Death of Minor Character off-screen. And More Complications.
Xander looked out from where he was resting on the fence to the paddock, frowning at the man he saw walking toward him. "Hey, Ethan," he said, turning around. "What brings you out here?"
"I came to see Sileya. I thought she might need some emotional support from outside of the group."
Xander nodded. "Probably, but she's still in bed." He glanced at Oz where he was riding Bump in small circles. "Why did you really come? Besides to get your book back?" he asked his father, turning to look at him again.
Ethan smiled. "Surely I can visit, Xander."
"Ethan, you never do anything without a purpose." He resisted the urge to stroke his Aunt's pendant. "I want to know why you're being so helpful and nice when I can't give you anything."
Ethan walked closer. "Xander, you exist, that's all that I really need. The knowledge that my lineage isn't going to suddenly disappear."
Xander nodded. "Why else? Even that's not a usual reason. You usually want something more tangible."
Ethan chuckled. "That may have been true the first and second time we met, but now I have a personal motive, not a financial or punitive one. It's truly good to see you and your children growing up."
Xander nodded. "As long as that's the only reason," he said softly, so Oz wouldn't hear. "I don't want to be used, Ethan, I used to get enough of that and it's going to last my lifetime."
Ethan nodded. "I understand, Xander. It's nothing at all to do with Miriam or with any other motive. I'm simply glad that you exist and are all right."
"Why?" Oz said, pulling up behind Xander. "You're usually not this altruistic."
Ethan frowned at him. "I do have personal reasons for wanting him to be all right, Daniel, but they aren't any of your business." He looked at Xander. "Can I go find her?"
"Sure, go to the bottom of the stairs and yell. If she's up, she'll come running. If not, she'll send Homer to tell you to wait while she gets dressed."
Ethan reached over to touch his face. "Thank you, my boy." He walked up and into the house.
Xander looked over at Oz. "Think he's putting us on?"
"No, he smells funny," Oz said, sliding down. "Want to try and ride?"
"Nah, I'll take Strife out in a few. You know how moody he gets when I don't ride him."
"True," Oz agreed, taking Bump's saddle off. "Car." He tipped his head off to the side. "Giles is back."
"Okay." They watched as Sileya and Ethan walked out onto the porch. "Should we warn them?"
"Nope. Giles can be civil for a while." Oz put the saddle over the fence and picked up the hose, going to give the horse a bath now instead of later. "Come on, big guy, let's get you squeaky clean." Bump tried to walk away, but he had been tied to the fence by Xander.
"Is it warm?"
"Warm enough," Oz told him, spraying the thin stream across the horse's side. Bump snorted and stamped his feet. "Quiet, you, you need a bath." He grabbed the bucket he had brought out with him, using the dish washing detergent to squirt the horse's side.
Xander saw Giles come out and grabbed his cane, walking up to the house to stop any impending fight. He got stopped by Sileya. "What's wrong?" he asked her quietly.
"Ethan's sick," she said, giving him a hug. "Don't accuse him of trying to want something again."
"I didn't know," he said, wrapping an arm around her. "I'm sorry. I'll apologize." He let her go and walked up the three stairs, stopping in front of the older men. "Ethan, I'm sorry. I was letting the past get in the way of the future. You're welcome out here whenever you want to see me or Sileya." He nodded at Giles and walked into the house. "I'll go get that book for you."
"Keep it," Ethan said, giving him a smile when he reappeared. "It'll do you much more good than it will me." He patted Giles' hand. "I'm settling some old business," he said as he stood up. "Anytime?"
"As long as it's not in the middle of the night without a call first," Xander amended. He smiled at his father. "As long as you two play nice, I'll go fix lunch."
"No, thank you, Xander," Ethan said, patting him on the side of the face. "I really must go back home." He walked off the porch and around the house.
Xander looked at Giles. "And?"
"The Watchers would like to talk to you, but nothing was said about removing Sileya. That's what I was telling Ethan." He stood up. "I'd best go back to the trailer." He walked down the lawn, going to where he was staying.
Xander shrugged and walked back down to the paddock. By the time he was down there, Oz was finished with Bump's other side and was combing him. "Ethan's sick," he said quietly.
"Knew it," Oz told him. "What sort of sick?"
"No one told me. I'd say really sick though. He's making amends."
"Yeah, that'd be really sick." Oz looked over at Xander. "Sileya's in the barn. Want her to pull out Strife?"
"Nah, I can do that." He walked into the barn and pulled down Strife's saddle, he was the only one it fit so it was his and his alone. "Hey, big red guy," he said, waking him up. "Want to get some exercise?" Strife snorted and pushed his nose against Xander's chest. "Easy," he laughed, opening the stall door to let him come out. "Hold still," he commanded, trying to put the saddle on. "I can't ride you without this," he reminded the horse, who instantly quit trying to get away.
"Here, let me," Giles said, grabbing his bridle.
"He was going to stop," Xander told him, but he gave him a smile. "He likes it when we ride but he still doesn't like the saddle."
"I dare say I wouldn't like one either," Giles said, stroking down the velvet nose. He flinched as his head started to hurt, then he got knocked to the ground as Strife reared up.
"STRIFE!" Xander yelled, trying to grab his bridle to pull him back down and away from the man on the ground. Oz ran in and took Strife outside, making sure to leave plenty of room around Giles. "You okay?" Xander asked Giles, holding out a hand to help him up.
"I have no idea why he did that," Giles said, standing up without using the hand. "Are you all right?"
"I was just hitching on his saddle. I wasn't the one he tried to take the head off of." He looked outside then at Giles. "I'll talk with him while we're out. He won't do it again." Giles gave him a funny look but he walked out and got onto his horse, letting Oz adjust the saddle's girth so he wouldn't fall off. He even let Oz strap his foot in before they took off. "We're going to have a long talk in the woods," he told Oz, tapping Strife with his heel to make him go. Once they were in the woods, Xander pointed the horse away from the usual trail and toward somewhere he could sit and talk to his horse. Once they reached the dead tree, he reached down to unstrap his boot and slid down. He sat on the log and pulled Strife's head down to look at him. "That wasn't called for," he said quietly. "Giles didn't ever hurt me physically and he's trying to mend fences with me now." Strife tried to shake his head. "Yes, I know, it wasn't a happy time for me, but you can't attack him." Strife snorted. "Hey, I'm upset about how he treated me too, but you can't hurt him that way. If you do, they'll make me sell you." He let go of the bridle and stood up, falling over. "Oh, hell," he muttered. He tried to roll over but his right leg cramped up from the unfamiliar way his leg was turned. "Um, Strife," he asked, holding out a hand. "Some help?"
The horse bent his head down and let Xander grab him around the neck, then he backed up. Xander got to his feet and leaned against his horse. "Thanks, Strife," he whispered, patting him. "I love you, you know that, but you don't need to stick up for me with Giles. Yeah, he was an ass, but he's trying to get better now. As long as he gets better, I'll let him come back, but if he starts again, I'll send him away. Okay?" Strife nodded. "Thanks, big guy." He leaned against the horse's side, wincing as he tried to put weight on his leg. "Um, not a good," he told himself. "I think I pulled something." He slowly hobbled over and sat down on the log, tenderly touching his leg all the way down. He winced as he came to his lower right leg, touching the painful muscles. "Strife, is there any way I can get on you without killing my leg?" He looked up and the horse wasn't there, it was a shadowy form instead. "Huh, thought you were stuck as a horse, that's what the other me said."
The shadowy form touched his leg and backed up, turning back to the horse again. He snorted and turned, jogging away.
"Hey!" Xander called, then he slumped in on himself. He trusted Strife. He'd be back soon. He shifted his hurt leg so that it might quit hurting. At least he hoped it would quit hurting soon. He couldn't take pain in both legs and his back.
Oz looked up as Strife came running up to the barn without Xander and went pale. "Giles, watch the kids," he yelled, catching his bridle. "What happened, did he fall?" The horse snorted and shifted nervously. "Come on, let's go." He swung up into the saddle and turned the horse around, heading for the trail. But Strife fought him. He let the horse have it's head when he balked at getting on the trail, watching where they were going. He started to recognize the area, there was a tree that Xander liked to sit and think on near here. He headed Strife that way, and this time he got his way. He found Xander trying to rub his legs, sitting on the log. "Hey," he said as he slid down. "What happened?"
"I fell. We were talking and I had gotten off to look at him." Xander looked up. "I'm sorry I worried you."
"I'm just happy that you're okay," Oz said, helping him to stand. "Which leg?"
"I twisted my right. My left's still aching from the funeral." Xander let himself be helped over to Strife's side and up into the saddle. "Thanks, Oz." He held out a hand but Oz climbed up without the help, sitting behind the saddle. "Home?"
"Yeah, home. Strife, home. To the porch please." He took the reins and turned the horse around, heading for the house. He made sure his arms wrapped around Xander to keep him steady on the ride home. Once he got there, Giles was standing on the porch waiting on him. He let the older man hold the reins while he slid down, then he let him help him get Xander down. "Onto the couch," he told Giles, who was carrying Xander.
"I'm not this crippled," Xander protested.
"I don't want to hear that word from your mouth," Oz reminded him, leaning down to give him a kiss. "Can I take your pants off?"
"I'm wearing underwear if that's what you mean," Xander said, undoing the buttons. He got his hands slapped so let Oz handle it. "It's in my right calf," he sighed, letting Oz take charge for a little while. "When I fell down, I twisted it."
"Okay, let me check," Oz said, but he was pushed out of the way by Giles.
"I have training," Giles said lightly, checking Xander's leg. "Xander, I think you may have done a bit more than pulled a muscle. It almost feels like a tear." Xander pounded his head on the arm of the couch. "It's not as bad as all that."
"Yeah, it is," Oz told him. "If that leg's that injured, he can't walk at all." He looked down at the scarred leg. "Xander, your choice. Hospital or not?"
"Not," Xander said, forcing himself to sit up. "It's a mild sprain. Some time on the couch should make me all better by tonight when I have to go up the stairs."
"Okay," Oz told him, backing down. He knew the Xander Wall of Stubbornness when he saw it.
"You should go," Giles told him.
"I'm fine," Xander told him, the tone of his voice hard and cold now. "I'll stay right here and let Oz get me whatever I need. All right?"
Giles nodded. "If you feel it's for the best, then I'll have to give in. I'll go get you some ice."
"Heating pad. Ice'll make it cramp again. Please?" he asked, going back to being nice.
"Sure," Oz said. "Where'd you stash it last time you used it?"
"Bedside table." Xander blew a kiss at him, watching him go up the stairs. "Giles, I can't go back to the hospital. If I do, then I'll have to sleep down here tonight. Got it?"
Giles sat down beside him and stroked through his hair. "I do understand, but you shouldn't take a chance with such an injury, especially not after what you've just been through. I may be wrong, you may not have torn a muscle, but it's best to be safe in such cases. Even if you did do more than sprain it, they'd only give you an air cast."
Xander shook his head. "I have enough problems walking without having my good leg stiffened. I'll manage."
"All right. I'll back off," Giles said, looking up as Oz came down the stairs. "Let me, I'll plug it in." He took the heating pad and did as he said he would.
"Daddy!" Miri yelled as she came running in through the kitchen. "You okay?" She stopped when she saw the heating pad. "You not okay," she said, coming over to sit on his stomach and give him a hug. "You no go to hospital again," she said firmly. "Me no let you go."
"Shh," Oz said, picking her up to give her a hug. "He's not going back to the hospital, and definitely not to stay even if he had to go. He fell while out in the woods talking to Strife."
"I know, that's who telled me," she told him, wiggling to get down. She immediately climbed back up to hug her father. "You'll be okay. Me help you more."
"I'm already fine," he told her, patting her on the back. "It's okay, I just twisted it. Nothing big. I only need a little rest."
"Okay." She looked at his face then nodded. "You rest. I be good and I watch twins."
"I'll do that," Giles said, but she glared at him.
"No, me do it. You no take them again." She stomped her foot. "You go 'way."
Oz caught her before she could run out of the room. "Apologize. He's not going to take them again. He knows what he did was bad, you shouldn't say things like that to him."
Giles shook his head. "She's right, Oz, what I did was very bad and very hurtful. But I'll never do it again, Miriam. You have my word that I won't take the twins with me and run away again." He held out his arms. "May I have a hug and we go talk?"
"No." She looked at Oz, who shook his head. "Fine," she sighed, letting herself be transferred over to Giles' arms. "We talk. You read daddy a story," she told her Daddy Oz.
"That's a good idea," Oz said, smiling down at Xander. "Would you like a story?"
"Please. But could you read Ethan's book to me again. There's some stuff in there that I want to think about."
"Sure." Oz walked into the library and came back with the book. He sat down under Xander's feet, carefully rewrapping the heating pad around the hurting muscles. "Want me to start at any particular place?"
"Nope, just the beginning," Xander said, shifting until he got comfortable, ending up with Oz under his head instead. "This okay for you?"
"I'm comfy if you are," Oz told him, pulling a pillow over to rest the book on. "Ready?"
"Ready," Xander said, giving him a smile. "Can we do this more often?"
Oz looked startled but nodded. "I think that'd be okay. Maybe at nights?"
"Good." Xander kissed the only place he could reach, Oz's stomach. "Thank you for humoring me."
"Welcome, as always." He opened the book. "Most of my experiences in magic with hermaphrodites have been with constructionists," he read.
Xander looked up as he heard someone tap on the door. "Come in," he yelled, pushing himself up into a sitting position. Ethan strolled into the room. "Hey, Sileya's out in the woods on Strife. What's up?"
"I just came by to drop this off," Ethan said, handing him an envelope. "Please don't open it until after I'm gone."
"Um, can I ask what...."
"I have cancer. Colon cancer to be exact." Ethan sat down in a chair facing him. "I know, it's hard to believe in someone my age, I've had this talk with myself for almost a year now. Unfortunately, this time my will wasn't strong enough to fix the problem."
"Oh." Xander looked down at his leg then back at his father. "How long...."
"Not more than a few months I should hope. It's spread to my lungs, only little spots for the time being, but I hope not to have to suffer too long."
"Can I do anything to help or whatever?" Xander asked, forcing himself to push his legs off the couch.
"I fell while I was having a talk with my horse in the woods. Twisted my good leg." Xander shrugged. "That wasn't an answer."
"No, dear boy, there's nothing you can do." He gave him a smile, a real, friendly smile. The first one he'd ever given any Scoobie. "I've got everything settled now. The only thing that still worries me is Sileya and you."
"I'll be okay," Xander told him, "and I'll try my best to make sure she is."
"I'm glad to hear that." Ethan stood up. "Don't tell her you have that. She doesn't need to worry about my mortality as well as her own. There's enough weight on her shoulders already."
Xander pulled him down into a hug. "Ethan, I may not understand your ways, but I'm beginning to like you somewhat," he said quietly. He let him go and grinned at the smile he got. "Hey, you're my dad. I'm trying to understand, but I won't follow in your path."
"That's something that I never expected of you, Xander. You're a very good man, and good men don't belong in my footsteps." He leaned down and kissed him on top of the head. "Be safe, my boy. I'll be watching, no matter where I end up." He walked out, his face scrunched up in what could only be sorrow, and headed for the woods.
Xander relaxed and looked at the envelope in his hands. He grabbed his cane off the coffeetable and stood up, going to put it in his office where Sileya wouldn't find it.
"What are you doing up?" Giles asked, coming down the hall from the kitchen with lunch for the both of them.
"Putting a letter for Sileya up until it's time for it," he said sadly, going into his office. He came back out and saw Giles still standing there looking shocked. "Ethan won't live forever either," he reminded him as he hobbled past him on his way back to the couch. "Is that peanut butter?"
"And the grape jam that you like so much," Giles said, walking in after him and serving him his lunch. "And some milk, I know you could use the calcium." He smiled at the small smile he got. "What did Ethan need? His book back?"
"No, he wanted to tell me something and he's gone looking for Sileya now."
"I think she's in the barn," Giles said, turning to look out the window. "Ah, he found her. He's talking to her while she's up on Steel's back." He turned back to Xander, who was staring at his food. "What's wrong?"
"Ethan's really sick," Xander said quietly.
"I know, he told me this morning."
Xander looked up. "He's the last of my family, outside of Sileya. My mother died because of Chastity. My father's been missing for years. I didn't have any brothers or sisters from them. Sileya's my only family left."
"Oh." Giles got comfortable while he thought about it. "But you do have your children."
"Yeah, I do, but it's not the same. I'm the head of my family because of my Uncle, who I'll never see again, but I don't want to be the head of it. I'm too young to be the head of my family."
Giles nodded. "In some ways, you are. In other ways, the ones that count the most, you're much older than you appear. And you've still managed to remain innocent through it all."
"And stubborn," Oz said as he came down the stairs with William. "All clean and dry again." The baby made a gross noise. "Or not," he sighed, turning to go back upstairs and change him.
"He likes to be naked," Xander called helpfully.
"I noticed," floated down the stairs.
Sileya came running in the house crying and ran up the stairs.
Xander forced himself to stand up, putting his lunch down, and grabbed his cane. He started toward the stairs but Homer got in his way. "Let me, she needs me."
"She needs to be alone," Homer said quietly. "She's got to process."
"Maybe, but sometimes a hug is the best help for that," Xander told him. "If I'm not wanted, I'll come back down. I won't force the issue." He started up the stairs, going even slower than usual. By the time he got up there, Sileya had locked her door. He tapped on it lightly. "Hey, it's me," he called. "Want to talk?" Something soft hit the door. "If that's a no, I'll leave," he told her.
The door was unlocked and opened and she threw herself into his arms, knocking him back into the wall. "I'm losing him," she cried.
"Shh," he whispered, soothing and comforting her the way he would his own children. "We both are but we still have each other." She looked up at him, tears streaming down her face. "I'm still here, not even a ceiling could take me away from you. Even after he dies, I'll still be here for you. We're family and that's a good thing." He wiped her face off for her and let her go. "Do you want to talk?"
She shook her head, looking down at her feet. "Not really. It just hit me."
"I know. First Buffy made you realize that the job ends when you die, and then Ethan tells you that he's not going to be here forever either. It's a hard thing to take, but everyone has a time to go."
"Please don't tell me God is doing this because it's their time."
"Nope, not really into that theory. Fate, well I'll admit to that since I know it's around. Gods, in the multiple sense, we know are around thanks to Miri. As for them picking the time? I'm not so sure of that. Maybe Buffy's, but I think Ethan's going to pick his own." She nodded. "When it happens, I'll still be here." He reached out and pulled her back into a hug. "I'm always here, whenever you need me. Remember that, Sileya. I'm *always* here."
She smiled weakly at him. "I will. Can I have tomorrow off too?"
"No. Tomorrow, you can come home if you need to, but you have to try and go to school. Unless something really bad happens between now and then," he amended, shifting to get the weight off his now bad leg.
"What are you doing standing up!" she yelled, slapping him on the arm.
"Ow!" He rubbed the sore spot. "Easy on the Xander. He's a fragile guy." He grinned at her. "You better now?" She nodded. "Then I'll go eat lunch on the couch and you can do what you need to while you think." She nodded again, but took his arm as he turned to walk down the hall. "Coming down with me?"
"I could use a PB&J and some cocoa," she admitted. "It's always been comforting to me."
"Hey, that's almost what I'm eating for lunch. You can come join us in the living room if you want. You and Homer both." She nodded, helping steady him as he took the first step down the stairs.
Xander answered the phone, sleepily putting it up to his ear. "Yeah?" he whispered. He closed his eyes. "Thanks. What do I do now?" He nodded. "Okay. Um, he had cancer," he said before hanging up. He turned over to find Oz looking at him. "Ethan's apartment was called in for really loud growling noises. The cops broke in and found blood but no body." He was enfolded in the strong arms. "Thanks. I knew he was going to do it though."
"Do you need to go down there?"
"Yeah, I do. That's why they called." Xander got free and stood up, slowly making his way over to the closet. "Don't wake Sileya," he told his lover. "I don't think she wants to do this part." Someone tapped on the door. "Or I could be wrong," he admitted. "Come in?"
Homer walked in. "Sileya heard the phone ring. Did he?"
"He's not in his apartment and there's a lot of blood. There was also some growling so no one's sure of anything. I was going to go down and talk to them since they wanted me to. If she wants to come, she can."
Homer shook his head. "No, she didn't want to, she just wanted to make sure what it was."
"It was," Oz said, sitting up and turning on a light. "You can both come in here if you want."
Homer gave him a slightly weary grin. "No thanks, Oz, we're good. Thanks though." He left the room, letting Xander get dressed without him watching.
Xander pulled on a shirt over his jogging shorts. "Can I have a hug when I get back?"
"Sure. I don't have anything until this afternoon. I'm all yours to hug and cuddle with. I'll even call Sileya off school if you're not back in time." Oz got up and gave Xander a hug. "Want me to come with you?"
"No, stay here. She's going to explode soon and you'll need to cushion her if I'm not back yet." He got free with a kiss and walked out, shuffling his feet the whole way down.
Oz looked up from making breakfast as Xander walked in and put everything aside to come give him a hug. "That bad?"
"Yeah, he left a letter. I had to explain that he gave himself to the demon he had promised his soul to. That's what all the blood was from." He sighed and went limp. "Can you go into my office and get the letter he gave me yesterday? It's in my top desk drawer in a heavy envelope."
Oz nodded, leading him over to the table first, then going to get the letter. He came back and held it out. "What else can I do?"
"See if Sileya's up?"
"She's in the barn grooming Rose until she's bald."
"This is for her."
Oz nodded and walked out, going to get her. She came back a few minutes later and sat down across from Xander, taking the letter. She opened it and read it quickly, then handed it over. She got up and walked outside, where she kicked one of the porch supports and broke it.
Xander read the letter, his brain hurting as he read it all. "Hell," he muttered, then stopped and shook his head. "Too appropriate." He got up with a grunt and grabbed his cane, heading out to show it to Giles since it said to. "Oz, going down there," he called, pointing at the trailer. Oz nodded, passing him on the way up to the house. Xander stopped to watch Rose roll in the dust for a second, then went to do the horrible duty. He tapped on the door, holding out the letter once it was opened.
Giles came out and sat on the steps, shaking his head as he read it. "I guess he thought it was for the best, but I couldn't have done it." He handed it back. "What about the other things in the letter?"
"I'll go claim them later today, after I get some sleep. I had to tell the police because he left a letter on the dresser. There was a lot of blood in there."
"I'm sure there was. He's no longer suffering though, that's the important thing." He stood up and waved at the inside of the trailer. "Would you like some breakfast?"
"No thanks. I'm going to go take a nap. Oz was fixing food though. You could always come up and talk to him."
"I may," Giles told him with a smile. "Xander," he said, touching his arm. "I'm sorry about everything that I did to you. All the coldness and the rest. You were right about what was causing it. I am trying though."
"Good. I like trying. Trying would be a good thing," Xander told him, giving him a weak smile. "Not right now, Rupert, I'm really tired and this has been a hellacious week. Next week, after the Council has gone, we'll talk." He turned and walked back up to the house, missing the smile.
"Yes, maybe I should do something about them," Giles told himself, going back inside to finish dressing.
Xander walked out onto the back porch as he heard cars coming up the driveway. He moved to sit down on the porch swing, not wanting to wobble in front of the Watchers getting out of the car; it'd definitely make this harder if they thought he was weak. "Hi," he called, waving them up. "What do you need?"
"We wanted to talk to you about what you've been doing for Sileya," the older woman, the leader apparently, said as she sat down beside him. "What happened to your leg?"
"You mean you don't know?" he asked. "I thought you guys were watching us."
"No, the last Council was. There's been a few changes since the last time you ran into one of us. That incident with what's-his-name stirred up a few of us to take control of the Council."
Xander shrugged. "A ceiling fell and hit me. I had to have my knee replaced."
"Oh, I'm sorry." She looked him over. "How are you getting along?"
"Okay enough. I'm only a few months out of the hospital so I'm still rebuilding my stamina." He looked at the other four Watchers. "Did you need to talk to Sileya? She's in the barn right now. Just be careful, she's been having a rough time recently."
"We've heard of that. We don't need to speak to her, just to you." She looked him over again. "How are you training her with your injury?"
"Ethan, her father, arranged for a private fighting instructor in town. She sees him three times a week. I've been doing the other side of the training. The 'this is what you're fighting and this is how you kill it' lectures. She's been doing pretty good. She and Homer make an excellent team."
"Yes, we've heard about him. Is he a half demon?"
"Ask him yourself," Homer called from the kitchen. "They need Sileya?"
"No, just me."
"'Kay, we're in the woods then."
Xander listened as he walked away. "Homer's way protective of her, even more than Angel used to be of Buffy."
"Oh." She looked surprised. "That's good to know. And you say they work well together?"
"Homer's been taking her fight lessons with her. They've become an excellent team. Together, they do what Buffy, I, and Giles did together. All they need is a hacker and a witch and they'd have the same group we did."
She nodded. "That's excellent. How has her training gone otherwise? Any signs of resistance?"
"We've slowed it down this week, what with Buffy dying and Ethan passing away yesterday evening. She needs time off to get herself straight emotionally. She's been doing short patrols, but there hasn't been much activity lately."
One of the other Watchers looked down at him. "How have you been helping her with that?"
"When we first got her, I was one of the ones that showed her where to look for nests. Spike and I helped Buffy take her out and helped her learn the town. We all gave her hints about what to look for in the newspapers, what to look for when she was out shopping, everything that we could think of to help her get a feel for the peculiarities of this town. She's been doing great. Buffy was letting her do most of the patrolling while she handled the bigger messes. Sileya's been doing great, even this week. She worked out a lot of grief in a nest last night."
The man that had asked the question nodded. "But what are you doing about helping her now?"
"I've been helping her by being her big brother and being an emotional support, which is what she needs right now. She's lost almost everything in her life that she could depend on, except us. I've been making sure that she knew she had a stable base still."
The older woman smiled at her comrade. "Enough, Preston." He backed away a step. "Mr. Harris is obviously doing everything to the best of his abilities." She looked at him again. "We're worried that the lack of a *real* Watcher is harming her."
"Wes said she was doing great. Giles said she was doing great yesterday when he evaluated her. Wesley even said that she was one of the better fighters he'd seen. He sparred with Buffy a few times, but he said Sileya was better because she was more even emotionally." He shrugged. "I've done the best I could, and it shows because she's still doing good. It's been almost a year and she's been doing great at her calling. Her schoolwork hasn't suffered, much, and she's been in the normal ranges for emotional stress except for this last week."
"Yes, the comparison between how she was notified and how Buffy was brought across are many. You think she's handled it better?"
"I didn't know Buffy when she first got called. Or Faith. I know she won't go bad like Faith did. If she goes bad, it'll be for a much more personal reason."
"Homer?" the man asked snidely.
"Maybe," Xander agreed, "but I doubt it. They're emotionally tied and I doubt that Homer would ever go bad. Even if he were turned, we have the soul restoration spell and she knows it." He looked back at the older woman. "The only thing that we've been having problems with is that Sileya doesn't really believe in magic. She's seen it operated but it's her last thought. She tends to look for logical reasons for strange events."
"I see." She looked at the others. "Mr. Harris, when we called, you called yourself her temporary Watcher. Why temporary?"
"Because Giles was coming back but he wasn't here then."
"Yes, but from what he's said, you've always taken on that role, leaving him the dryer prophetic work."
"I've tried to do what I could," Xander admitted. "Giles wasn't fond of Sileya when we got her. Partially because of who her father is, and partially because he thought he wouldn't have to do this again. I've always been the buffer between them. I got her hooked into the Buffy network and told her about what we used to do, the truth, not the 'Buffy saved everyone this way' stuff she was getting from Giles, Buffy, and Willow. I even got her hooked into Spike to start her training. I've been the buffer and back-up Watcher, and over time, I ended up taking over the job."
"So, you are claiming rights as her Watcher?"
"Probably, I'm not sure what that means."
She nodded. "I know you don't." She stood up. "We're going to go discuss this amongst ourselves." She looked at the others, who looked grim.
"I'll tell you something," Xander said calmly. "I wouldn't try and change her life right now, you'll end up with another Faith, an emotionally dead one. Same as I wouldn't try and take her away from here."
She looked shocked. "We wouldn't think of it. We might consider bringing another Watcher into the town to help her, but we wouldn't take her from here. It's too safe out here."
Xander stood up. "Lady, let me tell you something. I've dealt with you over my daughter, who's not going to become one of you, and I've dealt with you when you first came for Buffy. I'm not going to let you ruin another girl's life by hurting Sileya. Get over it now, or do it later, but if you try, I'm going to make your life a living hell. I can do that you know." He waved a hand at the driveway. "Leave, now."
She nodded. "Of course. But what did you mean about your daughter? We've never had plans for her. That was to frighten Wesley into bringing her to you."
"Then why was she being monitored," Xander said calmly. "Way back when we lived in town, there was a Watcher spying on us all the time."
She shook her head. "I'm not sure, but we couldn't take Miriam away from you and make her one of us, not with Faith around."
"She's not around," Xander said coldly.
"No, she's not, but she is in control of herself again." She nodded and left, the others trailing after her.
"Worse than bloody agents," Giles said from the doorway.
Xander turned to look at him. "You told them I had been her acting Watcher?"
Giles nodded, holding the door open. "It's the truth, isn't it?"
"Yeah, but won't you get into trouble?"
"Why? I'm not on their payroll. I don't have to listen to a word they say." He smiled at the young man. "I wouldn't worry. Any Watcher they bring out would have to be combat trained and there's only a few that I know of. Most of those are all right to a certain degree, but they won't be able to handle the town."
Xander shrugged. "I'm more concerned with her healing emotionally than with another Watcher showing up. One of them I can deal with. Sileya exploding emotionally I can't." He walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out a can of soda. "You change tonight, right?"
"Yes, we do. Oz has agreed to let me share his space again."
"Good. 'Cause I can't build you your own enclosure in that amount of time." He popped the top and leaned against the counter to drink it. "What else did you tell them?"
"Just that they should be thankful that you took her training in hand like you did. I admitted that I hadn't been the best of Watchers to her and that you had done more than I had for her."
Xander nodded and got back upright, heading for the living room. "I'm going to rest before going to the Judge this afternoon."
"That's fine, Xander. I'll watch out for them to come back." He smiled at his retreating back. With any luck, his plan would bear fruit and Xander would be named her official Watcher. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a piece of chicken, putting it on the plate he had pulled down so he could microwave it.
Wesley answered the door to the apartment and waved the Watcher inside, walking in after her. "I take it you went and verified what I told you?" he asked politely as he sat down on the couch.
She nodded. "Yes, we did. We do have a few concerns though. That man is crippled."
"Actually, once he's fully out of rehabilitation, he should be essentially normal. He's only about three months out of the hospital and he did have a lot of spinal swelling."
"Ah. No one told us that."
"No one should have to," he reminded her. "Sileya's father made it quite clear that he didn't want her associated with us."
"Yes, I know. I was made aware of that as soon as this case was dropped in my lap. Have you been helping him?"
"Somewhat. He knows I'm here when he needs advice and he has called on me before to evaluate her. I've not seen a problem with her training yet. How is she holding up under the emotional stress?"
"She's being coddled."
"That's what she needs then," he told her. "She's not a Slayer like Faith, Cararra. She's a Slayer like the legendary Millia was. She's very strong emotionally but that will be her major disadvantage. She doesn't come from a harsh background, actually from quite a privileged one if what I heard is correct. She's adapted magnificently to the challenges of being a Chosen One and she'll continue to do so. She's got her support built-in there. She really needs to be left alone."
"I know, but that boy can't possibly help her. He can't go hunting with her."
"There's always Oz, Rupert, and any of us if she needs a physical hand. Not to mention Homer."
"Yes, we almost met the boy. He's half demon?"
"I don't know," Wesley lied. "I can't tell."
She sighed. "Wesley, you always were a terrible liar." She stood up. "The boy's physical condition was the only qualm we had about where she was. Can you honestly tell me it won't matter?"
"Yes, I can," he said, standing up. "Not only can I say that honestly, but I can assure you of it. Xander, handicapped though he is, carried Buffy's coffin the other night. Even though it probably hurt him a great deal. He went against Angel when he went bad again. He's even went against Spike before he was chipped. The boy will far surpasses anything that might challenge him, and if he has to, he'll overcome the physical as well. I know he wants to walk normally again. In time, that should be possible."
Spike stuck his head out of the bedroom. "Keep it down! I'm tryin' ta sleep!" He saw who Wesley was talking to and came out to look at her. "Oh, look, the Watchers do come in the other variety." She backed away from him and he snorted. "Like I'd sully my mouth with the likes of you," he scoffed. "That boy forces himself too hard to walk, he'll do it as much as possible as soon as he can. Never doubt that the whelp has the balls."
Wesley patted him on the arm. "Yes, we know he does, he passed them on to Miriam."
Spike grinned. "Oh, the little bit has a set too, believe me. Never met a child like her. Stronger willed than some vampires and demons I know." He nudged Wesley. "Don't worry, we'll make you stronger yet."
Wesley went light pink and started to splutter.
"Spike," Angel called from the bedroom, repeating the often called order in a bored tone, "leave Wesley alone."
"Whatever," Spike muttered, grinning at the woman. "Fancy a shag? You've got to be good for somethin' other'n making lives difficult."
She clutched her neck and backed away from him. "Wesley, control him!"
"I can't do that," he sighed, turning to punch Spike, getting it back equally. "He's not mine to control. You'd have to talk to Angel."
"Spike!" Angel said from the doorway. "Quit picking on the Watcher. You'll only hurt Xander if you keep it up."
She glared at him. "I'd never consider his actions when we deliberate about Sileya's training."
Spike licked his lips. "I'll tell you this once," he spat at her. "You'll not take the girl from him. They need each other right now and I won't have Xander being hurt because of the likes of you." He lunged at her, but Wesley had been ready for this and grabbed him. "Let go!"
"Go," Angel said calmly, coming out to take control of Spike. "He likes Xander, the boy understands him and he tends to stick up for the kids."
She nodded, heading for the door as fast as she safely could backwards. "I'll remember that." She got the door opened and ran out, going back to her companions.
Angel looked down at Spike. "You laid it on too thick," he said as he walked back into the bedroom. "I'm going to finish my nap now. You two, behave." He slammed the door.
"Why do you like Xander so?" Wesley said as he sat down.
"I just do, he's a decent one. Even when I was down, he didn't kick me. Always treated me well, even when I was a dog." Spike went into the kitchen. "Fancy lunch yet?"
"No thank you, I've already eaten," Wesley called.
Spike walked out and looked at him. "That demon of yours givin' you fits again?"
Wesley looked away but he nodded. "I can't stand him," he admitted. "We're still fighting about my feeding."
"You can drink pigs blood like the rest of us, it's just like eating a pork chop." He handed over a mug of blood. "Drink, don't make me feed you." He watched as the young vampire drank something, making sure he kept it down.
Xander sat up as he heard someone knocking on the door, feeling a bit of deja-vu. "Come in," he called, trying to see who it was. The Watcher from yesterday sat down across from him. "So, how did your meeting with Wesley go?"
"He called?" she asked.
"No, I supposed. That's the one thing that you could do, check in with him about what he's seen of Sileya's abilities and training." He forced himself upright. "What can I do to help you today?"
"First of all, I need to know about your condition. Is it permanent?"
"I had to have a knee replaced. I'm going to be dependent on the cane forever but not to the extent that I am now. Eventually, I'll be well enough to walk around and almost not use it." She nodded. "Anything else?"
"I noticed how slow you were moving yesterday. With as long as you've been out...."
He held up a hand. "I twisted my good leg the other day when I fell. That was the majority of that."
"That and the physical stress of the funeral?"
"Yup, that too," he admitted. "There's not a lot of physical activity that I need to help her with. If so, then I have Oz and Rupert to go for me."
"I see. What if they're incapacitated?"
"Then I'll go but I'll be slow. She knows this."
She nodded. "Good. We see no reason why you shouldn't continue to be a Watcher to her. We won't send another one to this town unless you ask for it."
He nodded. "Cool. What about the future Slayer education program Buffy started?"
"We've asked Faith to continue in that vein. Her experiences would be most helpful to the next girls as she had the worse time."
"Buffy used drugs though," Xander pointed out.
"Yes, but she can talk about that same as Buffy used to talk about Faith's problems." She glanced around. "I saw that you had a library. How many of the Chronicles does Giles have?"
"I'm not real sure. I know one's with Blair because he was trying to fix Spike after that spell got him." He forced himself up and led the way into the library, deftly avoiding the boxes of books that Miri had inherited from Ethan. "Look away," he told her. "Almost everything's in here."
She looked around, stopping to look at the book that was out on the table. "Who's the hermaphrodite?" she asked, picking it up. He raised his hand. "Oh." She straightened up. "And you do carpentry? Wood working type of things?"
He nodded. "Yeah. As soon as I'm strong enough, I'm going to finish my training and probably work for someone who makes furniture."
She smiled. "I see. That's even better." She quickly looked through the shelves. "There's a few books we can give you that you don't seem to have. One of them is the Chronicle for a former girl, one of our best before Buffy, whom Sileya reminds everyone of." She glanced around again. "Do you do research also?"
"I do, I used to help do it all the time. Giles does the language stuff though."
She nodded. "Good enough."
"Um, can I ask a favor? We've been looking for an original copy of the prophecy regarding Miri. Giles has an old copy but he said the original was from the time of cohabitation or earlier."
She shook her head. "That's about Buffy's son."
"It's about Miri," Giles said as he walked in, pulling down a book and handing it to her. "We've known about it since a demon came to try and collect Xander because of his grandmother."
She sighed as she handed it back. "I see someone mistranslated back at home. We'll look, Mr. Harris." She smiled at Giles. "We agree with you, he's an excellent Watcher. We'll be sending him a copy of Millia's Chronicles later, along with a few books that we think he might need."
"Just as long as it's not the handbook," Giles said, rolling his eyes. "That thing is practically useless in this day and age."
"Oh, we know. We're presently rewriting it." She winked at him. "Maybe we'll call on you for a bit of it, Rupert." She walked past Xander, giving him a pat on the arm. "I'll leave tonight and make my report. There shouldn't be any problems now."
Xander looked at Giles. "You think?"
"I know. She's the new head of the Council." He looked at the books. "What are those?"
"Miri's inheritance from Ethan. His spell books and other books. Mine are still out in the back of the SUV."
"I'll go bring them in and we'll figure out what to do with them," Giles said quickly.
"I'm keeping them," Xander called after him. "Miri will have to choose her own path." He sat down and pulled over his book, going back to the last section, the one on things that had been made before. He knew that there was a spot that needed filled in the list but he wasn't sure what.