To Pay The Piper.

Buffy found the hellmouth's location for Giles, watching as he knelt down and mumbled something, slicing his hand to let a few drops drip onto the ground.  He stood up, dusting himself off, cleaning off the rest of the blood with his handkerchief.  "We good?"

"We're fine, Buffy."  He saw a bald, black man watching them.  "We're not that dangerous unless you are," he said dryly.

"You're who?" he demanded.

"I'm Buffy and he's Giles, my Watcher," she said, smiling at him.  "Who're you?  You don't feel demony."

"That's probably a good thing since I'm a hunter, ma'am."  She shuddered and he smirked.  "Some of us do have manners."

She walked over there.  "I'm not that old.  You would be, beyond a hunter?"

"Caleb."  He shook her hand.  "We've been handling some of the hell on earth going on around here while the boy's been busy trying to keep Sunnydale from ending us all."

"So you're one of the ones Xander got hold of?" Giles asked.  Caleb nodded.  "Excellent.  We're here to relieve you.  Can you let us know what's been going on?"

"Bobby'd be better at it and he'll be in tomorrow morning.  I can show your girl most of the trouble spots we've had if you want."

"Please," Buffy agreed.  "I've never been here before."

"How long have you been called, miss?" he asked.

She smirked.  "I'm the one that was on the plane that went missing from Sunnydale."

"Ah.  That's how you know the boy.  He's a nice kid.  A bit desperate now and then but it's understandable with what they've got living out there right now."

"Would this Bobby guy have any idea where my mother is?"

"Maybe.  You can ask him at breakfast.  If not, he might be able to find Tara and ask her."  He led them off.  "This part hasn't been too bad.  A few vamps.  A few others.  Some chaos sorcerers."  He pointed.  "That's a major gathering area."

Buffy looked then sighed.  "And they're all harmful demons too."  She got her weapons out of her bag and handed the bag to Giles.  "Let me do the duty stuff and then we'll go for a stroll."  She walked over there, smiling and waving when one looked at her.  "Hi.  How're you?  Should I even *ask* why you don't use moisturizer with as dry and flaky as you are?"  The demon babbled and she shrugged, killing it.  A few others roared and attacked but she handled it and got the human in the center free.  "Morning."

"Morning?  Are you a vampire?" she demanded.

Buffy snorted.  "Vampire slayer, dear.  Not a vampire."  She led her back to Giles and Caleb.  "She asked if I was a vampire.  Do I look pale and pasty, Giles?  Because if I do I can fix that really quick with some bronzing powder.  That way no one else seems me as less than my best."

He patted her on the shoulder. "It's the traveling we did earlier.  You'll be fine.  You only look a bit tired tonight, Buffy."  She shrugged and they walked on.  He smiled at Caleb.  "She quips as well."

"Charming."  He followed, looking at the young woman that stomped after them.  "Ma'am, can we get you to a hospital?"

"NO!  I want to know what's going on!"

"Um, they were bad and going to hurt you," Buffy said.

"I knew that," she spat, glaring at her.  "What the hell are you?"

"A girl chosen to fight those things that hurt others or mess up their hair on purpose."  She got her hair straightened out.  "There, better.   You should probably go home.  We've got a few more problems like that to handle tonight."  The woman gaped.  She shrugged. "What?  I got picked when I was fifteen.  The first I knew there was a tragically old guy asking me about a former mole I had and about strange dreams.  I nearly had him arrested."  The woman stomped off.  "Fortunately he convinced me to meet him in the cemetery that night," she told Caleb.  "Merrick would not have been happy about this.  Especially not Xander handling the more dangerous spot.  Then again I agree with him, he shouldn't be handling Sunnydale, I should be."

"He got all the people out of there, Buffy," Caleb assured her.  "Once it got to be too much and he found someone who could do it."  She beamed at that.  "Let me call Bobby while we walk."  He pulled out his phone to call him.  "Bobby, me.  Buffy and her Watcher Giles showed up.  Yeah, we're showing her the troubled areas now.  Already took out some then worried because someone said she looked a bit tired.  Breakfast good?"  He smiled.  "That'll work.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Bobby said he'd be local about ten so IHOP or somewhere near the mall on the East side since he's staying that way?"

Giles nodded. "That's acceptable.  She rarely gets up before nine-thirty."

"Eleven," Buffy called.

"We're eating at ten, Buffy."

"Darn it.  Not enough beauty sleep and you said I looked tired."

"We'll get you in bed before dawn tonight," he promised, patting her on the back.  She nodded, trudging onward to find more demons that were bothering the world.  He and the other man shared a look.  He shook his head.  "She's very girlish, even with her duty," he said quietly.

"I can tell.  Cute shoes too."

Giles smiled.  "That was her intention."  They continued on, watching Buffy stake a few more vampires.  She wasn't that tired, even if she did look a bit pale and worn out.  It was energizing her to stake the vampires.  He'd have to drug her to get her to sleep tonight with as bouncy as she was presently.


Xander answered his phone.  "It's me."  He leaned back on the couch, smiling.  "That's great news, Bobby.  Thanks for letting me know.  Oh, fair warning.  Buffy is the girliest girl ever called as a slayer.  She'll be cute, fashionable, probably wearing pink and some makeup, have good hair if she's being blessed with a good hair day, and she'll eat a ton of food.  She does like older guys so if you two hit it off...."  Bobby shot back a smart comment, making him laugh.  "Well, you'd be better for her than Angel ever was.  At least you'd be living and know what she was doing.  Much better than commando boy too.  Yeah, she was dating one of the Initiative boys.  Their top team leader, Riley Finn.  He was recruiting and wimpy.  Yup, that sounds like her style.  No, I don't think she and Dean would get along that well.  He might like her but her momma raised her to be a good girl and not have sex on the first date is part of that."

He snickered.  "No, she'd give Sam odd looks for spouting off facts.  She does it to Willow too.  Yup, I'll let her know.  Thanks.  Have a good brunch with them, Bobby.  Tell Giles we're down to ten less demons.  Yeah that clan ran last night, heading north.  Thanks.  I'm fine.  I promise I'm fine.  Really.  It's all good.  The reporter that snuck in got eaten within hours.  Even on camera so I gave the camera to Don and let him have her remains too.  He could figure out how to deal with it."  He snickered.  "No, I told them to ask that same nice Mr. Finn what was going on.  He can talk to the agents all he wants, Bobby."  Bobby let out a cackle at that meanness.  "I've gottta hit patrol soon.  Be safe in Cleveland.  Tell her I said the hellmouth is okay at the moment.  Laters."

He hung up and relaxed, calling Willow's cellphone.  "It's me, Wills."  She squealed.  "Buffy's back on this plane.  She's in Cleveland with Giles handling the issues there.  Yeah, they're fine and she'll be talking to Bobby later.  Because we needed someone to coordinate all the various people and he knew all the guys we didn't," he said dryly.  "Well, I did give him a list of where every single Watcher on the face of the earth presently is," he said smugly.  "Including Travers, who's in the Bahamas."  He snickered at her outraged noises.  "They're there to protect you and you to keep them out of trouble, Willow.  Think what they can do to Miami then multiply it by boredom.  Yeah, that's why you're there until your ribs heal.  Then you can join Buffy in Cleveland if you want.  Willow, I can flame a demon as well as you can presently," he said dryly.  "She'll need backup."  He listened to her complain.  "Willow, I have to go on patrol.  You be safe.  Later."  He hung up, getting up and grabbing his weapons, heading out, leaving his phone there so she could call back and nag his voicemail instead of him.  Not like he could call if he had trouble anymore.


Willow hung up and huffed.  "I hate Xander."

"What did he say?" Andrew asked.  "We saw the plane was back."

"Buffy and Giles are in Cleveland.  The guy he's got coordinating between the two groups is going to talk to her tomorrow.  I still don't know why they couldn't use email or something."

"Not everyone has access to email everyday," Warren reminded her.  "Plus, there's people who don't like computers."

"Yeah, like Giles," she said, grimacing some.  "So I guess it's fine that he got Bobby involved, whoever he is."

Andrew printed something and handed it over.  "There's a loosely associated group of hunters.  I'm assuming that's who Xander went to for help.  I have no idea how he found them since it took me a few hours of hacking to find them."

She read it over.  "Oooh, one of these Wesley knows!" she said, sitting up straighter.  They smiled.  "No wonder!  He went to Wes and Wes hooked him up!"  She hit herself on the forehead.  "We've got to do something so I'm better.  That way I can go to Cleveland."

Warren looked at her.  "You should stay with us, Willow.  After all, there's been three Watchers hiding in the city now for months."  She gave him a dirty look.  He smirked back.  "I know, it's a 'bad vampire' moment for me.  I'm sure my sire would be proud if he was still alive."

"Welcome," Jonathan reminded him.

"Yes, thank you for staking him, Jon."

She snickered.  "Someone turned Ethan Rayne and Spike adopted him.  They were visiting Angel for a few days."  They all groaned.   Poor Spike!  "Plus when I was back there helping with the summoning spell, I saw and heard Dru."

"Doubly poor Spike," Andrew said, shuddering.

"She was trying to mother Angel's new childe, Charlie.  She likes his hair."  They all snickered at that.  "He's got great curly hair.  He's still with his girlfriend too.  I heard him tell her that.  She wanted to know if he needed advice on how to play with her the right way."  They all shuddered.  "Angel shoved her into the basement and locked the door before reminding Charlie he didn't have to play with his friends that way."

"No but it's fun," Warren pouted.

"Still not going for the gay action for you," Andrew quipped.  "Sorry, Warren."

"Pity.  I could use some good sex."

She looked at him.  "What is it with vampires and the disgusting urges?"

He smirked, letting his fangs come down.  "It comes with the other lusts and the demon, dear.  You are cute."

"And I can kill you with a thought," she reminded him.  He went back to human looking and got back to his computer.  "Which Watchers are in town?"  He handed her the list.  She looked then at him.  "We know where they're all hiding?"  They all smirked and nodded.  "Does Xander know?"  They all nodded again.  "Excellent.  Then we should teach them that making Xander do their job is wrong.  Very, very wrong.  Xander will not make a good Watcher."  She found her laptop so she could link into their circle and help them hack the Watchers.   Someone was going to pay for making Xander do magic and do watchery things.  It wasn't what Xanders were supposed to do!  It was warping the universe!  It was so wrong that vegans would quit eating tofu eventually from it.  She took one of her pain pills and got back to work.  Travers needed to be miserable and she was just the hacking witch to do it.


Xander looked up from his patrolling when someone jogged over to where he was cleaning up a mess.  "Hey, Spike."

"Should go home, whelp.  There's a major player in town."

Xander looked at him.  "Like we need artillery?"

"Won't help with this one.  Banishing yes, that no."

"Aw, fuck.  Ethan hasn't taught me those yet."

"I know the book," he said, tugging on his arm.  Xander nodded, heading back with him, leaving the mess there.  That one would finish dissolving the sidewalk but it'd be okay.  They locked themselves inside so Spike could get him the book with the banishing spells, sitting him down to make him go over it repeatedly until he had it memorized and could do it perfectly when trying on small things like imps that he called Ethan to conjure for them.  Around dawn they went outside to banish that one demon, making a small crater by City Hall but that too was fine.  Not like people would be able to move back in when all this was done with.  Spike and Xander agreed, Sunnydale had outlived it's purpose and the would was safer if it was rubble.  They went home through the sewers, so Spike could get there safely and Xander could finish his hunting for the night, and then went to bed in their own beds, dreaming nightmares of what was to come during the next battle.

Someone had to get Xander able to close the hellmouth by spell instead of walking into it.

They didn't have time to find another guardian if he died from the kraken monster.


Ethan looked over from his reading on the couch, smiling at Angel.  "Xander banished the one you called Spike about."

"Good.  What about closing the hellmouth?"

"We'll be working on that once I get back.   I called Ripper to see which version he uses and we have it back at the house I'm fairly certain.  I'll get to work teaching it to him once I get back there tomorrow night."

Dru stomped in.  "No one will play with me, Daddy.  Not even Miss Edith.  She said I'm being bad by helping the light so the pretty dark can't win."

"If the dark wins this time it won't be pretty," Ethan told her.  "Next time it might be prettier, love."  She beamed at him.  "Remind Miss Edith of that.  If the dark wins this time even vampires are toys to be used and killed in the few minutes before the world explodes."  She nodded, drifting off humming to tell her dolly that.  He looked at Angel.  "We've still got that last large battle in the middle of the universe."

"Any idea where it speaks of?" he asked.

Ethan nodded.  "I can get it down to a country and possibly a state.  I'm still working on it."

"Good.  Do that, warn us all.  We've got that problem tomorrow."

"Will you need me?  I do believe that's why Spike left me here."

"We could," he admitted.  "Wes doesn't do that much magic."

"Of course not.  The Watchers forbade it.  It might warp how they see the world into a more realistic version!"  Angel snickered, walking off laughing.  "It would."  He got back to reading.  "Do we have the spell?" he called.

"Yes," Gunn called from the office.  "It's in Wes's notebook."

"Thank you."  He went to get that and read.  He wasn't sleepy yet, even though it was nearly eight in the morning.  He could stay up to study it for a few more hours.


Buffy smiled at the old guy coming up to their table.  "Bobby, right?"  She shook his hand.  "Buffy Summers."

"Miss Summers, pleasure to meet you both."  He sat down after shaking Giles' hand.  "How was last night?"

"Easy squeezy," she said happily.  Bobby looked at her.  "I'm like that every night.  Only Cleveland's bigger.  I can't run across town if there's problems the way I could in Sunnydale."

"Good point."  He smiled at the waitress coming back.  "Water and a short stack, please?"  She nodded.

"Can I have the eggs and waffles platter?" Buffy asked.  "With milk and some water?"  She nodded, writing that down. "Giles?"

"I believe I'll have the small french toast.  With tea please."  She nodded, walking off.  "How has Xander been doing, honestly?"

"We sent a few of our kind out to help him with the major problems a few weeks back.  They said he's healthy but he's living on cocoa at the moment.  Tired.  A bit cranky and sarcastic."

"So, an after-day with Anya?" Buffy said.

"Don't know, Buffy.  Never met her."

"That's his ex-girlfriend, who was over women scorned when she was working," Giles said quietly.  Bobby gave him an odd look.  "She turned back to human."

"She also dumped him and ran," she said dryly, giving him a look.  "Xander didn't make enough money for her to sit around all day so she could have sex all day long."

"Interesting."  He shook his head.  "Probably not that tired if I'm thinking right."  She nodded at that.  "He's doing a nightly patrol and daily studying."

"Hmm, so high school tired.  We're used to that," she assured him.  "Is he handling the other problems all right?"

"He is," he agreed.  "I talked to him last night after I got off the phone with Caleb.  He was handling things just fine and had Spike with him.  Ethan's in LA bothering Angel to help him with something coming up.  Wes has been coordinating where they are while I've been dealing with our kind."  She nodded.  He slid over something.  "That's the current listing of where people should be right now that'll matter to you."

She looked.  "My mom's on here," she said happily.  "She's up with Aunt Beth.  That's cool."  She let Giles see.  "Willow's staying in Miami?"  Bobby nodded.  "How long?"

"Probably a good bit.  She's still healing from the broken ribs."

"I hate those," she said, sighing some.  "Never feel right for days."

"Normal humans don't feel right for months," Bobby told her.  She nodded, getting that.  "Anyway, that's where the rest of your team are."

She looked.  "Tara's in LA?"

"It was too bad at the house so she got dropped off by the boys I sent.  They'll be going back to help Xander whenever they need to and there's people who can get her there quickly too, Buffy."

"Good.  He could use some support so he doesn't turn into Willow."  She frowned, tracing over things.  "What're these little dots?"

"Those are minor gathering points.  We figured out that Xander can't leave anymore but he can use it to travel, like others have been.  So he can hit any dot like that to conference for a few minutes.  I'm by this one," he said, pointing one  out.  She nodded at that, looking at him.  "We've had one about where to get everyone and to adjust some info we had.  You have both prophecies from that page?" he asked Giles quietly.

"I have one."  Bobby handed over the rest of the file for him, getting a nod of thanks.  The waitress brought their food and left again with a cheery smile for them.   Giles read it over.  The boy's talent for planning was clearly showing.  He looked at him.  "Do we have anyone but Xander planning?"

"I've been doing our side," he assured him. "Angel's been doing his people for their problems.  We're trying to figure out where the last point is since it looks like we can't avoid it."

Giles looked at that one, frowning.  "Someone who's quest was the center of the universe to them.  There's not many  like that," he said.   "I'll look at references through the Council's information."

"Good luck.  They're all in hiding.  The research council isn't as well hidden, one went to see the boy, but mostly they're long gone."  He handed over another folded sheet.  "That's where he found 'em."  He dug in, smiling at the young girl eating her weight in food.  She was tiny and probably needed it.

Giles smirked at some of that information.  "Oh, I do know where they are," he said dryly.  "They're in Watcher fallback locations for the most part.  I'll have to call Willow, see what she's doing to them."   He handed it back.  "I'm sure at least Travers will be sorry for letting it get this far."

"I'm sorry I didn't let you have the phone when Xander called the first time," she sighed.  "It sounded like nothing special and he was being dumb and demanding, Giles."

He looked at her.  "Next time we'll know better, won't we?" he said dryly.

"Yes, Giles.  But hey, he called the head people and they said the same thing."

"Travers still is, said it's his fault if it is happening," Bobby assured her.

"No, it happens whenever there's helpers.  The helper joining into the duty is the sign that it's coming," Giles assured him.  Bobby gave him an odd look.  "Wesley and I were both on the research council originally."  That got an evil smirk.  "I'll figure out the location of the last battle.  Not a problem there."  Buffy's phone chirped.  "Buffy!"

"Sorry."  She got up to head into the bathroom to talk to whoever.  "What's up, I'm back," she said  happily.  "Willow," she said, letting out a mini-squeal.  "Are you okay?  I know, broken ribs suck.  Are you sure you're okay?  The boys are being nice?  Or should I come down to spank them or something?"  She laughed at the quip.  "No, we're good.  We're both in Cleveland as of last night.  We're having breakfast with Bobby."  She walked back to the table, chatting about the city on the way so no one would notice.  "Giles, it's Willow."  She let him have the phone.  "She said she's making Travers *very* sorry."

"Good.  Someone should," he agreed.  "Finish up, then we'll hit somewhere more secure to finish going over stuff."  She nodded, digging in to finish her breakfast and the last piece of Giles' french toast too.  She smiled when Giles hung up.  "She good?"

"She's fine.  She's kept those three from trying to take over Miami to make every woman wear bikinis."  Buffy snickered at that.  "Apparently Warren was turned," he said quietly.  "So far he's doing all right.  She's been watching for him to turn worse but so far he's kept it at 'let's go after the people who made us move and change our plans' and 'lets go clubbing for nubile young women' with her as the chaperone."  He handed back the phone, glancing at his plate then shaking his head.  "She did say that she left the account I  use alone.  Which was very nice of her."  He paid for breakfast and they left together, heading back to her hotel room.  "I'll be finding us a more permanent place soon," he assured Bobby.

"Not like I care.  Half of my sort spend our lives in a motel room, Giles."  He smiled at the girl, who got comfortable and took the file to read over.  "That's as recent as Xander had as of yesterday."

"He's a good planner most of the time," she assured him, going back to reading.  She nodded at one point.  "Do we know if the others are covered?"

"Your ex is still down covering the fallout from the Costa Rica one being uncovered for weeks on end.  The guy's back there so they'll be back in a few days.  You want them here?"

"I'd like them in Niagra actually," Giles said.  "It's presently not covered.  Who knows what's going on up there."

"I've had some of our boys up there recently.  Not too bad.  A few extra possessions.  It's not a heavy point because it's behind a waterfall.  The town's a bit away so it's bleeding that way but not as badly as other areas."  That got a nod from them.  "Gibralter?"

"Travers was sending someone when we left," Giles admitted.  He found his phone book and dialed a number, then a second number, finding the person on the other end.  "Ralph, Rupert Giles.  Yes, we're in Cleveland.  Tara and Ethan Rayne actually.  Willow guarded them most likely but it was definitely those two  pulling us back from the Void.  A few things.  Is Gibralter covered?"  He nodded, taking some paper to make notes on.  "All right.  Sapporo?"  He smiled at that answer, writing it down.  "Excellent.  Do we have both prophecies from the page?"  He nodded.  "Good.  Then we need to know where the last battle is.  Someone figured out when....  How did they do that, Bobby?  Do we have any clue?"

He smirked, relaxing some.  "The agent who ordered Sunnydale evacuated has a little brother who was turned when all the demons fled during the first problem."  Buffy shuddered.  "The brother's a math genius who Wesley knew and had saved from what I heard.  The brother came to see Xander, that's how he got the town evacuated so efficiently, and the little brother figured it out for Wes before he got turned.  Now Druscilla's helping Angel as his seer and likes his hair.  She's been taking him shopping since he's taking lessons from Angel in how not to turn evil and eat his family."

"Angel can teach those," Buffy said quietly, looking at him.  "Dru likes him?"  Bobby nodded.  "Is he insane?"

"Genius.  Went to college at fourteen genius."  She shuddered at that.  "They're all a bit strange in some way but so far he's only asked his family if they wanted to be turned.  Wes said he's been very helpful and they're all trying to keep Dru off him but she loves him like the little bunny she ate a few years back."  She snickered and nodded at that.  "Even Spike likes the boy from what I've heard Wes saying.   Grumbles at him more'n Ethan but not bad."


Giles smiled.  "There was a math genius who Wesley knew.  He figured it out.  No, he got turned by one of the fleeing vampires when the problems started.  His brother went to Xander for answers since he's FBI and probably hacked into the files to find someone nearby to ask.  The brother is the one who helped Xander get the evacuation started.  Don?"  Bobby nodded.  "Yes, Don.  Oh, the one who went out there did meet him later on.  Was he nice?"  He smiled.  "That'll be fine then.  Thanks to his brother's work we know when but not always where.  Especially that last battle.  Well, we do all hope we can avert it but it's not looking hopeful at the moment.  Exactly.  Thank you, Ralph.  Yes, that's Buffy's cellphone number.  We're in Cleveland.  We'll be at this hotel for at least a day more.  Then I'll find us somewhere more permanent.  Oh, do be careful.  Willow's a bit pissed at Travers and taking it out on the Council."  He hung up, walking back over.  "They have what Xander gave you a few months back.  He'll pull it out to figure it out."

"Good.  Wish I had a library like that," Bobby said dryly.  "I have a few books on the more normal sort of stuff."  Buffy looked at him.  "We deal with more ghosts, poltergeists, and natural creatures than we do real demons, except for in possessions."

"Wow.  We got a lot of funny looking demons out in Sunnydale.  Mostly with names I won't ever remember."  She got back to her reading.  "Willow's hacking the Council?"

"Oh, yes," he said dryly.  "She's also kept the boys from taking over Miami.  They opened a portal to Hogwarts?"

Buffy looked at him then nodded.  "Then one decided he wasn't ready to challenge Snape for Hermione's affection so he made the others close it.  We found them arguing about closing it on patrol one night."  Bobby gaped in horror.  She smirked.  "They made a Buffy robot too.  It's very good and slays nearly as good as I do.  Willow said they're doing each other's hair when she called earlier."  She handed the file back.  "Okay, what do you need us to do at this moment?"

"Keep Cleveland down," he told her.  "With a guardian being here it's got to help."  Giles nodded at that.  "The major problem areas were handed over?"

"Yes and I agree we can do a patrol route through most of them."  Bobby nodded.  "Have the locals noticed?"

"A few times.  Nothing too bad yet.  This is a weaker one anyway.   It'd seem like the heart would be a stronger one."

"The Heart lends strength to the Mouth, which opens to proclaim a new age," Giles said.  "The Womb opens when the evil is born.  The Knees tremble when the Evil is closer.  The Hands pray when the Mouth opens or clutches the Heart  to shield it.  The Feet shift when the Gods are angry in the Mountains and let the world know of it.  That's how I learned of it.  It's taught to all Watchers in our first year.  Most of them only memorize it long enough to pass their test on it."

"So the Cleveland one is adding strength to the Sunnydale one but the others only open when specific things happen?" Buffy asked.  Giles nodded.  "How often has Sapporo opened?"

"Three times, always during a bad Emperor's reign as I understand it.  It's very linked to the conditions of the land and the people who live there.  There's a Buddhist nunnery on top of that one that keeps it steady and a guardian as well.  Gibralter has only opened four or five times if I remember right, and always after the Sunnydale one has opened to let something horrid out.  If we hadn't stopped the ascension and the Mayor had managed to open ours, that one would've opened then to proclaim his birth."  They both nodded at that, Bobby giving him his full attention.  "The knees, in China, tremble a bit now and then from earthquakes but never fully opens.  It gets very close but the increase in power triggers another earthquake and it gets drained by that.  If Gibralter opens there's bound to be an earthquake there.  A fairly powerful one.  The last one was a seven-point- something if I remember right.  The left wrist, Niagra, and the right palm, Costa Rica, are both out away from a town or anywhere.  They're also tied together.  If one's increasing the other surely is.  It's affected by either Sunnydale or Cleveland opening for some reason.  No one's sure why they're linked.  Sunnydale affects the one in Costa Rica first and the one here affects Niagra."  That got a nod from both of them again.  "We do need to get a guardian up to deal with the Niagra one to keep it calmer.  Me being here will keep this one calmer.  Kendra's Watcher is in Costa Rica."

"The file said the one in Niagra got turned," Buffy said.

"Yes, well, if I had someone I'd send them," he said grimly.  "If we could get one of Riley's people to take the vow and send them it might help the most."

"What vow?" Bobby asked.  "Our people haven't ever heard of that one."

"It's something the Watchers started long ago so there's always be guardians ready to step in," Giles told him.  "Most field watchers take it but most research ones don't.  My father forced me to take it when I took my Watchers' vow.  Wesley's didn't."  He wrote it down.  "No medium is ever allowed to perform it.  It ties them too tightly, which is Xander's issue  most likely.  Though if it was fully open at that point it would've sucked him in."

"Is that why he has white hair and feels like he's Satan to sensitive ones?" Bobby asked.

Giles smiled.  "He's got a bit of hellion in him but he's not that bad."  Buffy snickered.  "Yes, that's from being a medium and taking the vows.  He probably also added much too much blood.  It only takes a few drops onto the earth over a power point.  The Council is built over a small one so we all take ours there."

"Xander took his over the open hellmouth and he's got new scars up each forearm.  He did it the day after the fires."

Giles nodded.  "He was desperate and that's all he knew to do."  He looked at Buffy then at him.  "How did he know to do that?"

"I have no clue.  Didn't ask the boy.  I know he saved some of your stuff from the shop.  It's in the house with them.  Sammy said they have a whole room full of magic books thanks to your shop and the college falling in."

"Hmm.  I'll have to see if I can sneak back to see what he has.  Or get a list from Ethan."  He smiled.  "Xander added too much blood and being a medium got sucked into the hellmouth for a nanosecond when he took his vows.  It linked it into his soul.  Should he lose his soul it will guard and keep the hellmouth for a good while until it's sucked free of all its energy.  He'll be wandering around being a blight.  We know what he'll turn into as a vampire."

"Only if the Master turned him," Buffy said.  "Other vamps aren't as bad, Giles.  As long as someone other than the Spike or Angel, or Dru I guess, turn him it should be fine."

"We don't want him turned," Bobby reminded her.

"No, I don't want him turned but Xander has crappy luck sometimes with the demons.  The deadly ones want to pet and keep him for sex stuff.  The lesser ones hate him for his clothes being so loud.  The minions think he's nummy, as told so by Spike, and the master vamps hate him because he helps me."

"He's been sharing clothes with Spike according to Dean.  He was snickering that Xander took the last clean shirt in the house from Spike for a patrol and made the vampire pout at him.  He didn't say anything about loud clothes and he would have.  Especially about hunting in loud clothes."

"Huh.  Must've lost all his in the fire then," Buffy said.  "Good."  She beamed.  "No more loud print shirts, no more stuff that makes you want to find the light switch on it.  Nothing that makes you reach for sunglasses."  Giles gave her a look.  "It was horrible!  Even Anya was going to spend money to get him better clothes, Giles!  You know she hated spending her own money."

"I remember, but it could be worse, Buffy."  He patted her on the shoulder, earning a chuckle from Bobby.  "Willow's not always much better."

"I helped Willow with some of hers. The whole dorm roomie thing helped a lot with that and kept me from going out in the pants that made my butt look big."  She shifted to look at him.  "Besides, Miami is the capitol of fashion for the east coast, southern side, so she should be shopping with the geeky boys.  That way she fits in better down there for clubbing and stuff.  None of her clothes would fit into a real club."

He gave her a look. "I'm sure she's got other plans beyond shopping, Buffy."

She snorted.  "Why?  She's on the DL until she's healed!"  She called down there on her cellphone.  "Wills, go shopping!"  She hung up.  She beamed.  "See, better and good me."

"I'm sure she'll appreciate the break," he said dryly.  Bobby burst out laughing again.  "Yes, they're always like that.  Shouldn't you be calling your mother?"

"I'm going to.  I'm waiting for a good time.  She's probably off finding a new job or something.  Besides, I need my nighttime free minutes for that."  He sighed, handing her his wallet.  She squealed and took her cellphone into the bedroom since he'd pay her overage costs.

"You spoil her," Bobby said quietly.

"She deserves it most of the time."  That got a smile and a nod.  "Were you going to keep any of your hunters around here?"

"A few of the mercenary ones are staying local.  They don't want the world to go to hell either.  Less business for them.  We can arrange for you to meet them tonight to work out which areas you'll each take.  Cleveland's a city so she'll never hit it all in one night."  Giles nodded at that wisdom.  "Your boy's been good.  He's called me every few days since we started to share information.  Wes got us hooked up before you ask."

"I'll thank him later.  Thank you for looking out for the boy."

"Not a problem.  If he were mine I'd worry too."

Giles smiled.  "I did nearly adopt him and Willow both."

"Her parents got burned in the fire as far as he knew.  His parents got sacrificed by the geek trio trying to call up a former hunter.  They got yelled at for it too."

"Yes, they can be like that now and then.  Which is why I don't mind Willow watching over them while they're in Miami.  They can do ever so much more harm down there than they could at home."

"Your boy's planning on it staying shut."

"It's probably the best of all ideas," he agreed. "If he could get that agent to go for it."

"Eeh, if he doesn't it'll be a crater," Bobby said dryly.  Giles smiled and nodded.  "He's already been using artillery on some of them.  The agent and his brother were both amused."

"As I would be."  Buffy let out a squeal.  "Tell her I said hello," he called.  He looked at him again.  "You should rest.  She does sap the strength out of one when she's happy and giddy.  Nearly as bad as when she's shopping."  Bobby laughed, shaking his hand before leaving.  Giles laid down on the couch.  He needed his own nap so he could pay for her phone bill that afternoon.


Willow hung up with a huff.  "I do not need to go shopping!" she complained.

Andrew looked at her.  "We *all* need to go shopping so we fit in.  After all, Miami is not geek central."  She pouted at him.  "It's not."

"Tara would like you to wear pretty things for her," Warren reminded her.  She smiled at that, nodding a bit.  "We just looted seven million from the Watchers for being assholes.  We can do that.  I can do mine tonight of course but you three go.  Shoo.  Get her pretty and hot and stuff so her girlfriend pounces."  Willow blushed, shaking her head.  "She will."

"Tara doesn't pounce."

"She will if she sees how we're dressing you," Jonathan said with a smile.  "I always wanted to dress up someone else.  Money?"  Warren clicked a few things then handed him something he printed out.  "Good enough.  C'mon, guys."  They pulled Willow down to her rental car, Andrew remembering the keys, so they could head to the bank where Warren had routed the money.

"We're going to need some of the cash for expenses," Willow protested.

"So we won't hit couture shops," Jonathan snorted.  "There's still plenty of places to get hot looking stuff.  This way you don't have to do a glamour when we go out," he reminded her.  "Plus Tara will want pictures."  He ran into the bank since Warren had put it into his name.  He came back out thirty minutes later with cash, handing them each a third of it.  "There.  Now let's shop."  They pulled out of the parking lot and headed off to find somewhere to get more hip clothes.  They were geeks, they all wanted to be more hip.  "We should ask Charlie's advice.  He's got to know more about hip clothes since he's on a major college campus."

"In LA," Andrew told him.  "They wear different stuff out there."

"True."  He pulled into a shop he liked the looks of.  "How's that, Willow?"

She looked then at him.  "Tatoos?"

"No!  The one next to it."

She looked.  "The goth shop?"

"No!" he said impatiently, pointing at one.  "There!"  She looked then wobbled, but let them drag her inside.   He smiled winningly at the amused looking shopgirl.  "We're in on vacation but we're from near LA and we're all super brains.  Can you help us fit in a bit better?  We'd like to pick up the skanky hos in clubs."

She smothered a laugh but nodded.  "I think we can make you fit in a bit better, sir."  She walked them off to find them something hipper to wear.  Especially her.  She had a nice enough body.  Why was she wearing baggy things?   She also wrote down a list of places for them to head to so they could find the better, small shops instead of hitting the major chains.  She checked them out, smiling at their wads of money, then watched as they left.  "They need a new car too," she muttered.  "Then again it is a rental."


Tara looked at the picture that was coming up in her email, clicking on it.  She squeaked, backing away in fear.  "What did they do?" she said.

Charlie looked over her shoulder then snickered.  "Like most geeks they decided to try for hip and cool, Tara."  He patted her on the back.  "It'll be okay. You can unwarp Willow later on.  Even if she does look good in the heels and tiny skirt."   He walked off shaking his head. "You should show that to Angel and send it to Buffy too."

She gave him a look.  "I don't want my girlfriend to look like a club girl."

"She's chaperoning the boys.  She'll need to so they can get in," Don told her.  He came over to look then snickered, writing back a better suggestion.  Another picture showed up ten minutes later and he nodded.  "Better.  Much more smooth and subtle."

Tara looked then whined a bit.  "That's not my girlfriend either."

Don smirked at her.  "Then pounce her and make her wear what you want her to wear when you get her back.  That way you can undo the geek trauma the boys caused."  He walked off shaking his head.  He didn't understand Tara sometimes.  She was a beautiful young woman.  Why did she wear the all-covering outfits?

Ethan came out to look then snickered, shaking his head.  "Not very Wiccan, is it?"  She pouted, shaking her head.  "Miami is one of the pretty people capitol of the world, dear.  She's got to fit in down there.  Besides, she said she's been chaperoning so the boys don't bring back total whores with many diseases."  Don snickered at that.  "She has been.  She's been doing glamours to get past the bouncers.  This way she won't have to."  He gave her a hug.  "I'm sure they enticed her to go shopping by pointing out that you could undo anything you didn't like later on by pouncing."

"I don't pounce.  I'm not our kitty."

He patted her on the back.  "I know you're not but you do pounce her to hug her when you're happy.  Don't you?"  She shook her head.  "Hmm, you should.  No one would mind with as cute as you two must be."  He pushed her hair back behind her ear.  "Besides that, if I know Xander he would've dressed her as Gabrielle for the boys."  Charlie burst out laughing at that, nodding a bit.  "So see, no leather."

"Leather is evil."

"Only on Angel, love.  Only on Angel."  He walked off,  leaving her to her pout.  She'd find her method of correcting Willow through sex soon enough he was sure. Once her ribs were no longer broken.  He looked at Don.  "Are you back for a while?"

"I've only got once every five days up there.  Thankfully.  David swears his mind's rotting with all the demons he's seeing."

Ethan nodded.  "We've been working on it.  Do you think the higher ups would mind if the thing turned into a pothole?"

"Depends on which one you ask."  He looked at Charlie then at Ethan.  "Isn't there a problem tonight?"

"At two or so, at one of the many demon bars.  We'll be heading out to handle it soon enough."

"Then I'll bring Charlie back tomorrow night.  Later, guys.  Tara, are you heading?"

"No, I'm guarding here," she said with a faint smile.  "I don't like to fight and I'm not good in them."

"Someone really must teach you some better defensive spells," Ethan said dryly.  "Plus how to defend yourself.  LA is too dangerous without it."  She blushed but shrugged a bit.

"C'mon, Tara.  You can come home to have dinner with us and I'll work on your self- defense lessons," Don promised, pulling her along with his brother.  She wouldn't come unless he pulled.  His father tried to baby her and she got scared of the attention the last time.  His father was determined to baby Tara so he was under orders to bring her home now and then.  Charlie waved as he was dragged off, cracking Ethan up.

Angel came out of the kitchen.  "The leather is only a sign that I'm evil, Ethan.  Not making me evil."

"Oh, I don't know.  If you wore some tonight they'd think you had reverted and it'd be an easier battle.  You are seen as evil when you're wearing leather.  Thankfully the geek trio didn't get Willow any.  Poor girl might've had a heart attack before making it to Miami to correct her girlfriend."  Angel walked off shaking his head at that thought.  Ethan smiled, going to get some blood before changing to go out tonight.  It was going to be a long night for them.

Someone really did have to teach Tara how to throw offensive spells like fireballs at people before she got mugged, or worse turned.