Someone To See The Real Me

Xander sat and watched the dawn.  It nearly hadn't happened this time.  They'd had some close calls in the past.  Last night, they had decided he was too 'normal' to help with the newest one.  "Well, showed them, or really didn't," he muttered, watching the sun come up.  "They'll probably never realize that I was the one who stopped Jack in the basement.  If they even realize they came within seconds of dying because of him."  He shifted because his butt was numb.  He had a lot to think about.  He hated this trend the girls were starting.  It's like the last few years hadn't mattered at all.  Which was depressing.  It wasn't his fault no one would train him to do things.  He would take the training if Giles or someone else offered it.

Which brought up a better point.  Somewhere online he had found a demon chat room that had a lot of whining about hunters.  Not about slayers, but actual hunters.  Which meant there was more than just a slayer and the watchers out there.  Maybe one of them would train him?  He decided to go looking for it at the school's computer center.  He got up and dusted himself off, heading to get some of the free breakfast on his way to the computers.  He ignored the bells for classes.  If they wanted him to go that badly, they'd come find him.  The lab had glass walls.  He found that chat room again, tracing all the mentions of hunters.  It looked like nothing concrete other than a few family names.

He did an unusual search using some of the Latin and Irish names for hunters.  Anyone like that would probably read Latin, like they could, and most of the US had a lot of Irish immigrants.  So it was a long shot.  He found a small website dedicated to a hunter's version of Scáthach.  Looking her up showed that she trained warriors in Irish mythology.  He grinned, searching out that person.  Nothing concrete but a bar got mentioned.  That was a good place to start he decided.  He got up and snuck out of the school.  He'd sneak back later to clean out his locker.  He had a few things in there that he wanted to keep.  Giles be damned, he wanted that axe and the sword.  Tonight should probably be quiet with the almost apocalypse last night so he could sneak in later.


Xander found the bar.  Which wasn't that great looking from the outside.  He parked and stared, then took a deep breath and walked in.  "Hi," he told the older woman behind the bar.  "I'm looking for some help."

"Directions?" she guessed.  "You're a bit young to be in here."

Xander stared at her for a moment then pulled his driver's license out, holding it up after a long, deep breath.  "I'm from Sunnydale, my friends don't appreciate me, even though I've been hunting with them for two years, and I'm looking for someone to train me," he said quietly, glancing around.  "This bar was mentioned as a place where I might find someone?"

She looked at him.  "You're awfully young, kid."

"Xander.  Please."  He sat down, putting his ID back in his wallet and his wallet back.  He smacked back at the person trying to lift it, glaring at the guy with the mullet.  "I'm not yours to grope."

"You've got balls, kid," he said with a smirk.

"Yeah, well, Sunnydale does that to me."  The guy went pale and grabbed his own stool to sit and stare at him.  "Sorry, I didn't mean to panic you.  I'm nicely normal most of the time.  That's my friends' problem even though I've helped."  He looked at the older woman.  "Is there somewhere I could hook up with a teacher?  Or maybe you know one who kinda drifts in and out now and then?"

She nodded.  "I know a few who do teach others.  What did you do out there?"

"A lot of vamps usually."  The guy was checking his pulse.  "It's deep on that side.  Go up an inch."  He did that and relaxed when he found it.  Then he grinned at him.  "I'm Xander.  I've been helping a slayer."

"I've heard of them," he said.  "They've got assholes from Britain usually."

"Oh, she does," he said dryly.  He smirked meanly.  "And my former best friend too now.  I was helping her.  The girls decided I was too normal because I didn't have the training and I'm not a witch or her pet werewolf.  Which totally ignored the fact that I've been possessed and kept memories from it or that I've got the same skills Oz has."

She nodded at that.  "I'd like more of a history than that.  Do you keep a journal?  A lot of guys do."

"It's got a lot of swearing about them recently, ma'am.  It'd probably make you wince."

"I've heard worse, kid.  Some hunters are pretty rough."  Xander went to get it for her.  "Ash, do a quick check on him?"

"What's his name?"

"Alexander Harris by his ID."  He nodded, going to do that.  He got a fresh beer on the way.  The boy came back with it, handing it over and leaning on the bar, chin on top of his fists.  "You drink?"

"Soda.  Root beer.  I have drunk parents.  Sorry."

"It's a good thing to not do," she told him.  She got him a soda.  "Go sit in a booth in the corner.  Let me read and then I'll talk to someone."  He nodded, taking his soda that way.  She watched him walk.  He clearly had been in some fights with the way he checked his surroundings.  "We have wards, kid."

"Like Willow did on her house against the vampires?"

"No, like other ones.  None of us are witches."

"I guess that's cool.  She said magic goes funny around me."

"I've seen that happen before."  She started to read, wincing at some of the information it gave her.  "This hyena?"

"I can smell a bit better and I'm a pretty good tracker.  They don't know that I kept anything like memories.  I told them I forgot everything and they believed it."

"Probably wise.  That can taint you though."

Xander shrugged.  "It's the hellmouth.  I figured I sucked up some of the radiation since I was born there, ma'am."

"I'm Ellen, Xander."

Xander grinned.  "Hi."

She smirked back.  "Do you have money for a motel?"

"I've got about six hundred bucks left."

"Good."  She went back to reading.  It was an interesting story.  It was clearly a problem that no one had trained the boy.  The closer she got to the current time, the more she wanted to go kick someone in the ass for being dumb.  She found his last night out there's entry.  That was...enlightening.  He had ranted for a few pages about the thought he was 'too normal'.  It seemed to her that he wasn't.

Anyone who kept memories from possessions and spells aren't normal in their world.  She found a few more about what he had done on the way there.  Then she went to make two phone calls.  One to a hunter out that way.  The other to the most stand-up guy she knew who had helped mentor a few other hunters.  The kid was young, he might be able to keep the hunting down to after-hours with some mentoring.  She came back with a sandwich for the kid, getting a sigh of pleasure and a hug.  She patted him on the head, going back to check on Ash.  "Anything?"

"I talked to Willie.  He's a demon bar owner that some mercenaries threaten now and then.  He's heard of the kid.  He's been threatened by him."  He showed her what he sent.  The demon had said he was a strange backup to her.  The girls didn't appreciate him.  The kid could have skills if he trained.  If they were taking him in, to keep him out of Sunnydale because bad things were drawn to him.  "Sound like anyone you know?"

"Sounds like John's youngest," she admitted.

"Yeah, a lot like Sammy."  He smirked.  "Get this," he said, switching screens to another site.  "Demon in origin.  Their database of hunters."  She nodded, letting him find the Sunnydale crew's pages.  She looked them over, going pale.  "He has balls of steel."

She nodded quickly.  "Clearly."  She sighed.  "I'd like someone to test him.  I called Bobby, he'll be here tonight."

"He can do the work.  He's already doing it.  Teaching him more will keep him safer."

"It's never safe to hunt."

"It's safer than being on your own and probably sliding toward depression.  If my only friends did that crap to me, I'd be heading there quickly."

She nodded.  "I can see that."  She heard someone moving and looked out at the bar.  The boy was getting a paper towel on the other side of the room.  "Spill something?"

"Needed to wipe off the table from the crumbs.  I don't want to make a mess."

"Thanks, Xander."  She smiled and looked at Ash.  "I like the kid."

"I think he'll be the next John Winchester if he finds a reason to be obsessed."

She shrugged.  "That might be a bad thing."

"Bobby would calm that down.  He does John now and then.  Or he shoots him in the butt with rock salt if he gets annoying."

"Good point."  She walked out.  "One of the older hunters I know is on his way over tonight, Xander.  He's trained a few others."  The boy smiled and her stomach clenched.  She was seriously starting to like the boy.  He looked so *grateful* for that simple call.  She patted him on the arm.  "Go clean up at the motel.  It's up the road by about a mile."

"You can't hide the bar magically, right?"

"If I could, you wouldn't have found us, Xander."

"Oh, okay."  He smiled.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  He'll be here about seven."  Xander nodded.  "Go check in, get a room for the night.  Take a shower and rest."  She handed back the journal.  "I'll see you about then."  He nodded, heading to do that.  She went into the back.  "Anything new?"

"Not yet.  No one's reported him missing.  His car, but not him."  He looked up.  "His parents reported the car missing."

"It's been six days by the journal.  No one's noticed?"

"Apparently not."  She huffed.  "I don't know, Ellen.  That town's a sinkhole of demons.  It's got evil soaked in for generations.  That's why girls like slayers are sent there.  The fact he was born there probably means he had to jump in to save his own life."

"His journal said he went out that first time to save his best friend.  Who he couldn't.  He ended up staking him later."


"That's how I feel too."  She walked out, finding a few others coming in.  "You guys know anything about Sunnydale?"  One spit and choked.  She turned to look at him.  "Give, now."

"New hunt that way?" he asked.

"One of them showed up asking to be trained since the hunting team he was working on didn't and decided he was worthless after two years."

"We wondered what happened to the kid.  Xander's a good boy.  A bit odd.  He'll put his back to a wall and dare anyone to come at him if he has to.  Puts up with a lot of crap from those girls around him.  Seems to like a battle axe now and then."

"How did you know I was talking about him?" she asked.

"Almost no one makes it off the hellmouth once they're there, Ellen.  The town's like a people trap to feed the demons."  She grimaced.  "The boy's been hunting since he jumped in.  He's not bad.  He's not Dean but he's not bad.  About the same age though."

"So he's got some skills but not a whole lot?"

"I was out there doing my usual spring cleaning of vampires.  Saw the boy on a hunt.  He tripped once.  Got up and went back to it.  The girls made fun of him for it even though one of them had too.  Now, one of his friends is a fairly powerful witch.  Self-taught it looks like.  Or she's stealing someone else's books.  His other's a slayer who seems like an airhead cheerleader.  Her watcher is older and the kids look up to him but they all ignore the boy until he dates something or something goes wrong that he ends up in the middle of.  Or they desperately need bait."

"Why didn't they train him?" she asked.

"That goes against watcher ideology," he snorted.  "Them and only them should be doing the job.  They're the guys Bobby ran into two years ago," Ash told her, coming out for a refill.  "One watcher, one teenage slayer, and no one to help."

She looked at him.  "That's dumb."

"They're ancient and don't really respect the girls anyway," he told her.  "This one's been alive for a good few years.  Most don't make it a year."

"Boy brought her back to life too," the other hunter told him.  "CPR."

"His journal said that.  There's two now, Ash."

He grimaced.  "Hopefully they can both help slow down that town.  Never seen anywhere with that high of a death rate that didn't have someone working on it."

"The town's built as a food trap," the other hunter told him.  "The power's ancient and so massive it gives anyone with any sort of gifts terrible headaches.  Missouri sent me there the first time with a lot of warnings.  Fortunately I listened."  He sipped his beer.  "The boy has it in him.  I've seen him pull some boneheaded stuff because it worked.  Also, he's used to every spring there being an apocalypse of some sort.  So he's probably on edge because it's nearly time."  Ellen and Ash both shuddered.  "If he left because of them, the team out there may fall apart.  The witch is angsting over something recently.  The slayer was being a bitch the last time I caught sight of her.  She was nagging Xander for babbling when she was talking louder and longer than him about her last shopping trip.  She laid into him for doing something while she was staking something else, reminding him he wasn't a slayer."

"His journal said something about that night," she admitted.  "Think he and Bobby will get on okay?"

"They should.  If he can put up with the Winchesters, he can put up with the boy babbling now and then when he's happy.  Tell him to watch out for loud shirts.  Even Satan would wince at a few of them."

"I can do that when he shows up.  He was wearing some print shirt earlier too."  She went back to do her own looking up of the town.  That place seemed to need a lot of help.


Ellen checked her watch when Bobby came in.  "Closed early?"

"Few minutes.  Nothing going on anyway."  He looked around.  "He not here yet?"

"You said seven."

"True."  He sat down.  "What do we know about him?"  Ash handed over everything they had found on the boy.

"I talked to Perry," Ellen told him.  "He said he's a goofy, nice kid until you put his back to a wall and then he turns into Winchester."

"I doubt John would like being compared to a nice teenager," Bobby said dryly.  She snorted.  "He keep a journal or anything?"

"Handed it over when I asked.  Had a lot of vampire hunting.  Almost nothing of what we do.  He's been possessed twice.  Kept memories and skills from both.  A set of ghosts doing a redo of their problems by possession to two others.  Everything else is funny looking demons and vampires."

"I looked up his town.  Sounds really infected with them," he admitted.

She nodded, leaning on the bar.  "It is.  The only problem I saw with the boy was that I wanted to kick whoever shredded his self esteem around for a good, long while.  The boy looked so grateful to get a sandwich."

"The boy an orphan?"

"No.  All he said about them was they were drunk. We found out they reported their car missing."  Bobby stared at her, looking pissed.  "He doesn't know probably.  We know he left because his friends, who he was hunting with, decided he was too normal.  One's a witch.  One's a slayer and her watcher.  One's a werewolf."

"How much experience does he have?"

"Two years of unscrewing to do.  He doesn't move like he's had any self-defense training but Todd got a look in his backseat.  He's got a sword on it."

Bobby groaned.  "No guns?"

"One of the possessions was in the army," Xander said from the doorway.  "If we're talking about me?"

"We are, Xander.  This is Bobby Singer.  He's the one I called about you.  You're early."

"The waiting was driving me nuts," he admitted.  He walked in and handed over his journal.  "That way you can see what our version of hell was like."

Bobby looked through it.  It was easy to see why Ellen felt like she wanted to mother the boy.  He was starting to feel the same way.  He finished and looked at the boy.  "What sort of training did they give you out there, Xander?"

"The pointy end goes in the heart.  They're faster and stronger so avoid being grabbed.  Stay out of Buffy's way, she tends to throw things.  That one I learned from experience."

"Guns?" he asked.  "Do we like guns?  Most of our sort use guns."

Xander grinned.  "I like guns.  And explosives and artillery but Buffy wouldn't let me play with the missile we had to use in the mall."  He winced at the odd look.  "Sorry."

"No, honesty is best," he assured him with a pat on the arm.  "What about your family?  Who's going to protect them?"

"To be blunt, I don't care.  They don't care.  They never go out at night anyway because they're passed out by the nightly news at six.  If they need protected, they can be like the rest of the town's residents."

"I can understand that.  We've all seen some hellish parents while hunting.  Their kids often end up being prey," Ellen told him.

Xander shrugged.  "I probably would be if I wasn't hunting.  I was a social outcast.  They already got one friend and tried for another.  Buffy's kept it down but we've still got about a twelve percent death rate for our year in school."

"You're still in school?" Bobby asked, scowling a bit.

"Sorry but I couldn't take it anymore.  I can take my GED if I need to.  I should be able to pass it.  Even though Sunnydale is crappy about education."

"We'll talk about that later."  The boy brightened up.  "What about self-defense and hand-to-hand?  Did anyone show you anything?"

"I learned how to duck a long time ago," he admitted.  "Otherwise, no.  I tried some of the stuff I saw on movies.  That's how I got better with a sword.  Highlander is very educational."

Bobby had to grin at that.  "We might be able to help you with that too, Xander.  I can't teach you hand-to-hand but I know a few hunters I can impose on.  One's got boys about your age."

"Cool."  He grinned.  "Oh, I think I found a demon at that motel, Ellen.  She was trying to flirt with me."

"I wasn't sure about her," she said dryly.  "She still there?"

"Yeah, I wasn't sure.  She sniffed, nearly swooned, then started to flirt."

"Did she try to bite or anything?" Bobby asked.

"No, but the succubus I ran into in the club in LA did the same thing.  So have a few other human looking demons.  I'm not sure if there's hellmouth taint on me or not.  We kinda have our team meetings in the library overtop of it.  And it opened the other night but I was fray adjacent," he said bitterly.  "But I handled the zombies."

"I saw that.  Not bad.  Are you depressed?" Bobby asked quietly.

Xander shook his head.  "I don't think so.  I accepted we can die from this a long time ago, Bobby.  I'm realistic.  Hell, I'm lucky I survived this long with how little I know.  It wasn't being suicidal, but if it had to happen then, so be it.  At least it had stopped him."

Bobby nodded.  "That's realistic but still sounding a bit depressed."

Xander gave him a dry look.  "If I am, then I probably have a good reason.  I'm sure you saw my rant about my supposed friends?"  Bobby nodded.  "That was the final straw."

"I can understand that."  He patted him on the back, making the boy relax again.  "We'll have to work around getting you back in school so you graduate.  GED's are good but not for everything.  Plus it'll take a while to teach you what I know.  Latin can take over a year."

"I can kinda read Latin and a few other languages but I'm not great at it," he offered.  "All Giles' books are in Latin so we had to learn to look stuff up.  Of course, that was mostly pull down a book and flip through until you came to what you needed.  He really needed an index.  It'd be so much faster."

"Most of us know our books backwards and forwards," Bobby told him.

Xander shrugged.  "He's got a library full.  He was a research guy at the British Museum before they sent him to help Buffy."

"That's a job title fall," Ellen said dryly.

"Well, yeah," Xander agreed.  He grinned slightly.  "I had to sneak my battle axe out of his things."

"We've all got our weapons we favor," Bobby assured him.  Someone came in and wandered over to where Xander was sitting, smiling and trying to flirt with him.  He watched the boy handle it while Ellen got some holy water to drive her off.  Xander kissed her with a blush when she asked then she tried again.  He stared her down until she whimpered.  Then she made begging noises.  "He's only allowed to date good girls."

"I'm very good," she purred.  "Especially to one like him."

"No, I think he means non-demonic girls," Xander told her.  "So, I was debating earlier.  Succuba or something else?"

"Well.... half succuba but I still need to feed now and then."  Ellen got her with holy water, making her shriek.  "I'm being good!  I won't kill him tonight!"

"Tough."  She pointed her shotgun at her.  "Out, now, demon."  The woman fled.  She put it down, looking at Xander.  "Does this often happen to you?"

"You didn't read me complaining about Mrs. French and Buffy's reaction or Ampata and the merciless taunting or any of that?" he guessed.

"I didn't go into the more personal sections," she admitted.  She took the journal to look at those parts.  Then she stared at him.  "Did you maybe have a fire when you were about six months old?"

"No.  Not that I know of.  Not that my parents would've told me.  They might've complained a few times about it if we had.  Why?"

"One of the other hunters has a son who draws a lot of trouble.  There's a demon after him.  It burned their mom and their house when he was six months old," Bobby told him.  "We're seeing if you've got the same issue."

"No, I think it's where I was born there."  He grimaced.  "Stupid hellmouth."

"I can understand that, kid," Bobby said.  He saw the flinch at the name.  "Sorry."

"It's okay.  I'll get over that with exposure."

"Good."  He looked at the boy, watching him tuck his journal into his waistband under his t-shirt.  "I've got a nice farmhouse and a salvage yard.  We'll be training you there.  I expect you to take care of your stuff, like laundry."

"Yes, sir."

"Good.  As long as you're decent I shouldn't complain too much."  He patted him again, seeing the wince this time.  "Bruise?"

"It's nothing.  Spring in the car seat."

Bobby looked then at him.  "That's not a bruise from the car, kid."

Xander shrugged.  "Not like I notice it half the time.  The car's a junker anyway."

"We can sell it so you don't have problems," Bobby said.  "Then get you something better."

Xander smiled.  "Okay.  Can I do vo-tech to learn that stuff?"

"I can teach you about cars around the salvage yard," Bobby assured him.  "Plus a lot of other stuff."  He looked at Ellen.  "Let me get him home."

"Did you eat yet, Xander?"

"I drove through a Sonic on the way to the motel."

"We can eat in a few hours," Bobby assured him.  "Get your stuff and come back here?"  Xander beamed and nodded, heading out.  He looked at her.  "I think he's a lot like Sammy.  Think he has that same temper?"

"Possibly.  If it wasn't for those brown eyes, he might've been a Winchester."

"Could be."  He called him on the bar's phone.  "John, Bobby.  Got a new hunting student that needs hand-to-hand training.  'Bout Sammy's age.   Two years but no one trained the boy so he went by what he found on some movies and having to learn it the hard way.  Heading home with him tonight.  Showed up at the Roadhouse after his friends drove him off.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "He'll swing back this way in a few weeks."

"Good.   I'll let Jo start writing to him if you think it'll help."

"I think the boy's going to be wary of women for a while.  I would be with those friends of his.  But I'm not sure.  If he wants to I'll let you know."  He got a cup of coffee to go, heading out to his car.  The boy pulled in and he winced at the sound of that engine.  Yeah, it was a junker.  "How did you make it this far?"

"A hitchhiker I ran across knew more about cars.  She fixed it for a ride and a night in a motel."

"Sleep with her?"  The boy blushed.  "That's fine.  Were you careful?  'Cause I know some boys are stupid about who they play with."

"I used a condom."

"Good.  I'd hate to yell at you on the way to the health department."  Xander shuddered.  "Even better.  C'mon.  You can follow me back.  It's all back roads."  Xander nodded, letting him get in and following him onto the road.  That piece of crap might make it to the salvage yard.  If so, it was in a good place when it died.


Xander looked at the nice woman the secretary said he had to talk to about enrolling in school.  "I know it's odd to transfer in this late in the year, ma'am."

"It happens."  She looked at him.  "No parents to do this?  We should have a parent's signature."

"They're kinda not in the picture."

She looked him over.  "You ran away to here?"  He took off his t-shirt, letting her see the scars.  Not all of them had come from hunting but Bobby had nearly freaked out when he had seen some of them.  "Oh, I see."  He put it back on.  "Ran to other family members?"

"Family friend.  Bobby Singer."

"I know him."  She smiled.  "I suppose we can forge your parents' signature in that case.  I'm not going to tell anyone they can't attend school."  She let him fill out the forms.  "How were your grades before?"

He looked at her.  "My last school system sucked monkey balls and I was a victim of it and lacking brains.  I'm honest, I'm not a honor roll kid by any means."

She nodded.  "Then we'll test you to see where you fall.  That way you can get into classes that'll help.  Were you diagnosed with any sort of learning disability?"  He gave her a clueless look.  "Did anyone say you had problems reading or anything?"

"They tested me a few times to see if I should've been on the short bus but I barely passed it.  It meant my father didn't have more to complain about."

"Then we'll look that over.  Did you want to do that today?"

"I might as well.  I left Bobby a note since he was getting groceries."

"Good."  She went to get the test booklets for him.  She took the forms back to check over while he did them.  She smiled at the nicely forged signature.  She had called a friend in the police department about the boy to see if there was a missing person's warrant for him.  He'd get back with her soon.  Xander frowned at one section.  "Just do the best you can, Xander.  This is to tell us what you can already do."  He nodded, skipping that question.  She noticed it was a math question and decided to get his records anyway.  "What was your last english class doing?"

"British authors who sucked energy and then Tolkein.  She knew we were teenagers.  She was about our only good teacher."


"I was sucking through algebra with a friend's help.  Again."  He shrugged.  "Homework was easier when she did it for me instead of making me try to wrap my brains around funny symbols that should be numbers.  I don't do well in math anyway."

"That happens to some of us.  Science?"

"I'm in earth science with the jocks.  She's in chemistry."

"Not all of us are book learners," she told him, seeing he was getting upset.  "Some of us are hands-on learners.  We learn best by doing things instead of reading them or hearing someone lecture on them."

"That I can do."

"Good.  Then I'm sure there's some things you can do without realizing that it takes math and other skills."  He nodded.  "Finish up."  He went back to it.  Her phone buzzed.  "Let me take this outside."  She took her phone out there.  "Emilia Prentis."  She listened.  "You're joking," she demanded.  "No wonder he ran.  Thank you, Tom.  He said he's with Singer.  Family friend.  No, he gave a reason by taking off his t-shirt.  That was all the reason I needed.  He's doing placement tests.  Thank you."  She hung up, going back in there.  "Why does your town hate you?"

"The bad people who run it hate my friends so I got included because we were having a small issue with violence."  He looked up.  "My friends and I were doing some safety patrols around town and the higher ups hated that we were ruining their plans."

"That explains why no one reported you missing, just the car."

Xander's face tightened then he let out a snort of amusement.  "Figures.  Parents or friends?"


"Really it does figure.  I'm wondering if my friends realize I'm gone yet.  It's only been a little over a week."  He went back to it.  "Hopefully you guys don't have bitchy former cheerleaders and girls like that?"

"We have a few cheerleaders and one's not real nice but nothing that bad."  She smiled at the boy, taking his test.  "Do the other part.  Let me grade this so we can see where you'll be and pick classes."  Xander nodded, doing that part.  She took the bubble form to the grading machine.  It was run through twice to check it.  His school system really sucked.  "Xander, do you have your old school books?" she called.

"In the piece of junk.  I have my whole backpack.  Why?"  He came out.  "I can get them if you want."

"Please.  That way we can compare some similar classes."  Because if that test was right, he should be back in middle school.  She sent a request via fax to the boy's old school.  She got back a full file, including disciplinary file.  She looked it over.  It read like an abused child's file to her.  Detentions for being late.  For not having some homework.  For not paying attention.  She sighed, taking it and the test results back to her desk.  He brought in his backpack, letting her have it.  She flipped through his books.  Then she looked up at him.  "Xander, we use these in middle school," she said gently.

He shrugged but he knew he looked pitiful.  "Sunnydale's school isn't meant for more than making little sheep for the town."

"How many make it to college?"

"Most of us end up at the local UC branch.  We used to have Adam's College but it shut down with after some fairly nasty scandals with alumni."

"I heard about that."  And had wondered how that had been covered up for so long.  He grinned a bit.  "Were you planning on college?"

"Boys like me don't go to college," he pointed out.  "We go to work so the people that go to college get things done."

"That can be true."  She went back to the books.  This was really pathetic.  She looked over the transcripts.  Then she handed him another test.  "Try that one for me?"  He gave her a wary look but nodded.  He did very good on that one and it showed her a clear learning disability.  No wonder the boy had horrible grades!  "Does your old school have an honors class?"

"No.  They have Willow, who's really smart and my former friend."

"You can keep in touch if you want," she offered gently.

"No thanks.  She dumped me as a friend because I wasn't like her."

"Oh.  That's a good reason not to."  She smiled.  "Well, I can do one of two things.  We can adjust your schedule so you're taking some ninth and tenth grade classes since you'll be in tenth grade here.  Or we can put you in some specialized, focused classes that we use in special ed for those with learning disabilities that only need help to catch up to the normal student before we integrate them."

"I don't think I could stand being in special ed.  If they heard they'd pick on me."

"That's fine.  We've had other transfers that had to take mixed year classes."  He relaxed at that.  "We also have maths that don't require you do algebra again."  He got up and dance a silly dance, making her smile.  "I'm glad that makes you happy.  What about science?  We have a life science, a geology, and a plants science class."

"Plants might be nice.  Will they mind since it's so late in the year?"

"We only have a few months left but that can be taken next year.  This year we'll put you in life science?"  Xander nodded at that.  "Good.  Now, do you want a literature class or would you rather have a standard english?  Literature means book reports and oral reports."

He shrugged.  "I might stutter and stall giving an oral report."

"You'd have to do one anyway but we can work that out.  Bobby can help you get over that nervousness."  Xander nodded.  "Which would you like?"

"Is any of them sci-fi?"

She laughed, shaking her head.  "Sorry.  Some colleges offer it but we don't.  We do have a biography option for next year.  That's you do a life history of someone each term."  He perked up at that.  "That's a lot of research."

"I can do some research.  Willow helped me learn."

"Good.  Now, we do demand languages."

"I'm from southern California.  I can kinda speak some Spanish.  And I read Latin."

"We do offer both," she admitted.  He grinned at that.  "Good boy."  She got to work on his schedule.  "This is for next week.  I don't expect you before Monday."  He nodded.  "This is for next year."  He took that to look over.  "Business math is a lot of things Bobby can probably teach you because he has to do it anyway.  It's a more practical application class."

"No funny symbols?"

"Not too many.  Nothing with an equation."  He beamed at that.  "Good."  She shook his hand.  "Do you know where the school is?"

"I drove past it."

"Show up Monday morning.  They'll show you around and get you a student to make sure you make it to classes.  Do your best, that's all we ask.  We know that some kids don't learn very well by being talked at."  He nodded.  "Good boy.  Now go be happy in the sunlight or do whatever Bobby wants you to do."  He beamed and shook her hand, leaving with his stuff.  She leaned back.  "That boy could use some help and we need to protest that school," she told herself, sending her state education director an email about how bad their school was.

Xander drove back to the salvage yard, beaming at Bobby when he got out.  "I'm enrolled."

"We have any problems with the running away thing?"

"I took my shirt off when she asked.  Then I told her I came to a family friend.  Is that okay?"

"It's fine," he assured him.  "How bad did you do?"

"Sunnydale sucked so much she looked horrified but she didn't put me back any farther.  I'm in a mix of ninth and tenth grade classes.  I'll be in tenth grade instead of eleventh like I was at home."

"That's not unreasonable."  He took the schedules to look over.  "Good choices."  He looked at the boy, who looking anxious.  "What else happened?"

"She thinks I should be on the short bus.  She offered a focused special ed class to catch up."

"Your school was that bad?"

"She said some of the stuff in my textbooks were done in their middle school."

"That's bad," he decided, handing them back.  "Go put that up with your books.  I can make sure you're doing homework."  The boy bounced inside.  He shook his head but he was smiling at the goofy boy.  Xander came out less bouncy.  "Be yourself, Xander.  It's good to see you happy."  Xander relaxed again.  "Anything else happen?"

"The engine kinda went pop so I couldn't go over twenty miles an hour for the last two miles."

"Your car's a piece of crap," he reminded him.

"Yeah, it is.  Can I junk it for scrap?  It's ancient so it's probably all steel."

"You can do that.  I don't give scrap weight but I know someone who does.  It'd probably get you more."  He looked the boy over.  "If you can do classes with a good set of grades, trying your best, then I'll help you fix up a car as a hunter's ride."  The boy beamed and nodded.  "Let's clean out your heap of scrap."  Xander bounced down to help him go over it.  He had no idea how the boy had made it to North Dakota from California.  He was surprised the thing had made it out of the state.  He noticed the stuff the boy was pulling out, going to help him with the weapons.   "Can't carry that to school anyway."

Xander nodded.  "Where is the bus stop?"

"It's about two miles that way," he said with a smirk and a point.  "The school's only about a mile though."

"I can walk that."  He carried his stuff inside.  He even put it neatly away in the closet before coming back out for more.

Bobby was looking over the pistol he had found.  "Pawn shop?"

"My uncle bought it years ago off someone he claimed was drugged up and forgot why in a drinking haze.   I didn't think he'd miss it."

"No, probably not," he agreed.  He watched the boy handle it.  He was careful so he knew something about them.  "Why so many swords?"

"We mostly used swords, crossbows, and stakes."  He looked at him.  "Buffy doesn't like guns either.  She said they're not useful in slaying."

"Bet me.  We find them real useful."  They finished up with another load.  He nodded at how neat the boy's room was.  He'd relax soon.  "Just keep your mess down and in here," he told him.  Xander nodded at that.  They went to finish stripping the car of anything useful while his friend with the scrap yard drove over with a wrecker.  He could use the steering wheel and those things.  Tires weren't too bad either.  He showed the boy how to remove them, letting him do the other three while he scavenged the car seats out.  By the time the wrecker got there all the useful parts were gone.  "Engine's blown too badly to do anything but beg for mercy," he told his friend.

"Adopting?" he joked, catching sight of Xander.

"Friend's son.  He had to leave home before he beat some friends to death."

"That happens."  He came over to look over the car.  "I had someone calling for engine parts on one of these the other days."

"His is ruined.  Totally gone."

He looked then nodded.  "I can see that.  Nice stripping job too."  He got the wrecker into place then came over to write the boy a check.  He handed it to him, getting a quick hug and the boy dancing around with it.  He smiled at the goofiness of it.  "Let Bobby start you a savings account, kid.  That way you don't blow it and you can use it to buy something better."  Xander nodded.  He shook their hands and left with his latest  pile of junk.

Bobby looked at him.  "Not a bad idea.  Get the rest of your cash."  Xander ran inside to grab his wallet and then bounced out.  "Calm down.  No more bouncing.  You'll need a nap and I've got stuff to do this afternoon you can help with."  The boy calmed himself down, making him smile.  "Bouncing is fine sometimes but it's tiring watching you now and then, Xander.  Be bouncy later when it's time to rest."  The boy nodded, getting into his car.  They headed to the bank.  Then to the barber.  The boy could use a haircut.  Then the thrift shop because some of the kid's shirts were blindingly ugly.  The boy muttered something about cheap slime fodder on the way in.  He steered him toward the more useable shirts that wouldn't blind his new teachers.  Or make the other kids laugh.


Xander came back from his first day, finding Bobby glaring at something in the yard.  "Can I help?"

"How'd your first day go?"  He looked at the boy, noticing the black eye.  "Already?"

Xander shrugged.  "No, not really.  Accident in the caf.  One of them backed into me by accident with his buddy while fighting.  I broke them apart and walked over them.  Did she call?  She said I wasn't in trouble."

"No, no one called.  Just wondering, Xander."  He pulled him closer to look at his eye.  "Need an ice pack?"

"Why?  It's only a black eye."

"You can use one probably.  It'll keep the swelling down."

"It's not shut, it's fine."  He looked at the current car.  "Can I help?"

"Sure.  Go start it.  I need to see why it won't."  Xander got in to do that.  Bobby winced at the trial.  "Okay, stop."  The boy did.  He moved to tinker some.  The boy came back to learn what he was doing.  "Give me the adjustable wrench?  This is stuck."  Xander moved to remove it for him.  "Handy but dangerous.  The battery's still connected and could shock you."  He looked at him.  "Always safer to use a wrench."  Xander nodded, handing that over.  He used it on the other parts.  "This is a carburetor.  This one's a piece of crap but we can fix it."  Xander nodded, taking it to look over.  "See, that's a cracked piece there," he said with a point.  "Homework?"

"A lot of catching up but only reading I can do later."

"Good.  We'll do it after dinner.  How did Latin go?"

"Not bad.  She said I can't pronounce anything but I can read higher than her class.  Spanish said I had some of the use words down but not the full lessons they had went over.  So I need to catch up a lot in there.  Plus a few others."  He looked at him.  "We're not hoping for honor roll, right?"

"I want you to try your best.  If your best is a C then so be it."  Xander relaxed and nodded.  "Now, this hose is cracked horribly," he said, handing it over once it was off.  "Plus the starter's bad.  She needs some major work."  Xander got into it with him.  He could teach the kid a lot.  "John and his boys'll be here in a few weeks.  They've been here and there a few times.  His youngest is your age.  His oldest is four years older."  Xander nodded at that. "Ignore Dean if his mouth is going.  He's got an ego the size of his stomach."  Xander grinned at that.  "But John's a tough daddy.  He's a Marine and he trained his boys well.  I trust him to teach you hand-to-hand and self defense.  He won't take crap or smart attitude but he'll teach you a lot."

"I can do that."

"Good."  He got back into it with the boy.  He'd end up rebuilding this whole engine with replacement parts from the other cars in the salvage yard.  The boy was doing good to help where he could and kept to himself so he wouldn't bother him.  He'd let the boy relax in his own time.  He was learning a lot from him.  "Plant science?  That's usually for the kids in Ag classes."

"I thought it might come in handy."  He looked at him.  "Herbalism."

"Could at that," he admitted.  "Some healing stuff uses it."  Xander nodded.  "Good thinking, Xander."  He got back to work, seeing the smile from the corner of his eye.  The boy clammed up whenever you caught him being happy.  He wanted to beat his family so badly sometimes.


John pulled into the salvage yard, parking and getting out.  "Already at the school," he said at the confused look.  "Where's the boy?"

"He enrolled himself so I couldn't get in trouble for having him here."  He gave him a cup of holy water laced coffee.  John grimaced but drank it.  "He's not a bad kid.  Draws trouble like Sammy does but can have a mouth like Dean now and then," he warned.  "But the boy's fragile sometimes."

"Why?"  He sat down, looking at his old friend.

"His family's shit.  They reported their car missing."  John growled.  "He told them he had run to a family friend when the school board head asked.   She asked if he had run and he took off his shirt.  Boy's got scars worse than yours."

"What does he already know?"

"Jack.  He learned on the job or ducking bullies."

"His family won't mind?"

"He's not sure they realize it.  Or his former friends he was hunting with.  Only one wrote him an email and she wasn't his friend, she was new to the group."

"I swung that way on the way here from Seattle.  Town looked nice enough until after dark."

"Exactly.  The boy was helping with that problem."  He went in and got a picture from the boy's room to show him.  "Recognize them?"

"Saw them both babbling at each other while hunting," he admitted, handing it back.   "Redhead's a witch.  She floated a branch at some vampires to stake 'em.  I nearly didn't keep myself from burning her for her attitude."  He took another drink and shifted.  "The blonde needed someone  to teach her easier things.  The brunette girl with them clearly needed a mentor because they were ignoring her."

"That's probably Faith.  She's the one who wrote him.  She's a slayer."

"Don't they have watchers?"

"Yup.  He said hers died so she's there with Buffy's.  The blonde's name is Buffy."

"Hmm.  Mean parent."  He finished his coffee.  "So, how good is the boy on other things?"

"He reads Latin already, mostly up to where I'd want.  They had the 'pull down a book to flip through' method of research he said.  He said he sparred with Buffy a few times to spare her watcher's hands.  Mostly he learned how to duck it.  Didn't want an ice pack for his black eye from his first day at school.  Claimed it was nothing."

"Scars from hunting?"

"Some were older.  Some were real old."

"Drunken bastards?"

"Apparently."  He looked at him.  "I think he's still a bit depressed about them.  They tossed him aside like he wasn't anything.  Told him he was too normal."

"Normal is relative.  It's training that matters."

"Well, the boy isn't really normal," he said with a smug look.  "He kept skills and memories from two possessions."  John stiffened.  "Hyena and a soldier.  I caught him doing PT this morning."

"Good, he can do it with Sammy so he actually does it.  Can he fight?"

"I'm too old to get into fights with someone his age, Winchester."

"Fine.  I'll test him after school."

"Tomorrow.  He's got a science test tomorrow afternoon.  He needs time to study because he's been catching up.  His school was pathetic."

"Figures they wouldn't want people to escape the hunters."  He grimaced.  "We can work on that."

"Where's Dean?"

"Stalking Sammy to make sure he doesn't have any problems.  Sammy got told what you told me so he can meet the other new kid.  That way he can get a reading on him."

Bobby smirked.  "He found a half-succuba at that motel by Ellen's.  She came to the Roadhouse to nibble on the boy.  Said he tasted good."  John moaned, shaking his head.  "He and Sammy should get along just fine as soon as they start comparing stories on 'I attracted this'."

"Dean'll make sure of it," he decided.  "He's a good kid?"

"Swears now and then.  Has a fondness for a battle axe that he coos at.  He's been decent about cleaning up after himself.  He's made himself breakfast and done the dishes before I came down every single morning since he got here.  He jumps in to help out.  He's almost frantic not to piss me off."

"With parents like that I'm not surprised.  He'll calm down soon."  Bobby nodded.  "How did he get there?"

"Found Elliana's site mentioning I was a lot like Scáthach.  Figured it out from there and found a mention of the Roadhouse.  Showed up there to ask Ellen if she could refer him."

"So the boy's got some drive."

"Vampires took his best friend.  He had to stake him."  John winced.  "They had known each other since before they could talk, John.  In that, he's a lot like you.  He has a deep hatred of vampires."

"I can see why."  He shifted again.  "Can I hit the sack?"

"Go for it.  He's in the single up the hall from the bathroom."  John nodded, going to snoop a bit before his nap.  Bobby went back to handling things and tinkering.


Xander looked up as another new kid was let into his gym class.  That was the only class he was in the right year of.  He grinned at the new kid.  The others seemed to know him so maybe he transferred back or something.  The teacher barked an order and he followed along.  He sucked at basketball.  They didn't play dodge ball to hurt other students here and he wasn't used to real sports.  He did okay enough.  The other guy was taller and he got to make some good shots.  The teacher welcomed him back with a smile.  The other kid grinned back.  Xander did the best he could and got some praise from the teacher for trying.  They showered and he came out to lace up his sneakers.  He hated being in the locker room sometimes.  He had a lot of the jocks in his class.  The teacher came over.  "Did I do that badly?" he asked.

"No.  You're getting better.  Still need some work with your feet if you want to play anything."

Xander shrugged a bit.  "I'm not really sporty unless you can find a geek sport.  Sorry."

"It's okay.  We do have a soccer team."

Xander looked clueless.  "We never played that."

"We'll see how you do.  We're doing that next week once it stops raining."  The new kid came out.  "Sam.  This is Xander.  He just transferred in from Southern California."

"Hey, Sam Winchester."

Xander shook his hand.  "Xander Harris.  Bobby said I'd be meeting your dad soon."

"That's cool.  What do you have after this?"

Xander opened his notebook to show his schedule.  "Business math then latin one.  Lunch then life science and spanish."

Sam smiled, sitting next to him.  "I'm in your spanish class.  I only know a little bit of it but it's one of those languages you hear a lot more often."  He looked over the schedule.  "How about we take lunch together?  That way we can talk?"

"Sure."  He grinned.  "I could like having friends."

"Friends are nice," Sam agreed with a grin.  The teacher left them alone.  "You okay?  You were moving a bit stiffly earlier," he said quietly.

"I tripped on my way in," he admitted quietly, shrugging one-sidedly.  "It happens.  My feet don't always go where I want."

"We can work on that.  Growth spurts suck," he reminded him.

"Yeah.  Especially when you're doing sword work."  Sam gave him an odd look.  "We did a lot of that," he said really quietly.

"I think that's why you're seeing Dad later," he said.

"Probably.  Bobby said he'd be teaching me better self-defense."

"Yeah, he will.  And other things."  The bell rang so they got up and headed out into the hall.  "Find me at lunch, Xander.  I'll probably be outside if it stops raining.  Dean's around here somewhere making sure I don't get into trouble."

Xander stopped him to point at someone.  "She's kinda a halfie demon but they're usually peaceful sorts.  She was deadly scared of me when she heard where I was from but they're nice sorts."  He fled to his next class.

Sam memorized her.  They'd have to talk about the concept of a harmless demon.  His father would hit the roof if he heard that description.


Dean watched the kid coming out of the school.  His brother had said he'd find him and invite him to lunch with them.  "Xander," he called.  The boy flinched and looked around so he waved.  The boy gave him a wary look, which he approved of.  Sam came out with his own tray and led the way over so the kid followed him.  "Hey, I'm Dean."

"Hi.  Sam said you'd be here."

"Sammy knows I'd make sure he wouldn't get into trouble today.  Too much weird shit goes on around him."

"I get that now and then," Xander admitted.  "Hopefully you won't make fun of me for dating the Incan mummy?"

Sam looked at him.  "What?"

"She got woken up and looked normal.  She was really nice.  She couldn't eat me when I defended her trying to eat Buffy.  She was nice.  Or so I thought."

Dean shook his head.  "Two trouble magnets," he moaned.

Sam swatted at him.  "Shut up, Dean."

"Make me, bitch."

"Jerk, don't make a bad impression," he complained.

Xander backed away.  "I can let you guys fight."

"No, this has been going on for years," Sam assured him with a grin.  "Dean's a dickhead."

"Oh, okay.  Should I watch out for him?" he asked quietly.

"Not that sort of dickhead."  He dug into his lunch.  The boy relaxed slowly and did the same.  Both he and Dean knew that the kid was going to have problems from the way he was reacting.  They'd seen plenty of abusive parents in the past.  "So, Sunnydale looked pretty until dark."

Xander nodded.  "It's like a venus flytrap for people I think.  It's pretty to draw them in so things can snack and suck them dry."  He noticed someone coming over.  "English teacher," he said quietly.

She smiled and gave Sam a hug.  "Sam Winchester."  He beamed up at her.  "Are you in my literature class?"

"I am," he agreed happily.  "I'll be seeing you in about two periods."

"Wonderful.  Dean," she said less happily.

"Stalking Sammy to make sure he doesn't have any problems."

"That's fine.  Xander's a lot like you educationally."  Xander flinched at that.  "Don't worry, dear.  We know that some people don't get much from reading."  She patted him on the head and gave Sam another hug.  "We'll see what you've been doing.  It's possible you're already ahead of us since you read so often."  She left, going inside to tell the other teachers he was back.  They all liked him.

"Sorry, Sunnydale sucked ass in the education stuff," Xander told them.  "I nearly had to go special ed to catch up."  He stuffed his mouth.

Dean shrugged.  "Some of us learn best by doing it instead of reading it.  Sammy's a book freak, Xander.  Relax about it.  They're pretty decent here."  Xander nodded, eating another bite.  "You've got about twenty more.  Slow down."

"I need to go over some of the back work I had to do," Xander admitted.  "I'm way far behind in life science."  He finished up.  "I'll see you guys later I'm sure."

"We can walk back to the salvage yard together," Sam said with a smile.  Xander grinned and nodded, heading inside to put his tray up and grab things.  He looked at Dean, who read people better than he did.  "Is he going to be okay?"

"He's depressed about something I think.  Other than that, he's still hyper aware of everything.  It's only been a few weeks though."

Sam nodded.  "He was in gym class.  It was taking his focus from the game.  Like he expected someone to attack him."

"So he probably does good in doge ball?" Dean joked.

"Maybe."  He finished up.  "Let me get to class.  I'll see you afterward?"

"Let me get that haircut before Dad nags again."

"See you after school."  He went inside.  Tracking the boy was easy.  He was with the teacher going over what they had done.  He had to walk past there to get to his locker.  The boy noticed and nearly flinched.  He'd have to relax him sometime soon.  He was the nice Winchester.  No one should be scared of him if they hadn't pissed him off.


Xander came out of the school and found Dean waiting on the hood of a car.  "Hi again."

"Hey."  He smirked.  "It's the family's car.  Our baby."

Xander looked at it then at him.  "I don't understand cars except for the fact they make you look cooler.  Bobby's trying though."

"We can help with that," he assured him with a smirk.  Sam came bouncing out.  "Lots of homework?" he asked, catching sight of the bookbag that was stuffed full.

"Catching up in Spanish and two other classes.  She said I could help Xander study since he had a lot of use words but not a lot of vocab.  That way we could cover the differences in books."  He shrugged and put his book bag in the front.  "C'mon, Xander.  The car won't eat you," he said with a grin.

"I've never seen a human eating car.  Scooter..."  He got into the back.

"Please tell me you're joking?" Sam asked.

"No.  Someone accidentally charmed a scooter to attack the owner because he was being an egotistical butt."

Sam moaned.  "Did someone do something about the witch?"

"Why would they?  Sunnydale ignores all that stuff, Sam."

Sam looked back at him.  "Did that witch have any other problems?"

"Well, now and then Sunnydale had problems."

"Uh-huh.  That's probably not something you want to tell Dad.  He might hunt her down."

"Okay.  I'll watch that stuff."

Dean got in to drive them back to the salvage yard.  "Hunters do go after bad witches, Xander.  If she's good, then she wouldn't have to worry about us."


He looked back at him.  "Relax.  Dad's the hardass.  Sammy's the cute one.  I'm the macho super stud of the family.  Got it?" he asked with a grin.

"Sure.  Can you help me pick up women then?  I seem to suck at it and the girls giggled at the club Saturday when Bobby let me go out."

"I helped Sammy, I can help you.  He was pitiful and geeky so you shouldn't have that much trouble."  He started the car and pulled away.  The radio was flipped on.  Xander didn't seem to mind.  Not that he'd care but he didn't seem to mind Metallica.  "What do you listen to?"  Music was a safe topic with most teenagers.

"This and that.  Some rock, some country now and then.  I've got my CD's upstairs."

"That's cool.  We can look later."  He pulled them into the salvage yard a few minutes later and turned off the car.

"Dean, not even I can blast the radio that loudly," John complained.  "You're going to ruin your hearing."

"It's fine, Dad."  He rolled his eyes.  "Dad's in high prick mode, Xander.  He got injured last week and is ignoring it."

Xander nodded.  "I've done that."  He got out and walked up to him.  "Hi, I'm Xander.  I'm sure Bobby's said decent stuff instead of telling you I'm messy and stuff," he said, looking very nervous.

John looked the boy over.  Sloppy shirt, jeans, sneakers and no socks.  Had a decent enough haircut.  He looked into his eyes and saw the same fire that most hunters had.  "We'll figure out what you can do tomorrow since he said you have a test?"

"Yeah, but I should be okay.  I turned in all my back work."

"School's important.  You can't do anything if you're dumb," he said firmly.  "Study and then we'll work on your self-defense skills."  Xander nodded, going inside.  He looked at his boys.  "So?"

"He's wary of everything," Sam told him.  "It made him trip in gym."

"That's not a bad thing.  We can train that to go to the back of his mind instead of taking up his attention."  He looked his youngest son over.  Sloppy t-shirts were apparently a uniform today.  "I see someone let things wrinkle."

"You wanted us to go deal with that ghost while I was doing laundry.  Feel lucky it didn't get stolen."  He headed inside, finding Xander going over his stuff.  "You can study in the kitchen with me if you want," he offered.

Xander looked up.  "I'm okay."

"You sure?  That way we can nibble before dinner."

Xander shook his head.  "I'm okay.  I'll come down later to help with dinner."

He walked in and shut the door, looking at the other boy.  "Bobby doesn't expect you to be perfect or to be his slave, Xander.  He meant what he said about taking care of your own stuff but you're making me paranoid.  Calm down."  The boy grimaced and shook his head.  "Really.  It'll be fine.  Dad's a hard ass but he's not unreasonable to those who aren't his sons.  You won't have to worry about things.   Okay?"  Xander nodded.  "Now, come study with me."

"I'll get distracted and do that instead of studying."

"I can help.  I had that class already."  The boy hunched in on himself slightly.  "It's not you.  It was the school being crap, Xander.  C'mon."  He took his books and led him down to the table, spreading out with him to help him with his homework.  The boy really had no idea what he was doing in there.  He was parroting things back.  So Sam got to explain things.  He did it the same way he would if Dean was confused since they seemed a bit alike to him.  The boy smiled when he finally got the point of something, making him feel better.

Bobby and John came in.  "How's it going?"

"He's good at making it make sense," Xander told him.

Bobby smiled.  "Sammy's real smart.  Teachers like him for that.  If he can tutor you, go for it."  He went to start on dinner.  Xander drifted in so he shoved him out.  "Go study.  You have that test."  Xander nodded, going back to it.  John came in to help while Dean got to help the two students.  "Well?"

"He's got potential.  We'll see how well he's learned tomorrow after school."

"I can take some practice time," Xander called.

"He's got good hearing too."

"I said study," Bobby called.

"Yes, Bobby."

John smirked at him.  "Sounding more and more like me."

"Boy needs to try his best to see what he can do.  His last school was teaching him things we did in junior high."

"Damn."  He looked out there, they had switched to Spanish.  Sam was working well at it.  He shook his head.  "Languages."

"Comes in handy now and then.  Boy already knows latin.  Teacher said his pronunciation sucks but his reading is above her second class."

"Good.  That'll help him."  He helped by chopping up vegetables.  "Can he drive?"

"Yup.  Had an absolute pile of crap that he drove out from home.  We already sold it for scrap weight."


"His possession left him with some skills with them.  He has a pistol with him but I didn't test him on it."

John nodded.  "We can do that later and work him up to shotguns out back.  Like we did with my two."  He looked out there.  Dean was cracking bad jokes.  The kid was still a bit tense but he'd relax soon enough.  Dean had a way about him that made people relax.  "Anything I should know?"

"Back's still slightly sore from a bruise he got before he left."


"He banged it in the yard the other day.  Brought it back up."

"I can handle that.  Shouldn't have to deal with his back yet anyway."  He looked out there.  The boy was still tense.  "Dean, come help."  He came in to help with dinner.  He gave him a pointed look.  Dean shook his head and looked at his back pocket.  His wallet.  So it was a family issue that was making him tense.  "If he does PT in the morning do it with him."

"Yes, sir."

"That way we know what he can and can't do.  We'll work on his training tomorrow after school."

"That's fine.  I can work with him."  He got to work, looking at Bobby.  "He said he checked his email and found one from Willow?" he said quietly.

"One of those friends of his," he muttered back.  "Xander, you okay?  Dean said you heard from the bitch patrol."

"I'm fine.  She's pouting that I left.  She said I should have told her.  That they were worried I had been turned.  That it really was for my own good that they had pushed me aside like I was worthless.  Her words, not mine.  That it'd protect me from things that might come after us to get Buffy.  I kindly wrote back that I'm training myself to be better, that I'm not worthless and if she thinks that why was she my friend for so many years, and that more things came for me anyway because they wanted my ass instead of wanting Buffy's.  She sent back one saying I was being mean and hurtful on purpose.  So I sent back a simple one saying I'd see her some year when I wasn't going to be mad."  He came in, looking at him.  "I'm fine."

"You're not fine.  The girl's a bitch."

"Well, yeah, but she's only known me for over a decade," he said bitterly.  "I give up on them.  They did it to me and I don't give a damn anymore.  Let them have their little bitchy party of special girldom.  Let Buffy go back to shagging the corpsescile Angel.  All that.  Screw them.  If it's another apocalypse I might show up to save everyone else but they're on their own."  He walked out back.  "Can I help?  The garden has some carrots."

"Sure, get a few for a salad," he agreed.  Dean started to go but he shook his head, stopping him.  Sam didn't stop, he went to talk to the boy.  "They drove him off after two years of helping."

"Screw 'em then," Dean agreed.  "They're obviously not friends."  He got back to work.  Sammy was helping him and talking to him but Xander wasn't talking back  yet.  Sammy would break that.  People liked to talk to Sammy about stuff.  Xander finally broke and said something.  Sam gave him a hug, making the boy relax for the first time that he'd seen.  "That might help.  Parents?"

"Sucked," John said.  "Drunks."

"Then Sammy being emo might help."  He leaned out.  "Guys, we don't care about hugging."  Sam glared at him when the boy flinched.  "We don't.  He could probably use it.  Clearly he needs better friends.  Now he can make some.  After all, we're not bitchy girls."

Xander looked at Sam.  "He isn't?"

"He claims I am now and then but no, he's not.  Otherwise we'd have to hear about him being a lesbian."

Xander snorted, shaking his head.  "I don't have a problem with that."

"Good."  Sam gave him a squeeze then let him go.  "Let's finish picking some of these for dinner.  Dean's a bottomless pit.  Even though he's not growing he eats like he's fourteen."

"I thought we grew out of that."

"Everyone but Dean."  Xander grinned and they finished up, bringing it in.  Bobby shooed them back to their books so they went back to studying science.  The boy could understand geek things that Dean never would.  It made it easier to explain some things to him.

"No magic," John called.

"We're not, dad, but his friend is a witch so he understands some things that way."  He rolled his eyes.  "He's a pain in the ass," he told Xander quietly.  He knew his dad heard him but he didn't really care.

Xander shrugged.  "I had Buffy and Willow."

"Probably not that bad."  He got back to it.  Xander got some of it easier than others but he'd do okay on the test.


John faced off with the boy the next afternoon.  He was tense again.  "Relax.  You can't act as fast when you're that uptight, kid."  He looked him over.  "Dean."  He came down to jump the boy like it was a bar fight.  Not intending to do any damage, he was pulling his punches, but the boy was struggling with the basics.  "Stop."  He moved in.  "Let's start back at the beginning.  You know how to fall, right?"  Xander nodded quickly.  "Trained or learned?"


"Good enough then.  Let's start with how to hit."  He let the boy hit his hand.  "Kind of weak, kid."  He tried it again.  "Dean, show him?"  Dean slugged his hand.  "Weak, Dean.  Do it for real."  Dean really hit his hand, making him wince.  "Nice shot, son.  Try it that way, Xander."  The boy tried.  "We need to build some muscles.  We can do that through PT.   Now, block Dean's next hit."  Xander ducked and moved.  "Vampires are faster so you've been ducking instead of blocking?" he guessed.

"I got told to duck instead.  All I got told was the pointy end goes in the heart and to duck so I don't get bitten or grabbed since they're stronger and faster."

"There's ways to fight someone stronger and faster without ducking," Dean told him.  "Here, try to hit me and watch what I do."  Xander did and he blocked it.  "Try that?"  He swung at him and Xander blocked but still ducked some.  "Better."  He got to work with the boy.  His father watched but he was good enough.  He had helped with Sammy's training too.   They got the kid to the point of being able to block before dinner.  Then they went in to eat and him to do his homework in his room with Sam.  "He did PT.  The same way we did," Dean told his dad once they were alone with Bobby.

"I saw that.  He didn't look too bad.  He still needs to build up some muscles."

"I saw him practicing with his sword, he didn't look too bad," Bobby said.

John nodded.  "That could help.  That builds some specific muscles in the arms and legs."

"He's mid-growth spurt," Dean warned.  "He needs footwork.  Sammy said the gym teacher suggested soccer but Xander didn't know what it was."

"Figures," John snorted.  "His school should be bombed."

"I stopped someone from doing that," Xander called.

John looked up at him.  "What?"

"I stopped the zombies trying to blow up the school while my former friends were fighting a kraken that was coming out of the hellmouth."  He got his drink and went back upstairs.

"Taunted him into stopping the bomb," Bobby said quietly.  "Realized he could do things on his own that way."

John nodded.  "Is he depressed?"

"A bit I think but nothing too horrible.  With the way things went out there I'd be upset too.  They were his only friends."

"He'll get better ones.  Sammy's better than any other bitch," Dean pointed out.  "He can be gushy like a girl now and then too so Xander won't miss it too much."

"Is he connecting with the other kids yet?" John asked.  "Sam said he was kind of an outcast."

"I haven't heard anything about new friends," Bobby admitted.  "Xander?"  He came down the stairs to look at him.  "How are you handling the other kids?  Making new friends?"

"They're kinda giving me odd looks since it's so far in the year to transfer in.  I wasn't blatantly ignored at the club when you let me go out.  I can't dance like a local so that's a problem but otherwise it's going okay."  Dean gave him an odd look.  "I'm using to dancing at the Bronze.  Which is vamp central," he admitted.  "Ours is a lot more....intense than it is here."

"I think a lot of that is that you're so tense all the time, Xander," John told him.  "The kids around here are laid back.  They worry about the next party at their friend's house and making honor roll.  Maybe about sports.  Not about dying, hunting, none of that.  You might scare them since you're so tense all the time and watching around you."

"I can't help that."

"I know.  Neither can I or any other hunter.  We know not to let our guards down.  We also know how to push it into the back of our minds so it comes up when something is going to happen instead of letting it take over all the time.  Remember, you're in a safer area.  We don't have too many vampires around here."

Xander nodded.  "I can understand that I guess."

"So fall back to a more monitoring vigilance," Dean told him.  "Be casual instead of uptight.  Because you've got the broomstick spine again, Xander."

"I don't know how to do that."

"How did you do it when you first started to hunt?" John asked.

"I was dumb.  I didn't pay enough attention."

"Well, here you don't have to pay that much attention," Bobby told him.  "There's very few things in town."

"I met her."

"I know."  He smiled.  "Relax.  Have some fun.  Go back to hunting mode when someone gets jumped.  Not every day.  Remember, you're here to learn how to handle things other than apocalypses."

Xander nodded.  "I guess.  I'll try.  I thought I was but I'll try harder."

"Maybe that's the problem.  Quit trying and be the goofy guy you are," Dean told him.  "They might like you for yourself."

"No one else does so I doubt that."  He went back to his books.

"I want to blow up his old school," Dean muttered.  "With some people in it."

"Amen," Bobby said dryly.  "How much do you think it'd take?"

"Not much," he said dryly.

"The hellmouth is under the library," Xander called.  "You have to be careful or it could reopen."

John looked up there.  He knew Sam was probably giving him a funny look too.   "Hellmouth.  Is that like a devil's gate?"

"Only bigger to more places," Bobby said, getting him that reference.  He had found out the boy had brought some books with him.  Stolen with his battle axe but oh well.  Watchers had other copies somewhere.  John read it over, growing paler by the paragraph.  "He was born and raised there," he told him.  "The group met in the library."

"Can we see if he carries taint?" John asked.  "That could be why things are attracted to him."

"I'm wondering if his family had the fire," Dean said.

Bobby shook his head.  "Not that he knows of.  His parents never said anything."

"We can look back," John decided, handing it back.  Dean took it to read over.  "Anything else we should know?"

"That's a place where Perry said some harmless species of demons live to hide," Bobby told him.  "They don't hurt people.  They're herbivores and eat cats, things like that.  The team out there doesn't hunt them.  They've worked with some in the past."  John glared at that.  "Not my fault but they're the ones who're born funny and things.  Oh, and his best friend Willow's boyfriend is a werewolf but he takes precautions so he's locked up on the full moon.  His baby nephew bit him."

John slumped, staring at him.  "Peaceful demons?"

"Not possessing, nothing like that," Sam said as he came down.  "I talked to the one that's a half-demon in our school our second day in."  He looked at his father.  "They're herbivores.  They don't cause problems.  They were born on this plane but she said her family's history goes back to another plane.  They basically look different so they're demons.  She's very nice.  Scared to death of Xander because of where he's from and who he was.  She's scared of me and Dean too now that she knows we're hunter's sons.  She and Xander get along well enough but she's very tense around him.

"She knows he won't snap, that's not his rep from what she heard but she can sense the hellmouth around him and that he's a demon magnet for some reason as she put it.  She's helping him in Latin so they can get along.  There's never been any problems there but she heard of his group.  It seems Buffy's the longest lasting slayer in a long time.  Xander was her backup.  She got a lot more information from her family out there than we have.  Xander told her half of it wasn't true but she snorted and patted him on the hand before reminding him of Ampata."

"Who?" Bobby asked.

"Incan mummy girl," Sam said with a grimace.  "We really need to set him up with nicer girls, guys."  He got his own drink and went back upstairs.  It was nice Bobby had stocked some soda for him.  "I explained what Sissy told me."  Xander nodded at that, looking miserable.  "It was nothing bad, Xander.  She said good things about you being careful of your targets.  That you hated vampires but that you had a good reason.  It was a good bit of information but none of it was bad."

Xander looked at him.  "The possessions aren't good."

"No, but neither one was your fault.  Neither one was demonic either."

"How do I get into those things?"

"I don't know how either of us do it," Sam said with a grin.  "If I had been out there I probably would've been right beside you.  Then we both could've hunted down the school's pig."

Xander grinned slightly.  "At least I didn't help eat the principal."

"No, you didn't.  That's an important thing."  He patted him on the knee.  "Let's go over Spanish again?  We have that oral test next week."  The boy groaned but nodded, going over it with him.

Downstairs the adults were giving the upstairs long looks.  John really needed to hear what his youngest son knew.  Maybe he'd be driving the boys to class tomorrow so they could talk after dropping Xander off.  Sam needed a haircut anyway.


Bobby was taking out the trash when he found a receipt.  He knew the boy had bought some stuff.  There was soda he hadn't bought.  He read it over, then looked up the stairs.  He went up there, knocking on the door before walking in.  "You went on food stamps?"

"So I wouldn't drain the house of food.  I know teenage boys eat a lot.  I'm sorry if it upsets you.  They gave me a medical card too since I'm under eighteen."

"Wouldn't I need to sign for that?"

"I told them I ran because of my parents.  She got into their files out there.  They made sure I was somewhere safe but agreed it was a loophole.  Since they're going to support me instead of you it's nothing you had to sign."

Bobby stared at the boy.  "You didn't have to.  I can afford to feed you and Dean, Xander."

"I did so.  I don't want to drain the budget.  I know how much I eat."

Bobby sighed.  "Xander, I make more than enough money from the salvage yard to handle it."

"But you shouldn't have to.  You're training me, you're not my father.  Not that he didn't get food stamps for me that he sold but not the point right now."  He cleared his throat.  "That way I feel like I'm not mooching."

"I'd feel the same way," John reminded him as he walked past him.  "That's why I took that part time job while the boys are in classes.  I approve but you can switch to an after school job once you're a bit better trained, Xander."

"I planned on that."

"Good."  He smiled.  "It's good for a man to pay his own way.  I think Bobby expected you to let him handle some stuff."

"I'm seventeen, not seven, and not his son.  He shouldn't have to.  I'm being good and thoughtful," he said at Bobby's hurt look.

"You are but it's not necessary."

"It is so."

"Fine.  I'll let you do that.  Let me know any other plans, Xander.  We can help you."

"They said I can have them while I'm in school.  They talked to the principal and she told them how bad I was in there and how far behind because of my last school."

"Fine," Bobby decided.  "You get dinner tomorrow."  Xander nodded at that, relaxing again.  "Now, go spar."

"Let me change shoes," John ordered.  "I'm muddy."  The boy went down to stretch.  He looked at Bobby.  "You didn't expect that?" he asked quietly.  "The boy seems to have taken care of himself for a long time."

"I knew he was doing some.  I didn't expect him to go on food stamps.  I can afford to feed him."

"He's making sure you don't feel burdened.  He's still worried that this will fail and he'll end up alone again.  Sammy pegged it last night."  He went to change shoes.

Bobby walked down to sit on the porch so he could watch the boy's training.  He wasn't bad.  Clearly he wasn't one of the overly cocky young hunters that caused problems and died too soon.  The boy was almost as adult and realistic as he was.  Just a bit more sarcastic.  He was biting back at Dean's picking.  Which was good to finally see.  It meant the boy was finally starting to relax around them.  John came down.  Xander ducked the pat to the back with a grin.

"Good reflexes, kid."  He took a swing and the boy ducked, blocked, and hit back.  What John wanted him to do.  It was going well.  Sam came out to get his own time in with Dean.  Those two ended up rolling around.  John shoved Xander down into it, letting his boys pick on Xander for a bit to teach him how to relax around normal people.  Dean yelped when Xander kneed him in the balls but otherwise it was fine.  The boys were all happier.  Then he went back to beating up Xander to teach him how to fight.  He was getting there.


Xander looked at his report card, staring at the sealed thing.  He knew he had done better than he had back in Sunnydale.

The teacher walked past him.  "Have your guardian sign it, Xander.  That's mandatory and bring it back tomorrow."  He nodded, looking up at her.  "Homework?"  He dug it out and handed it over.  She skimmed it.  "Better," she decided, putting it on her desk.  He needed a lot of work in english.  She hated his last school.  "Today's a test day," she reminded them.  "Everything away."  They all did that though a few were giving their report card envelopes dirty looks.  The boy was almost looking scared.  Most of the teachers had noticed that Sam Winchester had taken the boy under his guidance so she'd talk to him about opening it for the boy.


Sam found Xander at lunch, sitting down next to him and taking the still unopened envelope from his fingers to open.  Xander squeaked, trying to get it back.  He smiled at the results.  "Better," he said, handing it over.  It listed his last GPA.  Xander scowled.  "You weren't."

Xander pouted.  "That's supposed to be private."

"I'll show you mine if you want."

"You probably got all A's, Sam.  You have major brains.  I don't."  He looked at it, frowning.  "Typos bad."

Sam gave him a shoulder-to-shoulder nudge.  "It's not a typo, Xander.  You earned that."

Xander looked at him.  "I don't get grades like this.  That's a B.  In two classes."

"Yup, and you worked your butt off for it.  You earned those."

"I can't have.  They must've made a mistake."

Sam kept him from going to talk to the teachers.  "They didn't make a mistake, Xander.  You earned those.  You did good on those tests I helped you study for.  You did all the homework on your own.   You learned stuff."

Xander shook his head.  "It can't be."

"We'll talk about it later.  Eat."  Xander dug in.  He had missed breakfast by not setting his alarm clock and having to run to get to school on time.  Sam smiled at his friend.  He didn't have many of them but Xander was a good one.  He never picked on him for reading and studying things.  Or not wanting to go get into fights like Dean did.  Dean strolled over and sat down across from them.  "Show him, Xander."

Xander shook his head.  "It's a typo."

Dean looked at him.  "Sammy helped you study, Xander.  If it's a typo you're saying he sucked at it."

"Oh.  But I don't get B's.  I get D minuses."

"Not this time," Sam said with a grin.  He let Dean see his, getting a snort back.  "What?" he asked with a scowl.

"The last time you brought home a B you went out back of the rental house to beat on a tree in anger at yourself, Sammy.  Of course you got all A's.  We don't expect anything less of you unless it's a stupid class that no one can pass."  Sam grimaced but let it go.  "Xander?"  The boy shook his head.  "I won't pick, Xander.  If you did good, we should celebrate so I'll talk Dad into giving us the night off."

"I need the training."

"Okay, after training.  Maybe dinner out?  We got paid today and Sammy usually gets a good dinner out for all A's."

Xander shook his head.  "I don't deserve it then."

"The bar's set lower for normal brain'ed people, Xander.  We can't be Sammy's giant mutant brain.  Dad doesn't expect it of us.  Now, hand it over."  Xander sighed but let him have it.  "Very good," he praised, making Xander flinch.  He looked at him.  "That was praise, Xander, not a blow to the head."  He patted him on the head anyway.  "You did good this term.  You've caught up, which is amazing.  You've got good grades this time.  You nearly doubled your last GPA."  He looked at the boy.  "Good job."  Xander blinked at him.  "I'll show Bobby and Dad."  He put it into his back pocket.  "You two eat.  You're both still growing.  I don't know why Sammy's still growing but apparently he is."  He got up and wandered off before Xander could complain or try to get it back.  The kid needed some self esteem help badly.

"See, told you it was good," Sam told him.

"But I didn't earn dinner out.  There's not any A's."

"Xander, you had to catch up on two years worth of work," Sam pointed out.  "Even I wouldn't get an A then.  You did the best you could and you did really good.  It's time to celebrate that."  He grinned.  "Relax.  It was good."  He finished up and headed inside.  "C'mon, we have to go over that Latin test."

Xander finished up and followed.  He could angst about getting rewarded for lesser things later he guessed.


Bobby looked up as Dean strolled over looking smug.  "Report cards out?"

"Xander said he didn't deserve a reward for not getting any A's when I told him Sammy got dinner out for all A's.  Sam had to point out he earned the ones he got."  He handed them both to his dad when he came out of the shed.  "Xander's in girl angst land."

John smirked at him.  "He did good.  Considering what he came from, he did very good."  He let Bobby have Xander's.  "Why is he angsting?"

"I told him we should celebrate.  Had to point out if it was a typo it meant Sammy sucked at tutoring him to stop that thought."  John nodded at that.  "He looked upset.  I nearly hugged the boy.  He's in full angst mode, Dad.  He also said he didn't need the night off from training."

"So we'll go to dinner afterward.  He's doing better than he thinks."

"We have got to work on the boy's self esteem," Dean told him.  "He thinks he's crappy."

"He's wrong and we're working on it," Bobby said.  "Comparing himself academically to Sammy is hard anyway.  If you were still in school it'd probably help more."

"I think this goes beyond that," Dean told him.  "His last GPA was a one-point-three."  Bobby shuddered and John scowled.  "He said he doesn't make B's."

"I had a chat with the head of the school board the week after he signed himself up.  She said he's got a slight learning disability but they never did anything with it.  The system let him flounder for years."

"His best friend was the major school brain," Dean added.  "What was Jesse?"

"No clue.  He barely talks about him."

"He told Sammy some things but not much.  I'm starting to think a shrink could help."

John shook his head.  "He'd never open up to a stranger."  He grimaced.  "Dean, do you think you can get him drunk?"

"He walked away when I was drinking a beer the other day, Dad.  Drunk parents.  What about Missouri?"

John shuddered.  "She'd rip the boy a new one over thinking he was weak."

"Which might help him."

"I doubt it."  He looked at Bobby.  "He has been quieter."

"I noticed and I don't like it.  He's doing better than I expected.  Learning faster too."  He went back to his present task.  "I'm about to send him to Ellen for a few weeks to see how regular families work."

"I think he and Jo would have problems," John admitted.  "The boy doesn't seem too friendly to girls."

"I think that's more trauma from his last friends," Dean told him, leaning against the car Bobby was working on.  "When I was eavesdropping, he wanted to talk to his teachers about the typos."

John scowled.  "Maybe he'd let us hunt his parents."

"Well, Willow is a witch that's made mistakes and is stealing books to train herself," Dean said smugly.

John glared.  "Really?"

"Really.  I asked Sammy to hack into his email.  Xander's friends have written to demand he come home and stop this silliness.  That he's only going to get hurt.  That one Faith said he was smart to get the training he needed so the next thing that came after him could be beaten without Buffy and Willow going off on him.  He wrote back to her."

John nodded once.  "Maybe we should go have a talk with his friends so they leave him alone."

"I think facing them down would be better," Dean told him. "It might do him some good to face down their stupidity, Dad."

"It could but I doubt he could do it at the moment.  Maybe soon.  Does the high school have a shrink?"

"Yup, but again, a stranger," Bobby pointed out.

"But it may help," Dean told him.  "It might take months but it could help.  Either that or Sammy needs to step up the therapy.  I think he could help the most since they're friends.  We are but they're closer since they're the same age and in the same classes."

"We need to beat his friends anyway," John told him.

"I'm all for that.  Unfortunately they're coming up on a problem soon so we've got to let them live that long so we don't all go to hell, Dad."

"Good point."   He considered it.  "Is Sammy noticing this?"

"He couldn't figure out how to break the typo thought.  Now that it is, he can work on Xander the rest of today before training and then at dinner."

"We can do that.  What did he want?"

"He didn't say."

"Fine."  He went to do some searching on his student's friends.  One may be a slayer but clearly someone needed to do some ass kicking in her case.  "Dean, what's his password?" he called a minute later.

He walked into the house.  "Xander kitten.  Sammy asked him when he caught him typing that in.  He said it was what he wanted to name a cat so he could talk to it about stuff but it wouldn't look like he was talking to himself."

John shook his head quickly.  "It might help him."  He got into the boy's email to see what had been going on.  He saw the new message but he ignored it for now.  Bobby's browser had a preview screen; he could download it into that.  Even if the boy was in there right now it wouldn't be seen.  What he saw annoyed the crap out of him.  Some people did need a shotgun stuck up their hind ends and fired a few times.  Then he'd have to reload and do some more apparently.  He kept going.  That Faith girl sounded a lot like his student.  Probably raised by the watchers or by parents who weren't the best then.  Rosenburg he wanted to beat.  Summers, maybe she had some promise.  She had said her mother said to apologize for being so stupid and hurtful.  That was nice of her even if she didn't seem to realize why she had been hurtful.  Yes, they clearly needed beaten to death and then burned.  Before they hurt the boy more.  Maybe Ellen....

Dean saw the smirk come up.  "Dad, no evil plans.  Xander might get drawn into them."

"I'm going to let Ellen know that the boy is having some rough spots, son."

"Oooh.  Ellen will go bitch on them."  He walked off shaking his head.  They had went to the Roadhouse last Sunday to check in and Ellen had mothered the boy for a bit.  Xander hadn't realized it but she had.  Ash had given Ellen amused looks but didn't let Xander see it.  He called him. "Hey, Ash, have Ellen check her email from Dad?  No, evil smirk and all, dude.  Thanks."  He hung up and went to hide outside.


Ash walked into the bar portion of the building.  "Dean said to check your email from John."

"He can't just call?" she asked dryly.  He handed it over with a smirk.  "Thank you."

"I was online doing my own anyway."

She read it over then growled.  "How dare those bitches do that to the boy!  They hurt him bad enough already!"

Ash smiled.  "It's nice to see you in mother mode."

"She's scaring the crap out of me," her daughter Jo called.

"Shut up, Jo."  She reread it then put it aside.  "Perry, you're going back that way soon?"

"Tonight," he admitted.  "I've got a hunt upstate.  Why?" he asked cautiously.  It wasn't usual to see Ellen in a snit over anything but her daughter doing something stupid.

"Tell those girls of his to leave him alone."

"Sure.  What did they do this time?"  She let him see the email.  He nodded once.  "Sure, I can do that."  He finished his current beer and switched to coffee so he wouldn't be drunk while he was driving later.  "Any other messages?"

"Tell that Watcher to get his head out of his ass too," Ash told him.  "He's not paying attention to the right things."

"I can do that too."  He went back to his table.  It was nice the boy had a good family built around him, even if he didn't realize it.  The boy had asked him how things were going out there but only scowled when he quietly asked about his friends.  Now he knew why.


John stopped Xander after sparring, handing him back his report card.  "Perry's going out tonight for a job upstate.  He's going to stop and brag to your friends."

"How did you hear?" he asked quietly.

"Sammy caught you reading one the other day.  You've been upset so we figured it was them.  He's going to tell them how good you're doing."


"Shut up, kid.  You're doing better than we expected with the lack of training you had before.  You've done good learning hand-to-hand and weapons work.  You've done good with your demonology lectures with Bobby.  You're exceeding expectations in everything but being able to relax around people."  The boy looked down so he made him look at him.  "We're very proud of how far you've come and how good your grades were.  They're a lot like mine were when I was in school.  Some guys aren't book guys like Sammy is.  Sammy does poorly dealing with real people though.  You don't.  That' s a bigger weakness in this field."

Xander nodded.  "I'm trying."

"I know.  You're doing good.  You deserve a reward even if you don't think you do.  This depression stuff, we need to work on it.  It's bad for you.  It's worrying all of us.  I know you've got things to work over.  I would too."  He smiled some.  "There's a preacher we go to when we need to talk to someone.  Or there's a seer who would probably fuss and let you talk to her if you want."

"I'm not exactly religious."

"I know that.  He won't care, Xander.  He'll want to help you.  I bragged to Ellen how good you did.  She said congratulations and that you did better than Jo did her last report card."


"Really.  Now, if you want, I can put you together with Pastor Jim this weekend."

"I need the training time."

"Xander, he's a hunter too."


"So let me do that.  Okay?"  The boy nodded.  "Can you fly?"

"If I have to.  I can afford a ticket."

"Don't worry about it.  Jim will cover it."  He patted him on the cheek.  "Be proud that you did so good.  You worked your tail off.  You've been doing good in everything."

Xander nodded.  "Thank you, John."

"You're welcome.  Now go get ready so we can go out to dinner."  He ran inside to change and clean up.  John called Jim.  "I'm sending you Bobby's and mine student.  Xander, yup.
Figured he had, Jim.  He could use some mind clearing.  No, he's doing good.  He had that when he came here.  No, I think a counselor should be good for him.  Thanks.  This weekend."  He hung up because he could hear the boys coming back.  They could easily cover him flying up there.  The boys came out arguing about where to eat.  "Boys," he said.  "Make a decision or you'll starve to death."

"Ribs?" Sam suggested.

"It's a country place, Sammy," Dean complained.  "It'll make my ears bleed.  Xander's does."

"Does not," Xander complained.

"It does so.  We need to get you into better music, Xander."  He looked at his father.  "Stick up for me here, Dad.  Please?"

"It's their celebration dinner, Dean.  If they want to eat ribs, we can eat ribs and you can put up with country music for a few hours."  Sam beamed at his big brother.  "Xander?  Is that what you want?"

"I don't care as long as it's not tofu."

"Ribs," Sam said happily.  "They make some great ribs, Xander."  He walked Xander to the car.  Bobby could follow them.  John and Dean shared a look but the boys didn't care.  Well, Xander might but Sammy wasn't going to let him notice it so he could care.

Dean sighed but walked over to the car.  "Son, I'm driving," John reminded him.  "She's not yours yet."  Dean walked to the passenger's side and got in.  John waved at Bobby, who was snickering in the doorway.  "Ribs."

"Be there in ten."  John nodded, letting him get back to talking to Jim about their student.  He needed to know what to draw the boy towards if he didn't open up immediately.


Sam and Dean were stalking through the woods that night.  Xander was in bed.  They had made sure of it.  "Think we could get Dad to go burn his friends at a stake?" Sam asked finally.

"I think he talked to Ellen," Dean told him with a smug look.  "He bragged on his grades."

"It's strange to see her fussing over him."

"Yeah but I think it's good for him.  Even if he can't recognize maternal concern."  He looked at his little brother.  "Yet of course since you fuss over him like a momma cat over her scruffy kitten."

"We're friends."

"I know that.  Anything else?"

Sam shook his head.  "I'm pretty sure we're both straight, Dean."

"With the bad girls he attracts it might not be a bad thing if he wasn't."

"I'm still straight."

"How would you know?  You never tried it."

"Haven't wanted to," he defended.  "Not like I draw praying mantis shape shifters."

"Yet," Dean said.

"Hopefully not."  He looked around then at his brother.  "I'm worried about him," he said more quietly.

"Dad's sending him to Pastor Jim this weekend."

Sam beamed.  "He'll help him tons.  Jim can get him to relax and talk about things.  He's been awfully quiet recently and even the english teacher is giving him worried looks.  She asked if he was feeling overloaded."

"I think we're so much more normal that he's in shock," Dean told him.  "Not that we're so normal but more than his was."

"Plus we're not women.  That's got to be different to him."

"Probably, yeah."  They stopped and looked around.  "I can hear you, Dad."

John stepped out of the trees.  "He'll be fine, boys.  He and I talked about that earlier.  I suggested Jim or Missouri.  He's going to see Jim because I think it might do him some good.  He and Bobby talked too, about what sent him out of his former spot."  He smiled.  "But good tracking."

"Thanks," Sam said dryly.  "Can he track?"

"The hyena gave him some tracking skills.  I've had him out here over the last few weekends to track while we were learning more weapons."  They nodded.  "Good thought though, Sammy.  Thank you."  He looked at Dean.  "When he gets back, go over how to spot a good girl?  I think he could probably use one sometime in the future.  That way he knows how to distinguish between the ones he's used to and what real women are like."

"I can do that.  Want me to get him drunk too?"

"If he wants, every boy's got to try it once and most hunters try it more than that."  They nodded, grinning some.  "No wild parties, Sammy."

"Yes, sir."  They walked off.

John went back to the house to check on the boy.  He was still asleep.  He looked exhausted.  He sent Jim a note to check the boy for magical traces and taint from his hellmouth as well. Just in case that had something to do with this quietness.


Dean walked Xander away from where Sam and John were fighting.  "All packed?" he asked.

"Shouldn't we stop that?"

"Nope.  One'll throw a punch soon.  Probably Sammy this time.  I don't want in the middle of that and neither do you.  They both turn vicious when they fight like that."  He smiled.  "Besides, you're getting a weekend free of Sammy's temper.  All packed?"

"Yeah, I am."

"Good.  Let's head that way then.  It's an hour early but we can get you something to eat on the plane."  He walked him inside to get the backpack the boy was taking and then out to the Impala.  He had his own set of keys.  He saw his father's glare in the rearview mirror but oh well.  "It's always better to get out of the way when those two have one of their things, Xander.  Now and then Sammy loses his mind and argues."

"Maybe he had a point, Dean.  Not everyone should be able to hunt.  Protect themselves but not hunt.  It can be soul sucking, especially if you knew them."

"I get that, and so does Dad, but with the way the demon took out Mom, he's not going to let him off the hook.  After the demon's dead maybe.  Until then, no."  He glanced at him.  "It's nearly an obsession but we have to get that demon."

"I understand.  We got the one who turned Jesse."  He shrugged.  "I think Sam's happier when he's doing research though."

"He could be and if we can find a way to let him be a research nerd for hunters, it'd help a lot.  But Dad doesn't see past the demon sometimes.  He left us together plenty of times while he was hunting it."

"Maybe there's a way to track it magically?"

"None of us would know how to do that, Xander, and you don't do magic."

"There's got to be other good witches besides Willow."

"I'm sure Bobby knows a few.  He knows most everyone in the community."  He grinned.  "We'll figure it out.  If we had more concrete information like his name it might help."

"I...I can ask Giles if he knows."

"Nah.  They're coming up on apocalypse season.  It's waited nearly two decades.  A few months won't hurt.  Though I'll tell Bobby to see if he can find one."  Xander grinned since he had helped.  Dean pushed back the urge to drive him to Sunnydale so he could watch him burn the witch at a stake.

"Anything I should know about this guy?"

"He's a nice guy.  He hunted for years.  That's why he found God."  Xander nodded.  "Be yourself.  Talk to him about whatever you need to.  We've all done it after hard hunts."

"I guess."

"Good.  At least try.  Tell him about Willow and all that stuff."

"Have you been in my email?"
"Yup.  The last time you got quiet I thought you were going suicidal so I looked."  He shot him a look.  "You worried both of us, Xander.  So talk to Jim.  Maybe he can help a lot.  It might help straighten out the things you're worried or confused about.  It might even help you pick up better girls instead of demons who want to eat you."

Xander snorted.  "There hasn't been one of those in months."

"Congrats," Dean said dryly.  "But I stopped one at the rib place."


"Yup.  So maybe he can help.  Bobby did ask him to see if he could find anything like taint or radiation from the hellmouth.  That could help if there is some and we can remove it."


"No maybe about it.  It can only help."

"If that was the reason I drew them then everyone there would be dating girls like I did."

"Xander, I'm saying this as a straight, macho guy.  Go gay so the rest of us can have the bad, easy girls who we'll have to kill to save humanity.  Please?"

Xander laughed.  "Never even thought about it, Dean.  Sorry."

"Maybe you should talk to Pastor Jim about that this weekend too.  If so, we can torment Sammy into liking boys so you can have him.  That way I don't have to worry about any sudden nieces and nephews some year."

"Your dad would freak unless Sam warned him first."

"The hell with dad, I'd freak," he assured him dryly.  "Especially that he managed to find a woman to knock up.  Speaking of, I've got to tutor you there, Xander.  Maybe it'll help."

"Couldn't hurt.  I'd look like less of an intense dork to the local girls.  The Bronze was a vastly different hunting grounds than the local teen club is."

"Southern California is a bigger meat market.  Around here, you'll find someone to settle with.  Even if it's not perfect.  Then you're expecting to give someone grandkids.  There, it's more about the pretty and the bed action later on."  Xander nodded.  "Be less intense and enjoy it more."

"Then I dance like a dork."

"It happens.  We can help.  I did Sammy," he sighed.  He pulled them through a takeout place, letting Xander get what he wanted for his flight.  Then to the airport.  They weren't that early.  He could sit and read for a while or something.  He had a book he had to read for English.  Dean went back to the salvage yard, walking into the house.  "Dad and Sammy finally off themselves?" he asked when he saw Bobby was sweaty but the house was quiet.

"Took it into the woods before I shot at 'em again.  Xander?"



"I got him something to eat on the plane."

"Even better."  He put his feet up.  "You can go help 'em if you want, Dean."

"No thanks.  I'd rather not have to slug them both this time," he said dryly, heading up to his room.  Bobby needed some peace and quiet.  He wasn't use to living with anyone and even when he was quiet Xander was obviously there.

Bobby smiled, turning on the tv to watch something he wanted to.  He had to switch it off the bikini mudwrestling DVD *someone* had left in his player but oh well.


Two weeks later, Pastor Jim pulled up outside the school and walked inside, heading up to the library.  He had talked to the boy until he felt better.  Now he had to make a few important points.  He found the librarian alone and hauled off to hit him.  "Next time, pay more attention to the important things, Mr. Giles."

"Who the bloody hell are you?" he demanded, getting up, wiping the blood from his bottom lip.  "And why did you hit me?"

"I hit you because you're watching the wrong things.  Clearly you're insufficient to do your duty at this time."

"Are you with the Council?"

"No, I'm a counselor."  He pointed at his collar, getting a horrified look.  "I work with hunters.  I was one myself for a very long time."  Buffy and Willow walked in chatting.  "Perhaps your duty should be reexplained to you."  The girls quit talking.  "Because you're horrible at watching things that matter."  He looked at the girls, seeing a young brunette woman following them.  "Miss Rosenburg, I'm Pastor Jim.  I work with a great many hunters.  Most of whom are now watching over your shoulder, young lady.  Because your misuse of magic is causing people problems."

"I haven't done anything," she defended.

"Bullshit."  She flinched back away from him.

"Hey!" Buffy said.  "You don't even know her."

"I was visiting Bobby and saw the results of her last spell.  Someone really should beat sense into her for trying to summon a body over a thousand miles."  Buffy went pale, looking at Willow.

"He's ours!  You can't have him."

He slapped her across the face.  "You didn't appreciate him while you had him.  You knew him over ten years.  You tossed him aside like children toss broken toys aside.  He nearly got driven to suicide by your magics playing on him, young lady.  Once we had the spell released he was much happier.  Then you tried to summon him back, which managed to bruise his chest cavity from the inside.  Every single organ nearly bled from that."  She shook her head, trying to back up.  "Should you do one more misused spell, I will make sure that God has to correct you before he banishes you to hell.  Am I clear, young lady?"  She whimpered, still trying to back away.  "Am I clear about your fiery future?" he asked again.

"Yes, sir.  I didn't mean to hurt him."

"I don't care.  Though I doubt that since magic works on intent."  He looked at Buffy.  "Perhaps you have learned why your mother made you apologize?"

She nodded.  "I have figured that out and I sent him a better one recently."

"He hasn't been able to sit up long enough to get into his email.  I'll let him and John know."  He looked at the other girl.  "You would be Faith?"

"I am," she said.  "I had nothing to do with Red's shit though."

He smiled and patted her on the cheek.  "Xander said some very nice things about you, child.  Being a hunter, I've counseled many in the past."  He handed her his card.  "Should you need to talk, I'll listen.  No matter which faith you ascribe to."  She relaxed and nodded.  "The same goes to Miss Summers if she should need it."  He looked at her.  "Xander said to tell you he's fine.  His body hurts but he insists he's fine and even tried to go to school that way.  John and Bobby nearly had a fit."  She grinned and nodded some.  "Also, they're talking about what to do this summer.  He was hoping if you survived this upcoming issue then you could come visit for a few days?  He said he'd put you up at a local motel if you wanted."

"I might not mind."

"Good girl, child."  He stepped closer.  "The dark resides in us all, Faith," he said quietly, staring into her eyes.  "It's up to us to follow it or to fight it.  Fighting it is harder but it can be done if you wish.  If you need me, day or night, call me."  She nodded, losing some of her grin.  "I think you and the boy are a lot alike in the ways that count.  I did enjoy him.  We were having a church picnic and the matron's society adored the boy.  They fussed for hours until he could escape and hide."

She laughed.  "Sounds like him."

"Good.  Come to me if you need to, child.  That's what I do."  He looked at Giles then at Willow then back at Giles.  "Someone really should take a look at her collection since the rumors say half of it's yours anyway."  He nodded at Buffy.  "He'll answer in a few days I'm sure."  He left, heading back to help Caleb with a problem.

"Wow," Buffy said, looking at Faith.  "Kinda creepy but obviously had a clue."

"X said he hunted for a long time before he found God."

"Interesting."  She looked at Giles.  "Are you all right?  Need an ice pack?"

"I'll get one later if I should.  Buffy, please go gather her books so I can make sure they're not mine?"  He took off his glasses and wiped the blood off his lip again.

"Um, yeah, Faith and I can do that right now," she agreed, pulling the darker slayer with her.  "I don't want to be there when he goes Ripper on her."

"Ripper?" Faith asked.  "I can walk, B, I don't need dragged."

Buffy let her wrist go.  "Back when he was our age, Giles went all back-then's version of gang-boy.  Smoking, punk music, black magic, all that stuff.  Ripper's kind of scary.  He nearly beat that Ethan guy to death after Halloween."  She walked off with her.  "I want to be *far* away."

"Going to tell your mom?"

"Yeah, she's been pouting."  She called her mom from her cellphone.  "We talked to a hunter who's seen Xander.  No, Willow kinda bruised him trying to summon him home.  He's in bed with a lot of bruised insides."  She nodded.  "He threatened her.  Giles is going all Ripper over her too.  So we're fleeing.  Book run.  Her house.  Thanks, Mom."  She hung up.  "She'll meet us there so we don't have to carry back stacks of books."

"Could be handy," Faith decided, pocketing the card.  For some reason she knew that guy would understand all the darkness she saw.  Xander had said he listened and gave good advice too.  "How would Red magic him into a depression?"

"No clue but I'm sure he's going to get that out of her and make her apologize."

"Probably should, yeah."  They kept going with only a stop for a latte for Buffy on the way to the Rosenburg house.

Buffy knocked then walked in.  "Hi, Willow's parents.  Willow asked us to return her last library run."  She smiled at them.  "This is Faith.  She's a more recent friend.  Oooh, heard from Xander.  He's been doing okay in school.  He's sick right now but he'll be writing in a few days.  He even got B's on the last report card without Willow cheating for him."

"That's wonderful, Buffy," Willow's mother said.  "Where is he?"

"With some friends in North Dakota.  He's getting some training stuff in."

"Even better.  That will make sure he has a secure future.  Unlike going here would," her father agreed.

Buffy smiled.  "Let me pack up her books.  Mr. Giles is really pissed that she's kept some out so long.  Mom's coming over to drive them back so we don't have to carry them.  You know how much Willow reads."

"We do," her mother agreed.  "You know where her room is, dear."  They walked up there.  She smiled at her husband.  "That is very good news.  I worried when the boy disappeared like so many others have."  Her husband nodded, going back to his newspaper.

Buffy looked around the room and moaned.  "Damn it.  Mom's going to have a full trunk."  She started pulling books that weren't school books out and piling them on the bed.  Faith found one under the bed so she shoved them out so they could restack them.  The closet had a nice pile too.  The slayers grimaced.  They were super strong but Willow clearly needed to read less and play with her boyfriend more.


Xander looked up as Sam walked into his room.  "Can I get up yet?"

"Nope," he said, handing over a can of soda.   He sat beside him.  "The english teacher misses your bad jokes.  She said to get better faster."

"I tried to get back there."

"Maybe next week," John said as he walked past the room.  "Until then, rest."

Xander grimaced.  "I could be doing stuff."

"I've got your homework," Sam offered.  Xander whined.  "I know but it's something to do besides sleep."  He handed over the new sheets.  "You can even work ahead."

"No thanks.  I'm not like that."

"Sure, I understand."  He was still grinning.  "Dean heard from Jim.  He went to talk to Willow about her last spell."

"Is she alive?  He seemed like he had a temper worse than yours and your dad's."

"Barely but she is.  He said he got through to her.  That she apologized.  He also said he told Faith to call him if she needed to talk.  He said she reminded him of you in some ways so he told her to call whenever she needs to."  He pulled his feet up, looking at his friend.  "You know, Dad's been in a terrible temper over what she did.  The only reason Pastor Jim went was so Dad wouldn't."

Xander shrugged then winced, holding his stomach.  "I'm still mad at her too."

"Good.  That means you're reasonable."

"Most of that was a spell."

"Not all of it.  Some of it was their crap trying to pout at you for doing what you thought was the right thing."  He grinned.  "Dean's making dinner."

"Can I eat dinner?  I've been on oatmeal so I don't have to crap."

"I think you're at least getting a salad," he offered.

"As long as it's not tofu.  I had enough of that out there and never really liked it.  It was even on the school lunch menu, Sam," he complained at the grin he got.

"It's California, you're all screwy that way."

Xander snorted.  "Not all of us.  Anything else going on?"

"Ash and Ellen sent you a get well e-card.  Dad's been sharpening his knives while Dean's cleaned the guns today.  Bobby's been stomping around outside."

"Can I come down?"

"Not for a few more days.  Until you can move easier."  Xander pouted but nodded, plucking at his blanket.  "If you rest, it'll be easier.  And hey, uninterrupted time for homework since you're going to have a science test when you get back."


"Sorry."  He got up, looking at him.  "Want anything specific for dinner?"


"I'll see if I can sneak some past Dad and not let Dean steal it."  He winked and went down to dig into Dean's sacred sweet stash.  Dean gave him a pointed look.  "Xander wanted some."

"Fine.  Take the M&M's as long as he does his homework."

Sam grinned, going up to tell him that.  The boy got to work on it with a huff of complaint but he was enjoying the candy.  He came back down.  "He wanted to make sure he could eat more than oatmeal tonight."

"Salad, pork chops," Dean told him.  "Mac n' cheese.  The doctor said he can start on regular food again."

"He's still a bit sore."

"Then maybe not mac n' cheese.  That way it can't plug him up," Dean decided.  "We can finish off that one."  He looked at his little brother.  "No homework?"

"Nope.  Did it in study hall," he said with a grin.

"Good.  Go help Dad sharpen stuff."

"I don't need the fight, Dean."

"Yay.  Quit hovering."  He made shooing motions.  Sam huffed but went to help his father and Bobby.  Dean shook his head, getting back to dinner.  His father came in off the back porch.  "I sent Sammy to hover over you."

"Bobby's having him help him drain a few engines of fluid."  He looked at the meat.  "It's nearly done.  Want help?"

"Make a salad."  His father nodded while Dean put on the water for the macaroni.  When it was all done he went to get Xander, following him down the stairs.  "There, real people food again, dude."

Xander hugged him.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He patted him on the head.  "Let go."  Xander grinned but let go, digging into his real people food.  Dean sat down to eat his own dinner.  Bobby was giving the boy amused looks.  "Not so fast.  You'll end up hurting again."  Xander slowed down.

John looked him over.  "How sore are you, Xander?"

"Pretty.  Why?"  He looked up.  "I can maybe practice hitting in a few days."

"Good, but there's a hunt I should hit.  Think you can handle it with Sam and Bobby for a few days to two weeks?"  Xander nodded.  "Then we'll do that tonight, Dean."

"Sure, Dad.  Everything's clean and ready to go but the laundry."  He went to put his in the washer, getting a snort of amusement from Bobby.  "I needed to do some tonight anyway."  He sat down to eat again.  Xander was back to scarfing food.  "You're not starved."

"My stomach missed solid stuff."

"I've had bruised intestines, it hurts for weeks," Sam told him.  "Like bruised ribs."

"I've had those."  Sam grinned, digging in again.  "Nice job, Dean."

"Thanks, Xander.  Wait for seconds to make sure your stomach won't throw a fit."  Xander nodded, sipping his milk.

Bobby smiled.  "Homework going all right?"

"I still suck at science."

"It happens to the best of us," Sam said dryly.  "I had to drop physics once.  Fortunately we switched schools to one that didn't offer it."  He stuffed his mouth again.  "A few more days and you can come back to classes."  Xander nodded, getting some more salad, which the adults all nodded at.  Sam smiled.  "Just think, next year is health class."

"Is this school a 'scare them off sex' sort like Sunnydale was or is it going to give us actual stuff to learn?"

"Sunnydale was a scared of sex school?" Dean asked, looking confused.

"Yeah, it promotes teenage pregnancy.  With such a low death age, we needed all the kids we could have.  Not telling them about condoms and stuff made sure more people got the most common STD, babies."  He ate another bite.

"Slow down before you choke," John ordered.  Xander slowed his chewing.   "Do we need to have that talk with you?"

"I had it with Sammy," Dean said quickly.  "I'll teach him how to pick up chicks, Dad.  Your turn."

"I gave you yours," he reminded him.

"Which means it's your turn again since I had to do Sammy's."

"Guys, grew up near the epicenter of AIDS," Xander pointed out.  "Willow gives a very factual, detailed one through a lot of blushes and her mom helped when she realized my parents probably couldn't do it through the booze."  He stuffed his mouth again.

"How bad were hers?" Sam asked.

"Respect your body by not polluting it with other people's germs," Xander mimicked Mrs. Rosenburg.  "Until you're ready to accept the risk of their germs and yours mixing, and possibly getting someone pregnant, you shouldn't be touching anyone.  Not even yourself because once you start you won't be able to stop."

"That's true enough," Dean said dryly.  "Germs?  Was she a bit germ phobic?"

"Nope.  That's how she gave Willow hers too.  I think she thinks sex gives cooties, I'm not real sure.  I kinda spaced out in there into fantasy land.  Willow squeaked and blushed at me when I moaned.  Her mother just patted me on the head and told me if I wanted Willow that way to date her first because friendship and dating are two different things."

"They are," John agreed.  "Still not totally right."

"No, I liked the last playmate instead.  I told her that.  She blushed and said many boys went that way but it hurt our cognitive processes because it didn't allow for us to think our way through attraction.  It was the easy solution and she said that's why sex offenders started with porn and slipped from there."

"No, that's usually a power thing," Sam told him.  "They want the power.  The power they take from their victims is what gets them off."

"Maybe Sammy can give him the full talk," Bobby joked.

"Then he'd never be able to pick up chicks," Dean protested.  "Sammy barely can and that's after I worked on him for two years, Bobby."

Sam glared at him.  "I never had any problem getting nice girls to talk to me, Dean.  I'm not the slut you are, that's the problem."

"I'm not that easy."

"Enough," John ordered.  He shook his head, looking up to silently ask his wife why they had wanted children.  He looked at the boy again.  "You know all the pertinent facts?"  Xander nodded.  "Good, then they can help you learn what a good girl is.  Sammy, we aren't dating, are we?"

"Yup, this Saturday," Sam said happily.  "Then Xander and I are going to the club after our dinner thing.  That way she can go with us if she wants and he can find someone nice to talk to.  By the way, Xander, she thinks you're cute too."

Xander grinned.  "Is she a bad girl?"

"Not that I know of."

"We'll have to see then.  Maybe if you two don't click I'll hit on her."

"Cool."  He dug in again.  The boy got another pork chop since his stomach wasn't protesting.  Dean grinned, shoving him a piece of bread too.  Xander grinned and dug in again.

Bobby smirked at the boy.  "Remember, PT when you're feeling better."

"I know.  I'm going to get fat and slow if I don't.  Then how'll I chase bad things and bad girls?"

"Try for good girls, Xander," John said.

"I do try.  They seem nice."

"Maybe that's the problem," Dean decided.  "We'll work on it when we get back, Xander."  He finished up and moved to start dishes.

"My turn," Xander said.  He finished up and got up.  "I can do dishes."

"It won't save you from the science homework," Sam pointed out, bringing over his own plate.  "I can dry."

"I should be fine, Sam.  I promise.  If I start to hurt, I'll let you guys know and go lay down again.  Maybe on the couch?" he asked hopefully, giving Bobby the begging eyes look.

"That look is why I don't look at you when you're pouting, Sammy.  You do the same damn thing."  Bobby swatted him.  "He does!"

"I don't care."  He handed Xander his plate.  "Let Sammy do the pots, you do the regular stuff.  Then come lay on the couch to watch tv."  Xander beamed and nodded, getting back to work on them.  "Dean, the washer should be nearly done."  He went to check, putting in his second load and the first into the dryer.  Sam finished clearing the table and the two adults went to watch the news.  Dean joined them a few minutes later.  Xander wobbled out but he waved off their concerned looks, stretching out in a chair with his feet up so his stomach wasn't compressed.  It looked like it was fine for now.


Six days later, Sam looked up from his trudge to math class when he heard a yelp.  He moved quickly to where Xander was, finding him bleeding.  "What the hell?" he asked.

"Magic," he muttered.  "Bathroom, now, please?" he asked through gritted teeth.  Another stripe of blood appeared after a moan.  Sam helped him in there.  A teacher followed.  He was leaning on the sink, gripping it to keep himself from screaming or falling to the floor when the teacher made it to them.  He got to see the next one appear and Xander yelp but keep it quiet.

"What's going on?"

"One of his former friends," Sam said grimly.  He found Xander's prepaid cellphone, calling Bobby.  "It's us.  Come pick us up, now.  Because Xander's being flayed, Bobby."  He hung up.  "Hold on, Xander.  We'll stop her."  Another strip appeared and Xander whimpered.  "I have no idea what to do.  Salt wards won't work."

The teacher looked at him.  "You do the same thing Singer's rumored to do?"

"Yes, sir.  No one's supposed to know."

"Fine.  Let me get the nurse so she can stop some bleeding.  Lock the door, Sam."  He ran out.  Sam locked the door so no one else had to see it.  He got there about the same time Bobby Singer got to the front doors.  "Bathroom, second floor," he told him and the nurse.  "Harris is bleeding a lot."  She followed him up.  "Go to class!" he bellowed at the gathered students.  "He had some scabs break open!"  They all sighed but went to class.  Nothing to gossip about then.

Bobby knocked on the door.  "Sammy?"  It was opened and he saw the problem.  "Aw, shit."  He came in to help the boy to the ground.  Xander shook his head, gripping the sink harder.  "You need to before you fall and get hurt worse."

"I feel like I should be beating the shit out of someone," he muttered.  "Let me hold onto something.  It's helping me focus through the damn pain."

"Sammy, help him."  He came over to help Xander down, holding his hands for him.  The nurse moved to get Xander's shirt off him while Bobby started with the simplest thing.  Salt wards and then using the salt to mark other symbols around the boys.  He looked at the teacher.  "Sorry.  One of his former friends that drove him off is a witch."

"I'd be swearing instead of using the nicer version," he said dryly.  "There's plenty of rumors about what you handle now and then, Mr. Singer.  I'll keep it quiet."

"Principal knows," Xander moaned.  "She asked me some pointed questions about Sunnydale and Buffy."  Another strip came off and he whimpered, gripping at Sam.

"Fuck," Bobby said.  "That should've stopped her."  He called Ellen.  "Get on whoever's out there to stop the little redheaded bitch.  She's flaying Xander's skin from his back and chest."  He hung up.  "They'll stop her.  Perry's somewhere near there and a few hunters have the library's number, Xander."

"Why is she doing this to me?" he begged, looking up at his teacher.  "I was a good friend to her."

"She's spoiled, selfish, and clearly wants to have her ass kicked."  He marked a few more obscure warding lines and that stopped it.  No more stripes of skin came off.  "There, that should help.  Car's warded too so we can move him safely."

"He should have the emergency room," the nurse told him.  "He's going to need more than bandaged."

Bobby nodded.  "I can do that too."  She grimaced.  "I know how to heal cuts better'n anything.  I'll take him to his doc in town for some antibiotics."  She nodded at that, putting on better bandages so they could move him.  Xander was down to panting in pain and anger.  "Whenever you're ready."  The principal came in.  "He said you knew, Della."

"I do."  She looked at him.  "What happened?"

"The redheaded friend out there.  That's why he was bruised too.  She tried to summon him."

"We heard.  Xander, are you all right?"  He looked up, giving her a dirty look.  "You go home and rest.   Give me an excuse, Bobby."  He nodded.  The boy tried to get up, Sammy had to help but the boy hissed and flinched away.  "I know it hurts.  We'll stop her somehow."

"I called someone to stop her," Bobby assured her.  She smirked and nodded, letting them walk out.  The guys who swept the school wouldn't do more than complain about the salt in the bathroom and the blood.  Sam followed.  "Get your stuff from your lockers, Sammy."  He ran off to do that.  He let Xander lean against him.  "C'mon, we'll hit the doc's for some antibiotics, a cream to put on them, and some pain killers."

Xander looked at him.  "Can't I kill her?  I really want to kill her for this."

"No idea, kiddo.  We'll see who gets there first."

"I can side track them all."  He found his phone and the few numbers in there.  "Faith, Xander.  Where are you in relation to Willow?"  She asked why it mattered.  "Because she just decided I needed less skin, Faith.  I'm bloody and sore at the moment, and the pain is making me a bit homicidal."  She said something.  "Find someone.  Ask Cordelia to stop her if you can't get Buffy to.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "Faith can stop her."

"Good.  I know you like Faith."

He nodded.  "She understands."  He let himself be helped into the car.  "I'm going to mess up the seats, Bobby."

"Hush.  They clean.  It's leather for that very reason, kiddo."  Xander nodded, slumping and then yelping away from the seat.  "I know.  Give us a few."  Sam came jogging out and got into the back.  "Thanks, Sammy."

"Not a problem.  Think Ellen's contact can get her stopped faster?"

"I called Faith," Xander told him.

"That'll probably be even faster and she can smack her around," Sam decided.  He stroked through Xander's hair.  "Relax, focus on something other than the pain.  We can do this until the doc can numb it."  Xander nodded, doing the breathing exercises John had taught him when he had dislocated his ankle during a sparring session.


Faith hung up.  "Gotta book," she said, heading out of the meeting.  "Queen C," she said when she spotted her.  Cordelia sneered at her.  "Need Red now to stop her shit."

"Why should I care?"

"She just attacked Xander."

"Oh, really?"

"Thought he needed less skin."

"Really?" she asked, going all icy.  "Last time I heard she was upstairs in the broken bathroom."  They went that way.  "Where's Buffy?"


"Pity."  She walked past Snyder, who was glaring at them.  "Out of the way, troll."  She walked into the bathroom, finding Willow panting in pain because the spell backlashed on her.  "You stupid bitch," she said, kicking her in the head.  "You're worth ruining the shoes for.  How dare you attack Xander!"

Faith tried to get closer but a shield came up.  Snyder stormed in.  "Get Tweedy here," she ordered.

"Who're you to...."  He saw what was on the floor.  "Damn it.  She went bad?"

"Get Giles," Cordelia snapped.  "She was trying to skin someone alive.  And look, your doll is here too."  He fled.  Giles came storming in.  "I got in one good kick.  I can do more once you bring down the shield."

He brought it down and knocked her down.  "I think we can handle it, Cordelia.  Thank you for the help."

"Oh, no no nononono," Cordelia said dryly.  "You're getting help this time.  Clearly little miss Wicca there has some issues."  She took the girl from Giles' grip.  "C'mon, Faith.  Let's go have a talk with her."

"Gladly."  She walked Willow off, not caring she was screaming in pain at the way she was squeezing her arm.

Giles looked at the mess, then sighed.  He had no idea where she had found that spell.  He cleaned up the mess, going to stop them from killing her.  Hopefully.  He'd like to get in a few blows before she died.


Dean hung up and looked at his father.  "We have to leave tonight."

"Why?  Is there a problem that your new special friend told you about?" he asked dryly.

"Rosenburg just tried to skin Xander while he was on his way to class."  John glared at him.  "Sammy said Faith and them got her stopped."  He swallowed.  "Xander's fine but he's knocked out on painkillers and his chest and stomach looks like a mummy remake according to Sammy."

John found his phone and called Ellen.  "Who's out in Sunnydale?"  He listened to her say that Perry had already tried to get her once but she had managed to escape.  "We're within two days of there.  Leaving tonight."  He hung up.  "Find the body yet?"

"Yeah.  All we have to do is dig it up.  It's even in the woods, Dad."

"Good.  Let's do that."  They gathered everything and went to do that.  They could leave once the body was salted and burned.  If they switched off when one got tired instead of stopping for the night they'd make it there by the next afternoon.


John walked into the library with his shotgun in hand.  Dean had his too.  "Where's the witch?" he asked the man behind the counter.

"We don't know," Giles told him.  "She's hiding.  Neither slayer can find her."  He looked at them.  "Are you two of the hunters Xander's training with?  Faith said something about a father and two sons."

John nodded.  "I'm John, this is my son Dean.  I've been working on the boy's self-defense skills."  He looked around.  "Any idea where she might be?"

"I've had Buffy tracking her since she managed to disappear.  She hasn't found her yet."

John nodded.  "Maps of the town?"  Giles pointed at the patrol map, letting them look it over.  "Where has she looked?"  Giles pointed at the usual spots.  He and Dean left, going to search the other areas.

"Oh, dear, but hopefully they'll be able to straighten her out before I rip her to shreds."

John and Dean found the other hunter and talked with him about where he had tried.  The girls hadn't been thorough, they had to keep stopping to slay.  Perry had been looking for her more often than they had.  He had a good idea which part of town she was in.  They went to there, Dean checking the usual areas.  Stores, gas stations, something like that.  She had to be eating somehow.  He and Perry checked the abandoned buildings.  It was an easy hunt of a lot of vampires and a few demons that tried to attack but nothing else.

Dean walked into the demon bar he had seen a smoking person under a blanket run into.  The demons all stared at him.  "Not here for you this time."  He looked at the bartender.  "We're looking for Rosenburg."

"Who're you?" he asked.

"Dean Winchester.  John Winchester's son and helping train Xander."

"Oh, crap," he muttered.  "No clue, Winchester."

"She's hiding somewhere near here."

He considered it.  He'd give this one information because he knew stalling would mean he'd be dead.  Buffy might rough him up for information now and then but this one.... he'd be his next victim.  "Have you checked the tunnels under Adam's College?  There's a few good ones that way.  The sewers are like a subway at times."

"I was down there, I haven't seen her," one said.  "Last time I saw her was last night and she was up by the UC campus.  By that store.  I'm guessing she was getting supplies."

Dean nodded.  "How would she get anywhere to hide from there?"

"She spent a good, long time following your buddy and their former friend around exploring.  She knows about every nook and cranny around here," another demon said.
"Xander would probably be able to find her in their old spots."

"I'll call to ask him.  Thank you."  He walked out.  The call was easy enough to make.  "Xander, if you were Willow, where would you be hiding from your asskicking?"  He smirked.  "Yes she is.  For this, yeah.  It's Dad or Pastor Jim, Xander.  Which do you think is going to be worse?"  Xander admitted Jim might be.  He'd lecture while beating you.  "So, where?"  He nodded, looking around.  "Mr. Giles said that he thinks she's by the record store?"  He said something and went that way.  "How do I get down there?"  He nodded.

"I'll tell Dad and Perry.  Yup, he was here.  He lost her.  Thanks."  He hung up and called his father.  "Meet me on Main and fifth.  Xander had a few ideas."  He hung up as he walked that way.  He nodded politely at the people who smiled at him.  A few even gave him come-on looks but he was hunting.  He could tap them later.  He found the doorway the kid had told him about and waited.  His father stomped over to him.  He opened it and they went down.  More vampires, yay.  "Xander said when they were exploring, this is where she'd hide for hide and seek or her fort," he said quietly.  "There's a few rooms down here."

"Good to know.  Who built this town?"

"Assholes who wanted to be good to demons," Perry told him.  They split up.  They saw signs of Willow being here.  There were magic supplies in one of the rooms.  He heard a yell and looked toward where the other two were.

"Got her," Dean called a minute later.  "Slippery little bitch," he said, handing her over after slugging her and knocking her out.  "Xander thought Pastor Jim would be a worse beating because he'd lecture while beating her to death."

"I'm more cold than Jim is," John agreed.  He walked her off.  "Gather the shit, Perry.  Hand it back to Giles?"

"I can do that."  He said a prayer for her soul while he gathered the things.


Willow woke up tied to a tree.  She struggled but someone knew how to tie someone up.  She looked around, noticing the dry wood at her feet and struggled harder.

"I doubt it'll work," John told her.  "I could have been merciful and let you go while you were out.  But you hurt that boy too badly this time."

"I didn't mean to!" she yelled, still struggling.

"Well, you did, girl."

Dean brought back some more wood to pile around her.  "That should be good enough."  He looked at her.  "This makes the third time you've hurt him seriously.  He'll be out of school the rest of this year because of this one."  She glared.  "Nothing witty to say?"

"He needs to come home.  He's ours!"

"No, he's not anymore," John said.  He pulled out a lighter.  "We can shoot you before you burn.  I don't really want to hear you scream.  It's nothing that'll bring us pleasure."

"No, it won't happen again," she begged.  "I'm trying to be better!"

"You had your chance."  He lit some paper on fire, handing it to Dean.

Willow blew at it before he dropped it on the wood.  Then she started to chant magic to put it out.  Or to get her help.  Something!  Anything!  Demons started to come out of the woods.  She knew how to manipulate them so she had them attack the hunters and free her.  "I won't do it again," she told Dean, who was struggling.

He turned after shooting that demon, hitting her in the side.  She screamed.  He aimed higher up.  A demon knocked him out from behind.  John snarled and got that one then aimed at her.  Two more jumped him.  He nearly got free.

Buffy and Faith jogged up.  "Crap," Faith said.  "Freeze, Red.  Before I finish what they started."

"I didn't mean to hurt him!" she screamed.  "I wanted him back!"

"Tough shit," Faith said, knocking her out.  A demon lunged at her but she got it down and out.  Buffy was checking the two hunters.  "B?  Plans?" she asked, getting an other one.  "Or maybe some help?"

Buffy looked at them.  "She's got them under control."  She dove at one and knocked him away from Faith, letting her get the one she was fighting with.  Soon enough the demons were down.  Willow was whimpering.  The hunters were still knocked out.  She checked them again.  "Just out."

Faith nodded, looking at the redhead.  "Someone needs more than a belt.  I'm not fond of burning people but it seems to work."

Buffy looked at her friend then at her co-slayer.  "I'm taking her to my mom."

"Your mom's fluffy, B."

"Not about this stuff.  She nearly clawed my throat out being pissed at her last time, Faith.  My mom's where my temper comes from."  She looked down at her.  Then around.  "We are slayers.  We can feel you," she called.  Dean groaned.  "Stay down, you're fine and the demons are down."  She looked around.  Angel came out of the shadows.  "Help me get her back to Mom's?  If Mom can't make her good again, then they can burn her at the stake."

"I'm not sure why they're doing this," he told her.

Faith looked at him.  "Because this is the third time she tried to hurt Xander and got him badly."

Angel was grimacing.  "How did she do that?"

"Bruised his insides, flayed skin from him, made him suicidal," Faith said dryly.

Angel nodded.  "Then maybe their way is the best, Buffy."

"Let Mom try first, Angel.  She managed to keep me on the straight and narrow.  She can work on Willow or they can have her back."

"Fine."  He came over to pick her up.  "She smells like blood magic."

"Probably was," Faith told him.  "Shoo, I've got them."  They nodded, heading off together.  She sat down on top of one unconscious demon's stomach since it was park bench height.  John groaned then snapped awake.  "Hey, calm down."

He looked at her.  "Where is she?"

"B wanted her mom to get a shot first."  She came over to help him up.  "She and Fang brought her home to her mom for their trial.  Then you can have her back if her Mom fails."

"She's dangerous."

Faith nodded.  "We know.  B swears up and down her Momma can handle it."  She shrugged.  "Fang was ready to let you have her."  She helped Dean up when he started to move.   "Damn glad we got here in time to save you two."

Dean looked at her.  "You're Faith.  He described you pretty well."

She nodded.  "I am.  You're Dean.  He told me about you guys."

He smirked.  "Our rumors are spreading?" he quipped.

"One waitress at a time," she snorted.  He grinned at that, looking around.  "B's momma has her."

"How long should it take her to beat her?" Dean asked.

"Not real sure.  I can walk you guys that way."  They nodded, following her, rubbing the sore spots on their heads.  "She's always got ice packs too, guys.  How is boytoy?"

"He's not bad," Dean told her.  "He was back at school after the last spell.  He's doing good this year."

"Good.  We like him being there.  It's safer and he's happier."  She looked at him.  "He was hunting for the necessity, it wasn't making him happy.  He was stressed and then they added to it."

"I heard."  She nodded at that.  "We're helping where we can, Faith."

"Good."  She led them to the front door, knocking on it.  Joyce answered, smiling at her.  "These are Dean and John Winchester.  X is training with them."

"Come in, gentlemen.  Need an ice pack?"

"If it's no trouble," John said politely.  "How long will it be before we can have her back?"

She smirked at him.  "I don't think we'll need to worry about Willow going bad anymore."  She pointed at her sobbing in the corner.  "She will not be using harmful magic again.  Possibly no magic at all."

John looked at her.  "This is a one-way path."

"To be honest, my daughter needs her," she said quietly.

John nodded.  "I can see how that's important.  We learned a lot about this sort of thing from Xander."

She smiled.  "I had to learn from my daughter two years later."  John winced.  "I thought she was sneaking off doing stupid things.  Turns out I was more right than I thought."  She got them some ice packs and some bottles of water.   "I will make sure Willow goes good again, Mr. Winchester.  I won't let her go down this path.  I'd hate for Buffy to mourn anyone else.   She's seen enough death."  Giles knocked and Faith let him in.  Willow saw him and shrieked, trying to move.  "Do not," she snarled.  Willow whimpered, shrinking away from her and the boys. She smiled at John, who smirked back.  They understood each other perfectly as parents.  "She will not be doing it again, Mr. Winchester.  Or else I'll burn her myself."

Buffy looked over from where she was sitting.  "Mom keeps me good too."

"You, go put on a longer skirt.  You look like a trollop, Buffy."  She huffed but went to do that.  Faith was snickering some.  "Faith, dear, go eat."  She nodded, doing that.  She looked at Giles.  "She compelled demons to save her according to Buffy."

"I can make sure she can't do it again," he told the hunters.  "I can bind her."

"She won't be doing it again, one way or another," Joyce assured John.

"Should she, I will be back.  There will not be anything stopping it."

"Agreed.  I'll buy the lighter fluid."

He nodded, looking at his son.  "You okay?"

"Fine, Dad."  He handed back the ice pack.  "Thank you, ma'am."

"You give Xander a hug for me."

"I will once the bandages come off."  She got that scary look in her eyes.  "She kindly took some of his skin off while he was in school."

"I see."  She looked at the girl then at them, giving them a scary smile.  "We'll be having a discussion, boys.  Trust me."  John shuddered, nodding and backing off.  She patted him on the cheek.  "Give me an address so I can send him a card?"  Dean wrote it out for her.  "Thank you, boys.  Now shoo.  This is mother's work."  They nodded and left it in her hands.  Even Giles had backed away from her.

"Hey, Tweedy, want some toast?" Faith called.  More to let him have a way out of the crossfire.

"Put the ice packs back in the freezer for me?" Joyce asked.

"Of course."  He nearly fled into the kitchen.  The screams were bad enough, he didn't need to witness Joyce correcting the young witch.  Faith and he nibbled on some toast.  Buffy too when she came down.

"You're right, your mom's uber scary," Faith told her.

Buffy nodded.  "It's not often that she loses her temper, but when it goes, I run for cover."  The screaming stopped.  "Mom, can we have her yet?"

"No, dear.  Not yet."

"Want some water?" Buffy called.

"Make me some tea please, Buffy."  Buffy nodded, moving to do that.  Faith added cookies to the plate, earning a smile from her sister slayer.  That might calm her down some.  "Thank you, girls," she said.  They ran back to the kitchen.  It was nice that Sunnydale officers wouldn't come about the screaming.  She'd hate to stop to beat them too.


Sunnydale's  Principal Synder walked into the Mayor's office.  "Rosenburg finally came back to school."

"What happened to her?  There are all sorts of rumors."  He put down his pen to look at his minion.

"Someone caught her doing blood magic to get Harris back for leaving," he said smugly.  "We had hunters after her.  She came back today after being gone for three days and still can't sit or walk properly.  I gave her detention since she couldn't sit still in class."

"Blood magic?  That's not what I expected from pure little Willow Rosenburg.  It's so gosh darn unsanitary.  Truly disgusting unless you're doing rites to prolong your life.  Who got her?  Do we have any idea?"

"The elder Summers woman," he said with a sneer.  "I heard her calling the girls' mother as she dropped her off.  She said she had found her in the woods doing something dangerous that nearly got her killed.  That Buffy had saved her."

"Hunters you say?  Which ones?"

"I looked up the pictures we had from the school's security system."  He handed them over.  "John Winchester and his eldest son."


"Even more interesting are the rumors that Harris left for some hunter training.  That Winchester is doing it for him."

"That is very interesting.  Though very nice of him.  We didn't really need a probability issue like Harris around here right now.  He tends to warp things."  He considered it.  "Maybe some discomfort from a curse of misfortune would keep him out there."

"If you're right and the boy warps probabilities, not that I think he knows what they are, then he'd probably win the lottery."

"That would be a misfortune for hunters.  They hate having attention put on them."  He smirked.  "Plus it would let his parents cause him stress as well."

"If you say so."

The mayor handed over an envelope with bribe money.  "Thank you, Principal Snyder.  I'm sure you're going to have a lovely day with detention."

He smirked.  "Of course I am."  He left him to his plotting.

The mayor considered his options to cause some misfortune then decided fate owed him one for being so smart and went with the simpler curse.  He really didn't have much magic to spare at the moment with his ascension coming up so quickly.


Dean was kicked back watching the mid-afternoon news blurb when he nearly choked on thin air.  "Hey, Dad?" he called.

"Dean, unless it's important I'm doing some research for another hunter," he said from the kitchen table.  They had been back for six weeks.  It was too early for something serious to hit town.

"How are we classifying Sammy and Xander's wacky luck?  Is that important enough?"

John looked out, barely able to see the side of the tv.  He came out, staring at the story going on.  "He did what?" he demanded.

"Apparently Xander won the lottery on his second day back at school.  Somehow.  Even though he's not old enough to play."  He looked at his father.  "No clue, Dad."

"Dean, tell me this is one of your stupid pranks?" he ground out.

"I'm not that good, Dad."  He got up.  "Let me go warn them?"

"No.  We'll talk to them after school," he said calmly.  Dean sat down slowly.  He knew that tone of voice.  The last time he had heard it, he and Sammy had trouble sitting for a few days.  "Bobby?" he called.  He came into the house.  "Somehow your charge won the lottery."

"Excuse me?" he demanded.  Dean nodded.  "How did that happen?"

"No idea," Dean told him.  "They had a small news blurb that showed his picture with a 'does anyone know this young man, he just won and probably doesn't realize it' story."

Bobby shook his head.  "Only those two."

"From now on, the boys aren't allowed to walk to school," John said a bit too calmly.  "They will be driven to make sure they stay out of trouble."

Bobby nodded.  "It might help.  Remember, he's still sore from the healing, John."

"I'm sure he is."

"I'll pick them up," Dean offered.  Mostly to get away from the temper tantrum coming.

Bobby looked at the clock.  "They get out in an hour, Dean."

"I can pick up some groceries," he offered.

"Do that," Bobby agreed, handing him the Impala's keys.  Dean fled the house with Xander's food stamp card.  He looked at John.  "It's probably not what we think.  I doubt he started out wanting to win it."

"Things like that shouldn't happen to hunters," John reminded him.  "It brings attention."  The house phone rang so he answered.  "Singer Salvage Yard."  He smirked.  "Hey, Ellen.  Yes, it was the boy.  We have no idea.  I was doing that research for Dave when Dean called me to look at the news.  He's presently hiding before I have a fit on Xander's behind."  He listened to her calm him down.  "I'll let him explain then I'll tan his ass.  He'll never do it again."  He hung up.  "She wants to see him this weekend and Ash said that the first round's on him."

"He probably can't claim it.  He's underage by a bit."

John nodded.  "It was still on the news."

"Then we'll deal with it, John."  He sighed, going back to his research.  Bobby got back to work.  Those boys were going to be begging for mercy later.  There was no way they could let this go on.


Dean waved the boys to the car.  Xander raced ahead with a grin and got the front seat.

Sam looked at him.  "No fair.  I don't fit in the back anymore."

"Just get in," Dean snapped.  They huffed but got in.  "Xander, did you go to the store earlier?"

"Bobby asked me to pick up some milk for my breakfast.  I went to the little gas station up the street on the way in."

"Did we buy anything besides milk?"

"Um, yeah.  A scratch off ticket.  I thought I could bribe a math tutor before the test next week if I could win about ten bucks.  Sammy's too busy to help me study."

"Okay, that explains that."  He started the car, heading back to the farmhouse.  Sam was giving him worried looks.  Xander bounced inside.  Dean saved his brother.  "No, don't," he said.

"What happened?  Did they think he held it up?"

"No.  Nothing that mundane.  It's freaky things only you two could do."

Sam walked into the house, finding both adults staring at Xander and him looking nervous.  "What happened?  He said he went in for milk and a scratch off ticket so he could bribe a math tutor."

"Is that how it happened?" Bobby asked.  "I thought you were underage."

"They didn't ask for ID.  You never win the big stuff but I thought ten bucks could help me bribe one so I got some things explained to me before the test.  Dreama charges five bucks an hour.  So I was muttering about getting some bribing money for the math tutors."

John took a calming breath.  "Xander, how much did you win on that ticket?"

"Twenty bucks," he said sheepishly.  "Did I cause a problem?"

"Just a bit," John said.

"I didn't know I wasn't allowed to play scratch off tickets," he said, slumping some. "I'm sorry.  You can have the twenty bucks."  He pulled it out of his pocket and held it out.

"You won more than that," Bobby said.  "I called the store.  They said that they had a drawing for lottery winners of that ticket for a higher prize.  Apparently you won in enough time to be entered."

"Oops?" he said cautiously.  "I didn't know that?"

"Boy," John said.  Xander flinched.  "They had you on the news looking for you to tell you that you won."

"Ummmmmmm......"  His brain shut down.  "Why?"

"How much did he win?" Sam asked.

"A lot," Bobby said dryly.  "Which is a problem since he's technically underage and a runaway by law."

"Well...." Xander said.  "I have to tell my social worker, don't I?"  They scowled.  "What?" he defended.

"Not the point, boy," John told him.

Dean ducked in and pulled Sam out with him.  "Let me save Sammy."  He shut the door behind them.  "Let's find some way to protect the boy after Dad and Bobby spank him, all right?"

"I can do that."  He grabbed the phonebook off the table on the end of the porch and found the local DHHR number.  "Hi, can I talk to the social worker who would be able to answer a question about someone's case?  No, nothing too critical.  Thank you.  Last name is Harris."  He got transferred over.  Voicemail.  He grimaced but he left a nice message.  Then he tried it back.   "Is there anyone there who can actually answer a question?  I'm helping him with a legal matter and I need something cleared up.  Just a date of service starting.  Thank you, sir."  He got transferred to a supervisor.

"Hi, I'm Sam Jones.  I'm helping a client of yours with a legal matter.  His name?  Alexander Harris."  He waited while she looked up that case.  "No, I just needed a few facts verified.  He signed up in February, correct?"  He nodded, making a note.  "He is?  He didn't mention he was emancipated."  He made that note as well.  "Thank you.  No, but he might be in shortly.  The matter?  We think he won something in a settlement.  They needed to make sure of his financial circumstances.  Thank you, sir."  He hung up and leaned his head into the house.  "Xander, when did you file emancipation paperwork?"

"I did?"

"Yeah.  It was filed at the same time as you filed for your food stamps and medical card.  I talked to a social worker and he mentioned it was filed on your behalf at the same time as you started out here."

Xander shrugged.  "I didn't know I did.  I know there was a lot of paperwork.  Does that matter?"

"It means that you can claim the prize," Sam said dryly.  He ducked back out because his dad's face just went purple.  "He's going to explode."

"Let's go get some groceries."  Sam nodded and they ran for the car.  Their dad's temper was legendary for a reason.

Xander looked at John, shrugging.  "I didn't know I had done that.  I was only hoping for a measly ten bucks."

"Did you maybe wish?" Bobby asked impatiently.

"Um, not that I remember.  I don't remember saying I wished.  I hoped, but not I wished."

"No saying it mentally?" John asked.

Xander shook his head slowly.  "No, sir."

"All right," he said, making himself calm down.  "No more doing stupid shit, Xander.  You and Sammy are going to be driven to school each and every morning from now on.  That way no other incidences can happen.  For now, go somewhere else while we talk?"

"Um, where?"

"Go to the club," Bobby ordered.  "Have some fun.  If anyone asks, play dumb."  Xander nodded, hurrying out, glad to be unspanked or beaten this time.  He looked at John.  "That's too freaky even for Sammy's luck, John."

"You think the witch did it again?"

"I think someone did.  I doubt she could.  That's too selfless for her sort."  They went to look up what could cause that sort of luck.  "That rabbit's foot?"

"Still locked up," John assured him.


Sam looked at the man walking up to Xander at the club later that night.  "Did you need something?"

"With your companion."

"I'm sorry but we're not going to let either of us go with a stranger, sir.  Who are you?"

He held up his ID.  Lottery official.   He looked very smug.   Sam nudged Xander from where he was chatting with a girl.  Xander looked at him.  "I had no idea about the drawing, dude.  Really.  All I wanted was ten bucks to pay my math tutor."

"You're how old, sir?"

"Four days from eighteen but the state said I'm emancipated."

"I didn't know that."

Sam nodded.  "I found that out from his social worker earlier."

"Still, you're not supposed to be able to buy lottery tickets until you're eighteen."

"The guy didn't ask for ID," Xander told him.  "I know you don't win big on scratch offs.  I didn't mean to do this and cause problems."

"I realize that."  He looked him over.  "Are your parents around so we can talk to them?"

"Somewhere living in their own personal booze hell," he quipped dryly.

"Oh, I see.  Are you with a legal guardian?"  Xander shook his head.  "How did you get into school?"

"I signed myself up.  They weren't going to keep me from going to school even though I had come to family friend."

"I suppose that's reasonable as well."  He studied the boy.  "What are you going to do with it if they let it go through?"  Xander shrugged.  "No dreams?"

"Some day I'd like to see all fifty states.  I'd like to graduate and go on a road trip.  Right now I'm a year behind because my old school was crap."

"I've heard that can happen when you transfer to a better school."  He handed over his card.  "Let me talk to my boss for a bit."

Xander wrote down a name on another of his cards.  "That's my social worker."

"I'll get in touch with her for the official paperwork.  Thank you for your time."  He left.

Xander put the card into his pocket, looking at Sam.  "I really didn't mean to."

"I know, Xander.  We should try it again, make sure it's a one-time freaky luck thing."

"They would be *so* pissed at us."

"Dean?" he called.  He came over with a grin and his beer.  "Don't you think we should test this, make sure it's a single occurrence?"

"If you want to be spanked by Dad and Bobby, go for it," he said, walking off again.

"I don't want to be spanked; I'm still sore," Xander complained.

"They won't be that unreasonable."  He got up.  "C'mon.  Since we're not picking up anyone nice tonight after all."  Xander sighed but followed, looking dejected.  "Go buy me one scratch off," he said, handing him a dollar.  He went in to do that, chatting with the cashier who was one of their classmates.  She didn't card him either since he said it was for Sam.  Xander brought it out, letting him scratch it off.  He won too.  Xander gave him a horrified look.  "So we know it's something wrong instead of some sort of freakish luck like Dean thought."  He called him. "Its us.  It's not freakish luck.  Because I had him buy me one and won sixty bucks."  He hung up.  Dean showed up in the car a few minutes later.  He handed it to his brother.  Who glared at him.  "We needed to test it, make sure it wasn't something strange.  That's scientific."

"Whatever.  It's your asses being worn out later.  Xander, go buy me one?"

Xander sighed.  "If you come in with me.  I don't want to get in trouble."

"Fine."  Dean followed him in, smiling and flirting with the girl.  "Since he had such good luck earlier, we're all having him buy us one.  That way maybe we get some extra spending money too."

"I can understand that," she promised, running the winning ticket through the system.  "Which one, Xander?"  He looked then pointed.  She got him that one and gave Dean the change.  "There you go.  I'll see you tomorrow in class."

"If I don't get spanked too hard," Xander told her dryly.  She giggled.  "They weren't all that happy."  He shrugged and they walked out together.  Dean had taken the quarter Sam had used and done his own ticket, staring at it.  Xander looked over his arm.  "You explain it to your Dad and Bobby?"

"Yeah, I can do that," he said, putting the winning ticket into his pocket.  Anything that high he'd have to go to the state to get cashed out.  He took them home, walking the boys inside.  "Sammy decided to do a scientific test."

"If you tell me he bought another one and won again I'm going to beat you both," John told him.

"Sammy had me buy him one.  Then Dean had me buy him one," Xander defended.

John looked at his sons.  "Well?"

"Sixty bucks," Sam said with a grin.

"Twelve hundred and twelve," Dean said with an evil smirk.

John pulled Xander over to spank him then handed him to Bobby.  "Attention is bad for our kind," Bobby said, spanking the boy himself.

"I didn't mean to!  They talked me into it!"

"I don't care," Bobby said, letting him go.  "Go to bed.  All three of you little brats."  They nodded, Xander pouting all the way up there.  Bobby groaned, going to get them a beer.  John took his with a nod of gratitude.  "How much did he win?"  Sam walked down with the card from the lottery guy then headed back up there.  "Officials are showing up."

"We'll handle it quietly," John told him.  "Hopefully."  They took another drink of beer and moved back to other topics that wouldn't piss them off.


Xander got off the bus in front of the church, wandering into it.  "Pastor Jim, Bobby said he's going to beat my ass if Dean talks me into buying him another scratch off ticket.   Then the lottery people said the same thing."

The preacher looked at him.  "Why are you buying lottery tickets for Dean?"

"Because I bought a scratch off ticket and somehow won a mystical drawing that made me plenty wealthy enough to get a brand new car to fix up as a hunter's ride.  Or three.  Maybe four if I go for something smaller than the new SUV they came out with.  Plus a lifetime's worth of insurance for each."

Jim stared at the boy.  "I know Sammy has strange luck now and then, Xander, but how did it rub off on you?"

The boy blushed.  "Someone suggested I should let him rub off on me," he admitted sheepishly.  "But I still like girls.  I'm pretty sure I like girls."

"Some hunters might be petty if you didn't but I personally don't care."  The boy calmed down.  "You won what?"  Xander handed him the official notice and the letter from Bobby.  "Hmm.  Let's see what we can find.  Bobby thinks it might be a spell since you had other good things that got you attention."

"I'm thinking it's a misfortune with the way John and Bobby both spanked me recently," he said with a small pout.

"If it's getting you attention it could be," he decided.  "Come on.  We'll go have tea with Melinda again."  The boy beamed because she had fussed and made him cookies.  They walked out and headed to where she worked, finding her behind the register.  They walked in and sirens went off, then flashbulbs.  He looked at the boy.  "Yes, it's a spell," he said dryly.

Melinda came over, giving them a long look. "Congratulations to our eight hundredth customer and it's even on our anniversary so you get a double prize."  She handed them the overly large gift certificate and let the manager snap the picture.  Xander went to pick out some cookies and muffins with it.  She looked at Jim.  "How in the hell did he get a curse of misfortune and why is it making him win things?" she hissed.

"It gets him attention, which pisses Bobby and John off," he whispered back.

"Yeah, that would be a misfortune."

"He won a lottery drawing as well."

She winced.  "Damn."

Xander came over nibbling one of his muffins, handing the pastor one too.  "Lunch," he said with a grin.  "Can we have tea soon, Melinda?"

"I think we should, Xander."  He beamed and gave her a flirty look he had learned off Dean.  "No flirting, my cyber girlfriend would mind."  She walked off.  "I'm off at four, boys."  They nodded and took their munchies with them.  She watched them walk off.  Outside, one of the town girls caught sight of Xander and bounced up to him.  He was gallant enough to offer her a cookie when she hit on him.  She kissed him to get her own taste then smirked and walked off.  Jim swatted him on the back of the head.  "I forgot Xander drew bad girls," she said quietly.  Her manager looked at her.  "Heather Millison just hit on the boy with Pastor Jim."

"Oh, dear."

"Jim'll protect him if she gets too bad."

"Let's hope so."  They shook their heads and got back to work.  She needed to have some time in her garden to get the herbs she'd need ready.  Someone really had to make Xander's luck change.


Xander walked in with a box of muffins, handing them to Bobby with a grin.  "Melinda said hi."

"I like Melinda.  What happened?"

"She found the curse of misfortune."

"It was?" John demanded.

"With the way it got me spanked, yes," he said bluntly, cracking Sam and Dean both up.  "We went to see her at work and I won a gift certificate to the pastry shop.  So I brought back muffins."

"Good of you," Bobby agreed.  He went to put them away from Dean's grabby fingers.  Xander handed him his own box though so it was nice of the boy.  "Anything else happen?"

"She removed the curse.  The local town pro nearly jumped me.  She and her daughter both wanted me.  Jim drove them off.  The younger one threatened to come out here to go to school so she'd be near me.  Apparently she thinks I'm tasty."

Dean called Jim.  "This new bad girl with the obsessions is how bad?" he asked.  He listened then he banged his head on the table.  "Sure, have fun with that, Jim."  He hung up.  "Xander, she nearly killed her last boyfriend.  Send her away."

"I tried that.  I was nice when she bounced up to ask me if I was new in town.  I offered her a cookie.  She stole a kiss to see what it tasted like.  Then she bragged, which was why her mother tried to taste me.  It's not my fault.  I only saw her one other time when I was helping Melinda pick up something."

"Jesus God," Bobby muttered.  "Did we try to discourage her?"

"Yup, and told her that everyone wanted me to hook up with a guy.  She said she could change their minds really fast for me."  He shrugged.  "I tried.  Jim tried.  Hopefully it won't be a problem since I'm not up there."

"Uh-huh," Dean said dryly.  He ate a muffin before he could say something that would make the boy or Sammy pout.

"Why don't you go rest, Xander," John ordered.  "The lottery guys are coming tomorrow to give you the money.  Then you've got to tell your social worker."

"I called her.  She said that's wonderful.  She'll close out my file until I blow through it like most young guys would."

"Good."  He smiled as the boy went upstairs.  Then he looked at his eldest son.  "She's that much of a problem?"

"After nearly beating him to death for breaking up with her, she snuck into his house later that night to kill his dog, his mother, his sister, and then snuggled into bed with him.  His screams of fear woke up the neighbors so they could call the cops.  She got out on mental deficiencies.  Spent a year in a hospital.  Now she's free."

John groaned, rubbing his forehead.  "That's just wrong."

"At least Xander can defend himself," Sammy quipped with a grin.

"Maybe she has a sister so you can get your own psycho petting time in," Dean snapped back.

"I don't usually draw bad girls, Dean."

"Uh-huh."  He looked at the two adults, giving them helpless looks.

"Sammy, go to bed," John ordered.  "You have school."  He went up there with a small pout.  John and Bobby both got a beer and went back to their plotting on how to break Xander's bad luck for good.  Apparently Melinda hadn't been good enough this time.

"I'll have to take him out with me next time I go trolling.  That way all the bad, evil girls go after him so I don't pick them up," Dean decided.

"PT, Dean," John ordered with a point.  His oldest son went to do that with a huff of noise.  Oh well, he shouldn't be worried about that sort of thing anyway.


Xander met with the lottery official at the library the next morning.  He saw the other guy in there.  "Who're you?"

"A reporter for the local paper, Mr. Harris."

Xander grimaced.  "Slight problem.  I had to leave my actual family to get away from the drunks.  I doubt they want to see that and if it's too wide spread then they'll show up with their hands out."

He considered it.  "I can print a nice story without your picture but it was on the news."

"So I heard.  I'm hoping they didn't see it."

"I can understand those reasons.  Why did you enter that particular drawing?"

Xander grimaced.  "I didn't realize there was that later drawing.  I was only hoping for about ten bucks."

"Interesting.  You're a senior?"

"I switched schools this year and got held back because my last one was so far behind. They said they were teaching middle school stuff."

"That's bad," the reporter said.  "So why come here?"

"Family friend, who didn't want to be mentioned at all if possible.  You guys make him nervous."

"I can understand that."  Xander relaxed some.   "What do you plan on doing with it?"

"I want to go on a road trip after I graduate, see all the states.  I guess I can get a nice car now to do that and traveling money."

"And then some," the lottery official said.  "Can we get a picture of us handing over the check?"  Xander wobbled.  "It's good publicity.  It makes others want to play."  Xander nodded.  "We'll put you off center, focusing on the check, all right?"

"I can easily do that," the reporter said happily.  He snapped the picture.  "I'll even make sure his face is a bit blurry."  Xander beamed a happy smile at him.  "Are you dating anyone?  Going to treat a special girl to something nice like dinner?"

Xander blushed, shaking his head.  "I seem to draw bad girls who want to hurt me.  So I'm not dating right now."

"How?" the reporter asked.

"Between us?  I'm not real sure but my last one wanted to kill my former friends.  This last weekend I picked up a girl when I was visiting a friend of my friend's.  Well, she picked me up and decided to obsess.  She's killed someone else already."  The reporter moaned, shaking his head.  "So, yeah.  No special girl right now."

"That's perfectly reasonable," the reporter assured him.  "I won't mention that.  Just that you're not dating."  Xander grinned and nodded. "Are you going to college?"

"This is the first time I did any good in school but I'm not really a book person.  Maybe vo-tech.  I'm not real sure yet."

"I can put that down."  He shook his hand and left with the lottery official.  "There's probably future stories with his future girlfriends if they keep being that bad."

"Maybe," he agreed.

Xander looked at the check then walked it down to the bank, handing it to the teller he liked to tease when he came in to deposit his allowance.  She gave him the strangest look.  "Scratch off ticket."

"I didn't know they got this large, Xander."

He shrugged.  "No clue.  I didn't mean to."

"You tell Bobby to quit nagging you.  It's not really gambling."  She looked at the check then at him.  "Depositing?"

"And can I have about sixty of what I have?  That way I can buy dinner for everyone?"

"Sure."  She did that for him.  Her manager came over to see the oversized check but that was normal.  They'd have to hand-code it since it wouldn't fit in the machine.  She handed over the balance, the sixty dollars, and a lollipop, getting a grin back.  Then the boy bounced off.  "Such a sweet boy.  Bobby must be banging his head against the wall about that."  The manager giggled, heading off to tell her boss about the oversized check.  They knew it was for publicity purposes but it was much too large for most banks to deal with.


Xander came home that night to find John gone.  "Hunt?" he asked Bobby.

"Some news about that demon he went to track down."

"Dean and Sam?"

"There and here.  Sammy begged not to be taken out of classes.  It was too late to transfer and it'd get him held back a year.  So I've got you both."

Xander gave him a short hug.  "If you want, I can afford an apartment now."

"Hush, boy."  He looked at him.  "Homework?"

"The principal said she gave it to Sam."

"He's sulking in his room.  He and John had more words."

Xander grimaced.  "Sam's not happy."

"He's blinded by his obsession."

"I know why.  I was too."  He went up there, tapping on Sam's door.  "Sam?"

"Go away for a bit, Xander."

"You sure?  I give good hugs."

"I'm fine.  Thanks anyway."

"Okay.  Let me know what my homework is so I don't fail again."  He left him alone.  "He's not happy."

"We know," Bobby assured him.  "Let's go work some more on the engines, Xander."  The boy bounced out after him.  "What else did you do today?"

"I got sixty bucks out so we can hit dinner?"

"That might help.  Sammy!" he bellowed.  Sam opened his room's window.  "Xander's treating to dinner."

"I'm not hungry.  Thanks anyway."

Xander looked at him.  "Who's going to keep me from picking up my next stalker girlfriend, Sam?   Bobby won't.  He'll be too horrified by her.  Please?" he begged, moving closer, using the puppy eyes.  "We need to celebrate that curse being gone too.  Pretty please?"

Sam crumbled.  Now he knew how Dean felt when he did it to him.  "Where are we going?"

"You and Bobby can decide as long as it's under sixty bucks.  That's all I took out."

He grinned.  "We'll see in a while.  I put your homework on your bed."

"Thank you.  Need help with something?  I know the spanish test is coming and you said you were swamped with chemistry."

"I'm good so far.  The spanish test is two days later."  Xander grinned and nodded.  "But we can study together.  Don't forget your math test."  Xander winced and shook his head.  "Try at least."

"I will."  Sam pulled back inside, letting him look at Bobby.  "I hate math."

"I know but it's important.  Not like you're taking the harder math either."

"I know.  I'm still sucky in math.  I need a calculator and can't use one on the test."  He came over to learn some more.  "So, Bobby, when can I get you to help me figure out what I need in a hunter's ride?"

Bobby smirked.  "We'll see what we can modify for you."

Xander looked at him.  "Something new or something older?"

"Older are generally better but we'll see."  Xander nodded, grinning as he bent under the hood to look at what was going on.  "Can you tell where the crack is?"  Xander pointed.  He looked.  "That's one too.  I was thinking about the one in the block."  Xander looked then pointed.  That got a nod.  "How do we fix those?"

"Replace it, it's toast?"

"Right.  Now go find one."  Xander grinned and went to scavenge.  He learned a lot that way.  Bobby got to work taking things apart.  "Find the other part too."

"You said that station wagon's engine wouldn't fit," he called back.  "I haven't seen one of those outside that one."

"Crap," he muttered, going to look.  No, it wouldn't work.  He went to help the boy scavenge.  Sam finally came out to help them, finding one in a pile of spare parts.  Bobby checked it over then nodded, taking it back while the boys carried the block back together.  It was heavy but necessary.   Then they'd talk about Xander's future ride.  The boy could use his own car to go on dates anyway.  Before he brought home something dangerous that got trapped in his devil's trap and had to be killed.




Xander was sick to his stomach but the flu was no reason to ignore an apocalypse.  Bobby and John were with him but John had grounded the boys to the farmhouse so they couldn't help.  They knew what was going to happen from that other hunter - Buffy had decided they didn't need other help so he had to get it from Giles.  Now all they had to do was defeat the giant snake demon.  Xander looked around before pulling something out of John's trunk that he had put there.

He ran toward the graduation ceremony, staying out of sight.  They heard the latin start and the kids get restless.  Then the demon worm grew huge.  The principal started to complain.  Xander tossed the thing on him after arming it.  "Be a sacrifice for a better world," he quipped as the snake ate him for his complaining.  He chomped and the grenade went off, blowing off his nose.  The demon roared, whipping his head around.  Xander grabbed a sword off someone and dove in.  He nodded at Buffy.  "We need another launcher."

"We don't have one.  We can blow the school."

Xander shook his head.  "Won't be necessary.  John!  Get the stuff from Caleb!" he shouted.  He swung at the damaged snout when it came near him and the people running behind him.  "Clear the yard!" he shouted.  The frozen people started to run.  The others guarded them and Bobby helped with that.  John came back with something.  Xander switched off with him when he got tired after twenty minutes, and all the civilians were cleared, using the weapon he had bought.  The demon screamed in pain as its neck was partially severed.  Then the head was taken out with the second shot.  It flopped down with a massive thump.  Xander looked at the gun then at John.  "We still have one shot too."  He tossed it back and looked at the slayer.  "Go fix the bombs.  Not that I don't want to blow this place up."

She put down her sword.  "How did you get here?"

"Car."  He smirked.

"We didn't tell you when."

"Duh, Buffy.  The underground extends outside of Sunnydale and LA."

"Oh."  She looked at the mess then around.  "I have no idea how we'll do this."

Xander smirked.  "Blow the school."  He walked off with John.  "Bobby, you good?"

"Mostly."  He was holding his arm.  "Something's claw got me."

Xander looked.  "Not poisonous."  They all ducked as the school went up.  He grinned.  "Sunnydale style fixing it."

"You're all pyros worse than Dean is," John complained.  "That's going to bring media attention."

Xander shrugged.  "We'll be gone."  He looked back at Buffy, then smirked and waved.  "Write more often.  Your mom forgot cookies this time."  Bobby swatted him.  "Or news."  He walked off with them.  "Not bad for an hour's work."  He looked at John.  "I want to scavenge.  Think you'd let me?" he asked Bobby.

"For what?" John asked.

Xander led them back to the cars and drove Bobby's to the place he wanted to hit.  He got them into the storehouse, looking at them after he flipped on the lights.  "Hunting supplies."

"I don't know any hunters who need artillery," Bobby admitted, looking at John.

John shook his head.  "We'd better not.  The news crews would drive us nuts."   He was wondering how the evil things got this sort of ordinance.  Didn't people like the military and the government keep better track than this?

"Okay, then what about selling that to Caleb and taking the guns, money, and bullets?  We could even slide some Ellen's way as an emergency fund for hunters in need of stuff."

John and Bobby shared a look.  "That's probably not going to fit in the trunk, Xander."

Xander grimaced.  "I can get a u-haul."

"Tacky," Bobby warned.

"Caleb would love me and maybe introduce me to his last girlfriend."

"She's an assassin," John complained.

"So?  Bad girls like me," Xander reminded him with a grin.  One of the local officers came in so he neck pinched him.  "They're all corrupt to the giant snake demon anyway."  He looked at them.  "Ellen would really like to do some renovations and have that emergency bail fund."

"She would," Bobby admitted.  John huffed but rolled his eyes and shook his head.  "It's not stealing.  It might already be stolen."

"The mayor's been around for over a century.  He could've put it all here when it was new."  He looked around then went to check outside.  "Hey, the cop wanted to do the same thing."  He went to move the truck closer, letting them help him load stuff into it.

"Why is this one so heavy?" Bobby complained.

Xander looked.   Then showed him.  "Money weighs a lot when you've got that much together.  Like the jars of pennies that you had me take to the bank for you did."

"If I can paddle Dean's ass, I can do yours," John reminded him.  They finished up and John got in to leave.

Xander waved since he'd be driving the loot.  He looked at Bobby.  "Want me to come home or do you need a vacation from us being cute?"

"Take a break, kid.  Go on a few safe, solo hunts.  Then come back for your senior  year."  Xander beamed.   "Bring me a car you like and we'll modify it this year."  Xander hugged him and bounced out to the truck.  Bobby drove off.  He did need a few days without bouncy kids and fighting Winchesters.  Dean and Sam had a massive fight two days earlier.  Sammy and John were probably going to have one as soon as they got back.  He knew what Sammy planned and it wasn't going to make anyone happy.  John would sulk for months about Sammy going to school after he quit being pissed at the boy for thinking about things beyond the demon.

Xander waited until they were gone then opened the hidden areas to lift out that stuff too.  Sunnydale didn't need gold or more artillery.  Someone might use it.  He closed the truck's back, turning to find Buffy waiting there.  "You wanted me to leave it?" he asked dryly.

She gave him a hug.  "Give me a few of it so I can go shoe shopping?  Mom's happy I'm not shopping right now."  He got into the back, digging until he hit the box of money.  He tossed it to her.  She beamed.  "Thanks, Xander."

"Check to make sure it's not fake.  If so, I can come raid the other three spots he's always hidden stuff."

She gave him an odd look.  "Hidden stuff?"

"Yeah.  We used to LARP around the town as young teens, Buffy.  I know almost every crevice of this hell hole."  She groaned.  He smirked.  "If that's not good, let me know and I'll raid his emergency cash stash."

"Can we do it anyway?"  She looked at the bills.  "They look good."

"Have the bank make sure."  He put her into the cab of the truck and got in to drive them to the spots he had remembered.  One was cleared out but the other two were still sealed.  They got out to raid it, coming out with the truck too stuffed to fit anything else in it.  So he got to load up the front too.  She got him some bags to hide it in.  The last one he called Perry about.  He could handle that amount of weapons, medicine in case of plague, and other issues.  He gave her a hug.  "I'm going to roadtrip and hunt."

"Are you going to come back?" she asked quietly.

He looked down at her, shaking his head.  "Maybe some day but not right now.  The US is a huge place and there's so many more interesting demons than vampires.   Maybe after my roadtrip.  I'll be stopping around while I travel.  Since I have to take an extra year, I'll be back next summer and probably during the holidays.  Plenty of spirits around here."

"Good."  She pinched him on the arm.  "Willow misses you."

"I'm still kinda pissed at her."

"She's better.  My mom tortured her until she gave up bad magic."

"I hope she stays that way then."  He smiled.  "Be safe.  I don't want to attend a funeral."

"I will.  You too.  No telling what you'll date on the road."

"I'm kinda hoping a contact of Bobby's and John's will introduce me to his last girlfriend.  She's an assassin but doesn't go after hunters."  She walked off groaning, shaking her head.  He got into the truck and headed off.  He called Caleb on the way.  "It's Xander.  I looted the apocalypse reason's hidden areas.  Want some toys?"  He grinned.  "That's where I am.  Sure.  No, I'll have to unpack the truck.  It's stuffed full.  Half of it's for you though."  He smirked.  "Thanks, Caleb.  No, John drove off groaning.  Bobby agreed with me though.  Hey, can you introduce me to Brit too?  Well, bad girls like me and you said she was too young for you, Caleb.  Maybe I'm old enough for her?"  The other hunter laughed and said he'd try.  "Cool.  See you in about a day."  He hung up and headed for the interstate.   Even if he got pulled over, everything looked like boxes of stuff that was packed for moving.  All the artillery was in the very back and he'd have to dig through everything else to get to it.


Bobby looked up as a new car drove onto the salvage yard's lot.  It wasn't fully new, but not a classic.  Not a pickup either.  That might've been handy.  He recognized the boy getting out, barely.  "Why are you sunburned?" he asked, coming over to hug him.

He grinned, then winced and felt around his mouth for cracking.  "Flame demon last night decided I shouldn't pick up his girlfriend from the bar.  Pity she dumped him and went with me."  He shrugged then winced.  "Got any of that balm stuff we used when I got skinned?"

"Inside.  Bathroom cabinet."  He looked at the car.  "She's nice."

"She's a rental.  My actual one is coming on a wrecker."  He smirked at him.  "I'll think you'll approve.  She's easily the nemesis of the Impala or your Charger."  He went inside to get that balm.  He sighed in pleasure as the tight feeling ended.  He came out to see the wrecker there.  "Thanks, guys."  He paid the driver and signed the form.  "Have a good trip back."  They nodded and drove off once the car was parked out of the way.  He looked at Bobby.

"Foreign car, boy?"  He looked at it.  The body wasn't in great shape.  The trunk was full of bags so apparently Xander had packed it already.  He pulled out a few to see how deep it was.  It was deeper than the Impala's but not as long.  He walked around to open the hood and whistled.  "Racing engine."

Xander grinned.  "With nox already installed."  He showed it to him.  "But it needs babying.  The thing's groaning when I start it.  So?"

"Jaguar's an expensive car."

"Which means no one's going to be suspecting me of being a bum.  Even if it's a very ancient model that's about as old as John is."

"True."  He looked it over.  "Body work, engine overhaul, trunk installation."  He looked at him.  "It shouldn't take more than three months to fix up."

"Cool.  Because I sent Sam the one I bought off a hunter's daughter when her daddy died."

"Which one?" he asked, looking confused.  He hadn't heard of any recent deaths.

"Rachel Manis's father."

"I remember Rachel when she was little.  Her daddy retired years ago."

"He died of lung cancer.  He still had his old seventies hoopdie, for that day anyway, so I bought it cheap off her and sent it to Sam at Stanford.  He could use one."

"That's sweet."

"His family needed money to bury him.  I paid a lot more than I should have."  He shrugged.  "It happens and they needed it."

"You're a good man, Xander."

Xander grinned.  "I try really hard now and then but the succuba still think I should join them.  Damn, but I ran into two different gatherings, Bobby, and they all decided I was tasty.  I found John after the first and had to run behind him when they tracked me down."  Bobby laughed, shaking his head as he walked off.  "Not kidding.  I'm surprised he didn't call to complain."

"He did.  Said I should hear how that happened."

"Honestly, all I did was check into a motel.  I had *no* clue it was a bad girls society meeting area."  He followed.  "Can I stay for my senior year?"

"No more lottery tickets?" he asked dryly.

"Not necessary."  He pulled out his phone to let him see it.


"Very but handy."  He put it back.  "The money from Sunnydale got split between me and Ellen.  Did she finally paint the bar?"

"Yup.  Made Ash and Jo do it for her."  Xander smirked.  "I saw her cut of the fund."

"She said she put a quarter into that."  Bobby groaned.  "Plus what I sold to Caleb.  He nearly got off on the weapons.  Speaking of, half of those bags have weapons in them.  That way Dean can get some of his own.  John was looking over a truck to trick out so he could give Dean the Impala."

"Go get 'em."  Xander carried in the six bags, leaving four down there.  He dug into them with the boy, whistling at some of the nice things they contained.  "Anything we should worry about?"

"Two artifacts I found last week that I know are possessed but I didn't have anything to capture them into."  He pulled those out, putting them in the devil's trap area.  Then something else got tossed in there.  "I didn't bring that intentionally."  The succuba reformed, hissing at him.  "Yay.  You still can't suck it up."  He looked at Bobby, who glared at him.  "I didn't mean to bring her.  I kicked her out again last night."

"Fine.  We can deal with her."  She tried to leave but was stuck. "We've got to get you a good girl, Xander."

"I tried.  I even tried to pick up the girls Dean had hit on.  Only the bad ones liked me."  He shrugged.  "No clue why."  They carried the weapons to the bunker for now.  John and Dean could add those to their collection.  Bobby came up to help Xander put his clothes up.  Xander pointed at a bag.  "Loose cash.  Order dinner?"

"I can do that."  He dug into the pockets, finding all the loose cash the boy had carried on him.  "Is that over a grand, boy?"

"Yup.  Half of it came from some preacher's wife.  I had no idea she was but the next day I found out from Jim when he recognized her.  She pouted and said that her husband was a slimebag and she wasn't going to give into his sick, ungodly desires.  I had no idea she was married," he said at the dirty look he got.  "Much less to a minister.  Jim talked to her.  They're divorcing because he likes butt sex with late teenage boys."  Bobby groaned.  "But she picked me up and said she wasn't married."

"Fine.  Jim paste you with his bible again?"

"Swatted me afterward but she told him she had picked me up.  He offered to have me castrated.  Dean too."  Bobby snickered, shaking his head.  "She thought I was a gigolo until Jim told her otherwise.  I didn't take the money, she put it into my bag.  I offered it back but she said it was his so I should keep it.  It'd teach him to toss over women for a boy."

"Figures.  Any good hunts?"

Xander grinned.  "You know that possession streak I had?"  Bobby moaned, shaking his head, sitting on the bed.  "It drew three different poltergeists and a ghost to me when I was hunting them down."

"Damn it, boy.  You need to stay out of trouble."

"Well, I won't have a math class this year," he offered.  "But still a science and an english.  Think I should take cooking in vo-tech or something else?"

"We'll see what's offered.  Then you can make a choice."  He walked out with him, taking the money to put away so they could order dinner.  Xander was going to drive him nuts for another year.  Thankfully the local town didn't have too many bad girls in it.

The End.

To The Second Story