Hell's Hit List

The owner of the demon's newsstand in Sunnydale looked up as the door's bell jingled, frowning at the human walking in.  "The new hit list is out."

"I know.  That's why I'm here," Xander said with a happy grin.  "Anything good this month?"

"Not really.  Why do you buy that?"

Xander smirked.  "To keep track of our rankings on the hit list."  The owner scowled.  "I'm getting it delivered starting next month."

"Fine.  Expensive but fine."

Xander leaned closer.  "Anya likes some of the trashy articles."  That got a small moan.  "How else did you think we heard about it?  Not like Angel told us."  That got a snort of displeasure.  He took Xander's twenty-one dollars and handed over the new magazine.

Xander looked at the cover.  "Awww, all about the hunters this month."  He flipped back.  "I wonder if that set of hunters know they put a semi-naked picture of one in here."  The owner choked so Xander walked out, going back to the Magic Box to read it and then pass it on.  "Buffy, you're down to number six," he said as he walked in.

"Why?  Did I goof?" she asked dryly, taking the demon's monthly magazine of new tricks, tips, and information from him to look at the Hell's Hit List section.  "Huh.  Wonder what I did wrong."

Xander took it back to flip down to the cheers and jeers section; it usually had why they had been downgraded.  "They thought you were trashy for flashing the three vamps you were fighting last week.  Apparently someone saw that."  He let her have it when she snatched it, grinning at Giles.  "They've got special articles on the young, male hunters this time."

"That blasted magazine is getting more and more trashy every month," he complained.  "How can you spend good money on that drivel?"

"Easy.  We get a lot of head's up from it, Giles.  Every time our rank goes up, it's about to be an apocalypse."

Buffy nodded, handing it back after flipping through the young hunters' section.  "It does.  I made it to number two during the last one."  Xander nodded at that.  "He stays pretty well at number four or five."

"They like me," Xander said with a wicked smirk.  "They really like me."  She bopped him on the arm again.   Then she went to her practice area to work out.  "You know, last month they called Riley a vamp cocksucking woose and his whole team future food sources."

She laughed.  "What did they run into?"

"Some sort of Aztec mummy.  Apparently it enthralled them for a bit."  He grinned sweetly, making her cackle.  "Angel's not even on the hit list this month.  So they've apparently got a vacation from Wolfram and Hart or Cordy bitched them out.  I sent her the one with the article on her.  She was not a happy seer by any means."

Giles moaned.  "Why do you spread that around?"

"Because they needed to know they were being watched.  Cordy ruined *two* pairs of *three hundred* dollar shoes and a pair of five hundred dollar shoes kicking their butts for catching her sunbathing in that geek-boy-brain-frying bikini of hers."

"Wow.  Usually she wears the cheap shoes when she's got to kick butt," Buffy said in awe.  "Did she complain?"

"She made the editor buy her three new pairs of very nice shoes to go with the outfit Angel just bought her to calm her down."  He grinned sweetly.  "I'm guessing they're still scared of her."

"I'd be scared too.  Wasting shoes that expensive should be a sin."  She went back to practicing.

Giles moaned, shaking his head.  "Why me?" he muttered, going to make himself some tea.

Xander settled in to read it.  When Willow and Tara came in he nudged Willow and handed over the pictorial spread.  "They don't know they're being followed.  They're hunters too.  Think we could find them to let them know?"

"It depends, will they throw a fit like Cordelia did?"

"Maybe."  He turned the page to show her the semi-naked pictures of one of them.  She winced.  "They should know."

"I'll see if I can find an address for them."  She settled in behind her computer to look them up.  They were nice looking boys, though one only got his picture taken from the shoulders down for some reason.  She wasn't sure why, but he had some nice abs.  She hugged Tara to reassert her conviction that she was a lesbian and went back to it before she started to dwell on it.  She did not need rock hard abs unless her witch decided to start working out.


Dean Winchester looked at the motel manager when he opened the door.  "He snoring too loud?" he joked.

"Package."  He handed it over.  Then he went back to the office.  With those two, he didn't want to know what it was.  With his luck it was something illegal or drugs.  No other reason young guys in a flashy car that played loud music stayed at his place.

Dean shut the door, sitting at the small table to look it over.  On the back of the brown paper wrapper was the remark: 'information for hunters'.  He frowned, untying the string.  Then the paper.  Underneath was a note.  "Thought you should see this.  Just in case you didn't know you were being followed.  Number six on the hit list," he read.  He frowned, opening the envelope inside the package to slide out the contents.  He looked at the cover.  "Hell's Hit List, the monthly information source for demons to get new tips, tricks, and information on all the hunters who're after our wonderful selves," he read.  Sam flipped over and went back to snoring.  Dean checked him then read the rest of the front of the cover.  "Young, male hunters ....  Oh, hell no!"  He flipped back through until he got to a picture of him waxing his car without a shirt on.  Two pages over was clearly a snuck picture of Sammy since he was only in a towel inside their motel room a few weeks back.  "Fuck!"

Sam sat up, looking around, hand going for the knife under his pillow.  "Ghost, demon, or otherwise?"

"Demons," he said, tossing that magazine over to him.   Sam looked then gave him an odd look.  "Page eighty, Sammy."  Sam picked it up with two fingers to flip back to page eighty.  Then he choked like there were fish bones in the air.  "Find that place for me?"

"Sure," he choked.  He got up to get his laptop, logging on to find it for him.  "How did we get this?"

"One of the others on the hit list sent it to make sure we knew we were being followed."  He let him see the note.  Sam found the hit list section and stared at it.  He let Dean see it.  Sam was at number two and Dean was at number four.  "Why not together?"

"I don't know," Sam said.  "Who's number six?"

"Xander Harris, hunter on the slayer's team, the White Knight," he read.  "Capitalized."

"Huh."  He found the magazine's subscription page and read it over.  "It's expensive."

"The demons are paying for it by fleecing others," he reminded him.  He leaned back to flip through it.  It did have a lot of information.  "Hey, there's a section in here on blessed water versus holy water."  Sam came over to read over his shoulder.  "I didn't know that new goretex and plating body armor would repel water."  He frowned, reading on.  "No wonder that hunter gets this thing."

"Definitely.  I still don't like that they got me semi-naked.  I'm not some beefcake model."  He went back to looking it over.  "Think Bobby knows?"

"Don't know."  He found his phone and called him.  "Did you know demons had a magazine of tips and tricks that profiled hunters?"  Bobby choked.  "Sammy did the same thing when he saw the picture of him in just a towel."  He waited for the spluttering to stop.  "What's it called?  Hell's Hit List.  Which is a section inside it.  What's a slayer?"  He listened to the explanation.  "Huh.  She's below both of us."  Bobby said something else.  "Really?  So she's on a major trouble area and that's probably because it's calm right now?  I guess that's fine.  No, one of her team sent it to us to let us know they were following us.  Got a nice picture of me waxing the Impala without a shirt."  He flipped through the young hunters again.  "There he is.  Page ninety-six is the guy who sent it to us.  He's not too old.  Probably Sammy's age.  He's looking at it right now.  We're nowhere near you, Bobby.  Don't know.  Sammy, find Bobby a place he can buy it local to his place?"

He found that link and followed it, putting in the zip code.  "Hank's Dairy and Magazine Shop has it."

Dean repeated that.  "Isn't that the place that sells the porn mags?"  Sammy nodded.  Bobby said something smart and hung up.  Dean went back to reading over the articles once his phone was back on the charging cord.  "They've got some new ideas for how to get around hunters on the prowl."

"Yippee," Sam said dryly.  "Why am I rated higher than you?"

Dean sighed but turned back to their pages of the pictorial.  "The seer stuff.  Seers are higher than regular hunters."

"Is that why they only got me from the nipples down?" Sam asked.

"Could be.  We'll ask when we find them and stomp them into a gooey mess for this."  He went back to the articles, sitting up.  "They've got a weapon profile on here about the newest pieces of anti-demon technology."

"The yearly subscription is one-fifty-one.  It's forty percent off the newsstand price."

"That's not bad but we don't have a steady address."  He considered it.  "Use the PO box.  We can have someone ship it to us."  Sam nodded at that, turning to get that done.  Dean went back to reading about the new weapon.  "Hey, it's got a heat setting.  Developed by the military...there's a hunting team in the UN?"

"There is?" Sam asked, giving him an odd look.

"Yeah.  It says so."  He looked up.  "We so need back issues."

Sam sighed but found a semi-local place that sold it and took Dean to get them.  This was just...wrong on so many levels.  Creepy and wrong.  And why the naked pictures of him?


Xander got the next month's one, looking at the letters to the editor.  "Huh.  They did get it, Willow.   One of the pair complained that they're not cuts of steak and to quit stalking them before they salt and burn their photographers."  She cackled at that.  He went forward, finding the hit list.  "Buffy's down but I'm up?"  He frowned.  "What the hell?  Giles, my rating went up and Buffy's is down!" he called.  Giles came to look.  Xander took it back to see why.

Willow snatched it from both of them to look over.  "Oh, here it is.  One of the higher ones wants to date you.  They think you'd warp her like you have Anya so they're trying to save one of the major players in hell."  She handed it back.  "Buffy, you're down to seven."

"Nice to know we're in a lull.  Now if only the stupid vampires would give up for a few days so I can study for that test."  She looked up.  "Which major demon and how do we kill it?"

"It doesn't give a name but I'm sure we can find out how to kill major, higher demons if we have to," she said cheerfully.  She went to find Anya in the stock room.  "Xander's rating went up because one of the Higher demons wants to date your boyfriend.  They want to spare her the warping you've gotten so they want him more now."

"Excuse me?" she demanded, stomping out there to get the book and look through.  "I'll kill the bitch."  She handed it back and stomped off.

Xander waved.  "Thanks for sticking up for my honor, Ahn!" he called after her.  He looked at Willow.  "That's mean."

She beamed.  "So?  She needed to be reminded she could still be as mean as she was when she was demonic."  She went back to helping Buffy study.

Xander looked at the older man, getting a rolled-eye look back before he left him to read his newest magazine.  Xander went over the news and new gear first.  Then he looked at the cheers section.  "That Sam guy's in deep crap if they're right," he said.

"He need saved?" Willow asked absently.

"Could.  Major demon wants him."  She came over to look.  Then she scowled and went to find the phone number she had found with the address.  She called and left a message to check the cheers and jeers section because they were seriously after Sam now.  She even offered to let them lead it there so they could let their slayer kick it's butt if they needed her to.  Then she went back to her studying.

Xander grinned.  This magazine was the most fun he'd had in ages.  He found a new picture of him from the last few weeks.  "We've got a reporter in town."

"Why?" Buffy asked, looking at him.  He held up the picture and she blushed.  "Um, why are you kinda nearly naked?" she squeaked.

He looked back at her, putting the magazine in his lap.  "I fell off the ladder.  My shirt was soaked and I loosened my belt so I could gel the scrapes down my back."  He went back to his reading.

She blushed at Willow, noticing her blush.  "Construction does good things for his muscles," she hissed.  Willow nodded back and they laughed then got back to work.

"Ooh, baby," he moaned.  "New artillery."  He stroked over the picture while he read.  "I need that."

"No," Giles said from where he was researching something.  They all looked outside at the sound of an explosion.  "I do believe that was Willie's Cantina."

"Sounds like Anya got her man," Buffy said dryly but she went to check it out.  Just in case it was a real problem that she'd need to handle.  Xander followed, getting a frown since he was reading as he walked.  "If you trip, I get to laugh."  He handed her the book, making her moan.  "He's adorable."

"Went to Stanford too."  He grinned.  "So he's smart."

"That'd be a nice change.  And he's a hunter so he'd understand all the stuff I do."  She perked up.  "Maybe he needs a pen pal."

"Maybe," he agreed.  "Can't hurt to start a conversation with him."  They found the demon bar nearly destroyed.  Xander found Willie pouting at it.  "Willie, were we mixing illegal alchemy experiments again or just the grog for the Nordic demons?"

"The grog," he admitted with a look at them.  "Alchemy's not illegal."

"Depends on what you're playing with.  Last month you had classified materials."  The demon snorted but went back to pouting at his wreckage.  "Need us to dig?"

"No.  No one was in but a vamp and he's dusted now."  He shrugged, getting up to walk over there.  "I need to rebuild."

"Concrete," Xander said.  "Practical, cheap, you can make pre-formed panels with holes for the wiring and have it rebuilt within weeks of finishing the clean up."

"Thanks, Harris.  I needed the construction advice."  He smirked.  "Wondering if your girl was here?"

"No, HHL said there's a higher who wants to date me.  That's why I went up this month.  She's going to find them for me and avenge my honor."  He smirked a wicked little smirk at Willie's shudder.  "Buffy went down though."

"Congrats on getting time to study, slayer."  He shuddered and walked through one of the few solid doorways he still had.  "Go away?"

"Fine," Xander agreed.  They went back to the Magic Box together, going to tell Giles what had happened then settle in to do stuff before patrol that night.


Dean looked at his new copy, staring at it.  "Dude, they did it again!"  Sam snatched the book to look at, groaning at the shirtless picture.  "I'm insulted.  I don't get play like that."  He was nearly pouting.  Why didn't they want to take more naked pictures of him?  Had he scared them off?

"Why can't they include my head?" Sam complained.  He tossed it aside and went back to write them another complaint.  This time he might even swear at them.

Dean gave him a look then went back to reading it.  He found the Hit List section and groaned.  "There is a worse demon magnet than you!  That Harris guy's rating went up because one wants to date him."

"Poor guy."

"They said he warped his last girlfriend too much.  She used to be in vengeance but they spotted her cooing at babies and puppies."

Sam looked at him.  "He's dating a former vengeance demon?"  Dean let him see the article.  "Huh, he is."  He handed it back, shaking his head quickly.  The phone rang but Dean let the voicemail get it while he read.

"I need that," Dean announced.

"Female hunter?" Sam joked.

"Artillery."  Sam came over to look.  He was nice enough to wipe the drool off Dean's chin but got smacked for it.  "Quit!"

"Not my fault you were drooling."  He took the magazine to look through.  "I'm not the only headless pinup this month.  They got the Harris guy at work shirtless and his pants riding low."  Dean looked.  "Looks like he scraped himself."

"It said he works construction.  He probably did."  He took it back.  Sam snatched it so he could read over the new tips and information articles.  "Anything good?"

"Someone is working on a way to keep an exorcism from working.  He said that he managed to avoid the number one guy getting him out of a deaf person."  They shared a look.  That was good to know.  "Instead it says he had to be gotten out by holy water and that guy's burned more than anyone else's he'd ever had to run into.   No wonder he's tops on the hit list.  Wonder if he knows...."  He turned back to his computer so he could find him.  Dean got the magazine back to go over that same article.  "Hey, Dad sent a coded message through Bobby."

"Good to know he is alive," Dean said impatiently.  "New hunt?"

"Stay where we are.  Something's tracking us."  He sent a message back to Bobby to tell him about the magazine since they were tracking them to take indecent pictures of his lower half again.  Bobby sent back a laugh and a promise to show John his copy when he ran into him.  "Bobby said he'd show Dad one of them."  He looked over, seeing the disgusted look.  "What?"

"The demon's tracking you."  He let him see that article.  Sam growled.  He checked the voicemail while Sam growled.  "The Sunnydale crew said we could lead him there if we wanted their help taking him out."  He hung up.  "Babbling girl."

"So either their slayer or one of their witches," Sam said.  He grinned.  "Two lesbian witches working together."

"Makes sense to me.  Why are most of the good witches lesbians?"

"They do vow to a goddess."

"Good point."  He grimaced.  "We'll see if we need it."  He called Bobby.  "You have to show Dad this month's edition.  The demon's after Sammy.  Actively hunting.  Yeah.  Also, new weapons came out.  Did you know there's a hunting team out of the UN?"  He hung up on the spluttering.  "That should stop the naked pictures they keep getting of you, Sammy.  Dad'll burn 'em down if we don't get there first."

Sam looked over, handing over an article.  "The seer for the protection team in LA went off on them about printing pictures of her in a bikini."

Dean read, grinning at that.  "That sounds like my sort of woman.  Kicks ass and snarks at the same time."  He leaned back on his bed to read while Sammy searched out that priest.  That guy needed to know he was so high up on hell's hit list and what they had said about the deaf guy issue.  Just in case it came up again.  They'd do what that Harris guy had done for them, sending him a copy to warn him.


Bobby hung up and looked around.  "Winchester, get your mangy ass in here!" he bellowed.  John came in from the side yard.  Bobby dug out his monthly copy, tossing it over.  "That demon's tracking Sammy."  He hadn't gotten to look at it yet, it had only come earlier that morning.

John sat down to look over the cover.  "What is this?"

"Demons have a magazine to give information on the hunters who're after 'em, new tricks, and new weapons that might hurt 'em.  They keep getting Sammy without a shirt."

John gave him a dirty look.  "Excuse me?"

Bobby handed over the back issues too.  He pointed at the one on top.  "Got both of 'em shirtless."  He smirked and went to get himself some more coffee.

John let out a growl that would make most demons proud if they could do it too.  This was pissing him off and he was going to take his shotgun to something.  Once he found out what was going on.  He started with the first issue Bobby had gotten, frowning at it.   "What am I, chopped liver?" he muttered.  "I'm not on their top twenty list of dangerous things to take out?  There's girls ahead of me."

"Maybe they figure you're old," Bobby called from the safety of the kitchen.

"I'm not that old!"

"Those light-colored hairs aren't from sun bleaching, John."

"Shut up!"

"Dean's nearly thirty."

"I mean it."

"Fine.  Just pointing out the obvious."  He smirked to himself.  Yanking John's chain was not only fun but it meant those demons putting out the magazine would be stopped sooner when he burnt down their offices.  Which was probably why Dean wanted his father to see the magazines.  The growl came back when John got to the young hunter's articles.  "Sammy said he's not sure why they never get his face," he said.  "Want some more coffee?"

"I'm going to kill them all," he snarled.

"Sure, you do that."  He handed him some coffee and left him alone to make plans against those very suicidal demons.  They had to be to piss off Papa Winchester over his boys.


Xander looked at the editorial letters in the next month's issue, then snickered.  "They're moving their offices to get away from pissed off Winchesters."  Buffy gave him an odd look.  "Apparently those two young guys' father nearly firebombed their offices for getting his son naked so many times."  She smirked at that.  "So they moved their offices to somewhere safer."  He went back to reading.  One article made him sit up and reread it more slowly.  "Hey, um, where's Giles?"

"Back room."

He got up and walked back there, dragging Giles to the office.  No matter how much the older man spluttered or demanded to know what was going on.  Xander kicked the door shut then held up the article on Willow and her magic abuse.  He snatched it to read.  Then he glared at the boy.  "Not one word.  We'll handle it for her."

"Please."  He looked around then back at him. "Is that how Ethan started?"

Giles sighed but nodded.  "It was."

"We can handle this?"

"We can."  He sat down to reread the article.  It was not good news.  She had been hiding it from them.  "I'll call some contacts to help her, Xander.  Don't worry about it."

"'Kay, I'll let you handle it.  Give that back to me in a while.  I didn't look at our ratings yet."  Giles flipped back to it and went pale.  Xander looked then opened up the door.  "Buffy, we're at two and three.  We displaced seers."

"Shit!" she yelped.  She jumped off her chair, coming in to see what was going on.  "Anything concrete?"

"Not yet," he admitted.  He tore out that article and handed it back to them.  He glanced at the back, frowning at the naked boy on there.  "They really do not show his face."

"Is that because he's a seer?" Xander asked.

"It could be.  There are some myths that say seeing into a seer's eyes means he sees your soul and it's future.  It gives him power over you."  Xander shuddered at that.

"Or it could be that he's a hotty below but a bagger up top," Buffy offered.  She took the book out to look at it.  "What's that article on?  Something magicy?"

"Yes," Giles said, looking at Xander.  Xander gave him a steady look back.  He nodded he'd handle it and shooed the boy out so he could make a few important calls.  He shut the office door to do it in private.  This was not good news in the least.  Willow going off the deep end would only hurt their team.


Dean looked at his magazine, frowning.  "One of the slayer's team is in danger."

"Their rating go up?"

Dean flipped back.  "Yup, she took your place and he took third this month."  He went back to the other one.  "A witch changing sides.  Damn."

Sam came over to read it.  "Let's hope they can get her down and handled."

"We have their email address since Buffy wrote you."

"We do," he agreed with a smile.  He went to email her about needing help for anything.  While he was doing that, Dean got up to answer the pounding on the door.  They both stared at the scruffy man on the other side.  "Huh, you do live."

"The editors said they were moving buildings because you nearly got 'em, Dad."  Dean grinned.  "Good job!"

John walked in, kicking the door shut before putting down his gear bag.  "What's going on?"

"Going over this month's mag and writing the slayer's team since their witch is having problems," Sam said with a grin.

"Slayers are powerful young girls.  Mostly young teenagers."

"This one's almost twenty-one," Dean told him, letting him see the edition with her profile.  No name on it, just the Slayer.  "She wrote Sam to see if he wanted a pen pal."

John snorted at that.  "We sure it was her?"

"She sent a group picture."  Dean sat down to go back over the other articles.  "Huh, on blood tainting."  John took it to look at then glanced at Sam.

"I saw that," Sam said patiently.  He finished up.  "We got an email from that priest.  He said thank you for letting him know.  He's warned some others about that issue with the deafness and exorcisms.  He's getting his own copy now."  Dean grinned at that.  "He sounds nice.  We should meet him some day."

"We can do that if we're local to him."  He looked at his father.  He took the magazine back.  "Any new leads on that demon?"

"Not yet."  He sat down, looking at his boys.  "How are you boys doing?"

Dean shrugged.  "Same old, same old, Dad."  Sam nodded at that.  "You?"

"I got stopped by another demon trying to save his favorite source of pinups of the slayer's team."  They both laughed at that.  "It's not funny.  This is putting too much light on hunters."

"It's only fair the demons are using new technology to warn each other about the hunters after them," Sam told him.  "I know I've found a bulletin board system announcing who died and who got them."  Dean shuddered.  "That higher who wanted to date that Harris guy got killed by his girlfriend."

"I can't believe anyone would date a demon of their own free will," John said grimly.

"She's a former demon, Dad," Dean reminded him.  "That's a job choice.  Like dating someone who worked in a slaughter house, but still a job choice."

Sam nodded.  "She's helping the slayer's team."  John shuddered.  "It apparently works for them.  He's constantly on or near the top five of the hit list."

Dean nodded.  "Sometimes even higher than their slayer."

John sighed, shuddering lightly.   "It could be worse.  It could be one of you two."  They both smirked at him.  "It had better not be one of you two."

"I still don't know why they don't ever take pictures of my head.  It's making me self-conscious about my hair and zits," Sam complained, going back to what he had been doing.

"Well, you are ugly, little brother," Dean told him with a wicked smirk.

"I'll beat you later," he complained.

"Don't try to kill your brother, Sammy."  He looked at Dean.  "He's not ugly."

Dean sighed, shrugging a bit.  "Then why don't they want his head?"  He sat down to finish going through the articles.  He found one.  "Huh.  Seers are supposed to be able to see into your soul if you stare into their eyes.  They're probably avoiding your head so you don't mesmerize them or whatever."

"I'm not like that," Sam said impatiently.  He sent another nasty letter to the editor of the magazine.  They really needed to quit picking on him and pick on Dean.


Xander looked up from shelving books as an older woman walked into the store.  "Giles is in his office," he said with a point.  With what she was wearing, she had to be another witch.  She gave him an odd look.  "If there's some supply you need to find, let me know, ma'am."

"Which one are you?"


"Oh, I see.  He told me you were quite loyal to the group."  She smiled.  "Rupert?"  He came out of the office to hug her.  "This young one said you were busy."

"No, not really.  Xander, can we have a moment?"

"Of course.  Let me go get some cookies."  He took some money out of the drawer and went to do that.

Giles sat her down to let her read the article and then talk to her about his poor student.  She could help train Willow or straighten her out he was sure.  Xander came back, dropping a box in front of them before putting the cookies in the office.  Then he left the store again with a sword and crossbow.  "Patrol," he told her when she gave him an odd look.  "Or else he's going to threaten Spike again."

She looked at him.  "You do live quite an odd yet wild life, Rupert."

He smiled.  "It is the hellmouth, Deborah."  She nodded at that, opening the box to pick out a macaroon to nibble on.  "Do  you think we can help her?"

"I'd hope so.  Where is she right now?"

"In her late class of the week.  She and her girlfriend both are taking yoga for the next hour."

"It's good for the concentration," she decided, finishing that cookie and taking another to nibble on.  "Any other cheery news?"

"Buffy's still alive."

"Your girl?"

"Yes, my slayer.  We're a bit worried about why her rating went up this month on the hit list but we're sure we can handle it."

"Hit list?"  He let her see that and she gasped.  "You're joking!"

"No.  Xander found the magazine while browsing for something for Anya.  She told him what it was.  He's been a faithful reader since then.  We know whenever one of them goes up, it's due to be a bad time but for right now we're looking to see the current problem."

"Oh, my."  She flipped through it, stopping to glance at the various articles.  She frowned at one picture.  "If I were that hunter, I'd stab someone."

"His family apparently uses guns," he said.  "Xander said the editorials said they were moving their offices due to that one's father nearly burning them to the ground for those pictures."

She snorted.  "As I would for my children."  She put it down.  "Why was the boy rated so high?"

"We have no idea," he admitted.

Buffy rushed in.  "Giles, Xander just fell to the ground holding his head.  Just like Cordy did that time."

"He's a seer?" he demanded.

"Maybe?"  She shrugged.  "How would I know?"

"Bring him here, Buffy."

"Spike's walking him this way."  She opened the door for them, noticing the stranger.  "Hi, sorry.  He's a friend of Giles'."

"I met him earlier," she assured her, getting up to get a few things to mix and steep into a tea.  She came out and made the boy drink it, watching him gag but he got it down.  "That should help with some of the pain.  Now, what did you see?"

Xander blinked up at her.  "Why're you not human?"  She gasped, backing up.  "Are you still a good witch?"

"I'm a very good witch.  How did you know?"

"I can see it overlaying you."  He looked around.  "I can see Spike's demon too."  He frowned as the vision stopped.  "Huh.  Sorry.  No idea what just happened.  Cordy said she gets pictures."

"We'll figure it out, Xander," she promised.  Willow walked in chatting with Anya and Tara.  "Willow, Xander just got a vision."

"Excuse me?" Anya demanded.  She looked up.  "Leave my pookie alone!  He doesn't need you and I need his brain in working order to please me!"  She came over to fuss over Xander as she understood it.  Basically she was going to give him a blow job then cuddle him until he begged for mercy.  They said that babying a wounded hero was a good thing. Xander tried to escape but Willow held him in place magically.  At least until Tara swatted her and Giles glared.  Then she let Xander up and Anya took over holding him down to baby him.  Starting by dragging him into the basement to take care of his physical needs.

"Oh, dear lord.  Anya, that is not going to help his headache," Giles said, pulling the young man away from her.  Xander managed to escape them all and run from the store.  "Let him be for a few hours.  He'll be fine and we'll figure out why he got sent that very odd bit of information."

"Fine, make me leave my pookie all alone and with a headache.  He needs babying."

"Dragging him off for sex isn't babying him," Buffy said.  "Making him soup, getting him a blanket when he's laying on the couch, cuddling with him to make him feel better are all babying things."

"That's what I was going to do once he was tired."  She stomped after her boyfriend, pouting the whole way home.  She'd drag him out of their locked bedroom to take care of him all he needed.

Willow shook her head.  "I was trying to help her calm down."

Giles looked at her.  "I believe we should talk, Willow."

"Why?  Something bad happen?  Did I spill something on a book?  Because I didn't mean to," she said quickly.

"Buffy, Tara, if we may have a few moments?" Giles asked.  They nodded, going to work in the back area.  He got the article, letting her see it.  She went very pale.  "This is Deborah.  She is part of a coven I trust to work with you to clear up any problems you may be having."

"I'm not having problems," she said, looking at her.  "Really, I'm not.  Just because I goofed a few times...."

"Magic is in the intent, child.  How did you...goof?"  Willow wobbled, sitting on the floor.  Deborah fed her a cookie, watching her nibble it without thought.  "We'll work it out together.  Now, when are you free from classes for a bit?"

"Three weeks."

"Good.  That'll give me time to set up so you can come visit me."  Willow blinked.  "It is easier to do it off the hellmouth, child."  Willow slumped, nodding.  "Not for good but for some training time and a short vacation, all right?"


"I think it would be a good idea," he said firmly.  "Get your head on straight."

"What about why their ratings went up?"

"We figure it'll make itself known in the next few days," he assured her.  "It should be handled by the time you're out for the summer."

She relaxed.  "You sure you can do without me?  I mean only having Xander and Buffy might mean problems come faster."

"Her coven did teach me as well," Giles said patiently.  Willow gaped.  "Exactly.  As a matter of fact, Deborah, would you mind taking both witches?  Tara was trained by her mother in the old ways and it would be good for her to get away for the summer as well."

"We're in a provincial area but I don't see a problem with it as long as they're not making out like young teenagers in the middle of the town's streets."  Willow blushed, shaking her head quickly.  "Then it could only help you when you learn some new skills, Willow.  May I meet your young lady?"

"Tara?" she called.  She came out of the back room.  "This is a witch Giles knows from a coven in England, I'm guessing by the accent."

"In Devon," she said, smiling at the shy young woman.  "I'm Deborah.  Rupert had called to ask one of us to do some work with Willow about her skills.  Would you like to come along as well?"

"I...I...sh...shouldn't," she stuttered quietly, looking down.

Buffy came out to look at her.  "Your dad says something and I'm going to beat him this time.  Go to England.  I hear it's pretty.  You and Willow can play in the woods together."  Tara blushed brighter red, letting out a small squeak.  "Or that," she agreed with a grin.  "One of us should have a good summer vacation.  When are you going?"

"School's out in three weeks so if you don't need her, I'll take them both then," Deborah said, standing up to pat Willow on the head.  "None until I can work with you unless it's necessary," she whispered.  Willow looked down, nodding slightly.  "Good girl."  She came over to hug Tara.  "Very strong."  She smiled at the girl.  "My daughter will be quite amused at me helping you two.  We'll bake."  Tara smiled shyly at her, nodding a bit.  "Good girl.  Rupert, make sure they have papers and all that."

"Not a problem.  I already have."  He smiled at them.  "You'll be near my family's home so I can get you to check on them and carry letters for me."  Tara nodded at that, sitting down.  "Now, let's get to work on what the current problem is."  He clapped his hands and they got back to work while Deborah headed for home.  Someone seriously had to get onto that young woman's case.

Tara stopped Giles.  "She's abusing her powers?" she asked quietly.  Giles handed over the article Willow had left out.  Tara sighed but nodded, handing it back.  "I'll help them."

"That's what I expected, Tara.  She'll learn better with you and the Devon coven is full of some formidable witches."  She smiled and nodded, going back to the research.  He went to find the passports he had gotten for them all and then went back to finding whatever was going on this time.  He was quite peeved, there wasn't even a prophecy about this one.


Xander walked Buffy into Angel's headquarters, looking around.  "Nicer than the last one.  Lots and lots of room for Cordy to redecorate or destroy."

"I don't destroy most things.  That's you, Xander," Cordelia shot back, giving him a look then a smile.  "What are you two doing here?"

"Got a head's up from HHL.  Faith's awake and headed here," Xander said, tossing over his copy.  She found it and groaned, going to find the guys.  He and Buffy sat down.  Well, Buffy went to look at the books and weapons lying around.  He sat down and got comfortable.  He was only the driver this time.  Angel and Wesley came out, getting a wave from him.  "Hey."

Wesley handed back the magazine.  "You're taking the subscription now?"

"It's cheaper."  He grinned.  "We get it sooner too."

"Good."  He settled himself while Buffy and Angel stared at each other.  "Do we have any idea where she is?"

"We were kinda hoping you guys might.  That way we could find her, see if she was still a bad girl or not, that stuff," Buffy said.  "Because Giles got a warning that the Council was coming for her."  Wesley moaned.  She looked at him.  "He didn't figure she'd get out of that."

"No, I dare say not," he agreed.  He and Angel looked at each other.  "Let us call around.  Have a seat, Buffy.  Would you like some tea or water?  I wouldn't offer to poison you with Cordelia's cooking but that's fairly safe, even from her."

Xander smiled.  "I remember her burning cookies in Home Ec."

She glared at him.  "At least I only burned *mine*."

"Mine came out okay.  Jesse's nearly torched the whole classroom.  His crepe too."  Wesley smiled at that.  The boy grinned back.  "So, anyway, I had to drive her down.  If it's going to be longer than tomorrow we'll figure it out because I've got work."  She nodded at that, sneaking a look at Angel.  Mentally, he was swearing at her to get over it.  She needed to move on.  He looked at Cordelia, who was staring at them.  She caught his eye and rolled her eyes then went to make some ice water for them.  "Any idea if we can spot the Council's bag team before they pounce on us all?"

"Not at the moment," he admitted.  "Let me call some contacts.  Angel?"

"I can call some of mine," he agreed, going to do that.  Seeing Buffy always made him ache.

Xander looked at Buffy before kicking her on the foot.  "We'll stop for ice cream."  She gave him a weak smile.  "Riley's going to be back in a few days."  She blushed, shaking her head.  "Snap out of it," he hissed.  She glared at him.  "It's making it harder on both of you."

She nodded.  "I know."  She relaxed and looked around again.  "This really is a nice old place."

"It is.  Well constructed too since the years haven't been kind to it but it's still in good shape."

"They don't build buildings like they used to," Cordelia teased as she came out with ice water for them.

"No, now we have better materials and an idea of how to make them wobble instead of break during an earthquake."  She laughed at that.  "I made crew lead."  He took his glass.  "Thank you."

"Congrats."  She smiled at him.  "How's Sunnyhell?"

"Same old, same old," Xander sighed.  "Willow's going to England with Tara for the summer to study with some witches Giles knows.  Our last issue was apparently Faith waking up."  He took a sip then looked at his ex-girlfriend.  "How's LA doing?"

"About the same as usual but half of the demons learned to get out of the way if Angel was growling."  They smiled at that.  "We saw Spike."

"I see *way* too much of Spike now and then," Xander told her.  "Giles likes me to babysit Spike for him."

"He ties him up in his recliner," Buffy told her.  "Then Anya complains because she can't get sex while he's there."

Xander nodded.  "Yup, basically."

"The same Anya you took to prom?" Cordelia asked.

"Yup," Xander agreed, giving her a look.  She shuddered.  "She tries really hard to be good to me."

"I'm glad.  Still icky."  She shifted to get more comfortable.  "Any other happy news?"

"Anya wants to move onto being a fiancee," Buffy told her.

"I'm still thinking about her pointed hints," Xander told her.  "And we've got a small issue with the little creatures who're looking for someone in our town.  That's what we forgot.  The letter, Buffy?"  She went to get it from the car.  "From Giles to your stuffy watchery sort."

"Wes is very handy with a book or a sword."

"Good.   It's good we all moved on from the bad old days."  He smiled.  "They sent my rating up when a higher demon wanted to steal me from Anya.  Buffy told Anya so she went to kill it for me to defend my honor."

Cordelia cackled.  "You're so whipped, Xander."

"I am not."  He smirked.  "But I have a girlfriend who loves sex more than any teenage guy I've ever met."  She laughed again.  "And she can't cook worth a damn but we're handling it."  He finished his water and crunched on some of the ice.  "Slow times this way?"

"For now.  What's going on up there that needed the warning?"

"Oh, we've apparently got a hell god coming."  Cordelia gaped.  He nodded.  "Yeah.  Giles doesn't have one of the books we might need."

"Charming!  Wesley!"  He came out of the office.  Buffy handed him the letter.  "You know you're insane right?  You guys consider a hell god nothing important to talk about?"

"It's a future problem and if we have to, we'll find more artillery," Xander said with a manic grin.  "Maybe this time I'll get to fire it off."

Cordelia checked his forehead for a fever.  "You're clearly insane, Xander."

Wesley opened the letter, going pale at what he read.  "That is very bad."  He went to tell Angel and see if they had that book handy so Giles could borrow it.

"All in the wacky life of a slayer," Buffy said, sitting down again.  "There's days I want to give it all to someone else."

"I'd look horrible in your skirts and I'd tank the slayer rating on the hit list when one ripped in the middle of flashing another vamp I'm fighting with," Xander said dryly.  She threw a pillow at him.  "I would."

"Shut up, Xander," she said, giving him a dirty look.  Cordelia cackled at that, going to share that joke.

"Maybe Faith's going to come back to the light again," he said more quietly.  "She sounds like a two-slayer sort of problem to me."


"If Angel could, she can."

Buffy perked up a bit at that, nodding slightly.  "You're right."  Angel came out with a name and address for her.  "Thank you, Angel."

"You're welcome.  If she's still bad, it's bad for the city."

"I'm thinking if she wanted to, she could come back," Xander said.  "You did."

"It's hard but you can do it," he agreed.  That perked up Buffy even more and he gave the boy a look, getting a grin back.  "Are you both going after her?"

"I might stay in the car.  Let them beat on each other until they get her to talk.  I'm not into girl fights.  Anya would get very upset if there was clothes ripping going on."

"I can't believe you're still seeing her," Angel moaned, shaking his head as he walked off.

"She's not bad, Angel."

Angel looked back at him.  "Some day she'll get her powers back."

"I haven't cheated on her.  Other way around," he mouthed.  Angel shuddered.  "Should she, I'll be asking to cover my own butt."  That got a nod of wisdom.   "Oh, you might not want to let Wesley and Cordy read this month's issue.  They've got her in a short skirt and heels looking like a pro and him looking kinda insane with an axe."  Angel shuddered but went to hide this month's HHL from them.

She looked at him.  "It's creepy how we seem to react to that thing."

"We get a lot of info from them.  Especially about who's watching us."  She nodded at that. "C'mon.  We'll be back to let you know how it went," he called.  He took her out to the car, taking her to Faith's hiding place.  He stayed in the car because he wasn't that dumb.  They'd be throwing furniture at each other shortly and he didn't need to be knocked out by Faith again.


Dean nearly choked when he saw the rating.  "Two slayers?"

Sam leaned over to read over his arm.  "There are.  Huh.  Wonder how that happened."  He opened his laptop and sent an email to Willow's email in Sunnydale.  "Any other cheery news?"

"Harris' former demon is pretty-ish."  He let him see that picture when he found it.  "Oh, and charming!  They've got a hell god out there."  Sam stopped typing to look at him.  Dean let him have the magazine.  Sam read then got to work searching out information for them.  "Think we should head that way?"

"I'll ask," Sam offered.  He sent that first email off.

Dean went back to the classified section, where he had found a few weapons before.  "Single hunter looking for holy water soaked virgin but not to sacrifice," he read, starting to frown.  "Who in the hell is that trashy, dude?"

Sam laughed.  "Some guys gotta have it that way."

"Uh-huh."  He went back to reading over them.  There were a few more personals back there that made him frown in disgust.  "Tentacles.  Eww."  Sam laughed louder this time.  "Seriously!  Tentacle to tentacle lovin' offered.  Male, female, hermi, and none of the above."  Sam leaned over to read it then shuddered.  "Exactly."  He went back to the articles.  He was learning a lot about the other hunters.  "Your last girl fit is in the editorial comments and they're now smarting back.  To your complaint that you have a head and if they *must* take pictures of you to include it too so you quit feeling like an ass model, they said tough, they don't look into a seer's eyes and they were only being nice.  Because you have bad hair."  He got swatted for it so Dean let him see it.  Sam groaned, shaking his head.  "It's unanimous with Dad.  You need a haircut, bitch."

"I do not, jerk."  He went back to his research.  They clearly needed help out there.

"Yes you do," John said from his seat.  "You have floppy, girlish hair, Sammy."

"Sam, not Sammy.  I'm not five.  I like my hair.  Leave it alone."  He scowled.  Dean just laughed.  So Sam decided to be mean and sent a picture he had on his laptop of Dean when he was little.  Dean in Superman pajamas, complete with cape, fluffy bunny slippers, scowling at them with his pop cap rifle held on one furry head.  They hadn't known Dean had been running a fever when he had complained that the rabbits had been possessed.  He had been right but they didn't need to know that.  John gave him an odd look.  He just smirked back and sent a remark that their father felt left out too.

Dean leaned closer.  "That's because he never strips in public."

"They got me in a hotel room.  They can get him!"

John groaned.  "That's one way to bait them so we can shoot or salt and burn them," he decided.  He took his coffee and walked off muttering about how demented his younger son was and he clearly needed some sort of help.  Dean decided to help out by setting Sammy up with a girl later that afternoon.  Even if they did have to go save him from her later on that night when she tried to sacrifice him to her mean gods.


A few months later, Dean choked while reading the newest issue.  "Dude, their witch went off the deep end."  Sam snatched it to read.  Dean took it back from him to go over it again.  "Wonder if they need help."  They had turned down help with the hell goddess, which was a mark of over-confidence in his book but okay.   He let Sam have it.  Sam went over it with a frown.  "It's nice she now ranks higher than all of us that we know about."

"Hmm."  He flipped back.  "Um, didn't that one girl die?"  Dean nodded slowly.  "She's at number one this month."  He let him see.

"Resurrection spell," Dean moaned, shaking his head.  "They should know better."

"Maybe they got desperate."  They shared a look and Sam decided to call out there to see if they needed more help.  He had found Xander's phone number online and had called a few times to see if they needed help when an article caught their attention.

"Jesus," Dean complained, putting it down.  "Dad's going to kill them."

Sam gave him an odd look.  "Didn't we just bury him?" he muttered.  Dean held up the article.  Sam growled.  Dean let him have it.  Sammy's growl was getting worse than Dean's.  It didn't seem right to him but okay, he'd deal with it when Sammy came off his scary bitch kick.


Xander hung up the phone an hour later, smiling at Giles.  "The Winchester brothers wanted to know if we needed more help now that we're down Willow."  He went to check the mail for the store, finding the issue.  "Yup, Willow's in here.  She's now top of the list."  Giles moaned.  He let him see it.  "She scared them too."  He went into the back to work on the heavy bag.

"They profiled Buffy being back too," Giles said, following him.  "This can't be good."

Xander looked at him.  "If we had *any* choice, I would've taken it, Giles.  It was bringing her back or let us all die.  If I could've broken Faith out of jail, I would've done that."

"I know, Xander."  He gave him a pat on the shoulder.  He kept going, choking at something.  "Oh, dear."

Xander took it to look at.  "Hmm, Spike's a cartoonist.  Corpseacopia.  Cute name, Spike."  He heard the underground tunnel's lid shut quickly and lock.  "I guess he's hiding."

"Tell me he didn't show her sleeping with Angel?" Giles begged.

"I can't do that.  Sorry."  He sat on the mat to look it over.  "She's going to beat him for certain this time."  Anya bounced in.  "Spike's doing a cartoon."

"I heard."  He held it up and she went pale.  "She's going to kill everyone who's seen that."

"Yuppers."  He photocopied it and went to stick it in her mailbox then headed back to the Magic Box after picking up lunch for himself.  The articles were kind of cute this month.  Xander looked at the pictorial section and nearly choked at the cuteness of Dean Winchester as a baby trying to shoot fluffy bunny slippers.  He walked inside, holding it up so Anya could see.

"See, I'm right!  Hunters think that bunnies are evil too!" she said firmly.

Xander kissed her on the cheek.  "He's adorable at that age."

She gave him a look.  "We're not having children.  I don't want to be stretched that far, Xander.  Nor do I think I can put up with some needy little creature who wants to suck on me instead of letting you do it."  She huffed off.

Xander grinned, showing Giles the picture.  The older man smiled against his will, walking off shaking his head.  He called Sam back.  "How did they get that picture of your brother, dude?"  He laughed.  "Oh, please ignore Spike's cartoon for Buffy's sanity.  We think she's going to destroy him and everyone who read it.  Yeah, fair warning."  He hung up and settled in to read it.  Willow was number one, Sam number two, he was number three, tied with Dean thank you, and Buffy was at number seven.  "Huh.  Looks like it's more than Willow going bad that's going to happen, Giles.  I'm at three, Buffy's at seven."

Giles looked over.  "Indeed?"


"I'll be on the watch for something."  Buffy stomped in, hair nearly sticking up and her clothes messed up.  "I take it you saw the cartoon Spike drew?"

"Where is he?" she snarled.

"Tunnels," Xander said with a point.  She took the magazine, taking that page out then handed it back once she ripped it up.  "There was a good article on tunneling demons on the other side," he complained lightly.

"I don't care," she snarled.  She stomped down to the basement so she could track Spike and beat him to death.  Then when his demon realivened him, she'd get to do it again and again and again until her hair was sweaty, she was messy, and her nails were gross.  Then she'd stake him for good!

Xander called LA.  "Wes, Xander.  Yeah, I heard, Wes.  I'm coming down this weekend.  Thanks, man.  No, fair warning.  Spike drew a cartoon in this month's.  You might want to keep Angel from it.  She's off hunting Spike down.  Corpseacopia."  He smirked.  "Did he see it yet?"  He laughed.  "Good to know.  Yeah, Saturday.  Thanks, man."  He hung up.  "I'm going to Cordy's funeral Saturday."

Giles looked up at him.  "I'll send you with my regards and flowers, Xander."  Xander nodded at that, keeping his feelings to himself for now.  "You could talk about it."

Xander looked at him.  "No I can't."  He went back to reading.  Fortunately he had photocopied that article as well as the cartoon a few times so he wasn't missing pages. Dawn came bouncing in and he waved.  She gave him a hug.  "It'll be okay."

"Where did Buffy go?  She got the mail and nearly screamed in outrage."  He showed her the cartoon.  She gaped then burst out cackling.  "Spike?"

"Yuppers.  She's off hunting him."

"Good.  She needed something to snap her out of her thoughts."  She settled in.  "What's going on?"

"Trying to figure out why we three are in the top seven this week," Xander said, looking at her.  He went back to reading.  "Hey, they have an 'in remembrance' section.  It mentions Cordy and the boys' dad."  He decided to call Sam later to give his sorries to the brothers.  He knew how hard it was to lose people around you when your pool of acquaintances was really small.  Dawn gave him a hug.  "Thanks, Dawnie."  She went to help Giles around the store until Anya came back.  He finished reading and went to shelve it in the box of other issues.


Sam hung up.  "That was Xander.  He said don't read the cartoon Spike put in there.  She'll kill anyone who sees it."

"Like the movie _The Ring_?"

"Probably not quite that bad."

"Spike.  Isn't that the chipped vamp they work with?"


Dean went searching.  He flipped past a picture then went back to it.  "Sammy, I'd run," he growled.  Sam just cackled.  "I mean it, bitch.  Run.  Now."  Sam strolled off.  Dean got up to beat his ass for sending in that picture.  No one else had a copy of that one.  Sammy was in *such* deep shit with him now.  He'd hate to send his little brother to live with his father in hell, but oh well!  That deserved it.  Sam managed to avoid him for a few hours but by the time he got back that night, Dean was still pissed and down to starting mean pranks so he could work his way up to killing his brother.  His father would be pissed but if he had seen that picture he'd understand and tell him it was all right.  He was sure John would.  He'd worry about slutty slayers later.  For now, his brother had to be miserable and then die.


When the boys finally met, they found Xander reading his magazine on top of a gravestone.  He looked up at them.  "Your pictures don't do you justice."

"Yours never had the eyepatch.  What're you doing here, Harris?" Dean demanded.

Xander slid off the gravestone.  "We save the world and you guys are going to start an armageddon point.  Of course we're here to help."  He grinned.  "The ladies of misery are outside waiting to go to town on the demons."  Dean gaped.  He clapped him on the shoulder.  "Slayers are supposed to handle apocalypses, Dean.  Where else would we be?"

"This is our family's problem."

"No, one of them is your family's problem.  The rest are a slayer situation," he corrected firmly.  "So let us help.  A hundred warriors are always better than two."

"You guys have a hundred warriors?" Sam asked, looking confused.

"Ah, you didn't hear.  All the slayers are now activated if they're over the age of reason."  They both gaped.  He nodded.  "Willow had to so we could defeat the First Evil last week."  They shuddered.  "You caught us on the way to Cleveland and that new hellmouth actually.  So we're here to help."  He grinned.  "By the way, Buffy?"  She came out of the shadows with the scythe.  "Can kill any demon, right?"

"Yeah.  Willow said so and we reblessed it with slayer blood when we shut in the First for good."  She grinned.  "Hi, guys.  Their photogs obviously take crappy pictures.  You look shorter in them."  She smiled.   "Where and when?  The girls are getting impatient."

Xander whistled.  He heard a shriek.  "Not anymore."  They rushed into the battle to stop the guy who was going to open the devil's gate.  Xander knocked him down and stole the gun.  Buffy and Dean lunged at the demon.  Xander ended up having to hand the gun to Dean to shoot it when it faded but not fully at the scythe.  "What is that?  Immortal demons?"

"Azazel," Sam panted.

Xander snorted and took off his shirt then used it to pounce and hold the demon on the ground, covering its face so it couldn't mesmerize him or anything.  "Go ahead, Dean."

"Move a bit more?" he demanded.  Xander shifted more out of his way and he shot it.  The demon screamed and bucked Xander off.  Buffy got it with the scythe since it was more tangible and bleeding now.  It went into the great night of the beyond with a mortal scream of agony.  He helped Xander up, looking at the place where the portal was trying to open.  "We can't let that open."

Buffy looked at the opening then sighed and looked at the scythe.  "Will cutting into it open it or close it?"

Dawn came jogging up and took the scythe to cut into her hand.  "Universal key," she joked weakly, putting it onto the opening.  It thinned it.  A few shades made it out but no demons.  Willow came rushing over to chant over the bloody spot and it closed with a howl of wind and sound.  Dawn grinned at her.  "See?  No new apocalypse today."  She beamed.  "Ohmygod, I saw your picture.  You're cuter in person.  Hi, I'm Dawn, Buffy's sister."  She shook Sam's hand.  "You're Sam, right?"

He grinned.  "I am.  Nice to meet you, Dawn."

"Hey," Dean said with a wave.

Dawn looked at him.  "You slept with that gorgon last month, huh?"  He went pale.  "It's all right.  Did she really turn you to stone?"

Xander covered her mouth.  "Quit, no more babbling at the scary hunters."  She got free, pouting at him.  "Willow?  Can you watch her while we clean up?  I think the boys need to talk to that spirit."  He jogged off with Buffy glancing and following him.

Willow looked.  "I can banish him if you want."

Dean stared.  "No, that's our Dad."

"Okay then.  C'mon, Dawn."  She walked her off.  "The girls are nearly done."

"That's cool.  We can have a cocoa party tonight then as a reward."  She beamed back at Sam.  Then she leaned closer.  "He's so cute!" she cooed.

Willow grinned at her.  "Not my type, sorry."

"That's okay, more men for those of us who're het.  And Xander if we can convince him to go gay."

Willow snickered.  Dean laughed too, looking over at them.  Then he grinned at his dad.  "Hey, Dad."

"Boys."  He smiled.  "I'm proud."

"Thanks," Dean agreed.

"You're still in trouble."

"I know.  We'll figure it out."

Sam stared at his brother.  "You did make a deal, didn't you?"  Dean nodded.  Sam slapped him.  "I'm going to kill your ass myself."

Dawn came jogging back, smiling at him.  "You know, Willow is one of the strongest witches ever, Sam.  With her brains and your brains, you might be able to figure out how to save the mantwat brother who loves you enough for incest."  She handed over this month's issue Xander had been reading.  Sam looked at the picture it was open to and squeaked.  "Xander said he knew it wasn't true but they're getting trashy.  Buffy's going to burn them soon if Angel doesn't."  She jogged off again.  "The demons outside the devil's trap are mopped up.  We're going to the Ridge Motel."

"They hate us there," Dean said.

"Buffy said she checked you in as our male escorts.   Not in the kinky way or anything according to Faith but as glorified babysitters for the younger slayers.  Who make me look mature."  She beamed and bounced off again.  "Join us when you're ready."

"Sure," Dean said, waving, looking really confused.  "What picture this time?"

"The last time I had a vision and you had to help me up off the ground."  He handed it over.  His father laughed.  "I know.  Everyone thinks that."

"You two are close," John agreed.  "Fix it, Sammy.  I don't want Dean down there."

"Of course I am.  I'll be damned myself I let him die that way, Dad."  John nodded and disappeared.  Sam slapped Dean again.  "I'm so going to ruin your ass if she tries to cash in on it."

"I had to.  You were dead, Sammy."

Sam punched him.  "So?  It's not bad enough I lost him to a deal and now you too?"  Dean looked down.  "No way in hell is this one standing, Dean.  You hear me?"

"Part of the deal was I couldn't work on it."

Sam smirked.  "I'm not you.  Neither is Willow.  Since she offered, let's see what we can come up with."  Dean nodded, putting the magazine into his back pocket.  They came out and found Bobby being talked to by most of the girls.  "Should we save him?" Sam hissed.

"Probably.  Hey, Bobby."  He clapped him on the arm.  "Didn't they take you guys to the motel yet?"

"Nope," Dawn said with a happy grin.  "Willow had an oops and the cars turned into bug sized things.  She's fixing it now."  They all groaned.  "It'll be about an hour."

"Fine.  Anyone inside?"

"Willow."  Sam groaned, shaking his head.  "She was stunned by all the manliness that she doesn't want anymore."  The girls laughed and one gave her a dirty look.  "She was!"

Xander cleared his throat.  "Enough, Dawn.  Ladies, stretch to cool down so you can sleep tonight.  Willow will have it fixed in another ten minutes according to her.  We don't need anyone to cramp up tonight."  They sighed but nodded, walking around to cool down.  He looked at Bobby.  "Sorry," he hissed.  He pulled Dawn off Sam again and gave her a nudge.  "Go."  She sighed but went.  "Sorry, she's young and excitable."

"We all were at one point but I'm the more handsome Winchester," Dean quipped.

"I have a brain requirement so I don't date anyone like Riley," Dawn called.  Her sister swatted her.  "I'm sorry but Mr. Army was not exactly Brainy Smurf, Buffy!  I don't want a dumb, cute guy.  That'd be boring and we'd end up only having the sex that you said I can't have until I'm your age.  Though, if I remember right, weren't you...seventeen?"  She blushed and walked off shaking her head.  "So I can date next year, right?" she called after her sister.

Bobby looked at Xander.  "She's going to run wild."

"No.  She's only tormenting her sister," he said, grinning at him.  "Dawn knows very well that any boy she dates will get threatened by Buffy and then me."  That got a laugh.  "And I will be making them piss themselves before they put on the locking chastity belt which only I will have the key to."  He grinned sweetly.  "Because they do make male models.  Ones with spikes even so it hurts like hell when you get hard."

"Xander!" Dawn complained.

He looked at her.  "If you make me an uncle before you're out of college, I will paddle your ass right after labor so you beg  and plead to put it back, Dawn Summers.  Am I clear?"

"Fine," she sighed.  "Are you sure Mommy didn't possess you?"

"No," he said impatiently.  "Not this week."  Buffy laughed at that.  "The same as I'll do to Buffy if she has a baby with someone like Riley."  Buffy shuddered.  So did Dawn.  "Good."  He grinned.  "That means I can find the locking male chastity belt with spikes tomorrow, right?"

"I'm not ready to date yet," Buffy complained.

"Me either, not until next year," Dawn said quickly.

"Two years, Dawn," Buffy said firmly.  Dawn stuck her tongue out at her.

"The only difference is they're girls and have more years between 'em," Bobby told Dean, who was laughing at the byplay.  "These two drove me nuts for years pickin' on each other, ladies."

Buffy smiled at them.  "No matter what Spike put in his last cartoon, I did not sleep with the slimy thing."

Dean pulled out the magazine to flip to it. "Nope.  Him and the girls planning how to roast Bringers?"  He let her see.

She smiled, sniffling a bit.  "That's a good final one."  She took it to read more closely in the dim light.  The cars suddenly appeared with a 'whomp' of noise.  "Willow's done, ladies.  Into the vans."  They piled in and she handed it back to Dean.  "C'mon.  At least we can put you guys up tonight as long as you don't hit on my baby sister."

"Not a problem.  Not into jailbait," Sam assured her.  "Not even Dean is."

"Cool."  She smiled and they went to the last van.  The men got into their cars.  Xander got in to drive the last van.  Buffy made sure everyone was accounted for then they left for the hotel.  The clerk was horrified but he had open rooms so they got beds.  A few of the girls got pullout couches and roll-away beds, but everyone got one somewhere.  They settled in to talk to each other and finish calming down.  Sam pulled Dean over to talk with Willow about the contract's details.  She smiled and got to work with Sam on the loopholes.  They could and would save Dean, even if Willow had to destroy hell.

Willow looked over at Xander.  "Hey, Xander, if I asked would you go date a really high level demon so it owes us favors?"

Xander handed Dawn his weapons and walked out, going off into the dark.

Dawn looked at her.  "Are you the evil bitch Willow again?"  Buffy gave her a horrified look.  "He did just lose Anya in the battle, Willow."  She gave her a sheepish look.  "At least we won't be taking *him* off a cliff."  Buffy swatted her for that.  She went to find Xander and help him calm down.

"It was a joke," Willow said weakly.

"You need a nap," Buffy said.  "You and Sam can work on that tomorrow."  She sighed but nodded, going to crash.  "She's sorry, guys.  The battle and stuff messed with her.  She had to work a lot of magic to call all the slayers."  She grimaced at the room Willow went into.  Then she looked at them again.  "If we can help, we will.  Not an issue.  I'd never let a hunter or slayer go through what I did when I came back the last time."  She walked off, going to check on Dawn and Xander.  She was cuddled up to his side.  "She makes a good teddy bear."

Dawn looked at her.  "You smack her around?"

"Sent her to bed.  Do I need to do the same to you?"

"Bite me."

Xander looked down at her.  "Don't tempt her.  She did learn things off Spike and Riley."  Dawn giggled.  He looked at her.  "You, go nap.  We've got over three hundred miles left."  She groaned, going to shoo the girls back to bed.  "You too, Dawn."  She gave him a squeeze then went to hit her pullout couch.  He looked up and sighed.  "When did I turn into a parent?" he muttered.

"It's the feeling of responsibility," Sam offered.  "Dean practically raised me at times and he feels the same way now and then."

Xander smiled.  "Good to know.  Thankfully the slayers don't need too much growing up.  Well, emotional growing up yes.  Physical no.   Their watchers kept them on horribly short leashes."  He turned to look at him better.  "I'm sorry if any of them try to sneak in with you guys.  Most of them consider sex to be a mystically subversive force according to the ones that talked to Faith about it.  They told her their watchers said it would kill them and make them weak slayers."  He shrugged.  "Fortunately they're mostly dead now."

"What happened, dude?"

He sighed.  "Willow, and I admit I helped a bit with the spell, pulled Buffy back because we were facing the downfall of the world.  Faith was in jail.  We got a bit desperate.  Willow went looking and said she saw Buffy in a hell dimension.  She lied as we later found out, but that's how she talked me into helping with that one part of the spell.  So she pulled Buffy back from heaven.  Just...not exactly whole."

Sam nodded.  "That happens with resurrections.  You can't pull back all the soul."

Xander nodded.  "Yup.  Well, a botched resurrection can call the First Evil.  What held her in place was the slayer line.  So when it weakened thanks to Buffy being pulled back, she sent her minions to kill all the slayers and watchers so no one could stop her."  Sam shuddered.  "Those are all that're left out of all of the ones that were potentials and the two active ones," he finished quietly.  "We may have a few more watchers, we're not sure yet."  He shifted, looking down then at him.  "They fell back to Sunnydale since the First's seal was inside the hellmouth.  About four days ago we walked into the hellmouth to fight her.  Willow had to call all the slayers because it took the blood of seven of them to seal her in for good.  Or at least until the slayers are all gone and the next botched resurrection happens," he said quietly.  Sam nodded, looking grim.  "We lost a few there.  Some people who fought with us.  When the seal was closed by Spike dying, the town got sucked in.  Sunnydale is now a geological oddity."  Sam gaped.  "And the Cleveland hellmouth became the newly opened one.  We're on our way there to set up."

"Damn," Sam muttered.

"You guys are more than welcome to travel with us.  We need more adults.  This is the first freedom some of those girls have had."  He pointed at the one sneaking out to steal the rest of Dean's beer on him.  "She's ...fifteen if I remember right.  The only parent she ever had was her watcher, who was a teacher who drilled her daily in her studies and duties.  Now we've got the Sunnydale crew that's left and any remaining watchers."

Sam nodded.  "I'll talk to Dean about it, Xander.  Are you all right?  You sound really tired."

"Fighting earlier with Buffy and Willow about being able to do anything.  It's happened a few times over the last few weeks.  Then Willow's joke made me want to beat her."

"I'm sure she's sorry."

"No, she's not.  She thinks it was a joke," he said dryly, smirking just slightly.  "Willow's a strong witch and a decent friend but she still needs spanked now and then.  I'm going to make sure Dawn doesn't turn into her."  He grinned.  "Know anything about Cleveland?  Giles went ahead to find the hellmouth."

"A lot actually.  We've been there for a few jobs."  Xander grinned.  "Do you need medical care for the eye injury?"

"One of the First's minions popped it, Sam.  It's long gone."  He walked back with him.  "No more beer."  The slayer squeaked and Dean turned to take it back.  "Bed.  We still have about three hundred miles to go."  She scurried back inside.

"More like five," Dean admitted, finishing his beer.

"Three hundred then we pause to hear from Giles.  That's about five hours if we drive straight through.  Which we can't because they need bathroom time and time to get up and move around."  That got a nod.  "Like I told Sam, you guys are more than welcome to travel with us.  Buffy, Willow, and I are the only adults on this trip so far."

"We can do that," Dean agreed.  "You good?"

"I'm fine.  Even if they don't believe it."

Buffy came out.  "You're not fine.  You're still dizzy."

"Shut up," he said without heat.  "I'm not dizzy."  She gave him a look.  He stared back.  "That wasn't dizzy.  That was Spike gave me food poisoning with his chili, Buffy."  She huffed and went back inside.  "So, can we pump you guys for info on Cleveland?"

"Sure," Dean agreed.  "Why Cleveland?"

"That's where the new hellmouth is," Buffy said, coming back out with a sweater.  "You guys can come with us.  We don't mind."  She smiled.  "It'll be nice not to be the only adult around sometimes."  Xander nodded at that.  "Can one of you take over some driving for one of the vans?  Willow's not the best driver and neither is Kennedy."

"I told you we should've rented a bus," Xander told her.  "Then we could've had a professional driver with a bathroom on board."

She nodded.  "We would've been squished unless we got two."


"Good point."  She grinned at them.  "Is Cleveland huge like LA or smaller like Encino?"

"About halfway in between.  It's a major city but not a huge city like LA," Dean told her.  "We've pulled a few jobs that way.  There's really a hellmouth in Cleveland?"  She nodded. "Where?"

"Giles hasn't told us yet," Xander admitted.  He called.  "G-man.  We did stop that apocalypse.  Sam and Dean Winchester are with us and they're going to help ride herd. They've actually worked in Cleveland in the past.  Where is the new hole?"  He wrote down an address.  "Okay, and do you want us to break tomorrow or come ahead?"  He nodded, making another note.  "We have reservations?"  He smiled.  "Yeah, Giles, I would with the size of this group.   If that's a major area, they might not have one place that has enough rooms.  Okay.  Do we have housing set up out there?"  He grimaced.  "How long?  Because if we have to, we can keep some of them out of the city until we have it.  Some of them are still pretty young."  He nodded, then looked up and rolled his eyes.  "Giles, there's how many girls and we cannot all fit into a house again.  Yes I'm serious.  Thank you, Giles."  He hung up.  "That's where we're breaking tomorrow night, probably late.  He'll make reservations for us since I pointed out the common sense thing.  That's where the new hellmouth is and we're to call before we reach city limits to find out where he's stashing everyone."

Buffy nodded.  "Good deal.  Is that in a busy part of town or under a school like ours was?"

Dean looked at it.  "It's a park I think."  Sam looked then nodded.  "It's near a college."

"Makes sense.  Free food source," Xander muttered.  "Ours was under the high school."

Sam shuddered.  "That had to be a problem."

"Yup," they said together.   "Let me arrange for a wake up at seven so I can get a shower," he said.  "Night, guys.  We'll talk tomorrow night?"  They smiled and nodded. "Maybe you can give Giles an idea of where he's stashing us."  He went to the office.  "I need a seven A.M. wake up for room twelve please."

"Sure.  All those girls?"

"A few at a time so they don't fight over the bathroom.  They are girls after all," he said dryly, hiking back to his room.  He found the beds all taken and sighed, moving two of the girls off his so he could sleep by himself.  They pouted when they woke up later and one tried to climb back in but he bopped her on the head.  She went back to her bed and cuddled in again.  It was warmer anyway.


Dean and Sam pulled up in front of the building they had been told to go to.  "What's this place?" Dean called over to the van Sam was driving with sleepy girls.

"No idea," Sam said.  They got out and went to meet the head guy.  "Mr. Giles, nice to meet you."

"Ah, the Winchester boys," he said with a smile, shaking their hands.  "Thank you for helping our herd of girls."

"Not a problem," Dean assured him.  "What is this place?"

"It used to be a mortician's college," he said, looking up.  "It's large and we can renovate over time to make it fit us better."

"We'll start looking to see if it's haunted," Sam offered.  Giles looked stunned.  "It's a family specialty, ghosts."

"Oh, I see.  Thank you, boys.  That would be helpful."  Buffy got out of her van.  He smiled at her.  "Are you all right?"

"Just fine, if a bit stiff from sitting so long.  How many watchers do we have?"


"We have nearly a hundred girls total, Giles."

"We'll work on that, Buffy.  For now, let's start to reassemble things and make due where we can."

"Sure.  If you say so."  She smiled at the guys.  "We made it fifty miles without a bathroom break."

Xander got out.  "That's because we're low on gas."  He looked at Giles then at the building.  "Rooms?"


"Am I sleeping in the basement again?" he asked, cracking Buffy up.  "Follow Giles, ladies," he bellowed.  They piled inside to follow him to their rooms and the bathrooms.  He looked at Dean and Sam.  "Hang out for a bit.  We'll go find sanity later," he muttered.  Both of them smiled.  "I'm going to be surrounded by girls again."  He walked inside, finding he had a couch in the library for right now.  He walked back out, going off with the boys once Giles told them all to take a nap.  They found a sports bar and settled in to have a beer or three and decent guy food while they compared notes and stories.  Xander did send Wesley an email about soul contracts from Sam's phone but that was good and helpful of him.


Dean and Sam looked at next month's issue when it came out.  They were back on the road after two weeks of herding teenage slayers who wanted to pinch them or flip them onto their backs so they could leer at them.  Dean had nearly offered Xander the backseat but he had given them a tired smile and had beaten that girl at her attack until she went to pout to Giles and the trainer he had hired.  The next one tried it got the same thing.  They were going to learn to respect him from the start, unlike his girls.  Dean flipped back to the news section.  "They covered the last battle of Sunnydale."  He read it over.  The pictures that had been taken of the mess were horrible.  One had gotten a picture somehow of the battle.  "He was in it with his missing eye."

"They tried to stop him," Sam reminded him.  He came over to read it over Dean's shoulder.  "That looks really bad."  Dean nodded.  They kept going, finding new information about the slayers and the Cleveland house.   They were rating Xander an eligible target and bachelor, ripe for the picking for some demon with plans for the slayers.  They were listing Buffy as ancient and now a mother to the horde of girls.  Willow was still listed as scary.   The hit list listed Xander higher than both senior slayers and Willow.

Dean called him.  "Got the new issue yet?"  He hummed.  "Yeah, you should.  They did cover the battle.  They also suggested that you're a bachelor ripe for the picking of some demon who wanted to plot against the girls.  The hit list lists you higher than both Buffy and Faith, Xander."  He nodded at that grim sounding voice.  "I don't know, man.  All I know is what I'm reading.  Somehow they got a picture of the battle too."  He looked.  "You can barely see Anya and Spike both, why?"  He smiled.  "Sure.  Have a better night and a safe expedition finding the missing girls, Xander."  He hung up.  "He's headed to Africa to find missing girls."

"That's good of him."  Sam took it to read, finding pictures of them fighting off their last apocalypse.  "They covered ours too."  They looked at each other then shook their heads.  That was not a good write up but it wasn't their fault they had been used as pawns.  "Oops, it lists your soul contract, Dean.  That's why you're not on the hit list anymore but I am."  He grimaced and got back to reading.  "And a picture of the girls trying to keep us down."  Dean looked then snorted.  "At least she only wanted to grope and not sleep with us."

"Still creepy at her age."

"It was," Sam agreed, grinning some.  "They're treating Xander to the same headless/seer thing too."  They groaned and Sam found where Xander could pick up his copy locally.  It had building plans in it.  It was a security risk.


Xander walked in reading his copy.  "They have building plans, pictures of the girls tossing Dean and Sam around, pictures of the last battle, including one during the battle and a lot of the aftermath, and oh, look.  Damn it."  He went to call LA.  "Angel, I just saw.  Why didn't you tell us?" he demanded.  He heard the quiet voice.  "I can come out for it.  I'm on my way out of town anyway.  I can be there."  He grimaced.  "You sure?" He nodded.  "Okay.  Yeah, I'm looking at it.  They have building plans and things.  They're suggesting using me to get the slayers and lists me higher up on the hit list than any slayer.  Africa.  Thanks, man.  I'm sorry.  If you need us, yell.  This is the new number here, yup.  Here's Buffy since she's dancing around."  He handed it over and went to hand the magazine to Giles.  "Wesley fell," he said quietly.  Giles looked at him.  "They held the memorial today since he was cremated.  I just called Angel."  That got a nod.  "You're not going to like it."

"Again with that magazine?"

"That has building plans for this building, pictures of the girls picking on Dean and Sam, suggestions of taking me out to get the girls.  I'm actually top on the hit list right now, Giles."  He handed it over.  "Over the priest that is so wanted by hell that they've got a reward for whoever taints or kills him."

Giles gave him a horrified look.  "They can't do that.  You know that."

"I also know I'm going to Africa in a few days.  Let me know if it keeps me that high?"  Giles nodded, shaking his hand.  "Let me pack and do some shopping.  I leave in two days.  Dean and Sam were the ones who called me about that."  They shared a look and he left to pick up the necessary things he'd need in the field.  Bug spray.  Suntan lotion.  New clothes since he had almost none left.  New pack so he could hike if he had to.  Journal because Giles demanded it.  New boots he had to break in.  Dinner because he wasn't going to let the girls steal off his plate tonight.  Then he got to be on his own and think all to himself for a long period of time while he tracked down a few missing slayers.  Hopefully by the time he got back he'd either have respect or be off the hit list for some reason.


Willow appeared next to Sam on the date Dean was to go to hell.  The huffy demon queen got frozen for now.  "There's more than one hell dimension, Dean.  I can take you to one that won't get you tortured."  Dean blinked at her.  "I can."

"You can't."

"I can so."  She smiled.  "Pylea is counted as one.   That's where Lorne's from.  He's got a map of a few of them.  You can even travel.  Ooh!  Speaking of, Xander sent you a letter."  She handed it over.

Dean read it then smirked at the instructions.  He handed it to Sam.  "I can't do that," Sam whispered.

"You can, Sammy."  He looked at him.  "While I'm gone, you're hooking up with Harris.  Protect each other from the demons who want your BVD's."  They shared a look.  "Let's go, Willow.  You've got a better offer than hellhounds."  The clock struck the first chord of midnight and she took him off.

Sam looked at the demon that shrieked.  "What?  You expected us to play fair?" he sneered.  He shot the demon, killing it with the rebuilt colt.  Then he stomped off.  He found where he was to meet Xander, finding one tired looking man.  "Did you fly straight back?"

"Yup."  He yawned.  "Ten months in Africa and the girls think I was off moping and playing games or dancing around fires."  They looked each other over.  "He's fine, Sam.  Willow's with him.  She'll protect him."

"I know.  That should be my job."

"Not like hell won't appreciate having her there to tempt."

Sam grimaced.  "They're on a hell dimension."

"Some of those are pretty nice," he admitted.  "Some are really crappy."  That got a nod.  "I need a nap," he excused through his current yawn.

"C'mon.  Bobby's around here somewhere.  We'll regroup, sleep, and make plans."

"Sure."  He looked around and frowned.  "Hellhounds."  He whistled a particular cadence.  "Go away."  The lead one yelped and ran off.  Bobby came out with his shotgun.  "Hey."

"Who... Harris?"

"Yup.  Back from Africa to help Sammy until Willow brings Dean back."  Bobby nearly dropped his gun.  He smiled.  "There's more than one hell dimension.  There's thousands of them.  If I know her, she'll bring him out of the hellmouth in about a year's time.  For right now though, I need a nap and I need to report to someone high up who can tell others about the overlord in Africa trying to take out the humans by starting civil wars."  He yawned again.  "Sorry."

"You're just back tonight?"

"I'm just back this hour," he admitted.  "Willow popped me from the airport a few minutes before she brought my letter in to Sam."  He looked at him.  "Where am I on the list?"

"Top, tied with me," he said quietly.

"Then we'd better watch each other's back for a bit, Sam.  At least until we can figure out which one she hit and how long it'll be."  He smiled.  "Can we go nap?  Then make plans?"

"Sure."  He looked at Bobby, who shrugged but nodded.  They went to a nearby motel and checked in, letting Xander collapse onto a bed.  They both had to smile because Xander was petting it and calling it a nice bed.  He had missed them apparently.  Sam got cleaned up and came out to show Bobby the letter.  He told him everything they had seen tonight.  Xander woke up an hour later, gasping and looking around.  "Chill, Xander.  You're safe," Sam called.  Xander slumped and nodded, laying back down and making himself go to sleep - even if he was mumbling about lions and lion demons possessing people who were going to eat him for being hyena tainted.


Xander finished the phone call with the contact Giles had gotten him.  He hung up and looked at Sam, who had been listening in with Bobby while they cleaned weapons.  "They'll handle it by sending Buffy and Faith with a few of the older girls."  He laid back on his bed.  "I missed beds.  Soft and squishy is nice.  Very nice after sleeping on grass mats."

"I bet," Bobby agreed.  "That sounded nasty."

"Yeah, but he's injured.  As long as they get there soon he'll be fully dead.  Unfortunately it takes a slayer to do and I'm not one.  We lost two of the girls in Africa getting him injured.  Willow did leave a note about which hell dimension she took Dean to.  He's on Pylea and then they were going to jump to a blank beach world if something happened there."  That got a nod.  "They said time ran the same there as here so no long gaps."  That got a smile.  "Willow's already claimed a small area for them and set magical boundaries from what the team in LA's heard.  One of Angel's contacts used to live on Pylea.  He agreed to keep track of her since some of the demons there believe in stealing humans for slavery and calling them cows."  Sam shuddered.  "Not in the food sense.  Fred, Angel's helper, was rescued from there."  That got a nod.  "So it's safe enough for right now and not much can get past Willow magically.  He'll keep her focused and she'll make sure he eats.  That means they'll come out in LA on the right date."

"Good enough," Bobby agreed.  "What happens if they don't?"

"If Lorne hears anything about them being taken hostage or as slaves, he'll tell Angel or us directly.  If so, the girls are going to invade Pylea."  He gave him a look.  "They don't want that.  The girls will bring music since they don't have any."

"That could be part of Dean's definition of hell," Sam admitted.  "He's with a lesbian so no sex.  No tv.  No car.  No guns.  Yeah, that's about hell for Dean," he said, finally relaxing.  Xander grinned back.  "So one year from now we need to be in LA?"  Xander nodded.  "And the contract?"

"Is voided.  He's voluntarily on a hell dimension.  By the contract, he's fulfilled it."  That got a smirk.  "As long as he stays the full year.  Even two hours short and he can be claimed for that time.  Maybe for the full year.  Giles wasn't sure."  That got a nod.  "But the time issue works in their favor.  If the second world has a faster time, they'll be back sooner.  As long as it's a full year *there*."

Sam nodded.  "Decent.  Thanks, Xander."

"Not an issue, Sam."  He stood up with a stretch.  "We need to eat.  Do I have any fried grub worms left?"  Bobby made a grossed out face.  "They taste like chicken when you put mayo on 'em.  Getting mayo was an interesting challenge but it did help with a lot of desert foods."

"Still disgusting, boy.  How about a pizza?"

Xander drooled.  "I would kill for a pizza and a twinkie," he moaned.

"How about we do that after you shave and get a haircut?" Sam offered with a grin.  "You look like a scruffy hermit.   Even our father was never that scruffy after weeks in the woods."

Xander looked at him.  "Feel lucky I managed to find a lot of waterless shampoo and soap, Sam.  Half the places I was in were near the desert or in the middle of a drought."  Sam shuddered.  "By the way, no lice."

"Congrats," Bobby said.

"Thanks.  The herbal stuff worked really well."  He went to look at himself in a mirror.  "Yeah, I need a shave and a haircut.   I can't imagine what pictures they're going to have of me this time."  He came out to find them giving him an odd look.  "You know they will.  Top of the hit list for hell and just now back in the US?  Yeah, there will be."  Sam nodded at that wisdom.   "Let's do the haircut thing then we'll bring one back?"

"Works for me," Bobby agreed.  "Sammy?"

"I can handle that.  I could use a trim too."

Xander looked at him.  "I don't care if you don't, Sam.  Not like I'm going to nag you about your hair.  I'm not exactly Cosmo Man myself."  That got a true, happy grin.   They headed off together, working out the small differences so they could work together for the next year.  Then Xander would go back to the Council and Sam would go back with Dean.  Though Xander did punch a reporter for the magazine and got his camera to destroy the images on it.  He tossed it to Bobby and walked off whistling.

"They're going to complain," Sam teased.

"Let 'em.  They're keeping me from twinkies and pizza."   Sam laughed.  "They are," he said with a small pout.  "I haven't had either in months."

"We can get both for tonight, Xander," Sam promised, patting him on the back.  The boy hissed.  "Are you injured?  You never said you were."  He hadn't seen any injuries either.  Or any sign he was taking care of one.

"It's nothing.  Small scratch by a horn.  I ran into the wrong thing in the woods one night."

Sam looked down the back of Xander's shirt.  "That looks infected."

"Could be.  I cleaned it really well earlier in the shower."

"Uh-huh."  Sam drove him to the ER first to get treated.  There was no way he could treat that at the motel.  Even the nurse looked disgusted at the fuzzy cuts on his back.  Xander's explanation that he had just gotten back from an African trip working with some villages was acceptable enough.  They drew blood to test for strange diseases then brought in someone to clean out the wounds on his back and chest.  Bobby winced when he saw them too.   Xander had a fun time telling them what each had been from.  They didn't like the lion story at all.


Faith looked over the magazine a few months later.  "They caught X doing the gun thing again."  Buffy leaned over to look over her shoulder, grinning some.  "And reading their mag last month."  They shared a look and laughed.  She went back to reading.  "It's saying Xander's tainted.  I don't know why."

Buffy took it to look over then called Sam.  "Why did you let Xander get tainted, Sam?" she demanded.  She listened to him being confused. "They said he is."  She nodded.  "Uh-huh.  Find out to make sure.  I don't know, go ask Angel."  She shrugged and hung up, going back to reading.  "They're listing Dean as coming back soon."

"As long as it's a year on whatever plane they're on it's all good," Faith reminded her.  She took it back.  "They're listing him and Willow again.  Apparently they had an argument but Dean won because they have a picture of her tied to a tree and him holding a burning stick."  Buffy moaned, shaking her head.  "I think she tried to magic him."  They shared a look then rolled their eyes.  "She'll definitely learn to treat X better.  I'm sure he chewed her a new one."  She kept going.  "Hey, on the tainting."  She read with Buffy leaning over her shoulder again.

"Isn't that from his possession?" Buffy asked, looking confused.  "Giles?"  He came in and took the article Faith held up to read.  "Isn't that from Halloween?"

"It does seem to be," he admitted.  "We'll find out.  Have him send some blood, Buffy."

"Sure."  She called them again.  "Sam, a few pages past that picture and the hit list is an article that says how he's tainted but it sounds like his past possession from Halloween.  Can we have some blood to test it?"  She winced.  "He did?  Hey, at least he found the main office.  Isn't that where Letterman says he gets his top ten list from?" she asked.  She laughed.  "Sounds reasonable then.  Maybe they do that too.  Thanks, Sam.  Sure, whenever you can."  She hung up.  "He'll do that but Xander went to ask why he was tainted when he had that possession for years now.  Sam thinks he's going to fulfill their dad's wish to burn down the office."

"X does like fire," Faith said.  "And he knows artillery.  Could be."

Buffy cackled.  "That's so mean."

"I'm starting to wonder if one of the higher demons runs the mag and uses it to taunt us or something.  We get paranoid when we see our ratings.  We get info from them that they want us to have.  They use us to test the new weapons for them.  We should get a cut of that action."

Buffy beamed.  "Sounds like shoe shopping."  She texted that to Xander's phone.  He never answered it when it was them but that was him being him.   Willow had probably said something to him again when she got him from Africa.


Xander stopped his beating of the editor to look at the text message.  "Buffy and Faith said since they're doing so much work for you and being such pawns, they want a paycheck too."  He put it back into his pocket, looking at the moaning demon.  "Now, how am I tainted since Ethan Rayne gifted me with that possession like he did the rest of Sunnydale that Halloween?"

"Yours stuck," he whimpered.

"I'm a medium.  It was my second one," Xander shot back, staring at him.  "Not my last but my second one."  The demon blinked at him.  "That doesn't make me tainted.  It means I have some extra voices in my head that might get me considered insane by normal people!"  He snarled, picking him up so he wouldn't have to bend down anymore.  "Any other reasons I'm now considered tainted?  If not, I want a full retraction.  In the editorials or not, your choice, but a full retraction and an apology.  Am I clear?  If not, I will go find a way to open the hellmouth up wider and sink your building into it."  The demon nodded quickly.  "Good!  And by the way, I'm not that sort of seer."  The demon stared into his eyes and blinked.  "Neither's Sam.  His was from the demon that wanted him.  You can take pictures of our heads so we don't feel like ass models."  He let him drop.  "Oh, those two new guns?  Crap and shitty.  And that new exorcism warning?  Doesn't work.  Vanquishing potions only work on *some* classes of higher demons, not all of your kind.  Anything else we need to clear up before I have to go on a testing spree because we're bored?  Or because of that one job where we had to pretend to be married?"

The demon swallowed.  "If you are gay that would definitely taint you."

Xander snorted.  "Then why aren't vampires considered tainted since they'll screw anything?  Hell, Dru did a slime demon for months on end."  The editor shuddered.  "Even if I was bi, that's not tainted.  That's being bisexual.  Big difference among humans unless you're a fundamentalist nut or something."  He waved a hand around.  "Do I look like I'm that intolerant?"

"No," he sighed.  "I'll retract it."

"Good!"  He walked over the mess he had created getting into the office.  "Have fun redecorating."

"Are you going to stay with Sam when Dean gets back?" one reporter called from under his desk.

"The current plan is I go to Cleveland while Dean and Sam go back to their thing," he called before leaving.  "Ask me a week after he gets back."

The editor limped out, looking around.  "He's very upset with a few things.  Someone get me a working pen and some paper to write this up."  One of the reporters came to help him since one of his arms was broken.  It'd be a great selling article and would pump their readership up a lot.


Buffy walked next month's edition in, handing it over with a smile.  "Xander threw a girl fit."

He sighed but took it to glance at.  "Did he sit down to talk with them?"

"No, he walked in and trashed their offices before beating the editor around and telling him what was going on."  She shrugged.  "It says he's coming back after Dean and Willow are back.  What's he going to be doing?"

Giles gave her an odd look.  "He is?"

"He says he is.  He said that's the plan that they have right now."

"I did not know that."  He frowned.  "We'll find some use for him I'm sure.  We have most vital jobs covered and the girls will want to treat him like a toy again until he beats them."

She nodded.  "It's got a profile of what happened in Africa too.  I didn't know lions pounced him."  Giles gave her a horrified look so she found that one and let him read it.  He moaned, reaching for his tylenol.  "Huh.  He should write a memoir or something so future generations know what they're getting into.  That way no one's going to do the same things he did.  Though it was nice the lion-spirit possessed people only hated him because of his hyena taint but they didn't try to eat or attack him." She bounced off to let the other girls read.  Xander and Sam were still on the top of Hell's Hit List.  They had even raised the bounty on them this month.  Faith took it to read over.  "He had a girl fit."

"Huh.  One of mine or yours?"

"Yours.  He trashed the office."

Faith smirked.  "They needed the butt-kicking.  They caught my bad side last sitch."  She settled in to read it while the other girls tried to steal it.  She bopped one or two and smacked another one's hand.  They eventually backed off and let her read it in peace.  They'd steal it once it was down.  "How long before he comes back?"

"Giles wasn't sure why he was coming back," Buffy said quietly.

Faith gaped at her.  "Of course he is!"

"We have the major jobs covered."

Faith groaned.  "If he hears you said that, he'll come trash this building too, B."  She put down the magazine, watching it be snatched by one of the junior witches in training.  She looked at her.  "Nice grab.  No fire this time."  The girl beamed and settled in to look for naughty pictures of her favorite pinup hunters.  Faith went to write Xander a nice email about how she was wanting him back and how they'd find him a good position after he had a rest.  He'd probably need it with how often he had been traveling and beating up or shooting things with Sam.


Xander nodded at the two as they came out of the portal.  "A full year, right?"

"A year and a day," Dean promised.  "Just to make sure.  Counting local days only."  Sam beamed, giving him a hug.  "Did you gain weight, Sammy?"

"Xander made me eat twinkies with him," he said with a grin.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"He hates me and he's going to shoot me," Willow complained with a pout.  "He says I'm spoiled."

"You are," Xander agreed.  "You're used to having anything you want as long as you or someone you know can afford it.  It's not like you went without food or had to fight to protect your family from the elements, Willow."  She gaped at him.  He stared back.  "Yeah, I said that.  When you've seen little kids starving but their mothers and father's being worse because they're giving their kids any food that they can and not eating themselves, you realize how spoiled you are."  He shook Dean's hand.  "I took good care of Sam for you, Dean.  I made sure he ate, he got stitched up when he got banged up, and he got regular haircuts whenever he wanted.  I kept the evil girls off him and the nice girls I let pounce if he wanted.  I made him eat tofu now and then so he had flashbacks to Stanford and the good times with Jess.  And I left you a burger, fries, and a pie in the Impala."

"I love you, dude.  I need pie."  He gave him a clap on the shoulder.  Sam gave him a look when he flinched.  "Bad hunt?"

"Some things trying to dig up Sunnydale," Sam said with a grin.  "Willow, Buffy said to call as soon as you got back."

"Sure."  She beamed and waved, then disappeared.

Xander sighed, shaking his head.  "I get to spank, right?" he asked Dean.

"Go for it.  I did.  Three times."

"We saw the picture of her tied to a tree for a burning remake," Sam said dryly.

"She turned me into an iguana," he shot back.  "She's damn lucky Dad's ghost came to stop me."  Xander grinned at that.  "Is she always like that?"

"My best friend since kindergarten," he said dryly.  Dean shuddered.  "She practically raised me, Dean."  He walked him out to the car.  "Can I hitch a ride to the airport?"

"Of course," Sam said with a grin.  "We kept the back issues for you, Dean."

"Thanks.  Where am I?"

"If you'll break up the unholiness of our teaming together, you're at six.  If not, they want to take you out really badly so Sam quits hunting after avenging you," Xander said dryly.  "For some reason they think the job where we had to pretend to be together to get to has now tainted me and we're both going to join the dark side."

Dean looked at him.  Then at his little brother.  "Had to pretend that hard?"

"Gay vacation community.  It was the spirit of the pastor who used to own the retreat's land.  All the gayness drove him insane so he started to take out people and buildings."

"Ah.  How much pretending was there?"

Xander blushed.  "Don't worry, he likes girls," he offered with a grin.

"I don't care if you bent him over, Xander.  I'm more worried about wedding rings since you've got tan lines like one."

Xander held up his hand to look at then smiled at him.  "Protection amulet I was wearing until last night."  He got them out of the glove box, handing them over.  Dean looked then grinned at the mood ring.  "It let the reporters know what sort of mood I was in."

"Good idea after you got their offices," Sam snorted, grinning fondly at his buddy.

"Torched like Dad wanted?" Dean asked, sounding hopeful.

"Trashed and they had to renovate and move thanks to the curse of mice and roaches," Sam said.  "They printed pictures of him from his road trip when he had to strip and me when I got drunk and did some go-go dancing.  They even nicely cut it together so it looked like we were doing a free show on a stage for a loud crowd of demons."

Dean burst out cackling.  "Then yeah, they deserved it."  He nodded.  "Get in the back, Xander."  He got in and Dean took the keys back, sliding in to drive.  "I'm back, baby."  He stroked the steering wheel.  "Why is there a sticky spot?"

"The covering came up because we had some demon blood on us," Xander said.  "We didn't know it'd react to the leather.  We had to replace a small piece of it.  The stickiness is because the heat got the glue again.  The guy who replaced it said it'll only happen once or twice until it's all gone."  Dean nodded at that, wetting a napkin with spit to clean it up.  Then he started the engine and moaned in pleasure.  "We had her tuned up last month, Dean.  Changed all the fluids for you, even the wipers are new and the tires are about six months old."

"You took care of what's precious to me very well, Xander.  Thank you."

"Welcome."  He grinned, leaning back and getting comfortable.  Sam gave him directions to the motel they were at.  They went to get Dean his celebration dinner for surviving a year with Willow.  Then Xander got his stuff together so they could go to the airport.  Sam gave him a hug and a card.  Xander grinned and patted him on the cheek before going through security.

Dean looked at his brother on the way back to the car.  "It serious between you two?"

"We're tight and friends.  He made Bobby swear and laugh at the same time."

"That's a gift," Dean said, grinning some.  "So, hero worship?  Are you going to mope like the girl you are?  Did we get to the point of not quite pretending anymore?"

"Only while drunk and I'm not going to mope.  We can drop in on him whenever we're nearby."

Dean nodded at that.  "Okay.  If you do mope, I'm siccing a stripper on you, Sammy."

Sam looked at him.  "I met a few of those thanks to Xander.  All very nice.  Demon and not."  Dean moaned, shaking his head.  "Only one wanted to keep him."  He smiled, they had reached the car again.  "Let's hit the road."

"Where are we headed to?"

"Bobby's.  He wants to see you, splash you with holy water, make sure you didn't really burn her at the stake, all that."

"It was damn close, Sammy.  Dad's ghost showed up because she summoned him to stop me.  I was giving last rites before dropping the burning stick on the dried wood."  He climbed into his car and they went back to the motel to pack up and head out.  It was a pretty night and Dean wasn't tired right now.  "We are not having fish or vegetables anytime soon," he said once they were on the highway.  "Possibly never again."

"Figured she had eaten healthy."  He handed over a can of coke and a twinkie from Xander's stash.  Dean grinned at that, starting his gorge on fast food for the next month.  He deserved it.  He had withstood a year of Rosenburg the Insane.


Sam looked at the next month's magazine, wincing at the picture he saw.  "Xander walked off from Cleveland in the middle of the night."

Dean looked over.  "He okay?"

"He packed all his stuff and left.  That's all they're saying.  Well, and he's opened somewhere and he's using it to hunt from."  That got a nod.  "They think the girls pissed him off.  We should call."

"We tried last night, he hung up on you."

"He had a werewolf break out of confinement."

"Oh."  He took it to look at.  "Bar?"

"No.  Comic shop."  He pointed at the address.

Dean grinned.  "We can stop by there.  It's only two hours out of our way."

"We'll be done with the job in another day," he pointed out.  "We'll have to leave anyway."

"Good point."  He nodded.  "We can do that."  He flipped back to the hit list rating.  "Aw, shit.  They've got him at the top again.  But it's nice we're listed together at number two."

Sam grinned.  "We made some people very nervous, Dean.  Especially the higher ups.  Xander earned his reputation for some very good reasons."  He took it back to flip to the jeers section.  "They yelled at the Council for letting him go.  Apparently Faith walked off after him to take a foreign spot."

"Makes sense.  Some of the others were more uptight than she was."

Sam nodded.  "Very true.  We ran into one on field assignment.  I nearly took his head off for sneering at Xander."  He kept going.  "Huh.  New weapons."  He handed it back and went back to what he had been doing, texting Xander.  Xander sent back one saying he was fine, to finish their hunt.  "He says he's fine."

"Is that a bad fine or a good fine?"

"Every fine is a bad fine with him," Sam said.  "The night you left and he got back, he was fine but the ER personnel had to spend three hours cleaning furry cuts on his front and back from lions and lion-spirit possessed people.  And one gazelle that tried to pet him with her horns according to him."  Dean shuddered.  "He was also fine when he broke his foot and still finished our hunt in the woods.  He was fine when a rock pierced his leg after falling on us to keep the demons away from us.  We had to cave in the entrance to keep ourselves safe.  Xander didn't even mention it.  Only moaned a bit when it happened.  I figured a rock hit him until he started a fire and I saw the blood."  They shared a look.  "Dad would've whipped him for that one."


"Pretty.  Sharp rock into his calf muscle."  Dean shuddered.  "He was also fine, but a bit dizzy and pukey as he put it, during the two concussions he got while we hunted together."

Dean shook his head.  "Sounds like you two had fun."

"It was actually.  He made me giggle even when he was miserable."  He grinned.  "Xander's unique, Dean."

"Are you going to start moping for your lost boyfriend now?"

"I don't mope and he's not my boyfriend."

"Uh-huh."  He checked the time and went back to their preparation for later that night.  Then they'd see what sort of fine Xander was.


Xander looked up as the bell dinged, going back to his current customer.  "That one's die-cast but it's a limited edition.  Or if you can't spend that much there's a resin model in the same pose but a different facial feature, barely."  He showed it to the teenage boy.

He looked at the tags.  "This stuff is really expensive."

"I can show you the book we ordered from.  It's not ebay, but ya know how it goes."

"Can I put it on layaway?  Otherwise I can't afford all my week's comics."

"Sure.  As long as it doesn't take that long."  He got a piece of paper and some masking tape to attach it to the box, making note of the name and how much he was putting down.  Then he rang him up.  He handed over the bagged comics and bags to put them into storage in.  "Have a good day."

"You too, Mr. Harris."  He left, smiling at the two older guys who had been browsing the horror section.

"This has got to be one of the most stuffed stores I've ever been in," Dean said, coming over.  "You've got a bit of everything."  You had to walk around piles of stuff at the moment.  Including the heater.  There was one route on each side of the store and everywhere else was full of stuff.

"Some of it's my personal collection," Xander said with a grin.  "The bigger shops cost more and we're near a few schools here."  He looked around.  "I'll put up some more cases soon to sort some of it out."  He looked at him.  "I saw they listed me.  I've put an ad in saying I did sell to non-harmful demons but the first bit of slime on anything and they bought it."  He looked and found something, tossing it at Sam.  "To replace Jenkins."

Sam looked at the plush stuffed batcat then grinned.  Jess's cat had been white but this one was cute.  "Thanks, Xander.  He's cute."

"I put oil-based warding symbols on his collar."  He grinned at Dean.  "To keep the dream demon and incubus off him again."

"Really?" he asked, looking at Sam.  "Why haven't we seen them since I got back?"

"I'm surprised you didn't catch him this morning," Sam admitted, putting it under his arm.  "How much do I owe you?"

Xander waved him off.  "We're cool."  He looked at Dean again.  "Yes, I left.  They didn't know what I'd do around there.  Unless I wanted to be in charge of the kitchen and the building like a housekeeper."

Dean nodded at that.  "Rosenburg?"

"Nope.  Did you really nearly burn her at the stake?"

"Yup.  She turned me into an iguana.  She called our dad back to save her from me."

"You're lucky she could turn you back.  It took her years to get Amy back from a rat."  Dean shuddered.   Sam did too.  "So, what's up?  New hunt this way?  I've got most of the town cleaned up already.  Just a few vamps.  This is in migration alley for them."

"We're checking on you," Sam said.  "Since you didn't even tell us you had left."  He gave Xander a look, getting a sheepish grin back.  He knew that look very well.  "Which one did it so I know who to kill?"  Dean gave him a look.  "Seriously, Xander.  Which bitch was it?"

"All of them including Giles and his 'I don't know what we'd do with you around here, Xander' speech.  I gave up."  He looked around.  "Somewhere in here is some teenage guy looking at anime women."  The kid popped his head up.  "Not drooling, right?"

"No, Mr. Harris."  He grinned.  "And I'm ignoring your friends too."

Xander grinned at Sam.  "Some day he'll be just like me, only without what I used to do in high school.  He's already got a Cordy of his own."

Sam leaned over the counter to give him a hug.  "Just tell me, Xander.  I know you didn't want me to show up with some borrowed stuff from your warehouse."  Xander laughed at that, giving him a pat on the back before pulling back.

"Are you going to keep hunting?" Dean asked quietly.  "They have you at the top and supposedly easy to take out."

Xander grinned.  "No I'm not.  Never was.  Buffy tried to make me leave the business a few times and I never did.  And she was a friend."

Dean nodded.  "You sure?  You could legitimately retire now."

"I'm going to be those guys from _Lost Boys_."  Dean laughed at that, shaking his head.  "I am."  He pointed.  "That's what he's getting into right now.  Then again, his big brother is a chaos person."  The kid nodded at that.  "So he knows."

"Fine," Sam said.  "Are you sure?  You can be hooked into our network."

"I sent Bobby a flier so he could pass it around.  Not like I don't have all my gear and I shouldn't need it just doing this town."

"Unless something huge comes," Dean added for him.

Xander smirked.  "Two have tried.  I still didn't need it."  That got a nod of understanding.  "And the local cops know but they don't *know*.  Did you know that Spike's cartoon went more widespread than HHL?"  They both gave him odd looks.  "Yeah, it went into a few anime mags and Hustler too."  Dean moaned.  "I emailed Buffy a copy of that right after I heard.  Made her year."  He beamed.  The kid came up to check out.  "You sure you want something that hardcore?  I don't need your dad in here yelling again."

"He won't.  I told him it was this or his Hustlers.  He decided to let me have my porn and he'll have his, even if he does think it's strange I like tentacles."  He shrugged.  "So I showed him my brother's pet with real, live tentacles and he screamed at him instead."  That got a smirk back.  "Have you met the new priest in town?"

"Yup.  Philip's a nice guy.  He knows."  That got a nod.  "Speaking of, tell your brother I know there's a trade mag for chaos people.  Tell him to get me the name and ordering info and I'll get it for him so he doesn't have to pay shipping."  That got a beaming, happy teenage boy who bounced home to tell his brother.  "Which means I get to read them too," he said dryly once they were alone.  Dean snorted at that, shaking his head.  "Speaking of which," he said, pressing a button under the counter.  "Back room, Dean.  There's a whole bunch of trade mags we could've been getting."  They went to look.  Dean's moan came out very well.  "Past that section," he called.  He grinned when Sam moaned.  Sam came out with one.  "That is a teaching manual some hunter in New England makes.  Ghost Hunter's Diary pretty well has it nailed by what you taught me."

"I might know him," he said.  "Or Dad might've."  He went to put it back and kept going.  He came out with a box.  "No weapons in the teaching kit?"

"Nope.  You can't teach sword or gun work with a magazine or a comic."  They shared a look.  "Though I will give lessons if I have to."

Sam grinned, going to put it back.  He got one targeted toward demonic seers.  Dean got his few gun mags and one with naked women in it.  They came out to pay for them and lounge around some more.  "We're heading to Bobby's.   Should we say hi for you?"

"Sure.  He can come browse too," Xander said with a grin.

"No girls?"

"Not that many girls in town but a few of the people here do know.  So it's safe and I'll handle stuff for the old guy patrol if I have to."  That got a nod.  "If you guys need stuff from my warehouse, it's here too.  I had to pay to have it magic grammed.  The local cops are ignoring it unless something needs to happen.  Oh, and stay out of Cleveland for the next few months, Sam.  The girls are going to try to tie you up to present you to me as a good reason for me to come back to them."  Sam snorted, shaking his head.  "Yeah, that's their diet-induced thought of week.  And they're coming up on their first local apocalypse so it might be a good idea to stay out of Cleveland for a few weeks."

"I still want to go bomb them for treating you like crap."

"Everything must come to a parting of the ways sometime, Sam.  And hey, where else to I get to play with comics all day long.  I pay less now that I'm a dealer so I can order my own copies cheaper.  The town's not that dangerous.  I can actually go out after dark without many weapons."  That got a nod from Dean.  "With Father Philip moving in recently...."  Dean moaned.  "Maybe they should nickname this town 'hunter's retirement'.  Who knows."  He grinned as the door opened.  "Hey, Father.  Just talking about you."

"I heard," he said with a soft Irish accent.  He came in to nod at the boys.  "I've seen you in that dratted magazine."

"Dean and Sam Winchester," Dean introduced, shaking his hand.  Sam shook it afterward.  "We came to check on Xander."

"He's a good boy.  The town's fairly safe.  No one minds the hunters who've retired here." That got a nod from Sam.  "If'n he needs help, he'll call I'm sure.  He's like that.  He yelped his first night when he had to come steal holy water."

"I only yelped because you grabbed me with chilly hands, Father."

Philip smiled.  "I'd been outside."  The boys laughed at that.  "He's a good boy.  I'm making sure of it.  Even if the local cops don't know why other hunters need the stuff he brought into town."  Xander went into the back room to get something, handing it over.  He looked at it then frowned at him.  "How long were you there?"

"All my life until we sank it because the First Evil sucked it in."  He grinned. "In Spike's comic, I'm 'whelpboy'."

Philip moaned.  "That makes so much more sense."

"That and I overplan for everything.  If they need it, just let me know.  The same as these two can borrow if they need something huge."

"Good ta know," Philip agreed.  Xander waved the magazine off.  "You sure?"

"Give it to the sheriff.  She'll like it."  Philip smiled, nodding at that.  "Tell Bobby I said hi and to come check out the speciality mags, guys."  He smiled at them.  "Or are you staying for dinner?  I've got a nice apartment with a pullout you guys can borrow."

"We wouldn't mind," Dean agreed.  Sam nodded, beaming at him.  "When do you get off?"

"Three hours."  He dug out his keys and handed them over.  "I'm on the second floor of that Miami blue building on the edge of town by the grocery store.  Not the one the meowing is coming from."  They nodded.  "If I don't have anything good for dinner, get something and I'll pay you back when I get home."  They nodded, shaking Philip's hand again, Sammy getting another hug, before they left.  He looked at him.  "I hunted with Sam for a year while Dean was in a hell dimension."

"I saw.  Those girls of yours were nuts to throw you away."  Xander smiled at that.  "Anything good in?"

"Depends.  I told Brad to get his brother to give me the name and info on the mags for his people.  I have a new Wiccan's Rede out.  There's two new ghost hunter's ones out this week.  Amber's got a new volume out too."  He handed over the Irish comic he had ordered specially for the middle aged priest.  That got a smile and he went back to look.  He'd ignore the hard core smutty anime and mags he had back there too.  He was like that.  Xander settled in on his stool and got comfortable reading his current comic.  Philip was a book guy; he could be back there for hours.


Dean walked into Bobby's house.  "Hey, Bobby, Xander said to come buy mags off him sometime soon," he called.

Bobby came out of the bedroom.  "He's not in Cleveland?"

"Don't get Sammy started ranting at the girls again.  Please?  He went on for four hours yesterday about them driving him off."  Bobby moaned.  Sam walked in and handed Bobby the stuff they had bought.  Bobby sat down to look, frowning at it.  "Including a book put out by a hunter in New England as a training manual."  Dean handed that one over.  "Xander's got a whole back room full of hunting, magic, demonic, and other stuff, plus a few more hardcore anime and manga books."

"Smut and guns?" Bobby teased.

"Basically."  Sam went out and came back with his new pet.  "He marked the collar with protections so the dream demon and the incubus that seem to like me when I'm napping can't come back."

Bobby looked at him.  "Can't we ward you without the cute pet?"

"Hasn't worked yet.  I've tried," Sam sighed, settling into the old couch.  "How've you been?"

"Not bad.  I got the flier from someone."

"Xander," Dean agreed, settling into a chair.  "Father Philip's there too.  A few others have retired there."  Bobby groaned.  "He's running a comic shop."

"It was his first love," Sam told him.  "He and Jesse used to want to open one together."  He looked at their 'family' - he had been an uncle to them for as long as either of them remembered - and grinned.  "He's hurting but he's moving on slowly."

"I'm sure he is."  He went through the next on.  "I can't believe they put these things out in this format.  Used to be you had to hunt through dusty books or go onto password protected sites that you had to know the right people to hear about."

"That's for the ones starting out.  Xander put together a teaching kit for anyone who wants to start hunting," Dean told him.  "Everything but weapons and he said he'll teach that if he has to."

"Good!"  He smiled, putting them back beside Sam on the couch.  "Any other cheery news?"

"Cleveland's going to have their yearly apocalypse soon.  The girls are going to tie up Sammy and present him to Xander so he'll come back," Dean offered.  Bobby laughed, shaking his head.

"They're not kidding," Sam told him.  "I talked to Dawn.  She said they think I'll make Xander quit pouting.  They feel rotten that they drove him off but they think it's safer for him.  When I pointed out this left him totally unprotected with no one to watch his back she sighed and said she knew but she'd be moving there in a few years to help him."  Bobby nodded at that.  "So we'll see.  It's a pretty town."

"If we ever get too banged up to keep hunting, it seems like a safe place to retire," Dean agreed.

"I know the town.  It's on the migration and running away in fear paths but otherwise nothing happens there.  He move his guns?"

"He moved everything, including his warehouse in Cleveland," Sam told him.  Bobby moaned.  "He said we can come poach if we have to and so can the sheriff there.  She's a very nice woman.  Gave Dean a long look then sighed and asked how long we were staying.  We had to assure her we were just visiting Xander."

"Good.  Sounds like she has a clue."  They both nodded.  "Decent.  Any other good news?"

"We got an offer to come back to the gay retreat for a new vacation," Sam said with a grin.  Bobby moaned, shifting and shaking his head at that.  "Thanks to that job we found out that there's a magazine for gay hunters *and* one for gay guys hunting other gay guys.  I thought the other was another gay boys hunting mag."

"There's a group of gay hunters?" Dean asked, giving him an odd look.

"Yeah.  It's not well publicized but even some of the straight guys get it.  They were very proud of how respectful we were of their vacation retreat area even though we clearly weren't together that way.  They did welcome Xander to their side of the fence when he shot back that he was bi, just look at his exes.  They have a chat room too.  He was on it and they were going on about Jess and him having ex-girlfriends.  A few thought one of them should've handled it but Xander pointed out he was right there and all those evil wenches he had dated, his phrasing, had made him see he was bi."  Dean snickered, nodding a bit.  "And yes, I had pretended but I was very respectful and nice about it.  Not even a funny look at the guys going at it in the bar that one night on the pool table who interrupted my game to have sex."

"You get a good peep show?"

"I learned stuff from their library that I didn't think was humanly possible and only happened in porn imagination, Dean," he said dryly, smirking back.  "Saw some of it in person too."  Dean blushed, shaking his head.  "But it's a nice resort.  Spa, camping area if you want to camp.  Lake to swim in.  Playground and picnic areas.  Huge library to borrow from that covers a lot of topics and has some best sellers I'd been meaning to read.  Shopping area for supplies but not a lot of souvenir shops.  Nightly concerts, a small art gallery, horses to rent.

"Oooh, I got Xander up on a horse.  He was *so* sore later on but he was having a lot of fun.  He giggled nearly the whole three hours of the ride in the woods around the lake.  Said to call him cowboy until he got off and couldn't quite walk right.  The stable guys teased him that I hadn't been doing my job well enough if he wasn't used to being sore back there.  He just blushed a bit."  He grinned.  "He wanted to go back the next day but we had the spirit trapped and were dealing with it.  Then we left in a hurry after Xander left a note saying what had happened and it was now fixed for their local patrol.  They had two former cops who patrolled the area for problems."

"Sounds nice," Bobby agreed.  "Going back?"

"Xander got an invitation for both of us."  He shrugged.  "I don't know if he will.  I'd like to find one that wasn't so...queenly.  It was nice but it was also geared more toward the seriously gay than the in the closet gay audience.  The drag show was terrific though.  Xander laughed the whole way through it.  They even got him up there for the hard-body contest.  I said I was shy but he dove in and had a lot of fun with them.  Got second place to a body builder."

Dean shook his head quickly.  "Drunk?"

"Slightly tipsy.  He doesn't drink all that often."

Bobby nodded, standing up.  "Okay then."  He smiled.  "If you do, I want pictures of you three up on horses."  He went into the kitchen.  "You boys staying for a few days?"

"We're looking for the next hunt," Sam called after him.  "Is there anything going on?"

"Not that I've heard.  Maybe we're all waiting to see what comes out of Cleveland since their is their first apocalypse."

"LA's about to have an issue too," Dean called after him.  "Sammy was talking with someone."

"I asked Angel if he needed help when I heard he'd be having problems this year too.  He said they'd have all the slayers but if it was as bad as they thought, to jump in if we were close enough to help."  That got a nod from Dean.  "They're looking at an 'open portal and invade' scenario."

"Charming," Dean said grimly.  "When?"

"Three weeks."

Dean considered it.  "If we get a short hunt out there, it'll be good.  Is Xander going?"

"I asked him last night and he said he talked to Angel.  Angel said to stay there, that the girls would focus on him and not the invasion.  Xander said they were better trained than that.  Angel said it'd happen anyway so to stay home and make sure nothing got out of LA.  If it did, he could step in."  That got a nod.  Bobby came back with coffee.  "Holy water?"

"Of course."  He handed it over.  They both drank.  He smiled.  "You two look like you thought of a new hunt."

"In three weeks LA's having a problem.  Angel said if we're nearby we can jump in," Sam told him.

Bobby grimaced.  "What sort of problem?"

"Normandy Beach from a demon plane," Sam told him.  Bobby shuddered.  "So anything short out that way so we're in the general area if they need help?  He said they'll have slayers."

"Not that I've heard.  The boy?"

"Angel said the slayers would focus on him instead of everything else.  To stay home unless things went so bad that some of them escaped LA."

Bobby nodded.  "I can see that.  We can go."  They smiled.  "The boy can go with us if he wants."

"I'll let him know," Dean promised.  "So that means we've got a week off to make sure we have the weapons we need."  That got a nod from Sam and Bobby.  "Any indication of what's coming?"

"Yes," Sam said, nodding a bit.  "Everything."  Dean groaned.  "So be prepared for anything and everything."

"We can do that," Bobby agreed.  "Let me tell a few others so they can head that way or maintain a line around LA if we have to."  He went to make that call.  "Ellen, Bobby.  The boys heard from a source in LA.  They're about to have an invasion.  When's the apocalypse in Cleveland?" he called.

"Next week," Sam called back.  "Tell her we said hi."

"Sam said they said hi.  Cleveland is having their yearly thing next week.  In about three weeks LA's having an invasion from some other plane."

Dean walked in and took the phone.  "They're going to open a portal and let whatever comes out, Ellen.  It's a takeover bid.  They'll eat the humans and then the bigger guys can take over what's left.  They'll have slayer support there.  Angel said we could come help or we could help hold a line around LA in case anything got out."  He smiled.  "Please do.  Three weeks.  Thanks, Ellen.  Yeah, we're fine.  Know anything about dream demons and incubuses that visit you while you're asleep?  Xander got Sammy this stuffed cat with bat wings with protections on it for it but I was wondering if there was a less cutesy way?"  He shrugged.  "If you hear, let me know?"  He grinned.  "Sam said whatever comes comes from what Angel told him.  So be ready for anything.  Actually, he left Cleveland because the girls decided he didn't have a space with them anymore.  He's running a comic shop in a small town that at least one other hunter's retired to.  Yeah, there.  He's got the usual mags for hunters and witches there and some supplies plus he's brought all his supplies with him in case they need it.  He's pissed at them but he won't let Sammy go blow them up.  Yeah, we're heading to LA soon.  Thanks, Ellen."  He hung up.  "She knows the town."

"I think your dad went through there once way back when."  He shrugged.  "It nice?"

"Very.  If we ever get that injured, we're retiring there.  Sammy can open a geek store or help Xander."  He went back to the living room.  "Geek store if you retire?"

"Bookstore probably."  He smiled.  "Maybe next to Xander's comic shop.  Merge the two.  Gun store for you?"

"I could.  I'd be damn good at it," Dean agreed, finishing his coffee.

Bobby shook his head.  He knew the boys knew it was highly unlikely they'd make it to retirement but every young guy had to have a goal.  Now that the family's vendetta was solved and all that mess was done with, they had to have something to make them go forward with life.


Xander came out at the loud voices, looking around at the people gathering around to protest.  He found the Father watching and walked over to him.  "What is going on?" he hissed.

"Apparently there's something that tries to break into homes each equinox but this time's is over a celebration.  They're arguing about moving it forward or not."

Xander nodded.  "Why doesn't something take it out?"

Philip smiled.  "Because most of the people here know but don't practice."

Xander nodded.  "Any idea where it is?"

"No.  Underground somewhere."  He looked at the boy.  "Do not do anything that'll make me give last rites."

"Have me turned, Father Philip.  Easier on everyone and then I can be pissy with the slayers," he said dryly, making the older man give him the oddest look.  He grinned.  "Spike said it wasn't too bad."

"You're touched in the head."

"Willow raised me."

"Figures."  He waved one of the other former hunters over.  "What is it and where?"

"We're not sure about where.  We think we know where the entrance to the tunnel is but we can't figure out how to kill it," he said quietly, looking at Xander.  "The Father said you knew, boy."

"Xander Harris, I worked with the slayer in Sunnydale," he said, holding out a hand with a grin.  "Would explosives help?"

The man gaped then burst out laughing, shaking his hand.  "Could, yeah.  None of us have any."

"Bullshit," Xander said dryly.  "And I can make it with fertilizer if I have to."  The other former hunter gaped.  Xander stared back.  "We had nightly patrols.  We had an ascension.  Seven years there, then a year in Africa finding missing slayers."  The guy shuddered.  "I brought *everything* with me."

"Sheriff know?"

"That I have stuff, not what."  He grinned a sweet grin.  "Think she'd mind?"

"Probably since her brother's ATF."

Xander shrugged.  "Then I won't give her an inventory list.  When do you want to go?"

"We tried last time it came up.  It was too fast for us.  Most of us are retired."

"My slayers decided I was worthless after eight years."

"Damn, boy."

"That's why Hell's Hit List has me at number one to take out because I'm now considered unprotected and it'd make them hurt.  Maybe."

The Father winced.  "No wonder you run a comic shop."

Xander nodded.  "I love comics.  Especially with some of the graphic novels and teaching manuals that've now come out in comic and anime form."  The other hunter gave him an odd look.  "There's all sorts of teaching manuals on nearly every subject in the back room of my store.  Everything from hunting on down."


"Very."  He grinned.  "I'm picky about who goes back there."

"Good to know.  It comes up next Saturday."

"We can trail it hopefully," Xander agreed.  "Where is it going to come up?"

"Near the park's pavilion."  That got a nod.  "You sure you can track?"

"We hunted vampires nearly every night and demons half of that time too.  Yes."

"Okay."  He looked at Philip.  "You going to help, Father?"

"If I can."  That got a nod and he went back to add his opinion on when the celebration should be held.

Xander looked at him.  "I don't care if your calling prevents it, Father.  Priests are supposed to be like that."  He went back inside, going to clean up his lunch mess.  He had some new books to put out in the back room while he planned what he needed.


Xander looked at the hole they were mining.  "Give me the det cord," he hissed.  It was handed over.  "Now run."  They ran.  He hitched the fuse up and led it back carefully.  "Out!" he yelled in Latin.  Most everyone heard and ran.  He started a countdown from five.

"Hold on, Phil's deaf!" someone yelled, texting him.  The guy came running and Xander checked.  "We're here, kid!"

"No, we're missing someone!"  They ran out and Xander set it off.  He went flying across the grass, landing on his back after a short skid.  "I always make it too strong," he moaned, sitting up and looking at the mess.  He wiped at the demon goo that had splattered him.  "Looks like I need to find the special detergent box."  He made himself get up and look around.  "Everyone all right?" he called.  They all moaned and nodded.  "Do we need to check for nests or anything?"

"I hope not," Father Philip complained as he stood up.  "Bit strong, Xander."

"Sorry, the only way I know how," he said with a weak grin.  He looked at the former building.  "I'll even volunteer to help build a new one."  He gathered the few tools that had fallen out of his pockets and his handgun, plus his spare clip that had fallen out.  He turned and found the sheriff and her husband, the deputy fire chief, staring at them in horror.  "The eating poodles thing is gone, Sheriff.  I'll help rebuild it."  He grinned before trudging off.  His bathtub was summoning him to its sweet depths.

She stopped the boy.  "You did *what*?"

He looked at his messy clothes then at her.  "Should be kinda self-explanatory, Sheriff."  He brushed at some of the goo.  "Hopefully there's no eggs or anything.  We can come back to search later if you want.  Now no one has to worry about that thing breaking in to eat anything smaller than a collie."  He got free of her hand.  "Are there any others I need to worry about?"

"Winter solstice has something that comes to visit and usually makes a few people sick," her husband offered.

"Know what it is so I can look it up?"


"Then I'll get what I can from the library or the older people around here and look it up that way," he decided.  "If you'll excuse me, I need a bath really badly."

"You need to learn how to lay a lesser charge," the Sheriff complained.

"We went for 'make sure it's dead' in Sunnydale, Sheriff.  If I had access to bomb manuals I'd teach myself how to make lesser ones but the nasty Feds who created a project to torture demons would show up and try with me again."  He grinned sweetly.  "I was there when they went down."  He strolled off, trying hard to look like everything was normal and he was all right.  Sam would be giggling like he was high about this.

"I want to know what's in your back room," the sheriff called after him.

"Sure, come by tomorrow," he called back.  "You know when I'm open."  He smiled to himself.  "Not like I keep the weapons there, lady," he muttered.  He let himself into his building and then into his apartment after trudging up the stairs.  Right to the bathtub. Showering to rinse off himself and his clothes, then they went into the sink and he ran a blissfully hot tub of water to soak in.  He even treated himself to bubbles.  He hadn't blown up more than the house and everyone but the demon had survived; he deserved bubbles.

Father Philip looked at the sheriff.  "He doesn't keep anything back there but training manuals."

"If I know about things like that I have to do something about them.  That'll definitely get agents into our quiet little town and we want to avoid that, Father."

He smiled.  "I know, just a warning."

"I figured they're in the storage area by the highway."  She shrugged.  "Will I need to call my brother to get it when the boy croaks from jumping in?"

"Could, yeah," he admitted.

"Good to know."  She walked off with her husband.  "Tell him if you find any eggs or anything during the clean up, dear."

"I should make him clean it up and help rebuild it."

She smiled.  "He'd probably do it if you asked.  He is a nice young man."  He rolled his eyes, following her back home.  "No more things breaking in to eat the pets or children," she said, putting an arm through his.  "That'll be nice."

"It will be," he agreed.  He kissed the back of her hand.  "Even if he does need to calm down."

"He will.  It's only been a few months and it sounded like he did more like military service than now and then hunting like the others.  Though, have you talked to him about his trip to Africa to find missing slayers?"

"How long was he there?"

"Just under a year."

"Hmm."  He smiled and nodded politely at an older woman out for a walk.  "That problem is gone, Mrs. Jenkins."

"Good.  I thought I heard a cannon."

"They closed the thing's lair," the sheriff told her.

"Even better.  Damn thing ate my cats for the last six equinoxes."  She went back to walking her newest cat.  This one was bigger and had massive claws in case something attacked it.

The couple shook their heads.  Some of the their residents were very strange at times.


Dean looked up from fighting as a loud sound reached them.  "Tell me it's not an earthquake too!" he demanded over his current opponent dying.

"No, just that building," Sam called.  He stabbed one then shot the next one and moved on.  "Dad would be crapping himself over this."

"Him and me both," Dean admitted.  He killed the demon that heard and moved on.  When they said invasion, they had meant it.  The building the demons were coming from went down suddenly with a screech of dying metal and stone.  The slayers around them cheered.  Then a wave of heat washed over them and Dean had to blink.  Half the demons were dead.  The girls dove in to clean up the rest.  "What was that?"

"Probably Willow," one called.

"Okay then."  They got their last few and checked around.  The town was a mess.  It looked like the war zones you saw on the news.  He looked at Sam, pulling him closer to check him for injuries.  Sam was doing the same for him.  "Just few cuts and bruises."

"And a broken foot," Sam reminded him.  He smiled.  "I'm fine, Dean.  Nothing a few stitches and a long, hot bath won't cure."  That got a nod and they looked at the interested looking girls.  "We do our own after-care."

"Damn, I was hoping for groping," one girl complained.  Willow came jogging back.  "Nice work with that spell."

"It wasn't me."  She looked around.  "That was chaos magic."

Sam frowned and texted someone from his phone.  He got back an answer.  "Xander said Ethan didn't want the world to end either; it'd be less fun.  You're welcome."  He put his phone back.  He and Dean shared a look.  "How did the building fall?"

Willow shrugged.  "I was trying and then it shook.  We backed up then it went down."

"Huh."  Dean nodded at that.  They hiked back to the car.  "Nice seeing you again, Willow.  Later."

"You too, Dean.  I'm sorry about all the vegetables and the iguana thing."

Sam looked back at her.  "Don't remind him.  I'll have to put up with him going to find strippers later to take it out of mind."  He found the Impala still safely parked in an alley.  It had a few scratches and a new dent that Dean was moaning over but that was fine.  It had been over a thousand demons.  A few scratches was good since half the ones they had run into were on fire.  "Could've been worse."

"Yeah, could have been," Dean agreed.  Bobby found them and checked them over.  "We're good."

"You've got a broken foot, Dean."

"I know that.  It hurts like a bitch."

Xander strolled out of the shadows.  "They congratulating Willow on her spells?"  Sam nodded.  "Oh well.  Ethan's going to have some fun with Giles for the night as a price for helping."  He grinned.  "A good reward, huh?"  Sam laughed.  "Okay, let's head, guys."

"Not driving?" Bobby asked.

"I flew in and took a cab, Bobby.  I know better than to drive into a war zone.  Your car is a shiny target.  I learned that during the first one I saw in Africa."  That got a nod of understanding.  "Dean, you good to drive?"

"Sammy let you drive my car?"

"The only time I drove the Impala Sam was unconscious, we were in the middle of nowhere, and I couldn't get a signal on either of our phones to get him an ambulance.  It only took an hour and I was very delicate with her.  I didn't even change the station Sam had it set on."  Dean grinned at that.  "He said she's special to you.  So can I have the backseat before one of the girls see me?"  Dean nodded and they headed out, going to find a place to stay for the night.  Xander got his own room and they settled in to shower, stitch, bathe, and all that good stuff with Bobby's help.  He was the least injured of all of them.

Dean came out to where Xander was sitting outside.  "What made it shake?"

"I wrecked one side of the frame holding the portal up."


"Then I brought down the building to make sure it was staying shut this time."

Dean grinned at that.  "Pretty work."

"Very."  He handed him a beer.  "You could use one."

"Thanks, man."  He sat down beside him to drink his beer.  The motel's manager gave them a dirty look from the office.  "We were helping protect LA earlier," Dean called with a hand-wave.  "I deserve a few."

The guy shuddered.  "That's still on tv."

Sam came out.  "It is."

"They catch us?" Dean asked.

"They caught you and me and a few of the girls in the mop up phase.  It looked like they zoomed in from a copter with how fuzzy it was."  That got a nod.  "They got a good picture of Xander's back as he ran out of the building before it fell.  They got the girls in the forward group better than anyone else."  Xander grinned at that.  "They did get one good shot of Bobby.  He's grumbling about that."

"It happens," Xander agreed.  He called his store's helper.  "It's Xander.  I'm fine no matter what the news is showing.  Few days.  I'm outside LA by a few hours at the moment.  I can fly back then."

"We can drive you back," Sam promised, looking at Dean, who shrugged.

"Okay.  Sam and Dean said they'd drive me back so maybe three, four days.  Call if you need me.  My phone survived."  He hung up, grinning a them.  "Thanks."

"Not a problem.  I want a few days to calm down after that anyway," Dean assured him.  Sam nodded, flopping down on Xander's other side.  A cop car pulled in and he put the beer behind him.  "Officer," he said when he got out.  "Problems?"

"Open container, sir?"

Sam groaned and opened their door, pointing at the tv.  "We were there earlier."

The cop looked, going pale.  "What is that?"

"An invasion," Xander said.  "It's cleared up.  It won't happen again."  The cop gave him a dirty look.  "I was helping take down the building they were coming out of, Officer.  They were on the city defense."

"Then it's a good night for a beer.  Take 'em inside please, boys."  He went to report that to his boss by going to the office and turning on the tv.  His boss whimpered.  "Three of the guys who're there are at the motel.  One had an open container outside.  I didn't say a thing to them, sir."

"Me either."  He went back to his office to take a tums and then shudder in horror.  He was *so* glad he wasn't in LA anymore.  And if the boys got a bit rowdy at the bar later, oh well.


Xander walked into his shop, finding the Father in there browsing.  "Waiting on us or looking for Amber's newest issue?  It's usually behind the counter, Father Philip."

"Got it already."  He looked at him.  "You all right?"

"I'm fine.  I was on portal destruction."

"I saw."  The boy just grinned at him.  "Need ta talk?"

"No worse than a clan war that was turning into a civil war, Father."

"Good.  Though I can hear about that too if you need to talk about it, Xander."

"If I need to, I'll remember that."  He got a gentle smile for it.  "Anything else good happen while I was gone?"

His helper handed over something.  "This guy picked up the last of his layaway.  I put out the shipment that came out yesterday.  And there's this that just came in but I think that's yours instead of the store's," he offered, handing over a box.

Xander looked.  "Yup, sure is.  Thanks, Brad."  The boy beamed.  "Your brother get Ethan's phone number?"

"He did and he said thank you.  He's considered nearly as strong as Janus is and Greg's thinking how he can ask Ethan if he could teach him a little bit more."

"Ethan's probably in a decent mood.  He got to be a good guy in a way that let him rub Ripper's nose in it and then probably pounced him to pick on him for a bit.  They're old friends."  Brad laughed.  "I'll cut your check tomorrow.  Thank you."  That got a nod and the boy left.  He looked at the priest.  "Sam and Dean are appreciating my cable and tub."

"It's nice of them."  He patted Xander on the shoulder.  "You sure you're all right?"

"I was bringing down the building, Father."

"Fine."  He paid and left, going to check on those boys to see if they needed any ministering or talking to.  He was good at it and he did know how those things went.

Xander settled in to check his store and to make out Brad's check for the days he had worked for him.  He looked over as the Sheriff came in.  "Hey.  I'm back.  Brad did a good job."

"Good.  I'll tell his father you said that."

He grinned.  "I can't be in trouble already.  I just got back."

"I saw you on the news."

"I helped bring down the building."

She stared at him.  "I saw you in the crowd first, kid."

"The cab couldn't get me down there before it started.  I had to fight my way in."

She snorted.  "Are you sane?"

"Depends on who you ask," he said with a small grin.  "Why?  Is there a bet going?"

"No."  She shook her head.  "I'm surprised you didn't take anything out of your warehouse."

"Why?  I used to live by LA.  Most of my contacts for stuff are out there."  She shuddered.  "So I got what I needed easily enough.  Cheap too because they didn't want to be overrun either.   One even gave me my money back afterward."

"Good.  No more moving weapons into town?"

"I'm not," he sighed.  "Those are in storage in case we have another one that we need it for.  We had one of those in eleventh grade in the mall's food court."  She whimpered, walking off shaking her head.  "Sorry!"  He found his reading stack and got to work on them.  He had a few hours yet before he could go play with Sam again.


Faith found the next month's issue of HHL, looking at it.  "They covered the invasion but not our apocalypse."

"That's probably a good thing with so many of us getting slimed," Buffy said, snatching it and walking off reading it.  "Hold on, Xander was there?"  She looked around.  "Giles, was Xander at the invasion?" she bellowed.

He came out of his office.  "How did you think the building came down, Buffy?  Spike and Angel both said they let him handle that part so they could stop more of the demons."  She scowled.  He stared back.  "Yes, he was there.  He avoided all of us."

"Gee, wonder why?" Faith asked, taking her magazine back to walk off reading.  "He's doing good with his comic shop.  There's pictures of him and Sam Winchester giggling over something in some book.  Dean too when they showed it to him."  She flipped over.  "Huh.  Wonder if they're still getting it."  Dawn looked over her arm.

"Of course they are, and Xander said he's not sure why they're putting Sam with him now at the top of the hit list.  He thinks it's because of that one hunt where they had to pretend to be gay to get the spirit gaybashing couples."  Faith shook her head quickly but you could hear a light moan come from her.  "Anyway, he thinks the photographers think they're together or something.  He said one asked their friend Bobby if he and Sam were really together or just friends with benefits.  He said to ask Dean."

Faith let out a louder moan.  "Okay then."  She went back to reading.  "Hey, B, you're back down to twelve on the hit list again.  Jeers said you flashed too many vamps by hunting in those skirts of yours."  She smirked at Dawn.  "When are you heading?"

"Two weeks.  I'll learn the comic business and make sure Xander's okay."  Buffy stomped out to stare at her.  "Not my fault you wear date clothes and clubbing clothes to patrol in," she snorted.

"You're going where?"

"To see Xander."  She beamed.  "Because you're a bitch and you've forgotten everything Mommy taught you about being a good friend."  She strolled off, past the shocked looking Giles.  "Don't make me call Mom back to yell at you guys either.  She won't be happy."

"You'd better not try that again," Willow yelled.

"Why would I?  You proved how bad it could be," she called back.  "You're a good living example of what not to do."  She slammed her room door and finished her packing.  Maybe she could go a bit early?  He'd be shocked but he loved her like a big brother.  And maybe he had some cute younger guys in town he could introduce her to.  She looked around then stole Willow's transport spell, and the book it was in, taking it with her.  She walked out in Xander's apartment, looking at the two guys with casts and shotguns.  "Wow, they did not cover that this month."  She closed the portal and gave them both hugs.  "Need anything since I'm up?"  They slowly shook their heads.  "Good."  She bounced outside, looking around.  "There it is."  She strolled over to the comic shop, walking inside.  "Eww, you need to dust, Xander.  No one wants to buy dusty comics.  Only dusty books in Latin and other strange languages."  His head popped up and he gave her the oddest look.  "I'm in for a visit before I have to call Mommy back to yell at Buffy and Giles."  He moved closer then popped her on the top of the head.  "I won't do it.  Willow is a good example of why you don't do those things."

"Good!" he said dryly.  "Why else are you here?"

"Buffy's a twat."

"Oh, that reason.  Okay then.  Sam and Dean okay?"

"Yuppers.  Looking confused but okay."  She beamed.  "Can I help?"

"Why don't you go to the park and introduce yourself to the Sheriff; she's on lunch break about now with her sons."  She beamed, heading out to do that after checking her hair and clothes in a storefront window.  He called back there.  "Are you two okay?"  He grinned.  "No, her sister's being a bitch," he said dryly.  "Thanks, guys."  He hung up and went back to ringing up someone's order.  "My former friend Buffy's little sister Dawn.  She's sixteen now if you wanted introduced."

The boy gave him a look.  "I don't think I could handle a popular girl, Mr. Harris."

"She's cute and popular, but mouthy and like my little sister.  I did teach her weapon's maintenance when she had her crush on me."

"Then maybe I will."  He paid and straightened himself out so he could go to the park too.  She was pretty and seemed nice enough.  He didn't know much about girls but if she liked geeks....  He was a good example of them.

Xander smiled, getting the rest of them.  Most of them went to see if they could introduce themselves to Dawn too.  It was good for her.  Geeky guys were nicer than commandos and vampires any day.  Perfectly good for his little sister.  He called Cleveland.  "Dawn's here and safe.  I'm letting her introduce herself to a lot of geeks.  Tell Buffy to stay there."  He hung up and went to take stock of what they might need more of in a few days.  Some out of town geeks had come in to get their comics from him too.


Bobby walked into the comic shop.  Xander pointed at the counter so Bobby found the button and headed back to the door that had opened.  He nearly let out a moan of pain at what the boy stocked.  He came out, giving him a look.  Xander just grinned.  "Chaos people have their own trade journal?"

"Yup.  Two or three actually."

Bobby moaned, going to look it over.  He had needed to know this earlier in his life.   It would've solved some problems.  Some of John's too.  He did call Ellen to make sure she knew about them so other hunters would know too.  Some of them were expensive but compared to the books to learn from so they could stop them....  Not too bad.

Xander came back a few minutes later, getting him something.  "For Ellen to teach some young bratling with.  Everything but weapons.  Also, look at the second row behind this one, Bobby.  It's a tight squeeze but Sam nearly squealed at some of it."  He left him alone, going back out front.  He had heard the bell.  "Bobby's in the back, Dawn."

"That's cool.  This town is just full of people like you."  He grinned at that.  "Good retirement place, Xander."  She gave him a hug.  "So can I stay?"

"Fine," he agreed.  "I need a bigger apartment."

"Sell a few of the babies?"

"The Sheriff's brother is ATF."

"Oh.  Pity."  She smirked.  "Not that some of the contacts out in LA haven't called up looking for you."

"Really?  I gave a few my new number."

"Faith talked to them for Giles since he didn't want to know."

"The Sheriff either.  Which one?"  She shrugged.  He called out to the one he knew.  "Hey, Bob.  Xander Harris.  I heard someone tried Cleveland to get me.  Did no one take my new number from Petunia and Patricia?"  He tapped the counter a few times.  "Running a comic shop in Haven, Colorado."  He grinned.  "Yup, that's me.  Including that stuff, yeah.  Why were they looking for me?  This is my number here and my cell's the one I gave Patricia.  Thanks, man."  He hung up.  "He'll find out and have them call.  Thanks."

"Welcome."  She beamed at Bobby as he came out.  "Expensive books."

"Yes, but handy things to have," Xander told her.   He looked at the ones Bobby had.  "Damn, you've got more money than I do."

Bobby laughed.  "Now and then it comes in handy.  The salvage yard does good business."

"We're starting to do good here.  Not bad for six months in business."

"So maybe some day you'll be like Bobby," Dawn teased with a grin for him.

"Could be," Bobby agreed.  "There's worse things to be.  Like laid up with the boys."

She blushed.  "I don't need those bad girl and Faith thoughts, Bobby."  He laughed at that.  "Even if HHL does insist that Xander and Sam are at least friends with benefits."

Xander looked at her.  "I didn't look at this month's yet.  I need to do that."  Bobby handed over his copy.  Xander found the picture and moaned.  "No, not like that."  He handed it back and rang him up, giving him a ten percent discount because he liked Bobby.  He wouldn't give it to Ellen because he didn't like her, but that was fine and business.  Bobby paid him and he put the check into his register drawer.  He bagged them for him.  "Are you going to repossess my couch lumps of happiness?  Dean's growling at the local cable."

"Nah.  Let 'em if they're happy.  How'd they break their legs?"

Xander found the picture he had went past, holding it up.  "Groupies pouncing them."

Bobby took it to look at then laughed, leaning on the counter.  "Serves 'em right for being so cute."  He put it into the bag.  "Thanks, kid."

"Not a problem.   I don't have any free sleeping surfaces in the house unless Dawn's going to be sleeping with me, then you can have the free chair, but want dinner?  I'm about to close for the day."

"Sure."  A group of kids came in.  "Let me go check on the chuckleheads."  He looked at Dawn, who grinned and went with him.  "What'd your sister do this time?" he asked quietly.

"What hasn't she done yet?" she said dryly, giving him a look.  "It's nicer here."  He nodded at that, driving her back there.  Xander would be a bit late but she could cook.  Andrew had taught her.


Xander walked into a conference room carrying two boxes.  After the invasion had been so publicized, the Council had gotten a lot of requests from government agencies to teach their agents how to handle things without needing to call someone they didn't know.  "No, I'm not late," he announced.  "The metal detector refused to let me past it because apparently I have a piece of shrapnel I wasn't aware of."  He put them onto the desk.  "I argued long and hard about why the Council in Cleveland had me come teach this class.  It is not my normal thing.  I'm a hunter, not usually a teacher.  I may babble; be kind and polite.  You're my first class.  Please do not act like I did in school."  That got a few smiles.  "Are we all here?"

"A few are visiting the coffee machine," one of the guys in the back said.

"That's fine.  I don't care if you guys bring it in here."  He shrugged.  "As long as you're comfy I'm going to try not to be too boring."

"Why are you giving this lecture?" another asked.  "Can't we just look in the books?"  The guy put a box onto the floor and pulled seven books out of the other one.  Thick, heavy, tomes that looked very old.  "Tell me we don't have to learn all that?"

"I'm going to give you an overview and a few common exceptions.  That way you know where to look and whether or not you want and need to deal with them."  He looked around the room.  "I also got sent because I'm the former weapons person for the group out in Sunnydale before it fell in.  You guys are ATF so that's my area."  That got a few moans.  "A lot of hunters use guns.  We had to use bombs once and artillery once."  That got a few whimpers from the moaners.  "Exactly.  Since the slayers went 'ewww, guns'," he mimicked, "you get me."  That got a few more nods of understanding.  He leaned out the door.  "If I don't start soon,  you'll never make it home in time for breakfast."  He came back in and tossed the handouts from the first box out to the front row.

"I should have made enough.  If not, I can get copies during lunch.  That is the most common things you will run into in the ATF.  The demons who sell weapons and if they're good, harmful, or neutral.  The vampires that may or may not have weapons because most of them do make crack plans.  Being undead means the brain doesn't get a lot of oxygen and a lot of them are stupid minions who didn't think all that much anyway."  He turned to write classifications onto the board.  The seven columns got keywords written into them.   The rest of everyone came in.  He nodded at the whole team that came in late.  "Metal detector try to eat you like it did me?"

"Late case," the leader complained.  "Why do we have to do this?"

"Because three of the most common clans in the area are selling weapons here in Denver."  He grinned.  "Only two are good."  They all moaned.  "I'll introduce you guys to them later."  He went back to his notes.  "Make sure at least one of each team has one.  They told me I'd only have about twenty people but you guys seem to have cloned or spawned more agents."  A few laughed at that.  "There."  He turned to look at them.  "These are the seven main top classifications you get in the demonic and spirit world.  The first four you deal with more often than not on this plane.  The other three, if you see it, pray for a slayer."  That got a few nods.

He started on his speech of what distinguished it and how you could tell in the field.  And then the few exceptions to each rule.  Sam had helped him work out what to say so he didn't sound stupid and stall or stutter.  Most of them took notes.  At the end he handed that one team leader the books.  "Your boss said your team would most likely be dealing with it if it came up since you guys attract trouble.  So you get custody of the classification manuals."  He grinned.  "Any questions?"  No one said anything.  "I'm only in town tonight.  Then I'm going to go back to my comic shop."

One burst out laughing.  "Like in _Lost Boys_?"

"Yup, sure am.  There's all sorts of comics and magazines that deal with hunting, witchcraft, other crafts, other forms of magic, and all that.  I sell those and comics since they were my first love."  He grinned.  "After the girls decided I was helping them for too long, I opened it.  I'm in Haven, upstate.  I'm technically retired but handling my area up there.  If you guys need me or a consult in the field, call.  My number's on the top of those packets.  If you need help with a prophecy, esoteric information, and things from other dusty books, call Cleveland.  They're on the last page and who to ask for.  If you need a desperate bit of help, call Cleveland, they have magical ways of getting slayers to places and if the local area is too bad, they might even assign a few locally."  That got a nod from them.  "Any questions, comments?  Things like that?"

"What happened to Sunnydale?" one brunette in front asked quietly.

Xander looked at him.  "The First Evil."  He shuddered.  "Closing her back into her seal inside the old hellmouth made it suck the town in.  That is a long story best told over stuff to make you drunk so you forget it later."  That got a nod.  "Any other questions?"

"How many hunters have major weapons?" the blond team leader asked.

"Most use shotguns or handguns that I know.  Slayers use crossbows, swords, and that stuff, and higher if they have to."  That got a slow nod.  "Most of us don't have artillery.  A few know how to plant explosives if necessary.  I got my knowledge from a possession way back in tenth grade before you ask.  I'm an atypical case.  But all the girls say that," he finished with a grin.

"Where's your stash, Mr. Harris?"

"My local sheriff said her brother is one of you and if I croak doing something stupid yet heroic, she'll call him."  That got a few nods and a smug look from the blond.  "You shouldn't need into my stash unless Denver turns into LA.  Feel lucky you don't work in that office.  They get a lot more activity on this stuff than you guys hopefully will unless you guys open a hellmouth here."  A few agents prayed at that.  He grinned.  "We all feel the same way.  Just think how close to DC and other major cities Cleveland is."  They all prayed for the safety of the east coast and that the demons stayed out of DC too.  He grinned at the blond.  "FYI, if you need it, you can call.  I will lend you something.  As long as it's not too chronic and not too huge, at which time I'll expect you to reimburse me."  That got a slow smile.  "Now, they said I should take you guys hunting tonight.  Anyone up for that or do you all went to be drunk and I'll take you tomorrow night?"  They gave him horrified looks.  He smiled.  "Have to know somehow," he quipped.

"We'll let them handle it," one of the guys in the back said.  "They get into the strangest trouble.  Teach them and take them hunting, Mr. Harris."

"If they want.  If not, I'll head back after I take down the huge thing outside."  They all looked and a few started to pull their weapons.  Xander opened a bag and pulled out a sword, walking out shaking his head.  "Silver, boys.  Aluminum won't touch it."  He walked out onto a balcony/smoking area, staring at the huge demon.  "Thank you for providing a living sample for my demonology lecture.  Why are you in Denver?"  It garbled.  "No, you can't eat the building.  Out of the city.  Now!" he snarled.  It laughed.  He jumped off the balcony with a sigh, landing on it.  He climbed his way up while it swatted at him, stabbing it in the neck.  It fell.  He jumped out of the way, rolling once he was on the ground.  Then he came over to finish it off.  "Anyone got some lighter fluid?"

"We can get the fire department to set it on fire for us," the blond called, staring at him in horror.  So much worse than his team.  No one on his team was going to be allowed to hunt if it turned you into him.

Xander grinned.  "Toss me down my bag then."  One went to get it for him.  He caught it. "Thanks, guys.  Been educational.  If you need me, call."

The blond looked at his team.  "If I catch any of you doing that, I will shoot you then roast your corpse," he assured them in a quiet snarl.  "Am I clear?"

"Yes, Chris," the youngest one said.  "I don't want to do that."

The others all shuddered in agreement and decided they needed a drink.  Their team leader called for someone to clean up the mess for them then he joined them.  All of the agents had a good, long drink and a hangover the next day.  They needed it.


Dean looked at the current issue of HHL.  "They're going to stop printing it."  Sam pouted.  "Don't give me that look.  Xander wrote a nice article about how they should continue.  That they might be serving so many hunters instead of demons but knowing you were on the hit list was a great pride-boosting thing for everyone on it and how it had been good for him."  He let Sam read it.  They smiled.  The suggestion that it be for both hunters and demons was a good one.  He had even suggested they could buy out and take over a few other poorly selling mags and make them one great big HHL together.

Sam giggled at the list and the editor's comments that they put out most of those anyway.  The last page in the magazine said that they'd continue since so many of them wanted them to.  They went back to checking up on all the hunters they knew from afar.  It was amusing how many of the major events in their lives that they had thought they had hidden were covered by a little demon publication that gave them tips, tricks, and hints on how to get around hunters.  "Bitch, maybe you should call your gayboy girlfriend and see if he wants to go out this weekend since it's his birthday," Dean suggested.

"We're not gay, Dean.  Do you see me subscribing to Gay Hunter's Digest?"

Dean gave him a look over the edge of the magazine then pointed.  "I see you picked up the last three issues and that they've all had pictures of Xander cleaning weapons.  Sounded like a metaphor to me."

"If I wanted Xander to clean my weapons, all I'd have to do is ask," Sam shot back.  "He's very good at it."  Dean choked and Sam just beamed, taking the magazine from him.  "Thanks for being done, Dean."

"Seriously, bitch.  He your type?"

"Could be.  Why?  Are we in competition?"

"Hell no!"

"Want Dawn?  She's free and she knows about hunters."  He smirked.  That girl had nearly drooled herself to death over Dean when he had the cast and had to wear cutoff shorts over it.

"She's too young."

"Not for much longer.  She's legal now."  He leaned back to read.  They did like to taunt Xander about his shirtless habit he had now and then.  "Huh.  They're back to doing the headless pictures for seers on him and me."  He frowned.  "When did they catch me naked this time?"  Dean moaned, going to lay down for his headache.  Sam smirked.  "It's a good picture.  They caught one of Dawn in her bikini if you wanted to see it."


"Fine, jerk, I'll let her know you want an autographed copy."  He ducked the thrown pillow and took the book outside.  Xander sending it to them had been the best twist of their lives.

The End.