Xander woke up on top of something solid stone and flat.  She looked at the ropes around her wrists and chest, feeling more around her ankles.  She sighed.  This was not how she wanted today to go.  She tested them.  Tight but still had some give.  Looks like Sam's vision was right.

"You might as well stop.  You know very well that I know how to tie up werewolves and slayers."

"You know, the really pitiful thing was I might've done it for you if you had asked," she said dryly.  She looked at Willow.  "It won't work, Willow.  By the vow they're not going to let me die before it's time."

"I have a cure for that.  Then Tara and I will be safe."

"Cheating the demons doesn't make them happy and I doubt it'll go that way, Willow.  He'll take you instead."  She got a wrist free but Willow got it tied back down before she could do anything.  She tapped her fingers, glaring at her former best friend.  "I understand the urge, Willow."

"YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING!" she shouted.  "How could you!"

"Gee, I don't know, let's see the many ways I've lost people who were part of my reason for existing."  She stared at her.  "Including you."  She got another one undone but Willow forced her back down with magic.  "Oh, that's so not going to work."  She struggled until she got free.  "You have no idea what you're attempting, Willow.  Because of you, the slayers die with me.  You fucked up!" she shouted.  "There's not going to be any more after me."  She burst out laughing.  "Also, your little spell?  Not reversible."

"I don't care."

"Obviously.  Do you think Tara still loves your evil little soul, Willow?  She loved you when you were pure, not now."  Willow glared at her.  "The way you did the spell warped the calling spell for slayers.  Even Wes found it.  It's pitiful but I'm the last slayer until I fight your battle for you.  Because you were too fucking pitiful to ask!"  She backed away from her.  "I don't want to hurt many humans but you're not human.  You're a demon to me.  Nothing and no one will protect you, Willow Rosenburg."

"You can't stop me and when you die, the deal will be sealed," she said, taking a knife out of a potion.  "See, hunter's seed and virgin slayer's blood make an excellent poison."

"I know that, bitch.  I researched it years ago."  She snickered.  "Oh, and by the way, how did you get the hairs you need?  He shaves."

"No one said it had to be *that* hunter's hair, Xander.  Or are you going by something else?" she sneered.  She lunged and Xander fought her off.  Willow was insane and that gave her strength and the will to use the magic with it.  Xander managed to send a psychic shout for help Sam's way while trying to protect herself against the knife but she still managed to scratch her.  It was a very potent poison.  Xander felt herself fading and fought back, backhanding Willow into the altar.  "You'll pay.  I'll sell your body," she growled, getting up and coming after her again.  She could see the poison working.  "What's wrong?  Numb?  Cold?"

"Nah, feels  more like a hangover."  She hit her again, hearing someone shout from the doorway.  "Stop her!" she shouted.  "She's trying to kill me!  Call Giles!"  She saw someone pounce Willow but she passed out.  The poison was too strong for the slayer healing.  Fortunately, she knew she'd be coming back.  The demon wasn't about to be cheated of his soul by letting her die early.  When she woke up she was on the altar.  Dean was stroking over her hair.  "Not how I wanted things to go after this morning," she said weakly.  "Willow?"

"Done for," he said simply.  He helped her up, steadying her until she could stand up on her own.  "You okay?"

"No."  Xander looked at the tied up, crying woman.  "Willow, I'm so damn sorry you felt the need to go this way.  If you had asked," she said, her voice breaking.  "I'm damn sorry you changed sides in this war.  Pity the slayer's line dies with me."   She nodded at the guy standing guard.  "One of Riley's guys?"

"He went to get Buffy.  He said to keep you here; you need the rest."

"I'm not staying anywhere near her."  She looked at Dean.  "Grab the silver flagon with the potion.  Giles can use it for other things," she said quietly.  "So can we."  He nodded, grabbing it carefully.  She walked around where Willow was, heading out with Dean hovering protectively.  "I told her," she told him.  "I told her it wasn't going to work. She thought the hair and blood and seed combination would overpower the demon's curse."  She gave him a look, swallowing.  "By the way, she took some of Sam's hairs for it.  Probably the sheets from last night too."

"Giles found what she was doing when Tara said you should've been back by then.  He did a long search of her room."  He looked grim.  "How powerful is this poison?"

"Incredibly.  It'll kill nearly any demon.  It will kill any slayer not charmed, cursed, or protected by something that holds immortality."  He nodded.  "Which both groups could use."

"Definitely.  Doesn't mean I wanted it field tested.  Want to go back to the house or to the Magic Box?"

"I should go to the Magic Box but I feel like shit."

"Then we'll go home."  He nearly ran into Tara and smiled, handing her the flagon.  He was seriously liking this young witch and her manners.  "Hold that.  That's the poison.  We'll need it to help us with the battle and other demons."  She nodded, carrying it off carefully.  He escorted Xander home, thanking all of the deities that Sunnydale was a very small town since Sam had the Impala getting some supplies for Giles out of town at the moment.  He tucked Xander into bed, patting her on the head.  "Rest."  She nodded.  "I'll let them know."  He went back to the Magic Box, checking the potion.  He poured it into two vials and corked them, handing one to Tara.  "Your half."

"Thank you.  Will it be enough to kill the one you're hunting for?"

"It should be."  He grinned.  "It'll be okay.  You're more than welcome to move into our usual territory, Tara.  We'd love to be able to visit you now and then.  Sunnydale is too bad for most of our group."

"I don't know yet."

"Think about Kansas.  It's pretty country."  She smiled and nodded.  Giles walked in.  "I split the poison with you."

He looked at him.  "That's fine, Dean.  No, it won't work on the one you want it to but it will work on the ones for yours and Xander's other fight."  Dean smirked at that, nodding a bit.  "What's this about the slayer's line dying?"

Dean found the book Wesley had shown Sam, flipping through until he got to the picture he remembered on the page after the section, turning back a page to hand to him.  "Wesley found it."

Giles looked at the prophecy and moaned.  "Oh, damn it."

"Vaguely, yeah.  If she dies before the demon's deal is broken, meaning a month after she wins the fight, there's no more slayers, ever.  Unless your buddies can redo the spells."

Giles slumped, shaking his head. "It's been lost to time."  He looked at him.  "Wesley found out?"

"While we were in LA last time.  He called his father to warn him, or so he told Sam.  Is he back yet?  I miss my car."

Giles nodded.  "Riley's people reported he pulled across the city limits about three minutes ago.  I thought we should have a meeting."

"Xander's in bed.  She's staying in bed.  She said she feels like shit."

"I suppose she would.  I'll send Spike to watch over her.  Spike!"  He came out of the back room, giving him an odd look.  "Go watch over the house where Xander's resting.  She's too ill to come to the meeting tonight and she's vulnerable while she's ill."  He nodded, going to do that.  Giles carefully put both potions onto a shelf, then locked the case around it.  "There, that should keep it from being broken, I hope."  He turned to look at the young man.  "We may have an idea about the fight.  It's Samhain on their side."

"She said that.  That means we might be able to use that to call up some former fighters on our side or those who're crossed over but still hanging around?"

Giles nodded.  "Exactly.  Also I think Xander has another plan as well."

"You'd have to ask her.  She was planning today, that's why she went to look at the area."  He nodded politely at the military strike team that came in.  "So, are you guys the commandos they helped take down?"

"The remains.  We're hunting demons for the UN now," one of them told him.  "Mr. Giles,  you called for help?"

"Yes, we do need it, Riley."

"Okay, we can do that."  He grinned, holding out a hand.  "Riley Finn."

"Dean Winchester.  The one in my Impala is my brother Sam."

"I've heard of you."

Dean smirked.  "Was it a scary rep?"

"That too, that and you're a bottomless pit."  Dean laughed.  "I want one thing explained to me.  What happened between Xander and Willow and who was that  young slayer?"

"Xander," Dean told him simply.  Riley shook his head quickly.  "That's both answers."

"She changed him into a slayer?" Riley asked, making sure.

"Against her will because she was going to fight her way out of the deal Willow made with Xander's soul without his consent," Giles finished.  Riley shuddered.

"I'm still looking for the lighter fluid," Dean said, looking at Giles.

Giles stared back.  "She won't have this problem for a very long time.  When she wakes up  hopefully all her magic will have been drained.  I have Ethan setting up the spell now."

"Like they did to Xander in the pond?"

Giles considered it.  "You mean Wesley drained the marks of Amun?"  Dean nodded.  "No.  No, this spell will leach all the powers from her, Dean.  There will be no powers left and when she's totally drained the reserves she have will be closed automatically.  Only then will she be waking up."

"So we'll tell our great-grandkids to watch out when she wakes up," he said smartly.

Giles smiled a bit.  "That could very well be.  Riley, we're waiting on a few others before the meeting.  Where are your people bunking down?  Xander wasn't sure you'd be able to use Lowell House or not."

"We can't but there's plenty of empty houses, Mr. Giles."

"That's what we're doing.  We're in Xander's former neighborhood," Dean told him.

"I know where that is if we need her suddenly," he agreed.  "Is Xander all right?"

"No," Dean said.  "It's screwed with her head, still is.  She didn't eat unless we nagged for the last six months."

"Damn it," Riley muttered.

"Indeed," Giles agreed.  "We had to help her escape.  Girls," he said when he saw Faith and Buffy coming in.  "Is she under?"

"She's down for a long nap," Faith agreed.  "Our great-grandkids can watch her wake up."

"Small issue," Dean told them with an evil smirk.  "Wes found out that the way Willow did it means no more slayers if Xander dies within the time frame that the demon can claim her."  Faith gaped.  Giles nodded.

"A full month after the deal is lost," Giles told them.  "So we must protect Xander.  Not that she isn't capable.  You've done an excellent job training her, Dean."

"Thanks, but your bosses are still assholes.  Wouldn't want to work for them."

Giles laughed.  "Me either.  My father made me."

"Wes said the same thing."

"I'm sure he did.  His father is the arsehole rod of the group really."  He smiled at his slayers.  "Buffy, get the map please?  I'm sure Xander will have a plan for us within a few days."

"She gets to plan?" one of the soldiers asked.  "Why?"

Dean looked at him. "Is it because she's female?" he taunted.

"No, but we're military!"

"Xander was possessed by someone in the Army," Buffy offered.  "Besides, Xander planned graduation."  That made them all shut up.  They'd heard.  "Good."  She went to get the map for them.  "Okay.  The portal is going to open here by the Mocha Pump in this alley," she said, pointing at it.  "We know when it'll open.  We know about where in the alley it'll open."  They all nodded.  "Giles has stuff on the demons coming through."

"There's a possible plan that since it's All Saints on their side we can use that to call up some of our own former hunters or slayers who have passed on," Giles offered.  "We're looking into it now."

"How many are we looking at?" Riley asked.

"Somewhere between ten and their whole race," Buffy told him.  "They eat flesh and blood so even vamps aren't safe this time."  They all shuddered.  "Giles, the demony pictures?"

He passed out stapled bundles of papers.  "On the demon, their weaknesses, their physiology as we know of it.  A few have crossed over in the past but never in this sort of invasion.  Xander seemed to think that their food sources were running low.  Since he's getting visions from the Powers, it's possible."  Sam walked in.  "Sam, thank you, lad."  He took the two boxes from him.  He paid him for the delivery and put those behind the counter.  "As of right now, we have no good reason to evacuate the town even if we wanted to."

"The terrain would benefit us," Riley said.  "It's a dead end alley.  What's the order, Giles?"

"We have to use magic to close it.  The ones on the ground will be fighting the tide until we can."

"Willow?" Riley asked.

Giles shook his head.  "It says one pure, one reformed, and one dark.  Tara, Ethan Rayne, and I are doing the spell to close it.  We'll have to be nearby but not too close."

"Knowing how Xander plans, what about across the street or something?" Dean suggested.  "In a shop there?  Is there a shop there?  I don't remember."

Buffy nodded.  "The donut shop is there.  We can get them to close.  They have magical ants that won't go away."

"That's one idea," Giles agreed.  "Xander will probably layer the slayers since we have three of them at the moment thanks to Willow's misdeeds.  We'll have your troop, Riley.  We'll have some help from LA's team but I'm not sure how many."

"But we've got them in a bottleneck situation so it'll be easier to keep them from exiting the alley," Riley agreed.  Giles nodded.  Dean too.  He looked at Dean.  "Can you use whatever weapons we have?  I don't know how you were trained."

"I can use a sword, but I'm not the best master at it.  Sam's a bit better.  We like guns.  Guns nice."

"Okay," Riley agreed.  "Other training?"

"Our father was a Marine," Sam told him.

"That'll work," Riley agreed.  "Buffy, Faith."  She waved and grinned.  "Do we have to worry about you?"

"Nah.  Prison made me think about stuff.  Plus, ya know, talking with Xander and Wes now and then helped.  I'm good slay gal again."

"Good," Riley said with a grin.  "Buffy could probably use the help.  They opened a new cemetery?"

"Two are full," Buffy admitted.  "With Willow being off, it's been going harder recently.  The hellmouth is a bit tied to her because she keeps closing it.  Having her knocked out won't make it open, right, Giles?"

"No, Buffy.  It won't."  She beamed at that.  "We know the invasion will be next week.  Riley, if you can find some reason for the evacuation, please do so."

"I'll do what I can with my bosses.  Let us go settle in for the week and we'll meet again tomorrow?"  Dean nodded.  "Xander?"

"Should be fine.  She's a bit dizzy, said she feels like she has a hangover, muttered about it on the way home."  That got a nod so the military left.  He looked at Buffy, then at Giles.  "I'll send Spike back.  We're going to go eat and make sure Xander sleeps and eats tonight."

"Thank you.  After all this, we'll work on the issue for your family problem and then your personal one."  Dean nodded and Sam waved before leaving.  He looked at his slayers.  "Ethan is warding her so no one can wake her?"

"Yup.  Hiding the cave and all that," Faith agreed.  "Swearing the whole time in some strange language."

Buffy nodded.  "Sounds like that growly, squeaky language, Giles.  The one the hairy, growly things use."

"He does know that one," he agreed with a small smile.  "Tara, love, make sure we have everything we'll need for the spell?  I'm sure we do but I want to double-check."  She nodded, taking the spell to gather everything together so they could move it quickly.  He looked at the slayers. "Go do a patrol tonight.  No shenanigans, Faith."

"Yes, Tweedy."  They headed out together talking about boys.  Buffy had good taste if she had bagged Riley.  Maybe she'd share.

Giles shook his head.  "We will survive this.  The group will heal after this loss," he reminded himself, going to make some tea to calm his nerves.  Too many things were happening together this month.  Plus he still had to finish his holiday shopping.


Xander looked up from her map marking, smiling at the gathering troops.  "Okay, guys.  The assault is in two days.  We know where the portal is because there's a protoportal already."  She straightened up.  "For the moment, Buffy's got a lawn chair and a latte there until it starts to open.  That way we have forewarning if they come through.  I'm hoping the first one comes through with a 'I'll give you an all clear' and can't because he dies so they give up but I'm realistic.  We have a chance in hell of that happening."  A few of the military guys nodded.  "All right.  Giles, do you have to have direct line of sight into the portal or just at the portal?"

"At the portal.  As long as we can see even an edge we're good."

"Okay, question, can they jump or climb?"

"They can."  Riley grimaced.  "Another team ran into them in the jungles of South America.  They were like monkeys."

"All right.  Then we're going to put them on top of a building and guard them.  We can remove the fire escapes so they can't get up there.  Do you want next to it, left or right, or across the street, Giles?"

"Right.  Ethan will be more comfortable."

"Okay.  You're on top of the music shop then.  We'll disable the fire escapes for that building so they can't get up them.  No one lives up there so it won't hurt other residents. Riley, can your guys handle that?"  He nodded.  "Okay, good.  I need you to put two guys on the magic workers.  They're their forward guard.  Dean, Sam, I want you both with them but Dean I have a special task for you first.  You guys are the last resort, last line of defense while the spell's being pulled off.  Am I clear?"  They both nodded.  "Good.  Dean, get into the blazer.  There's a blue box inside my sword compartment."  He went to get it.  "Buffy will be at the portal until about two hours before it opens.  Then Faith will tag her out so she can nap, potty, that stuff.  Faith,  you are our forward line of defense.  It's the most dangerous position but you're the better one of us three in cramped quarters, which you'll have.  You'll have...  Riley, how many guys do you have?"


"Okay, give Faith three, two with the magic crew.  Buffy is going to be our second line of defense.  She'll be halfway between the portal and the alley's entry."  Dean walked back in.  "This is fired into the portal.  You have to hit it dead center because the outer edges can warp where it goes.  I don't want to send it to some harmless plant demon world and have them invade next."  She handed over something.  "It's shot with this."

He looked at the gun, then nodded.  "I know how these work."

"Good.  Use the tester darts to make sure of your aim.  Once you've fired it, run like hell up another way to get back to Sam's side to guard the trio of witches."

"Got it."

"Good.  Riley, I'll let you make assignments for your own crew.  Three with Buffy, three with Faith.  The rest I want guarding the way out.  Make sure no one escapes the alley."


"We can do some of that," Angel said from the kitchen, coming out into the dim light.  "My people are better at open areas."

"Even better.  Take Market.  Have Spike take Gunn's people if they're coming?"  Angel nodded.  "Fine, you take the rest of your crew and a few of Riley's to do the Market side.  Spike and Gunn's crew do the street toward Prosper."  They all nodded.  "Riley, split the rest of your guys up between the three slayer teams.  However you decide.  I'm taking the alley entrance.  I'm better with a sword and long range weapons."

"I do have some good news.  They're killed by cold iron," Riley said.

"Giles, can you get us bullets made?"

"I have sixteen cases with us," Riley told him.  "Gold cores because they're allergic."

Xander hugged him.  "I still hate you but you're neat.  Thank you.  Will it fit nines or what sizes do you have so we know what we need to find?"

"I've got mostly nines and for our assault rifles."

"That'll work.  I've got a glock.  Xander has a few nines and Sammy can borrow one, Xander?"  Xander nodded.  "That'll help.  Thank you."

"Not an issue.  We don't want them to get loose either."  He looked at his people.  "Faith, you're taking me and my wife Sam.  Doug, you too.  You like multiple guns, it'll help.  Pete, Dave, Jacob, with Giles on the building. You're first line of defense if they get up there.  Don't worry about collateral damage unless it's a teammate or one of us."  That got a nod.  "The rest of you pick Buffy or Xander.  Layer Buffy's team between her and Faith's team.  Xander's layer between her and Buffy's but a few of you layer behind Xander to help Angel's crew."  That got a nod.  He looked at Angel.  "Will you need bullets?"

"Some of Gunn's people might but I can probably find cold iron bullets if we'll run short.  I know someone who can procure it."  That got a nod.  "Swords still work as long as they're iron?"

"Killed by a simple stab to the gut," Xander said, handing him an information packet.  "That area's the heart.  The area below it is the thing's stomach.  Sever the area between.  It's about a good foot of target for every one of them.  If you puncture the stomach they'll probably fall down and we can mop those up later."

"We can do that," Angel agreed.  "When is it due to open?"

"Seven at night.  Just after sunset so in that nice dusk time."  That got a nod.  "You and Spike arrange it however, Angel.  You're the last line of resort.  Nothing gets past your people."

"They won't."

Xander looked at the others.  "Anyone have any questions?"

"Is Anya coming?" Buffy asked.

"Anya can't fight, Buffy.  Battles creep her out.  She'd want to run during it so I'm going to let her run first.  The same as graduation and the later battles."  She nodded at that.  "If she stays, she can help Angel's group.  I'm hoping like hell they're bored.  If they are, they can move in to help us if the alley isn't too crowded.  Any other questions?"

Ethan raised a hand.  "What about the bodies afterward?  We'll be too tired to start a bonfire magically and it would be better to burn them instead of burying them.  They could be harboring any number of extraterrestrial diseases."

"Lighter fluid or gas, dude," Sam told him.  "We do it all the time.  We have plenty in the car."  That got a smirk from Ethan and Giles both.  "It works."

"It does.  The same as beheading works for most things.  These  ones will at least fall down if that's the only shot you can take.  We can burn them in the alley.  The fire department won't come out after dark.  The buildings around it are stone.  If worst comes to worst we'll move them to the field outside of town and burn them there."  That got a few nods.  "Anything else?"  No one said anything.  "Then we have just under forty-three hours to get ready, pray we over-planned this or that we're worrying for nothing, and for Giles to finish his Christmas shopping since he said he needs to.  Go rest, people.  Faith, check on Buffy now and then?  She said if you'd bring her a latte every few hours she'd love you forever and ever.  If they try to open it early she'll yell and text."  That got a nod.  "Giles, your idea?"

"As it's closing we'll try if we need the help, Xander.  We may not need it.  I'm not sure if it'll work anyway."  That got a nod from the young slayer.  "Anything else?  If not, there's pizza in the kitchen for those who want to stay and talk."  He kept Xander from moving away.  "Meeting adjourned."  He looked at her.  "What do you want for the holidays?"

"An answer to help the boys with their two battles."  Giles gave her a look.  "It can only help.  Otherwise?"  She shrugged.  "I don't know, Giles.  I wouldn't exactly plan on something I can't use until next year."

"I know you'll win, Xander."

"Maybe, but even then I'm not sure what I'm doing, Giles."

"Are you thinking of coming home?"

"Not right away."  He nodded, understanding that.  "I don't know.  I might take them home first.  I have no clue."

"All right.  I'll work on getting you clothes."  Xander laughed, shaking her head.  "Every young woman needs some clothes and all your t-shirts are lacking in color.  I almost didn't recognize you."

"Wes bought 'em."

"I could tell.  I'm surprised he didn't buy you tweed."  He walked off smiling, going to talk to Tara and his slayers.

Xander walked over to where Dean and Sam were talking.  "Giles is threatening me with new clothes."

"Think you should ask him for more stripper shoes?" Dean teased.

"Dean!" Sam complained.  Buffy looked over.  "His mind's in the gutter again."

"Isn't that Xander's job to cure?"

"Friends, Buffy.  Just friends."

Buffy smacked her on the head.  "Stupid.  Men like him are rare.  Look at the ones I've dated trying to find a good one."  She walked off shaking her head.  Someone would have to explain holding onto a good man to her.

"Sorry, she likes Cosmo," Xander quipped, cracking Sam up.

"Hey, I am a good guy, but I don't think I can settle down for a long time."

"Which works out well since we're friends," Xander agreed.

"It does," Dean agreed, smirking back.  "Stress relief?"

"Sounds excellent."  Sam whimpered.  "We'll let you sleep."

"Thanks, really."  He went to get some pizza, Dean and his stomach following.  "I can stay at one of the other houses."

"Fat chance, Sammy."

"Quit calling me that!  I'm not five."

"Oh, shut up."

Faith giggled. "I can watch Sam for a while if you and boytoy need some stress relief."

"You might mess him up," Dean shot back, making her cackle and nod.  "He needs good girls, Faith.  Ones who like to cuddle and do girly things since he acts like a teenage girl now and then."  Buffy choked. "You haven't seen him huff and pout?"  Sam punched him on the arm, making him laugh as he huffed off.  "See?"  He grabbed a piece of pizza then looked at Faith.  "As long as he can walk, he doesn't have bruises, and you don't choke him."

"I'll ride him until he's happy and sleepy.  No choking.  Might mess up his pretty hair."

"Then go hit on my baby brother."  He walked back to where Xander was reading something.  "Future research?"

"Yeah, figured I could start on it now."  She looked up and smiled.  "Wanna blow this?"

"Thought you said you had too many teeth," he joked.

"Doesn't mean I can't try."  Dean laughed and nodded, walking out with him.  They could get dinner later and stake the vampire delivery boy too.  Even more stress relief.


Xander looked at the portal that was opening, shifting closer to Dean.  "You sure you can make it?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," he said, focusing on the sight.  As soon as the portal started to open and the first one came out, he aimed at one's chest and blew it back into the hole.  There was a muted explosion but they kept coming.  He looked at Xander.

"They're not immune to the flu.  That' a fast acting bio-hazard strain; they're going to have to recover to do this again," she said.  "Go hit Sam."  He nodded, hurrying up to the interior staircase so he could help guard the ones trying to close the portal.  Xander looked at them.  "The chest, people!" she shouted.  One made it past Buffy's group so she moved up and took a swing.  The gun would be for those in too close of range.  They were still coming but he could hear the chanting picking up.  They were on the third stanza, ten more to go.  A few were trying to climb the building.  "Riley!  Behind you!"  One of the other soldiers turned and fired on them, going back to the ones pouring out like water out of a spigot.

More were getting past Buffy so she was going to step up and make sure they didn't get past her.  How they would've stopped this with only one slayer he wasn't sure.  He felt a wind start behind him and looked, glaring at the ghost.  "Fine, stay, help.  Cold iron if you have it."  She shot one and moved in to swing at another one.  It went down even though she only got the stomach area.  That was fine, injured was fine.  More were coming.  Ninth stanza.  The portal was starting to shrink.  Only a few were getting past her team.  Angel's team had moved in to help contain them.  A last few popped out and these were fiercer.  They ran over the soldiers, literally.  One headed for Xander so he shot it then the next one.  Another one managed to get up so Buffy swung and finished it.  Xander checked her watch.  "Damn, ten minutes to save the world.  We beat the graduation time!"

Buffy looked back at him. "Go us!  Now what?"

"Salt and burn, Buffy."  She grimaced.  "Fine, go bandage injuries, we'll salt and burn.  Giles, you guys okay?"

"Yes," he called down, leaning over the side of the building.  "Dear Lord, there's a lot of them."

Xander looked at the bodies littering the alley.  "Ya think?"  The ghost behind him laughed so he looked.  "We were expecting anywhere from ten to ten thousand.  Looks like close to two hundred.  And damn my shoulders hurt."  She rubbed one.  Dean came over to get it for her.  "Thanks."  She looked at the ghost, then at him.  Then back at the ghost.  "Am I the only one who can see you?"

"Probably.  Why are my sons here?"

"The Powers said so, John."  Dean stiffened.  "Giles, can you make the ghosts appear?"  A short chant from Ethan and they did.  "I know, you missed Halloween?"

"I figured it worked well there," he said dryly, shrugging a bit.  "I'm not going to bring back  your parents.  I have no desire to smell them.  That one can help Ripper when he needs to make the girls see sense.  Since your partnership seems to be so beneficial to the cause and all that."

"Thank you.  Okay, someone get the gas and let's start piling bodies."  She put her gun into Dean's hand then the sword onto his belt.  "Hold those for me."  She started to move bodies with Faith, who was grimacing.  "Want to do killing blows to make sure?"

"No.  I'm too tired to care if they burn alive," she said, looking at him.

"Go get bandaged, Faith."

She nodded, walking around the frozen young man at the alley.  "Angel, he could use some help with the piling and burning."

"Sure."  He nudged Dean on the way past.  "Get the gas?"

"Yeah, sure."  He went to do that, finding Sam doing the same thing and looking very pissed.  "Did you punch Ethan?"

"Yeah, twice."

"Thanks for getting one in for me."  They carried back the gas cans, ignoring the curious looking cops.  "Xander, natives."

Xander looked over and grinned, waving.  "The invasion was stopped."

The cop just nodded.  "Don't burn the buildings."

"They're stone.  It's only gas.  Shouldn't take that long.  We can guard the fire crew if you want."  That got a nod and he went to call them.  Xander started to splash bodies, hearing a few groan from the pain.  "We should do killing blows."

"Yeah," Dean said.  "I'm not going to unpile them."  He lit a match and pulled Xander back, flipping it onto the fire.  "Almost cheery if it didn't stink."

"Nearly as good as the pre-football game bonfires."  They shared a smirk and went to get more gas and the last few parts to toss onto the pile.  They were helped by Angel and Wes, then they sat there to watch the fire crew's backs just in case vampires decided now was a good time for a snack.

"Anyone want a latte?" Buffy called.  "The Mocha Pump's still open."

"Get me a soda please?" Xander called.

"Sure.  Diet?"  She sent a glare at her and Buffy grinned.  "Well,  you *are* a girl now, Xander."

"I have another three battles before St. Patrick's Day, bite your tongue.  I need the calories.  Diet," she muttered, shaking her head.  "Sacrilege."

Dean patted her on the back.  "You don't have to come to ours."

"Shut up, Dean."  She looked at him.  "Before I find a trashy cheerleader outfit and pompoms."

"You can do that if you want," he offered with a bright grin.  Sam gave him an odd look from her other side.  "We could use a cheering section."

"I don't want to see her in some fantasy cheerleader getup, Dean.  Get your head out of the gutter.  Please?"  The ghost laughed.  He glared.  "Don't make me banish you."  Buffy handed him a cup of cocoa, getting a smile.  "Thanks, Buffy."

"You're welcome.  We should celebrate."  She handed Xander her non-diet soda.  Dean got some coffee.  She walked off with her cold latte and waved at the ghost.  "We're going to the Magic Box.  It'll be less insane there.  They'll show up later because Giles said so.  Want walked that way?"

"No, I'll be fine, miss."


John Winchester frowned.  "The slayer Buffy?"

She took a sip, nodding.  "Yeah, thanks for the lending of the sons.  Came in handy and they do make Xander stay a little bit sane.  Which is probably a good thing.  Plus, hey, Xander's all helpy and stuff with them so they can beat bigger demons."

"Buffy, babbling, sounding like me," Xander called.

"No, I'd never wear that shirt," she called back without having to look at what he was wearing.

"It's one of the ones Wes bought," she complained.

"Yeah, but you look like a butch, truck drivin' lesbian who chews tobacco, Xander.  Sorry.  Wes, man, fashion is *good* for us.  We'll teach you alllll about it when you and Giles help Faith and I shop."  She took his arm and walked him off, smiling at the ghost.  "Might as well.  They're probably going to do the 'we saved the world' groping soon."  John coughed and floated after her.  He wanted answers and surely someone would have some for him soon.

Dean leaned closer to Xander's ear.  "The birth control patch was in place last time, right?  There's no way to have him born as our kid?"  Xander shuddered and shook her head.  "Thank you, God."

"Dess," Xander corrected.  "She's over that stuff."  She took a sip of her soda, smiling at the fireman.  "Hi."

"What were they?"

"Demons from another plane here to eat us."  She used a piece of wood in the alley to pull one out for him.  "See?"  He went pale and backed away.  "Pretty standard gas fire."

"Sure.  The ashes or remains or whatever?"

"Toss 'em," Sam told him.  "Salt them first."  That got a nod and the fire crew came in to watch the fire for them while they went to watch for vampires.

Angel walked over to them.  "You three go back to the Magic Box so Giles can make sure you're fine and quits fussing.  We'll make sure they're not eaten."

"Sure," Dean said.  "I want to punch someone."  They walked that way, finishing their drinks outside before heading in.  "Hey," he said when he spotted Faith.

"Your dad just told Buffy to worry less about her clothes and hair."

"Sammy used to get that lecture."  Their father floated over and Xander ducked off to go yell at Ethan for them.  "Sir."

"Sir," Sam said.

"Boys.  Didn't I tell you we're not supposed to be in this town?"

"They needed us.  Besides, the Powers told us we had to team up with Xander to help each other with major demon problems.  This is just the warmup," Sam told him.

Dean nodded.  "We had three slayers and the old evil that was running the town died last year."

John groaned.  "I still don't like it, boys."

"Yay," they said in unison.

"So, Dad, how's the afterlife?" Dean asked.  "Any pretty girls?"

"No, unfortunately not."

"Mom?" Sam asked quietly.

"She's still screaming at me so I see her now and then.  She's fine, Sam.  Mostly happy with everything but me.  She's not mad at you for anything."  Sam beamed at that.  "She's a bit pissed that you didn't go back to law school yet.  She wants you to have a normal life too."

"Yeah, well, three more demons and then we'll see," Dean told him.  "Two for us, one for Xander," he explained at the heated look.

"What is Xander?"

"Born and bred here," Xander said from behind him.  "Ask me yourself.  I don't need to use the Sam mouthpiece system at the moment."  Sam giggled.  "You do it very well."  She looked at the ghost again.  "I'm the last slayer called."

"You...  There's no way you're natural."

Xander shrugged. "I was born and bred here, John."

"Mr. Winchester, girl."

She laughed.  "I helped fight off an ascension last year.  You don't scare me."  The ghost gaped.  "For that matter, there's not much left that does.  I was sent to help your boys with their problems.  They agreed to help me with mine.  Take it at face value because I don't feel like retelling that whole tale here."  She stared at him.  "Now, anything else?  If not, I'm going to go to my former house, Dean."

"Go for it.  See you later."

"I'll stay over tonight so you can have the long talk and yell."  She punched them on the arm.  "Want walked back?"

"Nah.  We're good.  If we have to, we can ask Faith."

"Sure.  That way I can mess up Sam's hair again."  Sam blushed.  "Awww, so cute."

"Not in front of my father," Sam pleaded.  "Faith!"

"Fine."  She walked them back, letting the ghost follow.  Xander had already disappeared into the dark.  "It went better than I expected."

"Casualties?" Dean asked.

"One of Riley's boys.  A few broken bones, some major cuts.  Xander?"

"Didn't say anything but she wouldn't," Sam admitted.  "Dean?"

"We had the best spot," he said quietly.  "I'm a bit tired but nothing got past us.  Scratches, Sammy?"

"A few.  One's nails got my arm.  One bit me."  He shrugged.  "I'll be fine."  They turned down their street.  "When are Riley and his people heading?"

"Tomorrow.  They get to go home for the holidays since they're in the states.  It was a bonus to coming up here," she said, grinning at him.  "Xander does plan good fights."

"She does," Dean agreed.  "Think she'd really find the cheerleader outfit?"

Sam moaned, holding his head.  "Dean!"

"What?  It'll help distract the demon."

"Not really!"

Faith giggled. "You two are so cute."  She pinched Sam on the ass.  She knew pinching Dean would make Xander pout.  Dean gave her a look.  "Xander would whip my ass in practice tomorrow if I groped you.  There's a clear 'hands off' sign above your head."

"We're casual, Faith.  Relax."  So she pinched him too, making him yelp.  "No slayer strength," he complained, rubbing the sore spot.  She laughed.  "That's us," he reminded her.  She nodded, opening the door and looking around before leaving.  "Night."

"Night.  Hope you get some sleep.  He looks like he's been sucking on sour starbursts."  She strolled off.  She could see the candlelight flickering in Xander's old place.  So she was settled.  She snuck around to the back door and inside.  "Hey, boytoy, wanna talk?"

"No thanks," she called from upstairs.  "I've got to plan when we're doing the spell for the guys."

"You okay?"

"Sore shoulders.  Nothing else."  She smiled when Faith came in.  "I'm fine."

"If you're sure."  She patted her on the back.  "Think it'll show up if you do the spell?"

"Yeah.  We have to do it close to the time the contract ends or it'll invalidate it."  She nodded.  "Thanks for checking, Faith."

"Not an issue.  Happy sleeps, sweetie."  She left, making sure the door was closed behind her.  Her trek back to the Magic Box was okay.  Spike met her on it.  "They're in for the night."

"That's fine.  Watcher wants the whelp in the morning."

"She'll be in for sparring."

"Good.  Chaos boy's already fleeing in terror for calling that one back."

"Yeah, I'm taking it that he's not happy with his boys or Dean's choice."

"Shit happens," Spike said bluntly.  "Whelp?"

"Her house."

"Sure."  He lit up and they walked back together, doing a short turn through the new cemetery to make sure nothing was rising.  A few vampires staked and they went back there.  Giles looked at them.  "Did a turn."

"That's fine.  Xander?"

"Her house.  She'll be in for sparring.  She said she's figuring on when the best time for the next fight is."

"That's fine," Giles agreed.

"Noticed something," Spike offered.  "Some of the vamps are painting invitation symbols on the empty houses."

"The beautification society wants to repaint them all, this'll give them a good reason.  Graffiti," Buffy said.  She looked at Giles.  "So, their dad seemed kinda like the broomstick riding sort.  Like Travers is."

"By his reputation he could be," Giles sighed.  "I'm hoping he can leave town with the boys."

"I'm sure boytoy will *love* that," Faith said dryly.

Giles laughed.  "I doubt it.  Is everyone all right?"  They nodded.  "Then go home.  You deserve a night off.  Even if there are more vampires in town."  They went to get ice cream and watch movies.  Buffy had decided Faith was going to be treated like a normal human being so she was going to make her watch movies with her.  Angel and his crew would fade into the darkness back to LA within the next few hours.  He looked over as Wesley came in.  "Are all your team all right?"

"A few scratches, one who stepped on his sword.  Otherwise fine.  The others?"

"One dead.  Fell and was trampled.  A few broken bones.  Riley and his team are heading home for the holidays tomorrow so they have time to rest.  The three girls are all fine as they reported."

"Did anyone think to check Xander?"

"No but I'm sure Dean or Sam will.  Even if their father does complain."

"Quite possibly."  He smiled.  "What are we getting for Xander?"

"A few gift certificates and some more money so she doesn't have to pickpocket the vampires she's staking for gas money.  You?"

"Probably about the same.  I'm worried it might not be necessary past February."

"She'll be fine, Wesley.  She's a strong soul.  She always has been.  It shows in how much she could irritate you to make you relax."  The younger former watcher laughed. "Want some tea?"

"Please.  The coffee house only had tea bags and ungodly flavored mixes.  Real tea is not rhubarb and raspberry plum."

"We do have some hippies around here," Giles said dryly, walking him into the kitchen to make tea.


Dean came out of his shower and flopped down on the bed beside Sam, looking at their staring father.  "Okay, I'm clean, he's clean."  He nudged Sam, getting a snore.  "He's asleep.  What's up, Dad?"

"What are you doing here?"

"You didn't listen when Xander said it?"  John gave him a look that should've made him want to wet himself.  Dean only shrugged.  "Xander got turned into a slayer by a local witch."

"She gone?"

"In a magical coma having her powers bled off into the hellmouth again."  John groaned.  "She did what we did to save her girlfriend.  Xander was the price she paid, without his consent.  Then she changed him into a girl and a slayer on top of it.  The Powers helped her escape the town to get away from her and sent her to help us.  She found out what we need to do so I can get free of how I saved Sammy's life."  Sam mumbled something.  "She also knows how to summon the one that's a vendetta in this family."  John shifted some.  "Mr. Giles at the Magic Box is a former Watcher.  He's helped both of us.  Another former Watcher showed up to help train her in her new body and us a little bit in how to help her.  It helps with our own training.  Then we worked together on how to do things.  She got us some of the ingredients we need for our fight.  We're helping her train for her own."

"She can't hope to win."

"She was given against her will.  She has that chance," Dean said.  "She's a slayer and we do have some idea of what we're doing."  John scowled again.  "Dad, lay off it."

"She has your scent on her."

"Yeah, stress relief, Dad.  That was an alien demon invasion just now."  His father huffed just like Sam did.  "So that's where he gets it from."  He grinned at the renewed scowl.  "The Powers sent her to Pastor Jim.  He vetted her first and called us.  She's good but she's got some soul-deep scars.  We've been helping each other a lot.  She balances us out."

"And the fact that she's unnatural?"

"Not like she asked for it," Dean said coolly.  "And that's all I'm saying on it, Father."  His father floated backward.  "She didn't ask for any of that.  She was more than happy to live the life she used to have before the witch went off the deep end because she lost her soulmate.  She paid the price for that witch and we're going to help her."

"I'm not debating it's right.  I'm debating letting her go on hunts."

"She's a slayer.  She can hunt without us.  She probably has.  We've been refining her skills since she's only been a slayer now for about half a year.  Only been a girl the same amount of time."  John sighed.  "This was such a big shock to her that she quit eating when they told her it can't be reversed," he said quietly.  "Xander is a very good friend who's helped us even when things got bad this last half year.  Even when I turn dark and want to kill people.  Especially that one because he's been sucking in his sleep."  He nodded at his little brother.

"So you're having sex with her?"

"We agreed it was stress relief and a casual thing.  She's not that clingy but it had to happen for the spell we need to do.  I've taught her a lot about being a real woman."

"That's funny, you don't look like one," John shot back.

Dean gave him a look.  "No, but I do watch them.  If you got to know Xander it might help, Dad.  She's a nice girl with the same sort of calling we have only for different reasons."

"She'll help you get the demon who killed your mother?"

Dean nodded.  "Because of her we found we can call it and kill it that way."  John nodded once.  "Sam could've left and he didn't.  That was his choice.  He knows that normal things aren't for us.  Anything else you wanted to nag over?"

"You're going to end up doing things with Sam that aren't right soon."


"Because it's the only way to keep him safe.  It'll taint him enough that he won't be possessed again."

"Is that why he's been getting those nightmares?"  John nodded.  "You know that's creepy, right?"

"Yes but I'm sure you'll be protecting your brother very well, Dean."  He stared at his son, who sighed, shaking his head.  "You could let her help if she's that nice."

"Dad, she's not a hooker.  She's a friend.  Even we Winchesters have to have friends."  He scooted down and Sam moaned, shifting to lay on his stomach.  "I should spank you," he told him.  He looked at his amused father again.  "The vampires locally have been stealing beds."

"Interesting.  Why?"

"Don't know.  They're making some sort of dorm thing.  Buffy had it."

"She's really a slayer?  In that outfit?  She was wearing lace and pink and had her nails done."

"Some girls are like that, Dad," Dean said dryly.  "Xander said the Watchers never raised her.  Why didn't you tell us about them?"

"They're elitist snobs with issues that I won't put up with."

"Wes said they like to shoot those sort."

"While that's wonderful, the rot goes pretty far up the tree.  That Giles guy is a watcher?"

"Fired for giving a damn according to Xander."

"Oh.  This Wes person?"

"Fired too.  Trained Xander."

"Whatever," John decided.  "You know I'm proud, right?"

"Not really."

"Well, I am.  You've handled this stuff very well.  Even if you have had to make some  unholy alliances."

"Lay off Xander."

"Fine.  What about after your two are done?"

"We're helping Xander with hers.  Then we'll try to make her stay around."  John looked stunned.  "She's not exactly a happy woman.  She didn't want to be changed over.  She didn't want her best friend to sell her either."

"Fine, I'll get to know her."

"Please do," Dean agreed.

"Do we perhaps like her more than just friends?"

Dean shrugged.  "I'm not ready to settle down yet.  She's not sure if she's got a future.  Doesn't really matter."

"Son, you're an idiot.  In that sort of fight having a reason is the one thing that can make you win."

"She has a reason.  She knows I'm another one of many reasons."  John slumped.  "Sorry, but her biggest nightmare to date was having kids."

"Pity.  They'd be strong and beautiful children."

"Yay.  I raised Sammy.  I've already had my kid."  He stared at his father until he floated backward some.  "Anything else, Dad?"

"Get some sleep, Dean.  You're cranky."  He faded out, going to watch the young woman.

Xander looked up.  "I'm a slayer, I can feel ghosts," she said bluntly.  John faded in.  "Go away.  I don't need more nagging bastards trying to tell me what to do.  Especially not one who couldn't face his sons down and tell them that they were good boys."  John gave her a horrified look.  "Anything else?"

"I don't think...."

"John Winchester, this is my house.  Do you feel the resonance here?"  He did that and shuddered.  "I know more than you think, mister, so get the hell out of my house.  I'm not putting up with shit from anyone tonight.  I don't need people telling me how to win my fight or how to help others unless it's constructive help.  Nagging me and bitching at me about things that I had no control over aren't."

"Okay," he said, floating away from her.  She was gripping the pencil like a stake. He wasn't sure if it'd hurt or  not but he didn't want to find out.  "I wasn't going to nag.  Dean said you're a friend and I wanted to get to know my son's friend."

Xander snorted.  "And I believe that."  She got back to work. "I'm trying to research something.  What did you want?"

"Why are you so hostile toward me?"

"Because the first thing you said wasn't 'nice to see you', 'you look good', or even 'nice job with the demons, sons'.  It was nagging them that they weren't supposed to be here to stop the end of the world.  From what I'm told parents do, there should've been some love before then."  She got back to the old book.  "Anything else?"

"You love my son."

"With the way my soul aches most of the time there's no room for love anymore," she said bluntly, staring at him.  "In case he didn't tell you I'm like this because my best friend since I was five betrayed me to save her lover.  She so fucked up my life that she screwed centuries and generations of work in the slayer line.  She so fucked up everything in the world so your boys are going to have to do jobs they shouldn't have to.  And she did it to me because she decided she could sacrifice me before it was time to get around the deal."  John shuddered at her cold tone and she didn't care.  "So no, I'm hurting for whole different reasons, John.  Yes, I love your boys.  They're as close to me as my made family used to be.  That's as close as I can be right now.  Sorry, my soul's in shreds and it's not got the slayer healing special ability."

"Dean said he's helped you a lot."

"He has.  He's kept me from going off the deep end many times.  He kept me from drinking myself to death.  He's made me eat when I couldn't force myself.  He makes me sleep now and then too.  He's a great guy.  Anything else?  I can't just up and retire from being a slayer.  I'll die a slayer.  Whether I'm eighty or twenty-one I'll still die being a slayer.  I'm not going to take them with me if that's what you're worried about."

"Right now I'm more worried about you.  Need a shrink?  Even the military has ones for combat veterans who've seen too much."

"I reached that point my first year of slaying, back in tenth grade."  She stood up.  "I'm twenty now.  Almost twenty-one.  I'll be spending my twenty-first birthday in hell if I can't fight my way free of my best friend's deal.  Now, can I get back to my research?  Please?  I doubt the demons are going to bake me a cake or anything."  John nodded, fading out.  Xander sighed and sat down to get back to work.  This was more important.  Dean had to win his first.  Then they could call the family demon before Xander had to fight hers.  Of course, the boys would be off on a case at that point because she'd send them off.   That brought up another thought.  She could designate who would be allowed at the challenge and how many spectators there were as witnesses.  Maybe one of them would guard Tara for her?  She rubbed her sore shoulder and got up to take some tylenol.  Then she went to the basement to practice in the dark.  It was pitiful but she needed to practice.  She wasn't very good, even after all the time she'd spent training so far she was pitiful.  She heard a floorboard creak. "Go away," she called.

Spike came down the stairs.  "Giles wanted to make sure you're getting some sleep tonight."

"Let me practice for a few hours first, Spike."  She looked at her form then at him.  "Want to spar?"

He stared at her, looking confused.  "You hate me."

"You fight better than I do and I have to be able to beat you to beat that other one, Spike."

"So why should I help you?"

"Because if I don't win, he can take Tara too.  You like Tara."

Spike stared at her for a minute.  He'd let her get away with that he decided.  He came over.  "No swords.  Don't want the slayer reflexes to come into play right now."  Xander put it down and came back, attacking him.  He defended, pushing her back.  "You're fighting your instincts, love."

"Not your love, Spike.  Please tell me Dru is being batty somewhere else?" she begged.

"Brazil, slime demon," he complained.  He stopped her by knocking her down.  "Your instincts are built from slayers past," he reminded her.  "Use them."

"I can't tap into them.  I can tap into the hyena easier."  She stood up.  "The weapons instincts come through, not this stuff.  Dean had to start over with Wes to train me in hand-to-hand."

Spike huffed.  "It's never easy for you, is it?"

"No.  Apparently I'm not that blessed this life.  I'm thinking I ate live babies like hotdogs the last one with how this one is going."   She attacked again and he fought her off.  She was pushing the slayer boundary and let it slip over.  He took her more seriously and it was a better fight.  Still not great.  She was learning though.  She countered a rush by Spike.  Something she had trouble with most of the time.  She mentally cheered but Spike was still pushing her back and kicking her ass.  She  pushed him back and pushed the slayer skills harder.  They weren't going to answer her this time.  "Damn it!" she said suddenly, turning and walking off.

"You're still human, whelp."

"The ghost told me I'm an unnatural being," she shot back bitterly.

"Well, this town does taint."  He moved closer.  "Not bad.  Not for six months."

"Six months as a slayer, Spike.  I should be better.  I have to be better."

"Every slayer picks a way to fight that's solely hers," he told her.  "You're trying to use Buffy's and Faith's.  It doesn't work.  You're bigger, you're more muscular.  You're more attuned to weapons."

"If I challenge he gets to choose the weapon."

"So?"  Spike shrugged.  "Only so many he can choose."

"He could pull up a nuclear bomb, Spike.  There's no limit."

"I know that.  Won't do him much good."

"If I die he wins.  That's not that hard to do with something like a bomb."

"That takes the fun out of it."  Xander looked confused.  "The ones who challenge that sort make their day, whelp.  Gives 'em some entertainment.  You're still human and you can only do what you can do.  Find your own style.  Use what's in you and what you know best."  He punched her on the arm that was clearly sore.  "Also, get the boyfriend to work on that shoulder before it dislocates."

"I'm fine.  Thank you."

"Sleep before the Watcher uses me for a rug."  He left her alone to pace in the dark and think about what he said.  He respected the kid.  He didn't want to see her in hell.  He ran into Dean standing outside.  "Smoke break?" he said dryly.

"Not tired at the moment.  Xander?"

"Frustrated.  Trying to use everyone's style but her own."

Dean nodded.  "She's still in pain, Spike.  It's not easy."

"No, but her shoulder's about to come off."

"She bleeding again?"

Spike shrugged.  "Didn't sniff."  He strolled off.  "Better sleep.  Watcher wants to go over your plans tomorrow sometime.  Cute little pagan girlies come in tomorrow afternoon."

"Thanks."  He could learn to respect that vampire.  His father faded in next to him.  "That was Spike."  Spike smirked back at him before turning the corner.  "He's fighting with Buffy."

"I saw them sparring.  She shows your style."

"Someone had to teach her.  She didn't get it here."  He walked over to that house, finding the door locked.  Not that it was a good lock so it was easily picked with his license.  He walked down to where he could hear noise, finding Xander pacing around in circles.  "Sleep."

"Fuck sleep."

"That's one way to get to sleep."  Xander glared at him.  "Your shoulder?"

"Wrenched trying to use a sword, yet again.  The official way sucks and hurts my shoulder.  I told Wes that and he insisted."

"You can't do things the official way, Xander.  You don't have a sword up your ass.  You're not that straight or you'd never go blow off steam at a strip club.   Buffy's a nice girly sort of girl who likes pink and worries about her nails and hair.  Faith's got a darker core due to her upbringing."

"I had the same sort she had," Xander said.

"With a different outcome.  Faith's wary of everyone.  You weren't before you got screwed over.  Being here is bad for you."

"We need to summon your family problem here," she reminded him, moving closer.

"So?  I can have my fight anywhere.  So can you.  Yes we need to do that one here.  Give us a few days and we'll do it after the holidays.  Then we'll head somewhere less evil and with less memories so you can calm down and make plans."

"I need the books here and he'll try to bring me back here."

"He can't bring you back here.  As for the research, call.  Giles would fax it I'm sure."

"Giles can't use a computer."

"So?  Sam can."  He smirked.  "We'll get through it."

Xander shook her head.  "You guys need to be far away from mine."

"Fat chance.  If you can have pompoms at ours, I can have some for you.  I'll even put Sam in the short skirt.  How 'bout it?"

Xander stared at him.  "Dean, you could die during yours, but if I go then he can take Willow and Tara too.  The world can end if I lose mine.  I want you two safer."

"If the world ends and we're in it, it's not safe there either."  She slumped.  "Tough.  Suck it up.  If we're like your family now, we're going to be there.  Winchesters don't abandon each other."  Xander gave him a look.  "Dad's obsessed.  We know that."

"You did a good job raising Sam," Xander said quietly.

Dean grinned.  "Thanks.  Means I don't have to have any kids in the future.  His'll be my grandkids."  She laughed.  "Thank you.  Now, shoulder?  And why didn't you let anyone know?"

"It's just wrenched.  I'll heal.  I always do."

"Uh-huh."  Dean drug her back upstairs to the bedroom with the lit candle in it.  He looked around.  "Your old room?"

"Not like I want to use their room."

"Probably a good idea."  He sat her down on her bed, taking her shirt off her, watching when she hissed and winced.  "That's more than a wrenched shoulder, Xander."  He gently probed it, frowning some.  "Feels like it's starting to separate."

"It's fine.  It needs some rest.  I won't lift anything heavy tomorrow."

"Sure."  He checked her for other bruises. "Not too bad.  A few cuts from nails.  A few bite marks."  She looked confused so he pointed.  She looked then shook her head.  He sat next to her.  "I've never seen you drop into a state where you didn't know what was going on, Xander."

"I can't access all the slayer instincts.  My natural ones are taking over," she admitted, looking at her lap.  "The hyena, the soldier, and my old ones are still stronger."

"Okay, so we use that to craft your own personal style of fighting."  Xander looked confused.  "That's who you are.  How you fight reflects that.  The same as Faith is all stealth and theft, Buffy's all karate moves and flips.  You can do those but they're not natural to you.  You needed a foundation in them but you need more to find your own way, one that fits your body."

"That's what Spike said."

"He's got to have a point.  I watched him during the fight.  He's not bad."

"He beat Buffy a number of times.  Killed two other slayers."

"Then he's clearly good."  Dean kissed her on the forehead.  "Sleep, Xander.  You have to sleep.  Then we can figure things out."

"I'm too wound."

"Yeah, me too."  He kissed her on the lips.  "Stress relief again?"

"Isn't that making it become a habit?" she said with a grin.

"Probably."  He shrugged. "Hell, Dad said I had to do stuff with Sam to taint him so he couldn't be possessed again."

"I wonder if that'd work for me."

"Probably not.  You don't have a brother."

"Thank the Gods."

Dean looked at her.  "Show me around?"  Xander shook her head.  "Please?"  Dean stood up, puling her up.  "You've got to get over it sometime.  Midnight's a good time for that."  He walked her downstairs, looking around the living room.  There were almost no pictures.  There were pictures of a boat.  One that clearly came with the frame and had never been replaced.  "No pictures?"

"No one to take pictures and no one who cared to remember the past."

"That sucks.  Dad got the important things on film at least."  He walked around the room, kicking over an empty bottle of scotch.  He noticed a few other empties.  "Did they get kidnaped?"

"I'm the only one who ever cleaned."  She leaned against a wall.  "I wouldn't advise looking in the kitchen.  You'll get sick."  He looked anyway, coming out green from the long dirty dishes growing mold and the bugs on them.  "The sad thing is it looked about like that the day I moved out."  She took his hand to lead him down to the basement.  "I stayed down here for a few months before I finally got to move out.  Paid a really high rent for it too."  He growled. "Sorry.  Maybe we should just go sleep."

"No.  This is good.  Did you leave anything?"

Xander looked at him.  "Anything I left is long gone, Dean.  They were drunks.  If it could be sold it was sold."  He simply nodded so Xander looked in a closet.  There wasn't anything in there.  He led him back upstairs.  "This is the bathroom."  He let him see it.  "With the electric off there's no hot water or anything."  He looked in the main bedroom.  "Their room."

"Looks like they left in a hurry."  He got the candle and came in, pulling Xander with him.  She had to face this sometime.  "They left the penny jar."

Xander opened a drawer, looking at the check inside.  "Their last SSI check."  He looked inside.  "Looks like the police overestimated when they left."  She looked around, finding a few more things.  Her baby book and birth certificate were in a box in the closet.  A leather jacket he had bought and had stolen by his mother.  "I thought she sold that."  She pulled it out to try on.  "It still fits.  I'm amazed."  It got tossed onto the end of the bed and she looked at the rest of the closet.  "I should burn that. They won't take it for donation."  She  moved over to look at her father's dresser.  "He would've killed me or sold me if he knew what she did," she said quietly.  Dean came up behind her to give her a hug.  "Whichever would've gotten him more money."  She opened a drawer with a sigh, looking at the box.  "His stash."  She opened the box to show off the drugs.  The lid fell closed and she looked around it, finding a bit of hidden cash.  Another stash was found in the sock drawer and that one was added to the other one.  The third stash under the bed had more money so she took that too.  The first two cigar boxes got put into the bigger box and carrying case.  "I guess he was selling to pay off his dealer."

"Maybe."  He watched her look over things, touching a picture.  He looked at it.  "She was pretty when she was younger."

"Yeah and then she got married and had me.  She said it ruined her figure, her face, and her life."  Dean gave her a squeeze around the waist.  "I'm fine.  I'm over their bullcrap."

"No matter how old you get it still hurts," he said gently.  "Mine still does."  Xander looked at him.  "Really.  I was about to banish my father earlier."

"I  yelled when he showed up.  Told him good parents would've said 'hello', 'you did good', something like that before they started to nag."

"Probably.  Never had one."  He grinned at her.  "At least my version of fucked up understands yours."

"True.  It's nice that they can mesh and complain in our psyches together."

"Very."  He looked around.  "Need anything else?"

"Yeah, a few things."  She walked over to her mother's dresser and opened a drawer, pulling out the flask inside.  She looked at it, running a finger over it.  "This was my trust fund from my grandmother."  It went onto the leather jacket and then she found something else, pulling out the old shoe box.  "All the pictures that were ever taken."  She put that onto her jacket too and then carried them over to her room, getting into a stash she hadn't had time to move before.  It got shoved into her pocket.

"Weed?" he joked.

"Sleeping pills.  They used to fight for days on end and I couldn't sleep."

"No wonder you can go days without now."  He found the dresser in the near darkness.  It was mostly empty.  He found a small book in the bottom drawer.  "What's this?"

Xander came over to take it, running a hand over it.  "Memories I'm not sure I want."

Dean found an empty box in the closet, stuffing the book and everything else into it.  "C'mon.  Got a liquor stash?"

"Maybe."  They went down there to check the cabinets.  They weren't going to touch the food but there was a whole cabinet of cigarettes and liquor.  "Monthly liquor binge buying.  Mostly stuff they couldn't remember that they don't like."  She found a few plastic bags, making sure they didn't have bugs before loading in the liquor.  She checked one last cabinet, finding an unfamiliar jacket in it.  She pulled it out to look at it, snickering.  "Now I know what happened."  She called the Magic Box on her cellphone.  "Send Spike to my old place please, Faith?"  She hung up and dug into the pockets, finding some more money and an ID.  "Think I could pass?" she asked.

He looked.  "Yeah, you cut your hair.  Could be.  Lost weight excuse.  We can change out the picture for you, Xander."  She held up the passport.  "Sweet."  Xander grinned.  "Good girl. I know I trained you well."  Someone tapped and walked in.  "Hey, Spike."  She finished searching the jacket, coming out with a small doll.  She held it up.  Spike moaned.  So Xander handed over the jacket.  "Whose is that?"

"Dru's," Spike said miserably.

"Which means she decided to take care of my parents," Xander said dryly.  "Thank Her Looniness for me?"

"O'course.  I love my dark princess.  You'd make a nice substitute."

Xander smirked.  "Did you know my father had drugs in the house?"

"No," he said slowly.  "Really?  Any weed?"  Xander dug out a few joints and handed them over with the cartons of cigarettes.  "Thanks, whelp.  Nice'a you.  Need to unwind after the battle."

"Us too," Dean agreed.  He went to get the book Xander had been researching from, bringing it back down to find Xander looking in a drawer.  "Is that safe?"  Xander held up a small paper bag.  "Do I want to know what's in there?"  Xander dumped them out.  Among the bugs were two sets of wedding rings and a nice solitaire.  "Real?"

Xander shrugged. "I can have them appraised.  I figure if we need it they can go into the disguise kit.  She thought she had lost the first one.  My father's only sentimental thing in the last thirty years was to get her a second set.  I rescued the first from a pipe."

"It would make the married lie go easier."

Spike coughed and smirked at him.  "You do know in fifteen states if you check into a motel as married, you're considered common law married?  That's how Dru tricked me into it."  He walked off with the velvet duster.   He ran into Buffy, holding it up.  "Found in the whelp's closet."

"Dru decided she needed to be drunk and get indigestion?"  Spike nodded.  "Interesting.  Xander know?"

"She found it with Dean.  Boy's good.  Share a blunt?"

"Hell no."  She sneered.  "You do pot?"

"Now and then.  Not like I can get hooked.  Just mellow and calm."  He smirked.  "Whelp's dad's stash.  She's cleaning it out."

"Good, hopefully they can burn that too since both brothers seem to be pyros."

Spike laughed, walking off to the Watcher's.  Giles looked up from his reading.  He held up the duster.  "Whelp's kitchen closet."

"Druscilla ate them?" he demanded, looking disgusted.  Spike smirked and nodded.  Giles took off his glasses to clean.  "Does Xander know?"

"She found it and her father's drug stash."  He generously  put down one of the joints before walking off.

Giles stared at it before putting it into his pocket.  He'd think about it later.


Dean led Xander back to the house, putting down the box and bags, then led her up to bed.  Sam was hogging it but a poke made him shift over.  "There, now we can sleep."

"Dean, no kinky things."

He kissed her.  "No kinky things.  My father might still be watching."  She laughed, giving him a hug.  "Good.  Now, strip, woman."  He got down to his boxers and slid into bed.  She slid in next to him, cuddling up to his side.  "There, more normal."  He stroked her back.  "You okay?"

"I'll be fine."

"Good.  Giles wants to see us tomorrow."

"That's fine."  She yawned, resting her head on his shoulder.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  If we had a house, I'd let you do the same thing for me."  Xander nodded, letting him soothe her into sleeping.  Dean eventually drifted off too.  He had missed the tag-team cuddling earlier, it's what had woken him.


Dean woke up and looked down at his family.  Xander was sucking on his left nipple - very nice of her - and Sam was about to suck him down.  He gently woke up Xander, earning a blink.  "Shh.  Let me wake up Sammy."  She nodded, sliding out of bed and going to the bathroom.  He smacked Sam on the head, waking him up.  "I should've let you do that before I woke you so you'd wake up and taste me.  Then I could ask if I tasted good."  Sam blushed and groaned.  "Want to talk about this nightmare of yours?"  He shook his head, covering it with the sheet.  Dean moved it.  "Dad told me last night I might have to do that stuff to make sure you can't be possessed again, Sam.  I need to know what's going on in that huge brain of yours.  Why the sudden outbreak of groping?"

"I could lose you."

"You won't be losing me."  He stared at him, then grinned.  "I'll be there annoying you for many years to come.  As a matter of fact, Xander and I decided since I did so much of your raising, all your kids can be my grandkids.  That way I don't have to have any."

Sam cracked a grin at that.  "Thanks for not having her in here."

"She saw but she left.  I thought we should talk first."  He pulled his brother up to face him.  "Now, what's really going on?  Nightmares?  Good dreams?"

"I think the same thing that gives me visions keeps showing it as going on."

"Okay," he said, nodding a bit.  "So it's a vision thing that's making you nearly blow me in your sleep?"  Sam blushed but nodded, looking down.  "No, don't stare at what you were sucking, stare at me."  Sam looked at him.  "Now I know how girls feel when all you can do is stare at their tits."  He stared at him.  "This is freaky, even for us, Sam.   It's not going to happen all the time."  Sam shook his head quickly.  "Good.  Then we'll talk once we're on the road again."

"The demon summoning?"

"Is easiest done in late January.  We'll come back."  Sam nodded.  "Is being here making the visions come faster?"  He nodded.  "Okay.  Xander?"  She came out of the bathroom in a towel.  "We're going to head soon.  You're coming, yes?"

"I was going to go back to the cabin as long as Giles could send me information."

"Good.  We can go there."  He got up and Xander smirked at him.  He looked down then at her.  "Don't say a word.  You were nursing this time instead of Sammy."  He walked around her, heading to use the bathroom.  She got back into her shower.  Sam came in and used the bathroom and left before she could get out. "Giles wants us."

"Sure.  Let me get dressed."

"Meet us there."  He walked out, grabbing clothes to slide into.  He followed Sam out the door, heading to get coffee and then to the Magic Box.  "Hey."  Giles smiled at him.  "We pretty well agreed that we're going to head back to the cabin."

"I was hoping..."  He trailed off.  "She's uncomfortable here?"

"Some.  Sammy's getting some psychic static.  We need to check in with our people and Xander needs to finish getting her head on straight."

"Can you stay for the holiday at least?"

Dean looked at Sammy, who shrugged.  "If she doesn't mind we don't.  We don't have anyone to run home to."  He smiled again.   "That reminds me, her gun and sword are in the Impala."  He shook his head.  Xander came in, earning a smile.  "Have to do laundry?"  She was back in a skirt again.


"Xander, the boys said you were going to go back to the cabin for a while?"

"Yeah, I think we should, Giles.  Do you think it'd be easy enough to call their demon there?"

He shook his head.  "It may not answer without the right stimulus.  By then I doubt you could have a newborn."  Xander shrugged at that.  "So we'll see you back in late January?"  The boys nodded and so did Xander.  He smiled.  "Excellent.  What about the other two?"  He handed Sam a book.  "I want that back sometime."

"Yes, Mr. Giles."  He looked at it and beamed.  "That's perfect."

"It'll help you both.  Consider that a holiday present."  Xander grinned.  "Would you care to stay for the present exchange?"

"Depends, am I going to have emo Buffy crying on me?"

"Quite possibly.  I know she went and patrolled all last night."

"We went to clean out some of her parent's stash," Dean told him.

"Spike came back here.  I'm sorry about your parents, Xander."

"Well, they spread the liquor buzz so they probably would've considered it a good death," she said dryly, sitting down.  "I know mine will come wherever I am."

"The same as Dean's will," he agreed.

"Then we can do that at the cabin?  It's far enough away from normal people to not endanger anyone."

"You can," Giles agreed.  "That's not a bad plan but you won't have anyone to back you up."

"If we do it here I'm going to have to ask some demons for favors to protect Tara, Giles.  I'm not sure which one is better in the long run."

"We'll be warding Tara," Giles assured him.  "Ethan has agreed to come back and help.  Spike as well."  Xander relaxed and grinned, nodding a bit.

"We'll be with her," Sam told him.

"Good.  Her usual instinct is to send those she needs away."  He looked at her. "If you'd rather not stay I won't force the issue.  I know Buffy would be a bit of a trial."  Xander nodded.  "We'll try it?"

"Solstice is in two days.  We can stay that long.  It'll give me time to have the oil changed in the blazer and pick up a few new things, plus do the laundry so I'm not wearing skirts."

"You look good in it," Sam reminded her.

"So?  I still can't spar in it.  That's wasting time, Sam."  She stood up.  "I'm not Buffy.  I don't plan on flashing a vampire to stun them.  I never did understand how she wore a skirt on patrol."

"Or go-go boots," Giles agreed. "Or those dreadful backless shirts."

"See, my loud shirts aren't that bad compared to those."  Xander grinned at Buffy when she came in.  "Hey.  We're talking about Solstice."

"I'm not really in the mood for presents this year," she admitted, looking at Giles.

"I can understand that, Buffy.  That's what we were seeing.  If we could stand to be around each other until the present exchange."

She shrugged. "It's depressing this year.  By spring we could lose Xander and Tara both.  Willow's gone.  She might never be woken up in my lifetime."

"Maybe someone will wake her up to fight the next generation of Voldemort," Xander offered.

Buffy grinned at him.  "She'd probably like that."  She looked her over.  "Cute skirt.  Didn't expect it of you."

"Now and then I make myself accept that I don't have boy parts anymore.  Of course, half the time I do that by getting used to guys staring at a strip club.  I make good gas money that way."  She shuddered.  "Sorry, realities of life.  Motels, gas, and food are expensive when you're on the road all the time."

"Which is why I'm glad I live at home," Buffy said, smirking some.  "Want to go hug my mother?  She's been looking forward to one."  Xander nodded, going to do that.  She looked at the boys.  "Where would you be headed?"

"There's a Watcher's cabin in upper South Dakota," Dean told her.  "That's where we went to start her training.  We'd go back there for our fights.  We'll have to come back to summon the one demon here to fight it."

She nodded, sipping her usual morning caffeine boost.  "That's in..."

"January," Sam said with a smile.

"Maybe things'll be happier then.  We'll do the presenty stuff then?"  The boys both nodded.  "Giles?"

"That would be acceptable but I think I'll give her mine before she leaves as I've gotten her gift certificates for clothing."

"Yeah, kinda freaky not seeing Xander in loud shirts.  Or thrift shop wear.   Or with Anya begging for sex."  She shrugged and hugged them both.  "Be safe and make sure Xander is safe.  I don't want to lose her.  Understand?"  She looked at Dean.  "Also, if she gets pregnant, I'm a godmother if I'm still living.  Deal with it now.  Move on.  Plan to give me two or three so I don't have to have any."

"I helped raise Sam.  His kids'll be my grandkids."

She laughed, going back to the training area.  "I'll see you guys later, before you go."

Giles smiled.  "Sunnydale does breed very strong people who do learn to move on rather quickly."

"If I had been Xander, I'd be insane," Sam agreed.

Giles nodded.  "Me as well.  Though Ethan did do a temporary one that once.  I nearly drank myself to death."

"Her first period she had most of a fifth of vodka that first day," Dean told him.

Giles nodded.  "I would've shot myself.  Especially with Xander's arsenal.  Will you give me today to wrap things?"  The boys both nodded and he smiled.  "Thank you, boys.  Go back to the research room if you want.  If not, go play.  It's a beautiful winter day in California.  So of course there's no snow."  They smiled and went to do that, Sam clutching the book.


Xander walked into the cabin, looking around.  "This is beginning to feel like home.  I   should redecorate the pink monstrosity."

Sam laughed, carrying in the bags of liquor and their stuff.  "Are we going to share the big room?"

"Yup," Dean agreed.  "Might as well."  He kissed Xander on his way past.  "Be a girl later.  For right now, go get your crap. It's cold out there."  Xander nodded, going to do that while he found the source of heat.  Which turned out to be connected to the hot water heater.  He was incredibly happy with that.  "We have a hot water heater."

"We didn't before," Xander called.

"We do now."  He came out once it was started.  The heater was blowing lukewarm air but they'd stay warm enough.  There was a fireplace too.  "I'll chop wood.  Sam, call Bobby, tell him we're up here and we'll head down for a visit in about a week?"  Sam nodded, finding his cellphone to do that.  Xander hauled in the guns and then the swords. "Leaving the heavier stuff?"

"No room for it."

"Put it in the spare bedroom, Xander."  She nodded, going to haul that with his help.  He had to show her what one wore in snow, which was fun because he kept trying to get her into leopard prints and furry things to tease her.  Sam suggested leather.  Xander had decided on soft cable knit sweaters and velvet.  Always appropriate.  The last piece got hauled in and he held out his hand.  "Keys?"


"You have better traction on snow.  I'm going for groceries."

"I knew we forgot something."  She dug them out and handed them over.  "Thank you. Get soda?"

"Of course."  He headed back out.

Sam came out of the bedroom.  "Where is he going now?"


"Always a plan," Sam agreed.  "In case we get snowed in."  He grinned. "Did Jim talk about Bobby?"

"Nope.  He didn't want to divulge other people."

"I guess that's fine.  We'll have to introduce you."  He gave her a hug.  "Let's do something for the fireplace?"

"Sure, I'll go be super strong and chop wood."  He laughed but let her do it while he made sure it was clean and able to be used without burning them up. She brought in an armful about the same time Dean got back so he went to help unload.  Xander came to the door.  "Tell me you didn't forget soda?"

"No, I didn't forget."  He let her carry her soda inside while he made sure he had the coffee.  They closed the door and settled in to watch the fireplace smoke until Sam switched the floo knob.  Then it was much better.  Xander cooked a frozen pizza for dinner.  They settled in to relax because it had been a long drive and Xander barely understood how to drive on snow.  She snuggled into his side, getting petted.  He grinned at her.  "Sleepy?"

"A bit.  Long drive today."

"Very."  They watched as the sun went down and things got a bit colder.  "Wish we had a garage for the Impala."

"It'll be fine," Xander reminded him.  "We have a tarp if it gets too bad."  That got a nod and Dean went to put it on while Sam shook his head behind his book.  She got one of the books she had picked up and went to read it next to the fireplace.  Dean came back in stomping his feet.  "Get it fixed?"

"Yup, she'll be fine."

"Bobby's expecting us Sunday for probably three days," Sam told him.  "Are we bringing Xander?"

"Up to her.  Did you warn him first?"

"Nope.  Told him the one we've been hunting with is with us.  He didn't exactly invite her but he didn't say she couldn't come."

"I'll meet him sometime we're not all worried," Xander said from her corner.  Dean came over to drag her back to the couch.  "Hey!  It was warm."

"Body heat works better than a fireplace," Dean told her, getting a blanket to cover them.  She curled up against his side again and went back to reading.  He looked over her shoulder.  "Knights and dragons?"

"Psyching myself up toward my White Knight side."

"Oh."  He let her cuddle in, smiling down at her.  "We need a tv."

"It's hiding in the cabinet behind us," Sam said.

"Someone seriously redecorated then," Dean said.  They got up and turned the tv around, smiling at the nice cable.  "Think the Watchers are giving it to you?"

"Not a clue," Xander said.  "Haven't called England.  I can call Giles and ask."

"Sure.  We should let him know you survived driving in the snow anyway," Sam said, handing her phone over from the charging cord.

She dialed.  "We made it.  There's a hot water heater, a real heater, and cable, Giles.  Are the Watchers feeling generous?"  She listened, then shrugged.  "Okay. I wouldn't mind. Thank them for me."  She grinned.  "We're good.  Dean got groceries.  I chopped some wood for the fireplace.  We're watching tv.  Thanks, Giles.  Yup, I'm good.  Thank you.  Miss you."  She hung up.  "Mi casa and all that.  There should be a letter somewhere in here about it."  They got up to search, finding it on the pink bed.  "Ha ha, Travers," she said dryly, setting in to read it with them reading over her shoulder.  It basically said she's on the reserve list, they're hoping that she would consider breeding in the next decade, and that they knew she'd win the fight so there could be slayers in the future. That the cabin was now hers to redecorate and to live in so she'd be left alone when she wanted to and her friends -  underlined twice - could come rest when they got tired of hunting too.  She looked at the boys and grinned.  "They're being nice."

"It's part guilt trip and part 'go away' letter," Sam said.

Xander shrugged.  "They never liked me in Sunnydale.  I jumped in and pulled Willow with me.  It upset the natural order they had established.  Hell, I think they tried to wet works me one night but I can't prove it."  They both gave her horrified looks.  "That was right before we found out what was going to happen at graduation so they were glad they weren't down another fighter or two.  Especially when I pulled Giles' plan out of the fire."  She snuggled in again.  "Guess this means I can redecorate the pink bedroom."

"Red?" Sam suggested.

"Green?" Dean suggested at the same time.

"I'm thinking blue and gray, like when the sun's just starting to rise or at dusk," Xander said, looking at them.  "Feeling a bit gay?" she asked.  They were pouting about her color choices.

"No," they said together.

"We should celebrate," Sam said.

"There's no karaoke here, Sam.  If you get drunk, you'll whine."

"No I won't!"

"You did the last three times you got drunk and there wasn't anything fun for you to play with.  I'm sure you will this time too."  Xander got up and hefted Sam up, taking him and putting him out back.  Dean laughed until Xander pulled him up and tossed him onto the front porch.  "Hey!  It's cold out here!"  She locked the door.  He growled and pounded but ended up having to pick the lock and go let Sam in.  "That was mean, Xander."

"Had enough of the fighting in the tiny motel rooms, guys.  Keep it up, figure out if I'm going to have one last menstrual cycle before my fight to help call your demon."

Both guys shuddered.  They didn't want to think about those things!  Dean got a bottle of whiskey and three glasses, pouring them each some and some soda.  "To take that image out of our heads."  He slugged back his, bringing back the soda and fifth so they could have some more.

Sam drank his in one gulp too.  "Nasty mental image, Xander."

Xander grinned sweetly.  "I have to decide.  I figured I'd let you guys have some say about being terrorized that week."

"If you quit talking about it, I'll kiss your ass later," Dean offered.

"You never did show me why girls like oral sex so much."

"Or I can do that."  He drank that drink and let Xander drink hers before pulling her up and into the bedroom.  Sam could watch tv.  They heard it get turned up but oh well.  He pulled her clothes off then his own, pushing her back onto the nice, larger than it was last time, king sized bed.  He was even nice enough to go directly to his target.  She let out a loud squeal and arched up so he had to hold her down but it was worth it.  Especially since afterward she let him do whatever he wanted in whatever position he wanted.


A few weeks later Dean was watching Xander stare at a small box.  "Oh, no, you put that patch back on right now, Xander.  I want some pre-apocalypse sex later and I don't want to draw every single demon on the hellmouth to us."  Xander laughed, putting on her birth control patch.  He went back to watching Tara make the potion for them while pacing.  She was a witch so she had a better hand with them, plus she had volunteered.  Apparently UC Sunnydale was a lot less stringent in the homework department than Stanford because Sam was pouting he hadn't had weeks without homework.  He smacked him on the head as he walked past.  Xander stopped him to kiss him, making him relax.  "I know I'm wound up."

"Of course you are.  It's a dangerous plan," she said gently, stroking his cheek.  "Calm down anyway.  It's distracting her and me.  Come on, we'll go borrow an empty room.  There's always a few by now in the semester."  Dean smirked and walked her out, letting her find an empty room.  One of the RA's gave them a pointed look and opened a door for them with a muttered 'don't use the bathroom, you'll scare someone'.

Dean locked them in, slamming Xander against the door.  His hand went up her skirt to take off the panties while she undid his belt and let his pants drop.  "Wore the skirt for me?" he teased, letting his fingers tease her lower half.

"Yup.  Figured you could use the distraction too."  She wiggled against him as his fingers did some walking.  "Why is it you can always hit that spot and I can't even find it?"

"Angle of my hand."  He kissed her then flipped her around and slid into her, going hard and fast, holding her against the door, making her whimper and beg for more.  "Tell me," he panted.

"More, Dean, please?" she begged.

"God I love it when you beg," he said in her ear, stroking harder and faster until he finally let go of one of her hands and his fingers went back to playing with her.  She screamed and went limp against him, letting him get off.  He pulled her over to the bare bed and laid down to cuddle her.  "You always make me feel like I'm The Man."

Xander grinned, kissing his throat.  "You are the man since I'm not."  He spanked her.  "Hey, we agreed, no kinky shit unless we're embarrassing Sam."  He laughed, spanking her again.  She bit him and he hissed, getting hard again.  She giggled.  "Already?  Aren't you the one who complains when I jump you too soon after the first round?"

"Fuck that," Dean said, putting her onto her back and diving in again.  It was so good with Xander.  She knew what he needed, what he needed to hear, why he needed to hear it. She gave him all the pretty sounds he wanted.  "I should record this.  Make it your ringtone," he panted, trying to speed up but he couldn't get a foothold on the plastic mattress cover.

"You do and everyone will know how kinky you are," she panted back, pulling him down to kiss him.  She flipped him onto his back and climbed on top, letting him help her.  It was good like this.  She was stressed.  He was worried.  It was the best of both worlds and Dean was fantastic in bed.  It could be the last time they spent together.  She got off and he kept going, making her moan.  It was going to be one of those nights when he got her started and wouldn't let her sleep.  She leaned down to kiss him, then shifted back some to nibble on this throat again.

"No hickeys," he said, spanking her.  She bit harder.  "Or biting!  Heathen bitch."  He pulled her off and put her onto her knees, taking her again.  She was still so warm and tight.  It was so nice to bury himself in her.  She'd let him do nearly anything he wanted right now and it was good for him.  He did suck a mark onto her shoulder, getting swatted for it, but who cared.  He kept going until he finally came, flopping down on top of her.  She did a half pushup to shove him off and rolled onto her side.  He pulled her back against his chest, playing with her clit until he felt her go off under him.  "Thank you."

"Never a problem."  She pulled up his fingers to clean them off, making him groan.  "Later, dear.  Later. Even I get a bit sore when you prove how good your thigh muscles are."

He laughed.  "Is that what that was?"  She nodded.  "Huh."  He checked his watch then kissed the back of her head.  "We should get back."

"Probably. Two more minutes?"

"Sure, two more minutes."  He let her cuddle all she wanted.  He knew she needed it, she was very worried about the upcoming battle.  It was taking her worry off her own in just over a month.  He gave her stomach a squeeze and they got up, getting redressed so they could go back to Tara's room.  He ignored the blush but Xander just shrugged.  She pointed at the wall behind him.  He looked and found his father's ghost.  "I thought you went to haunt Bobby and them."

"I did.  You're having a major battle today and I should be here.  You are my sons."  He looked at Xander, who flipped him off.  "At least you're useful."  Xander got something off Tara's bookshelf and uncorked it, carrying it over to him.

"No banishing Dad, it might get into the other potion," Sam ordered, taking it and recorking it, watching Tara snicker.  "Dad, get over it.  Dean and Xander are cute together.  I like them together.  Even if they do pick on me sometimes."

"It's what family does," Xander quipped, grinning at him.  "Or so all the cheesy movies say."

"I've been picking on him for years so I guess they're right," Dean said, stretching out on Tara's bed.  "Tara, how long can I nap for?"

"An hour, Dean.  Then I'll need some of your hair."

"Arm, leg, head, or pubic?" he asked. "Or chest, but there's not much there."

"If you were that hairy I'd never sleep with you," Xander assured him.

Dean smirked.  "I'd shave like you do."

"Haven't had to for quite a while before today."

"I don't want to hear about it," John said quickly, disappearing.  Dean and Sam waved at the blank spot, cracking the girls up.

"Head," Tara told him.

"That's fine.  I've got plenty.  Yank away."  He closed his eyes, shifted a bit, then fell asleep.

Sam looked at Xander.  "Good job."

She smirked. "Mutually beneficial."  She sat down in the desk chair, swinging it idly back and forth until someone knocked.  "What?" she called.  Buffy walked in.  "Hey."

"Hey.  Potion day?"  Sam nodded.  "Will you need my help?  I have major testage issues next Monday so I'm arranging time to goof off."

Sam smiled.  "You mean you actually get homework?"

"I know, it's so unfair!  I mean, it's college, who gets homework?"

Sam gaped.  "In Stanford I did the actual amount of homework for my credit hours, Buffy.   I spent more time studying than I did sleeping."

She shuddered.  "Eww, bad thoughts.  Lack of beauty sleep would mean the vamps would pick on me."  She walked out.  "Call.  Text.  Smoke signals without second hand smoke.  Whatever."

"We will," Xander agreed.  She shook her head a bit, smiling.  "She got Willow to do them all for her."

"That makes more sense," Sam said.

"Then again, we do have a major in surfing."  Sam groaned, shaking his head.  "I think there's one in theoretical physics that no one can prove or find math for too.  They basically sit around and chat from what I've seen and heard."

Tara nodded at that.  "Don't forget film and tv studies."

"Where you can major in the movies of Jet Li," Xander finished with a happy grin.  "That would've been my major."

"For actors or writers?" Sam asked, sounding hopeful.

"Communications department," Tara said.  Sam moaned, leaning forward to cover his face with his hands.

"Wasn't the news lady who mispronounced everything and misread most every night part of that program?"

"She was vamped and had to quit," Tara told her.

"Huh.  She's probably about as smart as the Harmony vampire."

Tara nodded.  "They're shopping buddies."

Xander snickered.  "Well, she was a Cordy clone so now she's got another one with her I guess.  Airheads unite?"

She looked over. "Andrew ran back here to get away from them.  They kept wanting him to build them a Cordelia robot."  Xander cackled, falling out of the desk chair.  She smiled at Sam, she liked Sam a lot.  If she liked boys, she'd crush on him.  "You should see the Buffy bot.  She's been using her to go to class for her."  Sam let out a deeper moan and she blushed, going back to her potion making.  Xander was rolling around on the floor.

"Trying to sleep," Dean said without opening his eyes.  "Quit cackling, Xander.  They'll think you went evil again."

"Talking about Andrew.  They wanted him to build a Cordelia robot."

"Buffy's been sending her robot self to class for her," Tara told him.

"Wish I could've in high school," Dean complained.  He blindly reached down and patted a few times until he ran into Xander's hair and pulled her up, putting her on top of him. "Quit distracting Tara.  We can gossip before tonight."  He fell back asleep holding her.  She tried to get free a few times but he wasn't letting go.

Sam grinned.  "You make a good teddybear."

"So do you, Sammy."

"I should spank.  I really should."  She just smirked.  He got up but Tara shook her head and pushed him down.  "Please?  She knows it bothers me."

"That's why she's doing it, Sam."  She patted him on the cheek, getting a grin back.  "Leave the two lovebirds alone.  They're cute."

"They are.  Perpetually.  Especially first thing in the morning."  She giggled.  "They are.  He pours her a soda while he's making coffee so she won't steal his."  She grinned, getting back to work.  He watched Tara work, sighing a bit.  If she wasn't gay, he'd be trying really hard to date that woman.

Xander looked over.  "Sam, there's always the option to do what was done to me," she said with a small smirk.

"I will kill you," he assured her.  Tara swatted her.  "See?  She'll help."

"That would fix the whole deep sighs and looks of longing you both have."

"It might but it's wrong," Tara said firmly.

"Fine, we'll find you a female version of him," Dean said, opening his eyes to look at her.  "Or if a demon castrates him, I'll let you have him then.  Okay?"  She nodded.  "Need hair yet?"

"Another half hour, Dean."  He nodded and went back to sleep, making sure Xander still couldn't move.

John floated back in, watching them.  "Aww.  Now all I need are grandkids."

"Dean said Sam's kids will be his," Xander told him.  "Because if I have to have kids, I'm going to jump off somewhere very high.  I can't even deal with having a period."  John sighed and shook his head.  She closed her eyes.  "Tell me when it's my turn, Tara."

"Sure, Xander."  She smiled when she heard her snore.  "Anya used to complain about that."  She got back to work, holding up the small vial of pure blood.  The chant was said and the blood poured in, some of the potion was used to rinse out any that stuck to the vial.  She went back to stirring, humming over it, putting in her feelings for Sam.  It could only help things.

John looked at her.  "If you wanted to date Sam, I wouldn't mind."

"I don't like boy parts."

"Dad, she's a lesbian, leave her alone," Sam said patiently.  "Dean promised if I got castrated he'd let her have me then."  John groaned, settling into his corner.  "Why don't you go help Buffy?"

"It's wrong for a hunter to stop a fight to look at her hand and go 'oh, I broke a nail, I just paid twenty dollars to have them done' and then kick their ass harder."

"She learned it off Cordelia," Tara said.  "You should meet Cordelia.  Cordy?"  Cordelia showed up.  "Have you met John?  He's Sam and Dean's father."

She looked at him then nodded.  "Hi.  Leave Xander alone.  I will kick your ass.  The Powers said I could work out the last of my PMS on you."  He gaped.  She smirked.  "Mister, I used to run that school and then Angel's crew.  I *am* the messenger for the Powers That Be.  I'm also Xander's ex.  There's *nothing* you can say that'll make her like you or leave Dean.  Because Dean's cute and good for her.  She still can't let a guy pat her on the back but Dean gets *way* more than that."

"Cordelia!" Sam complained.

She ignored him.  "Also, even if there may be babies far, far in the future?  They'll let Sam be the nanny or something.  That way the kids learn more than 'C-4 pretty boom' that Xander would teach them or 'guns nice' that Dean would.  They're well suited to each other even if their lives and hunting will get in the way for ages."  She smirked at him.  "Now, let's let the nice lesbian witch crush on your nice son in peace so she can finish that potion.  That way the first son doesn't join you and Xander doesn't go destroy hell when she loses her fight.  'Kay?" she finished brightly.  She looked at Tara.  "What's even more scary is that Harmony and Melody are now thinking about creating baby vampires to raise together and make just as brainless as they are.  They want the Cordy robot to help them pick out their clothes."  Tara let out a cackle then covered her mouth.  "Oh, let it out.  Even Angel did.   Fred was giving him major worried looks and hid his leather pants, just in case he lost his soul again."  She glared at John again.  "Shoo!  Go bother Buffy or Faith!  Faith could use a daddy figure.  She never had one."  He disappeared.  "And change the shirt! Plaid is so last decade!" she called after him.  She huffed and faded out to nag him some more.  Bad enough she had to nag Xander about the stripper clothes now and then.  She wasn't even going to *mention* the short skirt and lack of panties today.

Sam looked at Tara.  "I'd cackle too."  She smiled and got back to work.


Dean kept his hand from shaking as he intoned the last word of the spell.  Sam stiffened then went still as he died.  Xander came over to pour something down his throat.  They watched as Sam healed, his wound quit bleeding.  It sealed up. Then Sam took a breath as he began to live again.  Dean nearly fell down in relief.  Xander smiled at him and stroked Sam's hair until he woke up.

Dean looked at the demon that had appeared.  "See, didn't need you after all," he said smartly, nearly sneering now.

"You still made the deal."

"And you tainted him.  That wasn't part of the deal.  He's whole now, not like when you did it."

"You're still mine."

Dean shook his head.  "No, I'm not.  You didn't keep your end of the deal."

"You wanted him back."

"Yes, and I said alive.  He wasn't fully alive.  That breaks the deal."  He smirked now.  "If you think it doesn't, challenge me."

The demon stared then looked at the other two with him.  "You brought a girl?"

"She's here to protect Sam.  She's of no concern in this matter."

"A girl, to protect your precious brother?" the demon sneered.  "How will she do that?"

"She can fight.  She's a hunter, like us."

"Then I choose her to be my champion in this fight."

Dean nodded. "Sure, you do that.  I win, we all go free, including her and Sam."


"Agree or it's off," Xander said firmly.

"Are you a witch?"


"Hmm."  She looked at her.  "You're a medium."

"I am."  The demon smirked a nasty little smirk.  "Doesn't mean you're getting in."  She stood up.  "You want Dean to fight me to get free, so be it.  You will agree to the terms beforehand.  See, Sam's a lawyer wannabe."  She grinned.  "And I've dealt with witches and demons before."

"Fine.  Should he win, you all go free, even you and the annoying, nice one."

"Thanks."  Xander looked at Dean.  She felt the demon try to take control of her but pushed it out.  "I didn't say you could possess me.  I said I'd fight him, not that you could have me.  Psychic sex is *way* grody."

The demon shuddered.  "I can feel the strength in you.  You're native."

"I am.  Born and bred."  She pulled out a sword, tossing one to Dean.  "Deal on?"

"Deal on," he agreed calmly.  He had trained Xander, he could beat her.  She lunged and he smirked.  "He'll try it again if you throw it, dear."

"I know."  She ducked his blow and came up under his guard, getting in close enough to kiss him.  "Winner gets to give oral sex tonight?" she asked with a grin.  He hummed and nodded, arching an eyebrow up, smirking just a tiny bit.  She backed up and attacked again, and Dean was clearly winning.

"No!  That's not right!" the demon shouted, trying to take over Xander again.  She managed to breach her defenses and bellowed as the pain hit her.  "No!" she shouted, stepping in.  "I will fight this one myself!  Unholy one!"

"Saying something coming from you," Xander said, tossing the poison onto her.  The demon shrieked in pain and Dean stabbed her once he was vulnerable.  The demon died and they watched as Dean lit her up.  "Ah, another cheery Sunnydale bonfire that stinks."  She stiffened and fought against it but the demon still had her.

Dean nodded.  "Come on, Xander."  She lunged and was using slayer strength.  Dean still fought her back, ending up without his sword, but he could grab her and knock her out.  It took two attempts and got him a broken wrist but she went out.  "Someone do a exorcism," he said.  Giles hurried over to do that.  Xander went limp once the demon was gone.  "Is that all of it?  Usually there's more smoke."

"Xander has a bad tendency to keep part of the things possessing her," Giles said grimly, going back to it.

"Let me," Sam said, standing up, coming over to work on it instead.  He and Dean did it and they got Xander clear, finally.  Only took three tries.  Xander blinked at them.  "Morning."

"Not.  Dark."

"Yeah, we know," Dean said, hauling her up.  He looked her over.  "Did I hurt you?"  She slowly shook her head.  "You sure?"  She nodded.  "Good."  He grinned.  "Now only a few more."

Xander looked up then slit her palm, intoning a summoning charm and adding the proper name of the demon.  He appeared, a black cloud, floating and twisting, shrieking in a long forgotten language.  "Yours I believe," she said.

"Oh, so ours," Dean agreed.  Sam picked up Xander's sword and attacked.  Tara healed his wrist and he jumped in with his.  The demon was pinned between them.  Xander pulled out something and tossed it at the demon, making it shriek and writhe as the thing captured it.  They managed to keep it distracted enough for it to be sucked in.  Then they looked down at it.  "Breaking?" Dean said.

"It's meant to be broken to kill the trapped spirit," Giles promised.  They both stomped on it.  It went off in a flash of light and turned to ashes.  Giles smiled.  "Well, that was exciting."

"The only way it can come back is if Sam has a child and we can ward it then to do it again," Xander told him.  "Because his first child won't have kids.  It's been seen down the line."  Sam nodded at that.  Dean gaped.  "Sorry, going to be a nun."

Dean burst out laughing.  "So even if it comes back it's a goner?"  Xander smirked and nodded.  "Oh, yes."  He laughed and hugged her, then Sam, then both of them.  "Thanks, guys."

"You're quite welcome," Giles promised with a smile.  He looked at the stubborn spirit who refused to be banished.  "Will that do to soothe your soul?"

"Some of it," he agreed, happy enough to float over and hug his boys and Xander.  Xander got free and went to hug Tara.  "My boys," he said, smiling at them.  "Thank you."

"One fight left," Dean said, looking at Sam, who nodded.  They looked at Tara, but Xander was gone.  "Damn it.  She knew we were going to be there."

Giles coughed and held up something.  "Buffy said they have these computer chips that tell you where someone is?"  Dean snatched it and headed off at a run for the Impala, Sam right behind him with a hug for Giles and Tara.  Giles and Tara both waved.  "They'll make our stubborn one see sense," he sighed.

"After a few rounds of spanking," Tara said with a giggle.  He smirked at her.  "They will."

"My boys should," John agreed.  "How could she do that?"

"Xander feels that no one should take on her duties but her.  Then again, the only one she's every really trusted are either gone or her made family."  He walked Tara off.  "Come on, I have a new batch of tea from home."

"Sure, Giles."  She put an arm through his, meeting up with Faith since she had been watching from father off in case something happened.  "Do you think Sam's nice?"

Giles smiled at her.  "I think he's a wonderful boy.  I think if you should find yourself wondering in that direction he's a very good choice, Tara."  She blushed but nodded, resting against his arm.

"Too nice for my blood," Faith quipped.  "Hold me down and tie me up is more my style."

"Well, there is Spike," Giles said dryly, giving her a look.

"He's cute but doesn't give oral sex."  Tara let out a horrified squeak and hid her face on Giles' arm.  "What?"

"How does Buffy put it?  Oh yes, TMI, Faith," Giles told her, cracking her up.  She giggled all the way back to the shop.


Dean and Sam finally caught up with Xander a few days later.  She had found the GPS chip and taken it off the blazer.  They found where she was waiting and stomped over to her.  "Spanking is going to be done and you will take it," Dean growled, pushing her back against a tree.  "We said we'd be here."

"And I said I wanted you safe.  It's within the month, he can claim you too."

Dean shrugged. "And?"  Xander glared.  "Don't even start, Xander."  He kissed her.  "Shut up, we're helping.  Even if you don't like it."

"I can't let you two die when you're finally healed!" she shouted, backing away around the tree.  "I need you two to be safe!  I won't let you be taken by this thing!"

"It's part of the calling," Sam reminded her calmly.  "Let us help, Xander."

"I can't.  You could die.  I'm not going to go through that.  I've lost too damn many already and I'm not losing you two.  If I die, shit happens.  They'll figure out how to make new slayers.  You two die and I live?  I'll fucking join you."  They gaped.  "So go the hell away to somewhere safer.  Go get a beer.  I'll be back in a few days."   The demon appeared and Xander walked up to Dean, kissing him.  "Three days at the most or I'm gone," she said, staring into his eyes.  "You can't come."

"Bet me."

"You can't, Dean.  He won't allow it."

"Yay.  Fight here."

"I challenged, it's his choice."

Dean glared.  "Not happening, Xander."

"They can come," the demon assured him.  "If they die they're still the other one's."

"See, a very good reason," Xander said calmly.  She took another kiss and stared at him.  "Some places only a slayer can go.  It's the mystical calling shit."  She and the demon disappeared.  She looked around the large arena full of sand then at him.  "We're channeling Mortal Kombat?"

"I thought it appropriate with the terms of the deal she made."

"She didn't have my permission."

"She had what she needed to claim you."  Xander shook her head.  "She did or you would still be male, Xander."  He sniffed her.  "Very nice.  I wondered how you had killed the other one."

"Hmm.  I'm smarter than you?"  Xander gave him a smug look.  "Are we doing this or not?  I have a friend to calm down and make the other one quit huffing."

"You'll never get back there.  Part of the challenge is to make it back to earth."

Xander snickered.  "Dude, haven't you figured out yet that I screw up magic done on or around me?  That I've invalidated so many prophecies that the Watcher's Council tried to have me killed once?"  She moved closer.  "That even Willow Rosenburg, stronger than you because she could do the spell to change me and you can't, can't stop me when the time is necessary to fight."  The demon laughed.  Xander stuck something in his chest, then set it off, running like hell.  The holy water/salt/thermite/blessings written on basalt from the Dead Sea grenade went off, splattering the demon.  Xander unducked, looking at the mess. "Not like I was going to use something like a sword on a higher demon."  She looked around.

"Hmm.  Doorway out."  She walked toward a few of the doors.  They led to blank walls.  Another one led to a hell dimension.  She closed it and stepped away.  She sat down to think.  This had to be like a dream plane.  So this was like a dream walk, right?  The demon couldn't fully relocate her but he could create a small bubble plane in the middle of that field.  She felt around for the magic, nearly being blinded by it.  The little she'd been able to learn wasn't enough.  She found a spot of wrongness and touched it.  She walked over to it, finding the demon's remains overtop of it.  She stepped into the middle of the mess and closed her eyes, wiling herself back home.  She felt things shift.  She felt them close.  She felt the earth move. Then she just felt nauseous and started to walk toward what felt like home.

She landed in the field, finding a huge battle going on and her boys in the middle of it.  Of course.  She growled and dove in, beating the demons until they begged and died.  She stabbed one who was trying to eat Dean, waving at him before getting the one trying to bite Sam.  They attacked the others together.  Dean went down with a blow to the head.  Sam went down ten minutes later with the same sort of injury. The demon tried it with her but she had a really hard head.  Gravestones banging into it had hardened it.  She was dizzy again but it happened.  She stabbed it and then pulled the sword up.  She set off another grenade, throwing it into the pack of demons to watch the ones nearby explode.  "Pretty, huh?" she called.  She smirked.  "I'm Xander, a slayer.  You're toasty.  Leave and be less burnt.  Damn it, need to work on my quips next."  A few ran off.  The rest attacked.  She was still a slayer and she was not going to die here!  The demon was not going to get her!  She got all but the last one with only minor injuries.  That one tried to gore her with its claws.  One did manage to get her stomach but she got its neck.  It fell.  She sat down in the bloody mud, looking around at the mess.  "They're never going to let us burn this," she said.  She crawled over to Dean, shaking him.  "Hey."

"Kill you," he muttered, barely opening his eyes.

"Yeah, yeah, wait a month so the demon doesn't get either of us."  She made herself get up, holding her stomach.  She got Sam up and sitting, holding his head.  "Okay, kids?"

"We're both older than you," Sam said weakly.

"Sammy, you good?" Dean called from his spot.

"Head hurts.  Concussion."

"Yeah, me too."  Xander walked over and helped him sit up.  "Sit your dumb ass down, Xander."  She flopped down beside him.  "I'm still going to kill you."

"Wait a month."

"Uh-huh.  It'll take that long for the headache to go away."  He looked at her stomach.  "You need stitches and don't give me shit about slayer healing."

Xander kissed him.  "I love it when you're butch."  Dean sneered at her.  She grinned.  "I'll hitch the car to the blazer and we'll go.  How long was I gone?"

"Six damn days."

"Sorry.  Took me a while to figure my way out.  Had to walk through icky demon parts."

Sam looked at the exploded area.  "What caused that?"

"I had someone make me a grenade with thermite, blessed Dead Sea salt, blessings etched on basalt pieces from the Dead Sea area, and holy water.  That was my second one.  I used the other one to kill my challenger."

"Damn," Dean said, looking at the mess.  "How're we going to clean this up?"

Xander looked at him.  "I call a Watcher.  Let them do it."  She found his phone and called Giles.  "I'm here.  I'm okay.  The field is a mess.  I came back and the boys were in the middle of a battle.  Major parts, Giles.  Yeah, that sort.  No, like all over the field.  Well, the Watchers have a shit list.   Let them come clean it up.  Because the boys have concussion and I feel none too steady myself."  She hung up and texted the town name and location of the field.  Then she handed him his phone back.  "Got any chocolate in the car?"


"Crap.  Me either."  She stood up and hauled him up, both of them going over to haul Sam up.  They wobbled out to the blazer, letting Xander set up an area to nap in with the sleeping bags.  They climbed in without protest  - she didn't even protest that they were getting the sleeping bag slimy.  Xander patted Dean down for the keys.

"I'm still too mad at you to let you grope me," Dean said.

"Looking for your keys.  That way I can tow the Impala until you can drive."

"Uh-huh.  Get stitches."

"I'll see about it if they don't close soon."  She limped back to the car, driving it closer and pulling out her tow bar.  She hitched the car to it and closed the back gate, letting them cuddle up together.  She walked around to get in and drive, deciding it was about as bad as driving when she'd had a beer.  She saw a car pull into the field and drove closer to it, putting down her window.  "Hey."

"Xander?" the man asked calmly.  Xander nodded.  "Do you need medical attention?"

"She's been gored," Dean called.  "She needs stitches on her stomach at the very least."

"And he's still a strange man and I don't like people touching me," Xander shot back.  "Could use a bandage."  A first aid kit was handed over.  "Thanks.  Have fun with the mess.  Tell Priscilla that the grenade worked *wonderfully*, both of them.  I used one here and one there."  That got a nod and the Watcher drove into the field to handle the cleanup.  Xander put a bandage over her stomach, winding some around her waist to hold it in place, then drove them on.  "Where are we going?"

"Bobby's," Dean called.

"Which is where?"

"South Dakota."

"Sure."  Xander hit the right interstate and headed off.  Every few hours she turned up the radio until she heard dual grumbling then turned it back down so they could sleep again.  They made it to South Dakota three days later and Dean woke up enough to write down an address.  So another two days and they were there.  It kept her from having to think for a while longer.  Xander pulled into the driveway of the salvage yard, parking by the house where an older white guy was standing.  She got out and waved, smiling a bit.  "Help me get the Impala off my trailer hitch please?"

"Do I know you, ma'am?"

"I've got Dean and Sam, the head injury twins, in the back."  He came down to look.  "They got banged up about five days back and said they wanted to come here."  She handed over the Impala's keys.  "Here ya go.  I'll pull them out if you'll pull her off."  Bobby nodded, going to take the car off the hitch and back it away.  Xander opened the back tailgate once she had room and climbed in, nudging Dean and Sam until they both groaned.  "You're here."

"Hate you," Dean said.

"I know.  Come on."


"Now.  You can't live in the back of my blazer.  Your car would get lonely with only Sammy in it."

"Bite me," Sam said.

"Boys," Bobby called.  "You've been waking them regularly?"

"Every few hours for the last few days.  I'm up to about five hours now.  It's been five days," she said at the heated look.  "I've had plenty of my own.  Been here, done this."  She scooted backward, hauling on Sam's foot until he got up and crawled himself out.  Dean moaned but followed.  Xander got them steady and walked Dean up to the porch, then inside, putting him onto the covered couch.  "There, you nap, Dean.  No more moving."

"No more country music?"

"No, no more country music."

"No more wailing like banshees?" Sam asked.

"No, no more wailing country music."  Bobby laughed.  She put Sam down on top of Dean.  "There, be a teddy bear this time."

"Your job," Sam complained, but he yawned and fell asleep there.

"Still going to kick your ass," Dean said, sounding half asleep himself.

"You can try once you're better."  She stood up and looked at him. "They should be fine."

"You need patched up too, miss?  And you are by the way?"

"Have they told you about Alex or Xander, whichever one I've been going by depending on the person?"  He nodded and grinned. "Tis me.  Now I'm heading off to go think in private."

"No," Dean said tiredly.

"Shut up, Dean.  Before I paint you pink and leave you in a parking lot naked with a for rent sign around your neck."  Bobby laughed louder.  Xander grinned.  "You only torture your friends."   She started to walk out but he stopped her.  "They'll be fine.  All their stuff is in their car."

He stared into her eyes. "You look like hell."

"I'm going to go have a drink."  Bobby gave her a look.  "I know.  I had alcoholic parents.  I don't retreat there that often but I deserve one since I just got them free and me free.  I deserve a beer and I deserve a good, long shower.  So I'm going to do that.  If they want to call when they get up, they've got my number."  He nodded, but still didn't let her go.  "Bobby, I have very strong reactions to people grabbing me," she said calmly.  He let her go.  "Thank you.  Not to say it's you or anything but the only ones I feel comfy touching me are on the couch."

"I'm a good listener.  So's Jim."

"I was going to stop in and say hi to him on the way home anyway," she admitted.  "Don't worry about them.  They'll be fine now."

"The deal...."

"Was solved about three weeks ago; make sure they can't die for the next two weeks or more and it'll be good."  He nodded.  "Now, I'm being girlish so I'd better go."

"There's supplies in the bathroom, Xander.  We've seen other female hunters and you guys draw them when you're being girlish."  She smiled and went to the bathroom then left.  He looked at the boys.  "What have you gotten yourself into this time?"  Dean made a complaining noise and Sam whimpered.  "All right, you two. You both stink. It's clear she let you sleep in the back of the truck and didn't stop at motels or anything since the battle.  You're getting slime on the couch.  Up and to the shower."  He pulled Sam up and kept Dean from pulling his gun.  Dean followed with some prompting and a good shove.


Dean sat down at the table a few mornings later.  "Now that I can think, where is my bitch?"

Bobby blinked at him.  "Excuse me?"

"Xander.  Where did she go?"

"She's your...."

"Friend with benefits and our hunting partner, Bobby.  She's in deep emotional trouble.  Where did she say she was going?"

"To say hi to Jim on the way home.  That's all she said."

"Uh-huh.  She look like she'd eaten in the last few weeks?"  He shook his head.  "Knew she was going to backslide when she got it fixed.  Can you watch Sam for me?"

"Sure.  You sure you wanna go chase her?"

"No, but I'm going to go beat her ass for making us worry.  I'll try to drag her back here."

"She didn't seem like she could take being around people."

"Understatement," Dean snorted.  "Big understatement, Bobby."  He stood up and rubbed his forehead.  "Drugs?"

"Tylenol's behind you."  Dean got four and took them on his way out to the car, grabbing his keys off the front table.  Bobby watched him drive off then went to check on Sam, who was napping safely for now.  "Someone's got to tell me what's going on.  Might as well be him.  Bet it'll be entertaining with those two."  He went back to fixing himself breakfast.  Sam would get up eventually when he smelled the food.  Even if it was to puke because his head was making him feel like he had morning sickness according to him.


Dean found Xander on the road, having put the GPS tracking chip back into the blazer, under the back seat this time so it'd be harder to find.  He sat down across from her at the table, taking her beer to take a drink of it.  "Morning."

"Not really."  She took it back and drained it.  "Get your own."

"You are mine."

"I thought we agreed we'd be friends and neither of us would do the clingy girl things."

"I'm not being clingy.  You're our hunting partner, Xander."

"For the moment, I need time to think."

"No, you don't.  You think, you get depressed, and you end up looking like a crack whore.  Like you do today."  She glared at him.  "Don't make me mother you."

"You do it very well."

"Yeah, well, learned from experience.  So, you want to get a burger?"

"Not really hungry."

Dean made her look at him.  "Xander, we're going to talk."

"Get off her," the waitress said, coming over.  "She wants to be left alone."

Dean looked at her.  "No she doesn't.  We're friends. I'm staging an intervention."  He stood up and pulled her up.  "Pay the bar bill and we'll go talk it out again, Xander."

"I ...."


"I'm not your bitch, Dean."  He kissed her and she moaned, clinging to his chest.  "Even with that being good and all I still need time to think.  I'm lost again."

"I know that.  We can go think together.  My head's finally quit hurting and you need someone to talk to.  It works better for you.  So let's go do that."

"Leave her be," the waitress snapped.

Dean glared at her.  "Obviously you've never seen someone depressed enough to be dangerous to themselves, lady.  Butt out."  She gave him a dirty look.  "Xander."  She put down money and followed him out.  "Thank you."

"I'll let you do whatever and then go think somewhere else."

"While that's a nice sentiment and all, fat chance.  Not until you're back to yourself again."  He shoved her into the Impala, looking around.  "Where's the blazer?"

"I don't usually drink and drive if I've had more than one drink."

"Good to know.  How many have you had?"

"I don't know.  I lost track when people were buying for me a few days back."

"Where are you staying?"  She pointed at a nearby motel so he drove them over there, getting her out and up to her room, waving off the clerk.  "I'm bringing her home and sitting on the alcohol poisoning."

"She paid for a single."

Dean went to take care of that then came back and locked them inside.  She was collapsed on the bed.  "I've seen you look worse," he said, sitting up to watch her sleep.


Xander woke up in the morning and Dean snapped awake in his chair.  "What the hell?"

"It's called a motel room.  It's where you sleep.  I know you remember what that is."

"Not cute."  She sat up, holding her head.  "How did you find me?"

"The same way I did last time, dumbass."  He stared at her.  "Want something to eat?"  She shook her head.  "Don't make me handcuff you.  They'll get the wrong idea and I don't want to be in jail while you're in a psych ward.  It won't do either of us any good, Xander."

Xander looked at him.  "Why are you bothering?"

Dean stared at her.  "That's what friends do."  She gave him such a confused look.  "If Buffy had went on a bender, wouldn't you take her home?"

"Did when she went cave slayer."

"Then I'm doing the same thing."

"We're not home."

"I know we're not home.  You're here instead of home.  I came to find you.  Did the liquor rot your brain?"

"Must be.  Probably why my parents were so dumb too."

"Then quit drinking."

"Do you have any idea what I feel like?"

"Yeah.  I was there when Sammy died."  Xander groaned, flopping backwards again.  "And then I found a way out of it.  Then you saved my ass.  Now I'm returning the favor."

"I'm not some damsel and I don't demand payback."

"You're getting it anyway," he promised.  He stood up and walked over, pulling her up and into the bathroom, getting them both into a warm shower.  She shivered under the spray.  "There's a reason to go on, Xander."

She looked at him.  "I'm tired of hunting."

"What else are you going to do?  Go have kids?"  She shuddered.  "Did you threaten Bobby?"

"Told him not to grab me when he did."

"No wonder."  He pushed her back against the wall of the shower, looking at her.  "You're still a friend, even if you try to shove me away.  You still have at least ten more days before time's up on the after clause anyway.  We can talk during that ten days."  She yawned.  "You need to do more of that and more eating too.  Otherwise you're going o the ER and I'm going to have you checked in as suicidal so you can't get out on your own."

"I can escape."

"I have no doubt you can but it could actually help you.  What I'm trying to do."

"I'm fucking miserable, Dean.  Why do I want to prolong this?"

"Because some of us would miss you and I'm tired of missing people.  We go missing too many friends as is, Xander.  All I want to do is not miss you.  You can retire to the cabin.  You can do research if you want.  Jim does."  She slumped.  "You can go back to Sunnydale if you want."  She shook her head.  "Sam and I agreed before we went to Sunnydale that we're taking a vacation until we figure some things out.  We're doing that at your place because you have good cable."  Xander snorted at that, turning to wet her face down.  Dean turned her around and held her.  "Let it out, Xander."

"Not a girl."

"I know and letting it go isn't a girly thing.  Just let it out.  Let me help.  Otherwise I really will have to beat your ass for worrying us that way.  You nearly didn't come back.  We were going to give up when the attack happened."  Xander slumped, and he could feel a few tears.  "Shh, I've got you.  You can let it out, let yourself fall.  I'll help you.  That's what friends and family do for each other."

"How would I know?"

"We'll figure it out together."  She nodded, going limp against his chest.  "Shh.  Let it out.  I have you.  I'm the strong one at the moment.  Even if I am hungry enough to eat you.  Not that you'd be very tender.  You're kinda stringy at the moment."

"Food sucks."

"Yeah I know.  Tough."  He got them out of the shower and went to get them something from the fast food place up the street.  He came back and paid for another night when he saw the pissed looking man in the office.  "Sorry."

"Just tonight?"

"I think so."  He went back up there, letting Xander have her soda.  She gave him a weak smile.  "Drink."  He sat down next to her on the bed, letting her cuddle up to him.  He yawned.  "Drink it."  Xander gulped the soda.  "Want the pancakes and syrup or the bland scrambled eggs and toast?"

Xander looked up at him. "Hospital food?"

"Gotta have some uses to it.  You haven't been eating.  The alcohol would make your stomach touchy.  Up to you.  You want sugar or stuff to ease you back into eating?"  Someone pounded on the door and he sighed.  "Five bucks says it's a cop."


Dean got up to answer it.  "Yes, Officer?"

"Sir, it was reported that you drug a young woman out of a bar last night?"

Dean let him see Xander.  "First of all, she's my wife.  Secondly she's been depressed and took off recently.  I tracked her down so we could talk and see if I could help her.  Last night I did drag her out of there.  She wasn't sure what week it was.  I brought her back here to sleep it off and now I'm trying to get her to eat.  I appreciate that the locals are looking out for strange people who kidnap young woman, but I'm not one."

The officer looked at Xander.  "She does look rough.  Think about checking her into rehab?"

"She's depressed, not an alcoholic.  She's had some really bad traumas in the last few months."

"Ma'am, is what he says true?" the officer asked.

Xander looked up at him and blinked a few times then nodded.  "Yeah.  I did take off so I could have some time to think and it turned into a bad moment for letting people buy me drinks."  The officer nodded.  "He's trying very hard not to yell at me for taking off that way while he had a head injury."

"That's fine then.  You want to hit the ER?"

She shook her head.  "Over everyone who drags me's dead body," she said coolly.  He nodded, backing up at that.  "I'll be fine.  I was thinking too much and not eating or sleeping.  We've had this fight before."

Dean nodded.  "Up and down the California coast," he agreed.

"Fine, sir.  Ma'am, if you do need help, 911 works around here."

"Thank you, Officer," Dean said, smiling and shutting the door once he turned around.  He came back to the bed, handing her the eggs and toast.  "Thank you."  He kissed her.  "Now eat."

"Any more sodas?"

"Two in the bottom of the bag.  If you eat at least half  your breakfast you can have another one."  She dug in and ate listlessly.   "Sam was thinking.  You could have the surgery and change back."  Xander gave him a horrified look.  "It'd make you a guy again."

"I'd have to do a lot of stripping for that."

"True."  He stole a piece of her toast and gave her a soda, making her happier.  He even let her mooch some of the pancakes.  "Sam also found a spell online to make you a guy at least part of the time.  So you could switch back and forth."  She looked perkier at that.  "I'm not sure if it's doable.  He sent it to Tara while we were chasing after you."

"I'm sorry but..."

He put a hand over her mouth, staring at her, one eyebrow cocked up. "Shut up.  I heard your reasons.  They're flimsy at best.  We weren't going to get hurt.  There's no way that the demon could have hurt us."  Xander nodded.  "No there wasn't."

"He took it easy on me."

"I doubt that, Xander.  You're a prize to their side.  The same as I am.  They were simply dumb.  Most demons are."  She slumped.  "You didn't want to trust us."  Xander shook her head.  "Why?"

"Because you had what you needed and wanted."  She looked up at him.  "People leave when they have what they want."

"Some do.  I see you as more than useful.  Otherwise I'd put you in the trunk, not sleep with you.  You're not a weapon.  You're a friend.  Before all this stuff started, wouldn't your friends have been with you if it was a bully or something?"

"Jesse would have."

"Okay.  Did you talk to him?"

"I staked him," she said quietly.  "He got turned.  That's why I jumped into the fight."

Dean moaned, slumping some.  "Damn it.  We got involved because of Dad and the one that killed Mom."

"Jesse and I could've ended up together.  He was the only one who really wanted to know *me*.  Willow had a crush and she saw what she wanted to.  Buffy slowly got spoiled by the ease of the fight.  When I had to do something necessary she got pissed.  She would've thrown me a going away party in those days.  Later on she would've protested but if I was insistent she would've backed down.  Maybe snuck after me but probably not."

"What would Jesse have done?"

"We were fifteen when he was killed, Dean.   We were barely working out if we liked girls or not."

"Good point."  He kissed her again.  "I seem to like smartasses with super strength."  She gave him a weak smile.  "The same as I do for Sam, I do for you.  If you're in trouble and I can get there to help, I'm going to be there.  I'll even promise it in blood if you want."

"That can kill you."

"I know that."  Xander leaned against his shoulder.  "How's your stomach?  If I remember right you needed stitches."

"It's fine.  Healed."  She let him see the new scar.

"I don't see that it was stitched."

"I can't stand to have most people touch me, Dean.  That includes doctors and things."

"Would you consider trusting the ones I do if Sam and I are there?"  She shook her head.  "Why not?"

"Because it creeps me out."

"What about if I did them or Sam did them?"

"You two don't set of creepy feelings."

"Good.  Then it's progress.  A little bit with some backsliding.  Eat."  Xander finished her breakfast and his, then the soda.  She snuggled in again once the styrofoam boxes were tossed out.  "Did Jim make you feel creepy?"

"I felt like he was leering."

"He was probably studying you to see if you need help.  He does that."  He cuddled her closer.  "We're going tonight, okay?"  Xander nodded.  "We can do this however you want.  I'd like for us to go back closer to Bobby's since I left Sam there."

"I was wondering where he was hiding."

"He's soaking up real showers and home cooked food."  He looked at her.  "I also want to be back there because there's a hunter's picnic and gathering coming up.  I want us to go as a team.  We are a team?"  Xander nodded weakly, but flinched when someone knocked on the door.  "What?" he called impatiently.  They knocked again so he got up, looking at the man on the other side.  "Yes?"

"Your...wife forgot to pay half her bar bill."

"How much more do I owe?" Xander asked with a groan as she got up.

"How much did you drink?  You tossed down four hundred," Dean complained.

Xander came over with her wallet, handing over another two.  "That cover it?"  The guy nodded and left.  Xander shut the door, looking at him.  She leaned in.  "He's a supplier, Dean.  I was going to have him work on the blazer too."

"Uh-huh."  He looked at her.  "For?"

"More stability.  I felt like it was sliding on the snow."

"Fine.  When will it be done?"

"Should be done now.  Was it in the parking lot?"  He nodded.  "Then it should be done now."  She looked and waved at the guy, who nodded and left.  Xander shut the door and climbed back into the bed, patting it.  "Can I...."

"This time.  You told me you left it because you were too drunk to drive."

"Another good reason and I found out that he could do that after I started to drink."

"Fine."  He kissed her on top of the head.  "We've got to solve this issue."

"I don't like not being myself."

"So we'll try that spell, see if it helps."  Xander looked up at him.  "It sucks, Xander, but if you can't help it you can't.  If even a God can't heal it, then you've got to accept it."

"I don't want to live like this."

"Why?  What's so bad about it?"

"You mean besides having to fight?  I'm never going to get to do normal things.  I'm never going to be able to do anything but be a slayer.  I'm never going to start a family, raise one, keep them from joining me in the field, none of it.  I'll never get to work a normal job with a real paycheck.  It's always going to be slay and repeat."

"They said you were on the reserve list."

"Yeah but being what I am will draw them to me," she reminded him.

He considered it.  "That's a good point.  The cabin's protected."  She shrugged.  "You could stay there most of the time."

"Yay, hiding, a great way to live my life.  I'm not Howard Hughs."

"No, you're not.  If you were that rich you could've already had the operation."

"I checked.  You have to pass some mental evals and do the whole 'living as the other sort for a year' thing, plus a lifetime of hormones."

"Plus there's no guarantee of the powers passing on," he said.  She nodded, putting her head back down.  He thought.  "Because we finally got that one demon, Sam and I have both been thinking about our future," he said cautiously.  She gave him a horrified look.  "What?"

"If you're proposing you're going to be miserable after six months of doing nothing but hiding."

"Well, I wasn't going to.  I'm not ready for that and you're seriously not until you're back to the point where you can look at your own body again."  He gave her a squeeze.  "We've been thinking about cutting back.  Doing four, five, six jobs a year instead of always being on the road. That would solve both problems, right?"  She nodded slowly, still staring at him.  "I know very well I'm going to fall back to a support position like Bobby does sometime in my thirties.  I already ache and I'm only twenty-six.   I've been banged up too many times recently.  That sort of support would be helping other hunters, doing research, that stuff.  Want to help with that?"

"That's kind of what I was doing before," she admitted.

"Okay.  Can we work on doing that together?  We slow down, you slow down and gradually stop when you can't walk out the door?"

Xander considered it. "That's only one problem."

"The family thing?  You're closer to having one now than you were before, Xander.  You can have a kid whenever you want.  You know that."

"I'm still having trouble thinking about those parts."

"No one said it had to be today.  When you're ready for a family, you can do that.  Even with that one nightmare."

She plucked at his chest hairs a few times.  "In the nightmare I was having you being reborn after dying."

"That's kind of creepy," he told her, shuddering.  "Was Sam my dad?"  She nodded.  "Eww.  You'd break Sammy."

"I don't know."

"Still gross."

"Which is one of those things that's really stopping me from even thinking about it."

Dean kissed her.  "Me too now."  She gave him a real smile.  "You can shelve that problem until you're ready to think about retiring fully and having one.  Though I'd better not be dead by then."  She hugged him.  "Would that work so far?"  She nodded.  "Okay, any other issues beyond the fact that you backslid again about your body?"

"I was holding on because I had to do that job.  I kept pushing it back."

"So you ignored it and pushed it away instead of dealing with it.  Now we have to deal with it.  We can deal with it while on vacation.  Because your cabin's going to be covered in snow for another month and then you'll have three weeks of mud.  The Impala will never get out of there in that much mud."  Xander gave him a squeeze.  "Can we go talk to Sammy and make sure he can agree?  He always wanted to go back to a normal life too."

"I don't..."

He kissed her then stared down at her.  "Bobby used to hunt with our dad.  He's known us since we were little kids.  Jim's probably already warned him why you're with us."  She groaned.  "He won't tell anybody unless you tell him to but he's a good friend of the family.  That means you need to get to know him too and you two have to deal with each other.  Speaking of, how did my car get there?"

"I towed it."

"Want to do that this time?"

"I like the Impala."

"Yeah but I can't tow the blazer.  Unless you're not going to make any unscheduled side trips to some far off place again?"  Xander shook her head.  "Good."  She snuggled in.  "We need to sleep.  It's been a bad month."  She nodded.  "Did the demon hurt you?" he asked quietly.

"We sneered at each other then I used the new toy."

"I saw that in the field.  It was pretty."

"I'll get the specs."

"Cool.  We love new toys."  He wiggled down, letting her cuddle up.  At least until he pinched her.  "Never, ever offer to let me do whatever I want and then leave.  You're not my whore, Xander."


"I know you were drunk, just don't do it again."

"Yes, Dean."

"Thank you."  He called Sam's cellphone.  "It's us.  Yeah, found her.  We'll be heading back that way tomorrow.  Took me three days to get here.  Sure.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Think you could handle the picnic?  It's lots of good food and Pastor Jim will be there."  Xander shook her head.  "You could try then go hide in the car."

"Too many people I don't know."

"We're a tight group, Xander.  We're mostly friends."  He made her look at him.  "Try it?  Just for an hour?  It's usually a lot of fun and half of them will think I finally brought a date.  We won't tell them you're you or anything."

"No one will wonder?"

"Nope.  They'll ask but Bobby's going to put around the word that you're a bit shy and don't want to talk about things yet.  Some of us come in with a huge chip, like Dad did, and some sneak in under the radar and find themselves stuck in the middle of us.  You can appear to be one of those, sucked in by my magnificence."

"Funny, you don't look like Lockhart."

"Thankfully, he wore ugly clothes.  Robes would get in my way anyway; they'd hide some of my best assets."  He kissed her.  "Sleep."

"Yes, Dean.  You do realize this is a common law state?" she said a few minutes later.  He groaned.  "We'll figure it out."

"Thanks."  He let her snuggle in, feeling how thin she had gotten this time.  He was going to break her of this habit of running away.  Even he and Sammy had to learn how to trust someone.  Granted, they hadn't been betrayed like Xander was, but they had learned.  They'd help her learn.


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