Questionable Friends

Tara opened the door on the first visitor at their new place.  "Alexis," she said, letting her in.  "What's wrong?  You don't look happy.  Did I miss a shopping day?"

"No.  Dad's being an ass."  She came in and sat down.  "I don't know why he's suddenly turned into the paranoid bastard."

"Was it after he got taken by those fangirls?"

"No.  That creeped him out but not that much.  Though he is blaming Xander."  She looked at her.  "He's being a pain that I want to go with one of my friends to her vacation home in Florida over spring break."

"Ah.  Well, he knows you're not the sort to go wild," she said, sitting beside her.  "So what other concern could it be?"

"I don't know," she sighed.  "It started after the last party a few friends and I went to."

"Want me to have Xander ask him?  Or...or I could?"

She shrugged, looking pouty.  "He knows I'm not the sort to get into trouble."

"Of course he does.  You're a sensible young woman."  She patted her on the arm.  "We'll go indulge in some retail therapy while Xander asks him."

"You're sure?"

"Yup.  Xander?"  He came out with his jacket.  "You heard?"

"Yup and I think I know why."  He left, waving at them.  "Have fun."  He drove over, considering it.  He walked up to the door and knocked.  Alexis' grandmother answered the door.  "She and Tara are indulging in some retail therapy."

"She has been rather pouty," she admitted, letting him in.

"Yup, and that's why she came to get Tara to help her shop."  He walked into the office, staring at his buddy.  "Your daughter turned into a pouty teenage girl because you got paranoid about which friend?"

Rick groaned, looking at him.  "Tara?"

"Yup.  Retail therapy."  Rick checked his wallet.  Xander grinned.  "Probably not yours."

"No, she's got the one you give her."  He put his wallet back.  He looked up.  "How did you know?"

"Because I happened to be near the last hot teen party after hearing a few panty hunters were going that way.  One of them being Henrietta."

"Ooh," he said with a wince.  "You stop her?"

"Yes.  Again.  So, which friend?  The goth one?  The one that's pregnant and ignoring it?  Or the one that had a suspicious need to run to her trunk a few times that night?"

"You're a better investigator than some I know, kid," he said, looking at him.  "Why is it that I'm around you and I get hit with ideas?"

"They're tired of me not writing them?" he guessed with a small shrug.  "You know my idea generator is hyperactive so maybe I'm projecting.  Though, is that a good thing or not?"

"Depends on the person," he admitted, taking down the idea.  He looked up.  "I wouldn't mind her going but not with those friends.  That way you can get Tara to calm her down."

Xander nodded.  "I can do that but you've got a bigger problem with one of her friends.  That goth one?  Has a few new ...scars on her throat."  Rick moaned, staring at him.  He smirked.  "So, we might want to have that talk with her?" he asked quietly.  "Tara, me, you?  Bar hopping?"

"Tara," he decided.  "I'll bring the girls to DaVinci's?"

"Eww.  Nasty and gross club.  Take her to the Eagle Feather."

"That's a hip club.  I can be a chaperone."  He smiled.  "Are there many there?"

"I'll chaperone too.  That way she doesn't feel she's keeping Tara from being hit on."


"Sure."  Xander grinned.  "It could be a lot worse.  She could already be involved."

"I know.  I still think those three friends are very dangerous for her."

"The one with the suspicious trunk habit especially.  Want me to.... maybe bring someone near her trunk?"

"I can suggest it."

Xander smirked.  "I have a few who knows me."  He winked and walked out, heading down to find the girl.  He found her because teenage girls were creatures of habit and found her running back and forth to her trunk a few times so called.  "I have one of Alexis Castle's friends who has a suspicious habit of running to her trunk every five minutes," he said in greeting.  "Because she was upset and came to Tara so I went to talk to her dad for her, and mentioned seeing them at a party I was keeping a pain in the ass from."  He nodded, reading off the address he was in front of.  A beat officer came up to him and he read off the name, getting an order.  He rolled down the window, handing over the phone.  "A detective, Officer."

He snorted but took the phone and heard the orders and the name.  "Why?" he asked.  He grunted and handed it back.  "I can do that.  Which car, sir?"  He pointed at the girl that was running back out to it.  Then back inside.  "She's not real stealthy," he decided, going to 'check a few stores' over that way.  The restaurant let him buy a cup of takeout coffee cheaply with a grin for him.  He came out and the girl ducked around him.

He got a look in her trunk and the bag she was digging in, mentally smirking as he walked off.  Once he was a bit away he called Vice.  Like the nice detective had ordered.  The young guy drove off with a nod for him.  Vice detectives showed up and watched.  When she ran back that time they got coffee too.  One caught her digging in the bag of baggies and coughed, pulling his badge.  She shrieked and fought but they were detectives.  She was not a happy delivery person.


Xander walked into Tara's bedroom that night.  "The Eagle Feather."  She grimaced.  "Safer."

"True."  She went into the bathroom to change and put in a few hidden weapons.  Like a very pretty carved wood hair stick and a silver bodice dagger.  Xander came back with something, handing over the bag.  "Thank you."  She sat down to put on the shoes and it was nicer.  He went to club himself up and then came out looking steamy.  They met the father and daughter there later, and as it turned out Buffy for some reason.  Buffy shrugged but grinned.  Tara gave her a hug and introduced her.  Buffy wasn't a big reader but she had heard of him at least.  The girls went onto the floor.  Xander went to dance near them.  Rick got a drink and watched over them.

It was a mostly decent, clean club.  Not too bad of a dance floor.  Not too many slimy people.  Alexis only got hit on by a few of the older guys.  One of them a vampire.  Tara staked him and he dusted then she went back to dancing.  Alexis stared at her.  She shrugged back.  Alexis went to talk her father, who explained some things.  Tara came to talk to her too.  Xander flopped down and got his own drink.  He told her more than she wanted to know but what she needed to know to protect herself when she went out on her own.  Buffy came over to get Xander and dance with him.  There were a few higher demons around there that she could feel.  He would know if they were harmful or not.

Tara took Alexis out to help her get over this revelation.  She showed her how to tell when they were next to her and farther away.  It was good for her and would help her protect her friends.


Xander walked up behind Beckett a few days later, letting Buffy get the vamp while he walked her off forcefully.  She flinched when he touched her but looked around and saw the three guys staring at her turn to dust.  "Welcome," he said quietly.

"Why are they coming after me?" she asked quietly.

He stared at her.  "Because you'd be one scary bitch when they turn you," he said bluntly, making her shudder.  "This group isn't looking for food.  They're looking for a few new children to make."  He let her go, staring at her.  "One was near Alexis too.  She's not happy with the new knowledge we gave her.  Her father's still a bit paranoid about them."

"So, just strong, sensible women are in danger?" she asked dryly.

"Probably, so most of Manhattan is safe," he quipped back, earning a snort but a smile.  "Thankfully his mother's too old."  He looked at Buffy, whistling and nodded.  She turned then beamed and said something to the guy there.  Xander threw a stake at the one trying to subtly grab one of Beckett's helpers, making him yelp but the guy go to dust.  He stared at her.  "Sucks to be you but bring more patrol guys?" he suggested quietly. "That way you're watched for a bit until we can send them screaming for their ancestors?"  He walked over, helping the detective up.  "Morning."

"What the hell!" he demanded, pointing at the dust.

Xander stared at him then at the dust then back at him.  "Quite possibly, yes."

The detective stared, looking confused.  "Huh?"

"Hell.  Yes, them."  The poor detective shook his head quickly.  "We got news that there's a group that's looking to make some new, strong, smart, capable, strategy oriented, thinking capable kids that way."  He stared at him.  "Did you feel left out when she got threatened last time?"

"Hell no."

"You apparently won't this time either."

He swallowed.  "How long?"

"Few days," Buffy said with a smile.  "Hi, I'm Buffy.  His friend from home."

"Hi," he said, shaking her hand.

"Keep better precautions around you guys," Xander said quietly.  "We all know they could be a problem and they seem to like her because she won't freak out.  A few went after Alexis."  He shuddered.  "She knows now."  He walked off with Buffy.  "Let us know if any more try for you.  We'll be off.... doing our things."  He waved and followed her to the car.  "She's on the knowing side," he said quietly.  "She's the one who took the statement after Glory."

"She seems nice."

"My mentor is her civilian helper."


He jogged back and wrote down an address on the back of the guy's notebook, holding it up.  He nodded so Xander went back to the car.

The detectives looked at each other, then decided they could have some more helpers for a bit.  "Few days," she told him.

"I'll send up a prayer for their quick success.  Is that why Castle's been at home?"

"Probably.  I'm sure he's paranoid and she's probably freaking a bit."  They got back to work, one working and one glancing around.  This was getting freaky for New York.

Though they were glad someone was now local to handle it.


Xander got a phone call and listened.  "Sure, I can come down, Alexis.  Why?"  He grimaced.  "Yeah, I'll be there in about thirty."  He hung up and headed out once he had a few weapons and stakes on him.  Buffy was still sleeping and he could handle one teenager being problematic.  He found a parking spot near the club and got out, walking in the back way.  There was no way he wanted that sort of attention on himself.  A few of the bouncers saw him so he held up his ID.  "I got asked to retrieve a friend's daughter," he said.  "Otherwise, I don't care."  He walked past them, heading for the girls.  That goth friend.  He sighed mentally and sat down at the table, staring at them.  He tipped her head to the side then looked in her eyes.  This wasn't rebellion.  He knew that look.  "Is it that bad that you want to go out this way?" he asked quietly.

"Who're you?  The councilor?" she sneered.

"Yup."  He stared at her then moved the collar of his shirt to show off his scars.  She gasped and moved away so he put it back.  "I know more about this lifestyle than some of the new fledges do."  He looked at Alexis.  "Car's up the street."  He pointed.  "Don't take the alley."  She nodded and left with his keys.  "That way you can tell me whatever you want to without your friend having to hear," he said quietly.  "I'm not going to do more than listen.  Because this is a sucky choice.  Especially since there's every chance that you'll be going after your friends later."

"They said they wouldn't," she said firmly.

He leaned on the table.  "They lie," he said bluntly.  "A lot.  See, where I grew up?  There were more of them than there were living people."  She gaped.  "I've seen plenty of friends who came back to see us afterward."  He stared at her.  "Unfortunately I also had to take some out to protect others," he finished quietly.  She shuddered.  "Tell me why?  Just rant at me if you have to.  Maybe I can help.  If not, maybe someone can help.  Consider this a pre-suicide intervention."

"I don't know you."

He smiled.  "I'm Xander."

"Oh!  She's, um, talked about you a few times."

"She and my roommate shop all the time and she helps me with a few books so I pay her."  He grinned slightly.  "I spoil her horribly according to her grandmother, who steals her new shoes."

"She complained about that.  So, Tara is your sister?"

"Near sister.  Kinda almost a sister.  As close as I'll get."  She nodded at that, playing with her drink.  "Parents, school?  Boyfriend?  All of the above?"

"Parents mostly," she sighed.  She looked at him.  "Did yours treat you like some purebred poodle that was only there to do tricks and show off for their friends?"

"My parents were major drunks.  They couldn't remember I existed most of the time.  My best friend had lecturing shrinks as parents.  They left her for months at a time from the age of eight."  She shuddered.  "Are they trying to auction you off?"

"Not yet."  She slumped, looking around.  "It's like I'm there only to get them society points."

Xander nodded.  "Parents like that are selfish and they don't seem to give a damn about anything.  That's why a lot of kids like you end up on drugs."

"I tried but I hated how it made me feel."  She sipped her drink.  "Maybe if I had someone there who gave a damn about *me* instead of how pretty I could be and how much I could charm their friends."  She took another drink and looked at him.  "Maybe some day they will be auctioning off my life to gain some benefit.  I'm not sure."

"You're how old?"


He nodded.  "No other relatives?"

"They're all like that."

"Hmm.  Well, there's two good points here.  Yes, they suck badly.  Friends?"

"They're enough but sometimes...."

"Oh, I know."  He smirked a bit at the vampire near them.  "I will stake you."  She fled.  He looked at her again.  "I saw my friend's parents do the same to her sometimes.  Trotted her out during the book tour for the one on parenting gifted children.  Expected her to toe the party line and not dissent."


"So one-up them by going to a prestigious boarding school in Europe."  She gaped.  "Willow thought about that option too.  You'd only see them a few times a year.  Unless their tentacles reach that far, you're going to be building a whole new life.  Schools like that are almost automatically admitted to really good colleges, like the Sorbonne in France or the ones in England."  She smiled at that idea.  "It's going to be very prestigious for them among their friends and if you sell it right, you could give them a lot of happiness that you're being accepted somewhere so good.  You might even be able to avoid most holidays by going to a friend's house for them.  Or on a school sponsored trip somewhere not here."

"My grades haven't been great recently."

"I'm pretty sure half those places know about this sort of thing.  And I'm also fairly certain you could recruit some teacher or even principal help to get you into one.  Remember, they see kids like you a lot."

She nodded.  "I can do that."

"But not if you stay in here," he said quietly.

She nodded, finishing her drink.  "Can I come talk to you again?"

"Sure.  If you want to.  Or my roommate Tara.  She's a very nice young woman who is a librarian."  She smiled because that would be more subtle.  "C'mon."  She got up with him and walked out.  A few were waiting in the alleyway.

"She gave herself to us," one of the vampires said, looking her over.

Xander shook his head. "She's changed her mind.  Go away, people.  We don't want to have to beat your ass."

"You're not that good," one sneered.  "I saw you in Sunnydale."

Xander sighed.  "Yeah, but I've trained more since then."  They rushed and he put her behind him, against the wall.  He got two and one clawed him, but he backhanded them back.  Another tried to get his throat when he was hitting and he got that one with his other hand and the dagger in it.  The vampire screamed and backed off, holding the hole.  The last two stared at him.  A few more came out of the bar.  "She withdrew her consent."

The head of the bar stared at him.  "You're a hunter?"  Xander pulled out his wallet and held up his ID.  The vampire stared at him.  "But you're a goofy author.  You write half-elves who make horrible jokes."

Xander grinned.  "Yes, but before I wrote, I was just plain, old Xander Harris."

"The same one that backed up that slayer chick?" he demanded.

"Yeah, she's on Tara's bed at the moment.  There's been a few going after detectives."  He grinned.  "She withdraws her consent.  I came in peace until we were attacked."

He looked at him then at the others.  "Did he hurt anyone first?"  They all shook their heads.  "Pity you're not that sort of hunter."  He vamped out.  She shrieked.  Xander sprayed something and they all screamed.  "What the hell is that!" he shouted, scrubbing his face.

"Garlic spray.  Like pepper spray only it stinks and hurts more."  He smiled as he walked her off.  Alexis hopped out.  "She's a bit shaky.  We'll go to the library for a bit I think."  He got in and took the girls there.

"You have a rep," the girl said quietly.

Xander smirked back at her during a red light.  "Yeah.  I backed up the main hunter against them because there were so many that kept trying for my high school and town."  He kept going.  "It's not a pretty life," he said.  "Them or what I used to do.  It's dirty, nasty, gritty work that sucks your soul worse than drugs does.  That's why I'm retired and now I write fantasy novels."  She gaped.

"He writes really good ones too," Alexis agreed with a smile.

"Well, I try," he said modestly, grinning at them.

"Dad's all but addicted to Tral's series, Xander."

He beamed.  "Really?"

"Yeah.  I bought him the first one and he got sucked in.   He's read a few of them multiple times."  He beamed and wiggled a bit.  "He even tried to spread it to the other detectives."  He giggled at that, pulling into the library's lot.  They got out and she walked her friend inside.  "Tara, do you have anything that would list major boarding schools?" she asked.

"Hmm.  I think we might," she offered, leading the girls off to talk to them.  She knew that look.  Willow had worn it a few times.  The fact that she was goth, Xander was dressed in hunting clothes, and had went to clean up in the bathroom....  It was probably a good time for a girl talk too.


Xander walked Alexis back into her house.  "Meredith."

"Alexis," she sighed, hugging her.  "Are you all right?  We heard you were spotted near where some problems were."  She glared at Xander.

"Grandmother, I called him to come help us.  Gloria was suicidal and going to go tonight."  She gasped, looking at her granddaughter then at him.  He nodded.  "He talked to her and gave her a method of getting around her parents who think she's a trick poodle."

"I know parents like that," she said, hugging her again.  "Was she safe, Xander?"

"Alexis?  Yes.  The people in the club didn't come near her.  She had a soda while sitting with her friend.  When she realized it was a goodbye visit to the goth club, she called."  He leaned against the back of the couch.  "I talked to the girl about maybe going to a boarding school in Europe, which would be prestigious, right?"

She smirked.  "That is a good reason for those.  Better than most children in there would have."  She gave Alexis another squeeze.  "Are you all right?"

"Xander took us to talk to Tara after he got her out of there.  Tara helped me calm down."  She smiled.  "Not that I won't be having ice cream later."

Xander patted her on the head.  "It'll be okay.  She'll be fine now.  If not, point out where we live.  I told her she could come talk to us."  She smiled and hugged him.  "Good girl and well handled.  Thank you."  He smiled at her.  "Go get ice cream while I go home."  He looked at the grandmother, then pulled out a book and signed it, handing it over with an evil grin.

She read it and giggled.  "You definitely are original, Xander."

"I try really hard.  Two of me might warp the universe too much."  He left, going home.  Buffy was eating over the sink.  "I could've sworn we ate on the couch."

"I would but the kittens kept trying to bowl dive.  Are you all right?"  She ate another bite.

"Yeah, I'm fine.  A few scratches."  He let her see.  "She needed help."

"I heard.  Tara came home to cry that anyone was that depressed."  She finished up and rinsed out her bowl then put it into the dish washer.  "Any news on the group?"

"Not today.  We can hit the kitten poker circuit."

"You should probably lay low," she pointed out.  "They might get majorly pissed.  It was on the news that someone tried to attack them, and that someone was you."

"Huh.  Yet a lot of people have my number and I haven't heard anything yet.  Is it on ET or anything?"

"No.  Tara told me that the detectives told them they deserved it."  He nodded.  "So you're clear but it's in the news."

"Yay.  I was being a stand-in dad and getting some underage kids out of a club."  She smirked at that.  "If not, I'll hear soon.  Any other cheery news?"

"Her parents wrote?"

"I so filed a restraining order when they did it the first time."

She beamed.  "Good idea.  Yours?"

"Threatening me from prison."

"Oooh," she said with a wince.  "You okay?"

He shrugged.  "Same old same old, Buffster."  He got his own dinner and hopped up onto a counter to eat.  The kittens came running at the sound of the microwave, making him stare at them.  "You four don't eat people food," he pointed out, eating a bite.  She giggled.  "Did she tell you about the construction incident with our little tan sweetheart there?" he asked with a point.

"She did.  It was adorable!" she cooed.

"Sometimes."  He ate quickly and got dressed for patrol.  He got Tara and they went to play some kitten poker.  He was in clear sight and easily found.


Xander looked up from his reading in the park when someone came running at him with a knife held out and a scream.  "Huh," he said, shifting and tripping the guy, making him stab the back of the bench.  The knife stuck in the wood.  The guy tried to hit him.  "Officer!  Help!" he yelled.  "I don't want to hurt this guy attacking me with a knife!"  A few officers came running and Xander kicked him back at them.  They got him down and he pointed at the knife.  "No clue," he said when they looked at him.  "I was reading.  He did a poor impersonation of Xena."

One snickered.  "Battle yell?"

"Yeah.  Came at me, knife out and ready, with a yell of discontent.  I have no idea what his problem is."

"Do I know you?" one of them asked.

Xander shrugged.  "Maybe?"  He smiled.

"You're that author guy who beat up on that club," he said, realizing it.

Xander looked at him over the edge of his sunglasses.  "Two sixteen-year-old girls wanted help getting out of there.  They started it.  I just make them beg."  He shrugged.  "I'm not going to beat anyone unless they start it."

"He's not wanted?" the other officer asked.

"I can check."  He called it in.  Xander went back to reading.  The officer decided that took balls.  "It's your lucky day, sir."

Xander stared at him.  "I still didn't start the fight.  They pounced me trying to get one of the girls to harm her."

"That's a good reason," he decided.

Xander smiled.  "I'm not a mean guy.  I may have to protect myself sometimes from people like that, but I'm not mean.  I never start a fight unless I have to jump in to protect someone."  He pointed.  "Like him beating his girlfriend."  They looked and one went to stop it.  He looked at the other one.  "I really don't start anything."

"Some people are knights," he said dryly.

Xander grinned.  "Many people have called me a white knight."

The man in cuffs glared at him.  "Knights all need to die for what they've done to the duty!" he shouted.

Xander stared at him.  "Awww, you're *Council*!"  The man gave him a horrified look.  "Detective Grahams was dealing with some of their people recently."  The officer smiled at that information.  "Secret society sort.  They broke in poison my roommate's cat while she was delivering."

The officer sneered at him.  "That's pathetic."

"We thought so too," Xander assured him.   The other officer came back with the boyfriend in cuffs.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem.  If there's more, let us know."

Xander pointed at her.  "She's just watching."  They stared at  her and she walked off.  He waved at the Council's guy.  "Buffy said hi."  The man struggled but they still walked him off.  He called her.  "I just had a Council person do a bad Xena at me with a knife.  I told him you said hi."  He hung up and got back to his reading.  He heard a familiar giggle and looked but ignored it.  If Alexis was skipping, that was her dad's job.  He was not her relative.  Though, the bunnies were nibbling hard.  He left with a sigh, heading for his laptop.  Buffy gave him an odd look but he pulled out his laptop and she nodded, going to watch tv.


Paula walked into the apartment when Buffy let her in.  She had called ahead.  She saw him working and sighed, coming over to take his laptop.  He made frantic noises and saved it, staring at her.  "What were you doing in the park?"

"My reading in the sun time."

"Do it somewhere else?  Somewhere safer?"

"They were Council."

"I heard.  Rick heard."

"I didn't mention him."

"He knows.  Someone told him," she said impatiently.

"Um, do you know you have this vein that's throbbing in a bad way?" Buffy asked delicately.  "Not that he doesn't do it to me now and then too," she offered when Paula stared at her.

"She knows," Xander said.  "All I did was read in the park."

"Yesterday?" she demanded.

"I was helping a few younger women who were in the wrong club and had to have help getting out of there.  They jumped me to get one of them back."

"The truth?" she asked dryly.  "I heard from Rick about her friend."

"They jumped me to get her back."

"Oh."  She grimaced.  "It's not a publicity nightmare.  Stay out of the news?"

"I don't try to get into the news!"

"Fine."  She handed back the laptop and stomped off to handle the bad press.  He was helping get a friend's daughter out of a club when she realized she was in over her head.  That would be a good story that would get around quietly.  Nothing like going on tv, but it would get around.

Buffy looked at Xander then pointed.  "Publisher," he said.  She nodded she understood.  "She's very worried about my image.  She even makes me buy dress clothes."

She gaped.  "You shop?"

"She tries really hard to make me shop."

She rolled her eyes.  "We can shop.  Mom sent me with a small allowance."

"Filene's.  Detective Beckett introduced me to that store and there's a *ton* of second-hand and neat thrift stores in town.  Especially in the trendy section since it's 'green' to recycle that way."

"I guess," she sighed.

He checked the clock.  "Let me finish this chapter."  He got back to it and she got him out in about an hour.  He had to move all the kittens to the couch but they wouldn't mind.  He took her to Filene's first.  She nearly swooned at the discount couture stuff.  Then the other places were pretty neat too.  She'd like living in this section of town.  She even asked about how much rent was around there.  She nearly passed out at the prices but that happened sometimes.  She wasn't used to real world things like rent and utilities.  Her mother handled that.


They finally got the rest of the troupe of vampires and she got to go home.  "Mom, you would not *believe* how much rent is in New York!" she said when she was met at the airport.  She gave her a hug.  "Tara said that you can pay up to a quarter-million for a *parking space*!"

"And they're probably glad when they find one," she agreed, smiling at her daughter.  "Bags?"

"Of course.  Xander took me to some really nice places.  Some that were second-hand shops, and they had jeans, and then there was a couture shop that was a discount shop and it's *wonderful*!" she said happily, letting her mother help her get the bags.  She had come back with a lot more than she had left with.  "One of Xander's detective friends introduced him to that couture place.  His publisher tries to make him shop all the time."  They walked out to the car.  "Tara's doing better.  She's happier now that she's thinking on her own again.  Xander's back to writing, he didn't while they were moving stuff.  The kittens are adorable!" she cooed, smiling at her.  "Even if they do try to mooch.  They keep invading Xander's lap and the back of his chair while he writes.  They consider him a kitty bed since he doesn't move for hours."

"Miss Kitty used to do the same thing from what Tara said.  Did they keep all four?"

"Yes, the little begging mooches.  I could not eat without a little paw trying to get some.  Or a nose in my coffee.  I let that one have some and she ran off trying to get the whipped cream off her nose."

"Cats can be strange that way, dear.  Which couture shop did he tell you about?"


"I've heard of it.  I have no idea if we have one around here or not.  We'll have to check."  Her daughter beamed.  It was a discount place, she almost thanked the Gods for that relief in her wallet's pain.  "If I remember right, they're the place that has that wedding dress sale that people line up for hours to get into and then it's a rush in and fight to get something."

"Wow.  I saw that on E or something.  But anyway, it was pretty cool.  The detectives we helped were nice.  They didn't say a thing beyond swearing in the what the heck way.  Xander got to help protect a friend's teenage daughter, the one Tara shops with."

"That's good of him.  I heard rumors about that."

"Yeah, his publisher has that pulsing vein in her forehead like he used to give me sometimes.   I guess that's when she makes him shop."  She shifted.  "So, anyway, a lot of hotties with jobs, real jobs, and they all smiled at me.  No one seemed to mind the new dust piles or anything.  It was very nice of them."


"Someone on the Council tried to pull a Xena on Xander in the park but he beat him and let the cops have him.  I guess that was so Tara couldn't get them."

"Perhaps," her mother agreed with a smile.  It was cute seeing Buffy babbling.  "How is Tara otherwise?"

"Pretty good.  She and her aunt aren't talking right now thanks to that spell stuff.  Oh, and her parents tried to write.  Xander filed a restraining order for her.  She found out when one of the witches told her to be mean.  His are threatening him from jail."


"But beyond that they're in a *huge* apartment.  Tara has her own office/bedroom/ bathroom suite.  Xander has the same and then there's a living room, a pretty good sized kitchen, and a really nice sized tv.  They must've used the insurance check to buy that thing.  Oooh, and Tara took me to a jewelry craft fair.  They have people who hand-make jewelry.  Not the expensive stuff of course, but pretty stuff.  I got a few new necklaces and a pair of new earrings to go with the new clothes.  And I nearly got picked up but Xander *totally* acted like a big brother again and glared at him until he fled for his life.  I swatted him but he said I didn't need that sort to be around me.  So apparently I was sucking off his bad girl magnet to draw a bad boy.  Not sure how he knew but it was clear he might be.  No leather though so that was nice."  She smiled.  "How was LA?"

"It's been pretty slow.  Angel spent the weekend off talking to Anya when she wrote him."

"That's good. I should visit her soon, tell her the gossip from New York."

"I'm sure she'd like to hear how good he was doing."  She patted her on the arm, turning off the highway onto their exit so she could take her daughter home.  "Tired?"

"I think I've got Willow bouncy energy and I'm not sure why."

Her mother laughed.  "I noticed the babbling.  I was about to ask if you had kissed Xander."

"No, hugging only.  He is not my kissing type.  That'd be like molesting a brother or something, Mom.  Eww."  Her mother snickered, pulling onto their street.  "How is Willow?"

"Ignoring the morning sickness.  Still.  She still says she's not pregnant.  I told Daniel which test to get and how to sneak it in on her.  So we'll see soon.  She might complain he was doing gross things while she was trying to go to the bathroom."

"I got that email last night.  Xander let me check."

"Did she say what it said?"

"She huffed and said he was being an unreasonable man-sort again."

"I'll call later then, see if it came out the way we know it should have."  She pulled into her driveway and let Buffy get out to go inside.  She shook her head.  Buffy was much too bouncy but at least she got her own bags.  She followed to see what sort of neat things she had gotten.  There were a lot of new clothes but she still had money left from her allowance so maybe he had changed Buffy's method of shopping?  That way she wouldn't need to shop so often?  "We should clean out your closet and take some of the stuff you don't wear anymore to a consignment or thrift store," she said.

"You mean the places that I shopped buy clothes?"

"Some do.  Consignment shops sell them for you.  Like a yard sale only in a store."

"Huh."  She nodded, going to her closets to start weeding things out.  Her mother helped by adding some things she absolutely hated seeing her wear.  Buffy wouldn't complain, this time.  She had plenty to replace it and this way, they had room to fit.


Xander found a menace still around.  He had thought they had gotten all the troupe of vampires.  Apparently they had missed three or four.  He found one watching some familiar people on a scene and staked them subtly before moving on.  The uniform gave him an odd look but the pile of dust got a nod of thanks.  Xander got another and disappeared back into the crowd of the city.

Don Flack looked over, shaking his head.   "Yeah, I caught that," Stella told him.

"That was the goofball author," he said quietly.

"Ah."  She went back to work.

Danny looked over from his taking pictures.  "We did see him turn two people to dust, right?" he asked quietly.

"He was protecting us," Don said.  "There's been rumors that a few have went after good, mentally strong detectives.  Mostly females."  He pointed at Stella, who beamed at him for that compliment.  "That same goofball author."

"Wonderful."  He shook his head, getting back to work.  "Now we know who ta call."

"Hopefully he doesn't have that sort of equipment," Stella said dryly.  "I'd hate to see it used around here."

"Yeah, me too," Don said dryly, smirking at her.  "Did you miss coffee earlier, Stella?"

"Yup."  She finished up with her current spot and moved around to find more clues.

"If they do, do we call ATF or someone else?" Danny asked.

"Mac," Don and Stella said in unison.

"If he's got that stuff, you tell Mac," Stella assured him with an evil smirk.  "That way he can go talk to the boy, beat his ass, and hand it to the proper people.  Who are probably military weapons designers."

They all snickered at that mental image.  They couldn't see Mac not beating the boy if he had stuff like the Ghostbusters.


Xander walked into the poker hall, looking around.  "How many did we miss?" he asked the room in general.

"Three but they've made a few," one guy called.  "That's after the two you got for the pretty detective with the cute hair."

"I'll send him a note saying you think he's cute," Xander said dryly.  "Where?"

"East side docks."

"Thank you."  He left, going to handle that.  He got there, scouted it out, found a few living people paying them with pictures and cash.  "Huh," he murmured.  He called the Captain over the strange things once he got back to the car, watching the area.  "What would you like me to do with the vampires who've been trying to turn detectives who are being given information and pictures, plus cash?"  He read off the address and waited.  SWAT got there a few minutes later.  He tossed the nice captain a canister.  "Garlic gas," he mouthed.  "Found it recently."  He smiled.

"Thanks, Harris."  They went in and he got the vampires himself.  It was not something he wanted in his city.  The photos were still on the table.  The humans were arrested.  He got to tell some detectives that they were wanted out of the city later on.  That was so nice of Harris to pass the buck.  And give him a new toy.  When he checked, the kid's car was back at the poker hall according to the guys watching his back for the next few days.  They didn't want to go in there and have to see demons playing poker, which he understood.


Xander was walked into the meeting room of the squad room Beckett was at, staring at her.  "You made me stop writing the next hunter's novel."

"Sorry.  I'm sure you'll get back to it soon."  She handed over the bagged canister.  "Terrance wants that recipe."  He wrote it out and handed it over with a grin.  "Thank you."  She put it into the folder.  "These four dweebs, any idea?"

He looked at the photos.  "He's Council."  He pushed that one aside.  "He's a lawyer.  We saw him in LA working out of Wolfram and Hart.  He was trying to annoy Angel to life again."  He looked at the other two, taking them to fax and then text the Hyperion.  "Let's see if Angel knows if they're Wolfram and Hart or not."  He got back a text a few minutes later.  "One is, one's a Watcher Buffy remembers from a bag and tag team."  He let her see it.

She made those notes.  "Council is where?"

"England.  By Stonehenge.  They have a major research building just outside London.  They're the ones that have the contract out on me."

"It went up," she said, holding up that picture and notice.

He grinned.  "Awww, that's so sweet of them."  He called Tara's phone.  "The Council raised my bounty again.  It's now three-point-two mil for my balls.  Dead.  Only dead."  He listened.  "Cool."  He paused.  "Is that your stepmother?"  She said something quietly.  "You have the copy of the order with you?  I know I put one in your locker."  She left her desk and went to find it.  Plus tell her boss on the way.  Her boss had their guard detain her.  "It's sad a library needs a guard, Tara, but I'm glad I don't have to come beat their asses.  Please do."  He hung up and called someone at his building.  "Hey, Paul, it's Xander.  Upstairs neighbor?  Tara's parents are trying to show up.  There is a restraining order.  The HOA office has a copy of that and their pictures on file if they should show up and I know you tend to run the office.  One just showed up at her work, man.  Thanks.  No, I'm helping identify someone who wanted me dead.  Yeah, for writing fantasy novels.  They think I'm bringing demons to the attention of too many and making them less godly."  The old guy snorted but said they were insane.  "Exactly.  Thanks, man."  He hung up.  "Just in case."

Beckett called Tara.  "Would you like me to have someone arrest them?"  She listened.  "That's fine then, Tara.  Thank you."  She hung up.  "The guard called.  She's fine.  They let her work back in the sealed reference room."

"Ah, the restricted section," he said dryly, cracking her up.  "Any book that can make preteens and teenagers stand in a line for six hours without whining to get a book?  I want to at least give it a try.  It's not bad."

"I know others who've read it.  Not my genre."

"It's cool.  That's why there's so many genre's out there," he quipped with a smile.  Rick walked in and batted him on the arm.  "What?" he asked with a grin.

"That book."  He hit him again.  "Bastard."

"Yes, my parents prove it every day."  He grinned.  "The Council raised my bounty."

"Oooh, that's not a good thing."

Xander smirked.  "They're so frustrated.  And we think Willow's pregnant."  Rick burst out laughing, nodding.  "Yeah.  I don't think it's going to be a huge ass problem for them."  He looked at her again.  "So anyway, anything else I can help with?"

"Learn what the world subtle means?" she suggested.  "You got noticed."

"Yeah, it was one who realized he was in DCIS too," he quipped back with an evil smirk.  "He talked to Paula about it."  She moaned, shaking her head.  "Anything else, beautiful woman with brains?  Because I've got to meet with the shitbag biological donor's lawyer later about his latest attempt to extort money from me from jail."

"He did?" Rick asked.

Xander pulled out the bag of letters.   They went through them and she looked at him.  "Halloween?"

"He kicked me so hard my appendix ruptured two days later."

"Ow," Rick muttered.  "That's clearly a threat then."

"Yup.  Who knows what he thinks will happen thanks to this."  He took them back and put them back into his inside jacket pocket.  "Any other bad guys I might know?  One got arrested in the park the other day.  I told the nice officers that Detective Grahams had been dealing with a few of their secret society sort recently."

"I'll check with him," she said.  "No dates?"

"I've been busy," he complained.  "Plus Tara's still twitchy on that issue."

"Why?" she asked.

"Someone's nice curse to me to take out the ex's.....  Sound familiar?"

"Yes, quite.  I remember hearing about that and wondering if it was a new one who was taking out the old competition to prove she was better."

"Not quite.  But we had no way to see if it was that or not until one of Anya's coworkers took me to see a very nice evil chick I might like to date and sleep with.  When it hit, she got it removed, and fixed things.  Which started Tara on her girlish fit of 'that's not a good thing'.  I pointed out it could've hit accidentally at a club instead.  I had been heading to one when the idea hit me to go talk to her former coworker instead."

"That's...practical," Beckett decided.  "But probably not a good thing."

"You'd rather he picked up the woman whose only crime was drunk driving?" Rick asked.  "We're down to them anymore in the city."

"Which is why it's practical."

"She was an assassin and jewelry smuggler," he offered.

"Still practical but not nice."

"This is clearly one of those guy viewpoints versus womanly viewpoints," Rick decided.  Xander nodded.  "She forgive you?"

"No.  We've put it behind us but that was right before all that stuff with her aunt and the coven."

"Ow.  I remember hearing Alexis calming her down about that.  But she's better, right?"

"Mostly.  Her parents being here, not a good idea for her sanity at the moment.  She's probably ready to beat someone."  He nodded at that.  "Let me go pop in on my sperm donor's lawyer.  Have a better day, detectives.  We got the rest of that troupe last night when SWAT wanted them."  He left.

He looked at her.  "My mother wanted to beat Tara's parents herself," he said quietly.

"People like that I want to beat too."  She went over the information they had, farming out background checks on those names and the two organizations.  She wanted them out of her city too!  They did not need bad law firms.


Xander walked up to where Tara was having tea, sitting down next to her.  "You summoned, m'lady of the books?"

"I did."  She looked at him then at her parents.

Xander smirked.  "Hi.  You know, Buffy may not be here, but I do a mean impersonation."  They both looked horrified.  He looked at her again.  "Want driven home?"

"For right now, I want to hear what they have to say, then can we get Mexican?"

"Sure.  We can even call Daniel later since he forced a pee stick test on Willow and she's still denying the results."

She smiled.  "She'll be a very fussy mother."

"Yes she will."  He stared at the parents again.  "Get it out, people.   The city's full of bigots.  Maybe some of them can follow you back to the motherland."

"Are you her boyfriend?" the stepmother demanded calmly.

"Roommate.  She still likes girls."

She grimaced.  "It's not right."

"That's not your call to make," he said bluntly.  "It's not your life."

"You let him shield you?" her father sneered.  "Mooching your way into his place so you have a protector?  I taught you better'n that, girl."

"No you didn't," Xander told him.  "Beyond that, she pays her half of the bills.  She does half the cooking.  We've been friends for years now.  I've been like a *good* brother to her."

"Her brothers could whoop your ass, boy," her father sneered.

"I'd like to see them try," he said dryly.  "I'm not as weak as I look, old man.  Really."  She put a hand on his arm.  "Sorry, she doesn't want me to get into a verbal pissing contest with someone who might be shown to have liquidy brains."

"Xander," Tara complained.

He looked at her.  "Yay."  He smirked.  "So, have you talked to her aunt?"  The man sneered at that.

Tara leaned closer, making the fake flower in the center of their table bloom and become real.  She smiled at him.  "I don't need Xander to protect me, Father.  I never have.  He showed me that when I was ready to see it.  Then he got me into self defense classes."

Xander nodded.  "Yup."  He sipped her water, letting her take it from him.  He stared the old man down again.  "Any other issues you're having with your failures as a decent parent?  And do you treat this wife like you did her mom?"  The stepmother gasped at him.  He stared at her.  "One always recognizes another, woman."  He looked at the man again.  "Men like you are pathetic examples and the rest of mankind can only hope that more women don't judge us by your standards."

"You're coming home tonight, girl," her father ordered.

"No I'm not and I do have a name, Father.  I am not a little girl."  He balled up his hand.

"You hit her and it may be the last thing you ever do," Xander warned.

"You can't beat me in a fight," he sneered.

"I don't have to, though I can.  She's got a stun gun on her."  Her stepmother gave her a horrified look and scooted her chair back.  Xander stared him down.  "Tara, did you need to talk more?"

"I want my mother's journal, Father."

"I burned that foul thing," he sneered.

She sighed and shook her head.  "The bank didn't say that.  I asked.  It's in your safety deposit box."  He glared.  "It is the last thing of my mother.  Also, I looked up her will.  She left it to me along with her necklace.  I would like them back or else I'm filing a complaint in the county courthouse there tomorrow.  Raymond Pickens has it for me."

"He won't turn on me that way," he assured her smugly.

She called him, putting it on speaker.  "Mr. Pickens please?"  Xander punched him when he tried to hit her.  "Mr. Pickens, this is Tara."

"Yes, dear."  He sounded like he was smiling.  "I've already filed that order for you and the judge has ordered it be turned over by tonight."

"They're here in New York," Xander told the phone.  "He just tried to hit Tara."

"Oh, dear."  He said something to someone.  "You enact that restraining order, young lady.  Right now."

Xander called.  "Hi, my roommate and I are eating at Venice's and her parents showed up.  There's a restraining order against them.  We were having a discussion but he just tried to hit her."  He listened.  "Please.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "They'll be here in a few."

"They had to removed from the library earlier, Mr. Pickens."

"I'll ask the judge for permission to break into that safety deposit box.  He can give the police a warrant to get that since they're not here."

"Thank you," she said, hanging up.  "Not everyone is like you, Father.  It took me a while to see that but they're not."  A cruiser pulled up outside and she found the copy of the order in her purse.  She waved him over and handed it to him.  "I was willing to listen for a few minutes but he just tried to hit me."

"That young thing hit me," the father snarled.  "I want him arrested on assault charges."

"So be it," Xander agreed.  "I'm not going to let him hit her.  I hit him because he was trying to.  I'll take it if you want."

The officers looked at him then at the father.  He read over the restraining order.  "Did you knowingly let them sit with you, ma'am?"

"I was willing to listen to what they wanted since I'm trying to get my mother's things but they have threatened me for years and terrorized me my whole life."

"The support for the retraining order had seventeen CPS calls," Xander told the officer simply.  "Plus their first threatening letter when they found her again."

"You got them?" she asked.

"No, the same lawyer that got mine against my parents got yours."

"Oh.  I didn't realize that."  He grinned.  "Did you look?"

"No.  I didn't need to know."

She beamed.  "Thank you."  She looked at him.  "He's like my big brother."

"Who makes her make her own decisions," Xander added with a grin.  "Our ex's once cheated with each other."

The officer shook his head.  "People, you should leave if asked to," the officer told the older couple.  "Mr. Harris, we know you're overly violent when protecting someone."

"Only then," he complained, starting to pout.

"We know, sir."  He handed back the restraining order.  "Please leave."  They stomped out.  He looked at Tara.

"We had them removed from my workplace earlier.  They sat down, I didn't call a meeting," she assured him.

"I already warned him off.  He thought I was kidding," Xander said dryly.

The officer smiled.  "You need to work on more books, Mr. Harris."

"I was earlier until I found out the bounty on my head went up."

The officer stared at him.  "You have literal death threats?"

"People who don't like me bringing demons to the notice of the general population.  A secret society out of England."

"Oh."  He shook his head.

"They tried to kill him when he was over there signing books," Tara told him.  "He ended up with military bodyguards thanks to them."

"But Rodney and John were really nice and John would let me babble at him about all the stuff we saw on that tour."

"They were," she agreed with a smile for him.

The officer nodded.  "It must be strange to be an author."  He looked at her.  "Next time, call when they show up.  We can arrest them for that."

"They only shooed them off earlier."

"Next time, we'll arrest them," he assured her, going out to make a report then head to his next call.  She wouldn't need much protecting.  Harris was getting a rep as a badass who was a white knight.

Xander put down money.  "C'mon."  She nodded, leaving with him.  He tipped the hostess as well.  "Thank you.  We're sorry they caused such a scene."  He took her to the car.  He could appease that mexican food craving while he wrote most of the night.  The kittens would help him.  That way the Maclay's wouldn't be doing any new surprises that night.


Xander walked into Beckett's office the next day, putting down his phone after finding a text message.  "They kidnaped her."

She read it and started that paperwork.  "Where do they live?"  He handed over their last letter.  "That's clearly in another state," she said.  She called someone.  "I have a parental kidnaping of an overage young lady.  She had a restraining order against he parents.  They took her this morning."

"On her way to work," Xander said.  "Her boss called in a panic.  She's got the tape waiting on whoever.  She said she tried to get a uniform to listen but he said he couldn't do anything about it."

"Bet me," she said.  She repeated that and nodded while he made notes.  She read off the address and said there had been letters.

"A lawyer by the name of Raymond Pickens just helped Tara file to get some of her mother's things from her father," he told her.  "She told them last night.  They started to threaten her so we had to have an officer come enforce the restraining order."

She repeated that.  They found it and said they'd call the local office out there.  "Her father's a former officer?"

"One of her brothers is a state cop," he told her.  "Didn't seem to bother him when he was helping her father treat her like a slave."

"Her brother's a state cop," she told the person on the phone.  He made another note of that.  "I think someone should before her roommate goes out like Rambo."

"Please!   I have more class and better weapons," he said bluntly, staring at her.  "And I can find even better than that out there if I have to do it myself.   Not like I'm shy about it."

"True."  She heard the agent look him up.  He choked and spluttered.   "He found that FBI report on Sunnydale."

"Cool."  He grinned sweetly at the minions when they came in.  "Late, guys?"

"Problems?" one guessed.

"Tara's parents kidnaped her in the parking lot of the library."

"I've got an agent," she told them.  They relaxed.  "Xander is going to go home and calm himself down.  Now."  He nodded, leaving it in her hands.  "You've maybe got a day before he goes after her," she told the agent.  "Thank you.  Let me know.  He's getting a bad rep as a white knight around here."  She hung up and gathered things together.  "Anything better today?"

"You might want to tell Castle.  The girls were going shopping today," one noted.

"They were," she agreed, calling him.  "No, not a body.  Tara was taken by her parents on the way to work.  The girls were going shopping.  Thanks."  She hung up.  "He'll tell her after he quits swearing."  She considered it.  "If he's never been to the state where she lived, how would he get weapons there?"

"Kitten poker underground?" her boss suggested.  "I'd like to have that closed."

"Maybe the ATF could," she said, going to talk to one of them in person.  That way Xander wouldn't get in trouble.


Xander walked up to his building to find someone pressing on his door's buzzer.  "I was out getting stuff started to get Tara back from her parents," he said.

John turned around, smiling at him.  "That bad?"

"Yup.  But I'm calm.  Officials are handling it so I don't have to.  Or so I don't tell others to cancel a poker debt by helping her."  John smirked at that.  "Seriously."

"We're in town for about two days."

"I have a couch and a rollaway if you want them," he offered.  "Tara probably won't be back for two days."

"Sure."  Xander let them in and they went up there.  Xander found a box in front of his door and looked it over.  He looked too.  "What is that?"

"I think it's a package bomb.  It's from my mother."  He handed over the keys.  "Here, go in, keep the kittens company for a minute, guys."  They went in and he looked it over.  Xander had proven he could disarm small bombs.  He checked, no obvious wires to the ghosting touch.  His mother wouldn't be sending him anything good though.  He called someone out there.  "It's me.  Who did my mother hire to send me something?"  He listened.  "Really."  He beamed.  "That's so cool of her.  Thank you!"  He hung up and called 911.  "Hi, this is Alexian Harris and I think I just got sent a letter bomb by my mother.  At my apartment.  Yes, that's the address," he said dryly.

"What did we do this time?"  He listened.  "Ah, the restraining order.  Yeah, they kidnaped her earlier.  I've already talked to a detective about that.  No, this is from *my* mother who *I* have a retraining order against.  Well, I could disarm it probably," he said dryly.  "But I won't.  Thank you.  Yeah, I'll let them in."  He hung up and went down to let in one of the bomb squad guys when their truck pulled up.  He walked him back up to the package.  "I called a contact out in LA, because I have some nasty poker playing friends out there, and they said a guy named TCJ Thomas made it for her.  He's more known for small biological ones.  Things like a letter bomb that blows cocaine and that stuff."

"Interesting, Mr. Harris.  Did you touch it?"

"Gently ran my fingertips around it looking for wires.  None on the packaging or string but the left side flap clearly got taped down last.  It was done with post office tape."

He looked and nodded.  "Logical."  He looked at him.  "How do you know about bombs?"

He grinned.  "The internet."

"Oh."  He got it into a safe box and they took it to the truck to disarm.  Yeah, it had drugs in there with a small explosive.  More than enough to kill whoever inhaled.

Xander walked in.  "My mother's in such trouble," he said with a smile.  He hugged John.  "So, no more delivering babies?"

"Hell no."   He smiled.  "Not staying out of trouble?"

"Of course I am.  Most of the time.  It's just been a month of 'please help me' so I had to."

"That figures.  Tara?"


"Even better."

"I said I could go Rambo when it was noted but she told the agents that so I have to wait."

"Even better, kid.  Cute cats."

"Miss Kitty's only litter."  He petted the one trying to climb him.  "What?"  She meowed frantically at him.  "What?  Show me.  Are you guys out of food?  Did Rodney scare you?"  John snickered at that, shaking his head.  He went to feed them and they were all happy cats.  He came back out.  "So, how has your end of the reality stream been?"

"Different," John admitted.  "Only a month of issues?"

"Yeah.  A friend's daughter needed me.  Her friend needed me more.  A few vamps hunting detectives....  You know."

"Yeah, I remember.  Council?"

"Upped the bounty again to three-point-two."

"Aww, that's so sweet," John said sarcastically, smirking at him.

"The nice detective has that information since someone was trying to pay the vampires to take me and her out."  He beamed innocently at him.

John snickered.  "That's so evil.  Sparring?"

"Please."  He looked around.  "Let's move this out of the way unless you want to go to the gym?  We have one."

"Sure.  Let's do that so Ronon doesn't have to get a kitten who loves him."

Xander grinned at him.  "The kittens are adorable.  That's because they're young .  That way you won't yell when they invade your t-shirt while you sleep."

"One try to nurse on you?" Rodney taunted with an evil smirk.

"No, she just wanted to snore into my bellybutton.  She does it to Tara too."  He shrugged.  "They're cats, what do I know."  He led them down to the gym.  It was empty so they got some good sparring time in, then Xander made lunch.  With ice packs.


John looked around that night.  "You're not the least bit worried?" John asked quietly, sitting across from where the kid was writing.

"Some of the poker circle is keeping an ear out that way to make sure she's not hurt.  If they think she's in critical danger, they'll step in.  Also, they're obviously, in a very obvious way, keeping this from Willow so she doesn't go postal.  She's pregnant."  John smirked at that.  "I will not be delivering hers, no."  John snickered so he grinned.  "She might be a bit bruised but she'll be fine.  Or else Willow and I will have to fight over who gets to kick her family's ass.  I might let her just so I can taunt them that they got beaten by a girl."  He smirked meanly.  "The circuit is getting word back to me now and then.  They've seen him slap her once and she reacted nicely.  He went into a wall.  Her mother brained her with a skillet from what they saw.  So we'll see.  Hopefully they'll have her by tomorrow.  If not, I'm going out there and Willow can bitch."

"I'm sure they'll do it for you.  Remember, you do have to lay lower."

"After this last month, I've had officers I've never met know I'm very overprotective and can be violent if I have to protect someone.  I don't even know which one it was."

John shook his head.  "You still need to lay lower."

"I try."

"I know."  He smirked.  "You'll get it fixed, kid."

"We hope."

"I know you will.  Even the Council will be stopped sometime."  Xander nodded that was true.  "It'll be easier if you were less conspicuous."

"I got twitted because I was picking up Tara at another dual writers' signing event because the fantasy writer never showed up.  Half of them were my fans and I had just gotten done with one of my own."

"You stepped in?"

"Yeah.   It made them a lot happier.  I had one at that store later that week and I gave up that spot to him.  He never showed up then either.  No one's sure where he is."  He shifted, putting his laptop down on the table so the kitten wouldn't complain about it being on her again.  "That club thing, a friend's daughter called because she knew she probably needed some help getting out of there and one of her friends needed help."

"Demon bar?"

"Goth bar with real vamps feeding.  I got them out but the friend got attacked so I defended her.  Then I garlic gassed them.  The vampires actually filed charges but the officers heard what had happened and let it go.  Told them they deserved it."  John nodded that was a good thing.  "Then Tara's parents showed up so I got a bit overprotective of her.  Oh, we had the most major fight."


"I did something practical to figure out why all my ex's were dying.  It turned out to be a curse.  We couldn't be sure so one of Anya's coworkers pointed me at a majorly evil girl I could flirt with.  When it went off on her we could end it.  Tara hated that."

"Girls would."

"I kept pointing out it was that or going to a club and hoping like hell it didn't hit.  She hated that argument more."  He looked at the door.  "Who is it?" he called.  They hurried off.  He went to look, finding him outside.  "Yes, whoever you are."  They turned.  He looked.  "What's up?" he asked.

"Who were you talking to?"

"One of the guys that bodyguarded me on that signing trip.  He's Air Force."  He moved closer.  "I didn't say more than that."

"I heard."  She sighed, looking at him.  "They don't like that idea.  Said it's too expensive."

"Financial aid?"

"They won't allow it.  It'd look bad on them."

"Then put it bluntly.  If you have to, honey, talk to the most scuzzy, mean, druggie looking guy in the school who might be a boyfriend."  She meanly smirked back.  "And get your other relatives onto it."

"True, I probably could.  Thanks, Xander."

"Not a problem.  You know that.  You could've knocked."

"You were hanging with someone."

He nodded.  "Most of the people I hang with would've understood."  She smiled and left.  He glared at the person with the camera, waving them over.  "You can come talk too."  The guy tried to leave so he stopped the car with a knife dagger to the tire.  It popped so he walked over there.  "Don't make me break the glass.  I only want to talk nicely because you were taking pictures of a young girl.  You either roll down this window or I'm reporting you to the PD."

"I'm a PI," he said through the glass.

Xander stared at him.  "Yay.  That doesn't mean you're not a perv."

He huffed and rolled down the window slightly.  "Her family's worried that she's fallen in with the wrong crowd.  Who're you?"

"Alex Harris."  He texted her, getting back permission.  She hadn't known that.  "I know one of her friends.  Her friend called because she was going suicidal thanks to those same people who hired you.  I talked her down."  The man swallowed.  Xander stared at him.  "You can tell them she was talking to me about how to get into boarding school.  Because if they're worried about her friends here, that's a great way to get her away from them and earn more status points that they're *oh* so worried about."


"Yeah.  Since I had to protect her when someone nearly killed her at a club, very."

"That thing at the club was why they called."

"I got called to help the girls get out of there safely."

"I'll let them know that.   You wanna help me change the tire?"

Xander snorted.  "No."  He smirked.  "I had death threats earlier."

"Never mind.  Thank you, sir, for clearing that up.  I won't tell her parents about that if she's better?"

"Yeah, they're why.  Hence the prep school idea."

"I'll suggest that."  He got out to change his tire while Xander went back inside.  He went to the family that night, finding the parents waiting with the aunt who had paid him.  "I found out what happened at that club," he said.  "She was meeting with someone tonight to talk to them.  They're an older friend.  The same one that she called to help her get out of that club alive."  Her aunt gasped.  He looked at the family.  "Apparently the girl was so deep in the depression from some pressures around here, her friend got worried so she called the friend of a friend and had him come talk to her about it and he's the one who suggested the boarding school idea to get around all the stress around here.

"From what I've found out since I talked to him, and he popped my tire for taking pictures of the young woman in question in case I was a pervert, he lives with a very nice lesbian librarian.  The people who tried to attack the girl tried to have him arrested for protecting her but the cops wouldn't."  The aunt swallowed and nodded.  "He did text her that he had stopped me and questioned me.  He let on that the boarding school would be a good way to get out of the local stresses."

"Some of those girls she hangs with are getting into trouble," her mother said firmly.  "Alexis especially."

"Ma'am, if you mean Alexis Castle?  She's known to be a non-partying, non-drinking, non-drug using girl with common sense and good grades.  Her father used to be wild.  She is on the goody-goody end of the spectrum.  Even when she's at a book signing it's said that she most often has a soda and some homework quietly in a corner.   Alexian Harris, who is who rescued both those girls from the club, said it was your daughter who picked that one."

"Why didn't she tell us," the father demanded.

"Because part of the pressure may be you two," the aunt said quietly.  The PI nodded that was true.  "You talked to her?"

"I talked to him.  He did mention that she was feeling pressured by things.  It could be the school's running her ragged, plus her parents and their hectic lives are draining her.  He got her settled back down off the edge and let her talk to him, his roommate according to Castle's father, and even him a few times.  Now, some of her friends are bad.  One got busted recently for being a drug delivery girl.  They found her with enough blow in her trunk to qualify for federal level charges.  Multiple times."  The parents shuddered and held hands.  He knew why the kid was pressured.  He couldn't tell these sort that though.  "That plus your social lives and all the parties you have to go to for your jobs and things?  It's probably getting to her.  A boarding school may be a better option.  With what he said, and why he said it, that's a reasonable suggestion.  Plus it'd get her away from things here."

"It's expensive," the aunt said.  "But the one she chose is very prestigious and it's in Europe.  She could be making all sorts of contacts."  She considered it.  "Emily!" she called.  She came down the stairs.  "Thank you," she said, paying the PI.

The poor kid looked at him.  "Xander's very overprotective when you want him to be.  He's probably sorry for popping your tire."

"Kid, he said he got death threats earlier in the day.  He was on edge, I get that."  She nodded and he left.

Her aunt cleared her throat.  "Why did you not come talk to me?"

"Because you're part of the pressure," she said bluntly.  Alexis had told her to be blunt, be firm, and to make them cry if necessary.  It was time for that.  "You and your social parties, and here, meet this nice boy who is from a good family.  Their parties that have absolutely nothing for me to do so I'm bored, or tempted to do things by older guys who think I'm cute at sixteen."  Her mother gasped.  "If it wasn't for Alexis, I wouldn't have been here for months," she said bluntly.  "She's kept me from going over the edge.  And when I got too close, she called in reinforcements.  Her friend Tara is a great young woman.  She's got sense, she lets me talk.  Her own parents were crap so she understands.  Right now, I would about give anything to be out of this family most of the time, Aunt Selene."

"I had that at your age as well, but the only escape I had was marriage," she admitted.  "I can find a way to pay for the school you chose.  Though I will have you seeing a counselor there, Emily."

She nodded.  "If I must."

"You must," she agreed.  She nodded that was acceptable.  Schools like that often had them so she wouldn't worry.  "Can you transfer?"

"Yes.  I talked to the principal when he suggested she might know of a few good ones.  Especially since my grades have been bad for the last little while over all this.  She made me talk to my present school's shrink every Thursday for her help."

Aunt Selene smiled at that.  "Then she has sense.  I'll thank her later."  She looked over her niece.  "Why Europe?"

"It's far away.  It's got great educational opportunities.  It's too far for a casual visit over a weekend for the most part.  That school does a lot of trips to museums.  They have almost guaranteed acceptance at most any college if you graduate.   They emphasize education over marriage."

She nodded.  "That I can definitely see, young lady."  She stared at her.  "It is a good educational choice outside the wanting to get away.  I had thought about sending you to the one in Oregon?"

"No thank you.  It's very good educationally but it's paranoid.  Beyond that, it's for the majorly rich kids.  I'm not.  I'd be a charity case there.  This school has a lot of kids who go on higher scholarships.  It's for smart people who want to do things with their lives.  Plus my parents can use the contacts I'll be making."

"We are not like that!" her mother shouted, standing up.

She looked at her.  "How long was it going to be before you tried to auction me off for a loan for the business?"  Her mother slapped her and stomped off sniffling.  She looked at her father.  "Eighteen or twenty-one?"

"I have hopes it would never come to that," he said stiffly.  "I thought you enjoyed those."

"Me sitting in a corner being bored looked like I was enjoying it?"

"You always dance with those young ones."

"They drag me out there.  That's usually after the first few drinks, Father."  He nodded once and left her with her aunt.  She looked at her.  "I thought you would've been on their side," she said quietly.

She sighed, sitting down again.  "As you know, sometimes it's easier to go along to get alone, child."

"Which is what ate at me," she agreed.

"I'll make sure you can go.  For now, you can stay here."  She nodded.  "Wash that ridiculous black hair dye out.  Or get it fixed tomorrow."

"Yes, ma'am."

"You went to a goth club?  You hear all sorts of rumors about them doing bloodletting and things."

"Which is why Alexis called when I had plans of letting them do that for a long time."

She nodded.  "It was a wise move on her part.  I've heard of your savior."

"Xander's a really nice guy.  Tara told me he's been surrounded by girls for years.  He's not gay but Alexis said that only bad girls do it for him.  She was giggling about one of his last ones being sentenced to about twenty-five years a few days back.  He was helping her out and let me rant."

"Then I appreciate that man."

She smirked a wicked smirk.  "He suggested I come home with the most scuzzy boy from school to horrify them since they were so worried about my friends."

Her aunt cackled, nodding.  "That may well have made you an orphan, Emily.  Call your housekeeper to bring you some clothes.  Normal ones please."  She nodded, making that call then going up to the guest room.  She went to talk to her stubborn, stupid nephew and his sow of a wife.  The girl did have a point.  She would've been auctioned off to the best for the family company.  At least this one would escape and hopefully find happiness like she had with her second husband.  May he rest in peace where she poisoned and left him.


Three FBI agents walked into the state police station out west, looking around.  They found a desk sergeant.  "We need the overseeing officer," the one in the lead ordered quietly.  "It's a bad thing."  The desk guy called the captain, who came out to get them.  They were led into the office and the door was shut by the last one.  "We're here to talk to one of your officers about his sister's kidnaping."

"Was she overseas?" the captain asked.

"No, Miss Maclay was in New York City when she was illegally taken by her parents," the agent next to the door said, handing over the file.  "There's also the information on why she had to file a restraining order against her family, Captain."

He read it over, grimacing some.  "In some ways it surprises me, but not about him," he said, handing it back.  "Rory!" he bellowed.  "Report!"  He came in a minute later and the agent closed the door again.  "Rory, where is your sister?"

"Hiding from the family like a little coward," he snorted.

"You were seen at the non-producing farm where she is being held against her will last night," the lead agent told him.  He gaped.  Then he took a swing at him.  "That was entirely stupid, kid."  He cuffed him and sat him in a chair.  "Yes, we're already going after her."

"My father will kill her for leaving the family," he sneered.  "Little demon bitch."

"No, she's not," the other agent said, taking off his sunglasses.  "I know plenty of demons, kid.  She's not one of them."  The officer gave him a horrified look.  "She's a librarian.  A lesbian.  A blonde girl who is still shy after all the shit your family put her and her mother through.  That makes *you* the demon with her father."  He looked at the Captain.  "We've already got people heading that way."

"None of us will warn him.  The local boys might.  He used to be one of them."

"We've already locked down the local station," the agent assured him.  "We've arrested three officers who don't seem to think that the rules for social services and child welfare are applicable to present or former officers."

"Did her big, gay protector send you?" Rory sneered.  "Thought he could whoop our asses himself."

The lead agent looked at him.  "We're saving your life, boy.  That protector of hers once lifted a piece of artillery from a National Guard base to take out a threat to the country and no one said a damn thing to him about it.  He got a whole town shut down by turning in some artillery he found with a few cults."  The man moaned, shifting some.  "We're doing it to save your life and your father's life.  Because we'd rather see you in jail instead of dead and collecting a department pension.  Can't say as any department I've ever been in would want to claim either of you."  He hauled him up and handed him off.  "To the car."  He took him out there.  "We would suggest if he's married, to check on his wife and kids because they do say abuse like that is generational and clearly he never learned better."

"That girl's protector?"

"Her roommate, sir.  To be frank, she was part of the same group that's listed as taking out a military unit that needed it, that incident with the rocket launcher, and a few other things.  She's retired to be a librarian."

"Good of her," he said weakly.  "This guy?"

"He's now a sci-fi author."

"Wonderful.  Thank them for me?"

"Gladly, sir.  We like to ignore that team whenever they have to act.  For that matter, so does the NYPD since they had to act with a few friends that they used to work with when they had to take out a terrorist in New York by blowing her up.  No one said a thing.  That told us all we needed to know about their retired status."  The captain nodded quickly.  He and his minion left, going out to the farm.  The team had busted in and Tara was being walked out.  "Miss Maclay, are you all right?  Do you need more than basic medical?" he asked, walking her away from the house.

She looked at him.  "Xander sent you?"

"Detective Beckett alerted us, ma'am, and said we had about a day and a half before he got here with however he gets higher weapons to get you back himself."  He walked her to the ambulance that was pulling in.  "She was being held hostage.  Check for head injuries since we had heard that someone brained her with a skillet at the very least."

The agent who knew demons came over to stare at her without his sunglasses on.  "He did have some people watching over you until we could get here.  Never fear that he abandoned you, Miss Maclay.  We're doing this so we don't have to see him in action."

She smiled weakly.  "He is good but Buffy's better."

"Yes, but she won't do more than beat them, ma'am.  He'd make a mess."

"True," she agreed with a faint smile.  "Thank you."

"It's not a problem.  They did wrong.  Maybe they can join his parents in jail since his mother sent him a bomb by the file we got earlier."  He helped her into the ambulance and let them take her to the hospital.  He looked at his boss.  "Do we think more bad things will happen?"

"No.  I think it's almost all settled down.  Even that curse or whatever was going on has stopped as far as we can tell.  No telling how that'll end up around him."  He walked off once everyone was taken and the junior officers had confiscated all the weapons in the house.

Tara walked into the lawyer's office a few hours later, smiling at him.  "Mr. Pickens?"

"Tara Maclay.  You really do look a lot like your mother, dear.  You didn't have to come out.  You know that."

"I didn't have much of a choice," she told him.  "The FBI arrested them this morning for kidnaping me from New York."

"That's very bad for them."  He took her to the judge, who had the contents of the safety deposit box.  "Your Honor."

He looked up.  "Miss Maclay.  You look a lot like your mother, young lady."  He shook her hand and she sat down.  "I didn't know we had an appointment, Mr. Pickens."

"The FBI has her parents in custody for kidnaping from New York."

"Oh, I see."  He called someone and they told him what had happened.  He nodded.  "Thank you."  He hung up and looked at her.  "There's only a few things from your mother there."

"That's all I want.  My brother's family, if he has one, can handle anything else.  I don't want to."

He nodded.  "That's reasonable and well within the law, young lady."  He got his bailiff to bring in the box.  He had already sorted things out.  "Here, this is your mother's necklace and rings.  Her diary, a few pictures."  He handed it to her with a smile.  "I had already decided in your favor since her will was specific that you were her only heir and her husband was not to get anything.  We had wondered why?"

She slumped some.  "Because he treated us the same way, like slaves there to stroke the family's ways."

He flinched.  "I didn't know, child.  The social service reports said that you had been taken out of school a few too many times and had some bruises."

She shrugged.  "Thankfully he decided I was going to turn into a demon so he never touched me more than with his fist," she said quietly.

"Then the man should rot in hell," Mr. Pickens agreed.  He gave her a squeeze.  "You became a hell of a woman, young lady."  She smiled and nodded.  "Now, how are you getting home?"

"I'm going to fly out in a few hours.  That way Xander won't worry and invade the town."  She smiled.  "It'll be okay.  I won't let him invade."

"Boyfriend?" the judge asked.

"Roommate.  I like girls."

"With your father, I'd like girls more too," he decided.  "I'll hand the rest of the box back to your brother's wife, Miss Maclay.  I hope it gets easier for you."  She smiled and nodded, shaking his hand before leaving.  "She seems really delicate but she clearly has her mother's will."

"And ways.  She keeps to them," Mr. Pickens agreed.  "Have you seen her sister-in-law yet?  Usually she'd be throwing a fit by now."

"Not yet," he sighed.  "Let me call her to tell her she can pick up the rest of this."  The lawyer left him to do the dirty work.


Tara walked into the apartment, stopping when she saw the strangers.  "You're too scruffy to be a burgler," she told Ronon since she could see him in the kitchen.

John came out.  "Tara.  John Sheppard."

"Xander has pictures of you," she said, shaking his hand.  "Has he been naughty?"

"No, he's been a good boy.  He didn't even write except the nighttimes."  She beamed at him for that.  He grinned back.  He could see why Xander liked the girl.  "We'll get out of your hair late tonight."

"It's all right.  Can...can I help cook dinner?"

"Nah.  We've got a huge base caf to roam through tonight," he said with a charming grin.

She pinched him.  "Military food, yuck."  She dropped her things in her room then went to make lunch.  It was about lunch time.  She looked at the tall man in there.  "He didn't have pictures of you.  I'm Tara."

"He told us about you," he said, shaking her hand.  "I'm Ronon.  I'm on John and Rodney's team."

She beamed.  "Trying to keep them out of trouble?"

"It hardly ever works," he agreed, making her giggle.

Xander came out to give her a hug from behind.  "You good?" he whispered.

"I'm fine but why did the FBI think you'd make more of a mess than Buffy would?"

"Someone found the Initiative files as well."

"Ah!"  She nodded.  "Which had the mall thing?"  He nodded against her shoulder.  She snickered.  "The agent that walked me to the ambulance said that they didn't want you and Buffy to come.  She would've been messy and you would've been worse."

"Probably, yeah."  He let her go, turning her to look her over.  "Good.  You sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine.  I've had worse on patrol."  He beamed at her.  "I got my mother's picture."

"I'll get you a new frame tonight."  She smiled and went back to cooking.  "You don't have to."

"I'm hungry and it's rude to eat in front of people who aren't."

Rodney came out.  "No citrus?"

She smiled.  "Xander told me about the restaurant in France."  He shuddered.  "I agree.  I tried french food.  Not to my liking.  Much too heavy."  She got back to work.  "You can help if you want."  Ronon got out of her way but Rodney came to help her cook.  "Xander does anyone else know that they got into it?"

"Yup.  I had Sam Finn suddenly show up at breakfast yesterday morning," he said dryly.  "Huffy.  Red in the face."

"The kid asked if she was pregnant," John said dryly.

"Willow gets like that now and then, even if she is denying she's pregnant."  He smirked evilly.  "She got huffy the same way too."  Willow appeared with a crack of displaced air. "Should you be doing that in your condition, woman?"

"I'm not pregnant," she said firmly.

He stared at her.  "If you say so, oh great one with the tight shirt."  He stared her down until she put her hands over her stomach.  "Prove it to all of us, go get an ultrasound in case it's something mimicking a pregnancy like a tumor."

"Fine.  I'll see someone this week.  You nag worse than my husband."

He smirked.  "That's because I've seen how stubborn you can be."  Tara snickered.  "Guys, this is Willow."

Rodney stared at her.  "Demons were bad enough but you have a way of zapping yourself across the country now?"

"It takes a lot of power so she's about the only one who can," Tara said with a smile.  "Though I agree, it can't be good for my goddaughter."  Willow sniffed and came to hug her.  She hugged back.  "It's all right.  We'll teach them about the Goddess together, Willow."  She nodded, pulling back to wipe off her cheeks.  "So, what's up?"  She washed her hands again and went back to fixing lunch.

"We just heard that you had been taken by your parents?" she asked dryly, glaring at Xander.

"From the parking lot of the library," he told her.  "I let agents handle it when the detective made me."

She smirked.  "Were they scared of you?"

"Of what I'd find to blow them away," he said dryly.  She squeaked and went red.  "They got into the Initiative's files."  He smirked evilly.

"They did say Buffy would be messy but they didn't want to see the mess Xander would create," Tara agreed.

"We kept it from you so you wouldn't have to make a mess," Xander said.  "Mood swings would be evil."

She pinched him hard.  "Are you all right, Tara?  You can come back to LA with me."

"I'm fine," she promised, smiling at her former girlfriend.  "It's all right."  Willow pouted.  "They found me the night they had taken me and waited until early the next morning to come in since I had brained my brother with something when he tried to hit me."

"Good!"  She gave her another hug and then left.  Rodney pointed and scowled.  She smiled at him.  "It's all right.  It's a Willow thing."  She got back to work.

"I wonder if O'Neill's gotten those," John said, considering it.

"Did you?" Xander asked.  John nodded with a smug look.  "When I had the cabin next to him, he kept annoying me while I was pissed.  Then I met Thor."  John moaned.  "He's a really good listener."

"Wow.  I did not know that."

Tara looked at him.  "I'm not hearing this."

"You have the same clearance I do," he told her dryly.


"No.  Finn's people."

"Ah."  She got back to work.

He looked at John again, who was looking amused.  "Riley Finn showed up with another of his people to brief him.  This was about the same time an NID weenie showed up to try to date me."


"Well, I do draw bad people," Xander quipped.  "Jack and his team got very amused and I'm told very drunk."

"That's why we got sent it," John assured him.  "We found two long gone ones."

"Cool.  Oh!"  He went to find something and came out.  "That really far back history book.  Giles found a copy for you guys."  He handed it over with a smile.

John sat down to read the earliest pages.  "Huh, this is farther than the one Rodney got off the Council."  She gave them an odd look.

Rodney smirked.  "They were withholding information we could use.  Our oversight committee said so.  The one we had on base is now back among them."

Xander snickered.  "Yeah, he refused to transfer here to New York.  Or even the US. He wrote me a nice letter, since he found out I knew you guys, that he was not going to get in close proximity to me unless there was an apocalypse because things might be more attracted to him after his stay up there."  He got it for them.

Rodney snorted at it, putting it aside.  "Wonderful."  He got back to work.  "Is he still hiding?'

"The last I heard, he had been avoiding one of the higher demons who wanted him as a consort."

"It is the city that warps us then," John said dryly.

Xander hugged him.  "I sucked it all out of you on the trip by being next to you for six weeks, John."  He went back to it.  "I hopefully got rid of some of Rodney's bad luck too."

"It has been more quiet since they got back," Ronon told him.  Rodney scowled.  "You haven't been kidnaped in nearly a month."  John burst out cackling.  "He hasn't had any priestesses hit on him.  Neither have I.  Can you reverse that part?"

"No, sorry," Xander said with an evil grin.  "More bad chicks for me."  Tara swatted him with a dish towel.  "I need more."

"Paula wants to marry you off to someone slightly evil so you settle down."  She finished up and plated the nice stir fry and gave them glasses of water.  She sat down with them and looked at Xander then at Rodney.  "Was he good when I was gone?"

"Most of the time.  He did get a wild hair up his ass to go threaten a PI."

"All I knew was he was taking pictures of a teenage girl I knew.  I only popped his tire.  It ended up helping her a lot."

"Emily?" She asked.  He nodded.  "Good."  She ate a bite and chewed.

"Her mother thought Alexis was the bad friend," he said with a grin.  Then he stuffed his mouth.

"You mean she didn't count the one you got busted for selling drugs as the bad friend?"


"Huh."  She considered it while she ate a bite.  "Alexis doesn't even really approach naughty."

"I know."  He patted her on the wrist.  "She wanted a call when you got back."

"I will once school's out."  She checked the clock and then ate another bite.

"Rick swore like he had spilled coffee on himself according to him.  It even woke up his mother."

"Ooooh.  I'll call him in a few minutes."  She took her plate into the office to call him in private.  He was a good friend.

Xander smiled.  "My mentor has a daughter that I have helping me out on DCIS and they shop together."  He ate another bite.  He paused.  "Rodney, did she use peanut oil?"

"No, she poured a drizzle on yours, Xander."

"Oh!  Okay, just making sure."  Rodney smiled but shook his head.  "You knew I was fussy when you met me."

"I knew you were odd when I met you," he countered.  "Not many others could piss off a secret society just by being there."

Xander gave him a look.  "It's a skill," he quipped.

"Yes, I seem to have inherited that one," Rodney said dryly, eating another bite.

"Most everyone was irritated with you already," Ronon assured him, cracking John up.

Xander snapped his fingers.  "Someone sent me an email for you guys, John.  They think it's your thing as they put it."  He got up to find it.   "I found it when Tara came in."  He came out to hand over the printed email.  Then he sat down to eat again.  "No idea about any of that but it's clearly meant for you."

John read it over.  "Any idea where that is?"

"Google maps?" he suggested.

"I can definitely look that up and have someone check it out, Xander.  Thank you."

"Not a problem.  That's clearly a John and Rodney job, not a Xander job."

"It's good you remember those from the trip," he said dryly.

Xander grinned at Ronon.  "Did he tell you we got to deliver a baby in Germany?"

"Why?" he asked.

"Because she was going into labor in an alley.  We heard her and couldn't get an ambulance or anyone so he coached and I caught the little guy.  Very slimy.  Right before a book signing too.  Paula was highly pissed that I was so grungy when I showed up and then moaned and went for a few drinks when she found out why."

"Those two were thought to be cute going around town together," Rodney told him.  "Half of everyone thought Xander had found someone that wasn't evil finally."

Xander smirked at him.  "I think he can be when he wants to be."  John nodded since his mouth was full.  "Oh, I don't mind the copies of the books, as long as they cannot be leaked," he ordered.

"They can't be," John assured him.  "Paula find out?"

"Yeah, someone leaked almost a whole chapter of the next one coming out."

"Oops.  I'll get onto them.  Through their family?"  Xander nodded.  "Huh.  I'll make sure it can't be, kid."  Xander smiled at that and dug back in.  "Got anything new done?"

"Very."  He pointed.  "And you can rob anything but the top shelf on the left one and the last one on the right.  That's Tara's and my shelf has signed ones."

"Sure, thanks, kid," Rodney agreed.  He went to look.  A lot of lighter reading but it was a good thing for the city's library.  He picked out some and took them to his bag.  Tara saw him and came out to get him some of hers as well.  He smiled at that.  She beamed back and went back to talking to someone on the phone.  He came back to finish his lunch.  "She's got some fussy older woman nagging her."

"Probably her aunt," he said dryly.  He stuffed his mouth.  John looked at him so he shook his head.  "During that huge ass fight," he said quietly.

"That makes more sense."  John smiled.  "It'll get easier.  Are you making more friends?"

"Some.  I've met a few other writers who live around here.  Met some nice officers.  Play kitten poker with some decent guys."  John shook his head quickly.  "What?"

"I blacked out the thought of kitten poker," he told him.

"Please don't, I'm eating," Rodney complained.  "I like cats."

"Is that why the terrible foursome have abandoned me for you?" Xander asked.

"Probably," he admitted.  "I miss my former beast every now and then.  Beyond that, they're small and cute."

"They do that so you don't do more than huff when they invade your shower with you," Xander told him.

"One somehow got up on top of the shower curtain rod to bat at my hair while I was washing it," Ronon told him.

"I got a nice picture of one sucking on one braid while kneading you the other morning," John said smugly.  Ronon scowled.  Rodney shook his head with a sigh.

Tara came out.  "They can be very loving but they're also pains in the tail sometimes."  She pointed at the one for Xander.  He got up to rescue the poor cat sticking out of the cheap, decorative vase.  "I didn't think she could fit in there."

"Apparently she did."  He helped her out and she went to the couch, climbed up, wiggled her tail, and leapt at John's shoulder, making him yelp.  She meowed at him then walked over to Rodney's shoulder, getting petted.  She walked/slid down his chest, making him hiss, until she got the lap.

He looked down.  "You cannot keep me," he told her, but he did pet her.

"Xander, any idea if any more information might be found on these guys?" he asked.

She looked.  "Gregori knows most everyone in town and he's a very nice guy," Tara said with a smile.  "Tell him I said hi and I'm okay."  She pinched Xander.  "Were you going to have them come in and get me?"

"I had some watching you for me while I plotted out how to get some artillery and make them a fucking mess for daring to kidnap you," he said bluntly, staring at her.  "They could've come in after me.  Unless you were in critical danger."  He smiled sweetly.

She huffed but kissed him on the cheek.  "Thank you, Xander."  She went back to her chatting with her aunt.

Xander shrugged at the dirty looks he got.  "What?"  He sat down.  Two more kittens came running out to pounce him.  "Hey, guys.  Tara, check Muffin."  She went to find her, bringing her out of the closet.  He heard her get into it.  "My organizer?"

"Just like her mother," she agreed, putting her underneath a pillow on the couch.  Since she liked being underneath so much.  She wiggled and got comfortable, then kitty snored.  She walked off shaking her head.  "I thought Miss Kitty snored."

John snickered.  "I noticed they all snored."

"They get it from their mother," Xander said with a head nod back toward Tara, cracking them all up.

"I do not," Tara called.


Xander walked the guys into Gregori's present poker game and over to the man.  "Hey."

"Xander.  Is Tara all right?"

"She's fine.  The FBI did a great job getting her back.  She's talked to her boss and it's all good so far.  A few minor bruises but she said she paid most of them back."  He laid down the email.  "You heard about John and Rodney, right?"  He nodded at them.  "This is Ronon, one of their teammates.  I got that this morning."

He read it over, then looked at John.  "Like the thing that the mythical city had problems with?" he demanded.

"You know about us?"

"You guys have many leaks because we all worry who you'll find to be upset with us next.  Some of the ones on the base have been calming down the paranoid for years now."

"Thank them for me.  Yes, like the wraith."

He grimaced.  "It's possible one managed to migrate.  It's not that hard for one to have migrated with them when they came home."  He handed it back.  "As for that address, it's in Newark.  Which may explain parts of that city really," he said dryly.  He wrote the address down on it.  "If so, please do remove them.  They prey equally on yours and our kinds."

"We're trying very hard to make sure that none of them get down here."

He smiled.  "That is very good of you, John.  And for keeping Xander from going after her immediately."

"Beckett said to let the FBI handle it for a day," Xander said, walking Ronon off to talk to one of his poker buddies.  "Hey, Phil."

"Xander!" he said, glancing around.  "I know I owe you kittens, man.  I'll pay you next week?"

"That's fine.  This is Ronon.  He's on John and Rodney's team."

"Hey.  They were very cute bouncing around on that tour together."  He let them sit down around him and they got dealt in.  Xander put down money for them.  A few cats were on the table but not too many.

"Are they alive?" Ronon asked, looking at a cat.

"Probably slightly sedated," Xander said, petting one.  It wiggled under his hand.  "Yeah, alive."  He went back to it.  He grinned.  "The ones who play it for the kittens usually are peaceful and use them instead of people eating," he said quietly.

"Ah!  No wonder you do not allow yours out of the apartment."

"We know what familiars are," Phil promised him.  "We don't touch familiars."

Xander smiled.  "Someone unwisely tried to kitten nap Miss Kitty back in Sunnydale.  They were not pleased when Willow intervened.  And then Buffy showed up."  They all nodded.  Xander taught him how to play.  He had taught Rodney and John too so maybe they could introduce it to the others on their city.   Ronon ended up winning a cat but John glared.  Rodney took it to pet and protect it for a few minutes.  It was a huge fluffy thing like his had been.  Xander grinned and let them have his car for a few hours.  Then he went to a bookstore.  They probably needed more books in the city.  He had to make sure the cats couldn't get packed.  They all wanted to live with Rodney but since the mommy was home they were running back and forth.  She could keep them with her for a few hours.


John got beamed down into the control area a week later, looking around at his people.  "Harris said to quit emaling his books or he's confiscating all the copies he gave us," he announced.  "Someone leaked from a future book.  Since Paula chewed on us over it, we're spreading the nibbling."  They all nodded.  He got out of the way and pulled Rodney with him.  "We've got some.  The guy donated some more books too."  They went to their rooms and settled back in to unpack.  The books went to the library.  The treats went to those who asked.  The cat went to hide in Rodney's office for now....


Tara looked around a few days after that.  "Xander, weren't you supposed to find a home for the pregnant kitty Ronon won?" she asked.  "I've been wondering who you found."

"She has a home," he said from behind his monitor.  "She's very loved there I'm sure."

"You didn't," she sighed.

"No, I didn't.  She snuck into his rolling bag.  He probably didn't even realize it until they were on the ship."  He beamed at her.  "Since our familiars like him maybe one of hers will."

"Fine.  That's sneaky, but fine."

"She's a cat, of course she's sneaky."

"You didn't try to stop her."

"She knows who rescued her from the mean ones who'd eat her."

"True."  She went back to fussing over something.  "Think we'll have more problems like that one you got emailed?"

"Nope.  If they come at us, maybe but they're not Xander problems.  They're John and Rodney and General Jack problems.  That was made very clear to me.  But I did email John and Sam a description and tell them to avoid running into them."  He smirked at her.  "That way they'd know."

"Good!"  She fussed with something else.  "Told them it was an unknown version of demon?"

"Yup, just traveled to earth, really rare, no idea how to kill it yet."

"Even better."  She heard someone in the hall and looked at the shadow underneath the doorway.  She kicked him and nodded.  He sighed and went to open the door.  "Mr. Winchester, nice to see you.  Are you all right?"

"You have visions?" he demanded quietly.

Xander let him inside without inviting him.  "Unfortunately since the battle with Glory for some unknown reason.  I spent a few days in a coma."  He sat down and saved the current story then looked at him.  "Did it help?"

"A lot, kids.  Thank you."  He ignored Tara.  "There's a lot of rumors about your former team."

"About half are probably true," he admitted dryly.  "Did the boys make it to see Buffy?"

"They did.  Dean was impressed at her given skills too."  He stared at them both.  "Witches are still problems, even if they have went light again."

"We all know she has an addiction," Tara said quietly.  "Like any addict she may slip, but she has a lot more support now than she did when she started to slip, Mr. Winchester.  Plus she knows how evil she can go thanks to the one where she sent Xander writing to her from her prison cell."

"They arrest them there?" he asked.

Xander got up to hand him a book.  "She sent me there."

He read the back while the boy sat down, then looked at him.  "Where that information came from?"  He nodded. "I was there?"

"Helping the boys train the slayers.  You were kinda the house dad over them and doing part of the earlier training.  You had one you adopted as a daughter over the years you knew her.  You even helped give a few driving lessons."

John shuddered.  "I remember doing the boys'.  I probably got drunk."  He put the book down but Xander waved.  "You sure?"

"I wrote it.  I've got a few other copies around here."  He smiled.  "We know Willow could slip but with her husband looking out for it, and the LA team looking out for it, and her being pregnant at the moment, we're pretty sure it'll only happen in an extreme circumstance."  He looked at Tara.  "Do we have plans for her delivery?"

"Yes.  Daniel and I worked out a plan to mute her powers for the last month and a half of her pregnancy until her daughter is a few weeks old.  Then we'll have some on standby in case she gets colic."

John nodded.  "That's a sensible thing.  She's under firm watch?"

Xander smirked.  "The last step of me trying to deal with her myself was me handing to someone in the White Order."

"We know of them," John agreed.  "So she's on a watch list anyway."  Xander nodded.  "But she's better?"

"That letter finally broke her.  The one there had sent the me there through multiple wish universes by compelling a vengeance demon to do her bidding so neither of us would have to hunt.  He ran into a few worlds without people."  John shuddered.  "He's still dealing with that after almost a year.  She got confined by the Elders there, then got free somehow.  They arrested her."

"Good."  He looked at the kids.  "Other hunters aren't worried because you two are here alone?"

"No," Xander said.  "We do things Sunnydale style.  Unless it's a problem we don't bother it.  We work with the peaceful communities.  Hell, we even go play kitten poker for information sometimes."

"Good to know.   Kitten poker?"

"Flesh eating and blood eating demons play it," she told him.  "I think it's mean but there's so many strays and I'd almost rather a stray than a baby."

"Good point.  Though I agree, it's mean."  Xander nodded.  "Yours?"

"My familiar's only litter."  She pointed at one who was staring at this new person.  "This is Muffin."

"She's cute."  He looked around his feet then at her.  "I heard she had a good sized litter."

"Most got adopted by my aunt's coven."

He nodded.  "If she should cause a problem and a hunter gets to her first," he started.

Xander held up a hand.  "She knows."  John nodded at that.  "Did you get to talk to Rupert?"

"On the phone thanks to the boys.  I had no idea things were that screwed up."

Xander got the email he had sent to the boys, letting him see it.  "It's from somewhere else but a few have made it here.  As far as I know you can shoot it in the head but I'm not totally sure and if it can touch you it can feed on you.  It's a life force sucker."

John read it over.  "I see you sent it to my boys?"  Xander nodded.  "Good to know," he agreed, handing the laptop back.  "Thank you for that.  Prevalent?"

"We've only found one.  Recently."

"Good to be on the lookout for then.  Thank you for your help, kids, but next time, try more subtle?"

"That's why I came to find you.  I didn't expect you to be in the middle of a fight," she said.

"That's fine.  At least you proved yourself to be good."  He looked at the boy.  "You need more training."

"I am taking classes.  I jumped in at sixteen."

John nodded.  "Good."

"The one who helped me said I was getting better."

"Wonderful."  He smirked.  "Though your rumors are out of control.  Did you know they said you stole artillery to get a major demon?"  Xander smirked and nodded.  John stared at the boy.  They both smiled and nodded.

"That was my best date in high school," he told him.  "I doubled with Willow and her boyfriend of the time.  Oh, werewolf things.  Do we know that there is a temple in Tibet that can help you get control of the change?"

"There is?"

"Our friend Oz went there.  He didn't change on the full moon at all.  Had some henna tattoos, some beads, some meditation stuff."

"Huh.  I'll have to look that up.   I know a few who lock themselves up."

"He did too but there are pelt hunters out there."

"True."  He smiled.  "Thank you, kid."

"Not a problem, Mr. Winchester.  If you need us for something up here, well, I write for a living," he said dryly.  "I may not always answer the phone immediately but I'm here."

"I'm a librarian," Tara told him.

He smiled.  "Thanks, kids."  He turned to leave but saw the shadow outside.  He pointed.

Xander stared.  "Hmm.  One of the Finn's?" he guessed.  "Who is it!"  Someone opened the door.  "Riley.  Figures.  What?"

"You made my wife cry?"

"I asked if she was pregnant since she was huffy the same way Willow is."

"She is!" he demanded, looking horrified.

"We have plans in place to keep her and the baby safe," Tara said patiently.  "Do not let my cats out, Riley, or you'll be finding them for me."

He closed the door, staring at her.  "Sorry, Tara.  Why was she upset?"

"The FBI managed to crack your files."

"Our...  The full files?"  Xander nodded.  "Are you certain?"

"They wanted me to not go after Tara because they decided I'd make a hell of a mess with artillery," he said dryly.  "Not that they were wrong."

Riley swallowed.  "Sure.  I get that.  You couldn't warn us?"

"I figured you guys had someone who monitored that stuff, Finn."

"Fine.  So she found out?"

"I think she got a nasty visit or something from some other Fed."

"Thank you.  You don't think, right?"

"Don't know.  She was awfully huffy and looked like she had run a marathon getting out of the car.  Sneak in and do a strip test on her."

"We have mandatory physicals, I can get her popped," he said.  "Thank you, guys."  He checked.  Tara searched and he had to get a kitten trying to learn about fire extinguishers.  Then Riley left.

Xander pointed at the door for John's benefit.  "Initiative."

"Heard rumors," he admitted calmly.  Xander let him see the files he had.  The full classified files, thank you, and he had paid well for them.  John glanced over the first few pages and handed it back.  "Where?"


He nodded.  "Good to know.  Thank you for the information on the family's demon, kids."  He left, going to think about that topic.  He called his boys to have Sam search out info on them.  If the FBI had it, it was somewhere on the underground by now.  As it turned out, one of their contacts knew about it.  He had went to hunting afterwards and Dean knew him.  That was a good place to start to get that out of their country before it got worse and more demons came gunning for government agents.

Another one might want Sammy.

It would take being entirely too sneaky to fight a federal agent who was a demon spawn.

The End.