To Live With It.
Xander looked at the notes he had been sent. Payday had seen him buying a new fax machine so they could get notes. "All right," he said, looking at Angel's crew. "Wes, I called the guy in South Dakota. Bobby?" That got a nod for that information. "He sent over this information on how things were picking up in his areas. They don't deal with the demons we do. They only deal with possession sort of demons." Wes took it to look over, frowning and making his own notes. "I'm sensing a build-up along the figure?"
"Definitely," he sighed. He got a better drawing of it. "I had someone do the drawing based on the points being used like a constellation."
"Okay, and now what?" Cordelia asked.
"Now, we've got another battle coming," Xander told her. "It's halfway between us." They all groaned. "See, her neck ends just outside LA." He showed her on the picture. It was the same as the one Spike had drawn for him. "The battle we're hearing about is here. It's not been said if it's underground or not."
"There's some caves there. It's desert mostly," Angel said, taking it to look over. "How soon?"
"Two weeks," Spike said from his seat, finishing his last cigarette. "Any idea if Faith'll wake up?"
Wesley looked at him. "She's being kept under magically, Spike. I'm not powerful enough to break it. Tara perhaps?"
"She's guarding Willow," Xander said. "She won't come out of the hospital or the protections. She's cast a 'don't see me' charm on the nurses so she can stay and protect her. Bobby's people found her and asked. She said she's staying there but she'll do what she can if we need her to. She also said she's not as strong without Willow helping her."
"Bull," Spike snorted.
"I know and you know that, but she's still fighting what her parents did to her, Spike," Xander said bluntly. He looked at Wes again. "This is what Spike found out about the fight. It's not technically something we *must* jump into but it's something we should jump into."
"A new clan war," Angel said, taking the information. "The only good thing right now is that Wolfram and Hart have fled the plane."
"Good for you," Spike said. "We've got psycho demons hosting a bonfire tonight."
"I spiked the wood, Spike. It'll release that poison we found in the books to kill them." Xander looked at the stunned people. "Yes, I'm going to use guerrilla tactics, people. It's just us! Everyone sane with a clue is gone." He went back to what Wes was working on. "With that information can we predict when the battle after this is or if it's in their area or ours?"
Wesley nodded. "I know someone who might be able to figure it out. He's into that physics stuff." He looked at him. "What do you want to do, Xander?"
"I want to shut down Sunnydale to save everyone. It's not practical yet."
"No, it's not."
"Any word on where they're hiding?"
Wesley shook his head. "I got a coded message to stay in LA since I've got protection. They moved everything they could with them."
"Can you teach the whelp how to do magical wards and stuff?" Spike asked.
Wesley nodded. "I can once he's not sick from the magic he got through him before."
"If I collapse for the night I collapse for the night, Wes," Xander told him. "We need them on the house."
"I can do some on the house." He smiled. "It's not a matter of passing out. It's a matter of death, Xander."
Xander slumped. "Then we need more magical support, won't we?" Wes nodded. "Got any ideas?"
"No. Not really. The only ones I know are in hiding."
Xander grimaced. He looked at Spike, who shook his head. Then at Wesley. "Have someone find Ethan Rayne. He's powerful, he can handle the chaos going around. He might even help bring it down around here. I need tutoring, Giles is off-plane, and he'll look for Giles for us."
"You *can't* be serious," Cordelia protested, hopping up. "After what he's done to us!"
"Cordelia, I'd kiss the devil's ass if the world wouldn't end," Xander said bluntly. "Making a neutrality pact with Ethan is far below that. Unholy deals for unholy times." She gave him a disgusted look. "You'd rather do it!"
"You're acting desperate, Xander."
He put the paper down in front of her, open to the obits. "Gee, Cordy, I wonder why. We had fifty people attacked last night!" She backed up at that. "We don't have a slayer on this plane of existence. Who do you want to do it? Spike and I are it here. We don't have anyone else to go out when we're sick or injured. Spike's still healing from a broken leg from last night! Hell yes I'm going to do what I have to do. Welcome back to the hellmouth."
She huffed. "It's still someone that should be a last resort. We can find another witch."
"Where!" he demanded. "Put out an ad in the paper?"
"I'll check the covens I know first," Wesley said, breaking into their fight. "Ethan should be a last resort."
"He'd be drawn to this mess anyway," Xander pointed out. "Janus has got to be swearing about this much chaos energy floating around without his permission."
"True," he agreed. "We'll still ask around."
"Sure, if you can find a good substitute with the heft and the ability to survive this, let me know."
"I'll start calling around tonight, Xander." He looked at Spike. "Are you healing all right?"
"Yeah, fed on a victim that was dying. Nearly there. We'll hit patrol once you're gone." That got a nod.
"We can go tonight," Angel offered. "I'll take Wes and Xander. You and Cordelia stay here to correlate where things are going to happen." That got a nod. "Any other information we need to have, Xander?"
Xander handed over something to Wes. "Your prophecy in human speech. You messed up a distance on a line." He groaned, looking over his version. It added depth to the one Xander had found. "Is that one now? If so, which battle are we on?"
"The second," he admitted. "We've just finished it when you closed the hellmouth." He looked at him. "Did you pass this on?"
"To Bobby, yeah. His group are wary but worried. Not that I blame them. The Watcher in Niagra Falls?"
"Is there somewhere but no one knows where," Wesley admitted. "No one will say anything."
"Cordelia, fly up there and check?" Xander suggested. She nodded that it'd be fine with her. "Want to stop in Cleveland too?"
"Not really. Thanks for asking." She pushed back her hair. "Now what?"
"Now, we patrol. You guys try to find a pattern in this mess. Bobby said they've had an upswing in natural creatures going rogue too, Wes."
"That would follow. They'd be affected by the surges in power. Bears?"
"Wolves, other predators. In one case an otter." He smirked. "Nearly killed the guy." He grabbed a few stakes and his sword, going out with Angel. Wesley stayed behind to help and make calls around. He looked at him. "Will you need us for that clanwar?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Probably not. Spike?"
"I'm doing what I can and so is he, Angel. I'm making sure he gets human blood, I'm making sure he's got marshmallows for the blood. We've been finding enough dying victims that he's been feeding from them without pain." That got a nod. "Am I missing a clue here?"
"Not that I've seen. You're handling it fine so far."
Xander looked at him. "I'm not meant to take Buffy and Willow's places, Angel," he said quietly. "Not for more than a few days."
"I know. You'll handle it."
"At least the slayers had skills and strength and cramps to warn them of vampires."
"You'll handle it," he said more firmly.
"I know but that gives me the right to bitch."
"It does," he agreed. He'd complain too if he was Harris. He looked at his present outfit. "Did you take Spike's t-shirt?" No way he had anything that...mundane in his wardrobe.
"Yup. All mine were dirty this morning. Did wash earlier but no real reason to change." He pointed. "Our vamp bonfire." He looked at him. "Stay here." He jogged that way to check, finding them being sick. He staked the vampires and let the three humans go, watching them run off. They tracked them back to safety then went hunting for the ones rising tonight. Too many vampires. Way too many vampires.
Angel walked Cordelia back into their lair, handing her to Fred. "She's asleep on her feet," he said quietly. She nodded, taking her up to her room. "Wes?"
Wesley came in reading something behind him. "If he's right we're all in deep, Angel." He let him see. "That battle he warned us about in two weeks is only a precursor if he's got this one right."
Angel looked then nodded. "Now what do we do?"
"Now, we do what we must." He went to fax that to a number he was sure would get back to someone on the Council immediately, along with his notes about what had happened, what was happening, and what was already in the works. He got back a simple page with a 'stay in LA' warning. He sent it back with 'there's no hunters in Sunnydale other than Harris' and left it there. He went to look at Angel. "They want me to stay out of Sunnydale."
"You took the vows?"
"No, I was never asked because I was a research Watcher. Rupert was forced to by his father. My father didn't think I could handle the field work so I'd end up in England the whole time."
"Wonderful. So we have Harris as a Watcher."
"A guardian," he corrected. "He's not a Watcher. We have training and knowledge the boy doesn't. Not that he's not doing a good job of it without it."
Gunn came out of the office. "They still don't like Harris. Said to stake Spike and kill him to end this problem?"
Wesley snatched it then crumpled it up. "Killing him means that we're all doomed. He's one of the last fighters on this realm. He's also got some power."
"Witches," Angel reminded him. Wesley nodded, going to make some calls. "Plus the physics guy."
"I remember. Thank you." He shut the office door.
Angel handed over what they had on the battle. "Let's see if we can calm them down."
"I'll try to find them for you," he agreed, going to do that. Two clans that large had to be noted even with as many demons as LA had presently.
Angel went to do his own research. That prophecy had a few quirks and he needed to see what was going to happen. If the Council was right and someone had to take out Harris, it should be him so he could make sure he wasn't turned. After all, he'd heard about the wish universe and what sort of vampire Xander had turned into.
Xander answered his phone one-handed while he finished nailing in the piece of trim he was working on. "What?" He listened. Then he sighed. "Can we find him then? Wes, you said yourself it's all we have. Well, Wes, the tough just came through the barrier so the rest of us are going to have to be stronger. Yeah, mixed metaphors. I'm tired. Yay me." He hung up, finishing it up while he considered what he could do. Ethan had ways of avoiding detection but there were things that would draw him every time. He knew a few of them and he had one of them in his possession. So by the time he was done for the day he had a minor plan, just in case.
Wesley sat down across from his contact. "Larry, good of you to meet with me."
"No problem. I still owe you my life. You saved me from that thing."
Wesley smiled. "Truly it only wanted to play with your hair and sniff you."
"It was still disgusting and lacked hygiene. What can I do for you?" Wesley handed over the information he had and explained where it had come from. Plus the prophecies. "So you need probable dates and areas?"
"If you could. I've included that diagram as well, perhaps it does bother the things you work on."
"Wesley, half the things you do bother what I work on, if only because they tend to suspend laws that I consider sacred and carved in stone," he said dryly, giving him a look, getting a smile and a laugh back. "I'll see what I can do. It's nearly time for a semester break. I was going to go fishing but I can withstand the lure of trout for this."
"Thank you. Do you think you could help with one more thing?"
"Something like this?"
"Finding someone the military rather lost. We need his help."
"I'm not sure if Charles can or not. His brother might be able to. Let me send him to you."
"Does he know?"
"No and he's so uptight he'll never know even if it happens in front of him. Charles does remember and his father knows, has for a while as I found out. His brother is simply uptight."
"That's fine. Could you introduce us?"
"I'll let Charles do it because he's walking this way. Charles." He came over and smiled, giving Wes a friendly clap on the back. "He needs our special help predicting when the end of the world will happen this time."
"Charming. How bad?"
Wesley looked at him. "Incredibly. Your college is thankfully a bit outside the radius of the badness this time."
"Okay. Who do you need help finding?" Wesley handed over what he knew. "This is comprehensive."
"He's been an enemy in the past but some of our people handed him to a rogue program a few years back. He's been injured by them. Now, however, we need all the help we can get."
"Desperate times call for desperate measures? Or desperation calls for unholy alliances for the sake of the world?"
Wesley stood up to look at him. "Truthfully, if I could avoid this I would. The only choice we have is him now. The rest of us are being whittled down. That's why that plane disappeared." Charles Epps gaped. He nodded. "Our slayer was on it with her Watcher. They attacked our training center. They burned most of the slayer's family and helpers out. There's two left there and one's new to magic. Not to the field but to magic. He stepped in beautifully but this is not his area."
"And this guy is this area's higher power?"
"One of. He will be hiding. He is damaged. Rupert was incredibly stupid by handing him to the Initiative."
"I'll ask my brother to find him for you. Who do I tell where he is?"
"In there is Xander's contact information in case they should come for me. You two should be safe enough here. It's outside the radius as we know it."
"Thanks for the warning."
Wesley smiled. "I fear it's not going to be a quick ending. There's a few things that have to be stopped before then." That got a nod. "Thank you for helping us." He patted him on the arm and left, nodding at the woman watching them.
"Who was that?" she asked.
"That was a man who once saved us while we were young and out at a bar we should never have traipsed into," Larry said. "I'm going to look this over." Charlie sat down across from him, going over it with him. "Clear problems here. It's spiking but we've got a curve going. Not quite a sine curse."
"No, it's not," Charlie agreed. He looked at what they had measured and how. "Interesting measurement." He frowned at the picture. "I've seen this."
"I have a copy of it on my wall," Larry agreed, sighing a bit. "This is not going to be good." They shared a look and took everything back to Larry's office. They were less likely to be disturbed there. Once there Charlie called his brother to see if he could find the other guy for their people. Apparently they *really* needed the help.
Xander got the call he wanted and smiled. "Ethan. Thank God. Giles was on the plane that got sent off-plane by the demons who're trying to take over all the hellmouths and the world. Buffy was with him. Willow's in the hospital in Philadelphia, and I just got blown open when I had to close the hellmouth," he said in a rush. "How's that for a reason? I'm the only witch on the hellmouth, Ethan. I'm one of two hunters. I'm the only guardian." The other man spluttered, choked, then protested. "Where are you? Miami. Pretty from what I heard. Please. We could use the help. Ethan, listen. I wouldn't normally care and you could go rot Miami for all I cared. Right now, we have people who're using the hellmouth like a train. We've already had one appear. Yes, that way. Travers, before he went into hiding, said it wasn't possible even though I talked to Roger myself." He got another splutter.
"I tried telling Giles that and Buffy hung up on me. I left messages and they said it wasn't happening. Well, gee, it is. Both of them. Is there a third? Should I try to widen the spiral for the prophecy page?" He smiled. "It's me and Spike. Yes, the blond, smoking vampire with the chip Spike. Sending you to them was all Giles," he said when Ethan asked why he should. "That was not my decision, Ethan. I didn't want to do that. I knew they were bad then. Giles has that peculiar blind spot when it comes to you. Listen, just come out here, see what I need to do, teach me wards and what I need, and then you can go back to Miami. No, I'm having to learn from Spike and what Dru showed him. Honestly. I took the oath since it was the only way to close the sucking portal to various hells. White hair, nausea, headache that still hasn't ended?" he suggested when he asked how it went.
"It's closed. I'm in bad shape but it's closed. Ethan, I asked Willow once since it was clear I might have some tiny ability. I asked for something to help with locks and to put around my apartment in case someone broke in. She laughed and said they'd come for me. So no, I have *no* idea what I'm doing most of the time. No, I asked and she said she hadn't put anything to tell her when it was opening on it. She sounded offended when I asked. Then again a car hit her going ninety in Pennsylvania. She's barely out of the ICU and she's got Tara protecting her. That was the training center they blew up, Ethan." He rubbed his forehead. "Ethan, my headache's coming back. Please? I don't want to beg but I'd rather make a deal with something unholy that would eat me and my soul than let this go on. You're less nasty than that and I have some of Giles' blood so you can track him, see if you can get him back onto the right plane of existence. Then you could taunt him again."
He smiled at his protest. "The demons we caught setting the fires here said they did, Ethan. Exactly. And I'm still the only witch in Sunnydale. Please?" he begged. "Thank you. Yeah, I'm here. We're both here. I'm working on a construction site. Hey, out of town is fine. The chaos here might be too much even for you. Has Janus started to swear about us by any chance?" He grinned at the 'he usually does, you mess up things'. "You say some of the sweetest things, Ethan. Thanks, I needed that compliment. Wherever you want to. I'm working on a construction crew. Spike's here at the house. Let me know when you're in and we'll meet. That way you can pick the spot and feel safer. No, they're working for the UN now. We've already beaten their asses. Thanks, man." He hung up and went to take some more tylenol for his head. It was really throbbing now. He hoped Ethan knew how to cure that too. The books looked hopeful on it stopping eventually, once the extra power was gone. He hoped. He hated headaches. It made it hard to think and plan things.
Xander listened to the news while he worked, listening to them go on and on about some new crater that had just appeared in the desert. He called Wes's cellphone. "You guys good? The crater's on the news. You guys okay?" He smiled. "Thanks, Wes." He hung up and got back to work, shaking his head. Angel was hiding but that was fine. The sun was strong in the desert, he'd be fine. His phone rang and he answered it, earning a dirty look from his boss. "What?" He smiled. "At work at the moment, Ethan. Where are you? Yeah, that was Angel and his team. No, working. Dinner? That works. Yeah, it's still open. Seven good or six?" He smiled. "That'll work. Thanks for coming in, man." He hung up and got back to work.
"Harris, are you going to keep chatting?" his boss demanded.
Xander looked at him then around then back at him. "Boss, we all know that I have other problems, right?" he asked quietly. His boss shuddered. He had seen some of his injuries. "One of those was to the people helping the same problems in LA. The one who called me was someone coming in to help the ones here if possible. Sorry but necessary."
"Go home for the day, Harris. You're still limping."
"No, this is a new limp," he said dryly. "Fully a new limp." He looked around. "I can finish. We're not meeting until six."
Xander nodded, going home for the afternoon. He could use a nap anyway. He hadn't been getting many hours of sleep thanks to patrol. He flopped down on the couch, finding Spike giving him odd looks from the garage doorway. "Ethan's in."
"No, too much chatter, I got sent home to nap and heal." He flipped onto his side. "Wake me around five?" Spike nodded and went back to his card game. Xander drifted off after setting his watch alarm. Just in case.
Ethan checked his watch when he saw the boy show up. "Punctual. I do like that."
"I try now and then." He sat down, letting the older man look him over. He handed over the small vial of blood. "A bit old but not that old."
He sniffed it then capped it. "More than suitable to what you thought I'd want it for."
"Think about his reaction if you're the one who saves them," Xander said dryly. Ethan smirked at him for that. "Or hers since they were together." He beamed. "So, do I look sick?"
"Incredibly poisoned by it."
"Wes said the same thing."
"Have you not dumped it back down?"
"How do I do that? I can't find that in the books, Ethan." He leaned closer. "We only managed to save a quarter of the stuff from the Magic Box when they lit it on fire. We're doing good to have what little we do have." He sat up again. "I'm on a finite budget but I can get dinner up to about forty bucks."
Ethan waved a hand. "I have funds, boy." He stared at him. "You can't possibly hope to win on your own."
"Do you see any others jumping in?"
"No," he admitted.
"And I'm not giving up. Someone has to do the deed. Might as well be me." That got a groan. "Which is why I need some basics explained to me. Please?"
"You need more than that."
"Yeah, well, I don't expect you to stay here and help us, Ethan. I know that the idea's not your sort of thing." Ethan glared at him. He leaned closer again. "Later on tonight I still have to go patrol with Spike. It's just us here now. The only things still here are the worst sorts. Everything else fled. I don't expect anyone, much less you, to be here. I'm honest and realistic, Ethan. You run when you get into direct confrontation because you like working behind the scenes and watching your plans go. This would take direct interference and a lot of work. Work that probably wouldn't benefit any plan you have."
"All true, but I could be convinced."
Xander gave him an odd look. "You remember I'm Xander, not Rupert, right?"
"I do realize that, yes. He'd never wear someone else's clothes."
"They fit. Everything of mine burned." Ethan sighed, shaking his head. "It did. So did Buffy's mom's house. The Magic Box. Giles' place. The Bronze nearly went up. The stores the girls liked to shop at. Oz's parents and his former apartment both went up. They sacrificed my parents instead of burning them. By the way, how many prophecies does that page hold?"
"Probably thousands depending on which key you use."
Xander nodded. "I figured as much. My last bit of free time I went over it with another size spiral for translation." Ethan snickered. "It covered something a few years back." The warlock smirked and nodded. "Can you at least help me learn what I need of the basics?" he asked quietly.
"I can and will. Though we will need to dump the energy in you first."
"Okay. If you can show me how to do that. The stupid thing's trying to open again. There's someone else using it as a train."
"Where is missing guardians?"
"I'm thinking Niagra. Cordy went and said he's insane. He's been arrested for killing his family once he snapped. Costa Rica had Kendra's watcher. He retired there. No one can find him."
"You do know you were not supposed to take that vow?"
"Who else was there?"
"It could have some consequences you won't like."
"So does most of my life, Ethan. Or else I'd have been killed a long time ago. Like injuries, sometimes they happen."
"Sometimes being unholy is the only way to beat those that are already unholy?" he asked.
Xander looked at him. "If that's my only choice then I'll take it," he said honestly. "I'm not going to let the world end on my watch. Not unless I'm already dead. I'll be damned if I'm sitting by while it happens."
Ethan nodded. "Then I can definitely start your training. Tonight?"
"Sure. Spike said he could handle tonight if he had to." He looked at the menu. "What was the special of the day?" Ethan handed over a small vial. "This does what?"
"Cures the headache for a while."
"Bless you. Tylenol wasn't." He gulped it then some water to take the foul taste out of his mouth. He smiled beautifully once it was gone. "I could kiss you for that but I'm not gay." Ethan laughed. "Or at least I'm not trying to be at the moment. What was the special?"
"Eeeh, not into fish since the swim team stuff," he muttered, looking at the menu. "I'll go safe and get pasta."
"Get what you want, Xander."
Xander looked at him. "I might be a young guy, Ethan, but I'm not going to bankrupt you by eating myself sick." He looked then made his decision. The waitress came over once he put his menu down. "Are you ready?" Ethan nodded. "I'll have the number eight with garlic bread and tea please? Sweetened with lemon?" She nodded, letting Ethan make his order.
"I'll have the special and water." She nodded, walking off. He looked at him. "You sure?"
"Yeah, nearly got turned into a fish," he admitted quietly, giving him a look. "I don't eat fish since then. Even fish sticks."
"How did that happen?"
"Coach at the high school for the swim team."
Ethan moaned, rubbing his head. "I wasn't even involved. You lot managed to get worse without my help."
Xander grinned. "It's Sunnydale, Ethan. I'm surprised you're not high from the energy going on."
"I'm channeling it back into the ground. As you should be."
"And again, I do that how?"
"I'll show you tonight." Xander grinned. "You'll need to change."
"We have a backyard, Ethan. Can we do it there?" That got a nod. "Then we'll do it there."
"Fine." He smiled as their salads were brought, letting the boy eat his. "How have things bee otherwise?"
Xander looked at him. "The Council's hiding. Angel and his crew just had a clan war to handle." Ethan's fork dropped. He gave him a look. "And I have what sort of poisoning? That should about tell you everything you need to know about how FUBAR this town is right now."
"Oh, dear. I was hoping it was a minor thing, easily cured. Perhaps a small build-up because new guardians haven't been placed yet."
Xander shrugged. "We're hoping we can cure it. That's why I have the white hair." He ate a bite, nodding at the goodness of the salad. He had missed lunch.
Ethan watched him eat. This frail, deluded young man was the last hope of humanity and he was warped already. There was no way they'd survive.
Xander looked at him. "You know very well I've pulled it off before," Xander said before taking another bite, giving him an arch look. Then he grinned while he chewed. "This time will be harder," he said once he had swallowed. "I'll have to take Buffy and Willow's place." He ate another bite.
"You do seem to manage to do the impossible by continuing to survive," Ethan admitted. Maybe there was a small hope yet. If only he could get the boy drained of that excess energy that was making his skin crawl. He finally took his hand and drew it so it could be dumped through his anchors. "Better."
Xander grinned. "Thank you. We love you."
"Tell me that later, Xander." He dug in, eating slowly. The boy was clearly starved, tired, and healing from a few injuries. Why else would he be wearing a vampire's clothes?
Xander woke out of the trance Ethan had him go down into and moaned in pleasure. "Oh, damn, that's great. No headache, no body aches. I love doing this."
"Good, do it every night," Spike said dryly from the doorway. "Called you off today. Your boss nearly got eaten last night; he said that was fine since I had to tell him what you've been doing." Xander shrugged. "Ethan's still in bed. You down?"
"Fully. I feel like my usual self, only my fingers are tingling." He looked at them then shrugged. "Okay." He stood up and wobbled. "Ooh, head rush. Sugar?" Spike handed over the cocoa, making sure his hand stayed in the shadows. "Thanks." He gulped it, heading inside to shower and put on regular, clean clothes since the ones he had been wearing were sweaty. He smiled when he ran into Ethan. "Thank you. I feel like a normal being except for my fingertips."
"That's the magic being available for you," he said grimly. He walked him back outside once he had some coffee from Spike, taking him to teach him what he could and could not do. Though, knowing this one and the ideas Rosenburg had given him, anything might be possible. Even them all surviving relatively intact.
Spike watched it go on. The crash course was going well. The boy'd be fine and he'd be back on patrol tonight. He went to take something for the cuts on his back, then went to sleep. Ethan could watch out for his own student for a while.
Xander and Ethan set the last of the wards on the house together, earning a nod of 'good job' from the older man. Xander beamed and looked at Spike, who was putting on his duster. "Patrol time?" Spike nodded. "How many tonight?"
"Sixteen dead last night. At least six are going to come back up."
"Okay. Let me get an overshirt." He grinned at Ethan. "You can stay here if you want. Or we can come back for you so you can see the hellmouth itself. I can kinda feel it building again."
"I can do that once you've done your patrol, boys." They nodded, Xander grabbing his shirt so he could head out. Ethan shook his head, going to make himself some dinner. The boy was running himself ragged. Back in his early days he would've taken the time to eat a good meal after doing a few more complicated wards. This one was constantly moving, he had to be burning off more energy than he had in his youth. "Or perhaps he's burning off the excess magic that way," he muttered. He checked the doors and windows, then went back to cooking. The chaos around here was so out of control not even Janus would be able to stand being in this town. Later on he'd have to figure out how to weed some of it out and channel the rest so it went to a useful purpose. Maybe he'd use it to find that dratted plane so the slayer could come back home. He turned away from the stove to get a plate from the drainer and ran into a body, staring at it. "How did you get in here?"
The vampire smirked. "Only those with a soul hold it."
"Yes, well, I do have one, thank you." He reached for the stake on the counter, running into the hot pan. He used it to hit the vampire then grabbed the stake. Unfortunately he had pissed the thing off. He felt the bite and moaned, praying to Janus for help, a spell, anything.
Spike walked in and staked it then helped Ethan sit down. He stared at him. "You're gonna go," he said quietly. "You wanna go or you wanna stay?"
"Stay," he whispered. "Please. My work's not done yet."
"Done deal then," he agreed, leaning over to finish the work of turning him. Ethan drank his blood and passed out. He looked at Xander.
Who shrugged. "He consented, Spike. We'll deal with a vampire chaos sorcerer. Put him to bed?" He did that and Xander looked around the house. "How in the hell did it get in?"
Spike went to look. He whistled, bringing him over to look at the drawing in the dirt. "Last night they marked the house with an invitation." They scuffed it out, looking for more. "You okay to hunt?"
Xander loaded a crossbow. "I won't get too close." He went out on his own, going to fry the vamps if he couldn't get them with the bolts. One way or another there'd be less vampires on the hellmouth by the dawn. He was a bit pissed now. He looked up. "You needed the eternal worshiper, Janus? If so, keep him kinda sane, please?" He stomped on, going to stake whatever he could. He was doing all right until he ran into one of the psycho demons and needed pure steel to kill it. He had steel but it was stainless steel that made up his dagger. "Aw, crap," he muttered, thinking what Willow did in this situation while he blocked hits and grab attempts. Then again, she didn't often *hunt*. She patrolled but talked and cheerleaded, supported really. So he did what he wanted to do, setting it on fire. It screamed and flailed, running into a vampire coming up from his new grave. They both fell down and turned to ashes. "Good." He went on, going back to it. He was bruised, his lip was open, his eye was swelling shut, but oh well. It had to be done by someone. He was still a someone.
Wesley got the call and headed over to the college, smiling at his favorite geeks outside of Fred. He even brought her along. "Boys, this is Winifred Burkle. We saved her but before then she was a physics student at UCLA. I thought she might want to look around. What did we find?"
Charlie looked at him. "Did that Ethan guy call?"
"He did. He's in Sunnydale helping Xander now. We can only hope it's enough."
"Good." He pointed. "The drawing's a bit strange but we've got it covered. We had to change some of it based on the assumptions of what a woman should look like back when the prophecy was babbled out. You misjudged some of it." Wesley smiled at the new drawing. The hips and thighs, plus chest area was bigger. "So we'll be good there?"
"I can only hope so. Do we know when the other battles are?"
"Oh, yes," Larry said, handing over that sheet. "It gave a fairly odd time code but basing it on lunar and star patterns gave us that. It happened a few weeks early?"
Wesley looked at him. "Everyone decided to go on vacation at once." That got a groan and a head shake. "My former superiors are presently in denial but hiding." He looked it over. "Then we're good on this next one. It's not for three months."
Fred looked over his shoulder. "And it's in the Cleveland area." They smiled at each other. Not their battle. "Can your friend out there handle it?"
"It looks like a bad thing but it can be cleared out I'm sure." He smiled at them. "Thank you, boys. This was ever so helpful. If you need help, we're here," he said, writing down his number. "If Angel or Gunn answer, tell them you're friends of mine. They'll do it anyway, even if they should get grumpy."
"One thing bothered us," Charlie said, pointing at one. "There's no way for that one to be suddenly starting. It has to build up by the very nature. We couldn't figure out when it started."
Wesley looked then at him. "I'll look into that. Thank you." He gave him a manly hug and Larry too. "I'll get this around to those who need to know. Do stay safe?"
"As safe as we can," Charlie agreed.
"Good." He smiled. "Winifred, if you ever do decide to go back to school, Larry teaches physics and Charles teaches mathematics here."
"Maybe I will. I miss classes and papers and stuff." Charlie smiled at that. "Thank you, guys. You're really great." They headed out, faxing it on their way home. This was too important to wait. Wesley did include the warning about that one battle that would have a subtle beginning.
Somewhere in South Dakota an older man looked at his fax machine, growling at what was coming out. "More information." He read it over, sitting down to call some people. "It's Bobby. We've got a bad thing happening in Cleveland in three months. I need people heading that way. I'll fax it over. The Watchers botched stuff and didn't keep guardians on the Sleeping Lady. You think that's good? Sunnydale's got *two* hunters left. Neither's a slayer. One's a vampire. Yeah, there. It says about three weeks before things start to build to the final event. Thanks." He hung up and sat back to reread it. They had a good probable date. He had no idea how they had figured it out but the figure of the Sleeping Lady had been changed some, the notes at the bottom said that the assumption of the perfect woman's form back when it had been seen were different than they were now. He looked. "Not much. Big tits, big butt. Small head, sounds like most men's ideal even if it is stupid." He put it down and went to make some calls of his own. There was no way one set of hunters was going to be able to handle this.
Xander got the information and looked it over, frowning. "Spike." He came to look, groaning at that. "Can we get there or should we get there?"
Ethan stumbled out of his room, looking at them. "Do we have any blood?"
"Freezer. Put it in for one-ten," Spike ordered. He nodded, going to do that. "You can't leave that long. You'll get fired."
Xander looked at him. "I'm not sure I have time to work and slay, Spike. Not unless I work from home somehow."
"There's a few ways you can do that. I've done it in the past when I needed money," Ethan said, coming out with his mug of blood. "This isn't so bad."
"Can you still use your magic?" Xander asked. He looked at a candle and it lit, then went out. "Good. Then you're not helpless. Spike, training?"
"Starting later," he agreed. He looked at Ethan. "We'll figure out how to best train you."
"Thank you." He gave him a look. "Should I be making obeisance or something?"
"Can if'n you want to," he said with a grin.
Xander hit him on the head. "I don't need to see that. Or whatever sires call foreplay or whatever. Just don't eat me or you'll have to take my spot, Ethan. You'll end up being me, Buffy, Willow, and Giles all at once." He handed over the information. "Wes knew a few uber-geeks that make their friend Fred and our Willow look like me."
Ethan looked it over, nodding slowly. "We're on a slow down for the next month but this next-to-last one says it's a building problem."
Xander nodded. "Should we help with the other ones?"
"There's other hunters," Spike said. "Talk to them, make sure they can handle some of it. Some of it you can't get to."
"I know." Xander flopped down on the couch, looking Ethan over. "You feeling okay?"
"A bit hungry still. I'll have more blood in a second." He reread it. "This doesn't seem totally accurate. Where's the other three that're supposed to be here?"
"Other page," Xander told him.
He looked at the other prophecy, finding a time code. "So, six weeks at most?" Xander nodded. "Well, we'll have to figure out what you need to learn in that time, Alexander."
"Plain, old Xander, Ethan. I hate my full name."
"Of course." He smirked at him. "I should get some of my things from Miami if I'm going to be here for a bit, shouldn't I."
"Probably," Spike agreed. "Got a more comfy couch? Mine's broken."
"Yes but it's rented." He went to make some calls to get his things packed and moved. He'd need some of his things here to help the boy. He had much he had to learn from Spike and being killed by being here when the world ended didn't sound pleasant. That meant his best interests were in the direction of helping end this problem. Still, just Harris to stop it was a bit of a long shot. He looked out to find him napping. "He needs to eat more."
Spike nodded. "We know." He went to arrange things with him. Maybe Ethan'd get his own place and he'd move in there instead of living in a garage.
Xander looked at his boss the next morning, seeing the bruises that were still fading. "Again?"
"You too I see." He looked him over. "You're doing that same thing?"
"Someone has to. The others who used to were on that plane and in a car wreck."
He groaned. "So you and the blond guy?"
"And another guy who just came up from Miami to teach me stuff. Like the blond guy in a lot of ways."
"Interesting." He stared at him again then nodded. "You look like hell."
"Yeah, something bigger and stronger took me on and I wasn't carrying an arsenal. Too heavy."
"You fit to work?"
"No but I'm going to because I still have to pay the rent and stuff. I'm sure my landlord's family would appreciate it even though he got killed four days ago." That got a nod and he went to work. He was still sore and stiff, but he put in his eight work hours and helped the guys that were left. They had apparently lost about a third of the crew. He looked at his boss at lunch. "Shifted to another site?" he asked quietly.
"Left for calmer pastures."
"I can understand that," Xander agreed. "Overtime to keep us on schedule?"
"We're nearly done with this job," he admitted. Xander pointed at the half-finished second story. "I know. We'll get it done soon. Then we can all hide."
Xander smirked. "Eight months, boss."
"That long?" Xander gave him a look and then a slow nod. "Damn."
"Very. Not all here though."
"Even better for you. You gonna be able to keep working?"
"Might be a bit banged up now and then," Xander admitted. "I'm going to try. Like I said, someone has to pay the bills." That got a nod and a small smirk. He looked around then at him. "You know, there's probably a way to hire more guys if we have to."
"I've put an ad out." That got a nod. "Anyone you know?"
"Most of them fled a while back."
"Smart of them. Why didn't you?"
Xander leaned closer. "The town has to have a guardian, someone who's vowed to protect those they can. Them being on vacation the same time as all the other ones is what started this mess."
"So you can't?"
"Not for very long."
"Interesting. Then what?"
"No clue, boss. I'm hoping the people who actually have the job step in sometime soon but they're hiding." His phone rang. "What?" he answered. "Yes, that is how I answer my phone, Ethan. What's up?" He listened to him repeat what was on the news. "Where?" He winced. "The landlord's wife works there. Any survivors? Are they looking for help?" He nodded once. "Thanks." He hung up. "Boss, the college's accessory library just fell in." A few of the guys stared at him. He nodded. "Something like a small earthquake according to the news. Shook that shaky side foundation and it came down." A few of the guys headed off. He looked at his boss. "They're not calling for help yet but he'll call if they do." He called down to the police station. "Hi. I heard about the library. Do you guys need help digging?" He smiled. "Of course. Thank you." He hung up. "No, they don't need help digging. One of the library's ghosts warned them and got nearly everyone out. Only a few were still inside when it fell in."
His boss nodded. "They don't need help removing debris?"
"Not yet. I might go check later to make sure nothing else is helping themselves to the library though." That got a nod. "Anyway," he sighed, finishing his lunch. "Guys, let's start on that second story?" he called, standing up. They finished up and headed to do that. They had to get this job done. No matter how many guys ran off to check on their loved ones.
Ethan and Spike looked around the debris of the library, finding all the magical books that had been stored there easily enough. They were still mostly piled by subject from the shelves falling in. They got them into Spike's car then went to look at the rest of the ruins. Ethan found a doorway, frowning. "There was a catacomb?"
Spike shrugged. "Round here anything's possible."
"Good point." He opened it and they carefully walked down the stairs, finding a whole room full of magical texts. The round room was set up to do rituals, there being a large pentagram etched into the center of the bookshelves and work tables. He carefully walked over to the altar to look. "There's dust. No one's been down here for a while."
The ghost floated in, staring at him. "Who're you to touch my workings?"
"Ethan Rayne," he said, looking at her. "Do you need these hidden from normals or not?"
She blinked. "I'm still using them."
"I didn't know ghosts could cast magic," he said. "I'll look forward to it when I pass over." She glared. "You are."
"I am not! I'm simply out of my body."
"Where is it?" Spike asked. He couldn't smell a living body anywhere. "Don't hear a heartbeat."
"I'm back in the bedroom. My silver cord was severed." Ethan sighed in displeasure but they went to look. She had to stop at the doorway until Ethan did something that sucked her in there and made her look at her skeleton. She gaped then burst out wailing. "NOOOOOOOOO!" The room started to shake.
Spike lit the bed on fire, watching it go up. She slowly faded out as the body crumbled, then the shaking stopped. He looked at Ethan. "Car?"
"Let's gather things. They could be helpful for the boy or me." They went to haul them up to the car, coming back for a last load. He looked at the altar. Natural stone on top of uncut stone uprights. "He can build better. I'll show him how." They headed out, going back to the house, finding an officer staring at it. "Did something else happen?"
The officer looked at them. "You're new."
"He's helpful," Spike said. "What's wrong now?"
"Is Mr. Harris staying here?"
"Usually. He's out for a stroll," Ethan said patiently. "Can we help?"
The guy looked at the backseat that was full of books then at them. "Raiding the fallen library?"
"The magical area underneath," Ethan said blandly. "Before they fall into the wrong hands or are burnt and lost."
"Shouldn't they be? Isn't that the cause of all the problems around here?"
Spike shook his head. "The cause is natural. Half the problems it causes are from people wanting to warp the natural problem."
"Oh." He grimaced. He held out a small envelope. "The symbols from under his parents' bodies."
Ethan opened it to look at it. "To Janus. Interesting. Though their handwriting did suck. There's a mark here to Demeter too." He looked at him. "Whoever did it had not a single clue what they were doing." He walked it over. "This symbol should be placed north."
"Um, no that was west if I remember right."
Ethan nodded. "Their handwriting was off. These two are to Demeter, not Janus like the rest. I don't know what they were doing but I will see if this is a rite we know about." He smiled. "I'm a high priest to Janus and I never heard of this one."
"Thank you. Do you think whoever did it was among those that we've already arrested?"
Ethan nodded. "I'd say it's quite possible. You'd have to ask."
"Most of them died last week, sir."
Xander walked up to them bloody and limping. "Morning, campers." He looked at the symbols. "East?" The officer pointed. "That's a summoning circle. They're calling on a lost hunter's spirit to grant them the abilities to take care of the problems. Probably thinking they could handle it instead of the guardian." The officer gaped at him. He smiled gently. "Underneath what used to be the highschool is a small dent where power gathers, like in any street pothole after a rainstorm." He nodded slowly at that. "Underneath the pothole is a spot that can be used to open interdimensional portals to various hell dimensions." He shuddered. "Exactly. People come here to cause problems because of that. That's why we have such a high death rate around here. Unfortunately, the last guardian was on the plane that got lost. Which means I, who was a backup to the main group, and Spike, who was also a backup to the main guardians, had to step in. The fires? I'm not sure if they're related or not." Ethan gave him an odd look. "It doesn't fit the thing they were doing. Burning us out so that we wouldn't have anything yet calling on a lost hunter's spirit?" He shrugged. "I have a feeling I know who that was. If I'm right they were trying to summon Van Helsing." He looked at the officer. "I'll talk with them later. If it was them I'm going to kick their asses then you can have them." That got a nod and he left. "Be safe and wear holy things," he called after him. "It's a small protection." That got another nod before the officer got into his car and headed off.
"The geek trio?" Spike asked.
"Think so. Any idea where they are?"
Spike nodded slowly. "Other side of the college. What happened to you?"
"Squabbling psycho demons. Saved the kid they were arguing over. Trying to fight over who was going to eat it. The kid's safely with the cops and the demons are gone." He limped inside, going to the bathroom. "Let me shower and we'll head. Then I'll get more clothes at the thrift store tomorrow." He slammed the door.
Ethan sighed, looking at Spike. "Let's pull into the garage?" He nodded, pulling the car in there so they could unload the books into the living room. Xander came out to give them an odd look. "The college's magical library and a personal work area under the accessory library's remains."
"Interesting." He grabbed a shirt out of the washer and put it on, then some jeans, moaning at the stiffness. Then he put on his work boots, grabbing a few things. "Where?"
"Other side of the college. Green house with shutters and flowers."
"Must be Jonathan's house," he said, heading out to his car. That was too far for him to hike right now. It wasn't that long of a drive and it let him go through the drive thru for dinner. He parked and got out, heading around to the back entrance. They all knew that there was. They'd been down there before to deal with them over the Buffy bot. He sighed at the padlock, deciding to kick it in. He walked down there, finding three scared guys. "Thank you for sacrificing my parents. Van Helsing answer?"
"No," one said sullenly. "You can't pick locks?"
"No, I can't." He flopped down to look at them. "Guys, honestly, why are you still here? You know the world's going to hell."
"Buffy will fix it," Andrew said quietly.
Xander stared at him for a minute then shook his head. "No she won't."
"Yes, she will," Jonathan assured him.
Xander gave him a sad smile. "She and Giles were on the plane that disappeared, guys." They gasped. "The problems started because *everyone* but Spike and I went on vacation at once. She and Giles went to England to kick some Watchery asses. Willow's in the hospital in Philadelphia healing from a car accident that punctured her lung. Tara's trying really hard to protect her because they've had more attacks there." They all slumped. A man came down the stairs with a baseball bat and Xander muttered something, making him wander off like he was sleep walking. He looked at them again. "Guys, I'm in over my head. You guys doing that didn't piss me off. Not like I cared enough to care. What did you get? Anything that could help?"
"A hunter did answer, called us idiots and children," Jonathan pouted. "He said that was the job of the stuffed shirts."
"Watchers," Xander agreed. Officers came in through the broken door. "Sorry, guys, had to talk to our version of evil overlords." He looked at them, then hopped up. "Get off their car!" he shouted. The demon sneered and went back to humping it. He looked at the officers. "Gun?" It was handed over with a disgusted look. He shot the demon and it fell down dead. He handed back the gun, shaking his head slightly. "Thanks, guys. Good time too." He sat down again, looking at them. "Did the person say anything else?"
"No, just that," Andrew said. "How did you know? Or do that? That's not your thing."
Xander gave him a look. "Someone had to take their places. It's me and *Spike*, Andrew. Okay, and now Ethan Rayne, new childe of Spike." They all whimpered. "If you guys want to help, come to us. If you guys don't want to help, Ethan was down in Miami. You might look into going down there to cause hell and mayhem. He was apparently having a lot of fun doing it." He grinned. "But it's not safe here. The current apocalypse is known as the Sleeping Lady prophecies." One typed that in, getting the page of gobbeldy gook. "We know. It's got a few different ones on the same page. Basically, we've got some battles from hell here, there's some around the US and the world. The Watchers are in hiding, guys." He stood up. "It's not a bad idea for you guys either. Someone has to keep going if we fall." That got a nod from Jonathan. "Sorry about the door. Slaying plus work equals a tired Xander." He left, walking around the staring cops. He waved, heading back to his place.
Jonathan and Andrew shared a look. "There's major bikini action in Miami and we could get a real tan." Jonathan smiled at that. "Unless you want to stay?"
"I'll make reservations. You get your things packed." That got a nod and they went to pack. Their silent partner would wake up from being vamped soon and he'd pack his own things once he had eaten someone else. They'd take over a major metropolitan city and see if they could use that to take over at least the movie industry so they would show better stuff and less chick flicks.
Xander walked out to go to work in the morning, finding someone on his lawn. "Yes?" he asked. "Are you with our landlord's family? I heard he had died recently."
"No, sir. I'm with the Council. You are Mr. Harris?"
"Yes, but shooting me means that no one's here as a guardian."
He stared. "Shooting you is a good idea. Your jumping in...."
"Was foreseen *ages* ago. Wes found a time code built in. It would've been easier to stop if everyone hadn't taken a vacation at the same time. That page has more than one prophecy on it." He groaned. "The second one dealing with this incidence said that it'd be now, only it went off a few weeks early due to the vacation rush."
He nodded. "All right. What do you know?"
He went to get the information, copying it on the fax machine. He brought out his copies. "This is what Wes, myself, and another hunter and researcher have found out. The other guy's in another circle of hunters before you ask. I'm not giving up his name, he doesn't like Watchers." He stared at him. "Are we getting more help here?"
"We're still assuming you're panicking over nothing."
"Really? Then Rupert's plane wasn't taken off-plane?" He sighed and slumped. "We haven't had an increase and presently don't have any peaceful demons here? Willow hasn't been attacked in the hospital by every demon on the east coast? The UN hunting squad isn't trapped in Central America?" he added dryly.
"No, they are." He looked it over. "Where were you heading?"
"Work but I can be ten minutes late."
"Died and his wife was at the library yesterday. It's possible we don't have one." He shrugged. "Got anything for us?"
"How did you find the dates?"
"Wes called some of his contacts."
"Damn." He looked at him. "Can you handle it?" Xander let out a bitter snort, pointing at his face. "I can see the bruises, lad. Plus the older ones."
Xander stepped closer. "Not even minions are staying on the hellmouth," he said blandly. "We've got ten masters in town and even they're thinking about fleeing in favor of the psychotic demons who're here. Even chaos sorcerers are worried about how much energy there is here. Ethan fucking Rayne got turned here." He went pale and sat down so he looked back, smiling at Ethan. "Truth, wouldn't you have fled by now?"
"I probably wouldn't have stayed closer than the other side of the college," he agreed. "It's a bit ...extreme here. Giving me a dreadful headache. Does it never rain here?"
"Hardly ever," Xander admitted, looking at the Watcher again. "Welcome to the hellmouth. Wanna help? If not, who's in Niagra and the other areas?"
"We're trying to send someone."
"Don't try, do it."
"No one will come out of hiding. Including Travers."
"I'm *so* sending a demon to bugger him," he muttered. The Watcher coughed, trying to hide his smile. "What? He's in serious denial that it's not this but he's hiding. Yeah, way to go." He looked back at Ethan and Spike then at him. "You're looking at the local protection society. Our scanner said someone went to destroy the police station at about three this morning. Do we have orders or something beyond keep the world going?"
"Not yet. Do you have a cellphone?" He wrote it down for him. "I'll get this back to them."
"Wes has been sending in updates."
"Apparently not to research council, boy. We'll do what we can. None of us have taken the oath."
Xander nodded. "Let me know, please. I've got to hit work. Someone has to pay the rent too." He walked around him, getting into his car. "Have a good day, guys." He started the car and headed off, going to clock in. "Sorry, boss. The people who're supposed to do it sent a researcher," he quipped.
He stopped him. "Work's been called, Harris."
"The police station fell in."
Xander looked at him. "I heard. It got attacked around three by the same thing that collapsed the library. I have no idea what that was." He called the house. "Ethan, if he's still there, ask him what could have collapsed the police station and the library?" He listened while he did that. The three options didn't thrill him. "Any clue which it could've been based on what we have and where it is, plus maybe how to kill it?" He nodded slowly while they talked, then smiled. "Got it. Thanks." He hung up. "I can try to take that out, boss. I can't guarantee."
"Go try." Xander nodded, heading to do that. "I'll clock you in today. Don't get dead."
"I try really hard. Being dead would suck." He grinned before getting into his car and heading for the only place in Sunnydale that would have underground tunnels that big. He found the entrance to the old Initiative base kicked open and walked down there, flashlight in one hand, sword in the other. There was a clear sign that something was down here. He moved more slowly, smelling the demons. He heard chanting and sighed, frowning at what they were saying. Humans. Fighting. Cheers. He got the guard when he smelled him, sneaking into the back of the ring area. The remaining cops were being made to fight each other. Xander pulled the thing from his back pocket, sending it down onto the heaviest population of the demons. They exploded and screaming started. He watched as they turned on each other. The cops were abandoned and he snuck that way, getting a nod from one who was trying to defend the others. A demon saw him and attacked so he fought back. He was still sore and it wasn't going to be pleasant. He lost the sword within minutes and pulled up the new stuff he was still learning.
Fire spells were handy. He blanketed the demons with them, making them all scream and race off. He let it go and looked at them. "Any other humans?" he asked. A shaky hand pointed at a hallway. "Go behind me, the elevator shaft. We're under the college, guys." He went that way at a jog, grabbing his sword on the way. He had to use it to jimmy the door open from where some slime had solidified and sealed it. He gagged at the stench, getting the humans who were still living out of there. "Elevator shaft," he called. "Straight ahead." He checked the other bodies, picking up one to carry out. One of the officers took him. "Thanks." He followed them up, heading into the frat house to look around. "This has held up since the Initiative was here. Okay, we're in Lowell House." Someone came rushing in with a drawn weapon. "Freeze," he ordered. "These are officers. They were being tortured in the underground." He looked at them, getting a nod. "Go with them, guys. You'll be safer at home. Let me know if you guys are going to keep a patrol during the day, okay?" He left, heading back to where he had parked his car. It was a long walk but he was only a bit tired. He went to check the hellmouth on his way home. It was glowing. He stepped into the glow and shut it down again. Then he went home to collapse. He was exhausted now.
Ethan watched the walking sleeping man as he walked in and fell down. "What the bloody hell, boy?"
The Watcher leaned over to check his pulse. "He's alive."
Spike sniffed. "He was at the hellmouth. Smells like burned air." He looked at Ethan. "We'll check it tonight." He nodded, going to get what he needed for that. He sniffed him again. "He set off some explosives, smells like burning demons underneath the burnt air. Must've found the ones who took down the cops." He looked at the Watcher. "Now what?"
The Watcher gaped, then swallowed. "I'll send this onto Travers," he said, standing up. "Try to hold it down to what you can."
"Faith's not going to die," Spike told him honestly. "They've got her protected." That got a groan. "Another slayer won't help either." He shrugged. "I've beaten two and the demons here are worse'n me."
He nodded. "I'll let that be known. The psycho demons as he called them?"
"Only the insane and most dangerous." He wrote a list and handed it over. "What we've seen and killed." He looked, going paler. "Exactly. Slayer won't help. The army might."
"I'll see if I can get that hunting squad back, William. Thank you for helping him." He left, going back to his safe hotel room further up the state to put in a report. "Travers, it's William Roth." He smiled at the warm greeting. "You're wrong, it is happening. Harris is having to keep the hellmouth sealed with his body. We have two vampires who're the hunting squad with him in Sunnydale." He finished sending that list. "The list is what Spike, William the Bloody, said they've killed recently. He said even the master vampires aren't wiling to stay in Sunnydale now and the Harris boy just resorted to explosives to save some people." He listened to him complain. "That is what they have, what they've noted, and what's going to happen. Yes, well, the Harris boy is suffering from magic addiction. His hair's bleached out, Travers. He was never meant to do magic. Nor was he meant to be a hunter. Exactly.
"No, Spike said that a slayer won't be any good. He's killed two of our girls and he said they're worse than he is. Perhaps if we can get the hunting squad back from Central America? Yes, they could use it. The town is going to hell. Travers, they took down part of the college and the police station yesterday. I'm fairly certain the people the Harris boy were saving were the officers. He also pointed out something. There was a time code in the second prophecy. Stopping him from jumping in wouldn't have stopped this from happening. No, we need to get that plane back. We need more hunters there. Two vampires and a human boy, Travers. Do you think they can hold it and beat this prophecy? If not, you might want to drink that wine you've been saving for a special occasion." He hung up and called his council together. The boy clearly needed some help with research. What they had was good but the research council had the best researchers in the world.
Xander woke up to Ethan poking him. "The cops?"
"Made it home for the most part. They set the demon on fire when it went for the hospital. It gave them enough time to clear it before the rest of their clan came." He handed him a mug of coffee. "It's down now too and the officers want you to clear out the rest of the clan. Fire spell?"
"It worked when I lost the sword." He sat up to drink the coffee. "Anything else happen?"
"Not much yet, Xander," Spike said from the doorway. "The cops said thank you."
"It's what I do," he reminded him. "Any Feds showing up for us busting through Lowell House?"
"Not yet," he admitted. "Rest of the clan is under the Mocha Pump's block."
Xander nodded, sipping. "How do you kill them?"
"Chop 'em up works best," Spike said. "Explosives might too."
"I'm out," Xander said grimly. "There's none on the site I can grab either." He looked at him. "Unless you know how to make them? I know fertilizer bombs."
"Nah, not me. Dru might've. She picked up some odd stuff."
"Spike, please tell me she's not here?" he begged.
He smirked. "Should just to see your face but she's still in Brazil. Called to wish us luck."
"Good of her," Xander said dryly. He heard a heavy engine stop outside and got up to look out the door, frowning at the people getting out in bulletproof vests. "Damn it. I'm not that mean," he called. He walked out onto the porch with his coffee. "What did we need, guys?"
"Are you Alexander Harris?" one asked. Xander nodded. "We need you to come with us."
"I have to handle something first. They brought down the hospital earlier." He stared at him. "Am I under arrest?"
"No, but you need to explain some things and you're the only one we found in certain files that we can get hold of."
Xander nodded. "Let me deal with the demons in the sewer then we'll see what I can do, guys." He went to put his cup in the kitchen, going to grab something. "Fire spell or guns, Spike?"
"Guns if you've got the new blessed iron rounds, whelp." The agents gave him horrified looks. "You can come with us." He looked at Ethan. "Then we'll see the hellmouth." He nodded that was acceptable. Xander came out with two guns, handing him his usual sword. "Thanks."
"Go with Ethan to check the hellmouth. I had to shut it again earlier. If they want to come they can come with me." He walked out, nodding. "Let's go. I've got to handle this first." He walked off, making them follow. He opened a sewer opening and jumped down, landing and walking off on the sidewalk. The agents climbed down more cautiously.
"Why are there wide walkways?"
"The town was built for demons. This is a handy highway during the daylight hours," Xander called back. "Don't worry, they're deaf." He found the meeting area and groaned. There were *a lot* of demons. He counted and groaned. "Fuck," he muttered, making all the agents give him a horrified look. He pointed. "Bad guys who took down the police station, a library, and the hospital." He moved to get a better view and opened fire, cutting most of them up. A few ran and he shouted something in a demon language, bringing the roof down to block their exit. He finished them off and ran out before the last two were dead. "Damn it." He dropped the guns and stared, then pulled up the power, setting them on fire. The rest of the room went up too and they all backed out. He broke the nearest water main, letting it put out the fire. Then he went to the shut-off valve, closing it off so the water wouldn't leak and flood somewhere. He looked at the agents. "Okay, let's go."
"What were they!" the guy in the lead shouted.
"Harmful things that were psychotic and tore down the hospital and the police station so they could play with the humans," he said bluntly. "Bad things that did bad things and were causing hell in my town. Welcome to the hellmouth, Agent...."
"Epps," he growled.
"Welcome. Now, let's go. It stinks. I'm tired, it's been a long month, and I'm exhausted. I'm taking the place of three others at the moment, and part of the Army that's trapped in Central America. I'm still working my normal job and I'm doing all this." They backed up. "What did you need to know?"
"At our office."
"If I can leave town without the damn hellmouth reopening, we can do that. As long as I can get back for work tomorrow." He led them back up to the street, nodding at the person standing there. "Hey," he told the officer. "I turned off the water line that got broken to put out the fire. Let me know if more of them are spotted?" The officer nodded. "Thanks." He followed them back to their SUV, getting into the back when it was pointed at. Agent Epps got in to drive, taking them out of town. He winced and grabbed his stomach as they passed the town's boundary.
"Stop, Don!" the female member yelled. He stopped and looked back. The boy was nearly passed out. "Back up?" He turned them around and watched as the pain eased as they passed a stone marker. "Whatever that is, it made him hurt." She checked his pulse. "I think he's to the passed out stage." She nudged him until he woke up. "Hey."
"Hey," he said weakly. "Looks like Ethan was right." He looked around then pointed. "Pull over to the garage. It's been closed for months. No vamps there." The agent in charge nodded, doing that. He checked then broke them into the office, sitting down so he could hold his stomach. "Okay, what did we need to know?"
"One of your kind came to see my brother."
"Was his name Wesley?" Don nodded. "Wes was a member of the Watchers Council. He works with Angel at the Hyperion Hotel."
"Why did he involve my brother in this insane stuff?"
"You'd have to ask Wes but he needed someone to figure out when the next battle was. We're a bit short on fighters. One of ours is in the hospital in Philly after a car accident. Another two went down on that plane." They shuddered "Which didn't go down. The demons we captured setting fires last month said they pulled it off this plane of existence. I have no idea if we can get it back or not. Ethan was going to work on that." He slowly made himself ignore the pain. "Sorry. I had to take a vow to protect people to close the fucking hellmouth again." He leaned on the desk, staring at him. "Is your brother all right?"
"He got attacked." He stared at him. "I'm thinking it's because of this."
"It's possible it's a matter of the overflow. Sunnydale usually has about a third more demons than humans in town, Agent Epps. When things started to go south this time, everything less than psychotic and able to withstand the inner rings of hell left for LA. Wesley said his contacts were outside the ring of badness we're having so it's most likely just something that happened because every demon here ran to LA to get away. Even the harmless things."
"There are harmless demons?" the female asked. Xander nodded. "Do you hunt them?"
"No. Never have. Even when we had the person who's supposed to do it here she didn't." That got a nod. "Like I said, I'm filling in. She was on the plane with her Watcher. I was her backup, gear guy, and planning support. Her normal guy. Our witch is in Philly and her girlfriend is trying really hard to keep her alive. We have no idea if we can get Buffy and Rupert back. Or anyone else on that plane. Right now I'm coming up on another battle in two more months in Cleveland. I'm not sure if I need to help there or not."
"If you can't get out of the town," one of the other guys said.
"Yeah, I know," Xander agreed. "There's others who can do the job, normal people who jumped in. They know the same information we do. We've told them. We've been good about sharing. Technically the Watchers are denying it's happening but they went into deep hiding." Epps snorted at that. "Is your brother all right?"
"He's been turned."
Xander nodded. "Take him to Angel. Angel can teach him how to not hunt and kill."
"You can do that?" she asked.
Xander nodded. "You don't have to kill even if you do snack on people and you can eat from a butcher, a blood bank, anything like that. Vampires only need about three pints a night to survive." She smiled. "Angel also has a copy of the soul spell to restore his if he's going to go evil bastard and start butchering humans. I'm not sure if Ethan could do that or not. I can check with him if Angel thinks it's needed. If not, who knows." He shrugged, leaning back some.
"You're bleeding," Epps said.
Xander looked down his shirt then shrugged. "Stitches came open." He looked at him. "It'll stop soon. It was nearly healed. That was about three weeks ago."
"How did this happen?"
"It was supposed to be less than this but everyone who should be somewhere took a damn vacation," he said dryly. "Together at the same time. It left Spike and me here. Instead of the five of us with one gifted so she can fight these sort of things." They all moaned. "We're handling it but I'm about at the end of my energy. Spike and Ethan too. I'm damn sorry about your brother." He stood up. "Most likely it was fallout from all the extra demons in LA. Not this stuff. If it was, Angel should've handled it. He's handling LA's problems."
"Where is he?" she asked.
"Hyperion Hotel. Angel Investigations." He wrote down the number he had for Wes or Fred on the desk calendar, handing it to her. "That should get either Wes or Fred. She'll help you and Wes knew them if he went to them. I don't know how."
"Okay. So we take my brother there?"
"Angel can teach him how to do what he needs to do so he's stable and teach him how to get the supplies he needs without killing," Xander agreed. Don nodded at that. "I'm damn sorry."
"If it wasn't this stuff, then it probably couldn't have been helped."
Xander gave him a gentle smile. "If he makes it this first year, he'll be there to watch over your kids for generations to come," he said gently. That got a nod. "Tell him I wish him luck. To not get stuck thinking. To not brood like Angel does. He can do that and lower lights sometimes."
"How do we handle it if he does go insane?" the same guy asked.
"Holy water burns. Stake to the heart or decapitation kills. Fire will kill. Sunlight burns." That got a nod. "Holy water squirt gun if he's losing it and needs contained. Lock him somewhere, feed him some human blood, wait for him to snap out of it. Sometimes some other demons can drive vampires insane. I don't know why, Angel would. I'm a partially trained pinch hitter here."
"Would he be safe around others?"
"If he's sane, yeah. Angel can tell you that. I can't diagnose without him being here." That got a nod. "Keep him out of Sunnydale, that will drive him insane." That got another nod. "It says something when even the toughest of the tough guy demons, ones who make Jack look like a pansies sucking cock, run from the town." That got a shudder. "That's why I've reverted to tactics that would make others shudder in horror. Like earlier." That got another nod. "I'm damn sorry, Agent Epps. It's possible he'll come out sane."
"I'll get him to him. Thank you for your help. Is there anything the government can do?"
"Close the town except for the hunters. Empty it totally. We're already down to half the human population from deaths or running. There's a demon hunting group through the UN that used to work in Sunnydale. They're trapped somewhere in Central America at the moment. If you can find Riley Finn and let him know he might be able to cover somewhere. We have points of power all across the map and no idea if it'll help to have more people there."
"Any in the US?"
"Cleveland and one in Niagra Falls. Behind one of the falls but I think it's on the Canadian side."
That got a nod. "We'll talk with the higher ups, make sure of what we can do." He shook his hand. "Thank you for helping."
"It's what I do. Has been since I was sixteen." He smiled. "Can I get a ride back to the old high school?" That got a nod and they went back to the SUV to take him back there. He waved as they drove off. Then he went inside. "Ethan, why did I get stomach cramps when I got to the stone marker for the edge of the hellmouth's territory?" he called as he walked inside.
"You did?" Spike asked.
Xander nodded as he walked into the library. "Did. Passed out from the pain." He looked at his stomach. "Popped a few stitches too. The agent's brother got turned. Wes went to him for help on this stuff." Ethan moaned. He pointed. "The glow there is what I closed earlier. It still wears me out."
Ethan looked at him. "You've tied yourself to the power here, boy. That's why mediums aren't supposed to take the vow."
Xander gave him a look. "Did you see any other options?"
"No," he admitted.
"If I use the hellmouth like the others are doing, can I hit another power point?" he asked.
Ethan stared at him. "I don't know," he admitted. "I'll look it up." Xander grinned. "Why?"
"I'm thinking Bobby and I should talk sometime soon in person. He's got more hunters and I don't know how they're deploying or even if I need to hit the Cleveland battle."
"That is a valid worry," Ethan said. He sniffed. "Incoming magic user."
Xander turned to look at the woman walking in. "Hola. You are?"
"Are you the guardian?" He nodded. "You're injured."
"We're the only hunters on the hellmouth, lady. What did you need?" She pulled a gun and he dove, avoiding being shot. He grabbed her and shoved her into the hellmouth's glow, making her scream as it ate her. He sighed, looking at them. "Guys, we good?"
"Ruined my last shirt," Spike complained.
"We can get you more tomorrow, Spike," Xander reminded him. "Did we get any answer from the landlord's family?" Spike shook his head, looking at the hole. Xander walked over to check on it, then shrugged. "I can pull that." He looked at Ethan, who was still squatted down. "You okay?"
"It's a bit shocking the first time it happens," he said a bit too calmly.
Xander pulled him up, looking at him. "Vamps are really unstoppable, Ethan. Don't worry about the gun things." He grinned. "We done here? I could use some cocoa." That got a nod and they headed off together.