To Finish Old Ties.

Xander's cellphone rang, making him look at the display.  Everyone who had the number was here in the Roadhouse celebrating Dean's birthday.  It came up with a name of a corporation.  "Apocalypse Scheduling Helpline, how can I help you?"  He blinked a few times.  "Of course I can schedule one for you.  When did you want to hold your apocalypse?"  He took some paper from Sam, who was gaping, and Ellen's pen from her.  "I'm sorry but I'm afraid we're already booked that month's apocalypse time for that location.  Is there any other location or time that would suit you?

"Yes, I have heard of that prophecy but I'm afraid that's who is going to try.  Unfortunately they didn't book very far ahead and I'm afraid they'll be failing because they didn't fulfil the goals.  They really didn't plan very well," he told the demon on the other side.  "You're right, that prophecy could fit just as well next year and we haven't booked that yet.  Now, if I remember right, that was a pulling hell onto earth prophecy or was it one of the others?"

He made a note of that.  "And you have the virgin's blood?  A hundred?  I thought it only took fifty.  Oh, you're doing the bigger version.  Of course.  That's fine.  We'll schedule you extra time and hunters.  No, it's mandatory I'm afraid.  That way none of your plans can hurt anyone else too badly.  Can't rule the world if everyone's dead after all," he quipped with a grin.  "That's wonderful.  We can do that.  Yes, they'll be like bodyguards.  Of course.  And you want the Sunnydale hellmouth instead of any of the others?  That's wonderful.  I'm sure we can.  Now, remember to gather all your necessary equipment beforehand to bring to the site.  Don't want to interrupt during it to rush off because you forgot something.  It might wake the local slayer up and make her a bit cranky.  She's not on the payroll but I know she does enjoy watching some of the apocalypse attempts."

Dean was giving him a horrified look.  He made another note.  "I know that's very hard to find.  The last I heard, there was a demon procurer in Brazil who had some horn from a slime demon."  He made that note as well.  "I'm sure you will.  Let us know if your plans change so we can alert everyone who needs to know.  Thank you for planning in advance and I hope your apocalypse is a wonderful event.  They're often the most memorable events in a demon's life.  Like a human's wedding is for them.  Do you need a reception?  I can pass you onto the catering department.  They do a wonderful spread including tentacles that can be used for multiple celebration purposes."  He shook his head.

"That's fine.  You can have those virgin hearts afterward.  I've heard they're very tasty.  You have a good night as well and thank you for planning with us.  We'll see you that night.  Me?  Lavelle.  You have a wonderful night and happy planning."  He hung up and handed the note to Bobby.  "Next year, that date, that prophecy, they're doing the bigger version, they've already started gathering the virgin blood, and they think they'll need about four or five hunters to make sure it doesn't spread too quickly so they aren't ruling a dead world."  He handed Ellen back her pen and took a drink of his soda.

"Boy, what possessed and warped you this time?" Bobby demanded.

Xander shrugged.  "They called to schedule it.  He pulled his up call log to show him the corporation ID.  "See, it is demonic."

"Maybe it is," he muttered.  "Ash, do we know about demons at Hewlett-Packard?"

Ash spluttered.  "No," he choked.  He came over to look at the prophecy.  "Do we know this one?"

"Yeah, it's to suck the world onto their hell dimension.  They'll let hunters be there to guard so it doesn't go too quickly and waste the fun."  Ellen took Xander's soda before he could take another drink.

John stared at the boy.  "I should paddle you."

"It was helpful?" he offered, shifting away.  "Besides, I'm too big."

"I can still whip your ass, Xander.  Like I did after the lottery thing."

"You know, that's still going.  I bought a powerball one the other day and won fifteen hundred."  John made a grab for him but he dodged behind Dean.  "You should be spanking him.  It's his birthday.  It's not like I let Sam hire the succuba strippers he wanted to spank him for you."

Bobby moaned, drinking his beer in one gulp.  Ellen gave him another one.  "At least we know when and what'll be going on so some of us can be handy," he said after he drained that one.

"Xander, did you get possessed again?" Sam asked.  "I can do the exorcism for you if we need to."

Xander looked around Dean at him.  "I'm not possessed.  I'm having fun."

"You need laid by something nicer than a slut," Dean said.  "That should cure you.  Ellen, can I have another?"  He walked off shaking his head so Xander couldn't use him for cover.  John tried to grab Xander but he moved out of the way, dancing behind Ash.

Ash looked back at him.  "He'll go through me, Xander.  Don't hide behind me.  And if you're thinking other funny thoughts back there I don't wanna know."

"Eww, Ash.  Even if I was gay you're not my type.  I need an anime sort of geek, not a computer one."  Ash burst out laughing, walking off shaking his head.

Sam grabbed Xander, holding him still by putting one leg around the back of his knees while Bobby handed over his stash of holy water.  He sprinkled some on him, starting the exorcism chant.  "Damn it," he said a minute later.  "Not possessed."

John grabbed the boy to swat.  "Behave."

"I'm trying really hard but they called."

John huffed.  "Fine.  Keep the insanity down, Xander.  Before we commit you somewhere nice with the buckling jacket."

"I don't look good in white," he complained.

Sam swatted him this time.  "Behave!  You can't be Dean's birthday entertainment unless you strip."

"Only if you get me really drunk," he told him, looking totally serious.  Ash choked again.  So did Dean.  "It helped me when I was in Omaha to handle that problem.  I don't remember too much of that week but I made about six hundred bucks so I must've been at least a little bit good."

Ellen shot him with a tranquilizer dart, knocking him out.  "I think he needs a nap.  Jo, help Sam put Xander in a booth."

"I might become a bad, wicked girl if I go near him.  You said so," she said, coming out to help.

"If you do, we'll cure you," John assured her.

"We know you're not, otherwise you would've been drooling on him already," Dean quipped.  Ellen reloaded the tranq rifle and put it down in easy grabbing distance.  "Not like I let Sammy hire the demonic strippers either.  I didn't think we needed that sort of party."  He took another drink of his beer.

Ash looked at John.  "How did Xander warp him?"

"I'm not sure I want the details."

"He's not a busty girl, that didn't happen," Dean said dryly.  "Sammy, has Xander warped you by screwing you?"

Sam shook his head, swallowing his comment before his father swatted him for it.  "Not my type, Dean," he said finally.

John shook his head.  "Why did I get you two as sons?"

"Xander could've been yours instead," Sam quipped with a grin.

"I would've beaten less problems with his mind into him," he shot back.

Ellen shook his head.  "I'm sure it's something Rosenburg did to warp him way back when, boys."

"She's been doing good as a werewolf," Sam said with a smirk.  Ash looked at him funny.  "Werewolves and other shape changers can't use magic.  After the last time, it was the best solution since the Powers ordered their seers to tell us they still wanted her alive."

"I'm just glad that programmer put out the pack to take away your magic," Jo said dryly.  "I didn't want to be a witch."

"Too late," her mother said dryly.  "I've called you that many times."

"No, Momma, you've called me a bitch.  Bit of a difference."  She walked off again to start the jukebox playing something quieter than usual.

Dean looked at her.  "Put on some AC/DC, Jo."  She glared at him.  "It's my birthday."  She huffed but did it.  "Thank you."  He came back to sit down again.  His father swatted him.  "Not like I answered the phone that way."

"I'm wondering if the minions who called's boss is eating them or if he believed it too," Sam said.  He finished his beer.   Ellen darted him too, making Jo whine but help carry him to the bench next to Xander's.

Dean looked at the phone number.  "Who knows.  Ash, computer geeks are your tribe, any idea?"

"Depends on who's in charge."  He walked off shaking his head.  "Happy birthday, Dean."

"Thanks, Ash.  Have a good time surfing for smut.  Send me any good addies?"

"You and Xander so you both get better taste," he agreed dryly.

John shook his head with a moan.   "At least he's not giving you grandkids," Bobby offered, patting him on the back with a huge smirk for the suffering father of demented boys.

John looked at him.  "If Xander's giving me grandkids I think we missed something odd about him a few years ago, Bobby.  We probably would've noticed him being a girl when we had to help him shower after some of the Rosenburg stunts."

"Not what I meant.  I meant Sammy."

"Sammy can give me grandchildren.  I'll warp them so they're wonderful hunters."

"Don't look at me.  I don't want kids," Dean said quickly.  "Eww.  No.  Wrong."  He walked off shuddering to turn on another song he liked.  Then he realized he had sounded a bit like Xander saying that so he'd have to get the taint of Xander out of him somehow soon.  He picked another song to follow it.  That should help some.

"That song's annoying," Jo complained.

"Oh well."  He smirked on his way back to the bar.  His father swatted him again.

"Only twenty-eight more to go," Ellen joked.

"I might give him a concussion," John said before gulping the rest of that beer.  Xander moaned and Sam whimpered, both of them shifting toward each other.  "I don't need to hear those sort of thoughts, Samuel," he called.  "Just like I didn't when you were a teenager."  Sam moaned again.

Dean looked.  "That's not a vision moan.  Xander's either."  Xander's phone rang again.  If this is another demon, I'm going to rant."  He answered it.  "Xander's phone.  He's presently knocked out.  Faith?" he asked, looking confused.  "Yeah, hi, it is Dean.  No, we darted him.  He scheduled an apocalypse for someone."  He shook his head.  "I can tell him when we let him wake up.  Is it an immediate problem?  Sure, we can head that way.  Thanks for telling us you're up and around.  How are you?  We heard, but we figured if Angel could atone you could if you wanted to."

He nodded.  "Sure, we can head that way.  My birthday.  We're drinking at the Roadhouse.  Sure, within three days if you can hold it off?"  He smirked.  "Killer.  Thanks, Faith.  Yup, we'll travel with him.  Sammy was wondering about you the other day.  Later."  He hung up.  "Faith woke up from her coma and had Xander waiting on her," he told everyone.  He made sure the phone was off.  "He sent her to a place near his storage area to finish healing and see if she could rejoin the light."

"When was this?" John demanded.

"After Rosenburg got bitten I think.  He's been evasive about his storage area since then."

"He was taking down some magic dealers," Bobby pointed out.  "I helped make some capturing boxes for him.  He tends to take anything that they shouldn't leave lying around.  I know he's got a crapload of magic books there."

Ellen looked at him.  "Why?  He could have burned them."

"Because not all of them are harmful and they may have something that someone needs some day," John said.  "I asked when I caught him loading up after handling one last month.  I know he had about ten from that one.  Plus three things he very carefully shipped overseas to England."

"Giles sent the one from Sunnydale's stuff to a coven he knows over there," Dean told him.

"That's right, in Devon.  So he's keeping the artifacts and the books, but getting rid of anything storing power?"

"Probably," Dean agreed.  "We can check.  Maybe he'll let a few go to Giles or someone."

"There's too big of a risk of him being blown up out there by an apocalypse, which means lost knowledge," Bobby said.  "We had a talk about that and him offering Giles some secured storage space with his stuff."

"As long as he's not using it," Ellen said.

"No, he kept it at the floating branch level."

"Why didn't he do the other game?" she demanded.

"Because if the hellmouth needs a sudden witch, they're without any," Dean told her.  She slumped.  "Giles can do some.  Xander can do some.  Tara can do some but she's outside of town with Oz because someone tried to hurt Buffy with a gun the other day.  Oz was tracking them and saved her."  He finished his current beer.  "He's being respectful and not making any moves on her but she's safe."

"She could probably pull something impressive if she had to but she'd need and want backup," Bobby said.  "We all talked about it and then with Xander.  We agreed he should keep it in case there's something like an apocalypse since he grew up dealing with those."  Ellen sighed but nodded.  "He has kept it at the occasional floating soda when he's feeling nasty or robbing a soda machine that steals his money."

"He needs a better diet."

"I've seen him live on ho-hos," Bobby told her.  "Easily."

"Still needs a better diet."

"We'll talk to him about remembering what vegetables are outside of chinese food," Dean promised.  She smirked at him.  "He likes it.  He's even eaten places I wasn't sure weren't serving cat and dog."

"He'll eat nearly anything but he still hates tofu," Bobby told her.

"I don't blame him," John said.  "I think that stuff's slightly evil myself."

"It's the modern version of soylent green," Dean agreed.  John shuddered.  "Sorry, Dad."

"Saw that one the other night when I couldn't sleep.  What did she need?"

"She thought she heard something demonic moving in the storage area but she wasn't sure and it wasn't setting off her senses so she wasn't sure how he wanted to handle it."

"We can go," John promised.

"I thought you were dealing with the demon-torturing scientists in Utah, Dad," he said dryly.  "We can handle it."  John gave him a dirty look.  "I doubt she's still bad."

"Hopefully not.  You sure?"

"With Sammy and Xander?  Yeah."

"Fine.  Check in often."  He finished his latest beer.  "Let me sleep so I can hit the road tomorrow.  Happy birthday, son."  He clapped him on the back and walked off to use one of the beds Ellen kept hidden in the back.

"At least it's been an amusing birthday," Dean told Ellen, who laughed and nodded.  "Hitting the sack too."

"Put them to bed."

"Let 'em nap off the dart there.  Xander might actually sleep through the night.  Sammy too.  Neither one do enough of that."  He walked off, going to hit the other cot.

She shook her head but locked up and left them laying there.  They wouldn't cause any problems if the tranquilizer wore off too soon.


Dean pulled the Impala behind Xander's car, parking her in visitor's parking.   It was a fairly retro block style building for Nebraska.  Xander gave him an odd look.  "Not like we own here."

"Good point."  He walked over to the storage facility's doors, keying in a code to let them in.  They walked past rows of heavy steel doors.  Xander pointed at one.  "Mine."

"How stuffed is yours?" Sam asked, looking the door over.  The keypad was next to the door.  He hadn't seen the code Xander had punched in up front so he had no idea what this one could be.  They kept going, following him to the industrial looking elevator.  Dean closed the gate and they went up, coming out into a large loft area.  Dean whistled.

Faith jumped, staring at them.  "Scare me why don't you!" she complained.

Xander grinned.  "You should see them first thing in the morning before coffee."  She snorted, glaring at him.  "A day earlier than we thought.  So what's going on?"

She pulled him over, letting him listen to what she was hearing.  "That's been going on but it's more intense at night."

Xander considered it, mapping the building mentally.  "That's Jack's space.  He's another hunter so there's no telling what he's got stored."  He called him once he had found his information card for the storage space.  "Jack, Xander Harris.  Faith's here at the loft and heard something moving in your storage area.  Can we break in to check?"  He smiled.  "Thanks.  No idea yet, but we know it's dark reactive."  He listened to the three things it could be.  "We'll keep it down, promise.  Dean and Sam Winchester are with me too.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "It's either the leprechaun he found last year or it's one of two imp looking things he found.  Any of them need to be caught and put back."

"Leprechauns are bad?" Faith asked.  "Like that horror movie?"

"Not that bad but they're chaos causing creatures," Dean told her.  "They hate it when we ship them back to Ireland too."

Xander nodded.  "Did that and got a nasty official letter for it."  They walked down there, Xander tapping in the master code.  Dean and Sam's flashlights came on.  "Guard the door, Faith.  It's small and fast."  She nodded.  They walked in and Xander turned on the overhead work light.  It was halogen so it was nice and bright.

"Dude, blinding," Dean complained.

Xander looked at him.  "It's not that bad.  Only about sixty watts."  He walked around, finding where the thing was moving and trying to hide in the shadows.  "It's an imp thing."  He swatted it into the light, watching it scream.  Dean caught it, tossing the towel in his hands over it.  Xander found the open box, looking it over.  "It cracked it."

"Got any spares, boytoy?" Faith asked.

"I think I have one left.  Go check."  She nodded, hurrying to do that.  Sam guarded the door in case something else showed up.

"Took some of the lottery winnings?" Sam guessed.  Xander smiled and nodded.  "Figures.  The loft looked comfy."

"It is.  Faith's staying there while she works through some issues from Sunnydale."  She came back with an empty sealing box.  "By the way, Faith.  Some demons called me during Dean's party to schedule an apocalypse next year."

"Why?" she asked Dean.

"We weren't really sure but we tranq darted him when it happened," Dean said.  He slid the creature into the box.  It started to complain so Xander moved all the little pieces of furniture from the other one into there.  The creature settled down and they sealed it into the box.  Xander got the other box's padlock off and put it on that one.  "Are we keeping this here?"

"We have no idea what to do with it," Faith told him.  "Coyote said he couldn't banish it, he tried.  He couldn't figure out how to kill it.  So he made it a nice little house."

"I was in sunlight," the box complained.

Xander put it under a shelf.  "Stay in there.  The next time you get out I'm going to test how to kill your or give you to one of the Initiative scientists."

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you."  Xander checked the others.  "Still sealed thankfully."  One was making complaining noises and making her box rock so he put it down there too.  She settled down too.  He tapped the leprechaun's box.  "You good?"   It mumbled something.  "I can't put ale in there without letting you out.  Create some like you do gold, dude.  And behave before I put you in a cold iron box."  The leprechaun settled down and they heard a can open.  Xander shook his head.  "The local store must be driven nuts by him stealing six packs."

He checked, everything else looked all right but one thing.  He walked over to look at it.  Then he called again.  "Captured the little imp thing.  It's in a new box since it cracked the last one trying to get away from some light.  They're both under the shelf.  The leprechaun stole some more beer.  Did you leave raven feathers and a stick on the work table?  Yeah, this is where it is.  Thanks, man.  Closing it up now."  He hung up.  "He'll get that in a few days, Faith.  He said it disappeared while he was working on it."

"Sure."  She let them out then sealed it back up.  She punched in the code and it locked very loudly in the quiet building.  "Thanks, X."

"No problemo."  He smiled at her.  "Since we're here, dinner?"

"Sure."  She walked up there and gave them menus.  "Let me know where you're buying from."

Xander rolled his eyes.  "You learned that move from Cordy."

"Could be," she quipped happily.

Sam sat down, looking at her.  "How have you been doing, Faith?"

"I've been working on my shit with a retired hunter.  Bob's not bad.  Oh, Xander, Ruby was here again?"

"I think you two could do each other some good.  She wants to atone for being a demon by hunting.  You're a hunter who went bad and wants to rejoin good."  He shrugged.  "Made sense to me."

"She's not bad to talk to.  She was all bummed about her last one."

"It happens to all of us," Dean said.  "Ruby, that one hunter chick, she's a demon?"  Xander and Faith both nodded.  "How did you hear?"

"She hit on me," Xander said dryly.  Faith snickered.  "Seriously."  He grinned at them.  "I figured it out and told her what I knew and that I wasn't going to bust her for it.  If she wants to take out the bigger problems, so be it.  Less work for us."  Dean and Sam both nodded once at that.  "Yes, I know your dad wouldn't approve.  But hell, we worked with Angel."  He shrugged and looked at the menus.  "How is Bob doing?  Pizza?"

"Sounds good to me," Dean agreed.  "Sammy?"  Sam nodded.  "Faith?"

"I had some Pizza Hut yesterday so order from Danny's.  He's got good, authentic pizza."

"Sure, I can afford that," he quipped.  He placed the order with his debit card then hung up and looked at her.

"Bob's doing better.  He's not drinking as much.  He tells me a lot of stories about before he lost his legs.  I can see helping him around the area."  Xander smiled.  "Don't be too smug.  He drives me nuts staring at my tits."

"He's a guy, Faith.  We all stare at tits unless we're fully gay."  She rolled her eyes.  "You have a very nice set to stare at and I'm sure Bob misses women since he thinks missing lower legs means no one will hit on him."

"Yeah, that's what he said.   He tried to bribe me to take off my shirt and jiggle for him to dream about."  Sam grinned at that so she swatted him.  "Mind out of the gutter," she ordered.

"That would be a pretty sight," Dean told her.  "Bob?"

"Bobby would probably know him," Xander told him.  "He's a bit older than he is.  Maybe sixty something if I'm feeling mean."

"Huh.  I'll have to ask.  He sounds like he's a good former hunter."

"Then a demon trapped him and he had to lose his legs or his life to get out," Faith told him.  "He gave up his legs and crawled out.  He does know Bobby.  I mentioned him and Pastor Jim.  I miss Jim.  He was kick-ass to talk to."  Xander smiled and nodded.  "Anyway."  She went to get the pizza, bringing both boxes back up.  "Fire cooked in a brick oven," she moaned, taking a sniff.  "Real, authentic New York slices."  She sat down to inhale her first one.  The guys got their own.  "Bob's doing better."

"I'll tell Bobby to call him."

"Thanks.  He might like that."

Xander texted that to Bobby's phone, getting back a question mark.  So Xander added a bit to the message.  "He said he'd pop around to see him."

"That's cool.  He could use more company.  He tried to pay Ruby twenty bucks to go to demon face and dance for him.  He's a bit warped."

"I think hunting does it to us all," Sam sighed.  He stuffed his mouth.

"No, I think that one's all Bob.  He said he used to find demons at nearly every strip club in his day."  She ate another bite with a small moan.

"I nearly rented the succuba I found stripping for Dean's birthday," Xander told her.

"Dad would've freaked out," Dean told him.  "No succuba.  I don't play that way, Xander."

Xander shrugged.  "The last one was nicer than some real women are to me."  Faith looked at him.  "They have been."

"They want you to come lead their bad girl army or something?" she demanded.

"No clue."  He stuffed his mouth.  "Call her blondness yet?"

"Nope.  I'm not sure I won't snap and kill her."  Sam and Dean both stared her down.   "There for a bit I wasn't miss perfect slay gal."

"We knew that," Sam told her.  "We heard about the combat accident."

"No, I mean against B's rep and style, I wasn't miss slay perfect."

"Oh," Sam sighed.  "That sort of competition.  I know how that feels," he said, nodding his head at Dean.  "I get measured against him all the time.  Especially by Dad."  Dean glared at him.  "And sometimes by Dean himself."

"We like you being Sam," Xander told him firmly.  "The same as we like Faith being Faith.  She's not Buffy, you're not Dean, and it's fairly clear neither of you are clones, no matter which measurement you compare on."  Dean smiled at him for that.  "Besides, who else would explain science to me if you were Dean, Sam?"

Sam grinned at him.  "Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome."  He looked at her.  "She's better on that."


"No, she is.  Angel's doing his atoning in LA with Cordelia as his seer."  She burst out cackling at that.  "Willow's now a werewolf because the last time her magic slipped it was memory spells on her girlfriend.  That keeps her from magic."

"Ooooh," she said with a wince.

"The Powers told Cordy they wanted to keep her," he said dryly.  "Oz is back though.  That game thing?  Was Oz."

"How is wolfie?"

"He has control so he can't change on the full moon," Sam told her.  "Something he learned in Tibet that he's teaching to the werewolves in his family.   He's also guarding Tara since one of the bad guys locally nearly killed her."


"Uber geek who took a mental vacation to la-la land," Xander told her.  "He started to confuse his desires for reality with the real one.  Went after Buffy and Tara was too close.  Oz saved her."  He stuffed his mouth and chewed.  "I like these guys," he said once he had swallowed.

"So do I but they're damn expensive," she complained.  Dean looked at the menu then nodded and ate his next bite.  "So, Wolfie's back with Red?"

"No.  Because he might kill her."

"Oh, crap," Faith muttered.

"Wolf alpha syndrome.  He has adopted Tara as a pack member though.  It gives her someone to fuss over.  They worked out the whole 'I'll wait for you' thing that Willow had going with him."

"She cheated again?" she demanded.

"Tara didn't know.  Tara's a sweet, good girl," Xander told her.

"Huh.  Like how sweet?"

"Like I nearly got cavities she's so sweet and gentle," Dean told her.  "Stutters too.  Long dresses.  Powerful witch though."

"Hmm.  So Red quit driving stick?"  Xander nodded.  "After saying she'd wait for Wolfie."


"Most alpha wolves would kill a pack member who turned on them," Sam told her.  "Oz convinced his to banish her like she had run from the pack."

"That's probably a good idea."

"Since he doesn't get out in wolf form they won't meet and fight that way," Sam told her.  "Tara's very sweet though.  I'm wondering why she's so shy and feels a bit...hurt to me."  He looked at Xander, who quirked an eyebrow up.  "So did you when we first met."

"I was hurt when you met me, Sam.   But to answer that one, Buffy ran her parents off.  She nearly broke and killed them."  Sam smirked.

"B?  Kill a person?" Faith asked.

"Yeah, B nearly killed two people.  Her dad and stepmom.  Spike, who the Initiative got and chipped, nearly helped."

"Damn," Faith said in awe.  "Hold on, I heard about those from your notes.  Can't hunt chip or other chip?"

"Can't hunt people chip.  He can do demons so he's been helping Buffy around town."

"I'm sure he's hating being compared to Fang," Faith quipped.  "B does like to compare."

"Before she lost her powers, back when Oz left to go to Tibet, Willow did a will spell."

"As in 'you have my willpower'?" Dean asked hopefully.

Sam shook his head.  "As in 'my will be done'.  She was drunk and bummed from losing him.  I saw the letter from Buffy complaining about nearly marrying Spike."

Faith burst out cackling and rolled around on the couch until she fell off it and giggled into the floor.  Dean looked nauseated.  "She nearly made the slayer marry a vampire?"

"Angel and Buffy dated for a while," Xander told him.  "Until his soul got free from being happy about breaking her in."

Dean turned a bit green, putting down his pizza.  "How can anyone sleep with a vampire?"

"No clue," Xander told him.  He smiled at Faith, who was still giggling.  "There's something you can compare, Faith.  You never slept with any vampire."  She burst out in new giggles.  It was good to hear her being happy.  He finished that slice.  "This one's nearly gone, guys.  Only two slices left."

Dean finished his and got one.  Sam got the other one.  Xander opened the other box and gave him and Faith another then put it in the fridge for breakfast.

Faith finally calmed herself down, pulling herself back up on the couch holding her stomach.  "I needed that."

"See, can't be evil," Xander told her with a grin.  "Evil can't laugh."

She smiled at him.  "Good point."  She ate her piece of pizza before one of the boys stole it from her.  "Am I staying on the couch?"

"There's two cots, your bed, and the main bed," Xander told her.

"Good point.  So you're sleeping where?"

"Don't know.  Guys, water bed, two cots, couch, or Faith if she jumps you but that is solely up to her?"

"Not tonight, I've got a migraine," she quipped back.

"Want a neck rub?" Dean asked with a grin.  "I won't hit on you unless you flirt back."

"I'm good.  Thanks."  Someone pounded on the door so she jogged off to get it.  "Hey," she said.  "I have no idea who you are."

Xander came down behind her.  "Bobby.  C'mon, it's getting chilly."  They let him inside and she trooped back up there.  "You were in the neighborhood?"

"Jack called, wanted to make sure the new boxes were good."

"I used the last one I had free."

"That's fine."  He let Xander show him where Jack's storage area was.  He checked on both of the boxes.  They were grumbling at the overhead light but that was fine. The leprechaun belched and cheered on United to 'kick that goal'.  He shook his head at that one and let Xander close it up again.  "Bright overhead lights."

"Why leave a shadow when you're working," Xander said dryly.  He punched in the lock code to relock it and walked him to the elevator so they could go upstairs.  "Guys, look who Jack called."

"Hey, Bobby," Dean said with a grin.  "Have you met Faith?"

"Heard the boy talk about her a lot."  He shook her hand.  "Where is Bob?"

"Downtown by two bus stops," she told him with a smile.  "He's a bit cranked."

"He always was.  Bob used to find more succuba than even Xander here can."

"He offered Ruby money to go to demon face and dance," she told him.

Bobby shook his head.  "Boy's still warped then.  I'll pop in on him tomorrow."  He looked at Xander.  "You okay?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"Willow's trying to figure out how to get her magic back."

"I didn't think she could do that."

"Neither did Oz but he called a warning in case and kept Tara with him all day."

"He's good to her," Xander said.  "If she liked boys I'd encourage that."  He stretched.  "So far I'm fine.  If I'm not, you'll hear.   Really, I'd rant."

"Good.  Now let's look at your storage area."

Xander sighed.  "Must we?"

"Yup," Dean agreed.  "Dad wanted to know what you've been storing from those magic dealers you've been going after."

"I hate those fuckers," Xander told him.  "Absolutely hate them.  Half of them can infect their targets from a distance so they have to come to him.  They're turning witches that could stay good against their wills.  I absolutely loathe them."

"Tell us how you really feel," Faith quipped.  "I can show you his."

"You can come with us," Sam said with a grin.  "Dad's worried he's got something powerful down there."

"Yup," Xander agreed.  He got up and let them to the elevator then down to the back corridor of the building.  There were two large storage areas here.  He opened one.

"I thought yours was on the other row," Sam told him.

"If you guys wanted to look at the magic dealer's stuff, it's in here.  The other is artifacts and other things.  Speaking of, I've got to get Jack to hand two of them back since they're Native American."  She shuddered.  "Not our fault the chaos guy was trying to call them back."

"No, it wasn't," she agreed.  "Glad I helped with that, X."

"Me too, Faith."  He gave her a grin and a hug around the shoulders.  "Bobby's the guy I went to when I left."

"Figured that part out."  She elbowed him with a grin.  "Not yours."

"Didn't figure you were.  If you wanted me that much, you'd tell me.  Or knock me down again."  She giggled, nodding.  Bobby found the light switch finally and flipped it on, showing racks of books and a few boxes.  They went to look them over.

"Damn," Dean said, staring at one thing.  "How did you get this one?"

"Someone paid him in it," Xander said grimly.  "I wasn't going to leave it there for some unsuspecting cop or thief to find."  He moved him over to another one.  "We need to hand those over."

"I know a female hunter who can do that," Bobby said.  He looked at the relics.  "She'd probably be more than happy to.  They're stored well enough for now."

"I wanted to be as respectful as I could."

"Good job, boy."

"Thanks, Da...Bobby," he corrected quickly.

Bobby stared at him.  "What was that?"

"Nothing.  I said Bobby," he said firmly.

"That's not what I heard."

"Then you're having mental vacation issues?" he guessed, looking away to lead Sam to something more interesting than the dusty books.  "Chaos spells, Sam.  Might eat you."

He looked at the little Magic 8 Ball.  "Why is this here?"  Xander handed it to him.  "Will Dean pick up the next stripper he sees," he muttered before shaking it and turning it over to read the answer.  "Her name is Candy and she has genital warts.  Huh."  He gave it a very confused look.  Those things weren't supposed to answer that way.

"It's very good at telling me when I'm being stupid too," Xander told him.  A new message floated up.   "No I'm not going to release the demon trapped in you.  You're too damn handy.  Who else would I ask stupid questions I already know the answer to?"  A 'fine' message floated up.

"Dude, that's just...strange," Sam said, putting it back.  Xander grinned at him.  "The magic dealer had this?"

"The chaos sorcerer he was feeding black magic to made it for him."

"Ooooh," Faith said.  She had noticed Bobby starting to growl.

Xander looked at her.  "Goosed?"

"No, I'm not near the pinching skeleton there."  She pointed Dean at it.  And sure enough it pinched him on the chest.

"Same guy," Xander told him.  Bobby pulled Xander over in front of him.  "Sorry."  He ducked his head down, trying to stare at the floor.

He stared at him.  "I'm probably as close you'd ever get anyway," he decided.  "I'm the best male role model you've had too.  Not in front of others."

Xander beamed.  "I wouldn't do it at the Roadhouse anyway."

"Good."  He ruffled his hair.  "Get a haircut.  Clean your car too, it's messy inside."  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Can we uncharm that skeleton?"

"I was going to send it to Sunnydale's science classes.  That way they had one that wasn't a former student.  Literally."  Bobby groaned, shaking his head.  "They wouldn't mind that it occasionally gropes people."

The eight ball turned itself over.  Sam read the new message.  "Can't do that, Xander.  He said it won't last very long there.  Sunnydale is having another apocalypse."

"It's about bi-monthly I think," Faith said dryly.

Sam shook his head.  "The message said that the town's going to be closed next year."

Xander looked at it, walking over.  "Why?"  A new message appeared.  "The one I scheduled?"  It faded in a 'no, dumbass' answer.  "Okay.  Which prophecy?"  It popped up a name.  "I'll warn Giles.  Will it be worse than the ascension?  Because I can get her more weapons."  He grinned at the 'you scare me' message.  "Aww, thank you!"

Sam looked.  "He scares us sometimes too.  We've seen him petting weapons when he's hyper and bouncy on chocolate.  Right before the ascension actually."  The demon in the eight ball groaned and flipped back over again.  He grinned at Xander.  "Should we worry?"

Xander walked over to the shelves, looking for one.  He made a happy noise when he found it and pulled it down to open it.

"Bobby clearly made you a book nerd," Dean joked.  "He's the circle's book nerd.  You're it for the younger group."  Xander blew a raspberry at him.  He handed Bobby what he found, letting him see it.

Bobby read then grimaced.  "How'll this take down a town?"  Xander pointed at something.  "What's that?"

"Alchemy," he said, finding that book to hand him.  "Radioactive too."  Bobby found that solution and read, then groaned.  "So if we know anyone who might be an official sort...."

"John keeps taking them down," Bobby admitted.  "Can I?"

"Sure.  Need any other sources?"

He looked over the shelves, taking a few other books too.  "Thanks, kid."

"Welcome."  He walked off, locking the door once everyone was out.  The skeleton was pouting but oh well.  They went to his other locker.  It had the more normal dark artifacts trapped with notecards on the outside of the boxes.  A few more personal things.  A few earlier pictures.  The certificate the one time he had made Honor Roll.  A picture of him at graduation.  A picture put by itself on a shelf of a very young Xander and another boy and girl.  Bobby stared at that for a minute then at the boy but he was ignoring him looking at it.  Xander dug out a boot box and handed it to Bobby.  "The ones you had me pick up for you that the demon tried on."

He looked them over.  "A bit of scorching from the holy water, a bit of slime in a tread.  I can wash 'em."  He tucked them under his arm with the books.  "Thanks."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "See, nothing too bad."  Sam and Dean both stared at him.  "What?  You didn't like the skeleton?"

"Not as strange as some things," Dean decided.  "We'll tell Dad he's a worrywart for no reason."  Xander grinned at him for that.  "Let's hit the sack for the night, guys.  Sammy found a possessed housewife in Peoria that Dave said he can't handle."

"There's a Big Foot looking thing up in the woods upstate," Faith offered.  "Trying to nibble on hikers but a few got free and told the press.  They think it's a deformed wolf."

Xander shrugged.  "We'll draw straws for that."

"You can't do possessed things," Bobby reminded him.  "You said your shields are shaky again."

"Oh, yeah.  After the last time in Sunnydale they have been."  He grimaced.  "Who's out that way?"

"Thomas," Dean said dryly.

"He might shoot the housewife," Bobby complained.

Faith shrugged.  "I might be able to handle that."

Xander shrugged.  "If you want.  It's trapping and an exorcism.  I usually ask to see if they have any intel on anything coming up in Sunnydale.  Dave will be polite or I'll kick his ass."

"Then I can handle that," she decided.

"We'll get you a plane ticket tonight," Xander said with a grin.  "That way you can warn Bob you'll be off for a few days."  He walked off with her.  She relocked his storage area and they went up to pick beds.  He ended up on the couch.  Bobby had his bed, the boys had the cots, and Faith had hers to herself.  It'd work for the night.  Xander heard something moving later that night and threw a dagger at it, making Bobby yelp.  "Sorry."

"Not a problem."  He pulled it out of the wall and handed it back.  "Glad your aim was off."  He went to the bathroom then back to the very nice king sized water bed.  The boy had nearly gelded him with it.  He needed to work on his aim and his meanness.  He heard Xander flip onto his side and start to snore again, shaking his head.  He hadn't heard that in many months.


Faith came off the plane with her backpack and got the bag Xander had checked for her.  She came out to find some guy holding a sign with her name.  "Are you Dave?" she asked.

"Xander told me you'd come help me since the Winchesters were too far off."

"They're in upper Idaho chasing a creature eating hikers."

"Figures."  He escorted her out to his truck.  "Done many exorcisms?"

"No, but Bobby went over it with me this morning."  He gave her a sideways look.  "I'm a slayer."

"I didn't know Buffy died."

"Back in tenth grade.  X knows CPR."

"Oh, you're her.  We heard rumors of a second one but that you were injured."

"Comatose after a fight with B.  He's been letting me heal."

"That's fine.  At least you can track?"  She nodded.  "Good, cause I lost her again.  We'll have to retrap her and put a devil's trap around her."

"We can do that.  I can tackle like the best football player," she joked.  He grinned back.  He started the truck and pulled out, heading out of the parking garage and into the city.  "Do you have one of the storage areas in X's building?"

"No, I heard too late.  I could use it.  Be cheaper than my current one.  Safer too."

She nodded.  "They're very nicely insulated magically.  Even if things get free inside they can't get outside.  Special locks.   He's got a lot of neat stuff in his.  Like the skeleton that pinches.  It liked Dean a lot, kept trying to get him before we shut it up again."

Dave gave her an odd look.  "A skeleton that pinches?  Is it possessed?"

"Not the normal way according to him.  Bobby might be driving it off today."

"Could help.  Why would he keep something like that?"

"It was amusing him to no end.  Plus, hey, not another evil chick that wanted him since it was a male skeleton."

"Good point.  Xander has some horrible taste in women, Faith."

"Not always.  I tapped him once."

He smiled at her.  "He any good?"

"Very good."

"I'll try to set him up with nicer girls."

"He might turn good girls bad, not real sure about that."  He laughed.  "He might."  She let that drop, watching the town.  It looked pretty normal, but she did spot a few demons wandering through the alleys.  "Much demon problems?"

"No, they have a peaceful community hidden.  Man, did that blow some egos when Xander told the others about the demon community in Sunnydale that was there to hide in plain sight.  Most of us had no idea about them.  Even the hunters that swung through there didn't see them."

Faith nodded. "That's why slayers were made."  He grinned again and pulled up in front of the motel.  She got out to get her own room.  He got the extra bag of stuff Xander had packed.  It had a few nice weapons and more holy water from Bobby.  She weighed the knife in her hand then stuck it into her back waistband.  "Let's find her."

"If you need to, you can rest.  She's been coming out at night."

"Best time to do it, when they're napping."

"I don't know where she's nesting, Faith."

Faith smirked.  "Where's the demon bar?"


She nodded, walking him outside.  They were in the same area as a lot of the demons had been.  She found one working at the diner up the street.  "Where's the demon bar?" she asked it.  It stared at her.  She stared back.  "We're looking for someone."

"You're a slayer," she said quietly.

"I know that."  She smirked.  "I'm Faith."  The demon started to sniffle.  "I don't do things that're peaceful.  Why give myself more work.  I'm looking for the possessed thing.  Xander sent me to help the hunter guy."

"I know she hunts by the elementary school's park.  I'm not sure where she's lairing, Slayer Faith."

"Demon bar might?"

"Possibly.  It's on twelfth by the liquor store.  Behind it down the alley."

Faith nodded.  "Thanks.  Be peaceful and safe."  The demon nodded quickly at that advice.  She and Dave walked out.  "How far?"

"Seven blocks.  Her hunting grounds are about another ten past that."

"That's cool."  She got into the truck.  He got in to drive.  They found the liquor store and she walked into the bar first.  "Morning."

"F..Faith," the bartender stuttered.  "You were in a coma, slayer."

"I know that.  Then I woke up and X took me to his place to finish healing.  Looking for the possessed bitch.  X has me helping other hunters."

One of them shifted.  "You're back to the light?"

"Probably."  The demon nodded at that, looking down.  "X sells a good game for the light's side."

"She's lairing in the old grain building," another demon told them.  "We've felt major demon magic there recently.  If it's not her, it's a problem anyway."

Faith nodded.  "We can look there.  Any other place it may be?"  She could get used to this respect thing they had going for her.  It was like she was Buffy.

"The grain building is the only place we've felt major demons," that one told her.

"I've seen her going into the old bakery's back room.  It's nearly condemned now."

"We can check both places," Dave assured him.  "Thank you."

"Is she hunting?" one asked timidly.

"Nope."  She smirked.  "I only hunt evil bitches anymore.  Too much work otherwise.  Why make you peaceful guys fight me back?  Oh, Papa Winchester is going after all the Initiative guys who didn't get arrested.  Let him know if you see any?"  They all nodded.  "Good deal, people.  Also, X does not like magic dealers.  He's on some sort of crusade."

"We will tell them if we should run into any," the bartender said stiffly.  "Thank you, slayer."

"Welcome and thanks for the help."  She put down a few hundreds she had gotten off Xander.  "Round's on me, guys."  She walked out with Dave.  "That was almost a power trip," she said once they got into the truck.

"It seemed like it.  You went bad at one time?"

She cleared her throat.  "There was a lot of pressure to be perfect, blonde, have a good family, and be the former cheerleader who tossed a human at me during a fight.  It got to me.  After B and I rumbled, I ended up in a coma.  X got me when I woke up and helped me heal."

"Good.  The light can always use more fighters, Faith.  Plenty of bad things out there to hunt anyway."

She nodded.  "There are.  I still miss Pastor Jim.  We talked a lot way back when."

He smiled.  "We all miss Jim thumping someone upside the head with a bible.  Did it to John Winchester plenty of times when he needed it.  Bobby shot him once with rock salt to the butt."  She laughed.  "I take it you've met them?"

"All three at various times.  The Winchesters came out to handle Red a few good times."  He nodded, driving them to the first site - the bakery.  She got out to check, waving him inside.  "Can we do the devil's trap?"

He nodded, starting on the floor.  She stopped him.  "What?"

"How about the ceiling?  Xander said Bobby had one on his so they wouldn't realize they were stepping into one."

He smiled.  "That's sneaky.  I'll have to remember that."  He looked for something to stand on.  She boosted him up, making him squeak.  "Um, thanks."  She smirked so he hurried to draw it.  Then she let him down gently.  "Let's hit the other site.  If we miss her there, we'll catch her here."  They left to check the other area.  A different higher demon as it turned out, but gooey when killed.  They went back to shower then eat something before checking the bakery.  She was stuck and swearing in the devil's trap.  Easier to handle this time.


Bobby walked the shaman/hunter he knew into Xander's building, taking her to the storage area.  "He found them in a chaos sorcerer's possession.  She was trying to summon them back for something."

"People like that annoy us all."

Xander looked over at her as they walked in.  "She tried to sacrifice me too.  That way she could call me back to be her warrior too.  She wanted to take on a higher demon to gain its power."  He pointed.  "I kept them as good as I knew how.  They haven't been touched since I took them.  The wrappings around them are silk."

She smiled at him.  "I've heard someone was taking down magic dealers."  Xander waved a hand around, making her grin.  "Good."  She walked over to look at the artifacts, nearly swearing at the bones and jewelry.  "Well kept, young man."  She pulled up the case she was carrying to carefully put them inside after a short prayer over them.  "Do we know which tribe origins they had?"

"I know they were both shaman.  She bragged that they were both powerful shaman."  She nodded.  "I have her diary."  He pointed.  She got it down and flipped until she found the last entry then moved backward from there.  She smirked at him.  "Good?"

"Both tribes have descendants.  They'll gladly accept them back.  Thank you."

"People like that annoy the fuck outta me," he assured her.  "Bad enough we screwed things up in the past; doing it now is nearly unholy."

She nodded.  "Good boy."  She closed the case and carried it off.  "If you find any more, let me know through Bobby."

"I can do that.  Do you want me to handle the ghost in the tribal burial ground?" he called after her.  She came back.  He held up the clippings he had been finding recently.  "Usually I'd let Jack, Coyote, do it, but he's in Tennessee with another issue."

She took them to look over.  "I'll see if I can get him to pass on.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  I'd hate to upset anyone and get cursed for trying to help.  Curses suck."

She nodded.  "They do."  She walked off with that as well.  It was something a shaman should do and she was a trained one.  The nice white boy could but he might upset someone.  She understood that point very well.  She went to the nearest tribal center, walking in and greeting the chief.  "I have some artifacts a hunter found with a chaos sorcerer."

"Shaman Talldeer.  Which hunter?"

"One who reads like chaos to my sight.  The one who brought me to him I've known for years."

"Good."  She took the diary to look over.  The artifacts would stay sealed until she could make the calls to get their people notified.  The clippings got put down in front of her.  "We were not sure how to deal with it."

"I can.  He said he would have but he didn't want to upset anyone."

"Agreed.  That's very sweet of him."

"He said with what happened in the past, what the sorcerer did was unholy."  She smiled.  "He's a very nice young man."  She found her address book and made the calls.  The local tribe could house them properly and safely until she could get them into the proper hands.


Faith walked into the Roadhouse and looked around.  Dave walked in behind her.  "X told me about this place."

Jo looked up from her spot behind the bar.  "Dave, new hunter?"

"This is Faith, she's a friend of Xander's from Sunnydale and a hunter."  Jo nodded, calling her mother's phone.  Jo did not deal with new hunters.

Ellen came out of the back, staring at her.  "You'd be Faith.  He has a picture of you in his wallet.  Ellen.  He said you've come back to our side after healing."

She smiled and shook her hand.  "I'm trying really hard."

"The problem with hunting is that it's easy to slip, Faith.  That's why we had guys like Pastor Jim."  She nodded at that.  "Dave, possessed woman?"

"Handled and the other higher demon we found that was doing rites with the local peaceful demon population's blood."

"Excellent.  Bobby's at home.  Xander is somewhere in Texas after another magic dealer, but he had the flu the last I heard.  Sunnydale is having problems according to Bobby.  Something about a possessed Magic 8 Ball?"

Faith smirked.  "He found one that a chaos sorcerer had filled with a demon to pay her magic dealer."


"It gives good information.  It said that Sunnydale's going to have an apocalypse with a radioactive alchemy thing.  He told Bobby."

"That's good.  We'd like to keep their evil out there."

"You should see LA.  That's why Fang's got it to atone."  She sat on a bar stool.  "Xander said I should come talk to you.  That you're a woman with sense and experience."

"I try.  I have a daughter about your age, Faith."  She pointed at Jo.  "I try very hard to keep her out of the field."

She nodded.  "Good to know.  I need options."  Xander had said to be honest with her, she gave good advice, wouldn't ride her about her little trip to the dark side, and would make sense without going all 'mom' over her.

"On?"  Ellen drew her to a booth to talk to her.  Faith told her about all the past and what happened.  How she wanted to be better but sometimes it was really hard.  How Xander had given her a new trouble buddy in Ruby - someone to watch over her and to watch over so neither one would retreat to the wrong side.  Though she didn't tell her that Ruby was a demon.  It'd get her hunted down.  About all the doubt she'd had recently and worked out with Bob.  All of the current feelings that were causing her to angst like B before a huge date with PMS and zits.

Ellen considered it then nodded.  "You can stay in the light, Faith.  It's hard.  Hunting is still killing, it's just necessary killing that saves others' lives.  Like being a soldier."  The girl looked confused.  "You were basically drafted to a live combat zone.   Where you always have to be on your guard.   Others want you dead or out of the way so they can take advantage of the easy opening it'd create.  You girls have it a lot tougher because usually combat zones have more than one soldier.  I have the feeling that's why Buffy's lasted so long, even if she doesn't like to realize it now and then."


"You can gather your own team, Faith."  Faith looked startled.  She nodded.  "You can.  A hunter to help you research.  Maybe a witch you can lean on if you need to.  It's not unheard of to hunt in pairs.  Teams are more rare but you have to handle bigger crap than most of us.  As a matter of fact there's a set of twins who hunt.  They might do you good.  Neither one's very bookish but you can probably lean on Bobby for that.  The rest of them do."  She nodded slowly.  "That would keep you out of Council hands."

"What about that warrant?" she asked quietly.

"Plenty of us can deal with that," she said dryly.  "You notice the Winchesters are still traveling even though Dean and Sam nearly ended up in prison permanently to stop the problem in one?"  Faith moaned.  "Someone handled that for them so it's not in the system anymore."  She patted her on the hand.  "We can help you find people to help you.  I've heard of Ruby.  They say she's not bad but I've never met her.  Friends and backup are what will keep you sane in this field.  Otherwise you end up talking to God the wrong way, face to face.  Then Jim would probably thump you up there."

She nodded.  "I can understand that.  Slayers aren't allowed more backup than their watchers and they die really fast usually."

"But Buffy proved that having backup kept her safe and alive."

"They won't change that.  They sent a few out to take over who tried to send Red and X away after Tweedy got fired for giving a damn."

She nodded.  "That's because they're idiots."  Faith grinned and nodded.  "Not all of them probably but the ones in charge are relying in tradition.  Which is fine and good, but times change.  Are there watchers that don't have that problem?"

"X said he talked to my old one.  He's working with Angel in LA and he's apparently got his head out of his ass again."

"Then that could help."

"I can kinda maybe talk to him about it?"

"I think it might do you good to apologize.  It might clear up some of the past hurts.  Make a better fresh start.  A good apology goes a long way to help start over again."

She nodded.  "I can do that.  I planned on heading out to do that anyway.  Once I was ready to face the evil stink out there."

"Start with a letter.  If you suddenly show up they might not realize you've changed.  That way you know who'll listen.  They'll want to talk more than saying 'thank you'."  The girl relaxed and nodded.  "As for making your own slaying team?  I can introduce you to some younger hunters.  We've noticed some other areas have problems like Sunnydale."

"There's other hellmouths?"

"Possibly.  Or at least places where that sort of dark power gathers.  You could probably handle one of those easier than you could Sunnydale since Buffy's pretty entrenched out there."

"I tried to call B from his phone.  She went off on boytoy for taking all her support from her.  Me, Red, him.  I'm not sure she realized it was me she was talking to."

"She's feeling old," Ellen told her.  "A few of us go through there whenever we're in the neighborhood to make sure nothing too bad is gathering.  As for that witch, she's still there.  She's stronger, has enhanced senses, and is faster to hunt.  She's just got no more magic.  But she has Tara for that."

"Which is a point X told her when she called to nag him before I left.  He said she's pouting."

"She might be.  She's been doing this a long time without a break."

"She ran away one summer."

"I'd expect that.  You girls have a sucky destiny shoved on you without any warning and without any asking for it.  You guys have very little in the way of family to give you a firm foundation in how to stay alive."

"B has her mom."

"Which is good.  I remember she tortured Rosenburg back to the light when she tried to skin Xander alive.  Most of the girls only have their watchers.  Who, to be blunt, have their heads up their ancestor's asses."

She nodded.  "They can, yeah."  She nodded.  "I might like that.  You think I should write?"

"I think writing would be a good first step.  Then if they want to talk, you can go in person.  It shows maturity and that you're trying to change back to the right side again.  Trying to stay here.  If they accept and you can start over, that'll give you more people who understand and can help make sure you don't slip again."

"I didn't think about that.  Thank you.  He said you were a good mom."

"I try.  Even if Jo does want to follow her late father's footsteps now and then."  She looked at her daughter then at the younger girl.  "Being a hunter is hard, Faith.  We won't lie about it.  Any one you ask will tell you it's a hard life that leeches from your soul.  We don't do it for the fame, the cash, or anything else, because we don't get any of that.  The same as you won't, but it's necessary to get it done."

"I know."

"Good.  Then you'll make it to an older age.  Who knows, you might even find one of the stupid young ones as a boyfriend.  They could use some settling down.  Xander's past hunts have given a few bad ideas.  Them plus Dean Winchester is almost ruining some's egos."


Ellen smirked at that pet name.  "Deany sleeps with any girl that'll have him.  He's quick with the shotgun.  Xander's seen like some sort of avenging spirit with artillery and weapons now and then.  Whatever thing he has against vampires and magic dealers is getting him a bragging reputation."

"Boytoy won't brag."

"I know that but they hear rumors and it explodes with a new one.  You know how those spread."

"Oh, yeah.  Sunnydale High was a gossip zoo."

"Exactly.  Hunting's a lot like that now and then.  Some cliques of hunters that do things the same way, handle the same things, or trained each other.  Some outcasts that no one wants to deal with.  Most of us won't ignore a plea from a fellow hunter, even if we can't stand them, but there's still groups within the group."

"So the young guys hear that Dean gets laid, X gets to kick ass with weapons, and they wanna be like them?"

"That plus some of the ones that they've saved are old enough to consider going out to save others as they got saved.  We can talk most of them out of it.  Fortunately."  She nodded at that.  "The more people who know, the more we hear sooner than the nightly news when stuff starts.  We point out that's just as important.  Like being a doorway guardian to a base of soldiers.  Alerting them to dangers doesn't suck at the soul as much."

"I can understand that.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  Now, do you drink?"

"I'm afraid I'll get stupid and do something dumb."

"Then I won't let you have any."  She got up and the girl followed her back to the bar.  "Let me call the twins.  They're relatively nearby I think.  If you don't like them, then maybe a few of the other young ones will like to work with you."  Faith grinned and nodded.  "Plus they spend a lot in here so I'll have a good night."

"Always important," Dave agreed.  "What is up with Cleveland?  There's been three major demons there in the last year.  The extra one we had said she was going there soon."

"I have no idea," she admitted.

Faith shrugged.  "No one ever told me about other hellmouths.  Maybe I can call Tweedy and ask?"

"If you're comfortable doing it," Ellen told her.

"Yeah, I think I am."  She took the celllphone Xander had handed her before she had left outside to call.  She sighed but dialed.  She needed to be more ballsy sometimes.  "Red, is Giles there?  Someone had a question.  Yeah, it's Faith.  Listen, I know I have to apologize and I'm doing that in writing tonight.  No, I didn't.  No, small issue some hunters have heard about and we need to know why.  Because I'm not sure I can stand being in Sunnydale yet.  I'm back being a slayer but I'm not sure I can handle that.  Please?" she asked quietly.  It got handed over.  "Giles."

He whispered her name.  "Few months now," she said when he asked how long she had been awake.  "I've been healing.  Talking to some hunters to get my head out of my ass.  Xander did."  He said something nice about that.  "No, small sitch that someone needed to hear a reason for.  Cleveland has a hellmouth or something?  They're saying they've had a lot of major demons.  No, I'm writing tonight.  I have some things I need to say before I'm ready to do a face-to-face.  Thank you."  He looked it up for her.  "There is?  Any idea where?"  He gave her coordinates.  "Thanks, Giles.  Yeah, tonight.  Tell everyone I'm okay again and I'll be writing soon.  Thank you."  She hung up and walked inside, writing out coordinates.  "Hellmouth.  Less powerful than Sunnydale's."

Dave looked at it then at Ellen's maps.  "That's downtown.  No wonder."

"So maybe Cleveland might be a good spot," Ellen told the young girl.

"After I write."  Ellen handed her a notepad and a few pens.  She smiled.  "Thanks."

"Write what you need to say, Faith.  If you censor or try to sugarcoat it, they'll know.  Be honest and apologize."  She nodded, taking it and the soda she gave her back to that table.  "Being a slayer is a horrible fate," she said quietly.

Dave looked at Faith then at her.  "At least she's got a lot of support from Xander."

"True.  She's got a good friend in him.  He's a good boy."

"What is his thing with magic dealers?" Jo asked.

"He told me one sucked Red back to the darkside," Faith called.  "Vamps took out his only male friend, the one he'd known since before he could talk."  She looked over.  "That's why he jumped in to help Buffy.  He made her take him from what she said."

Ellen nodded.  "I can see him doing that.  Though I'm not sure she wouldn't have gone back to the dark without that help."

"Her witchy is supposed to be cute and pure."

"That probably helped her then.  Wasn't she dating a werewolf?" Jo asked.

"Big sitch there," Faith groaned.  "Huge ass sitch that made Oz make that game."

"Oooh."  Jo winced.  "I remember that.  I'm glad I sucked at it so I didn't get any powers."

"Me too.  I'd hate to drown you," her mother told her.  She got Dave a beer.  "Let me finish calling the young buttheads here to meet her."  She went to make those calls.  Faith needed some good, strong, upstanding backup behind her.  Especially if she went to Cleveland.


Xander walked into the Magic Box three days later.  "Delivery."  He handed over letters.  Buffy slapped him across his face.  He stared her down.  "What did I do to deserve that?"

"You took Faith."

"I gave Faith enough space so she could decide to come back to the light or not.  I let her stay in my crash pad, gave her some contacts to talk to so she could work some stuff out, and helped her regain her footing.  I got a head's up from a vision someone had when she started to wake up."

"So you took her?"

"No, I offered.  She decided, Buffy.  If she had stayed her, she would've ended up attacking you and Willow, then probably Wesley to get away.  She wouldn't have any options.  This way she had a lot of them.  By the way, that letter's from her.  She debated sending you the shorter version for almost an hour."  He looked at Giles, handing over another envelope.  "Copied from a book after my possessed Magic 8 Ball said it'd be happening this year."

"An apocalypse?"

"Yes, with a huge ass problem.  They need a certain alchemical formula and it's radioactive."

"What about that warrant for killing the assistant Mayor?" Buffy demanded.

Xander looked at her.  "What warrant?"  She glared.  "There is none.  It was removed from the system by his toadies, Buffy.  They weren't going to let her leave if she stayed on their side.  They could have put it back and didn't.  Now, Faith is healing.  She's back to being able to hunt again.  She's back on our side.  She's also going to Cleveland to handle the problems out there since they've had some huge ass demons show up recently for some reason.  One of the older hunters I know introduced her to some younger ones to back her up."

"I don't have ...."

He glared.  "You sent yours away," he said bluntly.  She slumped.  "Beyond that, Willow is still here."

"She's changed since you had her turned."

"You'd rather she tried to destroy people?  Again?"  She shook her head.  "Then do the head vacuum sucking duty again, Buffy.  Before your mom does it for you."  She sat down, staring at the letter.  "Now, if you wanted to ask some of the hunters who come through here all the time if they would like to stay, that's up to you.  Some might.  Some are getting nearer to having to retire due to injuries and age.  Like slayers, hunters don't last that long.  We get banged up only we don't have faster healing.  One I know was given the charming choice of his legs or his life."  She shuddered.  "Bob's a really nice guy.  Faith talked to him a lot about stuff."  She looked at him.  "If you need more help, ask them if they'd know any hunters who might like to stay," he repeated.

"I can do that," she said.

"Good."  He looked at Giles, who was giving him a proud look.  "I'm cool.  So, any idea how we can stop that before you all turn glowy?"

"I think perhaps we can.  Some demon said you scheduled an apocalypse?"

"For next year.  I told them this year's was already booked."  He found the book he needed and pulled it down to hand over.  "They're doing the hundred virgins version."

Giles read it over then looked at him.  "This could be this year."

"Or next year.  I told them this year's was already booked by others trying it."

"It probably could be," he admitted, putting it beside the other one.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  I'm off to freak Cordy out."  He smirked.  "She has a set of twins and one older hunter who wanted to retire near her.  He settled down outside of Cleveland since he's from there.  The twins are bouncy but good.  They'll help her.  But if you guys wanted to talk after reading the apologies and stuff, she might like that.  As long as no one pulls out the Buffy measuring stick."

"I know we were wrong to do that," he assured him.  "Have you talked to Wesley?  He's down there."

"I know.  I've got one for him too."  Giles nodded at that.  "So, happy reading and call if you need apocalypse help.  Not like I can't travel this way too."  He looked back at Buffy.  "If you pout, you get wrinkles.  Then you'll never be a cute coed again."  She cleared up the pout.  He gave her a hug around the head then left.

"He has become the man I had hoped he'd be," Giles told her.

"She has hunters?"

"You can ask some.  I wouldn't be adverse to the extra support, Buffy."  She smiled and nodded.  "As a matter of fact, I think one's due in sometime this week.  He said he'd come back this way after handling a ghost or something."

"I might talk to him, depending on who it is."

"In their lifestyle, contacts are very important.  At the very least he can spread it around."

She smiled and nodded again.  "I can definitely talk to him even if it is that pervert again."

"Good.  Now, are you going to take your letter to your mother's or read it here?"

"I think I'm going to let Mom comfort me while I read it."  She walked it to the gallery, sitting down next to her mother before opening it and pulling it out to read.  Her mother looked over her shoulder.  "From Faith."

"Good.  She could use the support again if she's going to be a good girl."  She gave her daughter a hug.  She had done a lot of growing up emotionally recently.


Xander found the Hyperion and walked in.  He stared at the 'receptionist', smirking at her.  "No shoe sales in LA today?" he guessed.

She glared, then her mouth flopped open.  "Xander?"

"Duh.  Who else would I be?"  She launched herself at him, giving him a hug.  "Missed you too, Queen C."  He pulled back to look at her.  "You finished growing up into a real queen instead of a princess."

"You put on muscles."  She looked at his chest and arms.  "Wow.  You could almost make hotty status now."

He smirked.  "Some girls think so."  He pulled back farther.  "Wes here?  I'm delivering."



She stared.  "She went bad, Xander."

"She's redeeming herself, Cordy.  The same as others have.  Angel," he said with a nod.  He had ignored Angel during the Azazel problem.  He hadn't wanted to deal with him.  Only Dean had called him on it and he told him why so he had dropped it.

"Harris.  Buffy said you left town to go hunting."

"I did a lot of training with hunters."  Wesley came out of the office.  He tossed him the letter.  "From Faith."

He looked at the thick letter then at him.  "She's awake?"

"She is.  She's also headed for Cleveland."  He smiled at that.  "I let her have my crash pad to give her somewhere to talk to other hunters about stuff.  It helped."

"I'm sure it did."  He opened the letter to read through it.  "Oh, my, she has gotten better."

"Much."  He looked at Cordelia again.  "So, princess of evil, how have you been doing?  I heard about the vision thing and nearly laughed until my first one."

She blinked a few times.  "You do?"  He nodded.  "Why?"

"No clue.  Though, I'm having a lot of fun ruining magic dealers across the US right now."

"I heard a few got hunted down and stopped," Angel admitted.  Xander gave a comical, courtly bow at that.  "Figures.  You all right?"

"I'm fine.  I'm enjoying the hunting."  He looked at her again.  "Lunch?  My treat?"

"They pay you for hunting?"

"No but back in high school the old Mayor put a curse of misfortune on me so I won a lottery."  She gaped.  He nodded.  "Attention is bad for us.  I *so* got spanked for that."

"Yeah, that's be a misfortune," she decided.  "Angel?"

"Go ahead.  We're dead today.  Call if you have a vision."  She nodded, grabbing her purse and heading out with him.  "You drive an old Jag?" floated back to them.  "Only him," he muttered.

Wesley smiled at the door then at Angel.  "It's good that he's grown up as well."

"It's good all of you from Sunnydale grew up."  He walked off.  "How's Faith doing?"

"Fully healed.  She's in Cleveland now."  Angel groaned.   He went back to reading.  It was old history but it did explain why things had went so wrong.  It also had a good apology in it.  He found the phone number on the back and settled in to talk to her.  He'd like that.  It'd close some doubts he had about himself and make sure they were on good terms.  He couldn't stand losing another acquaintance.


Xander stumbled into Bobby's wincing as he bumped into the door.  "Bobby?" he called weakly.

"Are you drunk?" he demanded, coming out of the kitchen.  He caught the boy before he fell.  There was blood everywhere on the boy's shirt.  "Why didn't you hit the ER?" he demanded.  The boy was passed out.  He let him down to the floor, taking the shirt off him.  That's when he realized why he hadn't.  "Shit," he said.  He grabbed the phone and the holy water, calling the only ones he'd trust to help the boy while he made the boy scream.  "John, get here.  Someone carved Xander up pretty good with magic runes.  He's screaming at holy water."  He hung up and doused him again, then went to make some more.  He came back, finding him whimpering.  "Xander, was it a magic dealer?"  The boy shook his head, gripping the rug in his fists.  "I know it hurts.  They're burning some of it off when I hit them with holy water."

He looked at him.  "She made a wish," he whispered.  Bobby glared.  Xander swallowed.  "I didn't know until I woke up.  Was only by the border."

"That's fine."  He splashed him with more holy water.  "You wanna pass out, go ahead."  The boy did that.  He kept going until all he got were whimpers.  He heard a car door slam and someone come running then Sam burst in.  "Go get me more holy water and some bandages."

"What the hell happened?" he demanded.

"He said someone made a wish."

"Fuck," Dean said as he came in.  "Sammy, holy water, bandages."  He went to get them.  Dean took off his jacket and knelt down, checking under Xander's beltline.  "He's got some on his legs too."  He pulled out his knife and sliced the jeans off, taking off the boots when he was done.  "That's bad."

Bobby looked.  "Get me the maroon book."  Sam got it for him and let him look up a few.  They looked at the boy's stomach.  "Blood magic," he sneered.  "That witch is going to get it now."  He took the towels Sam had soaked in the holy water he had filled the sink with.  They wrapped them around the boy's chest, legs, and one arm since it had marks on it.  "I called your Daddy."

"He's about six hours away.  We were headed back this way from Oregon," Sam told him.  "He called us."

"That's fine.  Help me move him upstairs?"

"Bathtub or the bedroom?" Dean asked.

"Bathtub for now."  Sam went ahead to open doors for them.  Bobby and Dean carried him up there.  They put him in the tub and Bobby let him lay for now.  Sam was cleaning up the blood down there.  "Dean, get me more holy water?"

"Sure."  He went to make some more and bring up a bucket of it.  Bobby poured it over the boy's front since they'd only been exposed to the towels.  "Is one fading?" he asked, pointing at it.

"Means the curse is sinking in.  Damn it!"

Sam came up and moved him out of the way, reading straight from the book he had found.   Xander seized then settled down, almost sounding like he was asleep.  The wounds were raw again but weren't fading.  He looked up.  "It canceled the spell until we can get someone like Tara or Melinda here to fully remove it.  We have three days before it'll take effect."

Dean grabbed his phone.  Bobby grabbed his.  "Tara?" Dean asked.  "Hey, Oz, need Tara really badly.  Someone cursed Xander with blood magic.  He mumbled something about a wish when he showed up at Bobby's with runes carved into his body.  Please."

"Melinda, Bobby.  We need you at the farmhouse ASAP.  Xander.  Some witch made a wish with blood magic."  He smiled.  "We're getting you help too.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "She can be out tomorrow morning."

"Can we get you two a plane ticket?  We're in South Dakota, Oz.  Sure, thanks.  Let me do that then send it.  Or sure, ask Giles."  He waited while he did that.  They appeared and he hung up.  "How did he do that?"

"He used the power stored in an artifact to send us," Tara said quietly.  "What happened?"

"He said she made a wish," Bobby told her.  "It's blood magic.  It's a curse."

Sam handed her the book.  "I did that one to give him more time since they were starting to fade."

She nodded, looking it over.  "That's a good spell.  Oz, I need stuff."  He handed over the bag she had him hold for her.  "I need a few other herbs to wash him in.  Witch hazel too.  It'll sting but keep him from infecting."

Sam got up and ran out, coming back with something.  "He uses this stuff on cuts.  I know it has some herbs and witch hazel in it.  Will that help?"

She read it over.  "Everything but the base is needed.  I'm not sure if it'll react."

"We can make it without it," Bobby assured her.  "I've got the one who uncursed him last time coming too."

She nodded.  "I'll need it."  She tested it on one cut.  Nothing happened so she mixed the other herbs she needed into it and smoothed them over the cuts.  "Candles, pine boughs," she ordered.  They went to find some for her.  Oz got out of the way since he couldn't help.  She nearly cried.  What had Willow done this time?  She called out there.  "Find my former witch, Buffy.  Please.  Blood magic wishes."  She hung up and knelt, lighting the candles once she had placed them around him.  It locked him into the static state until they could deal with it.  "He'll be fine until we can uncast them."  She looked up at Bobby.  "If it was her, we'll know and Buffy's grabbing her."

"If it was her, she's ours," Sam told her.

Tara bowed her head and nodded.  "I agree.  She can't be redeemed for this if it was her."  She heard someone else pounding then stomping up the stairs.

"Ash," Bobby said, shaking his hand.  "What's wrong?"

"Ellen said a local contact told her someone was trying to mess with that devil's gate.  What happened to him?"

"All he said was someone made a wish.  It's blood magic.  Tara here is trying to undo it."

"Did she do it?" he asked.

Tara looked up, shaking her head.  "I like Xander.  He's a good friend."

"That damn witch do it?" he asked.

"If we find out, I'll tape the burning," Dean told him.

Ash nodded.  "Please do.  Ellen'll fuss herself to death if he's that hurt."  Xander shifted but Tara smoothed a hand over his cheek and he drifted off again.  "Will he be okay?"

"He should be," Sam offered.  Ash relaxed and nodded.  "What about the devil's gate?"

"He thinks there's a few others like you were and that one's trying to rebuild it."

"That takes pretty strong magic," Bobby said.  "We'll check into it.  Dean?"

"Heading," he agreed.  "You sure?" he asked when Sam didn't move.  Sam nodded.  "Okay."  He headed off to deal with that.  He called an update to his father on the way.  John would be monumentally pissed.


Melinda walked into the farmhouse.  "Bobby.  You must be Tara.  Xander told me about you."  She shook the younger witch's hand.  "What's going on?"  Tara led her up to show her what had happened plus what she had already done.  "That's a good holding tactic," she praised.  She looked around.  "Bathroom's a bit cramped."

"We can move him anywhere, including a bed," Bobby offered from the doorway.

"He'll be bleeding to clean those cuts out," Melinda told him.  "Got anywhere easily cleanable that's totally empty?  I'm expecting some wind."

"Yeah.  I built a bunker."  Tara floated the boy's body up.  "You should save your strength."

"I can recharge in a few minutes."  She floated him after Bobby.  Melinda gathered up everything else and followed.  The bunker had salt coated walls and was pure iron.  She smiled and nodded.  "It'll contain whatever happens."

"It wasn't a demon," Bobby told her.  "We carried him out of the devil's trap."

"Which would help any demon come out," Melinda pointed out.  "Or so you told me."  She cleared a spot for the boy to lay on then set the candles around him.  "Go recharge, Tara."  She went outside to do that and pray.  Bobby looked disgusted.  "Is he still reacting to holy water?"

"A little bit on a few marks.  Everything else kind of hissed up and quit that night.  Then again, Xander's a medium."

"Interesting.  Call Missouri and see if she's gotten a head's up?"  He went to do that.  She shook her head, looking at the boy.  "You get into some of the weirdest trouble, Xander."  He shifted some toward her.  "No, stay still.  We're canceling the magic on you."  Tara came back and shut the door.  "Let's start with a standard exorcism, see if anything comes out?"

"They had to banish his last ones, the exorcism didn't work."

"He has shields."

"They've been shaky.  He said since his last time in Sunnydale."

"That damn place needs to sink."

"There's an apocalypse that might get it shut down," she offered.

"That'll work."  She and Tara each took a side of the boy and started with an exorcism.  Bobby came in and shut the door.  "You do this part."

"I found one that works better on mediums, doesn't let them leave a taint."  He moved to sprinkle the boy with holy water then start reading that one.  The boy's chest rose.  Tara and Melinda joined hands over him to chant.  They had to undo the curse.  That would finish releasing the demon.  John came in and helped by taking Bobby's spot so he could rest his throat.   Tara and Melinda were sweating but it had to be done.  The marks were fading into scars.  They only had a few left.  Tara was swaying and starting a new chant when her eyes rolled back in her head.

John and Bobby stared at her.  "I've never seen a possession during a magic rite," John said.

"I have," Bobby said.  "As long as it's a clean spirit, it'll be fine.  She's calling on Diana for some reason."  He took back over the exorcism chant.  John moved to the boy's feet to do his own.  It could only help.  He sprayed him with holy water.  The demon started to come out.  The boy was choking on the smoke that was the demon's form.

Tara leaned over to blow it away from his mouth.  "Begone," the spirit told it.  It finished flowing out.  Xander choked and got rolled onto his side so he could puke.  They found one other mark hadn't faded so they went back to chanting over it to remove the curse it represented.   Tara looked up.  "D'Hoffryn, it was not a legal curse!" she shouted.  "He has done nothing to deserve this!"  The lights dimmed then lightening flashed.  The boy was left with one mark.  She looked at it.  "He did not abandon his friends to death, they sent him away!  Undo it!"  Nothing happened.  So she and Melinda got back to work.  That one faded out completely because whoever was inside Tara was pissed off.  A few of the scars finished fading too.  Then Tara collapsed.  The smoke flowing out of her was light gray.  Melinda wobbled but she was on her knees so she wouldn't fall over.  Tara made a mewling noise when Bobby hit her with holy water so he did the standard exorcism on her too.  The ghost finished floating off.  He and John sat down.

Melinda looked at the boy.  "How on earth did she do that?"

"Who?" John asked.  "Was it Rosenburg?"

She nodded.  "She decided he deserved to pay for abandoning them and taking what was most precious to her and Buffy."

"Werewolves can't do magic," Bobby told her.

"She didn't.  She called up a wish demon by acting, she killed it, then used a sacrificial rite to call vengeance down on him.  Technically that's the sort of magic anyone can do."  Someone knocked then walked in with glasses of water.  "Thank you, boy."

"I'm Oz," he told her.

She smiled.  "He's told me about you."  Oz nodded and left them alone.  She sipped her water.  "He's clean.  Only what was in him before he got shields.   No one can remove those.  They're too old and bonded to his soul."  She took another drink.  "Tara, wake up and have some water."  Tara batted at the noise, making a kitty hissing noise.  She smiled.  "I like you, child.  I should give you a summer away from hell to work on your skills."  She woke the girl up, handing her the glass.  "Drink.  You wore yourself out."  Tara sipped then laid back down, putting her head on Xander's shoulder.  Melinda moved to sit on her butt.  "It shouldn't have tainted him but those scars will remain because somewhere in his psyche he thinks that they may have a point."

"That damnable insecurity he has now and then," Bobby realized.  Melinda nodded.  Tara snored and they all smiled at the young witch.  She was adorable.  Oz came back.  "Can you take her upstairs?  The last room on the end has twin beds for the ladies."

"I can do that," he agreed.  He lifted her up, wincing at the stickiness of her clothes.  "We sweated a lot."

"Sheets wash," Bobby told him.  "She can bathe when she wakes up."  He nodded, taking her that way.  He got up and helped Melinda up.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem.  You know I like Xander.  He's a good boy.  He'll be the next you some year."  She wobbled that way, Sam coming to help her.  "Thank you, Sammy."

"Welcome, Melinda.  Is he okay?"

"He should be fine.  No extra taint except Sunnydale taint.  Just a few new scars for his collection."

Sam nodded, going down to help by carrying Xander up to his normal room.  "Wash him off first," Bobby ordered.  "He's covered in goop that won't ever come out of sheets."  Sam nodded, taking him to hold him up in a shower.  They had done it before when he was injured so they knew how he'd lean and move for them.  Bobby looked at John.  "You three going with me or is it just me going?"

"I promised I'd do it," John told him.

"The boy's like my son."

John considered it.  "We can help.  We'll let you shoot her first.  Remember to use silver."

"Oh, I'm sure I can."  He got up.  John helped him. "Thanks."  He looked at the mess.  "Sammy?"

"He wasn't helping," he agreed.  They went to rest in the living room.  Sam came down damp from the shower.  "Go clean up the mess, Sammy?"

"Sure, I can do that."  Oz came with him.  "Thank you, Oz."

"Not a problem.  I like Xander.  I always have."  They worked quietly picking things up.  "What's going to happen to her?"

"What we should've done the first time but Joyce stopped us."

Oz nodded.  "I'll be sad but she's not my Willow anymore."

"No, she hasn't been for a while."  He patted him on the arm.  Oz looked at him.  "I lost my girlfriend to the demon that wanted me to be his champion, Oz.  It doesn't get easier if you loved her."

"I know.  Really, I lost her years ago.  It was like we were divorced but I still liked her enough not to kill her for doing the bad things that caused us to split."  Sam nodded.  "You're easy to talk to."

"Thanks.  Maybe some day I'll be the circle's counselor at large.  We could use another one since Pastor Jim passed."  Oz nodded at that.  They finished cleaning up the mess and went to toss the nasty towels that had been around Xander into the wash.  They had nicely cleaned up the blood and puke.  Sam and Oz worked on a light lunch for the others, handing it over when they were done.  Tara's went beside her bed.  Melinda's too since she was asleep.  Xander's too because he was still passed out.  Not bleeding, not sweating, but sleeping and snoring.  It was good to hear.


Dean came back that night, finding both witches in the living room being fussed at by Sam and Oz.  "We good now?" he asked.

"We're good," Sam assured him.  "Xander's still asleep."

"We have to cancel the temporal spell," Tara realized.  She went up to do that and came back down blushing.  "He's having loud dreams."

"All boys do," Dean assured her, giving her a hug.  Then Melinda one.

"You try that with me and I'm going to beat you senseless," Bobby warned.  Oz gave him one then walked off again.  "A quiet smartass, that's different," he decided.

"Gotta be different," Oz told him.  "Otherwise I'm not me."

John shook his head.  "It's clear Xander warped you too."  Oz snickered quietly, going back to fussing over stuff.

Dean shook his head.  "I see it's another interesting day.  Will he need more bandages or anything?"

"No, we're good.  They're all scarred over," Bobby told him.  "Demon's outta him.  Friendly spirit's outta Tara."  They heard a thump.  "Boy's up and probably hungry."  Xander came down in boxers and a t-shirt, nibbling on the sandwich that had been left for him.  "You feel okay?"

"I'm surprisingly not tired."  He sat down in the free spot, looking at them.  "What happened?"

"You don't remember wobbling in possessed and cut up?" Bobby asked.  Xander stopped eating to stare at him.  He nodded.  Xander looked at himself, then down his t-shirt, muttering a swear.  The light next to him went on.  "Clearly some things weren't tainted," he joked.  John turned it off for him.  "Thank you.  You feeling okay otherwise?"

"I feel pretty normal, Bobby.  Who did what?"

"Sacrificial blood magic," Sam told him.

Xander stopped eating again to stare at Bobby.  "Can I shoot her?"

"My fun," he assured him.

"Fine."  Tara came over to give him a hug.  He pulled her into his lap to cuddle.  "Thank you.  You too, Melinda."

"Not a problem, Xander.  You know I love helping you when you get into some of the damndest trouble."

He shrugged.  "Not like I try to do it on purpose."

"I know."  She smiled since Tara was hugging him.

Dean smirked.  "Aww."

"You hush," Tara ordered.  "He needs a hug."  Xander gave her a squeeze.  "You'll be okay.  Are you coming for our next apocalypse?"

"If you need me to."

"I want him resting," Melinda told them.  "For at least a week.  I'm sure Bobby can put up with his snoring since he did for two years."

"I don't mind," Bobby assured him at his look over the blonde witch's shoulder.  Xander grinned.  "But you're buying your own groceries.  I'm out."

"Sure."  He gave her a squeeze.  "You don't have to go back.  Melinda lives in a very nice, safe, quiet, small town."

Tara smiled.  "I'll be leaving after this semester.  I'm graduating and going to start working."

"We've got some nice job openings," Melinda told her.  "What's your degree in?"

"Bachelor's of social work."

"We definitely have a few that could use you and a college for when you want your masters."

Tara smiled.  "Send me information?"

"Of course."  Oz wrote down the address for her.  "There's a good bit of woods for you too, Oz."

"I have control most of the time unless I'm really upset.  Then I have a cage."

"Sunnydale's next apocalypse will have radiation," Bobby told him.

"Then my cage might be moveable."  Tara nodded quickly at that.  He smiled.  "He's a good cuddle."

Xander looked at him.  "When did we cuddle?  I don't remember that."

"You bounced into me to hug me a few times."  He patted him on the head.  "Rest.  It's hard work being possessed."

"Yes it is," Sam agreed.  "It leaves you unsettled and all that good stuff too."

"It isn't as bad as after Halloween," Xander told him.

"I found a good exorcism ritual for those who're mediums.  Leaves less taint."  Xander grinned at him for that.  "Only took two hours."

Xander shrugged.  "Sorry.  I didn't mean to get hurt."

"Not your fault, kiddo," John assured him.  He looked.  Tara was quietly snoring into his shoulder.  Xander was blinking hard too.  "Go sleep, Xander."  He got up.  Tara squeaked but he carried her upstairs anyway.  They could curl up together for now.  "If she liked boys, they might be a good match."

"Xander draws bad girls," Oz told him.  "I doubt Tara ever will be."  He sat down, looking at Dean.  "When is our apocalypse?"

"Second week of June."

"After her graduation then.  Good."  He looked at Sam.  "Should we be trying to evacuate?"  Bobby nodded.  "I'll talk to Giles about that."

"He knows.  The boy told him," Bobby assured him.  "He even scheduled one for next year."

"Wonderful.  Why do demons love him?"

"No clue," Sam complained.  "If I did, I'd help him stop it.  All the tutoring times I had with him means it rubbed off on me now and then."

John looked at him.  "I don't want those details, Sammy.  If you want to do stuff with the boy, that's up to you two."

"Warn me so I can sleep in the car that night," Dean quipped.  "Gay sex might make it so I can't please the next lady I pick up."

"You don't pick up ladies," Bobby snorted.  "You pick up easy sluts, Dean."

"Sometimes.  They can be fun too."  Bobby swatted him.

Oz shook his head.  "Will we need some of Xander's stored weapons?  Faith said he had a whole storage area with them."

"We only saw two storage areas," Bobby told him.

"She said something about an underground area."  He shrugged.  "No clue."

"We'll have to see that when he goes there to rest," Dean decided.

"I'm wondering if he'll be as bad as Caleb," Sam said.

John nodded.  "Already is.  After graduation out there, he brought a u-haul full of stuff to squeal over with him."

"With how phallic guns are maybe it's a good indication of Xander being bi," Oz told them.  Dean and John both spluttered and choked at that.  Oz looked at them.  "Huh."

"They're a bit fond of their shotguns too," Sam said with a mean grin.

"Happiness is a warm gun as the saying goes," Oz joked.  Melinda spluttered too.  "Cool.  A Xander reaction.  I never get those."  He got up and went to check on Xander.

Bobby shook his head.   "Clearly it's not Xander that's warping, it's Sunnydale.  Beer, people?"  John got up to get himself and Dean one.  Melinda got her own.  Bobby smirked and settled in to enjoy the chaos.  It was about time someone made John and Dean Winchester lighten up again.  Xander was the best hunted down thing he had ever done.

The End.

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