Note: This GHS version is a what-if verse. What if Xander hadn't gone home to Sunnydale because the girls didn't want him.  Same rules of GHS apply.  Crossover with Buffy/Highlander and a lot of smut.

A Xander In New York.

Xander walked into his boss's office, sitting down.  He was nineteen, handsome, a pure GHS slut, and nearing the end of his special six week contract at Devi's brothel to find himself.  "I called home," he said dryly.  His boss/pimp/head demon groaned.  "I was blatantly told I wasn't needed ever again."  He pouted some, slumping down.  "All my plans were to return to Sunnydale."

"Well, nothing says you have to go back.  You could go to LA."

"Angel's moved to LA and she had him call me to warn me off too.  He said it's too dangerous.  That he'd send me off if he caught me in his city."  He shrugged.  "So I have not a clue in hell of what I'm doing and Adam suggested I find a spot here in the city and settle in for a year or two so I can make those plans."

"With your problems...."

"I know, I'd be kidnaped within a week," Xander agreed dryly.  "Adam also suggested that I have a protector.  He said not a keeper because it'd be damn lucky of me to find one, but a protector, like prison bitch protector was how he put it."  He looked at his boss.  "Know anyone, preferably human?"

Devi considered the young man.  His pheromones made people, especially demons, want the boy in extreme ways.  Everyone wanted the kid.  He was nearly kidnaped ten times in one single day from the brothel itself, not even counting the ones outside that day.  The kid was a nice guy, fully able to take care of himself, but he was right, he'd need a fully human protector.  A demon would be worn thin by his pheromones and be too cloudy-headed to truly protect him.  A human though, they weren't as affected.  "Let me check around."  Xander nodded, giving him a slight smile.  "I know it's tough, kid, but it could be a lot worse.  You could be some harem slave at the moment."

"Adam warned me about that.  That's why he said I needed a protector."  He stood up.  "Okay, what'm I doing tonight, Devi?  Stringing, performing, sitting around and looking cute while the other guys work since you're not being affected?"

"Go sit and look cute for now.  We'll see what comes up.  If I have to, I'll let you go down to the club and string for me."  Xander nodded, heading out to the lounge area to find his book and settle in to read.  It was the slowest night of the week and most of the guys were off and hanging out in their rooms.  Devi pulled out his phonebook and called a number.  "It's Devi.  My problem child just ran into a bitch for a friend.  Told him not to come home.  He's thinking about staying local but not working for me so he's looking for a protector.  Yeah, that sort."  He smiled.  "That would be an ideal situation," he admitted.  "I'll let the kid know and send him out to meet with him.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Riasu knows someone, kid, and he'll talk to him for you."  Xander grinned at him and he felt the hormones start to kick in.  Oooh, he'd be drawing people up in a few minutes.  It'd soak down through the air circulation system and demons would start coming up to pay him handsomely for some of Xander's time.


Xander slid into the seat across from the man the bodyguard pointed at, then the bodyguard Devi sent him with wandered to the bar.  "Hi."

"Hi."  The other guy was older, maybe thirty but he had pretty blue eyes that studied him.  He was looked over and then the other guy shrugged.  "I got a call about you."

"Me?" he asked with a grin.  "I asked Devi to talk to someone to see if he could help me find a protective person."

"Why?"  He drank a bit of his beer.  "Want one?"

"Underaged and I don't drink."

"Okay.  Soda?"  Xander beamed and nodded so he nodded at the waitress, getting another one for himself and a soda for the kid.  "You're how old?"

"Nineteen."  The other guy nodded once.  "Do you have a name?"

"Don.  You?"

"Xander."  He grinned shyly.  "The reason I asked for a protector....  Do you remember a few weeks back when a bunch of officers lost their mind and tried to steal someone?"

Don put down his beer.  "That was you?" he asked flatly.  Xander nodded.  "Why?"

"Apparently I've got a pheromone problem that makes people want to take me," he said quietly.  "This was discovered while I came in to find myself."


Xander swallowed, taking his soda with a smile and paying for it.  The waitress smiled and walked off with her ten dollars, which was a five dollar tip for her.  He took a sip and looked at him.  "I came out on my roadtrip to find myself," he said quietly.  "Including trying to figure out which way my sexuality swung."

"Ended up with a pimp?" he guessed.

"Devi's okay.  I signed on for six weeks.  I fully planned on going home before my bitter, bitchy friends decided I'm helpless and worthless again."  He took another sip and looked at him.  "My six weeks is up in another week, Don.  In the last five, I've been nearly taken about forty times."  Don gaped.  "That's not counting the ones that were stopped before someone actually snatched me.  This is things like the bank's guards deciding they wanted to keep me for a fun toy.  Things like the vampires who decided they wanted to keep me and play with me before turning me."  He took another drink.  "Just a question, you don't deal in that side, right?  The demon stuff?"

"Nope.  I had one case where it crossed into it at that brothel.  That's all I needed or wanted to know. You?"

"I'm a born and raised hellmouth baby," he said quietly.  "I'm from Sunnydale.  Out by LA."  Don moaned.  "Heard of us?"

"Enough to know that's a bad place.  The only time I heard the name it was whispered."  He looked at him.  "Can you defend yourself?"

"I'm not bad.  I could use some training.  Probably a lot of training if I'm being honest," he admitted quietly.  "I know I'm not the best, but yeah, I've fought and survived."  Don nodded slowly at that.  "I'm not wanted back by my supposed best friends."  He finished his soda and leaned on the table, not looking at the person who came up to the table's side. "So I was thinking about staying locally.  That was what was suggested by my National Head."

"National...."  He looked at the guy there.  "You mind?"  The demon strolled off again.  "At work?"

"Nope, but I can't shut the pheromones off either.  It's like I'm a bitch in heat," he noted dryly, grimacing some.  "That's why I keep getting stolen."  He shrugged and slumped back against the back of the bench, getting comfortable.  "I'm a GHS member," he said quietly.  "Adam said I'm a natural and a level 10, whatever that means."  Don moaned at that.  "My first night, had no experience with men and he said I was a natural there too.  Some of my coworkers are really upset that I'm causing bidding wars."  Don nodded once at that, sipping on his second beer.  "All I'm looking for is to set up somewhere to live and to hide.  I need a protector in case something happens.  You can have a room if you want, we can share an apartment.  I'll pay all the bills.  You might get tired of the few things I can cook, but we can figure that out later.  Whatever it takes to get and keep a good protector, I'm willing to do," he offered.

Don considered it.  "How much did you make?"

"I've got six million in ready cash in the bank."

Don blinked. "Excuse me?"

"I make forty percent of what I bring in.  My first time went for fifteen thousand and that's been one of my lower times.  I had one person pay me a hundred grand as a tip for my time."  He shrugged slightly.  "That's just ready cash, not what I've got stored or socked into investments."

"All right," Don agreed slowly.  "How?"

"Pheromone problem.  That's why the other guys are mad at me," Xander said dryly, staring him down.  "I'm a practical man, Don.  Devi's contact said if you couldn't, you'd know someone who could."

"I know a few who could use you," he noted dryly, saluting him with his beer.  "I'd get free room and board and all I have to do is beat them off you with a stick?"

"Possibly some rescuing," he offered.  "Going out with me when I went shopping.  Adam, our National Head, said I should find myself a prison bitch protector," he noted with a dry grin.  Don snorted at that, shaking his head.  "I'm honest, Don.  He's been fully honest with me.  Guys like me usually end up kidnaped for their short lives and put into a harem or bought by someone who wanted us a lot and then uses us up.  While I might have a lounging jammie habit, I doubt I want to be a harem girl for anyone."

Don considered it.  "What about during the daytime?  What're you going to do?"

"Not a clue," Xander admitted.  "I'd be hiring a housekeeper to come in and clean.  I might do some massages now and then.  Other than that, I haven't gotten that far yet.  They decided to tell me I was worthless just the other day."

"Do you have any self-esteem?"

"Probably.  Mostly built on the realization that someone wants me that way," he said honestly.  "I'm not going to say growing up was *nice* for me.  I slipped into hunting way too easily.  I could always take a martial arts class during the day I guess.  Learn and train myself better.  I need to do some gym time.  I'm still bulkier than I like."

Don looked at him.  "Maybe if you gain some weight it'd help."

"If I did that they'd be disgusted at liking a fat guy and then hurt me while they had me," he noted sarcastically.  "I've already been warned on that one."

Don nodded slowly.  "Well, you're realistic.  Give me a day?"

"Sure."  He wrote down the number. "I'm here.  We all live upstairs.   I'll even let you have input into where I buy for us to live.  You're a nice guy."  He got up and went over to his bodyguard, turning and punching the person who tried to grab him.  "Not for you."  The woman sniffled.  He glared.  "Don't even."  She stomped off, getting her two male friends to come and help take him.  "Not again," he whined. "I'm not being kidnaped today."  He went up to the bar, touching his guard on the arm.  "He's thinking."

The guard nodded behind him.  "Turn it up, kid."  Xander looked and sighed, imagining himself a lot happier and hornier.  He started to get hard and half the bar moaned and started getting a bit happier with each other.  He and the guard fled to the car once Xander had paid for his drinks, going back to the brothel.  With a quick stop in the park so Xander could go throw a fit in some trees.  That way he could rant and scream in peace.


Don walked into the brothel, looking around.  He saw Xander lounging and smirked.  "Slow night?"

"Yup."  He put up his book and looked at him.  "Sorry about last night."

"Eeh, worked out for me. I was off duty anyway."  He sat across from him.  "You're done when?"

"Tuesday.  Adam comes Tuesday and I'm leaving that night.  I can go to a hotel for a few nights and hide in there while I make real estate deals."

"You're staying in your room so we know you're not taken," Devi called, coming out to look at him.  "He can stay upstairs and not work, Detective."

"Might be a good idea.  Somehow he turned it on last night."

"Yeah, getting horny makes it worse," Xander said dryly.  "At least I didn't get you."

"No, I felt some but I've got control, unlike some of those guys."  He looked at him again.  "She was a fed by the way."

"Ooh, yay," he said flatly.  "I avoided being part of a lab experiment in Arizona somewhere."  Don snickered at that.  "I know about them. More than enough, thanks anyway."  He grinned at his boss.  "Payday's Tuesday for me or Thursday like usual?"

"Thursday.  Since you'll be buying a house you could probably put that into it."

"Houses are too far out," Don told him.  "Though nice."

"I was thinking nice, smaller condo," Xander offered. "I got onto Devi's computer earlier and found a few nice ones down by where he said you worked."

"Thanks," Don agreed, grinning at him.  "Anything reasonable?"

"In this city? I thought LA was expensive," he said bitterly.  "Then again, I found a really nice four bedroom with den and living room, plus nice kitchen for about a million.  Nice enough building fees and they liked me when I talked to them.  It's about ten blocks from your station.  It's in a decent area, which was why I was looking there.  I'd probably want that one anyway.  I'm going to look at it tomorrow night."

"Do they know what you did?"

"No, I'm an ex living off my palimony payment," Xander said honestly.  "I'm all for lying about that stuff if I have to.  It says it's got a security system and they allow limited pets."

"Sure. No cats, I'm allergic."  Xander smiled and hugged him. "Kinda clear you needed a good, strong influence last night, kid."  He looked at Devi, then at him. "Anything you think you'll absolutely want?"

"A leather couch.  A nice tv with cable.  Fudge ice cream because I've had a craving all day," he said with a grimace.  Devi laughed at that.  "I have," he said with a pout.

"His normal personality is fairly decent, detective.  He's a good kid, most of the other guys like him.  He's fairly neat and clean."

"I'm hiring a housekeeper," Xander said firmly.  "I did enough scrubbing while I worked fast food.  I never want to scrub another nasty bathroom ever again."

"One less thing I gotta worry about, unless they try to take you," Don offered.

"I've already talked with one agency.  They've got people who're bonded and been doing this for years.  I told them I had a problem with people liking to stare and try to take me.  They're sending over someone older who promised to only look at me like her kids."

"Decent enough."  Don stood up.  "When tomorrow?"

"One, but I can have them take you later."

"You can show me when you sign.  That would probably be tomorrow."

"Hopefully.  The tenant's board can meet later that night."  He shrugged.  "I'm going as a pretty rich boy who got paid when my former daddy/lover wanted someone younger."  He gave him a wry grin, then let it morph into his normal naughty one.  "Want to help me find a leather couch?"

"I'm sending you with guards," Devi assured him.  "No way in hell I'm letting you out without one, Xander."

"Heard what happened last night?" Don taunted.

Devi moaned.  "Not in detail."  He went back into his office.  "The bank called for you earlier.  They need you to find another investment since one of those funds is closed."

"Tell them to pick something. I don't want to walk back in there again."  He looked at Don again.  "I earn pretty good interest.  I should be able to live off it for the rest of my life."

"Hopefully."  He grinned at him.  "See you tomorrow night?"

"Sure.  I'll be here and the other guys would be really happy if I took a few hours off."  Don nodded, heading out.  He got up and went into the office.  "He is a nice guy, right?  I mean, my demony senses aren't going off about him and he seems pretty nice."

"He is.  He's a very good detective.  Works homicide. Has a good solve average.  He's from a long line of cops.  His family's local.  He's got a strong network of friends."

"I don't care if he brings friends over."

"To help him if something else happens to you, kid.  You're going when tomorrow?"

"One."  Devi nodded, making note of that.  "I figured I was off work then and I could show him afterward if I liked it."

"If that doesn't work, I've got somewhere else for you to visit afterward."  He looked at him. "Put on clothes and head down to the club to bring people up."  Xander nodded, heading up to change since it was a slow night. "No sending the club off," he called after him.

"I didn't mean to last time," he promised.


Xander looked around his new loft.  The other one wasn't in that nice of a part of town.  It was kind of grimy and he had seen two muggings from his potential windows.  This one was nicer but further uptown.  "My protector would have to drive further," he noted calmly.  The large demon showing him the place was scaring him.  His bodyguard was outside.  "Plus it'll be the two of us and he'll have friends over."

The demon looked at him and then rolled her eyes.  "I'm not going to harm you."

"Yeah, I've heard that a lot when the handcuffs go around my wrists," he shot back, looking at her.  "I thank you for the offer though."  She smirked at that.  "He works at the twelfth."

"Traffic would be a bitch getting there in the mornings from here," she agreed.  "I know of one closer but it's smaller."

"I looked at a really nice one but I saw two muggings out the windows."

"Probably not where you want to live," she agreed. "What's your budget?"

"I've got six mil in the bank.  I'd like to not have to work, but I can live on two or three if I have to."

She smirked at him.  "You really are Devi's problem child, aren't you?"  Xander nodded.  "Then I understand your earlier worries.  I know of one. Let me call the agent.  It's smaller, a two bedroom.  He might have something bigger in the building however."  He grinned at that and she called over there, taking him to introduce him.  That agent led him to a nice building in the same neighborhood as the first one.  "He's a rich former playtoy," she warned her friend.

"I looked at one there," Xander said, pointing at one building a few blocks off. "But there were two muggings and I need somewhere safe.  Someone's tried to snatch me a few times."

The agent looked at him. "I can see why," he agreed happily.  He led Xander into the condo.  "We've only got a two bedroom and a five bedroom open."

"How much is the five?"


Xander winced.  "I could probably swing that.  I've got six but I want to live off it.  How much are fees?"

"Fairly decent.  Ten grand a year."  Xander looked at him.  "That covers everything, including your utilities."  Xander nodded, accepting that.  "Not from this coast?"

"I'm from near LA.  I thought it was expensive out there."  He looked around the two bedroom first, it was nice.  Comfy.  The five bedroom seemed to sprawl.  "It'll be me and a friend who's an officer living here," he offered at the curious looks.  That got a smile. "He's helping protect me in case the people who wanted to snatch me come back."

"You'll be his bitch?"

Xander looked at him.  "We never discussed that but hey, I repay rescues with sex if he wants."  The agents both laughed. "Not kidding.  I'm tired of people trying to kidnap me."  He went to look around.  It had a great view.  He called Devi.  "How much is my check this week?"  He smirked.  "Really?  Why?"  He beamed.  "Even better.  I found a nice five bedroom one.  There's a smaller, cozy two bedroom one."  He looked at him.  "Did you really want a family up here?"

"No, I'm good with it being two friends sharing it and friends who stop by," he admitted.  "There's only one family in the building. They had wanted to trade up but couldn't get the funding.  I can check with them.  They'll be moving out downstairs.  It's a four bedroom."  Xander nodded, looking out the window while he went down to check with them.  He came back a half-hour later.  "They do want this one and they're more than willing to sell theirs to you for one and a half, which will cover the difference between that place and this one."

Xander smiled.  "Can I look at that one?  When would it be ready?  I was kinda hoping to move in within a week or two."

"It's not in bad shape."  He led him down there to look, leaving his very obvious demon contact up there.  Xander smiled at the owners.  "This is Xander.  He's the one who said he'd take yours.  He'll be moving in with a friend on the police force to protect himself."

"Are you working locally?" the wife asked.

"No, I'm a former boytoy.  My former lover traded down for younger."  She nodded knowingly.  "So I'm on palimony and someone's tried to snatch me."

"I understand."  She let him in and walked him around. "There's two holes.  Our kids were playing ball the other day and hit a home run."  Xander grinned at that.  "Do you play sports?"

"I like sports.  I liked baseball in high school and I swam for a season."  She smiled at that.  He nodded, then he looked at her.  "I can write the check out today.  I would want to move within a few weeks though.  I'm moving to the city."

"I understand.  We could handle that," she agreed.  "I did the move to here within three days."  She looked at the agent.  "Is he approved?"

"I don't see why he wouldn't be. He's got good financial standing.  How's your credit?"  Xander looked clueless.  "Any credit cards?"  He shook his head.  "At all?"

"I'm only nineteen.  The other reason Don's moving in, to keep me from going wild."

The agent nodded.  "Then it shouldn't be an issue.  Officers are usually pretty quiet folk.  We've got soundproofing everywhere but the floor.  The last neighbor said she could tell when her daughter had colic."

Xander shrugged. "It's a city, isn't it supposed to have some noise?"

"It is," he agreed happily. "Let's go fill out the forms, Xander."  They went down to the office once the neighbors came over to watch the kids.  He submitted his application, which went to the owner.  "This building has an owner instead of a tenant's committee."  He got back an answer and sighed.  "We might have to call him."

Xander dialed the number. "Hi, Blair."  He grinned. "Yup, me and my protector.  Because my friends are twats who said I'm worthless and they didn't want me back.  Ever."  He listened.  "No, she's switching up and I'm getting her place.  Please?" he begged.  "No, I'm not.  Never again."  He considered it.  "If it'll make it move faster," he offered dryly.  "Once.  Only once."  He nodded and grinned. "Sure.  Tonight?  Thanks."  He hung up.  "I've met Blair socially in the past.  He knows where I'm staying and who's looking over my money for me."

The email came back with an affirmative.  "He said it was fine.  We'll need you to pay her for the condo and then the yearly fees.  Also, let's go over the agreements."  Xander nodded, calling his bank to have it transferred directly.  Less messy and expensive than writing that big of a check.


Xander smiled as Don came in, handing over the keys and address.  "The current owner's moving to the bigger one.  It's got a nice view, it's two blocks from the other one I liked, which had muggers working outside it.   It'll be mine within two weeks."

"Great.  What're you doing tonight?"

"Sucking up to the owner," he admitted dryly. "It's my night off and he said it'd help since he's one of my regulars."  Blair strode in.  "Blair, this is Don, who'll be my protector.  Don, this is Blair, the owner of the building."

"You'll like it there and he'll be more than allowed to put in a security system."  He pulled Xander up with a grin.  "You are very bad."

"Yeah," he admitted, looking confused.  "But I'm trainable in whatever I'm bad at."

"Not that sort, Xander."  He patted him on the head.  Then he looked at Don. "It's part of the agreement to let him move there. It's a one time only thing."

"Good.  I like that.  Don't need it from me too, right?"

Blair looked him over, then smirked at him.  "You're cute and all, but Xander's got tricks that can make stronger beings than me beg for mercy."

"Yeah, he's coming back this weekend," Xander said dryly.   He hugged Don.  "Give me an hour or did you want to go look on your own?"

"I'll look in a few days.  We'll decide on decorating your next day off."  Xander grinned at that and nodded.  "You sure you want leather?"

"I want a couch I can sink down in and get cuddled by."

"He's tacitly deprived," Blair assured him.  He walked Xander off.  "I'll be done with him in a half-hour.  You can have him then.  Go up to his room and wait, Don.  Devi won't mind."

"No, Devi won't mind," he called from the office.  He came out, looking at Xander.  "I still don't like that."

"Have you seen this building?" Xander asked.

"People in New York would normally sleep with someone  for a place like that," Don agreed dryly, smirking at Devi.  "Any new problems?"

"One but Xander solved it.  He's good at solving problems."  He led him into the office.  "So, what did he tell you about his finances?"

"Enough to know that he's probably got it covered."

"He does.  He makes me a sinful amount of money.  His baseline rate is four grand for an hour, detective."  Don gaped.  "He *never* makes baseline.  He's only made it twice."  Don blinked at that.  "I know he doesn't have much here, just some clothes.  His things from Sunnydale can be here within a day or so.  I can have them moved.  It's mostly what you'd find in a teenager's room.  Posters, some books, some other clothes."  Don nodded at that, sitting down. "I will miss Xander but he's very firm in never coming back here."

"Good. I like that, a lot."

"I thought you might."  Xander came strolling out.  "What?  Done already?"

"Blair's napping.  I came to get him a drink."  He stole a bottle of water and strolled back that way, going to let him have it.

Devi looked at the clock on the wall, then at Don. "If you take him as payment for protecting him, make him slow down.  He's good at time constraints but he's never had a lover who slowed down and took their time with him.  The closest he had was when the National Head of GHS came in to break him in.  Adam said he was touch-starved, needed better friends, and had a self-esteem problem."

"He said it rests on the fact that people want him at the moment," Don agreed.

"Probably.  Those girls were nearly evil to him, detective. I won't lie to you.  Xander's a great guy and I love the guy.  He's one special guy.  People like him are really rare.  I give him a forty percent cut and his allure has made me enough to retire on or open a new branch on.  He makes me more in one night than everyone else does in a week."  Don nodded at that. "How much did he tell you he had in ready cash?"

"Six mil, the rest was in investments."

"And tips.  We have some demons here who tip in gems.  One of them has a very severe fondness for Xander."  He looked at him. Blair wobbled out and left, leaving one pouting Xander.  "What?"

"He didn't even give me a cuddle."  He came in to flop down in a chair.  "He was more than happy with a blow for it.  He said he'll have the manager put in the security system just as soon as she's out, which should be within a few days.  She's already begun hefting stuff upstairs.  The kids think it's a neat game."  He looked at Don.  "She's got the only family in the building and they're switching up to the five bedroom upstairs."

"That's fine," he agreed. "I have nothing against kids."  He grinned.  "My friends?"

"I can hide in my bedroom."

"Most of my friends you wouldn't have to," he admitted.  "You and Danny might get along okay."  He ruffled his hair.  "I'm still going at this like you're a cousin from the country who needs a leash."

"Might be a good idea," Xander agreed.  "I'll be good and keep any and all sex toys out of the living room."  Don laughed at that.  "Not like I'm going to be dating for a very long time," Xander assured him."

"As long as you keep wearing it out, Xander," Devi reminded him. Xander nodded firmly at that.  "We found that lesson out the hard way.  He hadn't even jacked off for a night and when he came down the guys went nuts.  Another bidding war."

"I hate those," Xander said, grimacing.  "Anything else or can I take Don over there?"

"Go change clothes."  Xander went upstairs to do that.  "He'll be fine and settle back into a normal life very easily."

"How much does he make?" Don asked.

"I winced at his last check, detective.  The bank winced at his last check."  Don nodded wisely.  "Xander is very special to me.  I will expect him to come to no harm."

"That's fine.  I'd hope the same.  Think he could help me move?"

"Sure.  He's a physical guy.  He's bouncy and hyper.  All the time," he groaned.  "Oh, don't feed him too much chocolate."

"Devi," Xander complained as he walked back in.  "Don't tell him that."

"I'm not the one who bounced two customers into traction."

"They asked for energetic sex," he said dryly, pulling Don up.  "Come on.  We can go look.  You can pick out your bedroom and see if you wanted another one for a home office."  Don nodded at Devi and followed. "Did you drive?"

"Yeah, I try to do that."  He followed Xander out and downstairs, following him through the club.

"Night off," he said, slapping one hand trying to grab his wrist.  "It's my night off.  I'm going out to do something.  Leave me and my guard alone."  He made it outside and sighed, tossing the demon hand back in there.  He followed Don to his car and got in, smiling at the niceness. "I'm debating a car or not."

"A car would probably be safer.  Have any cabbies tried to take you?"

"One tried to take me to his house, but no.  Usually they stink enough to cover anything I put out."  Don snickered at that, heading for the new building.  He showed him around.  He liked the gym and the pool in the basement.  The apartment got happy looks when the mother let them in to look around.  Don picked his room, Xander decided on which one he wanted.  He looked at his new buddy.  "Want white or should I worry about paint colors and decorating?"

"Most of my stuff's fairly old.  It'll go with this.  My other place is white and pretty bare."  He touched a bookcase.  "We could use an entertainment system."

"Do you have a tv?  I don't in my stuff.  My parents took my last one."

Don looked at him.  "We can work on that once we've got everything in.  Mine's not great."

Xander nodded. "Donate it to a friend, Don."  That got a good smile for him. The mother gave him an odd look.  "It's my money," he told her.  "That's why he's moving in."

The mother looked at Don.  "Need leash lessons?"

"No, I'm pretty good with leash laws," he admitted happily.  "He'll be fine.  A bit of up- front splurging is good for him.  It'll mean he'll settle in sooner."  She nodded, going back to her hefting and toting.  He looked at the view.  "Not a bad neighborhood.  What was the other one like?"

"About two blocks up. It had two muggings that I saw out of the kitchen window.  Plus this kitchen is nicer."

"It is nice.  Can you cook?"

"I worked fast food.  I can kinda cook."  He shrugged.  "I'll figure that part out."  Don nodded and they left, making sure she knew they were gone and had locked the door.  They headed back down to the car.  "I'm good with most takeouts."

"That's fine.  We can work on that after the first few days."  He let him into the car and walked around to drive, seeing the person staring at them.  "What?"

"Boyfriend?" the officer asked dryly.

"No, I'm protecting him."  He slid in and headed back toward the center of town.  "Dinner?"

"I could eat," Xander agreed happily, turning to look at him.  "Wherever's good. Would you have a strong aversion to my comics being on the bookshelf?"

"No.  I liked comics when I was your age."  Xander beamed at that. "You know I work a lot of hours, right?"

"Not like I'm really noisy.   I learned that lesson early on too."

"Bad parents?"

"Drunk parents."

"Ah.  Understood."  He pulled into his favorite chinese place, getting out and letting the kid follow once he had locked the car.  He ran into one of his favorite coworkers inside, giving her a hug.  "Hi, Stella."

"Hi, Don."  She grinned at him and pulled him out of the way.  "Go ahead and order.  I'm picking up to head home."  She grinned at Don.  "What're you still doing down here?"

"Actually, that's Xander.  I'm moving in with him to protect him."  She looked at Xander, who was ordering.  Then back at him.  "He needs it, Stella. It's a longish story and not for tonight.  Needless to say, I'm playing big brother.  But I'm getting a nice room in his new condo and free rent."

"Hell, he need a big sister?" she teased.

Xander looked at her.  "Some days," he agreed dryly.  "I've only had one male and two female friends.  I'm more used to girly girls than not."  Stella snickered and gave him a hug, noticing he stiffened then relaxed.  "Sorry."

"It's okay.  Some people do that."  She watched him pay for the food, noticing how thick his wallet was. "Payday?"

"No, trip to the bank so I could pay people to get my stuff from California and move it out here."  He brought his tray over, handing Don his wallet. "Here, eat.  You work hard all day and should eat.  Make sure they'll deliver to us too."

Don grinned and went to do that, letting Stella bring her food over.  "Thanks, kid."

"Welcome.  Can we maybe...."

"Sorry, Xander."  He settled into his seat, glancing around the fairly empty restaurant.  Then back at Stella.  "So, headed home finally?"

"Yeah.  Danny's still at work but I've maxed on overtime for the month already. Mac made me go home."  She dug into her dinner.  "So, Xander, considering becoming an officer?"

"Nope," he said honestly.  "I have no idea what I want to do, but I don't want to be an officer.  It's a dangerous job and even more dangerous for me."  Don nodded at that, stuffing his mouth.  He looked over as someone came in, judging him, then nudging Don.  "One of your buddies since he's wearing a badge?"

"He is.  Mac?"  He came over.  "This is Xander.  I'm going to be moving into his condo to protect him."

"Hi."  He smiled and shook his hand.  "Xander...."

"Harris.  Formerly of Sunnydale.  Don't ask, it's a bad place."

"Okay.  How bad?"

Xander nibbled on his eggroll.  "Thirty, forty percent missing persons and homicide rate?"

"Oh.  Really bad place.  Okay.  Why do you need Don?" Stella asked casually.

"Because people keep trying to steal my cute ass," he said dryly, making her choke while trying to laugh.

"He's not kidding, he was beating guys off earlier," Don admitted dryly, eating another bite.

"Mac, you can eat with us if you want," Xander offered.  "I don't mind if Don brings his friends over.  I'm more than capable of hiding in my room if he wants privacy."

"It's a big enough place that you could hide in the kitchen and I'd never see you," Don told him. "How much was it?"

"One and a half," Xander said honestly, eating a bite.  "That made up for the difference between her present one and the bigger one," he offered when he swallowed, seeing the curious looks.  "I'm a rich boytoy who had a boyfriend who traded down."

Stella looked at him. "Uh-huh."

"Remember that one brothel with the dead guy about two years ago?" Don asked.  They both nodded. "He's temping there for the last few weeks while on his road trip.  They want to snatch him.  He's leaving it next week."  Xander blushed and ducked his head. "They'd figure it out anyway, Xander.  They're CSI."


"They're the science guys who figure out who did what."

"I thought you figured that out," he said, looking kind of confused.

"A lot of the time, they tell me who did it so I can make them beg."

"Oh.  Okay."  He nodded, stuffing his mouth again.  "Sorry but I was trying to find myself.  I'm in week five of my six week contract."

"You made that sort of money?" Stella demanded.  Xander nodded.  "How?"

Xander put down his fork and wiped his mouth. "I've got a unique pheromone condition that makes people want me.  A lot.  They want to steal me, keep me, make me happy.  Occasionally tie me down and make me miserable but most of them want to make me theirs.  That's why I need a protector."

Mac looked at him. "You're GHS?"

Xander nodded, grinning at him.  "I am.  Adam said I was a natural when he broke me in."

"GHS?" Stella asked.

"While you were on vacation a few years back, right after Danny got there, we got this case of one guy who got kidnaped from his boyfriend," Mac reminded her.  "It came out as part of that."

"That was a long time ago, Mac.  I've seen a few of those."

"GHS stands for Greedy, Hedonistic Sluts Society," Xander offered.  She blushed at that.  "We're all pleasure finders.  So our freezer will always have ice cream."  She kicked him under the table, shaking her head.  "Not kidding."

"He's probably not," Don agreed. "Eat."  Xander dug in again.  "That's why he needs me but he said I can have you guys over all the time and we're getting cable and that stuff."

"Good.  Getting a home computer?" Stella teased.

"Only as long as it doesn't come with paperwork.  I have enough of that on my one at work."  He nudged Xander and waved someone inside, getting a grin from the youngish African American man.  "Hawkes, this is Xander.  I'll be moving in with him to protect him and teach him how to survive in the city."

"Hi.  Sheldon Hawkes, ME."

"Xander Harris," he said, shaking his hand with a grin. "You can pull up a chair."

"I'm out to grab and go.  I've got two bodies waiting on me," he admitted.  "Aiden's still at work too, Don.  When are you moving?"

"A few weeks.  The woman he bought off of is moving up to a bigger place so we're waiting on her to clean out and then the place to be readied."

"The manager said it'd be about two days after she left and he said if we wanted it painted anything we could have it done then," Xander offered.  "I was thinking a light blue?  Like cloud through the sky blue?  Or will your stuff clash?"

"Probably not and that's what slipcovers are for," he admitted.  "He have that on hand?"

"Yup.  It's a lighter version of what was in the gym.  He said he had about six gallons of it left when he mentioned it.  That and light gray."

"That works for me," Don agreed.  "What's coming from Sunnydale?"  Sheldon tensed at that name.  "You know his former town?"

"Only by reputation and it's like our boogey men."  Xander nodded at that, eating a bite.  "You escaped?"

"No, my friends are brats who said I'm worthless."

"Oh.  I'm sorry."  He took his order.  "I'll see you when he gets settled in, Xander."  That got a grin and a nod.  He went back to tell the others what was going on.  A few of their coworkers would be fairly interested in that.

Stella looked at him.  "How can they say you're worthless?"

"They're girls who believe they're special by circumstances of birth," Xander said honestly.  "I'm not."  She nodded, accepting that.  "I'd rather not be depressed tonight."

"Sure," Mac agreed.  "So, Xander, any plans for college or anything?"

Xander gave him a scared look. "I barely made it out of high school.  No college.  Maybe a trade school if I get bored."  The door slammed open and he groaned, looking at the guy with the gun.  "Don?"

"Freeze," he ordered quietly. "Do not even try."  He coughed and put his gun on the table, glaring at the guy.  "You know cops eat here, right?"  The guy fled.  "Good.  Patrol guys outside coming in to pick up."  They watched as he was caught and drug back.  He put his gun back.  "Xander, you are not to do anything like that on purpose," he ordered. "Not unless it's the only way to get free of someone."  Xander nodded, giving him a look.  "Good."  He patted him on the back of the head.  "That's why I carry the gun."

"Yes, Don."

"Good boy," Mac agreed.  "He could've shot you."

Xander looked at him.  "I recently learned how to think my hormones and pheromones into surging," he admitted. "He'd have been on his knees and begging."  Mac and Stella both gaped and Don nodded.  "He's seen me use it when someone else tried to take me the night we met."

"He can," Don agreed.  "Got half the bar."  He patted Xander again. "Finish up.  We'll go look at furniture since you want a leather couch."  Xander nodded, digging in again like nothing had happened. "That's why he's got me and I'm getting free rent."

"It's a good tradeoff," Mac decided.  "I hope you two can live with each other."

Don shrugged. "He's easy to get along with so far."

Stella nodded.  "Very.  Xander, have you lived with anyone before?"

"Parents."  He shrugged.  "I stayed over a lot now and then.  The condo is big enough that if there's a conflict I can hide out now and then while he does his thing.  Or when you guys come over to watch tv and stuff."

"Okay.  If you need to talk, you can come talk to me when I'm not busy," she assured him.  He smiled and nodded.  "Good boy."  He grinned and finished up, going to get a refill on his drink.  She looked at Don.  "Are you sure?"

"Yeah.  If anyone needs it, that kid does," he admitted quietly.  "The person who advised him told him to treat it like being a bitch in prison.  Protection for anything they want."

Mac nodded.  "I wouldn't be surprised if he did offer."

"I'm probably not going to be taking him up on it, Mac," Don said patiently.  "I'm moving closer to work, Xander's not a hard guy to like, it's a great place, and it's not going to be that hard to protect him.  He's all for hiding most of the time."

"Yup, sure am," Xander agreed, wiggling back into his seat.  "So, am I helping you move or are you hiring someone? I can move my clothes in a cab.  The stuff from Sunnydale will be in a truck and they'll be carrying it up since it's got my antique bed."  Don looked at him so he blushed.  "My grandmother left it to me. It's a family heirloom."

"That's pretty cool," he agreed happily.  "At least you've got that."

"I do. It's a great old canopy bed."  He sipped and looked at Stella. "You guys are welcome over anytime to check on him.  That way you can make sure I'm not warping him oddly or anything."

"Sure, Xander."  She patted his hand.  "Well, I was going to go soak in my tub tonight."

"I should get back and do paperwork," Mac admitted.

Xander looked at him.  "If you do that, how do you enjoy the rest of the night?"  Mac looked stunned.  "Everyone needs some pleasure now and then, Mac.  Otherwise they get worn out and grumpy."  He took another sip and Mac smiled at him for it.

"You're right but I get yelled at if I don't do it on time.  I'll go home early tonight."  He walked Stella out, parting ways.

Don looked at him.  "First thing you're doing is taking self defense for newbies to the city, Xander.  Carrying around that sort of cash...."

"It was only for the day, Don."

"If you say so."

"I do. You want to hold it for me?"

"No, that's all right.  I'll trust you not to whip it out in front of others again."  He took their trays off to toss out the trash, getting a refill of his drink too.  "Come on, we'll go furniture looking.  You'll need a dresser to go with the bed and my couch is staying at my old place since it's junky."  They walked out together, heading to a place he heard good things about.


Xander finished putting up the last book and heard a knock, going over to look out with the chain on.  "Can I help you?"

"I'm Don's friend Danny."

"He's at the other place but okay."  He let him in and went back to his fussing with the books.  "He'll be here in a few minutes probably.  He only had to move a few last things."

"That's fine."  He looked around. "This is nice.  How are you affording this?"

"I've got money in the bank."  He glanced around.  "Um, there's soda and stuff in the fridge but Don's getting his dishes this trip so I'm not sure if we've got more than plastic cups."  Danny grinned at him.  "I'm Xander."

"I figured since you answered the door."  He shook his hand.  "I'm Danny, I work with Mac."  Someone kicked the door so he opened it. "If you had asked, I'd have helped."

"Good, you can help me move my recliner into my room here."

"I said you could use my moving crew," Xander reminded him, taking the top box and heading into the kitchen with it.  He loaded it into the dishwasher since it was dusty.  Don gave him an odd look so he blew one out, getting an eyeroll.  "I like the dishwasher.  It's one of my favorite inventions since I had to wash dishes at a few places."  He got them all loaded then turned it on, checking it after a minute to make sure none of the glasses had tipped.  It was shut and turned back on for him and he was put out onto his couch. "Yes, Don."

"You're the fussiest man ever," he complained, putting up the food.  "Did we line the shelves?"

" what to shelves?" he asked, looking confused.  Danny laughed at that.  "Hey!" he pouted.

"Come on, Don, we'll go get shelf liners," Danny promised, getting a nod and they headed out.  "We'll be right back with everything else."

"Okay.  I'll be here."  They shut him in and he went to fuss his clothes into place. The building had a laundry room, which was really nice, even though he wasn't sure how one did laundry.  He'd learn that too he guessed.  He went to the study area, going to look at the computer and make sure it was on and hooked up correctly.  He knew enough to do that.  He heard the knock and went to check, smiling at Stella and Mac.  "They're off to get something called shelf liners and pick up Don's recliner," he offered as he let them in.  He heard a jingle and groaned, going to switch styles of cleaning.  "Sorry, I think it broke one."

"It happens now and then," Stella promised.  She gave him a hug and the boy leaned against her, soaking it up.  "It's all right. I know it's all new."

"How do you do laundry?"

"Read the labels on everything and do as ordered," she told him, patting him on the back.  He let go and she smiled.  "Never done any?"

"Not real laundry.  I've done the 'toss it into the machine on soak for a day' sort."

"About the same only with detergent and it's quicker," she assured him, going to check the kitchen.  Danny and Don came back a few minutes later with the old recliner and another few boxes, which Xander went down to help carry.

"Xander, you know better," Don called as he walked outside, glaring at the person staring at Xander's ass.  "Not yours."  They hurried off.  "No going out alone," he said more quietly.

"Stella was here," he offered quietly, giving him a look.

"Yup, and that's nice and all.  Upstairs.  I can do this."  He pouted the whole way up.

Stella looked at him.  "You're awfully hard on him."

"The furniture guy wanted to make him test drive all the mattresses, Stella.  Of course I am.  People want to take and keep him."  She nodded, leaving it there as she carried up another box.  He got the last one and closed the trunk, heading up behind her.  "Once he's better trained in self defense I'll let him go out more on his own," he assured her in the elevator.

"Good.  He's a young guy.  He's going to want to go out and party now and then."

"He said he doesn't drink and I think he's had plenty of partying recently.  Let's give him a chance to settle back into normal life."

"Sure.  I can agree with that."  They were let in by Mac, who went back to talking to the young man.  "He okay?"

"I'm fine," Xander assured her.  "He's right, it's for my own good.  I wouldn't want someone to try to take me for real again."  Don gave him an odd look.  "I went to get sodas last night and someone almost tried."

"How good is your hand-to-hand?" Mac asked.  Xander shrugged. "Can you fight?"

"Some. It's not traditional or anything but some.  I was thinking about taking more training after the self defense class Don is going to make me take."

"That's always a good idea," Stella agreed. She helped Danny with the shelves.  "What's left, Don?"

"The bed and dresser.  I'm almost tempted to leave it there and let the landlord there call it a furnished place."  He flopped down in the new chair, smiling at the comfortable grip it had on him.  "I cleaned it pretty good and Xander said he'd let me borrow our housekeeper to make sure.  I'm not due out for the next week so it's all good."  They smiled at that.  "It'll be fine, guys.  It's just an adjustment period for both of us.  I haven't lived with anyone since college."

Xander looked at him.  "Buffy and Willow are roommates.  They have a really nice dorm room.  It's huge."

"Is it a suite?"

"No, it's like twenty by thirty and has built in closets, plus their beds and desks.  Small windows and they've got a noisy neighbor but it's a huge room for being a bedroom."

"Better than mine. Mine had pullout couches that turned into beds," Don offered dryly.  "Our desks were bolted above them and the dresser was at the foot with a small aisle between them."  Xander nodded.  "Saw that sort?"

"The boys' dorm.  They're in the coed dorm.  They've got boys on the same floor and everything."

"Coed dorms I could've appreciated in college," Danny agreed dryly.  "How about you, Xander? Going to college?"

"I barely made it out with a D.  Not a chance," he said patiently.  "Books and I don't get along that well."

"Yet, I see a few in Ancient Greek and Latin on the shelves," Mac said dryly.

"They were necessary at home," Xander defended.  "Those are my copies in case I need them."  He got up to look them over.  "I still need one other one but it's really expensive."

"Define really expensive," Don offered.

"Like three hundred dollars.  Really expensive."

"We paid more than that for the tv," Don noted dryly.

"Yeah, but I'd expect more than that for a tv unless it came from Walmart.  For a book, three hundred is really expensive."

"It is," he agreed.  "Do you think it'd be necessary?"

"No, I hope not.  I'm trying to talk Giles into donating his old copy since he got a new one.  The old one I spilled stirfry on once.  He yelled for weeks."

Mac got up to look at them, then at him.  "That's on...."

"Yup," Xander agreed dryly.  "That's why my former town had such a high death rate."  He headed back to his room, going to look at his tags.  A lot of them said dry clean only, which confused him.  What was a dry cleaner?  He was sure Don could tell him that later.  He finished fussing his clothes into place then went to fuss his bed curtains into where he wanted them.  His room was a pretty medium gray and the bed curtains were in a coordinating blue.  It made the room a bit dark with the ancient dark wood but he didn't mind.  He was used to dark things.  Dark was his friend.

Danny whistled from the doorway.  "That's one great bed."

Xander grinned. "It's a family heirloom."  He nodded him in and went back to hitching up the new curtains where a few hooks had fallen out.  "It's been in the family for a few generations now," he said proudly.  "My grandmother left it to me because my mother would've chopped it up for firewood.  I used to like to snuggle into it when I came over to her place to visit."  He moved to get the bed curtain on the foot of the bed.  "The mattress was replaced about a century ago. It's been in storage since she died."  He got finished with that one and moved onto the other side.  This one was next to the wall so he pulled that curtain set nearly closed.  That way some of the gray would shine in and offer a nice contrast. He came back and unpacked his pillows, tossing them on there. All but one that got tossed out.  It smelled a lot like Spike had gotten it.  Danny gave him an odd look.  "I'm guessing someone broke into my stuff."

"Probably," he agreed, pointing at the lipstick mark on one of them.  Xander groaned and went to toss that one out too, then the rest of them.  He grabbed some money and his sneakers.  "Going out?"

"I need new pillows and probably some new sheets.  All I've got is one set of scratchy ones.  I figure Don'll have to go out again sometime soon."

"I can go with you, kid."  Danny led him out.  "We're heading out to get him new sheets and pillows.  Need anything, Don?"

"Go armed," he said dryly.  He looked at Xander.  "What happened to your pillows?"

"There was lipstick on one," he admitted.  "The other smelled like an old enemy.  I think they got into my storage space there."

"Sure.  Pick up a pizza, Danny.  Maybe a few beers too."  That got a nod and they headed out together.  "You forgot your gun."

"I'm good enough without it."

Don moaned.  "No he's not," he complained, starting to get up.

Stella pulled him back down.  "He can handle it, Don.  He's just as trained as you are."  She went to snoop in the boy's room, giving the bed an odd look.  That was certainly an antique.  His clothes got looked over, making her smile.  "Does he wear anything besides lounging pajamas?"

"They were his uniform at work. Most of the time I only see him in them," Don called back, coming to look.  He called Danny.  "Make him get real jeans too.  How much did he bring?"  He checked the wallet and snorted.  "Check it, it's probably a few hundreds.  Sure.  No, real clothes.  Not lounging pajamas, not suede, not leather.  Real clothes.  Normal young guy clothes."  He hung up and shook his head with a sigh.  "It came with the job."

"Probably," she agreed, patting him on the back.  "I didn't realize he was goth."

"Kinda.  He's got this thing about being a night person," Don admitted.  "Probably from home."  He went to call Sheldon over.  He wanted to know about his former town.   Sheldon came over with something that looked like a book but it was a graphic novel. "What's that?"

"The truth about where he grew up.  I looked, he's in here.  It was from his first year hunting."  He handed it to him.  "He's not helpless."

"I didn't think he was," Don assured him.  "I think half the city wants his ass for their own."  He sat down to flip through it, then looked at him.  Sheldon nodded. "You're sure?"

"Very.  Sunnydale themselves made that."  Don moaned and handed it to Mac, going to look at those very odd books.

"Vampires and demons," he said, flipping through it casually.  "I haven't seen this many in years.  Not since the brothel case.  He was working there?"  Don nodded.  "Yet he hunted?"

"Yeah," Don admitted.  "That was solely to find himself."  He put one back and looked at him.  "Someone's got to work on his hand-to-hand.  We can't always follow him around.  I want him to take self defense for newbies to the city.  He's thinking about training himself and that's a good idea in my book.  Got any suggestions, Mac?"  He handed over a card he had picked up.  "Thanks.  Wanna work with the kid?"

"No."  He looked at him.  "Xander probably doesn't have any other style than survival.  Which means he either goes all out or he doesn't know what he's doing.  He moves like that.  With some training to fill in the gaps he'll be fine."

"Good.  Because I'm not sure if I should be scared for him or not."

"Be scared," Sheldon offered.  "He was working with demons, they love him from what you said."

"Yeah, his pheromone problem seems to draw them more than humans."  He sat down again.  "I saw the kid defend himself but he's got this hint of vulnerableness."

"That's probably because he's got no self esteem," Stella told him.  "What were his friends like?  Or his family?"

"His family?  All he said was drunk.  He left it there.  His friends?  All I've heard about them was what you have.  That they don't want him back because they don't think he's capable enough of handling it.  They could be trying to protect him for all I know.  Especially if they had hints of this before."  Sheldon shook his head.  "No?"

"No.  They're special due to circumstances of birth and from what I've heard, he's being ridden by them for being normal."

"Wonderful," Mac said bitterly.  "What supportive friends."

"Yeah, no wonder the kid's got low self esteem," Stella agreed.

"He said it's mostly based on how people want him now," Don offered.  "We need to find him something that he's good at so he can go that way.  A normal life would help him a lot more."

"Has he shown any skills?"

"Shopping, getting kidnaped and out of being kidnaped, and making some plans," Don offered.  "He admitted he can't really cook.  Maybe I'll start hyping our vo-tech system.  He said he and books don't get along."

"Some kids don't learn from books," Mac agreed.  "Maybe he's a hands on guy."  The door opened and Danny dragged Xander back in with his two bags, putting him onto the couch before going to get the rest. "Problems?"

"Yeah, two of them came up to me," he said bitterly, hugging his new pillows.  "Danny thought you were kidding, Don."

"Fat chance," he said, giving him a hug.  Xander relaxed against his side.  "It'll be okay.  We'll figure out how to make it go away."  Danny came back and kicked the door shut, going to drop most of it in Xander's room, put the pizza and two bags went into the kitchen.  "Bad time?"

"No, it only took him two minutes to nearly kill the guys who tried to jump him for his cash," Danny offered dryly.

Xander looked at him.  "You mean they weren't my fanclub?"

"No, normal muggers.  One decided you were pretty enough ta be his bitch after he saw you."  He flopped down with a sigh.  "Hey, Doc."

"Hey.  You okay?"

"Yeah, they ran off after Xander nearly killed one."  He looked at him. "Can't you do a bit less next time?"  Xander slowly shook his head.  "Why not?"

"Because that's how I was trained."

Danny covered his face.  "You did what before?"

"Just recently?" he asked, glancing at Don, who shrugged and nodded.  "I just got done with a six week stint in a brothel."  Danny blinked at him, staring in shock.  "Yeah.  That's where we found out my pheromones are going nuts.  That's why I draw trouble.  That's why I'm giving Don free rent."

"Sure," he agreed dryly, nodding slowly.  "So, this is like being his prison bitch?"

"Without the sex," Don shot back, glaring at him.  "Xander's town was pretty rough, that's where he learned how to fight, Danny.  Drop it."

"Fine.  Where... how did you make enough to afford this place?"

"My first official time working, after I was broken in by the National Head of the GHS society, went for fifteen grand and I made forty percent," he said honestly but quietly.  "How do you think?"  Danny gaped.  "My last one was a hundred grand."  Danny gaped harder.  "Yeah.  That's not counting tips.  That's just straight paycheck."  Danny nodded once at that and went to get a beer.  Xander went to put his things up while they talked about him.  Don had said he could trust everyone in that room.  So he would until one of them turned on him for it.  Probably Stella in his experience but maybe not.  Danny was looking like a good candidate too.  Or maybe Mac.  He screamed 'tough, action person' to him.  They didn't usually like him.  He shut his door and turned on his music quietly, going to make his bed and settle in for a nap.  He was tired. He hadn't had to slay anything for weeks.  He was almost getting out of practice.  He'd have to use the gym later. Later tonight when everyone else would be gone.  That way he wouldn't feel stupid in front of anyone.

Don glared at Danny.  "Ease off it."

"I'm amazed, that's it," he assured him, taking another drink.  "He okay?"

"He went to hide in his room so we could talk about him," Stella told him.  She looked at him, then at Don.  "Will he be able to protect himself?"

"Someday," Don agreed.  "After all, he can't stay nineteen and pretty forever."

"Point," she agreed.  "So, can we help you unpack?"

"Sure," he agreed, going to let them into his bedroom.  He heard the quiet music and shook his head.  "We're definitely going to have a clashing music system now and then."  He turned his clock radio on loud enough for them but not loud enough to drown out Xander's stereo.  They'd find a game on later, after he and Mac got back from getting his bed.  "Danny, go check my place, see what's left," he ordered, handing over his keys. "That's the only one, right?"

"I've only had half, Don, I can drive."  He went to do that.  That's why they all showed up, to help him move.  Real friends did that.


Xander looked up from his practice, finding Don watching him, and groaned. "It's after hours, no one's down here."

"I know that. I was wondering what you were doing."  He walked in.  "That's not exactly street brawling."

"No.  I'm no good at that stuff."  He shrugged and leaned against a stationary bike.  "Sorry."

"No, don't be.  You're honest about your skills.  Even if I did have to find out this way.  You've got some form faults, it's clear you've lost some mass recently."

"I was bulking up and I like being skinnier, like I was a few years back," he defended.  "I hate the stocky look."

"Not a criticism, kid.  Just stating facts.  Mac suggested somewhere you could start with self defense lessons and maybe move on from there."  Xander smiled at that.  "Now, let's try the hitting thing again."

"I'm used to hitting with something in my hand."

"It's about the same, Xander.  Try it again."  He waved him on and Xander shrugged, throwing a punch at his hand.  "More weight behind it, Xander."  He tried it again.  "No, don't slip into your mind," he ordered firmly.  "You're dangerous that way.  You need to be coldly calculating to survive in this city."  Xander nodded, keeping himself from falling into the hunting mindset while he worked with him.  One hit did slip and got Don on the chest, making him wince, but apparently it wasn't very hard.  He didn't even rub it.  Xander groaned and went to the treadmill to turn it on.  Don watched him.  "It'll be fine.  Within a few months you'll be up to speed and then we'll amend stuff since you won't need as much care or attention."  He leaned on the front of the treadmill. "You could take up running."

"Running is good for when you're saving your life," he agreed grimly.  "I'll do it down here. It wasn't an every night thing at home."

"Hey," he offered, tipping the boy's chin up. "This is home now.  Those petty girls you dealt with before aren't here.  They won't be here.  They're not coming here.  They're not the sort of friends who'd come this far."  Xander nodded, stopping the treadmill and leaning on his side.  "It sucks but sometimes the ones you consider friends aren't.  Now, let's go to bed.  I've gotta be in at nine tomorrow."


"Not a problem.  We're going to keep a slightly different schedule."  He walked the boy back upstairs, going to put him into his room.  Then he sat down in his own room, getting comfortable once everything was laid out for the morning.  He was seriously going to be doing some work with that kid.  Looked like he now had a little brother.  He decided to get up and watch some tv, finding Xander out there watching cooking shows looking confused.  "Comedy Central," he ordered.  Xander flipped over and smiled at that, relaxing.  "You can learn how to cook here too."

Xander nodded, snuggling into his side. "I'll think about it."  He fell asleep that way.

Don looked down at him then rolled his eyes.  He got the kid comfortable and took the chair.  He wasn't going to go down that road yet. It would only reinforce the mindset the kid had at his last job.  He took the remote and flipped around, going back to the cooking shows.  Iron Chef was fun to watch because they ate some really strange stuff.


Don walked into Mac's office a few weeks later, giving him a look.  "Got a few?"

"Xander in trouble?"

"No, he's cuddly.  Very cuddly.  He's also mostly hiding in his room.  I don't know what's wrong with him."

Mac looked at him.  "Has he been eating?"  Don looked confused.  Mac motioned him over and opened the webpage he had found, letting him read it.  "I remembered they had a society, an official organization, and found their help pages online.  It's for what they call keepers, which you're not because keepers are like harem lords."

Don sat down to read, going over the sections of the FAQ.  "Huh.  I didn't know they could get lost in it," he said quietly.  "I should stop him if he is."  He kept going, smirking at some of the suggestions to make one of their members quit pouting.  "Yup, definitely gotta get the boy outta the house again."  He waved as Danny came in.  "Long night?"

"No, I stopped by to check on your boy since none of us had heard anything about him.  Wondering if you killed him but he's in his room playing with himself."  Don moaned and thumped his head on the desk then went back to reading.  "By the way, he's having ice cream for breakfast?"

"He's an adult, Danny," Don reminded him.

"Sure, but he said that's what he had for dinner yesterday.  Is he eating anything but ice cream?"

"No.  He's id-living," Mac admitted.  "Toys?"

"Yup.  I heard the hum, thought it was a vacuum for a minute.  Xander answered the door and it was clear the housekeeper hadn't been in today."  He came over to read over his shoulder, smirking some.  "At least someone's got a clue."

"Yeah, a lot of a clue, but I'm not a keeper.  I'm his protector.  A keeper would be his boyfriend."

"You won't let him date," Danny reminded him dryly, patting him on the back.  "You said it was too dangerous right now."  Don slumped.  "So yeah, have fun pulling him out of his room.  It needs aired out."

"I noticed."  He got up and headed home, going to stop the boy for his own good.  He was off now anyway.  He let himself in and headed back there, blatantly walking in and pulling Xander off himself.  Then he hauled him up and into the shower, turning it on pretty cold.  Xander shrieked, but calmed down.  "You need to air out your room."  Xander glared at him.  "You're not taking good care of yourself, Xander.  If I have to protect you from yourself I will.  Take it out."  Xander removed the toy and cleaned it then put it down.  "Thank you.  Don't leave that in there.  Stella teased me the last time she found one of those in here.  Shower, get unsweaty, and come out to the kitchen so I can make sure you eat one real meal."  He went to do that.  Then he came back and took the toy before he could use it again, tossing it into his room.  He went to make something simple and soothing, something the kid would like with how he was behaving.  Xander pulled on some lounging pajamas and came out, sitting on the bar stool so he could watch him.  "How long has this episode lasted?"


"Yeah, according to the website, you're going to have these episodes and if you had a real keeper, like a boyfriend, they'd make you do other things so you'd get pleasure from them instead."  He handed over the eggs and looked at him.  "Eat."  Xander got a fork and slowly ate.  "What did you have for lunch?"

"The fudge ripple."

Don shook his head.  "Dinner?"

"Pistachio."  He ate another bite and looked at him.  "We have a website?"

"You do.  Mac found it for me just in case I needed it."  He waved a hand at the plate and Xander finished it.  "How many times did you eat yesterday?"

"I had a candybar for lunch."

"No, I meant real meals, Xander."

"I had a candy bar for lunch," he repeated.  Don moaned and shook his head, hanging it.  "Sorry."  He put his plate into the dishwasher and slunk back to the living room.  "Can we log on?"

"Sure.  It looked like there was a spot for you members too.  Go get your card and I'll get the webaddress from Mac."  Xander went to do that while Don went into the office to turn on the computer and found it on.  He found it on to porn and grimaced.  "Eww, Xander."

"Is it that bad?" he asked hesitantly.

Don blinked at him.  "You wrote that?"  He nodded, sliding back into the hall some.  "I'll read it later.  Bookmark this site for me."  Xander nodded, doing that for him.  He called Mac.  "What's that webaddress?"  He typed it in slowly, coming up on the page.  He had to backspace to the index page.  "How did you get in?"  He smirked.  "The case's membership ID was in the file?"  He snorted. "Thanks.  No, I'm getting my hyper bunny onto it."  He hung up. "Log in."  Xander typed in his membership ID and the general page came up.  "Log in as a member too.  Let's see what other benefits you can have."  Xander did that and it came up with a shopping area for chocolates, sex toys, clothes, and other fine things.  Don shook his head.  "No shopping online.  If you want to go shopping, we'll go in the real world.  For now, read the FAQ page.  It's got some info on how to stop these episodes."

Xander backed out and went there, finding it easily enough.  He read through the help section. "We have conventions?"

"Apparently. You can call Adam and see if you can go this year as long as someone there will watch you."  Xander nodded, going back to it.  Don went to air out Xander's room.  It smelled like a cheap whorehouse in there.  "I'm not touching these sheets of yours," he called.

"I wore condoms."

"What?"  He went back in there.  "Huh?"

"Old trick.  Keeps the sheets from being messy so your parents don't know," he admitted as he read.  "Oh, I almost borrowed one of yours when I ran out but all you had was latex."

"Not good enough?" he asked sarcastically.

Xander looked at him.  "No, I'm allergic.  I quit breathing."

"Sorry, Xander."

Xander shrugged. "I've heard worse."  He went back to reading.

"How did you get more?" Don asked.  Xander gave him a sheepish look.  "Took a cab downtown?"  That got a nod. "That's fine.  You can do that, just warn me.  That way I know where you are if you get stolen again."  He went back to Xander's room, gathering up the used toys once he found a pair of plastic gloves.  They all got put into a free plastic basket and dumped in the sink in the bathroom.  "Clean those later."

"Yes, Don."  He came out and hugged him. "Thank you."

"Welcome.  We'll go for a walk in the park tonight or something.  Go back to reading."  Xander nodded, going back to it.  Don went to watch tv, shaking his head.  The housekeeper came in.  "Watch out for the bathroom.  Xander's got to clean his sex toys."

"That's fine.  I'll do wherever they are next week."  She went to the kitchen to start the cleaning in there.  She'd do the living room last since he was home.  "Done already?"

"Yup," he noted dryly.  "Ran out of hours for the week."  He leaned back, watching Xander typing in something.  "Chatroom?"  Xander nodded.  "Good.  Get more suggestions.  Helga's here."

"Hi, Helga.  Give me ten to clean those and get them out of your way," he called, typing in something and hurrying into the bathroom to do that.

She rolled her eyes. "Why can't he get a nice boyfriend?"

Don looked at her.  "Because nice boyfriends are hard to come by and it's too dangerous for him to get a nice boyfriend at the moment.  They might turn into stalkers."  He went back to the tv, looking at the door when it was knocked on. "What?" he called.

"Is Xander all right, Don?" their neighbor called. "I heard the shriek."

"I made him get up by putting him into a cold shower, Tiff.  Don't worry about it."  She laughed and he heard her door shut.  He would have to find something for Xander to do during the day.  He really would.  He looked at the kitchen, then toward the bathroom.  "Xander, did you look at the vo-techs?"

"I did and they don't like me either," Xander called quietly.  He came out to lean on the back of the couch.  "They don't like me since I'm not going for a degree."

"You could."

"Don, I'm not going to be working.  Working was nice but I'm way too confused at the moment to work.  I don't need to work and I've got to wear this out.  Can you imagine me going to work with how I am now?"  He went back to his cleaning then went to change his sheets.  Then he went back to the chatroom.  He groaned. "Shit.  Giles is on here."

"Is that a bad thing?" Don called patiently.

"My mentor from high school?"

"If he's on there he already knows something about the group, Xander."

"Still!  I don't want to imagine him having sex.  Eww!"

Don rolled his eyes.  "It's no worse than the idea that Mac gets some now and then."

"No he doesn't.  He's suppressed it to the point where he doesn't even yank off."

Don leaned back further. "Do I want to know how you know this?"

"Nope."  He got back to typing.  "Think it'd be okay if I went to get a massage?"

"As long as it wasn't sex in disguise."

"Nope."  He logged off and got up, heading to put his card back and then grab his wallet and clean clothes so he could go.  "Maybe it'll help."  He headed out with a wave at their housekeeper. "Make him quit fussing, Helga."

"Fat chance," she said dryly once he was gone. "How long had it been?  I notice you're out of ice cream."

Don moaned and held his head.  There had been ten gallons in there.  "Probably a few days. I know that's all he ate yesterday."  He looked at her.  Then he went to go read that site.  He needed that site.  Someone there had to know what to do with Xander.  He found Adam's email and wrote him one about his student.  Hopefully he would be able to direct him in how to make the boy behave.


Danny answered the page, finding Xander sulking at a desk, looking at the patrol officer who had found him.  "He was doing what?"

"Having a fight with someone who claimed he was his.  I thought it might be a domestic but he said to call Don Flack."  He shrugged.  "Is Flack his boyfriend?"

"No, he's protecting him.  People like to take the kid."

"He was out alone.  Is he stupid?"

"Naive."  He walked over there, smacking Xander on the head, getting a flinch.  "You were doing what?"

"I went out to get someone to work on my back," he said miserably, looking at him. "The first place I went said that they don't work on members because of our extreme reactions.  They sent me somewhere else.  I got there and someone there tried to pick me up.  I told him no, lied and said I was taken, and walked off to catch a cab.  He grabbed me by the arm and demanded I come with him.  I refused and the officers broke him from trying to take me."

"Why did he try to take you?" Danny asked patiently.  Xander shrugged.  "You know enough about this stuff.  Where are you at?"

"I'm kinda on the low side," Xander admitted.  "I didn't recognize him at all, Danny, I swear."

"I know you didn't, kid.  Okay.  He in trouble?"  The officer shook his head.  "Then I'll get him home.  Thanks for saving him."

"Not a problem.  I had to send my partner away because he decided the boy needed a cuddle to make him quit sulking."

Xander stiffened up. "I'm sorry," he said as he stood up.  "I don't mean to affect people this way."

"It's not a problem, sir.  Just go home and relax for the night.  Try it again tomorrow."  He nodded, heading outside.

"Hold it," Danny said.  "No way in hell you're going out on your own."

"I can't be babysat all the time," he complained. "It's not fair to you guys or Don."

"No, it's not, but it's not that often and I'm nearly done anyway.  You can go sit in Mac's office and talk to him about your martial arts classes." Xander blushed.  "Decided not to go?"

"Didn't quite make today's."  Danny gave him a look.  "I was taking a nap."

"Good, then he can chew you a new one."  He walked him off with a nod for the officer.  He patted the kid on the back a few times in the elevator.  "From the website, Mac said it happens, Xander," he said calmly.  "Maybe it's time you did start dating."  He walked him to Mac's office.  "Someone tried to take him outside his massage.  I'm heading home after I finish two more things."

"He can sit in here with me."  Danny grinned and left.  "How long have you been in the rut?"

Xander shrugged. "Maybe a week?  I, um, didn't make it to class today because I was napping after one."

"That happens now and then, Xander.  You can't control some of those things. With more experience it'll come easier.  You've only been diagnosed three months with the pheromone problem."

"I don't consider it a medical condition."

"It is if you have to be rescued."

"I'm not some damsel," he said hotly, standing up. "Buffy thought the same thing and I managed to rescue myself plenty of times."  He stomped off.

Mac called Stella, she was heading out.  Maybe she could stop him.  He called Don.  "It's me.  Xander said he's not some damsel and said Buffy thought the same thing but he managed to rescue himself plenty of times.  No, he stomped off.  Danny said an officer rescued him from being taken by someone outside the massage parlor.  Not yet.  No, Don.  I paged Stella because she was heading out.  I don't know yet."  He hung up, deciding not to alert patrol.  They'd treat the kid like an escaped convict if he put out a 'watch out for' warning in the system.  Danny came back.  "He's fine but he stomped off," he admitted.  "He said he could handle it."

Danny glared at him.  "Yeah, sure he can, Mac.  Because no one else wants to take him," he said bitterly, going to find the kid.  He texted the rest of the lab and Don to see if they had seen him.  Adam, their Trace tech, found him at an ice cream shop and said he was getting a cone and leaving.  Danny headed that way, shadowing the kid in case.  He was radiating cold, predatory feelings and most everyone was getting out of his way.  "Apparently mad is good for him," he noted quietly.  His phone rang and he smirked at the familiar voice on the other side.  "Heading down to the bad parts of town.  Sure."  He hung up and hurried up, going to stop Xander.  He moved in front of him and the boy glared.  "This is bordering on the areas of the city no one should go into unless they live here," he said gently.

"I'm fine!"

"I know you are, but I don't wanna make you have to defend yourself.  Let's go somewhere safer and you can wander all you want."

"I don't need a babysitter."

Danny gave him a long stare.  "I doubt that.  You may be tough and all but there's things in this city that will eat you, human things."

Xander stepped closer.  "What makes you think I won't stop them too?" he asked patiently, staring into his eyes.  Danny took a step back.  "I'm not in the mood for the coddling.  I'm going to go do something.  Since everyone seems to think I need out of the house more often."

"You could take cooking lessons.  They're used to the casual learners."  Xander shook his head. "Why not?"

"Because they're expensive and they're teaching Japanese cuisine right now.  I'm not fond of fish."  He walked around him and headed into a store, going to browse while he finished his ice cream.  He glanced and Danny was still shadowing him. "I'm fine."

"As soon as I make sure of that, I'll go home."  Xander rolled his eyes and went to try something on, leaving his ice cream outside with the salesgirl.  She looked at it and tossed it, making him shrug when he came out.  "Sorry."

"Not a problem, sir.  Those are a bit tight."

"I'm going clubbing."  She nodded, accepting that.  "Too tight?"  He looked at himself then shook his head, going to change and coming out in something a bit less tight.  That got a nod from Danny.  "Thanks, mom."  He paid for it and walked out in it, letting Danny take the bag with his other stuff.  He disappeared in the crowd, heading off and away.  He wasn't some damsel.  He knew he wasn't.  He found a rave just starting and paid his way in, getting a nod.  He headed in, getting lost in the crowd.  It was nice, no one there thought he was incompetent, even if he couldn't dance very well.

Danny watched for a bit, then called Don.  "He's fine, Don.  Dancing.  Not very well.  He might be safer here.  Yeah, there."  He hung up and changed out with Don a few minutes later.  They were near the condo at least.  Danny dropped off the clothes in Don's car and headed home, going to think.  There was obviously some damage in that boy's psyche.  He clearly wasn't a damsel.  Maybe they were trying too hard to coddle him.  He sat down to watch some tv, watching the breaking news story of the riot at one club.  Not the one Xander had been at thankfully.


Don watched Xander, then headed out there, going to help him.  "Like this," he said, moving behind him to show him.  Xander stiffened.  "Not like I'm not going to shadow you for a few more weeks, Xander.  Now, relax and let it go."  Xander nodded, letting it go, doing what Don was showing him.  "Better."  Xander relaxed in his arms.  "No, this isn't a safe spot," he ordered.  Xander stiffened some again.  "Good.  Remember, only home is totally safe. Everywhere else is someone's hunting grounds," he reminded him.  Xander nodded, moving away from him to dance with someone else.  Don backed out of the crowd and watched him from a spot that the guards were watching from.  He nodded at one.

"Your bitch?"

"Not quite.  People like to try to hurt him."  That got a nod and they both watched the kid.  Any problems would be around him.  A few people tried to get Xander off the floor with them but he ignored them.  Don was proud, the kid was shaping up.  A new song came on, a remix of something older and slower.  Xander was moving differently now.  Don watched as the crowd gravitated toward his charge, groaning.  The song ended and it got better.  Then one basically about bending your girl over and taking it came on and he leaned on the railing to watch how he handled it.  Xander was doing okay.  He was lost in the dancing it looked like.  He was definitely radiating with the way one guy was trying to dry hump him on the floor.  Don mentally snorted.  Xander would not be going out with anyone he picked up in a club like this.  The guy got shoved off by Xander and got given a glare, then he went to dancing with a pretty young woman.  Huh, the boy was bi.  Interesting.

She was hot and panting.  He moved away from her, leaving her wanting more.  She pulled him back and went back to rubbing against him but he only gave her another look and slipped free, going to the bar.  Don watched, a water.  Good choice.  Xander watched the crowd and left, heading off again.  Don headed after him.  He nodded at the guard, getting a point.  He followed, finding him going into another club.  This one was nicer, but still hard, pounding, sex-like rhythms and a crowded floor.  This one had more guys on it. So it had been the woman.  He really needed to get the kid to talk about his friends.  Soon hopefully.  That was the only way he'd begin to heal.  This one wasn't as easy to watch him but he managed to find a perch on the wall, watching his boy go at it.  Again, women started to gravitate toward him and he backed away.  He walked down there, taking his boy back with a glare at the current one.  Xander looked at him.  "Let's drink."

"I don't drink."

"Yes you do."  He walked him to the bar to get him a beer then back to the table, putting them both there.  It was fairly quiet and the boy could easily hide in the darker corner.  "You okay?"

"I'm ...."  He shoved the beer over. "I'm fine, Don.  I don't need watched."

"You do.  You also need to talk about what they did to you."  Xander shook his head.  "Yeah.  You do.  It's the only way to heal."

Xander looked at him.  "The one ones who could possibly understand were there, Don."  Don flinched at that.  "I went out and did stupid shit every single night with the clear knowledge I was going to die. I was usually surprised when I came home."

"You need drugs for the suicidal tendencies?"

"It was necessary," he said flatly.  "We brought the death rate down by ten percent."  He stood up.  "I'm fine."

"If you were, you wouldn't have bad reactions to the women trying to get into your pants," Don told him.  Xander sat down again, shaking his head. "Tell me.  Not like I haven't been in life-threatening situations now and then."

Xander looked at him.  "Being born in Sunnydale is a death sentence, Don."

"Being born period is a death sentence.  We all die."  Xander nodded.  "I'm sure you've seen plenty but you still need to start to heal from it."

"I'm fine."

"You're not.  You're still shying away from people.  You're uptight and tense.  If I had you interrogation I'd be worried about a surge of anger that'd get a table thrown at me."

Xander shook his head. "I have more control than that."

"Then why can't you control the other stuff?"

"Because it's who I am.  That was what I did.  Big difference."  He walked out, heading to a dark, shadowy place to get lost again.  This one was playing heavy metal, had walls decorated in leather and whips. Half the crowd looked like bad porn doms and dommes.  That was fine with him.  They wouldn't make him try to remember.  He slid into the crowd and got down with it, letting it go.  He was back into the hunting mindset and it was comfortable for now.  A few guys tried him but he shook his head and they backed off, respecting that.  That decided him, this was his new favorite hiding place.  By the time he made it home it was the middle of the night and he was worn out.  One of the guys there had bought him a mixed drink but that was all.  He stumbled in and closed the door as quietly as he could, heading to his room. He flopped down on his bed and decided undressing was too much work.  Especially since the one guy he had gifted with a grope in the bathroom had kept his underwear.

Don came in to check on him when he got up, covering Xander once he got his shoes off him.  He shook his head.  The kid would learn.  At least he didn't smell like he had gotten busy in the bathrooms or drank himself into a stupor.  Either of those would be dangerous. He went to start his coffee, sipping it while he thought.  Something was going to have to break and the kid wasn't even trying to bend yet.  Maybe he'd have another talk with Mac.  Mac was a vet, he had seen and been in combat.  The kid had been in some sort of combat by his moves.  He'd probably understand best.  He went to shower and get dressed, heading out to go to work.  Mac was at his desk, like usual.  "Got a few?"

"Sure.  What's wrong?"

"He's fine but he's still got mental issues with those girls of his former town. He said no one not there would understand."

Mac looked at him.  "You think a talk one combat veteran to another would help?" he suggested.  Don nodded.  "Why?"

"Because the kid's got two modes.  Limp and pliable, cuddly Xander.  GHS Xander basically.  And then there's tough, watching, predatory Xander.  Danny said it best, the kid was radiating predator last night at the clubs.  He only slipped a few times but it was still getting him attention.  The only way I can see that he got that instinct was from being predatory.  He also said that being born there was a death sentence and he used to go out expecting not to make it home.  That's the way it was there."

"Then he could probably use a hand," Mac agreed.  "I'm not sure I'm the right person.  Yesterday I set him off with the protecting problem."

"No, you were the last straw and then Danny stalked him for an hour or so."  He leaned against a wall.  "I really think he's going to snap.  He's not bending and he's not healing.  He's going to snap like a branch when Stella's peeling them."

"I'll see but he might not want to talk to me, Don.  Did you offer?"

"He told me I couldn't understand.  That I wasn't there."

"That might be true.  I doubt mine and his were the same.  After all, I had support behind me most of the time."

"Point."  He shrugged.  "I'm stuck, Mac.  He's hurtin', badly."

"I'll try to talk to him tonight, Don."

"Thanks."  He headed to his desk.

Mac considered it and did a search on Sunnydale, coming up with information on the high school's graduation for some reason.  He read and then he reread.  Xander was mentioned peripherally.  There were other names.  He checked the date.  The anniversary wasn't soon.  He did another newspaper search on Xander's name specifically, finding a few things.  He sorted them by date and got to work.  He reformatted the search to include far enough back for a birth announcement, hoping to find his parents, but nothing.  He went forward, finding a lot about the boy's activities.  Or at least what others were noticing. He was listed as a witness in most of them.  Gangs on PCP?  Attacks on a few buildings.  Major assaults at the high school and that was listed as a gas main explosion and fleeing but some people had taken advantage to mug the attendees.  He shook his head and called him.  "Xander, come see me please?"  He smirked at the grunt.  "Because I'm sitting here looking at something on your graduation.  No, not one of your classmates.  Why?" He smirked.  "Because I'm interested, Xander.  What really happened?"  He heard the click and mentally groaned but hung up his phone.

Xander came trudging in an hour later and looked at him.  "Why did you want to know, Mac?"

Mac took the minute to study him. He clearly wasn't the cuddly, GHS Xander that Don usually saw and talked about.  "Because Don thought it might do you some good to talk to someone else who's been in combat."  He got up and closed the door, pointing at the chair across from him.  "Tell me about it."

"It was something attacking and we defended ourselves," he said quietly.

Mac looked at him.  "The reports said you led a defensive action."  Xander scowled.  "The newspaper said so."  He let him see it.  Xander slumped and balled it up, tossing the printout off to the side.  "Not the truth?"

Xander looked at him.  "Slightly."

"Where were you?"

"The lead.  As I should have been."  Mac nodded at that.  "I planned it if you want me to be honest.  I put myself on the front lines for a reason."

"Sometimes you've got to sacrifice so the others make it home," he said kindly.  "It's a hard decision."

Xander shook his head.  "No it's not."  He stood up.  "It's the only decision I've ever made.  Anything else or can you please forget this conversation and that article?"

"I would but your parents filed you as missing."

"Probably because they think I'll give them money.  They're wrong.  Anything else?"  Mac shook his head.  "Then forget about it, Mac.  That's my old life."  He walked out, heading home again.  He had to nip that one in the bud or else he'd be forced to leave his comfortable safe spot to hide somewhere else.  Someone grabbed his neck and he flipped them, then looked at Danny.  "Are you stupid!" he demanded.

"No.  Seeing if you were okay."  He got up and dusted himself off.  "Nice move.  Classes are paying off."

Xander glared at him. "Don't. Just don't!"  He stomped off, going to find somewhere else to be.  Somewhere no one gave a damn if he sulked or fought or anything else.  He found an open bar but he knew where that path led and he didn't go in there, instead heading to the park.  He flopped down on a bench, watching the mothers and kids walking.  That was going to make him sad so he got up and headed deeper into the park, finding a wooded section to sit in and stare at another tree.   At least there nothing was going to hurt him.  Any demons would only want to lick him to death. He relaxed, letting the anger out again.  He couldn't keep it, not and enjoy anything.  Anger was bad.  He put his head on his knees and thought.  Maybe it was time to make plans to move on.  Don could have the condo. He could live off everything else he had.  Maybe some small town in the midwest?  He'd have a better chance of finding a boyfriend there.  His phone rang and he looked at it, then turned it off.  He didn't want to talk to Willow today.  He had mailed her back her retightening charm but he wasn't dealing with people well today.  He heard a cough and looked at the officer looking at him.  "I'm sulking and angry.  Go away."

"I shouldn't.  This isn't really a safe place, sir."

"I'm better trained than I look.  Nothing's going to kill me."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Yup.  Wouldn't be the first time something's tried."  He looked at him, giving him an honest appraisal.  "I'm fine.  Really.  I'm letting it go before I yell at a friend and his friends."

That got a nod.  "It's always a good thing not to yell at your friends."  He moved closer carefully.  "Need to talk?"

"No.  I need to go bomb my old town and most everyone in it."  The officer smirked at that. "Honestly.  I do.  It'd make me feel better."  He looked at him, noticing he wasn't quite solid.  "How long have you been dead?"

"Ten years now. I got hit by a mugger out here."  He settled in across from him.  "Where you from, kiddo?"


The ghost blinked.  "You're kidding."  Xander shook his head.  "What are you doing here?  None of you make it out of there."

Xander snorted. "I left on my roadtrip.  Came here to help find myself. Now I'm being guarded here and I don't need the ropes that tight."

"You probably need a different type of leash," he offered.  "You seem like you need a good girlfriend or boyfriend, son."

"I could but it's not what I need most.  See, people like to kidnap me."

"I noticed that.  It draws even my kind.  Quarth?"  Xander shook his head.  "You sure?"


"Oh.  I've heard some about some of you.  Where's your keeper?"

"I have a protector and he's trying really hard but I can't relax and I can't be myself and it's getting to the point where I'm ready to snap."  He put his chin back down on his knees.  "It's like I'm one person when he's not there and another when there's people around because I can't relax around them.  I'm scared of hurting them and they're all older and have careers and things.  None of them understand me."

"I hear you guys have conventions."

"Yeah, next month.  I'm going to that one with our National Head.  He's got a boyfriend now and they're tight."  He shivered when a breeze started.  "Quit!" he snapped.  The breeze stopped. "Thank you."  The ghost laughed.  "Sorry.  I worked for Devi for six weeks. I know very well what did that."  He leaned back against the tree, stretching out.  "I'm not able to not separate myself out anymore and it's getting to the point where I'm going to snap.  I can't snap at them, they're trying to help, but the more I try to push down what I am, the worse it becomes and the sicker it makes me feel."

"Son, I'd become a flaming queen," he said dryly, standing up.  "Just let it go no matter what they think.  You said they're his friends and not yours.  What will it matter if they don't like you?"  He floated off.

Xander considered that and nodded. "Maybe I should."  He let the naturalness of the ground and trees soothe him for a bit longer then headed for the condo, going to change clothes into what was comfortable for him.  Because jeans were not it.  The comfortable silk jammies were better.  He nodded at Helga when he came out.  "You're not on today."

"I am so.  I didn't get it finished."  She pinched him on the cheek.  "You should put on a shirt."

"I'm tired of pretending, Helga.  I'm going to go with my baser instincts.  It'll make me quit feeling sick and giving me headaches."  He went to get a candybar from the fridge and went back to his computer to go back to the chatroom and see if Adam had written him back.  Because he was going to the convention and he would be seeing him then.  He could help him.  He knew he could.


Don came home and found Helga tucking Xander in on the couch.  "He make it messy too?"

"No, he's collapsed after a few more hours writing smut," she told him dryly.  "He said he's tired of hiding who he really is.  That it was making him feel sick."  She handed him something.  "It came in the mail today.  That's why Xander went to write smut."  She gathered her jacket and left, heading home.

Don checked on him then went to get a bottle of water so he could go read what the boy had been writing.  Maybe it was working like therapy for him.  No, smut just like their housekeeper said.  Multi-partner smut.  He saw the new email icon and clicked on it, reloading his inbox.  It was from that guy Adam and he shamelessly read it for him, getting a better feel for what was wrong with him. The suggestion to come earlier and cuddle up to him and his boyfriend wasn't a welcome one in Don's mind, but he marked it as unread for him.  Then he went back to reading the smut.  It was boy-on-boy but it was pretty good.  Xander had a definite flair for what was going on.  None of it was more than smut.  Xander wandered in and he pulled him down to sit on him.  "Why don't you try writing stuff with more characters than smut?" he suggested quietly.  "You've got a good grasp of the sex scenes but the characters themselves could use some fleshing out."  Xander looked at him. "I told you I was gonna read it, Xander."

"True."  He looked at the email box, then at him.  "Adam okay?"

"Yeah, he's fine."  He clicked on it.  "I was hoping it had some way to help you more."

Xander shook his head.  "What I need you can't be, Don."  He smiled as he read the invitation, writing a note to the email address embedded, talking to Ray to make sure it was an honest offer to come visit, which was all he put in there in case it was a work email and someone was watching him read it.  He got back a grumbling message but it agreed he could come visit.  He grinned.  "I'm going to the convention next month and going to see them a week early."

"That's fine.  I'll make sure your stuff is all right while you're gone."  He patted him on the back.  "Seriously, the stuff you wrote is good and it draws you in.  Gets you right in the gut, but you need to work on the characters.  Make them longer."  Xander looked back at him.  "You could write.  It's good.  Some grammar things but otherwise okay."  Xander grinned at him, one he hadn't seen before. It made his stomach clench. "Now, what're we doing for dinner?"

"Something soothing and soft.  I'm in the mood for soothing and soft."  He went to search the fridge.  "Why is there more beer than anything else?"


Xander pulled on a shirt and grabbed his wallet.  "I'm heading to get groceries."

"Change first," Don ordered.  "You're clearly without underwear."  Xander sighed and went to do that.  "You wanted me to protect you.  I'm trying to do that, Xander."

"I know."  He came out in a pair of silk pants and a shirt instead.  Don gave him an appraising look.  "What?"

"You look nice.  Very decent."  He grabbed his jacket and gun, following him down the street to the store.  Xander picked out what he wanted.  "Get tp too.  We're out."  Xander nodded, putting in a big multipack.  Don smiled at that.  "Thanks."  They kept going and he noticed how much stuff was salad stuff.  "Green, leafy things?"

"Are good for me.  You may live on beer but I still don't drink and I'll be damned if I'll grow a gut like that."  He nodded at someone up the aisle.  He took another set of cucumbers, putting them into the cart.

Don shrugged.  "Salads are good for you and I could eat better now and then to soak up the beer."  He looked at him.  "I don't drink that often."

"No, you don't," Xander agreed.  "Otherwise I'd never come out of my room."  He tossed in a few other things, then found some eclairs, loading up on them too. They were carefully put into the cart.

"That's not dinner.  That's a dessert."

Xander sighed and looked at him.  "Mother."

"I'm not.  It's not a dinner.  You wanna see a mom?  Mine wants to come over."  Xander shuddered and shook his head.  "I'll let you know so you can run and hide."  He patted him on the back.  "Calm down.  My mother's nice."

"I'm sure she is but I'm not meeting your parents in that special way."  He kept going, finding some other things for dinner, including some cheese he'd never had before.  "What's that taste like?"

"I don't know," Don admitted.  "Get a small chunk and we'll see while I teach you how to cook tonight."  Xander sighed but nodded, doing that.  "You're learning how to cook, Xander.  Before you starve.  Not even cops can live on takeout."   Xander gave a point at the salad stuff, making him laugh.  "Or salads.  Man was meant to eat meat too."  He grabbed what he wanted out of the meat department and followed him down the bread aisle.  "We've still got bread."  Xander picked up a roll of bagels, making him smile.  "Cream cheese?"

"Of course."  He found that in the dairy case and it was all good. They headed home and Xander had to take out half the beer but it was easily stored in a cabinet for later chilling.  Don didn't say anything while he started to prep the steaks.  Xander finished and folded the bags up, putting them in the recycling bin.  The he washed his hands and watched what Don was doing.

"C'mere."  He moved closer.  "Change your shirt.  That'll never get clean if this gets on it."  Xander went to change back into his lounging jammie bottoms. "Shirt?"

"Annoying."  He came in to help, seeing what he was doing.  "What's this called?"

"Rubbing the spices into the meat.  That way it's more than surface, if only a bit."  Someone knocked.  "Who is it?"

"Me," Stella called.  Xander went to let her in then came back to help again, but Don made him wash his hands first.  She came over to watch. "Finally teaching him to cook?"  Xander nodded, grinning at her.  "You better?"

"I've decided to quit suppressing my GHS side to make you guys more comfy. You're his friends and if you don't like me, yay."  He got back to work.

Stella blinked at him, then at Don, who gave her a look behind the boy's back.   "You know, we like you too, Xander."

Xander looked at her.  "It's come through pretty clearly that you guys think I'm flighty and slacking off since I'm not working or going toward some higher goal at the moment.  I'm going to be happy with myself and if people don't like me, I no longer care."

She considered it for a moment.  "We still like you, even though you're an asshole."

Xander shrugged.  "Yup.  I freely admit to that now and then too."

"Good.  At least you're not trying to hide the good parts," she said sarcastically.

He looked at her.  "Stella, consider it.  Would you normally be friends with me?"  She opened her mouth.  "Seriously."  She shook her head.  "Didn't think so.  So you're his friends and I can feel like a hanger on.  I'm good at that.  I'm still not hiding my flaming queen side or the GHS cuddly nature I have or any of it.  Though Don did say I write some pretty good porn if you wanted to go read some of it."  He got back to work, moving around Don.  "Is the pan hot?"

"Flick some of the juice at it.  Does it sizzle?"  Xander did that and it did.  "Then drop it in carefully and don't move it for two minutes.  Then we'll flip it over."  He did that and watched, mentally counting.  He and Stella shared another look.  "You know, they might like you too," he said cautiously.

Xander looked at him, then went to find a fork.  Don gave him some tongs.  "We had these?"

"I had those because I've had exes that cooked.  Turn it."  Xander turned the meat cubes onto an uncooked side.  Then he counted again and turned it again.  He looked at Stella.  "They really do like you for yourself, Xander."

"Don, I'm like a hanging on little brother.  I realize this.  I knew that this was going to happen when I first talked to you.  I don't expect to have friends here."

Stella leaned over and slapped him, hard, on the shoulder.  "Shut up, Xander. You're digging yourself deeper.  I don't care how old you are or how slacker you are."

Xander looked at her, and she shivered at his look.  "Really?"  She nodded.  "Then you wouldn't nag, Stella."  She groaned and slumped.  "You or the others.  Therefore, I know very well I'm like his little brother and you guys tolerate me."  He got back to the meat.  "What now?  I'm on the last side."

"Pour in some of the wine."  Xander did that and it steamed up.  Don opened a window.  "Sorry, forgot to say lower the heat slightly."  Xander looked at the knob.  "Down to four."  It got turned down.  "Good.  Now, slice some onions and stuff to put in there."  Xander nodded, moving to do that.  Someone else knocked on the door.  "Who else was coming?"

"I think Danny since Xander flipped him in the middle of hall when he grabbed him by the neck."  She went to get it, letting Danny and Sheldon in.  "Problems?"

"Slight one.  Xander, your parents have reported you missing?"

"They probably want money.  I've written an email to the officers out there saying I'm fine, I was invited to leave the town by my friends."

Danny walked over and grabbed the kid by the back of the neck and walked him into the spare storage room, slamming the door.  "What's your issue today?"


"You've been off all day."

"No, I was pissed earlier and moving back there now," he said firmly, glaring back. "I know you guys tolerate me like I'm his little brother. I could care less what you guys think about me.  I'm going to be myself."

Danny looked at him, then shook his head and burst out in soft laughs.  "I don't talk to people like that, kid.  I ignore people I don't do more than tolerate.  Don't believe me, ask Aiden."  Xander slumped some.  "Now, you done being an asshole?"

"You know what, I'm going to be myself.  If you think I'm an asshole, then yay."  He shrugged.  "If I'm not happy I'm only going to get worse.  Hiding this side of me and the cuddly, fun side of me has made me nothing but sick for the last few weeks.  I don't care if you don't like it, if you can't accept it, none of it.  You're Don's friends."  He got around him and went into his room to find something and turn on some music.

"You hide you don't eat," Don called.  Xander came out and made a plate then went back into his room, slamming the door again.  "Anyone got a clue?"

"He's been sick?" Danny asked.

"I thought it was the ice cream he's eaten non-stop," Don admitted.  "Never when I'm here but I've come home and smelled it a few times and he's napping more than not for the last few days."

"Okay, first," Danny said, holding up a hand.  "The kid's as tough as I am, Don, just less trained.  I got trained by my big brother. He got trained by necessity.  He got conscripted.  Second, that's not merging well with the fluffy, cuddly side.  It won't.  He's trying to find his main personality.  Most kids find this when they're teenagers and he is still one, just a bit behind."

"All that fighting would've kept it from fully happening," Sheldon offered. "Kids in warzones often have later developmental stages because survival necessitated them putting off finding the frivolous side in all of us."  He leaned against the counter.  "Was he serious?"

"Yup," Stella told him.  "He thinks we think of him like Don's little annoying brother."

Sheldon shook his head. "I don't but I'm kind of hoping he can help me with something.  Xander, can I have some help?"

"Sure.  Why?"  He came to his door.  "What happened?"

"I've got one of you in the morgue and there's some strange marks I can't identify."

"GHS members or otherwise?"

"GHS member."

"I can get you into the membership rolls with my logon.  Give me a minute."  He went back into his room, finding his card.  He brought his plate out and nudged Danny aside so it could go into the dishwasher, then headed in there with him.  He logged him onto the website, seeing the chatroom pop up with his name in it.  He typed in a 'not now'.  Giles ordered him to come home.  He typed in a 'why' and got back an explanation that the girls missed him.  He pointed out that they had ordered him not to come back since he was so worthless and depressing to them, such a drag on their daily lives.  But to say hi to Oz if he was there.  Then he logged out of that window and got into the membership rolls.  "Name?"

"Um, Tyler.  Matt Tyler."  He found him and pulled up his profile, typing at the admin that it was an officer needing it since he was dead.  The full file was sent to them and he printed it down for Sheldon's use.  "Thanks, Xander."  He gave him a gentle smile. "You know, I like you for yourself.  Don and I don't hang." He got a shrug.  "Really."

"If you say so."  Sheldon patted him and left to go back to the office.  Xander went back to his room, locking the door when someone knocked. He put on his headphones and got down to reading something.

Don looked at the door then went back to the kitchen.  "He's not in a good mood."

"Ya think?" Danny asked sarcastically.

"Yeah, I do.  Any idea what it was?  This time anyway."

"I think he'll settle out in a few weeks," Stella offered.  "You said he's going to some convention full of them."

"They've got conventions?" Danny asked.

"Yeah and he's been invited out to see the guy who broke him in and offered him membership for the week before then," Don told them.

"We'll come over for the game so you're not bored," Danny offered with a grin.

"Thanks you're all heart.  Get something and let's eat."  They settled at the table to eat.  Xander would come out eventually.  Then he'd smack him around until he was normal again.


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