Xander strolled in the next morning.  "Need the sunglasses again?" Stella teased with a wicked grin.

"Nope.  This one didn't squeal."  He gave her a smug look.

"Is that because this one wasn't a girl, Javier?"

"No comment.  I don't kiss and tell.  That was my ex."  He got into the elevator and headed up to the lab to sign in and then get to work.

Danny watched him walk.  "Need a pillow?"

"Not the first time."  Danny gaped in awe.  He shrugged.  "It happens."  He went to grab his jacket and glasses, going to the lab.  He found the empty bags in there with a note on top about next time bring it all in cash.  He put it into the bags and put them out of his way, then got to work.  He was going to have a good day.  Maybe he'd keep playing with Sam.  As long as John and Dean didn't mind.  Because they might make him stop.


John watched his boys walk into his apartment a few days later, watching how Sam moved.  "She good, son?" he asked dryly.

"Yes he was."  He sat down, grinning at his big brother since he was moaning.  "What?"

"I didn't need that detail, Sammy."  He looked at their father.  "He was with Xander, Dad."

"Do we think that's wise since they were attached in a last life?"

"He agreed we can keep it at the stress relief level," Sam assured him.  "If we have to, I can keep playing with him."

"I still say that incubus had some effect," Dean told him.

"Xander said they'd had a serial rapist show up again in the lab.  Everyone's stressed," Sam countered quietly.  "Even when it's not going through his lab."  He shifted to put his feet up.  "He also said Aiden nearly snapped and got to the point where she wanted to tamper but Mac found out and had to let her go; even though she didn't, she might have and it looked bad.  So he and Adam have been backup field guys again.  He had a pretty tense field case that day."

"That does suck, I like Aiden," Dean said.  "Her case?"  Sam nodded.  "Can we do anything to help?"

"I think he was going to.  Not real sure."

"The boy takes care of those he considers family," John said.  "She okay?"

"I don't know.  He told me the next morning.  I've emailed her but haven't gotten one back yet."  He shrugged a bit.  "No clue what's going on other than what he's said.  What's going on out here?"

"The FBI agent that got the dirty ones that first day are trying to stop them but they're not having much luck.  It looks like we'll have the invasion after all."

"He said he'd be here if he could but he knows he shouldn't," Dean offered.

John nodded.  "We'll need all hands for this."  He sat down, looking at his boys.  "How is he doing otherwise?"

"A bit lonely and tense.  He's not sure he won't snap on a subject," Sam offered.  "That's why he put up with you over his shoulder for so long, Dad.  He's unsure if he won't go off some day."

"He's right to worry but he has a good handle on it," John pointed out.  "I told him that."

"And his first field case had a parent that drowned their kid for being whiny," Sam shot back.  John moaned, shaking his head.  "Apparently he walked out after they confessed and went to hide in his firing pen for a bit."

"Those are going to be hard for him," John agreed calmly.  "I called and talked to him last night but he sounded a bit hyper."

"Yeah, putting it mildly," Dean agreed.  "I called about his dinner break and he was bouncing around ballistics.  Then he suddenly got calm and said something about that curse's gone but not to worry.  He hung up and I called back, he said he had taken care of the wish demon and D'Hoffryn wasn't pleased with her at the moment."  John nodded once at that.  "But it was solved and his wings and magic are still at standard levels."

"I found something to help him mask that," Sam said, pulling the necklace out of his pocket.  "The witch we ran into in Arizona made it for him.  It's to help hide any magical output unless he consciously broadcasts it."  He held it up off the end of his fingers.

"He'd like that. It's like extra insurance," Dean agreed.  "Pretty too."

"It is."  He put it on the table.  "So we need to give that to him the next time one of us see him."  That got a nod from John.  "We all know that Xander's worrying about it when he shouldn't spend this much energy worrying about it, Dad.  It still won't stop him.  He's got to worry about it a little bit."

"I understand that."  He patted him on the head.  "Bobby's asleep in the back room.  There's a double room for you two."  They nodded.  "Did he send you with more stuff?"

"He *so* loaded our trunk before we could go," Dean told him dryly.  "Shells from his hunting closet, all that, Dad."  He handed over something.  "He said it's in a different class than ours but to use it if we had to since it came from another area that's hidden."

John looked inside at the little fetishes.  "Weapons?"

"Protective statues," Dean said dryly.  "Sic them on the demons."

"I'll see if we can use them," he agreed, zipping them back up.  "It could help keep them away from civilians."  They nodded.  "Go rest, we'll have dinner in a few hours, boys."  They went to get their gear from the car then hit their bedroom.  John called Xander once they were closed in.  "Do you need to talk, young man?"  He smiled at the sullen answer.  "What's wrong?"  He listened to him complain about his last case in the field.  "Why is Mac blaming you for one of them spotting you?  And what did you do to him?"  He nodded.  "That makes sense.  Did anyone else see?"  He smiled.

"That's good I guess.  No, that's not a problem.  I didn't even feel a twinge.  I just talked to Sammy, Xander.  No, that's fine.  If you two want to consensually do stress relief stuff, then that's up to him and you.  I'm more worried that he said you're still worried and uptight after that.  Because we all know that you fuss at things.  How is Aiden anyway?  Dean told me?"  He listened then nodded.  "That'd be a good thing to do."  He smiled.

"She might yell but she knows it's because you care.  That's fine, Xander.  Calm down.  Yes, you can shoot back at Mac if you feel he's being unfair.  It's not your fault he had you working a case up the street from them.  He's just stressed as well.  No, I wouldn't offer, Xander.  He might fire you."

He smiled.  "Good thinking.  No, we're fine.  They're here.  Bobby's here.  They're all resting.  I have them.  Thanks, kid.  You be safe."  He hung up since Mac had walked in complaining.  "That poor Marine," he muttered.  "Xander's going to warp him more."


Xander hung up his cellphone.  "John checking in.  Now, what did you need?"

"Why is he checking on you?"

"The boys just got there and he heard Sam and I had some momentary stress relief the other day.  He wanted to make sure I was handling the stress okay.  This morning he didn't even feel the twitch to act."

"Good.  What are we going to do about this?"

"He'll shoot me if I take them all out, Mac," he said dryly.  Mac scowled.  "Mac, how soon did you know that was ten feet from their front door?"  He leaned his hip against the table.  "I handled it when it happened without letting others see me do it.  It's as good as I can do if you send me to their front door."

"You have to be able to work anywhere we need you to."

"And I am, that's why I handled it, Mac."  Mac scowled at that.  "You know what?  Go take a nap and quit scowling like some grandmother at me, Mac.  If he had yelled that it was me, we'd all be getting pretty stitches downstairs in the morgue right now.  I handled it when it happened."  He stood up and moved closer.  "It is not my fault the call today took us there.  Nor that you forgot that they were there too and one of them was killed.  For that matter, I know who killed him so you can go get that suspect and then calm yourself down.  Because I'm not your whipping post."  He stared at him.  "You wouldn't send Stella there if she this on her.  I could be pissed as hell that you sent me there but I'm not because I handled it in an efficient and casual way that didn't get my ass busted for having to magic him."

"Xander, calm down."

"Fuck off," he retorted, staring at him, seeing the shocked look.  "Remember, Mac, I did see combat but I wasn't regular military.  I was trained by the expedience rules the day and saves lives method.  My boot camp was killing people I had known since kindergarten in some cases.  And one older than that," he said more quietly.  "I will do whatever I have to so I'm not put in danger and neither are the others in this lab.  If you wanna bitch about the magic, go for it.  It saved all of us being shot to death by their local retrieval squad.  If you don't like that, go tell them where I am and I'll gladly defend myself and this lab.  Just like you do."  Mac backed up at that.  "So no, do not get pissy with me because you didn't realize or forgot or whatever.  I worked the scene in a professional and capable manner and I handled it when the threat to our safety showed up.  Can you honestly say there was a better way to do that?"

"No," he said calmly.  "Now can you please calm down?"

"Only if you take the stick outta your ass," he said bluntly.  "You yelled at Stella earlier for not being Superwoman.  You yelled at me for not letting us be shot or invaded.  You yelled at Flack for not being you.  I'm as pissed as you are that Aiden got to that point and you had to act as a supervisor.   I would've helped her any way I could have if she had come to me.   Short of tampering.  I would have gotten as far on the ethical leash John gives me with his permission if I had to and it was the only way.  It doesn't mean that it doesn't suck since she only thought about it and didn't do it.  You can be as mad at yourself and others as you want to be, Mac, but don't take it out on me.  I'm too used to bitchy girls who gave me shit for being male and not special like them.  I can gladly unleash all the stuff I didn't say on you instead because I doubt I'll make you huff off and cry."

"No I won't.  Are you done?"

"For now."

"Fine.  You did handle that scene in a reasonable manner but you could have exposed yourself more."

"I kinda doubt that.  The patrol guy didn't even see me do it."

Mac slumped, leaning against a table.  "Good point.  You did handle it in an efficient manner.  Thank you for not letting us be shot.  Is there some other way you can hide yourself if we have to pull a case near one?  We could have one out for coffee who sees you."

"I've tried disguise spells but I don't do good with them because I can't mentally visualize the new look.  I've done what I could short of dying my hair.  I don't dress like my old self.  Unless you want me to go in for cosmetic surgery?"

"No, nothing that rash needs to be done.  You're right, I had forgotten that was in their back yard.  I should've taken Danny."

"So you can rip into him again?" he asked calmly.  Mac glared at him.  He glared back.  "I'm not going to treat you like a girl and be nice and shit, Mac.  You treated him like shit over something you knew could happen since you asked him about stuff in that area and you knew his past."  Mac slumped further.  "And now others treat him like shit on the streets.  His last case, no officers were there until the detective got there."  Mac stiffened, looking at him.  "I called him about some test results and he made a weak ass joke about it."  He stared at him.  "No, right now, I'm not going to be pissed.  That was an accident and we both did what we could to minimize the problems.  Right now, you owe Stella an apology for being an ass to her and Danny too.   Do I need to find a succuba to make you feel better?  I will."

"I don't need that form of stress relief."

"Okay, as long as you relieve it sometime before you die from it.  You having a heart attack would be on the list of Very Bad Things for this lab."  He handed over a report.  "Your shooter.  He's done it before with that gun and somehow managed not to lose it."  Mac looked and groaned.  "I don't know, I don't care.  Take it up with Hillbourne for all I give a damn.  I'd say it was over gambling debts since his personnel file has a note that his supervisor talked to him about that problem recently."

"I'll look into that.  Thank you."

"Not an issue but I'm not the bitch for stress relief.  Same as I'm not the Winchester family pet."

"You are?"

"Sam and I had some stress relief one night."

"Can you think of anything that might get Pratt?"

"Beyond a good compulsion to confess?"  His phone beeped with an 'I felt that'.  He put it on the table, getting a smile.  "Which is ethically borderline and I'd have to get John's permission but I'm pretty sure he'd let the leash stretch that far if he had to.  He's beaten guys like that in the past before handing them over."

"I'll think about that.  I'd rather it be ironclad and irrefutable."  He looked at him.  "I needed to hear it but the next time you swear at me...."

"Oh, spank me," he said dryly.  "Out.  Go talk to that guy and make up with Stella before she kills you."  Mac glared.  He stared back.  "She will.  She looks like she can use a nail file to take you out, Mac.  With the way she was pissed this morning?"  Mac groaned, walking out.  He sat down, going back to his next case.  He didn't care if Mac was pissed that he had given it to him.  Apparently everyone else was too scared of the guy to tell him he was being an ass.

Well, Xander wasn't scared of much anymore.  He checked his online bank balance, frowning at it.  He looked up. "She can't have it or I'll take her out," he said with a sweet smile.  He reloaded the page and it was mysteriously back.  "Thank you, D'Hoffryn."  He got back to work, thinking about what Aiden needed most right now.  He locked down his lab and went to find Danny.  He pulled him out of the hall traffic, getting an amused look.  "I want to help Aiden.  I know she's got to be worrying about things like rent and stuff."

"She'd never let you do it."

"Even if it's like a birthday present?  Is hers even close?"


"So close enough I could call it that.  If I had a bunch of stuff I need researched I'd ask her.  I don't know if I do or not."

"She'll be fine and we're all helping where we can."

"I can afford to drop enough for her upcoming rent for the next four or five months."

"Good point."  He considered it.  "If you did it anonymously she might not hear who did it.  I don't know how you'd do it."

"Look up her landlord in the building records?"


"Go over there and ask the neighbors about any open apartments?  See if they can tell me who it is?" Xander suggested.  "It's more sneaky."

"You could ask me," Don said from behind them.

"You know?"

"Yeah, I k now who her landlord is.  Why?"

"So I can give her a kick ass birthday present.  That way she doesn't have to worry about being evicted."

"That would make Aiden scream at you for months, kid."  Don grinned.  "Feel better now that you let go on him?"

"Yeah, I did.  And for the others so Stella doesn't have to take him out with a nail file.  Do you think she'd mind that as a birthday present?"

Don shrugged.  "That's more iffy.  She might not.  I know she's doing something with some classes after hours."

"I asked her, she said she was doing fine and to quit worrying," Xander told him.

"Uh-huh.  You're both like that.  You okay with earlier?" Danny asked.

"I'm fine.  He doesn't remember seeing me.  I figured out who did it and Mac has that to handle the questioning."  He looked at them.  "Would she really mind or just fuss for form's sake because she's a girl and they fuss?"

"Probably just fuss," Don admitted.

"Can I give it to you?"

"I can do that."  Xander pulled out his wallet.  "Whoa, you carry that sort of cash around?"

"It's payday."  He shrugged.  "I went to the bank.  I was planning on doing some dinner and shopping later."  He handed it over.  "There.  That's about four months of mine, so that should be about five of her since she said I pay more than she does."

Don counted.  "That'll work."  He put it into his wallet.  "You need a receipt?"

"Then she'd fine out.  I trust you."  Don grinned.  "Now, any goodies for me today with gun stuff?"

"Not yet," Danny admitted.  "Don?"

"Mine works."

Xander looked at him.  "Was that a quiet plea to have me look at it?  I can."

"Nah, it's fine.  The new oil I used isn't as slick."

Xander frowned.  "You're sure it's not rust or slide sticking?"  Don nodded.  "Okay.  Want to come steal some of the gun oil?  I'll let you borrow a little bit."

"I switched to the lab's brand."

Xander snickered.  "I don't use that on my exemplar, Don.  I use good stuff on mine.  Come get some."  Don nodded at that.  "Danny?"

"I'm good."

Xander stared at him then moved closer.  "A few months back I got a flash of a CSI I knew dying in Miami because he wasn't taking care of his gun.  Are you?" he asked very quietly in his ear.

Danny stiffened.  "I'm good on that."

"Okay.  If you're not, you can get help.  Not like I mind.  I clean all mine once a week."  Danny nodded at that, grinning some.  "Just an offer, not saying you are."

"I know.  You're a pushy brat but you're good on that."  He looked at Don.  "Our case has jack."

"Wonderful.  Even with the stuff you collected?"

"Mostly common stuff. The only not common thing was an herb, which was why I was looking for you anyway, kid."  He handed over that report.

He looked at it.  "Voodun."  He handed it back.  Then he considered it.  "Shop on eighteenth I think.  I don't know.  I can ask someone at the school if they know of someone up here who could give us a reference."

"Is that the reason for the death?"

"It may've been after the death.  Some sort of 'I'm sorry, go to the afterlife' sort of smudging.  I don't know.  I didn't study that one all that much.  Native mystical rites are fascinating subjects and one I need to study more of.  Maybe then I'll find a better way to disguise myself.  I can ask if you want."

"Nah, we can use this.  The person doing it would've been part of that religion?" Danny asked.  Xander nodded.  "The person done on?"

"Probably but maybe not.  If they felt sorry and did it that way it might not've been someone in the faith."

"Okay, but it's a place ta start," Danny said.  "I think Stella knows someone who does one of the native faiths.  They might know who ta ask more about this stuff."  He hit him with the folder.  "Get her something sweet and gooey for her birthday to cover up that present.  That way she won't suspect you."  Xander beamed and nodded, heading back to ballistics.  "He's sweet."

"He's single," Don offered with a grin.

"Two bouncy guys together wouldn't be fun."  He walked off with Don to find Stella.  "You still pissed or can we ask you for a recommendation?"

"How dare he say something to Mac."

"Whoa, hold up," Don ordered.  "I heard half of it.  Mac's scene with him this morning?  Was ten feet from their bookstore hideout."  She groaned.  "He only mentioned that Mac snarled at you and you could take him out with a nail file, which would be bad for the lab.  He also suggested he could find him a succuba if he needed that sort of stress relief."  Stella's mouth opened then she cackled, leaning on the table.  "Exactly.  He had every right even if he did let go on Mac and swear at him.  Now, our case has Voodun herbs?  That's the religion side of Voodoo, right?"  Danny and Stella both nodded.  "He identified it that far but said he hasn't really studied native mystic rites."

"That's cool I guess."  She took the report.  "Yeah, that's to grant the spirit an open pathway to death.  They burn or bury the spirit with some."  She handed it back.  "I can see if my contact can give you someone to talk to."

"Please.  He said he'd call the school and ask them if you didn't have one."

"I can see."  She leaned on the table.  "He swore at Mac?"  Don nodded.  "Wow.  He's still alive."

"He also reminded Mac that he saw just as much combat only with less training.  His was 'whatever works and saves lives'," Don said more quietly.

"Which was why he was stunned."  Don nodded.  "It was nice to get an apology from Mac for his crappy mood.  I'll talk with Mac later."  They nodded. "Anything new from Aiden?" she asked.

"The kid's being sneaky on her behalf.  Part of her birthday present is some of her rent being paid," Don told her.

She grinned at that.  "She'll yell and scream at him."

"He's being sneaky and letting me hand it over."  He smirked.  Stella laughed and patted him on the arm before walking off to call her friend from the locker room for some privacy.  "Okay, now what?"

"Hope we get a name.  Make sure Mac don't fire the kid for talking back.  Little things like that."

"He won't.  Mac understands balls like that.  He has them too."  They shared a look.  "Yeah, he yelled on your behalf too."

"Figured he did."  He shrugged.  "With what he asked, I'm not surprised.  Go get that gun oil."

Don headed that way, finding Mac in there.  "Sorry, he said I could bum some gun oil since mine isn't that slick."

"The one we use in the lab isn't," Mac agreed.  He pointed.  "I think it's in there, Don."  He looked at Xander.  "I will not put up with that again," he said calmly.

Xander nodded.  "Okay.  Next time I'll try to find more tact.  I'm sorry I swore at you and lost my temper slightly."

"Thank you."  He stared at him while Don snuck out.  "Even if it was right to say those things, this lab is not the forum for them."

"And you did what yesterday, Mac?" he asked quietly.  "In the lab in front of everyone.  At least mine was private."

"I'm the supervisor," he said firmly.

"And you nearly got a quitting tech last night.  I talked him down."  Mac sighed, shaking his head.  "Yeah, sometimes you need ta yell, Mac.  I did when I ran my construction team."  Mac gave him an odd look.  He nodded.  "I did do supervisory work for over a year.  With guys who wouldn't show up and suddenly called off and had to deal with the suddenly appearing dead people who used to be my foreman and things.  Yes, you had the right to yell.

"Yes you had the right to yell at me today because I swore at you.  But I'm not the twenty-four-year-old rookie that you'd normally get with a first year CSI.  Nor am I going to take being threatened."  He stared at him.  "If you wanna put me on suspension for speaking my mind, you do that.  That's your right as a supervisor.  The same as it's my right as a tech to talk to the one that you nearly made start drinking after three years in AA," he said more quietly.  "Because you yelled at him in front of others.  If you need to work out that stress, we can go to the gym and I'll spar with you."

"No, I don't.  I didn't know that about him."

"I didn't know that about him until I walked into the locker room and found him having flashbacks to DT's."

"Damn it," he muttered.

Xander shrugged.  "You don't handle people things, Mac.  You see us all like soldiers.  Even soldiers have limits."

"I know.  You still can't swear at me again."

"Fine.  I won't.  Next time, give me a day off to go check on Aiden or go shopping."

"I should this time."

"Maybe.  But I'm a better resource if I'm used properly.  Like Danny's got Voodun herbs on his case."

"He does?"


"I hate dealing with that."

"He said Stella might have a contact."

"Fine.  No more venting."

"Hey, then challenge me to a spar, Mac."  He gave him a look.  "It could help both of us because I'll admit I'm wired and tense.  I know something's going to happen."


"I'm thinking it's LA.   Speaking of, I've been having internal debates.  I need to be there.  I shouldn't be there because they can catch me.  I'm sure there'll be a few there with a potential or something."

"Do we have a firm date?"

"No.  Not yet."

"If you need to go, you let me know somehow and then you head.  It might mean you jump in late but you'd probably have to anyway, right?"

"I'm known as a white knight, Mac.  Yeah, I'm kinda fond of the jumping in approach."  He nodded a bit with a wry grin.  "That's why I hunted from the first part of tenth grade on."

Mac shuddered.  "How old were you?"

"Pre-sixteenth birthday by a few months."

Mac shook his head.  "That's got to be soul destroying."

"Only when it's your friends and people you've known for years," he said, being perfectly serious.  Mac shuddered.  "Small town, Mac.  Not like it was a huge city.  Sunnydale only had a few thousand people plus the college."  He shifted his stance.  "I make very few attachments, especially now.  I'm going to protect them.  Even from rabid pitbulls of Marines."

"I realize that now, Xander," he said quietly.  "If you feel you have to go that day, you tell me and go.  You tell me when you're done so I know how injured you are."  He nodded at that.  "You come back as soon as humanly possible after you're done, even if you do have to hit an ER here and make up a story."

"Yes, sir."

"Good.  No more swearing at me, even if you think I deserve it.  You have more than enough skill to get your point across without that."

"Sure, next time you get that uptight I'll send a succuba to hit on you," he said dryly.

"Should you, I'll beat you to death myself," Mac said, shaking his head at that and walking out.  Sometimes the kid gave him headaches.  He went to check on Danny.  "Will you need a local contact that he might know?"

"Nah.  Stella's knows someone to talk to.  We'll bring the vic's picture to see if he's a member too."  Mac nodded at that.  "Don't be too hard on the boy, Mac.  He's lost everything and of course he's gonna go all pitbull over his current friends and support network."

"I'm not.  I warned him not to swear at me again."

"I'm surprised you didn't punch him for it," Danny said dryly.

Mac frowned.  "He was right about the content without using the language.  That's the only reason."

Danny grinned.  "You see the kid as a protegee."

"In some ways.  I do know that we can't have him in the field as often.  It's too dangerous."

"You talk to the budget people, not me," he reminded him.  "We can train a new rookie CSI."

"I put in the forms already.  Will you have a problem with a rookie CSI?"

"Nah.  Why would I?"

"You and the kid don't always work well together."

"He tells bad jokes when he's tense.  I didn't like some of them.  Not dirty but really horrible ones."

"Joking to tense to snaps to weapons pretty," Don agreed from his seat.  "We noticed that way back when."

Mac nodded.  "Today he got all the way to snaps."  He looked at Danny.  "I'll expect you to help me train them if they're a rookie."

"Of course."

"Good.  Thank you.  Let me know if you need more help."

"Mac, no offense, but go spar with the boy.  I may not be able ta beat you at hand-ta-hand but I'm betting the kid can do damn near close enough," Danny said bluntly.  "You need it too and you won't swear at the reason you're so tense."  He walked off with Don before Mac could retaliate.

Xander walked in and handed him something.  "Ballistics for Stella's case and she's hiding."  He walked off again.

"How good is your hand-to-hand?"

"Fairly decent.  I tested out of my beginner class with some after-hours classes that John and I both took.  Senior level I worked with the others because the teacher passed me.  I'm not a technically correct form person but I can do it if I have to.  I'm still a better weapons fighter."

"I could use some sparring time."

Xander grinned.  "Sure, Mac.  Name a time and make sure I'm off."  He walked off happier.  Mac came and got him later that night, taking him down to the PD gym.  It was nearly empty at that time of night.  They had the boxing ring all to themselves and only one person was in there using the heavy bag.  He looked at the ring then at him.  "Gloves or no gloves?  I know some people only go with gloves.  My teacher was one."

"No gloves.  I want to see what you can do."  Xander climbed in and stretched, letting Mac do what he needed to do.  Mac came at the boy and he ducked then kicked him in the side, following it up with a brutal blow to Mac's shoulder to knock him down.  Mac got back up and came at him again while he bounced around.  Mac tagged him this time but he still ducked and avoided then hit him back.  "Go like you would if you were jumped on the street."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't.  I'm tougher than most of the muggers."  Xander nodded and came at him this time, attacking first to show what he could really do.  Fighting vampires meant he was used to a stronger, faster target.  Mac was about halfway there.  Mac slowed down his attacks and Xander dropped back into the newer training, more blocking and avoiding.  He had only managed to tag Mac a few times because he was good at blocking hits too.  He sped them back up and Xander knocked him down with a foot sweep and reached for his dagger or stake holder, not finding it.  He stepped back and panted, calming himself against the ropes.  "Good training."  He got up with a groan.  "Can you box?"

"No.  I kinda learned self-defense against bigger, stronger, and drunk bullies."

Mac paused then looked at him.  "Want to talk about it?"

"No, usually I want to ignore them back."  That got a nod.  "You can teach me boxing if you want.  I'm willing to learn new styles."

"You do pretty good with Corps style self-defense.  John?"

"And some older memories that I got one Halloween," he offered with a grin.

"Good to know.   Are you taking more classes?"

"I can't with my work schedule.  Most of them are afternoon, Saturday afternoon, or early evening.  Which I work."

"We can arrange yours and Chad's schedules."

"I know, but that's a lot of bother for a single class.  John makes me practice against him in the alley at least once a week when he's here."

"Good.  I like that."  He moved closer. "You calmer?"

"I went back to the old instincts and nearly staked you," he said bluntly.

"I saw that.  Thank you for not wearing one tonight."  He clapped him on the arm.  "You did good."  Xander grinned at that.  "You need to keep your guard up better.  That's how I tagged you on the chest."

"It's fine.  I've had worse.  I had one that kept trying to reach into my chest."  He shrugged and got out of the ring.  "Need a ride home, Mac?"

"Did you get your car fixed?"

"The insurance company totaled it with why it got damaged.  I got a nice used car instead."

"I can take the train.  You live in the other direction."

"What else am I going to do tonight?"  He gave him an odd look.  "C'mon.  Change.  I'll drive."  Mac nodded, going to do that.  Xander did the same thing and headed home with him.

"How are you handling John being gone?" Mac asked once they were in the car.

"I'm still worried I'll slip."  He turned the corner and headed off into the evening traffic.  "I talk to him every few days."

"You seem to have a good handle on it."

"I'm ignoring the little voice that says it'd be so easy to do some things with the power I have.  Thankfully all the other versions of me that I have in there now keep telling it to shut up so I have some help."

"That's good.  Do you think they'll ever go away?"

"Not fully.  The one who talked to me about the curse I had to have removed recently said it was like a program slowly unzipping a file.  The more I use it the more memories I remember from them."  He shrugged and changed lanes to get around a cab double parked.  "I'm doing okay I think.  I don't get lost in thought too often but that urge hits and I keep stamping on it but I can't make it fully go away."

"Did you have it before?"

"It was quieter then.  I know that my youth and the hunting stuff makes me a good candidate for a profiler to some day be sitting across from me while I'm in a mask and chained to a table."

"I don't take you as a cannibal, Xander."

"Neither do I but you never know.  I know I can be dangerous.  I know if I don't stomp on that voice more often I will end up being dangerous at the wrong time.  I don't know, Mac.  I'm handling it but I know I need a minder.  I forgot to eat dinner last night."  He frowned then let it clear up.  "I was cleaning my personal exemplar and I forgot."

"I've seen you do that."  He looked at the car, pointing at the small bug.  "Does that work?"

"No.  I made sure it had no wires and wasn't putting out anything.  The thing above it is a jammer, which is why the radio doesn't work."  Mac smiled at that.  "I know.  Someone could take this and make a good case for me having MPD until I told them what happened and then they'd say magic is a delusion until I turned them into a rabbit or something."  His phone beeped.  "I like John being that wired but it's bad for him."  He looked at him.  "But I will warn you the day I have to go.  Thank you for understanding."

"Not a problem."  He patted him on the arm.  "There I am."

 Xander pulled over and let him out.  "Take a warm bath with epsom salts to heal those bruises, Mac."  He drove off once he was inside, going back home with a stop at the take-out place he liked.  Once he was back in the house he called John.  "It was a hypothetical.  No, I'm fine.  I was sparring with Mac to relieve his stress.  He needs some ice packs and he only tagged me twice.  He wanted to know if I was still taking classes.  What do you think about plastic surgery?  It'd help me hide better."  He listened then groaned.  "Fine."  He grinned.  "I just got take out, John.  I promise I'll eat tonight.  No, I was cleaning my gun last night and I forgot.  Thanks.  Be safe.  LA is the crown of weirdness."

He hung up and went to find his bug detector.  It was time to do another sweep.  Someone had been in here earlier.  They had moved his books on the table.  He called Mac while he did it.  "Someone was here earlier.  They moved my books.  That's what I'm doing right now, Mac.  Yeah, I can do that.  Sure.  You sure?"  He nodded.  "Okay."  He hung up and magically packed the whole apartment, calling John back. "It's me.  Someone moved the books on the table.  I'm going to our backup spot."  He hung up and took the packed box down to the car, coming back to take down that doorway and bring it with him.  It went into the backseat and he drove back to Manhattan.

Of course, he forgot to get the food so he had to pick up more.  But that was fine, he could do that.

He walked into the new building with the doorway and the box, taking it up to the place he had bought.  He came back for the food and locked his car after finding all the bugs and destroying them so they could be bagged up.  His car went to the nearest garage and was parked.  He had another one in storage here.  That'd help some.  He went upstairs, finding his phone ringing.  He answered it.  "Elton."  He smiled.  "I'm fine, Mac.  I parked the car in a garage in Manhattan.  I have a backup spot, Mac.  No, I did some redecorating though."  He looked around the very nice apartment.  The building was scummy but inside the apartment was nearly every luxury he could want.

He covered the mouthpiece and did the unpacking spell, watching as everything flew to where it should be.  He had to put up the milk but that was fine.  His clothes were in the closet.  The doorway was put up on the blank wall he had left that way.  "Okay, I'm in," he said once he quit covering the mouthpiece.  He grinned.  "Unpacking spell, boss.  It's very handy."  He sat down to eat, hearing him pleased with that.  "I forgot the old stuff at the other place.  No, I'm proud of my redecorating skills.  No, I checked for bugs before I did it.  I have a 2009 bug defender and jammer.  Sure, you can do that.  Want me to pick you up?"  He grinned and repeated his address.  "I'm here.  I know the building isn't great.  It doesn't have to be.  That's what redecorating is for.  See you soon."  He hung up and turned on the tv so he could watch it while he ate.


Mac walked in with Don and Danny, who had stopped to check his old place.  They had the old takeout he had put there and the rest of the food.  "Thanks, guys."

"Welcome," Danny said.

Don stared around then whistled.  "Like the tent spells?"

"Yuppers."  He grinned.  "So Sam doesn't have to sleep on the couch anymore."

"The furniture there?" Danny asked.

"Can stay.  I own both places."  They nodded at that.  Don went to look around, moaning at the bathroom.  "It's comfy to nap in too," he called after him.  He grinned at Mac.  "Like I said, redecorating.  It was even cheap."  He ate a bite of dinner.  "You can look around."

"Could they have gotten through that doorway?"

"I don't think so.  I'd have to let someone I think."  Mac went to check that house then this new one.  Danny came back from snooping, sitting next to him.  "It's nice enough."

"It's better than most penthouses," he said blandly, giving him a nudge.  Xander grinned.  "Flack dropped that off on the way home."

"Thanks."  Don came out of the back bedroom.  "What?"


"I need them to testify?"  He shrugged. "Shopping was stress relief to the girls in my life and the life with the hormones."

"Fine."  He sat down.  "You comfy?"

"Very."  He grinned at Mac as he came out of the bedroom.  "What's wrong, boss?"

"I found your t-shirt closet.  Please don't traumatize us."

"I always try."  He grinned.  "I heard a rumor that Doctor Hawkes applied for the open spot."  He ate another bite.  "Anyone want some?"

"We're good," Danny promised.  "He did?"  Xander nodded.  "Who did you hear this from?"

"Marty down in the morgue."

"Cool.  I guess.  I don't know why he'd wanna switch," Danny offered.

"I've gotten a few from out of state too," Mac admitted, sitting down.  "Can you help with the new rookie if they are one?"

"Of course."

"Thank you.  This is really nice.  Your decorating style is much nicer than your t-shirts."

"Sam and Dean helped by suggesting."

"Ah.  Do we perhaps miss them more than John?"

Xander shrugged.  "It's all stress relief between us, Mac.  I'm not the Winchester family pet."  The local phone rang and he groaned as he reached over to answer it.  "It's me."  He listened to John complaining about that saying.  "Are you scrying?  I thought I set up defenses against that."  He grinned.  "I'm fine.  I'm sure, John."  He tossed the phone at Mac.  "John."  He went back to his eating.   Mac got up to run the bug detector around this place.  He pointed at the one he found. "The landlord I think.  One of the neighbors warned me he put one in their place to get blackmail.  I pointed out I was a cop and if he tried to blackmail me I'd have him prison within a day."  Mac smirked at that.  Don did too.  "What's he gonna say?  That I have other memories?"  He shrugged.  "They can ask and I can tell them something."

"Fine."  Mac kept the bug, putting it into his pocket.  "Are you sure you'll be all right?"

"I'm fine.  Go soak the sore spots."

"I'm fine, Xander."  He patted him on the head.  "Let me head home.  The car?"

"Up the street at the garage.  I destroyed six bugs in it."  He pointed at the bag.  "They're in there."  He went to get them too.  Maybe he could find something out.  He looked at Danny and Don.  "Are we having a sleep over?  I have some cute jammies if you two want to borrow some."

Danny laughed.  "No thanks.  Not my type, kid."  He got up and Don followed, staring at the kid until he grinned and nodded he'd be careful.  "See you at work tomorrow."

"Fine.  If I must."  He smirked.  "Unless I need another new suit for court?"

"I doubt it with the sixty I saw in your closet."  They left together, heading for their various places to deal with whatever they could tonight.  They'd start looking at who had done what tomorrow.


to part 9

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