Title: Xander's New Gift
Author/pseudonym: Voracity
Email address: voracitys@hotmail.com
Rating: NC-17
Pairings: Xander/Oz
Fandom: Buffy Status: new; complete
Archive: Sure, if you really want to.
Archive author: Voracity Other website: (being worked on) Series: Part 1 of the Destiny's Childe Series

Disclaimers: Not mine (sigh). I gain nothing but pleasure from writing. No copyright infringment intended. Yes, writing is therapy for me.

Summary: Xander's offered the opportunity to learn things then has to use his new gift to save the gang

Xander's New Gift by Voracity

It always came down to a few little words. "Sorry but you really can't help us with this." He shook his head as he walked out of the school, heading to wander through the small shops in town. It's what he usually did when he felt unwanted.

He looked up, finding himself standing in front of the small, eclectic bookstore. For the hell of it, he wandered in, maybe he could find something interesting in there to do tonight.

"Picking up for your mentor?" the young woman behind the counter asked. He shook his head, stopping to look at the sci-fi novels. "Let me guess, you're looking for a reason?"

He turned to look at her. "Huh?"

"You're looking for a reason to go back. Something to make you different and needed." He nodded, mouth hanging open. "Come on, you need to talk to Hila." He took her hand, flinching at the small shock. "Ah, it likes you."

They walked into the back, his hand being handed to a stunning tall blonde woman. "Ah, Alexander," she said, "we've been expecting you."

"Why?" he asked hoarsely. He cleared his throat. "Why am I here?"

She laughed lightly, her normally silk on velvet voice sounding like breaking crystal as it fell to the floor, just like some vases he'd broken as a kid. "Oh, Alexander. We want you to be one of us." She waved a hand and someone turned up the lights. "As you can see, we're no different than your little redheaded friend." She led him over to a small table, sitting him down.

"I don't have power," he said, watching her make tea. "I asked Willow and she said so."

Hila shook her head, setting cups in front of them as she sat. "It's deep and hidden, but it's there." She took a sip. "It's also in a strange form, not a pool or a well like so many." She paused, taking another sip. "We could train you."

"Wiccan?" She shook her head. "The other side?"

"No, we're on the same side as the Wiccans but not of the same faith." She patted his hand. "We won't harm you or your mentor and friends. We know of their work, wish it to go on." He nodded. "Do you accept?"

"Do I have time to think?"

"Very little if you want to get started soon. We'd like to initiate you tomorrow night."

He choked on his tea. "So soon?"

"We're initiating someone else then. We'd like to do the same for you but you have to fast tomorrow."


Willow grabbed her head, clamping her palms to her temples to stop the throbbing. "No," she moaned.

Giles looked at her in alarm as Oz lowered her to the floor. "What happened?"

She grabbed her boyfriend's arm. "That guardian I put on you guys, his went off." He nodded. "Go find him? He's around books."

Oz patted her hand. "I'll go find him. You rest and protect Xander." He stood up, walking out after a glance at the Watcher.

Giles sat down beside her, stroking her hand. "You put a protection on us to know when we needed you?" She nodded, holding down her forehead. "It's a good thought but it could be harmful to you." She shrugged, then moaned, holding onto her head and his hand tighter.


Xander finished his tea, sitting back to look around. "Why me?"

She smiled. "You don't have as many ties." He frowned. "You have more freedom to come and go as you please. You have no annoying people to look through your things to find your books. There's two people around you to help you if you have a problem."

He nodded. "Sounds reasonable."

"You've also taken part in a very major spell, your will changing it on Amy." He blanched. "Yes, that one."

He shuddered. "I wondered what went wrong."

"Your heart wanted her protected so it was turned." She shrugged. "It's something that has been known to happen." She poured him another cup of tea. "Drink Alexander, it's all you can have tomorrow if you want to join us."

He made a face. "Tastes like feet." She raised an eyebrow. "Not that I go around tasting feet, but from what I've heard they taste like this."

She smiled. "Relax, just be yourself with us. We have no notion of who you are besides good." She pointed at his cup. "Tastes better warm. Trust me."

He nodded. "I do. Don't know why, but I do."

She smiled. "I'm glad then. Drink only this tomorrow, it'll loosen your powers for access. Come back here at midnight, as clean inside and out as you can be." She took a sip. "Oh, ask her to take the spell off you, it could harm you during the ceremony."

"Willow did what?"

"It's a simple protection that lets her know if you need her. Not an interference but a guardian." He nodded. "The initiation casting's energy could backlash on either of you. We would prefer to have neither of you hurt." She smiled slightly. "Drink Alexander, you'll need the calming effects."

He took another drink, making a really gross face. "Keeps getting worse tasting. Can I add sugar?" She handed him a small jar of honey, watching as he poured some in. "Thanks," he said, putting it aside. "So, do I have to join the faith too? ‘Cause I'm not a real religious guy."

"No, but if you do, we'll be here for you." He nodded, being mid-sip. "The only two ceremonies you'll have to participate in are your initiation and your proclamation asa a full blown power." She started to smile again. "No chanting in circles, no groups to join, no interference in your life unless you want us to."

He raised an eyebrow. "Then how do I learn?" She patted a book he hadn't noticed. "Instruction manual?"

"Basically. Your little redheaded friend learns much the same way but there are people looking over her shoulder. You'll have no such constraints unless you want them. You'll have to rely on your own judgement for the right times and circumstances in which to act."

"And if I screw up?"

"Then we or they could help you."

"What if I decide it's not for me once I'm initiated?"

"No one can or will argue with you over that choice. You'll keep the book in case you need it later in life." He nodded and she grinned. "You're old enough to make your own decisions about how to use the gift. We only open the door." He reached for the book to look at. "Not until after the ceremony," she chided gently. "You won't understand it until then." She saw the slight twinge of worry so worked to get him back into the comfortable state the tea was creating for him. "During the ceremony, our minds will merge for a few seconds. When it's done, you'll retain the secret to reading it." He started to shift uncomfortably. "I won't retain any of your thoughts. You worry too much at your age." She patted his hand, closing her eyes and feeling how long she had to convince him. "I could do a briefer version tonight but those have proven to be...let's just say painful for those not ready."

"Painful how? Pain's not my favorite subject."

"Headache and a burning itch in the cut." He shrugged, holding out his hand. "Are you sure?"

Xander made the most important and fastest decision in his life, one that would affect how everyone saw him and how he would ruin the rest of it, something that he had learned fighting at Buffy's side. "Yeah. If they find out I'll be guarded tomorrow. Some of them can be pretty fussy about what I do, even when they don't care."

"Very well." She picked up a knife, plunging it through their joined hands. "Let the secrets transfer," she finished as he screamed.


Willow barely held onto consciousness as she felt him cut. She looked up at her mentor. "I've got to keep hold or we'll lose him for good," she whispered, drawing his energy at the nod. She closed her eyes, concentrating on insulating him from the influence, not letting it all come through to taint him.


Xander walked out of the bookstore, the small bag clutched tightly in his arms, bandaged hand throbbing painfully even after the Tylenol. He started the walk home but looked up at the sound of a familiar engine. "Willow," he muttered. "You don't have to save me." He stopped, waiting for Oz to stop beside him, quickly deciding to play dumb. "Hey, Oz," he said, grinning. "I thought you guys would be in there for hours."

"Get in." He waited until the younger man was sitting next to him. "What did you do now?" he asked, pulling back out.


"Willow almost collapsed because of a protection she put on you."

"I bought a book," he said, pulling out the one he had bought, hiding his injured hand and hoping that the glamour that Hila had put on it would work. "Nobody attacks in a bookstore."

Oz snorted, pulling onto the High School's street. "Truth, try it sometime." He pulled into a parking spot, putting a hand on the younger teen's arm. "Preferably now."

The younger man grimaced, shaking off the hand. "It's *nothing*," he said, stressing it. He got out, looking in the window. "I'm going home. Tell her I'm fine." He turned to see Willow and Giles behind him. "I'm fine," he said, opening his arms to show them. "Really normal teen guy here." He made himself not clutch the bag again. "Okay?"

She nodded but Giles shook his head.

"Oh, come on," he said, pushing past them, heading in the direction of home. "Tomorrow," he called back.

Willow watched his back getting smaller. "He's been touched," she said quietly. "There's magic floating around him." The Watcher laid a hand on her shoulder. "We'll watch, right?" She looked up at him, seeing the grim nod. "Okay." She looked at Oz, walking over to him. "Where was he?"

"Small bookstore that gave you the creeps." He hugged her. "We'll watch, figure it out, and save him when he's ready." She nodded, laying her head on his shoulder. "Home?"

"Please," she whispered.


Oz walked up behind his friend, taking his cup of tea and sniffing it. "You doing duty tonight?"

Xander took it back, sipping it. "Sure when?"

"All night. Buffy and Will are going out and Giles has that blind date." He tapped the thick tome. "Want to explain the what happened three weeks ago?"


"That's a Willow and Giles book, not a Xander book."

The younger man grimaced. "I *can* read." He looked around the lounge. "Drop it."

Oz shook his head. "I'll take a continuation." He spotted his redhead so headed for her.

"Bet me," Xander said quietly, opening it to the spot his finger marked.


Xander looked up from his book, checking on the wolf in the cage. He looked around the room, then lifted one hand into the air, sketching a symbol, which glowed for a second then disappeared. He smiled, drawing another one and then a third. When he was done, he drew a last one to cancel the first and stood up, wandering over to the cage. "Hey, Oz, you all right in there?" He didn't step back as the body got closer, his faith in his new found abilities still very strong.

Oz growled but stopped a few feet away from him, looking at him. He shook his head and went to go back to his pacing, never walking near the younger man.

"Yes," he said, reaching around to pat himself on the back. When his arm was grabbed, he spun around, seeing Angel. "What? Looking for blondes? None here. Go away." He got control of his hand again and went back to the table, putting his book up. "And for future reference, Deadboy, don't sneak up on people, it's impolite." He turned to look at the vampire. "What?"

"You've changed," he said, walking closer. "But I'm not sure how. What are you doing different?"

"Nothing. Just some tea that I found out I liked." He picked up his cup, taking a sip. "Want me to brew you some?"

Angel looked at it, sniffing the concoction. He looked at the young man with a frown. "Why are you drinking a magic inducer?" He stepped back. "Oh, hell no, you're not fooling around with that. You know it's dangerous."

Xander shrugged. "Wrong guess man, just like the taste." He sipped again. "Not too bad with a little honey. I actually feel better when I'm drinking it. More focused." He drained it, setting the cup down. "And no, I'm not *playing* with magic." He crossed his arms. "Why are you here? Buffy's still out on patrol."

"Giles asked me to look in on you guys tonight. He was worried that Oz might attack you."

Xander shook his head. "Want to try again?"

Angel looked at him. "If we're being honest, explain the text to me." He crossed his arms, mirroring the younger man's position. "I saw it when I came in." He smiled slightly, trying to be fearful. "What *are* you playing at Xander."

"I'm not *playing* with anything," he said, smirking. "Go away." He sat back down on the table, relaxing.

"Hmm, I'd bet they don't know about your unorthodox beverage or the book. How did you get it?" He walked over, picking up a hand to look at it then the other. "Ah, them." He let it fall. "You know, Dru used to do the same thing. That's why she talks to Miss Edith." The younger man snorted. "Don't think it can happen to you? What happens when something goes wrong? Will they be there? Will you be left alone to cope?"

"One, I'm not conjuring. And b, I'm not doing anything dangerous until I'm ready to handle it." He looked at the vampire instead of across his shoulder. "I know what I'm doing and thinking. I've been careful. Go nark if you want."

"Xander, any magic is dangerous if it's not used correctly or for the right purposes." He stepped back. "This isn't a game, it's a life long calling that takes dedication and hard work. You've seen Willow working on her craft. You know how dangerous it is."

"That's why I'm not doing the same things she does." He shrugged, getting up and grabbing his bag as he heard steps walking toward them. He looked over, smiling nastily as he saw the coat disappear through the stacks. "Giles," he said, turning to face him. He checked the table, picking up his cup. "Want to stay or go?"

The Librarian/Watcher shrugged, pulling out a chair to sit down. "It doesn't really matter." He looked over the younger man. "What did you do tonight?"

"Study." He looked into the office, seeing his small tin of tea. "Let me get my beverage of choice and I'll be out of your hair." He walked into the office, grabbing it to store in his backpack.

Giles looked over his shoulder. "What is that? It looks like tea but you hate the substance with a passion."

"Not this stuff, found one I like with some honey." He zipped the bag up, putting it back on. He turned to look over the older man. "You look beat, you sure you don't want me to stay and watch while you go home and nap?" The older man shook his head. "Okay, don't say I didn't offer." He walked around him, heading out.

Giles noticed the cup, so turned to yell after him. "Xander, you forgot something." When the young man didn't come back, he picked it up, smelling it. He frowned, doing so again. "Oh, no," he muttered. He poured some more water in it, tainting the remains to sip. He made a face, dumping it out into a plant. "You've gotten in over your head again," he said, picking up a spell book of his own to go out to the main room and see if he couldn't find something wrong.


Xander looked up as Oz sat next to him, closing the book and putting it away quickly. "Hey," he said. "Don't you have a class about now?" He checked his watch. "Oops, my bad, didn't realize it was lunch."

Oz grabbed the bag, pulling out the book to look at it. "So this is what you've been reading?" He flipped through it, almost frowning. "What language is it in?"

"Secret code," he said, taking the bag and the book back. "Next time ask." He put the book back again, zipping and locking it this time. "Why ask at all though comes to mind."

"Because." He turned to face him. "Giles found your cup and almost had a heart attack." Xander nodded. "I want to know what's going on."

"Nothing. I was offered the chance to study. I'm not doing anything wrong." He shrugged, starting to stand but was pulled back down. "Oz, let go."

"Or what, you'll cast that avoidance thing on me again?" he asked quietly. "Do you know how *dangerous* that was?"

"Wasn't. I practiced and rehearsed before I did it on you. All I specified was that you not get within biting distance of me when you're changed." He looked around at the filing in people. "Come on, let's go talk outside. Less peoples." He stood up, grabbing his mug and bag, walking out.

Oz followed him, watching him walk, trying to find the difference. He stopped him out by the far bench they usually sat at in the mornings, pushing him down. "What are you doing and why?" He stared down at him.

"I'm studying and because I'm good at it." He shielded his eyes as he looked up. "Want to sit before I go blind?" He waited, moving closer when the older man didn't do as he asked. "Listen, all right, but it stays here." He took a deep breath, doing what he'd wanted to do for the last three weeks. "I was given the opportunity by a woman at that bookstore. She's the one that gives me the tea too." He shook his mug, now empty. "She gave me the book and how to read it, telling me it was my decision on how to use it and what to study. I'm not doing dark stuff or anything major, I'm not going to do the first and know I'm not ready for the other. I will eventually tell them, once I know some more, but I'm being careful." He looked around, seeing Giles standing a little ways off, watching them. "You told him you'd come find me and ask?"

Oz shook his head. "Willow told me I had to because you didn't trust her anymore."

The younger man shook his head. "Not even. I still trust her and all her little ways. I'm just not part of the scene." He stood up. "I'm going to go skip, tell them what you want but I'm not a threat or a danger to them." He walked by Giles, taking his cup out of the stunned hand, the older man having seen the mark on his palm apparently. "What's up, Giles," he said, walking past him.

Oz walked over. "He sounds like he thought it out a little." The older man nodded. "What?"

"Between who did it to him and the tea, he could become very dangerous." He looked down at the younger man. "Would you rather go with him or should I send Willow?" The teen shrugged. "All right, you follow and I'll talk to her. We'll get into him tonight." He walked back into the school, nodding at the teacher that was walking out.

Oz looked around then headed for his van, holding his stomach. It wasn't much of an act, he really was sickened by all this.


Xander didn't look up as his door was opened. "Knocking is a good," he told the blonde. His spell had told him who was coming. "What?" he asked when she didn't say anything.

"Just wondered when you turned this way." She looked around the room. "Not any different, no bones or anything." She closed the door, coming over to sit beside him. "A little cleaner than usual but I suspect you needed to not contaminate something."

"Yeah, me. I'm doing the laundry." He glanced at her. "And I repeat, what?"

She shrugged, lifting up the cover of the magazine to look at it. "Why? I mean, I know you feel left out some days and everything but to resort to the Craft?"

He closed it, setting it aside to look at her. "Yeah, and...?" She shook her head, rolling her eyes. "What I do is no different than Will does only without a group of Amys." She snickered. "I'm allowed to do something that makes me happy right? So long as it's not dangerous to anyone, including myself and you?" She nodded, turning to face him better, looking into his eyes. "What?" he said warily.

"Just wondering where the old Xander went. He hated this stuff."

"Not." He looked at his posters, pointing at one. "I know you can read that and have seen it before." She nodded. "What do you think it means."

"That you had some adolescent fixation on the subject?" Willow asked, walking in. "So, if you're not Wiccan then what are you?" she asked, sitting behind him to hug him. "‘Cause I'd like to know."

"Same thing, not the faith." He stood up, grabbing his book to hand to her. "I'm not sure if you can read it or not." He opened the door, knowing Giles was heading up with Oz. "Come in," he said, fake-merrily. "Excuse the mess, the maid has the week off." Oz shook his head, going over to sit on the bed.

Giles closed the door behind him, looking at the younger man. "You could be in a great deal of danger and we're worried."

"This is *so* not new news." He quirked an eyebrow up. "Anything else you feel like sharing?"

Willow put the book down. "I can make out about every fourth word," she said. "But what I saw didn't look harmful." She looked at her boyfriend, seeing him nod. "So, who and why?"

"None of your business because I don't want you to go smite her and because." He crossed his arms. "You know why." Willow nodded. "Then why ask?"

"Because it's not the most pure of motives," Giles said. "You could very easily end up on the wrong side, as did Ethan."

Xander started to laugh. "That's not why I do it. I'm not in it for the power." He shook his head, walking out. "Ask Oz, he understands. That's why he took up music." He slammed the door, heading downstairs.

Everyone looked at the musician. "What? I did it to be special." He looked over his shoulder. "We do treat him badly when we're working."

"But he can't help sometimes," Willow said. "I don't get pissed and make a drastic life change like this when I can't help!" She looked at Buffy. "Do I?"

The blonde shook her head. "You've never done it before but then again, you've never not been in on a case." She looked at Giles. "What do we do?"

"Don't touch the tea," Xander said, carrying in his basket. "She said it had some power accessing properties." Willow groaned. "What? She said mine was deep, that's why you didn't find it, and that it was in a funny shape."

Giles rubbed over the bridge of his nose. "That tea does more than that." He looked around the room, picking up a book he vaguely recognized as something the young man in question had once explained to him. "Didn't you say that the author of these wrote in something that made one seem smarter but it was limited and not very real?" Xander nodded. "The tea does that for you."

He sat down on the desk chair. "Then you find it and tell me." He looked at the older man then at Willow. "I couldn't cast if I didn't have power."

"Everyone has some," Willow said. "Most never know it or use it." He shrugged. "But I'm for that idea." She looked at Giles. "We could do that, can't we?"

He nodded. "Quite." He looked around the room. "Quit drinking it now and we'll look tonight." He looked down at the grubby clothes the younger man was wearing. "Wear whatever you do when you cast."

He looked down at himself then back up. "Not an issue, even now." He grinned at the groan. "I don't do the whole robes/chanting/circle thing that she does." He pointed briefly at Willow. "Not for me. I'm not a chanter or a circler."

Willow sighed, standing up. "Just wear something clean that you can sit in for a while," she said, pulling on Oz's arm. He looked up and shook his head. "Okay, you guard him, we'll go prepare. Be in the library right after dark." She and Giles walked out.

Buffy walked over, standing in front of him. "You're being safe and careful and stuff?" He nodded. "Then I'm okay with it until it hurts one of us or someone else." She leaned down to get into his face. "We never meant it like that, it's just that some things you can't help with." He shrugged so she left, taking one last glance at Oz.

The older man crossed his legs. "Want help folding?"

Xander shook his head, grinning. "Don't do that, won't stay when I pile them up in a corner." He looked at the basket then around the room. "So, what should we do for the next few hours?"

"I was thinking about watching you detox but you can do whatever." The younger man rolled his eyes. "You drink a lot of it, are you sure it's not addicting?"

"Tastes too gross to be addicting." He turned his head to look at the door. "What?"

His mother stuck her head in. "Are you going out tonight?" He nodded. "All right, just warning you to not make so much noise tonight."

"Mom, wasn't me. I came in through the back door and walked up, *missing* that step." He shrugged. "Ask Dad, he was up then." She shook her head, walking out. "We seem to have a night walker. Keeps hitting the squeaky board on the stairs."

"Something to do with this?" He saw the head shake so looked down at the book. "May I?"

"Sure, have fun." He watched as the older man flipped through the pages. "She said that when our minds merged, I got the secret to break the code." He looked into the light eyes. "Don't give me that look."

"Let me see the cut." He put the book aside, moving to be beside him. He picked up the hand held out to him, looking at the cut. "Saw the bandage but I figured you tried to cook."

"That was what Willow said."

"That's who told me." He let it go. "Nasty looking. Painful?"

"Oh, yeah," he said, rubbing over it. "Knife down through hers and into mine because you were coming." He grimaced. "Didn't sound right at all."

"So, you could have done it some other way?"

"Ceremony the next night but I knew that if you found me in there, Will's overprotective streak would come out and she'd lock me in the cage with you." Oz shook his head. "Oh yes she would have. She's got a definite idea about what I do and what she does."

"Know that, but she wouldn't have used the cage. Office maybe or some chains to a chair, but not the cage. She doesn't want you to wolf out too." He shuddered. "Still gets to me."

"Yeah," he said, patting the nearby leg, "me too." He stood up, looking around. "My mom's out, wanna go watch some tv? Kills the time." Oz nodded so they went downstairs.


Xander walked into the library but was stopped by Willow. "Clear your mind," she called. He looked at her funny. "That's why you don't skip lessons."

He shook his head, doing as she said then sitting down in the not cast yet circle. "I know what you meant but that was just such a new-agey thing to say."

She shook her head, looking up at Giles as he walked around them. "Ready?" He nodded, starting to close the circle.

It was almost dawn when they uncast it, and all of them desperately needed a nap. She looked at her best friend, patting his arm. "I shouldn't have doubted you," she said quietly. "I'll leave you alone about this unless you ask for my help." She stood up, blowing out the last candle and walking out of the library.

Giles sat down next to the young man. "Most unusual but then I would expect that in this town." He rubbed over the bridge of his nose, laying his glasses beside him on the floor. "Do be careful about what you choose to act upon. While the aversion spell on Oz's werewolf form seems to have went well, not everything is that easy or clear cut." He coughed, the thick incense smoke getting to him now. "If you'd like help, I'll be here for you. I'll even try to guide you as I do her if you'd like. Just please, whatever you do, warn us if you're going to try to cast something major. Especially on us."

Xander nodded. "Of course. I'm not gonna pull the Willow thing and place protections on you, I don't how to and wouldn't without permission." He saw the faint smile. "I was thinking of specializing."

"Something to help you aid Buffy perhaps," he said with a full smile. Xander nodded. "You know she won't always be around here, correct? And that you may end up splitting up?"

"Hey, I could go do the same thing."

"I rather could see you doing something like teaching. While you're own powers are mostly unaccessible to you right now, I could see you teaching, trying to protect the community and the innocents both." The younger man grinned. "If you'd like, I could start you in either direction but do stick to minor spells for now, much safer for all involved." He stood up, helping the younger man up and taking back his glasses. "Whatever you decide, tell me."

Xander nodded. "Of course." He started to turn but looked at the older man instead. "I really expected a bigger hissy over this."

Giles smiled, putting an arm around his shoulders. "Just wait until the first time you screw up, Xander, I'm sure we'll fulfil that wish." He let him go, looking at the mess on the carpet. "I'd better clean," he sighed.

Xander pulled out a box, getting down to help. "Come on, we both need to sleep a little before classes."

"Yes, it would look bad if we both skipped." He got down to help him clean the mess up.


Xander looked up as Oz and Willow walked toward him. "What's up guys," he asked, putting down his soda. "You both look pissed."

"Amy's casting last night went wrong," Willow said. "Instead of animating a book, she called something back. I almost got eaten." He patted her arm. "I'm fine, but I'm thinking about giving it up for a while."

Xander shook his head. "You're the most careful one of all of us." He looked up at Oz. "Do we need to go hunt it down?" The older man shook his head. "Okay." He looked at his friend, seeing her as very pale at the second. "What?"

"Please tell me that's not your book," she said, pointing at a person who was walking up the sidewalk reading a similar looking one.

"Nope," he said, patting his bag. "Not mine." He watched the other teen walk up, heading into the school. "Want me to go introduce myself?" She nodded so he took out his book, running over to him. "Hi," he said, holding his book so the other guy could see it. "Xander."

The other guy shook his hand. "Malcolm." He looked at the book. "How long have you been..."

"A few months, you?"

"Three days," he whispered, looking around. "I'm getting to the good parts."

Xander grinned, walking him back toward Willow and Oz. He saw the fearful look in the other guy's eyes so stopped to reassure him. "They know about me. They won't hurt us." He nodded so they finished walking over to the bench. "Guys, this is Malcolm. He's had his for three days."

"Yeah, I'm just getting to the components and the how to part." He looked at the can of soda. "No tea?"

"Not this week. Had a nasty case of forgetting to eat with it last week so I'm laying off." The other man nodded. "So," he said, sitting him down. "Do I have to worry about you? And do you need help?"

Malcolm smiled slowly, showing off perfectly even and white teeth. "Not as far as I know, how about you?"

"Me, no. I'm one of the good guys." He dodged out of someone playing frisbee's way. He shook his head, looking down at the small grouping. "Hila?"

He nodded, his grin getting bigger. "Yeah, she's great, huh."

"We really don't hang. I'm doing the independent study thing." Xander looked around. "Listen, if you need help or just someone to talk to, you can come to me, okay?" The other man nodded, standing up. "Just be careful. This stuff can be dangerous if you're not fully ready and prepared *before* you do it for anything."

Malcolm nodded. "So I've heard." He smiled at Amy. "You think she'd talk to me now?"

Willow shrugged. "Don't know, I could introduce you." He shook his head. "Okay, if you're sure."

He grinned again and jogged away, stopping Amy before she got a chance to get inside.

"Power," Xander said, sitting back down. "He's in for the wrong reasons." Willow hit his arm. "Owww, what was that for?"

"We used to think the same thing about you." She smiled. "He may settle down." She looked over to see his disappointed look. "Or he may not." She turned back to her friend. "Whichever, we'll be there in case." She pinched him. "Don't offer my help too."

"I didn't tell him about you, just that you knew."

She smiled. "You're so sweet to hide me." She patted the side of his face and stood up. "Giles would like to see us after school. Seems he's having a prob." She snuggled up next to Oz's side, walking inside with him.

Xander watched them go, smiling at their backs. "At least you're happy," he said, sipping his soda. He looked over where Malcolm had been, seeing a small char mark. "Wonder what she did to him." He smiled as Amy tried to sneak up behind him. "Won't work." He turned to look at her. "My first one. That and my door."

She sat down beside him. "He'd had it how long?"

"Three days, why?"

"He tried to enchant me." She shook her head. "How are you doing with your studies, need help yet?"

He shook his head. "Got Will and Giles. I'm fine." He looked over at her. "You aren't though." He picked up her hand, seeing the shallow cut. "Might need stitches."

She pulled it back. "That's the price you pay sometimes." She looked around. "Tell me if I get pushy, but please be careful. We don't want you to repeat what I did last night."

He shook his head emphatically. "Not me, not going in that direction." He shuddered. "I like the defensive and offensive stuff." He finished off his soda as the bell rang. "Opposite's true though, you want me to help, just yell." She smiled, almost mocking him. "Hey, it could happen." He grabbed his things, walking back inside.

She smiled after him. "He'll make someone a good mate," she muttered. "Hila will be proud." She uncrossed her legs and stood, following him inside.


Xander walked into the library and stopped when he noticed everyone staring at him. He looked down at himself then at them. "What?"

"What were you and Amy talking about," Buffy said, pushing out his regular seat with her foot.

"That kid Malcolm, who tried to enchant her." Giles groaned. "Three days." He took his seat. "She, again, told me to be careful and we talked for a few. Nothing heavy, major, or dangerous." He looked at Willow. "Why ask?"

"Because she's been acting funny all day," she said, looking at him sadly. "We didn't think you did it but we had to know."

"So you automatically jumped to the conclusion that I'd done something bad and so are trying to prosecute me here?" He stood up. "Nope, no thanks. Going home. Been nice knowing you." He walked out of the library.

Willow got up to run after him. "Xander," she called, catching up to him and turning him around. "I know you didn't. We just had to make sure."

He shook his head. "You shouldn't have had to. I thought you trusted me." He shook her hand off and headed to his locker to grab his stuff so he could go home.

He'd just made it in the door when the phone rang. "My turn?" he yelled. When no one answered him, he picked it up. "Yeah?" He frowned, hanging up on Buffy. "Nope, not gonna deal with this right now." He walked up to his room, locking the door behind him.


Buffy put down the phone. "We screwed this up majorly. He hung up on me." She turned to look at the rest of the people in the room. "Okay, how do we fix this?"

Willow looked up from her perusal of the floor, showing her big sorrowful eyes. "I don't know. He thinks we don't trust him."

"We don't," Oz said. "Or we wouldn't have had to ask." He looked at them. "Am I the only one here catching this?" Giles shook his head. "Okay, so it's a guy thing." He leaned back. "I should go talk to him." He stood up but Willow pulled him back down. "He won't let you in. We don't have that difficulty." He stood back up again. "Later." He walked out.

Oz pulled up behind Xander's mother, getting out to help her with the bags. "Hi, one of Xan's friends."

She nodded, unlocking the door. "I remember when you were here last time." She took the bags from him, pointing at the stairs. "Go ahead."

Oz jogged up the few stairs, then knocked at the door when it wasn't opened. "Xander, I know you know it's me. Let me in." He frowned at the sound of the squeaky bed moving but the door wasn't unlocked. He looked down the stairs and jimmied it, walking in. "Sorry," he said, taking the chair so he could look at him. "I didn't think that," he said quietly.

"Know you didn't but I'm still wanting aloneness." He flipped over. "Tell her to leave me alone."

Oz shook his head, grabbing one of his ankles to pull him over. "Not. You know she won't." He watched as the flipped over to look at him. "She didn't want to consider you in the running but Buffy mentioned that she'd seen you talking." He shrugged. "Blame the blonde."

Xander laughed, once. "Oh, I can do that too." He pulled the pillow over his head. "Oz, don't do that to my door again and can I please be alone to think?" He could almost hear the head shake. "Oh, come on, I'm not going to do something stupid."

Oz got up, leaning over him and taking the pillow away. "I know." Xander pointed at the door so he went to lock it. "Better?"

"Muchly." He waved him away, tossing a ball at it. "Hate eavesdroppers," he said loudly. He felt his mother walking away. "Safe again. She's gonna go nap." He turned to look at his friend. "We're fine but I'm pissed at her. I'll stay away for a while and stew and she'll pout."

"But I have to live with that pout." He sat on the foot of the bed, looking at the younger man. "Come back? I'm sure Giles would like you to." Xander shook his head. "You can't deny you want to help her."

Xander reached under his bed, handing over a card for the bookstore. "Hila, tall blonde lady, nice voice. She's the one that gifted both of us." Oz nodded, looking down at it. "Tell her what happened and see if she won't fix it."

Oz shook his head. "Malcolm has disappeared."

Xander blanched. "Amy had a fresh cut on her palm." He sat up, reaching for the tea. "Let me get a drink to bring with me and I'll be back."

Oz nodded, moving so he could get up, watching him plug in the electric tea pot. "Do you still need it?" He looked at the tea when the younger man gave him a questioning look over his shoulder.

"Yes and no. I can do it without it but I'm not as good or as focused yet. I've still got some hurdles to cover. It's only been a few months," he said, grinning. "Even Willow had probs at that time." He poured the hot water into the cup, sealing the lid on it. "Grab me my bag and my book. I'm not walking around with it in the open."

Oz patted it down then pulled the thing from under the bed, tossing it in and handing it over. "I drove." He stood up, pulling out his keys. "Come on, I'll take you to the bookstore first. It'd ease some fears if we came bearing information."

Xander rearranged the contents and slipped his tea inside. "Yeah, sounds good." He zipped it, putting it on and frowning at the door. "I should do what I did to you to the door." He opened it, seeing both his parents in the hall. "You wanted to know something?" They shook their heads, getting out of his way.

The two young men walked down to the van, getting in and driving the five minutes in friendly silence. Xander ran inside, smiling at the woman behind the counter before going into the back. "Hila!" She turned around, smiling at him. "We gotta talk." He pulled her aside. "I ran into another guy, who's disappeared, and the woman he was talking to seems to be having a spell sort of problem. She said he tried to enchant her."

The blonde woman nodded, looking over as Oz walked in. "I've noticed." She smiled at Xander. "You have enough information to handle this. She's under a simple spell from near the front of the book. You'll find it once you're looking for it." She frowned. "As for Malcolm, we don't know where he is, but he's not here." He nodded. "I meant this plane," she said, patting his shoulder. "Trust yourself, you can fix this." She smiled, walking back to the table. "Sorry about that, a student of mine."

Oz pulled the younger man out of the store and down to the van, waiting until he was inside before walking around to get in. "When you said independent study, I guess you meant it." He started the vehicle, pulling out. "Giles should have a clue by now."

Xander put a hand on the older man's arm as his head started to throb. "Parents in my room. Hmm, what are they doing." Oz pulled over but he didn't notice. "Ah, yes, looking for stuff." He frowned. "Damn," he muttered, looking at his friend. "I've got to stash the book at your place. They know. They're tearing up my room at this moment."

"You could call and scare them," he said.

"They're already scared, that's why they're in my room looking for my book and my tea." He grimaced. "Can I?"

"Sure. I have a locked drawer and everything. Or you could store it at Willow's." He shook his head. "Still pissed at her?"

Xander grimaced, rubbing his tongue over his mouth. "Her mother's there helping." He looked out the window. "This sucks."

Oz nodded. "Truly. I'll let you come over to grab it whenever you need," he said, pulling back out into traffic. "Unless you plan on doing something harmful."

"Not me, know better than that." He snorted. "Even if Willow doesn't believe it. Let's call her so she can diffuse her own house before we get there."


"Mother!" Willow yelled, walking into her house. "Why were you helping raid Xander's room?" she asked once the older woman appeared. "Privacy, as you've often told me, is an inalienable right of everyone." She raised an eyebrow at the continued silence. "Well?"

"How did you know I was there?"

"Xander told me." She crossed her arms, ready to squint and pout if she had too. "Well?"

"Dear, we need to discuss this."

"Mom, I'm Wiccan and he's fine. He's just as dedicated and careful as I am."

"Not in this house, you're not," her father said. He looked up from the couch where he was reading. "We're not."

"No *I* am." She looked at them. "Of course, I could always leave too. I'm sure I have friends that would put me up for a while."

Her mother shook her head. "You're not leaving and you're not getting that stuff back. Accept it and go on dear." She walked back into the kitchen.

Willow ran into her room, seeing most everything gone. "You bastards," she swore, getting angry. "I'm not going to let you do this again." She closed her door, pulling open her closet. She pulled out her emergency stash, locking the door before setting it up. "I don't care if those mythical kids do come back." She plugged in her old laptop, booting it up and logging into her mail account. "First a little warning." She typed quickly, hearing someone outside her door. She'd just hit the send key when her door was opened. "I don't care," she told her father. "You can't do anything." He looked really sad as he took it from her, locking her back in with a padlock on the outside.


Xander walked into the library and looked around. "Gee, hurricane season already," he quipped, walking over to the big pile of books. He tossed his down in front of the librarian. "Need it. It's in there somewhere. Hila said some sort of enchantment spell."

"It's spelled so we can't read it," the older man reminded, handing it back. "Do be good enough to write it down for us." He didn't look up as Buffy walked in. "What?" he asked, testy at the interruptions.

"Just checked my mail. Will's parents went off on her about her Wiccan thing." Xander snorted. "Your's too?"

He nodded, sitting down and looking at the pages he usually skipped over. "Found two. One for simple enchantment, a love spell, and one for sudden attraction and emotion." Giles grunted. "Want both?"

"Please." He handed over a tablet, not watching as he wrote quickly. He took it back, looking down at it. "Bloody hell, I thought you were on the right side." He looked over the stack of books. "Let me see the book, Xander."

Xander handed it over. "Hey, it's got all sorts of spells in there." He followed Giles into the office. "What?" He was pushed to the floor. "What? I didn't do anything wrong."

"No, we're going to read it together."

"Only if you're getting into my mind," he said. He saw the determined look so rolled up his sleeves, not looking as his hand was cut over the old scar. "Owww," he complained. "You're clean right?"

"Very," Giles said, snorting. "Like I'm that uncareful."

"Can't be too careful," Xander muttered, taking back the book. He flipped it to those pages, showing them to the older man. "See?"

Giles shook his head. "Not really." He took off his glasses. "It's still gibberish." He looked at the younger man. "Can you still read it?"

He squinted, then shook his head. "Let go." He did and it was clear again. "It's you." He looked out at the room. "Oz?"

"Werewolf virus," was yelled back.

Giles frowned. "We can't protect you from it." He stood up. "Do you have any idea about canceling it or finding the young man?"

Oz walked into the office, closing the door. "His person said he wasn't on this plane." He looked down at Xander. "Take my hand," he said, concentrating on his own slight weirdness. He looked down at the book, nodding. "I can see it. My wolfy side and his magic seem to play nicely."

Willow ran in, panting. "Damn them," she said. She looked at the two men. "Oh please tell me this is about the book, I don't need that sort of shock." Xander nodded. "Okay then." She looked at Giles. "Seems we have a new anti-magic person in town but he's using, doing the enchant the parents to get the kids so he can sit back and laugh thing. I snuck out a window to get here but I could feel it when he walked in. He's got to my parents."

"Are you sure it was a he?" Xander asked, flipping pages. She nodded. "Okay, well I may have something." He looked at Oz, then at their joined hands. "Try it now," he said quietly.

Oz let go, then shook his head. "Thanks." He grabbed the book. "Wipe that off." He pulled Willow and Giles from the room, bringing it to the table. He sat down, copying from it, handing over what he'd written to Giles. "About right?"

The Librarian smiled nastily. "Oh, very." He looked back at the office, seeing his tea pot being used. "He's still using it?"

"It's easier," Oz said, looking back down. "If everyone's stuff is gone, how do we fix it?"

"Restore the balance," Xander said. He sat down, looking over the older man's shoulder. "Sounds about right. No counter?" He flipped a page, reaching under Oz's arm. "Hmm, good one there."

Oz looked down at it and then at him. "Not for you."

"Don't even," the younger teen male said. He looked at Willow. "Go hide in the cage. Take the books with you." He looked at Oz. "It says two, not which two."

Giles slapped himself on the head. "No," he muttered. "Not that spell again." He helped gather up his books and carried them inside the cage. He grabbed the ones from the office, doing the same for the ones hidden among the stacks. He locked the cage door behind her, shaking his head. "Where and how?"

Xander shuddered. "Not you." He looked at Oz. "You and me or you and him or some other untouched party."

Oz looked back at the cage and down at the book. He nodded, standing up. "We need some stuff."

"Know that," Xander said, taking the book and his tea out, getting into the van. "Read some stuff," he admitted. He looked at Oz. "Are you sure? You have to be certain."

Oz nodded. "Not my first time,." he said quietly. "But that puts you under." He started the van, backing up and pulling out. "Got to stop at the store, you wait in here with the doors locked." Xander nodded, watching as they pulled into a drug store parking lot. He locked the doors behind himself, walking inside.

Xander finished his tea and put the mug down in the single cup holder. He put the book under the seat before looking around. He saw Willow's parents looking at the van in disgust. "Come on, Oz," he said, "hurry up. We're almost busted here." He sighed in relief as the older man walked out, getting in. He took the small bag, looking inside. "Um, about that one thing?"

"Necessary," Oz said, starting it back up and pulling out. "Trust me on this, very messy otherwise." He headed out of town, going to a friend's house. Xander started to shudder as they pulled in. "Here too?"

"Bad guy central," he said, pointing at the window. "Friend?"

"Very," Oz said, starting to get out. He saw the man inside slap the window, yelling something. He looked in the mirror then slammed the door closed, locking it. "You were right," he said, restarting the van. "Need safe spot now."

Xander smiled suddenly. "I know where." He leaned over to whisper directions, leaning back and making sure his door was locked as they pulled out.


"With force and with love," Xander repeated, shaking the herbs onto the fire, "we summon the balance to return and to aid us and protect us in this hour of bright light and persecution." He let the rest fall, looking over at Oz, who nodded. He stood up, pulling off his clothes. "With this gift of my sacredness, may it bless all so that balance returns and we are all equal and the same through our differences and specialness."

"With, through, and using us, restore the balance of this town. We implore thee Gods, restore the balance using this sacrifice to aid you." Oz looked up from where he was laying on his back, motioning him over.

Xander came over to kneel beside him. "With this sacrifice of me, let the balance be restored and all be as it was before." He leaned down for a kiss, moving to straddle his friend's body.

"Don't," Oz said quietly. "I'm not ready yet."

Xander shook his head. "Not my first choice of ways either." He moved a little closer. "She'll forgive both of us." The older teen nodded, moving his hands up to hold the younger man still. "Readier?" Oz nodded so he positioned himself and held the older man still as he sunk down, hissing. "Way huge," he muttered, making Oz smile. "Gee, didn't know you did that."

Oz nodded, waiting for him to set the pace. "Sometimes." He stroked lightly over a ticklish side, removing the younger man's mind from what he was doing. "Let it go," he said.

Xander finished sinking down, panting and leaning forward. "Damn huge," he said. He moved some, more wiggle than anything. "Now what?"

"Now this," the older man said, pushing up. He almost grinned again at the intense look of pleasure he brought to his friend. "Xan?"

The younger man opened his eyes, bracing on the floor as he leaned over to do it himself, wanting to take some control back. He looked into the lighter eyes, seeing the depth of emotion they hid. "Me too," he said, moving again.

Oz rolled them over, getting to his knees. "Better this way," he said.

"Aww, but I liked it that way." He moaned loudly as he felt the harder push in. "Never mind," he whispered, licking his lips. "Like this fine."

Oz started to laugh, doing it again. "Thought you might." He set a quick pace, not to get it over with but because he couldn't last. He watched the dark eyes intently, hearing and paying attention to every noise and movement, enjoying them all. He groaned the younger man's name, watching as the eyes darkened further and came with him, smiling broadly but with happy tears flowing freely.

They laid together for a while, just cuddling. "Nice," Xander said. He turned to look at his friend. "Not you though?"

"Yeah, I've got her." He shook his head, rolling it around. "Wonder if it worked?"

"One of us should have a cell phone for cases and stuff." Xander rolled to his knees, looking at the few spots of blood on the blankets. "Um, Oz, is that normal?"

The older man looked down then at the body part that invaded his vision. He checked him gently, smiling at the groan. "As far as I can tell." He played a little. "I take it you like this?"

"Much better than topping," he whispered. He looked over his shoulder. "Can we? I mean, just once more?"

Oz shook his head. "Not while I'm with her." He sat up, pulling the other man into his lap. "Xander, you know this was a special case. It can't happen again, not while I'm with Willow." He saw the sadness. "Tell you what, okay?" He turned the head around to look into the deep eyes again, seeing the pain. "Let me talk to her, no specifics at all, and we'll see?"

Xander nodded, getting up and getting dressed. "I know, it's just that it felt to *right* and *normal* and things." He turned to look at the older man. "Oz, I'm not usually like this." The older man nodded. "You can forget it if you want, I'll even try, but I realized that before we started. I just let it go in my head." He walked out of the house, standing on the porch.

Oz got up slowly, getting redressed and cleaning up their mess. He walked out to the van, getting in. "Xan, I'm sorry..." He was cut off by a soft hand.

"It's all right," the younger man said. "I understand. I really do." He removed the hand and turned to look out the window. "We need to go back."

"You need to go rest."

"Will later, we've got to see if it worked." Xander kept himself from giving in to the pain, the one in his rear or the one in his head, and worked hard not to show how tired he really was.

Oz nodded, starting the van and pulling out onto the street. He looked up at the small house and pulled away.

Giles looked up as they walked in, smiling. "I'd say it worked. Amy and Willow are both back to normal." He pulled out a chair, watching as Xander sat. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly. "I have some pain killers if you want."

He shook his head. "No, thanks." He looked up. "Where are they?"

"Going to reclaim their things, well Willow's things." He looked at Oz. "What about..." He looked down at the hand on his arm.

"We're not speaking of it. My book will be at his house and I'll leave my tea in your office. I'm not into trusting my parents that way right now." He rubbed over his forehead, trying to take the ache that had started when he was casting out. "Maybe I will take some painkillers."

Oz and Giles looked at him in alarm. The older man went to get him some of his tea and the bottle, while Oz patted his hand, looking over him. Xander took three of the pain killers, then shook his head, running out of room to go throw them back up.

Giles looked at the younger man. "Oz, has he ever attempted anything that major before?" He saw the head shake so went after him, heading to grab some ice first. He stopped outside of the bathroom, listening to his student have all the classic problems of using too much energy at once and having some backlash. He walked in when he heard water running, handing him the ice. "You'll be fine. Just don't attempt anything in the next few weeks." He looked him over. "Come on, you need to rest now. You overtaxed yourself." He led him out, walking him out to his car. "Your home or mine?"

"Yours," Xander groaned. He let his head fall back against the headrest, closing his eyes. "Don't want to face my parents."

Giles nodded, staying silent in deference to the headache he knew all too well. He drove to his apartment, letting the younger man inside and running him a hot bath, not adding too much water in case he fell asleep.

Xander looked around then down at himself where he was being steadied. "Guess you know this prob too?" Giles nodded, tugging on the t-shirt. "Oh, no. I can do this part, you go help them and make sure it worked." He grinned. "Thanks, G-man." He wobbled over to close the door behind the older man and stripped quickly, sighing as his tired body hit the hot water.


Oz looked up as Xander walked in. "Feeling better?" He nodded, sitting down in the chair. "You sure? Giles said three weeks to be safe but it's not been that long."

"Too long," Xander said, sipping his tea. He picked up the book from where Oz had just tossed it. "Reading it too?"

"Do you mind?" He leaned back when he saw the head shake, relaxing. "Some of that stuff might come in useful. I figured at least one of us should keep going."

Xander smiled. "Both," he said, flipping it open. "Where are you?"

"Blue ribbon." He watched as it was turned too. "I've just been reading though." The younger man nodded, turning back to where he had been. "Xan, try something simple. If it doesn't work then I'm not going to let you."

Xander flipped through to a warming spell, using it on his cup of tea. He grinned as it started to steam again. "See?" He removed his hand as it exploded. "Oops."

Oz shook his head. "Start back at the control stuff." He pulled on his headphones, listening as he watched the younger man read. //I've been thinking,// he sent. //How do we do this?//

//Not a clue, just discovered it after I woke up that first night.// He looked over to grin. //Find a reason yet?//

//Nope,// Oz sent, along with some of the music. //What do you think?//

"If that's your's, then I'd say you needed to leash the drummer," he said, flipping a page. "Hey, um, Oz, did you read the section on rites and passages?" He turned to see the head shake. "You ought to. //When two have bonded as one and are truly meant to be that way, it is not uncommon for them to be bound more so, sometimes to the point of skills between them.// He looked back up. "You don't think...."

"Not us," Oz said, pulling the headphones on tighter. "Oh, and Willow said to tell you she wanted to have a word with you." He held the pillow up to cushion the book as it was tossed at him. //Easy. I don't need a bruise. She's gonna say it's all right and we're all still fine. At least what she knows about, which isn't the whole thing.// He looked around the edge of the pillow. "Xander?"

//Hmm?// He felt his mind clouding. "Oohh, headache's back." He rubbed his forehead. //Again,// he sent, frustrated. //Hila?// He heard the quiet laughter. //Please don't tell me you're locking my powers back up.//

//No,// she sent him. //Quite the opposite. We're ready to say that you're not a novitiate.//

Oz shook his head. //We're not ready for that yet. We still have a lot to learn.// He looked at the younger man. //Maybe this time next year.//

She sighed over the linkage. //We can do that but he's going to have a hard year ahead, as will you.//

//No,// Xander said, //I'm not ready for that yet. If such a simple spell as warming a cup up still hurts after two and a half weeks, then I'm not ready yet.//

They could both see the smile. //Very wise choice Alexander. I'm sure I won't regret the day we met. Even if I won't be here then.//

Xander looked at Oz, who shrugged. //We'll be over tonight. It doesn't mean I have to use it.//

//Your mentor can do it, young man, when he believes you are ready.//

"Good, then you're taking a break from it," Oz said. He almost sighed at the emphatic nodding. //Can you tell him how and that sort of thing?//

//He's here right now, young man. Get him to bed and make him rest. This will go away soon, just make sure he drinks none of that tea.// Her side of the link went dead.

Oz looked at Xander. "You heard her." He did grin at the groan. "Come on, you can have my bed and I'll go watch tv." He got up, removing the clothes, book, and other things off of it, waving him down. "And I mean sleep." He waited until he heard the mind calm, just as it had every night for two and a half weeks. //Sleep safe, Xander. We'll work it out tomorrow.// He walked out, heading for the living room.


Xander walked out of the library, heading for his house. He had his book and a clear need for the next day. He locked his door, sitting down and opening the book to help them. It had been a few months since he'd been in it but with the Ascension, the whole town could use as much help as it could get.

the end