Xander was pacing back and forth, watching the news as it replayed events. He couldn't get hold of anyone out there. Not their cellpones, not their house phones, none of it. His staff wouldn't take him there and he didn't know how to apparate yet. He turned to pace in the other direction and ran into Horatio. "Bad news?"
Xander slumped. "I can't get anyone."
"The earthquake it set off probably knocked out the cell towers and phone lines. They do it often enough in other areas." He made Xander sit down. "They aren't dead, Xander. You'd know that." Xander slumped, nodding, looking down. Horatio sat next to him, putting arm around his shoulders. "Shh. It'll be okay."
Xander leaned against him. "You're sure?"
"I'm sure. Willow said it wasn't going to be as bad as they thought. Sam has his staff and he would protect who he could. He's like that." Xander nodded. They watched the news coverage. It did look bad. They couldn't get even a news chopper near there for pictures. All they were getting was long distance photos. "Was the National Guard there?"
"There's a reserve base outside of Sunnydale," Xander said quietly. "They can step in pretty quickly. Some past governor did it in case whatever happened in Sunnydale spilled over. They probably even have cute codenames for our stuff." He watched, grabbing Horatio's knee. "Busses." They watched as busses pulled up and let out most of the town's residents. Someone said something and some of the military guys headed back. "That's normal residents. No Watchers." He blinked. "Buffy's sister is there." He pointed at her. Then he called her. She had a satellite phone, he had upgraded hers when he had done Draco's. "Is everyone all right?" She walked off to talk to him, telling him what had happened. He slumped, nodding while he listened. "Who didn't?" He squeezed his eyes shut. "Can we get in there to get them out?" He nodded. "I'll see what I can do. I know she's fragged. Be right there." He hung up. "A whole segment got trapped. Sunnydale's no more but they made it out of the hole. The town being sucked into the hellmouth trapped them."
"Go," Horatio agreed. The staff still wouldn't let him. Horatio looked at his. "Send him. He needs to help save his friends." It did that and Horatio went back to the office, finding others watching it. "Most everyone got out," he announced. "I was talking to someone who lived there." They stared at him. "Xander." That got a few nods from those he had mentioned the young man to. They went back to watching.
Xander appeared, startling the military guys. "Hold on. I'm part of the team, I was in England."
"Why didn't you come earlier!" Buffy shouted at him, getting into his face.
"Because the staff wouldn't let me," he shot back. "It still doesn't want me to be here but I'm better at the small tunnels than most of you are." She slumped and he hugged her. "You did your best," he soothed. "You got most everyone out."
She nodded. "Dawn?"
"I called her. She's at the line." She nodded, letting the guys walk her off to check her injuries. He walked over to Dean. "Sam, your dad?"
"Sam's heavily injured. One got him on the back before he could get his weapon away from the one he was chopping up. Then he got stepped on by another one." Xander winced. "They're saying he'll be fine. Dad's somewhere with the trapped ones."
"Are they *here* or are they there?" he asked.
"Here. Definitely here. Trapped somehow," Dean said.
"Okay. You coming?" Dean nodded, following him out. "Which way were they heading?"
"It was more a scramble to get out of the hole and then onto the busses," Dean admitted.
Xander looked at the ripples on the pulled ground and the absolute blankness of everything. "Shit."
They looked at each other then Xander looked at his staff. "Can you pinpoint the trapped ones or are you still mad?" It led him over to a spot that he marked. "How deep? Very deep, can I blow the tunnel?" It flashed. "Thanks." He jogged back and got the emergency rescue kit for earthquakes off the back of a military jeep, going to blow the spot. It wasn't deep enough but they could hear voices. "Let us work for a few, guys. How many are down there?"
"Ten, six injured. We're missing another four," a male voice called.
"They headed east," another, female, voice called.
"Okay." Xander and Dean broke through into the tunnel and he looked at the staff again. "Can you find the other four?" It dimmed. "Even their bodies." It led him off, letting him find three. One was still missing. John. He winced. "No idea where he is?" The staff dimmed. "How about this. Can you summon John for me?" It flashed brightly then got warmer. It gave up after a second. "Dean, I need Sam's staff!" he called. It was brought over. "Okay. Can you do it with his staff's help?" A dim flash. "How many more?" It flashed twice. He looked up. "Harry!" He appeared. "I need your staffs. John's father is trapped somewhere." He pulled them out and they laid them together. "Bring us John Winchester, Staffs." They all hummed and flashed, then John fell on top of them, panting, alive, bleeding on them, on his knees.
"Medic!" Dean shouted. Someone came running to get John for them. He picked up Sam's staff. "Thanks, Sammy's staff." He petted it, letting it rest in his pocket for now. "Thanks, Harry."
"Not an issue. I had to fight with it to get here."
"Horatio had to send me because mine didn't want me here," Xander admitted. He picked up his. "Thank you." It hummed and shrunk, going into his pocket. "If they worry tell them it's closed. Most everyone made it out alive." Harry nodded and left. Xander and Dean went back with the rescue team into the old tunnels, getting the last few injured out. Then they went to check on their friends. Willow was passed out in her bed, being mothered to death by Tara. "She good?"
"She'll be fine. It's exhaustion." She looked at him. "We're going to Angel's."
"If it had let me, I'd have been here," he promised.
She smiled. "Willow refused to call you." Buffy huffed off again. Xander nodded. "Giles?"
"Haven't seen him." He looked around then pointed. "Back corner." She nodded, going back to her fussing. Xander leaned down and kissed her on the forehead, then Willow. "You can come rest with me if you need to." She nodded. He moved to check on those he knew, finding Giles still bleeding. They had some major trauma so he only had a bandage. "Let me, Giles." He grabbed some gloves and the stuff he needed off a tray, going to stitch the cut for him. "Willow wouldn't call?"
"She said you weren't going to be needed here. John was doing a credible impersonation of you in, only in better clothes." He smiled. "I sent both the house elves to Sam's house before we left." That got a nod. "Is it bad?"
"Your wrist is broken; that will ache later on." He finished his forehead and bandaged it with a clean one, then looked. "It's not dislocated."
"No, it popped back in on the way out."
"Good." He felt gently then nodded. "Could use a cast." Dean handed him a brace. "That'll do too." He put it on and looked at him. "Tara was looking for you. She's with Willow. Who's exhausted." That got a nod and Giles hugged him before going to check on her. Xander moved to help the ones who had taken his place. They were working on the people they were sending on so he moved to help Dean with John's injuries. "Hey." He gave him a look. "You still could've called me."
"Willow said not to. She didn't want to see you injured." He shrugged then winced. "Ow."
"You were in hell, John, duh," Xander said. He smirked at that. "Let me get some new stuff." He went to raid for more of what they needed, coming back to patch him up. He glanced at Dean. "The Impala, since I know it's your baby."
"She's sitting outside of town," he promised with a grin. "Dad's truck too." That got a nod. "We'll get them in a few." He finished his last injury and they moved onto the next one back there. The reserve unit only had two medics and a few people who could apply bandages. They were both a bit better than that. Dean pulled Buffy down to look at her hand and arm, finding a splint for her while Xander did the cut on her shoulder. They finished up and left the tent since the medics had everyone else. Dean stared at the destruction. "We're not used to this stuff."
Xander looked at him. "Worse than what we've fought too, Dean." He nodded at that. "Sammy?"
"Already sent to the ER. He went in the first load."
"Go find him. I'll watch John if I have to." He nodded, jogging off for the former woods. They had shifted but not that much. Their cars should still be safe. He looked over as Buffy and Giles came out with a wobbling Willow, pinching her on the arm. "Call next time."
"No. Shut up." She glared at him. "We had others, Xander."
"Not like I had a meeting today, Willow. I would've been here."
"So? We had a lot of others with us, Xander. You were going to be seriously injured and I won't have that." She leaned on Tara, looking at the area of nothingness. "It could be worse."
"It could be a lot more ground," Buffy agreed.
Xander nodded. "Could've been the world. You guys did good work." They all smiled and nodded. "Head off. Dawn's helping the old-guard deal with the townspeople and the story." Giles moaned and walked off with them. He smiled, going to find John. "C'mon, big guy, time to fade into the sunset." He nodded, letting Xander help him up. "Manage to keep the keys or am I hotwiring your truck?"
"I've got the keys." He leaned on Xander, heading out to the truck. "Dean said Sammy's in the ER."
"Nearest one is in LA. We can head there. I'm free for a few more days." That got a nod. Someone came jogging after them. "His son went in the first load to the ER."
"Sir, we can send him," the officer said.
"I can drive him," Xander promised.
"Were you here, sir?"
"No, they refused to call me. He's fine and I'm medic trained." That got a nod and the officer let them go. He couldn't ask them what had happened. They wouldn't know. "Ask Rupert Giles," he called. "He was in the last wave of those who got out. I did his broken wrist and forehead." That got a nod and he went to find him. They found the truck. It was still there, just sideways instead of the way it had been sitting. Xander got him in and took the keys, walking around to drive him to wherever they were keeping Sam. The radio would tell them that. It wasn't that far away. He got there and got him out, walking him inside. "Already treated," he said when a nurse came toward them. "His son, Sam Winchester, is here."
"He's been admitted. You can check with the front desk. He could use a bandage change."
Xander looked then nodded. "You could, John."
"Get a bandage change and we'll head up. Won't take more than a few seconds if she's good." Xander handed him over no matter how much he complained. He grinned because she gave John crutches too. He went to check for the room number, coming back to find John hopping his way. "Third floor." John nodded, heading for the elevator. "See, easier than leaning on my shoulder all day."
"Much. You're bony there." They shared a smirk and headed up to visit Sam and Dean, who was arguing with a nurse. "Hey!" John shouted. "Dean, I taught you better than that."
"They don't want to let me stay."
"Sammy won't stay in any hospital without one of us guarding him," John told the nurse. "Deal with it." He hopped in there, looking at his son. "Well?" he asked when Dean came in.
"Concussion. Few broken ribs. Cracked leg. Mostly the head injury that's keeping him down."
"Then we can wait," Xander said, pulling in another chair for John. "Sit." They sat. Xander looked at his phone, then at the date on it. "Crap. I promised to meet Draco today." He walked out. "Where can I use my satellite phone?" She pointed and he went to the marked safe area, calling him. "Draco, Xander. No, it went off today." He grimaced as he looked out the window. "I'm fine. Willow refused to call me and the staff refused to bring me. Sam's in bad shape. Head injury, a few broken bones. His dad's a bit banged up too. Most everyone on the team made it out. Eight casualties." He pushed back the tears again. "No, I knew two of them," he said, smiling because Draco had known he was upset. "Anya was one. I have no idea why she was fighting. She hated to." He looked up the hall.
"I'm good. I'll call the others. We're at a hospital. Sam's been admitted. John's hopping around. Dean's being stubborn and stoic. I'll take you out next weekend for your present, okay?" He smiled. "Thanks, man." He hung up and called Horatio. "Let them know we're mostly fine. Sam's got a massive head injury and he's been admitted. Plus a broken leg and ribs. Dean's got his staff for now. They're not looking too grim so it should be okay, just a recovery time." He nodded. "His dad's a bit banged up too. So we'll see. I can handle him healing at my place if we have to, Horatio. Yeah, a few. Eight. Two of them I knew pretty well. Anya." He sighed at the 'I'm sorry'. "Thanks, man. Yeah, I'm here. Tell me if we need anything. Thanks." He hung up and went back. "I called Draco since I was supposed to meet him today. He said he'd ask Snape if anything might help. Then I called Horatio. He'll let the others know it's done, Sam's injured and here, and you have his staff, Dean." That got a nod. "So now all we can do is wait and watch how the news plays it."
"How were they playing it earlier?" John asked.
"Earthquake. Bad earthquake." He looked at him, moving to work on his shoulder. "Quit tensing. It'll hurt more. You know that." He worked out the knot for him, making him relax. "Want me to go buy some tylenol?" They nodded. "I can do that." He went down to the gift shop, using his credit card this time. He didn't have any american money on him. He brought that and waters back up, handing it over. "I added a candy bar, Dean. You're shaking."
"I didn't get much breakfast." He looked outside as someone stomped their way. He nodded. "Tonks."
"Boys. What happened?"
Xander shrugged. "Willow refused to call me and the staff refused to bring me. She said I'd get injured so I couldn't go."
She grimaced. "Not real handy of her."
"I already yelled. She's stubborn."
Tonks nodded. "Redheads can be." She looked at John. "You look like you were near the front. Care to give a statement? We can do it in here so you don't have to leave Sammy's side. He's a good boy and needs you to get better."
John nodded. "I can do that." Xander closed the door for him and leaned against the window to listen to what had happened.
Xander walked into the meeting chamber, looking at the others. "We all good?"
"We're fine but that new bare spot out there is freaking some geologists out according to one I know in New York," Danny told him.
"We didn't much like it either," Xander admitted. He sat down, looking at Dean. "Sam?"
"Still dizzy as hell. He sent me."
"That's fine," he said, giving him a hug. "Pass that back and save some for yourself."
"I'm allowed. Buffy yelled at Willow for not calling me too." He looked over as Harry came in with Draco behind him. "Ah, my cousin. How goes it?"
"Two of them decided not to be mine." He handed over the letters.
"I was hoping for that one since she seemed to like you."
"Her parents got an offer from someone nearby." Xander gave him a pat. "My second choice is still available."
Xander smiled. "We'll go over it after this." He nodded and Xander put them into his pocket.
"How is everyone?"
"Anya died during the battle. Everyone who was alive managed to make it out. I haven't heard if my parents did or not. The others are healing in LA or heading to Cleveland." That got a nod from everyone. "I'll put it into the official record in a few."
"That would be fine, Xander. I know it was covered in the Prophet."
"Which is why I went to fire two reporters and the editor," he agreed. "If they had used facts I might not have minded." That got a few snickers from Harry. "Which is why the next day they were saying I was unnatural and evil." The Minster for Magic walked in. "Morning."
"Good morning, everyone. Xander, nice work with the Prophet. They've been annoying recently."
Xander nodded. "Me too." He looked around. "Patricia?"
"Coming in a few. She's going to be slightly late. She had a healer's appointment." Everyone nodded. "You dated demons?"
"Yeah. I was living on the hellmouth. They're kinda drawn to me."
"Is this new one?" Draco asked dryly.
Xander looked at him. "No. And we only went on three dates because she decided I was a goofball."
"Thank Merlin," Draco muttered, leaning back.
"The one he's been seeing this week is a nice water demon though," Dean added with a smirk for him. Draco moaned and leaned forward to cover his face with his hands.
"She's very nice and very harmless unless she decides to drown me. Plus she likes my sense of humor."
"It's not good for the head of the family to date demons," Draco said, glaring at him. "It sets a bad example and I'll never be married, Xander. Can't you wait?"
"Your father's study had so much demon summoning stuff I had to ask Willow what realm some of them went to," he shot back.
"So? It's never been in the press!"
"Fine. We'll be more quiet about it."
"Can't you dump her?"
"Why not? Take up with her later? If she's like you she's practical."
Xander gave him a dirty look. "You don't treat other people like that. It comes back to you, Draco. Remember the three-fold rule."
"We don't go by the Wiccan rules," he shot back smugly.
"Fine, there's still the issue of Karma." Draco went quiet at that while Harry chuckled.
The Minister coughed. "It really isn't seemly, Xander."
He shrugged. "The only ones who like me are evil."
"That's one way to draw out any hidden death eaters," Dean snarked.
Xander smirked at him. "I've already turned in three, thanks though." They all gaped. "Should we start without her?"
"We can wait," Horatio told him. "You really do need better taste in women, Xander. This can't all be about your hellmouth. What happens if your staff doesn't like who you're dating."
"It likes Draco. I asked."
Draco smiled. That solved some of his worries. "Good to know."
"But it liked her. I asked. It flashed happily and hummed. Didn't like the last one but it likes this one." They all moaned. "Then again it liked the thought of me and Sam too. I have no idea why."
Dean shook his head. "That would crimp our hunting a bit."
"There's plenty of ghosts over here," Draco said firmly. "It's much more seemly to have him married to Sam or you than some water demon." The family staff came out of Xander's pocket humming. "See, it agrees!"
Dean looked at it. "Calm down." It and the other staffs started to hum and act up, gathering around the empty seat. The former staff started to reform in midair then hurried off. "They found a new heir?"
"He must've been off-dimension or something," Xander said. He grabbed his. "Be right back, people." He looked at it. "Follow." He landed on a military base and looked around. "Freeze all but the staff holder please?" It did that. "Hey."
He pulled his gun. "You didn't want to freeze me?"
"I came to talk to you about the staff thing." He held up his.
"Okay. What is it?"
"It's the sign you're the last in your family."
"I have relatives."
"Longer story than that," he said. "Would you like to do this here, outside, or possibly with the rest of the Council that staff means you now sit on?"
The guy blinked. "Huh?"
He looked then read it. Then he looked at him. "You're joking."
"Do I look like I'm joking?" He grinned. "Also, big shocker, slightly magical."
"I was torn between that and an Ancient's device," he admitted, looking at it. The writing had changed. "Interesting. Why didn't it come before?"
"Were you off-dimension?"
"Off the planet actually."
"It couldn't find you. It searched down here and went to powder when it couldn't find one. Until you reappeared then they got together and it came back and here we are."
The man shook his head quickly. "Okay. And this means...."
"You're the head of your family. You have a seat on a council called the Founders Council. It's in England. It can get you there if you're down here. It's a very protective staff. Mine helps when I'm in trouble or hunting demons."
"I'm from Sunnydale."
"Oh!" He just nodded. "I've met some guys who were on that project."
"We took them down. They were torturing others."
"Doesn't really surprise me with those I know." He looked at the new guys coming in. "Stand down."
"He froze them!"
"I didn't want shot today, thank you anyway," Xander told him. He looked at the new guy. "Name? Mine's Xander."
"John." They shook hands. "Can we talk some more about this in front of someone with more authority?"
"Let me blip back and come back. We're about to have a meeting." He did that. "Guys, new guy's military."
"Coming," Mac said. "We'll postpone the meeting." He went with Xander, smiling when the guys groaned. "I'm a former Marine, boys. I thought it might come easier from me."
"Sure," John agreed. "The CO's office is this way, guys." He led them up there. "Um, Xander." He unfroze them and someone did shoot. "Someone needs training."
"They'll get it," one of their guards promised. He let them into the CO's office with a knock.
"General," John said.
"I thought it was only me who got into these sort of things," he said dryly. "Mr. Harris."
"Do I know you?"
"I've been over the program out there. I was on the board to shut them down and send them away."
"Can you have Riley molested extra for being an asshole to Buffy?"
"He's working with Homeland and Homeworld Security. That's a worse fate."
"Well, yeah." He grinned. "And you thought I was strange," he said with a grin for Mac too.
"I knew you were strange, Xander. That was very clear the first day I met you." He looked at the young guy. "Mac Taylor, Marine and now NYPD CSI."
"John Sheppard. I work here, kinda. We're in a classified project by the way."
Xander snorted and shrugged. "I know better secrets than this. Mac too probably." That got a nod. "Okay, anyway...."
"Let me, Xander. That way you don't have to babble." He looked at him. "The staffs nominate new heads of their respective families. We thought yours had died out because you were unable to be found."
"By a long shot. Xander said that."
"Good. What he didn't tell you yet, probably, is that not only are the staffs magical but the Founders Council they make us sit on is in magical England."
"He said something about England. He said something about magic too."
"Yes, it does exist," his general said dryly. "Seen it in action when something came after one of the guys in the Initiative."
Xander nodded. "These staffs mean that our family, somewhere back in time, were the founders of the society of wizards and witches in Great Britain. The last of your family died out a few years back due to an evil asshole and then the Ministry we think."
"They had a house fire right after suing the Ministry," Xander offered. "It was never investigated and the asshole in charge then is in prison for other crimes now."
"That's a good thought then. Yeah." He nodded, looking at Mac. "Can we prove this?"
"Probably. Xander, do you have your wand?"
"Draco would kill me if I didn't." He looked around. "I'm not great yet. Only had the thing a year." He changed a statue on the desk into a moving, metal eel. "Sorry, I have problems with feet."
John picked it up to look at. "Wow. Never seen the thing do that." Xander changed it back and he felt it over. "One toe's shorter." He looked then fixed it. "Thanks. Was a diplomatic present I had to bring back." He put it down and looked at them. "So this means I have magic?"
"Could. Tony, another guy on the board, has very little. He can use his staff but not a real wand," Xander explained. That got a slow nod. "We can see. The wandmaker Ollivander fitted the rest of us."
"Okay," he agreed. He looked at Jack. "Permission to go over there with them for a few days, sir? That way I can get things straightened out."
"Let the docs check you first," he ordered. He nodded. "They can wait in here." He nodded and left. "How much of his time will this take up?"
"We try to have short meetings monthly but he can appoint a proxy if he's not there," Mac said. "At first we had a month solid of being there because we had to help with some truly stupid laws."
"Like dictating the color of your clothes stupid," Xander said at his grin. That got a laugh. "We're on the council that makes new laws and keeps the Ministry moving forward instead of backward."
"They pretty well live on a Victorian standard of ethics and codes," Mac told him. "Our last meeting lasted an hour. This one's going to be longer because we're going over the health department stuff."
"Did she finally get figures on which vaccines work on us?"
"She did. She's bringing it with her from her healer's appointment." He looked at the general again. "If he can't be there he can appoint someone who is here or one of the others on the council. One of us is NCIS. There's four CSI including myself. Xander, Sam, who both hunt demons. Harry, who's in school. Patricia votes for seven of them plus hers and the Minister for Magic all have votes."
He nodded. "We'll let him go over today, get this straightened out, make whatever choice he wants. This evil asshole who killed his relative?"
"Is a ghoul. We're finding his remains to kill him," Xander admitted. "That one being brought back was when his relative was killed and his being brought back also was what set off the last apocalypse of Sunnydale."
"I saw that. What happened?"
"The First Evil," Xander told him. Jack gaped. He shrugged. "They didn't invite me for that one. They're still healing. It's handled and it can't happen again. The seal's buried."
"Good. Very good. Where did they go?"
"Some are in LA. The majority are in Cleveland."
"I'll make a note of that." John walked back in. "You cleared?"
"I'm cleared. Am I taking military transport?" The staff flashed and he was in another room with a round table that had a spot in the center for speakers. "I guess I'm not taking military transport." Xander and Mac appeared behind their seats. "Um, hi. I'm Colonel John Sheppard."
"Sit," Horatio ordered. "Welcome back from wherever. You don't have to tell us." He smiled. "Horatio Caine. I'm the chairperson of this council and a CSI in Miami."
"Mac said there were a lot of you." He shook his hand since he was between him and Harry. "I'm guessing you're Harry?" He nodded and shook his hand. "Okay, can I get a more detailed briefing?"
"Sure." Tony came over to talk to him quietly, telling him all that was going on, what the staff meant, all that. That got a few nods as he listened. "So all we expect you to do is help us make decisions or pick someone decent to do it for you when you can't be here. Like Dean's sitting in for his brother today."
Dean waved. "Hey."
"Hi." He looked at him. "We're in control of things?" Horatio nodded. "I'm so going to screw this up."
"No, that's my job, find another one," Xander quipped.
John smirked at him. "Smartass."
Xander grinned. "And proud of it." He looked. "This is my cousin Draco. He's basically my heir at the moment and helping me so I don't make a lot of mistakes."
"I have other family."
"They might not be eligible. Some of the families put in that you had to be magical. Some didn't."
"Wow." He looked at the staff then at him. "I guess that make sense in some ways." Xander nodded. "Okay, now what?"
"Now, we were ready to have a meeting," Horatio said. "Do you have the time today to sit?"
"The general gave me all weekend if I need it."
"That'd be good. Then you could talk to us in more depth, get to know us, where we stand, those things," Horatio agreed.
"We've got a nice house and the house elves from Sunnydale, who're bored stupid," Dean said. "I can call and see if we can get together a picnic."
"That might be nice," Mac said with a grin. "Thanks, Dean."
He nodded, calling home. "Kneady, tell the aunts we're bringing everyone on the Council, including the new guy, back and we're having a picnic. Can you do lunch for us?" He nodded. "Shouldn't be less then an hour, could be longer. That's fine. Thanks." He hung up. "He said two hours to make a decent lunch and get the tables arranged."
"We're going to be here a while today anyway," Horatio said. "I call this meeting to order since we're all here. For the record, our missing member has been found and is with us today, John Sheppard sitting in the last seat's position." The recorder noted it. "For the agenda today, the usual two items. Any new laws that need to be looked at and the next meeting date. A report from Xander about what happened in Sunnydale with the First Evil situation. Patricia has a movement on the health department idea in new business. Any other new business to discuss?"
The Minster for Magic cleared his throat. "Tickle. Sorry," he said when everyone looked at him.
"Twirpy, can we please have some water or something?" Horatio called. The house elf brought in a tea tray with coffee for the officers and Dean. "Thank you, Twirpy."
"Welcome, Horatio sir." He looked at the new one. "Did not see you. Will get you something. Master Malfoy?"
"Please," he agreed. Twirpy disappeared and came back with cups for them, coffee for John and tea for him. "Thank you, Twirpy." The house elf disappeared and he got some sugar from Xander when it came nearer. "He's a house elf," he told John.
"Okay, was wondering if he was alien." He took some sugar for his own coffee after tasting it. "Not bad."
"Beats military issue," Tony agreed, getting a grin back. "Does anyone have anything new to look at?"
"No, just the usual banter," Xander quipped. That got a nod from Horatio.
"Meetings first," Mac said. "Our schedule is screwed up again. My boss hates that we three sit here."
"Be honest, he hates you and me," Danny said dryly.
"That too," Mac agreed. "He had personnel redo my schedule. He doesn't like my 'commitment' that I have to do for a few hours certain saturdays."
"He can blow me because he put me on for ten days straight," Stella told him.
"I fixed yours by switching one of yours with Lindsay."
"Thanks. It in my box?" He nodded. "I'll check when we get back."
"He's apparently been talking to my Chief because he fixed mine as well," Horatio admitted.
"There is the proxy idea," the Minister said.
"My nephew isn't old enough. He's only sixteen," Horatio said. "And in Brazil."
"I'll take it if I can get here," Tony said. "My director is still not happy with us."
Xander looked at Draco. "Is it ethically wrong for me to offer to memory charm them?"
Draco put down his tea cup, considering it. "It's practical but probably not ethical."
"The American aurors yelled at Mr. Wolfe on my staff for doing one," Horatio told them. "I doubt they'd like this one either."
"Not yours, Horatio. You might not have one soon anyway. Willow told me to warn you there's a big demon moving into your territory. She'll email you how to kill it if you need it."
"Why?" he asked patiently.
"It wants and eats silica."
"It's going after the fake tits?" Tony asked. Stella smacked him on the arm. "Sorry, breasts?"
Xander shrugged. "She thinks that and all the other plastic surgery parts." He shifted. "It had been in LA but Angel's son Connor drove it off."
"Dad was wondering. How did Angel have a son since he's technically a walking corpse?" Dean asked.
"Ask Wes. He was there for it. I wasn't. I've been missing out on all the bad things being over here. Including Cordelia being a higher being."
Horatio gave him an odd look. "Your ex?" Stella asked. He grinned and nodded. "Aw, damn it. Can't you guys stop the world going to hell?"
"We did," Xander said. "The higher powers picked her as a messenger." He shrugged. "Don't know why. Guess it's because she can out-stubborn anyone who doesn't want to listen."
"Probably," Stella agreed.
"Hey!" an incorporeal voice complained. "I'm a good messenger, thank you!"
"Of course you are, Cordy. What do you think of the new girlfriend?" She appeared and smacked him across the face then disappeared. "Okay, guess she doesn't like her either."
"At least she has some taste," Draco said dryly. Xander shot him a smirk. "She must, she doesn't like your taste in women after having dated you."
"Uh-huh. Keep it up, Draco. I can still make you marry Buffy."
"Please don't," Harry said. "Buffy's a very nice girl and Draco might warp her."
"I'll tell her you think she's nice, Harry," Xander said with a grin. "When is a good day for you guys, getting back on topic."
"The first," Mac said.
Horatio looked at his. "I have court that day but I might be able to be here in the afternoon."
"I'm off that day, I think," Stella said. Mac nodded. "Danny?"
"As far as I know. Tony?"
"Good with me. All I have to do is tell Gibbs when and he'll arrange it. We're always on call even when we're off."
The Minister looked at him. "Doesn't that tire you out?"
"Only when we get called out in the middle of the night for a case and end up sleeping in the office for the next four days. Those are not good cases."
Horatio looked at him. "Gibbs makes you sleep in the office?"
"He expects us to be there when he's there. If he goes all night, we go all night. My desk chair is very comfy and I've got a good spot behind it if I want to be more horizontal."
Horatio shook his head. "That's probably not a good thing by employment law."
"He's Gibbs. You tell him no."
"Good point," Mac admitted.
"We get the next day off once we've solved," Tony assured them.
The others cops all shook their heads.
"Hate to say this but I've had to pull extreme hours due to apocalypses before. Is that the right plural?" he asked Harry. Who shrugged.
"That sounds right," Mac agreed. That got a nod. "I know you can't stop in the middle of yours but most of our cases have a stopping point while we wait for reports."
"We nap during those, we just do it in our chairs," Tony told him. "We're Marines because Gibbs is a Marine, Mac. We live on his code."
Mac nodded. "I can see that." He patted him on the arm. "Patricia, is the first bad for you?"
"No, it's fine with me but I would prefer afternoon." She put a hand on her stomach. "I have to announce I'm pregnant."
"Congratulations," Xander said, smiling at her. "I hope you're happy with your little future demon in there. Because I'm told all toddlers are demonic and a form of chaos sorcerer with what they get into." She giggled and nodded that might be true.
"When are you due?" Stella asked.
"Then we'll have to throw a shower for you," she said. "I do excellent ones around the office. I won't let the guys plan a thing." That got a smile and a nod. "So, afternoons are better for the morning sickness?" She nodded quickly. "Okay. Minister?" He looked at his schedule then shrugged. "Nothing on the first?"
"That whole week is free for random emergencies."
"Good. Dean? You and Sam?"
"We're clear until Sammy's better. That'll probably be a month." That got a nod. "Harry?"
"We have a transfiguration test that Monday," Draco said. Harry gave him a look. "She announced it to our class."
"I must've been being bothered by Ron about his owl's feathers coming out." Draco nodded. "Good to know. As long as I get some time to study that weekend I'm fine."
"If I'm around Earth at that time I can be here. If not, I'll have someone chosen by then," John promised.
"Let me know," Horatio said, sliding over his card. "That has my office number and email on it. I have a house elf who answers my phone when I'm not there."
He nodded. "Okay, I can do that." He tucked it into his shirt pocket.
"Then we'll set our next meeting for the first in the afternoon." He wrote that down. "The second old business. Any law complaints?"
"One," the Minister said, handing it down. "Species."
Horatio looked. "That should've been covered under the 'you can't abuse or hurt an animal or mystical creature one," he said.
"The judge said it was. Species said they want a specific law against it."
Horatio looked at him. "Specific laws lead to later confusion."
"I know. That's what I pointed out. Can we add an amendment underneath that one to say this is covered under that? That would be specific enough for them."
Stella took it to look over. "That should've clearly been covered."
"They feel it's too broad. Gives too much leeway for interpretation."
"If it causes physical pain, embarrassment, or a health problem, it's harming them," Xander said.
"I like that wording," Horatio said, writing it down. "The embarrassment would cover those who're sentient."
"Would that leave an out for the sick bastards who like to *touch* the animals in that gross way?" Dean asked.
"No, and language please," Horatio ordered. "That should cause physical pain."
"On some of the larger ones it might not," the Minister said.
"That would cause a health problem and aren't most larger ones sentient?" Xander asked.
"All but dragons."
"I'd like to see one of the animal buggerers go after a dragon," he said dryly.
"It's happened. Every year we get someone back from one of the preserves who went after them. They usually come back in a box, but they do come back."
"Wouldn't touching them that way back up something or cause a health problem from the egg delivery tunnel, whatever it's called on dragons?" Dean asked.
He considered it. Then he nodded. "It probably would."
"Someone could infer that it would cause them pain," Xander told him. "Most judges aren't going to toss out a complaint like that."
"So we can put on a follow up stating this would include any acts that would cause physical pain, embarrassment, or health problems to occur?" Horatio asked. "Patricia?"
"I like that wording."
Horatio nodded. "Minister?"
"I do like that wording."
"I don't think it's necessary but I'm okay with the wording," Stella said. "We can write the announcement to say the species department wanted that one clarified, right?" That got a nod. "Then I'm fine with it."
"Mac, Danny, John?"
"I'm good with it," John said.
Mac shrugged. "I thought it was implied before, like Stella. Can we make it an announcement, not a law?"
"A posted clarification is allowable," the Minister agreed. "We've had to do that before with Fudge."
"We saw why," Stella assured him. He laughed. "So a clarification would be just as easy?" He nodded. "Then can we do that, Horatio?"
"I don't see a problem. Patricia?"
"No, if that works for them then I'm fine," she agreed. "So are the ones I vote for." They all nodded. "Anyone else mind?" No one said anything.
"Then I declare it passed and we'll write up the announcement." He did that and passed it around, letting everyone read and sign it. It was handed to the Minister, who nodded and put it with the original. "Any other legal issues?"
"We are getting a challenge from the Wizengomet," the Minster admitted. "Someone is challenging the fairness of a law because it applies to men."
"Everyone is equal under the law," Stella told him. "Even men."
"Which law?" Horatio asked. "Next meeting or this one?"
"Next one or later." Horatio made a note for the next meeting. "The indecency law."
"More men do things like flash kids than women do go around topless," Dean pointed out.
"Guys who wear robes and nothing under them then intentionally expose themselves for the shock value," Xander defined. "Like the guy in the paper today."
"I was hoping that applied to him." They all nodded. "Good. I'll let Law Enforcement know." He tapped the table a few times. "The person challenging it thought that it was unnecessary to include men into that law."
"As the guy in the paper proves it's not," Dean pointed out.
"True. They can make an argument next meeting?" Horatio nodded. "I'll let them know they can make a *brief* statement and ask for it to be changed at that point. Along with the judges over the hearing who let it stand."
"The briefer the better," Xander agreed. "Speeches put me to sleep."
"I'll make sure they realize some of us are more action oriented," he promised dryly. Xander grinned back. "That's all I had. Did anyone else have any?"
"I had a question about one," Patricia said. "One of the people I vote for." She handed it over. "This is one they wanted to know the reasoning behind."
Stella looked then at her. "Because everyone's equal under the law, even if they're not born into families that've been wizards for centuries. The law applies to everyone or it's not ethical."
"They are purebloods and they thought it was unfair to them."
She passed it on. "If their kids are superior, let them prove it."
Horatio read then passed it on. "That is a good point. Yes, it would apply to them that way, Patricia. We all agreed on the sub committee that the first rule was everything was equal to every person we hold sway over." She nodded at that reasoning. Dean passed it on to her and she passed it onto the Minister. "I know that the purebloods want to consider themselves better because they've been doing it for so long but that may not be true."
"Speaking as a member of a house that has a lot of purebloods, some of them are downright stupid," Draco told her. "A few of the ones in my house should never work and never breed they're so badly inbred or they lack that much intelligence. I'm not enamored of a muggle born being given preference over them but I can see that some of us aren't worthy."
"That's why we wanted to post civil service exams for Ministry positions," Tony told him. "So they could prove who the best one was. By the way, had that hearing and a few of the Ministers are blaming non-purebloods for creating change."
"I didn't like that one who complained that a half pureblood witch had changed some forms made him more work. It was two yes/no questions and it saved him three more forms, but he said it was ponderous and slowing him down," Stella reported.
Horatio nodded. "That's not a good thing. I wish some of our forms could be fixed that easily." Mac nodded at that.
"Every now and then we have to fix the 'see question...' and a page number answer we give on ours," Tony told him. "We have four forms that only have three questions on them but they go to different places so we can't just include them on the other one and then print off various copies."
"I thought that change brilliant myself," the Minister admitted. "Saved me time and ink. I'm starting to like this Civil Service exam idea as well. A lot of the Ministers agreed that if they had a sure way of knowing who had a clue how to do things they'd have hired them instead of the ones they've presently got. Species included."
"Thank you for coming to that meeting," Stella told him.
"Figured it was better than a huffy goblin," he said dryly. "By the way, you should talk to them about the Ministry's accounts sometime soon, Horatio."
"Over budget? Isn't there an office for that?"
"Yes and they were allowing Fudge to have a special category."
"If it's against rules we can sue him to get it back for the Ministry," Stella offered.
He grinned. "I like that you're mean, Stella. Thank you."
"Not an issue. He did a lot of wrong things."
"How much?" Mac asked.
"Over a million galleons over the course of his career." Patricia gasped and moaned. "Exactly."
"No, I think she's having a problem," Xander said. "That's blood on the floor. Get a healer, now!" He walked over there, helping her down onto the floor, curling her on her side, letting her knees come up. "That way you'll reduce some of the flow of blood," he soothed. "Now, let's calm the breathing so we can calm your pulse rate," he said, showing her how. She stared at him and followed along, calming herself until the healer got there. "I've got her doing some deeper breathing to slow her pulse rate," he said. "Need help lifting her?"
"Please." They got her onto the gurney and floated her off immediately.
Xander sat down again. "Twirpy?" He appeared and Xander pointed at the blood. "However you do it so it can't hurt her more, please." He nodded, getting stuff to clean that up. "I say we take twenty and make sure she'll be fine and those who need it get a snack since John looks starved."
"Seconded," Stella agreed, heading out.
"Let's take that break so we can make sure she'll be fine," Horatio agreed. He paused long enough to call her family's shop. "Are you Patricia's husband?" He nodded slowly. "Horatio Caine."
"Yes, Mr. Caine, what can I do for you?"
"Patricia was just carried out of here bleeding. We're headed to the hospital now to check on her if you'd like to join us?" He nodded, hurrying through the floo to come with them. "Xander noticed her starting to bleed."
"I'll thank him later. This isn't our first one." He rushed ahead once they got there. "My wife? Patricia D'Ortens?" She pointed and he went back.
Horatio looked at the nurse. "Is she being admitted so we can come check on her?" She nodded. "Then visiting hours are when?"
"After five until seven," she said. "She'll be down here during the earlier ones probably."
"That's fine, we'll be back by then to check on her." She nodded and they left, heading back to the room. Xander, Harry, and John were talking, none of them looked happy. "She'll be admitted. We can visit between five and seven tonight, boys." He sat down again.
"For those who can't be here to visit, I'll bring cards or whatever for you," Xander offered. They all nodded. "I guess we're holding off hers until next meeting?" Horatio nodded. "So just my report?"
"Just your report," Horatio agreed. "Do you want to give it or Tonks?"
"She took statements. Whichever one the Council wants."
"Let's see if she's busy first," Harry said, going to floo her. "Tonks, are you too busy to come give us a final statement on the First Evil matter?" he asked once her head appeared in the floo.
"Nah, doing paperwork. Give my wrist a chance to uncramp. Be right down, Harry." She hung up and went to tell her boss. "They want a final statement on the First Evil nastiness."
"Have fun. One of them got brought out by the healers just now."
"Patricia. Nice enough lady." She grabbed that folder and brought it down, handing it over. "So the Council can have it copies for their records." Horatio let the recorder do that. "Basically, we were a bit slow to stop him. It lessened it but by the time we had done the second raid to find You-Know-Who the First Evil's minions had moved onto the second step. It did lessen it a lot. As did Xander's time turner accident with the staffs and Harry. They found that it took seven slayers to accomplish sealing it again. Rosenburg activated all the slayers during the battle. They went in to do it and lost about eight people. Including Xander's former girlfriend." Xander nodded at that. "On the way out a vampire with them sealed it. It had been his blood used and his soul sealed it."
"Vampires with a soul?" the Minister asked.
"Special exception. He went to have one put in because he loved Buffy," Xander explained. "It was Spike. William the Bloody officially."
He nodded at that, making a note to look him up later.
"When Spike sealed it, it started to suck the ground into the seal," Tonks told them. "It created a damn big mess of nothingness on the ground. Sucked most of the town in. Took out a good mile and a quarter diameter around itself." That got a few shudders. "A few of the people got trapped on the run out and they were rescued somehow. I know Dean and Xander both pitched in for that. Xander said he couldn't get there for the fight due to his staff not cooperating. That's why he jumped in to help with the clean up and rescue efforts. As of this time, the remaining slayers and Watcher gits are either in LA recovering and helping that Angel bloke with his upcoming apocalypse, or they're headed for Cleveland to take care of the hellmouth that opened there when Sunnydale closed."
Xander coughed. "Giles has found and bought a new building for them in Cleveland. It's a small campus like area and it's about seven miles from the hellmouth. They agreed to keep all the slayers there for now for training. At this time they're going out to find any that the Bringers missed but didn't make it to Sunnydale. Plus all the hiding Watchers. They'll set up British operations within a year. Once their insurance company pays and they have a new building up. Giles said half the old Council is going to be tied up in a closet until then or he's sending them to help Angel with his apocalypse so they die. Buffy nearly shoved one out of a moving car. Dean, you'll be happy to know that John was teaching the girls back in Sunnydale so a bunch of them are going to do what you guys were on the way there. That way you two don't have to worry so much about getting back anytime soon."
"I'm sure Dad had a lot of fun teaching them to salt and burn remains to banish ghosts."
"Probably not. Dawn said a lot of the girls were kinda whiny at the moment. It might've been more to give them something to do to keep them out of trouble."
"Should we worry about Angel's upcoming apocalypse?" Horatio asked.
"I'm told they have it, I'm not needed since so many Watchers and their strike teams remain, and we only have to worry about it if Angel loses. If so I'll let you know on my way over there to chew them a new one and help handle it at the later stage."
Horatio nodded. "Anything else we should know?"
"I'd hate to be over training for that building full of slayers," Tonks said dryly. "Are they coming after the magical ones?"
"Travers didn't survive. Giles is now the head of the Council. The others voted him in. Things will be changing so they might come ask the girls locally but they won't demand, won't take them from their families, none of that. No making them into perfect little soldiers or anything. We're waiting on Willow finding how to uncall them. That way we don't have twenty or so slayers available for any emergency."
"I'd hate to see the emergency that needed twenty if this last one only needed seven and a few backups," John said.
"That's why we're waiting on Willow to uncall them."
Tonks nodded. "Looks like it's all fixed and all that, just the clean up and the insurance stuff."
"Which I still have to see if I need to file," Xander said.
Tonks smirked at him. "I asked the people who were doing the refugee stuff. No, they didn't survive. Your uncle either." Xander got up and snoopy danced.
"Keeps me out of Azkaban for killing them," Draco said dryly.
"He was really proud you were ready to kill them for him," Danny said with a grin. Draco smirked back.
"Sit," Horatio ordered, giving Xander a fond look. "You can file for that later. Thank you, Tonks. More hand cramps?"
"Finishing up reports as trials are done for the death eaters we caught." He smiled. "I know, but it's a good thing. I'll get a drink tonight and it'll be all better." She smiled and left. "Hey, boss, he danced a silly dance he was so happy," she called as she walked in.
"Figures he can't dance," he called back. "You have any done?" She went to drop her done stack on his desk, making him moan. "No wonder you have cramps." He stared to read and correct any misspellings for her then sign it and pass it on.
Xander and Draco were corned during their lunch after the meeting by a reporter. It was Xander's fault, he had chosen to eat in the open today since it was so pretty out. He was not liking the rain that made up British fall. "What?" he sighed when he heard her squeal of pleasure.
"Mr. Harris, I have a few questions," she said, pulling out a quill and a notepad. "I know you don't mind."
"I'd rather you left me and my cousin to talk about family matters and came back later," he told her. She gave him such a hurt look.
Draco stared at her. "We're talking about my choice for spouse. Can't you wait two hours? He's due to give me a present and you can have him while I coo over it."
"It'll just take a minute and deadline is at five," she pouted.
"I'll be done long before then since he has to visit the council member in the hospital." She started to sniffle. "Oh, not that," he complained.
Xander patted him on the hand. "If we do, you can coo in peace."
"Thanks." He sneered. "Fine, go ahead. Be done in under ten minutes when our food gets here."
"Yes, Mr. Malfoy." She looked at him. "First, a council member collapsed?" Xander nodded. "Do you know of what?"
"Ask her family. I don't give out personal information about other people." She scribbled that down. "Anything else?"
"Oh, yes. You were seeing a young woman recently?"
"I was but Draco didn't like her, the family staff appreciated her but wasn't the happiest about her, and Draco yelled about her not being suitable. So I'm considering if we're dating or not."
"Better not," Draco said dryly. "You'll get into more trouble."
"She's not like that."
"I don't care. It's still bad for the family and you have to take that into account."
Xander sighed. "See what I put up with?"
She nodded, scribbling that down. "Is she a muggle?"
"She's .... Well, yeah, she's not magical in the least."
"Are all the girls drawn to you really evil because of the taint you took where you grew up?"
He shrugged. "I don't know why I attract bad girls. This present one isn't in the least that I can tell. She might be a normal girlfriend if she and Draco can come to an understanding. If not, I'm still considering it since he rightly pointed out I have to be good for the family image now and then."
"Oh, I see. That can be trying." She looked at her list then at him. "About the lust potion you were given against your will...." She nearly froze at the look in his eyes. "Was there or was there not a bonding potion added?"
"As far as we know only a chaos potion was added to it. We can have it tested for that since we did keep samples for future reference. What do you know about that?"
"Just that that's why Minister Fudge was sent to prison. We know it was more than just you. I was wondering if you'd tell me who you broke the potion with?" He shook his head. "If there is a bonding potion, are you going to do right by them?"
"We'll see. If there is that would be decided after talking to them." She nodded, writing that down. "I still do not want that incident in the press. It has the ability to hurt a lot of people."
"Of course. We'd never do more than note that you were put under it against your will. Anything else would be supposed at." She got out of the waiter's way. "Are there any new rulings from the Council?"
"Not today. We were going to go over a suggestion but Patricia fell ill. We'll go over it next time. There's a few major ones in front of us soon. We're looking over the ideas for merit. We also clarified a law today for the species department. Anything else?"
"Just one more question, sir. When do you expect to marry and have heirs?"
"When I find someone I want to be with. I'm too American to put up with a loveless marriage or an arranged marriage. I'd have to like my spouse a lot to marry them." She nodded, writing that down.
"He will try to make it someone who isn't like his first one however," Draco said smugly. Xander gave him a dirty look. "I meant loud. She was very loud when she showed up to complain."
"She was," he agreed. He sniffed his food then cut the steak into pieces. "Anything else?" he asked before taking a bite.
"Are you two close?"
"He's taken a personal interest in my life since both my parents have been killed," Draco said dryly. "He's helping me find a good spouse as well."
"I hope he picks you one you can get along with, Mr. Malfoy. Any idea what your present is?" He shook his head so she left with that.
He shook his head again. "I don't like them doing that."
"Think how Harry feels. They stalked him into his shower once."
"That was bloody brilliant of me to tell them how to get into his tower," Draco said smugly. Xander smacked him on the head. "He's too much fun to pick on to leave alone."
"Yes, Xander." He dug into his lunch, smiling when a box was pushed across to him. "Mine?"
"Your allowance for the year," he corrected. Draco gave him an odd look. "Just open it."
Draco opened it and looked then gasped and hugged him. "Thank you!"
"It's a smaller one. I've given you your parents allowances as well. It's all in there for you and it will be deposited monthly for you. After this I thought we'd go let you do a bit of shopping."
Draco smiled. "I could look in the broom shop." He petted the key while he ate a bite of his lunch. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. I told you I'd start handing it back when they both died or there was no danger of the family fortunes disappearing."
"He's in jail."
"He was kissed last night," Xander corrected quietly. "I got the owl this morning."
Draco slumped, looking at him. "Why?"
"One of the dementors in custody got free and went after him. He was high in the hierarchy and they got another one for the same reason before it was caught." Draco nodded at that. "I'm sorry. I should have announced it better."
Draco smiled. "That's true. Not that I minded about him."
Xander patted him on the cheek. "You'll do fine, Draco. I promise you will. So you like the one?"
"I do like her. She's beautiful. She's nearly my age. She'll be graduating a year before me but I don't mind that. She's got some good skills managing estates since she does her own. It's a good match for me. She'll increase the family's wealth, even if I can't touch it due to the prenuptial agreement she was demanding." Xander nodded at that. "I can't see many down points. She'll mellow as she ages. Her views are a bit more progressive than my own and I don't necessarily find fault in that since she's capable of thinking for herself. I think I'd like to offer for her."
Xander nodded, handing over something. "I had the family's attorney draw that up for you."
He read it over, smiling at the clauses. "If I can't have hers, she can't have mine?" Xander nodded. "Clauses for upkeep if something happens to me. Penalties if she hurts the family or if we divorce and it's her fault. I do like that one." Xander grinned. "Thank you."
"Welcome." He punched him on the shoulder. He handed him a pen and Draco signed it. Xander signed it and rolled it back up. "We'll mail it on the way to the broom store."
Draco grinned, digging in again. It was good for him and Xander was a very lenient stepparent at the moment.
to part 11