Notes: Yes, after a year and three quarters IT IS DONE!!!!!!! Finally!
Not What You Appear To Be.
Xander checked over the plans Wesley had provided for them, marking a few points he wanted to hit. He checked on the former Watcher, who was asleep on the couch, then looked at Spike. "You sure you want to do this?"
"Sure, mate, good fun this'll be." He grinned. "How many a'us can say they fought the Slayers at their headquarters?"
"Point, but this isn't about destroying them, just teaching them a lesson and getting Giles back," Xander reminded him. "If you want to destroy them, do it on your own time."
"Deal," Spike agreed happily. "Poufster General even said I could take a few extra days to go play and have me fun."
Xander sighed and went back to his battle plans. It was going to be hard with just him, Spike, and Wesley going.
"Not," Oz called over quietly. "You're not leaving me here. Buffy's said the same thing."
"You're not going on this one," Xander said, not even bothering to look at him. "No way am I risking them finding out what you are and taking you hostage to finish what the Initiative started." He knew Oz shuddered, but it really was best this way. Besides, it was expensive to get to England and back.
Oz walked over and pulled Xander off into the bathroom, kicking the door shut. "I'm going," he said firmly. "No way you're keeping me out of this. I know you'll protect me, and I can protect myself."
"No," Xander said, staying firm on this. "I'm not putting you in this sort of danger."
Oz rolled his eyes. "And leaving me here alone on the Hellmouth won't leave me in danger? When every bad guy in the world is looking for you to make you join him? At least let me come but not fight, Xander."
"Oz, we can't afford it."
"You can't not afford it," Oz reminded him quietly. "You're going to need centered and being that far away means you won't be able to hear or feel me. You won't get to eat and you won't get to sleep before the battle if I'm not there." He stepped against Xander, wrapping him in his arms. "I know you're trying to protect me, but you can't do it this time. You need the extra body and you need me in other ways." He sent a lusty feeling through their bond, trying to distract his lover.
"No," Xander said, stepping back. He forced Oz's chin up. "I'm not losing you too, Oz, get over it. You'll be safe here with Buffy and Willow."
"They're going. They've already bought tickets."
"No way," Xander sighed.
"Yup. Willow let it slip in class the other day and it got back to me." He gave Xander a squeeze, intentionally rubbing them together. "You need me, Xander. If only to have stress relief. I won't fight if you want." Xander snorted. "I won't. I'm not that hot on letting Spike destroy the Watcher's home base."
"Maybe it's time they had to rebuild and reorganize," Xander pointed out.
"And maybe this is too drastic. Maybe Wesley should tell them what he knows."
"He tried," Xander sighed, sending the conversation he had overheard through their bond. "They wanted him to burn down the apartment building with us in it."
"Oh." Oz shook himself out of his depressing thoughts. "I've never been hated that way."
"Me either," Xander admitted, pulling Oz in for a hug. "I don't want to let Spike loose over there either, but I need his strength."
"Point. Or maybe you could do a major glyph and figure it out."
"Maybe," Xander agreed, thinking about it. "I do have one for magical cloaking."
"And we can dye your hair. Making you look different somehow won't be that hard."
"True," Xander agreed, giving him a squeeze. "But then no one gets to go to England but me."
"And me," Oz disagreed. "You'll need someone to back you up and to help you get Giles free and out of the country."
"Point," Xander conceded. "You get to tell Buffy she can't go to London."
"Nope. But I will let it be known that the group trip was canceled." He rubbed himself against Xander's lower half again, groaning. "Can we please get carnal tonight? I miss you."
"Sure," Xander said, giving him a smile. "Let's go send Spike to his room and Wesley back to the hotel." He walked out, leading Oz by the hand. "Out," he called as they walked up to the bedroom.
Spike tossed down his pen. "They figured out how to do it without us," he snarled at Wesley, who was staring at the map.
"Maybe, but that doesn't mean we can't follow them," Wesley pointed out. "The same as Buffy and Willow can. The boys will need someone to come for them if they get into trouble." He smiled at Spike. "I must insist that you not destroy them all, Spike. Really, some of us aren't that bad. Some really are more like Rupert."
"Whatever," he agreed, glaring up at the balcony when the first squeal floated down. "I'm gonna go to my room. No reason to listen to them shag."
Wesley smiled at him. "Really? I've always found a bit of voyeurism was standard in vampires."
Spike leered at him. "I'm not the standard vampire, mate."
Wesley looked him over and nodded. "So I can see. Shall we?"
Spike laughed and pulled Wesley back to his room.
The two witches that ran the magic shop tapped on the apartment's door, stepping back when Spike answered it. "Is Xander here?" Elizabeth asked as she pushed past him. "We've got some information that he should have."
"He's napping off a snog," Spike said, nodding at the couch. "Wait there, I'll go get him."
"I heard," Xander called down. His head came up over the railing, looking down at them. "Give me a sec to find some clothes," he said, not getting a smile. He got serious. "Is this bad news?"
"Yup," Elizabeth said, nodding. "Pretty muchly."
Xander's head disappeared and after a few moments he walked down the stairs. "What sort of bad news?" he asked as he sat in his favorite chair.
"Two sorts," Liberty said, taking Elizabeth's hand. "The first...."
"Is that we scryed Giles," Elizabeth said. "He's been released, but he's not well."
"Define not well," Oz said as he walked down to join them.
"Not well as in they screwed with his head," Liberty said, giving him a faint smile. "The other piece of bad news is that your mother reappeared."
"But..." Xander said, gripping Oz's hand. "They said she was dead."
"Nearly," Liberty agreed. "She appeared in the park about an hour ago. The only thing she said was your name before the cops had her taken away."
"Is she gonna be okay?" Oz asked. "Is she at Sunnydale General?"
"She is, but she's not all there either," Liberty sighed, looking at Elizabeth. "Boys, we think you should leave."
"Giles really isn't in his right mind," Elizabeth told Xander. "He's very cruel and cold now. We know that they did something to him but we can't be sure what."
"I could help...." Xander started.
"No, boy, you can't," Liberty said firmly. "They're coming after you through him." She looked at Spike. "He can tell you what they might've done to him to make him this way. Including possessing him with something, but he's not your teacher anymore."
"I want to see him for myself," Xander said firmly.
"Fine," Liberty said, nodding. "Go get a bowl and some water, we'll work the scrying spell so you can see."
Oz got up to get the necessary ingredients. He let Spike pour the water then stepped back beside the vampire to watch.
Xander moved to the floor, taking one of their hands to hold while concentrating on the water.
"Giles first," Liberty instructed. "You can go see your mother in a few."
Xander nodded, concentrating as hard as he could on Giles. He felt some sort of shield and winced as his head started to hurt. "He's got..."
"Shh," Elizabeth ordered.
Slowly, a picture formed. A cheap motel room done in various shades of green, the window covered so no light could get in. A man lying on the bed, holding onto his head. As they concentrated, the picture became clearer, and the words the man was saying could be heard.
"Must....kill...the...boy. Want...him....dead.... No! Want....dead."
Xander swallowed and shook his head, making the picture dissolve. He leaned back against the chair he had been sitting in, letting Oz comfort him. "That wasn't him," he said finally.
"We know that," Liberty said, "but you can't prove it."
"It's a hard thing, young one," Elizabeth said kindly, "but you can't stay. You need to go, if only to protect Oz. If something happens to you, it'll hurt him as much if not more."
Xander looked up at Oz, who nodded. "I believe them, Xander. We've got to move you and the stuff."
"But most of it's...."
"Yours now," Spike said. "You can't let him work magic, he'll still come after you." He looked around the room. "I want a second opinion, but I'll get that later. For now, whelp, start packin'. We're gonna go see the sire."
"Angel?" Oz asked. "Why?"
"Because he'll be able to take on Giles if I can't," Xander said, staring at Spike. "We're not sure..."
"The poof'll make sure," Spike told him. "Go pack. We'll stop and see your ma on the way out." He nodded at Oz to go. "Don't forget stuff for necessities."
"No, we're not forgetting the bank books," Oz agreed, heading up to help Xander pack.
Spike looked at the witches. "You sure about this?"
"As sure as we can be," Liberty said, standing up and looking him over. "I charge you, William, to watch over him," she said, weaving a spell around him. "As his teacher, it is now your job to protect the pairing."
Spike groaned, but he knew he had been caught. "Fine," he spat. "I'll turn 'em over to the poof but I'll stay."
"Good," Elizabeth said, standing up. "We look forward to getting letters from them." She and her girlfriend walked out together, holding hands.
Spike picked up the phone and dialed a number he had been given after Ethan had left. "It's me," he said quietly, looking up the stairs. "The boys need you."
"No I don't," Xander called down. "He's not here yet."
"We'll need his help to see what to take," Spike protested.
"We're not giving Ethan free reign over tossing the apartment," Oz called down. He walked over to the railing and looked down. "We can identify his magic stuff ourselves."
"He's still got to know," Spike pointed out. "If there's anything the Watcher hates, it's him."
"Point," Oz agreed. He glanced at Xander, then nodded, heading back to help.
Spike turned his attention back to the phone. "No, the witches that run the Magic Shop did a scrying spell. He's been taken over and ordered to kill the whelp. Yeah, him. We're not sure, but we're wantin' to leave tonight."
"Or early tomorrow," Oz said as he came down the stairs. "The van doesn't have that many windows. We can block them." He held a hand out, taking the phone. "Ethan, it's us. Yeah, I heard it too. He might have been fighting it or not. We can't be sure. No, from all I could see he looked almost normal. Tortured, a few bruises. Why?" He considered what he was being told. "Maybe. Oh, and Xander's mother came back." His eyes opened wide. "You think? Okay. We will. Yeah, we'll be back here in a few." He hung up. "Xander, come on, let's go visit your mother first." He looked at Spike. "What other reason would she be sent back?" he asked quietly. "Ethan thinks it might be a trap."
"Probably is," Spike agreed. "Nasty bits like you told me took her don't usually give up their fun and prezzies. Either she made a deal to come bring him more power, or she's here for the boy."
Oz nodded, turning as he heard Xander coming down the stairs with a bag. "Got it all?"
"Yeah," Xander agreed, tossing the bag down. "I just need my spell books."
"Leave it here," Oz told him. "Let's go visit your mother. We'll come back and strip down the apartment after we check on her." Xander nodded so he walked out to the van, getting in to drive his lover to the first confrontation. "I'm sorry," he said as they pulled up in front of the hospital. "And if this goes really bad, then I'm really sorry," he offered.
"It'll be fine," Xander said, hoping it was true. He got out of the van and went in to talk to the emergency room people. "Hi, my mother was brought here?" he asked the receptionist. "Harris? Found in a park?"
The man nodded and went back to tell someone he was here. Within a minute, a doctor came out with a police officer. "Come with us please, Mr. Harris?" the officer asked.
"Is she that bad?" he asked as he followed them.
"There's a few anomalies," the officer agreed. "The only word she said was your name." The officer stopped the doctor from pulling the curtain open. "I know she's been gone for a while and you're hoping for the best, but be careful," he warned the boy. "She tried to bite my partner."
Xander took a deep breath and nodded, then the curtain opened. He stepped in with the doctor, not looking up from the sleeping form. "What's wrong with her?"
"Dehydration at the moment. At least that's all we can find." He stepped out of Xander's way, letting him get to the bedside.
"Mother?" Xander asked quietly, waiting for her to open her eyes. He barely was able to jump back before she attacked him with teeth and claws. "I think there's something wrong," he told the doctor.
"Me too," the doctor said calmly, drawing some medicine into a needle. "But I think I can solve that right away." He started to go for Xander's arm but the officer stopped him.
"No." He pulled Xander behind him and walked out, running into another doctor. "Have you seen her yet?" he demanded.
"No. I wasn't aware there was a patient in there." She looked in through the gap in the curtain. "Well, that's not standard procedure," she said. She looked at Xander, then back at the woman on the bed. "Your family?"
"My mother," he sighed.
"Well, I think she's having a very bad time mentally," the new doctor said, grabbing something from a nearby cart and walking in to sedate both of them. She came back out after strapping them down onto the bed. "I need to go see someone about this. What did you want us to do with her?"
"Put her somewhere that she can't hurt people," he told her, looking defeated. "She's been kidnaped for the last few months. She was trying to bite me and him." He filled out the forms she gave him, then handed them back and went out to find Oz. As soon as he got into the van, he gave his lover a hug. "She tried to eat me, and got a doctor."
"I'm sorry, Xan," Oz said gently, holding him for a bit. "We'll figure it out as much as we can." He got the van started and headed back to the house, finding Ethan waiting on them. "His mother turned into a biter."
"Then she's definitely not in her right mind," Ethan agreed. He looked at the boy. "Calm yourself before you explode, Xander." Xander glared at him. "Channel the anger, boy. It can help you later when you have to fight Ripper to get him back." Xander calmed himself and nodded. "Now, let's finish packing you up." Xander grabbed his books and stuffed them into his bag, grabbing a few others that were pertinent at the moment. Then he and Ethan conferred and got together to do a packing spell. Everything but the furniture and the clothes went into a box. It wasn't the most polite way of doing things since it sucked them in, but it was handy to have around and a major spell so Xander wasn't going to have problems with it. "Do you need anything else?"
"Are we sure I can get that far from the stones? Our few days in LA were an emergency but I remember a constant headache."
Spike looked at him. "When?"
"Each and every morning after waking up from some troubling dreams." Xander looked around again, picking up a statue to toss into the box. He looked at Oz. "Grab the kitchen stuff. Spike, please do the clothes." Spike headed up the stairs at a jog. "Ethan?"
"Then it might not be safe to move you so far from here," he agreed. "What's on the other side of the woods?"
"Old Lady Mister's house," Oz said grimly. " Haunted, haunt of vampires, and nasty as anything that hasn't been cleaned in decades."
"If we west, then there's that housing settlement," Xander offered. "Not in Sunnydale proper."
Ethan sat down with the phone and made a short call. "Berty, it's Ethan. No time for that now. I'm hiding Ripper's student from him. He's been possessed and he's coming to kill him. No, the Watcher biters." He gave the boy a look. "Him, his boyfriend, and a vampire guardian. Possibly me as well. Working space necessary." He smiled. "Really? Where is that in relation to the woods?" He smirked. "Perfect. Is it clean? The boyfriend is picky about such things." He listened to the good and bad points of the place. "That's fine, I'm sure he can run out for pizza instead of having it delivered. It'd be safer anyway. We'll be there tomorrow morning. Love you too, and of course kiss the baby for me." He hung up and sat back, smirking at Xander. "There's a very nice house near the woods. Mostly underground so it doesn't show up on anything. It's also the home of someone who used to practice demon summoning, they did his housework and pleasured him all the time. It has six bedrooms, a study, a living room, a satellite dish, and a computer. Plus it has a garage." Xander nodded eagerly. "It's got a small rent."
"More than the mortgage payment on the old house?" Xander asked. "I only get six hundred a month."
"No, not in the least. No one wants to live out there since the last person left the residue of magic around the place. We'll be cleaning it up so we can have it for a mere three hundred a month." Xander nodded, that would be easy enough. "Now, what else is needed?"
"We'll have to go grocery shopping," Oz offered. "This place is all-but bare." He closed the box he had been loading from the cabinets. "Does it have somewhere for me?" Ethan nodded. "Cool. You're handy to have around."
"There's a whole network of people set up for those like us, Oz. We have to support each other or we become prey for those like Wesley."
"Wesley's not too bad," Xander offered. "Speaking of, where is he?"
"Doing his impersonation of a rogue demon hunter again," Oz reminded him. "Should we call him?"
"We can," Ethan admitted. "He could be of some use I suppose. What of the blonde?"
"She's busy," Xander said firmly. "She's got Willow to guide her if she needs it." He looked at Oz. "We're not that far away."
"I can deal with that," Oz pointed out. "We can always call and check on them. A phone isn't that traceable all the time."
"It's an unlisted number anyway," Ethan assured him. "Even she would have problems since it goes to an address that's the middle of nowhere, without a visible house available." He stood up. "Now, let's find out what's keeping the vampire, and then we'll...." A suitcase came down and hit him on the head, knocking him out.
"Nice shot, Spike. Only he knows where the new place is."
"He'll live," Spike said from the stairs. "Always wondered if that luggage would live up to the ape test." He looked at the split in the suitcase's side. "Guess not." He looked at Oz. "Van?"
"Sure, go pack it now, guys. Here, take this one, Xander." He handed over the box with the food.
Xander wandered around the bunker, looking at the fixtures. It was bland looking and not at all comfy, but it would do for now. As a hideout it had many advantages. The least of which being the shields he and Ethan had decided to leave up and push outward as a warning to others. Wesley had come back that morning after telling Willow and Buffy to go to England without them. He was properly set up inside one of the guest rooms right now. He and Oz had taken the master bedroom since the other rooms had full sized beds, and the master had a queen. It gave them a few more inches of cuddling room. It also had the working room next to it, connecting to the room Ethan took, the study and the pull-out in there. Xander already knew he was expected in the practice area as soon as he had acclimated himself to the new place, Ethan and Wesley were presently arguing about what to work on with him. Wesley was pushing for defensive, which Xander was getting very good at. Ethan was pushing for a repeat of the basic lessons then moving onto offensive ones. He found his main spellbook and walked in there. "Stop it," he said quietly. They stared at him. "I need to learn both, Wesley. I'm no good in a fight if I only know defensive magic and it's going to be a fight for the rest of my life. Because I can flatten someone into a splatter on the ground doesn't mean I'll enjoy it."
Wesley relented. "It is a useful thing," he admitted cautiously. "We must be wary of you changing over though."
"Which I'm not," Xander pointed out. "I'm still the same good guy I was before, and I'm not planning on switching anytime soon. You?" Wesley grimaced. "Then let's move on with this. It shouldn't take Giles that long to cross the country by car. Maybe a week. I did it in about that even with minor stops." That got another nod from the older men. "We need me ready to defeat him if I have to."
"Xander, you don't have to fight him," Ethan said gently.
"Ethan, do you honestly think that whatever's possessing him won't go through you if necessary to get to me?" he asked hotly. "I'm not making you end your lives, or you destroy your lover, to get me safe. Figure out how to get him free while I keep him busy, okay?" Ethan relented then and backed off. "Wesley?"
"We can do that," he agreed. "I'm very good at that sort actually." He stepped forward and took the book to look through. "This is your main teaching manual? He has good taste."
"It came to me at an auction. It wanted me, Wesley. Of course that was before all this happened," he said, waving a hand at his body. "Before I had a path, now I have a destiny. It sucks." He looked at Ethan. "Anything else you wanted to add to the battle plans?"
"No. Most everyone who could help him is gone now. We'll work on our part while you work on yours. We'll teach you what our specialties are in fighting magics and let you practice them."
Wesley found the chapter and handed the open book back. "There. Pick what you want." He looked at the boy. "You're still leaking."
"It happens, Wes, I can't see the magic and I can only touch it in trance. Then we get fires."
Wesley shuddered. "Fine, there are ways around that. It's simply a matter of manipulating blindly and I can help you with that." He got the boy sitting in the comfortable chair. "Do not trance, but calm yourself and close your eyes, listening only to the sound of my voice." Xander did so. "The magic around you is in what form?"
"A web. Pulled from my block of power, around me, and back into it."
"Good," he said happily. "Now, how do you output it from there?"
"Through the web?"
"No, you need a firm output from your hands, Xander. Feeding it back into the power block is hindering you. Can you cut that one?"
"My power was tainted in the past," he said tiredly. "This allows it to be purer."
"That's fine, then let it go for now and you can always put it back later," Wesley instructed. "The web covers all of you like a shield?" Xander nodded, focusing on his power. "No, do not trance."
"I have to so I can see it."
"You don't, it's made you dependent on that. It's not a necessity. You should be able to picture it in your mind. What form does your magic take?"
"A big rectangle about my height made of cream-colored jell-o."
"That's rather unhandy, isn't it?" Xander opened his eyes and looked up at him. "Who told you that?"
"Well, she was wrong. Magic works on belief, you must believe that it is like water. Flowing around and over you at all times, gathering at the pool in your feet so it can fountain up again."
"Like I'm standing in the fountain?"
"Yes, like you're standing in the fountain. The earth is the base. You are the tube that the magic water shoots out of and the water falling around you coats you like a shield." Xander sighed and concentrated on that image, nodding eventually. "Now *concentrate* on that image, Xander. Make it so. Magic that was the consistency of jell-o wouldn't let you handle it, wouldn't let you tame it. Water can be tamed."
Xander shifted in his seat. "I'll need to trance out."
"No, you don't."
"Yeah, I do, that's how I created the jell-o."
"Fine, then do it quickly."
"Last time it took days," Oz said from the doorway. "Xan, get it done soon and I'll make pizza."
"Cool." He concentrated, sending himself down into his body again. He saw the magic cube quivering. "Shh, I know he's right. Inside you is water, isn't it? That's why you kept trying to pull me inside." The magic shivered again and sucked him inside, and there was the picture. A pond with a fountain in the middle, which he walked into. The jell-o coated his body still but the water ran overtop of it as well. It was fascinating and he could feel so much more now. He came to, looking at Wesley. "How's that?"
"Excellent," he said happily. "That thicker shield is?"
"The jell-o pulled me inside, where the fountain was hiding. It's now covering me under the water."
"Even better," Ethan agreed. "Now, focus the water running through you to add two spouts out your hands."
"Already done," Xander admitted. "And one out my mouth too, the main one."
"Good enough," Ethan agreed, and Wesley smiled at him, making Xander happy. "Now, let's work on channeling that water into various things. Let's start with a normal spell." A book floated off the shelf and over to him. "You?"
"No, the ghost is an old guy." He shrugged. "Hi, old guy. Do you mind?" He shook his head, smiling. "Thanks. We'll try not to bother you." Xander took the book with his magic, floating it and dancing it around the room. "I'm good at being speedy and floating things."
"Which would be very handy in a fight against vampires," Wesley assured him. "For now, let's work on control. Send the book under, then over each thing in this room. You can move it to my left and Ethan's right only at knee-height and you may not allow the book to go over six inches above any surface."
Xander concentrated and the book moved, slowly, that way. At the end he was shivering with exhaustion but he had done it, going back over any spots that he had messed up in or when Ethan had frowned at him.
"Excellent," Wesley praised.
"He'll pass out soon. He's still a bit burnt from the whole possession thing, Wesley," Ethan said quietly. Sure enough, Xander did take a sudden and extreme nap. "See, I told you so. He needs to build up stamina."
Wesley looked at him. "Neither of us could do that with that level of precision, Rayne. We'd be tired too. Oz, is it nearly dinner? Xander's quite passed out at the moment I'm afraid."
"He likes cold pizza," Oz said as he joined them. "It's got another five minutes by the crust." He looked at them, then at Xander. "Good?"
"Excellent in fact," Wesley noted. "We're working on his bottom level. Sometimes the most earth-shattering thing isn't an earthquake, it's actually a sneeze." He smirked. "We'll have him sneezing in no time."
"With or without the fireballs?" Oz asked.
"Fireballs?" Wesley asked, looking worried. "Why would there be?"
"There was the last time and it included a baby fire elemental," Ethan said smugly.
"Well, we'll have to let the water cool that then," Wesley said firmly. "Or have him wear out some of that excess energy in practice."
Oz nodded, patting him on the back. "As long as you don't expect me to do it, man." He went back to his cooking duties. Xander was in good enough hands now, though he did tell him about what Wesley had said as soon as he felt Xander coming to.
Xander looked up as he felt the telltale he had put on Giles' apartment door went off and looked over at Oz. "I'm heading," he called.
"No," Ethan said, coming out pulling on his jacket. "I felt it too. Wesley's safely ensconced in his bed, Oz, make sure he stays there. This is for us to complete." They left together, heading out to Ethan's car. He noticed Xander stroked Wesley's bike. "If you live through this, it would be most appropriate for you to have one of those," he offered.
"Oz would kill me," Xander said with a grin. "I can't carry much in the way of weapons on it." He got in, letting him drive. "He's moving."
"We're going to the old school. It's symbolic and I left him a note saying we'd meet him there when he got into town." He headed that way, glancing at the boy next to him. "Are you sure you won't run?"
"No. He got this way because of me. I can fix him or I'll dye trying. I owe Giles that much."
"Very well then. I'll stand beside you."
"Because Ripper makes my life more interesting. What else do I have to look forward to these days?" He pulled into the parking lot and turned off the engine. "You're sure?"
"Absolutely." He got out, pulling Spike's leather duster around him. Spike had let him wear it for this, saying he didn't have time to break in one of his own. Leather was a good protector. He headed to the spot where the Scoobies used to sit, where Giles and Oz had faced him down about using magic, and waited, tense yet forcing himself to be looser looking. Giles' car pulled up and stopped, him getting out. He turned as the other man got out, feeling the taint from here. "Hey, that's a good thing, I can feel evil now." He crossed his arms as Giles walked up to him. "Have fun back in the motherland?"
"Not funny," he said coldly. He pulled out a long knife, not quite a sword but more than a dagger, and switched hands with it. "Fight me, Xander."
"If you want." Xander traced a symbol around them, setting up a space for combat. Wesley had shown it to him. No magic would get outside his area and Ethan could use all the cast-off magic for his own attempts. He braced himself and looked at Giles. "I'm not attacking you," he said quietly. "If the teacher wants to attack the student, then he's got to do it himself." Giles growled and lunged forward, giving Xander enough leverage to toss him onto the ground. He grabbed the knife and kicked Giles' wrist until he let it go so he could toss it aside, then he got out of the way, letting the other man to his feet. "You know I don't want to hurt you, Giles."
"I know no such thing, you beast. Foul, unearthly beast!" He lunged again and Xander blocked him, knocking him onto his ass. "It shows! My Xander could never do that!" he said angrily. "You're a perversion of him!"
"Yeah, and again, I didn't choose this path, Rupert. It was chosen for me and handed to me on a sickening platter of nastiness. Or don't you remember saving me?"
"I shouldn't have, I should have let you die!" he shouted. He called up his own abilities but Xander already had a shield in place before he could finish his attack. He sneered. "Magic now? Figure yourself an expert after a few lessons?"
"You'd be surprised what I've picked up from your books, Rupert," Xander said, starting to lose his own temper. "Or don't you remember teaching me how to research!" He threw his own attack and Rupert groaned under the extra weight now sitting on his body from where the air around him had suddenly gained pounds. Xander calmed himself again. "I did not pick this path, Rupert, and I don't want it. If I could turn back, I would. We all know that."
Rupert sneered at him as he got free of the spell. "I'm sure you're saying that but do you really mean it? Give up your magic?"
"I nearly did when this happened and I went uncontrolled. Don't you remember talking me out of that?" he asked calmly. "You reminded me that I had to go on or I'd never find control. Now I've found a bit and it's nicer. I don't set my mate's bed on fire anymore." Rupert moved closer, pulling out a little silver dagger. "I'm not Oz, Giles. Silver won't hurt me. It might make me itch, but it won't hurt me." He could feel Ethan starting on his part of the spell. "Stop." He put up a shield around Giles, moving closer. "I'm not your enemy, Rupert. That's those people who turned you into this person. The real you is inside somewhere screaming at you about what you're doing. Fight back, man, fight this thing inside you."
Ripper sneered and got free, lunging at him. The jacket saved Xander from a serious cut on the shoulder. "No, I don't think so. You see, this is the real me, boy." He spat on the ground. "The real me would never have taken you in if I had known what I taught you would be used to go to the dark side. Look at you, magic all around you. Dressed like a vampire."
"You're the one who let Spike teach me. What did you expect from my wardrobe? Sunny yellows and oranges?" He shrugged. "Besides, off the point. The magic flowing around me has always been mine. You knew that when you took me in. You know that I'm not a bad guy. You know that I've been fighting with you now for *years*, even without my magic. Years, Rupert, years before this happened, I was fighting beside you, helping you with your slayer."
"Yes, you corrupted her too, didn't you? Her and Willow, such a nice little girl. I'm sure the Watchers will adore them both when they get them tonight."
"I'd like to see them take Willow," Xander snorted. "I couldn't have tainted Willow, she was dabbling in the dark before I even found out I could do magic." He shrugged, crossing his arms again. In his right hand was a small throwing knife Spike had shown him how to use. In his left was some baby powder to confuse him. All he needed was the older man to step closer. "Not going to do more than spit words, Giles? Is that what your fatherly attentions came to?"
"I'd hope that you never did with your father what you did with me."
"Yeah, well, that's a sickening thought," he pointed out. "Why would I have? I didn't like him." He shrugged again. "Nothing much there to know. He hated me because I came before he was ready for me and I hated him because it was obvious he hated me." Just a few steps closer. The man rushed again and Xander flung the powder as he moved out of the way, making Giles howl as it got into his eyes. Then he flung the dagger, getting out of the way as it punctured Giles' thigh. The man went to his knees, pulling it out. It came out with green blood. "You're not Giles," he said. He moved closer, tipping the thing's head up. "You're not Giles, you've never been Giles. Where is he?"
"Move, Xander, he's in there, but the body's overtop of his!" Ethan shouted. Xander dove and Ethan let loose his attack, making Giles writhe and shriek on the ground. Ethan came out from behind the tree, panting in pain. "Finish the body."
"Which one?" Xander looked at them. Twin Giles'. "Ethan, which?" he called desperately. Ethan collapsed against the tree so he looked at them. He picked up his dagger and cut each of them, noticing the green slime. One of them had human blood in it. "Ripper?" he whispered. That one nodded. The other started to complain. Xander groaned and bound them both to the ground. "WES!" Wesley came running, he had felt him following. "How do I tell? They're both leaking green slime. One's got some blood but not a lot."
"Damn it!" Wesley said, entering the combat area. "It didn't work." He turned on Xander and let loose an attack.
Xander blocked it and glared at him. "Fine." He fought back, sending him to the ground screaming as his illusion was torn from him and his powers were forced out of his body because he had reversed the suction under Giles' feet. He always linked himself through his feet, that was the purpose of his all-leather shoes. He looked at the demons, then at Ethan, who was getting to his knees. "Did it work?"
"No," he moaned, walking over to lean on Xander. "He's not in there, Xander." He regained some energy once he had passed the barrier and started to suck up power. "He's not in any of them." He hugged the boy. "He's in me now."
"Wonderful, you sent him out of his body," Xander said, struggling to get away from him. He finally got free and knocked Ethan out, then lowered his protections. "Fine, you want out, you go out," he sneered. He looked at the demon halves. "Which of you is his physical body? Don't bother lying," he spat when they both nodded. "You killed my teacher, I'm going to destroy your whole race for this." The demons backed away from him, one of them whimpering. "Good." He destroyed the one that wasn't whimpering. Then he looked at Wes, who was back to himself, the second illusion having gone. He looked at Ethan, then knelt to draw a wish symbol beside him. "Either send him back to his body to live or release him," he whispered as he put the last dot in. Everything in the area screamed, including Xander as the power ripped through him. The other demon faded and Giles was panting on the ground. Xander moved over to him, looking in his eyes. He looked at Ethan, who was returning now, he could tell. "He's not in there."
"He's not around at all," Ethan told him. "What happened?"
"You knocked him out of his body." Xander stood up and helped Wesley up. "What do we do?"
"We put him somewhere safer to see if he recovers," Wesley said firmly. "Far away from the Watchers. If Faith could, he can." Xander nodded, turning away. "Xander?"
"I can't, Wesley."
"That's fine, I'll arrange it," Ethan promised. "Go back and pack, Xander. Let Spike take you to Angel now." Xander nodded, trudging off. "Wesley, I'll take your bike back. Don't let him drive." They switched keys and Ethan knelt beside Giles, checking him over while he called the local emergency number. "Hello, I just found a man unconscious in the school's side yard," he said quietly. "Rupert Giles. No, not drugs. More like knocked out. He's had a great many head injuries in his life and I think they all came back to him. He's been missing for days now." He hung up, kneeling beside him. "Ripper, why?" he whispered. "They could have used me instead." A hand came up and grabbed his throat as the emergency people came running. "Help!" he tried to shout, but they weren't very helpful.
Xander walked into Angel's office, looking miserable. "Giles isn't Giles," he told Cordy. "If he shows up, take defensive action." She looked stunned. "The Watchers got him and turned him." He looked over as Angel came out. "Grandsire. Morning."
"Morning, Xander. Want to take a nap?"
"I'm good for a few more hours. Where am I bunking with Oz? He's helping Spike in."
"I've arranged an apartment but for tonight I want you downstairs. Got it?" Xander nodded, following him downstairs. After Spike and Oz had come running down the stairs, Angel took Xander up onto the roof to watch the last few minutes of sunset. "Are you all right?"
"Hell no," he said bitterly. "Life moves on, but I haven't heard from Ethan. Wes is back in town, but he's not much better. Giles went out of his body."
"I got Wes's report. We've already started precautions." He patted him on the back as the sun fully sank below the city. "Will you be okay sometime?"
"Life goes on, Angel. We all know this," he sighed. He looked at him. "It was pretty."
"Sometimes the prettiest things aren't the most innocent, but you can usually trust a sunset," he said wisely.
Xander nodded, then slugged him. "Out of his body, Giles. I don't care how demented you are, I doubt you want to return Angelus." A wisp floated up and off on the small breeze. Xander squatted down beside Angel, looking down at him. "Need more help?"
"I'll protect you," he moaned as he sat up. "How did you know?"
"You're not the sort I'd expect a lecture on sunsets or prettiness from." He helped the vampire up as he stood. "All alone?"
"Oh, yeah, just fine," he agreed, grinning at him. "Grandson."
Xander pulled something out of the pocket of Spike's trenchcoat, holding the silvery ball up. Angelus shuddered and the soul got to take over again. "Thank you." He put it back. "So, what's my duties tonight while you rest?"
"Go bug Doyle for a vision and have him show you where the apartment is, then unpack if he doesn't have anything. Take Spike with you, okay? I can't stand him on my best days and now I have a headache worthy of him on a rant." Xander chuckled as he went back down the stairs. Angel shook his head. Things were going to be quite interesting in his city from now on. Xander was his to train now. All his. He laughed, then turned to dance down the stairs. He had his soul back, he was without Giles, and his boy had brought him a vampire worthy of training. How much better could it be?
The End, End of Series.