The Chocolate Freak and the Council of Doom and Annoyance.

The newest member of the Council walked up to where Xander was lounging in the sun reading a comic on his day off, clearing his throat to get a grunt of attention from the other man.  "Lord Xander, if we asked would you please not date again?" he asked politely.

Xander gave him a confused look.  "You guys wanted me to marry someone.  I have to date to do that, Homic."

"Yes, but we'd prefer it if you saw someone less....unpleasant."

Xander raised an eyebrow, trying hard not to smirk at him.  "Homic, you have heard of my last true girlfriend, right? Anyanka?"

"Well, yes, but the Council and some of the higher born think it'd be pleasant of you to date someone less deadly.  Your last one was an assassin after all."

"It was nice, she didn't have a contract out for me.  A very nice change in my life."  He grinned at him.  "I don't do it on purpose."

"We know, but perhaps we could set you up with someone nicer and less deadly?  Someone who would be a good helper to you ruling over us all?"

"You can try but most people like that don't understand me and want to be very confused when I try to work."

"I can understand that somewhat, as I don't understand that urge myself, Lord Xander, but we'd still prefer it if you dated someone less demonic than we are.  Someone decent, someone who doesn't want to kill others for fun maybe?  Just someone *nice*."

"If I find one that's attracted to me, you guys'll be the second to know," he promised.  "I really don't do it on purpose."

"There is the idea of a royal concubine, Lord Xander."

"Eww.  I might pay for it now and then but not like that."

"It'd be of her own free will.  Many rulers throughout your human history have had one.  They've often been instrumental to helping get things done around the palace."

"I can't stand politics," he said firmly.  "And anyone I date has to not want to play those sort of mind and power games too."

"I can understand that desire," he said, backing down from that point.  "We can give you a list of nice, suitable young women or men if you prefer."

"If I liked guys, I'd have kept Dean or Sam."

"Ah.  That was the problem with that."

"Yeah, all three of us were straight and Dean and Sam are brothers.  Kinda not good by human standards."

"That's reasonable I suppose.  They do make good family protectors.  Even if half the demons that they'd go after are now too scared to go near them."  He smiled.  "If you want, Estria's cousin is having a ball tomorrow night."  The young man shuddered so hard his comic book rattled.  "We can coach you in all the popular dances.  That way you could meet them in a more casual setting."

"The only dancing I enjoy is baiting vamps at the Bronze sort of dancing, Homic.  That formal stuff you guys do at balls and they do on girl movies is really .... boring.  Very boring looking.  There's no heat, no passion, nothing like that."

"Yes, we do tend to share those sort of things out of the public eye," he agreed.  "How about a nice tea or something?"  Xander just stared at him for a moment.  "Without the diplomats, unlike the last one that you fell asleep during, Lord Xander.  Just an informal thing here in the gardens perhaps?"

"If I must, but no one gets to nag if I fall asleep again."

"We'll keep that in mind, yes.  Thank you, Lord Xander.  I'll have Estria arrange it for you."  He hurried off to report on the success of his mission to get Lord Xander to date *normal* people instead of the ones he seemed to be attracted to.  Seriously, how could one man date something like an assassin and then go to better killer after that?  He and Estria would have to look into his dating past.  Perhaps there was a hint there of what sort of woman he'd prefer.  Xander was back to his relaxing while they did that.  Estria nearly ended up crying because of who and what he had dated in the past.  He, well, Homic decided his husband gave a good cuddle and he went to him for comfort so he wouldn't have to think about their poor leader, who was going to be killed one of these days.  Which meant that they'd need an heir soon.  Maybe a nice surrogate?


Xander looked up from his nibbling for dinner when Estria walked into his suite.  "Problems or just a headache?"  He grabbed his bottle of tylenol, which he seemed to live on some days, to toss to her.

She sat down and took a few with his soda of the moment, staring at him.  "We have to talk and you're not going to be happy."

He grinned.  "Homic still complaining about my exes?"

"No, we went looking in your past to see what sort of girl you were attracted to.  We fear that anyone you date might kill you to take over.  Which is why we need an heir soon, Xander."

He quirked an eyebrow up, then giggled.  "Tara said if I dosed her with holy chocolate from the spring she'd make me able to bear some."

"That would be unethical of her and I doubt her guardian would approve," she said dryly.  "Still, it is necessary for you to start thinking about that.  I do not want that responsibility.  I'll gladly fall back to a diplomatic position once you've found a decent one.  You know that."

"I know.  That's one of the reasons I chose you."  He leaned on the table.  "I did dose Buffy, Faith, John, Bobby, and Tara with it," he said quietly.

"They'll be as dissatisfied with it as you are."

"I know but I wanted someone who had a clue about what was going on in case something happened to me during a problem.  You guys dosed Dean and Sam when we first got up here.  We all spent a good few nights goofy off it."

"We were so sure you were compatible," she sighed.

"If I swung that way, I'd gladly bend either one over."  He grinned.  "But they like girls too."

"I heard."  She blew a bang out of her eyes then looked at him again.  "Some people think you don't want to give it up."

"If I could find someone decent who could do this, I'd gladly hand it over.  No matter how painful that weaning process is supposed to be."  She gave him an odd look.  "I talked to the last true heir.  He went through it."

"Ah.  That thing.  Yes, it's supposed to be very painful and it can cause brain damage.  Though, his father said they'd go through it even though we didn't demand."

"So I can send him a guard?  He seriously needs one from what I've scried in the last few weeks."

"No.  That's against the rules.  Unfortunately.  I wouldn't mind turning my position over to him."

"If I could sneak and dose him I would."

"He'd realize it before he swallowed," she agreed.  "So we've got to start a good heir hunt.  Perhaps someone with some business sense since we both seem to lack it?"

"Madge seems to do good at it.  She explained the budget to me the other day."

"That's good because it was a mess," she agreed dryly.  "My husband explained it to me and even he said it was messy."  She stood up.  "Do try to think about having an heir with someone who won't kill you to take over in their place as regent?"

"If nice girls liked me, it'd be different," he pointed out sarcastically.  "Find me a nice girl who likes me and I might."

"I've been trying for the last few months, Xander.  All the nice girls in the kingdom either want the power you could give them and their families or they wouldn't want you anyway."  She left him alone, going to think.  There had to be some nicer bad girls somewhere in the universes.

Xander went back to his dinner, then went to write Sam an email about the newest problem.  He liked to giggle about his dating problems.  The assassin that hadn't wanted to kill him had even made Dean laugh, or so Sam had said.


Dean looked at Sam when his phone chirped the new email sound, pulling it out of Sam's jacket pocket to upload it while he drove.  He did pull over carefully so he wouldn't wreck or wake Sammy up from his post-vision nap.  He burst out giggling as he read, making Sam hum.  "Email from Xander, Sammy.  They want him to have kids with some nice girl."

Sam snorted, shaking his head but drifting off again, mumbling about saving him from the demons.

Dean sent it to Tara, then put the phone on the dashboard before pulling back on the road they were traveling down today.  Xander would be the world's fussiest father if he had kids.  That kid would never get to do anything fun with him being so fussy.  They'd have to sedate him when the kid was ready to start dating kinky girls who liked sex.


Xander appeared where John and Faith were holing up this week, crawling onto the bed next to Faith and snuggling into her shoulder.  "You're a slayer.  You can save me too, right?" he mumbled into her shirt.

"Depends on what you dated this time," she said dryly.  He gave her a dirty look then put his head back down.  "I don't think I'm the type your people want you to lean on."

"Actually one did suggest you since you're back to being a good girl again and you're pretty, plus you understand about hunting stuff," he admitted.  "They want to set me up with a *socialite*, Faith."

"Worse than Queen C?" she asked.

"So much worse.  The sort that has to talk to her dog for intelligent company."

She shuddered.  "I'm so sorry, X."  She patted him on the back.  "Try to discourage them, 'kay?"

"I have.  I told them we could never be that way.  They did a life review and found our ten minutes of fun and decided I could have you instead."

She shuddered again.  "No thanks.  It'd drive me nuts and so would you.  No matter what Anya complained about the last time she popped in from a job."

He snorted.  "You have no idea.  She was working on my realm and I got told to go shoo her off.  I pointed out that only D'Hoffryn could do that but I did take her to lunch and talk her out of massively cursing that guy to some sort of VD that was going to kill everyone."

John walked in and slammed the door, staring at the pair on the bed.  "Should I go sleep in the truck?"

"He's hiding from the socialite they want him to date," Faith said with an evil smirk.  "Or me."

"I don't think that'd do more than make you both bored."  He sat down to take off his boots, ignoring Faith's grimace.  "I'll clean them later."

"Lock them in the people box?" Xander suggested into her shoulder.

She gave his head an odd look.  "People box?"

"I was dealing with kitty cat people's embassador.  They even keep house cats as pets.  Their cats have litter boxes, they have people boxes.  She said so."

"Was she really old and wearing a sweater?" John joked.

"Nope.  Was kinda pretty and had some pretty, short, striped fur that looked really soft.  But Madge told me if I hit on her I'd be paddled within an inch of my life."

She patted him on the head extra hard until he moved off her.  "He's traumatized."

"I can see why."  He looked the boy over.  "Did you forget to eat, boy?"

"No, John," he sighed.  "I've been very good about working out and stuff."

"Weren't you going to hand it over?" Faith asked.

He gave her a dirty look.  "Unless you want to take it from me, I need an heir, Faith.  They want me to marry and have kids to get a few too."

"Um, no.  Thanks anyway.  I'd go even more insane than I was a few years back."

He smirked.  "You get into a routine and learn how to avoid the people who look like they're about to nag you about something."

"If you say so."

"I managed to avoid Madge for three whole days by sneaking off to go work.  She wasn't happy but I managed to avoid some ambassadors that way too," he said proudly.

"Will that cause problems?" John asked patiently.  "Their sort don't seem to like to be kept waiting from what I've seen."

"One finally decided I was being happy building so he came down to volunteer and talk to me there.  He's pretty cool.  He said one did get upset but they all pointed out I hated complaining people and she was going to complain to me so I ducked her.  I allowed myself to get caught that night and let her rant for over an hour before asking if she had a point.  Then she huffed and told me why she had come to complain in the first place.  Which wasn't anything I could do anything about but hey, her thing."  He shrugged.  "She decided we'd ignore the me ducking her thing and just stay casual acquaintances like we were in the past."

Corsor appeared, giving him a dirty look.  "You may not escape, Lord Xander.  You belong to us and you can't escape that duty.  Even if you are down here warning the Slayer Faith that they're trying to pick out wedding colors."

"I will snap and kill everyone," she vowed impatiently.  "You can quote me."

"I'll do so, Slayer Faith.  Those who realize why he left just sighed in frustration.  They are trying very hard to find a nice girl who might like him."

She burst out cackling.  "Him?  Nice girls?"  She nearly fell off the bed.

Xander pointed.  "See?  There's no such thing as a nice girlfriend.  I was really happy when Anya didn't want to kill me.  Or the assassin that I dated last month."

"Yes, but those sort can't help you rule until you can find someone reasonable to take over for you, Lord Xander.  They really can't.  The public would be most upset.  They're already wary of you because you hunted demons."  He hauled him up.  "Come along.  It's nearly dinner time so you can have some chocolate and pass out before that one diplomat comes looking again."  Xander gave him a confused look.  "The blue, pointy one as you called him?  He's back again."

"I thought we talked already."

"You did.  And now he wants to talk again."

"Yeah, some chocolate might help.  Or did he find a translator this time that spoke one of the ones ours does?"

"Not yet."  He hauled him back to the palace, going to put him into his room then stop the people who wanted him to marry the slayer Faith.  "People, the Slayer Faith said if you tried to get them together she would snap and kill everyone," he said into the council's room, making them all groan.  "That is a quote and she was smiling when she said it.  Mr. Winchester didn't seem to like the idea either."

"Did Lord Xander warn her?" the female on the council asked.

"He was trying to get her to save him I believe."  He smirked at their groan.  "Something about socialites and dogs?"  He left, letting them figure that one out.  He'd hear when they figured out that comment.  He made sure Xander's meal had chocolate in it so the diplomat could be frustrated with him tomorrow.  Then he went to talk to Madge about getting Xander some language lessons.  He really needed to solve some of those problems and learning four or five more might help a lot, right?


Dean leaned back, watching some mindless show on tv, which was the only clear channel this motel seemed to get.  "I wonder if there's a realm of skanky ho demons," he muttered.  "She'd probably fit in really well."

Sam looked over at him, looking really amused.  "You think she's demonic?"

"She doesn't speak the same language you or I do yet she was born here so it's not an immigrant thing.  I figure maybe that's a demonic language.  Maybe the dog's her leader?  Or parent?  She does kinda look like her dog."

Sam snickered, sending that to Xander's email account.  Madge sent back a question so he explained it.  He knew up there someone was going to be complaining about that theory but oh well.  "Maybe.  Madge said that she didn't know of any but she'd look.  Just in case that show should be on a demon network instead."

"That's cool.  If so, tell her to see if there are any pretty ones up here.  That way I can find a decent skanky ho soon."

"Sure, Dean.  Though I'm sure they'd like you to date better too."

Dean gave him a dirty look.  "Unlike Xander, I don't have to have heirs.  Dad has you for that, Sammy."

Sam stuck his tongue out at him.  "Not like I've fathered one, Dean."

Corsor appeared, giving him a look.  "What skanky demon ho?"  Dean turned up the tv so he turned to watch it.  He stared, head tipped slightly to the side.  "No, she's not demonic, just dumb."

"Faith said Xander said the socialite they wanted him to marry was one of them," Sam told him.

"Well, yes," he admitted.  "But she was seen as harmless and not going to get in the way if he had to handle things."  He shook his head.  "If there's a realm of women like that, we'd have to let Lord Xander go there to destroy them.  They'd fight over which one got him first, causing a civil war, and then the victor could be easily killed."

"If you do find one and there's any pretty ones, let me know," Dean told him.

"Of course, Family Protector.  Though, could you possibly help us find Lord Xander a *nice* girl?"

"Some of us don't go for nice," Dean said with a smirk of his own.

Corsor shook his head.  "I know, you go for easy.  Easy is fine as long as she's not going to give him a bad reputation or sleep with diplomats.  Really.  Just help him find someone who won't kill him and us?"

"If we find someone we think he might like, we'll call him down to introduce him," Sam promised.

"Thank you.  We had to stop them from planning on hijacking the Slayer Faith to marry them."  He disappeared to explain that comment to Madge, who would spread it to the others.  Apparently that socialite found it a happy comparison so she wasn't bothered by it, even if everyone else thought it was funny.  Corsor was checking on wherever Lord Xander was hiding this time when he heard the bad news.  "Oh, crud," he muttered, hurrying to find his Lord and Master.  "Lord Xander, the flowering one is back."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "The one I ripped his off of or another one?" he asked, going back to cleaning his weapon.

"The leader of the one who you had to assault to protect yourself, Lord Xander."

He snorted, walking out there with a gun, cleaning it as he went.  He looked up as he got to the main meeting room, staring at that one.  "Did we have a problem or is this another social visit?" he asked, cleaning his gun.

The diplomat stared at him, flowering some.  "We came to make sure there was no animosity between our peoples."

Xander stared at her, then flicked off the safety, checking the clip before putting it back inside.  "No, no animosity."  He grinned.  "Why would you think that?"  That one quit being so happy and backed up a step.  "Though we still can't get behind your former diplomat's plan.  Sorry, we like our people the way they are."

"We could do much if you could talk some into volunteering."

"No thanks.  Really.  We need a population explosion instead of it being eaten away."  She moaned and started to flower again.  Xander shifted his stance, making sure his weapon was spotless before he used it on her.  "Sorry we can't help.  Maybe one of the other ones that share your tastes might?"

"They're not being friendly."

"I heard that."  She moved closer.  He stared her down.  She moaned and flowered more.  He pointed his gun at it.  "No.  Not going to happen.  Sorry," he said quietly.

"You wouldn't," she said firmly.

He snorted.  "You do know who I was before I got all this?" he asked.  She slowly shook her head.  "Xander Harris, of Sunnydale.  Buffy's backup."  She went fully rigid and tried to lunge at him.  He shot her.  It wouldn't kill her but she whined at his ankles.  "Don't even think about it unless you want to be like your former diplomat."  Guards came running.  "I think this one wants to go home since we can't think of how to satisfy her needs.  Unfortunately we need different things that make us happier."  He stared down at her.  She tried to touch his thigh and he shot her again.  That one killed her.  "Good."  He got free of the corpse, looking at the guards.  "No, we don't like her ideas."  He walked off, cleaning his gun again.  "This new one Evarol suggested does really good," he told Corsor as they walked.  "Very good grip, easy pull on the trigger but not too easy.  Little recoil.  I like this brand."

"I'll make sure he knows that, Lord Xander."

"Cool."  He grinned.  "They can send her home with a note if they want.  Or I can."

"Do clean up that mess," he called.

The head guard watched them walk away then sighed at the order.  "She did try to touch him.  Someone get Estria so she can go complain?"  They went to find her, finding she was hiding from this one.  Lord Xander came out with a bigger gun this time, going back with the body himself.  Corsor and Evarol were both jogging to catch up to him.  The body got floated back and Xander followed.  The people there all moaned but agreed to leave them alone unless there was an emergency they could help with, like a killing plague.  Then he came back without having to fire a single shot.  Of course, the demons all had happy times celebrating there being a new ruler and having new visions of happiness to go with their fun.  Xander with a gun was nearly as hot as Dean with a gun according to them.

The Council talked about it the next day but the new ruler sent a message saying she wasn't upset and if they had more pictures of Xander with weapons they might buy a few copies.  It seemed to inspire breeding.  They sent some as a measure of good will and left it there.


Xander appeared behind Dean, shooting the demon trying to sneak up on him and Sam in the woods, then looking back at them.  "Did you know that you're a pinup on that flower dicked realm?"

"No," Dean said.  "I didn't.  Just me?"

"You and your shotgun.  I went there with an assault rifle to make them quit trying to touch me after I shot the last one."  He grinned sweetly.  "They wanted more pictures because we caused a breeding frenzy."

"Ah."  He simply nodded once before shuddering and walking off muttering about a shower.

Sam snickered.  "Really?"  Xander smirked and nodded.  "Hiding again?"

"Madge wanted me out of the palace for a bit.  She said the demons coming would expect me to be sweaty and hot when I came back.  So I thought I'd come help you guys run through the woods.   Them liking me might mean they're hostile, not real sure yet.  So some practice would be good."  He finished with a grin.

"Sure.  There's another six of those like the one you shot around here somewhere."

"Cool.  A nest."  He followed Sam, going to catch up to Dean.  Dean gave him an odd look.  "The new diplomats want me to appear hot and sweaty when I get back."

"They going to invade?"

"I'm not real sure," he admitted.  "But practice is all good."

"Yes it is.  Before the next bad girl decides to try to take you by force."

"No, we stopped her.  She had a small orgy in the weapons room when she snuck in and found it.  She was cute, but not my type.  She was a vamp."  He shrugged.  "I don't like the undead.  I don't see how anyone can do a vampire."

"Me either," Dean agreed.  "Shut up, please?"  Xander grinned but nodded.  "Thanks.  Had mental images I didn't want."

"Someone told me Buffy dated that Angel guy in LA," Sam offered cheerfully.

Xander nodded.  "Her first and truest love but he has a happiness clause on his soul and she's got the slayer duty.  The Powers put them together to work together."

Dean shuddered.  "That's just *wrong*, dude.  On so many levels of wrong!"

"I didn't like it either.  He was all creepy and broody and things and kept being cryptic for fun.  He was jealous.  I didn't think it was a good relationship even if I could've gotten past the whole vampire thing.  She thought I was jealous.  And he was too."

Dean covered his mouth.  "Quit, please?"  Xander grinned but nodded.  "Thank you!"  He stomped on.  "Come on.  Let's take out this nest so I can find something to take the pictures out of my head."

"Whiskey?" Sam suggested, grinning at Xander.  He liked warping Dean's mental state too.  It was a fun game to play with Dean.  "Or are we talking it's going to be a porno night so I'll have to sleep in the car?"

"You can come back if you want.  Estria wanted to talk to someone more educational because I suggested a vo-tech system."

"That might not be a bad idea," Sam agreed.  "Are we going to get ambushed by the people who want you to marry both of us again?"

"Probably since I was before I left."

"You two do realize you're scaring off the demons too?" Dean asked dryly.

"At least two have been trying to circle around us," Xander told him with a grin of his own.  "They decided they wanted to watch us walk."

Dean gave him a dirty look.  "You need to hit that brothel again, Xander."

"Tara told me she was disappointed I went back there instead of finding a real girlfriend.  I told her how they wanted me to have a royal concubine but she glared at my guards for that one."

"You should introduce her to the last one," Dean said sarcastically.

"She's the one who introduced us.  The assassin was taking some econ classes at the same college in her downtime."

Dean squeezed his eyes shut for a minute.  "Did Tara know what she did for a living?"

"Just that she had major bad girl vibes so I might like her.  She had no idea that she was that bad."

"Tara usually has sense," Dean sighed, shooting a demon lunging at them.  Sam got the other one.  Xander was staring at something else so he looked then he opened his mouth slightly.  "What is that?" he asked.

Xander shrugged.  "Don't know.  Never seen one.  Are you friendly?" he called.  It nodded.  "To humans or just to the demons who were trying to eat us?"

"All spawn are fun toys and I'm very good to my toys," he said, staring at Sam.  Xander shot him, making him yelp.  "That was rude!"

"Shit happens," Dean assured him.

"Yes, but that's not what I like my toys to do," he shot back, waving a hand to knock them down with a gust of heavy wind.  Only Xander remained standing.  "Hmm, some magic shields you.  Do you practice?"

Xander snorted.  "They want me to so I quit leaking hellmouth baby energy."  The demon moaned.  "You want me that badly, you come get me, baby.  Then we'll see who's the toy."  He saw Evarol pop in.  "Stay," he ordered.  "My fun."

"Lord Xander...."

Xander glared at him.  "No.  Not unless I'm really injured.  I'm out of practice."  The demon tried to grab him so Xander pulled his large hunting knife out to stab him.  The demon sucked on the injured hand, then tried to grab him again.  Same result.  Since that didn't work he tried the classic lunge and tackle attack.  Xander sidestepped most of it and got him in the back of the neck with the knife, severing his spinal cord with the blade.  Pity.

Dean looked at Sam, who had been knocked into a tree by the gust of wind.  "Sammy?" he asked, seeing the blood on his stomach.  "Sammy?"

Xander came over to look at the injury.  "He's going to need an ER pretty fast, Dean.  Where's the car?" he asked as he took off his overshirt to pack and hold the wound with.

"About two miles back.  Can't you pop him to it?"

"I need to be able to see it," he said, looking at him.  "Evarol, get me some of the sacred spring chocolate and a healer please?" he called.

He was already working on the transport spell.  "If you feed him spring chocolate they will expect that you'll be marrying him soon, Lord Xander."

Xander grimaced.  "Fine, we'll sidestep that."  He grabbed Dean's hunting knife off his belt and slit into his wrist, forcing it into Sam's mouth.  Dean made a horrified noise.  "I have more of the spring chocolate running through me than not, Dean.  It can help."  Sam swatted at him.  "Drink it even if you don't like the taste, Sam."

Sam moved his head away.  "Dizzy."

"That's the chocolate working," he assured him.  "You need more."  He checked the wound.  "It's starting to heal.  Evarol, healers," he snapped.  He went to get one for him.  "Sorry about that."

"S'okay," Sam said weakly.  "Why did you do that?"

"So you didn't end up married to me permanently, Sam.  All the benefits since I've got a lot of it in my system and none of the marriage drawbacks."  Sam nodded once, looking at Dean.

"Hey, if it helps," Dean told him.  "Let me see."  Xander let him see the wound.  "Not so bad."

"It was nearly fist deep before I made him drink it," Xander said quietly.

"I'll remember that."  He helped put pressure on it, making Sam groan.  "You quit.  The healers will be here soon."  The guards came running with two healers, who moved Xander out of their way.  "He helped."

"I'm sure he did," the older one agreed.  "Did we feed him spring chocolate?"

"No, I had some before I came so I fed him some of my blood," Xander told her.  She gaped at him.  He stared back.  "All the benefits without the nasty marriage stuff."

"That's nearly unheard of but I know Wozaataran did that once with his guard during an assassination attempt."  They examined the wound, working a healing spell to help it close.  "It seemed to have helped.  The healing energy is taking more of the wound than it did after the coronation battle."  The younger one handed her something.  "That could help as well."  She used the stored power to add to the spell.  Xander put his hand on her, letting her suck out some of his excess energy.  "Thank you, Lord Xander."  They finished healing the wound, making Dean relax.  "There, that should help a lot."  She looked at the dead demon.  "Did he bat him?"

"Wind gust into a tree," Xander said with a point at the sharpish branch that Sam had landed on.  That got a nod.  "It's gone now."

"Good."  They stood up with Xander's help, Dean too.  "Have him rest," the younger one told Dean.  "He'll need a good quiet week to make sure the healing is complete.  A lot of protein and if you've been exposed to spring chocolate that could help him as well.  We can write a small dispensation for a tiny bit of the diluted and filtered output to be given to him if need be."

"That's cool but we should be okay with some rest and a lot of meat," Dean promised, shaking their hands.  "Thank you."

"Lord Xander gives us many challenging cases," the older one said.  "Including those who need nerve tonics after he's started to date someone new."

Xander shrugged.  "They want me to have kids.  I've got to date to find them a mother unless I take Tara up on her offer to do it on my own."

"That would probably get her in trouble," Dean said impatiently.

Xander shrugged.  "She threatened."  He grinned.  "C'mon, I'll help you get Sam to the car."

"Thanks."  The healers left, leaving Evarol to follow them and get the car door when they finally got there.  He looked at the guard.  "Is it always this exciting around him?"

"Not usually.  Except following when he went to the one ambassador's realm to make sure he didn't start a war by shooting more of them."

"I've got the rest of this nest," Xander said quietly, getting a nod and a look from Dean.  "Take care of Sammy.  He needs fussed over and he said you're the only one who gets to do that."

"I can do that.  Call later, Xander."

"Sure.  I'll let you know a final count."  They nodded and Dean headed off.  Xander looked at his guard.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  If I had realized he had been injured I would've gotten them sooner so you didn't have to injure yourself."

Xander looked at his wrist, showing him.  "Already scabbed over, Evarol.  It's cool."  They walked off together.  "I've got to finish clearing this nest if you're going to be squeamish."

"I did hunt demons, Lord Xander," he sighed, reminding him of it.  Xander grinned, handing him Sam's fallen shotgun.  They went back to tracking it down.  It was a breeder's nest but that meant some of them were slower when they finally found it.


Xander popped in on John, staring at him.  "Sam's okay now.  The healers made sure when I pulled a lucky guess outta my butt to help him."  John stared, dropping his plastic fork.  "The healers finished fixing the hole so he's just fine now."

"Why wasn't he fine before?" he asked calmly.

"The huge demon that interrupted their nest hunt blew him into a tree and onto a pointy branch that got his stomach.  The healers fully closed it and Dean's in high fuss mode.  Even made him eat a double patty burger already."  John nodded once at that.  "So he's fine.  A bit cranky and I finished the nest up for them."

"Why did that demon want them?" he asked.

"Because it wanted to play with the ones that they were tracking.   It called them toys.  Then it wanted us as toys but, well, it went boom splat with a knife to the spinal cord."

"Good to know.  So nothing higher?"

Xander shrugged.  "I have no idea what it was beyond annoying and threatening."

"I'd like to hear from my sons."

"Dean said your phone's saying it's dead."

John looked then groaned, putting it on the charger.  "Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "We know it didn't come because I showed up to get in some practice hunting again.  It had no idea who I was."

"Even better.  Thank you."

"Welcome."  He disappeared, heading back to the palace.  Madge met him, giving him a look over.  "I know, not sweaty but I had to help Sam and Dean.  Then I had to tell John that Sam was fine."

"We saw."  She pinched him on the cheek.  "The diplomat was worried that the hunters would attack you."

"I like them.  They're nice people with good sense.  I understand why they do things.  Unlike most diplomats."  She snickered as they walked off together, Evarol heading off to get a drink and a replacement for the night.  "Anyway, one nest down and the eggs were all burned too."

"That's a good thing," she agreed.  She led him into his office, letting the diplomats see him.  "He's fine.  He had to tell Mr. Winchester his son was all right now."

"That's reasonable," she agreed, staring at him.  "You're very young."

Xander grinned.  "Yes I am.  But I'm also happier that way.  I hear old age makes your joints hurt."  He sat down behind his new desk, staring at them.  "What's happened that I can help with?  I know this isn't a fully social call."

"There's been indications that two realms have been attacked recently by Wolfram and Hart's higher members," she said, staring at him.

Xander nodded once.  "Angel said that they're bad people.  That he's been fighting with them for years now as a Champion.  Plus I know they put a high price on my head already.  Is this just an FYI or is this a 'we need to figure out where they're headed next and we heard you can plan battles' visit?"

"You can?" her second asked, looking very confused.  "You're a peaceful people."

Xander leaned back.  "I'm not Wozaataran.  I grew up on the Sunnydale hellmouth, guys.  I worked with a slayer."  They both shuddered.  "I'm that Xander, yes."  He grinned slightly.  "I planned graduation."

She handed over a slim folder.  "This is all we know so far.  Mostly we came to warn you since we have no idea why but they were looking at this realm from what we heard."

"They do have that high bounty on him," Madge admitted, looking at her boss.

Xander shrugged but was grinning.  "They don't worry me as much as my ex Cordelia does, Madge.  She's meaner and clearly letting Angel handle all the hard details this time so she doesn't have to step in and get messy."  Madge coughed, shaking her head so she wouldn't smile.  He grinned at the diplomats.  "Let me look this over tonight.  I might be able to find some ideas or information for you guys."

"Please do," she agreed, standing up.  "Thank you, Lord Xander."

"Welcome.  Thank you for warning us."  They shook hands and left.  He looked over the information, grimacing.  "Let me see my ex," he muttered, taking it with him to the Hyperion.  He heard a squeak of alarm and looked up at Wesley.  "Wolfram and Hart are at it again, Wes.  This is all we know so far but it was rumored that they're coming after my people.  Which plan for an apocalypse is this one for?"  He handed over the folder.

Wesley read it over, grimacing some.  "I thought we had stopped that one.  Angel?  Gunn?" he shouted.  "Cordelia, Xander's here with some information for us."

She came out of the back area, staring at him.  "You don't look much different."

"I started to invite you up but they might've wanted you to marry me when I protested being married to Dean and Sam," he said with a goofy grin.  "I didn't want you to beat them up this time, Cordy.  How's things?"

"Not bad.  How's things up there?"

"Not bad.  I still get some construction and weapons time in every day or so while I'm hiding from diplomats."  She snorted but was smiling while the others looked over the folder.  Xander looked back at them.  "Angel, one of the diplomats said they've hit a few realms and were looking at mine.  I figured it's either the spring or something else we mine or grow that they need.  If you tell me I can guard it better."

"Your people's spring wouldn't help them any, Xander," Wesley told him.  "It's scared and promotes peaceful feelings."

"Plus longevity and healing skills," Xander added.  "As a matter of fact, I helped heal Sam earlier using some of my blood since feeding him directly from the spring to help him would've meant we'd be marrying within a few days."

"Interesting," Wesley said, considering it.  "They might like it for the longevity properties but I can't see the use in something magical."

"They do have that bounty on him," Cordelia reminded them.  She moved closer, letting him hug her.  "I should still pout."

"It was nearly two weeks of former heirs saying they didn't want it," he assured her.  "Kinda boring in some spots when it kept being the same thing over and over.  Then a battle or two at the end before we had to protest being married."

"Huh.  Well then I guess I'm fine without it."  She patted him on the cheek.  "I know you can email."

"I thought I sent you one the other day," he defended.

"You did but it was nearly nothing, Xander.  Write more often.  It'll keep you from being so bored."

"Probably not enough," he assured her with a grin.  He kissed her on the cheek.  "They wanted me to marry Faith too.  They didn't like me dating Anya.  They sent me to shoo her off the other day when she was up there working.  So we had lunch."

"I can see why they didn't want you to date Anya, but I doubt they'd want Faith as their queen," Wesley said.  "She's not inclined to do queenly things."

Xander grinned at him since he looked disgusted.  "They decided she'd understand about my past and help me when I absolutely had to hunt or stop me if she had to."

"Ah.  That makes slightly more sense," Wesley admitted, shaking his head to clear it.

"They tried to get me to marry a dog-toting socialite after Faith."  Cordelia burst out cackling at that image.  He smirked and nodded.  "Yeah.  Not exactly my type. I'm kinda surprised that they didn't come for you yet."

"They know I'd yell," she said, punching him on the arm.  "Any other good news?"

"MaryBeth made Buffy date a human this time.  She's finally laid off Spike being there and helping stuff, but she didn't like him lusting over her.  Buffy said they had a sparring session and talk in a cemetery one night," he said with a cough and a slight grin.

"Spike wrote and said that MaryBeth had earned his respect," Angel admitted grimly.

"Buffy said she's a lot like Dean and Sam's father John," Xander said with an evil smirk.   "Only she likes bubble baths after the really nasty patrols."

"Then she's probably helpful," Cordelia agreed.

"John got a few other hunters to come in and help her.  Some rotate out every month and a few stayed.  And one got turned," he finished with an evil smirk.  "But Willow resouled him and he's being all helpful and learning from MaryBeth and Spike."  He leaned closer.  "Remember me ranting and complaining about the flower dicks?" he asked quietly.  She grimaced but nodded.  "Their queen showed up.  She had no idea who I used to be and tried to pounce when she found out.  I kindly escorted her body back.  Now they think me and my P-90 and Dean with his shotgun are pinups to promote breeding."  She sat down on the floor from the cackling she was doing, unable to stop.  He grinned at her.  "They asked for some pictures in trade."

"That's so *bad*!" she squealed, still giggling, rolling around on the floor now.  "You're so much worse now."

Xander grinned.  "I'm finding a lot of bored time.  I have to do something now and then."

Wesley patted him on the shoulder.  "Let me get you our file on Wolfram and Hart while Cordelia calms herself, Xander.   We think we know which Senior Partner is behind those attacks and what he may be after."  He walked over Cordelia, trying hard not to smile.  Xander Harris being a force for breeding was a good laugh.  Those poor children wouldn't be normal if their parents told them how they were conceived.

Angel cleared his throat while Gunn helped Cordelia off the floor and to the bathroom.  "How's being a ruler going?"

"Not bad so far.  I'm still hiding from diplomats.  Usually by going to volunteer on a building crew.  There's been no great emergencies since the coronation.  I've been working with the guard commanders to start a National Guard unit for emergencies and attacks.  Just in case and all that."  He shrugged.  "There's some really strange species of demons who've sent diplomats.  Some not even Giles had anything on.  I've sent him my notes, plus to Sam so he can spread that around where it's needed.  That way others know what's peaceful and what isn't, plus about a few of the other realms that're trying to live in peace.  Did you know that there's some demons that look a lot like the goblins in the movies?"  Angel slowly shook his head.

"There are.   They're a bit grunty but still decent.  They do have warlords but a common overlord over them.  Chosen by single combat between the warlords when one's getting old or frail.  There's these little guys who look like the pictures of fairies you see in fairytale books too.  Wings, the one who came had bluish skin, blonde hair, all that."  He grinned.  "They were kinda ballsy and grunty too but they only wanted to remind me that we didn't really like each other because chocolate messed up their wings and there was a diplomatic incident a few centuries back.

"I pointed out I wasn't around then.  They snorted and called me a baby and too young to know anything.  So I told them what I did know while pointing out that I wasn't the nice, peaceful, calm sort Wozaataran was.  I also pointed out I knew what pepper spray was.  They're allergic because it can eat their wing tissues.  She gave me some grudging respect and said they'd come if we had an all-out war somewhere on the realms."

"I haven't heard of either of those," Angel admitted.

"Neither had Giles so I sent him the diplomatic briefing sheets I got given before the meetings.   Madge even typed them up in a format he can shove into the books if need be."

"I'll have to get a copy from him," he decided.  "I've heard you're searching for better heirs?"

"I know I'm not cut out to rule anything permanently, Angel.  Someone's got to take over for me some day.  My council wants me to date and have kids who can be trained into their jobs.  Though they don't want me to date to find someone."

"You do date  horrible things," Wesley reminded him as he came out of the office.

Xander grinned.  "The assassin Tara introduced me to was really kinda nice.  She wasn't going to torture anyone.  She wanted kids.  They liked her until they found out what she did for a living."

"How did Tara meet an assassin?" Wesley asked.  "I heard she was a gentle, sweet girl."

"She is but Marigold was taking some econ classes at the school Tara's at now.  They shared a study group."

"Ah, I see.  That makes more sense than Tara knowing assassins."  He handed over the folder with a smile.  "That could help and I printed off what we had on that apocalypse in the making so you can hopefully find why it's attacking realms to stop him."

"I'll do what I can.  Let me know if they up the bounty on me again?"  He grinned at Angel.  "Sam, Dean, and I agreed.  We like you a lot better now that you're not brooding and cryptic anymore."  He disappeared.

Angel blinked a few times.  "I wasn't that bad," he told the ceiling.

"Yes you were," Cordelia called from where she was resting.  "You were the saint of cryptic stalking back in high school."

"Whatever," he muttered as he walked off.  "Let me know if we need to take action down here to stop that problem, Wes."

"I can do that."  He called Giles, leaning against the old check in desk.  "Rupert, Wesley.  Xander was just here to get information on Wolfram and Hart.  He said he's been giving you new demon information for the books?  May I have a copy?"  He smiled.  "Thank you.  No, he mentioned some species Angel hadn't heard of.  Warrior pixies and things."  He beamed at Cordelia since she was leaning out of the office.  "That would be wonderful.  Thank you, Rupert.  No, he's went back home once we gave it to him.  He said a few realms have been attacked by one of the senior partners.  Wonderful.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "He'll mail me a copy this week," he told her.

"I'll be watching for it."  She went back to her resting.  She needed a rest after that long cackling session.


Xander walked into the council's chambers, finding no one in there.  "Huh, usually they're in here.  Is it a rest day, Corsor?"

"No, Lord Xander.  It's lunch time."

"Decent."  He walked out, finding most of them in the palace cafeteria.  He sat down with them, after motioning the guard captain over.  "The diplomatic visit earlier was to talk about these people attacking a few realms."  He handed over the original information.  They stared at it, then grimaced as a group.  "This is what Angel and his team in LA have on them."  He passed it down.  "Including on the senior partner they think is the backer of the attacks.  We heard that they're looking this way.  We need to know what he's after so we can guard it or if it's about the bounty on me."  He stood up.  "If you'll tell me whatever it is, I'll work on plans with the guards to help guard it while making plans to stop him."  They nodded.  "Cool.  I'm working with the new recruits this afternoon if more comes in, guys."  He walked off.

The whole council stared at the head of the guards.  "I'll see what information we can wrangle beyond what was brought to us," he agreed, going to talk to his sources in town.   Not that Angel didn't have good sources but not all of it was objective or in the right spot to hear the right things.  That had certainly ruined lunch for the day.  And possibly dinner and breakfast.

Xander found Evarol looking over the new recruits.  "Are we teaching them to use a sword and guns or just guns?" he asked as he walked up to him.

"Swords are our usual," he admitted, looking at his boss.

"Yes, but only some demons use swords these days," he pointed out.

"I don't see the harm in training all the guards and these recruits in how to use guns if necessary.  It could come in handy if there's another attack."

"Wolfram and Hart have been looking this way."

"Then we'll definitely do that and teach some of the guards about artillery too," he decided, going to pick out who he'd trust with higher weapons.  On the way, he went to talk to John Winchester.  "Sir, can you please find us a weapons master who can train on higher weapons?  I know Xander and I both know a lot about guns but we want a few who've been trained in higher artillery as well.  Just in case you know."

He nodded once.  "I can ask around, Evarol.  Is it another attack?"

"We're not sure yet.  Wolfram and Hart is looking our way after attacking a few realms.  I'm sure he's talked to their nemesis in LA already for information but he did suggest the new National Guard recruits be taught guns as well as swords.  We're picking a few of the guards to train for artillery as well."

"That's a sensible plan.  I'll ask around."  The guard bowed and left.  John went back to his supply shopping.  Who did he know that wouldn't mind working for some peaceful demons and Xander but who could do the job?  If Caleb was still around, he'd have suggested him in a heartbeat.  Once he had paid, he called the guy who took over Caleb's supplies to talk to him about it.  Ellen had spread the rumors of Xander already so he only had to tell him that they were going to work for him as an explanation of why he was looking.  Everyone already knew that boy couldn't stay out of trouble even if he was tied to a chair inside a vault.


Xander found what they were looking for and brought it to the guard commander, who looked very rough.  "Long night?" he asked as he walked in.

"Quite.  Two of the guards ended up in an honor duel with some of the high born sons."

Xander snorted.  "I heard.  The idiots decided to take what they wanted without the wishes of the people involved being taken into account.  Or so said one of the young men they wanted to own."  He put down the book.  "Are your guys okay?"

"They're fine, Lord Xander," he said quietly, staring at him.  "My men did demand that they stop it and did start it."

"Protecting someone who can't do so is honorable in my book."  The commander smiled at that, nodding slightly.  "What do we know about this?" he asked, pushing the book over.

He looked then at him.  "It's mythical, it's never existed, and if asked, that's all I'm to say."

"I have the feeling that's what the lawyers for hell are after."

The guard commander grimaced.  "It's still mythical."

"So's a philosopher's stone but I found one in the vault the other day," he said dryly.

"Good point.  Well...."  He considered it.  "If they had firm rumors of it being here that might be.  Why that thing specifically?"

"Because the other two realms they attacked are where the thing's creators were from," he said simply, letting him see that information.  The guard commander muttered a swear.  "If so, can we subtly protect it?"

"It's nearly lost to time, Lord Xander.  There's no way anyone can get it even if they knew exactly where and when it slipped the realm."  He stared at him.  "They should know this.  They're the reason it disappeared."  Xander held up another sheet, letting him see it.  The other man went pale, taking to reread.  "This can't be.  They were there."

"There's some higher powers behind Wolfram and Hart," Xander said calmly.  "Like the Powers That Be from what I've heard rumored."  That got a single nod.  "If so, this could be another ploy to start a war for control again.  Which we don't want."

"No, we don't.  Especially not on this realm."

Xander shook his head.  "They can't access it from here.  It has to be with the person who was there when it disappeared."

"Only five people were and all five are dead."  Xander pointed at a line, making him mutter a louder swear.  "He's in danger?"

"He's in a lot of danger.  I sent a message to his email in case so he knows that it's a possibility that they might come after him.  They do have an office in his city."  That got a nod.  "But... he's also an officer."

"I know that.  They'll protect him."

"We hope so," Xander agreed.

"Damn it, that's bad news."

"It is.  How do we protect it better since he's the only one that can call the stupid thing?"

"It's semi-sentient, Lord Xander."

"It's still stupid to fight over an artifact just because it might have some power left.  It's like fighting over who goes home with the easy chick at the bar.  Pointless.  I want all of us out of this series of battles however we have to be."

"We'd have to destroy it.  Which could destroy the whole fabric of the universe."

"Okay, that's good to know."  He considered it.  "What else can we do with it?"

"We can pass it on somehow."

"How?"  He crossed his arms over his chest.

"I don't know.  We'd need another artifact to retrieve it and then we'd have to make it meld with someone."

"So if we had something, like say The Key?" he asked.  The guard licked his lips but nodded.  "Which is in human form at the moment."

"Oh, dear."

"Oh, yeah.  So can we use that to get it?  Or can they if they know?"

"They can and probably would."

"Then let me warn Buffy."

"She knows who's hiding it?"

Xander leaned down.  "The monks made her little sister to shield it," he said quietly.  "Then gave her to Buffy."  The guard commander reached for a flask.  "Do that later.  Tell me where the risk is and make sure he read that email."  He went to the portals, tuning one to Sunnydale so he could go warn her.  He walked out of it and into the Magic Box, finding Buffy doing her nails at the counter.  "You're going to have some major issueage."

"How bad?' she asked, not looking up from her nail polishing.

"Wolfram and Hart can use Dawn to get an artifact that they lost during a battle a few centuries back that can destroy the fabric of the universe if it's destroyed or can open any portal to any time on any plane anywhere and anywhen."

She paused her brush and looked at him.  "Seriously?"  He nodded, looking serious.  "It's not April Fools or anything up there, Xander?" she made sure.

"Sorry, Buffster.  Wozaataran and the others at that battle shoved it out of the present fabric of space and time.  It'll take the power of a major artifact that can open things like portals to get it."

"Aw, crap.  Mom's going to shit kittens for Spike."  She finished that nail and capped the bottle, blowing on the wet nails.  "Any idea when they're coming?"

"They're still searching for the site where it went missing.  I don't know how long they could keep Dawn and I'm not sure if they do either."

"Wonderful.  Wolfram and Hart are the bad guys Angel and them fight, right?"  He nodded.  "Even worse.  I'll get with him."

"Wes is with him."

"I know."  She grimaced.  "Can you kinda tell Mom and Dawnie?"

"Sure."  He walked out, heading there, finding MaryBeth at the same time since she was coming out of the donut and coffee shop.  "C'mon, we've gotta talk.  Dawn's at the gallery?"

"Should be.  Why?" she asked, taking a sip.

"Major issues," he said with a grin.  "It's spring time again!" he said happily as he walked in.

"Does that mean we've got an apocalypse?" Dawn demanded from her mother's desk, looking up from her homework.  "Hi, Xander."

"Hi, Dawnster."  He gave her a hug.  "Yes it does and they want you to get the artifact out of the void for them."

"Charming.  And what's in it for me?"

"No clue but it's Wolfram and Hart.  Angel's bad guys of the year."  He smirked.  "The artifact got intentionally shoved out of time and space during a battle against one of them.  They want it back.  It can open portals to any time, place, realm, anything."  She shuddered.  "But it's out of reach because it's between the fabric of the universe.  If it's broken it can unravel the strings.  If not, it's a powerful thing."


"Dawn Summers!" her mother snapped.  "Even an apocalypse isn't reason to swear."

"Unless you're in the middle of it with a sword when you need artillery," Xander added with a grin and a hug for Joyce.  "This even made Buffy quit doing her nails.  She made me come tell you."

"Thank you for the warning, Xander.  When do we think it could be?"

"They're still trying to find an access point.  They'll need her to get it for them.  Only one person knows where it went missing and he was very young at the time."

"So maybe not an issue?" MaryBeth asked hopefully.

"With them being the lawyers for hell?" Dawn asked dryly.  "Sure, not a one!" she assured her.  MaryBeth grimaced and sipped more of her coffee.  "Got liquor in there?"

"There's days it's a good idea," she said blandly.

"My guard heard that the key was available to be stolen and has been stolen in the past and reached for a flask," Xander said cheerfully.  "Which is why they want to attack our realm."  He looked at her.  Then at Joyce.  "Less than Glory was but probably worse than grad was if they get her."

"I'll keep that in mind.  We'll add extra guards on Dawn's routine, Xander.  Including to and from school."

"We can handle that," MaryBeth assured her.  "How long before they can't use it?" she asked Xander.  Who shrugged.  "Do we know anything?"

"Just what I found in the books.  Have Giles look up the Battle of Wozball."  She nodded once at that, going to tell him that.  He looked at Dawn.  "If you want more help, tell Dean.  He's used to being an overprotective big brother to Sam."

"I might do that.  Maybe he can make Buffy quit stalking me when I go to the mall with friends."

He leaned down.  "Buffy and other girls in our year used to go to the mall to sneak and see their guys and have fun in the bathrooms at Sears," he hissed.  She smirked back.  "She knows *exactly* why girls go to the mall besides to shop."  He straightened up.  "She doesn't want to be an aunt anytime yeah, stalking is probably going to keep going on, Dawnie."

"Fine.  Not like I'm meeting boys.  I'm mostly cover so Susan can meet hers and have snuggles and gropes in the bathrooms in Bed, Bath, and Beyond."  Her mother gave her a horrified look.  "Not my doing, Mom!" she defended.

"I'm having a talk with her mother," she muttered, going to find her phone number.

Xander smirked at her.  "Ice cream shop?" he asked quietly.

"Single presently but in the past," she admitted with a wicked grin.  "Didn't get caught either."

"Good job."  He patted her on the head.  "Be extra specially careful.  We'd hate to have to destroy the universe to get you back.  It might end up odder than usual when Willow tries to put it back."  He disappeared.

She smiled as she went back to her math homework.  Xander was pretty cool and he understood teenagers and their needs.  His realm must be fun to live in.  Her mother huffed out of the office, going to the cookie and brownie shop.  "I'll be here," she called.

"No you're not.  Come on, Dawn.  I'll buy you a brownie."

"Sure, not like I'll pass up chocolate."  She hurried after her mom.  She needed a brownie to consider being kidnaped again.  This time by evil lawyers.  If that wasn't a redundant statement.


John stomped into the Magic Box.  "MaryBeth,  you needed help?"

"Whole lots of help," she agreed.  She pointed at the girl she had handcuffed to a chair.  "Wolfram and Hart need her to go through with their current evil plan."

"Why?" John asked.

"She's got the Key in her."

"What key?" he asked.  She showed him the book on it, letting him skim it.  "That's in the hell?" he asked the girl.

Dawn shrugged.  "The monks were trying to protect it from Glory.  Fortunately she's already gone," she said with a grin.  "Now they need me to open the portal to get the ultimate key to any time and place because someone kindly shoved it into the fabric of space and time's weave."  John shuddered.  "Only three artifacts might open the right spot the right way.  Two have the ability to destroy or warp it, which would destroy time and space's weave.  Only I'm going to get it back here safely.  Which is why she *so* overreacted because I was out having sundaes with my girlfriends while Buffy was stalking me.  Xander said she needs lessons from Dean."

"He'll be here tomorrow," he said bluntly.  She grinned at that, wiggling some.  He looked at MaryBeth.  "Are they close?"

"We've seen one scouting the town.  We took him out already.  Found his ID card in his wallet afterward.  I need help planning this one, Winchester.  You're the better Marine for this job."

"I can help," he agreed.  "Dean and Sam can help Buffy watch her.  How soon do they need it?"

"No time limit that we've found.  They can use it whenever they get it."

"Where do they have to go to get it?" he asked, sitting down at the research table.

"Xander's realm.  That's where the battle that got it hidden took place.  That's why they were attacking the original maker's realms to find it."  He grimaced at that.  "They know, Xander put them on alert.  He warned the only person who's still alive and was there as well."

"Good.  Will they need him?"

"They'll need to know the exact spot," Dawn told him.  "So I can bleed and reopen it."

"Is he guarded?" he asked.

"He's a cop, he's also the former heir," Dawn told him.  "He went on a multi-lingual swearing fit according to one of Xander's guards who went to warn him at home a few days ago.  A very long, loud one that got some of his coworkers in uniform called."

John smirked.  "That's probably a good reaction.  Any other happy news?"

"She made Buffy date someone living this time," Dawn said with a happy grin.

John smirked at MaryBeth.  "He still dangerous?"

"Hell yes," she said, looking at Dawn then at him.  "But better than the attraction she was showing for Spike."

"Probably true," he decided, standing up.  "Can you guard her until I can get Dean here?"

"Sure.  We can handle tonight but Buffy's in hyper fuss mode according to Willow.  Stalking isn't really becoming to her.  She's getting stress lines and her boyfriend is scared of her at the moment, thinks she'll snap and make him have stress relieving sex."

He grimaced.  "I'm sure she's done it before."  He shrugged.  "Let me call Dean to warn him and Sammy.  I'll take over watching her in the morning."

"Small point of order, I've got school tomorrow," Dawn pointed out.  "Mom said I can't drop out for an apocalypse.  If Buffy can do finals and an apocalypse, I can get decent enough grades when lawyers want to steal me."

"We can work around that," he told her.

"You do realize the middle school is only a few feet from the hellmouth?" she asked dryly.  "They blew up the high school but the middle school is across the football field."  John looked confused.  "The hellmouth's under the old high school's library, John."

"Oh."  He looked at MaryBeth.

"Which they're rebuilding in the same spot," she said with a wicked smirk.  "Because someone wants to keep feeding it teenager energy."

John shook his head quickly.  "We need to do the whole town and then move on," he muttered.

"Xander has plans for that," Dawn quipped happily.

"Don't tempt me," MaryBeth told her.

"Angel would kill us for the overrun LA would have," Dawn told her.

"I can stake him too," she assured her.  "Even if he is on our side."  She looked at John.  "Now you see why I needed help.  Or a few good drinks."

"This is a good time to have it.  How about we move her somewhere safer?  Would her mother allow it?"

"Maybe for a short time."

"No other relatives," Dawn said in a sing-song voice.  "Unless you want me to go to Spain with Mom's ex?"

"No," John admitted.  "I don't know any hunters that way.  Ellen has Jo, she's used to teenage daughters."

"Ellen would skin us both if lawyers tried to invade the Roadhouse," MaryBeth said dryly.  "Especially these ones."

"Probably true.  Tara could help ward it.  She and Bobby are only a few hours away."

"Tara said that her school's got a few demons attending," Dawn said.  "Peaceful ones but it freaked Bobby out that first night when she proved it to him.  She said it's nice, she did get a Pagan History class with some of them.  It's a split university for humans and demons."

"Bobby must've went to knock down a tree with his head," MaryBeth said, looking at John.

"Tara spent the night with Ellen while he got soused," John said with a smirk.  "She made him a nice breakfast the next morning so he could sober up and get her to her afternoon classes.  He wants her to transfer and she won't.  Said it's nicer and more friendly than here was."

"I don't doubt that."  She looked at the girl then at him.  "Think he could handle a few days of sleepovers?"

"No clue.  We can ask if it's necessary to protect her."  He called his sons.  "Boys, the problem in Sunnydale is Wolfram and Hart need Dawn to get an artifact that can destroy everyone or open a portal to any time or place.  Yes, I'm serious, Sam.  That's why, yes."  He rolled his eyes.  "Even better.  Guarding her.  Buffy's stalking but she needs some lessons from Dean in how to do it the right way.  Plus Dawn's in school and things."

"We need a PE teacher and a new science teacher," Dawn said cheerfully, grinning at him.  "The PE teacher got eaten by Dru when she showed up to boink Spike last week and the Science teacher went psycho and tried to blow us up to stop the bugs that were crawling under his skin.  Buffy and Willow said he wasn't demonic, just psychotic and out of touch with reality.  Ooooh, and we could use a good english teacher too for poetry class.  She's off having a baby somewhere."

John nodded.  "That might be a workable option," he decided, repeating that to the boys, who choked.  "Not my first choice, son.  We'll work it out."  He hung up.  Buffy stomped in.  "Dean and Sam will be here in the morning to take over guard duty."  She sighed and smiled, relaxing some.  "Then we'll plan how to protect her best, Buffy."

"Thank you."  She gave him a hug.  "Angel wants to destroy their building but I don't think it'll help since they're in many cities and realms all around everywhere."

"Xander said they had one on his realm and they kicked him off," Dawn said with a grin for her.  "Can I please have a potty break?  Before I pee on the couch?"  MaryBeth released her but escorted her.  "Thank you!  It's not like I was being bad or trying to have the sex or anything."

"You'd better never have sex, Dawn Summers," Buffy yelled after her.  "Never, ever.  I'll have mom sew you shut first."

"She wants grandkids," Dawn called from the bathroom.  "Suck it up, Buffy.  Some boys will be touching me sometime."

Buffy looked at John.  "Can we put her in a mystical chastity belt?  I figure you considered it for Dean or Sam once."

"Some things are drawn to innocence," he pointed out.  "Like that praying mantis woman Xander said nearly killed him back when he was still a virgin."

Buffy whimpered.  "If we let her be a slut will it help?"

"Probably not fully," he admitted.  "She might come into more power though.  Some witches do seem to break out after becoming impure."

Buffy slumped, shaking her head.  "Willow thinks turning her into a kitty is the only way to protect her."

"Should she, I'll be beating that girl's ass," John assured her.  "For weeks on end, Buffy."

Buffy grinned.  "You'd have to get behind Mom on that one, John.  Her first."

"I can do that.  Her hand's not used to such hard work.  It'll tire out soon enough."  She grinned but he wasn't.  "Then we'd be finding Willow a very nice pole for the burning."

"Sure, you can do that," she agreed.  She caught Dawn coming out of the bathroom and walked her off.  "We're going home.  Want the couch, John?"

"I can do that.  I'll see you after she's in school, MaryBeth.  Relax for tonight.  Gather whatever we'll need."  She nodded, going to do that while he followed the girls outside.  "I've got the truck."  They climbed in and he drove them home, following them inside.  "Joyce."

"John."  She shook his hand.  "In to help?"

"I'm here to help guard Dawn."  Joyce relaxed, smiling at him.  "Buffy offered me the couch tonight."

"He said he'll take over spanking duties when you've worn out your hand, then he'll help burn Willow at a stake," Buffy said cheerfully.

Her mother stared at her then at John. "I'm tougher than I look, John.  You won't get much time before she dies, but I'll try to leave you some."  She smiled and he laughed.  "Good.  Bed, girls.  Buffy, let the others patrol tonight."

"I'm meeting Angel and Gunn, whoever that is, in about an hour at the Bronze, Mom."  She put Dawn into her room, making sure her windows were locked before going to change and coming down in better clothes.  "There, now I won't stick out at the Bronze as being unhip."  She grinned.  "Have a good parental type talk, guys."  She left them to the guarding while she went to wait on her former hunny and his second-in-command.  Maybe he was cute and MaryBeth wouldn't angst over her trying her hand at him since he was alive and a hunter too.

Joyce shook her head.  "I've seen her patrol in shorter skirts and higher heels," she said dryly.  "Coffee, John?"

"Please."  He followed her into the kitchen, taking out her salt to start the wards around the place.  It could only help.  She smiled at his back but went back to making them a snack and coffee.  It was nice talking to other adults who understood what she went through most nights.


Dean hung up and looked at his brother, grimacing.  "Any good ideas about guarding Dawn when she's at school beyond being a substitute teacher?"

"I hope we can come up with one.  I'd hate to teach PE.  I can't teach science."

Dean grimaced.  "I did good in science but not that good.  PE I can see doing."  They shared a look before Dean sped up the car.  "Think up something, Sammy.  You're used to being protected by me and trying to get around me.  Find me a way that you would've hated but was effective."

"GPS monitoring bracelet and an armed guard for dates?" he suggested dryly.

"Not bad.  Is she dating?"

"No clue."  He shifted in his seat, watching the trees flow past the car.  He did have an idea.  "Know any teenage kids of hunters about her age?"

He considered it.  "Three that have kids.  I don't think any are her age but close.  I can ask Ellen."  He texted that to Ellen's phone, getting back an answer.  "Two who have teenagers around her age.  We can slip them into the school.  That's not a bad idea."  He texted that to his father's phone, letting him consider it or make plans to make it happen.  It was the hellmouth, they could *always* use more hunters there.  "Have we heard anything from Xander on this problem?"

"He's been busy helping train the National Guard recruits."

"Pity."  His phone beeped, letting him glance at it then type back a response by feel.  "Dad thinks that might work."  He put it back into his pocket and pulled into a gas station.  "Pit stop."  He got out to add gas to the tank, ending up staking the vampire cashier when she vamped out at Sam while sniffing his back.  "To steal or not," he muttered, looking at the register.

Sam stared at him then shook his head.  "Dad would be pissed."  Dean texted that, getting a good selection of stuff for the car.  M&M's, jerky, instant coffee, creamer and sugar packets, other candy for emergency energy of course.  A few energy drinks for when it'd be necessary.  Some beers for later on.  Some oil in case the car needed it and a few other car things too from the shelf of that stuff.  John sent back a text so they found the cameras and destroyed them, took the register's contents, and all the stuff they could need for the next few weeks in the car.  Opportunities like this didn't come along very often.  How many vampire cashiers were there in the world outside of Sunnydale?


Xander was watching the portals to check on his friends, family, and heirs when something started to blink.  He focused on it, finding the last true heir on the ground bleeding.  He tried to get through the portal, it wasn't going to work.  "I know this is 'save someone' week, so let me through," he muttered, concentrating harder on getting to him before he died.  Apparently the portals could let you go back a few minutes in time because Xander got there about when Speed's gun clicked and failed to fire for him.  Xander threw a knife at the guy who shot him.  The redhead with them shot the other one and pointed his gun at him.  "Chill, I took Speed's place."  He knelt next to him.  "Timothy?" he demanded.  Tim groaned, blinking up at him.  "Hey."

"I heard what you did with Winchester.  I won't accept."

Xander leaned down, leaning on the wound in his shoulder.  "Shut up, Tim.  You're not allowed to die.  They'll lynch my cute ass.  It's that or I've got to do it officially."

"You can't.  They won't let you," he moaned.  "I can't go through that again."

"Shut up, Tim.  Evarol!  Healers now!" he shouted, feeling a portal opening.  Feet came running.  "I've got the bleeding spot squeezed between my fingers," he told the healer when she tried to move him.

She looked around his fingers.  "I'm not sure I can heal that fast enough, Lord Xander."  They shared a look then she looked at him.  "He's passed out."

"He said I can't do what I did to save Sam.  So we won't.  Fuck his wishes.  He's the last true heir.  Get him some, now."  She produced chocolate and they poured it down his throat, watching as the wound slowed down.  The redhead gasped, falling to his knees.  "Move back, let them work," Xander ordered.  "They can make sure he'll be fine.  He'll need chocolate every day but oh well."

"He'll need to come up.  We can't fully heal it down here," the younger one told him.

"So be it," Xander agreed.  "I'm damn glad I was checking on everyone when his started to flash."  They stared at him.  "I don't know," he defended.

"It's against the laws of nature to move through time," the older one said firmly.

"It was only by a minute or two.  It started to flash when he got shot.  I argued for a minute, then it let me back in time to see him getting shot.  Now, let's work on him."  They nodded, getting back to work.  He looked at the redhead.  "It's irregular, but the person I took over for was his dad.   There's no way I'd let him die.  We'll be taking him with us and you can have him back in a few days or so.  He can probably go home to rest then."  The older healer nodded.  "Let's move him.  The bleeding's nearly stopped."  They picked him up and carried him off.  "Make up whatever story you want."  The portal closed behind them.  He put him down on the waiting gurney, watching him be walked off.  The whole council was glaring at him.  "Do not start with me.  I didn't do it on purpose.  It was an accident.  I didn't even know the portals could do that and he argued with me anyway."

"He'll have to stay as your heir," the female said.

"He can go back to work for a while and travel up to help me and Estria whenever he can," Xander said firmly.  "He's the spare heir."  They all nodded at that.  "Someone's got to tell his boss or whoever that was with him what's going on.  He'll kill us if we make him do it while he's healing."  He grimaced.  "I'll talk to him later when we can bring him a progress report.   Let Estria know while I go clean up."  They all nodded, going to summon her and let her know, plus make a statement to the local press.  He went to shake while sitting in his shower under the spray, staring at the blood on his hands.  That had been too close.  He looked up and hoped silently Wozaataran wasn't too unhappy with him ignoring his son's wishes.  He pushed it back and stood up once he was less shaky, washing off the rest of the blood and sweat he had gathered doing that.  He came out to find Estria waiting on him, in his bathroom.  "Thought you were married, Estria," he joked weakly.

"I am.  He's going to skin you."

"Timothy can try," he said dryly.  "I'm not letting the last true heir die.  He's the spare heir."

She smirked.  "I heard.  When he's ready, I'll gladly hand it to him to and go home."  He gave her a weak smile.  "You do know that it's supposed to be impossible to do that?"

He shrugged.  "I was struggling to get there at all.  The thing didn't want to open."

She rolled her eyes.  "We really must work on that hellmouth taint, Xander."  She left him to get dressed in peace.  She ended up at the healers' section, going to peek in on him.  She knew him from when he was very young.  He was already fussing.  "Do stop before I make Lord Xander come fuss over you too," she said quietly.  Tim glared at her.  She stared back.  "You're the spare so when I get ready to toss it, it's yours.  He said so."

"I don't want it!"

"Neither do we," she assured him.  "He's still looking for someone good to give it to."  She stared at him until he shuddered.  "Plus they want him to marry someone nice to give us real heirs.  Then you'd be pushed back behind them."

"Think he'd like my coworker Calleigh?"

"He likes guns but he only seems to draw bad and evil women," she admitted, sitting on the foot of his bed.  The healers left them alone.  "Even if he did do it against your will, he was firm in the belief that no one wants you dead, Timothy.  He managed to break the laws of physics to make the portal go back a few minutes in time to save you.  Then again, last week he saved one of his family's protectors by feeding him his blood so no one would expect them to marry again," she finished dryly.

"That's unheard of."

"Your father did it once."

"He was desperate and it was my mother," he said dryly.

"I don't know if Xander feels that way about the Winchesters.  He insists he only likes evil women and bad girls."  She smiled at him.  "You'll heal soon enough.  We'll talk to whoever needs to hear it later on tonight.  He said he'd go talk to them to give them a progress report."

"That won't be good enough for Alexx or H.  They'll be showing up even if they have to find their own way up here."

She smiled.  "Are we perhaps interested?"

"Alexx adopted me as a extra-pale son," he said quietly.

She gave him a gentle hug.  "She won't beat you."

"My gun jammed."

"Yes, and they were talking about the spells they removed from you," she said simply, getting off the bed.  "Try to rest.  Lord Xander learned fussing from that odd, slightly darkside witch Rosenburg.  She wanted to turn someone into a cat to protect them from Wolfram and Hart."

Speed snorted.  "That probably won't go over well, no."

"Especially not to her sister, the slayer Buffy."  She smirked.  Speed shuddered.  "Try to rest while you can.  That way if they force him to bring them up for a visit you can be awake later."  She patted his knee then left.  She found a healer and Xander waiting.  "What spells did you take off him?"

"One to collect heart's blood," she said quietly.

Xander grimaced.  "Fucking lawyers."  He stomped off, going back to the shop.  "Red,  you need to clean up the blood now.  The ones who wanted his hearts blood can use the stuff he spilled here."

"What?" he demanded.  "Who are you?"

"Xander Harris.  I took over for Wozaataran, Timothy's natural father."  Horatio gaped in horror.  He shrugged.  "Before that I was out in California, dude.  It's not that amazing most of the time.  We warned him because a law firm called Wolfram and Hart wanted and needed him to help them get an artifact of immense power that can destroy everyone if used right or destroyed."  Horatio shuddered.  "The healers removed a spell to gather heart's blood from him."  He pointed.  "If I'm right, it was a curse."

"Would that make him not clean his gun?"

"It could.  I have no idea.  I can ask someone more knowledgeable."  He looked around.  "Huh, no guards.  Madge?"  She appeared, glaring at him.  "What now?" he demanded.

"It is that special and amazing."

He stared at her.  "Me not screwing it up is amazing.  The sun rising every morning is amazing.  Someone taking over for a good ruler happens to every ruler sometime.  Everyone dies, Madge."  She slumped.  "Not that I don't enjoy the job now and then, because I do, and I didn't mean to insult anyone, even if I did, but one ruler dying and another one taking over isn't that amazing.  That's the life cycle when you're a ruler.  Unless you chuck it off to the heirs and retire, you die and someone takes your place."

"Fine."  She was still glaring at him.  "You don't seem to want the job."

"Madge, not the time or place, but I'm a hands-on, construction, weapons guy.  The only diplomats I knew before I ascended were in the books Willow read and on some spy movies," he said impatiently.  "No, this job isn't me.  I have no idea why he chose me.  Still.  Even with the battles I have no idea why he chose *me* out of the other ones like Estria and Tim and even Corsor.  All of them were native, understood the people and their needs, had training to deal with the various things you have to use little words to explain to me, and could deal with politics that drive me nuts.  Personally, I think he only chose me because of the fights coming up.  He probably had a vision and saw that someone would need to do some protecting so it got me chosen.  Because I can't see other reason since I'm so unsuited to the work."

She swatted him hard.  "Shut up and quit putting yourself down.  You've done an all right job so far, Lord Xander."

"All right is different than doing a good or a great job," he pointed out more gently.  "It's not my natural habitat unless you want me to start hunting diplomats."

"We'd prefer you not," she said firmly.  "Especially not the annoying ones."  She glared at him.  "You need to work on your self esteem."

"Have you seen my parents?" he snorted.  "Or the ones who raised me?"

She grimaced.  "That is a point.  Within a few centuries you'll feel better about it."

"By then, Tim or someone will have it," he assured her.  "I'm not keeping it for centuries.  Once there's a really good heir who can do all the stuff I'm missing and can't stand doing, plus can do what I can stand doing, they're getting it.  I've always said that to the council."

She shrugged.  "If you say so.  I don't think one's been made so unless you're ready to have children it'll be a long time."

"Maybe I'll adopt," he said dryly.  "Raise one from childhood."  She glared again.  He stared back.  She huffed.  "Would that spell or curse or whatever they removed off Tim make it so he wouldn't clean his gun?"

"Technically they said it was a curse and it would make it so he'd have to at least bleed somehow.  It was set a while back.  They've been planning this for a while."

"He had this problem a few months back but he was wearing a vest," Horatio admitted quietly.  "Where is he?"

"Safe in our infirmary," Xander assured him.  "He's been awake, complained at Estria and the healers, and he's napping again."  Horatio relaxed some.  "But if they come for this blood, there's a young woman who's going to be in more danger.  They need his blood, him able to point out a spot, and her blood to find this artifact they're looking for."

Horatio nodded once.  "I'll have our scene clean up team come immediately but we'll want access to Timothy.  Alexx especially."

"I can arrange that for your team," Madge assured him.  He smiled slightly at that.  "They want Lord Xander to leave the portals alone for now since he just did something impossible by moving back in time by a few minutes to get here before he died."

Horatio shuddered.  "Thank you," he told Xander.

"I appreciate Tim and his outlook on life.  We see sitting on the throne the same way a lot of the time.  It's not something we're suited for and we'll screw something up very majorly."  He shrugged.  "He's now my spare heir.  A lot of people will like that."  He grinned slightly.  "He's being cranky, I can hear him out of bed."

"He usually is," Horatio agreed.  Someone came rushing in.  "Get this cleaned up, Eric.  I need to make sure Speed's going to be all right."

He stared at the blood then at him.  "What the hell happened!" he shouted.

"Someone cursed Timothy," Xander told him simply.  He looked at Madge.  "Since they need him alive, would that curse be why the portal blipped that way?  Because he would've died if I hadn't intervened."

"Possibly," she admitted.  She slapped him again.  "You're still well suited to the throne, Lord Xander.  Lord Wozaataran had his reasons."

He stared at her.  "If you say so."  He looked at Horatio.  "Arrange for them to visit later tonight?"

"I can do so.  Plus make sure the mess is cleaned up by someone other than those lawyers.  The Council wants you."

He sighed.  "Of course they do," he muttered, disappearing to trudge that way.  He walked in and paused in front of his chair.  "It occurred to me that since he was going to die and they need him living it was probably the curse that let me get back those few minutes to save him.  He's Estria's spare heir even if he doesn't like it.  Madge is arranging for his friends and made-family to come visit him later tonight.  Anything else I need to deal with before I go take a nap?"

They all stared at him.  "Lord Xander, I don't think a curse could work that way," the head of the council pointed out gently.

He shrugged.  "It's the only reason I can see.  If there's a more reasonable one, let me know.  I don't know magic shit.  We all know that.  Ask Tara."  He shrugged and walked off, going to take a nap.  This job really was going to drive him insane soon.  Maybe he needed another night drunk?  No, not with an upcoming apocalypse that might get Dawn in danger.  He needed to be able to help save her if necessary.  John was good but he knew where the battle took place and could get there easier than most anyone since Wozaataran had locked it to the throne holder.


Speed looked up as people came into the infirmary.  "I take it you heard about the curse?"

"You're stubborn enough to fight against one," Calleigh assured him.  "I'm going to beat your behind after Alexx is done with it, Speed."

He grinned.  "They want me to stay up here forever and ever to be the spare heir."

"Won't save you any," she promised with an evil smile.  He shuddered.  "Next time, fight the stupid thing."

"I didn't realize it was on me or else I would have."  He shifted, grimacing some.  "It's mostly healed," he said at her look at his shoulder.  "Still sore but mostly healed."

"Good.  Then you can come home soon to let Alexx fuss over you after she beats you nearly to death."  Alexx stomped in.  "Are they saying when he can be released?"

"In the next few days."  She pried up the tape on the bandage to look it over.  "No stitches?"

"They can heal the wound without it," he said quietly, staring at her.

She smacked him on the top of the head.  "Curse or not, that's prepayment of when I whip your behind, Timothy Speedle."

"Yes, Alexx."  He looked at Horatio and Eric as they came in.  "It's nearly healed."

Alexx taped it back down.  "It's down to a small wound.  Even if they don't close it any more it should heal within a few weeks, Horatio."  He nodded at that.  She looked around.  "No machines?"

"I'm not on life support," he pointed out.  She swatted him again, making him yelp.  "I didn't know it was on me or I would've fought it!" he complained.

Horatio stared at him.  "When you return we are going to set a schedule for cleaning, Speed," he said calmly.  "Which I will be making sure you follow one way or another."

"Please do.  Then we'll know if they try it again."  Estria walked in with a mug.  "Must I?  It'll make me goofy after so long without it."

"Yes, you must to help that wound heal faster," she said patiently.  "If you don't drink it I'm going to treat you like I do my children, Tim.  And then I'll let Xander fuss."  Tim shuddered, taking the cup of cocoa to drink.  She smiled at Horatio.  "So, are you his mate?"  Tim choked.  "Drink, don't spit out sacred spring chocolate," she ordered firmly.

"Yes, Estria."  He finished it and handed off the mug.  "No, I'm not dating anyone right now."

"Pity.  The council thinks he'd do you good, Tim."  She smiled at him.   "They had good taste for Xander too but he's too straight to take them up on it."  She shrugged.  "Anyway, I've kept anyone on the Council or any of the high born coming in to nag you at the moment.  I've also quashed the movement to have you marry Xander so we'd have legitimate heirs again."

"We should introduce him to Calleigh.  He likes guns," he offered.  He ducked her swat this time but Alexx still got him.  "He's nice enough.  He just like guns and bad girls."

Calleigh gave him a dirty look.  "I have a friend who told me alllll about this stuff, Speed.  There's no way I'd fit in with your ruler's view of womanhood.  I'm too nice and sweet."

Alexx snorted.  "Every boy needs someone nice and sweet, Calleigh."

"His last true girlfriend was a vengeance demon over scorned women, Alexx.  She probably got to tell him all about how she tortured other men."

"He was dating an assassin one of his friends introduced him to last month," Estria added at her horrified look.  She shrugged.  "Xander likes bad girls.  Nice girls don't usually want to meet him except for that one socialite they were trying to hitch him to.  Now people are wondering what's wrong with her."  She looked at Calleigh.  "If he liked you, we wouldn't mind.  You could be the arms master we need for the guards and National Guard unit he's just recently had formed."

"No thanks.  I like my job."

"If you're sure."  She looked at Tim.  "This means you get to play diplomat when I go on vacation with the kids."

"If I must," he grumped.

"Yes you must.  Xander met the last diplomat with a rifle.  Though it was the ones he calls the flower dicked people again.  He escorted the last ruler's body home with an assault rifle.  They still showed back up because they like him to promote breeding."

Tim blinked a few times.  "The ones who flower and use their lover's energy until they're sucked dry so they absorb them?" he asked.  She smirked and nodded.  "How many has he had to kill to make them leave him alone?"

"Two now.  The first one he ripped the dick off of when it touched his leg.  The second he shot when she tried to pounce."  She smiled sweetly.  "This new one is staring at him in awe and flowering.  We had to have him removed since one of my children was present."

"Good idea.  Your kid all right?"

"Giggling madly.  She's at that age where sex is funny."

"Decent."  He blinked a few times then yawned.  "Sorry to cut this visit short, guys, but I need to rest.  The sacred spring chocolate makes sure of it."  He yawned again.

"We'll be back tomorrow.  Madge made sure we could get up to check on you every day until you can come home," Alexx said, tucking him in.  "You rest, sugar.   I'm sure you'll get plenty of healing time in."  She checked the injury again.  "Whatever that is, it's potent.  The wound's only half as deep as it was."

Estria smiled.  "Sacred spring chocolate has healing properties.  Only heirs and their spouses can have it.  The rest get the diluted stuff.  It still works but not as fast."

"I knew chocolate was amazing," Calleigh told her.

Estria beamed.  "The spring is holy to us.  We're the ones who introduced it to your people."

"Interesting."  She looked at Tim then at her.  "He'll be safe?"

"If the lawyers come after him up here, Lord Xander will wear some of his aggression and anger at the diplomats out on them with the artillery.  It'll be nice to the city's builders when we have to rebuild part of the palace."

"Good enough."  They left together.  Tim would be fine and they'd get to smack him around for not cleaning his gun very shortly.  Alexx kissed him on the forehead before leaving but that was how she was with the ones she fussed over like her children.

Estria looked at him.  "Falling asleep might not save you."

"I know it won't.  The curse was really strong though."

She kissed him on the forehead.  "Feel better soon.  That way you can help me find someone to fix Xander up with.  Before they decide to make him marry the socialite or someone he'd end up killing in bed."

"He can't be that bad."

"His last one gave him quite a lot of stamina.  That's why it took five hours to wear him out at a brothel when his former friend cursed him."

"That's bad," he decided.  "Anything else going on?"

"Only the training of the new guard unit and watching for the lawyers."

"Good."  He yawned again.  "Let me rest and we'll fuss at the council tomorrow."

"They won't let you escape again."

"I know.  It sucks but I know."  She smirked, strolling out so he could take a nap.   He was thankful the kid had saved him but right now he really hated the future as he saw it.  He didn't want to be the heir again.  He'd massively screw up on the throne.  Then again, Xander felt the same way and so far he had only insulted and scared some people.  He fell asleep worried about the marriage hunters that would be coming for him now.


Xander looked up as his office was invaded by a woman he didn't know.  "Yes?" he asked.

"Lord Xander, I need your permission to do something."

"Depends on what that something is."

"I wish to court your new heir."  She beamed at him.  "He would not protest."

"Speed's allowed to pick his own mates and whoever he wants to date.  He doesn't need my permission but I won't force him to pick anyone I've chosen."  She gave him a hurt, pouty look.  "Sorry but no.  if you want to date Speed, ask Speed, not me.  It's his life."

"Fine."  She stomped off, going to talk to him.  "Timothy?"

"Hell no," he said firmly.  "You tried to torture me once when we were younger."

"I liked you."

"You nearly got a strip of my back taken off.  No!"  She pouted at him.  "I'm immune to that look.  No way in hell."

Xander walked in.  "She came to me to ask my permission to date you.  I told her that only you can say who you're dating."

"Thank you for being sensible."

Xander grinned.  "They want me to date someone harmless.  None of them like me but they're trying really hard."

"I know."  He stared at her.  "I'll marry my boss first.  No."  She huffed off.  He looked at Xander.  "Thank you."


"Wish you hadn't at the moment though."

"Tough shit.  They'd lynch me if you died."  He sat on the foot of his bed.  "How's the shoulder?"

"Not bad.  Nearly fully closed.  I'm sure my team will be up to check on me again tonight."

"Probably.  Madge arranged that."  He smiled at the woman walking in.  "Anyway, as I told them.  You're the spare heir behind Estria.  The diplomats like her more than they do me or you."  That got a happier look and nod.  "So we'll see what happens."

"That's fine.  Thank you for saving me."

"Welcome."  He smiled.  "If the Council tries to talk to you about marrying me, pretend you don't speak the same language?"

"I can definitely do that.  You're not my type, Xander."

"Even better."  He slid off the foot of the bed, looking at the healer.  "Catching him up to the present time."

"That's reasonable, Lord Xander.  You really aren't doing a bad job.  Even if you do jump into matters that aren't really something you can help."

"I like building.  It keeps me sane."

"Fine.  Whatever as you and your friends say."  She shooed him out.  "I must check him over."

"As long as you're not checking me out," Speed said dryly.

"I'm married and you're much too mouthy to be mine, Lord Timothy."  She came over to check his wound and his general health.  "You should be able to go home tomorrow.  That way the ones who fussed last night can finish fussing and beating you."  She looked around.  "Many would be pleased if you did end up with Lord Xander," she said quietly.  "You have skills that he lacks, including tact."

"I don't use my tact, it's rusty."  She grimaced, sighing a bit.  "Sorry, not my type.  I'm sure he'll find someone.  I'll look around Miami for someone."  She nodded, leaving him alone.  He leaned back, getting comfortable.  "What is he building?" he asked her when she went to fuss at the next bed since it wasn't perfectly made.

"He's been going down to hide on a local construction crew.  He said that's the sort of man he is and he doesn't understand all these diplomatic things."

"Oh."  He nodded.  "Me either.  That's why I gave it up before."

"Well, now you can't so you must make the most of it," she said cheerfully.  "Many like that he's named you his secondary heir, though more want you as the primary heir or his spouse."

"Won't happen.  I'll die first, thanks."

She glared at him.  "You know, if you make such statements we can easily put you some nice medicine for that problem."

"Try it," he offered.  He stared her down, making her back away.  "Any other gossip I should hear?"

"Do you think Lord Xander will be as bad of a patient as you are?"

"Worse.  A lot worse."  He got up with a groan, holding his shoulder.  "I'm going to walk around and get some fresh air in the gardens."

"Let me get a guard for you."

"No thanks."  He walked off, waving off one worried looking guard.  "Going to the garden for some fresh air."

"You should be escorted."

"Is it really that dangerous?"

"People want to bother you and Lord Xander.   Many would hurt one of you to keep the other in power."

"I'll be fine.  Really."  He walked out into the garden, sighing in relief when he saw the pretty clouds and felt the breeze around him.  He hated being cooped up inside the infirmary.  He saw a little kid and blinked.  "You're not native," he said.  She gave him a horrified look.  "So that means that you're ...  Frestian?"  She nodded.  "Xander hiding from you already?"

"Yes.  We're waiting on him to meet us out here.  We've sent a mental summons."

"Xander's not telepathic.  He's probably off building something."

"I can summon those who aren't gifted," she assured him.  "Like I could you if I so desired.  Though I don't see why I would."

He walked off laughing.  "If you say so but I think he's pretty well protected since his best friend was a witch who went dark."

She glared at him.  "Such insolence in the presence of greatness should not be tolerated here."

Xander stepped out the side door.  "If you try to harm my heir Timothy I will treat you like the little kid you look like and paddle your ass," he offered.  Then he smiled sweetly.  She gave him a horrified look.  "No, I'm not the diplomatic type.  I'm the hunter type.  By the way, that little mental calling thing?  Annoying as fuck so don't do it in my palace again.  We have pages for a reason and even ones who think they're gifted by the Gods themselves are free to use them.  Now, what did you want to talk about?"

"You're nothing," she sneered.

He leaned down.  "The offer to spank you like the kid you look like stands," he offered patiently.  "If not, I've got things to do.  Weapons to clean, artillery to pet, all that good stuff.  Plus someone wants me to start learning how to harness the hellmouth taint I carry."  She backed off at that.  "Now, what sort of diplomatic concern did you have today, young lady?"

"Who are you?" she sneered.  "We know you as Lord Lavetella."

"Alexander Lavelle Harris," he sneered back.

"Hellmouth baby," she said, looking smugly pleased.

"And the backup to a few different slayers," he agreed.  Her eyes went wide.  "It kept more things from coming for me.  Was this the usual 'this is who our people are and this is what we usually trade with you' sort of meeting or was it a problem that you wanted to see me about?"  He smiled a goofy grin.  "Because you're one of three that showed up today.  I've already got to shoot one of them.  I'd like to have a happier day than that."

"You'd kill a diplomat?" she demanded.

"If he tries to grope me again, yes."

"Oh.  My.  Your predecessor wasn't like that."

"Timothy, the one you just insulted, was his son.  Not me.  My parents offered me to him and I was chosen because I can fight."  He grinned again.  "Now, what did you want to talk about?  Because if it's just a 'hi, we're here and we do this' can we take it to the cafeteria?  I'm kinda hungry after all morning on the construction crew."

She laughed nervously.  "It was something like that, yes.  We were going to give you some ideas of other trade issues that we wanted to talk about soon."

"I'm more than interested in hearing about things that would be beneficial to both peoples.  I have some good advisors who'll help me if I get stuck."  He smiled.  "Like Timothy."

"I see."  She stared up at him.  "I believe I'm a bit tired and you said you're busy.  It'll probably take longer than a simple meal so we can adjourn this until your schedule is more free?"

"Of course.  I think I have Wednesday free, but I can check with Madge.  You have heard we're putting up a Welcome Center so you can arrange those things in the future and not have to wait around?"

"I hadn't but it sounds profitable to both sides."  She stood up, shaking his hand.  "I will talk with Madge.  I have talked with her in the past."

"Thank you.  And of course, bring any advisors you want to the meeting.  I'm always happy to meet peaceful people from other places.  One can never have too many peaceful friends."

"Of course not.  It looks good on a society that has peaceful relations with many other species."  She bowed and went to find Madge, then call her people to report who he *really* was.  Because that screwed up their agenda horribly!  This one wasn't weak minded.  They wouldn't gain any benefit by using their gifts on him and he might destroy them if he found out.  She made it back to her room and opened her communication panel, staring at her boss.  "The new Lord Lavetella is actually Xander Harris, Buffy's backup."

Her leader shuddered.  "That's a bad thing."

"He pointedly said he'd be willing to talk to those who wanted peaceful relations and you could never have enough friends as a peaceful society.  Also, did you know that Lord Timothy is back as an heir?  I didn't recognize him in the hospital garb he wore and unintentionally insulted him.  I can fix that however."

"Do you wish to withdraw from this assignment?"

"No but I don't think it'd be wise if we followed our present path.  He told me the calling I did was annoying."

"Oh, dear."  She nodded, considering it.  "Treat him like you would another gifted one."

"He is!  He's a hellmouth baby!"

"Oh!"  Her eyes widened.  "Do you think he might like to marry into our people?"

"He heard me insult Lord Timothy and offered to paddle me as if I was the child I appeared to be.  No one told him we age in reverse."

"Pity.  Make up for your gaffe as soon as possible.  Make more frequent reports."  She nodded.  "When do you meet with him again?"

"I'm to arrange a longer meeting with Madge.  He had only planned for the introduction level meeting today."

"That's reasonable of him."

"He also said that they're putting up a Welcoming Center for diplomats so we wouldn't have these sort of problems."

"Even better.  It's not a bad idea.  Arrange it and let us know."  She hung up and went to make that report to their leader.


Xander found Timothy eating in the cafeteria, sitting across from him.  "Do you think your blonde friend might like me?  She seems very nice and they'd probably like it if I dated someone like her."

"You can try but she's heard about you and didn't seem interested."  He nibbled a bite of turkey.  "She does like guys who play with guns.  The one who offered you last night said she could even take over as weapons master if she married you."  Xander grinned.  "I'll try to talk you up to her, Xander."

"Please do.  That way they quit giving me evil looks for dating."

"I can try.  I can't promise."

"I know."  He grinned, digging into his own dinner.  "So, any good revelations today?"

"Miami has a smog problem.  I like chocolate but not that much really.  They want me to marry my boss and he's going to throw a fit after he gives me that special 'you're in deep crap' look over the top of his sunglasses."

"There's a move to make me rermarry Sam and Dean since I saved Sam's life the other day."  He sipped his drink, looking at his plate.  "Do I want to know what this is?"

"Turkey.  She over-spiced."

"Oh, okay."  He ate another bite and some bread.  That helped.  "Any idea how to get through to them that marrying a pair of brothers is bad?"

"That's a human stigma, not one of ours.  We're not that genetically related to even our siblings."

"I noticed but they are."

"Not like babies can come, Xander."

"One of the healers said I could when I wanted.  Tara offered too."  Tim choked, making Xander reach over to pat him on the back.  "Calm down.  She only threatened."

"Is she the one that needs hunted?"

"No.  She's Willow's girlfriend.  She figured out I was trying to dose her to make her my heir."

"If she tries that, they'll get her for it."

"I know.  So does she.  She's usually a very good witch but she's got a bit of a temper now and then.  She lost it on Willow recently."

"Interesting tidbit.  Is Willow in Miami?"


"Less trouble for me to deal with then," he decided.  "She might get into drugs or our gang situation in Miami."

"She'd probably magic your gangs in Miami or destroy your dealers instead of getting involved."

"We'd still have to arrest her for that."

"I know.  Plus make up a good cover story.  Sunnydale's easier that way since no one pays any attention to anything."

"Huh."  He ate a bite, considering it. "No one?"

"Big, huge denial problem."

"Very interesting."  He ate another bite.  "I should probably reappear in the infirmary tonight."

"If you need it, I have a guest room."

"They'll expect me to be at home if I'm out of bed.  Which means I'll need an ice pack when Horatio and Alexx get done with me."

"I can send guards," he offered with a catty grin.

"Don't you dare.  Horatio would be pissed and I'd never be able to work again."

"Will they let you go back to work?"

"I don't know."  He finished up.  "I'm heading back to the torture of the infirmary.   I'll try to talk you up to Calleigh.  It might keep her focused on something other than beating me."  He put his tray in the drop-off window then trudged back that way.  He hated being in the infirmary.  He found Alexx grilling the poor healer.  "I was having dinner, Alexx.  I managed to get some fresh air and everything."

"Sit your butt down, Timothy," she ordered.  He climbed back up onto his bed, letting her check his shoulder.  "It's closed."  She looked at him.  "Any residual pain?"

"Some.  Some stiffness too.  It'll be fine in a few days."

"Why were you out of bed if you're still injured?"

"I went for a walk in the gardens to get away from the husband hunters.  Got to watch Xander do a verbal smack-down of a diplomat that thought he was beneath her.  Read in the sun then ate dinner."

"Uh-huh.  You should still have been under care."

"Alexx, they had guards being subtle but within calling distance at all times."

"Are you under arrest?"

"No, this makes me the secondary heir."  He grimaced.  "Which is why I had to duck some spoiled girls earlier who wanted me to bear babies with."

"Many would appreciate it if Lord Xander married you," the healer reminded him from her spot across the ward.

"He's still not my type, thank you."

"There is the concept of a political marriage," she said with a smug look.

Tim looked around, spotting a guard.  "Can one of you please tell Lord Xander that the healer thinks they're going to try to force us together?  Which would be very bad for both of us?"  The guard nodded, passing that onto his guards.   "That'll help stop that."  He grinned at her then at Calleigh as she walked in.  "Xander wanted introduced you to."

She shook her head.  "He's too tough for me.  I like my men sweeter.  He's had too much combat to every fully calm down."  She looked at his shoulder then at Alexx.  "Can we beat him yet?"

"A few more days."

Horatio walked in with Eric.  "In a few more days he has to be ready to answer to an investigative panel."

"Why?" Speed moaned.

"Because you didn't clean your gun."

"It's not my fault they used a compulsion curse," he defended.

"Yes but we can't tell them that, Speed."

"You can.  They might not believe you until I turn someone into a bunny rabbit but you could."

"Stetler called it," Eric told him.  "You know how he is."

"I think he'd make a wonderful bunny rabbit," Speed said dryly.  "We can give him to some orphans to make them happy."

"Is all that chocolate making you meaner than usual?" Calleigh asked.

He shook his head.  "I've been holding back."

"Good to know."  She smiled.  "I still say you could have fought it better."

"Not if I didn't know it was on there.  You have to know it's there to be able to fight it."

"No one in Miami could've told you?" she asked.

"Nope.  Not that I know of or hang around with.  Since I gave up my title the first time I wasn't allowed to have guards who would've known."

"Will you have some now?" Eric asked.

"Xander's trying.  He tried after the coronation but they told him he couldn't do that."  He winced as he shrugged a little bit.  "No idea yet."

The guard leaned in.  "Yes, you will, Lord Timothy.  The same as Lady Estria does.  We'll find our own way to guard you so you can still work."  He went back to the hallway.

"How much will this new life impact your job?" Alexx asked.

"Not hardly.  It didn't before at all.  Now I'll have some people who want to marry me more and some people who want my support so I'll talk Xander into doing things.  Which I probably won't unless I feel he needs to hear my opinion."

"That sounds logical," Eric agreed.

"I gave up the throne the first time because I knew I'd be sucky at it.  I don't have the right temperament or anything like that, Eric.  I'd have beaten a few of the ambassadors for being arrogant pricks.  I did often enough as the heir.  Then again, Xander's shot a few for trying to sexually assault him.  From what I heard they now consider him a breeding incentive."

The female member of the council walked in, staring at him.  "Lord Timothy, we must ask you a few pertinent questions."

"About?" he asked.

"First, which of these is your intended spouse?"

"None of the above."

She grimaced.  "You're the last of the true bloodline.  There has to be an heir from you.  The council is quite miffed that no heir is forthcoming yet from Lord Xander."

"You guys keep running off his dates."

"They're not suitable."

"Well, tough," he said impatiently.  "He has to date to knock someone up so you get heirs.   Neither one of us will ever consent to a political marriage unless it'll save the entire universe and then they'd better be hiding across the universe from us so they don't annoy us into accidentally making them huff off and want a divorce.  The only times I've come close to liking someone enough to live with them, which I will do before I marry them, has been long ago.   We live a long time and you waited six centuries for my father to have me. You can wait now."

"Lord Xander does dangerous things."

Speed nodded.  "So does everyone else.  It's not like one of us can't be accidentally run over at the marketplace."  She slumped.  "As for the plan to wed me to Xander, don't even think about it.  I will help him get an exemption through to disband the council if you try."

She gave him a pitiful, hurt look.  "We're trying to do what's best for our people."

"That's wonderful but stressing Xander out isn't what's best for anyone.  Much less me.  Xander and I are a lot alike but I don't understand what drives him.  I'd need someone more book smart who liked to read with me.  Who liked my work since it's important to me.  So does he but less book smart and more action oriented."

"The Winchesters were perfect but he objected."

"He's straight.  He hasn't considered being with a boy before," he told her.  "Beyond that, you'd never get him to have heirs because they wouldn't let him go to an official surrogate to have one."  She stomped off sulking.  "Sorry," he said more calmly.  "Political BS gets to me."

"I can see why," Horatio agreed.  Eric clapped him on his good shoulder.  "They wouldn't mind a gay ruler?"

"There's more same-sex relationships up here than not, H.  The fact that he's straight is seen as a bit deviant and odd.  She's right, if Sam or Dean were female, they'd have fit nearly perfectly in with him. Though they'd hate the political BS too.  Xander's had a few good nights drunk to escape all that stuff since it's not his thing."

"Why did he accept it then?" Calleigh asked.

"Because they wouldn't give him a choice."  He looked at her.  "You don't get to choose.  You get it handed to you and then you do the best you can.  I knew I'd suck so I took myself out of succession.  Which is why I ended up in Miami."

"I suppose that's normal with some heirs who don't want the hassle of command," Horatio agreed.  "So your real father picked Xander?"

"Dad adopted, mystically adopted via the spring, many kids.  It took over a week to get through all of them saying they didn't want it.  Xander was chosen because Dad was facing his first true threat in centuries.  Some demons that wanted to attack us over the spring because they're allergic."  They all nodded.  "Xander managed that battle, the one to save the Winchesters, and another one to save the rest of us with the help of his friends and the Winchesters.  He's also starting the first National Guard unit we've ever had around here at the moment."  That got another nod.  "Xander's a practical guy.   Hands-on, construction, combat with ancient weapons guy.  He's not well suited to this life.  I grew up in it and I hated it for the most part.  Someone always wants something from you.  There's power plays.  There's idiots who want to use you and your name.  There's people who want to kill you because your dad made a decision they didn't like.  All that happy horseshit that makes me wonder why I didn't just die instead of letting him redose me and make me the secondary heir."

"Who's the primary?" Eric asked.

"That lady last night, Estria? Her.  He picked another of the former heirs to help him.  She's done diplomatic duty but even she doesn't like to deal with them.  Her family all had to move here to the palace.  They had to put guards on her kids so no one could talk to them with out the parent being there.  I feel sorry for her.  It's probably going to wreck part of her marriage.  But there's no divorce."

"That's strange," Calleigh said.  "What happens if you make a mistake?"

"You live with it."

"Damn," Eric sighed, shaking his head.  "So now you're an heir.  Now what?  Parties, fans?"

"Probably if I don't put a stop to it.  I don't want a fanclub.  Since I'm the last true heir of the last line, they really want me to either marry Xander or somehow become the next true heir.  I like Xander as a person but I'm not marrying him.  I had to shoot back about political marriages a few minutes ago.  It's going to grate on me until I snap and make someone cry, which will look bad on Xander and my father.  Such fun we have around here, huh?" he finished sarcastically.

"You can handle it," Horatio told him.

"I'm only the heir until Xander passes it on at least.  Then I can turn down my chance at the throne unless he names me directly.  Which he might but he knows my feelings and that I'm a bad choice.  So hopefully he won't.  Someone's going to try to pressure him but Xander can be a stubborn bastard when he needs to be.  I'm hoping by then I'm an uncle by extension."

"The only problem with that is who he dates," Xander said as he walked in with a covered pot.  "They loathed Anya.  They haven't liked any of my other choices since her either.  They keep trying to get me to have a royal concubine but I keep giving them disgusted looks.  So we're at an impasse until something changes."  He handed Tim the pot.  "From Tara so you get better faster.  It's her special soup with healing herbs."

"That's sweet of her.  Is she up?"

"Frustrated over finals.  She spent all day banging pots around Bobby's house for him.  He said he came in from the salvage yard and found a feast waiting.  And Willow."

"Wonderful.  How's Dawn?"

"They're overprotecting her against her will.  Still.  They're working on it but Wolfram and Hart are sneaky bastards so we're not sure yet.  If so, it'll come down to me because only the throne holder can access that room now.  At which point in time I'll blow them back to particles."  He gave him a look.  "I'd drink it, Tim.  Tara swats hard."  He grinned at Calleigh.  "Now if only I drew nice girls like you.  They'd be really pleased with me."

"I like sweeter boys, Xander.  Sorry.  You're too tough for me."

"I'm not always fighting," he offered with a small pout.  "And Anya trained me to be very good in bed.  She was kinda needy."

She blushed but shook her head.  "I don't think we'd work out.   They'd have to put up with my job."

"I know that feeling."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "Keep me in mind?"  He grinned and walked off.

"The boy's not smooth but he's not bad," Alexx said.  "What was wrong with Anya that they didn't like her?"

"She's back to her real job, Anyanka, Vengeance over Women Scorned."

Calleigh shuddered.  "She's probably very mean then."

"Yup, and complains a lot," Tim said.  "I saw her at the coronation. Them having to break up meant that she got her old job back."  He sniffed his soup, taking a sip.  "She's a good cook."

"Maybe he should date her?" Eric suggested.

"Kinda hard to do since she's got a girlfriend and thinks boys are icky," Tim said with a small smirk.  "There are lesbians in this world, Eric.  Many of them.  They're allowed to not like boys."

"I always think it's a pity but I know that there are.  What was with that one lady earlier?"

"She's on the council.  She drafted a resolution to get Anya thrown in jail if she tries to hit on Xander again.  She's the only female and Xander likes her because she explains things to him but they don't really get along all that well most of the time since she nags."  He took another sip of the soup, then finished it off.  Something in it was calling out to him.

The healer looked over.  "I felt that compulsion but it was good for you."  She turned back around.  "Not too much longer because it's nearly time for his nightly chocolate dosage."

"Will that impact his health when he goes home?" Alexx asked.

"I'll need about a cup of chocolate a day," Speed told her.  "Everyone's who's been exposed to the spring's sacred wellspring does.  Doesn't matter what type or how you hide it, it has to be enough or we starve to death."

"I'll keep that in mind for cookies, sweetie."  She gave him a hug and then stared at him.  "Tomorrow, stay in bed."

"I'll try but I will run from any more ring hunters."

"Agreed."  She kissed him on the forehead.  "We'll see you tomorrow."  She left with Eric and Calleigh.

Horatio looked at him.  "Try to discourage them?"

"Definitely.  You're cute but too angsty for me, Horatio."

Horatio smiled.  "Good enough reason."  He left him alone to rest.  He needed rest to heal so he could kick his ass over not cleaning his gun.  Compulsion or not.

Tim settled into the bed, wondering how he was going to fight Internal Affairs this time.  Maybe the bunny rabbit thing had some merit?


Dawn looked over as Dean walked into the gallery with someone very pale.  "Are they a vampire already?" she asked.  "It's daylight."

"No, he's just like that," Dean said dryly.  "Dawn Summers, this extra pale person's name is Billy Hunt.  He and his twin brother are in your year and your classes."

"Wonderful.  Parents hunt?" she guessed.

"Yup, and uncles and aunts," he said dryly.  "I can't get away from it."

"You won't around here either.  We're vampire central."

"That's cool.  So can you show us around the school tomorrow?"

"I can do that."  She smiled.  "So I take it I have some very pale bodyguards suddenly?"

"Yup, sure do," Dean agreed, pulling something out of his pocket to put around her wrist.  "That's a GPS monitoring system. We can find you with that as long as we're within fifty miles."  She nodded.  "So if you get to Xander's plane, we'll be up there and find you there."

"Okay then.  Any other precautions I need to know about?"

"Billy and Jeff both hunt.  Billy's better.  Especially at vampires and staking.  He's a natural knife fighter.  He'll be working on your hand-to-hand during gym since I'm now your gym teacher."  He smirked at her.  "All the girls who want to be cute in ugly shorts, I know, but at least I can teach you something useful."

"Teenage pregnancy around here is a good idea.  The average death age is around twenty-six, Dean."

"We can help raise that a bit."  She nodded, sighing at the end.  "Good.  Show Billy around town.  His parents are shacking up over on eighth."  He left them alone.  Billy could do his own plans and hitting on her if he wanted.

"I don't expect you to want me to act like some bimbo girlfriend," she told him bluntly.

"You're pretty and I heard smart enough for me, but that has to grow, not be an instant thing," he assured her smugly.  "I heard rumors of a club?"

"The Bronze.  The vampires go there too.  It's the only one in town."

"Interesting."  He helped her up.  "Show me around?"

"I can do that.  Mom, going to show Billy around."  She looked out of the office at them.  "I know you heard."

"I did.  Make sure to check in."

"Yes, Mom."  She walked out with him.  "They're really paranoid.  After the whole Glory thing, I don't blame them but they're really paranoid now and then."

"Everyone should be protected for their own good now and then.  It gives them the opportunity to decide if they want to fight or not."

"You make a lot of sense for being my age."

He grinned and winked.  "Our dad's a fierce book person.  We've been reading classics since the womb.  He hated us reading children's books."  He took her arm and walked her off properly.  His father would beat him if he didn't treat her respectfully.  Then John Winchester would.  He wasn't sure which one he was more scared of.  "Do you think your sister would spar with John so we could gauge her relative experience levels?"

"I think if you ask she might.  She needs to work out more often and almost no one gives her a challenge these days.  Plus I think she's kinda soft on him.  When we were waiting to try to rescue Xander she always walked around on his arm like you have me."

"It's how a real man escorts a young lady."

She gave him a wicked smirk.  "Lady I'm not.  Girlish, fashionable, cute, wonderfully smart and devious, but not a lady, Billy.  I still belch and stuff."

He winked.  "Good.  Girls who are ladies aren't any fun."

"Oooh, fun we can do.  Do you think we can not torment Spike?  He helps me get into a lot of fun these days and he's uber protective."

"What is he?"

"Master vampire."

"Interesting.  I can hold off staking him until he makes a threatening move toward you."  She beamed and led him that way, pointing out all the teenage-relevant areas on the way past them.  Spike opened his crypt door to her pounding, giving them an odd look.  "Billy Hunt.  I'm here to help guard Dawn from the evils of lawyers who emit slime."

Spike stared at him for a moment then looked at her.  "Your sister know you're taking a young boy around on your arm?"

"He insisted and we're going to have some less than perfectly safe fun."

"Your sister or MaryBeth would stake me, nibblet."

"Yeah, well, can't live by their rules anyway.  I'm not perfect and people like to stare at me.  Wanna?"

"After dark.  Get some dinner first.  Plan some fun for later."  She beamed and walked the boy off.  "He has no idea what he's gotten himself into," Spike mused.  "But it'll be fun watching him freak out at the Bronze."  He shut his crypt door, going to get a bit more sleep before he had to be up to help watch Dawn.  She did like to get into some of the worst trouble without trying.


Xander watched the people moving around the room calmly.  He *knew* something was going to happen.  How he knew he couldn't say.  It wasn't his usual hunting 'bad thing coming' radar.  It wasn't even the usual 'ooh, I dated the wrong thing' radar when they decided they wanted to hurt him.  No, it was something different this time.  With his luck it was political and evil.  Which was probably redundant to put that way he decided.  He sipped his punch, looking around again.  Everyone was looking his way but no one was coming over to bother him.  Which was probably a good thing.  His guard was looking fierce.  He looked back at him.  "Evarol, why are you getting the same bad thing feeling I am?"

"I hate politics."

"Ditto, man."  He took another drink and sighed.  "How long before we can escape?"

"You don't get to escape the politics, Lord Xander.  You have to endure it until you find or make an heir."  Xander gave him a dirty look.  "Oh, you mean this room?  A few hours."

"Cute, really," Xander said dryly with a smirk.  His bodyguard smirked back.  They understood each other very well most of the time.  Sam stumbled in.  "Sam!" he said cheerfully, walking over to see what was wrong.  And it wasn't Sam.  "Who the hell are you?"

"I'm Sam, Xander."

"First, you're not Sam.  I know Sam fairly well.  See, Sam had to feed on some of my blood to save him a few months back."  The guy went pale and shaky at that.  "Evarol, can I have him as a toy?"

"No, Lord Xander.  That's our fun," the captain of the guards assured him, coming over to take custody of the young man.  "You're sure?"

"We can check with Dean."

"I'd feel better if you did.  In case he's possessed or charmed."

Xander shrugged.  It gave him a reason to escape.  He went to the portal room, tuning in one on his former almost consorts.  "See, Dean and Sam."  He stared.  "Though that's not Sam either.  There's a not-Sam convention going on.  Huh."  He and his punch went there, letting him poke Sam with the knife he always carried, watching the green blood come up.  "So, whose idea was the not-Sam convention?"  The demon gave him a horrified look.  He stared back.  "One at the palace.  You.....  You wanna find any others for me before I have to go poking the others?"

"You will not win," he hissed, changing back and lunging at Xander.  Who used his crystal punch cup to smash the thing's nose in.  It started to cry, holding the bleeding thing.  "You can't win!  It's not fair!  You'll destroy us all!"

"Only if you piss me off," Xander said dryly.  "Win what?  The thing with Wolfram and Hart?"

"The poll!" he said miserably.

"What poll?" Dean demanded.  Xander shrugged.  "No clue?"

"Never heard of it.  Evarol, poll?"

He stepped through, putting the demon in manacles.  "There's a poll every decade that names the most favored demon lords, Lord Xander.  This one's leader tends to feast on his people's innards if they don't vote him in the top position."

"How very shallow of him," Xander said dryly.  "Why don't they just kick him out?"

"Because only their leader knows the secret to how to breed and releases it very sparingly to control their population growth.  Otherwise they'd have overrun most of the realms a few centuries back.  Wozaataran hated that it happened that way but he understood the original meaning behind that edict.  The current ruler he could've done without but you know how that goes."

"I try very hard not to turn into one," Xander agreed.  "Okay, take him back.  Who runs the poll?"

"Wolfram and Hart," he said dryly.  "One of their side-projects."  Xander gave him a dirty look.  "We can bow you out of it since you're still settling in."

"Make a statement saying that I'd hate for anyone to be hurt over the ratings so therefore I'm bowing out of it," he ordered.  Evarol smirked meanly and nodded, walking that demon off.  "Let me find the real Sam.  I can probably do it faster through the portals."

"We're between jobs.  Let me help," Dean said, starting to pack quickly.

"You sure?  We're having a palace-wide celebration event."

Dean gave him an odd look.  "I wondered about the froufy clothes the punch glass, Xander."

"Not my fault.  They made me go.  I have no idea what you're supposed to do at those things.  Evarol said I couldn't escape for hours.  Fortunately there was an emergency," he added with a grin.

"Always happy to help," Dean said sarcastically.  He finished packing and checking their room over.  He, Xander, and the car appeared outside the palace.  They walked in together to the portal room.  It showed a whole lot of Sams.  Including the one there.  "Let me check that one first."

Xander nodded, tuning into the other ones.  Tara had told him how to do the floating thing so he poked the ones he could tell with something near them.  All of them bled green.  Which freaked them out and made them disappear.  John wasn't amused and started to swear so Xander stepped out to pat him on the shoulder.  "There's a not-Sam convention because of Wolfram and Hart's side-project.  They want to make sure their leader doesn't kill them all for not being the most popular.  We're finding Sam now."  He disappeared again.

"I knew he was being too cheerful and nice to me to be Sammy," John complained.  He got up and went to pack, then called his other son.  "Bring me up there so I can help look."  Dean did that, letting the truck land beside the Impala.  He went in to help.  Dean had weeded out the others.  The one in custody was human.  He checked.  "He doesn't have his birth marks."

"Sammy had that mole frozen off his first year at Stanford," Dean told him.

"Why?" he demanded.

"That heat swelling that used to bother him."  They shared a look then both rolled their eyes.  "He has most of the other scars but he doesn't show the taint of the sacred spring or the blood Xander had to feed him to heal him the last time."  He considered it.  "Is there any way they could've masked it?" he asked the guard.   The guard shrugged.  "Can you get Tara?"  He nodded, going to make that call.  She came back with him and did something to Sam, laying a hand on his chest.  The thing covering him faded.  It wasn't Sam but it was a human.  "Halfie?" he guessed.

"Probably owed a debt," the guard complained.

"Figure it out then.  Let us go find Sammy.  He gets into the weirdest shit sometimes."

Tara grinned.  "Xander too."

"Sammy had a higher demon on his butt who wanted him as an heir, Tara," John said.

"Dawn had a hell goddess," she said bluntly, making him wince and hiss, shaking his head.  "Xander nearly dated a few."  She walked out with Dean, taking a portal to retune.  Sam was in a cell singing quietly and doing something with little pieces of fabric.  "There he is."

"Pull back, let's see who has him," Xander ordered.  They saw a nice set of officers.  Xander snorted.  "Demonic officers.  Yay!"  He stepped through, staring at the officers.  One whimpered.  "Don't make me invade to get my family protector back, guys.  You won't like it.  I'll feed them Hersheys since it makes them hyper."  Sam laughed at that.

"Who are you?" one asked.

"Lord Lavetella, Xander Harris."

"Oooh, shit," one moaned, stepping away.  "You hunt with a slayer."

"Or three actually.  I hunted with Buffy, Kendra, and Faith."  He grinned.  "Now, let him go," he snarled, still grinning.  "Before I get to prove I used to hunt."

"Sir, he was arrested on legitimate charges," one said.  "You'd have to talk to our supervisor."

Xander waved a hand.  "Shall we then?"  He nodded, leading him that way.  Xander walked into the officer.  "You have my family protector on supposedly legal charges?" he demanded.

"Who're you?" he sneered.

"Lord Lavetella."  The guy shrank back.  "What charges?"

"He's demon tainted!"

"He's a demon hunter, the same as I was," Xander said simply.  "Of course they tried really hard.  Beyond that, I didn't think that was illegal."

"Only in this town," the lesser officer admitted.

Xander looked at him.  "Not his fault.  His brother was in Nebraska the last I knew.  Since Sam was with him....."

"He claimed he woke up here somehow."

"Yeah, something about a poll and some demon shape changers who said they'd be killed if their leader didn't win.  They made a lot of not-Sam's.  Now, can I have him back?"

"As long as they don't come back."  He looked him over.  "You're a demon lord?"

"I inherited."  He smiled and put down a card.  "Let me know if you need more help.  I have an heir who'll be back on this plane in a few weeks.  Beyond that, I'm often bored."

The officer shuddered.  "We've heard, sire."

Xander smiled.  "I try really hard to be good to my people and to stay out of the way most of the time."  The head officer just nodded at that, giving him a 'you're delusional' look.  "Not my fault my parents had me adopted to the great Chocolate Loving Ones."  The head guy shuddered at that.  "Let me know if one of my people become a problem please."

"We have one in the ER.  We didn't realize and he didn't get any sweets," the lesser officer said.

"I'll send a healer."  He went to pick up Sam.  That guy got brought back so they carried him back and put him into the infirmary.  "They didn't realize he was one of us.  They didn't like that he was one of us and was trying to date a town girl.  They accidentally let him starve."  He walked off with Sam, presenting him to his father and brother.  Both of whom poked him to make sure it was red blood.  "Tara found him, guys.  She's not often wrong."

"No, she's not," Dean agreed.  He looked at the scars and marks his brother had.  "That's him."  Sam nodded impatiently.  "How did you get there, Sammy?"

"I woke up in a barn, Dean.  No clue."  John walked off grumbling.  "We need to stay out of that town.  They arrested me for being tainted."

"Charming!"  He walked his brother off to Xander's suite.  That way he could nag him in private.

Xander smiled and waved at the watching people.  "Going to help."  He fled the gathering.

"Some day we'll have a normal celebration," one of the Council sighed, shaking his head.

The head of the Council looked at him.  "He's still not used to anyone staring at him."  The Council gathered together to talk about how to remarry the three of them.  It'd do their master good and would hopefully keep the Winchesters out of trouble.  At least for a little bit.  They hoped.  They didn't want more celebrations that were interrupted by an emergency demon hunt.  It was getting tiring to watch.


Tim faced his board and an unexpected person who walked in.  He gave him a 'wtf' look, getting a dirty one back.  So apparently they had found out and called on him.  "You needed this one here?" he asked with a head-nod at Xander.

"We need him to answer questions about how you got treatment somewhere other than Miami when you were shot here," Stetler told him with a cold sneer.

Xander looked at the few people facing them then shrugged.  "I had my personal healers come get him so he could recover in peace and quiet.  His team knew where he was."

"Healers?" Stetler asked.

"Yup, that's what they call themselves."  He sat down, looking unconcerned.  He could see why Tim hated this prick.  And hey, he'd just had a bad night.  Pity for the prick.  "He had very competent medical care that was not charged to his insurance and saved his life.  Why would it matter?"

"Because that is not how things usually happen," one told him.

"Who said I was usual or average?"  He shrugged.  "No one said that I was."

"Why are you here?" Tim asked him.  Xander pointed at Stetler.  "Ah.  Why is he here?"

"Because apparently your allegiances are split, CSI Speedle," he sneered.  "We need to know that you won't be tampering for him."

"I don't do that and he's never been involved in anything in Miami before.  Why would it matter?"

"No one takes you into their home, gives you good medical care to save your life, and then doesn't want something," he sneered.  "We think that one is a known criminal figure."

"No," Xander said.  "Tim and I share a partial heritage.  I actually took over his biological father's job.  A lot of people who knew his father would be very pissed if he had died.  Therefore he wasn't allowed to."  He gave him his best 'bored now' look.  One he had used a lot on the girls back in high school.  "We have nothing to do with criminals or any criminal activity.  As a matter of fact, I'm training a national guard unit most of the time and working construction the rest."

"They did look good," Tim told him.

Xander smiled.  "Thank you.  The council hates it but oh well," he said quietly.  Then he looked at the staring people again.  "What?  New questions?"

"What council?" Stetler asked.

"The one I technically sit on."  He waved a hand, turning him into a baby deer.  "You know, that fits you so much better.  It should be your natural form."  He stood up, looking at the horrified other members.  "Tim and I share a genetic history you might say.  My duty is to protect him and the others of us, plus all of you.  Since I helped avert a few apocalypses that would've destroyed everyone, grow up."

"He didn't clean his gun," one said.

"How did you do that?" another asked.

"I asked around."  Well, he had scried the past with the portals but they'd never believe that.  "His academy class wasn't taught how to clean their weapons.  You've had a lot of them in here about that problem."

"Turn him back," the one all the way on the left said.

Xander stared at him.  "I don't take orders from you.  Nor do I really care what you think.  Timothy is staying here because he wanted a normal life and gave up his gifts to do so.  I'll do my best to protect him, including getting one of us in as an officer so they can join the station he works at.  That way he's protected on scenes as well.  His problem that caused the gun cleaning issue has been dealt with and solved.  Other than that, Timothy doesn't get to use his gifts.  The most he has to expect now that he's come back into the open is people who want him to influence me or to force him into a political marriage with his boss.  They seem to like him for some reason."

"Turn him back," that one growled.

Xander stared at him.  "No.  Because I've had a crappy night and I don't feel like dealing with obsessed pricks who don't want to do anything but make up shit to pin on innocent people."  He stared him down.  "I'm not your bitch, I'm not your officer, and I'll be damned if I have the patience for this today with the small battle I was in last night."  He looked at Tim.  "When you're ready to rejoin us, you'll let me know.  Or I'll let you know when we all need a vacation so it's your turn."  He walked off, flicking a hand back at Stetler on the way, mumbling.  "Still should be his natural form.  Harmless, dumb, and meant to be prey."  The doors shut behind him.

Tim leaned back, getting comfortable while Stetler patted himself to make sure he was still all there.  "You picked a bad day to call him in, Stetler.  He apparently had a small fight he had to handle last night."  He looked at the rest of the board.  "No, before you ask, I can't do that.  I've never wanted to learn.  I left that life because I knew I didn't want to learn to put up with people like diplomats."

"He's a diplomat?" the demanding one asked, starting to stand up.

"No.  He's the leader of our people.  I'm now considered his heir."  He shrugged.  "What he can do I can't.  It's never going to impact things at the lab, and he's right, my academy class was never taught to clean our weapons.  Looking back, that appears to be a political problem in the making.  Apparently someone found out I was down here then."  He stood up.  "As for the problem with my gun being clean, Xander is checking, Horatio is checking, Alexx and Calleigh are still checking.  I doubt it's going to happen again."

"How much longer is your injury time?" the demanding one asked.  "We need to evaluate you for trauma from that."

"I was born among them.  I left it because I wanted to.  I made my own choices.  Then Xander had to save my butt and took that choice away.  So now I'm considered his heir.  It will not impact the lab.  Even if they all moved to Miami it wouldn't impact the lab."

"You still haven't done your post-shooting reviews or any counseling.  Plus mandatory range time, Speedle."

"I'm cleared to do that starting next week.  I don't need a shrink, I have Lieutenant Caine to talk to when I need to, and I'd only drive one nuts anyway complaining that three different brats have come up to me to try to get me to marry them when they used to torture me as a child."

"Torment, you mean?" the quiet one asked.

"No, I mean torture.  One of them literally practiced trying to skin his rabbits on my back once."

"Males as well?"

"The greater majority of our people are in gay relationships.  That's why they want me to marry my boss and I told them off.  Other than that, it's not going to affect very much.  Horatio can glare at them and me if they show up.  I'll be fit for duty soon.  Yes, I've finally been taught how to clean my gun."

"We'll consider it," the demanding one said, glancing at Stetler then at him.  "Battle?"

"Who knows.  Xander's been in a number of them out in California and up there recently.  That's why he was picked to follow my father."  He walked off.  "Let me know when you decide something.  I'm going to swear at him for showing off."

"Tell him to never do that to another officer again," Stetler warned.

Speed looked at him.  "I would've done a bunny rabbit, Stetler.  Especially when I found you outside my apartment last night.  Then you could've had a good life as a pet of some orphans.  He's got more tact than I do.  That's why I retired."  He left the room, finding Horatio waiting.  "Xander pissed them off."

"Why was he here?" Horatio asked.

"The young deer named Stetler."

"Oh, no," he sighed.

"He was apparently a few hours post battle and not real happy with the world.  At least he changed him back."

"That is a good thing, yes," he decided.  "We should try to calm him down."

"No, I think I'm going to let Xander figure out his own post-battle calming down this time, H.  I don't know him well enough to step in and offer a hug or anything.  Not that he'd probably take it."  He walked past him.  "They're considering.  I need a tea.  Need anything from the machine?"

"No thank you."  He watched him go, then looked in the room with a sigh. They were probably freaking out and ignoring the reason they had been called together.  Which could work in Speed's favor.


Xander walked out of the portal and found a Council member waiting on him.  "I don't care.  I haven't been to bed yet.  I just got done with another battle on the hellmouth and Timothy's review board.  Unless it's an emergency, let me sleep first."

"Lord Xander, what battle?" he asked.

He glared at him.  "Don't worry about it.  It's solved."  He walked around him, heading for his room.  He locked the door too.  Then he used the neat spell Tara had taught him last time to make sure no one was coming in so he could get some real rest.  He always woke up whenever his guards moved the door the least little bit.  He laid down on the couch and went to sleep there.  It was comfy.  It also meant he couldn't thrash around if he had nightmares.  Someone knocked.  "Go away before I have you eaten!"

"Lord Xander, do you need anything?" Evarol asked.

"Peace and quiet.  I haven't been to bed yet."

"I didn't know you had a date last night, Lord Xander.  Are you all right?"

"I didn't have a date with anything but my battle axe, Evarol.  Let me sleep!"

"Yes, Lord Xander.  We'll be guarding you from out here."  He shut up and all the movement outside the door stopped.

Xander sighed, flipping to face the back of the couch so he could sleep.  He really hated being up here sometimes.  He could sleep better in a room with vampires than he could in the palace.


Buffy walked out of the portal with Willow.  "Is Xander still growly?" she asked the guard staring at her.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Don't ma'am me, I'm not that old," she complained with a pout.

"Sorry.  Lord Xander is presently locked in his rooms taking a rest.  I can have a message left for him if you want."

"No, I think I need to bat him upside the head in person," she told him.

He looked at her.  "Threatening our leader is probably not a wise move."

"He showed up last night in a hellmouth battle," she told him.  "That's not his job.  He's not a hunter anymore."

The guard snorted.  "I'll let you take that up with his guard, miss."  He called him so Corsor came out to get them.  "They wish to bat Lord Xander around for being at the battle last night?"

"We didn't hear anything about a battle."

"Figures," Buffy snorted.

"He's got to be protected and stopped from doing this stuff," Willow complained.  "He'll get hurt again.  Even with all this and the chocolate he's still a normal guy."

"Who happens to be linked to the hellmouth by being born on it," Corsor pointed out.  Willow glared at him.  "It's a fact he can't deny.  That's why your girlfriend has been teaching him minor things to wear out that excess energy."

"Xanders shouldn't do magic.  It gets warped around him," Buffy told him.  "We've seen it a number of times."

"Really?  And yet the spells he did last night were good.  He's actually saved his secondary heir's life by that very gift, and he's learning the proper way to do things.  Some of those mess ups were her doing," Corsor pointed out.  "That's why she had to have some help recently."  Willow huffed and stamped a foot.  "If you don't want his help anymore, I'll tell him but I'm fairly certain he'll ignore you since you losing can mean the world ends, Miss Summers.  He'd hate that.  Even if he and his heirs are all protected."  He looked at Willow.  "We can give you a ride back to Oklahoma if it'd help."

"They said I'm fine now," she said with a pout.

"I'm sure they did, but it's not something that's fought within one week, Miss Rosenburg."  Xander walked out, glaring at them.  "Lord Xander, they came to protest you having to help last night."

"Sure, next time I'll beat their asses and then the demon's.  Since it had snuck up on the team hunting it and all that I'm sure it'd be appreciative."

Buffy moaned.  "We had it, Xander."

"I'm sure you did.  That's why MaryBeth had to take out its egg?"  She blanched.  He nodded.  "After we pointed it out to her."  He looked at Willow.  "My magic isn't screwy that way.  That was the hellmouth taint.  Thank you."  He looked at Corsor.  "I'm going back to bed.  If they want to complain, let them complain at the people who're complaining about other things.  We can have a big whine fest about me or something.  Make it a national holiday."  He walked off again, growling a little bit.  Evarol caught up with him but stayed safely out of range.  "I'm fine.  If I ever go gay it's because of those two but I'm fine.  That's why I'm going to do my target practice."  He walked into the armory and slammed the door before his guard could walk in too.

Evarol went back to where they were complaining.  Still complaining really.  He cleared his throat. "Thank you for making him want to go toward the spouses we chose for him, ladies."  They both gave him odd looks.  "He just said if he ever went gay it's because of you two."

"No fair," Willow pouted.  "I'm nice to him but he needs to be protected."

"That's why he has us," Evarol told her.

"You weren't there," Buffy pointed out.

"He managed to sneak away and still not get injured," Corsor pointed out.  She glared.  "Did he get injured?"

"He wouldn't let us check," she said sarcastically.  "He won't let anyone check."

"Then his morning dose of chocolate probably cured it," Evarol said.  He heard a large explosion and went to check outside.  "Was that really necessary?" he asked his boss.

Xander pointed at the huge demon and the two people wiggling out of it's former grasp.  "Yes.  Next time  the thing that eats kids can be done by someone else."  He handed off the housing from the piece of artillery he had just used and went back to bed.  He still needed a rest.

"Lord Xander, may a healer look you over?" Corsor asked.

"I'm fine."

"I'm sure the healers will say that as well," Evarol assured him, forcing him that way.  "He needs to be looked over.  He was fighting on the hellmouth last night."

She checked him over then shrugged.  "If he was injured his last dose of spring chocolate handled it."

Xander smirked.  "I can fight without getting hurt, guys.  Really."  He walked off shaking his head.  "Maybe I'll make a nice realm where no one else complains at me," he muttered as he went back to his couch for the rest of his nap.  "Full of pretty girls that want to be slightly naughty instead of really evil and kill me.  My own personal Kirk's world."  He slammed his suite's door, locking and sealing it again.  He didn't want to deal with people anymore.  That's why he let himself disappear as quietly as he could back to the mortal plane and went to hide at a motel near where John and Faith were.  He really hated his duty sometimes.


Evarol and Tara finally got Xander's door open, letting him go in to look around.  "He's not here," he told her.

"He can use the portals without being in front of them," she said quietly.

He huffed.  "I wouldn't have bothered him."

"I don't think it was you.  I think it was everyone treating him like he's dumb again."  He rolled his eyes, going to the portal room.  He searched that way for his master, not finding him.  Tara walked up behind him, muttering a spell.  That one found the region he was in because it located all those tainted by sacred spring chocolate.  "Faith's near there."

He smiled at her suggestion.  "Thank you, Tara."  He went to find those two.  John and Faith looked up from their tracking through the woods.  "Once you've managed this creature can you please find the being that goes by the name of Lord Xander?  He was a bit pissed at his friends earlier and huffed off somewhere around here."  He heard a growl and looked, then shot it.  "Shut up, you unworthy thing."  He looked at Faith again, seeing the amused look.  "Too many nags got him again."

"He having a drunk day again?" John asked.

"We can't pinpoint him.  He's shielded himself somehow.  Not even the portals can find him."

"We'll look once we've got this situation cleaned up," John told him.

"Thank you.  He wasn't injured when he went to help Miss Summers and Miss Rosenburg last night but you never know.  He was a bit...growly.  Then we had something attacking children that he blew up.  He went back to his rest and disappeared about five hours ago."

"We'll figure it out," Faith promised.  He smiled and disappeared.  She looked at John.  "Want to tan B's hide this time?"

"I think her mother should.  It's usually not polite to beat someone else's child.  Willow though, she might need it again."

Faith smirked.  "Probably, yeah."  They went to find the rest of the demons.  Then to burn them.  Her pyro tendencies loved working with John and his boys.  There were always pretty fires going on.


John finally found the right motel, letting Faith go in to wake the boy up.  Xander might growl at him and he'd get in trouble if he knocked him out for it.  It had taken three days, which had led to a small panic in his realm.  Apparently his council was very sorry they had made him take a vacation to get away from them.  They were even promising to drop nagging him about what he dated for a while.

Faith knocked once.  Then again when there wasn't an answer.  Then she broke the handle and walked in.  She didn't have that sort of patience.  "Good hiding job, X," she said as she kicked the door shut.

He looked up from his watching tv, shrugging a bit.  "It kept me from killing a few more people."

"Probably a good idea.  They said they won't nag you about your dating habits anymore."  She sat next to him.  "Why are you watching Spongebob?"

"It's on," he said dryly.  He looked at her.  "I need another day."

"You can't have it.  They said you have to come back.  It caused a massive panic and a threat of rioting.  Apparently the people like you, bad girls following you, goofy, ugly shirts, and all."

"No they don't."  He leaned back against his pillows.  "This latest thing proved how unsuited I am to this job, Faith.  I can't stand people nagging me.  Or the power plays.  The only happy times I seem to have are building things and blowing other things up."

She shifted to look at him again.  "We all got job stress, boytoy.  Not like being a slayer's all sunshine and kittens."

"I know that but no one expects you to breed a replacement.  Or nags when you have to do your duty because it might be dangerous."

"Good point.  It does suck to be you."  She smirked at him.  "Still causing a panic isn't nice."

"Neither is wanting to demolish the council in favor of a British style monarchy."

"They probably wouldn't like that, no."

"It'd cut down a lot of the crap though.  Not as many power plays."

"You'd have different ones for alliances.  Like on that supposed reality show."

"Maybe I should pick new ones?"

"Could help but you don't know some of the people well enough to know if they'd be annoying and bad for the people."

"I know.  Which is the real problem.  I don't know what I need to know to do the job."

"Then let Madge and them tell you, boytoy."

He looked at her.  "Madge gets frustrated or mad whenever I say I'm not good at this stuff because I don't know what to do.  She said it insults Tim's dad."

"It might but he picked who he had to so his people survived.  Now you'll learn like he did."

"He was born to it."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, he was a clan leader from a long line of clan leaders before he merged everyone."

"Okay so he did know what he was doing.  I'm sure he got just as frustrated."

"Which was why I got chosen," he pointed out dryly.

"Could be."  She shifted again, making him look at her.  "You still can't let the average guys panic.  It's not good for the little people."

"Not something you usually worry about," he quipped.

"No, but they panicked enough to come find us, Xander."

"I'm sorry they pulled you into it, Faith."

"Don't be.  You've got some good points in your favor.  They're trying to protect what they had without realizing things change.  Especially under a new head of the government.  They're all high born but they want to keep things the way they are because that's where their power was."

"Whereas I'm changing things to help the people be better protected.  Which was their problem with the national guard unit."

"Corsor said they put them on vacation."

"Unfortunately they're due to be attacked this afternoon by someone so they'll be called back."  She gave him a dirty look.  "The anti-chocolate people again.  It should've been a few hours ago."

"Which is why no one's bugged us for hours about finding you I guess," she decided.  He nodded.   "You know it happened already?"

"Yeah.  Corsor called before you got here to swear at me for not being there.  Evarol took the phone and said the unit did a good job and it was cleared up."  Corsor appeared.  "You calmer?"

"I am.  The Council is frantic.  They think you planned that."

Xander glared.  "Fine."  Faith smirked.  "Don't start.  I'll tell them you're looking to date."

"They're determined that you're going to marry your original spouses again and she can be your surrogate if she wants."

Xander shook his head.  "No.  Sorry."  He got up.  "Thanks, Faith."

"Do your best until you can find someone better."  Xander nodded, heading off with his guard.  She groaned, going to tell John the bad news.

Xander reappeared in the palace, on the stairs.  He whistled.  "Good job, cadets.  You proved your worth to the kingdom and the city."  They cheered.  "That is what you were created for.  That and to help with situations like floods and major emergencies.  For now, gather the injured and handle the healing time.  I'll be listening to the commanders' plans in a few days."  They left.  He looked at the waiting people.  "I've spent the last few days considering some options.  With the level of politics that is going on around here, I can't stand dealing with it."  The crowd started to look horrified.  He raised a hand.  "I'm not abdicating yet.  I still haven't found a good successor.  I am  however making some changes."  He looked behind him, finding Tim and Estria.  He walked up there to hiss at them.  Tim nodded.  Estria gave him a worried look.  He stared at her until she shrugged but nodded.  He came back down to look at them.  "As of yesterday morning, when the Council tried to abridge some of the land's laws, they are going on vacation.  I'm not disbanding them but I do believe they have lost touch with the normal people.  Therefore I'm adding three...."

"Five," Tim interrupted.  "There's five cities."

Xander looked at him.  "City ones that answer to ours?"

Tim considered it.  Then he shrugged.  "Five gives them equal power."

"Agreed."  He looked at the crowd again.  "I'm adding a city-wide council to handle the smaller matters in each of the major cities.  That way any local problems can be taken care of in a reasonable time without waiting to bring it up here.  I'm also adding five elected positions to the council.  They are meant for the average person who wants to help govern the society we have built.  That way the council cannot forget the normal person's needs in the future."

"Lord Tim, do you agree with this?" one woman yelled.

He came down to stand beside Xander on his left.  "I do.  The council needs changed so it can keep working efficiently and focus on what's important."

"Not on who I'm dating," Xander finished.  "Also to put some ideas and rumors to rest, I am not dating my heirs.   They're wonderful people who help me.  I cherish them for that and am becoming friends with them.  I will not destroy that by making them deal with me in my odder moments or after hunting."  The crowd laughed.   The council stormed out. "I see they're ready for their vacation to have started yesterday."

"You have no authority to do that," the head of the council said.

"Yes he does," Tim told him.  "My father unmade the council.  Xander's adding some more voices to help handle problems.  He's right, you've managed to ignore what's best for the people.   You're here for them, not your friends' pocket books.  The same as you cannot make him marry people who are opposed to the union.  It is not legal."

Xander looked back at them.  "You can't make me marry them anyway.  It does abridge human needs.  No heirs would come of it and you wanted heirs.  I can pick my own spouse, even if you don't agree with it.  I don't have to ask the council's permission to marry."

"You will or we will call for a removal," the female member said.

Xander shrugged.  "You're already on vacation.  You can be disbanded."  They gasped.  "I'm trying to keep some stability going.  The council is a good idea but has crappy ideals right now.  Me being with Dean or Sam wouldn't make the people safer.   Things always come for hunters.  Some higher demon would come back some day for them or me.  If you don't believe me, go finish summoning the one that one of you was starting to call up."  He moved closer.  "I'm about to make all of your positions elected," he told them quietly.  "I'd stop and go on vacation before you piss me off enough to remove you all.  The council serves the crown by helping it deal with matters that are bothering the people.  Some of you have forgotten that."  He stepped back.  "So the history lesson I was given told me."

"The council does serve the crown, not the other way around," Tim agreed.

"I almost decided on a British style monarchy," he told him.

"It's be a really small parliament but the council can do that.  That would take some of your power; it would only work if the council was working for the good of the people."

"I had hopes they would but apparently I'm wrong," he told him.  He looked at the people again.  "The elections for those five new seats will be held next month.  That's not much time but we'll figure it out.  This first term is for one year.  After that, every two."  The people babbled at that.  He raised a hand.  "To settle any other rumors, my bedroom is not more than a topic of gossip.  If and when I marry I will find someone who wants me for me.  I will make sure they're good for the people but who that becomes is not open for debate.  I'm not going to chain myself to someone I don't like for our very long lifetimes.  As marriages can't be dissolved if there's problems, I'm going to make damn sure I know what I'm getting into."  The crowd cheered at that.  One of the judges stepped forward.  "Have I broken some law?"

"No, though they have petitioned the court to reinstate your first marriage."

"They're human and by human standards it's disgusting to sleep with your brother.  Not to mention the threats that could come for them up here.  Or the fact that we all like girls so it's an unsuitable and unreproducing marriage."

"There are ways around that."

"Sleeping with a surrogate to knock her up is cheating to me.  I'm not going to cheat on my future lover.  That's not a marriage, that's hell."

"What of that one slayer, Faith?"

"She's like a sister to me.  We had fun that one time but she's not interested in having me again.  She made herself clear on that point."

"I can agree to that.  But you did give Samuel some sacred spring chocolate through your blood."

"He was going to die if I didn't act.  That's why I did it that way."

"It can only be done when deeper feelings exist," Tim said quietly.

Xander looked at him.  "I don't have many true friends I can lean on.  I would count them like that."  He looked at the judge again.  "Even if you order it to happen, we will not be admitting to the marriage and we will not be behaving as married, which is a bad influence on the people and a bad example for the children who're raised here.  I have to think about them."

"You do, but there is more to a happy marriage than having heirs."

"I know.  Which is why I'm going to consider whoever I choose very carefully.  Even I wanted a male, they still like girls, which means we're not suited."

"You will marry them," one of the council shouted.

"Arrest him," Xander ordered.   The crowd and the judge gasped.  He looked back there.  "Trying to hamper me doing my job and do it well is not legal.  Trying to make me marry Dean and Sam means that I can't do my job correctly.  You want them up here that much, offer them a house or something."  He looked at the judge again.  "We're not meant to be together.  They're my family's protectors and my friends.  Nothing more at this time.  If I do decide on them, I'll announce it.  Also I'm putting a monument up at Wozball to commemorate the battle."

"But if you add anything to that room, the thing isn't able to be retrieved," Tim said.

Xander looked at him.  "Can you see any reason that we might need it?"  Tim slowly shook his head.  "Exactly," he said with a grin.  Tim smirked back.  He looked at the crowd.  "I'd like the people to submit a design."   He looked at the judge, who was smirking evilly.  "It's good to honor the well-fought battles of the past."

"It is," he agreed.  "Also very useful."  Xander tipped his head in thanks.  "What of that young one you're protecting?"

"Dawn?"  He nodded.  "She's underage.  She's like my kid sister.  I could never be involved with her.  I couldn't put up with her being so fashionable.  I'm a practical person.  Find me someone like a female Dean or Sam, and I might like them.  But I won't break up their team and I won't hurt that family."

"That's wise," the judge agreed.  "The people will still speculate."

"Let them.  They can gossip but my bedroom is not the place for politics or law.  You can't legally endorse love."

The judge smiled.  "That is very true.  Thank you for that reminder."  He looked at the council.  "It is his right to put you on vacation if he thinks the council is causing harm.  It is a nicer step than having him disband you."

"I'm also adding the five elected positions and creating city-wide councils to handle the local problems so we can focus on the major things."

"That's very wise," he agreed.  "How will we know who is open to it?"

"Anyone can run but I would prefer it if they were normal people.  People who have worked, lived, and sweated over what's going on.  They know what the people need."

"Good.  We like that plan on the judicial panel."  He bowed.  Xander bowed back.  "May your reign last."

"Some day I'll give it up to a better prepared heir."

"Agreed.  Once you find them, take the time to groom them."  He walked off.  The council yelled but he ignored them.  The king was right in his doings.

Xander looked at the council.  "Have fun on your vacations.  Talk to the people you serve, that way you come back with better ideas of what's needed so I hear them."  He looked at the people.  "Beyond that, is there anything that needs to be heard today in a public forum?"

"The new unit, are they on leave?" one guard asked.

"If they need to take the time to mentally heal from their first battle, they shouldn't be needed for the next few days.  They can have the rest of this week off to heal then start training again next week."

The guard nodded, going to tell the commanders that.  "Thank you, Lord Xander," he called as he walked off.

"Welcome.  I'm a reasonable, practical person and I've been where they are."  He looked at the general people gathered again.  "Any other issues that need to be addressed this way?"  No one said anything.  "Good.  Then let's wish the council a good vacation and we'll see them back after the election with their new members."  The crowd cheered.  Xander watched as they stomped off.  He walked back inside with Tim and Estria.  "Thank you," he said quietly.

"Needed to happen," Tim told him.  "My father never had problems like that after he disbanded it the first time."

Xander smiled.  "I don't know who to replace them with if they quit or get fired.  Homic was suggested by them."

"If a high born runs would it be acceptable?" Estria asked.  "I know of a few who have sense and compassion."

Xander shrugged.  "I want the best ones for the job.  Let them take the place of whoever quits."

"Most people who can do the job well don't want it," Tim told her.

"I know but he'll accept it now.  He's frustrated."

"There's the new city councils and probably at least one seat open," Xander told her.  "Five high born, five normal people."  She nodded at that, going to suggest it to him.  He looked at Tim.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He smirked.  "Thank you for turning Stetler back.  They think you're more dangerous than our gang problem."

Xander smirked.  "I don't try to destroy a city or claim it if it's not already mine to protect.  You can assure them of that.  I have more than I ever wanted up here."

"I did.  Horatio was amused."

"Good.  He looked like he could use some recently."  He stared at him.  "You've been spelled again."

"I noticed that.  I'm going to impose on Tara soon."

"Let me do something."  He went to pull Willow up, walking her fuming butt out to where Tim was.  "Someone magiced him.  He's an officer.  They nearly killed him the last time and he's my heir.  Think you can stop it from happening after you take it off?"

She looked him over.  "Its not hard."  She looked at him.  "You're trusting me to do this?"

"Mostly.  Tara's in class too."

She nodded, moving closer to him to remove the spells.  Then she cast a shield over him.  Tim wiggled some but it fit itself after a moment.  She smiled.  "There you go.  I don't know why gang members are using witches."  She went to look that up, calling Buffy on the way.  "There's witches in gangs in Miami.  Xander's heir is a police officer and he got cursed by a few of them.  That's what I'm doing, yeah."  She hung up and sent herself there, going to use the park for a bit.  It was a nice park.  Felt very good magically and with the bright sunlight shining on her.  The gang member who was out there fighting with his girlfriend could be her first test subject.   Yeah, that spell set would help Miami a lot.  She beamed at the girl.  "He can't hurt you now."  She walked off, going to see where she could cast it easiest.  She had liked Tim when he had chewed her a new one recently.  He hadn't harped on her magic addiction at all.

Tim looked at Xander.  "That's probably dangerous."

Xander nodded.  "She's doing good for the world.  Means I don't have to shoot them and neither does your boss.  If he doesn't like the idea, have him talk to her.  She could use another nagging parent figure and he could use another project."  He stared at his heir until Tim gave him an evil smirk.

That would definitely get Horatio off his back.  Tim went back to work.  Horatio looked up as Tim stomped into his office.  "New problems up there?"

"Xander had Willow remove the spells off me this time and shield me so it can't happen again."

"That's good to hear."

"She's also looking at how to make our gangs more harmless.  I caught her magicing one in the park so he couldn't hurt his girlfriend."

Horatio considered that for a moment.  "That might be good."

"She's on her way to the beach that way."  He wrote down an address and description.  "If you don't want her to do that, I'd talk to her now before she hits more of them.  Before some of them piss her off and she turns more of them into kitties."

"I can definitely ask her about her ideas."  He got up and grabbed his sunglasses, heading down to find her and talk to her.  It wasn't that hard to find her.  People were avoiding her for some reason.  One even pointed her out to him.  He walked that way.  "Miss Rosenburg?"  She spun, looking at him.  He smiled.  "Lieutenant Horatio Caine, ma'am.  I'm Timothy's boss.  Can we talk about this plan of yours?  That way I make sure you won't be harming the citizens any?"

"Sure," she agreed with a smile.  "Maybe you can help me figure out how to cover a gap I just realized I'd have."  She walked off with him, babbling about her ideas.  He was easy to talk to and he didn't nag either.  Maybe she should move to Miami since so many of them didn't nag.


Xander appeared where John, Bobby, Faith, and Tara were handling a problem, handing over a letter.  "I found her a new mentor for her plans to make gang kids more harmless."  He smirked at John.  "The council's on a vacation."

"I heard that.  One came to complain and I told him if he tried to force Sammy, Sammy and Dean would shoot him."

"If it was Homic, I was about to anyway."  He smirked at Tara.  "She said they don't nag."

She nodded once, looking over the letter.  Then she huffed.  "She can't do that."

Xander shrugged.  "Talk to Horatio about magical ethics.  He's Tim's boss, the redheaded guy with the sunglasses.  Or talk to Alexx, his adopted mom."  He shrugged and disappeared.

Bobby plucked the letter from her fingers to look over, then sighed.  "That's not a great plan but it's not fully dark."

John took it but Tara took it back and put it in her pocket.  "I'll be talking with my girlfriend later."

"If you need to switch girlfriends, we'll make sure your next one is sweeter," Bobby assured her, getting a smile and a hug for that.  She walked off muttering.

John looked at Bobby.  "That bad?"

"She's got a plan for how to make the gang kids down there fight less and be less violent so they quit causing as many problems.  Apparently one of them wanted the crime lab to leave him alone so they've been magicing the officers."

John nodded.  "Do they need a hunter?"

"They've got her, John."

"True, she could probably make them beg to never do it again."

"It probably gets Caine off his boy's back too.  Gives him someone new to fuss over instead of Tim."

"Probably," John agreed, seeing the plot for what it was now.  "Xander is really sneaky."

"Yeah, he is."  Tara yelped then something screamed.  They ran to check on her.  The demon they had been hunting was down.   Faith came out of the woods she had been searching for it in, making sure it was dead by stabbing it in the heart.  Bobby looked Tara over.  "Are you okay?"

She nodded.  "I'm not bad."

"No, you're not," Faith agreed.  She saw the letter on the ground and picked it up to glance at.  "Huh, Red's going strange."

Tara took it back and put it back in her pocket.  "It's good they're more subtle than nagging."

Faith gave her a hug.   She clearly needed it.  "It'll be good for her to be mom'd like Bobby does to you."  She smirked at the girl.  "By the way, B said your stepmom called looking for you at the Magic Box."

"That's interesting to hear," John said casually.  Faith smirked at him.  They clearly had the same idea.

"I think we can take Tara girl here to see her folks," Bobby said with a grin for her.  "That way they know that you're safe, doing good in school, and happy."

She looked at them then sighed.  "Don't hurt him."

"Hush," Bobby ordered.  "Before I paddle them for your enjoyment, girl."

Tara gave him a pat on the arm.  "You're getting scary like Xander can."

He smiled.  "Thank you."  He walked her off.  Faith and John always had a lot of fun with the burning so he'd let them do that while he took Tara home to show her how a real man treated guys like her father.  That way she'd heal a bit more and could find a good girlfriend that stayed sweet instead of turning into a bad witch.

John and Faith shared a look.  "He won't save us any, will he?" Faith complained.

"No.  We can still go help.  I hear she's got brothers and a stepmother."

"I'm there."  She pulled out her lighter.  John had the lighter fluid this time.  After a short, pretty bonfire they tracked where Bobby had went by calling Buffy to see what town they needed to hit.  They'd casually run into Bobby there tomorrow.


Xander watched the Bobby vs. Tara's Parents showdown on a portal.  He had pulled in a chair, had some snacks, had a soda.  His guards were giving him confused looks but Xander was clearly enjoying himself this time.

Bobby walked Tara into the police station.  He had learned two of her brothers were cops.  That just made what was going to come all the sweeter.  He smiled at the desk girl.  "Is Sgt. Kenderson in please?"

She gave him an odd look.  "We don't get many requests for her, sir."

"I think she needs to talk to this young lady."  Tara gave him a hurt look.  "Please."  She nodded and called the person.

A stocky brunette with blonde streaks came out of the back, giving them a confused look.  "You have information you think I need to hear, sir?"

"I think Miss Maclay does."

"I didn't know they had a sister."

"There's probably a good reason for that.  May we?" Bobby asked.  She led them back to her office.  The plaque on the door that said Internal Affairs was very nice to him.  "Tara, want me to sit outside?" he asked when she turned nervous enough to start trembling.  "I can if you want."

She shook her head.  "No, I'll be okay," she assured him quietly.  She stared at the officer, reading her for a moment.  "Did you know about my father and brothers?"

"I had no idea they had a sister," she said honestly.  "Since I've been in this town for over fifteen years, I should've seen you at least once.  Why didn't I?"

Tara turned and lifted up the back of her shirt to show off some scars.  Then she turned and put it down, staring at her.  "Now they're married with girls of their own," she said quietly.  "I won't have my nieces or their wives turn into the slave my father made me after he ran my mother to death."

She stared at her.  "Ran her to death how?  Sit, girl.  Please.  If they're that bad, I don't want to wear the same badge they do."  Tara sat down delicately.  Bobby sat beside her, putting an arm around her shoulders.  "Boy friend?" she guessed.

"I'm watching over Tara while she's in college near me.  That way she has someone to go to when she needs to talk and fuss over."

"Good.  All kids need a decent parent to grow up straight."

"I had my mother," Tara offered.

"Her I kind of remember.  I remember her funeral."  She looked at the girl then at Bobby, nodding for him to go.  He nodded, stepping outside.  "Tell me what they did, Tara, and I'll see if I can make them miserable for it.  I definitely won't let them hurt your nieces.  Guys who hurt their wives and children get my foot up their hind ends."  The girl smiled and relaxed some.  She knew most abused people were told that no one would believe them but this was a bit extreme.  "What happened to your mother?" she asked more gently.  Tara looked down at her hands then told her.


John watched as Bobby smiled and walked up to Tara's father.  "Damn it, he didn't leave me any," he complained quietly to Faith.

"Me either but I heard B got them once."

John smirked.  "Good.  Shows she did learn some things from her mother."

Bobby smirked at the guy who was about his age.  "You'd be Tara's father, wouldn't you?"  The man flinched.  "Bobby Singer.  She's helping me around my salvage yard while she's in college."  He smirked.  "Heard you were looking for the girl."

"Figured she'd find a man to protect her finally," he sneered.

Bobby leaned down to get into his face.  "I'm a widower.  I don't need a nice, sweet girl like Tara is.  She needs a good girl of her own.  I'm a stand-in father since you did so poorly."  He stood up again when the man glared.  "By the way, might wanna talk to your boys about how their families are now in protective custody since they're losing their badges today."  Tara walked up next to him.  "You okay?"

"I'm good.  My stepmother's nicer when he isn't around."  She looked at her father.  "It's good to see what real men are like, Father, and that they aren't like you.  It's helped me heal a lot of things."  She looked at Bobby.  "I got Rumsfeld a new toy."

"That's sweet of you.  You spoil my dog horribly."  He smirked at her father.  "Don't bring your filth and your problems near the girl again.  Or they won't be protecting you when you go to jail too."  He got up to get into Bobby's face, taking a swing.  Unfortunately, Bobby was a hunter and knew a bit about fighting.  Took him three hits but Tara's father was on the ground moaning very nicely.

Tara looked at him.  "You're turning into John."

He smirked at her.  "He deserved worse.  And I think that's what he's got," he said, spotting the officer with the paper in his hand.  "If he presses charges, so be it."

"He won't be," the officer assured him, hauling Tara's father up.  "Rory Maclay, you're under arrest for spousal abuse, child endangerment, six charges of child abuse and neglect to cover your daughter and grandchildren, and for littering the sidewalk by laying on it.  You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.   You have the right to an attorney.  If you can't afford one, one will be appointed for you.  Do you understand these rights?" he asked blandly.

"How dare you," he sneered at his daughter.

"I'll never let you do to my nieces what you did to me and my mother.  I'm stronger than you are, Father, and you made sure of it."  Bobby patted her on the shoulder.  "He's a much better father than you ever were."  She walked off, leaning on Bobby's arm shaking.

He smiled at her.  "I'm proud.  You did good, Tara."  She smiled at him.  "Let's head home to spoil the pets some more.  You clearly turned Rumsfeld back into a puppy."

She smiled.  "He's a big puppy anyway.  Even if he is scary and hunts demons, Bobby."

"True, he can still hunt.  Seems to go worse now on 'em really.  Must be protecting you harder."  She blushed but smiled at him.  He smirked at John.  "Sorry to take your fun."

"They'll have fun with him in jail anyway," John told him.  "You do good as an overprotective father, Bobby."

"You rubbed off on him," Faith told him with a smirk of her own.

Tara squeaked and blushed.  "Don't say things like that, Faith.  One of the hunters in Sunnydale thought the same thing," she told the guys when they gave her odd looks.

"Clearly they got one too many concussions," John told her.

"I'm not that desperate," Bobby told her.  Faith cackled and batted at his arm but they walked off together.  "You gonna spank 'em for that thought?" he asked John.

"I'll get Joyce to.  It might help more if a mother did it to them.  They might think I liked them too.  I have to tell Ellen that.  She'll cackle just like Faith is."  He walked off shaking his head.

Bobby snickered all the way back to his car.  That was too cute of the girls.


Xander smirked at his staring guards.  "See, he's good to her."

"Very," Corsor agreed happily.  "She could use a mentor and father figure."  He patted his boss on the back.  "You're missing work for this?"

"Yup.  I wanted to see that showdown.  Tara has nieces.  She won't protest for herself but for them....  Her momma just got revenge."  He packed his things up and went to his office to look over things that needed to be done.   Something always did.

The guards shared a look.  Xander was really good at politics after all.  Clearly they had underestimated him again.

The End.