From:"Danyella Skyler Silverfire" <>
      Date:Thu, 3 Jan 2008 14:34:40 -0800 (PST)
      Subject:[imaginings] SPN/BtVS Plot bunny

I had a funny plot bunny attack me this morning. It's rather short but I hope someone
*cough*Vo*cough* takes it.

Alright Xander meets John Winchester on a hunt (whether it was Xander, John or both hunting is up to you) and they end up traveling and hunting together for a little while. Anyway John takes a liking to Xander and decides to set him up with Dean, figuring the two of each other would balance each other out and give each other something to live and fight for. Seeing as how Dean's been kinda off since Sam left and Xander's got his plethera of issues so Dean would give him a good unwavering friendship at least. So John sends Xander to back up Dean after some subtle hinting to put the idea in his head.

Now I'm thinking all of this is while Sam's at collage. So it would be rather funny if Xander and Dean were together by the time John dissappeared and Dean got Sam back into the hunt. Be interesting if Xander was gone on his own taking care of something that was urgant so he couldn't be with Dean to go see Sam, so a couple weeks later Sam walks into their most recent motel room to find his big brother making out with a *guy*, then to find out that not only does John approve but he considers Xander his son-in-law.

I can see things being rather funny. Especially with Dean and Xander baiting and bickering with each other.

Notes:  small angst up front when Xander's trying to figure out what he wants to do.

Partners and Strange Bedfellows.

John Winchester was tired.  The current issue he was dealing with wasn't being that predictable and it was driving him insane trying to find anything in this town.  No one wanted to give him any information and even the newspaper hadn't been that helpful.  So he was here in a bar, trying to get a drink and relax for the night until a new idea hit him.  He looked at the stripper on the stage, not realizing he had picked a strip club.  Not his usual thing.  That was more his son's thing really.  He went to the bar, sitting down.  "Beer me?" he requested quietly.

The bartender looked at him.  "Any sort?  We've got three on tap, bottles, and crap in a can."

John tried not to smile.  That was honest.  "Miller or Bud, whatever's cheaper and easier."

"It's five for ten tonight on beer bottles, dude.  No matter the brand.  Both are."

"Miller."  Xander got him one and opened it for him, handing it over.  "Thank you."  He put down the money.  "I'll need the other four later."

"Sure."  He rang him up and went back to filling a drink order for a girl talking to a customer.  She sold pretty well but she was picky about her drinks and how they tasted.  He looked around the club, staring at one customer.  He wasn't going to groan out loud.  He had warned the putz last time.  He checked him over.  His wallet was on the table.  His dagger was on his back waistline, as was his pistol.  Xander looked at the bouncer then at the guy, getting a nod that he had seen the weapons.  They didn't have an official policy on no weapons allowed.  They did have an armed, former cop bouncer and Xander though.  So when the guy got up to bug the stripper on stage by vamping out, Xander pulled up his crossbow and shot the guy.  Then he waved at his dusted corpse.  "Next time, don't try to bite the dancers," he told the dust.  He looked at the girl.  "I get ten percent of your cut from his wallet."

She shrugged.  "Okay."  She went back to her set and came off, going to change and sell drinks.

John looked at the pile of dust then at the boy.  "Good technique."

"Should be after three years of patrol."  He gave him a long look.  "You don't look shocked."

"We mostly deal with spirit manifestations but not the first I've seen."  He sipped his beer, watching the manager storm out.  This was going to be interesting.

"I told you to quit that!" the manager shouted.  "You're losing us money!"

Xander pointed at the table, leaning on the bar.  "His wallet was on the table, boss.  I didn't think we wanted me to have to bandage more bite marks.  I still get ten percent or I'll never get out of here and you'll have to deal with me doing all the demons when they come in."  Another client started to edge toward the door.  "Don't eat or assault the dancers and I don't care," he said in a demon trade tongue.  The thing relaxed and went back to the girl he was buying for.  Xander looked at his boss again.  "You'd rather rush her to the hospital needing blood?  Or have to stake her when she came back in a few days for her last paycheck and your blood?  We *all* know I don't let that sort of thing happen."  The boss stomped off.  "Remember, I get ten percent so I can fix the POS car.  Otherwise I've got to stay here forever and ever," he called after him.  He looked at the bouncer.  "Need my crossbow for the other two?"

"No, if they wanted to eat someone, I'm sure they've decided it was a stupid decision by now," he said phlegmatically.  He went back to his post.  Xander had some pretty fast reflexes.  It made his job easier.

John looked around then at the boy.  "You got a name?"

"Xander."  He leaned his forearms on the bar, looking at him.  "You?"

"John."  He smiled.  "John Winchester."

Xander held out a hand.  "Xander Harris."

"Where you from, kid?"


"That evil little crater of doom?" he asked.  That explained a lot.  The kid probably knew vampires than he did real people.

Xander chuckled.  "That's us.  Three years hunting with our slayer," he said quietly.  "I'm on a post grad road trip and someone so *thoughtfully* blew up my engine for me during a rest stop."

"Ah.  Not bad."

Xander smirked.  "Thanks, John.  Ready for your second?  If not I'll have to up the price with the boss being pissy."

"Sure.  I could use it."  He drained his first one and handed over the empty, letting Xander give him a second one.  "Thanks."

"Welcome."  He went back to cleaning the bar, plus doing the glasses that had been dirtied.  The music that came on blaringly loud made him flinch and wince.  The stripper getting up there was new and she made him hiss and shake his head.  No rhythm.  No style.  But hey, the rumors said that her first private dance had turned into a blowjob so the guys would like her.  The boss came storming out.  "What?  I didn't turn it up."

"You're ignoring clients."

Xander looked around.  "You guys should've said something."  He moved to handle the dancer's beer request then went to the guy he didn't know.  "What'cha need?"  The man waved his glass.  "Beer?"  He nodded.  "What type and tap or bottle?"  The man wrote something out.  Xander read then got him a refill, handing over the cold glass.  "Next time, bang something or throw something at me."  The guy smirked and walked off to hum at the poor girl on the stage.  He looked at the boss. "Why did you hire her?  She's got lumpy, small breasts and no rhythm.  Hell, even I did better when you made me fill in."  He went back to cleaning.  John was trying hard not to laugh.

"Let's not talk about your trial on the pole, Harris.  You nearly got killed.  Twice."

Xander smirked at him.  "Why do you think I keep the crossbow back here with me?"  He pulled it on the vamp who rushed the stage, getting him.  His wallet was at the table too.  He walked over to look at the ashes, picking up something shiny.  "Usually things disappear."  He looked at it.  "Ah.  Order of Taraka.  Hey, boss, we've got assassins in the house.  Do we give them drink specials?" he called as he walked off with the ring.  Someone behind him growled and lunged at him.  Xander ducked, letting him land against the bar.  He saw John deftly pickpocket him then stake him with the one in his back pocket.  "They're hiring for pitiful now.  It really, really was.  I've seen normal teen girls fight better than that one."  He looked at the stunned looking stripper then he smirked. "Hi.  Xander from Sunnydale."  She shrieked and ran out naked.  He waved.  "Well, better tips for the rest of you."  One of them left off her teasing and went to dance for her drink buyer, who was going to be giving her a lot more later.  He went back behind the bar, looking at his boss.  Then he went to get the wallets and take his ten percent, handing the rest of the money to the girl who had nearly been attacked earlier.  "Your cut."  He went back behind the bar, pocketing the money.  "So," he said dryly, smirking at John.  "How was your day?"

"I can't find any information on the poltergeist in town."  He finished his beer and paid for another one, getting his third.  "Know anything about them?"

"Not a bit," Xander admitted.   "We had some sort of echoing spirit thing but it only wanted a replay.  We did and it went away.  Where is it?"

"Timber Drive."

"I wonder if that's the lady who killed her kids then herself," he said thoughtfully.

"That was on Lumber Lane, the other side of the forest.  I heard stuff about her.  This one's in that red and blue house."

"Oh!" he said, nodding.  "One of the demons warned me to stay away from that area.  The town's founders were haunting the area to cause trouble for the traitor who betrayed them to the people who wanted to buy the town out for mineral rights back during the gold rush. She said that they were plaguing one family because it was the traitor's family and possibly the old family home too.  Something about poison and greed, that the traitor had wanted the money the company was offering and the town's founders wanted the land instead.  The way she was talking about the founders, they sounded like pissed off hippies with a member who was trying to sell the commune."

John nodded, thinking about it.  "I think we only have one poltergeist."

"You can probably find the whole story in that ghost story book in the local bookstore window."

John smirked, taking his next beer and paying for it.  "I'll look at that tomorrow, Xander.  Thank you."

"Not an issue.  One less that comes for me."  He looked at the female vamp at the bar.  "Yes, dear?  What can I pour you?"

"Your blood?" she asked sweetly.

"This isn't a goth bar.  It's on the other side of town.  Anything else I can get you?"

"Oh, I think you'll give me what I want," she cooed.  "Won't you, Knight?"

Xander smirked then shook his head.  "No.  I'm not that obliging, kiddo.  Anything legal I can pour you?"

She lunged and managed to pin him against the back of the bar, away from the crossbow.  "I think I'll get what I want and no one in here will say anything," she sneered. "Such a pitiful one.  The tagalong."  She turned to dust.

John finished his beer.  "I always hated when they tried to psych you out before they ate you."

"Ehh, it's mild torture," Xander said dryly.  "Thanks."  His boss stormed back out.  "Need more coffee, boss?"

"They *do* make us money," he told him with a small sneer.

Xander stared him down.  "I'm not dying tonight or for this job, boss.  I'd rather go take that offer to do demon porn than die from the vamps here."  The boss went red in the face from his anger. They were his major competitor locally.  "They offered me ten grand  more a year than you are."

"When is your car getting fixed?" he demanded.

"I don't know.  Ask Barry.  He's at the end of the bar.  He was supposed to give me an estimate yesterday."  They both looked at the mechanic.

"I left it at your hotel."

"Another note I never got.  How much?"

"Close to a grand.  That small bit of explosive ripped it well, Harris."

"That's someone I'd like to find and fix," he said, looking up.  He looked at him again. "Parts and labor or just parts?"


"What about a salvage yard?" John asked.  "It'd be cheaper."

The mechanic looked at him.  "That was.  Someone put a gram of semtex in his engine with a timer at a rest stop.  It blew just as he was getting ready to leave town.  Totaled the engine compartment.  Even the steering wheel shattered."

"Be cheaper to buy another junker," John told the kid.

"I've thought about that," Xander agreed.  "The local lot is like extortion if they know you need one."

John grimaced.  "Anywhere nearby?"

"Salvage yard.  I'm not good at cars."  He looked at him.  "Anything cheaper?"

He smirked.  "Sixty for something that needs an engine.  It'll get you home.  Maybe."

"Can it get me to LA?"

He considered then nodded.  "So could Greyhound."

"LA has an underground railroad into my town.  Greyhound hasn't gone to Sunnydale in six months."  That got a nod and the guy finished his beer.  Xander held up a new one, getting a nod.  "Any other options?"

"Only if you know magic."

Xander grinned. "Don't tempt me.  The last time I dabbled in that I read from a book and it lit on fire."  He went back to his duties with a smile.  "Let me think, Barry."

"Not a problem, kid.  I'll look for a cheap junker that's still got a bit more life than the one behind my shop for you."  That got a nod and Xander got back to work.  He looked at the boss.  "Feel luck you have him.  He's stopped you from losing six of your girls like you did last month."  He stomped off.  Barry looked at John.  "You know salvage stuff?"

"I have a friend who runs one in South Dakota."

"Interesting."  He went back to drinking, watching the kid.  He was fascinating and a mystery to everyone locally.  He nearly laughed when some loud college boys came in and spotted him working then suddenly quieted down and went to find a good seat to see the stage.  They were even respectful to the waitress for a change.

John looked at the boys then at the kid behind the bar.  "Had a talk with them?"

"No, I made my point last time with a baseball bat to the bar," Xander admitted.  "Ready for the fourth?"

"Sure."  He drained his and got another one, sipping it slower this time.  The boys were staying behaved.  "What did they do?"

"Tried to grope a girl at the table.  Went a bit farther than she wanted to go at that moment."  John gave him a look.  "I'm realistic.  Some girls do, some don't," he said dryly.  "The key is figuring it out by asking."  John snickered and nodded.  The boss came back out.  "Boss, are we doing the Queen's night again sometime soon?" he asked.  "Twilla wanted to know when I saw her at breakfast in the sandwich shop."

"I'm still thinking.  It made us good money but they nearly destroyed the club."

"She said to call her and don't worry about that special way of calling, she'd never take you from your present squeeze."  His boss glared at him. "Quoting, boss," he said with a sweet grin.  "And hey, she didn't hit on me this time," he told John more quietly when the boss had gone on, making him laugh.   He went to serve Barry his last beer of the five beers for ten bucks special then got John his.  "I'm heading off for lunch."  John paid him then Xander left.

John finished his beers and headed back to his motel room, looking around outside.  He hadn't thought the town was that demon ridden.  Unless the kid's rep was drawing them.  He looked off to the side of the club, finding some girl kissing him and the guy grabbing the side of the building.  He coughed loudly and the girl glared at him.  "Kid?"

"Succuba," he moaned, trying to get away from her.  She hissed at him then latched back on.  John got her with holy water, making her shriek then disappear.  "Thanks."  He slid down to sit on the ground.  "I don't know why they're drawn to me."

He smirked.  "You'd be a great hit on the hunter's circuit.  Even worse than my younger son is at drawing them."  He helped him up.  "I heard stuff about your town recently."

"Grad?" he asked, shaking his head to clear it.

"Yeah.  What happened?  There's no way that was a natural gas explosion."

Xander shook his head. "It was an ascension," he said quietly.

"Spirits did that?"

"No, he went from sorcerer to higher level snake demon.  Huge ass snake demon, John.  It filled from the front doors of the school to the library and partially out the windows when Buffy drew it in there so it could be handled."

John winced.  "Damn."

"Yeah.  The only choice we had at that time though."  He shrugged a bit, looking miserable.  "I led the frontal, clear the innocents assault while she baited him.  There's still Feds looking at me.  Every few days one of them comes to bother me."

John patted him on the arm.  "It gets better.  They quit being so suspicious as time goes on, kid."  He walked off.  "I'll be local for a few more days."

"I'm here every night but Sunday since we're closed due to the local city council being religious," he quipped back.  "At least until I can afford to leave."

That got a nod and a small smirk.  "Good luck with that, kid."

"Thanks, John, and for the timely save.  And for not ragging on me about it like Buffy does."  He walked back inside to get a drink then went to enjoy the night air without the assault.

John got into his truck, considering the boy.  "Why would they rag on him for having to be saved?  Do they expect him to be Superman?" he muttered.  "Not even I can save myself all the time."  He backed out, making sure he was still pretty sober.  He had drawn his beers out so he had about an hour between the majorities so he was fine to drive the three thousand feet on the empty road to the hotel he decided.  He parked and went to his room, checking on Dean before hitting his own bed.  Dean had already crashed for the night and didn't smell like some cheap girl for once.  So apparently he had been careful at least.


John showed up his last night, watching the kid argue with his boss before walking over and sitting at the bar.  Xander got him a beer without stopping the argument.  He paid and watched them go at it again.  It was still pretty early at night.

"No, I'm not getting back up there!  I don't feel like humiliating myself this week, thank you!" he said dryly.  "Last time was bad enough!"

"We don't have enough dancers and the lady's night draws in a lot of money, Harris.  You will or you're fired."

"Nowhere in anything I signed did it say you could strip my ass naked and let women fondle me.  I have more respect for my balls than that.  Last time I ended up bruised."

"If he gets caught letting them fondle you, that's prostitution," John pointed out patiently.

Xander looked at him.  "It's a cop's retirement party.  They won't mind."  That got a small nod of understanding.  "Beyond that, none of them liked me," he reminded the boss smugly.  "They nearly booed me off the stage until I got down to my speedo."

"This time wear less clothes," he said, walking off.  "You're up there or you're fired."

"That's fine, doing demon porn would be better paying anyway," he called.  "Consider this my final night and I'll be right here all night."  His boss glared at him.  "It will.  I can make an easy grand there and only need a shower and some holy water."  The boss slammed his office door.  He looked at John.  "Get it?"

"Yeah.  That book did have the poltergeist in it.  Thanks for that tip."


"Your girls think you're super powered?"  He had done some checking on the kid's rep with someone who had went to handle graduation but ended up being too late and at the back of the crowd when the mayor changed.  He had been very informative about how the boy handled himself and his girls.

"No, they think I'm weak, helpless, and too normal to help because I'm not a witch, a slayer, or a sorcerer.  You know, I only saved their asses a few times.  Not like I didn't plan grad," he said dryly.

John looked at him.  "I looked it up and got raw footage from someone heading there to help you guys handle it.  It was a good plan," he said honestly.

"I had untried kids," he said quietly, leaning his elbows on the bar.  "I wish like hell they hadn't died."

"It's a war, Xander.  You have to accept casualties or you're no better than those girls who're trying to hold you back for being normal.  We were all normal once.  I'm not special in any way but I've been doing it now for eighteen years."  He took another drink.  "It's training that makes the difference and everyone has the right to make that decision for themselves."

Xander nodded.  "I pointed that out.  Giles said he never trained me.  I reminded him that the best teacher is sometimes learning to duck punches because they're being sent at you."

John nodded.   "I did."  He took another drink. "You okay?"

"I honestly don't know." Xander said.  He looked at the doorway.  "I have Fed sensing radar.  The putz is back."  He looked at him again.  "Do other people have girls like that in their lives?"

"Not if they're smart.  They tend to dump them."

Xander shook his head.  "If I do that, she's without my skills and down a fighter.  We lost Angel to LA because he couldn't handle not having her without losing his soul again.  We're down to her, her watcher, and a witch without me, plus her boyfriend."

John considered it then looked at him.  "Do they really need you?" he asked.  "Not to be condescending, but do they honestly need your skills.  Girls like your Buffy do it alone all the time."

"And they die really young.  I brought her back with CPR."  They shared a look.  "She was called at fifteen."

John put down the bottle harder than he intended. "That long?"  Xander nodded.  "How?"

"Us.  Backup."

John considered it.  "She could get another helper."

"She might," he agreed, standing up. "But who said they'll have planning experience?  Or any abilities.  Willow doesn't really hunt.  She patrols to keep Buffy awake and focused by chatting.  She does some things magically.  She's a powerful witch."

"She shouldn't be killing with magic.  It's a short, easy trip to the dark side if she is."

"She doesn't usually.  Every now and then she'll stake.  If she has to."

John wrote down something.  "If things get out of hand in your town and you need more backup, you call me.  This number should be good all the time as far as I know."  Xander nodded, pocketing it into his wallet.  "Until then, I'd think about what she'd do without you."

"She'd die.  Like the Master did to her until I resuscitated her.  Who knows what our next problem will be."  The bouncer groaned.  "What?"

"The annoying Fedman is back, Xander."

"Yay me," he said dryly, looking at John.  "Thanks.  Sometimes it does help to know that there's others beyond Angel and his amazing soul."

"What's up with his soul?"

"He's a vamp."

John looked at the beer bottle then at him.  "Excuse me?"

"Gypsy curse.  Willow restuck it when he lost it because he and Buffy did the deed for her birthday."

John put down the beer.  "You lacing it?"

He grinned.  "Nope.  Sorry.  You heard me right.  It's the wackiness that is our life.  That's why he went to LA to handle things there instead.  Because it'd go bye-bye again the next time they did the nasty and he had the wants crawling through his borrowed blood."

John shook his head quickly, putting a tip down on the bar.  "You guys need a lot of explosive."

"I can do that," Xander said smugly.  "Now."  John laughed.  "Have a good trip and safe hunts, John.   Call us if you need us.  I heard Giles just took over the Magic Box."

"I will."  He shook his hand and left, passing by the Fed on the way out.  He did stay close enough to listen on the guise of checking under his hood.

"So, Mr. Harris, we meet again," the Fed sneered.

Xander looked at him, tossing out the half-empty bottle. "That's because you keep coming in here and you never spend money on the girls.  Maybe if you did, you'd sneer less."  He got a cloth to clean the spot John had been sitting in.  "You going to actually spend money this time or are you here to prove you have the bigger asshole again?  Because, gotta tell you, mine's tight, young, fresh, and I don't feel like changing it."

"I know it was you who did that," he said coldly.

Xander shrugged. "Prove it."  He crossed his arms, leaning against the back of the bar.  "Anything else or are you done now?   I can hear your nether lips flapping again."  The bouncer tried not to laugh.

"If you'd admit it, we might be able to something out."

"Dude, I have *way* more class than to let you blackmail me into bed."

"My boss thinks we may have a use for someone with your lack of skills," he said even more coldly.  "Then you'd be paid for doing the same troublesome and dangerous things you've been doing."

Xander leaned over, looking in his eyes.  "Tell your boss I'm not bending over for him either.  My ass is staying pure until I find a guy I like enough to give that to.  Until you guys go handle the problems, you can't yell at us for having to.  You didn't; you didn't want to deal with it for the last century.  Pity.  You made your bed full of shit and now you gotta sleep in it and screw in it.  Get over it or do it yourself.  You can quote me."  He got up and stomped off.  Xander found the lysol and sprayed the seat then looked at the bouncer.  He shook his head at his amused look.  "They honestly expected us to not react when things were trying to kill us.  How stupid do you have to be to work as a Fed?"

"Pretty," he admitted.  "We always thought they hired for stupidity because they wouldn't argue over the bad orders."

"Could be," Xander admitted.  "Need coffee?"

"Please."  Xander made them a pot, getting him a cup with cream then sipped his own before calling the demon porn place.  He could stand that long enough to get out of this town.  He checked his wallet, the number was still there.  Fortunately.


A Year Later


Xander looked around his apartment, pacing back and forth.  He was not happy.  He was pissed.  He wanted to destroy the town with everyone in it.  He turned and paced the other direction.  He hated this town.  He hated everyone in this town.  Anya came in the bottom door to the basement.  "Go.  Away."  She squeaked and fled.  He went back to pacing then a memory hit him.  He frowned, sitting down to consider that option.  Then a few others.  There were a few things that needed to happen.  He grabbed his jacket and a stake, heading out into the night.  He needed a few things and he knew the demons who had them.  Pity for them being in his way.  He found the few things he needed after taking out the demons, taking them back to his place to pack.  He packed everything else, including his two uncashed paychecks he had been saving to get a new apartment with.  Then he grabbed his wallet and loaded up his car.  He came back to grab his cellphone, calling the number in his wallet.  "John, it's Xander.  I don't know if you remember me."  He sat down with a sigh when he asked what was wrong.  "Can I rant at you?  They're back on their specialness kick and we just had to take down a military unit.  I'm so fragged and I'm not sure what I'm doing.  I'm at the crispy stage of burnout from here."  He held his forehead while he listened to him, and someone in the background.

"I don't care right now.  I'm leaving tonight.  Where are you?"  He nodded.  "Pick a spot closer to where you are and I'll meet you."  He smiled at the name of the town in Wisconsin.  "I can be there in a few days.  No, I have a real car now.  Thanks, man."  He hung up and headed to pack up a few other things he had been finding around the town recently.  Including a set of full credentials he had stolen off the military commander over the Initiative.  Plus a very special book he had taken out of storage.  After all, Giles hadn't needed all his books from the library.  His apartment wasn't that large.  You could not put a whole library's worth of books into a two-bedroom apartment.   Not even Willow was that good with the magic stuff.  He looked around his apartment, taking one last thing.  He had found an information file by logging in using the commander's ID to find it.  Very smart future planning move on his part.  He left his parents a note in case they decided to care and one for Willow that he dropped in her mailbox on his way out of town.  He nearly passed out in joy once he passed the city's limits but he couldn't run the sign down like Spike had.  His car wasn't that indestructible.


John walked into the small diner he had told Xander to meet him at, watching the young man's back for a minute.  He looked tired.  He had probably driven straight through.  He was also slumping and was radiating evil.  He walked over and sat across from him, getting a happy grin.  The tiredness didn't leave, neither did the slumping, and the evil got worse.  "What did you do?"

"We had to fight the military when they came to figure out what the Watchers have known for centuries by torture."

"Excuse me?"

Xander nodded. "We had to take them down.  We had to sneak out a friend another time but we brought them down last week."   He sipped his coffee then put the cup back down.  "Why?"

"You're radiating.  I'm getting a tan from the evil, Xander."

"Could it be the hellmouth's energy on me?"

"You think?" he asked dryly.  Xander slumped again.  "You didn't know that you were picking things up?  Like any other form of energy, it can soak into things."

Xander frowned.  "It can?"

John sighed. "Pay for lunch, kid.  Let's work on this at the hotel.  You clearly need more help than I can give you here."

"You sure?  I mean if I'm radiating that way I don't want to hurt anyone."

John gave him a look then snorted.  "There's ways to deal with that, kid."

"There are?"

"Didn't you say Willow was a witch?" he asked quietly.

"Giles too."

John moaned.  "They didn't say *anything* about this?"

"No.  She keeps closing it."  He finished his coffee and put down money.  "Then again she's gotten into some heavy mojo recently and we're seeing bad signs."

"Damn it," he muttered.  "Come on, we'll go talk, kid.  Ignore my son if he becomes an asshole."

"I'll give it back if he gets too annoying."

"That'll work too."  He walked the kid out, looking at his totally nondescript, totally average sedan.  "Were you trying to be unnoticed?"

"No but there's days I feel like the invisible girl we had in high school."

John looked at him.  "You can tell me about her later."  He pointed up the street.  "That way half a mile and turn right."  Xander nodded, heading off with him following.  This was not a good thing.  He called the motel room.  "Dean, we've got another hunter coming in burnt out to an extreme and he's soaked up a lot of dark magic.  Get the stuff we need to soak it out of him."  He hung up and headed back after the boy.  He had even got his own room at the motel so they could taint that one instead.  Of course when John got there, the motel's ghost they were there to deal with was staring at him in horrified awe.  He coughed.  "He's from the hellmouth."

"I was born there," Xander agreed. "Raised there.  Hunted there.  Killed demons there."  He glared at the ghost, making it fade out.  "Is that a new skill or part of the demon magnet thing?"

"Not sure yet.  We'll figure that out," John decided.  Xander nodded, sitting on the bed.  "Okay, let's go over what happened since the last time I saw you.  Because last time you weren't this stuffed full of bad magic."

"Help me unload the car first?  The ghost made me stop.  I've got a few artifacts that I don't want to leave out there."


"I wasn't going to leave them near Willow.  And one I'm using as a payment and punishment to keep my chubby butt fed for the next few years after I rescue someone." John gave him a confused look.  "All right, from the top.  Once we get the car cleared.  It'll fit in the closet."  They went to do that, then Xander sat on the bed and told him *everything* that had happened.  From Anya showing back up to Ethan to the Initiative and Riley to Oz and all of it.  Even about Spike.  Even about Angel hooking up with his former girlfriend Cordelia.

John listened, making mental notes from the look on his face, until Xander ran out of words.  After a few second's thought he looked over the boy.  "You're burnt out, Xander.  No one's teaching you what you need to know.  It's not the artifacts that're making you radiate.  None of them felt like this, even if one did feel highly magically contaminated."

"That's the bribe and payment."

John nodded. "Why?"


John considered that.  "It'd be safer if he was left there."

Xander stared at him.  "I'm too good a good guy to leave anyone in the torturing sickos' hands," he said quietly.

John nodded. "Then I agree, it's a good bribe and payment probably."  Xander smiled at that.  "Then what?"

"I don't know.  I honestly don't have a clue beyond the fact that I don't care about them dying anymore.  Not since our talk. Not since they tried to do it again after that spell.  None of it."

"Any after effects to the spell?"

Xander shrugged.  "Dreams from the First Slayer for a few nights.  Getting my heart ripped out," he reminded him at his stare.  "I was the heart of the spell.  I'm not surprised she picked that way.  The Watchers forced the power onto her.  She wasn't happy with it."

John slumped, nodding, looking at the young boy no older than his youngest son.  If Sammy or Dean ever looked that bad, he'd make them retire.  "Do you want to keep hunting?"  The kid had the right to make that decision.  He heard Dean's engine and got up to look out there.  "Up here, Dean."  He let him inside then closed and locked the door again.  "Up to you.  We can do the purification and let you go on your merry way."

"Is that why you had me get the herbs?" Dean asked.  "Is it an artifact?"

"Remember I told you about that town in California?" John told him.  Dean nodded slowly.  "Xander, this one, was fighting there with the Slayer I told you about."

Dean gave him a long look.  "Who did they take?"

"My best friend.  The one I thought could honestly keep me from snapping and killing people," Xander said honestly but quietly, looking at him.  "Jesse was my soul at times.  When things got too dark, he was there with some light for me to follow back.  Then the vamps got him."

"He still around?" John asked.  Xander shook his head.  "Buffy?" he asked, looking hopeful.  Xander shook his head.  "Willow?"

"Me.  My first one," he said calmly.  "At the Harvest.  To save Cordelia."

John shook his head.  "Damn, kid."

"I know I'm burnt out.  I'm tired of being hit and tripped and falling into gravestones with my head.  I'm tired of being looked at funny for being a normal guy with weapons knowledge from a possession and other things because I'm not a slayer or a witch."

"If you were, would they look at you any differently?" he asked as gently as he could.  He hated to break illusions like that.  Xander slumped but shrugged.  "Then it's better you're not there, Xander.  They're just as bad as your parents were."  Xander looked up at him. "Honestly.  If you want to continue hunting, I'll work on your training with you.  You know things we don't.  We know things you don't.  You can help Dean and me."

Xander looked at Dean then back at him.  "Would I be safe with the way I'm leaking bad magic?"

"You know what decontam showers are?" John asked.  Xander nodded slowly.  "There's a magical equivalent.  We can wipe that off you."

"Are you drawing witches?" Dean asked.  "Because I feel the need to scratch, dude."

Xander smiled.  "Usually I draw demons.  Though the ghost came to check me out when I got here."

"It's been killing kids who check in to have sex without being married," Dean told him.

"Poor guys.  Getting some is a time-honored part of teenage years.  Otherwise, you never live long enough to have kids."  Dean gaped.  "Or maybe that's just Sunnydale?" he asked John, who nodded quickly.   "Oh.  Another screwy thing wrong with my town.  But hey, on the bright side, Willow didn't cause this one."

"Willow?" Dean asked.

"My other best friend.  She's a witch.  She's pretty powerful.  She closes the hellmouth all the time.  She stuck Angel's soul for good the other day."

"Angel?" Dean asked, sounding more hesitant.

"A vampire who's now the Champion for the Powers That Be Annoying," Xander told him.

"She stuck a soul in a vampire?" Dean asked, sounding calm.  He was proud of himself for sounding so calm.  He really was.  Because that was *WRONG* and unnatural!  Any hunter should know that.

"I did some research on him.  A gypsy clan cursed him for killing one of their kids," John told him.

"Their favorite daughter.  Giles' honey, Miss Calendar, was one of them.  She came to check on the soul spell but when he lost it for doing Buffy that one time, he killed her before she could do it again.  Willow tried once and failed then tried it again after a concussion in the hospital.  Didn't keep him from opening a sucking portal to hell and Buffy having to send him but oh well.  If I hadn't lied and told her Willow wasn't going to try again she wouldn't have beaten him and we'd all be dead.  She still won't talk about it or understand it."

"Girls in love see things differently," John assured him.

"You don't apply logic to emotions unless you're Sammy," Dean agreed.

"Sammy?" Xander asked.

"My little brother.  He's at Stanford trying to be normal."

"That doesn't really sound that bad," Xander admitted.  "I've been pretending to be normal except at night.  I used to want to be Batman but now I'm thinking the pay sucks and the bennies are even worse.  Especially health care in Sunnydale."

"Let's get back to the basics first, then we'll make some decisions about hunting, Xander," John decided.  "That way no one wants to slay you."

"That'd be nice.  Spike promised he'd get me when he got the chip out.  He'd be really pissed and have to destroy more people if someone took his fun," he said, being serious.

Dean laughed.  "You're joking, right?"

"No.  The government and military chipped him so he can't hurt humans," Xander told him honestly.  "I spent the last few weeks of last month tying him up in my recliner so Giles could get some international touch action in.  He's vowed to kill me a number of times for tying him up in the recliner and chaining him in Giles' tub because he was being an annoying asshole."

John shook his head.  "Demoralized vampires beyond the point, Xander.  Let's start with the purification stuff.  That way we don't want to reach for a shotgun?"  Xander nodded, taking off his shirt.  He reached for his pants.  "In the shower, Xander.  Not out here."

"Okay.  Willow said she has to have special clothes for magic stuff.  I brought my version for whenever I helped her.  It's in the blue bag.  Will I need it?"

"We'll need to clean it too probably," Dean said.  "Go use the bathroom and take a normal shower so we can do this."  Xander nodded, heading that way.  Once the water was on, he pointed and stared at his father.  "How?"

"Long story, Dean.  They decided he's too normal to help them do what he's helped them with for the last four years," he said quietly.  "They've got a witch going rogue.  A slayer with an attitude problem, a watcher with a drinking problem because his girl isn't paying attention or needing him as much, and he was the normal guy.  They called him a Zeppo a few times."

Dean sat on the foot of the bed, staring at his father.  "How in the hell?"

"I don't know.  He's at least competent from what I saw the last time we met.  If we can get him cleaned of the hellmouth and whatever that witch did to him, then we'll be able to help him decide if he wants to keep hunting.  Until then, the ghost likes him for some reason."

Dean just nodded, moving to prepare the herbs.  He walked into the bathroom.  "Got body wash or are you using regular soap?"

"Body wash.  Buffy got it for me for the holidays."  He handed it out.  "I'm done with it."  That got a nod and Dean walked off grimacing at the scent.  "Yeah, I know, but she's a girl so I got peach," he called without having to see his face.  He had grimaced too.

John looked at it, grimacing.  "Girls clearly bought that."

"He said Buffy did."  He put the herbs into it then brought it back, shaking it to mix.  "Wash twice with this, Xander.  All over, every crack of your body, even between your toes.  It should leach out the magic to flow out with the bubbles.  If not, we'll need better help."

"Sure.  Thank you, Dean."

"Not an issue."  He went back to the other room, looking at his father.  "You can't feel it when he's in the water."

John shrugged.  "We'll figure it out."

"We always do.  Do we have a comprehensive history on him?"

"I did some research into his rumored skills and background."

"Uh-huh.  We'll ask," Dean decided.  He walked back in there.  "Xander, why aren't you radiating in the water?"

"Could it be where I was exposed to mermaid blood and cells when I went undercover on the swim team?" he asked, sticking his head out.  "Do I do my hair with this?"

"Yeah, please."  He stared at him.  "Why did you have to go undercover?"

"They were being turned into bad B movie monster knockoffs."

Dean walked off shaking his head. "Mermaid taint?"

John considered it then nodded.  "Could do that," he admitted.  "Why?"

"The swim team was being made into bad B movie knockoffs he said.  He went undercover and got exposed to mermaid cells and blood somehow."

"Steam," Xander called.  "They had us doing saunas with it.  The blue bag has my copies of the classification manual we used plus a historical account in case something happened and I went hyena again."

Dean dug that out to read, frowning.  "Well, fuck," he muttered, handing pages over once he got done.  The mermaid section showed a copied page of what properties that might show up and how it was done.  "Someone had some science training."  He handed it over and kept going.  It had the Initiative stuff in there too.  He blinked at some of it.  "I knew Spike sounded familiar."

"William the Bloody," John agreed.  "Angel must be Angelus then."

"He drops the 'us' when he's got his soul," Xander said, coming out of the bathroom in a  towel.

"Did you use it twice?" Dean asked.

"Cleaned every inch, even my butt crack and between my toes, rinsed then repeated," Xander assured him.  "Am I still giving off an evil suntan?"

John nodded.  "Yeah, kid, you are."  He looked him over.  "How did you get that scar on your stomach?"

Xander looked down then at him. "Angelus."  He looked at Dean.  "Now what?"

"Full, Native purification ritual," John told him.  "Which we can't do because we don't have a sweat lodge nearby."

Xander frowned.  "No.  No dream quests around me.  I made Willow's go wrong.  She said so."  They both gave him odd looks.  "She went on one to try to find Oz and nearly got eaten by something on that side because I was anchoring her.  She told me to never go near the astral plane again because I was so dangerous to it.  It'd try to destroy me."

Dean nodded once.  Then he looked at his dad.  "Bobby?"

John nodded.  "He can do that.  We're going to send you to a person who's like a lighter version of your friend's watcher, Xander.  He can do the purification and make sure the astral plane doesn't trap or try to destroy you."

"I can make it there in three days," Dean pointed out.  "Four for mail."

John tried to call him.  No answer.  "If we can't get him tonight, I'll send you with a letter."  Xander nodded at that.  "Then you can decide if you want to keep hunting."

Xander nodded.  "That seems fair.  Thank you for helping me."

"Not a problem.  No one deserves to be glowing that much unless he chooses to," Dean said.  Xander grinned at that.  "Do you need to warn anyone?"

"Anya's still probably throwing a fit.  I left them a letter in Willow's mailbox.  If they give a damn, they'd call.  My number's local to them."

Dean nodded.  "That's reasonable.  Bobby's in South Dakota."

"Is he the guy you told Barry about?" Xander asked John, who nodded.  "That's kinda cool.  As long as he doesn't try to kill me on sight."

"He shouldn't.  Tell him you have a letter and let him read it.  Expect some holy water," John told him.

"It doesn't bother me.  I drank some last night when I ran into another succuba."

"And you're radiating this dark?" John asked.  Xander nodded.  "Priest blessed or simply from a cup in the church?"

"Both.  If we hit any of the churches for too much holy water the ministers complained.  So we took from this church and that church and mixed.  We didn't think it'd matter since Willow couldn't find a difference magically or even in holiness taint between any of the 43 churches."

"Your town has 43 churches?" Dean asked.  Xander nodded. "Why?"

"Hellmouth.  Bellybutton of evil power that can open and spill out creatures from other hell planes."

Dean shook his head at that, walking out of the room moaning.  He tried to call Bobby himself but there wasn't an answer either.  His father would handle it.  He was sure of it.


Xander pulled into the salvage yard and smiled when some older guy came out of the house with a shotgun.  He parked and got out.  "Don't shoot.  John Winchester sent me to you.  I've got a letter since he said you never answer your phone and US mail is too damn slow."

"Who're you?"

"Xander Harris.  I was helping the slayer in Sunnydale for a bit.  I met John on an ill-fated raodtrip after graduation."  He pulled out the letter and walked it over, hands in plain sight, then left it and backed back up to his driver's side door.  "It has the whole story.  Including what they tried to do to weed it out of me."

"My wards went off when you drove in the gate."

"I was born on the hellmouth, Mr. Singer.  I fought with our slayer for four years.  And yeah, John said I nearly gave him a tan from the evil I somehow soaked up.  No clue how unless something Willow did during her 'will' spell backfired even worse than we thought.  He said if you couldn't, Pastor Jim might be able to help me, or I'm bound for hell to light up their lives."

Bobby picked it up to read, looking at the bottom.  John always included a verification it was from him at the bottom after his signature.  He smirked at that tidbit.  He remembered that weekend a bit fuzzily but enough to know it was from him.  He read the note then looked at the boy.  "You'll submit to holy water?"

"I drank some and I'm still radiating.  But sure," he decided, shrugging some.  He put his hands in his pockets, making Bobby shift.  "Dude, the weapons are in the trunk.  All but a stake in the car."  He stepped away.  "Really.  You can search me as long as you don't grope."

"Not my thing, kid," he decided, coming down to check him.  Then he splashed him with holy water.  Nothing.  No lessening of the taint, like Dean had added.  Absolutely nothing.  Xander got him a vial and he sniffed then tried it.  Still nothing.  "What happened?"  Xander got into the car and handed him the file John and Dean had read through, letting him sit on his porch stairs to read while Xander sat on his hood.  He finally looked at the kid.  "Will spell?"

"Our witch was brokenhearted over her boyfriend leaving because he had killed another werewolf to protect her.  He went to find control of the wolf in Tibet.  Which he did.  He came back later but that was another problem.  Right after he was gone, Willow got drunk a few times, moped, then did a will spell to help control the pain she was in.  It went spectacularly sideways.  Buffy ended up nearly marrying William the Bloody.  She's our slayer."  Bobby winced at that.  "Our Watcher ended up blind.  I ended up a bigger demon magnet than usual.  They chased our asses all over the hellmouth because of it.  She got offered a spot on the Vengeance demon team because of it."  Bobby hissed and winced.  "If it wasn't that, I don't know what did it.  The Initiative didn't get me.  I wasn't like this when John met me on my roadtrip a year ago.  Maybe Spike did something to me while he was tied in my recliner and I was asleep.  I don't know," he said honestly.  "I know I don't need to radiate this way.  I nearly drove Dean to scratching his skin off before I left a few days back."

"You're making me do it too," he admitted, standing up.  "C'mon.  Let's start with the average purification."

"Did Dean put in there how it was lessened while I was under running water but came back just as strong when I got out?"

"Yup, all that."  He led him back to a small building behind his barn/work shed.  "Get in there, sweat.  We'll see what we can do tonight."

"Can I have some water?  I haven't had any in a few hours."

"Sure.  Tap fine?"

Xander shrugged.  "I don't care as long as it's not slime filled."

Bobby smiled a bit.  "You're easy to please."

"That's because my last girlfriend wasn't.  Oh, if you ever want to see Dean so totally horrified and speechless that he's nearly crying, let me tell him more about my ex, Anyanka."  Bobby gaped.   "She's human right now."

"Uh-huh.  How long was she not human?"

"Over a millennium.  We're still working on the human girl stuff.  She's a bit blunt, demanding, and wants sex more than anything but money."

Bobby turned on the sauna.  "Go in there, sweat as much as you can.  I'll get you some water."

"Are we going to try more holy water?"

"Not yet.  Later.  It could help then.  You're too full of taint now for it to dent it."  He let Xander walk in there and turned up the thermostat.  Then he went to get the poor guy some ice water.  Once the boy had it, he went back inside to call a witch he knew.  "Marilyn, Bobby Singer.  I've got a bad issue here at the salvage yard.  A young hunter.  Tainted so heavily holy water can't dent it.  No, them going off wasn't an attack.  John sent him to me for help when he couldn't.  Boy's no older than Sammy.  Sunnydale, why?"  He smiled, getting the information she had.  "It is Xander.  What's being said?"  He grimaced.  "That's stupid of them.  Sure.  He's in the sauna.  He wasn't sure it wasn't some sort of rebound from a witch's will spell she did to control her personal pain.  Yeah, that one.  Thanks.  Sure, I'm here.  It's gonna be a while."  He hung up and went to check on the boy.  He looked like he was trying to meditate.  "Don't do that yet.  It's easy to get trapped on the spirit plane."

Xander looked at him.  "I felt the hyena slip.  I'm trying to make sure she's caged again.  Inward searching, not outward."  That got a nod.  "By the look on your face, someone said something bad about me.  Who?"

"Your friends decided you were right to run.  They called you a subtle coward."

Xander snorted. "Yeah, because I didn't hunt with them."  He gave him a look.  "Great best friends, huh?"  He nodded.  "I'll call later."  Bobby tossed over his cellphone.  "You sure?"

"Could help to clear out that negative emotion.  All the new age people say so."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "You don't look like a fairy loving witch."  Bobby laughed and Xander called. "Spike, good.  Put me on speaker please?"  He waited until he heard the beep.  "For your information, ladies, I went to talk to someone because I found out I was carrying enough hellmouth taint to draw every demon in three states to me.  Like I did last night," he said coldly.  "Since that's probably because Willow fucked up another spell or Buffy had me take her place a few too many times on patrol, I can't think of *why* I left."  He paused while listening to the complaining.  "Oh, shut up," he sneered.  "I left because you girls are bitches.  You're bitches to me, you're bitches to Spike.  You're bitches to Giles.  Anya only wanted me for my dick and wallet.  Hell, Spike treated me better than you girls did.  I guess that's why you're *female*.  Maybe from now on I'll be gay.  It'll be better so I don't have to see if the rest of the world's women are like you.  Now, I'm having all the magic that's infecting me, hellmouth taint and Willow's, drained off since someone said I was radiating worse than the challis I found last week," he said dryly.

"The hunter I went to for help confiscated it and had it destroyed.  As to why I'm probably not coming back?  It had *nothing* to do with not wanting to hunt.  He's offered to find me someone to actually *train* me so I don't have any more issues with my fighting.  Like Giles could have and didn't.  Or like Buffy could have and didn't.  Pity but at least he's not trying to kill my ass like you two did.  Oh, and Willow, you might wanna watch out for other witches, dear.  The one I accidentally pulled last night with my taint said it was because you're going more evil than Ethan Rayne.  She's already talking to others about you and your evil little will spell and the evil little memory charm you tried to cast on me that didn't work and all that.  I hope like hell I don't have to come back to save your asses some day.  I've done that and I'm tired of the reruns.  So next time, get Angel to do CPR, Buffy, and then Willow can plan your next real battle for you.  Oh, by the way, Spike, even I can figure out how to short out your chip or have it removed.  Even if they can't and I'm supposedly dumber than both of them."  He hung up and tossed it back.  "Doesn't make me feel any better," he said after a few calming breaths.

"It will later, boy," Bobby assured him more gently.  "Did that witch say why?"

"No.  Just that I drew her from over sixty miles away.  She was a town's guardian and thought I was some big bad moving into town."


"Oxendale?  We talked for a few minutes to make sure I wasn't evil."

"Short blonde girl?"

"Rebecca.  I almost had a Buffy flashback."

Bobby nodded. "I know her.  I'll call to see if she found out anything.  Anyone else we can check with?"

"I dusted the three vamps.  I left the harmless ones alone.  There's a master who saw me, went pink, then left.  I don't know why."

Bobby nodded. "Let me check with her."  He went into the house to do that.  He knew of her.  He had her phone number in his book.  "Rebecca, Bobby Singer.  I got Xander sent to me by another hunter.  Did you find out anything?"  He listened, making notes.  "I've got Marilyn coming to help me.  He thinks it might've been the witch they worked with instead of natural occurring radiation."  He nodded, making another note.  "Thanks, Rebecca.  Yeah, we're doing a sauna now."  He frowned then made another note.   "I'll ask.  Thank you."  He hung up and went back out there.  "More than two possessions?"

"I only know about two."

"We'll see then," he decided.  He went to meet Marilyn when he heard her truck, stopping her before she got out to show her.  "He's so tainted holy water acted like a sprinkler.  Did nothing.  Sweating isn't making it any less."

She nodded, getting out.  "We'll see if it was magical or not.  If it was Rosenburg, she's getting at least one coven on her little redheaded butt."

"He just called to sneer."

"Make him feel better?"

"No.  But he shot back at them."  He handed over John's note, getting a grimace but a nod.  "Rebecca ran into him last night.  She thinks he's more possessed than he thought.  I've got his file."  He got it for her, letting her read it.

"Bobby, is the demonic raccoon dangerous?" Xander called.  "It's in here staring at me like I'm God."

"No, probably not unless it tried to bite," he called back.  He walked her that way.

She stared from the doorway.  "Well, hell, son.  You're a bit infected."  He looked up from petting the raccoon.  "Let the little creature go for now.  Let's drain you of some magic."

"I don't mess with magic unless ordered to.  The last time I tried it I accidentally set a book on fire by reading from it.  So unless Willow or Giles tells me to help I don't."

"We can drain all the native energy and magic off you, see where the rest is coming from," she assured him.  "You might feel a bit sick."

Xander looked at her.  "I've had food poisoning, broken bones, concussion, and it's got to be better than being turned or eaten, right?"  She nodded, smiling a bit.  "Then we can do that.  Tell me what I need to do and if I need the working clothes I've got in the car.  John made me buy new ones because he wasn't sure that mine weren't tainted too."

"No, you're going skyclad," she assured him.  "No barriers between you and the Mother."

"I like the moon more than the earth," he said quietly.

"We'll bless you to both tonight then.  For now, let's let the Earth Mother drain and filter for you."  He nodded, following her into the woods behind Bobby's house.   Bobby grabbed his shotgun and went to watch over them.  Just in case another, less than harmless demon, showed up.  The raccoon was shooed off again but that was fine with him.  The boy was retching onto the ground by the time she got done draining him as far as she could.  Then he went back over the exercise because even he could feel the taint now.


Xander looked up as Dean joined him.  "Hey," he said quietly.

"Hey."  He sat down across from him at the park picnic table.  "You decide if you want to keep hunting?"

Xander shook his head.  "I'm tired of death."

"I understand," he agreed. "I hit that point a while back."

Xander nodded, looking down then at him.  "I started to see it as stress relief, Dean. It's not healthy."

"Nope, it's not."  He looked him over.  "You're less tainted."

"It took them a week to weed me down to the point where blessing and holy water worked to dent the rest of the taint," Xander said quietly, staring at him, looking miserable.  "Bobby's now got a spot of unholiness in his woods."

"Did they say why?"

"Something else Willow botched turned me into a battery for her."  At least he hoped it was botched since it had been killing him.  "Marilyn and a few other witches were going to have a talk with her."

"Good!  They need to give her the foot-up-the-ass treatment for that.  You don't play with that stuff.  You learn then move carefully.  Like learning any other weapon or art."

Xander nodded.  "She went from floating things to sealing the stupid hellmouth."

Dean nodded. "That's too fast."

"No choice.  Giles couldn't."

"There's other witches.  Experienced ones.  He could have called."  Xander nodded at that wisdom.  "You okay?"

"Still pretty tired.  I didn't sleep for most of that week.  I had to sleep in the woods.  The last day of the draining made the center of his personal baby hellmouth.  The rest was the days before then."  Dean winced.  "I'm so exhausted.  She said it'll come back though."

"The taint?"

"No, my energy."  That got a nod and a slight grin.  "You okay?"

"I'm good.  A bit bruised from the last hunt but that's normal."

"I end up with a lot of concussions," Xander admitted.

"Did no one teach you how to brawl?" Dean asked.

"No, I learned by ducking to not get hit.  I pointed out Giles could have when I called to purge some bad feelings back at them.  Bobby suggested it might help."

"Did it?"

"Made me feel miserable for making Tara cry.  And for making Spike cackle.  I would like video of them going after Willow though."

"Me too.  Should be a pretty girl fight."  Xander grinned at that.  "So, you good?"

"For today.  I'll be less good tomorrow.  I sold a few artifacts that I found lying around to support myself for the next little while on top of my last paychecks and there's something I have to do, then I'll figure out where I'm going to hide from the vampires who want to pay me back for working with Buffy."

Dean nodded.  "You get into too much trouble, you call us."

"Yes, Dean."  He grinned a bit.  "You must be a great big brother.  I'd probably be a sucky one."

"You'd do fine.  Some day you'll be a dad and raise little hunters with ethics."

Xander smiled. "Maybe.  If that didn't sterilize me.  Marilyn wasn't sure when Bobby asked."

"If so, I'll go kick Willow's ass for you."  He punched him on the arm.  "Feel better.  Call if you need us.  We're heading to Idaho."

"Which still sounds really wrong when guys say it without that street accent," Xander quipped dryly, making Dean laugh as he walked off.  "Be safe.  You and your dad both."

"We do try," he shot back with a grin.

Xander went back to reading, considering how he was going to repay a major flaw on the karma scale that he hadn't protested going on.  Marilyn had agreed with him.  Sending Ethan to the Initiative was wrong on all counts and every plane of existence.


Xander looked up as the demon deposited the human he had stolen for him.  "Thank you."  He handed over the vial of tainted blood.  Bobby had taken seventeen small vials of it so he could use it in payment for information.  Xander had drawn another ten for his own use.  The demon disappeared and he turned to look at the human.  "You okay?"

"Why did *you* rescue me?" he asked dryly, staring at the boy.

"Lean on the car, Ethan. It's not warm."  He sagged against the hood.  "Need medical?"

"I've had some, thank you anyway."

"Giles taught me how to be a field medic.  I can stitch you or something if you need it."

"Where is dear, old Ripper?" he sneered.

"Fuck if I give a damn since he let Willow turn me into a battery for spells by soaking every cell in my body with hellmouth energy," he shot back calmly.  Ethan gaped then stood up.  "The witches and hunters who helped drain me are probably in their face about now."

"Why save me?"

"Because I started to realize I had ethics that disagreed with Giles.  It may've been expedient to give you to them but it wasn't right.  Especially since we knew what was going on."  Ethan's sneer turned worse.  "It wasn't my call but it's not right to leave you there.  It wasn't right to turn you over.  If I had any balls then I would've protested and that's my bad."

"Giles knew?"

Xander sighed, leaning on the hood of his car.  "Ethan, Buffy was dating Riley, the commander of the extraction team that brought you in," he said finally, looking over at him, arms crossed over his chest.  "I know what sort of gift I'm giving you by telling you that but it was Giles' karma that he screwed up by doing that.  I screwed mine by not protesting and not getting everyone else free when we went in to free Oz."

"The funny haired little werewolf?" he asked, looking confused.  Xander nodded.  "Why did they have him?"

"He came back from finding control of the wolf and found out that Willow had broken her promise to wait on him by dating a very nice, pure, white witch.  Who I will protect even from the group out there."

Ethan considered it.  "Then why rescue me now?  Why not sooner?"

"It took me a few days to heal from the week of draining my energy to get me clean," he admitted.  "Plus another few days to find you."

"A week?  That's unheard of."

"I created a baby hellmouth with the draining they did," he said quietly.  "No portal underneath but a spot of unholiness that'll end up attracting other bits of unholiness.  It's in the woods behind a hunter's house."  He looked at him.  "If you can find a way to destroy it for him, he might thank you."

"I'll consider it.  How do you want repaid?"

Xander smiled.  "I could use some help but I'm more than willing to pay for it."

Ethan gave him a look. "With?  I doubt I need money."  Xander got up and walked around to get something out of the car, holding up the book.  "What is that?"

"Circular Origami."

Ethan frowned.  "The one?"  He knew the book existed.  A former high priest of Janus had bound a bit of his essence into his copy when someone tried to interfere with a major work he was doing.

"In Giles' stored stuff from the library."  He let him feel it, test it.  Then he put it on the hood.  "I need to set things up so I don't have to worry about them coming for me, you coming for me, or the demons coming for me.  I need to make a simple wish and use good language that won't backfire on me.  If you can help me, since that book contains a bit of your god Janus, then I'll give you the book.  Freeing you was the right thing to do and it helped fix some of the wrongs I did.  If you don't, I'll try it myself and live with the consequences."

"You're going non-violent?"

"No.  I sat and actually thought about the hunting stuff after the Initiative finally went down when we called on the First Slayer."  Ethan gasped, turning to look at him better.  "We've already sent her on, Ethan.  She ripped out my heart a few times in dreams."

"You were which part?"

"The heart."  He grimaced.  "Then the girls went back to their 'Xander is a useless, normal guy who can't possibly do anything right' issues.  So I left."  He shifted some, putting his arms down.  "When I started to think, I realized I was starting to anticipate going out hunting.  That I was using it as stress relief because of them going back to that.  That I was doing it for the wrong reasons.  I don't want to end up doing it because I liked it.  I don't want to be some rabid little dog that has to be put down because some night I didn't want to tell the difference between a vamp and a teenager.  And I knew I was heading there."

"There are ways to stop that," Ethan said calmly.

Xander nodded.  "But I need time to get myself right before I even think about it."

"True.  Your wish?"  Xander handed over a piece of paper.  "That's a lofty goal."

"If I do, I can set myself up somewhere and not have to worry about things.  I'll have enough to pay for some good wards to go onto wherever I end up.  Hopefully somewhere I won't be sucked back into it.  When I finally get right again, I can go back to helping the hunters who helped me in a limited way.  I'll still be able to get a normal job and all that.  It'll keep me from the Feds noticing me so they don't come trying to recruit me like they did constantly after graduation."

"For the Initiative?"

"Don't know," Xander admitted, shrugging a bit.  "All I know is this one Fed kept coming in to recruit me.  Tried to blackmail me, tried to bribe me, all that."  He looked at him then down at the ground again.  "In the car are six other artifacts that needed to be taken off the hellmouth for safety reasons.   I had another few but they got confiscated and most were destroyed."


"Because I didn't want them in the vampires' hands," he said honestly, looking at him again.  "I may not be ready to hunt right now but I'll be damned if I want them to call on something like Lucifer to start another apocalypse.  I'm not so sure they can handle another one."

Ethan grimaced.  "The girls are meant to, boy."

"Buffy was meant to be a trophy wife, Ethan.  She's got some brains and a lot of skills, but this life doesn't make her happy.  She called off patrol many times and I filled in then.  Back in high school for dates.  This last year she actually called off for homework.  Even Willow gave her funny looks for it."

"How was Ripper doing?"

"Drinking a lot.  Buffy hadn't been needing him.  They've been training her again so it might be getting better but Willow's going off the deep end.  They found memory charms and other spells on me."

Ethan shuddered.  "She's going closer to the darkness not even I can touch."

"Which is why the witches that helped me are gathering to go kick her around some."  Ethan smiled at that.  "You might point out and welcome her to the dark side."

"Oh, I shall.  I don't want her with Janus.  She might try to destroy him so she could take over."

Xander gave him a shoulder nudge.  "Janus didn't like lesbians and she's now one.  It might hurt Tara."

"Is she protected?"

"I asked Marilyn if they could help her first, before they went bitch on Willow.  She said they'd call her out first and help her then let her help them.  Since Willow sees her as something like a soul mate."

Ethan sighed but nodded.  "I'll help and I get to go free?"

"You're free now," Xander said.  "Even without the helping."

Ethan smirked.  "You're sure?  I could take the book and run."

Xander nodded. "But I can call my ex since she's back in Vengeance now and see if she'd do it for me since it'd make me leave the hunting faster and the dark might win in Sunnydale some year soon because of it."

Ethan stared.  "Ripper can plan."

Xander stared back.  "I planned graduation when Giles forgot to take into account the spectators.  I led the battle, I helped get the others up to speed on what was going on.  I did the most training I could with the overnight we had," he finished quietly.  "And I still lost a few of them."

"You cannot beat yourself up for that."

"If I had seen it sooner I would've had them better prepared."

"That wasn't your job, Alexander.  He's the adult and the watcher.  It was his job."

"Technically he had been fired.  It was Wesley's job."

Ethan moaned, then shook his head.  "It's still not your fault.  They could have said no."

"It was their families on the line too."

"They could have kept them from there."

Xander nodded. "What if's are great, but I still didn't look at the plans until the day before and didn't find out he hadn't taken major problems into account until then.  I could have.  I didn't.  I was too busy being a pain in the ass to make sure I could graduate too and helping him move the library into storage."

Ethan sighed.  "It's still not your fault."

"I led it, I planned it, even if it being late wasn't totally my fault, I still got them killed because it was my battle plan.  I was the general and I had to make decisions.  Those decisions and where I put people got them killed."

Ethan nodded.  "Which every good commander probably feels."

Xander stood up.  "That was the last time I felt guilt about a hunt or something like it," he admitted.  "Will you help me, free and clear?"

Ethan sighed but nodded.  "I'll take those artifacts too."

"As long as you keep them safe, don't use them, and destroy them if necessary.  No one knew what two were but they felt more evil than I was."

"If necessary," he agreed.  "Have a pen?"  Xander found one for him and he reworked the wording for him.  "There, wish for that."  Xander laid a hand on the book, mumbling his wish.  The bag appeared at his feet, making Ethan wince when he tried to pick it up.  "That is a lot of money."

Xander smiled.  "It has to last me an awfully long time."  Ethan nodded so Xander lifted it into the backseat.  "I was working construction," he said at the odd look he got.

"Uh-huh.  Another possession?"

"Marilyn and Rebecca both found more than I thought I had but I don't remember them thanks to Willow and her magical herb memory loss system.  I'll never recover them and there's no way to tell anymore."

Ethan grimaced, running a hand over the boy's head.  "She's right," he decided.  "She wiped it."  Xander nodded. "Are you missing other memories?"

"No one's sure."  That got a grimace.  "As long as I wasn't used to father a child, no one comes up to me to yell about something I did that way, or something like that I'll deal with it."

"Fine.  As long as someone deals with her.  I'll welcome her to the less than light side later tonight."

"Watch out for Giles.  If they're there, he's in the crossfire too for letting her do that."

"I'll call," he promised, taking the bag with the artifacts.  He looked then at him, holding up one.  "The Grootenburg Challis?"

"Yeah, one of the plant demons had it and was feeding his young from it to make them rabid.  I didn't think it'd be a good idea to leave a damned challis used for blood magic with him.  They might've come after me as a snack."

Ethan nodded at that, looking at the others.  He held up a small mirror.  "To?"

"That's one we couldn't identify but we know it's magical and evil."

Ethan looked then blushed.  "Depends on your definition of evil."  He put it back and looked at the others, nodding.  "I'll hide them or destroy them."

"Don't let the watchers have them?"

"Of course not.  They're bloody idiots," he said bitterly.

"With their head stuck up their asses," Xander agreed.  "Doesn't mean they aren't pushy."

"Too true.  I'd watch out for them if I were you."

Xander smiled and pointed at the compound he had rescued Ethan from.  "They haven't come out yet."  He pulled out the car keys.  "Need a ride?"

"No, I'm good."  Xander snapped his fingers and got something else out, handing it over.  "What's this?"

"The clothes Willow had me wear when I was helping her with spell stuff.  We found out it's about a tenth of how tainted I was."

Ethan cast the spell to tell him the taint on it and winced.  "Bloody hell," he muttered. "Thank you, boy."

"Welcome.  Try not to destroy the world?"

"I can't have fun if I do that."  He walked off, sending himself to Ripper's place, startling the witch in there with him. "Ripper, love," he sneered, holding up something.  "I was just handed this by someone.  It's got some of the taint the boy carried on him."  Giles snatched it to do the same test and went totally pale.  Paler than a vampire pale.  He was shaking and looked like he wanted to be sick.  "Also, the boy admitted that draining him created a baby hellmouth as he put it so blandly."  He sneered. "Let's hope your karma is proportional to his shall we."  He disappeared, taking the artifacts and book with him.  Once he made it home, he put the book on his altar and prayed to the taint it carried.  He felt his god answer and that he was pleased.  "As you will it, Lord Janus.  Thank you for rewarding that one for saving me.  He did deserve it."  His god still felt pleased so he left it there, going to destroy the artifacts before they could be used by some demon with a yen to destroy the world.  Because that would suck and he couldn't plan the pretty chaos for Janus if the world was gone.


Twenty-six days later, Xander knocked on a motel room door, looking at John.  "I can't not hunt," he said, looking at him.  "If I don't, people die."

"Someone gets the evil things, Xander."

Xander shook his head.  "I was having dinner when the police scanner spat out a report of a burglary.   I had ignored the bad feeling I got earlier.  Because I ignored it seven people died when demons ripped into a sorority house."

"You couldn't have stopped them."

Xander nodded. "I could have.  They're not that hard to stop.  They were clearly not human.  I had to stop the ones that were trying for the cops because I answered that call too," he said, looking totally miserable.  "And they asked why I hadn't stopped them earlier.  I told them I didn't know but I kinda did and I don't know what to do.  I'm getting to the point where I won't discriminate on targets."

"If you feel bad about that, you will," John said firmly.  He let him inside.  "Dean's off playing pool for motel money."  He sat him down.  "You have a conscience and a soul, Xander.  As long as you have them, you won't become someone who doesn't care about collateral damage."  Xander gave him the most pathetic look.  "Stop it, now.   You're not god, you're not a slayer, and you can't save everyone.  None of us can.  We all had to get that though our heads, Xander."

Xander stood up.  "I could have gone to see why my instincts were screaming."

"True, and you could've not stopped.  You're playing in what-ifs again.  What would've happened if you hadn't been in the town at all?"

"More deaths."

"Then why did you stop there?"

"I was hungry and it had places to eat.  Totally random."

"No instinct pulling you there?  Nothing to make you want to stay there?"

"A need for pie."

John sat the boy down again, staring at him.  "When the ones you hunted before killed, were you responsible because you missed one?"  Xander shrugged.  "The answer is no, Xander.  You can't be responsible for the bad things doing bad things.   Not if you want to live.  That way leads to heavy drinking, drugs, or suicide."

"Then why didn't I step in?"

"Because you weren't looking for demons.  You were going to find somewhere to heal and make yourself back down from the point you were on.  Bobby told me."

Xander nodded.  "I talked about it with him before I left his place.  I'm still sorry about the baby hellmouth in his woods."

"He said someone showed up to clean it.  Someone English who was a witch.  Your watcher friend called them and said to tell him he was sorry for not stopping her."  He looked at him.  "It's not your fault."  Dean walked in.  "Ask the smartass there if you don't believe me."

"What happened?"

"He stopped to get something to eat and ran into demons trashing a sorority while he was eating.  He had a funny feeling earlier but he didn't follow up.  He did when the cops got attacked.  They tried to blame him too."

Dean grimaced.  "The last time I knew you weren't Jesus, Xander.  Only he's responsible for what people do.  So unless you're a reincarnation, quit beating yourself up."  He made Xander look at him.  "Really.  Not even we could've known to stop it."  Xander nodded, giving him a trusting look.  "What else is going on in your pointy head?"

"The doctors fixed the point the forceps gave me," he said weakly, trying to smile.

Dean smirked.  "Only on the outside.  And?"

"I realized if I don't, more people will die.  No one's going to take my place.  I see things that others don't."

Dean nodded.  "That's a hard realization.  Sammy had that one too but he figured we would find someone to take his place on the team.  It'll take some training but you might end up able to do it."

Xander gave him a weak, sad smile.  "I don't want to turn into one of those people who need a muzzle and kept in the funny cage, Dean."

"So you won't be.  With training and consideration that lessens.  Dad used to have that problem and he helped fix it when I started to see it less as retribution and more as a sport.  You didn't get the training you need to see that it's not like that.  All you knew was that you jumped in because you were in pain and you kept pushing that pain out through the end of the stake."

"Then you realized you could weed out other pains that same way," John agreed.  "No one ever told you what you now realize.  Your watcher should have.  He nearly ruined you, kid."

"I'm not his slayer."

"You were one of his team.  Others say you're like his children.  A good commander teaches things as well as commands."

"I was the battle planner.  Giles kinda sucked at that."

"Not all commanders plan and not all planners end up in command positions," John countered.  He stared at the boy.  "You have my word, Xander.  If you turn rabid, we'll stop you."  Xander slumped, nodding at that.  "Good.  We're about to move on tomorrow.  We only stopped to find a new job.  We don't have one yet so we were going to look for a small place to rent for a month until we found one."

Xander looked at him.  "I have some money in the car.  I can help."

John smirked.  "Poker?" he teased.

"When I saved Ethan, I bribed him with a book that held a part of Janus in it for him to help me make a small wish.  Free and clear of the saving.  That was to repair some karma I screwed by not complaining about Giles handing him over.  So I have some money at the moment."

Dean gave him an awed look.  "You found a book with part of Janus in it?"

"Ethan's his high priest.  I found it in Giles' collection that we had to remove from the library."

"Damn.  What else is in there?" John asked.

Xander shrugged.  "I've got a book list somewhere but I don't think I packed it."

John and Dean shared a look.  "Someone should look."  Dean nodded his support.  "Do you think the witches got out there yet, Xander?"

"Yeah.  Buffy called crying earlier about what they shoved back at her and how mean they were to Willow.  So I told her what they had found on me.  She went to help them fix Willow because they're friends."

"Did she apologize?" Dean asked.  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?"

"She said I was right, this was better for me than being their whipping boy and I had made a good decision."

John snorted.  "Not counting why you made it?"  Xander shook his head.  "She'll learn."

"She's already overloaded.  She's lasted longer than any other slayer ever," Xander pointed out.

"Because you brought her back to life," John countered.  "Then you and Willow helped her."

Xander nodded. "And now she doesn't have that.  She's overloaded."

"Are you willing to go back?" Dean asked.

Xander considered it then shook his head.  "If it was an emergency.  An apocalypse and they needed *me* to help.  Or they needed more hands to stop it and more hunters were going.  Not just to go back to patrolling and that stuff.  I don't think I could stand the nightly combat.  We made it a rule to take time for fun stuff but I was so tired.  Construction work, then Anya, and patrolling.  The quarterly apocalypses.  Problems with Willow.  I was exhausted."

"You looked it," John agreed.  "When I saw you, I thought you had driven without a nap, Xander."  He patted him on the head.  "We'll go somewhere and work on your training.  Dean could use a few refresher courses anyway.  Then we'll see what you can bring to our style of hunting."  Xander let out a soft smile and John grinned back.  "How much do you have?"

"Enough to bail OJ out of jail?" he offered sheepishly.  "I was planning on having to live on it for a long life.  Buying good wards to set up on the place, finding somewhere safer and without a lot of demons.  Well away from Watchers."

"Then you can pay your own way and we'll come to you for emergencies," John said, smiling at the boy.  He did show some planning capabilities.  Xander gave him a confused look.  "It's not right for a man to not pay his own way, Xander."

"Ass, grass, or gas, no one rides free?" he asked.

Dean nodded.  "Just about, yeah."  He looked at his father.  "Where did we want to set up?  Kansas?  Near Bobby since he likes him already?"

"Look it up online tomorrow, Dean.  We'll figure that out before we head out of town."  Dean nodded, claiming his bed.  "Go get a room, Xander.  We'll see you at breakfast.  Six sharp."

"Yes, John.  Night."  He left, going to get his own room and haul everything inside so it'd be safer with him.  He laid down and looked up, smiling at the ghost.  "Hi, Mr. Ghosty Casper.  Are you friendly?"  It floated down, studying him.  "I'm not mean.  I promise I'm not."  It blew around him then smiled and faded out.  That's when he felt the fingers come up against his back.  He yelped and got up, looking at the body coming up out of the mattress.  Someone pounded on his door so he let Dean and his shotgun in.  "Dean, meet my recent ex, Anyanka.  Anya, this is Dean.  He and his father are going to be doing some training with me."

She studied him then shrugged.  "Are you any good in bed?"

"Yeah, but my dad would kick my ass if I slept with a demon."

She smirked. "Then go away, Dean."  He gave her a dirty look but shook his head.  "Xander is still mine."

"I could've sworn I broke up with you," he said dryly, looking at her.  "Shoo.  Go answer some teenage girl's distress call."

"Not even casual sex?" she pouted.  "I could use some non-clingy but good orgasms, they give me good evil ideas.  You could use it too because you're pouting.  It would be good and I won't even tell them where you are."

Xander blinked at her.  "You'll want more.  You always did.  That's why you ended up moving in with me."

She pouted worse. "Just one last night?"

John strolled in and threw something on her, making her fade out with a quiet shriek.  "Dean, stay in here to guard him.  You can nap next to him if you have to."  He looked at Xander.  "While you're training with us, no dating demons."

"Tell her that.  I didn't ask.  The ghost saw her first."

"Ghost?" Dean asked.

"Mr. Casper?" Xander called quietly.  It faded in, looking curious.  "Is she coming back?"  It nodded.  "Then I'm really sorry if we have to make a mess."  It smiled and patted him on the head before disappearing again.  "See, he's a nice ghost and he saw her first."

John just nodded and walked out, heading back to his room.  "Guard him, Dean."

"Yes, sir."  He closed the door and looked at the bed then at Xander.  "Let's sleep.  I'll make sure she can't molest you in your dreams."  Xander blushed.  "I slept next to Sammy plenty of times and never molested him," he said patiently.  "Even when I was a teenager and he was too horny because he started to work."

Xander blushed brighter.  "I'm not your brother, Dean."

"Yay you.  You'll get there.  Get comfy.  I will be."  He stripped back down to his boxer briefs, t-shirt, and socks.  Then he climbed in.  Xander stripped down to his cartoon boxers and climbed in.  Dean smiled at the younger boy's back since he was turned the other direction.  "Night."

"Night.  Sorry if I cuddle.  She complained a lot about that."

"I don't care.  Sammy wiggled all night."  He turned off the lights, leaving the shotgun between them.  He was almost fully asleep when the voice started next to his ear.

"You could sleep with him.  It might make him happy," it whispered.  Dean bopped it on the head with a fist, making her hiss in pain.  "You could.  He's very good in bed and it would make some people happy to watch.  I like voyeurs, they're fun sorts and let me join in."

Dean opened his eyes to look at her, then punched her.  "Go away," he snarled.  "Trying to sleep here.  Six comes really early."  She pouted.  "Tough!  Go be a slut somewhere else!  Xander's under Winchester protection now."

She gave him the dreaded puppy eyes look she had tried to learn off Xander.  "I only want him happy.  He gave me many orgasms; it's not his fault Willow and Buffy went cranky and drove him off.  Even D'Hoffryn said I can't blame him for that.  Them I can make miserable but Xander deserves some happiness since he gave me such nice orgasms.  Eleven hundred years is a long dry spell."

"I'm sure it is," Dean agreed, flipping onto his side.  "If Xander wants my ass, he can ask.  I'm not molesting him.  I didn't do Sammy when we had to share a bed.  I'm not doing Xander because we have to so I can protect him from you."


"I don't like honey that much.  I prefer chocolate."

"Which is nice when it's licked off you," she said, staring off into space with a scary, happy smile.  "That was a fun weekend."

Dean groaned, shaking his head.  "Go away, Anya.  We've got to be up really early."


He glared.  "If we go there some day you can watch."

She sulked.  "But I never got to see him do that.  He wouldn't take Larry up on his offer.  He didn't get any at the strip club your father found him at.  The demon porn was only girls doing him, and it was very hot.  It's what made me come back to him.  That and how good he was after the prom for four hours."

"That means he'll have stamina when Dad runs drills with him," he said impatiently. "Shoo!"

"Fine.  Can't I just watch a bit?"

"I'm not having him tonight."

"Meany."  She disappeared.  She waited until Dean was asleep this time and came back to snuggle her Xander.  He instinctively held on and it was nice.  She didn't like to cuddle but she could talk him into sex when his nightmares woke him up.  Unfortunately Dean felt her after a few seconds and got her with the knife he had put under his pillow, making her fade off to get the wound treated.  She didn't like blessed knives.  They were mean to her.  She started to come back later but Dean woke up enough to cock the shotgun and she left.  There was no telling how much that would hurt in her demon form.


Dean blinked at the man trying to wake him up.  "No more demon ho?"

"What?" his father asked, looking amused.  "Did another succubus come for him?"

"His ex.  Four times!"

Xander frowned at him. "Four?"

"Including the first one.  Yeah."  He made himself sit up and check his gun, putting the safety back on.  Then he looked at Xander.   "You did demon porn?"

"It let me leave the strip club."

"Did you strip?"

"Twice.  I was mortally embarrassed and the women tried to grope when I didn't want them to.  I had many bruises and I made crap tips because I suck at it.  Do we need to keep going here?  What did Anya want?"


"Oh.  That."  He nodded.  "She had a long dry spell."

"While I feel sorry for her, it can taint you, Xander," John said patiently.  Xander nodded at that wisdom.  "I need to ask, are you still innocent?  Because that can draw things to you too."

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know."

"How can you not know?" Dean asked.

"Willow erased some of my memories," he reminded him.  "Since the alternate universe vamp Willow would jump anything, even a tree, I'm not so sure she didn't take lessons when she ran here the second time."

"Alternate universe vampire Willow," John said, thinking about that phrasing.

Dean got to the point.  "Huh?"

"Cordelia made a wish to Anya before she got turned human.  She wished that Buffy hadn't shown up in Sunnydale.  Bam, instant alternate reality.  Willow and I were both turned.  I was a favorite childe of the Master.  She was my childe.  We were both torturing Angel for his soul crap.  No one was there to stop the harvest.  Then it was broken and Anya's power center was broken, which meant she was human again after eleven hundred years as a demon.  A really long dry spell for sex.  Then the vamp Willow showed up another time and she was a creepy, leather wearing, hitting on anything that moved vamp.  Who might've been a warning message," he admitted.

"How did she show back up?" John asked patiently.

"Anya talked Willow into trying to get her power center back.  It summoned vamp Willow and she was running loose for a bit."

Dean rubbed his forehead.  "Dad, next time she shows up, you drive her off."  He went back to their shared room to shower and change clothes while Xander finished getting ready for the day and hiked all his stuff back to the car.  Dean finally came down with his bag.  "Okay, after breakfast, I go to the library to look up places for rent.  You two look at what else he brought with him.  I'll call when I find something?" John nodded that worked for him.  "You can even give Xander the same rules of conduct, like no dating demons since he only seems to date girls like that."

"I dated Cordelia, she was human and a cheerleader," Xander offered with a grin.

"We were in LA last month," John said dryly, patting him on the back.  "We stopped in to see her and tell her we had seen you, helped you, and you were doing okay.  You need better taste, Xander."

"She was nice enough while we were groping.  And hey, I got the love spell canceled," he said with a bright, happy grin.  "Even if I was stupid to let Amy do it in the first place."

"We'll talk about that wherever we end up tonight," John told him, letting Xander get into his car.  "We're headed for the waffle place."  Xander beamed and nodded, backing out to go there.

Dean grinned from his car's side.  "And you thought Sammy was bad," he taunted with an evil smirk.  "Thanks for the new brother; I'm sure we'll get along just fine."

John smirked back.  "That's good.  You can help him drive off all the demons who want his ass, Dean."  He got into his truck to drive after the new student.  Dean could grumble in his own car for a while.


A few days later they pulled up in front of the place they had rented.  It was a small cabin in the woods.  It was dirty, nearly falling in, and had barely running water, but it was private and the owner thought they were using it for deer hunting this year, which was fine with him.  Even if deer season didn't start for another four months.  Dean looked at the cabin then at his father.  "This is a wreck."

Xander stopped and got out, looking around the building.  "It's structurally sound but damn the outside's falling in.  Did anyone else notice the owner had on a necklace that was the Mark of Osiris?"

John and Dean both looked at him.  "Seen one?" John asked casually.

"Looked at them for Willow's birthday last year," he admitted.  "She does the magic stuff."  He waved a hand.  "Bedrooms?"

"Two.  You can share with Dean, Xander."  He nodded, starting to haul things into the house.  Dean came over to look at the weapons, and when he laughed John came over.  "What's wrong?"

"No guns."

"Guns aren't practical on the hellmouth," Xander said as he came back out.  He opened up a bag and tossed something out.  "Taser?  I stole it off one of the Initiative guys."  He smirked.  "I didn't get to get my battle axe.  I miss it."

"It's an impractical weapon unless you're on horseback," John said patiently.

"Actually it's very practical and it's blessed silver coated.  I used it more than I did a sword in Sunnydale."

"You guys used swords?" Dean asked.  "Like real swords, not machetes?"  Xander nodded.  "How did you hide them?"

"The PD out there doesn't really care," he admitted. "Except for the dirty cops who were in the mayor's pocket before he died.  Then he had them convinced we were the bad guys."

Dean shook his head.  "Back on topic," he said.  "Battle axes can't do anything a regular axe can't."

"They can cut deeper and I haven't seen a regular axe that was silver coated yet," Xander pointed out.  "Plus it's the weapon I'm most familiar with after my crossbow and stakes."

Dean blinked.  "You used stakes?"

"To get vamps, yeah.  On our nightly patrols even."  He grinned and pulled out one.  "See?"  He dropped it back into the bag and hauled it inside, then came to get the last two bags, wincing a bit.  "Sorry, a bit heavy."

Dean tried to help but he had to let it go.  "How do you do that?"

"I worked construction."  He found his cellphone, then piled everything else in the corner.  He walked outside to check for a signal then muttered something and found one.  "I did learn one or two things from Willow," he admitted at John's odd look.  "Including cellphones are cheaper than satellite phones and she can draw a signal to hers."  He called.  "Giles, me.  No.  I want my battle axe and I sent you money to pay for my storage area.  Yeah, that one.  Does she need it?  Because it's my baby, Giles.  It's the one I always took on patrol.  I've bleed and sweated on that blade and I'm the only one who seems to be able to sharpen the thing.  Please?  Mail it to...."

"Special delivery here in the town," John ordered patiently.

"To me here special delivery, no that's instead of a PO Box.  Heaven's Tooth, Kansas.  Don't know.  I'm sure someone can find it online.  Thank you.  No, I sent you one.  Just have one of them drop it off.  That way Anya can't get into my Star Trek stuff and sell it off on me.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "He said he'd check it for the same magical contamination I had before he sends my baby."  He went to restack things, smiling when he found Dean staring in awe in the bag.  He rezipped it.  "The favor.  It was going to have to last me a human version of forever."  Dean gave him a confused look.  "Humans have less of forever.  Vampires mean longer when they say forever.  Spike and I got into a late night discussion one night over some sappy crap he was watching on PBS to remind him of home."  He looked at his bags then at Dean.  "Need help?"

"Sure, you get the weapons."  They went to empty the Impala's trunk and pile it next to Xander's assorted crap.  "You have a storage area?"

"For the bigger stuff.  Furniture, Star Trek stuff, most of the rest of the weapons.  Someone had to take care of the crossbows for Giles."  John gave him another odd look.  "He was busy being a watchery book sort.  So I sharpened, I cleaned and kept strung, and I carved stakes."

"Did you guys not need to use guns?" John asked.

"Well, we had to use the rocket launcher in the mall to get the Judge," he admitted.  "But that wasn't something I stole a lot of from the National Guard.  We only took three."

John shook his head.  "Rocket launcher?"

"Yeah, to kill the Judge since Angelus put him back together again and he was going to eat humanity.  I got it for her but she fired it."

John frowned then nodded once, walking off again.  "Okay.  We'll work on gun things later, see where you are on them, Xander."

"Okay.  Are you going to unscrew my hand-to-hand?  Spike said I'm pitiful and I'm tired of tripping into headstones with my head."

"Sure," John agreed, smiling at him.  Anya appeared with the battle axe and a box.  "What's that?"

"Books for Xander.  It has shielding and stuff; Giles said it was important since he probably is going to have problems with that stuff."  She handed over the box to Dean then the axe to Xander.  "He said you're right, you contaminated it and it reeks of your soul."  She smirked.  "Can I at least have oral sex?"

John growled.  "Go away, Anyanka.  He can't date you while he's with us."  She pouted.  "Tough!"  She disappeared.  He looked at the axe the boy was cuddling, noticing Dean was trying hard not to grin at the cute look on Xander's face.  "Is it your kitty?" he taunted dryly.

Xander looked up then nodded.  "It's the only pet I've ever had."  He went back to cuddling it.  It was comforting to him.

Dean gave it a gentle tug after handing his father the box of books.  "Let me see it?"  Xander let him see it and it was heavy.  "How do you use this thing?"

"Not that hard."  He went outside.  "Willow told me I can't play with it inside," he called when they didn't follow.  "Giles too when I nearly killed a bookcase.  Oooh!  A Rumion!"

They went outside to watch him spar with the demon that was coming up the driveway.  He wasn't too bad.  More bouncy than needed.  The demon wasn't trying too hard but it was fine.  He let the demon go when it gave up and ran off.  "Is it harmless?" John called.

Xander came jogging back, nodding and grinning. "Mostly, as long as you establish dominance priority.  I assured him we weren't here to take over the pack's lands, just to habitate for a while."

Dean nodded, taking the axe back to look over.  "It's a well-crafted weapon, but you can't carry it on a run through the woods."  Xander looked confused but nodded. "You can?"

"I've carried it on many runs through the woods and cemeteries and even the school once.  It was with me at graduation."  He took it back and put it with his stuff.  Then he grinned at them.  "That's what I'm used to, guys.  Guns wouldn't work for us on patrol.  Even if you could make a good enough wooden bullet."

John nodded.  "We can help you merge the two styles, Xander."

"Cool."  He grinned.  "Guns?  Or did you want to work on hand-to-hand stuff since I saw Dean's look at my lack of form and style?"

"Let's start there," John decided.  If only to wear the bounciness out of the boy.  He was perfectly normal on patrol. "Relax, kid.  We're not going to yell at you because you weren't trained."

Xander frowned at him.  "This is me, John.  I channel the energy into my incredible focus on patrol."  Dean groaned.  "The hyena left me with some slightly heightened senses.  Nothing vamp high or anything but slightly better than average.  I can hear Dean's car coming a few thousand feet away," he finished with a bright grin.

"I've seen that problem with his music in the past," John admitted.  He looked at Dean.  "Go ahead and test him like you would Sammy."  Dean jumped Xander and he switched back to serious, working against him.  A few moves made John wince.  One made Dean wince when Xander got him in the inner thigh but it was a legal move and a good one if you had to use it.  Then Xander sped up and it was better for Xander.  John sighed.  He had been fighting things that were stronger and faster and had to adapt to that so he could get them.  It didn't capitalize on his body's natural grace.  That's why Xander was tripping.  Which he did and brought them both down.  Dean flipped over so he was on top.

"Now what, bright boy?" Dean taunted with an evil smirk, trying hard not to pant.

"Now, well, it depends on if it was a vamp,  Anya doing that, or someone like Faith.  Faith would probably try to get some.  Anya too but she liked straps.  The vampires would be trying to bite so I'd have to push their head off and use my free hand to grab something."  He grabbed a nearby stick and poked Dean with it hard until he yelped.  Then he scrambled up and got him from behind.  "See?" he said proudly.

"You need about half as much work as I put into Dean and Sammy's training," John told him.  "Not bad for training yourself but there's ways of training yourself to fight the faster things without making yourself go as fast as they are, which makes you trip."

"Is that why I fell into six different graves the night I went hyped up on chocolate?" Xander asked.

John nodded quickly.  "Yes.  Too bouncy is bad for you.  Really."  He smirked at Dean.  "Work on the standard counters for now.  Let me empty the truck."  Dean nodded, pulling Xander off to work on the standard moves.  "Xander, no speeding up."

"Yes, John."  He shrugged at Dean. "Did I hurt you?"

"No, not really.  You weren't trying to hurt me.  Which is a very good sign.  Did you want to stake me?"

"I kept reminding myself you weren't a vampire."

"Good.  That shows you're not as far gone as you thought."  Xander gave him a shy smile and attacked again.  "Wrong foot for your balance, Xander.  Watch."  He showed him in slow motion then did it the way Xander had.  "See, that's more tripping into them than lunging to grab."  Xander nodded, doing it right.


Later that night John put down his book and looked at the boy.  "Not sleepy?"

"No.  I'm used to being up later and then getting up for work."  He looked at him as he carved a stake then went back to it.

"Needed something to do?"  Xander nodded.  "You could read."

"I don't like books that much.  Research makes my head hurt."

"Fun reading, Xander?" he suggested.

"They're in storage.  I thought useful books were better."  He shrugged a bit.  "I'll pick more up sometime."

John shifted to look at him.  "You don't have to stay up.  You could go rest."

Xander looked at him.  "My body's not used to sleeping that long.  Every once in a while to catch up after an apocalypse but mostly I patrolled until one or two, went home to eat and please Anya, then went to bed and got up at seven to make it to work on the construction site."

"That's not good for your body."

"It's gotten used to it over four years.  I've never slept a long time," he admitted quietly, going back to his carving.  "It took me four months to get a perfect point on one of these.  Too dull of a point and it's harder to stake with for me or Willow.  Buffy has super strength so she can stake with a coke can if she needs to."

John took the stake and tossed it into the fireplace.  "You can't compete with Buffy.  She's born special with special gifts.  Us normal guys have to rely on training.  Her gifts can leave her, or confuse her, or even get her killed if she doesn't train with them.  Dean and I can both fall back on our training even when we're half asleep."  Xander nodded that he understood that.  "Your body still needs to recharge to be at its best."

"I never slept a long time, John."

"Why not?"

"My parents were kinda loud," he said calmly.

"Partying with the neighbors loud or drunken loud?" he asked.

"Mostly the second.  The neighbors were mostly disgusted by their drinking habits."

John nodded. "I can see how that would mean you didn't sleep a lot.  You're not tired?"

"No.  In the morning I'll need a cup of coffee but it really helps my bouncing."  He shrugged.  "The doctor suggested it."

Dean came out to look at Xander.  "How many hours of sleep do you get a night average?"

"During an apocalypse?  I'm good with a few hours here and there throughout the week while we research, plan, get things we need, that stuff.  Then I have dinner and crash after the battle.  During normal hunting season?  Four, maybe five hours a night.  During the summer slowdowns, usually about the same I just substitute some fun stuff instead of the extended patrol we do.  We spend more time hunting at the Bronze than we do in the cemeteries.  Anya usually cut into that by about an hour for sex."

Dean blinked.  "Most people need six-to-eight hours a night," he said patiently.  "Sammy needed ten most nights."

"Yeah but I'm not normal or most people.  My body grew up this way.  Even when I was younger I didn't really sleep all that often, Dean."  He stood up.  "I can go lay in bed and think if you guys want."

John shook his head. "It's fine if you want to stay up, Xander.  We're worried that you're wearing your body out with this lack of sleep."

"It's always been that way.  My mother said I never slept as a baby either.  Always up and wanting something."

John frowned.  "All babies are like that, Xander.  If not there's something wrong."  Xander shrugged at that.  "Try to rest tonight.  We're going to be wearing your body out while we work on your training.  Then we'll see what your body really needs.  You might not need the coffee anymore."

Xander looked at him.  "Only if you want to see me bounce."  That got a knowing look.  "Really."

"We'll try it and see tomorrow."  Xander nodded, heading for his bed.  He looked at Dean.  "He'll probably have some nightmares," he said quietly.

"That's what woke me up."  He went back to his own bed, laying down to watch Xander strip down and climb in.  "Relax and let your mind drift," he said when he realized the boy was arguing with himself over something.  "It's the fastest way to let yourself sleep when you don't think you need it."  Xander nodded, doing that.  Within minutes the boy was snoring worse than Sammy did but that was to be expected.  Differences were to be expected.  Xander wasn't Sammy.  For one thing he wore horrible clothes.  They'd have to fix that.  He really would.  Before he got blinded.


John watched the boys spar a few days later.  He had cut Xander off caffeine for two days and Xander was an uncoordinated, bouncy, hyper, frustrated, violent young man.  "Dean, give him a soda," he called.  Dean got one from his car and handed it over.  Xander gulped and sighed in pleasure.  "One a morning, kid.  If you need more, you needed more sleep."  Xander nodded, going back to it.  It took about a half hour but his bounciness did slowly calm down.  He smiled, going back to fixing the gun grip he was working on.  Dean was doing good teaching the boy.  Even if they were going over what the kid should've learned to defeat bullies.  "Xander, when the bullies came for you what did you do?"

"I ducked, I protected Willow, or I picked up a rock and threw it at them."  He looked at him and ducked Dean's punch attempt.  "Why?"

"No one taught you what to do about them?"

"My father said only sissies were plagued by them and if I needed more help than that then I clearly wasn't his son and I needed to toughen up."  He walked off.  "I'm going to cool down."

"Sure," Dean agreed, watching him go.  He finally sat down beside his father.  "His parents were what?"


Dean nodded.  They had seen a few of those as parents.  "Think he'll be okay?"

"I think it's a slow process but he'll slowly learn that other people see him as more than his muscles.  The girls hurt him as much as his parents did, even if one of them did raise him."  Dean looked at him.  "Willow raised him, Dean."  That got a nod.  "So we're going to see what's underneath all that when he finally gets over his anger at them," he finished more quietly.  Xander was nearby.  "You can practice sneaking but the kiddy rules apply, Xander.  If I call you show up again."  No answer.  He frowned, getting up and going to look for the boy.  He found the demon that had snuck up on him and shot him.  That ended that demon.

Dean knelt to wake Xander up.  "Snuck up on you?"

"Came out of the tree," he moaned, holding his head.  "He's shrinking back into it too."  He pointed as Dean helped him sit up.  "That tree."  John went to look then got an axe to chop it down.  Xander got up and got his special axe, coming back to do it.  "Blessed," he said dryly.  "Easier."  He got to work and it was easier.  The tree demon died after a few cuts.  Then Xander left it alone.  The demon didn't regenerate so he was happy with that.

Dean looked then nodded.  "Good job."   He walked him back to the cabin to look at his head in the brighter sunlight by the porch since no trees were blocking it.  "Not too bad.  Small lump."

"No concussion.  I've had worse and went back on patrol."  He put his axe back after checking the edge.  "I'll sharpen that tonight."  Dean nodded, looking at his father.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine.  That was a good job, Xander."  Xander beamed at that.  "I think we could use a night in town."

"Why?  There wasn't much in town," Xander said.  "Only a few bars."

"We play pool now and then for money," Dean said.  "Plus I've been missing pretty girls.  I doubt you'd look that pretty if I dress you up like one."

"I told you not to do that after you did it to Sammy and tried to get the lesbian to hit on him," John reminded him, patting him on the shoulder as he walked past him.

"The queens tied me up and dressed me.  I didn't look too bad but I'm too bulky," Xander told him, making Dean laugh.

"He's not kidding," John called.  "The three vampire drag queens tied him up and dressed him at that strip club."

Dean shook his head quickly to erase that picture.  "Sure."  He walked into his room to change.  "Bar?"

"Sure."  John looked at Xander, then at his shirt.  "Put on something nice but subtle that you can get in a brawl in if you have to.  Some of the local bars are a bit rough, Xander."  He nodded, going to do that.  He came out in a dark blue t-shirt and jeans he had seen him wear at the club.  "Patrol clothes?"

Xander looked down at himself then at him.  "When I was bouncing at the demon club."  That got a nod.  "Let me clean off my boots."  He took them outside to do that then came back wearing them. "Jackets or should I put on an overshirt?"

"Don't you dare put on one of those loud shirts," Dean ordered.  Xander frowned at him. "You won't need that sort of attention, Xander."

"They're comfy."

"They're ugly," Dean countered.  He walked the boy out, handing him one of John's flannel plaid shirts. "There, in case you get cold.  Meet you there, sir."

"Sure, boys," he said, watching them head off in the Impala.  Once they were gone he called his son.  "You two need to pull off and talk about innocence issues soon," he ordered.  "I had it with you, you gave a better one to Sammy, do it with him."  He hung up and got ready to go out too.  He needed to see something other than the cabin too.


Dean hung up and pulled off the side of the road.  "Dad reminded me of something.  You know that innocence can draw things, right?"

"Only certain demons and I haven't seen any.  Plus Faith cured that and so did Anya."

"There's many types of innocence.  Blood, death, virginal of all sorts, a lot of them."

"I cured the virginal.  Blood...I shot a few of the guys in the club with a crossbow in the thigh.  Does hunting work for the death one?"  Dean nodded. "Then I've had that solved for a few years.  Why the teenager talk?"

"Because we were both thinking that some of the things that you draw come because you're not totally impure, Xander.  Virginal doesn't mean just girls."  Xander blushed and shook his head quickly.  "Dad didn't want to have this talk with you.   He kinda winces at all sex talks.  I let Sammy ask him why people used handcuffs after watching a movie and dad walked off swearing at me for it."  He smirked. "Even if Sammy draws demons, we found out that he drew less after he was thoroughly uninnocent.  We had to force a few on him but it helped."

"I can't go there, Dean."

"Okay.  We'll figure that out.  It's something Dad wanted you aware of and to think about, not to jump the first guy you see."

"That's good because I don't think I could go there."

"It's not that bad," he said calmly.  "I had to when I broke mine."

Xander blushed brighter, shaking his head.  "Willow said it's a bad thing.  Anya agreed about how bad and painful it was plus how humiliating.  She used it a few times in her job."

"That's a fucked up view," Dean told him.  Xander frowned.  "Anya using it was a punishment, Xander.  Not because they wanted to.  Yes, Willow may think it's a bad thing but did she think two girls were back then?"  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?"

"She never said why, just that it was bad and icky and wrong.  That the body wasn't meant for that and it hurt it a lot."

"Did your school have sex ed?"

"Maybe.  Condoms good, sex evil, evil brings more demons."

"No, getting uninnocent, just breaking that barrier, brings less demons," Dean corrected. "It only draws demons when you're using it for sex magic or you're sleeping with the demons."

"I'm sorry if she's still bothering you."

"Not you fault, Xander.  But remember the praying mantis woman?  She could only use virgins.  That's a lot more common than you think."

"Faith cured that for me."

"Some demons won't care about that.  About a third of them think that's only partially cured."  Xander grimaced.  "I'm not saying jump one of us or someone in the bar tonight.  I'm saying think about it tonight when you're in bed and can't sleep."  He restarted the car.  "We had to buy Sammy a hooker and give him rum.  If we have to, we'll plan yours that way."

"I hardly ever drink."

"Bad examples can do that to you," he agreed, pulling back onto the road.  "But... and this is a huge but, one beer doesn't make you an alchie."  He gave Xander a look before turning to look at the road again.

"I had one now and then with the guys after work."

"That's what we're doing tonight basically.  We're done for the day, time to fleece some poor suckers on the pool table."

"You guys do that?"

"Have to fund our way somehow," he admitted.  Xander grimaced.  "We won't make you."

"Thank you."

"Welcome."  They finally pulled into the small town.  "Want the country bar with an alarming amount of pickup trucks with gun racks or would you like the hipper club that's playing techno for the kids?"

"Kids.  We're about their age and it'll look less strange.  Plus I haven't boogied in a while."

Dean nodded, parking there.  Kids had allowances.  He could do that.  Then they'd take Xander to deal with his clothing issues.  Dean let him pay their way into the club, and it was all right.  The music was techno and trash but he could handle it for a few hours.  Better than country music anyway.  He watched Xander head for the floor and blinked, staring at him.  "What the hell?" he muttered, following more slowly.  Xander was doing...something on the floor that was making most of the girls giggle.  "How did he get laid when he dances like that?"  He went out to correct him, nodding at the teenage girl.  "He's my protege," he said with a goofy grin, getting her help.  "His town is tragic.  They waltzed or something."  She moved closer and Xander was sandwiched between them.  Dean made him move the way he should and the girl took over after a few minutes.  Then Dean went to hustle pool while she finished teaching Xander what he needed to know.   About an hour later Xander came over with a beer for him.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  Thanks for siccing her on me too."

"You dance worse than Sammy does," Dean said, shooting him a look before taking a crappy shot.  It was all an act.  It really was.  Xander wasn't distracting him.

"I seem to do a lot of things worse than your brother does."

Dean straightened up from his next shot, looking at him.  "No, not really.  You dress worse, you draw worse things, and you dance worse.  You do a few things better.  You're better at self defense than he is.  You're not pushy and whining like he can be sometimes.  You snore louder when you do sleep."  Xander rolled his eyes and walked off.  "It's not a competition, Xander.  It's a minimum level," he called after him.  Xander turned to look at him.  "You have to meet up to the minimum level to move on."

Xander nodded.  "I get that."

"Then I'll start comparing you to others.  You snore louder than Dad too.  That's a level that Sammy never reached."  He watched him go back onto the floor.  He was still tragic on it but the girls were giggling less and helping him more.  The first one had spread around to help him because his former town had been so out of touch.  Dean looked at the guy he was playing against.  "He's training with my dad."  He took his next shot and smiled when it sank just like he wanted it to.  The guy groaned when Dean took the money and went to help Xander some more.  He pulled him out from the girls, staring at him.  "Let out some of the hunting instincts, Xander.  This is like picking and choosing who you want to go home with tonight.  Because with the way you dance, I'm surprised you got any."  Xander frowned, going back to it, making the girls giggle.  He stepped in.  "Xander, let it out.  Let out that same mood that you have when you stalk prey through the woods."  He nodded, slowly letting some of that come up.  It got better and the girls were liking it more.  Dean stepped out to a corner, watching his protege deal with it.  He nearly broke the wrist of one girl when she tried to grab his butt but she only pouted so he let her go as long as she wouldn't pickpocket him again.  The girls all rushed off.  He came out there, pulling him closer again.  "Pickpockets?"

"Trainee succuba.  They recognized me when you said to let it out."  They shared a look and left, heading to the Impala.  Some guy got in their way outside.  "Hey, Bob!" he said happily, hugging him.  "How's the old haunts?  I haven't seen you since you came to make Spike to pay up his kitten poker debt."

The man blinked at him.  "Harris?"  Xander nodded.  He looked him over.  "Well, you're not blinding us anymore."

"It took a while to drain me."

"Not like that.  That's comfortable.  I meant the shirt."  He looked at him then around then back at him again.  "You were bothering my girls?"

"A friend was trying to make them teach me to dance.  One tried to lift my wallet so I grabbed her.  The rest ran off after I chastised gently."

"Oh."  He nodded then vamped out.  Xander pulled his stake.  "Oh, please!  Tell me you won't try that.  Not like those girls are here for you to try to impress."

Xander looked around then staked him.  "Sure I will."  He tossed Dean his wallet.  "He won't need it."  They got into the car and headed off to find somewhere more fun.  Xander pointed.  "That's a rave."

Dean looked.  For a full-blown rave there were only ten cars in the parking area.  He paused them beside the road.  "Think they're human with how few cars there are?"

"Could have been dropped off."  He grinned.  "Besides, it's all succuba if anything.  We both had holy water for breakfast.  And they like me.  They're fun to tease."  He got out of the car and headed in there, making Dean park and follow.

Dean swore the whole way in, paying his cover out of 'Bob's wallet.  He found Xander in the middle of the pack on the floor.  Xander was seriously blowing his image out there.  Back to dancing like a dork.  The girls were cooing and helping though.  Not the same ones but that was fine.  They were all over him.  Which meant they were probably evil.  He texted his father and got back one to watch him for now.  Dean did get the vampire that tried to nibble on him but that was normal.  Xander being a dork on the floor and having all those girls trying for him anyway wasn't.  Dean watched as one girl moved up behind Xander to teach him how she danced.  That was better.  He was used to dancing like a girl apparently.  "Gotta remember to find his girls and smack them for warping him," he muttered.  He went to buy them a drink, handing Xander a beer on his way past to get his own action.

Xander knew not to let them take him out of the club.  Dean danced, keeping a subtle eye on him while his partner tried to talk him into a quick bathroom blow.  For some reason the club was making him very mellow.  He'd almost let her if she wasn't in vamp face.  He staked her and moved on, getting a different woman to hold body language conversations with.  Xander was gone the next time he looked over but a quick scan found him up by the DJ.  Then the music changed and it was better.  Much better. Even the girl with him was getting into the mood.  Xander clearly was letting out too much of his inner beast.  He was also back to dancing with the girls like he was one of them.  Dean took a sip of his beer when he realized Xander had a good booty to shake and get low with.  Which was definitely not a thought he usually had.  Something must've infected them.  Demon pheromone or one of the succuba or something.  He finished his beer and let the bottle be taken from him.  They'd be fine and it was good stress relief since none of the demons in there were trying to eat them or kill them for the moment.  That stress relief would come later when they slayed.


John parked outside the building, shaking his head at the throbbing music coming out.  "Must've been Xander's choice," he decided as he got out of the truck.  The minute he did he felt dizzy and complacent.  That was not a good sign for his boys.  He texted Dean's phone, getting back a 'Xander's got six girls around him and I've got someone nice.  It's okay, no demons trying to eat us yet' back in code.  John muttered all the way up to the door, looking at the bouncer.  "The boys in the Impala done yet?  I need to bring them home."

The bouncer let him look.  "They're having fun, mister.  Let them play; they're kids."

John looked at him.  "Not really.  It's well past curfew."  He muscled his way inside, going to save Xander first since it looked like he was in worse danger.  "Bedtime," he said in his ear, turning the boy around.  "And why are you dancing like a girl on a rap video?"

"He does it very well," one of the girls giggled, trying to take him back.

John looked at her.  "He's past curfew.  You can have him back some other time.  Let's go, Xander."

"Yes, Daddy."  He grinned and waved.  "Dad said I had to go."  They pouted and got cuddles then he left when John pulled him away.  "But they were nice and not trying to eat me," he complained.

John grabbed Dean by the hair, walking him off too.  "I don't care."  He walked them outside.  "That had better be whatever pheromone is leaking in there and not drugs, boys."

"Chill, it's not like we'd dabble that way," Dean complained, rubbing his forehead.  "Xander, you looked better dancing like a girl."

"Buffy tried to teach me."

"Gotta smack those girls," he muttered, heading for his car.  "C'mon, Xander.  Let's go nap and do it again tomorrow night."

"We can?"

"We'll see," John said, grimacing some.

"Yes, Dad."  He climbed into the car.  Dean got in to drive and they headed back to the cabin.

Dean looked at him.  "Did you call him Dad?"

"He's acting like dads in the movies do."

"He is kinda, yeah," Dean agreed.  He shrugged and let them hit a drivethru first then head back to the cabin.  They were both starved.   Xander paid since he had more money on him at the moment.  Then they drove back slowly, nibbling on the way.  They finally pulled in and found John waiting impatiently.  Dean handed over the bag.  "Breakfast."  He went to climb into bed.  His dad wanted to have a *talk* with Xander from the look on his face.  He was surprised when Xander came in right away and there hadn't been any harsh words yelled.  "He picked it," Dean called to save himself some in the morning.

"You were getting down with the breeder demon," Xander teased.

"Have to remember that."  He flipped onto his side.  "Night, Xander."

"Night, Dean."  He curled up in his usual ball and got comfy, falling asleep after a few minutes.

John put the salt wards around them once they were asleep then went to do his own bedroom's.   He'd deal with the stupid twins in the morning.


John looked up, studying Xander as he came out of the woods.  "Where did you hike off to?"

"To talk to the local pack leader about the club.  It's where their young go to blow off stress and breed.  No other packs close enough to send the young off to in trade so they have to do it that way.  Totally harmless and they're amused when the human kids show up.  Since we were being peaceful it was fine.  They keep out the succuba too."

"So the pheromone problem was that?" John asked.

Xander nodded.  "Yeah, encouraging teen pregnancies basically."  He sat beside him. "They said we can come back whenever we want and it'll be fine.  We inspired many of the girls."

"Fine."  He went back to cleaning the gun in his hands.  "Dean's jogging."

"I saw.  He looked mad at himself."

"Probably because you both risked yourself stupidly going into a situation you weren't sure about and trying to stay there.  You didn't watch to see how many demons there were.  You didn't listen to him when he pointed out there was probably a problem because of the few cars sitting there when there was a high population.  You could have both been hurt."

"I asked during the dominance fight.  The worst thing around here is a pack of succuba in training, which we ran into at the teen club last night.  One tried to pickpocket me.  They had a vamp Spike played kitten poker with guarding them and I got him last night before we hit the second club."  John looked at him.  "Not like Buffy does more than go ask Willie now and then."

"You didn't tell me you asked the demon you fought for dominance."

"If it had been anything bad I would've mentioned it."

"From now on, tell me everything like that you find out."

"Okay.  Bobby said the demon raccoon keeps coming back to his place missing me."

"He had to put it down.  He said the thing thought you were its higher being and it tried to bite him for robbing its god of power," John countered dryly.

"Poor raccoon."

"Not all harmless demons are really harmless."

Xander stood up to look at him.  "I don't kill the harmless ones unless they prove otherwise, John.  It's not their fault they were born.  The same as it wasn't mine or Sammy's fault that we were born into the families we were born into.  Even if some people do want to blame us for it because it means we draw demons to us.  I'm not going to suddenly start killing every demon in sight unless they're harmful."  He walked off, going back into the woods.

John huffed but the words got back into his brain.  Did he blame Sammy for drawing demons because he was born into the family?  He didn't blame other kids who drew demons unless they did it on purpose.  He looked up when Dean showed up.  "Do I blame Sam for drawing demons?"

"Now and then we both did," he said honestly, sitting down.  "Why?"

"Xander said he's not hunting the harmless ones.  That it's not their fault they were born into that family the same way it wasn't his fault or Sammy's fault they were born into their families and they draw demons."

Dean considered it then nodded.  "It's not unless they're doing it on purpose.  Which can help in a hunt.  We've all done that before.  Xander told me he played bait for Buffy many times."  John groaned and shook his head.  "I want to beat them now and then."

"There's no now and then about it.  They need paddled.  He found out that place was for the young demons to get with the breeder demons."

"I heard.  I found one of the demons from last night and asked."  He stood up.  "What're we doing today?"

"Xander could use some laundry done."

"He could use some clothes that didn't blind demons," Dean snorted. "Even the vampire remarked on it."  John pointed so Dean got to work tracking the irrate young man.  He lost his trail after a few minutes, looking around carefully.  Even above him.  No Xander.  He moved farther on and still nothing.  He looked around.  "Xander?" he called.  No answer. "Xander!"  John joined him, the gun back together and loaded, another in his hand for Dean.  "Think it was a demon?"

"Could be," he said.  "Try calling him?  He had his phone in his pocket."

Dean called him.  "Where the hell are you?" he demanded.  He paused.  "How did you get back there?"  He nodded once.  "Is that on her approved magic list, Xander?"  He shrugged.  "Okay.  And?"  He sighed, looking at his father.  "We were going to do laundry and work on your loud shirt issue, Xander."  He hung up and looked at his father.  "Willow stole him with magic."

The guns got put up as they walked back to the cabin.  "He think she's still dangerous?" John asked.

"He said no.  He was babbling in happiness while he was talking to me.   So maybe they finally apologized?"

"Maybe."  John went back to cleaning all his weapons. "Might as well, Dean."

"Yeah, I should."  He got to work on his own, making sure they were all in good working order.  Xander appeared an hour later with two bags and a large, good smelling bag.  "Brownies?" Dean asked, taking a sniff.

"Yup.  Willow's very sorry she worried you so you got guilt brownies instead of cookies.  She was out of the stuff for cookies."  He handed the bag over and walked the other two into the bedroom to sort through.

John walked in and looked then shook his head.  "No, Xander.  Those are loud and attract attention."

"It's for clubbing," he said weakly.  "I'm supposed to get attention then."

"That's something you work on with Dean.  For hunting, those are much too loud."  Xander pouted.  "I don't care.  They're too loud.  Simple, dark, blending into the woods or the back alleys colors."

"Then I look like a vamp."

"We can make sure you don't," Dean promised as he came in.  He looked at the shirts then grimaced.  "Were they trying to make you celibate on purpose?"

"No, Willow said she wants nieces and nephews soon.  I told her it wasn't happening soon but maybe some decade.  She pouted at me."

Dean shook his head.  "No.  Those shirts are fugly, Xander."

"Fine," he pouted.

"Thank you."  He bundled them back up, holding up one strange black/gray/blue shirt. "That one's actually in good colors and the pattern might blend in."  His father gave him a horrified look.  "Sammy has one like that."

"Sammy has his mother's tastes in clothes.  I had to complain about hers too.  No."  He put it back into the bag then hauled Xander up and handed him to Dean.  "Dress him better."  He walked off to have a brownie and sulk.

Dean smirked.  "Grab some cash and let's go."  Xander found the bag missing.  "How did that happen?  The wards weren't broken."

Xander looked at him.  "Most demons aren't bothered by salt if they're not spirits or of the possessing sort."  Dean swore under his breath.  "I know where they hang out.  I got invited."   They headed out.  "My car?"

"My car," Dean said patiently.  "You can navigate this time."  That got a nod and they went to find the money.  Sure enough he heard the demons giggling inside as they snuck closer.  They let Xander inside when they spotted him and then he felt the bad thing.  The house was magically sealed.  Xander came out ten minutes later by his watch.  "You look rough."

"Temporal spell," he said with a yawn.  He handed over the bag.  "They only took a few grand."  They headed back to the car.  "They're fine."

"Gone?" Dean asked.  "That is a form of attack."

"They're teenage girls who wanted it for lingerie shopping so they could inspire their boyfriends."

"You did what?"

"Showed them what they demanded to let me free," he said with a look at him.  "It's fine."  He checked the bag again then looked at the house.  Suddenly a smoke detector went off and the girls ran outside screaming.  "I told you to quit screwing with me," he called.  The money returned and the lingerie stopped burning.  They still sulked at him.

Dean stared.  "We consider this an attack, ladies," he said calmly.  They stomped back inside and he looked at Xander.  "Proved it how?"

Xander smirked.  "Don't ask."  He was stopped from getting in the car.  "I took a shower."

"I'm sure you did.  Will we have to run another purification rite?"

"If so, Bobby has what they found of African ones so it worked with the hyena.  Besides it was better than Faith was when she climbed on top."

Dean sighed, shaking his head.  "We'll talk about this later.  Let's hit a few places."  He checked the money bag in the backseat then let Xander inside the car.  He drove them to a pagan store they had found the other day.  The witch in there backed away from Xander.

"I'm hellmouth born, sweetie, but I'm a hunter."

She relaxed and sighed in pleasure.  "Good."  She came over.  "Hmm, interesting."

"The ladies had my money.  Besides it was easier and now they won't be coming after me again."

She patted him on the cheek.  "You're in the brave yet stupid class, aren't you?"

"Sometimes," he said with a sweet grin.  "Got anything on possessions?"  She pointed and he went to look.

Dean looked at her.  "Tainted again?"

"No more so than his soul already was by hunting and living there."

Xander looked at her.  "I don't kill the harmless."

"Then that's better than most," she assured him.  "Still taints you."

"Can you see how much innocence he has left?" Dean asked.

"Do I look like an online test?"

Dean gave her a long look.  "We need to know if we have to finish breaking him in."

"Nor am I Rosenburg."

"She's my best friend," Xander said with a sweet grin.

She stared at him then snorted.  "You're the one she got?"  He nodded.  "Then you should check into what you've done since then, boy.  They removed all the taint, including the former hunting, from your soul when you went through that rebirth rite to help you."

"Then I still have blood innocence left."

"Plus guy on guy innocence," Dean moaned.

Xander gave him an odd look.  "I asked her about that.  She said it's harmful for your body and that sort of innocence doesn't count.  Even Giles agreed with her."

"If it didn't, you wouldn't have drawn them earlier," he said impatiently.  "And it does not hurt the body if you're expecting it and there's preparation."

"Giles said it did."

She whistled. "Xander, he's right, it doesn't.  Willow's a prude.  So is Giles."

"He's British.  Isn't that part of the definition of an older British guy?"

"I always thought so," Dean agreed.

She rolled her eyes.  "Xander, sweetie, it doesn't hurt your body in the least."

"Willow said having those thoughts was what let her taint me that badly."

She shook her head.  "No.  What let you is she's your best friend."  He opened his mouth.  "Even if she had books that said that, it doesn't, Xander."  He nodded, slumping some.  "Really.  I promise.  The Goddess doesn't care who you sleep with as long as it's done in joy and at least lust, if possible love.  I'll have a talk with her."

"If you do she'll come pout at him again," Dean said quietly.

She looked at him.  "She's got a telltale on him anyway."  She pointed at it.  "That's what that mark on his neck is."

Dean looked then touched it, getting zapped.  "Magical tattoo?"

She nodded. "Looks like it.  With skin colored ink."  She came over.  "It can be broken and bled off."

"I'm sure it's so she can find me in emergencies and it'll let her know if I'm in the hospital," Xander defended, backing away.

He stared at the younger guy.   He had some flexible ethics but Xander needed to get the point.  Like Al-Anon for magic.  "Did you ask her to?" Dean asked.

"No but she's my best friend and she worries about me."

Dean nodded. "Her doing magic on you without your consent is wrong, Xander," he said, trying to explain this to him.  "Even if it's helpful it's wrong.  All she had to do was ask and you probably would've said yes, right?"  He nodded slowly.  "Then why didn't she ask?"

"They tried to say I was too normal again and I kinda went off.  She probably thought I'd see it as more of that."

"Well, maybe," she said slowly, considering it.  "Then again I'm not sure about the full function.  I've never seen that mark before."

"Willow does a lot of research."

Dean took a picture once she had colored over for him, then sent it to a text ID.  It came back a minute later.  "That's not protection."  He let Xander see it, watching him slump.  "I'm sorry, Xander."

"I know, I just don't understand why."

"Because she's still caught up in her magic.  A *friend* calls to check on you.  She doesn't do magic against your will," Dean told him.  "Or even with your will unless you ask.  None of the witches we've worked with who were good did that.  That takes a lot of energy from her."

"She's got plenty, she's bouncy like I am."

Dean grimaced.  "Not that sort.  Remember when you were reading about wards and how you had to dump a lot of energy into them to make them self-reliant?"  Xander nodded slowly.  "She had to do that with that one and then she has to use more to check into it."

"Then I guess I should have her remove it."

Dean nodded. "Definitely.  Can you get her here?"

"Willow?" he called.  She appeared and hugged him.  "Take the magic off me."

"It's to protect you," she said, starting to pout.  "So none of the bad ones come for you."

"They'll come anyway because they heard who he is," Dean told her.  "The same as they do for me and my family."

She stared at him.  "I'm not happy with you anyway, Mister.  Xander was a lot sweeter and gentler before you and your father got hold of him."

Xander held up a hand.  "Whoa.  That was my decision, Willow.  I could've went and hid but I realized that I'm making a huge difference by hunting.  People died because I took time off to heal from what you did the last time."  She flinched at that.  "So no, I went to John to have him teach me.  I asked.  And sweet?  Where did you pull that one from?  You used to call me one of hell's minions when I was younger and we were pranking with Jesse.  I've staked more than you have, Willow.  I haven't been *sweet* since I was in diapers and I'm only gentle in bed."

"See, you're warping him," Willow said firmly, glaring at Dean.  "He wasn't like this at home.  He needs to come home and stop this nonsense.  You can't teach him what he needs to know.  Giles can and said he would."

Dean crossed his arms, staring her down.  She wasn't that big for having all that power.  "I can and will and so will my father.  If your Giles had been paying any attention then Xander wouldn't need someone to train him.  He would've done it in his first year of hunting.  He clearly doesn't and I doubt Xander needs to have that same sort of soul sucking pressure you and she put on him the last time."

"Hey!" Xander shouted.  "My life!"  They both stared at him.  "Both of you stop it.  I make my own decisions, Willow.  Take the magic off me.  Someone else looked up the mark and said that's not a protection."

"It is so," she huffed.  Dean pulled up the message to show her.  "That's not right, it's not Egyptian.  It's Phoenician."

Dean typed that in.  He got back an answer a few minutes later.  "Then it's to keep him het and away from women?" he said, showing it to her.  He smirked.  "Some people among us research too, Willow."

She huffed and disappeared.

The witch sighed.  "We can remove the spells on it, Xander."  He nodded, letting her lead him to the back so she could drain them off.  And the other three she found.

Dean called his father.  "Found out Willow laid more magic on him.  Having it removed.  After the demons jumped him earlier for sex tips I kinda figured it.  I had them looked up.  One was to keep him het.  One was to keep him away from demons and one was to bind his magic."  He grimaced. "In skin colored tattoo ink on his neck."

"There's a few more on his chest," she called from the back.  "Same things.  Wrong spots to put it.  Even by that tradition.  None's over his heart."

Dean went back to listening to his father complain.  "None were over his heart.  The witch draining them said that she did it wrong."  He nodded.  "I'll do that.  She showed up to rant that we're ruining Xander by making him less sweet and gentle.  He shot back that he hadn't been for years but she refused to see it.  Sure, you call this time.  Or we can go visit if you wanted."  He smirked.  "That might work, yeah."  He hung up and walked back there.  "Xander, Dad wants to talk to Giles about her.  We were going to travel back that way.  Do you want to come?  You can put some of the loud clothes in your storage area and change out the books for more fun reading ones if you want.  Plus put back a few of the bigger weapons."

"I don't know.  I'm kinda confused right now."

Dean nodded.  "It's a hard thing when someone that close to you betrays you."  He gave him a look.  "We're still buying you better clothes tonight but we can bring home dinner."

"Sure.  Thank you."  He nodded, leaving him alone.  Xander looked at the witch trimming the ones on his back.  "It's a betrayal?"

"If a friend did this to me, I'd consider it that way," she said.  "Even if they were considering it expedient and helpful, it's not healthy for you and it could end up harming you a lot."

Xander nodded, putting his head back down on the headrest of the chair he was in.  "I don't know why she did it."

"She thinks you're bad, kid.  She's treating you like her child."  Xander nodded.  "Has she done this before?"

"She's always been part mom and part best friend.  Then she got a crush on me."

"She needs to clear her own mind out before she tries to harm others again.  This would've made you draw worse things, Xander."  He nodded, putting his head down.  "Think on this.  Most of the witches all over the world disagree with her on her thoughts, methods, and prudish nature that she's trying to force on you.  Even if the Council does like her saying gay things are bad, we don't care what you are as long as you're happy and not hurting others.  Plus she's a hypocrite because I heard she had a girlfriend of her own now."  He nodded again at that, closing his eyes.  "I don't know what to tell you, Xander.  Think on what you know and what she's done then make a decision."  Xander nodded, eyes still closed.  "Let me get this last tiny symbol then we'll move onto the next one.  It's older."  He let her work and then lowered his pants to get the one on his hip.  She frowned, bringing in a magnifying glass.  "Shit.  It's a lust spell."

"Could it be why one I did to try to get my ex back went screwy and everyone but her wanted me?" he asked quietly.

She felt the magic around it then shook her head.  "Single target, Xander."

He looked back at her, letting her see the pain in his eyes.  "She was affected by the lust spell too."

"Then it wouldn't have mattered.  This was to draw you to her, nothing else."  He nodded, going back to his resting.  She frowned and got back to work.  Something was seriously wrong with this witch.  "Who was her teacher?"

"Giles tried.  She stole books."

She sighed and nodded.  "That's a clear indication she's going to go dark.  Even your Mr. Giles should've known that."

"He dabbled in darkness in his youth with Ethan Rayne," he said quietly, looking back at her again.  She stiffened.  "Rupert Giles is still Ripper underneath.  Ethan tends to bring it out in him when he shows up to get punched in the nose."

She shuddered.  "I've heard about their coven and their misdeeds."

"He walked away when someone died.  Went straight.  Became a watcher like his parents wanted."

"Doesn't mean they didn't kill someone."  She got back to work canceling that magic.  "Dean?"  He came back to help her.  "I need someone male to help me break this one since she tried to bind his sexuality within it and make it only work on her."  Dean nodded, pushing up his sleeves to help her.  He followed her quiet instructions and they finally cut that one off him.  Xander slumped, looking miserable.  She stroked up his back.  "Think, Xander.  It's all you can do."  She looked at Dean.  "Shop tomorrow."  He nodded, helping Xander up.  Xander pulled out his wallet.  "No, kid.  I don't do things like that for a fee.  It's wrong and unethical of me."

"Then let me pay for the supplies."

"I had it all on hand."  She shooed them out, watching as Dean got him into the car and drove him back to wherever they were training the boy.  Then she went to make a pissed off call to Rupert Giles.  He should've seen her path since he had walked it.  He had known better even if he didn't want to see!


John looked up as Dean led Xander in.  "No clothes?"

"Took her three hours to remove all the marks on him," Dean said quietly.  "Get down to your boxers and I'll neosporin the cuts, Xander."  He nodded, going to do that.  Dean turned and hit his fist into a wall.  "She marked him with a lust charm aiming at her back in high school," he said quietly.  He found the first aid kit, going to check his buddy's injuries.  He clearly needed them.

John walked outside to call the shop.  "It's Winchester.  What did you remove from him and how do we search for more, just in case?"  He nodded, memorizing it.  Dean came out to grab the phone and hear the same thing.  Then he handed it back and went back to tending injuries.  "What else happened?  Dean's in a girly snit."  He listened to the whole event today and winced.  "He's part of that coven?"  He sighed but nodded. "Then yeah, something has to be said.  We were going to talk to him in person.  Would that work?"  He nodded.  "We can do that."  He hung up and went to lounge against the door frame while Dean finished creaming and bandaging things.  "Xander, do you want to go back to Sunnydale to talk to Giles and Willow about this?"

Xander looked up at him.  "Will it help?"

"It could make him see how far she's gone."

Xander grimaced. "He should have realized, John.  She memory charmed the whole group the other day."

John shuddered.  "Then someone needs to intervene before she ends up hurting someone more than mentally, Xander."

"What about her girlfriend?" Dean asked.  "You were worried about her."

"She's the one who told me," Xander admitted.  "Can I ask Ethan to intervene?  He's on that same sort of path and it might be a brighter road sign and more realistic to her."

John considered it then nodded.  "He could help," he decided.  "You can call him, Xander."

Xander found his phone and the number, calling him.  "Ethan, Xander.  Did you ever talk with Willow?  Because I just spent three hours have small, skin colored tattoos with magical intent removed from my body," he said calmly.  "And an older lust spell was one of them.  The witch was pissed beyond belief."   He put his head back down.  "Ethan, she pulled me from Kansas back there to talk to me.  Tara and I talked and I didn't give her permission to mark me.  She said it was for my protection.  I don't remember her doing it at all.  And get this, her girlfriend told me the other day she had memory charmed the whole group while trying to get just her since they had an argument about her magic use.  Ethan, I'm more scared she's going to take you over, suck your power, and then keep going," he said quietly.  "John wants to go talk to Ripper.  I started to but she kept saying it was for my own good and the guys training me are warping me from sweet and gentle, which I didn't know I was.  I don't know what to do."  He listened to the words of lecture.  "The witches who helped me went to deal with her after they drained me, Ethan.  This is another incidence beyond that."

Dean took the phone.  "Rayne, she did it again without his consent.  None of the marks were protection from what we know.  The witch said she tried to bind his magic, keep him on the heterosexual side, and then make him go to her.  Plus to keep demons off him and keep him from hunting.  Exactly.  That with the old lust spell from high school?  Done in the same manner?"  He grimaced.  "I'm putting stuff where she had to cut the marks off, Rayne.  The witches who went out tried and helped her girlfriend then.  It's coming down to someone needs to kick her ass good over this.  Do you want it, or do you know someone higher up in the dark magic side that can, or do you want us to do it?"  He listened.  "If she's memory charming her girlfriend because they had a fight about her magic...."  He trailed off at the pissed words.  "The witch who helped him earlier said that she knew about yours and Ripper's former stuff.  He should have seen it.  Yeah, so it's us or you or someone higher.  They couldn't."  He smiled.  "That'll work.  Thank you."  He hung up and handed the phone back.  "He said you're right, she'll start going after the people with power soon.  He's warning some more dark wizards about her and hinting someone should try to recruit her so they can keep her from killing them all."

Xander nodded, putting his head back down.  "Thanks, Dean."

"Not an issue.  What she did was wrong."  He taped down one last corner and stood up.  "Let me go get dinner."

"Sure.  Get me something soft?  I'm a bit queasy."  Dean nodded, going to do that.

John squatted down beside the bed.  "Right now, we're giving you the same speech that you'd give an abused spouse, Xander."  Xander looked at him.  "Honestly.  She has a problem and it's a very bad problem.  Someone's going to have to step in because there's no way her girlfriend can find a safe shelter from her if she's that strong."  Xander nodded at that wisdom.  "I don't know Willow.  I never saw you two when things were good.  I know right now this is like you admitting your parents had an alcohol problem and accepting it."

"I've already accepted she's got problems.  She's human and we all have problems."

"Hers are making her rely too much on the magic and not enough on anything else in her life.  If she keeps doing it she could truly hurt someone.  Some of the stuff the witch said she took off you could have killed you in a few months, Xander.  The same as last time.  She has to learn to care about consequences or else some other hunter is going to have to put her down for being rabid some day soon."  Xander grimaced but nodded.  "I won't unless you ask.  You don't have to do it.  We can pass that duty off.  The same as we can when it's friends who're the new demon.  I wouldn't make you handle it.  The same as I wouldn't make Dean handle it if it was Sammy going bad.  But we can't let it sit.  It's too dangerous."

Xander nodded.  "I agree.  Think Ethan will have her talked to?"

"I'm hoping so.  I've got a contact back that way right now and I'll talk to them.  If she's still doing bad things, we'll head to help."

"Thank you.  I know you weren't expecting this."

"We all bring personal demons to the field.  I bring the ones that killed my wife and their mother.  So does Dean.  Yours is a bit more tangible and bakes brownies when she feels guilty."  Xander smiled a bit at that, nodding.  "So we'll handle it.  For now, rest.  Need something for the pain?"

"I'm good.  I have a pretty good tolerance."

"Good boy."  He went back to the living room to call his contact out there.  "I need to know if someone badder than Rosenburg comes to talk to her about how she's joined the dark side."  He smiled.  "Yeah, her.  Because she has.  Thank you."  He hung up and went to wait on Dean.  He knew Dean was concerned about the boy.  He was hovering like he had when Sammy had broken his ankle while they were playing in the woods against orders.  There were some interesting parallels showing up in his mind and he needed to see where his son really stood on some things.


Rupert looked up as Ethan and another man appeared.  "May I help you?" he asked, reaching for a crossbow.

"He's here to speak to the new chaos witch about her forays into blood magic," Ethan said while freezing him before they got shot at.  "She's fully gone over, Ripper."

"I heard from the witch helping Xander earlier.  We've had a few long talks.  She's been given an ultimatum and she's trying."

"To become us," the other mage said with an evil smirk.  "She's already well on her way."  He walked out, following the blood taint to where the witch was hiding.  He knocked out the slayer and looked at the white witch trying to guard her.  "She's no longer yours."

"Sh...she can t..turn back," she stuttered.

He nodded.  "That would require her to want it, child.  You could not ride my path.  She has ridden it for a very long time."  Tara gave him a horrified look, turning it on Willow.  "All the way back to high school when she worked lust spells on purpose to draw a mate to her so she could drain him.  Tattooing draws blood and is covered under blood magic."  Willow stepped away from him.  "Then today we find even more that she's done since other white witches have tried to help her.  She's fully off the path of the Goddess."  He looked at Tara again.  "I will not harm her, child."

"She's mine to protect," Buffy said, starting to come around.  Tara helped her up and she got between him and Willow.  "You can't have her unless she agrees."

He looked at her. "She has been working blood magic on you as well."


He looked at one then shook his head. "No.  Not protections, slayer."  She stiffened.  "She is dabbling in my area and she is dangerous to the world.  She stores power and hordes it for higher spells.  If she goes bad, the world could be in danger.  Would you take her out then?  Or would you rather have us take care of our own?  She will be taught the proper forms or be released from the blood path, as she wills it.  But if she goes back after being released, she is an enemy and therefore hunted."

Buffy shook her head.  "That's not your right."

"It is the right of those she harmed.  Do you have it in you to harm her for what harm she's caused in you and that boy?  Or even the watcher or this witch?  Her darkness pulls that one off her pure path as well.  It calls the watcher back to the path he gave up.  You may be immune but others are not."

She frowned, looking at Willow.  Then at him.  "She's our friend.  It's our duty to help her back onto the light."

He nodded, stepping back.  "Then I leave it to you with the warning that we will if you cannot and she starts to act against others."

She nodded.  "I'll take that warning.  We're helping her.  Tara was helping her voluntarily bind her magic."

He studied the redhead then shook his head.  "It's not possible unless she drains herself back into the hellmouth she's linked into.  Until then she can still draw on it unknowingly.  She'll cause accidents to happen."

Buffy sighed but nodded.  "That's fine.  We'll handle it," she assured him.  He nodded. "If not, how do we reach someone if something too bad happens?"

"Call Ethan.  He found me when he heard she was well past his own path of darkness and onto mine."  He smirked and went back to the shop.  He nodded at the vampire drinking blood at the counter beside his former students.  "She is one of you of magic."

Ethan looked at him.  "Truly?"

"Mostly.  She is sucking in the magic and has not bled any off.  She's as much of a battery as I heard she turned that boy into."

Giles nodded at that.  "We'll drain her and help her."

"Do so.  If not, we'll have to deal with her.  As we would you if you went back, Ripper."  Giles nodded at that, lips pressed tightly together.  "Beware how she's pulling you and the other witch from your chosen paths as well.  Blood taint touches you again."

"I will.  Thank you."

"Not a problem.  It is good to get here again.  The blood flows well and energizes us."  He looked at Ethan.  "Are we done?"

"If you are."  That got a nod and Ethan took what he had bought, taking him back to his house so Ethan could go drink himself into a coma later.  They hadn't taken the last warnings seriously enough.  If this didn't work, someone would be called out to hunt the girl.  She had such promise too.  The same as he had at one point.  Pity but necessary to protect themselves.


Xander looked at the town a few weeks later, then at Dean.  He pointed from the hood of his car.  "That's the Magic Box there.  That's the magical store that Giles runs."  He pointed.  "That's Spike's cemetery.  Unless he's back at Giles' place or in Buffy's basement, he lives there."  He looked at him.  "The college is on the other side of town."

"Where's your storage area?"

"Nearer to the college."

"Then let's hit it so you can change out the loud clothes for hopefully better ones?"  Xander gave him an odd look. "If not, we'll shop in the morning since we didn't get a chance to."  That got a nod.  "Got a good motel so we can get rooms?"

Xander pointed at one in the distance.  "That's the safest bet close to town.  It's not totally safe but they don't have a permanent invite on the doors."  They shared a look.  "Not that expensive either.  Faith lived there by robbing the vamps."

That got a nod.  "Okay.  Let's hit there first, set up a base, then visit your storage area in the morning?" Xander nodded, sliding off his hood to get into his car.  Dean followed him that way.  He was watching the town.  It was an hour until dusk and the town looked so *normal*!  How could this be an area of mystical, bad convergence?  He parked beside Xander's car and they got out, going in to get two rooms.  He'd switch back to the double room when his father got there the next night.  They went to get dinner and came back to settle in while Xander went over the town's map with him.  They would deal with the girls tomorrow.  They would deal with Xander's ugly clothes tomorrow because Dean was ready to set the one he was wearing on fire, even if his buddy was still wearing it.  They'd even deal with Spike tomorrow since Xander said something about wanting to see him.  Dean glared at the shirt again.

"Leave my clothes alone."



Dean stared at him.  "We could shop tonight."

"Sure, if you want to go goth shopping with the vamps," he shot back smugly.  "Or go to the mall to run into Buffy."

"Well, no," he admitted.  "Though I am wondering if you look good in leather."

Xander leaned closer.  "I'm told I'm mean in leather."  He sat back up.  "Besides, the shirt is comfy and I'm happy if I'm comfy."

"It glows in the dark."

"No, it doesn't."

"Yes it does," Dean insisted.

"It doesn't, Dean."

He turned off the lights and a few spots did glow in the dark.  "See?"  He flipped them back on.

Xander looked at the spot.  "That's demon blood that never washed out," he said, shrugging a bit at the end. "It happens."

Dean gave him a long stare then shook his head.  "No.  No way in hell, Xander.  Let's go shopping.  There's got to be a Wal-mart around here."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "Their clothes never last.  I can hit he thrift store in the morning."

"I wear Wal-mart stuff," Dean protested.

"And it dies very quickly I'm sure.  Mine always did.  Even the underwear."

"There's days you don't wear any," Dean shot back.

"Well, yeah, and that's why," Xander agreed, grinning some.  "I thought you said Sammy was the bright one."

Dean cuffed him on the head.  "Let's go shopping."

"The thrift shop is closed.  It's after six."

Dean looked at his watch then at him.  "So?  You have money, we can hit the mall.  Then the food court?" he suggested at the automatic head shake.  Xander was still hungry.  He knew the boy ate like a cow most of the time if they let him.  He bounced it all off again. "That way you only have to drop things off at the storage area in the morning."

Xander grimaced. "But it's not right.  I need to save that for the future."

"What happens if you die tomorrow?" Dean asked.  "Car accidents and hunting accidents still happen, Xander."

"Then I guess you get the bag?"

"Yeah, I'll use it to bury you in something tasteful."  He hauled him up.  "Grab money."  Xander did that with a sigh of displeasure but let Dean lead him to the car.  "Which way to the mall?"

"Left then up the road.  Just outside the town's boundaries."  He looked at him across the roof.  "We don't have to go tonight."

"Yes we do.  Before I burn that shirt while it's on you."  He made sure they had the motel room key then got in, taking Xander to the mall whether he wanted to or not.  He stopped the car in front of a store. "What's that?"

"Vamp shopping place," Xander said without having to look.  "Leather, nastiness, we're not allowed in there or we'll become a meal for the fledges who're working on their image."

Dean shook his head, driving on.  California vampires were a lot different from the ones in the rest of the world.  What sort of vampire worried about his image?  Xander pointed so he looked.  "That's Spike?"

"That's Spike."

"You can see him tomorrow, Xander."  They kept going.  That shirt was really giving him a headache.  Maybe it was the leftover demon blood.  He checked since they were at a stoplight.  Spike was giving his car appreciative looks.  "Even the bloodsuckers love my car," he said with a happy grin.

Xander patted him on the wrist.  "It's good that you believe in such an untraditional relationship.  Is the bonding soon or do I need to worry about buying you two a case of oil as a wedding present?  I figured it'd be practical in multiple ways."

Dean swatted him.  "Bastard."  He drove on and headed for the mall.

"You're the one who acts like your car is your boyfriend and you suck tailpipes."

Dean shot him a glare then went back to driving.  "It'd take me, Xander.  I top."

"Uh-huh.  The car is bigger."

"How did we get onto the topic of car sex?" he asked.

"You said Spike was shooting your boyfriend an appreciative look and you do pet the car, talk to the car, stroke and fondle parts of it whenever you get in.  You sniff it to check its scent to see if it's pleasing.  You have dirty dreams that include your car."

"I do not!"

"You do so!  You woke me up the other night with one."  Dean glared again. "We're on fledge row, Dean.  Pay attention."  Dean grunted but did that.  "Three nights ago you were moaning about 'oh, yeah, with the car, baby.  With the car'.  You were moaning so loud it woke me up.  Even your Dad shook his head when you woke him up."

Dean shook his head quickly.  "That was having sex in the car, Xander.  Not with the car."

"Not from what I heard."

"You heard wrong."  He found the mall and pulled in, making Xander get out by hauling him out and inside the place.  He looked around then shrugged. "Jeans first.  Yours are worn out."  Xander huffed but led him that way.  At least until Xander saw someone and ducked out of sight, making Dean follow him by hauling him into the small hallway.  They watched the older lady, about middle aged, walk past their location.  "Who was she?" Dean asked quietly.

"Buffy's mom.  She's the first parental type person who thought I did good at anything."  He watched her go.  "I don't want to hurt her."

Dean looked at him.  "Joyce," he shouted, waving when she turned to look to see who was yelling her name.  He smiled.  "Dean Winchester."

"Xander's training with you," she said.  She spotted Xander, dropping her bags to hug him.  "Xander."

"I didn't want to hurt you," he said quietly, giving her a hard squeeze.  "Gods, Joyce."

"Shh, baby."  She pulled back to look at him.  "You'll be fine.  Are you staying?"  Xander hesitated but shook his head.  "Then that's the right decision for you.  I can't say as I like what Willow's becoming either."

Xander gave her another hug.  She smiled and squeezed back.  Then he pulled back frowning.  "What's wrong?"

"That's what I was going to ask.  Your scent's off."

She looked confused.  "I've had a few headaches."

"No, this is major illness, not a cold, Joyce."  He stared at her.  "Get yourself checked tomorrow.  Everything, top to bottom.  Full CT.  Or have Giles look.  There's something seriously wrong and it's not magical."

"I'll call him tonight to see if he has something that can do that.  Should I mention the source?"

"We're seeing him tomorrow."

She nodded, stroking over his hair.  "Dean, get the boy a haircut."

"I'm fixing the ugly shirts first."

She gave him a gentle smile and stroked over his cheek.  "Xander isn't a Xander without the occasional ugly shirt, dear."  He grimaced but she smiled more brightly.  "It'll be fine. Xander, I'll have cookies tomorrow at the gallery.  Stop by before you disappear?"

"We'll be here for a few days.  His dad wanted to make sure Willow wasn't slipping."

"Tara gave her an ultimatum: magic or her.  She's pulled back totally."

Xander showed off the marks on his neck where they had to cut things off.  "Since five days ago?"

"Oh, dear."  He nodded.  "We'll see then, dear.  Come see me tomorrow.  You can bring Dean, I won't mind."  She pinched Dean on the cheek, getting an embarrassed look.  "My daughter Buffy would coo but I'm a bit more sophisticated than that.  So I'll leave it as you're cute together.  See me tomorrow, boys."  She grabbed her bags and walked off, going to the Magic Box.  She walked in.  "Rupert, I was just ordered to do a full head-to- toe scan of my body for illness.  I was told my scent was off."

"Is Oz back?" he asked.  He smiled a bit.  "I do miss his quiet calmness."  She looked at a picture then back at him.  "Ah."  He went to find the book and pulled her back to the office to look her over.  "Hmm.  He was right," he said finally.  He touched a spot on her head.  "There's a small mass," he said, staring into her eyes.

"The headaches."  He nodded.  "I'll call my doctor tonight."  He gave her a hug.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Is he back?"

"He and Dean are in because they wanted to check on Willow.  She magiced him again five days ago?"

He nodded. "She did," he agreed.  "Then Xander asked Ethan Rayne, the one who did the band candy, to find her someone to show her what path she's on.  The blood mage showed up and scared the living daylights out of her," he said honestly.  "She's getting better."

She smirked.  "If that's all that works on the girl then I'm all for it.  Don't tell Buffy.  They said they'll be seeing you sometime tomorrow and I'm having cookies with them afterward."  She winked.  "Thank you."

"Not an issue."  He walked her back out to her car, watching her drive off.  He went to find Buffy on patrol.  "Buffy, you need to go home.  Someone told your mother she was a bit ill and she's arranging things with her doctor to find out why I found a lump," he said in her ear when he caught her at the Bronze.  She stared at him, looking horrified.  He nodded.  "It may not be serious.  I cannot tell."

"Where?  I had an aunt that died of breast cancer," she said weakly.  He touched the side of her head and she nearly started to cry.  "She's at home?"  He nodded.  "I...."

"I'll drive you," he promised, taking her that way.  Joyce was on the phone with someone she was calling Doctor when he let her into the house.  She pounced her mother to squeeze her as hard as she could.

"I'll be fine, Buffy.  We caught it early.  I will not die like my sister.  Have some faith."  She shook her head, hugging her harder.  She petted her daughter gently. "Thank you, Rupert."

"Not a problem, Joyce.  We'll watch out for the girls if you have to leave town for a few days due to treatments."  He smiled and left, going back to the Magic Box.  He found Spike in there.  "Joyce is ill."

"Knew that.  Couldn't figure out why," he admitted, puffing on his current cigarette.

"I found a small brain tumor."

"I was looking for Mohra demon blood."

Giles considered it.  "I don't think that would help in this situation.  It's not a matter of healing, it's improper cells from what I understand.  She's calling someone and I've let Buffy know."  Spike nodded at that.  "Why are you here instead of out annoying the nightlife for your pleasure?"

"Saw a muscle car that stunk of demon blood earlier," he admitted, putting out the cigarette after one last puff, grinding it under his boot.  "Could be more of the military nancy boys."

Giles smirked. "I do believe that may have something to do with Xander," he said quietly.  "I'm not totally certain yet but we have had a few hunters in here checking on Willow for him."

Spike shrugged.  "Thought I'd do my duty before I got staked by one of 'em.  She good?"

"She should be fine.  She's calling her doctor tonight and I've let Buffy know.  I know she's special to you because she lets you natter on about Dru over cocoa and sees you as a person instead of a vampire.  Try to give her a bit of space until they find out what's truly going on."

"I'll do patrol tonight.  Maybe I can nick some new smokes or someat better," he said smugly, heading out.  Or maybe he could find out more about that muscle car to make sure it wasn't going to endanger his life.  He didn't have the energy to deal with hunters right now.  They were annoying and caused his sort no end of problems.  Later that night he saw it back at the motel with a familiar car.  "Hmm.  Could be he was right."  He turned and found Xander standing there watching him.  "You back, whelp?"

"No.  I came to check on things then we're heading down south." He looked him over, watching Spike do the same.  "Dean dressed me.  He said he was going to burn my blue and green shirt on me if I didn't change."

Spike nodded.  "Drove me nuts with the blood on it."

"But the pattern hid most of it."

"Still tragic," Dean said as he joined them from behind Spike.  "This is the one you tied in your recliner?"

"He would've tried to do stuff with his blood breath," Xander defended with a frown.

Spike snickered.  "You may be nummy but not that much, boy."

Xander smirked back.  "You sure?  Other demons seem to think so.  The Gruantiths all wanted me recently and arranged things so I had to go play with them.  A whole herd."  Spike shivered at that thought.  "So, how's Anya?  I was going to show Dean how patrol went."  Spike nodded, walking off with them.  "She good?"

"Not bad.  Fun bit to play with now and then.  How did you put up with the complaints?"

Xander smirked.  "I gave her more.  She likes oral sex after I showed her what it was."

"Have to remember that."  He lit up a new smoke, offering the pack to Dean.

"My father would beat me again."

Xander grinned, taking one to puff on.  "Hmm.  Dusted?"

Spike shook his head.  "Demon weed."  He smirked.  "Smelled it before?"

"Now and then at the house."  He looked at Dean.  "It doesn't make us high, just makes demons mellow.  It's not even bad for us."  He let him have a puff, getting a choking cough.  Xander grinned.  "It'll be okay.  It's an acquired taste."

"How did you acquire it?" Dean asked, following them.

"Anya," Spike said.  Xander nodded and pointed then let out his current breath onto the demon that was trying to hide next to him.  Spike looked around Xander at it.  "Morning, Morte.  Bad night?"

"Bad game," he admitted, taking Xander's cigarette to have a puff.  "Thanks, Harris.  You back?"  He shook his head.  "Pity.  The girls are moping."

"Willow worked magic on me against my will."

The demon stared at him then walked off giggling.  "Oh, shit, she's so screwed!" he giggled.

Spike looked at him.  "What did she do this time?  I remember the evil stench."

"Clearing that started a new hellmouth," Xander said as they walked on.  "This time a witch found tiny, flesh colored magical symbols tattooed on a few different parts of my body."  Spike cackled.  "She was not pleased.  Especially not at the one that was supposed  to draw me to her back in high school.  Dean and his dad have both been helping me see how bad that was to me."

Spike nodded.  "At least you're not a pet this time," he said smugly.

"And hey, you're not marrying Buffy, right?" he countered.

"True, not marrying the quim.  Or yours."

"Not mine.  We broke up and John said I can't sleep with her while I'm training."

"Pity.  She could use it."  He finished that cigarette and pointed.  "Fledges."

Dean loaded his crossbow and Xander pulled out his favorite stake.  Dean looked at him. "You can't be thinking about getting that close."

"It's not patrol if you don't stake," he said, heading off after Spike, sneaking up behind the first one.  He staked that one and the others reacted.  He and Spike had some fun and then they were dusted.  He looked at Dean, who was gaping.  "Four years doing this.  Spike, he doesn't like my battle axe.  He said it was impractical."

"Love that thing.  Saved my neck once," he told Dean.  He could enjoy the stunned one.  He was mouthy, loud, and cuter than Buffy was really.  Plus he had some sense.  He was wearing decent clothes, no short skirts to tempt the demons to grope.  And he had gotten rid of Xander's eyesore wardrobe.  For that he'd give the idiot a chance.  At least until Buffy stomped him into the dirt for daring to keep her toy.


John found the boys the next afternoon.  They were hiding in the hotel rooms.  "Bad day?" he asked as Dean let him in.

"Yeah.  Majorly bad day.  Rosenburg sneezed in the back of the store when we walked in."  He pointed at the funny colored Xander and the witch in there with him.  "This is Tara, Willow's girlfriend."

John nodded politely.  "He going to be okay?"

Xander looked up; his face was purple while the rest of him was scarlet with faint blue stripes.  "I'm fine.  Just look like a demon."  He looked at Tara, who went back to mixing.  "You could leave town.  It's pretty in the rest of the country.  I'd come visit whenever I could."

She patted him on the cheek but shook her head.

Dean drew his father back, handing over the tape he had made of Xander on patrol last night.  "Hid one in my jacket pocket.  He staked instead of shot the vampires and demons," he said quietly.  His father groaned but sat down to watch it on the small screen of the video camera.

John finally got up and walked over there.  "Didn't we have a talk about safety, Xander?"

He looked up but nodded. "They were fledges."

"They're still vampires.  You could've used a crossbow."

"Then you can't frisk them for important information," he countered.

John stared. "Do you always do it that way?"

"W...w..we a...all...all do," Tara said quietly concentrating on the potion she was brewing.

"It's how the Sunnydale crew rolls," Xander agreed.

"You're not on the crew.  You have a higher calling," John said patiently, crossing his arms to stare at him.

"Weapons are for larger threats, like the one Buffy's got on her ass," Xander told him simply.  "Fledges are there to screw with and take out.  If it was good enough for four years of patrol it's good enough to show Dean how we did things."

"What demon's going after her?"

"Don't know.  Tara won't tell me."  Tara gave him an odd look. "Name?"  She whispered it in his ear.  "Called by name?"  She nodded.  He wrote it down and handed it over.  "Spike said she wants something Buffy has but not what."

John looked at the name then at him.  "Dean?"  He came in.  "Research this please?"

"Want me to ask Bobby too?"

"Please.  No saying the name.  It calls it."  He went to look it up while John stared at his student.  "Well, you're dressed better."  Tara snickered but went back to stirring.  "Dean got tired of his ugly shirts."

Xander shrugged.  "It happens."  He took the potion when she poured it out for him, sighing in pleasure when the motel mirror showed him back to normal. "Thank you, Tara."  He pulled her down to cuddle her.  "Are you sure you won't move somewhere so I can come visit the most brilliant of white witches I know?"

She shook her head.  "I'm needed here," she nearly whispered.

"If you change your mind, we're more than happy to help you find a good spot and a coven to support you," Dean said, coming back with the information Bobby had faxed him after their short call.  "Here.  From Bobby.  Summary of the book he has."

He read it then handed it to Tara.  "Which one?"  She read then pointed.  He groaned. "We have an insane hell god, boys."

Xander considered it then took the information.  "So we kill it how?  Or trap it how?"

"Bobby said bluntly to kill the host."  Dean leaned against the doorway.  "He said it's trapped and possessing."

"We can do that," Xander said grimly.  "But I might need to escape quickly.  The Feds do frown on what I have planned."

John smirked at him.  "Let's see what we can do, Xander."  Xander nodded at that.  "Need more help?"

"I might need a ride."

"You can have my car's passenger's side," Dean promised.

Xander grinned as he stood Tara up and walked out to make sure he had everything out of the car.  They followed more subtly once Tara had pointed out the annoying things's hangout.  Xander looked at his car, then patted it.  "Sorry, dear."  He arranged things on the side then put it into gear and dropped the brick onto the accelerator.  The car leapt forward, crashing into the building.  A minute later the rag he had set on fire reached the gas tank.  The car exploded.  So did the building, Glory, and her henchmen.  She had to change back to her human shape and it was damaged too.

Dean gaped in awe then at Xander.  Who was walking off with Tara.  "Xander?" he squeaked.

Xander looked at him. "Sometimes it's a practical solution.  I'm going to have cookies with Joyce."  He grinned and walked off with her, letting her lead him to the gallery this time.  She jogged off to tell the others what had happened, but not that he had helped, as he had requested, while he went inside.  "Mom, you promised me cookies," he said with a pout.

"I have some in the office, Xander."  She walked him that way.  "What kept you?"

"Willow sneezed and turned me funny colors before she knew I was there.  So I'm holding off on our talk."  He sat down to have cocoa and cookies with her, chatting about what was going on and telling her about Dean and John and how nice they were to him.

Back at the scene, John was watching the fire department work.  He looked at Dean.  "It was a good plan," Dean said, looking up.  "Expedient.  Useful.  Fast.  Painless to anyone outside the bad guys."

John nodded. "Still dangerous and it could be traced back."

"How?  The car?  He said he sold his old one in LA and bought this one from some junkie on skid row."  They went back to watching the fire crew put things out.  Finally it was done and he looked over at the blonde girl staring in horrified awe beside them.  "Welcome," Dean said.

She looked at him then blinked.  "Who're you?"

He grinned.  "Dean Winchester."

She frowned.  "I know that name."

"We're training Xander, Buffy," John said simply.  She smiled.  "Welcome."

She nodded. "Is she gone?"

"Our sources say to kill the host and she's gone," Dean said.  "We popped the zit of evil and her host was in there."  She nodded at that.  "So we're good.  How's your mom?  He was worried about her."

"The doctor's doing all sorts of tests later today and we'll know next week."  She moved closer.  "Is Xander back?"  He nodded.  "Is he coming to see us?"

"He was doing that earlier when Willow made him scarlet with blue stripes."

"Oh."  She winced.  "She still has some accidents, even after we helped her dissipate it."

"Get a real coven in, not just your watcher and her girlfriend," John said.  "Strength in numbers."

She nodded.  "I'll tell them that."  She looked at the mess then at them.  "You think she's really gone?"

"We saw her go flying and change, then her host died," Dean told her.  She sighed but nodded, taking his arm and making him walk off with her. "Where are we going?"

"The Magic Box so you can tell Giles what you did.  It's his job to record those things.  Then can I maybe see Xander?"

"If he wants to," John promised.  "That's one of the reasons we came out.  He has to put some things behind him so he can move on."

She sighed, looking at him.  "He's not staying?"

John shook his head.  "I think he's happier helping more than one town.  Now and then people say thank you and he's making a big difference.  He's doing very good with his training."

"He can share mine."

Dean made her look at him.  "You both had some lessons you needed to learn, Buffy.  Including that you can't save everyone.  Xander was very upset when he didn't realize some demons were tearing up a sorority house and they lost a few of them.  He needs to have less of the world resting on his shoulders.  A case, stopping the bad thing, but not the yearly nastiness that has to happen around here.  He's still getting over having to command the graduation battle."

"Some people are meant to do great things in small ways.  Some are meant to save the world and be known for it," John agreed.  "Xander does an excellent job at both of those, but the small things are settling better with him since he found himself on a darker path than he wanted to be on.  Him not being here for a long time will help him with that."

She nodded.  "Sometimes we all hunt out of frustration and anger."

"Xander was worried he'd go stake happy and not care what he hit," Dean admitted quietly, glancing around.  "He stopped himself."

"He saw where that led thanks to Faith."

He nodded.  "He told me about her."  Buffy slumped but nodded.  "So, let's let Xander heal.  No more pushing.  You can offer and tell him he's welcome back whenever he's ready.  If you push him it'll make that time further back."  She nodded, taking his arm to walk him off again. "Is she back to normal?"

"Willow's still struggling with dumping the energy off instead of hoarding it for when we need to pull major spells."

"You should build up small stores.  Then you can raise power right before it's necessary."

"We don't always get that much warning."

"Buffy, if she can soul a vampire and close the hellmouth, she can open it," Dean said.  "She can rip this town apart.  Most witches raise power the few days before.  Xander said you usually have that much warning."

She nodded. "Usually."  She let them into the Magic Box.  "They sent Glory flying when her hidey hole blew up, Giles."  He stiffened and looked at them.  "It was a huge fire too."

"We used Xander's sedan," John told him.  "With his permission."

Giles nodded.  "That's more than a small bonfire and a stake."

"We saw her host die," Dean told him.

"So Tara said," he said with a smile.  "Thank you.  Where is he?"

"Joyce."  Buffy beamed and went to get a hug from Xander and talk to him with her mom helping smooth out the wrinkles.  Dean looked around then at him.  "This is nicer than the ones we've been to recently."

"We do try."  Anya came out of the back.  "Anya."

"Anya," Dean said with a smirk.

"Are you giving him orgasms now?  He used to make me smile like that.  Spike doesn't use his tongue near enough and it's pitiful that I can't have as many orgasms as before."

"I'm not sleeping with him, Anya," Dean assured her.  "It's not fair to him.  He's still recovering from the last one he slept with when they tried to take his stuff."  John coughed so he smirked at him.  "The ones who took the money wanted to be broken in so they had some idea.  It got him the money back faster."

"You were where?"

"He walked in while I guarded his back.  They set up a temporal spell.  He showered.  Then we found out about the tattoos."

John smacked him on the arm.  "Dumbass."

"Sorry, sir."  He looked at Giles again.  "You guys *stake* vampires instead of using a weapon from a safe distance?"

"You can't frisk them for information if you don't," Anya said.  "Or money.  They won't need it."  She went toward the back of the shop.  "I'm putting on some water for coffee.  Anyone want any?"

"Please," John called.  He looked at Giles.  "He's doing good."

"That's excellent.  What happened this morning?"  Dean pointed at the rest of the potion Tara had capped and put on the counter.  He looked then groaned.  "That girl."

"Yup," Dean said, showing him a picture.  Giles snorted, shaking his head. "So, what sort of dirt can I get on Xander for the next time he so totally screws up me hitting on a girl?" he asked with a bright smile.

Giles looked at him.  Then at John.  "Have you had him irreparably fixed?"

"No, I want grandchildren some year," he assured him dryly.

"Ah.  Well, do think about that option with Xander.  Who knows what his children will be."  Dean growled so he stared him down.  "I was teasing, young man, and Xander has said often enough he doesn't want children."

"That's for him to decide.  He's not a familiar."

"Of course he's not, even if he is the thing that held tempers in many nights."

"Yes but it hurt him to do so," John told him.  Giles nodded at that, accepting it.  Xander strolled in with Buffy.  "Done with your cookies?"

"Her mom went to make dinner and I'm invited.  You too, Dean.  For some reason she thinks we're dating.  Not really sure why."

"It's because I'm so adorable," Dean shot back with a grin.  "Even straight guys should want me like all straight women do."

Xander looked him over but shrugged.  "I've seen better bodies on vamps and prettier incubuses.  What makes you more special than a sex demon who spends all day in a gym?" he teased back with an evil smirk.

"I'd show you but I'm straight."

Xander laughed.  "I'm sure you are.  That's why you offer so very prettily."

John groaned.  "That's the other point.  Xander, break the last of the innocence somehow.  Before we get to Missouri's house.  She's got something around her that goes after hunters who aren't totally debauched."

Xander grimaced.  "Still not my thing, John."

"Tough, kid."

"Fine, Dad."

"Thank you.  I'm sure you and Dean can stop in Vegas or something."

"But Giles said that's a myth," Buffy nearly whined.

"It'd mean Xander could date guys," Dean told her.

She considered it for a minute.  "He might draw even worse guys," she decided.  "It's bad enough we had to save him from two of his other ones."

Xander looked at her.  "One.  The praying mantis, Buffy.  I saved you from Ampata."

She frowned.  "No way."

"She was going to eat your butt until I told her she had to eat me first and she couldn't.  That means I won.   You may've saved me from the virgin eating giant bug lady but not her.  Or Cordelia.  Or Anya.  Or even Faith."

"You dated her?  Is that what..."  Giles smacked her on the head.  "Ow!"

"No, Buffy, but she did take care of the things that could eat me because I hadn't had any yet," he said with a sweet smile, making her back off.  "The same night I had the zombie disable the bomb in the school when you thought I was useless."

She swallowed, staring at him.  "You were there?"

"No, Jack was there.  I followed to stop him.   After a pleasing chat he decided it'd be better if he disarmed the bomb he had made and run off.  Fortunately Oz ate him."

She shuddered.  "I'm sorry, Xander.  We were worried."

"Then you should've trained me," he said bluntly.  "Training you can fall back on.  Not like Willow's any good in a fight.  Training is all Giles has."

Giles put a hand on her shoulder to stop the argument.  "He's right.  Had we been doing our duty to our friends, we would have trained him," he said gently.  He looked at Xander.  "You did learn a lot by jumping in."

"Did you ever think about teaching him how to shield himself from more possessions?" John asked.

Giles nodded.  "I tried to impose one and it wouldn't go up.  I couldn't figure out why and I was looking for a better stopgap when Halloween happened.  Then it seemed to stop."

Xander shook his head.  "It didn't stop.  The guys who helped drain me found others that she erased my memory of.  I have no idea if I've broken the innocence barrier stuff or not."  Giles blushed at that.  "Or even if we did something since she had a lust marking put on me back in high school."  Buffy shuddered.  "I asked, not the reason for the botched love spell."  John cuffed him on the head.  "Ow!"   He glared at him.  "She dumped me on Valentine's Day and I was young, stupid, and full of pride.  Of course I wanted to get her back.  I learned my lesson!"

"Good," Dean agreed.  "Hate to see it happen again."

"Then never give me cranberry juice, rum, vodka, and tequila shooters.  Somehow it brings out the same taint and makes women chase after me."

Dean stared at him.  "Good to know."

"Another good reason why Xander does not drink," Xander said dryly, smirking some.

"We'll figure out if you have any other liquor keys built in."

"Tequila and/or rum may make it easier for the hyena to come out.  We think it's the cranberry in the other mixture that made the lust spell come back since I get a lot of happy looks and touches when I drink cranberry juice.  Next time we go clubbing I should try that."

"As long as it's not a demon breeding club this time," John said dryly.

Xander looked at him.  "You would've rather we stayed at the place where the pack of training succuba were playing?"

"No," he decided.

"Then quit."  He looked at them again, seeing the horrified looks.  "Buffy, Dean said me getting low was an image that would make gay guys very happy."

"He dances like a girl," Dean agreed.  "Booty shaking and all.  Sammy would be very amused."  His father got him again.  "He would!"

"Sammy dances like a girl too," he reminded him.

Dean looked at him.  "Not my fault, I tried.  I remember Mom liked to dance so he got that from you."

Xander got out of range.  "Maybe you were jealous a younger boy was getting your attention?" he teased.  Dean growled and tried to pounce but Xander got him onto his back with a smirk.  "Hi.  Happier now that you're on your back?"

"No, get off."  He got Xander onto his back and smirked down at him.  "I'm so making you clean the next demon mess up, Xander.  You can even dig the next few graves so we can salt and burn ghosts' corpses."  Xander groaned.  "Such a good little brother."  He patted him on the head then had to yelp when Xander bit him.  "Hey!"

John sighed, pulling Dean off Xander.  "Play later.  Back at the motel."  He looked at Giles.  "He makes it much more interesting sometimes."

"He did for us as well.  He kept our spirits up even in the worst times."  Xander grinned at that.  "Go watch Joyce, Xander.  Take Dean with you.  I'm sure he could fix the horrible t- shirt you're wearing."

Dean looked then at him.  "I bought it for him and it's as ugly as he's allowed to go now.  I said so."  He walked Xander out.  "Show me the rest of the town on the way there."

John shook his head.  "Was he always that bouncy?"  Giles nodded.

"Don't give the Xander chocolate," Buffy warned.  "He gets worse."

"I saw that."  He smirked at her.  "It was cured too.  I made him puke it back up."  She walked off laughing.  He looked at Giles.  "I'm watching out for him.  He's taking his training very seriously and he's come a long way.  I found out that he was tripping because he was trying to react as fast as the vampires do."

Giles moaned.  "I hadn't considered that.  I thought it some strange growth spurt he hadn't finished yet.  Perhaps from the mermaid taint."

"Bobby says he still carries that," he admitted.  He stood up.  "How is she?  He wanted to know."

"Trying very hard."

"Trying and doing are two different things.  How many times did you try to give it up?"

Giles nodded at that thought.  "I've been helping her.  I honestly had willful blindness.  I didn't want to think that my student could go that way.  She had no reason to rebel. She had no one pushing her down.  Her parents didn't agree with her choices but they were mostly absent."

John walked over.  "Xander said she stole books, Rupert."  Giles' face fell at that.  "He also said she was trying out odd combinations to see what it did.  She was approaching it like some scientists take on new elements to see what they can do.  She never took it that seriously as a craft and an art."

Giles nodded.  "I've been seeing hints of that."

"Tara said she's still stockpiling as well."  Giles gave him an alarmed look.  "She can't do that and try to work on herself."

"I'll call Ethan back tonight to help me with that."

"Good.  I don't want to see anyone so radiating magic that they create a hellmouth over the week it takes to drain the magic from them like the last one."

Giles nodded.  "She's done wrong and she realizes it."

"So like any scientist she's discovering the flaws in her scientific method.  Then what?"

Giles nodded. "I'll work on her, John.  You have my word I'm trying."

"Good.  Let's keep the kids apart?  At least those two?"

"Can Xander use one of those infernal machines?"

John shrugged.  "If so I'll tell him to email her instead of letting her kidnap him.  We had to make him a charm against it."

"Good.  That was a bit odd."  John nodded.  "How were the brownies?"

"Pretty good."  He smirked.  "Dean stole half."  That got a smile.  "They're a good team.  I'm going to suggest that Xander stay with Dean and hunt with him.  Dean does better when he's not alone and he has someone to bounce ideas with.  They seem to fit well together."

Giles smiled and nodded.  "That would be acceptable.  Xander can be alone but it's not good for him.  He gets morose and starts to think the worst of himself."

"He said he didn't want to take it because he thought he was going to start getting indiscriminate some year soon," John said quietly.  "Then he realized more people died because he didn't step in.  We had to tell him a few times that he wasn't responsible.  He's still carrying pain from graduation."

"Buffy as well."  He gave him a small smirk.  "You'll both do the boy good or else it won't be Willow you'll have to worry about."

"He's like an extra son now."  He looked at the door then at him. "I'm heading back to the motel.  If the boys get into too much trouble over the next few days, let me know.  I'm going to sit back and watch Xander handle it himself."  That got a nod and John left, going to settle in.  The owner had told him the boys had said they were meeting him here so they had paid for the double room.  He made sure the boys got the double room and he got one to himself.  The boys talked about stupid things and women; he didn't need to hear that.


"Oh, please stake me," a falsetto voice called out from behind the vampire standing in Dean's way.  "Please, mister Hunter sir, please stake me with the big stake?  I need the bigger stake to take me and make me see God so I'm redeemed before I'm ashes forever."  The deaf vampire, not hearing any of this, just stared and blocked Dean's path.

Dean stared back then shrugged and staked her.  "Okay, your wish and all that."  He walked into the room, looking at the other vampires and their hostage.  Xander was in chains.  A bit bloody.  Cackling madly at that performance.  "What did they give you, dude?"

"Not a clue but I don't hurt, I'm happy that hell is coming soon, and hey, it's not making me want to sleep with them even if they want me to.  Pity."  He looked at Dean then up, then at his body.  "I say we coat the floors."

Dean nodded. "I could like that." He pulled a gun and shot the other still stunned stupid vampires with the wooden bullets he and Xander had been working on.   One was left standing.  "These still compact too much."

"Maybe a strengthening spell?" Xander asked, arching his back and kicking off the floor to kick the vampire at Dean, who staked him.  He flipped over, releasing the cuffs from the hooks on the ceiling.  Then he laughed again.  "There's more.  Got a lockpick?"

Dean pulled him closer, letting the boy lean against something while he stood between his thighs to pick the cuff locks.  They came undone so he looked at him.  "Let's head."

"There's ten more and they've got a nuclear weapon," Xander said.

Dean blinked.  "How in the hell?"

"I don't care."

"Good point."  He nodded. "Let the Feebs sort that out?"

"After we get it out of the city."

"Agreed.  Where?"  Xander pointed and took his spare gun.  "How did you get them to call me?"

"Said we'd all party and taking down two hunters was nearly as good as a slayer."  That got an evil smirk.  "Ready?"

"You good?"

"I'll be fine for a while."  They led the way into the other room, busting in and taking down the vamps in there.  "You're right, they do shrink too far."  He changed clips and went to look at another one.  He leaned down to stake her then looked at the bomb.  "Aw, shit."

Dean backed away from him.  "That bad?  Is it on?"

"Yeah, a lot."  He patted Dean down, getting his cellphone to make a call. "Cordelia, it's an emergency.  I need a Fed we can trust in Sunnydale ASAP.  One who can uncode the nuclear bomb we just found.  It's got a day.  We need one now at the old school."  He hung up and tossed the phone back.  "We have to meet them.  Half of them know me."

"I'll fade and watch in case you're captured."  Xander handed back the gun, getting a smile.  "Be safe."

"I'll try."  He looked outside at the jeeps.  "They got someone from the local base."  He turned back and Dean had already escaped.  He walked out there, holding up his hand.  "I'm Harris, formerly on Summer's team.  We just found what looks like a timer running, nuclear device inside.  We took down the Initiative style hostiles already."  They ran inside.  He followed, leading one into the room since he had on bomb gear.  "This thing."

He looked then nodded.  "It's a proton bomb," he called.  "Start evac, get me a Fed here!" he shouted.  He looked at Xander, then at his injuries, then into his eyes.  "You need medics?"

"No.  I'm at the motel visiting."

"Take it and go, Harris.  We didn't see you."  He nodded, disappearing into the night with his friend, the shadow.  Someone handed him a phone.  "Merps."  He listened.  "I've got a proton capable bomb with a day timer.  I have it down to a day and ten hours.  I need help now in Sunnydale.  Come to us.  We'll give you directions once you're nearer."  He hung up and looked at it.  "I want this area evacuated as soon as we wake someone up," he ordered.

"Going, sir."  The guy guarding him looked at the bomb.  "Could that timer be a fake?  I can see blinking back here."

Merps looked then sighed.  "It's not any better.  It's two bombs linked together.  Get out of here, get them here."  He nodded, going to give them directions to where they were.   Merps looked up as three Feds rushed in, one in bomb disposal gear.  "The guard found another timer."  He pointed.  "The hostiles, Initiative style hostiles, have been dealt with by a captive they had.  He found the bomb and called us."  That got a nod from the suits.  "Just don't ask."

"We heard and were briefed," one admitted.  "Anyone who can help us with these things, see if there's more?"

"We know someone who might.  I ordered an evac.  What can I do to help?"

"Stay there.  It's a code."  He put in the official code and it worked.  The second timer he had to disable and then they dismantled the bomb, what they could, so it could be safely transported.  "It's safe."  The suits got the bomb loaded onto the copter and taken to a more secure location to do the forensic tests while they figured out where it came from.

Merps went to the motel with the head Fed, finding the boys in their shared room.  Dean answered their polite knock.  "Boys, they need to know if there's more."

Xander looked at him.  "There's always more.  Let me talk to someone to see."  That got a nod so he called Giles' place.  "Is Spike there?  Because the vamps who had me had a nuclear bomb, Giles.  The suits are looking for anyone we didn't get and anyone who can help them plug that tragically open leak in Bethesda and the one in Colorado.  Yeah, them.  Any idea where?"  He wrote down a few addresses.  "You sure?"  He nodded.  "The Feds are here.  Want me to send them that way or have her meet them there?  Because if they're using the other side...." he trailed off.  "Yeah, that's why, Giles."  He nodded. "Thanks."  He hung up and handed the Fed the addresses.  "As far as they know they're there.  Summers will meet you there to take care of anyone or anything that needs it.  The Initiative wanted her."

"We've heard.  I took over the investigation of your graduation, Mr. Harris," he said calmly.

Xander nodded.  "More things like what hit the crowd, not the former mayor.  She can fight those."

"I'll let her.  Thank you for calling us."

"I can disarm many things.  Not those."  That got a nod and they left.  Xander looked at Dean.  "Miller time?"

"Definitely.  Not at the demon bar though."

"The Bronze?"

"Teen hangout?"  Xander smirked and nodded.  "Fine.  Let's head."  They went to do that, dragging his father with them.  "C'mon, dad.  We just ran into a respectful suit.  It's time for a beer because this reality is too warped for us."

"Oh, come on, just because vamps are getting smarter in their world endage plans and figured out the huge ass hole in the base in Colorado doesn't mean that it's that warped.  Even Buffy could see the holes.  Though she'd mutter 'eww' the whole way up the sewer pipe."  John stopped to stare at him.  He grinned.  "Soldier memories?"

"Fat chance, Xander," John growled.  "How?"

Xander grinned. "That's where they were holding Ethan.  I had to get him free to clean some karma.  I reconned then I sent a demon to snatch him."

John moaned, rubbing his head.  "See, told you it was time for a drink," Dean told him, walking off again.  His father headed for a real bar.  "That's the demon bar," he called after him.   John grumbled something but followed.

Xander grinned.  "And see, no apocalypses in sight since they wanted to sleep with me."

"You're getting laid tonight so you quit attracting them," Dean complained.

"Two were at the grad battle with me," he said more seriously.  "They wanted my help, Dean.  I'd be an asset to their war."

Dean sighed but nodded.  "Still getting you laid."  Xander grinned at that and they headed into the bar.  John went to the bar.  Dean went to hustle pool.  Xander went to dance and play.  Dean glanced at him every now and then.  He was still sucky on the floor.  He walked over to his father and pointed.  "See, told you so."  He went back to his game and it was better.  He was fleecing this vampire for a lot of money because the vampire was stupid.  Death did bad things to the brain.  He'd have to remember that so he never ended up a stupid fledge.  And that Sammy never ended up a stupider than usual fledge either.  It'd be a shame if his brother's giant brain made him turn into the drooling, stupid vampire in front of him.  Finally the vampire was broke and had to borrow enough for his last bet from his buddies, who were all staked when Xander came back.  Dean looked at him.  "Having fun?"

"No.  They won't play with me."

"That's because you dance like a girl."

"So?  They should appreciate that!"  He looked back at the floor then at him.  "No one will dance with me, Dean."

"Are you still high?"

"Well.  Yeah," he admitted, then he grinned. "They still won't dance with me.  Not even the vamps.  Usually they love me, which means I don't have to do sex stuff that would make Willow scream and try to magic me again."

Dean shook his head.  "Fat chance."  He pocketed the money then let Xander lead him out onto the floor.  He had rhythm and he could teach.  He would teach Xander how to dance like a guy if it killed the other guy.  He would.  He vowed he would.  Even if it killed Xander to learn to dance like a guy.  Though, him doing girl moves against his front was kinda hot... but Dean wasn't going to think about that.  Too many pretty girls in the club.  He shrugged at one.  "Someone has to fix what his female friends did to him."  He made Xander dance in front of him, showing him with the girl who clearly wanted between them.  She was giggling and blushing.  He let her slide between them and it was nice.  She was warm; a nice change on the hellmouth.  She wasn't a succubus; a nice change for Xander.  She wasn't going to try to kill him, a nice change for all three qualifications.  Xander got her back and started to move like a girl again so he straightened him out, squeezing her more tightly between them.  She was moaning into his chest and it was nice.  He smirked at her.  "Help me straighten him out again?  He could use some straight teaching."

She winked and turned to dance with Xander, letting Dean have her back.  The other guy was too cute to be gay in her book.

John watched, the beer lubing a few unused cogs in his head.  Dean and Xander worked well together.  They were better than most teams of hunters.  Even Dean and Sammy didn't work as well as Dean and Xander did.  And Dean clearly could learn to like Xander.  So maybe that was a good thing.  He finished his beer and got another one bought for him by Joyce Summers.  He smiled at her.  "Ma'am."

She pinched him on the cheek.  "A nuclear bomb?" she asked in his ear.

He nodded.  "They said they wanted Xander to help them with their war.  A kid who had been at graduation under Xander's command."

She shook her head.  "Poor boy.  Let's hope Dean can fight some nightmares."  He nodded, nodding at the floor.  She looked then blushed.  "Well.  It looks like he hasn't fully taken Willow's teachings."  She gave him a squeeze around the shoulders.  "Come for dinner with the boys tomorrow night, John."  She left, going back home to wait up for her daughter.

John looked out there. You could barely see the girl between them.  They were hot and Xander was clearly teasing them about something.  The girl finally turned into a demon and tried to eat Xander but he stopped her by kissing her and she went back to her dreamy-eyed and wet-pantied slut look.  So they had it.  He took his last beer back to his room.  The boys could handle it and he could ignore any giggling going on tonight.  Though he would beat Dean's ass if he brought the demon home with them.  Xander wasn't a demon in most ways that counted, though if Anya was right he was one in bed, but no other demons.


Dean woke up to Xander struggling against him.  He looked at the sleeping boy, shifting to hold him better.  He had known he'd have nightmares so he let Xander get a bit more drunk than he should and put him into the bed with him.  It'd be easier if he woke up with him there to comfort the nightmares.  Xander was pushing, struggling, trying to get away.  "Shh," he soothed in his ear, stroking down his arm, taking his hand to hold.  "It's Dean, Xander.  That's just a nightmare.  Let it go.  Let it flow past and leave."  Xander let out a small whimper so he held him tighter.  "Shh.  It'll be okay."  Xander suddenly woke up with a gasp, sitting up.  Dean followed, moving to hold him.  Xander nearly fell on the floor trying to get away from him.  "Fine, waste your chance for one of the two hugs I give a decade," he said dryly, looking down at the other guy.

Xander looked at him.  "You only give two a decade?"

"Yeah.  We're not a hugging family, Xander."  He laid down on his stomach to get to face height.  "Want to talk about it?"  Xander shook his head.  "Want to show me?"

"Show you?"

"You've had a lot of nightmares about this town.  You can take me there to show me.  Then if you feel more like talking we can.  You told me about being in the local high school but not about anything else."

Xander shook his head, rubbing his eyes.  "It won't help."

"Was it the stuff earlier?"

"No.  Earlier."


Xander looked at him.  "No.  Earlier than meeting Buffy."

Dean got up and pulled on clothes, then hauled Xander up, handing him his clothes.  "Let's go see the sight of the nightmares.  Think about it like practical therapy.  That way you don't try to get away from me again."

"I'm not your pet."

"So? Never said you were.  You nearly pushed me out of bed."

Xander nodded, putting his clothes on so they could go walking around the town at three in the morning.  Xander's body retraced the familiar routes, neatly hopping over small hedges like he still did it every day.  He looked up as his steps slowed, pausing to look at the house.  It looked well tended.  "Mom must be paying the neighborhood kid at the end of the block again."

Dean looked at the house.  "Landlord painted recently?"

"Probably.  He does that every few years."  He stared at the house.  There were lights on.  People moving.  At least one person by the shape of the shadow on the blinds.  He watched then looked at Dean.  "We should go before these neighbors wake up."

Dean looked at the house then listened. "No one home."  Xander frowned, glancing at the driveway.  "It's got fliers, Xander.  No one's driven it in a few days."  Xander nodded, relaxing against the side of the house again.  Dean pulled him into the shadows when a cop car cruised up the street.  The cop car stopped in front of the house and one got out to go knock on the door.  They listened to the man complain that he was not being too loud and he didn't have to turn anything off, it was his house!  The officer sounded tired of this already and told him to or else he'd arrest him and make him pay a fine.  Then he left.  Though the cop did stare at the shadows for a second.

"He's our very own vampire cop," Xander admitted.  He watched his father sneer at the cop car then looked at his buddy.  "I'm not going over there."

"That's fine.  You don't have to.  I'm not going to make you."

"You can't either."

"I don't want to, Xander. I get enough stress from my family."  Xander nodded, letting him go back to watching as the house went dark and the noise stopped.  He saw Xander tense.  "Show me your room?" he whispered in his ear.

Xander frowned at him.  "Why?"

"We can see if you left anything that needs to go to the storage place."

Xander shrugged.  "Fine."  He led the way over there, avoiding the noisy and dangerous spots.  The rake that hadn't moved in three years.  The hose that was coiled just right to trip someone up.  The stairs that squeaked as he snuck down to the basement door.  Xander pulled out his keys and let him inside, checking before turning on a light.  He nodded at Spike.  "Hey.  Laundry?"

"Safer and free.  Cable."

Xander nodded. "This is Dean."

"I saw.  They're still up."

Xander grimaced. "We'll be quiet."  He let Dean see.  "This was my last room."

Dean looked around.  "This isn't cheery.  I always imagined you having stuffed animals."

"He died when I was four."  He let him look around, wincing when he heard the footsteps upstairs.  Spike gave him an odd look.  "Going with us?"

"Nah.  Probably your Ma again."

Xander grimaced then shook his head. "Dean?" he called quietly.  Dean snuck back and they headed for the door.  At least until someone shot at them.  He turned to look at her. "That will bring the cops back, Mom, and that's not nice to the neighbors.  Spike, you good?"

"I liked this shirt," he complained.  He glared at the woman, vamping out.  She ran shrieking back up the stairs.

"We need to disappear," Xander said, pulling Dean with him.  They came out and found his father out there.  "Checking to make sure I got all my clothes since I won't be back this way for at least a year."

His father stared at him.  "I doubt you left anything with the way you left, boy."

Xander nodded. "I had to.  Willow made me sick."

"Oh, you don't like gay people suddenly?" he sneered.  "You used to."

"Not that way.  She made me physically sick.  I had to get a treatment in South Dakota.  Ran into Dean and his father, who I've been traveling with since they do so great and they watch my back for me."  He shrugged. "Guess I didn't leave anything, Dean."

He nodded. "That's fine.  We can leave tomorrow."  He moved Xander. "C'mon.  Let's hit the motel."

"I don't think so. The boy there owes me.  He didn't die like he should have."

Xander stared at him.  "Why would I have?"

"Money, boy," he laughed. "All about the money you could've made us if you had died like everyone else around here does."

Xander shrugged.  "Sorry you couldn't kill me well enough but tough.  Or at least I am."  His father rushed him and Xander let him have one blow then he hit him back.  "No more."  He stared at his father.  "Never again."

Dean pulled Xander off.  "C'mon.  Time to fade into the shadows."

Xander nodded.  "We should."  He looked at Spike.  "Feel lucky."

"No thanks."  He winced when the old guy got up and tried to get them again with a scream of anger.

"Damn fags.  Couldn't die and can't even give me grandkids to kill!" he shouted.

Dean got the guy off Xander, kicking his ass.  When he was down he turned to look at Xander. "You good?"

"Better," he admitted.  He looked up at the front of the house, nodding at the cop.  "I came back to make sure I hadn't left anything.  Apparently I didn't die for the insurance money."

"He filed to say you had been kidnaped and were killed but no one could find a body."  The cop came closer.  "You want to file assault charges, boys?"

Xander shook his head.  "Not worth it in this town, is it?"

"Not usually."  He smirked.  "You need an ice pack."

Xander looked at himself then at the cop.  "I've had worse.  Thank you anyway.  Have a better night."  He and Dean started to walk off but his father grabbed the officer's gun and tried to shoot him.  Xander reacted without thinking, turning to shoot him back.  Not center mass, on some level he recognized not to do that.   The shoulder wound was bad enough to make his father scream and cry in pain.  He sighed, dropping the gun.  The cop gave him an odd look.  "I'm sorry."

"No, that's what training's for," he told him.  "Take it and go, Harris.  Out of my town."

"Tomorrow morning," he agreed.  That got a nod and they left.  Dean picked up the gun.  Xander looked at it, shaking his head.  "Not yet."

"It was instinctive, Xander."

"I know.  Doesn't make it any easier."  He walked them past Joyce's house, seeing the lights still on so he went to knock.  Buffy gave him an odd look.  "I went to check my former hole and my father said I didn't die for the insurance money.  He pulled an officer's gun to try to shoot me."

"I'll tell Mom you won't make dinner," she said.  "Leaving Dean?"

"I'm heading to LA to check on Cordy.  Dean can stay if he wants.  His dad too."

She nodded. "We'll deal with that," she said, giving him a hug.  "Be safe, Xander.  We don't want to attend funerals anywhere."  He nodded, giving her a small smile before leaving.  She looked at Dean.  "Mom's making meatloaf."  She stopped him from moving.  "He needs the time, Dean.  He'll brood for a bit then rationalize.  Like he did his first vampire."

"He didn't kill him."

She smiled.  "I knew that.  He doesn't want to."  She let him go.  "By now he's already bought or taken a car off the vamps and packed up to go.   Come over tonight.  We'll talk and see what's going on."  He nodded.  "Cordelia can watch him for tomorrow night.  She's been wanting to see him again."

"Thanks."  He went back to the motel.  Xander was indeed gone.  All his stuff.  Dean sat up to think and watch the sun come up.  Around here that wasn't as sure of a thing to happen as it was anywhere else.  He heard his father get up and knocked on the connecting door.  "Xander went to visit Cordelia after his father attacked him and tried to shoot him."

"Xander hit him back?"

"Shoulder.  He wouldn't take the gun when I picked it up."

"We'll work on it.  Your first time is always harder.  Remember getting your first deer?"  Dean nodded. "The same thing only more personal.  Why did you two go there?"

"He was having nightmares and I figured out a while ago that he'll talk about it if you take him wherever it was happening.  Last night we went to the college so he could have Initiative nightmares and explain that to me.  Tonight he had family nightmares.  His father tried to say he had been kidnaped and killed, filed for the insurance.  He took an officer's gun after trying to attack him.  Xander got him back once.  The second time I got him.  Then he grabbed the gun."

"He'll handle it but I don't like this going off alone thing."

Dean shrugged.  "Buffy said he needed to think.  She still wants us at dinner so her mother can grill us without Xander hearing.  She's making meatloaf."

John nodded.  "We can do that."  Dean nodded. "Go rest."  Dean went to bed while John watched out for them that day.  The local paper didn't have anything about the incident.  The arrest report had one where Xander's father had been arrested for being drunk and grabbing his gun to shoot himself.  Attempted suicide.  "They really do cover up everything around here," he muttered.


Xander found his target out and about, as he had heard he would be today.  He turned up the music he had playing and rolled down the window.  The thumping bass beat of the classic rap made the people around him look.  It was a fine car.  The vamp he had taken the keys from wouldn't need it anymore.  He rolled down the passenger's side window farther.  "Hey, homeboy, got a few for a comrade?" he called over the music.  He watched a fine-looking woman cross the street and changed the song to _Baby's Got Back_.   She gave him a dirty look but he only grinned at that.

"Quit staring at my friend's sister," Gun demanded without having seen the driver was more than white.

Xander leaned his seat back and looked at him.  "Oh, shut up.  I can appreciate her.  She's probably not evil enough for me anyway."  Gunn gaped.  He grinned.  "Morning.  Am I that mythical already?"


"Yup.  Get your ass in the car.  We need to talk."  He turned down the music once the windows were up.  "Have to keep up the image."  He drove them off, taking him to a nearly empty parking lot so he could turn off he car and look at him.  "How's Cordy doing?"

"Not bad.  Not great this week but not bad.  What's going on?  We heard you left Sunnydale."

"After Willow decided to use me as a convenient battery for magical energy.  She was stuffing me so full it took a week to get it all out of me.  I created a small hellmouth where I was drained."  Gunn winced at that.  "So I'm training with a few hunters in the midwest.  We came back to deal with the Willow issue again since she magicked me against my will and then erased my memories of it."


"Yeah."  He grimaced then looked at his buddy again.  "You sure she's good enough?"

"She's not happy this week.  It's *that* week."

"I remember those.  Have since her second one.  Her mother kept her out during her first one."

Gunn snickered.  "I'll ask her later.  Why are you in our town?"

"Because there's some things I don't want to leave in Sunnydale and I know that the slayer crew there can't use them.  I don't want to sell them to any ordinary thug.  I don't know if you can use them but you'd know who to sell them to if you didn't."

"What sort of stuff?"

"About three crates of stuff.  I've got one in the trunk."  They got out to look.  Gunn whistled.  "Exactly.  Buffy won't use them.  She hates guns.  We don't need them.  I don't need them on my hunting team.  They use shotguns, not Initiative weapons."

Gunn looked at one closer then at him.  "Need a high price?"

"I'd rather they go to someone who would protect the little kids on the street and those who do what we do."

Gunn nodded.  "I can hand them over but I can guarantee you won't get top dollar."  Xander opened a bag to show him the cash inside.  "How?" he squeaked.

"I made a wish on Janus."

"Huh."  He nodded.  "The rest?"  Xander handed him the address to the storage area.  "Yours?  She said something about that storage company."

"I have one there.  That's my secondary one.  Take whatever you need and then show Giles."

Gunn nodded.  "I can do that.  Plus make sure they don't get into thug hands.  By the way, the ride?  It's a bit more hip than we heard you were from the Queen."

"The vamp didn't need it.  I'm dumping it in Vegas."

"Even better."  He looked in the trunk.  "Let's take this back to Angel's lair."

"I was there.  It's depressing.  He's brooded the building into radiating depression."

"Cordy would squeal and be happier."

"Then hit me."

"Well, yeah, but you knew that when you hit the town's boundaries, Xander.  You dated her when she was evil."

"She had a few mental growth spurts that made her realize her sheep were stupid too," he said dryly.  "I can meet you there or we can cruise."

"Let's cruise."  He closed the trunk and they headed back together.  Xander handed him the keys when they got out.  "You sure?"

"I'm heading to Vegas.  It was a vampire's.  Sell it, chop it, whatever."  He got his three bags and the bag of cash out, then looked at his battle axe.  He put it into the bag of cash and zipped it again.  Then he grinned.  "Let's get beaten."  He carried the stuff inside.  "I'm amazing."

Cordelia looked at him.  "The only amazing thing is that you match and they're not ugly clothes," she countered.

He grinned. "Dean made me buy new clothes.  He and his dad hated my other shirts too.  So you got agreed with by a Marine and his son."

"I'm not sure if I should be happy or not," she said, starting to frown.  "Why are you here?"

"Layover from Sunnydale to Vegas.  We went to check on the evil redheaded one who magicked me again."   He put the stuff down.  "And hey, I was a good boy.  I found a Feeb who was nice, polite, and respectful after I called in the nuclear weapon we found when one of the kids at grad who had been turned captured me to join their army."

Gunn blinked. "Nuclear?" he asked.

"They said it was a proton bomb."  He grinned.  "Then my father tried to shoot me because I wasn't dead and he couldn't have insurance money."

"Charming," Gunn said.  He went to tell Angel about the stuff and Xander being there.

Angel came to the door of the office, staring at Xander.  "They finally got you drained?"

"Took them a week.  I created a mini hellmouth with the energy they drained off me.  Giles sent someone to fix it for the guy.  Now I'm training with a few hunters.  We were local to deal with Willow again."

Angel nodded. "Thanks for the weapons."

"Buffy hates guns."

"I know."  He went back into the office.  "How is Ethan?"

"Better now that he's free."  He looked at her again, seeing the shocked look.  "The last time he tried to plague Giles, Giles turned him into the Initiative."  She shuddered. "Exactly.  It wasn't right to leave him there so I had him freed."

"I guess it's good for your karma."  She gave him a careful hug.  "You're too tense."

"I had nightmares about the family stuff.  This whole trip has been a nightmare.  Willow turned me funny colors.  Buffy thinks me going gay is a good idea unless I draw more evil ones.  Joyce thought Dean was cute and mine.  I'm going to defrag in Vegas."  She smirked at that.  "I am."  He looked at his stuff then at her.  "How are you?"

"I'm okay.  It's been a long week."

"I remember those.  Now we hunt, slay, and move on."

"Car?" Gunn asked.

"Dean said I could ride with him.  Otherwise, we look like some strange convoy.  Oh, the Glory thing is done with."  He looked at her.  "Fireball cures that and killed her plus her host."

She blinked.  "I heard about a fire up there."

"My old car."  He smirked.  "It was a pretty minion weenie roast."  She grinned at that, shaking her head at the bad joke.  "So, I'm off to Vegas with my shiny battle axe, some money, and some clothes because Dean insisted that I buy plain looking stuff that's really boring."  She laughed.  "He wants to dress me like an assassin and make me quit dancing like Buffy showed me.  I left them with Joyce."  He winked.  "Let me head to the airport.  Someone call me a spiffy, smelly ride?"

"Sure," Gunn said, shaking his head.  He had heard the kid was an original and every time he met the kid he proved it worse than the time before.  Then again, whoever this Dean guy was had a point about his clothes.  The last time he'd seen him wearing something he had chosen, he dressed worse than Lorne, their green skin, lounge singer dressing friend and helper.


Xander looked down as his phone rang, smiling at the text message.  He texted back 'vegas' and then headed off to find a good club.  He had lost a grand at poker but had won it all back charming some woman who thought he was an escort.  So what the hell.  It was Vegas and what happened here stayed here unless you got VD, right?  His phone rang again with a 'where in Vegas'.  He looked up then texted that to his buddy.  He ran into a store to get a present he had found earlier then to his motel.  He found Dean parking when he got there.  "Did Willow teleport you?"

"No.  Cordelia said you headed this way.  What's with the box?"

"It's a present.  To make you miss Sunnydale less.  No dad?"

"He headed for Washington state to help another hunter.  He said he'd meet us in Lawrence in a few weeks."


"And I've still got to take you somewhere to debauch you."

"I don't need it."  He let him into his room.  "See, even a double. I told them my errant hunting partner was on his way here.  She thinks we're gay too."

"A lot of people had that same thought about me and Sammy," Dean admitted. "Which is not my thing.  I changed his diapers a few times, I'm not touching his ass for any other reason."  Xander snickered.  "Exactly.  Present?"  Xander handed it over, letting him unwrap the fairly decent looking shirt.  "It's a bit heavy."

"You're wearing four layers in the desert, Dean."  Dean gave him a dirty look.  "It's a new survival product.  Meant to keep you warm or cool depending on what you're doing."

Dean slid into it instead of his other overshirt, nodding.  It fit well enough.  "I can do that.  You hit anywhere yet?"

"Lost a grand playing poker but a nice lady picked me up because she decided I was an escort and she paid me three to make her squeal in multiple keys and have a heart attack."  Dean moaned, leaning forward to rub his face.  "I was going to find a club."

"We can do that."  He stood up, grabbing the room keys and heading out with him.  He'd wear the new shirt for now, see if it was worth anything.  If not maybe Sammy needed one at Stanford?  Xander led him to one of the major resorts that had a club.  Xander peeled off to go gamble some more money away while Dean went to relax in the club.  He hadn't been able to get any cute women in Sunnydale.  They were all demons.  No wonder Xander only dated demons and evil women!  He saw a woman giggling but grinned.  She came over to dance with him.

He had no idea that the back of his shirt now said 'I honk for hookers'.  She was fun and cute in the bathroom and he left, going to find Xander.  His shirt now said 'I like them tough, tie me up and lick me, I sing the Star Spangled Banner'.  He felt the cooling feature come on and it was nice enough he guessed.  Still a bit heavy.  Especially in the back where the cooling system was.  He got into another club but no one there wanted him so he left quickly and headed out of the resort to find Xander.  He had said he was going to an ice cream shop he had found once he had blown the grand in his pocket.  As he passed by a well-lit store front, the reflection of him caught his eye.  He turned, then shrieked in outrage at the 'I'm a natural brunette, wanna check' message across his back.  He took off the shirt and went to beat the crap out of Xander for that prank.  How dare he!

Xander was behind him however and giggling madly into a storefront.  He would be avoiding Dean for a while until he calmed down again.  He bounced off, going back to his playing.  Another lady had decided he was an escort and he didn't really care at the moment.  It was cool with him.  It probably broke some of that innocence John was so worried about anyway so hey, motel money for Dean.  That way they didn't have to sleep on the same bed again and he didn't have to think strange thoughts about his buddy.  It was nice having male friends again and he would not ruin it with the strange thoughts Willow had been trying to suppress.  It was probably them being backed up anyway.  They were coming out now that they could.


Dean found Xander later that night, looking at the woman flirting with him.  "Can I please have my friend back?  He's been naughty."

She glared at him.  "I paid for him.  You can have him in an hour or so.  When I'm done."

Dean blinked at that then pulled out a fake ID he had in his wallet to show her.  She went pale and ran off.

Xander sipped his soda.  "I have no clue.  That's the third one."

"Who're they paying?"

Xander shrugged.  "Not a clue.  I figure someone will come complain at me sometime and I'll get them in the nose.  Until then I made some easy spending money."

"Good!  Let's go turn it into motel money.  I'll teach you how to win at poker."  He walked him off.  "I'm still getting you back for that shirt."

Xander grinned. "But it looked so cute on you!"

Dean punched him on the arm.  "Bastard."

"Possibly.  Mom never answered that question when I asked."

Dean grimaced.  "Not like that."

"You said it."

"Boys, the gay club is up the street," one of the hotel workers said with a smile.  "That way the het couple and their kids behind you don't complain to us again about their holiday being interrupted.  She screamed at the last one and we don't want that to happen again."

Xander smiled.  "I'm not gay.  Some woman just decided I was an escort, but I'm not gay."  That got a snicker and the guy walked off.

"We need to take you there anyway."

"I'm fine the way I am!"

"No, you're not."  He walked him off, taking him up the street but the bouncer shook his head.  "He's curious."

"He's underdressed and so are you.  We only allow yuppie gay people, sir.  Try further down the strip.  Or one of the brothels.  I hear there's a nice, discreet one up on eighth somewhere."

"Thanks," Dean said, dragging Xander that way.  "How much do you have on you?"

"Um, about ten grand.  Why?"

Dean looked at him.  "How many thought you were an escort?"

"Three.  That's just tips."  He grinned a mean grin.  "And the paramedics have been very nice about it both times they showed up.  The other one threw her back."

Dean groaned, sighing a bit at the end.  "We should dump some of that before you get pickpocketed or something."

"We're good.  Can we go play with the pretty girls?"

"Not you."  He kept dragging him off, finding one of the underground papers.  That listed the brothel's number so he called from a payphone.  They got a code and took the directions to the brothel.  Once there he walked Xander inside, having taken the money from him in the cab.  He smiled at the madam.  She was clearly not human since she was orange.  "We're hunters."

"I'm not doing anything wrong," she said.

"No but he's got some innocence left."

"Ah!"  She nodded. "We've seen that problem before.  We're a good choice for a first night."

"I still don't need it," Xander complained.

She walked him off, taking him to a room with a very nice looking, mostly female person in there.  "Doug, this is ...."

"Xander.  My teacher said my innocence was annoying him."  Doug smiled and pulled Xander down.  "I've never seen a hermaphrodite demon.  Only read about you guys.  Which type are you?"

"A Refurg."  He kissed him and it was good.  The boy was skilled in at least a few bedroom areas.  He moved down to tease his client, making it good for him.  Xander was clearly not usually gay but that was fine.  He knew about innocence issues too.  He slowly sucked him in, using a slick finger to open his hole and tease him that way.  Xander came with a moan and went limp.  "You know, that should be enough."

Xander grinned. "Thanks.  How much do I owe you?"

He stared at him.  "Do you know a demon named Anya?"

"Yeah.  She's my ex."

"She's said many things about you in the demon community.  Pouting mostly that she lost you."

Xander smirked.  "Any idea why five different women have decided I'm an escort?"

"No.  Were they good?"

"Yeah, until one had a heart attack and the other threw her back riding me."

He laughed.  "We've seen that here before."  He ran a hand up his stomach, letting Xander tease him.  Everyone could use some refining of skills in the bedroom and he wanted to see what was so special about that boy.  For some reason he ended up on his knees howling as Xander took control of his body and mind.  He was sweaty, limp, and begging for mercy by the time the guy was done with his holes.  He fell down and went to sleep.

Xander smiled, tucking him in before getting up and getting dressed.  He ran into the madam, who looked astonished.  He grinned.  "He wanted to play."

"I'm sure he did.  How did you do that?"

"Anya had a tragically long dry spell while she was working the first time.  She was very needy."

"Want a job?"

"John would get really upset with me."

"Probably," she agreed.

"Would that be enough?  He thought so."

"For most things.  A few you'd need to fully pierce the anal innocence.  A few can take someone who hasn't done kinky things with both sexes.  It depends on the demon, dear."  She walked him back to Dean.  "He's technically broken in."

"It'll work?" Dean asked.

She nodded. "Quite.  He wore poor Doug out."

"How much do I owe you?" Dean asked.

"That depends.  Xander, may I  show the tape?  If so I won't charge you."

He grinned but shrugged.  "As long as it's not online or outside of here.  There's a few pieces of demon porn with me after my roadtrip so I could afford to leave Oxnard."

"I thought I recognized you."  She stroked his cheek.  "Have fun, dear.  Be safe."

"Any idea why women think he's an escort?" Dean asked.

"I believe it's the clothes, dear.  They're a bit tight."

Dean looked then nodded, taking Xander off.  He walked him into a modestly nice store and pointed at Xander.  "He's not really an escort but women keep trying to steal him to do that with him.  Can we maybe fix it so he's wearing looser pants and underwear?"

"One of the women stole them," Xander defended.

The salesgirl snickered but got him some underwear and looser pants.  As soon as they walked out, a cop approached them.  "Boys," he said, looking them over.  "There's no legal working boys in this town."

Dean shook his head.  "I'm not working.  We're playing, Officer.  We just hit a nice, legal brothel actually.  I have no idea why people think Xander's selling it.  I even got him looser pants."

"Animal magnetism?" Xander joked with a goofy grin.  "I promise, Officer, I never said I was selling it.  When women ask me I tell them I'm not.  Those who don't ask, I think are just out for cheap thrills and I'll take a tip if they give it.  One said she paid someone but I don't know who.  I'm from near LA.  I didn't think I was this pretty since I never get any play there."

Dean covered the babbling fountain of Xander's mouth with his hand.  "It's been creepy so far.  One woman jumped him and had a heart attack."

"Go back to your motel and sleep it off, boys."

Xander elbowed Dean to get free of him.  "Let us find some meditation herbs first?" Xander asked with a grin.  "Know a good pagan shop?  I left mine at home and I have to meditate.  It might help with this problem."

The cop wrote down an address then walked off.  Looking back, why had he thought those two were selling it?  They were acting married to each other.  Not the first gay couple they'd had in Las Vegas.

Dean took them to a cab to go to the nice shop, walking in and sneezing.  "Oh, yeah.  Someone has a clue."  He looked at the witch behind the counter.  "We think a witch in Sunnydale put a lust curse or something on my buddy.  We're demon hunters and so far today everyone, even the cops, have thought he's selling it."  He looked at Xander, who was trying on sunglasses.  "You don't need any."

"I do so.  I left mine back at Buffy's house."

"They're in the car."

The witch behind the counter glared at them.  "We don't usually help those who murder."

Xander looked at her.  "I only kill things that're attacking others, honey.  I don't kill the harmless or those just existing, only those hunting and attacking, the ones causing problems.  I worked with Buffy."

She nodded.  "We might look at it and let you have a cure."

"Please."  He grinned and walked closer, watching her eyes cloud over.  "Willow's my best friend and I have the feeling that Rosenburg did it again."

She nodded.  "Yeah, probably.  That's a really nice aftershave you're wearing."

"I'm not."   She leaned over to sniff him.  Dean pushed her back gently, getting a pout.  "Lust spell, curse, or otherwise do you think?"

She backed off and her eyes cleared up.  "Oh, that's so a spell."  She went to get something to tell for certain how it was done then gave them what they needed to cure it in their own motel room.  Before she was forced to bankrupt the store to afford them both.


Dean called his father from the motel room once they had gotten done spreading the lotion over each other's bodies.  "Are you still near Sunnydale?"  He smirked at Xander.  "Good!  Can you please go back and beat the shit out of Willow for doing it again?  Because for some reason every person we run into thinks we're both selling it.  It had been Xander but now it's me too.  Dad, he made over ten grand today," he said bluntly.  "I did that.  They said he's technically unpure now.  Yes, I'm sure.  Even the witch that we went to see got hit by it.  Xander let one ride him until her back went out and another had a heart attack, Dad.  Please?"  He nodded. "Thanks."  He hung up and looked at Xander, who was lounging on his bed.  "Can't we toast her?"

"She doesn't drink except when Oz left her," Xander said, looking over at him.  "Is there a way to stop her from doing it ever again?"

"If so, we'll find it.  This is not funny."

Xander grinned.  "I thought it was nice of the female officer that caught us walking up the street wanted to keep you in her handcuffs."

"Not funny," he growled.

Xander grinned brighter.  "You'd be laughing your ass off it was me or Sammy."

"Probably, still not funny when it's me.  I'm too special for the masses."

Xander smirked.  "Did you make someone have a heart attack?"

"No.  I hope I never do.  That's overdoing it, don't you think, Xander?"

"Well, yeah.  But she did it to herself."


"I have a fine appreciation of women who climb on top."

Dean gave him a long look.  "They were on top?"  Xander beamed and nodded. "Both of them?"  Xander nodded again, looking smug.  "Oral sex?"

"Of course.  It's fun."  He shifted to cross his feet and put his arms behind his head. "What else did Dad have to say?"

"Just to debauch you."  He laid down too.  He would not stare at Xander.  Even if he could suddenly see why women had paid him earlier.  He called his father back.  "She's starting a new one.  It's affecting me."  He hung up and went to take a cold shower.

"No, she's not," Xander called.  "The lotion's still on."

Dean slammed the bathroom door and made sure the water was as icy as he could make it. This was not fair to him!


John walked into the Magic Box an hour later, hauling Willow up and into the back room, Rupert jogging after him.  "We're going to have a talk, Rosenburg.  The sort your natal coven should have with you if you had been part of one."  He sat down and pulled her over his lap, paddling her until  Rupert was begging him to stop.  Then ten more smacks.  "Those last ones are for doing whatever lust spell made everyone, including officers, try to pay both boys for sex."  He sat her on her feet then stood up to stare at her.  "You could have gotten them assaulted.  Dean had to beat off three different kidnaping attempts according to my source out there.  Xander got taken against his will six times."  She burst out in new tears.  "Whatever you did, girl, fix it now and never do it again before I have someone put a mirroring curse on you so whatever magic you pull bounces back on you."

She nodded.  "I will."

"You'd better do it now," Giles said firmly.

She sniffled.  "I wanted him to be happy!"

John grabbed her and she shrieked, running to cancel the spell.  He looked at Rupert.  "Boot camp?"

"I'm seriously thinking about that," he admitted.  "We've done all we can."

Ethan appeared.  "Ah, I felt her join me firmly on the path to Janus' blessing," he said happily, beaming when Buffy leaned in.  "Your friend is now firmly one of mine.  I came to welcome the new acolyte who just cursed her best friend and his hunting partner to lust so strong that it made them into whores."

"Is that why she's crying?  Was it an accident?" Buffy asked.

"No, she's crying because I did what her parents should have and beat her ass," John said bluntly.

Buffy looked in the work area then at him. "Need chains for the next one?"   He stomped in there with Ethan strolling behind him.  She pointed at Ethan's back, giving Giles an odd look.  He motioned her to leave it alone.

"He won't have anyone but girls!  That's wrong and it's evil and it'll kill him and it's bad for his body!" Willow shrieked.  Then John grabbed her again to paddle her some more.

Giles went to call someone.  "Cousin, it's Rupert.  I have the most problematic witch and I'm not strong enough to bind her.  She's casting lust spells to keep someone from having homosexual thoughts.  Yes, Rosenburg again."  He looked back there.  "Ethan's welcoming her to Janus' side and the father of one of the boys she affected this time is beating her for it.  Could someone please come bind her?"  He smiled. "Thank you, Cousin."  He hung up and walked back there.  "A very strong coven in England is going to bind her, John.  Would that be suitable?"

"If she can't do it again," he agreed.  He handed her to Ethan.  "If not, you handle her before we hunt her."

"Of course.  Though it was nice that her spell did increase the fertility in Las Vegas by five  percent.  They'll have a baby boom in nine months."  He glared at the girl, then cast the binding on her himself.  The others could do their own.  His came directly from Janus.  "You're giving your new god a headache.  He said to stop it.  He can't handle that much power at the moment."  Buffy moaned.  "Even Halloween didn't give him this much power.  She honestly raised the birth rate in Las Vegas due to her spell and made Xander earn about ten thousand dollars in tips."

Buffy nodded. "I'm expecting a nice Christmas present then."  She walked off.  "Need me to put on water for tea, Giles?"

"Please, and pull down the brandy as well, Buffy.  Thank you."  He looked at Ethan.  "Cuppa?"

"Please.  She's giving me some ideas I need to purge."  He walked him into the kitchen.  "Do you feel odd that we're working together to stop her?"

"We work with Spike, we worked with Angel.  You're not any worse than either of them," Buffy said, looking serious.  "Just don't plague us anymore?  We've got enough problems.  Xander just blew up a hell goddess for us."

He nodded.  "I heard.  It was nice work."  He took his cup of tea and the brandy to lace it, handing it over to the witch that came in the back door.  "You'll need it.  A hunter just spanked her to the point of bruising."

"She deserved it," Giles assured him.  "This isn't her first lust spell."  He took his own doctored brandy with tea flavoring into the work area.

Ethan made a second cup, smiling at Buffy.  "Thank you, dear.  You're quite tolerable at the moment."  He sipped as he walked off to help her.  Not even the strongest of white witches could handle Rosenburg on her own.  Possibly not even with her coven behind her.


to part 2