Giles frowned as he walked into his apartment, heading to turn down the stereo before his ears could start bleeding from the noise blasting through his speakers. He turned to glare at his student, who was floating things and making them dance in the air. "Are you having fun?" he asked dryly, watching his chess pieces waltz. "Why do you only do these things at night?"
"More or less, and I only do it at night because it seems to work better at night. You said I needed to practice." Xander pulled the pieces down in groups, sweating by the time he was ready to catch the last three, which he dropped. "Oops," he muttered, getting down to pick them up off the floor. "They're fine though." He got back into his chair, setting the pieces back on the table. "I couldn't float the rooks for some reason."
Giles sat down across from him, switching a few of the pieces around. "How were you doing that?"
"It was just the levitation thing you have me practice almost daily." He shrugged at the incredulous look. "The hard part was keeping them going while I was catching a few of them. That's why I dropped the last three."
"Huh," Oz said as he looked up from the couch, rubbing his eyes. "Having fun?
"Yup," Xander said, looking at him. "Was floating the chess pieces, all except the rooks, which I couldn't for some reason."
Oz got up and walked over to look down at the board, absently moving a piece to a new spot to start a new game. "You need to practice with these more?" Xander shook his head and got up, giving Oz his seat. "Thanks. Your move."
Giles thought for a second and pushed a pawn out to counter Oz's move of a knight. "Yours." He grabbed Xander around the waist before he could leave. "That was a very good job, but next time, work at it slower. Work your way up to catching them in groups."
"Okay." Xander nodded, grabbing his jacket off the couch. "I'm going to go back to the den of noiselessness." He walked out, not sure that they had heard him.
"Should do something about his house," Oz said absently as he moved a bishop. "Staying there by himself could be dangerous."
"I believe he's doing fine," Giles said, countering Oz's last move.
Xander walked into his work, reaching behind the counter to get his check. "Just me," he called when he heard footsteps. He smiled at his boss, waving his check. "I thought I'd be responsible and pick it up for once."
Liberty checked her watch. "Xander, weren't you scheduled to work today?" He shook his head. "You're sure?"
"Unless I have an old schedule, I'm not supposed to work until tomorrow, then I'm supposed to work all weekend." He picked up the clipboard with the schedule, looking at it, then handed it over. "That's last weeks. This weeks was slid under my door."
Liberty looked it over and blushed. "So it is, I'm sorry."
"No big." He leaned on the counter, looking at her. "You going to fire me? I know business is down."
"I'm just starting to get concerned. You're not here all the time anymore and you didn't show up at all today. We were starting to wonder if you were possessed or something."
"Nope, been working hard with Giles," he said with a small grin. "I was going to come in tonight though. Is that going to be a problem?"
"No, young man, it is not." She reached over, pinching his nose. "But if business doesn't pick up, I may have to cut you back to part-time for a while. Rent on this place just went up again."
He nodded. "I understand. I really don't need the money at the moment." He tapped the envelope with his check in it a few times. "Unless something happens to my insurance money or something, I'm doing okay and that would be fine. I'm sure Giles would even like it more because then he could make me practice longer hours."
"That's how you get good," she reminded him with a smile. "Go home, Xander. Come back if you need to." She walked back into the backroom, letting the curtain separating the two places fall behind her.
Xander walked out, heading for his bank then home. He admired his bank balance, smiling at the slip as he walked down the street. That's why he never noticed the people he ran into. Before he realized it, he was being dragged into an alley. He tried to send for help through the teaching bond he had with Giles then through the one he shared with Oz. There was no way he could fight five vampires at once. He heard running just as two of them grabbed him to hold him still. He tried to fight off the one biting him, pushing and kicking the cool body. Even when his head was held still and his mouth held open, he tried to spit out the blood. Then, just like that, they were gone. Xander closed his eyes, taking a few deep breaths to steady himself. They left him alive, weak but still living. He looked toward the end of the alley, whistling as loud as he could to get the blonde at the end's attention.
Buffy jogged over to look down at him. "You okay?" she asked, squatting down to check him over. She wiped at the blood on his lips, frowning at it. "How many?"
"Five that I counted. They held me still." He let her help him up. "They didn't take that much." She nodded. "Giles?"
"No, your home. You need to rest. I'll tell him." She walked him to the end of the alley, checking around them to make sure that no one was around. "Xander, no stake?" she sighed.
He pulled it out. "I didn't see them, the first thing I knew my arms were pinned." He rolled his eyes at her long-suffering sigh. "I'll make it home, go report to Giles, he's playing a chess game with Oz." He shuffled off down the street, heading for his house. His eyes started to feel heavy as he walked up to the back door, almost closing when he opened the it. He looked around, stepping inside, and the lethargy stopped. "Willow?" he called. She walked up from his room in the basement. "What's with the spell?" He only knew one person with that power signature, and he now knew it very well.
"You needed to be left alone to practice," she said with a smile. Then her smile fell away as she caught sight of his neck. She walked over, turning on the light to check the bite marks. "Who saved you?"
"They dropped me, only took a few pints." He wiped off his mouth, showing her the blood. "But they did that too. Buffy's going to tell Giles. She was standing at the end of the alley where they jumped me."
"Why were you in an alley?"
"Wasn't. I was walking past the alley. They grabbed me before I knew they were even there." He shrugged at her frown. "Go frown downstairs. I need to sleep."
"No, we need to clean you up a little," she said, giving him a critical once-over. "I'll call Giles and Oz once you're in bed to make sure that you'll be fine." She led him into the bathroom, taking his clothes to throw in the washer, leaving him alone to take a shower and brush his teeth. He never saw her pleased smile as she walked away checking his pockets.
Xander stood under the warm water, sighing as it hit all the now-sore spots on his body. He scrubbed down as well as he could, the dizziness coming back after a few minutes in the steam. He rinsed off and walked out of the shower, heading for the sink and his toothbrush, ignoring his wet state for now. He wiped off the mirror, wincing as he saw the bruising on his neck that was bound to get worse as the night wore on. "Bastards," he muttered, adding toothpaste to his brush and starting on his teeth. He winced as the light started to waver, spitting out the foam before he could choke on it. He rinsed out his mouth and wrapped a towel around his hips, heading to his room to go lay down for a while. "I'll call Giles later to make sure someone told him," he whispered as he crawled between his sheets. He picked up the paper laying on his pillow, shrugging off the meaningless symbols and tossing it aside. "Wonder where Willow went," he mused as he fell asleep.
Buffy walked into Giles' apartment, looking very confused. "I have no idea why I went out tonight. It's like I had this sudden urge to go take a walk down a certain street, and only that one." She tapped her foot when neither man looked at her. "Um, guys? Strange Slayer behavior? Xander was bitten?"
Giles' head popped up. "He was what? Where's his body."
"No, not a body." She sat on the back of the couch, looking at them, shifting when Oz frowned at her because he could look up her skirt. "They grabbed him, bit him, fed him, then ran off without killing him. He was able to move and talk and everything. And the strange thing is, I was standing at the end of the alley way the whole time, just watching it. It's like I was meant to see it but not to interfere because they weren't going to kill him."
Oz stood up. "I'm going to head over and check on him. You figure this out and tell us." He grabbed his jacket. "I'll call from his house with information." He walked out, pulling out his keys.
Giles grabbed a pad of paper and a pen, handing it to Buffy. "Write out *exactly* what happened. To the most intimate feeling." She nodded, sliding off the couch to sit at the table. "I'll start to look up strange behaviors."
"Um, would feeling funny an hour or so ago be worth writing down?" He stopped his trek to the bookcases, turning to look at her. "It was just a funny, world-twisty feeling."
She bit her lip then nodded. "Yeah, like I was being prepared for a spell. Like when you guarded me that one time maybe."
Giles sat down on the chair in the corner, looking at her. "How long before that was this feeling?"
"About an hour. Then it stopped and I went back to reading on my bed. Willow had said she was going to go looking for Oz to talk to him so the room was all quiet and stuff."
Giles reached over and picked the phone, dialing Xander's number quickly. "Oz? Do you feel magic about the house?" He frowned. "No, I'll be right over with Buffy. Stay there by the door." He stood up, waving at the door. "Come on." She nodded, proceeding him out the portal.
Giles winced as he walked up to Xander's back door, knocking gently. He sighed as he walked inside, looking around. "Where is he?"
"In bed." Oz pointed down at the basement. "He still hasn't moved back upstairs."
"If he did that, he'd have to admit his parents were really gone," Buffy noted. Both men looked at her. "He would."
"Good point." Giles walked down the stairs, looking over his student's moving body. "At least he hasn't died." He saw a piece of paper on the floor so he picked it up to read it. He scowled and crumped it up, grabbing the phone off the bedside table and dialing the magic shop. "Elizabeth, it's Rupert. No, Xander's here and fine, but someone cast the Shearpman spell on him. No, without his will. I'm sure he would have said something about doing that harmful of a spell, Elizabeth." He glared at the wall behind the phone. "Really? Why? But he's not been changed. At the most he's now middle of the road instead of purely good." He groaned in frustration. "No, Liberty, he didn't cast it. Oz or I were with him all day. Whomever did it infected his house with the spell. No, he was at mine all day. Yes, he does have a feeder crystal in here. No, it's not weakened the aura at all. Yes, you may check him. Is he due in tomorrow? Then I'll come with him. No, I'll make sure he's fine tonight. Yes, we both will." He hung up, glancing around the room. "Oz, pack him a bag, Buffy, we're taking him out to the van."
"Should we?" Oz asked, looking around. "Someone went to a lot of trouble to make sure he'd be safe tonight."
"Yes, but the longer he stays in this aura, the stronger he'll become." He picked up the paper, tucking it into his pocket. "Come on. Let's go now before it can infect him any more." He lifted Xander's head up, watching as Buffy lifted his feet, Oz making sure the sheet was wrapped around him. As they were walking out, a cop car pulled up. "There's nothing wrong," he called to the officer getting out.
"Gee, it looks like you're kidnapping him."
"He had a gas leak earlier," Buffy said quickly. "It was fixed but we were worried and he's a heavy sleeper so we're taking him to sleep on Giles' couch."
"Really?" the cop asked sarcastically. He looked at Oz as he walked out. "Gas leak?"
"In the stove. The tubing needed tightened." He shrugged, handing Buffy the bag and taking Xander's feet himself. "Van's unlocked, go open the back." He walked Xander around the cop, nodding at him. "Night."
"As long as he's fine."
Xander woke up, looking up in alarm. "Giles?"
"Shh, we're taking you away from the gas leak," Buffy said, resting a finger on his lips. "Tell the nice officer we're not kidnapping you?"
Xander blinked then looked at the cop following them. "They wouldn't kidnap me. I'm Giles' protégée and Oz is one of my best friends. So's she," he said to ease the pout Buffy was starting. "I can walk guys."
"I'm sure," Oz said, "but I'm betting the world is really spinny so you're not going to."
Xander closed his eyes and nodded. "Definitely." He opened one eye to look at the cop. "They're just taking care of me. It's a good."
"I'm sure," he said again. "Go ahead. Who fixed the stove?"
"I did," Oz said. "All it needed was tightening. Found out how from TLC." He backed into his van, allowing Xander's feet to hit the floor. "Okay?"
"Just get out of the way," Giles told him with a small smile. "Then he can sit up once we close the door.
"Why?" Xander asked, closing his eyes again. "I was comfy. There's this pressure now."
"Shh," Oz told him, resting a hand on his head. "That's the gas." He climbed into the driver's seat, waiting on Giles to get in and shut the door, Buffy sliding in beside him. "Later," he called to the cop, heading out of the driveway and down the street. "Xander?"
"Who was there when you got home?"
"Wills was. She was creating a privacy barrier." He winced as the pressure grew then suddenly left. "Wow. Gonna get the bends." He leaned over, laying his head on Giles' shoulder. "What's wrong?"
"Have you heard of the Shearpman spell?" Xander shook his head, looking up at him. "It's a way for a sorcerer such as yourself to become more powerful by riding the edge of the dark. It's meant to turn you partially." He ran a hand over the bite marks. "Do they hurt?"
"Itch. But vamp blood tastes gross." He made a sour face as he felt something crawling up his leg. "Oz, do you have bugs?"
"No," Giles said gently, running his fingers through the dark hair. "It's a side-effect of the spell. It's the blood mingling with yours to make you more aware and attuned to everything around you."
"Is that why Oz feels like this bright spot?" Xander blinked hard, trying to stay awake. "Can I nap?"
"No, Xander, if you do, the spell will fully take hold." He looked up as the van slowed down. "Home?"
"Yup. Yours." Oz turned off the engine. "Want help getting napping boy inside?"
"Yes, if you wouldn't mind."
"Let Power Girl do it," Buffy said, sliding out and coming over to open the back door, letting Xander get out and helping him walk inside. "Do you need me?"
"No," Giles told her. "But if you see Willow, inform her I wish to see her in the morning and keep her from her equipment. We don't need her casting again tonight." She nodded, heading out of the house. Giles waited until the door was shut. "Upstairs?"
"Yeah," Xander muttered, standing up, dropping the sheet as he walked up the stairs, not caring who saw his nudity.
Oz and Giles followed, settling in on either side of him, watching him to see how much he would change.
Buffy sat up as Willow walked into the dorm room they shared, looking her over. "Where'd you go?"
"Just around. Oz wasn't anywhere so I guess Xander was hogging him again." She sat down on her bed. "What's going on? You look tired." She leaned back, considering the woman on the bed next to her. "Did something happen?"
"Xander was bitten but he's living," Buffy said, standing up. Willow looked shocked. "We already know that you saw him when he walked home and that you were casting funky magic on him, Willow, what were you doing?"
"Nothing. I was creating a safe space for him, somewhere that people wouldn't interrupt him while he was working. It was a gift."
"Uh-huh." Buffy turned to walk back to her bed, missing the handful of thrown herbs that landed on her back. She did turn at the quiet words but by then it was too late. She found herself looking up helplessly as Willow pulled out some of her spell components, placing them around her. "I'm sorry, Buffy, but sometimes the only way to fight the dark is to use it's own powers against it." She drew a figure around the fallen body, standing up to admire her handiwork. "You have to admire someone like Amy, all her spellbooks are well written and very nicely drawn where I needed them." She said a few quiet words as she walked around Buffy's still body, and that was the last thing that Buffy saw until almost dawn.
Xander reached down to scratch his leg, his hand being caught by Oz's. "It itches," he complained. "I got that crawling feeling again."
"Let it happen," Oz soothed, rubbing up the leg for him. "It's not going to hurt you as much as dying would. That's why you can't sleep. If you die, then you turn and then you'll be in trouble." He felt the nod so he let go of the itching leg, smiling as Xander sat up to attack the flesh he had been rubbing. "Shh, it'll stop soon," he reminded, taking the hands off before they could open the leg.
"Don't care," Xander growled, making Oz jump. He pulled away himself, looking at Oz. "What? Am I suddenly scary?"
"A little," Giles agreed as he walked in with a mug of tea. "Here, drink this, it will stop the physical properties of the spell."
"No more itches?"
"Yes, Xander, no more itches." Giles watched as the young man drank the foul brew, steadily gulping it down. Then he got out of his way so he could go be sick. He looked over at Oz, who shrugged. "How much has he changed?"
"He growled. His eyes almost have a yellow ring around the pupils, it's kinda almost green/yellow though. He's stronger, his nails were going to start pulling up flesh in a second."
"Hmm." Giles shifted so he was leaning against the headboard, looking at the balcony overlook to the livingroom. "I should think it didn't fully happen. He never died so he's not changed. He's only partially turned, so he should be fine. Of course, once the other magic users hear about this, they'll start to shun him. Some even after they hear that he didn't do it to himself."
"Where is Willow anyway?"
"Probably at home by now. I'm sure Buffy can handle her." Giles patted the bed between himself and Oz, prompting the returning Xander to come sit beside him. "How do you feel?"
"The itches stopped," he groaned as he laid down. "Giles, why is this me?" He rolled onto his side, letting Oz hold him as he looked up at his teacher. "Why do these things happen to me?"
"In this case, this is Willow's doing," he said gently, rolling onto his side to look at his student, and to hold him. "I know that there are many who will shun you now, Xander, but never fear that I'm one of those. None of us here could ever shun you if they know you. We know you're not going to immerse yourself in the dark arts."
"Is that what this is for?"
"Supposedly the spell will allow sorcerers to have a greater access to the powers around them, letting them have both good and evil powers to attain to. There are special forces that only demonic, or demonically blessed, magic users can reach. There are also opposite forces that those blessed by the Gods can reach. Supposedly now you have access to both sides, complete access." He kept the knowledge that both other sorcerers that had tried the spell had went bad to himself, he didn't want to worry the boy too much at the moment.
"So I'm not bad?"
"No, your will is still going to determine where you fit into the order. This has just given you a greater range of powers to choose from, Xander." He ran a gentle hand down the soft cheek. "Did you shave?"
"Earlier while I was bored." Xander closed his eyes, letting himself be held and comforted. "Now what?"
"In the morning, we'll go find Willow and do something about her." He stopped as he heard the door downstairs open. "Let me see who that is." He got up and walked downstairs, smiling at Xander's boss. "Liberty, I was explaining the implications of the spell she cast on him."
"Are you *sure* he didn't do this?" she asked, holding a book to her chest. When he nodded, she handed it over, pointing out the ribbon marking a spot. "You need to read that then. I think it's time."
Giles sat down on the end of the couch, reading the prophecy quickly. "Where did you find this book?"
"A friend of ours works upstate and his family's had it for a while." She sat down across from him. "You know a lot of us are going to shun him, right?"
"Yeah, he knows," Xander said as he walked down the stairs. He looked at his boss, watching her look him over. "See, no different."
"We'll have to wait until the morning to find out how much you've changed," Giles told him, not looking up. "This does appear to be the correct time. May I copy this to read farther?" He looked up, giving her a slight smile. "I doubt that you want me to have the book."
"No problem," Liberty said. "He said to give it to you until you were done. He also said to send her to him." Giles frowned. "They have procedures to deal with people who cast on others in harmful manners."
Buffy jogged in, eyes wide open. "God, stop her?" she begged, falling to her knees beside Giles' legs, hugging him. "I don't know what she did, but I can hear her and she's becoming scary." She looked up, giving him her best begging look. "Please, Giles, make it stop." She sighed as Xander knocked her out.
Giles frowned up at his student. "Don't even, it sounds like she and Willow have some sort of bond and that's a really scary thing. Suddenly being able to hear someone else in your head can be like that. And it's not like I could hurt her," Xander protested.
"You can now," Liberty said, standing up. "Xander, I won't lie to you. You're in a difficult position now. From now on, all of your actions will be watched and commented on by everyone who knows what you've went through tonight, and since you're so young, they'll be expecting you to crumble and join the dark side." He shook his head. "Yes, Xander, that's the way the spell works."
"He never died," Giles said quietly. "At least as far as we can tell." Liberty looked at him. "He's still half."
"Oh, my." She smiled then reached over to kiss his cheek. "Oh, my, you're a very lucky boy." She nodded at Giles. "I'll leave it to you to tell him."
"I was doing so when you came in," he said dryly, giving her a smile back. "We'll come see you in the morning to put out an official notice of his changed state. It's the best thing we can do, get the truth out there as quickly as possible before others hear and make up their own minds."
"Just keep him from turning," she reminded. "I'll gladly let him come work if you can keep him from turning." She walked out after another pat of Xander's face. "Be good and don't die tonight, Xander, the rest of your life depends on it."
Xander waited until they were alone. "Okay. What?"
Oz snorted. "Xander, you're riding the crossbar," he said as he walked down the stairs. "You're partially turned but not going to go totally unless you die. You're getting all the benefits without a lot of the hassles."
"We'll have to call Angel back to talk to him and to teach him the things he'll need to know," Giles said thoughtfully, pulling Xander down to sit on his lap. "My boy, you are now one of the most unique creatures on the face of the earth, and we only have to hold on until dawn, when you'll go outside, to make sure of it."
"Are you sure I won't burn?"
"Maybe your eyes will need covering," Giles said slowly, obviously thinking. "But that is the finish of the spell, to go out and meet the dawning day." He rubbed down the tense back. "As long as you can stay alive tonight, we shouldn't have any problems."
"What about the enhancements," Oz said, nodding at Buffy, who was just starting to move.
"I think he'll do fine with them once he's trained them a bit," Giles told him, looking down at her. "Are we feeling a bit better?"
"Less panicky," she admitted, sitting up, rubbing the back of her head as she glared at Xander. "Easy."
"Sorry. I had no idea I could actually hurt you." He reached down, hugging her. "See, you're okay."
"Yeah, I am," she said, pushing him back, "but you're not. I can't feel him but I can *feel* him, ya know?"
"The cramps?" Giles asked in alarm. "If so then he's turned farther than we thought."
"No, it's more like a strange, fluttery feeling. Sorta like when you meet someone that you *really* like and all." Giles smiled at her for that. "Anyway, what's the big?"
"As long as he doesn't die tonight, before dawn, he'll be fine," Giles told her. "He'll be half turned, he'll have the gifts but none of the drawbacks practically."
"Just gonna need strong sunglasses," Oz said as he sat in the corner reading chair. "So, Xander, any cravings yet?"
"Yeah, just a small one. Buffy? Can I bite your finger?" She snickered and held it up, watching as his baby fangs pierced her index finger and sucked. "Ah," he said after a few drops. "Needed that." He rested his head on Giles' shoulder. "Can I nap?"
"No, if you sleep there's a better chance of you dying," Giles told him.
"But I have this really sated/good feeling going right now and I *really* want to nap."
Oz checked his watch. "In two hours and six minutes, you can nap, okay?" Xander nodded, yawning. "Don't do that," Oz yawned.
Buffy snickered, getting up to stand in front of Xander. "Come on, I want to see how strong you really are." He stood up, walking over to the cleared part of the floor, waiting until she waved him on to throw a punch. "Wow. Almost as strong as Angel, but without the soulless problems." She smiled around him at her former Watcher. "We're gonna do this. You gonna call my ex?"
"Oh, yes, I had forgotten about that part." Giles picked up the phone, dialing from memory. "Angel? Yes, it is. No, we've been having a bit of a night and I was wondering if your calendar was free for the next few days?" A short pause, in which Giles' smiled. "Yes, oh, do you? Did he see Xander perhaps? Being attacked but not turned? Yes, please put him on. Oh, hello. No, Willow worked the Shearpman spell on Xander - young, dark hair, nicely built still?" He smiled at the loud yelling. "When can we expect you? No, he's still awake, he never died. Could you tell me..." He nodded, opening the book that was in his lap to read over it. "That matches with the prophecy I'm holding rather well. Thank you. We'll expect you in time to watch him go out and meet the sun." He hung up, turning to look at the teens watching him. "Angel has someone working with him who has visions. He saw what happened earlier but he couldn't get a clear picture of Xander, it was somehow mixed up with Willow's form. But the rest of it did make sense according to the prophecy. He'll be up before dawn and we'll all go out and meet the day with you, except Angel, who will be as close as possible."
Buffy shrugged. "I'll handle my stuff. Maybe he'll know how to break the bond with Willow." Giles' face fell. "What? It can be broken, right?" Her former Watcher shrugged, looking at his books. "Okay, then what?"
"If worse comes to worse," Oz said quietly, watching Xander start to scratch his arms, "she could do Giles' job for you. Having a Watcher that knew when you were in trouble would help."
Xander turned to look at them. "Why didn't you guys know? I sent to both of you."
Oz shrugged. "I didn't feel a thing, Xander." He stood up, walking over. "If I had, I would have stopped them if possible." He looked into the brown eyes, watching as the thin gold ring around his pupils contracted. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay," Xander said, giving him a hug. "She probably took that into account and blocked it somehow."
"I wouldn't know how," Giles said softly, standing up to walk in front of him. "But I didn't feel a thing either." He concentrated on the bond he and his student shared. "It still works, I can tell you're about to rip off your arm to get the crawling to stop." Xander nodded and they both looked at Oz.
"I know how much he itches," he reminded them. "I can feel it first hand, and hear the swearing he's doing." He rubbed down the itching arm, gently soothing the twitching muscles. "Just let it go, we'll figure it out. I didn't feel you earlier either, when you were dancing the chess pieces around."
Xander nodded, hugging him. "Okay. I guess it was a spell of some sort."
Buffy snapped her fingers. "She was talking about Amy's spell books before she knocked me out with her spell." Giles looked at her in alarm. "That's when I woke up with the thoughts of her in me and her gone. So I ran over here."
"I'd say it was a good idea," Giles told her, reaching over to squeeze her shoulder. "We'll find a way to fix it, Buffy."
"And if not, I'm sure that there's one thing in this world that would fix the thing," Oz said coolly, his voice as close to dripping ice as it ever got. Everyone stared at him in shock. "What? She's had Xander physically assaulted and possibly killed and vamped. She could have killed Buffy with what she did to her. I'd say she was due some punishment somehow."
Giles nodded. "Very true, she is due some. I'm just not sure what we can do to her that wouldn't affect Buffy at the moment." He pulled Oz closer, hugging him lightly. "I'm sure she'll be punished for all she's done."
"Huh?" Buffy asked. "Was there something else recently?"
Xander groaned. "Giles, you removed Willow's memory block of this last summer but not Buffy's. She doesn't know." He turned around, heading into the kitchen. "Can I make breakfast for myself?"
"Please, but try not to make it rare steak," Giles called, pulling Buffy over to the couch to reverse his spell on her memory.
"Eww," Xander muttered. "Don't want that. Liked how Buffy tasted, all girl-like and all, but don't want raw steak."
"Hormones?" Oz suggested.
"Yes, well, the last case like this, who fully turned - it's only happened twice before and they both turned -, only needed the hormones in blood. It's a decent bet that Xander will start to crave the estrogen in female blood. He won't really need that much whole blood."
"Just a little," Xander said, looking at the eggs he had pulled out. "Can I eat eggs?"
"I don't see why not," Giles said. "Are they bad?" Xander looked over his shoulder, giving him a pitiful look. "Yes, Xander, as far as I know, real food won't harm you."
"Thanks." Xander pulled out a pan to cook in. "You know what else sounds good right now?" he asked as he got into the freezer. "Pork chops."
"Pigs are like people," Oz noted. Buffy looked at him. "Some of the insulin diabetics take is from pigs. Their organs are a lot like ours." She shuddered and walked in to help Xander cook.
Giles shook his head, lying back on the couch. "Oz, will you watch over Xander for a bit? I really could use a nap."
"I got it," Buffy called. "Nap away." She put her hand on Xander's back, rubbing the curve. "So, you gonna be okay with this?"
"Not much choice," he said quietly, flipping over the pork chop and stirring his eggs with the same fork. "Why did she do this to me? Did she say anything?"
"Just that sometimes you have to fight the dark with it's own powers." She shrugged at his dirty look. "Sorry, that's what she said. That and something about a gift of privacy for your home."
"She cast from my house, the spell around it weighs on people until they get inside. It's like heavy pressure until you're out of it, then it just snaps." He shrugged at her hiss. "I have a crystal that dissipates excess magic in the house, Giles gave it to me when the mirror started to talk to me, so maybe that'll help."
Oz got up and walked into the kitchen, hugging him. "It'll be okay. We'll deal with the spell and we're not leaving you alone to deal with this, Xander. You're not going to be shunned by us."
"Thanks. Oh, and you'll need to help me get my lie straight." Buffy looked at him funny. "I have money in the bank now, the survivor's benefits and insurance money is more than enough to live on so my check's been hitting the bank, and they're really picky. They refused to let a woman into her money because she changed her hair color and the tellers didn't recognize her." He looked at Oz, showing off the gold ring around his pupil. "I think this is a little bigger change." He took both pans off the heat, pulling down a plate to dish it up. "I'll share or cook if you'd like."
"No thanks," Buffy said, waving him off. "I'm too upset to eat." She hugged him. "Thanks for stopping the panic earlier. It was the right thing to do." She walked out to grab the book Giles was sleeping on, putting it on the coffeetable before she joined Xander and Oz at the table. "Is this what you guys have?" They both stared at her. "Willow told me a few weeks ago that you guys can share thoughts and stuff." She covered her mouth. "Oh, my, God." She shook her head. "She's heard the whole conversation. She's at her mother's. She's packing to leave town. Her mind's saying something about avoiding us until we're not mad."
"Fat chance," Xander muttered. "Want to go stop her and bring her over? I think she should see exactly what's she's done to me." He cut up his pork chop, eating a bite, then tossed down his fork. "I can't eat."
"Why?" Oz asked, taking his hand. "And if I get a say, I don't want to be in the same city as her."
"Can I be mean and snarky and suggest someone bind her from doing harm?" Buffy suggested.
Giles sat up, looking over the back of the couch at her. "I'm thinking about that as a punishment, but Liberty has requested that she appear before some of the more powerful sorcerers to answer for what she's done. I was going to humor her and send her up there with you, so you could explain the unique circumstances you find yourself in." She nodded, looking at him. "They're good people, Buffy, I know of them and they're fair above all else. They'll not harm you but they will devise a punishment for Willow." He looked over at Xander, who was staring at his food. "Is it an inability to eat due to the stress of the moment or is it a food is repellent now thing?"
"Just stress," Xander sighed, pushing his plate away to put his head down. "This sucks. How much longer?"
"About an hour and a half," Oz told him, showing him his watch. "Why don't you go do your spell preparation stuff?"
"Yes, it would effectively kill most of the time and it does seem to calm you," Giles said, getting up and coming over to hug his student around the shoulders. "Go take a shower and prepare yourself." He touched the still smooth cheek. "Though I think you won't have to shave for a while."
"Gee, is that another side effect? Does that mean my hair won't grow either?" He looked up. "I'll go take a shower. Tell me when Angel gets here?"
"Of course." Giles let him go, watching his back as he retreated to the bathroom, then took his seat. "We need to be gentle with this subject for a few days. This has got to be hard for him."
"How changed is he?" Oz asked Buffy.
"Slightly. Maybe half. He's still human, but he's tainted basically." She looked outside. "They're here." Someone knocked on the door so she got up to answer it. "Hi, come in," she said, getting out of the young man in front of Angel's way. "Xander's in the shower." She looked over, finding him standing at the end of the kitchen. "Or not."
Angel walked carefully closer to Xander, looking him over. "I can feel you," Xander said, looking at him, staring him directly in the eyes. "And yeah, it's something I can differentiate. There are two or three outside."
"Three," Buffy said.
"Have you fed?" Angel asked him, looking the damp body over.
"Just a few drops. I filter the blood somehow. I needed the girl-stuff in Buffy's blood and I had a little bit of the whole stuff, just a few drops though."
Angel nodded. "Go finish your shower. We'll talk once you're done." He turned, walking over to the table to sit down across from Giles. "He hasn't died?" Everyone shook their heads. "You know if he does it after sunrise, he'll either die or turn, right? Sixty-forty chance of him turning?" Giles nodded. "Are you willing to take that risk?"
"Yes," Giles said, looking over at Xander. "He's well worth the risk he could become. We'll teach him to fight so he'll be safe from the hordes that will want him to be turned. Go finish your shower, you can talk to him later."
Xander nodded, looked at the man that had come with Angel. "What are you?"
"Half human, can you tell?" Xander nodded. "Then you're better than the girls are."
"Hey," Buffy said, frowning. "I'm just off my game at the moment. Having Willow ranting in my head is screwing with me." Angel looked at her in alarm. "She did some sort of spell and now I can hear her in my head." She shrugged. "I'm hoping if I ignore her she'll quit talking to me. Oh, but she did say that she was doing it for Xander's own good, something about helping him to become as powerful as anything we could ever fight."
Giles and Angel both groaned, the former Watcher rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Oh, hell," Angel muttered, walking over to sit in front of her, looking into her eyes. "Can you repeat what she's saying?"
"Putting her into a calm state might work better," Oz said, shrugging when Angel looked at him in confusion. "Xander and I have shared one since we did a spell together. His first major one."
"And you've been one of the best things in my life," Xander said, kissing the top of his head. "I really want a shower, so I'm going to go do that. Do I still have time?"
"Fifty minutes," Angel told him without looking at a watch. Xander nodded and headed into the bathroom. "Can you put her under light hypnosis, Rupert?"
"I can," he agreed, "I'm just not sure it's the right thing to do."
"If Willow had planned for him to turn..." He left the rest hanging, knowing the Watcher knew what it meant.
"I know. Buffy, go get comfortable on the couch. We'll do as he suggests so you can tell us what's going on."
"Um, she's getting ready to leave."
Oz got up, heading for the door. "Angel, wanna help?"
"I'll go," the man who had come with Angel said, getting up. "Doyle," he said, holding out a hand.
"Oz." They walked out together, getting into the van.
Giles walked over to where Buffy was now lying, pulling a crystal on a string out of a wooden box next to the couch. "Focus on this, please." She nodded, watching it swing.
Oz pulled up beside the bus station, leaving the van running as he and Doyle got out, heading into the waiting area. They each grabbed one of Willow's arms, dragging her out to the van and tossing her into the back with Doyle following. Oz tossed the bag he had picked up after her and shut the door, getting back in to drive them to Giles'.
When they got back in, Giles opened the door, watching as she was pushed in by her boyfriend. "Willow, what were you thinking?" he asked her, tipping her head up to look at him. "You didn't know what you were doing."
"I was giving you guys the advantage. Some things have to be beaten by using it's own powers against it." She crossed her arms over her chest. "I was going to leave so that he didn't have to look at me again." She stopped, her mouth open as Xander walked out of the bathroom, fully dressed. "You didn't turn?"
"No, he didn't die so he didn't turn fully," Giles told her, glaring at her. "Fortunately for him." She looked up at him. "If he had turned, he would have turned to the dark and would have become our worst enemy." She shook her head. "Yes, he would have. That's what that spell you cast does to the sorcerers it touches."
"I thought it was supposed to give him greater access so he could use the dark powers against them." She looked over at Xander. "Is he hurt at all?"
Xander walked over, wrapping an arm around her neck and squeezing. "I have this sudden need to hurt you for almost killing me," he told her quietly. "I've had it before though so I can fight it off this time too." He let her go, stepping away as she caught her breath. "Willow, you almost killed me and ruined everything good in my life. I'm not even sure I shouldn't be talking about myself in the past tense!" He turned, walking away from her. "I'm going to sulk in the back bedroom. Tell me when it's time to go outside. Angel, would you like to come talk to me?"
"In a minute. I need to impart some knowledge that Willow doesn't seem to have." He waited until they were alone. "Willow, what you did will have every vampire and demon on the plane looking to kill him so he'll turn. He'll be hunted for the rest of his life now." She shook her head.
"Yes, he will," Giles told her, making her look at him again. "Since he didn't turn fully, they'll be looking to finish it and make him one of their family. Having a sorcerer such as him in your lineage is quite a boon and would almost ensure that the family would never end. If he had turned tonight, Buffy and I would have had to go stake him, he would have killed both of us before we could have gotten close enough, leaving Oz to finish it, but it would have had to been done." He grabbed her arms when it looked like she didn't care. "Don't you care that you've cursed him to a life of being hunted? Or the fact that if he does die that he has at least a fifty percent chance of turning?" She nodded. "Then why did you cast something so harmful?" When he didn't get an answer, he let her go, stepping away from her. "You are not my student. Unless you are here to aide Buffy, you are not to step foot in my house again."
Oz got out of her way as she walked out, reaching over to slam the door behind her. "Thanks. Saved me the trouble," he said, walking closer to where Buffy was laying. "What about them?"
"That's why I added the clause. I'll spell the door with the same curse later so she can't get in and harm us anymore." He turned to look at Angel but only found Doyle. "Is he helping Xander?"
"He needs to impart some fledgling knowledge into the boy," Doyle said, his lilt soft and easy on the ears. "There's some drawbacks to what he can do, but the boy'll need to know soon enough."
"At least he didn't turn," Oz said quietly, sitting over in the corner reading chair again. "How far will the changing go?"
"He'll get the good things mostly. He's got the silence, the strength, the ability to disengage part of himself so he doesn't have to think too much about his actions. He'll also have to feed some. He'll have to wear sunglasses, at least. He may not feel comfortable out in the day anymore, but he can go out in it more than likely. When I saw, I saw them merged."
"Willow once cast a spell on him to shield her as if she were him when he cast. I had to remove a lot of spells of her's from him." He groaned, looking down at Buffy. "I will have to tell the Council about this. They made Faith's pass on from her once, I'm sure we'll have a new girl soon."
Oz coughed. "We getting her here?"
"We may be. I'm not sure Buffy can do the job with Willow bothering her like that. Or even what sort of problems the bond may create over a greater distance. Your's and Xander's was a more natural occurrence than their's, that could change matters greatly. Willow may not be able to leave without sending Buffy comatose."
"And if she isn't all right?" Doyle asked. "They'll make you deal with her?"
Giles nodded, his face getting sad. "Indeed, they will. They'll demand it. If I can't or won't, they'll send someone else to do it for me." He ran a hand through his hair. "We should have locked her in a closet or somewhere until we knew what was going to happen between them."
"She's not leaving," Buffy whispered. "She's back at her mother's. Her mother stopped her from leaving again."
Giles reached down, tapping her forehead a few times in a certain rhythm. "Wake now, Buffy. It's safe."
"No it's not," Buffy said as she sat up. "She's coming clean to her mother." She grimaced. "I've got to call and wake my mom up to deal with it." She reached for the phone but it rang before she could pick it up. "Hey, Wills. No, think about this. No, consider me here. What's going to happen when your mother finds out?" She shook her head, holding a hand over her eyes. "Willow, think about it. She'll try to kill us all. Then she'll start to tell the others that don't want to know. What will she do?" She hung up, dialing her house. "Mom, get up. No, major worries. No, it's Willow. She's telling her mother the abridged version of life in town. Yeah, well, I'd expect the villagers with burning torches but that's just my cynical side." She nodded and hung up. "My mom's going to call her mom and give her the better abridged version." She looked up at her Watcher, her strength. "They'll make you kill me to pass on the powers?" He nodded. "Because I won't be functional?"
He sat down beside her. "It's happened in the past. They're going to be very careful to not let you go to the dark and to not let you go insane. That's the way they've chosen to fulfil those mandates." He took her hand to squeeze it. "I won't do so, but we will have to prove that this won't harm your performance."
"It won't," Xander said as he walked out with Angel. "I'll help her." He walked over to stand in front of Oz, holding out a hand. "Stand beside me in the morning light?" he asked, grinning when it was taken. "It's time," he announced. "Dawn starts in about five minutes. Giles, get Angel your umbrella. Buffy, stake me if I start to smoke." He and Oz walked outside to stand in the middle of the small courtyard, looking up as the sky started to change colors.
Buffy, Giles, Angel, and Doyle all stood behind the couple, watching them. Buffy ran a stake nervously through her hand, her other one gripping Angel's free one behind Giles' back. They watched as the first ray of light hit Xander, making him flinch, but not smoke, and relaxed. Even when he had to turn his face away from the light when it started to hurt his eyes. Once the sun was fully up, Xander turned to look at them, nodding. "I am as I am," he said calmly, clutching Oz's hand so hard his knuckles were white. "So be my life."
Giles walked forward, hugging him. "Your teacher shall help you adjust, as will your mate. The life you lead will not be onerous or hard." He turned to walk behind Xander, presenting him to the group. "Destiny's childe is born. So shall we all guard him?"
Buffy nodded. "I will guard him. As he will me." She smiled at him, walking forward to kiss his cheek. "Good to keep you, Xandman."
Angel walked forward, nodding. "If you need my help, consider me your Sire." He bowed to Giles. "Sanctuary? I'd like to talk to him when we both get back up."
"Yes, you may have the back bedroom. It's only got one bed but I think I have an air mattress or something for Doyle."
Doyle walked forward. "No visions at least." He shook Xander's free hand. "So be it. If you need me, call on me." He shrugged. "Not into the formal."
"It was spontaneous," Buffy said with a shrug of her own. "Come on, I'll show you where the air mattress is."
"We'll be fine," Angel assured her. "Doyle and I once had to share a backseat to sleep on one day on an assignment. A bed would be a nice change." They walked back inside, Angel putting down the umbrella as soon as he stepped into the shadows.
Xander looked up at Giles once Buffy had followed them inside. "It'll be okay?"
"As long as you learn how to defend yourself, you should have a long and interesting life ahead of you." He walked the boys back inside, shutting the door.
TO BE CONTINUED....