In LA, Gunn stopped Wesley from walking into the hotel.  "I don't know what happened but Cordy's on a rant about your people, government people, her people, and Xander.  Still.  It's been a half-hour and she's still screaming about something.  Mostly about your people and government people, plus Xander."

"Oh, dear," he sighed.  "I've been told that the Council was raided a bit ago on weapons charges."  He glanced inside, finding Angel finishing the knots to keep her tied down.  He walked inside.  "I do know what caused the fit.  The Council has been trying to get Mr. Harris again."  Angel moaned.  "Miss Rosenburg took offense on his behalf earlier and turned them into the FBI for having the weapons cabinet.  The government over there raided them for that and some tax fraud.  Why the government went for Mr. Harris I'm not sure."

Cordelia spit the gag out.  "Because the ATF agents were told Xander was one of the Watchers and a terrorist, but one of the guys apparently knew he wasn't.  They offered him a job!  Xander as a Federal Agent!"  Angel shuddered at that.  "One who plays with *guns*  all day long!" she shouted.  "Plus the Watchers offered his bad hair boyfriend half a mil for his corpse."

"I heard that," Wes agreed.  "Willow hacked them, Angel.  Removed their money.  Turned them in.  Fixed Xander's file just in case someone manages to get into the system again since she presently has it locked.  I suppose she's about to go over the classification system and change things to names that Buffy will remember as well."

Gunn coughed so he wouldn't laugh.  "Any other good news?"

"Willow and Buffy are coming to shoe shop, a funded shopping trip," she said with a pouty look.

"Yes, I'm assuming they're splitting the money equally.  Who called to let you know?"

"The big dork himself.  He said he called to make me happy!"  She rocked the chair.  "Let me go!"

"Not until you're calm.  Otherwise I'm going to put you in a room full of demons and let you scream at them," Angel said, walking off.  "Are they going to tax auction, Wesley?"

"Possibly.  If so, I'm sure you and Giles could get the majority of the books rather cheaply."  He patted Cordelia on the head.  "There are worse fates for Xander.  Like president."

She gave him a look, then her lip quivered.  She burst out crying.  Gunn got her free, letting her run off and hide.

"That's mean, man," Gunn said, heading for his room to laugh himself sick at that image.  Xander Harris for president?  Yeah, right!  When the aliens landed!

Wesley smiled. "She's not ranting anymore," he called after him.  Angel came out of the office to give him a funny look.  "I suggested there were worse things Xander could be than an agent.  Like president."  Angel walked off nearly crying too.  Wes felt very proud of himself.  Angel wouldn't be slipping his soul anytime soon!  He went to make himself some tea and call Giles back to tell him what had happened.  He had warned him about Cordelia throwing a fit if she heard.  It was only fair.


Twenty minutes later John hung up the phone and shook his head quickly.  "Sammy, Giles came up with an even worse mental image than him being a Fed.  Him being president.  He said he's drinking himself to death tonight and Buffy's taking tonight off patrol if you two wanted to go," he yelled.

"The hunters might get a union," Dean joked.  "There'd be stripper regulations so they weren't ugly.  The M&M or twinkie would become the national snack food.  I'm not seeing a downside."  His father gave him a look.  "What?  No one else would ever want to screw with us again!  Can you see Russia or someone trying to screw with Xander?"

"I'm trying very hard not to, son."

Sam moaned, then slammed the door and went back to making himself sane so he could forget that image.  Xander was more than happy to help him until he needed a nap.

"Hey, that means Sammy could be First Lady," Dean joked loudly.  "He could do all the diplomatic stuff and make others see Xander's a nice guy if you weren't mean to him."

Sam whimpered.

"Son, shut up.  I need recovery time before I take that image out of your father's head," Xander yelled.

"Sure, Mom."

Sam kissed him, going for it anyway.  He'd be able to get hard eventually.  Until then there were other things he could do to drive Xander less insane.


Buffy walked through the cemetery on her way out to the movies, still rubbing her forehead.  Spike gave her a worried look.  "I'm going to have a stroke."

"Why?" he asked, looking her over.  Jeans, t-shirt, sneakers, hair up.  She looked comfortable.

"Wesley had to give Cordelia a mental image that would make her quit fussing about the agents offering Xander a job.  He came up with Xander for president."

Spike dropped his cigarette, staring at her.  "No.  No way in hell!" he shouted.

"At least Sam would try for diplomacy and to keep him from eating twinkies every day," she said weakly.  "I'm gonna have a stroke, Spike!" she whined. "What if Ethan hears?  Or Dru!"

He walked her off, escorting her to the movies.  "Here, you go rest.  I'll do patrol tonight."  She gave him a weak smile.  "He'd get your mum to advise him and she'd keep him calm.  Her and Sam both.  Then Red and Glinda could marry legally."  She grinned at that.  "He'd do a lot for kids and the poor."

"Yeah, he would."  She gave him a hug.  "Thank you for the happier thoughts.  Mom would make him stay good."  She bought her ticket and went inside.

Spike went to get into a fight to take that image out of his head.  His Dark Princess had shown him all politicians should wear clown shoes but that one would be worse than all the rest combined!  They might end up taking him out to save the world or something.  Then Buffy would pout at him.  He'd never get laid again.  His sire would kill him slowly and painfully for making his slayer pout - and Angelus knew torture.


Xander walked into the Magic Box the next day and grinned.  "Just to put any rumors aside, Sam said I cannot run for public office so we're safe unless Ethan or Dru hears!"  He walked out, going off to work.

Willow shook her head quickly.  "Huh?" she asked.

"Wesley had to come up with a bad mental image to make Cordelia quit yelling," Buffy said, sounding tired.  "It was Xander as president."

Willow cackled.  "Oh, we'd so rock the world!" she said happily.  "But I'd do it better because I do know what diplomacy is."

Buffy reached over to knock her out.  "No.  If you go do that you can't help me slay and then I'd be pouty.  The vampires would try to hug me again and it'd be a bad thing!"  She stomped off to get cocoa.

Anya shook her head.  "He would be a powerful man.  Maybe I could be the mistress then...." she mused.  She called Sam.  "If he does go that high up can I be the mistress?"  He hung up after a sullen 'no'.  She pouted.  "That's not nice.  Many people will want him then because he'll be powerful.  At least I know how to do that tongue thing that makes him nap."

Buffy came out of the kitchen.  "If you try Sam's going to rip you apart so badly not even the people on that show will be able to find your pieces, Anya.  Give up and move on."  She got an idea.  She knew a scowly one who could use a creative, flexible girlfriend to quit scowling.  "You know, John used to be married a long time ago.  Like decades.  He hasn't had any since then.  Notice the scowling?  You could even help distract him when he wanted to scowl at Xander for teaching Dean silly songs."  Anya gave her a look.  "Sam had to learn it from somewhere.  Dean used to be a stud.  Maybe it runs in the family."  She went back to her cocoa making feeling content.  Friends helped their friends feel happier.

"Hmm.  Scruffy can be nice," she said, thinking about it.  "Plus older men are said to be more patient and he has stamina because he can keep up with Buffy and Xander on patrol. Maybe I should try him."  She went to make plans on how to snare him.  She couldn't trap him the way Buffy did but gentle pressure might work.  Especially if she played off the stubborn streak the whole family had.


John looked over as he put the last bag into his truck.  Tara had her suitcase and he nodded.  "You can put it in mine, Tara."

"I'm riding with the boys," she said quietly.

He grinned.  "Dean will drive you nuts."

She smiled.  "I have cookies."  He laughed.  "Are you okay?  You look tired."

"I had to escape from Anya six times last night."

Sam looked over at him.  "Buffy decided that you would be good for her," Dean reported.  "That way she could get over Xander and make you less scowly as she put it."  He grinned his best naughty grin at his dad.  "She decided you can keep up with Mom and Buffy on patrol so therefore you've got to have stamina and older men have better experience.  Buffy suggested Sam and I had to learn it from somewhere since we're apparently both studs now that he's found a guy who he can go girly on."  John moaned, shaking his head.

"I'd run, John.  She's more stubborn than I am about some things and she's been missing her six a night," Xander called.  He looked at Sam.  "Do not pout at me," he warned.  Sam gave him the best begging look.  "No!  I don't care, go play!  No more pouting at me or I won't make the special brownies for when you get back."  He gave him a kiss, making him smile.  "Be safe.  Have fun at Universal Studios when you get there from wherever you guys are hitting first.  Call to let me know how things are going.  Dean, I packed that tape, kiddo."  He kissed him on the head.  "Be good.  Listen to them.  Be safe and remember what I taught you if you run into a pervert."  Dean gave him an evil smirk.  "That's my boy."  He gave him a hug.  "You be safe."

"You too," Dean said quietly.

Xander snorted, grinning at him.  "I've done this so many times before it's like a rerun of the Cosby show.  All good feelings and happy family.  Then we'll have a party at the Bronze and Chinese food."  Dean rolled his eyes.  "We handle two a year.  Don't worry about me.  Worry about your Dad," he said, nodding at Sam. "He's already pouting."

"I'll make him quit pouting," Dean promised.  "As only a good brother can."  Xander cackled, earning one from his son.

"That's the bad sound," Tara said.

"I know.  Dean used to do that right before he pranked Sammy.  I had to make him stop because it wasn't very stealthy."  He came over to take Dean back.  "He'll be good.  You be safe and come home."

"Of course.  Easy squeezy, John.  Not the first time we've faced down nightmares."  He kissed Sam again then waved.  "Go before Buffy shows up to be mushy."

"Let me get into the car," Dean said.  "She'll cry on me and I can't take that."  He got into his booster seat with Tara's help.  Sam got in to drive.  Tara got in beside him.  John got into his truck and Xander waved as they left into the early evening light.  He leaned forward, grabbing his bag of activity supplies Xander had given him.  It was his workbooks, a few other books, and some music, plus his CD player and CD's.  He handed over a tape.  "Here, put this one in."

Sam put it in and groaned at the kids' songs coming over the speakers.  Even Tara groaned at them.  Dean was humming to annoy them even farther.  After the third one Sam ejected the tape and tossed it out the window.  "Driver picks the music," he said, turning it onto a station that would have music he and Tara could enjoy.  Dean had the CD player if he got too bored.  Tara patted him on the arm.  He smirked back.  "His rules."

Dean put on his headphones with a shake of his head.  That had been a copy.  Xander had the original CD at home on the stereo.  He looked back, finding his Dad staring at his stereo in horror.  Xander must've given him a copy too.  John calmly opened the window and tossed his in the bed of the truck, then closed the window.  Dean snickered.  His dad's face was nearly as good as when Dean had suggested Sam as the First Lady.  Tara tapped him and gave him a cookie, earning a grin.  "Thanks," he said, nibbling on it.

"Behave.   Have you seen my Enya tape?"

"Um, Dad may have it."

She called back there. "John, do you have my Enya tape?"  They pulled over and she got it out of the truck bed, coming to put it in.  She smiled at him and took the others Willow had snuck into his truck.  "Thank you."  She climbed back in, putting that one into the tape player.  Dean turned up his music.  She scowled.  "No hearing damage."  He turned it down some but that was just Dean for you.  Sam shrugged it off and kept going once they were back on the road.  His girlfriend had probably listened to her.  She was good.


John parked at The Roadhouse, getting out and handing Sam a tape.  "I think that's Dean's."

"Heavy metal?  Classical rock?  Or kids songs?"

"Kids songs," he groaned.  Sam tossed it in the nearest trash can.  "I saw you toss one earlier."

"Kids songs," he agreed.  "It was Xander's idea for Dean to annoy us and make us beg."  He opened the back door, waking Dean up.  "We're here.  Tara?  It's a bar but it's where hunters gather.  If they bother you, tell us and we'll beat their asses.  Even the other girls."  She nodded, walking Dean inside.  "We're here," he yelled at the empty room.

A young blonde girl came out of the back.  "Are you sane...."  She stopped when she saw John.  "I heard you but I wasn't sure it wasn't a possession."

"No, Rosenburg brought me back.  Sammy did that to Dean," he said, pointing at Dean and Tara sitting together so Dean could go over something with her.  She looked then burst out laughing.

"I can still kick your butt, Jo," Dean promised her.  "Even at this size."

"Manners," Tara whispered.

He looked at her.  "She deserves them?"  She gave him a look.  His father gave him a look.  "Dad, why don't you marry Tara?  Then you'd both get to frown at me for the same reason more often."

She stroked over his hair.  "Willow would get very upset with him.  There's no telling what she'd do."

"Good point.  She is the scary one.  Buffy's only scary when she's tired."  He pointed at something.  "Isn't that a form of life?"  She looked and smiled, nodding a bit.  "I knew it was but Sammy said it was soul."

Sam looked then pointed.  "This language is connotation based, Dean.  It depends on the sentence around it.  In that sentence it means soul.  In the one before it, it means life."  He patted him on the head then looked at Jo and her mother Ellen.  "Hi."

"He's adorable," Ellen told John.  "Again.  Why?"  John pointed at Sam.  "The reason you're back?"


" wa...was an a...accident," Tara stuttered, ducking her head.

"It was," John agreed, smiling at her.  "Don't be shy around her, Tara.  She's not."  He looked at them again.  "Anyone going to come our way?"

"A few are thinking about it.  Slayers are real?"

"Very," Sam said, grinning at her.  "I've been patrolling with her since I found where Dean got put."

"Do I even want to know?" Jo demanded.

"No," Dean said.

Sam shook his head. "Long story, Jo.  It saved Dean from where he had to save me."  She just nodded at that and walked off to go behind the bar.  "We're stopping over on our way to Universal Studios to see if others are coming our way.  Right now we're on leave because of an apocalypse.  Dean's other father demanded it so he'd be safe.  Plus Tara wanted to do something in San Francisco."

"She's cute, yours?" Jo asked from behind the bar.

"No, she's dating a very nice witch," John told them.  "She's been helping Sammy and Xander with Dean while he regrows."  She smiled at him.  "She's done an excellent job too."  Dean nodded.  "Including keeping him from getting into as much trouble as last time."  He gave his son a look.  Dean just grinned back.  "Thanks for the nair, son."

"Welcome.  Anya said she didn't like hairy chests."

"I'm not dating your mother's ex."

"She's persistent.  You might want to give in but make it bad," Sam offered, smirking a bit.  "That way she'll leave you alone."  John gave him a scathing look.  "Xander said she used to demand six or seven orgasms a night.  Not even *I* have stamina like that."

"I haven't ever had that sort of stamina."

"Not that hard when you..."  Tara smacked him on the mouth lightly.  "Hey!"  She gave him a look.  "Fine, I won't share those memories with anyone.  That way I don't get put in the corner."

John patted Tara on the shoulder.  "Thanks.  Didn't want to hear those."

"Those things are private," she said quietly.

"Unless you write for Penthouse," Dean quipped.  His father swatted him this time.  "Hey!"

"Xander's not here to save your hind end this time, son," John told him.  Dean pouted but nodded.  "That's twenty extra pushups tonight."  His son sighed but went to do them now.  "Thank you."  Sam snickered.  "He wouldn't put up with it either."

"Xander was thinking about showing him better ways to get his girl fix in until he was old enough to date again."  He grinned at Jo and her mom.  "So, who's coming over?  And can we have the room upstairs tonight?"

"It's only got two beds."

"Tara and Dean can have one.  I've got a sleeping bag and Dad can have the other one," Sam assured her.  She gaped.  "What?  Dean's my son now."  She burst out laughing.  "He is.  His mom's a great guy.  Love him a lot even if he is more stubborn than all three of us combined."

"And then some," Dean agreed from his corner.  Tara nodded at that.  He finished up and came back to get back to work.  "I don't like this language," he said.

Sam looked at him.  "You only need the basics and that's the end of that workbook.  The faster you get it done the faster you go onto advanced Latin and one of the demon ones."

"Six more pages," he complained, getting back to it.  "Hold on, I'm learning a demon language?"  Sam smirked and nodded.  "Did Mom approve?"

"He insisted," John told him dryly.  "He said it's one he hears at the demon bars a lot since it's a common one."

"Wow.  Is Sammy learning it too?"

"With you," Sam agreed.  "It's spoken so no workbook beyond the flashcards."  Dean grinned and went back to it.  He could do the six long pages tonight if he wanted to.  Sam grinned at his dad again.  "It could come in handy."

"Very.  I wonder if our sort know it?"

"Xander said it's a common, lesser demon language.  The higher ones are arrogant.  Maybe half would know some of it."

John smirked.  "Good thinking, Sammy."

"All my evil half's fault," he said dryly.

Jo gave him a nervous look.  "You're with a guy?"  Sam beamed and nodded, pulling out a picture to show her.  "Uh-huh.  And he's a what?"

"Hunter and construction worker.  He's been hunting with the slayer since he was sixteen.  Xander's a great guy."

She backed away from him.  "There's no way you're not sick, Sammy.  I'm sorry but you need to be put into the hospital."

Dean glared at her.  "Insult Xander and I'm ripping you apart," he promised.  She let out another nervous laugh.  "Ellen, please?  Before we have to traumatize Tara?"  She swatted her daughter.  "Thank you."  He got back to work on the workbook.  "Can I have a drink?"

"Sure," Ellen agreed.  "Soda, John?  Or Sammy, whichever is doing the sugar monitoring."

"He's had plenty today," John assured her.

"But most juices have more sugar," Sam told him.  "I had to learn to read that part of the label when I accidentally gave Xander a super hyper day after getting him some chocolate milk.  I swear he was going to bounce enough to miscarry."

"I've seen him in that mood," John admitted.  "You end up tying him down?"

"No, I ended up helping him nap and then purging the house.  Diet soda, Ellen?"  Dean whimpered.  "Quit.  Now."  Dean pouted.  "I mean it or no cookies tomorrow.  You'll have a salad for breakfast and tofu for lunch."  Dean shut up and took his diet soda.  "Thank you."  He grinned.  "So, who's coming our way?"

"A few of the younger boys who're just out of the service and one just out of training with his daddy.  That one's in Oxnard if you need him sooner.  Paul's son."

"Xander said they've faced nightmare creating things before so they'd be fine," Dean said.  "I don't know when but he said so."

"I asked, high school."  Sam looked at her.  "He can meet us the day we're at Universal Studios."

"You're really going to a theme park?" Jo demanded.

"Xander said it's an important rite of childhood," Sam told her.  "Besides, even we Winchesters need some fun sometime.  Dean used to pick up girls and he can't do that for a while longer."

"Years yet," Jo agreed.

"He's going at a year a month.  Next year," Sam said dryly.  She gaped.  "What?  I fully intended to carry him."

"That would've been super weird.  It's bad enough I'm not sure if I should call you Sammy or Daddy," Dean complained.  "Later on you'll be nagging me because you changed my diapers."  He gave him a look.  "Just don't have that thought.  Give me a niece or have Xander give me a baby sister.  One of each if you want.  I don't mind.  Really," he said with a winning grin.  "I'll even be nice to them.  When we have to dress like priests again they can go as a nun."

Tara stroked over his hair.  "Xander has his reasons for waiting, Dean.  Then you can nag and beg.  I even said they could have some of my eggs since I'm not planning on using them."

He stared at her.  "Why not?"

"Because I don't plan on it."

"That's such a load of crap, Tara," Sam told her.  "You'll be a better mom than Xander is and he's great at it.  The way you help us with Dean shows that."  She opened her mouth.  "I'd be honored to be a godfather or uncle to your children.  You're a special woman and your specialness should be passed on.  Have someone do a nucleus switch and let Willow carry it."

"Mood swings," John coughed.

"Never mind, you carry them, Tara.  Let Willow be the daddy since she's so tough."  Tara giggled, shaking her head.  "You really should.  We'd love to help."

"It's sweet but no," she said, shaking her head.  "Sorry.  The limitations of stuff, Sam."

"That's only if a guy breaks you in, sweetheart," John said, making her blush.  "If a woman doctor implants it, nothing's going to change."  She gave him a look.  He nodded.  "Ask the ones you know."

"Melinda would know," Sam agreed.

"I'll consider it but I still think I'd be bad at it."

Dean poked her until she looked at him.  "You've done great with me.  Even though I'm not a normal kid you've done great with me."  She smiled and patted him on the head.  "Another point to consider is Xander said the same thing.  Do we need to make your parents sorry too?"

"Buffy did," she said quietly.

"Uh-huh," John said, grimacing.  "I hate parents like that."  He shook his head.  "You'll have some even if you do have to use a turkey baster like I heard some girls like you have done."  She blushed.  "That way Dean can be an uncle to a normal kid.  Even if you do have them with Willow.  Plus there's nothing that says that you'll have a witch."

"Good point," she agreed quietly.

"Yeah, you could have the next underwear model," Dean teased.

"My child would be too modest for that.  You're the one who tried to streak through the Magic Box."

"Spike paid me twenty twinkies to do it too," he said happily with a bright, happy grin.  "By the way, whose bright idea was the non-cutting?"

"Xander," Sam and John said.

"I'll have him explain that to me later."

"If you want you can have that done when you're older, son," John offered.

Dean looked at him.   "I don't like pain.  No thanks."  He went back to his workbook, doing the last page.  He smiled. "FINALLY!"  He tossed it at Sam, who looked over the last few pages then handed one back.  He pouted.  "Not right?"

"Not even close.  You have an eraser, use it."  Dean pouted but went back over it, correcting his errors.  He shot a look at Tara and did it in Latin.  He handed it back with a smug look.  "You're still conjugating 'have' oddly.  Wrong ending for that gender and number."  He pointed.   "Fix it."  Dean fixed it.

"You'd be a scary teacher, son," John said.

"Yes, he is," Dean agreed.  He fixed it and handed it back.

"Good job.  You get to pick which book to deal with tonight before bedtime."

"Can I have the comics?"

"Sure," he agreed with a grin.  "Comics are a good part of growing up and I agreed with Xander on that."  Dean smirked and went to get the comics Xander had slipped into his bag for the car trip.  He looked at Jo again.  "Want to have us meet that one around Universal Studios or later that night?"

"Later that night would be better," John said.  "Did he get us tickets?"

"Willow did.  I put our cut into the bank."  He smirked at him.  "That way I can have a nice wedding when I finally talk my stubborn bitch into it."  John gave him a look.  "I had a nice necklace for him that first night since the books said your hands could swell.  I told him if it was any way other than what had happened I'd have come in with a preacher too.  He gave me a confused look."

"With his parents, I wonder why," Dean said sarcastically.  He grinned.  "I've got a plan if he stays stubborn."

"Sure," Sam agreed.  He looked at the two women.  "We should probably crash for the night."

"How are you guys getting money?" Jo asked.

"There were people who wanted to kill Xander; Aunt Willow destroyed them for us," Dean said patiently, turning the page on his comic.  "Pity."

"Definitely and if I ever see that Travers asshole I'm going to salt and burn his living body," Sam agreed.  John smiled at that.  "Yes, I know, I'm just as scary as he is over my family.  I consider that a good thing and I didn't even need possessed to do it."

"What got him?" Dean asked.


Dean and John both stared at him.  "They didn't clear it?" John demanded.

"They tried to exorcize it, it didn't fully come out," Sam told him.  "Xander said they're like his shoulder angels now and then.  It works for him.  I offered to try it again for him and he pouted at me.  As long as he doesn't have to snap at someone like Dru anytime soon, we'll be fine.  We have been so far.  That was in his first year of hunting."

"Damn," Dean said.  Tara swatted him again.  He frowned at her.  "That deserves it."

"Tough.  There are ladies present."

"We swear too, honey," Jo said dryly.  "You don't?"  Tara shook her head.  "You do what?"

"Magical support for the slayer," she said quietly.  The girl backed off.

"She's a guardian," Dean said happily.  "The one Annabelle's guardianship went to.  Her familiar even likes me.  Then again, so does ours."  He grinned at Sam.  "Didn't he snuggle for that?"

"He gave me a look like I was God," Sam said honestly, smiling at him.  "Willow tried to give him some of her pet fish one year for his birthday so he asked if it was alive but he was nearly squealing in joy from Bastest."  John shook his head at that.  "She was little."

Tara nodded.  "We all were at one time."

"Twice now," Dean said dryly.  He poked her, pointing at a dress.  "Can we put Sammy in that for Halloween?"

"No, Dean.  That's mean."

"Fine."  He turned the page when Sam came over to look.

"Remember, Dean, your aunts all like to shop and Buffy was excited that she'd have a boy to go with her who wouldn't stare at her when she tried on things."  Dean gave him a horrified look.  "She called you her future shopping buddy before you were born a number of times."

"I will *beg*, dude.  Please?" Dean pleaded.

Sam grinned.  "If you can tell her no."  John turned to laugh.  "Yeah, well, better than Xander."  A few other guys came in so he checked his watch.  "One hour until bed, Dean."

"Awww," he whined.

"No," he said, shaking his head.  "This is still a bar."  Dean nodded.

One of the guys that came in leered at Tara.  "New hunting partner, Sammy?  She's adorable."

Sam turned and punched him. "Leave Tara alone.  She's the godmother of my son."  He backed off, hands held up.  "Thank you."  He smiled at Tara, nodding upstairs.  She nodded, taking Dean with her no matter how much he complained.  "We'll see you in a bit, Tara."  He patted Dean on the head.  "Protect her."  Dean nodded, stopping his fussing.  He looked at Ellen once they were safely out of the way.  "Say it now, Ellen."

She squirted John then him.  "Huh.  I know I put holy water in there."

Sam smirked.  "I'm still me and he got sent back to his body by Rosenburg.  It happens now and then."  He looked at the hunters watching them.  "Yes, a witch brought him back by accident."

"That's a strong witch," one guy said.

"Scary too since she's not a guardian," John assured him.  "She also bakes cookies when she's sorry.  Wears fuzzy sweaters.  Can't swear either.  Did it in German the other night but can't do it in English."

Sam smirked.  "Her parents are psychologists."

"Even better.  No wonder she's screwed up."  He waved a hand.  "Any of them coming to be ours?"

"All of 'em," Ellen said with a grin.

"Cool," Sam said, grinning at them.  "Wanna talk about our hellmouth?"

"It's not real," one snorted.

"It's not that mythical," another said, staring at Sam.  "Why are you in Sunnydale?"

"I did a rite to save Dean and it knocked up Xander."

"Harris?"  Sam beamed and nodded.  "Well, we knew he screwed up things.  That was an impressive screw up through."  Sam lunged and the other guys tried to stop him but the poor guy ended up on the ground under Sam's choking hands.  He swatted and tried to get free but it wasn't going to work.

"I want to know why he was there," John said casually.

Sam stared down at him.  "Why were *you* there?"  He let up his pressure a bit, letting him gasp.  "Anytime now.  Dean's barely five and tougher than this."

"Init..." he croaked.

"Ah."  John hauled Sam off him then picked the boy up.  "I heard about that mess.  Come tell me how my military screwed up, son."  He walked him out back to talk to him, making the other guys shudder.

Sam grimaced.  "Well, if Dad kills him, it's not that big of a waste, huh?"  He looked at the other guys.  "Want nightly hunting of easier vampires, some harmful demons, learning which ones aren't harmful, and a chance at a nice blonde lady with super strength who shops?"  They gaped.

Dean cackled.  "Don't set them up with Buffy.  She's got high expectations.  A bit of danger, a bit of smutty throwing against the wall.  Nice enough for her mother to meet.  Has to put up with her friends."

"Shouldn't you be in bed?" Sam asked him.

"Tara's fine and she's in bed," he said with a grin. "Not like I'm really a little kid, Sammy."

"Yeah," he snorted.  "Still my son until you're the proper age again, Dean."

John leaned in.  "Dean.  Bed.  Now."

"But..."  Sam pointed.  "You know, I have a better handle on what goes on nightly than  you guys do since I only have to watch you handle it.  Including how Spike's depressed and Xander realizes it but no one else does.  How Willow and Tara are fighting.  How Buffy's slowly being driven insane by them fighting."  He came over to look at them.  "Wasn't there another one?"

"He was Initiative," Sam told him.  "You forgot that Giles isn't really feeling totally useful at the moment because you don't seem to need him either."

"There is that too," Dean agreed.  "He's about to head home for a few weeks though."   They all looked clueless.  "The main hunter in town is what's called a slayer.  She has a watcher who teaches her, helps her train, that stuff.  She's got two witches and my new mom, Xander as well as Spike to help her."

"Shoo, I can tell them," Sam told him.

"Fine."  He went to help his father.  He even grinned.  "I heard my mother's name taken in vain?"  The guy stiffened and stared at him.  "You do know that you've seriously cranked the world order out there, right?  That she's had to help a lot of things heal and move on?  That they're still getting harmless demons who can't heal and are having to suicide from the pain and torture you gave them."

"Harmless?" he snorted.

"Yeah, you guys killed one of the ones that keeps the realms apart and the hellmouth shut," Dean agreed.  The guy gave him a look, sneering some.  "You also killed ones that filter smog, water, and dirt after oil spills.   Then again you guys managed to do something that will probably kill you."  He looked at his dad.  "They killed an infant, newborn infant, hellhound puppy.  One of the head bitches' pups.  They caught her in labor and brought her in then killed the pup in front of her."  John shuddered.  "An adult is fair game," Dean said at the new sneer. "A pup gets you ripped into by the pack."  He nodded behind him.  "And there's nothing anyone can do to save your ass."  The guy looked then screamed and backed away.

John stepped forward.  "Not here.  This is safe territory.  You want him, get him while he hunts."  Sam came out.  "Hellhound.  The idiot helped kill a puppy."

Dean made sucking noises, drawing attention.  He walked over to let it sniff him.  "He's going back to Sunnydale to pay for some of what he did.  You can't hunt him here, get him while he hunts.  If the pack comes here we have to take on the pack too.  We don't want that."  It sniffed him again, giving him a curious look.  "Yeah, I'm Xander's puppy.  Please?"  The hellhound lapped his face then growled at the guy before fading out again.  She'd watch for now.  Dean wiped his face off.  "Ewww."

Sam took him to the bathroom to wash it off.  The sulphur probably wasn't good for him.  "Hellhound puppies like Xander?"

"They respect Xander.  I know one younger one showed up to sniff Spike the other day.  Xander basically picked it up, let it sniff Spike, let it sniff him, then grinned and let it go outside so it could head off.  I asked, he said he didn't know why unless it was all the bitches he put up with monthly."

Sam laughed.  "That could be."  He finished the clean up job.  "Okay?"

"Pretty good actually.  You even got behind my ears."  He grinned.  "I want a niece."  He got down and headed out, smiling at Jo.  "Can I have a real soda?"  She got one from the fridge and handed it over.  "Thanks."  Tara took it from him and handed it back then carried him back up the stairs.  "But, Tara!"

"No.  Bedtime."

"I'm not...."

"Bedtime," she ordered.

"Yes, Auntie Tara," he sighed.  He curled up with her again, smiling because this time she held him to make sure he wouldn't leave.  "Why do hellhounds like Mom?"

"All the bitches he deals with every month," she said dryly.  "Willow said that one of them showed up in high school when they were all ragging on Xander.  They decided he was a lonely male pup without a mommy.  So they adopted him since he already had pack issues."

"Oh.  I guess that's kinda cool.  The one that showed up earlier sniffed then licked me."

"They'll like you too, Dean.  You're Xander's pup.  Though, a sister is going to be very strange."

Dean smirked.  "But fun to tease."  She pinched him.  "It's a big brother's right."

"You'd be an uncle."

"Only on one side."  She giggled.  "I know, I have that strange thought too."  He snuggled closer, hoping to get her to sleep so he could go back downstairs.  "What's Universal Studios like?"

She looked at him.  "You never went to an amusement park?"

"Some county fairs to investigate hauntings.  Once with Pastor Jim."

"Hmm.  It's a lot more active than a county fair and you don't have the exhibits.  The rides are more thrilling and safer.  Xander thought you'd like the roller coasters."  Dean grinned at that.  "He never took you?"

"Nah.  They're expensive."

She got up and went down there, going to swat John on the arm.  He gave her an odd look.  "You should have let those boys have more fun.  Not letting them go to amusement parks and things was mean!  Every kid, even yours, need fun to grow up right!"  She swatted him again then headed back upstairs.

"You know, if she wasn't dating a nice witch, she'd be a good mommy to your boys," Ellen joked from the safety of the bar.  Tara came down to give her a look, shaking her head quickly.  Sam laughed at the look on her face.  "You would."

"Sam's too big to baby.  If I go for boy parts some year and all that comes with it, I want babies, not grown up babies to make me a grandmother."  She went back up there, stopping Dean from sneaking off again.  "Oh no."

"Bathroom?"  She let him do that then escorted him back upstairs.  He waved, giving them a comical look.  "She's being fierce.  I'll see you guys tomorrow."

"He could stay, miss.  We've heard nice things about the Winchester boys," one offered politely.

Tara gave him a look.  "He's five.  It's nearly ten at night.  He needs to be in bed.  You can talk to him tomorrow."  She walked him back up there.

"Sure, we can do that."  He pointed once they were locked back in.  "She's cute but she hunts?"

"She's the lighter witch on the slayer's team," Sam said.  "She doesn't hunt often but she does help with the research and the support stuff.  She's hunted with us a few times," he said at John's look.  "Mostly a group outing."

"Tara's gentle.  I don't expect her to hunt nightly," John agreed.  "Not unless it's hurting the family or it's something huge and horrible."

"During the overrun of vampires she got a corner and a stake," Sam agreed.  "Is he going to live?"

"He'll be fine and he swears up and down that they're disbanded and done with except for the UN hunting squads."  Ellen stiffened.  "Military project to turn demons into hunters for the military," he told her.  She shuddered.  "The vampire they chipped in Sunnydale is helpful.  He's been around a while and he's good at helping the slayer out there.  He's even been teaching Dean some moves I never had."

"Chipped?" one of the new hunters asked.

"Control chip.  He can't hunt," Sam said.  "Let me amend that,; he can hunt demons but not humans.  He enjoys the hunting and fighting.  He'll gross you out.  He took added blood to Xander's cocoa while he was drinking it so he'd get it."  They all grimaced at that.  "Apparently when Xander was housing him he did it to his cereal a few times too.  Likes to tell Dean stories about what he's hunted in gory detail.  But he's a decent sort most of the time.  As long as it suits his needs to be.  I've seen him rip demons apart with his bare hands.  Oh, and he plays kitten poker."

"Which is still freaky," John assured him.

Sam gave him a look.  "If the freakiest thing you have to deal with all week is kitten poker, it's been a slow week in Sunnydale."

"Good point.  Do they have those sort of slow weeks?"

"Yeah, during the summers."  He smirked.  "Near the desert, gets really warm.  They flee for cooler areas."

"Charming."  He looked at the guys.  "It's not hard work.  We go out for a few hours a night.  We're basically getting the new minions and anything we can catch out hunting.  Right now they're having an apocalypse.  Something's calling up nightmares.  Xander didn't call him tonight."

"They talked earlier in the car.  The nightmares start to come up tonight."

"Oh.  Okay.  That's reasonable."  He looked around.  "We should probably hit the bed too.  We'll give you guys directions in the morning if you still want to go."  He tossed something down.  "Started a new journal so you guys could get a better feel for the area.  Don't take off with it."  They nodded so he went to get the sleeping bag, going to use it in front of the door.  Sam waved too and headed up to get the spare bed since his father didn't want it.  He grimaced, it was damp.  "Eww."

"Roof leaks," Tara said quietly.

"I'll tell Ellen tomorrow," John said with a small yawn.  "We made good time.  We used to be lucky when we got eight hours of driving done when you were that age, Sammy."

"Dean only wanted the one bathroom break and that was mainly because he had too much juice.  Let me get the other sleeping bag from the trunk."  Tara patted the free spot.  "You sure?"  She smiled and nodded.  "Okay.  I won't touch or anything, Tara."

"I know.  Xander would swat me if I had Anya desires for you."  Sam snickered, laying down on top of the covers on Dean's other side. Dean sniffed then flopped over to snuggle into his chest, one arm thrown around him.  Tara smiled, flipping in the other direction to sleep.

John laid down in front of the door, smiling at his family.  They were insane sometimes.  Especially Sammy.  Though he liked the new members his younger son had brought in.


Dean gaped at the park in front of him.  "That's a bigger coaster than I've ever seen."

Sam smirked at him.  "Let's hope you're big enough to go on it."  Dean growled.  "They have height requirements."  He handed the person  at the gate their tickets, getting let inside.  He pulled them out of the way.  "If we get separated and you can't find us, you're to meet us here," he said, pointing at the map next to them.  "Got it?"  Dean nodded. "No running off but if it happens."

"Got it," Dean agreed.  "No running off.  I'm not old enough to handle these things on my own yet."  Sam nodded, grinning at him.  "Come on, Tara."

"I...I can't do coasters," she said.

"So?  You'll watch while I ride," he said with a grin, dragging her off.

John and Sam grinned.  "I like this idea," Sam said once they were out of hearing range.  "Xander was right, he needed this sort of fun."  He walked after them, hoping not to lose them already.  Dean just *barely* squeaked in at height if he stood up very straight and didn't obviously stand on tiptoes once he had the lifts Xander had put into the bag in his shoes.  The ride operators all gave Sam look when he did it, getting a nod.  So they went on them together while Tara watched and did the gentler rides with them.  Their dad was smiling tolerantly but he didn't go on anything with them.  He kept two guys from trying to walk Dean off.  He kept a demon from trying to kill Tara.  He talked to the new hunter when he showed up early and found them while they waited in line for the log ride.

It was a good day.  Happy memories for when they were all tired.


Xander looked at the nightmare in front of him, frowning a bit.  "Aren't you Jess?"  She nodded slowly.  "Um, wrong person, sweetheart.  I'm Xander.  I'm dating Sam, but you're his nightmare, not mine."  She gave him an odd look.  "You are."   He woke up with a gasp, calling immediately.  That was stranger than usual.  "Buffy, me.  I got one of Sam's nightmares.  His former girlfriend, Buffy.  Yeah, nothing that should've hit me.  You?  Hair ribbons?"  She explained it.  "Call Willow, wake her up."  He hung up and got up to get dressed, looking at the apartment.  Then at the ceiling.  "I tell you what, I'm watching over our son, Jess.  Sam's at Universal Studios today.  If you don't burn the place, I'll see if I can do the medium thingy so you can talk to him if you want."  She appeared and nodded.  He grinned. "I'm Xander if you didn't know."

"Is he happy?"

Xander picked up a picture to show her, getting a sad smile.  "I do my best, Jess.  I really do.  Like I said, don't let anything burn and I'll gladly let you talk to him through me, okay?"  She nodded.  "I know the demon did it but you have power over it now.  It doesn't have to be a rerun for you."


He smiled and moved closer, patting her on the cheek.  "Because you're stronger than it.  It tried for Sam and it lost.  Sam killed it."  She beamed.  "With Dean.  It's not really here and you are.  It's a figment and it can't control you unless you let it."  She nodded, relaxing some.  He saw a small flame start on the ceiling and muttered something to put it out.  She gave him a horrified look so he smirked.  "It's a handy spell because Willow uses fire spells on patrol.  Don't let the stuff burn.  Dean would be *way* pissed if it did.  He's the baby."  She stiffened her back, nodding some.  "Thank you.  We'll be back soon."  He grabbed a few weapons and his keys, heading out to the park.  He walked outside and it was like a pea soup fog.  "Wonderful," he said grimly.  "It happens twice a century and it's tonight."  He found his car and got into it, turning on the headlights so he could slowly drive that way.  He did check back at the building but he couldn't see a fire so he hoped it'd be okay.  He finally made it to the park and got out, walking cautiously that way.  He nearly staked Buffy, grabbing his chest.  "Buffy!"

"I have never seen fog like this here."

"Twice a century," Willow called.  They walked into the grotto and she looked around.  "At least nothing's going to be bothering us tonight."  A vampire rushed in but he was easily staked.  "Did you get a freaky one?" Willow asked.  "I got a brunette lady on a ceiling."

Xander stiffened.  "Sam's mom, Willow.  I got Jess."

"Huh, I got Lothos," Buffy said.  "How did they kill it?"

Xander sighed.  "Want to call and wake Sam?"

"No, we'll do it if we have to but not yet," she decided.  She turned at the clapping, looking at the older, pale, white haired vampire and his flunkie.  "Huh, you got uglier in real death.  Interesting."  She turned her back on them.  "Do we think it's the demon back again or is it this one?"

Xander shrugged.  "Sam said it was dead.  I don't know."

"This is a nightmare," Willow agreed.  The vampire cleared his throat.  "Oh, you can wait!" she snapped.  "God, rude much?"

"She once said that to me," Lothos said dryly, striding forward.  "You are still mine, Buffy."

Buffy turned and kicked him, driving him back.  "Yeah, right!  And eww, I know some vamps use product, I mean Angel does, but not in that helmet hair way!"

Xander looked at her.  "Are you regressing?"  She gave him a confused look.  "You haven't been that valley since you got here, Buff."

"Who're you?"

He looked at her then at Willow, who shrugged.  "Okay, had enough," he decided, pulling up his crossbow and shooting the flunky.  "I'm your backup, Buffy."

"You're a watcher?"

"Hell no and don't make me laugh, I'll have to pee.  Not a good time for it at the moment.  You wanna go with the stakage?"  He waved a hand.  "Or want the crossbow?"  Lothos hissed at him.  He waved a hand.  "Dude, toothpaste.  Please.  Even my son and his onion thing isn't *that* bad."  The vampire attacked him and he concentrated.  One of his nightmares was letting go of the possessions.  With this going on, it was time to hunt.  If this thing wanted nightmares, it was going to get one.  The crossbow was dropped and he snarled, attacking the demon in front of him.

"Whoa," Willow said.  "Not good!  Buffy, could use you back for real!  Damn it, really not good!"  She backed away from the huff Xander sent in her direction.  "No I'm not telling Sam your hyena came out!  Buffy, vampire, stakeage?"

"What's he?"

"Xander.  You like Xander.  Don't worry about Xander, just do the vamp."

She sighed and staked him from behind, shaking her head.  "Eww, I was an airhead again."  She rubbed her forehead.  "That was sad."  She smacked Xander on the side of the head.  "Get out of it!"  He yelped and tripped over his crossbow.  "Real grace," she said dryly.  Xander growled.  "Oooh, not a good."  Xander lunged and she knocked him down and out.  "Okay, Willow are *you* harboring any dark secrets you want to tell me about?"

"No," she said weakly.  "Not really.  I don't have nightmares about those things."

"I see."  Xander moaned.  "If you're still the hyena, stay down."  She looked at her friend again.  "Are you sure?"

"I don't have harmful nightmares.  I hardly ever have nightmares about more than failing expectations."

"Huh."  She shrugged.  "I get slayer dreams."  Xander stood up and stared at her.  She knew that stance.  John had it.  Sam had it.  Dean was regrowing into it.  "Hmm.  Soldier Xander.  Hi."

"Hi."  He gave her a look then looked around then back at her.  "What are we doing?"

"Waiting for the real demon to attack.  Can he do that normally?"

The soldier smirked.  "Don't know.  He hasn't tried, miss."  He picked up the crossbow and removed the broken bolt, replacing it efficiently and cocking it again.  "How long are we expecting?"

"Don't really know," Willow admitted.  "So, are you still PFC Harris?"

He snorted, shaking his head, giving her a smug look.  "Not in a while, ma'am."

"I'm not that old."

"It's a term of respect.  Nothing meant by it."

"Uh-huh.  How did you get a raise in rank if you're not real?"

"With education and experience come rank raises if you survive.  We all get them sometime."

"So you're what, Corporal?  Sergeant?"

"Corporal at the moment.  I'm expecting a rank raise in the next year."

"Do you have a problem with your other self dating Sam?"

"No, he's a fine man.  A good soldier and a fine man.  Cute too.  Military says I can't but some rules are made by stupid people.  That's not a rule I accept as being from a true leader.  If I want to bugger my boyfriend, I will."  He looked around then, herding Willow behind him.  "It's here."

"You can tell?" Buffy asked.  Xander nodded.  "How?"

"He can tell."

"He can feel the demon?"

"It's probing."  He blocked it out.  The demon appeared, glowing eyes, staring at him.  "What?  Am I that pretty?"

"You took what was mine."

Xander snorted.  "He wasn't yours.  After all, he knocked me up."  Buffy gasped.  "Yeah, he wants Sammy.  Not gonna happen but he wants Sammy.  So, how's death treating you?"

"I'll still have him."

Xander gave him a catty smirk.  "If you get through me and his Dad."

"I did in the past.  I will again."  It faded off.

"Miss Rosenburg?"

She started to chant something and the demon froze.   "The rules are different here, Mister."

"Welcome to my hellmouth," Buffy agreed.  The three attacked and Xander's hyena came back up, but tempered more this time.  "You know, Xander, he wants your pack badly."

"He can kiss my ass and all the pimples on it," he said.  "Nothing gets my cub or my mate."  He backhanded him into Buffy, who took him on, guarding Willow while she cast at it.  The demon screamed as whatever she did started to work.  It held up a hand and twitched his fingers but Xander moved to grab it and hold it, staring at him.  "No, you don't call Sam into this fight and you don't bother his sleep.  He doesn't get enough as is with the baby."  He broke the hand and then the demon's neck, letting Buffy finish him off with Willow helping.  He stared down at it, calmly pulling out his dick to piss on it.  "That's for touching my family."  It tried to regenerate, getting to the point of whimpering.

Willow stared then looked around.  "No way this is going on."  She floated him up, making the demon scream in pain.  "Good."  She took them to the hellmouth, burning the fog in front of them on the way.  Once they were at the ruins of the school she looked at the hole.  "Buffy, get ready.  Shouldn't take more than a second."

Xander looked at the spot then at her.  "You sure?  Could make him stronger."

"Won't.  The higher demons will eat him."

"Don't open that," Giles said, coming out of the darkness.  "If you do, it will make him stronger.  Capture him, Willow.  Entomb him."  Willow snorted.  He put down a small casket.  "Put him in here."  She did that by mauling his body more.  Giles poured in the potion they had been working on then sealed the casket, nailing it shut.  He handed it to her.  "Meld the edges together.  Make it whole and unbreakable."  She did that, then picked up some of the rubble to create a stone box around it.  He smiled and nodded, letting Xander take the small drill with scribing bit from his pocket to write a warning on it.  Willow came off her anger, giving him a smile.  "Your nightmare perhaps?"

"Maybe.  Usually I get naked in class ones."  She looked at Xander.  "Of course, he's not down yet."

"No, I do believe Xander and Sam were linked through the demon."  A blonde girl floated in and looked at Xander, then floated into him.  "Oh, dear."

"No, that's Jess," Buffy said quietly.  "She needs to talk to Sam to move on, Giles."

He nodded.  "Then we'll exorcize him again later on I suppose."

"How would his soldier gain rank if it's all in his head?" Willow asked.

Giles gave her an odd look.  "Excuse me?"

"Yeah, he said he's a Corporal now," Buffy told him.

"I have no earthly idea," Giles admitted.  They both shrugged and nodded.  They'd figure out the strangeness that was Xander some other night.  It was late and cool, good sleeping weather for Sunnydale.


Sam grabbed his head, stiffening as the vision woke him.  Only this time, it wasn't the same vision.  It was...stopped or blocked by something.  A hand.  He could feel a hand.

"Sammy?" Dean asked, coming over to look at him.  "Sammy, you okay?" he asked, giving him a small shake.  "Dad, this isn't a normal vision."

Tara came in and checked then smiled.  "Xander's stopping it.  It's him.  I can feel him."  Sam relaxed and closed his eyes.  "He's going into a trance," she said quietly, moving Dean to hold him for now.  "They'll be fine."

Dean looked at her.  "Why did our demon come back as someone up there's nightmare?" he asked.

"Because it wasn't Buffy's nightmares it was focused on, it was Xander or Sam's," John said, getting it.  "That's why he wanted Sammy out of town.  He knew Buffy's was a sign that the demon was back."  They all groaned.  "The nightmare creator must've pulled up that one by summoning whatever was left of his spirit."

"Trapped, sleeping," Sam mumbled.  "Willow."

Tara smiled into Dean's hair.  "She's good at that," she said into his ear.

"That's our fight," Dean told her.  "Dad and Sam's fight."

She poked him on the side.  "You're how old?"

He gave her a look.  "Oh, damn."  She nodded.  "The months for aging are lunar months instead of calendar months.  When am I six months old?"

"Yesterday.  Xander made sure I had what I needed to do a protection around you last night."

"Which I helped with," John admitted. "Just in case."  He patted Dean on the head, getting a look from him.  "Your new mom is a medium, kiddo."  Sam snickered and nodded but stayed in the trance, mumbling at someone.  He looked.  "He said her name."

"His last victim's name?  The demon had to call her up since it was a nightmare and related to you," Tara said.  "It couldn't make a new one without breaking out of the nightmare framework it was called into."

"Damn it we should still be there," Dean complained.  Sam woke with a gasp.  "You good?"

"Better," he said, holding his forehead.  "Have a headache though.  Dad, Xander's hyena said that it's not fair the soldier got a rank increase and she can't have more cubs."  He looked at him.  "How in the hell did his inner soldier get a rank increase?"

"I don't know, son.  I think we'll be researching.  Can we banish the spirits now?"

"No, they're bound to him," Sam said with a small grin.  "They're quietly watching.  She considers Dean her cub.  Wants more cubs.  She's not happy that the pack doesn't grow that well.  She adopted Tara into it."  He shook his head.  "His inner soldier is now a corporal."

John considered it.  "About on target.  A bit behind."

"He said he's expecting paperwork any day now."  He looked at them.  "Jess said she's not mad.  She said I had good taste and it was freaky we have Dean but at least this time he wasn't staring at her smurf."  Dean snickered.  "She likes Xander.  Said he's nice.  Even if he is a bit strange and the sort of geek that made her worry about world domination plans in the past."  He looked at Dean, taking him to cuddle.  "She left him cleanly and went back to her rest.  She's at peace."  John gave his shoulder a squeeze.  "Could there be a ghostly general or someone who's giving the spirit soldiers a rank increase?"

John shrugged.  "We'll see.  What about his possessions?"

"They're part of his soul, Dad.  He'll have them until he dies.  Though he admitted he went hyena on Lothos."

"Oh, good," he said dryly.

"Buffy went early Buffy and airhead," Sam told him.  Tara giggled.  "So we'll deal."  He looked at Dean.  "She agreed, the demon's sealed.  Doubly sealed with a warning etched on the stone outer casing.  The potion was applied since it was ours basically possessing the other one.   It made a bad mistake calling that one up to try to take over the world."

"Why the vision?" John asked.

"Because it did something and linked into my vision creation.  However it does that.  Xander stepped in to block it.  That's how I told him how we killed it.  Then he let Jess talk to me through him.  He really needs shields.  She said he's really open."

"I will sit both of you down to work on that when we get back," John said.  He yawned.  "Any more danger?"  Sam shook his head with a sappy grin.  "Good. Then let's go back to sleep.  Tara, you look adorable in your Pound Puppies jammies."  She blushed and fled.

"Dad!" Dean complained, swatting at him.  "Don't embarrass Tara!"  He went to apologize for him, which he was used to, then went to his pullout to sleep.  Sam was covered up again in the bedroom, he could see him.  Sam gave him a smirk and a nod, getting one back.  Yeah, it was fine up there.  Their family was good, and Sam would work out the freaky mind shit with Xander sometime soon.  It'd probably lead to more sex too.  Hopefully they wouldn't have to watch.


John sat Xander down when they got back, looking at him.  "We're going to work on a few things, kid."

Xander groaned.  "I know I need better shields.  It's not a matter of want or discipline, it's  a matter of they won't go up."

"We need to talk to the other sides anyway.  There's a few questions we need to ask," Dean said.  "Do you trust me?"  Xander nodded, pulling him over for a hug.  He had noticed that about Xander; when he was feeling insecure he tended to hug him or Sam.  A physical touchstone to his control.  "Would you let me hypnotize you?"

"You can do that?"

"I can.  Sam can, he's actually better than I am but we need to test a few things and Sammy doing it would mean you might link again.  We'd lose you to psychic sex."

Xander grinned.  "Sure.  We can do that."  He settled himself in front of the balcony's doors in the sun, getting comfortable.  "No clucking or barking.  Willow did that."

"Sure, no clucking or barking," Dean agreed.  "Can you drop into a trance for me?"  Xander gave him an odd look.  "Since you can, it'll be easier to access the right spots."

"We need to talk to them that badly?"

"Yeah, we need to find out how he's getting rank raises," Dean said, giving him a look.

"He is?"

"He's a corporal now," John told him.

"How in the hell?"

"We also wanted to know if they knew how it pulled up the family's demon," John said.

Xander smirked.  "In the second site's information Sam pulled up it mentioned that this one called upon lost demons for its power.  Always linked back to the victims.  Always a more powerful spirit.  We didn't have any of those for it to call up after the first nightmare demon failed to be very strong.  I figured it was a logical, reasonable action it might take.  Sam only skimmed that one for the potion, not the details."

"That's a sound tactical thought," John agreed.  "Do what the kid wants.  I want to talk to the hyena, make sure she's not going to eat my boys."

"No, she's adopted them."  He went down anyway.  He had to make sure they were fenced back in.

Dean got up and went to get the thing he had 'borrowed' off Buffy, her crayon-like lip pencil.  He sat down and checked Xander again.  "All the way down, Mom."  Xander went deeper into his trance, letting Dean draw on his forehead.  A mystical symbol for a seer.  Sam had told him Xander had the gift but it was unawakened.  Then his throat, ringing it with the same symbol and a 'buckle' at the back but he left that one unsealed so the hyena wouldn't feel chained.  Then around his wrists, the same sort of shackles.  "Now, listen to my voice, Xander.  I need to speak to your hyena and I want you to go away like we're talking about birthday presents.  All right?"  Xander hummed and he could almost feel the switch.  It was like the hairs on his arms were standing up.  "Ma'am?"

Xander blinked at him.  "There was no need to collar me."

"I had to make sure you wouldn't eat Dad."  He nodded at him.  "Can you make sure he can't hear us?"

She closed her eyes. "Put the young to sleep," she mumbled.  She smiled and opened them again, taking the pencil to draw on him.  "What did we need to talk about, cub?"

"Are you safe?" Dean asked.

She laughed.  "Very safe, cub.  We are part of him even if he thinks he does have us chained to his soul.  We are as much a part of him as his mate is and you are."  She drew a third symbol on his forehead then looked, adding a few dots between them.  She took his shirt off him and turned him around, starting again on the back of his neck.  "What else did we need to talk about?"

"Are you still helping him?"

"All that I can.  No good pack leader ever lets her cub and mate go where she can't protect them."  She drew another symbol, moving down to his shoulders to draw, smoothing a hand over his back when he shivered.  "Easy, cub.  You know we would not hurt you."

"There are some who wouldn't say that."

"She refused to join the pack as a hunter for it.  She could have protected the pack and helped me guard it but she chose to hunt for another pack.  It was only right that I try to drive her off when she fought my dominance moves."  Dean hummed.  "As for now, our mate suits us."

"Are you sure?" Dean asked.

"He is a mighty hunter for the pack.  He protects the pack and the cub."

Dean looked back at her.  "What about future cubs?"

She hmmed, smiling at him.  "It is only natural to have more cubs.   We would all like that some day."

"Do you think Xander would like it if we picked a region to protect?  It would give Sammy and I some traveling now and then but not always.  I could do a lot more then come back home, where you'd be."

"I think he would adore it.  I don't think he thinks it's practical.  There's too much area to cover and you used to enjoy the travel."

"By the time I'm my right age, I'll be nearly twenty-eight," Dean pointed out.  "Time to settle down to make my own pack."  She hummed again.  "Would that suit your nature as well?"

"As long as the pack was protected and we had good hunting grounds.  Good places to provide for the cubs.  Even when they are grown, they're still of the pack.  Even future daughters who will eventually take the pack from me."

"Will there be daughters?" Dean asked with a grin.  She nuzzled his hair before going back to drawing.  "Would you want daughters?"

"Someone's got to watch for my stupid mate when I'm old and unable to move from too much hunting.  He does things that will hurt him," she said quietly.  She finished up her drawing, smiling at it.  "There, a story told to the young."

Dean turned around to hug her.  "If we left to set up the new pack lands, would you hold him steady until we could come back?"  She nodded, staring at him.  "Then that's what we'll do when I'm of age to hunt for the pack myself."

She smiled.  "You are a mighty hunter in your own right.  Someday your pack leader will have you hunt for her and your own cubs.  As it should be."

"We'd be a joined pack," Dean promised.  "My mate and your mate, me and you, any cubs we had."  She beamed and kissed him on the top of the head.   "Thank you."

"You are welcome.  Do you want the other one back?"

"No, we need to talk to the soldier," John said.  "We had a few questions for him as well."  She nodded and Xander's stance and how he was holding himself changed.  The hyena was slightly slumped in on herself.  Not cowering but comfortable yet protecting her vulnerable chest area.  This one was a bit more uptight.  "Corporal."

He looked at him.  "Sir.  Branch, sir?"

"Marines, son.  At ease.  We need to ask a few things.  Make sure Xander still can't hear."

"She's purring a lullaby into his ear.  What do we need to know, sir?"

"Who gives rank raises?"

He chuckled.  "You didn't like the answer I gave the dangerous one who wasn't having a nightmare?"

"Not really.  I know how the rank system works, kid.  Who?"

"There's a former general who watches over all us hunters, sir.  Those of us on this side at least.  He gives them and medals out."

"You have a few?"

"If he dies anytime soon, he'll be here helping this one."  He looked at Dean.  "Hmm.  Red.  Not always a good color."  He got up and got something from Xander's closet, brining down the small zippered bag.   He looked at Dean's forehead.  "Lip pencils smear and our handwriting has never been that great.  An artist we are not."  He pulled out an eye pencil.  "These don't smear as fast."  He traced a few things on Dean's forehead, following a few patterns and adding another symbol, then horns to his temples.  He turned him around, smiling at the picture.  "Ah, that's what she saw last time."  He got to work at the bottom of his back, working on something else.  "As of right now, the General is in St. Louis with a hunter named Merrical.  She's a good hunter, sir, but she needs the help.  She jumped in like you jumped in."  He looked at him.  "By the way, he's pleased and you'll probably be one of us some day."

"Are you going to be called out to help protect?" Dean asked.  "Like calling up the National Guard?"

"It's possible, cub."  He gave him a hug around the arms.  "You're as much my cub as hers.  Remember that."  He turned him around and got to work on his chest, drawing faster now.  "Your plans for claiming a territory?  That would suit us."

"Then you don't like that they're not married?" Dean asked him.

"Doesn't seem right.  He's her mate so that makes him mine.  He's a good helper for us.  He understands the young one's quirky nature most of the time.  He has his fears and Xander has his own, but they can be overcome with time.  I would not leave and then come back.  Not even we can hold him totally whole," he told Dean.

"The uniform that let you into his life, whose was it?" Dean asked.

"His.  I'm still him, cub, just a portion of his soul.  Ethan split us off a bit, that's all.  Oh, shields are great, but the energy around here keeps him from being able to put one up and keep it up.  He can put one up for emergencies but it gives him a headache since he's been sucking on the hellmouth's energy too long.  Before he was even born.  Most women leave the area when they're pregnant.  Their doctors encourage it.  His didn't."  He picked up a different pencil, staring at him, making a small mark on Dean's side this time.  Plus a few blood drops.  He made a few other 'cuts' then turned him around to mark some others.  He put a 'bite mark' on his neck and added some blood to it but smudged it with his thumb.  "That will heal fastest," he whispered in his ear, getting a nod.  He turned him around.  "You're my son, even if you're not fully mine, cub.  No matter who tells you what, you must remember that.  It's important."

"The hellhound knew I was your puppy," he said with a small grin.

Xander grinned back.  "You are indeed.  But there's other things to being my puppy than that.  That's a scent marking.  Sam carries it and so do Buffy and Tara. Willow won't let me hug her since we had the kissing thing in high school."  He picked up another pencil, using it to highlight Dean's eyes.  He held his head still, looking into the green orbs.  "You'll understand why soon, cub.  Let me.  It'll tell you why you needed the others," he whispered.  He went back to doing his eyes, smudging the lines a bit so they looked softer.  Then a lip pencil.  Dean grimaced.  "It's important that you remember you're not only a Winchester but a Harris now.  Even though not all of us are good, you are still one of us by birth, by carrying, and by taint.  The last generation sucked, to be blunt, but the ones before were interesting.  The boy knows some, he doesn't really care though. The taint of the last generation goes too deeply in him.  In you, it might not."  He finished doing his lips then got out the lipstick, doing them gently.  Then he smudged some color with his thumbs over his cheeks, looking at him.  He kissed him over the main marking on his forehead.  "You are mine.  Remember that, no matter who tells you otherwise."

"Yes, Mom."

He smiled.  "I'll take that from you and any future cubs but if your brother calls me Ma again I get to smack him upside his pointy head."  He winked.  "Now, go be beautiful in the bathroom and be careful.  You'll need those."  Dean got up.  He looked at John.  "That was an interesting question he asked.  I haven't been told if we can be called into service if we're needed, but it would only be something that none of the hunters, even together, could handle.  Then we might take over and add our strength to those we protect."

"Are all of them like you?" John asked.

"Nah.  Some are like you will be when you go.  Some will be like my cub when he goes some year, hopefully far in the future.  Sam and I will end up with the same pair as far as I know.  The General can't separate *bonded* pairs."  He grinned.  "I should get back.  He'll get nervous.  Remember, he's strong but it's built on a fragile core that they gave him."  John nodded.  "Though he doesn't hate you like you think, John."  He flowed to his feet and you could see the hyena was back.  "You're from another pack.  Your pack's bitch died and you did your best to raise the boys until another pack could take them in.  The pack will let you help even if you're not a fully bonded member.  A good pack can't ever have enough protectors, especially when your pack's lands are so dangerous and full of things that think you're lunch.  Are the other hunters hitting LA?"

"They mostly decided to stay between here and LA," Dean agreed as he came out of the bathroom.  Xander ran his hand through Dean's hair for him, smiling at the grin he got back.  "I'm going to set the pack's lands as Sunnydale to Palo Alto.  Would that work for you?"

"That would work for us and Sam would be overjoyed to be back there again," Xander said softly.  Dean grinned a softer grin.  "That's my good cub.  Do be careful of the one you look like."  She faded and Xander shook himself.  He stared at Dean.  "Um...."

"We talked and they drew.  We both drew," Dean said.

John pulled Dean over, looking at his forehead.  "I think someone needs to see and chronicle these."  He looked at his back.  "This one's....  Looks like a creation myth?"  He called Giles.  "It's John.  Come to the boy's place and bring a camera and Sammy?  Thanks."  He hung up.  He looked at his face again.  "Hmm."

"I think the face painting was related to the injuries I drew," Xander said.  Dean nodded.  "What's the rest?  I am not the best artist ever."

"Why do you have makeup?" Dean asked.

"Cordelia's back up kit.  Where did you get a lip pencil?  She doesn't use that sort."

"Buffy said she hated it and it was the wrong color."

"Oh."  He nodded at that.  "That'll work.  What are these?"

"Mystical symbols designed to help us contain you if you lunged at one of us," Dean admitted.  "I left the buckle open because I knew you wouldn't hurt me but you could've went after Dad."  Sam stormed in.  "Whoa!"  Sam blinked at him.  "We had a nice talk.  They decided to do some art practice."

"I can see that.  When did we get makeup?"

"Cordelia's backup kit," Xander said dryly.  "Though I did a fantastic job on his face."

"You did," Sam said with a smirk.  "As pretty as any beauty pageant princess, Dean."

"Shut up, bitch."

"Awww, the little princess jerk is annoyed," Sam taunted back.  Dean gave him a dirty look and opened his mouth until Xander intervened.

"Boys, headache, me," Xander said firmly.  "Let's figure out what I drew and why first."

"Sure," Sam agreed.  Giles came in with the camera and Sam took it, taking close up shots and a bit more distant shots.  He made sure he got each and every symbol plus the whole story.  "What order did they go in?"

"Forehead, back, switched to the soldier and he did the eye pencil instead of the rest of the lip pencil I used," Dean said.  "He finished my back, did my chest and stomach, then did the injury ones.  Then he did my face and told me to watch out for the one I looked like."

Spike rushed in and tossed the smoking blanket off, patting himself down.  "Hate doing that.  Sewer's too far away."  He looked at Dean and gaped.  "She's back again?"  Dean gave him a horrified look, running to look in the mirror.

"I'll be damned, he does kinda look like Dru," Xander said, following him.  "Huh."  He led Dean back to the living room. "Sorry about the quality.  Old cosmetics and I'm not the best draw-er."

"That's fine," Sam promised with a grin, taking a kiss.  "Get me a drink while I look these up?"  Xander nodded, letting Sam have the table and his laptop to research while he made snacks and drinks.

Spike pulled Dean over.  "He did a good job with your face," he taunted with a smirk.

"Too many girls around him warped him that way," he shot back.  Spike chuckled and nodded.  "Do you recognize any of it?"

"Forehead are tribal of some sort."

"Marks that are given to hunters as they come of age," Sam said.  "The horns denote the Wiccan's Hunter God.  The one in the center is a marking from one of the African Plain's tribes that they use to mark their boys when they come of age to hunt."   He looked at Dean.  "You're still not old enough yet."

"His last life he killed his first demon at seven," Xander reminded him quietly from the stove.

"Good point. You just turned six...  So this would be a coming of age, even though you're...  Well, I guess you could call you an apprentice hunter at the moment.  A boy learning the proper manhood ways."  Dean nodded that was fine.  "One was a Norse symbol that Vikings used on tombs to show that a man was a hunter for the village.  Not the ones who went to raid and conquer but the ones who went into the woods to keep the village fed and protected from things like wolves."  He looked at the last one.  "And that's what that one is.  It's another mark, but this time ancient Chinese.  Xander, your art skills really do suck," he teased.

"Greasy skin today," Dean told him, looking over his arm.  "Like food hunter or like protection hunter?"

"Back then, hunters were hunters," Giles told him.   "Those who hunted food also killed any dangers that came near their people."

"Which I do," Dean agreed.  "Even if the only food I hunt comes in a box."

"Now, the back of your neck and back, the original in the same fetching shade as Xander is wearing," Giles said, pulling him closer to look at some of it.  "Is a creation myth but not quite."

Sam looked up the later images of that one.  "No, those... that's a battle."

"Many creation myths hold a battle," Giles reminded him.

Sam showed him.  "It's an echo."  Dean gaped.  They both looked at Xander, who shrugged but didn't look back at them.  "You're not a seer, right?"  He knew what he meant but he wasn't sure Xander knew he had the gift.

"No but you could've passed some of that over to me when the demon linked us," Xander said, flipping whatever he was frying.  "John, if you're going to thaw those rabbits, they stink.  Deal with them today," he ordered.  John got them from the fridge and went to skin them on the balcony, getting the interest of the cat for a few minutes then she came back to watch Dean.  He glanced back at Giles.  "The red was which one?"

"The hyena spirit," Dean said helpfully.

Xander shrugged.  "As far as I know neither one have special gifts.  My only one is to get possessed now and then."  He went back to his frying.  "Yes, Dean, you do have to eat the fried stuff this time, then you can have burgers for dinner from the Double Meat Palace if you want."

"Can we drive to the mall and get good ones?" Dean asked.

"If we both get clean by then," Xander agreed.

"Thanks. Didn't want the food poisoning."  He looked back at Giles.  "Is it something that will echo now?"

Sam went back to looking.  "It's ... ancients coming back to protect mankind basically.  I'll go more in-depth on that story later.  The new ones aren't a creation myth.  The first darker mark on his back is ...  A field?"

Giles looked then nodded.  "It is."  He looked at them then turned Dean around to go over his chest.  "It's a prophecy."

"Wouldn't an echo be one too?" Dean asked.

"Yes but this one is specific to you, Dean.  Here's the same mark as the main one on your forehead."  He led Dean into the bathroom so he could see it for himself.

"That's just freaky," he decided.  He stared.  "A fight?"

"It covers more than one year I would assume since it starts with you at this age."  He looked at his back again. "Here, a fertile field, often used to show an open mind as well.  Moving onto one that shows training warriors, and then weapons.  If you move to the right again you find a book but it's slightly out of line with those so if you move down instead you..."  Xander came in and looked then drew lines with a blue eye liner pencil, handing it to Giles when he was done.  "Ah, that makes more sense.  Like most prophecies it was jumbled a bit.  We have training, we have weapons, then we have a demon hunting god it looks like, then the book, then we move to the front and we see...  Let's see, we see sisters.  We see danger directly before the hunter's mark."

"So right before I'm sixteen I'm in danger?"

"Apparently and since that seems to link back to the makeup job, and you look like Druscilla, I would say it was her making good on her threat to turn you."  He kept tracing the marks.  "Then we have a few more fights, a..."  He smiled.  "It looks like a baby hunter's symbol if I'm not mistaken with his bad handwriting.  Then two more but they have dots.  Perhaps one of one gender and two of the other?"

"Or three babies but only two are hunters?" Sam offered.  "The dots don't correspond to anything I've seen.  And that could be far in the future with the way he put water in there to show moving time."  Dean looked again then nodded.  "Then I see ... looks like a tombstone?"

"A death would be a natural occurrence in any life," Giles said quietly.  "It might not mean one of ours."

"By then you'll be ancient and so will Mom," Dean said quietly.

"Probably true."  He moved on.  "Ah, here.  Bells?  Wedding perhaps?  Then two linked rings.  Yes, I do believe that's a marriage."

"Or a bonding.  He stressed *bonding* about the sprit that's a general over the other spirit soldiers, guardians, or whatevers.  He said the general couldn't separate a *bonded* pair.  Not a married one and he stressed bonded, Sammy."

"If we married we'd be mated," Sam said quietly, glancing back at Xander.  Then smiling at him.  "I saw your ideas."  Dean arched an eyebrow up.  "I can agree to that."  Dean smirked and nodded.  "So maybe whoever you have the kids with isn't who you're supposed to be with?"

"Perhaps or it could be her death that leads to the bonding," Giles admitted.  "We'll have to wait to see for that one.  It's left there except for this mark on his side.  Infinity after some more water.  I'd say that's the end on this plane."

"The soldier said I might end up being a hunter on that side too," Dean admitted quietly.  "He said I'd be a different sort than Dad though."

"In that area, whatever you're called to do will depend on your soul and your needs," Giles said gently.  "Now, the cuts are a bit disturbing.  And if they relate to the facial makeup and that leads to Druscilla, then that could mean that ...."

He looked at them.  "I'm going to be tortured and bitten but he said the neck bite would heal faster."  He looked at them.  "So before I'm allowed to hunt...."

"She's coming back to make good on the promise," Sam finished.  "We can plan for that."  That got a nod.  "Any other revelations, Giles?"

"The number of hunter's marks does indicate a reason."

"Norse is Anya," Xander said as he came in, looking at it.  "Mine.  Tara's or maybe Willow's.  I'm not sure about the Chinese though."

Dean stiffened.  "Those who I protect.  Anya's pretty helpless in a lot of ways.  If I'm marked to her people...."

"You're probably going to end up protecting her," Sam agreed.  "Marking to the Wiccan pantheon because you protect Tara.  We all protect Tara.  Xander's is the strongest."

"The soldier reminded Dean a few times he wasn't just a Winchester anymore, he was a Harris too, by blood, by carrying, and by taint he said.  He said that the last generation sucked but further back there was something going on," John said from the balcony.

"Not a clue," Xander admitted.  "I tried to do a family tree once for a project we had to do.  I got to the grandparents and my mother didn't remember any more than that.  I tape recorded it for the teacher so I wouldn't get into trouble when she yelled at me.  She decided to pass me for it since no one knew."  He shrugged.  "Not that it matters to me."

"It could be where you get the skills to be possessed," Giles offered.

Xander shrugged again.  "Even if that's the reason my parents drank, does it really matter?  We know I've sucked up hellmouth energy for so long I might as well be part of it.  That could be why or could be what he was talking about, especially the tainted part."

Giles nodded. "That could be.  While you were carrying him he would've merged with your natural energy.  We'll have to see what happens when you hit puberty again."

"A lot of pouting," John joked.  "A lot of sulking, a few zits on his back and in his hair, and then he hit another growth spurt and started to notice girls."

"Which annoyed the crap out of me because he'd be hiding in the bathroom for *hours*," Sam complained.  "And leave me to watch crappy motel room cable while he spanked."  He walked Xander back out, kissing him.  "It's nothing bad."  Xander grinned.  "Want me to do a family tree?"

He snorted.  "Like I care.  Even if we do have more kids, who said it's going to matter?"

"Good point," Sam said, smiling at him, stroking his cheek.  "What's for food?"

"Fried squash, some fried potatoes, and then some juice."  He took a kiss.  "Pizza's in the oven."  Sam beamed, going over to dish up food for everyone.  He looked at Dean.  "Sorry I went freaky."

"Not an issue," he promised.  "It's nothing bad.  It's good to be warned."

"Giles, could the creation myth be what the soldier was talking about?" Sam asked.  He handed Dean a plate and pointed at the table.  Dean went to eat.  "You can shower later, once we're sure we got everything."  Dean nodded.

"We asked if they might be called up like the National Guard.  He didn't get an answer but he said if it was, it'd have to be something so huge that all the hunters together couldn't handle it.  Then those who helped could give whoever they protected or helped their skills," John offered.

Giles moved to look at Dean's back again.  "It is one with the ancients coming down to aid mankind."

"If that's an echo then we're looking at a replay of that creation myth somehow," Sam said thoughtfully.  "Can we tell which one?"

"Not right off.  I'll need to dig into a few books.  Make sure we get pictures with the linking marks, Sam."  Sam nodded, taking Dean to take pictures of those too.  "Bring the pictures and your laptop with you tonight, we'll see what we can find," Giles promised, smiling and patting Dean on the head.

"You do know that you've taught me a lot, right?" Dean asked.  Giles beamed at him and left.

Xander looked back at him once he heard Giles' old car start and pull off.  "Thank you.  He needed to hear that."

"I know.  He has."  He sat down and dug back into his dinner.  "When did you learn to fry squash?"

"Willow's mother taught me.  I don't do it often but now and then I like it."  He sat down to eat, looking at his son.  "Once Sam makes sure all the pictures are good you can take first shower."

"You go ahead, Xander.  That'll take me a few minutes."

"He uses more hot water than I do."

Sam smirked at him.  "If you do I might get distracted."

"Another good reason for me to take it later," he said dryly.  Sam took a kiss then went back to his dinner and searching on his laptop.  He looked at Dean and shrugged.  "I don't know.  I'm not that sort of geek.  Do you want a party for this coming of age thing?"  He ate a bite.

"I'm not a birthday party sort," Dean said.

"Me either but if you wanted one I'd get you one."

Dean grinned.  "That's cool.  We'll have ice cream cake instead or something.  The girls will appreciate that."  Xander nodded.  "We can stop at that place when we get the burgers.  Get something they've got done already."

"Greedy," John teased.

"Well, I am a growing boy," Dean said dryly, finishing up and scraping his plate.  Xander nodded at the kitchen so he went to get more.

"I swear, son. You were a bottomless pit from the age of seven until the age of seventeen," John complained.

Sam looked up.  "He never stopped, he only pretended to when you were looking."  He went back to searching while Dean laughed.

"So am I and I don't even have the growing boy excuse," Xander admitted.  "Then again, Buffy and I have cleaned out the chinese place before."  He ate his last bite and went to put his plate into the sink.  He noticed the last few pieces of fried cheese.  "Didn't want them?"

"Figured you did," he said, sounding a bit defensive.  Xander grinned, giving him one of the three and walking off with the other two to take a shower.  Sam gave him a look over the edge of the laptop.  "Now and then he makes me feel mushy, okay?  I still don't like chick moments."

"Fine," he agreed.  "You itch?"

"Yup.  Can you check the pictures?"

"I am."  He went back to it and got a flash for the camera to take another series of them, plus noting down their meanings and what they thought was going on.  He had a nice presentation by the time he was done fussing.  Dean got to take his shower and Sam watched Xander walk across the apartment in only a towel, head tipped slightly to the side.  His father gave him a nudge.  Sam grinned.  "It can wait."

"It'll take us weeks to research that, son.  Go."  Sam got another nudge and he shook his head.  "Now.  Unless you're scared of him?"  Sam got up and went to pounce Xander into the bed, kicking the door shut.  John smirked.  Dean came out in a towel around his waist.  "Clothes."

"I am."  He went to put on his current favorite outfit but the jeans were too tight.  The next size up were too tight in the waist and too long in the leg.  "I hated this growth spurt," he complained.  The next size up fit him but the legs were nearly twice as long as his were presently.

"They'll catch up in a few weeks," his father reminded him.  "Roll them up."  Dean sighed but did that.  "Those really are too long," he laughed.

"Yeah, just a bit."  He put on socks and then his sneakers.  "We should let them have some fun while we figure out if we're staying here or not."

"Let Sammy make that decision."

Dean nodded.  "That'll work."  They grabbed the laptop, Dean shutting it down properly after making sure whatever Sam was working on was saved.  "Power point?  Geek," he muttered.  He shook his head, walking off with it under his arm.  "Heading to the Magic Box with Dad.  Join us when you're done," he yelled right before slamming the door.

Sam grinned at Xander, going back to cuddling him.  He had wanted a cuddle.  "They don't scare me, Xander," he promised, kissing his neck.  Xander shivered.  "They don't.  They never have.  Not since I heard about them.  I've been possessed too.  I turned into Evil Sam but I was."  Xander grinned.  "Yours are way more helpful than mine was."  Xander snuggled in, getting comfortable with him.  He nuzzled his head, thinking about marriages versus bondings.  "She said we were bonded," he whispered in his boy's ear.  Xander shivered again.  "I want to do it officially."

"That's like a marriage, Sam, and Dean will still want to travel.  You guys did a lot of good work traveling that way.  I'm not going to stop you from doing that."  He stroked through his hair.  "Our son isn't the only one who needs a haircut."

"We can all go together," Sam promised with a grin.  He gave him a kiss.  "Think they've fed him cookies by now?"


Sam grinned.  "Want a cookie?"

"Are you using sexual teasing or asking me honestly if I want sweets?" he asked. "Usually you hate it when Dean and I both get hyper."

"Well, yeah, but if you two wanted to go to the park and be hyper you could do that.  It's a pretty day."  Xander beamed and kissed him, getting up to put on clothes.  "Xander, no going commando," he said patiently.  "Only I get to look at you like that."

"You're the one who ripped my last pair of boxers."  He skipped off to grab his shoes and socks, heading over to the Magic Box.  He picked his son up and carried him off, taking him to the bakery.  Dean gave him an awed look.  "I got told we could be hyper in the park because it was a pretty day and the research nerds needed the time to work."  Dean cackled and they each got their favorite sugary treat then went to play and run in the park until they were tired.

John gave Sam a look when he came in.  "You made Tara pout."

"Xander needed a day of getting hyper in the park.  Dean's good at helping him with that."  He shrugged.  "Sorry, Tara."  She fed him a cookie.  He nibbled.  "I like this recipe.  He'll love it since it's got his M&M's in it."  He kissed her on the head.  "Did you get to see the artwork Xander and Dean did?"

"I did," she teased.  "They're cute."

"Very cute," he agreed.

"Dean drew containing marks with Buffy's lipstick crayon thing and then Xander pulled out an old makeup kit and got to work decorating Dean," John told her.  "Very cute.  Kept calling him his cub."

"Awww," she sighed.

"She agreed, we have to have a daughter to take over the pack someday."  Tara giggled.  "I'm still wondering why the Chinese hunter's symbol."

"It was also associated with the village protector or headman, the one that others went to for problems," Giles told him.

"Oh!"  He nodded.  "Gotcha.  That does fit Dean and when he's older he's going to be a reference source, like Bobby is."  He finished the cookie.  "Do we think he'll want to stay in Sunnydale or will he want to move a bit out of town to be safer?" he asked them.

"That would depend on if Buffy and Willow live," she said quietly.

"Good point," he said, sitting down across from her.  "Think he'd want to live somewhere on the other side of town, away from the hellmouth?  Closer to where we live now?  Slightly out of town?  Closer to downtown?"

"Cordelia's old house is up for sale," Giles teased.  "Tax sale even."

"She'd freak," Sam said dryly.  "Then she'd come up here to hit him.  Even though he did say that Anya told him torture showed love."  Tara giggled.  "Yeah, exactly."  He smirked at her.  "Help me find somewhere?"

"Of course."  She patted him on the wrist.  "I like the place closer to the state forest.  It's a nice little set of houses.  I know they're both empty.  Plenty of roaming room too.  Especially for little kids."

Sam beamed.  "I do like that idea.  Thanks, Tara."  He gave her a kiss and went to grab the Impala and head out there.  He smiled at the nice area.  It was pretty isolated.  The house on the left was perfect as far as he was concerned.  A lot of light in some areas and smaller windows in the bedrooms.  He looked at the other one.  It looked a bit like their old house, the one that burned when they were kids.  Dean would probably love that one.  He looked around.  They were a good mile from the hellmouth itself and half a mile from the store.  Not too far to walk.  Or run in an emergency.  The woods were nice.  They were on the other side of the college so they wouldn't have to deal with idiot frat boys in the woods or anything.  Maybe some of the Wiccans coming out to do rites.  He smiled at someone coming out of a house.  "Just looking, ma'am."

"Technically both houses are up for sale," she said.  "Are you new in town?"

He grinned.  "Sam Winchester, Xander Harris' boy."  He shook her hand when she grinned.  Xander was generally viewed as a troubled boy but nice enough by the older ladies in the town.  "Are you renting it?"

"For now.  My husband's teaching at the college.  We'll be leaving this spring."

Sam grinned.  "Who's got the lease?  That's about when we'd be looking to move, next fall really."

"The realtor in town has it.  Margaret....  Oh, what was her last name?"

"I know her.  Two up from the donut shop?"  She smiled and nodded.  "I'll talk to her then.  Thank you.  Have you had any problems?"

"Now and then we have one or two with the roof.  The one across the road has something that bangs around now and then."  She shrugged.  "It happens."  He beamed and nodded, giving her a quick squeeze before heading to the car.  She smiled.  "Such a nice boy.  He clearly calms that poor Xander down and makes him better."  She went back to her sorting.  She didn't really like the town and if her husband wasn't leaving she was this spring.  He couldn't cook, do laundry, or clean so he'd follow or else he'd starve to death in the middle of a pile of filth and dirty clothes.

Sam pulled into the park's parking lot, watching his boys chase each other around.  Dean was showing he knew how to chase and how to cut people off.  It was training, only fun training.  He got out and snuck up behind Dean, picking him up to tickle him.  Dean flipped him and snickered, running off again.  Xander helped him up and chased him back, tagging him before taking off.  Dean had to cut him off to catch him since Xander was bigger and stronger.  Also sneakier because he dodged when Dean tried.  Dean was getting frustrated this time but he gauged it and pounced, knocking Xander down.  "Good job," Sam called.

"Thanks," Dean called, staring down at Xander.  "Do I win another donut?"

"They're in the bag and you left them by the swings."  Dean got up and ran to get them before some other kid stole them on him.  Xander got helped up by Sam.  "You look happy.  The stuff mean good things?"

"I went to look at somewhere bigger."

Xander looked at him.  "As much as I love you I don't think I could take your dad living with us, Sam."

Sam grinned.  "I meant for later on, when I finally wear you down."  Xander blushed.  "Would you want to stay in town?" he asked gently.


"I know, it would depend on Buffy and Willow surviving."  He nodded at Dean, who ran for the car.  He walked Xander that way.  "Into the back, Dean."  Dean got into the back with his donut.  He let Xander sit in the front and got in to drive them out there, watching how Xander reacted.  "It's only about a mile to the hellmouth and half a mile to the store."

"If you go through the woods," Xander said.  "Pretty houses though."

"The one on the right is haunted.  The one on the left will be open this spring."

Xander looked at him.  "Do we need somewhere this big?"

"If I'm getting siblings, yeah," Dean pointed out.  He finished his donut and licked his fingers.  "Too far out, Sammy, even though it's perfect for us.  Is it past the range of the hellmouth?  You never see ghosts in town."

"I asked Giles.  He said he thinks the hellmouth drives them off almost immediately.  So this is outside the radius of the power leak."  He looked at Xander.  "Want closer in?"


"Because, dumbass," Dean said, leaning forward.  Xander gave him a look.  "What? You're being one and hurting Sammy.  Only I get to do that.  I told you that."  He gave him a look.  "As dad put it, there's a great tradition of picking an area and protecting it.  More than a single town.  Less than the whole state.  That way I get to travel when I want to.  Sammy can come with me if he wants to or he can stay home and baby you.  You can come with us if you wanted or not.  Depending on if I have siblings because a baby seat in the Impala is just strange."

"It held ours," Sam reminded him.

"Oh, I remember thinking it was strange seeing yours in here.  Dad agreed with me.  The Impala is too much of a muscle car to be a family car.  You guys can have your own."  Sam laughed at that.  Xander shook his head.  "The Impala's *my* car," he told Xander.  "Has been since I was little, is still now.  That's why Sammy drove it here to find me."

"It was a big part of his life and mostly our home," Sam agreed gently.  He kissed Xander.  "Want closer?"

"But...  Should we be centrally....."

"We'll be picking up from here to Stanford," Dean told him.  "The new hunters are taking the Sunnydale to LA route to keep that more quiet."

"Angel's going to freak.  Wes was a rogue demon hunter in the past after the Council fired him."

"I'll let him and Dad fill them in then," Dean told him.  "Do you like that idea?"

"You guys used to go all over the country."

"Dude, been doing it since I was four," Dean reminded him.  "There's not much I still have left to see.  That can be a vacation.   I'm told they're nice.  You can take your family on them."  Xander grinned.  Dean knew Xander hated that his own roadtrip had been cut short.  "We've hit about every state but Alaska and Hawaii.  You guys can go for your honeymoon there since it's so hot and sweaty.  Bring me back pictures and post cards."  He grinned.  "We'll hit Alaska some other year.  During the summer so it's not so cold."

"I was wondering how Sammy wore so many clothes in the winter since he wears two or three layers every day here," Xander quipped.

"I'm chilly."

Xander gave him a look.  "With as hot natured as you are?  I doubt that's the reason. You're hiding that body from everyone else.  Which is probably a good thing.  I'd hate to bitchslap anyone who stared too long."  Sam smirked and kissed him.

"Let me go walk in the woods.  No getting my car dirty," Dean said, getting out and heading off shaking his head.  Those two were insane.   He snuck back and stole Sammy's phone then walked off again, calling someone.  "Hey, Pastor Jim.  Dean Winchester.  I know I sound young.  I am young again.  It's how Sammy saved me.  You heard Dad's back, right?  No, a witch accidentally brought him back.  Ellen and Bobby both checked to make sure he's normal," he promised as he walked in the woods.  "Problem?  Nah, I'm calling for a better reason.  Well, Sammy's found himself a guy that's a great guy.  They're so hot for each other it gags me and Dad.  No, I'm in the woods taking a walk while Sam doesn't mess up my car.  Yeah, that stuff."  He grinned at the words of comfort.  "Actually, cute story.  To save my ass and soul Sammy had me be reborn.  Xander, his guy, was the one who carried me for him.  No, the demon who did it decided Xander should carry me.  Said it'd make us both stronger.  And he does.  Xander's refined a lot of skills I had before and I've learned a lot from his friends out here in Sunnydale."

The pastor choked.  "Yup, that's where we are.  Trying to set Buffy up with a cute, youngish hunter too.  She likes slightly older guys."  He snickered.  "Exactly.  No, wondering if you'd do the bonding, marriage, whatever they're doing when Sam finally gets it through Xander's head that we're not leaving when I'm of age.  Yeah, he's worried so he's said they can't do it until I'm of age next year.  Exactly and I warned him he had better not hurt Sammy.  Pastor Jim, Sammy's so insane he's thinking about buying a house and giving me siblings.  Exactly.  Yeah.  Actually, I think you'd like Xander but you'd want to beat his parents too."  He snickered.  "That's how I feel, yeah.  Me, Dad.  Buffy.  Giles.  Tara.  Most of us really.  So you wouldn't be offended to be asked since Xander's a guy?"  He nodded.  He heard someone else in the woods, trying to be stealthy while they headed his way.  Too many crunching leaves to be sneaky but they were trying.

"I'll let him know.  Sure, when I find a girl I like I'll let you do mine too if you're still here.  Not an issue.  Would you know what they'd need to *bond* instead of marry?  Xander's got a primal spirit that hangs around in him and it wanted them bonded."  He nodded at what he said.  "That'd be cool actually.  I can see Sammy biting him and claiming him.  Sure, I'll have him call.  I don't think he got that far.  If Xander had been a girl you would've been in the Impala with him the day he got here.  No, I was five months along.  Sammy couldn't find me and the demon didn't give enough clues.  Sure.  I'm here.  This is Sammy's phone.  Dad's here.  He's on his old number again.  Bobby does, Ellen does.  Sure.  We're here.  Thanks, Pastor Jim."  He hung up and looked around.  "I can feel you watching me.  Might as well come out so I can kick your ass."  A slightly familiar man came out of the woods so he punched in a text message then put the phone into his pocket after hitting one special key on the side of the phone.  "What do you want?"

"You do foul things, boy," he said, staring at him.

"No, I manage to wipe my ass whenever I go to the bathroom.  I'm not sure you do since you're so full of shit it must be leaking out of your pores."  The man sneered at him.  "What?  You think something's going on?"  He snorted.  "Not hardly."

"I know what you and your kind are," he said.  "You're demons sent to tempt others onto Satan's side."

"Well, I am lust on two legs, but not for you.  Thanks anyway, like the ladies."  The pastor sneered at him and moved closer.  "I think that's far enough."

"Or what?  You'll cry?  You'll cry plenty when I fix you so you're right with God."  He lunged and Dean put the skills he had been learning to good use.  By the time Xander found him the guy was on the ground.  "Did you knock Sammy out?" he panted.

"Yeah.  He was mid-orgasm when I got the text.  He's napping in the car."  He pulled the guy up, staring at him.  "You wanted what with my son?"  The man whimpered.  He shook him.  "Tell me now or else I'm going to make you wish you had made a deal with Satan."

"No, let me," Dean said.  "We need to call the cops."

"I can drag him.  You good?"

"He didn't do more than tag me twice," Dean promised.  They walked back to the car together, him calling the cops.  "I just beat the guy trying to grab me in the woods.  Dean Harris-Winchester.  We're out..  By the forest..."

Xander took the phone.  "We're by Professor Morris's house, ma'am.  No, my son beat him.  He's very sorry."  He hung up, handing the phone back.  "I'd never mess up the car.  We always clean up after ourselves."

Dean snickered.  "I said the same thing but after a while the car's leather gets funky with the scent of sex.  Then again, I am more hot than any incubus and more wanted than all of them combined," he said with a smug grin.

"Uh-huh.  Keep telling yourself that," Xander said, giving him a look.  "You still can't have sex until you're sixteen.  Any girl who tries I'm gonna beat her ass."

"I have to wait?" he whined.

"Yeah.  That'll give you time to grow into your muscles and body.  Plus build your stamina back up.  By then you should be able to keep up with someone like Anya."  They walked out of the woods, finding a cop car waiting.  "Hi, Dave.  My son is learning *very* well."  He handed over the guy.  "I only carried him," he said at the horrified look.

"The pervert tried to touch me!  Of course I beat his ass.  Oh, and he's calling us lust demons."  He waved at the guy.  "Did you mean all little boys are lust demons or just me?"  The man glared.  "Oh, let him go.  He clearly wants to try again."

"He attacked me without a reason!" the minister said.

Dean looked at him then pulled out the phone to restart the recording, letting the officer hear.  The cop nodded at that and then at the minister.  "Sounds like a pervert to me too.  Thanks, Dean."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "I'm learning self-defense from Mom, Spike, and Aunt Buffy."

"Then you'll be one powerful fighter when it's your turn.  What's wrong with your dad?"  Xander blushed and raised a hand.  "Oh, that.  Sure.  You thinking about moving out here?  I know Cordy's old place is up for sale."

Xander gave him an evil grin.  "I should hint at that so she'd have another screaming day.  No, if I move here in town it's going to be to a specific house that still has a resident."  Dave nodded, walking the minister off to the car.  "Need his phone?"

"For a bit."  He took it from Dean.  "Hit replay?"  Dean nodded.  "Thanks, kid.  I'll bring it to the Magic Box in a while, once we've got it copied.  Good job."  He got the guy secured in the back then got in to drive. They all knew something was strange with the kid, he shouldn't be that old.  So the 'sex on legs' comments could be ignored.  They'd see what he finished growing into.

Xander looked at Dean when he got poked.  "What?"

"Which house?"

Xander grinned.  "You don't need to worry about it.  It'll be a long time before she dies."


"No.  I like her house but no."  He grinned, walking back to the car.  "Can I drive?"

"My car!" Dean said.  "I barely tolerate Sammy driving.  He won't get to for *decades* once I'm back to myself again."  Xander snickered, climbing into his side, letting him get into the back.  Sam was finishing off the last donut.  "It good?"

"It's always good.  What did he do?"

"Fucking pervert," Dean snorted.

"Ah."  He nodded.  "We'll kill him if he shows up again."  He put the car into gear and headed back to the Magic Box.  He smiled at Xander when he watched parts of town go past.  He had heard the house comment and he was pretty sure he knew which one he was talking about.  Xander always avoided looking at it.  If it wasn't that one, well, he had a pretty good idea.  He parked at the Magic Box, letting Dean run inside to use the bathroom while he made Xander look at him.  "Which house?"

"It doesn't matter.  It'll be years."

"The blue one you won't look at?"  Xander shuddered and shook his head.  "The one you sigh at?  Or the one you give sideways looks at as we walk past it?"  Xander hung his head, nodding.  "The last one?"  Xander nodded, giving him a sideways look.  "I watch you while we're on patrol.  Mostly your butt but I have seen you do it."

"She's ancient and she'll be there for a long time, Sam.  She's been here as long as the mayor has."

"She's also a poltergeist, Xander."  Xander gave him a horrified look.  Sam nodded.  "She is."  He kissed him, earning a smile.  "We'll see what we can do.  What's with the house you won't look at?"

"He was our former child molester.  He died there when a few of the parents killed him."

"Hmm.  We'll have to make sure nothing of his stuck around."

"You don't think it could, right?"

"Don't know.  We'll check."  Xander relaxed.  "Do we know his name?"  Xander nodded.  "Was your father one of them?"

"That would require him to quit drinking," Xander told him.

"Did he?" Sam asked.  "I'm not mad, just wanted to know."  Xander shook his head.  "Because you escaped?"

"I had to rescue Willow from him.  He got very annoyed with me.  That's where I perfected my annoyance act.  For her and Jesse."  Sam kissed him again.  "We should go inside.  It'll be dark soon."

"Not like we can't stake vampires, Xander.  Besides, most of them think we're cute," he said with a grin.   He gave him another kiss, pulling him closer.  "You can help us make sure he's gone."  Xander nodded, kissing him back.  "That's my mate," he whispered.  Xander gave him a horrified look.  "You are.  Even the hyena said so.  She told Dean and Dad both that I'm your mate.  That makes you mine."  He pulled him closer to kiss him again.  "Mine all mine.  Everyone else had better learn very quickly."  He grinned.  Then he moved to nibble on his throat.  Xander moaned, tipping his head off to the side.  Sam shifted him so he could lay him down and tease him.

Buffy looked at the car, shaking her head.  "He learned that move from vamps."  She heard the moans and smiled.  It was good Xander was happy, even if it was Sam doing the vamp thing.  She frowned, walking into the shop.  "Sam wasn't turned, right?"  Giles and Dean both shook their heads.  "Good.  Caught him nibbling on Xander's throat, wanted to make sure."

"Again?" Dean demanded.  "Is Xander a sex demon?"

"Only if he wants to be," Anya sighed.  "I know incubi who can't do what he does with his tongue."

Buffy pouted.  "Angel never gave oral sex.  All I had was Riley."

"Ewww," Willow said loudly.  "I so do not want to hear sex stories from the commando's drawers."  Buffy laughed.  "Really!  Gross and you said he had bad technique."

"Yeah, really bad technique," Buffy sighed.

"I'd offer but it'll be next year before I'm old enough to," Dean quipped with a grin.

She patted him on the head.  "I've already seen way too much of your willie, Dean.  I don't need to see it again."  Dean cackled at that.  "Really.  You peed on me a few times."  She went to get something to drink, going to watch the car from the windows.  She saw an officer watching so she leaned out.  "They're enjoying an early dinner."

"Obviously."  He walked in and handed Dean the phone.  "Here yo go, kid.  You sure you're okay?"

"He only tagged me twice.  I've had worse than that in practice."

"Excuse me?" Buffy demanded.  "Who hit you?"

"The pervert minister who tried to grab me in the woods," Dean said.  John let out a low growl that made Dean jump.  "Chill, Dad.  I beat his ass.  He's taking it up the ass in the jail from someone else.  Maybe even one of Xander's relatives."

"Dean Winchester, what have I told you about your mouth?" Tara snapped, glaring at him.  He flinched and nodded.  "You do not say such things in mixed company.  Even if it is your aunts, you do not say such things.  Go do whatever your father assigns you to do!  Now!"  She pointed at the back room.

"Do double your normal PT," John ordered.  "For the phrasing in the company of women and not telling me immediately."  Dean nodded, going to do that.  "He's sorry, Tara.  Sometimes he doesn't have manners.  I tried but I'm not a mother."

She gave him a look.  "It's a good thing I'm a good auntie then."  The officer walked off laughing.

"Wow, he jumped when Tara snapped," Buffy said.  "Why?  Beyond favorite auntie status?"

"When a guardian says something, all hunters snap to attention," John told her.  She looked confused.  "A guardian is a powerful witch with a strong  link to the earth.  It keeps them straight and good as long as they're pure."

"But...." Buffy said, pointing at Willow.

"Only boys count," Willow told her.

"She could even have babies if she wanted as long as it was a female hand that implanted the babies," Dean called from the work room.

"Wow," Buffy said.

"Hey, Dad, Pastor Jim said he'd marry Sammy or bond them or whatever they needed," Dean called.  "I was on the phone with him when the pervert found me.  He didn't know either."

"What's the difference?" Willow asked.

"Public claiming, like werewolves claim their mate in public to be known as bonded," John told her.

"So, like the rocking car out there?" Buffy said with a point outside.

"It has to go both ways if it's a same-sex pairing," Giles said, giving her a look.  "Sam has claimed Xander a few times but I don't believe Xander's claimed Sam yet.  We should remind him of that," he sighed.  "Just not in the storeroom."  He gave her a pointed look, earning a blush back.  "Thank you.  You have a home, and a dorm room.  Use it, Buffy."

"Yes, Giles."  She looked outside.  "Wow, the car has good shocks."  John moaned, rubbing his forehead.  She went outside with a stake.  "Guys, leave the pretty ones alone," she complained.  The vamps watching the car gave her a look.  "That's Sam and Xander.  You know how Xander's going to react if you interrupt them during nookie.  Sam's worse.  Do you really want to do that?"

"No," one admitted.  "We can watch and wait."  She smiled at the one next to her.  "It is inspiring."

"Is Harris a sex demon?" one asked.  "Anya said he was."

"No, he's human but she said he's got a better tongue than every incubus she'd tried recently," she said dryly.  "They're not living up to their reps anymore.  Or women were less needy in the old days."  They nodded at that.  She staked the one trying to sit on the hood.  "You don't want to know what they'd do to you for profaning the car, guys.  Shoo!"  Sam yelped then let out a low scream of pleasure.  Xander moaned then the rocking stopped.  "Wow."  She looked at them.  "Show's over."  She started staking the ones having sex first.

One pouted up at her.  "Can't he finish off first so I can go happy?"  He nipped and she groaned.

Buffy staked her since she was having a happy then.  Then got the other one who had been licking her.  "Public sex is wrong and bad.  It encourages orgies and things," Buffy instructed as she staked.  "Some of us aren't getting any!"   The last few reached for their belts.  She gave them looks.  "Do you think you can really hold up to Angel or Spike?"   They pouted but shook their heads, letting her stake them.  She walked back inside.  "The vamps offered to cure my dateless problem."

Sam wobbled in and collapsed with a hiss.  "Ow."

"Finally realized the bonding hadn't went both ways?" John asked dryly, handing over his bottle of water.

"No, threw my back."  He sipped it.  "Thanks, sir."  He finished it then looked outside.  "We haven't.  Huh.  Have to fix that."

"No more making my car smelly or dirty," Dean called.

"What did he do this time?"

"Said the perverted minister was having butt-sex in prison, maybe even with one of Xander's relatives," Willow said.  Tara swatted her, making her yelp.  "Ow!"

"I'm still a delicate lady, Willow.  So is Buffy."

"Yes, dear."  She rubbed her butt.  "I don't like spanking."

"That's why it's a punishment," Buffy quipped.  "Oh, Willow, Mom threatened to beat me for the four inch heels I got.  She said I didn't need stripper shoes."

Willow shrugged.  "You look good in them.  They do great things for your legs and butt."

"I pointed that out.  She walked off moaning.  So I said it'd help me get a boyfriend.  She said I had to date a living one this time."

"Could be good for you," Sam quipped, giving her a look.  "There's five semi-cute hunters moving between here and LA.  We'll introduce you."  She beamed and hugged him then went to check on Dean.   Xander wobbled in.  "Locked the car?"  Xander moaned, sliding into his lap with a hiss and curled up on him to take a nap.

"I'll check," Willow said happily.

"My car," Dean snapped, coming out to make sure it was fine and closed up, though he did crack the back windows a bit to let it air out.  No way they could get in with that.  He went back inside to his punishment.  "Thank you for not getting it messy."

"There's ways around that," Sam reminded him.  "Don't make me spank."

"Don't.  He'll be me junior," Xander mumbled.

"Okay, I won't turn him into you a younger version of you," Sam soothed, stroking his back.  John smirked at him.  "He's tired.  It's been a long day.  You guys wore him out earlier."

"That innocent looks work better when your brother does it," John assured him.  Sam just gave him an evil smirk.  "Dean checked.  Pastor Jim's more than happy to marry you two."

Sam beamed.  "He will?  I wasn't sure he wasn't against gay unions.  We hadn't talked about it."

"No, he said it's good you finally found someone you loved after you lost Jess so he'd gladly come marry your big, dumb butt and Mom's," Dean said, coming back. "Done."

"He did," Buffy agreed.  "Show me what you did to the guy earlier, Dean."  He nodded, attacking her.  She managed to tag him lightly a few times but then he got her down.  "As good as his?"

"He got me twice, you got me three times."

"You're still dropping your guard on your right side when you shift your weight that way, son," John said.  "That's something you've always had a problem with."  He got up to work with him, making Dean nod and do what he showed him but it was apparently too ingrained to fully correct out now.  "Not bad."  He grinned at him.  "Latin?"

"I did a page earlier," he promised.  "And a first run of the new flashcards."  Willow beamed. "Thank you."

"Welcome.  I had Spike write them out for you and had another demon check, just in case he switched words."  She looked at Giles.  "So, what's with the research tonight."

"Earlier we went to talk to the hyena and soldier," John told her.

"How did he get a rank raise?"

"There's a general who's a ghost.  He watches over things like that and ones being guardian angels," Dean told her.

She looked up and muttered something, shaking her head.  Tara spanked her again.  "It was in another language."

"My ears are still delicate," Tara said dryly.

Willow got her some chocolate and cuddled her.  "Okay, so what else did we learn?"

"We did some mutual drawing," Dean said.  "I did some to contain the hyena so she couldn't attack Dad.  She and the soldier both drew prophecies on me plus hunter's marks."  He opened the laptop and got into the last used files so they could be pulled up.  "Here.  Sammy did it in powerpoint.  Geek," he told his brother.

"I haven't had to do a presentation in a while.  I was missing school," he said dryly.

"I miss writing papers in the summers," Willow sighed.

"Summer school," John told her.  She beamed.

"You can write some for me in advance," Buffy offered happily.  "Maybe even make some money."

"That's cheating," Tara said firmly.  "For you is one thing.  For profit is wrong."

"Have some more chocolate, Tara.  You have major PMS," Buffy told her.  Tara nodded, nibbling.  "Want to help me shop for things to go with the new shoes, Tara?"  She blushed and shook her head.  "Okay, if you're sure."  She came over to look.  "So *that's* where that lipstick pencil went.  I was going to take it back because it was the wrong shade of red, Dean."

"Sorry.  I'll get you a new one," Sam told her.

She shrugged.  "It's not a problem.  Ho red looks better on Xander than it does on me.  It was only two bucks."

"Not Santa," Xander mumbled.  "No camping."

Sam stroked his back again.  "No, we won't go camping if you don't want to."  Xander let out a whimper.  Sam got the clue he needed.  "Shh, I've got you, Xander.  You won't ever have to go camping again unless you want to."  Xander relaxed and fell asleep again.

John gave Willow a look.  She grimaced. "His parents fought every Christmas so he slept outside from the time he was four until he was seventeen."

"Wasn't he hunting by then?" John asked.

"I offered my couch, he said no," Buffy said.  "He said he didn't want to interrupt other's happiness.  My mom nearly went to rip them a new one but Xander made her not do it."  She went back to the presentation.  "Are any of these soon?"

"The one in the darker pencil is one about Dean," Sam told her.  "The other seems to be an echo of a creation myth."

"What are the cut and bite marks?" Willow asked.

"This part," Sam said, showing her that symbol.  "Right before he's allowed to start hunting."

"So, right before he turns sixteen.  Nice makeup job."

"To show it was probably Dru," Dean said.  "But thanks, I knew I was pretty."

"There were a few jobs we could've went on if I could've grown out your hair quickly and gotten you into a dress, boys," John told them.  Sam gave him a horrified look.  "Ellen went on them instead."  Tara squeaked, giving him a horrified look.  "There was even a nice convent school that would've taken them in that's run by hunters if they had been girls."

"You would have died," Dean assured him.  "One of us would've gotten you even if you held the other one off."  His father laughed.  "I remember that school.  I would've had a lot of fun debauching the girls while Samantha there learned all the languages and stuff.  Still would've killed you if you had put me in a skirt."

"We would have made sure Pastor Jim did a nice service and put the grave near Bobby or Missouri so we could visit them often," Sam agreed.

"Better than the styrofoam one I woke up in," he said.

"The county buried you.  We couldn't find you to claim you," Dean said, smacking him on the arm.  "Jackass."  He walked off.  Tara followed and Buffy followed her.

"I know it hurt him," John said quietly.

"To the point of him beating the car with a tire iron," Sam agreed.  John slumped.  "He wouldn't even let me help fix the car.  If either of you make a deal with another demon to save another member of this family I will personally hunt that demon down to kill it.  Then whichever of you did it.  Am I clear?  Xander can help me," he said when Xander shifted.

"Crystal, son.  It..."

"I don't care, Dad."


"Wrong son to say that to but thank you."  John sighed, going to talk to Dean about that.  "Tell him what I said too."

"Sure."  He nodded the girls to leave them alone, closing the work room's door so they could sit together.  "It was the only way I saw to make sure you went on, son.  You're as good as I ever was and I knew you'd watch out for Sammy for me.  Something he wouldn't let me do."

Dean looked at him.  "Still sucked ass."

"Yeah.  I'm sorry about it going like that.  I intended to get out of it."  Dean sighed, nodding a bit.  "Sam just said if either of us did it again he and Xander are going to hunt down the demon and kill it.  Then us."

"Xander will.  Sammy can cheer him on."  John smiled.  "I know.  They've both got fierce bitch syndrome about me.  It's nice.  Even if it is mushy now and then it's really nice.  Do you think Mom would approve of him?"

"I think if your mother had seen what we went through as younger people, she would've come back and screamed at us until we were black and blue from her voice then she would've beaten us all to death so she could torture us for a good, long time.  I think she would've approved of how Xander's doing this time though."  Dean relaxed and nodded, grinning some.  "She always said that Sammy was going to be the one who did great things since you and I were so much alike, even back then.  She thought you'd follow me into the service."

"I did, just a different branch."

"It is just as much of a calling as being a Marine ever was," John agreed quietly, reaching over to stroke over his son's hair.  "You did good then and you're doing good now, son."

"Awww!  Did you have to ruin it with mush?" Dean complained, but he looked pleased.

"Now and then even we Winchester men have to have some mush in our lives.  That's why you pick up girls and I got married, Dean.  Sam brings his own with him so he got a tough boy to love him and suck it out of him."  Dean snickered at that.  "I honestly think she'd be beating Xander by now for making him hold off on marrying him.   I understand why he is, now, but she would've kicked his butt up and down this town's streets.  Pregnant or not."

"Then we'd better do what Mom wants, huh?" Dean said.  "Xander has one house he wants more than anything.  Sammy said he knows which one it is."  John smirked.  "So we'll have to see.  Xander said there's an older person living in it."  Willow leaned in and gave them a message. "Can hear us?"

"The ruining it with mush comment," she said dryly.  "Sam said they talked about that earlier."  She disappeared.

Dean opened the note.  It was in Winchester code.  He read it and scowled.  "Huh."  He handed it to his father.  "Two houses we have to make sure are cleared."

"We'll do it,"John agreed.   "This was how I knew I had left you two alone too often.  You developed your own code.  It took me nearly two years to decode it.  You do realize that?"

"I thought you said you had it after six months."

"That's what I wanted you to think so you'd stop it," John said, giving him a look.  "Some day you'll pull that on your own kid."

"Not for a few years apparently," he said happily.

"Better not be."

"Dad, no marrying me off this time."

"Tara and I talked.  She can do the same capturing spell in case something happens."

"No.  Not again.  I was sick for months last time.  No.  Especially not around here."  He sat up straighter.  "The taint she talked about."

"Good point," John said quietly.  "Could be too late."  He patted him on the shoulder.  "I did it to protect you, Dean."

"Yay.  Still sucked for Annabelle."

"It did.  I gave her a chance to back out.  She tried to negotiate for Sammy instead."

"At that age he was cuter and I was hitting a growth spurt into my muscles."

"I remember," he sighed.  "You looked so geeky standing there in front of the judge."  His son growled.  He smirked.  "You did.  Plus you nearly fidgeted out of the suit and tie."

"Still do."  He punched him on the arm, walking back out there, nodding at Sammy.  "Will."

"Thanks."  He smiled at Xander then at him.  "We'll get burgers soon.  Even I heard your stomach."

Xander blinked at Dean, then yawned, pulling him closer to sit in their joined lap. "Dinner soon."  He cuddled him, weathering the put-upon sigh his son gave for show.  Because Dean was snuggled back into him nicely.  He fell back asleep for another little while.

Sam nodded at the chair.  "Kick it closer please?" he asked quietly.   Willow did so he put his feet up.  "There, easier to hold them both."  He gave them a squeeze.  Dean gave him a look.  "I can be mushy over him and you're adorable when you're a teddy bear.  Still haven't gotten off all the eyeliner though."  Giles took a few pictures.

"I want a copy," John said.  He looked then grinned.  "Awww."

"Bite...."  Tara swatted him.  "Yes, Auntie Tara.  Want us to pick you up a salad when we're out?"   She smiled and nodded.  "We can do that."  He looked at Sam once the girls had walked off to talk about tonight's patrol with Buffy.  "At least I'll understand that girl stuff when I get a sister."

Sam smiled.  "Maybe.  I still don't and I had Jess plus your aunts."

"Hell, I was married and I didn't," John told them.  "Buffy, I'll take the boys' place tonight if you want."

She grinned.  "Sure, John.  It's going to be running and pouncing in the leaves tonight.  We usually start getting dead leaf eating demons now.  They aren't harmful but we like to make sure they leave town fairly quickly because they're the preferred cheddar cheese popcorn of a lot of tougher species.   So we like to round them up, give them bags of leaves like candy stroll treats, then get them out of town by the beach."

"Sure, we can do that," he agreed.  "Candy stroll?"

"Trick-or-Treating," Willow told him. "As opposed to ho stroll, which is Buffy patrolling down by the theater in her short, diagonally striped skirt and wedge heels."  Buffy swatted her.  "You did!  Last time you even wore the backless shirt that the vamps like to talk about untying!  One of the cops did ask me if you were trolling.   I told them no, you were looking to impress the new boyfriend when we accidentally on purpose ran into him.  He told me to make you change before he arrested you for selling it."

"I like that outfit!  I look good in it."  Xander flinched so she stomped over.  "Xander, don't I look cute in the stripped skirt and tie shirts?" she pouted.

He blinked at her.  "You told me I couldn't have those opinions."  She huffed.  "You did.  Especially about shopping with you."  She tapped a foot.  "Fine, I think the skirt's too short and you've flashed a great number of vamps kicking their asses so they died happily and the shirts are going to make you end up running home topless one night.  Now, I'm tired.  Do you mind?"  He put his head back down, gave Dean a good squeeze, then yawned and let his eyes drift shut.

"If you wake up, we can get dinner," Dean said.

Xander smiled into his son's hair.  "You should go shopping with her. You had good taste in the past, son."

"That's right, you did," John agreed.

"Good, we can go on patrol then hit the last hour at the mall," Buffy said.  "He can have dinner then!   While we shop!"  She stomped off to gather the nibbled on demons with John and Willow behind her, Tara walking out shaking her head.

Giles looked over.  "Remind her to feed you before you enter a store, Dean."

Sam poked Xander.  "If you get up so I can have feeling back in my feet, I'll feed you both tonight then we'll try to hide from Buffy at the mall."  Xander let out a discontent sigh.  "Then maybe we'll run into a demon that eats poodles so it takes too long.  That way Tara and Willow can do some girl stuff."  Xander grinned and nodded, sliding off his lap.  Sam stood up, stomping the feeling back into his feet.  "Ooh, better."

"Sorry," Xander said sheepishly.

Sam kissed him.  "I don't mind.  It was cute.  Besides, it was Dean's heavy ass that took the feeling out of my feet, not your tiny butt.  You need to eat more."  He walked them out with a wave at Giles.  "Later."

"The poodle eaters are usually found near the dumpster by the pound, not the movies.  Those are ones who eat things hiding in the darkness," he called after them.  Sam grinned back at him for that.   Giles went back to his research, checking the pictures on Sam's laptop now and then.


Xander looked at his son a few months later, shaking his head.  "What do you want for the holidays?"

Dean gave him a look.  "To age faster?"

"You'd get sick if you aged faster, Dean.  Besides, I can't do that.  I can make your first christmas special and let your aunt Tara spoil your ass rotten however."  He grinned at that.  "What do you want?"

"New sawed off shotgun?" he suggested with a shrug.  "You'll find something."  This talk was making him feel strange.  Xander had that damn mushy look on his face again.  He gave him a poke.  "Get me practical stuff I can use.  I like presents like that better."

"If you're sure."  Dean nodded.  "Then I'll look for practical things."

"Who bought all the music?  I've never heard of some of these bands."

"The aunts when you wouldn't quit kicking me because Buffy tried some of Tara's music."

"Ah.  Now wonder I have punk music."

"Spike," he pointed out dryly.  "Your first CD was _London Calling_.   It calmed you down from your aunt's music."

"I guess that's fine then," Dean said.  "Some new music would be nice.  But nothing woosey."

"Sure, nothing woosey."  He patted him on the head.  "Think I can leave you with your Aunt Willow tonight?"

"Must you?"

"She's got a sprained ankle and Joyce has stuff to do."

"If you must," he sighed.  "I was fine in a motel room watching Sammy at this age before for a few hours."

Xander looked at him.  "No way in hell I'm leaving you home alone at the young age of ten, Dean.  Get over it.  John had no choice.  I do.  Therefore we're not going to get CPS called here to take you.  Comprende vous?"

"Is that the only thing you learned from French class?"

"Yup," he agreed happily.

"Can I help Joyce instead?"

"No, Grandma's going holiday shopping too.  She's going to have problems finding another Solstice gift for Willow."  Dean shuddered.  "Exactly.  I've done all mine but yours and Sam's."

"Get him woosey music or something mushy."  He gave him a look. "Or claim him."

"Not until you're your right age."  He walked off.  "Get ready to head to the college."

"Yes, Mom."  He sighed and got up to find his boots.  He was slowly getting back to his own style.  Even though the ladies had bought all his clothes so he'd be adorable.  Which he hated.  Adorable was Sammy, not him.  He was tough and macho.  He pouted at Xander.  Xander only smirked and shook his head.  "I can use a few new t-shirts."

"I've already replaced the stuff Sam pulled out of your traveling pack for next year."  Dean smirked at that.  "Until then... it makes the girls happy and happy girls feed your sugar addiction and mine."

"Good point."

"Were you this pouty your last time?"

"Am not!" he complained.  Xander tapped his lip.  "Okay, maybe I am.  I used to gross myself out by doing that last time.  Dad moaned about it being worse with Sam."

Xander looked at the door then at him.  "Your father had some very high expectations for you and even higher for Sam because he started training him sooner," he said quietly.  Dean nodded he knew that, pouting again.  "Do you think that was fair to Sam?"

"No, which is why they used to fight like Spike and Buffy when he wants in her pants.  Only for different reasons of course."

"Of course."  He stroked through his hair, giving him a smile.  "You know, you're getting better at reading some of Sam's moods this time.  Before you could read him pretty well but you had this gap according to him.  He said you're past that now.  Which does make him happy.  He feels that you're back to the point where you could understand everything he did even before he did it."

"I had to regrow up for that?"

"Sam's a lot like Tara," he explained, sitting down to look at him.  He straightened out his shirt.  "Even with the asshole father she had, one that I thought was a worse one than mine was, she still grew up into a gentle, loving soul.  You found a reason for vengeance and let it dictate your life.  That's not bad but Sam didn't have the same reason you did."

"I know.  We had that talk once."  He frowned.  "Am I still not getting him very well?"

"I think you get him better than either of us suspect but you hide it."  Dean nodded that was true.  "The same as you get me a lot better than Sam does sometimes but you hide it behind the anti-mush stuff."  He gave him a look.  Dean smirked at that.  "Now, what am I getting him and you for the holidays?"

"For me, something practical is good.  A new rifle, a new knife maybe?"  He shrugged.  "Sammy only wants one thing and you won't give that to him."

"That's because there's too big of a chance of it ruining his life, Dean.  Xander's mate for life.  If he's mine, he won't be running around the country with you unless I'm there too."  Dean opened his mouth.  "Which is why I can't do that to him until you're old enough to decide what you're going to do, because he's waiting on you to make decisions.  If you decide to go back to hunting the same way you used to, he'll be going with you, even with me here.  Even if you had a sister on the way or already here.  He might want to stay but you draw him stronger than any lover ever will because you protect him and he protects you.  You're a lot like some twins, only you're four years apart."


Xander covered his mouth.  "I'm not putting pressure on you, Dean.  If you want to go back to hunting the way you were, I'll be here.  Handling the next apocalypse and all that.  If you guys want or need me all you'd have to do is call.  I'm not going to rip you two apart by making Sam choose.  That's what true love is, wanting the best and right thing for them, even if it's not you.  Sam still can't understand Sunnydale Syndrome even after all this time.  It annoys all three of you Winchesters.  It annoys us now and then but we learned how to deal with the system here.  You guys aren't used to dealing with this sort of hunting.  You guys are an occasional thing, not a constant war.  It's wearing on all of you," he said gently.  "Which is why we made the local rule of no hunting before sixteen and taking the time for fun whenever you can.  If the best thing for Sam is going out with you so he doesn't end up giving me those tired looks like Buffy and Giles give me, or I give them, then I'd rather have him go and come back to make sure I'm still here now and then."

"It's still dumb."

"I think you've been watching the wrong things," Xander countered, smiling a bit.  "You guys see everything in a very strict boundary and framework of what you hunted before.  Here, we're a lot more fluid.  We handle a lot more shit.  If the hunters like you guys are had to handle an apocalypse ever few months, there wouldn't be many of you left.  It deals outside the realm of thought that you're comfy with.  Salt doesn't work, burning only works on some things, and even bad magic is helpful sometimes here.  Your dad admitted to Willow if he ran into her in the real world and she pulled some of the shit out there that she does here, one of the hunters would've taken her out."

"Or expected Tara to because that's what a guardian is."

"Exactly.  Sunnydale's not exactly like the real world.  In a lot of ways we're like a hollywood construct.  Imagination is the best thing here.  You guys are linear thinkers.  You're used to having information, knowing what's coming, having a weapon that you know how to use like it's an extension of your own hand.  We only know what's coming when it's a prophecy and one of us usually warps it so it's different than in the book, then we fight it.  Our weapons are different and even though we may not always use them technically correct, our weapons are just as trained into us.  My battle axe may hurt like hell when I swing it in that one back swing that makes you frown but that's how I take off heads.  A lot of heads.  I'm damn good with it, the same as I'm very comfortable with guns.  If I had a way to walk around here and do a patrol with my AK, I'd do it.  I don't.  Even the Initiative boys had to change tactics now and then because their rifles and tasers only pissed some things off.  And that sort of thing would drive you guys into a soul-sucking depression because you guys are used to having ten or twelve things it could be.  The rarer thing now and then.  For us, every day is vamps and then something rare that only happens here."

"Sam's not tired."

Xander smiled.  "You're not paying attention to the right things, Dean.  Even I'm tired."

"Then move with us."

"You couldn't stand us all in the car together all the time."

"No, I can't.  I can't see you doing the credit card scams for expense money either."  Xander shook his head.  "Are you happy?"

"No but I'm needed.  This is my duty.  I was put here to be her helper is the way I see it.  I don't have much else use except for building things so I can pay the rent.  I got drafted and fell into step when I realized how many lives I save on a nightly basis.  Even when the girls are going through a 'boys are stupid' phase."  Dean gave him a serious look.  "I can't see Sam putting up with them doing that either and one's coming.  It always does at the start of a new semester since I'm not in college with them."

"Why do you put up with it?"

"What's better?  Doing it alone or with people around you?  You can be a team even when you fight with the person next to you.  You and Sam have fought many times and you can still fight together."

"We're family.  So's your group but none of you seem to know what a good one is outside of Buffy.  Maybe Giles."

"Uh-huh.  I've realized that.  So has Tara.  That's why we're staying.  We have to stay or else people will die.  A lot of people could die.  Yeah, Buffy handles the apocalypses but without us behind her, she'd have fallen a long time ago."

"Spike said you brought her back to life when she died."

"The Master drowned her.  I did CPR because Angel claimed he couldn't.  I did force Angel to come with me to help her at cross point."  Dean smiled at that.  "He was supposed to be helping her and he was huddled in his apartment.  Hell yes I pulled him out of there at cross point to make him help me.  Then he said he can't do CPR because he doesn't breathe."  He shrugged.  "Does she know?  Don't know.  She knows I did the CPR.  Angel was honest about that."

"You know he gave you to Spike and Dru.  I know he knows he did that.  Did he do it knowingly and thinking about the consequences?"

"Angel had a jealous streak.  He decided that since I could play in the sun with her she was going to be mine."  He waved a hand around.  "Do you see that?"

"No."  He crossed his arms over his chest and canted his weight off to the side.  "What about if Sammy decides to stay?  Or I do?"

"Then we'd welcome you for however long you could stand it.  All of us are going to give up some year.  If Buffy dies, I'm probably leaving and letting the next slayer have it.  I'll give her and her watcher what I know then head.  Willow would probably head to school.  I'd be dragging Tara with me if she's alive."

"She's never in danger.  You guys make sure of it."

Xander gave him a sad smile.  "Dean, demons aren't the only danger here.  Remember, there's normal human danger too.  She got a death threat the other day from some guy who didn't like her being with Willow.  Pity he's got a broken jaw and arm so he can't follow through with his threat to take a baseball bat to her to teach her better."  Dean shuddered.  "Not me.  Not Willow or Buffy either.  Actually I'm not so sure it wasn't your Dad or Giles."  He grinned a bit.  "Pay better attention and use that to make your decisions.  Yeah, you've been watching and learning from us, but you're not learning it all.  You're paying too shallow of attention.  There's always a deeper thread to people, even the shallow ones."

"She's not shallow."

"I know that.  We all know that.  She pretends to be.  Sometimes Willow believes it because it's easier.  The same as they think I'm the goofy little helper because it's easier.  We're too damn tired to look that deeply most of the time."

"The other hunters...."

"Are helping Angel and Wes," he assured him.  "They're doing a good job weeding out some of Angel's problems.  They'll take on the connections and network between the two next.  That three hours of driving time is filled with problems.  It'll take the six of them years to clean it up.  Even if they do start bombing places like the former Initiative guy wanted to do.  That's why Angel let him be eaten then took him from his new Sire to train him."  Dean gaped.  "Angel spent enough time here to have an expedience switch.  The same as we have one now and then."  Dean nodded slowly.  "LA's overrun and it's a lot bigger than Sunnydale is. Plus they have the evil things' law firm trying to make deals to take over the world. They even had a cult of vampires who were practicing not feeding on humans recently."  Dean shook his head slowly.  Xander gave him a maniacal grin and nodded quickly.  "Yeah.  That's why they need the hunters there.  We could use a few more here but the whole Army can't keep the problems down until they manage to keep the hellmouth closed for a long time.  Then they'll move somewhere else."

"Damn," he muttered, shaking his head.  "Maybe you're right.  If so, you could live out of town and help us if we pick a region."

"Then who would help Buffy and take my place?"

"There's others... never mind, no one wants to see."  Xander nodded, smirking a bit.  "Why did you?  You could have grieved for Jesse then moved on."

"Who said I didn't know about there being demons before, Dean?  Not all demons are human and not all demons are stealthy.  Just because I didn't know about vampires didn't mean I hadn't seen the 'special ones' at the supermarket or at school.  I always saw them where other kids saw skin diseases and things.  Willow always tried hard to keep her blinders on.  Now and then she'd see, mostly that my parents were dirtbags.  Jesse saw but no one warned us that the vampires would start coming for us in high school.  We saw them eating the adults, the adults instinctively protected most of the kids until they were nearly adults.  Late high school, not tenth grade.  We were apparently early bloomers of the farm."

"Are the ones who see these things like you?  Have the same crappy parent syndrome?"

"Jesse's mom was nice.  She didn't always pay attention to him.  He had a younger sister and she drowned one night in the tub when she was really young.  So his mom was caught up in that.  Jesse kinda slipped notice now and then.  That's why we hung out."  Dean stared at him.  "She was good when she had the energy to come out of her memories.  She treated me like her own kid quite often."

"But you saw because of your parents."

"Possibly because I'm one of the few people around here born here.  The local hospital doesn't have an OB unit, did you notice that?"  Dean nodded quickly, he had and John had wondered.  "The doctors learned long ago that kids who're *born* here are born strange.  A lot of times with developmental or physical impairments.  We get a lot of miscarriages if women stay here while they're pregnant.  Since my mother never left, I was born here.  Bred here.  The power seems to like me though so it's letting me go for now.  Maybe I resonate in the right frequency or something.  Maybe all the liquor she drank helped fight off whatever it did.  It is an antiseptic after all."  Dean grimaced.  "She told me once she didn't know she was pregnant until her seventh month when I kicked her.  She was so drunk before then she didn't realize it."  Dean shuddered.  "Exactly.  So maybe that's why I saw what's going on and a lot of others don't or can't.  Maybe it's because it's easier for them to ignore it and not mourn.  It was easier for me to see it because I was already used to shitbags who shouldn't be around kids.  Who knows.  No one will ever figure that one out."

"You stayed when you were pregnant with me," Dean said quietly.

"I tried to leave.  You made me so hellishly sick I crawled into the Magic Box that night.  Literally crawled.  After ten hours of puking outside of town."  Dean gave him a hug.  "It's not your fault.  I'm probably not meant to leave here."  He gave him a pat and let him go.  "I'm not telling you this to make you decide to go, son.  I want you to make your decisions based on what's best for you and Sam.  Because Sam will follow you to protect you.  The same way you always protected him he protected you in a lot of ways."

"I saw that now and then.  When I went looking."

"Sam's a lot more subtle than you are," Xander agreed.  "Some people kick in doors.  Some of us sneak in a window.  Some of us come in through a roof gate.  Now, I can hear your father trying to listen from the door.  Go sit with Willow and make her feel better."

He nodded, heading out with John while Xander went to change for patrol.  It had been something to think about.  Maybe he wasn't seeing more than the shallow things people wanted him to.  This was a situation that would call for deeper reading.  Especially to make sure Sammy was happy and content.  He smiled at his Dad.  "Dad warning me not to aggravate Willow tonight."

"That was a long butt chewing."

Dean shrugged.  "We talked about other stuff too.  Did you know he replaced some of the t-shirts and stuff in my kit?"

"I didn't.  Have you seen them yet?  Xander wears some loud shirts, son."

"Yeah, well, that's his thing," he said.  Though...  He looked back at the house.  Putting that same knowledge to work, Xander always drew the attention.  They had probably used it so Willow, who had been shy back then, wouldn't have to get any.  He had a lot of deeper thoughts to go over tonight.  He yawned for show.  "Maybe I'll crash when I get there, after making suitable noises over her ankle."

"Sure, if that's what you want."  He let him into the truck and walked around to drive.  "What else did he tell you?  You're looking thoughtful."

"He explained a bit more about Sunnydale to me.  Some clues I hadn't been picking up.  He said it might help when the girls went all 'college is cool' at the new semester and he got locked out for a while again.  Mostly to keep Sammy out of their hair and faces."

"The girls can be a bit shallow now and then," John said.

Dean took the keys from the ignition.  "Do you think maybe it's a shield?  Their way of dealing with all the crap they go through every night?  Buffy shops like most hunters have sex. Tara tries to channel it into her education and skills.  Willow channels it into her magic and fussing over things.  Giles reads another book because he can't sleep.  Personally I think Xander's loud shirts are so people pay attention to him and not the others.  Or maybe at all."

John blinked.  "I..."

"Dad, think about it."  John's phone rang so he answered it.  "We're having a talk.  We'll be there soon, Buffy.  Sure."  He hung up.  "Willow's running the Magic Box tonight from the stool behind the counter."  John nodded, taking the keys back to start the truck.  "Xander explained a few things to me.  Have you seen guys coming in from a war?"  John nodded slowly.  "After a while, do they have that same tired look Spike did last week?  Or the one the night Xander told Buffy to go home because finals were getting to her?"

"They have," he admitted.  "The other hunters..."

"LA's just as overrun and Angel needed the help, Dad.  They've got *years* of work down there according to Xander.  Not to mention the connections between the two after that.  There's a law firm down there that's slowly making deals to take over the world by representing demons, did you know that?"

"No, I didn't."

"Apparently Angel deals with them often.  They don't like him.  I've heard him talking to Cordelia about them before.  Xander also said something else because he noticed how frustrated you've been a few times when they pulled something out of their ass and it worked better than anything traditional.  Sunnydale isn't like the real world.  It's like a hollywood construct built on power, demons, and magic.  The same as he had to point out the normal bad things everyone has to deal with happen here too.  Did you beat the guy that threatened Tara?"

"Giles did.  I offered to."  He considered it.  "I did tell Willow if I saw her pulling things like she had pulled recently in the real world she would've been hunted," he realized.

"Yeah, you did.  He heard."

John looked at him, putting the truck into gear and driving off.  "Huh.  So we're stuck in a bad 'B' rated movie?"

"Not a bad one.  Certainly a twisted one.  I doubt anyone not outside all that would see all the plots and how they mix together.  No one saw the Mayor's until the ascension.  They still missed some of it even when they went looking."

"Interesting."   He glanced at his son, pausing at a stop sign.  "We've noticed the cops only handle certain things."

"Would you want to do the paperwork for someone killed by an unknown demon?"

"Probably not," he agreed.  "How did the kid figure this out?"

"Xander once told me about this girl in high school who no one paid any attention to.  Even when she was in the same room.  She ended up turning invisible."

"So his loud clothes are to make sure he doesn't?"

"I think he's hidden enough that I've seen people overlook him even in the really loud red and purple shirt, Dad.  Hell, I've seen Sammy and you do it."  John gaped, then groaned.  "I think he does it on purpose but he learned the benefits of it the first time it happened by accident.  In his family it kept him out of the way of his parents or uncle.  The same as schoolwork didn't hold a whole lot of promise for him.  Sam used it as a way to get out.  I used it as something I had to do and could do to spend a few hours without my family there.  I had to live up to standards but I could pretty well do whatever I wanted to do and make up any background I wanted when I was there and alone.  It got lonely, but it was helpful.  I needed the time to defrag from you and Sammy going at it most of the time."  John sighed but nodded.  "For Xander it got him out of the house but if he got great grades or had a reason to stay after school and research, it would've gotten him noticed."

"Given his parents a new chink in the armor to pick at and open him up further," John agreed.  "People like that find a weakness and dig at it until it doesn't get a reaction.  They think they're toughening up their kids.  I didn't do that, right?"

"Not usually.  You'd harp on a weakness until we worked on it ourselves.  You had a reason though.  You were trying to keep us alive.  Xander's parents didn't care if he lived."

"Still, Buffy's a bit shallow."

"Who'd notice if she wasn't, dad?"


"If she wasn't shallow, she wouldn't have an advantage over the vampires.  They think she's shallow and it makes her look weaker.  The same as her size does.  She plays on that with her clothes, her mannerisms, all that.  That's her costume."

"I've seen some deeper moments, especially with her mom."  He nodded.  "I think you're right."

"I know I'm right, Xander told me."  John smirked at him.  "Hell, I wasn't seeing it either.  Though, I'm not sure if Anya has a deeper core or if she's blocked it off so she doesn't have to think about the consequences of what she used to do.  Or if doing that led to it being pounded into a greasy spot inside."

"Could be a combination of the last two.  Doing that job has to be soul sucking.  You see some of the worst cases."

"No, that's her friend Hallie.  She's over lost childhoods," Dean said quietly.  John shuddered.  "She was down for tea last week."

"Huh."  He parked in front of the Magic Box, handing Dean the keys.  "In case something happens."  It was an older ritual when he had to leave him somewhere and leave the car nearby.  Dean grinned at that.  "Just don't crash it.  The insurance is a bit flimsy."

"Sure, Dad."  He went inside.  "I'm here,  you can all applaud now."

"Good, you little stage magician," Willow teased.  "Go help the woman getting frog's eyes."

He grimaced but went to do it.  They were nasty but he could think while he helped around the store.  She really couldn't hop with the way she had it wrapped.  When they were finally alone he pulled her ankle up and rewrapped it on her.  "More efficient and you can hop if you need to."  He went back to the book area, grimacing and reshelving how they should be.  Giles was particular.  So was Sammy.  That way they had quick access to any information.  He found a few books that should've been shelved in the reading room and put them in there then came back to finish up.  Then he moved to the candles.  These were familiar items to him.  He could name the use of about everything in the store.  Giles had taught him and so had Tara.  That's why he got to help with spellwork.  That and Willow couldn't measure worth a damn.  He came out to get the book she was looking at.  "Giles told Xander not to get anything on that one, it was worth a lot less when it was broken in."  She groaned.  "You can talk to the man.  I'm not.  Anything else need stocked?  We're almost out of incense."

"Go ahead and do whatever you want to, Dean.  You don't have to fuss over the store.  That's Anya's job."

"She hates to stock."  He went to get what he needed, filling the holders then putting back the boxes and going back to look at everything else.  One book came floating out.  He jumped up and caught it.  "Sex magic?" he asked, waving it.  She blushed.  "Kinky," he teased with a smirk.

"Give it to me, mini pervert," she said, floating it over.  "Go workout or something.  Quit channeling Sam."

"Fine."  He went to work out and think while he did that.  It was good for his body anyway.  He snuck a sandwich then went back to it. After a while he came out to look at her.  "The last time you guys had nightmares to deal with, what was Mom's?"

"Clowns," she said without stopping reading.  "He had a clown phobia from his fifth birthday."


She nodded, turning the page.  "I've got a frog phobia."

"Okay."  He went back to think about that.  He knew about the incident with the nightmares the first time.  He had snuck Giles' journal to look at.  It hadn't mentioned what most of theirs were.  Only that Buffy's was related to her parents' divorce and her father.  He knew that Xander didn't have problems with clowns because he wasn't scared of anything, because having no fear meant you were dead.  Long dead usually.  So were clowns the only thing it could pull up or had it been something else?  The only one it could manifest because fear of an alcoholic waking up isn't really something that can follow you around?  He knew he had a fear of becoming invisible.  That had been the point of telling Dean about the invisible girl Marcy.  He had faced that fear another time.  But why clowns?  And how did that one start?  He heard someone come in and went to check, looking at his mother.  "Clowns?" he mouthed.

Xander shrugged.  "One jumped out and scared me.  Why?"

"That's all it could pull up?"

"No.  It was linked back to a kid about your age, Dean.  There was no way the fear demon could create something like the rest with it being in a mind that young."

"Oh.  That's what I was hoping it was."  Xander nodded.  "You still feel fear, right?"

"Every single day when I wake up," Xander assured him.  "Feeling no fear means that you're dead, gone, and gotten past the 'where am I going now' fears."  Dean smiled at that.  "Anyway, patrol's looking light tonight.  Wanna get a pizza?"

"I thought we had a major demon," Willow said absently.

"We do.  It's three foot tall and has spines.  Buffy laughed herself sick and John shot it."  He looked at Dean, nodding.  "Pizza?"

"I could eat.  Willow?"

"I'm good, Dean.  Thanks for rewrapping my ankle for me."

"Welcome."  He walked out with Xander, looking at him.  "She's studying sex magic."

"She does that now and then.  Tara usually stops her."  He texted that to John's phone so he could let Tara know.  Then he walked Dean down the street to the pizza parlor.  He stopped when he heard the growl, studying the area around them, Dean behind him.  "You're not touching the kid.  I don't care what you are."

"Get away from my son," Xander growled, coming out of the alleyway.  "Dean."

"Um..." he said, backing away from both of them.  He grabbed the phone and called Buffy's.  "Two Xander's."  He looked up.  "Coffee shop."  He hung up and stood in the closed doorway.

The first Xander looked at the second one.  "I don't know who you think you are."

Xander stepped closer.  "You really can't dress like me, you might as well give it up."

Sam came jogging over, Buffy behind him.  "Xander!"  They both stared at him.  "Dean, the skinwalker!"

Dean looked then at them. "I can't shoot them both.  Also it hasn't killed Mom."

"No, he's on patrol with us," Buffy said.

"No, I got there late," Xander said dryly, the growling one.  "Dean and I were talking earlier."

"Talking?" the first one said.

"No, we were," Dean agreed.  "One of you tell me where my birthmark is."

"Better yet, let's see the stomachs, guys," Buffy ordered.  "Unless you know Xander you don't know to put that there."

"It reads in his aura," Sam said quietly. "Shirts off, guys."  The growly one took off his.  The other one took off his.  No flaps.  Sam let out a small growl.  He looked at the one with them, who pulled his up, no flap either.

"It's a fucking convention!" Dean said.

"Maybe," Sam agreed.  "Buffy, silver.  To the heart."

"But... they're Xander."

"No, they're not Xander's."  He called home.  "Where are you?"  He smiled.  "Why are you taking the east cemetery route?"  Buffy groaned, slapping herself on the head.  "That's fine.  Stay there.  Watch out for multiple yous."  He hung up.  "He's off on the east route, where we were supposed to start.  Dean, inside the store."  Dean jogged off.  Sam pulled a gun and shot the three around him, watching as they fell dead.  Someone gasped.  He looked over.  "They're not my Xander.  I don't know what they're doing but they're not my Xander.  He's in Parkview."  Buffy snickered.  "He is.  Picking up Spike."  He pulled out a knife and cut off the borrowed skin, peeling it off.  "These are skinwalkers."

"Interesting.  How did you know?"

"One took Dean's identity and ended up dying while wearing it because he had me," Sam said honestly.  "He was accused of killing a few people because of it."  Dean came back out with a new gun, switching off with him.  "What did I say?" he demanded.  "I know you know how to mind."

"Do you need chocolate?" Dean asked dryly.  He walked off shaking his head.  "I hate those things."

Xander and Spike came walking over.  "Hmm, many shirtless Xanders."  He pulled up his to show the bandage, taking it off to show the flap, then he kissed Sam.  "The son didn't see, right?"

"He was in the store.  We've handled these things in the past; he had to kill himself."

"My parents would have a lot to say about that," Willow said.

Xander looked at her.  "Wasn't your ankle wrapped on the other side?"  She opened her mouth.  "WILLOW!"  She looked out of the shop.  "Which ankle is wrapped?"

"Right, but who's she?  Is she the vamp me?"

"No, skinwalkers," Sam called.  "Guard Dean for me please?"  He shot the not-Willow.  "How many of these things are there?"  One of them came out of the shadows to pounce him, trying to fight with him.  This one he could kick the ass of and Xander had the gun when he backed off.  Xander shot it from behind.  Two shots to the heart, one slightly off to the side.  Sam slumped, looking at him.  "Thanks, dear."

"Welcome, snuggly one."  He grinned.  Sam took the gun back, staring at him.  "I'm allowed to call you pet names."

"We ran into a congrie," Spike said.

"Oh, yeah, the stupid candy demons," Buffy said.  "They make us do and say stupid stuff."  She walked Xander off, putting him inside the store too.  "Make sure he's Xander please?"  Willow did something and nodded.  "Good.  Keep him here.  He ran into a stupid candy demon."  She walked back and met herself.  "That might be a problem.  Can they take skills?"

"Some can," Sam said.  The not slayer attacked and Buffy was hard pressed to kill it but Spike grabbed the not-her during the fight and snapped it's neck, eating from it.  "Huh.  The chip can tell.  Interesting use."

Spike growled.  "I hate the headache, Winchester."

A cop came running up.  "Freeze!"  Sam looked at him.  "You?"

"Not humans," Sam said, pointing at the one he had removed some of the skin from.  Buffy moved to remove the limp skin from hers.  The other two were skinned too.  The cop gaped at them in horror.  "Sorry.  They're trying to take on real people's identities.  Silver to the heart is the only way to kill it."

"Aliens?" he demanded.

"No, just annoying," Sam promised.  He walked off to report that.

Willow came limping out.  "We can do a spell to drive them off and make them shed their last skins," she announced.  "Tara?"  She came to help her.  Two hours later, the rest of them around town screamed and ran off, ripping off their old skins on the way.  Willow beamed at Sam.  "How's that?"

"Warn Angel," John ordered.  "They're a big problem."  Buffy moved to call down there. He shook his head.  "That's how Dean died?"

"Yeah, he had to kill the one pretending to be him who had me," Sam told him.

"Charming," Xander said, patting Dean on the back.  He was asleep next to him.  "The other problem?"

"So cute!" Buffy cooed.  "It's three feet tall and has pokey things.  I nearly laughed myself into having an accident."

"Dead," John assured him.  "I shot it when she nearly had the accident."  Xander smirked at that.  "Let's see the stomach, kid."

Xander showed him.  "The labor hurt, took nearly two hours and I couldn't have drugs."

"You know, the one who had Dean was slightly telepathic," Sam teased.

"Sweetie, if you *ever* want to have ass sex again, shut up," Xander told him, giving him a look.  Sam laughed and kissed him.

"Not overtop of me!" Dean complained.  He moved.  "I don't need to know more about gay sex.  I like women.  Give me a sister or something," he said, sounding grumpy.

"Awww, someone's grumpy," Buffy cooed.

Dean gave her a look. "Finish that, watch me paint all your clothes with stuff to weaken the fabric so you end up naked your next fight."

"Then you'd get to help me shop," she said smartly.

"Only if you found me."  He gave her a look.  "I can plant a camera too, that way Spike has pictures for the underground who wants to see you naked."  She walked off blushing.  "Just an offer."  He smiled and waved.  Xander leaned over to smack him on the head.  "Ow!"  He looked.  "You said no spanking or I'd turn into you."

"You just did.  Go apologize or I'm tanning your ass."  Dean nodded, going to apologize to her.  He shook his head.  "Yes, that was my mouth he inherited," he said smugly.  Willow gave him a look.  "What?  Like I planted a camera in your room?  It would've embarrassed Tara."  Tara swatted him.

"Son, take him, cure him again," John said tiredly.

"This isn't a smutty mind, Dad," Sam said.  He looked at Xander.  "Are you possessed?"

"Am I supposed to answer that?"

Spike groaned.  "Yes, he is."  He let them do the exorcism, no matter how much Xander struggled.  Sam was good, he got both the spirits out of there within minutes.  "He good?"

Sam was pounced and kissed. "Yup," he said between kisses.  "Normal."

Buffy came back with Dean.  "Eww!  Go home and do that!  Some of us are dateless and it's mean to make out in front of us unless you're sharing!"

"Me first," Anya pouted.  "No fair doing that and not sharing, Sam!"

Sam got up and grabbed Dean.  "Did he apologize?"  Buffy nodded.  "Good.  We're going to make sure he's not possessed the same way his mother was."  He carried Dean out, letting him toss the keys back at their dad on the way out the door.  Xander got drug out by John and handed over. "Thanks.  Call us off work tomorrow?"   He got in to drive them home, taking Xander to cure his smutty mind.  He ended up doing another exorcism to get the incubus out of him but that was fine too.  It had made an interesting bout of sex that time.  He had been directing from the back of Xander's mind.

Downstairs, Dean had his head under the pillow, trying to block them out.  "Don't forget to claim him, Mom!" he finally yelled.

"Shut up, son, or no sister ever," Xander called back.

"Meany."  He put his head back under the pillow and eventually fell asleep that way.   It was weird thinking about what his parents were doing and he did *NOT* need to know.

Sam rolled over on top of Xander, kissing him.  "Still thinking?"

"I'm not sure I can handle this at the slower pace," he said quietly.

"I think you'll do great at it."  Xander grinned and took a kiss.  "Now, what's this I said about calling off work?"

"You did say that, yes.  I was wondering why."

"Because I have to go christmas shopping for the heathen downstairs and so do you."

"I asked, he said to get him something practical."

"Of course he did.  What did he want?"

"A new gun or knife or something like that."

"Hmm.  Nope."  He took a kiss with a grin.  "I have an idea.  Go with me?"  Xander nodded.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  He should be spoiled since it is technically his first christmas.  I was going to get him a membership for the gun range too."

"He'll like that," Sam promised, stroking over his stomach.  "You know, no matter what, I'm not leaving."  He looked at him again.  "Not even when you try to drive me away."

Xander flipped him over.  "Sam, you couldn't stand to do this for years on end and I can't travel like you guys do.  I like to travel but not that much.  I want to see things, not make quiet entrances and quick exits from small towns."

"There's a way around that."

Xander kissed him.  "Let's not talk about this tonight?  Please?  I'm tired and you'll be a brute for sex in the morning."  He cuddled in.  "Besides, Dean has to make his decision so you can make yours."

"Fine," he said dryly, looking down at him.  Xander was already asleep, or a reasonable facsimile of being asleep, so he smiled and settled in to stroke and cuddle his mate.  Even if he wouldn't take that final step, any of them, and it was driving him nuts.   He and Dean would talk tomorrow while Xander found his present.  See what they had talked about earlier when he had heard them talking and left.


Xander looked at Sam, then at the holiday celebration they had walked in from work on.  "Are we going to go blind from all the tinsel?" Xander called.  Everyone stared at him.  "Morning.  Why are you decorating my place instead of Buffy's mom's?"

"We feel like it," Buffy said happily. "Dean should have a tree this year.  Since I know you guys weren't going to put one up we did.  Bastest has been very helpful."  She pointed upstairs.  "She was trying to eat the Solstice stuff."

"Ah," Sam said, going to check on their very unhappy cat, watching as she ran for the litterbox.  "Thanks."  He looked at Dean, who shrugged.  It was two weeks to Solstice.  "Fine with us."  Xander gave him a look.  "What?"

"That means they get to come over at dawn on Christmas morning for presents."

"We'd be on our way to Joyce's," Sam pointed out.

"That means I have to wear pants to bed that night and you have to wait longer for your present."

Sam smirked back.  "We can get dressed when they break in."  The cat came back to nuzzle his leg, letting him pick her up to pet her.  "What's wrong?  Did the shiny stuff scare you?" he asked her, earning a purr.

"She's being a butt," Willow told him.  "Why did you guys get a familiar anyway?"

"She was Annabelle's last kitten," Dean said quietly.  "Annabelle was special to me and Sammy wanted to spoil Xander with a pet."  He took his cat and sat down to pet her, watching what was going on.  "It's lopsided."

"We know," Tara assured him.  "We're not strong enough to tighten it down."  Sam got down to tighten the tree while they got it straight with Dean's guidance.  Dean finally came over to help place ornaments with the ladies while Xander made eggnog and Sam undid the lights.  Tara went over to get a drink, hugging Xander.  "You can help."

He looked at her.  "Then the fight would start and I'll have to sleep on the roof."

"It won't.  Sam would never make you sleep anywhere other than the balcony," she teased.

"Don't tempt him.  He was eating beans earlier," Dean shouted.  Willow tickled him and Sam helped.  He kicked Sam but was more gentle with Willow until he finally bit her gently to get free.

"Hey!  Have you had your rabies shot?" she demanded.  "And where has your mouth been?"

Dean started to open his mouth to say 'less interesting places than yours has been if you're good to Tara' but Sam covered it. "Don't need to air that thought, Dean.  Unless you want to be doing PT all night?"  Dean shook his head so he uncovered it.  "Go help your mother."  Dean went to do that while he got back to doing the lights for them.  He was taller so he could reach the star to plug the light in up there.

Dean hugged Xander.  "Helping?"

"I am helping.  I'm feeding you guys."

Dean looked at him.  "There's not going to be a fight, Xander."

"You're not Willow's parents."

"Yay me, I'm never going to ignore my kids.  There's still not going to be a fight."  He pulled him away from the stove, bringing him over to help.  Willow gave him a horrified look.  "What?  He should help, it's our tree."

"He doesn't do trees, Dean.  I'm not sure he does Christmas outside the Charlie Brown special."

"We watch those?" Sam asked hopefully.  "I haven't seen one in years."

"Yeah, we always watch them," Xander told him.

"Xander can even Snoopy Dance," Willow said proudly.

Dean looked at Xander.  "Usually you can't dance at all."  Xander stuck his tongue out then smirked at him.

"We dance together very well," Sam protested.

"That's because you don't dance either," Dean reminded him.  He sat down to help with the lower lights, looking at his cat.  "Don't chew on this.  It'll hurt you."  She meowed and batted at him, getting a pet back.  She loved on him then went to pounce Xander to love on him, making him sit down to pet her since she was trying to climb him.

"Sure, Bastest, I'll pet you."  He stroked her.  "Put the green one higher so it'll look even," he said.  Willow gave him an odd look.  "It'll balance out the shiny one on the other side."

"You're lopsided," Willow told him, putting it where she wanted it.  Sam moved it on her.  "Hey!"

"Our tree," he said dryly, giving her a look.  She pouted but let it go.  Even if he agreed that Xander was wrong but they weren't supposed to be perfectly even.  It wasn't a decorator tree.   He smiled at Xander, going to get some eggnog for him and Dean.  "No liquor, right?" he teased Tara.

"Oh, no.  None in the house."  She finished pouring mugs, handing them out with him.  She snuggled in beside Xander, petting the cat with him.  "You're very helpful, Bastest.  That's why we have a small ceramic tree at the dorm."  She purred at her but stayed snuggled in her father's arms.  "She's very comfy here."

"She's been visiting the witch up the street again," Xander said dryly.  "Even when we don't leave the balcony open she ends up smelling like Old Lady Marple's perfume."  Willow shuddered.  "Familiars pick their owners.  I know that."  He went back to petting her.

"I'm getting her a locating chip," Sam said.

"Put one on yourself while you're at it so I quit losing you too," Dean joked.  "Plus an alarm in case you're ever possessed again."

"I need to make one of those for Xander," Willow told him, giving Xander a look.

"You need to learn how to banish first," Xander said, giving her a look back.  "Before the next time you and Anya call up an incubus for sex tips and it decides I'm a fun residence too."

She gave Sam a horrified look.  "I didn't..."

"I pulled it out of him, Willow.  That's where he said he came from."

"Oh, poop," she muttered.

Tara looked at Willow.  "We'll be talking later."

"Yes, Tara," she said meekly.  Tara smiled and gave her a kiss so she knew she was only in a little bit of trouble instead of major trouble.

"Now I remember why I liked...."  Xander nudged him with his foot.  "Sorry, older thought again."

Xander looked at Dean.  "I've noticed those coming back.  Aren't you a bit young?"

"No, I noticed them before, just couldn't do anything with them."

"Fine."  He stood up, handing Tara the cat.  "Come on, son."

"But...." he pointed.

Xander checked the clock.  "We'll be back within an hour.  There'll still be tinsel wars by then."  He pulled him up and walked him off.  "There are ways of expressing those urges in a socially acceptable manner that won't get you more than looks and the occasional pat on the shoulder from a woman who'll point out that women aren't built like that."  He got them into his car and took them to his favorite shop, weathering the odd look.  "You can't walk around with a Playboy all day, Dean.  Or a Hustler.  You can walk around with a comic or manga and they have their own version of porn with some of the nicest built women you've ever seen."  He walked him inside, getting his usual ones handed over.  "Thank you.  This is my son Dean.  He's ten now.  I'm showing him the better version of Playboy."  The comic shop owner laughed and pointed.  He walked Dean around the store, picking up a few things, then stopped in one back corner, handing him one of the books there.  "Flip through it."

Dean opened it and gaped.  "She's...."  He stared at Xander.  "Wow.  No, I've never met a woman built like that."

"Yup, and you can carry that around allllll day long and only get fond looks and maybe an occasional geek comment."  He handed him the other stuff and a new book, plus a DVD.  "Because you can watch it with your Dad and freak him out.  Either one."  He smirked.  Dean looked at it, gaping in awe.  "Anime and Manga are the Japanese answer to letting out those social urges.  Everyone from kids on up to really old men read those sort of things.  And people wonder why I used to be a comic book geek."  Dean gave him a hug, getting a grin and a pat.  "Come on.  Let's check out."  They checked out together and Xander paid, taking him back home.  "There you go."

Dean put things up so he could finish decorating the tree with the family, including his father since he was off work.  It was fun and the girls had quit fighting.  Even if that one ornament was going to drive him insane.  Xander moved it on them and put it back where it should go.  The others groaned.  John groaned the loudest.  But oh well, it was the family tree and Xander was the mom in this family.  The others finally left for dinner and Dean brought out one of his comic books, getting a horrified look from Sammy and his father giving him an odd one.  He showed his dad why with a leer.  "Xander pointed out no one will give me more than geeky looks for carrying it around like I would a Playboy."

"Son, once it starts working, you have a year to get it under control.  Just like last time we had to have this talk."  He put the comic book aside but Xander gave it back to him.  "You can't support that."

"If he's going to look at naked women I'd rather have him look at naked cartoon women than real ones, John.  At least until he's old enough to go to the titty bar with me."  John gaped at him, looking horrified.  Xander gave him a look. "I tried to road trip right after graduation and broke down in Oxnard."  John shuddered.  "Yeah, I worked at the Nite."  He went back to cooking.

Sam picked up the comic to look at.  "I've never seen a pair of those that were natural."

"Me either, but the comic ones looks a lot better than the plastic surgery one," Xander told him.  "Plus it's socially acceptable.  He can carry it around all day if he wants.  They're cheaper than Hustlers or Penthouses.  If he doesn't get them nasty or wrinkled they could be worth something some day."  He grinned. "Most of them are even PG or PG-13 at the most until you get into hentai."

"That would be porn, Xander," Sam said firmly.  "Not until he's sixteen."

"That's only in six months," Dean reminded him.  Sam glared.  He grinned back.  "This way women will think I'm cute and have no clue what to do with a woman until I prove the first one wrong.  Because I do have those memories too."  He got back to his comic book but his father took it away from him and Xander handed it back, smacking John on the head as he walked past him.  "Mom rules the house," Dean quipped, shifting away from John this time.

Sam went to look at the stuff they had brought home, confiscating the DVD.  "Not until you're old enough to try it out."

Dean took it and pointed at the rating. "PG-13, Sammy.  I'm allowed to watch those. You let me."  He grinned and went back to it.

"It's not hentai, dear," Xander said smugly.  "He has to specially order those or download them.  I will warn you, when you do start doing that, you'll run into a lot of stuff with consent issues.  So if that bothers you be careful of what you download," Xander told Dean.  Who nodded.

"Not on my laptop he's not," Sam said dryly.  "Or in the public library.  They won't let you either, Dean."

"Your laptop's older and Willow has high speed downloading," Xander quipped happily.   "That's how we got the movie collection."  Sam walked off groaning. "Speaking of, I got the new Batman off her earlier, Dean.  Wanna watch with me?"

"Sure, Mom."

"I want to preview this DVD first," John ordered.  Sam handed it to him.  He went to watch it on the set in the boys' bedroom, blinking at it.  "Why are they in chainmail bikinis?" he called.

"Because the Japanese wanted them in chainmail bikinis," Xander called back.  "The same as there's a sports network that shows bikini wearing women in combat boots doing shooting contests."

"Now *that's* my sport," Dean said happily.  "Do we get it here?"

"Only if you want to pay for digital cable," Xander quipped.  "And block out the dog fighting channel."  He looked at Sam.  "You let him watch mud wrestling with you."

"Point," he muttered, walking off shaking his head to preview this DVD too.  He sat on the foot of his bed, staring at it.  "It has a plot, I'm amazed."  They kept going.  Except for the heroine using a really long, phallic sword while wearing a chainmail bikini that barely covered her butt cheeks or nipples, he couldn't object to it.   John stomped off grumbling.  Sam came down the stairs and got handed a plate of food.  "It wasn't bad.  It has a plot, which is nice.  You can watch it but you have to get a lecture from Willow and/or Tara and/or Giles on the societal reasons behind Manga and Anime."  Dean shrugged, he could block that out when the girls started to rant.

"Speaking of, I have to go to that swap meet tomorrow after work," Xander said, eating a bite of dinner.  Dean gave him a look.  "No, there'll be hentai there, Dean.  Probably showing.  John would try to spank me if I brought you.  When you're sixteen I'll bring you."  Dean shrugged but nodded and dug in.  His comics were safe enough for now.  "You know, there's two that deal with supernatural creatures and we've found they actually got a lot of facts right," Xander said.  John dropped his fork to stare at him in horror.  He grinned and nodded.  "I picked up one of them.  The other comes out next week."  He ate another bite.

Sam went to find Xander's stack of comics, finding which one it was.  He came down waving it, getting a nod.  He sat down to read it over.  "I've heard of a few of these."

Xander leaned over.  "According to Giles' books, this one is right and real.  That one's real but not fully correct, more based on mythology, and that one's real and right.  The one controlling everything is one that's never been heard about so we don't know.  The imps are fully wrong and so are the last two things in the ep because they close out every one."  He went back to eating.

Sam went back to reading.  "That can't be right."  He looked at Xander. "I know it's not right."

"The one we fought and the books say it is."

"The one we fought wasn't," Sam complained.

"Sunnydale," Dean quipped.  He took it to look at then at Xander.  "Which books?"

"The green one in the back of the reading room.  It's the only mention any of us could find on it.  I asked.  About a year ago he did a full summoning rite volume and only missed one step to call up a Highest demon.  That's the level of D'Hoffryn."  Dean shuddered.  "So he's got the books at the very least.  He depends on mythology a lot.  We've had a few kids who've come in to ask if some things are real.  Depending on the kid and which one of us they ask we tell them.  I usually give honest answers.  Willow says no.  Giles is cautious unless the kid's from a family that already knows about witches."  He ate another bite, waving his fork.

"May I?" John asked, getting it from Sam.  He looked it over, blinking at some of it.  "This is how that stupid little brat got that rite that annoyed us last week," he said.  Xander smirked and nodded.  "The one last month?"

"It was in May of last year.  That's how I knew to cancel it.  I usually take a day to research each issue to see if there's anything we can deal with.  Just in case."  He stuffed his mouth again, winking at Dean.  Once he had swallowed he looked at him. "He swears up and down he's going to be summoning a succubus next month. We'll have to see."

"Is he here?" Dean asked.

"No.  We think he's the son or grandson of a Watcher.  We're not really sure."

"Damn it," Dean said.  "Have we run into them?"  Sam nodded.  "Repeatedly?"

"A few times.  Do we have the other issues?"

"With complete research on each of the creatures, monsters, and rites he uses," Xander agreed. "In the closet in the box marked dangerous."

"I'll go through it later," John said, putting that one down too.  "It's an instruction manual."

"He weaves a good story around it," Xander told him.  "I know kids who read it for the story, not the mystical stuff."

"Interesting.   And here I thought they were frivolous trash."

"You know, Willow found this out, the guy who created Wonder Woman did it because there weren't any good female role models in comics for girls to aspire towards, not only as a patriotic model but as a leader in a female body.  He's the guy who created the lie detector."

"Stanford had a class on the physics of comic books," Sam admitted. "It's a tough class to get into.  It closes really quickly for a higher level physics class.  I heard MIT has one too."

"Our evil geek trio have arguments over their comics of choice.  One's a Marvel boy, one's a DC boy, and one likes them both and independents.  It's his brother that runs the shop."

"Evil geek trio?" John asked, looking confused.

"Ah, you haven't met them.  Have you seen the Buffybot?"  Sam choked.  "He has apparently.  They built her.  It's fantastic.  Looks and sounds like her.  Can't tell the difference when she's doing her airhead act.  Runs on science that Willow can't fully describe in little words.  They only want to take over the world so we hear from them now and then but they're nice enough guys most of the time.  Two of them will be at the swap meet tomorrow."  He cleaned his plate and went to get seconds.  "Dean?"

"Please," he said, cleaning his plate and bringing it in, sharing a conspiratorial wink with his mom.  He was so cool sometimes!  He had managed to freak out his dad with a comic book.  Now *that* was a skill.


Dean opened his eyes on Christmas morning.  Someone was howling.  He got up to look at the cat.  "Are we bored?" he asked.  "I can play with you."  He looked at the tree.  The ornament had been shifted back by Sam before he went to bed.  He shifted it for Xander, liking where it was now that he was used to it.  He fed the cat and cleaned her litterbox, which they had forgotten.  She used it while he was doing that.  "Thank you, very helpful, Bastest.  Do I have any other presents coming from you?"  She walked off, going to stare at the twinkling tree.  "Who plugged it in?" he asked quietly.  It had been shut off and he knew the 'rents had went to bed at the same time he had.  He had stayed up reading for an hour and they had been snoring by then.  He looked at the presents, seeing some very fancy ones.  Anya had given to charity, her one time a year by using the charity wrapping people in the mall.  He looked at the other stuff.  One made him look around.  It was still dark.  "Dru," he said quietly, staring around.  She came out of the bathroom.  "Were you cleaning?  Mom will appreciate not having to make Sammy clean the shower."

"Such a silly cub," she said, coming over to stroke his cheek.  He pulled his face away.  "Spirited too.  Very good, cub."  She stared at him, smiling a bit.  "You'll be so lovely when you finish growing.  Just what Mummy needs to make her better."

"My mom's fine," Dean said dryly.  He glanced at the door, still closed and someone was snoring.  He looked at her again.  "I'm not going to be turned, Dru."

She giggled and kissed him on the forehead.  "We shall see.  The stars told Miss Edith you are going to be my little prince.  Like my William, only naughtier.  Such a naughty cub."  She ran a fingernail down his nose, giggling when he batted at her.  "Silly cub.  You'll learn to like Mummy's touch.  Very soon now."  She inhaled.  "Dirtiness like that should be cleaned and then have you fixed."

"Sorry, gotta give Sammy nephews to make him go nuts."  She gave him a pout.  "Not working, Dru.  Go away.  Now.  I'm not going to let you hurt my family.  They won't yell at me if I stake you."

"Silly one.  There's no stakes here."  Dean pulled out his from his back waistband, earning a frown.  "Little cubs should not play with weapons."  She tried to take it but he punched her.  She smiled.  "That's my good cub.  You'll learn very well.  I left you a special present and one for your Mummy as well."  She leaned closer.  "Don't worry, you won't miss them for long, my prince.  They'll be pretty kittens with you and we'll be a happy family again."  She walked out of the house and down the stairs to the front door.

"We have *got* to find out how she does that," Dean shouted.  Sam opened the bedroom door.  "Dru was here.  She left me and Xander a present."

"Is she Santa?" Sam asked.

"I don't know.  But I'm going to take Spike's place for her."

"Uh-huh," Sam said, nodding some.  "Where was she?"

"Bathroom."  They went to look, finding the small sliding portal that used to be for a dumbwaiter or a laundry tube.  They groaned, sealing it for the night.  They'd let Xander fix it in the morning.  They headed back to bed, Bastest climbing in with Dean.  He looked at her.  "That's a good reason to howl.  Thank you, sweetheart."  He petted his cat, making her happy to snuggle with him.


Xander came down the next morning after the first squeal.  He opened the door on the way to the coffeemaker, grunting at it since it was empty and on.  Sam gently moved him two steps to the right and turned off the empty pot before it burned.  Xander grunted at the coffee mug that was full and light and creamy, how he liked.  He leaned over to sniff then looked around.  "Who put plasma in my coffee!" he demanded.

"Dru might've rinsed your cup for you," Dean said from his chair with his new comic book.  "We found out how she's getting in."  Xander walked out and picked him up to look at him.  "Want me to speak slower?" he asked dryly.

"Make more sense.   Dru is not Santa.  Santa is a demon who likes to kill kids."

"She was using the old dumbwaiter or laundry tube hole," Sam told him.  "Put Dean down, Dear.  You can have my coffee."  He waved it and Xander let their son sit down, taking it to inhale it.  Someone was already making a second pot and was washing Xander's cup for him.

Joyce walked in and looked around.  "We're all here?"

"Dru broke in last night," Sam said with a grin.

"Santa's a demon who eats kids?" Dean asked Buffy.

"Yeah, has been for years.  He snuck down to eat a few kids every year.  The present thing Giles explained to me but went *way* over my head.  Ask him."  She gave him a hug.  "I see Xander got you his version of slutty women instead of the normal one."  She walked off shaking her head, adjusting the ornament.  Xander swatted at her and put it back.  "Fine, you win.  Your tree."

Xander looked at Joyce, still looking confused.  "Shouldn't we be at your house?"

"It's Dean's first christmas, of course we're all here, Xander."  Xander nodded and headed back to the coffee pot.

"We found how Dru was getting in last night," Dean said.

"Good," Buffy agreed.  "Have we sealed it up?"

"We're waiting on Mom to wake up.   Mom, Dru left you a present."

"Dru might eat babies and wear red velvet but she doesn't leave presents, son."

"She comes up through the bathroom," Sam said.  Xander took his third cup that way once he had inhaled his second one, finding the spot they had left open.  Then he went to get his tools and went back to close the sucker.  Sixteen nails later and it was well sealed.  Nothing was getting up it.  Not even air.  He walked back out, dropping his toolbelt beside the door.  He picked up Dean and sat down, putting him back on his lap.  He looked at the comic book.  "Not the supernatural one?"

"Nah, I'll do those later this week," Dean said with a grin.  "Does she always wear that outfit?"  He pointed at one.

"The White Queen?  Sometimes.  Sometimes it's thigh highs and a white bikini with a cape."  He shrugged.  "They have a *fine* appreciation for her form."

Joyce looked.  "Real women aren't built like that, Dean," she said patiently, giving him a pat on the head.  She went to look at the tree.  Xander and Dean shared a look.  If Dean had been reading a Playboy he would've been beaten.  He could stand being patted on the head for looking at semi-naked drawn women.

"We've said he can't watch the DVD Xander got him featuring the chainmail bikini warrior with the sword until one of you ladies or Giles has a talk about the societal reason for anime," Sam said.

Willow looked at him.  "Because guys in Japan are too polite to look at the slutty stuff you usually would.  They created it to blow off that steam easier.  Though, do watch out for consent issues in the harder stuff.  Some of the stuff I've downloaded for Xander through the years has had some now and then."

"Sure.  Thanks."

Giles looked at him.  "No reading filth."

"He's going to get into the supernatural one next week, Giles," Sam told him.

Giles sighed, taking off his glasses to clean them.  "Yes, I've seen that one a few times, Samuel.  He comes in to research the creatures, usually with a D&D Monstrous Compendium as well, which does have some of ours in it admittedly, then gives me a short index list of what was in it and how wrong they got it."  He put back on his glasses.  "I would like to find the little toad who draws that one and throttle him for a few hours."

"Next month is succuba," Xander said dryly.

"Oh dear lord," he muttered, going to make himself some tea.  "We'll be overrun."

"They'll come for Xander anyway," Dean said dryly.  "Easy enough to get them that way."

Buffy snickered, then coughed to hide it.  "Yeah, that might be a plan," she agreed.  Her mother and Sam gave her a look.  "What? I'm not suggesting Sam share.  We all know he doesn't share.  He wouldn't even share his chocolate with me when I had PMS."

"I got it for Xander," he defended.

She pouted.  "I needed it more.  He doesn't need more.  He gets bouncy."

"I like him bouncy," Sam countered with a smirk.

"Eww, gay boy sex," she complained. "No gay boy sex on christmas morning."  She looked at him.  "At least you're dressed.  Didn't get the special present last night?"

"I did and it was good.  I slept like a baby until Dean complained about Dru."

"Even through Bastest yowling," Dean agreed dryly.  His dad walked in, did a quick head count, then closed the door.  "We're all here.  Who gets first present?  I can't figure out which ones came from Dru yet."

"Excuse me?" John demanded.

"Showed up just before dawn, Dad," Sam told him.  "Bastest woke Dean.  Xander sealed how she got in just now."  Xander grunted, half asleep again.  It was two hours too early for him to be up yet. Sam smiled, taking a picture of Xander snoring into the back of Dean's head.

"You did it often enough, bitch," Dean joked.

"Oh, whine, jerk.  Like you didn't enjoy every single minute since you're always cold."

"Boys, no calling each other names," Joyce snapped.  "Not until he's old enough to roll around on the floor with you."

"Yes, Joyce," they said in unison.

"Gee, Mom, ready just in case Xander has another one?" Buffy joked.  She found a few presents in the tree itself and pulled them down.  "Here's Dru's."  She handed them to Giles, who handed them to Dean.

He opened his, finding a music CD.  "Opera.  Yay me."  He handed it to Giles. "More your strength than mine."  He found the gift certificate folded in the card.  "Can I keep the fifty bucks to the music store?"  Sam and John both nodded.  He put that aside and opened the small box for Xander, looking at the pearly white solution.  "I have no idea what you are."

Willow took it to look at closer.  "Probably ruined by now since it looks like it should be frozen."  She went to put it on a kitchen shelf then came back.  "Okay.  Real presents?"  Everyone settled around, Dean staying where he was.  If he moved Xander would flinch awake and be unhappy.  "Let's let Dean open his first since it's his first holiday," she suggested, sorting them out by person and passing them as efficiently as any dealer ever had in Vegas.  John shoved the coffee table closer to Dean so he could reach his stash.

"Wow, I cleaned up," he said happily.  The 'before' pictures were taken and picked up the first one.  "From...  Cordelia sent me something?  Interesting."  He opened it, finding a nice plain, ordinary henley style shirt in dark green.  "Awww.  It's even in my normal size."

"It'll look good against your eyes too," Buffy said.  "Plus it's dark enough for sneaking around in at night."

"It is," Dean agreed happily.  In the bottom was a small gift certificate to a local store.  "And a gift certificate so I don't dress like Mom."  He showed it and grinned, letting them take pictures.  He put it aside.  He could wear that soon enough.  "How did she know my usual size?"

"Probably asked one of the hunters, who asked Ellen," John said.  "That'd make sense."  He pushed over one.  "Here, mine."

Dean looked, smiling at it.  Totally practical.  "I needed a new gun cleaning kit and a new whetstone, thanks, sir."  He grinned and put it aside.  He found one from Giles, smiling at the instruction book on how to pick up women.  He grinned at him.  "I needed the help?"

"With the dreadful lines you've used on the ladies in the last few months, yes," he said blandly.  Buffy and Willow both giggled.  "If not, pass it onto siblings so you can teach them better."

"I can do that.  Thank you, Giles."  He put it aside and found Willow's shifting closer magically.  "Is it alive?  Or did you maybe wrap fish?" he asked.

"No, I got your cat some gourmet cat food."  She smirked.  "The funny thing was, his parents actually put them in a glass of water expecting them to be alive."  Dean and Sam both shook their heads. "Yeah.  I didn't mean to give him dead pets, but that was worse.  Open it!"

He opened it, smiling at the new music.  "Thanks, Willow.  I do like them."  He gave her a quick hug, getting more pictures taken.  He found a light pink envelope with kitties, knowing it was Tara's gift, so he opened it next.  He cackled and got up to hug her, making Xander wake up and mumble, then curl up on his side.  "Give me a second, Mom.  Let me hug Auntie Tara for getting me leather pants."

"Buffy said everyone should have one pair," she said with a shy smile.  "You can wear them to the Renfair with me next weekend if you want."

Dean nodded. "I'll go with you.  It's a good way to learn swordwork.  Plus leer at pretty girls who expect it."  She pinched him so he laughed before going back to his seat.  Xander pulled him closer, tucking him in next to him to hold.  "Can't reach the presents, Mom."  Xander snored in his ear.  More pictures were taken, making him shake his head.  "He's going to kick himself for missing this."

"I've had the camera set up since I got up," Sam assured him.  "Besides, he was trying to put together your other present late last night after you finally fell asleep."  He handed over the others.  "So you don't wake him up."

Dean grinned, letting them take another picture.  "Pretty soon I'll be in magazines," he joked with a grin.  A few more got taken by Tara, making him snicker.  He opened the next envelope.  "Thanks, Buffy.  I could use the new t-shirts."  She grinned.  He put that gift certificate aside.  He had plenty of clothes for now but for later he might need some.  He had two last envelopes.  One was unmarked.  One was in black with satanic symbols.  That had to be Sam's.  It fit his quirky sense of humor.  He opened the plain one, smiling at Joyce.  "Thanks, Grandma."  He gave her a hug.  "She got me a year's membership to the gun range."

"We were going to but she said she did," Sam agreed.  "Before you ask, the other one's from Missouri."

He opened it, smiling at it.  "To the shop in New Orleans we get ammo out of.  I'll call her later."

"She said you're welcome and don't worry about it.  She'd have crying people all day over family stress."  Everyone gave him odd looks.  "She's a psychic."

"Oh," Buffy said.  "Wow.  I should see her.  See when I'm going to die the next time." Joyce, Willow, and Giles all swatted her.

"Isn't the primary group rule don't get dead?" Dean asked dryly.

"Yeah but I'm special and I've already bent it once."  She smirked.  "We should find out the next one so Xander can warp that prophecy too.  Plus so I can find a dress that I look as good in as I did last time."  Her mother swatted her again.  "Sorry, Mom, but I did get a lot of compliments on it."

She rolled her eyes.  "If I had known I would've gotten you something practical with weapons."

"I can't do goth, Mom.  I look stupid," she complained.  Xander shifted and dragged Dean to the other side, cuddling with him that way.  That got more pictures taken.  "He's still going to kick himself for missing this."

"Dean can't have his last present until Xander's awake," Sam assured her.  "He'll want to see that one the most.  He figured you guys got him clothes and music.  Who's next?"

"Me," Willow said, shifting so she could open her stack.  Mostly clothes and credit with Giles.

Giles looked at her.  "That should cover the book you just bought," he said dryly.  Everyone laughed.  He smiled at his stack of music and book gift certificates.  Plus a more practical one from John with the card of 'sometimes a man has to have it when the kids drive you nuts'.  He laughed at the certificate for the liquor store.  "Indeed," he assured him.

Willow swatted him.  "He doesn't need to drink.  Some of us are angels."  Giles and John both gave her looks, Joyce laughed.  "Fine.  Maybe not me...."  Joyce laughed louder.

"I can change yours out if you want," John offered her.

"I'm sure whatever you got me is very nice, John," she said with a smile, going onto her stack.  "The new holders I need.  Thank you."  She gave him a short hug.  Giles had gotten her the same thing.  "I needed a lot of those, so thank you both."  Giles got the same short hug.  The others were mostly small certificates to local stores: the coffee shop and bakery for the most part.  Xander had gotten her one to the post office.  She smiled.  "For the office correspondence and all the times he's stolen stamps from the office," she explained to the curious looks.  They smiled and nodded.  Xander had stolen stamps off Giles and the girls a few times too.  He never had stamps when he needed them and it was always after the post office was closed.

"Tara?  Or Buffy, ladies first?" Sam offered.  Tara blushed but opened hers, mostly practical things for her magic.  Xander had gotten her a gift certificate for the cat supplies she used, making her smile.  Sam had gotten her a good blank book so she could write her spells down.  He got a hug for it.  "They're important and some day you'll use them to train others," he said gently.  "Even my kids maybe."  She smiled and nodded.  Buffy had gotten her candles.  Willow had gotten her a new box for her herbs.  Giles had gotten her a new brazier for burning things on during spells, a silver one since her last one was only silver plated.  Joyce had gotten her one to her favorite clothing store, getting a shy smile too.

"Of course you need something new to wear, dear.  You have to be pretty for Willow."  She smiled brighter and nodded.

John looked over when she opened his.  "Every witch needs a good atheme and sword for their altar," he said casually.  "Yours sucked and was weak if you had to use it when someone summons another demon."

Willow squeaked.  "It was an accident."

Buffy shook her head.  "Don't remind me.  Please?  I got a screaming wake up at three in the morning.  The night before a test.  I was not a happy slayer."  She looked at them. "Mother of pearl handles.  That'll go well with your formal robe," she said happily.  Tara blushed but nodded at that.

"Thank you, John," she said.

"You're welcome, princess."  She blushed brighter.  "Where I got them is inside.  They carry some used regular swords too."  She smiled and tucked it into her lap, opening her last one.  It was a long letter from someone she knew back home.  Willow had tracked her down and sent her the college address so she could hear from her.  John sat up.  "My turn or do you want, Buffy?"

"You go.  I know most of mine are for clothes."

"Xander's isn't," Sam said.

She found his and opened it, bursting out laughing.  "He said I need a better dress so he got me one to the goth shop that the vamps shop in.  So I can get new leather pants, Mom."

"No you can't," she promised.

"Fine.  We'll see what I like there."  She looked.  The rest were clothing.  Tara had gotten her some hammered silver earrings.  She gave her a hug.  "They'll go good with the new outfits for the new boots."  Tara grinned and nodded.  "Maybe I'll find the time to get pretty for a good reason."

John opened his first one, smiling at the certificate for the range time.  "Thanks, Sam."

"Welcome.  Figured you and Dean would want to go again."  Dean grinned at him, looking a bit sleepy.  "If you fall asleep we'll wait breakfast for you.  Or at least hold some back."

"Thanks, Dru got me up."  He yawned and shifted to face Xander, curling up next to him to fall asleep that way, still cuddled.  More pictures were taken but he was cute, it was to be expected.

John smirked.  "I can hear the smartass thought from here."  He opened Dean's next, smiling at it.  "Ammo gift certificate.  I needed that."  He put it aside.  Buffy had gotten him a small one to a leather shop.  "Thanks, Buffy."

"Your jacket has rips.  You can get a repair kit or whatever.  They make the ones with the sprinkle on stuff."

"I'll find something good," he promised with a smile.  He kept opening.  Tara and Willow had gotten him a joint gift of a new pocket knife.  "Thanks, ladies.  It's a beautiful knife."  They both smiled at him.  Giles had gotten him one from the liquor store, making him laugh.  "Yes, I do need it with my boys playing," he said, cracking Giles up and getting a nod.  Joyce had gotten him a tasteful new journal.  "Thank you."

"Your old one was almost full."

He opened Xander's last, expecting something cutesy or odd.  Instead he got a certificate to the pawn shop.  He looked over, then held it up.  "Where is this place?"

Buffy beamed.  "I'll show you later.  They'll be open today."  He looked clueless.  "You know that shop down by Willie's?  The blue and black store with the painted windows?"  He nodded slowly.  "That's the local demonic thug's pawn shop for when they need money for beer at Willie's."  He smirked at that.  "He's gotten a few good pieces down there."

"I'll thank him later.  It's a good present for a hunter.  What did he get Dean?"

"You can wait," Sam told him.  He dug into his.  He grinned at all the clothing gift certificates from Willow, Buffy, Joyce, and Giles.  "Thanks, guys."

"Get something cute so Xander has to pounce you in the car in public again," Buffy quipped.

"Please not outside the store," Giles added.  "We don't need the watching vampires to have another orgy from it."

Joyce gave him a look.  "You are joking, right?"

"Nope, Mom.  They were making the black car rock and the vamps decided to come watch in awe since it was so very cute of them.  A few decided to grope.  One asked me to wait until she had happies before I staked her.  I was nice that night."  She grinned.  "Ten vamps without much problem."

"She complained because she wasn't getting any and a few of them reached for their belts so she had to point out they couldn't compete with Spike or Angel," Sam told her.  Joyce swatted her daughter for that.  "Buffy, the car's an Impala.  Dean will fuss if you call it anything else but his or the Impala.  He's got a private name for it but not even I can use it."

"What is it with guys and their cars?  That's not even a hormone alert car!"

"It's a muscle car," John said.  "It to be *my* muscle car.  Dean claimed it when he was a toddler.  It's been home to the boys for many years."

"Oh.  Okay," she said, shrugging some.  "I still don't understand.  I guess it's since I don't drive."  Sam nodded.  "Fine.  Why don't you have one?"

"Hard to travel with Dean in my own car," he told her.

"Oh."  Xander snuffled. "Are you waking up?  You need to open things."

Xander blinked at her.  "Ten more minutes.  Unless it's a demon?"


"You're not Santa either."  He closed his eyes, smiling when he felt Dean shift.  "There's my teddybear."

"Gonna punch," Dean mumbled.

"Help me open mine?" he whispered.  Dean blinked at him.  "Presents?"


"Mine.  Then you can have your last one later.  When it's actually light outside."

Dean grinned, sitting up and helping him with his.  Xander got the obligatory clothes from nearly everyone, because they all hated his shirts, workboots from Sam, and a kit and vise to help him sharpen swords.  Xander punched John on the shoulder for that with a sleepy nod.  Dean had gotten him a certificate to his favorite comic place, earning a hug.  "We'll go together," he promised. Dean smirked and nodded.  Xander stood up, putting Dean on his feet.  "I decided you were old enough when Sam brought the idea for your last one to me.  Though, try as I might, I could not put the sucker together.  You will follow every single damn rule or you will not have it and I will sell it on you.  You will wear proper safety gear.  You will even get help polishing her if you want.  Am I clear?"

"So far," he said cautiously.  "What's my other present?"  Sam picked up the camera and Xander led him out to the balcony, opening the doors behind the tree.  Sam got into position since he had Dean's eyes covered.  Xander uncovered his eyes, making him blink at the weak dawn light.  He looked around.  The lounge chair they cuddled in.  The small table for breakfast outside.  A large box.  He walked over, tapping it.  Nothing inside that he could hear moving.  He found the tape holding the side together and opened the flaps, gasping at what was inside.  "Oh.  My.  God," he whispered.  He pounced Sam then Xander.  "Until I can drive?" he said, grinning at him.

Xander nodded, grinning back.  "Until you can drive your car again.  I do mean it about the rules, the safety gear, all that."

"Sure, I can do that.  Do I already have it?"

"You can go pick it out when you get done later," he promised.  "Once you figure out how to put the stupid thing together.  Engines are not my forte."

"What did he get?" Buffy complained.  They opened the door wider.  There was the framework and bits and pieces of the engine to a dirt bike, all laying on a tarp.  It was jet black, had a black leather seat, and a place for a license.  "Wow, way expensive," Buffy complained.  "For six months?"

"It means I'm mobile again," Dean said, patting the seat.  "After me it goes to any kids we have.  That way they can learn how to drive before it's necessary."

"I learned when I was six," Xander said with a small shrug.

"I learned when I was eight," Dean said.  "Sammy when he was ten."  John nodded at that.  "Dad?  Tools?"  Xander pointed at the toolbox.  "Dad?  I'll need sockets and stuff."

"It's in the truck, son."  He handed over the keys, letting Dean run down to get the tools he'd need.  "That's a nice present, boys."

"He's used to driving everywhere.  It's mean to make him walk and he gets frustrated when we drive him places," Sam told him.  "It's a good compromise and safe enough for him, plus an added measure of safety in case something happens."  That got a nod and a smile from everyone.  "I'll help him with the construction, Xander."

Dean ran back in with the toolbox, tossing his dad the keys as he walked past him.  "Thank you!"  He gave him a hug and a kiss.  "Love you."

Xander walked into the kitchen.  He looked in the fridge.  "The looney bitch left what looks like a custard pie with stuff, a salad with fruit stuff, and a pitcher of red stuff."  Joyce came in to see what it was, tasting everything just in case.  She nodded. "Okay, if anyone wants anything else...."  He checked the stove.  "And cinnamon buns too."  Dean gave him an odd look.  "I don't know.  What did she want this time?"

"To tell me I'd be taking Spike's place as her prince and I'd make her feel better.  That I'd learn to like her touch and when not to bat back at her."

"Ah."  He nodded.  "Cinnamon buns?"

Dean came in to get his own plate then went back out there while the others nibbled.  The three Winchester men settled in to work on the bike.  John got the frame to fix what Xander had done upside down.  Sam and Dean tinkered with the motor.  By the time the parade came on tv they had it together and Dean had walked it carefully down the stairs to the truck so John could take him for gas and air for his tires.  He took it on an experimental spin around the parking lot then parked it and came upstairs until he could get the safety gear.  He hugged Xander again.  "I love you too, Mom."  He settled in next to Tara to watch the parade with them.  It was a good parade.  He pulled Sam down when he walked past him.  "Love you too, dipshit."

"Thanks, dickhead."  He patted him on the head and went to get more coffee, then came back to cuddle with Xander.  They'd be tinkering with the bike for weeks to get it to go faster, smoother, get more miles per gallon.  "You never showed me the demonic pawn shop," he said quietly.

"When you were ready to rekit I was going to."  He took his hand to squeeze.

Sam leaned his head on his shoulder.  "We need to look at all the weapons anyway.  A few were acting rough when I had to use them."  Dean and John both stared at him.  "That five month hunt for Xander, guys.  I freed about seventy demonic concubines and playtoys because the demon told me he had put Dean into many demon's favorite playtoy."

"So *that's* how he warps things," Buffy joked.  Xander flipped her off, getting smacked on the shoulder by Tara.  "Are they as good as Sam?"

"Don't know, haven't played board games in years," Xander said dryly.  "As for sleeping with them... should I even start?"

"No," she said, shrinking down.

Willow snickered.

"Miss I-put-a-demon-on-the-internet-and-it-wanted-me-so-badly-it-tried-to-kill-all-of-us," Xander said without having to see who was laughing.

"Now, *that's* a talent," Sam said.

"I didn't put it onto the internet, Miss Calendar did," Willow pouted.

"Uh-huh.  You found it, chatted with it, made it love you and want you enough that it nearly took over everyone, even the evil Microsoft empire," Xander said dryly.

"How many times have we had to rescue you?" Buffy countered.

"How many times was it the end of the world?" Xander shot back.  "Yours tried twice.  The demon robot was trying when it got beaten."  He gave her a look, making her shrink back against her mother's side.

"Don't look at me, Dear.  I couldn't tell Ted was a robot until you knocked him down the stairs for hitting you," Joyce said dryly.  John gave all of them a horrified look.

"It's the hellmouth," Buffy assured him.

"Dean, you can't date here.  I don't care who she is.  Unless your mom clears her for not being any sort of demon, no."

"Gee, thanks, Dad," Sam said dryly.

"You've got yours and there's no indication he's a demon," he said, giving him a mild scowl.

"Not that others haven't tried," Buffy sighed.  "Speaking of, is that what's wrong with Dru?"

"She's decided that not only am I going to join her, thanks to Angel offering me to her and Spike, but now Sam and Dean will be too," Xander told her.  She looked at him.  "Parent- teacher night?"

"The ruse to get him inside," she said flatly.  Xander nodded, giving her a smug look.  "That was a sign of ownership?"

"That was a sire giving his childe a toy," Sam told her.  She groaned, leaning forward to cover her face with her hands.  "We've both sent nice notes to him about how that's impacted things and mine mentioned how I'd like to show him why the Dracula legends of staking are so much better than the ones I could be doing to him.  Mine also talked about telephone poles and trying to pick the right circumference of pole for maximum discomfort and maximum amount of time for him to slide down it until it pierced a vital organ, like his heart."

"You were a wordy geek?" Dean suggested dryly.

"Yeah but the rant felt really good."

"Angel was jealous," Buffy sighed.

Xander looked at her.  "Then why doesn't he stop her now?"

"Spike?" she suggested.

"He doesn't give a damn about Spike, Buffy.  Or else he'd have his chip taken out by now or he'd have taken care of him.  That's his duty as a sire.  Spike could've made the same pact with him and didn't."

"I guess that's a point but Spike respects me."

"Because we still know he's not a helpless tool and someday he'll get that chip out; at which time we'll all be really messy examples of why you don't tease the master vampire or chain him in Giles' bathtub.  Or ductape him into my recliner."

"Yeah, I guess.  But he can't get the chip out."

Xander gave her an  incredulous look.  "Buffy, *I* can figure out how to short out the chip!"

"Oh, damn," she muttered.   He nodded.  "You can?"

"Yeah, can, have, not that hard.  He'll need to heal doing it the harder way.   With access to a medical facility and someone with a competent  hand at neurosurgery, he'd still grow back but wouldn't need to grow back as much.  Hell, if he ever gets hit by lightening, we're all fucked."  Tara swatted him again.  "Sorry, Tara.  Not that hard to fry a chip.  Willow's done it to her microwave a few times at the dorm."

"Human bodies do conduct electricity," Sam agreed.  "The right sort or too much would short the sucker out.  Lightening definitely.  Possibly even plugging him into a light socket under the right conditions."

Buffy whimpered. "Then why hasn't he?"

Xander looked at her.  "What were *you* doing two nights ago?" he asked blandly.  She blushed and went back to snuggling her mother, earning a small snicker.  "If I've figured that out, Fred certainly has.  Cordy's the one who brought up the point of what would happen if he was hit by lightening after watching something on the Discovery channel.  Hell, Dru could probably get her stars to do it for her."

"We're so screwed," Buffy whispered.

"Only if he's going to do that," Giles reminded her.  "So far  he's decided it's not worth it."

"Good," she said, looking at that positive.  "Let's hope he stays helpy and stuff.  Ooh, look.  I did that in my first highschool, Dean."

He watched the cheerleader/acrobatic/dance team on the screen.  "More power to 'em," he said.  "Not my crowd back then."  Sam smiled at him.  "How are we getting me past the educational stuff?"

"Home schooling," they said together.

"Ah.  What about the science stuff?"

Xander pointed at his bike.  "Physics, chemistry, and physical science when you wreck the first time.  Also a good PE lesson and credit for medical training."  He looked at him.  "You had it before.  As long as you can pass the test you're fine.  Anya can pass the test so I'm sure you can."

"Sure.  Thanks, Mom."  He grinned at Tara.  "What was Dru's present to him?"  She got up and went to look at it, coming back bright red.  "That naughty?"

She leaned down next to Xander's ear to whisper something, getting a nod.  She sat down.  "All I know is it's fertility magic meant to work with what he has.  Usually used in cross- species demon breeding."

"Interesting," Sam said.  "We're the same species."

"You hope," Joyce teased.

"No I'm pretty sure we are," Sam said with a grin.  She snickered back, reaching over to rub his shoulder.  "If not, Dean's in for a rude shock some year soon."

"He could be part house elf since he brags about how he likes pleasing people so much," Tara teased.  Everyone in the room stared at her in shock.  She giggled.  "Sometimes those thoughts hit me," she said with a blush.

Dean hugged her.  "I love your mind."  She swatted him on general principles for that.


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