The Council of Miami

The Local Lord stormed into his hall.   "I've had it with the Salen."

The Maitre looked at his boss.  "What happened this time?" he asked patiently.  He brushed back some of his brown hair, staring at his boss.

"She decided to reject her mate.  Which made him set their house on fire!" he said loudly.  "I've had it with her.  Send her somewhere else!"  He stomped over to his seat.  "Why do we even have a Salen?"

"The Three like them.  They consider them sacred and necessary beings.  They're of great use to the Houses because they make us friends and take out enemies if necessary."

"Then they can find her a new home!" he said hotly, heading past his seat to his rooms.  He kicked the door shut.

Their current Salen, Virginia, walked in, swaying almost as she walked.  "I know where the heir is," she called.

The Lord opened the door, staring at her.  "The heir is a mythical construct to make people feel involved.  No Lord would ever spawn outside his house."

"There are two heirs," she said smugly.  "One Salen heir that is hidden.  And one Lord's heir that is very hidden."

"Again, not possible," he said firmly.  "Not like we have kids with humans."

"He is half Salen.  The other is full Salen."  They both stared at her.  She smirked.  "One of them is hidden among the humans.  The other is hidden beyond belief."  She swayed off.

"Go shake her and beat her to death," the Lord ordered.  "Get the Mediator to do it."  He slammed his door again.

The Maitre sighed and went to tell the Mediator that she had a problem to solve.  "Virginia's newly scorned mate nearly burned her to death," he told her.

She stared at him.  "Why is that my job?"

"Because the Lord wanted her gone.  Today, and if she's right and there's heirs, he wants them found."

"They're myths."

"She said there's two.  One's half Salen, the other's fully Salen."

"Oh, dear."  She went to talk to Virginia.  "Virginia, are you making me more work?" she demanded, sounding fondly tolerant.

"He was no longer worthy."  She sipped her iced tea.

"Interesting."  She smacked her on the head.  "Idiot."

"He was not worthy of me anymore.  He wanted *things*," she said with a shudder.

"Husbands do that," she assured her impatiently.  "Quit making more work for me!"  She stomped off.  The Maitre had the scorned and dumped spouse in the hall to have some coffee.  She patted him on the back.  "She's stupid, shallow, and most Salen aren't like that."

"I know," he assured her, smiling some.  "I lost my temper and I'm sorry."

"I would've tied her up first," the woman said with a smirk.  "The Lord has wanted her to be ...farmed out."

"Have fun with that."  He sipped his coffee.  The Lord came out and he stood up.  "Lord, I'm sorry."

"Shut up.  She's an annoying bitch and she deserved it.  Next time, just set her on fire, not do the whole house."  He looked at his mediator.  "Are you sending her to the Three?

"If you wish.  I'll pack whatever is left of hers."  She went to do that while calling the airport to book her a first class seat.  She'd throw an unholy fit that John would have to cover up if she wasn't in first class.

John looked at the poor husband.  "We'll help you find someone better.  Someone with sense."  He looked at the Maitre.  His position would've been done by the Lord's mother in the old days.  Now it went to the one who could best do the job and keep up with the insanity.  "Anything to the rumors she spouted?"

"I have no idea," he admitted.  "I know the chronicles state that there's a missing line."  He shrugged.  "I have no clue, Lord."

"Fine.  When am I losing you back to your real job?"

"Next week."  He smirked.  "NCIS is a cakewalk compared to what Virginia creates."  He went to check in and see if he could find any good bit on those rumors.  He had a truth potion and decided to get the Salen to deal with her.


John Hagen, Lord of the South House, looked up when his house's door opened.  "Morning."

"Morning," his Mediator said happily.  She was smiling and bouncy.  She saw his look and calmed herself.  "You could tell her."

"I had to do it.  The only way she'd fully believe I had died was if I did it behind her.  She'd shoot me if I suddenly showed up as alive."  He sighed and went back to reading the paper.  "How does she look?"

"Not good."  Maxine Valera sat down, staring at him.  "She's not really happy.  She's got something maybe started with Eric."

"She has better taste than him," he said dryly.

"Perhaps," Maxine said, smiling at him.  "But right now it's comforting."

"I can understand that.  Any news on these rumors Virginia tried to push off?"


"Tell me they're being hidden among humans?" he demanded.


"Those who treat us like squirrels?" he asked grimly.



"The Salen heir."

He groaned.  "The half one?" he sighed.  "Let me guess, they're on some mystical point and probably can't be moved?"

"Half close."  She smirked evilly, handing over two folders.  "All that we've been able to find since she left."

He read them over, giving her horrified looks.  "Excuse me?"

She beamed.  "Aren't you glad you're closest?"

"Denver's House of the West is closest."

"They're off on a case.  Half of them are undercover," the Maitre said as he sat down.  "I asked Abby.  Because she knows a lot of hidden areas.  She's heard of the one.  He's got a good rep.  A violent one.  A strong one, but not without cause."

"The other?"

"Family of hunters?" he said dryly.  "Father's on a vendetta.  Have the evil things wanting him."

"We need to save him."

"His family would take us out," Tony DiNozzo said dryly.  "His father is the one who took out the Mediator for the North House a few years back."


"Yup."  He smirked.  "The boy's easier.  We should let him get the guy."

"We can't get him some other way?"

"No.  Not without risk."

"We need to send a Salen to get them," Maxine suggested.  "Since one's half and the other is a full one, they would know how to identify and train them."

"Those are skills that would help with demon hunting," John complained, putting the folders down on the old maple table.  "Is that the best we can come up with?"

"So far," Tony admitted.  "Unless we go to the non-court areas for intel."

"Do so," he ordered.  "I want full dossiers on those two.  I want to know if any other house has spotted them."

"None.  The chat rooms all say they're still rumors and sympathized with us for having Virginia trying that move."  He stood up.  "Though, Gibbs wants me back in three days, not five."

"Tell him to blow himself.  You're busy."

"He's a normal."

"You're still on vacation."

"Ziva's going on vacation next week so I need to be closer just in case."

"Blow him," John said bluntly.  "She's not worthy to be on your team anyway."  He grimaced, shifting some.  "Do we have a Salen who can go to them?"

"No," she said.  "And there's a problem with getting to the half one.  That town is bad for us.  It will drive us insane.  There's no hint that he'll be leaving the city anytime soon."

"So send a guard unit," Tony said.  "Start with psychic transference."

"We may be able to do that," she admitted.  She patted the table a few times.  "The other one?"

"I don't know," Tony admitted.  "His family is dangerous to us."

"Can we get him away from his family?" John asked.

"They're paranoid but not with him 24/7."  Tony shrugged.  "Who knows."  He looked at his co-regent when John was missing.  "Ask Methos."  He walked off to go pack.  His boss was going to be a pain in the ass right now.  He was getting clingy for no reason and putting him down.  He was about to ask if he wanted to screw him since he was treating him like a jealous husband would.

John looked at her.  "That's not a bad idea."

"It's not," she agreed.  She walked off to call him.  Or where he might be actually.  There was no telling where he actually was.

John picked up the folders to look through again then tossed them aside.  It was frustrating and he needed a break from Miami.  Being that near to where he had to screw up his human identity to get free and handle bad things going on in their world.  Being that near to Calleigh was driving him insane.


The young seeming man looked up as someone walked up to him with a phone.  "Who's searching for me?" he asked, taking it from his current toy.  "Yes?"  He listened.  "That's  still a myth...  Virginia did?"  He considered the source.  "Why would she?  Ah.  Yes, she is a disgrace," he agreed.  "She probably wanted to leave with her things instead of having them confiscated by the house.  Where?"  He rolled onto his stomach, nodding at that.  "I can deal with that one at the very least.  Thank you."  He hung up and tossed the phone aside.  His current boyfriend took the silent hint to give him a back rub.  It was good foreplay for him.  He wasn't bad in bed.  Not wonderful but good enough for now.  Until he took this handy excuse to leave for a bit.


Sam Winchester looked up as a stranger walked into the bar.  It was a small town bar.  None of the locals seemed to recognize him so he wasn't from anywhere nearby.  Sam went back to drinking, watching this stranger.  His brother was fleecing the pool table.  Sam was having a beer because it had been a long day in the car traveling.  The stranger sat down the bar from him.  Sam glanced over at him again.  He was attractive.  A bit older than he was, probably just older than Dean was.  So maybe thirty at the most.  Dark hair.  Eyes that seemed to suck you in.   Sam felt something inside his stomach twinge but he wasn't gay so he had no idea what it was.  So he did what every Winchester man did when attacked by a warm, fuzzy emotion - he ignored it.  He took another drink of his beer.  Something kept drawing him back to that guy.  Fortunately his brother came over happy.  "Hey," he said.

"Hey," Dean said, glancing around.  "When did he come in?"

"Few minutes ago.  Not a local," Sam said quietly.

"Huh.  Well, we can go."

Sam finished his beer.  "You sure?"

"Yeah, let's hit the motel."  Dean walked out.

Sam followed until something drew him to the shadows near the bar.  "You're a succuba," he sneered.

"I'm no such thing," he assured him with a smirk.  "I'm not some mindless bimbo of evil."  He nodded at the pissed off brother.  "Put it away, Dean."  Dean put the pistol back against his will.  He looked at Sam again, who was staring in horror at him.  "There is a story you must hear, young Samuel."

"About another demon that wants me?" he sneered back.

"No.  Though it will explain why that one wants you.  Back in your family's heritage was something that would give him great honor to own.  Which is why we need to talk."  He patted him on the shoulder.  "Pick a time and place, young one.  I'm not going to prickle your paranoid senses."

"What are you?" Sam demanded.  "You're not human."

"I'm a Salen.  As you are."  Sam shook his head quickly.  "Whatever that one did to awaken your gifts, that is one of the ones through your bloodline.  It can be a curse if it is not trained," he said, looking at Dean.  "As he probably knows with how many you've drawn without realizing it."

"All those in the Sammy Ass Appreciation Society?" he said dryly.  He knew it was a curse!  Hopefully he'd find out more information before he made this guy into a greasy spot.

"Exactly.  This gift causes that group."  He smirked at him.  "As it does in mine."  He looked at Sam again.  "The world is wilder than even your father explained to you.  You now live there or you're in further danger."

"Why does that demon want me?  We've heard a lot of things."

"He wants you as his property, as his Salen."  The boy looked confused.  "Tales of extra special concubines should have hit your studies?" he asked dryly.


"We are Salen."

Sam shuddered.  "So he wants me as of those?"

"That as well.  He apparently noticed the bloodline's gifts as well as the mutated ones you have open now.  There are those of us who are not evil who only want you trained.  Before you end up making someone rescue you."

"Again?" Dean quipped.  "How did this happen?"

"By the histories we've been able to find," Methos said, leaning against the building.  "There was one of us that bred into your line about seven centuries ago.  It was a love match.  No matter how much the Lord she served complained, he was the one she chose.  Then children came, and on down the Winchester line," he finished sarcastically.  "When the idiot higher up tried to claim this one as his, it awakened that heritage.  Which means that everyone likes him and wants to own him for their own pleasure."

Dean shuddered.  "That's disgusting, dude."

"Sometimes.  Sometimes it's fun.  Sometimes it's very handy because I've had a few that have treated me quite generously.  The females among us are usually found in higher end stores," he said sarcastically.  Dean shuddered again.  "Yes, some of those are us.  Not all though.  We're a small group.  Barely ninety of us exist in today's world.  Most of us have aligned ourselves to a higher House."

"So?  Higher demons are still demons," Sam sneered.

"Ah, but not all demons are evil.  Some just are."  Sam and Dean both snorted at that.  Methos snickered.  "Truly, the world is wider and more wild than you think.  As the other heir we have to find can attest to.  The same as inside were fifteen demons of harmless classes.  Including the ones who were too damn scared of you to protest you were cheating at pool, Dean."  He looked at Sam again, ignoring the gun he pulled.  "We're rather immortal, Dean.  It's very difficult to kill us."  He stared at him, turning up his powers. "Put it away, boy.  Unless that is your favored sexual aid?"

Dean stepped back.  "Sammy!"

"No, he's right, there are other demons that aren't really doing anything.  I saw some at Stanford.  Dad would've lost his mind but they had clubs, they played poker, didn't go after people, didn't eat people.  The blood suckers among them bought their blood from underground sources, Dean."  He looked at his older brother.  "They had no plans to take over or end the world."


"Yeah, seriously."  He stepped back toward his brother.  "What if I don't want it?"

"Then I'd train it since the broadcasting you're doing is about to get you pounced by someone who has no clue you're Salen, Samuel.  It draws them into your circle of impulse and desire.  Like the succuba you insultingly called me, they want to ride you hard and put you away sweaty and panting in pleasure."

Dean looked at Sam.  "I knew you were a freak."

Sam punched him on the arm.  "Shut up, Dean."  He looked at him.  "I don't know you."

"I know.  There are others of us.  I was sent to introduce the subject because if you were in danger from the gifts, I could help you get out of it.  If not, I can send you toward someone who is more someone you'd accept as a legitimate person."

"No books?" Dean asked.  "Self help tapes?"

"Yes, but I don't believe porn will help," Methos said dryly.

Dean spluttered, staring at him.  "What?" he demanded.

"We are where the accepted gifts of succuba come from, Dean.  They can do some of what is rumored but we are all that and more if we want to be.  Wanting to be can be the problem because it can be hard to turn it off if you're doing it in a panic.  Or to get away from someone."

Sam groaned.  "That person last week?"

Methos smirked and nodded.  "Quite amusing.  Thankfully he nearly died of it before he let you go.  Or else I would've come in to release you.  By the way, he was from a higher, peaceful demon clan as well."  Dean whimpered.  "There are places you can learn that," he offered.  "Houses as they're called."

"Higher Houses of the Lords?" Sam asked.

"Yes.  I got sent by the House of the South.  It's in Miami.  The Lord there is a former officer.  There's one in Denver who's agents and military.  There's one in New York and one in Chicago if you want to train with any of them.  The one in Miami has no active Salen in residence anymore.  She became a greedy bitch and sent away a mate."

"Oh," he said, considering it.  "Any who know about hunting?"

"We *all* know about hunting," he said dryly.  "Your father took out one of us a few years back by accident while drunk.  I was sent because I could protect myself from you two and them from you if necessary."  He moved closer.  "The House of the South would be most honored if you did come to learn from them.  They could shelter you from all the myriad problems you've had over the years as well."  He stared at the boy.  Dean shifted to try to grab him and he shot Dean a look.  "It's not like I'll hurt him, Dean.  You've gone past big brother to jealous lover.  Are you two like that?"

Dean walked off shuddering.  "Sammy, let's go."

Sam looked at him.  "What if I don't want to?"

"Then expect a lot more people to want in your panties," he said bluntly, staring him down.  "And some who will be willing to pay you for it.  Do you really want to be left alone and not train it enough?  Have half of everyone, including normals, look at you like you're some tasty whore that they can own for a bit?  Because it has and will happen to you as well."

"Personal experience?" Sam asked dryly.

"And then some.  Being captured as a slave by the Ottoman Turks wasn't that pleasant."  Sam shuddered, heading for the car.  "I put my card on the backseat since the window was open.  Call me and I'll give you the address of the nearest house.  None of them would refuse you help.  Even if you had just screwed up and killed someone."  He watched them go then reported that he had made contact, the boy didn't believe, and he was a bit pissed at the moment.  So he'll probably try it out.  He looked around at the question.  "The god-forsaken northern part of Missouri."  He went to his own sedan and drove off into the night once he hung up.  There really wasn't anything here for him.  No shows, no playmates, no pretty things, no fights, no great bookstores that had more than popular fiction, no entertainment beyond a dingy bar full of locals.  This was not his lifestyle of choice.


Dean felt the need to hug his brother a few days later.  "Sammy," he growled.

"What?  I'm not doing anything."

"Then why do I suddenly want to cuddle your dumb ass?"

"I'm not dumb!"

"Just stop it anyway!" he ordered.  He pulled into the junkyard and got out, heading inside.  "What do you know about Salen?"

"Some rumors.  They're succuba like.  Why?"  Sam walked in and through the devil's trap.  Dean glared at him.  "Why ask, boys?"

"Because someone came to tell us why there's the appreciation society for us," Dean said dryly.  "Especially him.  Whatever the demon did to give him the other powers woke up that one from about seven centuries back."

"Okay," he said, staring at Sam.  "Do that again."  Sam walked through it, shrugging a bit.  "Huh.  Even half-demons get caught usually in a devils trap."  He stared at him.  "How long has this been going on?"

"How long has there been people who wanted Sammy for some reason or another?" Dean pointed out.

"Since that fire then," Bobby Singer decided.  "Well, I know, slightly, where your father's heading."

"Yeah, we could use this since the guy also said there's whole classes of peaceful demons?"  Bobby gave him a dirty look.  "He suggested he go train with some House...."

"A Lord's House?" he asked, looking at Sam, who nodded, slumping down on the couch.  "That's not a great thing."

"Yeah, they said Dad killed one by accident," Dean snorted.

"Wouldn't be the first time.  What've you found online, Sam?"

"A site for other Salen but it's got a password so I haven't been able to get into it."

"Let me look.  Dean, call your idiot father."  Dean nodded, moving to do that while Bobby started to pull out books.  "Sam, just relax."

"I'm not broadcasting!" he said hotly, hopping up.  "I'm not!"

"Good!" Bobby assured him, smirking a little bit.  "I don't want to like you that way, boy."

Sam sat back down, pulling out his laptop to get into that site.  Bobby took it to look over.  It helped his search a lot.  Dean came back.  "He on his way?"

"No.  He said he can't be.  That would mean we were all demonic related."

"Seven centuries would thin that out," Bobby told him.  He found what he wanted and looked it over.  "Hmm.  Salen are ancient beings.  Succuba were bred from them by the wrong side but it does say they are neutral outside of saving their own butts."  He went to call John and then a few others when John didn't answer.  He came back.  "Sammy, get yourself a password there."  He went back to the phones.

Sam took the laptop back to submit a request.  "It wants to know what house I'm part of."

"Is there an option for not aligned?" Dean suggested, calmer now.  The house was a bigger place so whatever Sam was putting out was diluted by not being enclosed.  Bobby came back.  Sam finished and got an answer almost immediately.   Dean read over his shoulder.  "Damn."  Bobby came over to look it over too.

Sam took it back when they were done, going over it. "Would this lead back to how Dean manages to pick up so many waitresses?" he teased.

"Yup," Bobby said.  "It's what makes you two so cute too."  Dean grimaced.  "Seven centuries, Dean.  That's about twenty generations or so."

"The guy said it was a love match," Sam sighed.  "Dad's probably having a fit somewhere."

"Putting it mildly," Dean assured him.  Bobby moaned, shaking his head.   "I told him what the guy told us when we ran into him a few days back."

"Maybe we should've went to Missouri first?" Sam suggested.

Bobby looked at him.  "Did you really want beaten that way?"

"No," he admitted.  He went back to reading.  "We have a very low birth rate, even when bonded."

"Guess that's a good thing," Dean agreed.  He went back to reading over his brother's shoulder.  Sam got finished and let him have it so he and Bobby could finish that section for new Salen.  He and Bobby shared a look.  Dean glanced toward Sam then at him.  Bobby shook his head that it'd be fine.  The demon had done this to Sam, nothing less.  They'd only have to worry about John's temper.  He might shoot his youngest son.


John Winchester got out of his truck, slamming the door and heading into the bar.  He had noticed it a few times before when he had been in town handling something but it didn't look like the sort of place he could make money or safely hang out in.  Most everyone got out of his way.  One of them moved closer to him once he had downed some liquor.

"Mr. Winchester."  The man glared at him.  "Do calm down."

"Who're you?"

"No one you'd know," he admitted.  He smiled slightly.  "We thought you should know that you walked into a House bar, sir.  The local House of the Lords owns this bar."  John choked.  "We have no ill will toward you but we know how you see the world."  He stared at him.  "We wouldn't want you to worry.  We don't care if you're here but you might kick yourself later if you found out.  We'd rather avoid any problems so we're letting you know."

"One of you came after my son."

"No, one of us informed your son of what we have known for a while," he corrected.  "It's actually been pretty big news in the community."  He looked at the bartender.  "Can you call up the file?"  He nodded, going to the office to do that.  "We here in this House are where your lineage comes from," he said with a smile.  John glared.  The file was brought out.  He let him see it.  "If you trace it back, she was Salen."  He pointed.  "The secondary one of the local House.  We're a tiny House.  We basically hold this area safe."  He let him see the other information.  "This is what Salen are, where they come from, though we all wonder sometimes if they're not insane.  Salen are a special breed and usually either very helpful or very annoying.  Your son's gifts got reawakened by the demon."

"You know about that?"

"We're not powerful enough to stop one such as him."


"You don't know who did this?"  John shook his head, squeezing his glass so hard it squeaked.  "Hmm.  Do you...." he asked the bartender, handing that over.  "Good thinking, Raul.  Thank you."  He handed it over with a gentle smile.  "On the demon we could not stop from entering our territory.  We are all hoping someone stops him this time, Mr. Winchester, but the stronger Lords are prepared to deal with the idiot if he tries something too huge."

"So the children he tainted?"

"Which generation?  He has a go at it every twenty years or so."

John growled, looking over the information.  Some of it he had.  Some he hadn't seen before.  "You're certain?"  He looked up and the bouncer nodded.  "Why tell me?"

"You're one of us by birth, even after seven centuries.  Your son was reactivated and there's a lot of speculation about when he'd take a mate.  His girlfriend was nice but a plant.  We found out about her.  The demon pushed them together.  Neither one knew."  John slumped and nodded.  "We wish you no harm.  We wish no harm to anyone outside those who try the House.  Though, the House in Chicago hates you because you took out their Mediator a few years back while drunk.  He was having a fight with his mate and you decided he was a rapist."  John groaned.

"We can give you whatever you need to look at to soothe yourself.  We can offer you what help we can with that demon.  Or we can refer you to a larger House that would have more effect.  We don't have anyone that can use magic at this time."  John stared at him.  "You cannot pick who your ancestors loved.  She left all that could have been hers.  All the wealth, the status, the position for a higher House to take her in, all of it, for him.  She loved him enough to nearly kill herself trying to get to him one night.  After that, we rather gave in and left them alone.  Especially through the pregnancies.  Such bad mood swings."

"You knew her?"

"Some of us are longer lived," he admitted.  "I'm not that old yet though.  My grandfather did.  He delivered all five of her children.  Only three were noted on the Winchester lineage because the other two were born Salen and broadcasting.  She let her teacher raise them so they wouldn't endanger the normal people she lived around."  He smiled and backed off.  "Let us know if you need our help.  Samuel is a precious thing with how rare them breeding true is.  There's many Houses that would cherish him while he trained his gifts."

"He's a seer thanks to the damn demon."

"We know.  That can be mitigated.  We have ones who could.  Especially if he's broadcasting without knowing it.  That way leads to him being kidnaped for someone's delight."  John shuddered.  "Exactly.  Which is why they sent the oldest of Salen after him.  Methos has seen whole societies fall and rise again."

"How old is he?" he asked quietly.

"We have no true idea.  We know he predates the Roman Empire by at least a few years."  John shuddered.  "Exactly.  If your son was in trouble he could have handled it.  As it is, he was glad your son listened.  Let us know if you need more things.  We are your natal House as well."  John put down a few dollars and took the information with him.  The Lord smiled and relaxed.  The guy hadn't killed them all.  They were ecstatic about it.  They watched him leave, making sure he didn't come back to burn them down.  He'd be back. Now that he knew, he'd get curious sometime.  Even if he was drunk at the time.


Bobby watched the boy at the bar.  Sam was trying really hard to be invisible to everyone.  Some idiots earlier had tried to start something and Sam had fought them off.  Now he was salving that hurt with a beer or five.  Maybe six.  Dean was playing pool but keeping an eye on Sam.  Two women were trying to flirt with Sam but he was brushing them off.  The bartender was flirting too.  Sam slunk back to the table, giving him a pitiful look.  "Take the training," he said bluntly.

"I...  That'd be like admitting it, Bobby."

"Yup.  It would be.  Might help you stop that though."  He stared at the boy, who slumped down.  Dean came over and sat beside Sam so they couldn't get to him.  "Where's the nearest House?"

"Denver I think," Dean admitted.  "They mentioned a few of them."

"Then I'd go.  Before he gets worse.  He needs to learn control."  He looked at Sam.  "Before I turn you over my knee and paddle like you clearly want to have happen."

Sam shook his head quickly.  "I'd hate that, Bobby."

"Good."  He smirked.  "Find them, go get some training, then hit the road again."

"What about the..."  He waved a hand around.

"Your father's got something going on.  Plus this'll mean he doesn't have to stop his hunt to save you from someone."

Dean called him.  "Dad, us.  Would you rather we leave Sammy without it or send him to someone to get training?  Because he's getting worse.  The more he stresses about stuff, the worse it gets.  And if he's pissed it's too much to sit beside him," he said quietly.  "Let us know, please?"  He hung up.  He and Bobby went to take over the pool table while Sam sulked.  They kept track of how many hit on him and the time Sam had to argue with someone who wanted him to apparently leave with her.  Yeah, the kid needed to do *something*.  Soon!


Bobby walked in and hit his answering machine since a light was blinking.  A rough, tired sounding voice came out.  "I met some of those House people," John said quietly.  "They gave me information on the demon and our family tree, Dean.  Sam, get some help.  What they said about Salen means that you're drawing like a succuba and can't help it.  If you can control it, do so.  That way I don't have to kill someone for kidnaping you as a sex slave."  Sam and Dean both shuddered at that.  "I'll be up at Bobby's tomorrow so we can talk.  Be there, boys."  He hung up.

Bobby looked at them.  "So it won't be as bad as it could be."

"We've just lost every hunter's respect," Dean told him.

"You have it too," Sam pointed out.

"Which is why they'll shun us," Dean agreed.  Sam slumped onto the couch.  "We'll get it fixed.  No one else knows so far so it might be okay for a while."  Sam nodded.  "Hit the showers, Sammy.  We'll talk with Dad tomorrow."  He stomped that way.  He looked at Bobby, who shrugged.

"You might want to make sure there's no way you'll end up broadcasting the same way," Bobby said quietly.

"I'm sure I will be.  That's gotta suck.  Though it does explain so damn much," he said dryly.  "I'm surprised Dad didn't burn them down."

"Me too," Bobby admitted, getting a smirk back.  "Hit the bunk, Dean."  He nodded, heading up there to clean up and go to bed.  Bobby settled in to watch the house.  The Sammy Appreciation Society was not above kidnaping in the middle of the night.  Even with all the wards they had around the house.


John looked up as Sam walked into the kitchen the next morning.  "You're up earlier than usual."

"I had nightmares most of the night."  He sat down with a sigh, looking at his father.  "Anything helpful?"

"A few things."  He let him see the information they had given him.  "Including that the demon prompted you being with Jess."  Sam stiffened, staring at him.  John nodded.  "I'm sorry about that, son."

"I was going to marry her, Dad."

"So it was like a supernatural hook-up," Dean said as he came in, getting him and Sam both some coffee.  He handed Sam his cup but John took it.  "Dad, he's immune to holy water," he said, taking a sip.

"You sure?"

"Yeah," Sam sighed, taking a sip.  "And devils traps too."  He looked over the information on the demon.  "Hey, a name."

"Yes, so we can hopefully find more things.  Bobby had to run to the store."  Both boys shrugged and John got up to make them breakfast.  Like in the old days.  Dean took his seat to look over the information on the demon.  "Dean, are you feeling anything like that?"

"No.  Bobby thinks I should ask to make sure it can't happen if I'm injured or something."  He looked at his little brother.  "Maybe some of that meditation crap?" he asked quietly.

"I did last night, Dean."  Sam sipped his coffee again and choked, going out cough outside.  He came back and looked at the cup.  "What's that?"

John took a sip of his cup then the table sugar Dean had added.  "That's dangerous."  He put it aside.  "Dean?"

"Not a thing."

John nodded.  "Okay.  We know you're not immune to some potions then."  He looked at his younger son.  "Bobby tasted it and hurried to get something new."

"Wonderful."  He dumped out his coffee, rinsed his cup, and got some clean stuff.  "Now what?"

"Now?  Training, finding the demon." John said.  "Then we'll see."  He handed him a plate and Dean one, taking the free seat to sit down and eat.  Sam was inhaling his food.  "You okay, son?"

"I'm fine, Dad.  It was a long night.  I kept having nightmares."  He ate another large bite, nodding at Bobby when he came in.  "Need help?"

"No, it's fine, Sam.  Did you have any of the sugar?"

"Yup, and choked and nearly spewed," he said dryly.  He ate another bite.  "What caused that?"

"The demon that I found sneaking out," he admitted.  He put things down.  "The store wasn't open until 8."  He looked at the boys.  "We figure anything else out?"

"Just that Sammy should get training and Dean should ask if it'd help him."

"Then how would I get laid?" Dean quipped with a smile.

Bobby snorted.  "It might keep you from getting VD from one of them, boy."  He put things up and looked at Sam.  "It's probably not that bad."

"Ellen and them would never respect us."

"It's so far back in the family history no one can complain," John told him.

"Did you tell her?" Dean asked.

"No.  Ellen's not the best in the mornings.  I know she figured out that the demon did something to awaken those gifts, which makes everyone pretty scared."  Sam sighed and nodded, finishing his breakfast and turning to start dishes.  Bobby got the stuff John had left him and sat down to eat.  "Maybe they'll protect you from that sort, son."

"Hopefully," Dean agreed.  "Where is the nearest house?"

"There's one in Denver," Sam said quietly.  "A few smaller ones in the area."  He put down the sponge and looked at them.  "This still sucks majorly.  Why me?"

"You were the right age for the demon's plans," John reminded him.  "I have no idea why he picked our family though."

Dean nodded.  "So this demon is spinning and picking names among the ones who have kids in the right age range.  Good to know.  How was he stopped the other times?"

"It appears that some of the Houses did," John said, letting him see that page.  He waved Sam over.  "This is the family tree.  They said she was the one that started this trend."

Sam counted back, shaking his head.  "That's a long way back.  It should've been bred out of the blood."

"Some of that is DNA," Bobby offered.  "I'm guessing that it can be bred down but not totally out."

"Maybe."  He went back to the dishes.  He was too upset to do much at the moment.

John looked at his son when he felt the urge to cuddle him.  Dean was staring at him too.

Bobby coughed to clear his throat.  "Hey, Sammy?  You think maybe you can quit wanting a hug?" he asked.  Sam slumped and stomped outside, kicking the back door shut behind him.  "I guess it could be worse.  He could've turned into a teenage girl."

John snorted, shaking his head.  "I'd never put up with a teenage girl like you see in the malls."  He finished his coffee and got some more.  "This potion hurt us?"

"Probably not.  Not fully sure."

"Thanks," Dean said.  He took his coffee out to check on Sam.  He was kicking a tree.  So Dean just say nearby and watched over him.  It was cute that a few squirrels came up to stare at him and nearly let him pet them.  Like Snow White or something.


Dean got the message back two days later about who to take Sam to about his broadcasting.  The poor kid was driving them nuts.  Even his father had ended up hugging Sam for no reason.  John Winchester wasn't exactly a hugger so it had been odd and had made Sam whine and go sit in the basement.  The email he got back had strict instructions on who to see and where to meet him.  "Sammy!" he called.  "We're heading."  Sam came out of the basement, looking at him.  "I know where you need to go.  They'll help you shut that shit off.  Before you draw all my women."  He grabbed his stuff.  "Dad, hitting Denver."

"That's fine," he said calmly.  "Call me once you're done.  We're going to find this demon this year and take him out.   There won't be any help needed from another source."

Dean grinned.  "Good.  Let us know when the fight is."  He grabbed Sammy's stuff and took it to the car.  Sam was in the bathroom and came out looking refreshed since he had a damp face and hair.  They got into the Impala and left together.  "I wrote that site that you signed up for.  They told me to bring you to Denver.  It'll take a couple of days.  I told them we were in North Dakota, nothing else."

"Thanks," he said quietly.

"Not a problem, little brother.  I can't have you hitting more chicks than I get."  Sam snorted but he looked happier.  He also rolled down his window.  Dean did the same thing.  It was more comfortable when Sammy started to think and went back into 'cuddle me' broadcasting.  It was the longest two day trip ever in the Impala.  Even when they had been kids.


Sam felt someone come into the room he was sitting in.  It had a couch, a table, and nothing else.  The man walked in and stared at him.  "Stand," he said quietly.

"Huh?" he asked, looking at him.

"Stand."  Sam stood up and he moved closer, walking around him.

"I feel like I should be scared but bow to you," he admitted, trying to keep an eye on him.

"That is normal among us," he promised.  He touched him on the shoulder, earning a shiver.  "You are broadcasting louder than an arena, Samuel."  He faced him.  "That feeling is one you'll get when in close proximity to another of us who is older and more powerful.  You don't read as truly powerful but enough to probably cause you mischief and harm."

"Everyone wants to cuddle me," he admitted.  "Even my brother."

"Hugs are elemental to our comfort."  He moved closer.  "There will be a time when that will change.  It will be innate and you will feel the need to dance with them in a more threatening manner.  Let that one go and let it happen as it will."  He smiled.  "All of us are told that advice.  Not all of us have it happen."   He waved a hand.  "Sit."   He sat beside him and poured him some coffee.  "Many of us would have tea but it is dreadfully early for me."

"Are we creatures of the night?" he asked.

The man snorted.  "Not hardly.  I am, but most of us are like every other being, daylight creatures."  He handed over some coffee.  "There is a small potion in it to block and drain off what you've been exuding.  That will help when we train you how to create shields."  Sam nodded, taking a careful sip.  He smiled and drank some of his own.  "Tell me about yourself, Samuel.  There's not many of us and many will want to know."

"What did you want to know?"

"Most everything.  It can only help in your training."

"Dean wanted to ask if he needed to do any of it.  Since it's in the family...."

The man waved a hand with a smile.  "He's putting out very minimally.  We'll work on him later."

"Thank you, Ezra."  He drank a bit more of the coffee and put it aside, shifting to face him more, going over his past, the demon, his time at Stanford and what he knew about that, and then what was going on now.

It was good to have someone that listened.


Lord John, irritated beyond belief, looked around his house.  "That's it, I'm going on vacation," he called.

"Lord John," one of the minions called.  She came scurrying out.  She was one of Tony's minions in the kitchen.  "Should we make reservations for you and get you a flight?"

"I'll fly like normal people.  I'm going to bug Tony and check out this evil wench on his team."  She nodded.  "Anything I should know before I leave?"

"Yes, sir, Virginia did manage to get some of her things out of the safe."  She handed him a short list.

He looked it over.  "It's nothing too spectacular.  She can keep them as long as she goes away and stays away."  He handed it back.  "Better yet, I'll hand it to Tony."  He tucked it into his pocket.  "Any other news?"

"No, sir.  The House in Denver is reporting that the young Salen has shown up for training.  Apparently they could feel him from the outskirts of the city he was broadcasting so badly.  They said it's backed up."

"Ezra's a good teacher.   He'll get him straightened out fairly quickly.  His family?"

"His father is upset but hasn't killed anyone over it yet.  His brother brought him to Denver.  There are rumors that he's taking some of the training as well just in case it's necessary."

"That's fine.  Family members sometimes do show light gifts."  He stretched and she giggled.  He gave her a dirty look.  She backed down but still giggled.  "Anything else I should hear before I leave for somewhere more sane?"

"Miss Calleigh is back at work but not in her lab," she said quietly.  "You wanted to be kept apprised of that, sir."

"I did.  Someday I'll tell her.  I wish like hell I could've done it some other way."  He walked off sulking.  That being human thing had sucked badly.  It had ended even worse.  He missed her.  He packed two bags, made a flight reservation for first class, and headed for the airport.  With a drive past the lab.  Horatio was outside talking to some female but that was fine.  He didn't spot him.  Not that he could've seen through the tinted windows.  He was pretty sure Horatio wasn't supernatural in any way beyond stubbornness.  He got there in time to pick up his ticket, make it through security, and onto the flight.  Cushy seats and an attentive hostess.  It might salve some hurts.  She was blonde too.


Tony looked up as the elevator dinged and discharged someone.  He stared.  "John, what are you doing here?"

"I came to check up on you, kid."  He handed him a list.  "What Virginia managed to take with her when she flounced off to Rome."

He read it over.  "Minor things, nothing too pretty or expensive."  He tucked that into his jacket pocket.  "Why else are you in DC?"

"It was driving me nuts.  I wanted to go up to her and I can't.  She'll beat my ass and then cry on me."

"Yeah, she will," Tony agreed with a sigh at the end.  "So just vacationing?"


"Need let into my place?"

"No.  I've got a place."  He grinned.  "I'd have to sleep with the movies at your place, kid."  He smirked at the older man across the walkway.  "Hey, Gibbs."

"You know us both?" he asked.

"Tony described you pretty well."  He looked at Tony again.  "Dinner?"

"Tomorrow?  This is looking like an all-nighter."

"I can do that.  Maybe find something fun to take my mind off her."  He winked.  "Behave."

"I try really hard," he said dryly, leaning back with a smirk.  "How often do you see me getting into trouble?"

"Good point.  Not all that often recently."  He shook his head.  "Call me when you're out.  I'll buy dinner."

"Sure.  Thanks, John."

"Welcome."  He left, ignoring Ziva totally.

"Frat brother?" Gibbs guessed.

"No, but I've known him since college."  He got back to work.  "He's just had the mother of all break-ups."

Gibbs made a non-committal noise.  "How long do you think he's going to be distracting you?"

"Maybe a few weeks.  He's got things he's got to do in about three.  A few meetings."  He got back into his background search.  He had sent a note to someone to tell Virginia that if she pissed them off, they would be claiming those pieces as House pieces so she had better behave.  Then he sighed at the lack of information.  "Boss, there is next to nothing on this person of interest.  The Probie has more on him."  He looked up.  "There's barely a public profile beyond birth certificate and death certificate a few years back."

"Death certificate?" he demanded.

Tony put it up on the main monitor.  Along with a picture.  "We have a stolen ID as well as a non-custodial kidnaping."

"So who is he really?" he demanded.

"Abby may have to solve that, boss."


John finally made it back home and into problems.  Of course.  Because that's how his life had went for the last thirty years.  Ever since Virginia had moved in.  Now that she was gone he was hoping things would've went back to normal, but nooooo.  Not his life.  He pulled onto his compound's street to find crime scene hummers on his block.  "Shit," he muttered, calling his Mediator.  "Could've warned me, woman."  He listened.  "Oh, even better.  Call Tony?"  He smiled at her saying she had.  "Who?  I'll wring her scrawny damn neck," he said, driving past it.  He had somewhere he could hang out for a few hours.  Though...  He had pictures of himself around the house.  She had said Calleigh wasn't there.  Thankfully.  He was having a beer and a pool game when someone walked in and shoved him against a wall, staring at him.  "Horatio."  He had expected worse than this really.  A punch or seven.  Maybe being shot again.

"John.  Nice to see you around."

"Long story."

"I have no doubt of it."  He stared at him.

John realized he wasn't wearing his sunglasses.  Yeah, the man was pissed as anything hell had ever thought up.  "Wanna let me go?"

"No, right now I want to sink you in the ocean."

"Let me go anyway," he commanded with a hint of compulsion.  Horatio let him go then stared at him in horror.  "Yeah, well, like I said, long story, Horatio."  He took his beer into the back room.  The owner of the bar liked him a lot.  Wanted in his panties and he kept ignoring her.  So she'd let him borrow the back room she usually only let gamblers use.

"Is this part of some sting operation?" Horatio asked quietly.

"No."  He took a sip then looked at him.  "I can tell you, but you won't believe me."


"Because I was actually dead."  He took another drink.  Horatio snatched the bottle.  John sighed and moved his hair a bit to show part of the scar off.  "Not even Alexx knew, Horatio."

"How did they fix you, John?"

"No one fixed me, Horatio.  It's part of what and who I am."  He leaned against the table, staring back.  "You know the world has more than you've ever personally accepted, correct?"

"You're a what?  Vampire?" he demanded sarcastically.

"Hell no!"  He smirked.  "Higher level demon, yes."  Horatio gave him the most disgusted look.  "Some species just exist because they do, Horatio.  Mine came from a realm that was being destroyed ages ago.  During my grandparents' time.  We're not real powerful in a lot of ways but we do have influence.  We do create little areas for ourselves.  We basically rule an area to keep it peaceful so people like you...and her don't find out.  And then things went to hell with mine and I had to get out and I couldn't come back.  Because I'd want to bring her and she's human; I'd lose her," he finished more quietly, taking his beer back.  "It was the worst solution in the world and I hated doing it, but it protected her."

"Was someone coming after her for this?"

"No.  Not yet.  A few were getting suggestive.  A few were wondering her way."  He finished his beer and tossed it into a nearby trashcan.  "I had to so I could protect her."

"You had an accomplice in the lab."  Horatio shifted to look at him.

"Yes I do.  In our society, we have Houses.  There is a Lord of the House.  He rules over the area, handles any problems, all that stuff.  We have a Salen, which is partially like a succuba in some ways, he or she brings wealth and contacts to the House but also can handle the bigger problems that I can't.  Ours is named Virginia.  Which is why things went to hell.  I'm going to smite her but she's in Rome with our higher people.  They don't quite rule over us but they're very opinionated about how things should be."  Horatio nodded once at that.  "Then we have a Maitre.  Basically they're the ones who handle the household, the things the House owns, all that.  We have a Mediator, who is our diplomat, who we go to for legal advice, all that.  She is in the lab."

"She...." Horatio said, considering it.  "Miss Boa Vista?"

"Hell no!"  He looked at his former friend.  "And you have better taste, Horatio.  From what my Maitre's found out, she's slimy and dirty."  Horatio nodded once at that.  "My House's Maitre is a Fed."

"That's good to know.  The one who had Ray?"

"No.  He was a normal cop then.  I tried really hard to get Ray free of that and they basically kicked me to the curb and snatched him.  I've laid hints for you and Yelina.  Everything I could over the years."  He stared at him.  "But this time, it was the tale of a woman who is egotistical and a bitch."

"This Virginia.  She called us today to talk about some things that were hers that were being kept from her."

"No, anything she brings to the House is the House's.  Unless stated otherwise."  He smirked.  "A few weeks back her  mate tried to burn her alive for dumping him.  So we sent her to Rome.  I'd had enough of her screwing things up and making my life pure hell."

"I see."  He shifted again.  "This is not making me happy."

"I can prove it if you want.  Especially since this is a supernatural bar."  He gave him a look.  "How did you find me here?"

"I had someone look up the car from earlier.  Idiot."

"Damn.  I thought I had changed it over."

"Perhaps your people need to hire you an assistant."

"I think it's more I've been worried about some stuff and depressed about other stuff."  He sighed and slumped some.  "How is she?"


"I know that."

"Healing," he said more gently.  "There had to be another way."

John shook his head.  "All that stuff saying I might be dirty?  Was from another person who wants my real job.  I've dealt with him but with that floating around plus Virginia plus a few other issues, it got to the point where that was a capable option and it would hurt her the least.  Plus leave her less of a target."

Horatio stared at him.  "I can understand wanting to protect her."

"Thank you."

"I do not understand about these things."

"You're not supposed to, Horatio.  You're not one of us."  He shifted to cross his feet.  "Though you're stubborn enough to be one of us."  He gave him a dirty look, getting one back.  "What would prove it to you?"

"What are your...species traits for lack of a better word?"

"I can change shape.  I can do a bit of compelling.  We're not that powerful in what people would term magic.  We hire or we shelter some who are.  Mine has no one like that at the moment."  He grimaced.  "I can change shape if you want."

"Do so.  I want proof."  John nodded and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.  He shifted down to a husky looking beast.  Horatio stared at him, giving him an odd look.  "You were following her for weeks before you came back to Homicide.  She complained about a highly overprotective stray husky that seemed to show up every few weeks."

John changed back but he was grinning.  "Yeah, I was.  She was in danger and I managed to shoot it off her.  You know I'd do almost anything to protect her."

"So Alexx does not know?"


"Who is your mediator?"

"Miss Valera."  Horatio glared.  He grinned back.  "She's very good at it.  Plus she's taken over interior decorating on Tony, my Maitre."

"Do not do anything to hurt her again, John, or I will find a way to end you.  Am I clear?"

"I never wanted to hurt Calleigh, Horatio.  You know I love the woman.  I'd love nothing more than to suddenly show up and let her catch sight of me and have to hunt so she understands."

"She will beat you."

"I know.  She'll beat me then cry on me."  He shifted again.  "I was stuck."

"You could have told me."

"No, I couldn't have."  He stared at him.  "You know Ray's still alive?"  Horatio nodded.  "He's in Miami.  I'm not giving him shelter because I want to kick his ass for starting this path for that other House.  Knowing that he did it."  Horatio sighed.  "But it's going to be bad."

"I can understand that worry.  Will you tell me when I ask for information?"

"If I have it.  I never played at the job, Horatio.  That's who I wanted to be.  I could've stayed home and moped for another few years."

"I realize that.  That jewelry?"

"The House's.  I think her mother gave her a broach that she came in with.  I'm fairly certain she took that with her."

"Thank you.  Lay lower."

"I'm trying really hard not to let her see me."

"Do not.  I do not want to put her back together again."

"I'm trying not to let her be in danger.  Try not to yell at Max?  She hated that plan too and tried to argue with me but things kept piling and she gave up."

"Then we might only have a discussion."  He stared at him.  "I had wondered why she said I shouldn't take Calleigh with me to that scene.  The new boy, Wolfe, was confused."

"He's that way a lot," John said dryly.

"You know of him from patrol?"

"No."  Horatio sighed.  "There's a few different species in town, Horatio.  It's my job to keep them peaceful.  Have him appear tomorrow sometime."  Horatio nodded at that.  "I'm sorry."

"You should be."

"I know."  He walked past him, going home now that the lab was out of his house.

Horatio went back to the lab and glared at the other spy in his lab.  She flinched.  He motioned her out and to a sheltered area for a discussion.  "I just talked to your other employer, Miss Valera."

"I told you not to bring Calleigh for a reason," she said quietly.  "Not like we could outright tell you, Horatio."

"Are you of his...clan or whatever?"

"No.  I'm one of the fully human people in the House."

"I see."  He stared at her.  "Are there other members I should know about?"

"You shouldn't have to run into anything ever, Horatio.  That's his job, and partially mine, to make sure it doesn't happen."

"How far would this go to hide it?"

"Not that far.  He'll kick their asses if they try," she said bluntly.  "Long before you have to see anything."

"That I can appreciate.  I do not like secret societies in my city."

She stared at him.  "My mother served him, Horatio.  It's a family tradition."  He grimaced at that.  She glanced around again then looked at him.  "Virginia is *so* going to pay for involving normals," she assured him.  "She's going to be begging to stay alive for involving the lab."

"I can understand the need for secrecy, Miss Valera, but I am not pleased with what happened."

She snorted and crossed her arms over her chest.  "Neither was I!  I hated that plan but it came down to that or a sudden disappearance without any notes being left.  Which would've been better in the long run?"

"That's true.  Some day this will be healed," he admitted, grimacing again.  "I still do not like it."

"Neither did we."

"Or the fact that it's necessary."

"It's so we can handle things in our community, Horatio.  Otherwise you'd have known a long time ago."

"How long has he held the title?"

"Seventy something years."

"I see."  He considered it.  "I will be informed of any other members in the lab.  I will be informed the instant something crosses into it."

"Agreed, and you keep her away from things."

"That is no problem, Miss Valera.  I do not want her hurt."  He stared at her.  She nodded and walked off.  "I want that list today."

"There's only one."

"I heard that earlier."

"So he said."  She smirked.  "He's a lot more modern and nice than some of them, Horatio."  She went back to he lab.  Tony was having conniptions about her lab mate and they needed to know why.  She wanted all the information he had.  Even though he was busy on a serious case.  Then she'd present it.

Ryan walked in and stared at her.  "Who...."


"Oh."  He nodded.  "Why?"


"I heard she had problems."

"She started a lot of them, Ryan."  She smiled.  "He's shocked but not being too bad."

"Then we'll see.  Anything on my case?"

"Three things," she said, handing over reports with a smile.  "Let me know if you need more work done on those."  He nodded, walking off.  "Horatio wanted a case update if you haven't given him one."

"Heading there now."   He walked into his office, closing the door at his look.  "You needed to know something?" he asked.  He searched and found the bug, holding it up.  Horatio glared at it and tossed it into a filing cabinet then slammed the door shut.  Ryan winced.  "We're just here, Horatio.  We've been here for generations.  We've never been harmful to normals," he said quietly.  "Plenty of us are normal people with a bit extra."

"What extras do you have?"

"Now and then I can go a bit empathic and it can drive me nuts."  He sighed and sat down, looking at him.  "Basically, my species was created by breeding down from a Salen long ago.  We lost all the other traits and ended up with a mild form of empathy.  I can tune mine out unless things are very strong.  Then I kinda tend to get lost in it a bit and end up mirroring it."  Horatio nodded once at that.  "So if we're all pissed, I'm going to be extra pissed."

"All right," he sighed, looking at him.  "Nothing else?"

"No.  We're not like that.  All of us in the PD, who are about 14 or so, worked our way up like everyone else."

"I can understand that.  Like a new immigrant would."  Ryan nodded, smiling some.  "So this House issue?"

"The House is the thing that keeps the area calm.  Any troublemakers get dealt with by the House.  In some ways it's like the old feudal system and some ways it almost mirrors some Mafia connections.  We're built like a feudal Lord and then there's the need for secrecy and things so it's enforced strongly."

"He has enforcers?"

"Not ours.  Some of the others maybe.  Ours is a bit tough in case you hadn't met him.  I've only talked to him once and he warned me very well he was going to kick my ass any way he could if I screwed up and hurt the lab."

"Good to know."  He stared at him.  "How long have you known about this?"

"He's presented all new kids in the community once every six months.  It's usually once a year but Miami's a pretty big city."

"How far does his reach extend?"

"Dade county.  Just a bit further maybe.  There's a peaceful commune on the outskirts and he kinda looks over it because it's in no man's land.  The next nearest one is in Orlando.  There's a fairly weak idiot in Tampa who no one likes.  He's very old, has no heirs, and the House will fall apart when he dies.   Most everyone on this end of Florida is looking forward to it.  He has an ally up in the panhandle who's going to try to consolidate but there's no way with that distance."  Horatio nodded at that.  "Most major cities have one.  In the Midwest they can claim whole counties or even states.  There's no rules, it's how much you can handle and claim.  If John ever had heirs, he'd have to find an area for any that weren't going to take over his.  Then they'd be made Mediator's apprentice for a bit."

Horatio considered that.  "That's not a bad plan."

"No, and it's an ancient one.  We were here long before John's people and most of the community was happy to have them show up and take charge.  A few weren't but they were higher idiots who wanted to own everything and were fighting over it anyway.  Some who were just evil.  Those have their own system to be dealt with.  If one of those sort comes here, it's John's job to handle it and to call in whoever he needs to help us.  Up to and including making it known to humans who hunt them."

"Interesting."  He stared at him.  "How many of you are in this branch of the department?"

"I think just me.  There might be one that's more empathic than I am in the profiling/post incident shrinks.  The others in the department are various species with various skills."

"Good to know.  This Virginia?"

Ryan snorted and shifted.  "She's caused him problems since she showed up.  Each house should have one because they're both an enemy handler and a friend maker.   The Three like them a lot.  Consider them like happy pets in some ways.  Indulged, pampered, and they've spread it around that most Houses should have one.   They're only advisory so some houses can explain why they don't have one.  I'm glad he sent her away.  She's brought in enemies.  Hasn't handled some things she should have.  She dumped her mate because he wanted her to have kids.  I'm pretty sure her making that complaint was to make *her* know and ache, plus to hurt John among us."

Horatio nodded.  "That was the impression I got as well."  He stared at him.

"I'm not that unusual, Horatio.  I'm born like this.  No funny colors or anything to hide."

"Thank you for settling that doubt."

He grinned.  "There's two that are.  We have no idea if the ME's know about us or not.  Some do.  New York's does."  Horatio smirked at that.  "Other than that, I don't know what I can tell you."

"If I find more questions I'll ask."

"Sure.  Is Virginia back?"

"She's at a hotel downtown."

"John should be told.  Before she can cause more problems."  He called down to the lab.  "Natalia, put Max on please?"  She did that.  "Virginia's back in town."

"She's listed as being at the Excelsior."

"Heard that?  Excelsior."  He grinned.  "Sure.  Not a problem."  He hung up.  "She's taking a short break to call him.  She'll make up an excuse for the one that stinks.  Literally.  I don't know what's wrong with her."  He stood up.  "Anything else, Horatio?"

"Not yet, Ryan.  Thank you."  He nodded and left.  Horatio leaned back to consider this new information.  Miami had a cesspool of an underground.  He knew that, had for years.  Ray's assignment/death had proved that beyond anything he had ever wondered about.  The fact that there was a secret underground didn't really surprise me.  He did wonder about John and Virginia's relationship.  Because he would be killing him if he had hurt Calleigh that way.


John walked into the hotel.  It was well know to the House.   The manager hurried out to meet with him.  "Virginia was banished," he said bluntly.  "Back to Rome."

"She said she was needing shelter because her house needed repairs, Lord," he said quietly.

"That's her mate's doing.  We agree with his reasons."

"Oh, dear.  We'll eject her immediately."

"Thank you.  Let me go confiscate anything of hers."

"She has a visitor."

"Let me guess, blonde young woman with the PD?"

"No, sir, a dark haired man."

"Hmm."  He went up there and the manager let him in.  He walked in and slammed the door, staring at them.  "Stetler."  The man gaped in horror.

"John," she purred, moving closer.

He grabbed her by the hair and slammed her into the wall before shoving her in the bathroom and closing that door.  "I'll deal with your stupidity in a minute."  He looked at the Internal Affair's officer.  "What?"

"You committed suicide in the ballistics lab," he said bluntly.

"Yes I did."

"You're clearly not dead so you did something wrong."

"Slightly."  He smirked at him.

"Let me out!" Virginia complained, beating on the door.

"Shut up," John said firmly.  She mewled.  He looked at him again.   Then back at the door.  "Does he knew?"

"Yes!" she pouted.

John smirked.  "I am the Lord of the local House, Stetler."

"Oh, crap."  He sat down, staring at him.  "So all that stuff...."

"She did it.  That's why she got banished.  Are you having fun with her Salen skills?"  Stetler shuddered.  John walked closer.  "Because of her, Caine now knows.  Calleigh does not and will not know," he said firmly, adding power to that command.

"No, it's not going to do anything but destroy her," he agreed, standing up.  "You didn't have to."

"Shut up," he interrupted.  "I'm in a bad mood already.  I came home from a vacation in DC to find her prompting crime lab hummers at my house."  Stetler shuddered.  "Exactly.  So I'm not in a good mood.  You, go."

"She has evidence of wrong-doing in the lab."

"I don't know how since she's an idiot.  She's never talked to anyone in the lab.  She's jealous of Calleigh, even though she's not mine."

"I'll be watching."

"That's fine.  I'll be playing golf in a few days," he quipped sarcastically.  Stetler walked off.  John stripped the room of anything that was House property.  Anything her mother hadn't given her.  Then he let her out and stared at her.  "I could've sworn I banished you to Rome."

"This is my city...."

"No, it's *my* city," he corrected.  "And I will set you on fire if you do not leave *my* city.  Tonight.  Am I clear?"

"But..."  She saw something that had been left open.  "You can't do that!"

"Anything you bring into the House is House property, Virginia.  Feel lucky I left you what your mother gave you.  Now, get out of my city.  If the Three want to argue you should have some of that, then they'll tell me."

"They're on vacation," she said, moving closer.

He sneered.  "Get away from me, bitch."  She backed up, knowing that tone of voice very well.  "You have thirty seconds to pack and leave.  We're tired of it."  She stomped and huffed but did pack and leave.  He followed her to the car and then her car to the airport.  He had had enough of that woman.  He didn't care where she went as long as it wasn't Miami.  They all knew what a handful she was anyway.  He went to the House, handing one of Tony's minions the jewelry he had confiscated.  His spies at the airport knew to tell him if she had come back.  This time they would be doing so.  He found the voicemail on the house system and nodded.  They had done their job so he wouldn't have to yell.  That was nice of them.  John went to have a beer and dinner in the kitchen.  He was feeling disagreeable tonight.

Someday soon he'd have to beat Virginia to death for his bad mood and what had happened.


John drove by the station, watching the mate he could have had laugh with Delko.  Who wasn't good enough for her.  She needed someone who wasn't a playboy.  He saw Ryan notice and glared at him silently.  Maybe he felt the glare because he backed down and said something to her that made her giggle too.  So maybe they were just cheering her up.  No, she left with the playboy.  "If he brings her home to his mother, I'm killing him," he decided.

Wolfe walked out and got into the car like it had been someone waiting on him.  "It's her birthday tomorrow and Eric's taking her out for a few beers," he said bluntly.

"You have balls, kid."

"Not really but it would've looked strange and it's not like I can text you like the Mediator can, sir."

"Good point, maybe.  So just beers?"

"I don't know.  Boa Vista is trying to get both of us at the moment.  Is she one of us?"

"I haven't been in the same room as her yet."

"Maybe you should be, sir.  Really.  She's tried me, she's playing me against Eric.  She totally ignores Calleigh."

"I'll see if Max can arrange that.  Is she Salen?"

"No.  That I'd know."

"Good point.  Your kind would pick up on broadcasting.  Anything else I should hear?"

"Yes, sir, there's been some wobbles on some of the hunters' bulletin boards.  Who blew up the Watchers Council?"  John glared at him.  "Two days ago."

"All of them?"

"I don't know.  Are there any in the area?"

"Tampa.  Crap.  I'll call and check or warn as the case may be."

"He's in the hospital."

"Since when?"

"Last night.  I heard pneumonia."  He shrugged.  "I have no idea, sir, but something bad is going to happen.  Even I can feel that and I'm very light on the gifts."

"I'll look into it.  Take care of her for me?"

"I'll try, sir, but with having to find the mole in the lab I can't get too close."

"It's not her."

"No but I came in at a very bad time."

"Good point," he sighed.  "Okay, so do what you can to take care of her.  If she complains, just say you think she needed it and pout back.  She usually gives in when I did it."

"I'll try, sir."

"Thank you, kid."

"Welcome.  Can we...."  John drove him off a bit and let him out, letting him hike back to his own car to keep his cover.  Ryan went home and checked the bulletin boards, sending them to Max's email and phone.  She could inform her boss of anything.

John went to call the House in Tampa.  The staff there had no idea what was going on but would check into it.  Max forwarded stuff from the new kid and he sent it onto their bulletin board to see if it was a problem.  Thankfully he didn't have one here in town.  A potential that no one had found but otherwise no.   He looked at the information he got back and called Horatio.  "It's me."  Horatio said something to whoever he was with.  John smiled.  "Finally got a date, huh?  Good.  We have a young lady in danger.  Her name is Mirrah James.  She's in Crestview High."

He listened to what he knew of her.  She had been found dead.  "Damn it!  No, something's going after those who hunt, Horatio.  I was hoping we could get her to safety.  No, it's definitely supernatural.  They blew up a large building full of the support system for their hunters in England the other day.  One in Tampa.  They have no idea.  Are you at Calleigh's birthday party?"  He smiled and shrugged at the 'date' answer.  "Let me know if you find more like that so I can handle it.  Yes, though her is fine."  He hung up and went back to looking.  What would've done that?  The others had no idea but he knew it was something.  He frowned, reading over something and an idea pinged.  He searched the video of the wreckage and found what he wanted, posting the picture he found on the Lords' bulletin board.  He got back an answer pretty quickly.  The First Evil.  Yeah, the world was going to hell!


Sam panted, looking at his teacher.  "Ezra, I can't control that."

"You can," he said firmly.  "And you shall before I let you out to infect others and possibly cause problems, Samuel.   It is a matter of desire and need.  You must both desire and need to control the output you're forcing out."  He sipped his coffee.  "Try the exercise again.  Consider it like meditating before using magic if you must."

Sam snorted.  "I'm a hunter, Ezra.  I don't use magic."

He stared at him.  "Now you may be able to."  Sam shuddered.  "What?"

"The demon that tainted me and awakened all this stuff started off visions and things," he said quietly, looking at him.

Ezra hummed, staring at him.  "We can test for that.  It may be interfering and causing undo harm to your skills."  He rang a bell and the maid came in to give him more coffee.  "Could you ask Nathan to come see the young one as well?"  She nodded, leaving to do that.  He sipped his new coffee.  Sam grinned at him.  "It is an ungodfully early hour," he complained.

"It is," he agreed.  "But I've had days when we got up a few hours ago and back on the road.  And a few ones where I was getting to bed at this time."

"That fact, the lack of dry cleaners, and the lack of good food is why I'd never take up hunting," he said dryly.

"I'm sure you'd do great at it."

"Sucking up will not get you out of the work," he said smugly.  "Go back to it.  Nathan will undoubtedly ask you to do so."  He took another drink, watching Sam try again.  He extended his own gifts, smacking at Sam's until he batted back.  He smirked as Nathan walked in and closed the door.

Nathan stared then nodded.  "Stop it, Samuel."  Sam sighed in relief as he dropped it.  "We need to do some weeding out.  They blood tainted you, which is expected really."  He helped him up and to another room.

Chris walked in and stared at Ezra.  "Any work getting done?"

"Some.  His instincts and innate prejudices are working against his control.  Also the blood taint the bastard demon did is complicating things."  He finished his cup of coffee.  "Is there other news?"

"Yes.  John, in Miami, figured out what happened to the Council in England," he said quietly.  Ezra stiffened, staring at him.  "He searched through the footage and came up with a Bringer."

"Oh, dear lord," Ezra whispered, staring at him.  "Are they coming for the Houses?"

"No.  Not yet.  That does mean we have to find where it is and start watching our local groups."

"I know both watchers."

"I suggested JD go to them."  Ezra nodded at that move.  Sam came back with Nathan.  "Anything working?"

"I think I can."

"Good.  Sam, do you feel comfortable going to help a situation later on?"

"For the house?"

"For the world, kid."  He nodded at the maid.  "Get his brother in here with JD?"  She nodded, leaving them alone.  "It's not a good situation right now and hunters need to know," he told the boy.  Dean came in and JD walked in a minute later with a book.  "We've made sure?"

JD nodded.  "It's just like the descriptions."  He handed Dean the book.  "The Watchers Council got blown up."

"Who?" Sam asked.

"There's a mystically chosen warrior female," Dean told him, looking grim.  "They're over her."  He looked at the page that was marked, reading it over.  "This looks horribly sucky."  He looked up, handing the book to Sam.  "Where would they be going toward?"

"By the legends of our people," JD said quietly.  "The seal is in a hellmouth."

"What's a hellmouth?" Dean asked.

"Like a hellgate dimensional portal?" Sam guessed.  They all nodded.  "Where are they?"

"There's thirteen that can open on this realm," Buck said, scratching one shoulder.  "The open one is in Sunnydale.  That's where the current slayer is.  Though there's rumors that there's a larger story there about the girls since there's rumors of having two."

JD looked at him.  "How would that happen?  One dies and another's called, right?"

"So if one died but then lived, we'd have two," Nathan realized.

"We heard rumors about it but nothing certain," Buck agreed, looking at Chris.  JD may be the Lord of the House, but he was young and had gone to Chris and them for help all too often.  Chris was their official 'Voice of Reason'.  Or in Chris's terms 'go do that, now'.

"I'd like to offer help to them if they're in Sunnydale," Chris said.  He was not looking pleased.  "If this is going on, they're going to need all the help they can get.  Also, the rumors that got Sam found talk about a half-Salen, half-Lord who is out there," he said, looking at Sam.

"Someone mentioned that on the Salen bulletin board," Sam said quietly.  "Are we sure?"

"Fairly so.  He's supposed to be hidden in the last place any of us would ever look," Ezra said.

"That would be my last place to want to look," Buck agreed.

Josiah cleared his throat.  "That town is damned and does tend to affect those who go there.  Including those of us who are blooded.  Many of us have been driven to bloodlust."

JD shook his head.  "We can go.  I can, Chris can, Ezra can because Salen aren't driven that way.  Not since Methos figured his out and got it cured."

Ezra nodded.  "There is that.  I will put those ideas out there for the others to consider," Ezra noted.  The others nodded.  "If so, are we going?"

"Yes," Chris said.  "Boys?"

"Hell yeah," Dean assured him.  "It's our job.  We'll go."  He found his phone and called.  "Dad, us.  Call us back later with Bobby on the line.  There's huge shit going down in California that we have to jump in to help the local hunters."  He listened.  "It's worse than that, Dad.  We're talking apocalypse from Hell and then some."

Sam took the phone to read the title of the book and the page number.  John moaned.  "They said they've been spotted."

"Dad, the Council got blown up by them," Dean said next to the phone.

Sam shared it with him.  They had clear orders now.  "Got it," Sam promised.

"We'll meet you there," Dean promised.  He hung up.  "Can he come back to this training?"

"He can do those exercises and one I'm going to teach him in a few moments for the next few weeks," Ezra said.  "That will help him learn control.  He'd be doing them anyway."  They nodded and he walked Sam off to teach him that exercise.  Dean packed the car while he did that and then they headed out.

Chris looked at his people.  "JD, talk to the locals.  Buck, pack us a traveling kit with Nate."  They rushed off.  "Ezra, get us some more backup."  He nodded and the others went with him to look up the town's particulars.  They'd need maps and other intel.


Dean found the slayers.  Multiple slayers.  That was probably a bad sign.  He parked and got out, walking up to one he had heard of through the rumors.  "Miss Summers."

She spun, staring at him.  "Do we know you?"

He pulled out a knife to pierce his thumb, showing her the blood.  She relaxed some.  "We're hunters.  We're here to help you.  How can we do that?"

She smiled.  "That's probably going to be handy.  We have a battle coming up.  We need to get the town evacuated too."  The other one came over and she stared at him.  "Um...."

Sam gave her a sheepish grin.  "A demon really wanted me and did it.  I'm working on controlling it."

"Okay.  Are you a Harris?  Because Xander might be capable of that."

"No," Dean said with a grin.  "We're Winchesters."  One of the girls stared at him in awe.  "Our Dad's coming too.  He's been hunting for a quarter of a century.   Sammy, they need the town evacuated."

"Chris said he'd be here tonight.  They're Feds."

"Who?" Buffy asked.

"The ones Sammy was training with," Dean said with a smirk.  "Do we know anything about the House system?"

"A Lord of the House?" one of the younger girls asked.  "One of the ones near me got me out."

"The one in Denver is ATF and they're coming to help too."

"Her or us?" Buffy asked.

"They're the sort to take control of an area and make sure it stays peaceful," that girl told him.  "They're like overlords but nice ones."

"Oh.  Okay."  She looked at Dean.  "Why now?"

"We just found out."

She walked them off, taking them to Giles.  Who told her what they were talking about and it sounded good to her.  She'd accept any help at this moment.  She went into the kitchen.

Sam was staring at the man who had just come in.  Now he knew what Ezra had talked about wanting to fight, dance, and then pounce.  "Hi," he said quietly.

"Hi," the man said back, staring at him.  "Watcher?"


"Cool."  He held out a hand.  "Xander."

"Sam."  He shook it and felt the current hit between them.  Xander stared at him.  "Um..."

"No clue," he admitted quietly, moving closer, but not letting go of his hand.  "What....  Are you human?"

"A demon wants me so he activated something from about twenty generations ago," he admitted quietly.  "A bit of a Salen gift."

"Huh.  So this thing...."

Dean walked in and looked over Buffy's head.  "Sammy?" he asked, breaking the spell.  "Problems?"

"No, something Ezra told me about happened."  He stared at Xander.  Who shrugged. "We're trying to figure that out."

"Okay, well, they're here."  He looked around.  "Chris?" he called.  "Ezra?"  They came in, not rushing but not moseying either.  "They had a staring and touching thing?"

Ezra stared then smirked.  "Young man, people have been wondering about your lineage for years now," he said bluntly.

"So all the alcohol some people can drink is a gift?" he quipped sarcastically.

Ezra moved closer and the boy's eyes went wide then stared at him.  "Yes, I am Salen.  As is Sam thanks to that taint.  As are you partially."  He stared the boy down.  "Come, we'll talk.  Sam."  They followed to talk to him and that so stuffy yet protective Mr. Giles.

Buffy shook her head, looking at Dean.  "Huh?"

"Salen are like what they say succuba are only they're moral and decent," he said.

"Ah."  She nodded slowly.  "So Xander?"

JD walked in, smiling at her.  "There's been rumors that a lord and salen's offspring was hidden somewhere.  He's a grandson of them," he explained.

"What is a salen?" she asked.

"Salen...  Salen are really complicated.  As Ezra proves all the time," he said with a small smirk.  "They're the ones who know friends and enemies almost immediately.  They're the ones who handle enemies and make contracts for the Houses.  They charm those that need it, they fight when they need to, and there's something about them that draws people to them like succuba.  We don't know why.  Half the time they have to fight against the people who want to own them as pets.  Sometimes they just beat the crap out of them and walk off like nothing happened.  Ezra's shot one in the leg then walked off dusting off his jacket."

"So they have the draw of a succuba but not the evil and not the soul stealing?" she asked.

"That and most of them are very strong emotionally.  They also know how to tell their friends fairly quickly," JD offered with a smile.  "In the Houses they're protected and honored for using that skill for the benefit of the House's stability."

"Okay," she said, nodding faster.  She looked at Dean.  "How did he get that gift?"

"Way back when, one fell in love with an ancient ancestor," he said dryly.  "The demon who wants him brought it out."

"Ooooh, sorry."

"Not your fault.  We've been hunting him for years," he promised, patting her on the arm.  "JD, the evacuation, can we help?"

"No.  I'm about to take care of the demons."  He walked off.  "Buck, I need a guard," he called as he walked past where he was working on plans with Chris.

"Sure, kid."  He followed him out and up the road.  Sunnydale was a small town, which was handy in this case.  He noticed the bar and smirked.  "Going to pull rank?"

"Yup."  He walked in and paused, staring around the bar.  "I am the Lord of the House of the West," he announced.  A few laughed.  He shot them.  "Believe me now?"  He looked around again.  "Sunnydale is having a major apocalypse."  A few nodded, looking bored.  "The slayer wants this town evacuated.  People and demon."

"The sooner the better, people," Buck added.

"I thought the blond was the Lord," one of the vampires called.

"Chris is at the house and no, I'm the heir.  I look to him for leadership in some things, like at work.  In the House, it's my house."  He looked at the demons.  "Start the evacuations tonight, people.  We don't have time to worry if things go sooner than we want."

"What's going on?" the bartender asked.

"The First Evil," Buck said simply.  They all gaped.

"That takes a resurrection," another vampire noted.

"Dumbass!  The Witch brought back the slayer!" the first one said, throwing his glass at him.  "Of course there's been one!"  He looked.  "We're certain?"

"Yes," JD said.  "We're certain.  Head, tonight.  Do it orderly.  We don't want anyone to be left behind, and no one to be hurt.  So move it, people."  They nodded and paid their tabs before leaving to pack.  JD stared at the bartender.  "Pass it."

"I will," he said, bowing.  "Thank you, Lord, for sparing us."

"I believe most of the local community is peaceful."  He left with Buck.

"I hope they don't move to Denver," Buck said.

JD smirked.  "They'd hate the winters."

"Good point.  Most vampires seem to be disgusted by snow."  They went back to the mansion, finding a few family enclaves on the way to talk to as well.  It was going to be fully known by morning.  "Think Chris can pull the civilians out?"

"Yup.  They've got emergency broadcast system warnings here too."  Buck nodded at that.  They walked back in.  "Miss Summers, by tomorrow most of the demons will be gone.  Chris, the civilians?"

"Already put that out, JD," he said impatiently.

"Just checking.  Buck wanted to know."  Buck swatted him.  "Hey!"

Buffy snickered.  "I remember our group being that way."

"I can swat you all you want," Xander said as he walked up behind her.  "I also called LA to warn them that they're going to have an influx visiting."  She smiled and nodded.  "So, now what?"

"We have two days," she sighed.  Someone knocked and was let in.  JD looked respectful of the fortyish looking white guy with brown hair.  "Who're you?"

"This is John.  He's the Lord of the House in Miami," JD said, pulling her closer.  "John, this is Buffy Summers."

"Miss Summers.  Pleasure."  He shook her hand and stared at the boy behind her.  "That's interesting."

"Sam spotted him," JD said with a smug look.  "Got that staring thing while shaking hands."

"You don't cause shit to see it started, right, kid?" John asked.

"Not unless it's a prank."

"Good!  Some Salen and half-Salen are pains in the ass."  JD snickered and nodded.  "I sent Virginia off."

Chris looked out of the room he was in.  "We heard."

"Did you hear she claimed we robbed her of her things when we sent her off?  Got the lab to come into the house?"

"Ooooh," Buck said with a wince and a hiss.  "Your girl see?"

"No, thankfully the Mediator for my House is in the lab and the boss took the warning."  He looked at Buffy.  "I'm here to help."

"Can you fight?"

"Yes.  I've been able to for years."

She stared.  "How old do you guys get?  Or Xander's type maybe?"

"Lords get to be about three, four hundred usually," he said.  She nodded slowly.  "We're hard to kill but not impossible.  Salen....  We have no clue.  Methos is a special topic to study but most of them go out at about five hundred or so."  Xander made a whining noise.  "There's ways to help others that you absolutely can't live without, kid."  He focused on him.  "I'll be damned, you are off my grandfather's line, aren't you?"  He hummed and patted him on the arm with a smirk.  "We can go over all that stuff after the battle."

"If there's any special talents, teach him now," Buffy ordered.

"Not really.  We're good organizers, we're good at a lot of things, and we're good when we're taught how to fight.  Otherwise, nothing like magic or anything."

"Damn."  She walked off.  "Let me get the watch rotation settled for a bit then we'll talk strategy."

Xander looked at the two Lords.  "Why is the Western House in Denver?"

"Back when it was formed, they weren't sure how far past the Rockies the country went," John told him.  "Our grandfather was one of the founders here of our society."  Xander nodded slowly at that.  "Since they didn't want to explore and that part was probably just mountains that fell into an ocean according to them, they settled it just outside of Denver.  Most Houses are near easily accessible areas for lower demons to get to but that are a bit more defensible.  I have no idea why they picked Miami.  I would've picked a bit further south.  The first four are picked, or in really tiny countries you get one in the center, and then it's broken up from there among heirs."

"How many houses are recognized?" Chris asked.  "I saw that argument the other day over Ezra's shoulder."

"The fully recognized, have a Lord in his seat?  About sixty eight.  Total houses in the US are about double that."  He grinned at the kid.  "We're not bad people.  I was a cop until things went to hell and someone tried to take over my seat by putting out information that I was dirty somehow."

"Are they gone?" JD asked.  "Because I had to deal with one of those myself last year."

"Yup.  They're damn sorry too," John assured him firmly.  "Yours?"

He smirked.  "I sicced Chris and Ezra on them," he said innocently.

John cackled.  "You're so bad, JD.  He's the youngest of us all," he told the kid.  "Now you are if you set up a House."

"My mother died," JD told the kid.  "I inherited pretty young but it came with a lot of helpers and then I met Chris and Buck, who introduced me to Ezra and Nathan and Josiah.  Then Vin showed up thanks to Chris and Ezra.  And then seven horses, two sheepdogs...."

"Those are your fault, kid," Chris pointed out dryly.  He looked at Xander.  "He's fussy.  He's young though."  He walked off.  "John."  He followed him.  Xander followed to help since he usually planned for them.  He pulled out their map and facts.  It helped.  John got someone to take a few very young kids out of the way of the battle.  They called around to make sure others knew this was going to need some outside help too.


Dean looked up from his guard watch when his dad showed up at dawn.  "Hey," he said, getting a hug.  "You look rough, Dad."

"It was a long drive, son."  He looked at the redhead walking toward him.  "Rosenburg," he said bluntly.

"I'm handling my addiction very well," she said quietly.

"Right now, there's more important things than your problems, girl."

"I agree.  Buffy's resting for a few hours.  She'll be up soon.  Xander's in the planning room with the other Lord guys."

"The ones helping us are here and one from Miami, Dad," Dean said.

"That's fine.  Where's Sammy?"

"Fussing over breakfast," Willow said dryly.  "He's got fluttery moments so we made him do practical things.  We'll go help the 'please move' pushing later with him."

John nodded.  "That's fine.  Let me go calm him down."  He followed her to the kitchen, watching his son cook.  "You do that better than Dean suddenly?"

"Yeah, I learned at college.  Had to feed myself somehow."  He smiled and hugged his father.  "Hi, Dad."

"Son."  He looked him over.  "Good.  You look better."

"Ezra's been pounding the exercises into me and working on the taint that brought them out."

"Will they go back if the taint is weeded out?" John asked.

"You can't really put back awakened gifts," she pointed out.  "Chris?"  He came in to get some coffee.  "This is Dean and Sam's dad."

"John Winchester," he said, shaking his hand.  "Thank you for watching over my boys."

"Not a problem.  They're good kids most of the time.  Even if Dean does fleece people at pool too often."  He sipped his coffee.  "Willow, go rest.  Xander's up and I heard Buffy in the bathroom a few minutes ago."  She nodded, going to do that.  He looked at Sam then at John.  "Want fighting or guarding?"

"How bad is the fight going to be?" Sam asked quietly.

"We'll be going to meet her, Sam.  We'll have to."

Sam nodded.  "Dad's better than Dean and I are."

"Will the ones being protected from the battle be attacked?" John asked.

"Probably not.  She'll want all her people there to help her when the slayers come," Chris admitted.

"Sammy's doing that then.  He's the weaker fighter of my two boys but he's not shy about brawls or fights."

"I can plan that," Chris promised, leading them back there.  Sam came back to finish breakfast off while they went over the larger plan.  There were still stubborn people around.

Sam went to Ezra.  "Is there someway we can reverse whatever we do to draw people to make them run?" he asked.

"Not really," he admitted, looking up from his cup of coffee.  "I know I cannot and I don't believe Methos can either."  Sam nodded at that, sitting down beside him.  "But there are demons that can make people flee in terror if we must stoop to that diversion.  JD?"  He leaned in.  "Samuel suggested we use terror tactics to drive people off."

"Could help," he agreed, going to mention that to Chris.  He knew there were a few here.  They loved chaos.  He and Vin got sent to find them.  They were hiding in the not very sewer-like sewers.  "It proves someone was planning this for demons."

Vin looked at the high ceilings on their current sewer walkway.  "It's like mall tunnels."

"It is."  He found the group he wanted.  The others were packing for the most part.  "Ladies," he said.  This sort were all female.  They stopped their poker game to stare at him.  "We need everyone not involved in the battle to leave the city.  You can help us with that."  He crossed his arms over his chest.

One sniffed him.  "Weak Lord," she said smugly.

"John's here too," he offered.  He called him and he joined them a few minutes later.  He had been hunting for his own group.

The demons stiffened, staring at him, most of the bowing slightly.  "Lord."

"Make the humans leave," he ordered.  "Today.  The battle's tomorrow."  They nodded and went to the open air to start that campaign.  "It's because you're young, JD.  Nothing more."  He clapped him on the back.  "Help me find the portal demons."

"They're at the bar from what we saw on patrol last night," Vin told him.  He led them to that group.  They were working pretty hard.  "Guys, why are there still whole groups in the tunnels?"

"They can survive even if it goes nuclear," one of them said.  "They won't pay for service."

"I don't really care if you make money or not," JD told them bluntly.  "Everyone, and I do mean every single being down to the unthinking ones and pets, is to leave this town today.  The battle is tomorrow.  Your profit margin is gone for all we care."

They stared at him then looked at John.  "He's young but he's right and he is the nearest Lord.  The one in LA is apparently out to lunch again and the one in Sacramento isn't answering either.  So, evacuate everyone.  I don't care if you're sending them to your brethren in LA to have them pay from there.  Just get them out of Sunnydale."

"There's every chance the hellmouth will snap shut," JD added impatiently.  "And I'm not that young!"  The demon opened his mouth.  JD pulled a gun.  They nodded and called around, sending everyone off to one of the other major staging areas.  They walked off and Vin was snickering at JD's slumped walk.  "I know but I hate losing my temper," he complained.

John snickered.  "Kid, I've done it many times.  For worse reasons.  My temper has caused me no end of problems but you'll handle it fine."  The trio did a short patrol around, ordering the others who weren't listening and making sure the rest were leaving.  The humans too if they could make sure of it.  John decided to pull out his old Miami-Dade PD ID and badge.  It helped with the humans.  They'd trust a cop and a few ATF agents more than anyone else.  Buffy's team had things arranged so the last few could get out on school busses but he didn't want it to come down to that.  He wanted them *out*.  Tonight.  His phone rang and he looked at it before answering.

"Better be good," he said gruffly.  He listened.  "Yeah, that's good," he said sarcastically.  "No, I'm not home, Max.  I'm in Sunnydale for the battle out here.  Working on the dispersal of people."  He flashed his badge at a staring officer.  The other two did the same thing and he huffed off.  "Help with the evacuation," he called out to him.  "We need them gone before more pre-quakes hit."  The officer grumbled all the way to his car.  "Yes, that quake," he said dryly when she countered what he was doing.  "Have Wolfe find someone to eat the asshole, Max.  I'm tired of him.  No matter what Horatio wants."  He hung up.  The phone went back into his pocket while Vin and JD snickered.  "IAB just told my former lover that I'm still alive.  Since I committed suicide behind her in her lab...."

"She's going to kill you?" JD guessed with a grin.

"More than.  She's a ballistics expert.  I'll be lucky if she or Caine don't snipe me as I get off the plane."  He got a cup of coffee from the all night gas station and told that kid to leave too.  So what if his boss said he was to be one of the last ones out.  The kid clearly had a baby.  He had spitup on his shoulder and smelled like diapers.  He did send his family out of harm's way and said he'd be going by the next day.  As soon as the last gas sale hit the pumps.  John nodded, walking off sipping his coffee.   Ezra and Sam were talking outside when they got there.  "You two, go guard the little ones," he ordered.

Ezra stared at him.  "I do believe you're not my Lord," he said with a smirk.

"So?" JD asked.  "I agree.  It'll be a battle.  The little ones will need guarded and we might need some last minute clearing out, Ezra.  You two have gifts to draw them if you have to and the little ones need someone competent who can make up a cover story when some other agents show up.  Because we all know they will."  He walked inside.  "Chris, I added Ezra to helping Sam evacuate the little kids."

Vin grinned.  "He's pissed."

"Clearly," Ezra said dryly.  "Why?"

"They all think he's too young to know his mind," John told him.  "Take the young witch even I can feel and head, Ezra.  The youngest girls, all them.  If we need them to suddenly be able to be found, we'll let you know."

"Fine," he muttered, going to tell Buffy to gather them for them.   "We're going to the House," he noted when he came out with a sleepy Dawn.

"That should be safely out of harm's way," John agreed.  "Or you could stop in on the supposed wannabe in Vegas."  He shrugged.  "He's probably hiding under his bed but one of you is there."

"Perhaps."  He led them to a van.  There were only eight of them.  They could sleep on each other while he and Sam handled things for them.  Sam was staring out the window at someone and he sighed.  "Yes, that's what I was talking about," Ezra said.  "I couldn't adequately explain that sensation but after this, you two can have a longer talk."

"What does it mean?" he asked quietly, looking at his mentor.

"Nothing truly bad.  An intended mate."  Sam whimpered.  "It'll be fine.  After some working out of problems, I'm sure it'd do you good to have a hunter with you two."  He shrugged.  "Your father may have a bit of a fit but there's nothing he can do about it either."  He reached over to pat him on the shoulder.  "You shall overcome and if you must, you can learn bondage from Bucklin.  I'm sure he's very skilled with some of what he's had to get out of over the years."  Sam snickered.

"He has been taken more than a few times."  He got onto the interstate.  The spell Willow had put on Dawn snapped once he crossed the town's boundaries.  He glanced back in the mirror.  "You are the support staff and mentor for them until we hear how the battle tomorrow goes," he told her.  "Miss Rosenburg aided us in the removal of the youngest ones so they cannot be put into danger."

Dawn yawned and leaned forward.  "It sucks that I'm counted that way."

Sam looked at her.  "My father wouldn't have let either of us help with a real battle at your age, Dawn, and he was obsessed with taking out demons.  Still is."  She nodded at that, grimacing.  "It'll go.  You guys will be safe, even if I have to blow things away.  Just rest for now.  We're going to Denver and you can call tomorrow after the battle."  She nodded, yawning again and laying back down.  "It'll be okay.  Our dad has been hunting for decades.  Your sister's group has faced more apocalypses than most hunters think is possible in their lives."

"Mr. Larabee is, to put it kindly, a stubborn bastard that will take out an enemy any way he has to," Ezra added.  "Our whole team is that way."  He smiled back at her in the mirror.  "It will go and you'll help us by translating from their teenager language to our normal human one."  She snickered quietly.  "Try to rest.  It's a good drive to Denver."

"Yes, Mr. Standish."

"Good girl."  He flipped on his phone and plugged it into the jack on the console.  "Call Terrence," he ordered.  The phone dialed and soon a sleepy, complaining mumble came through.  "Terrence."

"Ezra.  Is there a problem bust?" he mumbled, sounding like he yawned halfway through.

"Sam and I are evacuating the youngest slayers and a charming young witch named Miss Summers from Sunnydale.  We expect to reach town about when the battle starts."  He sped up some.  "I want things set up so the elders who survive don't have to worry about them.  Also, set out an all points, to even those lesser Houses, to be on the look out for damages.  JD has the feeling that something bigger will happen to seal the hellmouth there for good perhaps.  He's not sure but they've evacuated the whole town.  Get the lazy pretenders to the seats up and let them know to be vigilant for the next few days.  Especially LA.  It will be overloaded."

"LA has a lot of demons already," Dawn said quietly.

"Of course it does," Sam agreed.  "There's whole sections of that city that the normals don't acknowledge exist."  He grinned back at her.  "Sleep."  She nodded and drifted off again.

"Who's that?" Terrence asked.

"That would be my present student.  The one who has gotten me up at too many ungodly hours recently," he said impatiently.  "Send it now, Terrence, then prepare the House in case we might be overloaded or have problems from the First Evil."  He hung up.

"Is he a house elf?" Dawn mumbled.

"No, he's not.  Though it might be nice if he were," he said dryly.  He changed lanes to pull off the interstate to get gas and then they could head further east.  This was not going to be good by any means.


Sam was biting his lip, watching the news.  Dawn was staring at it from her seat.  The younger girls were in the bathroom enjoying hot showers that they didn't have to get out of too quickly.  The coverage had started about twenty minutes before they had made it to the House.  Ezra was drinking coffee trying to appear calm but she could feel he wasn't.  Sam was nearly rigid and vibrating.  "Hey, big guy, sit," she ordered.  "Both our families will be fine," she said when Sam glared at her.  He sat down with a long sigh of frustrated air.  The coverage showed the busses running away from the sucking going on.  The news helicopters clearly showed the ground sucking in.

Dawn was chewing on a nail and winced when she let out blood.  She banished the power that had started to gather, drawing their attention.  "Sorry, made it bleed a bit."

Ezra gaped.  "You are no simple witch," he said.  "That power was endless and eternal, young lady."

She stared at him.  "No comment.  National security risks," she quipped.

"That's fine.  There may be someone who might know more about your elemental essence however."  He took another drink.  "There's the Ram," he said with a point.  The others were getting off busses.  Less than had been there.   His team looked like hell.  The slayers looked like hell.  Everyone looked like hell except John Winchester, who just looked pissed.  "Samuel, perhaps you should call him?"

Sam dialed.  "Dean, are you two okay?  The cameras are catching really good pictures of the group and Dad looks pissed."  He listened.  "Oh.  He got knocked down by two of the slayers and had to get up and protect them from their rushing ahead," he told Ezra.   "He's got post-battle nerves."  He listened.  "Who fell?" he asked quietly, holding Dawn off.  "I'll let her know.  Denver."  He nodded and hung up.  He shifted to look at her.  "Your sister and the main part of the group are fine."

"Who isn't?" she asked.

"Six of the slayers fell during the battle.  Two more on the way out."  She nodded slowly, her hands clenched.  He pried them apart to let her hold his.  "Anya went in."  She shook her head.  He nodded.  "Dean said he saw her take a blow for Andrew."  She bit her lip, trying not to sniffle.  "A few others who were helping fell but mostly everyone's fine.  They're tired, they're dirty, they're in a bad mood, especially since people pounced them for explanations on the way out.  Dean said Buffy was going to send the FEMA guy into the hole since it was still sucking."  She let out a breath.  He gave her a careful hug.  "I know it sucks, Dawn."

"It does," she agreed, standing up.  "Let me tell the girls."  She left them alone to watch the coverage.  The girls were gathered on one's bed watching the news.  She closed and locked the door.  "Anya fell," she announced.  They stared at her.  "Dean said that six fell during the battle, two more on the run out.   Some of the other helpers who showed up this morning."  They piled over to hug her.  They had to grieve and it was only right.  They wouldn't have bodies to bury.

Ezra looked around.  "Let me do something so they can grieve and let it out," he said quietly, going to find the secondary Maitre for the house.  "The battle is done," he announced.  She looked at him.  She was the housekeeper.  "The girls lost some."  She nodded and handed over notes.  "That will work.  Thank you."  He walked up to knock on the door, handing the slayer who answered the notes.  "What we have heard so far.  We'll let you call the senior girls later."  She nodded and closed the door softly, going back to their group hug.  He went to make some more plans.


Sam walked the girls out to the gardens later that night, nearly at midnight.  They each had a white candle and a small pouch of wood ashes.  Ezra put up a small plaque on a rose bush and got out of the way.  "They deserve to be commemorated for helping save the world," Ezra said.  "I'm sure the girls there would be doing their own goodbyes."  The girls stepped forward and poured out their ashes and laid the candles once they were blown out underneath the plaque.  The girls clumped back together but Dawn was still staring at it.  Ezra tipped her chin up.  "She had a long life, poppet.  A very long life.  More than most of her kind."

She nodded.  "I know.  And a second chance too.  Xander's got to be ripped apart."  She walked the girls back into the kitchen for ice cream and walked out with Sam's phone to call everyone there.  "Dean, how's Xander?"  She sat on a bench, staring at the night sky.  "No, Ezra put up a small plaque so we could honor them here."  She listened.  "Please?"  He handed the phone over.  "Buffy, how's Xander?"  She listened.  "Because he did just lose Anya, Buffy."  She sighed.  "We put up a small plaque, spread ashes on it and laid out candles to honor them.  Ezra thought you guys would be doing your own."  She nodded at her sister's saying they were too tired.  "It helped the girls here," she said quietly.  "So how is he?  Because he might need a hug."  She nodded at that wisdom that he could ask.  "But you know he won't.  He never has."  She hung up and went to hand the phone back to Sam.  She was thinking hard.

"You are nowhere near skilled enough to travel to Los Angeles on your own," Ezra noted calmly.

She looked at him then at Sam.  "How old do you have to be to be telepathic?  Buffy said that the time she was sucked."

He smiled.  "I don't know yet.  I'm sure I'll find out."  He gave her a pat on the hair.  "You'll be with him in a few days, Dawn."

"I know, but he could still use a cuddle."

"Right now, he might be bouncing in anger and post-battle stress," he said.

She shrugged.  "Xander's not like that usually.  Pre-battle nerves but post battle nerves tend to get things carved."  She went to check on the girls.  They were her duty until someone higher in the ranks of the Council showed up that she trusted.  There might still be skanky old watchers around somewhere so she wouldn't trust them until Giles said so.  "Girls."  They looked at her.  "Save me any?"  They handed over a bowl.  "Thanks.  Buffy said they'll honor them in a day or so, when they're less tired."  They all nodded at that and stuffed their faces again.  "They should be here in a few days.  Anyone know where the next hellmouth is?"

"Cleveland," Sam said as he walked in.  "Dad heard that from a few hunters.  It opened for a few minutes.  It freaked a lot of people out but no major demon uprising suddenly."

"That's a good thing," Dawn decided.  "Any idea when they're traveling?  I'm sure these guys are nice but they're mostly single so I doubt they're used to girls."  She shifted and grimaced.  "Speaking of, is there any chance of hitting a pharmacy or a wal-mart to pick up girl things?"

Sam shuddered.  "I'll run out, Dawn."  She beamed and hugged him one-armed.  "Give me ten minutes.  Got a choice?"

"Tampons," the girls all said.

"Sure," he agreed, going to find some for them before it got too bad.  Plus some more ice cream.  Ezra would hide from this but he had done it for his girlfriend a few times.  He knew what to get.


John looked at the girls the next morning, seeing the exhaustion.  "Ladies, we've got to make plans to start moving toward the new one," he said quietly, staring at Buffy. "The least tired but most trained first."

"How are the younger ones doing?" Dean asked from his seat.  He and his father had been up for hours.  The slayers had slept in to nearly noon.

"They're fine.  Their honoring moment went well," John reported.  "The girls are settled down and doing girlish things according to Sam's morning report."  Buffy stared at him.  "What?"

"Poor them.  Seven kids with PMS."  She walked off to get some coffee.  Xander handed it to her silently.  "Dawn wanted to break magical rules to come give you a cuddle."

He gave her a short smile.  "I might've let her."  He sipped his coffee.  "I'll go with the first group, Buffy.  That way we can find a place to set ourselves that will fit us."

She nodded.  "Your construction experience would be helpful with that."  She patted him on the arm.  "We can do our own honoring moment."

"I might visit that one," he told her.  She stared at him.  "I...."

She sighed but nodded.  "You don't have to."

"No one is in any shape to," he pointed out.  "John's less tired than I am but he's not used to slayers."  She nodded that was true.  "We can gather the little ones since the scouting reports say nothing too huge has happened yet."

"I can see that," she promised, giving him a faint smile.  "You sure?"

"Yeah.  I'd like to get away from everyone for a bit."

Willow came bouncing down the stairs with Kennedy behind her.  "Morning."  She got her own tea and settled in to nibble on some toast.  "Any new news?"

"The girls held an honoring moment in their garden," Buffy told her.  "John said Cleveland's hellmouth opened but nothing came out."

"That's good to know," she said.  She considered it.  "Cleveland?"  They all nodded.  "We'll figure out how to get us all there, Buffy."

"Xander's going with the first group so he can use those construction skills to make sure the place is big enough and won't fall in at the first accidental kick to the wall."

"That's a great idea," Willow agreed with a smile for him.

John Hagen walked over to the main trio, staring at the boy.  "You could come to Miami after that," he offered.  "There's some things that you could be trained in."

"I need some time to grieve," he told him.

"I get that."

"My duty is still to the slayers."

John stared at him.   "There is no House in Cleveland," he said finally.  Xander gave him an odd look.  "You are half-Lord.  That does come with some gifts and we do claim areas to keep them safe and calm."

"Was there one in Sunnydale?" Buffy asked.

"No.  The power there would've driven us insane.  Cleveland probably won't be that bad yet and he is used to the power that Sunnydale had.  He's always been there."  She nodded that was true.  "So even if it was bad, he could handle it."  He looked at the boy again.  "If you want, I can give you the short series of lessons on how you be a Lord of a House and the few special gifts we have.  You'd have to go to someone like Ezra for the half-salen heritage you have, kid."

Xander thought about it.  "I was thinking about traveling to find the girls that didn't make it to us," he said quietly.

John smiled.  "That could end up being even more helpful.  Depending on where you went, you could talk to a lot of them.  We've never bothered the slayers in the past and having this many active will worry some about what might come in the future."  Xander nodded he understood that.  "So come down to Miami for a few days before your trip and I'll show you where things are and introduce you so you can visit, maybe get to know some of the older ones of us, and see if they have anything they can teach you while you search and train."

"I might like that," he decided.  "Um..."  He had spotted Dean.

John looked where he was and then sighed, looking at the boy again.  "Only Salen understand those things, kid.  Ezra's probably the least flaky of all of them but Methos, who went to find Sam and Dean, is ancient by every standard, even against *her* lifespan."  Xander gaped.  Buffy did too.  "He's seen whole countries rise and fall.  That's why we sent him to tell Sam."  He smiled.  "If you're traveling near where he might be, I'll introduce you to him as well.  A lot of the stronger houses have a Salen but I don't know many of them.  And if you run into one named Virginia...  She's a bitch, she tried to hurt me on purpose because she was a jealous bitch, and she likes people as pawns."

"I'll keep that in mind," he said with a grin.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem.  We don't have many gifts outside our stubbornness but they can come in handy and most of us would recognize the traits and at least respect you."

"That might be a change," Buffy told him.  John glared at her and she flinched.  "The demons don't respect him as much as they do me or Angel."

"Those lesser things are clearly stupid."  He looked at the boy, smirking some.  "Plus, Miami has a lot of things to let your mind take a short vacation to.  Including beaches, bikinis....  Rollerblading bikini girls."  Xander smirked at that.  "They're fun to watch.  Them and the volleyball girls."  Xander let out a snicker.  "So let me know.  I've got to head back today to avoid being beaten to death by my ex.  Another wonderful thing Virginia screwed up for me."  He left, going to talk to John Winchester, Angel, and the local Lord who had shown up being huffy.  "Aw, shut up," he ordered.  The man flinched then backed away from him looking scared.  "We all knew Sunnydale's hellmouth wasn't stable.  It was going to get your city overrun sometime.  Why didn't you send anyone to help with the battle?"

"I'm not suited for that," he complained.

"You don't have anyone in your House who can fight?"

"No!  We're a lot of scholars."

"Fine.  Whatever," he told him simply.  The man slumped.  "Angel, I'm going to head back to Miami later today.  Will you need anything I can send your way?"

"No.  You and JD have already done a lot.  LA will settle in a few days.  Thank you for your help."

"Not a problem.  Some of us have been good guys for years."  He looked at Winchester.  "I've offered Xander some teaching time in Miami and since he's going to travel, to introduce him to other Houses and salen so he can work on that side of his gifts."  John nodded once.  "That staring, touching thing they had going?  They need to talk about it sometime.  Maybe you should hit Denver?"

"I'm going to.  I need some time with my boys."

"Good."  He smiled.  "Sam's not doing bad from what I've heard.  He's young, he's having to fight against the taint that demon gave him."

"Do you know more about it?" John asked.

"Not much.  I'll be asking around."  John smiled and nodded at that.  "Beings like that give the rest of us bad names, Winchester.  If you need help with him, let us know.  If I'm alive after my ex finds me, I'll come help."  He shook his hand and left, going to the airport.  Chris's people were already headed back as well.  He and JD had talked last night about House things that were driving him nuts.  Especially that he was leaning on a human for some advice.  He told him that was normal and they were only sneering due to his age.  They'd settle out soon enough or Larabee would glare at everyone who put him down again.  Like the last time that problem had been stopped.  Some demons had fled from Denver the last time.


Horatio looked up as Calleigh walked into his office and closed the door.  "What's wrong?" he asked, seeing that she was upset.

"Stetler told me something."

"What?"  He leaned back.

"He had pictures of you meeting with John Hagen dated a few days back."

"I have not seen John in a while," he said, dodging the truth.  It had been more than two weeks.

"Then why were they dated that way?"

"Someone could have manipulated the date.  I know I have not seen him in the last few days, Calleigh."

"How long has it been?"

"Since about the last time you did," he lied.

She stared at him.  "What is going on?"  She put her hands on her hips and glared at him.  "There is a huge secret going around this lab and I'm being kept out of it on purpose.  I know it has something to do with that supposed high end jewelry robbery case that I wasn't allowed to go on, even though I was clear and due for a new case."

"I'm not sure what you mean."

"Whatever you, Wolfe, and Valera are doing," she said bluntly.

"Maxine has informed me of a ...friendship and semi-employed status with someone that could be ...beneficial to future cases.  Mr. Wolfe knows them as well in a casual manner.  Not that they associate all that often but he knows of him."

"So this new source?" she demanded.  "Why is it being kept from me?"

"Because some of the information he has could ...hurt you.  It included information on my brother and John Hagen's former undercover assignment."  She glared at him.  "Among other things.  There has been indication that not everything on that assignment was as it seemed to be.  Including some people who appeared dead that were not."  She huffed.  "There was recently a print that showed as my brother's."  Which wasn't a lie and it was something he wanted to talk to Ray about.

"No way!" she said, looking horrified.  He nodded.  "Do we think there's a coverup?"

"I think we have multiple ones but I'm not sure how fast I can uncover them and beat certain people into their supposed deaths."  She snorted but nodded, leaving it there.  "I want to see these pictures," he called after her.  "Today please."  He considered calling Maxine to warn her but he had the feeling she had already known and therefore told John.  He went down to check on her.  "Calleigh has found out that you also belong to a new source of information," he said quietly, staring at her.  "One that relates back to the undercover shared by Hagen and my former brother."

"Hmm, yes I do."

"She knows because someone told her."

"Yes he did."  She smirked.  "I got ordered to have him eaten by something.  Would you really mind?"

"That is not how a criminalist thinks," he pointed out dryly.  "Even if it would leave no trace."

"We could use it as a training exercise."

"No, Miss Valera."

"He's doing it on purpose to hurt her.  Virginia's acting through him."


"No perhaps about it."  She smiled and handed over a report.  "I'm going on lunch, can you give that to Eric please?"

"I can."  He walked off.  "Do not do anything that I would hate."

"I'm not.  I'm calling someone."  She went outside, dialing Tony's number.  "Maitre."

//Working,// he complained, sounding like he was typing.

"Someone decided to mock up photos of my boss and our boss together to hurt someone.  He wanted that one eaten.  Mine not so much."

He let out a bitter sounding chuckle.  //I can agree with that sentiment.  I have a few I'd like to have that happen to as well.//

"Yes, but I'm getting conflicting orders here.  Got an opinion on the matter?"

//Who are you and why are you bothering my agent?// a new male voice demanded.

"I'm CSI Valera and I'm asking his opinion since we're friends and I've got two people giving me conflicting orders," she said bluntly.  "Butt out, Gibbs.  I know who you are even if you don't know me.  By the way, that little *trip* of yours?  There's plenty of people who want your ass because of what happened in Mexico.  I'd watch it better.  They won't go through Tony this time from what I've been hearing and some of them are agents as well.  Now, may I please speak to Tony again?  Before I have a professional conflict?"  She got hung up on.  She snickered and waited thirty seconds then dialed back.  "I sent you that file, right?"

//Yes you did.  I left it on his desk and apparently Ziva took it because she just produced it.  Thank you for that intel, Max.//  She snickered.  //I don't know which one is going to be the better option.  If you go with the non-paying one, let me know.  I might have someone who they can talk to.//

"Greatness.  He's on his way back."


"Not that he shared.  Possibly we're getting a guest from out there.  She was right.  And they're bonded from what Ezra wrote to warn us."

//Awww.  That's so sweet.//

"The whole salen, frozen staring, shaking hands, that stuff.  Right before the fight.  Then he lost his former fiancé during it."

//Ooh.  That's going to be hard.  Well....  We'll deal with it.  We always do.  Got any idea about how DNA transfers from people to ice cube?//

"Beyond licking, body rubbing, that stuff?"

//Good point but no.//

"Sex play?"  Someone gave her an odd look.  "I'm consulting on a case, dipshit.  Go away."  The officer fled.  "Hmm, guess the whole building will think I have PMS again this week," she said dryly.  He snickered in her ear.  "What other fluids were attached to the DNA.  Abby should be able to figure it out that way."

//Too diluted.  She found the DNA sample by accident and refreezing hasn't helped.//

"Hmm.  Does she have a micron system?"


"Borrow one for her."

//I'll suggest that.  Thank you.//

"Welcome.  Fair warning."

//Just what I needed,// he quipped and hung up.

She hung up and got something to eat and drink.  She was hungry.  She had been too worried to eat for the last day and a half.  Ryan came out to join her.  "I do not have a single case with your name on it," she told him.

"My last one was a stabbing with gloves.  You shouldn't."  He leaned closer on his arms resting on the table.  "The bar last night was in a frantic and pissy mood," he said quietly.

"I heard that."  She ate a bite.  "He'll be back by tonight."

"Good.  They're not worried about him not coming back, though a few are worried about who'll take over, but most were worried about people running this way thanks to all that."

"Ah."  She ate a bite and chewed.  "I'd hate to be Cleveland," she said.  "Or LA."

He grinned.  "I'll let that be known.  We're sure?"  She nodded.  "I pity their departments then."  He got up and walked off texting someone.  That was excellent news.  No one had any idea where the next hellmouth was going to open but now that they knew... he really did pity those two cities.  One was overly full of refugees and the other was going to suck for generations.


John walked into his house and looked around.  "We didn't dust?" he called as he walked back to the kitchen.  He paused when he saw the two housekeepers on the floor, snoring.  "Hmm."  He checked, they were both alive.  He grabbed his gun and walked around.  Nothing there.  But this was a bad sign.  He called in a favor and had a young kid who had psychic touch imaging skills come over to scan the house.  He found out who had done it and she was going to pay.   The two knocked out housekeepers, someone else had done it and the kid traced him around to the bedroom closet for some reason.  Then his bed.  "I'm going to have him eaten if she didn't," he decided.

The kid and his father both laughed.  "Thank you," the boy said, bouncing out beside his father, babbling the whole way.

John called Rome.  "It's John, in Miami.  I want everything the bitch stole from my House while I was in Sunnydale and I want her removed," he said bluntly.  "Before I remove her."  The Maitre that served The Three complained.  "I don't care!" he shouted.  "She and her minions.  Yes, she did, and I was in Sunnydale in that battle."  The Maitre gasped and said that the higher ups wanted a report.  "They can get it when I get my shit back," he said bluntly.  "And at no other time.  Also, you might wanna tell them that this favoritism of their little pets needs to stop.  They're causing more problems than they're worth.  Especially that one.  So I'll get it back when?"  He listened.  "That would be acceptable.  Thank you," he said firmly, hanging up.  He resisted the urge to throw the phone.  He hated replacing phones.  He turned and found someone standing there.  "Calleigh."

"John.  Nice to see you."

He shrugged.  "I was dead."


He moved his hair.  "Not surgical."  She stared at him.  He stared back.  "By the way, you're still trespassing," he pointed out dryly.

"I sincerely doubt they'll arrest me."

"I don't."  He stared at her again.  She growled.  He smirked.  "Cute.  Really.  So, did Virginia or her minion Stetler tell you?  I heard him but I haven't decided to have something eat him yet."

"You know cannibals?"

"Yeah, a few."  She gave him the oddest look.  He just smirked.  "Want to go out with me tonight?  I need some stress relief before I snap and kill."

"Someone else this time I hope?"  He glared.  "What the hell are you playing at, John Hagen?"

He walked her over to something in his bookcase and pulled out the birth certificate, handing it over.  "Things that aren't always what they seem to be, Calleigh."

She stared then at him.  "You can't be!  You're not that old!"  She handed it back.  "That's got to be your grandfather or something."

"No, my grandfather was born in Venice.   He was the third son of that House."  She looked so confused.  "C'mon.  We're going out."  He walked her out of his bedroom then came back to change clothes into something more casual.  If he showed up in his old clothes at the bar people would worry.  They were probably already near a panic so he had to go out and calm them down anyway.  He drove her to the bar he liked, walking her inside.  Everyone stopped chatting to stare at him.  "I'd hate to be Cleveland," he said bluntly.  "Or be overrun in LA."  Most of the demons sighed.

One cleared her throat.  "We heard that the Red Witch did something major with the bloodline, Lord?"

"Yup.  They're mostly moving to Cleveland too.  Then they'll fan out again."  They all stared.  "She's not sure yet.  Any that suddenly pop up near a House needs to get sent to the main group."  He put Calleigh down on a barstool and got them both a beer.  "Any other questions?"

"How long before we should tell our kin to leave Cleveland?" the bartender asked.  "There's no House there, Lord."

"I know but there may be a solution.  Virginia and her stories actually had a point.  The two half kids?  One's a hunter training with Ezra."  They all snickered at that.  "And the other's on the slayer's team."  The bartender stared at him in awe.  "I heard the rumors," he said dryly.  "He'll be doing some traveling and I promised I'd introduce him to others.  Also," he said more loudly.  "If *anyone* sees Virginia in *my* city, shoot the bitch and throw her in the 'Glades, people.  She knocked out my housekeepers and stole from the House when I sent her off.  She's got a minion in the department too for those in there.  We don't like him very much either since he helped with the B&E plus theft.  Am I clear?"  They all nodded.  "Good.  Then celebrate almost all of us made it out alive and toast the eight girls and six others who didn't."  They sent up a toast and it got more relaxed in there.

She stared at him.  "Lord?" she asked quietly.

He nodded.  "I basically oversee the area.  Keep it calm, settle disputes.  Greet and pat the new kids born in the area or who move here so they're one of us."  He sipped his beer.  "It's not a bad life but I went fully human for almost twenty-two years because I felt I needed to.  Then I ran into you and I understood why."  He sighed, looking around and pointing at someone them motioning them over.  "Tell her what you told me about the other Houses."

"About the ones looking to take her out to make you weaker?" he asked.  "Or the one in Tampa that helped plant evidence against you and your former partner?"  She gasped, staring at him.  He nodded, smiling a bit.  "The one in Tampa is old and still wants more area than he can logically hold."

"Get it right, he hates me because I'm young, tough, and I'd rather shoot his ass than deal with him," John snorted.

"That as well, Lord.  He is still in the hospital."


She stared at him.  "You mean...  You're like a mafia don?"

"Without the crime," he agreed with a smile.  "Miami and a few areas outside the city are my area.  I protect it if something happens.  I handle the problems in the underground community.  I keep things calm, out of general notice, and usually running well until that damn salen bitch decided to mess with things because she got jealous of you."  He saluted her with his beer.  "I'm still going to kill her some day."

"The Three favor her," the other demon said weakly.

"She robbed the house, and I told them, they're not real pleased.  If I have to go to Rome to get it back, so be it."  He looked at him, getting a smile.  "I told Max to have her minion eaten."

"Her boss does not appreciate that order.  I heard rumors of her and the Maitre having words as well."

"Max!" he bellowed, bringing her from the back room.  "You and Tony are doing what?"

"His boss," she snorted.  "He wanted to know why I called his agent to ask his opinion on the difference in orders."  She spotted Calleigh.  "Aw, shit."  She walked into the back and came out.  "Stetler is so dead," she told her.

"Let the swamp leeches have indigestion," John said dryly.  "They deserve each other."  She smiled at that.  He smirked back.  He looked at Calleigh.  "Any House has three main advisors by tradition.  The Salen, who is no longer welcome in my house outside a few of them.  A Maitre.  They take care of the assets, run the house for me, that stuff.  And a Mediator.  Like their title, they negotiate, all that stuff.  She's my mediator."

"Oh," she said weakly, looking at her.  "This is very strange."

"Eeeh, strange is relative.  This is letting me get away from the eight-tentacled demon in the back who wanted to switch from penny ante to strip poker so he could try to grope me again."

"Let me," John said, going back there.  He walked in and stared at the demon.  "No, you can't have Max.  I'm the only one who can sell her into marriage.  Got it?"  The demon nodded quickly.  "Good!  No illegal groping.  You know what no means!"  He walked out again.  "Problem solved, Max.  Go back to earning lunch money."

She swatted him on the arm.  "I have a very good salary, thank you.  I'm getting DVD money."  She went back in there once he had laughed.

"In-joke," he explained with a smile.  "My Maitre, Tony, is a major movie hound.  Mostly in noir but he's got about six hundred DVD's I think."

"Hmm.  Quotes them?"  He nodded.   "I've met guys like that."  She sipped her beer.  "Demons?"

"Did you think they were odd looking for other reasons?" he asked dryly.  "We're not aliens.  We were here first."  She glared.  He stared back.  "I know, it's shocking.  Most of us still aren't evil and there's people who take out the evil ones if someone like me can't."  He sat down again, looking down at his leg when it was touched.  "Child, what are you doing in here?"

"Mommy sent me in after you, Lord.  The local Healers are having problems tonight.  She's trying to deliver and she can't because of the problems."

"Which healer?"

"Both of them.  She had to leave one to go to the other."

"I'll be there.  Which is she at right now?"


"I'll be there."  She nodded and got escorted out by the bouncer.  "C'mon.  I've got to handle the young idiots again."  He left with her, taking her to the healer's.  "Merri, problems?" he asked as he walked in.  Two fighting people whimpered.  "Yeah, I heard.  You're keeping mothers from delivering why?"

"She should be at home!" one shouted.  "It is our way or the egg is damaged and not worthy!"

"That is *so* old," he said dryly.  "Most of your clan hasn't been born at home in at least three generations.  Not since healers climbed in numbers.  If you keep bothering her, you'll kill her.  So stop it!"  She flinched back away from him.  "Your elder and I are going to have a discussion."  She stomped off.  The other was trying to merge into the wall.  Usually he could do that but he must be too scared today.  "Your problem was?"

"They are not treating everyone equally," he whined.  "My daughter cannot get help here."

"His daughter has something we can't treat and we told him who to go to," one of the healers called from the back hallway.  "He says we have to be able to."

John pinched the bridge of his nose.  "Why can't you drive to Orlando?" he asked him.  "Or hell, take Greyhound."  The man fled.  He walked back there, looking at the mother.  "Your daughter is very precious."  She beamed.  "Even if she did come up to me in the bar."

"As long as no one touched her and she didn't drink, I'll be pleased."

"Who was that?"

"My sister-in-law."

"Ah.  I'll talk to the elder.  Are you all right?"

"It's turned."

"Ow.  I'll leave you with the healers.  Merri, any others?"

"Not yet," she said dryly.  "Where?"

"Cleveland is the new one.  LA has refugees."

"Ow," she muttered.  "I feel sorry for healers in both areas.  Go.  Leave my hospital."  He smiled and left with Calleigh.  She shook her head.  "Let's turn this egg."

John took her to the elder's house, staring at his wife when she opened the door.  He could hear screaming.  "Her sister-in-law is in there for a legitimate reason.  Merri and her kind do not need the stress.  He can paddle her ass or I will."

"I will get him for you, Lord.  Would you like to step in?"

"Thank you."  He walked in and nodded Calleigh back to the car.  She went.  He looked at the older demon coming out.  "I'm supposing she whined at you already?"

"She has, Lord."  He bowed a bit.

"Quit that."  He smirked at him.  "They were disrupting a clinic badly enough that her daughter came to find me at the bar."  The older demon winced.  "Exactly.  We all know that tradition hasn't been upheld in generations so whatever her problem is, stop it for me?  Because she needed the healer.  Merri said so."

"There were problems?" he asked quietly.

"Breech positioning."

"That has killed many before healers got to them," he agreed.  "I will calm her screeching down.  She interrupted my dinner.  It's our anniversary."

John patted him on the shoulder.  "I don't want to hear about your dinner but happy anniversary.  I've always liked you for being sensible."

He smiled.  "I try but my wife reminds me of it sometimes."

"Yeah, I'm sure I'd get that if I had one too."  He smiled at the wife since she was giggling.  "Anyway, also some news.  New one is in Cleveland."

"I'll have our people leave."

"The girls, all the girls, are going there.  Rosenburg activated the slayers."  His eyes went wide and he started to pant.  "They're doing a staggered joining there then they'll probably farm out once they're trained more."  The demon moaned.  "Summers is still alive with Lehane and they're in charge with Summers' watcher."

"That's at least some good news," he admitted.  "The warping one?"

"Remember Virginia going off on those mythical half offspring?"  His wife laughed but nodded.  "They're real.  Harris is the half-Lord."  They both whimpered.  "So he'll be doing some traveling and training soon.  Virginia is not allowed anywhere near Miami ever again.  She stole from the House while I was gone.  Her minion is on my shit list," he said bluntly.  "Especially since he told my former girlfriend."

"I saw her.  She seems like a very quiet human," the wife offered.

"She's still in shock.  She'll try to beat me later."  He looked at the husband.  "If anyone sees Virginia anywhere in town, she's to be killed on sight.  You can search her for things she's stolen but she is an enemy of this House now."

The elder nodded.  "The City Council will be told of such and I will calm that one down."

"Good.  Because I said you should spank her because she was screaming at the clinics."  He smiled and patted him again.  "Have a better night and celebrate, man.  You deserve it for being married this long."  He left, going to take her back to his place.  She was still staring.  "I didn't want you to freak out over them," he said quietly.  "Their kind are flesh eaters."  She shuddered.  "They go to plastic surgeons to get theirs for the most part."

"Still gross.  Are you really going to have Stetler eaten?"

"I haven't decided yet.  I know he serves a purpose by making sure Horatio can't sit right thanks to his nose up his ass, but I'm not sure."  She snickered quietly.  He let her inside.  "Wolfe, what are you doing cleaning?" he demanded when they ran into him.

"I was waiting to give you a report, Lord, and I saw the dust.  Sorry, my OCD...  Hi, Calleigh."

"Ryan.  You knew?"

"Yeah.  From birth."

"You don't seem different."

"I'm a bit empathic.  If there's too many strong emotions around me, I get sucked into it sometimes.  What is Boa Vista, Lord?"

"I still haven't seen her," he admitted.  "Bring her to me tomorrow."

"Yes, sir."  He handed over the report.  "On the six stupid beings who decided to have an honor duel on the beach earlier today."

"I'm sure Alexx and Horatio were thrilled," he said sarcastically.

"They're all hidden very well and are taking deals," he said.  "They were fighting over the honor of their drug dealing business."  John looked at him.  He nodded.  "They thought one of them had cheated the others on profits."

"Well...."  He smirked, handing back the report.  "Let 'em rot."

"I am, Lord, and that's your copy."

"Thanks, Wolfe.  Bring her here for dinner tomorrow."  He nodded and left.  He went to get them another beer while steering her to the back yard.  The housekeepers were up and fussing.  "Wolfe was dusting for you."

"He's a sweet boy," one said, going to finish that task.

"Very helpful," the other agreed happily.  "Do you need dinner to go with the disgusting human liquor, Lord?"

"No, we're good.  It's only the second beer."  He walked her outside and got her settled in on the bench out there while he sat in his normal seat.  She stared at him.  He stared back.  "What?"

"You're not the John I knew," she said quietly.

"I am.  I just hid this part of me from everyone on the job.  I have almost no influence on the normal crooks and bastards we deal with, Calleigh.  Not like it would've made my time in uniform any easier."

"You never told me."

"That's because I knew you'd freak out and exposing you this way meant that you could've been a target."  He took a drink.  "You wouldn't be the first person used as a pawn to try to take down a House.  I would not allow that.  Between that threat getting stronger and the problems Virginia was causing by spreading rumors about me being dirty to get me out of my human life, I didn't really have a choice.  Max tried to talk me out of it for weeks.  Then there was really no choice."  She slumped, nodding.  "I wish like hell you hadn't found out.  It would've been easier on you."

She looked at him.  "They won't come after me.  Horatio protects me."

"There's a few of the bad ones, who do things that I stop, who want to take him out too," he pointed out.  "Especially since a lot of them jumped to the wrong conclusion that I was screwing his brother."  He took another drink while she giggled.  "Again, Virginia.  She's an attention whore.  Which is why you now know."

"Is she compelling Stetler?"

"No.  She can't do that.  Draw him in, treat him like her lover, that stuff."  Someone came out and he looked.  "Your ex is a dead woman if she comes back."

"Hell, I nearly burned her to death, Lord, I'll hold the thing down."  He stared at their guest then at his Lord.  "Her doing?"  John nodded.  "I'll beat her myself if she shows up."

"Good.  Get all the stuff she stole from the house."

"Gladly.  Let me call someone over there."  He went inside to do that.

"Virginia's former husband," he told her.  "She decided to toss him over because he wanted kids."


"Yeah, house fire," he said dryly.  "His people?  Very temperish when they want to be."  He got up to get them another beer and came out to sit down and hand her one.  "So...."

"This is a bit strange," she said.  "Why didn't you tell me?"

He looked at her.  "You were the brightest point in my life, Calleigh.  If I had thought that you could've accepted it and me, there's things I can do to prolong your life so it'll match mine of a few centuries."  She shuddered, shaking her head.  "I know you wouldn't accept it.  Then she started to get jealous that I was paying attention to the human life for a while.  So she started to arrange things.  Like our undercover going so very wrong."  She stared at him.  "She's the one who started the rumors about Ray and I being dirty cops."

"Which is what got Stetler onto Horatio."

"He has his own problems with the man beyond that, but yes."  He sipped his new beer.  Virginia's ex apparently disappeared.  "He's another man with a reckoning coming.  Him telling you goes well beyond the boundaries of his duty or his job and goes all the way to rotten human being."

"Someone will get him for what he's doing sometime," she told him firmly.

He snorted.  "Not like I'm going to walk up to him and shoot him, honey.  That's over with too soon."  She glared.  He stared back.  "What?"

"You all but ordered him gone."

"They can run him out of my area," he assured her.  She gave him that exasperated with your denseness look he used to hate getting.  He still hated getting it.  "It wasn't an order.  I can't make anyone do anything like that.  I can put out that I am highly displeased and if someone takes up that displeasure, that's on them.  He's not one of us that I know of.  I can order Virginia's death.  She's one of the community.  He's unfortunately human."  He stared back.  She huffed.  "We cannot let threats like this keep going.  She can expose all sorts of things to normals.  Can you imagine what someone like the Delkos would do if they found out about all this?"

"Holy crusades," she sighed.

"And then some.  His father's still a revolutionary underneath it all.  Some of them would start random attacks.  It's bad enough there's hunters out there who can take us out.  There's plenty that will hear 'half demon' and snort, thinking they're just possessed and kill them while trying to 'save the human'."  He took another drink.  "Those who have to hide any funny appendages, colors, or anything like that know that if a hunter sees them or it's reported to one, they can die for that.  Some will not bother us but a lot....  They're not going to be happy that we exist."

"Are they doing it for a religious reason?"

"Most, no.   Most of them are doing it because someone bad, some bad demon who's usually not even within the underground, took out someone they love or ruined their lives.  See, there's big D demons and there's little d demons.  Little d demons are like me.  We're born this way.  We're mostly decent beings.  We relate back to human structures and ways for the most part.  Though there are some hive cultures and the like.  Some packs too."  She nodded.  "Then there's the supposedly mythical big D demons.  The ones who want to take over the world, who possess people, who do evil things.  Hunters go after them mostly. If they catch some of us...."

"Why were you out of town?"

"One of the Demons was trying to take out the world.  It was an apocalypse battle," he said quietly.  He looked at her.  "There's stranger things than you could ever know, Calleigh.  Hellmouths, slayers, all that, aren't usually something we deal with.  Hellmouths occasionally because a lot of us can hide in plain sight there.  It can do bad things to us like drive us to blood lust but mostly we can hide easier there.  Well, there had been one in California."

"That town?" she guessed.  "The one on the news?"

"Yeah."  He finished that beer and took her spare to drink.  "Out there, a major evil thing got released.  It took months to do and a resurrection to start it off.  Unfortunately a witch being selfish in her addiction lied to get the group to bring back someone on their team.  Someone important."  She shuddered again, curling up some.  "None of us blame more than the witch for her lapse of sense.  Though, things were getting bad so she came up with that idea."  He took another drink.

"When this thing got released, her minions went out to take out anyone who could stop her.  Including a lot of young women who sometime in the future would probably be called to fight her sort of evil.  There's a whole mystically chosen line of hunters.  The current head one is the one who was brought back.  Now there's a crapload more of them called and able to do things."  He took another drink.  "It came down to the point where she was going to get out and take over the rest of humanity.  They've been fighting her but this was a final battle.  Because if they couldn't get her down, they weren't going to be able to save anyone.  The battle was long, messy, very bad."

She stared at him, reaching over to touch his arm.  He gave her a faint smile.  "I haven't seen battles that bad even in the Civil War, Calleigh.  But we won.  And in winning, the portal she was in sucked.  A lot.  Fortunately we had spent the week before the battle getting people out of the town, demon and human.  So they're now heading to Cleveland.  That's where the next hellmouth is opening.  We all feel a lot of pity for Cleveland but announcing it means that the clans that would be most affected by that extra dimensional energy can leave before they go psychotic and have to be taken down while the ones who like to hide in it can move in, quietly set things up so they have a peaceful underground.  All that."

"The last one was a town, right?"

"Yeah, small town.  You could run across it in about two hours at a normal jog.  That one was set up specifically so it would draw the wrong sort of demons to give the one who set it up power.  Then again the slayer took him out when he changed to a huge pure demon."

"Big D?" she asked.

"Definitely.  And huge too.  I heard about ninety feet."  She was giving him an odd look.  "Way back when, before you guys were done grunting and pointing in your furs, demons actually ruled this world too.  Higher courts, bigger demons.  The pure ones, the absolute top of the food chain, were about split between an essence sort of demon and big snake looking demons."  She shuddered.  "Yeah.  Then there were other species.  Some interbred.  Some got bred down.  Some species came from other dimensions.  My kind did."  She looked at him.

"Not that far back.  We showed up in the BC times.  The lower ones were unfocused, often preyed on or taken as useful slaves that could be worked to death.  So when we showed up and we showed we had the right stuff to organize, keep safe, all that, we started setting up Houses.  A lot of the current species are remnants of those old times.  They served back then too.  The big D demons that we presently have are either those that are coming back, mostly the essence ones, or the ones like that guy who wanted to be so he did a lot of shit to get himself turned into one.  If he had managed to live, we'd all be dead and flaming piles of snake crap."

"Eww," she complained.

"Literally," he told her.

"Still disgusting, John."

"Sorry, but truth.  This last huge evil was one of those in essence.  She/he/it called itself the First Evil."  She stared.  "Her minions took out about eighty or ninety percent of those who could stop her.  When I heard the future slayers here in town got taken out by her minions I started to look at what took her out, then told others.  We helped get the girls there, and the youngest to safety with another House.  Then those of us who showed up and could helped the slayers there fight her.  It really wasn't pretty but most of us survived it somehow."

"Are you injured?"

"A few bigger cuts.  I had them healed.  The healers in LA came to tend to everyone.  Some of the slayers got a bit freaked out but it was helpful."  He looked at her.  "Healers are like docs but some of them have touch healing gifts, some are better at herbal cures, that stuff.  They can still mostly do surgery.  There didn't used to be so many but a few years ago there was a mass exodus off another plane due to a war.  We got a lot of healers who showed up with orphans.  A lot of Houses set up areas for the orphans and only asked that they use their gifts in the community.  We got nine new healers from that and about seventy new orphans."  He yawned a bit.

"You say Houses like it's capitalized."

"It is.  A House is an official title.  The same as I'm called the Lord of the House."

"Oh."  She considered it.  "How many Houses are there?"

"Officially recognized?  Sixty-eight in this country."  She gaped.  He smirked.  "This is officially known as the House of the South.  When we set up out here, we set up four main houses.  Denver, Chicago, Miami, and Manassas."


"The ones who set it up didn't think there was much land past the Rockies.  So that's the House of the West.  Then we split off as more and more demons came over and we had kids.  Then there's the ones who set up Houses but it's not run by a Lord, so therefore not officially recognized though they're stable and we usually like them and respect them.  There's some set up by demons who think they can hold an area.  Usually after they're killed for being idiots and assholes, a council is formed."  She snorted.  "There's about an extra hundred of those."

"Why not New York?"

"There is one in the city and one outside the city.  New York area had a lot of people there already and most demons would want to move somewhere more sparse in population.  This was back when it was all Native Americans anyway."  She nodded she understood that.  "They also realized that being near the coast, it was a likely immigration point and selling port.  Which we'd like to avoid for things like plagues."

"Good idea I suppose."

"Manassas' Lord apparently had a vision and got a hell of a headache so he decided that was his House there."  He took another drink.  "The House in Denver is presently in the control of a very young Lord.  He's in the lower half of his mid-twenties and the whole time in Sunnydale they all decided to piss the kid off about his age and inexperience.  He has more advisors.  His ATF team is mostly his house staff and advisors.  His Salen is a very good one.  I would've let him come here in a heartbeat if he wanted to come to Miami  after being in Atlanta's FBI.  He's got a human team leader at the ATF that's meaner than most people and more stubborn than any mule ever born when he wants to be.  He's a good man though and he'll protect his people.  He keeps trying to step in the kid's way if there's something bad going on."

"Will he have this problem you could've gifted me with?" she asked quietly.

"Yup.  When Chris growled, complained, and tried to turn it down, they told him they had taken a vote and either he took it or they were going to tie him up and hand him to the next person who wanted to kidnap a team member and then wait a few extra days to save him.  Then their salen was going to make every single demon in the city hit on him.  He decided to accept it."  She smirked at that.  "They weren't joking.  They would've tormented him into it.  They're a very tight team.  Very family like.  Though they squabble like anything.  One fussed at the kid over his breakfast one morning until we all glared at him.  He's got a mild healing gift and is apparently trying to make them all eat better.  We pointed out it was going to be a real battle, to let the kid eat whatever he wanted because it might be his last meal.  The guy got the point and went to call his girlfriend."  He finished the beer.

"What happens if something like that battle happens in Cleveland?"

"That's why we all feel really sorry for Cleveland.  Hellmouths tend to draw the worst things to it."

"Can't they make it not the hellmouth?  Switch it?  Close whatever?"

"A hellmouth is a thin spot between dimensions, Calleigh.  There's really no way to fix that because it's radiating all that extra energy.  With the last one closed, that one in Cleveland became the strongest; it's the thinnest and the energy that was escaping before has to find a new way out.  Some from hell dimensions, and some of those are really nice places to live, but others are regular dimensions."  She gave him an odd look.  "You've heard the saying 'hell is what you make it'?"  She nodded.  "Well, hell dimensions can be of many types.  For some, a hell dimension is one where there's an ongoing and eternal war between humans and demons.  There's some that've been ruined by the demons who won.  There's some that're at peace with humanity there.  They coexist, know about each other, all that.  There's one that has no music.  It's considered a hell dimension for that and because if they catch humans there, they're taken in as slaves and called cows."


"There's a few with no sea life.  There's some with no vegetables and herbivores consider that a hell dimension."

"Okay, so it's your definition of hell," she decided.  He nodded, smiling some.  "So there's a thin spot between all these dimensions there?"

"Yup, one that people try to open now and then to bring their brethren here.  Some higher magic users have tried to siphon off the power for major rituals.  All sorts of neat stuff.  Including a military unit trying to kill us from what I heard.  They got taken down and now they're in Homeland."

"That may explain some of them," she muttered.  He nodded, smirking at her.  "Fine.  So they can't do anything about it?  Shore it up or anything?"

"No.  It's just a defect in the weave of the wall between the worlds.  A thin spot.  Some may have been worn thinner, like the knees of your pants get.  Sunnydale was one of those.  Cleveland's still young.  It was slightly bad before but now that Sunnydale's closed, that's the most open of all of them.  So now there'll be people trying to make that spot wear thinner and therefore release more power."

"What about all the people?  Cleveland's a normal city.  A real city."

"Yup, it is."  He looked at her.  "Sunnydale ended up growing an 'I don't see anything' attitude.  I've never been to another one that was active.  Sunnydale was active for almost two hundred years.  I'm guessing the power will drive more people out.  That it'll probably up birth defects from the radiation effects.  The area around it will probably be mostly clear already.  That sort of energy will drive humans and animals off.  There's already a good demon community there but no House.  I'm hoping the new half-Lord we just found will set up one there.  He's working with the slayers and it could help a lot."

"So you guys can have kids with humans?"

"Yup.  Though he's half-Salen."

"Can that cause problems?"

"Looking at his dating life as the girls around him told it?  Yup."  She smirked at him.  "Salen can do what most people attribute to succuba.  They're bred down from the top lines of succuba really.  They can draw you in.  They don't feed on you, but they will draw you.  For the Houses they're like friend finders but they're also expected to take out the enemies, including by spy methods if necessary."  She shuddered.  "Yeah, and Virginia was not doing her job very well.  He's dated...some really tragic women," he said, leaving it there.  "He's hopefully going to be down soon and I'll help him with some training then show him where the Lords are when he's going to hunt down the remaining slayers to help get them trained."

"That's good," she said quietly.  "How is he going to train that other side?"

"There's good salen out there who can.  Methos is one of our oldest.  We have no idea why he's so old.  They usually only live about six to nine hundred years."  She gaped.  He nodded.  "Lords are generally three to five hundred."  He smiled.  "Depending on how quiet our areas are."  He shifted and crossed his feet.  "There's a few good salen who can teach him; if he's going near a House it'd probably do him good to stop in, talk to them, get the local lay of the land.  I know most every demon in Miami.  Either on sight or by type of demon.  We keep records of what species are in our areas and maps of the areas.  It'll do him good."

"Good.  Where is he going?"

"I don't know.  I'm guessing probably the less developed part of the world.  The ones in Europe were probably more caught by the Bringers.  So maybe Africa, Asia.  Maybe South America."

"Because it'd be easier for them to hide in their native environment but harder to get here," she said.  He nodded, smiling a little bit.  "Is he a nice kid?"

"I guess that depends on if he likes you."

"True.  I'd like to meet him?"

"If he wants."

"Thank you."  She stood up and looked at him then slapped him.  "I owe you about ten thousand more of those for what you did and put me through."

"Honey, if I had seen any other way I would have," he said quietly, staring at her.  "Really I would have.  I could've just disappeared but I didn't want you to ache with the unanswered questions and those rumors.  It was the only way I saw."

"I still owe you more of those."

"I know.  Are you fit to drive?"

"I can cab."

"You can have a guest room," he offered, standing up and walking her inside.  He opened a door then closed it and moved on.  "Tony's room.  He just switched this last trip in."  He let her into another room.  "There you go."

"Does Max live here?"

"She could but she says I'm grumpy and annoying if she's in too much contact."  He walked off happier.  "I'll be in my own room, upstairs."

"Thank you, John," she called quietly.  He smiled back at her before going up the stairs.  She went in to shower and lay down in her panties and bra for the night.  She had a lot to think about but the beers would make sure her mind was going to sleep soon without too many nightmares.

John laid down and thought about it but decided he didn't want to get that disappointed look shot at him again so he wouldn't directly order Stetler's removal from life.  Just encourage people to run him off and let the other Houses know he was an idiot who liked to play those sort of games.  That way he couldn't get a job anywhere near another House.

The End, for now.