yeah, some." He smirked before heading out, staking the two vampires from behind since they were trying to get into his trunk. "Thanks, guys." He slid in and headed to the dealership, letting the dealer put on the temporary tags for him. Then he headed back to LA and a contact there who could...consolidate his money and new weapons for him. He left with a better carried set of bags than the four boxes and he had told him where it came from so they were clear. He had also mentioned an agent had heard the source but agreed it was fine since he had turned in a nuclear weapon earlier from the same stash. None of the demons wanted to deal with that. If agents were watching his contact, they'd hear that and ask the other one. It'd be cool and his father could calm down before finding him. He got back to his motel and found the room had been gone through. He went to the office. "Junkie or otherwise?"
"Junkie," he admitted. "They took the room's tv too. I'm not going to charge you for it."
"Crappy summer cable anyway," he said dryly. "Thanks. What did they get of mine?"
"A few shirts. Nothing else I could see. You always carry your stash on you."
"Yes I do," he said dryly. "Oh, hold on, I had my 'scrip for loritabs in there. Hadn't gotten it because I didn't need it. So they probably have that too."
"If someone asks I'll let them know. Your dad was here earlier."
"I'll call him, thanks." He went to do that. "Hey, Dad." He grinned. "Sure, I can do that." He looked around. "No, looking at the mess the junkie left when he tossed my room. My 'scrip for the painkillers they gave me when I got out. The room's tv, two shirts. I had my money on me. Yeah, I did." He settled in on the bed, wincing and getting off the wet spot. "Eww." He looked. "Someone got off on my bed." He shuddered. "Let me change rooms. Call me in a while?" He grinned. "That'll work. I'll even buy the pizza this time since I got that reward and a new car." He hung up and went to tell the manager, who grimaced at that information and got him a different set of keys. Xander moved all his stuff, checking twice, then went to order the pizza from his cellphone. Plus change clothes. Those jeans needed washed badly now. He went to use the coin laundry downstairs and came out to find his father looking at his car. "Not bad. Ten thousand miles. The new vamp sold it on himself."
Don looked at him. "And the three bags in the backseat?"
"Want the happy answer you'll like?" Xander asked dryly.
"When I was little, my friend Jesse and I found the Mayor's running away fund in case you guys caught him. I gave Giles the gold and kept the money. I changed it earlier even though it was clean. The ATF lead agent knew, he said that was fine."
Don nodded once. "How much?"
Xander smirked. "I'm not driving an Escalade and wearing bling."
"Running from the country money?" He moved closer.
"Running from the planet to one you own money. I gave Giles two steamer trunks full of gold bars," he said quietly. "Speaking of, help me carry them upstairs?" Don nodded, helping him get those out of the back and the ones in the trunk. Don did a count of one bag and estimated, whistling in pleasure. He smirked. "I deserve it for them shooting me."
Don gave him a hug. "You're okay, that's all that matters."
"Don't make me turn it in?"
"I can't do that. Unless the IRS hears...."
"I won it gambling in an underground poker ring?" he offered.
"They can handle that excuse. Nuclear warhead?"
"Yup. With six spots for the counting down hours and only four had numbers left. It was set to go off sometime in March. Did they get it disarmed?"
"Yeah, they had to send for an expert from the base in San Diego. You knew it was hours?"
"I watched it for a good hour before I called because I was horrified. That was the mayor's storehouse."
"Ah. That makes more sense."
"The demon clan only sold to him. That's why they had so much stuff. Did they get the basement?"
"They did, and swore at you for the parts floating in the water but the weapons were mostly happily taken to be destroyed."
"I gave Giles a small bit that we might actually need so he could keep some hidden. They broke into mine to take it back. Pity."
"Went into vindictive mode?" he teased.
"Hell yes! I learned from the best - girls!" Don cackled, going to get the pizza. Xander paid and the driver left again. They sat down to watch tv and talk about what he had turned over. Don was very happy his son had some morals. A bit loose but with his life he'd expect looser morals than that. Him keeping the money he had found? That was almost a normal reaction. Most people would. The contact he had gotten it cleaned at, that he wanted. Xander told him about the car he had seen watching the place and he checked. The LAPD knew so he'd talk to them tomorrow. They wouldn't arrest Xander and he could go on his road trip for real now. No junky car breaking down to strand him. Nothing like that. Though hopefully he'd stay places that were nicer than this one.
Mid October, Xander pulled back into his grandfather's driveway, looking at the house before getting out. He stared then around, then back at the garage. "Huh. Someone should be home by now." He locked the car and went to the front door, knocking.
"Hold on!" a female voice called. She opened the door and blinked. "We're not buying anything," she said.
He smirked. "That's nice, Millie, but if I wanted to sell my grandfather something it'd be different." She gaped. "Alan not here?"
"Oh, you're Don's son. Right. We met that once." She let him in. "Everyone else just walks in."
"I was taught to knock. It's the only polite thing I was taught." He smirked at Alan. "I'm back."
He gave him a hug. "I can see that. How was the rest of the US?"
"Mostly pretty." He smirked. "A bit grungy in places. Vegas was very bright." Alan smirked. "What? It's a common destination." His grandfather laughed. "We okay? You look tired."
"There was a problem in the team recently."
"I heard. Actually I heard more than Don might know." Alan gaped. "Long story I should tell him over beers later." He followed him back to the kitchen, leaning out to see the light on in the garage. "I only dated one heathen wench during the trip!" he bellowed. Charlie came out to pounce him for a hug. "Hi, Uncle Charlie."
"That too. Found her in Las Vegas on the way back." He smirked and they sat around in the kitchen to talk. Larry came in so he got a pat on the arm. "I have a present for you in the car."
"What did you get me?" Xander went to get it, making him frown at it. "What is it?"
"It is a piece of meteoroid a group was trying to clear after it leveled a historic outhouse." Larry beamed at him. "They were calling it the Shit Splattering Satellite but you can call it whatever." Larry laughed, walking it off to show Millie and look up that event. He winked at Charlie. "It was fun to remove it. We were looking for aliens."
Charlie shook his head but he was grinning. "You're very unique, Xander."
"Can you see me being twins?"
Alan shuddered. "I can and we'd all be insane too, grandson." He gave him a hug. "You'd date twice the bad girls."
"Well, yeah," he admitted. "Actually, the only bad girl I found on the trip was an agent." He smirked. "She gave me a message for Don."
"He's been pulling some long hours after an Internal Affairs incident," Charlie told him.
"I know." They stared "I know more than he does right now. We should have some beers because he'll need one."
"I'll call him," Charlie said, grabbing the house phone to do that. "Don, Xander's back. He has a message for you from an agent somewhere else and said he knows more about the IA thing than you do." He nodded. "He said you'll need a beer." He smirked. "We can do that. He's here. Gave Larry a chunk of asteroid that hit an ancient outhouse." He smiled at the first laugh he'd heard in weeks from his older brother. "Sure, we can feed him too. Come home when you can." He hung up. "They're in a meeting with the regional director but he'll be home soon."
"That's cool. Should I go get you the stack of postcards I wrote you both?" They smiled and nodded so he went to grab all three. Alan's was a lot more gentle observations about some things. Charlie's were from anything sciencey or mathy that he had found and run into. Don's had a lot more personal observations. When he came home Xander tossed him his book of postcards. "My travel journal."
Don gave him a hug. "We should talk?"
"I have a message from Liz in DC."
"Yup, and a few other tidbits." Alan handed Don a beer and they went into the backyard so Xander could tell him what he had heard. One fact made him growl but another one made him slump in relief. It had cleared up a problem. He hadn't wanted to doubt him that way. Now he knew why. Xander gave him a punch on the arm and got a quick hug for it. They came in to eat dinner and read some of the postcards while Larry petted his pet space rock. At dessert, Xander announced he had to go back to Sunnydale. Buffy was facing something worse that was making the Watchers freak and chase their own tails. Don gave him a look so he whispered in his ear what. Don sighed but made him promise to come down every weekend he could since they were only three hours away. That way they could see him and make sure he was all right. Xander promised and they put him in the spare room over the garage later on so he could rest. Don went to warn Megan since she still had contacts up there that fed her information and let her and David know what had been sent back to him via Xander's memory. They all relaxed and decided they'd let things play out however they would. They'd be ready for it.
Xander stepped off the bus, holding his aching head. "Damn I hate earthquakes. Always make me nauseous," he complained quietly while National Guard people rushed around to find injuries. He waved off the one heading for him. "It's three weeks old. I'm fine."
"It should be checked for debris, sir. The redhead said so."
Xander let her look him over, including under his eyepatch. At least until he was tackled by someone. "Hey, Uncle Charlie." The nurse smiled, leaving him to comfort his family. "I'm okay."
"You haven't shown up in a month and a half!" he said, pulling back to look at him. "Why are you wearing an eyepatch?"
"I couldn't show up because I'm not allowed to drive yet," he said grimly. "And if I had left, that would've been the day this happened." He pointed back at the town then looked at his uncle. His uncle lifted the patch and hissed, letting it drop. "Sorry, I warned Grandpa."
"I heard you had been injured but not how bad." He gave him another hug, looking at the others. "Do you have anything?"
"I transferred everything I own to LA two weeks ago under Dad's careful watch," he promised. "It had better all be there." That got a nod. "Including my bank account." Another mini earthquake and he turned green. "I hate earthquakes."
"Shh," Charlie soothed, laying him down. "It's all right. Just relax. It's all good. You won't get sick and if you do, you'll hit someone else." Buffy laughed as she came over. "You didn't tell us either!"
"He said not to. You'd fuss. He said he was going to be there and he's the reason a few of us girls got out of there, Charlie." She gave Xander a hug. "You are *so* getting fussed over. Does your Dad know?"
"I sent it to him through Spike." He swallowed another heave. "We're going to have a massive quake. We need to pull farther back."
"Sure." She went to tell one of the agents. "Xander said we're having a massive quake coming. The mini ones are making him pukey but this one's going to make him hurl. He said to pull back farther."
"We can do that. We have a refugee outpost set up about a mile away." They nodded and got everyone back onto the busses or other vehicles to head that way. The boy was taken by his uncle but no one was complaining. The nurses took him back when they got there and an hour later a bigger earthquake happened, which got more ground sucked into the hole. A few more sinkholes too. Then water started to fill the cavities. They watched as the new lake spread up and outward.
"Close it off. It's not fit to drink," Buffy ordered quietly. The agents stared at her. "Not like we got to clean out the cemeteries."
They nodded and told the others to keep people out. Some investigative geology teams from the colleges came to scout and take samples but otherwise it was sealed off. The remnants of the population went to LA to be hospitalized, fussed over, or start over. All the girls with the protection patrol went with a tall, dark, pale guy to his residence. They left their address so they could be asked to give reports later. The lone exception was the one-eyed young man who had gotten dragged off by his uncle. The agents in charge all smirked at the fussing going on. They knew who the kid was. Epps had introduced him a few times around the building and he turned in interesting things he found around the town. They'd get a detailed report from him later. They were sure his father was getting one. If not his uncle and grandfather would.
Xander wobbled into the house, looking at his grandfather, who dropped the plate he had been carrying. "What?" he asked, sounding a bit cranky. "I'm okay."
"An eyepatch is okay?"
"The eye got popped a few weeks back, Grandpa. That's why I haven't been back to visit. I'm not allowed to drive yet." He flopped down on the couch, leaning on the person next to him to make his father quit staring in horror at him. Don gave him a long cuddle and it was good. He yawned and fell asleep there.
Don looked down. "What happened?" he demanded of Charlie.
He shrugged. "We got the report of problems and I headed off to see if we could find him. That's when I called you guys. Everyone got out on busses. I spotted him in the medical tent. He said it happened three weeks ago. That's why he hasn't been down. That and as soon as he left, it'd happen. Buffy said he's the reason some of the girls got out of there. I brought him back here instead of the hospital since Willow said he had been discharged the next day after it got popped." He dug out the thumbnail drive she had given him. "This is all the research they had. For some reason earthquakes have been making him nauseous."
Don snatched the drive and let Charlie get him a laptop to look it over on while he held his son. It had a long letter to the family about what Xander hadn't told them. "I wondered why you had someone bring me that stuff to put into storage and moved your bank account to my name," he said quietly. He petted his son, looking it over. "She included a post apocalypse summary?"
"She was up and walking around but her hair's now white," Charlie said from his chair. "Can I cuddle him?"
"No. Knock up Amita if you want a son to cuddle."
"He's my nephew."
"Boys, there's enough of Xander to share the cuddles," Alan said firmly, sitting down on Xander's other side to pull him over and hold him himself. Xander yawned but stayed asleep and snored on him instead.
Don sent the fact file to the agents who had been talking on the tv. He got back an inquiry a few minutes later so he sent where that had come from. They agreed and said to let his son rest. Plus to have his eye checked for debris. The nurse said it should be rinsed. Don looked at his son. "We have to rinse that out."
"He can when he wakes up," Alan said calmly. They had been worried when Charlie had said he was taking off for Sunnydale suddenly, that something was going on. Don had been on a stakeout and not been able to be relieved. When Charlie had called back they had gathered at home since he said he was bringing him back. "He'll be fine."
"He should be. Willow said they removed the remains and then released him the next night since there wasn't anything they could do." The laptop beeped so he reloaded the email, finding the new one. His boss wanted an update. He called him. "Sir, Don Epps. I need a few days off. Because my son did survive Sunnydale and he's missing an eye. He's exhausted. He's napping on my father. I sent a report to the one that was on the tv already. I got one from one of his friends. Full of research notes and all that. I sent it to Agent Tyrell. Yes, him. Because he was the one on tv listed as the lead agent." He shrugged at the confused remarks. "They said so. He has it. He hasn't been back on tv. Thank you, sir." He hung up. "He didn't think he was an agent anymore. So maybe he's in another agency now." He stole his son back, getting a blink. "Dad had to hold you for a minute so I could email Willow's report. She thinks you should clean your eye?"
"Eww," he said quietly, snuggling in again. "Uncle Charlie pounced me like he plays football."
"He's got a few in class right now," he soothed, letting him fall back asleep. "We'll get it cleaned later." Xander nodded, snuggling into his side. Alan got him the throw blanket and he covered him. "You hungry?"
"Not yet. Earthquakes still make me sick."
"Since today when we were inside the hellmouth. Don't care why at the moment, but we're going to get another major shake in a few. Might want to warn the college people, Uncle Charlie."
He got up and found his cellphone again, calling Larry. "It's Charlie. Xander said you're getting another major quake soon. He's here with me. I brought him back. They've been making him sick, Larry. He predicted the last one within an hour." He nodded. "Please. Be careful. We're not sure there's not demons still there. I'd hate to see you as a vampire." He smiled, hanging up. "Soon, Xander?" He wiggled a hand in the air. "Like last time?" He nodded under the blanket. "Larry will warn them." He patted him. "Want some pudding?"
Xander pulled down the blanket to look at him. "I'm not in the hospital."
"We have chocolate," Alan offered.
Xander considered it. "Let me nap a while later then I'll have pudding and let you guys fuss." He covered his head at the smirks.
Don stroked his side. "Xander, Anya?" he asked quietly.
"There. She fell during the battle." He gave his son a real hug. "I'm okay, Dad. I saw a glow so I think she's ascended or gone back to work. If I could find Cordelia I'd ask her."
An email came in and Charlie looked at it. "She's back at work in Hallie's spot. Cordelia said the Powers didn't want another of you to ever be made." Xander spit so he tried to send back a response. It bounced back. "No sending back a response."
"That's fine." He snuggled in better and let himself drift off until his cellphone rang. He wiggled it out of his pocket. "What's wrong, Dawn?" He smiled. "I'm at Grandfather's. Of course they're driving you nuts, Dawn. It's post battle stress. Have Faith take them to the clubs and party. Thanks." He hung up. "Dawn's coming." He let himself drift off again.
A half hour later Alan got up to let Dawn in. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. How's Xander? I picked up some stuff so he can wash out the nasty crap he picked up in hell." She came in and looked at the blanket-covered lump. "Xander?" she called quietly. One finger stuck out of the top, making Don laugh. "You still have to do the eye wash stuff. No telling what you picked up in there."
Xander uncovered his head. "Can't I nap?"
"No. Get up, do this, eat something, then you can nap again." She hauled him up and to the bathroom. He had brought her here after her mother had died. She had been adopted as Xander's honorary daughter so it was good to her. She helped him and it was good again. Alan had food for them and Xander ate while Charlie fussed. She finally had to say something. "Charlie, chill. The hair doesn't make you a real girl and Xander's going to nap again soon. Relax. It's over with. This is because they spent a good day in there thanks to a time dilation. This is normal post really big battle Xander. Just chill, let him drift off again. Fuss tomorrow when he's awake again." He nodded, helping him up to his bed so he could nap. She came back down, giving Charlie a hug. "It's a natural instinct but you've got to chill. Xander won't let it ruin his cool attitude."
"I know, but he needs it."
"He does. So does Buffy but she won't let me fuss either." She shrugged. "We'll have to see what he needs tomorrow. Beyond a good doctor to replace the eye with a glass one."
"Fine. No more cracks about the hair."
She smiled, petting it. "You look like one when it gets too long unless you start turning scruffy." He gave her a hug. "I'm fine. I was on a bus. Buffy said so." She gave him the cuddle he needed. "It'll be okay. I promise. Sunnydale's a lake and it'll be okay." The radio reported another earthquake up there and she shuddered. He gave her a squeeze. "I know. But we'll handle it if the state falls off into the ocean as a huge island." He laughed, letting her go. "We'll be fine and it'll slow down. Willow's trying to find out where all the slayers she called are. The hotel's depressing and the girls took the advice to go party to wear out the post battle stress."
"They deserve it."
"How's he taking Anya?" she asked, sitting him down to sit next to him.
"We heard about her falling but Cordelia sent a note saying she was taking Hallie's spot in the lineup."
"The Powers don't want another of him made."
"Of course not. Xander warps prophecies. It messes up their issues." She shrugged. "There'll be others because he'll be training them."
"Are you girls staying local?" Alan asked.
"The new hellmouth's in Cleveland. Buffy said they're going soon. I was going to be left behind until they were sure it's safe." She shrugged. "I don't know."
"Xander can afford to get a good apartment," Don said from his spot. She smiled at him. "He doesn't look like a girl." She pulled out her wallet to show the picture she had of him and Xander at Disney last summer. He looked then nodded. "Okay, in that one he does look like a girl with a beard." He handed it back after Charlie kicked him on the ankle. "Now what?"
"Now? Now we have insurance people who'll think it's an act of God, FEMA people who'll think it's a natural disaster too."
"Willow gave me a comprehensive report that Don passed on," Charlie said.
"It'll cost insurance people a lot so they'll want to ignore it and no one believes in hellmouths anyway." They shared a look then she smirked. "Giles is already calling his and they don't believe it even though they're Council sponsored. We'll have to see."
"It'll be fine," Alan said, handing her a plate of food. "I doubt you've eaten either, Dawn." She smiled and dug in. "Why is it in Cleveland?"
"No idea," Dawn admitted. "It just is." She ate another bite and it was good. She'd been hungry for a few hours and unable to eat yet. The radio reported all the college teams were fine, that someone had felt the first baby strength tremors starting and had moved them all and their equipment to a safer location. She shook her head but the guys smiled and called Larry back to hear how much more had sank in. If it kept going it'd be the world's largest, natural, polluted lake.
Xander sat down at his dad's desk, waiting on him to get done with his current target. He nodded at an agent he knew. "I'm okay."
"No you're not. Don said you're not."
Xander grinned. "I'm just tired. I'll be fine. I'm taking him to lunch to look at apartments."
"Yeah, the place I went through understood what happened wasn't an act of God and they were pissed. But not at us." That got a smirk. Xander saw someone come off the elevator and loaded the nerf dart gun he had given Don last year for his birthday, firing it at the agent. Who yelped and rubbed his butt, glaring in his direction.
Ian Edgerton walked over there, then stopped to stare at him. "How did that happen?"
"Dirty fingernail of some stupid bastard who wanted to do both. Spike and Buffy stopped him." He shrugged.
"I figured you were there." He sat down in the interview chair, looking the young man over. This would ruin his chances of joining a fugitive recovery team. "Now what?"
"Now? Now I don't think I want to go to Cleveland with the others but I'll be holding a steady point of sanity on this coast since Angel clearly isn't. Dawn's staying with me for a few weeks until they can set things up. Then we'll see. I might travel back and forth." Ian nodded. "Other than that? Willow activated every single girl everywhere." Ian moaned, shuddering a bit. "Someone's going to have to travel to find them. I don't know who's going to do that. That would've been me but I kinda want to retire back to a less active role. At least for a year."
"I can understand that. College?"
"You might be able to talk me into taking some," he admitted with a grin. "I can't work construction anymore." That got a nod. "All I know is I'm looking at apartments during lunch with Dad." He shrugged again. "Then we'll see what happens. Angel needs some sanity. All the girls are with him."
"That poor schmuck," Megan muttered.
"Forty slayers," Xander told her. "Mostly teenagers." She shuddered. "Exactly. And Wesley is one of the last Watchers." He smirked. "Karma."
Ian laughed. "Still mad at him?"
"Yup." He smirked at him. "So, how's things?"
"Good. You okay otherwise?"
"I will be as soon as I can drive again."
"They might not want you to," Ian offered. Xander snorted, giving him a look. "Good point. People can drive without depth perception. It being your left eye might hinder it more since we drive on that side of the car."
"Then maybe I'll get a motorcycle."
"Don would freak."
"He doesn't like my SUV either," he said dryly. "The college guys ever come back?"
"Last night," Megan said, giving him a look. "Larry said thank you for the warnings about most of them."
"He okay after he fell into the lake during that one I slept through?"
"Yeah, he's fine. The water's only mildly polluted." She smiled at Don. "Visitors."
"He still managed to get me with a dart across the room," Ian said, getting a wicked smirk from the boy. "So you and Dawn?"
"Yup, but she'll be over her crush by then."
"That's good." He patted him on the shoulder and stood up. "Think about being a profiler? It uses the same instincts only you're in a room most of the time."
"Good. If I could I'd still try to recruit you, kid."
"It happened three weeks ago, Ian. I went into the battle with it," he said quietly, getting stares of horror from Ian and Megan. "I could probably still do the job once I get some adjustment time."
"They won't let you in the field with a disability," Megan said quietly.
"So I get a glass one and don't tell them if I can cover well enough. Yay me," Xander said. He looked at Ian. He liked him a lot. "I'll let you know what happens with that?"
"Sure. I'd like that. If I was going to let you lie I'd have to test you anyway."
"Of course you would. I'd have to earn my spot like I did all my others. The only thing being born entitled me to was Uncle Charlie fussing." They all smiled at that. "In on a case?"
"Checking on you," Ian admitted dryly. "Don doesn't answer the voicemails anyone left to check on you."
"Ah. Bad dad." Don smirked at him. "Apartment looking?"
"We can do that. Want to come with us, Ian?"
"Sure. I'm off today." They headed out together. Ian saw the familiar SUV. "How did that get here?"
"Ghosts?" Xander said with an impish look.
"Keys," Don ordered, holding out his hand.
"Dawn," he sighed. He handed them over anyway. Sometimes his father fussed worse than his uncle. And grandfather was worse than them combined. That's why he was helping by fussing over Dawn today. So he could escape and make some plans.