Coronation of the Chocolate Freak.

The guard took them and their things up there, dropping them in the royal suite.  The boys were clearly crashed and snoring.  She smiled at the guard.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome, miss."  He went to report to the higher ups who he had brought and why.

Bobby looked in on the boys, who were once again in the same bed.  He grimaced, walking in to poke Dean, who grunted and blinked up at him.  Then he grinned.  "You high?"

"Maybe," he said with a goofy, high sounding voice.

"Hmm.  You like cuddling up to your little brother?"

"He makes a nice pillow."

"Good enough then.  We'll talk in the morning."

"Mm, kay," he agreed, falling asleep again.

"Sipping directly from the spring can make one euphoric," the new guard walking in said.  "That has happened before."  He bowed.  "We have a room next door for you both.  Another suite."  Bobby nodded, helping Tara get their stuff over there so they could settle in for the night.  He hoped all this traveling was necessary since it was dangerous and slightly against regulations.


Xander blinked as a light weight settled on his stomach and kneaded him.  He focused on the small black and white head, then grinned.  "Miss Kitty, I knew cats were magical, but how did you get all the way up here?"  He reached up to pet her, earning a purr.  "Nice kitty."  He sat up, giving her a short hug before she got free and went to walk over Dean's head and then Sam's stomach before hopping over to get onto their window ledge so she could see outside.

"What was that?" Sam mumbled.

"Tara's familiar."

"Bobby's up," Dean mumbled, flipping onto his side.

"Huh," Xander said, going to look at the boxes they hadn't unpacked last night.  "Yes!  Goddess caffeine to the rescue!"  He opened a soda to gulp while heading for the bathroom.  He was sure if Bobby and Miss Kitty were up here, one of the witches was.

Sam blinked at the cat, who looked back at him.  "Who're you?"

"Tara's cat," Dean muttered.

"How did a familiar get up here?"

"Go have caffeine," Dean complained, giving him a shove with a foot.  "Make the brain work, Sammy."

"Sam, not Sammy," he complained, getting up to dig into the same box.  A few sodas later and he felt more human too.  The cat came over to nuzzle against his leg, making him lean down to pet her.  "Good morning to you too, Miss Kitty.  Thank you for the wakeup call."  She let him scratch her ears before she left them alone.  He finished his soda.  "Dean, want first or second shower?"

"First," he moaned.  "Someone drooled on me."  He climbed out of bed carefully, stumbling that way.  He was going to try to not use his crutches today.  Sam helped him into the bathroom once they heard Xander get out of the shower.  They didn't care if he was drying off in front of the mirror.  "It was uncool whichever one of you drooled."  He climbed in and shut the glass door so he could have some privacy.

Xander shrugged.  "I didn't think I did.  Sorry, Dean."  Dean just grunted.  "Need help?"

"I'm good.  Go away."

"Going."  He grabbed his robe and headed out to his closet area to find clothes for the day.  Yesterday's were already in there and cleaned up.  That was something he could get used to.  He hated doing laundry.  "They even got the goo stain out of my black shirt," he said in awe.

"Better than I could manage," Sam joked on his way to their closet.  He laid out something for himself and Dean, then went to take his turn once Dean got out.

Xander watched Dean limp slowly that way, coming out to help him.  "If you need them, it's not going to hurt to use them for a few more days, Dean.  It's not an overnight thing."

"Had a broken leg?" he joked weakly.

"Arm.  Forearm."  Dean grimaced.  "Not that fun, no.   Even though I didn't need the PT you're doing, it's still slow to fully heal all the damage."  He gave him a look.  "Unless there's an immediate battle, we're cool with you building back up.  You can be stubborn but if you set back your healing you know he'll nag."

"I know.  I'm trying hard not to."

"So use a cane or just one crutch as an in-between step," he suggested, going back to his own dressing.  He came out and found Tara and Bobby waiting with breakfast.  "My people."  He kissed Tara on the cheek.  "Thanks for the kitty wake up call."

"She snuck over."

"She can sneak over all she wants, Tara.  You know I like Miss Kitty.  Just you two?" he asked.  She nodded.  "Okay.  Sam's in the bathroom.  Dean's in their closet of spoiling doom.  Dean, some older guy and Tara are here."  He came out with one crutch, hugging Bobby hard.  "Awww."

"Quit, bitch," Dean said, giving him a dirty look.  Tara just smirked.  "At least they brought me someone pretty to stare at."  She blushed bright red and swatted at him.  "Hey, gotta try."  He gave her a gentler hug.  "Sammy, get your butt out here.  Bobby and Tara are in.  Breakfast is here too."  He shooed the cat out of his seat and sat down, putting his leg up.  "It's going," he said at Bobby's pointed look.

"Good.  'Bout time, Dean."

Dean just smirked back.  "I'm stubborn but that aches like fuck, Bobby.  Oh, Xander, this is Bobby Singer.  He's one of the hunters who taught Dad and us what we're doing."

"Hey," Xander said with a wave from behind his toast.  "The box without the sodas has stuff, Dean."

"I'm going to try to cut down today."

"Dean, I have lesser painkillers if they packed them."   Tara nodded.  "All of it?"  She nodded more quickly.  "Excellent."

"Weapons too," she assured him.  "John chose them."

"Even better," Dean agreed.  "Not like I don't trust your taste, Tara, but he's the one who taught me weapons."  He went to look through that box.  "How did we do this?  I need to do this in the trunk."

"My mother taught me," she said, looking over at him.  So that's what the guard's spell had done, made her quit stuttering.  She'd have to get him later before thanking him.  "The other has soda, twinkies, coffee grounds and instant crystals, and some sugar packets."  Dean got up to hug her then went back to poking through the boxes.

"Unpack the weapons after breakfast, Dean."

"The medical supplies should be in boxes," Xander said, looking back there.  "Those, yeah."

Dean dug into one, finding the bandage supply.  He looked over at Xander.  "Are we expecting a total apocalypse of injuries?"

"They happen," Xander said bluntly, staring back.  "After graduation, we needed a lot more than we had.  If we need them, we'll have them."

"Good point.  Didn't mean to rag, dude."  He got into the other boxes, finding one of bullets.  The next one had painkillers and other drugs.  Antibiotics.  Anti-virals.  Heart medicine, with nitroglycerin too.  Blood pressure medicine.  A few others he wasn't sure of the cause behind.  He looked in the third one then went back to the second box, digging out something less narcotic than had been in his leg yesterday but still good enough to kill the pain.  "How did you gather those?"

Xander shrugged.  "It's not that hard in Sunnydale.  We're not the only one who has an apocalypse vault in town, Dean."  He grinned.  "Some are odd choices but I figured we might need them sometime."  Tara nodded.  "And have in the past."  He dug in, eating again.  Dean took a pill and relaxed, digging into his own breakfast.  "After breakfast, we'll go over weapons while Sam takes them on the tour?"  Sam nodded since his mouth was full.  He looked at Bobby.  "Are you like their version of a watcher?"

"Nearly," he agreed.  "Been looking over your team's stats from the past."  Xander blushed and looked away.  "That town would drive our kind nuts."

"It drives me nuts and I was born there," Xander told him.  "Then you get used to the nuts and start thinking about psychiatric medicine.  Especially when you have a kid's imaginary friend become really a demon last month."

"That wasn't mentioned," Dean said, looking at Sam.

"We caught it on patrol but didn't tell Buffy or Willow, or Giles," Sam admitted.  "We figured it was just like that as a species and it was dead once the kid was unconscious.  Then Xander brought him home, told his parents that he had snuck out and been knocked out by some tough older kids we ran off.  They yelled and screamed at their son but they were hugging him."

"Some day Georgie is going to be the next me," Xander said dryly.  "Or maybe the next Jesse.  I'm not sure which yet."  He ate one last bite then went to dig through the boxes.  They could stock supplies in a corner.  He even put a cute sign that said 'touch these and I'll prove that the hyena taught me to bite' in front of the soda.  Just in case someone wanted to move it on them.  Then he and Dean got into the weapons.  They made sure they were all ready to use.  Which they were because Xander treated his weapons good.  The medicines got put into Dean's dressing area for now.  They knew he'd handle his own thing and would only complain if they fussed.  They only had to stop to keep rescuing Miss Kitty from the bottomless boxes.  She liked boxes.  Tara finally sighed and came over to get her, making sure they were empty and ending the spell on them.  Her cat hopped off to play in them anyway.  She still liked boxes.  Xander put in a little ball of paper for her to bat around, making him a kitty friend again.

"You'll spoil her, Xander," she chided.

He shrugged.  "So?"

She rolled her eyes but helped Dean up, then walked off with Sam and Bobby to look around and see where she could help.

The guard following Sam around gave her an odd look when she stopped to sniff some plants.  "Those don't usually draw humans."

She looked back but Sam answered for her.  "She's a nature witch.  She's probably never seen those before, dude.  Relax.  They won't hurt you guys or try to break us out of here."

"I didn't think they would, Consort Samuel.  I just thought it odd since most humans found those flowers stinky."

"Even stinky flowers have their place in nature," Tara said quietly.

He smiled.  "You have sense.  The new Lord will need some of that."  He opened the library door for them since it was clear they were headed that way.  The older human with them moaned in pleasure.  Samuel did too.

"Is there a cataloging system?" Bobby asked.  The guard pointed at the librarian.  He went to get her to see what they had on that demon menace while Tara went to look at magic books and Sam went to browse around.  Xander could help Dean with his working out today.  Or he might just play with Tara's cat all day if he was feeling bored and lazy.  Who knew when it came to Xander's moods sometimes.


Xander looked over the information after dinner, pointing at something.  "They're allergic to sugar?"

"To them it's like a drug," Bobby said.  "So they probably want into the sacred spring or to destroy it.  They crave it but it'll kill 'em if they have it."

"Like many diabetics," Sam quipped.

Tara nodded she knew ones like that too.  "What do we do?" she asked Xander.  He planned for them.

"We can't assume they'll only have their own kind if they do come as an assault or invading force," he said, considering it.  "We have enough weapons for us to hold off a small force but not a larger one.  There's none locally that count as a military or anything."

"Ah, one flaw," Sam said, holding up something.  "Prison records.  Two percent of all crimes are violent offenses."  He put that down.

"So maybe we can do a 'go military or stay in jail' thing?" Xander suggested.

"That could work but we'd need leaders," Dean pointed out.

Xander pointed at the guards.  "The obvious choice since they are trained to be a unit and are trained to use violence to protect their Lord and Master if necessary."  The guard stared at him in horror.  "Not you specifically but I'm sure you guys have trainers?"  He nodded slowly.  "Same process to make a military unit."  He looked at Dean again.  "We can ask them to suggest for a few squad leaders."

"That's not a bad plan," Dean agreed.  He looked over the map of the realm Sam had found for him.  "Which way would they be coming in?"  Sam looked then pointed.  "Their homeland?"

"They're two realms on the other side so that was the most likely place.  They've tried to invade once before, way back before Wozaataran took his office.  Back before they were more than a cohesive and cooperative group of tribes.  They came that way then.  The only other place they could move a large force in would be here," he said with a point.  "There's a larger set of portals there.  The ones here in the palace can only move a few at a time."

"I think having them here and open would be a security breach waiting to happen," Dean said, looking at the guard.  "Are they usually just open?"

"We usually have guards standing there in case someone unruly comes through," he admitted quietly.  His bosses were going to be amused at this talk.  "For the coronation we're going to be moving them outside for security reasons."

"Good," Xander agreed.  "If I'm staying they're staying out there."  He looked over.  "It'd be safer if we had some sort of greeting center anyway.  That way diplomats would feel encouraged and happy when someone kissed their asses as soon as they showed up and I wouldn't have to deal with people just walking in with problems.  You could even put it next to an immigration facility for those who're just visiting and need visas and things."

"The credit card?"

"No, the entry papers," Xander corrected.  The guard shivered.  "That way we're sure that people who need to be here are here for a good reason.  I'm not against open borders but I'd like to have some more knowledge when bad people come through.  That'd give you guys a more steady point to defend if they come through."

"That's not a bad idea," he admitted.  "I'll bring that to my superiors."

"It'd also mean that diplomats could be well rested when they came to bother him," Sam offered.  "Send a messenger ahead with anything they want to talk about, then go rest while we get a chance to check them over and what they wanted over."

"Not a bad proposal," the guard agreed.  "Plus it would make us seem more friendly and easier to deal with."   He smirked at Xander.  "You said you couldn't lead people."

"I can't, but I can spot a security flaw."  He gave him a dry look.  "Higher ups often have more education and skills to do stranger things, like magic, because they have the free time to study."

"That's not a bad point.  I'll mention that.  We do have some bored pages and things hanging around the court."

"Plus it'd give a good entry level position for those who want to work their way up the ladder to being trusted in the government," Bobby agreed.  "In ours, you start as an intern or a page then move your way up to local politics, then state or regional, then national."

The guard smiled.  "Which does make sense.  You wouldn't want a leader who had no notion of what people needed."

"Ours don't always, they're usually the rich sort," Xander told him, getting a laugh and a nod.  "Any other major security precautions about the coronation we need to know?"

"We'll tell you that night so your friends cannot interrupt, sire."  He left to tell his bosses about their proposals.  It was interesting and would create some new jobs, which the town could probably use anyway.  Even if his bosses would shudder in horror about being chosen to lead a unit of criminals against their enemies if they showed up.

Xander looked at Bobby.  "What are they planning?"

"Still looking at major ideas," he admitted.

"Hmm."  He looked at the map of the realm again, pointing.  "Isn't that ...  Angel's crew has someone from that realm."

Tara nodded.  "Cordelia said something about Lorne being from Pylea.  He sounds sweet."

"Maybe that's an option," Xander said.  He looked at Dean.  "Do you do better with mass security or battle planning?"

"I can do either but I'm going to concentrate on our security while you plan that battle with my help."

"That'll work," Xander agreed with a slight grin.  "I've only had to do it a few times.  We're too loose usually to need a full out plan."   He looked at the information.  "How do we get them if they're only allergic to marshmallows?  I don't have a marshmallow shooter."

 "There's probably not a way we can add it to the payload of a grenade or shoot it," Dean agreed.  "Let me think on that, Xander.  I've got a good hand at making whatever we need on a hunt."

Xander relaxed.  "Thanks, Dean."

"Not a problem.  They picked us to support you so we will until you screw up too badly."

Xander snorted.  "That'll be any day now I'm sure."  He leaned back, letting the cat hop into his lap.  "You're very comforting, Miss Kitty."  She let him pet her.  "Thanks, Tara."

"She wanted to come, Xander.  She knows you spoil her rotten."

"She's my first friend's pet.  Not like I could play with Willow's fish."  He went back to petting her.  "What about the possibility of sending an emissary to them to talk them out of stupidity?" he suggested finally.  "The US tries diplomacy first."  Sam gave him a look.  "Like I have any idea how this stuff works.  I got a D in civics and history."

Sam shrugged.  "I wouldn't say it'd be a problem but I don't think you should do more than encourage them to show up and talk to us.  Going there would seem like we're scared maybe."

Dean nodded.  "We want to appear strong so they don't try shit.  Have them come to us.  Send a letter saying that we'd welcome talking to them after the coronation.  That we heard there were problems and they wanted to see if it was something that could be stresslessly ended or something."

"You have a council to help you make those decisions," Tara pointed out gently.

He nodded.  "I do.  They've been doing this a long time.  I'll give them that suggestion the next time I run into one of them.  Plus I should learn if there's other problems like this one.  I can kinda understand not wanting to have people watching him and not wanting the stress anymore but the listed the threat in that letter as one thing he couldn't handle.  Since he's the one who united the peoples, I'd think he knew how to handle simple things like this."

Sam shrugged, getting more comfortable and relaxed as well.  "Maybe he was tired of having to deal with it and one more thing was too much.  The history book didn't state anything about the current socio-political situation."  Xander nodded that was true.  Dean gave him an odd look.  "History was still mandatory at Stanford, Dean."

"Uh-huh."  He shifted and the cat leapt over to knead his leg.  "Thanks, Miss Kitty.  I needed the kitty'sage."  Tara grinned.  "She's a good familiar, Tara."  She nodded that she was.  Dean yawned.  "I want to know who keeps moving me from the couch I go to sleep on."

"No clue," Xander admitted with a yawn of his own.  "Stop that.  Those are contagious."

Sam grinned.  "I went to sleep on the foot of the bed and ended up being Dean's pillow most of the night.  I have no idea if it's the guards thinking we'll be more comfortable together or not."

"When we got in last night, Dean was goofy and high sounding," Bobby told them.  "Could've been that."

Dean snapped his fingers.  "That last minute cocoa that was really chocolatey."

"Probably directly from the spring then," Bobby said.  "The guard said euphoria could happen now and then."  He gave them a pointed look.  "I still didn't want to see you two cuddling."

"Why?  Were we as cute as we were when Sammy was two or so?" Dean quipped back with a grin.

"Which is probably what's freaking him out," Xander pointed out dryly.  "You two are still brothers and I doubt he wants you two to be *that* close."  Sam blushed and shook his head.

Dean grimaced.  "No, Dad would bitch us out.  He did when I was bringing Sammy out with me on dates.  He thought I was dating Sammy for some reason.  Went off for nearly a week about that stuff until I laughed and said if I wanted to date, I was old enough to date, and since it's not like he was watching Sammy someone had to.  Besides all the girls cooed over me being such a great big brother so I got pieces of ass more often."

Sam swatted him.  "Don't say things like that in front of Tara!"

Dean looked at her.  "You know I got laid all the time before, right?"

She blushed and shrugged.  "Not my thing.  You're not my witch," she said quietly.

Xander looked at Dean.  "Twins?"  He gave him a smug look.  "I had quads during my roadtrip.  I thought they were twins."  Dean's mouth fell open.  "Don't embarrass her.  Willow will show up and turn you into a furry thing."  He looked at Tara, who was now brighter red.  "You know she would."

She nodded.  "She's getting help, Xander."

"That's good.  I can encourage that.  Because she went scary."  Tara nodded, swallowing some.  Xander stared at her.  She looked away.  He got up and walked her off.  "Let's talk about the dorm stuff, sweetie."  He locked them in the bathroom so he could ask her what she had done this time.  Willow had been having some temper problems recently and had begun to take them out on Tara before they had been kidnaped.  Tara hesitated but gave him what he wanted to know.  Which meant Xander had to come out and get his phone so he could call Joyce.  Clearly Willow needed a mother's hand on the paddle this time.

Bobby watched him stomp back into the bathroom but he looked really calm.  "Knew she was going to break soon," he sighed, looking at the boys.  "I talked with the girl last night.  Willow's not overtaken by some spirit, though there's signs she was when she was younger.  Probably during that soul restoration spell like you boys thought," he said quietly.  "But now she's full blown magic addicted."  Sam grimaced but nodded.  "I've talked to some I know and they're going to start with her as soon as the semester's up.  One's starting to write to her now so she's got some base level support before we yank her to Oklahoma."

"What about Tara?" Dean asked.

"Might do her good to be around some stronger, sensible women with the same skills," Bobby pointed out.  "Could do her a lot of good in the confidence department."

Dean nodded.  "Dad go off on her parents or whoever made her like that yet?"

"He asked if she'd mind and she said Buffy had run them off once."  Xander came back out with Tara under his arm.  "We good?"

"Last night Willow's temper came out," Xander said.  "Joyce is talking to her tonight about her temper."

"Ah."  Bobby pulled Tara down for a short hug.  "We'll help all we can, Tara girl.  There's some very nice witches in Oklahoma who're looking forward to helping her straighten out and are expecting you two to be together.  They'll treat you like a good daughter since you're not doing bad things."

"I..."  She sighed, sitting in her chair.  "I was nagging."

"I nagged, you nagged, Buffy nagged," Xander said dryly.  "She didn't magic Buffy.  She's magiced both of us to fit into her worldview better," he finished bluntly.  "That's wrong, Tara, and since you're her girlfriend that's magical girlfriend abuse.  If she does it again, you let me know and it won't be Joyce's hand she'll have to worry about paddling her.  I've reached my point of I'll be damned."  She stared at him in horror.  He stared back.  "I took it for years," he said quietly.  "I won't take it from her.  I won't let her start to hurt others.  Buffy won't stop her.  She can't.  She's got that blind spot."  Tara nodded at that wisdom.  He gave her a hug.  "The same as if one of us got turned, it's not like Buffy could stop us."

She nodded.  "I know."  She smiled weakly.  "Thank you for making Joyce go talk to her, Xander."

"Joyce might as well be all our mom's.  Of course she'll go work on Willow.  Because I'm sure if she doesn't, their dad will if he catches her."  Tara shuddered at that.

Bobby nodded.  "Witches who do things like that are considered rogues and often take down," he agreed calmly.  "Which is why we want her to get help.  Maybe they'll send her early.  John knows who I called."

"Can we send her Missouri's way first?" Dean suggested.

"That's almost mean.  Missouri would lecture her until she ran out of voice," Sam said.

Tara cracked a grin.  "She might need it.  Her mother's never there."

Xander snorted.  "Neither of her parents are ever there, Tara.  I've seen my parents sober more often than I've seen her parents around her house."  He sat down again.  "Anyway.  Buffy's at the Bronze.  John's on patrol tonight because he's frustrated.  Joyce went to find Willow and have a nice long mother/daughter talk with her."  Then he smirked at the boys who knew *exactly* what sort of talk that would be even if Tara didn't.   Bobby was trying hard not to cackle but it might do the girl good to realize there were others watching over her now.  "We should rest before they come in with the cocoa again."  They nodded and went back to their rooms.  Xander got into pajama bottoms and climbed onto the couch.  "Dean, take the bed so your thigh has room to be cushioned.  Sammy, have it or the chaise or whatever."  That got a nod and they headed off for the night.  Xander laid there and thought but that was normal.  He was under pressure and he really wasn't sure he could handle it.  He knew he'd screw up somehow.


Joyce found Willow out with John and smiled.  "I need to talk to my adopted daughter, Mr. Winchester.  Do you need her at the moment?"

He looked at her then at Willow.  "No, sometimes you've got to have a mother's touch," he admitted.  "I know who Bobby talked to if there's a problem with her magic."

"Possibly.  I'll return her in a few minutes."  She walked her off by her arm, taking her to a nearby crypt.  It was open and empty.  She closed the door then laid into Willow loud enough she was sure Winchester could hear up the cemetery but oh well!  The girl deserved it this time.  How dare she hurt Tara!

John shivered.  "Mary was a woman like her," he muttered.  "I can only imagine how loud she would've yelled at Dean about being a slut."  He went back to waiting on the vamps to rise while Willow got her butt chewed out.  From what he heard of the yelling, she clearly deserved it this time.  Willow came storming out crying.  He waited on Joyce, who took a minute to calm down.  "Should I make arrangements to get her to Oklahoma?"

"Possibly.  Why is she going there?"

"Her magic has turned into an addiction."

"Ah.  That overuse stuff."  She considered it.  "Last night she lost her temper on Tara after hearing that.  She took denial to a whole new level."

"Magiced her or just yelled?" he asked calmly.  "Because if it's the first, she's fully rogue and I should take her out instead of send her off."

Joyce shrugged.  "Tara said yelled."

"I'll send her off in the morning if I can."

"I'll make arrangements.  Even a few weeks now could help her.  Then she can come back for the problem with the boys and head off again."  She went to find the girl and tell her she was going.

John called the witches Bobby had called.  "It's Winchester.  That witch Bobby called you about?  She lost her temper on her girlfriend last night.  Tara only said it was yelling so far.  I wouldn't put it past the girl though.  Tomorrow.  I'll call with info on how she'll get there.  No, we've got about two weeks before we're going to have a problem.  Thanks, Melody.  Tell your mom I miss her meatloaf."  He hung up and went to find the local greyhound station.  Buses were fast enough these days.  Willow was walked in by Joyce when he called to give her the ticket information.  The bus would be leaving soon.  It was straight from here to Vegas, then she'd change there and go to Oklahoma via St. Louis.  He kindly slipped Willow something to keep her calm then stuck her on the bus.  "She's panicking," he told the driver.  "Going to see some aunts for the first time in years."  That got a knowing nod.  Apparently some parents did this now and then to keep their kids safe around here.  He escorted Joyce back home then went to find Buffy to warn her.  He found her in the Magic Box so he walked in with a sigh.  "Willow's on a bus."

"Why?" she asked.

"Because last night she went off on Tara."  Buffy winced.  "With her magic addiction fully blown now, she's going to the witches Bobby knows to get some help.  They know we'll need her back in a few weeks so they'll work on her until we need her."

Giles sighed.  "I had hoped it was a simple possession or something."

"After stealing books?" he asked.  Giles flinched at that.  "Buffy, can you clean out her magic book stash?"

"I'm fairly sure Tara took them all but I can check her parents' house and things.  Her usual hiding places."  He nodded once at that.  "My mom?"

"They called your mom to talk to her first.  Joyce agreed she should head for a few weeks."

"It's probably not the vacation she wants but apparently she needs it," Buffy decided.  "How was patrol?  I got a lot of vamps at the club tonight."

"Three raising, got another two out wandering around snacking."

She nodded.  "Good.  The less there are now the less there'll hopefully be during finals."  She looked at Giles.  "Let me go find your books.  Do you know which ones you're missing?"

"Not yet.  I'll do an inventory tonight."  He looked at John once Buffy had left them alone.  "Was it necessary?"

"Two weeks ago she admitted she tried to keep herself from magicing her girlfriend into giving in to her want of the moment," he said bluntly.  Giles slumped, nodding at that.  "She's had accidental magic leaks.  She ended up sobbing last night because she realized all those accidents were really her fault.  Yeah, she needed a good swift kick sooner.  That's why most covens have mentoring systems for the really strong ones.  Unfortunately you guys can't do that here because of all the screwed up power drawing the darker stuff out."

Giles smiled.  "That's why I don't practice as much anymore."

John stared at him.  "I'm hoping you don't practice at all like you used to back when you were in your twenties."  Giles had the grace to blush when he shook his head.  "Good!"  He smirked.  "I'll get a list from Tara about which books she has up there if you need it."

"Please."  He went to start his inventory.  That girl had gone too far if she had other hunters dealing with her for them.  Though it was nice he didn't have to yell this time.  John drove Buffy back since she had a whole stack of books, making him moan.  Especially when she carried in the obviously heavy invisible stack.


Willow woke up, looking around the bus station.  She was....somewhere.  She wasn't sure where.  She had tickets in her hand.  She looked at it, then sighed, going to find out when the bus was coming.  She had obviously screwed up a lot if she was in St. Louis and didn't realize how she had gotten here.  Or maybe she had been drugged.  Winchester was said to be a 'do what's necessary by the hardest route possible' sort.  She got herself something to drink and eat out of the machines and boarded her bus, heading to rural Oklahoma.  It was pretty country, she'd never even seen tv specials about it before, but it was pretty country.

She just hoped those witches were nicer than Joyce had been.  She didn't deserve the yelling.


Tara finished her emails then looked at Sam.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  How's Willow?"

"On a bus."  She straightened up.  "Buffy found over sixty spell books."

"Did they look in Anya's closet too?  She's been storing a few boxes for Willow recently for ten bucks a month in the bottom of our closets," Xander said from his spot reading a research book.

Tara wrote that email back to John.  She got one back and nodded at him.  "That's where the last few were."

"Good to know.  How many did she steal?" Sam asked.

"Fifty or so."

Xander shuddered.  "And knowing Giles' past forays into the land of magical stupidity, I'm sure some of them were dark magic."  Tara nodded quickly.  "Well, maybe they'll figure out how to uncharm Amy at least."  He shifted and went back to reading.  "Because I'm not sure why she's not working so hard on it anymore."

"I don't know either."  She gave him a hug.  "Relax.  Joyce handled it."

He looked at her.  "I know.  Still sucks."  She nodded.  He gave her a real hug.  "Thanks, Tara."

"We'll help her get right together, Xander."  She sat down with one of the research books to look through, blushing and putting it down to pick up another one.

Dean took that one to put into his pile.  It was clearly something naughty.  The front picture was enough to make him interested.  "How many pictures are there of naked women dancing around a fire?" he asked.  "That's like seven now."

Xander looked at him.  "The Church was consumed with the image of women having power over their sex according to Willow.  So they demonized it by creating all the witch trials and things."  He went back to his reading.  "Yes, her parents were shrinks.  You should've heard her go off on Thanksgiving the year I got hit by the former natives."

Tara snickered.  "That was cute."

Xander looked at her.   "Not from my end it wasn't."

She gave him a pat on the arm.  "You got better."

"Yeah but they can still find it in my blood," he countered.  She and Sam both gaped.  He nodded.  "I wondered so I asked.  Angel was alive during the last bout of plague.  He said he tasted the same thing in mine that he did in the one victim he ate back then."  He went back to his research.  He finally put the book down.  "Anyone else bored shitless and need a break?"  Dean nodded.  "Good.  I'm hitting the pool.  Wanna, Dean?"

"Sure."  He went with him.  Tara changed into a modest bathing suit that looked like the unitards dancers wore and speed swimmers wore at races.  Of course she had on a fluffy robe with matching slippers until she climbed in with them.  Xander was working off his frustration.  Dean was relaxing.  Tara was relaxing.  It was good for them.  Even if Xander looked like he was angry doing laps.  He nodded at him for her benefit, asking the silent question.  She shook her head.  So they'd let him work it out of his system for a while.

Sam and Bobby shared a smirk.  They could play later.  Right now they were doing research and it was something they liked to do.  Even if Sam had taken all the books with the dirty pictures out of Dean's pile to put away again.


The guard sneaking into the main suite looked down at the fierce hiss.  The witch's cat was staring up at him, looking pissed.  "I'm not going to wake them, cat."

Xander sat up from his spot on the couch, staring at him.  "Tara's cat is a very good familiar," he said quietly.  "She's very good at spotting people who shouldn't be near her mommy or those she favors."  The guard backed up, looking scared.  "I don't know why she spotted you....."  He turned and ran.  "Wrong answer."  He followed, catching him before he made the portal room.  He shoved him against a wall, staring at him.  "So, why was the familiar hissing at you?"  Another guard came running.  "Tara's familiar wouldn't let him into the suite.  She woke me up hissing at him."

The guard stared at the other one then at him.  "I have no idea who he is, Sire."

Xander stared at him.  Then he smirked.  "Any of the natural guards here know I don't answer to that name."  That one nearly sat on the floor.  "GUARDS!" he shouted.  A few more came running.  "This one was stopped by Tara's familiar.  The other one doesn't know me very well.  He tried to call me sire," he told one he knew was a guard.

That one smirked.  "I have no idea who either of them are, Lord Xander.  May we?"

"Are you going to make them talk?" he asked.

The guard looked horrified.  "We're still mostly peaceful, Lord Xander."

Xander sighed, walking both men into a room by their arms.  He came out with them sobbing a few minutes later.   "This one's been a spy for about six months.  He was one of the bored pages but tried to get nosy into what we were researching.  The one the cat hissed at is from our beloved enemies.  Lock them up."  He handed them over and took some paper and a pen to write down what he knew.  He looked back at Sam.  "Miss Kitty get you up too?"

"The slamming door when you left did.  What happened?"

"Miss Kitty guarded us by hissing at the not-a-guard."  He pointed at that one.  "She's a good judge of character."  He finished writing it down, letting Sam see it.  He smirked and went to tell Dean.  He handed it to the guard he knew.  "That's what they said when they begged for their lives and souls."  He walked off again, yawning some.  "Any others I get to play with?  I did learn a lot from Spike."

"If so, we'll let you know," the guard said, then burst out laughing once he was gone.  "He has the most odd helpers," he said at the higher guards giving him dirty looks.  "A cat, a vampire who can't hunt, a slayer."  He let his bosses have the paper.  Thing will definitely not be boring with him in charge.

The higher ups took the fake guards to put them in a cell so the Council could figure out what to do about them.  They were even nice enough to send a healer down to check them over in case their new liege was too rough on them.  Then the guards got together to talk about his violent tendencies.  Maybe some more infusions from the holy spring?  Or a quiet word to his consorts might soothe him more?


Sam walked into Tara's room the next morning with her cat, petting her gently.  "Tara?"  She flinched awake.  "Sorry.  Miss Kitty just had a hairball on Dean's stomach.  Did you have medicine for her?"

"On the dresser," she said, staring at her smug looking cat.  "Was she a butt last night?"

"She was very helpful.  She caught a spy coming into our room."  Tara went pale.  He nodded.  "Dean'll be going over security for us later today."  He got the hairball medicine out onto his finger, offering it to her.  "She won't lick it?"

"She hates the taste.  Put it somewhere she'll lick it off her fur."  She got up and grabbed her robe, coming over to hug her cat around Sam.  "You're a good girl, Miss Kitty.  Thank you for protecting your favorite spoiler."  Sam wiped the stuff into her fur, getting a huff.  "If you'd lick it like other cats, you wouldn't have that problem."

He grinned.  "We've got breakfast when you're dressed."  He walked her off, letting her down so she could go lick herself in peace.  "Tara's on her way over."  He sat down, looking at Dean since he was hobbling to his closet.  "Dean, use the crutch when you're tired," he complained.  "You can drop it the other times to seem more macho."

"Shut up, Sammy.  I'm fine.  I'll go back to it later when I'm feeling less fine."

"Fine."  He looked at Xander, who gave him a curious look while he chewed on some toast.  "What's up for today?"

Xander pointed at the books as he swallowed.  "We've got to figure out if that one was representative of their people or not."  Bobby gave him an odd look.  "Miss Kitty caught one and I caught another one."

"Hell," he muttered.  "So we'll figure it out later."

"I told Tara Dean's going to go over the group's security today," Sam told him.

"That'll work for me," Dean agreed as he came out tucking in his undershirt then pulling on a t-shirt.  "She okay?"

"I left her to shower and dress."

Xander looked around then at him.  "We have two extra rooms in here we apparently don't ever use."  Sam gave him an odd look so he went to open the doors, finding bedrooms.  They smirked and checked, then nodded.  Tara's stuff got carted over by Bobby while she quickly dressed.  He brought his own stuff over.  Tara and her cat's litterbox came last.  "Better and more safe, Tara."  He gave her a kiss on the cheek.  "How was Anya?  I just realized I haven't heard her complaining in weeks."

"Pouting."  She sat down, looking at him.  "Are you sure?  I snore."

Xander shrugged.  "So do I, Tara.  Oh well."  She smiled sweetly.  "It's safer.  I'd hate to have to kill everyone if they hurt you.  Remember, I taught Willow what scary was."  She swatted him but poured herself some tea.

Bobby smirked at the cat, slipping her some sausage.  That made her happy again.  "She was good last night."

"I heard.  She's been a good judge of character," Tara agreed.  Xander nodded, his mouth full again.  "What's up for today beyond the research?"

"I'm going to see if the Council is meeting today to see what we're doing with those two from last night.  Plus go over the other ideas like sending them a 'we'd like to talk to you about your delusions' letter."  He finished up and wiped his mouth off, walking out gulping his next soda.

Dean shook his head.  "I've got an hour of PT.  You guys can come research with me if you want.  Or stay in here and research."

Bobby and Sam shared a look.  "Take Tara with you," Sam ordered.  "Then hit the library for more sources, Dean."  That got a nod.  "Tara, if someone upsets you, tell us and we'll thump them for you."

"I'm not helpless, Sam."

"No, but you're too nice and polite to kick ass like Sammy, Bobby, and I do," Dean assured her.  She patted him on the wrist and handed him another piece of toast.  "Thanks.  You're going to be a great mom some year," he joked.

She shook her head.  "I don't like icky boys."

He smirked.  "Some of us aren't icky, Tara.  Some of us shower regularly."

She pinched him.  "Still icky, Dean.  Boys aren't my thing."

"That's why they make turkey basters and gay male friends," Sam teased.

She blushed, shaking her head.  "Willow would be a scary, overprotective mom and I'd screw up somehow."

"Probably not," Bobby told her.  "Besides, all parents do at least one wrong thing sometime.  You just gotta learn how to manage it and then do better next time.  Even Winchester managed to screw up a few times.  Once he was so tired after a hunt he put Sammy's diaper on his head.  Left him totally dirty butted and wandering around with it on his head."

Dean snickered.  "Sammy came to wake me up so I'd clean his butt for him.  He was only about a year old and we were at Bobby's house."  Sam was bright red now.  "He walked into the room we were sharing and poked me until I looked at him then pouted and said butt over and over until I got the point and looked.  Then the next morning I gave Dad the potty training book Bobby had found him.  Dad was about Sammy's shade of red that morning."

"He deserved it," Bobby assured her.  "At least Sammy decided not to wipe his butt on the walls.  He knew Dean would take care of him even back then."

"I was gentler than Dad was.  Never, ever let Dad give you a washcloth bath when you're sick or you'll be rubbed raw," Dean told her.  She shook her head quickly.  "Seriously.  Got chicken pox at ten.  Really high fever.  Dad's wipe downs were almost worse than the itching."

"I'm sure there were plenty of kiddy Dean stories we could tell," Sam countered, glaring at his smug big brother.  Who only grinned back.  "Bobby?"

"I met him after he was potty trained, but yeah, he had a few good ones.  First time he drank, Tara.  Boy was only five and a half I think.  Snuck into the bottle under my sink thinking it was creme soda as he told us. Found him guzzling it on the back porch.  Boy then rolled over and puked on his daddy's shoes, got up and went to whizz off the back porch by climbing up the railing to sit on top of it, and then passed out when John tried to get him off the railing.  Peeing all over John at the same time."  She shook her head but she was grinning.  "John had one hell of a fit that night."

"And the next day," Dean agreed.  "I learned why hangovers were bad *long* ago.  Dad complained that my puking was worse than hellhound blood and being peed on by someone my age was as bad as the demon who did it to him was."  She giggled.  "So I kindly pointed out that next time someone should lock cabinets and puked on him again."  Bobby snickered, nodding and looking smug.  "It got me out of a lot longer lecture.  He made me go deal with cranky pants there while I had the hangover."  Sam moaned, shaking his head.  "Sammy saw I was in a bad mood and quit being so fussy about his clothes being a bit tight, hugging me instead.  I didn't care if he was dressed or not as long as he was quiet."

"He hugged you right back into a nap too," Bobby added.  "John came up to see why Sammy wasn't complaining about needing looser clothes.  Found Sam knotting Dean's hair all to hell and grinning at him.  John tried to walk in and Sammy growled and swatted at him when he tried to move Dean so he had to leave 'im alone that time.  Took us nearly two days to get out all the knots Sammy put into his hair.  Ended up cutting most of them out the second day."

"Someday you'll  have a kid that's nearly as adorable as I was," Dean told her with a grin.

She shook her head.  "If I do have children they'll be good boys or girls, Dean.  Not naughty like you are."

He smirked.  "We'll come by to check up on 'em.  I'll teach them how to prank their siblings and things."

Sam swatted him.  "Don't threaten to warp her kids or she'll never have any."

Tara shook her head.  "You two are insane."

"Possibly," Sam agreed dryly.  "For the same reason Xander is.  Hunting."

"My kids won't learn," she vowed.  Bobby gave her a shoulder pat.  "I know it warps your soul, Bobby.  I don't want that if I do have kids.  I'll have to give it up for protecting them."

"You'd still have help, Tara girl.  Trust me."  She nodded, digging into her breakfast again.  "Want us to ask them for some fruit and things since you don't eat meat?"  She pointed at the fruit basket since her mouth was full.  "They do spoil you guys rotten."  He finished up, letting Sammy help him clean up.  "Dean, hit your PT for the day."  He nodded, taking Tara with him.  They settled in to check their email for new information and then get back to the books.  Miss Kitty decided her spot of the day was in Bobby's lap.  He looked down at her.  "Spoiled."  She yawned and stretched out better.  "Fine.  I guess you deserve it after last night."  He gave her a gentle pat on the tail end then got back to his research.

Sam smiled when the spoiling-lacking cat decided to come over to his lap to get her rightful pets for the day.  "He not petting you?" he teased.  He scratched her back while he read, making her a happier cat when he found that spot near her tail that made it wiggle.

Bobby shook his head.  "That cat's so spoiled."

"I thought that was the definition of a cat."


"Thank you for not telling her the time I got into your markers."

Bobby smirked.  "Dean didn't see you like that."  Sam moaned, shaking his head.  "Be a good boy or I'll give her all sorts of stories of cute Winchester baby boys so she'll want some of her own."

"I'm not sure if Dad would be thrilled or not," he admitted.

"No clue," Bobby admitted but he was smiling.  John might freak out if the boys offered Tara sperm for her future kids.  Or he might be a semi-happy grandfather.  Or he could be both, you never knew with John sometimes.


Xander looked up from reading the stuff that was sitting on the table when the Council filed in.  "What're we doing about the two spies from last night?"

They stared.  The pro-tem head cleared his throat.  "Spies?"

Xander smirked at him.  "Miss Kitty, Tara's familiar, stopped one from coming into our room.  Her hissing woke me up.  I chased him down and found another one getting him taken into custody."  He shifted so he was sitting up instead of lounging.  "I had to get a bit pushy last night to find out why they were here."

"I've heard that we have to decide a matter on spies," one admitted.  "The head guard sent word to me."

Xander nodded.  "Good.  We can talk about that.  Also, we had a slight idea."

"The welcoming center?" the pro-tem head asked.

"That's a good one but we were thinking about sending a missive to them saying we wanted to know what their problem was this time.  That way we'd find out *why* they decided to wait so long to become aggressive.  Not send an emissary, but to send a letter saying something like 'let's talk about why you sent us a threatening letter after the coronation' sort of thing.  Even the US tries diplomacy first.  If not, I'm sending some sort of explosive marshmallow thing to their realm."

The pro-tem head cleared his throat.  "That's not a *bad* idea.  We have no idea what started off this new aggression."

"Whoever brings it might also get a look at whatever force they're massing," another agreed.  "Which would give you valuable planning assistance, Lord Xander."

"It would," he agreed.  "It might also help us keep them there instead of trying to invade.  War should be a last resort not a first one."  They all nodded that they agreed with that.  "Also, how did we like the welcoming center idea?"

"It's innovative and would be helpful.  It'd give diplomats a time to rest when they got here," the pro-tem head agreed.  "Letting us ease off the schedule if necessary."

"It'd also give us time to research them to make sure they weren't here for other reasons," Xander agreed.  "Plus it'd help solve a security breach.  Sam pointed out it'd open up some entry level jobs as well."

"That's not a bad idea," one agreed.  "We have a delightful building we can renovate."

"Empty?" Xander asked.

"Slightly used as a lesser medical clinic."

"I'm not looking to displace anyone," he said firmly.  "Everyone needs a doctor sometime."  They nodded at that.  "But aren't all the hotels and things on the *other* side of town?"  They all smirked at that.  "Put it out by them in something empty that's not being used.  That way they can send petitions up to be looked over while they go to their rooms for the night or so to rest.  They can shop on their way up to see us or on their way back to their rooms.  Plus if they tried something stupid, it's a long damn hike."

"That would create more need for transportation level jobs as well," the pro-tem head agreed.  "It's a plan I could get behind."  They all smiled at that.  "We'll look for a suitable building and get to  work on the design.  That should help in a number of ways.  Plus make you look like you do welcome visitors in a formal yet slightly relaxed way."  Xander nodded at that.  "Good idea, Lord Xander."

He grinned.  "Thanks."  He looked at the piles of  papers he had went through.  "We have to know about crop yield because there's problems?"

"We've had some over-abundance issues," one said.  "It drives down the price."

"Can't we sell them off-plane?"  They gaped.  He shrugged.  "Half of the US's food is grown in the Midwest or in California.  We ship it all over the world.  And we do have supplies in case of a bad harvest or for emergency supplies, like canned stuff?"

"We don't have earthquakes like your state does," the pro-tem head said calmly.

"Good, what about rock slides, really bad weather, and those sort of issues?"

"That we do have now and then."

"Plus if we had them stored as emergency supplies we could aid others that have problems," another said.   "It'd look very good and generous on us."

"That's not a bad idea," he agreed.   "We can look at doing that with the over abundance.  Plus shipping some of it to off-plane market areas once the realm's reopened."  He smiled.  "You're doing quite well, Lord Xander."

"I more see holes in logic," he told him.  "It doesn't mean I won't screw up grandly."

"I know.  As do we all sometimes."  He looked at the other things.  Then at the guard who had snuck in.  "You have a report for us about the spies?"

"Yes, Lords, I do."  He handed it over.  "Lord Xander was quite firm in his questioning of them and they answered the rest of our questions when we promised to wake him up again."  Xander smirked at that.  "We didn't think you'd mind."

"Nope, not in the least.  Catching me without caffeine is always a bad time."  The guard nodded at that wisdom.

"You ...talked with them?" the pro-tem head asked.

"No one else seemed to want to," he said bluntly.  "With the threat going on it was likely at least one of them was from there.  And I was right.  Besides, I didn't really hurt them.  Much.  I think I grabbed one really hard when he reached for a weapon."  The council all shuddered.  "Guys, I'm not the nice fairy.  I'm a demon hunter.  I've dealt with apocalypses.  I do what I have to do so my people stay safe.  It's not like I do it all the time and I do know how to use other methods of intelligence gathering.  The slayer and I are both fairly well known among the kitten poker circuit in Sunnydale.  We've bought info, traded favors for it, and other things, but yeah, now and then we have had to do it the hard way.  In the case of last night I decided it was the most logical method and didn't hurt them like I've had to in the past.  Sorry if this upsets you guys or something but I do what I need to do.  So do Sam and Dean.  You wanted us for those skills."

The pro-tem head of the council nodded slightly.  "We do but did you truly torture them?"

"No.  I knocked one into a wall when I caught him.  The other I scared the crap out of mostly until I had to grab him because he was reaching for a weapon."

"Then that's reasonable.  We would prefer that you not torture others, Lord Xander.  We are widely seen as a gentle people."

Xander nodded.  "I get that but they came here to do harm."  He stared him down.   "You don't play nicely with people who want to kill you.  That means they come back."

"I can understand your point," he assured him quickly, "we'd just prefer that you be less openly violent if possible?"

"I'll see what I can do," he said dryly, staring him down.  "And if it comes to a war you can hide under your bed."

"I'll be watching in case I need to move my family quickly," he countered, staring back.

Xander smirked.  "I'm not going to have a war near the city, guys.  That's dangerous and we'd have to evacuate the population.  Unless they attack first, they're not going to be outside the city walls.  There's better places to hold a battle.  Like an empty field.  Or on their realm."  That got a wise nod from the pro-tem head of the council.  "Feel better?"

"Much.  Just try to seem less violent."

"You guys picked me for that ability," he pointed out patiently.  "If I have to use it I will."

"Agreed.  Do not let it get into the main press."

Xander shrugged.  "I told you I'd make a sucky ruler.  I don't care what people think about me.  I'll protect you guys, help you solve problems, but I could care less about reputations.  That's your job."

He nodded, understanding.  "I can do that, Lord Xander.  Thank you for that insight."  Xander smirked.  "As for those two spies, they are spies?" he asked the guard.  Who nodded.  "From?"

"Our current enemy and Lord Kalifratz."

"Why?  He's been peaceful with us for a great length of time," another said.

The guard shrugged.  "He told us he'd been here for the last six months as a page.  Watching and sending reports back.  He hasn't sent back anything truly impressive, mostly about the funeral arrangements and the hunt for the heirs.  He hasn't sent back anything about Lord Xander at all."

"What sort of demon is he?" Xander asked.

"He's one of the other high society lords," the pro-tem head told him.  "He's fairly snooty."

"And he's what sort?" Xander asked.  "The name sounds slightly familiar."

"Your friend Clem knows of his people.  One of his parents was one of his," the guard told him.

"Ah!  So he might not need to send info back about me or the guys.  Clem's a nice guy and we talk with him a lot.  He's a major kitten poker player and he hears a lot of stuff.  He tells us when it's dangerous stuff."  They all stared at him.  He smirked.  "The current slayer works with the harmless sorts, guys.  She's not a kill them all slayer by any means.  Clem even lets her little sister play with his cats."

They all gave him odd looks then looked at the guard, who nodded.  "They are on friendly terms with him.  The slayer gave his friend Clem a hug one night that we saw."

Xander nodded.  "Buffy likes the wrinkly guy.  He's sweet and gentle outside his kitten poker habit."  He shifted.  "So he doesn't need intel on us.  He can get all he wants from Sunnydale directly.  Maybe not on the Winchesters but Sam was patrolling with us while Dean was injured."

"They're not native to your town?" one asked.

"No, Sam drove Dean there to see a touch healer.  They took an apartment and job nearby so Dean could get treatment.  Usually they're traveling all over the US."  That got a nod.  "Sam's apparently got a prophecy about another higher demon sort wanting his ass.  Some higher demon who's kinda rude and killed his mom and girlfriend."

The pro-tem head stiffened, staring at him.  "He's that Winchester?"  Xander smirked and nodded.  "Oh, dear."

"Sam would like any and all information anyone has on that thing by the way," he said casually.  "And if we're friends with it, pity."

"No, we're not.  It's not of our society.  It's one of the higher that want to take over realms.  Those who're civilized don't associate with those who pretend to be Fallen."  He coughed.  "I'll talk to Samuel myself later, Lord Xander.  Thank you for that warning."

"He shows up, we're going to be doing something," Xander warned.

"Good!"  He stared at him.  "He is dangerous."

"Which is why Sam's family's been hunting him for over two decades."

"Good point.  We'll help him where we can with that issue.  It's better if he's safer.  That one won't attack up here."  He shifted to look at the guard.  "What else did we find out?"

"Not much.   He stupidly kept copies of his reports.  The one from our enemy wanted to look over the research this hunter was gathering.  He had no idea that the guy was the heir as well, not just someone we had hired to solve problems."  That got a nod from Xander because it was good news.  "Other than that, we have no idea."

"You know, we can use that as a ploy to send that 'we'd like to talk to you about your stupidity and aggressive tendencies' letter," Xander pointed out.  "Put that in the letter.  Start off with a 'we found one of your spies and wanted to know what you were thinking'."

"I can definitely put that into a more genteelly worded missive," the pro-tem head agreed patiently.  "Should we have him bring it back?"

"Only if he goes on a stretcher," Xander ordered.  "You spy on us, you get punished."  That got a nod.  "All hunters are a bit paranoid about our lives, guys.  It keeps us alive.  That's why I have warehouses of confiscated weapons."  They shuddered.  "I only had them bring up a few in case we're attacked before the coronation."  He looked at the guard.  "Thank you for the soda too."

"Your mate's father was most amused and decided it was a bad thing to deal with you or the Consort Dean without caffeine."  He looked at the council.  "We can have them charged today."

"Agreed," the pro-tem head agreed, waving a hand.  "Other issues?"

"We need to increase the guards around the spring," Xander said, staring at the guard.  "If they want sugar but it'll destroy them, they'll probably try something against it."

"We have specially selected guards there," the guard said firmly.  "It's an honor to serve there.  It's our highest spot and those on guard know that they are to protect it with their lives, Lord Xander."

"Decent.  Do we need to up the number?  Is there a suitable amount for rotation?"

He shrugged.  "I'll ask.  That is a strategic reason."

"Is there only one place they can get to it?  Nothing like an underground cave that leads to it?"  The guard flinched then moaned, rubbing his forehead.  "Make sure they can't to any of it.  If the whole realm partakes of some of it, it's not that hard to sneak in and get a vial of poison into it."

"Agreed.  We will check the other entrances.  Also, there are spells on it to tell us if it's been tampered with."

"Excellent.  Do whatever you have to do to protect that and the others.  We've pretty well got our own security worked out."

The guard stared.  "We'll still leave you a few, Lord Xander.  Just in case someone bothers you again at night.  Her familiar is very spoiled."  He left, going to tell his boss those thoughts.  That one did think tactically.

Xander grinned at the odd looks he got.  "Miss Kitty, Tara's familiar, spotted the spy.  She's a very good judge of character."

The pro-tem head nodded at that.  "Cats are said to be.  Especially those who affix themselves to those with gifts."  He smiled.  "The rest is probably boring things, Lord Xander.  Doesn't your consort need help with his healing?"

Xander smirked at him.  "Tara's helping him.  But I can take a hint."  He got up and left them alone.

The pro-tem head of the council looked around.  "Our last Lord and Master had a vision that he was what was needed.  Apparently this upcoming war will be bad."  They nodded.  "But he has had a few good ideas.  Can we do that with the excess of food?"   They settled down to look at that problem.  They'd have time to calm Lord Xander down.  Plus more sips from the sacred well would help him integrate better soon.  They'd have to make sure he was getting enough.


John walked up to where he had Buffy meet him with Clem.  "Your parent's overlord had a spy in Xander's new court?" he asked Clem.

Buffy looked at him.  "I want to know what's going on too.  We need to know if we need to help the Xander and his sons.  You know what trouble he gets into, Clem."

"He's asked us all for information.  He needed to know how to approach him about some mutually beneficial relations."  He shrugged.  "No one's said anything bad that I've heard.  Even when we heard that Xander did scare the crap out of the spy last night by nearly torturing him."  John smirked at that.  "It's said that Miss Kitty spotted them.  The other spy wasn't ours, it was the one that got him anointed."

Buffy grimaced.  "I can't believe he's the only chocolate addicted hunter," she said dryly.

"He's the only one that was adopted by the old Lord," he countered.  "Many like chocolate.  Dean's said to."  He shrugged.  "All I know was that it wasn't a harmful spying, just gathering intelligence on attitudes and how to deal with him.  I'm sorry, Buffy."

"Nah, we should've expected something like that, Clem.  I'm sure some of the others in the kitten poker circuit have been asked."  He nodded quickly, making his folds of skin shake.  She looked at John.  "See, not too bad."

"No, not too bad but Xander's got to be a bit paranoid."

"He nearly tortured him," Clem agreed.  "They said the cat woke him up when the harmful one tried to sneak into their suite.  Ours was only going to look at what they were researching, not bother them.  That one might've tried to harm them."

"We want any and all information you have about what's going on up there," John said firmly.  "We need it to help the boys."

"Anything big I hear I'd have told her anyway," he said with a slight frown.  "I respect Buffy, Mr. Winchester."  He looked at her.  "It's said they're not doing badly.  Xander's found a few logical errors that he's pointed out.  I heard that earlier they talked to him about the near-torture issue and he said something like 'what else did you expect from a hunter' and that it was the council's job to be nice, not his.  His was to protect people."  She smiled and nodded at that.  It sounded a lot like Xander.  "It's said that Dean's doing his therapy at least twice a day.  One hour in the morning and one after lunch.  That he's down to one crutch but he's clearly using something from Xander's supplies they got sent up."

"I did send up his medical kit and equipment when they asked," John agreed.  "Plus caffeine.  They hadn't had any for a few days."

Clem shuddered.  "Many of us have warned that the boy needs it to not be grumpy.  My own father's lord agreed and knew others like that, Mr. Winchester."  He looked at Buffy again, smiling some.  "They said that they do have some weapons, but not a lot.  Just enough to protect themselves if they have to.  That hunter that went up there has been lurking in the library doing research and so have the others most of the time.  Every now and then Xander takes a break to hit the pool they have for Dean's leg.   They say he looks stressed out when he swims."

"He probably is," she agreed.  "Xander's not exactly going to be comfy leading a people."

"It's said he knows he'll be screwing up sometime and it's the council's job to fix that."  He shrugged.  "He did have the idea to move the portals up there out of the palace and to their own welcome center."

"It'd be a security risk if they were in the palace," John said, scowling some.  "I'll have to ask about that."

"Xander does my planning," Buffy reminded him.  She looked at Clem again.  "Any other news?"

"No, Buffy.  Well.... It's said that the boys are wary of being together.  Someone has moved them into the same bed a few times but now Dean's got the bed, Sam has some chaise that he naps on, and Xander has the couch."

She nodded.  "We wouldn't mind if Xander went gay.  I wouldn't even mind if Xander picked up one of those two if they wanted it that way because they're nice guys."  John snorted.  "They are and they'd know about the life, John.  It's really hard to date someone who doesn't know and anyone we have dated that didn't know ended up getting sucked in and hurt.  They could help each other and stuff.  It'd be a good match if your boys were gay.  If they're not then they're buddies, like they have been."  She looked at Clem again.  "Anya's determined to be there for the coronation."

"I'll let them know that."

"His last email said he hadn't heard from her recently.  I'm not sure why....." she said, letting it trail off.

"Gotcha," he agreed with a grin.  "I'll let that be known.  Oh, one last thing I have heard.  The sacred spring's output can make one... a bit goofy and euphoric I'm told.  They've had to ingest some now and then as part of the coronation rituals.  That may be why they ended up in bed together.  But this morning I heard they were sharing baby stories to make Tara want to have someone cute to cuddle her."

"Awww.  I'm sure the boys were adorable when they were little."  John nodded that they were.  "Tara would make a great mommy but we'd hate to miss her when she went somewhere safer with the little thing.  Maybe some year soon."  She gave him a pat on the arm.  "Thank you, Clem.  Keep us informed.  And anyone else who hears something.  Not like they can't find us too."

"Yes, Buffy."  He looked at John.  Who nodded for him to go.  He ran off before Winchester could have a violent thought his way.

Buffy scowled at him.  "Clem's very peaceful, John.  He'd never hurt Xander.  Even though he owes Xander two kittens or so right now."  She walked him off.  "That was a good thing to know about.  I had no idea they'd been in town.  They must've been very stealthy.  Usually strangers get noticed really quickly after Riley's crew was here."  She looked up at him.  "Were they really cute?"

He sighed but pulled out his wallet to show her an old picture, earning an 'awww'.  He put it back.  "Why would it matter if Anya went up there?"

"Anya gets her powers back if she can prove that she's been scorned again."  They shared a look and John shuddered.  "I'm thinking yeah, it'll be a problem."

"Probably.  We can let her go up on her own?"

"They know we associate, John.  They're still watching us to make sure we don't do something to help the boys get away."  She took his arm again.  "Anyway, did you get your daily email from them?  I haven't yet."

"Not yet.  I hope it means that Sammy's hard at the books right now.  Xander researches?"

"He does but he gets bored and frustrated now and then.  He's not as handy at it as Willow is.  He gets us snacks when he has that mood down here."  She looked up again.  "That's one reason why we tended to discount him now and then.  I do miss the dork, but maybe it's safer if he's up there?" she asked quietly.

He shrugged.  "That depends how bad the situation is."

She nodded.  "I can see that.  You know, we should probably find something nice to wear to it.  I doubt they'll let us near there in dirty jeans and t-shirts."  He grimaced down at her.  "It's a coronation.  I'm sure they're expecting good clothes."

"I have an outfit I can wear and still fight in."

"I was going to bring Mom to the mall later to help me find something tasteful that I could move in.  Mom said I couldn't wear my favorite clothes, that it'd make me look slutty."

"Now and then you do wear some pretty short skirts, young lady."

She poked him on the side.  "It's a good thing my mom's a mom instead of a dad, John."  He smirked and nodded.  "Though I do have a picture of when Willow dressed Xander in a skirt once during a sleepover."

John shuddered.  "My boys would've killed her."

"He would but he doesn't know."  She smirked meanly.  "Dawn's got it.  She's the present keeper of the blackmail."

"Uh-huh."  He walked her into the shop.  "The news network goes both ways," he told Giles.

"That's interesting.  Have we had spies in town to gather information on Buffy?"

"On Xander, Giles.  His thing, not mine."

"Oh, that.  Well, they might discount his skills if they hear the popular gossip about him I suppose.  That could be helpful getting him free."

"It could," Buffy agreed.  "Some of them treat him like's stupid and worthless."  She bounced off to her practice space.  "John, will you teach me that throwing move you used on me last time?"

"Sure, Buffy, but only if you put on pants.  I don't want to see anything untoward."  He looked at Giles.  "Miss Kitty apparently spotted a spy and woke the boys up."

"That's interesting.  I didn't know familiars could do that."  He went to find a book.

John looked at him, then shook his head slightly as he went into the practice area.  Buffy was changing into pants so he didn't have to be flashed.  Thankfully!  How did Joyce not paddle her for that?  He had seen vampires stalking her to get flashed before they died.  His boys would never wear skirts that short.  Even if they were inclined to wear skirts.  And that thought meant he needed a night off to rest and get some real sleep.


Sam looked over as the guard walked into their suite a few days later.  "Something going on?" he asked quietly.  Dean was taking a nap.

"It's time to go over the formal preparations for the coronation," the head of all the guards said.  "Where is Lord Xander?"

"Pool wearing out some stress."

Dean yawned as he sat up.  "You might wanna make sure the guy we hung out the window didn't decide to jump."  One went to look and retrieve the poor idiot.  "Next time, don't let him come in and go through our weapons."

The guard nodded.  "He's a reporter.  They can be pests, Consort Dean."  He walked him off, going to find Xander at the same time.  "Lord Xander, it's time to go over coronation details.  We need you in your suite," he called into the pool area.  He heard a splash and walked the reporter off.  "They found him going through their weapons and hung him on a banner hanger out the window," he told the guard in charge of the cells.

"Interesting punishment."  He took him to a private cell so he could calm himself down.  He was still shaking and crying.

Xander walked into his room, looking at the head guard.  "Major issues that we have to deal with during the coronation?"

"Official protocol.  Plus you've all got to be fitted for your clothes."

"Guys, I'm not marrying Sam or Dean.  They're brothers and we're all straight.  I still like girls."

The head guard shrugged.  "That is not for us to decide, Lord Xander.  It was decided by the Oracles.  We have no say over that and neither do you at this point in time.  Later that would become pertinent, but that's after the coronation, the last part of the ceremony."  Xander nodded once at that.  "We can go over that later.  For now, we have to go over arrangements."

"Sure," he sighed, sitting down to stare at him.  "What funky ritual things do I have to go through?"

"Basically, you have to be clean, calm, slightly nervous is fine, and walk out in the procession.  We hold the first part of the ceremony by the sacred spring.  You imbibe some to prove that you're one of us.  Then you have the procession parade back here.  The first is dignitaries only.  The high born basically."  That got a nod from all three men.  "The parade is for the majority of the people to see you and get to know what you look like.  You'll be walking it.  It's a distance."

"There's no way my leg's fit for that yet," Dean told him.

"You two don't have to do that.  You'll be meeting him here," the guard told him, getting a nod.  "You'll be meeting him on the steps of the palace.  The grand staircase with the marble banisters leads up to the formal chambers.  That's where all rituals are performed.  Once there he'll be sworn in by the head of the pro-tem council.  The old heir is going to be asked if he wishes to challenge you for the position.  Since he'll say no, there's no problem there."  That got another mass nod.  "At that point, Xander will be standing and you two will be behind him on each side.  Basically showing that you back him up."  That got a nod from Sam.  "Then Lord Xander takes his seat.  He makes a nice speech about how he's here for the people or whatever you three decide on.  Then the Council asks him who will support him.  That's the point where you three will be joined or he'll name you the family's defenders."  Sam stiffened at that.  "Which is acceptable but it's still seen as a precursor to being mated to him.  It's a cautious step but a reasonable one."

"That would get me out of the idea of marrying them once the battle's done?" Xander asked.

"Yes.  At that point they could go back to hunting and say something about protecting your family this way if asked by other nosy reporter types."  Xander grinned at that.  "You can also protect them back by saying that any vendetta against their family is one against yours, thereby making you their protector as well.  That would mean that the demon had to formally challenge and overtake you to get Samuel.  If he bypasses that you can declare war on him.  It's not often done by those who are of that odious one's rank but it is a formal step that could help him."

"I can also have Tara meld us some night soon so the demon has to come after me and take me out before he can get Sam," Xander pointed out.

The guard nodded.  "That would not be looked on favorably by the Council but you could have the witch do that."

"I can wait until after the coronation," Xander said, looking at Sam.  Who glared.  "Tough, Sam.  We'll talk about that problem later.  Let's get through this one first."  He looked at him.  "What about the other heirs?  I'm sure there's some disgruntled ones somewhere."

"They'll have the right to petition to be heard about their claims at the same swearing in point," he advised him.  "Which means that can drag on for days."

"How many are going to?" Dean asked.

"At least ten.  Then the Council would have to look over each one's petition and judge it against what we know the last lord wanted and why he wanted it."

"I said often enough that if one who was more qualified was wanted I'd just back them up with the battle stuff."  Xander shifted to cross his legs.  "Is there one?"

"Two who are adamant that you're taking their rightful spot.  If they're turned down they can demand honorable combat.  Which would have to be won before the swearing in.  Which again, could take days."

"Single person like a duel or champions?" Dean asked.

"Their choice since they called it," he admitted.  That got a nod from all three men again.  "It does have to be a fair contest to both sides.  They can't pull out unsolvable puzzles or anything.  They have to be able to win it and so does Lord Xander."

"So we're probably looking at a duel situation or a champion taking me on for a battle," Xander decided.  That got a small shrug from the guards.  "Could they call a more serious, scholarly one?"

"One might.  He relies much on his mind over everything else.  Which suits him but he'd think all problems to death."  One of the ones in the back handed over a scroll.  "Those are the other heirs, their general backgrounds and abilities, their personalities that have been seen around, and their fields of expertise, as my guards noted for you."

"In order of probable problems," that guard said calmly.

Xander grinned.  "Thanks, guys.  Is there one you guys like better?"

"The old Lord had his reasons," the head guard said firmly.  "The Oracles were decisive and he had his reasons beyond their advice, Lord Xander.  There is obviously something that you can do or have that will help us continue to prosper.  If not, Wozaataran would have named one of them.  Even if the Oracles had counseled him not to."

Sam relaxed.  "No funny other pre-rituals?  No ritual bathing, nothing like that?"

"No.  Though I would advise that his robes be something he could fight in.  If they do call a physical combat they'll want it right then."

Xander nodded.  "That's why there's layers," Xander said dryly.  "Robes like in the Harry Potter movies?"

He considered it.  "I've only seen the first one but yes.  Much like what Snape would wear if you so chose or like Dumbledore if you so chose.  That is your choice and it will be setting style trends by whatever you choose."

Xander nodded.  "So layers are going to be acceptable."  That got a nod.  "Any weapons I'm not allowed to carry?"

"We would prefer not to let you carry any, especially during the parade.  The crowd has been known to surge and try to hug their Lord and Master in the past," one of the other guards said.  "It would be most seemly to have a dagger or something on you in case of problems.  No one says that in the crowd there won't be assassins."

"So, I can leave them with Sam and Dean?" Xander suggested.  That got a nod.  "Okay.  Good question that I need to know about beforehand.  When, as part of the ceremony, is my ex going to make her statement and get her powers back?"

The head guard winced.  "When they ask who stands behind you to support you she can make a claim of a prior relationship.  The council would be responsible for telling her that she's not worthy but she can press it and if you agree that you left her, that would be the point when she'd call on her former boss to get them back most likely.  We do know that she's most happy to come up."

"During the first week after we brought you up here, she did make mention of thinking about asking for a concubine's position," the spying guard told him.  "Since then, some of her friends have been telling her how this scorned her."

"Anya's always wanted her powers back.  Now and then she whined that I wouldn't cheat on her," Xander told him.  He got up and grabbed something from his desk, handing it over.  "Give that to her when she shows up please?  It might keep her from cursing me.  Maybe, if I'm lucky and she's having a mushy moment."  He looked at the boys then at his guards.  "Sam needs books on what being a family protector means."  That got handed over to him.  "Thank you.  Anything else I should know?"

"There'll be two guards with you the whole trip," the head guard said firmly. "Even Wozaataran had two with him when he took his oaths.  It was partially to keep him from panicking and partially to keep him from being harmed by those who would."  He pointed at two of his people who got along well with him.  "They'll keep your friends off you as well.  We might like the slayer's stance on things but she'll not be allowed to steal you during the parade."

Xander grimaced.  "Buffy's not that subtle.  I don't think their dad is either."  He sat down again.  "If I fix this problem with those anti-sugar demons, can I hand it to one of the other heirs?"

"Only if you name them during the ceremony," the head guard said.  "I'd start interviewing now because that will give them some power and status.  That can cause problems for you."  Sam and Dean both nodded at that.  "We understand why but you are going to do fine in the role.  There's times when we have to think about doing mean things.  As a people we're not used to that but it has to happen to protect ourselves.  I have to fight very hard to get my trainees into that mindset now and then.  You may not be the most gentle but you are actually the most sensible choice of them all.  Wozaataran chose well when he chose you.  Oh, and you'll have to answer to your proper given name."

"I can't even pronounce it."

"We can."  He smirked.  "That's not your job either."  Xander gave him a small grin for that assurance.   "The fittings will start tonight.  You have three designers to choose from.  I'll tell you now one was favored of Wozaataran.  He preferred to be loudly and gaily colored."

"Not my thing for skulking around hunting," Dean said dryly.

"You two will have more minor versions of his outfit," one of the guards assured him.  "The weapons can have built-in hidden spots if you want.  I don't know how you'd hide something the size of a shotgun but the handguns and knives are more likely."

"My axe," Xander said with a point.  "It's been with me a long time."  He looked at Dean.  "I'll let you use it as a cane.  It's about the right height?"

Dean looked then nodded.  "I might be able to do that.  Especially with the family protector decree instead of the marrying one.  That'll make a good statement."  The guards all smiled at that.  "Anything else we have to know?"

"We'll go over final details on the parade route the night before.  That way we make sure nothing gets back to the slayer's team.  We don't want to have to hurt them if they kidnap you."

Xander smirked.  "But if I name an heir to hand it to after I solve the aggression....."

"Then they could take them home for a bit but Samuel is still safer up here.  That demon can't get him up here.  Down there the demon could easily get him without you being there to protect him."

Xander nodded once, looking at Sam.  "We'll go over all the ideas on how I could protect you later, Sam.  Tara's found a few ideas with Bobby."  Sam grimaced but nodded.  He looked at the guards.  "Why come in here en masse?"

"We knew someone had broken in but we hadn't heard any screams.  I thought we might need to carry them out," the head guard said dryly.

"If he comes back, you'll b e picking up parts.  He tried to feed Tara's familiar a sedative."

"Ah.  No wonder he was hanging out the window.  That's reasonable and this part of the palace will be shut off to all but support staff for the rest of the time in, Lord Xander."  That got a nod from Dean.  "You can come and go but expect there to be guards to keep them from you.  Oh, fair warning.  The setting styles will also probably set some color boundaries for your royal colors.  They'll be expecting the clothes to say a lot about you.  Including your color preferences.  So if you like water that much you might want to include that?"

"I nearly turned into a merman," Xander said blandly, giving him a dirty look.  The guard gaped.  "I went undercover to see why the swim team was turning into black, lagoon type monsters and eating people.  The coach was putting mermaid parts and blood into the steam treatments we all took.  Fortunately I got detoxed in time."

All the guards stared at him in horror.  "That does explain why you go work off stress in the pool.  Or on the heavy bag," one said in awe.  Xander smirked at him.  "We won't mention that.  It won't hurt anything but some might see that as a sign that another demon species was trying to take you away from us.  It would make people think about going to be mean to merpeople."

Dean looked at Sam.  "If you ever turn into the demon magnet Xander is, I'm going to beat your ass, Sammy.   I know he does the impossible shit for breakfast, but just don't go there."

"I don't think I want to be partially turned," he admitted, staring at Xander.  "How do you get into those things?"  Xander shrugged.  "No idea?"

"Nope."  He grinned.  "But Tara was checking.  That demon did try to come after me too."  Sam moaned, slumping down.   "The old mayor sent him off for *some* reason."

"Oh, shit," Dean complained.  "He wanted you too?"

"Apparently I was a backup plan but I don't know to what.  No one's ever told me."

"He needed an innocent blood sacrifice when you were six," the head guard told him.  "We've been watching over the heirs when we could.  That would have tainted you so he couldn't use you.  It came down to a choice between you and Rosenburg as his backup sacrifice.  He didn't think she'd have access to the power  you would."

Sam stiffened.  "But Willow's a powerful witch with magic problems now."

"Seers are always preferable and Xander was born and bred on the hellmouth.  She moved there at a young age.  There's been very few children naturally born on the hellmouth," the head guard said smugly.  "He's one of ten in this last century.  All the others are born out of town at a hospital or move there.  The one who was sacrificed in his place was one who would have been a very powerful witch."

Xander nodded at that.  "The hospital's technically outside of the town's limits by about three yards."   Dean gaped.  He smirked.  "Though, seer I am not."

"You do show the latent gift," the head guard told him.  "It's never been awakened.  Plus the hellmouth seems to like you.  It kept you from being taken when it opened that first time."

"I wasn't in the library.  I was taking out the zombies in the basement.  They decided I was worthless that night."

"Yes but it still could have reached down for you.  It should have and didn't," the head guard told him.  "Of the ten, you've made it longer than all but one.  She was turned when she was twenty-four.  If you're not turned by then you'll be the longest lasting child born on your hellmouth.  The full record is the one in Cleveland since they put a real city there.  One of them reached ninety.  If you're still our Lord and Master you'll eclipse that by a lot."

Xander grimaced.  "We'll see."  That got a nod.  "Thanks for the info, guys."

"You're welcome, Lord Xander."  He bowed and so did the other guards.  "Let us start the heavy preparations around you.  We'll send in the royal clothiers in a few hours.  The rest of your team will need to be dressed as well."

One guard coughed.  "One reporter asked if Tara was meant to be your heir carrier.  We thoughtfully tossed him out before she heard, Lord Xander.  She was in a bit of a frustrated moment at the time."

"She's got PMS."

"We figured as much," the head guard agreed.  "We fed her mortal's chocolate instead of our special version."  They left.

Xander looked at Sam.   "Huh."

"You can't put yourself in his way, Xander.  He can still hurt you."

Xander quirked up an eyebrow.  "Sam, don't tell me what to do about demons pushing their luck around me.  I tend to get stubborn and throw fits that include weapons or explosives."  Sam blanched.  "Got me here?"  Sam nodded.  "If it's the only way to protect you, so be it.  Your dad and big brother would agree I'm sure.  It'd lead to the thing being killed sooner and probably easier."

"We need to look over all the ideas for the best way," Dean told his brother.  Sam nodded, going to find Tara.  "That's brave yet stupid, dude.  Sammy's going to throw a fit about you being pushy."

Xander stared him down then opened his shirt to point at something.  "Sam's not the only one that's had that problem, Dean.  My father tried to offer me up once."  He rebuttoned his shirt then looked at him.  "That one decided I'd taste funny.  I was about eight.  Had no idea why the dark guy was sniffing me."  Dean shuddered.  "I owe you guys since your dad took him out later as I found out last month."

"It's cool with us," Dean assured him.

"If it's the safest and easiest path, then it is," Xander countered.  "We'll let Sam pick from the best few options.  That way he won't pitch a fit but he's still protected.  That demon getting him is looking like a bad thing.  There's a reason the slayer line kept stopping him the last few times he tried to open the gateway."  Dean stiffened, staring him down.  Xander stared back for a moment then pointed.  "One of the Council gave it to me.  It's a dossier on what he's done, why he's done it, and where.  I emailed it to your dad last night after you guys went to bed.  He gave it to me at one.  That's when Tara and I started talking options to save him."

Dean got up to get it, coming back to sit down while Xander went over the various heirs.  When Sam came back with Tara he held it up.  "One of the Council ran into our demon in the past."  Sam snatched it.  He grinned at Tara.  "Is there a better option?"

"Two.  There's a best option but it's impractical since he can't knock Xander up."  She sat next to Sam, pointing at something.  "I don't know where that is."

He looked at her.  "Bobby might."  She smiled, tucking her hair back behind her ears.  "Thanks, guys.  I know you want to help."

"Sam, you can pick which version works best for you but we're still protecting you," Xander said, rolling more of the scroll up so he could unroll the bottom some more.  "There's no way I want to handle this battle with yours coming due any day now."  He looked up.  "Besides, it's not often I get guy friends.  I need to protect them.  I couldn't protect Jesse because I didn't know.  Now I can protect you and Dean until you get the sucker.  Friends are too rare to miss."  He went back to his reading.

Dean gave Sammy a punch on the shoulder.  "Let me get Bobby.  He said he sent it to Dad already."

"I'll call him once Bobby's read it to make sure he's got some idea," Sam agreed, going back to his reading.  Tara picked up the book on family protectors.  He smiled at her.  "They wanted to know if you'd carry Xander's heir."

"Maybe some year but not this year."  She pinched Xander's leg, getting a smug look.  "They fed me chocolate?"

"They think you have PMS."

"It was sweet of them."  She started on that book while Sam and Dean moved to make plans and talk to their father.  She went to get Bobby, bringing him back at a jog.  That was a problem that had been going on much too long.  It would be ended soon.  She settled in to read the new book, smirking at the information.  "It does fit," she said quietly, letting him see a section of the background.

He smirked.  "I'm like that anyway," he agreed.  She smiled and they went back to their research.  "They said I have to dress all you guys like me for the ceremonies," he told her absently.  "We're talking  Harry Potter type robes."   She giggled.  "I'm going to go as Snape.  We can let you go as McGonagall."

She pinched him again.  "So bad."

Dean looked over.  "Pants, nice shirt, no ties, robes if we have to can be like trench coats.  No big froufy things."

Xander looked at him.  "Not like I'm Buffy, Dean.  I still gag at lace."
Dean grinned.  "Good.  We heard she's been shopping."

"It's what she does when she doesn't have a boyfriend," Xander agreed dryly.  "Her mom will complain soon about the few billion pairs of shoes she now has."

Dean shook his head.  "I'm not used to girly girls like her."

Sam smiled.  "Jess wasn't a big shopper either.  Just now and then when she needed to do laundry and was too lazy."  Dean smirked at that, understanding that urge very well.

Tara shook her head.  "I only go once a year.  I don't understand girls like that and I'm a girl."

Bobby smirked.  "Some girls put their passions into their stress relief, Tara.  For some it's sex, for some it's shopping."  She blushed, shaking her head and hiding her face behind the book.  He looked at them.  "We need to find that area."

"I realized yesterday Sammy hasn't had a vision in months," Dean said.  "Is it being up here?"

"The hellmouth kept the wavelength down," Xander said, shifting to get more comfortable.  He and Tara switched places so he could stretch out on the couch.  "It's why Cordy's latent seer gifts didn't come out either.  The evil radiation messes with all gifts.  She admitted she had a few of the funkier dreams that were kinda almost visions once she got to LA and then Doyle fully awakened it when he passed his to her."

"Huh?" Sam asked.

Tara looked over.  "The hellmouth radiates power," she told him.  "It makes magic harder too, Sam.  It taints the things around it.  It can also counteract other taints and gifts with the way it radiates to infect.  We all show some."

"Some of us more than most," Xander agreed.  He smirked at her.  "I'm one of ten kids actually born on the hellmouth in this last century.  Only one's lasted longer than I have so far."

"But half of everything came for you to try to take you because of that," she reminded him.

He nodded.  "Probably why I'm such a demon and trouble magnet," he agreed.  "They think I'm a latent seer."

She nodded.  "I've seen some of your nightmares be repeated now and then."  He scowled.  She stared.  "We have.  You had one about Willow going bad," she said quietly.

"Shit.  I didn't even realize."

"Yup.  It must like you because it cloaks you and it's like a lottery about who ends up with you."

"The highest bidder the hellmouth likes gets me?" he teased.

"Apparently.  When is Anya going to make her play?"

"When they ask if I'm marrying Sam and Dean.  I'll make them the family protectors, which is that book you've got.  She'll point out we were in a relationship."

"Ah.  Well, I'll do what I can to protect you when she gets her powers back."

"Thanks, Tara.  I knew you loved me," he said with a grin.  "I sent her a letter with the truth too."

She smirked.  "That's nice of you.  I know she's been angsting."  She went back to reading.

The three hunters looked at each other then shook their heads.  They didn't understand how Xander could date Anya anyway.


Anya and John both looked up as the demon walked into the Magic Box.  "Mr. Winchester, have you checked your email recently?  I know Lord Xander sent you one late last night about your family's enemy."  He took Willow's laptop from her to get into his email.  He looked at Anya.  "Lord Xander bid me hand this to you, Miss Emmerson."  He handed over the letter.  "From his hand to yours late last night while he was thinking of you."

She blushed.  "He's been thinking of me?"

"No matter how many times the Council wanted him to dally with his proposed consorts he has not and he worries what you'll think and do because we took him from you."  He smirked.  "He does know and is looking forward to you coming up for the coronation."

She tipped her head.  "Thank you for letting me know."

"You're welcome.  Later on we've got to force him into real clothes for it."  He left, leaving them to their duties.

"I'll be damned," John said.  "Someone told Xander about the demon that took out Mary and Jess."

Buffy came out to look over his shoulder.  "No wonder slayers kept stopping him," she said with a scowl.  "Giles?"  He came out of the office.  "Don't we have anything on the girls who stopped this big butthole sucking demon?"

He came over to look.  "I've given him what I've found but I haven't looked into their chronicles.  I'll ask to see if any information was put into them.  It's an avenue I hadn't thought of."  He went to make that call, pausing at Anya's staring at the envelope.  "Bad news?"

"From Xander.  He was thinking about me."  Giles nodded once and went into the office.  She read it, sniffling some.  "I know it's not his fault," she muttered.  "It's still not fair."

"The guard said he hasn't been sleeping around," Willow reminded her.  "He's kept true to you because that's the sort of guy he is, Anya."

She pouted.  "That's not fair."  She looked at her.  "Shouldn't you be in Oklahoma?"

"They sent me back for the coronation," she reminded her.  "As long as John does some mentoring for the next few days."

John looked at her.  "No magic unless necessary to save lives."

"Of course not.  They agreed."  She pouted.  "Anything I can help with?"

"Why didn't it come after Xander?" he asked.

"Oh.  The hellmouth hides those things," she said with a grin.  "The evil radiation from the hole to hell dimensions hides a lot of things.  We noticed that Sam hasn't had a vision since he got into town too."

"I had more clear slayer dreams before I moved here too," Buffy agreed.  "Hold on, why would it come for Xander?"

"He's clearly got skills if Wozaataran wanted him as an heir," Anya told her.   "Plus he's had some prophetic nightmares."  She stared at Willow, who blushed.  Buffy gave her a horrified look.  "There's almost never children born within the hellmouth's town limits, Buffy.  See, there's limits and then there's limits imposed by the strength of the hole.  Radiation may leak farther, but it's not within the true limits of the hellmouth's reach.  The hospital's outside the real town limits by a few feet.  Xander was born at home because his mom was too drunk to realize she was in labor."  She reread her letter.  "It's very rare that any children are born within the limits of the hole's power.  It inhibits that too."  She smirked at the stunned slayer.  "Those who are usually die fairly young.  Xander's nearly one of the oldest ever.  The last one I knew about was twenty-four when she was turned back in the fifties if I remember right.  The odd one out is Cleveland because it's a real city and there's two hospitals within the mystical three mile range it has.  One there made it to ninety but she was a seer so she could see when things were coming for her.  She moved to the middle of nowhere because of it."

"Granny Tyler?" John asked, looking confused.  She smiled and nodded.   "A lot of us wondered why she had gifts and why she was so odd."

"She's a hellmouth baby.  Or she was.  I heard she died a few years back."  He nodded at that.  "Xander's the last one born on this or any hellmouth in the last few decades.  Well, I heard there was another one but the Mayor got her as a sacrifice.  You know, he might've stopped that demon from coming for Xander if he intended him as a sacrifice."

"He couldn't help him ascend so he was a predator in his hunting preserve," Buffy said.  Anya nodded.  "Eww."  She looked at John.  "Was Xander supposed to be on the list?"

"It's possible.  He shows the same earmarks.  Sammy thought he might be for some reason.  He's had visions about the others the demon's tried."  Which meant he might be losing Sammy to the hellmouth to keep him safe.  "Has he had any visions up there?" he asked Buffy.

"Not that I've heard."

"If they're being sent by the demon, it couldn't get up there to do that without starting a war against it," Anya said, smirking evilly at him.  "And Xander would destroy it to save his friends.  He'd protect them like he would have Jesse if he knew the dangers back then."  Willow whimpered.  "You didn't know either."

"No but he's been hunting all this time because the vampires took Jesse."

"All hunters have a reason that makes us join the field," John said simply.   She nodded at that.  "Xander helping hunt here because they got his friend is a pretty normal response.  Him continuing to protect himself from them would be well understood too.  His bad jokes might not be, but we'd understand his reasons."  Buffy gave him an odd look.  "We would. A lot of us joined due to a vendetta against some demon that hurt one of our close friends or family, Buffy."

"I get that but I don't think they'd really understand Xander all that well.  We don't and we've known him for years."  Willow nodded at that.

"Maybe it's a guy thing then," he offered, mostly to make her leave him alone so he could look over this new information.  She went to help Anya and Giles with stuff so he got back to the email.  "Devil's gate?" he muttered.

"Which one?" Anya asked.

"The one Samuel Colt put a devil's trap around?"

"One of the Dakotas.  I haven't been there since they split apart.  It's in a cemetery."  She went back to rereading the letter.

John sent that to Ellen and Bobby.  Someone would know where it was.  Ellen sent back word from Ash.  He knew.  "Ah."  He forwarded that to Bobby and they got to work chatting about how to get things done.  Much cheaper than the phone bill the boys had this last month.  Six-hundred-twenty-nine dollars thanks to roaming was a bit much.  Sam added in the options Tara had found to help protect him and John looked them all up to see what was involved.  His son would be protected.  Xander was going to do that if he could.  He liked the boy for that much alone.  Even if people did want them to marry.


Xander looked at the drawings the fashion people wanted him in then shuddered.  "Guys, let me put it plainly.  I like simple clothes.  I tend to like dark colors because it went well with the hunting and sweat or blood didn't show as much if I wore them at work and got hurt.  I'm a *guy* and we hate lace.   The only thing I can think of when I see that dress-like robe is Drucilla."

"The old Lord did like her," one offered.  "We know you know of her."

"Yeah, Angel tried to give me to Spike once.  Thankfully Spike's chipped and I treated him like crap when I babysat him so he decided he couldn't claim me and hand me to Dru for her newest pet."  He gave them a dirty look when they gasped.  "Got that part worked out.  Sent Angel a nasty gram and infected blood too."  He smirked sweetly.  "Let's get real here.  There's every chance I'll be called to combat with one of the other heirs.  I don't wear dresses anyway.  The only dress you'll be doing is Tara's.  Pants, simple shirt, both comfortable and easy to move in if I have to defend myself or others.   Robe if we must but it shouldn't get in my way and I'll be hiding weapons in it."  All three stared at him.  "No lace, no froufy ruffles, nothing like that.  Simple, plain, elegant.  Okay?"  They slumped.  "Sorry but it's not my thing.  No matter how many people want me to gayer than all of San Fran, it's not my thing.  Sorry to disappoint."

They nodded.  "We'll work on something and come back in the morning," the one in the middle said.  The other two nodded.

"That's cool.  We can see you after breakfast and before Dean hits PT."  They nodded and left.   He leaned back with a groan.

"Thank you," Dean called.

"Welcome.  Ruffles on the sleeves and collars would look odd against your face, Dean."

Sam smirked.  "The color would look nice on him.  That light rose color?"

Dean smacked him on the head.  "Shut up, Samzilla.  Before you end up in the tight pants to show off what you'll be slipping to Xander later."

"With the social customs, Xander should be on top," Bobby told him.  Tara blushed bright red and squeaked.  "Sorry, Tara."

Dean looked at him.  "So Xander should have the tight pants that show off everything he has?" he joked.  "Sure, we can do that.  Sammy's butt could use some work since it's getting flabby."

"Why are you staring at my butt this time?" Sam asked.  "I thought you liked girls, Dean."

"If your dad could hear you two, he'd have a heart attack," Bobby complained.  "I'm about to so stop it."

Xander snickered from his seat.  "They're like playful kitties nipping at each other until one pounces the nipper."

"I always saw myself as more of a blood hound sort of dog," Dean quipped back with an evil smirk.  "Big eyes that get me petted by pretty girls."

"Floppy ears, stubby legs," Sam teased.

"Some of them are taller," he retorted.  "Just because you'd be one of those freakish looking elkhounds or something doesn't mean the rest of us aren't good at the same job."

"You know, if Willow hears you, you can both be poodles," Xander offered.  "They can technically hunt but they're there for the pretty."

Dean shuddered.  "Oh, god, the mental image," he complained.  "Tara, please make it stop?  She'd make us dyed poodles with the froufy haircuts."

She patted him on the back.  "I'd protect you and change you back, Dean.  I'd never let anyone suffer as a dyed poodle."  She glared at Xander, who only gave her an evil smirk back.  "Someone's had too much caffeine."

"I'm in a decent mood, Tara.  Be nicer or I'll throw you in the pool in your street clothes."

"Xander," she complained, scowling at him.  He just smirked harder.  "You need help."

"Well, yeah, but they're not really my sort."  She went 'eep' and bright red again.  "It's hard.  Anya gave it to me at least twice a day every day.  It's been weeks without."

Bobby looked at him.  "You have a huge bathroom that's nearly soundproofed."  Tara hissed in his ear, getting an awed look.  "How did she do that?"

"I don't know but she was always like that," Xander told him, coming over to look over their shoulders.  "At least twice a day every day.  I figured it was a long dry spell during her demonic times."

Dean looked at him.  "She a bit nympho?" he teased.

"Very.  She even complained if she didn't get more than four or five orgasms a time."  Sam's mouth flopped open.  Tara nodded then shivered.  "Willow nearly stole her voice once to make her quit complaining when I had the flu last time; I hadn't been able to do more than cuddle for nearly three days.  We heard about it for a week."

Bobby shivered.  "That's some bit of stamina."

"That was working, going home for dinner time sex, going on patrol, heading home for bedtime sex, getting a few hours of sleep and then sometimes wakeup sex," Xander said smugly.

"That explains why you don't sleep now," Dean said.  Xander just nodded.  "You really should try to sleep more, Xander.  It can't be good for you."

"It can so.  I've got terrific stamina now thanks to her."  He patted Tara on the head.  "Even if Willow does still want to turn her into a bunny rabbit.  Though I think that was more wanting nieces to spoil."

"Those would be some horribly bouncy kids," Sam teased.

Xander nodded.  "Probably.  I was."  He smirked and grabbed the family protector book, going back to his chair to read it over.  "Anyone not like this idea?"

"Sounded good to us," Dean agreed, going back to his silent talking with Sam.  Maybe they needed to drug Xander now and then so he slept?  Tara s hook her head and wrote out a note, letting him see it.  He just nodded at that information, letting it happen since she was helping him sleep at night.  They got back to chatting with their father about the current problem.  He wasn't waiting patiently for their input.  Bobby thoughtfully told him about the interruption they just had.  John.... well, since it was either off the keys he needed or it was symbolic of swearing they were sure he was not happy with it.


Xander looked at the new drawings then sighed, pulling Sam over.  "See his clothes?  These are work clothes.  They fit this way so we can move in them if we have to.  Including having to fight, hunt, stalk, or kill in them."  All three designers went pale.  "No tight pants that'll make me look like I went back to stripping.  Please."

"You did what?" Bobby asked.

"Car broke down while on my roadtrip," Xander said with a sweet grin.  "Had to get it fixed somehow.  It paid for my room and things.  I wasn't good at it but it happened.  I waited tables and things too."  He looked at the designers.  "Easy, simple, slightly loose so I can fight in it if I have to.  Darker colors, no ruffles, no lace, nothing shiny that'll blind me in the sunlight during the parade.  Has to be able to conceal weapons."

They pouted.  "We're gentle people," the one on the left said.  "We don't usually have to hide weapons in our clothes, Lord Xander.  We're used to showing ourselves off to show our stations."

"My parents are dirt poor and I worked my whole life," Xander told him.  "I'm not rich and if I want tight pants later, that'll be then.  For this I need to be able to move freely and comfortably.  The parade's going to be at least a mile and a half of walking from what I can tell."  They nodded at that.  "I have black sneakers.  Just make it comfortable and simpler."

"We'll be back by lunch," one of the others said, getting up and dragging his cohorts out.  Perhaps they needed some different opinions before they brought their designs to Lord Xander.  He was fussy and picky about things.  One who knew one of the guards got him called off so they could coopt his opinion on these matters.  It'd only help them.

Xander leaned back, covering his eyes.  "Why me?" he asked Sam.

"I don't know but I'm finding it amusing they still want to put Dean into light pink," he offered.

"He won't look bad in the color but it's not what I'd want to see him in," Tara said.  Dean grunted from where he was reading.  She looked over.  "Naughty things?"

"On the demon that got Mom and Jess," he admitted, looking up.  "Thank you for specifying dark colors."

Xander grinned at him.  "I'd look sucky in pink.  You're the only one of us who might be able to pull it off.  Maybe Tara depending on the shade."  He covered his eyes again.  "I only have research this morning, right?"

Tara cast the sleep spell, letting him nap.  "We can handle it for a few hours," she told the brothers.  Who both smiled and nodded at her wisdom.

Bobby walked in, watching Xander nap in the chair.  "He that exhausted from shopping by picture?"

"They wanted him in light pink tight pants," Dean told him.  He went back to his reading.

"Ah.  Headache.  Got it."  He came over to get his own research materials.  "How soon can we work on this other problem?"

Sam smiled.  "If they're coming during the coronation they'll be in trouble."  Tara nodded at that.  "You two figure out how to do that while we go over the battle plans again."

"Got 'em done," Dean said with a point.  He went back to his reading.  "That tainting by Xander might help the most," he said quietly.  "He'll be considered a demon lord once he's taken the seat or whatever."

Tara nodded.  "It could help but that would put these people in danger."

"Xander said he won't attack up here," Dean reminded her.

She pushed over something.  "A more complete plan."  He read it over then grinned at her.  "That has the same elements but it adds more."  She smiled shyly.  "I've been watching him now and then.  Buffy doesn't."

"Good point," Dean agreed.  He went back over it, making two changes.  "Can we do those?"  She nodded quickly.  "Good.  Sammy, this is how we're protecting you," he said, handing it over.  Then he stood up.  "I need to go work on my leg.  Tara, coming?  You make a good cheerleader.  Even if I can't see you in the slutty outfits some of them wear."  She pinched him.  "Ow," he said playfully, earning a swat too.  "Fine, be that way."

"You need swatted more often."  She walked out with him, going to help him with his therapy for his leg.  He needed to be in better shape before the coronation.

Bobby took it from Sam's hand to read over then handed it back.  "We can do that."

"That'll tie me to him," he pointed out.

Bobby looked at him.  "I'm betting that family protector thing would too."

"Good point."  He went back to his studying.  He wanted to know exactly what doing this meant before he agreed.  Even if it would protect him.

Bobby nudged Xander's foot when he started to snore, making him shift onto his side and curl up in the chair.  He shook his head.  Xander was very unique.  Very strange but very strong and very unique.  It was like looking at a slightly warped version of Dean some days.


Buffy looked up as Clem walked into the shop, smiling at him.  "New good news or bad news?"

"Xander's frustrating all the clothing design people, Buffy.  They want him in something flashy, like the old lord would wear.  Something adorable, slightly tight, and clearly showing off his station.  He's turned down their designs twice now and they're not hopeful for the next set either, even if they do take out the pink colors."

Buffy gave him the oddest look.  "Pink?  On Xander?"

"No, on Dean and Sam.  They wanted to dress Xander in a more royal dark goldish color."  She burst out laughing.  "With a loose, flowing shirt, tight pants, and a robe."

She shook her head, still snickering.  "Yeah, I can't see him going for that.  Not even if Tara could talk him into it."  Willow and Giles came out to listen in.  "They're working on the formal clothing for the coronation.  They want Dean and Sam in pink and tight pants, and then Xander in a darker goldish color.  And probably tight pants too."  Clem nodded.  "Plus robes.  Tara's got to be rolling her eyes at them."

"My poor witch," she sighed.

Clem nearly jumped out of his seat.  "We heard you were out of town on a vacation, Willow."

"I got released back for the unkidnaping," she said bluntly.

"Ah....."  He winced.  "If you do their whole people could die and they will kill you to protect the people up there."  He looked at her.  "They're peaceful sorts.  They don't even have a military.  The guards can barely hurt people.  The rumors are saying that some demons want to take out their holy spring."

Buffy nodded.  "That's what we've found too.  They're allergic to sugar so the sacred spring offends them because they crave it."

"It's still wrong!" Willow said firmly.  "Xander can't lead anyone!  He can barely lead his work site."

"How're they going to fight if they don't have a military?"  John walked in.  "Clem heard that they're frustrating the clothing people by not letting them dress them as gay boys in a parade.  They want your boys in pink."

"Dean might be able to carry that color off now and then but probably not the most manly look for him," he said patiently.

"How would they defend against an entire enemy army with just Xander?" Willow asked him.

He considered it.  "Sam said that they don't have a military but they do have royal and spring guards.  They also have a prison population that has a two percent violent crimes rate.  So I'm guessing.....  I'd give the prisoners the option to fight and put some guards over their units to train them."  She gaped.  He shrugged.  "It's a sound tactic.  The US used it in Vietnam."  He looked at Clem.  "Are they getting frustrated with the boys?"

"Only the clothing people."  He cleared his throat again.  "They have said that anyone trying to take Xander back would be killed for treason."  John groaned.  "Now, there is a way Xander can keep himself from being married to your sons and we're thinking he's probably going to do that because it might help protect Sam from *his* threat for a bit."  John nodded at that, slowly but he nodded.  "But we're not sure.  We're also not sure if any of the other heirs will challenge him to combat for the job.  He might name one an heir.  We don't know, Mr. Winchester.  We do know that there's a sacred ceremony at the spring then a parade, then the swearing in.  If there's combat, that part can take days."

"I understand why," John agreed, trying to stay calm.  "So they won't have to marry him?"

"If he's doing what's being thought about, he'll make them his family's protectors.  Basically like a right hand, like you see in the mob movies?  Like that for him.  Which would mean that demon would technically have to at least try to get Xander to get Sam.  But.... that sort doesn't always play by the most civilized rules.  So I'm not sure."

"The boys and Tara have been talking about how to protect him."

"Good!"  He stood up.  "So far they're supposed to be fine but they did want you guys warned not to try anything to get Xander and them back during the ceremonies.  They're not a violent people.  This threat isn't well known but some do know and are worried.  The others are worried since this is only their third change of power ever.  Wozaataran gave it up once so they had an heir sworn in, then she died, then he came back."

"I can understand why it's making people nervous but we need them here," John told him.

"Which they understand but they have no idea how to handle things without Wozaataran.  They say the sacred spring weeds out violent instincts in most people.  It's said that he's the only heir who knows how to really *fight*, not just duel for honor.  Of course I've also heard that some are worried that he'll start to torture people now and then too.  They think he's a bit too violent."

Buffy groaned, rubbing her forehead.  "Like when he had the flu last year, Clem?"  He shuddered but nodded.  "Yup, he's miserable and going on stress at the moment."  She sighed.  "Can we get up there sooner to go over plans?"

"No.  They're still shut off.  Just don't be too overt, okay?"

"We won't be," John assured him.  "First I need to talk to my boys then we'll see if they need rescued before that battle coming up."  Clem nodded, leaving to pass on that message.  "Pink?" he said then shuddered.

"In some cultures pink is a good color to be wearing," Buffy told him with a slight grin.  "Like in some cultures you wear white to funerals and black to weddings and red in a wedding dress, even if the US would see it as odd and a bit goth."  She leaned back.  "I think most of Xander's stress could be cured if he could sneak Anya up there, but there's no telling how bad it'll get in the next few weeks.  She's insistent," she told him at his dirty look.  "Multiple times many times a day.  That gets a body used to it."

John grimaced.  "I've never seen anyone that demanding."

"Anya complained when she got less than six a session, John.  Trust me about the demanding stuff."

"Fine.  He could cure that himself."

"I don't think that'll work as well anymore.  I know it doesn't for me."  She shrugged.  "Anyway, so far it sounds like they're okay at least."

"It does.  Or at least that they don't need saved right away.  I had hoped we'd know when the battle was going to be so we could make plans to be there and help them so I could bring the boys back sooner."  He sat down at the research table.  "Any other ideas yet?"

"Not yet," she admitted.  "I'm thinking.  If the coronation is going to last for days, we might be able to get up there to talk to him before the first part and before the parade."

"They'll probably be guarding him harder right now," John said.  "Dean said they upped the guard after a reporter type broke in."

She grimaced.  "I'm so glad I don't have to deal with those."  John smirked but nodded he was too.  "I know you guys have been chatting a lot."

"They had more information about the demon that took out my wife," he said quietly.

"Ah.  Will you need help?  Because I can do what those other slayers did and help you stop him."

"We're looking into that," he assured her, getting a smile.  "There's a few weapons that can kill him instead of just killing his host and banishing him."  She nodded once, understanding that urge.  "We're working on the final plans to protect Sammy.  He might have to stay with Xander for a bit to keep him protected."

"Xander would go insane without anyone to talk to," she said.  "They're going to be complaining to him and his first instinct is to snark back because that's how my team plays."

He nodded.  "Probably not the best thing for a ruler to do," he agreed.  "We'll have to see what's going to happen.  I don't know if it'll be necessary or not.  We need to find out why he's doing this.  What we have is conjecture, not certainty."

"Which can suck but sometimes you gotta go with what you have."

"I know.  I've been tracking this bastard for a very long time, Buffy."

She patted him on the hand.  "I know you have been.  Have you made plans for the party once it's finally gone?"

"I always planned to go talk to my wife's grave and tell her it was finished."  He smiled.  "The boys will probably want to party that night."

"You deserve it after such a long vendetta war, John."  She smirked.  "So said Mom and she's the fount of all thing wise."  She stood up.  "Do you think light green or medium blue?"

He shrugged.  "I know nothing about fashion, Buffy.  I've never cared as long as it wasn't too dirty."

"Eww.  I'd be a mess without clean laundry.  It's bad enough that I end up missing some things from all the goo and ooze and nasty crap like that.  I couldn't wear dirty clothes too."  She went to look at both outfits.  Maybe the shoes she'd be wearing should decide it?  In case she had to slay something during the parade?  She'd be doing some standing that day.  Both had heels but the green outfit had lower, thicker heels.  That might be more comfortable.  She had no idea how Queens did this sort of stuff.  It was hard deciding what to wear.

John shook his head at her naive grace of dodging the important part of the talk.  Sometimes he wondered why Joyce's common sense didn't get spread to her daughter.  Something like that should at least be learned from one's mother if she had it.  If it wasn't genetic.


Xander looked at the newest version of their outfits, sighing.  All three designers slumped.  "Better," he admitted.  Dean came over to look since that was as close to praise as he had gotten so far.  "Still way too ....ruffley and lacy though."

Dean pointed at something.  "Take those off.  Take all the ruffles, the train, all the lace, all the things that are 'designer' and leave it plain and simple," he ordered.  "Sam and I can wear green.  Xander can wear black or blue or whatever color is a good omen that's not light or pastel."  The designers perked up at that.  Another version of the outfit was shown.  "Closer.  Still, no train, no ruffles on the sleeves.  Make the pants a bit looser too.  We have to be able to do more than look hot in them."

The third one showed his.  It was horribly plain to his vision but it was closer to what they wanted.  "And I made one for the Lady Tara as well," he offered, showing him that one.

"I like that," Xander admitted, looking at Dean.  "All but the train."

"It is slightly fashionable," he admitted.  "Very upscale of us to have one."

Xander grimaced.  "It'll get dirty while I walk the parade.  I'll probably end up without the robe if I end up in combat but it's ... nice.  Still a bit light."

"That was for show only," he assured him.  The other two pouted.

Dean pointed at the one he had amended.  "I like that one.  It'll be better for me and Sammy, Xander."

"Okay.  Take off all those things he named, you can dress those two."  He looked at the guy that was left out.  "I'll need you to make sure Bobby's appropriately attired even if he's only going to be in the crowd."

"I can do so," he assured him firmly.  "I hope my designs meet up for your next formal event, Lord Xander."

"I have to hold more?" he asked, looking horrified.

They all smiled.  "Diplomats like such things," he agreed.  He left quickly.  He could come measure the hunter later.

Tara came over to look at the dress design, pointing at one.  "I like that one," she said quietly.

The designer looked at it then at her.  "You do have a body you can show off, Lady Tara.  It's not sinful."

"She's shy," Xander said firmly.  "And in a committed relationship with the witch Rosenburg."  That got a shudder.  "She does like corset dresses though."  He pointed at the one he liked.  "How about that one?  It's probably going to be cool enough to not overheat in the long sleeves?"

She tipped her head to look at them, taking the others he had brought.  The other designer showed off his as well.  He had been sketching while she looked.  She pointed at one.  "Like that but in a lighter green and with the top of this one?" she suggested, pointing at another one.  That got a nod and they went to work on hers as well.  She gave Xander a hug.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  You're keeping me sane, Tara."  She smiled and left him alone to brood.  Not that he'd admit it, but yeah, he was brooding.  Again.  This was not what he expected out of his life.

Dean and Sam got taken by the guards to be measured.  It was weird but the fitter didn't try to touch them outside of measuring them.  They could appreciate that.  Dean pulled in the weapons he'd be carrying so they could account for that.  That got a silent nod of thanks and the fitter made notes on how heavy they were, where they'd be placed, and what sort of bulk they'd have.

Tara was measured in there so she wouldn't have to squeak in fear.  Lord Xander might hurt them if they scared her.  She picked out a very pretty, subtle patterned fabric for her new dress.  Bobby complained some but oh well.  Lord Xander's word was law in this matter.

Xander's fitting was much more thorough since they'd have to dress him multiple times throughout his reign.  All the designers got copies of his measurements, and a few press people somehow got them too.  He did have very good muscles.  So did his mates.


Xander woke up on the morning of the coronation, looking at the ceiling.  He wanted to run.  He wanted to run *so* bad.  He knew if he did, he'd be hunted down and brought back tranquilized, which wouldn't look good on any of them.  He looked over at the bed.  Dean and Sam had been making plans late into the night so they had collapsed together on the huge bed.  Tara was across the foot of it.  He saw Bobby in his doorway and nodded, getting a smirk back as he took a picture of it.  Xander got up with a yawn, heading for the bathroom.  He really had to be clean today.  It'd look bad if he was filthy.  He usually wouldn't care but until that stupid battle was over with, he'd have to care.  He didn't rush, knowing that they'd be impatient but oh well.  He wanted every crevice and crack cleaned this time.  He came out in towel around his waist, finding the designer there.  "Let me find underwear and socks," he said quietly, heading for his closet.

"What is this underwear?" he asked, following him.  Xander gave him a funny look.  "Is it formal?"

"No, it's so you don't hang out," he said dryly, putting some on.  The guy seriously looked like they had never heard of the stuff.  So maybe this whole race were kinky chocolate lovers instead of just being chocolate lovers?  He put on socks and pulled out the sneakers he had cleaned specially for this.  The designer gave them a funny look too.  "They're comfortable for walking."

"Oh, I see.  Not formal wear but probably appropriate."  He handed him the outfit, helping him into the robe once he was finished with his shirt and pants.  He looked him over.  "You could use some decoration.  It's very plain, Lord Xander."

Xander shrugged.  "I'm a plain guy."  He grabbed a belt to put on, adding his weapons under his robe.  They had made allowances to hide them.  That got a nod and he walked out doing up the buckle.  He stopped to let Bobby look him over.  "Do I look like I'm going to my doom?"

"Yup," he agreed dryly.  "Or going to be married.  About the same really."

Xander grinned.  "Thanks, Bobby.  They said it'll be about two hours out there then the walk back is just under two miles."  That got a nod.  "Have fun getting sleepy, cranky, and Sam up."

"It'll be fine.  Go.  Do what you gotta do to protect these folk.  We'll see you in a few hours, Xander."  Xander nodded, walking out with the guards.  Bobby let the door slam, making Dean flinch awake.  "You got about two, two and a half hours," he said.

Dean groaned, getting up and limping to the shower.  Sam could take the last one.  Tara would take longer because of her hair.  Dean would need time to make sure the medicine he'd need today had time to settle into his system.

"Twenty more," Sam mumbled when Dean slammed the bathroom door.

Tara yawned, stretching out, nearly falling off the bed.  "Shoot."

Bobby smiled.  "You make a good foot warmer, Tara girl.  Dean's in the bathroom."  She nodded, going to use the potty then wait on him.  She needed to brush the knots out of her hair before she washed it anyway.  Bobby took his own before he got Sam up.  Tara was using Xander's dressing area since it had a small seat in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror for her to do her hair in.

The designers came in to get them ready, not watching as Tara retreated to the bathroom to get dressed in private.  Dean whistled when she came out, earning a blush.  "You look hot, Tara."

"I'm a taken witch," she teased back.  "But you clean up pretty well too, Dean."  She pinched his cheek.  "Your leg?"

"It'll be fine and I'll be leaning on his axe if I need to."  She nodded at that as she sat down to put on her shoes.  The designer brushed down the robe to make her less lint covered from the wrapping paper it had been in.  Sam was still half asleep when they dressed him.  Dean got them all coffee then they brushed their teeth before heading out.  Bobby and Tara got to hit the crowd around them.  Dean and Sam had to wait on Xander to appear on the main stairs to the palace.


Xander took his ritual gulp of chocolate, closing his eyes as the vision hit.  It hurt like a bitch but he wouldn't collapse.  Talk about looking bad.  He let it flow through and over him, mentally swearing at the content. The demon was coming soon for Sam.  He opened his eyes, finding one of the Oracles giving him an odd look.  "Is that normal?" he whispered.

She shook her head.  "No.  It must have been important to nurture your latent gift into a full-blown one, Lord Lavetella.  See us after all the fuss is done with to go over it."  He whispered in her ear, getting a grimace.  "It could be that some of it will not be true.  It could also be that he'll know that you had it and work to go around whatever you're planning.  The main points would still be salient though."

He nodded, bowing slightly.  "Thank you for that advice."  He looked at the curious looking onlookers.  "I had a small vision just then.  She was interpreting for me."  That got a cheer from the group.  It was apparently a good omen even if it was a bad one?  Okay then.  He waved a hand.  "Let us go to meet with the rest of the people."  They walked around him, letting him lead them back once they got to the bottom of the hill.  He found his guards waiting, nodding at them.  "Shall we?"

"We need to wait for one thing, Lord Xander.  One of the musicians is ill."

Xander looked at her.  "Much happiness on your future child," he told her.  She beamed and got ready to perform.  The guard gave him a smug look.  "All kids should be happy.  No one should have parents like some I've seen," he said quietly.

"Here, we have people who watch those things and act swiftly," the guard assured him. "Your town's former mayor stopped them before."  Xander smirked at that tidbit.  The music started an they walked up the road from the spring to the palace.  The crowds started out small but quickly got to scary, arena concert levels.  All chanting his name.  Some crying, some in near hysterics.  He gave the guards an uneasy look, getting a calm one back.  So he kept walking.  It was a really long hike.  He'd have to take up jogging to the spring and back most days to keep in shape since he wouldn't be building things up here.


John found his spot near Bobby, giving him a pinch to let him know they were there.  Bobby smirked and pointed at the stairs.  John looked.  His boys.  They looked nice he guessed though he didn't understand why they were wearing robes.  Dean was clearly leaning on the battle axe but that was reasonable with his injury.  "How are they?" he asked quietly.

"They're fine.  Dean's nearly back.  Just some residual pain and stiffness he's working on.  Sam woke up grumpy but he's fine too."  John nodded at that, glancing around.  Buffy had hugged Tara and was beside her.  Willow was behind Buffy since someone wouldn't move to let her have Tara's other side.  Bobby was clearly protecting the shy witch.  John looked around.  "There's a lot of people."

Bobby pointed.  "They're the ones who sent that letter," he said quietly.  He nudged Buffy and told her that, whispering in her ear.  She nodded, staring at them.  The demon quickly faded back into the crowd.  He caught Dean's eye, nodding that way.  He got a slight nod back.  Dean shifted his weight some.  Sam glanced around the crowd.  He nodded at their father, nudging Dean to say something to him.  Dean smirked at their dad then went back to watching the crowd.


Xander finally made it to the palace, smiling at the ones beside the guardrail.  He paused in front of the stairs, looking up at his buddies.  Then he turned to look at them.  "I'm not one to make speeches," he told the crowd, getting silence.  "I'm not one who likes to make speeches.  I'm told it's customary here so I'll try."  He took a deep, calming breath like Willow had taught him once.  "I will do my best to help and protect the people of this realm.  Even if I'm not the most proper of people and I don't always have the best manners.  I will do what I can to protect you all from any dangers that may come, internal or external.

"I hope you can put up with me, but if I get too annoying let me know somehow.  I'm told that's the purpose of editorials in the newspapers."  A few laughed at that.  He took another breath.  "Today is a change for all of us.  We'll learn about each other as we move on.  Let me know what you need and I'll see what I can do, but I'm not going to be stiffly formal and I'm not going to be that polite.  I was raised a simple, dedicated man and I'll always be one.  Let it be known that the changes should be helpful to all."  The crowd cheered.  He walked up to stand beside Dean and Sam, getting nods from them.  "We have to talk, I had a vision at the spring," he hissed before turning around to face the crowd.

The head of the council walked up to him.  "Lord Lavetella, we have searched long and hard for you.  Do you swear to protect your people as you would your family?"

"I do.  They are my people now."  That got a new cheer.

The head of the council smiled.  "Do you pledge that you are indeed the heir we sought?"

"So it was told to me," he agreed.  "No one told me I was adopted into the people until I got ill."

"That is fine.  We verified it through many means?"

"Two hunters and another two seers verified it.  Plus the guards kept track of us."

"Good."  He looked at his book then at him.  "Lord Lavetella, do you swear to do what is best for these people?  Including providing an heir?"

"I have no idea where an heir would come from at this time but I am not against naming one of the other heirs as my own until one comes from my seed."  He grimaced.  "I have not interviewed to see which I would choose yet.  May I have a week after the celebrations to find that one?"

"You may," he agreed, looking surprised.  "That would be a workable solution for the whole of the Council and the people."  That got a cheer from the higher ups.  He bowed.  "The last true heir gave up his post.  He must agree to his choice."

"I welcome hearing from him," Xander said ritually.

The last heir walked up the stairs, his dark, messy hair blowing in the light breeze.  His clothes were actually pressed and he looked presentable.  He bowed to Xander.  "I willingly give up my claim to the throne, Lavetella.  It is not in me to rule a people."

Xander smiled.  "If you say so.  Do you wish to petition to be my heir?"

"No.  I'd mess up."

"I said the same thing," Xander hissed, earning a smile.  "Thank you for your honesty.  We are here for you as we are for all the others."

"Thank you."  He bowed and left them alone.  The next heir came up and it was repeated.  That one did want considered so his name was taken down by a guard.  The one after him wanted to challenge him.

"So be it," Xander agreed.  "Do you want to do this now or wait to see how many others challenge me and do them all at once?"  The snobby heir glared at him.  "As you called it I'll give you that choice.  That way the people don't have to wait for all the other heirs who don't want it to go through their giving up vows."

"We'll go now, as is proper.  If you were really one of us, you'd know that."

Xander took off his robe, handing it to Dean.  "What method of combat did you want?"

"Duels are formally acceptable."

"Fine, then I choose swords," he said, grabbing his off his back.  "Shall we?"  He waved a hand at a clear spot on the street.  The guy gave him a horrified look.  Xander walked down there.  "I'm waiting and you're making this day drag on," he said when the guy didn't follow him.

"You're obviously rude and uncultured," he sneered.  "Unlike our people."

Xander shrugged.  "I didn't know I was adopted until I was kept away from chocolate for a few days.  While my upbringing wasn't privileged, I do know how to protect the people from the worst things coming for them."  The heir gave him a horrified look.   "Are you done posturing yet?  Speech does not a duel make.  If you have enough honor to duel, you should be able to do more than talk a good game."

"You're uncivilized."

"Yay me.  I'm also a defender so I'm not going to attack you first for your arrogance."

"How do you think you could rule us?  You have no heirs!  You have no skills!"

"I have plenty of skills.  As for heirs, I can pick one of the rest of us.  One who has subtlety and won't be trying his hand at removing me to get more power of his own.  One who can dance the polite verbal dances with the politicians I'll end up pissing off sometime to repair any breaks I might cause.  Since you openly attacked me, that clearly leaves you out."  The heir looked startled, staring at him.  "I don't attack first unless you're attacking an innocent," he told him quietly.  "If you want it, come get it."  The guy grunted and lunged.  Xander easily sidestepped and knocked his blade out of the way then pinned him down by clotheslining him across the throat.  He stared down at him.  "Do I meet your qualifications now?" he asked dryly.  The heir gurgled but nodded.  He stepped back.  He waved off the guards.  "It's good he's worried about his people's well being.  It's what a good heir would do.  Even if he doesn't have the qualities I'd need, he clearly thinks about what the job means.  I'm sure I won't have any more problems out of him," he said, staring him down.

"No, Lord Lavetella.  No problems from me or my family," he promised, bowing to him.  He melded back into the crowd.

Xander walked back up to his spot, taking back his robe.  He smiled at Miss Kitty when she rubbed against his leg.  "Feeling left out?" he teased, reaching down to pet her.  He stood up again.  "My friend's familiar is an excellent judge of character.  Plus she's curious, as all cats are."

Dean snorted.  "She tried to climb Sammy a few minutes ago," he said quietly.

"Of course.  He looks like a giant tree."  Sam gave him a low-powered scowl.  He looked at the head of the council.  "Are there more heirs?"

"Yes, Lord Lavetella.  Nearly a hundred-thirty more."  He called the next one forward.  He wanted included in the heir hunt but gladly gave up his claim to the main throne and backed back into the crowd.


Xander looked up a few days later as a guard walked up in front of him.  "Tell me there's no more heirs?" he begged.

"It's a day of rest, Lord Xander.  Tomorrow you'll face the last seventy."  Xander groaned, sipping his cocoa.  "You should be inside."

Xander looked up at him.  "I needed peace and quiet, plus some clean air that didn't have fussy people."

"I understand. All leaders need peace and quiet to clear their thoughts.  We'll set a guard up the road but I do believe you're about to be interrupted."  He turned to find John Winchester staring at them.  "Lord Xander?"

"This is Dean and Sam's father.  Leave him alone.  If he pisses me off that badly I'm marrying his sons."  John smirked at that, sitting beside him on the stairs.  "It's a rest day."

"Every culture has some sort of one," he agreed.  The guard walked off shaking his head.  "That's a weak threat."

"I have a headache," he admitted, finishing his cocoa.  "The boys are probably in Dean's PT room by now."

"They're in the pool with Tara and Buffy.  Dean thought you'd be out here pulling out your hair, kid."

"No, I'll do what I have to so the people are protected.  What I've seen of the other heirs only the true heir knows what protecting someone else means."  John nodded he had seen the same thing.  He looked at him.  "We gotta talk about the vision I had at the spring."

"Sam told me you had one.  Bad?"

"The demon's coming soon.  He will try to come through me, no matter what we do, unless we do something gallantly stupid."

John considered it.  "That goes back to that tainting idea, right?"

"Probably.  If he's up here, the demon can't take him but he is trying to gather the others he's tainted."

"I figured he would be.  We're ready to face him."  Xander stared at him.  "You don't think so, kid?"

Xander shook his head.  "He wants Sam for a specific reason.  I don't know why but he's his favorite choice.  Hence Jess," he said quietly.  John flinched.  "All I saw was that the demon was pleased when he found someone to love.  His college years were his time out."

John nodded.  "Waiting until his plan was ready to spring. Taking out Jess meant that he had a desire to take him out."

"No, John, like you he wants to beat his ass.  That means meeting in person and gives the demon a chance to win legally and officially."  John flinched, giving him a hard look.  He stared back.  "If he can beat Sam, then he can claim him, even if Sam escapes."

John grimaced.  "Would he be safer up here?"

Xander shrugged.  "I know he can't call him from here but we know the demon's not above using you and Dean to get him where they want him to go.  After all, that fire could've went off long before she called you up to the nursery."  John grimaced but nodded at that fact.  He hadn't thought of that before.  "For some reason he wants all Winchesters as his chosen, not just Sam.  Dean has his own strengths.  You might be expendable and a pawn but he wants Dean for something.  Maybe to help Sam, maybe to protect and guard him.  I don't know.  I can't figure that part out."

John considered it.  "I can understand what you're seeing, kid.  It does make sense.  Especially with Jess.  He had no reason to go after her."

"The timing was suspicious too," he pointed out.  "Minutes after Dean got Sam home after his first hunt in four years?  Why not sooner.  Sam would've hunted down you and Dean to help him most likely."

"I would've been there instantly if he had done that some other time.  As it was, I split off from Dean to protect him because I heard the demon was nosing around me and I had a good lead on him."  He looked the kid over.  "You're not bad at strategy."

"D&D," he said with a slight grin.  "I learned all sorts of campaigning playing with geeks who want to rule the world."  John smirked, shaking his head as he stood up.  Xander stood up too, bringing his cocoa mug inside.  He handed it to a guard.  "Tell them to quit trying to make me goofy by feeding me that much from the spring?"

"Yes, Lord Xander."

Xander stopped and stared at him.  "The spring.  It does what to us?" he asked in his ear.  The guard hissed back the usual properties.  "Not that.  The life one."  That got explained.  Xander smirked.  "That is not a bad thing to know."  He walked off with John.  "The holy spring can prolong lives," he said quietly.  "I didn't realize that.  Or that Dean and Sam have been given some too."  John stared at him.  Xander shrugged.  "When I got dosed, they got dosed."

John's mind was spinning at the implications of that one.  "I need Sammy to stay up here, Xander."

"He'll try to get him to come after you two somehow."

"I don't care."

Xander nodded.  "Then the family's protectors should be helping me, John.  Do you want Dean?"

"No.  I want my boys safe.  If he wants my boys, he goes through me."

Xander stopped him to look at him.  "If you're not a pawn, John, you'll be playing into his hand.  He can call more hosts to handle you.  Or he could kill you.  That would up the angst quotient and make them less than rational."

"I know.  It'll be fine, kid.  Thanks though."

"You tell 'em, I'm not."

"I can do that."  They went into the PT room, heading for the pool.  He pointed at Tara and Bobby, getting a shrug back.  He cleared his throat.  "Boys, with that vision, I need you two to stay up here for a bit longer."

Dean looked up at him from his spot floating.  "No way in hell," he said firmly.  "Sammy, you feel like being protected?"

"Nope.  His ass is mine just as much as his ass is yours, Dad."

"Sam," Xander said, sitting on the side of the pool.  "The vision clarified something for me."  Sam stared at him.  "Why take out Jess?"  Sam stared.  Dean nearly drowned by flipping over and trying to stand up.  He bobbed back up spluttering and swam over to be next to his brother.  "If she was part of his plan, why do it *then*?  There were better moments.  Ones that would piss you off more and make you hunt down your family and beg to get back into the field.  Ones that'd send you after him so he could take you sooner."

"His plans has a time code built in."

"That's not until five months from now," Xander pointed out.  "He could have left you at Stanford, happy until he was ready to rip it from you and take you at that vulnerable, emotional, pissed point.  Because I saw you researching how to summon him."

Sam nodded once.  "I did."

"That is a good question.  Why take out Jess?" Dean asked.

"Because it made him hurt," John said, sitting next to Xander.  "We're not sure if he wants all three of us or just you two, boys.  Dean's special in a lot of ways.  Otherwise he probably would've taken Jess out at some other point, one to make Sammy do it on his own instead of doing it just when Dean would see, realize what was going on, and save you, Sammy."

Sam stared at his father.  "It's still my battle."

"True, but it was my battle first.  If at all possible, I'll let you help me kill him.  For right now, it's too dangerous."

Buffy looked over.  "I've had funky slayer dreams about a black eyed demon taking people who were marked by him.  It's like they glow to me.  Regular people don't but they do."  She smiled at Sam.  "We can help protect you and help you kick its ass, Sammy."

Sam looked at her.  "I understand the urge, guys.  I don't want to face him by myself, or really in person.  I'd rather have a weapon that would kill him from a distance.  Especially with what he needs one of us for."

Xander coughed.  "Sam, just opening that gate isn't a real plan.  If he opens the door to hell, then he's just another demon.  One of the rank and file again."  Sam glared at him.  "Think, Sam.  He opens the gate and then they party in South Dakota?"

"He needs Sam or whoever his chosen is to help him earn status by claiming souls," Dean said, getting it.  Xander shrugged but nodded.  "Best guess or vision?"

"Best guess," he admitted.  "Probably one of those nasty good vs evil battles that they write sagas and epic poems about.  Because if he got Sam, he'd probably get you too, Dean.  You'd do anything to protect Sam."  Dean nodded that was true.  "Sam's not a warrior born.  He doesn't think in strategy and manpower.  You do when you need to.  Sam's charismatic, the same as you are, but Sam could probably puppy eye people into joining his army or pledging allegiance to him.  Plus, with what Sam's shown of his powers in the past, he's probably the stronger target.  Plus he knows what demons can and can't do.  He's realistic about how much damage they can do.  Are the others?"

Dean considered it.  "None of the others knew about demons as far as I remember."  He looked at Sam.  "So you've got the right skill mix and the leanings.  That's why you're his favorite choice?"

"It could be," Sam agreed.  He was leaning on his crossed arms on the side of the pool.  "So what do we do?  Since hiding isn't in my agenda."

"First, he can't pull you from here or the hellmouth," John said.

"He might be able to get around the hellmouth now that the mayor isn't there," Tara corrected quietly.  "But he'd have to work really hard.  He'd have to physically be in town."

"Which we'd hear about, right?" Buffy asked.

Tara shrugged.  "Maybe.  Probably if we put the word out."

"So even if the boys come back, they need to stay in Sunnydale," Bobby said.

"Or Cleveland or one of the other hellmouths," Tara agreed.  "There's five or six."  She looked at Sam.  "If John isn't wanted by the demon for some reason, he's a pawn, Sam.  Something to get you both to the point where you are and now he'll use him to draw you both out.  So he needs to stay safe as well."

"It doesn't sit right dragging him to us."

"No, but it is something we can plan easier," Xander pointed out.  "The hellmouth isn't a devils gate and it goes to multiple hell dimensions.  Tara, do we know if it goes to the same one he'd be in touch with?"


"I asked Giles if it'd be the same as a hellmouth opening.  He said that the sort of thing he was trying to open was like a single realm doorway," Buffy said.  "If we can find what realm, we can make sure he can't channel or pull open the hellmouth to help him."

"I can do that," Willow said.  "I'm linked into it to keep it closed."

Xander looked at her.  "We do know how dangerous that is?"  She grimaced but nodded.  "Good.  We miss the good you sometimes."  He stared her down, making her look away.  "Like any junkie, once you're through rehab, we'll rebuild."

She nodded.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome, Wills."  He looked at the boys again then at John.  "Do you want to stay or do it there?"

He considered it.  "There.  He can't get up here."

"He can get a minion up here.  The guards said that they've seen two who're possessed by his sort of demon.  Probably associated, possibly not.  I'd lay odds that they at least knew about it and would probably taunt him with the information they had at the very least."  He looked at Sam again.  "You also need to relook at what benefits the sacred spring gives us since you got some at the same time I did when we first got up here," he said slowly and clearly, staring into his green eyes.  Sam shivered but nodded, getting out to look that up.  He looked at Dean.  "I want to protect him, even if there is a battle.  Being the family's protector I can step in front of him while you and John kill the bastard.  And yes, I know he'll fuss.  I'd throw a fit."

"He'll probably be doing that afterward if you don't tell him beforehand to let him do it then."

"Which is why we need to pick a way to protect him today.  The vision said it was soon.  I was still wearing slightly formal clothes when he tried his crap.  You weren't.  You were in jeans and stuff."

"Good to know.  How absolute was it?"

"I asked one of the Oracles that.  She said it might change some details if he knows and tries to counter it.  The basics, that he's coming, he still wants Sam, and the reasons I saw behind things, are still valid."

"Just not the when and where," Dean finished.  Xander nodded.  "Okay.  We can work with that.  Buffy, we need to know where he is and when he hits Sunnydale."

"Got it," she agreed, calling the Magic Box.  Giles could spread that word through Spike.

Xander took the phone when she started to talk to Spike.  "It's me.  Sam and Dean Winchester are the family protectors of my new clan, Spike.  Am I clear?"  He smirked.  "Good.  Though I did tell them that you had given up claim on me.  The guards were horrified that I might end up being Dru's pet."  He smirked.  "Even better.  No, he wants Sam badly as his chosen.  Think of a darker version of what Buffy is and then move on from there."  He nodded.  "Exactly.  We need to know the minute he's in town.  Even if we're up here."  He handed the phone back, standing up and looking down at Dean.  "Did you see the knee brace I had in the supply boxes?"

"I used it during all the standing," he said dryly.  He heaved himself out, taking a towel from Bobby to dry off with.  "Let's go calm down Sammy."  They headed that way, Dean limping a little bit but that was fine with him.  Sam let out a scream before they opened the door.  "Bad news?"

"The sacred spring, if continually ingested, grants eternal healthfulness and longevity."

Xander nodded.  "I thought I had seen that.  You guys got some when I did when we first got up here.  So like me, that means you guys need to be aware of your chocolate intake daily."  He stared Sam down.  The other guy nodded at that.  "Which also means it's really hard for him to kill you, Sam."  Sam relaxed.  "Especially with me in front of you since you'd be mine to protect.  That's part of being the family's protector."  He patted him on the head.  "Spike's spreading news to watch for him, even if we're up here.  We'll use this day of rest to work out plans on what's going to happen when he does show up.  Since he can't pull you from here, that'll mean he'll have to."  He sat down while Dean put on clothes.

"Xander, this is a Winchester war," Sam protested.

"Sam, by giving you that chocolate with me and them deciding that we're at least close enough for the protector status, you're now my family and clan.  That makes it just as much my duty as it does yours."  He stared him down.  "Because you're going to need Buffy's help, even with a super weapon."

"He's getting more desperate," Buffy agreed.  "The first one of us who stopped him had it pretty easy.  She just got him out of his host.  It didn't say how.  That ended that attempt and she died taking out all the demons waiting around the devil's gate to revel with their buddies.  The other two that had to help about did the same thing, but they had a longer fight as it was recorded.  One ended up taking out him and his chosen one."  She shrugged.  "I don't know how.  They didn't write that down.  But we do have evidence that there's a lot of demons moving that way from what some of Spike's contacts heard.  Even the geek trio have  heard and wanted to know how they could help," she told Xander.

He nodded.  "The Buffybot might help," he agreed.  She beamed and wrote them an email, getting information back.  Xander looked over their shoulders, grinning.  "I like our geeks.  Sure, they can handle that part while we're up here if they want to."  He patted her on the back of the head, making her pat down her hair.  "Also, Buff, if we need her, do we think we can spring Faith?"  She gave him a horrified look.  "If the last one was stopped and killed by the hundreds of demons that her watcher quoted...."

"Shit, yeah, we'll need her won't we."  She sent that email to someone else.  Her mom would read it to Giles since he never wanted to get near a computer.  "How will we make sure she'll stay good, Xander?"

"Buffy, she's not bad.  She's been following the slayer spirit's urgings."  He stared her down.  "We *all* screwed up with Faith and owe her an apology for trying to make her be you.  She's not you and we basically pushed her at the Mayor.   Of course she went.  She didn't have someone to balance those urges out."  She nodded, grimacing some.  "After that, she's been reacting.  Plus, I think you'll see that prison has changed her."

"You talked to her?"

"I had one of the guards check on her for me recently and silently drop off a letter.  I've been writing to her but she never wrote back before.  This time she did."  He grinned.  "I think Faith'll be fine, Buffy.  She needs more support, like you got from Giles and your mom.  She's never had that."


Xander shook his head.  "Her parents and mine?  A lot alike."

"Oh."  She nodded quickly.  "I can see helping her without being pushy and bringing her to sleepovers.  Because I doubt she'd want that.  But definitely helping her I can do.  Do you think I should go visit?"

"It might be nice but they're not letting anyone visit right now.  Some problem in the prison's going on."


"You'd have to wait nearly a month anyway."  He patted her on the head again, making her push back down her hair.  "You have static," he teased.

"I know.  Up here needs dryer sheets in the air."  She looked at John.  "If we do, can you help Faith?  She's not a bad girl if Xander's right."

"I can do that," he agreed.  She beamed at him.  "How soon before he can open it?"

"Six weeks," Xander said.  "That's his appointed date.  Oh, Sam, did you get any visions about his next attempt starting?"

"Huh?" Dean asked.

"If he can only open it every twenty-five years, he's got his next set of possible chosen already marked," Buffy pointed out.  Dean gaped.  She stared back.  "If he can only mark them at one point....."

"Shit," Dean muttered.

"I got a flash of a baby," Sam said.  "Plus we did meet that one little one, Dean.  Clearly one of the ones the demon marked."  Dean stared at him.  He stared back.

"That's true.  We'll do what we can," he agreed.  "How many were marked?"

"I've been doing web searches for others that had the same thing happen.  House fires with six-month-old babies," Willow admitted.  "I've caught four that fit the profile we have perfectly and another three that are possibles.  In Sam's first year I caught ten I think total that fit the profile."

"A few probably died in childhood," Dean said.

"However he's marking them is probably what makes Sammy such a demon magnet," Bobby pointed out.  "Other demons can probably sense it somehow."

Xander nodded.  "That's probably up there with hellmouth baby taint from me for drawing it, right?" he asked the older hunter.

"Probably," he agreed.  "Though, if Sammy ever turns into the magnet you are, I'd spank him myself."  Dean snickered.  John just moaned and shook his head.

"Wouldn't Willow have that?" Buffy asked.  "That'd blow the theory, right?"

"We moved into town when I was two," Willow told her.  "Xander was born inside the mystical limits of the hellmouth."

"My mom was too drunk to realize she was in labor," Xander said cheerfully.  "Dad was too drunk to drive her anyway.  I'm one of a few in the last few centuries.  Nearly the longest lived on ours.  Another year and I will be."

"The hellmouth is keeping him until it finds a bidder it likes to own him," Bobby told Buffy.  "If he had magic he'd be in bigger trouble."

"No, magic goes wrong around him," Buffy said firmly.  "Very, very wrong sometimes."  She glared at him.

He gave her a smug look back.  "Only that one spell.  Willow's had to work magic around and on me before.  And hey, the First Slayer spell didn't go wrong and I was doing part of it."  She gaped then whimpered, shaking her head.

Willow stared, mouth slightly open.  "It still goes wrong around you, Xander.  The will spell...."

"Made me the demon magnet you wanted," he countered.  She swallowed.  "That wasn't me, Willow.  That was you wanting some OCD time over Fate.  I asked one of the guys up here about the love spell incident.  He said it could have been Amy's mistake that made it backfire, it could've been the fact that I wasn't really in love with Cordelia, or it could've been hormones at the time.  At that age, magic goes screwy for everyone due to their hormone surges."

"I had good control," she pouted.

"Uh-huh."  He stared at her until she blushed and looked away.  "A lot of the problems you had with spells, when I asked them since they popped around to check on us  now and then, was the fact you mismeasure potions.  You throw in 'this should be' amounts."  She groaned, rubbing her face.  "Magic is a science, Willow, not a cooking test.  That's a direct quote one kept muttering over and over about you while you were doing that love potion."

"Ooooh.  I tossed that out."

"Because it sent half a dorm floor into a rut," he countered.

"How did you know about that?  I thought no one knew," she squeaked.

He smirked.  "They found all those.  That one kindly removed them for me."  He stared her down.  "If I ever catch you using memory spells again, you won't make it to Oklahoma," he said quietly.

"I know why it's wrong."

"Good.  Because mystical friend abuse is bad too."

She nodded.  "I get the point, Xander."

"Good.  Then when you're better, I won't nag."  She nodded, accepting that.

"Memory spells?" John asked.

"Yup.   He said something about herbs and lethe brambles?"

John glared at Willow.  "You ever do that and I will make sure you're declared a rogue, Willow Rosenburg.  That's far against the side of light."  She nodded, ducking her head further.

"Memory spells?" Tara asked.

"No, I had them check," Xander told her.  She smiled at him.  "When they found two on me, I made sure.  He took one off Joyce too."  Buffy glared.  "She apparently walked in on her doing something.  So she'll be going to Oklahoma on the way back.  We shouldn't need magic to deal with this demon, right, John?"

"No.  We shouldn't need it outside of some protections around Sammy.  Which Tara can probably do."

"I can agree to that," Willow said quietly.  Tara gave her a hug.  "Thanks, Tara."

"You're getting help.  As long as you get help, we'll support you."

She smiled and kissed her on the cheek.  "Thank you."  She relaxed again.  "If he doesn't show up in time, should we plan on a summoning?"

"Why?" Xander asked.  "Sammy and I can stand outside of town and draw him.  Well within the radiation range, but still outside the mystical boundaries.  I can take a week off to do that.  Hopefully the other problem up here won't attack that day."

"Hopefully," Dean agreed.  "Dad, can you please remove the mark his father put on him when he was eight?  That way no one has to worry about it even though the demon decided it didn't want him as a sacrifice?"

"Huh?" John asked.

"My dad tried to get help with his poker debts," Xander said bluntly.  He opened his shirt to show him the mark.  John growled.  "The demon told him I'd taste funny and turned him down."

John pulled the boy closer to the lights to look at.  "We can remove it since it was only marked, not embedded by the demon.  You didn't ask Bobby?"

"I've had it for so long I don't even worry about it.  I'm guessing my adoption up here prevented that one."

"Probably," John agreed.  "Or your Mayor wanted to keep you as a sacrifice."  He looked over it.  "We'll need some sterile equipment."  Dean went to get it for him.  He sat the boy on the chair, injecting some local anesthetic so he could slice the small mark off him.  Then he put a pad over it.  "Any others?"

"For some reason I have a tattoo on my butt but I think that was just being drunk," Xander admitted.  "I know I got it during my roadtrip that got canceled the hard way.  Though I did learn a lot about people at the strip club."

"Into the bathroom.  We can check it for you, just in case," John ordered.  He followed the boy, scalpel still in hand.  That one had a spell woven into it, he could feel it, but he had no idea what it was for.  "Can Tara look at this?"

"I asked her to before.  She blushed and nearly ran off."

"Tara?" he called.  She came in and blushed, turning around.  "It's got a spell on it."  She came over to glance at the edges of it, then whispered in his ear before fleeing back to her girlfriend's side.  John swatted him.  "It was to stabilize you off the hellmouth."

Xander pulled back up his pants.  "Really?"

"Yup.  Where did you have it done?"

"Oxnard.  Some little gypsy looking shop.  So I got a magical tattoo on purpose you think?"

"I have no idea.  Were you feeling sick?"

"I don't know."  He shrugged.  "I was kinda drunk that night.  They forced me up onto the stage for the first time.  I was *really* drunk when I wandered off after my second truly sucky set."

John patted him on the head.  "We'll check on her, Xander.  Do they know you have that?"

"One saw it one night while I was in the pool.  He giggled at it."  He shrugged.  "Who knows."

"Fine."  He walked the boy out.  "Boys, have you two been to Oxnard?"

"Once," Sam admitted.  "Jess wanted to hit Tijuana for spring break our first year together.  We stopped there for lunch and a stroll around to stretch our legs.  Why?"

"Gypsy looking store, tattoo place at least," John said.  He looked at Xander.

"Madam Rose's bookstore and tattoo palace?"

"Oh, she looked in there.  Something creepy told me to get away from there.  I figure she had wards up since it felt like they usually do to me.  Is she who did that?"

John nodded.  "It was to stabilize him off the hellmouth."  He noticed the guard there with the guy putting down their lunch.  "What else does it do?"

"It keeps him from getting sick as the radiation from the hellmouth leaves him.  She thought he might be getting sick and start leaking soon, which would draw some huge predators to her town.  She was protecting the area.  We asked once we found out she had done one.  We thanked her greatly.  She had no idea he was an heir.  For some reason his didn't show as much as some others' did."  He looked at Xander then at John.  "Thank you for removing that one.  Some people got worried about it."

"Not a problem.  Any others we've seen on him or around him?"

"There's still a lust spell on him from Rosenburg, but I'm not sure why.  We haven't been able to remove that.  She's stronger than the ones we have around here."  He left with the server.

"Willow?" John asked patiently.

"I did?"  She came over to remove the spells, sighing.  "That's really old.  I don't know why."

"Pre or post kissing incident?" Buffy asked.

"I can't tell.  I'd say post."  She shrugged and got to work removing it.  "There, all free," she told Xander with a grin.

"Thank you."  He kissed her on the forehead.  Then he stared at her.  She nodded that she'd go back tonight.  Then she went to spend some quality time with her girlfriend.  He sat down to lunch with his friends.  It was good to have this stress break.  "How many more days do you think seventy heirs is going to take?" Xander asked John.

"Two," Dean told him.  "I asked the guards last night.  They said two more days."  He looked around.  "No Anya?"

"She'll be up tomorrow," Buffy said.  "She said watching him be sworn in is the important part, not this boring part.  She hates to watch him fight or snark someone into submission.  So any ideas about the heir things?" she asked.

"Two," Xander admitted.  "Looking at the profiles the guards did, I have two good suggestions but neither one's shown up yet."

John groaned, shaking his head.  "You don't have to do that, Xander."

"I know.  Not that many heirs.  Five, maybe ten if I have to."  John smirked at that.  "Two family protectors that they want me to marry....."  He smirked at Bobby.  "They haven't given you any yet.  You or Tara."

"Thankfully.  That stuff's a bit odd and I'm not one for chocolate anyway," he pointed out.

"I like chocolate but that's just too much for me," Buffy said.

John nodded.  "I'm surprised Dean hasn't gorged himself sick on it yet."

"Why would I need to?  It's in the sauce over the meat and the casserole," he said dryly.  He ate another bite.  They all stared.

"Huh, they do better than my mom at hiding it," Buffy said, digging in again.  She did feel better so she must be coming up on PMS again.  If so, she really pitied the demon after Sam and his family.  She ate another bite and almost had smug thoughts about destroying it.

John looked at the sauce.  "It does look like that stuff you find in Mexican food."  He ate it anyway.   "Is this the spring's chocolate?"

Xander shrugged.  "No clue but probably not."

"Thank you."  He ate another bite, glancing at Willow.  She hadn't eaten any of the 'gravy' anyway and the casserole hadn't been touched when Dean had said that.  Interesting.   He finished up and took his boys off to the sitting area by the bed to go over plans of attack on the demon and what to do if it came while they were still waiting on all the heirs to come vow they didn't want the problems.  Or during the other invasion.

Someone knocked and the head of the council stepped in, bowing to them.  Xander waved him in.  "What's wrong?"

"Do you have any idea on who you might choose as your heir?"

"Two but neither of them have shown up.  The others who've asked, there's a good candidate who has skills where I lack them but I don't think he understands about the constantness of the job.  He seems to like to disappear into his books for months at a time.  There's one on there that I'd hate.  The guards said he does have a violent streak and he enjoyed torturing someone last year but they didn't do anything about him because of his station outside of raiding his house to get his victims free."

"Oh, him.  We do know about him and his name was only hypothetically taken down."  He sat across from Xander.  "The two who haven't presented themselves yet?"  He handed over his short list.  "Both interesting choices who do know what diplomacy means since they've been sent on diplomatic missions."

"I figure they were closer to the old Lord and Master so they might know what's going on.  So I'm waiting on them."

"They're not bad choices.  Generally, the people will go with whoever you want, Lord Xander."  He looked at the plotting Winchesters.  "Problems?"

"The one after Sam's coming up on his critical, have to move time."

"Ah.  If he's up here, the demon can't draw him."

Xander smirked.  "That's one idea but if we can get him to come after Sam, we can kill him.  That way no other parents have to go through this."

"That's also a good point."

"We'd settle for banishing but he's already picking out his next go-round's heirs."

"I still don't understand that," Buffy said.  "I mean, I do, but why be so picky?"

Xander smirked.  "Because, Buffy.  If he's got later plans after he opens the gate, it's probably going to be leading armies to conquer people to get a higher rank.  Right?"

"That seems pretty standard.  Yeah.  Even the ones who want to open the hellmouth usually have a plan to hold a later war to gain status over all the other demons they freed."

"If someone like Sam, who's charismatic, strong minded, has planning abilities - especially if Dean's beside him - wins his favor and runs his armies, they're going to be *his* armies, not the demon's.  So even if he does end up somehow making Sam his heir, he'll need a later one when he has to take out Sam to get his power back.  Like putting up a puppet leader who's too good at what he does so the people want him to lead them instead of the ones pulling his strings.  He'd end up losing control.  He'd have to be replaced at some point."  He looked at the head of the council.

"We do not have that planned," he assured him quickly.

Buffy giggled.  "Sometimes Xander's a bit paranoid.  It's lack of sex from Anya.  She wears it out of him usually."

"If you married Lord Samuel, it'd mean you could taint him, Lord Xander.  Then you could wear that out and have him safely beside you while his family hunted down that demon."

"I owe it a few good hits too," Sam pointed out.  "He killed my girlfriend."

"I was not aware.  I'm sorry, Lord Samuel."  He looked back at him.  "It still would be safer to be up here."

"He can't summon him from here or Sunnydale," Xander told him.

"Ah.  And that would be a preferred battleground," he said wisely.  Xander tipped his head.  "Should it happen during the ceremony, let us know and we'll speed up whatever we can."

"Can't we speed up the heirs?"

"No.  He was overeager to get those who could be helpful to him at a later point."  He stood up.  "I will send you other's opinions on those choices and make sure that they're hanging around, plus hurry those two heirs up, Lord Xander.  That way you can make your choice sooner."

"I said a week after all the celebrations," he said dryly.

"Good point."  He left, going to think on his choices.  They weren't bad choices, especially with only the profiles the guards had given him.  A few were odd choices.  He'd have to give him a more well-rounded view of those heirs.  He went to talk to some of the other highborn who knew them all.  That way they could write in their ideas.  Xander would appreciate the help he was sure.  He was busy planning two major battles for them.

Xander looked over.  "It's one idea we've still got on the planning board, Sam.  Pick whichever idea is going to be best for you and if we have to suddenly switch we'll argue."

"I can agree to that."  He grinned.  "You're doing a good job, Xander.  What about those other demons?"

"I sent a 'I've recently received your letter to Wozaataran and we've found your spy, what were you thinking' letter to them through the nicer people on the council.  They reworded it so it was polite and non threatening.  We did suggest that they send someone to talk to us in person.  That I didn't want to have to invade them but if they kept pushing threatening actions I'm not the nice sort he was.  And I made sure that made it into the final draft of the letter.  It was politely enough crouched in 'come see us before we kick your ass for the spies' to suit the diplomats and plain enough that it says 'I'm going to send a marshmallow covered army to your world if you don't lay off' for me."

John smirked.  "That's not good body armor but with their allergies...."

Xander grinned wickedly.  "Exactly.  Oh, and Dean did figure out how to launch a payload of sugar at them."  Dean nodded happily.  "So if we have to, we can."

"Excellent job, son."  He patted him on the head.  "Any other enemies?"

"Two but they're at the polite snubbing stage.  One sent someone to the coronation.  I saw them the other night after the day of heirs begging not to do my job.  He still sneered and asked if I knew what I was doing.  I told him right then I was working the cramp out of my foot for standing so long and wondering if this was an official diplomatic visit so I needed to call for tea and a quiet room to talk in.  He huffed so I offered him tea.  Then I smiled and told him I had no problem talking with diplomats, even if I couldn't fulfill their desires.  I'd at least listen to what they wanted to say since I hadn't been briefed yet on more than who was who.  He huffed off.  So apparently we're still at the 'snubbing politely' stage with them.  A guard leaned in.  "That huffy purple diplomat, did we piss his people off more?"

"His queen said it was nice you were honest about rubbing out your foot cramps and they'd see if they could work out our differences in a few weeks, Lord Xander."  He smiled.  "Can we take the lunch dishes?"

"We're done.  Thank you."

"Welcome."  He came in with the server to get the dishes.   "Any other huffy diplomats are waiting.  They know not to bother you during the coronation."  He smirked.  "When that one person tried to scream her way up the stairs with the dagger and you grabbed your axe from Dean, they decided you're under a bit of stress and should let you calm down first."   Xander just gave him a smug look back.  "Mostly their differences are that they're a hive species and we're not, plus we like different things."

"I'm all for letting their differences be theirs as long as it doesn't hurt our people.  Oh, what's this I hear someone was jailed for liking a female?"

The guard coughed.  "Her mother had him jailed for liking her daughter.  The judge has since had him removed since that's not a legal reason.  Our jails aren't bad."

"Thank you."

"Welcome, Lord Xander.  Any other concerns?"

"Any idea where the demon after Sam is?"

"I know where he's stashing his heirs."  John stiffened.  "I know he's traveling toward your town."

"John and them need to know anything on that development."

"Of course, Lord Xander."  He sent for another guard to tell them what he had learned.  Plus the spying reports from their person in their threat's realm.  Then he left him alone to rest while making plans on how to be horrible to someone else.  He really was quite amusing when he needed laid.

Xander took the scouting reports with a grin.  "Thank you."

"Welcome, Lord Xander.  I'm worried that he'll be hurt."

"Can he pull back?"

"No, it's not an area he can do that in.  We do know that they were displeased you contacted them that way.  They considered it a sign of weakness."

Xander considered it.  "John, if information that we had weapons now got back to them would it be a good or a bad thing?"

He considered it.  "It might scare them off acting but it might make more spies come.  Are you thinking about leaking information?"

"Perhaps a publicity photo then," he said, looking at the guard.  Who gave him a smug look and a nod before leaving.  The guard with John, Dean, and Sam looked amused.  "Anything to make them hold it off for at least a few weeks until we're ready."

"We don't think they can be ready before a month, Lord Xander, but we may be wrong."

"Better to be ready for a bit than underprepared and have them attack here," Xander pointed out.  That got a nod and they went back to dealing with that problem while he read over the scouting reports.  Buffy came over to help him.  "I'm scaring him using you," he said quietly, looking at her.

"I can be a pinup up here too," she said with a smug look.  "Any demon that hates chocolate is probably a bad guy anyway."  He nodded, letting her see them.  "I wonder if you can fire rock candy like you do rock salt," she said, looking at Dean, who choked and looked back at her.  "If they're allergic to sugar...."

"That's nearly evil, but I'll see," he offered.  He got back to the problem at hand, making a note for himself.  It was nice the slayer liked weapons even if she didn't really like guns most of the time.  John was still shaking his head at that idea.  "They're allergic to sugar.  It'd probably kill them on contact."

"Body armor," Xander noted.  "So maybe we can find a way to coat bullets or pack it hard enough to make bullets."

"We probably can't pack it that hard," Dean said, considering it.  "It might melt if you do it that way.  Coating might work.  We'll have to test."  He made another note.  He saw the guard's uneasy look.  "There's people who're worse gun nuts than we are," he assured him.  "We just do what we have to do with them."

"Good.  Some do think Lord Xander's paranoid since he has weapons with him at his coronation, but we understand why after the first few duels and the one who tried to stab him."  He went back over the plans he had overheard so far.  The demon clearly knew that he was watching him but it amused him and furthered his plans.  They could still use that information.

"Is he aware Xander had a vision about him?" Sam asked quietly.

"Not that I know of, Lord Samuel."

"So it may be something we can  use," he decided.  That got a nod and they got to work planning with this new information once the guard was gone.  "How many more weapons do you have, Xander?"

Xander chuckled when Buffy moaned.  "Way too many, Sam," she complained.  "He won't even let me play with them."

John looked at her then at Xander.  "I've been sorting out your confiscated areas."  Xander nodded at that.  "Want those clothes sent to the thrift store?"

"I wouldn't care.  Or let Joyce yard sale it if she wants.   That way we can afford all the pizza we eat while we research."

Dean snickered.  "I walked in for pizza a few days before we got snatched and they asked if it was for the group or just us."

"I eat like a slayer," Buffy reminded him.  "I need those calories for patrol and staking vamps."

"Yes you do," Xander agreed, patting her on the shoulder.  She swatted him.  He just smirked back.  "We all know you do but you eat better when you have a boyfriend."

"Riley showed up.  We told him we were coming up to see you coronated.  He went to get drunk but said he'd patrol in my place for a few days."

"He had the balls to show up again?" he demanded.  She nodded.  "Wow.  I thought my balls were huge.  He apologize for being a feeder?"

"Yup, and showed off his new wife."

"Ah."  He gave her a hug.  "It'll be okay.  I promise we'll find you someone worthy of you, Buffy."

"I know a few hunters who'd like her," Bobby assured him.  "I've already spread around that she could use more help while you're up here.  I got emails from them yesterday that they're in town and stunned at the overrun state of it.  I sent them to Giles to talk about harmless demons and to not stake Spike."

"Thank you," she said.  "Are they cute?"

"Mostly.  One's a female and she's pretty but tough.  That'll give you a girl to talk about hunting with too."

"Wow.  I'll like that.  Thank you, Bobby."  She got up to give him a hug.  "You're a good uncle sort of guy."  She went back to the scouting reports.  "He really didn't like your letter, Xander."

"Ehh, next time I'll send his spy back to die at his feet with one."  He gave her a smug look.  "He has no idea who I am.  He probably thinks I'm like these guys are.  Nice, gentle, delicate people who don't fight much outside of honor duels."

She laughed.  "Yeah, not you."  He shook his head.  "Good.  Then can you come home?  So I don't have to listen to Anya fuss?"

"Probably.  We'll see.  Though, Anya fussing will probably happen anyway."

"Good point.  She found something to fuss at even when you were meeting her demands."  She went to talk to Tara again.  She needed a hug since Willow was still off the deep end of the ethereal plane.  Tara gave her a smile.  "Bobby said there's a female hunter coming."

"That might be nice," she agreed.   "Then you could have a night off to go do girl things."

"That'd be really nice.  Mom and I need a mom and daughter shopping trip."  Tara patted her on the hand.  "Really.  She didn't even help me shop for the stuff up here."  She settled beside her.  "She said she was tired."

"Buffy, take your mom to Hillcrest," Xander said firmly.  "Tonight."  She sighed but went to travel to do that.  "Joyce can't be sick or we'll all be losing our mom," he said at John's look.  "She's the only parent some of us have had.  I'd hate to have to kick her ass for not taking care of herself."

"You try that.  Joyce will spank you for weeks, Xander," Willow snorted.

He stared at her.  "She knows she's got to take care of herself.  That her daughter depends on her as a sanity roadblock.  Otherwise hunting gets to you."

John nodded.  "It does.  That's why Buffy retreats to an airhead now and then.  It makes it easier not to think about what you just staked or killed."

Xander nodded.  "Plus she had the First Slayer showing her things about the line that weren't pretty."  John looked at him.  "To defeat the Initiative we had to call her spirit back to possess Buffy.  She hadn't been happy to be a slayer.  Let's just say, even without her torturing us in our dreams, things were bad back then."  John just nodded once.  "But Sineya was ....very strong."

Willow nodded.  "Having that stuff forced on her made her that way."

"They ...forced it on her?" Bobby asked.

"Back then the demons ruled," Xander said.  "The humans wanted a weapon.  They made a weapon.  That was back in our grunting and pointing days.  She had a brow ridge worse than Angel's."

"Any idea if that's written down anywhere?"

"England," Willow said.  "I know where their library is if you want the address.  They might not like hunters like you.  The watchers are kinda poopy heads about that stuff."

Xander nodded.  "Yeah, trying to take out both Faith and Buffy when Faith woke up wasn't that amusing of them."  John growled.  "Exactly."  He smirked.  "We're on friendly terms with Buffy but not the watchers.  Their head guy, he really does need blown up."  A vision hit him, making him grab his forehead and bend over, hissing in agony as it flowed through him.

"Xander," Sam said, coming over to help him.  "Breathe.  It helps.  It'll be over with soon."  He rubbed his shoulders until Xander relaxed.  "Shh, let it settle for a minute."

"Paper."  Sam got him some and a pen, letting him write it out.  He let it all spill out until it faded.  It left him with a migraine.  He handed it to Sam.  "Seal it."  He stared at him.

Sam read it then folded it up and handed it to Bobby.  "Seal that."  He got Xander down onto the couch and went to get one of the guards.  "Xander just had a vision."

"I'll get him some cocoa."  He called out for it to be brought, taking a sip before handing it over.  "That way no one tries to poison him."

"Thank you."

"Did it concern us?"

"No."  He went back in there, handing it to Xander.  "It was taste tested by the guard," he said quietly.  Xander nodded, gulping it so Sam could tuck him in and help him sleep.

Bobby let John see the vision then got a nod and him putting it into his sealed journal.  No one was getting into it.  They'd have to stop that.

"Do we need to know?" Tara asked.

John shook his head.  "No.  Not yet."  She nodded at that.  "It was an upcoming apocalypse for you guys so later on."

"Sure, we can do that," Willow agreed.  She snuggled in better.  She had missed her Tara cuddles.

John checked on Sam and Xander, smiling at the fussing going on.  "Let him sleep, son."

"I am.  Just being here in case he wakes up with nightmares like I'd have."

"Sure."  He tossed over one of his fun reading books, getting a smile back for it.

Dean looked back.  "If we need some of your pills they're in my closet on top of the dresser."

"Sure."  He settled in to read and be there in case Xander needed him.

Dean and John shared a look.  "His are that bad," Dean said quietly.

"I figured they were.  I'm glad he hasn't had any in a while."  He patted Dean on the back.  "We'll find out if we can stop them for him."  They got back to work on the plan.  If Sammy's visions came from the demon they'd have to take out the demon to stop them.  It went well with their goals.


Bobby caught Tara later that night, taking the vision from her.  "That's why we didn't want you to know."

She stared at him.   "I'm not that naive, Bobby.  I know it can happen."

"We think it'd be better to avoid it by keeping you up here, Tara."

She considered it.  "If it gets that bad, I'll definitely come up with Xander.  Or hide with him if he's back with us."


"But we can't stop her if she tries it."

"Yes we can," Xander muttered.  "And I will be."  He looked back at her.  "If I have to I'll stop her, Tara.  The same as I would if she were turned."

She nodded at that, giving him a hug before going back to bed.  Bobby stared at him.  "That's a sucky job."

"Yeah but Buffy won't be able to."

"I know.  You sure?"

"Yeah.  Even if I hate them and wouldn't mind them being blown up, I can't let that happen.  Even if it would be nice to sink Sunnydale."

Bobby nodded.  "Good."  He put back his journal and went back to bed.  They had to stop Rosenburg so the boy wouldn't have to.  That sort of thing destroyed a soul faster than anything.  Though, he'd already been through it once with Jesse from what he'd heard.  He walked back out, looking down at him.  "They told me you've had to once."

"Jesse," he agreed quietly.  "My first staking."

Bobby shuddered.  "We'll help so you don't have to, Xander."  That got a nod and Bobby went back to his room to think about how to get the witches in Oklahoma to nag her on that point.  Maybe they could do something to shut down the hellmouth if and when Buffy died the next time.

Xander got up and snuck out, heading for the pool.  The guard tried to stop him.  "I still have a headache.  I'm going to work it off."

"Go back to sleep, Lord Xander.  It'll be another trying day of heirs tomorrow.  I'll get you some new cocoa to take out that headache."  He sent for some and handed it over after a sip.  "Just in case," he said at the amused look.

"Thank you.  You guys take good care of me.  After all this is done and I've decided to hand it over, want to come home with me?"

"No.  Then you won't have a guard and we'll be detoxing your system from the sacred spring.  I'm told it hurts like hell."

Xander gave him a look.  "Really?"  He nodded.  "Huh."  He finished up.  "I'll keep that in mind."  He went back to his couch to think.  He'd sneak out later if he didn't get to sleep.  Of course, he yawned and did drift off fairly soon.  That cocoa was deadly to keeping him awake.

The guard yawned as well.  That sleeping potion had been a bit strong.  He called for a relief guard so he could sleep it off.  He also made note of the joking request Lord Xander had made.  That way the last true heir could tell him what happened when that was done to him.


Xander looked over as someone whispered into Dean's ear, getting a nod.  He and Sam headed off.  He looked at the head of the council, who was not looking pleased.  "Time's up," he said quietly.  "Let's get on with it."

"There's one last heir," he said.  He motioned them up.

"I give up all rights and don't want to be an heir," he said quickly, realizing that the consorts disappearing that way had to be a problem.

"Wasn't he on the list?" Xander asked.  The head of the council nodded.  "Tough, you're in the running for heir because you've been helpful in the past.  We'll consider your wishes though."  He grinned sweetly.  The heir shuddered and moaned but nodded.  "I'll be talking to the ones on the list in a few days."

"Agreed, Lord Lavetella.  Thank you."  He disappears back into the crowd.

"Lord Lavetella, it is important that you do have a willing support network behind you to keep you centered when the duties get trying."

"I have two family protectors, Dean and Sam Winchester.  Who I really need to go help."

"Are there any prior relationships that may count against theirs?" he asked formally.

"He is mine," Anya said, stomping up there.  "He was mine first and you stole him from me."

Xander kissed her.  "In many ways I'm still yours, Anya honey."  He stared at her.  "Do you *really* wanna deal with formal occasions and those things?"

"No," she pouted.  "But you're still mine.  If you dump me I get my powers back."

"I see nothing wrong with you getting your powers back," he said, smiling at her.  "So therefore I have to end our relationship for a very good reason.  They want me to have heirs and you don't want children."  She squealed and hugged him.  "But don't you dare curse me."

"We'll see," she said, looking up.  "D'Hoffryn?"

"Anya, later," he ordered, making her whimper.  "Later," he said more clearly.  She nodded, backing down.  He looked at the head of the Council.  "Yes, I do formally end my union with the former, and soon to be again, demon Anyanka.  I still want Sam and Dean Winchester as my family's protectors.  As such I have to go protect them from something."

"We'll conclude the wedding of you and the consort Samuel to protect him better tomorrow," he said.

Xander glared.  "You explain it to Sam then."  He looked at the worried people.  "A demon just attacked my protector's family.  I'll be back shortly."  He walked off, taking off his robe on the way to the portals.  He landed behind Sam.  "They're insistent that I'm marrying you, Sam."

Dean spluttered.  "That's so bad."

"I have the prior claim," the demon dressed as a man said.

Xander snorted.  "You want Sam that much, challenge me."

"Who're you?" he sneered.  "Some upstart little hunter?"

Xander stepped forward.  "The old Mayor stopped you from getting me.  Don't recognize me?"  The demon stared then burst out laughing.  "Get him!" he shouted.  The demons Spike had organized on his say so attacked.  They wanted to help the new demon lord.  Once he was down and struggling Xander smirked.  "Hi, let me reintroduce myself.  I'm Xander Harris.  Also known as the White Knight of Sunnydale.  Also known as Lord Lavetella."  The demon shrieked.  "And they decided Sam was mine, not yours.  Pity."  John moved forward.  "Guys, don't get in John's way."  The demon started to chant.  Xander sighed, looking toward the old school, then putting into practice something he had learned recently when researching hellmouth babies.  The whole town's demon contingent shrieked and the ones there backed away from him.  That one looked awed.

"Hellmouth baby," he sneered.

"Ya think?" he sneered back.  "I should feed you to my hellmouth but it might get indigestion.  John?"  He shot him, making the demon scream and the cloud try to escape.  John shot the cloud of demon too, making it die.  He let go of the hellmouth, panting.  "Ow.  That hurt."  He looked at Sam.  "You get to yell at them for wanting to marry us off anyway.  I said family protector, dude."

"I know you did," Dean said calmly.  "What did you do?"

"Hellmouth babies can touch the hellmouth and draw on it," Sam said, staring at Xander.  Who just smirked back.  "You let it go?"

Xander checked.  "I think I did."

John knocked him out with the butt of the gun.  "Now he has."  Two guards appeared.  "We're making sure he doesn't still have the hellmouth held in thrall.  You can have him back in a minute."

"Of course you are," one agreed.  "We need you all back.  They're insistent that the marriage happen anyway."

"I'm still straight," Sam complained.  "He only wanted us as family protectors."

"This will still protect you more."

"It's only going to take today?" John asked.

They nodded.  "We can bring you back up for that and then transport you and the other hunters, plus both slayers, to the place of the battle.  It'll save you traveling time."  They took them all.  Xander was woken by Sam gently patting him on the face.  "I hope he doesn't have a concussion," the guard complained.

"Me too, but I don't feel like I do," Xander admitted, sitting up.  "Ow, John.  Be more gentle and use a nerve pinch or something."  He rubbed his head.  "Ow."  Sam grinned.  "Oooh, let's go end this."  He got up with some help from the guards.  "Okay."  They walked out, Xander grabbing his robe on the way since one of the other guards had it over his arm.  "Thank you.  Sorry for our abrupt departure but something was trying to claim Sam."  He nodded at the worried looking council.  "It's dead."

"Good.  It is good you will protect your mate with your skills," another of them said.

"Family protector, dude," Dean told him.  "Not mates.  We're brothers.  We can't be married to the same person and we're both straight."

The council shrugged.  "It will protect you during the battles that are coming."  Xander gave them an odd look.  "There are those who would gladly continue his ideals, Lord Lavetella."

"Then they can get their asses kicked too.  We've got to go do that in a few minutes," Dean told them.  "So can you finish naming us family protectors?"

The head of the council coughed.  "It would be for the best if you two were married to him.  It would protect you both more."

"We're fine on protection," Dean assured him.

"Still."  He looked at John.  "As their father it would be more helpful."

John honestly considered it then he shook his head.  "We're demon hunters.  It'd look bad on us."

"It still might but it's safer for them."  John shook his head again.

Xander sighed.  "Guys, we've had this talk.  I like girls.  I like these two as friends.  I'll gladly protect them, fuss over them when they're injured, all that.  But we're not like that with each other and I'd never get sex again so I'll end up *really* violent sometime soon.  Find me a nice person I can mate with for heirs.  Really."  They all gave him odd looks.  "I don't care.  I really don't."  He looked around.  "I'm still edgy too.  Dean....."

"Going."  He went to get the weapons ready just in case.  Sam stayed with Xander while John helped him with Bobby, Buffy, and Faith.  He nodded at her.  "Hey, Faith.  Dean Winchester."

"Hey," she said quietly.  "What is going on?  I got magically blipped from my cell.  Someone's going to be yelling really soon about me being missing."

"No one told you that Xander got adopted by the chocolate loving demons as a kid?" Buffy asked her.

"Yeah, got that part."

"They're swearing him in today.  The last step is naming those two family protectors," Buffy told her.  "But we think the ones who want to destroy these nice, sweet, gentle people's sacred chocolate spring are going to attack soon."

"Why do they want it?"

"They're allergic to sugar," Buffy said dryly.

"Hence this baby, that'll shoot a payload of it," Dean said with a pat to the case.  "But we didn't get you out for this."

"The demon they just took down has gathered hundreds of them near a devil's gate, which is like a lesser hellmouth, to open it and welcome their buddies," Buffy said with a wicked grin.  "That's slayer work but I'm not that good.  Together we are."

"You trust me?"

"Xander reamed me a new one recently," she said dryly.  "He's turning into my mom.  All common sensical and all that."

Faith laughed.  "This is a cute play, guys."  The crowd shrieked.  "Or not."  She grabbed the case with Bobby, helping him carry it out.

"Real leaders are at the front of their troops," a demon sneered at Xander.

Xander waved a hand.  "Not like I'm hiding, dude."  He looked back.  "Can I?"  It was handed over by Bobby.  He looked at it then flipped it open and fired at the extra large demon, making him and his people scream as the sugar crystals hit them and killed them.  "End them," he ordered.  The guards dove in with his help.  Dean and Sam were right behind him.  John, Buffy, Faith, and Bobby grabbed lesser weapons to dive in and help too.


Xander flopped down on the stairs once the last demon was dead, looking at the mess.  "We need a bonfire," he muttered.  The council was all gathered together.  He looked at them.  "Morning."

"It nearly is," one agreed.

Xander shrugged.  "Not my fault battles take a while."  He looked at his troops.  "Guys?"  He came down to check them over, getting swatted at by Buffy.  "You get fussed over too.  Stop it."

"No."  She got free of his checking injuries.  "I'm fine.  Only a few claw marks, Xander."

"Don't even think about getting with the touching thing," Faith warned.

Xander kissed her on the cheek.  "Keep complaining, watch me put you in for my official consort, Faith," he said quietly, making her whimper and try to hide behind Buffy.  "Can we get some healers?" he called.  They ran that way.  He checked over Sam and Dean, getting swatted at by Dean.  "His leg's cramping," he noted.  "Doesn't feel like he reinjured it."  He got John sitting to check him over.  "You've got a good gash there."  He reached for a stitching pack but a healer came over to close it for him.  "Some day I've got to learn that," he said in awe.

The healer patted him on the cheek.  "You may."  They got the rest of the warriors cleaned up, sending a few to their clinics.  Then they bowed at the council.  "They'll be fine to continue after a good meal and some time calming down."

"We can complete the coronation without them if need be," the head of the council said.  "Lord Lavetella?"  He flinched, looking at him.  "Go calm down.  Take your protectors and mates to your suite."  Xander nodded, going that way.  "Someone clean up the mess," he ordered.

Xander came back out with Tara.  "Can you?"

"Of course."  She lit the demons on fire.  They burned quickly and left no mess.  She stroked the head of the council's cheek.  "Don't try to manipulate me," she whispered.  She walked Xander off so he could calm down.  He was bouncy and ready to attack someone else.

The crowd was cheering behind them.

Miss Kitty looked at the crowd and meowed.  She knew she was special, but really.  They were noisy!  The head of the council looked down at her.  She stared back, seeming to smirk.  She meowed at him too.  Then she trotted after her mommy.

The head of the council shook his head quickly.  "He has some very strange yet helpful advisors."  The crowd who heard laughed at that.  "We will finish the ceremony while they calm down.   Before more things happen."  The crowd cheered and they got on with the marriage ceremony.  Even if the participants didn't want it, oh well.

Sam stalked out, glaring at one of them.  "Family protectors, not husbands.  Dean and I can't share the same lover, guys.  It's nasty to have incest that way."  They booed.  He glared at the crowd, making them stop.  He glared at the council.  "Protectors only.  That's all Dean and I will accept.  Faith said the same thing."  He left again.

The council shrugged and finished it off.  Not all marriages had to have sex in them.  The sudden, intense rain shower that started when Xander's stand-in agreed and turned to look at the stand-in for his consent drove them off.  So they'd finish it inside.  It was best for their realm.


Xander looked up as the last true heir was let into his suite.  "Here to tell me how painful the detoxing is?"

"It nearly killed me," he admitted.  "But no, they sent me to make sure you won't attack them since they did marry you and Sam and Dean."  John moaned, shaking his head.  "They said not all marriages required sex so therefore you could have human modesty standards for a few more years."  He sat down across from him.  "I know you don't want to do this but they'll hunt you down.  There are those who will hunt you down if you hand it over.  Not these people, but others.  They'll consider you a good target for retribution."

"I'd leave a stable heir."

"They did it to me and Dad was in good health when I left twenty years ago, Xander.  I've nearly died a few times thanks to them.  One tried the day they found you so I wouldn't have to protect myself by giving it up again."

Xander considered it.  "It's not who I am."

"It wasn't who Dad was either.  He was the poor guy with common sense who spoke out and got heard.  He had good ideas and he had sense about what was needed.  So they named him.  He got hunted after he gave it up.  They nearly got him twice."  Xander shuddered.  "They will get Dean and Sam because they're still mortal.  They've only had secondary output from the spring, not the pure stuff you have."  He stood up.  "But yeah, it's really painful and it can kill you.  That's why only heirs and their consorts get from the direct spring instead of the filtered stuff they get in town."  He grinned.  "I'm headed back to Miami."

"You do good work and if you need to hide, come back up," Xander told him.  "You'll be welcome."

"Thank you."

"Stay safe."

"I'll do my best."

"Want me to assign a guard?"

"You can't do that.  I gave it up."

Xander smirked.  "I can name you one of my heirs."

"You still can't do that, kid.  Trust me.  Dad tried."  He smirked.  "But I have my protectors."  He disappeared out the door and to the portals.

Xander looked at them, then shrugged.  "Okay, now we need to plan what I'm doing next."

"Beating the council?" Sam suggested.

"That could work for me," Dean agreed.

John stared at his boys.  Then at Xander.  "You'll protect them?"

"Of course," he said, looking confused.  "They're the only guy friends I have.  I protect all my friends with my life, John.  You've seen me do it to Buffy I'm sure."

"I have.  You won't make them sleep together?"

Xander shrugged.  "If they're that kinky, it's nothing that includes me.  Hold on...."  John smirked as he grabbed his jacket.  "Oh, no.  You'll need them in the cemetery."

"I'll have the ladies and they can come help."  He nodded at Faith, who he had explained things to after they were calm again.  She took his hand to help her up and they walked out together to go kick demon butt.  They might die but that was what they were made for.  Buffy hurried after them.  Tara and Bobby hurried out too, going together.  She'd do what she could to protect the hunters.  Dean grabbed their gear bag and headed with Sam after him.  John looked at his boys.  "This isn't your battle."

"Shut up, Dad."  They walked through the portal, finding the demons still waiting.  Dean checked his watch.  It updated automatically to the correct date.  It was a nice coronation present from Joyce.  "It's the day he's supposed to open it."  They smirked at each other and dove into the battle.

Faith and John stuck together.  He was a normal guy and needed the support of a slayer.  Even with his shotgun.  Buffy was with that Bobby guy and Tara.  The boys were fighting together.  It'd happen.  They'd take out a lot of evil bitches and make them wish for hell again.

Xander came out of the portal with major weapons, firing them off.  The demons screamed as the sugar enhanced weapons hit them.  It didn't kill them with the sugar but it was still an explosive concussion against their bodies.  More went down and Xander had to switch to an automatic weapon.  By dawn, the cemetery was littered with demons parts and bodies.  They were avoiding puddles of blood and ichor.  Buffy was complaining about her clothes.

Faith looked at herself then at John.  "We're nasty."

"We are."  He lifted his t-shirt off his stomach to let air get under it to hopefully dry some of the nastiness.  "We need a bath."

"I have one of those," Xander said dryly, leaning on his gun.  "Go hit it, guys."  They trudged back through the portals, Xander last, shaking his head at the worried looks.  "The demon that took Sam and Dean on earlier was going to open a devil's gate.  We went to deal with his buddies who were going to cause problems.  I do back up slayers who don't kill every demon, just the bad ones.  And for apocalypses."  Faith gave him an odd look.  "Like I haven't been at all of them?"

"Good point, X.  You sure we can clean up?"

"I have the shower of sin and a bathtub, Faith.  You need one of them."  She swatted at him.  "Then maybe John can introduce you to other hunters who could use some of your help or who could help you maybe?  Bobby's like their watchers."

"Really?" she asked him.

"I do a lot of research for a lot of folks," he agreed quietly, looking at her.  "I've seen other hunters who've hit the dark side too, Faith.  If you need to talk, you can come see me."

She nodded.  "I might take you up on that.  If Tara isn't too busy guard dogging you."

He smiled.  "She's a good girl who loves Willow, even with her addiction."  He patted her on the back, getting a squish.  "C'mon.  I'm sure one of us has a t-shirt you can borrow."

"My closet seemed to have sprouted new clothes," Xander said dryly.  "So did Sam and Dean's since last night."  They all groaned.  "Can we get a modesty screen so they can use the tub and the shower without running into each other?" he asked a guard as he walked past them.

"We've opened the other suite's bathroom for the ladies, Lord Xander."  He let Tara lead them that way.  Xander handed him a pile of clothes for them, going to deliver them.  Then he posted a female guard in front of their room.  He found Xander taking a long time drinking some juice.  "Lord Xander, people are wondering if there'll be more of these incidents soon?"

Xander looked at him.  "That depends on if Buffy needs more help with the next apocalypse or if Faith does," he said honestly.  "Today's was a continuation of the one that was coming after Sam.  You can tell them that."

"I'll do that, Lord Xander.  So unless we're attacked or there's an apocalypse that involves Sunnydale or the slayers, you're here for us?"  He nodded.  "Are you going to switch out?"

"I'm not sure yet," he said honestly.

"I understand.  You're not really a leader of men, just a leader of battles."  He went to tell his boss that.  His boss could play politics and tell the council.

Xander got his turn in the shower, then came out to flop down on his couch.  It had been a long few weeks.  He hoped the upcoming ones weren't as bad.

The End.