Notes:  MM gave me the original idea of 'what would it take for Xander to go evil'.  Well, how about not just Xander?  What if others were offered a deal too sweet to give up?  Hmm.  Team Evil is building and recruiting.  It's going to take some special incentives though.  Huh.

The Team That Evil Built.

Horatio looked at the man that was staring at the casket.  He didn't know him but maybe he had worked with Ray on another case.  The man finally came over and sat next to him.  "Thank you for coming."

"I'm not here for the empty box, Horatio."  He looked at him.  The redhead looked stunned.  "He's not dead," he said quietly.

"Are you an agent?"  The man handed over a card.  Horatio gave him an odd look.  "Why a joke now?"

"It's not a joke.  He's not dead."  He pulled a file out of a pocket that couldn't possibly hold it.  "There's a few problems coming and I've got a solution to it," he said quietly, staring at him.  Horatio stared at him.  "Someone has to protect your nephew, your niece, and your CSI.  They are the points that someone will hit to make you vulnerable.  To make you hurt.  I can help you protect them."

"Why come now?"

"If I showed up anywhere but the church, you'd try to do something archaic to remove me."  He leaned back.  "That's what's going on.  She does not know nor will she until you tell her in a few years, when it becomes pertinent.  The same as you won't be telling her about the niece's sickness until it manifests."

"Yelina's pregnant?"

"No."  Horatio moaned, shaking his head.  "They're both meth-heads, Horatio, not like they're careful beings."

He stared at the casket then at the thing next to him.  "What sort of deal are you trying to push?"

"I can help you protect them.  I can give you information that can help you protect them.  In return, I need someone who can help us when a problematic battle starts."

"I do like to consider myself on the side of the Light.  That could be a problem."

"It could be, but he's a bit arrogant and it's not what you think is going on."  Horatio gave him an odd look, then looked at the card, holding it up for inspection.  He sighed and removed them from the church, pointing at the blank wall in front of him.  "The world is not how he had written in that self-aggrandizing book, Horatio Caine.  Way back when, we weren't the only sentient species on the planet.  A few very strong mages banded together.  They were a council.  They picked a leader.  Then the power went to his head.  Perhaps he had an ancient form of paranoid schizophrenia, I have no idea.  Suddenly it became his way or the highway.  There's actually many factions even in the world today.  I am from one of them."

"I believe in a higher power."

"Well, he would fit, but if you mean a Creator sort of higher power, no idea.  If there's one he's never showed himself to any of us that I know of.  Since we're the one who created most of the miracles that your people have seen and taken note of, then I'd figure he would've said something by now."  He smiled slightly.  "There's all sorts of contradictions."

"I know that.  I asked and got told it was the difference in the writers."

"Some.  Some it's the difference in how he was treated.  Before the Great War between him and everyone not with his camp, the world was a greater place.  Or did you really think that the ideal environment is a garden in the middle of the desert?"

"I never thought about that.  Why should I trust you?"

"I think if you think about it, you'll see the truth.  You have that ability.  You also have the ability to help my chosen team to help us when it's time.  You see, he's brewing to another war.  The other factions are all restless because the other inhabitants are trying to regain power again.  They're doing some very dangerous, stupid things to do so.  All of the higher ones are picking their champions.  It's not always going to be a battle," he said when Horatio opened his mouth to protest.  "Sometimes it's going to be the ones protecting others from the harmful other beings."


"Indeed.  In the beginning we shared the world with them.  They started out on top and then we took it from them as we advanced.  Some of us split off to create a warrior that would protect the normals in secret.  It's a lonely, thankless job that gets the chosen girls killed all too early.  The one now is being helped, which is not allowed by their people's new rules.  Well, Middle Ages rules, but new to one my age."  He split the screen, showing them.  "That is that faction's champion.  Mine is the one helping her."

"The redhead?  Is she a relation?"

"No and no.  No, she's a problem that your group will have to deal with actually."  He pointed at the boy.  "That is one of the ones I've picked to test and take as my champion."  He showed him some of the boy's recent activities, watching him flinch at some of them.  "You can see why he needs a steadying influence.  He needs someone to be there for him.  Absolutely for him."  Horatio looked at him.  "It would give you someone to support you as well."

"So you want me to do what?  Take him in?  Mentor him?"

"If that's what you want.  Personally I don't care if you take in both boys as your brides, Horatio."  He showed him the other one.  "Samuel.  Touched by the darkness already.  He's got a good soul but his soul has a good spot of darkness from the same reason as Alexander's.  Too many demons have touched his life meaning to do him harm and to do evil around him.  Both have some special gifts.  In Xander it's some sort of ability to always make it through.  Even injured.  Even being told to go away by his friends.  Even being totally alone and injured and depressed.  So desperate that he'd do anything to save the others but not himself."  He showed him that incident.  "That's in a few months."  He looked at him.  "I'm going to go back to talk to Samuel.  They're the same age but Samuel has been questioning the things that most people take for granted since he was a child.  His father does the same thing the Powers' champion does.  They hunt demons.  In Alexander's case it's to keep the world intact.  In Samuel's case his father is obsessed with the one that first touch their lives; one who wants Samuel more than anything to be his."

"Why do you need me?"

"They need someone who could give a damn.  Some stability.  I know you're prone to doing whatever you have to do.   So is Alexander.  Samuel is going to grow into a wonderful intelligence that will eventually get him into trouble.  Some day he'll be forced to go to the demon's side somehow to save his brother."  Horatio shuddered.  "There is a soul-bond between those two.  They're nearly as close as twins for all that four years separate them."  He patted him on the back.  "In exchange for watching over them, helping them when the time comes, and being their stability when they need it, I'll give you what you need to protect those that matter to you.  I don't want your soul before you can ask."

"If God isn't God, then what's the afterlife?"

He smiled and created a new picture on the blank wall.  "Hell is a series of inter-connected realms.  Created by us in most cases.  I've created a few.  The others have created a few of their own.  Alexander lives over a spot where they connect and the fabric holding them back from this world is a bit thin."  Horatio moaned.  "That's why he sees nightly combat."  He looked at him.  "Heaven is about the same.  Some say some of the hell realms are really more heavenly for those who live there.  That is a matter of opinion in many cases."

"And if I don't?"

"Then you can muddle through losing a CSI when he's shot due to his personal problems.  You can watch your family leave you when your brother's run of bad luck is done with.  You can watch your niece go through leukemia," he finished quietly.  "I can't stop them from happening but I can give you what you need to navigate it so they're not as hurt and they can be kept safe."

Horatio looked at the returned pictures of his family.  "The girl is where?"

"Here in town.  Her mother's a tweaker.   Her name is Madison.  That's in about four years.  When she gets sick."  He patted him on the back.  "She gets clean and stays clean for her, Horatio.  You can help her with that but if you take the niece she'll die from it."  Horatio nodded once at that.  "The same as your nephew holds the same sort of rage you held at your father for his.  He's prone to not thinking too.  In his case the blood does tell - yours and his father's.  He will run on the wrong side more than once.  Including to avenge his father's torture and death because he went back after they have to leave here to go into  hiding to protect themselves."  Horatio slumped.  "That's after your favorite CSI dies from his gun jamming."  Horatio looked at him.  "He had a warning and didn't react fast enough.  One of the other factions wants him out of the way and I'm not sure why.  They can still keep him from totally escaping it but you can make sure it's not as bad as him dying and nearly destroying your team."

"When I die?"

"If you die before the next group of battles, you'll go to our version of Valhalla with the boys.  They do dangerous things and without stability they won't last as long as they could.  Well, Samuel won't.  Xander could become immortal for all I know.  Too many want that boy.  He needs to be protected from his own worst instincts."  He smiled.  "Say yes and I'll help you, Horatio.  Even the one you pray to isn't going to care.  He's gotten even more uptight over the last few centuries and doesn't give much of a damn.  The factions are going to fight and he's going to sit there and watch until he figures out where he wants to step in, which will be too late to save the rest of the people on this world.  Then he'll make a grand entrance.  He wrote it himself."

"Seven years after damnation for eternity starts," Horatio muttered.

"Exactly.  If Alexander loses or Samuel goes to the one that wants him, damnation starts.  Then the real battles begin."

Horatio looked at the pictures.  "Will I have to find them?"

"No.  Once I've talked to them, you'll get them for a while to do whatever.  Then they'll go back to their lives until they're ready for you and what it means to be ready for you.  Alexander will be ready first.  He may go and come back.  I do not know that about the boy.  I know that he needs it desperately but his early upbringing and yours is a lot alike.  For many of the same reasons."  Horatio nodded quickly at that.  He showed him some of what he had seen happening.  "This is not certain," he said quietly.  "It probably can be changed.  I don't have control over that.  Especially not what goes on there.  The Powers do and they don't like the boy because he stepped into their girls' duty to help her."

Horatio licked his lips.  "He needs help."

"He needs hugged and given a damn about.  They're not going to."  He looked at him.  "He'll have to deal with the world going to hell too many times.  With his best friend trying to reach my level and take my job in the darker side of the power structure.  With the world possibly ending because they needed something and it wasn't going to be given to them so they could save the world again.  Then the threat of damnation is at the peak.  Then he'll definitely need you."

Horatio watched them.  "And Samuel?"

"He'll be leaving soon if I have my way.  It'll save what's left of the light in his soul.  He'll find love and then have it taken by the demon that wants him.  Then he'll go back to the hunting in retribution and lose his father, then nearly lose his brother.  Again, I can't stop that situation but I can help him get him back before anything too bad happens.  Alexander would gladly help me I'm sure."  Horatio nodded at that.  "All I know right now is that I need some stability and this trio is a stronger tripod than a quad could be.  You three create some balance between each other.  You cover the faults you each have. When the fights come, and they will come, Xander will be busy trying to help wherever he can.  Samuel as well.  They're going to be inclined to jump in instead of planning a bit.  They need a leash at that point."

Horatio sighed.  He turned away.  "I won't lose my soul?  My baptism?"

"What does any of that matter to me, Horatio?"

"Then...."  He looked back then squeezed his eyes shut.  He opened them and was back in the church in front of his brother's casket.  He opened the top and looked at the blocks in there.  He sighed, letting the lid fall before walking off.  He saw the card sitting where they had been and snatched it, going home to think.  He needed to think.


"Samuel," a male voice said, waking him up.  "Hold up, lad.  Notice I'm inside the salt wards?"  He smiled.  "We must talk."

"Demons lie.  Why should I?"

"Because if you don't you'll lose your family and have to muddle on alone."  Sam went pale at that.  "Come talk to me.  All is not what you think, though you do think very well."  He took him outside to sit next to the car.  Sam sat against its side.  The demon sat across from him.  "I'm what your people would call Lucifer, but the story is not how it was written."

"I remember being sent to Pastor Jim a few times because I asked questions about the inconsistencies in the Bible."

"Indeed.  I saw that."  He smiled slightly.  "A great mind should be nurtured, Samuel."  He looked him over.  "The one that haunts you will return some day.  Not yet, not until you've found happiness.  He has no need for you until then."


"He was making plans ahead of time by going after you and the others he touched."  He shifted, getting more comfortable.  "You see, his plans say that he needs a chosen champion to do certain things for him."

"The dreams," he muttered, looking down.

"Yes, but also no."  He made the boy look at him by tipping his face back up.  "The demon cannot taint you, Samuel.  If he could, then everyone who has ever been possessed would be able to read minds or see the future, something.  He can *awaken* gifts."  Sam went pale.  "That's why he chose those he did.  Because they had some power he could use at a later date."

"I asked that question once."

"I heard."  He smiled slightly.  "You asked many good questions.  Like why are there historical and geographic inconsistencies in the story."

"Why is there?"

"Because way back when, there were two sentient races. The greater demon societies, not like the ones you hunt but the ones who created civilizations.  Those you will find more about later on in your life.  Then there were humans.  Some humans were fairly powerful mages.  We took on the identities of the Great Ones in the human civilizations.  Some created ones to fight for the humans.  Some of us wanted to give them the ability to learn how to fight for themselves.  We formed a council so none could get out of hand.  Too many of us used our powers to make new realms, make new species, and even to create some bad things."  Sam nodded at that.  "The one voted head of the council was an arrogant man who thought everyone was out to get him.  He started to become a bit of a hardass.  His way or the highway."

"I know that speech very well."

"Indeed, only not as obsessed with anything but his power.  It did come down to a battle.  All the various factions against his. His are what're now known as angelic.  The factions didn't want to work together.  Many of us didn't want to fight at all.  I was personally challenged by something he did to someone I favored to be a student.  So I fought.  That's why I became the bad guy.  A real case of History is Written by the Winners.  We fought in what is now the Sahara desert and parts of the Middle East.  There used to be some lovely trees out that way.  Some very special plants that produced healing herbs and things that helped the humans overtake the ancient demon species and force them off the realm."

"Why tell me this?"

"Because the time has come for another battle.  This time it's the ancient forces and some of the factions in-fighting.  There's ones who are meant to handle things.  The demon that came after you wanted you to be his champion when he attacked factions of us and other higher demons."  Sam shuddered, looking sickened.  "To do that, he'll need you to break.  Do you know how you break a person?"

"Take away all hope," he said quietly.  The demon nodded.  "Then why come to me?"

"Because I don't think that's what you want.  I can help you.  I'm not going to ask for your soul but I need a good set of champions when the battles start.  Someone has to help others stand against the ancient threats.  It's not your time yet, but some day it will be.  Someday the old war will be restarted.  Like any good world war, it'll eliminate a good portion of the population if it's brought to the masses instead of the soldiers.  You're one of the trio that I'd put in command.  One of the ones that would help me and the others stop them before they got too bad.  To protect those too frail and too unknowing to fight this battle on their own.  There will come a day when demon hunters are well known."

He thought about it.  "Is this a dark deal?"

"No.  I ask not for your soul, but for your loyalty when the time comes."  He leaned forward.  "Some of the problem you've seen.  What happens when the Light gets too much power, Samuel?"

"The Inquisition," John said as he stepped out of the cabin they were renting.  "Get away from my son, demon."

The demon stared at him.  "I'm not here to deal for his soul, John Winchester.  There are ancient battles and strifes coming.  Those of us on the other factions need our own champions.  Those who know what they're doing.  Who have the brains to know when they should act.  Who won't panic when the damnation starts."  John went pale at that.  "There's those that fight it even now.  If they win, and one is going to be my champion, then it will wait for a few years at the least.  If so, he'll go to our version of Valhalla, our warrior's hall of rest.  Until it's time.  The Great Ones are going to go back to war with the ancient demon civilizations.  Then with each other."  He looked at Samuel, handing him a card.  "Think, as you did when you were younger.  I ask no soul, no life, no time in hell, Samuel.  I need people I can trust not to turn to another faction and to see where the real truth lays, even if it's not on my side at that moment."

Sam nodded.  "I'll think about it. I'm not the only one?"

"No.  There's a good man in Miami that I asked.  He'll need the help keeping his family safe.  He protects others from mundane threats."  He showed him their pictures.  "The other is fighting the battles that your family could not hope to win against the highest of high threats.  The Powers That Be created a champion and my last chosen is pissing them off by helping their warrioress."  Sam groaned.  "It is not a chess game.  It is much more imperative that we not take this battle to the point where it destroys everything we worked to create.  You will be supported and supportive.  I can help you get the one back when he makes a deal to save your life from some of the higher demons.  I may be able to help you when your father does the same to save that one's life," he said quietly.  Sam slumped back against the car, staring at him.  "I do not want it to happen but I cannot change all timelines.  I can only help now and then.  The same as I cannot end a soul contract but I can give you a way around it."  He stood up.  "Think and call me, Samuel.  Your fight comes within a decade but not in this half of it."  He looked at John.  "Even if you don't like it."  He took the memory from him, looking at Samuel.  "When you tell me, I'll bring you to meet them."  He disappeared.

Sam got up and walked his father inside, putting that card into the bottom of his bag.  Sam got his father onto the couch and thought back to all the questions he had asked as a child.  Did God take anger management classes to be less mean in the new book than the old book?  Did hell really mean the same place to everyone?  Because Bobby had told him once that he'd go to hell if he picked his nose again.  His father had said the same once while drunk for being born into the family and cursing them to this never-ending fight.  Was heaven really a big desert oasis?  Because if it was he figured a lot of people who didn't like to garden were really bored up there.  Not everyone liked plants, and his reasoning had included those who liked forests instead of gardens or who hunted animals to eat since they apparently didn't in the bible in the Garden of Eden according to how he interpreted it.

Did the section on spilling seed mean that everyone who masturbated went to hell and did the section that said that marriage should be a fruitful union mean that people who were born infertile were going to hell automatically for something they had no control over?  Because it seemed to him that God made people born that way so it wasn't their fault they couldn't follow that rule.  And what about those people who shouldn't have kids because they'd only hurt them?  Was there a hell for them since they had followed the rules?  Or the ones who didn't treat their kids like farm hands like they did way back when; did they go to hell since they didn't treat their kids like pack animals?

So many rules that contradicted each other and life.  He had never gotten the answers he wanted.  Pastor Jim had argued with him for weeks, or maybe debated with him, when his father had sent him up on a bus.  Sam climbed back into bed, thinking about the offer given to him.  Was it a dark deal if it didn't ask for his soul?  Maybe he'd ask Jim's opinion in a vague way.  Because if he told him everything he'd be rebaptized and beaten by his father.  Then he'd get to see hell firsthand since he had no children, had pleasured himself, and didn't obey his parent.  Or at least not the way the book wanted him to.  He couldn't be the son his father wanted.  He wasn't Dean Junior.  He'd never be a younger Dean clone.  He was never going to be the hunter they wanted him to be.  Which was why he was looking for a way out.  Maybe this one would help him stay out of it until it came for him again?  If so, it might not be so bad.


Xander Harris looked up as a light went off beside him.  He stared at the demon.  "Here because of the hellmouth or the zombies?" he asked dryly.

"Neither.  I came to talk to you."


"Because you're important."  The boy snorted and sneered at him. "They don't know what they're trying to toss away, boy."  He moved closer.  "I mean you no harm and I can keep you from getting in trouble for this."

"Why would I?"

"Your fingerprints are on there where you finished stripping wires off."

Xander snorted.  "Like the Sunnydale PD is able to pull fingerprints?"

"They will this time.  Remember what happened with Ted, Alexander.  They will jump to conclusions as soon as they have even a wrong idea.  You will do no one any good in prison."

"Good point."  He wiped it down with his shirt then looked at him.  "There, handled.  Why come to nag me?"

"Because we should talk.  There's more factions than the Powers That Be."

"I'm not into the philosophical crap."

"Good.  I'm not here about that.  I'm here because some day you're going to be the one saving the world.  Then what will you do?"

He slumped, leaning against the barrels of kerosene.  "Why would I have to?  Is Buffy going to fall again?"

"Some year.  And then you'll act in grief and desperation.  You and her."

"Her?  Willow?"  He nodded.  "Is that when I have to save the world?"

"No.  You'll be saving it from her."

Xander fully slumped, looking dejected.  "I knew it was bad for her."

"It's not that the studying is bad for her.  It's how she does it."  He moved closer.  "We must talk, but not here.  There's things I have to share then give you an offer."

"My soul?" he snorted.  "Not that it's so clean after hunting vamps."

"No, son, not your soul.  You need your soul to fight."  He took his hand by force and moved them out of the school, settling them in one of the larger cemeteries in town.  "Relax, I have it guarded from them for the moment."  The boy pulled his stake anyway.  "Sit, please."  He sat on the ground.  The boy did the same.  "Did you ever wonder why there was a debate between the history Mr. Giles told you and the one that you've heard repeated back by everyone who's ever picked up a bible?"

"PR work was my guess.  People need to believe in something.  That's a prettier something than the original history."

"That's true.  In truth, all those Great Ones were mages."

"Makes sense.  Then what's heaven?"

"If you know what hell is, then what is heaven, Xander?" he asked.

He nodded.  "Is it nice?"

"Some are.  Some aren't.  Like many things, that depends on who's writing the travel brochures, doesn't it?"  The boy nodded a bit at that.  "The same as the supposed anti-Christ, things were written by the winning side."

"Is this the apocalypse in Revelations?"

"Not now.  There's many that could be.  Your team is instrumental in holding it off."

"Some day we won't be able to?"

"You'll not be able to because it won't be something that can be stopped with a simple battle.  Something higher has a plan now to do things in a way that not even everyone dying can stop."  The boy grimaced.  "It's far in the future.  Right now, I'm more worried that the Powers hate you and are trying to weaken their girl for some reason.  That they're trying to keep others from picking you as their champion."

"Who'd want me?" he snorted.

"I would."  The boy stared at him, starting to sneer again.  "After that happens, demons will be in the open once again.  The other sides will want to fight.  The demons will want to try for supremacy again.  Even though I foresee your friends being there, we'll need people who are chosen champions to do the most important things."  That got a slow nod.  "I want you to join my team of three."

"Why not Buffy?"

"By her calling only the Powers can touch her life.  That isn't to say she's not important but they have their agenda.  We have ours.  The Light has theirs.  None of them mesh and it's been a conflict for the ages.  I can promise you someone who will be supportive.  Who will like you for the goofball, violent sort you are.  One who understands why you sleep with a bat some nights because he did the same.  One who understands how hunting can warp your perspective and your soul.  Two someone's before you ask.  An older one, one who needs someone to care for.  One who can grant you the stability you have so you can find some peace.  One who was brought up to hunt but was given a reprieve for a few years.  They will not put you down.  They won't shove you away once they get to know you."

"What's the bad side?  Sounds too perfect."

"The battle will someday come.  I will need generals and agents."

"I can't fight against Buffy."

"At the moment, my goals don't go against hers, Xander."  That got a curt nod.  "At some point in the future you may but you may also look at the situation and decide for yourself.  Nothing can compel anyone in this war to fight.  We pick champions to fight because otherwise we'd finish destroying this world when we fought each other.  We who created realms and planes.  We who helped humanity move on from grunting at the fires they first leaned to build.  It'd be gone in one massive magical war.  Unless we use champions."

"And the demons?"

"They'll want to regain their superior position."

"Seen that."

"They'll use our fighting to do so.  Because our factions won't stop fighting long enough to defeat them."  Xander shuddered.  "Exactly.  Not only are you keeping things from happening too soon, you're going to play a major role when that time comes.  I won't lie; I can't make it easier on you.  I can't lift the weight in your soul.  I can promise if you die, you'll go to a decent enough place to wait for when it'll be time with the others of your team.  I can promise that I'll meddle where and when I can but I can't promise it'll always be at the moment you think is right.  I can give you the information you need to make the right choice at the right time.  Because some day it won't be Buffy's job to step into the cross hairs.  It will be yours."

"How soon?"

"Before that day?  A few years.  I know you felt the power that could be yours.   The power from the love spell?  The power of the pack?   The power your friend wields so carelessly."  He flicked a hand, helping the slayer's witch close the hellmouth.  "The ones that do so much yet so little but they do give you a taste.  Yet you've never yearned."

"It usually ends up badly when I try," he reminded him, the sneer starting to come back.  "I don't need power."

"True, but there are those who want it and to give it away would prove that they had it.   Not to mention screwing up the plans of the other factions."  He shifted closer.  "Your friends will smarten up sometime."

"No they won't."

"They will.  They'll need you again."  Xander groaned, shaking his head.  "The next apocalypse is bad, Xander.  I won't lie to you.  Many are salivating at the prospect of it being won by the wrong side.  Can Buffy defeat the Rite of Ascension and a pure demon that's created from it?"

"I'm guessing not by herself?" he asked.

"Indeed.  The ones who have tried in the past have given up their lives after many others have died.  The bigger an army, the easier it is to take on a dragon.  The more steady the planners are, and the more sure that they have a good base to come home to, a reason to fight if you will, the better the plans are."

"I know why I fight."

"Do you know all the reasons?"  The boy nodded.  "How many nights have you went out sure you wouldn't come back but you were certain that was all right?"

"Many," he admitted, sighing at the end.  "I think that's normal."

"For all hunters, Xander.  Not just the ones here.  I can give you the support you need to help you see what is and is not good and  helpful for a hunter.  To support you on those days."

"Are they going to come here to hunt?"

"The hunt won't always be here.  If you need them for the big things, they will come if they can be of use.  One's not too up-to-date on swords though."  That got a nod.  "He would gladly do what he could with the weapons he knows."

Xander considered it, looking back toward the school.  "Are they all right?"

"They're fine."  He flicked a finger again, making sure the boy's fingerprints and hair weren't in the boiler room.  Xander gave him a dirty look.  "Making sure no one could identify you were there."  He smiled sadly.  "You may like the quiet and the silence, may even be welcoming of it in the right circumstances but we need you for many years yet.  Please?"

"And I'd do what for them?"

"The same as they'll do for you.  It can be a relationship, a friendship, whatever you three choose.  I do believe it would help you three more if you basically bound together.  It would certainly help you later on if the memories get repressed by someone's spell."

"She can't."

"She can.  She will some day.  That's a key indicator actually."  He stood up.  "Please?  The others call."

Xander looked at the school and thought.  To have someone there for *him*, to give a damn about *him*.  To keep him from doing stupid crap again like that love spell.  But he wouldn't need it; he'd have someone at his back that he could talk to.  Someone to take their places.  "What do I have to do and you're sure you're not taking a soul?"

"You need it more than I do."  He took the boy with him to where he brought Sam and Horatio.  "Boys.  This is Alexander."

"Xander, please," he said, shaking their hands.  He sized them up.  "Which one of you hunts?"  Sam raised a hand slowly.  "That's cool.  Vamps or other demons?"

"Poltergeists and spirits mostly.  Some natural manifestations of demons.  You?"

"I'm on the hellmouth.  There's nothing but demons, vampires, and the oh-so charming high school full of people who think I'm trash."

Horatio coughed.  "You two are how old?"

"Seventeen," they said together, then grinned at each other.

"What do you do?" Sam asked.

"I'm a CSI."

"A crime scene cop.  Wow," Sam said.  He grinned at the confused look Xander had.  If he had to admit it, it was a bit cute.  "He's the guy who finds the evidence."

Xander shrugged.  "Our cops are crappy.   We have a lot of people who're covered up in death and life.  They even tried to arrest a friend for killing a robot that had hit her."

"Where...where are you living?" Horatio asked, moving a bit closer.  Both boys felt like life and energy to him.  It was like a wave of comfort flowing off them.  "Maybe I could call someone about them?"

Xander shrugged.  "Why bother?  They're dirty and they're mostly keeping out of our way, even if they are thinking that we did the bad stuff."

"That could get you arrested," Horatio pointed out.

"Not likely.  They know my parents a bit too well as drunks.  They probably think I'm going to snap someday and kill everyone."   He shifted closer.  "So you're where?"


"We travel," Sam told him.

Horatio looked at him.  "Why?"

"Because we go from town to town to hunt demons.  I think the longest we've stayed anywhere since I was two was about nine months when Dad broke his leg on a hunt."

Xander looked at him.  "Want to come to Sunnydale?"

"My father might like that."  He moved some of Xander's hair out of his face.  "What's going on out there?"

"The guy who brought us together said we're having a really bad apocalypse this year.   Usually it's bad but apparently it's going to be really bad."  He shrugged.  "We'll handle it.  We always do."

"Apocalypses?" Horatio asked.  "As in plural?"  Now, he might want to cry.  The demon had said that this one helped keep the world going.  Now he understood how.  "How often do they happen?"

"About every spring."

"Sam?" Horatio asked.  "Do you handle those sort of problems?"

"No.  A serial killing demon now and then or a creature that's ripping up a lot of people and pets.  No apocalypses."

Xander frowned.  "It must be nice.  Then again, we have a slayer."

"Slayer?" Sam demanded.  "They're real?"

"Yeah.  How do you know?"

"I ran across a historical mention doing some research for my dad's last hunt."

Xander grinned.  "The watchers who use them are assholes."

"Probably," Sam agreed.

"No, no probably about it.  They're assholes.  They fired ours for giving a damn."

"Then yes, they're assholes," Sam agreed with a slight grin.  "What were you doing when you were found?"

The boy looked down then at him.  "We were having a difference of opinion on my usability tonight.  So instead the zombies decided to use me because I had a car and when I figured out they were zombies, I dumped them.  Then they went to build a bomb in my school's basement while my supposed friends are fighting the hellmouth.  Which apparently I'm not good enough to do after two and a half years."

Sam gave him a hug.  "Did they get the bomb right?"

"I got the leader to disarm it before it blew us up."  He looked at Horatio.  "Want one?"

"If you want," he offered.  He let the boys hug him, feeling that same comforting, life flow from them.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine.  Our friend who's a werewolf ate him after he undid it then ran."  He grinned at them.  "I saved it and they'll never know."

"We know.  That's the important thing."  Sam smiled.  Xander gave him a confused look.  "It's nice to have someone you can talk to.  I've never had someone who I could talk to about the hunting stuff."

"Sure, we can talk," Xander said, smiling back.  "At least until you treat me like them."

"I'm not like that," Sam assured him, grinning at him.  "I've never thrown away people.  I'm not my father."

"We'll see."

Horatio looked at him.  "I don't throw away people either, Xander.  I've lost too many who're important to me."

"Who?" Sam asked, looking at him.

"We've just buried my brother's casket but the one who brought us here said he's alive."

"Is he?" Xander asked.

"The hacker I asked found some evidence."  Xander shook his head, looking down.  "It is not making anyone happy.  Especially since he told me I have a niece from where my brother was undercover."

"That really does suck," Xander told him.  He gave him another hug.  "You smell nice."

"I've noticed the increased....sensory feelings too," Sam admitted.

"Hmm."  Horatio smiled.  "It's almost like a wave of a warm, flannel blanket coming off you two to me."

Xander grimaced.  "Wouldn't that be too warm in Miami?"

"Depends on how high you have the air conditioner," Sam said.

"Good point.  It is in Sunnydale too.  We're kinda near the desert."  He looked at Horatio again.  "So, we should probably get to know each other?"  They nodded.  "Can we have somewhere to sit?" he called since the demon was gone.  A large sectional, two-sided couch showed up.  "Thank you."  They sat down and pulled out pictures to show off and explain their lives to each other.  Horatio needed to know about the hunting stuff.  Sam needed to know that not everyone who hunted was like his father and brother.  Xander needed to know that people didn't abandon others just because strange things happened.


The demon checked back, finding them still talking.  They were getting closer.  Xander was mostly asleep, leaning against Horatio's shoulder.  Sam was yawning and nearly there as well on Xander's free side. Horatio was nearly there as well.  He sent a wave of feeling at them, making the three sleepy men relax further.  Xander stretched out between the two men.  Sam was stroking Xander's thigh under his head.  Horatio was stroking over Xander's arm.  Xander was rubbing Horatio's stomach.

Horatio looked up.  "Stop it," he hissed.  "If they want, they want.  Do not make them."

"Nothing can make me do anything," Sam assured him with a slight grin.  "Every Winchester is stubborn.  Dean and I got it doubly from both parents."

Horatio smiled, reaching over to pet over his head.  "If it happens, it does."

The demon appeared, looking at them.  "If it happens now, it'll be easier later."

"Because I have to go back for the apocalypse?" Xander said quietly.

"For now.  Not for good."  Horatio slumped.  "If not, his friends will not win.  The damnation would come sooner.  Samuel needs to find a life and a sense of peace so he has it in him.  Horatio, you have things that have to concern you for now, but your parts are later.  Once you've saved your team.  Once you've saved your family.  They'll be there with you during it even if they're not *there* physically."

"You want to bind us?" Sam asked.

"It would be like a marriage for you three."  He grinned.  "It would help you even when you're apart."

"If Sam's meant to find peace, that may not include others being bound to him," Xander pointed out.  "We would distract from that.  Especially his plans for college."

"That wouldn't be a good thing," Horatio agreed.  "College is to explore the things that you were too sheltered to discover at home.  Including other types of attention."  He stroked over Sam's head again.  "If he needs us, he'll come back to us.  It's not that hard to find me."

"Me either," Xander offered.  "Not like I'm going to be going far from Sunnydale except for my planned roadtrip."  He looked up.  "But if we connect that well, I could come to Miami for it."

"That might be nice."  He smiled.  Then he looked at the demon.  "Shoo."  The demon left.  "I don't want it to be fake."

"It won't be," Xander told him.  "It won't be because magic goes absolutely wrong for me.  Even Willow can't do spells right around me and she was closing the hellmouth tonight."

"I'll be damned," Sam said quietly.  "That's a powerful witch."  Xander hummed and nodded, closing his eyes.  He smiled at the young man.  He wasn't relaxed.  You could feel the tension in his muscles.  He was just too tired to stay awake any longer.  "You rest, Xander.  We'll protect you."  Xander nodded, shifting some.  Sam laid his head back down.  "We should rest."

"People will wonder where we are.  I'm on grief leave."

"My brother will assume I got picked up by some girl and went to party for a change.  My father will assume I'm off doing something he'd disapprove of that doesn't help with the hunting.  Which probably means the same thing."

"I removed his memory of seeing me earlier, Samuel," the demon called from nowhere.  "When they woke up, they assumed you and some girl had decided to go for a joyride since it's near the term tests and you've been stressed."  He reappeared.  "Dean said he hopes she's pretty and you finally loosen the broomstick.  Horatio, your people decided you took a long drive to grieve without people seeing."  That got a nod.  "Their associates have told Xander's friends that he walked off with one of us but that he's fine.  That I needed to ask him for a favor because something higher was bothering me.  Something that it took a human to kill.  So they think he stomped off because they're being bitches."  He disappeared again.  "You have two days since it's Friday."

"Thank you," Sam called.  He snuggled into Xander, making him shift onto his back.  Sam laid on top of him, making him grunt but snuggle in better and relax more.  "Do we have to go back?" he asked quietly.

"I don't know," Horatio admitted.  "I don't want him to.  You're more than welcome to come down and go to college near us."

"I've got a full ride to Stanford," he said quietly.

"That is very impressive with as many schools as you've been to, Sam."  He smiled and Sam grinned back.  "I'm very impressed."  Sam smiled.  "Rest, Sam.  We should rest.  It's been a long day."

"It has been."  They fell asleep there, letting Xander finish relaxing once they fell asleep.  Sam woke up some and found Xander starting to tense up.  "Shh, just a nightmare, Xander."  He relaxed and went limp like he was back asleep, keeping his breath calm and even, quiet so he thought he went back to sleep too.  Xander went limp and smiled in his sleep.  Sam smiled back.  He looked up and found Horatio watching him too.  He grinned and snuggled in, letting himself go back to sleep.

Horatio laid there as his boys' pillow thinking.  He wanted to steal the boys to the safer, more sane world of Miami.  Where he could protect them.  Sam had a destiny to do great things in school and he would not let him give that up for anything.  A full ride was nothing to sneer at.  They wanted to do their own thing but Xander needed a new life.  Even if he had to save the world, they needed to give him a better sense of security and happiness.  Something to make him smile that same crooked smile while awake.  He was so screwed.  The boy had done the impossible, made him get too deeply into him.  Sam too.  Well, Sam would be allowed to go and come back when he was ready.  Xander he'd have to help sooner.  After graduation if that was the next apocalypse.  Maybe he'd even be there for it so he could see what the boys did all the time.  He didn't understand demon hunting in the least.  It was illogical and blew his mind in many strange ways.  "Speed will freak out over you two," he whispered.  "But he'll be happy for us."  He went back to sleep thinking about what his team was going to say when they found out.  Because they were good CSI, they'd find out at the first hint of evidence he was involved.


Xander walked back into his team's hangout - the library.  "I'm back."

"What did the demon want?" Giles demanded.

"To talk and see if there was an option for killing the one bullying him.  It took a human and it was annoying.  Oh well."  He shrugged and looked at the stunned looking girls.  Then at Giles.  "What, exactly, is an ascension?"


"The demon said there's one coming this spring here.  Sounds like an apocalypse to me.  Especially since he was talking like it was *bad*."

"It...I dare say it is," Giles agreed, going to find sources.  "Why did he tell you this?"

"He thought it'd need all of us on our toes.  It was payback for helping him."  He went to find himself something to do.  Giles came out with an armful of books, which Willow took some of.  "Anything exciting happen while I was fray adjacent?"

Buffy gave him a dirty look.  "Someone set a bomb in the school's basement."

"Yeah, Jack and his zombie crew."  He looked at her.  Then he went back to reading.  "They hijacked me for a while to gather each other and supplies until I found out what they were doing."

"Why didn't they finish it?"

He didn't look up from his searching.  "Maybe the zombie fairy told them it was a bad night to act," he said dryly.  "How would I know?"

"Someone said they saw you run into the school," Willow said.

Xander looked at her.  "Yeah, and?  I needed something in my locker."  He went back to reading.

"We know you were here, Xander," Buffy said, trying to sound firm.

Xander looked at her.  "So?  You guys didn't want me here so I went to find something else to do."

"You were helping them!" she said.  "I knew it.  That's a petty payback for...."

"Buffy, shut up," he said coolly.  "I saved your asses when I got him to disarm it."  She went slack jawed, staring at him. "I can be more blunt if you want, but I don't care.  Now, we have an apocalypse, no matter how huffy you are. I think that takes precedence over this argument.  Because I'm tired of it.  You're tired of it.  Grow up."  He got up and walked off.  "Tell me when we have something.  I'm going to get something to eat."  He slammed out, wanting to call Horatio but today he was trying hard to get his people back together again.  He had seen on the news about the plane crash.  He was busy in the Everglades.  Xander could not and would not interrupt that.  He checked his watch.  Sam might be out.  He called his cellphone, getting a different voice.  "Hey, is Sam out of school yet?  I wanted to ask him something about an assignment."  He nodded.  "That's cool.  I can call back later.  Xander.  He'll know."  He hung up and got what he wanted out of the machine, then went back to the library.  He handed her a candy bar.  "You clearly need it as much as I do."  He sat down and went back to searching.

"You did the bad thing.  You're nearly useless...."

He stared at her.  "Buffy, let's not talk about useless.  Like you being on patrol and making out with Angel useless?"  She gasped, sliding her chair back to stomp off.  "Or how about like the night you accidentally on purpose wore the shoes on patrol with the slipping straps and soles that you were complaining about for four wears before then and breaking a heel?  Which made you twist your ankle so bad you took a whole week off."  She stomped out of the library.  He looked at Oz and Willow.  Then at Oz.  Who rolled his eyes.  "Thank you.  Now, Giles, apocalypse?  Are we going to need Cordy's help too?"

"We may.  An ascension is not looking like an easy thing to cure."  He stared at the boy.  "Did you have to be that mean to her?"

"Did I deserve to get it back?" he asked.  "Because I have other options and offers.  Including to go to a whole other state and do the same thing there with a lot of people who might like me more.  The demon told me where others who hunt are."  Giles went pale.  "Now, what is an ascension?  Can we defeat it beforehand or do we have to plan another fight?"

"I'm not sure.  I'm still researching.  You are in quite a foul mood, Xander.  Are you feeling all right?"  Xander walked off shaking his head.  "What is wrong with him?"

"Maybe he went for something else to snack on," Willow said.

Oz gave her a look then got up and walked off too.  In a different direction.  He could see both sides but Xander was not acting right today.  He was way too angry for normal Xander behavior, even recently.


Sam came home from school.  "Hey.  Anything good happen while I was gone?"  They had gotten him back for the start of school so he had went there instead of coming back.

"Where were you?" his father asked.

"Talking to some people who wanted to talk."

"Someone named Xander called, he wanted to ask you a question," Dean said.

Sam smiled.  "Xander's a friend.  What did he want?"

"To ask about an assignment.  He in your class?"

"He's out of town right now."  He took his phone back.  "Thanks for watching it for me."  He looked at his father.  "Did anything else happen?"

"No.  Just wondering where you were.  It's not like you to take off like that.  Even with a girl involved."

"No girls where I was.  Sorry to dash the hopes I'll be more like Dean."  He walked outside to call.  "Already?"  He listened to a mimicked replay of the conversation and sighed.  "Are you okay?"  He smiled and relaxed.  "It's best to walk away from that before they get you more down.  No, I agree.  You had every right to shoot back.  She treats you like shit, Xander.  She uses you as a trained monkey.  You can do better.  Sure if you need it, I'm there.  When is it?"  He grinned.  "That's after mine.  I can definitely be there if you need me to.  Yup.  No, that makes sense.  Sure, I'm there."  John coughed behind him so he covered the phone.  "My friend is graduating two days after mine."

"We may not be here for yours."

"I'm going to graduate, Dad.  I'm walking.  If you don't want to watch me get my diploma, I'm sorry for you and your desire to not see anything good that might still be in the world."  He walked off talking to him.  "Why call me?"  He smiled.  "That's a good reason.  Of course that makes sense.  You can escort me up and we'll hang then you can go down there.  That's a good roadtrip after graduation.  Plus it's not near them.  A bit of sanity."

John stopped his son.  "We're leaving in three days, Sammy."

Sam stared at him.  "I have finals in two weeks.  I need to be here for them or repeat my last year again."  His father backed off.  "You two can go and I'll catch up if you want."

"I found a letter in your things."

"Gotta go, Xander.  Sure, tonight."  He hung up and looked at his father, his phone going into his pocket.  "Then you'll know where I'll be for the next four years?"

His father glared.  "It's not happening."

"I've got a full ride.  That's exceptional for kids who stay in the same school all their lives.  That's so special it's not funny, Dad."

"You can't.  You're needed here."

"To do what?" he asked.  "To ... have you call me by Dean's name again when you're drunk?  To have you make fun of me for finding things other than the hunt stimulating?  No."  His father stepped closer, trying to menace him.  "Dad, I don't want it to come to this.  If it does, it does.  I have people I can stay with until graduation.  Because this is important to me and it would be important to most parents.  They'd be damn proud of me.  Hell, even Xander's parents would be proud and they're rampant drunks who don't know what day it is."  He sneered, stepping closer.  "It's my life.  I'll be eighteen by then.  You think I'm worthless because I'm not like Dean.  So be it.  You made your bed."

"If you leave, you're not coming back."

Sam looked at him.  "That's supposed to deter me?  From being ridden because I'm not Dean or you?"  He snorted.  "I've got people who like me for being me.  Who appreciate me for the skills I have and the ones I can grow into without turning me into you."  He walked into the motel room, slamming the door behind him.  He gave Dean a shove off his bed.  Packing took a few minutes then he looked at his brother.  "Call or not, Dean."  He walked off, walking far around his father so they didn't get into a fist fight.

"Don't you walk off from me, Samuel Winchester. You do that and you're not one of us.  Don't call, don't write, don't even think about us."

Sam stopped and turned to look at him.  Then he shrugged.  "It'll hurt.  I won't lie.  But I won't be sneered at because I'm not meant to be like you.  I'll miss you."  He walked off again, heading to the teacher's house who would put him up for a few weeks in her garage.  She had him apply to Stanford.  She liked him.  He knocked on her door, looking at her.  "My father's a bastard.  He told me I'm not a Winchester because I'm going to college."

"Let's see what we can arrange, Sam."  He nodded, walking inside to talk to her.  She'd get him cleared to skip his finals.  And then to miss graduation.  So he got on a bus that night heading for Sunnydale and Xander's bolt hole.  He had one that they could hide in for a few days.  At least until his graduation.


Horatio saw the boys that day of graduation, looking at them.  "Boys."  They smiled and hugged him.  "Are things better, Xander?"

Xander shrugged.  "Yes and no.  I'm going after tonight."

"Sure.  Are you coming down?"

"After we settle Sam into the dorms?"

"Of course."  He smiled at the people coming closer.  "Friends?"

"This is my ex-girlfriend Cordelia.  Cordy, this is Sam and Horatio.  They're friends."

"I'm surprised they're here."

"Some of us can help," Sam told her.  She gaped at him then moaned, shaking her head.  "I'm retiring as of today to go to college.  My father and brother do.  I like Xander too much to let him do this without me being here."

She stared at him.  Then at Xander.  "Going gay is good for you."

Xander blushed, then grinned.  "If we do, Horatio's going to drool on us."

She blushed.  "Okay then.  More mental images than I needed today."

"So have happy thoughts later," Sam quipped with a grin.

"He's warped you.  They might not like you in college if you're like Xander."  She looked at him.  "We're lining up.  It's time."

Xander hugged them.  "Be safe. Help clear the innocents."  He followed her back to the lining up spot, sliding into his robe and cap.  "We good?" he asked.  The ones helping nodded.  The teacher motioned them to move out.  "Pray it and go," he told the one praying.  "You don't have to."  He nodded at that, following his appointed person out.

Horatio and Sam sat together near the back so they could help get people out of the way.  Horatio thought it might turn into a stampede.  When it happened, he was right.  He let Sam rush to the front with the weapon Xander tossed him.  Horatio helped get people out of the way.  Then he fled after them because he was not equipped to deal with a giant snake and there was going to be an explosion soon.  He winced when it happened.  "Too big," he muttered.  Sam and Xander came wobbling out with the others helping them.  "Xander, do you need medical attention?  Or you, Sam?"

"We're good," Sam said with a grin.

Xander held up his arm.  "Broken but I'll get it set after they get the others out of the way.  I'd have to wait anyway."  He got a hug from them.  "Come sit down with us?"  That got a nod, following him to where the others were resting.  "Cordy?"

"Taken already.  She got knocked down leaving," Buffy said.  "They just took her."

"That's cool.  We think she's all right?"

"Probably.  They had her on a board but she was moving her feet and she wasn't bleeding."  Giles walked over.  "Giles, is everything all right?"

"So far.  They're saying it was a gas leak."

"A very strong one," Horatio said.

Everyone stared at him.  "Who're you?" Buffy asked.

"Guys, this is a friend.  Lieutenant Horatio Caine, Miami-Dade PD," Xander said.  They stared at him.  "And this is Sam.  Sam's going to Stanford in a few days."

"Good school," Willow said.  "Congrats."

"Thank you."  He looked at Xander.  "Let's get your arm checked?"  He nodded.  Horatio followed them off, walking slightly behind Xander.  "That was a good look on their faces."

"Yes it was," Horatio agreed.  "You didn't tell them?"

"And have them be paranoid about me and you two?  Nope.  Besides, they wouldn't listen even if I was so giddy I was dancing."

"It'll work itself out," Sam promised, patting his back.  Xander grinned.  "Now, we need to calm down after the battle.  I could use a beer."

"Beer good," Xander said, looking at Horatio.  "Beer?"

"It's a good time for a beer."  He smiled.  "Officer," he said when one tried to stop them.  "We're taking Xander to get his arm set.  It was broken during the fleeing."

The officer looked at him.  "I don't know you.  Who are you, sir?"

"Lieutenant," he corrected, pulling out his ID and badge.  The officer stared at him.  "I came in to see Xander graduate."

"I see.  Do you know what happened, sir?"

"I know what I saw.  Do you need a report, Officer?"

"No, Lieutenant.  But I would like to talk to your young friend."

Xander shrugged.  "Why?  Because I got my arm broken and I kept making sure that people didn't die in the rush out?"

"Yes."  He stepped closer.  "We think you know something about what happened."

"And I think you ate onions too recently to be in my face," Xander said.  "Because I'm in pain.  I will act like my family.  Who you arrested last night.  Nice cover job on the black eye, Officer Mike."  The officer snarled.  He grinned.  "I've got a broken arm.  I'm in shitloads of pain.  I do bite.  Remember who raised me."  The officer backed off quickly. "You know, a graduation often has a lot of video cameras.  Go ask."

"That is something our crime lab would do," Horatio agreed.

"You work in which department?" the officer demanded.

"I head the daytime felony crime lab."  The officer went pale.  "I saw six video cameras at least.  And I saw one laying on the ground back there.  Reasonably easy to confiscate.  Now if you'll excuse us, I'm worried that Xander will literally bite someone soon if we don't get him treated."  He patted Xander on the back before walking him and Sam off.

"My boss will want to talk to you later, Lieutenant."

"I'll be here tonight and then we'll be heading home."  He looked back at him.  "I hope you find the evidence you need, Officer."  He walked off with the boys.  "You were right."

"Yeah, they do suck," Xander said dryly.  "Think I can have painkillers this time?  They never give me any thanks to my family's history."

"We'll ask," Sam promised.  They found a paramedic.  "Is the ER overfly full?  He's got a broken arm."

"No, sir.  It's going to be a short wait but most of the people only had superficial injuries."  He looked at the broken arm.  "That is broken."

"Can I please not be treated like my parents?"  The paramedic laughed at that, shaking his head.  "Crap.  You guys gave my mom morphine when she broke her ankle."

"We don't know what you take, Harris."

"Chocolate.  I'm hyper, why do I need to get high?"

"Good point.  I'll put in a good word for you with Nurse Racker."  Xander grinned.  He looked behind him.  "Let's go.  I don't want to see you gut him."

"I don't gut people.  Blood is *so* hard to get out of things."

Horatio looked at him.  "There are many ways."  He looked at the man stomping over.  "Yes, Sergeant?"

"Who are you and why were you here, sir?"

"Lieutenant Horatio Caine, Miami-Dade Crime Lab.  I was here to see Xander graduate.  I helped get a few people out of the way of the stampede.  Do we need a statement?"

"Were you also bomb squad?"

"At one point in history.  Unfortunately I only got into town an hour before graduation."

Xander looked at him.  "You were there."

"Shut up, Harris.  Before we arrest you too."

"You touch Horatio for this and I'll make another one," he mouthed.  The man stepped back, giving him a horrified look.  "Next time, don't start with us."  He turned and ran.  "Let's go."

"That was unwise," Horatio warned.

"Nah, I just made 'em really happy.  Now they know what I know how to do.  They've been wondering for years and trying to see how I'd break bad like the rest of the family.  Huh?" he asked the paramedic.

"Yup.  We all thought the battle axe was your serial killer thing."

"Nah.  I'm happier than that.  Can I get some painkillers now before I bite and become a cannibal?  I'm leaving tonight.  Horatio wants me in Miami for a bit."

"Sure," he decided.  He got them into the ambulance and took them to the hospital.  "Harris just broke out in his area of badness.  He's got a broken arm.  This nice Lieutenant is taking him to Miami tonight to watch over him."

"Awww," the nurse said.  "I'm so proud, Xander."

He grinned back.  "Thank you.  Give me something for the pain before I bite?"

"Sure.  This one time."  She went to get him something for it then got x-rays from the portable machine.  A cast and he was done.  Horatio took them to their hidey hole.  What they packed made Horatio moan for the arms but that was just his boys.  And they were his boys.  No one ever thought to tell him about this town's peculiarity.  Because they were seriously *wrong*.  Eric and Speed would love this town if only because it let Speed be paranoid and Eric could be doing things that would make people admire him forever more just by doing the job correctly.


Horatio looked up two years later.  He had seen his boys on and off for a few weeks at a time, mostly during breaks from classes and work.  Or after apocalypses.  Xander was good about checking in to let him know he was still alive.  So why was he here now, when things were going good in Sunnydale?  "Xander?" he called quietly, getting his attention and a weak smile.  "What's wrong?"

"I need to get away before I kill them."  He gave him a hug.  "They're back on their pre-graduation kick."


"Yes."  He gave him a look.  "Beyond that, a certain someone said I needed to be here soon to help you with one of your situations."


Xander pointed at one guy's back.  Then looked at him.  Horatio moaned.  "I don't know why but I did what I could to prepare for anything that might happen."

"Thank you."

"Can I crash?"

"Of course."  He walked him off.  "How did you find me?"

"I called an officer and told him I needed to give you something very important on a case.  He told me you were here."  He grinned and handed over something.  "You need that.  It's the reason why your mayor is a fuck head."

"Less swearing," he ordered gently.  Xander shrugged.  He looked inside the folder then smirked at him.  "That is a very nice present.  Thank you.  Of course I didn't need a present for you to show up."

"Willow's mother tried to beat manners into me."  He winked.  "Should I hang?"

"Who is this, Horatio?" an African-American woman asked from behind Horatio's back.  "A witness?"

He looked at her.  "Xander, this is Alexx Woods.  Alexx, Xander is a friend who just gave me some information on another issue that's coming.  Xander will be down here for a while.  I'll arrange things so the rest of everyone can come meet him soon."

"He's cute," she said with a smile.  "Nice to meet you, Xander."

"Nice to meet you too, Alexx."  He shook her hand.  "Horatio, where do you want me to wait?"

"Home."  He handed him the keys from his pocket.  "You don't have to do anything too drastic.  Relax and wait.  I'll be home about six."

"Thanks."  He gave him a hug and whispered something in his ear.  Horatio smirked.  Xander smirked back and walked off.

"Aww, he's a cute little boy," she cooed, pinching him on the cheek.

He put back on his sunglasses.  "Wait until you meet Sam."  He walked off to get back to work.  "I have to leave on time tonight, people.  What do we have so far?"

"Who was that?" Calleigh asked.

"A friend who came down to get away from some stress for a few days."  He looked around.  "Anything?"

"A lot but nothing concrete except but dog hairs," she told him, getting back to work with a smile.

"Horatio, sugar, who's Sam?" Alexx asked casually.

He smiled.  "With luck, you'll meet him as well this summer."  She gaped.  "They are friends, Alexx."

"Uh-huh.  That boy was all naughtiness."

"Actually, his town thinks he likes to hurt people but they're all very dirty, very horrible officers who don't do anything near their job."  She and Calleigh both stared at him.  "An explosion happened at Xander's graduation and they tried to blame me because I wasn't native."  They giggled.  "Exactly.  So, let's wrap this up."  They got back to work so he could get back to the office and finish up his work for the day.  On the way out the door, Yelina stopped him.  "Yelina.  Is there a problem?"

"I was going to invite you to dinner tonight.  Ray is looking forward to spending some time with you."  She ran a hand up his arm.  "Please?"

"If you had asked earlier.  I have a friend who just showed up on my crime scene earlier today for a vacation."  She pouted.  "He needs some time to destress but can we reschedule for later on?  Maybe Friday?"

"I think I could swing that.  Would you like to bring him with you?"

"I'll ask him if he wants to join us."  He put on his sunglasses.  "For now, I must bid you good night so I can go treat him to dinner."  She smiled at that.  "I'll see you tomorrow, Yelina.  Hug my nephew for me."  He walked down to the hummer, taking it home.  Where Xander was waiting naked for him.  It was a good boy trait of his.  That's why he hadn't wanted Yelina to come over tonight.  He closed the door and took off his sunglasses, then his shoes and jacket, walking over to where his boy was napping face down, naked on his couch.  He smiled at the cozy picture Xander made.  He hardly ever relaxed these days.  He sat down, leaning over to stroke over Xander's cheek.  "What happened?" he asked gently.

"Remember what I said when we met?"  Horatio nodded.  "Same thing, different cause."


"I don't care.  Is that wrong?"

"No.  Not wrong, Xander.  It's human."  Xander slumped, laying his head back down.  "You're more than welcome to stay as long as you want.  How is Sam doing?  Last time I called he was having finals."

"He's .... something's going on and I don't know what.  He has a girlfriend named Jess."

Horatio frowned.  "Really?"

"Yeah.  He wasn't real sure he remembered me either."

"Could it be this girl?  Perhaps like your friend Willow?"

"Nope.  I checked her out.  She's not.  I sat at the table next to Sam for over an hour and he stared at me like he recognized me but he was confused.  I know it was a witch but I'm not sure which witch it was and who I get to go beat."

"Could it be *your* witch?"

"She's made so many mistakes," he said quietly.  "Just... all the mistakes in the world, Horatio.  I don't know what to do about her."

"We'll handle her.  You can let me help?"

"I'm afraid this is the apocalypse I have to handle."

"If so, we'll be doing it together."  Xander relaxed at that.  "Let me try to call Sam."

"He had his number changed.  It's in my phone."

Horatio frowned, going to call him.  "Samuel, Horatio.  Yes, you do know me, Sam.  You've known me since high school.  Red hair....  Yes, me, Sam.  I was wondering if you were coming to Miami anytime soon.  So I can make arrangements to find something special and relaxing for you.  That's fine.  When you are, let me know and I'll arrange for a relaxing vacation.  Of course, do behave in class."  He hung up and looked at Xander.  "We're sure it was a witch?"

"Yes.  Has to be."  He sat up, looking at his older lover.  "If and when I find them, I'll introduce you to the greasy spot."

"If you let me help, it'll go better."

"If I can.  You're all the way out here."

"I can travel for that.  What they did was wrong."  He took a kiss.  "What did you have planned tonight and will you be here on Friday to eat with my nephew and sister-in-law?   She tried to invite us over tonight but I thought you might need to....destress."

"Oh, I could use a good...destressing," he teased back.  "I could use being made to let it alllll out."

Horatio smirked.  "That's what I had planned."  He took another kiss.  "That is a very nice look for you."

"I was cooling off some sweat."  He gave him a cocky grin.  At least until the doorbell rang.  "Yelina?"

"No.  Probably not."  He got up to answer it, looking at the man standing there.  "Speed.  Is there a problem?"

"I need an ear."  He saw the head and neck that leaned around the doorway, obviously bare.  "Oh, hey, sorry.  I didn't mean to interrupt.  I'm Speed, one of his CSI."

"Xander.  Alexx met me earlier."

"Usually she shares the good gossip.  Um, I can come back."

"Give me ten to get dressed.  You're like his family from what he's said and I can tempt him to the dark side later."  Horatio gave him a look.  "I can."  He smirked.  "Turn around for a second, let me hit the bedroom."  Speed did that and Xander strolled off, making sure to wiggle.

"Tease," Horatio muttered.  He looked at Speed.  "He's in the bedroom.  What's wrong?"

"It's not that important, H."

"If you came all the way out here and you're not riding your bike, it's got to be important."  He pulled him inside and put him in a chair, sitting on the couch.  "What's wrong?  Girlfriend?  Case?  Eric teasing you again?"

"No, none of the above.  I've been having some strange feelings and a few really odd dreams about dying.  I don't know why."

Xander came out in his outfit from earlier, looking at him.  "Want some water?"

"Sure, thanks, Xander.  I won't keep him all night."

"I can stay for at least three weeks, Speed.  You can have a night with him.  The same as Yelina and Ray Junior can."  Speed smiled.  "I'm possessive, not jealous."  He got Speed some water, adding some holy water to it with the ice.  Then he handed it to him.  "Here you go."

He drank and moaned, holding his throat.  "Thought you said you weren't jealous."

"I'm not.  That's holy water."  Speed gave him a horrified look.  "Speed, I'm from the west coast.  A small town by LA called Sunnydale.  I use a lot of holy water every few days hunting the bad things that have done that tragic haircut of yours."  Horatio moaned.  "What is it keeping you from doing?"

"I don't know."

"Okay, go over your usual schedule.  Let's find what's missing," Horatio suggested.  "You haven't been late recently.  Why aren't you riding your bike?"

"I didn't want to risk it with the feeling I've been having."

"Are you eating meals?" Xander asked.  Speed nodded.  "Any change in grooming habits?  Clothing habits?"

"No.  Am I possessed?"

"No," Xander said.  "Influenced, not possessed."

"That's good at least.  Can it hurt me on cases?"

"Have you found yourself wondering why you did something?" Xander asked.


"Where?" Horatio asked.

"I went to see Calleigh..."  He rubbed his head.

"Is it her or her lab?" Xander asked calmly.  "She's your gun tech, right, Horatio?"

Horatio sat up.  "Let me see your gun, Speed."

"It's at home.  I... or maybe it's in my locker."

Horatio called.  "Eric, good.  Speed's at my place.  Something has touched his gun.  He's very certain.  I need it here.  It's either in his locker or at his house.  Speed, where's your box?"

"Armoire in the living room has a small drawer under the tv.  It's in there when I bring it home."

"It's in his tv armoire," Horatio said.  "Yes, now.  I'm sorry you'll be late to your date tonight, Eric.  It's important.  Someone *touched* his gun.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "He'll bring it over as soon as he finds it."

"Is this a prior issue?" Xander asked.

"He nearly died a few weeks back when his gun jammed because it wasn't clean," Horatio said, staring at his favorite CSI.  "Was it happening back then?"

"I don't know when it started, H.  If I did, I'd have said something sooner.  It only hit me earlier on the scene where Xander showed up."

"It could be because I'm here," Xander offered.  "Someone told me Horatio was going to need me in a few days to help him with something.  It was a good time to escape anyway though."  Someone knocked.  "That was fast."

"That's not Eric.  His car's mistuned at the moment," Horatio said, going to see who it was.  "Yelina.  Speed's here with a problem and Xander's in the living room.  What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to meet this young man Alexx said was so nice, Horatio."

He let her in, giving Xander a look over her shoulder.

"Hi, he's said a lot about you and your son," Xander said, holding out a hand.  "Xander."

"Yelina Salas.  You only go by one name?"

"Depends on the circles you run in," he said with a teasing grin.  She gave him a dirty look.  "Sit, please.  We're working on a problem for Speed, but you can ask me any nosy questions you want to."  She sat down between him and Horatio.  Xander looked at her then at Speed.  "How often do you get this feeling?"

"Every once in a while."

"That calendar?" Horatio prompted.

"I did.  I swear I did, Horatio."  Someone knocked then walked in.  "Frank, what's up?"

"Yelina said Horatio had a friend down that we hadn't met yet."  Xander smiled and waved.  "You're kinda young."

"Yes but I have years of experience," he said dryly.  She gave him a look.  "I'm on my town's protection patrol because the officers in my town are all dirty, incompetent, and able to be forgotten about for long periods of time.  Last week we had another person who supposedly died by barbequing accident when she fell on the fork," he said at their glares.
Frank shuddered hard.  "We have the highest per capita death rate from gangs on PCP of any city in the world.  And a higher overall missing persons rate than Miami.  We're needed since the police don't often come out of the office.  The old mayor had them all dirty and the new one, his former minion, isn't any better.  A bit less germ phobic but not any better."  He shifted and crossed his feet.  "Recently he let a military unit do experiments on our town."

Horatio gave him an odd look.  "They were arrested?"

"As far as we know.  Some are working for the UN from what we heard."

"Hell," Frank said.  "Why?"

"Hunting squads for those doing the same thing they were doing in my town."

Yelina laughed.  "That's illegal."

"The last mayor died trying to blow up the school.  Our town's cops ingeniously called it a gas leak and tried to blame it on your brother-in-law when he came out for my graduation."  She looked at Horatio, who nodded.  "Yes, they're *that* bad."  He smiled at Speed when someone else walked in.  "If I knew how to cook more than single guy food I'd try to make snacks."

"I'm on my way to a date," Eric said, handing over the bagged gun.  "Did you want us to search for fingerprints?"

"Mine probably wiped out any that were there," Speed admitted.  "Thank you, Eric.  Hope she's not a skank."

"She hasn't been before," he said.  "H, need me?"

"No, not anymore, Eric.  Thank you for this."  He nodded and left again.  He looked at the two detectives.  "Xander's town is that bad."

"This Sam you mentioned?" Yelina asked.

"He's a friend of ours at Stanford right now," Xander told her.  "On full ride."  She nodded at that.  "Heading toward law school he thinks the last I heard."

"That would suit his stubborn nature very well," Horatio agreed.  "Xander, can you get the tea out?"

"Of course."  He went to do that, taking the gun into the kitchen.  He dropped a few drops of holy water on it but nothing happened.  "Huh."  He carried out glasses then went back to get his and Horatio's.  "Here you go."  He sat down again, looking at Speed.  "I'll be calling someone later to see if I can visit any of their friends locally for them.  If Horatio is busy, want to show me around?"

"I can do that," he agreed, knowing it was a cover.  "How long are you down for?"

"Three weeks at the most."

"Your job gives you that much time off?" Frank asked.  "Must be nice."

"We're between construction projects.  I just made team lead," he said with a smile.  "We have to wait until the next job has funding and pays us.  He'll call if we're starting sooner."

"Congratulations," Horatio said.  "You didn't tell me."

"It happened after that Toth incident I called to freak about."  He took a sip.

Frank drank a sip and looked at it.  "Odd tasting ice."

"Maybe I spilled some of my holy water into it earlier.  Sorry.  Recently we've had a rash of suicides so I've taken to carrying some."  That got a nod and Frank drank it anyway.  Yelina too.  Horatio looked at him.  "A whole group up at the college," he told him quietly.

"They can't stop them?" Speed asked.

"My town has a high denial problem.  It's been 'oh look, those kids are going to make out in the park at night' instead of 'oh look, they're going out to die because they're too stupid to make it out of town to have sex in the car'."  He shrugged.  "We've tried but it's not stopping them."

"A cult?" Yelina asked.

"No.  Not that we've seen."

"Your local police department won't do anything?"

"Half the time they don't even come out to collect the bodies until the next morning," he told her.  "Hence me carrying holy water."  That got a nod.  Speed sipped his and Xander watched him.  "Go get some more if you want."

"Please."  He went to fill his glass up with untainted water and ice.  He came back gulping it to stop the burn from the last sip.  "So, why else are you in town?"

"My two best friends are bitches.  The girl I'm supposedly dating is sucking me dry financially.  We have an enemy we're working with and he respects me more than my friends, even though he's been rendered harmless.  I needed to get out of town before I snapped and said what I was thinking."

Speed nodded.  "I've dumped a few friends like that."

"I work with them on the patrol thing."

"So you can't."

"No, I can't and it'd be really painful for them if I said things about one girl going out in trashy outfits to flash people.  Or the one that's currently having personal issues that she thinks she's hiding and isn't.  Or even that they're female so they treat all males like crap.  Even the one that's not a lesbian and her girlfriend treats us better."  He took another drink then put his glass down on a coaster. "Since I got some information Horatio could use, I brought it down as an excuse to come relax and get away from the cranky women of doom."  He looked at Frank.  "You're not secretly a female, right?  Because if you are and you get that cranky I'll know it's something someone did to me."

Frank laughed.  "No, I'm not that way.  You could ask Yelina."

"She's trying to make sure I'm not going to do strange things around her son."  Yelina stared at him in shocked horror.  "Aren't you?"  She nodded slowly.  "I have no intention of doing anything that could harm your son or brother-in-law, Yelina.  I'm a good guy until you get on my bad side."

"I doubt she would," Horatio said calmly.

"Then she has nothing to worry about unless she becomes like my friends are."  He smiled at his boy.  "Does she?"

"No.  Not in the least.  If she were turning into your friends, I'd take her to a priest and have him exorcize her immediately."  Yelina snorted and took another drink, putting her drink down on the table.  Xander moved it and put a coaster underneath it for her.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "I don't want you cleaning all day tomorrow, Horatio."

"Me either."  Yelina blushed at that.   He looked at her.  "Friday still all right?"

"Friday's fine.  I'm sure Ray Junior and Xander can get along since they're so close in age."

"I'm nearly twenty," Xander told her.  "I know, I look younger.  It's the lack of sleep."   Frank laughed, shaking his head.  "It is.  Plus all the chocolate I eat.  They say it's a miracle drug."  Horatio smirked at him.  "I do live on it."

"I've seen you those days," he said dryly.

"Xander, you said supposedly dating?" Speed asked.

"Xander and I are not seeing each other *that* way at this time," Horatio told him.  "Therefore he's picked up another evil young woman who wants to do mean things to him."

"Only if she doesn't get enough."  He sipped his drink then put it back on the coaster.  "She's a bit of a money grubbing, sex starved woman."

"She sounds spectacular," Frank said sarcastically.

"Well, she's special but right now she's getting on my nerves again."  His phone beeped.  "And of course she always knows when I'm complaining about her."  He pulled it out to look at the screen before answering.  "Yes, Buffy?  Miami visiting Horatio.  Remember the redhead from graduation?  Him.  Miami.  At least a week.  Why?"  He listened, tapping his foot.  "No, I can't.  Because I'm on the east coast, Buffy.  How did I get here?  Hmm.  Plane," he said sarcastically.  "I can fly.  It is a legal activity in this country to fly out to visit people you like."  He looked over at Horatio.  "Here, you tell her why I came down to visit," he said, holding out the phone.  They could all hear her shrieking into it.

Yelina took the phone.  "Miss, you are interrupting my meeting this charming young man who knows my brother-in-law.  No, I'm Detective Salas.  I married Horatio's brother before he died.  I came over to meet Xander.  Yes, here in Miami.  One of Horatio's CSI and one of our fellow detectives is also here.  Yes, that one is Horatio.  I don't know, where's Sam, Xander?"


"He said he's at Stanford.  Oh, the one you said was pre-law?"  Xander nodded.  "He's pre-law."  She smirked.  "No, I believe things were stressing him out a bit, young lady.  He needed a few days with some friends who wanted to make him happier.  I have no idea if they're sleeping together.  I haven't witnessed it and as far as I know Horatio is straight."  Horatio gave her an odd look.  "If so, that is their business.  No, I don't feel odd about it.  Xander seems to be a very nice boy with manners.  I'm hoping he can positively influence my son when they meet.  Yes, he was just talking about his girlfriend."

"Anya," Xander said.

"Anya he said?"  She smirked.  "That's what he was saying.  No, I'm sure he told her.  She might not have been listening."

"I told all of you; you didn't listen," Xander said loudly.  "Therefore I'm on vacation."

"He said he's on vacation.  Yes, I'm quite sure.  We were having a nice conversation getting to know each other."  She got hung up on.  "She did not sound happy."

"Another one of the reasons I'm down here," he said blandly.  He put his phone on the table.  "Let's see.  She was in the shop.  It'll take her ten minutes to get to my place to nark to Anya in person....  Or she'll call and Anya will call right after she throws something breakable.  Probably of mine.  Though she does know about Horatio and I being friends.  She'll jump to the wrong conclusion but that's just how she is."  His phone rang again.  "Bingo.  From my place.  Yes, Anya?" he answered.  "With Horatio in Miami.  Yes, that Horatio, Anya.  How many do I know?"  He looked up, silently praying to their guardian to go make her speechless and unable to have sex or spend money.

"No, I'm not coming home this week.  I already dropped the rent check off, Anya.  It'll clear tomorrow.  So if you spent out of my account I'd put it back tonight.  Because if it bounces, you get to find us a new place and move everything because it'd be you who spent it.  It's my money, Anya.  I can spend *my* money any way I want.  The same as you do yours.  It was before you got into my account.  Then take it back," he said dryly.  "I'll warn him in a minute.  Anything else you wanted to know about?  I've got a few weeks between jobs right now so I'm on break.  I came to see Horatio.  I told you this."  He put her on speaker, rubbing his ear.  "Anya, I told everyone at the store, including you, that I was going to Miami for a bit to visit a friend."

"You never said that."

"I did so.  I did yesterday."

"I didn't hear you."

"You were behind the counter.  That's only five feet away."

"Buffy said you didn't tell her either."

"Buffy's a lying bitch," he said bluntly.  "Apparently you both had a convenient case of deafness."  She growled.  "Back it up, Anya, or move out."  He hung up.  Then he sighed.  "Sorry.  She's a bit... of a pain in my ass."

"I've dumped many girls like her," Speed said.

Xander looked at him.  "Ones who used to torture unfaithful men?" he asked with a grin.   "Because she did."  Speed and Frank both shuddered.

"I knew of a woman who did that once," Yelina admitted.

"It was probably Anya.  She's only retired in the last few years."  They froze and their patron saint appeared.  "Hey, boss."

"Xander, Horatio."

"What's wrong with Sam?" Horatio asked.

He pointed at Xander.  "His witchly friend."  Xander moaned, shaking his head.  "She tried on you.  You're simply too stubborn."

"Good," Horatio agreed.  "Can we reverse it?"

"For now, leave it alone.  You can awaken it easier later on when he's back to hunting."

"He should be warned if something's going to happen.  Or we should be there," Horatio told him.

"That is not my call.  It is the call of the one after him.  His brother will be there."  Xander frowned at that.  "That will be about the same time that Xander will be stopping his friend from her own apocalypse."


"When she's fully gone over.  When the grief gets to her."  He moved closer.  "Anya was warned.  She ignored it as well."

"Any way you can make her unable to spend the rent money?"

He smirked.  "I might be able to do that if you'd do something for me."

"Which is?"

"Help him with that one," he said, pointing at Speed.

"I planned on it.  I don't know why they want him gone."

"He's a lynchpin in the local group.  To take him out would weaken the city's defenders."

"Damn it," Horatio said.

"Exactly.  Others do try.  I'm not sure if it'll be able to fully be removed or not.  It may have to be solved at that moment when he would be crossing over.  Which Xander can help with.  He is a very good field medic."  Xander nodded at that.  "Do what you can but save him, or else your team may be in ruins.  Even if he's alive but out of the lab, it can only help you and those around you."  He looked at Yelina.  "Her shock is coming soon."  He disappeared and the others started to move again.

Xander called his landlord.  "It's Harris.  Anya's been into my account.  Call me before you send it to the bank?"  He smirked.  "Good idea, man.  Thanks.  Yeah, I yelled.  She'll be paying it back too because I've had enough of her."  He laughed.  "Thanks."  He hung up.  "He sent it to the bank the same afternoon I gave it to him and he said it cleared before she did mean things to my account."

"What is she doing?" Speed asked.

"Shopping for sex toys probably," Xander said.  "She does that a lot because she thinks it should last all night, even though I didn't get in until two and I have to be at work at eight."

"That's insane," Frank told him.

Xander nodded.  "Plus she wants me to pay for most everything even though she's working."  He shrugged.  "Reality is going to bite her very soon."  Horatio looked at him.  "It will."  He smirked back.  "But enough about me."  They both smirked at that.  "Speed, anything interesting going on in your life?"

"Not at the moment.  Just the stuff I came over to talk to H about."

Yelina blushed a bit.  "Sorry, Speed, I didn't know you needed counseling.  We could take Xander out to get dinner if you needed more privacy."

"I know how to hide in another room," Xander assured her.  "My friends have been female for the last five years."  Frank shuddered.  Speed gave him a pitying look.  "So I do have some tact now and then."

Horatio looked at Yelina, who finished her drink and stood up, giving him and Speed a hug then shaking Xander's hand before leaving.  Frank followed with a wave since it was clear Horatio didn't need to be saved.

Xander moved to see which demon was infecting Speed.  One way or another they'd have to fix this.  Even if he needed to be there when he was shot to save him.


Xander got the call from Horatio that he needed to stalk him today and he'd tell him where they were headed.  Xander got into his rental car and tried to be inconspicuous.   It clearly didn't work since a patrol officer pulled him over to see why he was following a crime lab hummer.  Xander gave him a good story but got a ticket anyway and warned off.  So he changed rental cars and went back to it.  He'd worry about that ticket later.  He got a call from Horatio telling him they were going to a jewelry store but he didn't think there'd be a problem there; Xander didn't really care.  He followed him anyway.  And that's why he was right outside calling for backup when he heard the gunshots.  He waited until they stopped to slip in and move over to where Speed was lying on the floor.  "Hey, buddy."  He opened the vial he pulled out of his pocket with his teeth, pouring it into the wound.  "This'll burn like hell."

"Thanks for the warning," Speed coughed.  Xander put pressure on the wound, making him scream in pain as the solution started to work.

"Xander?" Horatio asked, kneeling to hold Speed's head in his lap.

"I can't cure it fully with this but I can sure as hell slow down his bleeding."  He looked then reached in and scooped up some of the solution onto his fingers so he could pinch the bleeding spot closed.  "Horatio, my right pocket.  This stuff isn't as strong as it should be."  Horatio got the other vial out for him.  "Over my fingers."

"What is that?"

"It's a type of blood from a healing demon," Xander admitted.  "It won't taint you or anything but it can make you heal."

"I don't....."

Xander twitched his fingers, letting Speed pass out from the pain.  "I don't follow orders like that, Speed.  I don't lose people out here."  He took the vial once it was open and poured it inside, hearing a yell from the paramedics.  "It's good.  It's to help him clot.  I've got the gusher between my fingers."  He watched, it was working.  Slightly but it was working.  Horatio smiled at him.  The backup cops came rushing in.  "I'm holding his bleeding spot closed," he said when one tried to grab him.  The paramedics got their stuff ready and came over to help.  "I've got it pinched closed."

"What was that you were pouring in?"

"It's a clotting solution I use at home on major wounds.  I used it on my arm," he said, using his free hand to point at his newest scar.  The first one had worked on that really but they didn't need to know.  "It's to help with field dressings."

"What do you do?" one cop snapped.

Xander looked back at him.  "The cops in my town think there's a mass wave of gangs on PCP that kill people.  I'm on the protection patrol."  They shuddered.  He looked at the paramedic.  "Got a clamp or something?"  They nodded.  "Okay.  Give."  He took it and found the spot, clamping it around his fingers then moving them.  It started to gush so he shifted it.  It stopped.  "That's better I think.  This is Detective Speedle.  He's a buddy of mine and that's his boss Horatio.   He's lost a good bit of blood."

"I can see that, sir, thank you.  We've got it."

Xander got out of their way.  He watched but they were having problems getting an IV in.  Xander moved and got it into his leg and it worked.  "More than one major vein in the body," he pointed out.  "Blood always pools in the legs."  The cops moved him back and the paramedics took him off.  "Go, Horatio.  He'll need you."

"He was helping at my instigation," Horatio told them.  They nodded so he went with Speed to the hospital.

"Where are you from?" one of the officers asked.

"Small town called Sunnydale out by LA," he said with a slight grin, wiping his hands off on his pants.  The solutions worked much better now.  Which meant someone was still trying to kill Speed.  Fortunately he had laid multiple protections on him that he had found in the books.  He looked at the guys again, noticing them looking at his pants.  "That's how it works on most cuts.  His was more severe so it was slowing the bleeding," he said quietly.  They nodded at that.  "Someone should call his team."  He looked around.  "Is he supposed to be moving?"

They looked about the same time the demon grabbed the gun.  One of them got hit on the arm but Xander took his gun and calmly shot the guy when his partner missed.  "What are you doing!" the injured one said.

Xander gave him an odd look.  "I'm not used to ones who can protect themselves or do anything.  Sorry."  He handed it back after putting on the safety.   "Your action's a bit hard.  Might need cleaned."  He walked over to the demon, kicking him over.  He found the marks on his neck and smirked.  "Oh, really?"  He traced over them and the thing steamed then turned into a puddle.  "Have to talk to them when I get home."

"What are you?" the non-injured one asked.

"According to my friends?  Too normal to do anything right."  He gave them a look.  He heard a whimper and pulled the hiding shopkeeper up, handing him over.  "Here, a witness.  I know Horatio and Speed were working a kidnaping."  Eric rushed in.  "I kept Speed from bleeding out.  He's on his way to the ER with Horatio."

"Who're you?" he demanded.

"Xander?" Frank asked as he came in.

"We had hints someone would try for Horatio today.  One of the other reasons I came down with some of the solution we use on cuts.  Speed's gun jammed and he got shot in the shoulder.  I used the solution on the wound to slow the bleeding.  I clamped it for the paramedics when they got here because I had the gusher in my fingers."  Eric went pale and wobbled.  "Horatio went with him."  That got a nod from Frank.  He pointed at the guy.  "He was hiding."

"That blue one, he shot it!" the guy babbled.

Xander looked at him.  Then at the puddle then at him.  "What blue thing?"  He looked at Eric, who gave him a heated look.  He switched to one of the demon languages, saying something to him.  Eric shuddered.  "I thought that might be close enough to Russian for you to understand."

"Very."  He looked him over.  "Speed's blood?"  Xander looked then nodded.  "Go to Horatio's and wait there, Xander."

"Going," he promised, holding up a hand.  "Good luck finding that kid, Eric.  I hope he's okay."  He smiled at Frank.  "You thought I was just fun?"  He jogged out to his car and headed back there to shower and change.  Though he did mark down the symbol and emailed it to Willow's email, telling her that it had tried to kill a cop he knew down here and he had to step in.  To please *talk* to that clan about staying out of good cops' ways and to see who paid them to do it for him.  If not, he'd do it when he got home.   He looked over as their demon minder showed up.  "Speed okay?"

"He'll be fine.  They couldn't block the entire power of the healing elixir or the Mohra demon blood."

"I'm glad I brought both," xander said quietly.  He held up the symbol.  "Them?"

"Paid, as you thought."

"Any more local?"

"Yes.  Down at one of the bars by the waterfront."  Xander smirked.  "You could be very badly hurt.  They don't play as nicely as they do in Sunnydale."

"Garlic bombs work on most of them?"

"Well....  Didn't you leave those in the other car?"

Xander pointed at his bag.  "I only had the one on me and I transferred it.  I'm pretty sure I did."  That got a smirk and a head shake.  Xander counted.  "Yeah I did.  It wasn't mine."  He shrugged.  "Where on the waterfront?"

He handed over the address slip.  "Have some good stress relief, Xander."

"I plan on it."  They shared a look.  "No one touches what's mine."  That got a pleased smirk then the demon left.  Xander grabbed some stuff and called Horatio.  "Someone planted something in the old rental car to make someone think I had weapons there.  I know I moved the only one I had with me in the car so I don't know what they planted.   Yeah, you might.  Oh, met Eric.  He knows.  Frank showed up too.  No, I'm going to find out who paid for the potions to not work and that one demon to show up after you guys were gone.  Waterfront.  I'll be fine, Horatio.  I'm like that.  I'll make dinner if I'm home first.  Call and tell me how he is later."  He hung up before Horatio could protest, heading out with his hunting gear.  It wasn't that hard to find the bar.  Miami was laid out pretty well in some sections.  The bar was clearly a demon bar.  It was called the Scaley Fin.  He walked in and saw people then looked at the bartender.  "Hi, I'm looking for this place," he said, holding up the slip.  "Not here?"

"Out back.  Why you need those sort?" he asked calmly.

"I need to ask one why he paid someone to shoot a cop."  He grinned.

"Are you one?"

"No.  I'm from Sunnydale."  He walked back that way, kicking in the door before walking in.  "Good morning."  They pointed.  He walked past the humans playing poker and into the demon bar.  "Ah, the smell of decay and rot in the afternoon humidity."  The demons all stared and a few backed up.  He kicked the door shut then turned to barr it.  He turned back around and held up the symbol.  "I only *want* them.  If I have to, I'll make like Buffy on PMS."  They tried to run out the other exit but Xander had fixed that one already.  Xander sighed and found a snap stick, snapping it to release the gas inside.  The demons gave him a horrified look.  Some backed away further.  Some choked.  A few wheezed.  "One of the ones of this clan of blue thing that puddles when you shoot it tried to take out a cop, who is a friend of mine.  I want to know who paid them."  They all pointed.  "Thank you."  He walked that way, finding the clan huddling together.  "Ah, hey, Beatrice."  She looked up then moaned and let out a wail of 'knight'.  "Yeah, it's me.  You stupidly tried to take out one of Horatio's guys and Horatio's mine."  He smirked.  "Good timing for me to be here, huh?"

She backed away.  "It was a paid job, Knight.  I swear it was!"

"I know that.  I want to know who and want any others that were involved.  Or else I'm going to make this place howl like I was Spike and Dru both."  He stared her down.  She whimpered, backing away another step.  "The fall when you go down that hole won't kill you but it will mean you'll be too injured to get away."

"One of the Highers.  I swear, they paid us."

"Which higher?"


"Abbis?  Who's he over?  Can't be very big, Anya never said anything about him."

"He's over Destiny."

"Uh-huh."  He looked at her.  "Let me make this *absolutely* clear for all of you.  Horatio and Sam are mine.  Horatio is here.  Sam is at Stanford."

"Winchester?" she asked with a swallow.

He smirked and nodded.  "Yes, Winchester.  No matter what Willow did to him to make him slightly forget us.  I'll be fixing that in a while.  Why?"

"One wants him as a champion."

"I want him in bed, begging for mercy," he said dryly.  "Who do you think will win?"

"Azazel will not be pleased," she pressed.

He shrugged.  "And?  Buffy won't be pleased.  She thinks I'm unworthy of even dating Anya at the moment."

"You do like dangerous things," one demon said.

Xander grinned back at him.  "Definitely.  They just match me so well."  He looked at her and she pointed.  So he looked at this higher demon.  "You tried to take out Speed."

"It's all part of the plans."

"Your plans, not *the* plans."  The demon gave him a horrified look.  "After all, all demons have a plan.  Some are crackhead plans.  Some are semi-decent but faulty plans.  I haven't met a plan yet that made good,  working sense that came from a demon planning."

"He will be mine, boy."

"Ah, then you're the one that his father and brother are hunting for.  Good to know."  The demon backed up.  Xander pulled out something.  "I'm protecting Sam Winchester.  My blood is his blood and his tears are mine," he chanted, cutting into his forearm.  The demon roared and lunged at him but Xander stabbed him with the knife.  The demon staggered back.  "No more shall you come at Samuel with intent to harm him without incurring me coming between you," he finished.  The blood sealed the pact.  "Do I need to do another one for Horatio and his team?"

"You will not stop me.  That only makes it so you're between us in cases of potential harm to him."

"Hmm.  Yeah.  I can't stop all the mind games but he'll remember us soon enough, dear.  Then what'll you do when Sunnydale comes down on your ass?"  He moved closer.  "Because I can *so* make it so you're not welcome on this plane anymore."

"I'm the highest of the high.  You're a weak human."

Xander patted the dagger hilt then pulled it out.  "Maybe, but it doesn't mean that a mere human can't take you down.  Every demon has a weakness somewhere.  And I work with a watcher.  I'm pretty sure he has a book somewhere that'll tell me what yours is."   The demon sneered.  Xander sneered back and threw the dagger at the portal he could feel open.  Then he lashed out at the demon, grabbing something else out to attack him with.  The demon screamed as the holy water spray hit him then attacked back.  Xander kicked it over the railing and followed, grabbing a sword off a wall.  The demon backed off, holding the injured spot.  "Keep going.  Out of Miami.  Away from me and mine.  Or else I get to be the biggest bitch in the universe.  Even bigger than Buffy with PMS."

His demon minder appeared.  "It is not time yet, Xander."

Xander looked at him.  "I know I can't *kill* him but that doesn't mean I can't make him sorry.  Right?"  He lunged again and the demon smoked up, leaving his body there as he floated off.  "Come to Sunnydale first next time, bitch.  We'll see who has more fun."  He looked at the head demon again.  "So, this Abbis demon?"

"I'll deal with him."

Xander smirked.   "Thanks.  Oh, was that Willow or Tara I just scared?"


He shrugged.  "Okay, I'll deal with her when I get home."  He looked around.  "At least this one doesn't want to let everything be destroyed this year.  He appreciates my loud shirts too."  The demons all looked at that higher.  A few started to pray to him then and there.  "Don't make me come back," he told Beatrice.  "Horatio, his lab, Sam and his family.  Sunnydale.  All mine to protect.  Got it?"  She nodded quickly.  "Good.  Then I'm going to make sure Horatio actually eats and sleeps tonight."  He opened the lock on the back door and left it open, walking around the warehouse to his car so he could go back to Horatio's.  He found Eric there.  "Hey.  I'm bringing Horatio some food at the hospital.  Should I make some for Alexx or anyone?"

"Who are you?" he asked quietly.

"Xander Harris.  I back up the slayer in Sunnydale."

Eric swallowed.  "My grandfather was a watcher."

"I'm sorry.  Was he one of the bastards like Travers?"

"No," he admitted.

"Then good."  He grinned.  "How many?"

"Alexx, Calleigh, and Frank are there right now."

"Okay."  He cleaned himself up, changing pants.  "The hit out on Speed was taken care of.  A higher demon wanted the team weaker because you guys protect Miami."

"Speed's a lock between the people on our team," Eric said.

Xander looked at him.  "What would happen if he died?"

"Alexx would get depressed.  Calleigh would cry and try to be stoic.  Horatio too.  I'd be devastated."  Xander nodded, working on the sandwiches.  "So, take him out, make us weaker, and then what?"

"Probably give it to whoever that demon was in alliance with.  There's some highers doing some major planning ahead at the moment.  Everyone's got plans but not all of them are good ones."  He glanced at Eric.  "I have no idea who he'd be working with.  I didn't ask him.  I ended up running into the higher who's been making more major plans because his are trying to end the world.  That's what we do."

"I know about Sunnydale.  No mayo on Calleigh's."  Xander nodded, making one without it.  "Or on Frank's I don't think.  He usually has mustard."  Xander pointed at the mass of mustard, ketchup, and mayo packets that had come with takeout bags over the years.  "That'll work."  He grinned.  The others were quickly wrapped and Eric drove him to the hospital with them.

Xander sat down next to Horatio, giving him a sandwich and a look.  "He'll be okay."


"Abbis.  He's a higher," he said very quietly.  "He's being dealt with.  I ran into the one that got Sam's mom."

Horatio looked at him.  "Do you need the ER?"

"I'm not that bad, Horatio.  I didn't even trip."  He grinned, handing Calleigh a sandwich as she paced past them.  "Eat, before you pass out and have an adjoining bed."  She stared at him.  "You can't go on no food.  Even in the trying times.  It's ham."  She smiled weakly, taking a mustard packet out of the pile he put down to add then pace while eating.  "Frank, food."

Frank looked over.  "How do you know about that stuff?"

Xander grinned.  "Hometown patrol."  Frank shuddered.  "Eat."  Frank got his own sandwich and grimaced.  Xander looked.  "It was not like that at home."

"No it wasn't," Eric said, muttering something.  The sandwich went back to normal.  "Any idea?"

"Yeah.   If I'm right, I'll spank her when I get home for keeping me from taking care of those who need fussing over."  The magic feeling left.  He looked at Horatio.  "I'll call once I have."

Horatio smiled weakly.  "Thank you, Xander."

"It's what I do.  Speed is precious to you."  He gave him a shoulder nudge.  "I made yours special since I know you didn't get lunch.  Eric, that little one?"

"Found.  He's back at home."


"Thanks."  He sat down to eat, handing Alexx her sandwich once he checked it.  "Here, Xander made food."

She looked at him.  "You fuss pretty good, Xander."

"I know Horatio needs it.  The rest of you probably won't think about it for a while.  Is he going to be really okay or just okay enough?"

"They said it's iffy about coming back to work.  They're not sure.  We'll have to wait and see on that.  As long as he's alive I don't care if he can work in the lab or not."  She gave him a hug then Horatio one.  "Thank you for saving my baby, Horatio."  She went to the bathroom to cry, Calleigh following her.

Xander looked at him.  "You finish up.  Let me head back to your place?" he asked quietly.

"Thank you."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "If you need me, you call."

"Of course.  I'll be home later.  After Internal Affairs gets onto this."

"We know someone was touching his gun, Horatio.  Is it possible they took it long enough to fire?"   Horatio gave him an odd look.  "How does it get that dirty that fast if he's leaving it in his locker?"

"Good point," he agreed with a slight smile.  That could work in Speed's favor if he was able to come back to work.  "I'll be home soon."

"Sure."  He got up and headed out with a glance at Eric.  He walked in and collapsed on the couch, looking at the knife that appeared on the table then at the redhead who had put it there when she appeared.  "Thanks, I might need that since it was a demon that had him shot."

"Why were you at the demon bar?"

"To beat information out of someone."

"But...  You're not Buffy, Xander."

"I know that.  I'd look sucky in her barely-there skirts."  He gave her a look.  "You'd think after four years I had learned some things, huh?" he said dryly.

"That you're not able to do those things," she argued.

"Seemed to work," he pointed out.  She huffed.  "Worked pretty well since one of the highers came after me and is after my friend Sam."

"You have Anya."

"I know I have Anya.  Well, I don't have Anya because she stole money from my account again," he said dryly.  "Beyond that, I can have friends outside my relationship.  I'm sorry if you can't seem to do that but I've known Horatio and Sam longer than I have her."  He shifted to put his feet up on the couch beside him.  "Anything else, Willow?  I'm kinda tired.  Saving him then going there to beat information out of them wore me out."

She stared at him.  "You're possessed again."

"No, sorry.  Wrong guess," he said dryly.  "No door prize this time, Miss Rosenburg.  Come back in another costume and try again."  He stared her down.  "I have shields now, Willow.  Have since that summer roadtrip.  It was pretty simple too.  The witch that found me and helped me with them did it within an hour and a half.  Giles has the same book and he never even thought about suggesting I should read it."  She shuddered.  "Even after two possessions.  Aren't we glad the mayor's spirit didn't try me?" he said dryly.  She blipped off.  He waved at the empty spot then got up to clean his dagger and put it back where it belonged.  He would really have to spank when he got home.


The demon watching Sam watched what that team was doing.  They could screw up his plans very well.  That one was too wild, and too unpredictable to count into his plans.  So he'd have to work around him.  The one witch going off the deep end would only help his plans.  He wouldn't even have to give her a nudge.  And the night she went off, Samuel would be unguarded.  He couldn't kill him but he could do mental damage.  Which could be very sweet and move the boy back into the playing field where he wanted him.  Yes, just a nudge here, and one to their father to make him disappear.  Yes, that would work.  All while the boy was preparing to stop an apocalypse of their own making and arrogance. Not that he'd let her destroy the world.  He needed it intact and the humans mostly around.  For now.


Xander called Horatio on his way after Willow.  "Check on Sam.  Willow's....  gone off the deep end."  He hung up and jogged faster to catch up to her.  This was so not good.  Now he knew what their minder had meant about a personal apocalypse that would rip his soul for a bit.  Later on he'd call Horatio for some soothing and comfort.  He'd need it after he had to deal with Willow.


Xander and Horatio got together a few more times before things went too critical.  Xander had recognized Ryan Wolfe, Speed's replacement as another pawn in the game.  So he was watching him carefully.  They were waiting to see when the next really bad evil was going to happen in Sunnydale.  Of course, it would happen when it did.  It always did.  Then Xander got a vision about Sam.  He spent all night on the phone with Horatio before they decided to break whatever spell was on Sam that meant he didn't remember them.  That's why Xander was dressed up as a club boy at the strip club they were hunting for information at.  Xander found them in one of the alcove seats.  He knew the guy running the club through the demon that watched over them all.  He got a nod when he walked in, nodding at the boys.  He got a nod and Xander brought their next drink order to them.  "Your drinks, boys?"

Dean looked at him.  "I didn't know it was gayboy night."

Xander smirked.  "I'm special to the boss," he said with a wink.  "Someone paid me to come see you two about something."  He batted his lashes.  "By the way, Dean..."  He smacked him on the head.  "Dumbass."

"Who are you," he snarled.  He tried to move but he was stuck.  This attack was not funny!

Xander grinned.  "Not your concern but Sam can tell you later."

"I ... do I know you?" Sam asked.

Xander straddled Sam's lap, staring into his eyes.  Dean was trying to move but the demon had given him a spell to hold him in place temporarily while he broke this spell on Sam.  "Sam, you do know me.  This is a very mean spell," he said, making Sam shiver.  He sat down, making Sam stay in contact with his eyes.  "You know me.  You know Horatio.  You remember my graduation and the battle."  Sam stiffened, staring at him.  "That was a play, Sam."

Sam blinked.  "Xander," he breathed then kissed him.  "Oh, god, how could I...."

Dean realized maybe it wasn't attack when Sam kissed him.  It wasn't like Sam to kiss their attackers.  Neither of them went in for that sort of attack or defense.

"Willow.  She admitted it.  She thought I was cheating on Anya."  He gave him a look.  "If the demon takes you, you must be careful.  The demon's not the only thing that can hurt you there.  The other people are going to be desperate and believing whatever the demon says.  If one gets you, we'll have to pull a major save of the family."  He ran a finger down Sam's nose then grinned.  "I don't want to watch you die, even for a few hours while Dean panics and makes a bad deal."

"Deal?" Dean asked.  He had quit struggling when the spell had come off.  He wasn't sure why Sammy wasn't freaked out by some strange guy in tight pants sitting in his lap but this was something he needed to hear more about.  Before it came up again.  Because Sammy hadn't been gay when he left for Stanford and he had only heard the name Xander once before.  Moaned like that meant something had went on between them.  So unlike Sam unless this guy was trouble.  In that outfit though...trouble was possible.

Xander looked back at him, nodding.  "If the demon takes him, he can die not only by the demon's hand but also by one of the humans there who is panicking.  I saw it.  Then I saw you going to a road....  Somewhere dark.  A kiss?"

"A deal," Dean said, nodding at that.  "When?"

Xander grinned.  "Not soon.  But pretty soon."  He looked at Sam again.  "You got to miss Willow going over the edge in her grief."

"That earthquake?" he asked.  Xander nodded.  "How?"

"Tara died.  Her girlfriend.  She had an addiction to the skills."  Sam gave him a hug.  "You missed us having to save one of Horatio's CSI guys from a demon who wanted him removed to make Horatio and his team weak.  You got to miss the last apocalypse.  This time, I do kinda hope we can get some help?"

"What's going on?" Sam asked.

"The First Evil."  Sam gave him an odd look.  Xander pulled a letter out of his back waistband and handed it back to Dean.  He gave his boy a hug.  "We missed you, Sam.  I saw Jess.  She was a sweet girl.  It was good for you."  Sam nodded, cuddling with him.  "This is the first apocalypse that we might lose.  Can you come help?"

"If at all possible," he promised, kissing him.  Xander moaned, tipping his head.  Sam moved down to his throat.  "I've missed you two.  Even if I didn't know why, I knew I was missing something."

Xander smiled.  "We missed you too, Sam."  He stood up.  "After the apocalypse, we'll be in Miami for a bit.  I know if the demon gets you, it'll be in North Dakota and then he'll be trying to open a gateway for an invasion.  Speaking of, we know the one that brings the demons back to human's view, it's in LA in a few years.  A serious invasion that'll be an all-hands, all hunters sitch."  He smiled.  "Now I need to get back.  We're still in Sunnydale but I want to see you before your crisis."

Sam nodded.  "As soon as I can get us back there."

"We need to find Dad," Dean said, looking at them.

Sam looked at him.  "Dad'll probably be drawn into the fight.  They have yearly apocalypses.  This is more serious than the rest have been since his graduation.  Which I was there for."  Xander winked at him.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Not a problem.  Horatio nearly went to beat her to death for that when he found out it was her.  Ooh, and she did a spell to make me try to discourage Horatio and marry Anya."  Sam sat up, staring at him.  "The demons she worked with intervened and I left her at the altar.  I'm still not sure if Anya was with that or not.  She got warned about things before she came back.  And hey, you got to miss the military coming in."  He grinned sweetly.  "Want Spike?  He's annoying me this week."

"The same Spike that showed up at parent-teacher night?" Sam asked.

"Now he's got a government behavior chip in his head.  He can't hunt or kill humans.  It's making him edgy and depressed again."

Sam shuddered.  "That's just *wrong*, dude."

"And I had him in as my roomie for a while," he said with a small shrug.  "Speed appreciated him when I shipped him to Miami for a few days of peace and quiet."

"We'll be there.  When?"

"I've got to get back tonight.  There's an important battle tomorrow night.  Call Horatio."

"I'm going to.  I'm so sorry."

"Hey, not your fault.  Willow's a pain in my ass even today.  You got to miss her going back to the old thing after grad too."  He took another kiss.  "We think it'll be in about four weeks.  Come when you can."

"We will," Dean agreed.  "So you two....."

"Ask Sam later.  It's a good late night, lights out story."  He smirked at Sam.  "See you soon.  If not before then definitely after.  Even if I have to go destroy your demon for you."  He walked off, heading to the graveyard with the portal.  He found the stuff the demon had left at his request, pulling out the compound that would fill in the hole.  He squirted it in, doing a good, professional job.  That way the key couldn't be used.  He saw a light coming his way and mentally thought up a good reason.  "Officer," he said in a honeyed accent he had stolen of Calleigh, Horatio's female CSI.  "My friend is shooting our school project here later this week.  When I came to scout angles for the camera, I found this one had a hole in it.  It looked like someone took a pickaxe and that's a bad thing so I'm filling it in.  No one should have their grave desecrated this way."

The officer looked at his spackle job.  "Not bad.  Can it be pulled out?"

"Oh, no, Officer.  It's meant for repairing stone walls and things.  Now I'm going to put a bit of mesh over it."  He did that.  "Then we'll put on some gravel that'll fall off so it'll match texture."  He beamed once that was done.  "There we go."  He brushed off the excess bits of gravel and stepped back.  "How's that look?"

"That's not a bad repair, kid."

Xander grinned.  "I work on a construction crew during the summer."  He pointed.  "Is that a good spot to film you think?"

"What sort of film is it?"

"Making fun of the pagan stereotypes that seem to abound in the horror genre and the sci-fi stuff.  Because they're not all people sacrificing, dancing on graves sorts.  Some are just very in touch with their Gods.  Some were very calm, with a few exceptions."

"I can see that.  Which school are you in?"

"Grant High School in the next county."

"No graveyards in your town?"

"Not as peaceful and special as this one.  We've found mentions of this one in a few books on the pagan culture."

"Huh.  Didn't know that.  That's a good patch job.  You done?"

"Yes, sir, and we'll be very respectful the night we film.  You won't even know we're here."

"Good.  That would creep out some people.  Let's go."

Xander gathered up his bag and walked out.  "Thank you for your opinion, Officer.  Have a great and easy night.  I know the night shift can suck."  He jogged to his car and headed off.  The demon took him back home and he walked into the Magic Box.  "We may have some more help from some demon hunters I met."

"When?" Buffy asked.

"During the battle."

"We have slayers."

Xander looked at her then at Giles.  "It might be handy to have others to back the girls up," Giles told her.  She shrugged and rolled her eyes, walking off.  He looked at the boy.  "Do I know them?"

"I know the younger Winchester son."

"Winchester?"  He looked him up in a book.  "John Winchester?"

"Is Sam's father.  He and his brother are presently hunting."  That got a smile and a nod of understanding.  "Then we've got help.  They're hunting a demon that attacked their mother and Sam's girlfriend, plus now their father is off hunting it and they can't reach him."

"That's fine.  If they can help I'll welcome any decent help."

"Good.  Now, I'm going to go to bed.  Because I'm exhausted."  He went back to the Summers house to his cot in the basement.  He found Spike on it so he grabbed it and flipped him off it.  "Thank you.  Had to fill in a hole in a graveyard before a demon opens a hell gate."  He laid down, kicking off his boots.  "If they show up I've got to introduce you to more people to annoy."  He flipped onto his side, covering himself with his camp blanket so he could get some rest.  He was still working full time.  Plus the increased patrols and the stress of having a bunch of mini slayers in the house.  He was fragged.  After this apocalypse, he was *so* going to rest in Miami and make Horatio moan in pleasure for *weeks*.  The world owed him.

Spike glared.  "I'll tell the kiddies you're back."

"Go right ahead.  I can spank the one that tried to climb in last night yet again," he quipped back.

"Don't know why she would.  Can't be anything in the sack."

"Ask Anya.  She wasn't unhappy with it."

Spike walked off to ask her.  In Buffy's hearing of course.  "Whelp's back.  Said he'll be spanking the one that wants to have what you had and he thinks if he gave in she wouldn't complain either."

"He is very good in bed but he has no desire for an underage girl.  His tastes seem to run to women who're older.  Like I am and Ampata was."  She walked off sniffing.  That young one needed to have a good talking to.  She could not have a young girl taking Xander.  Or a man.  But she knew what would happen if she tried to hex Sam or Horatio.  Willow was still being punished for it.  Those nightmares of hers were clearly a punishment.


Sam found Xander a few days later, finding him resting against a building holding his head.  He had Dean pull over, then got out.  He stared then walked over.  "Xander?"  Xander looked up.  He gasped at the eyepatch.  "What the hell!" he demanded, pulling him closer to look at it.  He frowned at the empty hole.  "Damn it!"

"The First's minion."  He took a kiss.  "I'm fine.  I have a headache but I'm okay.  We're on patrol."  He took another kiss.  "I'm fine."

"It's not all right.  Are you okay?"

"I'm good.  How are you?"

"Not bad."  He brushed his cheek with his hand again.  "You sure?"

"I'm sure."

"He's mine, get off him," a female voice shouted.

Sam looked back at her.  "Shut up.  He's not yours."  She gaped, staring at him.  He smirked.  "Hi, Sam Winchester.  You must be Anya."

"Sam," Xander sighed.

"I know."   He smirked.  "How's Horatio?  I called and he got interrupted by an emergency."

"That's been happening recently.  After this at least one of us has to go help him with his problematic returning relative who's only supposedly dead."

Sam moaned, shaking his head.  "We can do that."  He walked him back to the car.  "He's okay."

"Bleeding in it?" Dean asked.  "From a punch?"

"Dirty fingernail," Xander told him.

"It's not there," Sam said.  He got Xander into the car, then got into the front.  "Where are we gathering?"

"The Magic Box.  The shop at the end of the next block."  Dean nodded.  Xander relaxed, waving at Anya.   "She's not going to try to claim me again, Sam."

Sam looked back at him.  "Don't make me call Horatio."

"I don't want him here during this.  It's looking like a real battle.  I'd like a unit of Marines, but Horatio wouldn't be able to help with a gun."

"Sure," Dean agreed.  He parked in front of the shop and got out, letting Sam walk Xander inside.  He followed them in.  "We're here."

Giles looked up.  "My, you do look like your father.  I've seen his picture in a few hunter's journals.  Xander?"

"This is Sam and that's Dean."  He grinned.  "And yes, I'm still going in."  He walked Sam off.  "We're going on patrol.  Update Dean."

"I remember your brother from our graduation issue."

"Sam told me that on the way here.  That sounded bad.  Is this going to be as bad?"

"I'm afraid it'll be worse.  We'll be going into the hellmouth to do battle with her and her minions.  We have what we need to defeat her.  And many slayers in training to help."

"Extra hands are always good though," Dean agreed.  That got a nod.  Giles let him have his research so Dean sat down on the couch in there to read.  "Did you know Sammy and Xander were together?"

"If I remember right, Sam was staying with Xander wherever he was hiding from his family and us.  I remember he was worried about him at one point, something about a spell."

"Yeah, a witch was responsible for making Sam forget all about him and Horatio."  He looked up.  "Sam seemed to think she was here?"

"Willow," he sighed.  "Do we know when?"

"About a year after he got to Stanford.   Something about thinking that Xander was cheating on Anya with him."  Giles held his head, shaking it.  "It was fixed recently.  I don't know why they waited so long."

"There may have been a good reason, including letting him experience things," Giles told him.  "Xander said he was sure that Sam needed to have some happy memories and to explore some ideas."

"That's okay then I guess.  Anya still wants him?"

"Oh, yes.  They're back at the friends stage.  Which one started this idea?"

"Sam said he's not sure and neither is Xander."

"Then I'm sure someone will be looking into that."  He went back to his research.  Dean handed his back eventually.  "We don't have much space right now but we can put you up."

"We can hang out just out of town and come when it's time.  That way we're not in the way and it'll give Sam some time to talk sense into Xander."  Giles gave him an odd look.  "He's going into the battle with a recent, painful, complicating injury?"

"He's insistent he is.  The girls do not like that idea."

Dean nodded.  "Neither do I.  If so, we'll need him in a protected spot.  If I stick him with Sammy, they can watch each other's back.  Sammy's not a great hunter but he knows how to get it done.  Would that work for you?"

"It would.  Xander will be watching over some of the younger girls on an edge."

Dean nodded.  "That could work for them.  Sammy can handle that too."  Giles smiled.  "So, Xander said something about demons coming into human's view in a few years, some sort of invasion prophecy?"

"There is?"  Dean nodded.  "When and where did he hear that?"

"No idea, dude.  He told us at the club."

"Oh, dear.  I'll start looking at that after this is done.  We may have time?"

"He said a few years."

"Then we have time."  He smiled.  "Thank you for coming to help.  How can we get in touch with you?"  Dean wrote down his number.  "Then we'll let you know that morning.  Are you expecting Xander to go with you tonight?"

"I'm not sure he and Sammy haven't stopped somewhere by now to talk."

"That is possible.  Xander has been worried about him and Horatio."

"Sammy called him.  Things are going bad in his lab.  Malicious attacks. Techs who're causing problems on purpose.  Some sort of mole issue.  A bad gang thing."  He shrugged.  "I haven't met Horatio yet.  I'm expecting to very soon.  Have you?"

"During graduation.  He was a very nice man.  About my age."  Dean gave him an odd look.  "I have no idea how they met."

"Me either.  Sammy didn't say."

"Xander won't say."

"Interesting."  Giles smiled.  "Are we seeing bad vibes from him?"

"No, actually he's a very protective man.  I talked to some people from that part of the country after graduation.  He's one of the better officers who will do anything to help a victim."

"Huh.  I'll have to get that story out of him."  A blonde girl walked in and he smirked.  "Hey.  Into the magic stuff?"

"That's my watcher."

Dean stared.  "Then you must be Buffy.  Sam told me about you."  He held out a hand.  "Dean Winchester."

"Buffy Summers."  She shook his hand.  "So you hunt demons?"

He nodded.  "Our dad started when we were kids."

"Wow."  She smiled.  "Sam's back?"

"Somewhere with Xander."

"Then maybe he can keep Xander from getting hurt since he's being stubborn."

"I figure Sammy's not the greatest but they can watch each other's backs.  That work for you?"

She nodded.  "That could work.  What sort of swords do you guys use?"

"More machetes and guns but if we have to, we have plenty of weapons.  Including some fire axes."

She nodded.  "We'll figure that out later.  Where are you two staying?"

"I figured just outside of town so we weren't in the way.  He has our number so we can be called in as soon as you need or want us there."

"That's great," she said with a grin.  "It's good you know to stay out of the slayers' way."

"Sam called last night and heard Xander having to shoo the girls off.  Sammy wanted to stay out of their way in case some are stunned by our male bods."

She laughed.  "Some might.  They're probably jail bait."

"Another good reason not to tempt fate.  They might turn stalker or be ruined for later guys when they're of age."

She giggled.  "That's good to know.  Thanks, Dean.  I needed the laugh."  She punched him on the arm.  "Xander called.  Heaven's Rest is cleared out.  Not even a vamp in the crypts."

"That's a good or a bad sign?" Dean asked.

"It means more of the demons are fleeing town without planning on coming back."

"Call us a bit early so we can park the car outside of town.  It's got all the weapons and stuff in it."

"We can do that," Buffy assured him.  "The Motel Rochston on the east end of town isn't too bad and it's cheap.  It's also got protections so the vamps and demons can't break in."

"That'll work.  Thanks, Buffy.  See you in a few days.  Tell Sammy where I am.  I'll go check in and then come back for him."  She nodded so he left.  The motel was cute and cozy.  It had flowered wallpaper with big, blue roses and tan and blue crocheted doilies everywhere.  "All it needs are a few cats per room and a grandma wearing a sweater," he muttered.  The beds were good even if the wallpaper was hideous and the cable worked.  That was the important thing.  He called Sam.  "Sammy, I got us a room.  I'm heading back to town.  Sure, I can give you an hour.  I can meet you there.  We passed by it on the way in.  They have our number, we'll be staying just out of town to stay out of the way but they'll call."  He smiled.  "Good.  See you in an hour."  He hung up and called his father's phone.  "Dad, it's Dean," he told his voicemail.  "We're in Sunnydale.  The battle's in a few days.  Met Xander and Buffy.  They seem pretty decent.  Not at all flaky like some hunters can be.  We're just outside of town to the east at the Motel Rochston.  Sammy's hitched up with his buddy again.  We think it'll be bad.  I'll call to update you when we know more.  Look for an email with the information they showed us."  He hung up and checked the weapons.  He'd have to remember to ask Sam about Horatio too.  There were some seriously unanswered questions that might be important.


Horatio looked over as a car stopped, smiling at the young man that got out.  "Sam."  Sam ran over to hug him.  "I've missed you too," he said quietly, giving him a squeeze.  "Is that Xander?"

"He's sleeping in the back."  He pulled back to look at him.  "I did yell at Willow.  We so yelled at Willow."

"Good.  I'll be doing the same."

"They're in Cleveland since the town fell in."  Horatio stared, mouth slightly open.  He nodded.  "It was that bad.  Before I wake up Xander, fair warning.  He's injured.  I know he didn't tell you.  It wasn't the battle.  He was injured a few days before we got there.  The night after he broke the memory block.  It's not making me happy but he's being stubborn that he's fine."

"He does that."

"This isn't a broken something, Horatio."  Horatio frowned, walking over to the car.  Sam followed.  "Xander?" he called.  Xander snapped awake.  "Hey, we're here."

"Hey," he said, crawling out to hug Horatio.  "We're okay."

He pushed the boy back to look at him.  "What happened?" he demanded.

"The minion had dirty fingernails.  He decided I should see differently because I see everything.  I'm fine.  I'm already learning how to compensate."

Horatio hugged him.  "Sam, are you all right?"

"Some nightmares but I'm good.  Better than him."  He hugged him from behind Xander.  Horatio smiled and took a kiss.  "We're working on how to help him get back to the hunting."

"If he doesn't want to, you can both stay with me," he said quietly.

Xander smiled.  "We have nineteen slayers plus some overseas."

Horatio kissed him.  "I could use you both."

"Dad's not missing anymore but things are going to move to a showdown with the demon," Sam said.

"We'll do what we can to help," Xander said.

"Yes we will," Horatio agreed.  Sam grinned.  "Come on, let's go inside."  He walked them inside, taking them to the couch.  "Xander, do you have any care instructions?"

"I'm supposed to try to rinse it out every day or so.  I can't quite manage that yet."

"We'll do what we can," Horatio said, taking a kiss.  He gave one to Sam.  "Are we all right?"

"Some bruises.  Dean has some too.  He and Dad are heading this way in a few days to give us some time together.  Dad's going to ask questions because I haven't told them anything."

Xander shrugged.  "Neither did I."  He grinned at Horatio.  "Can we make lunch?  Sam didn't want to wake me up even though I'm fine."

"How about I make lunch."

"We can cook," Sam promised.

"So can I and I should call Speed.  He said that he owes you a lot, lunch could fall into that."  He went into the kitchen, finding some decent food for them.  While in there he called his people.  "Alexx, why are you answering Eric's phone?"  He smiled.  "No, I'm calling off for the rest of the day.  Sam and Xander are here.  Xander is a bit injured but he says he's fine."  He smiled.  "Making them lunch.  Sam was driving so Xander could sleep in the car.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "She'll make sure I have today and tomorrow off."  He brought out plates then kissed each of them.  "I'm glad you're both all right."

"We're good," Sam promised with a grin.  "We'll cuddle once we inhale the food."

Horatio laughed, going to get them something to drink.  He came back to answer the door and deliver drinks.  "Calleigh.  Why are you here?"

"Checking on you.  What's going on?"

"Sam and Xander are in."

"Ah."  She came in, smiling at them.  "Hi, boys."

"We're not that young," Xander said.  He looked at her.  "But hi, Calleigh."

"Xander.  What happened?"



He grinned.  "Don't worry, it's handled and he's been stopped."

"Good!  Did your police department finally do something?"

"No.  But he isn't going to do it again."  She gasped.  "Not like that."  She nodded.  "The one who ordered him is gone.  That's why we're down."

"Oh.  Okay.  I'll let the others know that Sam's finally down and you're injured."

"I'm fine," he said patiently.

"You've got an eye injury."

"No, I have no eye and I'm still fine," he said less patiently.  Horatio stroked over his hair so he calmed down.  "Sorry.  I've been given the 'you're helpless' speech a few too many times recently by females."

"I can understand that.  Speed said the same thing only it was Eric and Alexx."  She cleared up her frown.  "I'll see you guys tomorrow."  She left, going to tell the others.  "Guys," she said as she walked into the break area.  "Xander's missing an eye.  He's touchy about it because he's been getting the same speech we gave to Speed after he got shot.  Sam's in too.  But they said the guy who did it isn't a problem since his boss committed suicide or something."  The others stared at her then Alexx leaned over to call Horatio from the phone in there.  Apparently she needed to check on them.

Speed made plans to bring over dinner, sending Horatio a text message to that effect.  He could try to keep Alexx and the others off the boys but even he wouldn't be able to stop them all the time.


Sam looked over as Dean flopped down across from him at the mall food court.  Dean had texted to meet him there today since he and his father had gotten into town finally.  They had been waylaid in Cleveland helping set things up.  "Xander wanted to know if you'd save him from the fussing people."

"If he needs it, we do rescue people.  You can even charge him for it."  He smirked.  "So, how did you three meet?"

"Someone needed some help."

"Uh-huh.  And how did that happen since we were in Kansas, Xander was in Sunnydale, and Horatio was down here?"

"Interesting story but I can't tell you."

"Won't or can't, Sammy?"

"Can't and won't."

Dean leaned closer.  "Is there a demon involved?"

"Yes.  Who needed someone to stop a worse thing."  They had made up a partial lie to tell his paranoid family so he'd go with that since they were going to keep nagging until he spilled something.

"So they came to two high school guys with experience and a CSI?"



"Because doing it meant that we got a head's up about something worse going on."  He leaned closer.  "The one that asked us paid us in information about the invasion coming.  We know it's going to end up bringing all of us into the light.  Press and all."  Dean groaned at that, shifting some.  "We also know that some of the more ancient ones and some of the factions of higher authorities on the light side are going to use it to step up *their* war.  Using us as pawns.  This way someone 's prepared.  Mr. Giles has a sealed letter about it with Angel.  Who used to work with them.  That'll give them a year to try to stop it.  Because we can't get the ones trying yet.  Not until after this last apocalypse there and the next one in LA."  Dean shuddered.  "Which is going to try to bring eternal night."  John sat down.  "Other than that, we talked while we were working on the issue and found out we had a lot in common.  Horatio does the same sort of thing we do to the bad guys, only without it being demons.  Xander and I had a lot more in common but Horatio understands the damage it does to you over the years.  That's how we got together and why."

"The one you three took out?" John asked.

"Fairly annoying.  Most of the serious stuff they've handled recently was something that could move that unveiling up.  The one that came to us wanted to keep it out of public view.  He doesn't want that war to happen any sooner than we do.  None of us want to have that problem start.  Do we?"

"No," John agreed.  "In return for the info he wanted what?"

"Not a damn thing.  Xander and I made sure many times.  No contracts, nothing like that."

John nodded.  "Then he's working in his self-interest.  Them having this out in the open would be disastrous for them.  It'd make people more cautious."

"Xander said he's worked with many harmless species as well."

John nodded.  "I've heard there are some.  I never investigated it."  He crossed his legs.  "No contract?"

"No.  He wanted us to get us together to solve his problem for him and then to keep that one from happening.  I'm guessing the first was a test of some sort to make sure we could help him stop the second.  Which may not be able to be stopped.  We're not fully sure.  We know what we do know and that in the year they have they should be able to figure it out.  I also know that he warned Xander when Willow went off the deep end.  That was another apocalypse that could have brought things to the general attention.  His graduation was one.  The Initiative, if it had gotten out, was one."  John shuddered at that.  "The next one, it isn't for us to fight.  Unless we want to."

"I think we should," John said.

"He had a vision when he came to break that memory block on you," Dean said.  Sam nodded.  John gave them an odd look.  "That the demon was going to steal Sammy and he could die from more than the demon.  That the humans there were going to be panicking too."

"Then he mentioned somewhere in North Dakota," Sam said.  "That one I'm still looking up with Bobby.  He thinks he knows what it is."

"Good," John said.  "And what about getting it back?"

"Xander didn't think the demon was going to be there when it took me.  He got the feeling of, as he put it, Highlander games."

"There can be only one....  He wants a chosen one," Dean said, looking at his father.  Who nodded at that.  "Which would mean Sammy was...."

"A good candidate.  He was sure there was more than one.  He had another view of it and he saw some girl and a guy in camos.  He went over it with Horatio and me late last night.  He said if I do, Dean's going to do something."  He stared at his brother.

"If you die, I'm gonna kick ass," Dean assured him.

"Thanks."  He looked at his father.  "We're working on it but if he gets what he wants, it's another occasion it'll come into the open.  Or it could."

"So they're going to help us," John said.

"Yes," Sam said.  "No one wants to have that happen.  It's a bad thing and we need to keep it from going on."

"Agreed," John said.  Dean nodded at that.  "We need to know about how you three are...relating."

Sam looked at him.  "Later on I'm going to go have fun with them.  We found a lot of commonalities.  Right now we're thinking about where we're going with it."

"I would prefer if you didn't bring them with you on the hunts, Sammy," John said.

Sam stared at him.  "It'll come for me wherever I am."  Dean gaped.  "Otherwise, we're figuring that out."  He finished his soda with a sucking slurp.  Then he tossed it in the can next to him.  "Now, I've got people I need to go play with."  He grinned and stood up.  Xander seemed to appear out of nowhere when he had been sitting at a nearby table.  Sam grinned.  "Done?"

"Yup.  You?"

"I'm good.  Horatio's?"

"Hmm.  We promised to cook dinner."  He grinned at Dean and John.  "I'll make sure he's very safe and as happy as I can make him."  He walked Sam off.

"I'd like to talk to you," John called.

Xander looked at him.  "You managed to walk right past me, both of you, and not see me."  He walked Sam off.  "They're about as good as Buffy and Willow?"

"No.  Dean would die for me, Xander.  He's not like that."

"Then invite him over tomorrow for the picnic.  He can hit on Calleigh and talk about guns."

"That might work.  I'll ask Horatio."  He called him.  "Can Dean come to the picnic?  He's panicking."  He grinned.  "Thanks, Horatio.  Warn Calleigh."  He turned to look at his family.  "Dean, picnic tomorrow in Canal Park, eleven."  He walked off with Xander again.

John looked at his son.  "Not both of us?"

"I think he's scared you're going to say something to Horatio or Xander that'll make them go off."  He looked at his father.  "I'll tell you how it goes."

"That'll work."  He stood up.  "Lunch?"


John went to get them something to eat so they could relax and go over what they knew so far.  This was not like Sam in the least.  Something was seriously going on.  They had to save their family member and as many others as they could.  Xander seemed like a nice boy but Horatio was clearly not a good influence for being with boys their age.  John turned and found Xander right behind him.  "Hungry?"

"Warning you.  Horatio is not a bad guy. Yes, we're young, but we've been through hell in our lives.  So has he.  We've all lost, fought for what we believe in, and survived it.  If you only pay attention to the age issue, it's going to make Sam hurt.  I will protect Sam, even from you if you hurt him.  Because I'm the badder bad ass of us three."  He stared him down.  "Leave Horatio alone about us.  He's getting enough hell from his team, who're like his family."

"A good father would be worried about his son being with a guy that's twice his age."

"He's not quite twice our age.  He's also a very good man.  Talk to him.  Do not judge him.  He's a lot like we are."  He walked off again.  "You can come have dinner with us tomorrow night.  Just don't be an ass.  That's all Sam wants."  He waved before disappearing again.

"Drama queen," John said.

Dean looked at him.  "He has a point."

"I'd be concerned if you were dating a woman that old too, Dean."  He put down the tray.  "I'm surprised you're not."

"That's because I was watching the house.  Horatio was fussing over Xander; no matter how much he tried to duck it, he was.  Horatio was also fussing over Sammy's bruises."  John nodded, sitting down to dig in.  "Let me hit the picnic and see them together.  Then we'll have dinner tomorrow night and it may be okay.  Some people do find it with people half their age."

"With *two* people?"

Dean shrugged.  "They're both grown boys and if he's got experience like those two, then he'd understand what it does to us over the years.  I do know that he's well respected and slightly feared.  He has a rep as being one to help victims even if it backfires on him.  He switched departments to follow a survivor of a serial killer attack and guard her."

John stared at him.  "Why?"

"Because some people are like that," Horatio said as he sat down.  He looked at John.  "I may be concerned about their ages, but they are both older than their years.  With what they've seen and been through, they're not the average boys of twenty-four."

"No, they're not," Dean agreed.  "I wasn't either."  John glared at him.  "It's the truth.  When you do what we do, we grow up quickly."  He looked at Horatio.  "I'm going to judge it on what you three are like together.  How you are toward them.  Because if you think Xander had scary friends who'd end you, I can do it more messily and in ways that'll make your team puke."

"Agreed," Horatio said.  "I would expect that if I ever crossed that line."  Dean nodded.  He looked at John again.  "I want nothing more than for them to be happy.  Especially once this is all over with.  After LA I'm told that they can retire.  By then, the one that you've been tracking will be gone according to what we know."

"From the one that brought you three together?" John asked.


"He didn't ask for anything else?"

"Us not to take the side of someone who was acting against the public good when and if it happens.  To look at the evidence to see which side was really the one working for the best interests of people.  Because some of them don't seem to."

"No, some don't," Dean agreed.  "I talked with Giles and he said a lot of stuff about the ones who're over the girls."

Horatio nodded.  "So have we from Xander.  There are others.  He gave us a different view of history."

"Which Sammy found in one of the books I think," Dean said.  "That it was originally not ours?"  Horatio nodded.  "And he's...."

"One of them."

"Oh.  So something higher."  Horatio nodded.  "That's why no contracts.  He wants soldiers."

"He wanted us to think about which side was actually right.  Because there's been some contraindications about some of the good ones being good."

John nodded.  "That can happen."

"Absolute good is as bad as absolute bad," Dean said.  Horatio nodded.  "And you stand...where?"

"Whichever I think is right and the best one for everyone."

Dean nodded.  "That makes sense.  That's usually about where we do."  John nodded slowly at that.  "Sammy's thing?"

"All we know is what Xander's seen."

Dean sighed.  "Then we'll figure it out," John said.  "I was invited over for dinner?"

"Tomorrow night.  Tonight, we're going to torture Xander by taking care of him."  He smiled.  "He wanted to run from any fussing and that is not allowed."  He slid back into his sunglasses.  "I'll see you tomorrow at the team picnic, gentlemen.  Do watch out for the peppers.  They can be a bit hot in Miami."  He got up and walked off.

"Okay, so they understand when Sammy goes into high drama mode," he said once he was sure Horatio was gone and Xander wasn't lurking anywhere again.  John laughed.  "Do we like him?"

"I'm not sure yet.  He comes across as honest and caring.  Does he have any family?"

"A former sister-in-law.  His brother's dead.  Their son."

John nodded.  "I'd like to see how they all react to the boys.  His people probably are going to be wary as well."

"Sam told me that Xander saved one of them."

"Oh.  That's good."

"Very.  We'll have to see tomorrow.  Anything going on in town?"

"Three things.  I'm going to call Bobby about the research he and Sammy are doing.  Finish up."  Dean dug into his lunch while John ate and thought.  He still didn't like the trio very much.  But it might be okay for Xander.  Someone had to look out for the boy since his friends weren't.  His son had people who did watch out for him, or they wouldn't be throwing such a fit about the trio.


Horatio looked at his boys once the Winchesters were out of the house, smiling at them.  "See, not so bad, Sam."

Sam looked at him.  "My father turned into Speed."

"He didn't have the same snarky flair Speed has," Xander said with a grin.  He took a kiss.  Sam moaned, pulling him closer.  "Are you needy?" he teased.

"Yes.  Please?"

"Of course," Horatio agreed, coming over.  "If you want."

"I so want."  He pulled Horatio down to devour his mouth.  "I want a lot."

"Greedy, we just pleased you to begging last night," Xander teased.

Horatio smiled.  "It's good to tease you both.  You both give me such pretty noises."  He took them into the bedroom, stripping off his clothes.  He nearly blushed.  The boys were watching him like he was doing something lewd and naughty.  It made him feel much younger than his years.   Unfortunately someone called.  He'd get to bite them for a bit then the boys.  "What?" he snarled into the phone.  He listened.  "No, I'm not on call tonight.  Thank whoever anyway.  I do believe Delko is the CSI on call at the moment."  He hung up and went back to his boys, who were keeping themselves occupied on the bed while he was busy.  It was very nice of them.  And very hot to watch.  He could like watching them play.


Five months later Xander jogged into the cemetery, throwing something at the demon.  "Fat chance," he sneered.  "Not gonna work."

"You again," he sneered.  "You can't hope to oppose me!  I'll open the gate and have my champion."

"Your champion just got saved by Horatio and no, you can't open the gate.  The keyhole's blocked," he said with an evil smirk.  The demon looked and screamed in anger, trying to get it out.  Xander smirked at Dean as he came jogging over.  "Horatio and Sam?"

"Just fine.  Now.  Horatio got the guy who was going to stab him."  He took aim at the demon, firing off a good shot at him.  The demon screamed and the body went limp.  Xander threw something on it and started the chant the demon had given him to do.  The demon faded out and he put something else into the cloud.  Something Angel and Wesley had found for him.  The demon's screams echoed as the ball of black mist faded out.  "Dead?" Dean asked.

"That destroyed his cell matrix.  It destroys demons at a cellular level.  Wolfram and Hart developed it to use on clients that didn't pay them and the demons that tried to stand in their way of taking over the world."  He grinned.  "Now and then bad guys have a use."  Dean relaxed.  "Anyway, gateway's still blocked."  He let Dean see it, watching him grin in happiness.  "It's Miller and boyfriend cuddling time.  Have fun, Dean."

"When can we have Sammy back?" he asked.  John was jogging their way.  "He's dead and gone, Dad.  The gateway's keyhole is blocked up."

Xander smirked at him.  "I did it the same night I came to free Sam."  He looked at John, getting a proud smirk for it.  "It was necessary.  Not like I want to handle their version of an apocalypse.  I think I want to retire for a bit and spend some time in Miami.  At least until the huge invasion thingy next year."  He walked around them, going to find Horatio and Sam.  He hugged Sam.  "He's dead."  Sam went limp in his arms, letting him cuddle him.  "Are you all right?"

"The guy was going to stab him in the back," Horatio said quietly, stroking over their hairs.   "He's fine and that one is severely injured but can find help relatively easily."  He smiled at John and Dean as they came back.  "Are you coming back to Miami with us?"

"We have an old family friend who wanted to meet you two if you don't mind," John said.

Sam looked over Xander's shoulder.  "Why does Bobby want to meet them?"

"Because he watched over you boys for quite some time," John said patiently.  "He's only up the road."

"I don't think a day of him meeting us would be too hard," Xander offered, looking at Horatio, who smiled and shook his head.  "It'd be nearer to the airport anyway."

"It would," he agreed, stroking Sam's back again.  "We could handle that if you wanted, Sam."

"I don't mind but he will make you drink holy water."

Xander shrugged.  "Okay."  Sam grinned so he beamed back.  "Where to now?"

"Now, the motel for a good night's rest, then we'll drive tomorrow," Horatio said, getting a nod from John.  "Where is the nearest place?"  They pointed.  "We'll meet you there, gentlemen."  He leaned down to take a kiss.  "Sam, up to you which one you ride with."

"I'll go with Dean so he can check me over.  That way he doesn't have to sneak in later to do that."  They nodded, letting him go to his brother for that ride to the motel.  He waved as they drove off, then looked at his father and brother.  "Truly gone?"  Dean nodded.  Sam beamed.  "Good job, guys."

"Xander helped; he had some funky stuff that got thrown on the mist form of the demon," Dean admitted.

"Yeah, we talked to Wesley about that and about the vision he had about what could've happened earlier."  He nodded with a grin at the cars.  "We should go before others show up."  Dean followed him to the Impala.  His father went to his truck.  They drove to the motel, Sam relaxing.  "Say it, Dean.  Get it out now."

"I don't mind you with them.  They seem to give a damn.  It's clear Horatio's possessive of what's his.  I'm hoping it's in a good way."  Sam nodded that it was.  "He's good to you?  I don't have to threaten him to treat you right?"

"He'd hate himself and do himself harm if he ever thought about hurting us, Dean."  He shifted to look at him better.  "Horatio and Xander both come from shitty families.  Both had drunks, both had violence.  They won't go there."

"They say those who had it growing up go there more often."

"Have we?"

"No," Dean said, keeping calm.  "Not the same though."  Sam gave him a pointed look.  "True, Dad rode you into the ground more than once.  He thought it was necessary to protect us."

"Yeah, well, I can almost forgive his now.  I can't forgive their parents.  Horatio had to shoot his dad because he was beating his mother," he said quietly.  Dean's hands tightened on the steering wheel.  "They won't turn into their parents."

"Good."  He calmed himself down.  "So, how's the sex?"

Sam beamed.  "Do you really want details or just to hear that it's great?"

"Great is good enough for me.  They make you happy, all that stuff?"

"Yeah, but I don't think I'm going to totally give up hunting."  Dean glanced at him.  "What we do is important.  Watching Xander go back to the girls in his life repeatedly, even when they were being cranky bitches, showed me that."  Dean nodded some, slowing the car down.  "It might be important but I'll have them to help me.  Xander wants to retire more.  He's injured and he's tired.  He said he's had one too many apocalypses and he wants to take the time until the invasion off.  I might hunt down in Florida so I'm nearby and almost always at home if possible."

"That could help," Dean agreed, considering it.  "I know there's a few good hauntings that need looking into down that way.  There and Georgia both."  Sam grinned and nodded.  "I'm not against it.  There's no better place to see pretty people in bikinis all day every day," he quipped.

"Would Dad accept it?"

"Probably not without some complaining.  He doesn't like the age gap stuff."

Sam snorted.  "We make  Horatio remember what being alive feels like.  Xander too."  Dean shuddered.  "It's been a long hunt for him, Dean."

"I get that.  What little we saw, even with the threats moving out of that town, was horrifying."

"Xander was born and raised there," he said quietly.  Dean shuddered.  "Yeah.  It was that bad.  Plus the yearly apocalypses and things with the girls now and then.  I don't know how he did it.  I would've left."

"Me too, little brother."  He smiled at him.  "So we can hunt that way and they won't mind?"

"Horatio said to stay out of trouble."

"I can do that.  Hopefully.  Think I can have the garage?"

"Maybe," he offered with a grin.  "We'll see."  Dean smirked back.  "Xander's a bit loud."

"Figures."  He reached over to give his head a light shove.  "We'll figure it out and Dad will accept it.  Or else we won't be talking to him very often."

"Not like we did before."

"True."  He pulled into the motel's parking lot.  "Let me get a room on the opposite side of the motel.  Just in case you guys get too happy tonight."  Sam got out to join his lovers.  Dean went to get his own room for the night.  John came out of his.  "They being noisy already?"

"Not yet.  Are you okay with this?"

"Yeah, for now.  Sammy wants to hunt local to them.  Xander wants to take a year off to find something other than emergencies.  I think we can handle that area."

John considered it then nodded.  "I can see that going on.  You sure, son?"

"Yes, Dad.  I think they'll be just fine."  He grinned at the noisiness from their room.  "Sam said they got loud."  He went up to his room on the second floor at the other end of the walkway.

John looked at his son's room and shook his head, going back to his own.  He had earplugs for when things got too noisy for him.  He'd need them tonight so he didn't have to hear his son getting...happy with his lovers.  Because that was a thought he didn't want to have.  Ever.


Bobby came out to see who was driving up to his house, staring at the unfamiliar rental car.  Then the two more familiar cars.  "Huh," he told himself.  He didn't reach for his shotgun.  Something told him he wasn't going to want to be holding it when whoever got out of the car did so.  One older redheaded man in sunglasses got out from behind the wheel.  A younger guy about the boys' age got out of the passenger's side.  Sam and Dean got out of his car.  John got out of his truck.  "We having problems, boys?"

"Hi, Bobby."  Sam bounced up to hug him.  "This is Horatio and Xander.  They're mine."  He grinned at him.  "Dad thought you'd want to me my lovers."

Bobby blinked a few times, staring at the boy then at his lovers then back at the boy.  "Didn't you used to date a girl, Sammy?"

"Yeah, but I had Xander and Horatio first.  I dated her after someone laid a forget spell on me about them."

"Uh-huh."  He stared at them.  "Hunters?"

"Xander's from Sunnydale and that group.  The other is a Lieutenant with the Miami-Dade PD."  He grinned proudly.  "Guys, he won't shoot you."

"I don't think I need another injury this week," Xander said dryly, but he was grinning.  "Sam said some nice things about you, Mr. Singer."  He held out a hand.

Bobby stared then shook both their hands.  "Come inside, boys.  I did a lot of watching over the boys when they were younger."  They walked in and Xander got stuck in the devil's trap, making Sam groan.

"Sorry, he was possessed a few times."  He released him and got him sitting beside him.  "He's fine, Bobby."

"He'll submit to holy water?" Bobby asked, staring the kid down.

"Of course.  If it makes you happy."

Bobby went to get them some, letting the others have coffee and some little snack cakes he had in the cabinets.  "So, how did you three meet?"

"A demon wanted help with something and a way to help stop things that would get them in the public view," John said, sipping his coffee.  The rest drank and it was fine.  Xander didn't react at all.  Bobby relaxed slightly at that.  "He came to get them right before the two boys graduated."

"The Powers That Be and other higher powers are going to have a brawl when it comes into the open," Xander told him.   Bobby dropped his mug.  "Sorry."  He went to get a towel to help him clean it up.

John nodded when Bobby stared at him.  "He didn't want them to go to a side that would hurt humanity.  Didn't demand anything other than them thinking about what they wanted to do."

"No contracts," Dean told him.  "Nothing like that.  We made sure once we met them."

"You never told them?" Bobby asked Sam.

Sam grinned back.  "I was under a forget spell for nearly two years, Bobby.  Xander had to break it right before the thing in Sunnydale."

"I see."  He considered it, looking at the boy.  "Witch?"

"Nope.  Ours did it so I'd want to be with my girlfriend instead of them.  She got balled out repeatedly for it.  I finished broke it one night while Dean fumed."

"You made a pretty decent gay club boy too, Xander," Dean quipped, sipping his coffee.

He smirked back.  "Buffy did like me to play bait now and then."  Dean choked and so did Horatio.  "Sorry, dear."  He grinned at him.  "But truth."  He looked at him.  "So I'm taking a year off until the next apocalypse.  I need some healing and relaxing time.  We just killed the demon that's been after Sam for so long last night."

"Good job," Bobby praised, getting a grin back.  The boy looked so young.  "How old are you, Xander?"

"The same age I am," Sam told him. "Horatio's older but he makes us feel like we're alive again in that good, happy way."

"You can tell it's love.  Sammy's starting to sound like Xander," Dean quipped, getting a pout from Xander.  "It'll go the other way soon enough. You'll both start to sound like Horatio.  He already had that same patient sigh  Horatio gave you this morning when you didn't want to get up."

"I was tired," Xander admitted with a small blush.

"I heard why," John said with a smirk for the trio.  Horatio coughed and looked sheepish too.

"That's why I got a room far away from them, Dad," Dean said dryly.  "I don't need to listen to Sammy have sex.  If you did, that's freaky stuff I don't want to know about."  Bobby cackled at John's horrified look.  Dean grinned at them.  "Anyway, they're heading back to Miami.  I'm going to be hunting with Sammy down that way.   Then we'll see what happens after the next apocalypse."

"We already know what it is?" Bobby asked them, staring at Xander.  He got a few nods back.  "Where and when?"

"LA this coming spring," Sam told him.  "It'll be an invasion."

Bobby made a small whimpering noise.  "Damn."

"Basically.  I'm hoping there's less than the super vamps the First had," Xander said, looking at Sam.

Sam considered it.  "I don't know.  That might depend on how soon we get that portal closed."

"Can we preempt it?" John asked.

They all shrugged.  "All we heard was that it would be happening, it would be why hunters and demons came into open knowledge, and afterward the higher authorities would be arguing and not paying proper attention to what was going on with the other side's fighting.  Which would lead to them being taken over," Horatio told him.

"Plus a lot on the light side having their version of crack ho plans for humanity," Xander added.

"Aw, shit," Bobby muttered.  "Are we working on keeping that one down?"

"The local defenders out there have what we know so far," Sam told him.  "We're trying and so are they.   If not, coming to LA this spring, Bobby?"

"I probably should and the rest of us too."

"And all the slayers," Xander agreed.  "All the demons that don't want to have their position taken over or those who aren't hindering the light."

"Those harmless ones," Dean said, thinking about it.  "Will they fight?"

"Depends on if they can.  Some of them can't do anything offensive, Dean.  They're like plants and winds and things.  Since LA's a capitol in the demon world, they have a lot of that sort and some of the more harmful but Angel keeps those down with his crew.  Plus Gunn's vampire hunting gang."  That got a single nod from him and John.  "Guys like the Host and other demons who work with Angel will probably step out to help.  The ones who're just harmless things would probably help if they could but they might not be able to."

"That's something to hope for," John agreed.  "If they can't help, keeping out of the way."  That got another mass nod from the other hunters.

"What about an evacuation of those sort?" Horatio suggested.

"If we knew a definite date it'd be easier, but I'm sure some of them will feel it or hear about it in rumors and take a sudden vacation to Fresno," Xander told him with a small grin.  "Like they did before Sunnydale fell in."

"That was a good thing," Dean agreed.  "It would've been a lot harder to fight if we had her calling the regular vamps behind us."  He took a sip of his coffee then put the cup on his thigh again.  "So this is a head's up, letting you meet Sammy's new lovers, and us taking a break on the way to Miami to catch up, Bobby.  Are you going to keep Dad for us or are you going to follow us to Florida, Dad?"

"I think I can trust you two to watch out for each other."  Xander looked over at him.  "I know you'll be watched over by Sammy, Xander.  He likes to fuss and you're injured."

"I'm.  Fine," he said firmly, glaring at him.

"Sure, you're good," Dean agreed.  "It didn't seem to hamper you a lot during the battle in the hellmouth."  Xander relaxed at that.  "You would not have liked that one, Dad, or you, Bobby."

"Bad?" Bobby asked.

"Only if you think walking into the hellmouth to face off with the super vampires that can only be killed with one weapon, which our head slayer had, so they could bleed on a spot to lock her back up is bad," Xander said dryly, grinning at him.  "We managed many apocalypses.  Sam came during our last really bad one too.  That was graduation."

Sam shuddered.  "I still have nightmares about that battle."  Xander stroked his arm, getting a grin.  "But we did save all that we could," he agreed quietly.  Xander kissed him.  Horatio smiled at him.  "I'd kiss you but you're too far away."

"I'll get mine later, boys."  They both smirked evilly at him.  "After we're home since we're flying out at six?"

"Forgot about that but sure," Sam agreed happily.  He grinned at Bobby.  "Yes, it was horrible.  It was very nasty.  I was sore, Xander was injured, and we had an edge to guard some of the younger, newly called slayers."

"I'm glad I missed that one," Horatio admitted, shifting to cross his legs.  "The one at graduation was bad enough."  He looked at Xander.  "That can't happen again, right?"

Xander shrugged.  "It depends on who else decides they want to ascend into a higher demon.  There's a few ways to do it and a few versions they can turn into.  Generally all big snakey demons but he did it the way to become the largest one.  There's one that takes about half a century but you only get to be twenty or thirty feet."

"What?" John asked.

Xander sighed and looked at Sam.  "You said you found it on YouTube."

"Yup, I did."  He went to Bobby's computer to look it up, letting his father see it.  John let out a soft whimpering noise.  "See, there I am.  There's Horatio.  There's Xander and Buffy, Dad."

"Jesus," he said in awe when the school blew up.

"I made that a bit too strong but it was better than too weak," Xander said, looking over at him.  John stared.  He grinned.  "We had yearly apocalypses, John.  That one was just really bad."

Bobby and Dean got up to look, Dean turning pale at what he saw.  Bobby was clutching the back of the chair in front of him.  When it was done, Bobby clicked on the uploader's name to get his other videos.  "The last battle's on here," Dean said.

Xander came over to look.  "Huh.  Must've come from Andrew."  He shrugged and sat down again.  "I don't need to see it again."  He looked at Sam.  "You do look very hot with my axe," he said quietly.

"Goofball," Sam said fondly and kissed him.  "Your axe is beautiful and deserves to be treated well."  Xander beamed back.

Horatio looked at them.  "I can watch you two spar."  They both smirked at him again.  "It would let me see you in the sunlight, sweating a bit.  Working hard to protect yourself and others," he said quietly with a smile of his own.

Bobby suddenly shuddered and walked outside to stand in the sun.

John looked at his boys.  "You did good work, boys."  They both smiled at that.  "You too, Xander, but I wouldn't have let you go in with that injury."

Xander shrugged.  "Not like we had a platoon of Marines behind us, John.  Everyone who could went, even if they weren't the best or in shape, or if they were injured."

"I understand why," he agreed calmly.  "Can you do some work to learn how to compensate before the invasion?  If it's as bad as we think, you'll probably be needed again and it could help you."

"Sam can spar with me very well.  Horatio can take us to the gun range so I can show off my mad gunslinger skills."  Horatio smiled and nodded slightly at that.  "I've already been working on it."

"Good."  He hesitated but patted him on the head before sitting down again.  "It was a good job."

"Thank you."  He looked at Sam.  "You did guard my back beautifully and Dean did very well guarding the senior slayers."

"If they need more help, I told them to call me," Dean assured him.  He sat down again.  "Where is Andrew?"

"With the girls."

"Hmm."  He grimaced.  "Probably a good place for him.  He seemed a bit...geeky to be able to handle it every day."

Xander stared at him.  "His big brother was a black magic user," he said quietly.  "Andrew's seen his share of hell, Dean.  He likes to fuss, it keeps him from going over the bad thoughts.  Like how one of his best friends shot Willow's girlfriend.  How one of them nearly managed a world take over bid.  How he ended up shooting one of his friends because he was possessed."

Dean nodded at that.  "That explains a lot I got off him then.  He fusses for the same reason you do."

"It makes me happy to fuss over Sam and Horatio.  Not like my girls appreciated my fussing."

"No, they don't seem like they'd like that," Dean agreed.  Bobby came back in and patted Sam and Xander both on the shoulder as he walked behind the couch.  "Anyway," he said, grinning at Bobby.  "We thought we'd stop by to let you meet Sammy's new lovers.  They seem pretty serious.  Xander tried to out macho Dad a few times.  Nearly got it too."

"I am more macho.  I can do my own triage," Xander said dryly, giving him a look.  Dean laughed at that, shaking his head.

"Dad's not a bad medic," Sam assured him.  He grinned at his father.

"It's good he still has a sense of humor," John said dryly, smirking at the kid.  Then at Horatio.  "What is wrong with that one kid on your team?"

"Which one?"


"OCD," Xander and Sam said together.

"Oh.  Pity.  He seems competent."

"He is," Horatio agreed with a small smile.  "He's new so he's still learning.  Though I do not like how his mouth opens now and then, but we'll handle it."

Dean nodded.  "The blonde one is very fussy."

"Don't remind me," Xander sighed.  He shook his head.  "She's still trying to fuss over me."

Sam stroked over his hair, getting a grin back from his lover.  "Only we get to fuss over you.  I'll shoo her off next time."  Xander beamed and kissed him again.  He checked his watch.  "It's nearly lunch, Bobby.  Can I help make stuff?"

"Or we can go out to eat," Dean offered.  "There's that good burger place up the road."

"We should probably go out.  My cupboards are bare at the moment."  Xander stared at him.  "What?  Did I change?"

"Well, yeah," Xander said dryly.  "Cute impersonation though.  You might wanna warn the others that can do that I'm a medium and I can feel it sucking you toward me."  The demon fled Bobby's body.  "So, lunch?" he asked Dean.

Sam stared at his boyfriend.  "How did you do that?"

Xander grinned.  "Anya spread all sorts of rumors about me.  So did Spike.  Plus he couldn't be stealthy with me announcing it.  And hey, maybe he felt Sunnydale taint.  Who knows."  He stood up to stretch.  "Is this burger place really good or just pretty good, Dean?"

"It's a great place to get a huge, thick burger."  That got a grin and they walked out, Sam following shaking his head.

"It does bother me when he does that," Horatio admitted quietly.

"If that had been Dean, I would've gotten him in the ass with rock salt," John told him.

Horatio smiled.  "I have my own methods of making Xander calm down but thank you for the advice, John."  He stood up, looking at Bobby.  "Want to ride with us?  Sam's switching back and forth to ride with Dean so we'll have room."

"I've got my own car, but thank you, Horatio.  I'll meet you boys there."  That got a nod and Horatio slid into his sunglasses before walking outside.  Bobby looked at John.  "Sammy's taste is pretty odd but they seem competent, tough, nice, and sweet on him."

"They are.  Xander's a gushy, touchy-feely sort when he wants to be."  He stood up.  "They're good to him.  I'm concerned about the age gap but Horatio seems to act younger around them."

"They probably make him play."  He got up and headed for his car while John headed for his truck.  Dean was leading the way to the burger place.  They could follow.


The demon visited them that night, smiling at them.  "You three do very good work," he told the sleeping bodies.  Xander blinked down at him, then Sam did.  "It's nothing, just checking on you."

Xander shrugged.  "What did you expect us to do, lose?"

"No, I never expected that, though I did like how you solved that problem."  He patted him on the foot.  "Rest easy.  You have almost a full year until the one in LA.  Then everything will be more open and you'll have to deal with that."

Xander shook his head.  "The girls will tell everyone I'm a tag-along."  The demon rolled his eyes.  "They will."  He smirked.  "Any other problems coming?"

"No.  Not at the moment.  I thought I'd check on you, tell you that it was a good job, boys."  He faded out, watching as Xander and Sam cuddled around Horatio to protect him in his sleep and let themselves drift off too.  They were a dynamic team.  They would do well when the Light started to brawl as Xander told it.


The next time the trio saw John and Bobby, it was the time of apocalypse.  Sam had stayed near home to hunt, Dean staying with him to watch over him and to make sure he wasn't going to have any problems with Horatio's people.  A few officers figured it out and said something but Xander got one and Dean got the rest.  Of course, Horatio yelled about them smarting back at the officers when he heard about it - much later than it happened and from Internal Affairs.  But they moved on from that problem and it was mostly good.

Xander had taken a lot of time to work on his skills to get used to not having that eye.  He was nearly as good as he was before he lost it in his opinion.  Dean thought he needed more training but he probably thought that about his old skill base too.  So it was a balmy day when they stepped off the plane in LA, heading for baggage claim.  Sam was lazily following his lovers, watching their butts walk.  Dean had left a week earlier so he could drive the weapons out for them.  Xander had called in a great number of contacts to get them heavier stuff if they needed it.

Now all they needed was an apocalypse to happen.  The demon had given them the correct date and time so they could make plans, which Xander shared to with the LA team.  The other hunters got it from Sam and Dean.  Bobby had sent out word that it was going to be bad, to ring LA if they could to make sure none of the new demons got past them.  Of course he told them that they'd be trying to stop it long before it got to that point but they all knew that it was unlikely.   The trio came out of the airport to find someone waiting on them.

"Deadboy's pet bitch," Xander said fondly, smirking at her.

"Ugly shirts still I see," she shot back with a smirk of her own.  She gave him a hug.  "Thanks for the head's up."

"Not like I want the world to go to hell, Cordy.  I'd have to give up my cuddles."  He waved a hand.  "These are Horatio and Sam if you don't remember them from graduation."

She stared at them then at him.  "Still?"

He nodded.  "Yeah."  He grinned.  "So, give.  Is Dean here yet?"

"He got here last night," she said.  She walked them out to her car, letting them get into the back and the passenger's seat for Sam since he was so tall.  She looked back at them then at Sam.  "So, Dean said you do the same thing we do?"

"My family does," he agreed.  "Our dad's outside the city with a few other older hunters making sure they don't make it outside city limits.  If it looks okay he'll move in for the mop-up."

"I guess that's cool but why?"

Sam looked at her.  "One took out our mom over my crib," he told her quietly.

"Ah.  Okay then."  She patted him on the arm.  "Remember, I can and will destroy you while cackling pleasingly if you hurt Xander.  Some day I might want him back."

Sam smirked.  "If you think you can take him from us," he quipped back.

"Hmm, mental pictures that probably aren't good for driving," she mused but started the engine anyway.  "We're going to the Hyperion.  It's our base."  They all nodded.  "We have a few open rooms for you guys."

"Not like we'll need separate ones," Xander said dryly.  He grinned at Horatio, getting a smile and him stroking down some fly-away hairs he had thanks to the static problem on the plane.

Cordelia shivered.  "I have mental garages I don't want to park in until later on.  Let me close that door for now."  She backed out of the parking spot and headed for the exit.  She'd definitely be visiting that dark mental parking spot again later when she wasn't busy.  It wasn't a long drive and the boys chatted quietly with her about what they knew so far.  When they go there, she got them out and inside with their bags, waving a hand around.  "Welcome to our hole of misery."

"Cordelia!" Wesley complained.

"It can be," she complained back.

Xander waved.  "Hey, Wesley."

"Xander."  He smiled and shook his hand.  "Thank you for that timely information.  I didn't know you were a seer."

"I am now apparently.  Sam is too.  But we got that info from another source of ours."  That got a nod and he led them to talk to Angel and Gunn.  "Boys, can we play nicely or do I have to resort to taunting and making fun of people's hairstyles?" he asked as he walked in.

"I get enough of that from Cordelia," Angel said, glaring at him.  Xander just grinned.  "Are you sure about the time and date?"

"I got it from one of the higher sources, Angel.  He was pretty darn sure."

"Fine."  He looked at Gunn.  "Gunn, this is Xander Harris.  He backed up Buffy until Sunnydale fell in."

"Hey," he said, shaking his hand.  "You other two are?"

"I'm Sam.  Dean's my big brother," Sam introduced.  "This is Horatio.  We're his," he ended with a grin, getting a cough and a look from Horatio.  "We are.  You said so."

"You did say that," Xander agreed with a grin for their older lover.

"Behave, boys," he chided, but he was smiling.

"Aww," Gunn said smartly.

"I think it's sweet that they don't try to hide it," Cordelia said, bopping him on the arm.

Dean strolled in.  "You should see them in Miami.  It's even cuter.  Especially when Xander doesn't want to let Sammy go with me on a hunt."  He shook Horatio's hand and patted Xander on the back.  "Dad and Bobby are set up with others in case we need them."  That got a triple nod and one from Angel.  "The stuff's here if we need it.  We have a day.  Do we have someone watching the building?"

"Buffy," Angel told him.  "I'll spell her later for the overnight watch."

"What can we do to help with the lead-up?" Xander asked.

"You're injured," Angel pointed out.

"Yeah, and I went into the hellmouth with it that way," he shot back, staring him down.  Angel glared.  "I'm not stepping out, Angel."

"You can try to take down the building."

"Um, no.  you'll need me on the ground."

"We have most of the slayers," Cordelia said.  "You can do the heavy stuff; I know you like that stuff, Xander."

Sam beamed at them.  "Horatio was bomb squad.  Now he's a CSI and sniper trained."

Cordelia moaned.  "You managed to find a sane, dangerous person," she said in awe, gaping at her ex-boyfriend.  "Finally!"

He snorted, shaking his head.  "Anya was sane and she wasn't that dangerous when we were dating."

"Not exactly normal either," she shot back.

He shrugged.  "It was comfortable.  Horatio and Sam are more comfortable and give me the warm fuzzies.  Where are we starting tomorrow?"

"Within a block from the building," Angel said, handing over the maps they had made of probably positions.  "Buffy's hoping that Finn will get up here in time to help too."

Xander looked at him.  "They're in Homeland now, Angel.  Not down in another country fighting demon overlords trying to take over the drug trade."  Angel shook his head quickly at that mental image.  "Did she call the new office?"

"And got his wife," Gunn assured him.  "She said she'd try but they were wary of coming out on the say-so of a vision or six."

"Their boss will be on the news tomorrow trying to cover it up or take credit for the efficiency of the battle," Dean told him.

"They often do," Horatio agreed.  He looked.  "I can easily handle something big enough to help the situation.  Do we think there's bugs or something around here?"

"We're not sure if they're doing it or not," Cordelia told him.  "So we're always careful in the office.  Everywhere else is fine usually."

"Good to know," Xander said.  "Nothing that could be done now instead of tomorrow?"  They shook their heads, grimacing some.  "Pity.  Okay, let us nap off the jetlag."

"No making them squeal like you tried to do to me," Cordelia ordered.  "The others will give you funny looks."

Xander shrugged.  "Why would I care?  Not like their opinions matter to me."  She rolled her eyes.  He kissed Horatio then Sam.  He smirked at Dean.  "Anything good going on we need to hear before the nap beyond this?"

"Not yet.  Later on Dad'll call and brief us on who we have out there."  That got a nod so Gunn showed them up to their room, letting them settle in to nap off the jet lag...or whatever.  Xander bounced on the bed.  "Good springs."

"Behave," Horatio ordered.  Xander pulled him down to cuddle.  Sam got his back and it was nice.  They did nap for a bit.  Not even Cordelia could get fussy about the noise of their snoring.  Any later noise, well they'd figure that out later.


Xander stared at the dark wave rushing their way.  "Shit," he said in awe.

"Very," Sam agreed.  "Horatio?" he called.  Horatio fired on the building the portal was in.  It rocked but stayed solid.  They looked back at the sound of heavy equipment, smiling at each other when they saw a tank.  "Go Marines," Sam quipped.

"Thank your dad for us," he said back with a grin.  He took a kiss and then dove in to start taking down the demons coming their way.  It was going to be a *long* day.  By the end of an hour they were panting and in pain from the constant fighting.  But it had to be done.  Sam got knocked down by one.  Buffy got him free of that one trampling him and they went back to it.  The military was trying to take down the building now.  "Knew I should've snuck out to mine the foundations last night," he complained as he swung on the newest demon.  "Aw, fuck it," he said, pulling a gun and firing on it.  It went down.  Dean and Sam followed suit, taking on what they could.  A few of the slayers came over to take out the things that only blades could handle.  Some were getting past them but the teams from outside LA were backing them up by now.  They were moving closer.  "Need more ammo soon," Xander called.  Buffy grimaced.  "It's working faster."

"Whatever."  A demon tried to push her but it wasn't succeeding.  "Hey!  No ruining the clothes!  They're expensive and Giles won't let us shop!"  She took it's head and one arm off then moved on.

"Way to prioritize," Sam complained quietly.

Xander shot him a grin before taking out another demon.  "She's always been the fashionable sort.  Cordy's probably complaining the same thing."   Sam rolled his eyes.

Dean grabbed something that got tossed, looking at it.  "Bullets," he called.

"Gimme," Xander shouted.  Dean tossed over a box to him and one to Sam then reloaded his own gun.  The box got put into his pocket.  They reloaded as quickly as they could under cover the slayers keeping the demons off them then moved in closer.  It was definitely already a long day. The building shivered.  Xander looked up.  "It's going to go in a few more hits!" he yelled.  The slayers all cheered.

"Then we've got clean up," John called from his spot behind them.

"Don't remind me," Dean called back, aiming at another demon.  It didn't die.  He hit it in the chest instead of the head.  Still didn't die.  "Shit, you're a funky, takes something mystical to kill demon, aren't you?"  Buffy threw something at it and it died.  "Thanks, Buffy."

"Welcome, Dean," she said with a smile.  "After this, we *so* deserve spa time.  Coming with?"

"Not my scene," he quipped back dryly.  He saw Horatio joining the boys and moved closer to help guard the newbie to demon hunting.  "Head shots work the best," he told him, ducking one trying to claw his forehead and getting them in the chest.  It died.

Eventually even they ran out of bullets and had to go back to blade work.  Their arms were less tired but it was still a very long battle.  By the end it was nearly four in the afternoon.

Sam got one last one and looked around.  "Damn," he said, seeing all the remains.

Xander looked around.  "Buffy, take the girls and retreat," he called.  "Get cleaned up.  We'll figure out if more got past us later."

"I layered the hunters with me so they didn't," John said, looking at him.  "Not bad, kid."

Xander grinned.  "Thanks, John.  Horatio, are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Xander.  Sam?"

Sam looked over at them.  "This is insane."

"That's why it's an apocalypse," Xander pointed out dryly.  He checked him over then Horatio, finding a few cuts, a few bruises from the fighting.  Nothing critical.  He looked at Dean.  "You good?"

"I've been less tired and achy but yeah, I'm good enough," he said.  John looked him over.  "I'm fine, Dad.  Let's fade into the shadows.  Let the military handle it."  They nodded, following the slayers and other hunters off.  Anyone who was their dead would be gathered later.   He nodded at Angel.  "You good?"

"We're fine, Dean.  Thank you.  You too, Harris."

"Not a problem," Xander said with a weak smile.  "Let's hope the higher ups give us time to recover and get less sore before they start playing their own reindeer games."  They headed back to the hotel, going to take showers.  They all had ichor and nasty things on them from splatter.   After some scrubbing of each other, they fell into bed.  It was exhausting saving the world.  Now Horatio knew why most hunters didn't last to be his age.


"Lieutenant, there's someone from Homeland here for you," the receptionist said from the doorway.  "He doesn't look pleased."

"They never do," he assured her, putting down his pen.  "Send them in."  She left, sending him in a moment later.  Horatio stared.  He had seen him on a picture Xander had put on his mantle.  "Captain Finn.  We missed you in LA."

"Why was Miami-Dade there, Lieutenant?"

Horatio looked him over.  He was young, cocky, and clearly stupid.  "Because I got asked by some friends of mine.  I was also at his graduation ceremony."  Riley gave him a horrified look.  "Why weren't you there?  I do know that Miss Summers called you.  Twice."

"My bosses decided it wasn't a reliable bit of evidence.  Visions aren't a good source according to him."  He sat down across the desk from him.  "He said if we had gotten more solid information he would've sent the whole team.  We did warn the local office out there to be on the watch for it to happen.  That's why you got the military."

"We were thankful for them.  They did a lot of the heavy firing so we didn't get as injured."

Riley stared at him.   "How did you come to know Miss Summers?  Buffy never mentioned you."

"I know Xander.  He introduced us after graduation.  There wasn't time before."

Riley licked his lips and scratched his eyebrow.  "How does a man in your position on this coast get to know a brat like Xander Harris when he's never left that coast?" he asked.

"He's not a brat.  He's a very good young man who has had some crappy things happen around and to him," he said firmly, staring the young idiot down.  "Had you gotten to know him better while you were there, you would've seen that like the others who know him do."

Riley's mouth opened slightly then he snorted.  "How long have you known him?"

"Since a few weeks before graduation."

"I see.  Why?"

"A demon came to get some help from us.  It brought us together."

"And he did something for a *demon*?" he demanded dryly.  "Figures."

"The demon was trying to get us to handle a situation with something that was harming those without evil plans," he said firmly, glaring now.  Riley backed down at that.  "It introduced us and Samuel as well.  In return it gave us some information."

"You couldn't give us that before then?" he demanded.

"We left a letter with Angel before Sunnydale fell in," Xander said from the doorway, lounging in it, arms crossed over his chest.  "Nice to see you survived all the paperwork, Captain Cornfed."  He walked in.  "Why are you wondering why we were there?  Where else would I be?"

"You're not in Cleveland."

"I needed some time to see life instead of hunting," he said simply.  Riley gaped.  "I did it for nine years, Riley.  I think I deserved the time off.  Beyond that, the girls decided to go back to treating me like I'm helpless.  They seem to see that I'm not now since they called earlier about future assignments."


"Yes, me," he said impatiently.  "Why is Homeland questioning the nice Lieutenant about why he was helping us?  Plenty of people came out of the woodwork to help us that day."

He coughed to clear his throat.  "Higher ups are finding new questions."

"Hmm.  And the ones over the slayers and others are staging a party to rearrange the power structure thanks to all this being in the open now," he said dryly.  Riley shuddered.  "Which is why the demon gave us that information.  Because that could be very bad for humanity.  Which he wanted to see stick around for a few more centuries."

"I see.  You could have told us that."

"It was in the letter and Buffy did know that.  If she didn't share that part, jump on her ass, not ours."  He moved closer to get into his face.  "It's amusing how few agents we had when a major US city was being attacked.  Even with agents in the city," he said.  He was nearly hissing it.  "I know that there's a major branch of the ATF, FBI, and Homeland in LA.  Not to mention Immigration," he finished dryly.  "They could've helped too.  We proved guns worked."

"We warned the local office," Riley said, backing up by a step.  He nearly fell over the chair he had been sitting in.  "We have no idea why they didn't show up during the five hours it took."

Xander nodded once.  "Your boss can bitch them out for all I care.  Leave Angel and his crew alone.  They're the ones who put together the defense."

"I can do that," he promised, nodding slightly.  "You did okay for being handicapped."

"It's a missing eye, not a missing limb, and you can learn to compensate for such things," Horatio said firmly.  "I've helped Xander learn how to compensate for it."

Riley blinked at him then at Harris.  "No more Anya?" he asked with an evil smirk.

Xander hauled off and hit him.  "No, she died during the hellmouth battle to save Andrew," he said, looking down at him.  "I'll tell the memorial stone you asked about her, Finn.  Now, anything else you needed to know?"

"Who were the others?"  He got up wiping the blood from his now split open lip.  "We don't have them on file."

"Why would you have other hunters on file?" he snorted, looking amused.  "It's not like we're the only hunting team out there, Captain Courageous."  He sneered.  "Now, anything else?"

"No.  Thank you for your help, Harris."  He left before he got hit again.

"Calm down, Xander," Horatio ordered gently, pulling him around the desk to check him over.  "Are you all right?"

"He's annoying but I'm fine."  He smiled.  "Are you?"

"I'm fine.  He wanted to know why I was there."  He smiled at him.  "Where is Sam this time?"

"Dean took him to lunch and I was kinda hoping I could do the same for you?" he asked, looking hopeful.  "Without any naughty parts in the center."

"I can swing lunch," he agreed, grabbing his suit coat.

"I've got the lunch, pick somewhere nice, Horatio."  He walked out beside him.  "That part-time job is going okay enough at the moment.  I even got some overtime on this check."

"I noticed you had worked a lot of hours recently," he said, looking over at Xander before putting on his sunglasses.  He smiled at Speed when they ran into him in the halls.  "We're going to lunch."

Speed looked at them.  "Make sure he can sit, stand, and bend easily later on, Xander."  Xander blushed, shaking his head.  "Maybe you should consider it instead of Italian," he quipped, walking off smirking.  Yeah, things were going to be okay.  Horatio was cutely nearly blushing at his boy.  His boy had a dirty, creative mind that made Horatio quit working such long hours and the other one was scarily overprotective of their boss.  Which meant that Horatio quit doing stupid stuff on the job too.  Or else his boys would go find that person who nearly hurt him and do him in.  Yeah, they could stand that in Miami.  Even if the apocalypse out there had gotten reporters nosing around them and the lab.

The End.