Notes:  Timeline - Buffy after Glory.  Basically Xander looked at the grave and decided he couldn't do it anymore.  So he left.  Dawn will be visiting but the state gave her to Willow for a few weeks.  SPN is Sam's first year of school.  Idea:  Found a Ziggy cartoon that says 'Had it up to here with the rotten way everyone treats you?  Just dial 1-800-Psychotic Friends.'  The bunny bit pretty hard.  It even held on while I slept on it.

P. F. N.

Xander looked around the finished apartment, nodding.  "That'll do it," he decided.  He sighed and decided to head out for a beer.  He was tired.  Moving sucked.  Fortunately he was in a college town so it was cheaper.  All utilities paid was nice.  He hadn't been able to do that before.  Plus, his new job paid him more so he had a bigger place.  He found a nice sounding club/bar and went inside, flashing his state ID at the bouncer, who only smirked.  He walked up to the bar and put it down in front of him.  "Can I have a beer?"

The bartender looked then smiled.  "Usually we only see that on birthdays."

"Second day in town."  He put it back.  "Moving sucks."

"Bit late to start the semester."

"I'm crew lead on the college's construction site.   I start tomorrow."  That got a grin and the bartender got him his beer, letting him sit down to enjoy the music.  It was loud, moving, and he couldn't see a single creature of the night feeding.  It was wonderful!  He could relax here!  He took his beer onto the floor to dance and finish destressing.  He hadn't realized how much stress he was carrying from Sunnydale.  He was slowly relaxing when he noticed someone that *had* to be a vampire.  He moaned and debated silently for about three seconds.  It wasn't his duty anymore, but if he let it live, it'd kill someone.  That would be a bad thing.  That's how infestations started.  He hated roach and vampire infestations.  He moved over, smiling like normal at her.  She gave him a long look then sniffed.  "I know, I was moving earlier."  She must not be very old.  He winked and moved with her, making her smile and dance with him instead of her intended, slightly goth prey.


Sam Winchester was bored.  He loved school, but he hated the dorms.  They were doing some stupid bonding exercise tonight and he *really* wanted a drink.  Too bad his dorm didn't allow beers.  Then again, he had to use a fake ID.  He had three so that was fine with him.  The legacy of demon hunting.  He heard a growl and slowed down, paying more attention to the area around him.  A bit run down.  Mostly clubs, a few apartment buildings.  He heard the sounds of a fight and knew, just *knew*, that the Supernatural things he had been trying to avoid were now here too.  Well, he'd have to stop that before hunters showed up.  He went that way, finding a man and woman fighting.  She was clearly.... wrong.  Somehow.  He wasn't sure right off the top of his head.  She had a Klingon forehead ridge.  She had glowing eyes.  So possession maybe?  No, the guy did something and she turned to dust.  "That's interesting," he said, stepping out of the shadows.

The guy panted a bit, staring at him.  "Who're you?"

"Sam.  You?"


Sam looked him over.  "I'm one of John Winchester's sons," he said.  This one was clearly a hunter.  He knew a few of them and the kid held himself like the others did.

"Okay, and that's supposed to mean something to me?"  He shrugged a bit.  "He a big name demon?  Because yay.  Just got finished with a hellgoddess a few weeks back."  He changed his stance.

Sam blinked.  "No, dude, my dad's a demon hunter like you are."

"Oh, that's cool I guess.  Early escapee from the hellmouth?"


Xander gave him a confused look.  "You don't know what a hellmouth is?"

"No.  Why would I?"

"Um, big, evil, sucking portal to multiple hell dimensions?" he suggested dryly.  "Slayer in residence, all that?"

Sam walked closer, seeing that the kid was holding a stake, not a knife.  Which was very strange to him.  "Sounds like a demongate or a hellgate."

"Never heard of them."

"Huh.  They open to a place where demons are imprisoned or a section of hell."

"Huh.  Well, since hell's really multiple dimensions of demons, maybe it only goes to one and we've got the multiple doorway thing going," Xander decided with a shrug.  "You're not with the Watchers Council, right?"

"Noo," Sam said, drawing it out a bit.  "Never heard of them."

Xander frowned back.  "Really?  They're supposed to be huge names in the demon hunting community.  Over the slayers, all that?  Major researchers, have all the books?  Pushy British bastards with bad ideas?"

"British?" he asked, looking confused.  "You do hunt demons, right?"

"Vamps mostly on the hellmouth but yeah, demons now and then.  You do too, right?"

"Used to.  I kinda got away from it to go to school and have a normal life."

Xander slumped, nodding.  "That's why I left my hellmouth.  Our slayer died and I couldn't deal anymore.  After five years I got out."

"Wow.  Dad trained us since I was a baby."

"I jumped in when Buffy came to town."  He shrugged.  "Slayers are like that."

"The only thing I know about a slayer is a band," Sam said dryly.

Xander smirked.  "One girl, called by the Powers That Be to fight all the demons, vampires, bad things in the world; she fights, dies, and another's called?"

"That sounds incredibly sucky for her.  My dad and my brother travel and hunt."

"We heard rumors of rogue demon hunters.  I guess the Watchers probably decided that's what you guys are."  He shrugged a bit at the odd look he got.  "They have the 'we have the slayers so it's our duty' thing going.  They made the slayer line actually.  Been around since before writing."  He frowned then let it clear up.  "Slayers are supposed to be big names in the underworld.  You guys have never heard of us?"


"I guess Clem and the other harmless ones don't brag enough where hunters would hear."

"Harmless?" he snorted.

Xander crossed his arms over his chest.  "Sunnydale has plenty of them that don't want to hurt people, Sam.  Just because they're born funny looking doesn't make them evil.  Some of the bad ones have even switched sides since the government stepped in to torture them."

Sam gave him an odd look.  "No way, dude."

"Yeah, we brought down their unit," he shot back.

Sam swallowed.  "Military?"  Xander nodded.  "How?"

"Called the first slayer back to deal with their creature.  They were not only torturing demons to figure out what they were and what they could do, but they were building their very own Frankenstein monster to kill everyone."

"Charming," Sam said dryly.

"Not really.  Though it does say something when one of their guys goes rogue to fight against them."  He shrugged again.  "Anyway, I got the vamp.  It's all good.  I'm having a beer, want one?"

"Not really.  Is there much activity here?"

"No clue, dude.  I just rode into town yesterday and settled in to start work tomorrow."

This was getting incredibly awkward.  "Wow.  Huh.  Well, I don't want to hunt but if it's something too bad I'm at Stanford in the freshman dorm."

Xander smiled.  "I'm on East and I'll be building the new dorm."

"That's cool.  Later."

"Later."  He slid back in through the back entry since another couple was coming out to make out in the alley.

Sam walked off shaking his head.  That was strange and wrong on so many levels.  He went back to the dorm to do some searching.  The only slayer he knew about was a rock band his brother sometimes listened to in the car.  It took some digging but he found a good paranormal chat site and logged on to look through things.  He found the guy's first name, snorting at the 'he's a tagalong' tag they applied to him.  Someone else pointed out that he had led a major battle, had blown up a building to stop a demon, and had saved her life.  They kept calling the girl with him her.  Sam had to dig a bit to find out why.  Ah, the slayer.  Secret identity, though not too secret since half of them called her Buffy.  He hoped that was a codename.  He really did.

He found a picture of her group and they looked so young.  As young as he did.  The date and story attached to the memorial gave him a better idea of what had gone on.  No wonder the guy looked as tired as he did.  A god would do that to you he guessed.  He hoped he never had to find out in person.  She was interesting and the site gave him links to others.  Some of them were better and more objective.  One written by other hunters.  He even found that Watchers Council place.  They were not making him happy by what he read.  Uptight, arrogant assholes with money, plans, and trying to hold all the cards.  Very not good for the hunting community.

He sat back to consider why he was doing this much work.  He wasn't hunting anymore.  He didn't want to hunt anymore.  Sure, this could be protecting himself in case something came for the guy but that could be said for him doing the same thing and he doubted the other kid went to look him up this way.  Sam went back to looking while he thought.  Why was he being so obsessive about this one hunter?  Then it hit him.  Maybe the guy would become a friend, someone he could talk to about his past.  One who wouldn't freak out or make fun of it.  Or think he needed drugs.  He knew very well most people wouldn't understand but this guy would and it'd be nice to have someone he could be honest and himself with.  For a change.  It'd be a nice change.


Xander looked up from his plans when he felt someone staring at him.  He smiled at the young kid, strolling over.  "Engineering major?"

"No.  Pre-law."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "Guess it'll come in handy.  What's up, Sam?"

"This is going to sound odd, but, um, beers later?  Maybe at the sports bar?"

Xander looked at him.  "I'm not sure if I'm bi or not, Sam," he said quietly.

Sam grinned, shaking his head.  "Not a date with beers, Xander, just hanging out with someone neither of us has to pretend around."  He leaned closer.  "I'm going to hurt one of the freshmen on my floor for being a happy goth person."

Xander laughed.  "I get that urge too.  Sometimes I want to scream at them about not seeing it.  Sure, I get off after six."

Sam beamed.  "I have class until seven so that works good.  Laters.  Um... sports bar is on eighth."

"That's cool.  I'll meet you there."  Sam beamed and jogged off.  Xander went back to work, ignoring his boss's odd look.  "Met him the other night," he said finally, looking at him.  "We have some mutual friends so we're going to sit and badmouth them behind their backs for being sucky friends."

"I guess that's fine."  He looked then at him.  "He's a cute kid."

Xander shrugged.  "Too smart for me, boss.  He's pre-law."  That got a laugh and a pat on the back, the boss going to check over the work.  Xander went to handle another problem and dig in to help them with something they were struggling to do.  It was a good crew.  He could like this crew.  Hopefully.


Sam walked into the bar and nodded at the hostess, pointing.  "I'm with him."  He walked that way, finding a young woman sitting across from him.  "Interrupting, Xander?"

"No, go ahead and sit, Sam.  Sam, this is my ex-girlfriend Cordelia.  Cordy, this is Sam.  He does what we used to do."

"Make out in closets?" she asked dryly.

"The *other* thing," Xander said dryly, shooting her a look.  "Like you still do."

"Oh."  She looked him.  "You're not uptight enough to be a Watcher."

"No, my family travels.  The Watchers seem pretty ugly to deal with."  They both gave him clueless looks.  "Power hungry, holding all the books and the girls so no one can help them, they probably even have the books in some strange language."

"Mostly latin," Xander admitted.  "A few demon languages, a few older languages."

Sam looked at him.  "There are?"

Xander nodded, sipping his beer.  "Yup.  About fifty or so.  Six are pretty common and a few are really ancient."

"Wow.  We never heard anything about that but most of ours is spread on the mentor system."

Xander nodded.  "We tried that but Giles wasn't allowed to train us."  He looked at Cordelia.  "So, you tracked me down.  Why?"

"Angel needs something you brought from Sunnydale."

"What does Deadboy need this time?"

"Your axe."

"Giles said I could have it."

"He needs a silver axe," she sighed.  "I'll bring it back."

Xander considered it then shook his head.  "Wesley had one the last time I heard."

"The Watchers took it."

"It's in Cordexa then."  She blinked.  "Their storage area locally for their extraction team that's trying to get Faith again.  They're in Cordexa, which is a very small, tiny town.  Herd the demon that way and solve two problems at once."

She gaped.  "That's evil."

"She's trying to do the right thing by being in jail," Xander said bluntly.  "They're trying to kill her or take her out of jail, Cordy, and they're an issue.  I can herd it if you want."  He found his phone and called.  "Deadboy, Xander.  No, you can't have my axe.  Herd the demon toward the Watchers in Cordexa who're gathering for another try on Faith.  They have a warehouse and I'm pretty sure Wes's stuff is still with them since they've been there for over a year."  He listened.  "There, yeah."  He took a sip.  "Deadboy, retired," he said bluntly.  "I couldn't take it anymore.  No, Giles said I could keep the axe."  He snorted.  "I don't know, Deadboy, why would I need it?" he asked dryly.  "Even if I am in a pretty null area."  He stopped Sam from moving, shaking his head.  "If you won't then go to Bryant in the 'hood.  Gunn knows him.  He's got like six."  He hung up and looked at her.  "Good, done with Sunnydale stuff."  He grinned at Sam.  "No more, I promise."  Sam nodded, ordering his own dinner and beer.  The waitress gave him an odd look so he pulled out his best fake ID, getting a snort and a look.   Xander grinned.  "He's legal, dear."

"I can lose my job, guys."

"Then get me another one?"

"You can go to jail."

Xander beamed.  "Then let's take it to go."  She went to do that.  He looked at Cordelia.  "Coming with?"

She snorted.  "Hell no.  You probably decorate in early frat brother with Heineken mirrors."  She wiggled past Sam.  "Nice meeting you, Sam.  You seem like a nice boy.  I don't know why you'd hang out with Xander."  She walked off.

Xander looked at him.  "Yeah, I dated that," he said dryly, making Cordelia laugh.  He watched her go then looked at him.  "I draw evil ones.  Sorry."

Sam grinned.  "Evil seems to like me too, Xander.  Not your fault."  That got a grin.  The waitress brought their orders and they paid then left.  "You sure?"

"I'm certain.  The dorm's noisy, dude."

"Very.  I can't study there.  I'm having problems sleeping there since I have a roommate."

Xander looked at him.  "That's sucky."

"Very, but housing lottery."

"Oh, I heard.  Buffy ended up rooming with a higher level, Celine Dion loving demon her first semester.  At least until she banished her."  They walked back to his place and he let him inside.  "It's pretty cool."

Sam looked around.  No open wards.  "No salt wards?"

Xander looked at him.  "Salt does stuff because make bland things tasty?"

"Keeps out some demons and spirits."

"Wow.  Giles never said that.  You'd think he would somewhere like Sunnydale."  Sam moaned.  "We had Wiccan wards.  I have a few on the place but not too many.  I figured it won't be anything I can't handle and they shouldn't know me."

"Dude, I went looking for paranormal bulletin boards and found your group all over them.  Hell, I found some of our hunters on them.  Where did you find that 'middle finger salute' t-shirt?"

Xander grinned.  "My post-grad roadtrip in Oxnard.  One of the strippers gave it to me as a going away present.  Willow tried to steal it but she wasn't successful.  Her girlfriend helped me."  He smirked.  "Couch?"

Sam looked around.  "This is nice, Xander."

"Thanks, Sam."  They settled on the couch.  "You okay?"

"I'm good.  I'm just so tired of having to hide stuff sometimes."

"I know how that goes.  All too well.  Sunnydale may've had a perception issue but I still couldn't openly talk to anyone but the girls and they don't listen all that well, even for being girls."

"The stuff said they were kinda wrapped in their own lives."

Xander snorted.  "Ya think?"

"Dad too.  He's obsessed over the demon that killed my mother."  Xander patted him on the shoulder.  "I know, and it sucks, but he trained us like we were Marines."

"At least you got trained."

"Good point."  He smirked at him.  "You use an axe?"

"Yeah."  He got up to get it.  "See, pretty."

Sam ran a finger over the blade.  "Very nice."

"What do you guys use?"

"Mostly shotguns."

Xander shook his head.  "Never work in Sunnydale."

"I noticed the stake."

"The only way."

"That's nearly suicidal," Sam said quietly.

Xander grinned.  "Anything on them goes poof if you're farther away and most of the time it's during the fight that you stake them."  He put his axe back and came back to nibble on his burger.  "What sort of evil is your roomie?"

"Oh, Gods, don't get me started.  He watches *soaps*!  He's a jock and kinda easy.  I swear he gets more girls than my brother does.  I'm not sure if he's used my bed to sleep with one of the drunk girls he picked up."

"Sounds like a frat brother."

"He pledged and two turned him down.  The last one took him and he's moving there during the next trimester."  Xander looked at him.  "We have trimesters here."

"I guess that's cool.  UC Sunnydale has regular semesters I think."  He ate a bite.  "Soaps?"

"Yeah.  Said it helps him get into a slutty mood."

Xander looked at him.  "Do we have anything he shouldn't know about?  I've got a spare closet, Sam."

"No, I left all that at home.  I wanted out, a normal life."  He ate a wing.

Xander nodded.  "Normal sounds heavenly to me too.  Going to the movies, on dates that don't involve patrol."

"You guys patrolled?"

"Nightly."  Someone knocked on the door so he went to answer it.  "Yes, Officer?" he asked patiently.

"Sir, did you know that there's been a call put out by your former town's PD to find you, that you're dangerous?"

"It only took them two weeks to miss me too," he said dryly.  "I'm not dangerous.  The former mayor and his flunkies, who are still in charge, are doing bad things.  My friends and I went against him, Officer.  He's the reason my graduation had an explosion."

"I heard about that.  They said you built the bombs, sir."

Xander snorted.  "The FBI said it was the mayor."  The cop moaned lightly.  "Exactly.  The old mayor was running drugs, guns, and other bad things.  Money laundering and others.  The Feds got to close that out because all his minions died with him at graduation.  Beyond that, I moved because I got tired of dealing with their shit every night and day.  Have you seen Sunnydale's death stats?"

"I did some research on your town."  He stared at him.  "It's a bit higher than LA's per capita."

"Sunnydale doesn't have a big population.  It wasn't us."

The cop nodded at that.  "Good to know."  He stared him down.  "Are you going to cause my town problems, young man?"

"Not unless they come for me.  If they do, I'll call when they're down."  Because the guy was clearly not fully human.  He could see the greenish tinge to his skin.  "Brachen?" he asked quietly.  "I met Doyle a few times."

The nodded.  "Distant cousin," he admitted.

"Unless it comes for me, I'm out.  With the exception of me seeing one actively hunting.  Then I'll try very hard to be retired."

"Good."  He nodded at Sam.  "You?"

"I wanted a normal life, Officer.  That's why I left my family."

The officer looked at him.  "Stay out of our hair, boys."

"I'd love to," Xander said honestly.  "Truly love to.  A normal life sounds close to paradise at the moment."

The cop smirked.  "Good.  Stay out of the Market Alley area then."  He walked off.  "Also, no weapons, Harris."

"I don't have any," he complained.  He shut the door, looking at Sam.  "That was nice of them."

"Very."  They shared a smile.  It meant someone else had it and they were only on-call for the worst things or if something came for them.  Sounded good to them.  Xander sat down and they turned on a game to watch.  It was nice.  Comfortable, calm.  No screaming, gunpowder, ashes, blood, or anything.  No running, screaming, crying, stalking, or hunting.  Definitely good to them.  "Weapons?" Sam asked finally.

"I used to take care of them."

"Wow.  Guns?"

"Nope.  Giles hated guns and they were mostly useless to our patrols."  He looked at him.  "I can't believe you guys dealt with guns."

"Yeah.  Rock salt into spirits attacking, blessed rounds, all sorts of gun uses."

Xander grinned.  "How does that salt thing work?"

"I'll show you."  They got up to ward the house better then finished relaxing in front of the game.  "It'll keep out bugs too."

"That could be nice."

Sam smiled.  "How long are you in town for?"

"The construction crew is permanently in town.  As long as Sunnydale Syndrome doesn't happen up here, I'll be employed."

"That's cool."  Sam yawned.  "I should get back."

Xander looked at him.  "If you need to hide stuff, the extra closet in the back bedroom is open."

"Thanks, Xander."  He got up and headed back to his dorm.  He saw a few odd looks when he walked into the building.  "What?"

"Your roommate just got busted," a security guard said, coming over.  "We need to talk to you as well, Mr. Winchester."

"I was having wings watching a basketball game with a friend.  What did he do?  Was this about his thing with drunken women?  His thing about hitting on the freshmen girls?  Or something worse?"

"Something worse.  We found drugs."

"Not mine, dude.  I do not touch the stuff.  You can drug test me if you want."

The guard smiled.  "We will be."  He led him back to the security office to talk to him.  Sam passed the test so they let him pack up his stuff and move rooms with the RA's help. The rest got confiscated to be searched for more drugs.  The roomie had even hid some of his stuff in Sam's dresser.  That was mean of him.


Xander stretched.  "Ow," he said on his way to the door.  Sam beamed from the other side with coffee.  "Sam, stalking is wrong," he said dryly but let him inside.

"I brought you cafe mocha with sprinkles."

"Hmm.  I'll consider letting you stalk me today.  What's the special occasion?"

"I passed my first set of finals."

"Congrats," he said, smiling back.  "Good job.  How high did we pass?"

"Straight A's."

Xander gave him a back slapping hug.  "Good work.  Now hand over the coffee.  It's Saturday and I don't have to work today."  Sam laughed, handing it over.  They went to have breakfast together.  Usually it'd be brunch but this was good news and Sam deserved to be bouncy and happy about it.  Afterward they went to the movies.  A double feature and Xander treated as a good job present.   "When do new classes start?" he asked when they were out and back home.

"Next week."

"That's fast."

"Yeah but most of us go straight through."  He shrugged.  "At least I have the room to myself at the moment."

"They won't give you a new roomie?"

"I don't think so.  I hope not."  That got a knowing look.  "I heard the consolidation rumors."

"That's because two students blew up their rooms making drugs and hurt a few of the other ones.  I helped with the evac and evaluation when they let the students pack stuff."  He looked at the young kid.  "Heard from the family?"

"Dad said not to contact them," he said with a sigh at the end.  "So I'm not."

Xander smirked.  "There's mutual contacts, Sam, and I've heard there's been ones who're reporting on you."

"You did?"

"Yeah, I got a midnight phone call three weeks ago wanting to know what I was doing hanging out with you and was I your boyfriend."   Sam cackled.  "So I told him I was going to gut him like the last demon I killed and he spluttered then hung up."

Sam smirked.  "Figures Dad would check up on me.  Gravely voice?  Or young?"

"No.  Not in the least."

"Huh.  Wonder who he had call."

"No idea.  They haven't called back."  He shrugged.  "If they do, I'll tape it or something."

"That's cool."  Sam punched him on the arm.  "We should go club tonight."

"We should," Xander agreed.  "Go change."

Sam nodded, heading to do that.  He was wearing baggy jeans, not clubbing material.  He walked in and found someone in his room.  "And you would be?" he asked.

"Oh, hi, I'm the new RA," she said, holding out a hand.

"The last time I knew, this was a guy's floor," he said, shaking it.  "So why are you in my room?"

She laughed.  "We're splitting this floor."

"Uh-huh.  And....?"

"You're getting consolidated."

"You're putting a girl in here?"

"You're gay, right?"


"You're not?"


"You don't hit on any of the girls and you're always with that guy."

"He's a friend and no, I'm still straight."  She moaned, going to tell someone that.  "Who said I was gay?" he called after her.  He called Xander while he followed her.  "It's me, it's going to be a few more minutes.  They were going to put a girl in my room because they decided you're my boyfriend too."  Xander cackled.  "Yeah."  He hung up, following her into her room.  "Who said I was gay?"

"Everyone.  You don't hit on the girls."

"I have a straight A average and I'm pre-law.  Beyond that, I hit on plenty of girls but I'm not going to date one of the vapid little airheads we get up on five."

She glared.  "Some of them are my friends, Winchester."

"And one told me I was a Pokemon the other day," he shot back.  She moaned, sitting on her bed.  "Can we fix this?"

She called the head of the dorm.  "It's Marigold.  I'm with Winchester and there's a problem.  He's not gay."  She listened.  "He's still not gay.  He's pre-law with a straight A average but he's not gay."  She listened.  "That leaves us with three people with two rooms."

"If I must, I'll take another roommate," Sam said.

She looked at him.  "The other is going to bother you and he paid for a private room."  She listened.  "That's the problem, sir.  You know that room's damaged."

"Find me one in another dorm then," Sam told her.

"They're all full."

Sam called Xander back.  "They were going to do this because there's three people, one has paid for a private room, and the other's a girl or me."  He listened.  "You sure?  I mean, I know I have late classes and you have to work, Xander.  Yeah, thanks."  He hung up.  He'd tell her that if it became necessary.  She gave him an expectant look.  "He said I can borrow his couch now and then."

She sighed, repeating that.  She hung up.  "He has a medical reason for his private room."

"Okay, and?" he asked.

"They're going to talk to the head of housing.  Maybe there's another open room somewhere."

"Since I'm already here, why doesn't she move into somewhere like the female only dorm?"

"She had to leave over there.  They don't like her because she's lesbian.  Which is why putting her with you is perfect."

Sam shrugged.  "I don't care.  If she's not going to get weird...  I'm hardly ever home."

She shook her head.  "It's against school rules.  We could've bent it for both of you being gay but with you not be, it's considered a risk for harassment."

"I have nothing against gay people.  I'm simply not one."

She shrugged.  "I'll let you know."

"Thanks."  He went back to his room, finding a young woman coming up the hall.  "Hey, were they going to move you in with me?"

"They were."

"Sam Winchester."  He shook her hand.  "They're rediscussing the plan since I'm not gay."

"Me either but they decided I'm uptight so therefore I have to be."

Sam smiled.  "Let me lead you to her room."  He showed her down there.  "This her?"

"This is her," she agreed.  "They're working to see who moves where, guys."

"Let me go clean my room, just in case," Sam said, going to do that.  Then he'd take a shower and change.  Because it was his room.


Xander opened the door with a smirk.  "Need a ride?"

"No, this is all I have," he admitted.  He walked in and dropped things in the spare room.  "It's a gentleman's duty to make sure a woman doesn't sleep on the street," he mimicked.

Xander snickered.  "Will they give you that part of your pell and scholarship back?"

"Oh, yeah.  I said I'd need it to pay my rent here.  They agreed that would be fine and I'll have a check cut by Wednesday."

"That's cool," Xander promised, giving him a pat on the back.  "Go change.  We'll club, Sam."  He nodded, going to do that.  Xander went back to finishing his laundry then changed clothes too.  They met up at the door and Xander took them to the nicer club.  It was nice to get down and let go.  They each picked up women and had some fun so that was good too.


Sam got the note to see his scholarship overseer and went to see her.  "Yes, ma'am?" he asked once he was facing her.

"You moved off campus already?"

"No, the dorm forced me off campus by consolidating too many rooms," he said bluntly.  "They had decided I was gay and was going to put a young woman in my room, but she's not gay like they thought and I'm not gay like they thought so that's not allowed and they gave her my room."

"Oh.  I see."  She stared at him.  "Where are you staying instead?"

"I have a friend who works on the construction crew.  He has a spare bed so I'm crashing there until I can find my own place."

"Hmm."  She stared at him.  "Is this going to affect your grades?"

"No, ma'am.  I'm spending just as much time in the library as I was before."

"That's good.  Are you going to have problems with him?"

He stared at her.  "Ma'am, by any chance, do you know my roommate?"

"I've heard of him," she said, grimacing.  "They say he's unclean, amoral, and evil."

"No....  Xander's not."

She blinked.  "Harris?" she demanded.

He smirked.  "Yeah.  Why?"

"You know Mr. Harris?"

"Fairly well.  We've been friends since we met."

She stared.  "That changes things.  You should not be with him, Samuel.  He's dangerous to you."

He leaned down.  "Ma'am, if you're worried about what he used to do, I already know."

"Saw him?" she asked with a slight sneer.

"My father had to kill one once."  He stood up again, staring her down.

She stared back.  "We're aware of what your family does, Samuel."

"Then you're with the Watchers Council?" he asked.  She went pale.  "I heard about them.  Dad hadn't.  He understands me and we both want a normal life.  That's why we're both here, ma'am.  Otherwise we'd be at home."

"I can understand that.  He's still dangerous."

"If the Council breaks in to try to kill him or something I'll protect myself," he said bluntly.  "Is this going to be a problem?"

"No," she said.  "You are staying pre-law?"  He nodded.  "That's good."  She smiled.  "Though I do wish you would find a better spot to live.  He can...corrupt you.  Things happen around him."

"I've heard."  He shrugged.  "I'd need money to do that, ma'am.  The grants and scholarships barely cover the food plan and the dorms here."

"That is true.  Did you get a refund?"

"Supposedly today."

"Hmm.  We'll make sure of it."  She called over to make sure of it, then smiled at him.  "They'll have it in twenty minutes.  It won't be much this semester."

"That's fine.  I cut down my meal plan as well.  That'll start saving me more next semester."

"Good."  She held out a hand and he shook it.  "I do hope you go on to do great things."

"Me too."  He left, going to pick up the check.  It definitely wasn't much.  He frowned at it.  "We hadn't even started the new trimester yet."

"Your room was a mess."

"I swept it and the RA signed off everything was good."

She showed him the sheet.

He pointed.  "I signed out with my RA, not her, ma'am."

She groaned, finding the original form.  "So you did."  She went to show the head of housing, getting him to cut the other check for him.  She handed it over.  "Are you going to move back next semester?"

"No.  I'm kinda insulted that everyone decided I was gay because I was doing what I'm supposed to do and studying."  She flinched at that.  "The same as the young woman they tried to have me room with should be because she was doing the same thing.  I got a waiver based on what happened so I'll have the smaller food plan but that's about it."

"Fine," she agreed.  "Have a good life, Mr. Winchester."

"You too, ma'am."  He walked off.

"Uptight," she muttered once he was gone.

"Is he going to sue?" her boss called.

"He never said so, Bob."

"Good.  That was a bad situation."  He came to the door.   "The young woman?"

"Settled into the room."  She looked at him.  "It wasn't fair."

"No, it wasn't and it's a situation we'll be addressing this trimester and from now on."  He went back to dealing with those issues.

She sighed, making a note she had handed it over and shredded the fake room check-out card.  At least the kid wasn't suing.


Sam looked at his list for books and groaned.  His scholarship covered them but only to three hundred dollars.  The extra fifty was going to hurt.  Xander walked over to him.  "This is ridiculous."

"Yup.  But then again your library has a neat check out program for the lesser books you don't need," he said in his ear.  Sam looked at him.  "Willow told me to never buy books until after your first class."

"I have to have them by tomorrow."

"Then bring that one back.  Never buy when you can check out and make notes.  Never buy until the teacher tells you which ones you have to have in class, and never buy new if you can help it."

"They don't have any used since it's so late."

Xander pointed at one.  "That's used."  Sam held up his copy.  It was the only used one he had.  "Supplemental texts?"

"Six," he admitted.

"Did you look at the class yet?"

"I have and I need four of them by tomorrow and read from by then."

Xander patted him on the back.  "Then we'll figure it out, Sam."  He gave him the extra fifty and drove him back to their place. "Do you get to sell them back?"

"And keep the cash," he admitted.  "If I don't need one of them I'll return one and pay you back."

"That's fine."  Xander smiled.  "How's other things?"

"Good.  I put down my half of the rent earlier.  I made out money orders for the landlord for my half so I couldn't spend it."

Xander nodded.  "Relax, Sam."  Sam relaxed.  "Did they give you some back on the food plan?"

"They are going to but I haven't gotten it yet."

"Then we'll see."  He patted him again.  "If worst comes to worst, you can go to the plasma center."


"Grab an ID.  Unless you have class tonight?"

He shook his head and they headed out together.  Xander took him to the small blood bank looking place and got them signed in.  He read the information.  "You can do that?"

"Yeah.  I went now and then in Sunnydale when Anya stole too much of the paycheck to go shopping.  It's not bad.  During the summer's it's nicer because this can make you feel cold."  Sam smiled at that.  "Plus you earn about forty bucks a time.  I'll get a bonus because I'm bringing you."

"That's cool."  He waited until the nurse called, going to answer her questions for the brief physical.  They passed him onto the waiting room and he went to have his blood iron checked and then they walked him out.  He winced at the size of the needle but he pointed.  "That's a friend.  Can I be near him?"

"We can let you face each other," she said, putting him on that bed.  "First time I see."  He nodded.  "Have other people had problems with drawing blood?"

"No, ma'am."

She smiled and hooked up his machine, letting him watch her put on the disposable containers and tubing.  Then he took off his overshirt and let her stick his arm.  He winced. "I know, it's a big needle but it'll be okay.  It's only sixteen-gauge and some people have bigger ones in their ears."  She started the machine.  "Let us know if you feel funny or if the needle shifts."  He nodded and she walked off to get the next one.

"Just relax and watch the movie they have playing, Sam.  At the most it takes two hours.  Sometimes less.  Depends on how thick your blood is," Xander told him.

"Good to know."  He watched the machine run.  It sucked it out, separated it, then the machine clicked and it ran back into his body.  He stared at it then at Xander, who nodded.  "This isn't so bad."

"No, and it's definitely food money for the week," he said with a grin.

Sam grinned back.  "Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome."  They settled in to watch the decidedly kiddy movie they had playing. It was okay but not great.   Xander got done first and went to sign out.  "My friend's on his first machine," he told her happily.

She looked then nodded.  "I do see you get a referral bonus after his second donation."  He pouted.  "He has to come back to get his full bonus and so you get yours."  Sam came over while he was checking out.  "That was fast."

"I drink a lot of sports drinks."  She smiled and let him sign what he needed to, handing over the money.  He grinned at Xander.

"Now, after your second one, he'll get a bonus and you'll get the rest of your first time bonus as well," she told him.

"Yes, ma'am."  He smiled and they left.  "Thanks, Xander."

"It's spare money and it's needed anyway," Xander said with a small shrug.   "Someone's got to give it.  Better us than some drug addict."

"True."  They got a pizza and went back to the apartment to settle in and watch tv.  Xander had the good package.  HBO was wonderful.


Sam's phone rang so he quickly turned it off, weathering the dirty look from the teacher.  "Sorry, forgot, sir."

"Don't do it again."

"Yes, sir."

"Something important?"

Sam looked then took it into the hall.  "What's up?" he asked.  It was an unknown number.  "Um, no, I'm Sam, his roommate.  Yeah, that's me.  Come to the campus in about an hour and I can lead you over there, miss.  Why are you in our place?"  She told him who he was and he smirked.  He knew about her and he had figured it was one of Xander's buddies from home.  "Come to the campus and I'll bring you over.  Sure.  I'm in class though."  He hung up and went back.  The teacher gave him a 'well, go on' look.  "Friend just got in and needed directions."  He sat down and went back to his notes.

The teacher snorted and got back to the lecture.  His method of humiliation hadn't worked on this one but he was usually polite.  He'd have to get him worse next time.

Sam came out of class and found a young woman being hit on and giggling.  "Dawn?"  She smiled at him.  "Hi, Sam."  He shook her hand.

"Bug off," the guy sneered.

"She's in to see my roommate and I'm taking her to him.  You can hit on the underage girl later," he shot back, making the guy flinch.  "As in she's fifteen."  He fled.  "Sorry."

"No, it was pretty comical.  His lines needed a bit of tweaking."  She put his arm through his.  "So, you're the mysterious Sam he's written about.  You're cute."

"Thank you but I can't take credit for that."  He grinned.  "In town for long?"

"Over the weekend.  Willow wanted me to eva... um, go away for a weekend."

He looked down at her as they walked off.  "My dad and brother hunt demons too, Dawn," he said quietly, making her stop and stare at him.  "That's how I met Xander.  I caught him dealing with something attacking him."

"Ah, ye old Xander luck struck again," she said dryly.  He scowled.  She smirked.  "You'd be surprised, Sam.  So, are you...."  He shook his head.  "By choice?"

"By choice.  I wanted a normal life."

She sighed.  "Some day I'll have one of those but right now, Willow and Spike are going to blow up half the town tonight to make them stop trying to kill everyone else."

"That's cool.  You can hang with us.  I'm not a bad influence like my brother is.  He'd hit on you too until he knew how old you were."  She laughed.  "C'mon. It's about time for him to yell at someone for slacking off on an early break."  She took his arm again and they walked off together.  "So, this is Stanford," he said, pointing out the buildings they were walking past and the ones around them.  She smiled at him for that.  They found the construction site and the guards there.  "Hey, guys, can Xander come out for a minute?  She came to see him and needs keys."  One called into the office.  "Problems?"

"They hit something earlier and the boss was not happy," one guard said.

"Water main?" Dawn asked.

"Bomb someone planted by the noon news," Sam told her.  "One of the eco groups on campus they think.  They're too scared to do it during the day."

"That's good at least."  Xander came out and she hugged him.  "Hi.  I'm here."

"I can see that."  He gave her a squeeze, staring down at her.  "We'll be good boys and girls this weekend for you."

"That'd be nice."  She pinched his cheek.  "I managed to break in to find Sam's number on the fridge."

"New phone syndrome," Xander said, handing her his keys.  "Do not leave me locked out, Dawn Summers."

"Yes, Xander."  She kissed him on the cheek.  "See you when?"

"Sixish.  Maybe seven."  She nodded.  "Thanks, Sam."

"Welcome, Xander."  He grinned.  "I'm off for an hour."

"Go eat lunch.  I can go back by myself," she promised, heading back that way.   An older woman came out of the apartment across the hall from Xander's when she heard her.  "Hi, I'm his best friend's little sister.  I came in to visit."  She smiled.  "Dawn Summers."

"Sam's last name is Winchester."

"No, I'm from Sunnydale, where Xander's from.  His best friends from home, not here."

"Ah.  Coming to see the campus?"

"That too but my guardian needed the weekend off to play with her girlfriend and Spike."

She blushed.  "Then it's good they sent you off!"

Dawn grinned.  "It's cool.  I even got Xander's keys this time."

"That's fine then."  She smiled.  "Is Sam still living with him?"

"Yes, ma'am.  Sam showed me where the construction site was.  He seemed very nice."

"He's a very polite young man."

"That's good.  Xander could use more manners."  That got a smirk.  "He belches now and then."

"All men do, young lady.  Go inside before something dreadful happens."

"Yes, ma'am."  She went in and shut the door, locking it too.  Something dreadful always seemed to happen around her so better safe than sorry.  She went to snoop around.  Anya had ordered her to.  Willow too.  Sam seemed pretty normal.  No stakes, only a few knives in his room.  Normal underwear so he wasn't a slutty boy toy sort.  Xander's had more dirty things than Sam's, which was kinda pitiful in her opinion.  Then again, Anya could've come with him but he hadn't invited her.  He had broken off the engagement and all that.  She considered putting the ring on his dresser but she'd give it to him later.

She went to snoop in the closet, finding the weapons.  A few swords, a few stakes, his battle axe.  Nothing too great or dangerous.  She decided to snoop in the kitchen and called Willow.  "Xander has almost no food," she reported.  "I know it's Friday and probably a payday, Willow; he still has almost no food."  She looked.  "Pasta.  Some frozen burger patties in the fridge thawing."  She listened.  "Definitely could.  Yeah.  No, he seemed okay.  The site was under heavy guard because they had a threat earlier.  Sam seemed nice and the neighbor said he's a polite young man as well.  He walked me over to it when I found his phone number."  She read it off so Willow could do the background check she wanted to do.

"He said his dad does Scooby things," she said quietly.  Willow moaned and got into that file, finding him.  "Yeah, Sam, not Dean.  Sure, thanks."  She hung up and looked over as something appeared on the counter.  Dawn picked it up and took it with the keys.  Someone had to go grocery shopping.  Willow would not stand for not having any food in the house and neither would her mother or sister if they were alive.  Which was not a good thing but she wouldn't think about it this weekend.  She was in to have happy times, not worry.  Though she would warn Sam that Willow was doing a background check on him.  She sent him a text from the grocery store asking if he was allergic to any foods and of that fact.  He got back a 'no beans this week please and I know'.  She smiled.  She could like Sam.


Xander walked in and sniffed.  "Willow sent food?" he asked Dawn when he hugged her.

"We talked and I went grocery shopping in her place."

"That's fine."  He walked into the kitchen, sniffing the pot.  "That smells good, Dawnstar."  He smiled at her.  "Tell her to quit."

"You know Willow better than that but she said Sam sounds nice and he's cute.  You might think about him."

"I think Willow has enough of the gay loving without us joining in," Sam said from the couch, cracking them up.  He grinned.  "I stopped her digging too far before it busted Dad and Dean.  She wasn't happy but oh well."  He looked at Xander.  "She made real food."

"I'm amazed."

She smiled.  "Anya wanted a call."

"That's painful," he sighed, looking at her.  She held up the ring from her pocket.  "She gave it back?"  She nodded.  "Why?"

"She said it's not right.  Doctor Phil and Dear Abby said so."

He smiled, going to put it on his dresser.  Then he showered and came out in clean clothes.  "There, better.  Less sweaty."

"They get them?" Sam asked.

"I caught her trying at lunch.  She's a bit psycho."  He settled in between them.  "So, what's happening this time?"

"An overabundance of demons attacking people.  Even the normals are noticing.  Willow and Spike are going to do something so I needed to be out of the way."

Xander gave her a squeeze.  "It'll be handled.  They can call Angel up to help."

"They probably will.  What did you say to Cordelia?"

"I told her she couldn't have my axe, where Wes's stuff was, and told her to herd the demon toward the Watchers trying for Faith."  They shared a look.  "Angel did that but she said it was a bad move."

"Not really.  They came to check on me recently."  Xander glared. "In a bad way but Willow got them and Spike got their van."  She smirked.  "They were going to try to take me into custody to see if the slayer line would be coming out through my body into a daughter I'd have."

"You tell them your age?" he asked dryly.

"And they reminded me why I'm not," she shot back.

Xander nodded.  "Well, they'll get theirs.  She convince them?"

"Yeah.  She had a bad talk with them.  One that made Tara scream at her, Xan.  She's getting scary," she said quietly.

"I know."  He gave her a cuddle.  "We'll figure it out."  She nodded.  "How's Tara and Giles?"

"They're good.  Holding on.  Giles came back from England."  She smiled at him.  "He said it's better for you to be here.  Doing that is wearing and you needed some rest."

"Yeah, it's called retirement," Xander told her.  She nodded, snuggling in better.  Sam smiled and let them have some privacy.  "What else is going on?"

"Anya and Spike are shacking up.  She only complains a few times about him.  Willow and Tara are fighting about her magic.  Giles is back to drinking.  The social workers are coming next week."

He sighed.  "If you want, we'll figure it out, Dawn."

"No.  I don't think it'll come down to that.  Plus I might give Giles a reason to quit drinking and find life again, Xan."

"That'd be good for him."  He gave her a squeeze.  "Go get us dinner?"

She pinched him on the chest.  "I may be female but I'm a guest."

He laughed, getting up to get them all food.  Sam came out to eat with them.  "How's the family?"

"They're okay right now.  In North Carolina at the moment.  That one website tracks us very well.  I should let them know."

"Let a mutual contact know," Xander said.  "Are we listed?"

"Yup.  We're retired and hiding in plain sight," he said with a smirk for him.  Xander smirked back.  "What did you want to do this weekend, Dawn?"

"I don't care as long as we can go out at night and do it without being attacked."

He gave her a long look.  "It's been that bad?"


"Damn it," he said.

"Basically the town is damned."  She dug in, eating her very good meal.  She looked at Xander.  "Anything fun?"

"All sorts of fun, but mostly we've only found the older guy fun stuff."

"I don't really think I need to see a strip club," she said dryly.

Xander gave her head a nudge.  "Neither do I.  I can find plenty of pretty coeds."  She moaned.  He smirked.  "I can."

"That reminds me, I have a date tomorrow night," Sam said, making Xander grin.  "We'll figure it out."

"She nice?" Dawn asked.

"Fairly so.  A bit fun-loving and light and airy.  I'm not sure if we'll do more than have some fun and dinner."  He ate a bite.  "This is good, Dawn."

"Thanks, Sam.  Mom was a good cook."  Xander kissed her on the temple.  "I know.  It hurts less now."

He smiled.  "You're a strong woman, Dawn.  Someday you'll make her very proud."

Dawn sniffled.  "Mushy," she taunted, but she went back to eating.  They decided to go out for some fun at a street fair one of the local churches was doing.  Good, clean, wholesome fun that Dawn could go with.  At least until they ran into someone being attacked.  Though he managed to turn it back on his attacker and beat him pretty badly.  The thing vamped out though and the guy stared in a very confused way.  Xander moved in and staked.

"Thanks," he said.  "Who're you?"

Xander smiled.  "Don't worry about it."

"No, I should."  He pulled out his badge.  "Not local but what was that?"

"Vampire," Dawn told him. "They happen now and then."

He stared at her then at Sam then at Xander again.  "Vampire?"  Xander nodded.  "Okay then.  Traditional movie methods?"

"For their kind.  There's a few species."

"Good to know.  Thank you."  He put his badge back.  "Ryan."

"Xander, this is Dawn, and that's Lewis," he said with a point at Sam.  Sam wouldn't want to be identified.

"It's fine, Xander.  Sam."  He shook his hand.  "You okay?"

"Yeah, just in a bit of shock.  They didn't teach this at the academy last year."  Dawn giggled.  "They didn't."  He walked off with them.  "It tried to mug me."

"Now and then they want money too," Xander admitted.  "Probably mug you, feed off you, then leave you laying there."

"Ah."  He nodded and they went to the street fair, making him smile.  "My sister works up the road."

"I'm going to the college," Sam told him.  "Xander's building our new dorm."

"I'm too young for all that," Dawn quipped.  She suddenly stopped and grabbed her stomach.  "Xander, bad."  He held her up, moving her out of the crowd and off to a  bench.  "What did she do?" she moaned, bending down.  "It's Willow.  Has to be Willow."

Xander called her phone and got her voicemail.  He called Tara's.  "What is Willow doing?" he demanded.  "Hi, Tara.  Dawn's bent over in pain and said it's Willow."  She moaned something to someone who sounded like Giles and Anya.  "I don't know, guys."

Dawn slowly straightened up.  "She's done, whatever it is."  She took the phone.  "Tara, she linked the spell into me somehow.  I don't know, Tara."  She smiled. "I'm okay but I'm going to visit the portapotty just in case.  Yeah, there.  I don't know.  All I know is she's done now and it hurt like hell.  Thanks."   She hung up and went to visit the portapotty in case she had an accident.  It could happen but thankfully hadn't.  She came out.  "Tara said Giles is going to deal with it and call."

"Should we head home?" Sam asked, looking worried.

"Willow's a light witch," Dawn told him.  "It had to be something to help up there."

Xander nodded.  "Then we'll play for now and run home if we have to."  They nodded and went to have some fun while checking their phones.  Ryan pumped them full of questions the whole night.  It was a welcome distraction.


Sam opened the door late Sunday night, looking at the woman standing there.  "Buffy," he said, letting her inside.

She walked over the wards.  "Is Xander here?  You're Sam, right?"

"I am.  He's in bed.  Dawn's on mine while I take the couch."  Xander came to his bedroom door.  "There he is.  Let me hide in the bathroom."  He went to do that.

Buffy closed the door and came over to look at him.  "I get why you left and I'm not mad, Xander."

"Thanks, Buffy.  How are you alive?"


He sighed but nodded.  "Did you spank her?"

"I wanted to."  He gave her a hug and she relaxed, whispering at him.  He stiffened but nodded and gave her an extra squeeze.  "I don't know what to do, Xander."

"I can't do more than give you options, Buffy."  She looked up at him.  "I can't make it for you, only give you what you could do."  He led her into his room.  "Thanks, Sam."

"Welcome."  He came out and went back to his couch.  They'd tell Dawn later.  Hopefully where he could hide better.  He heard Xander walking that way an hour later and looked up, getting waved at.  Xander walked in to wake Dawn up and talk to her then lead her over.

"You told me that was wrong to do," Dawn said firmly from the doorway.

"It is.  She's very wrong."  She stood up, looking her little sister over.  "Isn't that my shirt?"

"Yeah, but I can borrow it, right?" she asked, looking pitiful.

"Sure.  It's comfy to sleep in."  Dawn came over to give her a hug.  "She's in deep trouble from Giles and Tara," she said quietly.  Dawn nodded, giving her a squeeze.  "I have no idea what we're doing, Dawn.  I'm processing."

She looked up at her.  "Big, swirly gray place? Did you see Mommy?"

"I saw Mom but not gray swirls.  Sunny, grass, squishy between the toes grass."  Dawn slumped.   "She's happy and she's proud of how well you handled things."  Dawn sniffled and she let her cry on her.  It's what big sisters did.  Xander nodded back toward the other room and went to lie down in there while they talked.  "Musical beds," she said.

Dawn looked at her.  "They're not dating."

"I figured they weren't or Sam would've been in here, not on the couch."  She looked at her.  "Are you okay with this?"

"Kinda creeped out."

"Me too."


"No.  I wouldn't do that to anyone, Dawn."  She nodded, swallowing.  "Good."  She sat on the bed with her to talk to her sister.  They had some stuff to catch up on.

Sam smiled and let himself drift off.  It wasn't a good thing or a happy thing but they'd deal with it and let the others know if something bad was going to come of it.


Sam and Xander had dinner once the girls were gone.  Buffy had arranged their closets on them earlier and had done laundry with Dawn.  They had made cookies too.  Which was what they were having for dinner.  "Your friend Willow okay?"

"I'm hoping she can't sit down," Xander said, eating a bite of cookie.  "But I'm doubting it."  They shared a look.  "What about that one guy?"

"He was just in to visit his sister.  He'll go back to Miami knowing and hopefully won't get into trouble.  I gave him my email if he had a situation that I could pass on."

"That's cool."  They grinned.  Ryan had seemed pretty nice.  "There's a geek thing going on tonight."

"Geek thing?"

"Anime club."

"I saw the fliers.  I don't know.  Wasn't my version of geek.  Would they let you show up?"

"Yeah.  I checked and they said it was fine."  They grinned and dug into the cookie jar again.  "How's school?"

"Good.  Still hard but okay."  His phone rang so he answered it.  "What's up?"  He listened to the growling voice.  "Hey, Dean.  Having cookies for dinner.  Because a friend's friend made them for us before she went home."  He smiled.  "You okay?"  He nodded.  "That makes sense.  Yeah, I did pass that note on.  So, everything's okay?  No, we're doing pretty good."  He listened to his brother complain.  "I'm being good, Dean.  There's been all of two vamps in town.  I promise it's good.  I'm not in trouble at all."  He smiled and hung up.  "He checked that bulletin board site and found our family's listing."

"He argue I'm getting you into trouble?"

"Nope.  He didn't know about you.  He was worried it'd bring more trouble down onto me."

"Not really.  We're nearly in a null area for demons."

"They're all in the San Fran area," Sam agreed.

"Good thing we're not there."

"Definitely."  They shared a smile and had another cookie.  They could like retirement.  It was cool with them.


Sam came in from his newest date.  "I hate women."

"I'd still top, Sam," Xander quipped back.

Sam slammed the door, looking at him.  "She not only wanted to have sex there in the restaurant, with kids watching, she wanted me to do drugs with her and said I was a child because I wouldn't.  That I was clearly a fag, her words, not mine, and that there was no way I'd ever get a woman as good as her as she flounced off.  One of the nearby parents glared at me for letting her make a scene so I smiled and said it was because I wasn't about to have relations there at the table so her kids could watch it.  She decided I was unfair to her too."

Xander blinked at him.  "Dude, were you out with my ex, Anya?"

"No, don't think so."

"What was her name?"


"Over Lost Dreams," Xander said dryly.  Sam groaned.  "No idea why she targeted you, Sam."  He tossed over his phone.  "Call Anya and complain."

"No thanks."  He handed it back and flopped down next to him.  "This is the fifth date in a row that was either bad, worse, or psychotic."

"It's the upper crust thing and all the inbred rich kids," he said dryly.  "You know they only sleep with their maids or gardeners outside their circle."

Sam looked at him.  "That's a bad thought, Xander."  Xander grinned back. "I know, you're the queen of them now and then.  I'm giving up on women for a while.  Maybe next month will be better."

"C'mon, we'll go have fun."

"Sure," he agreed, heading to change into something for a bar instead of a restaurant.  Being out of the supernatural was harder than he had expected.  A vengeance demon?  Not his thing.  They headed out to one of the college hangouts, finding a few cute girls there.  Xander flirted with one and struck out.  She had zeroed in on Sam so he flirted a bit.  He didn't want to start anything serious or even go for dates tonight.  She took him to dance with him and it was nice enough.  Calm, soothing.  She had that air of calmness around her.  They chatted and found out they were in some of the same classes next trimester so maybe that'd be okay.  He looked over when he saw Xander be pounced by someone but she held him back.  "My roommate."

"He's a bit creepy and old."

He looked at her.  "He's  only a year and a half older than I am."  He went to help Xander by pulling the woman trying to gnaw on his throat off.  "Need help, Xander?"

"Please."  He got up and stared at her.  "You would be?"

The bouncer came over.  "Problems, guys?"

"She decided to knock him down and bite his throat," Sam said, handing her off.  "Check your wallet, Xander?"  He checked then frisked her, handing the bouncer the extras once he found his.  They went to treat his throat in the bathroom and came back to find her and her friend, who had been hitting on Sam, were gone.  They decided to change bars and went to a new one.  This one wasn't too bad.  Better music.  More bar than club.  Pool tables.  Sam stopped Xander and pointed.  "That slouched butt and back looks familiar."

Xander shrugged.  "Not to me."   He looked at his buddy.  "Need a friend?"

"Not sure yet.  Get me a beer?"  Xander nodded, going to do that.  He strolled over and looked at the lay.  "Two off the eight, dude."  The shooter stiffened and looked at him.  "Why are you here, Dean?"

"Mind much, I'm playing a game here."

"Sure.  I'll be having a beer."  He walked off.  He'd have to watch that.  There was no reason for Dean to be in Palo Alto.  None.  Xander brought him a beer with a grin. "Thanks."

"Welcome."  He sat down and they watched the game.  The one guy finally got done and Xander went over to casually invite him over.  "Hey," he said with a smirk.

"You up for a game?"

"I think the little brother wanted to talk to you," he said with his best insane grin.  The guy gave him an odd look.  "What?  I like Sam.  Sam's fun and I get to have fun with Sam's friends."  He walked him over.  "Can I have him, Sam?  Please, pretty please can I have him?" he begged, bouncing some too.

"I thought you only topped, Xander," he said with a grin.

Xander grinned at Dean then back at him.  "Well, yeah, but I can have other fun if you want."

"Not this time.  Can we?"  Xander walked off with a wink behind Dean's back.  "Sorry.  My roomie."

"He's in school?"

"No, he's in construction, I'm in school."  He sipped his beer.  "So, why the local visit?"

"You had a rogue werewolf outside town," he said quietly.  "I thought I'd make some traveling money."

"We have a couch, Dean."

"I don't wanna break in on your thing."  He glanced over and found Xander staring at him then back at Sam.  "He's kinda creepy, dude."

"Only when he wants to be," he said dryly.  "You sure?  We have food too.  Xander just went shopping so you could have dinner and breakfast."

Dean shrugged. "I'm cool.  So, how's the normal thing going?"

"Pretty decent.  There's been all of two vampires in town."

"Good."  He nodded.  "Any cute chicks?"

"Many but I seem to be drawing psycho ones this month.  I had one earlier that wanted me to do her at the table in the nice restaurant with kids watching and then snort coke with her at the table."  He sipped his beer.  "You?"

"You know how I draw 'em in, Sammy," he said with a grin.  The psycho came back and handed Sam something then left again.  "He picking you up something better?"

Sam looked at the note.  "His friend's little sister is coming down this weekend.  She just called.  Her sister's being a bitch."  He put it into his pocket.  "So, how's Dad?"

"Not bad.  Haven't seen him all week."  He shrugged.  "He did his ankle again last week so he's at Bobby's."  He looked around then at him.  "This is the life if you wanted it."

Sam shrugged.  "This is a bar, not a life."  He took a drink and Dean stared at his arm.  "Plasma center for spare cash.  Thirty bucks twice a week isn't bad.  Ten extra every six."

"Very not bad.  Can anyone?"

"Yeah.  You have to be able to pass the physical.  Have no drugs in your system.  I can't go tomorrow or the next day because of the beers."  He finished it and grinned at him.  "Shitty date earlier."

"So you said.  You happy here?"

Sam considered it.  "It's not bad.  I have a few good friends and Xander.  The work's hard but I'm doing good.  I'm running a 3.9 average."  Dean nodded at that.  "Only one class was below perfect," he admitted.  "The teacher and I agreed to disagree on her philosophy as science."  He got into Xander's beer.  "No hunting, no screaming, no gunshot wounds, no bleeding.  It's not bad."  He looked at him.  "I'm working toward happy and content but it's going to take a few years to be fully content and happy.  Right now I'm happy enough."

"You're babbling," Dean said with a smirk.

"I picked it up off Xander."

"So he's psycho and he babbles?"

"And he works with power tools," Sam quipped, making Dean give him an odd look.  "It's fine.  He's a good roommate.   Even if he does have a sword he won't let me play with."

Dean shook his head quickly.  "Uh-huh."

Xander snuck up behind Dean and hugged him.  "Aww, precious, did you miss me?"

"Not your type, dude.  Get off," Dean ordered.  He wouldn't slug his brother's roommate.  Xander laughed and got off him, sitting in the spare spot.  "Is Sammy doing good?  Cleaning up, all that?"

"Sam's a great roommie, Dean.  He cleans up after himself.  He cooks now and then.  When Dawn has to come down to get away from Sunnydale they pal around and do fun things with me when I'm off work.  It's good.  He even pays half the rent."

"That's good then."  He stared at him.  The guy stared back.  There was something off with this picture.  Not the psycho thing, he had met some of those before.  He looked at Sam again.  "So I guess I'll get my hard earned money and head."

"We have a couch, Dean.  Don't make me tie you up for his pleasure."

"Not like that with him, dude," Dean said dryly.  "He's not my type either.  Not enough breasts."

Sam smirked.  "I am taking Transgender Lit this trimester and have to do a project," he said.  "You think, Xander?"

Xander looked at him.  "Why ask me?"

"You grew up with girls."

"Willow's not exactly the normal girl, Sam.  Ask Dawn."

"Sure, we can ask Dawn."  He looked at Dean's seat but he was gone.  He looked at Xander's and he was gone.  Sam finished up and went to help Xander tie up Dean for the night.  He found the keys and made sure the Impala was locked then walked him off.  "He's a bit drunk and rowdy," he told a curious looking bouncer they walked past.  That got a nod.  It was a college town.  Drunk and rowdy kids were normal.  Dean was glaring but oh well.  They took him home and let him loose, Sam going to the kitchen to get Dean something to eat.  Xander heading for a shower and then bed.  "He's got to be on site at seven."  He handed him the plate from the microwave.  "Eat.  Now."

"You fuss like a girl, dude."

Sam grinned.  "Keep it up, be my practice dummy for makeup lessons."

"Fine."  They sat down together to eat.  "This is a nice place."

"He's crew lead."

"That's a good job," Dean agreed.  This Sam was strange and offputting in a few ways but he'd deal with it.  He'd have to until he fell asleep.

Sam looked at him.  "Don't sneak out, Dean.  I'll make a huge breakfast that you won't have to pay or tip for."

"Fine."  He finished up and went to put it into the dishwasher.  Sam came in to unload the dishwasher so it was fine.  Then they went to talk for a night.  Sam could skip classes in the morning and Dean would feel better later on.


Dean found his father on the front porch and went to sit next to him.  "Sammy's roommate is creepy and odd."

"Odd how?" he asked, still working on sharpening his knife.

"He tied me up and dragged me back so Sammy and I could talk for a night."  John looked at him.  "He did."

"He dangerous?"

"Don't know," Dean admitted.  "Strange I'll give you.  Dangerous I'm not sure about."

John nodded.  "Sounds like his type."

"So did the woman who wanted sex during the date at the restaurant they were hiding from," Dean said dryly.  John snorted.  "Sammy's date earlier that night."

"How'd they find you?"

"I was playing pool.  They came in to have some fun."

"Ah.  Chance?"

"Probably.  I picked a pretty dimly lit place."  He frowned at the knife.  "You left a spot."  His father smacked him on the arm.  "His roommate has a sword he won't let Sammy play with."

John stopped sharpening to look at him.  "Excuse me?"

"Yeah.  Xander has a sword he won't let Sammy play with.  He played psycho friend but I'm not sure if he's really that bad or not.  His eyes were strange."  He shrugged and looked at his hands again.  "They seemed okay.  The guy's a crew lead on the local construction site.  Sammy said there'd only been two vampires in town the whole time he'd been there.  Xander has a friend's little sister that was coming up for a visit soon.  When I snooped, Xander had a few knives.  Sammy too."

"No guns?"

"Probably couldn't in the dorms.  Besides, he left it here when he left."  He looked at his father again.  "He's not fully happy but he's okay.  He likes his choice.  He's got a 3.9 GPA he said.  Said he and a science teacher got into a bad discussion so that grade went down.  Xander's got a decent place.  Sammy's got his own room and a queen-sized bed of his own.  They share a bathroom but that's cool.  The house had a lot of food.  Sammy figured out how to cook because he did a good job on stuffing us for breakfast."

"This Xander guy, get anything on him?"

"I tried and it was blocked."

"Blocked how?"

"There's a sealed military file somewhere and any site that said they had a mention of him was suddenly blacked out when I went searching."


"Could be.  Could be one of Sammy's friends.  There's definitely something going on with that guy."


"No idea."  He sighed a bit, then looked at him.  "He didn't make me want to reach for a weapon, even when he was tying me up.  I'm thinking he at least knows something about the life.   He had a pretty battle axe in his closet too."

John nodded once.  "So possibly another hunter's kid."

"Could be.  Or he could be former Special Ops and ran into it on a mission.  He's a year and a half older than Sammy so it would've been early on."

John grimaced.  "No.  Not with a battle axe.  That would mean guns.  Unless it was like a cherished artifact?"

"No.  In the closet, had a shirt draped over the heads.  Double headed, silver mixed, some runes."

"So an heirloom blade.  Hey, Bobby, do we know anything about any hunters who use a double headed battle axe?" he called.  "Sammy's roommate might be a hunter's kid."

Bobby came out.  "The only one I've heard of with an axe is some guy from Sunnydale who quit and left the hunt."

"Who?" Dean asked.

"Alexander Harris.  Don't know much about him.  Things are strange out there.  They had a military group a few years back that was causing problems that hunters had to take down."

"His roomie has a sealed file in his background," Dean told him.


"Military.  Do we have a picture of him?"  Bobby shook his head.  "Can we find one?  I went looking and everything was mysteriously blacked out."

Bobby smirked.  "That proves it.  One of the hunters out there is a hacker by the name of Rosenburg.  She's supposed to be pretty good."

"What's wrong with their town?" John asked.

"No one's sure but most hunters won't go there.  There's rumors it's nearly overrun.  They said they had a demon in as a mayor for a bit."  He shrugged.  "No idea, boys.  He's Sammy's roommate at school?"

"Off campus.  Sam said they tried to say he was gay and give him a lesbian roommie in the dorms.  Sam said he got pissed so they let him move off campus.  Xander said he's using his scholarship to pay for his half of the apartment.  Which is nice.  It's about as big as your bottom floor, Bobby."

"That's very nice.  What's the other guy do?"

"Crew lead on a construction site."

"That's Harris," he said dryly.  "He did that in Sunnydale too."  He smirked. "Sammy's in good hands."

"He played psycho pretty well," Dean said dryly.  "He tied me up too."

Bobby walked off laughing.  "Sounds like his rep."  He went to find a site he knew the others didn't know about, finding a current bit of news out there.  He printed it and brought it to Dean.  "Him?"

Dean looked then nodded.  "Him," he sighed.  "So he's..."

"A demon magnet," Bobby agreed.  "Who retired after five years.  One death too many on the good guy's side from what they said.  Though they're saying she's alive."

John took it to read over.  "How?"

"Don't know."

Dean took it back. "Dawn...  Yeah, the little sister of a friend who's coming this weekend.  So it must be him."

Bobby took it back with a smirk.  "Sammy's safe.  Harris is a classic white knight."  He went back inside to putter in the kitchen.  Dean ate everything in sight so he needed to do dinner tonight.

Dean and John shared a look.  "He good for real?" John asked.

Dean nodded.  "He seemed like it.  Said he was happy enough and really happy was in sight but down the road.  Content too."

"Then we'll leave him there.  Keep an eye on that site."  Dean nodded, going to see if they reported his presence too.  John went back to sharpening the blade.  This didn't make him happy but Sammy was safe and happy so he wouldn't take that from him.  If either of those changed, he would.  Until then, he'd let him have his normal life for a bit.  Every man deserved a chance at normal and happy if they could get it.


Sam came home from his last day of class and found Xander already home.  "Left early?"

"The people in Sunnydale called my boss to tell him I'm violent, dangerous, and was the reason why people had been threatening the site.  I'm suspended until the cops check into that.  I gave them Willow's number and one of them is sending them files on what was wrong with Sunnydale's system of evil."  He sipped his soda.  "Until then I've got a decent enough job lined up for the nighttime."  He grinned.  "How was your last day?"

"Good.  I finished my last final in plenty of time.  I know I did good as long as I didn't mess up the bubble form."  He sat down beside him on the couch.  "It'll be okay, Xander.  It'll get worked out."

"Sunnydale tends to ruin things very badly.  I'm tired of Sunnydale.  Can't I bomb the town to make them leave me alone?"

"No.  That would make you just as bad as the others."

"Point."  He finished his soda.  "So what's on your summer agenda?"

"I'm thinking about taking a few classes and a part-time job."

"That sounds like a plan.  You have things you can take?"

"Two of the sessions have mandatory stuff I need to take sometime.  It'll be condensed."

Xander nodded.  "Good luck on the summer job thing.  I know a lot of the students abandon theirs.  Check the mall yet?"

"I hadn't.  I was hoping for something easier and connected with pre-law so I could use it for a later assignment."

"Job Service is downtown and off to the right of City Hall, the green and tan building."  Sam grinned at that.  "If they're looking it'll be there."

"I'll head down tomorrow after I do some laundry."  Xander gave him a shoulder nudge.  "You did?"

"Had to do something."

"Good point.  Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome."  They watched as a special news report came on about a suspicious earthquake just above LA that was going on.  "Oh, tell me it's not Sunnydale," he moaned.

"Can't do that," Sam said.  "Your part of hell is pretty."

"It's that way to draw people in so they can be eaten."  He called.  Then another number.  Then a third.  "What's going on?" he asked calmly.  "It's on the news, Buffy.  What's going on?"  He listened then he sighed.  "Uh-huh.  Where?"  He nodded.  "I tried her phone.  It's off.  No, going on a world ending rampage with your phone on makes no sense.  It can go off and distract you while you're trying to kill everyone."  Sam moaned at that and Xander gave him a look.  "Get me there somehow and I'll help."  He hung up and went to grab something from under his bed.  He came out.  "If Willow kills me too, everything your brother went looking for is under the bed or inside the box springs."  An older man appeared and stared at him.  "Why?" he asked quietly.

"Warren killed Tara."

Xander hit him on the arm.  "You didn't tell me!"

"We've been in shock, Xander."  He put his hands on the boy's face, sending over the powers, then he sent them both back to the Magic Box.  Xander took off after Willow.  He could reach her where Giles himself couldn't.  He settled in to try to rebuild their lives.

Xander found her and looked.  "Hey!  You mind not pulling me out of retirement for bad reasons?" he asked.  "If you had told me, I would've been here."

She glared at him.  "Don't start, Xander.  You have no idea what you're doing."

He looked at her.  "Really?  And yet I've lost how many people?"

"She was my life!" she screamed.

"And at one point in time, you and Jesse were mine, Willow."  He walked closer.  "Drop the temple back into the earth.  There's people who don't deserve this.  Kids who'll never get a chance to find any love if you do this."

"So?" she demanded.  "They'll feel like I do."  She raised her hands.  Then she threw a spell at him.  He groaned but straightened up and shot her with something.  The temple fell back into the earth as she fell down sobbing.

Xander came over to look at her.  "It's only a sedative, Willow.  Like we hit Oz with."  He knelt next to her, smoothing over her hair.  "We'll get you help.  We'll mourn her and we'll live lives that she'd want."

"You don't understand," she slurred.

"I do understand.  I also know that Tara wouldn't want you to do this.  Would she?"  She burst out crying.  "Shh, I know."  He cuddled her close, patting her down for her phone.  He called.  "It's me.  She's halfway to sedated, Giles.  Please."  He hung up and put it back into her pocket.  "That way you can call me later."  She whimpered as another woman appeared.  "You are?" he demanded.

"With the Devon Coven, boy.  We'll help her.  Rupert said so."

Xander stared at her.  "Have you ever felt loss like this?"

"Me personally, not yet.  Others of us have.  Our priestess lost her children last year."  Willow sniffled.  "She'll get help and shown the proper path back."  She looked at the hole then at him.  "What did you use on her?"

"Sedative dart."  He stood up, pulling Willow with him.  He handed her over.  "She's to call when she's able."

"Agreed.  Friends can only help."  She watched the boy pick up the gun so he could tuck it into his back waistband.  "Who are you?"

"Xander.  I retired this year when it got too much to bear."

She nodded.  "I respect that decision, young man.  Now, let's go put back that nasty magic, young lady.  You do not need black magic."  They disappeared together.

Xander looked around.  "How do I get home?" he called.  "Giles brought me here."  No answer so he hiked back to town.  He walked into the Magic Box, holding up a hand before Anya pounced.  "Don't.  Whatever she threw at me hurts like a bitch."

"Awww, my poor Xander."  She led him into the back of the shop to get him something to drink.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm pretty good.  The roommate's a nice guy who understands."

She smiled.  "You found a watcher?"

"I found the son of a hunter who wanted a normal life too."

"That's good then."  She got him settled and went to find Giles.  "Xander's back."

"I'll make sure he gets back to wherever in a few minutes, Anya.  After I take something for my headache."  She nodded, going back to cuddle her hunny.  She had missed him.  Giles finished taking his headache powder and went to check on the boy.  He seemed all right.  "What did you do?"  Xander put the gun on the table.  "Dart?"  Xander nodded.  "That's reasonable."

"She hit me with a spell but so far I'm not a rabbit or anything."

Giles smiled. "I'm sure it was something to make you go away, not change you, Xander."  He patted him on the head, getting a wince.  "Let's get you home."

"Palo Alto is a bit away, Giles."

"Bus?" he suggested.

"Goes there.  I have to call Sam, tell him I'm fine."  He grabbed the phone and dialed.  "I'm still alive.  Bus probably.  Thanks, Sam."  He hung up.  "He's online and said there's one leaving in about an hour."  He stood up with a wince.  "Mail the dart gun back to me, Giles?"

"Of course."  He drove him over there, paying for his ticket.  Then he watched him leave.  This town had done bad things to all of them but Xander was having some of the worst of it.  He kept losing people.  Giles went to check on Buffy and Dawn. "Girls, how are we?"

"Was she stopped?" Buffy asked.

"Xander was brought down and stopped her.  The coven has her."

Buffy nodded.  "Is he here?"

"On the bus home."

"Shoot.  I was going to make him dinner.  Dawn wanted to see him."

"She can go up, as you can," he reminded her.

"Work keeps me here, Giles."

"It will be fine, Buffy."  He gave her a hug.  "How is she?"

"It's broken.  They'll put a cast on tomorrow."  He nodded at that.   "Xander?"

"He darted her like we used to do to Oz when he got free.  She threw a spell at him but nothing too bad."

"We should warn Sam."  She called.  "Sam, Buffy.  He's fine according to Giles.  She hit him with a spell.  Yeah, it's fine.  Thank you."  She hung up.  "He won't stay for the funeral?"

"No, I don't think he's ready for another one.  Yours nearly broke him.  Joyce's as well."

"Xander hates funerals," Dawn said as she came down the stairs.  "Can I go see him this weekend?"


"No one told him Tara had died, did they?" Dawn asked.

Buffy shook her head.  "No, I didn't.  He was upset this morning when he called.  The mayor's people told his boss Xander's the reason for the threats they've been getting."

"Oh, I so want to beat someone," Dawn decided.  She headed for the kitchen.  "I'm making cocoa."

"Make me some," Buffy agreed.  She looked at Giles.  "Willow will be okay?"

"She'll be fine, Buffy.  They helped me and they can help her."  She nodded, giving him another hug before heading into the kitchen.  He went back to the shop to finish picking up the mess she had made.


Sam picked up Xander from the bus station later that night.  "You good?"


The driver came off.  "Sir, maybe you should seek some emotional help."

Xander glared at him.  "I just had a friend killed and I found out an hour before I got on the bus, dude.  One of my other friends got a broken arm thanks to one going off the deep end at the death of her girlfriend.  It's healthier for me to cry than to put up with shit."  The driver walked off shaking his head.

"Fucker," Sam muttered, making Xander smile.  "C'mon, I drove."  Xander nodded, heading for the car slowly.  Sam looked him over.  "What's wrong?"

"She hit me with something."

"We can figure it out."  They drove home and Sam got online to figure out how to detox a magical burst being forced into your body.  It wasn't that hard and he knew where the local herb shop was.  He'd been in there once for meditation candles for another friend's birthday present.  He found the local coven meeting.  "Um, sorry, thought it was open."

"It is.  What did you need?"  He put the list down and she looked then at him.  "What did you goof up?"

"My roommate went to help a witch who was in emotional distress earlier.  She hit him with something but he's only showing pain so far."

She sighed.  "What happened in Sunnydale?  We've been wondering."

Sam leaned on the counter, looking at her.  "Heard of Willow?"


"Her girlfriend was killed while standing right next to her."  They all moaned, shaking their heads.  "She lost it.  I'm not sure why she lost it but she did.  I'm pretty sure the magic she hit him with was black magic.  I can call and see."

"No.  As long as someone's stopped her."

"Dawn said she's with a coven in Devon, England, that's helping her.  She was trying to pull up an ancient temple to make everyone feel like she did before Xander stopped her."

"Is he all right?" one of the older ones asked, turning to look at him better.

"I'm hoping so.  He's still in pain hours later."

"Bring him here.  We can detox him faster than you can," the older one said.

"Yes, ma'am."  He went to do that, having to pull Xander down to the car.  "They said it'd be easier if they did it.  It'll probably hurt less too."  He walked around to drive him up there, walking him inside.  They all stared and slowly backed away.  "Black magic?"

They nodded.  "Very deep black magic."

"She had a magic addiction she had been working on.  She sucked up a bunch from some books too," Xander admitted.  "Why does it hurt?"

"Because she hit you with something like the killing curse," one said.  "C'mere, boy."  Xander walked over and they got him into their work area in the basement.  It was going to take a while.

The older one looked at Sam.  "It'll be a good few hours.  Get him some clean clothes?"

Sam nodded.  "I can do that."  He went back to the apartment, finding someone standing there.  "Yes?" he asked, making them jump.

"Do you know the two who live here, sir?"

"I'm one of the two who live here.  Xander's down at the local herb shop getting something for a friend."  He smiled.  "What did we need?"

"Sir, the information we have from Sunnydale is that he traffics in weapons?"

"No.  The old mayor was and Xander was part of the group that was opposing him.  Simple redistribution of blame to look more innocent."

"I see.  How would you know?"

"I asked."  He crossed his arms over his chest.  "May I see some ID please?"  He pulled out his badge.  "Ah.  Well, Agent Paul, Xander said the graduation problem was looked at by the FBI.  They found no fault in what happened.  Start there."

"That's a sealed file, sir."

"Not my fault but Xander's not feeling well at the moment."

"I can get a warrant."

"For what?  A sword that'll be hanging on a wall?"  He shrugged.  "I know more about guns than Xander does."

"Oh."  He grimaced.  "Can we talk to him?"

"He just had a friend die late last night.  He had another one going off the deep end and that's why he's at the herb store for her when he doesn't feel good.  It's going to be a few days before he's going to want to talk to anyone."  The landlord came up the stairs.  "Sir."

"Samuel.  Problems?"

"The town Xander used to live in had a guy who was the mayor but also money laundering and other bad things.  Xander stood up against him."

"Ah.  That's why the agents are in my office looking at his records."

Sam looked at him.  "You know what, come on in," he offered, letting them inside.  "Sorry about the couch, sir," he told the landlord.  "I spilled some soda when the phone rang."

"That's fine, Samuel.  It's not my couch, it's yours."  He watched the agent look around.  "Money laundering?"

"Murder for hire, guns, drugs too according to Xander."

"Oooh, no wonder."

Agent Paul came out.  "Mr. Winchester, would you like to explain the lockbox?"

He shrugged. "Find the file from graduation first."

"I can't get into it."

Sam sighed, opening his laptop.  "Find the file."  He came over to type it in.  Sam got it broken into within minutes.  "I only do it in extreme circumstances," he said at the heated look.  "And I suck at it.  In this case, I think they might only give me bad looks."

The agent read through it, moaning at it.  "No wonder."  He looked at him.  "How would you know?"

"Been there.  Done that," he said flatly, staring back.

"Oh."  He went back to reading then stood up.  He used the keychain USB key in his pocket to download the file.  "That explains the lock box."  Sam nodded, getting out of the file and changing his ISP number immediately so they'd have a bit more trouble finding him.  "Shut it down."  Sam did that. "Don't do it again."

"Fine."  He looked at him.  "What's in the lockbox?"

"A new set of ID's, including passport."

"Not that bad of an idea when they're out to get you."

He nodded.  "Good point."  He looked around.  "Sword?"  Sam got it for him and he sighed.  "It's pretty."

"It'll be on the wall sometime soon.  None of us have had the energy."  He put it back and came back to find only the landlord there.  "We good?"

"You're fine.  I was coming to let them in."

"If they don't have a search warrant they can't use anything they find."

"I forgot you were pre-law."  Sam grinned.  "Xander?"

"Sick, sore, at the herb shop picking up stuff for a friend."

"That's fine."  He left.  Sam got the stuff he needed and left as well.  He looked at the agent.  "The boys all right?"

"They're fine so far," he admitted, looking at him.  "Thankfully they're not in the life anymore."  He slid in and drove back to talk to his brethren.  He tossed over the keychain.  "Someone hacked into the file from his graduation."

They ran it and groaned.  No wonder it was classified.  Not what the site was being threatened for.  Xander's boss was informed of why and they left with their most likely suspect.  As they had thought until that false tip had been sent in.


Xander got called in the next day, meeting his boss in the office.  "Yeah, boss?"  He looked up from his paperwork.  "We good now?"

"I had to believe the tip, Harris.  I have their lives in my hands."

"I stopped the last three."

"Now I know how you can do that."  Xander grimaced.  "Are you still?"

"I retired to have a normal life."  He stood up.  "Welcome to it."

The guy stared at him.  "I want to keep you."


"You're dangerous."

"Only if you fuck with me," he said bluntly.  "There's been exactly two creatures in town that I've had to deal with when they attacked.  I'm not dangerous to the crew or to the campus.  Not unless you make me be by attacking me."

"I understand that.  Calm down."  Xander snorted, giving him a long stare.  "How old are you really?"


"You were eighteen when that happened?"

"Plenty of guys die protecting their country at that age," he said quietly.

"I nearly did," he admitted.  "I remember those days.  I also know how hard it was to get out of the mindset."

"Fortunately I like doing construction work and I was doing it while I was doing that.  Otherwise, I'd be taking it out by being a bouncer."

The boss smiled.  "Good to know.  Fine, you're staying.  If something impacts from your old life, I want to know."

"If it gets in the way here, I'd tell you anyway."

"Good.  I told the guys I knew it wasn't you, it was a mandatory one while they looked into the report.  They all snorted and said you're too nice and not dangerous."

Xander grinned.  "I am until you make me change."

"Good.   Now, we're behind thanks to this."

"It can be made up.  We were a day ahead of schedule before this happened."

"Come back in tomorrow?"

"I have to finish these.  Might as well do it now instead of staying over."

"Thank you."  He left, going to talk to the guys.  "They found the person being malicious by saying that.  The ATF and FBI both said he's in the clear."  They all smiled.  "He's doing paperwork today and tomorrow he'll be back on site."  They nodded and got back to work.   He looked at the gate and saw a young woman talking to the guard and pouting.  He walked out there.  "Miss Summers."

"Is Xander here?  He's not at home."

"He's in the trailer.  What happened?"

"Long story.  Xander?" she yelled.  He came out of the trailer.  "Can I crash for a few days?"

"Sure.  Buffy?"

"Moping.  I can't take it."

Xander nodded.  "I can do that.   Sam at home?"

"Nope."  He tossed over the keys.  "Thanks."  She blew a kiss and headed off again.

"She's a friend's little sister," he told the guard.  "One of our mutual friends just died and another went off the deep end because of it."  He went back into the office.  His boss followed.  "Before you ask, I'd love to go to the funeral but I can't handle it.  So I'm staying here after I stopped the one going off the deep end."

"Sure, I get that, Xander."  He went back to watch the crew work.  The kid had probably seen too many funerals in his life.


Sam walked in and sniffed.  "Hi, Dawn," he called.  Xander never made baked ham and pies.  Had to be her.  She came out of the bathroom to give him a hug.  "You okay?"

"No.  They're moping and I can't take it."

"I understand."  He gave her a squeeze.  "Can I help with dinner?"

"Nope. It's nearly done.  Xander said he's picking up the milk I forgot at the store."

"Sure."  He went to change out of his interviewing clothes, coming back in jeans and a t- shirt.  "So, what else is up?"

"Nothing really.  Same old same old."  He smiled at that.  "You?"

"Doing the summer job hunt."

"Oooh.  Buffy had to find a job.  She's working at the chicken place."

"That's bad."

"Very."  She went to check on things, coming back to sit down with him.  He gave great cuddles.  Xander came in and handed her the milk then went to the bedroom.  "What happened?" she called.

"Anya's in town."

"Are you going out?  Should I pull down an extra plate?"

"She slapped me and left again."  He came out of the bedroom.  "Apparently she's feeling too much conscience for her job."

Dawn gave him an odd look.  "Why?"

"I ruined her according to her."

"Uh-huh," Sam said dryly.  "She does what?"

"She was vengeance for women scorned," Dawn told him.  "They nearly got married."

"Huh," Sam said, staring at Xander.  Xander only gave him a look back.  "So the last girlfriend who was fairly strange...."

"Was a former demon.  We accidentally broke her power center," Xander agreed.  "After eleven hundred years of being a demon...."

"She's a bit out of the normal girl loop," Sam finished.  "Okay then.  She can come over."

Dawn patted him on the hand.  "She does and she's going to have to pounce him, Sam. She's like that a lot."  She went back to the kitchen.  "Xander, ham?"

"I like ham."  He sat down and called Anya on his cellphone.  "Dawnie made ham."  He got hung up on.  "She's still mad, Dawn.  I don't think she'll need a plate."

"Sure."  She pulled it out with Sam's help.  It was nice he was so strong.  "So, how did the job hunt go?"

"I had a good interview.  It's for a file clerk position."  Xander smiled at that.  "Not the best paying but it's good work and the worker's on maternity leave so I don't have to worry about during class times.  Then again, the one over my scholarship knows you guys."  Xander and Dawn both choked.  "What?"

"She's a Watcher?" Dawn asked.

"I think she knows of them but I'm not sure if she's one of them."

"They hate Xander."


"It's supposed to be one girl/one watcher and no friends, fun, or helpers," Xander told him, sipping his milk.  "I jumped in and revived Buffy when she died so now there's two girls."

"Two strikes," Dawn said dryly.   "Then he makes her have fun, puts up with her blindness issues about other people being important now and then, and did her job for her a few times."

"So, you're like the other hunters they hate but you directly interfered with her duty as they see it," Sam said.  Xander nodded.  "Should I worry?"

"If they break in, shoot them when they come for you," Xander said dryly.  "They've done it to Faith, they've done it to Buffy.  They've done it to me twice now."

"How is Faith doing?" Dawn asked.

"Not bad.  She's done a lot of changing.   I'm damn proud of the girl.  I write her all the time if you want her addy."

"Please."  She smiled.  "Buffy might too.  Did you know one of the vamps called Buffy a yo-yo?"  He gave her a look.  "About the coming back thing.  Not her brains."

Xander shrugged.  "Seemed like the thing to do when I did CPR," he told her.  "I didn't know it'd call a second one."  He ate a bite.  "Good ham, Dawn patrol."  She smiled and ate a bite herself.  "Any creepy suits been around today?" he asked.

"One in town, but he had that 'paperwork' look," Sam admitted.  His phone rang so he reached over to snag it off the end table.  "It's Sam."  He listened, then he smiled.  "Sure, I'd love to go out tonight, Jess.  I'm having ham with my roomie and a friend he introduced me to.  No, not a date.  She's seriously underage for me."

"We're only four years apart," Dawn said dryly.

"At our ages, that's a lot.  It grows less significant once you're past twenty-one."  He listened to his class friend snicker.  "It does."  He grinned, eating a bite of dinner.  "Sure, I can meet you there in about an hour?"  He laughed.  "That'll work too.  See you then."  He hung up.  "She found a decent summer job."

"Congrats to her," Xander said, smiling at him.  "I'm sure you'll find something, Sam."

"Thanks, Xander."  He finished up and went to shower and change into something hipper.  He grabbed things, looking at the bill Xander was holding up.  "I don't need an allowance, Xander."

Xander gave him a stare.  "You will tonight.  She's a nice girl from what you've said."  Sam rolled his eyes but took it and headed off.  Xander looked at her.  "So?"

"Total warped thinking at home.  Spike's the only normal one.  It's just bad on so many levels," she said quietly.  He gave her a hug.  "Thanks."

"You're welcome."  He kissed her on the head.  "Quit picking at your dinner and eat it. You've lost weight and that's not allowed at your age.  You're already too thin from the other traumas in the last year."  He grinned.  "If you do, you can help me plan what to send to Sam's brother to irk and annoy him for not keeping in contact with Sam."

"Sure," she decided, perking up a bit.  Xander knew she was able to do some things.  "Do you think it'd be okay if I learned how to patrol?"

Xander put his fork down and drank some milk while he thought about it.  Then he looked at her.  "Do you want to be in my shoes in five years?" he asked calmly.  She shook her head, pouting some.  "I can see you learning how as a matter of self defense.  I can see you learning what Giles does to become a future watcher if they pull their heads out of their asses.  I can see you doing the work but I don't want to see the same tired, angry, hurt look I see in my reflection every morning, Dawn," he said quietly.  She looked at him.  "I had to retire before I snapped.  If you hunt, you'll always run the risk of losing more people.  Of watching them go out on patrol and never coming back unless they're turned and become the enemy.  Of worrying which bad thing was going to get you next and if you were going to survive this time.  Wondering if the next apocalypse is your last or just your next.  Knowing that there'll be another one if you survive this time and they only ever seem to get worse instead of better."

"I've seen Buffy reach that point and push beyond it."

"Which is why most slayers die," he said bluntly.  "And most hunters. That's one of the reasons Sam quit hunting.  The reason I quit hunting.  Because I had pushed past it years ago and I reached bottom, realizing it was only a hole and nothing down there to hold me up if I went over the edge.  Do you really want to do like I did and stake your best friend?"

She shivered, shaking her head quickly.  "No."

"Then take the training so you can protect yourself and others if you have to.  I'll even talk to Buffy if you want.  I know she's probably still on her 'no you can't do that' kick."

"She took me on patrol but then she decided I'm too young."

"She was called at fifteen, Dawn.  She knows how hunting ruins a young woman's life.  Makes it so she lives in the darkness that doesn't hide the fun making out times.  The ones that drive people to drink, drugs, suicide.  Take the training just in case you need it but going on real hunts is going to bring you to where one of us is.  Since you're not a slayer,  you'll probably end up closer to the point I am than where she is."

She nodded.  "I understand.  Thank you."  He gave her a cuddle.  "Are you better?"

"Slightly.  It's nice not having to worry about if Anya took all the grocery money or if I have to buy all new clothes thanks to a demon or even if I'm going to survive."

She looked at him.  "You put that last?"

He grimaced.  "After a while you make peace with death.  You realize it could come, it will come sometime, and all you can do is to greet it by doing everything in your power to hold him off, but still live a life that won't make you haunt anyone out of deep regrets," he said quietly.

She nodded.  "I can see that."

"Buffy wants for you to have the life she was denied by being chosen.  The parties, the boyfriends, the dates, the fun."

"She won't let me date."

"You're fifteen.  She'll relax some of that soon.  If not, remind her how old she was when she started to date Angel."

"He's a sore and sticky subject sometimes."

He rolled his eyes.  "With me too.  Remind her she had to take a date on patrol at sixteen," he said dryly.  "And remind her what happened."

"Good point.  Thanks, Xander."

"Not an issue.  Want to do anything tonight?"

"Relax?  Buffy's tense, Spike's egging her on."

"Spike's pushing her to make her break and get better," Xander corrected.  She gaped in awe.  "Buffy will hold things in until she snaps.  That's what he's doing."  He frowned then let it fade away.  "We'll have to see how that goes.  What about Willow?"

"We haven't heard.  Giles called and got a good progress report but we haven't heard from her directly."  Xander nodded, finishing his milk and then his dinner.  "Should we leave Sam a full plate in the fridge?"

"Put the leftovers up.  If he wants some, he can cut some off."  She nodded, going to do that.  "I can help."

"You work hard all day.  What do I do but be cute, cook for you when I'm here, and be adorable?"

"Still not fair since you cooked."

She stared at him.  "Normal girls aren't like Anya, Xander.  They won't demand you be their slave.  If they do, they're bad girls."

"Then figure out how Cordy got the way she was?"

"She's a spoiled princess.  Even when the kingdom ran away with the horse she's still a spoiled princess."

"In many ways," he admitted, coming in to help.  She swatted him and made him go watch tv.  "Fine."

"Thank you!"  She finished up and came out to snuggle in beside him so they could watch the movie together.  It was nice.


Dean opened up a package a few days later, frowning at the thing inside.  "Who sent me an ear?"  He looked for a note.  It was written on the inside of the box in an ornate script.  "Pay better attention.  PFNBX."  He stared at the ear, then touched it.  He grinned because it wasn't real.  That was a good thing.  He looked at the shipping address and moaned.  "Xander."

John looked over.  "What did he send you?"

"Apparently I'm not paying attention so he sent me an ear."

John gave him a disgusted look.  "Human?"

"Plastic skin like they use on sex toys."  He let him see.  Then the note.  "I don't know what I'm missing."

"PFNBX?" John asked.

"X has to be for his name.  The others?  Not totally sure."

"You'll figure it out and yell at him."

"Probably."  He tossed it out and laid down on his bed to watch some tv.  He didn't know how Xander had known he'd be staying here to get that to him.  He wasn't sure he wanted to.


Sam came home from his first day of his summer job, giving Xander a look.  "That job is so boring, dude."

"I know."  He grinned.  "I temped."

"Could've warned me."  He came in to get dinner then headed for his room.  "Anything good on tonight?"

"Bikini mud wrestling is tomorrow.  Looks like we're on our own tonight.  How's things otherwise?"

"Okay.  Jess invited me over to meet some of her other friends.  All girls.  Not sure I want to be the only guy at the party."  Xander let out a very long shudder.  "Been there, done that?" he taunted.

"Yes.  Oh, God, the bra shopping memories," he moaned, holding his head.

"So I shouldn't go?  I might find you a nice girl to be introduced to."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "Nice girls don't like me, Sam.  Never have, might never."

"Well, then maybe I'll find you a semi-evil co-ed to try to woo."  He came out pulling on a t-shirt.  "This good enough?"

Xander looked then shrugged.  "It's not a date and you look okay enough. Are you trying to hit on any of the girls?"

"Not really."

"Then I'd change into the other light t-shirt if it doesn't have stains."  Sam went to check then put that one on.  It did bring out his eyes much better.  He fussed with his hair then picked up things and headed back out.  "Be safe.  Use condoms."

"Of course.  No way I want little Winchesters roaming around.  Then you'd get to meet Dad really fast and probably in a bad way."

"It'd only be a bad way if you knocked me up, Sam," Xander said dryly, cracking Sam up.  Xander went back to his channel surfing, trying to find something to do.  Eventually he got up and decided he needed some new t-shirts for work so he went shopping.  Since he was having flashbacks anyway.  And hey, no need to go into the bra shop this time unless he was crossdressing.  Which he didn't think he was so that was a good thing in his mind.


Sam ended up introducing Xander to a few nice girls later that night.  They were happy and cheerful, it was good.  He smiled at Jess.  "You don't look happy."

"He's kinda older and a bit creepy, Sam."

"He's a year and a half older than I am, Jess.  He's not that old.  It's probably where he works instead of going to school."

"Could be but he's still creepy and he has bugs or something."

"No, that's his danger senses.  They've been attacked a lot recently."  He pointed discretely.  "Whenever he does it someone's behind him."

"Oh.  I didn't realize that."  She watched and sure enough it was.  He wasn't scratching he was rubbing at the funny feeling.  The other girls weren't noticing or didn't care.  Sam was content to hang out with her for a bit.  "Sam, would you like to go on a date next week?  Movies, my treat?" she asked finally.

He smiled.  "I could like that but I'll pay for dinner?"

"Sure, that'll work."  They smiled and went back to talking to her friends.  Then one of the girls decided to drag Xander off to a club.  Sam waved.  The rest followed.  "They're strange."

"They are but two are sorority sisters," Jess said with a small shrug.

"Huh."  They went back to talking.

Xander could handle the succuba by himself.  If not, he'd call.


Xander wobbled into work the next morning, grinning at his boss.  "I hate succuba."  His boss moaned.  "But I'm fine."  He went to work on his part of the project.  He knew he was about ten minutes late but he had to shower before someone smelled the pheromones they put out on him and jumped him.  Again.  Not that he didn't like Sam....  Well, Sam was off at class so it was fine now.  He grabbed his toolbelt from the office and headed that way.  "Sorry I'm late, guys.  Unavoidable shower delay after last night."  They all giggled and let him come in to help while they pumped him for information.  Not that he'd tell them the truth beyond 'two girls who acted like succubuses'.  That was enough for them and the guys liked that he was happy and getting some.

Xander's boss shook his head.  Xander was strange in many ways.


After the next time Dean had snuck through town without stopping in to see Sam, Xander sent him another present.  He loved mail demons.  They were the best ever.


Dean got the package from the motel clerk, looking it  over.  "Who sent it?"

"No clue.  Said it was business, not personal when I asked."

Dean nodded, taking it back to his room.  Inside was a pair of candy eyeballs painted exactly like his.  Inside was a card saying 'watchers are british and you're not scaring him, Xander Sammy's BPF'.  Dean shuddered, tossing them out.  They burst into fire and then smoldered themselves out.  Someone had known he had went to Palo Alto.  "I didn't see him."  He called his Dad.  "Xander caught me checking on Sammy," he said in greeting.  "Told me all watchers are British."  He smiled.  "A pair of candy eyes in the same color as mine.   They set themselves on fire.  No, I'm good.  Just a bit creeped out.  I have no idea.  BPF after his name.  Sammy's BPF.  No, I haven't decoded the first one yet, Dad.  I probably should but that would mean getting into contact with Sammy."  He nodded.  "Sure.  I'm here."  He hung up and went to get a drink before getting down onto the research for his current hunt.  That was just too creepy.


Sam walked up to Xander in the goth candy shop.  "Why are you buying candy parts?  Are you trying to gross me out?"

"Not you."

Sam punched him on the arm.  "Leave Dean alone, Xander.  Dad made himself clear."

Xander looked at him. "Normal families wouldn't abandon each other and he's been in town."  Sam blinked.  "He has, he just never let you know it.  I caught him watching you at the club about a month ago."  He picked up a candy heart.  "For Valentines Day?"  He grinned wickedly at his buddy.

"Does he deserve that?"

"Yes.  If I had a brother who I liked and he was doing that, even if he didn't agree with what I was doing with my life, I'd get him too.  You deserve better."

"Dean would never go for mushy stuff.  He's not that sort of guy."

"Doesn't mean he can't email, call, say hi when he's in town like he is right now."  Sam gaped.  He nodded.  "We had a problem outside.  He's at the motel off the highway.  I can bring him back if you want."  He beamed.  "Please?"

"Fine.  I'll make dinner."  Xander nodded and bought the candy heart, then bounced out of the store.  He shook his head.  Xander liked his psycho friend routine a bit too much.


Xander found Dean in his motel room working on a few cuts.  "Dude, so not cool."  He pushed him down and knelt on a sore spot while he finished the stitches with a huge grin.  "Aww, better?"  Dean moaned because he sure couldn't breathe.  "Good.  Sam's making dinner for us."  He stood up and hauled Dean up and out to his car, shoving him inside before walking around to drive him back to their apartment.   "Good families don't abandon each other just because they don't like a decision they made.  Not like he's out being a mass murder or sleeping with kids, Dean."  He got them out and inside.  The neighbor across the hall gave him an odd look.  "Dean was trying to avoid seeing his brother.  Sam's even making dinner tonight."

"It's good of you to help the nice one, Xander."  She went into her apartment and left them alone.

Xander walked Dean inside.  "We're home."  He let Dean go and armed the security system before going to shower and change.

"Your roommate is insane!" Dean shouted.

"Not really," Sam said.  "There's a method to his madness most of the time.  Unless he's eaten another box of fudge rounds."  He looked at Dean.  "Bathroom," he said with a point.  "Neosporin's in the cabinet."  He looked him over.  "Bandages too."  He went back to cooking.  Dean huffed off to do that while Sam finished up and put dinner into the oven.  He went to help Dean get the one on his back and bandage it for him.  "There, that's better.  C'mon, I've got a few spare t-shirts."  He got him one and they stared at each other.  "You've been in town how many times?"

"This is the third."  He sat on the bed.  "There's something outside of town that was eating students going to make out.  Neither of you did it."

"We both wanted out of the life, Dean.  Hunting the poltergeist who doesn't like unmarried girls having sex isn't part of that.  I passed it onto the network so someone would."

Dean slumped, looking at him.  "We can't be the Brady Bunch, Sammy."

"You're still my brother and there's nothing against you popping in to say hi and check on me in person instead of stalking me.  I miss you being a dickhead sometimes."

Dean stared at him.  "You wanted out."

"Of the hunting, not out of the family.  Dad made me leave the family.  He can rot in hell!"

Dean smiled.  "He's miserable."  He put on the t-shirt and saw Xander in the living room.  "What is he doing this time?"

Sam looked then at him.  "He's making sure the succuba who wanted him last week won't be coming back probably."


"He got them but he thinks there were three instead of two.  With you here it's more likely to draw them since you and him draw the same sort of dangerous, bad girls."  He shrugged and went to the kitchen.  "Ten minutes until dinner, guys."

"Sure," Xander called, glaring at Dean.

"You his boyfriend too?" Dean mouthed.  Xander shook his head.  "You sure?  You act like a girlfriend."

Xander walked in there.  "Sam is a friend.  I know you haven't had the chance to have many of those but in my world of hunting, they save your life and watch your back as well as spend off time with you.  I like Sam for the guy he is.  He's a nice guy who doesn't deserve the pain you give him by deciding he's an outcast for having a dream beyond dying some day when you're not fast or prepared enough.  Probably in a painful way that'll make others cry at the mess your body is.  If you actually gave a damn about your little brother, you'd talk to him to see how he's doing."

"He walked off!" he hissed.

"So?  That means he didn't want to die.  Not like he could live up to the praise you got, Dean."  Dean slumped again at that.  "I had to keep my friends from being ripped apart in the past.  I can do the same here."

"Me being here puts you both in danger."

Xander snickered. "I put Sam in more danger than you do, Dean.  Not like you're holding energy from a hellmouth in you."

Dean stood up.  "Then why stay with him?"

"Because friends are damn hard to come by.  I wanted to be a bit selfish and have friends.  I couldn't do it unless they already knew and Sam knows.  He knows all the risks about being around me.  Including that witches may go evil and try for him again."  Dean sat down again when Xander pushed him back down.  "That's beyond the point that I'm a friend and you're his *family*.  Blood is supposed to be thicker than friendship.  At least in families that give a damn about each other.  If I have to keep playing psycho to get you to the point where you realize you're an asshole, so be it."  He stared him down.  "Now, your brother's had some great times.  Why don't you go ask him about them.  Not like he's a leper or contagious."  He stomped off, heading out for the night.

"What did he say?" Sam called.

Dean walked out there.  "That I'm a bad brother.  Which he's right about.  If I gave a damn about you before I still do."  Sam nodded at that.  "Hey, you're my brother and he's right about that being thicker than friendship."  He made his little brother look at him.  "That's why I check up on you."

"You could come check up on me by talking to me, Dean.  I wouldn't mind.  I can brag about stuff in my life the same as you can."

"I know that now.  What's his issue with his friends anyway?"

"They kept thinking he was too normal to do the job and pushing him away."  He looked at the door then at him.  "We should find him later."

"We can do that," Dean decided.  "Did you ask him to send the creepy candy eyes?"

Sam shook his head.  "No.  I caught him buying a candy heart today and asked him to lay off."

Dean snorted.  "He's right."

"Yeah but you shouldn't have to be forced."

Dean stopped him.  "I was trying to hide it so you could be normal and not have any of the things that might follow me hit you," he aid quietly.

"They come for him anyway.  Me too.  Just because we retired doesn't mean they don't come, Dean.  It means we've fallen back to protecting ourselves instead of everyone else."  He snorted bitterly.  "Xander's probably down at the vamp bar just outside of town."  He turned on the local radio station for news updates.  Wherever Xander was, the cops would be soon enough.

"His friends don't like him?"

"His new friends do," Sam said bluntly.  "His old friends?  I'm not sure if they ever did.  Xander attaches very deeply when he does.  That's why you got the presents.  I like Xander.  He's a good friend.  My present girlfriend said he's already warned her not to hurt me."

Dean rolled his eyes.  "He's acting like...."  The realization hit him.

"Like you used to?  Yeah.  It's nice to have friends who give a damn."

"That was Dad, not me."  Sam looked at him.  "I may not have protested but I came to check on you.  Without being ordered to."

"Does he know?"

"Yeah.  I went to tell him about Xander after the first time.  Bobby told us who Xander actually was."

Sam shrugged.  "He quit that.  Even when he has to run home to save someone."

"He does?"

"One of his childhood friends went rogue after losing her girlfriend.  She was trying to destroy everything in her grief."  Dean shuddered.  "He went to stop her and we spent the next day and a half weeding the spell she threw at him off him.  Giles had sent him back on the bus."

"Fuck," Dean growled, looking at the door.  "We should find him now.  Before this makes him hike off again."

Sam shook his head.  "He won't be gone that long.  His axe is here.  Unless Dawn needs him he'll be back sometime soon."  He pulled dinner out and dished it up.

"I'd go after you."

"Xander's more like you than me, Dean.  If you were that upset, I wouldn't go after you because you'd start off by trying to push me away with stupid shit.  He wants to be left alone for a bit.  He'll come back soon.  Then he'll calm down."  He put dinner on the table.  "We have..."  He opened the fridge and sniffed the milk.  "Water and beer."  He looked at his brother.  "Don't, Dean.  He might snap hurtful things at me but you'll he'll use as stress relief."

"I can get him."

"No, you can't.  Let him work it out.  He deserves the space.  Even if he had to remind you what a brother did, he's never had that.  They pushed him away a long time ago."  The news report on the radio said a club outside of town had just caught on fire.  "That's not Xander."  He called him.  "Where the hell are you?"  Xander said something.  "Wondering if you wanted me to save you some dinner."  He winced at what Xander said.  "Xander, stop.  Just don't.  I'm not them.  If you want me to help you, I will.  If not, I'll let you have time to cool down then come back and yell.  Don't.  I'm not like them.  You know I'm not like them.  I've never once said anything about you being unfit for combat.  Nor will I be.  You know me better than that."

The guy calmed down.  "Now, the vampire club just got lit on fire."  Xander said something.  "Okay.  We're home and I'll try to save you something."  He smiled.  "That'll work.  Be safe?  Please?" he asked quietly.  "I like having you as a friend.  You understand where I've been."  Xander said something and he sounded calmer.  "Sure, we're here when you get done.  Night."  He hung up.  "He's fine."  He sat down to have some water with his dinner.  Dean got a beer and sat down to eat too.  Xander came in and slammed the door, heading for his bedroom.  "You okay?" Sam asked.

"No."  He came out to look at him.  "Why did I want to get away?"

"Because you couldn't stand the death anymore," Sam reminded him.  Xander nodded, kicking a wall.  "Hey, you don't want to have to fix that," he teased.

Xander smirked at him.  "You'll learn eventually, Sam."

"I probably will.  Are you okay?"

"Buffy called.  It's apocalypse season and did I want to help this year?"

"Um, retired," Sam pointed out.

"Yeah but whoever it is decided to kill potentials."

"Potential whats?" Dean asked.

"Slayers, Dean.  The girls who'll be called when the current ones die."  He looked at Sam.  "We might be having an all-hands moment.  If so, the box of my stuff is still in the same place."

"Are you heading back?" Sam asked.

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know.  I told her to give me what was going on and how she needed my help.   She said forget it and hung up.  I have no idea."  He threw up his hands and walked off.  "Now that I'm home and the cops are leaving me alone again, I'm going to the usual club."

"Why were they bothering you?" Dean asked.

"Because one of them is turned and knows what I used to do," Xander said dryly.  "I should take the box and head."  He walked off again once he had changed his shirt.

"Neither one of us found his box with his papers when we looked," Sam told him.

"Where did I miss?"

"Inside his box spring."

"Good point, I only looked under the bed."  He ate a bite of dinner.  "What're you going to do if he goes back?"

"Stay in school.  I'm doing good."  He went to get something and came back to find Dean not in his seat.  He looked around, spotting him in the kitchen.  That was a stunt Dean would pull.  "Here.  It's being shown off at the research center."  He sat down to get back to dinner.

Dean looked at the paper then at him.  "I thought you were pre-law."

"I am.  I had to write that for a class.  I based it off some  of the personalities we've met over the years."

Dean sat down to read it while he ate, finally looking over.  "You were discreet enough that I only recognized two of them."

Sam smiled.  "The other three are hunters."  He took it back and tossed it onto the counter.  He grinned at Dean.  "I'm doing very good.  Studying hard for my LSATs next year."

"Good."  He ate a bite of dinner.  "You learned pretty good at Betty Crocker's knee too, Sammy."

"Thanks, Dean."  He ate a bite, frowning when his phone went off.  He got up to get it.  "This is Sam."  He listened.  "No, not tonight, Jess.  Xander had a bad call from his former friends and I might end up helping him stumble home later.  How about next week?"  He nodded.  "I can do that.  Sure.  Great, see you then."  He hung up and sat down again.

"Didn't want to let her know about me?"

"She knows I have relatives but that we're not speaking most of the time.  She's in a girl mood as well."

"I've seen your version a few times," he said dryly.

Sam glared back.  "I'm not like that, Dean.  Just because I admit I have emotions doesn't make me a girl or any less macho than you are."  He ate a bite.  "Anyway, she would've invited you to the sorority house to watch movies too."  He ate another bite with a smirk.


"Some.  It'll still be girl movies."

"Never mind."  He stuffed his mouth, watching Sam.  He was so calm and confident at the moment.  "Where did he go?"

"There's a few clubs he could be in.  He'll start with the lightest one.  If they won't let him in because he's in a bad mood he'll move down the list.  The last one's a dive that the newly released prisoners hang at.  Last time they called to nag he ended up kissing pavement with the bikers in there.  Though he got back up before I could help him and made two of them kiss it next and then the other guy sorry as hell he liked girls."  Dean smirked a bit.  "He's not a bare handed fighter but give him a weapon and he's pretty good.  That night, a pool cue did it.  Then he pointed out he had only wanted a beer."  He gave a one-sided shrug.  "Then I brought him home."

"They're not happy he left?"

"They're not happy with anything I think. The only one that is may be Dawn."  Xander stormed in.  "Bad night at the clubs?"

He took a deep breath.  "I called back."  Sam nodded slowly.  "Would you mind if Dawn crashed for a few weeks?  It's looking like hell's going to open this time."

"If she needs it, she can have the couch," Sam promised.  Xander smiled and relaxed.  "Will they need help?"

"Yes, but they say they have it and Angel is bringing his crew up."  He threw his hands up.  "I have no idea what she thinks Angel is going to be able to do against the First Evil.  Everyone's in shock and has their head up their asses.  So I'm going to save Dawn and let them fight.  If they win, she can go back to them.  If not, we'll figure it out."

"That's fine, Xander.  You know I don't mind Dawn visiting.  She's a good girl."

Xander beamed.  "Thanks, Sam."  He gave him a short hug and went to call her back.  "Buffy, it's me.  Dawn and I talked about evacuating her.  I checked with Sam and he agreed she could have the couch.   Buffy, quit huffing.  I heard what's going to happen.  Dawn can come have the couch.  That way you don't have to worry about her.  At the same time, Sam suggested I could come back if you need me too.  I don't know, Buffy.  Whatever could I do.  Hmmm, only did graduation for you," he said dryly.  She said something more civil and quietly.  "That's fine.  Let me know if you do.  For right now, expect to evacuate Dawn when things start to get too bad.  We have a couch.  If we have to we'll arrange for her to do some school stuff up here.  All right?"  He listened. "Good.  And if you need it, let me know.  I can still plan a battle even from Palo Alto."  He hung up and looked at them.  He checked his phone then looked at Sam.  "Why would we need you?" he mimicked.  "You left because you were too mental to stay."

"You left before you got to that point so you could have a real life," Sam told him.  "I'm sure she wanted it a few times too."

"Yeah, often.  That's why she dated Angel."   He nearly threw his phone but he knew better.  They were expensive to replace.   "We think it'll be in six weeks.  So right around finals for you, Sam."

"That's fine.  She can help me study."

Xander nodded, making himself relax.  "I need a bar brawl."  He looked around.  Then at Dean's back.  Sam scowled.  He grinned.  "Wanna go tease the remaining succuba with me later?"

"Sure.  Is she coming for you?"

"No but she thinks I'm hot and my aura smells good."

Dean choked.  "You're seeing a succubus?"

"No.  Two tried to keep me but I got them.  Their buddy is trying really hard to get me and I'm taunting her.  It's good stress relief and she's sucking some of the hellmouth taint off me."  He smirked and went to do something else.  He was calmer now.

"He's nuts," Dean told Sam quietly.

"The girls drove him to it," Sam told him.  He looked over as a redhead appeared.  "He's off beating the crap out of something to get over the anger and pain you gave him this time, Rosenburg.  Leave the apartment, now, unless you're dropping off Dawn."

She sneered.  "Boyfriend?"

"Brother.  Who hunts demons."  She went pale.  "Now, shoo!"  She disappeared.  "I swear she's like a bug," he said, looking at his brother.  "As far as I know she never apologized to Xander for hurting him when he was trying to stop her suicidal destruction run."  The phone rang and he reached over to get it.  "Yeah, Xander?"  He listened to him complain.  "Did she ever apologize?"  He nodded.  "She is.  And she's making you hurt more.  If one of my other friends were doing that to me, what would you be doing?"  He smirked at the 'shovel talk' answer.  "Uh-huh.  And if I was in the same sort of state Buffy had caused?"  The answer of 'mental damage done' made him hum.  "So of course I yelled at her, Xander.  She hurt you and you do the psychotic best friend so much better."  Xander cackled.  "Good.  Now, want some dinner?  We're still eating."  Dawn appeared with two bags and a box.  "Dawn's here."  He hung up.  "Xander will be back in an hour.  Get food."  She came over to hug him and he smiled, cuddling her back.  "It'll be okay, Dawn."

"No it won't.  The house is *full* of potential slayers who all think I'm too normal to do anything and too stupid to know that they're talking about me.  At least until I took a cricket bat at Giles' to one for saying mean stuff.  Then Buffy got pissed and set down the law.  They'll be sorry later."

He smiled.  "That's a good thing to do.  You protected yourself against the bitch."  She smiled at him.  "This is my brother Dean."

She waved.  "Hi, Dean." She gave Sam another hug.  "You give good cuddles."

"Thank you.  Clean up, get a plate, and eat.  You need food to grow bigger."

She snorted.  "I'm fourteen, Sam, not four."  She did it anyway.  "Don't touch the box.  Willow magiced it."

Xander walked in and paused to look at her.  "Cricket bat?"

"It was against the wall."

"Then that works for me; I would've used something harder on the slut that hit on Giles."  He closed the door and came over to get his own hug then eat.  He looked at Dean.  "Sorry you had to see that earlier."

"I've been that pissed.   Usually at Sammy or Dad.  I went to get into bar brawls too."

"They won't let me brawl anymore."  He shook his head, digging in.  "Good food, Sam.  Thank you."

"Welcome."  He smiled at Dean.  "Are they going to need help?"

"Yup," Dawn agreed.  "They're going to have to go in to fight the First."  Xander choked.  "Sorry but they are."

Xander looked at her.  "Why?"

"They have a weapon that can kill her but it takes seven slayers."

"How are they getting seven?"


"I'm sensing a path of destruction," he said, rubbing his forehead.  Dawn nodded.  "Okay," he decided.  "You're staying here until whatever is settled and everyone's back at home.  You did pack pictures and those things?"  She shook her head.  He pulled out his phone and called Spike's.  He had kept in touch to make sure they were all right.  "Spike, Xander.  As a precaution, pack up Buffy and Dawn's house, move it to storage outside of town.   No, I don't want it near the hellmouth if what she heard is right.  Because they might need it, Spike, and if not, they probably need the bunking room.  Even with using the mansion.  If she fusses, remind her that if it falls in she's lost all pictures of her mother.  Yeah, that's a good place to put it," he agreed.

"Also, remind Buffy of what a phalanx is.  She'll be facing an overwhelming force and will have to do a wedge maneuver possibly to get to her needed point.  Exactly.  Yeah, do that.  Thanks, Spike.  I have stuff...?  Oh, that.  Yeah, move it out of town too, please.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "He'll have some friendly demons pack up the house for you, Dawn."  She smiled at that.  His phone rang so he sighed. "Yes, Buffy, I told him to.  Because opening that sucker the last time created a good sized earthquake.  Remember?"  He nodded.  "And if your house falls in, then you've lost everything that connects you to your mother but blood.  This way it's out of town and you have it safe.  Then they can move it back and you have the time to shampoo the rugs."

He nodded, eating a bite of dinner.  "She's here.  I heard, I applauded her for it.  Then the slut that I heard hit on Giles deserved it."  Buffy shouted at one of the girls.  "They shouldn't have been saying stuff like that to Dawn anyway, Buffy.  Did Spike pass on the other part of the message?  Do you need me to plan it for you?"  He smirked.  "Good.  She's here, she's safe, and the house's stuff will be so you can move later.  Encourage Giles to move all the books too.  Exactly and if things start to fall in from the quake this time, you want them safe where they can be looked at later on.  I saw that on tv, Buffy, and their library went.  That means Giles may have the last copy of some of the books.  You need the books, get them out of town.  Thank you."  He hung up, then he threw his phone at the wall.  "Common sense has escaped."

"She never had a good hold on that leash before, Xander," Dawn reminded him.  "Good dinner, Sam."

"Thanks, Dawn."  She smiled and they dug in.  "Earthquake?"

"The hellmouth and the seal in it is buried in the earth.  It's a too much energy released thing.  I have no idea about the science.  Willow explains it."

"Okay."  He dug back in.  "So, Dean, how's the hunting been going?"

"Same old same old.  Evil bastards trying to unite to cause hell and mayhem.  No current leads on that one."  Sam looked at him.  "We're looking."

"I know.  No recent injuries?"


"That's good then."  He ate a bite of dinner then looked at the stove.  "There's seconds if you want some, Dean."

"Sure, Sammy.  You did cook pretty good."  He went to get some and came back, sitting down again.  "Xander, will she need outside help?"

"She won't accept it if you offer," Dawn told him.  "She's the slayer.  She think that means it's her duty and everyone else should drop off.  That's what she kept doing to Xander."  She ate a bite, looking at Xander.  Who shrugged.  "How's the site?"

"Good.  We're doing good.  We're nearly done with it.  Another month and it'll be finished."  He smiled.  "Then I've got a whole week off and then a new site hopefully."

"That's good," she agreed.  She finished up and went to put her stuff in Xander's room.   She came out.  "It's not fair that I kick you out this time, Sam.  You gave up your bed last time."  She gave him another hug around the neck.  "Any ice cream?"

"I had it for breakfast," Xander told her.  "We'll get some later."

"Sure."  She sat down again, looking at Dean.  "So, you hunt demons?"  He nodded, chewing the food in his mouth.  "Why?  I know why Buffy does.  She has to."

"One killed our mom when Sammy was six months old," Dean said then he swallowed.   "Most of the hunters we know got involved due to it coming after them in some way."

"I did," Xander agreed.  Dawn smiled at him.  "I know, I had to.  Not like a slayer should have to do it on her own."  He grinned back.  "Then again, I got to see Buffy bounce, jump, kick, flash vamps when she went on patrol in a skirt...."  He sighed.  "Those were happier days."

"Yeah, well, life moves on and they feel like they're trapped," Dawn pointed out.

Xander nodded.  "I realize that.  I'm lucky I could get out.  Sam too."  Dawn smiled and nodded.  "Okay, let's sit down and make some plans for you while they finish up and then we'll hit a club with you.  We'll lie about how old you are."  She beamed and they went to talk in his room about school stuff.

Sam sighed.  "She's a good girl."

"Having a girl here ends the carefree bachelor lifestyle," Dean teased.

"Not like we run around naked and have orgies, Dean," Sam complained, scowling at him.  "Trust me, if we want to do that, we go to their house."  Dean spluttered.  "Not that I get invited to the orgies."  He sighed again, shaking his head.  "The closest was her sorority sisters with the succuba who wanted Xander.  Jess and I watched some movies."

"Are we serious perhaps?" he teased.

"Friends.  Good friends.  I don't know otherwise."  He shrugged.  "We'll have to wait and see on that.  I've only known her a little bit over this term."  He finished dinner and checked.  "There's a little bit left if you want some."  He turned and found Dean gone.  He sighed, checking the house.  "I hate when he does that."

Xander came to his bedroom door.  "At least he got the point that he doesn't have to avoid you."

"True.  So, Hailstorm?"

"Light and poppy but cool enough."  He went to get Dawn changed and they went out together.  It was good to let go of the stress for a while.


Xander found his boss two mornings later.  "Got ten?"

"Sure.  What's wrong?  Personal problems with the roomie?" he said with a grin.

"We had to evacuate Dawn from Sunnydale.  So I have a little sister."

"Do you need to adjust your hours?" he asked, going back to business-like.

"No.  We've gotten her into the local school already.  That's why I took yesterday off.  She can come home and do homework until I get back.  Sam's got half of the afternoons off anyway."  He nodded.  "That does mean I can't work hardly any overtime if we need it."

"That's fine.  We shouldn't need it, Xander."  He patted him on the arm.  "Problems with her sister?"

"Problems with the town.  Things are going bad all over down there.  So she's on the couch."

"Are you moving?"

"Thinking about it.  I don't know yet."  That got a nod.  "We're waiting to see how bad it gets this spring."

"That's fine.  We'll be done in a month."  Xander nodded.  "Let me know if you have to move so I can update the paperwork.  Put her on your insurance."

"I'm not on the insurance plan."  He groaned, going to get Xander the paperwork he needed.  "Thanks, boss."  He sat down to fill it out for him, getting him to sign it when he was done.  "There.  Let me get back to work."  He walked into the building, going to find a spot that needed his help.  "Hey guys," he said when he found where they were working.

"Why're you late?" one of them demanded.  "You'd yell at us."

"They had to evacuate Dawn for her own good.  I spent yesterday getting her into school."  They all groaned.  "She's pretty cool but that means I can't go out for beers on payday anymore."  They nodded and let him jump in to help them.  He could handle this.  He really could.


Sam watched the destruction on the tv in the student center.  He called the school.  "I need to see Dawn Summers as soon as I get there, sir.  Because her town just got hit by a major earthquake by the tv news and her sister was still there.  Please.  I'm on my way.  Headline News at the moment.  Ten minutes."  He checked his watch, popping over to talk to his teacher.  She was watching it too.  "We have a young lady who lives there usually.  I'm going to get her from school so I have to miss today, Professor."

"Go."  She went back to watching.  That looked really bad.

Sam found the site's guards.  "Tell Xander it happened and we need him at home now.  Please?"  He jogged off to use Xander's car.  The school was only five minutes away and they had Dawn in the office.  "Dawnie."  He reached up to turn on the tv and change the channel.  She stared then sniffled.  "We don't know yet."  He looked at her, pulling her closer.  Xander walked in.  "Xander."

"Sam, thanks."  He hugged Dawn.  "We'll figure it out, Dawnster."  They watched, the principal coming out.  "That's our former town.  Her sister's still there."

"Mr. Winchester told me."  He watched, frowning at it.  "That does not look good.  It looks like a massive sinkhole."  Dawn saw the busses and bounced a bit, sighing in relief when she saw her sister.  "Go ahead," he ordered.  Xander nodded, signing the book to take her out.  Sam followed.  He watched for a few more minutes.  "No wonder they wanted her out of there for a while."

"Some people are sensitive to earthquakes coming up," the secretary said, staring at it.  "Should we ask the humanitarian club to see if they can help, sir?"

"Go ahead."  She sent for the teacher over it, letting her watch the news in there for a few minutes while he went back to his usual paperwork.


Dawn walked in and called Buffy's cellphone.  "Tower's down."

"Willow's runs by magic," Xander reminded her.

She beamed and dialed that one.  "Is everyone okay, Willow?  No, Sam saw and got me out of school.  Yes, I'm enrolled.  I have been for the three weeks I've been here."  She sat down to listen to her.  "Buffy's okay?"  She nodded slowly.  "Where are we going?  I saw that.  It's on Headline News, Willow.  I was watching it in the office."  She listened.  "I can understand that.  Sure, I'm here with Xander."  She looked at Xander.  "They're taking everyone to the Hyperion to fall back and then they're moving to Cleveland and the one that just opened."

Xander stared at her.  "Semester ends in three weeks, you can stay that long so they have time to set up a house."

Dawn put the phone back against her ear.  "Xander said I can stay for the last three weeks of school here so everyone has time to set stuff up, Willow.  Sure, you can do that if she's not too tired."  She smiled.  "Hi, Buffy.  You're really okay?"  She smiled at the tired answer.  "No, Xander said I could stay for the last few weeks of school so you have time to set things up and get it settled down some.  There's three weeks left.  Then he's got a week off.  Sure."  She handed the phone to Xander.  "Buffy."

Xander took it. "What's up, Buffy?"  He smiled.  "You're welcome.  You can you can call for battle plans whenever you want."  He listened to her.  "Um, no, not acceptable."  He listened to her complain.  "Buffy..."  He walked into the bathroom and shut the door.  "No, Buffy.  Yeah, and she's still your sister.  I do love her like my own but she's still your sister.  Then beat the brats, Buffy.  They have no right to get down on her the same as you had no right to do it to me."  She paused at that then sighed something else.  "We'll talk about it when you're not tired.  Hand Giles the phone.  Because if so, some things need to be arranged.  Like your mother left her the house."  She groaned and handed it over.

"Did you hear your slayer's brilliant lack of reasoning?"  He listened then he nodded.  "Yes, that part."  He frowned.  "No, that won't work.  They shouldn't have the same ego that nearly got her killed anyway.  Gee, Giles, what would you have done if Jack had blown you up that night you decided I couldn't help."  Giles spluttered.  "That's right, I'm the one who stopped him and his bomb.  Now, she's got three weeks of school left here.  I have the week after that off.  We'll be talking around the end of school.  Once you have things figured out and the girls realize that normal people are also called Watchers."  He hung up and took a deep breath before going out there.  "Don't worry."

"She's trying to make me stay here?" Dawn asked quietly.

"She thinks it'll be too dangerous and you're too normal too."

"And yet, I have the Key's energies inside me.  That makes me a damn powerful witch if I want to study.  Hmm, faulty logic circuit engaged again I see."

"I told them to head to Cleveland, we'd settle things around the end of school.  Give her time to calm down and realize she's a bitch again."  Dawn nodded.  "Also realize that she has no rights to anything in storage since your mom left you the house and everything in it.  She was taking care of you and whoever has custody of you has the rights to watch over it for you."  Dawn giggled.  "As a matter of fact, I filed a custody switch form with DHHR the day we enrolled you.  That way no one can say a thing and social workers wouldn't get called about you not being in school.  I told them the semi-truth, that there was an upswing in violence in town."  She gave him a hug.  "We'll deal, Dawn.  You know we will," he sighed, giving her a squeeze.  Sam came out of the kitchen.  "You heard?"

"She sucks."

"Majorly."  Someone pounded on the door.  Xander let Sam get it while he hugged her.  He could feel her crying so she needed him more than whoever that was.  He looked over when the landlord came in.  "Hey."


"Friend's sister.  They were having some violence upswings in town so they sent Dawn to stay with us for a few weeks.  Since the town just fell in we need to keep her long enough for her sister to get settled."  He kissed her on the head.  "Not that I want to send you back there.  At least not without spanking your sister greatly first."  She laughed, pulling back to wipe her cheeks off.  "Is it a problem?  She's had the couch.  She's in school.  The social workers know since her mother died a little over a year ago and her sister had custody.  I filed to switch that so no one would get into trouble."

He stared.  "By city standards she should have her own room."

"Half the time she steals mine," Xander told him.  "If they ask, or tell us to, I'll let her have mine full time and I'll take the couch.  Not like we're going to touch her."

"Will the social workers agree?"

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know.  They agreed with why I had temporary custody.  Her sister is moving to Cleveland since the town got sucked in."  He pointed at the tv.  "That was our town."  He grinned at Sam. "Order dinner?"

"Gladly."  He went to order a pizza that Dawn would want to eat.  She probably needed the comfort food.  Once it got there, he paid out of Xander's wallet then went to hang out with his friends.  They needed some alone time and the landlord was still trying to make them move.  He didn't like the man really.  He was kind of slimy.  He found Jess and smiled.  "Hey."
"Hey.  You missed out on our coffee break."  She punched him on the arm.  "What happened?"

"Dawn's town fell in after a massive earthquake."

"I saw that on the news in the student center," one of the guys with them said.  "Totally sucked in the town.  Looks like the sinkhole had a straw."

"Most everyone got out all right and Dawn's sister is moving to Cleveland. We're figuring out what's going on with her.  The landlord is being a nag because she's been on the couch and he doesn't like that.  Then again he's been trying to get everyone to move so he can break the apartments into smaller ones and charge the same price."  He sipped his beer.  "I don't know what's going on but Dawn needed some Xander time."

Jess smiled.  "If you have to move you'll invite us over for the housewarming party?" she teased.

"Sure," he agreed with a grin.  "Even if Dawn does stay.  You guys won't make the bad jokes around her, right?" They all shook their heads.  "That's cool then."  His phone rang.  "Yeah, Xander?"  He smiled.  "Sorry, Dean.  Didn't look at the display."  He listened to him.  "Dawn's fine.  Her sister's a bitch but she's fine.  They're at home."  He nodded.  "Yeah, he's trying to take us out so he can break them down into smaller places and charge more money."  He took another drink.  "Haven't decided yet.  We'll figure that out over the next few days."  He smiled when Xander and Dawn walked in.  "Guys, this is Dawn.  You probably remember Xander."  He listened.  Xander gave him an odd look.  "Dean."

Xander nodded.  "Cleveland."

"Her sister's moving to Cleveland for work reasons," he said.  He nodded.  "Exactly.  Sure, we're here.  Thanks, Dean."  He hung up.  "He'll spread that around. Have someone watching that way."  He gave Dawn a hug, getting a smile back.  "We'll figure it out, even if we do have to get a pledge paddle for her."

"Mom would've laughed if you did."

He let her go.  "Dawn, this is Jess, and that's Randy and Bob, plus Dinah and Morgan."  She waved at them.  "Guys, this is Dawn.  She's like a little sister."  He smiled at her.  "Heading out to party?"

"Stress relief."

"Sounds good to me.  Want to hit a club with us?"

"Can we stay here?"

"They'll try to card you soon.  There's a rave we won't get carded at."  She nodded and they packed up to go with them.  He smiled at Jess.  "What did I miss today?"

"The soap opera that is Danielle's love life.  The three guys found out about each other and two of them are bi so they're now together instead of with her."  Xander cackled.  "I know, served her right.  If I could write down her life and sell it, we'd make millions as a soap."  She smiled at Dawn.  "You're not like that, right?"

"Hell no.  Buffy won't even let me date.  She dates bad boys but I'm not like that."

Jess smiled.  "It's always nice to have the polite, nice ones."  She pinched Sam on the arm, getting a smirk back.  "It is."

"Anything's better than the commando my sister dated."

Xander snorted.  "Yeah, anything's better than Riley."  They paid their cover and went in to have some fun for the night.


Xander looked over from holding up a tree being planted when the site's guard called.  "What?"  He pointed.  Xander looked then around for the boss.  "Boss, looks like I need to take a quick break!" he yelled.  "Social worker's here about Dawn."

"Go ahead.  Use the trailer," he called back.

Xander nodded for the guard to let her in and show her that way.  He met her inside the trailer.  "I can only assume you're here because of the custody switch of Dawn?"

"I am.  Her sister has filed papers to give you permanent and full custody, Mr. Harris."  He sat down, staring at her.  "I do not know what is going on but she seemed to think the child was happier and safer with you."

"Her sister's a bitch," he said bluntly, shaking himself free of his bad thoughts.   He sat up, looking at her.  "They were living in Sunnydale."

"I'm aware of what really happened."

"We evacuated her before her sister went to fight that issue.  She's now decided that it's in Dawn's best interests to be taken from everything she knows and cared for.  All her made family, all of that.  I don't agree with her but I do love Dawn like my own sister.  That's why I took her in originally and let her have a place to grieve when her sister was dead for a while."

She sighed, sitting down in the free chair.  "I can understand how hard this is.  She's filed papers for the state to place her in foster care."

"No.  Dawn stays with me.  She's too special to risk."  The social worker gave him an odd look.  "Did you meet Willow?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Dawn can do the same things she does, but she hasn't decided if she wants to yet."  He licked his lips.  "If she does decide to, she'll be more powerful than Willow ever was.  Considering Willow just recently did something that activated girls like Buffy all over the world I don't think it's safe for Dawn to be anywhere she's not protected."

She considered it.  "Are you willing to keep her?"

"Hell yes.  Like I said, she's like my little sister.  I want to throttle her real sister.  I hope like hell her mother's haunting her every day for doing this to Dawnie."

She nodded.  "I can see how you'd feel that way.  She was dead?"  Xander nodded, logging onto his computer to find the story that had been run in LA.  He showed it to her.  "Oh, dear."

"Basically.  At that time, Rupert Giles went home for a while.  Willow was in England as well.  I took custody of her then.  The judge agreed with me since Willow was a bit off at the time.  I was the only one working, I was the only one who was able to care for her.  We all lived in the house with her when Willow pulled her head out of her ass, but I had official custody."

"Was it ever switched back?"

"Not legally that I know."

"Very well."  She came over.  "May I?"  He got out of her way so she could check in the system.  "I have heard rumors that you're letting her club?"

"With us there.  Myself and my roommate go for stress relief and she needed it too.  She hasn't drank anything; we're very overprotective of her."

She looked at him.  "You lied to get her in?"

"Well, yeah, but the last time was the day her sister decided she was staying and told her on the phone."

"Ah.  Well, that's better than going to get into a fight."

"I do that now and then but I don't take her."

"Even better."  She found what she was looking for.  "The judge over Joyce Summer's estate said she had all the estate?"

"Yes.  Whoever her guardian was could take care of it for her because Buffy could die any day."

"I see."  She grimaced and called someone.  "Peter, it's Bethany.  I'm here talking to the legal guardian of one Dawn Summers.  Yes, related to Buffy.  Dawn has complete control over her mother's estate, including the insurance."

"And I made the payments for them," Xander told her.  "Including Dawn's health insurance."

She listened then nodded.  "Exactly.  Without Buffy having custody of her, she's not permitted to claim against the estate.  I will have her legal guardian do those for you.  Xander Harris."  She nodded.  "Yes, him."  She looked at him.  "You do have papers to fill out for your parents and uncle."

"I heard.  They're at home.  I downloaded them."

"Thank you."  She hung up.  "He'll send it to your last known address.  It should be forwarded?"

"I have my current address on Dawn's health insurance and the same office covered that."

"Good."  She sat down again.  "You are going to keep her?"  He nodded.  "Does she have the minimum necessities?"

"Right now she's on the couch."

"I would insist she have her own room.  Even if you and your...roommate have no designs on her."

"We're friends, not like that.  Sam's got a girlfriend."

"I would still insist."

"I've been looking but I haven't found one I can afford yet."

"I understand."  She considered it.  "She's in school?"

"Yes.  She's in the local public school.  Transferring to high school next year.  They gave grade nine in their junior high."

"That's fine then."  She gathered things.  "Let me talk to my boss, Mr. Harris.  It looks like you're keeping her."

Xander nodded, holding out a hand.  "Thank you for not being a heaving bitch like the one in Sunnydale was about Willow being gay."

"I don't personally care where you stick it as long as it's a suitable relationship and you're not breaking the law."  She smirked as she shook his hand.  "Give me two days.  Continue as you have been.  He'll inform the elder Miss Summers."

Xander held up a hand and pulled out his cellphone, dialing it on speaker.  "Giles, me.  You did realize that we never transferred Dawn back to Buffy's care in the first place and that Joyce left the whole estate to Dawn?  That means that Buffy trying to file for the insurance claim is fraud and the insurance agent can charge her?" he asked dryly.  Giles spluttered.  "She obviously doesn't care about her family so she's being a greedy whore.  Keep her away from Dawn since she's changed so much that her mother would cry about it."  He hung up and looked at her.  "Should help."

"Thank you, Mr. Harris."

"Oh, we have some anger issues."  She smirked and left.  He went back to talk to the boss.  "We never officially switched Dawn's custody back, but Buffy tried to put her in foster care and then tried to claim the estate that's Dawn's."  He went back to helping with the landscaping.  "Should only have one more visit, boss."

"That's fine, Xander.  You good?"

"I won't dent the building."

"Even better."  He watched him for a few minutes then got back to work.  They were about a day behind schedule and needed to finish this week.  They might make it.  Maybe a few hours of overtime on Wednesday before the final inspection.


Xander walked in that night, finding Dawn sobbing. "What did the greedy bitch say?"  She rushed over to hug him.  "What did she say, Dawn?"

"That I'm going to go into foster care."

"Fat chance."  He tipped her face up.  "I moved to take custody of you after she died," he said quietly.  "That was never removed."  She stared. "I talked to a social worker today.  She looked and it's still in effect.  Though you do have to file the FEMA and insurance paperwork for the house and stuff.  We can do it together since I have to for my family."  Willow appeared.  "Oh, no.  I'm not dealing with her shit.  You didn't want her when Buffy died.  You don't want her now.  Go away."  Willow glared.  He moved her behind him.  "It's pretty clear where you stand, Willow, and you're not taking what's hers.  If I have to stand in the way, so be it.  You can leave Dawn with me since you don't give a damn.  Have fun with what's-her-name, the slayer."  Willow let out a small shriek of outrage and started to throw a spell but Dawn stopped her.  "Thanks, munchkin."

"It's evil of her," she said bluntly, staring Willow down.  "Huh, no black eyes this time or scary veins."   Willow disappeared.  She looked at Xander.  "So I guess I'm yours?"

"Yup.  You're still mine."  He gave her a hug.  "We'll do the paperwork tonight."

"Sure."  Sam came in.  "You missed Willow."

"Probably a good thing.  I talked with a social worker today."


"Not a problem.  She seemed pretty nice.  The only complaint she had was us sneaking Dawn into the club for some stress relief.  I explained that and that I made sure she didn't drink, as did you, and she was fine with it."  He gave her a hug.  "You okay?"

"I am so pissed," Dawn admitted.

Xander looked at her.  "We can take you down to the shop that helped me when Willow hit me with the black magic."

"Why?" she asked, looking confused.

"Because if you're going to use it, you're going to study and do it like Tara would've wanted," he said quietly.  "There will be no turning into Willow."

She nodded.  "I could like that, but it's expensive."

"So?"  He shrugged.  He smirked. "We'll be getting back the security deposit on this place unless someone like Willow trashes it."

"We are moving?" Sam asked.

"We need to get her her own room."  Sam nodded at that.  "But then we'll see.   You're more than welcome to come with us, Sam.  You know that."

"I do."  He grinned, sitting on Dawn's other side.  "We'll figure it out."  She nodded, resting against his side.  "Do you want to learn it, Dawn?" he asked finally.

"I don't know.  I don't know how I feel about all that stuff.  I'm mixed up right now."

"Of course you are," he agreed.

"I'd rather have her learn enough for control, like if and when she loses her temper I'm not a kitty, and then she can make the decision to study," Xander said.

Dawn nodded. "I could like that.  I know I need it.  I nearly blew Willow out of the building because I was pissed at her."  She looked at him.  "You're sure?"

"I'm very sure.  You have a lot of power and it's a practical thing."

"Do I want to learn how to do the same job?" she asked quietly.

Xander shrugged.  "Only you can decide that.  If so, I'll find you a good teacher since no one ever taught me.  I had to learn on my own."

Sam looked at him.  "The Watcher dude didn't teach you?"

"No, he wasn't allowed."  They shared a look over Dawn's head.  "Your kind have those who take in apprentices, right?"

"Yeah, a few.  If she decides, I'll call someone."  That got a nod. "Let's get a burger on the way to the store."  They nodded, heading to do that.  The burgers were easily gotten and the store was still open when they got there.  Sam walked in first.

"More thrown spells?" the older woman behind the counter asked.

"No.  Xander's adopted little sister needs to talk to someone."

"She's taking up the craft?"

Dawn and Xander walked in after a short talk outside.  "Hi, Dawn Summers from Sunnydale," she said, holding out a hand.

The woman stared at her before shaking her hand.  "You have power."

"I have buttloads of power.  I need to learn how to control it so I don't snap and hurt the first guy that disses my outfit or tries to grope.  Then I'll decide if I'm practicing or not."

"That's sensible for a girl your age."  She smiled.  "We see a lot of you because of the current hot movie."

She smirked.  "I had some training from Tara and Willow.  I will *not* become a witch like Willow is.  In any meaning of the word."

"Good.  We like that.  Thank you, boys."

Xander walked over to the sitting area and sat down.  "We'll be here while you get her the first book and go over the first meditation exercise."

"He's highly protective."

"Yup, and my sister just handed me to him," she said quietly.  "I need to work on that now before I accidentally on purpose curse Buffy.  A lot."

"Agreed, child."  She led her to the bookshelves to look at them.  "How much is her beginning budget?" she called a moment later.

"Under a hundred if you can.  Under three is necessary," Xander called back.

"We can do it for sixty," she decided, getting her the first two books she'd recommend.  Both of them focused on self control and control of your emotions.  They had meditation to delve into yourself to get to know yourself and your reasons for doing things.  That, a few candles for meditation, and some incense that the girl liked and they were done.  Xander paid with a grin and they went home to work on the first one with her.  Sam had done one of them before so he could help before going to study.  It would help Xander control any random surges of wild magic that might be attracted to him too.




Sam looked at Xander.  "Can you watch Jess for me?"

"Sure, if she'll let me."  Sam gave him a look.  "You know she thinks I'm creepy, Sam."

"I know.  I'll tell her."  He gave him a hug.  "Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome."  He watched him and Dean head off.  Then he went to check on Jess.  "Hey."  She gave him a dirty look.  "Sam wanted me to make sure nothing came after you this weekend.  I don't know why but he's been worried."

"What are you going to do?  Chant over the house?"

"No.  But you can come help Dawn decide on her school wardrobe of delusion.  She wants to wear hip hugger jeans and I said no."

"I can do that," she decided.  "She needs more female influences."

Xander nodded.  "I know but you saw my last one."

"I did.  Unfortunately."  She grabbed her things and came to help him with Dawn.  It was nice of Sam to sic Xander on her to make sure she'd be okay while he was gone.  Not that she was helpless but Palo Alto had been having a robbery spree recently. She came in to pal around with Dawn, helping her sort out her clothes.  She was growing again and needed some female help.  Unfortunately her sister was a bitch and her aunt was a flake so it fell to Jess to be a normal woman around her sometimes.  They decided to go shopping with her allowance card.  She could use some new bras and Jess could use a treat for when Sam got back.  Xander just waved and went back to cooking something.


Xander felt the wrongness happen and went to check on Jess.  They only lived up the street.  He saw the Impala and looked then around.  "No, Sam!"  Sam stopped to look at him.  "Something's wrong.  She came home earlier to do special stuff for you but I feel magic."  Sam nodded and they went in together.  They carefully checked the rooms.  Xander felt it first and looked up.  "Shit!"  He climbed up on the bed and grabbed Jess before the fire more than sparked, handing her off.  They were rushing out when more fire shot out of the walls and caught them both.  Xander tackled Sam out of the way but Jess still got some burns.  They saw Dean pull in as they made it outside.  "Get an ambulance.  She's burned!" he shouted.  Dean called it in then came over with their first aid kit.  The ambulance came and loaded her up.  She looked bad.  The flame that had come out of he wall had gotten her head.  Sam followed, Dean going with him.  Xander went to talk to Dawn then headed as well.  If the police wanted to know they'd find them there.  He found Sam pacing.  "Hey."

"She's in bad shape, Xander."  Xander gave him a hug.  "I ...  I know what that was."

Xander pulled back to look at him.  "Then we'll help.  It was seriously stupid of it to attack you or me."

Sam swallowed, nodding.  "It was.  It's what got my mother."

Xander groaned.  "We'll figure it out, Sam. You know that."  He nodded so Xander sat down with him to hold him for now.  He looked at Dean.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine.  I wasn't inside the fire."

Xander looked at himself then at Sam.  "You have a few too."  He pulled Sam up and to the nurse.  "He was holding her when she got burned.  Can we have someone look at his hands or should I take him to the ER?"

"I can call one of the burn nurses out, sir."  She went to tell him that.  It wasn't that unusual.  One of the nurses came out to look at his hand, taking him to clean and bandage it.

Xander looked at Dean.  "I'll ask if you want."

"We've been hunting it now for years."

"I've kept in touch with Angel and his people.  One of them is a former Watcher."

Dean nodded.  "I'll pop in there to talk to him."



"Sam's a friend even if he does live with her."  That got a nod.  "You call anyone else who should know?"

"Our dad's missing," he said.

Xander gave him a hug too.  "You'll find him and he'll be fine," he promised.  "Or else I'm siccing Dawn on him."  Dean let out a small laugh.  He let him go, watching the door.  Sam was back with her for the moment so they'd wait. "Did he call her parents?"

"I don't think so.  His phone's in the car."  He went to find it and call his father's voicemail.  He had to know the demon had come out of hiding again.

Xander stood up when two worried people came in.  "Are you Jess's parents?"  The woman stared at him.  "I'm Xander, Sam's friend.  I was helping him get her out."  She choked back a sob.  "Sam's back there with her right now."  He stepped closer.  "We tried, ma'am.  I did, Sam was carrying her because she was hurt before he came home," he said quietly.  "I'm sorry.  So far they're working on her but I'm sorry."

She nodded.  "Thank you, young man."  Sam came out and she pounced. "Samuel, what happened!"

"Someone broke in while I was off for the weekend helping my brother with something," he said quietly.  Xander made him sit down when he wobbled.  He stared at them.  "She had been with Xander and Dawn for a few hours and the police seem to think she came to interrupt whoever it was."  He swallowed.  It was a lie, he knew who had done it.  "They set a time delayed fire of some sort.  They think they put it on the wiring.  The fire started when we were getting her off the bed and out of the house."  He swallowed again, looking at his hands.  "I was carrying her when the wall lit up next to us.  It got her head."  He looked up again.  "They're saying it's not great but there's some hope.  I'm not sure how much.  I'm so sorry."  The mother hugged him and they demanded to see their daughter.   Sam nodded it was fine since he had her power of attorney.  He looked at Xander.  "I..."

"Dean went outside to find your phone and call  your dad."  He sat down next to him, holding him again.  "It's right to be angry, scared, pissed at yourself, and everyone else.  Guilt is fine.  Angst is normal."  Sam nodded at that, resting his head on his shoulder.  "Someone will get him, Sam.  You, us, whoever," he said quietly.  "It won't keep happening."  Sam relaxed and nodded again.  Dean came back.  "You okay?"

"Dad sent coordinates."

"You tell him to blow himself?" Xander asked.

"I sent back a text of 'listen to your voicemail'.  He sent back a 'he's sorry, Sammy'.  I can't get his voicemail again though."

Sam looked at him.  "That means he's hunting it."

Dean nodded.  "Looks like it.  I have no idea where or how."

"We're going to?"

Dean nodded.  "We are."  Sam nodded, looking in there.  The parents were sobbing.  "Go."  He helped him up and let him go back in there.  She turned and slapped him but he held her until her husband shook himself free.  Dean looked.  "That doesn't look like there's more hope."

Xander looked in there. "Her heart monitor's flat," he said quietly.  Dean nodded once.  He looked at him.  "You'll protect him?"

"He's my baby brother, Xander.  I have for years."

"He'll write me often.  Dawn will miss him.  I will sic her on you."

"That's fine.  All he wants."

"I'll call Angel to ask if he has any information."

"Thank you."  Xander nodded, walking out of the hospital to do that.  "Angel, Xander.  I need some research help.  Remember Wesley talking about Sam?  Yeah, my former roomie.  A bigger demon attacked his mom when he was a baby and just got his girlfriend tonight, Angel.  Can I have you look stuff up?"  He frowned.  "Why?"  He groaned.  "So not a good time.  I have to be here for Sam."  He bit his lip.  "When?"  He nodded.  "I can do that.  Want me to bring Dawn down for the day?"  He smiled.  "That's a good reason not to.  I know it has yellow eyes.  She was on the ceiling.  It had cut into her lower stomach, like for a C-section.  Then it lit on fire," he finished quietly, looking around.  "Yeah, like that.  Sam said once it had yellow eyes if that helps.  Sure, thanks, see you then."  He hung up and looked over as Dean walked Sam out.  "I'm sorry, Sam."

"We tried," he said weakly.  He looked at Xander.  "Who?"

"Angel.  He'll look in Wes's books.  I've got to hit LA for Wes's probate apparently so I'll see if he's found anything then."  He made Sam look at him.  "You will write me?"  Sam smiled but nodded.  "Good.  I don't want to have to sic Dawn on Dean."

He let out a gentle smile.  "I'm getting this thing."

"Of course you are.  If you're not, some other hunter will and let you have his corpse to burn."  Sam gave him a firm hug.  "Want to stay at our place tonight?"


"Let's head."  He looked at the hospital then at him. "Let me warn Dawn."  They got into the car and he called. "It's me.  That was Jess."  She sniffled.  "I'm sorry, Dawn.  Both him and Dean until after the funeral.  That's fine.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "You guys can share your old room, Sam."

"Thanks, Xander," Dean said quietly.   "What happened to your friend Wesley?"

"A demon of some sort.  I don't know which one.  Angel said Giles is trying to claim his things but Wesley said he left everything to me.  So I don't know."  He pointed.  "We're up the street from there, Dean.  The blue house on the corner."  Dean nodded, finding a good place to park before getting out and heading inside.  They let Sam have the shower to clean up and cry in.  Dawn went to hug him before he could.  She was good at that.  Xander got Dean a beer and Sam some ice cream when he finally came out.  Dawn gave him a hug so he hugged her back.  "Wesley passed," he said quietly.  She stared at him.  "I have to fight the evil watcher for his stuff.  He's trying to claim it but Wes left me everything."

"Including his motorcycle?"

"I don't know.  We'll see.  I have to go down Tuesday."  She nodded.  "Can you handle it that day?"

"Sure."  She looked at Sam then at him.  "Her parents?"

"Were there."   He let her go sit next to Sam to help him.

"I had to go through this with my mom, Sam."  He looked at her.  "She died of a brain tumor a bit before Buffy died the last time saving me from Glory.  We'll get through this.  They're used to people being stunned and on automatic.  It'll be okay."  He nodded, cuddling her closer to cry on for a bit.

Dean let them have some privacy, only taking the ice cream so it wouldn't spill.  He found Xander making up a bed and a cot.  "Thanks, dude."

"We're still friends, Dean.  He moved out to live with her.  She thought I was strange but she liked Dawn too.  We can help with this."  His phone rang and he grabbed it.  "Xander."  He listened.  "Hey, boss.  No, that wasn't my house.  That was Sam's girlfriend.  She died at the hospital of the burns," he said quietly.  "Please.  I have to go to LA to argue with someone who wants to take something that was left to me by another friend.  I found out when I called to talk to him earlier.  Yeah, he's here with me.  Thanks, boss."  He hung up.  "Dawn, want me to call you off school this week?"  She nodded.  So he called the school's answering service to let them know.  He went back to fussing over things.  Sam got led in a bit later by Dawn, who tucked him in.  Then she stayed to pet his hair until he could fall asleep again.  Dean got the cot and it was fine with them.  He went to his own room.  He'd sit with Sam later when he started to have nightmares.  He'd lost too many too.


Xander walked into the Hyperion, looking at Angel.  "Why didn't you tell me when it happened?"

"Because you have a vendetta against death now."

"Good point.  I still would've come to the funeral."

"It was quiet and he was scattered," he said quietly.  Xander nodded.  "How's your other friend?"

"Destroyed.  He was going to ask her to marry him later this month."  Angel nodded at that.  "The same demon took out his mother.  He's feeling some guilt that everyone around him gets hurt."

"I only found a little bit about the demon," Angel admitted, finding it for him.  "Here you go."

Xander looked and smiled. "More than I had."  He looked at Angel.  "If it's mine, you can have whatever you need to do the job, Angel.  I'm not going to be bitchy about it.  If you need it, it's there. If not, I'll put it into storage and you can come get it."

"That's good.  We have a lot of his books here."

Xander smiled. "Watchers live on books."

"I know."

"What's Giles' problem?"

"He's a former watcher.  His things should go to them to help them with the fight."  He rolled his eyes.

"In other words he's sucked up enough of Buffy's greedy bitch routine that it's now part of him?" he asked dryly.  "He doesn't see that you're doing the same job?"

"He said we can call."

"That's nice but Giles doesn't own a fax machine.  Much less a computer."


"Oh, don't get me started.  She tried to block Dawn from magic."

Angel stared at him.  "She's training it?"

"She's taken enough to learn control in case it comes out because she's mad or scared.  She's deciding after her next birthday if she wants to train that way."

Angel nodded.  "She might be good at it."

"She's definitely her mother's daughter.  That first night she sat with Sam and kept the nightmares from coming as best she could by stroking over his hair."

Angel smiled.  "Joyce would be proud."

"I hope so."  He looked over as someone came out of the back.  "You're... Gunn, right?  Cordelia wrote about you."

"You would be?"

"Xander.  Cordy's ex Xander."

"Yeah, the one who walked."

Xander thought about it.  Then he looked at him.  "It got to the point I couldn't lose any more, Gunn.  Otherwise, I would've lost myself to take them all out."

Gunn nodded.  "I can see that point coming myself," he admitted.

"Let's hope you have a less interesting retirement than I do.  I'm in a college town so there's a few vamps but we seem to draw a lot of succuba in Palo Alto."  Angel snickered but coughed to try to hide it.  "I've gotten damn good at getting away from them, thank you.  Dawn wants to make a repellent.  I told her to make a pheromone compound so she has a killer college fund."

"Has she?"

"Mostly.  With Sam's help."  He leaned on the counter.  "So."  Gunn nodded at the office. "Him too?"  Gunn nodded.  "The lawyer or whoever?"


"That's cool.  If it's mine, then you guys will have whatever books you need.  I'll only put them in storage.  I'm not going to hinder the fight."

"That's not a bad answer."  He walked him back in there.  "Here we are.  He was getting some information for a friend."

"You're hunting?" Giles asked him.

"A demon just killed my best friend's girlfriend, Giles.  It killed his mother too.  I asked Angel if he had anything.  That's how I found out Wes had died.  How's the selfish bitches?"

Giles frowned. "They are not."

"Really?  Doesn't seem like they care too much about Dawn."  Giles sighed, taking off his glasses to clean them.  Xander sat down.  "Dawn's in a very prestigious day school if it might matter to the vampire sucking twat that is her sister.  She's set to graduate next year, a year early because she went to Sam and worked her ass off that first summer so she'd make her mother proud.  Buffy sending emotional little bombs now and then does not help her and I open anything she sends first.  The same with Willow since Willow tried to block her from magic.  Since it put her in the hospital, I had to step in and stop that.  Did she enjoy the backlash?"  Giles went pale.  "I'll take that as a no and why she didn't try again."  He looked at Gunn.  Then he sighed before taking a calming breath.  "Okay.  When did Wes put me in his will?"

"Six months ago."

"So, long after the Council fell and the invasion.  By the way, nice work."

Gunn nodded.  "We would've called but Buffy said they had it."

"Of course she did."  Gunn smirked a bit.  "Anyway.  Six months?  Why?  Do we know why he changed it?"

"To help Dawn.  She called him to talk about what it took to actually do the work.  Not as a Watcher because she said she couldn't stand to be around the slayers or her sister, but to do the work as a hunter and a witch.  He was very frank with her and very honest about it.  I know he encouraged her to talk to your roomie too."

"She and Dean have been sending emails.  He does the work too and I encourage that.  It's her choice to make.  The same as it was mine way back when.  If that's what she wants to do, so be it."

Gunn nodded.  "Which is why he left most everything to you.  He figured you'd use it to help her and be a research point if something came up.  You certainly wouldn't sell them for money, put them into the wrong hands, or give them to Rupert.  He made himself clear in the will, which I only notarized since he did it with a computer program, that Rupert and the new Council was not to inherit his books or any assets he got from his father because he did not trust them to work in a way that was productive for all of humanity.  That some of the new watchers and the girls were greedy, they'd shop it away, and he thought it'd be better if it was set up as a learning center for all hunters to come to instead of kept secret like Mr. Giles wants to do."  He handed him a copy of the will then Xander one.

"Those are photocopies of the original I had filed with the courts.  As he was the last in his family and had no other heirs it's not that unusual."  He looked at Giles.  "He figured you'd try."  He tossed him a letter.  "By his own hand last month to go with it.  It took him a while to write it."  He looked at Xander.  "He did say he was thrilled with how you've done with Dawn.  That she's a good, smart girl.  That she was capable of making her own choice and you not forcing it was the right decision.  Because forcing her to stay out of it or jump in if she doesn't want to would be as bad as his father did to him when he made him a watcher against his will."  He looked at Giles, who had moaned at the contents of the letter.   "If we need to, we can take this in front of a judge.  If not, we can work this out today."

"He has three books we'll need," Giles said.

"I told Angel he could borrow any of the books he needed," Xander told him.  "All you'd have to do is call him, Giles."  He read over the will.  "I got his motorcycle?"

"You did.  He thought you might like to teach Dawn how to ride."

Xander looked at him.  "I need to learn first."

Gunn smiled.  "It's not that hard.  I learned."  Xander nodded at that before going back to reading.  He looked at Giles. "As you can see he left you three artifacts he knew needed to be stored safely."

"I can do that.  Are there others?"

"They're stored here.  Angel made sure of it."

"LA isn't safe," Giles said.

"Angel, do you feel comfy storing any artifacts Wesley left me?" Xander called.

He walked in.  "I'd rather have them in a secure vault somewhere that any Wolfram and Hart branch can't get to."

"Giles, do you have one of those?"

"I do."

"Then would that be appropriate?" Xander asked Gunn.

"You can choose to give them to him, yes.  The will said that you might want to."  Xander nodded at that.  Gunn made a note.  "That leaves his personal belongings and his books mostly."

"Whatever books you guys don't think you'll need I'll be putting up in Palo Alto.  His clothes can go to a thrift shop if you don't think he'd mind."

"Nah, he wasn't like that," Gunn assured him.  He looked at Angel.  "Do we know which ones we think we'll need?"

"Pretty much what's in the library."

Xander looked at him.  "Anything Dawn might need to borrow?"

"Two.  I'll send you back with those."

"Thank you."  He looked at Gunn, who smirked.  "Gotta think of the sprout."

"It's a good thought," he agreed.  "What about his paraphernalia?"

"Dawn?  I'd let her use it if she decided she wanted to study magic. If not, it can be held in storage until a hunter needs it for something."

"He'd agree with that I think," Angel said, coming in to sit down.  "Can you handle his bike?"

Xander shrugged.  "Don't know.  I'll have to learn."

Angel smirked.  "He got so many speeding tickets on that thing."

Xander nodded.  "I probably will too."  He looked at Gunn.  "Anything major I should be aware of?"

"His father's estate.  He left it to his only son.  The courts said he had to."  Xander smirked at that.  "He died without a will so they said he had to.  That means the titles, lands, all that are yours."

"I'll be a what?"

"Sir Xander.  Dawn would be Lady Dawn.  His mother was a Lady and his father a knight.  He earned it about fifteen years ago I think.  If I remember the drunken story he told right."

Xander scratched the back of her head.  "Huh."

Gunn smirked.  "It's being managed by someone competent.  Wes went on a swearing streak in Summerian when he found out.  That's why he got drunk."

"I think it might be a decent idea," he admitted.  "After I send Dawn for a sleepover with a friend."  He looked at the papers.  "Do I need to meet with that person?"

"Wesley had them upkeep it in suitable living state and hold tours."

"That'll work for me."

"I'll let him know," Gunn said.  He made a note of that too.  "His financial manager will be talking to you later."  Xander nodded at that.  "Wes's dad had some cash."

"It'll go toward Dawn's education.  Her school's really good.  It gets a lot of people into top notch colleges.  So if she decides to go she'll get in."

"Good."  He made another note of that.  "Last thing.  Wesley had three special boxes that I never got to look inside."  He pulled them out of the desk and handed them over.  "One of them he has always wanted to go to you.  One of them to Giles.  One to Angel."  He handed them over.

Xander looked inside, smoothing over the picture.  He smiled and let him see.  It was group photos from back in high school and of Cordelia.  "His photos."

"His Watcher's journal," Giles said, wiping off his cheeks.

Angel closed his again.  "Thank you, Gunn."

"Not an issue.  I like you guys most of the time."  He looked at Xander.   "Do you think she could handle the emotional rollercoaster that hunting is?"

"I don't know.  That's why she's got to make that decision for herself.  Only she can say that."

"Good answer," Angel said.  He looked at Xander.  "We can have that stuff sent up to you."

Xander smiled and nodded. "Please.  I might use it to open a learning center or a store, something like that when she graduates."

Gunn nodded.  "Here?"

"No.  Not in LA.  Sam had a good idea of where to put it.  My construction company is being bought out early next year.  The new guys are corporate scum."  They nodded at that.  It happened and they knew that.  "Do you need me to sign things?"

"Sure," Gunn said, looking at Giles. "Unless you want to take this farther?  You do have the right for a judge to hear the contest to the will."

"No, I can see Wesley had his reasons."

"Thank you."  He let them sign the papers he had for them.  "We'll get stuff to you, Xander."  Xander wrote down his address on some scrap paper.  Something appeared underneath it.  "Huh.  We were wondering where that went."  He copied it onto his notes and smiled.  "Thanks for finding that for me."

"It happens around me.  Still.  No idea why though."  He stood up.  "Need me to help clean out his place?"

"No.  Tell your roomie I'm sorry about his girl."

"Thanks, Gunn."  He shook his and Angel's hand then left.  The drive back was a long one and he was tired but he still hopped in a shower and went to change clothes. The viewing was tonight.  He had to be there for Sam.  He made it to the chapel and walked in, going up to say his own goodbyes, then coming back to talk to her parents.  "I'm so sorry you lost her.  She was a nice, sweet girl who helped me tons with Dawn," he said quietly.  The mother nodded and patted his hand.  He went to sit beside Sam, giving his hand a pat.

"Bad?" he asked quietly.

"Not really.  Wesley left me what his father left him.  Which includes an estate and two titles."  Dean gave him an odd look.  He grinned. "I'm now Sir Xander and Dawn's Lady Dawn."

Sam shook his head.  "She'll freak."

"She and Jess would've been shopping for a tiara at the prom jewelry store within minutes," Xander pointed out.  Sam grinned a bit, nodding it was true.  "I got the motorcycle too."

Sam looked at him.  "Don't die on it?"

"I won't.  He said he thought Dawn might like it."

"I'll tell her the same thing," he said.  He went back to staring at the casket.  "Why her?  Why now?"  Xander handed over what Angel had found, letting him read it.  "That's a good reason why me and her."  He handed it to Dean and leaned forward, staring at the casket.  "I..."

"You'll do it when you're ready, Sam," Xander soothed, stroking his back.  "The same as Dawn did with Joyce.  Where is she?"

"She came in early then had a daylight flashback," Dean said quietly.  "She went to hang in the park for a bit."

Xander nodded.  "That happens.  She was still pretty young when she lost her mom."  Jess's father looked back.  "My adopted daughter Dawn lost her mother when she was twelve, almost thirteen."

"She seems like a nice girl, Xander."

"Jess helped me a lot when she had teenage girl issues."  He smiled at that.  He looked at Sam.  "I'll walk with you if you want."  He shook his head and went up to stare at her.  Xander and Dean watched.  Dean got a look when Sammy didn't move for a solid ten minutes.  Xander started to move but Dean shook his head and stopped him.  Sam finally slumped and leaned down to kiss her on the forehead.  Then he walked back to sit down.  He went back to staring at her casket.


Epilogue 2:


Dawn found the right place and frowned, parking the motorcycle.  She grabbed what she needed and snuck inside, heading to the right area.  She found the demon in the body it was not allowed to keep.  "How fucking pathetic," she said loudly, walking into the open.  The demon turned to look at her.  "What?  Emotional torment?  How cheesy?  Are you Papa John?"

"Dawn," Sam warned.  "He's possessed."

"Duh, Sam.  Human eyes don't glow that way."  She tossed him something.  Then she stared at the demon.  "Sam has protectors."

"Not any more."

"Really?  Could've sworn we're alive."  She moved between them.  "You get Sam over my dead body, bitch.  And since you can't do it, well...  Should be pretty clear even to you since you look like you can see in the dark.  By the way, the eye thing?  Not that creepy.  Seen better in Stephen King flicks."

The demon moved closer.  "Who are you to defy me, child?"

"Dawn Isabelle Summers."

He sniffed.  "Hmm.  A corrupt one."

"No.  Not hardly.  It's probably where I was living in Sunnydale for a while."  The demon sneered.  Dawn sneered back.  "Try it if you want it that badly."  He touched her then screamed and held his hand.  "Gee, what a shock."  She pulled her dagger and went after him, getting him in the throat.

"Dawn, that's our father!" Dean shouted.

"No shit, Sherlock. I knew that.  I'm not killing him."  She stabbed something into his throat.  "I need something to contain him," she ordered.  Dean handed over a juice bottle.  "Can it be sealed and will it melt?  I'm not sure if plastic is good for him when we do a final sealing."

"Here," Sam said, pulling something out of his bag.  "Use this."  She looked then nodded, using the pen-looking thing to put the spirit into it then sealing it in.  "Where is it?"

"On my bike."  He went to get it for her. She got out of Dean's way.  "You can do the standard exorcism to finish him off.  I made sure I didn't hit his windpipe when I got him."  Sam brought in the small urn and the metal case it'd be sealed in.  She put the first box in there.  Then she sealed the urn with a bit of liquid silver she melted over Sam's lighter.  The urn got put into the silver box and she stood up, moving to face it the way the spell said.  She looked up then raised her hands and chanted.  The box glowed.  It melted together.  It sealed for all time.  She put down her hands, dusting them off.  "There, that should help."  She looked at Sam then hugged him.  "You get into more trouble than Xander does.  He sent you candy."

He grinned.  "Why did he send me candy?"  She pulled it out. "Candy fingers?"

"You don't write, are they broken?"

He smiled, nibbling on one.  "No."  He looked at Dean.  "We need an ambulance?"

"He's not bleeding heavily.  It's an okay injury but we need to finish the exorcism.  I'm not getting it."

Dawn walked over, then kicked him on the side.  "Don't hurt the Sam.  I get mean and evil."  She stared.  "Keep it in there and I'm handing you to my bitchy sister, the slayer."  The demon fled.  She smirked at the white foamy ghost.  "Well?"  It tried for her and she cast something at it, making it shriek and the building shake.  "Keep it up, demon.  Not happy with you.  I liked Jess."  She let her natural glow out and it howled louder.  It touched her and shattered.  "Pity."  She pulled it back in and looked at John.  "Hi."  She grinned.  "Dawn Summers.  I'm like Sam's little sister."  She went to hug Sam.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Dawn.  Thank you for the help."

"Not an issue."  She beamed.  "I need to find someone good to train me."

"You're going to hunt?" Dean demanded.

She looked at him.  "If I don't, they come for me.  Even more than they do for Xander.  I don't know why.  I don't know if it's the Key or what."

"Key?" Dean demanded, standing up and coming over.

Dawn smirked.  "When Glory went for the Key, the monks made a sister for the slayer and hid the energy inside her, then aged her and created memories.  Which was half of Buffy's point with the dumping me on Xander thing."

"Ah."  He nodded at that.  "Okay.  And you're..."

"Extremely powerful and learning," she agreed.  "I figure at the very least it'll help me protect myself because if I have to see one more succuba or incubus, I'm going to go blow them all to bits."

Dean smirked.  "I thought that was Xander's gift."

"It is but he's moving away from the horde that invaded Palo Alto.  As soon as you guys tell him where."

Sam looked at Dean, who smirked.  "Bobby?"

"Xander does have all those books," Dean agreed.

"Angel's will gave them back to Xander since they were his.  Plus all his, all Spike's.  So he has two vampire's crap too."

"Bobby," Dean agreed.  "I'll call Xander in a bit.  Does he know you're here?"

"Yeah.  I told him.  He gave me a hug and told me to be careful.  I don't know why he had the Harry Potter reaction though."  She shrugged.  "I'll figure that out like I will how to date a boy who'll do more than be scared of Xander."

Sam giggled.  "Maybe."

"Not like we'll let you get laid," Dean agreed.

She grimaced.  "But you're not training me.  You told Xander that."

"Good point."  He went to check on his father.  "This is Dawn, Dad.  She's a good witch.  Comes from a hunting background."

"Is a Lady and has half an estate in England," she said dryly.

Sam burst out cackling.  "That's such a bad mental image, Dawn."

"Well, yeah, but I won't shock the old line of Watchers by riding the motorcycle through the house.  I don't want to listen to cranky ghosts."

John got helped up.  He stared at her.  "How do you know about hunting, girl?"

"My sister's the slayer Buffy.  She dumped me off on Xander, who used to hunt with her until he got one body too many around him.  He let me decide and talk to whoever I wanted to so I could make my own decision.  They come for me anyway and I need to learn how to defend myself better.  Otherwise, with my luck, I'll end up a demon's bride some year soon."

"Can you fight?" he asked.

She nodded.  "Pretty well.  My school had judo so I took that.  I told the teacher there were people who could come after me to hurt me thanks to my sister so he gave me what he could of self defense.  Xander did too.  Sam did when he was there."

John nodded.  "We need to hole up somewhere to recover."

"Want to go to England?"

"Immigration would hate me.  I'm technically dead," Dean told her.

She shrugged and opened a portal.  "Whoo-hoo, no INS," she said dryly.  They grabbed stuff and she let them drive the car through.  She went to get her bike and rode it through then shut the portal after them.  She came out and looked around the garage.  "Damn, this place is huge.  I thought it was big in pictures."

"At least nothing will hit the baby," Dean said.

Dawn got off the bike and walked them inside the kitchen.  "Mr. Morgan!" she called.  An older man hurried in.  "Hi, Dawn Summers."

"Mr. Harris said you'd be staying for a while.  Is this your family, miss?"

"No, these are friends.  Xander's my family."  He nodded. "Which way so John can clean up?  Some hooligan unkindly beat him."

"Right this way.  We left the living quarters off the tour."  He led them that way.  "Do you have any bags?"

"On the bike and in the car.  We'll get them," Sam promised.  "Once we get Dad into a bed."  He nodded at that.  He unlocked the door.  Sam went to get their things.  Dawn had two saddlebags so he brought them both.   She had apparently shrank things into them because she pulled out a first aid kit to work on their dad's throat once the caretaker was gone.

"This place is huge," Dean told her.

"Wes's father earned his knighthood and his mother was a Lady.  He left me that title and Xander got the knighthood."  She grinned.  "We share the estate by the paperwork he drew up."  She finished her stitching job.  "There you go, pretty pretty."  She put things up then went to clean her hands, coming back to shrink it and put it back into the bag.  "There we go."  She looked at John.  "You rest and we'll talk tomorrow?  After you apologize to the boys?"

"I can do that," he rasped.  "Thank you."

She shrugged.  "It's what we Harris' do."  She walked off, going to find a room to park herself in.  She could use a shower too.  Then a good meal.

Sam looked at him.  "She's one hell of a girl.  We did good with her.  Her mom too."

Dean nodded.  "Very.  She could be very spoiled."

"Xander tried so hard to spoil her," Sam promised with a grin.  He pulled out another finger to nibble on.  John shuddered.  "It's candy."

"It's disgusting.  Your little psycho friend is strange."

"He's a Xander, what else is new?" he quipped, going to find his own room and write Xander an email.  He needed to hear what Dawn had pulled and they had to send him and Bobby an introduction so they could meet and Xander could park all those books near him.  Bobby trained some hunters so it'd be good for both of them.

"I'm still surprised he's not your boyfriend," Dean said from the doorway.

Sam looked over.  "He never asked except for that one time we were both drunk."  Dean gaped.  He grinned.  "What?"  Dean walked off shaking his head.  Sam ate another finger while he typed the second email.  They'd report how Dawn was doing tomorrow after her first day of training with John.  He was sure to make her miserable.

The End.