Sunday, December 21, 2008 5:10 PM

I had an evil thought while reading Vo's newest work.  What if the feds, demon ones, decided to blackmail ie send the teams from the top three labs in the US, and a group of feds from two agencies to Sunnydale, post Initiative. They end up living next to Xander, who stakes a vampire in the front yard in front of them.  On top of that a higher being promises to kill YED and his followers if the Winchesters will go to the Hellmouth and protect his little chaos maker, Xander, who the others are sent to watch.   As part of his probation House is sent to Sunnydale with two Doctors of his choice to settle the issues in the hospital, he runs into Xander saving one of his people, this was a set up.  Now everyone is trying to figure out why they were sent after Xander and Xander, well he just thinks the   whole thing is funny and is ignoring the demons who keep leaving him presents, a panicking Anya and Spike, and confused Scoobies.

            From: "Neverwill"

Ooh, please!  Someone do this one; most stories feature Xander off the Hellmouth, but I'd love to see the normal chaos set ON the Hellmouth instead.  We also don't usually get to see the girls or Giles have their faces rubbed in their bad behavior until later, not as it's happening.


What Once Was Now Unravels.


The demon wanted his offspring *out* of his clan; he was annoyed at the little drone that was always organizing things.  So he did the nicest thing he could, he gave his ultra-efficient, ultra-conservative, too-nuts-to-know-any-better cousin to the government as a drone in one of their offices.  That way he could do alllllll the paperwork he wanted and no one would say anything but 'good job' or 'here, have some of mine too'.  His clan member was happy and he finally got back to the ordered chaos that ruled their clan's lives.


The little drone, also known as Barry, was looking over some forms.  "That makes no sense," he told it.  He carried it into his boss's office.  "Sir, I was going over those failing statistics you had me look into."  His boss looked up.  "This one has been failing for years, sir, and no sort of penalty was applied.  It looks like no one was paying any attention until last year when I looked up the town in our records.  We show it's failed on all the ratings to get federal grant money for decades and we were still handing it out until last year.  Then there's a sealed mention I can't get into and suddenly things are going to hell out there."  He let him see what he had found.

He considered it.  "That's not good.  That's so far under our guidelines we should have investigated it years ago," he decided.  He looked up.  "Do you have any ideas?"

"No, sir.  I can look at their other reported statistics.  Maybe see if something else is going on?"

"Do so.  If we need to, we can send an auditor out there to see what they used the money for and make them pay it back.  Check their education records as well.  That's probably near a state college.  If their education is as bad as their budget reports are, then they're going to be in trouble with the DoE too."

"Yes, sir."  Barry went back to his office to start an in-depth analysis of that town.  What he found amused him to no end.  "I thought the clan elders said magic was fake," he muttered.  He kept going.  There was not a single reported statistic that was anywhere near federal levels for grants or help of any kind.  In fact, by the end of the day things were looking so bad they should have shut them down back in the fifties.  He walked it up to his boss's office.  "It's worse than we thought, sir."

"How bad can it be?"

"Until three years ago there was a thirty-five percent graduation rate.  The state college in town had the highest rate of drop outs and unpaid student loans ever, and the lowest level of graduated students in the state.  The law enforcement statistics were obviously doctored, or at least I hope they were because no *sane* town would report a forty-percent missing persons and homicide rate combined."  He boss gasped.  He let him see it.  "Someone should have seen this back in the fifties, sir.  If not sooner.  And only one family has ever been the mayor."

"Is he still there?"

"The last one died during a high school graduation ceremony year before last," he said dryly.  "Then the classified file happened and now things are slightly worse than they were before."

He read through the reports then looked up at him.  "There's no way California wouldn't have sent in auditors."

"I called someone out in their auditing office.  He said the last one they sent ended up dead in a mysterious car crash just before they got to town.  Just like the last of seven of them."  The boss groaned.  "There is not a single spectrum I could find that did not need oversight, sir.  If we could remake the town it might help our glory a bit, but I'm wondering how the town wasn't shut down with homicide statistics like that.  The local state police chapter is reported as not going near the town by their own admission.  I called out there to ask them if the statistics were correct.  The sergeant I spoke to said they do *not* go near that town.  No matter what.  If it's that bad, the national guard has a base there."

"What is going on out there?" he demanded.

Barry shrugged.  "No idea, sir.  It's impossible but even their local hospital should have been shut by complaints and lawsuits but no one seems to do anything about their fifty percent patient death rate."  The boss shuddered.  "Can we do anything about this?"

"I think we can.  I know some people I can talk to tonight, see if they've looked into this town before and what was done."

"That classified file worries me," Barry said.  "I can't get into it.  It's eyes-only and classified for anyone above an 18 rating, sir."

"I'll keep that in mind.  Good job, Barry.  Have a good night and pat yourself on the back."

Barry beamed.  "Thank you, boss."  He walked back to his office very pleased with himself.  His clan leaders would be astonished at how much he got done with simple paperwork instead of a sword but it was more satisfying sometimes to redtape something to death instead.  The frustration was so cute when they moaned.


Barry looked at the list of people who were going to be sent to look over that very strange town as the auditing team.  "Sir, with all due respect," he said, interrupting the chatting going on.  "I think we need to send people who understand serial killers or things of that nature."  His boss and his boss's boss both stared at him.  "With a homicide rate that high and a missing persons rate that high, and the records I subtly got from the state police stating that they had the world's highest death count by barbeque fork, I think the team should be tilted that way, if only to protect the auditing team.  Their department is pathetic to say the least.  They don't have more than a coroner on staff.  A few detectives that don't do anything.  Some officers that never seem to patrol.  If we're sneaky enough, we can put other people on the team who are law enforcement or even agents in case the situation is more dire than we thought and it is a serial killer."

The boss's boss stared at him.  "That's not a bad plan, Barry, but we'll need people who can do the official reports."

"We have agents who have masters in education I'm sure."

"I know a few, yes."

"We know that there's some very good police departments in the US, including crime labs, that could easily solve this if it's a serial case.  They said the town's not that small but it's not a city either.  One of the state police officers I talked to said it was small enough to run across if you can do a marathon and get to safety."  He slid down a few more reports.  "If we use agents or law enforcement people who have other areas, they could protect each other."

"That's not a bad idea," Barry's boss agreed.  "I know I talked to someone who does the hospital accreditations and they want to send someone out now as well.  It seems they've got some residents there too."

"I did see that most of the injuries haven't been weapons based that we know of," Barry told them.  "Most of them have been wild animal attacks or some such as they covered."  That got a grim look.  "I talked to the friend of a friend of a friend who knew someone in fugitive recovery to see if they'd ever been in the town.  He simply shuddered and said he'd quit before being sent there.  That he was a good shooter, he was ranked third for sniper qualifications, but he could not handle that town and he pitied whoever went in.  He did say whoever went should have a broad weapons knowledge and be able to hunt."


"I asked, he shuddered and walked off making subvocal whimpering noises, sir," Barry said with a small shrug.  "Apparently he had a capture there once but he's the only one I could see who had worked in Sunnydale before.  Even the LA FBI office didn't show up for the gas explosion at the high school graduation."

"That's odd."

"Very," Barry agreed.   "It's almost like that story about Dracula's 'don't see me' spell he uses on Mina, sirs."

"It has been," his boss agreed.  "I didn't know you liked movies, Barry."

"One of my cousins was in for a visit and was watching it.  I laughed at the unreasonableness of it and walked off, sir."

"Ah.  Wise of you."  He looked at his boss.  "It does have some merit.  We do have agents we can send."

"If we can't, we might be able to use simpler law enforcement people.  We'll need one to look over their systemic failure anyway," Barry agreed.  "I'd suggest a supervisor of a higher department or maybe even a crime lab supervisor.  That way they could see if they were gathering evidence or investigating at all."

Barry's boss's boss considered it.  "I can put together an auditing team with that in mind, boys.  I know some people I can blackmail and talk into going.  Good work."  They both smiled.  "Leave this to me."  That got a nod and they left.  He looked over the reports.  This was very bad.  They had been giving money to people who wasted it on unimportant things, like crossing guards.


The head auditor walked into the conference room.  "Thank you for coming, gentlemen."  He closed the door.  "I know it's odd but we need your help."

"Why does the auditing office need us?" Jethro Gibbs, an NCIS agent, asked.

"Because we have  town that has systemic failures on every level.  Gibbs, I know it's not your area, but there is a national guard base there and we may need someone who can talk to them.  Plus there is a sealed *military* file out of that town that we have no idea about.  We can't get into it.  Even those of us with the proper clearance."

Gibbs looked interested in that.  "Why?"

"We have no idea.  As one of my minions put it, it's like Dracula's don't see me spell is breaking down.  For the last fifty years, this whole town has had a high death and disappearance rate.  It has had a horrible graduation rate, down to the single digits once or twice in that time frame.   The hospital accreditation board agrees and is co-sponsoring this exercise."  He nodded at the doctor in the room, handing over the files.  This was his probation and he had to do it to keep his license.   The others he had...talked into being there by judicious use of offers of grants and blackmail material.

"This will take some skills, Doctor House.  I was told to tell you to be as mean as you wanted.  It was needed with those statistics and missing bodies."  House shuddered.  He looked at the others.  "The reason we asked for lawn enforcement picks was because there is presently a thirty-five percent homicide and missing persons rate combined."  Everyone stared at that number.  That was higher than most of the US combined.  "Exactly.  We think if it's needed you'd feel more comfortable with your own kind at your back but you do all have the necessary skills to tell when something's very wrong."  He passed out assignments.  "We want  you to look into those areas, see what's wrong, report back to us and if you have an idea how to fix it let us know."

Mac Taylor, Marine and CSI out of the NYPD, raised his hand.  "Why me, Caine, and Speedle?"

"Look at the statistics.  He's doing education, you're doing the department but if needed you can lean on him.  I almost asked someone out of Las Vegas' lab but they just pulled a serial killer of their own and my choice is on that case."  That got a single nod from them.  "If you look, you'll see they had fifteen deaths last year by barbequing accident."

Speedle, a CSI from Miami, burst out laughing.  "You're joking, right?"

"No I am not," he said plainly.  They looked in their information packets.  House raised his hand.  "Yes, Doctor House?"

"This looks like it should have been shut down years ago."

"But it hasn't been for some unknown reason.  You've been authorized to bring two doctors with you to help you straighten them out.  Base it on your own hospital and what a teaching hospital should be.  If you can, work with these ones to find where the missing bodies and parts are going since they're not going to transplant lists.  There's been no organs on any transplant list that have come from that town in nearly ten years."

House looked up.  "Research?"

"Possibly.  I have no idea.  I do know that their original mayor died a few years back at a high school graduation's gas explosion.  I do know that his family had been the only mayor since the town had been started.  Also, to be blunt, we've heard your bullshit meter is very powerful and we think you'll need it.  The old mayor put out reports on gangs of kids on PCP for a lot of injuries and deaths."

House shook his head.  "Even if they're bathing in it, they can't account for these numbers," Mac Taylor said.

"Exactly.  And we've been giving them grant money for some reason."  That got a nod from everyone.  "You were chosen because you can all protect yourself if something should happen.  You mostly have similar training.  We know the state has given up on them because their last seven auditors died in mysterious car crashes just outside of town."  That got another mass nod of disbelief.  "So, please, find it and let us know so we can fix it.  If you find the serial killer or whatever and can arrest him; Detective Taylor's packet has information on their state police, who will not enter the town either."

"That's insane," Gibbs told him.

"Exactly and we don't like that around here.  We're the government, not a bunch of mystics.  No matter which paper accuses half of us of selling our souls to higher demons for favor and power."

"Only a quarter," Gibbs said dryly.

"Only at the higher levels," he shot back with an evil smirk.  Gibbs snorted at that.  So did House.  "We've arranged for a flight to leave in three days so you have time to tell your bosses something and to pack a few bags.  I'm hoping it won't take you more than a few weeks but if you have to...."  He waved a hand.  "The state police will be meeting you and giving you officers permission to arrest in their state if necessary and you find things that need to be arrested but the locals won't help."

"We're counting on no cooperation?" Speed asked.

He shook his head.  "No.  I'm not.  I'm actually considering the option of you having intentional interference.  If the officers are all this dirty.... who else is?"

"Good point," Mac agreed.  He looked around the table.  Him, Gibbs, Speed, Speed's boss Horatio, House.  "Will we have it all covered?"

"I do hope Lieutenant Caine can straighten out the city's problems.  You have the full authority of the US Government to stop this situation, gentlemen."

House looked up from his reading.  "Why no women going?"

"It was thought that since the female death rate was slightly higher that it would be safer and I had no files on female agents or officers who could handle things that way.  Also, Gibbs, if you need FBI support, I included a page in your notes on the LA office's best team.  Not their top team, but their *best* team."

He looked at it.  "I think I've met the lead agent."

"Or possibly his brother.  His brother does math for the government now and then in a research and problem-solving manner.  He's why his brother's team is the best in the country right now on arrests."  Gibbs nodded once at that.  "Also, I know that there is an agent who has been there but he refused, under penalty of quitting and going to live in a foreign country, if we sent him there.  His name is right under theirs.  He's on fugitive recovery."

"I can call him for intel," he agreed.  "This base is which branch?"

"Army but their people did not want to deal with it.  Something about that classified file makes them nervous and ashamed.  When we went asking for people over there, their director suggested *you* personally."  Gibbs grimaced but nodded at that.  "He also said that you can chew on whoever you need to and you can head-smack anyone you need.  If you need his people who sealed that file, they're mostly now retired."

"I'll keep that in mind as well."  He leaned back.  "You think it'll only take a few weeks?"

"If you think you can solve it without abandoning the town or blowing it up, go for it.  If it's simple incompetence or something like that?  Fine.  If it's a higher problem and you think you can solve it, go for it.  If you have to gut the city's workers because of them being dirty so be it.  We're hoping for at least a report.  If you can, do more."

"Agreed," Horatio said.  "Will we have what information you've been able to gather?"

"You can and will.  I'll have it waiting on the plane."

"How much leeway do I have?" House asked.

"Arrest them if you catch them doing illegal things or killing patients on purpose.  If you have to call your own administrator, so be it," he told him.  "The hospital accreditation board said it gets fixed or it gets shut down.  With that town's rate of injury, shutting it down could mean more deaths but they'd have to handle that.  I would have sent your own administrator but she had someone she knew above me who said she can't go right now."

"Ah, politics," Gibbs muttered.  "I hate the stuff."

"All of us hate it," Mac agreed.  He looked at House.  "How bad and should I be ready to start arresting doctors?"

"Probably."  He let him see it.  Mac read and nearly whimpered at some of the facts the town had reported.  "Do we think they prettied the numbers?"

"If they reported it and they're that bad, they either thought no one would look and reported the real things or it's much worse and they were trying for pretty numbers and that's as high as they thought they could get away with, Doctor House."


"Very."  He smiled.  "I look forward to hearing from you, gentlemen.  My number is on the last page of all of your packets.  Let me know what I can do to help."  He left them alone.

"I'm hoping they didn't doctor the numbers to make themselves look better.  At this death rate it's already horrible," Mac said, handing it back.  "How do we want to attack this problem?  Go in as a group or separate?"

"Group," Gibbs said.  "He's right, we might need backup."  He looked at Mac.  "Which branch?"


"Me too."  He shook his hand.  "I'll work with you once I've got the local base looked over."  That got a nod.  "Speedle, Caine, anything you two think you'll need in the way of special gear?  I might be able to get Abby to get it for us faster."

"It looks like we'll need our weapons," Speed offered.  Horatio gave him a look.  "Fine, you can check mine.  We all know I'm not the most comfortable with mine, H."

"I will be."

"I'll make sure we have extra ammo then," Gibbs said.  "Doctor House?"

"Not that I'm aware of.  My two minions of evil can help me with that."  That got a nod.  "Bring extra handcuffs?  I think you'll need them."

"Probably," he agreed.

House stood up.  "I'll see you boys in a few days.  I need to terrorize my ducklings and make them sorry for annoying me by bringing them."  He limped out, leaning on his cane.

The others broke up and headed back to their cities as well.  It was going to be a long month.  Thankfully they were all single.


House walked into his boss's office.  "Cuddy, I'm being sent to straighten out a hospital."

She laughed as she looked up.  "You?"

"Me."  He handed over the packet.  "I need your book on rules and regs for accreditation."

She looked it over then stared at him in horror.  "How are they getting away with this?"

"The town's so bad they're sending cops and agents to clean it up, Cuddy.  It's a teaching hospital."

She got him the two books he needed, handing them over.   "Who are you taking?"

"I'd take you but you might die.  They said females go faster out there."  He smirked.  "So I'm bringing Cameron and Foreman.  I think Chase is a bit too nice."

"Cameron is female, House."

"She can hit on all the sick people out there.  A town with a thirty-five percent homicide and missing persons rate," he told her.  "And nothing's shown up on transplant lists."

"That's insane."

"You should thank your political friend for saving you," he said dryly, taking it back to his office.  "Cameron, Foreman, pack.  We're going to straighten out a teaching hospital on the west coast.  They're in pitiful shape and killing patients for some reason.  Expect it to last for a good, long time."  They groaned, staring at him.  "Now!  We leave in two days."  Chase made a small hurt noise.  "You're too nice," he said bluntly.  "The hospital has a very high death rate and no reasonable explanation."  Chase shuddered.  "Pack for warm weather.  They're near the desert by LA from what I saw on the map.  Not in it, but nearby."

"Which hospital?" Cameron asked.  He tossed over the packet.  She flipped it open and stared at him.  "I got an offer to work there."

"Good.  See if you can find their recruiting packet."  He looked at Foreman.  "You can bully, you can snark,  you can beat and have arrested if you need to.  There's agents and officers going in to search out the reason for the town being so bad at the same time.  We leave in two days."

"Sure," Foreman agreed.  He took the information to look over, grimacing.  "Are they selling the missing bodies?"

"No clue.  That's one thing to find out."  He sat down.  "Go do what you need to for paperwork."  They left.  He looked at Chase.  "I'm sure you'll find something to do while I'm gone."

"Hopefully more sane," he agreed.  "If you need more help, call and I'll come out to help you, House."  He left him alone.  He was upset and hurt that he wasn't chosen but House didn't like him and he was too nice to eat someone like House was thinking they needed to do.


The night janitor found the information on Doctor House's desk, looking at it when a familiar name caught his attention.  He looked through it, glancing at the hall to make sure no one would catch him.  His clan elder had to know about this.  He took an immediate break and went outside to call him.  "Sire, there's a problem coming to the hellmouth," he said quietly into his cellphone.  His sire gave a displeased grunt.  "The old mayor's problems have been found out about.  They're sending people to straighten out the town in two days.  One of the top doctors here is being sent to straighten out their hospital.  House."  He nodded.  "Thank you, Sire.  You have a better night too.  Perhaps some of the Highest need to hear?"  He hung up on his 'good job'.  Then he went back to his janitorial job once he had a smoke.


The janitor's sire walked into a bar where a lot of higher demons hung out.  He waved at someone he knew but went right to a back table, nodding polite at the guards.  "One of my clan heard something is going to come back to the hellmouth."  They let him pass.  He bowed to the high demons at the table.  "My minion works at a hospital in New Jersey.  He said the government is sending teams into Sunnydale to figure out what is going on.  One of them is a doctor going to the hospital out there."


"The information he saw said they found out what the mayor had been covering up."  He sat down in the pointed at chair.  "He said they're sending Doctor House out there to straighten it out.  I looked him up.  He's a diagnostician.  Someone higher up stopped their administrator from going herself.  He's said to be mean, but competent and a genius.  He's the one who saved your niece last year," he told one of them.

"I remember him.  He was not a nice person."

"Which is probably why they sent him," another agreed, dealing cards for their current hand of kitten poker.  "Who else is going?"

"My sources in another clan in DC say that they're sending in a military agent.  Someone from NCIS who's said to be a bastard by his own admission."

That got a grimace from the one dealing.  "That could complicate things for the demons who are taking weapons from the base."

"He was recommended by Army CID, Higher.  Personally.  They say he's the sort to take no dung from anyone and that no agency likes to work with him because he will take over on those he feels are incompetent or working too slowly.  One of my other cleaner clan down there say that they've asked some officers to investigate as well.  It is not going to be a good time to be on the hellmouth."

"Why are they going now?" one of the other demons at the table asked.

"One of the lower minions found the statistics the mayor put an ignore charm on."

"Hmm, that could be fatal for many groups on the hellmouth," the original target of this discussion said.  "I'll bring this to the ones above me.  Thank our cleaners for me, elder."

"You're welcome, sir.   I know it could destabilize things as far as LA if the hellmouth goes down."  He left, going back to his own clan.  He decided to call a withdrawal from the immediate area.  That way they wouldn't be caught.

The demons at the table all went to talk to the higher ones they knew in the upstairs hidden rooms.  This was not going to be good for the demon clans.


Two demons appeared in front of the gathered Winchester clan.  They had just gotten back together again in the middle of a hunt.  "We come in peace," he said when they automatically produced weapons.  "We have a problem that you may be able to help us with in exchange for some help with your family's problem."

The other cleared his throat.  "There is a great chance of the government becoming more aware of demons in the one place that drives us all insane with blood lust."

"So you want us to take down the government?" Dean asked in a snark.  He flicked his shotgun's safety off.

"No, we wish you to go there to help guard them from the rogues and sort that populate the hellmouth while they try to undo the work of nearly a hundred years under a sorcerer who wanted to gain ascended status," the first told him.

"The hellmouth is a fairytale," John said coolly.  The safety was already off on his shotgun.  These two were going to get it soon.

"No it's not," Sam told him.  "I've found a lot of information on it online, Dad."  Both other Winchesters stared at him.  "There's a research group in Britain that have a mystically chosen hunter there.  Not to mention there's a whole underground online with demons who aren't out to eat people that live around there for camouflage."

"You're joking, right?" his father demanded.

"No, Dad."  He looked at the demons.  "Why the sudden interest?"

"After the military group failed in torturing us all for supposedly scientific reasons, the project was classified," the second demon told him.  "Unfortunately there are people who count each pea in a pod and each grain of sand on a beach.  They found the spell covering the hellmouth's faults was failing and noted the statistic problems to their boss.  They're sending agents, officers, and three doctors to the town to figure out what we already know.  The hellmouth makes it dangerous."

"So you want us to go guard them," Dean said.  "Even knowing that we could be wanted, and you want them to leave the town alone?"

"If they could fix some of the problems many would not mind," the second said with a smile.  "It would make life easier if the vampire menace there was ended really.  The slayer is good, and her team is behind her most of the time, but there are problems that keep going on because of the incompetent people the mayor hired to hide himself behind."

"It's not like anyone really believes that a gang of people on PCP are responsible for a twenty-seven percent homicide rate," the first demon agreed.

John shook his head quickly.  "They were that dumb?"

The first demon handed over one of the information packets.  "This is what they were giving to them.   We called in a favor with a lower clan who is out there watching those who have made dark deals for power.  He copied one of the information packets they were giving the others.  Truly we don't mind if it gets fixed some but they will not be able to fix it totally.  It would definitely make the humans out there more comfortable if what could be fixed was.  Those who live in peace would be helped."

Sam took it to read over, grimacing.  "And in return we get what?"

"The one after your family is annoying us all.  His plans to create a demonic army to take over this plane are not in line with *some's* plans," the second one said.  "There are many would beat him for his audacity to break into their own plans."

"So you'd take him out in a way that would prove to us he was dead?" John asked.

"Indeed.  Azazel is not among the favored at the moment except by some homicidal ones like Lilith."  He smiled.  "There are many more who do not harm people than there are who want to take over the world.  Unfortunately the former sort do live in the path of the problems in Sunnydale as well."

"We need you to guard the hunting team out there and the people going to fix it.  They may or may not know about your protection, depending on what is going on and if they find out what is unusual about the town.  Do be aware that one who warps prophecies is out there.  He is on the hunting team.  They think he's very...normal most of the time but he has found a way to mess up the way the Powers thought things should be many times."

"If you need support he is a good one to ask.  The slayer can be a bit... uptight now and then.  The witch is showing signs we fear.  The watcher is decent but a bit stand-offish.  They will work with the harmless sorts.  We do like them for that."

Dean looked at his brother and father.  "Well?"

John considered it.  "The demon's dead and gone?"

"That can be arranged and you can have proof of it," they agreed together.

"It really would help many," the second one agreed with a smile.

John looked at his boys, who shrugged.  "How long do we have to get there?"

"The sooner the better.  They are leaving in two days.  You're in Chicago and I know it'll take you a few days to get there."

"Probably about three if we drive mostly non-stop," Dean agreed.  "No contracts, nothing like that?"

"No.  We have no need of your soul, Dean.  There's others who want it more but do be wary of them."  They faded out.

John looked at Sam.  "How bad?"

"I'd want the National Guard and the rest of the military behind me.  Thirty-five percent death and missing persons combined rate.  With a hunting team out there they've got to be holding it down some, Dad.  It says in the past the town had as high as eighty-three percent combined."  They shuddered.  "Plus the hospital looks like it's supplying parts and blood for the demons with what they're not saying."

"We can go," Dean agreed.  John nodded and they headed for their cars to check out of their motel rooms then head to the hellmouth.  On the way John called the other hunters he knew to get information on the town, possibly even on their hunt team.  Sam looked online but John wanted it from a real person he trusted to know what they saw.  Unfortunately the only hunters who had ever been there had died from vampire attacks.


Xander walked into the Magic Box, where the whole slayer team gathered, leaning on the counter.  "We have problems," he told their slayer Buffy.

"Why do we have problems?"

"Because the government sent people to town to straighten it out.  Three guys went to the hospital.  One headed for the school, the others for city hall and the PD."  She moaned, shaking her head.  "They're all military or officers, Buffy, all but the docs.  They all move in that practiced, careful, I'm-used-to-carrying-a-gun-I-can-use-very-well way."

"So we have to hide patrols," she decided.

"Buffy, the mayor tried to blame us for all sorts of stuff going on around here.  Or don't you remember Ted?"  She nodded, going back to frowning, lips slightly pursed.  "If they pull up our files and the locals agree with them, we're in deep.  Me especially since one of them headed for the National Guard base."

"And that footage was showed on the tv," she muttered.  "Okay, start the calling tree."

"I already called Wills and told her to lay low.  You're the last outside of Anya and Giles.  Who're where?  I expected them to be here and you to be in class so Willow would tell you."

"They're at the store picking up the candle order."  She leaned on the counter.  "I'm skipping today.  It was boring and I had a long night so I slept in."  She considered it.  "What do we do beyond hide?"

"I'm all for protecting the guys.  They might straighten out some of the stuff that the mayor did that wasn't hellmouth related.  Especially the hospital.  It'd be very nice to see it working."

"I can keep that in mind for patrol tonight."

"We, Buffster, we."  She glared at him.  "Not like Willow will go."

"True.  I'll warn Spike too."

"Got him, he was in my basement when one of the plant eaters ran in to babble at us.  He had to translate."

"Hell."  She straightened up as Giles came in with Anya.  "The government sent auditors again, Giles."

"Oh, dear."

"Who're all military or cops," Xander said.  "Plus three docs to the hospital.  One's already headed for the base."

"With what the mayor tried to do to your files, that could be a problem," he agreed.  "Are we going into hiding?"

"We need to protect them without them realizing it," Buffy said.  "If they get eaten they might send more people in.  We might end up with another Initiative style mess."

"Which might be one reason they got sent," Xander pointed out.  "If they reported on how things were run around City Hall and things....."

"They could have," Anya agreed.  "They'd have to report to someone.  Are we very worried?"

"We're worried that the mayor's people doctored our records," Xander told her.  "Trying to blame us for stuff he was doing."  She grimaced but nodded.  "Since there's supposed to be two sets of records I'd be very impressed with them finding the second."

"We can tip them off," Buffy offered.  "Willow might be able to do that."

"Maybe."  He looked at Giles again.  "I told Willow.  Spike knows.  A harmless plant demon came in to tell us and he translated."

"Good.  We'll do what we can to protect them.  Find out where they're going to be staying, Buffy."

"Unless they're renting somewhere, there's only one place they could stay," she pointed out.  "Only one motel, Giles."

"Good point."

"That might depend on how long they're staying.  That many rooms for that long would be more expensive than rent," Anya pointed out.  "If they're here to count beans they'd want to rent."

"I'll ask around," Xander offered.  "I'm off today anyway."  She smiled at him.  "So tonight's patrol?"

"By City Hall, by the hospital, threaten Willie," Buffy agreed.  He nodded, heading to see where they went for the night.  She pouted at Giles.  "It's supposed to be slower right now."

"That's probably why they sent them now," he reasoned.  "More time to see why we have such a high death rate."

"I try but I'm only one person."

"Xander does hunt and patrol with you," Anya said.  "It's amazing that we don't get more demon hunters here really."

"I think the last one got eaten," Buffy said.  "I caught someone out hunting something and nearly got there in time to stop the vamp from getting him but I was still too far away so I handed him to the nice coroner."  That got a nod from them.  "Let me go find something stealthy to wear tonight."  She went back to the dorms to check in with Willow.  Willow and Tara would be huddled in one of the dorm rooms so no one would see them.  Even if Willow did hate to skip class, she'd do it to protect Tara today.  They were still a bit on edge from the Initiative mess a few months back.  Thankfully Riley was gone doing something commando'y for now.


Mac looked at the gathered officers.  "I'm sure you know why we're here by now," he announced.  "If not, we're here because the government was looking over the town's statistics and wanted a real report on what was going on."

"The state tried that but they gave up after a few auditors died outside of town," one of the detectives said impatiently.  "Why now?"

"Because someone found your thirty-five percent homicide rate," Mac said impatiently.  They all flinched.  "That coupled with the disbelief that there's that much PCP in the world, the fact that barbequing accidents can't happen that often, and that there's not enough wild animal attacks even in the woods to account for how your people die."

"Who're you to question us?" one sneered.

"Detective Third Grade Mac Taylor, CSI NYPD."  They all groaned.  "For now, we're only here to do an audit unless you get in our way."  He looked around the group again.  "Any further questions so far?"  They shook their heads.  "Then I'd like to see this month's case files first.  Down to the parking ticket level.  We'll go on from there."

"Case files?" one asked.

"You know, those places where you put evidence, statements, those things?" Mac said, glaring at him.  "Don't play stupid with me.  I don't like it and I don't put up with it in my own lab."  They flinched back at that.  "I'll be at that desk," he said with a point.  "If you still need to type in notes, that's fine, but I'd like to start on them by the end of the day if possible."

"If it's not?" one asked.  "Mine's still listed as open, Detective."

"That's fine.  I'd expect that with as many missing persons cases as your town listed.  I'll take what you have for now."  He smiled.  "I can work with you or against you, guys.  Working against you keeps me here longer."

"I'm sure it would," one muttered.  "Our Chief is out today, sir."

"He was found dead this morning.  I already knew that," Mac assured him.  "Let me make this more clear.  My report and the report of the others with me is what is going to continue funding from the state and federal governments, people.   I doubt this town collects enough in taxes and parking fines to pay for salaries, much less all the other things that need to get done."  They groaned and most of them went to grab their files and hand them to him.  "How many officers are on patrol right now?" he asked one of the uniformed guys.

"Um, maybe three out for lunch, Detective.  I'm not real sure.  I'd have to check."

"Please do.  That way I can talk to them about what they saw today on their patrols."  He looked up and smiled.  "I'm not mean unless you make me be."

"Good to know, Detective."  He went to call those guys to tell them to actually do a patrol sweep.  This guy was a hard-ass and was going to make things difficult for them.

Mac settled in to read, frowning at many things.  "We don't gather evidence?"

"Half the time the cause of death is very evident," one said, turning around again.  "Why would we?"

"To find out who did it to them?"

"We already know."

Mac stared at his back for a minute then got back to work making notes.


Gibbs walked into the rental house last, shutting and locking the door.  "I got the charming order to keep the doors locked at all times and to not invite anyone inside," he said.

"Me too," Speedle said.  "There's something seriously wrong going on here.  The school has a very old computer lab but top notch, expensive digital surveillance gear in the halls.  Also, I looked at the site of the old high school with H.  It wasn't a gas explosion.  It was someone blew up the school."

"I know who," Mac said.  "The officers keep attributing things to a few teenagers in town.  I found the file on the gas explosion there.  They were listed as being in the crowd."

"So, malcontent students in a gang?" Speed asked.  "Not with this sort of damage.  No."

Horatio coughed, getting the attention.  "I went into the site until officers tried to stop me."  He held up a small sample collection jar.  "Would anyone know what this is?  I found samples in the hallways and in the former library, which was the worst hit area."

Gibbs looked at it.  "It looks like some sort of decaying flesh."

"It's not human," Horatio told him.  Gibbs stared at him.  "And there was a long group of it.  All throughout the school.  The officers that caught me there were not pleased I was inside even after I told them I was in on this audit.  They tried to hustle me out of there."  Someone left something outside the door, knocked, then ran.  "Hmm.  Perhaps that's something we should know."   He went to get it, finding photocopied files in there.  "Mac, would your teenagers in a gang perhaps be these folk?" he asked, handing them over.

"They would be.  I keep seeing their names mentioned at things.  Also, they have some clearly doctored records.  There's no way a teenage boy can break onto a military base."

Gibbs nodded.  "Yes they can.  I was handed that file first and asked if I was here about that.  The base commander said it had been necessary so they hadn't turned it in.  The other thefts were more recent and they were trying to find the cause but hadn't been able to yet."  He handed over that file.  Mac read it over, comparing the two.  "No idea how but his name was also mentioned in that classified file."

Horatio leaned forward.  "Are we looking at gang violence?"

"Nope," Speed said, leaning back to get comfortable.  "No way.  We've all seen gang violence in the past.  Even Gibbs probably.  This is not a gang.  It's not a gang war.  None of the kids who disappeared this last month were related to a gang.  I do want to note that since five years ago the stats have been getting better on homicide, missing persons, assaults, and rapes."

House stomped in and slammed the door behind him.  "My two docs are going to need a lot of handcuffs.  Foreman caught an ER doctor intentionally trying to kill someone.  He said that he would be paid very well for the patient's rare blood type."

"We can do that," Mac agreed.  "If the locals won't, we definitely can.  Did you report it?" he asked, looking over.

"I tried.  No one came.  Cameron gave him an ear-piercing lecture and he's cowering in a closet.  I let the state boys take him but we're going to need a few more taken out."

"Are they selling parts and bodies to researchers?" Speed asked.  "I know there's an underground for it."

"He said his contact was in town and not in research.  He looked horrified when she mentioned that option."  He sat down.  "Anything good yet?  This town is giving me the creeps."

Mac handed over the files.  "See if you can find hospital records on them?"

House looked then nodded.  "I'll look into it when I go back after dinner.  Cameron found someone cooking the books on deaths and on money issues."

"Wonderful," Gibbs said.  "Speedle, are you going to the college?"

"Tomorrow.  They have a higher disappearance rate than the high school does.  Fortunately not the elementary school or the junior high.  They have some but not that high.  Only about five to ten percent.  The high school had nearly fifteen this month because it looks like a bunch who were out together got taken or whatever."

"What is going on?" House asked.  "There's been no ER reports of that sort of injuries.  The ER's stats have them being slow for the last month.  A few broken things, an appendix case that later died, and a few OD's.  A few assaults but one died and one didn't."

Speed shrugged.  "If they're not ending up in the ER and they're not ending up in the coroner's office, I have no clue, House."

"They're not.  Also, Horatio, you're going to love this.  They don't go out to gather evidence and investigate.  Not a single file I saw today had pictures, evidence reports, statements, anything."  Horatio growled.  Mac smirked.  "How is City Hall?"

"About to be blown up," he admitted.  "For about the same reason.  'We know what's going on and you don't so leave us alone to do our work'.  It's the only place where I've seen where you were able to get a death certificate and the necessary paperwork to bury someone within two hours."  They all stared at him.  That usually took at least three days.  He nodded.  "Birth records are slower I was told via gossip but death certificates are very speedy.  They have a judge on hand for nearly immediate probates as well.  That's all he does."  He looked around the room.  "Speed's right, this isn't gang violence."

"No.  I'm starting to think these files are seriously doctored," Mac said.  "This one, Buffy Summers, was arrested on charges of manslaughter after she pushed her mother's boyfriend down the stairs for hitting her."  He looked up.  "We might do that, if there was good evidence.  Two days later they had her out on bail.  Had searched her school locker."

"Again, we might, but not in that circumstance," Speed said.  "If she did it at home?"  Mac nodded.  "Then there wouldn't be any need to search her locker."

"Her file starts the year before.  Loitering, being near a few assaults, suspected in taking part in some of them.  Including one that shut down a local club for a day to clean up all the mess.  That's all it says about that incident.  They had to drop the charges against her because the man she pushed was no longer dead."  He looked up from reading again.  "He was an android it says and then it's crossed out and said his family was not pressing charges, it had been self-defense and this Ted person was deranged.  Earlier the record states that Ted was unmarried, had no relatives living, and where he lived.  Which was later burned down by someone shortly after graduation.  They suspect her of doing so but she wasn't in town at the time by the next entry in the file.  In another handwriting."  He handed it over.  "This one," he said, waving the next one.  "Willow Rosenburg.  Lists her as a hacker.  Not unreasonable at her age."

"I saw that name earlier.  She subbed in computer class when the teacher was killed in their librarian's house," Speed said.  "He was cleared of it because he wasn't home."

"Someone broke in and left him a body?" House asked.  "That's sick and disgusting."

"On his bed by the newspaper clippings I found online," Speed said with a smirk for him.  "At that time, Miss Summers was mentioned in the article as a person of interest but she had been with the guy at the time so it wasn't her.  The next day's editorial section had a few people complaining that they should stop these gangs who do such horrible things.  In the next month there were about twenty extra victims around town.  Above the statistical average of what they had been getting."

"So a new player?" Horatio guessed.

"Could be."  He handed House the sample jar.  "What's that?"

He looked.  "Decaying flesh is not my forte."

"It's not human.  We've all seen human flesh," Speed pointed out.

"I figured you had."  He jiggled it.  "It's got scales on one side.  Big scales.  Where did you find this?"

"In the wreckage of the school that had that supposed gas explosion," Horatio said.

"Hmm.  Interesting.  I'll test it tomorrow."  He put it into his pocket.  "What are we dealing with?  I got ordered to not go out after dark if possible."

"Us too," Gibbs told him.  "We have no idea.  Yet."

House stood up.  "Let me get back to the hospital to terrorize more people.  Taylor, want me to start a list?"

"Please and where we can find them."  That got a nod and he left.  Mac looked at them.  "The most interesting file," he said, holding up the thickest one.  "They included his family's file in his for some reason.  Both parents' and his uncle's."  He handed it to Horatio.

Horatio flipped through it.  "Drunk parents and uncle.  Suspected in a bomb threat to the school.  Suspected in arms dealing.  Suspected in a terrorist action in a mall?"

"The kid stole a heavy weapon from the base and used it on something.  The commander showed me the film from the newscast," Gibbs admitted quietly.  "I've got it in the car."  Horatio went to get it and Speed's laptop to play it on.  He pointed.  "The blonde is Miss Summers I'm told.  The dark haired guy is Harris.  Rosenburg has to be the redhead."  They all shuddered at what happened.  He looked at them.  "I have the feeling that we're looking at their protection not the bad guys."

"Which would be why she was found near some assaults," Speed agreed.  "Him too.  Possibly why Rosenburg hacked."

Mac nodded.  "I'll look for other records tomorrow, guys.  The governor personally called the new mayor earlier to tell him to cooperate."

Horatio smirked.  "I was in there being told to mind my own business when he did it.  I talked to him and he gave me areas his people wanted looked at.  Including how they used eminent domain to grab land from a shopping center for a new cemetery."

"There's twelve in town," Speed told him.  "Are they all full?"  Horatio nodded.  "Said who?"

"The present mayor when he tried to defend himself."

"Uh-huh.  Miami doesn't have that many cemeteries and we're a lot bigger than this town."

"Exactly," Mac said, looking at him.  "We need to see what's going on."

Speed smirked.  "I saw her following me when I came back here."

"I saw the Harris boy heading for the hospital with a suspicious bulge under his shirt in the back," Gibbs admitted.  "Not a gun, but it looked more like a machete maybe."

Horatio hummed.  "We will see.  Soon."

"This is going to drive me nuts," Speed agreed.  "I saw a teacher teaching common grammar in the tenth grade classes.  What you got in sixth grade in our years."

"So probably fourth or fifth now with the current educational guidelines," Mac agreed.  "You're sure?"

"The history teacher was going over Pilgrims and Thanksgiving being a big feast everyone was invited to as a show of good will.  That they were all friends."  He sneered.  "To seniors."

"There's no way they don't want them to think critically by then," Gibbs said.

"Thinking equals questioning," Mac quoted, looking at him.  "We were both ordered to obey and not think about our orders in boot camp, Gibbs."

"But they're not being boot camped."

"No, they're being trained as sheep," Speed told him.  "It was like a film of a regular high school but the school nurse said she hands out nerve pills to a good quarter of the school.  Not ritalin or something to help with ADHD, but nerve pills.  While I was talking to her, two kids came in for their Xanax.  Junior high kids.  She's also got an impressive collection kit there, H.  You'd almost be proud of it.  She's even got a staple gun for those kids who need stitches."

"That's not usual in a high school nurse's kit," Gibbs said.

"No, it's not.  Neither are the tranquilizer darts she had in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom or the extra amounts of gauze bandages she was filling out a refill order for.  By the case.  The principal asked if she needed it.  She gave him that same dumbass look I gave him earlier when I asked about that gas explosion and the video surveillance cameras.  But no one here brings a gun to school.  He said so.  Was very proud of that fact."

"Interesting pieces that have no connection yet," Mac decided.  "What are we thinking?  Is there a threatening group and a protection group?"

Horatio nodded.  "It's possible by what we do know but the attacks seem too random to be planned."

"That guy in the mall that they took out wasn't human," Gibbs said.  "Even a costume would still bleed red blood, not blue dots."

Mac reran the video.  "It is blue blood."  He scowled.  "This is not right somehow."

"So we dig," Speed agreed. "I'll work some tomorrow at the college library.  It's on the edge of town.  Though, whatever creepy thing that was getting House?  I feel it too and it's much stronger near the old high school.  It's putting me on edge.  I wanted my weapon in my hand when I was there."

"I felt threatened by being there too," Horatio admitted with a frown.  "Like I was surrounded by wild animals who thought I'd make a good meal."

Gibbs grimaced.  "Thankfully the base is outside of town so I don't get what you two are.  Should we go out tonight, check out the town after dark?"

"If we drive," Horatio said.  "I'm not sure I don't want to take the warning seriously."  That got a nod from Mac.  "We can do that and find dinner at the same time."  They got up and went to cruise around town for dinner.  The mall had a few nicer restaurants near it so that need was solved then the town got a long look.  "It looks like I'd expect."

Gibbs pointed.  "Stop."  They stopped and got out, going to help a girl that was being dragged into an alley.  "Let her go!" he demanded, pulling his gun.

"Aw, shit, more hunters," the guy sneered, then dropped her and ran off faster than they could.

Speed stayed to check her over.  "Hey, are you all right?"

"I'm fine.  Thank you."

"We can drive you home if you need us to," he offered, helping her up.  The three older officers came back with their guns up.  "Guys, can we give her a ride home?"

"No, I'm going to meet my friends at the Bronze.  It'll be fine.  Thank you."  She smiled and walked off.

"That is not a normal reaction," Horatio said, staring at her back.

Mac looked around.  "Horatio, anywhere else we'd be getting stared at, right?" he asked.

Gibbs looked around.  "No one's watching what's going on?  That's abnormal," he agreed.

Speed stopped an elderly woman, smiling at her.  "Hi, I'm in to do the audit on the city.  Could you give me a good suggestion of where to hang out tonight for some fun and relaxation?  Beers, mild bar or club?  That sort of thing?"

"There's a few bars by the college but here in downtown there's really only Willie's and the Bronze.  Willie's is kind of scummy," the older lady told him.  "I'd never go in there.  The Bronze is down the alley to the right and then about another hundred feet.  You shouldn't be able to miss it, sir."

"Thank you," Speed said with a grin.  "You have a nice night and be safe, ma'am."

"Of course."  Once they had driven away she went to demon face.  "You too, dear."  She walked on, going to report to her people.  This was not a good thing.  Unfortunately on the way she ran into the slayer and her sword.  Pity.

Buffy watched the car, shaking her head.  "That's going to cause problems," she muttered.  She headed for the Bronze, calling Willow to come help her.  Xander was watching the guys at the hospital.  They were taking away their extra paychecks and they were going to get mean soon to those poor doctors.  She was sure they were very good since they were from elsewhere.  She met Willow inside the door.  "How did you get here so fast?"

"I was nearby," she lied.  They got sodas and went to their usual watching area.  The cops were talking to the bartender about stuff for now.  A few vamps.  She nudged Buffy and pointed subtly.  "Feeding."

"Craptastic."  She went to break it up.  "Guys, we have new Feds in town," she hissed, staking him and his victim since he was vamped too.  The one that was on the floor between the piles of ash she took to the bathroom and left him in there.  Someone would help him since he was already gone.  She gave Willow a subtle head shake.  Willow sighed, shaking her head as well.  Buffy went to stake the others she could feel in there.  The story of Feds in the bar got spread and a lot of the kids decided it was a good night to go home early in case the bar was raided.  She and Willow went with a larger group, watching what the cops did.

Gibbs looked at Mac.  "That was subtle," he said dryly with a smirk.

"Very.  Nice of them too.  Any idea what started the rush out?"

"Summers," Horatio said.  "I was watching the group.  She went to talk to some people and they disappeared or left quietly."

"A few literally.  You blinked and they had moved," Speed said.  "No one's that fast."

One of the young teenage girls that hadn't left came over.  "Excuse me, are you guys the Feds that the rumor was saying you are?"  Gibbs nodded.  "Good.  There's kinda a dead body in the bathroom and it's really disgusting because it just went poop on the floor.  I guess the body does that or whatever but it's bringing down the mood of the bar.  Can you maybe remove it for us?"

"I'll call someone to come get it, miss," Mac said.  "Did you just walk in and find it?"  She nodded, going back onto the dance floor.  "Again, not normal.  Not even more than an 'eww' from her."

"Usually someone would scream," Speed said.  "I call the body."  They nodded, letting him go look and take pictures of the scene.  When cops came in he waved them inside.  "Hey, guys.  Someone dropped him in here."  They all stared.  "It's the women's bathroom, he's not undressed enough for sex, and the bite marks on his neck are a clear indication of it not being a normal assault."

"Who are you, sir?"

"Detective Speedle, Miami-Dade crime lab."

"Well, detective, we can do our own work."

"I'm here to help  you do your work, Junior.  I'm here on the audit team."  They all blanched.  "No ME to gather him?"

"No, sir.  Our paramedics will cart him to our coroner to be cleaned up," one said.  "Thank you for your assistance, sir.  I saw your cohorts outside."

Speed let them work.  For now.  He went back to report to Horatio, who was not pleased.  Mac was even less pleased.  He went to watch over their shoulder.  The others went back to the house to talk about what they had seen.  No one seemed to care that someone was dead.  The club hadn't been shut down.  It was like the cops were sneaking the body out and no one cared or mentioned it.  No one screamed, fainted, went 'eew', any other normal reaction.  The girl who had been attacked had been in the crowd on the floor, looking like nearly being killed had no effect on her.

This was not normal.

Something was going on here.

Something that was going to drive their logical, rational, science-oriented minds nuts.


Speed walked into the house the next night and slammed the door.  "Have we checked for cloning pods yet?  Or aliens?  That might make more sense."  He flopped down.  "The whole town, including the college, is full of people who don't really remember anything bad ever happening.  Oh, and get this, the college has an *extensive* occult book collection."

"Extensive?" House asked from his seat.  "Are we talking a full library worth?  Or are we talking all the herbs known to mankind and how to mix them occult sources?"

"Both and it's the size of this room and the kitchen put together.  Stuffed full with books and one table."

Mac shuddered.  "I hate people like that."

"Oh, found out another tidbit," Speed said, looking at Gibbs, who was smirking a bit.  "Was that classified file about a military project that was going on under the college?"  He nodded.  "They were using a frat house to cover it up, right?"  He nodded slower, losing the smirk.  "It's now in use by someone else and I heard someone walking past talking about that neat old cold war base down under the college.  'It must've been a bunker for the students'," he mimicked.

"Not hardly.  Any idea how they got down there?"

"The frat house probably had an entry.  Maybe one exit in the woods or something," Speed said.  "How bad was it?"

"Incredibly so.  I can't tell you because even the president said they never happened."

"Hmm."  Speed pulled something out of his pocket and tossed it over.  "Ran into a quiet, shy blonde on campus who said I *really* needed to have that if I was one of the auditors.  That someone who knew the town *very* well had sent it.  Then she fled after stuttering at me."

Gibbs took his laptop to look it over, going pale.  "Did you see this?"

"Yup.  In the occult library since it was private.  Wandered into it by accident.  The librarian wanted to know why I hadn't signed in."

Gibbs looked at him. "Forget you saw this."

"I can't do that," he said in a sing-song voice.  "They said there's commandos running around town thanks to them."

"No, they're gone now.  They had been running around town, Speedle, but they're all doing less harmful things for the UN."

"Uh-huh."  He looked at Mac.  "How was your day?"

"There was absolutely no investigation on how the boy died last night.  No one asked the bartender for tapes, nothing.  I did and he was shocked that someone wanted to know."  He shifted to cross his feet.  "He's not a happy camper either.  Said we made his business bad last night."

"Yay."  He looked at Horatio.  "Anything new on your end?"

"I found the old mayor's stash of blackmail files."  He pointed at a box in the corner.  "Including your second set of files and his log books, Mac."  Mac went to get them to look through.  "By the way, Gibbs, one of those should be going to you.  It's his weapons stash but I'm not sure if it's still whole or not.  There was some cloaked little person who was coming out of the building when I drove past there."

"Interesting."  He took that file to look through.  "Why does he have an armageddon vault?"  He looked up.  "Any idea?"

House shook his head.  "Wouldn't surprise me.  Some of the town are paranoid.  I do have something new to report."  He leaned forward.  "I checked over the hospital's pharmacy logs.  We've dispensed 192 prescriptions for prozac."

"That's a lot in a town this size for a year's worth," Mac said, starting to frown.

"Not a year.  This last month."  They all stared at him.  "It seems people come in saying they're hysterical, seeing things.  The docs in the ER put them on prozac and when they wake up they feel much better and realize they were just hysterical and seeing things, as the doctor assured them they were."

Horatio moaned, shaking his head.  "Is that the only higher than average dispensing?"

"Pretty much.  A few months back they had a run on the usual paranoid people/there must be a bomb somewhere that'll make us sick drugs.  I was told that was the yearly restocking of the city's supplies."  They all stared at him.  He smirked and handed Gibbs an address.  "Where their stockpile in case of invasion or dirty bomb is.  The old mayor was germphobic."

"Thank you."  He looked at it.  "One of the backup sites to this weapons storage problem."  He went back to looking at it, shaking his head at a few entries.  "We're sure the old mayor died?"

"He was in the center of the explosion from what I heard at City Hall," Horatio told him.  They all stared at him.  He nodded.  "The local officers hypothesized that his microphone had set off the minute gas leak that caused the explosion."

"But the explosion wasn't outside and the ceremony was," Mac pointed out.

Speed waved a hand around.  "We had one kid at the junior high killed by a racoon that had gotten into the chemistry room, where he was hiding for some reason over night last night, and had eaten most of his midsection."

"Racoons can't eat that much weight," Mac scowled.

"Yup.  I pointed that out.  The principal gave me a horrified look so I told him *exactly* who I was.  He went to cry on the new mayor, who was a flunkie of the old one."  He looked at Horatio.  "Who was seriously thinking about doing away with us too."

"Kinda hard to do," House assured them.  "Foreman would beat her ass.  By the way, he's a she in transition.  One last surgery to go."  He looked at Mac.  "Did you send them to arrest my evil creatures?"

"I did.  Twice.  Didn't they?"


"The state police?"

"They came once they were in a closet.  With the FBI since some of it was parts trafficking and drug dealing."  That got a nod.  "The local hospital now has about sixty positions open."  He smirked.  "And there's going to be more soon.  I sent all the notes to my hospital's admin.  She sent back a very loud shriek of outrage and threatened to come out here to help me.  I told her what I had done today and she congratulated me and said to burn the rest of them."  He looked at Speedle.  "One of the docs was talking about you earlier.  Said he knew someone who'd love to have you."

"Fat chance."

"Good.  Try to be a bit more careful though."  He looked at Horatio.  "You too.  They were playing something called kitten poker to see who was going to keep you, Red."  He stood up.  "The ducklings are fearing for their lives in our rental.  I'm going back home now that I've handed over my cheery news."

"Thanks, House," Gibbs said.

"Not a problem.  The sooner we get done the better."  He went back over there, pausing to watch their shadow move down the street.  "Hey, kid?" he called.  "Harris?"  The kid stopped and looked at him.   "Want to level with me about what's going on around here?"

"You won't like it.  I'm here to make sure nothing takes you guys out before you fix it so we can get cuts cleaned up in the ER again."  He smirked.  "Go inside, Doctor.  It's nearly dark and it's dangerous around here."

House stared at him.  "If you level with me, I'll tell the nice Feds you cooperated."

"Tell the only actual Fed in there that the mayor's old stash of weapons was already moved by a dealer and the address will be sent to him later this week once we finish clearing it up."  He walked off happier.

"That's not a good thing," he decided, looking back at Gibbs.  He and Horatio were standing outside to watch it.  "You think he's involved?"

"Harris!" Gibbs shouted, jogging after him.  Xander stopped to look at him.  "Where are they?  I can have them removed and the people selling them arrested."

"Um, no you can't.  They're not exactly citizens."

"If they're foreign we can have them arrested faster."

Xander texted someone that information, getting back a stall command.  "She said give her an hour.  She's finding the humans they're working with."  He walked off.  "I'll call Speedle's phone.  We found his in an online phone book.  Go more armed, Gibbs.  It's dangerous at night around here."  He disappeared between houses.

Gibbs stomped back there, patting Speed down until he found his phone.  "Foreign nationals have taken over the weapons storage site.  They found your number online."

"Okay then.  Need help?" Speed asked.  "Horatio was bomb squad."

"I might," he agreed.  The phone rang twenty minutes later, giving him an address.  He found it on the map and said he'd be right there.  Mac and Horatio both went with him.  He walked into the warehouse, finding a few tied up people and one moaning thing in the shadows off to the side.

Mac went to look, flipping him over to check him over.  "Gibbs, how many purple foreign nationals do we know?"  He came over to look then groaned.  "Any idea?"

"Like the blue thing in the mall?" Horatio suggested, looking at him.  "I saw one of those in Miami near one of our gangs last year."

"Are they involved in weapons?" Gibbs demanded.

"Not anymore.  We arrested them for drug smuggling."  He went to look at the weapons, noticing it when the boy jogged in and headed right for something.  "That is not a good thing," he said, hurrying after him.

"Sit," Xander snapped.  "Let me handle this."

"I'm former bomb squad, Mr. Harris."

"This isn't fully electronic, Caine."  He finished fixing it and looked at him, handing over the crystal.  "The power source.  Buffy wasn't sure what it was and I recognized it by description.  They had one last month I found in a tomb to guard an entrance."  He turned back around, finding the entry into the sewer system and then the other storage area soon after.  "Oh, baby," he moaned, patting something.  "I'm sorry, sweetheart.  They'll take good care of you until you're gone to be reincarnated."  He patted something else.  "That's also explosive.  It's got a nitro fuse.  Be very careful with it."  He looked back at Gibbs.  "One of the local geeks created that."  He found the other exit and left through it, making sure it shut behind him.  He could get lost in the sewers for the next few minutes then back up topside so he could watch the poor babies being taken.  He flopped down beside Buffy.  "Lots and lots of pretty babies," he told her.


"Bang," he joked weakly, getting punched on the arm.  "Why did Willow send that today?"

"She was hoping they'd leave sooner I guess.  Not like it's safe."

"We do the best we can," he reminded her.

"I know."  They watched as the FBI agents from earlier showed up with a truck.  "Whoo-hoo, another hotty with a badge," she said with a smirk for him.

He stared.  "Military, military, military, FBI or cop, and FBI or cop but former military.  Long enough ago that he's lost his danger sense," Xander said.  She gave him an odd look.  "Current military guys walk and move a certain way so their hands are always near a weapon.  They're more cautious.  Cops are cautious but not as cautious.  Those military guys have seen recent combat by how uptight they are."  She nodded at that.  "The same as we're more tense and uptight during apocalypse season instead of around the holidays."

"I get the point," she told him.

He leaned back on his elbows, watching what was going on.  "How do you want to do patrol tonight?"

"Why are you planning?"  She gave him a dirty look.

He stared back.  "Because the town's still too big for just you, Buffy.  We had six rising tonight."   She groaned, holding her face with her hands.  "Exactly.  Now, which side do you want?"

"I call east."

"Fine, I'll take the west side.  When you head back, make sure the Initiative's woods entry is closed?  They overheard a kid on campus saying it was probably a bomb shelter from the cold war for the college."

"I can do that."  She got up with a groan.  He stood up and dusted himself off.  "One of us should stay and watch them."

Xander pointed.  "Spike's here for that."  He smirked at her, then walked off.  "Have a better night, Buffy."

"You too, Xander.  Bastard," she muttered.  She looked at Spike.  "Going to taunt them?"

"Not that fun when I can't torture 'em," he complained.  "Lost the coin toss to him."

"You're the better fighter.  You should be on patrol instead of him."

He looked at her.  "Plenty like him do the job, Buffy.  Go patrol.  I've got these lot."  She huffed but walked off.  "She's not going to like it if other hunters come to town," he muttered, lighting a cigarette.  The military blokes were fun to watch scurrying around being paranoid that someone would take the new weapons from them.  "Too bad he couldn't keep some.  It'd make him happier and less grumpy at Her Blondness for the night," he muttered to himself.  He saw one of his poker buddies and nodded, getting their attention then shaking his head.  He mouthed who they were and the demon shuddered before heading off for the night to find something less fun to play with.

Inside the warehouse Horatio looked at Gibbs.  "Have you seen anything on the blond watching us from outside?"

He glanced out there then shook his head.  "Not yet.  Taylor?"  He came to look then nodded, finding the notes in one of the local files that was stored there.  "Interesting."  He handed it on, going out there.  Spike, if that was who it was, had faded off into the shadows.  Very interesting.  They'd have to watch for this one, see if he was really part of the team or not.


Xander ran into the new hunters in town in one of the cemeteries.  Well, one of them anyway.  "Want a stake?" he asked the guy, making him jump and turn to stare at him.  "The ones locally you can get with a stake or beheading or sunlight or holy water.  Need one?"

"No, thanks.  I've got one just in case, dude.  Who're you?"

"Oh, sorry.  Xander."  He held out a hand.

"Dean."  He shook it.  "How did you know where I'd be?"

"One of the local harmless ones ran past me screaming 'the evil ones are here'."  He smirked and casually staked the vampire giving them such a confused look.  "I wasn't sure if he was talking about Buffy's PMS or if it was you guys for some reason."

"Well, I'm not evil.  Sammy might be, I don't know why they'd think that beyond that he's a bit huffy and girl like, but not really evil.  Dad either."

"No clue and evil is relative.  That same family grouping told me I was evil for eating tacos because it had dead cow in it."

"Ah.  So it could be the killing stuff then."  He nodded.  He shot the demon running up on them to kill them.  "So, what's going on?"

"A few things."  He hopped up onto a headstone, looking at him.  "Why are you guys here anyway?  We usually have it covered.  I know it's apocalypse season but it's not bad this year."

"You guys have an apocalypse *season*?" he demanded.

"Yeah.  Don't you guys see more activity in the spring too?"

"We mostly hunt spirit manifestations, they're kinda year-round," he admitted.

"Oh.  I guess that's cool," he decided with a grin.  "Around here, we have a usual spring problem.  Occasionally a fall one.  A few quiet months in the summer then the usual start and building problem around when school starts.  Unfortunately right around finals so our slayer's mom gets pissed at her grades but she knows about this stuff now so she can't complain too much.  Are you guys in school?"

"Sammy was in college until a demon took out his girlfriend."

"Pity.  Poor guy."  He looked around, tossing over a stake and pointing.  "Behind you; he thinks you smell good."  Dean spun and staked him.  "Nice form."  Xander watched the local cemetery, then looked at him again when he moved closer.  "So why are you guys in town at the same time as a federal auditing team?"

"Two demons came to us to trade favors.  We'd come help the town and protect your team and them.  They'd take out the demon that killed our mom and my brother's girl."

"That's more beneficial than some of the deals we've made with the harmful demons around here," he decided with a grin.  "That's cool."  He looked around.  "Can I?"  He pointed at the shotgun, getting it handed to him.  He shot something, making Buffy huff when he handed it back.  "Buffy, this is Dean.  He's one of the hunters we got told was coming our way."

"Why are you using a gun?" she demanded of Xander.

"Because it worked?" he suggested.  "Not like I have my crossbow on me."

"Our type of hunter uses guns a lot," Dean told her.  "Hi, Dean Winchester."

"Whatever.  Guns are bad and not for hunting."  She glared at Xander.

He leaned down to stare into her eyes.  "Go eat chocolate, Buffy," he said slowly and clearly.  "I'm not going to listen to you have a fit tonight."  She huffed.  He sat up again.  "Sorry, long time argument."  He looked around.  "Thought I saw one of them.  Buffster, idiot watcher alert."  He nodded in the direction of the guy trying to sneak up on them.  "So, mostly ghosts and poltergeists and those things?"

"Some creatures that're attacking.   Since we roam, we hear about them after they're causing problems."

"That's cool.  We have a 'don't kill it unless it's harmful thing' going on around here too.  If you need to know, call us."  He took out a pen and wrote it on Dean's arm.  "That's mine."  And a second one.  "That's the Magic Box.  Her watcher runs it."

Dean grinned.  "Thanks, dude."

"Welcome."  He put up his pen, looking at the slinking watcher.  "You're pathetic at stealth maneuvers, man.  You might as well quit.  I spotted you over a mile ago.  She spotted you a good five minutes ago.  So you might as well come out."  The watcher huffed but came out of hiding.  "What are you guys doing in Sunnydale?"

"Who're you to ask?" he sneered.

"I'm on the local hunting team with our slayer," he said, pointing at her.  "I've been backing her up since she got here.  Duh!"  He looked at Dean again.  "Your kind don't have overseers like them, right?"

"Nope, we'd have shot the bastards."

"I might try that next time they show up," he said, looking up to think about it.  Buffy swatted him.  He swatted her back.  "Hey!  Not yours!"

"Thankfully or I'd be really evil," she shot back.

He smirked.  "Anya's not now that she's with me," he said smugly.

"Eww.  Hear *way* too much of that from her.  Don't need it from you."

He shrugged.  "It's been a long day at work.  I haven't even made it home yet for a long night with Anya."  He looked at the watcher again.  "Again, why are you guys here?"

"I'm here to check on our slayer."

"Not yours," she sneered.  "I can't stand you guys.  You're all idiots."  She looked at Dean.  "You hunt?"  He nodded, looking smug.  "How long have you been hunting?"

"Our dad started when we were really little and a demon took out our mom."

"Those like you should not be involved," the watcher complained.  "It's wrong!"

"Not like we can wait on girls like her to come take out the things that kill our relatives, dude.  One killed our mom over my baby brother's crib.  The same one took out my brother's girlfriend.  We're not *waiting* on anyone to come help us."  He looked at her.  "Dad's doing another cemetery tonight."

"I ran into him and he didn't look like he was a happy camper.  So I came to find you," Xander told him.  Buffy gave him an evil look.  He patted himself down, handing her his spare candy bar that he kept for energy during bad runs.  "You obviously need it."  He looked at Dean again once she had snatched it.  "Does your dad always look like someone fucked him in his cheerios before taking a dump in them and making him eat them?"

Dean gagged at that mental image.  "Eww, Xander!"

"Suck it up," Buffy said.  "He does it to us all the time."  Xander just grinned sweetly at her.  She nibbled on the candy bar.  "As you can see I'm still healthy, fine, and hunting.  You're interrupting a patrol.  Giles is at the shop if you wanted to check on him too.  Anything else before you go bye-bye?"  A demon came running up, pushing the watcher over.  She pulled a knife with her free hand and got it.  "Eww.  You messed up my nails!" she complained to the dead demon.  "I just got 'em done today!"  She huffed off.

Dean pointed, looking confused.  "Is she always like that?"

"Kinda, yeah."  He slid off the headstone, looking at the downed watcher.  "We really shouldn't leave him out here."

"Probably not," Dean agreed.  "It'd be the decent thing to do."

Xander looked at him.  "I know but they're such puss suckers."

Dean laughed.  "I've met many of those in many cities."

"Huh."  He called Giles.  "One of your clan of overly-stupid watchers is here in Haven's Rest, Giles.  Want me to leave his unconscious body out here?"  He hung up on his spluttering.  "He'll be here in a few."  They checked around then walked off.  Giles could deal with him and nothing was coming up now.  "So, why else are you here?"

"Just that.  We've been hunting the one that took mom for years now."

"Figured you had.  Things like that become personal really quickly.  Aw, shit," he muttered, taking off jogging.  "Um, doctor, what are you doing skulking around a cemetery at night?" he asked, scaring the crap out of her.  "You shouldn't be out here.  It's dangerous."

"How do you know who I am?" Cameron asked.

"The town's small and everyone gossips, Doctor.  I may not know your name but I know you're on the audit committee."

"I'm out here to meet someone who has some information."

"That's a good way to get dead," he told her.  "There's a reason why the town has such a high death rate."   He walked her back to the watcher's body.  "Here, stay with unconscious boy.  Someone's coming for him."  He stopped to listen.  "Not good timing.  Buffy!" he shouted.  She came running back.  He stopped her.  "Listen."  She paused then mumbled a few swears herself.  "Get Giles here faster.  I don't have anything on me.  Dean, do you have anything pewter?"

"No.  Silver but not pewter."

"Why can't you go?  I'm chosen to do this stuff," she said.

"You run faster," he reminded her.  "We can hold it off with silver for about ten minutes.  You can get Giles here by then or a better weapon to us."  She huffed but ran off.  He looked at Cameron then at the dazed, nearly coming around Watcher.  "Take him, go behind that headstone there," he ordered with a point.  "It'll be safer and you won't become a snack."  She gave him a horrified look.  "Now!" he snapped, making her move.  "It's the dye, it has to be," he told Dean, cracking him up.

"Could be, yeah.  Pewter?"

"Yeah.  It's a specific thing.  It can harm it a whole lot but nothing we have will kill it because it takes a mystical fucking pewter sword no one's seen in centuries.  So we beat it down, tie it up, entomb it until the next time someone dumb opens it."

"We have a gun that'll kill any demon," Dean offered.

"Won't help.  We have a few swords that can do that and it won't work on it."

"Crap."  The demon roared, and it seemed to echo.  "How big is this thing?  I can't see it."

"Did I forget to mention it's slightly invisible?" he joked weakly.  "See the gray outline?  That's it."  Dean fired on it, making it scream in pain and rush them.  They moved out of the way.  "Faster than you think," he warned, pulling his silver knife.

"What are you doing?" Cameron demanded.  Xander threw something at her, making her duck back down.  The demon was trying to kill them.  She could see the outline of it now that she was looking.  It was blocking the view of other things.  She checked the downed man but he was only knocked out.  She called House.  "It's me.  There's something here that's kind of invisible but it's blocking my sight of anything behind it so maybe it's blended in like that movie...."

"Predator," Dean and Xander called in unison.

"They said Predator?  And I've got a downed guy here with me.  They said they have backup coming and there's a blonde girl getting help.  They said I dye my hair, House!"

Dean flipped the demon and shot it again, making it scream in pain.  "Kinda clear you do, Doc."  He stomped on it and Xander kicked it, then stabbed it.  Buffy came panting back with Giles and a weapon.  She dove on it.  The demon was trying to get back up to fight some more but she had it pinned.  "Need help?" he asked.

"Nope, it's my job."  She finished temporarily killing it and got up, dusting herself up.  "Who let you out this time?" she sneered at it.

"Probably someone who wanted it to eat the audit team," Dean told her.  She glared at him.  "What?  Not my doing.  I definitely don't free demons."

"Whatever.  Go away?"

"No.  We were told to come guard you guys from the audit team."  She slumped, walking off shaking her head.

"Buffy, don't forget to check that bunker," he called.

"I'll do that before I get a shower."  She waved at them.  "Go away, both of you."

"Bite me," they both muttered, then grinned at each other.

"She takes those moods," Xander explained.

"All girls do, dude."  He looked at the doc.  "Need us to knock her out?" he asked.

"Giles, this is Dean.  He's one of the hunting team that got sent to us.  The demons are worried that something will happen thanks to the audit team so they offered to take out the one after his brother."

"That was kind of them.  Why?" Giles asked them.

"They said it'd be bad for the peaceful ones and apparently your girl was needed.  We're here to guard them and you."

"That's fine.  I'd like to meet the rest of you."

"Sammy's at the motel setting things up.  Dad's getting a good look around.  I can have them meet us anywhere you want."

"Magic Box?" Xander suggested.  "I'll hand her back to her people."

"That'd be fine," he agreed.  "Then join us, Xander."

"Not my fault!" he defended.  He knocked the doctor out, taking her off.  "Oh, your boring sort there complained that we're doing his job that he doesn't want to do anyway."  He hiked off carrying her over his shoulder like a sack of clothes.  He found the agents at the warehouse and put her down in front of Horatio.  "Stupid one here was out in the cemetery at night to meet an information source right as something bigger and badder came out to eat us.  The dye clearly infected her brain."  He walked off shaking his head, heading for the Magic Box with a few detours to lose any followers.  He walked in at the same time Dean's dad did.  "Hey, I'm Xander," he said, shaking his hand.

"John Winchester."

"Wesley knows you," Giles told him.

"I worked with Wes for a few months," he agreed.  "You must be Rupert then."

"I am."  He shook his hand.  "This is an extraordinary event.  First an audit team and now this?"

"The mayor's ignoring us spell is breaking down," Willow said from her seat.  "Xander, did you have to upset Buffy?"

"No but it seemed to help at the time," he shot back, scowling at her.  She slunk down again.  "I handed the doc back to the officers.  The redhead has her."

"That's fine, Xander.  Are you injured?  You seem to have a bit of a temper problem," Giles said, staring at him.

Xander stared back.  "That's because I got the start of the 'you're normal' speech again."  Giles went pale at that, backing away.  "We all know I hate that speech."

"We're all normal, boy, some of us are just trained better," John told him.

Xander beamed.  "Thank you!  Finally someone with some damn sense!"  He glared at Giles, who looked sheepish.  "Anyway, I got my four vamps on my route.  Two coming up, two out wandering.  Then I saw John wandering so I let him be because he looked pissed with the world in general.  I found Dean and helped him, got another one with him, another demon, let the one demon knock down your watcher buddy there, and then the invisible one got let out again.  Probably to eat the doc and the audit team.  Buffy did the east side and I had her check the old base because some kids on campus said they'd been down there recently."

"That's reasonable," he agreed. " Is she all right?"

"I gave her my candy bar because it was clear she had PMS," he said blandly.

"I've done that myself recently.  It's the stress of finals," Willow told him.  "If you were in college you'd know that, Xander."

He stared at her.  "Then you wouldn't be able to bum money for spell components, Willow."  She squeaked.  "Plus I'd be living in the dorms with Anya."  She slunk down further in her seat.  "Besides, I hated school.  School sucked even before patrolling was added to it.  If you like school, more power to you but I'm the sort that build the houses that you live in and fix them when you break them and don't know what you did.  The world needs both sorts."

"You're more than smart enough...." she started.

Dean whistled.  "The world needs both sorts, Willow, and some of us are hands-on people.  I'm plenty smart but I can't say as I liked sitting and doing nothing in a class either."  She slumped again.  "If it wasn't for guys like us, you'd never get things fixed around the house."  He looked at Xander.  "We can introduce you to other guys who hunt if you want."

"I might take you up on that offer since guys are in short supply here," he admitted.  Sam strolled in.  "Hi.  I've seen you somewhere."

"I was at the college a few months back for a law school seminar."  He grinned.  "I'm glad I was too tired to go out that night now.  Sam Winchester."

"Xander and that's Willow.  Buffy's on campus somewhere."  He shook his hand.  "This is Rupert Giles, Buffy's watcher."

"Hey," he said with a small wave.  "What's with the guys unloading weapons?"

"It's the old mayor's stash of them," Willow told him.  "We handed them over because we don't need guns."

"Really?  We use guns all the time," Sam told her.

"The vamps around here you can stake, behead, use UV light, or holy water on," Xander told them, handing them each a stake.  "Unless you find a different sort.  If so, let us know?"

"Sure," Dean agreed.  "We had a chat while the watcher guy sneered and Buffy sneered back and then we got attacked by something Predator-like, Dad."

"Want the colt?" he asked.

"They have other weapons that can kill any demon and it didn't work.  That one needs a mystical pewter sword."

"Balsima," Xander told him.  "Been missing now for centuries.  Probably melted down for art."

"I'll ask our people if they've heard rumors of it, kids."  John smiled at Giles.  "We made a bargain to come protect you guys and the audit team if they'd take out the demon coming after our family."

"Why do they want you anyway?" Xander asked Sam.  Sam gave him an odd look.  "Sorry but the way Dean described it, it sounded like it wants you as a wife or something."

"No clue.  It wants me bad though."

"Huh.  Well, Giles is really good at research and we have a lot of books with prophecies.  Giles, can we maybe see if we can help them and they can help us?"

"That would be reasonable.  Where are you three staying?"

"The motel," Dean said.  "We're used to it."

"All right then.  If you give me topics or information I can look things up to see if we do have anything on them.  Xander, I do believe you could use some time off to rest?  You look a bit tired."

"It was a long day at work," he admitted.  "I'll go home and it'll be a long night with Anya."

Giles gave him a pointed look.  "You could talk her out of being so...petulant tonight."

"Then I'd never get to sleep before work," he complained.  "My boss hates it when I make Anya unpouty all night, Giles."  He looked at John.  "I will warn you that Spike will try to gross you guys out on purpose and Anya shared a bit too much with everyone.  So fair warning," he ended with a grin.

"She shares more than a bit too much, Xander," Willow said with a grimace.  "What are we going to do about the audit team?"

"They have our real records now," Xander reminded her.  "If they had wanted to arrest us, they would have already done it, Willow.  They realize I've been trailing them at the least.  Especially since I dropped the female doc off on them at the warehouse after she was stupidly out to get eaten tonight."  She groaned, rubbing her forehead.  "She said someone said to meet them there to give her information."

"Uh-huh.  So the dye got to her brain?"

"Apparently," he agreed.  He checked his watch.  "Did she get to the 'threaten Willie' part of the patrol tonight, Giles?"

"Probably not."

"Then let me go ask some sources for some intel while these guys get settled in and then we'll see."  He walked off happier.  Spike found him a few hours later at a kitten poker game.  "One more hand, Spike."

"S'fine.  The coppers are all back in their places again."  He sat down, looking at Xander's hand with a snort.  "That's a bad 'ne."

"It can get better," he pointed out with a smug look.  "Guys, any idea who tried to have one of the auditing docs eaten tonight?"

"Half of the hospital's doctors were arrested earlier," the demon dealing reminded him.

"Yeah but they told her to wait in a cemetery tonight to get intel."  He looked at him then put a very pretty little kitten on the table, making them all sniff her and get happy since she was in heat.  "You guys know we pay for good info."

"We saw you with that hunter earlier," the dealer said, staring at him.

"Yeah, some higher demon sent them to protect the auditors and the slayer."  He shrugged.  "They seem pretty nice.  Dean seems like a really nice guy.  Sam seemed a bit like Willow, a bit geeky, but still able to do what has to be done.  John seemed like a grump.  That's why I talked to Dean."

The dealer looked at the table then at him again.  He took the kitten for himself.  "The head of radiology sent her out there."

"That's cool.  I can pass that back."  He grinned.  "Got anything on the hunters?"

"If you looked at some of the underground online places you could find all sorts of them," Spike told him.

Xander gave him a dirty look.  "I'm not exactly the computer sort, Spike."  The others laughed.  "Seriously.  Willow decided I didn't need to learn how to do more than type and do my email.  She fussed each time I tried to learn."  They stared at him.  "She's like that when you start nibbling on her lawn."

"True, she has a firm boundary of what's hers and her thing," the dealer agreed.  "They're generally hardasses but don't have a kill-them-all approach," he told him.  "John is a hardass and he trained his boys.  Dean's supposed to be as good as Buffy but without her gifts.  Sam's a bit stranger."

"I noticed that the demon seemed to want to have him by himself."

"He wants an heir and thinks Sam's the best bet.  There's going to be an apocalypse soon."

"The demon that sent them said they'd take out that one for him," Xander said, staring at him.

"More power to them.  He's one of the Lords of Hell, Harris."

"Huh.  Got anything on him I can pass along?"

"We might see fit to tell them something before they leave if they leave the harmless sorts alone."

"I told them how we roll around here," Xander told him.  The demons all smiled.  "If they start going out like Riley did I get to kick asses.  Even if I do have to sneak in and do it while they're sleeping."

"Good."  He dealt him new cards.  "Not even Satan can win with that hand."

Xander looked down then smirked.  "You changed them on me, you cheat."  The demons all laughed.  Xander rearranged things then put down his own.  "Since cheating's permissible."  They stared at the sudden wild card that came out of nowhere.  Then they moaned at his smug look.  Three of a kind beat all their hands.

"Fine," the dealer agreed.  "Pain in the ass."

"That's why Giles doesn't pay me the big bucks to help her out," he quipped.  The others laughed and nodded, liking that answer.  He looked over across the room, finding Buffy playing.  "Thought you were heading in."

"I was but I can't get into the base's portal.  It's open but I can't find the way in."

He sighed.  "We can do that."  She beamed and finished her hand.  "You know, all three of those hunters are said to be single.  Maybe not for boyfriend material but you could use a new playmate."

"I have Riley."

"He's a weenie."

She glared.  "He is not."

He snorted.  "Yeah he is.  Anyone in here think Riley's worthy of the slayer?"  One raised his hand.  "Why?"

"Because he gives her sex when she needs to patrol.  It makes it easier for the bad ones to do bad things."

"See," Xander said.  "Even if he's tolerable in bed, you deserve better."

She pouted.  "He's off doing commando things anyway."

"Uh-huh.  Dump him, slayer, and pick up a hunter.  There's plenty of them.  All strong, well trained to help you hunt, probably need it like you do after patrols."  She shivered, crossing her legs.  Xander just grinned.  "See if they'll play at the very least."

"I might."

"The taller, younger one lost his girlfriend to a demon within the last seven months," one demon told her.  "The demon wants him as an heir."

"Pity.  Think they need help getting it?"

"Supposedly the one who sent them is taking it out for them as part of the bargain," Xander told her.  She hummed.  "And it's the same one that took out their mom."

"Oooh.  No wonder they got into hunting."  She put down her cards, waving off her pile of kittens.  "Mom would freak and Dawn would beg if I brought home more.  Pay off Spike's kitten poker debts with it, guys."  She got up and Xander followed.  "I needed the downtime."

"Yeah, we did," he agreed.  He brushed some fur off him.  She smirked at him.  "What?  I could go destroy the bar but why bother?  He'd pout at and whine then make Anya pout and whine."

"She's got to be fussing because you're not home yet."

"She can fuss.  She threw out my twinkie stash again.  She's not getting sex tonight."

She laughed, patting him on the arm.  "That's understandable, Xander, but you still can't have that many of them."  He stared down at her.  "Please?" she begged.

"Just for that I'm going on patrol tomorrow night hyped on sugar."  He pulled out his car keys, letting her into his car so they could head up to the woods and the entry up there.  Since the frat house was back in use again.  They found the opening and someone standing there.  "Why are you guys out tonight?"  This was getting annoying.

"We need to check it out too," Gibbs ordered.  "The higher ups said so."  He nodded.  "Taylor was a Marine too."

"Cool."  He sniffed.  "Sulphur, Buffster.  Get the bag out of the trunk?"  She groaned but went to get the supplies, coming back with it and his keys.  He popped the door open like he had the last time, letting them go down the elevator shaft by the handholds then into the elevator.   The elevator was sitting open so they just walked out.  And into an unholy mess.  "Aw, shit," he muttered.

Buffy sighed.  "I hate it when the higher ones get things in to worship them."  She found her sword and went for the demon.  Xander went for the guards to help her.  The Fed and the cop just watched in horror as the demon went bye-bye.  She got a few of the guards who were trying to stop her.  "Xander, can't you block them better?" she complained.

"I'm only one person, Buffy, and there's eight of them.  I'm not that wide."  He got another two and got one of the ones bothering her, letting her slip around the other and get the main demon with the sword.  All the minions and humans screamed as their link was cut.  It brought the humans out of their dreams, which he had kept them in, and the minions and guard demons tried to run.  He stopped most of them.  Buffy got a few that ran her way.  "Huh," he said, looking at the humans.  "Go home," he ordered loudly.  "You can't be down here!"  They whimpered and whined.  "Now!"  They started to get up, packing their sleeping rolls their supposed God had given them to join him in loving comfort on.  He looked at Taylor.  "There, have that problem.  We'll clear the rest of the base."  He looked at Buffy.  "Want the pens, the med rooms, or the center?"

"Pens for now."  She went that way.  He went to the 'exam rooms'.  Gibbs followed him.  She got Taylor once he had called help for the people.  She looked at him.  "You can go help."

"They have people coming.  You need backup."

She snorted.  "No I don't.  And no offense or anything, but you don't know how to back me up even if I did.  It's not like you can shoot most things."  She heard a shot.  "Xander?" she yelled.

"Demon dog," he called back.  "It's dead."  She stomped back that way.  He had put back up his gun.  "It worked faster."  He chopped off the head and kicked the head away.  "We'll have to burn that later."  He looked at her again.  "They do have a point, Buffy.  It's called longer distance taking out so they don't slobber on you."

"Guns are not the slayer way," she said firmly.

He stared at her.  "As  you've pointed out, I'm not a slayer.  I'm a hunter and we do use guns."  She snorted.  He smirked.  "It saved your ass last night when I got that one trying to eat your ass."

"Hey!  I was fighting!  It wasn't my fault it wanted to bite me there.  Maybe it thought I was cute."


She glared.  "Whatever.  Not like you're not dating one."

"Former, Buffy.  Former.  That's why she's not deadly anymore," he snarked.  She shuddered.  "I can easily do things my way and you do things yours.  Not like I can't stake, slash, cut, and crossbow things to death the same as you can.  So hop off and go pick up someone to play with.  Please?  Before you turn into a bigger brat?"

"Whatever."  She huffed off again.

He rolled his eyes.  "She does this now and then," he told Gibbs.  "Just ignore it.  I do anymore."  He walked on, going to take out the other things.  Maybe he'd invite Dean or one of them out for a beer before they left.  See if others had problems like Buffy gave him."

"Eww!" she shouted.  "No, don't touch that!"

Xander sighed as he ran to help her.  He shot the demon, making it splash but die and quit trying to eat Taylor.  "You rang?" he asked.


"Happens," he pointed out.

"It splashed me with goo, Xander!"  She swatted him.

"Ow!"  He rubbed the spot.  "It does it worse when you stab it!"  She huffed.  He looked up then pointed. "There, go stab that one."  She huffed to do that and it did splash worse.  "See, it splashes worse when you stab instead of shooting it."  He went back to his own cleaning duties.  "Why am I surrounded by girls?" he muttered.  "Even Giles turns into a girl now and then."

"You could leave and find a life somewhere else," Gibbs offered.

Xander stared at him for a moment then smirked.  "I'd end up doing the same damn thing, Gibbs."

"What makes you do this?  Most people probably have a reason for jumping into this life."

"They took my best friend."  He left it there and kept going.  They had a mess to clean up.  He found a phone and called Giles.  "I've got a purple and green mottled thing that looks like a mushroom top and about twelve little legs underneath.  Is it harmful?"  He nodded.  "And we do what with it?  The old base."  He smirked.  "She's already gotten splashed by goo, Giles."  He nodded.  "Fine."  He hung up.  "Buffy, Giles said this one's for him."

She came jogging in, looking at it.  "Poisonous or anything?"

"Only if it licks you.  He said he's sending it back with his former coworker."

"Ah."  She smirked and looked around.  "Do we have a bag besides the gear bag?"

"Probably not."  He went to check, handing it over once he had his sword on his back and the spare crossbow on his belt.  He clinked when he walked but oh well.  She bundled up the demon and carried it off.  "I've got this."

"You're not a slayer, Xander."

He mouthed it then turned to look back at her.  "I think I can clear out demon dogs, Buffy.  Not the first time and it's not like I haven't been helping for years now."  She blushed and nodded, taking her demon present off.  He looked up then around.  "Guys, head.  I can't guard you and do this.  I'm not her."

"We're trained in assault combat," Mac reminded him.

Xander snorted and shot the demon coming up behind him.  "Sure you are.  That's great but not here.  This is stalking and killing.  Head up."  He glared at both of them.  "You guys have no idea how to kill most of this stuff."  They went up to wait by the car, Gibbs with his gun in hand in case any other demons showed up.  Xander went back to his cleaning duties.  A few fought back and he did get injured.  He even tripped over the extra crossbow once when it fell off his belt, but he expected things like that to happen now and then.  That's why he was who he was.  He finished up and came up topside with something.  It got left in the woods.  Then he reclosed the portal and hiked back to his car, finding both of them standing there staring at something.  Xander sighed and threw his dagger at it, making it yelp and run off.  "Sorry, my aim was off.  Am I giving you guys a ride home?"

"No, we drove," Mac said, looking at him.  "You're limping."

"The spare crossbow fell off and I tripped over it.  It's nothing.  Go home, guys.  You have a long day unwinding the corruption tomorrow."  He stared at them.  "By the way, the one who arrested Buffy about Ted?  He's another mystic powers sort.  You might watch out for him calling something to eat you.  Willow warded the houses while you were gone yesterday but I wouldn't be surprised if Stein tried it again."  They groaned, going to report to the others.  Once they got home the 'forget demons' spell she had laid took over as well.  That was nice of her.  He was making sure they got home okay so he heard it hit and smirked, heading back to his own place.  He found John there facing off with Anya.  He sighed.  "She's lost her power center, Winchester.  She's not dangerous anymore."

Anya pouted at him.  "Don't remind me."  She looked at him.  "Tripped over your crossbow again?"

He glared.  "Not cute."  She pouted worse.  "Buffy had the gear bag to give Giles one of them for his buddy.  I had to carry extra and one fell off so I tripped over it.  And no, that's not why I'm limping, Anya."  She huffed.  "Any soda left or am I going to have to complain about the rest of the women in my life being bitches?"

"I am not!" she defended.

"Who did what to my twinkie stash this time?"

She huffed and went to get him one and a soda.  "Fine, but you're not getting sex tonight."

"I knew you weren't getting any earlier," he quipped back, taking them and his ice pack.  "So, John, what's the what tonight?"

"Where did you go?  I saw your car in the woods."

"The military has a base under the college.  We went to clean it out again."  He opened his can to take a drink then put his foot down with the ice pack.  "Two of the auditing team tried to come with us but I sent them off when Buffy had to deliver the demon to Giles.  The demons we were talking to earlier said they might have info for you guys if you're not a kill them all sort."

"I'm not usually."

"Good."  He grinned.  "Anything else?  It's really late and I have to be at work at seven."

John looked at the clock then at him.  "It's nearly three, kid."

Xander nodded.  "I've done this many times, John.  Really."  He shuddered.  "It's cool.  The forget demons spell Willow laid on the auditing team seems to have worked.  If you know any hunters who might like to date Buffy, please introduce them to her.  It was a productive night."  John nodded once, then shook his head.  "Good, then please excuse us while you go back to your less than comfy bed and I go to mine?"

"Of course.  I came to talk to your girlfriend."

"I'm all for that since she's had so much experience and knows so much about the various demons and their cultures, but she works at the Magic Box."

"Good to know, kid.  You need stitches or anything?  All three of us can."

Xander looked then shook his head.  "Gauze should do it.  Thanks anyway."

"Not a problem."  He left, going back to the room to talk to the boys.  "I found out why vengeance demon activity we saw now and then with the stupid men went down."  Dean looked over.   "Anyanka lost her power center.  She's dating Harris."

Sam shuddered.  "He's got to be very careful or she can petition to get them back if she gets jilted."

"Yup," John agreed, stretching out.  "He said Rosenburg laid a forget demons spell on the auditing team.  Sammy, what military has an underground base here?"

"Probably that classified project they recently shut down," he admitted.  He handed over his laptop once he found what little was known.  "Pastor Jim got a few new converts from them."

John read it over then sent his friend an email to see if he knew more.  He'd get one back tomorrow probably.  He handed the laptop back.  "Harris was talking to some earlier.  He said if we were decent to the non-harmful population they might have some information for us before we go.  Also, Dean, know any hunters about your age interested in a female hunter?  He said Buffy's looking."

"She's amazing in a fight," he told him.  "I can hype her to the guys at the Roadhouse."

John smirked.  "They might like a new, pretty girl in the group."  He stretched out to get more comfortable.  "Let's sleep, boys.  Xander's got work tomorrow starting at seven."  They both looked at the clock.  "He said he's done it before.  Anya works at the Magic Box later.  Buffy and Willow are students."

"Who's the blonde that we see with Willow?" Dean asked.

"Her girlfriend," Sam said automatically.

"I knew that," he said, swatting at him.  "Name?"

"Tara.  That's all I know," Sam said with a small shrug.  "She's a white witch, fairly powerful according to the ones I asked earlier.  Willow's supposed to be hyper-protective of her.  I heard she stutters and she's very shy."

"Then I won't sneak up on her or anything," Dean agreed.

Sam looked at him.  "The demon said she reacts badly to men, Dean."

"Not like I'd pass as a girl, Sammy.  You have the floppy, girl hair."  Sam hit him back.

"Boys," John growled.  They went back to their own room.  John rolled his eyes.  Sometimes he wondered why he had wanted to be a father.  He really did.


Xander leaned into the Magic Box the next afternoon.  "Guys, has it escaped our notice that the methane demons are back?" he called.

Buffy came out of the back with a bottle of water and a towel, looking sweaty.   "Why?  And how do you know?"

"They blew up my boss's house earlier by living under it."

"Eww, sewer hunts," she complained then took a drink.  "How many?"

"At least six that I burned with a torch when I found them inside the new school we're building."  She nodded.  "They headed for the east side of the tunnels.  Right near the old town library."  She grimaced.  That part was smaller.  "Yup, so have fun stinking later.  I've now got overtime to work tonight.  Watch the docs for me."

"Yup, fine.  Willow can do that."  He nodded, getting his lunch and heading back to work eating it.  "Eww.  Willow, methane demons are in town."

"Have fun lighting them like farts," she called.  "I'll watch the docs."

"Gee thanks."  She muttered about friends making her do the dirty, nasty smelling work.  The Winchesters came in.  "Hey, guys.  Guys, the Winchesters are in."  Giles came to talk to John about what they needed to have looked up.  "We have a name on it," she said when John said he didn't have one.  "The kitten poker circuit last night said it was named Azazel and it wanted your younger one for an heir."  She grinned.  "Guys, I'm going to be busy guarding the team tonight, would you guys like to hunt stuff for me in the sewers?"

Dean gave her a look.  "Nice try, but weak delivery."

"Fine, make me hunt the explosive, dangerous methane demons who like to blow things up by myself."

John looked at her.  "Better try," he offered with a smirk.  She smirked back.  "Where are they?"

"The east side's sewer system.  Which is never very sewer-y but it's a huge highway for demons.  Those you can pop and make explode.  Xander did it with a torch since some were at the school."

Giles looked at her.  "They can watch the doctors for you, Buffy."

"Shoot.  They like to flash me and make obscene suggestions, Giles.  Then they stink when you pop them."

"They do it to Xander too.  Anya pouted about it the last time," Willow reminded her.

"I'll go with you," Dean said, getting a beam, a hug, and her bouncing off again.  "Xander call off?"

"He probably has to work some overtime since he said they had shown up at his workplace."

"What is he doing?" John asked.

"Rebuilding the school.  He's crew lead," Giles told him.  "We're most proud of him for it."

"Of course the dick didn't tell us he got the promotion until four weeks later," Buffy called from her workout room.

John kept his opinion to himself.  This team was clearly trying hard to get back from the ripping itself apart stage they had heard they were in.  Maybe because Harris was stubborn enough to stick around.  Maybe not.  Watching them was painful sometimes and it was something he hoped his boys never had to go through.  Giles pointed him at the right books, letting him look it up himself.  Sam came over to help since he was better at research.

Dean went to check out Buffy's room and see what he needed to bring tonight.  That way he wouldn't have to run back to the car for things.


Dean stomped in later that night, shuddering when his family stared at him then took a few steps back.  "They are the grossest things, even before you pop them.  Most of them suggested they could put us in the center of the orgy and have us every which way."  He went to shower.  He hoped it worked.

Sam got the door when it was knocked on, taking the bag from Anya.  "Thank you for this, Anya."

"I don't like it when stinky people get near the store.  Then others won't buy things.  I even make Xander clean up before he comes in unless it's an apocalypse."  She walked off again.

Sam opened the bathroom door and pushed the bag into the shower.  "From Anya," he said, trying hard not to breathe in.  He flipped on the fan then left, closing the door behind him.  He went outside to get some fresher air then decided he now stunk so he had to change shirts.

John shook his head.  "That's bad.  I'm glad we don't have many of those."  He went back to his research.  Dean could use all the hot water at the motel for all he cared.  As long as he didn't stink him to death later on.


House was watching outside the house the three docs were staying in, finding the one watching them staring at something.  "They're insane," he decided.

Foreman looked over his shoulder.  "Why are they watching us now?"

"He's protecting us."

"From what?"

"Stein and his troupe.  Stein tried to arrest Gibbs earlier and ended up in a cell because of it.  The locals are getting desperate because they know Taylor is going to shut them out."  He let the curtain fall, looking at him.  "Be more careful at the hospital.  If that one wanted to have Cameron killed, they can do the same to you."  He nodded, heading back to make some more coffee.  House went back to watching their watcher.  He saw something strange and called Taylor, who was only up the street.  "Watch him."  There were two men on the lawn.  He was fairly certain one was an officer since it was in uniform.  That one lunged at the boy and then... turned to dust?  The other did the same and the boy dusted himself off before walking off.  "What the hell?" he complained.

"What'd he do now?" Foreman asked.

"Two bodies just turned to dust."

Foreman came to look.  One was on the sidewalk so they saw the dust.  "Maybe you need to take a nap.  You get more sleep at home, House."  He went back to the kitchen.

House went up to the other house.  "Did you see that?"

"I did but I'm not sure what I saw," Mac admitted.  He was scowling at the spot where there had been two people.  "I also feel like I know something and I don't know what."

A small, dog-like, walking demon walked up to them, nodding politely.  "My mother wanted you to know that the vampires are probably going to leave you alone now.  The slayer made herself very clear about leaving you guys alone."

House looked at him.  "What are you?"

He grinned.  "We're all like this."

"The whole town?" Mac asked.

"Ooooh.  Rosenburg must've goofed again.  She does that sometimes with her magic."  He skipped off.  "Momma, they don't remember us," he called as he skipped.

House stared at Taylor, who looked inside at the listening others.  "Uh-huh," House said dryly.

"What's a slayer?" Horatio asked.  "Speed?  You're our better researcher."

"I've been chatting with the people at home and Gibbs' lab about this stuff.  Eric agreed, yesterday we complained about demons.  Today we haven't."  He looked up.  "He did a search on that name and came up with Willow Rosenburg, who we have two files on."  They went to find them again.  He looked up what a demon slayer was and found an account.  "Huh.  A demon slayer is a girl chosen mystically who has some extra skills and strength.  It's her job to hunt the bad things until they or she die.  Then the next one is called."  He got more in depth on that topic, letting Gibbs see.  "Abby sent me that site ID."

"Of course she did.  She likes to surf the strange and weird.  Even though this town is too weird for her."

"She said she came out here once on vacation.  She was nearly someone's princess of forensics but they had to let her go when his master said so.  Apparently his master said she would bring too much attention on them.  That was right after she started working with you, Gibbs."

"So about seven years ago.  Huh.  Wonder if they're still around."

"Possibly."  He asked her that, getting back a 'nope, the slayer got him during an apocalypse called the Harvest'.  "No.  She said the local slayer got him during something called The Harvest."

"I saw that mentioned in a crime file," Mac said, finding it again.  By the morning they'd remember everything Willow had made them forget.  They were nosy and searched out information that way.  They might even know more than they had before.


Xander looked up as one of the auditing team walked onto his site.  "Hard hat," he  ordered.  His second in command gave him one.  "What can we do for you, Lieutenant?"

"I wanted to know how the construction was going."

"As you can see, we're pretty far along on the foundations.  We had a week's extra waiting time waiting on the funding to trickle in."  That got a nod.  "So far we're mostly on schedule.  My crew works very hard."  He grinned.  "Want a tour?"

"No, just checking on a few things."  He stared at him.  "Can we talk?"

"If we must."  He nodded at his boss, who pointed at the trailer.  They went in and kicked out the exterior crew chief doing his paperwork.  "What's up?" he asked, sitting in his chair.

"It was most unkind of your friend to make us forget things, Mr. Harris."

"She thought she'd be protecting you.  Not everyone can handle knowing about demons."

"I figured as much.  It was still dangerous."

"Not my thing.  The girls made sure I didn't touch magic."  He gave him a look.  "I'm sure she'd say she was sorry but I can't make her give you an apology.  We're friends but only Giles might be able to get that through to her."

"That's reasonable.  Is he in charge of your little group?"

"Supposedly.  Most of the time he lets Buffy do it so he can research."

"I see."  He stared at the boy.  "How big of an impact does this have in other areas?"

"In the town or outside of it?" he asked.


"In town, the old mayor, Wilkins, built the town around the hellmouth.  It was meant to draw demons and help him ascend into a pure demon, which he tried during our graduation."  Horatio's mouth fell open.  "Didn't remember that much?"

"I remember everything I did before, I think, but not anything about a hell...what?"

"Hellmouth.  It's a convergence point of mystical energy that's a thin spot between demonic realms.   Basically, what you think of as hell is actually a lot of different dimensions.  Under the school is the spot where it's thinnest and can be opened.  Power pools there, calls to bad demons, drives some harmless ones insane, things like that."

"So other areas don't have this issue?"

He nodded.  "Somewhat.  There are demons, they're just in deeper hiding.  If I remember right, Miami only had two vampire related and two or three demon related deaths last year."

"Good to know."  He shifted, looking at his hands then at him.  "What about around here?"

"Most of the people you've been trying hard not to beat were put into their jobs by Wilkins.   If Taylor looked in the broom closet on the detective's floor he'd find a shrine to Wilkins."

"I'll keep that in mind.  Can it be fixed?"

"If you want to get all the asskissers and things out of town, it'd only help us," he told him.  "It'd be a power vacuum that'd be filled by someone who probably already knew about demons but that happens."

"Good to know."  He considered it, looking out at the school.  "Why put it back here?"

"No money to buy other land.  The new mayor is the old assistant mayor.  The usual BS."

"I can see that.  Will it be safe?"

"Nope.  Not while the hellmouth is active."  He grinned.  "That's why we're here."

"It's good that you are, Mr. Harris.  I saw your work early this morning when I ran out to get us decent coffee."  Xander went pale.  "I take it she doesn't know?"

"She seems to think I'm a bit too normal for her tastes.  She has since Willow discovered magic and it went from normals helping her specialness to two special girls and one with training plus me," he said quietly.  "I've fought that battle many times.  I'm still fighting it."

He nodded.  "You could leave and do this elsewhere."

"Without backup.  I'm the first to admit I'm not great at it.  I'm pretty decent but there's plenty of things I could probably use some training on.  Because Giles didn't.  A lot I picked up as I did the job with her.  You learn fast when it's you or them."

"You would."  His chest hurt for this young man.  "What happens if you get too injured?"

"If she dies, the other's in jail by LA."  He wrote down an address.  "If you hear about Buffy dying, Faith's here.  She's the other slayer."

"We heard there was only one."

Xander shrugged.  "I know CPR.  Buffy died long enough to pass on the calling.  So there's two.  Faith's death will call the next one."

He tucked the information into his shirt pocket.   "I'll keep that in mind.  What did she go away for?"

He considered it then looked up at him.  "Things were going bad then, Horatio.  Faith and Buffy were at odds half the time and I was too busy dealing with my own shit to see it.  Faith accidentally staked the human Buffy shoved at her during a fight."  Horatio shuddered.  "That's the official reason.  The other one, well, Wilkins took her in.  Helped her heal, gave her a father figure, all that stuff.  She went bad there for a while.  She's in jail because she turned herself in.  The Watchers were going to kill her.  She had tried to kill us again.  Tried to kill Angel and them in LA.  It was a big soap opera.  I've been sending her letters but she doesn't answer so I don't know if she wants to forget or not."

"I suppose that happens."

"Faith had bad issues before she got poked with the pointy stick.  Worse than my family's since I know my file has theirs in it.  Then her watcher got killed in front of her."

"Which is enough to warp anyone into slipping over the line," he agreed.

Xander nodded. "I've felt that pull before."

"Then perhaps you should take a break?"

"Then who would back her up?  Not like she'll usually have more than Willow."

"The others who came in?"

"Someone sent them to guard you guys too.  Someone higher up likes you guys for some reason."  He leaned back again.  "As for Wilkin's people, he had blackmail on half of them but it might be minor things.  He was germphobic and things like that."  That got a nod.  "No idea how many or who.  You guys should've gotten the files from that weapons warehouse."

"We do have those, along with the FBI.  Will the town be in trouble if we fix the system?"

"It'd be nice to have officers who do more than write parking tickets.  Eventually the ignoring it thing going on would hit them so we'd only have to hide patrols for a little bit.  But it would be nice not to be blamed for things we're stopping that they caused."

"I suppose it would," he agreed, smiling a bit.  "We did find both sets of files on your team."

"That's cool."

"Who was Jesse?"

Xander grimaced.  "He was mine and Willow's best friend.  I knew him since before I have memories."

"I'm sorry."

Xander shrugged.  "They got him, I got them back.  Then I saw that one little blonde girl, for all the special skills and knowledge she possessed, couldn't handle the town's problems by herself."

"That's why we found online rumors of you being a knight."

"I do jump in but I don't have the pretty armor of someone like Lancelot."

Horatio smiled.  "It's probably bulky anyway."

"Yeah, hard to run in," he agreed with a grin of his own.  "Can you guys maybe stay in for the next few nights?  We've had a build-up of vamps and we've got to hunt them down before they raise the death rate again."

"Will it ever go down to a normal number?"

Xander shrugged.  "No clue.  I've been trying to find some way of mass getting the vamps.  Some sort of light bomb, some sort of holy water bomb, something we can send into bigger nests.  I've got something smaller but it still means we have to go clean up a lot of them.  We get about fifteen to twenty a week outside the summer slow down.  We do what we can."

"I understand that.  I'm not finding fault.  If you had more who could do things, would it help?"

He nodded.  "Possibly."

"Then you might talk to the elder Winchester boy.  He likes to tinker by what Speed found online."

Xander beamed.  "I'd kiss you for that but all the info we have on you has you around some pretty women who pant after you."

Horatio blushed.  "Not necessary and they're like family, not that way, Mr. Harris."  He looked out at the school then at him.  "Your crew does good work.  Both of them."  He left, going to let the others listen to what he had taped of the conversation.

Xander came out to look at his boss.  "He wanted to know why Wilkins had a faked file on us."  His boss shuddered.  "Basically, yeah.  My family again."  He went back to work, thinking about what he could ask Dean about.  If he actually tinkered like they thought then maybe he'd have an idea about how to do a better holy water grenade.


Xander tapped on the motel room door later that night, getting John.  "Is Dean in?"

"He's at the Bronze," he admitted, letting him inside by getting out of the way.  They had learned with the pizza delivery driver.

"Shoot."  He walked inside.  "I wanted his opinion on something.  Horatio said he tinkered."

"He does.  Why?"  He sat on the bed.

"I've been working on a way to get a larger boom that'll kill vamps," he said quietly, staring at him.  "Maybe for throwing it into a nest or something."  John's mouth flopped open.  "I know, Buffy doesn't like it either but we won't always have her and I think it could be helpful.  Right now I've only got the one made and it's strong but only hand grenade strength.  I wanted to talk to him about it after patrol tonight."

"Let me call him, Xander.  If you could do it, even at that strength, I know a few hunters who might like that."  The boy looked startled.  "Plenty of things take holy water to kill and it'd be safer to hit their nest when they're sleeping than to get them while they're hunting."

"But then you'd get the kill them all people," he pointed out.

"Hunters like we are can be that way," he said honestly.  "But most of us travel, kid.  We only hear about it once it hits the papers."  Xander relaxed.  "That's more a worry for the mercs who're in the field."

"There are?"

"Yeah, there are."  He called Dean's phone.  "Get back to the room.  Xander wants to talk to you about tinkering."

"I'm going on patrol right now.  How about afterward so he can have some down time?"

John looked at him.  "We're here to guard you too, kid.  Not just the auditing team and Buffy like you told Caine."

"How did you hear that?  We were in the office."

"Sam's earning some extra money on your exterior crew," he said with a smug look.  Xander rolled his eyes.  "I know you don't need it as much as some, but still."  He listened.  "We can do that.  Where's patrol?"

"The warehouses.  The vamps have been sliding past us thanks to this stuff."

"We can help with that."  He told Dean that and then gathered his things, following the boy out.  Buffy gave him an odd look.  "You could use more help anyway."

"Fine, but no guns.  They don't work on vamps."

He patted his pistol.  "Magnesium flare rounds," he said simply.  "It'll burn pretty much anything."

She gaped.  "You can do that?"

"I did that with a flare once," Xander told her.  "I didn't know you could put those in bullet casings."

John gave him a smug look.  "We have a bullet guy who can."  Xander nearly worshiped him with his eyes.  "I'll see if I can introduce you.  He's a bit paranoid."  Xander nodded at that.

"I still don't like guns," she complained.

"If it helps," John told her.

She huffed.  "It's not the slayer way."

"Who says I only go with you and that you'll be around forever," Xander pointed out.  She glared at him.  "Not like they won't come for me anyway, Buffy."

"Probably to date you," she snorted.

"No, I have one of those and if I went for another she'd get her powers back."  She shuddered.  John did too.  "You ran into my pookie?"

"A few times."  They were joined by Dean and Willow.  "We all set?"

"Sure.  What did you need help tinkering with?" he asked Xander.  Who glanced at where Buffy was going over plans with Willow.  "Later, sure."  That got a grin.

Buffy looked back.  "Extra hearing is part of the gifts.  What did you do this time?"

"Holy water grenade."

She blinked a few times.  "Why?  You know we don't need things like that, Xander!"

"For nests," he said bluntly.  "Like the one by the college."  She shuddered.  She hadn't wanted to take that one down yet.  "We can toss it in and it'll hopefully reduce some of them."

"Less to stake but it could collapse the nest on us."

"That's why you throw it and then follow it," John told her.  "Like you would any grenade, Buffy."  She glared at him.  "It's been a while but I've had to do that once with a nest full of these bug demons."  Dean shuddered, getting away from his father.  "I know a lot of hunters who might like that idea."

"Fine.  Can you take him with you so he quits drawing demons and dating things that cause problems?"

"Mine haven't been an apocalypse," he shot back, glaring at her.  "Jump off my sex life or we can start on yours too."  She backed up at that, giving him a dirty look.  "Thank you!  I'm not the magnet that the hellmouth is for demons.  Thanks anyway, Buffy."  He walked off.  "I'm taking the South edge tonight.  Have fun with that nest."

"I'm coming with you," Dean said, jogging to catch up.

John stared at her.  "You're ripping him up, Buffy."

"He's normal!"

"So's your watcher."

"He's a watcher."

"That means he's trained," he told her.  "The same as I learned on the job over the years."  She slumped at that.  "Everyone's normal but you.  Even a witch is normal.  She just has an extra plug missing in her body so she can funnel power up through herself and bend it to do stupid things like memory charms."  Willow 'eeped' at that.

Buffy looked at her.  "You did?"

"On the auditing team so they wouldn't remember demons."

"Did they forget us?" she asked.

"No," John said.  "And since Xander had to stake a few that were going after the doctors they remember everything now and went looking for more information."  Both girls groaned.  "Everything and everyone takes some training, Buffy, or else you wouldn't be toilet trained.  Some training is more critical, and the boy has some things he can learn even by his own admission, but that isn't stopping him.  You should be thankful you have someone who'll help you, not sneer at him for it."

"I'm trying to keep him from getting hurt," she told him.

"That's his decision.  He's a big boy," he said dryly.  She slumped, shaking her head.  "It's his decision to jump into the battles.  It's his decision to back you up.  If he gets hurt, that's because he doesn't know enough or he wasn't good enough that time.  We've *all* gotten hurt hunting.  Even me and my boys.  We can do our own stitches, but we've had to hit the ER many times over the years.   Hell, Dean's been in ICU twice before he was twenty thanks to the life."

She stared at him.  "If you could've spared them that, would you have?"

"The one that killed my wife and Sammy's girl is still out there.  Until it's gone, it's a war.  Me, my sons, if I had any grandkids.  Yes, that may be short sighted, but better us than someone who doesn't know and hasn't been affected getting hit by them.  We don't hunt for the thanks.  We hunt because others will get hurt if we don't.  The boy knows that.  That's why he does it since he managed to help you get the ones that killed his friend."

She nodded.  "I guess, but I'd still rather not see him in the hospital."

"He's only had the one broken arm," Willow reminded her.  "And a few larger cuts that we stitched."

Buffy nodded.  John shook his head.  "He's damn lucky since the boy needs trained in basic combat.  However he got it was good but not perfect for this situation."  She stared at him.  "Hunting alone or with a small group is a bit different than however he learned strike team methods."

"Possession," she muttered.  "So he'd be hurt less if we trained him?"

"Yup.  Basically."

"I'll talk to Giles about that.  He said he didn't want to train him."

"Then he's a fucking moron," John told her simply.  "Just because the boy's normal, though if he was possessed and it stuck I'm doubting he truly is, then that's all the more reason to see him trained.  Didn't he train him in things like research?"

"No, Xander learned Latin like I did, as we learned how to do it," Willow said.

John looked up then at her.  "There's probably tons you could learn from a coven too, Willow."

"There's none around here but the posers at the college," she defended.

John stared at her.  "I know of one an hour away."

"Don't drive," she said grimly.

"We can fix that, young lady.  That's a basic life skill for most people."  She huffed.  "Tough."  He looked at Buffy.  "Your mother has sense.  Does she like this problem?"

"No.  She swatted me over it and yelled last week," she was starting to pout now.

"Good.  I knew your mother had sense."  He pointed.  "Shall we while the boys work off their frustration hunting?"

"He'll get hurt," she told him.

"Dean's been hunting for nearly ten years, and Xander for five, Buffy.  Getting a bit banged up happens even to us."

"I have faster healing."

He shrugged.  "So?"  He pointed.  "C'mon, we'll go stake and hunt."  She huffed but he followed her out to the warehouses they knew were occupied by vampires.  He definitely needed to talk to Bobby about taking that boy in and training him.  Especially if he was open to new possessions and they stuck in him.


House looked up as Buffy was admitted into the ER.  He was down there checking to see how many new patients got killed so he stayed to watch this one.  She wasn't injured but she looked worried.

"Can I see one of the new docs?" she asked the nurse.  "I think something's going on."


"My boyfriend was a commando and they were giving him some funny shots.  I've been noticing things and I wanted to make sure I didn't get any from them too."

"How long have you had this persecution delusion?" she asked.

Buffy glared at her.  "He was one of Walsh's commandos."  The nurse went pale.   "They did all sorts of mean things to their own people and they thought I was neat.  That's why I wanted to see one of the new docs."

"I'll see if one's available."  She walked off to talk to the one down there.  "Doctor Cameron, there's a young girl here who insists her boyfriend may have given her something."

"She can't go to the health department?"

"Not that sort of something.  She thinks her boyfriend was getting some sort of shots and things and they may have gotten her."

"Huh."  She went to talk to the young one, recognizing her.  "What were they giving him, Miss Summers?"

"We know they had some super vitamins and we know that they did neat things like implant chips in them.  I heard a rumor that the shots gave a few of them heart problems.  I think my healing gifts will cover that but I need to know if they did anything to me.  I feel really odd and unsettled, have for weeks, and I'm not sure if it's not that wearing out.  Plus, I've had a major case of PMS and it's not time for that but everyone's yelled at me for it recently.  That's not usually how I am.  I don't think anyway."

"We can pull some blood.  Do we have any idea what they gave them so we know what we're looking for?  I can ask Gibbs to see if he'd know but if you were dating one, then you might know more than he would from the official records."

"Willow might.  They were looking over me to see what I could do and why I was so special before I realized they were goobers and torturing others," she said quietly, looking at her hands.  Then at her.  "I just don't want to have to stress out my mother.  She's been feeling sick this week.  Dizzy and not eating and stuff."

"The flu?"

"I don't know.  She's been in a bad mood and she hasn't been nappy like usual, ya know?"

Cameron frowned.  "Maybe she should see her usual doctor.  It sounds like it might not be the flu this time."

"Can I bring her here?  Our doc died last week in that big accident on the freeway."

"Sure," she agreed.

Buffy called.  "Mom, I'm at the ER.  No, not like that.  I think Riley's people may've done some stuff and the doc wanted to look you over too.  Please?"  She huffed.  "Yes you do, Mom.  Because Dawn and I would be *way* pissed and have to have Willow destroy the Pentagon if they did, Mom.  Please?  Just for a bit?  It won't take that long and one of the new docs is going to draw my blood.  Pretty please?"

Xander walked in and took the phone. "Joyce, it's Xander.  I'm coming to pick you and Dawn up.  If you fuss, I'm carrying you to the car.  Because if you die, your daughters will be devastated and Buffy will end up dying sooner, Joyce.  You know that."  He hung up.  "I'll go pick her up.  Yes, they did something to her.  She's been extra cranky beyond PMS this last week for *some* reason."

"Why are you here?" Buffy asked impatiently.

"Because Dean needed a few bigger bandaids.  We ran into one of the things with the poison claws.  I gave him my vial of antidote but he still needed a few bandages and we're out."

"Oh.  I guess that's normal.  Would...would you like to work out with me tomorrow, Xander?"

"After work?"

She grimaced.  "I forgot about that."

"You forgot to go to class today too," he reminded her patiently.  He kissed her on the forehead.  "I know you're being blonde dyed to death, I get that."  He walked out, going to pick up Joyce and Dawn, bringing them back to the ER.  He found the house locked so he picked it and walked inside.  "Dawn, get to the car.  Riley's people dosed your sister with something and she's coming down.  The new docs are looking her over."  Dawn ran for the car.  He found Joyce in the living room.  "Well?"

"I'm fine."

"Bullshit.  You were dizzy earlier.  You haven't been able to keep down food in days that I've seen.  You were weaving earlier while driving past the site.  You look like hell, Joyce, and you've had mood swings.  Either you're pregnant or something's going on."

"If I am, there's a demon in trouble," she said bluntly.

"I'll help Buffy kill it," he promised, pulling her up.  "I promised Buffy I'd carry you.  You know she'll worry about you instead of herself."

"Fine.  I suppose it can't hurt."

He walked her out, stopping to relock the door, then walked her down to the car, getting the vamp trying to tempt Dawn into getting out.  "Stupid minion."

Joyce laughed.  "If they live they grow up and learn better."

"Not if your daughter and I have a say in it," he quipped back, backing down their driveway and driving them to the hospital.  He walked them inside.  "Buffy Summers' family.  She's being seen."  He walked them back there, letting Dawn hop up on the table behind her sister.  "Doctor...."


"Xander Harris.  This is Joyce Summers.  She's having symptoms like morning sickness but she's presently unattached."

"I can find out some things with some blood work.  The lab's not busy right now," she promised.  "Then we can see if someone's in trouble or not," she finished with a smile.

"If I'm pregnant there's a wish demon somewhere who's going to get their ass kicked," Buffy said bluntly.

"I'll help with that but I'll get to fuss and coo over the cute little one," Xander offered with a grin.

"Are you two dating?" Cameron asked him.

"No, but I'm here to keep Buffy from running out."  He smirked back.  "I won't listen, just guard."

"Fine.  Thank you for taking care of me in the cemetery the other night.  I don't remember why but I was told I'd be dead."  He nodded.  She pulled blood from the other two then sent it upstairs.  She found House watching.  "The military project was injecting its own people with stuff?"

"I heard her say that and called Gibbs.  He said they were but he has no idea what."

"Willow hacked their records, docs," Xander said, making Cameron jump since he had snuck up on her.  House hadn't warned her.  "We know a vitamin shot.  We know Riley had a chip of some sort so maybe anti-rejection stuff.  Also they gave them an anti-venom weekly we're not sure about and she had taken tissues from some of them to create her own monster of the week.  Mostly from the dead but not totally."

"Interesting.  Did your friend hack them to find out what was given?" House asked.

"I suggested it.  She got some, but I'm not sure what."  He called her.  "Wills, me.  Did we hack to see what the Initiative gave to their people?  Because Buffy's clearly been coming down off something and Joyce has been sick all week and it's not the flu."  He nodded.  "Thanks."  He hung up.  "She'll go there and see if she can crack it further.  She said nothing she has would cover that."  He looked back there then at them.  "I knew something was wrong with Joyce," he said quietly.  "I wasn't sure why I knew but I was going to nag her later this week anyway when the new doc got into her usual practice.   It's like it's something off about her.  Maybe her scent, I'm not sure."

"The blood work will give us a starting spot to look," House told him.  "Go catch the little mouthy one."  Xander went to take Dawn for a candy bar.  "Search them for a chip with a full body scan," he decided.  "On mother and daughter.  Leave the little one alone.  There's something strange with her.  The records don't note her until last month."

She nodded, going to the lab first to check on the results.  What she saw was amusing.  She came back.  "Preliminary results on some of them are back.  Buffy, you've got a few higher than average spikes."

She looked at the results.  "This one's my healing factor.  This one's normal too.  What's this one?" she asked, pointing at one.

"Blood sugar."

"I had a candy bar on the way over," she admitted.  "What's this one?"

"That one's liver function.  Which is slightly worrying."  Buffy nodded, looking at her.  "We're going to be doing a full body scan of both of you.  Mrs. Summers, there's an anomaly in yours as well."  She glanced at Buffy.

"She'll hear."

"Okay.  You're not pregnant, but you did show up as having a high white cell count.  That's an infection or possibly something they might have implanted since Buffy and Xander both said that they implanted chips."

Buffy nodded.  "They chipped Riley and Spike.  Spike so he can't eat people and Riley to control him and make him more loyal," she said quietly.  "You think they did my mom?"

"I don't know.  That's why I'm ordering full body scans on both of you.  Plus some more extensive bloodwork."  They nodded.  "We don't have Dawn's back so far but I don't think she's going to be having problems?" she asked Buffy.


"Because the records only note her starting last month."

"There's a definite magic smell around her," Xander agreed as he walked Dawn back in.  "We'll figure it out though.  It's not like she's dangerous."  He grinned at Dawn, who smirked back.  "Only to hearts in the future, kiddo.  Should I call Giles, Buffy?"

"No, let's find out first, then we'll tell Giles and the others, Xander.  Can you watch Dawn if her stuff comes out normal?"

"Of course.  I'll even stop Anya from giving her more sex ed."

"No, she can't learn that from Anya.  I want Dawn to be a good girl, Xander.  Not string them along or have stories like Anya does about past demonic orgies."

"Sure."  He put an arm around her shoulder.  "So you're taking them to radiology and we'll wait here, Doctor Cameron?"

"Yup."  She got orderlies to take them up there.  She looked at Dawn.  "Any idea about that?"  She shook her head.  "Okay.  I'm sure your group will figure it out."

"We usually do," he agreed.  He looked at her then winked.  "They'll be fine."

"They'd better be or I'm going to kick me some Riley's butt up around his tonsils."  Cameron left.

"You'd have to ask Buffy if he still had them."

"Eww.  He was nasty, Xander."  She hopped up to sit on the bed, looking at him.  "You think Mommy's really sick?" she asked quietly.

"I think if she's really sick we probably caught it pretty early.  I only picked up hints that she was sick in the last week, Dawnster."  She slumped but nodded.  "So we'll see what's going on.  Then we'll figure out how to fix it."  His phone rang.  "Hey, Dean.  Sorry.  No, I'm at the ER with Buffy's family.  They're taking them up for full body scans at the moment.  I can do that once we're done here.  Sure, or then's good.  I've got tomorrow off actually."  He grinned.  "Tell Sam to kick the ass of his supervisor.  They're falling behind, dude."  He hung up and gave her a hug.  "From Dean."


"Some higher up ones sent hunters out to guard these guys while they're here.  They sent a family of hunters.  John, the dad, Dean, who I was hunting with earlier, and Sam, who's really tall and really smart.  Like Willow smart."

"Wow.  And they hunt?"  He nodded.  "Could one of them maybe hit on Buffy so she has a good boyfriend?"

"I don't think they'd want to settle down here but Dean said he's passing around her picture to interest any others he might know."  She beamed at that.  "I agree.  She needs laid by a decent boyfriend who likes to hunt.  Riley was a weenie."

She giggled, nodding some.  "He so was."  They settled in to wait on news.


House walked up to where Buffy and Joyce were waiting.  Xander had taken Dawn home to let her sleep since it was nearly four in the morning.  "I can be blunt or I can be kind, but I'm rusty on that skill," he told them.

"Be blunt," Buffy said.  "We can cry later."  She held her mother's hand.

"We did find that they had drugged you, Buffy.  Those vitamins were what's doing the damage the blood work saw.  It also looks like it's healing all right.  You'll be fine but don't drink or anything anytime soon."

"Not going to happen anyway," she assured him.  "So nothing long-term?"

"Not that we can tell.  I would like to follow up on that in about six months.  Since you heal faster we should know by then."

"Probably.  I heal broken bones in a few days."

"Then we'll definitely know by then if something's going to remain."  He looked at Joyce, mentally sighing as he put the scan on the light board in the exam room.  "That's yours."

She looked.  "That's a chip?"

"No, that's a tumor."  He looked at her.  "With the evidence Xander laid of him only getting the feeling you were sick this last week, and Buffy's own worries taking place about the same place, it's clearly fast growing."

She swallowed.  "Okay.  So I have to do chemo or something?  Do we still have oncologists?"

"Not one I'd trust," he admitted.   "I know a very good one.  He's very caring with his patients.  He's in New Jersey but he's had a good hand with this sort of tumor.  I can get him to see you almost as soon as you land."

"I can't leave her."

"Mom, it'll be good treatment," Buffy said.

"I'm not leaving you here alone, Buffy.  I can do any treatments locally."

"I checked through him on the people who do this sort specifically.  There's one in LA but he's backed up with patients," House told her.

"I need to be here for Buffy and Dawn."

"Mom, if you have to leave and be safe, you can take Dawn to fuss over you and I'll come visit.  That way I know you're safe.  I won't have to worry about people breaking in to kill you like I did with Riley's people or demons or anything like that."  She looked at House.  "Is it possible Riley's people did it to her?  I know that sounds paranoid but with what they were doing...."

"Miss Rosenburg took the Winchester clan to guard her back while she went down to get into their computers with Gibbs looking over her shoulder.  They did have plans but the notes on it never said that they had tested it and it was meant for testing on one of their captives."  Joyce shuddered.  "I can't be sure but the best possible treatment, meaning the fastest and the best doctor I can recommend you to, is in New Jersey.  He can get you started on treatments within a few days.  If it's growing as fast as your daughter and the boy think, you might only have weeks before it's beyond treatment."  She slumped, shaking her head.  "Doing it here means we can only do standard treatment.  He has a lot more at his fingertips because it's a teaching hospital.  We're affiliated with Princeton."

"I need to be near by to help Buffy.  I'm her mother."

"Mom, I all but live on campus.  You and Dawn can go and be *safe*.  For once.  Please?  We're going to come up on apocalypse season again soon, Mom, and we're not sure it won't be the mayor's former people trying to get this auditing team.  I want you to be safe."  She looked at House.  "It'd be safer?"

"It's much safer.  It also might mean less treatments," he told her.  "Wilson has a few ways of doing things so you only get four to ten treatments of chemo instead of forty.  Which is all you'd get unless you went to LA.  Again, their center is packed full of patients and I'm not sure who's taking new ones."

"Please, Mom?"

"I'm needed here," she said, glaring at her daughter.  Buffy huffed but stomped off to sulk outside.

House smacked her on the head with the folder.  "You might be a mother, but you were just a Mother of a Bitch to her.  She's worrying about you the same way you worry about her."

"I don't need you to be that blunt," she said grimly.

"Tough.  You wanted blunt, you get blunt.  Staying here means that your daughter has to worry about you and possibly die while worrying about you.  Going there means she doesn't have to worry for a while and your younger daughter doesn't have to watch your older one go out every night with the possibility of not coming back."

"Or coming back as what she hunts," Xander said from behind him.  He had been lurking and waiting for the bad news to come.  He knew it was going to be bad news with the way the docs were doing all the expensive tests.  He stared at her.  "I will drug your ass and put you on the plane with Dawn," he told her.  "Because not only does your daughter worry.  I worry, Giles worries, Willow and Tara worry.  You're the only mother we have, Joyce.  We want you to get the best treatment possible and then come back to make us eat after patrols and give advice to Spike about finding someone better than Dru and Harmony.  I can watch Buffy's back.  Giles does watch her back.  You're more vulnerable and Dawn's at the perfect age to be taken."  Joyce went pale at that.

"She's pretty enough for the vamps to want her because it means she'll be able to draw the future victims to her.  She's the sister of a slayer so a lot of them would be *very* pleased to turn her because they'd think Buffy couldn't stake her," he finished quietly.  "That's why Spike and I take turns watching Dawn whenever she's out anywhere near dark or near any of the known vamp areas.  She doesn't need to know about it, but it is a worry for us."  He moved closer, making Joyce look at him.  "Buffy's outside getting sick because she's upset and worried about you.  It'll be safer.  Let Dawn be the little girl she is for a while, Joyce.  Buffy can come visit.  That's why we have summer slowdowns."

"Buffy won't eat."

"Giles and I can nag pretty impressively.  We do you," he reminded her, giving her a look.  She smiled slightly, nodding that they both had the last time she had been sick.  "It would be safer, Joyce, and to be honest, do you really want to wait up on her to not come home some night?  Or to come home vamped?"  She shuddered, shaking her head.  "If you don't have to see it, it's easier.  You know that."

"I do."  She looked at House.  "He's good?"

"He's very good.  I can get him up and tell him when you'll be there."

"Giles is making them plane reservations."

"He's going behind my back?" Joyce demanded.

"Hell yes," he snorted.  "I'll be damned if we're going to let you die of something like this.  Especially if Riley's people caused it."  She nodded at that, toughening up again.  "Let me go get Buffy so you can tell her you've seen the light?"  She nodded, swatting him hard so he yelped as he left.  "Yes, mom."

"Thank you, Xander."  She looked at House.  "How long before it becomes surgery instead of treatment?"

"I can send it all to him tonight and he can tell you better than I can.  I'm a diagnostician, not an oncologist."

"Fine.  Thank you, Doctor House."

"Not a problem.  He's right, neither of you need this stress."

"I know but we fought so hard to keep her from the other watchers."

Buffy walked in, staring at her mother.  "Not like they'll get me now, Mom.  They can't cook either."  Her mother hugged her.  "Let Dawn be a teenage girl for a bit.  There's probably good schools out there.  Better than here certainly.  And hey, it means she won't have to start at Hellmouth High next year."

She gave her a squeeze.  "We'll see, Buffy."  She looked at House, who went to call, taking the picture with him.  "I will be spanking for the plan to put me on the plane drugged, young lady.  You and Rupert."

"Mom, I don't want to know if you and Giles play spanky games," she told her, cracking her mother up.  "Eww, I have mental images I don't want to visit."

"Let's go home and rest before we leave for the airport.  When are we going?"

"Tomorrow afternoon.  That gives Dawn time to wake up and be human again."  She looked around.  "Can Mom go?"

"He's making her an appointment," the nurse said.  "Let me get the papers.  They should be ready at the same time."  She went to do that for them. It was obviously bad news.


Joyce walked off the plane, finding someone waiting on her.  "You are?"

He smiled.  "James Wilson.  Doctor House sent you to me, Mrs. Summers."  He shook Dawn's hand too.  "I'm your doctor.  One of House's friends."  He grinned.  "Let's get your bags and I'll take you guys to the hospitality house.  I'll go over your scans and do one more plus some additional blood work they couldn't run out there.  I'll know by tonight how best to treat it and how long it'll be before you can go back to your older daughter."

"Thank you."  She smiled.  "This is my daughter Dawn."

"House said you reminded him of him when he was younger.   Mouthy and a bit smart."

She smirked.  "Only when you deserve it."

"Good."  He led them to the baggage claim then drove them back to the hospital to get them checked in and sent up for the necessary tests.  That tumor had even shifted since last night so it was critical they got on it sooner.  He put them beside each other, letting her see them that night.

"Was my daughter right and it could be caused?"

"I've seen one like that.  This one may be," he admitted.  "It's growing abnormally fast.  I've seen natural ones do the same things but not usually in brain tumors."  She nodded at that, biting her bottom lip.  "Fortunately there's a few good treatments to shrink it.  Which brings up a few options.  Do you want to shrink it and then remove it or would you like to remove it and treat any possible remaining tissue?  Shrinking it may have a better outcome in the end, leave less tissue to flare back up in a few months.  Removing it can be done almost immediately.  I can schedule you for the day after tomorrow.  Then wait three days to take another scan and start you on chemo."

"Not radiation?"

"I don't think it'll help this time.  If the chemo doesn't clear all signs of abnormal cells, and we would be doing a laproscopic cell biopsy in a few months to check so we don't have to wait for a full tumor to appear, then we might move onto targeted radiation treatments.  For right now, I'm fairly certain the chemo will work.  Now, I did see one problem that their machine was too ancient to find.  We found an aneurism."  He pointed it out for her.  "That can complicate surgery but we can fix it at the same time."

"If we start shrinking it and remove it after the first few treatments would that get it done faster?"

"It may," he agreed, smiling at her.  "We can start you on the chemo drip tonight if you want.  Schedule you for surgery early next week after your second one?  I'm going to be as aggressive as you'll let me be on this.  I don't like the looks of this tumor and your daughters clearly need you to make them grow up into good women."

She smiled.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem.   Which way would you like to proceed?"

"Can we start the chemo in the morning?  That way I can tell my daughter?"

"We can or we can admit you overnight and do it while you sleep and she fusses over you.  She looks like a fusser," he offered.

"Oh, she will be."  She looked toward the waiting area then at him.  "She's still in shock, Doctor Wilson."

"I can tell her whatever you want me to."

"I don't want to worry her."

"Not telling her will worry her more.  She'll have to wonder how you're doing and what's going on and how many bad side effects you'll have."

"I understand.  Dawn?" she called.  She came in and stopped to stare at the pictures.

"Hi, Dawn."  He looked at Joyce, who sighed and nodded.  "How much truth do you want and how sugar coated?"

She stiffened her back.  "I want it all.  I can handle it."

"Your mother's tumor is bad.  It's in a nasty spot.  It's growing very fast.  We're going to be aggressive in treating it.  She'll be starting chemo soon and we'll be going in to remove it next week."

She nodded at that.  "What can I do to help?"

"There's a few very good things you can do.  Including making sure she eats when she can keep it down and things like that.  There's a good support group here in the hospital for family of those going through cancer.  I can take you to them tomorrow."

"We're discussing whether I want one last night before chemo or not," Joyce said.

"Mom, I don't want you to wait.  Even though I know you're doubting and worrying and stuff.  Even one day may make a difference.  You can think while it happens.  I'm sure they have others who're going through it so you can talk to them about any doubts and stuff."

"We do," James agreed.  "They both meet tomorrow at three in the atrium."  He passed over a pamphlet to Dawn.  "We'll be keeping you at the hospitality house.  You'll be doing a lot of running in for treatments.  You'll be in for a few days for the surgery but we can do most of the chemo out-patient after this first one.  We need you here to make sure you react okay."

"I can understand that," Joyce agreed.  She looked at the picture, shuddering.  "We can start it tonight?"

"I can admit you right now and start it once we give you a mild sedative to help you sleep."

"I'd rather be awake."

"You will for the others.  Right now you need rest to gather strength," he offered.

"No, I'd rather do it naturally."

"Okay."  He went to get the paperwork, running into Cuddy.  "One of the people protecting House and his ducklings out there ended up with a rapidly growing tumor," he said quietly.  She shuddered.  "We're starting chemo tonight."

"I hope it helps.  Was it the area?"

"House and she both said we're not sure if something a recently classified project did caused it.  It's abnormal but I'd put it as a maybe."

"Good to know.  How is House doing?"

"He's frustrated.  They gave out 192 'scrips of prozac to the town in the month before they got there."

"Excuse me?" she demanded.  He smirked and nodded, taking the papers.  "That's *before* they met House?"

"House has had half the hospital arrested, Cuddy.  One of them tried to kill Cameron as well.  They've got Feds helping now."

"That poor agent," she said, walking off.

He laughed, going back to the exam room.  "My administrator wanted to know how House was doing.   She's pitying the agents who have to deal with him."

"My daughter said he's mean and snide but so's one of the other members of the audit team," Joyce admitted.

"He can be.  He cares in his own way but he tries to hide it really well."

"I saw that.  He helped nag me into coming here."  She gave Dawn a hug then signed the paperwork.  "Can she stay with me tonight?"

"Of course.  I can call over there for her."  Dawn grinned.  "Let's get you checked in."  He put the bracelet on her wrist and got orderlies, following them up there to watch her get settled.  "If you want something to help you sleep later, I've written an order for the nurses to give you something light."  He started the IV himself, looking at her before turning it on.  Dawn crawled up to hug her while it started, so he left them alone.  "First chemo drip," he told the nurse in charge.  "Her daughter's with her."

"I'll call you personally if something happens, Doctor Wilson."  She glanced in there, going to get her some ice water.  "Here, it can cause funny tastes in your mouth, Mrs. Summers."

"Joyce, please.  I figure you'll be seeing a lot of me.  This is Dawn."

"That's fine.  Make sure she stays on that side so she doesn't move your leads or tubing."  Joyce nodded.  "If you need anything, let us know."  She left, going to check on her other patients.  She did bring her another blanket because it was chilly up there at the moment.  That way mother and daughter could snuggle together.


John stopped Buffy the next night.  "No going out to do stupid things and work off your worry," he said, staring her down.  "Like going out angry, that can get you dead."

"I know.  I'm not.  Just the normal killing the vamps.  I'm more worried that Riley's coming back tomorrow.  He called earlier."

"Oh, can we pick him up?" Xander asked sweetly as he joined him.  "Got a voicemail from Dawn.  You did too but your phone's out of minutes."  He let her snatch his to call her voicemail.  "Going with?"

"I am.  That bother you guys?"

"Nope," Xander said.  "The more the merrier."  He looked at Buffy, who was sniffling.  He gave her a hug.  "He's good and he's treating her well, Buffy.  She'll get better."

"It's better for her to stay there."

"I know."  He smiled at her.  "You still have Willow to nag over your eating and if you get down to crack ho size again I will."

"Thanks, Xander."

"Why are you hugging my man?  Are you trying to steal him?" Anya demanded.

Xander glared at her.  "She just got news from her sister, Anya.  Joyce started chemotherapy tonight."  Anya pouted.  "Get off it.  I'm not the sort to cheat."

"Fine."  She pouted all the way back into the store.  "Giles, he won't cheat on me."

"Good men don't," he agreed.  "Is there news?"

"Buffy was cuddling him so I'm guessing so."  He went to hear it.  She pouted at Sam.  "Guys always cheat."

"I never have," he told her.  "Most men don't, Anya.  Real men don't need to cheat."  He looked at her.  "We don't make promises we don't try to keep."  She pouted worse.  "Why did you take up with Xander if you expected him to cheat?"

"He's young, jumpy, hyper, and likes sex.  I figured it'd be by now."

"Nope.  Probably not at all if Xander's the sort of man we think he is."


"So why go to him?"

"He listened to me.  He tries to understand and he helps me better at being human.  He explains the little things to me that I miss.  He doesn't mind that I'm a former demon and he lets me have as many orgasms as I want.  He makes a decent paycheck and he likes me at least a little bit."

"Those are all good reasons but if you go into a relationship thinking that you're going to be hurt by it, then you're not giving your all to the relationship to make it work."

"They don't have this problem on Jerry."

Sam smiled.  "Tv isn't reality, Anya.  Especially not that one.  That one's full of really strange people who have no idea what a normal life is like."

"Shoot."  She pouted.  "Are you sure you can't sleep with him to make it better?  I'd be good when I cursed him for doing it.  Not at all mean.  Well, not as mean as I used to be.  I'd have to move slowly back up to my old levels."

"Nope, sorry.  I'm not going to break up a couple."

"We could put you between us," she offered.  "After he's had you he might favor you.  That would probably count.  It was fun the last time I did that."

"Um, not my thing.  Dean's maybe but not mine and he wouldn't get between a couple either, Anya.  Sorry."

"I guess."  She went back to the register.  "Do you want to buy something?  You've been with that book for a while now."

"Giles said this was one of his personal ones, not the store's, but I might later."  She cheered up at that and let him get back to his research.  Dean came stomping in.  "Missed Dad and them by about ten minutes."

"I knew that.  Any word on her mom yet?"

"They started the chemo right after finding the tests showed the growth had gotten bigger.  They're removing it in a few days.  Dawn spent all night curled up with her mother to make sure she'd be all right."  He grinned.  "It sounds like it'll be okay."

"Good."  He sat down.  "The demon that sent us called and said they've found the bastard and they're bringing him out here so we can see him die."

"Even better."  He let him see the entry.  "Is that a prophecy?"

Dean stared at it then smirked at him, texting it to his father.  "Yeah, I think he'll like that one.  That does explain why you.  You're probably one of his possible ones."

"Probably."  He looked over at Anya.  "Hey, Anya, you know about Azazel, right?"

"A bit.  He's out of my league.  One of the higher goobers who think all of us are playing at being demons when we do all the real work.  Why?"

"We found a prophecy stating that he was going to build an army and have a chosen person to run it for him, bringing the end of days."

"Uh, yeah.  It's fairly well known.  He tries about every twenty-three years.  Last time Buffy's predecessor stopped him.  Again, why?"

"We think he marked Sammy," Dean said.

"Really?"  She came over to look at him.  "Hmm, he usually uses a blood taint, Sam.  Are you feeling tainted?"

"Is there some way to test for it and some way to weed it out if he did?" Dean asked.

She shrugged.   "I have no idea.  I can ask around if you want."

"Please.  There's no way I'm going to lead a demon army unless Dad *really* pisses me off and then I'd only lead it to kick his ass."

"You'd need an army to kick Dad's ass for real," Dean agreed.  "You and me both."  He looked at her again.  "Can you not tell anyone it's him?" Dean asked.  "If other hunters hear they might come after Sammy for it.  Hate to have to kill them."

"I can try."  She bounced off to start calling on some friends.  She hadn't summoned any of them recently and she needed to catch up anyway.

Sam leaned closer to Dean.  "I told her we could not get between her and Xander for sex to make him favor us more, which would make her scorned enough to get her powers back.  We don't break up couples."

"I'm behind that one.  I do not break up couples.  Play if they want but I don't do it to break them up.  I'm not that trashy."

"She's been watching Springer."

"That explains a lot," Dean muttered, shaking his head.  "Okay, now what?"  Sam showed him the notes he had made, getting a slow nod.  "That makes a lot of sense.  Where would the demon be trying this takeover plan?"

"I'm still looking for that part."  He went back to his research.  His father stomped in so he held up the notes, letting him take them.  "Anya's asking some friends to see if we can tell, weed it out of him, and I'm still looking at where it'll happen."

"The demon called my phone and said he'd bring the demon here next week sometime to kill him.  He knows where he is.  He might have to bait it by saying it missed Xander or wants to challenge Buffy."

"That's fine," he agreed, heading out reading it to catch back up to the two kids.  "Xander, your house didn't have a fire when you were six months old, right?" he asked casually.

Xander stared back at him.  "No.  That's one demon that never came after me.  Though, it could've been masking me."

"Huh?" Buffy asked.

"The hellmouth, Buffy.  If the demon couldn't sense that I'd be part of it's plan then it couldn't find me to taint me the way it did Sam."

"Oh.  Why?"

"It needs a chosen warrior to lead its army," John said.

"Hmm, sounds like an apocalypse."

"The notes say a slayer stopped the last few," he admitted, letting her see them.

"Whoever has really nice handwriting.  Better than mine."  She finished reading and handed it back.  "I'll help if they're bringing it here."  She saw someone.  "Shouldn't you be inside?"

"I came to check on you guys and ask you guys questions about what went on in the old high school," Speed admitted.  "Was it always that far behind?"  Both of them nodded.  "Hell.  Did either of you keep any of your books?"

"Willow might have," she offered.  "I'm not sure if she sold hers back or not."

"I do miss them giving us the books instead of making us buy them," Xander admitted.  Buffy nodded at that.  "I know I didn't, sorry."

"That's okay.  It's looking a lot like the State and Federal Departments of Education are going to have a field day in your school system."

"They'd have to take out the hellmouth and you can't really do that without sinking the town," Buffy told him.  "It's kinda under the school."  She looked at Xander.  "Why are you rebuilding it there?"

"No money to buy a different lot," he said blandly.  "Vamp."  She turned and staked it then looked at him again.  "The plans have changed a little bit.  I've got a copy at home to work from.  I was going to see if Willow could put some sort of telling spell on the library to tell us when it was going to open since none of us are going to be sitting overtop of it ever again."

"We hope."

"I know I won't be going back there," he said dryly.  "If you want to redo high school, go for it."

"No thanks.  That's a bad thought."  She looked at Speed, calling Willow.  "The audit guy who's cutely scruffy wanted to know if you kept any of your books from high school.  He said the people over education are way pissed at them.  Thanks, Willow."  She hung up.  "She'll drop them by the house on the way to her parents'.  They're finally back and wanted to talk to her."

Xander checked his watch.  "Huh, a month early.  I'm shocked."

"Me too," she agreed.  John gave her the stare that meant 'tell me what you're talking about' to her so she did.  "Willow's parents are lecturers."

"They're traveling shrinks telling others how to do their job worse," Xander told him.  "They take off for long trips all the time.  This last one was from right before graduation to supposedly a month from now.  For some reason they're back early."

"Even we heard about the gas explosion in Miami," Speed said.  "Did her parents not come back to check and make sure she was all right?"

"I think they called," Xander admitted.  "They were in Bermuda at the time.  Some sort of conference."

"Uh-huh.  Do you guys not have a CPS?" Speed asked Xander.  "Your parents sounded like you should've had a few talks with them and so do hers."

"You know, I did see one once but it was a long time ago.  It's possible that Wilkins sacrificed all the ones they would've had on their caseload.  Since the parents could probably be easier paid off and stuff."  Speed whimpered, shaking his head as he stomped off.  "We should make sure he makes it home."

"I'll go," Buffy said.  "You two finish the two coming up here and meet me at Restside?"

"Sure," Xander agreed, waving at her back as she jogged after him, taking his arm to make sure he made it home.  "She could use a man like that to calm her down and make her focus on more than slaying again."

John looked at him.  "Dean's trying really hard to set her up."

"Good.  She could use it.  She eats more when she's dating.  Joyce is going to nag if she loses more weight."  They continued on, casually staking the few they ran into on the way, waiting around for the ones coming up to undig themselves, and John shot a demon that was trying to eat a stray cat.  Xander looked then at him.  "He's not usually harmful but he's kinda annoying now and then."

"My shot was off, he's not dead."  He walked over, looking down at it.  "Non-harmful means to pets too.  That one has a collar and a bell."  The demon whimpered while Xander called someone to come get him.  Another few ran over to grab it and they thoughtfully took the cat home before it became a missing statistic too.  "Do you have much problem with that?" John asked finally once they were back on patrol.

"The kitten poker circuit is usually pretty cool.  We don't have many strays thanks to them but they're usually okay.   I've played now and then because they're nicer demons and we get some limited info from them.  Spike taught me to play," he said with a grin for John's disgusted look.

"Kitten poker?"

"Yeah, it's a very popular demon game.  Like Texas Hold 'Em is for us."

John shuddered.  "That's disgusting.  What do they do with their cats?"

"Depends on the person I guess.  Some eat them, some love them as pets, no clue because I don't usually ask.  Asking means I have to know."

"Good point."  He shuddered again.  "That's still a disgusting thought."

"I found out a lot about you guys from the kitten poker game the other night," he offered with a grin.  He continued on, letting John be horrified all he wanted.  Buffy was waiting and gave him a pointed look.  "He's shuddering over kitten poker."

"Yeah it is kinda freak worthy the first few times but they don't eat them in front of me."

"Not all of them eat the cats, Buffy.   Some keep them as pets, and some other reasons I think."

"Eww!" she shouted, going to kick a tree to get the bad thoughts out.  It ended up being a demon.  "Sorry but Xander gave me bad thoughts.  I meant to kick a tree, not a demon."  She moved to kick a different tree.

Xander grinned and waved.  "Talking about kitten poker.  Any vamps here tonight?"

"One's fled," he said in demon language.  "One's still digging. I can feel the ground being disturbed to the north."

"Thanks," Buffy said, going to handle it.  John was back.  "Can't you make Xander soap out his brain?"

"He's not my son," he reminded her.

"But you've raised two boys.  Willow apparently missed some while raising him."  Xander just smirked.  "Keep it up.  Go deal with the methane demons alone," she countered.

"I thought you got them last night."

"Oh, yeah.  I was trying to forget the stinkiness."  She looked around.  "Who's with Clem?"

Xander looked.  "Some high mucky-much with his clan.  He said he'd be in this week so he couldn't play poker with Spike."

"Oh.  Hi, Clem."  She gave him a short hug and grinned.  "Haven't seen you in days.  Is the audit team bothering you guys?"

"No, not yet.  They've been arresting people who have caused where I live problems.  They seem very nice.  A bit loud because the scruffy one threw a very loud fit.  Worthy of Willow when something happens."

"They are nice," she agreed.  "I have Xander watching them but they gave us a few nights off so we could weed down the vamps again."

"There's a whole party of them going to break into a college party," Clem said with a point.  "Back at Lowell House's new frat."

"Oh, wonderful.  I'll head that way after this," she promised. "Thanks."  She pinched one flabby, wrinkled cheek.  "You're a nice demon."  She walked off.  "Hey, John, can I borrow Dean and Sam to go handle the vamps breaking up the frat party?  If I go I might get sucked in again."

"Sure."  He called Dean.  "Meet Buffy at the college."

"Lowell House.  Their new frat is being invaded," Buffy said next to the phone.  "Let me change too.  Meet me at my dorm."  She jogged off.  "Handle it, guys."

"On it," Xander agreed, waving limply after her.  He looked at Clem.  "Maybe she'll find someone nice at the party for a few hours.  Thanks."

"She could use some fun."

"Riley's coming back tomorrow.  She's a bit uptight."

"Oooh.  I'll warn the others the commando is coming back."  He hurried off to do that.

Xander looked at John.  "If I can't beat him, you and the boys can't beat him.  Or actually, me first because if he caused Joyce's tumor I'm so getting him before Buffy can."

"I can agree to that."  He staked the one coming up and they moved on.  "How many more tonight?"

Xander checked his list.  "Willow said we've got another ten coming up but they're all on the other side of town."

"I'll drive."

"Cool."  They headed for John's truck, going to that cemetery to get the whole post-work basketball team that had gotten turned at once.  They found Mac Taylor there.   It was like deja vu.  "Shouldn't you be inside being safe?"

"I wanted to see if they were turned since the local cops said it was a car accident."

"They do that now and then."

He frowned.  "The former auditors?"

"I know two were sacrifices but I don't know about the others.  Sorry."

"Thank you.  Any idea which one did it?"


"I'm going to get him yet."

"I can have someone eat him," Xander offered with a grin.

Mac shook his head.  "Thanks but I'd rather see him be a cop in prison."

"Anya's movies say that they're mean to them."

John smacked Xander on the back of the head.  "You don't need to watch those sort of things.  They rot the mind."  Mac laughed.  "Any others who're out?  We saw Speedle."

"He got walked back when I was leaving.  Miss Summers was very nice to him since he was so shocked and horrified.  What happened?"

"He asked about CPS workers and I pointed out the mayor probably did their job for them by taking the kids away from the parents but probably not in the nicest of ways or futures for them.  He stomped off in a huff."

"That's fine, Xander.  Thank you."  One of them came up and he watched them deal with it.  "That's my answer then.  Have a better night, guys."  He left, going back to the house, shadowed by Spike this time.  He turned to look at him. "If you're one of their enemies why do you help them?"

"Bloody chip makes it impossible to hunt people.  Have to hurt demons but it's a fun game," he said with a leer.  "Helping the white hats gives me all the chaos and fun I could want; they buy me blood, plus pay for info."

"I guess that's reasonable.  Have you been in Sunnydale long?  We wanted to know how some things got into the state they're in."

"Have to ask the poufter in LA.  He was here to help for years before Smuffy showed up."  He took a drag off his cigarette.  "Whelp can give you their number.  He dated one of 'em.  Loud bint too."

"I can do that.  Thank you, Spike.  It's close, I can make it home."

"Nah, nothing else ta do tonight."

", Buffy is going to handle a thing at the college from what we overheard."

He considered it.  "Not that fun."

"I heard a demon yelling that the commandos were coming back."  Spike dropped his cigarette, staring him down.  He nearly shivered at the cold look he got.  "You'd have to ask them."

"Where was whelp?"

"Up where the basketball team was laid to rest."  He stomped that way.  Mac ground out the cigarette then headed for the house, walking in and shutting the door behind him.  "I talked to Spike."

"Are you all right?" Horatio asked.

"I'm fine.  He had shadowing duties tonight."  He sat down, getting comfortable.  "There's apparently a source in LA that Xander knows if we want some of the back history.  Spike said Xander dated some loud bint near the poufter."

Gibbs smirked.  "That's good to know.  Anything else going on?"

"Frat party problems and I heard a demon say the commandos were coming tomorrow."  Foreman stomped in and slammed the door.  "Problems at the hospital?"

"One of the demons tried to eat me in the ER when I wouldn't sell or give him parts for food."

"We found Xander's phone number if you want us to call them."

"House stabbed him with a scalpel and said now he understands why the kid did it.  It took out the stress."  He sat down.  "Doctor Wilson said he needed to know anything that they might have given that Buffy girl's mother.  Just in case it counteracted the chemo."

"I'll give House what I can," Gibbs told him.  "Any other traumas?"

"Not yet.  They still want to roast us for taking out their second paychecks."

"There's a lot of them," Taylor assured him.  "The FBI is looking forward to handling them."

"Good.  How soon?  One of them tried to seduce Cameron.  She's throwing a huffy girl fit right now.  House is cackling at it."

"That sounds like something some women do.  One keeps trying to get Abby," Gibbs told him.  "It may not be related."

"Fine."  He got up.  "Any idea how much longer this'll take?"

"How soon can House finish finding all the problems and get them arrested or fixed?" Horatio asked him.

"They're going to end up shutting down the hospital, selling it, and then restarting it. There's no way they can remake it with the way it is right now."

"How soon can that be done?  There's no ER within safe driving distance," Gibbs pointed out.  "Not that sending them on wouldn't save lives."

"EMS might not drive them out of town," Mac told him.  "I asked one about taking people out of town to transfer to better hospitals.  They said the mayor said it wasn't allowed."

"The current one?" Horatio asked.

"They think he's possessing his minion, the current one."

"Well, she'll be handled tomorrow," he said.  "What if there was no hospital?"

"I said I asked because there was an audit at the hospital as well and it looked like they were going to be critically understaffed soon.  He said they weren't allowed to transport out of town.  Even if the ER was closed like it was during the flu epidemic they had a few years back."  He looked at Foreman.  "How bad was it?"

"Half the town by the records we saw.  We weren't sure if someone had released something or not.  We did have a bad flu epidemic that year."  That got a nod from everyone.  "Who knows."  He looked around.  "How much longer?"  Horatio held up two fingers.  "Days?"


"Damn.  Thanks anyway, guys."  He went back to their house up the street.  "Two weeks," he told House quietly.

"Figures.  The state's coming in tomorrow.  They were happy we did most of their work for them."

"Is the FBI coming back with them?" Cameron sneered.

"Yup."  He smirked at her.  "They're having a lot of fun too."

"Good!"  She sat down with a huff.  "I don't want that woman to hit on me again."

"They could have just been hitting on you, Cameron.  Gibbs said someone keeps doing that to his lab tech.  It might not be about how evil they're seeing you as."


"Fine.  I'm going to bed."  House waved, going back to his tv show.  Foreman went up to his room to think and send some very long prayers to God that he hadn't decided to work here.  He wanted out of this town as soon as possible.


Xander looked up from his hammering when he heard sirens coming their way, going out to the parking lot.  Two local cops were pulling in.  "Guys, is there a problem?"

"On the ground, Harris."

"Um, no."

"Now!" one ordered, pulling his gun.

Xander looked behind them.  "Did you want me to do that too?" he asked the obvious agent since he was wearing a suit.

"No, but I would like you to explain some things to me about the graduation explosion."

"I can do that but if they come near me I've got to do something."

"Harris, don't move," Gibbs shouted, getting out of his car.  "Stand down, you morons!"  He stomped over.  "Harris, tool belt down."  He dropped them.  "C'mere."  He walked over.  "Stay against my car."  He went to do that, staying in plain sight with his hands too.  He looked at the agent.  "Who're you?"

"Who're you?" he sneered.

"The agent assigned to look into that matter, boy."  He stared him down.  The agent took a step back.  "Produce your badge now."

"Don't listen to him," one agent sneered.  "He's here to check over the base."

Gibbs looked over.  "And to back up Taylor to fix your dirty asses."  The cops rounded on him.  Xander threw his knife at one, getting him down and screaming before he could shoot him.  Gibbs got a minor wound from the other.  The agent screamed like a girl.  Xander jogged over and knocked him down, handcuffing him on the ground.  He patted Gibbs down, finding his phone.  Fortunately he had the numbers of the rest of the team.  "House, it's Xander, Gibbs just got shot by two of the local idiots.  There's a bad Fed here too."  He hung up and put pressure on the wound.  "Well, it's not bad," he told him.  "But you'll have better luck once you're out of town."  More cop cars came screaming up.

"Get off him!" one of them shouted.

"I'm holding the wound closed until paramedics get here," he snapped back.  "Get some and I will!"  One tried to move him so he kicked at him, tripping him.  "Guys!  I need the first aid kit!" he yelled.  Sam brought it out.  "Thanks."  He checked under his hand.  "Bandages?"  Sam got some ready for him, letting him ease off the pressure for only a second instead of longer to unwrap them.  "That's helpful.  In the blue bag is a small vial of purple stuff.  Get it out, shake it but make sure the sun doesn't touch it."  Sam did that.  "Now, pour it into the wound."  Sam did that under the bandage.  Gibbs yelped in pain.  "Sorry but it'll clean it and hopefully dislodge the bullet since I don't have the stuff to pull it out and pack the wound, Gibbs."  Another car came driving up and House got out.  "I had Sam pour in stuff to clean it, Doctor House.  The bleeding's slower but I don't have what I need to pull the bullet or pack the wound."

"I wouldn't expect you to at work.  Do you at home, kid?"

"Of course.  Not like we'd go to the ER.  We don't need drugs."  He shifted to let him have his spot.  Sam let him have the kit.  He moved the bandage once House had gloves on.  "Oh, that's gross."

"The purple stuff ate the gunpowder and the foam can be rinsed out?" House asked.

"Yup.  Sterile water, Sam?"  It was handed over.  He grinned.  "Done this?"

"Nothing this bad.  Deep stitches but nothing this bad."  He held down his other shoulder while House rinsed it.  "Where's the ambulance?"

"They won't take him out of town even if it does come," House told him.  "It's coming with Horatio though."  He finished rinsing, using the bandage to sop up the excess fluid.  "That's looking cleaner than I usually see.  Got anything to pull the bullet?"

"Um.... um... boss, need something to pull a tiny sliver of metal," he yelled.  One of the guys brought out something, handing it over.  "That'll probably work.  Get into my trunk," he said, digging out his keys and handing them over.  "Get the three bags that don't jingle and aren't laundry?  I know I've got a stitching kit at the least in there."  Sam took the keys to get into the bags.  "Sorry, I just remembered we have a field kit somewhere in the trunk for accidents."

"That's okay."  Sam came back with a soft-sided zip top, lunch style bag.   He opened it and let House see.  "Oh, you lovely boys."  He pulled out the vial of pain killer.  "How did we get this?"

"Demon clinic."

"Fine.  Needles?"  Xander pointed at the top.  "Replacement tips?"

"Yeah.  That way they're not dirty but I can't get a 'scrip for disposable ones around here for some reason.  I always wash the glass tube in alcohol and sterilize it in boiling water then the microwave before putting it back."

House prepared it and injected him then pulled out the bullet.  Gibbs only groaned.  "That's better.  Bandages, Sam."  He got into them, handing over a folded wad and the tape once House had it ready to be used.  "Thank you.  You're both fairly handy medics."

"Has to happen in this life," Sam said simply.  Horatio and the paramedics got there.  "The bullet's out."

"Good," Horatio said.  "What happened?"  One of the officers pulled Xander up.  "You shot him?"

"No, the officer that doesn't have my knife in his shoulder shot him," Xander said, struggling against the one holding him.  "I don't know why they came to me to have the probably dirty Fed there explain about the graduation explosion but they did.  Gibbs stepped in to tell them to stop it and ordered the Fed to produce his badge.  One of the local boys protested and they both drew on Gibbs.  I tossed my knife at one and the other got him."  He got free and punched the cop, knocking him down.  "You know better than that.  My uncle even reacts when you try that shit, boy."  He looked at Horatio then at the Fed on the ground.  "Gibbs ordered him to produce ID.  He didn't."

Horatio patted him down, finding it.  "ATF."  He put it into his pocket.  "Put him into a car," he ordered.  The locals didn't move.  "Now or lose your jobs today, boys."  They ignored him and one came after Xander again, making him spin, kick him in the gut, then punch him to knock him out.  "Nice move."

"Needed a bit more force," Sam offered dryly with a grin.  He called someone.  "If you're coming, come now," he ordered quietly.  He hung up.  "Lieutenant, I went to college with someone who is now in LA's ATF.  He's waiting outside town because he works with the Fed you guys know.  He somehow found out what my family does and put it together with what was going on out here when he heard the rumors.  He's waiting with your Feds."

"Good."  He glared at the officers, who mostly sneered back.  More sirens, more agents, a lot of cops being arrested happened over the next few minutes.  He looked at Xander.  "You need to clean up."

He looked at his hands then wiped them on his jeans.  "I've held worse, Lieutenant."   He watched the Feds work.  "That one wanted to know about the graduation explosion," he told one of them.  "That's supposedly why they came to get me."

"No, we have all the pertinent files, Harris.  Including the confiscated video files they got off some of the people there," the agent in charge said as he came over.  "We have very few questions.  Including when you knew."

"We admit it was a method of last resort," he said calmly and quietly.  "We could have stopped it at one other point but it would've meant sacrificing someone."

"I can understand that.  Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"Who'd believe a teenager about demons trying to take over the world after becoming a huge snake demon?"  He grinned a bit.  "Someone did tell his uncle in your office.  He got to miss graduation because of the medicine he was under while strapped down.  He had been eavesdropping.  His parents have decided he got a prophetic vision from God that spared him and he's now helping in a church in the lower parts of Texas."

"Good to know."  He looked around at the curious faces.  "Do they know?"

"Sunnydale has a great denial thing going.  I don't know if it's a spell, hellmouth related, whatever, but it happens.  Tomorrow they'll only talk about the dirty cops that nearly arrested me for some reason.  Probably because of my family."

"Okay.  Can you handle that?"

"Probably," he said dryly.  "Is he going to be okay?" he asked when they took Gibbs off.

"He'll be fine," House said.  He looked at the kid.  "You had a good hand with that.  You could go to medical school and help out the guys like you who get hurt."

"I hate school.  Especially lecture classes.  I barely made it to graduation, Doctor House."

"I can understand that.  Not everyone's comfortable with education."  He looked at Sam.

"I was going toward law school originally.  Maybe after the demon's gone.  I don't know."

"I can see that, kids."  He shook their hands.  "Good job."

Xander grinned.  "It's nice to hear."  He looked at the agent again.  "What else did you need to know?"

"We took samples from the school to test.  Who made them?"  Xander grimaced.  "Without it getting further.  We need to know we don't have to worry about them doing a mall or a building."

"Um, hell."  He looked at Sam, who shrugged.  "I kinda did.  Giles taught me out of a book he found," he sighed, looking at him.  "Gibbs can tell you I'm the sort of person to do what I have to do, even if the pesky laws get in my way."

"In this case, the outcome would've been worse if you hadn't," he agreed.  "What are your plans?"  Xander pointed at the site.  "That's it?"

"Buffy needs me to help back her up.  Even if she does say I'm too normal now and then."

The agent stared at him.  "No, this isn't normal.  Normal people run and scream.  Not build a bomb and save the world by being in the middle of the battle."

"He planned it," House said.  "We found a note in his hidden file that said the mayor suspected he planned it."  Xander nodded, looking down to kick at the dirt.

The agent looked at Horatio then at Mac since he had joined them.  Then back at the kid.  "Okay, that makes it more impressive since none of those kids were the Army, Navy, or Marines."

Xander stared at him.  "But some died and I had to plan that."

"It's regrettable but a normal thing that happens in a real war," Mac said.  "Sam, wasn't your father in a war?"

"Yes, sir.  He's was a Marine."

"Take Xander to him, have him talk about that.  I think your father can see where he's coming from and maybe train some other battle methods into him so he has more than memories to go back on if it happens again."

"If it happens again, I need to know immediately," the agent said, handing Xander a card.  He went to help clean up the rest.  "Taylor, how many cops are coming our way?"

"The rest but six.  A lot of the doctors at the hospital too."

"Already go them with DEA.  We had the rest of my team and the strike team doing City Hall as well."  He looked at the kid.  "Go.  I can clear it with your boss."  The boys nodded, heading off once they had their stuff cleaned up.  He went to talk to the boss.  "The dirty cops were very sorry they tried to get Harris for helping protect some people during graduation.  They won't be causing him more problems.  I sent him and the other one off to talk to the tall one's father about that since he had been in a war.  That way the kid could calm down out of sight."

"That's fine, sir.  I understand that and agree fully.  He's not in trouble?"

"For doing our job for us?"  He smirked. "Only if we don't hear the next time and he does it again."  That got a nod.  "Have a better day.  It looks like it's a well constructed building.  Good job."  He left, going to help arrest the other dirty ones.  There might only be eight or ten people left working for the city by the time they got done but if that's what it took, they'd get it done quickly.


Sam walked Xander into their motel rooms, letting his father see him.  "The dirty cops came after Xander.  We had to help when one of them shot Gibbs."

"Go clean up, kid."  Xander went to the bathroom in the double room.  "Why come here?" he asked quietly.

"The agent suggested you go over the plan behind the battle at graduation to give Xander an honest critique of it as a hunter and a former Marine, Dad."

"I can do that.  Do we have any information?"  Sam found that folder and handed it over.  "You found it online?"

"No, I hacked their records and got it from them."  He left them alone, going back to find Dean and tell him what had happened.  He was watching Buffy and the other docs today.  "There's been a lot of arrests, especially after one of the local cops shot at Gibbs."  Buffy glared at him.  "He'll be fine.  Xander and I got the bleeding slowed and House showed up to handle it until the out-of-town paramedics got there."

"That's even better," Buffy decided.  "Is Xander all right?"

"He's fine.  The real Feds showed up to ask about graduation."  Buffy groaned, looking down.  "He had nothing bad to say about it.  He did send Xander to Dad to talk about the battle plans.  Xander said he had done the best he could and the agent looked like he was going to smack someone for Xander's low self-esteem.  He's in the clear and all that, Buffy.  As long as it never happens again without someone telling him so the government can handle some of it for you."

"That might be nice.  That day I really wanted the calvary to come riding in.  Of course I'd pet the horses after the battle but I'd really have liked them."

Dean nodded.  "Sounds like even we would've started praying to God about it."

She nodded.  "We did.  Or at least I did.  I'm not sure who Willow prayed to.  She was Jewish and then went WIcca."

"What about Xander?"

"What about him?" she asked.

"Did he do much praying beforehand?" Sam asked.

She shrugged. "I was handling the sitch with Angel and getting out of the hospital and all that good stuff.  He was handling that stuff."

The boys shared a look over her head once she had turned away.  Maybe dad wanted to adopt?  Or stay here for a bit to hunt?  They could clearly use more hunters and common sense.


John cornered Buffy the next night.  "We need to talk."

"Bad news from Mom?"

"No.  Not that sort of talk, Buffy."  He led her to one of the benches in the park they were patrolling in.  "I think you need more help than just Xander.  I saw that Riley boy today when Xander got him from the airport but I don't think he can help you."

She nodded.  "Riley always wanted to have more backup than me.  Even with me and Xander and Willow all out.  I know he's bad for me but he's what I found."

"You can do better, Buffy.  As a matter of fact, Dean's talked to a few hunters who want to come out here for a while to see if they can help.  A few are used to vampires already, mostly the other forms but that's easily retrained."  She nodded, perking up at that.  "They might even be good enough to give you a night off now and then or your watcher one."  She beamed, wiggling some.  "In return, I want to take Xander for some better training."

"He can go.  I don't want him to be hurt doing this."

"Good."  He smiled.  "He's being stubborn."

"He's done that to me many times.  Even when we made him sit out."

He stared at her, then decided to sit next to her.  "Buffy, you nearly destroyed the boy's soul doing that to him."  She slumped.  "The fact he did it anyway, and in one case ended up saving you even though you didn't know about it, shows that the boy's got a lot of trauma that needs to be healed that's older than even those."

"His parents are kinda drunk," she admitted.  "Were they mean to him?"

"Most drunks aren't happy people.  That's why they drink."  She nodded, getting that.  "I don't want you to help me talk him into it.  I've already talked to Anya so she won't curse him for it, but I'm going to take the boy with me.  I'll be leaving the boys here until the other hunters get here."  She nodded, accepting that.  "Good."  He smiled at her.  "If something happens and you ever need us again, you call us."

"What about the demon after your family?"

"They showed up with him last night.  He's dead.  Sam and I got drunk in victory.  Dean drove us home then went to get drunk on his own with Xander."  He looked at her.  "If you need us you'll call?  I have been in real battle situations.  I can help Xander plan those for you.  He didn't do too bad for having only the memories of a possession to fall back on."

She looked at him.  "Can't you make him quit so he doesn't get hurt?"

"No.  For the same reason I can't quit even though it's over with.  As Dean puts it, there's still plenty of evil bastards out there hurting people who shouldn't have to be involved in any of this."  She nodded.  "If you need us, all you have to do is call and we'll be there."

"Thank you, John."

"You're welcome.  We'll be heading in a few days.  Anya's liquidating things for Xander and putting the rest in storage.  The boy hasn't slept in days so I knocked him out."

"He goes home by midnight."

"Then Anya demands his attention for a while and anything he has to clean up after patrol like injuries," he reminded her.  "Then he has to be up at six to make it to work by seven."

She grimaced.  "So if he didn't have Anya to sleep with it'd be easier?"

"Perhaps but some people need to have others there, even if they aren't the most healthy of relationships."

"I understand that.  I kinda had that with Riley," she agreed.  She looked at him.  "Tell him I'm sorry I was so mean to him?  That I was only trying to protect him?"

"Apologies have to be made in person, Buffy.  Otherwise they don't mean as much."  He patted her on the back.  "You'll be fine and the boys will be helping you for as long as you need them to."

"I can stand that.  Thanks, John."

"You're welcome, kid."  He patted her on the shoulder.  "If you need more help, have Dean take you to the Roadhouse sometime.  It's where hunters hang out."  He stood up.  "You done with patrol?"

"Not hardly," she said, looking up at him.  "There's still a ton of them at the Bronze tonight."

"They're shut down by order of the State for dealing drugs from the back room."  She grinned.  "So it'll be slower for a bit.  C'mon, I'll walk you back to the college."

"Sure."  She walked off with him.  "Will Xander like this idea?"

"Maybe not at first but we'll help him see that it'll help him if he wants to come back here.  That will also give him a way to help you protect your family better.  A hunter you trust in a more stable situation who can guard them."

"I'd like that."


"Do you think Mom's going to be all right?"

"For as long as possible.  She's fighting it hard."  Buffy frowned but nodded.  "Cancer's hard to beat but plenty of people do it every year, Buffy.  If at all possible she will.  She's at a very good hospital.  She's got an excellent doctor."  She perked up at that.  "She's got your sister fussing day and night probably."

"I should help her fuss."

"Maybe if the hunters get things slowed down better you can take a long weekend to go see her."  She beamed at that.  "You'll figure out how to work it."  He pointed.  "There's Spike again."

"Spike, what's wrong?" she asked, seeing him stiff and uptight.  "You and Riley have a spat again?"

"No, but saw him be eaten by one of the ones he tortured."  He stared at her.  "Heard a nasty rumor you're changing out your team and sending the whelp away?"

"I'm bringing him off to some better training," John told him.  Spike relaxed.  He had seen that the vampire respected the team out here.  Xander was one of the few that treated him with full respect of who and what he was, even if he was still harmless and chipped.  "He'll be with the hunter that helped teach me, Spike.  I trusted him to watch my kids when they were younger."

"Good.  Boy could use it so he quits tripping."

"I think that'll be easy to fix," John assured him.  "It's more than he's trying to do things that his body's not used to yet.  Plus that he's trying to fight at the vampire's speed instead of his own."  Buffy stared.  "He's not bad, Buffy.  He only needs a few months of physical training and some more rounding out of knowledge of what other hunters can do."  He patted her on the back.  "Who ate the boy anyway?"

"Two of the hellborn that he had picked up to have tortured."

"They broke into the house to get him?" Buffy asked.

"Said his soul's too weak to hold the uninvite," he said, staring at her.  "It broke when he didn't protest or anything."

She nodded.  "I thought I felt mine break a few times too but I had Willow and Xander to help me."  She looked at John.  "Can he come back?"

"He might.  That's up to him."  She nodded.  "You still have class tomorrow and I know your mother would want your grades to be higher, young lady."

"Yes, John."  She walked back after patting Spike on the arm.  She had a lot to think about.  John had given her some things she needed to think over and she had to apologize to Xander somehow.  She told him to wait and wrote a letter, handing it to him.  "For him."

"I can do that."  He left to go back to the motel.  The boy was still out.  "You drug him again?"

"Not yet," Dean said quietly.  "She agree?"  John nodded.  "Good.  I think she'll like Henry and Bob."

"The twins?"


"Huh.  Spike said Riley got eaten."

"Good.  Saves me from having to beat his ass."

John smiled.  "I'm glad I raised you right, son."  He gave him a pat on the back and put the letter into Xander's bag of clothes.


Xander woke up when the truck stopped.  "Are you going to drug me again?  And why are you kidnaping me?  I don't have money.  Anya has it all."

"I'm not kidnaping you, Xander.  I'm bringing you to the hunter who trained me."  He looked at the boy.  "I only drugged you twice in the last few days.  You needed the rest."  He pointed ahead of them.  "That is Bobby Singer.  He trained me and I trusted him to train and help me watch over my boys when I couldn't be here.  Buffy has six hunters coming to back her up while you're in training."

"My job?" he asked.

"If you want to go back that's your decision.  If not, that's also your decision."  Xander nodded at that.  "I called Bobby ahead to clear this with him.  He's a tiny bit paranoid but nothing too bad.  He can also help you shield against further possessions."  Xander smiled slightly at that.  "So let's go.  I had Anya pack for you.  Then I had Dean and Sam go repack for you since she packed you thongs and things."  He got out and the boy got out of his side.  "Hey, Bobby."

"Hey, John."  He came down to look at the boy.  "This the one you called me about?"

"He is.  He's had five years of on-the-job training fighting with the team out there.  They're like his family but we all agreed that more training would mean he'd be less likely to get hurt, which was a problem they didn't want to see."

Xander looked at him.  "That wasn't what it always was."

"No.  Sometimes she was spoiled.  The same as all kids are now and then."

Xander nodded that he had his moments too.  He looked at Bobby.  "So what can you teach me beyond how to keep out noisy spirits who want to wear me like a Xander suit?  I'm fairly decent at staking and sword work now."

"I had Dean tape a few patrols," John told him.  "He does know guns, Bobby, and he does tinker like Dean does.  He's the one who gave Dean the plans for the holy water grenade."  Xander gave him a sheepish grin.  "Its' a good thing, kid."  They walked inside.  Xander felt the devils trap somehow and moved around it.  "That's right, you kept them."

"Anything evil?" Bobby asked.

Xander shrugged.  "I know I've had two.  One soldier from the halloween costume possession and the hyena."

"Tell me about those.  We'll see if we can shield you better.  For now, the trap shouldn't catch you too much if they aren't evil."

"I can feel it though."

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

"Sometimes primals can tell capturing things," Bobby told him.  Xander relaxed and sat down, going over what he knew of each of the possessions.

John listened because he was sure something like that would happen to Sammy some day. "Is that Rayne guy still around?"

"No clue.  Giles handed him to Riley's people."  Both older men shuddered.  "I didn't like it but they decided it was expedient.  I'm pretty sure he got free if he was on the base when we stopped them the second time.  Anything in there got out."

"I can have Gibbs check on that," John said, sending a text message to his son, who had his email address.  He'd let them know they got there all right too.  "There, he'll check."  He smiled.  "Do you two think you can get along?"

"Probably," Bobby agreed.  "He seems nice enough and like he has some sense.  Unlike a teenage Dean."

"Dean's a nice guy," Xander told him.  Both men smiled and he squirmed.  "Not that way.  Anya would get really upset and get her powers back.  I'd be in deep shit and celibate if she does.  Possibly even an animal or an outhouse or something."

"Anya has decided to let you go for now for your own good and hers," John told him.  Xander pouted at him.  "She said she's thinking and learning what a healthy relationship should be so she can come back to you when you're done training and see if she wants one since she's finally seen that you won't be dumping her, cheating on her, or doing anything that would let her get her powers back."

"It wasn't bad before."

"She had some unrealistic expectations, boy," Bobby told him.  "Sam and I talked about her to see if I knew of any other descended demons she could chat with to help her.  I did know one so I set them to talking."  Xander relaxed, smiling a bit again.  "I know it's odd and John kidnaped you from your home."

"He didn't wake up when I put him in the truck," he defended.  "The boy never slept at home, Bobby.  He had worked all day doing construction, went on patrol after dinner, came home to Anya and her needs, and then got a few hours of sleep before going at it again."

"That's a lot of stamina."  He smiled at the boy.  "You can wear that out now learning the finer points of hunting."

"Can you teach me to stalk in the woods?  Now and then the hyena wants to but I never get it right.  I'm too noisy and things hear me coming."

"I can try," he agreed.  "We can go deer and turkey hunting this year."  The boy beamed at that.  "Good boy.  Now, up the stairs, to the right.  First room is yours."  Xander went to get his bags and put them up there.  He looked at John.  "He seems nice."

"He's very nice.  He's also a classic white knight.  He jumped in when a friend got taken and turned.  He stayed because the damsel needed him."

Bobby smiled.  "Makes him one better'n you then, Winchester.  The demon?"

"Gone.  We ended it recently.  They brought him to us and I shot him with the colt."  He went to get it and handed the box over.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He put it onto his desk.  Xander came back down with the books he had in his bags, holding them up to John with a frown.

John smiled.  "Giles sent those with you for your personal reference set."

"Oh, okay."  He let Bobby see them when he held out a hand.

"What language is this in?" he asked.

Xander looked.  "Thoras.  It's an ancient demon tongue.  That's a prophecy about knights coming to do battle for the sake of the world when the hellmouth falls...."  He took it to look at.  "There was a prophecy about that?"  He looked at John, who shrugged but he was smirking.  "Good to know after the fact.  I should translate that one and send it on."

"They're men of science.  They'd probably scream at prophecies."  John stood up.  "Let me head on to the Roadhouse.  Ellen said she needed some help tonight."

"That's fine.  I'll bring Xander there in a few days, once he's more settled," Bobby promised.  They shook hands.  "Be safe."

"Of course.  Check on Dean later on.  I had to pull him out of a kitten poker game.  Sammy might like his herd of cats but the impala would be ruined."  He walked out, going to his truck to head on down the road.

"Kitten poker?" Bobby asked.

Xander beamed.  "It's the poker version the demons play.  We get a lot of information from the kitten poker circuit.  Most of them are harmless."

"Why play for kittens?  Or am I taking that wrong?"

"You know, I don't know.  I never asked, kinda on purpose so I wouldn't have to.  I know some eat them and some keep them as pets, but the rest......"

Bobby cackled.  "I like that, boy.  C'mon, we'll do dinner.  It's nearly dinner time."

"It is?"  He looked at his watch then at him.  "Wow.  Apparently his drugs are really strong."  He followed him, leaving the books there.  "What can I do to help?"

"Can you cook?"

"I'm not bad.  I learned working fast food and in the kitchen of a strip club."

"I can teach you more normal stuff than that, kid."  He let him help prepare the night's meatloaf.  The kid wasn't too bad. When a mouse ran out he got it with a thrown paring knife.  Even better.




Xander walked up to the crime scene, handing the officer watching it a note.  "For the scruffy one there please?  Something he needed to know about an acquaintance."  Speed's head popped up and he gave him a horrified look.  "What?" he asked with a grin then walked off again.  It had been a long year training with Bobby.  He had decided not to be a roving hunter like Dean and them.  Instead Bobby had taught him a lot of skills he could use.  So now he was being a mechanic.  He liked building but he hated the local building codes.  Besides, his car needed fixed again.  He had set up a decent enough place.  Dawn was with him.  Buffy had her mom back but Dawn was in danger so he was keeping her for now.  He went back home, finding her in the kitchen.  "Any new news?"

"Not yet.  They said it might fall in any day now."

Xander stared at her.  "Then where is your mother?"

"LA with Spike.  Buffy made Spike carry her off like a sack of potatoes according to her."  She smiled, handing over a soda.  "What am I doing while I'm here, Xander?"

"School?  Just a thought."  She pouted.  "Don't start or I won't let you get a bikini and go to the beach to hit on guys you won't be able to date for another year."

"Fine."  She went to change into the one her mother had let her buy, making him nod in appreciation.  "Think Buffy would scream?"

"And rant and yell and howl," he said dryly.  "Pack a picnic.  Let me change."  He went to do that, finding his phone, which he had forgotten, had a message.  He took her to that beach, finding Dean staring at all the hotties laying out nearly naked.  Dawn squealed and hugged Dean, getting a grin and a pat.  "No Sam?"

"Motel hunting."

"I've got a couch and a bed, Dean.  As long as no one nibbles two of us can sleep in there."  Dean sent that to Sam and they settled in to watch the end of spring break happen.  Dawn had set up further down the beach but well within screaming distance.  She was chatting with a woman laying out next to her about going to college next year.  She had just moved locally.  "I'm so going to hate her dating."

"Yup," Dean agreed.  "She does look cute."  Xander pinched him, making him yelp.  "Sorry!"

"If it happens I have to admit it does but I'm not telling her sister."  Dawn looked back at them and they both smirked and waved.  "If she picks up that drunk hotty, she's in so much trouble," he told Dean quietly, cracking him up.  "I'm sorry but the skank patrol is more your type than hopefully hers."

"She looks clean."

He pulled Dean closer so he could see the view he did.  "That's either a brand new labia tattoo or she's got something," he said in his ear.

Dean shuddered.  "That's not something I would want either way."  He sat up again, smiling as Sam dropped down on Xander's other side.  "So, what's going on down here?"

"I warned Speedle I'm down here so he can freak out.  I have a job at a semi-decent garage.  I decided to stay after helping the garage clear out the three former coworkers that died while trying to cut open an old safe that didn't have any money in it.  Sunnydale's getting ready to go to hell so why are you guys here?"

"Dad's there," they said in unison.  Dean reached behind Xander to pinch Sam.

"Ow!"  Sam glared at his big brother, who was trying to look innocent.  "You haven't been able to pull that off since you told one girl that you could prove she had given birth and somehow sneaked the slugs into her panties, Dean."

Xander looked at him.  "Didn't like her I hope?"

"Nah, she was prissy."

"Reminded you of a young Hermione in those Harry Potter books," Sam told him, cracking Xander up again.  "So what's going on tonight?"

"I offered you guys the ability to either sleep with me or on the couch and with me, however it works out best.  I figured I'd make dinner with Dawn, we'd catch up, figure out if I can help why you're in town, then we'd sit and anxiously await the news from Sunnydale."

"Dad sent us to check on you to make sure you wouldn't be showing up there since he said the demon who wanted you would be there," Dean told him.

"Pity," Xander agreed.  "He sent me roses recently."  The brothers groaned.  Dawn strolled back.  "Can you maybe adjust that thing so I don't have to see hair, Dawn Summers?"

"Sorry."  She adjusted her bikini bottom.  "Are they coming home with us?"

"Yup, sure are."

"Cool.   Dean can teach me how to flirt better."  She stole a drink from their picnic bag and went back to her towel.  "Big brothers," she told the girl she was chatting with.  "Huge ass worry warts."

"They happen to some of us," she agreed.  She went back to sipping her mixed drink ingeniously disguised in a juice bottle, according to her.  "So, what are you going to major in?"

"I don't know yet.  I might do languages.  I might do history.  I'm not really sure."

"Well, there's a whole bunch of stuff everyone has to take.  Take that first."  She took another drink and put it down.  She looked back.  "They are adorable.  Which one's your brothers?"

"Only the one in the middle.  The other two are brothers and friends of the family."  She smirked.  "They act like big brothers to me."

"They're adorable."

"Yeah, but the one in the middle only likes bad girls.  The other two travel a lot for work so they'll never do more than flirt and put out then head off into the dawn's early light."

The other girl purred.  "I could like that."

"I'd clean off the sand," Dawn warned.  "Xander's kinda picky about that getting in his way."  She went to change in her car and came strolling back in a cute shorts outfit.  Dawn shifted to watch.  She flirted outrageously with Sam, thinking he was Xander.  The other two let her for now.  She saw Dean pay Xander for some sort of bet coming in and saw someone hiking down the sand toward them.  She got up and strolled over, getting in his way.  "Fancy meeting you here, Lieutenant Caine."

He looked at her.  "I don't remember you, miss."

"I'm Dawn.  Buffy's little sister."

"Oh.  Pleasure to meet you.  Why are you in town?"

"Sunnydale's getting ready to cave in.  My sister's there and sent me to Xander to watch over for my last year of high school."

"I see.  What is he doing down here?"

"Being a mechanic most of the time but he's handling things in the area when they happen."

"That's good to know.  Why tell us today?"

"Because he said the one that got hurt yesterday was because of a poltergeist," she said quietly, glancing around then back at him with a grin.

"That's something I think we should talk about."  She took the pen out of his pocket and wrote an address on his wrist, then handed the pen back.   "I can be there later."

"Good.  I'll help him make dinner tonight since it looks like no one ever cooks for you."  She strolled off again, leaning down to whisper in Dean's ear, getting a nod.  She went back to her sunning herself to draw evil boy attention.  Her mom thought it was funny she drew bad boys like Xander drew bad girls.

Horatio watched, then sent the description of the girl to the detectives he worked with.  He smirked, walking down there.  "Miss Bethany Miller?"

"Yes?  Do I know you?" she asked with a smile.  He held up his badge.  "Ooops."  She started to move but tripped over Sam's helpful hand on her ankle.  "Hey!  That's mean!  Not like I did anything *too* bad.  She wanted it."

"I'm sure you think she did, miss," Horatio said.  He helped her up.  "Where are your things so we can go?"  Dawn pointed.  "Let's get your bag so no one steals it, shall we?"

"I guess that's fine."  She pouted to get her things then followed him back to her car.  "I drove."

He sniffed.  "You've clearly been drinking.  If you get into that car I will arrest you on that and then add charges later."  She handed over her key, letting him get her into the back of the hummer once he had her handcuffed.  He went to search her car, finding her juice bottle of mixed drink.  And some bloody clothes in plain sight on the back seat.  He looked down at the boys.  "I can't believe he drew one already," he complained.  He called another CSI to come gather her car and the clothes then drove her back to the station to talk to her.

Dean looked at Xander.  "Have you been kissing or screwing my little brother since your usual bad girl drawing power rubbed off on him?"

"She was calling me by his name," Sam pointed out.

Dean shook his head.  "You two have got to stop drawing them.  Sammy draws werewolves and things.  You draw psychos and demons.  At least I get the nice chicks."

"Not hardly," Sam snorted.  "His last one?  Was a strega trying to eat him."

Xander snickered.  "Well, your dad did say he was going to adopt me to keep me sane," he offered.  "So it was the taint back from the virtual adoption."

"Possibly," Sam agreed, watching a young thing run up the beach.  She was nearly bouncing out of her bikini top and she didn't have that much breast to begin with.  "Huh.  Spring break rocks.  I should've went while I was in college."

"You didn't?" Dean asked dryly.

"I went to Tijuana one year.  Jess and I went to Universal Studios during the Christmas holidays one year."  He shrugged.  "I was usually working after school."

Dean shook his head.  "Geek."

Xander nudged him.  "Buffy doesn't go either."

"Bob and Henry made her go this year," Dean said dryly.   "They dragged her to Lake Meade.  She had a lot of fun dancing while slightly tipsy on the boat they rented together."

"As long as I don't end up a godfather," he said dryly.

"Hell no," Dean agreed.  "Me either, Sammy."

"I'm probably not able to have kids," he pointed out.

"Oooh, poor baby," a group of girls said as they walked past.  The guys all grinned.  "In on spring break?"

"Holiday from work," Dean told her.  "We can to visit our buddy here for his first spring break."

"Awww."  They pulled the guys up and brought them to have fun with them.  Dawn too when one of them said she had to come.  She was cute enough even if she was a bit young.  And a virgin so they could sacrifice her later.


Eric walked onto the scene, grimacing at the mess.  "What happened?" he demanded of the victims.

"We were starting to have some fun until they decided to sacrifice the girl who's like our little sister," Dean said with a point at Dawn.  "Then she kicked their butts for trying to kill her.  We backed her up when we saw what was going on.  Her bigger brother is doing really good teaching her self defense."

Dawn looked over.  "Your dad did when he caught me out on a date at the mall."  She went back to her checking Xander's cut over.  "It's not that bad."

"I told you it wasn't," he reminded her.

"Shut up, Xander."

"Fine."  He looked at the confused looking officer.  He even pointed at them.  "We were on the beach.  Dawn got a new bikini she wanted to debut since she just got down here.   We met up with our buddies Dean and Sam there on the beach since they're just in town too.  Things were going all right.  One of you guys had to arrest a drunk girl who was seriously skanky.  With her bikini you could tell about the new tattoo down there or it was scabs."  Eric shuddered, but kept taking notes.

"A few girls later on came over to ask us to have fun with them.  We're all young men and it seemed nice enough.  They wanted Dawn to come too.  I figured we'd have some fun then go home to have dinner and all that good stuff.  Then one of them grabs Dawn by the hair and tries to drag her to the altar.  I hear this 'oh, no you won't, bitch' and turned to find my little sister kicking her ass and her friend's ass.  So we kindly jumped in to help.  The one that tried to stab me for it is sobbing in the corner because now her god got inferior blood.  Can we go?  I've got to make dinner and we've got to decide which school to enroll her in.  She's been doing fantastic at home so she's skipped grades."

"We'd like to check you over for evidence and take pictures of the injuries.  In case they counter-charge."

"Sure.  Hey, Horatio.  Not our fault.  They wanted to sacrifice Dawn."

Horatio stopped behind Eric, taking off his sunglasses to look around then at the boys.  "Was this planned?"

"They said they wanted to have fun," Dawn said.  "Apparently I was pure enough for their god, who clearly needs fucked up the ass with something spiky that'll cause brain damage."

"That'd be an awfully long thing with how long the intestines are," Sam said, considering it.  Dean bopped him on the arm.  "She said it!"

"Don't start, Sammy.  Hey, Caine.  All we thought was it was cute girls wanting to party."

"They were drawn to the bad girl magnet Xander," Dawn quipped.  Xander got her on the head.  "Ow!  Mean wench!"

"I'm a guy, I can't be a wench, Dawn."

"Fine, mean shit.  I was *trying* not to swear."

"Try harder," Dean quipped.  "You know, they could've been picking up on Sammy's evil girls come get me vibe too."

She stared at him.  "You mean he's as bad as Xander is?"

"His is usually more subtle."

"Damn!  We've got to get them someone permanent to keep it down, Dean."

"Kinda hard with the life, Princess.  Want my t-shirt?  You look cold."

She looked at her bikini then at him.  "No.  Do I look cold, Horatio?"

He gave her an evil look.  "I don't tend to look at underaged women that way, Miss Summers."

"Fine."  Xander and Dean both put shirts on her.  "Hey!"

"Shut up, Dawn," Sam said.  "He even does it to me."  He looked at the very confused CSI.  "We helped Horatio in the past, dude.  Ask and they'll answer.  We're good that way."

One of the sniffling girls looked up.  "The God will hate us and we'll get bad grades and evil husbands," she complained.  "She has to bleed on the altar to appease him."

Dawn looked at her.  "If I bled on that altar we'd have bigger problems than you not being able to study well enough and picking sucky men to date and get knocked up by, sweetie.  Trust me on this."  She looked at Dean.  "Why was your dad huffy that I had a date with a nice boy that wasn't even including groping?"

"Sammy wasn't allowed to date until he was seventeen.  Dad's a hardass about no teen pregnancies sometimes.  Since you're a girl, he probably wanted to put you in a chastity belt."

"I catch her having sex before she's legal and I'll put her in one," Xander assured him.  Dawn pouted.  He glared.  She wilted and shifted so Dean was more in front of her.  "Flirting is fine, though you need some lessons in how not to come off like a skanky ho.  Ask Dean to give them to you.  He's had plenty so he can tell you what not to do."

"I can do that."  He put an arm around her shoulders.  "What else did Dad go over with you?"

"He made Mom giggle like there was dentist gas going on."  Both Winchesters smiled at that.  "Even Buffy giggled at him complaining I had been out after dark without knowing how to stake or defend myself.  So I kindly maced him and he quit for a while.  I pointed out girls have many weapons and even vamps hated mace."  Sam cackled, shaking his head.  "Mom gave him permission to help Buffy teach me self defense but it was apocalypse season come a bit early so he got to work on me during the days between increased patrols."

"That's cool.  We need to call them."

"Buffy will throw *major* fits," Xander warned.

"Probably," Dawn agreed.  "She had this thing going where she thought I was a toddler again until I kinda got caught snogging one on the porch one night.  I kept moving the hand that was trying to grope.  She nearly removed it totally but that's okay.  She walked him back to his mom's house to tell her too."

"Your sister is protective because she knows you've got my draw for bad guys, Dawn," Xander said blandly.  He looked at Horatio.  "They wanted to sacrifice Dawn.  All they told us was they wanted someone to come have some fun with them."

"I see."  He came over to look at the injured and tied up girls.  "What happened to them?"

"I got the two who were trying to do me, Xander got one or two.  Dean got one, Sam got three because he stepped in to help me," Dawn said, flicking a hand in the air.  "Can we go?  I've got to make sure Xander eats dinner."

"Give us a way to contact you.  Put those clothes into a bag and do not wash them until we know if we need them to search for evidence."

"Yes, sir," they agreed.  Xander wrote down his address and phone number.  Then they headed back in the Impala.  Fortunately Xander lived near that beach.  They walked in and moaned, going to change, shower, and then deal with dinner.

Horatio spent that night at church praying for his poor city.  But having them here might make the bad guys easier to find.  He'd just have them check with Xander to see who had tried to date him.

The End.