Note: If you skipped the last one, Willow has been making wishes. She captured a wish demon and compelled her by magic to make her wishes come true. She was taking Xander out to keep him safe, thinking that it would help everyone, and make her be the girl she used to be. Some of them were horrific so I know that people didn't want to read that. If you didn't, Xander got free of the last one and found a wish demon to counter her, wishing he was there to stop her. He had to shoot the wish demon Willow had captured to get her to stop. The wish demon helping Xander said so. This goes from where others find out. After all, wishing only takes a minute.
Demon Criminal Investigative Services: Aftermath.
Leo appeared. "What happened?" Xander pointed. Then he passed out. "Hell." He called another Elder. "What happened? I got a frantic call. Xander's full of bad magic again. He's been on the hellmouth? She's been...." A wish demon appeared. "You are?"
"The one Xander helped free in her last wish universe, White Lighter." Leo swallowed. "Willow was trying to get back to the happy girl she was before the hunting and the magic got to her. Before she lost Tara, before she went to the dealer. To do that she took out the lynchpin. He remembers each and every horrific event he had to live through in at least five sub-realm universes. She went off the deep end by capturing one of us and forcing her to comply. Xander had to shoot the demon to get her free and stop Willow." She looked down then at him. "He was going to ask for help for her. Her broken dreams and his both call out to me to help this time." She faded out again.
Leo looked at his boss. "Can we?"
"We must. Before someone else steps in." The boy moaned so they removed them to the Elder's Council chambers. "Brothers and sisters, we have a grave problem," he announced, setting the girl down. "This witch ...."
"Made multiple wishes that created multiple alternate realities trying to get out of the demons hunting business," Leo finished. "He is the one she chose to have removed, repeatedly. The wish demon that appeared said at least five times."
They all hissed. "Which witch is that?" one of the female members asked.
"This is Willow Rosenburg," Leo said. "We've had to help her before. I've asked for a White Lighter for her twice before. The boy acted to bring her back out of the darkness in the past when she tried to pull up an ancient temple in her grief."
They nodded. They knew of that one and had debated it but the boy had stepped in quickly enough with help from the coven in England. It was a miscalculation. "She will heal?"
"I want her to know exactly what she did," Xander said quietly, blinking at Leo. "I needed that nap?"
"You passed out, I didn't do it," he offered, helping him sit up. "Why?"
"Because if she doesn't have a reason, she won't regret, won't feel guilt, and she'll try it again." They all nodded at that wisdom. "She's seen the darkness and chose to go here today anyway. I don't know if it's too much power. I don't know if it's that she feels we abandoned her. I have no idea why but she needs help. The Devon coven tried really hard. They were helping her again because she was feeling unsuitable urges by their definition. I..." He trailed off. "The wishes she was casting ended up killing multiple earths." They shuddered. "She has great power and little common sense sometimes. I love Willow like my sister. I would die if it would save everyone. In this case, those two are at odds and I can't do this on my own."
"We would not ask you to. Your power is not of ours," one of the Elders said.
Xander nodded. "I know. I need to lock it back down."
"You need to have it leeched out," Leo corrected. "You're hellmouth tainted again, Xander." He groaned. "Where were you when she started?"
"On a plane with Doctor Chase, bringing back to the infirmary. Is he okay? She didn't make it crash, right?"
"No, she didn't," Leo said after checking. "He's confused because you disappeared from right in front of him." Xander relaxed. "Let's take him to the academy and let them detox him?" They nodded. "Thank you."
"Would Paige do so?" one of the elders asked.
"Paige does best helping the young," Leo told them. "She does help Dawn already. That would put her in conflict and spread her too thin."
"Dawn's okay?" Xander asked.
"She's fine, Xander." He led him off, taking him to the magical school. "Not quite Hogwarts," he joked, getting a weak smile. They got him with a teacher and she got to work bottling the energy she was pulling off him. It was not safe to be released. "Piper said once he's got void style magic," Leo offered. She smiled and worked it that way instead. It'd be faster. When he was done, he was limp and tired. But he was reclosed off and free of the bad energies.
At the same time as Xander first disappeared Sam screamed as he grabbed his head, bending over as the images hit him. Someone came running to help him. They got him sitting, getting him some water to drink.
"Sam, what's going on?" Don asked. "Tell me. I need to know." Sam whimpered and went still then another hit. They went that way for almost an hour.
Dawn stiffened and screamed in class, passing out as the visions hit her head. The slayers in there with her got her to the school nurse and called the base. Dawn wasn't a seer, there was no telling what was going on or if it was an attack. They got John, who said Sam was having them too. To bring her home. He'd send a guard since none of them drove. John went to check on his son. "Dawn's having them too," he reported to Don Flack.
Don looked at him. "Where's Dean? If two of the four get something the others usually get carry over."
"In town." He went to call. "Dean, are you okay?" He smiled. "Headache? Sam and Dawn are both having strong visions they're stuck in." He listened, then he nodded. "Pull over, rest, see if you can see what it is. We need to know." Dean did as ordered and he waited, listening to him say what he was seeing. He went pale. "Guys, there's a wish verse going. Xander go sucked in because he was the focus." They all stared. "Dean's seeing what's going on there and it's not pretty." Sam shook his head frantically, whimpering. "Get here, Dean. I want a full report." He hung up, coming over to help Sam to a more flat surface. "Where is Xander?"
"Going to talk to House and Chase," one of the guards called. "Chase called and said he'll be landing in about an hour." They all nodded. "And that Xander disappeared from the plane."
"That witch is going to get it," John said bluntly. They got Sam down to the infirmary and John started the IV, getting a smirk from Daniel. "I took the medic training. Came in handy." Dawn was carried in and he started one on her too. Dean came in and pulled Daniel away to tell him. "Son?"
"Dad, it's bad. The first one started with us not being there for the invasion and went down from there to a resistance movement." He looked at Daniel, going back to making a report. When it finally ended both Dawn and Sam were passed out. Sweaty, trembling, whimpering in their sleep, but out. Dean looked at him. "Two had no people. One had a nuclear bomb. One wasn't bad, but it was going to be there soon. She kept wishing for a spot where Xander could draw back from the hunting to make everyone happier, him safer, and her go back to normal."
"Shit," John snarled. "She's where?"
D'Hoffryn appeared, clearing his throat. "He found one trapped in the last world."
"Where he had been the slave of a demon for over six years," Dean agreed.
"True. He made a wish that he be there to stop her. He had to shoot my vengeance demon to get everyone free. He's in front of the Elders being healed." He looked at the cabinet then at Daniel. "He will need to see the other doctor about something."
"Peeing problem?" Dean asked sarcastically.
"The injury in the first life resonates." Dean shuddered. D'Hoffryn left.
"Injury?" John asked.
"He, Sammy, and a few other guys were the resistance movement in LA after we failed to stop the invasion, Dad. The slayers were all dead from the explosions the Watchers laid." John shuddered at that. "Exactly. They got it down to four of them and about fifty demons before Riley Fucking Finn showed up with a gou'ald." Daniel whimpered at that. "They were taking the opportunity to invade. From what I remember, Jack joked something about sending the demons there but they ended up using the weapons Riley brought on his helicopter to close the portal then went to help at the base, where Xander got shot about here," he said, pointing at it. "With a staff weapon at close range. Under ten feet."
"That would destroy it," Daniel said quietly. Dean nodded. "He lost it?"
"He died, Daniel. In that one he died in the infirmary after handing Sammy the scythe and telling him to find the next slayer called."
John slumped. "Are there better ones?"
"One was okay. Buffy never got brought back. They were leading up to an apocalypse of a different sort. He had to find Brenda, activate her, and then get her with us. Then he got himself out of it because he went to see Missouri to see what was going on."
John nodded. "Smart of him."
"Very." They looked at them. "I so want to make my own wish."
"Me too," Dawn said quietly. "Can I do that?" D'Hoffryn appeared. "I..." She yawned. "I wish Xander didn't keep the memories, D'Hoffryn. It'll destroy him."
Dean coughed. "For the souls that got destroyed here, namely Xander's, I wish that Willow's magic had been taken by Tara for six months on Halloween but she still knows what would have happened, in gory, tri-color, living it like she was there detail."
"A spirit can not take someone's powers," D'Hoffryn told him.
Dean shrugged. "We had a robot for her by five that morning. Metal but still a body for her soul. She's using it to help Abby with the unicorns."
D'Hoffryn looked then nodded. "If at all possible. It goes well with the punishment they were going to choose."
"I so wish Willow had a white lighter and none of us had to go through this," Sam moaned. "Because, God, I'm never going to forget the sight of a nuclear bomb going off when Buffy went off the deep end after the Initiative mess."
"All quite possible," he decided, going to talk to the Elders. "A wish has been struck and granted." They all stared. "That her powers be taken from her as of Halloween but that she know exactly what she had done as if she had lived through it like the boy had. That no one else need know that it happened, and that she have a white lighter so no one will ever have to go through it."
"It goes well with our decision," the Elder in charge agreed. "Are you granting it?"
"Yes. Wish granted."
"Her white lighter will be Morgana Penrose, formerly of the Devon Coven," the head Elder intoned. The world flashed and was as it should be again. Without the pain and misery in a few souls but one knowing what pain and misery she had caused. "Six months without her power should give Morgana a good enough leeway to get her back under control."
The others agreed, going to check on their own charges. Just in case they got hurt.
Daniel got a call from Jack the next day. "Jack, what's wrong?" He listened. "You had them trying to attack the base? Again? From the surface this time?" He smiled. "I'm glad Xander got the message to you and the guys told you it had happened while in lockdown so they managed it without you, Jack. No, we've been having problems. Xander's unconscious for some reason in the infirmary." He nodded. "Thanks." He hung up and went to check. House had flown back when he had heard. Commercial and paid his own way. "Any change?"
"Some. He's coming closer. I want to know what happened."
Leo appeared with a yawn. "Sorry, had to borrow some of his energy to remake the memories when they wouldn't be suppressed." They all glared. "Willow decided she wanted to be the girl she was before she found her magic addiction and decided to be *nice* by letting Xander have an out from hunting. Did he ever tell you about Cordelia's wishverse?"
Daniel nodded slowly but House nodded more firmly. "He did. We had a long talk over beers one night about that."
"She did the same thing." House shuddered. "Six times, House." That got a horrified look. "She was casting one last one but he never went there. He lived through five of them in about thirty-two minutes, but it took about eight years there." House moaned. "One of them he got out right before the nuclear bomb went off. Dawn, Sam, and Dean all wished to help prevent it but he still knew. His soul was weighed down by having to shoot the wish demon to stop it. He saw her as an innocent." He looked at Daniel. "He remembered everything from all of them. The Elders decided to help with that. Because what he knew, Dawn, Sam, and Dean saw. Sam and Dawn in graphic detail. She still sees them in her nightmares. So does he probably. So yes, we're keeping him down while they finishing stripping those so he won't have them and blocking them out of the others. He's boosting their energies so they're working through him to get to them." He grimaced. "It was bad enough that we agreed to work with D'Hoffryn this time. They regret not giving her a white lighter. They didn't because Xander stopped her on that cliff."
Daniel nodded. "When will he be okay?"
"Within a few days." He looked at House. "Before we did this, he would've needed to talk to you about his new pill habit. In the first reality, his arm was blown nine-tenths off. The pain stayed."
"I can see how that goes."
Leo wrote down something. "If he's feeling phantom pain from those areas, we need to know. Something's bleeding through."
"Agreed," Daniel said. "It won't happen?"
"The first one was him walking away after the battle because the girls ragged on him again," Leo said honestly. "That means the Watchers won and the invasion wasn't stopped." Daniel shuddered, backing away from him at that. "Exactly. That was the nicer one. The last one he lived through he had never went back after his road trip and ended up being captured and sold to a demon for over six years before Sam and Dean got captured and he had help getting out of there. The demon thought it was a good idea to let him have the medical kit he got in the second one because it'd help him break him easier." He flashed out.
"That's why he's flinching whenever we touch his arm," House said quietly. He took the information to look at. "That's exactly where he's been showing pain reactions." He went to up him to the safe painkiller. He came back and found him awake and staring. "Hey, kid."
"Chase all right?"
"Chase is fine. I'm fine. We're all fine. What were you taking?"
"That's not a bad thing." He gave him the safe painkiller. "Do you still feel it?" Xander nodded. "Leo!" He reappeared. "He's still feeling the pain and knows what he was hooked on."
"Damn it." He took Xander, Sam, Dean, and Dawn with him. Xander ended up in therapy out of time to deal with the issues so they could block it off. This time with his knowledge and consent. The others agreed too. They didn't want to remember. It was kinder if no one did but Willow.
Buffy looked up as a woman walked into the house. "You are? Beyond in the wrong house, lady?"
"I'm Morgana Penrose. I'm Miss Rosenburg's new morality monitor."
Buffy frowned. "What did she do?"
"Only she will remember."
Buffy moaned, sitting down. "Tell me now before I hear it from Dawn?"
"Her memories are being removed at her own request."
"That's bad," she decided.
Giles came out to look at her. "Morgana. I thought you had passed on."
"I am your charge's white lighter, Rupert." He went pale. "Let me show you why." She did show him a bit and he shook, having to lean against the wall until Buffy helped him to a seat. "Part of the cure was to go back in time and remove her powers on Halloween."
Buffy swallowed. "She healed someone or else they'd have died."
"They did not this time. No innocents will suffer by the order of the Council of Elders, my dear." She relaxed. "She's injured, but not as badly." That got a nod. "Another took part of the blow for her."
"I was wondering why Rona was hurt."
"That is why. Now, where is my errant charge? I do believe I need to do some good, old fashioned correcting." Buffy showed her to her room. Kennedy had said Willow had a fever and was in bed with the flu. Now they knew why. She walked in. "Leave us, young lady."
Kennedy looked at her. "What did she do?"
"She tried to give herself and another an out from the hunting that changed her."
Kennedy nodded. "Buffy, we need a bigger place."
"Go back to the base, Ken." She smiled and packed, heading back there. She had to go by bus, but Giles was more than happy to upgrade her to a plane ticket. She looked around then at the stuff on the floor. "Capturing?"
"She captured a wish demon."
"Oh, shit," Buffy said, staring at her. "Like Cordelia's?"
"Eight of them in total, including one that was slightly forming," she agreed. "It's horrific enough that even D'Hoffryn agreed the misery was too much this time. One of them wouldn't have kept you all from being blown up. The invasion still happened." Buffy turned green. "Exactly." Buffy fled to hug her Watcher. She woke Willow up from the spell the Elders had put on her, then pulled her over her knee to paddle her until she begged for mercy from the Goddess.
The quad reappeared in the squad room and hugged, well, Dean let Dawn hug him and the other two pat him on the arm. "We're back," Dawn said.
Danny Messer looked over. "What happened this time?"
"Don't worry, it didn't in this reality," she assured him. They all stopped working to look at her. "It's been handled and solved, guys. It didn't get to happen here."
"The only one who remembers is Willow," Xander agreed. "Because it was her shit."
"Are we arresting her?" Horatio asked calmly.
"If it didn't happen here, we can't," Dawn said. "Wonderful catch 22, huh?" She looked at Xander, who was scowling. "She deserves it."
"She has a punishment already." Dawn sighed but nodded. "So we're cool, I'm okay. I need to redo my range qualifications tonight because this left me a bit weak on my left arm."
"I can do that," Mac promised. "Is it healed?"
"It's the only evidence I have that anything happened." They all nodded. "They stripped the memories bare for that on all of us, by our requests." That got another nod. "But do listen in case she tries something else."
Dawn gave him a hug. "Go talk to House, Xander." He nodded, going to do that. "We're back and able to help out again." She walked off, going to check on Thomas. She had probably spazzed out.
"We do know that building Tara the robot body was part of the cure for the problem," Sam said. "But Xander's not under a compulsion to build more geek toys."
"Shoot, I wanted my own light saber," Don Flack teased.
"We have the plans, dude," Sam joked. "Dean builds stuff."
"I built another one already," Dean said smugly. "Those proton packs are really powerful." He walked off to find his father. "Hey."
John looked at him. "Is whatever cured?"
"It never happened here and the memories we had from it are gone. Never to return."
"What if we need to know?"
"It was all based on past events, Dad. A wish universe like Cordelia created."
John shuddered. "Even the thought makes me sick to my stomach."
"Exactly. Xander's got a phantom pain in his arm. We aren't sure why. He's insistent he needs to requalify."
"He does. Even if it's not a real injury anymore, if he's feeling it, it could hurt him in a fight."
He left, going to check on Sam then Xander, then get back to work with Faith and Shea. "Miss us, ladies?" he asked. He looked around. "Where's Shea?"
"Who?" Faith asked.
Paige orbed in with a happy smile. "Shea's fine, Dean. We had to...borrow her for a minute at the house. The magic that came with us knocked Faith out. She'll be right back." She disappeared again. Dawn's growl carried down the hall then a flash of magic sent her off too. She and Shea reappeared. Paige behind them. "See, she's fine."
"I'm more than fine, I'm a gorgeous hunk of woman," Shea teased.
Dawn giggled. "She's still straight."
"So am I." She grinned at Dean. "Miss me?"
"Only because it's time to kick your butt." He looked at her outfit then at her. "Comfy?"
She looked at her short, tight skirt and then the halter top, then down it, nodding at him. "Pretty muchly."
"If it works for you," Dawn said dryly. She looked at Paige. "Need more help?"
"No, we're okay. The kids are fine. Leo's on a rip. So we'll be fine." She smiled and left.
Dawn looked at Dean. "Small, minor attacking army." She went back up to the library.
Dean walked Faith out, handing her to Wesley. "She got magically bonked on the head." He went back to teaching Shea what she was to do. Though in that skirt she was very distracting. "Is the point to flash the vampires?" he asked finally.
"It's not a bad one. I've lured more than one into a trap."
"What about in normal clothes? Like you're jumped in pajamas?"
"I sleep in them?" He gave her a look. "Okay, I know what you're saying. Let me go change."
"Normal clothes then the tighter, slinkier version," he ordered.
"Yes, oh great one."
"You know it," he shot back.
She smirked. "I still remember putting you in pigtails that once. Mom still has the picture." She fled before Dean could get her for it.
Dean shook his head, looking at Xander as he came in sucking on a lollipop. "It helping?"
"Some." He let him see his arm and the bruise on it. "House pressed and it started to come up. He did a scan on it and read it. It looks like some deep tissue bruising and possibly some bone bruising. So I get mild things."
Dean stared at him. "Why are they worried?"
"Because I felt the pain of losing it for over seven years and had percocet the entire time," he said quietly, glancing around. Horatio was walking in. "The AU's weren't good to it."
"I can understand that. Is it a current issue?"
"Only the pain." He grimaced. "I've still got to run sword practice."
"I can. I've fought with worse. That's the reason for painkillers after all." He went to get one and Calleigh came in. He handed her the blade he had picked for her. "It's lighter, shorter so it'll fit your height, and it's a pretty strong mix. You want to start out with a good, solid blade for practice. That one has dull edges. Enough to make you yelp if you get hit with it, but not enough to really cut you." She nodded. "Good. Now, let's start with the basics." He moved beside her, showing her the usual defensive moves. She slowly moved through the series so he stopped to help her work on her form. "Tighten your back. Your upper body is fully being worked, not just your arms. Lunging takes back and leg muscles." She did that.
"Roll your shoulders back. You should be alert, but not tense. Tense means you have shorter lunges and your attention is too focused on the one in front of you. Trust me, they came up behind you while you're fighting." She nodded, doing it again. Faith came over to help her. She was a lot smoother. "See how she flows into the movement? That's something you get with practice. Like with dancing. That's more fencing and the fancy Spanish blade work, but it'll still work." He showed her the next move then moved to lunge at her in a way that would show her how the moves went against someone attacking. She got it and they moved a bit faster. "You have natural grace and agility, Calleigh. Let it out." She let it flow a bit better, letting her body treat this like a strange new club dance. It was easier.
Xander nodded and showed her the next move, showing her how to add it into the other moves. She went through the whole series and smiled because she was getting it. He went back to attacking her. Then he showed her a few more advanced moves on Faith, who countered back with the simpler ones. He moved and let Calleigh do the same. She added in an extra step now and then to keep her balance and Xander nodded at those choices. "Balance is important. If you overbalance you fall. Falling equals injury and possibly death. We'll teach you how to get up from a fall later." She nodded, getting back into it. She finally got to the exhaustion point so he let her go. "There we go. Go shower and rest."
She smiled. "It's a great workout."
"You should try it after construction all day," he teased. She went to take a shower. "Take it with you, practice those moves a few times each night." She nodded, taking it with her instead of putting it back. He looked at Faith. "Are you tripping again?"
"It's the shoes."
He looked at her feet then at her. "No spike heels. Major Sheppard would be horrified."
"He's watching the bikini wearing rollerbladers," she teased, lunging at him. He blocked and they went for real until he backed off holding his arm. "I didn't even hit you."
"Thanks to Willow's thing my arm's deeply bruised," Xander said, letting her see.
She hissed. "That's gotta hurt, X."
"Does." He put his sleeve back down. "Too much strain. I'll be fine by the spring."
She nodded. "I can understand that. My foot had one after the last break." He shuddered. "You okay, X?"
"No. I know I asked for the memory to be removed on purpose. I'm guessing it was healed as much as it could be."
Dean looked over. "It was. The bruise is the last of it. Once it fades we'll forget everything."
"I could like that." He rubbed his arm again. "Any liniment in here?"
"Office." Faith got it for him and he went back to Shea's training since she was back. Horatio was watching so he pulled him over to work with her. He was a decent enough guy and Faith liked him well enough to nominate him as a watcher candidate. They both gave him looks like he was strange. "It comes up more often than you think, guys."
Faith nodded. "Slayers carry stakes, a sword of some sort, a break-apart crossbow, and a gun on their field calls," she said, looking at Shea. That got a nod. "Dean, her sword's too short. Like you she needs long and thin."
"She doesn't like me like that, Faith," he said dryly, going to get her a different blade to practice with. He ended up with one of the sharpened ones and covered the edges with a guard. "Here, we'll try this one." She took it and gave it a swing, wincing at the length. "You get used to it." He lunged at her and she instinctively blocked. "Nice, but not good enough." Faith came over to go over it with Horatio, the same set of moves Calleigh got taught. He nodded, doing them with her. Then they put the students together and it was better. Dawn and Sam strolled in together. "You two, practice sparring."
Dawn sighed, getting her sword, getting Sam his heavy ass sword, to her anyway, and they went at it. They used live steel. Sharp edges, bantering back and forth, and wow was Xander looking foul. She paused to give him a hug and they both ducked a blow by Sam but she kneed him and they went back to it. Xander smiled. "Yes, you taught me," she teased.
"I taught you better than that, Dawn Summers." She sighed and did it better, getting a nod. "Good. Sam, watch your back foot." He glanced down then checked his footing better. They went back to sparring and it was beautiful work.
Dean smiled, leaning on Faith's shoulder. "Someday soon, Shea, you'll be doing that."
"Yes, I am that good," Dawn called. Dean snickered. Sam swatted her with the blade but she got out of the way then turned back to get him on the side. Then the arm, making him wince and grab it. "Oops. You okay?"
"You got me with the flat of the blade, Dawn. Just a bruise." They went back to it and it was cool.
Wesley and John walked in. "Good job, Dawn and Sammy. Dean, you and Faith?" They grabbed theirs and got into it. When the two groups tangled, Dawn and Faith switched off effortlessly to attack the other guy, giving them a stunning show. Dawn ended up tripping Dean and getting him down, blade tip at his throat. Faith ended up on her ass thanks to Sam kicking her feet out from under her but that was fine too. "Yield?" John called.
"Sure, why not," Faith said.
"This time," Dean agreed. He got helped up. He grinned at Horatio. "We Winchesters don't use swords. We've only been learning since we've been here. That's why we teach machete work and Xander teaches swords. None of the fancy moves but enough so you can use it to survive and if you want the fancy footwork you can ask Wes, because he fences and does the Spanish bladework."
"I'll remember that. Good show you two."
Dawn smirked. "I had to learn it too. Things come after slayers and their families." She nudged Faith. "What is wrong with his arm?"
"Deep, bad bruise," Dean told her quietly.
"Very." They looked at Shea, who moaned pitifully. "Yup, your turn." She sighed and got back to sparring with Horatio. Wesley came in to help her with it. Her more graceful nature would work better with the dancing styles. It came with spins, pivots, and all that sort of footwork. He taught her and she beamed, going at it that way. He taught Horatio how to counter the more special moves until they were worn out. Then they got released to shower and go eat. Dean followed with Faith behind him. Xander was already in there with House looking at his arm. "He bruise it more?"
"Just made it hurt more. Some activity is good. Getting hit with a sword isn't."
Xander gave him a look. "If it happens, it does. I still have to be able to go on cases, House."
"You could lose it for real," he said quietly.
Xander shook his head. "You said not unless the muscles were dying."
"Which is a good point because I'm always right but it also means less physical strain on it. No carrying heavy things, gently work out, no lifting weights."
"Thank you." He patted him on the shoulder, seeing the wince. "Still?"
"Yeah." He let him check that. "I didn't twist funny teaching earlier."
"No, it's strained," he agreed. "Daniel, can he have desk only cases for a week?"
"Sure, he's got two research cases and we're still trying to figure out the spring apocalypse."
"Thank you." He looked at Xander. "Rest it. Before you hurt it worse and it's two weeks next time."
"I know. Thank you." He gave him a pat and went over to dig into dinner. Thomas walked in looking chipper. "Good news on the usual spring version of hell's power show?"
"Not yet, but I am happy to say the rest of my things are up here and settled into my apartment quite nicely. My copying system is already set up and works quite well. Now we can scan in more of the books while working on translations." They all smiled at that. "Any news on where Rupert is going to build the new library?"
"He's in God Knows Where land again," Kennedy said as she walked in.
Xander looked over. "How did you get back?"
"Plane, then cab to the bus station, then hiked up from town." She smirked. "Surprised to see me?"
Xander considered it then licked his lips and shook his head. "You're the second one who told her to cut it out or lose them."
"Let's hope I don't get hurt the same way then," she agreed. She sat down across from him, smiling as Tara's robot came over to hug her. "Hi, Tara."
"Hi, Kennedy. Are you okay? Would you like to talk?"
She smiled. "I'd love to talk." Tara beamed. "After dinner? I had airplane food for lunch." Tara laughed and went back to puttering around in the labs. She looked at Xander. "You good?" He showed her his arm. She hissed. "Ow."
House looked over. "During it he lost it, Kennedy," he said quietly. "He's lucky."
"We all are. I have no idea what we'd do without common sense man here." Xander smirked at that. "You are." She got a plate and settled in to eat. "Do I still have a room?"
"Yup," Xander told her. "Though you switched to Anna's old one when she claimed yours."
"That's fine," she agreed. She looked at Wesley. "I need reassigned for a while."
"Agreeable. We're about to open a house in Vienna."
"Europe?" she asked, starting to tear up. "I'll get to travel?"
"Of course. The senior, most experienced girls would get those spots first. There may be some traveling while you're over there."
"Can someone teach me to drive then?"
John sighed, nodding. "You girls all need it." Brenda squealed and hugged him around the neck. "Easy, Brenda." She beamed at him. "Yes, you too because you drove bad enough to scare the demon possessing me that time." She giggled and dug back in.
"As a reminder, girls, we need the prom list by the first of December," Wesley noted. They all nodded. "Thank you." He looked at Kennedy. "Did you attend yours?"
"I did and a few other formal events with my parents. Why?"
"Tis prom seasons and it's scarier than any vamp ever created," Faith told her. "When does Vienna open?"
"Around Valentine's Day on the current schedule. The house had to be a bit modified. A few of the larger bedrooms split up. The room for sparring and practice padded a bit better. Some better insulation."
They nodded. "We can do that," Kennedy assured him. "Can we toss whichever watcher is going with us out the window and into the river if he turns into Giles?"
"Of course," John agreed. The other watchers all glared at him. He glared back and they shrank away. "If they can't act like decent human beings and protect you girls from some of your own worst instincts, then yes, they can go for a long swim."
"Then sign me up please."
Wesley nodded. "We'll discuss with the girls coming off retrieval just before the holidays. They'll get first pick and they can pick which girls are going with them. There's the new Asian house, the one going up in upper Germany. There's a single girl in Rome." Kennedy moaned at that, giving him a begging look. He smiled. "They get first pick."
"Of course. I have skills I need to learn anyway. Please, John?"
"Of course, Kennedy. One of us can teach you."
Dean gave him a long look. "I taught Sammy. You had it easy with me, my only problem was too much speed now and then, Dad." John gave him a dirty look. "You made me teach Sammy, you can teach the girls how to drive like a good dad would." He beamed.
"Take one of the old sedans, John," Daniel called. "Use the parking lot out back that no one else uses."
"I can teach you how to ride a bike but you will not be riding mine," Shea told her. Kennedy beamed. "Not much different and they always show people in Rome on mopeds."
"Sure, I'd like the lesson. I know if you have a personal vehicle it's your baby like John's truck is his."
She nodded. "It is. By the way, I'm Shea."
"Kennedy." They shook hands. "I was in Cleveland."
"Should I worry about some of the rumors the girls tell?"
She laughed. "I was with Willow until late last night. I'm not one of the skanky brats." That got a smirk. "Are you newly found?"
"No, my parents are hunters so I'm brushing up on technique. Had a bit of a fight with my mother."
"Bit is a bit light," John said dryly. Shea glared at him. "I called to tell her you had made it okay. She spent thirty minutes complaining, Shea."
"Not my fault she's a bitch."
"True and I agree with most of your points. A few are a bit more childish but you'll finish growing up like the boys did." She smirked at that. "Even Sammy got over some of the kiddy things he did."
"Good point. Did she send the pictures from the times we babysat Dean?"
"She did send me copies in my email." Both boys moaned at that, slumping down some.
"Oooh, baby Dean pictures," Dawn cooed. "Were you adorable?"
"More than I am now," he taunted with a smirk.
"Now you're hot, not adorable, Dean," she shot back. "Whole big difference. Babies are cute and adorable."
"Good point. Are you going to the prom?"
"Next year unless I'm asked. No one's asked so I don't think I am. I have a good idea what I want in a dress for then, I'll have to look at the updated styles but I'm sure I can do that." They all nodded. "Who else is going?" A few of the older girls raised their hands. "Emma, you're eligible."
"Broke up with the puss sucker."
"Ah. Never mind."
"If I do get a boyfriend by say, March, and he invites me would it be too late?" she asked Xander, who shrugged. "Stella, if I got a boyfriend by March and he asked me would it be too late for me to do prom things?"
"No, dear. You might have a problem getting a good hair appointment any later than that but yours is pretty easy to do on your own."
"Cool." She smiled. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Look at the dress options anyway, just in case, ladies. Some guys do ask at the last minute." They all nodded and she went back to eating. Horatio gave her a look. "I had to have help shopping for mine."
"Maybe Morgan and Crissy can help," Kennedy offered. "LA has a lot more shops."
"Crissy's pregnant," Xander told her.
"Since the week they had to help deliver the baby slime demon."
"Awwww. We never heard that."
"I told Giles."
"As far as I know Buffy doesn't even know that." She called her. "Did you know Crissy's pregnant? I thought Cho was rotating out due to school schedules." She smiled. "Apparently. Sure." She hung up. "Buffy wants to know why the white lighter beat Willow."
"We had our memories removed at our own request," Xander said simply.
Kennedy looked at his arm then nodded. "I can see why. Worse than when she lost it?" she asked quietly.
"Yes," Xander said. "Leo said they almost gave her a white lighter then but I had stepped in too fast to bring her back down. This time, eve D'Hoffryn got into it. So I'm going to guess she went past that level."
She grimaced. "Then I'm single."
Xander nodded. "I can understand." He ate some dinner and waved his fork. She dug in too. He went back to eating, noticing a few people staring at him. "It's a very deep muscle and bone bruise, people. I'm fine. Just really sore in that one spot."
"You're on appropriate meds?" Mac asked.
House nodded. "The liquid stuff we give you guys is non-habit forming," he assured him. "He can take it for however long he needs it and won't get hooked."
"It's also herbal," Chase said happily. "Works very well."
"I loved that stuff when I broke my leg," Anna agreed. "There's nothing better than that stuff. I didn't even feel it." She looked at Xander then at House. "Is it maybe because he ignores so much? My leg didn't hurt me that much."
"It's because he has more muscle mass there," House told her. "Plus there's other trauma that apparently got healed. Your leg was a clean break, no muscle trauma around it."
"Oh. Okay. Good to know." She smiled, walking over to give Xander a hug. He patted her back. "We can have a movie night if you want. You can come watch with us."
"I might do that." She beamed and went back to dinner. A few of the first ones done went to clean up the common area's mess and Xander finished up, going to watch tv with them.
Daniel sighed. "Some of us do remember a bit of what happened." Kennedy raised her head. "Willow was trying to find a spot where she could be the girl she was before she found her magic addiction. She was going to spare Xander as well, thinking that it'd help the girls and keep the world. She ended up trapping a wish demon." Kennedy moaned. "We do know that there were at least five alternate realities he lived through and it took him about eight years. We also know that at one point in time he lost that arm defending my old base from an attack after we lost during the invasion in LA." Everyone shuddered at that. "He was helping with the resistance movement." They all groaned. "So yes, it was badly damaged. It's been healed. It'll keep being healed. It's just going to take some time and some aching." House nodded at that. "So leave him alone about it. He'll go find something when it starts to ache."
"He's a bad one about his pain tolerances," House warned Calleigh, who nodded. "He should not have been teaching swordwork today. I want him on his desk for the next week."
"Of course. Unless there's an emergency." He smiled. "Remember the last shared dream?" House nodded. "The rest of them decided to attack the base."
"I remember him calling Jack," Chase said.
"Jack locked it down, expecting the usual attack. While locked down, they attacked the main gateway up top. Since they were in lockdown no one called down to tell Jack so he found out about it afterward. He thought Xander had been wrong until then." They all smirked. Xander walked in. "Jack called." Xander paused to look at him. "They attacked the main gate instead of the usual way. No one told him until he ended the base lockdown a few days later." Xander snorted, shaking his head. "So you were right. Jack said thank you."
Xander grinned. "Not a problem. Did we find my gun and all that?"
"Leo has it," Dawn called. "Piper texted to say it's there. I'll get it later."
"Thanks, Dawnie." He kissed her on the head, got another soda, and went to watch movies with the girls. He did feel miserable and tired. They gave him the end of the couch and curled against his free side, earning a smile. He loved the younger girls. "No homework, right?" They shook their heads and put in Caddyshack for him. It was much appreciated.
Dawn walked in a bit later, looking at him. "The scythe?" she asked quietly.
"The first world I think."
She nodded. "Okay then." She left with a smile. That went into a special case in the library with a card detailing the spell and what the scythe did. Thomas looked over her shoulder but nodded his approval and made sure the case would lock. She put it in there then carried the rest of the bag down to the infirmary. The book had been left up there. "Hey, House?" He looked over. "His bag of pilfered items."
"How long were they gone?" Chase asked.
"Eight years but about thirty minutes here," Dawn told him.
"Then I'm not sure if they're good or not."
"We can test some of them," House told him. He emptied the bag, looking at the gun. Dawn took it and the empty clip. House looked at the other drugs, nodding at his first aid kit. "He probably used all the bandages." Dawn handed over the other bag. He dumped that onto the same bed, blinking at it. "Well, that's nice." He picked six vials at random to test. They came up good so he stocked the pantry. Painkillers in varied strengths. Bandages. Tape. More painkillers. And a few other nice drugs he had grabbed on instinct. Some strong, injectable antibiotics. A few sample packs of them, Immodium, and a few other OTC drugs. A few other painkillers. Then one last vial that was opened. He stared at it then went to find the boy. "Hey. Infirmary, now," he ordered.
"Why?" Mary asked.
"In the bag was something that was open, I need to check something I didn't." Xander sighed but got up with a moan to follow him. He handed him the bottle. Xander stared then squeezed his eyes shut as things came back. "When?"
"I picked it up in the second world. They had a plague. A demon version of a cold that went rampant." He handed it back. "It was to help me the one time I got overstressed, House. I found a library and looked up the dosage first."
House nodded. "I can see that happening. Any new problems?"
"As soon as you're done tonight you're getting a new EKG. Am I clear?" Xander nodded. "Arm hut more or less?"
"More," he whined.
"One dose." Xander nodded, taking the painkiller House had brought up with him. "Better?"
"Slightly but I can't feel my fingers." He looked then wiggled. "Is this phantom limb pain?"
"I think so. Carry over from the mental trauma too." He looked at his arm. The bruise was darker. "I want to do another scan." Xander nodded, letting himself be lead down there. He put on the EKG during it to make sure he was okay. He could excuse it as making sure he wasn't going to have a bad reaction to being confined in the MRI. What he saw was good. Very good. What he saw on the MRI wasn't. He came in to show him, then handed him the sling. Xander put it on with a sigh but he could handle that for a week. House let him go back to the movies and made comprehensive notes in his chart, all but the percocets. No one needed to know that. The new one he had given was strong enough, he hoped. It looked like his arm was trying to eat itself.
John came in from his first driving lesson pale, shaky, and tired. He went for coffee, then the flask in his desk. Dean had picked some of it up by watching him drive them everywhere. Sammy too. Kennedy hadn't picked up anything about driving. Anywhere. He saw Horatio and smiled. "Horatio, go help Kennedy please?" He sipped his coffee.
"That bad?" he asked with a smile.
"She had a driver when she was younger."
"Ah." He nodded. "I've never taught anyone to drive, John. You might ask Mac."
"Danny!" Jack called. "They sent me back to you again!"
"Or him," Horatio offered.
John smirked, texting Kennedy. She came squealing in and dragged Jack off to help her learn how to drive. He was Air Force so he knew how to fly. He might have even taught someone how to fly. Not much different with the way the girls drove. He finished his laced coffee, going to hide in his office. Brenda pouted at him. "What?"
"You did Kennedy first?"
"She's being assigned off base sooner and you need to bring up your English grade, young lady."
"Yes, John." She smiled. "Can I have minor ones?"
"Let me have some more coffee. Without the liquor." She nodded, bouncing out to get ready for her lesson. He went to pull out another of the older sedans. Brenda knew what a steering wheel was so that was good. She was nervous behind the wheel and tended to over compensate during turns. He had some more laced coffee for lunch and let Sammy handle it. He was a good big brother to Brenda. She went to pounce him and get him to help. He was a lot more patient and Dean came to help too by setting up an obstacle course to drive through. They all grinned at the general, who was weak and shaky too.
"She might be in Rome soon," Brenda said as she gave him a pat on the arm. "They ride mopeds there."
"They drive like maniacs too," he told her. "She'll fit in very well." Kennedy pouted. "You will."
"I'm trying to be good," she pouted. "I think I broke John earlier."
"I did it for lunch," Brenda told her. That got a smirk shared between them. Xander got pulled out by Dawn for her turn. Xander got them all in the same car, showing them how to do the obstacle course. Then he let each one do it while the others watched and critiqued. Dean bribed them with chocolate and it went better.
Xander looked at Jack. "Mine had us start out by doing donuts in a filled parking lot." Jack moaned. "So many of us nearly hit other cars. Then he had us switch directions in the middle so we got used to how the car handled. I say we hire a driver's ed instructor for a month."
Jack nodded. "Could work." He went to suggest that to Danny. Daniel called the FBI academy's person over that to get him to suggest someone, warning him the girls were just now learning to drive and some of them were going to be in Europe soon. They got loaned someone from the academy by an agent who had taught his own daughter how to drive recently. Jack looked at Danny. "I see you finally decorated."
"I noticed there's no pile of books with papers sticking out." He smirked. "Did you have to torture me?"
"I think John did that."
"Once a jarhead always a jarhead," Jack decided. It was a mean prank. "Anything new?"
"Not really." He looked at him. "Why?"
"Harris looks rough."
"He had an incident but he doesn't have his memories of it."
"Bet me, they came back," Xander called as he walked past to the squad room. He got taken by an Elder and fixed again, plus his arm got some healing energy put into it too.
"It's been a wild few days but only Xander knew," he told him quietly.
"That bad?" Jack asked.
"Let's just say Willow decided to play what if and even the quantum mirrors were nicer. He's still bruised from some of it and we're not sure why."
Jack just nodded. "That's rough. He be okay?"
"He asked to have his memories taken and they're apparently doing that again."
"Damn. She get punished this time?"
"Oh, yes. Wesley talked to Rupert, who was most pleased that the first thing her new guardian did was beat the hell out of her ass."
Jack smirked. "She probably needed it." Daniel nodded. "Why do you remember?"
"I don't know. House and I both know. It could be a genius issue, we both are and therefore you can't remove it from us maybe?" He shrugged then he grinned. "I'm just glad at least one of them is staying until they get us someone new."
Sam walked in. "Found it." He put down the book. "Yes, they needed the artillery."
Daniel read then grimaced. "The Old Ones returning to unite with the usurpers." He read further down then looked at Jack. "The older demons and the gou'ald are going to team up."
"Are the demons going to be possessed or are they going to eat them? 'Cause, gotta say, I'm not saving their butts if they are."
"No, it says they're going to unite forces to take over this world. Then they'll fight over it." He smirked. "The enemy of my enemy...."
"Usually wants to kill us too," Jack finished dryly. "Usually with torture because they think it's a good thing and we were part of their enemy anyway."
"Good point. So if it happens, it looks like it's out of both our jurisdictions."
"Yeah, right," Jack snorted.
Daniel got up to copy it then sent the copy to the White House with a cover letter saying this was the next apocalypse and could he please warn the Egyptians for them. Then he sat back down. "So, why are you here?" Xander appeared and wobbled for a second then growled...something arcane and disappeared in a heavy flash of light and enough concussive force to knock them both out of their chairs.
"Oops, someone's pissed."
"I haven't seen him that mad since he went to help Dawn have a go at the Powers. Someone's going to be in shreds." Xander reappeared and they noticed his sore arm was now back in the sling, looked much more healthy, and was actually there, unlike when he showed up the last time. "You okay?"
"No," Xander said. "I found out I had to kill an innocent she had captured to do the wish granting to stop it."
"You saved us all by taking out one person?" Jack asked. Xander nodded. "That's not a bad thing, kid. Even if she was begging you not to, it's not a bad thing. That doesn't make you a bad person. It means you did what you had to do and it sucks." Xander nodded at that. "If you don't believe me, ask the other Marines on base."
"I might take a few days and go to Hermosa Beach," he sighed. "Yes, my arm's still bruised but they didn't take it off this time. Now they've found the interior fracture that's only halfway through to the outside of the bone. I'm going to be on my desk for *weeks*."
"Yes, you are," Daniel agreed. "Go see Benny Ray and talk to him, Xander. Come back by Monday." He nodded, going to make arrangements and get himself to the airport. Daniel sighed, calling House. "Someone found out the break on his arm bone is on the inside?" He smirked. "They took you too? What about the bruising?" He nodded. "That makes more sense. Thank you, House. Going to talk to someone in LA. It's ... what he had to do to stop it is bothering him." House said something quietly while closing his office door. Daniel whimpered. "That bad?" House gave him the facts as he had it. He nodded once.
"Then yes, he needs the healing time. Let me know when he can go back on field cases. Calleigh could use the primer on how to work with him anyway. Thank you." He hung up and Daniel looked at his friend. "In the first one, the girls died in the explosion. There were only three slayers available for the invasion." Jack shuddered. "He spent over a year being the resistance with that portal open, fighting to keep it from spreading while we evacuated the rest of the US through the gate." Jack grimaced. "They finally got it closed thanks to a gou'ald wanting to come brag and capture them for their warrior force to finish taking down the mountain. They closed it, came to help us, jumped in to help clear the base, and he died there after a staff weapon took off his arm. That pain lasted through another five lives and approximately seven years total."
Jack shuddered, full body, all over shuddered. "Is it an omen?"
"No, Rosenburg was playing 'what if' to try to get back to the person she was before her addiction. She was taking him out of the hunting through various times in the past."
"The others will help him," Jack reminded him.
"I can only hope so. I don't want to lose Xander, Jack. He's important here and he's a good friend."
"I know. We all have a case that makes us want to step back. This is his."
"He's been doing this so long and I think it built up." Jack nodded at that. "I'm hoping Benny Ray and Matt can help him settle it in is own mind. Once it does, they'll fade again."
"They won't need to."
"The Elders agreed no one should know. She'd be hunted as a rogue and they need her heft for emergencies. Dawn's not trained enough yet. Her girlfriend left her because of this. She got a guardian witch over her usage. She lost her magic for six months as well."
"So it happened but it never happened?" Daniel nodded. "That's usually harder to wrap the mind around than anything else."
"Xander is a gentle guy underneath."
"Guys in 'Nam had the same problem, Danny, and they made it through. Xander's as tough as they were."
"I know. I'm hoping he stays that way."
John leaned in. "He will. He asked and I gave him the truth. He's thinking but he's doing his own therapy. I've already called out there to warn them he needs to talk about it. They're local, just got done with a job."
"Not an issue. What about his research cases?"
"One's a spirit. One's not. See if Dean can use it to field test anyone."
"Got it." He went to look, finding the desk empty. "Did we steal Xander's cases again?" Don Flack nodded with a smirk. "That's fine. Dean's talking about field testing soon."
"I've got three ghosts in a house that keep trying to knock the roof off with a mini tornado," Danny offered.
"That could do it." He took it and walked out reading it. That would work. He handed it to Dean, who went to tell the girls to pack.
Xander walked into the bar and up to it, putting his wallet down. "Beer me please?" She got him one and handed it over, letting him pay for it.
Benny Ray spotted him and came over to sit next to him. "Usually when you look that bad it makes the news."
Xander took a sip and didn't look at him. "Willow was playing 'I want out of this life' and making wishes using me so I got to visit a lot of places and had to stop her from doing it."
"She being punished?"
"Her and me both," he said, looking at him. "The one she had trapped and was forcing to do it for her had to go. By my gun," he said quietly.
Benny Ray considered it then nodded. "Let's go bum the office, Xander." He nodded, bringing his beer with him. That was more telling than anything. Xander hardly ever drank thanks to his parents. Matt looked up and got off the phone. "It was bad."
"It was worse than bad," Xander said, sitting down. He looked at them. "Want to hear the whole f-ed up thing or just the part where I had to do the demon she had trapped to get free of it?"
"The whole thing, Xander. It can only help you to get it out." Xander took another drink and started off on what happened. In complete, gory, realistic details that made them sick. Up until the last one. That one he glossed over some of the worst things. They got the point and they knew what had happened, but they didn't need to know the full details. Then Xander told them about the end and Matt considered it then he sighed. "A soldier does what he has to do to protect innocent lives. If that means shooting an innocent to protect them because they're causing the danger, then so be it," he said finally. "You could have shot Willow."
"I don't want to think that I shot her dead just because she was the demon. I don't know why I picked that option. If the hunting got to me? If it was because she was demonic? If it was because it was Willow?"
"You said once you had to stake your other best friend," Benny Ray told him. Xander nodded, looking pitiful. "Could you go through that again?" Xander shook his head, finishing his beer. "Then your mind and heart made the decision to take the shot that gave you less pain. Even wounding her would've sent you into worse guilt. At the time, you were hyped on painkillers for your arm. You were in emotional pain from all this. Your mind was at the point of shutting down because of all that. It made a subconscious decision that said the demon would be easier to bear on your soul."
"It's something we all hope we don't have to face but too many of us do, Xander." Xander looked at him. "Your arm's still hurt?"
"It's broken from the inside. A lot of muscle bruising. Hurts like a bitch. Even our herbal painkiller isn't helping any. I don't know if any of it's psychological since I keep checking my fingers to make sure they're still there." He shifted, crossing his feet. "If it was, then it shouldn't hurt."
"Taking a life, even a demonic one, should always hurt."
"Hunting doesn't make me feel like this."
"No, but hunting is necessary. You've managed to turn hunting into something like fishing in your mind. You're fishing for sharks before they eat people." Xander nodded that was true. "In this case, you had to fish for something that's a pretty trophy fish and didn't mean to."
"Three of those worlds had no people, right?" Benny Ray asked.
"Including the last one I didn't get sucked into? Yes. The others had greatly reduced ones too," Xander agreed.
"Then that means you saved them, Xander. You saved billions of lives. Women, kids, harmless demons and not, by doing that one. Would she guilt trip you?" Xander nodded. "You sure?" He nodded again. "Why are you sure?"
"She said so. The Elders Council called her shade back to talk to her."
"Could this guilt be a curse?" Benny Ray asked.
"No, I've had this before. Before I could work my way out of it. This time I'm sinking."
"That's because you have all the other issues on top of it," Matt said. "The issue with your arm. The memories that aren't real. The painkillers you had to take for your arm. All the death and destruction you saw. The incarceration with that demon and what he did to you. Any of those alone would ruin someone's soul and mind, Xander."
Xander sighed, nodding a bit. "I get that, objectively, up in my head. But why pick on me?"
"What did she say?" Benny Ray asked.
"She said I was the lynchpin and taking me out would let me be happy and she could be happier if I was happy, plus the slayer would be happier since not so many would be in danger."
"So she was trying to get back to where she was happy by changing your life," Matt said. Xander nodded. "That's extremely faulty thinking, Xander. You can only be happy in your own life, not because of someone else's."
Xander nodded. "I guess I can see that."
"You need to move past the shooting to deal with the other issues. That's what's really bogging you down," Benny Ray offered. "That's the manhole cover to the sewer inside."
"Nice way of putting it," Matt complained.
"No, he's right. It is a sewer."
"Not because it's you or in you, Xander, just because they're bad memories," Benny Ray offered. "Anyone would be a broken wreck at the moment." Xander blinked at him. That's when he realized the kid wasn't that old. "You're what, twenty-four?"
"Most kids your age would only need one of those to snap mentally and lose it. You've handled it so far. If burying it won't work, work through it and then lock it up somehow."
"It's bleeding over that bond to Dean and Sam, plus Dawn saw some of it in graphic detail."
"If theirs are gone, are they going to get them?" Matt asked.
"They said it's very possible. That's why I tried to block it off. Dawn especially doesn't need this. The guys get their own nightmares and don't need mine."
"This is a situation where you have to take care of yourself first, Xander," Matt said calmly. He hated that the kid did that sometimes. His self esteem and self worth was so low he put anyone ahead of him. Granted, those ones deserved to be thought of but he had to put himself first this time to even start healing.
Benny Ray nodded. "Think about it this way, Xander. A married woman gets...violated. It impacts her life, whoever she's in a relationship with and if they have kids them too. While it hurts the family because they're watching her heal, she has to heal herself before she can help them heal too. You can help them, but only after you've fixed yourself. Because if you can't then no one can help you with them. They'll keep getting it through the bond."
Xander stared at him. "Maybe I do."
"Yeah, you do," Matt agreed. "Once you've dealt with yours it won't go through the bond to infect them. The memory blocks might even work after that. Right now, your mind is stressed out and limp with the pain. It needs to rest and heal itself before it can go back to work healing others. You can't work cases, help the girls, any of that, until you're able to move on from this trauma and keep yourself level and evened out again."
Xander nodded, slumping some. "I guess. I have no idea how to do that."
"Does telling us help any?" Benny Ray asked. "Most head shrinkers make you talk things to death until you get tired of hearing about them."
Xander grimaced then shrugged. "Not really. Putting a big sign on me more than anything."
"We'd never judge you unless you opened fire in the mall or something," Matt said.
"If that stupid curse comes back and I get another eight women who decide to be evil enough to want me all at once in the mall I might," he said grimly. He was nearly pouting. They both gave him funny looks. "It turns out if you kill a certain type of demon you get a stink on you that comes out when you need...stress relief of one form or another. In one day, I had one of Danny's former job issues come up to me to try to enslave me to be her minion and seven other bad girls who decided I was fun to try to take hostage, pay for things for me, and all that. Two with bombs. If I get another day like that, I won't promise but I won't hit anyone who's not involved. See, that's what's getting me. I can deal with the torture. I can deal with the rest. It's the fact I killed an innocent."
"She was a vengeance demon, not that innocent," Matt offered.
"In that situation she was being held hostage and being made to do it. She even tried to change shapes to make it easier on me but it's not."
"Ever see the movie _Speed_?" Matt asked. Xander nodded slowly. "What do you do when he has a hostage and is getting away?"
"Shoot the hostage but they didn't mean fatally!"
"You take the shot you can get," Benny Ray countered. "It was the best one. Your mind was on autopilot."
"My mind is vicious," Xander said.
"Could be," Benny Ray agreed. "Especially with your possession history."
"Hell, I sucked up two docs in one," he admitted, rubbing his face with his good hand. "I don't even know why my arm still hurts." He looked at him. "So my mind, while working on its own, decided to do it the economical way?" They nodded.
"It doesn't mean you'll do it again if you have to," Matt said. "When I had that one, I hesitated a minute too long. It got someone killed." Xander nodded at that wisdom. "The soul is the referee for the mind. Your soul is damaged from all the swamp you had to go through. Your mind ran on its own and while you're sorry you did it, we might all be trapped there if you hadn't."
"That would suck worse," Benny Ray agreed.
Xander nodded, considering that. "So my mind did it for me and picked the most expedient way, I hate Tim words," he sighed. "But it took the shot because it had to." They nodded. "And it won't happen again?"
"There's a fifty percent chance of you freezing totally the next time you have to take any sort of shot," Benny Ray told him. "I had to walk a number of students through it. Doing it that way shows your training. Angsting over it later shows your soul."
Xander got up to pace while he thought about that. "What about my arm?"
"It'll heal, hopefully," Matt said. "If not, fall back to the armory."
Xander grimaced but nodded. "I guess. Why hasn't it?"
"If they couldn't tell you, we can't," Matt reminded him. "Find one of those healers." Xander nodded at that advice. "Or ask House."
"He tried. He thinks it should be healed too."
"Then maybe they'll be able to figure it out." Matt smiled. "You can handle it, Xander. You're strong and you can. We'll help if we can."
Xander nodded, stopping his pacing to stare at the door then he looked at them. "Maybe it'll help if I go think about that. Decent hotel?"
Matt pointed behind him. "Sixteen blocks that way. Morgan works there on her off schedule nights." Xander gave him an odd look. "She wanted to build up a short job history."
"She said it counted more this way. No idea why. She said she's still getting her patrol allowance and all that; she wanted to work."
"I guess. Though, I don't want to go near the girls for this."
"They'll know. They have squeal sensing radar and Crissy will cry on you," Benny Ray said, giving him a little smirk. "So will the young'un."
"Good point." They smirked. "Thanks, guys." He made sure he had his wallet then left, going to find a healer first. He found their clinic and looked at the sign. Still open but the lights were off. That meant it was underground demon night. He walked in and a few tensed. "Not in on a case. I need one to look at my arm. Something not even House can figure out is going on." He walked up to sign in and the receptionist gave him an odd look. He shrugged a bit then winced. "Trauma."
"Don't your kind have hospitals?"
"Not even House and the Elders can figure it out," he said quietly.
"Ah. One of those. It will be a while."
"I need to think anyway." She nodded so he went to sit down in a corner and think. He did come out of it at a poke, looking at the small demon. He knew their species and they were all small but this was a child. "What's up, little one?" he asked in their language. The child smiled at him. "Did you need my seat?"
"No, he felt like poking you. He did it to others," another demon said. "He's a human, go see your mother." The child ran off. "He's sorry."
Xander smiled. "It's good to see happy children. It really is."
"You could spawn."
Xander snorted. "I'd mess up so fast they'd take the baby from me at the hospital."
"You do good with the slayers."
"To them I only have to be a big brother and help them. Raising a child is different and takes a lot more work. With my case schedule? I'd never get anything done." He stood up when his name was called, listening to the silence. "What? Even I get hurt." He walked back there. The nurse did her usual checks and put him into a room. Two demons came in and he waved. "House can't figure out what's wrong with my arm."
The healer of the two stared at him. "So you come to us?"
"The White Light elder I talked to couldn't either." He looked down then at her. "The original injury happened when Willow created a wish 'verse of her own. In the first one. It got shot off. I did another five after that and nearly a sixth. It's been a few days."
The healer came forward to remove the sling and check him over. "I have heard how he treated our kind when we came to work with him. What did he say?"
"They found out that it's broken inside the bone but not outside. That the muscles are severely bruised. But if it never happened, which was the outcome of fixing it, then why is it just as sore now as it was when it got shot off?"
"Is that realm closed?"
"I don't know. You think I linked with my twin there?" She nodded. "But if it never happened...."
"You have how many spirits in you?"
"Two new docs as well." He blinked. "In that one I died from the injury I took protecting the base in Colorado. The wish was to remove me after the battle in Sunnydale. That I walked away when the girls gave me their crap speech."
She considered it. "I can check but it may hurt more."
"Not even our painkillers are killing it, ma'am."
She nodded. "That sounds more and more like you're linked to him at the moment when you left."
"I left after I died."
"The last moment your body remembers perhaps." She got to work touching his arm lightly, scanning it to see what was going on. What she saw disgusted her. "Get me the witch on staff." The bodyguard went to do that. "There is a magical drain there."
"I'm told mine is more from a void than the earth."
"Indeed. Which is what is eating the muscles. Beyond that, the damage done was never properly healed. They healed the superficial, not the total damage." She looked at him. "What took it off?"
"A staff weapon. We were on the Cheyenne Mountain base. Her wish meant that the slayers died in the explosion so we lost the invasion and I had been running a resistance movement here in LA since then."
She grimaced. "It is much damage you took."
"Is my mental healing stopping it?"
"No. That is necessary as well but it will not impact the physical." The witch came in to fix the problem and then the other problem he had, banishing the two doctors. Then they went to work on the injury. In her line of work, there were three bodies: the corporeal, the incorporeal that housed the spirit, and the soul. The last two were still damaged and hemorrhaging from the missing limb. She healed the injury, linked them back to his physical arm again.
"Hey, I can feel my fingers."
She smiled. "That is good in your line of work." He nodded, letting them finish up. It was not a perfect job, with the limb severed on the other two planes it was one that may grow back. After all, the soul grew to replace what went to a child. It would regrow that limb with any luck. The middle layer all they could do was link it into the physical flesh. "It should not impact the usage." The boy sighed in relief. "It will still have to finish healing the physical injuries."
"I expected that." He smiled at her. "Thank you."
"It is not a problem."
The witch stopped him from moving. "You must heal, hunter. Your traumas will become the traumas of others."
"You try hard, but you must put up your mental shields so that they do not leak across that bond you have."
"I had to shoot an innocent demon to make her stop," he said bluntly. "I should beat myself up about that."
"Yes, you should," she agreed. "It speaks well of you. It will still cross over and that is what the Elders were worried about. That you would hurt others with the knowledge."
"Then try all you must, but put up those shields."
He smirked. "I've never managed to shield myself." She groaned. "Ever. The one keeping out spirits is from someone else. Anytime I try, I get blocked."
She nodded. "Then do what you can. You have time to suppress or handle them before they leak too badly."
"Two are other hunters, the other's the sister of a slayer."
"Then they'll understand and may help you." He nodded at that so she let him go. He was flexing his hand. His arm was still bruised, the bone still broken, but now the main problem had been healed so the other could be.
Xander looked up as his motel room door was knocked on, going over to open it. "Connor."
"I feel like you these days. I'm surrounded by girls who make *no* sense! Hormones are evil and they're driving me nuts!"
"You can't hang with Gunn?" he asked, letting him in. "How did you know I was here?"
"You showed up at a demon healing clinic, Xander. It's all over town."
"My arm." He closed the door. "The girls will even out."
"No they won't! They're cooing over pony decorations today."
"The baby's a girl?"
Connor nodded. "Yeah, it's a girl. She never told you guys?"
"If she did, I hadn't heard." He sat down and took a sip from his beer. "What else is going on? I'm not in town to check on anyone."
"Figured that. They said you had to be hurt pretty bad if House couldn't figure it out."
"Cordy ever tell you about the wish verse?"
"Barely. That it happened. Angel said more."
"Willow created a few."
"Oh, no. You got hurt there?" Xander nodded. "So why are you hurt here?"
"Because there I lost the arm and the way it was healed didn't match the physical world fully from what the healer said. So it was like I was still bleeding from my arm stump and about to die but here it was whole so I was only bleeding into the muscles. They fixed that and now it'll actually heal." He took another drink. "How are they?"
"They're good. The little demon's going to pout if you don't stop in."
"Tomorrow's Sunday, I'll pop in after lunch, before I head home."
Connor nodded. "That's cool. So what happened?" Xander stared at him. "Morgan told me to come make you talk about it, that it'd help you if you babbled it at someone."
"I did. I came out to talk to the Major and Benny Ray." His phone rang and he looked at it. "Giles." He answered it. "Yeah? LA taking a few days of vacation time. Because I'm injured and House couldn't fix it this time, Giles. I came to see one of the healers locally who could. No, now instead of hurting more it's actually getting better." He took another drink. "I'm looking at Connor. Tell the girls Crissy's baby is a daughter." He looked at the phone then put it back against his ear. "Excuse me?" He listened to him. "One beer does not make me an alcoholic, Giles, and since it's my second of the day, and I just had to put up with Willow's shit again I deserve to have a few beers. The last time I had any was Vegas if I remember right, over a year ago. Unlike you who used to drink every day, I'm not." He hung up with a sigh, looking at the amused other man. "If I ask would you go kick his ass for me?"
"I can do that." He smirked. "They really are scary."
"Yeah, being surrounded by creatures you'll never understand is. I asked Daniel once why linguists like him hadn't taken on women's communication styles and he said it was too deep a mystery even for them." Connor cackled. "How's things otherwise?"
"Decent enough. Those we are worried about are worried about the spring apocalypse."
"The only one we found said that it's to the east. Not on this coast and maybe not even in this country."
"That's handy. So we might have some that'll take advantage of that then." Xander nodded. "I can start to spread that around, get intel for you guys. Where is Wesley?"
"Just barely back from the Caribbean. He was down helping the people pack up Thomas's stuff." He finished his beer and tossed out the can. Connor gave him an odd look. "I deserve it now and then."
"It was that bad?"
"Three worlds without people including the last one I only had to see into. One that had a nuclear explosion right after I left it."
"Damn," he said, staring at his friend. "You all right?"
"Working through it and the nightmares won't come if I'm a bit plastered."
"Maybe you just won't remember."
"No, they won't come." He smirked. "One now and then does not make me an alchie like my parents."
"No, it's one every day that makes you an alchie like your parents," Connor agreed.
"The only thing I drink every day is soda." That got a smirk. "So, anything else new and exciting going on?"
"No. You sure you don't want to tell someone about it?" Xander nodded. "Okay. I'm here if you call Morgan. She'll make me come talk because apparently that's a girl ritual of some sort."
"Yes it is," Xander said happily. "She have any names she likes?"
"She has a whole list of names she likes and she's considering them." Xander grinned at that. Connor stood up. "I'll let her know you're okay. Feel better, Xander. Someone has to beat Dawn for being a brat."
"She has been today?"
"No but I'm sure she will soon."
"I'll let her know you want to shop with her."
"Oh hell no. I do enough of that with Crissy." He walked out shuddering, making Xander laugh. He went back to their lair, finding Don Epps there. "Xander's dealing in his own way and he'll try to pop around tomorrow."
Don nodded. "What happened?"
"Again!" Morgan demanded.
Connor held up a hand. "He said Willow created her own wish 'verse." They all shuddered at that. "Xander got injured during it and now he's healing."
"Why would an injury there not heal here?" Don asked.
"No clue. That's what he said was going on and why he needed the healer. I'll trust the guy and his arm's in a sling. Fortunately his off arm for sword and firing work if there's an emergency." They all nodded at that. "He said he'd try to pop in on Cordette tomorrow, Don."
"That's fine. Anything on the problem this spring?"
"He said the only one they've found has been in the east. Possibly out of the country." The girls moaned. "So that means we might have some things trying to take over the issue or take advantage of it locally."
"That's better than it could be," Don agreed. "With the weapons they pulled from that one dealer."
"They were going to fight with us," Morgan told him. He moaned. "That's what had us worried. Some demons pulled up weapons for the invasion but not like that."
Xander strolled in. "As far as we've heard, the problem Jack deals with is going to be joining with some ancient demons." They all stared. "In Egypt."
"Thank god it's not LA," Don said, looking up. He looked at him. "You good?"
"Wasn't your sling on the other arm?" Connor asked. The demon backed away slowly. "Uh-huh." Morgan got it down and tied up. He called Sam - that's what you did when you had demons you didn't know. "We have something here pretending to be Xander." He looked. "Everything but the sling's on the wrong arm and he even knew what the apocalypse is." He leaned down to take his face off. "Yup, that's what it looks like. Silver? Sure. Thanks, Sam." He hung up and called Xander, grabbing a gun to load with silver bullets then fired. "It's us. We're checking on you since we had a shape shifter transform into you. Even knew about the spring apocalypse." He shot it. "Sure, thanks, Xander. Home." He hung up. "He's fine. He doesn't know what the apocalypse is this spring so this one must've been on base." He texted that to Sam's phone and it was good.
"What do we do with the body?" Don asked.
"Burn Barrel," Morgan said. She called a demon contact they had. "It's Morgan. We have a dead shape changer who tried to be Xander. Please?" She smiled. "Home." She hung up. "The guys down at the Burn Barrel will take him for us." They waited until the demonic bikers got there then handed him over so he could be taken off. Don walked over to talk to the guys watching the house to see what was wrong. He had to explain those were slayers, he was their local liaison, and that had been a demon not a human, but that was usual. LA was a bit paranoid about demons these days.
Xander walked back on base. "Cordette's slayer nose is very sensitive. After drinking, puking, eating, cleaning up, and brushing my teeth twice she could still tell I had been drinking beer." John smirked at that, nodding a bit. "We good?"
"The shape changer here was found. They're gone and the one they were taking the place of was checked over. You okay?"
"Better. It'll heal now instead of getting worse. The painkillers are starting to work again too. Apparently to healers there's three bodies and two weren't healed yet. One can't be healed but they were linked back properly so the one that could be is." John shuddered. "So, yeah, it'll go. I'll handle it once the broken bone heals."
"Good." He pointed. "They decided to try to break bad last night."
Xander moaned at the sight of the girls doing yard pick up and shoveling. "Why?"
"Got Shea in on the panty raiding."
Xander looked at him. "Aren't most of them dating?"
"They were picking on Jack. They were going to hand them back this morning at breakfast to embarrass him."
"Ah. Well, have fun with their punishments." John laughed. "I'd have done the same. You know that." He shrugged then winced and adjusted his sling. "I'm off to see House. Be back in a few."
"Sure." He watched the kid go. He looked calmer today. So maybe it had helped.
Xander walked in. "According to healers there's three bodies."
"So one was still injured?"
"Two. One can't be grown back. The other could be and had to be linked back into my physical arm. That's why I couldn't feel my fingers. They fixed it for me and now all I have is the broken bone and that bruising."
House smirked. "Good to know." He made notes on that. "How's the other part?"
"It still bothers me but I think I've rationalized it enough and the memory blocks to push it back from my immediate mind finally worked so I know but I don't *know*."
House nodded, looking up at him. "I can see how that'd help."
Xander nodded. "That and a few beers. Cordette could tell I had been drinking even after puking, eating, cleaning up, doing my teeth, all that."
"That's also good to know." He made that note too. He looked at him. "Anything else?"
"Crissy's having a girl. Connor said he feels like I used to being surrounded by girls."
"If he starts to wear your ugly shirts, we'll know why," Dawn quipped as she came in to give him a hug. "Better?"
"Mostly." She smiled. "He said you're being a brat?"
"I wasn't on the panty raids last night," she said dryly. She gave him an extra squeeze then let go. "Go find Daniel. They know about the apocalypse."
"The shapechanger trying to be me told Connor." She moaned. He smirked at House. "Are you back?"
"Seeing if it happens."
Xander beamed. "Knew you couldn't stay away from us for too long. We're too interesting and we do make you unbored." He strolled off.
"That's true, we can't be bored around here."
Xander leaned into Daniel's office. "I'm back. It's down to broken and that bruise. The shapechanger trying to be me is dead."
"That's good. The next apocalypse is in Egypt."
"Connor thinks some people may use this to increase their standing in the ranks."
"Could happen," Jack agreed.
"So we're on the lookout for that," Daniel agreed.
"I don't have a passport, Danny. Do I need one?"
Daniel considered it then nodded. "Just in case but I don't want you in this battle. Desert battles have a special set of concerns and maneuvers. There's demon people in Egypt I'm sure."
"Hashid Morant, he wrote a pretty good book after the invasion."
"I'll look him up," Daniel said, taking down that name. "We did warn their government. It looks like Jack's people are going to be helping too."
"What happened during the election?"
"We lost half of those few key seats," Jack admitted. "So the people who want to move us together are in power, barely."
Xander nodded. "We have to show up for the swearing in ceremonies, just in case."
"Good point," Daniel agreed. "Not you though."
"No, not me. They told me why I bother them." He grinned sweetly. "Anyway," he said dryly. "I'm off to yell and nag the girls. Let me know what part I'm playing this time."
"I will. How is the pain?" Daniel asked.
He came in and shut the door. "According to healers there's three bodies. They healed the one physical one. The other two had been separated off, which is why I had no feeling in my fingers." They both nodded at that. "One of them the arm's gone and probably won't regrow. The other was but it's linked back into my physical arm again. So I'll have some permanent pain I think. I didn't ask that. Then we'll see after that."
Daniel nodded. "That makes sense, Xander. Let me know if it's too bad?"
"Daniel, if it's that bad I won't be able to requalify and I am going to. Once the break heals."
"Good, that's what I wanted to hear. I don't want to lose you as an agent."
He smirked. "We'll see what happens. I don't want the guys to hear about the pain part and think I'm turning into a younger House."
"They shouldn't," Jack said.
"A few might think that," Daniel admitted quietly. "I know you're not and if it gets to that point, you will come talk to me. We'll figure out if it'll affect your work." Xander nodded at that. "Good. Go play in the weak winter sunlight." He went to do that. They would see how his arm played out with the pain issue. Xander had a pretty high pain tolerance.
Jack looked at him. "We have to finish making plans in case we get switched together."
Daniel shoved his over. "This is what the president suggested and where I've made changes." Jack looked it over, making a change in the structure. "He left?"
"Yeah, last week. Retired. Hammond would kill us both, Danny." He looked at him. "Making him our AD?"
"I think he'd like to deal with Xander." He grinned. "It'll keep him feeling young."
"Uh-huh. I talked to him the other day and he was laughing his butt off about all this."
"I would be too if it was someone else." They went back over things. If it happened they had to be ready to change over seamlessly. They would not let it harm others. "The computer systems have to mesh."
"If we hear it's going to happen I'll get my nerds with your nerds."
"McGee and Abby can handle that. McGee got me a new IT person as well."
"Good. The labs?"
"We can already link into Area 51 by presidential order."
"We can link in there too. Are we getting them?"
"Them and NID. So we can stop the torturing bastards."
Jack smirked. "Greedy."
"Not hardly. Have you seen what they were trying to do?" He handed over the final Initiative report. Jack read it and shuddered. "Exactly! I want them gone. Their budget can go to us so we have two planes or to Atlantis so they have more food."
"Fine." He wasn't going to argue about that. The report got put back and they figured out how to merge the two complex agencies. Three bases with Area 51 and one out of this galaxy was not an easy task to merge.
to part 23