Note: set lightly within the Marvel movie verse, kinda.  With my own few twists because I've only seen trailers and spoilers for a few of the upcoming movies.

The Old Ones.

Xander watched what was going on and grimaced.  Yeah, the message he had gotten... things were going to shit quickly.  So he knew what he had to do.  The message he had been sent had been pretty specific about who the bad guys were.  It was just like his former friend and now nemesis to get involved in something like this.  He snuck closer, taking out the watching idiots.  They were good but he....well, he was in a class of his own really.  Still.
He got the three idiots trying to guard their sixes down and went further to rescue the teammates.  One was separated but he took out the car and let him escape.  He got the other guards from a hidden spot and it was nice.  Then he saw *her* watching and plotting.  "Bitch," he muttered.  He walked out and killed two of the three holding the other three hostage.  Then kicked the other one back into one of them when they hopped up.  "Hi, guys.  I was told to come rescue your heroic asses."  He grinned.  "So let's get moving."

"He's shot," the blond guy said.

Xander stared at him.  "Fireling," he murmured.  "You're all protected.  I got asked to protect you."  The blond glared at him.  "I'm Alexander."  The blond relaxed slightly.  "C'mon, let's get you guys out of here."  He helped them get him up and toward the parking lot.  "My keys," he told the older one, handing them over.  "He told me there were only three to save.  You guys take my car, go to where I tell you, and you'll be safe.  I'll make sure of it."

"Who are you?" the older guy demanded.

"Xander."  He grinned.  "It's a long story."  He held up a letter, letting it be snatched from him.  It was still sealed.  "It came with the one he sent me."

"I know that handwriting," the blond said, glaring at him.

"I knew him when he was little."  He shrugged.  "Now I'm protecting things in whole new ways while he's off doing...stupid shit apparently."  He sighed.  "Anyway, he asked me to protect you guys."  He heard a screech and turned, pulling the axe off his back to swing at the woman rushing his way.  She ducked it but he followed and got her knocked out a few minutes later.  "Okay.  We'll deal with you later, Aisha."

"You know her?" the older one growled.

Xander smiled.  "Yes, and a lot of her seven thousand victims over the last few generations.  She's not what you think."  He picked up the dropped letter.  "You're going to a small town a few hours away.  If you need medical on the way, it's better to do that here in town because my local hospital sucks ass and likes to kill people to be blunt.  You can steal from them easily enough if we have to though."  He stared at him.  "Use my car, get your team to safety."

"You don't know who we are."

"I don't care who you are," he admitted.  "I got asked to save your asses and protect you until you were able to deal with some shit.  Which is what I'm doing.  I'm not your usual contact but I think I can be pretty damn helpful.  I have a nice apartment set up that you guys can bum.  The town's really deadly so don't go out after dark or invite people in.  I've got my medical kit and we can get you guys whatever you need at the moment to heal, catch your breath, and move on."  He heard sirens.

"Go here," he said, holding up his ID.  "139 93rd street.  It's a basement apartment.  One of them stinks like hell and the other is yours to bum.  I'll have the tenant hit my couch for a few weeks.  Then we'll get you guys sorted out."  The older guy nodded and Xander helped them to the car.  "I've got a small map machine in the car."  He turned when someone shouted and ran his way, shooting them in the leg.  "Shut up."  They stopped to stare at him.  One walked around them.  "Miller.  Fancy meeting you here," he said dryly.

"Harris?"  Xander nodded.  "We have major issues if you're helping them."

"You have major issues anyway," Xander said dryly.  "I got asked to help them."  He handed the blond the letter.  "Read it later.  It might have some ideas."

"There's a guy named Max," the older team member said.

"Yeah, right," Miller sneered.  Xander glared at him.  "What?  Is this more freakish Sunnydale shit?"

"Ehh, slightly," Xander admitted.  "Agent Coulson, pleasant seeing you here," he said when he spotted him walking through the group.  "Colonel, this guy is SHIELD and I was told to trust them implicitly," he said quietly, staring at Clay.  He handed over the letter he had been sent by his present nemesis and went to handle a few things while Coulson handled things.  Miller, of course, followed.

Agent Coulson nodded, folding it back up.  "Colonel, let me look up something.  Miller, I want your PDA please," he ordered.  "SHIELD business."  He groaned but handed it over.  "A few years back, Mr. Harris' team took down a special operations project that Mr. Miller was sucked into for them doing torture," he told Clay then he smiled.  "We often watch that group in confusion because they're fairly....strange."  He got into it.  "I see.  Max?" he asked, looking up.

"He's here somewhere.  There's a bomb somewhere too."

"Boys, find the bomb, bring it to me," Coulson ordered.  "I'm betting Xander can fix it."  He looked over.  "If he quits pretending."

"Sure but can I have someone do a memory spell?" Xander quipped.  He called someone.  "Willie, Harris.  I am sending four people to Spike's apartment because I have been asked to help them with a fucking moron of the universe problem.  Yes, this is all me, Willie," he said before he could say anything.  "They are sacred; tell Spike he can have my couch.  No one is to touch them," he ordered firmly.

"They'll be there in a few hours.  Tell Spike to hand them my med kit, one's been shot.  I'll pay him back for any necessities like transplantable blood later."  He grimaced.  "Sure, put her on."  The tone of his voice changed to more goofy.  "Buffy, Xander.  I just got asked to help protect a few guys who got royally screwed by a demon overlord wannabe by a very ancient friend who I kinda owe a lot.  They're military but *good* guys.  Much better than anything Riley's people could ever dream of being sort of good.  I'll give Spike my couch so they can have his place.

"Yeah, I'll give them the standard Sunnydale rules."  He took a swing with the axe he pulled off his back.  "No, a demonic wench," he said dryly, after splitting her skull open.  Then he beheaded her.  "That way she can't regenerate this time."  He paused while the dark cloud flowed up and he absorbed it.  "Greatness.  No, leaving here in a few.  One's been shot.  No, you can talk to them tomorrow.

"Because the evil one nearly had them killed tonight, Buffy.  I got here barely in time.  One's seriously injured.  Thanks, dear."  He blew a kiss and hung up then called back.  "You tell her and I'll be damned if you won't have to remodel when I lose my fucking temper and start drinking, Willie.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Okay, you guys will be safe and unmolested for a bit."  He looked at Coulson.  "Anything I need to hear?"

"Minion," Pooch said, pointing.  He was confused but this young guy was acting like he was a higher up and handling things to protect them so he wasn't going to complain.  "His name is Wade.  He's an amoral piece of shit."

Xander turned and muttered before throwing something silverish.   The blond man went down.  Xander concentrated, finding the links from that one to another one and threw another silver thing, which seemed to phase through some boxes without damaging them.  "Miller, fetch," he ordered.

"You're not Harris."

"Bull fucking shit, dude," he said dryly.  "I've always been Xander.  You guys just never watched me well enough."  He gave him a pointed look.  "Coulson, I believe you'll find that Max guy can no longer move on his own and there's going to be a long life attached to a machine for him," he said dryly.  "Maybe for both."  He walked over, muttering something.  A glowy shape brought him a bomb and bowed before leaving.  "Thank you," he called with a wave then he used his axe to split it in two.

"Damn," Miller said, backing away from him.  "Harris, you don't know who these guys are."

Xander snatched his phone to call someone.  "Before you say a word, this is Alexander Lavelle Harris.  Look me up first," he ordered.  The grunt on that side did and gasped.  "Thank you.  As of this moment, I have been asked to step into the matter of an evil overlord wannabe called Max.  Yes, I know he has minions placed in about every agency.  Because I'm looking at some people he supposedly had killed that I've been asked to put under my protection, dear."

He blew a kiss at the bodies being carried out.  "Well, he's presently not able to walk, to move on his own, nothing but talk and I'm sure he'll talk to someone like Mr. Miller or his former cohorts."  He smiled.  "Exactly.  No, you can tell them to write nice suicide letters and then do it if you want.  It would save us some frustration in Sunnydale.  Here's Agent Coulson, I see a problem forming."  He handed over the phone and went to one knee, bowing his head.  "All Father," he whispered to the shadow.

"My favorite grandson," he said, patting him on the head.  "I'm very proud but you should take him back."

"That was his choice to be an ass, All Father."  He looked up.  "Not mine."

"I know but you can forgive him."

"Not yet.  He doesn't want it to be so."

"Point.  How is our daughter?"

"Frustrating the hell out of me," he said dryly.  "Want her back?"

"Not at the moment.  I'll talk to her though."  He stroked over his hair.  "Do what you must, Alexander.  I know I can count on you."  He faded out.

Xander bounced up.  "All right then.  Let's get this mess cleaned up.  Agent Coulson, I got news that this is a snuke?" he said, pointing at the bomb.

"Huh.  We've heard rumors.  I'd like Stark to look at that."

"Cool with me.  Just don't let it come to Sunnydale, please."  He smiled at Miller, who was giving him a horrified look.  "What?"

"What was that?"

"Odin All Father.  Why?"  He grinned.  "You thought the axe was normal?"  Miller shuddered and walked off nearly crying.  "Welcome," he said with a smile and a wave.  "Fucking idiot."  He looked at Coulson, who he respected.  The agent was quiet and read people and what they actually did very well.  "Well?"

"He's back."

Xander turned, staring at him.  "Yes, Odin?"

"Where is my idiot son?"

"Redeeming himself," Coulson said.

Odin snorted.  "He's vain and arrogant."

"He's young and stupid," Xander corrected.  "He grew up privileged because you put him before a lot of others.   Did you *really* expect him not to be a bit spoiled?  You made everyone but him work for it because of that damn prophecy and who his mother was."  He stared at him.  "Eventually he'll learn like the rest of us did, All Father."

"You sound like your father," he sneered.

"Only the best genes," he quipped then blew a kiss with a grin.  "That's why you tried to marry me off to someone who became my nemesis."

"That's his doing."

"That's what I said but you keep telling me to take his ass back," he shot back dryly.  "I'll talk with my uncle.  You go do... Odin things."  He waved a hand.  "Before someone stupid says something and I have to end an agent."

"Fine.  I can agree with that."  He disappeared again.

"Anyway," Xander said dryly.  He looked at Clay.  "Grandson."


"Long ass story, and that's probably partially in the letter.  139 93rd street, Sunnydale.  They won't follow.  They hate Sunnydale and would love to bomb it shut."  He stared at him.  Clay nodded and got in to go there.  It was a good hiding spot.  The map system had been set for him.  He looked at Coulson, who shrugged.  He shrugged back, walking over.  "So, Max," he said with a smirk.  "How are you enjoying things?"

He tried to move and still couldn't so he went with bravado.  After all, no one could really stop him.  "You are not playing with my plans, young man.  I cannot allow that."

"Yeah, our mayor said the same stupid shit."  He pulled out the shiny silver thing, making him gasp.  The waiting paramedics did a tracheotomy immediately and attached an air bag.  "You have fun now, ya hear?" he quipped.  He looked at Coulson.  "I'm going to fade."

"Have fun and Miller will not remember," he said quietly.

"Love ya for it.  Tell Shiny Britches I said hi.  If you see my almost husband, beat his ass for me.  Stupid mother fucker."  He glared toward where he could feel him hiding.  "Roque, I would *so* hide forever and ever," he said bluntly, watching him come out of the shadows with a bloody face.  One of his eyes was clearly damaged.  "Do not go near them.  Do not go near their families.  Hide somewhere they can't find you.  Because I'm pretty sure they're going to kill your stupid ass for betraying them."

"I ....."

"Then fucking come to me," Xander shouted.  "I could've handled it oh so much better and quieter than all this fucking drama!"  He glared at him.  "Shoo.  Go.  Somewhere far away from everything they care about.  Don't go near even distant relatives, don't check up on them, nothing.  Am I clear?"

"Clay's a lot like you," Roque said quietly.

"I realized that.  Go.  Now."  He nodded, fading.  "Somewhere far away for the rest of this lifetime because I also take them as being kinda vindictive."  Roque nodded as he walked, holding his eye.   He took a deep breath, looking at Coulson.  "Tell your boss I said hi."

"I will.  This year's thing?"  Xander shrugged.  "When will you know?"

"No damn clue," he sighed.  "Though I need someone to protect someone.  A whole lot."  Coulson stared at him.  "We just had someone appear and our memories altered to the point where we'd protect her.  No one else has realized it yet."  They shared a look.  "You can take her and Buffy's mom both," he said quietly.  "Something's off about Joyce."

"I can talk to the boss about that, Xander.  Thank you."

"NP, Coulson.  I respect you for the uptight asshole you are, dude."  He shook his hand and put his special axe on his back.  Miller was still staring in horrified awe.  "Should I?"

"He won't remember," Coulson said with a smirk.

"Cool."  He looked at Miller again.  "My mother was one of the Hindu minor deities who got down and funky with a drunk Norse."  Miller shuddered.  "That explains why I'm so badass.  Well, that and the seven and a half thousand years of life."  He walked off, fading to Sunnydale.  The others that SHIELD worked with hated to see him coming.  But he decided to stop on the way, staring at the blond man.

"Uncle," he said quietly, making him jump.  "Your father's still a judgmental ass but he said hi kinda."  Thor stared at him.  He stared back.  "Don't come to Sunnydale.  There are things there that can kill you," he said quietly.  "Including me because of you being an asshole."  He smirked.  "But... Coulson will be back soon."  He faded back to the bar, staring at Willie.  Then around at the mess.  "Fit?"

"Yes," he sighed.

"Hey, it could be worse.  I could destroy people," he offered dryly.  "Because I just helped stop a nuclear device in the Port of LA."  The demons around them shuddered.  "Exactly."  He smiled.  "They're cool but like me.  The idiot after them is now in custody.  Spike?"

"Handling things and cleaning up his porn," Buffy said from behind him.

Xander looked at her.  "Hey.  Thanks."

"What is going on?"

"A very old friend asked me to protect this team.  They had supposedly been shot down with a lot of kids thanks to the evil overlord who had minions in the Army."

"Anything related to the Initiative?"

"I think the evil bitch was slightly involved in the beginning stages but otherwise not directly.  This team, they would've killed them all.  They're Delta Force and will diss Riley if they see him."

"Why are you helping?"

"Because the guy my grandfather wanted me to marry, who is a dickhead, asked me for help," he said dryly, giving her a look.  "Also, Miller's an agent now.  Ran into him in LA."


"And a few others who are *decent* agents.  Speaking of, what's wrong with your mother?"  She stiffened.  "She's looked like she had morning sickness recently."

"Her scent's off," one demon called.  "I work next door to the gallery and she smells sick, Summers."

Xander pulled out his phone to call.  "It's Xander.  Can I have that huge ass favor?  People think she's seriously sick, ones who can smell sickness on her."  He listened.  "Please?  Thank you.  Teenage daughter.  Fourteen."  He grinned.  "She's a bit squealy but precious to us.  Thanks, man.  Yeah, I can meet you tomorrow.  The crew's not working this week.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "One of the guys I ran into earlier, who I trust with major things, will find someone to check her over, Buffy."

She relaxed.  "Not here?"

"Hell no.  I wouldn't subject an enemy to Sunnydale General."  He walked off.  "Let me make sure they'd have everything they need.  They were going against the evil shit and got captured."

Buffy waited until he was gone.  "What possessed him this time?"

"He's always been like this," Willie told her.  "You just don't know him very well."

"I do so," she said, glaring at him.  "We're best friends."

"Then when's his birthday, slayer?" he shot back with a smirk.  "You guys don't ever celebrate anything but Hallmark holidays.  I doubt you know when his birthday is.  Most of us think he's some sort of masochist to keep helping you with the way you treat him."  She stomped off.  He sighed in relief.  She didn't damage anything else.  And neither did Harris.


Xander met the car, nodding.  "C'mon."  He helped that one down the stairs.  His legs were bandaged but he was still in pain.  "Spike?"  The door was opened.  "Guys, this is Spike.  He'll be on my couch for a few days."  He put that one down on the couch.  "Wow, you really cleaned, Spike.  Thanks."

Spike glared at him and spat something in one of the demon languages.

Xander smirked.  "If you had any idea, Spike, you'd think I was the most nummy thing ever, but you'll never find out."  Spike stomped off.  "Since I help pay his rent," he told Clay dryly.  "Read the letter?"

"I did," he said, scowling.  "Why you?"

"My grandfather wanted me to marry him once but he didn't want to help me with my duty and I'll be damned if I'm the wife.  He wouldn't even agree to switching off with our hereditary duties.   So no.  No marriage, no funsies, none of it.  We've been fighting for generations now."  He shrugged.  "Anyway," he said, spotting the blond.  "I know where some of you are.  There's a way to ask for help and asylum if you need it," he said bluntly.   "I'll help you there if you need me to."  The blond nodded once.  "Yeah, they won't be happy but it'll go and they can find out what happened."  He looked at the silent one, pointing.  "My medical kit for the team."   They dug into it, gasping at some of it.  "Our hospital is pathetic."

"So if we go in with a minor thing as a distraction, someone else could lift necessary supplies?" Clay asked.

"Better be very mild and don't let them trap you anywhere.  Guys like Spike feed out of the hospital and it's a haven for people who want parts for whatever reason."  They shared a look.  "But yeah, a broken hand...."  He shrugged.  "I have."  He heard a knock.  "Who?"

"Me," Buffy said.

"Open."  She walked in.  "Colonel, this is Buffy Summers.  She leads our quiet protection patrol team.  Do not let anyone in after dark, or right after daybreak.  Do not invite in delivery guys, it's just not safe around here.  Do not trust the local police or anyone else because their former boss was an evil shit who let them get away with not doing a damn thing.  We presently have a twenty-three percent death and missing persons rate for a reason."

Clay nodded.  "We can stay in and hide."

"During the day is easier and if anyone asks, just say you're visiting long lost relatives.  The town is full of people who act like pod people," Buffy assured him with a smile.  "Can I help?"

"They mostly need medical right now, miss," Clay told her.  She picked up something and bent it, holding it up.  He took it to look at.  "That's solid aluminum.  I can't do that."

She grinned.  "I'm special; that's why I'm in charge."

"With an older British guy looking over her shoulder," Xander added with a quip.  "Do you guys need help with the stitching stuff?"  They all shook their heads.  "Then let's leave you guys to defrag in peace until tomorrow about noon?" he asked the Colonel.  "I'll bring over maps, my laptop, all that?  By the way, your stuff is being packed by someone in LA to be sent here.  It's a favor to us and they really don't want to have Buffy be pouty.  Then we can arrange things like calls home and stuff?"

"That'll work," Clay decided.  "Noon."

"I'll even bring over burgers."  He grinned and left with Buffy.  He looked back at him.  "Relax.  You're safe in here.  Just don't let anyone in."  He walked her off.

"They're way uptight," Buffy said.

"Well, yeah.  They just had a Cobra Commander sort after their asses," Xander said dryly.  "Who had them set up for a tragedy they didn't do and supposedly died from.  They need some time to unwind and make plans while they heal."

"Fine.  I guess.  Who are you letting look at my mother and sister?"

Xander smiled.  Then he pointed.  "Remember the hotty old guy you crushed on?"

"Ooh, yeah," she said, smiling at him.  "Agent Fury."  She shook his hand.

"Miss Summers.  Mr. Harris."  He shook his hand as well.  "What's wrong with her mother?"

"A demon who works next door said she smells sick.  She's seemed to have a lot of dizziness, puking, headaches, and going pale at the sight of anything," Xander told him.  "I'm not really sure why and there's a problem I think with her sister."  Buffy glared at him.  "I just realized it earlier when something didn't mesh.  I don't remember Dawn ever meeting Willow's parents," he told Buffy.

"That is strange, yeah.  They would've butted in to meet her if she .... oh, no, she's the spring apocalypse?"

"Buffy, think," Xander ordered, stopping her.  "Why would your *sister* be the problem?  Someone you're meant to *protect*?"  She gaped then groaned.  "Yeah, I think she's put here to be protected and I'm not fully sure why but with all those new mental patients we've been getting in town....  I'm betting it's related."

"Crap," she muttered.  "So I'm protecting her from whatever's doing that because someone mystical said so?"

"Yeah, I think so," he admitted.  "Which means it's probably pretty heavy if they had to act this way."

She looked at the older guy.  "Can you please find out what's wrong with my mother and scan my sister, Agent Fury?"

"I can have someone do that, Summers.  As *soon* as you know what the problem of this spring is I want to know.   Harris has good instincts and if they're screaming at him to get you guys some help....."

"Yeah," she agreed.  "I'm feeling the same issue."

"Let us know," he ordered.

"Oh, I'll scream and rant," she promised, looking like she was pissed off.  "C'mon, I can take you home so you can talk to my mother about going to see a decent doctor.  I can't have my mom die or I'm ...  I just can't," she said more quietly.

"I understand.  Kid, need a ride?"

"I only live four blocks away," Xander said with a grin.  "They get that thing I cut in half?"

"Yes, and Stark is throwing a damn fit," he said dryly, smirking at the kid.

Xander grinned.  "They called it a snuke."

"Yeah, a sonic nuclear device," Fury said dryly.  "Made by some guys in India that we found dead."  Xander nodded once.  "We're debriefing the evil asshole by the way.  Thank you."

"NP.  I don't want them in my universe at all.  They might try here again."  Fury smirked, taking her to her house.  That was very interesting and someone had to look them over.

Xander looked behind him at the silent blond.  "We're kinda in a semi-closed pocket universe," he said dryly.  "We're part of reality but the old mayor had it partially locked out to keep the power here under his control.  Fury and his people are real good and don't bother us, but they know some day they may have to shut here down suddenly so they're working with us.  After we had to take down a government torturing program," he said dryly.

"Why?" he asked.

"Called the Initiative."

"Huh.  I can look that up."

"Your stuff will be here in a few hours."  He smiled.  "Rest.  I'm about four blocks that way," he said with a point.  "2338.  Apartment 4.  I have my armory if you guys suddenly need it and I can point out our local weapons dealers."

"They won't want to talk to me."

Xander stared at him.  "Some of the priestesses can read minds, Fireling.  That's not a problem and they're very creative in their help."  He smirked.  "Relax.  They know me there too," he said dryly.  "I even dated one."  He walked off.  "Sleep.  You'll want it."

"Yeah, thanks."  He went back inside, closing and locking the door.  "Agent Fury just took Buffy Summers home to fetch her mother and sister to get them checked medically."

"What is someone like Fury doing with these kids?" Clay demanded.

"If I had a computer and access," Jensen said dryly.

"Point.  When our stuff gets here, find me what you can before the kid shows up tomorrow."

"He said he'd show us the local weapons dealers too."  He let himself be sat down so they could look at his shoulder.  "Do we think Roque is dead?" he asked Clay quietly.  It was just them.

"No.  I don't think so.  I have a bad feeling."

Jensen nodded.  "He's right, I can ask someone for help but they're not going to be happy and might try to kill me."

"That's a later point, kid.  Rest."  He let him go.  "There's only two beds."

"I'll go curl up around Cougar.  You take the couch, Clay."  He got up and went in there, curling up around the silent man staring at the ceiling.  "Hey."

"This town is unholy."

"If so, we'll figure it out.  Maybe even help stop it."  He laid down and curled up. "Night, Cougar."

"Night."  He stared at the ceiling until he had to sleep.  Something was definitely wrong here.  The whole area felt wrong.


Xander kicked the door.  "It's me, guys."  Clay let him in.  "Thank you.  Food, as promised."  He handed over the bags and put down the duffle bag and books.  "All right, this is the town's purpose.  It's under the ruins of the high school, which is being rebuilt by rumors."  He sat down and opened the book to show them.  "Technically, Sunnydale is partially shut off from everything else.  That's why the town has such a high denial rate and doesn't seem to progress too smoothly with new ideas or technology.  Did you guys get your stuff all right?"  They all nodded, Jensen grinning.  "Found the Initiative?"

"They're gone, right?" Clay demanded quietly.

"Hell yes.  That was this spring's problem," he said dryly.  "This upcoming one seems to be bigger and badder."  He handed Jensen the book.  "That's on the inter-dimensional rift of energy we slightly have an issue with.  Which is why the town's death rate is so high."  He looked at Clay again.  The silent one in the hat coughed.  Xander grinned.  "I'm not forgetting you.  There are residents with contacts in other areas who can get word back without letting anyone know."

He looked around.  "I can take you guys to Willie's later to let you talk to them if that's the way you want to go.  In the bag are some lighter weapons.  Buffy hates guns so I don't have the collection I think I should."  He got comfortable.  "Burgers are from the Double Meat Palace but they're not that bad."  They settled in to eat, take their turn with the book, all that.  Cougar checked all the weapons, putting one aside.

Xander shrugged.  "That one I got handed earlier by a poker debt.  I haven't had time to check it yet.  Burrs?"  Cougar nodded, staring at him.  "We play kitten poker around here."  They all shuddered.  "They're great information sources, guys.  We're a bit strange but no one here is going to say a single thing to any of you about anything."

"So," Clay said.

"Presently mostly shut but it's got a poor seal."  They all nodded.  "Which draws all the asshole things here to eat people."  He grinned.  "Which is where my team comes in.  We handle the eating things and leave the others who just want to hide here alone."  They all nodded.  "Which is why you never want to go out at night without a stake."  Cougar stiffened, staring at him.  "Yeah, the major problems are vampires," he said dryly.  "The ones here can almost always be staked or beheaded.  They will attack groups of two or three people.  So do be careful."  He looked at them all.  Then he grinned at Jensen.  "I got a nice email from Coulson this morning for you.  It's in the bag."  He looked and found it on the interior pocket.  "Also, maps," he said, pulling out his phone.

"We have Google Maps," Clay said.

Xander shook his head.  "They're so warped.  It's off by about ten degrees.  We mystically mapped and marked."  He let them put it onto the laptop so it was easier to see.  "All right, we're here," he said with a point.  "This is the college.  This is the safe areas near the college, including the bars.  If you move east...."  He manipulated the map.

"You run into one of our lovely cemeteries out of thirteen.  They're putting up a new one."  He pointed.  "This is an underground bar for those who're mafia types or hired by underground sources.  I'm not welcome there and I'm not sure if they'd consider you guys pussies or not since a lot of them like to physically eat people."  They all shuddered.

"Moving on, we have the docks.  We have the safe spots marked with a red circle around them.  That means it's got protections of some sort.  Notice this club, which is all ages, has an open band night, all that, is not one.  It's mostly safe but there are feeders in there.  Vamps love to feed in there.  We hunt through there every few weeks."  He looked around.

"There's this bar, which is Willie's; that's a demon bar.  He's not going to cause you problems and some that go there are peaceful.  Buffy likes to threaten him for information.  I go there to play poker.  So does Spike."  He moved on.  "This is the Magic Box.  If we're not working or in class, we're here before patrols nightly.  Giles, the British guy I mentioned last night, runs it.  He knows not a *thing* about what you guys saw last night."

"Why not?" Clay asked.

"Because Buffy has decided I'm normal."  They all groaned.  "A lot.  Or I should say often."  He grinned.  "It happens.  They're having special girl moments at times.  We're still a team even if they do think I'm too normal for some things."

"Do they even realize?" Pooch asked quietly.  Xander shook his head.  "Are you going to tell them?"

"No.  They'll think I'm possessed again.  She even asked last night," he said dryly.   He shrugged.  "Moving more east we have grocery stores, we have the city buildings.  We have the former school."  They all stared.  "Do not trust anyone from any city government office.  The old mayor was the reason the school had to be blown up.  He was going to eat everyone and kill the planet."

He grinned.  "We didn't have an instant volcano at the time."  Pooch shuddered.  "Yeah, half the town's that way, dude.  Relax.  You're safe as long as you don't go out at night and don't invite strangers in."  He looked at Clay.  "College has a library and 'net access.  College also by now has a lot of open rooms that you could probably con your way into.  Or just sneak in and pretend you're a student that they didn't remember.

"Say you had to switch dorms due to harassment or your roomie dying.  It happens a lot.  The local town library only has two really old computers and no wi-fi.  The nice demons running it will skin you alive, literally, if you break the rules.  But otherwise they're pretty decent old biddies.  Telepathic ones but decent if you don't piss them off."

He shifted, crossing his feet.  "Now, there is another college in town that's mostly shut down.  They're... harder than hell to get into but they do have a lot of vacant buildings that you could probably hide in as long as you didn't let anyone see you.  Campus security is real rude and has tried to shoot some vamps taking over a building.

"If you can get into one and block out all the windows, it'd be safe enough.  Most of them have power and 'net access because it was all rich, stupid kids."  He looked at Jensen.  "Not that you guys can't stay here for a bit but Spike's going to get annoying to Anya and she'll make him pout soon.  It's all drama around here right now."

"So we have a backup spot if we need one," Clay decided.  Xander grinned at him.  "Weapons?"

"Six good places like pawn shops, two who hang at Willie's, and one that hangs at that underground bar that I can introduce you to," he offered, pointing those out.  "This one is actually a legit place because a few years back ATF was looking over his shoulder and still probably is."  He pointed at one shop.  "This one you can also get sharp and pointy stuff from K-Bars to swords."  He shrugged.  "If it's necessary.  Plus accessories."  Someone knocked.  Xander stared at the door.  "Who is it?" he called.


Xander rolled his eyes, getting a telling look.  "One of the team."  He got up to open the door.  "Big problems or little?"

"Who're they?"

"I got asked by someone to protect them.  They're good guys."

"Not by the news," she snorted.

"Yeah, the evil bitch of the universe that was pulling a Destro move I kinda got in the neck last night," he said, making her give him a horrified look.  He stared back.  "Because he was going to blow up parts of LA and the same person warned me of that.  He actually had a nuclear thing."  She shuddered.  "Also, Agent Fury and I talked since Joyce has been so sick recently.  He's taking her to get her checked out and took Dawnie with them I believe."

"I heard that from Buffy.  What gives?  When do you suddenly know that stuff?"

"Since it looked like morning sickness for the last week?" he asked dryly.  "I see Joyce every day for lunch, Willow.  You start to notice these things."

"Oh," she said flatly.  "I haven't seen her in over a week."

"That's why I asked for him to evacuate her.  If it's a new Summers daughter, it'll be safer if they're out of town.  If it's not, he knows some of the best docs in the world."

"Good point I guess.  Buffy said she thought Dawn was mystically placed?"

"Yeah.  Your mother never met her."

She frowned.  "Well, poop.  No, she didn't."  She huffed.  "That's really weird."

"And I'm betting, since they made us all *hyper* protective over her, that there's a reason.  Which is seeming horribly huge...."

"Which we might get backup from Agent Fury for," she realized.  He nodded.  "Okay.  Why didn't you tell me?"

"Why would I wake you up in the middle of the night to tell you that?" he countered.  "If we find out anything, Buffy or I could tell the group during a meeting, like usual."  She glared.  He scowled back.  "We would.  We don't wake people up with random news.  We never have."  She stomped off.  He waved.  "Leave them alone, Willow.  They got used by people who started Riley's group and nearly got killed for fighting back."

He shut the door.  "Sorry," he said more quietly, sitting down again.  "There's a *lot* of drama right now."  They all nodded.  "And if you guys should suddenly start to feel odd, do odd things, or find yourself furry... that's the reason."  They all nodded once.  "Trust me on this."  He looked in the bag, taking out one last thing.  He held it up.  "The only one I have to spare right now."

Clay took the small grenade.  "Gas?"


"Decent.  Thanks, Kid."

"No problemo, Clay."  He stood up.  "I'll be at the Magic Box talking to Giles about her for most of the day until patrol tonight.  Call.  If you get Anya, she'll ask if you want to buy something today.  She has *no* idea," he said quietly.  "And she never will."  They all nodded.  "Thanks, guys.  Need anything right now?"

"Grocery store?" Clay asked.

"Oh!  That was the other thing.  Coulson's little helper fairies sent you something."  He pulled the envelope out to hand to him with a smirk.  "Something about breached CIA funds and they're fucking morons."  He left them alone.

Clay looked in the envelope.  "Six grand."  They all smiled.  "Cougar, go get some supplies."  He nodded, taking Jensen with him.  He looked at Pooch.  "You need to get home."

"Yeah, I do.  Soon."

"I'll see if I can arrange for that."

Pooch stopped him from moving.  "Roque?" he asked quietly.

"Betrayed us."

"Do we think he's alive?"

"Yeah, I do.  I'm pretty sure he's not going to come near us though."

"We need to move the families."

"I know."


"I'm working on a plan."

"Please.  I won't lose Jolene.  I'll have someone take him out even if I have to find a plane with an active missile, Clay."

"I know, Pooch.  We'll figure it out.  Jensen has his sister and niece too."  The other man relaxed again, rubbing this shot thighs.  "Want something?"

"Please.  He has a good kit."

"We'll run a run on the ER later for you."  He got him something and went to look around the building.  There was a washer up the hallway.  The dryer was broken.  There was a huge sewer entrance that didn't smell like a sewer by any means.  The outside of the building was a bit old and crappy but not ready to fall in.  He nodded politely at the officer watching the building.  "In visiting some distant relatives and taking up someone's spare room, Officer."

"We saw you with Harris.  You know he's a trouble maker, right?"

"Yup, but he's a distant cousin."

"Pity.  You guys drunks too?"

Clay smirked.  "Colonel, retired, in the Army."  The officer shuddered.  "I'm trying to recruit the kid."  The officer drove off laughing.  "No wonder he said you're all stupid and evil."  He got a smoke while he was out there.  It was a pretty day, like usual in Southern California.


Xander walked into the Magic Box.  "Willow wanted to know why I didn't wake her up and tell her things last night," he told Giles and Anya.

She snorted.  "That's because she's a spoiled girl," she said bluntly.  "With addiction problems."  She walked off.  "Are you going to buy something today, Xander?"

"No, Anya, I don't think I am," he said dryly, looking at Giles.

"These friends of yours?"

"Got hurt protesting that they were being used by one of the people who started the Initiative.  He had them set up and declared dead too."

"Ah, that's what that story was about.  She told me about them."

"Yeah, not hardly the truth.  Agent Fury knows and has the guy in custody."

"Even better."  He smiled at the lad.  "No work today?"

"I'm off all week," he said happily.

"That means I don't get a present," Anya pouted.

Xander stared at her.  "That means if you broke into the checking account again, I'd be replacing it or paying the rent yourself," he countered.  She huffed but went to take something back to the mall.  "Why?" he asked when they were alone.

"I've often wondered," Giles admitted.  Then he smiled.  "She does seem to be happy."

"Yay," he muttered.  He sat down.  "So, what needs to be done around here that I haven't had time to do?"

"The weapons could use sharpened and maintained," Giles offered.  "A new route planned for patrol tonight."

"Already working on that."  He went to check their armory for things that needed fixed, sharpened, or restrung.  They were really hard on their weapons sometimes.  Buffy came stomping in and he leaned out.  "Bad news or did Willow nag you too for not waking her up to tell her?"

"No, I already got that one.  Yeah, she was."

Xander nodded.  "And...."

"They found a reference by hacking the Council's library for info so we can use that as a start," she told Giles, handing him the notes she had taken.  He looked then groaned and went to look it up.  "It's really not good.  They were talking Hell Goddess, Xander."

"Well then my instincts were On-Star correct," he said dryly, making her smile.  "Your mom?"

She sat down with a sound like she was deflating.  "Brain tumor."  They both stared at her.  "She's in LA being treated and I called Cordy to ask her to keep an eye on them while we were up here dealing with whatever."

"That's good.  Dawn?"

"With Mom.   Mom suddenly has an overprotective nanny to help her though."  Xander grinned.  "Which is good because I don't have to worry about more than Mom."

"We'll do whatever we can to make your mom healthy," Xander promised, giving her a quick hug.  "None of us want to lose Joyce."

"I know.  Thanks, Xander."

"Not a problem."  He gave Giles a subtle nudge.  He knew the older man fancied Joyce a lot, and always had.  "You can go visit and tell us where she is?"  He nodded, taking Buffy there.  It was a long drive but they needed to be with her.  Xander called Anya and Willow on the office phone.  "It's Xander.  Joyce is in the hospital in LA.  Fury's docs found a brain tumor."

"Oh my God," Willow moaned.

"Buffy and Giles are headed that way.  I've got the store until Anya gets back.  He'll give us an update later and tell us where she is.  She does have Dawn with her.  Yes, Willow, our instincts were correct and we're researching tonight before patrol.  Or during it if Tara wanted to take over."  He hung up and went out front when he heard the chime of the door's bell.  "Hey, Jensen."

"Xander.  Is that your name?"

"Yeah, always has been."  He grinned.  "Big problems?"


"That's cool.  We're a nice little occult shop.  We'll be researching most of today and patrolling tonight."

"That's cool."  He looked around then at him.  "Can you... call?"

"Yeah, definitely."  He called her.  "Samra, Xander.  Got a slight thing that I need to talk to a priestess about.  No, a gifted one actually.  A young one who got tagged by something evil.  Please do.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "She'll call one of the senior priestesses and have her call me back."  Jensen relaxed and grinned.  "We'll help however we can, Jensen.  We didn't like some of his plans before.  I certainly don't like them now."  Jensen grinned.  "We have wi-fi in here but Willow's on her way in."

"Thanks."  He left, going back there to talk to Clay and the others about the future plans they had to make.

Xander found the first book they'd want and put it on the table, moving to pull more of the others.  Willow stomped in.  "Notes are on the counter."  She looked and moaned.  "They hacked the Council's library to find that.  I've pulled down the _Gods and Goddesses Obscure and Relevant_ and a few others to start."  She nodded, sitting down to look for that Goddess.  Xander stocked, working on the weapons, and made mental plans.  He called home to talk to Spike too.  Spike adored Joyce because she treated him nicely.  Plus they'd need him on patrol tonight.

"You can't go without Buffy," Willow snorted.  "Get over it, Xander."

He stared at her.  "You mean like the fact that I go most nights without Buffy and you, Willow?"  She glared.  "Get over it.  I'm not normal that way.  You do learn things after a few years."  She huffed.  "Beyond that, not like you're any good without using magic and if you do that you're slipping again," he shot back.  She glared.  He stared her down.   "Would Tara like that?"  She got up and stomped out.  He waved at her back.  Anya walked in looking confused.  "She tried her usual shit and I reminded her she's not much good on patrol without magic."

"She's not," Anya agreed.  "Though I hate that you and Spike go alone."

"Yay.  Buffy's on her way to LA with Giles."  He called her.  "Before the redheaded menace to humanity can nark, I told her off for thinking Spike and I can't patrol tonight because I'm a guy.  Again.  Then I pointed out she didn't do much without magic and that was probably a bad idea Tara wouldn't like.  So she's huffy and probably swearing in your voicemail, Buffster."  He smirked.

"No, she started it when I called Spike about patrol tonight."  He grinned.  "I know we can.  You stay there with Joyce and we'll handle it.  She's more important and if we have to, I'll get someone to help us like Riley.  Since he's still in town.  Yup, not a problem.  No, huffed off when I reminded her she only does things magically and Tara wouldn't like that.  Yup.  Total Willow snit fit, Buffy.  So yeah, expect the huffy, bitchy voicemail.  Gotta go, that was call waiting."

He hung up and flipped over.  "Xander Harris."  He listened, walking off.  "Yes, ma'am.  No, that was the one but that's not what happened.  I'm quite sure of it.  I got asked to intervene."  He walked out to the alley and up the road a bit.  "Exactly.  No, he's not.  He was in no way involved.  That's what he wanted, yes.  Someone to scan him and make a decision.  Because he has a family," he said more quietly.

"Please.  Here in Sunnydale.  I can arrange that, yup.  Thank you.  With him, yes.  That way he doesn't get lost or anything.  Of course.  Thank you, ma'am.  Tonight's bad, we have patrol.  Tomorrow during the day would be good if it is for you."  He grinned.  "Excellent.  Yeah, I can drive him up.  Thank you."  He hung up and texted the phone that had been in the bag.  Then he went back inside to start on the research.

Tara and Willow walked in.  "We have patrol set up between me and Spike tonight, Tara."  The blonde girl smiled at him and patted him on the arm.  "We're having this issue and it's a major one after Dawn."  She took the notes to look over, nodding as she sat down to help him research.  "You two do this and I'll finish with the weapons."  He went back to it.

"I can so patrol," Willow said firmly.

Xander looked at her then at Tara.  "Floating sticks to stake?"

"Magic is not to be used to kill," she said quietly.  "Only for self defense, Willow.  That's a major no-no of the rules."  Willow slumped.  "Let the boys patrol tonight.  Save your skills for bigger things, like this being."

"I'll be upstate for a few hours tomorrow," Xander told them.  "I'm taking one of the guys I got asked to help up to a contact who can help him protect his family."  They all nodded.

"Is that where the car is?" Anya asked.

"Yup.  For right now.  We had to evacuate them from LA last night when the bad guy of the moment almost set off something nuclear in the port."  Tara whimpered, staring at him.  "They're victims of the bad guy's plot.  I got asked to protect them while they heal."

"That's good of you," Tara said, smiling at him.  "Do they need more help?"

"I gave them my med kit, showed them the right map since they had Google maps, and they're resting."  She nodded, getting back to work.

"Which is why Spike is on our couch," Anya quipped.

"Yup," Xander agreed.

"Fine, even though it will reduce my orgasms."

"You're having your cycle anyway," Xander quipped.

"Good point.  That means I get to have fun in the tub, and if he pervs and listens it might inspire him to go find a new girlfriend of his own."  She got back to stocking.  "Xander, you put the wrong candles out."

"That's what the box said," he defended.

"Fine."  She checked and laid out the others too.  Sometimes her boyfriend was such an idiot.  She really had to train him better.


Xander walked Jensen up to the small temple.  "Ladies," he said, moving away.

The priestesses sneered at Jensen.  "What are *you* doing here?  We saw what happened."

"That's not what happened," he said, staring at them.  "I wish to have those memories scanned and entered into evidence against me.  That way the truth is known and the Princess can make a decision."

The head priestess walked out.  "You're sure what we'll see won't go against you?"

He nodded.  "We had nothing to do with those children's death.  It was aimed at us."  She moved forward.

"Mother, he is a worthless waste of energy," one complained trying to stop her.  Xander growled low and loud.  She glared at him.  "You are unworthy, mortal."

"Not a mortal," he said with an evil smirk.  "I'm Alexander."  She gasped, backing away until she could run inside.  "Whiny bitch."  He looked at the head priestess.  "She started it."

"I know.  She's young and stupid, Alexander."

"Xander, please."  He smiled.

She stared at him.  "The same one on Buffy's team?" an older woman asked as she walked out.

"Yup."  He grinned.  "I got asked by Roque to help them."

"It figures he would be mixed up in this."

"He was our teammate until he turned on us," Jensen said quietly.  "Please, Princess, I want the truth to be known."

She nodded at the priestess.  "Do read him so I can make an informed decision."

The priestess laid a hand on his head and gasped, staring at him.  Jensen slumped, nodding while looking at the ground.  "It was not them."  She showed her.

The princess of the dragon realms stared at the young dragon before her.  "Truly, someone is really stupid," she said, making Jensen look at her.  "Where might he be, Xander?"

"Nick Fury has him, ma'am."

"Good!"  She stared at him then at Jensen, hugging him.  "You poor boy.  We'll protect you, your sister, and your niece.  Get me a squire," she called, leading him inside.  Xander went back to the car.  "He is always very polite with us."  She led him to her office to write out a formal edict.  She let the squire in and handed it over.  "Go protect his sister and niece."

"One of my teammates has a wife who is about to deliver," Jensen said quietly.  "We're going to get him to her soon.  We're breaking our path in Sunnydale."

"It's a good place if you mean to hide," she assured him with a smile.  "Plus, Xander is every bit the white knight people say he is."  She patted him on the hand.  "Squire, go."  He nodded and left to pass on that message on his way out there.  She got Jensen settled to talk to him about future plans.  He had to have some by now.  Not as many as she had hoped but she understood waiting until this matter was settled since he had been under an automatic death sentence for his supposed actions against children.


Jensen walked into the apartment and shut the door quietly.  "I'm good."

"What is that about?" Clay asked.

Jensen sighed, sitting down.  "My parents are a lot more like some of those hiding here in town."

"We knew you weren't normal," Pooch said dryly.

"No, my parents are refugees from another realm.  Well, their parents were the refugees.  My parents were both born here.  So were me and my sister."  They all nodded at that.  "But I'm not demonic.  I had to get the death threat removed from my family for what everyone thought had happened.  They're sending someone to talk to my sister and protect her.  They're also getting word to someone nearer to Jolene to watch over her until you can get there, Pooch."

Pooch grinned.  "That makes Pooch a happy man," he assured him.  "Anything else come of it that the Pooch and the others should know?"

"We're invited to the temple if we need to hide.  It's holy ground," he told Clay.  "They really like Xander.  Think he's a neat little white knight."  He grinned.  "So that's one complication gone."

"What sort of creature are you?" Clay asked.

"Dragon."  He got up and went to get a drink.

"Excuse me?" Pooch called.  "Did he just say dragon?"  Cougar nodded, staring at Jensen's back.

"Yeah.  I have two forms.  Tiny and huge.  We all have problems shifting down here due to the energy issues this realm has but yeah.  It doesn't do much for me though."  He shrugged.  "If I was female I'd go into heat every once in a while but not as a guy."  He sipped his milk.   "Basically, now and then I can partially shift to scaled form.  Nothing huge, guys."  He sat down again.  "I had one of the priestesses read my memories and they made sure that our Princess in Exile heard.  So they'll remove the 'kill on sight' orders that automatically happened."

"There was no one who could do that before?" Clay demanded calmly.

"No.  There's very few priestesses who can do that.  There's only six in Central America and we weren't anywhere near them.  I tried to write one but she refused to hear me.  Xander knew one who could talk to one who could read me and she agreed to."  He finished his milk and put the glass down.  "So I'm good there."  They all nodded again.  "Plus someone's going to visit my sister and niece to protect them."

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

"I want proof," Pooch said.  Jensen took off his shirt and manifested some of his scales.  "The tattoos show up as darker scales?"  Jensen grinned and nodded.  "Can you fly or anything?"

"Only if I could get into my full sized form and I can't do that here.  The energy balance is off."  He went back to normal and put his shirt on again so he could sit down.

"Why did you all leave?" Cougar asked quietly.

"Political coup from hell," Jensen said dryly.  "Eighty or ninety percent of everyone who could leave did and a lot who were nesting or something and couldn't leave left later.  My grandmother was one of those.  Some went to other realms, a lot came here because it was compatible and quiet during those times.  That was back during the middle ages though."

"How old are you?" Pooch asked.

"Twenty-six."  He grinned.  "Not old enough to be mating yet.  Just barely old enough to be out on my own."

"Nest?" Cougar asked.

"Yeah.  Females lay eggs in our natural form.  I don't know if anyone's ever been caught while human and gotten pregnant that way.  No one's ever mentioned any gossip about it to me.  But we fly a huge, fancy dance to win our girl of the moment then we nest with her.  We take care of her while she's nesting and then take some responsibility for the egg, but we're not a monogamous species most of the time.

"Most of us do stick around to help raise the eggs to be good little draglettes but there's nothing like a marriage ceremony or anything.  There's very few tight pair bondings who've stayed together over multiple nestings and females can actually have one being raised while another is in nesting stage, thereby having two pouty guys being a pain in her tail at times.  Or so my sister said."

"So, the father of your niece?"

"Shithead," he muttered.  "He was in it for the fun and then fled.  He learned the wrong thing from humans.  If any of the priestesses catch him they can make him pay support but he's laying very low.  No new nestings because they'd have to check the egg and when it hatched, plus register his involvement."

"So they make sure siblings don' each other?" Clay asked.

"No.  That's a scent thing.  Even if my sister was in heat, her scent would drive me off.  Anyone closer than second cousins would."  They all nodded at that.  "Them registering births it to make sure where everyone is, like a census, and to make sure there's not a preponderance of a few males dominating everything.  Because nothing says that guys have to stick with just one female in heat.  There's been some guys that've done two, three females in heat in a month.  Which, of course, they frown on," he finished with a babble.

"So, religious priestesses?" Pooch asked.

"No.  More like historical ones.  They're the scholars, the bookkeepers, the historians, those things.  Priestess is a title of honor when you're made into one of them.  It takes years of training.  Some guys go too but they're still priestesses."

"You thought about that?" Clay asked.

"Hell no.  There's bunches of rules you have to follow and you have to be quiet and study all the time.  No computers.  It was not for me."

"Yeah, because you never shut up," Pooch joked.

"That's right," Jensen agreed with a grin.

Clay shook his head.  "Anyone else have something they want to share?" he asked dryly, staring at Cougar.

"No," he said.

"Thank you for not blowing our minds."  He looked at Jensen.  "We'll get used to you."

"Gee, thanks," he said with an evil smirk.  "I could use someone to oil my scales."  Clay shuddered.  "I'm very soft when it's done."

"No, I'm not touching you that way, Jensen.  Save the dirty thoughts for another day."  He looked at Pooch then at Jensen.  "We have the option of fixing this and then perhaps going back to the military?"

"No clue," Jensen admitted.

"Me either," Pooch said.  "I'm not sure what Jolene would want."  He looked at Cougar, who shrugged.  They all stared at Clay.

"I'll hear the group decision before I make mine."

They all nodded and went back to healing, making plans, and wondering what the hell a patrol around here entailed.  They had no idea.


Cougar followed the two men on 'patrol' that night, grimacing because neither had a gun.   It made no sense to him not to have a gun.  What good would a piece of wood do?  He watched them wait on something to dig itself up, which made him mutter a prayer to God for it being so *wrong* to have happen.  Then the blond man staked it and they moved on.  Cougar was left staring at the pile of dust.  That was not right.  It wasn't normal, even for vampires.  They were supposed to just be really dead until you beheaded them.

Jensen walked up to him and nudged him.  "There's types you have to behead and types that go to dust," he said quietly.  "There's some that take silver, some that take gold, and some that take types of blood.  This species you can apparently stake."

"It went to dust."

Jensen nodded.  "It did, yeah.  They do that."

"That's not right."

"No, but they're vampires."  He grinned.  "Welcome to the stranger things, Cougar."  He walked off.  "C'mon, we can help."  Cougar shuddered but followed.  Spike spotted him and stared.  "Yeah, I know how to stake.  I'm not the best."

"Neither's the whelp."  He smirked at the boy.

"Don't make me hit you," Xander said dryly, staking the vampire trying to nuzzle him.  "I'm not that sort of tasty, Bob."  Spike snickered.  They included the two commandos, letting them learn how to do this.  It was nice to have help that didn't nag, bitch, or complain about her period the whole patrol.

At the end of patrol, Xander pulled Cougar aside.  "There's thirty-nine churches presently in Sunnydale, ten Catholic ones."  He pointed.  "That's the most protected of all of them."  He looked at Cougar.  "They hold protections all night and day so it's always safe and the priest there is a former combat veteran.  That's why he got sent here."  He patted him on the arm.  "Let's get you home."

Cougar walked off, going to the church.

Jensen grinned at his back.  "It's a good thing to know."

"Very."  They dropped him off at the apartment and went home to rest and get ready for a new day of hell and mayhem.


Cougar finally came back the next morning, looking happier.  He looked at Clay.  "Vampires go to dust."

"That's fucking freaky," he said dryly.  Cougar nodded.  "Means I don't have to deal with it then.  Pooch is going to be good enough to go home in a few days."


Clay snickered.  "So far I haven't heard much of anything about the higher ups."

"Coulson sent me an email but he said the higher ups are cleaning the dirty laundry line from hell," Jensen said without looking up.  "Sixteen people within the Army, Navy, and Marines have admitted to being on Max's friend list.  Fourteen of which have killed themselves in some supposedly accidental ways so their families could have their life insurance policies."  He kept typing.  "He also said that the higher ups in the Army are horrified that they were being used that way.

"Max does lead back to a cracker trail into the CIA.  They're trying to clean some of them out.  The Nazi Sacksucker Association is dirty too and they're looking at the NSA ghouls to see if they can end those.  Coulson let out a small joke that Xander probably knows how to kill ghouls."  He looked up and grinned.  "He said it's probably going to be at least a few weeks, if not a month, if things stop being so huffy."

"So downtime," Clay decided.  "We'll get Pooch home, hang there for a while, then go see your sister and niece."

"Good deal."

"He said Aisha had been alive for generations."

"Yeah, about twenty-eight hundred years."  He shrugged.  "She wasn't one of us.  All I've heard are rumors and those I had to look up.  Though I did find out a lot about Roque that I wasn't paying attention to before because I never asked a mystical network about him," he quipped.  He let Clay see that information, getting a grimace.  "Oh, and Anya's past job?  You might've run into her before, Clay.  That's the other screen."

He switched to look at that, shuddering.  "No, mine tried to do it their own selves, they didn't have to call on an outside source to kill their men for them."  Pooch laughed.  Cougar grinned.  He went back to Roque's.  Why turn on them but have someone guard them?  That made absolutely no sense.  Not like Roque usually felt remorse or anything.


Xander looked up from his research when Anya came over looking confused.  "Problems?"

"How do you know a dragon?" she asked.

"I dated a priestess while I was on my roadtrip.  Did they call?"

"Yes."  She handed over the message.  "They don't date humans."

"Some do and I don't really read as a human with the mermaid taint, Ahn."

"Oh.  I didn't think about that."  She went back to the office to play with the numbers in the books.

Xander read it and called her back.  "What's up?"  He listened, leaning back in his chair.  "No, we're staying here.  Yeah, that's why.  No, we're apparently having a huge issue soon," he said dryly.  "Like a Key issue."  She shuddered, he could hear it.  "Can you fax me anything you know?  We've just started the research.  Thanks.  Yeah, I'll tell him.  Laters."  He hung up and called that cellphone.  "Jensen, call your sister.  They just got there and she freaked out heavily and locked them in a bedroom to cry on your niece.  Also, the squire said that your buddy's wife was starting off in real labor so if he wants to be there for the big event, he needs to book today."  He hung up before Jensen could say anything.

A few minutes later, Clay walked in and handed over the bag and medical tackle box.  "Thanks, kid.  Your car's outside.  We got something bigger for the trip."

"Welcome."  Xander grinned.  "Be safe and come back here if you want to hide some more," he offered.  Clay smirked as he walked off.  Xander checked his kit, making a list of things he needed to replace.  He didn't mind them using most of his painkillers.  Two gunshot wounds would make him need some too.   His last one certainly had.

Anya leaned out.  "Was that one of them?"


"He smelled like a dragon."

"He has a very young one on his team, which is why I talked to my ex the other day."  The fax machine started up and he went to get the order off it.  Anya took it to fill and he went back to the research.  "Willow and them don't know about that side of the paranormal before you ask them anything."

"I didn't figure anyone but Giles might," she sighed.

Xander shook his head.  "No, I mentioned meeting a priestess and he got very confused."

"You'd think Watchers would know."

"The ones who knew probably kept it under wraps to protect them since they're fleeing an idiot."

"True, maybe."  She finished boxing up the order and did the invoice for it, stapling it to the box.  The fax machine started up again.  "I'm glad I convinced Giles to put that in."  She saw what was coming.  "Research notes."

He got up to get them, taking them back to the books to counter reference.  "Shit, she is the reason we've had all those mentally tampered with people."  He texted that to everyone and settled in to look over a more obscure reference they suggested he might look in.  Tara walked in a few minutes later with some groceries, going to put them in the fridge so she could help him.  "Cookie shopping?" he asked with a hopeful grin.

"No.  Real food shopping, Xander."  She grinned back, looking over those notes.  "That's very bad."

"Yup, that's super sucky stuff."  He looked up other things.  "Her host," he muttered, running into another reference to that.  "We have to get her host."

"Like an exorcism?" Tara asked.  He let her see, watching her shudder.  "Oh, dear."

"Yeah, a lot of oh damn."  He took it back to go over that section again.  "Can take some heavy firepower.....  Fuck."  Tara swatted him.  "I knew there was a reason I asked Fury to look."  He texted Coulson for a fax number, getting one.  He wrote out the notes they had and included the ones from the priestesses.  Ten minutes later he got a fax back saying they'd protect Buffy's family harder.  Even if he had to bring them there himself.  He also told his boss.  Xander relaxed slightly.  Fury knew a whole bunch of strange freaks who liked to fight really huge problems.  Buffy was the featherweight in his stable of strange cohorts.  "Maybe we can borrow Ironman," he muttered.  Tara cackled, shaking her head.  "Hey, it's an option."

"Maybe," she agreed.  "Still funny."

Then the door blew in.


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