A few weeks later Xander called Dean's phone.  "Hey, it's me.  We're going tomorrow.  If I don't come out of it, watch over Faith me.  Okay?  We've got it covered.  It'll be a battle but we've got it handled.  If I do make it, I'll call once I wake up.  Probably from an adrenaline crash.  Watch the news, it'll be pretty.  See you soon and be safe."  He hung up.  Sam gave him an odd look.  "I'm allowed to be mushy.  Willow raised me," he defended.

"I'm shocked he's not here."

"Something clearly needed to be handled elsewhere," Xander told him.  "I've got to call Gibbs."  He walked off doing that.  "Hey, Overlord.  We're going tomorrow.  Be safe and all that shit.  Watch over Faith for me if I can't.  Sam's here with us.  Nah, he's off handling something.  I just called his phone and got his voicemail.  I'll be fine.  It'll be on the news.  Warn the elves this way for us.  Just do it tomorrow.  They'll only cause problems if they're here.  Yeah, I'm sure.  Very sure.  See you soon and hug Tony there.  He sounded pitiful in his email yesterday."  He hung up and looked up at the night sky.  Then he went back inside to finish making the bombs.  "Buffy, when this goes, we need to evacuate the area.  There's going to be fire crews and probably Feds within hours."  She nodded.  "Sam's got my spare car keys.  I've got mine in my front pocket.  If you have to frisk me, so be it."

"Got it, Xander.  I'll try not to crash it if we have to escape."

"Thanks."  He looked at Sam.  "You're running the evac with Faith.  Do not argue with me.  There's a chance that the hellmouth will open when this goes.  We're not sure if he'll be opening it or not."

"Got it."  He was going to kick Dean's ass for not being here for Xander.  "Did anyone else hear these plans?"

"Mac, Horatio, and Gibbs all asked so I told them.  They agreed it was about the only workable plan in that small of an area with what was going on.  They do not like it and they do not know about those."  He pointed.  The principal came in so he looked at him.  "What?"

"What are you doing?" he sneered.

Xander punched him and knocked him out.  "I'm making sure more evil doesn't reign in Sunnydale."  He put him into the book cage.

"He'll need to be at graduation," Buffy said.

"I can block this out for him," Willow promised, doing that.  Then she let Angel walk him off when he got there.  Xander even got to hit him again for all the problems he had caused them.  They got to work on the finishing touches.  It had to go right tomorrow.


Dean hung up his phone, looking at the handcuffs then at his father.  "Xander and Sammy are going into a real battle tomorrow.  You done yet?"  The demon in his father sneered.  Someone stomped in and knocked John down then kicked him on the chest.  "Hey."

"Hey," he said, unlocking Dean's cuffs.  "Go." Dean rushed out.  Tony squatted down to look at John, shaking his head.  "Are we not having a good month?" he asked when they woke up.

"Who're you?" he demanded.

"The Overlord Jethro's first spouse, Tony," he said bluntly.  The demon shrieked and fled.  "Good to know."  He helped John up.  "Do whatever you have to do, John.  The boys are going into a real battle tomorrow.  Thankfully we're near enough to make it by the ten o'clock deadline."

"Let me get some holy water," he said, going to find some.  He came back.  "Dean took the car."

"You can have mine.  We can stop at a church on the way."  They left, heading down to Sunnydale.  "Why come to Palo Alto?"

"It wanted Sammy."

"He's in Sunnydale with Faith and Xander."

"Thank God."

"No, God has nothing to do with this, John."  He turned on the radio, speeding up once he hit the highway.  "Xander said there's forty-three churches in Sunnydale."

"They probably need it."  He tipped the seat back some.  It was comfortable at least.  A good rental.  Only they smelled like air freshener all the time and Tony said he drove a mustang.  This was a sedan.  "Federal issue?"

"Rental.  If I had borrowed a car from the local office they'd want to get involved.  We're nosy that way."

"What about the elves in the FBI office in LA Dean said you had?"

"We didn't tell them more than to watch out on graduation, something might be happening.  Xander said he wanted them far away.  They'd complicate matters."

"Wonderful.  Do we have any ideas?"

"Gibbs approved of the battle plan.  He's got reinforcements.  They're screwed if they can't get him soon after he changes."  John hummed and closed his eyes.  "Just don't grab the wheel if the demon comes back."

"She was scared to death of you, Tony.  I have no idea why."

"We have a scary rep," he said with a grin.  "One fled from Mac the other day, calling him the father of the spawns of hell."  John laughed.  "I thought that was cute too.  Gibbs growled.  Wanted to hunt it down."

"They do hunt, they're banes to that world."  He changed stations on the radio.  "Better noise."

"It's not too bad."  He changed lanes so he could speed up a bit further.  He wasn't over the speed limit by much and his badge would cure any tickets most likely.


Xander looked at the people gathered around.  Horatio stomped in.  "Horatio?  What are you doing here?"

"You don't get to go into a battle on your own, Xander."  He saw the bombs and went to look at them.  "You missed a wire."

"I'm putting them in right before we go out."  He looked at him.  "So they can't get bounced by a random earthquake or anything."

"Good idea."  He inserted the missing wires for him, then they went to take their places.  Jethro nodded from his seat.  "We're set."

"Who has the trigger?" Jethro asked quietly.

"Giles," Xander said before sitting down next to him.  They looked at him.  "I graduated with my GED."

"I'm proud, kid."  Jethro patted him on the back.  He spotted what he had on under his shirt.  That got him smirked at.  "Faith?"

"Has hers covered too."  That got a nod.  He subtly passed Jethro something.  "Who else is here?"

"Dean, John, and Tony should about be here by now," Horatio said.  "He had to go unpossess John.  He was holding Dean hostage."

"No wonder he wasn't answering his phone."  They nodded.  The principal walked up to start his speech, totally putting down the students at the same time.  "Toad," he muttered.

Horatio looked at him.  "Don't insult toads."

"Or trolls," Gibbs said, crossing his arms over his chest.  The mayor stepped up to give his speech, glancing up then out at the crowd with a smile before he started.  As soon as he switched languages, Xander hopped up and moved forward.  "Move, federal agents!" he yelled.  He and Horatio got out of the way of the fleeing crowd.  Sam and Faith were getting people out of the way as the mayor changed.  Faith guarded the exit out, taking out the demons, while Sam guarded the back and pushed them out.  Horatio helped with the defense until they could clear things.

Dean, John, and Tony all pulled up and hopped out to jump in.  The defense was going well as a diversion.  The mayor ate the principal.  A few people cheered and even Gibbs had to smile at that.  The snake dove their way and he fired on it while his section fled.  It moved to attack someone weaker.  Horatio dove on one kid to save him but another one got batted by the huge nose.  He got up and fired on the snake.  It didn't hurt him much but it was enough to drive him off.

"Close the ranks," Xander called.  "Guard the right flank.  Dan, that's you!"  Those kids moved in like he had taught them.  He looked around.  "Sam, go!"  He sliced another demon coming in to help the chaos.  "Ethan must be fucking high on the power from this," he said to Buffy.  She nodded.  "Giles?"  He nodded.  "We good?"

"Nearly."  He waved at Buffy.  She ran, getting the mayor's attention.

"Move it, people!" Xander bellowed.  "Back off!  Now!"  Everyone fled, taking the others with them.  Xander got knocked down but he got helped up by John.  Dean got his scythe that he dropped.  He grinned at him when the school went up.  "Pretty."

"Very pretty," Dean agreed with a slight pant.  "Damn."

Xander nodded, looking around.  "Get a casualty count!  I want medical here, now!" he shouted.  Ambulances started arriving within minutes.  "Fade," he told Faith.  "Something's wrong.  I can feel the hellmouth."  They looked, Buffy looked where she was walking out.  "Something's wrong."  Part of the school got sucked in, exposing a light.  "Shit!"

"On it," Willow shouted, rushing in with Buffy guarding her.  She chanted as she ran, hoping like hell it worked this time.  She tripped but Buffy helped her up.  She had to duck something falling from the outside of the school.  It kept sucking.  "I can't, Buffy."

Xander came running in, adding to the chant.  She took his hand, working with him.  The light wavered.  Xander looked at the hole.  "That's not a good sign.  Something's holding it open."  He picked up a piece of rubble, tossing it in there.  It knocked into the beam that had fallen, unpropping it.  "I see a tentacle, Willow."  She did it again, using him for a power source.  It finally shut.  She fell to her knees.  Xander looked around.  "We have to go.  Now.  The building's going to finish collapsing."  He helped Buffy pick up Willow and carry her out.  John took Willow from them.  They ran for the cars.  It was what saved them as the school started to fall into the hole.  "Oh, shit," Xander said in awe.  He grabbed a cop, pointing.  "Sinkhole!"

He called frantically.  They grabbed all the bodies that they could and evacuated once the sinking got worse.

Dean pulled Xander into the Impala.  "We have to go now."  They headed off, making it out of town as the rest of that block fell in.  They got to sit and watch half the town be sucked into the former hellmouth.  And future hellmouth once someone uncovered it probably.

Horatio looked at Xander.  "Was that part of the plan?"

"No.  It wasn't."  He looked at Willow.  She was on Tony's back seat.  "Did we all make it out?  Faith and Sam?"  They waved from their spot on Xander's hood.  "Buffy?"  She waved.  "Thank god.  Call your mom."  She did that.  "Giles?"

"Panting and praying behind the car," she told him.  She called her mom.  "Hi, Mom.  I'm okay, no matter what the tv says."  She listened. "I have no idea, Mom.  We thought he might wake the hellmouth to complete the ritual.  The books weren't sure about that.  Well, either he did or something did.  We got it closed when it was blocked open.  That's what's doing the sucking, yeah."  She watched as another few inches fell in.  "I have no idea.  Willow's crashed.  Giles is praying hard.  Giles, can you pray for someone like Ethan to come close it?" she called.  "He's evil and all but if it keeps going he'll be sucked into a hell dimension.  I doubt he'd enjoy that."

Tony snapped his fingers and called the castle.  "It's Tony.  The hellmouth here opened and is sucking in people.  What do you mean they appeared in the courtyard?  Anything of the buildings?"  He smiled.  "That's fine.  Treat them and we'll get them back here somehow.  Rosenburg tried."

"She was sucking energy from me and using my help," Xander said more quietly, looking at him.  "At least they're okay."

Tony repeated that, nodding.  "They're getting help, Xander.  The ones they lost are being given every respect."  Xander swallowed, nodding a bit.  Gibbs walked him off to let him puke in some bushes in private.  Dean followed after grabbing some water for him.  Tony watched.  "Xander's sick but we're good.  We all made it out.  Thanks, man."  He hung up.  "They'll handle it from that side."

"Thank you, God," Buffy murmured, going to hug Giles.  He smiled, hugging her back.  "I didn't see Cordy or Oz."

"Oz was with my group," Faith said.  "He faded pretty fast.  He should be safe.  Find Red's phone to find his number."  She nodded, patting Willow down to find it.  She called Willow's mother first then Oz.  Faith looked at Sam.  "Damn we rock."

He kissed her.  "You do."  She beamed.  "You did a great job, Faith.  Saved a lot of lives."  He smoothed her hair down, kissing her again.  "Need any cuts looked at?"

"I'll heal."

"Not allowed," he said with a grin.  "Xander either."  She snorted.  He pushed her against the car to check for injuries.

"Guys, not in public," Buffy complained.

"I'm checking for injuries, Buffy.  Not having sex here," Sam retorted.

Gibbs looked over.  "Sam, you have a backseat."

"I'm only checking for injuries."

"Then I'd let go over her breast, son," John said dryly.  Sam blushed, letting her go.  She checked him over.  He had a few light cuts and a lot of bruises.  She had about the same.  They could bandage and baby each other later.  The sucking stopped once it hit the downtown area.  City Hall stopped it.  "Protections on the building."

"He wanted power, he wasn't stupid," Tony agreed.  Xander came out with Dean and Gibbs. "You okay?"  Xander nodded.  "Happened to all of us, Xander.  You did good.  They said there was only fifteen dead out of all that fell through.  The PD and EMS people evac'd the rest already to the hospital."  He nodded.  "Out of that many people, only losing that many was fantastic."  He gave him a pat on the back.

Buffy let go of Giles to look at the damage.  "That's going to be a mess for months."

"Patrol slows down during the summer anyway," Xander reminded her.  "By fall it'll be back to normal."  He looked around.  "What sort of excuse do we think they'll use this time?  It's too big for wild animals or gangs of kids on PCP."  Gibbs snorted at that.  Horatio shook his head with a slight moan.  "Their excuses for vamps.  Now and then someone falls on their barbeque fork."

"Gas explosion," Faith said.  "I heard one of the EMS guys saying it was a huge gas explosion."

They all shook their heads at that.  News crews were already coming down on the town.  "Let's get your stuff, kids.  We can relax somewhere we won't be found."  They nodded.  "Where?"

"Motel," Xander said.  That got a nod and Dean took him to get his.  Sam took Faith.  It was good to relax afterward.  Both their mates were calmer than they were.  Dean and Sam would be sick later and they could baby them.


Don Epps knocked on the hotel room's door, getting let in by Mac.  "What the hell, kids?"

Xander looked at him.  "Get any film?"

"Six different versions.  Why did it sink in?"

"The hellmouth opened," Willow told him.  "Some of the debris blocked it open."  Don moaned.  "It'll be fine, sir.  Who are you?"

"Agent Don Epps, FBI."  She whimpered.  He looked at Xander.  "When I suggested someone take out the town to save lives, I didn't mean like that."

"I didn't plan that," Xander said with a frown.  "I planned the defensive action.  I planned the bomb.  I made the bombs, but I didn't plan for the hellmouth to get stuck open.  We knew it might but Willow can usually close it.  Thankfully since I was helping her when it got stuck, they all went to our realm."

"We have them back.  It was a good plan, Xander.  Half of them died from the hellmouth, not the mayor or the explosion."  The boy turned a bit green.  "Go puke if you need to."  He ran to do that.  Dean followed after him.  He smiled at that.  So did everyone else.  "Anything I should report to either set of higher ups?"

"My mom's in LA," Buffy said.  "I'm going to report to my own higher authority."

"We can make sure you find her, Miss Summers.  Gibbs?"

"We weren't going to let the kids go into a real battle situation without backup.  All they had were untrained kids whose only experience was D&D or video games," Tony told him. "Mac got there late due to a delayed flight."

"I would've been there," Epps complained.

"You would've had to try to stop the bombs," Buffy said quietly.

"Not really.  Only if asked later."

"That's why he said he wasn't telling you," Gibbs told him.  "Speaking of, our director throwing another fit?"

"She was until the video feed started on the news.  Apparently McGee said you guys were there for the graduation ceremony.  I do know she's gotten the real feed from at least one source we don't have."  That got a grimace from the NCIS personnel.  "It'll be fine, guys.  Come work for us at the FBI," he teased.

"I'd hate to have to learn to take credit for arrests like the ones in DC," Tony quipped back.  Xander came out and sat down again.  "Want some soup?"

"Nope."  He let Dean sit next to him so he could rest against him.  Not technically cuddling but he felt miserable.  "How many?" he asked quietly.

"Seven from the battle.  Another two from the explosion.  Knocked into harder objects."

"Were they too strong?"

"Maybe but better overkill than underkill in that case," Don told him.  "Another ten from the hellmouth opening."  Xander nodded, looking down.  "Eight total died from the evacuation before Faith could pull the demons off them or from trampling injuries."  She nodded at that, letting Sam stroke her back for her.  "Twenty-seven deaths out of over four hundred people, even those around the area of the school.  That's who the hellmouth got.  They didn't evacuate fast enough. An earthquake will do the same thing."  They all nodded at that.  "That was still phenomenal odds, Xander.  You did good planning that one."

"Thank you."

"Welcome.  Are you staying down here?"

"I might go rehab the garden for a few weeks then go visit one of the others' cities to see other places.  I had planned on a road trip eventually."  That got a nod from them. "Sam, take my car to Stanford with you.  I had the title changed over last week."  Sam opened his mouth.  "You'll need it.  It's cheaper to live away from the college than right on top of it."  He looked at Don.  "Official trouble?"

"My director isn't one of us and he did throw a fit until he saw the feed.  Then he calmed down and said it was good someone was handling those matters.  The guys in the special dark suits already showed up and tried to confiscate everything.  Charlie copied the feed for us.  If they haven't showed up they probably won't.  You might be in the clear.  We're waiting for official word.  Charlie sent it to Fornell since he can get it to Homeland and our director at once.  So far I haven't heard anything from that side."

Gibbs found his phone and called.  "Fornell, Gibbs.  Do you need Xander to stay local?  He needs some quiet thinking time."  He smiled at the boy.  "Yeah, he did plan that.  All but the hellmouth opening.  They thought it might and made contingency plans but it got blocked open by falling debris.  That's why they did go there.  Thank you for that.  He was worried."  He listened, nodding slowly.  "I can do that.  LA with Don Epps.  Sure."  He hung up.  "They want a comprehensive report on what happened, when we knew, and how."  They all looked at Willow, who sat up and got it off her laptop for him.  "They wanted you three in DC to answer questions as well."

"Then I'll print that later," Willow said.  "I've got a migraine."  She went to lie down again.

"We can do that," Xander agreed.  "Do we need to worry about anything else, Agent Epps?"

"Not as far as I know.  You did good, kid.  Relax.  Rationalize it however.  You saved at least the lives of everyone in that town and you couldn't have prevented the hellmouth or evacuation deaths.  Even if you had trained Marines."

Xander nodded.  "Doesn't make me feel much better but thank you."

"That means you've got a deep soul, kid.   That's always a good thing."  He left them alone, going to report to his boss.

Xander looked at them.  "I'll go work on the garden after that, Gibbs."

"That's fine, kid.  However long you need.  You know that."  He patted him on the back.  "We think you did good too.  You couldn't have prevented the losses and mourning them speaks well of you."  The boy nodded.  "Go rest.  You've got to be exhausted.  Take Dean to cuddle for the nightmares."  That got a nod and he went to bed.  Faith and Sam went to their room.  The rest of them went to find their choice of relaxation after bad cases and battles.


Stella hung up with Mac, going to watch the tv in the break room.  She found Danny and Hawkes staring.  "Mac said they're all fine."  Hawkes looked at her.  "He was there for a friend's grad, Sheldon."  She patted Danny on the back.  "He's in a bar but he's fine."

"Why?" he asked quietly.

"The situation we heard about."  He looked at her.  She nodded.  "That's what solved it."

"Fuck," he muttered.  Don stomped in and looked at the tv.  "Mac said he's fine and so's everyone else."

"They'd better be," he said, pissed as hell.  "Why didn't Mac ask for backup?"

"Tony, Jethro, and Horatio went.  As well as John and Dean," Stella said.  "Mac said half the deaths were from the sinking."  Don relaxed a bit.  "But it was bad.  He was in a bar."

Don looked at the tv again.  That looked really bad.  "The kids?"

"Abby's in DC," Danny said.  "Faith and Xander should be fine if everyone's fine.  Probably a bit sick and shaky.  I'd be sick and shaky."

"They said that's a gas explosion that caused sinking when the pipes blew underground," Sheldon said.

Stella looked at him.  "Would pipes blowing underground cause sinking, Sheldon?"

"Probably not," he admitted.

"That wasn't a gas explosion.  It was necessary to save lives."  He nodded at that.  Lindsay leaned in.  "Mac's okay.  He was where that gas explosion went off."

"That's good."  She came in to watch, shuddering.  "It looks like how I imagine hell."

Adam and Sid walked in together to get a drink and dinner respectively.  Sid stopped to stare at the screen.  "Mac?"

"Fine," Stella said.  "At the bar.  He called."  Sid relaxed.

Adam looked then at Sid.  "That looks like an all-hands situation."

"Gas main explosion plus underground pipes going too," Sheldon said, looking at them.  Adam snorted at that.  He shrugged.  "That's what the new mayor said.  Apparently the old mayor was speaking at the graduation when it exploded.  Thankfully only twenty-seven deaths."

"Thank God," Lindsay said.  Danny nodded.  "Should I tell you what I found, Stella?  Or should I wait?"

"Give me ten.  I'll meet you in your lab."

"I'm upstairs in layout."  She fled.

Don shook his head.  "That's another reason why I don't like her."

Danny smirked.  "Usually you like everyone as long as they don't take a leak on your car or your shoes."

"Yeah, well, I'm being more discriminating today."  Sheldon gave him a look.  "What?"

"She's not that bad."

"Yes she is."  He looked at Adam.  "You too?"


Don smiled.  "Priest Don, son of Jethro," he mouthed.  Adam shuddered.  "We're sure everyone's okay, Stella?"

"Mac said so."

"Good.  We'll call tomorrow.  Let them get some rest."  He left to go swear in the alley.  Mac should've taken him.  Xander had to rely on too many untrained kids.

Adam looked at Stella, who winked.  "That explains a lot," he said, flicking his ear.  She smirked.  "Okay then."  He subtly pointed at Danny.  She nodded.  He nodded back and let it go.

Sid shook his head.  "The young these days."  He sat down beside Sheldon.  "How was your day?"

"Not too bad," he admitted.  "Thankfully."  That got a smile.  Stella and Danny left.  "What is going on, Sid?"

"I can't tell you, Sheldon.  You can only make educated guesses and talk to Mac."

"Yes, sir."  He finished up and went back to work.  A few of the other techs were watching the online news feed.  "Mac was there but he's fine.  He called Stella."  They smiled and got back to work.  He went to his own lab to get back to his current case.  He had a lot of questions and a lot of thoughts that didn't make logical sense.


McGee hung up and relaxed.  "Kate, everyone's fine."  She quit pacing.  "That was Tony.  They're all fine.  They managed to evacuate and help some of those evacuating.  They'll be back in two days for the Homeland debriefing with a few of the kids who were closer to the front of the explosion."

"Sure.  That's good news," she said.  The director walked over.  "Tony called McGee.  Everyone's safe."

"That's good.  Why wouldn't they be?"  McGee put the current news feed up onto the main screen for their pod.  She gasped.  "Jethro was there?  I thought he was nearby.  Near the earthquake portion."

"He went to see a few friends graduating," Kate told her.  "They're saying a gas main explosion."  Abby came bouncing in.  "They're good."

"Gibbs called."  She gave her a hug then McGee a hug.  She looked at Ziva.  "Want one?"

"I'm good, thank you, Abby."  She went back to watching.  "There's no way that was a gas explosion."

"Homeland agreed with the analysis after watching some tapes from the crowd who was attending," McGee said, switching the feed to that conference where he was assuring everyone most everyone was safe.  There were very few deaths from it.  "They're bringing back a few of the kids to ask more detailed questions of but it's all but sealed," he told her.

She smiled, leaning on his shoulder.  "That's good.  You should meet Xander."  She went back to watching.  "Anything on the freaky, hinky, and paranoid sites yet? There usually is."

He typed into one he liked.  "A lot but it's not a giant worm demon."  They all snorted at that.  Even though he knew it had to be.  There was no way that was a gas explosion.  The director walked off to try to call Gibbs.  He texted Tony to warn him.  Also that someone had screwed with her memories.  He would warn Gibbs.  He also sent the web address of the page to his coworker's phone so they could manage it.  That site was seriously strange.   It had fairies and elves working in various federal agencies; their clan fighting being the cause of lack of cooperation between agencies.  Someone took too many drugs, even if they did get a few facts right.  He found another site with feed from the battle, staring at it.  She glanced down then stared.  He sent the address to himself then closed the browser and erased the history.  She smiled at him for that.

Kate shook her head.  "Okay, let's get back on the case now that we know everyone's all right."  They nodded, getting back to work.  "Abby, do you have anything for us?"

"No.  I did have to put Ducky down on his couch because he nearly keeled over at the news of the explosion.  He said his report will be done soon."  She walked off to let him know what they had found.

Kate shook her head.  "She'll be surfing conspiracy sites while things run later."  They turned their attention back to the case at hand.  Robbery.


Eric watched the news, grabbing onto the back of the couch in front of him.  Horatio wasn't answering his phone.  The other techs and most of the lab was in there with him.

Yelina walked in.  "I heard from Horatio.  His phone broke during the fleeing.  He is fine and he'll be back in two days."  They all sighed in relief.  "He said to get back to work and quit worrying.  He helped with some of the evacuation."  They nodded, getting back to what they should be doing.

Ryan Wolfe fingered the hidden tip of his ear, watching the replay.  He went to call his clan leader from the break room.  He told him what had happened and that everyone was safe.  He relaxed and was able to get back to work too.  Someone should kiss that guardian set.  They were wonderful.  Too bad they were taken by the rumors.

Eric looked at him.  "What's wrong?"

"Nothing.  Thinking.  I have a few friends who live a few hours away.  I'm sure they're fine.  I'll call tomorrow morning in case the sinkhole set off some mild aftershocks in the quake faults," he lied.

"I'm sure they're fine.  Anything on this new homicide?"

"Chainsaw."  He handed over that picture with a mental sigh of pleasure for changing the subject.


Xander came out of the Department of Homeland Security, stretching up and then out.  Willow ducked under his arm.  "Sorry, had the life sucked out of me."

"A few demons can do that from across the room," Buffy agreed.  She walked around him.  "Now what?"

"Now I'm going to go rehab the garden so it won't eat us."  She smiled, nodding a bit.  "Then I'll visit Miami to scope bikinis, then New York for a bit of culture.  Maybe hit a museum here before I go."  They nodded, going to catch a cab back to their hotel.  He found the subway and asked information how to get to the shipyards.  It got him relatively close and the bus got him closer to the base.  He bought a pass and went to find his clan.  He made it to the gate and the guards gave him an odd look for being on foot.  "I'm visiting and Jethro Gibbs told me to check in with him.  The bus doesn't go inside."

"That would be a security breach if it did," one guard said.  He checked the manifest.  "I'm not sure if they're in on a case or out, sir."

"I can wait if there's someplace nice close by."

"There's a coffeeshop on base," he said with a point.  "I need to see your ID please, sir?"  Xander held up a finger and dug it out for him, letting him look it over, take note, then pat him down.  "Sorry, we have to be security conscious."

"Of course you do."  He took his driver's license back.  "Thank you.  It's good you guys are so thorough.  I'd hate to have to  hunt someone for hurting Uncle Jethro."  The guard smiled at that.  He grinned back and went inside.  He found the NCIS building and asked the information/reception desk in there.  "Jethro Gibbs asked me to check in with him.  Is he in please?  Him or Tony?"

"Let me check, sir," he said, calling up there.  "Ma'am, I have a visitor here for Gibbs or DiNozzo.  Name, sir?"

"Xander.  Abby knows me as well but I'd never do more than say hi.  She's a very busy woman."

He smiled.  "Bouncy too."

"Well, yeah, but so am I.  That's something I consider normal and you guys who don't bounce to be strange."

The female on the other end of the line laughed.  He hung up.  "Agent Todd said they're out interviewing.  It'll be about an hour.  Would you like to come back, sir?"

"Which way to the coffeshop?"  It was pointed at.  "Thank you."  He headed that way, getting himself something to drink.  He went outside to admire the sun.  It wasn't as strong here as it was at home.  A guard stomped his way.  "Special Agent Gibbs told me to check in but he's off interviewing so I'm waiting, guys.  Am I breaking a law by standing on the grass?  Because if I am I'll go sit inside and not pay any attention to anything."

"Most people don't wander around, sir."

"Then why put the statues up?"

"To spend leftover money in the budget so they don't lose it."

"Oh, that makes a lot of sense.  Thank you."  He grinned.  "Let me go back inside the coffee shop until they get back."

"Thank you, sir."

"I didn't mean to panic anyone.  Sorry."  He went back inside.  He saw a redheaded woman and turned away, shaking his head.  Jethro had to have better taste than that.  He got a magazine and a refill of his soda, sitting down to read it until it was time.  The woman came over to stare at him.  He looked up at her.  "Am I in your seat, ma'am?"

"At least you're a polite little liar.  Gibbs doesn't have any siblings."

"Who said it wasn't an uncle in quotes, ma'am?"  She gaped.  "Really.  Plenty of people have uncles and aunts who are their parents' friends.  I have about three.  If you doubt my story, ask Abby.  She knows me."  He went back to reading.  She snatched the book.  He sighed and took it back.  "Unless you're going to reimburse me for that, ma'am, I'm being a good boy for the moment."  He shifted so his back was to the wall and sipped his soda.  He stared at her.  "Do you think I'm that fascinating?  Because the staring is just creepy for a woman your age to a man my age."  She stomped off.  He wiggled his fingers after her.  "Have a better day," he called after her.  "And may the Force grant you peace."  He went back to reading, ignoring the giggling from another corner.  Some people really did have ego problems.  She came back with two MP's.  He looked at them.  "She was making me creeped out by staring at my young butt."

"She's the director of NCIS, sir."

"And I'm being a good boy waiting on Jethro Gibbs.  She came over to harass me.  I'm not sure *why*.  Apparently she's having a sucky day."

"She wanted you arrested, sir."

"You know what, call Jethro," he said, pulling out his phone.  "You can get the number by pushing the 3 button if you don't have it.  Or go in through the menu like always."

"It's off."

Xander sighed.  "I was at Homeland being debriefed about the gas explosion."  He turned it on.  They flinched.  "Guys, I'm good but not that good."  He found the number, putting it down so he could read it.  "There you go.  Tony DiNozzo's is the next one and two later is Abby Sciuto's."

"She's in the lab, we can verify with her," one said, calling down there.  "Miss Scuito, we have a young man here who says he's Jethro Gibbs' nephew?  The director is very disturbed by him."

"And all I was doing was reading and drinking a soda," Xander added.  "Clearly someone has an issue."  He glared at her.  She went to hit him and he blocked it with the magazine. She tried it again.  "Try it again, lady.  Find out how comfy the floor is."  She tried to punch him.  He kicked her into a table and knocked her out when it flipped up to hit her.  "Told you so."  He looked at the MP's.  "She made me."

"She did, sir."  He listened to Abby.  "She said to please calm down, Mr. Harris?"

He took the phone.  "She tried to hit me, Abby.  I gave her a warning.  I've been nothing but polite and nice.  She stomped over while I was drinking a soda and reading a magazine.  This was all her play."  He smiled. "Please."  He hung up.  "She'll call Gibbs herself.  That way he can clear it up."

"That would be fine, sir.  Would you agree to voluntarily come down to the office?"

"As long as you arrest her for trying to assault me," Xander said.  "Or else I get to sue her and the agency for it."  They groaned.  "I'm a kid from near LA, guys.  Honestly, I'm not going to let someone try to hit me."  He stood up and turned off his phone.  "Other than that, yes I'll go with you voluntarily.  Not where she chooses however."

"That's fine, sir.  We have a security office."

"We can pull the tapes from in here?"  She groaned. He looked down.  "I'm sure my lawyer would be very pleased to see her try to hit me."  She sat up holding her head.  He looked at the MP's again.  "Can we?"

"We can so Agent Gibbs can see and make a judgement call about who to yell at."

"That's reasonable to me as well."  He gathered his drink and magazine.  "Shall we?  She and her ho shoes can follow us."

"Sir," one moaned.

Xander grinned.  "Only women who want something wear heels that high.  They're too uncomfortable for anything else from what I'm told."  He followed them out, walking over her.  He went back to reading when they sat him in a seat.  The head MP saw the film and came out to talk to him.  He looked up.  "I warned her."

"You did.  How did you do that?  It was a nice move, kid."

He grinned.  "I'm from three hours outside LA.  One of my friends is a very good fighter.  I've worked with her and a few others.  Including on some sword work."

He smiled.  "That's fine.  You'll stay here?"

"Until Gibbs gets here.  I was more than polite and calmly waiting on him to get done."

"I know, sir.  I checked.  I'll tell Gibbs that."  He went to talk to him, getting DiNozzo.  "Sir, after watching the tape, the boy was not doing anything wrong.  The director jumped on him.  He did warn her not to try to hit him after the second time and only pushed her with a foot into another table to knock her out.  He was polite to the gate guards, the MP's who wanted to know why he was looking at the statues, all of us.  He's been a very good boy and he made himself very clear.  Even if he did threaten to sue her for assaulting him."  He smiled.  "I'm sure Gibbs will growl but I would suggest he look at the tapes first, Agent DiNozzo.  The boy is being good.  He's sitting in the security office reading a magazine.  The same one he was reading in the caf.  Please.  She's not here."  He laughed.  "I'm sure he will growl, sir.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "DiNozzo said about twenty more, kid."

"That's fine.  They're busy on a case.  I'm not going to interrupt.  Jethro wanted me to check in after I finished getting debriefed."  The head MP gave him an odd look.  "It was my graduation that had the gas explosion.  They wanted to make sure no one set it off."

"That's reasonable of them."  He went back to his office.  The kid went back to reading.  He was nice and calm, that was a good thing.  Abby came in and she wasn't calm.  She was nagging. "Ma'am," he chided from his desk.  "It wasn't his fault.  He was being a good boy.  Better than some boys in boot camp.  All he did was read and sip a soda."

She sighed.  "That director is being an absolute woofing creature."

Xander shrugged.  "Why insult half of all the dogs in the world?  Or even werewolves?"  She gaped then burst out laughing.  He grinned and went back to reading.  "I'm being a good boy.  I was then."  Gibbs stomped in.  "I didn't start it.  I was sitting and reading."

"Tapes?" Gibbs demanded.  They were pointed at.  He sat down to watch them, then nodded.  "You were being a good boy."  He looked at him.  "You called me Uncle Jethro?"

"Plenty of kids have non-related aunts and uncles.  I pointed that out to her when she accused me of lying.  Which would normally get my fist in her nose."  He gave him a look. "I'm following orders.  I came to see you when they got done with me.  I was polite to everyone, even apologized when I panicked a few guys by waiting while looking at the statues you have.  One explained it as they were using up a budget surplus so they wouldn't lose it when I asked."

"Sometimes," he admitted.  "Where is she?" he demanded.

"Her office according to the building's security guards, Gibbs.  He was very reasonable.  Most of my boys would've tried to hit her back."

"I would've," Abby said, giving Xander a hug.  "You're my favorite cousin."  He grinned. "Can I have him back?"

"You may.  Should we expect a subpoena for the tapes, sir?  You did threaten to sue her."

"I'm thinking about it."  Gibbs glared.  "I may let him sway me."  That got a smile and a nod.  "Thank you for your assistance earlier."  He shook his hand, then the two MP's hands.  "Thank you as well."  He handed Abby the magazine.  "It has a new fashion series that's almost laughable."

She flipped through it while they walked.  She did burst out laughing.

"Since when did you read that Hollywood gossip trash?" Tony asked.

"I was.  The new spring line is so bad it's hilarious.  I can't wait to see Buffy trying it out."

Tony looked and snickered.  "It is."  He clapped Xander on the back.  "Can we not behave?"

"I was!"

"He was," Gibbs admitted.  "You still can't sue her, Xander."

"Fine," he muttered.  "I'd have a killer road trip fund if I did."

"Literally.  She was CIA trained."

"Never mind.  This is my evil woman drawing skills.  No wonder she tried to attack me."

Tony cackled.  "You're so bad, Xander."

"I try really hard not to be," he offered with a grin.

"Try harder," Gibbs ordered.  He let them into NCIS headquarters.

"Agent Gibbs, the director said he is not allowed in."

"We're going to talk about him suing her for assaulting him," Tony said.  The guard gaped.  "He was waiting and being good.  She came to hurt him on purpose.  She's lucky she's not in jail for attempted assault."

"Yes, sir."  He got him a visitor's pass once he marked down his information.  "Sunnydale?"

"The gas explosion was my graduation.  I was in town to be debriefed about if anyone set the explosion off."

"Did someone?"

"Homeland's paranoid," Xander said.  "The local investigators said that the mayor's mike sparked and set off a leak."  That got a nod.  "I'm sorry she dragged you into this."  He leaned closer.  "For some reason evil women all want to conquer me and kill me before they love me."  The guard gave him a horrified look before bursting out laughing.  He grinned.  The metal alarm went off a few times but he finally figured it was his necklace and took it off.  "Sorry, heirloom."

"We understand, sir."  It was handed back.  Xander put it back on and reattached the scythes out of view.  "Have a good meeting, sir."

"Thank you."  They got onto the elevator.  He looked at Gibbs.  "I tried."

"I know you did, Xander."  He patted him on the back.  "We'll figure it out."

"Are you sure I can't sue her?"  Gibbs got him on the head.  "Ow!  That's your special Tony love swat, not for me."

"Bet me," Gibbs said dryly.  They got off on his floor.  "This is my nephew, in quotes, Xander."  Xander grinned and waved.  "If he needs to reach me, or his twin sister Faith, they are to reach me no matter what."  That got a nod from Kate.  "Faith is a willowy, tough brunette who looks a bit younger but is very well built to fight."  Tony handed over a picture.  "I forgot you had one of her."

"Who's the boy?" Kate asked.

Gibbs looked.  "Dean.  Xander's possible mate."

Kate smiled at him.  "He's cute."

"Especially when he's in trouble for not calling for a week," he agreed smugly.  She laughed and handed the picture back.  "I'm sorry they bothered you guys.  I was trying very hard to be good."

"It happens," McGee said.  He smirked at Xander.  "I saw your picture on Reggies' site the other day.  How did he get a kindergarten picture?"

"I have no idea.  Do I know Reggie?"  McGee pulled it up to show him.  "Aww, I was adorable."  He grinned.  "I'll have someone go pounce him to tickle him for that."  Because tickling would kill that demon in a very horrible, mean way.

Gibbs looked, smiling at the cute little kid with the missing tooth and the messy hair that was nearly sticking straight up.  "It is a cute picture, Xander."  He sat down.  "Sit."  Xander sat beside him.  "We'll hit dinner soon."

"Sure."  He looked at the picture.  "Why would someone stab him with a halberd?"  McGee choked.  "It is by the depth and shape.  I didn't think the Marines used those anymore.  And why is he wearing an Army combat ribbon?"  Gibbs gaped so he shifted, pointing at one.  "That's the Army version, not the Marine version.  Right?"

Gibbs took the magnifying glass Tony handed him to look.  "I'll be damned, it is."  He looked at the boy.  "Good spotting, Xander.  Don't pay attention to the case."

"Okay.  If you want my opinion you'll ask."

"It's more for the victim's privacy and the privacy of his family," Kate said.

"That's fine.  I get that.  If I got impaled I wouldn't want to have others say it either."

"I said he was not to be here," the director shouted from the MTAC walkway.

Xander looked up.  "He's trying to talk me out of suing you, ma'am.  After all, assault is a bad thing."  She gaped then stomped off.  "Worm lover," he muttered.  Tony gave him a dirty look.  "Not like she'd take anything higher."

"She's not that bad," Gibbs said impatiently.

"Then she should leave me alone," Xander pointed out dryly.

"She should.  She's being irrational for some reason.  Who would have a halberd in DC?"

"Were they used in any of the wars people recreate?" Xander asked.  "Or are they maybe D&D reenactors?  I used to play a priest who carried one."

McGee was searching on his computer.  "There is a shop specializing in medieval weapons, boss.  They might have a name for us," he offered, sending it over.

"Take a closeup of the wound and measurements there.  See if he can identify a specific type and give us a name," Gibbs ordered, handing it to Tony.  "Take McGee.  He talks geek like they do."  He nodded, taking him off.  "Good spotting," he said quietly.  Xander preened.  "How did it go?"

"Not too bad."  Two FBI agents walked in.  "Hi, guys.  You were there this morning.  This is my uncle Jethro."

"Mr. Harris."  He looked at Gibbs.  "She's freaking out."

"Means she's evil because only evil chicks like me," Xander quipped with a grin.  "After all, Kate's not flaking out to get me into a compromising position where I'd have to give into her sick, sad, and demented desires."  Both agents gaped then one burst out laughing.  Gibbs got him on the head.  "Ow!"

"Quit, Xander."  He looked at them.  "What did she want?"

"Him to be arrested and sent to Gitmo as a threat to the US."

"He's not, only to her sanity because she started it," Gibbs said.  "She attacked him."

"So said the head of security when we talked to him," the giggling agent said.  "We saw the tape."

"He doesn't want me to sue her."

"It could cause you problems, sir."

"He'll be leaving DC later tonight," Gibbs said.  That got a nod and they went to tell her that.  Gibbs would be talking to her later.  She screamed in fear and Cynthia came running out of the office.

Xander sighed, looking at him.  "Am I that good of a good guy?"

"Usually."  He went up to check.  He found the agents pinned down by some vicious little flying things.  "What are you?"

Xander leaned in.  "Pixies."  He threw something at them, making them shriek and meld together to make one super, giant pixy.  "That's new.  Giles said you guys couldn't do the 'Zoid thing.  That's no fair."  He threw something else and they broke apart with a shriek.  Xander patted himself down.  "No more holy water," he said in a sing-song manner.  "Out!"  The agents left and Xander kicked the door shut, pulling his necklace off to remove his scythes.  He waved one.  "C'mon.  I'm here and you obviously made a mistake by doing it at my uncle's work."  The director started to say something so he kicked her in the jaw, knocking her out again.

The pixies lunged.  He cut into the ones getting near him.  Some cut him.  One got his forehead.  One got his chin to cheek.  He ducked and got it as it flew past the next time.  The last six tried to join again.  He threw a scythe and lunged with the other one.  Four died in one swipe.  He grabbed his second one again to scissor cut one of the last ones.  The other screamed and hid inside a cabinet.  Xander squatted down to get it out.  He got a foot.  It clawed at him.  "Ow!"  He swatted it into a wall.  It flew out with its claws out, aiming for his face.  He blocked it with one scythe then smacked the other one into it.  It fell down out cold so he sawed its head off.  He stood up, looking around.  The lights, no shadows.  The shadows had nothing moving.  He opened the door, holding up a hand.  One little blur tried to get past but Tony shot it.  "Nice shot."

"Thank you.  Need to see Ducky?"

"I'm not a vamp," he snorted.  "All I need is a wash cloth."  Another blur tried to shoot out so he threw a scythe.  It stuck in the wall with the pixy clamoring to get free.  It was yelling 'police brutality' and 'set the pixies free'.  "Don't make me cut off your head," he sneered, leaning down next to it.  "I'm on Buffy's team," he hissed.  It shrieked in outrage and pain.  "If you do not answer me, I will go after your whole village.  I will bring Buffy and my twin, Faith."  He tipped the little head up.  "Do you understand me?"  It nodded quickly.  "Why are you here? There were too many of you for anything but an attack or a debt."

"We were paid," it whimpered. "Please!"

Xander grinned.  "Who paid you to take her out?"

"Overlord Jethro."

"Him?" he asked with a point.  "My uncle?"  The pixy gave him a horrified look, turning its head almost all the way around to see the scythe holding it to the wall.  Xander held up the other one.  "Know any other Xander that hunts demons?"

The pixy let out a loud wail and started to rip at its chest.  Xander smacked it on the head, making it moan and shake its head to clear it.  "That's not nice!"

"Me or Faith, baby.  Who sent you?  And why?  If you were swarming, you'd have eaten her already.  I would've come in to bones."

"Lord Favreta wanted her.  She's been stepping on toes.  She's been causing problems in other agencies too.  He said the game's no fun with her playing.  We were to bring her to them, injured or not, and then we'd get her when he was done."

"Favreta is what sort of demon and from where?" Jethro demanded coolly.  "Tell me and I'll make him let you go."

"Why?" Xander asked.

"As a messenger that we'll be making them pay if they try it again."  He looked at the little thing.  "Tell.  Me.  Now," he snarled.  It babbled at him about the demon.  Xander took some paper to take notes.  "Where do I find him?"

"At the CIA," Xander said.  "He already said that.  He said he's at Langley."  He looked in the office, then removed the scythe, putting them both back on the necklace then putting the necklace back on.  "Tell him I'm coming, little one.  I'll have a lot of fun coming all over this one.  Even though she tried to be mean to me."  He smirked evilly.  "Pity."  The pixy whimpered, looking at Jethro.

"We won't let him go to Langley.  We'll call him out instead.  Have him come over for dinner."  The pixy disappeared in a pop of noise.  He heard another one.  "There was another one?"

"I didn't see one," Xander said.  "Could've been inside the toilet I guess."  He shrugged.  "Check her for bites."  He grinned at Tony.  "I need to practice more.  I couldn't have split a wing that way."  Guards rushed in, pointing guns at him.  "I don't have one," he said dryly.  "Tony shot it."  He walked off shaking his head.  "I'm going for more coffee.  Bring you back some, Jethro or Tony?"

"Please," Tony called.  "Gibbs?"

"Tell them to give you mine and DiNozzo's special.  They know what to give you," Gibbs called.  "Guys, let's go check on the director."  They walked in, looking at the little bodies. "They attacked her.  Yes, DiNozzo shot one."  Xander came back ten minutes with a small tray of coffee cups and two larger ones for him and DiNozzo.  "Thanks, kid."

"Welcome, Jethro."  He looked at the bodies then hummed.  "Not bad."  He sipped his new soda that had been sitting in his pocket.  The guards stared at him.  "Yes, I do this sort of thing at home.  If it hadn't been a hit from something else, she'd have been eaten before I got up here."  He took another sip.  "By the way, I knocked her out so I didn't have to hear a screaming woman to distract me."

"Who are you?" the guard demanded.


"Is that like Cher?" one asked.  "Only one name?"

"In that world.  Yes."  That got a shudder.  "Exactly."  He took another drink, looking at the director.  "She's starting to wake up.  Let me go back to your desk, Jethro."

"How do we deal with these?" Tony asked.

"Broom, fireplace.  Ask Ducky if you can borrow a cremating oven?"  He shrugged and walked off.  The agents were huddled at Gibbs' desk.  "Done."  They ran back up there.  He looked at McGee.  "How many halberds?"

"Seventeen in the city that they know of.  What was that?"

"Pixies," he mouthed.



"So, not food?"

"No.  Not food."

"Xander, next time be more gentle when you save someone distracting you," Tony called from the walkway.  "That's a verbatim order."


"I'll tell him."  He went back in there.  He came back.  "Tell the probie there.  I think he knows."  He went back in there.  Gibbs gave him an odd look.  "He sent me a site with real- time files of the gas explosion, boss."  Jethro groaned.

Xander looked at McGee.  "Hi, Xander Harris."

"I know."

"On Buffy's crew.  Twin brother to Faith somewhere else."

McGee swallowed.  "So the overlord stories?"  Xander smirked.  "Oh.  So that's how...."  Xander fingered his necklace.  "Good to know.  Thank you for telling me."

"Welcome.  Jethro said so."  That got a quick nod.  "Want to help them sweep?"

"No.  Want shown to the head so you can clean up the cuts?"


"I'll show you."  He walked him to the bathroom then went upstairs.  "I showed him the head, boss."

"Thank you.  DiNozzo, go check on him.  He's a big one about hiding.  Call Dean on him if you have to."

"Yes, boss."  He jogged down the stairs, going to find Xander.  He pushed him against the sink, looking at the cuts.  "Only those?"

"Two on my chest, one on my wrist, and a bite on the same wrist."  He took off his shirt, letting Tony wet down paper towels to help him clean them up.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He looked at him.  "Stitches?"  He found one on his upper back and got that one too since the boy couldn't reach it.

"We're good."

"Uh-huh.  I should ask Ducky."  He checked one.  "Those claws are sharp and long."

"Pixies are nasty things.  I hate those.  I can't stand them.  But at least they weren't swarming to eat her."

"Not much better."  Tony checked another one.  "That one's even deeper."  He pulled out his phone but Xander took it.  "Not gonna work, Xander.  It's Ducky or I'm calling Dean."  Xander made a whimpering noise.  "Don't make me get Jethro down here to order you himself.  Or Abby.  As the heir she can order any and all members of the clan.  Even the ones I can't."  He grabbed the phone, calling her.  "Need you and Ducky in the men's head to clean up some pixy injuries on Xander."  He hung up, staring him down.

"They're not that bad."

"You only complain and try to hide when it is.  One more and I'm calling Dean.  I'd have to call Sam to find him...."  Xander slumped, shaking his head.  "Good."  Abby knocked then walked in.  "Someone sent pixies after the director."

"She's had a crappy day."  Ducky walked in.  "Xander took on pixies."

"I loathe those things.  They do great damage to bodies and you can never explain them to normal people.  Hello, Mr. Harris.  Ran into them in Sunnydale before?"

"You knew about Sunnydale?" Abby asked.

"Of course, dear.  I'm the priest above Stella."  She beamed. "Let's see."  Xander tried to move.  Tony started to dial.  Xander moved back.  Tony didn't quit dialing so Xander snatched the phone and turned it off.  Then he threw it against a wall with a scowl for Tony.

"Yeah, that'll work," Tony said dryly.

"I'm cooperating.  You don't have to call Dean."

"Good," Abby said happily, kissing him on the cheek.  She bounced out and called Sam anyway.  "Hi, Faith.  It's Abby.  No, looking for Dean's new number since he had to replace it after Sunnydale."  She wrote it down.  "Oh, just a bit.  Some pixies came to take out the director."  She laughed.  "Yes, he did.  That's why I'm calling.  He's cooperating but he wasn't going to.  Exactly.  Ducky is.  Thank you."  She hung up and called it.  "Hi, Dean.  It's Abby."  She beamed.  "Yes he was.  Pixies.  A few cuts.  He wasn't cooperating so Tony threatened to call you.  I thought I would so you wouldn't worry about him.  No, saving the life of an evil wench who wouldn't leave him alone earlier.  Yes, the director."

She laughed.  "He's got a few cuts.  Ducky's stitching them if they need it.  Tony had to play tough and threaten to call you."  She 'aww'd.  "That's so cool.  Yeah, he's just now done.  Thanks, Dean.  No, just complaining."  She blew a kiss.  "Behave and be safe, Dean.  It's a dangerous world out there.  I got it from Sam."  He chuckled.  "See you soon."  She hung up and texted Tony's phone with that number and the info that Dean was nearly local.  Tony sent back a smiley face.  Dean would end up holding Xander down again tonight it looked like.


Xander looked up from dinner at the knock on the door, hand going to the knife in his pocket.

"Relax, no one would even think about it here," Gibbs said, heading for the door.  "John."

"Jethro.  Dean's tied up in the car.  For some reason he started to swear?"

"I cooperated," Xander complained, glaring at Tony.  "You didn't have to tell him."

"He didn't," Dean said as he walked past his father.  He handed over the handcuffs he had picked.  "Thanks, Dad, needed the practice anyway."  He walked in to look at his bitch.  "Abby called, not Tony."  Xander slumped, shaking his head.  He tipped his face up again.  "Something you want to tell me?"

"I wasn't sure I was good enough but apparently I was."

"Only ten cuts," Tony told him.  "One bite."

"Good!  Better than my last one."  He looked at the butterflies on his face.  He kissed him.  "At least you're okay."  Xander nodded.  "Do you need anything?"

"I'm okay.  Really.  She decided to leave me alone.  Forever and ever."

"Good!  You don't need more evil women after you."  He leaned down.  "Want some tylenol?"  Xander shook his head slowly.  "You sure?"

"He had some with the salad," Gibbs told him.  "I made him before I spanked him."

Dean grinned.  "I'll have to remember that."

"When did I mind being spanked by you?" Xander shot back, making Dean blush.  "Hmm."  He pulled him down to kiss again.  "Thank you for coming to see me before I go pull the garden out."

"We, Xander.  We."  Xander gave him an odd look.  "More evil chicks might come for you up there if I don't."

"You can go hunt."

"I will be.  There's still bastards and we need to paint our apartment."  Xander blushed.  "So we'll do that."

"We need money to do that.  The clan isn't rich."

"We don't need to be.  Paint's cheap."

Xander nodded, giving him a hug.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He kissed him again.  "Be good until we can go?"

"I'm trying really hard."

"Me too."

John shook his head.  "Sorry you have to witness Dean's lone mushy moment this year, Jethro."

"I was mushy when I was their age too," he said dryly.  Xander gave him a dirty look.  "I was."

"Uh-huh.  That how you got Tony?"

"Something like that."  He sat down and ate a bite.  "Food's on the stove.  Plates above it," he ordered.  He looked at Dean.  "No making out in my house."

"The castle too?" Xander teased.

"As long as I don't have to see it there, I'm good with it."  They both smirked at him.  "Dean, sit and eat."

"Dad shoved two double cheeseburgers down my throat on the way here."  He pulled Xander up, taking him to the bathroom to check him over.  "I hate pixies."

"I had my scythes.  Tony shot one."

"I'm proud of both of you.  We'll work on your aim so you can do it too."  Xander smirked.  "Do you have anything left in Sunnydale?"

"Some weapons, a few things in storage."

"We should look those over."  He handed him the t-shirt back.  "Let's go eat."  Xander nodded, going out there.  Dean looked up, shaking his head.  Pixies with a scythe?  He wasn't sure which was worse, him or Xander.  Jethro and John both gave him looks when he came out.  "They're fine.  Mostly shallow.   Should we bring food with us?"

"No, the harvest went well this year," Jethro told him.  That got a nod.  "You can both go up for a while if you want."

"We've got a job.  I'll go up after that."  Everyone nodded.  John handed him a plate.  "You made me eat already."

"A man needs food for proper wooing," John said.  "I ate a lot while chasing your mother."  Xander blushed.  "I did," he told the boy.  "Any man wooing needs his energy."

"I don't need wooed.  I'm not a girl.  If he wants to make a nice dinner I wouldn't mind but I don't need girl presents."

"Dean can barely cook but that's not a bad thing," John agreed, smiling at his son.  Those two were *so* alike about some things.  Dean grinned, eating another bite to hide it quickly.  "What're you doing while you're up there?"

"Stella wanted me to work on my temper's fuse to make it longer and the garden really needs a good sword to help it."

"It used to be a good walking garden.  Herbs, plants, some bushes.  Not flowers really but Alelea did add some here and there on me.  Right now, the garden would eat a person walking around it."  Jethro ate another bite.  "There's headlights out there."

"Going before she pounces me again," Xander quipped.  He took a kiss from Dean, gave Jethro a pat, and went to find the portal in the basement.  He stepped through and let it close behind him, glancing around.  Nothing appeared out of the ordinary.  He walked on, going past the throne room toward his apartment.

"Who was that?" a female voice shouted.

Xander backed up and walked in, crossing his arms over his chest.  "I could've sworn that was Jethro's seat.  Who in the fuck are you, lady?"  She gasped, backing away.  "Let me repeat that.  Who in hell are you and why are you in Jethro's chair?"

"Guards!"  Guards came running.

He looked at the familiar one.  "Am I in the wrong place or time?"

"No, Lord Xander."

The woman whimpered.  "Then why is she in Jethro's chair?"

"She is resting while we find the phone to call him."

"I'm here for the next few weeks to work on the garden.  It's my turn."  He looked at her.  "That was bad start to make."  He walked up there, staring at her until she moved.  He sat down.  "We take turns since most everyone has important new lives.  The curse did have us reborn."  She nodded quickly.  "Now, what did you need?"

"We wish to set up an alignment with this clan.  I'm sorry to have usurped his seat but I was feeling ill."

"Uh-huh.  What sort of alignment?"

"We would like a marriage alignment."

He considered it.  "With?"

"One of the more minor cousins.  We know we are not worthy of the heirs."

"All the main ones look like this."  She shuddered.  "As for the minor, more distant clan members, there's not many left.  We would have to talk to them, see what they wanted.  I doubt Jethro would force them unless there was going to be a war without having it.  He gave me the right to choose and Faith as well when it was our time."  She nodded quickly.  "I would have to talk to that clan member or he would.  Call them here."  The guard nodded, bowing to do that.  "As for right now, we're still working on undoing all the crap they did to the castle.  We have very few guest rooms that are open and the garden is fairly scary.  I'm here to weed it down with a sword actually.  I can get him onto this matter once I've talked with the clan member."

"Yes, Guardian Xander.  Thank you."

"Next time, don't try it on for size until right before the coronation."  He gave her a look.  She ducked her head.  "All right, find them rooms?"  The guards nodded.  "I'm going to mine to start a list of what needs to be fixed around here that I can do.  Starting with our room and the garden."  He looked around.  "Then some paint in here."  They smiled.  "I just got fed so don't worry about me for the night."  The guards nodded.

"Lord Xander, if I may ask, why are you injured?"

"I decided I was a good guy when Jethro's work director got attacked by pixies."  They all groaned.  "I'm fine.  They're big scratches.  Before anyone can complain to Dean, he's already seen them and said I was fine too."

"Usually he calls you better than fine," one teased.

Xander blushed.  "We're still working out that stuff, guys.  It's a good reason to repaint the bedroom though."  That got a few laughs.  "Okay, any other problems before I go to bed?"  They shook their heads.  "Good.  Let them know it's my turn on the problem patrol.  Horatio is on it when I'm not."  They nodded at that.  "Good.  Going to bed.  Let me know when the clan member comes in."  He got up and walked off humming.

The demon shuddered.  "He is very strong," she said quietly.

"Very," the guard agreed.  "Let us show you to the guest suite.  You're in luck, they found a good mattress for it."  She followed.  When the other clan member got there in the morning they showed her to where Xander was staring at some hideous plants.

"Lord Xander?" she said with a bow.

He looked over, sipping his coffee.  "Morning.  You're which cousin?"

"Is the overlord coming soon?"

"He's at work right now.  We're splitting responsibilities."   She looked confused.  "When the curse hit, it had us being reborn on earth as humans."

"I was wondering if you got cursed again."

"No, this is me now."

"Ah.  Where is Lord Jethro?"

"DC.  He's a federal agent.  Horatio and Mac are both officers who work in forensic police labs."


"Jethro does something similar.  Tony works on his team.  Abby's with them."

"That's interesting.  So you're taking turns?"

"Yes.  Stella wanted me to do some expansion on my temper's fuse.  Since my high school and part of the town just got blown up."  She went pale.  "Yes, I'm Buffy's Xander."

"Oh, dear."

"Faith's a slayer."

She wobbled and he helped her sit down.  "They truly wanted your part of the clan out of the way."

"Yeah, too bad they made me the memory key," he said with a happy grin.  She smiled weakly.  "Now, there was someone here who wanted to set up an alignment marriage with someone in your part of the clan.  As Jethro and Mac did for me, I'm going to do for you.  I want you to meet with them.  I want you to see if you can stand them.  At the same time, we'll be investigating them to see if there's anything too bad.  Then you and they can make your case to Jethro while I give whatever I find on them.  Agreed?"

"Agreed.  My mother would have me consider it based more on worth to the family."

"That's up to you.  I'd rather have someone I could stand to be around for the rest of my very long life."

"We only live to be thirty."

He smirked.  "Humans live to be ninety sometimes.  Sometimes older."


"Jethro's older than thirty."

"Maybe that changed when they cursed you."

"Maybe but I'll let Stella and Don look into that.  That's more their area of study."  She nodded quickly before standing up to dust herself off.  "Go meet with them.  Make a good decision in whatever way you want.  If you like the family but not the one offered, see if there's others if you want.  Then you'll make your case to Jethro in a week or so."

"Thank you, Xander."  She gave him a hug then went to the throne room.  She was handed a bottle of water.  "They imported it?"

"They did," the guard said.  "The town's filter needs changed.  They'll be out in a while.  They're bathing to get ready for the day."

"Let me freshen up as well."

"I've called Stella.  She said you can use one of the guest rooms in her suite.  We're still fixing what they did to the castle and most of the beds are uninhabitable."

"That would be wonderful.  I'll write her a nice thank you note."  He showed her that way once she had her bag.  It was a nice room but a bit over-decorated.  "Is this the priestess' taste?"

"No.  This was the taste of the usurpers.  Lord Horatio's room was filled with gaudy pictures in shiny frames."  She shuddered.  "Exactly.  And beds made from Tolay sponges."

She scowled.  "That would disgust me as well.  Let me clean up."  She went to do that.  The guard waited until she was done to lead her to the room the others were setting up in.  "I'm glad to meet you, ma'am."

"You are very pretty and polite."  She shook her hand properly.  "Let us talk."

"Of course.  Xander told me to evaluate your offer then we can talk to the overlord in a week."

"That would work for me.  I've already informed my people to give the guardian whatever information he needed."

"That's wonderful.  Did you know about this curse?"

"Barely.  It's sad that they're now frail humans."

"Humans live to be over ninety he said."

"They're still in very fragile shells.  Lord Xander looked horrible last night."

"Pixies," the guard with them said.  "He had to take on Jethro's work boss to save her from a swarm with his scythes."

Both women shook their heads.  That was something only Xander or Faith would do.


Xander looked over as Jethro and Horatio walked out of their portals.  "Morning."  He got out of Jethro's seat and gave him a cup of coffee.  He waved the pot for Horatio, getting a head shake.  "Then we have a serious matter only the clan's leader can decide."

"What sort?" Horatio asked.

"A clan came to ask one of the young cousins for an alignment marriage."

"That's not a bad thing," Jethro said.

"I told her to get to know the ones she'd be deciding about for a week while I researched their clan.  Both in the library and among the merchants and others who travel."  He handed over his stack of notes.  "That's what I've heard about them.  I haven't heard anything too bad but they seem a bit materialistic.  They're traders though so I'd call that normal probably.  I did scare the crap out of her when I walked in and she was sitting in Jethro's chair."  They smiled at that.  "The clan member came the next day, talked to three different males of the clan and the woman who came to suggest it.  They're waiting on you to hear from them."

"That's a good plan," Jethro agreed.  He read it over handing it to Horatio.  "That's usually your job to sort things out."

"It is but he's done a lot of my work for me.  Thank you, Xander."

"You guys do important things.  We will have to finish fixing up the castle if the wedding is being held here."

Jethro looked at him.  "I noticed the new paint job.  Pretty decent.  Missed a few spots but it looks like you ran out of paint?"

"Yeah.  Two days ago."

"Do your room?" Horatio asked.

"No, I started in here.  I only got four gallons."

"We can fix that," Jethro promised.

"Paint's really expensive in town."

"I'll have Mac bring some over," Horatio said.  Xander grinned.  "Or possibly Dean."

"Can you guys please quit pushing?  If he wants to, he'll come."

"Is there a problem with him not coming?" Jethro asked.  He knew they were being pushy but Dean was showing up in a few hours.

"He doesn't always like to talk to me and things.  I don't think he's fully comfortable with all this.  The same as I'm not fully comfortable sometimes.  I feel like I should have pigtails too."

"It's not that," Dean said from the doorway.  "It's the distance where I'm roaming to hunt and you're not."   He walked over, making Xander look at him.  "No pushing needed.  I want to be here with you."  He swatted him on the arm.   "We're working it out, right?"

"We are, but I don't want them to push you toward anything you're not comfortable with."

"Xander, no one can do that.  I'm more stubborn than even Jethro is."  Xander blushed.  "Really.  If I don't want to do something, you'll know."

"You never answer your phone."

"Are you using the new number?" Jethro asked.

"New number?" Xander asked.

Dean moaned.  "I could've sworn I gave you the new number, Xander."  He patted him again. "I thought I emailed it to you."

"I haven't checked my email in months.  I hardly ever do.  Willow usually checks it for me when she's bored.  She hasn't said anything and I know she's been in there a few times."

"Huh.  We'll work that out," Dean promised.  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Are we done with the reporting?  I wanted to see what he's done with our room."

"Nothing.  Paint's really expensive up here and there's almost no color selection.  I did what I could in here."

"We can go at it," Dean agreed.  "I've done some day work on construction crews."  Xander gave him an interested look.  "I can teach you what I know, Xander."  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Good.  Horatio, can we get more paint from home?"

"I texted Mac to bring some.  Do you boys need anything for yours?"

"We'll decide that then I'll go pick it up.  It's not fair to let anyone pay for our room but ourselves."

"Good," Jethro agreed.  "I've got to figure out where they put the money we used to have."

"I was told it was locked in a dungeon but I couldn't find it.  All I found was two prisoners who were really mean."

"Tell me they didn't use it all as a bounty?" Jethro moaned.  Xander shrugged.  "Did they have any?"

"No clue," Xander admitted.  "I have gotten part of the main walking path cleaned up though."

"Good job.  That was one I wasn't looking forward to by any means."  Xander beamed.  "Go look at your room with Dean so Mac can bring stuff for you guys too."  They went to do that.  "They're both insecure," he said quietly.

"It's new for them, Jethro.  Especially for Xander."  He looked at the other man.  "His parents drank a lot."


"Very.  He went missing and no one filed a missing person's report while he was traveling."

"Can we smack 'em around?"

"The boy might not let you but we'll see."

Jethro nodded.  "Okay.  Look into that?  The money thing.  I'll ask Xander if we can smack the human parents around later."

"Sure."  He went to talk to the guards that had managed to stay on during the others' reign.

Jethro settled in to talk to his clan member first.  "Where's the cousin?"  The guard had her brought in.  "How was your week?"

"I don't particularly like the one they wanted.  He's a bit shallow.  He does good in business but he doesn't do much beyond that.  He'd leave me all alone with any and all eggs he might come home long enough to create.  His brother is good, but he has ideas that are a bit fanciful.  I'm not sure they'd work but he'd be home a lot more.  There was one I did like more.  He has modest business successes.  He doesn't mind if I join him in the business.  We went to similar schools and we both agree I'm not going to be a trophy wife, even if we do have phenomenal successes."  She paused.  He waved her to go on.  "That one I only met a few days ago but I would like permission to bring him to my parents or bring my parents here to meet him."

"All right.  What's the guy like?"

She smiled.  "He's a bit cool towards most people but he will talk to you.  He won't put me down and I will be insisting that the marriage contract has penalties if he doesn't treat me well enough."

"Good.  Are you prepared to spend your whole life with him?

"I think I could be.  My mother would wish for the first one but he's not interested in anything but his money."

"You do the best you can with what you can find and what attracts you," Jethro told her.  "We would insist on clauses that say he may not harm you."

"Thank you, clan leader."

"My last ex-wife hit me on the head with a baseball bat.  I don't want anyone to go through that."

"Do humans really live to be ninety?"

"Average is about seventy but some do.  Some don't make it to that age with full mental capacities but some do."

"Interesting.  Xander told me that."

"Boys like Xander are going to be lucky to make it to my age because they jump into dangerous situations.  Dean and Faith as well."

"What did happen to his face?"

"My work director was attacked by a swarm of pixies sicced on her for her problems of getting involved with the wrong case.  He jumped in with his scythes."

She blinked a few times, looking confused.  "Is he sane?"

Jethro laughed.  "He is, but he sees it as a matter of necessity."

"Ah, I see.  I guess it would be."

"Now and then.  Especially at his graduation."  Xander leaned in.  "Got a list?"

"We're not agreeing on paint colors."

"Anything in between?"

"No.  I like something lighter and he wanted darker."

"Pick a painting to center the colors around," Horatio yelled from where he was working in the library.  A book came flying out and hit the floor near them.

"Sam and Willow would fuss," Xander called.  "Thank you, Horatio."  They settled into their usual guarding corner to find a picture they liked the colors in.  "Maybe we should ask Buffy."

"We'll end up with candles and froofy shit," Dean complained.

"She can do it without it."

"You sure?"

"Yeah.  Plus she can move the bed."

"That could help."  He stopped at one picture.  "I kinda like that one."

Xander looked then at him.  "Why?  I don't dislike it but why?"

"I was born in Kansas.  I'm more attuned to the flatlands than the mountains or desert."

"Sunnydale's between a river and the desert," Xander said, finding one he liked.  They compared them then pointed at the same background color.  They took it over to Jethro.

"Bit dark, boys.  See if the computer Sam and Mac put in has a graphic composer program.  Abby plays around with one and they usually have a color wheel or something."  They went to look at that.  They came back with a printout of a color.  "That's not bad."

"It should look good in the light or the dark," Dean told him.  "It fits well with our bed and other stuff too, Jethro."

"Even better.  Now, want to send that to Mac?"

"Can we send it to Buffy?" Xander asked with a grin.  "She can decorate and paint."

"I don't care.  That'll give you more time to work on your temper in the garden."  Dean gave him an odd look.  "Stella told him to extend his fuse."

"He doesn't have a short one."

"It has to do with the girls," Xander told him.  "Now and then they have special girl syndrome.  She said it'll be important later on that I don't smite someone for it."

"If they try, you come get me and I'll spank."

"Okay."  He called Willow.  "It's me.  I need Buffy's help.  No, not slaying.  Decorating mine and Dean's room."  He pulled his phone away from his ear at the squeal.  "I need that hearing, Willow.  Here, take down this color coordinate.  We found it on the composer program's background color wheel."  He read off the six numbers that made up the composite of the color.  "Yeah, like a light honey tinted towards cream.  Please?  I'll pay her back when I get home?"  He beamed.  "That'll work.  Thanks, Willow.  Here.  Sure, call and we'll find a way."  He hung up.  "She can and will.  She needs texted the measurements."  Dean went to do that.  He gave Jethro a hug.  "They're happy that we're decorating."

"I'm happy if you are, Xander."  He grinned.  "Think we can get the garden done by the wedding?"

"If I work night and day, we can have half of it.  I've had an herbalist come up to see what's important, what's magical, and what's just annoying.  Plus what has poison since one stuck me and I nearly stroked out until the guards got that healer.  She's really amused by us."

"I'm sure she is.  Healer Carson seemed very nice.  Did she check the cuts?"

"And called me stupid."

"You weren't.  It was a necessary move to save someone," Jethro said.  "It's one of those brave yet silly moves that guys have to pull now and then.  Usually it gets us pretty papers to hang on the wall or medals."


Jethro smiled.  "She's going to ignore you exist."

"Can I still sue her so I can afford stuff?"

"We'll see."  Xander nodded, going to help Dean.  Jethro shook his head.  His phone rang so he answered.  "Yeah, Gibbs."  He listened.  "We are working on some painting and a clan member's proposed alignment marriage, Fornell.  Why?"  He winced.  "Xander!"  He came jogging back.  "They were going through Sunnydale and found a few weapons stored under *your* name?"

"Some extras of Giles' and some things I found."

"And one you lifted from the national guard base," he said dryly.

"Buffy needed it to stop the Judge.  It was in a mall but we made sure everyone was out of the way and cleaned up the mess so we could send it off to somewhere safer."

Gibbs listened to Fornell's list he had gotten from Epps.  "I'll send him back for a few hours.  That way he can help Buffy pick out things for his apartment.  Of course he will hand over anything not immediately needed."  Xander made a begging face.  "No."

"What if we need it again to stop something big?"

"Tell Epps; he'll get you whatever you need."

"You sure?"

"Fornell said so."

"Can I turn it in for a reward so I can afford to update our apartment?"

"He wants a reward.  He's updating his apartment, Fornell.  They nearly ruined the castle.  Xander's spent a week getting one path of the garden mostly fixed."  He nodded.  "He'll see.  Head back."

"Yes, Gibbs."  He told Dean and grabbed his keys, going to take Don Epps around the storage areas he knew.  "If I can get a reward I'll turn in more stuff," he offered with an impish grin.

"Not going to prison enough?" Epps asked.

"No.  Sorry.  I've got a roadtrip planned this summer.  I've got to fix the damage they did to our apartment there, then live on it until I can get a job."

"The clan had money."

"Horatio thinks they might've spent it all to get two prisoners."

"Aw, shit."

"I'm only seventeen for another few weeks," he offered.  "I'll be good and hand over the mayor's stash that wasn't found."

"Let me look at it first," he ordered with a small sigh.  Xander took him that way.  What he saw amused him.  A lot.  "What was he planning?  World War five?"

"Demons do try to end the world every spring," Xander said dryly.  Buffy strolled in.  "Hi."

"What's up?"

"He wanted my weapons."


"Too many bad things," Don said bluntly.  She shrugged.  "You don't need all this, guys."

"We don't need the guns."

"Bite your tongue," Xander ordered.  "Dean uses guns all the time."

"I don't."

He looked at her.  "I do."  She slumped.  "I do now and then.  They come in handy and scare the crap out of the guys who try to mug me now and then."

"Weed it down to one cabinet's worth of stuff," Don ordered impatiently.

"Need a latte?" Buffy asked.

"In a few."  He looked at Xander.  "I'll see if I can get you a reward for this stuff."

"That way he can pay for the paint and stuff," Buffy quipped.

"And do my road trip.  Horatio said I can go look at bikinis."

"Wow."  She shrugged. "But not a lesbian.  Even if Miami is hotty central."

"Dean's going to enjoy me watching them too."

She smiled.  He handed over the sheet.  "I saw that.  It's a bit dark and so is your room, Xan."

"Only in the morning.  We get a lot of afternoon light."

"Okay.  We can try it."

"It goes with our furniture."

"Which is a good thing."  She took it and her mom to the paint store.  Joyce had met Dean during the layover in LA.  She had liked Dean's manners a lot.  So she'd help with the redecorating stuff.  "Mom, Dean is very anti-mushy stuff and candles.  He called to remind me of that."

"That's fine.  A few in case of emergency can't hurt and some of them smell very good for a long time."  She let her sniff.  "Chocolate.  Xander will like that and Dean liked sweets too."

She beamed.  "Good idea.  They want Xander to weed down his apocalypse closet."

"Oh, dear."

"But they weren't on eighth yet."

She looked at her daughter.  "Will I scream?"

"I did."

She called Xander.  "Put the nice agent on, Xander.  Or tell him about the one on eighth.  Sure, see if you can do that since you rescued it from the bad ones who wanted to use them.  How about a few chocolate scented candles - for emergencies of course?"  She smiled.  "That'll be fine, Xander."  She hung up.  "He'll walk him over there because the nice agent heard and threatened to spank him."

Buffy looked up from shopping a few minutes later.  "Did you hear a yell?"

"No, dear, but you do have more sensitive hearing than I do."  They got what they needed.  Xander paid them back and they carried it over.  Joyce sighed in displeasure at his room but it'd be handled quickly enough by her daughter.  She went to find Dean and talk with him while Xander hid from the scary agent.  "There you are.  Xander ran outside.  Buffy is covering things in your room to start painting for you.  The scary agent is huffing at Xander's collection."

"He wouldn't show me."

"The agent made him show him."  Don Epps stomped in.  "That agent I do believe."

"Probably.  What did he have?"

"Way too much crap.  Where is he?"

"Outside hiding in the scary, poisonous plants.  Can I see?"

"If you do, I want anything beyond a minimal assault rifle."

"He had an assault rifle?" Horatio asked as he walked in to join them. "Mrs. Summers."

"Mr. Caine."  She smiled and shook his hand.  "Buffy's up to paint for the boys.  Xander's hiding from this nice agent because someone found his weapons stash for emergencies."

"I want to see," Dean complained.  "Xander knows I like weapons."

"You get him to let you see.  You sort everything out that's higher than a light assault rifle.  Am I clear?"

"Are we going to use it to bust anyone?"

Don considered it.  "If he could."

"He wants a roadtrip fund," Dean told him.

"I know.  I can do that if he finds something big enough for us."

Dean held up a finger, going to find his bitch.  He pulled him out of the bush.  "Is that one poisonous?"

"Magical.  I blocked the tentacle trying to eat me.  What's wrong?"

"Don said you could show me.  All of it.  Because I do like weapons," he said with a grin.  Xander beamed back.  "Anything lower than an assault rifle you can keep and if you can give him something big enough you can have a reward."

"You mean like the guy selling artillery or the demon selling artillery in LA?"

"Probably.  He's in with Joyce."

"They'd be cute together and Joyce wouldn't freak out."

"We'd have to see."  He walked him inside, stopping to look at the tentacle that was attached to his boy's behind but cut off from the plant.  He ripped it off and tossed it into the throne room as they passed by it.  "It wanted to eat what's mine."  Xander blushed, giving him an odd look.  "It tried.  It's not allowed.  I will find some gas so we can salt and burn it."

"Then you can't plant anything else for a while."

"Pity."  He walked him into the room they were using.  "He thinks there's demons and humans selling artillery in LA."  Don moaned, nodding.  "That good enough?"

"Yes.  Did you buy from him?"


"Even better."  He walked the boys off.  Horatio followed to see what the boys had.  He let out a deep, pained moan at the sight of the first warehouse.  "One cabinet worth, boys.  Make it able to travel with Dean if you have to."  They nodded, getting to work sorting out the best stuff.  They had a few playful arguments, one rolling around match, but they got it sorted.  Then Don took them and their new bag of gear to the next warehouse to work on it.  The rest he moved to his official SUV to take in.   The bigger stuff he had to call in help to move but that was fine.  He agreed that the boys had 'found them while scavenging'.


Xander snuck into the castle later that night, finding Jethro still up.  "Don said to thank you for lending me him."  He handed over the letter.

Gibbs read it then smacked him on the head.  "You didn't need weapons that big, Xander.  One or two pieces I could understand.  I know some battle cruisers that don't have that many rockets."  He looked at the boy.  "Are they gone?"

"Mostly?" he said hesitantly.  "But I moved the rest to more secure storage.  John knows."

"Fine.  That's a good use for it as long as it doesn't get sold or traded."

"Yes, sir.  Three?  I only kept four.  Dean can have one."

"Of?"  Dean handed over their current inventory, getting a nod.  "Well thought out, a bit diverse in range and strength.  Can you use a sniper rifle?"

"I can practice."

"Do that."  He handed it back.  "That's fine with me, boys."  They smiled.  "Buffy got done painting a few hours ago.  She went outside and nearly got attacked by a plant you missed, Xander."

"The herbalist said it was for magical stuff.  He's going to come up and take cuttings or whole plants early next week, once he's cleared out a space for them.  Was it the rare purple dick tentacle thingy?"

"Only one of the tentacles.  I called him up to ask him about it when it tried to latch onto her ear."  Dean snickered at that.  "He kindly removed it and moved up his timetable.  He wanted you to help him and his assistant tomorrow."

"Sure, I can do that.  Dean, can you help Buffy?"

"I can."

"She's done.  Even remade your bed.  Horatio was pleased with it.  Mac thought it looked nice.  Not too girly, Dean, even if there are a few candles in there for emergencies."  Dean grimaced but nodded.  "Go to bed.  It's been a long day."  They went to check out their room.  Giving a girl free access to decorate could be a bad thing.

Dean walked in first, sniffing.  "Chocolate?"

"Joyce found some chocolate candles."

"They smell good."  He looked around.  A nice mirror to expand the afternoon light.  The walls were nicely done.  The bed was made with a bedspread that coordinated but was a bit more masculine in a deeper brown color with a subtle pattern. There weren't a ton of pillows but three on each side of the bed in a honey shade with the bottom one in the same brown as the bedspread.  Their clothes were hung up for a change, and separated by person.  The dressers were used.  Their bathroom had towels hanging that were in a greenish shade that didn't clash with the honey on the outer walls but went pretty well with the water colors in there.  She had even cleaned the mirror for them.  Xander went to find her to hug her.  Dean gave her one too when she came back to show him things.  He could even put up with the candles when she showed him the warmer plate to put them on instead of lighting them.  That was a pretty masculine gay guy's bedroom but it was nice.

"Mom got Jethro the paint he needed for the throne room and the hallways.  Because it kinda needs it in spots.  Mac and Horatio got their own for their suites too.  So I guess it's a painting weekend."

"Looks like it," Xander agreed.  "Thank you.  I knew you'd do a good job and not fill it with frilly stuff."

"You're welcome."  She touched one of the gold decorative touches she had put around.  It went well with everything else.  "You two have a happy night.  I flipped the mattresses around so the better one was on top."  She bounced off.  They had appreciated her talent.  Maybe she should go into room design.  She did have her mother's artistic touch.


Jethro walked into work Monday morning rubbing at his wrist.

"Get hurt, Gibbs?" Kate asked.

"Missed a spot of paint."  She gave him a look.  "What?"

"Boat paint?"

"No.  Sealant paint for concrete and stone."  He sat down at his desk.

"Your house doesn't have concrete or stone."

"I wasn't painting my house."

"Oh."  She went back to checking her email.  "Did you get done?"

"Most of it.  The boys will finish it."  She gave him a look.  "Yes, I meant Xander."

"He's in DC again?"


"Okay."  She went back to her email, considering it.  "Do you have a vacation home somewhere?"


"Is it pretty?"

"Getting there.  The people who stole it for ten years ruined the gardens and things.  It used to have a nice walking garden out back.  The boys are dealing with it with an herbalist this week.  Then Dean's threatened to salt and burn some of the rest.  There's a lot of sticker plants."

"Ah."  She nodded.  "My aunt had a lot of roses in hers."

"We had a few with tentacles that wanted to eat someone."  He saw Abby and held up something from his pocket.  "A rare purple veined tentacle plant with teeth."

"Ooooh, I could use that in the lab."

"I thought you might like to decorate with it.  It tried to eat Buffy's ear when she came up to decorate for Xander."  Fornell got off the elevator and stomped over.  "Morning, Fornell.  Case?"

"No."  He handed him an envelope.  "For the littler bastard nephew of yours."

Gibbs looked inside and whistled.  "He'll appreciate that.  Later this summer he's going on a road trip to look at bikinis in Miami."

"I'm sure his mate will appreciate that."

"They're going together.  They both still insist they're straight."

"It happens I guess.  Give that to him.  Have him tell Epps if he finds another one or needs anything.  I don't want to hear about him collecting again."

"I already gave him that order."

"Good."  He stared.  "He let who decorate?"

"Buffy Summers.  She did a good job.  She helped fix up the office up there and a few other rooms.  Her mother runs an art gallery so she clearly has some taste.  She even made the boys like scented candles because they found some chocolate and cherry ones to put on warmer plates so their room smells good."

Fornell smirked.  "Maybe they aren't that straight."

"They went around going 'I'm straight' for the first few months, Fornell."

"Hmm.  They'll figure it out I suppose.  Emily wanted to know if you wanted a picture of her in her riding lessons."

Gibbs smiled.  "She's an adorable kid."

"Good."  He handed over one.  "There.  Give that to the littler bastard."  He walked off happier.  His boss would be pleased Gibbs was handling that in-clan.

Gibbs paged Xander, who showed up a few minutes later.  He held up the envelope.  "Fornell said do not let anyone hear about you collecting again," he said quietly, looking up to stare him down.

"Yes, sir."

"Good."  He released the envelope.  Xander moaned in pleasure.  "Do that at Dean, not at me.  Kate might get too happy."

Xander grinned and waved.  "Hi, Kate.  Sold my collection."  He bounced off, using Ducky's portal back.  They had a nice bank up there that he could start a new account in.  That way he could have a really good road trip scoping bikinis in Miami and trying some art stuff in New York.  Dean gave him an awed look too when he dragged him down to the bank so he had a guard.  When they got done they went back to pulling out the bad things in the garden.  Before it ate someone other than the herbalist's apprentice.  When the old man was done, Dean pulled out the rock salt and the kerosene.  The herbalist had something to help them replant quicker so it'd be nicer bushes.  Which the guards had already found for them in the woods.  All approved by the herbalist so nothing was magical, going to eat them, or be poisonous if there were ever eggs again.

The fire was pretty neat.  They wet down the gazebo to save it.  They wet down the plants they wanted to save.  Including some pretty rare specimens.  Willow and the herbalist watched to make sure it wouldn't burn any of them.  When it was done, they tilled the new ashes into the ground, added the new fertilizer mix, then the new plants.  Then, it was dinner time so they went to take a shower while the herbalist got to crow about his new wares.  It'd earn him a lot of money.  He'd get to brag for years that the overlord favored him.  It'd get a lot of new business into town, which meant taxes paid to the clan, which would support them and all the town's works for years to come.   Not too bad for some ugly little plants that liked to eat people.


Xander bowed at the priestess walking into the castle.  "Can I help you, priestess?"

"Is the overlord not in?"

"Not today.  He's at work.  Can I help you?  I'm his Guardian Xander."

She smirked at him.  "I've heard of you."

He grinned back.  "I hear that a lot."

"I'm sure you do.  I have information on the curse that was sent to you."

"That's important.  What sort of information?  I can have the clan gathered tonight for dinner if you need us to be.  Including our researchers."

"Please.  There were clauses built into it."

"There always are," Xander said dryly.  She smirked.  "My best friend is a witch."

"I've heard."  She patted him on the cheek.  "I've heard you burned the garden down?"

"No, just the harmful things they planted."  He pointed.  "Go that way through the double doors to get to the garden."  She nodded, going that way.  He went to call the various people.  "Jethro, a priestess just showed up with information on the curse.  She said there's clauses built in.  Can you do dinner?  That'd be easiest for most everyone.  Mac's supposed to take over tomorrow so he doesn't have night shift tonight."  He nodded.  "That'd be easiest.  It may only take a few minutes.  I don't know."  He nodded.  "I'm calling the others, I called you first."  He smirked.  "Because you work hours that would break a guy like me, Gibbs.  Thank you."  He called the others in for dinner, including Sam and Faith.  He and Dean settled in to make dinner once he told him.  Since he was local it was easier to just yell until he came to see what was wrong.  Even if the guards did sigh and shake their heads.

Five hours later dinner was served and Xander sat down last, looking at the priestess.  "Okay, we're all here.  What about the curse that hit us?"

"It was one of our order that cast it," she said.  "It was written down after they beheaded her for doing something so evil."  They all nodded at that.  She handed over the small scroll to Stella.  "It is in the priestly language since it contains secrets that we do not want in normal user's hands."

"I can agree with that."  She unrolled it to read over, Don reading over her shoulder.  "It has an out clause?"

"If she had done it with enough power, yes.  As is, you'll be split in form."

"What about those of us who were with egg?" Sam asked.

She nodded.  "They've been dormant and hiding inside you all this time, Samuel.  It's one of the reasons that demon wants your family so very bad.  To prevent those spawn from destroying them all.  He can feel the spawn but he doesn't know it's you.  Should he, he would probably panic."

"As in the young will some day end that demon?" Xander asked. "Or all demons?"

"If they're raised by you four, the possibility exists for them to become hunters, like you are."  They nodded at that.  "If they're born and not raised by you or someone who holds the same values true, then the demon may well be able to take them to minimize the threat.  An heir is an heir.  In three years he'll need an heir."

"Then it'd be best if they didn't tempt him," Mac said.

"Not like we're ready for them anyway," Dean said quickly.  "We'd have to move."

"We decided on that one thing that looks like a closet," Xander said, looking confused.

"Then we'd have to give up a closet," Dean complained.

"Not there.  The door that you thought went nowhere has another door on that side and we agreed to use that space if and when we had eggs."

"Oh, that space.  Sure.  Will we have to have someone decorate it too?"

"It'll be a while," Xander said.  He looked at the senior clan members.  "Is that a workable plan?" he asked the priestess.

"It is but it has to be ended within five years of it being done."

"We've already aged past that in our own lives and it's been a decade here," Xander told her.

She frowned.  "We can check to make sure."

He nodded.  "Please do.  I don't mind not having a head fin.  I'm kinda settled in this new life, but it'd be easier on the people and us if we had them eventually."

She nodded.  "I can understand that."  She looked at Jethro.  "You obviously chose him to help you because he makes good decisions."

"He's a very good planner.  There's a lot of them in the family and I encourage them all to speak up."

"If we did change full time we'd have problems at home," Horatio said.  "I doubt Eric in my lab or your boss would appreciate the head fins."  He ran a hand over his hair.  "Plus I like having hair."

She nodded.  "That is also a consideration."  She stood up.  "Let me prepare for the searching I'll need to do tomorrow."

"On which one?" Sam asked.

"It would be better if it was someone who was not attuned to magic."

"Leaves me out," Xander quipped.  She gave him an odd look.  "I was reborn in Sunnydale, lived there my whole life."  She shuddered.  "That leaves Dean and Sam out as well.  Faith probably too.  Don maybe?  Or Horatio?"

"That would work," she agreed.

"I'll be here for the next few days," Mac told her.  She nodded, leaving them to talk.  He waited until she was gone.  "Does she seem a bit odd to anyone else?" he asked quietly.

"The timing seems a bit odd," Horatio said.  "Why not come sooner to when we took over?  Why now when that one demon needs an heir in three years?"

"Why does it need an heir is the question I'm wondering," Xander admitted.  "The timing could be travel time, she might've waited until it was safe, it could've just been shown to her.  Why didn't anyone else from that order come to us?"

"All good points," Jethro agreed.  "I want you younger four to find out why it needs an heir to see if it's something we'll need to help you hide from or help you hunt it down to stop it."  They all nodded.  "I do agree that it'd be helpful if we could get back to what we were but I'm not fully holding my breath about it.  It would make life at home a lot more difficult."

"I'll get to work researching this," Stella said with a pat to the information.  "A few of the words I wasn't familiar with."  That got a mass of nods.  "Sam, can you help with that or are classes kicking your butt already?"

He grinned.  "They wanted us to have an easy freshman semester."

"I had organic chemistry my first one," Stella nearly pouted.

Danny nodded.  "I had A&P biology."

"The benefit of working toward law school instead of a hard science," Sam teased.

"Law school is hard," Tony warned.  "That's a lot of long hours getting a lot of information you might never need."

"I know."

"As long as you realize.  You can whine to us when you're overloaded."

"Faith said she'd tie me down and make me pout."

"I'm sure you'd like that," Dean teased.

Sam gave him a smug look.  "We'll have to see, huh?"

"Kids," Mac complained.  They just grinned at him.   "How long do you think it'll take to finish decoding that, Stella?"

"A few days at the most.  We can call a dinner then to talk it over."  They all nodded.  "Mac, are you sure you can handle things?"

"If not, I can call and ask someone for advice.  Xander's going to be in Miami."

"I do know some of the merchants are going to come to talk about the downtown area and the market they want to reopen.  They said I know nothing about that except walking around shopping people then sneered at my shirt.  I told him that you were older and he decided that was a good idea."

"Gee, I'm sure he'll appreciate that," Don taunted.

"I don't care," Xander said with a grin.  "They were wearing ugly hats."  Mac shook his head, getting back into his dinner.  Xander grinned at Horatio.  "Where should we stay this time, Horatio?"

"I would choose one of the usual spring break hotels.  It's their off season so you should be able to get a room fairly cheaply and they are used to cash instead of people who pay with a credit card.  Most of the larger chains demand one these days."

"Sure, we can do that."  He grinned at Dean then at his uncle.  "I've got sunscreen, sunglasses, and my trunks."

"I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun, boys."  They both smirked at him.  "Do not get arrested."

"We won't," Dean promised.  "I know how to act in a new environment.  I'll make sure Xander isn't snatched, drugged, or has to defend himself from evil, selfish women."

"Please do.  Then call me."  They nodded.  "If you need bail money I will be yelling."

"Not an issue most likely," Xander promised.  "We shouldn't even have to hunt."

"Warn me if you do."

"Of course," Dean agreed.  "Don't worry about things.  You'll feel old long before it's time.  We can handle ourselves."

"I hope so."  He ate a bite of his dinner.  "When are you two showing up?"

"I've got to head back to get the Impala.  Xander can head with you and I'll meet him there in two days."

"That's reasonable."  Xander gave him an odd look.  "Can you handle it?"

"I have been to LA a number of times.  I'm not the most unwordly one even if I haven't traveled extensively."

"Good.  Just making sure, Xander."  Xander shrugged and went back to eating.  Horatio would keep quiet until Xander did something stupid, got jumped, mugged, or drugged in a club.  Then they'd talk again.  The rest of them ate, helped clean up, then everyone but Mac headed for part of earth.

Mac went to his suite to work on his own redecorating plans.  He had painted but now he needed to fix some small issues, like curtains.  He didn't have any and he didn't like that.  Plus his sheets were scratchy and he still had that velvet spread.  He decided to put that in Xander's room for him.  Xander liked fuzzy things.


Xander looked up from his beer at the beachside bar, smiling at the woman who was coming over toward him.  She slid down next to him.  He nodded at the bartender, who came over to get her drink.

"Give me an apple martini?" she purred.  "And whatever he's having."

"I'm still mostly full," he said, waving his glass with a smile.  "But thank you anyway."

"Are you sure?"

"Hmm.  I've been out working on my tan.  Too much heat and alcohol is bad for my body."  He flexed an arm.  His muscles had really increased while he had been fighting with the garden's plants.  She ran a finger over it.  He smirked.  "Are you bad for me?"

"Very.  Would it matter?"

"Well, only to a few people.  See, I'm kinda in an arranged marriage."  She gaped.  "To another guy.  Not gay but...."  She giggled.  "I'd have to ask permission to flirt."

"Do that.  You look interesting."  He called and Dean gave him the go ahead since Xander had sent him a hooker yesterday to do whatever he wanted with until he got to Miami.  That way he could have a woman for the last time without getting in trouble.  He showed her the text message he got back.  "He's pulled off the side of the road with the hooker I sent him.  He's not gay either."

"Then why put you two together?"

"It was good for the clans."

"Ah."  She ran a fingernail up his arm, getting a small shiver.  "So now that you have permission."

Xander gave her a warm, slightly evil smirk.  "I'm free for the next three days."


"He's running behind thanks to all the little stop-offs he's making."  She laughed.  He got up.  "Table?"

"Tables are nice," she agreed, taking her drink with him to a table.  He clearly wasn't trained in how to flirt.  Not one of the model boys who only cared who they were seen with.  He was very strong and he smelled very nice.  Plus she could admire that butt a lot.  "So, how do you please your women when you had them?"

"I have a slight oral fixation.  I'm cutting a wisdom tooth and I like to...nibble."  She moaned.  He smiled.  "Which means it's only fair of me to clean up any and all drooling fluids that I cause."  She shifted, her thighs spreading a bit.  "Then I believe the woman should do whatever she needs to so her personal pleasure is however she wanted.  She'll tell me what she wants me to do."  She moaned again.  "Unless I'm *really* worked up then I like the wall to help me brace her."  He sipped his beer, putting it aside.  "You?"

"I could appreciate those ways."

He grinned.  "I'm sure you could."  He shifted so he leaned closer.  "Did you want to appreciate it here?" he teased with a smile.  She shook her head.  "All right."  He kissed her, making her take it deeper.  He pulled back.  "Tell me when and where."

"Now, my place?"

"That's fine.  If you want."  She gave him a look.  "Some women don't like to pick up men to take home.  It makes them feel insecure."

"I can understand that.  I doubt you're a threat."

"Not unless you're *really* evil."  She cackled, shaking her head.  "Then you're safe."  She smirked, taking his hand to lead him to her car.  He hadn't driven, he had walked, so that was fine with him.  He did stop to pick up his towel and book, then throw out his bottle of juice.  He followed her back to her car, letting her take him wherever she wanted to go.  It was her pleasure.


Six hours later, Horatio walked onto the crime scene, looking at the boy hanging in the chains.  "Xander."

"Dean said I could."

"I know he did.  I heard what you sent him."  He got him down.  "What happened?"

"I don't know.  She was having fun.  Got a phone call.  Then she stabbed herself while I was hanging here."  He waved his wrists.  "No clue what the phone call was.  Her expression shifted to displeasure.  It was clearly bad news."

"We were playing safely?" Horatio asked quietly.

"Of course," he said with a scowl back.  "I always play safely.  Even with Dean."

"Good boy."  He walked him out, letting the paramedics check his chain injuries.  "Mr. Wolfe."

"Horatio."  He came over to take the young man's statement.  "Hi, Ryan Wolfe."

"Xander Harris."

"The same Xander?"


"Okay.  What happened?"

"She picked me up at the little beach-side bar with the thatched roof about a mile from my motel.  I asked, she said she was bad but not bad for me."  Ryan gave him an odd look.  "I have the gift of drawing evil women," he said with a small shrug.  Horatio nodded at that.  Ryan made a note of that.  "I checked to make sure I have permission from my mate.  I sent him a hooker so he could get all the pussy he wanted for the next few days for the last time.  He gave me permission back when I checked at the bar.  My phone's by the doorway along with my towel, book, and shoes."  The paramedic finished wrapping his wrists.  "Thank you."  They smiled and he got off the back of the ambulance.  He signed the forms they needed him to sign saying he hadn't needed to go to the ER.

"Have an easy day today."  He walked Ryan back inside to grab his towel, book, shoes, keys, and phone.  Ryan had to take pictures first.  "We were playing when we got back here.  I had her on the beige couch with the two red pillows.  I used one to prop her back up when it started to cramp while I was going down on her."  Ryan blushed.  "Horatio already asked but I do play safely.  It should be in the trash can to the right of the table while sitting on the couch."  Ryan looked, then bagged it.  "After she recovered, fed me some juice, had a few berries herself, we moved it to the bedroom.  I did the cheesy wall thing." Ryan gave him an odd look.  "Pushing her against the wall, letting it hold her up while you pound into her.  Hard and fast."

"Okay.  How did you get in the straps?"

"After the recovery after that time, where we were in the bed, she wanted to tease me.  She put me in them and was stripping off for my pleasure.  She had put on something flimsy.  That thing," he said with a point.  "Then she got a phone call.  Her face kinda looked disgusted, not depressed.  She grabbed her self defense knife from under her pillow and stabbed herself with it.  Which is when I yelled and screamed until the neighborhood guards got here to check why.  Who called you guys, and thank you for getting me down."

"Welcome," Ryan said.  "Okay, condoms in here?"  He pointed at the basket beside the bed.  "Good remembering."

"I have a pretty good memory for everything but school."  Ryan laughed.  "How do I find the bus back to my hotel?"

"I'll give you a ride, Xander," Horatio promised.  "He's at the Excelsior, Mr. Wolfe."  He wrote that down.  Xander put down his room number and cellphone number.  Ryan nodded so he walked him out to his hummer.  "Bar pickup, Xander?" he asked quietly.

"I was bored.  She was cute.  I miss having a girl.  Dean doesn't like me to lap him like I would on a girl.  I've still got to figure out how to do that."

A woman walking a rottweiler stopped them.  "How much do you charge?" she asked with a grin.  "I might be interested."  Horatio groaned, shaking his head.  "If your father doesn't mind."

"He's my uncle and I'm not that sort of boy.  She picked me up at a beachside bar.  I was working on my front tan since I'd been outside with my back to the sun recently."  He grinned, taking off his shirt.  "See, I'm about even finally."

"You are."  She ran a finger up his chest.  "Free is good."

"No," Horatio told her.

She glared at him.  "I know your supervisor."

"I am the supervisor, ma'am."

Xander smirked at him then kissed her.  She moaned.  "Find me on the beach so my uncle doesn't worry about you being too bad for me too.  Or I'll be having dinner later."  He winked and she smirked back, letting him walk off to the hummer.  He slid in, looking at Horatio.  "I didn't know Miami had so many bad girls."

"Yes they do.  They are all bad for you as well."  He started the engine and drove him off.  "Want to have dinner with me later?"

"If you want and she doesn't kidnap me.  I have no idea why she had handcuffs in her back pocket."

"Xander," he sighed.

"She did.  Did she think the dog was going to be that naughty?"

"Possibly."  He shook his head.  "I've heard from Mac.  He was complaining about all the simpering, wanting people who think he's wonderful."

"They didn't like it when I showed up.  Called me too young to have influence and not smart enough to realize what they wanted was good for everyone.  I told them to come back when it was Tony's turn.  He was used to people like them."  Horatio gave him a sideways look.  "He grew up on Long Island in a banking family."

"Ah."  Yes, that would mean Tony would understand people like that better and have more patience than the rest of them with them.  "What did Faith say?"

"She told me if they bothered her she'd set them on fire."

"Mac was about to do that to some of the truly hideous hats."  He pulled into the motel's parking lot.  "Try to behave.  Do not make me rescue you again?  Next time they might stab you instead of themselves."

"My feet were free, I could've gotten her knocked out by kicking her and shouting for help."  Horatio nodded at that. "I saw the neighborhood guards.  I also wasn't sure that was her house with the name on the mailbox."  Horatio gave him an odd look.  "Just thought of it."

"I'll let Mr. Wolfe know.  Go inside, Xander.  Take a nap."

"Yes, Horatio."  He grabbed his stuff, taking it inside with a wave from the door for him. He laid down on the bed to nap.  It was tiring watching someone stab themselves.

Horatio went back to the scene to check on that tip.  "Mr. Wolfe, what does her ID say her last name is?"

He dug it out.  "Critheon."  He came out to look at the name on the mailbox.  Then at Horatio.  "House-sitter?"

"Possibly.  Make sure of that please."  He nodded, going to ask the neighborhood guards that.  Horatio shook his head.  Xander was going to drive him nuts.  Dean needed to be closer sooner.  He called him, walking off to talk to him.  It was nice Xander had let him have some last minute girl sex.  They could find one locally to put between them here so Dean could keep Xander out of trouble.  How did Xander find women like that?


Xander answered his door, smiling at Dean.  "Hi."  He pulled him inside. "You're letting all the A/C escape."  He checked then shut the door.  "She bored?"

"I dropped her off where she wanted to be."  He kissed him.  "Were you in trouble?"

"It wasn't my fault she stabbed herself."

"And the catfight?"

"No clue.  Apparently cute, hot young guys are in short demand with the way they were acting."

"And the fact Horatio had to ask the women nicely to hand you back since none were worthy so he ended up arresting them when they attacked him?"

"I wasn't even *there*.  I was at a club.  I was on the floor.  They were doing this off to the side.  No idea.  Apparently it's the week to weed down Miami's women with mental issues."

Dean nodded.  "Apparently."  He took another kiss, pushing him down onto the bed.  "How was it?"

"Not bad."  He grinned.  "Her?"

"Very not bad.  She's walking funny but she liked it."  He laid down on the bed, letting Xander curl up next to him.  "How's the local beach?"

"Great.  It's beautiful and the sand is nice.  They manicure it every morning."  Dean nodded at that.  "Or there's a private, topless beach a few miles up the road."  Dean grinned.  "We can go.  Change."  Dean got up to change.  Xander found what he needed.  "Sunscreen?"

"Please."  He put some on then put back on his clothes.  Xander put on his own easy access clothes.  He looked at him.  "Those pants look good on you."

"Are you a bad girl too?" he teased.

"Not a girl, Xander."  He spanked him, getting a yelp and a heated look.  "They make you look hot."  He led him out to the car.  "My baby.  Do not slam a door."

"Yes, Dean."  He got in and didn't slam the door.  He had to reclose it because he was too gentle.  Dean nodded in pleasure at the treatment his baby was getting.  Xander was stroking the dashboard and the seat.  Then the roof.  Dean took a kiss.  "She's a beautiful lady, Dean."

"Yes she is but she's a scrapper."  He started the engine and backed out, heading to the place Xander directed him to.  The guard accepted their fees and pointed at the cabanas.  They stripped and finished oiling down then went out to lay in the sun.  A few of the girls gave them interested looks.  Dean flirted back.  Xander just grinned.  She asked if they were together.  They both told her it was an arranged marriage. So she moved closer to keep flirting with them.  They were cute and well built young men.


Dean walked Xander into the station two days later, after having to save him yet again.  Horatio came down to meet them.  "I don't know why Xander's still drawing evil women but is there a way to stop it?  I'm not used to being the less hot one in the duo."

Horatio smiled.  "I have no idea what's going on, Dean.  It could be where he's barely legal."

"Hey!" Xander complained.  "It isn't that bad."

Dean snorted and looked at Horatio.  "It was nice the heiress on the private beach thought we were fun.  Then she passed us to the others in her group."  Horatio groaned, shaking his head.  "Two of them tried to keep Xander.  Then at the club last night.  In the gay club."

"Straight women go there because there's better music and less men to make them miserable," Xander told him.

"I don't care.  They still wanted to keep you."

"They promised me silk panties too," he shot back.  He looked at Horatio.  "Tell him normal people have these issues too."

"Not that I've seen," he admitted.  He considered his nephew.  "We have no idea why you draw bad girls like that, Xander."  Xander rolled his eyes.

"Most weren't bad girls, they just wanted to be," Dean told him.  "Only one really evil one.  A vamp in the club and I got her.  Different species than Xander was used to.  Needed silver and I had my bootknife with me."

"Thank you for that, Dean.  I do not know how to stop this."  He looked them over.  Xander did look very fetching in his present shorts and baggy t-shirt.  "Most women wouldn't look twice at him in that."

"That's what I thought," Dean said.  He was nearly pouting.  He was the chick magnet Winchester.  He should be getting all the women to hit on him.  "If you can't think of a reason, got a handy pagan shop we can find a referral at?"

"Yes."  He wrote down a name.  "Go to her.  If she can't, she'll find someone who can."

"Thank you," Dean said.

"Thank you, Horatio."  Xander gave him a hug and he left.

Horatio went back to the lab.  "The boys are trying to figure out why Xander's suddenly drawing bad girls and want-to-be bad girls all over the city," he said at Eric's odd look when he met him at the elevator.

"He's barely legal, cute, and a bit muscled.  How many?"

"Another club incident.  A few others.  Dean was pouting."  He went to check on his results.  "Miss Valera, do you have anything for me?"

"Within an hour," she said with a smile.

"You smell nice, Horatio.  New aftershave?" Natalia asked.

"No," he said.  "It may be transfer from Xander however."  Valera gave him an odd look then pressed a testing pad to his sweaty spot on his shirt, taking it to run.  He followed.  "What is that?" he asked when she got the report out of the printer.

"Someone is in heat, Horatio.  I remember the club thing last night.  I was there and giggled madly at it."

"Thank you.  We had been wondering why Xander drew bad girls this week."  He went to call Dean to tell him.  What he heard back did not make him happy.  The hellmouth was leaching out of Xander's body and causing the problem to attract more things to him to eat him or bring him back to it.  How would they stop that?  Well, another five days then the boys were going to New York to browse up there.  He could survive that long.  He hoped.

Though he did pass that information on to Stella and Don.  Just in case.


Don looked at the boys knocking on his door.  "Hey, guys."

"Checking in as ordered," Xander said with a grin.

"Good!"  He let them inside. "Dean, where did you park?"

"Parking garage up the street.  I'd hate to have to hit someone for staring at my baby funny."

"Does that mean if we do spawn, she's going to be named Impala?"

Dean hit him on the arm.  "Shut up."  Xander just grinned.  "So, what's up?  You called for us to check in?"

"To make sure you made it."

"Horatio call?" Dean asked.  Don smirked and nodded.  "We have no idea but the PA one gave us by force isn't too bad now."  Don blushed, shaking his head.  "She said we needed one."

"Uh-huh.  TMI, Dean."  He walked them into his living room.  "What happened?"

"The witch we talked to thinks it's where the hellmouth is leaching out of me," Xander said.  "It's how it gets its people back once they lose too much of the taint they get from it."

"Okay.  Can we fix this?"

"Yeah, I have an appointment somewhere up here tomorrow afternoon to deal with that.  I was going to be good and nap tonight."

"That's a great idea," Don agreed.  "Then what?"

"Coney Island.  Great Escape is a few hours away," Dean said.  "He wanted to visit amusement parks."

"That's a great vacation," Don praised, getting smiles.  "There's a few beaches but they can be crowded now and then."

"I looked online," Xander said.

"Good job."  He gave them both pats.  "This is my cell number and Stella's cell number," he said, writing them down.  "If we get into more trouble like that, call us.  That way we can save you."

"Tell Mac I'm sorry the ugly hat people pounced him."

"He shot back to talk to Tony too."  He grinned.  "They were not amused that we're all fighters and their idea of fun is idiotic to some of us.  Where are you guys staying?"  Dean handed over the online registration.  "How did you do that?"

"Prepaid card one of the women gave to me," Xander said with a grimace.  "She was nice but mean."

"Very mean.  She tried to have her boa constrictor eat me," Dean complained.

Don looked at them.  "Joking, right, guys?" he asked with a grin.  They both shook their heads.  "Call before you go clubbing."

"Yes sir," they said.

"Good.  Dean, did you call your father?"

"When I got back and about once a week.  He said it's good my training is going to protecting my mate because he clearly needs it.  Any idea where the vamp clubs are so we can avoid them?"  Don pulled out the notes he had made on that subject for them.  Dean made notes.   He didn't want them in demon clubs either. "Thanks, Don."

"Welcome, guys.  Behave and call for lunch after you hit one of the amusement parks."  They grinned, heading out to their hotel.  New York had a lot of places for them to learn what they needed to learn about being together.  Their present bodies weren't like their last ones and neither one wanted to be bad lovers to their spouse.  Don relaxed, calling Stella.  "The boys are in.  They did ask and Dean made notes to make sure they didn't walk into one by accident.  Cony Island.  Great Escape."  He grinned.  "Tomorrow.  Thanks, Stella."  He hung up and laid down.  That was going to drive him nuts.  It really was.


Mac got back and got a hug from Xander.  "I'm sorry the ugly hats attacked you."

"The last one that bothered me I threatened to put her hat out of its misery since it was complaining."  He smiled.  "It happens to all of us I guess, Xander."  He got free.  "What's wrong?"

"I'm hiding from Danny."


"Because they went clubbing with me last night and boytoy there, as his sister calls him, proved his worth to one," Danny said as he joined them.  "That problem in Miami is carrying on up here too."

"Not my fault," Xander complained.  "She tried twice.  It's on the downward side at least."

"Thank God for that!" he said sarcastically.  "Did you ever find Dean?'

"Yeah.  The ones that had him were sorry when I took him back.  People from home."

"Vamps?" Danny asked.

"No.  Other home."  Mac groaned.  "They decided to hold him hostage to go over their ideas with them.  They ran and screamed like kids on candy crack too when I showed up.  Dean said their ideas came from the same source."   He smiled at Mac.  "We weeded it out as much as we could."

"What happened?"  Xander walked him off, outlining how this was the hellmouth taint leaving him and what was going on.  Mac let out a soft moan.  "You must have driven Horatio nuts."

"He only had to save me twice and once I wasn't even involved.  I was on the dance floor.  They were fighting over me before introducing themselves."

Mac gave him a look.  "How many times here?"

"I called Danny when I lost Dean but otherwise we've been good."

"I like that," Mac said.  "Where is Dean?"

"Sleeping in."

"That's fine.  Why are you in today?"

"Welcome you back, get a sit rep, that stuff."

"Everything's fine.  I did warn Tony about the ugly hat epidemic we were having.  He laughed but one rushed in while I was there.  He's thinking about banning hats from the castle."  He patted the boy again.  "Go play, Xander.  Let the lab mob me."

"Sure."  He bounced off to find something fun to do.

Mac went u to his office with Danny.  Stella nearly pounced when they got off the elevator.  "Missed me?" he teased.

"Yes!  I hate your paperwork.  I'm going to hate taking your desk some day, Mac."  He smiled at that, walking off with them beside him.  "How was it?"

"Lots and lots of ugly hats and people who wanted materialistic things to happen.  I took notes and passed them onto Jethro.  Who told me to ban hats.  Tony was thinking the same thing."

"Nah, we can use them as an identifier of that sort," Danny said.  "Ugly hats equal problems."

Mac laughed.  "That could work for me.  I'll tell the guards that code."  He looked at Stella.  "How was it otherwise?"

"Not bad.  Not a whole lot of cases.  Hawkes is still questioning some things."

"You're the one who told him to think about that cover story not being a good one," Danny said.

Mac scowled at her.  "Stella."

"It was a weak cover story and he'd have realized that anyway, Mac.  Don't scowl at me.  I'll feed Xander chocolate and tell him to come over for dinner."  She opened the office door for him.  "All yours."  She gathered her water and energy bar then left again, going back to her cases.

Mac shook his head.  "He was thinking about it," Danny admitted.

"That's fine."

"She told him to ask you."

"As she should have."  He looked at him.  "More problems than she admitted?"

"Two."  He walked him inside to talk to him about his current case.  There were a few problems on it.  Mac sighed but started the paperwork to fix it with those officers who had caused his techs problems.  He did admit that he had called Flack for backup, letting Don chew them a new one since they wouldn't listen to a 'science geek with a bubble gum badge' but that was almost expected.  Don could give another statement of what had happened.  It was more evidence to get them fixed or fired.


Xander looked at Dean across the deli's table.  "A question was raised.  Am I going back to Sunnydale?"

"Do you want to?  We can travel and hunt instead if you wanted."

Xander considered it.  "I don't know if she can handle it with just Willow and whoever this commando boy she mentioned is."  Dean choked.  "You okay?"


"Yeah.  Not sure about that yet.  I haven't been able to find much information on them.  I did send an email to Don Epps but I haven't heard back yet."

"Call him, Xander."

"I tried.  For some reason the line was super staticky.  Even he thought they were tapping it."

"Shit.  Tell Jethro?"

"I told Abby.  Jethro's in the middle of nowhere on a case."

"Okay."  He considered it.  "Our network hasn't heard anything probably but I'll check with Dad tonight.  Maybe have him go check on them for you since we're on this coast."  He ate a bite of his sandwich, looking at his mate.  "We could combine them.  Hunt on that side of the country so we could pull into Sunnydale often to check on them."

"I might agree to that," Xander said.  "I'm not sure I can handle the constant traveling though.  I don't mind it now and then but I'd like to sleep in the same bed for more than a week."

"I get that," Dean agreed.  "We could make it a base of operations so we could go back to it after each hunt."  Xander grinned.  "That means we'd have to find some very forgiving jobs."

"With the death rate, there's always openings out there."

"Good.  Would they mind if we took off like that?"

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know.  I also don't know if Buffy and Willow would like that since they're majorly caught up in the college thing and Buffy blew me off to go to class.  Which isn't like her."

"We have got to find the problem going on then," Dean decided.  Xander nodded.  "None of the demon underground has said anything?"

"Some rumors of ones being captured.  No one's said that they know anyone who's seen them in person."

"Which means they're capturing them," Dean finished.

"I think so.  I asked her and she said Riley was nice and they weren't doing bad things.  I don't know."

Dean nodded slowly.  "Let's head back that way?  Check into it on the way?"

"I could like that.  Angel might have more contacts.  He's set up in LA to handle things there."

"Then we can handle it from there.  I'm sure there's some nasty ghosts and things there."

"Oh, yeah."  He grinned.  "You sure?  Your dad's in Maryland."

"He's going to talk to Jethro to find some Marine-style sanity."

"Ah."  He finished up.  Dean finished his.  They left a nice tip on the table then left.  The owners of the demon deli relaxed again and it was good for their waitress too.  Plus now more people knew that they were looking for information on that situation.  It was a win-win situation since it had been excellent food.


Xander walked into Angel's office, staring at the woman behind the desk doing her nails.  "Don't jump," he said loudly.  She jumped but didn't mess up.  He grinned.  "Shoot.  You mumble interesting things at your nails when they get messed up."

"They didn't get messed up until you introduced me to Buffy," she said dryly.  Dean walked in.  "Welcome to Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless."

"Cordelia, must you do that in the office?  That stuff stinks," Angel complained as he came up the stairs.  "Harris.  Winchester."

"Angel," Dean said.

"Deadboy," Xander teased with a grin.  Angel glared.  Xander smirked brighter.  "Commandos?"


"Buffy's dating a commando who the demon world says is capturing them but no one's ever seen them in person?"

"Huh.  Hadn't heard that."

"I heard it in New York when I asked.  They're really freaking out.  We're heading back that way and wanted some intel."

"We might be able to find you some," he admitted, walking him back to his office.  He closed the door.  "Did you have to make her cranky?"

"She's not.  She expects it of me.  The same as I expect some snark.  It's how we relate to each other, Angel."  He sat down.  Dean sat beside him.  "I talked to Oz last week but he's leaving town for some reason.  Not real sure why."

"Okay."  He settled in to call a few contacts up that way.  Most of which were mysteriously missing.  He leaned back when he kept hearing that, calling a closer one.  Also missing.  He called Willie's bar.  It was open.  He talked to Willie, who told him all he knew, which wasn't much.  He hung up and looked at the boys.  "They're a military project there to study demons."

"And?" Dean asked.  "Why?"

"I do not know.  I'm not sure they do.  Willie said the town's nearly emptied except for the vampires.  They're not that discriminating about who they take.  Which could mean trouble for you two."

"We're human now," Dean said.

"If they hear, it might not matter," Angel pointed out.  "Xander draws the bad sort of trouble."  Xander nodded.  "And Buffy's got her head up his camo's."

"Which means we're back to 'special girl' times?"

"Willie thinks so.  Willow was drifting too since Oz left.  He caught her drunk off her butt on patrol a few nights back."

Xander sighed.  "Okay.  I'm going back.  Dean, I want you to hide for a bit.  Just outside of town.  Let me make sure it's safe?"

"If it's not, I'll call in Jethro and the clan," he agreed.  "We should talk to Epps first."

"Who?" Angel asked.

"One of the FBI agents who came up about Grad.  He proved he had a clue," Xander said.  Angel gaped.  He grinned.  "People get impacted now and then."

"Good point.  Sure.  Tell him to come here if he needs me."

"I can do that," Xander promised, leaning over to shake his hand.  Angel hesitated then grabbed it to shake.  "I can treat you like I do Cordy now that you're not agnsting everyone up."  He stood up.  "I swear you used to be a cause for depression."

"I have better reasons now."

"Hopefully he likes the same things you do," Xander teased, making the vampire look embarrassed.  "Thanks, Angel.  Let us head later or tomorrow."  He led the way out, kissing Cordelia on the head.  "Listen for problems that way.  Call me if you hear any or Dean if you can't get me."

"Of course.  Why are you wearing a platinum watch?"

"Some lady gave it to me after deciding I was good," he quipped.  "After too long off the hellmouth, it'll start to attract things to you so it can get you back."  She gave him a horrified look.  He and Dean both nodded.

"I had someone drain her past that," Angel called.

"We tried that with me, it didn't work," Xander called back.  "But it made Miami a lot more fun."  She rolled her eyes, shaking her head before getting back to her thumbnail.  He and Dean left, going to the FBI building.  Don wasn't in.  The college said Charlie hadn't been in his office for two days.  Xander told that to Dean and they decided to pay a call on their father.  The house was open, had police tape, and looked like it had been part of an assault.  Xander called Abby's phone.  "I need Don Epps' boss's number.  Now.  Because apparently he's missing.  His brother is missing, and their family home is looking a lot like someone led a SWAT team but it's got police tape around it.  No, whoever Jethro went to visit and who sends him to us."  He wrote down that number.  "Thank you."

He hung up and called.  "Fornell, hi, Xander Harris.  Yes, there's a reason I got Abby to give me your number.  Are you aware Don Epps' family is missing?  Dean and I are staring at the house and there's police tape around it.  Looks like an assault team went through it.  Charlie's work said he hadn't been there in two days.  The FBI secretary said he hadn't been in today at all.  I don't know but Dean and I were coming to warn him that it looks like there's a commando group in Sunnydale that's snatching demons.  Yeah, that's what I said, Fornell.  We can wait in LA.  Pick a hotel for us."  He wrote down the name.  "We can do that.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "He'll be out tonight."  He turned the car around and headed to the hotel to check in.

Dean set up alarms on the door and windows, even though they didn't open.  He closed the curtains and set a heat source on it too in case of a sniper with a heat seeking scope.  Xander got them food by sneaking out and back in.  Then they settled in to watch the local news.  "I had no idea LA had a demon channel.  Their Sesame Street is less annoying than the human one."

"Yeah, it is," Xander agreed with a grin.  "That's how I learned a lot of stuff."

Dean pinched him.   "We can teach you all sorts of stuff, Xander."  Someone knocked so he went to check out the hole.  He put on the chain and opened it slightly.  "Yes?"

"Mr. Winchester?  Agent Colby Granger.  FBI."

Dean let him in and put the alarm back on.  "What's up?"

"Your car was spotted at the house of an agent that's currently missing."

"We were going to update him to a situation going on up near where I'm from," Xander said.  "We met at my high school's graduation.  Did you know the higher ups didn't know he was missing?"

"He's not."

"Is that why his house looks like it was trashed and has police tape?" Dean asked.  "Or why his brother's not been at work for two days?"

"Who are you two?"

Xander held out a hand.  "Xander Harris."

He stared.  Then he shook it.  "You were leading the defensive action at your graduation."

"Yeah, and now it looks like someone decided to set a commando group loose on my town.  Do you believe in coincidences?"

"No."  He crossed his arms over his chest.  "So this was checking in, seeing if he had intel, that stuff?"

"Yes," Dean said.

"How are you involved?"

"I'm formerly on the hometown protection detail," Xander said.  "With Miss Summers."

"We knew about her and why she's special."  He considered it.  "You're a hunter?"  They both nodded.  "Why were you out of town?"

"Vacation after graduation," Xander said.  "We're figuring out how to work the hunting stuff now."

"Okay, that makes more sense.  I can tell you Don's not missing.  Neither is Charlie."

Xander looked at him.  "Your stance shifted.  I called Fornell."

Granger looked confused.  "Who?"

"A higher up Don has to answer to," Dean said.  "We're part of Jethro's clan."

"Okay, apparently I'm missing clues."

"Probably not that sucked in," Xander told him.  "If you were part of the world, you'd know.  Don does."

"Okay, that makes more sense.  I just know that Don has something extra special about him."  He shifted some.  "This Fornell?"

"Higher level FBI," Dean said.  "Out of DC."

"Ah.  That makes a lot of sense.  Thank you for that.  Let us handle it?"

"If it's related, you guys shouldn't," Xander warned.  "It's not going to be pretty.  If you thought they freaked out after graduation this is worse from what we're getting."

"How much worse?"

"No one who's seen these commandos in person has been able to report what's going on," Dean said.  Colby moaned.  "They're operating inside the US.  Which I'm told is an issue."

"The underground thinks that they're mostly Army.  Some scientists but they couldn't confirm or make certain," Xander told him.  "It's up near the college.  I know Buffy's dating one."

"Charming.  Okay.  Let me find this Fornell guy and we'll arrange things."  He looked around the hotel room then at them.  "If they come...."

"We're hunters," Dean said.  "My dad was a Marine.  We've been hunting since we were four."

"Good to know."  He nodded, standing up again.  "Stay out of sight."

"We are," Xander promised.  That got a nod and he left.  Dean set back up the alarms.  "Do you think he's in hiding?"

"No," Dean said.  "Not in the least."

"Me either."  They went back to watching the demon news.  They had another story about strange disappearances in town and here in LA.  He sent that info to Cordy, who would give it to Angel.


Fornell stomped into the trashed hotel room.  "The boys?"

"Safe," Colby said.  "They managed to get out with their stuff, somehow, and made it to their car.  They're at a safehouse."

Fornell looked at him.  "Do I know you?"

"Colby Granger, on Don Epps' team, Deputy Director.  We're here to help you with the local things."


"Because I know," David said as he walked in.  "Colby knows some.  Megan's got the boys."

"Just her?"

"Two others we trust," David assured him.  He bowed a bit.  Fornell smirked.  "We have no idea.  Don sent back a coded message saying he was hiding from something with Charlie.  Their house was trashed but we thought Don had his father too.  We haven't heard from them since that message but we thought that was part of the hiding."

"Apparently not.  The boys have a good sense of what's going wrong.  Usually from having it land on them."  He looked around again.  "Let's go talk to them, compare notes."  They nodded, taking him that way.  This was not good.  In any way.


Xander walked into Willie's Bar the next night, looking around before taking his sunglasses off.  "Geez, did you run people off with the stink?"  The bartender's head popped up and stared at him.  "Yes, I'm back.  I need a real sit rep before I check in."

"I don't know anything."

Xander sighed, moving closer.  "Willie, don't make me cranky.  My mate's hunting somewhere at the moment.  I've got to come back to deal with the girls.  I've heard there's problems.  Now, what is going on in my town?"

"Claiming it?" he sneered.

"I was reborn here and Jethro said he'd consider it if we had to take over this realm too."

The demonic bartender gaped then slowly shook his head.  "The higher ups won't like that."

Xander leaned his hands on the bar, leaning forward some.  "Do you see many arguing with Jethro?"

"No," he admitted.  "With your Faith either.  Where is she anyway?"

"With her mate."

He whimpered.  "Her mate?  She's mated?"

"Yeah, they had all of us reborn.  Including Jeris."  Willie let out a wail.  Xander looked at the person who just came in.  "Buffy.  Bring your thug of the day with you?"

"He's a nice guy."

"Who may be involved with stealing a federal agent," he said bluntly.  "Plus a college professor with a high security clearance.  All because they're doing good work for everyone and they're peaceful."  She snorted, crossing her arms over her chest.  He moved over to stare down at her.  "Buffy, what happens if something that can't eat anything and won't be causing trouble is captured by them?"

"They figure out what they can do then let them go."

"They've never let *anybody* go, Buffy."

"How do you know?"

"I had Angel check his contacts in the underground before I showed up."  She gaped.  He nodded.  "They said there has not been *anybody* that escaped, was released, or who isn't now missing.  Including some witches."

"Willow's fine.  They like her."

"Is Giles since he can?" he countered.  She squeaked.  "Because he has the power to take their hold over you away as your watcher," he finished quietly.  "Think with the bigger head before we have another tragedy coming like Alcaltha," he said, staying quietly.  She scowled again, crossing her arms over her chest.  "Do you really want to go through that pain again?"

"I won't be."

"You will be."

"They know you were reborn."

"And I'm still not demonic since that curse, Buffy.  Fully human.  Is that what it takes for you to realize that they're doing bad things?"

"Please take the brawl outside," Willie begged.

"Shut up," Xander said, glaring at him.  The bartender ran.  "Buffy, I love you.  Even when you do have a commonly guy problem of thinking with the wrong head."  She slapped at him.  He ducked with a small sigh.  "Buffy, think.  If they were going to release harmless things, don't you think they'd have done that by now?  It's been a good few months since they showed up."

"They showed up in August."

"Buffy, it takes *years* to build a base like they have."  She gaped.  He nodded.  "It takes six months or so to build a single house with an openly seen crew of at least ten people.  They had a hidden crew, which means they had to work slower and schedule shipments more carefully to be hidden.  Their base is supposed to be about the width of the college and a few floors deep."

"How do you know?"

"I know a federal agent who knew."  She gaped.  "They're sponsored by the same people who did Area 51, Buffy.  They're not nice guys.  They've already gotten a lot of harmless demons.  Ones who are doing the same thing Angel is in LA.  Hell, they took one of the people on the LA demon council!  The one who keeps the peace for the most part among the clans!"

She slumped.  "I still say they're good people."

"Then look at the ones they have, Buffy.  Are they harmless?  Are they in good shape?"  She grimaced, nodding.  "Really?"  He pulled something out of his pocket.  "One of the agents Angel talked to managed to get a picture from their surveillance cameras inside."  He held it up.  "Does that look like a dangerous demon to you?"

She snatched it then went pale.  "That's Riley."

"I know."  She looked at him.  "Rumors hit the east coast while we were scoping bikinis in Miami.  I talked to people then talked to Angel to confirm the rumors I'd heard.  See if he had better information."

She looked at it again then at him.  "That one's not a bad guy?"

"It's the equivalent of a mouse.  A demonic, three foot mouse, but still a mouse. You can ask Giles to look it up if you want."

She nodded.  "We should do that.  Willow's waiting on us probably."

"Sure.  And if your boyfriend tries to taser me, I get to kick his ass."  She gaped.  He stared back.  "You said you told him.  What?  Not feeling special enough even after grad?"  She swatted at him.  "Honestly, Buffy.  You reverted to before mine and Faith's road trip again."  He stared at her.  "Think about it."

"You left."

"I went to burn the garden before it ate anyone then Dean and I spent some quiet time in Miami and then New York."

"Oh."  She pouted.  "Bring me anything?"

"Dean might have.  He packed the car."


"Have to ask him and he's not here right now.  He had an emergency hunt for a friend."  Which wasn't true.  Dean was right outside of town, listening to them.  "Let's go talk to Giles and Willow."

She nodded.  "You should join us at college."

"Why?  I hate school.  No school."

"I don't like it either but it makes you more money later on."

"Only if you find something you're good at and can find a job.  Which isn't guaranteed.  Remember, there's plenty of people with degrees working at Mickey D's."  She shuddered.  "Exactly.   C'mon."  She nodded, walking out with him.  They were stopped by a jeep.  "Hmm.  Buffy, friends of yours?"

"Um, guys, he was sent here to be human.  They took all the demon stuff out."

"That's not good enough," one said.  "He's dangerous.  Step away, Buffy."

"No.  He's my friend and he's helped me save this town and the world a lot."

"He's still dangerous and he's using you."

"Really?  And are you?" she countered.  They tasered them both.

Up on the hill, Dean put down his earphones.  "They tasered them both."

"Track them," Fornell ordered.  They nodded, turning on the tracking gear.

"Sir, it's shorted out."

"No," Dean said, reaching back to adjust something.  "You had it set too high."  They grimaced but went with it.  Their own retrieval team followed the jeeps subtly back to their air vent entrance in the woods.  That was a good sign.  The leader waited until they were down there to use his own passkey.  It would get him into the deepest bowels of the CIA building in Langley.  It did not work here.

Fornell stepped forward and magiced the lock.  "There," he hissed.  They moved in and down, coming off the elevator to a greeting party.  Which they shot at.  Sedatives because they wanted them to stand trial.  "Get our people."  They ran to do that while he shut down things.  He walked up to the command center, letting his guys take out people on the way.  He found the doctor in charge.  "This is an official desist order from the President himself."  He laid it in her bound hand.  "You are to stop all activities and to release all your prisoners.  May he have mercy on you for doing this inside the borders of this country since that is highly illegal and considered treason."

She sneered.  "Who do you think set us up?"

"Apparently he changed his mind," Fornell shot back.  They brought in Charlie Epps.  "Charlie, have you seen your brother and father?"

"No," he moaned, being sat down in a chair.

"Find them."  He glared at the doctor in charge.  "You stole someone with a very high NSA clearance.  You also stole federal agents."

"Pity they're evil things," she sneered.

"Can I hit her?" Charlie asked.

Buffy was walked in.  "Hey," she said, looking at Fornell.  "Who're you?"

"Deputy Director Fornell of the FBI."

"One of the Feds Xander said Angel talked to?"

"And then some."

"What sort of demon are you?"

"I'm not but I know what's going on.  Not everywhere ignores such things, Miss Summers."  She nodded at that.  "Charlie, tap in and find them."

"My hand and wrist are broken."

"I'll type," Buffy offered, moving him to do what he said.  She found them.  "Um, one's in E-14.  That's where they just took Xander."

"Sir, there was a massive explosion down there a minute ago," one said quietly.  "We think it was someone getting free."

"Xander does like the pretty booms," she agreed.  "That's why he did the ones for graduation."

Fornell shook his head.  "It was necessary but bad."

"Not our fault the stupid mayor opened the hellmouth."

"Hellmouths are myths," one of the scientists shouted.

"Can I feed him to it?" Buffy asked Fornell.

"Don't tempt me."  She grinned.  Xander walked Don Epps and his father in, putting them down.  "Kid, you okay?"

"Exploding propane tank on a torch.  Oops," he said with a manic grin.  "Is Dean here yet?  He's going to fuss and I need hiding time after we release all the prisoners."

"Let me clear the human ones out first," Fornell ordered.

"Okay.  There's a whole section of human looking people down where I was."

"We'll let the prisoners out by section," Fornell decided.  That got a nod.  "Get them out of here, do not dawdle on the way back to the National Guard base.  Army CID is on their way."  That got a nod.  "Make sure they get competent medical treatment."

"You're going to have to go around the local hospital," Buffy said quietly as she was helped up.  "They're horrible."

"We know," he assured her with a smirk.  "We've got someone at the base waiting on you guys."  She nodded, letting herself be taken out.  Buffy came back. "You need looked over."

"You need a slayer if they get nasty."

"Faith's waiting on the base as well, Miss Summers."  She beamed.  "Dean called her when we got confirmation that this was bad.  We made sure she was local before we let Xander go into that bar."

"You respect Xander?"

"I've seen him in battle.  A few different times."  She nodded at that, heading off with the military guys.  She could come back later since only her heart hurt.  Riley had betrayed her.   She found Faith and Sam in the woods.  "It's nasty.  They're all in electric cages."

"That's fine, B," Faith said, looking her over.  "You okay?"

"Okay enough.  My boyfriend is a bastard.  Why do I date guys like that?"

"You think the danger's good and they understand where you're at," Sam told her.

"Set me up if you find nice guys?"

"Of course," he promised, giving her a hug.

She smiled and went to the jeep so she could be checked over and check on Xander, who was hovering over an agent, his brother, and his father.  "Are they part of the clan too?" she asked, grabbing some bandages to help him.

"No.  Friends of it."  She nodded at that, getting to work on their father's forehead.  "Gently."

"I'm trying."  Giles was let in.  "Giles, come help me."  He rushed over to pull her away so he could check her over.  "I'm okay.  They hadn't started on me yet.  I'm just kinda sad that it was Riley."

"You do have a history of it," Xander quipped.  She glared.  He stared back.  She slumped, nodding.  "Next time, go for a smart guy.  Like Charlie."

"Dating," he moaned.

Giles got some bandages to help as well.  "Are there not any doctors?"

"Six but they had some really serious injuries down there," Xander said, looking at him.  Giles tipped his face up.  "A propane tank exploded.  I took the torch it was attached to to it."  Giles shuddered.  "It worked.  We got free.  That's the important thing."

"It is," he agreed, giving him a hug.  "Are you staying?"

"Depends on what Dean was thinking about doing.  He talked me into making it more of a home base and doing both parts of the hunting around here."  That got a nod.  "So we're working it out."  He got back to work, finally getting done with Alan.  "There, how's that?"

"Good, kid.  Thank you."

"I'm Xander."

"Jethro's Xander?"

"Yeah, the curse stuck us here."

"Ah."  He got help sitting up from Giles.  "Boys, are we going to live?"

"No," Charlie said.  "Not with the pain in my arm."  Buffy looked then went to get one of the lesser medics to come help by setting it.  They decided to get them into an ambulance and take them to a real hospital.

Xander went to help bandage some of the others, finding only the Initiative people left.  So he went to help bandage the demons.  Fornell gave him an odd look.  "Nothing deserves that sort of treatment unless they're evil bastards like Hitler."  He walked in and knelt down in front of one he knew was dangerous but not too evil.  "Want help with bandaging?"  It nodded, letting him do it.  A few turned him down but most needed it and weren't going to attack.  A few were nearly insane in the pain.  He had Buffy come help him with them.   He ran into Spike, staring at him.  Then he shrugged and moved to help bandage him too.  Spike swatted at him.  Xander popped him on the side of the head, making him groan and grab his head.  "Huh?"

Spike looked up, his eyes watering.  "There's a bloody chip in there," he growled.  "A behavior chip."

"Fuck.  Fornell!" he shouted.  He came in.  "C'mere.  I haven't seen this one before."  He came over.  "This is Deputy Director Fornell, Spike.  Tell him."  He checked his scalp.  "It healed with a scar so you can tell where they went in."

"No proper feeding."  He looked at him then lunged and grabbed his head again.

"He's behavior chipped."

"That's very cruel."

"It means he can't feed either," Xander agreed.  "He was one of the worst Master Vamps we've dealt with.  He's killed two other slayers.  He's nearly gotten Buffy a few times. If it can do this to him...."

Fornell nodded.  "We'll find if others have one."  He called the hospital the Epps were at.  Don had one because he had tried to get free.  The neurosurgeons were working on him.  He hung up and came back.  "They're at UCLA's hospital."  Xander nodded.  "They're removing one there.  We'll know more then.  I'll have Angel told."


"Poofter won't tell me," Spike told him.

Xander looked at him.  "Yes he will.  Otherwise he's got to support and keep you around to make sure you eat."  Spike smirked.  "I'll make sure he knows that."  He went back to his bandaging jobs.  He looked outside.  "It's dark.  I would suggest all vampires leave.  Now.  All the way out of town.  Heal somewhere else."

Buffy nodded.  "They treated you guys bad but the war's still on, vampy vamps."  She grinned.  "With both of us slayers here in town tonight?"  The vampires fled.  "Good.  Less work tonight."  She came over to check on Spike.  "We'll see if you can get yours out, Spike."  She ruffled his hair, getting swatted at.  She swatted back.  "I need humor around here.  Xander's not staying.  Dean's growly and outside."  She looked around but Xander had snuck off.  She went to finish up the last few patch jobs.  "Oooooh, sweetie, you need a healer bad don't you?"

"There's a few in LA," Spike told her, gripping his head.

"That's good."  She called.  "Cordy, hi, it's Buffy.  No, we just had a major problem.  Yeah, that one.  We have some up here that need healers and we have Spike, who now can't feed at all.  Well, Angel *is* his sire."  Dean stomped in.  "Dean, come help me for a minute please?  Then you can chase Xander down."  He came over to help.  She put the phone between her shoulder and ear.  "We could use Angel up here.  Or we can bring them down, whichever's better for him.  I've got a tiny little hairball with legs but no visible face.  It's ....  Yeah, one of those.  Got a picture phone?"   She beamed and took a picture, sending it over.  "There, show him that."  Cordelia yelled on that side, getting Angel to come look at the picture.  Cordelia gagged and ran to get sick.  She got to talk to Angel.

"Hi."  She smiled.  "We did.  We have Spike who needs you and a few others who need a healer.  They burned last year.  I don't know, some vamps did it.  Please.  The nice military guys are helping us right now but some are really bad.  Xander and I are patching up people.  What?"  She moved a bandage off an area.  "That's her mouth, Dean."  He nodded, avoiding it for her.  "Thanks, Angel.  What do you want us to do with Spike?  Because he's got a chip in his head that means he can't hurt anyone.  Yup, that's what we said."  She swatted a tentacle coming for her butt.

"Only snark, not pinch, bite, or anything.  Someone at UCLA is taking another person's out.  Thanks, Angel.  Yup.  Hiding already.  He had some boo-boos."  She smiled.  "Have a better night."  She hung up and got back to work.  "Angel said that there'll be a healer up this way within an hour," she told it.  It nodded its top portion.  "So we'll make sure you get to see him or her first."  She patted it gently on the hand.  Then she and Dean moved on.  The last injury was clearly infected.  "Should we bandage that?"

"I'd want to clean it first but I don't know how peroxide or alcohol would react on that."

Fornell walked over.  "You can't use either.  Get some plain water.  They're a swamp species," he said quietly.  Dean nodded, going to get a bottle of sterile water from the doctors.  One of them came back with him.  "They have a healer of their sort coming soon."

"That's good," the doctor said.  "Will alcohol hurt this one?"

"Yes.  They need water.  They're a swamp species."  Dean started by rinsing the wounds.  The water got sucked up.  "We need to submerge it probably."  That got a nod the doctor got a few more bottles of sterile water for now.  It was the best they could do in the field.  The healer was let in and Fornell bowed.  "Ma'am."

"Fornell.  What happened?"

"The Initiative base is down."

She shuddered.  "We had heard rumors."

"Um, this one's bleeding?" Buffy said, moving to hold it closed.

"Oh, dear."  She came over to check.  "Someone did very good bandaging work."

"Xander does a lot of mine too," Buffy said.

The healer looked at her.  "Why are you helping?"

"Because this is wrong.  Torture is always wrong."  She got a smile for it.  "Even on the worst of the bad guys it's wrong.  And they had harmless things.  That's very, very wrong!"

"Good point, child.  Thank you for your help.  I can handle it from here."

"Sure."  She got helped up by Dean.  "Let's go find Xander."  She looked at her hands.  "After I wash up."  He nodded, following her out to clean himself off too.  One of the medics had caught Xander and knocked him out.  He was on a bed being stitched.  "Did he run into a wall or something?"

"No, he argued," the medic said.  "The doctor said he wasn't to."

"Thank you," Dean said.  "Usually I have to hold him down to check injuries."  The medic laughed.  Dean came over to help.

"You stitch very well."

"We're roaming hunters.  We all stitch very well in this family."  He spotted Sam.  "Sammy!"  He came over.  "I have no idea what did this to him."

"He used the torch attached to the propane tank to blow the tank, getting him and that older guy he was treating earlier free," Buffy told him.  She hugged Sam.  "Hi, Sam."  She saw Faith.  "Hi, Faith."

"No hugging, B."

"Sorry."  She grinned.  "How bad?"

"There's a lot that never made it out.  A few they found alive so they're bringing them up."

"There's a demonic healer in their tent."

"That's good."  She went to tell someone that, getting a nod.  She came back to find Xander starting to wake up.  "Damn you create pretty hell, Xan."

He grinned weakly.  "Thank you."

"You keep destroying stuff and pretty soon there won't be a Sunnydale," Buffy joked.

"They'll rebuild.  They always do."  He shifted, getting a one-handed pet from Dean.  "I was helping."

"Then you ran before I could check on you."  He smirked.  "I won't spank this time."  Tony strolled in.  "Why are you on this coast?"

"A few of the people are attached to Marine bases instead of Army bases.  Our director got the bare bones and Gibbs volunteered me so I could check on you kids."  He looked Xander over  "Bold, yet stupid plan, Xander."

"It was going to happen anyway."

"Good point."  He patted him on the hand.  "You can go finish planting the garden if you want."

"We're going to meet up with Dad in a few weeks," Dean said.  Sam looked at him.  "At Mom's grave."

"I'll be there.  I can fly in specially for it." Faith looked at him.  "That's why I'm working on top of all the other stuff."

"I'm not gonna mind for something like that, Sam.  It's important."  She kissed him on the cheek.  "B, wanna hunt down the vamps?"

"I told the ones they had to head out of town.  The rest are still probably cowering."

"Or Willie's throwing a party," Xander said.

"We can go threaten Willie.  I haven't gotten to threaten him in nearly a month."  Faith grinned.  "We can even take Sam to the Bronze."

"That'll work."  She looked at him.  "Club hunt?"

He grinned.  "If you want."  She nodded.  "Need to work off some stress and anger?" he asked in her ear.  She nodded, staring at him.  "Okay."  She smirked.  "C'mon.  Dean, I'll see you two tomorrow."

"Sure, Sammy.  Take care of your girl."  He grinned at their back.  Then down at Xander.  "She's got him wrapped around her finger."  Xander nodded.

"Like you two aren't?" Tony suggested.

"Well, maybe a bit because I'm so adorable," Dean said with a smug look.

"Is that why you only yelled when some girl picked your boy up on the beach and broke into a house to have sex with him, but then committed suicide and left him hanging in chains?"

Dean stared down at his mate.  "I only heard the committed suicide while she was being kinky part."  Xander shrugged.  "Uh-huh."  He looked at Tony again.  "That just proves she was even more whacko than we thought."

"Uh-huh.  Keep that opinion," Tony said dryly.   He looked down at Xander.  "Doc, can he be released?  We need statements from him."

"Sure," he agreed.  He finished bandaging the cuts he and Dean had stitched.  "There you go, young man.  Most should not scar but if they do you can use a scar bleaching cream or tan them out."  Xander nodded, letting Dean help him up.  "Why are you limping?"

"You knocked me down and I turned my ankle," he said dryly.

The medic smirked at him as Tony walked them off.  "Much too tough for good sense," he muttered.

Tony looked back.  "You have no idea," he mouthed, cracking the medic up.  He got them into the command tent.  "This is Mr. Harris and his boyfriend Mr. Winchester."

"Mr. Harris.  Were you here?"

"I was.  I was coming back into town and checked up on some rumors before I ran into anything too bad."


He blinked then looked at Tony.  "There's a small protection patrol to protect against the bad demons eating people," Tony told her.

"All right, I can understand that.  You're on it?"

"Yes.  Her weapons person."

"Okay.  That explains a few things."  Dean patted Xander down, finding his necklace but not his pocket knife.

"We found his bag of possessions," the CID person promised.  "I want to know what happened and when you knew what was going on."

"I knew something was going on while I was in Miami a few weeks back to scope some bikinis.  I've been checking in on my friends and things.  When we made it back to LA, I stopped in to see a contact and I stopped in to see the agent they had.  He knows about this stuff and handled the battle at graduation."

"Battle at graduation?"

"That gas main explosion was a huge demon attacking," Dean said.  "Then the hellmouth opened and sucked."

"Okay," she said more slowly.  "What's a hellmouth?"  Xander sat down to go over the full town's story with her.  She took good notes.  It'd help her later.  He also hooked her into Giles so she could ask him all sort of more technical questions.  They got down to why call Fornell, and he said he knew him through a few other agents and he had known Don Epps personally.  That went over well and they let him go.  Fornell handed him back his bag of stuff they confiscated.  He also got a smirk from the King for that story.  Xander shrugged.  "Tony, can we go nap?"

"Yes, go nap."

"Stay away from the motel if you can.  You'll get eaten."

"We can stay on base," Tony promised.  "Or in their frat house  they used for cover."  That got a nod and Dean led Xander off to where the Impala was hiding.  He looked at Fornell.  "Got any suggestions?"

"Make him handle things at home for a while until his destructive phase is over with?" Tony laughed.  "Even Buffy mentioned it."

"She's not a bad girl, just a bit self-absorbed now and then."

"She was dating Finn.  She tried to protect him."

"Not after it was proved to her."

"Good point."  They shared a look and sighed.  "They're where?"

"The Bronze.  It's a club downtown."

"That works for me."  He walked off, going to handle the clean up and arresting.  There were a few who hadn't been in there.  The last hunting team had been found and brought in.  Their prisoner was handed over to the healers and then they were handed to CID.  By the morning time, this whole mess would be cleaned up and everyone could ignore it some more.


to part 4