Notes:  Um, Sunnydale timeline messed up probably.  Pre-avengers movie.  Thanks to the ones on the list who gave me ideas about this very formerly stuck story.

Fount of Wisdom and Information.  And Sometimes Help.

Xander looked at the only person he had talked to about hunting.  His 'uncle' was not exactly normal himself.  Considering his 'uncle' couldn't say what he did, or for who, or where, Xander had figured he'd understand and be able to give him some advice.  It had helped when the girls were being hurtful bitches.  It had also helped on the nights when he couldn't sleep.  Today, he needed something more serious.  "Uncle Paul?" he asked through the screen door.  His uncle waved him into his apartment.  Xander closed and locked the door, turning on the signal jammer at the front door before sitting across from him.

"This looks bad, kid.  Something going on in your life you need to discuss?" he asked, smiling slightly.  The boy was nicely paranoid but Xander was about at the age to ask about girls.

"Two things.  One of them thanks to chaos sorcerers.  The other ....  Is just screwed up normal shit now.  It's just getting more intense."

"Chaos sorcerers?" he demanded.  This was not why he expected his nephew to be paranoid.  He had heard about the hunting stuff a few times, and was a bit freaked out, but he had taught Xander a lot about how to stalk and hunt.

"Yeah.  One that changed us into our halloween costumes last year."  His uncle gave him an odd look.  "I took the cheap option and just got a plastic gun from his shop."

"Oh, no.   Who did you go as and why, nephew?"

"The principal made us go and escort little biters from the elementary school."  He smirked.  "And I used that set of BDU's you left in my closet that one time."

His uncle winced.  "That's bad."

"Ya think?" he asked dryly.  "Especially since I'm the only one that seems to have kept long-term memories from it?  Buffy remembers more french now.  Willow became a ghost."  His uncle winced.  "We're not sure why since Willow didn't really buy anything from his shop, and I'm not sure if the sheet ghost costume was his or not.  Others that bought from another store weren't changed.  But I seem to have knowledge I don't really feel comfortable with, yet it's come in handy."

"I was wondering why we were talking about halloween in May."

"Because we had to handle something again," Xander said.

"Want to quit beating around the bush?" his uncle demanded.  Xander grabbed his remote and turned the channel to the Sunnydale public broadcasting station.  Every hour on the hour they ran a news update.  It was about ten til the hour.

"To this point, the Mayor and the Police Chief still have no idea who or why some teenagers were who used a rocket launcher in the Sunnydale Mall," the perky reporter opened with a smile.  "All they have said was that it was a problem and it was a gang-on-gang incident.  The security tapes from the mall are still missing, and it's assumed that the gang members had it stolen right after the incident."

"Excuse me?" his uncle yelled.

Xander changed the station to the VCR setting and popped in the tape from his pocket.  His uncle watched then reached over to smack him on the head.  "Ow," Xander complained, rubbing it.

"How did you get that?"

"The person those BDU's belonged to gets what sort of access?" Xander countered.  His uncle stared, mouth slightly open, a bit of drool coming down his chin.  "Yeah!  And I kept more than the girls did!"

"Fuck!" his uncle shouted as he hopped up, making his neighbors pound on the walls.  "Oh, shut up!  I'm talking to my idiot nephew!"  He looked at said idiot nephew.  "You did *what*?" he demanded.

"You know, that's the best date I've ever been on," Xander admitted.  He shrugged a bit.  "What did you want me to do?  Couldn't be destroyed by anything man-made.  We spent a while picking up the blobs of blue crap later on, after the mall had been shut down."

His uncle swallowed the drool, flopping down in his chair again.   "I should recruit you."

"I need someone who can help us.  Because they're not listening to me.  I'm *normal*."


Xander nodded.  "I'm a male too.  That lack of a vagina is apparently making me worse than useless to them."

"What sort of help do you guys need?"

"I've been pointing out some common sense things.  They don't listen to me."  His uncle nodded once at that.  "And earlier this week I had to lie to Buffy about Willow retrying the restoring the soul spell from the hospital because she couldn't fight her ex."

"Keep going."  He made 'go on' hand motions.

"She did fight him.  Willow managed an impossible spell from a hospital bed, right out of a coma, and Angel created a situation where she ended up sending him to hell.  So she snapped and ran."

His uncle slumped.  "Damn it," he hissed.

"Which is why I need someone who has some ideas.  We're filling in.  Me, Oz, Giles, Willow."

"That Giles guy doesn't have any common sense?"

"Back in her first year there, there was a prophecy stating that the slayer would die.  Giles basically threw up his hands and let it happen.  I followed her with Angel at cross-point and did CPR since she had drowned."  His uncle whimpered.  "He's a researcher.  Like Evie from _the Mummy_."

His uncle rubbed his forehead.  "Okay," he decided, looking at him.  "Do you have common sense?"

"Sometimes I think Oz and I are the only ones that do."


Xander shrugged.  "They won't listen to me.  I feel like Cassandra."

"Let them do it their way and say 'I told you so'?" his uncle suggested.

"Sure, let me attend more funerals, possibly my own," Xander said dryly.  "Especially since Willow doesn't think I'm very good at patrolling."  He scratched the bruise on his wrist.  "I'm about at the stage of saying 'fuck it' and walking off but I don't want to go to their funerals," he said more quietly.  "And I will.  Even if Buffy comes back, there's going to be a death within a year most likely.  I've already seen ten of my yearmates die this year.  I'm not sure how much more death I can take and I know there's shit going on that'll be worse."

"Why worse?"

"There's got to be a puppet master.  With the way things go on around town, there's got to be a puppet master making sure things are going the way he wants to cover his own butt."  He took a deep breath.  "We've had hints of there being someone behind things beyond Angelus and Spike.  There's also the fact that patrols got a bit routine so whoever it is sent demons that wouldn't work together by their known characteristics attacking at the same time."

"Okay.  So we have a puppet master.  That's actually something I would've expected."

"How long before that puppet master moves directly against us instead of using us to help cover his ass?"

His uncle considered it.  "Any idea who he is and where?  Or why?"

"No."  He swallowed.  "I suggested there might be one.  Giles gave me a dirty look and assured me it was probably a vampire master.  Giles goes to vampires, demons, magic, then humans.  He doesn't really stop to think that humans are sometimes the problems, or that there's higher demons that make plans."

"You don't have any idea who it is?"

"No.  I know they've got dirty people in the city services.  Things get cleaned up way too quietly and quickly to be normal."

"So the puppet master might be in the city government," his uncle said.  "Let me get online and do some searching, kid."

"Can I nap?" he asked.

His uncle looked at him, studying his face.  He could see the bruise-looking dark circles.  The swollen cheek bone.  "Can I beat your mother?"

"Wasn't her.  It was patrol.  They were fighting all night because my father lost his job again.  I went on an extra long patrol last night to stay out of the way."

"Wonderful," he muttered.  "Sure, kid, take the couch."  Xander nodded, laying down after kicking off his shoes.  His uncle got into his computer to start looking at the newspaper in Sunnydale.  There were definitely hints of someone pulling strings.  Though some things started to stick out.  He called a contact to do a few name checks.  Including on that Giles guy.  Something was really wrong about him too.


Xander walked into the library at the high school, looking at the librarian and the principal, who were staring off with each other.  Xander cleared his throat.  The principal sneered at him.  "Do you mind, Principal Snyder?  I just saw one of the new bushes out there run over a bus."  The principal snorted but stomped off.  Xander walked back to lock the doors and pull down the window shades.  He came back.  He sighed, looking at Giles, who looked pissed off.  "I was right."


"There being someone pulling strings."

Giles rolled his eyes and put back on the glasses he had been cleaning.  "I'm sure it's a vampire."

"No, the mayor's not."  Giles' mouth flopped open.  Xander put the file on the check-in desk.  "I asked an unofficial uncle who used to be military to help me figure out who because I think they're going to come after us."

"Why would he?" Giles asked a bit too calmly.

"Gee, I don't know.  For unraveling some plans?" Xander said dryly, staring at him.  "Or because my uncle found that the military is doing something questionable around here? We're kind of stuck in the middle of the crossfire of the two bad guys here."

"What would the military be doing here, Xander?"

"Well, there's a hidden research base under the college," he offered.  "That has a lot of scientific equipment that was ordered recently.  Including things to do DNA testing."  Giles gave him an odd look.  "There's also rumors of certain demons disappearing by the college."

Giles cleared his throat.  "You think they're hunting them?"

"No.  I think they're experimenting on them.  There's hissed whispers about it outside of town."  He patted the file.  "Also, why would a century-old wizard be doing with the hellmouth?"

Giles took the folder to look over.  "That's very odd," he said as he read.  "He certainly doesn't look that old."

"There's *never* been an election," Xander said quietly, glancing at the door.  It had just rattled.  He looked at their mentor again.  "What would he be doing here if that's all that we know?"

"There's not many rites that would extend a life," Giles said, going for his books.

"I think the real problem may be why is he extending his life?" Xander asked.

Giles paused to stare at him.  "That is a very interesting question.  Are you sure the two groups aren't working together?"  Xander shook his head.  "Why?"

"Demon underground said that a group of various demons, of various species, attacked the base's people."  The door was unlocked from outside and Willow walked in.  "Wills, give us a minute please?"  She huffed but stomped off, leaving the door open.  He went back and relocked it.  He walked back to where Giles was standing.  "Also," he said with a point.  "Didn't you used to have more books?"

Giles looked at the magic books in the book cage, frowning at it.  "That is a bit shorter."

"Yeah."  Xander nodded.  "Why would a coma make one stronger?" he asked.  Giles gave him a horrified look.  "Which is a whole other worry at the moment."

"She could have great potential."

"Yeah.  She might.  Isn't that sort of training like any other sort of training?  You learn the basics, you learn the harder things, then if you have a real gift you go to college for it?"

"Something like that."  He shook his head.  "I'll look into that later.  Is there any means that we think this individual might have used?"

"No clue."

"That still narrows it down a bit."  He got the books down on those rites, looking them over.  Xander found a book on the history of Sunnydale, flipping back to the beginning.  He groaned and put the book down on top of Giles' book.  He pointed at the name.  "Oh, dear," Giles said, taking it to scan.  "So it's clearly a plan."

"Why *here*?" Xander asked.

"That is troublesome."  He took off his glasses to rub his left eye then put them back on, going back to his research book.  "What made you think we have a puppet master, Xander?"

"How often has a serious mess been cleaned up quickly, quietly, and never got noted?"  Giles looked confused.  "Like the last time Buffy had to slay demons that didn't go to ash.  There were five demons."


"She left one injured but alive.  It crawled off.  Within an hour of her stomping off from there, city services were cleaning up the bodies.  They seemed real good at it and didn't look around like they might be attacked.  They see one at least once a week yet they're chatting like it's a fun job on the candy line.  Even the normals don't like to go outside and do tend to act a bit paranoid after dark."

"So you believe they've got a free-work pass," Giles said.  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Any other hints?"

"We know we still have some of the Master's family around here.  We know that they've been taking over the town for over a century.  Why haven't they?"

Giles blinked a few times.  "What?"

"How long would it take a strong vampire family like the Master's kids take to really take over Sunnydale if they wanted to?"

"That would leave no food sources."

"Yes it would.  There's plenty of people within a short drive.  If it was any organized group, they would have made a safe home base that they could defend.  Their fort basically.  They don't have one?"

"No, we never found evidence of one."

"Why not?  I'm sure at least one person that's gotten turned is former military or at least had some planning ability.  If me, who got a lot of it from D&D, thinks of it why didn't they?"

"They seem to have fractured off sub-groups," Giles said.

"Who also haven't made a home base, worked overly hard to take over the town, and are either really lazy or has a plan.  We have sixteen or so *major* enclaves of vampires.  Plus the various demon species' areas."  Giles nodded at that, looking thoughtful.  "Are you telling me that none of them could've taken the town over in a century?"  He tapped the history book.  "Also, from what we learned about the Master from his lair, it was Wilkins who fought him and trapped him."

"So you think they've left the humans to cover up their activities?"

"Probably, yeah.   A small group of vampires, say the size of Angelus' family, could've taken over Sunnydale within a few months if they had wanted to and weren't stopped.  There haven't been any slayers here for how long?"

"Fifty years," Giles said, considering that.  "Why didn't they grow exponentially?"

"Why didn't the death rate go *way* up when there wasn't a slayer here?  There's been a high one, there still is, but it never went above twenty-eight percent."

Giles shook his head.  "That does make no sense.  It should have gotten more out of hand until the elder vampires took care of the young ones drawing notice."  He got another book.  "Which would again speak to us having someone in charge."  He pulled it down to glance at a section then came back.  "That does narrow down a few rites."

"Would any of them give them *real* power?" Xander asked.  "You don't make plans like this without getting a lot in return."

Giles considered that then nodded.  "That narrows it down to three."  He looked up those three.  "Go get Willow so she can help."

"Why don't I do an inventory of the book cage first?" he offered with a smirk.

Giles looked at him.  "I'm sure I took them home."

"I'm sure you didn't."  He opened his backpack and handed it over.  "Stole it from the pawn shop."  Giles scowled.  He pointed at the 'tag' on it to show who had pawned it.  "That's a familiar name."

Giles looked then groaned.  "Please do one.  Did you see any others?"

"Two other magic books, no tags."  He went to get the inventory list and took it to do the inventory.  Willow came in a bit later with a new frappe.  "Willow, Giles needs help researching."

"What are you doing?" she demanded.

He looked at her.  "Inventory.  I spotted a magic book in a pawn shop."  He went back to it, glancing out of the corner of his eye to see her blanche.

She walked into the office.  "Giles, do we think Angelus got into the books?"

He looked at her.  "I'm not sure yet," he said with a smile.  "We need to look over three possible reasons for us having plans going on."

"All right."  She took the books to the table to go over them.  "Ritual magic."

Xander leaned back to look at her.  "Uncle Paul said hi."  She shivered.  He knew then that she was in trouble and he couldn't save her.  It was clearly something she had to do for herself.  Paul could've helped if it was a legal problem, a moral problem, a hunting problem, or a personal problem.  But if she reacted that way it was a higher wrong thing.  Which made him sad.  And a bit depressed.  Maybe Buffy had the right idea of leaving Sunnydale for good.


Xander met his uncle that night at the mini-golf park's parking lot.  "Hey, Uncle Paul."  He gave him a quick, backslapping hug.  "How was your day?"

"Not as interesting as my evening."  He looked at him.  "She's in trouble."

"I told her you said hi and she shivered," Xander said quietly, glancing around.  He pulled up his crossbow and got a vampire trying to sneak up on them.  "And?"

"I hope I got them all."  Xander pulled out his cheap burner phone to call someone.  They strolled up a few minutes later.  "Xander?"

"Giles, this is my 'uncle'."  They shook hands.  "I had him look into that inventory problem as a favor, which means I owe him a lot of training time."  His uncle smirked and nodded.  "I think you need to see what he found."

Paul opened his trunk, showing off the boxes of books.  Giles muttered a few swears in Ancient Greek.  "Where?" Giles asked politely.

"The McNally house," he said.

Xander stiffened.  "She used Jesse's house?" he demanded.

"A few were in her room, kiddo.  I went looking there and her usual hiding spot upstairs from the town library."  He looked at Giles again.  "I'm not sure they're all yours.  Some have stamps and tags from the Sunnydale Public Library."

"They have magic books there?" Giles asked.

Xander nodded.  "Chaos magic.  Some of those 'written by wannabe Wicca' books too."

Giles huffed as he looked through the boxes.  "This is not good.  Where's the black bound book?"

"In the bottom of the box underneath that one," Uncle Paul said.  "It was moving on its own so I weighed it down."

"That's a grand idea."  He looked at him.  "Can you drop these off at my apartment?"

"Yes.  Definitely."  He smiled.  "Then I'd love to have a talk with her."

"Be subtle?" Xander asked quietly.

"Yup."  He smiled at Xander.  "Go on patrol, kid."  Xander nodded and left them to talk.  He looked at Giles.  "He's a good kid.  Has good bouts of common sense, which is pretty rare at his age.  I'm proud of how well he raised himself."

Giles nodded.  "We'd like him to not get hurt as often."

"Then you should probably train the boy like you were," Paul quipped.  "Like the military would.  I know *many* good commanders who would *adore* having Xander to train.  I had him take the ASVAB a few summers ago to see where his skills and interests lie.  I know some who'd *beg* to have that boy to finish molding into a great soldier."

"I'll keep that in mind.  Is Xander interested?"

"Sure beats getting his soul eaten by the stress and strain of people who consider him painfully not useful."

"I'll see if there's a way we can help his training," Giles said quietly.

Paul smiled.  "I think it'd be good for everyone if Xander kept living for a few more years."

"Yes, he does lighten things.  Thank you."  Paul nodded, driving him and the books to his apartment so Giles could hide them.


Paul walked up to Willow about an hour later, looking at her.  "You're arching your back too much and lunging too far."  She flinched and turned to look at him.  The branch she had been using floated itself into the vampire.  He stared at her.  "I need to ask you something real serious, Willow girl."

"Sure, Paul."  She walked over.  "Did something else happen to Xander?"

He snorted.  "No.  Xander's fine.  He's got a good head on his shoulders and I can help him learn the proper ways of hunting if he needs me to."  She snorted and shook her head.  He nodded.  "Not much different than going on missions as Spec Ops, little girl."  She flinched.  He smirked as he took her arm to walk her off.  "Xander asked me for a few favors.  One was to do a bit of subtle searching about things."  She nodded.  "The second was that Jesse's house had signs of people using it."  She gaped, staring at him.  "I noticed your shrine and I noticed that someone had been stealing things in there.  I gave them to the librarian guy Xander said was all right.  I also noticed that there was a stash of things that shouldn't be in anyone's hands."

"Um... like what?" she asked.

"Like the weed, Willow."  She shook her head quickly.  He still caught the look in her eyes.  "Also like the  magic stuff there on the shrine.  You weren't trying to resurrect him, right?" he asked firmly.

"No.  I know he got dusted during the Harvest thingy at the Bronze," she said quietly.   She floated a branch at another vampire.

He looked then at her.  "Why are you exhausting yourself not doing it the normal way?"

"I'm not good at it the physical way.  Neither is Xander."

"Xander's really good at it.  I tested him."  She slumped, shaking her head.  "Also, you may have a twat but it does not mean that dicks are lesser constructs.  It's the same organ only inside out."  He stared her down.  "He didn't want to say anything but something slipped out and I made him tell me.  I will paddle your ass."  She nodded, looking down.  "Good.  Now go home for the night."  He shot the vampires coming toward them with his crossbow.  He looked at her again.  "Bring your new boyfriend over too.  That way I can make sure he's worthy of my niece."  He patted her on the cheek and walked off.

She stared at his back then stomped off to yell at Xander.  He was already at home and so were his parents.  The lights were on so they were still awake and drunk.  She'd yell in the morning.  She went home.  She noticed the empty shelves and stared then glared at the door.  She and Xander were definitely having a talk in the morning.


Giles stopped Willow before she could get farther than the door of the library.  He stared her down.  "How did you get chaos books from the book cage without me realizing?" he asked quietly.

"I didn't!"

"Yes, you did, Willow.  You checked them out."  He let her arm go.  "If it hadn't been for yours and Xander's pseudo-uncle, those could have fallen into very bad hands."

"They were safe with me!" she said.

"Really?  Because vampires can't break in when you're not home?" he asked in that genteel voice of his.


He frowned.  "If you're not home and there's no soul presence in the building, they can get into a domicile."

"I didn't see that anywhere!"

"It's how they take over abandoned houses," Xander said from his seat reading.  "As for why Uncle Paul looked, he found one of them in Jesse's house."  He looked at her.  "He also found evidence that at least one other person was shacking up in there and they're probably human since most vampy vamps don't smoke weed."  She shook her head quickly.  He nodded.  "He found size ten, men's size ten, footprints out back, Willow.  He was pretty sure there were other people in there."

"You told him what?" she demanded, stomping around Giles to glare at him.  "I'm so pissed off at you and you're still normal!"

He stared at her.  "Being a witch doesn't make you any less normal," he quipped with an evil look.  "It just means you can do things like kill humans with your magic."  She flinched.  He stood up.  "Beyond that, Rosenburg, you're dirtying Jesse's memory.  Which I will not allow."  She took a step back.  "Don't go back there.  He might be pleased about the magic stuff going on, he was whenever he played a wizard or whatever, but he wouldn't want you to be raped or killed in his bedroom."  She took a step back shaking her head.  He sneered.  "He's also hate you using his house for whatever plan this is."  He closed the book in front of him.  "Since I saw him come down as a ghost recently....  He was a bit pissed off at you."

"You can't have," she said firmly.  "That doesn't happen!  He was turned, Xander!  You don't come back from that!"

"There is the options of ghosts and other spirits," Giles said quietly.  "As we've seen by those poltergeists."

"I caught the Magic Box's owner doing a seance and asked her to see if he was at peace," Xander said more quietly, staring at her.  "He said he was worried about you for some reason.  He was sure I'd be fine but you....  He wasn't sure if you'd be dying soon, Willow.  And he wasn't sure you'd be joining him."  She burst out crying and ran off.  He sat down with a huff.

"Was that really necessary?" Giles demanded.

Xander looked at him and nodded.  "Yeah."  He tossed something onto the desk.  "I snuck it after she left last night.  Which is why I asked my uncle."

Giles picked up the slim journal and looked at the last few pages, blushing a bit.  He moved backwards and paused, staring at it.  "Excuse me?"  Xander looked then turned the page forward.  He pointed then sat down again.  Giles read it and his face went hard. 

"After having met your old friend," Xander said dryly.  "I'm starting to wonder a few things."

Giles looked at him.  "I would not let her go down that path."

"How would you stop her?"

"That is a good point."  He sat down to go over the non-personal things in the book.  "Oh, dear Christ," he muttered.  He looked up and found Xander had left for class, or so he hoped and assumed.  The boy really should try to attend more of his classes and bring his grades up.  Giles went back to reading.  He got up to find the book of rites.  It was still there.  He locked it up and found the phone book so he could have the locks on the book cage changed.


"Here Mr. Gooey Demon," Xander called softly as he walked around a cave in the cliffs outside of town.  "Nice Mr. Gooey Demon."  It roared and jumped out so he shot it with the crossbow.  Not killed.  He pulled his short sword and got it instead.  It died and he grinned.  "Cool!"  He stripped off the demon's shirt and vest, taking the magical things from it, then his pouch of magical supplies.  He moved to search the rest of the cave, coming out with a lot of things that should not fall into others' hands.  He spotted Giles staring and shrugged.  "Do you want vampy vamps and other demons to get hold of his supplies?"

"No," Giles admitted.  "What are those?"

"Mostly herbs, a few journal looking books, his altar set, and a few minor weapons."  He let him see them.  "I'm going to put them into the storage building I have rented."  He took Giles there so he could look it over.  Giles stared at the marked piles then at him.  "It makes no sense to leave them there where just anyone can pick them up and use them like the demon wanted to."

"No, it doesn't," he admitted.  "That's very sensible, Xander."  He walked in to look over things while Xander sorted things into their various storage boxes.  Giles picked up something.  "That's magically charged and should be stored in something so it can't leak."

"I can't tell magic," Xander reminded him.  "But hey, go for it.  Whatever you need out of here."

Giles nodded, taking the herbs and books with him, as well as the other mystical artifacts.  That would get sorted and stored somewhere more official.  It was a good idea for someone to handle.  Xander had shown he had some sense yet again, not that the girls would appreciate it.  They'd consider it stealing or some such probably.


Xander leaned into his uncle's apartment.  "I found something some of your people lost.  Want it?"

"Hell yes.  No telling what you found."  He put on shoes and followed the boy out to the piece of crap car that was as big as a boat he was driving.  "Where'd you get this wrecked relic?"

"Uncle Rory.  The 'rents made me buy it from him."  He drove him off.  "After I stared at it for over an hour in horrified awe, I figured we might want to get it out of the town."

"Am I gonna need help?"

"Could be."  He turned on the radio, taking him to the warehouse it was in.  The warehouse itself was dusty and looked empty.  "Holy water grenade," he said with a grin.  "Took out a vamp clan."  He opened the trap door into the basement and let his uncle go down first.

Paul stared at the boxes crated on the end he was facing but Xander walked him off to a tiny corner that was tilted.  He could see a tiny light blinking in the dark.  Xander turned on the overhead lights, letting him see it.  He stared at the compact bomb that was reading a few weeks of time.  "Huh," he said, nodding slightly.  "Someone probably did lose that since it looks like they broke apart a missile head to make it."  He called in an older friend.  "It's Paul.  My unofficial nephew just found a huge, compact bomb under a warehouse.  By LA.  Sunnydale, yes.  No, do not send some of those torturing yahoos.  We don't need their help.  Have to kill 'em for being so bent in uniform anyway."  He took a picture with his phone and sent it to his buddy.  "Should have it."  He hung up and looked it over without touching it.  "You touch it?"

"Slightly to nudge it since it was back further in the hole.  I checked for linking wires first.  I'm wondering if these people realize we have earthquakes here."

"Probably not," he said dryly.  His phone rang and he answered it, walking off to check the other boxes.  "That might work," he said as the person yelled at him.  "Yeah, I'm staying right here with it.  Nephew nudged it further into the light after looking at it for an hour.  He wanted to know if whoever planted it realized we have earthquakes."  He hung up and got into the other boxes then took another picture to send him.  Xander came over to look over his shoulder, moaning some.  "How do you think they got this ordinance?"

"Stole it from whoever put it into police custody?  I know that's empty because that's the one we used."

Paul looked then nodded it was.  "Wipe your prints, kid."

"Probably too late."  He did it anyway and put on rubber gloves.  He had forgotten earlier.  They heard someone come in and Xander went up to talk to them.  "Hey, Officer Doug."

"Harris?"  Xander nodded.  "Why are you here?"

"I was tracking someone's missing dog into the basement and found something that I had Uncle Paul look at."

"Wasn't your Uncle Paul military?"  Xander nodded.  "Should we know?"

"Nope.  He called someone."  He grinned.  The officer groaned and pulled his gun but Xander threw a knife and got him in the stomach.  "No, I don't think we're going to react that way, Officer Doug."  The officer was staring at him.  Xander stared back with a grin.  "How has your day been?"  He heard a truck and glanced outside then groaned.  "Okay, that's the military project full of sickos."  He got them both downstairs and hissed at his Uncle.  Doug got gagged with his tie but that was fine.  He didn't want taken into their custody either.

"The hostiles cleared out," one of the soldiers said.  "We should search for anything relevant."  Xander and Paul shared a look.  Paul was holding the trapdoor closed.  They heard someone walk closer to it and over it.  They were staring up to follow the dust from them walking around.  Xander shook his head and pointed.  Paul nodded he noticed one had stopped.  They had probably seen the cruiser or their car outside. 

Then someone shot at the trapdoor.  Paul got shot in the arm.  Xander had moved himself out of the way.  Doug was in worse shape.  Xander snatched Paul's phone to put in the emergency code his uncle had taught him.  It took a half-hour to get help but they could handle that.  Xander knew how to use a gun.  He had another holy water grenade on him too.  That might not do much to the soldiers but the explosion itself would, plus some shrapnel damage. 

When the door opened he tossed the grenade up.  It went off and soldiers started to yell.  Xander shot anything that got near the trap door while staying out of easy visual range. The soldiers were calling in reinforcements.  Xander looked at the officer.  Who was shaking his head.  Sunnydale PD would never show up for this.  Xander hit a few more and injured them.  More people were pulling up in a heavy truck.  That was a bad sign.  It was probably a troop carrier so at least twenty more soldiers.  Xander looked in the box Paul was pawing at, tossing him a shirt in there to put over his wound then grabbed a few things and tossed them out.  The soldiers laughed but Xander set them off.  Not as many moving people suddenly.

"Harris," one shouted.

Xander glanced to the side, where he could barely see someone.  "Who the fuck are you?"

"We're military and you're under arrest."

"I was turning in the bomb we found to someone legal and you guys are under charges for doing military operations inside the US since you're not National Guard.  They call that treason from what I'm told."  The soldier shot at him.  Xander was ready and had ducked down but got him and threw up a few more explosive things, knocking them out.  They weren't strong but they were handy.

They heard a helicopter and he glanced at Paul, who nodded that had to be the help they wanted.  More people ran in.  "Boys, get the idiots in uniform who torture people," Paul shouted.  "I sent in the emergency code."  They shot a bigger gun through the hole.  Xander got them.  "Okay, can't trust your own government," he decided, sending out one last try.  That went to someone he trusted.  He might not live that long but Xander would.  He was resourceful.

Xander handed him the gun and got the bomb, looking it over.  He fixed two things, which reset the timer.  Paul was glaring but Xander shrugged and stuck it on a beam under the floor.  He got Doug and Paul moved out of the way.  There was a sewer entry.  They got down it in time to barely get hit with debris from the warehouse exploding.  Xander got them back to a safer area.  "Want to keep him?" he asked with a nod at the officer.

"Yeah, I do."  They got out of the sewer and found some military guys checking the area.  Xander got them out and it was easier to move them.   A new helicopter was coming in.  Paul watched but it wasn't who he had called.  "Shit."  He looked at his nephew.  "I might have to send you to safety, kid."

Xander shrugged.  "I know this town better than they do, Paul."  He got them through the backdoor of a demon clinic and blatantly stole the first aid box.  "Thanks, need this.  Military people who were capturing demons for testing are out and pissed off."  The nurse that spotted him yelled that and they closed everyone in there safely.  Xander got them into a car, which Paul hotwired.  Xander drove them out of town to a safe place he and Paul knew about.  He and Doug got treated and rested while Xander watched and waited.


Paul woke up to a bad sound.  Someone choking.  He looked.  Xander had fallen asleep without waking him and there was a vine trying to choke him.  He got it off him.  "Should've woken me, kid."  Xander pointed.  A dead snake.  "It bite you?"  Xander shook his head.  "You sure?"

"I'm immune," he said quietly.  "Won't matter."  He got up, rubbing his throat.  "Thanks.  I was moving away from the snake when I tripped and hit my head."

"Happens," Paul agreed.  They watched outside.  There was a car parked up the road.  Not theirs, which had been reclaimed about two blocks up apparently.  The car was a black sedan.  "I have no idea who that is."

Xander grimaced.  "Could be helpful or not?"  Paul nodded.  "Then how do we figure it out?"

"Got a handy thing?"

Xander picked up the dead snake and wrapped it around a crossbow bolt.  He fired it next to the car, which meant the guys in there got out when the snake dropped onto the windshield.  He looked at his uncle, who smiled and nodded.  "Good?"

"Good guys usually."  He leaned out.  "Hey."  They stared at him and he nodded.  They came strolling over, watching around them.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  What happened?"

Xander told him what happened, from when he had found the bomb.  They stared at him.  The other agent nodded.  "Why didn't you call someone official?"

"Because of the torturing sicko squad," Xander said.  "Which got sent when Paul told someone official.  That's why we had to get ourselves out of there."

"Sounds like you managed it and made a mess," the first agent said.  "You guys good?"

"Officer Doug's probably going to need some stitches," Xander said.  "I got him with a dagger and then they got him in the leg.  I field treated him."

The agents stared at him.  "Why do you know how to do that?" the second asked with a smile.

Xander smirked back.  "In case you didn't realize there's an unofficial protection patrol around here to lower our outstanding death rate."

"I've heard," the first agent said.  "Paul complained about you guys a lot, Harris."

Xander nodded.  "It helps.  Plus bad parents.  I've done a lot of bandaging since I was about six."

One of the agents looked outside.  "They've found you."

"Make sure the officer gets to a better hospital," Xander ordered, shoving him over.  "They'll kill him at ours."  That got a nod and the second agent took off with him.  Xander, Paul, and the first agent handled it when they were attacked.  Xander and Paul started out trying for wounding shots but they were getting back up with them.  So yup, they had to do the mean thing.  Finally they were down and the agent went to check, which got him shot in a bad way.  Xander and Paul came out to handle that and take the agent to a safer location in another town.  The agent was calling in his bosses in the back of the soldier's jeeps.  That got more agents there and they were not happy!  His partner led the way in when they got him there.


Xander woke up in an interrogation room.  He looked around then at the mirror across from him.  "Thanks, I needed the nap," he quipped.  He wasn't going to show that he was scared to death at the moment.  "How's my uncle?"

Someone walked in and closed the door again.  "Paul's fine," he said, looking at the young man.  "The officer as well."

Xander nodded.  "That's good.  He's a jackass but he doesn't deserve that."  He looked him over.  Agent standard dark suit.  Sunglasses in his pocket.  Shiny shoes.  Tie.  "FBI?"


"Comic book agency?" he asked with a slight smirk.

"Slightly.  It's been mentioned in a few."  He sat down across from Xander.  "I have a statement from your uncle.  I have a statement from the officer."

"So it's my turn?" Xander guessed.

"There's probably not much you can add.  How many vampires were in that clan you took out?"

"Eight.  Two ran but got hit with a crossbow when they came back.  Holy water grenade to get the rest."

The agent nodded, making a note of that.  "Where did you find them?"

"I found plans online on how to make a grenade with knockout gas so I improvised."

"Interesting.  That storage building you have?"

"That's stuff I've found after patrol took out something.  I didn't want it to fall into other hands.  I've recently told our Watcher about it."

"That's handy and we talked to him as well."

"Did he tell you about the mayor?  We know he's going to do something."

"He did since we caught him researching."  He stared at him.  "You're not even curious why you're here?"

"I figure I'm either in trouble for shooting at the psycho posse, who shouldn't have been doing anything in the US, or for something else."

"Well, there are a few things we have to discuss.  Things like....raiding a National Guard base for a weapon you unleashed in a mall with civilians around."

"Paul had the security tape."

"We've searched his apartment after someone else did."

Xander considered it.  "Mayor or soldiers?"

"We think the Mayor."

"Then he'd probably destroy it."  Xander sighed.  "There was a huge lego demon called the Judge.  He had been in pieces and Angelus put him back together.  He was going to destroy humanity and couldn't be killed by any weapon made by man.  So we figured out we could at the very least  dismember him again.  It blew him into blobs."

"That's about what we expected to hear.  How did you get the codes?"

Xander grinned.  "Did Paul have a yell about chaos people?"

"He told us about that costume incident."  Xander nodded.  "They had codes?"


"Okay."  He made a note of that.  "Do you know whose uniform it was?"

"Paul's little brother's."

"Even better.  Looking him up, he's at least honest and Special Forces as well."  He looked at the kid.  "You know that what you're doing is blatantly illegal?"

"Blatantly illegal or not, we've lowered the death rate of those I go to school with from somewhere in the twenty percent range to twelve.  We'll have the biggest graduating class in the last fifty years.  I'm really sick and tired of going to funerals of kids I grew up with.  I don't know and don't really care how the government sees that.  They let it happen.  No one says a damn *thing* about our high death rate, the high rate of disappearances, suicides, people killed by gangs on PCP or wild animals, or even that we have some that're killed by neck eating barbeque forks.  If they won't handle it, then the prey had probably better do it themselves to keep the herd of food sources safe."

"That's a good point.  Though I'm not sure how we would've known?"

"You hear yearly about the 'most dangerous city' based on federal statistics."  The agent nodded, making a note of that.  "I'm figuring even small towns like Sunnydale has to report *something* at least to the state when so many kids don't get to finish their educations due to death."

"They count those as drop-outs," the agent said.  Xander rolled his eyes.  "Your name appeared on that last year."

"The Troll tries really hard but I've had worse at home," Xander said dryly, staring at him.  "To put it bluntly, fuck 'im and his petty bullying and power plays."

"That might be a good thing to look into as well."  He made another short note.

Xander was reading it then him.  "I had to learn to read latin for research stuff but you have very nice handwriting."

The agent cracked a smile.  "Thank you and that's what I was trying to see."

"Just ask.  I can vent about my friends considering me *normal*."

"Not with the bloodwork we saw."  Xander glared.  "Precautionary."

"Really?" he asked dryly.  "You're not with the sickos, right?"

"No.  We're not."  He looked at him.  "We're where your uncle's brother really works."

"Great."  Xander stared at him.  "Though I know where he works."

"I figured if you had memories that was one of them.  We're trying to figure out what to do."

"Shut.  Them.  Down."

"The military project?"

Xander leaned his elbows on the table then leaned on his crossed arms.  "There's rumors among the kitten poker circuit that say they have specimens in for testing.  Which isn't humane."  That got a nod and a note made.  "They've been gradually stripping a few of each kind for testing.  About five, six each species.  Paul found out they were doing scientific testing of them but they also ordered things like cages with wide slots for inserting instruments."  The agent stared at him.  "The community is pretty sure that they're being tortured.  One got free, barely.  It made it long enough to stumble onto the campus and fall at a higher demon's door.  Apparently the higher demon asked and what he found out made the whole community, all the way to LA, paranoid.  We've only heard edges of what they've heard.  I'm told they had to burn his corpse because of the shape it was in and their species tends to eat their dead to keep him within their clan."

"I had not heard that.  We know they've filed reports of testing genetically."

"I'm thinking that if he had to be burned, he had injuries that his clan thought was unholy," Xander said simply.  "I doubt they took blood from his arm veins for it."

"Probably not.  We can work on that."  He looked at him.  "You stepped on some major toes tonight."

Xander nodded.  "All I did was tell my Uncle I had found a bomb so he could get someone to handle it.   Then they sent the sickos.  Paul's contacts shouldn't have been involved in that."

"No, and that snafu was a commander.  He's indebted to them somehow."

Xander nodded.  "I'm really sorry about that for him.  I only defended us.  The only *bad* thing I did was throw a dagger at Officer Doug so he wouldn't shoot me."

"That's pretty bad," he admitted.  Xander shrugged.  "But could be counted as self defense since he was arrested for buying arms.  He was there to buy what the vampires had gathered."

"Their boxes didn't have a whole lot. Uncle Paul looked."

"He noted explosive eggs?"

"I used most of them on the sickos," Xander said then shifted and shrugged.  "To keep them away from the trap door."

"That's not a bad thing.  The purple things in your pocket?"  Xander nodded.  "Good to know.  How do they go off?"

"Remote control that looks like a garage door opener.  The carton has something that blocks it."

"Yet you had some in your pocket?" he asked.

Xander nodded.  "I was traveling pretty light when I got us out of there," he said sarcastically.  "They didn't get the remote.  It got blown up.  I could've stolen one and had Paul retune it or something."

"He probably could."  He tapped his notes together.  "We have to figure out how we're going to play things."

Xander nodded.  "Stop the sickos.  Stop the mayor?"  He shrugged.  "Stop the vampires that like to eat high school and college kids?"

"We're looking into all of those.  Right now, I have a few agents subtly helping thin out the herd of vampires.  Are there other harmful species?"

"Yup, a lot.  Giles has books on that if Willow hasn't stolen them."

"Good to know."  He stood up.  "Rest.  It'll be a few hours."

"Can I have a soda?"

"Sure."  He went to get it.  Xander smiled and opened the can, taking a drink.  The agent went to check with his boss.  "Most of us would've done the same thing," he said when he ran into him in the observation room.  They had full cameras in there instead of relying on one-way glass.

"How did he get the training?"

"According to Paul, that Halloween."  His boss looked at him.  "Possibly some other on-the-job training from the Watcher."

"He said he hadn't."

"Then perhaps the boy found a way to do it on his own, sir."

"Good point."  He considered it.  "People are complaining."

"They usually do when they're found to be doing something like torturing victims for science."

"I know."  He rubbed a hand over his bald head.  "Now what?"

"Now...."  The agent smiled.  "How do you want to play this, sir?"

"Right now, I want to see if he's recruitable."

"His uncle had him take an ASVAB.  He scored well enough to get nearly anywhere outside his math scores.  Looking at his school, they're pitiful.  They're not teaching a lot of useful things but keeping them sedately studying things that don't appear to be too far off.  Just low enough that other schools would probably look at them a bit oddly. They're using history books that are over ten years old.  Math as well."  His boss nodded once at that.  "The PE curriculum is apparently dodge ball and basketball." 

The director rolled his eyes.  "Languages are minimal.  First year of french and spanish, but nothing further.  Computer class that's a 'this is how you email and type' level.  Which the young man in there almost failed."  That got a head shake but a slight smile. "Yet the school has produced three hackers.  Two of which were recruited heavily by a major computer company.  One of which is his friend Miss Rosenburg.  The last one is one of the upper level of geeks that we need to watch."  He handed that minimal file.  "We were watching one."

The director looked them over then sighed.  "Anything else to note?"

"Two things.  The slayer that ran away from home is in LA but is working up to coming back.  Sources out there say she's considering it."  That got another nod.  "And the town's statistics?  How did they get by with that?"

"They pay fines for not reporting."  He handed back that file with a slight smirk of his own.  "People are wondering why."

"I agree, if others had seen the statistics they probably would've stepped in."

"Probably.  Or studied it and gotten killed by that Mayor."  They shared a look.  "Plans?"

"Introduce a few subtle agents until graduation.  I'm worried about that from what we've heard."  He crossed his arms over his chest, the folder held between them.  "Deal with the stupidness going on in the military unit there.  The boy was also correct that they're not supposed to be doing that inside the US."  He grimaced but let it clear up.  "Figure out a way to shut it down as a long-range goal."

"The slayer's people won't like that."

"I don't care and apparently she doesn't much listen to hers."  He smirked at his boss.  "She still has a mother so we know something's not usual there."

"They missed her you think?"  His agent nodded.  "We sure?"

"Fairly so."  They looked at the cameras but the boy was gone.  The soda can was in there on the table.  The director sighed.  "I'll find him."

"With your luck, he's in the ceiling."

"We're midair.  He can't get down, sir."  He walked off, talking quietly to security.  They had no idea where the kid was.  Even searching out Sunnydale's unique, troubling energy signature, which the boy did carry, would let them realize it.  It took them a day to realize he had snuck onto a routine supply shipment and gotten off the helicarrier.  The agent smiled when he saw that film.  "I'm going to recruit him."  He walked off happier.


Xander showed up two days later, after some hitchhiking, and walked into the library smiling and happy.  "Hey, Giles."

"Xander!"  He jumped up and stared at him.  "Are they done with the questioning?"

"Yeah.  We're all good.  So, anything new?"

"We have a new PE teacher."

Xander nodded.  "Great."  He grinned.  "Maybe we'll do something beyond dodge ball then.  Anything else happen yet?"

"Buffy's shown back up."

"Wonders never cease."  They shared a look.  "I'll talk to her later.  Did you tell her about the stuff?"

"I haven't.  She didn't ask.  She showed up at home to talk to her mother.  We haven't talked yet."

"Good luck with that.  Joyce seemed like the spanking sort," he said with a grin.  The principal huffed in.  "Morning."  He looked at him.  "Shelving for you today?"

"I believe you should go to class as you've been off for a few days," Giles said, taking off his glasses and giving Xander a pointed look.

"I have an excuse."  He looked at the principal, the Troll as they called him.  He handed it over with a grin.  "Doctor's note."  He walked off.  "Let me get things for history."

"This doesn't excuse you," the principal sneered, ripping it up.

Xander grinned.  "Oh well.  That's your shit since I already filed it with the school board."  He smiled.  "They were most happy I'm not contagious after all."  He bounced out the door and to his locker so he wouldn't be tardy to home room.

Giles hid his smile at Xander's antics to piss off the principal when the Troll turned to glare at him.  "It really was bad."

The principal glared.  "I don't like you."

"Yes, well, we're all cursed with those around us who are not our preferred sort," Giles said genteelly.  "I would much prefer to have a good tea shop in town but there's not."   The principal huffed off.  Giles settled in to make more notes.  They really had to do something soon about the problems around there.


Xander watched the new gym teacher.  His excuse meant he didn't have to do anything today.  The guy was clearly trained.  He had a lot of muscles in places that lifting weights didn't usually get you.  He was light on his feet and nearly silent when he walked.  One shoe squeaked but otherwise he was silent.  He was also wearing a military haircut.  He wasn't sure which side the guy was on.  Though he'd bet not the team's or the student's with how he was yelling at them. 

He got one kid onto the bench and helped by handing him his inhalers.  "He has asthma," Xander said, staring at him.  "Leave him alone.  He can't run."  He sat down again, looking at the other kid, who was smiling faintly at him.  "Need the nurse?"  He shook his head frantically.  "I heard, dude.  Just calm down."  He got the kid calmed back down and relaxed.

The PE teacher walked over.  "Why doesn't he want the nurse?"

"Because there's plenty of rumors of her taking kids home by force and them not reappearing," Xander said bluntly.  "Three of which disappeared from the school day and we're pretty sure since some of us spotted her with one.  Thankfully the Sunnydale PD never investigates anything," he finished sarcastically.  "None of us go to the school nurse unless it's life threatening."

"I did not hear those."

Xander nodded.  "Watch out for the chemistry teacher too.  The new one is a bit....mean.  Unless he's been replaced he's a bully and likes to throw things at the kids.  Like books."

"Also good to know.  Why are you sitting out again?"

Xander grinned.  "Medical excuse.  Which branch were you in?"  The guy stared at him oddly.  "My Uncle was Spec Ops in the Army."

"I was in the Army as well.  A Ranger."

Xander grinned.  "I'll have to tell Uncle Paul in case he knows you."  The guy nodded and walked off but he didn't look happy at that name.  So he was probably with the military unit instead of the agent's people.  He looked at the kid, who stared back.  Xander grinned.  "Have you ever met my Uncle Paul?"

"I think I've seen you two out at the Burger Barn," he said quietly.

"Yeah, it's close to his house.  He's there about every Wednesday for lunch."  The kid nodded.  He understood that hint.  Tomorrow was Wednesday.  If something happened to Xander, the kid could go tell his uncle.  Hopefully.  The principal huffed in.  The kid took another hit on his inhalers, getting sneered at.  Xander watched him.  The principal sneered at him too.  If Xander had magic, the guy would be at least embarrassed but he didn't and that was a bad thought to start to have.  Of course, Willow was in the class and she did so the troll tripped over his suddenly untied shoelaces.  The teacher snorted at that.

"Harris!  Why aren't you dressed?" the principal demanded.

"Medical excuse for another two days," he quipped with a grin and a wave.  "The school board accepted it earlier."

"That's who told me," the teacher agreed.  He looked at him.  "You look fit."

Xander grinned.  "Sometimes.  Depends on what measurement and what we're doing."

The principal sneered.  "You have detention for a week for not being dressed and ready for class."  He huffed off.

Xander smirked and waved at his back.  "Sure, I'll tell my father you wanted to talk to him again too."  That got a shudder.  Xander relaxed.  He had detention most weeks.  This wasn't anything new.  The teacher was staring at him.  He shrugged.  "I got it last month for having a mis-buttoned shirt after PE.  He *loves* to see me in there and I get a nap."

"Whatever," the teacher said sarcastically.  "Let's get back to our physical testing."

Xander watched.  The guy was seeing who was too slow for him.  Good to know.  Xander could pretend to be a bit slower than he was so he wouldn't get picked for anything *special*.  Though he did hope the guy didn't hear he had been on the swim team for a few days.


Xander walked into the library that night to find Buffy crying.  He gave her a hug, making her calm down.  "You're okay.  You're back home.  Your mom's not going to beat you to death."  She slumped, staring at Giles.  Xander let her go.  "By the way, the PE teacher is looking for victims."

"I'll keep that in mind if I get to come back," she sniffled, taking a tissue to blow her nose.  "Why did we get a new one?"

"Huge shit went on," Xander said simply.  She stared at him.  "I found a bomb I had to turn in."

She slumped, shaking her head.  "Why?"

"Because I didn't know how to disarm it, just reset it.  Which got us attacked."  He grinned.  "By that rumor up under the college," he mouthed.  She stared.  He nodded.  "PE teacher."  He looked around, finding the new listening devices.  He held one up when Giles gave him a curious look.  Giles moaned.  Xander handed them to Oz and Willow when they walked in and went looking for more.  He found a different style one on Giles' desk, under his top drawer on the left.  He found one in the book case in that style and one under the work table in a third style.  They got handed over too.

Willow looked at them.  "I have no idea, Xander."

"Me either."  He lounged in his chair.  "Outside of breaking the book cage's lock, anything going on this week, Giles?"

"Not a lot.  We still have to research those few topics."  He was staring at them.  "One of those is from the Council," he said quickly, plucking those two up.

Xander looked at them.  "Radio shack job," Oz said with a point at the mass of them.  "That one's better."

Xander nodded.  "Okay, so we need to handle that lock fixing."  He got up to grab the cheaper ones and put them into Giles' blender to spin them.  It made a huge racket but they were dead.  He poured them into the trash and grinned after rinsing out the blender cup.  He took the other one with a smirk for Oz.  "We can plant it," he said quietly.

"Why?" Willow asked.  Xander got some paper and outlined what had happened after he had told his uncle about that bomb.  "Why would they care?" she demanded.  He added in a few lines and showed her.  She slumped, staring at him.  "So the new...."  Xander pointed at a word.  "You sure?"  He nodded.  "Absolutely?"

"Yeah, almost totally."

"Poop," she muttered, squeezing Oz's hand.  "Then what?"

Xander pointed at the bug with a grin.  Then he looked at Buffy.  "We have no idea but they agreed something needed to happen.  They're not going to bother us."

"How can you be sure?" she demanded quietly.

"Because I made it to class today after escaping."  He smiled.  They all stared.  He grinned.  "It was giving me a headache."  He put the bug into his pocket.  "So, Giles?"

"We have that one main topic to research.  The others are later worries at the moment unless they try something very stupid."

"I warned the new guy about the school nurse when he demanded to know why Peter wasn't going."

Willow shuddered.  "I was hoping they'd arrest her after the last one."  Xander snorted.  "I know but still!"

"Willow, if they were going to arrest people for things, your parents would've went for not being home for *months* on end," Xander said, staring at her.  "Because that's child neglect."  She slumped. "Even if you're a genius.  They'd get mine for being drunk and loud."

"The only way they'd do something is if someone higher up stepped in and kicked butt, and they'd probably be removed," Buffy agreed.  She was tired.  "Patrol?"

"There were no obits today," Xander said with a smile.  She grinned back.  "Or yesterday."

"Then I should go back to Mom's."  She got up.

"Walk you home?" Xander offered.  "It's on my way anyway."  She nodded so he and the other two teens walked her back to her mother's house.  Joyce opened the door when they got near the porch.  "Safe and sound, Joyce."

"Xander, did you know about this?"

"Yup.  Because no one little girl should have to do that shit by herself," he said.  Joyce slapped him.  He stared at her.  "Did you want me to let her do it on her own?"

Joyce shook her head, giving him a hug.  "I'm sorry.  I'm still working my way through all this mess."

Xander grinned.  "We know."  She huffed but took her daughter inside.  He went to his house.  His father sneered at him.  "It's from a mother because her daughter needed walked home for safety reasons."  He went up to his room.  His room had been ransacked.  Half of his clothes were gone.  All the good stuff was gone.  His money stash was still well hidden though.  He went down to check the washer, just in case, but they weren't there.  He looked at his father.  "Snyder said if I come to school in more holey clothes he's going to make me home school.  Which means you'd have to do the lessons with me by law."  He went back up to his room.  Apparently some of his clothes had been hiding in his parents' room.  His mother threw them at him from the door.  "Thanks for doing the laundry, Mom."  He put them up and settled in to go over the history homework.


He walked in the next day.  The principal was waiting and already sneering.  "What?" Xander asked, staring at him.  "It's not full of holes."

"You're clearly not wearing underwear," he sneered.

"My mother took them all.  I have no idea where they are and neither did she when I asked."  He shrugged.  "Can't make them magically appear."  He walked around him.  "She'll be fixing it later."

He glared at him.  "You probably lost them making money for their booze habit, Harris."

Xander turned to look at him.  "Do you honestly think if I was making that sort of money, I'd let them have it?"  He grinned.  "I'd be in my own apartment, with my own things, and I'd never see them again, Snyder.  For that matter, if I was making money on my back, I'd be making better money since a few years ago someone offered me a grand for another bit of oral sex.  She was really happy even when I didn't take the money."  He smirked and strolled off.  "Some of us have ethics and not enough need to stoop that low."

"I bet," he sneered.  "You're suspended, Harris!"

Xander grinned. "Great!  I have shit I gotta do today anyway!"  He smiled.  "Thanks!"  He walked off before the principal could change his mind.  It didn't hurt his feelings at all to not have to sit in boring classes today.  He could even plant that bug somewhere nice while he goofed off all day with his uncle.  Once it was planted he went to Paul's house and knocked, getting let in.  "Snyder suspended me because Mom sold all my underwear."  He smiled.  "Burger?"

"Bit early, kid."  He let him in.  "Make breakfast for us.  I doubt you got any at home."  He went to shower and finish waking up.  Xander was a bit perky this morning.  He came down pulling on a clean t-shirt.  "Why did your mother steal all your drawers?"

"To sell.  She got about half of my clothes."  He handed him a plate with bacon and eggs, then caught the toast when it popped up to hand them to him.  Then he got his own and sat down.  "Snyder accused me of being a boy pro so I kindly told him if I was, I'd be living on my own and wearing better clothes.  So he suspended me."  He smiled and ate a bite of bacon.

"Wonderful."  He dug in to eat.  They finished up and he took Xander out to work on his hand-to-hand skills.  The boy could always use some more training and Paul could use some workout time.  During it he looked at his nephew.  "Quit goofing off," he said quietly.

"One of your neighbors has a video camera."  He turned a strike to the side and kicked his uncle on the thigh as he moved around him.

Paul glanced and sighed.  "I liked her.  I hope she's not part of that mess."  Xander shrugged and they got back to it.  The kid would be safer if they thought he was weaker.  Which sucked for the kid but sometimes you had to save your own ass so you could save others.


Xander showed up the next day in one of his uncle's t-shirts.  The principal glared at him.  "Uncle Paul said it's too small for him."  He smiled.  "And he bought me new boxers."  He walked around him.  There was nothing the principal could say about his outfit.  The t-shirt was even tucked in.  His shoes were tied and he had socks on.  He was clean.  So Snyder would have to make up a reason to get him in trouble.

"You're disgusting," Cordelia sneered as she walked past him.

"Not like I took the money.  If I had I would've already moved."  She glared at him.  He smiled.

She looked over his current outfit.  "Who bought you that?"

"Uncle Paul.  He said they were too small for him."  He grinned.  "I hung out with him yesterday for sparring practice and stuff."  He got what he needed from his locker and was in his seat before the first bell rang.  Which was good since Snyder was in there talking to the teacher.

"Harris, this 'uncle' of yours," Snyder said with an evil smirk.  "Who is he?"

"He served with my grandfather's younger brother in the Army.  Grandad asked him to watch over the family if something happened to him so he became an honorary uncle."

"You're not supposed to be anywhere but school or at your residence if you're suspended."

Xander smiled.  "Couldn't go there.  The landlord was spraying it and that's not on the books, Principal Snyder.  I made sure before I went there."

"Spraying?  Your parents have roaches again?" he sneered.

"No, he was spraying outside because the neighbor's trees had aphids or something and he's deathly afraid of his houses getting termites.  So all his rentals got sprayed for it yesterday.  He does it about every six months."

Snyder stared.  "Your parents rent?"

Xander shrugged.  "Do you honestly think anyone would've given my parents a loan?"

"No," he sneered.

Xander smiled.  "Good thing I earn my own money after school, huh?"  Snyder sneered.  "By the way, the cone shop said that your order's not going to be in on time.  They can't get that jelly stuff you wanted included to set properly with the ice cream.  Though they weren't sure why you wanted bitter almond flavoring in your vanilla ice cream."  The principal stomped off so Xander smiled and waved at his back.  "Have a better day."

"Quit baiting him before he takes it out on the teachers, Harris," she complained.  He grinned at her.  "Bitter almonds?"


She stared at him.  "You're sure?"

"Yeah, I had to deliver it to the cone shop when they needed a second batch."

She groaned.  "Thanks for the warning."  He smiled.  The other students ran in when the first bell rang.  She took attendance and passed out the few sealed envelopes that were notice of punishments for no reason.  Xander didn't have one.  Which was a nice change.


Xander came out that night to find an officer in the parking lot.  He stared at him since the cop was staring at him oddly.  "Get them on DUI again?"

"Your father beat the principal for threatening to make you stay home all day and learn from them."

Xander smiled.  "Cool!  When will he get out?"

"Bail hearing's tomorrow."  He stared at him.  "Probably won't be much."

Xander shrugged.  "Tomorrow's his payday."  He grinned.  The officer smirked back.  Xander strolled off, going home to grab his stash of money from the hiding spot just in case.  His mother was ripping his room apart.  He cleared his throat, making her turn to glare at him.  "You sent him to beat the principal?"

"Boy, I know you have money stashed!" she shouted.  "You should get him free for lying about that!"

"It wasn't a lie and no I don't."  She tried to seem menacing but he was nearly six inches taller than she was.  He stared at her.  "I'm not paying for him to get out.  He gets paid tomorrow.  Which means you won't have to go get him out after another DUI with Rory."  He stood up from his lounging spot and grinned.  "What's for dinner?"  She took a swing at him but he ducked.  "Fine, I'll get my own."  She tried to hit him again but he blocked it with his bookbag while seeming to just move to the side.  She started to cry that she had broken her hand.  He called the cops himself.  "Hey, it's Xander Harris.  My mother just took a swing at me and hit my bookbag.  I think she broke her hand.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "They'll be here in a few minutes, Mom."  She huffed off to cry on the officers that he had hurt her.  Xander came down the stairs shaking his head.  "I moved to duck to the side when she took a swing at me and she got my bookbag."  He let them see the dent in his textbook.

The officer looked at him.  "You didn't hit her back?"  By the look of contempt on his face aimed at Xander's mother, he wasn't going to be helping her much at all today.

"No, if I had she would've went down the stairs."  He stared at him.  "She was right at the top of them.  All I asked was what dinner was going to be."  He shrugged.  "I thought she might want to cook tonight for a change since she was going through my things."

"He has money stashed he won't give me," she said firmly, glaring at Xander and pointing at him.

Xander stared at him then at the officer.  "If I did hypothetically have money stashed it would be from my after school jobs and I'm not forced to hand that over to her for my father's new bail."

"No, you're not.  Though we have a bank in town," one of the officers snorted.

"Yeah.  One that hackers have gotten into twice in the last two months.  Why do I want it stolen?"

"Good point," the second officer sighed.  "Mine was."  He looked at the mother.  "He doesn't have to turn it over to you."

"He does if he lives in this house," she sneered.

Xander smiled.  "Good to know.  I'll find a new place this week, Mom.  That means you can't go through my shit again or sell my clothes so I get suspended because you sold all my underwear."  He went up to pack, including the stash of money and his weapons, heading out.  "Thanks, guys.  Let me hit the motel."

"You're not old enough," one said.

Xander smiled.  "Actually, we're not sure when my birthday is since she didn't have me at the hospital and there's no birth certificate on record for me."  They groaned, they had forgotten about that.  "She tried to file my father's for my birth.  Then again, she had me and didn't realize for a few hours until I banged into her leg.  The paramedic that came to save her from the alien thing that was trying to attack her told me about it a few years ago."

"I remember that call," the first officer said with a grin.  "You were born in June so you're only seventeen."

Xander shrugged.  "Not like the Motor Lodge is going to mind," he quipped.  He smiled.  "Let me go before she blows since she looks like she's going to rant and scream."  He jogged off, heading for the library first.  "I'm free of the 'rents!" he said happily as he walked in.  "Mom's about to assault a cop for not taking my roadtrip fund from me and that means no one to gather the checks tomorrow or pay bail."  He settled at the table, smiling at Buffy and Willow since they were glaring at him.  "So it's a happy day."

"Not really," Buffy complained.  "Mom wants to see me train."

Xander nodded.  "You did get out of shape when you were gone.  She's probably worried that you'll get hurt because of it."

"I guess."  She slid down so she was slouched.

Willow grimaced.  "Someone told my mother she was going to be charged with child neglect so she's home again."

Xander nodded.  "Doesn't shock me any.  Give it four days."  Willow grinned and nodded that was usually true.  "So later on I'm going to the Motor Lodge.  One of the cops even remembered when I was born so I know which month it was."

Willow grinned.  "That's great!  When?"


"Don't you have to file stuff on kids?" Buffy asked, looking confused.  Willow told her the story about Xander's mother trying to file his father's birth certificate as a new one since no one had given her one for her son.  Who wasn't born at home or in the hospital.  Apparently the city didn't care to give her a new one but she had never figured out how.

Buffy shook her head quickly.  "That's so messed up."  The other two teens nodded with smiles.  "Mom's going to love that story and maybe she'll quit nagging me and asking questions soon."  The teens shook their heads.  "Well, maybe for a night then.  I could use a night off."

Xander shrugged.  "Only two obits today and neither one listed biting." 

Buffy got the paper to look at them.  "Car accident!  Yes!  Happy night at the Bronze?"  They nodded and walked off.  Xander dropped his stuff off at the motel since it was on the way.  The girls waited but that was fine.  Then they went to the only all-ages club in town.  Very few vamps in there for Buffy to slay so she was happy on the dancefloor.  Willow got her usual drink and a table.  Xander went to dance in his usual uncoordinated way.  It was a good night off.


A few days later, Xander walked into the school with his patrol backpack on.  "Harris!" the principal shouted, making him turn around.  "Did you actually bring *weapons* into this school?"

"Only an unloaded crossbow.  Uncle Paul's taking me to the range later and I don't have time to run back to the motel."  He pulled it out to show him.  "See, no string, no arrows loaded."  He put it back.  "Not like I can do more than whack people on the head with it and I can do that better with one of our ancient textbooks."  He smiled.  "And we don't have a weapons policy."

"Are you sure?" he sneered.

Xander pulled out his copy of the school's rule book to look.  "Doesn't say so," he said, showing him the index.  He smiled.  "It's going in my locker."  He walked off to stuff it in there and put on an extra lock.  That way they couldn't break it without a bit of trouble.  Then he went to class.  The principal was getting some lock cutters but they weren't going to work. All it did was break the bolt cutters.  Xander was giving him amused looks from home room while he tried.

The teacher watched the principal then looked at the student.  "Do you really want to be expelled?"

"Sure.  Then I can sue the school."  He grinned.  "Half the stuff he gives detentions and suspensions for aren't in the rule book.  I might not win until the appeal in the federal court system but hey, I can wait that long."

She gaped, staring at him.  "That's nearly evil."

"Did you know all those kids who've died got noted as dropouts to the state?"

"No, I did not.  That makes no sense.  It wouldn't matter to the statistics."  She pulled out her phone to call a friend in another school district to check on that.  That was very wrong on a lot of levels.

Snyder finally gave up and stomped in.  "Weapons, even unstringed ones, aren't allowed in school, Harris.  It gives me great pleasure to expel you."

Xander smiled.  "Sure, I'd enjoy that and the lawsuit against the school because it's not in the rules.  Which means you're making non-legal decisions."  Snyder went pale and backed up.  "I'll have a shitload of fun filing it in *federal* court later today."  He stood up.  "But hey, day off.  Already passed my GED anyway."  He smiled.  "You have a *great* day, Principal Snyder."  He walked around him and got his locker open then took his stuff with him.  He walked off cackling.

"I'll get you!" Snyder called after him.

"Awww, was that a threat of bodily harm?" Xander asked, turning to look at him.  "That's so sweet of you.  Usually people who threaten me that way want to date me but I do have to turn you down.  I'm not gay or into guys of your...stature."  He walked off happier with that put down.  A few listening students had gasped and a few clapped but he was a happy boy.

"You'll never be allowed back here!" Snyder shouted.

"Don't want to be back here," Xander said with an air wave.  "Especially since my uncle noticed our books are about fifty years old."

"I'm going to have that uncle killed," Snyder vowed, stomping back to his office.  There were students staring at him.  "You're all in detention."  A few of the students dared to laugh at him for that so he glared at them.  They were picking up bravery from some source and that wasn't allowed in Sunnydale.  He'd have to make sure that trend stopped.  Especially the head of it, Uncle Paul.


Xander went to Paul's house, finding it cleaned out.  He found a note, which had nothing on it beyond 'moved'.  He held it up to the light then cut his finger to let blood cover it.  That showed more information in a light coat of vaseline on it.  That gave him some good news.  Those agents had taken him in to protect him.  He set the note on fire then headed off to go play in the sunshine.  He didn't see enough sunshine some days.  He was getting a cheap burger when jeeps pulled up around the shop.  Not the agents.  He smiled at the cashier, taking his bag and heading out through the back entrance.  Another jeep but this one only had one guy in it.  "Hey," Xander said with a grin.

"Let's go see your uncle, kid."

"Sure."  Xander got in and they headed off with Xander eating.  "Thanks for the lack of patrol going on."

"Welcome."   He pulled into a nice apartment complex and got out, taking the kid upstairs.  "We cleared out your room too."

"That's fine."  He walked in and hugged his uncle.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine, why do you look so happy?"

"The troll gave me an excuse to sue the school."  His uncle gave him an odd look.  He grinned.  "Maybe it'll be fixed in case I ever have kids."

"You hope," Paul said dryly.

"Well, Snyder won't be there."  He settled on the couch next to them.

The agent that had questioned him looked up from his laptop. "Our listening device going to the military unit was very helpful, thank you, Mr. Harris."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "I'm hoping he gets eaten by something mean with the way he's picking on the weaker students and the girls."

"He didn't make it in today because he got a broken arm fighting one," the agent that had picked him up said.  "Want some water?"

"Soda?" Xander asked.

"Sorry, none in the house."  He got him some water.  "You need a better diet."

"Dude, my mother doesn't cook," he said dryly.  "I live on take out, sandwiches, and school lunch."  He sipped his water, looking at his uncle.  "And the times I come to bum dinner or breakfast with you."

"That does happen regularly," he agreed, sipping his own water.  "Those soldier boys are mad as hell, Xander."

"I saw.  They tried to get me at Burger Barn."  He shifted.  "Thanks for the saving."  He looked at his uncle again.  "They being nibbled on?"

"They've had a few chunks taken out," the other agent said with a grin.  "Going to go back if it's offered?"

Xander shook his head.  "For the battle that graduation is looking to be.  Otherwise, I passed my GED last year."

"Good!" Paul said firmly.  "I can get you put into my old unit."

Xander shook his head.  "No way in hell, Uncle Paul.  I don't like to follow orders when I don't know a good reason for them.  Beyond that, all the soldiers I've seen are wearing Ranger tags in their BDU's."  Paul gaped.  Xander nodded.  "Three were at the mall last night, including the PE teacher.  We spotted them while we were tracking something."

"Fuck!" Paul complained.

The senior agent cleared his throat.  "I'm a retired Marine, Xander.  I can introduce you to a nice commander to recruit you."

Xander stared at him.  "Patrol."

"That's a good point.  We'll see."  He went back to his typing.  "The state has a weapons policy."

"It's set up so each school district has to set their own on what's allowed and if it defaults back to theirs it's only guns and knives, not crossbows.  Especially unstrung ones, which makes it a plank of wood with a trigger and a guard."

"Good point."  He added that and sent the report in.  Then he closed his laptop to look at them.  "They want you out of harm's way."

Xander nodded.  "I'm still needed on patrol."

"How long can you stay at the motel?" Paul asked.

"Six more weeks but I can get another crappy part-time job."  That got a nod for that plan.  Xander shifted to get comfortable.  "Now what?"

"Now....  We handle things as they come," the senior agent told him.  "Would you like to be recruited to possibly be an agent?"

"Nope.  Patrol."

"I could get you assigned here after some minimal advanced training.  Maybe six, eight months worth."

Xander stared at him.  "They'd still think I was too normal.  You don't know the girls the way I do."

"If you do, contact us," the senior agent said.

"Sure."  Outside, a car got blown up.  Xander was the first at the window, having ducked under the arm of the other agent.  "Uncle Paul, that second group is back."

"Great," he sneered.  "I might have to go into hiding."

Xander glanced at him.  "Send me postcards or something so I know you're okay."

"I can do that."  He patted him on the shoulder then hugged him.  "I'll try to be here for whatever graduation turns into.  Try to graduate, huh?"

"We'll see how it plays."  He smiled.

"Sure."  He and the senior agent snuck off together.

Xander looked at the junior agent and shrugged.  "We have a drop box code."

"That's fine."  He looked out there.  "We need to lay down some suppression."

Xander pulled out his phone and called someone. "I'm by Morty's and those military assholes are trying to capture my uncle Paul.  That'll help a lot.  Thanks."  He hung up.  Soon enough, a whole daycare full of baby demons rushed the military guys, climbing over them, shooting snot on them, laughing at them and their puny guns, and pulling on their uniforms to see what the mythical humans looked like underneath.  They were clearly children.  The military guys were trying to get free.  One tried to hit a kid and got bitten by poisonous fangs.  Another tried to escalate it by stealing his gun back to use it.  That one got bitten by a different set of poisonous fangs.  They finally had to flee to get their teammates treated.  The kids cheered and ran back into their daycare.

"You used kids?" the agent asked quietly.

Xander looked at him.  "First, they're orphans and to the local community they're pretty much cannon fodder, even though I hate that.  Second, they weren't going to get hurt because the first one that took a serious swing at one of them or something and I would've let the kids learn what brain splatter looks like."  The agent relaxed.  "Third, all but two of those kids are poisonous to humans.  Their snot, their drool, their bites...."  He smiled.  "They might crash on the way back to their base."

"That's a good way to pick them up."  He texted that to someone and got back they had been following them.  One of the kids had snuck into the jeep and was gleefully poisoning everyone on their base by spraying goo on everyone from a nasal orifice.  The agent looked.  "Snot shooters?"

"Paralyzing snot," Xander said cheerfully.  "I always wanted a paintball gun full of pellets of it."  He grinned.  The agent smiled but shook his head.  "How shall we spend the rest of our day?"

"We shall test your hand-to-hand, kid.  Your uncle asked since you held back last time."  Xander nodded, taking off his overshirt and throwing a stake at him before moving in to pounce.  "Not bad," the agent quipped and wiped the floor with him.  But the kid was learning a lot from him.  That was so great and maybe some day he'd be a real agent instead of taking out the bad guys here in this one town.


Xander walked up to Willow and Buffy that night.  "What attacked you?" Buffy demanded, pulling him over to look at his black eye.

"I sparred against the agents with Uncle Paul," he quipped, grinning at her.  "I held almost a half-hour but I tripped over something I had thrown at him and got clocked."  He put his hands in his pockets and grinned at Willow.  "Uncle Paul had to take a leave of absence since he was nearly attacked," he said more quietly, glancing around.

"Is he okay?"

"Yeah.  He'll be fine.  He'll see us for grad."  He grinned.

"Cool!  He can watch us walk."  They walked off together.  "Why were you sparring?"

"Uncle Paul's been teaching me and wanted an honest evaluation of it.  I did okay enough.  I was sparring against an agent so they're all better trained."  Buffy was giving him a funny look.  "Uncle Paul used to be a Delta guy, Buffy.  That's Ranger plus extra intense training."  She shuddered.  "Uncle Paul can kick ass in a few different languages."

"Why did he retire?"

"He got stuck with an assignment to bring in some hooker that an evil overlord sort was seeing to interrogate her and well...they nearly ended up married there for a bit to establish their cover but she gave him hepatitis so they medically discharged him when it turned out to be pretty nasty.  He spent six months getting treatments from her."  Buffy shuddered, ending up hugging herself.  "But they did get the evil overlord sort and his girlfriend into the US custody without a lot of fuss.  He had something like twelve years in."

"Wow."  She looked at him.  "Really?"  He grinned.  "Xander?"

He pointed behind them.  "We're being followed, you know that, right?"  She looked and turned to get the vampires.

"Twelve?  I thought it was ten," Willow said quietly.

Xander looked at her and shook his head.  "No comment.  Or about Uncle Phil."

"Huh."  She shrugged.  "I guess it'll do.  Who is he with?"

"Agents that work with Uncle Phil."

"Huh."  She helped by floating a stake at one of the vampires sneaking up on them while Xander got them with a crossbow.  "We haven't had this much activity in weeks."

"The agents have been helping." 

Buffy groaned, shaking her head as she rejoined them.  "Did he actually have to retire from that?"

"The first time.  He got recalled to duty a few years later and did some more stuff."  They walked on.

"Wow, I need to find a young guy like that.  Strong, able to handle the patrol stuff, and kind of exciting."

"Uncle Paul's nearly fifty," Willow said.  "And he hates blondes."  Xander nodded to back her up.

"Why?" she asked.  "Blondes have more fun," Buffy quipped.

"Yeah and have more STD's thanks to all that fun according to Uncle Paul," Willow said dryly.  "Right after them are redheads."

Buffy grimaced.  "Eww, that's skanky hos, not blondes."

"Who are usually dyed blondes or redheads," Xander said dryly.  "You don't see as many skanky brunettes."

"Maybe but that's not the type of blonde I am," Buffy said.  She looked at him.  "You got expelled?"

"In a way that means I can sue," Xander said happily.

She gave him an odd look.  "How are you going to graduate?"

"Did the GED last year?" he suggested dryly.  "And passed."  Buffy glared at him.  He grinned.  "Uncle Paul made me when he made me do the ACT, the SAT, and the ASVAB."

"What's that one?" Willow asked.  "I've never heard of that college admittance test."

"That's the military admittance test," Xander told her.  "It tells you what you'll be good at.  I got high enough scores that I can join anyone if I want to.  I got high enough ACT and SAT scores that if I really wanted to pollute myself with college and pay for it, I could go.  Which I'm not.  So don't even start, Willow."  She closed her mouth.

"You could do more than just work menial after school jobs," Willow complained.  "That's what college is for, Xander."

"Yeah, that and a lot of stuff that doesn't matter to me.  No thanks, I'd rather have something menial and not brain destroying."  He grimaced in her direction.  "Since I know you have a lot of acceptances, which country are you going to go to?"

"Country?" Buffy shrieked, glaring at Willow.  "You're switching to a college out of the country?"

"I got accepted at one when my mother sent in the application for me.  It doesn't mean I *have* to go," Willow defended, glaring at Xander.

Who shrugged back.  "Simple question since we're on the topic of colleges.  Your mom was bragging in the store that you had twelve acceptance letters already and only two turn downs out of the twenty-five you sent in."

"Twenty-five?" Buffy asked her.

"Mostly my mother's doing, Buffy.  Calm down.  I applied here locally and got in too if you want to go locally.  We can go together."  She glared at Xander.  "I should apply for you."

"Sure, if you want to waste the hundred-fifty buck application fee," he said dryly.  "Then get turned down because of my disciplinary record."

"You can get that expunged," Willow said.

"No, the school board likes Snyder.  They won't."  He grinned.  "Is that why you got the two turn downs?"

"My mother thinks so."  She grimaced.  "I don't.  I mean, how stupid!  They say it follows you but from middle school?"

"You got in trouble in middle school?" Buffy asked her.

"She got two whole detentions her whole school career," Xander said with a grin for Willow.  "Once because her mother came in to complain about the first incident and the first incident when there was a car crash and she was late to class because she was giving first aid.  The teacher reminded her she was a child and not to do that."

"I should fix that and yours," Willow complained, glaring at him for sharing that secret.

"You can't do that.  It's illegal and *cheating*," Xander said with a smirk.

"Good point," she huffed.  "Stupid laws."

"Was the teacher like the Troll?" Buffy asked her.

"No, she was on a kick to get Willow to be a young girl instead of Willow," Xander said.  "She used to praise Cordy for liking fashion and being a girly girl."

"Oh, that sort.  I had one but Mom got her removed because she was flirting with my dad.  Guess he might not have liked that but oh well."  She smiled at Willow.  "I have no idea if I want to do college or not.  It's really a lot more work and I have this stuff to do."  She waved a hand around.

"We'll see this summer," Willow said, sounding happy.


They finished patrol and Xander went back to the motel alone.  The girls were going to the Java Joint for a cup of coffee before bedtimes.  Xander was careful about his surroundings, which was why he was aware when a few soldiers tried to sneak up on him.  "Great, and me with only a crossbow," he muttered, shooting at them.  "Don't even think about it."

"You're wanted for testing, boy," one sneered.

Xander kicked him in the nuts.  "Like fucking hell, dude.  Oh, I'm sorry, is that GI Joe Dude?"  He heard more feet running and had no hope it was help.  With his luck it was vampires and they'd decide to feed him to them.  He fired his last shot and took out the third soldier with it then it was down to hands, feet, and a few times teeth.  The soldiers all were very unhappy he was fighting back.  The running two joined the first four.  He got the fourth guy down, leaving him two, and it was nasty.  They were better trained than the first two.  "Great, just great," he muttered.  One of them got in a lucky blow to his kidney, making him wobble, then there was pain from a boot to the head.

He didn't get to see the agent from earlier saving his ass and taking out the one that was trying to get blood from him.  Or hear Cordelia let out a shriek and try to rush toward him but they stopped her by taser.  Which the agent kindly repaid for her.


Paul walked up to his captor/savior's boss, looking at him.  "I want my brother to go mentor my nephew."

"He's in the Middle East," he admitted.  "I can't pull him from that."

"Bullshit.  You don't know what I know about the boy."  He handed over something.   "Your junior agent said that they found that out earlier."

The director read them over, going a bit pale under his dark skin.  "This sucks."

"Yeah, which is why I've been helping the boy get better."

He looked at him.  "You think they'll go after him?"  He handed over the mission profile of that unit, letting him read it over.  "How did you get this?"

"My ex, the slut.  She's sleeping with General Mayhugh."

"Oh, her."  He nodded, picking up the phone to call someone.  "Are you nearly done?"  He listened to the honest answer.  "Because your nephew needs you desperately."  He hung up.  A second later, Paul's phone rang.  Paul answered it and walked off talking to his brother, who he hadn't seen in six years.  The director called in that senior agent to look over that information file.  "No wonder he could get free of the helicarrier."

"He's good and I've offered recruitment with later posting out there."

"I only hope he lives that long.  I just got a call saying he was pounced."


Xander woke up in a white room.  A bright, bland white room.  He blinked at the ceiling lights for a second then looked around.  "Alien abduction and I woke up before they probed me?" he guessed.

A quiet snort from his left made him look that way.  Then down toward the foot of the bed.  "Not likely."

"Uncle Phil."

"Xander.  What have you gotten yourself mixed up in?"

"Depends, which level of BS do you want to hear about?" he asked dryly.  He made himself sit up, noticing he wasn't hitched down, he was in a hospital gown, he had a bandage on one hand and felt like one around his stomach.  He looked down the gown then at him.  "Did I lose something else?"

"No, we had to stitch the wound they caused."  He stared at him.  "What, exactly, were you doing last night?"  He knew if he wasn't specific and Xander didn't want to share, he'd babble like Willow until he was confused.

"I was on my way home."

"That's not how you get home."

"It is since I moved to the motor lodge."

"Okay, start there.  Why did you move to the Sunnydale Motor Lodge?"

"Because Mom got to the point of intolerable.  Wanted me to bail my father out for assaulting someone.  Claimed all my money was hers even though she had sold half my clothes on me again."

Uncle Phil stared at him.  "Still drinking?"  Xander nodded.  "Okay, that's a good explanation."  He opened the folder in his lap.  "Why were soldiers attacking you?"

"Because they'd had the misfortune to run into me a few times in the past when I had to protect myself?  Or were they looking for fish taint?" he asked, checking the bandage on his hand.  It had some blood and his hand was stiff like it had been stitched.  He looked at his staring uncle again.  "Uncle Paul was there."

"I talked to him briefly.  He's somewhere around here."

Xander looked around then at him.  "We're on the same flying thing that I snuck off the last time?"

Uncle Phil smiled.  "No, we're on a land base this time."  He closed the folder and stood up, looking at his nephew.  "I got recalled from a mission about this."

"If I was telepathic I'd tell you.  I can only imagine that there's listening devices in here.  Especially since the soldiers couldn't have found out anything about me without having hacked your boss's systems."

"There's a few trails in Sunnydale."

Xander shook his head.  "Not that would relate to my blood, patrol, or anything close to all that mess."


What do you know about a group in England called the International Council of Watchers?"

"Not a thing.  What sort of secret society are they?"

"They have a young, mystically enhanced female warrior," Xander said quietly.  "That's meant to fight the things that keep Sunnydale very bad."

Phil blinked a few times then texted someone.  "Let me look them up."  He looked at his nephew when he was done.  "So I take it you're helping their warrior?"

"And they hate it.  I've been told there's a small price on my head to make me stop helping her.  Which, admittedly, some days she might like too but yay."

Phil stared at him.  "I saw mentions of Willow."

"She who has magic and therefore is a special girl too?  Yeah."

"I didn't see any mention of Jesse and you two were inseparable the last time I knew."

"That's because the vamps got him when we were fifteen."  He stared at his uncle.  "Remember that story you told me when you were lit that time with Uncle Paul?  About one of the guys in your unit turning on you?"  Phil sucked in a breath but nodded.  "He got turned.  I saved Cordelia but Jesse got turned," he said, looking at his hands then up.  "That was my first apocalypse battle."

Phil blinked a few times then licked his lips.  "Excuse me?"  This was getting frustrating but it was also going in interesting places.  He knew his nephew could talk around a problem, Jesse had taught him how when they were younger.

Xander smirked.  "Yeah, it's like that sometimes."  He stared at him.  "I missed your letter this year.  Mom burned it."

"It didn't have anything important in it, just a tiny bit of news.  I didn't have time to write too much.  I was in Japan on assignment."  Xander smiled.  He stared at him.  "Who would have a dossier on you?"

"Outside the council and maybe your people?  Hopefully no one."

"I can check."  Someone tapped and handed in a file.  "Thank you."  He took it to look over.  "They seem like normal secret society sorts."  He kept looking.  "Three million to have you killed isn't minor, Xander."

"What's Buffy's for daring to do it in a non-approved manner?"

"About the same.  Only one for Willow though."  He closed the folder to stare at him.  "We have ways of downloading memories but it'll give you a headache."

"That might be the safest thing," Xander admitted.  "Though I'm not sure if you can through the past possessions."

"Possessions now?"

Xander grinned.  "Uncle Paul didn't tell you that he went on a rant about chaos mages and Halloween when I wore your uniform for it?"

"No, he didn't.  I think he and I should probably talk too.  What happened then?"  Xander shifted to get comfortable and told him about that Halloween.  Phil stared at him.  "I've never seen magic work."

"Go watch Willow."

"I'll see if someone has been."  A tv in the corner came up with film of them on patrol.  Sure enough, Willow was concentrating like she had to take a major dump and branches were floating at people that turned to dust.  "What is that?"

Xander shrugged.  "Patrol.  Those are vampires.  In a few minutes we'll have a purple thing that Buffy's going to slay while I distract her against her will by taking out a vampy vamp trying to grab her."  Sure enough, that did happen.  "The only time I got to wear that shirt before Mom sold it," he said when Phil looked at him.

Phil watched the video go on then finally walked over to turn it off.  He stared at his 'nephew'.  "What are you messed up in?"

"Saving the world.  There's those sort that want to own it or destroy it.  It's Buffy's job to fight that sort and no one little teenage girl should have to do it on her own.  Or two now since I know CPR and used it when she drowned.  Which is why the price on my head is so damn high."

Phil licked his lips again then stared at him.  "If it was anyone else, I'd say that they were going mental, Xander."

"Yeah, and yet we've lowered the Sunnydale death rate to under fifteen percent this year."

"They only have a three percent death rate."

Xander snorted.  "With the missing persons rate and the suicide rate plus the odd death rate, we have over thirty some years.  Thanks to Buffy and us backing her up, we'll have the largest graduating class in fifty years.  The death rate for the high school is about twelve percent right now."

Phil blinked a few times.  "That's not been noted."

"You guys have had a few agents there."

"I'll check with them."  He paused.  "You didn't have a weapon."

"I had a few stakes, a machete, and a crossbow with twenty bolts," Xander corrected.  "Vamps need to be beheaded or staked in the heart, or at least that species does.  Most demons can be killed by beheading or sometimes metal or wood.  Depending on the species.  Giles knows all that.  That's why he's a Watcher."

Phil considered that.  "No guns?"

"Guns aren't useful, Xander.  They won't dust a vampire and they can get lost during a fight.  I know I can keep hold of a stake during one but the whole gun thing would totally get broken during a fight," Xander mimicked.

"Willow?" Phil guessed with an almost-grin.


"Buffy?" he mouthed then shook his head.

"The blonde."

"Ah."  He crossed his arms and considered his nephew.  "Why the blood?"

"Unless they heard that I got exposed to mermaid DNA?  No clue."


"Swim team was turning into Black Lagoon monsters.  We needed to see why.  So I joined the swim team."

Phil blinked a few times.  "How did that lead to mythical creature DNA exposure?"

"He was tired of losing.  It was in the steam of the sauna.  But they killed him for it," he ended on an upbeat note.

Phil slumped.  "Let me get that tested."  A new file was handed in.  "Thank you and I want to see the agent who's been handling his town.  Now please."  He took it to look over.  "You do."  He rubbed a thumb over one eyebrow and looked at him.  "And a few other things."

"Would that lead back to Mom and Dad letting that geek have me for the summer when I was eight?"

"Quite possibly."  He went back to the results until the two agents walked in.  "Bartholomew.  Agent Cresnis.  Thank you for helping my nephew.  What happened?"

They gave him a succinct oral report and then Bartholomew handed him a typed report set.  Xander grinned.  "If you guys saved me from the weenies, thanks."

"You got four out of the six," Agent Cresnis said with a smile.  "Remember, we need future agents, kid."

Xander smiled.  "I still have to be there for patrol."

Phil looked at him and shook his head.  "No you don't."

"Yes I do.  There's no way I'm letting the girls go out alone," he said firmly.  "Even if they're bitches at times."

Phil blinked at him.  "We'll talk about it in the morning."

Xander snorted.  "No we won't be.  I have to be there, even if Buffy doesn't always appreciate it, because otherwise it's one little girl out saving the world by herself again."

"Sunnydale was officially put under a shelter in place warning due to a chemical leak up at the college," Senior Agent Bartholomew said with a smile.  "They're not very happy but it will last for two days."  Xander slumped but nodded.  "Those that are ignoring it are being arrested by the DEA.  Because they needed the training exercise."  He smiled at Phil.  "He snuck off the helicarrier last time, Coulson.  You taught him too well."

"That was mostly Paul's doing."  They smiled and left.  "We'll talk during PT."  He looked at his nephew again.  "That's high praise from him.  He's never directly recruited to the agency."  He walked back to his seat and sat down.  Xander was staring at him.  "We can work on things until it's time for you to be gotten home."  Xander nodded, slumping down some.  He would keep his opinion that this was all a huge mess to himself.  The kid didn't have much of a choice about the soldiers wanting him.  "Rest." 

He got up to hug him.  "I'll bring you breakfast in the morning and we'll talk about all this stuff."  He kissed him on the temple like he had when Xander was a little boy that used to hang on him for stories and tucked him in.  Xander smiled weakly.  "Try to sleep.  I'll be back in about six hours."  He gave him a pat and walked out of the infirmary room, going to find out what hadn't been told to him.  They had surveillance tapes queued up for him and could run it at time-and-a-half speed so he could get through them.  His brother had left him a long file as well.  It was going to be a long night but apparently his nephew needed him, and some common sense.

And to not sneak out of the infirmary because he had by the time Phil got back there.


Phil showed up in Sunnydale three days later.  It had taken him two to figure out how Xander was getting home.  He smiled at the woman who answered her door.  "Mrs. Joyce Summers?  Agent Philip Coulson."  She gaped.  He nodded politely at Buffy.  "It's not an issue but I'm gathering intelligence on a few...unusual things in town and I think that your daughter could fill some gaps in for me.  May we speak?"

"Is she in trouble?" Joyce asked.

"No.  The people who are causing problems are in trouble.  She just seems to have tripped over it while doing her duty."

"Do all agents know?"

"No, but I'm loosely related to Xander Harris."

"You're Uncle Paul?" Buffy asked.

"No, I'm Paul's younger brother, Phil.  When we had to evacuate Paul due to the military interference, he asked me to help Xander and you with issues."

"Let him in, Mom."  She did and they went to the living room.  "Where is Xander?"

"He got back here last night.  Two nights ago, approximately ten minutes after you broke patrol for the night, he was attacked by six soldiers who are part of that project under the college."  Buffy groaned, sitting down and slumping.  "He's fine.  He only got two cuts and he managed to protect himself very well for almost twenty minutes."  Buffy perked up at that.  "My people took him back to our nearest base for cleaning up and some rest so we could figure out what was going on."

"How did all of this come to your attention, much less Xander's?" Joyce asked.

"Xander was taking out a vampire clan in a warehouse while your daughter was on leave."

"I ran away," Buffy sighed.

"Which is still a leave of absence from your duty.  I have no doubt you had a few reasons and I'm not going to debate if they were good or not.  That's not my job."  She smiled at that.  So did Joyce.  He looked at the mother again.  "After using a holy water grenade."  Buffy moaned and shook her head.  "Which took out most of the clan, he was searching for anything that should not fall into other demonic hands.  He found a fairly powerful bomb."  Buffy whimpered and shook her head.  "He called Paul, who called some people he should have been able to trust but they were compromised by the people under the college, who are apparently torturing demons to find out what your Council has known for generations now."  Buffy nodded once.  Joyce shuddered. 

"The soldiers came to stop them by force.  Xander and Paul fought back, with the officer they had to wound because he was going to harm Xander for finding their stash.  Which led to Paul calling in some former teammates, who were messed up in bigger and worse things to stomp on them.  Which led to Paul calling my desk and another senior agent coming out to help them out of that situation.  And later raiding the base.  Which led to your new PE teacher."

"Xander said he thought he was military," Buffy said.  "I know he's a douche bag."  Her mother glared at her.  "He likes to pick on the weaker kids, Mom, and the girls.  We just ignore him."

Phil smiled.  "That probably upsets him more but it's a good thing to do.  He and his buddies were also made aware of Xander's fish taint."  Buffy winced.  "Exactly.  Which is why he got attacked last time.  That and they were going to remove him from their way because Xander was talking about them to people like Paul, who told myself and my director.  We've had agents out here taking out some of the rising ones for you to ease some of the stress on the town while we looked into that program."

"Are they being shut down?" Buffy asked.

"Yes, hopefully they are.  There's some higher ups who still like them so they're trying to save them.  We're hoping it's not going to work for much longer."  He stared at her.  "As of this moment, Xander is back in town.  You are going to have a few more agents here.  We'd like to know what's going to happen at your graduation?"

"We're not totally sure beyond the Mayor is behind it," Buffy said.  "Giles isn't sure why he's doing rituals to prolong his life."

"Okay, we can look into that."  He sent that note home, getting one.  "We believe, based on what we've found out, that he's ascending?"

Buffy shrugged.  "Ask Giles.  He doesn't give me more than 'this is killed how' sort of lessons."  Joyce scowled.  "Mom, not like I'd remember," she pointed out.  "I'm not Willow."

"You do fine," Phil assured her.  "You may not be a book person but there's many types of intelligence and you have others."  She smiled and nodded at him for that.  So did Joyce.  "I'll get with him later.  Tonight, no patrol.  We'll have the chemical ban lifted tomorrow."

Buffy waved a hand.  "The Mayor had all the DEA guys eaten already.  We went back to business as usual yesterday."

Phil huffed.  "They're not going to be happy with that."  He sent that note in as well.  His director sent back a yell and a threat to send him more agents.  He said that might be helpful and put his phone up.  "We'll be getting a few more to help since they no longer can.  Tonight, still, no patrol.  We'll meet with your group tomorrow in the library as usual?"

"If Snyder will let Xander in."

Phil smiled slightly.  "Principal Snyder is about to get a very rude awakening because his school is being audited by the Federal Department of Education and the California State Department of Education."  Buffy cackled.  "We did not have to ask.  News had gotten back to the state that he was responsible for cooking the books on his statistics. They are not happy and might pull all funding from them."

"Willow was about to erase Xander's disciplinary file."

Joyce snorted.  "What did he get into trouble for?"

"He got suspended last month for having no underwear on, Mom.  He said he got one for having a shirt buttoned wrong."  Joyce gaped, staring at her then at Phil.

"I have not looked into that yet.  I will be and then talking to my nephew."  He stood up.  "I'll see you tomorrow before lunch, Miss Summers."  He nodded at Joyce.  "Thank you."

"Where is Xander staying?" Joyce asked.

"The Motor Lodge the last I knew.  Our agents had him moved for a while but he went back there when he came back."

"I have a basement," Joyce said.

"I'll note that to him.  See what his plans are."

"He was going to sue the school," Buffy said with a grin.

"I'd like to blow it up," Phil said dryly, cracking her up.  "We'll see which one of us gets our wishes granted.  Good day, ladies."  He went to the Motor Lodge and found Xander on his bed watching tv.  He picked the locks on his room and closed the curtains.

"I knew you'd be here sometime today," Xander said dryly.  "I thought I'd make it easier on you."

"Still dumb."  He swatted him.  "Do not sneak out of the infirmary."

Xander looked at him.  "I didn't need to be there."  Phil glared.  He grinned back.  "So?"

"We're meeting with your team tomorrow."

"Sure.  Giles is the librarian."

"I know."  He sat on the other bed.  "Cartoons?"

"I like me some cartoons," Xander said.

"Classic ones at least.  Some of the new ones are trash."  He settled in to wait.  Xander would eventually break and talk to him.  He used to.  It took longer now but by midnight Xander was more than happy to remember.


Phil walked into the library the next morning and put down danish.  "I know Xander didn't get breakfast."

"Uncle Phil?" Cordelia asked.  He smirked a tiny bit and nodded.  She got up to hug him.  "I haven't seen you in ages!"

"Paul called me when they had to move him for his safety."  He gave her a squeeze.  "I've missed your wit too, Cordelia."  She sat back down.  "They're low fat danish," he told her.  She smiled and got one.  So did Buffy and Willow.  He put one in front of Xander and pointed.  "Eat."

"Yes, sir."  He grinned but did eat.  "So what did you figure out?"

"Well, first, we found out that Mr. Giles' true employers are in trouble with the UK for putting prices on children's heads."  He looked at him and handed over the file.  "The contracts on your charge and the other children have been removed."  Giles gaped and looked at the file.  He looked at Buffy.  "We believe, and we went back over the math, that he's trying an ascension bid.  Which means he'll turn into a huge demon."

Giles looked up and stared at him.  "You're certain?"

"Ninety percent."

"Oh, dear."  He got that reference book to look up what that really meant.  "We might need a volcano.  They did last time."

Phil nodded.  "We can figure something out."  He looked at the children.  "We have made the president aware of what had been going on in that project.  He was not happy.  We nearly went to Defcon 4 status he was shouting so much."  Xander grinned.  "He was not happy with us for not busting in there to end them either but we pointed out we were gathering intelligence and stopping their efforts whenever we could until we could get the situation with the other higher ups in the way solved.  He fired the lot of them."  Xander got up to snoopy dance.  Phil patted him on the arm.  "They may still try something.  They're being taken down later.  So you must be on your guard.  All of you."  They nodded.  "Especially you, Xander."

"Yes, Uncle Phil."  He got a second danish to nibble on.

Phil looked at them.  "We are going to be here until graduation," he told Buffy.  "Including a few agents that you can spar with and not worry about harming."  She smiled.  "We know it's important and we'll be upping Xander's hand-to-hand at the same time, plus Willow's or Cordelia's if they wish.  Or Miss Rosenburg's boyfriend that's not here."

"He's having a post-moon nap," Willow said then shoved some danish into her mouth.

"Someone had noted that but not given much beyond that.  I'd like to ask him how that works and see if there's anything that can help ease the strain he must go through each change.  Without testing on him or anything."  She nodded with a smile.  "Good.  Any questions?"

"PE teacher?" Buffy asked.

"Already gone.  We caught him with his hand in an underage prostitute last night."  She smirked.  He smirked back slightly.  Then he looked at Xander.


"Staying hidden for now.  They were all Army and Paul hates that.  He basically vowed vengeance on them for dirtying the uniform."  He stared at him.  "Paul stored my old Army BDU's in your closet?"  Xander smiled and nodded.  "Why?"

"I was helping him clean out stuff and I needed to change.  Why did you switch to the Marines?"

"They weren't challenging me enough in the Army."  Xander nodded at that.  He looked at the girls.  "Any other issues you can see?"

Buffy slowly raised her hand.  "We used to have a vampire that helped us."

"I've heard that.  We checked underground rumors.  If he should show back up, we'll help you test him to make sure he's not still evil and then figure things out."

Xander shook his head.  "Hell.  No."  Buffy glared at him.  "He killed Jenny.  He stalked you.  He stalked all of us.  He nearly killed you when you were sick."

"You lied about her doing the spell," Buffy shot back.

Xander stared at her.  Then he got up to get a book and bring it back.  "He couldn't undo it."   He pointed.  Buffy teared up.  "Beyond that, do you really think Willow should've been able to do the spell after being in a short coma?  Something that took a *group* before?  A spell that she had tried and failed to do?  Hell yes I lied, because it was *necessary* and the right thing to do at the time.  Giving false hope would've meant you both died."

"Hey!" Willow complained.  "That's not unusual.  Magic is hard and sometimes it's the second or the third try that works!  You still lied to her."

Xander handed the book to Giles.  "For the record, what does that say about him opening the portal?"

Giles looked it over.  "It has to be stopped with the blood of the caster."

Xander looked at the girls.  "Beyond that, he was torturing Giles right before you two fought."  He stared Buffy down.  "If I had thought and known you would've had that sort of pain and trouble I would've gotten him sooner," he said quietly.  "Dusted him during the daytime or something."  She shook her head, starting to cry.  "That way maybe we wouldn't have Jenny dead, we wouldn't have Giles tortured, we wouldn't have had you broken that way because you loved him."  She got up and stomped off to cry in private.  Willow glared but followed her.  He looked at Cordelia.

"I would've went with you," she reminded him.  "I knew he was dangerous and eww, dead penis probably not that great."  She stuffed her mouth again.

"Some people are ruled with their hearts and some with their heads," Phil reminded them.  "Young love is often traumatic.  That's why they make afterschool specials about it and write poetry and classical literature around it."  Giles stifled a smile but nodded he agreed.  "Now, what exactly do we need to do to support this team and make your remaining time in this school easy?"

"The agents taking out vampy vamps is nice," Xander said.  "Meant we got a lot more time off.  Made it a lot easier until she came back too."

"That will be continuing."

"We need better teachers," Cordelia said.  She pulled out her math book to show him.

"I think I used that in school and it was outdated then," Phil said, taking it to look at.  "This is thirty years old."

"That's the only math they teach in our grade," Cordelia said.  "We're all in the same classes with Willow and Jonathan and the other geeks.  That's why Xander has such a low grade."

Xander shrugged.  "Did the GED thing thanks to Uncle Paul."

She looked at him.  "Then why did you come back?"

"Uncle Paul said so?"

"Oh."  She grimaced.

"A diploma is always liked over a GED," Phil assured them with a slight grin.  "Any other classes?"

"Every.  Single.  One," Cordelia said.  She handed over her other books.  He looked them over and you could hear a moan but he wasn't showing it.

"I'm assuming there's world history beyond Vietnam," Xander quipped.  "But we'd never know it.  It's a good thing we don't have to take that test to graduate like most of the rest of the state."

"You do," Phil said.  "Or you should be."  He smirked slightly at him. Xander waved a hand.  "We'll see what the audit panel says."  Giles' eyes went wide and he went to move some books out of view.  Phil handed back the textbooks and looked at the two girls coming back.  "Are there any critical classes that you would like to see added to?"

"All of them," Willow said.  "I'm teaching the computer class and it's not too bad."

Phil blinked.  "Why didn't they get a sub?"

"Apparently none available," she said then shrugged, glaring at Xander.  "Apologize, Mister.  Now."

Giles came back.  "I think Xander was correct to withhold that information," he told Willow, staring at her.  "It was unlikely you should have been able to do the spell or that Buffy could defeat her boyfriend.  She is emotional, she revels in her emotions, and while I would not change that it does mean that it's something to take into account for future battles."

"Some of us were meant to be emo and some of us weren't," Cordelia agreed.  "Do you really think you could've beaten him, Buffy?"


"He still opened the portal with his blood," Xander said quietly.  "Which meant his blood had to end it."

She slumped but nodded.  "I get that part.  He would've sacrificed himself.  He did."

"And I get that but I honestly wasn't going to lay hope on Willow being able to do that spell.  It was something that it took a group to do before.  She's not a group and it's not her natural version of magic."

"I get that," Buffy said, lifting her chin some.  "We're going to forget that and never talk about it again."  She sat down.  "Though, he showed up when I was sick?"

"Yup, to try to kill you.  Taunted me a bit.  We had a brief tussle then he huffed off."  Xander looked at her.  "Someone had to watch over you when you were down."

"Thank you."  He shrugged but nodded.  She looked at Phil, taking another danish.  "There's some scary suit wearing people down by the office."

He nodded.  "They found out the principal was rearranging the numbers he reported."  Buffy shuddered.  "Oh, yes.  This will be costing the school money probably."  He looked at Xander.  "Should I even look at yours?"

"Please don't."

"We'll see."  He looked at the ladies again.  "We'll be in and out for the next few days setting things up."  He looked at his nephew again.  "You are taking up my spare room.  Do not argue."

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you."  He looked him over.  "At least your shirts match."  Cordelia laughed.  "Thank you, Cordelia."

"Nothing a lot of nagging couldn't cure," she quipped.

Xander looked at her.  "You are the queen of nag."  She hit him on the arm.  "Did you get Harmony yet for her ho length skirt?"

"No.  She's said she's going to try to flirt with the new teachers."

Phil shook his head.  "If they should be interested, they will be fired."  He walked off.  "Have a better day, kids.  I'll see you all in a few days."  He went to the office.  Snyder was flustered and nearly screaming at someone on the phone.  "I need the full files of one Alexander Harris," he said quietly to the secretary, flashing his ID.  "His uncle has put him in for specialist training since he's been working on his and I need to see where he's deficient."

Snyder came to the doorway.  "He's deficient in every way," he sneered.  "He'll never amount to anything."

"Really?  Is that why his SAT score was 1100?  Or his ACT was 26?"  Snyder gaped.  Phil smirked slightly.  "He has a lot of promise if it was channeled in the right direction.  Frankly, a school using forty year old textbooks probably couldn't handle doing that."  He got handed the file and looked it over.  "Disciplinary as well please."  She dug that out for him.  It was very thick.  The principal was sneering.  Phil looked.  "I thought he was joking when Paul said he got detention for having his shoe untied."  He walked off reading.  If he didn't know why Xander called the principal a troll before, he did now.  Thankfully Xander had escaped the library before he was spotted.  He was being harassed by an officer.  "He's emancipated and has his GED," Phil said as he walked past him.

The officer glared.  "You should still be doing something beyond hanging around."

"I was having a meeting and now I'm going to the job service office to put in a form."  He smiled.  "Better?"  The officer stomped off.  Xander went to do that and then back to his motel room.  His uncle was in there scanning in pages.  "Must you tell people that?"

"I'm making sure the audit board has copies to go over with the principal."  He looked up.  "You mouthed off to get expelled?"

"I wanted things to change," he said.  "It was tactically sound since he can't really do anything to me."

"Good point, slightly."  Xander shrugged.  "How did Job Service go?"

"They updated my file said it was a shame I was only seventeen because all the good paying jobs you have to be eighteen and have a license.  I pointed out I had one of those.  They updated that too and I'm due to go to the demon cab company next Thursday."

Phil blinked at him.  "They have a cab company and the humans don't?"

"Yup."  He settled on his bed, watching his uncle feed more sheets into that fax machine.  "How's Uncle Paul?" he asked quietly.

"Better.  Still very upset that they're Rangers and dirtying his old uniform.  Which I understand."  He looked at his nephew.  "I agree with Bartholomew.  You should take the training.  We can assign you here."

Xander shook his head.  "It won't make a bit of difference."

"It might."

"It won't."

"We'll see."

"Watch patrol," Xander said dryly.

"I can and will be.  That way we can evaluate where you all need some training."  Xander dug something out of his bag and tossed it over.  He looked through the last few pages.  "Did you tear out some?"

"No.  The person written about did magically."

"Huh."  He handed it back and finished sending the file.  Then he put it back together and tucked it into his bag.  "For Paul's amusement."

"He heard about most of them."  He settled in to rest.  That was paused when a spell went across the motel but Phil got up to handle her for him.  Which was really nice.


Phil smiled briefly at Joyce as he walked into the gallery with Willow.  "Do you have a few moments?"

"I do.  Is she in trouble?  With the way you're dragging her I would expect it."

"Casting spells on federal agents would be counted as a very severe felony I'd suppose if magic were included in the law books."  Joyce blinked at him then scowled at Willow.

"We don't need the help and they're going to make Xander train so he's not Xander and he'll just end up getting more hurt!  You know that he's normal and he'll get hurt if we don't stop him!"

"I'd assume that keeping memories from possessions meant he wasn't exactly normal.  Or the mermaid taint," Phil said mildly.  Xander, Paul, and all of the agents who knew him would be running right about now because of that tone of voice.

"So?  We detoxed all that fish taint.  The possessions haven't been helpful anyway," she snorted.

"You mean like how there's a nice listing in his files about stealing a heavy grade piece of artillery from the local Reserve base?"  She glared at him.  "For your slayer's benefit I might add."

"Still, he's *normal*!"

"So am I.  Yet I still manage to protect the whole US and world every single day.  By the way, you didn't detox it, Miss Rosenburg.  Our medics treating him the other night found it."  He looked at Joyce.  "Might you know who her adult supervisor is?"

"Her mother's not in town.  She left yesterday on a lecture tour and her father's ... I'm not really sure.  I know they wouldn't believe in magic though."

"Most don't.  I didn't."  He handed her over.  "As I saw, you're one of the two reasonable adults in the group."  Joyce smiled.  "Might I ask you to have a constructive talk with her?  Because I did not want an 'ignore me' spell put on myself.  Or any of the agents coming in to help in the next few days."

"They'll just get eaten like the last ones," Willow snorted.  "You guys aren't qualified to handle it."

"Miss Rosenburg, I have two agents coming in that are federally sanctioned assassins and snipers.  Granted, they're not the top in the agency but they do have a very high kill per year rating."  Willow went pale.  "I'm fairly certain they can snipe the vampires since we have managed to make a compressed wood bullet out of that pressboard wood they use to make cheap furniture with."  She shook her head.  He nodded.  "We have."  He popped out his gun, noticing her flinch.  He popped out the clip to show her.  "Banded with a tiny bit of silver just in case and another band of steel."  He put the bullet back in and the clip in the gun then the gun into his holster.  "Our weapons designers were thrilled by the new challenge.  They've been working on them now for over a year."

"You've known about this for a year?" Joyce demanded.

"No.  We had one of our snipers run into something fairly unkillable.  He ended up getting them with a broken board when traditional bullets and knives didn't work and they went to dust."

"Oh."  She looked at Willow then at him.  "So you've realized about vampires?"

"We've realized there was something odd.  The director said if we talked about vampires again he was going to put all of them into a mental hospital.  Now he's not willing to do that as often, even though it still gives him a headache and indigestion."

Joyce smiled weakly.  "I can understand that urge."  Phil smiled slightly.  "Let me talk with her and Giles."

"Thank you.  Paul noted he had gotten back a lot of books for Mr. Giles from her care and was worried about her."

Joyce nodded.  "I can see why.  Let's talk, Willow."  She walked her into the office.  Phil went back to the motel.  Her daughter needed better backup than a girl who stole books and a boy that lied to her because he thought it was kinder and more necessary.


Phil came in that night from watching the kids on patrol, finding Xander bandaging himself.  He settled next to him to help him.  "So that was bad," Phil said quietly.

Xander snorted.  "No, that was pretty normal, Uncle Phil."

Phil stared at him.  "I meant the girls, not the fight.  You could have done better but you kept getting blocked by Willow when she said she was protecting you.  I saw the three you got behind them."  Xander nodded.  "Even if they didn't."  Xander nodded again.  "And then yelled at you."  That got a third nod and a grimace.  He stared at him.  "After graduation, I want you to take the training," he said quietly.  "Even if you don't pass onto being an agent, it can help you stay alive."  Xander stared at him.  "It will help."

Xander nodded.  "I can probably do it for that reason but I don't think I want to be the guy in the suit like you are."

"I totally understand that."  They both looked outside as something went up in flames.  They gathered their bags and left.  Phil hadn't had time to set up a safehouse out here yet but a few of the agents were in so he went to their house.  Which was also on fire thanks to vampires.  He spotted all but one and nodded at one to find a safe spot for them.  He had Xander to take care of, and he was too injured to help protect himself. 

That wouldn't stop him from trying but Xander had grabbed his own gun and some of his spare bullets to stop the vampires before the agents had realized then limped off to stake a few.  He spotted Buffy and followed to help her.  That's when he spotted Xander.  He was surrounded by vamps and had just set off a light explosive as they got there.  It sprayed holy water, burning them.  Buffy jumped in to kill them with Phil.  Phil looked at him.  "You're too injured thanks to Willow for that, Xander."  He staked one backhand and then Xander got another one.  "Let's go."

Xander shook his head.  "No, this is a threat and I have to help handle it."

Buffy snorted.  "You're injured, Xander.  You don't have faster healing like I do."

He stared at her.  "I wouldn't be injured if Willow hadn't knocked me into a group of vamps."  She snorted.

"He was," Phil told her.  "Then he took out three of them."  Buffy gaped.  "We've been working on his training, Buffy.  That way he can safely back you up."

"He's normal and I don't need the stress of watching out for him and worrying if he's injured," she said bluntly.

Xander shrugged.  "That's fine.  I'll go on my own."  He walked off growling.  Phil scowled at her then followed.  "Uncle Phil, help her.  I'll get the guys to somewhere safer.  Not like I don't know this town."  He led them to a house that was empty. It was fairly defensible.  Had almost no windows.  Overgrown bushes around the walkway so it was hard to get into.  Still furnished because there had been no heirs to handle things like having the electric cut off.  The agents settled in to check injuries.  Xander looked.  "Are we missing one?"

"He's with your uncle," one said, staring at him.  "You need stitches."

"I need a bandaid," he countered.  He got out of his shirt and went back to treating his cuts and scrapes.  When someone came up the stairs he looked out there.  "Anyone know him?"  They looked and shook their heads. Xander looked out the door.  "Do we know you, sir?"

"Who're you?" he demanded, vamping out.

Xander grinned.  "Xander."  He staked him.  "Let me set up an automatic sprinkler."  He got what he'd need from the garage and came back to make holy water for it.  He put a trigger on the stairs and set it up to spray whoever walked onto the porch.  His uncle walked past him and around the trap.  "Holy water."

"Reasonable.  Thank you.  Let me stitch your shoulder when you're done."

"I've got butterflies on it, Uncle Phil.  Not like I didn't learn."  He finished up, going back to his chair to check his stuff.  He had gotten his whole bag, including clothes, out.  So he was set.  The money was in there.  He checked to make sure and it was.  "You get Buffy home?"

"Yes."  He looked at him.  "She has a point that it's a worry any team leader has.  She expressed it miserably.  You'll be taking extra training with me to make sure she doesn't have to worry as much."

Xander looked at him.  "Sure, I can do that between my own patrols."  The agents with them were staring.  "Because I don't need that stress either."

"No, you don't, and I agree with your decision on that."  Xander relaxed and grinned.  "You're taking an agent however."

Xander shrugged.  "Fine.  Set me up with a trainer type and I'll go with him."

"That's not a bad idea," he decided, pulling out his phone to text someone.  He looked at the others.  "Where's Phipps?"

"We thought he was with you," one of them said, staring at him.

Xander pulled out his phone to call someone.  "It's Xander.  Was an agent captured?  Yeah, but my uncle's about to bring down the wrath of hell on people for it.  Cryptin's house.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "The head of the kitten poker circuit.  He's a peaceful species."  That got a nod and they set up a watch rotation.  The agent got back there just before dawn.  He stepped on the trip switch, getting sprayed.  His screams woke up the other agents.  Xander sighed.  "Okay," he said, reloading the holy water bottle.  He let his uncle handle the staking duties this time.


Director Nick Fury looked at the report that got sent in.  It was short and to the point.  He looked up.  "Hill."  She walked in and stared at him.  "Does this say that Coulson lost an agent to being turned into a vampire?" 

She read it and nodded.  "It appears so.  Do we believe it was the military unit or the Mayor?"

"I forgot about him," Fury admitted, considering it.  "Probably him.  He owns the vampires in town."  That got a nod.  "Get me his special agents.  He's got three."

"One's still MIA in Asia," she said quietly.  "We have no idea where Agent Romanoff is, sir."

"Fine.  Tell his brother too, just in case."  That got a nod and she walked off to do that.  He considered it.  Romanoff would turn up.  She always did.  For all he knew this was how she was taking a vacation.


Xander looked up from his searching when a mostly quiet person walked near him.  He looked at him.  "Do I know you?"

"I'm looking for Phil Coulson and the junior agents said he was with you."

"No, he wasn't with me.  He was supposed to be with Buffy and she got him lost.  He's presently in the middle of some of the more harmful demons around here and I'm trying to find the way into their underground base.  Another agent?"

"Yes."  He grinned.

"Cool.  Can you fight?"  He nodded.  "Even better.  I'm still training."  He finally found the hatch and got it open, then jumped down.  He walked in and found his uncle on a chair and demons sneering at him.  "I've had enough," he sneered.  The demons turned to stare at him.

"Xander, totally unnecessary," Phil said.  "Clint."


Xander smirked and pulled out something.  The demons laughed.  Xander hit two with it and they screamed.  "Not like I don't have access to the books, guys.  And the kitten poker circuit."  He grinned and hit the others with the other weapons on him.  "Had enough."  More came running in.  "Great, and I'm out of holy water and grenades.  Guess it's not a happy day for you guys."  He let his other half take over.  She growled and pounced, clawing and biting at the demon giving orders.  It screamed like a little girl and ran off.  Xander huffed and spit out the bad tasting blood, sniffing around.  He nuzzled Phil's cheek then prowled off to handle another demon he could hear.

"Get me free and go stop him," Phil ordered.  His agent got him free and went after his nephew.  Phil stood up and got his weapons back.  Clint came back with Xander chasing him.  "Xander!" he snapped.  Xander blinked and looked at him.  "I'm supposing that's the hyena?"

"Probably, yeah."  He looked around.  "Huh.  She wasn't that pissed off this time.  Interesting."  He walked around Clint, going to the hatch.  "Do you want to go out through their enclave or this way?"

"That way's probably safer," Phil said.  He gave Xander a pointed look that they'd be talking later.  Xander grinned and climbed up into an ambush.  That wasn't going to make them happy but Xander did okay enough until they got up there.

Clint stared.  "He's not bad.  Clearly runs in the family, sir."

"Not exactly that sort of family but he's learning a lot."  He took out two more vampires and Clint shot the others.  Xander was holding his side and the claw mark.  "Let's get that treated."  Xander held up a hand and pulled out a tiny, old plastic snap case.  He pulled out a tube of something to put around the wound then a bandage.  "Blocks the scent?"  Xander nodded, looking at him.  "I need to test that."  They walked off together.  "Buffy had to take off after a hellhound."

Xander looked at him.  "I heard.  I was playing kitten poker actually.  I'm *so* going to kick her around."

"It wasn't intentional," Phil warned.

Xander snorted.  "Yeah, right.  In case you hadn't noticed, she's said you're normal and a guy too.  Therefore not part of the special girl club."  He watched around them.  "I'll be damned, he is back."  Phil paused to stare.  "Wonder if he has the soul."

"We'll figure it out when you're not injured and neither am I," Phil said, walking him off.  "Barton?"

"Just me, sir.  Dietrich's in the infirmary in a bad way.  His last one hit him with a pickup truck to stop him from firing an RPG up their asses.  Widow's somewhere in Asia."

Phil looked at him.  "Seriously?"  Clint nodded.  He found his phone and called hers.  "Widow.  Sunnydale, California.  Tomorrow if possible.  I need you here please."  He hung up.  Clint shuddered.  They made it back to the house they were borrowing and got patched up by the medic that had come with Clint.

Xander stared at her.  "You're a half Mohra demon."  She flinched, staring at him.  He waved a hand.  "Don't care personally as long as you don't hurt my uncles."

"No, I would not.  I'm indebted to them for saving my family."  She stared then sniffed.  "What is that?"

"Mermaid taint?  Past possession?  The stuff I have around the claw mark?"

"No, that I recognized."  She sniffed his throat then looked at him.  "Hyena?"

"Past possession.  I dropped for a bit."  He grinned.  "She's kinda nice about protecting the family."

"They would be."  She settled in to treat his injuries.  She had things that would work better with his strange taints.  "How many do you have?" she asked quietly.

"Two possessions, DNA taint.  Some strange geek when I was eight that my parents gave me to for the summer since he nicely paid them about five grand."

Phil looked over.  "I did not hear about that."

"Ask Uncle Paul, Uncle Phil."

"I shall."  He sent that text message and got a file number back.  He looked it over then at his nephew.  "They were trying to see if you had any gifts.  Someone had thought you might."

The healer nodded.  "The possessions are stronger because he does.  I'm also sensing some seer taint and possibly some later healer taint.  He might have to grow into that or have it opened though."  She finished up.  "That gel is not to be used by those with venomous DNA."

"It doesn't bother me.  I was warned and tested it first."

She nodded.  "Good enough."  She patted him on the hand then stood up to look at the senior agent.  "Director Fury wanted a call, sir."

"I will."

She smiled at him.  "I'm going to be at the demon clinic to see if there's anything new that's come out."

"Go to the one on eighth," Xander said.  "The other one has those last few military people watching it."  She nodded and grinned at him then left.  Xander slumped down, grimacing.   "Would it be okay if I just ...blew up the town?" he asked his uncle.

Phil considered it then shook his head.  "Probably not.  We want to keep it open because the other possible hellmouths are in bigger cities and the like."  Xander groaned.  "Though we may be able to solve some of the issues going on."  He looked at Clint, who grinned.  That was one of his specialities.  "I also need you to go in as a teacher."

Xander looked at the guy then his uncle.  "Have fun with that."

Phil smirked.  "You're not expelled any longer."

Xander shrugged.  "Still don't have to go."  He grinned.

"You're going back."

"That would mean I'd have to put up with the bitches who nearly got you killed earlier.  I'm not sure I can act, Uncle Phil.  Are you?"

He stared at his nephew.  "It was not intentional."  Xander snorted again, giving him a pointed look.  "You will go back."


"Tomorrow," he said.

"You blackmailed Snyder?"

"No.  He's not in charge.  The state took over the school."  Xander smirked and shook his head.  "Yes they have."

"No they haven't.  Willow was still teaching today."  Phil groaned.  "They might be wanting to.  Which we'd probably applaud at.  You'll probably get a bunch of 'but it's hard' complaints as well."  He crossed his feet.  "If that happens I'll go back."

Phil called someone.  "Did the take over happen today?"  He listened to the logistical nightmare going on.  "Not until next year?  Interesting.  No, I believe it should happen sooner.  Because we have rumors of the principal in with the one causing the major problems in town.  No, Miss Summers is not the major problem starter.  She's solving them," he said blandly, making Xander cackle and shake his head.  "As we've heard, the Mayor is.  Ah, you had a meeting with him.  How charming."  He looked at one, who got them some help from a hidden person in their agency.  "That's fine.  Thank you."  He hung up and called the director, walking off talking about things like removing spells from bureaucrats.

Xander grinned at the other agents, who were all shaking their heads.  "So anyway, guys."  They smirked at him when Phil glared at him.  "I was a good boy.  I'm not the one that got taken hostage."  He got up to stretch, with a wince, and headed up to his cot.  Let his uncle do agent things.

Phil shook his head and looked at Barton.  "Files' in my bag.  Get familiar with it.  He goes on patrol with a training agent.  He has a nasty habit of getting nagged by the girls."  He went back to talking to Fury while his agent got the files to look over.  He had to laugh at a few things.  Phil looked over so he held up the disciplinary file.  Phil nodded.  "Principal is a troll."

"Clearly.  Is there a bridge in his office?" Clint quipped, cracking up the other agents, who all nodded.


Xander did end up going back to school a few days later when Snyder was forced to readmit him by the Mayor.  For some reason no one was sure about.  Xander yawned through the 'I'm watching you' speech.  Then he went to class.  The girls were ignoring him, yay him and his life.  But yay, he didn't care right now.  He watched the new chemistry teacher, who was an agent.  They weren't too bad at it and Xander even learned something.  That was nice of him.  His uncle would be proud that the teacher singled out his experiment as going the right way, even over Willow's.  Which made her huffy and glare at him. 

The PE teacher was now Clint.  He got them to do volleyball instead of dodge ball.  It confused the jocks a lot but it was good for them to learn new sports.  And bouncy girls....a wonder of PE class.  None of Cordelia's sheep had worn a bra today so it was a bouncy good time in PE.  The girls all huffed and complained until Clint reminded them that they were less than usually dressed so had brought it on themselves.  Then it was time for literature.

The new teacher in there wasn't an agent he recognized but that tingly feeling that the former Science sub had given him was back - and that one had been a shape changing demon.  He paid attention to her.  She wasn't exactly trying to be sexy but she was definitely drawing attention.  She went over Russian literature.  Which none of the students realized was real.  Xander finally raised his hand and grinned.  "Miss Rushman, how much of our current reading assignments were translated poorly?  Should we worry about that?  I've seen some Greek that was mistranslated and changed the meaning entirely.  It went from a comedy to a gay sex romp."

She smiled.  "That is a good question.  The translations in this case are good.  The next one, not as well done but the meaning wasn't changed.  Simply some odd word switches and they didn't put it into grammatical order."  He nodded and smiled.  "Though that's a very good question.  What did you read?"  Xander leaned over to grab it off the reading shelf and tossed it at her.  She flipped through it and laughed.  "The translator only had Latin in high school apparently."  She put it down.  "I'll find the classroom a better copy.  That's a piece of literature everyone should read."  She smiled at the hissing cheerleaders.  "Ladies."  They stared at her.  She smiled.  "When is your next game or competitive meet?  My own college did competitions so I know it's stressful leading up to them."

Cordelia shook her head.  "We only play games.  The next one is in two weeks."

"Excellent.  Then I won't worry about your text next week on this reading."  She smiled at the class.  "After each assignment I'll be giving a short test on the reading material to make sure you've actually read it."  That got a mass of groans.  "It'll be on the level of a book report," she said dryly, staring around the room.  "You can do it easily if you read the reading.  In classes we'll be talking about various points.  I expect a chapter a night."  A few slumped and Buffy moaned. 

"Class participation is required for a decent grade."  They all nodded, looking depressed at that fact.  The bell rang.  "Read the first chapter tonight, come see me again tomorrow."  They walked out.  She stared at the trio that her handler was paying a lot of attention to.  She wasn't sure why but something odd was going on.  Since it was lunch she strolled off.  She caught that one young man's eye.  Something was odd, a bit off, about him.  She ran into Clint, who grinned at her.

"Miss Rushman."

"Mr. Barton."  She shook his hand.  "We should catch up over lunch."

"We should," he agreed, taking her back to his office.  It was the most secure of all of them.  He turned on the bug jammer and looked at her.  "We weren't sure where you were.  Phil's in a critical level of danger here."

"It seems like a charming town."

"That has a really high death rate."  He smiled.  "Due to vampires."

"Were you drugged?" she asked casually.

"No."  He showed her the bite mark on his arm from fighting one off last night.  She slumped, staring at him.  "By the way, that guy who was watching you?  That's Xander."

"He's Xander?  His 'nephew' Xander?"


"Interesting.  Why was he watching me?"  He dug out the journal he had 'borrowed' to let her read a section.  She stared.  "I'll make sure he knows I'm not a praying mantis demon."  She handed it back with a huff.  "How bad?"

"Phil actually got captured last night."

She stiffened.  "He was?"  He nodded.  "That's not a good thing."

"No, it wasn't."  They shared a look.  He wrote down an address.  "We're there."  She tucked it into her shirt pocket and rebuttoned her vest over her shirt.  "I'll introduce you to some people."  He walked her off to introduce her to Giles first.

Giles looked up as they walked in and he went pale.  "Why is someone of your skills here, Miss Romanova?" he asked quietly.

She smiled.  "Agent Coulson called me."  The gentleman slumped, staring at him.  "So I'm teaching literature."  She looked around.  "I might have to introduce the topic of library work to the students."

Giles snorted.  "We've had three students checking out books since I've been here.  That's nearly four years now."  She stared at him.  "Good luck with them."

Cordelia stomped in and slammed the door closed behind her.  "Okay, what's with the freaky?" she demanded, looking at them.  "Who the fuck are you two and why are you in my school?  It's kinda clear you're not teachers."

"We're agents under Agent Coulson," Clint said quietly, staring at her.

"Uncle Phil sent you?  Seriously?"  She huffed, glaring at them.  "Do you really have to make the boys drool?  We had enough problems with the shape changing demon that went after virgins.  I'm pretty sure a few guys flashed back to it since they just grabbed some of my cheerleaders."

"I did not mean for that to happen and if I had known about that history I would have been more subtle," Miss Rushman said.  "You are...."


"He's mentioned you a few times," she said with a slight smile, shaking her hand.  "We're here to help and to protect you."

"Yeah, right," she snorted.  "That's the blonde, whiny thing's job."  She looked at Giles.  "What's her problem now?"

"She's still feeling the pressure and strain from before," Giles said simply.  "It's a hard transition for some, Cordelia."

Cordelia stared at him.  "So in other words, the special girl thing came back and they tried it on Xander, who walked on them finally?"

"I did not hear such things."  Xander walked in with a sandwich and a pint of milk.  "Good you're eating."

"Yeah, lunch is almost edible today.  Even if it is terriyaki tofu on wonder bread."  He sipped his milk.  "Cordy, Uncle Phil's on his way here to take some readings."

"Why were you staring at us earlier?" she demanded, glaring at him, hands going to her hips and one foot tapping.

"Because you all were *bouncy*.  Teenage guys stare at bouncy things.  Especially breasts."  She slapped him.  He shrugged and ate more of his sandwich.  "Next time, tell your sheep to look less like sluts and more like teenage girls who don't charge.  I think one of the agents asked her how much she charged."  Cordelia glared.  He shrugged.  "It's not my fault you can't heckle them into bras!  Guys think with their dicks and their hormones too, Cordy.  We see bouncy things and drool."  She stomped off again.  He smirked and waved at her back.  "Have a good afternoon."  He looked at Giles, writing down something.  "Dealt with them."

"Why didn't you wait for Buffy?"

"Because she's decided I'm too valuable to risk again," he said bitterly.  "So fuck her and her special girl status."  Giles gasped.  Xander stared at him.  "Fuck it and fuck her and fuck Angel since we saw him last night!"  He stared at him.  "I don't need this shit.  I really don't."  He walked off.  Maybe he'd cut the afternoon session.  Of course he ran into an enemy of him having sanity.  He walked around Willow.

"Xander."  He glanced over at her.  "Is she a demon?" she hissed.


"The teacher you were drooling over.  You only drool over bad girls."

He stared at her and almost said something about her former crush but didn't.  "No, she's not."  Willow smiled.  He walked off shaking his head.  There were days when he thought that being a drunk might not be so bad.  Today was one of them.  He heard screaming and looked.  Soccer team chasing the semi-naked cheerleaders.  He whistled and threw a rock at one's head.  "Do you mind?  The rest of us don't need to see them naked.  We'll have nightmares."  One of the girls was crying.  The team glared at Xander.  He stared back.  "What?  Going to kick my ass?  Try it.  Leave the girls alone.  Apparently they said no and you're too illiterate to look that word up."  They huffed off.  He looked at the girls.  "I have some blankets in the trunk of the car," he told the crying one.

"We have stuff in our lockers," Cordelia said, jogging over to help them.  "C'mon, girls.  We'll make sure you're safe."  The principal and the coach were coming out.  "How dare your boys attack my cheerleaders!" she shouted at the coach.  "They did not need to attack them.  They did not need to chase them through the school!"

"They're just girls," Snyder sneered.

"Even just girls have the right to say no," Xander said bluntly, staring at the coach.  "You're damn lucky I didn't do more than throw *a* rock at your people.  How caveman are they?"  He helped a few of the girls up.  "C'mon, let's get you guys somewhere safer so you can press assault charges."  A few of the other jocks came over to help get the girls into the dressing room.

Clint came in after knocking.  "I need names to make them sorry."  The girls told him who.  He smiled.  "Good."  He walked out.  That was not going to happen any longer.  Not while he was there.  They may be slutty girls but even they could say no.  Most of them had him later that day with the other jocks.  That was so sweet.  He looked the various teammembers over and smirked.  A few of them realized that was probably a bad thing.  "We're going to work like soldiers today, boys.  Your conditioning is pathetic.  Your fat to muscle mass is overloading your guts.  So we'll do it like I did when I trained."

"You were military?" one asked.

Clint smirked.  "Worse.  Much worse."  They shuddered and he got them into the daily PT he would expect from them.  They'd learn from him and be too sore to try anything again.  They were whining when he finally let them go shower and change.  Most were shaky and needed help to stand up for the next few minutes.  Clint felt much better about them living.


Phil looked up as his late lunch was interrupted by Miss Rushman.  "Natasha," he said with a smile.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine.  Are you is the better question."  She stared at him.  "I was told you got injured?"


"Captured as well?"

"Longer story there."

"I've heard from Barton."  She stared at him.  "That's your nephew?"  He smiled and nodded.  "Interesting young man.  Asked a good question, did more than stare at my chest.  Stood up for the cheerleaders that were being assaulted."

"He's good at that.  He's very much a white knight."

"As I've heard."  She handed over a key drive.  "On what I've seen."  She looked at him.  "How long?"

"We're deciding that."

"Fine."  She smiled.  "It's a nice vacation to teach literature to teenagers.  Their minds are like tired sponges."  She got up and strolled off.  Someone dared to slap her on the ass so she turned and grabbed their arm to break it in four places.  She looked down at the crying man.  "I'm not your pet.  You have no right to pat me.  In the future, keep your hands to yourself."  She strolled on like nothing had happened.

Phil hid a smile as he finished his lunch.  Things would go all right.  He could have Natasha talk to Buffy and Joyce about female warrior things too.  Maybe his agent would be able to figure out why Buffy went out on patrol in a skirt and heels.


"Mother fucker," Xander said as he walked in with the mail.  He handed something to his uncle.  "Your boss wrote."  He walked off looking at the other stuff, handing it out.  He ducked a few blows as he walked past the pair sparring.  "You're weak and there's not that much room in here.  We have a yard, guys."  They huffed but went out there.  Xander handed over the last few envelopes.  "There."  He walked back to the living room.  "Did your boss complain?"

"He's being complained at," Phil admitted.  "Barton?"

"Yard with the other guy."

"Natasha?" he called.  No answer.  "She's around here somewhere."

"She's in the kitchen on the counter eating a sandwich," Xander said.  "If you're talking about the pretty redhead who's clearly dangerous."

"I am and no hitting on her."

Natasha strolled out.  "I doubt he would," she said.

Xander grinned.  "Only dangerous women like me," he quipped.  "Like the mummy."  He walked off shaking his head.  "They're still nagging about that and Cordelia."

Phil looked at his back.  "You dated Cordelia?"

"No, we bitched at each other then made out in closets," he quipped back with a smirk and a wave before going outside.  He got a block from the house when he was jumped.  Not by demons.  Not by soldiers.  By some of the jocks.  Xander did pretty good.  He was bruised but so were they.  Two were limping and one was moaning about his broken ribs.  Xander was sore but he'd had worse.  He looked at them.  "Next time, learn what no means because strong, brave guys like you that need five of you to jump a single guy clearly need that education."  He walked off.  An officer pulled up next to him.  "What?" he demanded.

"Did you start a fight?" he asked with a mean smirk.

"No.  Earlier I helped protect some of the cheerleaders when their tiny, steroid shrunken cocks tried to rape them.  They didn't like that," he said sarcastically.  "That's why it took five of them to jump me."  He walked off shaking his head.  The officer tried to stop him but Xander turned and glared.  The officer slowly backed up.  Xander looked behind himself then at the officer again.  "Yeah, I'm about to lose it again."

"We know that blood tells, Harris."

"But I don't drink."  He smirked.  "So what do you think I do instead?"


"No.  Not really."  He smiled.  "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll find out some year."  The officer turned and ran.  "Have a great day," he called with a grin and a wave.  "Pussbag."  He walked off again, still shaking his head to clear the ringing in his ear.  He finally resorted to the finger wiggle maneuver but that helped.  Another officer drove past him so he smiled and waved.  They sped on.  Xander grunted.  That was probably a bad thing but yay.  His uncle would scowl, with a full scowl instead of a partially hidden expression, but yay.  He ran into his new literature teacher at the Java Joint.  He bought her tea and handed it over then got his own drink and walked off.  Maybe he'd go hang out on the beach, see if he could find any of his former swimteam mates.

Natasha watched, frowning at his back.  She followed him subtly.  She saw him swing out of his path to check on a house that was alive with screaming from a couple fighting.   The man of the couple stomped out.

"I see you're coming crawling back," he sneered when he spotted Xander.

"No, I'm trying to figure out if you died yet.  I'm never coming back.  Thanks anyway, Dad."  His father took a swing at him.  Xander ducked it and walked off.  "You're not worth it."  His father shouted and lunged at him.  Xander ducked and let him fall.  "Uncle Paul would say that was really pathetic."

"You'll never be the man Paul is or I am," he sneered, getting up and wiping off some drool.

Xander looked at him.  "Uncle Paul thinks I'm a lot like him and no, I'll never stoop low enough to be you.  Thank you, Goddess."  That got a growl and the man took another swing at him.  This time Xander hit him.  He stared at him.  "Why don't you leave town?  It's not like you're not a disgrace and pulling it down.  You're a really bad example to kids and I'm hoping the neighbors are tired of you and don't decide to burn the house down."  He walked over him.  "You're not worth the stress of a fight."  He made it to the beach and looked at the woman following him.  "Did you enjoy my father's little show?"

"Most people wouldn't have been able to spot me."

Xander nodded.  "Then again, I've been helping on patrol around here for a few years."  He stared at her.  "I could use some privacy.  I'm having a teenage boy day."

"I think you're having some anger."

"That's part of being a teenage guy."

"Not all."

"Maybe not where you're from, but here it is."  She rolled her eyes and walked off.  "Don't worry Uncle Phil either.  He has enough to deal with right now."  He went down the beach.  There was a clan of demons down here that were causing trouble.  Maybe he'd scout them instead of going for a swim.


Phil looked around as dinner was served.  "Where's Xander?"

"On the beach," Natasha said, looking at him.  "Being angry."

Phil stared at her.  "Why is he angry?"

"He was bruised when I ran into him at the coffee shop.  Then he talked with his father, who was not pleased, and then he went to the beach.  Where he asked I not tell you because you had too much to stress about."

Phil nodded.  "Perhaps."  He dug into his dinner.  "If he's not back in an hour I'll go look for him.  He can handle it."  It was still dusk so Xander would be safe enough.  He hoped.


Phil found Xander the next day, in a cage.  A lot more bruised than Natasha's report said he should be.  He got the other people out of their cages and safely out while he helped his nephew out.  "What happened?"

"The soldiers were torturing the demons in the caves and spotted me."  He stared at him.  "They had bats and things."

"Great."  He handed him to Natasha.  "Take him."  She nodded, taking him to be looked over.  Phil got some higher help called in.  The director was very displeased with this.  So was the governor when the Director admitted he had people here and why.   The governor flew down, landing his helicopter outside City Hall.  People were staring.  Phil joined the discussion when he was sent for.  He walked in.  "Governor."  He shook his hand.  "As of this date, the removal of that one program is going well.  Today some leftover rogues were having issues."

"They're not under arrest?"

"They're supposed to be but a few got missed in the sweep so they're waiting on implications to get them as I was informed."  The Mayor was glaring at him.  "By the way, blaming my nephew for arms dealing is fairly stupid as he doesn't.  Now and then he'll find something in a nest but he doesn't sell them."  The Mayor gasped.  "We did a background check on all major figures when we came in to solve that issue thanks to my nephew finding a relatively large bomb in your warehouse district."  He looked at the governor again.  "As discussed with the Department of Education people, we have leant a few teachers to the school as theirs were without accreditation or skills.  Plus two were in that same military unit to gather victims."

"That's fine," the governor said.  "Should you really need to stay locally?"

"I'm on leave right now to help my nephew, sir.  The other agents could possibly be removed.  They were called when we were attacked."  He smiled slightly at the Mayor.  "I believe the ones responsible have already been put before a judge."  The Mayor was glaring.  He looked at the governor again.  "I can send the excess agents home as I'm sure all the problems will be solved."

"I'd hope so," he said, sneering at the Mayor.  "Wilkins, you've given me heartburn for years now.  Now that I know why you're not going to be in office again and the FBI is going to start investigating your faulty policies."

"I've done nothing wrong," he said.

Phil smirked at that lie.  "Really?  Then why is there a warehouse in your name that holds illegal gold coins and other stashes to flee the country?  The FBI agents were very interested in that earlier today."  The Mayor hopped up, nearly frothing at the mouth.  Phil gave him his best bland, pleasant agent look.  "It's illegal to own some of those by US and International law, Mayor Wilkins.  Though it's nice a few of them were from before the laws were put into place.  The agents thought the antique coins were a lot nicer to look at.  Very shiny as well.  They praised your cleaning of them even though that lowered the value of the antique ones."  He looked at the governor.  "Would you like me to keep the two agents in as teachers?"

"Please.  With what they said, the school's about to be taken over.  I don't know why they didn't do it immediately.  Especially after meeting with this Mayor."  He glared at him then at the agent.  "How soon will that group be gotten?"

"Long before my nephew's graduation but I'm here until then so I can watch him walk."  He smiled.  "We got him to take the GED last year but we'd still like him to get a diploma.  It's more widely accepted."

"Yes it is."  He shook his hand.  "Earlier?"

"What about earlier?"

"I heard assault rumors?"  Phil told him about what had happened with the cheerleaders.  And the later fight.  The governor smiled.  "Sounds like your nephew's turning into a good man.  I hope you can recruit him as an agent.  We could always use more good agents."

"A few of us have wanted to recruit him but he's not sure of his path yet."  He smiled.  "I would let someone else handle him but I think he'd do excellent at the training.  He has with the training I've snuck on him."  That got a smirk from the governor.  "If you'll excuse me, I need to check on him.  The soldiers had him in a cage and he was joking about them having bats so I know he's injured even if he won't admit it."  He left the governor to glare at the Mayor.  He ran into a worried looking Willow, pulling her aside.  "Make sure the Mayor cannot harm the Governor."  She nodded, casting a protection.  Phil walked off.  He really did have to talk to Xander about his temper problem.  Not that he didn't understand.  He'd be angry too.  Xander wasn't there when he got home.  "Hospital?" he guessed.

"Patrol," Barton said.  "With Widow."

"Natasha can definitely handle patrol but why did Xander go?"

"He wanted to finish blowing off the fit from earlier," Clint said, staring at him.  "I'm not sure if he's scary or not."

"I think it might depend on the day," Phil admitted.  He gathered what he needed and so did Clint so they could join the duo on patrol.  Buffy was huffy but she and Natasha were talking weapons.  Phil looked at them.  "Buffy, Natasha is a very well trained agent," he said quietly.  "She's gone undercover and handled many bad things."  Buffy smiled at her for that.  "You can be mentored if you like.  Natasha has seen some of the worst of humanity and stopped it."

"I might like that.  It's nice to have someone who realizes what I do."  They walked off talking.  "Xander, why don't you go get a donut?"

"Because I'm going to finish my watching of a demon clan that just moved in?" he said dryly.  She turned to stare at him.  He stared back.  "That way you can go beat things up and I'll have some healing time from the jocks earlier."

"They didn't attack you," she snorted.

"Five of them pounced him by the house," Clint said. Buffy gaped at him.  Xander nodded.  "Then he got into a fight with a few of those soldiers who had bats.  Which is why he should be at home."

"I can quietly sit and watch without seeing the pitying looks," Xander said firmly.  "I'm not helpless."  He walked off past the ladies.  "I'll be by the Piers."

"Whatever," Buffy complained.  "You should be in the ER."

"No thanks.  Already handled it."

"What if a vampire gets you?" she snorted.

Xander looked at her then opened his jacket to show the stake, machete, crossbow and bolts, and dagger.  "I think I'm a bit slow but I can deal with it.  That way you don't have to worry about your manicure."  He walked off again, muttering this time.

She sighed and looked at Phil.  "He's going to get hurt and I don't want him to get hurt.  That's why I don't want him on patrol.  He's *normal* and he keeps getting hurt because he can't fight."

"I've taught him quite a lot of self defense recently," Phil said blandly.  He felt Clint shift behind him.  "Also, normal is relative and non-inclusive of those with fish DNA."  Buffy groaned.  "Or that kept enough information from possessions to be able to call them up now."  He stared at her.  "It may be your duty but it's his choice to aid you and most of the past slayers probably would've begged for help, Miss Summers.  Even if they were normal."  He walked off.  "I'll help him with that scouting.  Barton, help the ladies."

"Sure thing, boss."  He looked at them.  "What's our route tonight?"

Buffy stared at him.  "What sort of agent are you?"

He smiled.  "The special sort that they recruited when I was still your age."  Buffy gaped.  "The sort that is *highly* experienced with all sorts of bows, including crossbows.  I'm also a marksman."  She slumped, staring at Natasha.

"I helped train him as an agent.  He is an excellent one and one I always appreciate at my back."  They walked the younger girl on.  Maybe they could help her pull her head out of her ass.


Phil got the bad call a few weeks later.  There was a critical mission with his other agent.  He had to handle it.  He stared at them.  "Dietrich is about to be executed."

"Go get your agent," Xander said.  "I can watch over myself, Uncle Phil."

"Natasha, can you please take him in?  This safehouse isn't safe enough at the moment."

"I can and will.  I have a nice apartment with a spare bedroom."  She smiled at the boy.  "That way you actually do your homework."

"That's a waste of time.  It really is," Xander complained.

"Yay," Phil quipped.  He hugged him.  "Behave.  I'll call in a few days when he's free."  He packed and left.  Natasha was an excellent agent and could subtly ease Xander into taking the proper training so his nephew didn't die from a bad patrol night.

She smiled at the other agents.  "Do you have another one set up?"  They nodded.  "Then let's scatter."  They packed up and she took the boy and his bag with her.  Clint was in her apartment making dinner.  "Dietrich is in serious trouble," she told him.

He nodded.  "I heard.  He need me?"

"He didn't say so."  Clint called to make sure.  He looked at Xander.  "Relax."

"You guys should be guarding Buffy and her mom.  They're vulnerable.  I grew up a hood rat."

Clint shrugged.  "So did I until I ran away to the circus."

Xander gaped.  "I thought that was a myth that kids told each other."

"Not always."  He smiled.  "It's why I'm such a great shot though."

"Can you work on mine?  Uncle Phil gave me that disappointed look again the last time he took me."  They nodded.  Xander grinned.  "Thanks, guys."  They smiled and Xander helped by making dinner with Clint.  He wasn't going to be a burden on her.


It took a week for Natasha to realize that Xander was not the innocent young man he acted like.  Nor was he the leche he pretended to be when he stared at pretty girls.  She wasn't sure if he liked girls actually.  Phil was no help, he was out of contact.  She had read over all the files she could on the boy.  He wasn't exactly an enigma but he wasn't what she thought a young teenage boy should be.  Even at seventeen.  Even with bitchy girls surrounding him to put him down, which he never seemed to let settle on him but she had seen the slight flinch when a few had struck with a barbed point. 

She and Clint had a few lunches over the boy and his needed training.  The boy was acting out.  He was striving for attention the wrong way.  He was about to get it because Buffy had demanded that he stay away from something that was going to happen because it was too dangerous.  They found out later what had happened because they had went on patrol for Buffy. 

Xander had pleaded homework.  She should've looked in his eyes.  She would've seen it.  The next morning, when she found out what had happened, and about the talk with the zombie thanks to a security camera in the hallway that had a good audio pickup, she staged an intervention.  She had seen Clint reach that point and snap.  He had nearly killed Phil when Phil had tried to get him calmed back down. 

She grabbed his arm and walked him off.  "Let's talk about your latest assignment, Xander.  It was much better but you're still going too shallow with it."  She put them into her classroom and locked the door.  She turned to face him but he held up a hand and plucked off the listening device.  She snorted and pointed at the jammer.  "That will not work.  They are pathetic."

"They run on magic instead of a battery, would that matter?"

"Probably not."  She tossed them into her purse.  She stared at him.  "I heard."

"Heard what?"

She stared at him.  "I hate it when people play stupid around me when they're clearly not." 

Xander shrugged.  "I'm not Willow or the geek trio.  I'm not really the brightest or sharpest crayon in the box either."

"You are much smarter than you put on."  She pulled down her hair and looked at him.  "There is a camera right outside the boiler room."  He winced.  "It was good that you got him to undo it.  The talk you had beforehand is a bit worrying."  She stared at him.  "Are you really that depressed?"

"I don't know," he admitted.  "I have no idea.  I've learned a lot about myself and some of it I'm not real happy with.  Including how often I let the bitches have a go at me and don't fight back."  She nodded, settling on her desk.  Xander could pace around, he often did while they talked.  "Personally, I think my uncles made a mistake.  I'm not meant to be like them."

"You're a lot like your Uncle Phil.  I've never met his brother but he says they're alike."

"They are.  Paul's a bit louder."

"That happens when you have to be a covert agent."  She stared at him.  "Beyond that, even if you don't think you can go into the family business with your uncle, the training can still help you."

"Which I appreciate and all that, but they don't want the help.  So maybe I'll have to start over somewhere else.  I don't know.  I really don't know and I'm not really sure I give a damn right now.  We're coming up on something huge again and we're so fractured that we'll all die.  And it's probably my fault."

"Not all your fault.  I would have told that same lie."  Xander nodded, relaxing slightly.  "Then again, I am more analytic about things than emotional."

"I get that and all, but damn it it sucks.  And he's back."

"I've noted that.  They don't seem to mind."

"I'm wondering how Giles got over Angel torturing him."  He looked at her.  "Then again, his books are missing from the book cage again too."

Natasha nodded.  "So you think someone has done something tampering?"

"I don't know.  Really, I'm not sure if I should care."

"You should," she said.  She shifted to cross her legs.  She noticed that Xander didn't look.  "You had sex," she said with a slight smile.  She could always tell a virgin from an experienced sort.

He snorted.  "Yeah and it sucked ass too.  A whole three minutes and then she kicked me out because I had worked out her post-slaying aggression."

"Faith?" she asked.  He nodded.  "Interesting choice."  Xander gave her a pointed look.  "Yours?"

"Hers.  She was hot after a fight.  I got yanked.  And it was  She was probably better than some in this school because she had that fire going but...."  He shrugged.  "Nothing to write home about.  Not that I should probably talk to you about that."

She smiled.  "I have made many men want me that way as a cover, Xander.  I've taught junior agents the same thing."  She got up to walk closer to him.  "Not everyone has a great first time," she said quietly.

"I'm not really sure if I see the point in it," he admitted.

"That's an entirely different matter.  That may be because of the depression you're showing."  She tipped his chin up.  "We will work on that so you're healthy and you do not have to worry about going into that battle alone," she said quietly.  "Or else we wouldn't still be here."

He nodded.  "Maybe.  I don't know.  I'm screwed up right now.  I know I am."  He shrugged and walked over to unlock the door.  "Busses are pulling in."

She stared at him.  "I'll tell Clint you need a guy talk."

"I have no idea how guys talk, Natasha!  The last time I had a guy I could talk to we were talking about RC cars and boobs.  He died when we were fifteen because I ended up staking him."

She grimaced.  "That is never an easy choice."

"Someone shoved him onto the stake."  He looked at her.  "I can kinda understand about Buffy wanting to keep him.  I would've done about anything to have kept Jesse."  He calmed himself down.  "But I can't and even without stepping back I can see all the wrong that they're going through."

"It is," she agreed.  "The least being the two century age difference," she said dryly, making him grin.  "We will figure it out and start planning for graduation."  He nodded, heading out.  She walked out, going down the gym.  She smiled at Clint, who was surrounded by cheerleaders.  They all adored him since he had stuck up for them.  "Ladies, it's nearly class time."  They huffed but she smiled.  "We have the pep rally later as well."  They smiled and went to talk about their plans.  She smiled at Clint, moving closer to pluck some hair off his arm.  "It hasn't been noted but Xander does not have a reliable adult *male* role model," she said quietly.

He nodded.  "I have noticed that.  Especially when the girls are talking to him and treat him like a really butch lesbian."

She looked at him.  "It would be better if perhaps that was remedied."

"I can do that."  He smiled.  She smirked back and walked off.  He got the cheerleaders off to class instead of practicing.  The Troll was still in charge and he'd try to cancel the pep rally.  The kids needed the morale boost.  He walked out to find the principal sneering at the bomb.  "Xander talked the guy who set it into turning it off," he said bluntly, staring at them.  They turned to stare at him.  "He found them planting it."

"Harris was looking sad earlier," one of the officers said.

"He's surrounded by bitches," Clint said bluntly.  "He was still tired and trying to ignore them."

"Fine."  The officers stared at him.

"We know you're an *agent*," the Troll sneered.

Clint smirked at him.  "Yes I am.  I'm one of the top rated agents in the agency I work for and in the US.  I've been doing it since I was seventeen."  The Troll shuddered and backed away from him.  "I doubt there's much that's going to phase me about teenagers."  The officers snickered but took the bomb off.  He stared at the principal.  "For that matter, I'm working on self-defense lessons against the jocks since they're clearly deficient mentally."  He walked off.

"We don't allow that here," the principal warned.

Clint looked at him.  "Really?  That's not in your handbook of rules."  He went into the gym again.

"It's like watching an older version of Harris," the principal sneered, going to look that guy up through the Mayor.  He had very little knowledge except that the guy was a sharp shooter of some sort and supposed to be nearly perfect every single shot.  Thankfully his new literature sub wasn't one of those *agent* sorts.  She didn't even complain when he tried to flirt with her.  She wasn't one of those snobby pretty ones like Summers and Chase.  She would hopefully get their attitudes unscrewed too.  Or at least teach them to be better women.


Xander looked up as someone new walked up to the classroom door.  He was in Lit and the teacher had noticed him.  Xander was staring at him.  When the bell rang, he was first up and out there, staring at him.  "Sir, all visitors have to report to the office," he said.  "So why are you glaring at my teacher?"

"You're real protective, kid.  I like that."  He smirked meanly.  Xander shifted for the rest of the class to run out for their lockers and then lunch.  "I just wanted to stop and see an old friend."

"Uh-huh.  That's not what it looks like."

"Xander, it's probably her boyfriend or something,"  Chase said dryly.

Xander looked at her.  Then at him.  "Really?"

"No, he's not," Natasha said.  "Though I do know him.  Xander, do not harm him.  He won't harm me or the other students."

Xander snorted.  "Sure he won't."  The guy smirked.  Xander decked him.  "I'm sorry, leaches should be in the football field's west endzone with the swamp."

Natasha smiled at him.  "That's a very good punch, Xander.  Thank you."  He grinned.  "Go eat.  I made sure you had a lunch today."  He bounced out.  She looked down at him.  "That is Coulson's nephew," she said dryly.

"You know there's a price on his head, right?" he asked from the floor.  He stood up with a groan.  "He's not real strong but he had a good swing."

"You're lucky he only decked you," Cordelia said smugly, strolling off.  "I'll tell the hotty in the gym that he's here."

"Please do not.  He'll get hit again," Natasha said patiently. She looked at the other agent.  "Why are you here?"

"Coulson's not answering calls."

"He went after Dietrich."

"We know."  Barton came humming up the hallway.  "Spreading important news.  Coulson's not answering," he said quietly.  "Last we heard, Dietrich was captured by some funny looking cultists."

"So demons?" Clint asked.  The other agent gave him a funny look.  "You should see this town at night."  He looked at Natasha.  "Do you have anyone down there?" he asked, making sure they weren't being watched.  The camera in the hall was disabled.  They made sure each and every morning.

"Not at the moment.  I used to but he died."  They shared a look.  "Spring break is in a week.  If we had a spotter to get us information we could head in, handle it, and get back with days to spare."

Clint nodded.  "Still, that's almost a full week."

"You do not have Friday classes," she reminded him.  "I can ask for a day off.  That cuts it down to three days."

"I still don't like it.  If they're cultists they could be planning a sacrifice before then."

"I know an agent a few countries over.  I'll see if they have anything."  Clint nodded.  She smiled at the agent.  "Anything to hand on?"  He handed over an envelope.  "Thank you."  He nodded and left.  She looked it over then handed it on.

"I guess I'll have to push back the guy talk I scheduled with Xander tomorrow night."

"Why tomorrow?" she asked.  "He didn't say he was doing something important tonight."

"He's going on patrol."

"The girls are being icy to him again today," she said quietly.

He nodded.  "I noticed.  No clue.  I was going to trail him."

"Do so."  She went to gather her lunch and eat outside so she could keep watch on the children.  She sat down with the cheerleaders to talk to them about not looking quite so slutty.  They really did need taste outside of Cordelia.


Clint showed up at Natasha's door.  "He's playing kitten poker.  Did you get anything?"  She nodded, handing over what little information they had.  "So demons sacrificing warriors to bring back their mean god.  Okay then."  He handed it back.  "The locals?"

"Cowed.  They're living on the backs of some drug lords that had taken over the area.  I'm not sure how they got the drug lords.  Most of them are highly religious and not into demons or the occult."

"There's always an exception," he complained.  "Anything on their compound?"

"Slightly.  We have a map to it."  She laid it out.  "That came from a European source.  They had lost an agent to them as well."  Clint nodded, studying it.


Clint noticed the absence the next morning and nearly groaned.  Of course the kid had to get into trouble when they had to leave to save his uncle.  Which was a predicament.  Maybe Buffy?  Well, maybe not Buffy since she was ragging on Xander abandoning her last night.  "Where did he go instead?" he asked.

She jumped and looked at him.  "I don't know.  He said something about getting information on something huge."  She grimaced.  "He totally blew me off.  He was supposed to drive me to the mall later."

"How about we buy you a mule you can abuse and name it PMS?" he offered, staring at her.  "It might be better for everyone."  He walked off.  Xander was getting information about 'something big' with demons.  He leaned into Natasha's classroom.  "Did Xander come home?"

She considered it.  "I did not hear him," she realized.  "Where was he?"

"He's not here.  Last I knew he was playing demon poker and Buffy said he blew her off to get some information from the circuit."  Natasha stared.  "He wasn't watching."

"No, he wasn't.  It's probably about something big coming up around here."

"Okay, if you're sure.  Do you know how to play kitten poker?"

"No, I do not.  I should remedy that."

"I think we both should," he said with a grin.  He went back the gym since the students were being let inside.  Xander wasn't that stupid, right?


Xander stared at the head demon.  "You have no right to snatch agents."

"They were all military, therefore warriors," he said.

"Not all military people are warriors.  Some of them are geeks. They do computers or use planes to run surveillance.  Not all of them did fieldwork."

"That is true.  We do question them to make sure before we keep and prepare them."

"There's better warriors out there."

"Yes but they are usually protected by another higher source."  He stared at him.  "You are quite brave."

Xander smiled.  "Yes, I am."  He dropped something that didn't break as he had planned.  So he stomped on it.  The demons laughed until one started to choke.  "And I'm creative."  He grinned.  "You really shouldn't have stolen my uncle."  He jogged off, finding Phil.  He was in a cell looking miserable.  He was bruised, cut, and looked like he had been tortured, which he probably had.  "C'mon, we gotta go."

"I need to find my agent, then we'll be talking," he said, accepting help up off the bare floor.  "What are you doing here?"

"Fucking up their plans.  I do a great job of it," he said dryly.  "What does he look like?"

"Blond, tall, fit."  He looked around, limping toward a containment chamber.  "We need him out of here."

Xander looked.  "If we release him he could die."  His uncle glared at him.  "We can move it with the pod if you can get us help.  I was going to call on another demon to make us a portal but the charm he gave me feels dead."

Phil looked at it.  "It's hair."

"It was green hair."  He looked at it then at him.  "If we have to, we'll find a wheelbarrow and get him out of here with you."  He checked.  "It's got feeding tubes."

"We need to kill the demons," Phil said.

Xander nodded.  "I let the radioactive silver do it for me.  A few might still exist."  He handed over a gun with a grin.  "I got creative."

"How did you get radioactive silver?"

"I paid someone hugely to make it glowy for me."  Phil stared at him.  Xander shrugged. "It was my first blow job.  Apparently I wasn't horrible at it.  It was important because you were being held captive so we'll let you nag me about it later, Uncle Phil.  Okay?" he said in a rush, moving to look at the other pods.  A few were nearly changed over.  Phil found a cellphone and called in some help.  He grabbed Xander.  "I need to look at that."

"You don't.  You need to stay here with me to help me protect them."  He stared at him.  "Then you can disappear.  Tonight, I'm going to have someone pull some of your DNA to see if you're related to Barton."

Xander shrugged.  "Probably not."  People rushed in but they were other demons.  Xander blinked.  "Hi, guys."

"Puny hellmouth knight," one sneered and pulled up a gun.  Xander slung something at them and moved him and his uncle behind one of the pods.  The pretty little thing he had gotten off the local arms dealer last night went off prettily.  It only stunned them but it gave them time to get out of harm's way and fire back.  "You will not win."

"We're just trying to get home," Xander quipped.  "I already weakened or destroyed the ones that had my uncle."

"That will help our plans but you will make a good sacrifice to our own Goddess."

Xander popped his head up.  "Not really.  Had sex now.  It was really fast and not real great but not a virgin.  Sorry."  He ducked down.  "If you help us get these nice agents, my uncle, and myself out of here, you can loot this base to your heart's content."

"We would still like to keep you," another of them laughed.  "You have many uses."

Xander looked around the pod at him.  "Not really according to the slayer.  Then again, I don't listen to girls."  They growled and tried to lunge but Xander led them away from his uncle.  Phil had to shoot two of them, he heard him do it.  They ran into a weakened demon that was here originally and Xander ducked and slid so they could attack each other.  They did but then teamed up to get him. 

"Just fucking brilliant," he muttered.  "I need to learn how to plan better."  He found the armory but it was locked.  He killed the two that found him, using the local one's blood to open it.  That gave him the weapons the agents had been holding.  They were almost all full so that helped.  He jogged back to Phil's side, handing him half of them then taking off to lead the other demons after him.  He only heard Phil shooting one more time before Xander managed to trick the last one into running out a window to grab him.  Xander came back down and stared at his uncle.  "So, anyway, you any worse?"

"No," he said.  "Who did you have sex with?"

"Is this really the time and place?" he asked dryly.

"Until we can get a rescue, yes."

"Faith was post-fight hot.  Took all of three minutes and she nearly choked me.  Nothing to write home about."

Phil stared at him.  "You could've made it better for her."

"She pounced me," he said bluntly, staring at him.  "Not that I had time to do more than squeak and then hold on for dear life."  He grimaced.  "Beyond that, not the time."  He looked around.  The charm in his hand was coming back to life.  "That's good."  He heard help coming in via helicopter and looked at his uncle.  He made sure.  "It's your people because it's a SHIELD on them all."  He waved.  "See you soon.  Get better, Uncle Phil."  He disappeared.  The demon stared at him.  "His fellow agents were showing up to help.  Thank you."  He hugged him and walked off.

The demon stared at the strange human's back.  Then he shrugged it off.  Harris had paid him well for his help.  That's all that mattered to him.


Phil looked up as agents rushed in.  "Dietrich is in that pod," he said with a point.  "He's only halfway changed over.  Xander said the pod probably can't be opened without killing him."  They nodded and techs ran in to check the pods over while medics got him and the agents secured the building.  He winced as he stood up, looking at the director as he stomped in.  "I need to paddle someone.  Do you still have that paddle that got used on that assignment, sir?"

"It's in my desk for the next time I get an idiot."  He stared at him.  "You good?"

"Been better."  He tipped his head in the other direction to pop his neck.  "Xander was very helpful getting me free and taking out the other demon clan that showed up."  The director stared, mouth slightly open.  "Apparently he got some demonic help to get here to save me.  Then his plans had to change."

Fury nearly swallowed his cigar.  "Really."  Phil nodded once.  The medics were laying an IV and urging him to lay down on the stretcher.  "I want to beat him myself.  He left you?"

"We saw you coming in and the charm to get him home was working again."  He blinked hard.  "I don't need the painkillers."

"Bull," the head medic said.  "You need more than we're giving you, Agent Coulson."  They carried him off.  The medics got him evacuated and came back for the people in the pods.  An agent had found the armory open and their wallets or ID cases in them.  Only two didn't have anything.  So they'd be able to tell their people and hopefully figure out how to reverse the change.

Fury walked out after the pods were removed.  He was still fuming and sent a direct order to Barton to paddle the kid and then handcuff him so his uncle could do the same when he got out of the infirmary in a few days.


Clint's phone rang and he looked at it.  "Coulson's fine," he told Natasha.

She took the phone to look at, grimacing.  "Xander?" she called.  He had shown up to shower and change clothes.  No answer.  They checked, he was asleep.  They shared a look and she handcuffed him to the bedframe.  "We need to make sure he's not related to you," she said with a grin for him.

He shoulder-nudged her.  "He's more insane than I am.  I would've brought more backup."

"I taught you well," she agreed.  They'd be sitting right outside of Xander's room until he woke up.  They clearly needed to have a talk with the boy about how he had done what he had done.  Then they could paddle him for any transgressions.  They had many ways of making men talk, they were nearly experts in it.


Phil looked up as his boss walked into his infirmary room.  "It's nice they gave me the same one Xander had been in."

"Everyone else who stays in here feels creeped out that they were in the same bed as a civilian."  He stared at his senior agent.  "How much do you want the kid recruited?"

"I think he'd do a very good job," Phil said, starting to sound tired.  "But I don't think he understands what it really means.  He's thinking zebras instead of the more mundane horses."

"That's probably true.  Most new recruits do."  He put his hands in his pockets and looked at him.  "Think he would if we didn't send him back there?"

"I think he's determined it's his duty even if the slayers don't want him there."

Fury grimaced.  "That's a lot like you."

"He's more like Paul, sir."

"He's loud like him.  He's sneaky like you are.  You taught him the wrong things."  Phil smirked slightly.  "Beyond that, if we're recruiting him, I'm assigning his training agent.  She can get to work with him tonight."


"Everyone compares your nephew to Barton so I'll let the one that best handles Barton do it."  He smirked evilly.  "Romanoff shouldn't mind *much*.  Especially with you and Barton helping when you can."  He walked off happier.

"I'm not sure if I should apologize to Natasha or not," Phil mused, staring at the ceiling.  One Barton drove her nuts.  Having a second version with even more ancient weapons was going to make her quit the agency and huff off.


Clint managed to find the kid the next day at lunch.  He had skipped out while he was in the shower and Natasha was making breakfast.  He had missed PE and Lit class both.  Their fellow agent in the science classroom said he had skipped him too.  Clint handed over a wrapped bowl.  "From dinner last night.  If you had just come home, we would've fed you."  He grinned.

"Thanks.  I was exhausted."

"That's because you were doing stupid shit that's our job."  Clint rested his arms on the table, staring at the kid.  "Though your uncle's fine."  Xander nodded he knew that.  "They even gave him the same room in the infirmary you snuck out of last time."

"Cool."  He ate a bite and smiled.  "She did great.  I can't even taste the veggies in here."

"She does, yeah."  Clint stared at him.  "Make a decision, kid.  Taking the training or not?" he asked more quietly, glancing around.

"I still need to be here for patrol."

Clint stared at him.  "Not a conflict right now."

"What if I go through it and don't like being an agent?"

"Then you come back here to patrol," he said dryly.  "And use it to protect other cheerleaders."

Xander nodded.  "Then I'd like some work on why I trip."

"That's a growth thing and there's ways to compensate.  We'll start doing it in gym class because others could use it too."  He stared at him.  "Though you're on your own with Natasha and the homework thing."

"Already done.  Did it before I went to play cards."  He ate another bite, looking at him.  "Why did you want to talk anyway?"

"A guy talk, Xander.  You know, about guy things?  Being a male role model is hard, but I can fill in since I'm here and your uncle's one of my favorite assholes."

"He can be, yup."  He ate another bite then nodded.  "That might be nice."  He looked around then at him.  "Why did she try to choke me?" he asked quietly.

Clint shook his head.  "Some girls are like that.  We'll go over all that stuff."

"I had health class."

"Yeah, I saw their version.  It's wrong.  That's why there's so many teenage pregnancies here."

"That and the life expectancy of thirty-two.  So we're technically middle aged for this town."

"That's a depressing thought."  He stared at him.  "You going to skip the rest of the day?"

"No one else in my afternoon might handcuff me."  One of the girls at the nearby table gasped.  He looked at her.  "I broke curfew.  Woke up in handcuffs this morning."  She cackled and told the others.  He looked at him.  "Don't do that again."

"Yay."  He smirked.  "If you need it or deserve it, you'll get it again."  He stood up.  "See me after classes.  "We can talk while I fix that ineffectual door that lets in things all night."  He walked off to talk to Natasha.  She had been watching.  That was good.  Maybe they'd make the kid less angry too.  Though he really wanted to check on the kid's family.  Something there was reminding him of home in a bad way.  Since he had a free period, he went to check on them. 

They were drunks, which Xander had noted.  They were mean drunks but his father wasn't smacking his mother around like Clint's had.  They were risky drunks, they invited him in to talk about their poor, lost, probably dead son.  He told them he wasn't at the end of their talk and they got really mad.  Apparently they had taken out insurance on the kid.  Clint went back to the school, wiping at the stink that was now all over him.  He had to change clothes before he had flashbacks to his own youth.


Xander came in from his long talk with Clint blushing when he spotted Natasha.  She smiled.  "That's a normal reaction but we are going to talk about other things.  Like not telling us when you run off to do things."  She pointed at the couch.  "Sit."  He slumped down onto it.  "If you had told us, we would've went with you."

"I wasn't sure if he could do more than two and that would mean leaving someone there."

"We could have gotten our own way made," Clint said, sitting in the other chair.

"I doubt you wanted to pay for it," Xander said with a grimace.

"While I have done that in the past on the job, it is not my favorite means of payment," Natasha said, staring at him.  Clint nodded he had too.  "We could have arranged other payment."

Xander shrugged.  "I didn't even consider it.  You guys are kinda stuck here helping us. It was clearly a hard thing since they sent Uncle Phil to rescue his agent and not anyone else."

"That was part of it, but handlers feel a lot of responsibility for the agents they oversee," Clint said.   "Me and Natasha have had Coulson handling us since we started the job.  It gets like a tight knit group.  Thankfully we don't have to work with many other handlers very often but you get close.  You learn how to read all their little tells and moods."

"So like what I had with Buffy before she snapped?"

Natasha nodded.  "Basically.  It's the difference between a team and a group working together."  She stared at him.  "That sort of trust is rare in the field and having it at your back often means you come home when things are at the worst."

"Which you won't be seeing for *years*," Clint said.

"I think I pretty well see a lot of that," Xander said, pointing at the window.  "We've had an apocalypse battle each spring."  They grimaced.  "Sorry but truth.  Even if I'm backup guy, I was still there."

"Which is a good thing," Natasha agreed.  "We can build on those experiences and correct any unusual reactions that won't help you in either field.  Killing a human isn't exactly like killing a demon."

Clint put a hand on her arm.  "Nat, he had a situation like Borkins."

She shivered.  "That is one thing we never want to have happen."  She looked at him.  "Usually after traumatic incidences there's mandatory therapy."

"In this case, it was like everyone forgot," Xander said dryly, staring at her.  "Including Willow, who had known us since kindergarten.  If you ask her now, she might not remember much about him."

"Which sucks," Clint said.  "Most people would remember.  Everywhere but here."  Xander shrugged and shifted to curl up some.  "Sit up."

"I am."

"I meant actually sit up," Clint said, staring at him.  "We need to work on your flexibility and stamina."  He looked at Natasha again.  "She tried to choke him."

"That's not what I would want to have happen for a first time.  Perhaps we'll find someone nicer who will show you how it's supposed to be."  Xander went bright red.  She smiled.  "Not me."

"I think you're more dangerous than the usual ones.  At least Ampata only killed to keep her form looking normal."  He fled to his room.

"Ampata?" Natasha asked him.

"Heard the girls ragging on him about a mummy girl?  Her.  She drained lifeforce to stay human looking and alive."

Natasha stared at him.  "I heard something about a shape changing teacher."

"Science sub."  He grinned.  "If you had subbed in there, people probably would've freaked out more."

"She only wanted virgins to fertilize her eggs," Xander called.  "We were in tenth grade."

"She was a giant praying mantis," Clint said.  "She'd rip their heads off afterward."

"I can say I'm not one of those.  I don't tend to rip heads off."

"Just heart's out," he quipped, getting slapped for it.  "And sometimes spleens or spines."  He got up.  "Kid, dinner?"

"Not hungry."

Clint leaned into the kid's bedroom.  "Sorry, trainees have to eat all meals until SERE training."  He smiled.  "Then you get to decide to eat."

"I saw that through Uncle Phil's memories and I've eaten worse when my mother tried to cook the few times she did.  Besides, I'm kinda tired."  Clint came in to check him over.  No fever.  No spots.  "Probably another growth spurt."

"Maybe."  He went back to deal with dinner with Natasha.  They'd save Xander some.

That was, if the geeks in labcoats didn't take him.  Which did not please Natasha.  Clint wasn't amused when he got the first one stomping in either.  "Who are these morons?" she demanded icily.

"I'm thinking they're part of the geeks that showed up when he was eight," Clint said.

"Our experiment is nearly ready to come back to us," one said in a snotty tone of voice.

Clint grinned.  "Hi, I'm with SHIELD."  The geeks all fled.  The few bodies they called in.  Not like the local PD would pick them up.  Fury himself showed up the next morning.  "Sir."

"Director," Natasha said.  "What project was he sacrificed to?"

"All I've heard is that they were looking for gifts," Fury complained.  He looked around.  "School?"

"It's Saturday, he's still in bed," Clint said.  "He fell asleep pretty hard last night.  Didn't even hear them come in."  Fury rolled his eyes.  "Might be because of them."

"Could be."  The team got the bodies down to the van and took off.  He'd take the SUV with the guard agents.  "Anything new?"

Clint shook his head.  "Not really, sir."

"Where is he on the training levels?"

Clint shrugged.  "He still tries to hide things so he has an apparent edge.  Cresin said he did the same thing with him."

"Can't you two break that?"

"Just barely moved him here, sir."

"Tell me in two weeks how many years it'll take."  He walked off grimacing.

Xander came out yawning.  "I'm having cannibal imps crawl up his butt."  The two assassins stared at him.  "They're really nice and they like to clip my toenails for me."  He smiled as he headed for the fridge.  Clint walked him from the kitchen to the bathroom.  "I'll shower in a minute."

"We're going to be doing a body check for injuries, scars, and things like that."  He grinned.  "Any tattoos to declare?"

"I hate needles.  Why would I?"

"Some guys get them to remember important things.  I have one overtop of my first gunshot wound scar.  So does your uncle."

Xander shook his head.  "No thanks."  He went to shower.  He was sweaty.  Though he was hungry for some reason.  Natasha came in with some paper on a clipboard and with plastic gloves.  He stared at her.  "Got the naughty nurse outfit too?" he quipped.

She smirked.  "You wish.  At least I don't have to do a body cavity search.  If you should escape to do something like that rescue without telling us, I will arrange to have someone do one for me while I watch."  Xander moaned.  She smiled.  "I know, very mean of me."

"I've mentioned all my ex's are kinda mean, right?" he asked her with a smirk.

"We'll talk about them later, though at least I am human."

"So was Cordelia.  Or I'm supposing so anyway.  Unless there's really a planet Cranky Bitch."

"Not that I'm aware of but we'll check."  She pulled him into the better light in the hallway and put on the gloves.  Clint took notes as she found each tiny scar.  "We can bleach most of these out.  Though."  She looked at one on his side again, making him shift away from her touch.  "Ticklish?"

"Yes.  Please don't.  I'll pee."

She looked up at him.  "Surgery?"

He looked then at her.  "Willow did some of her first stitches on that.  I was eight and had gotten between Mom and the chicken she was trying to butcher while it was frozen.  I got told later that the knife slipped since it was frozen and hit me upstairs in my bedroom."  Clint snapped the pencil he was using.  Xander looked at him.  "Calm down."

"I visited.  They thought you were dead and had taken out life insurance on you."

"I heard.  The insurance guy likes to flirt with me."  He smiled.  "I changed the beneficiary to Buffy's mom."  They smirked at him for that bit of deviousness.  "Do we have to do more poking?"

"You'll be getting a routine physical to make sure there's nothing we have to worry about handling," Natasha said, taking off the gloves.

"You're calling in someone from somewhere else, right?  Because no one in town is going to come near me with a needle.  One health department nurse did for a tetanus shot at school.  Then the nice paramedics calmed me down with some valium after I had shoved the needle in her ear.  Twice."  They were giving him funny looks so he shrugged a bit, blushing a tiny bit while looking sheepish.  "They won't even see me in the ER anymore.  And I was only twelve.  Thankfully, Willow had her mom's medical textbooks and I learned from them too.  I'm actually pretty good at stitching my own injuries."  Natasha took the pen and clipboard from Clint before he broke them both.  "Sorry?"

Clint pulled him into his room.  "Let's get a history of all those.  That way maybe we can do something."

Xander snorted.  "Here?  Our beloved PD doing something about child abuse?  Like hell," he said dryly.

"Some of them may be felony or federal charges," Clint said happily.

Xander shrugged.  "That geek guy thing?"

"Speaking of, they tried to break in last night."

"Huh.  They never come near me but I've seen a few watching me in the past."

"Any idea who they were?"

Xander shook his head.  "No.  They said they were with UCLA or something.  They kept giving me this grape knock out medicine.  I didn't really see much of them.  Lasted like six weeks.  If you ask Willow she might remember."

"I can do that.  Anything else like that?"

"You might ask Uncle Paul.  He told me once that he had to step in when they almost sold me to some Armenians."

Clint nodded.  "I'll get his number from your other uncle."  He went to call his phone and leave a voice message.  Natasha gave him a pat on the arm but he was calm.  He'd make sure no other kid ever went through that around him but he was calm.  They had rescued Xander before he turned into his parents.


Phil got handed his phone by the nurse.  He looked at the new voicemail message, dialing in to listen to it.  He moaned and sent a text to Paul.  Paul had the files on who they were and the Armenians.  Phil had been on military assignment during both of those.

Hopefully Natasha would help Barton get calm again.


Natasha blinked as a tidy pile of notes inside a journal got handed to her by a guy who walked past her seat and into the school.  They heard someone scream and Willow came running out to hide behind her.

Paul came back out grinning.  "Willow girl, what did we talk about with your theft of magic books?"

"I'm *borrowing*!" she shouted.

"Without permission, girl."  He stared at her.  "Let's talk."

"Hell no!  You're mean!"

"Me or Phil, young lady.  And he's in a crappy mood because he's healing injuries."  Willow whimpered and shook her head.  She looked around, finding Xander, who wasn't looking at her.  "He didn't have a thing to do with it, Willow.  I went looking to make sure you didn't backslide."  He stared at her.  "Now, let's go talk, young lady."

"I'm not doing anything harmful!"

"Bullshit."  Willow flinched.  He grabbed her arm and walked her off.  "I heard about the temporal thing and the not-you."

"But...." she said.  "That was months ago!"

He stared at her.  "After our talk and you're still snatching books.  I found your stash above the library again."  She shook her head quickly.  "Yeah, dummy.  You checked the books out in your own damn name."  She started to cry.  "Whiny."  He slammed her against his car and opened the door with a point.  "In."  She climbed in and buckled up.  He got in to drive.

"Wow, Uncle Paul's mad," Xander quipped from his seat.

Cordelia looked over.  "Ya think?" she asked sarcastically.

"Uncle Phil was a bit peeved that the scientists from when I was a kid showed back up."  He grinned.  She shivered.  "So maybe they'll have a talk together."  He almost cackled.

"Phil will be in town again tomorrow," Natasha said quietly.  "He and you get to have a talk first, Xander."  Cordelia cackled.  "For saving him without leaving us at least a note telling us it was handled."  That stopped the cackling and Cordelia stared at Xander like he was unusual.

Xander shrugged.  "Seemed like the thing to do when a demonic cult took him."  He sipped his milk and got up to toss out his trash.  "Ah, freedom."  He grinned.  "Study hall all afternoon."

"You have in-school suspension, Harris, and you didn't show up this morning," Snyder said from behind him.  "That means five days of it."

Xander looked at him and shrugged.  "Okay.  So hey, I get a nap."

"We're going to put you to work."

"You're not allowed.  You don't have a work permit for me or permission from my 'rents."  He grinned. "And I'm not forging their signature any more."  He strolled off.  "Beyond that, there was no notice given and no reason given."

"I don't need a reason," he sneered.

Xander stared at him.  "Really?  Ya think?"  He grinned.  "Prove it."  Snyder stomped closer to him.  Xander stared at him.

"Really, must we do this?" Natasha asked, turning the page of her book without looking up.  "The boy has been good all day, Principal Snyder.  He even turned in a B quality paper to me on a book he'd read without my prompting."  She looked up at him.  Snyder, like all men, fell for the pretty woman act.

"Fine, then it's detention."

Xander shrugged.  "For what?  Going to classes?  I'd like to see you spin that to the audit people."  Snyder went pale and he grinned back.  "I saw them.  Someone gave them my disciplinary file too."  Snyder huffed off more quickly.  "Thank you, Miss Rushman."

"Welcome, Xander.  You still owe me another paper on that Ian Flemming book however.  Go check it out before you forget."

"Sure."  He went to the library to look that up.  Giles gave him a curious look.  "Just got assigned another book report.  Hold on, James Bond was a book?  Huh."  He went to find that section, finding three of them.  He came down to check them out and then went to his study halls.  At least he had time to read.

Giles stared at the boy's back, looking confused.  "I've never seen him pick up a book to read.  I wasn't certain he could read," he admitted to himself.  "Apparently Miss Rushman is quite inspirational."  He made sure the cards were filed properly and went back to his desk.  He'd seen more male students coming in for books from her than he had in the last few years.  Interesting.  He wondered what her secret was and if he could use it on Buffy.


Buffy huffed when Xander's report got a better grade than hers did.  "How did you do that?" she hissed.

"He didn't do a book report on the movie," Natasha said dryly, continuing to pass out papers.  "Perhaps if you did the same, and did some spell checking, yours would be higher, Miss Summers."  She sat down on the front of her desk again, crossing her legs.  "Overall, nicely done."  The students smiled at her.  "Our next one is due to come on Wednesday.  So until then, you are to read anything random you want that is shorter than the Bible or anything by Mr. King.  Give me a two page report on Wednesday."  They groaned.  She smiled.  "Do not attempt to use a children's book either.  At least a hundred pages, any book you already like would do."  A few of the girls still looked put out. 

"Yes, the ladies may use a trashy romance novel as long as it has more plot than a pirate getting in her panties.  Yes, the boys can use science fiction or fantasy novels as long as it has more plot than the knight getting in the damsel's panties."  She smiled at the students.  "All right?  Go a bit early but don't get caught, children."  They ran off to lunch.  She smiled at Buffy.  "It's not that hard to read twenty pages a night.  You can read it to yourself when you're brushing your teeth or in the bathroom.  You could also get the books on tape version and have it playing while you're in the shower."  She stared at her.  "Yes, I'm very harsh on how bad it was.  You have more brains than that piece of drivel."

"I'm not like Willow."

"I don't expect you to be like Willow, who got a very bad grade because she over exposed, over thought, and over wrote the report. She handed me twelve pages on that book and went into symbolic interaction between the character's thoughts."

"Oh, hey, her mom's home again," Buffy said with a grimace.  "Puts a hold on our girls' night thing then."  She shook her head.  "Must I?"

"Yes.  Even your specialness has to read.  It's good and you may learn something.  That's why I pick the books I do, Buffy."  She stared at her.  "Training comes in many forms."

"I guess.  Anything I've already read?"

"As long as I can find a copy somewhere to look it over for correctness.  Also, your spelling was atrocious."

"I typed it up that morning," she sighed.

"There's a spell checker.  It takes ten minutes.  Make notes as you read so you don't have to struggle so much." 

Buffy nodded, heading out to listen to Willow complain about her first D ever.  Buffy sat down with a huff.  "She suggested I could book-on-tape it in the shower."  Willow stopped complaining at Oz to stare at her.  "She said you over thought and turned into your mother.  How did you turn a four or five page paper into a twelve page one?"

"Mom said she couldn't have wanted it to be that simplistic."  She pouted, looking at the ton of notes.  There were three new pages of outlined notes.  Including critiquing her theories.  She groaned.  "She's some super genius or something."

"I think she just likes to read," Buffy said.

"Maybe."  She tucked it into her bag.  "Mom won't be happy and I'll be grounded."

"Have her have tea with Miss Rushman," Xander said as he walked around them.  "Mr. Barton had a talk with my parents when he was starting to worry about a few things."  He tossed out his trash.

"Xander," a familiar voice called.

Xander turned and grinned.  "Uncle Phil!"  He jogged over to give him a hug.  "Are you better?"

"I'm fine."

"I got a B.  An actual, earned B."  He grinned.  "On a book report!"

"Congratulations."  He walked him back inside.  "Willow."

"Hi, Uncle Phil," she said weakly.  "Can you shoot my mother so I can escape?"

He looked back at her.  "We'll see.  I nearly did when she went to Helsinki and left you home alone that time."  He walked him inside, getting a hug from Cordelia as well.  "Thank you, Cordelia."  She grinned.  "I'm fine.  They were all very minor injuries."  She gave him a pointed look.  "Really, they were."

"Uh-huh.  Then you wouldn't have needed the Dork King to rescue you."  She walked outside.  "Rosenburg, if you're going to wear something that shiny, for the love of all shiny things, sit out of the sun!  You're a reflective surface and we're all getting too much tanning time in."  Willow slumped down and changed to sit next to Oz.  "Thank you!"  She sat down to eat her own lunch.  Harmony was pouting.  "You're reading a romance novel.  She said that was fine."

"It has a plot like that."  She grimaced.  "It's more for smutty reading."

Oz looked over.  "DeSade," he said.  They stared at him.  "Graphic, plot, intellectual but smut."

"Does Mr. Giles have it?" Harmony asked.

"Third shelf toward the window, halfway up it," Willow quipped, looking over.  "It's alphabetical in that section and he has two books by him."

"Huh."  She went to look.  Giles gave her a strange look.  "I need something to read for a book report.  Has to be over a hundred pages but easy enough I can do a report on it.  Oz suggested it because right now I'm only reading for smut."

"He does have some very...unusual and interesting ideas about sexual mores," Giles said dryly.  "I'm not certain you'd find it pleasing however."

"I can at least try it.  Right?"

"Of course.  It's both deep and simple in its own way."  He checked it out for her with a smile.  "Try it tonight, bring it back tomorrow."

"I have a date," she complained.

He stared at her.  "You can read while you do your hair, Harmony."

"Oh, I didn't think about that."  She went back outside to look it over.  She was idly flipping through and ran into a sex scene.  "Wow, way graphic.  Why is he tied up?"  She went further back and got into the story.  She missed her next class reading.  Got detention to read in too.  Then she went to see the teacher.  "How would I do a book report on this?"

She looked at it.  "I did not expect any of you to go for that sort of literature, Harmony.  A lot of what he writes about is allegorical."  Her face fell.  "He assumes a connection between all of humanity or the culture he lived in.  So when he's talking about what his main character is doing, he's more stating what every man would do."

"Oh."  She considered that.  "I never met anyone who had sex like that."

She smiled.  "There are some but they're not very open about it."

"I guess that makes sense.  So it's about how animal and evilly needy people can be?"  The teacher smiled and nodded.  "Thanks!"  She jogged off to go home.  She could read more while getting ready for her date if she used the hot curlers instead of the curling iron, and it was better for her hair anyway.

Xander grinned at her from his corner seat.  "Oz suggested it."

"Perhaps she'll find something interesting enough to study."

"I certainly am.  I didn't know the Bond movies were really books."

She smiled.  "I tailored it to what I know most boys like: violence, action, and pretty girls."

Xander grinned.  "Kinda, yeah."  She smirked a tiny bit.  "I got one nearly read."

"Good boy.  Write the report on that."  He nodded and grinned.  "Spell checking, because yours was lacking.  Give more detail."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Thank you.  Now go to Clint for your daily PT."  He went to do that.  She smiled.  The children were adoring reading, it was something they should have gotten back in first grade but she was happy they were opening their minds finally.  The principal walked in stinking of too much aftershave and looking freshly showered.  "Principal Snyder.  Is there a problem?"

"Harris actually got a B?"

"He did a delightful report on the book that included a lot of projection of the characters.  With a bit of coaching he's learned how to write much better reports."  She smiled slightly.  "A lot of my students have learned to like some of the more classical stories."

"What are you doing next?"

"The _Art of War_."  He shivered.  "I think the girls will find the instruction something they can use when they're in relationships with someone who does something...unliked.  The boys would probably like it as most boys their age like action movies.  It's a bit flowery and more complicated though so it will make them think."

"I'm sure they'll appreciate that," he snorted.  "The cheerleaders?"

"They all mostly got good grades.  Only one C in the group.  They did earn them.  I don't let anyone slide with shoddy performance."  He shivered again and she smiled a bit more broadly. "They all seemed to like the Dracula spin-off novel last time.  I'm good at picking interesting books that appeal to their teenage senses."

"I guess you're good at picking up on what men really want to see," he said smoothly.

She smiled.  "I am but my first love is still a library."  He slumped a bit.  "I do not mean to raise hopes.  I would need someone who would like to live with my three thousand books at my true home."

He swallowed.  "We don't have that many in the library here."

"We have some similar books.  I do enjoy English and Russian literatures."  He nodded.  "I was reading Tolstoy last night while making dinner.  Fascinating historical viewpoints, don't you think?"

"I haven't read him since high school I don't believe.  I'll have to pick up a new copy."  He smiled and left.  She was apparently a bit frigid.  Though she laughed and interacted well with men.  "Must be a lesbian," he muttered as he went back to the office.

Natasha smiled at the empty doorway, spraying some febreeze to take the aftershave smell out of her room.  She took her current book to the gym to watch Xander and Clint spar or whatever since they were playing basketball.  Clint was being aggressive without seeming to be.  It was a good lesson for the boy to learn how to mimic.  Phil sat next to her.  She smiled at him.  "Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon."  He watched them.  "Xander seems much calmer," he said quietly.

"He hides it well.  He has many masks that we've noted."  Xander glanced over.  "He's going to knock you over."

"Buffy and Cordy both think I should hit on him," Xander quipped, cracking Clint up, which let him steal the ball and make a really pathetic shot.  Clint stopped him and taught him how to shoot a basketball properly.  That helped and he let Xander shoot a few times until he made one then the game was back on.

"Xander, dropping your right shoulder," Phil instructed.  "He's going to use it soon to knock you down."  Xander tried, he really did, but Clint did take advantage of it, though Xander didn't fully go down.  Phil smiled, watching the boys play.

"Dietrich?" she asked quietly.

He lost his smile.  "They're not sure how to release him or turn him back.  His DNA is showing mixed as well."  She nodded.  "I don't know."

"Ask a healer," Xander called.

"I can do that.  The one you identified doesn't know."

"She's young.  There's a senior healer in the private clinic I sent her to."

"I can get an appointment.  Thank you, Xander."  Xander shot him a grin then tackled Clint.

"Wrong game, kid."

Xander cackled and stole the ball to make a shot.  "Ha!  Three."  He grinned.

"Not bad.  Out of the blue and a foul but not bad."

"What's a foul?"

"You guys didn't play basketball?"

"We have these balls for dodge ball.  The jocks played basketball while the rest of us stood around being bored."

"That's not how you play dodge ball," Clint complained.  Xander shrugged and pointed toward the office.  "Yeah, I get that."  He went over the rules of basketball as they tried again.

Natasha smiled at Phil.  "I had him give Xander the big boy talk as well."

"Thank you.  I was going to."  He relaxed, watching the boys play.  He was safe in here.  The Troll was gone for the day to meet the Mayor, which was being kept under surveillance.  So he could rest and finish healing.

Buffy walked in.  "Wow, what are you two doing playing one-on-one?" she asked. "I thought this was his private PT time."

"It's teaching him things like how to be subtly forceful," Natasha said.

Xander gave her a funny look then Clint, who grinned and nodded.  "Huh.  I didn't even realize that.  Sneaky of you."

"Well, I am a great agent," he said with a grin, stealing the ball and missing his basket because Buffy stole the ball.  He looked at her.  "You played?"

"Heck no."   She grinned.  "I cheered at a lot of games though and used to date one.  He was kinda handsy.  We broke up when I had to burn down the gym full of vampires."

Clint nodded.  "Seems like a good reason to burn down a gym to me."  He took the ball back and made a shot.

"Hey, no fair!" Xander complained, grabbing the ball to take his own.  "Cheating is wrong.  Willow and her mom both said so."

Buffy looked at their lit teacher.  "He suggested you have a chat with Willow's mom like Mr. Barton had one with Xander's parents."

Xander looked at him.  "Did they threaten you too?"

"No, just got alcohol stink all over me."  He stole the ball.  "Two second rule, Xander."

"Crap."  He stole it back and took a shot, which Buffy caught when it missed to toss back to him.  "Thanks."

"Welcome."  She walked up there.  "Willow's mom thought you couldn't have wanted something so simplistic."

Natasha looked at her.  "How many degrees does she have?"

"A doctorate in psychology."

Natasha nodded.  "I thought I recognized her name on a book I laughed at."

"Yeah, they write books and go on lecture tours."

Phil looked at her.  "I heard."  Buffy grinned.  "Have fun with that, Miss Rushman."

She smiled.  "I shall."  She got up and looked at Buffy.  "Escort me there as you're concerned about Willow's mental state?"

"She so ranted.  She's never got that low in her life."  She escorted her to Willow's house, chatting about boys on the walk.  Willow's father answered the door.  She grinned.  "This is Miss Rushman, the lit teacher.  I was kinda worried because Willow was so bummed about the bad grade so she offered to explain to her why she got it."

"That's an excellent thing."  He let them in.  Buffy left after a quick hiss in Willow's ear.  "I hope you weren't expecting to go out tonight, young lady."

"No, Buffy just told me that my bra's halfway hanging out."  She adjusted her sweater and sat down next to her teacher.  "I've never gotten that low of a grade, Miss Rushman."

"Most of your class does not have the experience in writing reports.  Right now I'm upping your capabilities to write real papers in college.  Which yours was still overstated for.  The parameters of the paper stated no more than five pages, preferably simply five pages.  To give me a synopsis of the plotline and any major events in the book and then write a single paragraph about how it could relate to your life, which was purely opinion so you could get used to thinking about that.  You overstated the thesis.  You overwrote the paper completely, Willow."

"Mom though you'd want more plot analysis."

"No.  What you were trying to do was Masters' level work at the local school.  Advanced bachelor's where I went."  Willow nodded.  "Now, for your next one, follow the rules I set down.  Major plot points, single paragraph on how it relates to your life.  That develops critical thinking and allows you to take the structure of the story to translate into a real world application."

"I can do that."  She hopped up and came back.  "This was my original paper."

She read it over.  "Not very explicit in the plot summary but adequate.  Spelling needs work like most of the class."  Willow blushed, ducking her head some.  "Not bad for a first draft and you didn't have that paragraph on the end."

"I was going to do it during the computer class I teach."

Natasha looked at her.  "You would be much too busy.  I've noticed that you're scheduling yourself a bit thin and you do have that state exam for graduation coming up."  Willow blanched.  "The audit committee noted it hadn't been given for the last few years so they will have to give it this year."

"Shoot.  How are the girls who're reading romance novels going to do that?"

She smiled.  "There is something to learn in each book, even the more putrid romance novels.  Usually the heroine still has to overcome some sort of trivial or major plot twist that puts her in danger or puts her purse in danger."

"They do?  Mom wouldn't let me read them."

"I don't prefer them myself.  I think love is a concept that people cling to without understanding the boundaries or the necessities of a real bit of love in their lives.  Usually I say love is for children daydreaming of their prince or princess charming showing up on a white horse."

"They can do that a lot," Willow's mother agreed.

"Which is why I allowed them to pick their own choices for this next report, due by Wednesday," she reminded her, handing that paper back.  "Think of doing the report like doing an outline or how you would explain it to a friend over the phone.  Tell me why it interested you, what in the plot hit you and what annoyed you.  What led you further in and what kicked you out of the story."

"I can do that.  What's our next assigned book?  I can write that tonight when I finish my current one but we have a math text next Friday."

"The Art of War."  Willow stared at her.  She smiled.  "You will find that some of the theory in there is actually helpful when you have an argument with a future boyfriend.  There's also things that would interest the males in the class.  Perhaps it will stop the few that still believe fighting over who a girl likes is important."

"Sometimes you gotta be shallow," Willow quipped.  "It clears the mind from all the stress."

"Yes, most girls shop for that," Natasha said with a smirk.  "You could use some.  I have noted to Cordelia that her distaste for other's outfits of choice has gotten a bit loud."  Willow hugged her.  She patted her on the arm.  "Perhaps you should let Buffy guide you?  Or her mother?  She's got nice taste, very subtly flattering without being like a few of the cheerleaders I had to talk to about their skirt length."

"I can do that.  They're going shopping this weekend for prom so I'll ask if she can give me ideas."  She looked at her parents.

"They've been picking on you?"

"Her shirt earlier had glitter that picked up sunlight," Natasha said.  "Cordelia and a few others complained it was blinding them a bit too loudly."

"We let her pick out her own clothes," Willow's mother said, looking over her current outfit.  "We'd never understand what teenagers would wear."

"Most teenage girls still need some guidance and gentle, subtle pointing out of things to avoid so they don't end up looking like they're working during their school hours.  Willow's went the to the other end of the spectrum.  I can only believe that she's actually scared of her sexuality and body with a few of her recent outfits."  Willow blushed and shook her head.  "Confidence is always the most sexy and comforting accessory, even if one is naked.  Real, true women accept their bodies as it is, flaws and all, and know that they could change a few things.  They do not make the change or the process to the change their whole life.  Any true, real woman can walk naked into a room filled with people wearing evening gowns and chat like she's wearing the same sort of gown and jewelry as whoever she's talking to is."

"I'll never get there," Willow said, staring at her.

Natasha smiled.  "You are on the road to it.  You need to concentrate on what makes you special in your own right, and enhance that so only your positive flaws show.  Negative flaws are a weakness that can be used against you in some fields of life.  Like business."

"I hadn't thought about that," Willow's mother said, looking at her husband.  "We're expected to be in suits for the most part because that's how people of our station dress."

Natasha smiled.  "Perhaps but one of my favorite teachers wore jeans and a sweater most of the time.  He taught me much of being a person with goals, with strengths and weaknesses, and how to use both to get what I needed in life.  Because sometimes a weakness is not really a weakness to yourself, but to others."  She patted Willow on the knee.  "Dress to show who you are, Willow.  You dress like a farmer's wife half the time."  She stood up.  "Talk to Joyce later."  She smiled.  "What book are you doing it on?"

"Trotsky.  Since you liked Russian literature I thought I should give it a bigger try.  I'd never really gotten it before but the one we went over kinda sparked an interest in seeing how they were relating things back to life."

"That is good for it.  A bit depressing in many ways."  She smiled.  "A fellow student picked a rather graphic choice that does that same function and I explained to her why it did that.  You're all learning much from me this year."  She patted her on the head.  "You'll do better next time."

"Yes, ma'am, I will."

"Good girl.  Have a good night, Willow."  She left, going back to the apartment.  Clint and Xander were talking with Phil about patrol routes.  Buffy was confused why.  "You never want to get things too stale, Buffy.  Predictability is death when you're in your life or ours."

"I guess."

"I suggested Willow talk to your mother about how to up her fashion sense."

"Mom and I are doing some bonding shopping this weekend but sure, I can include Willow for a few hours."

"Good."  She went to change and came back to look in the kitchen.  "Barton, you were supposed to grocery shop."

"I would've if I had gotten either of my checks.  Sorry."

She called her bank.  "I didn't either."  She called the director.  "Do I need to come back to rend someone about my lack of paycheck?"  She listened to him splutter about the paperwork issue.  "That is not my concern," she said bluntly.  "Though I am not pleased that Barton was unable to go grocery shopping.  I was actually hungry tonight."  She hung up with a huff.  "The ones from the school?"

"Wednesday," Buffy quipped.  "Fifteenth and the thirtieth."

"Pizza?" Clint suggested.

"Dominos has a good special going on," Xander said.  "But the local guys are running a larger pie for the same price."  He pointed.  "We have to clean this area out.  There's been some gathering demons and I'm not sure why or if they're harmful.  I can't get pictures of them to show Giles.  They don't photograph, even with the digital."

Buffy grimaced. "I'll swing past there tonight to see if I can find them."  Xander nodded, marking a spot on the map.  She drew a line.  "That's an easy-ish walk."

"No, muddy hill," Clint said.  "Go this way."  He traced it with a pencil.  "There's a work crew here working on a sewer line but this morning I nearly hit a thing ducking into it."

"That'll work."  She memorized it, looking at Xander.  "Coming?"

"No.  Uncle Phil's just now home and he might have to leave again tomorrow.  Tomorrow night."  She nodded and left.  He looked at his staring uncle.  "You could."

"I'm on medical leave for the next week," he said quietly.  "Unless the fate of the world happens, not likely."  He did let Xander hug him anyway.  It was nice to have his nephew being fussy over him.  Almost like having a wife that couldn't cook.  His stomach rumbled so he looked at it.  "What other delivery places exist beyond pizza?"

"Thai, but their kitchen is gross.  Tofu Barn delivers for orders over twenty bucks."  Clint shuddered.  So did Natasha. "Yeah, me too but it's technically food.  Two pizza places, the coffee shop during the day, including their tasty muffins and donuts.   Willie's will deliver if you pay him extra."

"What's his style of food?" Natasha asked.

"That's the demon bar," Clint said.  "I doubt we want tentacles, Xander."

"We heard allllll about how they were useful in multiple ways," Xander said with a grin.

"If you catch me sleeping with a squid, please shoot me unless it's the fate of the world," Clint quipped back with an evil smirk for the boy.

"Not all tentacles belong to squids," Natasha said.  "There's octopuses."

"There's nineteen species of tentacle demons.  I asked Giles once," Xander said.  "A few are just tentacles.  Or there's ones like kraken tentacles."

Phil looked at him, testing him for a fever.  "Not warm."

"He has those moments," Natasha said, smiling at the boy.  "It's good to see.  Does the Chinese buffet deliver?"  Xander shook his head quickly.  "Pity.  They had decent food."

"If it was before sundown, the BBQ place does," Xander said.  "But they had too many delivery boys eaten."

Clint nodded.  "I'd imagine so.  A meal plus food for some things."  He shook his head quickly.  "Pizza?"

"That will work," Phil agreed.  They called it in and ignored Xander suggesting weird toppings like pineapple and chicken.  "We eat New York pizza, Xander.  Not LA pizza," Phil finally had to remind him.  Xander shrugged and leaned against his shoulder, going back to his book.  Phil smiled at Natasha.  That had to be her influence.  He had never seen Xander read for fun before.

When the delivery guy got there, Clint got up to get it, accidentally inviting the guy in.  When he turned into a vampire, Xander shot him with Phil's gun.  "Ooops, my bad," Clint said.  "Well, I paid with a debit card."  He signed the slip and put it into the guy's car then came back up holding a bleeding spot from an attempted bite.  Natasha huffed but got him the first aid kit, which Xander used.  "Let's eat before more things happen."

They dug in and it was better.  They could deal with things. Including keeping Xander from buying candy bars during the upcoming candy sale.  He didn't need more candy.


Things were going nicely toward graduation.  Xander had three really nice grades turned in to the school board, bypassing the Troll completely.  Xander held up his grade sheets from the teachers when the home room teacher glared at his laughing thanks to his report card.  She looked over his shoulder and shook her head.  It'd be fixed by someone she was sure.  Xander was doing okay.  They had plans for the graduation battle coming up in a mere few weeks.  Though Giles had made them on the team.  Xander got to look at them and then looked at his former mentor.  "When exactly are we supposed to stand by while he eats the civies, Giles?"

Giles looked at him.  "What?"  Xander pointed.  "Yes, what about it?"

"Families.  Little brothers and sisters seeing siblings graduate?  Teachers?  Civilians?" he prompted.  Giles moaned and hit himself on the forehead.  "Okay.  We can handle this."  He settled in to make plans.  "Giles, get me Cordy.  She's on the planning committee."  He called her to come in.  She stomped in so Xander waved her over.  "Where?"

She looked.  "He's facing the eclipse during it.  We already arranged that."

Xander pointed.  "Civilians."


He looked.  "Are we having things like bushes put up?"

"Fake archways from the theater people.  Banners and streamers."

"Okay," Xander said.  "We have one hard entry.  We have one good soft one here."  He pointed.  "Open for a good stampede to start."  He tapped his pen a few times.  "Weaken that wall?"

"I can do that.  We've only had a table there before."

"They'll trip and people will die."  She nodded, making that note.  "Chairs?"

"Folding.  Enough for everyone to bring three people.  I said we could probably under-count but they said in the past they hadn't had enough and it made them look bad.  Snyder vetoed it."

"Easy folding?"

"The ones for the dances."

"Those things suck and they're hard to sit on," Xander said.  "Can we rent normal chairs?"

"Probably not.  No budget."

He grimaced, looking it over.  "Change the aisle so it's curved a bit.  Students, parents," he said, pointing at the sides.  "So the civies can run."  He looked at her.  "We don't need them in the way."

"We'll need more fighters," Giles said.

Xander looked at him and nodded.  "I realize that.  I have no idea how unless Uncle Phil calls the Marines he used to be part of.  We're working on that part."  Giles nodded.  Xander looked at Cordy.  "Can we do that artistically?"

"Yeah.  Not an issue.  If we shift it some from the wall the walkway naturally curves and would save us having to haul out plastic or rugs to walk on."  She made that note and redrew it.  "That'll give you another few feet against the wall to let people out."

"We've heard he's going to call minions," Xander said quietly, staring at her.  "So the hard gateway may be dangerous."

"I'll have them run a fire drill."  She grinned.  He smirked back.  "Want me to talk to anyone?"

He sighed.  "We might need the jocks to make sure people make it out.  Even the geeks will run if they tell them to."  She nodded, taking the plans with her to do that.  He held his head for a minute then looked at Giles.  "Okay, we have us, we have Angel, who said he's going to be on the gateway.  We have Uncle Phil, we may have Uncle Paul.  We have the teachers.  Well, some of the teachers."

Giles nodded, looking around.  "I really must do something."

"Have them sent to summer storage so you can paint?" Xander suggested.  "Just rent a place?"

"I can do so."  He found the phone book to call around.

Xander went over the battle ideas in his head, making shorthand notes.  The only one who understood them was Willow so it was safe enough.  Natasha strolled in.  He looked at her.  "We'll need an evacuation plan," he said quietly.  "Cordy said we'd run a fire drill or something."

"That's reasonable.  I'll get with her in a few moments."  She looked at him.  "You are not commanding."

He snorted.  "Since when are the kids going to listen to you guys?"

"That may be."

"Do the adult things, let the kids get their families and the other kids out of the way," he said.  "Then we splat it with a bait run."

She nodded.  "That's the best way we've seen as well."  She patted him on the wrist.  "You do not have to."

"I do or else all the civilians will be in the way and be targets."

"That is true.  It's volunteer only."  Xander nodded he knew that.  "We'll be there."

"I know.  I'm really counting on it actually."  She smiled and he calmed down again.  "Let me go hit my PT time."

"Barton's making a report and eating some chocolate."

"Like the band candy that was so tainted by the youth spell?" Xander asked.  She moaned and got up to handle him.  She had known him when he was a teenager.  He was more dangerous then because he was half-trained and she had no idea what he might do.  Xander looked at Giles.  "Didn't we confiscate all that?"

"The factory had a few boxes left but said they were going to destroy them."  He wouldn't mention he had kept a few.

Xander got up to stretch.  "Okay.  I'm sure we can handle it."  He went back to the apartment, or the Bat Cave since they had a lot of weapons there suddenly.  He looked at his uncle, who was looking smug.  "I rearranged a few things on the plans Giles made."


"Family, friends...."

"He didn't take spectators into account."  Xander shook his head.  "Is it done?"

"Cordy has it."  He handed him the notes.  "That's my shorthand."

He looked at it sideways then at Xander.  "I need a code breaking lesson?"

Xander grinned.  "Maybe."  He went to his room to lie down.  He had a thumping headache for some reason.

Phil stared at the notes.  He could almost guess what a few were.  The symbols weren't really ambiguous.  Some of them, he had no idea.  Natasha walked Clint in and he was grinning like he was high.  "Who drugged him?"

"The band candy.  Someone gave him some.  They repackaged the leftovers."

"Charming.  Have fun, kids.  Xander's taking a nap."  Clint looked at Natasha and leered.  She sighed but nodded.  Clint cackled and found the bedroom.  That was great for him.  He had dated Natasha in his early years and he could replay that now.

Phil got up to put on some music to cover their noise.  Then he went back to his deciphering lessons.

Xander came out to stare at the other bedroom doorway.  "Anya said that being that loud was an invitation for others to join in.  Which I'm probably not qualified to do."  He got some water and went back to bed.

Phil kept himself from laughing, barely.  He could hear Clint complaining about the mood being broken.  Pity but he'd eventually wear the youth potion out.


Clint came out the next morning looking a bit sheepish.  "I did not realize it was potioned candy.  I'm sorry, guys."  Xander and Phil both shrugged.  "Xander, that was evil."

Xander grinned.  "Thank you!"  He handed over the last empty bowl and cereal.  Natasha had protein shakes for breakfast most days or made real food.

She came out putting up her hair but still in her bathrobe.  "I'm very glad today is a day off."

"Since when?" Xander asked.  She stared at him then at the calendar.  "Sorry!"  He smiled and waved.  Natasha spit out a swear in German and went back to get dressed.  Clint was grinning into his cereal.  Someone knocked and Xander got up to get it.   "Anya?  What's wrong?" he asked, looking at her.  He had taken her to the prom a few weeks back.

"I have needs you are not meeting," she said bluntly, walking in and kicking the door shut.  "You need to meet them now, Xander, because I'm leaving town later and I might not be coming back so at least I can have something to remember this hellhole by."  She walked him into his room and shoved the weapons parts off the bed.  "I have no idea why you have machine things.  I don't care either."  She took off her shirt.

Xander's mind mostly shut down.  "Okay, yeah.  Our favorite teacher said it was a day off."  He locked the door and moved to help her out of that pesky bra contraption.  It had to hurt with the way it made her all perky and full of cleavage.

Clint stared at the hallway.  Then he looked at Phil.  "You're his uncle."

Natasha pounded on the door when they got loud.  "The neighbors would like to sleep as they work nights, children.  You have ten minutes."

"I need at least five more orgasms before I leave town tonight so I don't die!" Anya shouted back.  "Butt out!  Xander, more of that, whatever it is you were doing.  My former husband never tried that and it feels good."

Clint and Phil shared a look then shook their heads.  "I had a girl like that once.  Nearly ripped my back up," Clint said.

Natasha stared at him.  "Was she that blunt as well?"

"No, not really.  Demanding but not blunt.  Gave me a handjob once on a city bus."  He ate another bite of cereal.  "I didn't even realize what she was doing until I felt her cold fingers on me."

"A handjob ninja?" she taunted with an evil smirk.

"Yup."  He grinned back.

"Oh my God!  Xander!  More of that!  Much, much more of that!"

"He's doing laps tonight for PT," Phil told them.

"He's due to do the whole PT routine," Clint countered.  "Shut the hell up!" he shouted finally.  "I don't think people in Tibet need to hear you, Anya.  Use a gag!"  Phil cracked and laughed.  "On second thought, that girlfriend wasn't quite as bad as her after all.  She was quiet."  He ate another bite of breakfast.  Natasha handed him some toast and he went to change and shower.


Phil came home to pick Xander up.  One of the neighbors was pounding on the door.  "I'll yell at him and make him break up this round."

"What round?  He's been at it for the last seven hours!  He's finally gone quiet and I think she might've killed him."

"That's his girlfriend, not Miss Rushman.  She was not amused when his girlfriend showed up and demanded sex."  The neighbor from upstairs across the hall blushed.  "I'll check on him.  Thank you for worrying about Xander."  She ran back up there.  Phil let himself in.  He went to knock on Xander's door then opened it.  Anya snored.  Loudly.  Xander was a sweaty mess.  He had stains on his stomach that Phil didn't want to identify.  "Time for PT, Xander," he said cheerfully.

Anya woke up and glared at him.  "He's still mine until I leave.  I've only had eight orgasms, thank you, and I need at least another one.  Can you shut the door?  I'm not into showing everyone my pussy while I bring him back up with a fairly good blowjob, hopefully without teeth this time."  She smiled.

"I need him for PT, Anya.  You can have him back afterward."

"Sorry, but no."  She flipped over to lick Xander clean and hopefully back into hardness.  "Maybe I should find some of those drugs that help you get it up when you can't."

Xander blinked at her.  "That's only for when you can't get it up at all, Anya.  We've been having sex now for seven hours.  Let me nap for an hour or so and I'll give you three."  She smiled and snuggled in, pulling the sheet over them.  He looked at his uncle, waving weakly.  "Gatorade?"

"I'll make sure we have some on hand," he said blandly.  "You still have PT, Xander."

Xander let out a weak sounding laugh.  "No thanks."  He passed back out.

Phil shut the door and got them some gatorade.  By the time he got back from the store, she had woken Xander back up and he was indeed making her squeal some more.  "I'm hoping he's using condoms."  Clint and Natasha came home.  "They didn't stop until right before I got here.  The neighbor was worried she had died."

Natasha nodded.  "Why is she getting loud again?"

"Xander begged for a nap then he'd give her three more."

"That wasn't one!  It really wasn't!  I need more, Xander!"

"Xander begged for gatorade."  He handed it over.  "I have no idea how to handle that beyond embarrassing him totally."

"Oh my god, the tongue thing!  I'm learning to really like that tongue thing!  Oooooohhhhh!" she squealed.  Then paused.  "That wasn't an orgasm, just enjoyment."

"Even when I was married I was never that loud," Natasha said, going to hide in her bedroom.  Teenagers having sex held no interest for her.  It hadn't since she had been a teenager having sex.

Phil and Clint shared a look.  Clint took the gatorade with a grin and knocked on the door before opening it and leaning in.  "We need Xander, Anya."

"But I'm not done yet!" she whined.

"If you have too many you won't be able to sit."  He stared at her.  "Beyond that, have him teach you to use a vibrator."

"I have a few of those," she snorted.  "They don't do the tongue thing."  She pouted.  "Can't I have just one more?  He's finally been able to get it up again."

"You have twenty minutes then we're going to come take Xander."  He stared at her.  "Understood?"

She huffed but nodded.  "Fine."

"Thank you."  He walked off and left the door cracked open in case Xander needed to call for help. 

Anya's voice started to climb then paused.  Then she shrieked about his fingers so it was apparently good for her.  She finally came strolling out dressed and smiled.  "Thank you.  I might be back after the battle."  She left.

Clint went to hand Xander the gatorade.  "Can you move?"

"No," he said hoarsely.  "At least she didn't try to choke me."

Clint patted him on the head.  "Shower time, kid."

"No.  Please don't make me move."  He looked at the bottle.  "I'll drink that in a few hours, when I wake up."  He passed back out.

Clint checked his pulse.  "His pulse is one-fifteen, Coulson."

Phil came to the door.  "He did do a lot of cardio work today.  Xander, drink."  No response.  "Sleeping?"

"Passed out I think."  They got Xander untangled from the sheets, wincing at the teeth drag marks on the poor guy's cock.  "Ow," Clint said.  "That's gotta hurt."

"She said she had accidentally used her teeth," Phil said dryly.  "Though, you're probably right and it probably does hurt."  They got him into the tub that Natasha was running for herself.  She saw the condition he was in and shuddered.  "She used her teeth accidentally."

"I can see that.  I put in bubble bath oil."  She walked off shaking her head.  She came back with the gatorade and a straw.  "How many rounds?"

"According to the neighbor they didn't stop until right before I got here.  So about seven hours then his half-hour nap, the forty-five he just had, and now he's passed out again."

"I do not know anyone who can do that."  She walked off shaking her head.

Clint nodded.  "Me either.  I'm fantastic but my limit's always been about three hours."  He went to his own room to blush a bit and wonder how Xander had done it.

Phil patted Xander's face until he moaned and opened his eyes.  "Are you all right?  Need the ER?"

"Can't feel my tongue," he slurred.  "Or penis."  He shifted and winced.  "I think I threw my hip out like a little old lady too."

"She's gone.  Soak, have the gatorade."  Xander took it from him to gulp then passed back out with a sigh of pleasure.   Phil walked off shaking his head.   "Barton, go on patrol with Summers."

"Yes, sir," he called, pulling on a different shirt as he came out.  He had what he needed in a bag by the door.  He met Buffy in the library.  She was scowling.  "Anya was leaving tonight and wanted a going away thing."

"It took him all day to buy her a present?" Buffy asked, looking confused.  "Shouldn't she have taught him better by now?  And about non-ugly shirts too?  Because they made a comeback and they're like sores on a leper or whatever they're called."

"Buffy, he had eight hours of sex at her demand.  He's passed out in a tub," he said.

Her mouth popped open.  "How?'' she squeaked.  "No, I don't need to know.  He only dates bad and dangerous girls and I'm not one," she said, holding up a hand.  "Is he alive or should I send Angel?"

"He'd stake Angel and himself if he got turned."  He shifted his pack.  "Let's go."  She nodded, going with him. She didn't worry about him and his skills like she did Xander's.  Mostly because he had outshot her with a crossbow one night when she demanded to test him.

"Eight hours?  Like in a row?"

"Seven in a row, then a short nap for the last," he said dryly.


"We all hid from the noise.  She's noisy."

"More than I ever need to know because I'm not going to give up driving stick to try her.  Thanks anyway, Barton."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "Every guy has some girlfriend like her."

"I've never been a slutty ho.  I wouldn't know."

"She's not a ho for enjoying it."

"No, she's a ho because she slept with two football players at once and then two of the teachers later that night to compare against him."

Clint took out his phone to text that to Phil.  "We'll make sure she didn't have anything."

"Might be a good idea since there's no telling what she dated when she was a vengeance demon."

"Good point."  He added that in a second text and put his phone up.  It was not going to make Phil happy.


Phil got the text and went to talk to his idiot nephew.  "Xander?"  He flinched awake and looked around then at him.  "Did you use condoms?"

"Until I ran out about one. Then I mostly had oral sex outside the single time.  She was on the pill though."

"She slept with others besides you.  We're worried we might have to get you medicine for something."

"I knew that and I asked.  Both of the football players were virgins.  The teacher might've been too.  The other one.... he's a swinger so no telling but they tend to test regularly."  He yawned and started to drift off again.  "Why can't I feel my penis?"

"Teeth marks," Phil said dryly.

Xander moved some of the bubbles so he could see it.  "I told her to quit using her teeth.  I think she did it so she wouldn't have to reciprocate."  He yawned and drifted off again.

Phil turned to look at Natasha, who handed him a sample collection kit.  "I'm not experienced in how to use these."

She huffed but came in to get a swab.  He purred at her so she patted him on the head.  "Behave.  We are testing for poisons."

"Immune," he mumble.  "Fishy said so."

"We'll make sure, Xander."  She took it to be run at the college's labs.  She had a *friend* up there who would gladly run it for her.  He was nicely gay and needed a shopping buddy.  They fit well together.  "My friend's nephew slept with a nymphomaniac slut."

He winced and took the swabs.  "Dry?"

"He was in the tub but it didn't get much water exposure.  I could barely get it in him though.  Eight hours total."  The guy gaped at her.  "And she was loud."

"Oh, dear.  Sounds like someone that got caught on campus last night."  He ran the various tests for her, handing it over.  "Looks like she didn't have anything but you might try some cool compresses to get the swelling down.  He might've pulled his groin muscle."

"I've done the female version of that but he's in the tub."  He grinned.  "She had *teeth*.  He has *marks*."

"Owwww.  Tell your nephew to try my side of the fence.  We're usually kinder and less loud."  He grinned.

"I might at that.  Thank you."  She took the results back to the apartment.  Xander was snoring, she could hear him.  "Nothing on the swabs."

"That's a blessing.  Paul wants to beat him for it," Phil said.

"My friend suggested he try gay sex instead."  She put down the forms and got dinner from the freezer to microwave.

Phil looked them over, shaking his head.  His nephew would never get to live this down.  If he survived.


Fury looked over the faxed battle plan, grimacing.  "They can't use kids," he sneered.  "Hill!"  She came in to look at the plans.  "From the Sunnydale team.  They need more agents then."

"I can arrange at least a strike team, sir."

"Send more.  They're planning an actual *battle*."  She took the notes they had sent on what was going to happen so she'd know who to send.  Fury grimaced and sent Coulson an email that he'd have some backup coming.  He didn't know why he wanted that one healer but whatever.  If they were willing to not escape from her, it was better than usual for Barton and Coulson, and probably Harris too.


Xander woke up and took a swing at whoever had a needle in his arm.  "Xander, it's one of the SHIELD healers," Clint said, catching his fist before it could connect.  "Calm down.  She's testing to make sure you're going to live since you wouldn't wake up."  He sat on the side of the tub and patted his hair down.  "Calm down.  Deep breath."  She pulled out the needle.  "He said he has extreme reactions to needles."

"I would too."  She smiled at him.  "We're doing tests to make sure you're not that far out of whack, Harris.  Was it an attack?"

"Of my prom date."

"She's clearly bad for you.  Find a nice bad girl, Harris."  He smirked at her.  "Think you can get up?"

He tried and winced.  "Maybe, if my hip didn't feel like it was dislocated."  He settled in again.

"You probably pulled a groin muscle," she said, helping Clint haul him out.  She blushed.  "She was clearly very mean to you.  Nails?"

Xander looked and winced.  "Teeth."

"Ow."  She dug out a pot of stuff to hand over.  "Try that on them.  Should heal it in about a day."  She checked his hips and nodded.  "Pulled groin muscle."  She grinned.  "No PT for two weeks."

"Battle in a week and a half," he said dryly.

"Oh, dear.  Well, I'll be here for that as well."  She patted him on the cheek.  "Heating pad and ice any swelling."  She left them to have a guy talk.  She'd listen to gossip to see who he had slept with.  When she heard, she sent an email to the director to be on the watch for her because she was slightly mean and slightly evil by Xander's usual tastes.  Then she got to explain what a vengeance demon was and did.  Fury was not amused.

Clint looked at Xander.  "Most guys have a former girlfriend like her.  Yours was just a bit extreme."

"But not demonic and not fully evil like Cordy is," he said with a grin.

"True.  Barely but true."  He helped him put a shower chair in there so he could take one once the water was out.  He went to make a big breakfast.  He had to be hungry.  It'd been a day since he ate.  Xander came wobbling out in Natasha's bathrobe.  Clint got him some pajama pants, soft ones to help him.  Xander leaned on a wall to put them on and kept on the bathrobe.  "Food?"

"Please, thank you, Goddess Clint."

"Not a girl, Xander."  He handed over the plate.  Xander inhaled it and Clint's portion so Clint got up to make more.  When that disappeared too he made him pause to let it settle.  He also showed him how to handle a groin pull in the easiest way without over-icing your dick or balls.  Xander gave him a hug for it and they settled in to talk about girls, again.  Clearly Clint needed to share more wisdom with the young trainee agent.   Because, damn!  That just wasn't right to have happen.


Xander looked around the battle a week and a half later.  "Fuck!" he shouted.  "Guys, move!  Right flank, shift!"  They did and he dove back in to help keep the giant demon worm off the civilians.  Finally they were mostly gone.  "Move, people.  Now!"  Buffy took off running.  The snake followed her.  The bomb didn't go off.  He saw his uncle running.  "No, Paul, no, damnit!  It has a backup switch!" he yelled.  Natasha stopped him from running after him.  "He's my damn family!  Let me go!"  The school went up and he shuddered, shrinking away from her.

"It was his decision," she said quietly, staring at him.  Xander gave her a cold look.  "We will gather Phil and watch to see if he might have made it."  She took him to Phil.  Xander broke and hugged him.  "I had to stop him from going after him," she said quietly.

He nodded.  "I don't think I could take losing them both today, Natasha, thank you."  She nodded, escorting him to a safer location.  He was still numb from the shock of losing his brother.  Xander was still in pain from everything.  She stood guard until Clint got there.  This was emotional things and she was not adept at them since she hid so many of her real ones.

Clint came over, shaking his head.  Coulson swallowed and nodded.  "Thank you for checking," he said quietly.

Xander turned to look at him.  "You're certain he didn't survive?"

"No.  He manually hit the bomb, Xander.  We had eyes on it in case someone tampered," he said quietly, patting him on the arm.  "I'm sorry."  Xander nodded, stiffening up straighter.  "No, you relax.  You've just been in a battle.  Big shit just happened.  Relax, give yourself time to grieve."

"I'll do that later.  When I'm alone."  He looked over as the others trooped over.  "How many?" he asked Giles.

"Seventeen civilians that got attacked or knocked over and trampled," he said, looking not that concerned.  "Seven students.  The agents took care of the injured ones quickly so they didn't get trampled and didn't get killed by the minions and vampires he summoned."  He patted Xander on the shoulder.  "It was a good job, Xander."

"If it was a good job, we'd have no deaths," Xander said bluntly, making Giles flinch.  "A well executed plan isn't the same thing."  He looked around.  "Anyone see things like the diplomas?"

"Well, I did think to grab Buffy's," he said, handing it to her with a smile.

"Did you see mine?" Willow asked.

"I didn't think to look, Willow.  Or for Xander's."

"Or mine," Oz said."  He sat down with a huff.  "Xander, sit."

"I'm wound, I can't.  I need to go do something."  He walked off.

"Xander, post battle medical," Phil said quietly and calmly.  "We'll go together, out to the cliffs."  That got a nod and they hiked off together.  "Stay local, people.  My director should be here tomorrow to debrief and figure out what's happening now."

"The hellmouth wasn't destroyed," Buffy said.  "Which sucks."

"The next mostly open one is in a real city," Clint told her.  "They're more than willing to Love Canal this area so it doesn't do the same thing there."

"Love what?" she asked, looking confused.  "Can you guys please quit teaching now?"

"No," Natasha said.  "Love Canal was a town that was built on top of some radioactive material.  They fenced it and shut it down."

"Oh.  Well, if they can do that, the vampy vamps can have the town," she said with a shrug.  "I'll move."  She ran over to her mother's SUV, getting a hug.  "We lived."

"Thank you."  She hugged her, looking at the group.  "Xander?  Is he injured?"

"He went with his uncle for a medical checkup."

Clint walked over.  "The bomb was delayed and Xander's uncle set it off," he said quietly.  Joyce shuddered.  "So they're off being quiet together.  Or Xander's blowing up trees.  One of the two."  Joyce smiled slightly.  "We're all good, Joyce.  All but Cordelia, who has a back injury."  She nodded.  "Agents are handling it and Coulson said that the Director will be here tomorrow to debrief and tell us what's going on.  We've been planning on having things happen anyway."

"Good.  Thank you.  Let's go home, Buffy."

"Giles grabbed my diploma," she said, holding it up with a grin.

"That's wonderful.  Did he get the others'?"

"He said he didn't think to."

"We'll probably find it in the mess."  She took her home. She'd wonder about that snub later.


Xander looked up from the grave side funeral, making himself not stare at the casket.  Willow was across from him.  Her mother was scowling but yay.  Paul had helped Willow a lot over the years.  She had made herself come.  Phil was beside him.  Paul's ex-wife had flown in and she was shredding his letters into the grave.  Xander took the rest of them to put in his pocket.  She glared at him.  He stared back.  She settled down.  The minister was looking nervously at his watch but it was only two in the afternoon.  Finally it was done and Xander quit standing at parade rest.  He was tense all over.  He was high strung and something was going to snap.  As it turned out, Willow's mother was a good reason to snap.

"I don't know why you had to come, Willow.  We're not related.  Even Xander's not really related to him."

"Because he helped your daughter many times," Xander said just loud enough to be heard.  "But you wouldn't know about shows of respect, would you, Mrs. Rosenburg?"  He glared at her.  "It's not like Uncle Paul didn't save her life twice in the last five years because the house got broken into while she was home alone.  So she called him because we all know that the PD won't do anything."  He sneered slightly.  "It was also Paul that put her back onto the path of good behavior when she started to slip there for a bit because she didn't have any parental guidance. 

"If it wasn't for Paul, I wouldn't be here, Willow wouldn't be here, and you could be on a fabulous book tour around the world like you want to be.  So I guess you can be mad that he saved your daughter's life after all."  She gasped and stomped off.  Willow gave him a dirty look but followed like the dutiful daughter she was.  Xander let out a slow, deep exhale then looked at his uncle.  "I need time."

"We both need time.  Would you like to go fishing?"

Xander shook his head.  "I'm kinda morally opposed to fishing anymore. I might catch a swim team member.  Or hell, a Disney version."  Phil smiled slightly and patted him on the arm.  "I'm going to Mexico."

"That's where I was going.  You can come with me and not fish."

Xander nodded.  "I might like that."  Phil nodded and they went back to the apartment to pack up.  Natasha and Clint had already left for home.  Phil left them a message and took Xander with him.  He could teach him a lot about the world from Mexico, and if they had problems they were good enough to help stop them.  Or for stress relief.


Six months later, Xander was sitting in a bar in Asia.  Phil had called someone to help finish his training since he had to go back to his regular duties instead of helping ease the drug wars going on in Mexico.  He sipped his beer, nodding at the familiar looking woman who came in.  "You look an awful lot like someone I used to know," he said dryly, smirking at her.

"There's a reason for that."  She took his drink to sniff then sip.  "Weak."

"It's before noon.  I don't touch anything too huge before dark."  He stood up.  "Want to borrow my seat?  I'm going back to my room."

"Escort me to mine, Xander."

He smiled.  "Mine's got a present from my uncle for your birthday."

"Wonderful."  She escorted him back after Xander put a few bills on the bar.  As they walked she studied him.  "Are you drinking that heavily?"

"No.  I only allow myself to drink once a week anymore."  She nodded at that.  "And I never do it to get drunk. Just so I can sleep without some nightmares."

She paused him by an alley.  "Why do you have such problems?"

"That's in your present.  He wrote you a letter from Mexico before his boss recalled him."

"Mexico," she said.  He nodded, grinning slightly.  "Good fishing?"

"I don't fish and he knows why now since he caught a swim team member."  She shuddered.  "It was in heat, it tried to make out with him."  He pointed.  "Shall we before the grungy things in the alley try to attack us?"

"We should."  She took him back to his hotel room, letting him check it all first before handing her the pretty wrapped box.  She sat on the bed to open it, staring at the knife set inside.  "Those are beautiful.  He has excellent taste."  She smiled and hid them on her, looking at the very thick letter.  It was basically a mission report and a request for her to finish Xander's training so he could go back to the revamped Sunnydale.  They were turning it into an agent training area.  Everyone not associated with an agency or necessary personnel was being removed and relocated.  He was due back in three months and Phil outlined how he had trained his nephew.  She looked up.  "He wanted you to help me for a bit."

"He told me."  He stared at her.  "I should apologize for the way I acted after the battle."

She stood up.  "I lost my family when I was younger than you.  I understand that pain, Xander."  He nodded, looking down.  She patted him on the arm and he hugged her.  She froze for a second but patted him back.  "We will work on some of your skills that will be useful when you're handling the problems in town with your slayer team," she said quietly.  "And possibly some other fun things."  She pulled back to look at him.  "You need sleep."

"I can't sleep.  I'm doing good to get three hours a night."

"Have you tried calling that ex of yours up?  Though I would not encourage it now."

"She's over here with some big money person."

"Wonderful.  I'll be on alert in case we run into her on a mission."  She looked around.  "Pack the tasteful things."

"Take me tacky shirts and all, teacher lady."  He packed his two bags and followed her, getting them a cab since her hotel was halfway across the city.

Once they were safely in there she looked over his things.  His weapons got a critical evaluation and passed. His clothes didn't.  She looked them over again.  A few things might go if she matched them properly.  "Did Clint not teach you to match things in a more manly way?"

"No," he snorted.  "Besides, I can blend in very well with the ugliest of things and no one ever notices me."

She looked at him in that poor, pitiful idiot way.  "That may be true at home.  Here it is not.  While with me, you will be dressed better, Xander.  Even if I have to buy you clothes and have them reimburse me."

"I can go flirt with my other new ex," he offered with a smirk.

"What other, new ex?  That wasn't in the letter."  She looked it over to make sure.  She had missed a tiny, end of a page comment that was clearly written by a drunk Coulson, to ask him about his girlfriend Milda.  She looked at him.  "Milda?"

"No, she was sweet.  And into all sorts of nasty shit."

"Like kinky sex or like drugs?"

"Both."  He grinned.  "We were at a dance sort of club and then I woke up two days later with the shakes and my mouth feeling like cotton wool but she took good care of me and we had fantastic sex because the next time she tried to drug me I tied her down and made her scream about halfway up Anya's scale."

"Oh, dear," she sighed.  "Were you tested?"

"Yeah, when I called Uncle Phil to come pick me up because her daddy got mad that I was debauching his little angel yet not accepting her drugs so he could turn me into a mule or something like that; he was not happy when I set his warehouses on fire."

"You did that before you got picked up?"

"Yeah."  He bounced some, looking pleased.  "She told me I'd make the family good money and she'd occasionally give me favored status since I was so good to her orgasm count.  So I kindly realized I had a tiny bit of magic when I was high and set the whole compound on fire.  Magical fires burn *really* fast, did you know that?"  She sat down, staring at him.  "Her father, not real pleased when the family home went up around them and left all the furniture, the papers, the safes.... none of the drugs but all the liquor in the wine cellar and the tequila racks. 

"Uncle Phil said he had some really good vintages and let me loot since I had them mostly injured or tied up.  Milda was not happy and was screaming that I was evil and from another family.  I pointed at my uncle and said he was my only family and I didn't like drugs that much.  So Uncle Phil got to sit with me while I detoxed that shit for about a week and I haven't really slept since then because somehow it made me remember *everything* in my life in bright, brilliant technicolor."

She stared at him.  "If that was not the girlfriend you were talking about, which was?"

"Clorette?  Uncle Phil had to go deal with her boss when he caught us together and shot her.  I didn't even get a chance to get off.  She was on top and getting loud so he busted in and shot her.  I didn't want to see that."

"Clorette Johnsome?" she asked. 

He nodded slowly.  "Think that was her last name, yeah."

Natasha resisted the urge to cover her face with her hands and moan about Xander's taste in women.  "She was a fairly well known, very dangerous French assassin, Xander."

"She hit on me in the club."  He shrugged.  "Bad girls love me."  He grinned.

"Your uncle must be unamused with that trait."

"Probably but he was less amused when the stray dog tried to adopt me."

"I would be as well.  It's hard to travel with pets."  She stared at him for a moment.  "Where were you and Clorette?"

"Mexico.  She panted she was on vacation.  Her wallet didn't have anything but a key.  He took it with him."

"It probably led back to wherever she kept her information files."  She stared at him then texted Coulson's phone.  She got back one.  "It did lead there and there was no money so he can't split it with you as he bargained to make you quit screaming about her being stuck on you."

"She was.  It was kinda gross."

"I figure it was."  She got back another one and got into one of the bags, finding a spare wallet.  "Where did this come from?"

"Kitten poker, same as the weapons did."  He smiled.  "I'm a good boy usually."

"I've noticed that."  She counted the money and looked at him.  "We will get you something tasteful.  My next appointment is in Singapore and they would not respect you or me if you were being slovenly.  They would expect a suit.  A very nice, expensive suit."

"Uncle Phil made me buy one.  It should be in the green bag."

"It's hideous, Xander.  He clearly wanted you to wear it on dates so they left you alone."  Xander grinned at her for that.  "We will look."  She took him to the stores to fix that tragedy of a wardrobe.  He could sleep in the ugly t-shirts.  She made him pause when she found a new scar.  "That is from...."

"We briefly went home and my mother threw a knife at me."

She grimaced.  "Is she alive?"



"She threw a knife at me."





"Interesting."   She handed him an undershirt.  "We will teach you to do this properly."  He sighed but went to get changed. She saw someone come into the store and mentally sighed in displeasure.  "Have we talked about you perhaps turning toward men so the women who want you can't have you?" she asked casually.

Xander came out in the suit and smiled, walking over to her.  "Marta!"  He hugged and kissed her hard, making her grip his hips.  "I haven't seen you in weeks.  Are you still stalking me?"

"Of course I am.  You are a heavenly pleasure as I've heard.  I'm very interested in collecting such treasures."  She looked around.  "Getting a new suit?"

"My uncle's ex-girlfriend is teaching me how to shop better.  She hated my clothes and I'm on my post-grad roadtrip"  She blinked.  He grinned.  "I'm just now eighteen in two whole days."  She shivered.

Natasha watched how he worked her.  She was going to melt and suck him there in the shop.  "Xander, I do not want to hear another version of the eight hour sex marathon you had when you were staying with me."

He grinned at her for that hype.  "I can get a hotel room, Auntie."

She smirked slightly.  "If you're going to make her as loud as that other one got, please do."

Marta blinked.  "Loud?"

"She got very loud.  She was all about the O and wanted a lot to remember me by.  She limped onto the bus that night I'm told but it was only about twelve or thirteen orgasms."  Marta moaned and kissed him again.  He grinned.  "Let me pay for this and we'll find somewhere nice and soundproofed."  She nodded, buying it for him.

Natasha bought a few more things, getting a look from the shopgirls.  She shrugged.  "He is like my own nephew."  They groaned.  "He has bad taste in women however."  She paid and walked out with the bags.  She could have them tailored when she rescued Xander.  She did ask Coulson about 'Marta' and why she was stalking him.  What she got back amused her.  She remembered the Barton Drool and Ass Appreciation Society.  She really did have to see if he and Xander were related somehow.  Before those sort drove her nuts.


Xander finally showed up two hours later than she had texted him to be.  "I was about to leave without you.  Next time I will be.  We have deadlines, Xander."  He tossed her a wallet.  She looked inside and gasped.  "Where?"

"Marta's husband.  Or lover, one of the two.  He called her his woman.  Then asked for a threesome.  He laughed when I said I was saving that for someone special."  He looked at her then tossed over something else.  "Talk about not of the happy camper variety.  The one in Mexico's bodyguard.  Which is why I was late.  I had to deal with him and why he was following me.  And then I had to clean up the mess, get around the locals, who didn't know I was cleaning up the mess but they thought I might be part of the local mafia group since I'm American. 

"I bragged about post-grad world trips and I had found a woman down near there so I was hiking back to my hotel."  She rolled her eyes but made 'go on' motions with her free hand.  "I got asked if I had seen anyone and I admitted that the guy looked familiar.  I had been in Mexico when a drug gang broke into the resort's hotel to ransom someone and he looked like a guy there."  He smiled.  She stared him down.  "He did."

"It's on record?"  He nodded.  "Is that how you two met?"

"No, he was breaking in to try to grab me for ransom.  He figured I wasn't the normal sort after that fire.  Especially since he just told me whatever they gave me down there was experimental and the only dosage.  He was going to ransom me to Uncle Phil."

"Did we do blood tests to figure out what it was?"

"Yes.  Which is the other reason Uncle Phil sent me to you.  He even paid plane fare."

"He's getting reimbursed?"

"Not likely.  Out of pocket at the counter."  She sat down hard, staring at him.  That was not a Coulson-like move.  "But he wouldn't tell me what or why."

She sent him a message and he sent back a file number.  She logged into SHIELD and looked at it, then gasped.  "That would awaken any gifts you might have hidden, like magic or like some sort of enhancing shot."  She looked at him.  "He thinks it relates back to those geeks when you were little as he put it."  She put her phone back into her pocket.  "We are leaving the hotel in twenty minutes."  Xander made sure all his stuff was packed, including rescuing a few things she hadn't packed.  Which got another eye roll.  He took his turn wiping down things, picking the bathroom, which was usually the harder surface to get.  Natasha checked his work and nodded, letting him lead the way out the door so they could check out.

If she had to, she'd treat Xander like she had Clint when they had dated in Clint's younger years.  Though, if that happened, she would break him of his habit of making everyone get loud and needy.  She was not that sort of woman.


Buffy walked into the new training center the new agent-in-charge had put up for their upcoming agents, staring at the man playing poker with someone.  Tight jeans, tight t-shirt with an overshirt, slightly shaggy hair that needed a trim, expensive sneakers.  "What're you doing back here?" she asked.

Xander looked over with a grin.  "I'm back to help your ass again."  She gaped.

"We made sure Xander was fit for patrol and backing you up," Clint said, staring at Buffy.  "That way you don't have to worry about him as often and Xander's women don't really get to come here."  He smirked at the boy.

"Did she tell you we ran into Anya and her current sugar daddy in Asia?  She said he had great stamina and knew a lot of moves but he was kinda tiny and didn't care about her orgasm count.  So she stole his wallet, let Natasha into his office, and hiked off."  He looked at Buffy again.  "Beyond that, I'm here to help.  I told you before I was going to make sure that one little girl didn't have to do it on her own."

"I'm not a little girl!" she complained.

"You're almost a foot shorter than I am," he quipped.  She huffed.  "Beyond that," he said, finishing the game but losing that hand.  He stood up.  "Let's spar, Buffy."  She stared at him.  "Only way you'll realize it."  She nodded, so Clint led them to a sparring room.  Xander waved her on.  "That's why I'm wearing these.  We have team training today."

"We do?"

"Yeah.  Even Willow's getting team training.  I'm told we'll be having team training once a week and individual whenever we need it."

"What if that's going to counter our schedules?  I'm busy, Xander."

He stared at her.  "You have two free hours a week," he said dryly.  "And I will be from the construction site."


"I like it.  I work with my hands all day, I'm hauling, hefting, and toting so I don't need as much time in the gym."  He shrugged.  "Been doing it now for a week and I really like it.  Natasha made me take a test and all that to see what I was good at."

She blinked at him.  "She's here?"

"Somewhere."  He waved her on.  "C'mon."

"I'm not in clothes I can fight in."

He looked at her current outfit then at her.  "I've seen you on a patrol night date in them," he said dryly.  She glared.  He stared at her.  "It's my town to protect.  I was born and raised here.  Frankly, someone asked the guys who responded to my mother's report of me hanging on her and thought I might've been born somewhere near the school."  She gaped.  "Sunnydale is *my* town and if you're going to protect *my* town then you're going to have me there."  She glared and threw a punch, which he blocked. 

He ruffled her hair, which pissed her off.  Buffy attacked semi-harder.  Xander knocked her on her ass for it.  He grinned.  "I had Clint working on my training for the last six weeks straight, Buffy.  C'mon.  I can handle you with the way he tried to bruise me."  She lunged in an all-out fight.  Xander took it and dealt with it, blocking most of her hits and getting some of his own in.  It worked and there was no more doubt about him being untrained by the time they were done.  Buffy finally gave up with a huff and stomped off.  "Patrol, eight?" he asked.  "Normal starting place or the college?"

"You're not going," she said.  She smirked.  "I'm the slayer."  He threw something at her head, knocking her down.  "Hey!"

"I'll go on my own then."  He grinned.  "Though that means that you'll have to beg for shit later when you need it.  Because you and Giles can't repair crossbows and he's not getting new ones now from the Council.  Not since you fired them."  She gaped.  "That's one of the jobs I have on your team, is your armorer.  I'm your weapons fixer, Buffy."  She slumped, staring at him.  "I don't give a damn about your petty high school shit.  I'm willing to let it slide.  Let bygones be bygones."  His phone beeped twice so he looked at it.  "Natasha's coming to talk to us in a minute and...."  He changed messages.  "Hey, I have a date tomorrow night."  He grinned and answered her that it'd have to be an early or very late one because he had a middle-of-the-night commitment.

Natasha walked in.  "Tell her no, Xander.  No dating while training."

"Too late," he said as he hit send.  "It's even one you set me up with."  She scowled at him.  He shrugged with a grin.  "You did."  He showed her the name.  She groaned and shook her head.

"I see you couldn't weed that out of him like the ugly t-shirts," Buffy complained, standing up.  She looked at what hit her.  "Bean bag?"

"Useful for knocking out normal people and that has wood sawdust with flecks of silver in the material."  Natasha tossed it back at Xander and looked at Buffy again.  "You cannot do it on your own.  That way leads to a quick death."  Buffy glared.  "It does.  That's one reason why you have lasted years when the prior girls lasted months."  She stared the younger warrior down.  "We will work on it so your team is better integrated, as it started out."


"Not going to do more than back you up.  You are not his sort," she said bluntly.  "Even if he had childish hero worship for you before, you wore that out of him in your senior year," Natasha said.  Buffy flinched and looked down.  "Beyond that, having a team means that your weak spots are covered."

"I don't have weak spots."

"You do or you wouldn't have been on the floor when I came in and the spar would've taken less than thirty minutes.  By the way, Xander, I saw that shoulder drop and you pretending to be lesser to soothe her.  Do stop that."  She didn't even have to look at him to know he was looking embarrassed.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Thank you."  Buffy gaped.  She stared at her.  "I contributed a lot to his training.  The three of us that have worked on him are quite proud that he's our equal in some things."

Xander grinned at her.  "Thanks, Natasha."

"You still need work in many areas, Xander."

"I know, but I can be flawed and still great, like you guys are.  No one's perfect and if I was I'd already be in spandex and body armor."

She smiled slightly at him.  "Yes, you would be.  If you go on that date with her I will make sure of it and that you're posted with Clint so he can deal with your dates for a while."

Xander shrugged.  "Okay, and the bad is?  He's taken out three of my last few dates.  Wouldn't that make me bait and distraction?"

Natasha blinked at him.  "I did not think about that."  Xander smiled.

Clint leaned in.  "Four, kid."

"Which one did you get?"

"The one you were going to see tomorrow when she showed up to kidnap you with a few soldiers for hire just now."

"Well, I guess I'm free then.  Did you leave me anything to loot?"  Clint stared at him.  "What?  She gave me tastes for real food!  You know what I'm making on the construction site and how much rent is."

Clint rolled his eyes.  "Your uncle did it for you."  Xander yipped and ran out to pounce his uncle.  Clint looked at Natasha.  "You set him up with Emily?"

"They seemed well suited and she was only mildly dangerous, plus in my way.  That got her out of my way."

"Huh.  Well, yeah, a lot out of your way now."  He went back to overseeing the training center.  It was his duty until the kids could become a real team.  Or were well on their way.  He and Natasha were rotating in and out while SHIELD, the FBI, and a few other agencies used the town to train their new agents.  The college got some new classes offered.  The high school as well because some incoming agents were deficient.  Which upped the level of the education for the students, always a good thing.  They had even hired two witches from a very uptight coven to help around town with the magic BS no agent wanted to deal with.

It's go.  They'd fix the broken team, make it into a real team, get Xander calmed back down, get Buffy to date someone nicer and human, get Xander to quit leading on rich, evil women like Natasha had taught him to, and they'd fix this town's issues too.

He hoped.

The End.