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Tied up in Red

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http://wka.moments-lost.org/nominees.php

2013
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Tied Up in Red
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Prologue

word count:  1661

XXX

    Having a bunch of American teenagers underfoot for an entire summer had changed a few things.  For starters the shop had a strictly American themed menu a couple days a week.  All of the kids had contributed to it...except for Buffy and Cordelia.  Xander had insisted that both girls be kept far, far away from the kitchen...any kitchen.  Yusuke and Keiko had been amused and assumed Xander had been exaggerating.

    That is until Buffy accidentally poisoned Kurama; but that had been the only bad thing that had happened.  And Kurama was well enough the next day; Hiei, of course, found the entire thing hilarious.

    Keiko's weight leaning into his side brought Yusuke out of his musings.  “What are you thinking about?”

    “Buffy's lack of skills in the kitchen.”

    She frowned.  “That shouldn't make you smile.”

    He shrugged; knowing he didn't look or feel the least bit repentant.  “I never expected any one to cook that badly...and it’s Kurama's fault for eating it.  Xander warned him.”

    She rolled her eyes and huffed.  “Do you think Xander is still upset with him?  He pretty much avoided Kurama the entire time he was here.”

    “I can't really blame him Keiko.  If there's one thing I've learned about Xander...it’s that he's used to being on his own.  He's not used to being taken care of or coddled.  You saw how he was with...his pack.”

    Her smile was fond as she nodded.  “He was the one taking care of everyone else...but there is something you didn't notice.”

    “What?”

    “He let Cordy-chan take care of him.”

    “Actually I noticed that...what I want to know...is why he chose a vampire over Kurama.”

    Keiko made a sound that was some hybrid of a snort and a giggle.  “Cordy-chan said Xander acted different with him, Spike, the vampire.  Whatever the reason...Spike didn't treat him like something delicate and easily broken.”  Her smile became mischievous.  “Besides, Xander didn't just choose the vampire over Kurama...he chose Cordy-chan and the vampire over Kurama.  She also said she enjoyed watching them together.”

    “Ugh.  I seriously do not need to be thinking about my little brother having sex with...anyone really.”  He turned and put his hands over her stomach.  The baby inside gave him a kick.  “I'd rather think about this.  I can't wait to meet the little guy.”

    “Or girl.”

    He nodded.  “Or girl.”

xxx

    “We're really going into a demon bar?”  Buffy asked.

    “Well yeah, I told Lorne we'd come back for those non-alcoholic drinks.”

    Cordelia parked her car and turned off the engine.  “Are we going to have our fortunes' told or whatever?”

    “What, he does parlor tricks too?”

    Xander shook his head.  “No, he reads auras and destinies...and that might not be a good idea.”

    They all unbuckled and Cordelia gave him a little frown as did Buffy and Willow from the back seat.  “Why?”

    “Spoilers.”  He let that set in their minds for a second before adding.  “Do you really want to spend all your time worrying about a possible future?”

    “Point.”  

    “Let’s go see Lorne.”

 

    Lorne greeted them like family when they got passed security; the demon hadn’t commented on their weapons and bowed respectfully to them when he handed the receipt to Xander.  Lorne's display however garnered quite a bit of attention.  “Hello my pretties, it’s been a long dry spell since something as lovely as you walked into my place.”  Lorne bowed over Xander's hand and kissed his ring.  “Your Majesty.”  He spotted the ring on Cordelia's hand.  “And you've made it official with your girl.  Welcome back Princess.”  He kissed her ring as well and then kissed Willow's cheek before giving Buffy a little bow.  “I hope you're here for that rain check.”

    “You bet.”

    “Lorne!”  A high pitched shrill voice called his name and a tall platinum blond with blue skin wearing a roaring 20s flapper dress sidled up to him.  “You said you'd listen to me sing.”

    “I will precious; as soon as I take care of my very special VIPs.”

    “VIPs?”  She eyed them skeptically.

    “Gretta, I want you to meet Xander, King Urameshi's little brother, and his princess, Cordy.  The cute redhead is a Miko, and this lovely is none other than the Slayer.”

    Gretta gave them wide eyes before she curtsied.  “My photographer is here...do you mind if we get some shots your majesties?”

    Cordelia looked at him and Xander shrugged.  “Why not?”

    Lorne smiled.  “Splendid.  Hey Davey!  A round of non-alcoholics for table three!”  He lead them to their seats and waited with them while Gretta went to find her photographer.  “Are you in town long?”

    “Nah, we’re just passing through; visiting some friends before heading back to the Hellmouth for school.”

    “Say cheese!”  Gretta smiled at them; her photographer beside her.

    Cordelia leaned into him and they smiled for the camera; their rings reflected in the flash.

xxx

    “Thank you for this.  For telling me all that you can.  Would you like some more ham?”  Joyce asked.

    Marshal burped.  No thank you, I'm full.  I do have a question though.

    “About what?”

    Can I come to Thanksgiving again this year?

    “You really liked the turkey didn't you?”

    Yep.  I never told Xander you gave it to me.  He still thinks I stole it.

    Joyce smiled at him and laughed.

xxx

    Willow peered around them curiously at their current location.  “Are you sure this is the right way?”

    He sighed.  “Yes, I've been here before.”

    “Yeah, but that was at night, and you were in police custody and under duress.”

    “Thanks for reminding me Cor.”

    “Is that Dr. Sloan?”

    “Yep.  Hey, Doc!”

    Mark Sloan paused and then waved at them before walking toward them.  “You're just in time.  We're getting ready to meet Steve at a Police Charity event.  Come on.”

    “Hurry Mark, we're going to be late!”  Jesse nodded to Xander.  “Nice to see you again.”

    “You too, what sort of charity event?”

xxx

    “A Martial Arts demonstration?”  Willow asked as they followed Mark and Jesse into the crowd.

    Cordelia seemed to be of a similar mind set.  “Who has a charity event like this, I mean really.  Aren't charity events like evening galas or something like that?”

    Buffy shrugged.  “Could be fun.”  She pointed as a woman did a few flips across the platform for the audience.  “See.”

    Cordelia remained unimpressed.  “So?  We see vampires do that sort of stuff all the time.  Heck even I can flip.”

    “You can do a lot more than flip after all that training.”  Xander grinned.

    “True.”

    They eventually met up with Steve who showed them around; playing tour guide.  They watched the performances with some awe.  Especially when a woman named Grace, Sammo's student, did her part on the platform.

    “She's good.”

    Xander nodded in agreement with Buffy.  “Agreed.  Very good.”

    “There you are.”  They turned to see Louis.  “I was hoping you'd make it.  There's an open slot for amateurs and special guests.  You two up for it?”

    “Yeah.”  Willow nodded.  “You can show the cops how it’s done.”

    Buffy hesitated.  “I don't know.”

    “Your training clothes are in my car.”  Cordelia gave Xander a look; she clearly wanted him to show off a bit.

    He gave a sigh and a shrug.  “Why not?”

 

    Less than ten minutes later Xander and Buffy were in their training GIs and following Louis and Sammo to the ready area.  Louis approached a blond man and greeted him casually.  “Hey David.  I found a couple of amateurs.”

    The man looked at them skeptically.  “You're kidding right?  That guy will break that little girl.”  Xander just grinned as Buffy ground her teeth a bit.

    Louis gave him a very amused smile.  “Trust me, my friend.  The little girl is not to be underestimated.”

    David shrugged.  “I'll introduce them but we're not liable if you get hurt.”

    Buffy grinned; her humor not reaching her eyes.  “I'll be fine.”

    He got their information from Louis and then headed up to the platform with his microphone.  “Our next guests are from a little town not far from LA.  Please welcome Buffy Summers and Xander Harris from Sunnydale!”

    Xander and Buffy stepped onto platform and bowed to one another; it was a familiar action.  One they had repeated several times over the summer during their training.  And as in their training the world went away.  Oh they were still perfectly aware of the crowd and their surroundings but their focus was on one another.

    It wasn't even a real sparring match really, more of a dance.  They had sparred together so much over the summer that they were familiar with one another's moves.  With just a glance, or a twitch in a certain direction, Xander could tell when Buffy was going to round house and Buffy could tell when he was going to drop kick.

    What really got the crowd and amazed them...was their absolute silence as they attacked one another, not making a sound as they hit, blocked, dodged and all but danced on the platform.  When they finished they bowed again.  And the crowd erupted into cheers and clapping.

xxx

    When they got back to Sunnydale they dropped off Willow first and then Buffy.  Then Xander told Cordelia to drive to Red Fern Park; she gave him an odd look but did.

    “Why are we here?”

    “Just follow me.”  They got out of the car and he took her hand and they walked toward the maple.  The daisies were in bloom as they always were.

    “Xander?”

    “This is Jesse's grave.”

    Her grip tightened on his hand.  “Thank you.  For bringing me here.  It means a lot.”

    He gave her a sad smile.  “Love you.”

    “I love you too.”

XXX

Chapter Text

 photo TiedUpinRed01Small_zps95561f57.jpg

Tied Up in Red
calikocat
Chapter One:  Zombies on your Lawn

Word count:  6,020

XXX

    The house was quiet.  His parents were still on vacation.  His older brothers were back at college.  It was just him...and Larry.  Larry whose mind was wandering and definitely not on the things Kyle was doing to his chest.

    “What do you think will happen this year?”

    Kyle looked up at Larry before gently nipping at a particularly sensitive nub.  “The usual.  Chaos.  Craziness.  Vampires.”

    “You think we'll have a show down with the mayor?”

    Kyle gently thumped his forehead on his lover's chest.  “It depends on whatever endgame he's working toward.”  He peeked at Larry with a small glare.  “Are you done being introspective?”

    Larry nodded; his eyes sharpening.  “Why?”

    Kyle's glare had turned to a pout.  “Because I'm trying to have sex with you and you're not paying attention.”

    Larry rolled his eyes before flipping them so that his body covered Kyle's.  “Sorry.  I'll pay attention this time.”

    “Good.”

xxx

    Buffy peeked into her mother's room just as Joyce was hanging some artwork on the wall.  “Hey.”

    Her mother jumped a bit before turning.  “Oh, hey.”

    “I'm going out for a while, feeling a little restless before the first day of school.”

    “Oh, okay...will you be slaying?”

    “Only if I catch a vampire or a demon hurting someone then I will.  Mostly we thought we'd check on Giles and Ms. Calendar.  It’s got to be hard for him; her not remembering him.”

    “Yes...I can't imagine what he's going through.”  She bit her lip and gave Buffy a worried look.  “You'll be careful?”

    Buffy nodded and gave her small smile.  “I will.”

    Joyce pulled her close to hug her.  “I love you sweetheart.”

    “I love you too...”  Her eyes landed on the mask her mother had just put up.  “What exactly is that ugliness on your wall?”

    Joyce pulled away with a roll of her eyes.  “You have no appreciation for primitive art.  It’s Nigerian.  I like it.”

    “Okay...must be a cultural age gap thing.”

    She rolled her eyes.  “Cute.  Have fun.”

xxx

    She hadn't really known what to say to him, before he left, or after he got back.  Her son was a mystery to her...he had been for a while...since Jesse McNally had disappeared.  He did however...seem to have reached some sort of peace.  What exactly had happened to her boy?

    “How was your summer?”  Jessica asked him while watching him as he busied himself.

    Xander's answer was non-committal; he didn't even look up from his task.  “Pretty good...yours?”

    “Quiet.”  Jessica looked at him; really looked.  Xander had grown.  He was a bit taller, his chest was a bit broader, and his muscles...Japan was definitely good for her son.  She wasn't sure about his hair though...it was a bit shaggy and looked like he hadn't cut it at all over the summer.  “It was alright.”  She watched him as he moved around the kitchen putting away the groceries.  He had grown so much...he truly didn't need her anymore.  But she still had some work to do.  She'd never really done right by him...but she'd fix that.

xxx

    Xander and Cordelia waved to the others where they waited in the parking lot to Giles' complex.  Cordelia had come to pick him up, while bringing more of her stuff over. Evidently she planned to continue spending most of her nights with him; which he was fine with.  They got out of the car and headed toward Buffy, Willow, and Oz who were all leaning against his van.

    Xander grimaced and asked.  “Was anyone else's parent acting weird?  I mean I know we've been gone all summer but my mom was just sort of watching me.  It was creepy.”

    Buffy nodded.  “I'm just glad you made me call my mom, and having Botan bring her over for a couple of weekends, that really helped.  But yeah, there's still some cautiousness between us.”

    “My parents just asked if I had fun.”  Oz shrugged.  “They're pretty laid back.”

    Xander grinned.  “Wills?  Cordy?”

    Willow rolled her eyes.  “They left me note, they'll be back in a month.”

    “Harsh.  Mine are on some mini cruise or something...it’s like the third cruise they've been on this year.”  Cordelia glanced toward the apartments.  “Are we going in or what?”

    “Let’s do it.”

    They walked toward the complex, stepping down to the level where Giles' home was.  Xander knocked on the door.  It opened and Jenny smiled at them.  “Hello.”

    Willow gave the woman a little wave.  “Hey Ms. Calendar.”

    “Giles said I was a teacher and I do seem to have a knack for computers...and cooking.  The school is giving me my job back...um...I'm not supposed to invite anyone in.  I thought that was silly at first...until we were attacked by vampires.

    Oz nodded.  “It happens.”

    Jenny stood to the side so they could enter.  “Giles, some kids are here!”

    Giles came down the stairs.  “Good to see you all.  Botan said you were-” They didn't let him finish.  Xander, Buffy, and Willow moved in one motion to tackle him with a group hug.  He put his arms around them awkwardly and patted them each on the back, “back.  Yes.  Yes I missed you lot as well, you can let go now.”  They did and stepped back grinning.  Then Cordelia moved in for her hug, which Giles was obviously not expecting, but he hugged her as well.  “I am very glad you're back.”  Cordelia let go.

    Oz entered the apartment.  “I'm just gonna wave.”  He waved.  “Greeting over.”

    Jenny giggled a bit and closed the door.  Giles smiled at them all.  “How did your summer vacation go?  Botan didn't tell me much.”

    They moved toward the couch and chairs, Buffy settled on the couch and spoke while wearing a casual smile.  “Oh you know.  I fell into a hell dimension and Xander and a couple of LA cops had to save me.  Then the pack had to save Xander and Cordy because they fell into a magical well that sucked them five-hundred years into the past.  You know; normal stuff.”

    Giles stared at her and Jenny outright gaped.  “That's normal?”

xxx

    “I can't imagine what that's like.”  Cordelia murmured as she parked in his driveway.

    “What?”

    “Someone I love being that close to me, but so far away at the same time.”

    “She remembers quite a bit.  I bet the rest will come back.”

    She nodded and they got out.  “Still...Giles is awesome...that kind of patience?”  They linked hands just as a black limo street-parked in front of the house.  Cordelia tensed and her grip on his arm tightened.  “Xander?”

    “Stay calm.”  A driver got out of the car and moved to open a back door.  Mayor Wilkins stepped out.  He nodded at the man.  “Mr. Mayor.”

    “Xander.  I trust your summer vacation was fun.”

    He kept his voice even.  “It was educational.  Our deal still standing?”

    “Yes, of course.  Ms. Summers was cleared of all charges, the police department issued a formal apology, and the officer that shot at her was reprimanded.  And of course Principle Snyder has been informed of your status so he will be backing off.  However you're not allowed to eat him or let any member of your pack eat him.”

    Xander nodded.  “Fair enough.  He'd probably give Heidi indigestion anyway.  He's such a sourpuss you know?”

    Wilkins nodded in agreement.  “He does have a rather sour disposition.”  He paused, looking at Cordelia's hand.  “I guess congratulations are in order.  You've gotten yourself a lovely princess, young man.”

    Xander nodded.  “Thank you.  Anything else you need to talk about?”

    “No, that's it for now.  You two get a good night's sleep now.  Tomorrow's a big day, first day of school and all.  Good night.”

    “Good night Mr. Mayor.”

    Mayor Wilkins chuckled and got back into his car.  The driver closed the door, gave Xander and Cordelia a nod, and got behind the wheel once more and drove off.

    Cordelia shivered a bit.  “That was creepy.”

    He nodded; his distaste of the man clear on his face.  “And you can't even smell all the magic on him.”  He tugged on her hand and started to guide her up to the house.  “So you ready for school tomorrow?”

    “Brand new outfit already picked out.”

    “Is it one of the lacy things Atsuko picked out for you?”  He grinned when she blushed a bit and smacked his arm with her free hand.

    “You weren't supposed to see that...yet...and no.  That's not for school.”

    “Good.  They were kinda see through-ish, I rather they be for home.”

    She rolled her eyes and smacked his arm again.

xxx

    The first day of school, as always, was chaos.  However in the midst of all the clutter Xander could feel something...familiar.  He couldn't pinpoint where the feeling came from, there was simply too much going on, it didn't help that there were more than a hundred freshmen wandering around lost and bringing all sorts of new smells with them.  Damn it.  Even the library was packed.  There simply was no quiet spot to be had, at least not until lunch, which was where they congregated as Giles had closed the library for filing to keep out the masses.

    Somehow they'd all managed to fit their sack lunches in Giles' mini-fridge and were able to enjoy the much sought after peace and quiet.  Which Buffy immediately interrupted.

    “So my morning started out interesting.”

    They all looked at Buffy, though it was Giles who asked; “How so?”

    “Well, Mom wants to have a dinner party to welcome everyone back, which you're all invited to by the way.  So she wanted me to bring up the company plates...and when I was in the basement reaching for them a dead cat fell off the shelf.”

    “Wow, thanks for that.”  Cordelia muttered.  “I was hungry.”

    “Just thought I'd share; but anyway, dinner party thing tomorrow night at my house.”

    “What kind of party thing?”  Oz asked.

    Larry frowned; mid-bite.  “Isn't there only one kind of dinner party?”

    “Nah, there's lots.  For traditionalists there’s the pot luck, everyone brings food, little or no music.  A gathering is mellow song stylings, classy with wine and cheese, usually brie.  A shindig is dip, less mellow, stronger alcohol, and a hootenanny is a whole lotta hoot and a little bit of nanny.”

    Buffy made a face.  “I'm not big on brie, and I'm not sure about the alcohol.”

    Xander nodded.  “I second the no alcohol thing, but Cordy makes great onion dip.”

    Cordelia grinned at him.  “What time tomorrow?”

    “Hmm...seven-ish?”

    “Cool, then I can get Gweny to make brownies.”

    Heidi stuck out her tongue.  “We can't just have dip and brownies.”

    Tor seconded that with a vocal “Eww.”

    Giles' sigh was loud and heartfelt.  “I suppose I could bring something for those of us with more refined tastes.”

    “I'm sure my mom will appreciate that.”

    “Yes well, will she mind if Jenny comes?”

    Buffy nodded.  “She has an invite as well.  It’s good to see her teaching again.”

    “Yes, she seems to have retained almost all her knowledge of computers.  Other memories are slower to come back.”

    “But she's getting better?”  Xander asked, hope for her in his voice.

    “Yes.”

    “Speaking of getting better...”  Willow shifted and put down her sandwich.  “Has anyone talked to Amy?”

    There was a round of head shaking and Xander smiled.  “You thought about that too huh?”

    She nodded.  “Well yeah.  I mean, the curse went through her too.”

    “I'll talk to her, take a look, and see how she's doing.”

    Kyle tilted his head in curiosity.  “We extending the pack?”

    “We'll see.”

xxx

    It took a bit to find Amy, even odder was that as he got closer to her, that feeling of familiarity that he'd taken note of got stronger.  When he finally laid eyes on her a bit of worry filled him.  While her aura looked okay, healing, but okay, she looked tired like she hadn't been sleeping well.

    “Amy.  Hey.”  He put a hand on her shoulder, and their eyes met.  In an instant he saw a vision of Raizen and a woman.  He blinked and it disappeared.

    Amy however gasped; her eyes wide.  “You know Raizen?”

    And suddenly it all made sense.  Yusuke was gonna hit the roof.  He grinned at her.  “I thought I knew that feeling.  Guess your mom was as fidelity challenged as my...our dad.”

    Amy gave him a little half smile and nodded.  “I dream about Raizen and Kazue sometimes.  My soul kinda kept slipping away after the curse and the coma...but they fixed me.  No more fractured aura.”

    He nodded and moved his hand to her cheek.  “We wondered about that.  Willow's aura was wonky too.”  Xander grinned at her.  “Wait till I tell Yusuke about this.”

    “Who?”

    “Our older brother...bet Raizen left that part out.”

    She nodded.  “How many of us are there?”

    He shrugged.  “No idea, but-” Xander pulled her close and hugged her.  “No more black magic for you little sister.”

    Amy's arms were slow in coming around him to return the hug, but she did hug him.  “Little?”

    “I'm older.”

    She snorted and hugged him tighter.  “Yeah...no more black magic.  Made me feel icky anyway.”

xxx

    Yusuke glared at him through the communicator; eyes bleary from sleep.  “Do you have any idea what time it is here?”

    “Nope.”  Xander grinned.  “We have a sister.”

    Yusuke's face froze on the screen and at first Xander thought the communicator had glitched.  “We have a what?”

    “A sister.  Named Amy, who's just a few months younger than me.”

    “How?”

    He smirked at Yusuke.  “If you can't figure that out I dread when Keiko has the baby.”

    “Smart ass.”

    Xander laughed.  “Her mom had an affair with Tony.”

    “Can't imagine anyone wanting to have an affair with the guy.”

    “Yeah well, Amy's mom wasn't really all there and she was kinda evil.”

    “Was?  As in not anymore?  What happened?”

    “She was an evil witch and Buffy used a mirror to turn a bad spell back on her.  She disappeared and hasn't been seen since.

    “So who is Amy staying with?”

    “Her dad, well, the man she grew up thinking was her dad.  The only dad she has that matters...anyway...she met Raizen kind of like I did.  And Kazue.”

    “Who?”

    “Raizen's lady friend and our many times great grandmother.”

    “Oh...you still at school?”

    “Yeah.  Look, I'll see if Botan can get you so you can meet her...guess one of those rings are for her.”

    “Looks like.  I'll see you soon.”

xxx

    Cordelia closed her locker and then leaned against it.  “So...Amy is your sister.”

    “Yep.”

    “That definitely makes her family...what about pack?”

    “That's a good question...one I don't have an answer to yet...but probably.”  He shrugged.  “The curse activated a bit of her Mazoku genes...that seems to be the only reason I can sense the connection now.”

    “But she's okay now?  Raizen fixed her?”

    “Yep.”

    Kyle appeared at Xander's side; eyes gleaming in curiosity.  “Fixed who?  What are we talking about?”

    “Amy is Xander and Yusuke's sister.”

    Kyle blinked, and his jaw dropped a bit.  “Whoa.  Tony really got around huh.”

xxx

    Cordelia entered the library to find Buffy and Willow all smiles; she hoped they were happy smiles and not manic we want to stab something smiles.  “What's up?”

    Willow bounced a bit, unable to contain her excitement completely, happy smiles then.  “Buffy passed her first make up final!”

    “Congrats.”

    “Thanks.”  Buffy made a show of peering behind Cordelia.  “Where's Xander?”

    “I figured you guys would know by now...Kyle must be losing his touch with the gossip.”

    Both girls stiffened, just a bit, ready for action if need be.  “Know what?”  Willow asked, hand already reaching for the nearest hidden weapon.

    “Did something happen?”

    “Well yeah.”

    Giles poked his head out of his office.  “Anything serious?”

    “Nothing bad.  Turns out Yusuke wasn't Tony Harris' only wild oat.”  They stared; taking a moment to let that translate.  “Amy is one of them.”

    Buffy was the first to react.  “Amy is Xander's sister?”

    “Wow.  Wait, how does he know?”

    Cordelia focused on Willow.  “Amy was affected by the curse differently than you were...I guess because of the coma.  Anyway, she kind of kept passing out and ending up in this limbo place and she came into contact with Raizen.  He was able to repair the damage to her aura and stuff.”

    “Amazing.”  Giles murmured.  “And Xander is with her now?”

    “Yeah and Botan has gone to get Yusuke so they can meet and hang for a while.”

    Buffy grinned.  “Good for them.  This just proves that the fruit can fall entire football fields away from the tree.”

    Cordelia shrugged.  “Or the fruit just rolled down a hill.”

    Giles rolled his eyes.  “Well, if you're done gossiping I'm sure you have homework.  Books out please.”

    Buffy eyed her hopefully and Cordelia shook her head.  “Sorry, all out of gossip.”

    Giles gave them a very unamused stare.  “Very funny.”

xxx

    “What if he doesn't like me?”

    They were sitting on a bench outside Yano's Pizza people watching and waiting for Yusuke to show up.  Xander looked over at Amy and grinned.  “He'll like you.”

    “You said his wife is pregnant, due any day.  What if her water breaks while he's here?”

    “Then she'll call Botan and Botan will drag him back home.”

    “I can't do-”

    Xander put an arm around her shoulders.  “Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.  Everything is fine.”

    She took a breath and glared at him.  “How are you so calm about this?”

    “I've had more than a year to get used to the idea of a brother and I've been wondering if Tony had any more kids besides us for a while now.”

    “So there really could be more...lots more?”

    “Maybe one or two.”

    Amy jumped a bit.  “Oh my god.  I'm going to be an aunt!”

    “Yep.”

    “I have a sister-in-law.”

    “Uh huh.”

    “And two brothers.”

    “Two older brothers.”  A new voice stated; they looked up and Amy blinked at the strong resemblance between them.

    Xander grinned.  “Hey Yusuke.  Look what I found.”

    Yusuke smirked and leaned forward to ruffle Amy's hair.  “Kind of amazing how the old man produced so many good looking kids.  I'm Yusuke.  Nice to meet you.”

    She nodded, almost speechless.  “I-I”m Amy.”

    “Well Amy, let’s take a walk.”

 

    They walked for quite a bit, Yusuke telling her his story, how he came to be a demon, and what it meant to be one of Raizen's descendants.  Xander told her some of the things she'd missed out on the year before, and they both told her about the past two summers in Japan.  When it grew dark they headed back toward the Pizza place, intending to get a bite, when a vampire tried to jump them Yusuke casually blasted it, barely even acknowledging the attack.  Amy's wide eyed look was more than a bit comical.

    They continued their talk over pizza and Xander gave her one of the rings Yusuke had given him.  “What's this?”

    “It’s a way to identify you as one of the old man's.  Most demons will leave you alone when they see it.”  Yusuke said between bites.

    “But that vampire...”

    “Was newly dead...and smelled like city smog.”  Xander chewed his food thoughtfully, “probably an LA vamp hoping to make a name for himself on the Hellmouth.”

    She put the ring on, the crest stayed red, like Yusuke's.  “Thanks, but anyone can put on a ring...”

    Yusuke shook his head.  “Not these.  Their called bloodline rings.  Only a member of Raizen's bloodline can wear them.  Cordelia can wear hers because of her connection to Xander.”

    “Connection?”

    Xander looked sheepish.  “Yeah...evidently we've been mixing our auras without realizing it.  Kagome let us know; but the mixing has sort of made a bond between us.”

    Yusuke snorted.  “She's his consort and that makes her a princess.”

    “Technically.  You did give up your throne.”

    “Tradition is hard to kill.”

    “YUSUKE!”  Botan rushed through the door of the restaurant.  “It’s time!”

    “Time for what---” Yusuke started to ask when realization dawned on him; making his eyes widen to nearly inhuman proportions.  “Seriously?  Now?”  He shoved another slice of pizza into his mouth.  “I gotta go.”

    “Call me; let me know how it goes.”

    “Yeah.  Hurry up Botan, Keiko will kill me if I'm not there for the birth.”

    They watched in amusement as Botan and Yusuke dragged one another out and around the corner before disappearing in a flash.

    “That...”

    “Portal travel.”

    “I'm going to be an aunt.”

    “We covered that already.”

    “I need to go shopping.  What does she need?”

    He blinked.  “You'd have to ask Cordy.  Us guys stayed far away during the baby shower.”

    Amy rolled her eyes.  “That is so typical.”

 

    It was nearly two hours later that Yusuke called on the communicator.  The baby was a healthy little girl.  Urameshi Kazumi.

xxx

    The next morning he and Cordelia walked into the library like they always did.  The entire pack was present like most mornings.  However, unlike most mornings, there was a foul odor in the air...and a ragged cat in a cage on the table.

    Xander did his best not to gag.  “What is that stench?”

    Heidi, the only one who seemed unaffected by the odor, grinned, evidently amused over the situation, whatever it was.  “Buffy's new cat.”

    “It’s not mine.  It’s just the dead cat Mom and I buried.”

    “You didn't bury it very well.”  Kyle muttered.

    Cordelia stared at the creature in horror.  “You have a zombie cat.”

    “Ugh.  It’s not mine, I don't want it.  It came back from the dead and decided to come in the house.”

    “So you brought it here?”  Larry asked; eyes watering.

    “I couldn't leave it under my mom's bed.”

    Giles rubbed at his forehead and sighed.  “Nothing simply rises from the dead because it feels like it Buffy.”

    She gestured to the cat.  “Then how do you explain that?”  The cat growled and hissed at Heidi as she poked at it with a pencil.

    Xander moved closer; holding his breath as he looked at it.  “Well.”  He stepped back again.  “There's no soul.  No spirit of any kind.”

    Willow nodded in agreement.  “But there is a kind of energy or magic animating it.”

    “Yeah...but I think it’s more of an energy than an actual magic working.”

    The library doors opened and Amy came in; her hand immediately going to her nose.  “What is that?”

    “Zombie cat.”  Cordelia replied helpfully.

    “Gross, tell me that's not typical.”

    “It’s not typical.  Also you're an aunt, I'm an uncle, and we have a niece named Kazumi.”

    “Oh wow.”

    “Yes, congratulations...now Amy.”  Giles stated.  “Xander and Willow have determined there is some sort of energy animating the cat and not an actual spell.  I don't suppose you can give us any insight?”

    Amy shrugged.  “I've never dealt with something like necromancy or voodoo.”  She moved closer to the cat, looking at it closely.  “It doesn't feel like any magic I know.”

    “That was so helpful.”  Rhonda murmured, moving further away from the cat.

    Tor however looked thoughtful.  “Actually it is.”

    Giles immediately focused on him.  “How so?”

    Tor nodded toward Amy.  “Amy's been exposed to different kinds of magic.  We all have.  If it’s something we don't recognize we can rule out the magics we know.”

    Willow tittered a bit, excited, despite the stench.  “That's right!  There is Eastern, Western, and even non-human/fey magic.”

    Tor nodded again.  “But...there's...something about it.”  His eyes drifted back to the cat.

    Xander looked at the cat again.  He agreed with Tor...there was...something about that energy...

    Buffy suddenly straightened.  “Whoa.”

    His gaze snapped to hers.  “What whoa?”

    “Mom just got some artifacts in from Niagra.  She's keeping a few pieces at the house.”

    Giles gave a look heavenward.  “You mean Nigeria.”

    “Yeah, that place.”

    Xander blinked and then lightly smacked his forehead.  “Nigeria is in Africa.”

    This time Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.  “Yes Xander, it is.”

    Xander glared at him.  “That's what Tor meant G-man, that there was something about the cat.  We've already been exposed to a type of African magic, back when were possessed by the hyenas.”

    Giles put his glasses back on.  “Oh, right.  Sorry.”  The bell rang then and he sighed.  “Well that certainly gives me a starting place.  Off to class, all of you.”  He didn't have to tell them twice, they were more than glad to escape the stench.

xxx

    That evening found them arriving at Buffy's a little early for the dinner party, they had managed to convince Amy to tag along.  So the three of them climbed out of Cordelia's car; each carrying something for the menu.  Cordelia had her chips and dip, Amy had made butterscotch pudding, and Xander had a large bowl of salad and the brownies Gwen had made.

    Xander knocked on the door as he always did; only an unfamiliar blond woman answered the door which made them all freeze.  She smiled.  “You must be Buffy's friends.  Come in, I'm Pat.  I met Joyce in book club.”  She, Pat, ushered them inside.  “We grew very close, when Buffy was...well you know.”

    Cordelia gave a sniff, a bit of her old haughtiness showing, not that Xander could blame her.  He didn't like Pat either.  “Yes we do.”

    He nodded.  “We all went to Japan for the summer for a special martial arts training camp.  And we helped out in my brother's restaurant.”

    Pat gave them a wink.  “Of course you did.”

    Xander gave Cordelia a look.  “Watashi wa kanojo ga sukide wa arimasen.”

    Cordelia nodded.  “JudÅ�-teki kÅ�geki-tekina meinu.”  

    Pat just sort of stared at them for a moment, probably in shock, when Joyce came down the stairs.  “Hey kids.”  Pat turned to watch her and smiled.

    Xander made a face as a new scent hit his nose, eww grownup mushies.  “Soshite, kanojo ga ketsu jo sa rete imasu. Feromon ni tsuite hanashite imasu.”

    “Iya.”

    Joyce smiled at them in amusement.  “Now, now, not all of us can speak Japanese.”

    “Sorry Mrs. Summers, just proving a point.”  He slid his gaze toward Pat; who only had eyes for Joyce.  “Buffy in the kitchen?”

    “She is.”

    “We'll put the food in the fridge.”  He made his escape, Cordelia and Amy on his heels.  When they were safe with Buffy and Willow he shuddered.  “So creepy.  Pat is totally crushing on your mom.”

    Buffy looked properly horrified.  “Gross!”

xxx

    Xander looked up again, as did Amy, Tor, and Willow.  Kyle huffed and rolled his eyes.  “What is it already?”

    Oz nodded.  “You four do kind of seem on edge.”

    Heidi was giving them all strange looks.  “Yeah, that's like the third time all of you have looked up at the same time.”

    Cordelia joined them, having been in the kitchen before, and plopped herself in Xander's lap.  “Pat really has it bad for your mom.”

    “Ugh.  I suspected it on my own before you guys confirmed it...and how gross is it that you could tell by her scent?”

    Xander shrugged.  “Hey, that's how I found out about Larry.”

    Larry and Kyle blinked and Larry blushed.  “What?”

    “Last year, close to Halloween, you were asking about Buffy...and being a jerk...and then I slammed you against the coke machine...and then you hit me with pheromones.”

    Kyle shot his boyfriend an amused look.  “So that's how it happened.”  Larry ducked his head leaned into him.

    Cordelia grinned.  “So what did I miss?”

    “Some weirdness.”  Rhonda motioned to Xander.  “Nothing new.”

    Xander shrugged.  “Not much...maybe some magic.  We keep feeling something...kind of like a pulse?  A beacon maybe?”

    Buffy made a face; something along the lines of disgust.  “Well there are no more bodies in the yard so we should be okay.”

    However Oz straightened a bit and peered out the window behind Xander and Cordelia.  “Are you expecting anyone else?”

    Buffy gazed around the room.  “Everyone is here except Giles and Jenny.  Why?  Who's out there?”

    “The Walking Dead.”

    Cordelia stood and helped him up.  Xander glanced at Buffy.  “Weapons?”

    “Behind the couch.”

    Kyle and Larry pulled the couch out and started passing out the weapons.  Xander looked at Willow.  “Check the wards.”

    Willow nodded and put her hand to the nearest sutra on the wall.  “Wards are fine.”

    There was a sort of thud as the first zombie tried to break in; it was sent flying back by the wards as it was zapped and bounced off the barrier.  Several more thumps followed, preceded by Joyce and Pat screaming and running into the living room.  Pat made for the front door; pushing Joyce off her when she tried to stop her.

    “No!”  He yelled but it was too late and Pat was out the door and screaming as she ran outside; hysterically dodging around the undead as they tried to grab her.  “Damn.  Heidi, Tor, shadow her.”

    Tor nodded; his hands already glowing a bit with magic.  “On it.”  He and Heidi dashed out after the panicked woman.

    Buffy kept her mom from following.  “Mom, how many of those Nigerian artifacts are in the house?”

    “What?  Just the mask in my room.  Why?”

    Buffy nodded and gently pushed her mom toward Kyle and Larry.  “Keep her safe, come on Wills.”

    Willow followed her up the stairs.  Joyce looked at them all.  “What?”

    “The mask is mystical whoosit.”  Rhonda supplied helpfully.  “It’s making the zombies.”

    “Oh...”  Joyce frowned.  “No wonder I got such a good deal on it.”

    Xander flicked his eyes toward the open door; the zombies were all concentrating on the open doorway...there were at least twenty all trying for the same spot...so many on that one part of the ward...was not good.  “Oh crap.  The wards are gonna fail.  Get ready!”

    There was a fizzling sound, followed by a snap, and a small shockwave tingled through them.  The zombies fell through the doorway now that the barrier was gone...and then there was a flash...and the zombies disappeared.

    Kyle blinked, looked around, and then dashed to the kitchen before he called back; “Clear!”

    Larry, ever cautious, kept Joyce beside him.  “What just happened?”

    Buffy and Willow came back down the stairs while looking around eagerly.  Buffy grinned satisfied at the definite lack of corpses.  “Willow slapped a sutra on the mask until we find a way to get rid of it without harmful magical backlash.”

    Xander lowered his sword with an approving grin.  “Cool.”

    The sudden ringing of the phone made them all jump and Cordelia giggled.  “How much you want to bet that's Giles calling us about the mask?”

xxx

    Cordelia pulled the car into Amy's driveway, before Amy climbed out of the backseat, though she asked; “That sort of thing happen often?”

    He shook his head.  “The zombies were new.  Usually its vamps.”  A sudden thought crossed his mind.  “Hey, you might want to ask Ms. Calendar about magical training.  Giles says she remembers a lot about that too.”

    “So you don't want me to give up magic altogether?”

    Cordelia snorted.  “No, that would be stupid.”

    “Just the stuff that hurts you and others.”

    “Okay.  I'll talk to her tomorrow.  Night.”  She climbed out of the car and they waited until she was safely inside before heading home.

xxx

    Jenny smiled at him as if she had a secret.  “That was fun.”

    Giles rolled his eyes.  “Hardly, I'm just glad no one was hurt...and that we missed the horde of zombies.”

    She kept smiling.  “I meant it was like old times.  Like when we trapped Moloch...”

    He froze and looked at her.  “Jenny?”

    “I remember.”  She frowned a bit.  “Not everything, but most of it...Rupert?  Are you okay?”

    He smiled, tears in his eyes as he pulled her to him.  “Oh Jenny.  Welcome back.”

    “It’s good to be back.”

xxx

    “Heidi.”

    Heidi backtracked a bit and peered at her mom who was sitting alone in the living room.  “Yeah?”

    “We need to talk.”

    A million things went through Heidi's mind in that moment.  Did her mom know about what she was doing?  About the supernatural?  Ryan had sworn he'd never tell their mom about the Der Kindestod...not that any adult would believe him if he did snitch.  She tried not to gulp and put on a curious mask.  “About what?”

    “I got a call from Grandma Betty; Grandpa Jenkins had a heart attack and passed away a couple of hours ago.”

    Heidi felt her vision go fuzzy and white at the edges.  Grandpa Jenkins had been distant sometimes, only because he got wrapped up in memories from Nam, but it hadn't stopped him from being awesome.  “Oh god...how's Grandma taking it?”

    “She's strong...but that's not what I wanted to talk to you about.”

    Now Heidi gulped...and sank to the floor; not bothering to make it to a chair.  “There's always more.”

    Her mom frowned at her but continued.  “I really had no intention of telling you this...but he might be at the funeral...and he'll know just by looking at you.”

    “Who?  Mom what are you talking about?”

    “Your biological father.  Hannibal Smith.”

xxx

    Kuwabara grinned as he joined Yusuke at the counter with a bottle of sake.  “Heard you were celebrating.  How's Keiko?”

    Yusuke took a sip.  “She's fine.  She wants to come home already.”

    “And your little girl?”

    “Beautiful...I'm gonna have a hard time keeping all the punks away from her.”

    “What are you talking about?  Anyone gives her a hard time she'll be able to take care of them herself.”

    Yusuke laughed.  “Yeah I guess...but she's not all I'm celebrating.”

    “Oh yeah?”

    “Xander and I have a sister.”

    Kuwabara nearly choked on his sake.  “Seriously?  Since when?”

    “She's pretty much Xander's age.  Xander just found out and called me right away.  Guess the old man really knew how to have a good time.  Bastard.”

    “What's she like?  Maybe Kurama will stop moping if you introduce him to her.”

    “Oi!  Just because Xander would rather have a pretty brunette girl and a vampire than Kurama does not mean Amy is a consolation prize.”

    “Oh come on Urameshi.  I didn't mean it like that.  Now come on, tell me about Amy-chan.”

    Yusuke rolled his eyes and cuffed his best friend.

XXX

A/N:  At one time I had taken a Japanese Language course.  But when you don't use something you lose it.  So I used google's translate machine thingy.  This is what Xander and Cordelia were saying in front of Pat.

Xander:  “I don't like her.”

Cordy:  “Passive aggressive bitch.”

Xander:  “And she is lusting.  Talk about pheromones.”

Cordy:  “Disgusting.”

Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Heidi's Crisis
Word count: 7317

XXX

“Your biological father. Hannibal Smith.”

Those words had shaken something deep inside her when her mom had spoken them. The name hadn't meant anything to her; she'd never heard it...but...her dad wasn't her father. Some stranger was. Her mother had kept talking, telling her everything, making her head spin.

“After I was born your Grandpa Jenkins couldn't father anymore kids...he just didn't tell Grandma that...and then she became pregnant in 1980...you were born in 81.”

Heidi had just stared at her mom...who wasn't even her mother...but her older sister...her half sister. Oh god, she was going to beat Xander in the family drama category this year.

“Dad loved you like you were his...but mom felt so guilty...and I'd just gotten married. Adopting you seemed to be the best option. Mom couldn't bear to give you up to a stranger, but she couldn't keep you with her as a constant reminder.” Her mom had sighed. “This doesn't change anything Heidi. You're still my daughter, your dad and I love you and that won't ever change.”

“Why?” She had glared at her mom...or should she call her Janet now? “Why are you telling me this now?”

“Because your father was in Nam with Grandpa Jenkins. It’s why he loved you like you were his. Hannibal will be at the funeral. And he'll know you're his the moment he sees you. I just wanted you to be ready.”

Heidi had glared at her mom...sister...whatever. “I'm going out.”

“Heidi! It's almost midnight!”

“Don't care.” And then she had been on her feet and out the door. Questions still buzzed around her brain, but she didn't care, she didn't want any answers. She just wanted....pack.

That was how she came to be on the roof of the Summers' home and tapping on the window. Buffy was there in an instant, lifting up the glass, and looking at her curiously. “Heidi?”

Heidi dove in the window and clung to her Alpha...and let the tears fall. Buffy, though startled, easily picked her up and carried her to the bed, tucking her in and curling up around her.

“You can tell me in the morning.”

xxx

Morning saw them at the kitchen counter with Joyce to enjoy breakfast. Joyce hadn't minded finding Heidi camped out in Buffy's room. It was better she'd staid the night instead of roaming around Sunnydale all night long. So Joyce had sat with the girls while Heidi explained what had happened and why she had spent the night. However when Heidi said the name of her biological father Joyce had choked and spluttered on her orange juice.

Buffy looked at her mother in alarm. “Mom?”

Another cough. “I'm okay.” She wiped at her mouth and stared at Heidi. “Your father is Hannibal Smith? John Hannibal Smith?”

Heidi shrugged. “That's what she said.” Her eyes sharpened and she gave Joyce an almost accusing look...which Buffy elbowed her for. She ducked her head in apology and lessened her glare. “Why?”

“Anyone who lived in LA back in the seventies and eighties knew about Hannibal Smith.” Joyce smiled when both girls continued to give her blank looks. “He was the leader of the A-Team.”

Buffy's eyes bugged a bit. “I thought they were an urban legend.”

“Nope. They were real.”

Heidi looked from mother to daughter in confusion. “What are you two talking about?”

Joyce smiled and took Heidi's hand. “Back at the end of the Vietnam war a team of soldiers were accused of robbing a bank and labeled as traitors. They were on the run for more than ten years before their names were cleared. And the entire time they were on the run they pulled off impossible jobs helping people get out of hopeless and desperate situations. For a fee...but from what I heard they waved that fee a lot of the time.”

Heidi and Buffy shared a look and Buffy quirked her lips. “Sounds like us...but we don't get paid...ever.”

Heidi gave a morose sort of sigh. “I still think Giles should provide an allowance or at least for weapon maintenance.”

“I'd rather be able to replace the clothes I lose to demon gunk.”

“True.” Heidi grimaced at the wall clock. “I'll have to go home soon...thanks for letting me spend the night.” She stood up. “I'll see you at school later.”

Buffy reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Call me if you need me.”

Heidi nodded and slipped out the kitchen door. Joyce shook her head. “Poor thing. Having your world turned upside down like that.”

“It’s not easy, but Heidi is strong. She'll manage.”

Joyce looked at her for a moment with shadowed eyes. “I suppose, still, it makes a person stop and think.” The shadow disappeared and she started to clean up their empty plates. “You have school.”

“Right, gotcha.”

xxx

Xander picked up the kitchen phone on the second ring. “Hello?”

“Hey Xan.”

He blinked in surprise...Buffy never called him in the morning unless something was up. “Buff, good morning.” Cordelia gave him an odd look from the table and he shrugged. “What's the what and should I be worried?”

“Not sure about the worried part...but Heidi spent the night last night.”

“I thought she'd gone home...Everything okay?”

“She did...but she came back here around midnight...she just got some news that shook her up a bit. I just wanted to give you a heads up about it.”

“Is she okay?”

“I think she will be. Her mom told her a bit of a family secret last night...you know how those can be.”

He nodded; more to himself since she couldn't see it through the phone. “Yeah. Thanks Buffy. See you at school.” He hung up with a frown on his face.

“What happened?”

“Heidi is having an issue at home. Buffy said something about a family secret, just not what the secret was.”

Cordelia tilted her head a bit, her hands idly playing with her spirit egg. “You going to wait and see if Heidi comes to you?”

“Yeah. That's probably the way to go.”

xxx

Heidi thought she'd be able to sneak in and out without her mom catching her. No such luck. Her mom caught her on her way out...at least she'd managed to change clothes.

Her mom's eyes were red; blood shot and had dark circles underneath them. “I was up all night worrying about you. Where did you go?”

She sighed; not sure she'd ever be ready to deal with all this. Emotional turmoil was Xander's thing, not hers. “To a friend's. I couldn't stay here after that. I needed time away to clear my head.”

Her mom frowned but didn't push. “The funeral is this weekend.”

Heidi nodded. “Does Grandma Betty know you told me?”

“She does.”

“So how am I supposed to act around her?”

Her mom's frown softened. “Nothing's changed. She's still your Grandma Betty.”

Heidi didn't have a response to that...instead she asked a question. “Can I bring a friend? Or two?”

“To the funeral?”

“I need the emotional support.”

It took a moment but her mom eventually nodded. “You can.”

“I'll ride to LA with them.”

“Heidi-”

“Just...just give me some more time...and space.” And she was out the door again. It was the coward’s way...but sometimes you just had to run.

xxx

Just like he'd told Cordelia, Xander waited until Heidi came to him, the best thing to do was not push. Pushing made for irritable and uncooperative teens. She put it off until lunch time.

The pack had assembled for lunch like always, with the new edition of Amy, except Heidi kept her distance, motioning for Xander and Cordelia to approach her. When they joined her in the far corner of the Quad she slumped a bit and turned a tired gaze to them. “Can you two drive me to LA this weekend?”

Xander exchanged a look with Cordy who nodded. He reached for Heidi and cupped her cheek. “What's going on Didi? Buffy didn't give me any details.”

Heidi closed her eyes while leaning into his hand before speaking. “My life is turning in a soap opera. My mom is really my older half sister, my grandma is my mom, and you'd think that would make Grandpa my dad but it doesn't because Grandma had an affair so some guy named Hannibal Smith is my dad and Grandpa died and Hannibal is going to be at the funeral.” She took a deep breath. “And I don't wanna go into a possible confrontation with my biological parents...or stay at the house with the family this weekend.” She opened her eyes and glared at him. “I thought the family drama thing was your shtick. Why is this happening to me?”

They stared at her a bit as they processed her words and Cordelia finally nodded. “Guess you're just lucky...but you are definitely a Sunnydale kid. Only one of us could babble like that, and I will totally drive you and we will totally be there for you.” She eyed Xander. “Right?”

He nodded; not about to argue. “Sure...I'll call around LA, see if we can crash with someone for the weekend.”

Heidi blinked in confusion. “Who?”

“Sammo or Louis...or possibly the Sloans...like I said I'll need to make a couple of calls.” Without a word more Cordelia handed him her cell phone with a grin...then she handed him an address book. “We really need to figure out where the heck your magic comes from and if we can duplicate it.”

She grinned. “You just want a Mary Poppins purse.”

He rolled his eyes, which made Heidi giggle. “I do not want a Mary Poppins purse...More like a backpack for weapons transport.” He looked back to Heidi. “Go eat with the others; I'll take care of this.”

Heidi nodded and lifted her chin; exposing her throat. He didn't hesitate to give her what she needed and leaned forward, taking the tender flesh between his teeth and bit down just enough to leave mark. She sighed and the tension flowed from her. “Thanks.”

“Come on.” Cordelia pulled Heidi to her feet. “I'm starving.”

Xander watched them join the others for a moment before he dialed Sammo's cell phone. This time of day the detective was probably at lunch...or at his desk.

“This is Sammo.”

“Hey Sammo, this is Xander.”

“Xander! How are you doing?”

“I'm okay, but a friend of mine is having a tough time...which is why I'm calling you.”

There was no hesitation in Sammo's voice. “What do you need?”

“We need a place to stay this weekend, three of us. That’s me, Cordelia and our friend, Heidi. There was a death in Heidi's family...and a secret came out and she's uncomfortable with her family at the moment.”

“What kind of secret?”

“She found out she was adopted...and that her biological mom...is her grandma...and she's the result of an affair her grandma had.”

“Oh...that's a big secret.”

“Yeah, so the guy she grew up calling Grandpa just died and she doesn't want to stay at her grandma's house. Would you or Louis mind putting us up?”

“Putting you up?”

“Er, letting us stay with you.”

“Just a minute.” The following sounds were muffled...but Xander thought he could hear Louis in the background. “Okay. Louis said you can stay in his apartment...and the girls?”

“We're pack Sammo. We've all slept in the same bed before...well it was more like a pack pile after a good hunt, but yeah, no problems there.”

“Right. Louis was just uncomfortable but your ways are different from other humans. The bed in his room will be big enough for the three of you.”

“Er...so where is Louis going to sleep?”

“With me in my apartment.”

“Ah, okay. Thanks Sammo. Thank Louis for me too.”

“I will. See you this weekend...do you need directions?”

“No, I have the address. Willow can get them for us. Thanks again.”

“You are welcome.”

“Bye Sammo.”

“Bye.”

Xander hung up and looked toward the pack. Cordelia and Heidi were watching him and he smiled and gave them thumbs up.

xxx

Sammo ended the call on his phone and put it back in his pocket. Louis was sitting across from him with an unhappy look on his face. “What?”

“Are you really sure it’s a good idea Sammo? Letting three teenagers stay in my apartment without adult supervision?”

Sammo reached for Louis' hand and let his knuckles brush against the younger man's. “We will be right next door.”

“Are you sure you're okay with that? Letting me stay over?”

Sammo frowned a bit. “You have spent the night before.”

“We fell asleep on the sofa Sammo, there's a difference.”

“Yes, but what we did before we fell asleep was not so innocent.” He smiled when Louis ducked his head and blushed. “I do not mind you staying the night. I always enjoy it.”

Louis was smiling now, though the blush hadn't left. “And the kids?”

“Xander is much more responsible than men twice his age. He is honorable and will not take advantage of the girls. Especially since one of them is grieving.”

“Okay.”

“Unless they want to be taken advantage of.”

“Sammo!”

xxx

Face settled across from his former CO at the little cafe they were meeting at. “What's this about Hannibal?”

B.A. leaned back in his own chair and nodded. “Yeah man. Not that I'm not glad to see you guys.” He glared at Murdock. “Most of you anyway.”

Murdock shot him one of his crazy grins. “Awe, I missed you too B.A.”

“Shut up fool.”

“Gentlemen, if you're done?”

B.A. released the death grip he had on the front of Murdock's shirt. “Yeah, but if he starts acting crazy I can't make no promises.”

Face rolled his eyes and tugged Murdock closer to him and further from B.A. “Behave Murdock.”

Murdock practically pouted, but he did nod. “Good as gold Facey.”

Face snorted. “Right, now. Again, what's this about Hannibal?”

They looked at their former leader expectantly. It was amazing, even now, years after they'd been pardoned and their names cleared, these men still dropped everything the moment he sent for them. Hannibal let that feeling flow through him, loyalty was a precious thing. He cleared his throat. “I'm going to a funeral this weekend.”

Their faces grew solemn and each gave a nod. It was B.A. who asked; “Who was it?”

“Jenkins Malloy.”

Murdock slipped his hat off in a show of respect and remorse, his voice softer. “How?”

“Heart attack.”

Face clapped a hand on Hannibal's shoulder. “He was a good man Colonel.”

Hannibal swallowed and nodded. “You don't have to come...but I'd appreciate the support. I haven't seen Betty since...Jenkins was in that car wreck back in 1980.”

“Come on Hannibal.” B.A. glared at him. “Jenkins was your friend, so was Betty, why didn't you go see them?”

“Because I screwed up B.A.” He took a breath. “I'm not proud of this...Betty was so upset...and I wasn't thinking...and there's no excuse good enough...”

Face and Murdock's jaws dropped and Murdock shook his head. “Hannibal you didn't.”

“I did. I slept with Betty...and after Jenkins was released from the hospital...I never darkened his doorstep again. So like I said, you don't have to come.”

“We'll be there.” Face still looked a little shocked by his revelation, but it was stomped out by sympathy. “You need us we'll be there.”

“It's appreciated.”

xxx

“You sure you don't want us to go in with you?” Louis asked, looking up at them from the passenger seat.

All three of them stared at him, but it was Heidi who rolled her eyes and shook her head. “We're seventeen. Not five.”

Louis only grinned. “Right. Well we'll be back later to pick you up...good luck kid.”

Heidi gave him a nod. “Thanks.”

They watched as Sammo waved before pulling away from the entrance of the funeral home, the blue Cadillac turning the corner and disappearing into the early evening. Cordelia glanced at them. “So...are they having sex yet?”

Xander snorted. “That's really none of our business Cor.”

“Yep.” Heidi obviously had no reservations on sharing such information.

“Heidi!”

“What? She wanted to know...it’s not fair that you and I can smell them all over each other and she can't.”

He sighed and looped an arm with each of theirs. “Come on. The sooner we make an appearance the sooner we can hide in a corner...if you want to that is.”

“I wouldn't mind hiding in a corner for a while.”

xxx

Heidi made it down the aisle okay; even so far as to ever so briefly place a kiss on her grandpa's forehead. However when they turned to see her mom and her grandma, or rather her sister and her mother...Heidi blinked back tears and dashed back up the aisle and away from Xander and Cordy. Cordy started to go after her but Xander shook his head and held her back.

“Xander.”

“Give her a minute.”

“Excuse me.” They turned to see Janet Barrie eying them with concern. “I didn't realize one of the friends Heidi was bringing was a boy.”

“No worries Mrs. Barrie. I'm Cordelia's boyfriend. We just came here to support Heidi.”

“You'll be bringing her to the house after the viewing?”

He shook his head. “No, we're staying with a friend here in L.A.”

“The three of you? I don't think so...she wasn't at your house the other night...was she?”

Cordelia folded her arms and glared at Janet Barrie. “No, Heidi stayed with our friend Buffy. And really, you could have at least told Heidi all this drama during the daylight so she could have been walking on safer streets instead of running off into the night.”

Janet was about to retort when a man's voice interrupted. “Hello Betty...is there something you'd like to tell me?”

The three of them turned to see an older man with white hair dressed to the nines in a very nice suit. Betty Malloy swallowed nervously. “Hello Hannibal.”

xxx

They had arrived early, dressed for...well...a funeral, though tonight was only the viewing. The service would be tomorrow, they would wear their uniforms for it.

Hannibal wasn't ashamed to admit it...but he was afraid of going up to the casket...afraid of facing Betty after all these years. Luckily the guys stayed by his side. Waiting to follow his lead. And then...he saw her. And she was beautiful and he knew she was his.

“Colonel?” Face gulped. “She...she looks like...”

Murdock was already moving closer. “She looks like you Hannibal...but prettier. Billy says she smells like you too.”

“Shut up Fool. Can't believe you brought that imaginary dog to a funeral home.”

“Billy is not imaginary; you just can't see him because you're not special.”

“Guys cool it.” Hannibal muttered; his eyes glued to the girl. She was short, blond hair trailing down her back, intelligent but troubled brown eyes. Murdock was right; she looked like him...him when he was much younger...but the real kicker? She could have passed for his mother in her youth. “She looks like my mother.”

B.A. looked from the girl, who was between two other teens, a boy and another girl. “Hannibal...look at them. They move like...”

Hannibal nodded. “Like soldiers...let’s go.”

They moved closer, watching the three kids walk toward the casket, watched as the blond placed a kiss on Jenkins' forehead. She turned and met the gaze of Betty and her daughter Janet for just a moment...before bolting. Her eyes met Hannibal's for the briefest of seconds as she sprinted past them. He watched her go, torn. He wanted to follow her, make sure she was alright. The LA streets were not a safe place for a girl to be alone...but he wanted confirmation from Betty just as badly.

So they moved closer...and just when Janet was about to tear into the boy and his friend he moved into Betty's line of vision. “Hello Betty...is there something you'd like to tell me?”

She swallowed. “Hello Hannibal.”

The girl, a tall brunette, rolled her eyes. “Nice move buddy. You're biological daughter runs out of the room and THEN you decide it’s time for a confrontation?”

The boy beside her sighed; even as he smiled at her. “Cordy? I think the Barrie family has enough drama right now without you jumping in the middle of it.”

“Heidi is part of our family too.”

The boy nodded. “True, but this is still delicate.”

“Xander, I don't do delicate.”

“And that's one of the reasons I love you, still, let’s take a step back, let the adults have their powwow. We'll go look after Heidi.” Then boy gave them all a...very chilling look. “Can you guys behave and act like civilized people while we're gone?”

Murdock...gave the boy a salute. “Yes sir we can.”

“Good. Come on Cor. Let's go find Didi.”

“That was...a very strange conversation.” Face murmured. “And I can't believe you just saluted a kid.”

Murdock shrugged. “I think they were fun, and I know a leader when I see one.”

B.A. snorted and cuffed him a bit. “You would, that was just a kid...not a leader. Even if he did move like a soldier.”

“Guys, give us a moment?” The three of them nodded and took a few steps back. Hannibal leveled his gaze on Betty. “Well?”

“She's yours.”

“Yeah, I figured, she looks just like my mother did.”

“I...after what we did...I found out Jenkins couldn't father anymore children...he knew she was yours. And I couldn't raise her because of the guilt, though Jenkins loved her like his own.”

“I adopted her.” Janet spoke up. “I'd just gotten married, and we wanted to keep her in the family. She's my daughter, as much as if I'd given birth to her myself.”

Hannibal stared at the women. “We'll talk again.” He glanced at his men. “Let's go find the girl. I'd like to formally meet my daughter.”

xxx

They caught up with the brunette pair, Cordy and Xander, only a block away from the funeral home. The two teens walked hand in hand, almost casually in the LA night, but...the way they moved, the way they looked around them. Hannibal was sure they were entirely aware of their surroundings, that he and his men would be unable to startle him. It was disconcerting that two kids who couldn't even be eighteen yet acted like they could handle themselves.

“Are you just going to follow us? Or are you going to ask your questions?” The boy asked, stopping to face them. He and the girl separated and stood...almost at the ready, as if they were waiting for something.

Hannibal smiled. “What makes you think we have questions?”

The boy shrugged. “Maybe you don't...but I do.” Again his eyes grew cold and Hannibal wondered what could make a boy that young look like that. Nothing good certainly came to mind. “You didn't know about Heidi until tonight?”

“No, I didn't.”

“Good.”

“Good?”

He nodded. “If you'd known...and never made contact we'd be having words.”

Hannibal had to smirk at that. “Oh really?”

If anything the boy's eyes grew colder. “I have zero tolerance for worthless fathers.”

Ah, that certainly explained a few things. “I assure you son, if I'd known about her I would have made contact.” Finally he held out his hand and introduced himself. “Hannibal Smith.”

The boy watched him for a moment more, studying him; finally he accepted Hannibal's hand with his own when his gaze was warm and friendly once more. “Xander Harris.” He was surprised at the strong, confident handshake he received.

“Nice to meet you...and your lady friend?”

The girl raised a brow and flipped her hair. “Cordelia Chase. Are we done being civil? I'd like to track down Heidi.”

“Easy Cordy. Heidi's not far.” Xander tilted his head a bit as if listening for something. “She's okay for now.”

Hannibal wasn't sure what to say to that...instead he introduced the rest of his team. “This is B.A. Baracus, Templeton 'Faceman' Peck, and H.M. Murdock.”

Xander nodded. “Nice to meet you...I just have one more question.”

“Shoot.”

“Who brings their dog to a funeral home?”

Hannibal blinked, looked around them for a second, saw no dog and looked at Xander, wondering if he was as crazy as Murdock. Cordelia seemed to be of the same mind. “Xander, there is no dog.”

Xander looked at her oddly and then gestured to the ground in front of Murdock. “Yeah there is, he's right there. It’s a big black dog with curly hair, like a freaking giant terrier. You can't tell you don't see him.”

Face and B.A. exchanged worried looks; however Murdock's jaw had dropped. “You can see Billy?”

“Uh yeah...why is everyone staring at me like I'm crazy...?” Xander frowned, took a deep breath through his nose....almost like he was scenting the air. “And of course your dog has no scent. Great.” He looked at Cordelia again. “You really can't see him?”

The girl rolled her eyes and threw up her hands. “You would run into a ghost dog in the middle of LA.”

Murdock glared at her. “Billy's not a ghost.”

“Damn Fool's crazy is catching Hannibal. He's already infected these two kids.”

“Oh for crying out loud.” Xander muttered, before he knelt and put his hand out as if petting a dog...and then...there Billy was. And he really was a large black dog with slightly curly hair. “Now can you see him? Still no scent though. What kind of dog is he?”

Murdock was grinning like a...well...like a loon, a vindicated loon, “Black Russian Terrier.”

Cordelia knelt by Xander; reaching out to pet Billy who was giving them all a very happy doggie grin. “Huh...I can actually sort of feel him. Is this like the ghosts you've touched before?”

Xander nodded. “Similar. But Murdock's right. He's not a ghost...not really sure what he is.”

“Spirit Beast?”

“Nah. Martial has physical form.”

“I told you he was real.” Murdock stuck his tongue out at B.A. and then just barely dodged as the big man took a halfhearted swipe at him.

“Fool. Now we've all caught your crazy.”

Xander snorted and he and Cordelia stood, taking their hands away from Billy...who faded from sight. Hannibal stared at the now empty spot. “I take it he's still there?”

“Yep.”

“And you can still see him.”

“Obviously.” Xander's smile changed to a look of concentration, his head tilting again, listening to something the rest of them couldn't hear.

“Xander?” Cordelia's hand found its way to his arm. “Is it Heidi?”

He scented the air again. “Yeah.” The boy's dark eyes focused on Hannibal. “Do you believe in vampires?”

That was not the question he'd been expecting. “We've seen a few unexplainable things...especially in Nam.”

Xander nodded sagely. “Yeah, Nam wasn't fun.” And funnily enough...Hannibal believed the boy knew from experience, though that should have been impossible. “Anyway, here's the low down. Vampires are real; vampires are evil...though the ones from the Aurelius Bloodline are a bit quirky...Long story short. Stake through the heart kills them or beheading...or fire or sunlight. Garlic doesn't do squat while Holy objects and water are more of a deterrent than anything.”

Cordelia sighed. “Heidi went hunting.”

“Yep.”

“The girl is an adrenaline junkie...more than any other member of the pack.”

“Yep.”

Hannibal didn't bother hiding his grin. “She likes the Jazz huh?”

Both teens blinked in confusion. “Jazz?”

His team however let out a series of dismayed groans and comments like, “Not another one.” “She's definitely his kid.” “We should probably save her.”

Xander snorted. “So she gets that from you. We wondered about that. Heidi has the most stable home life...but gets into the fight more than anyone else.” He shook his head. “Follow us, try to keep up.” And then he and Cordelia...nearly disappeared into the shadows. If they hadn't been soldiers themselves they never would have been able to follow.

xxx

Only Heidi would take on a pack of ten vampires in unfamiliar territory...granted more than likely the vamps had probably jumped her first...probably. But Xander knew Hannibal and the others were watching her with...awe.

Heidi moved with grace and a natural killer instinct. Of all the pack she embraced her beast to the fullest. Enjoying the hunt, enjoying the bloodshed, enjoying the natural order that gave her a family she could always trust. Three vamps were dust before she let out a series of yips and barks, an invitation to her Alphas to join the fun.

Which they did, each with a stake in hand, Cordelia paused only to toss her clutch purse to Faceman. And they entered the fray. Cordelia moved with a more practiced grace than he or Heidi, but grace was grace and she'd had plenty of practice staking vampires. She dusted two and Heidi ripped the head off another, howling in glee...even Cordy was grinning now that her blood was flowing and she staked another. There were only three left and Xander managed to dust two of them in a second, having a stake that was sharp at both ends was rather handy.

Then he and Cordy backed off, letting Heidi take her time with the last one. They circled one another; the vampire's eyes were wide in fear. Clearly he'd never faced anything like them. Heidi gave him a toothy grin, her eyes glowing green with hyena delight just before she darted forward, kicked the vamp's feet from under him and dove in with her stake, leaving nothing but dust in her wake.

“Feel better?” Xander asked her. She made a whining noise deep in her throat as she stood and offered her throat to Cordelia first.

Cordelia placed her teeth on the offered flesh and bit with just a bit of pressure, Heidi giggled and when Cordelia pulled away with a smirk Heidi offered her throat to him. He bit down harder, just like she wanted, her eyes rolled a bit and she relaxed. “Thanks.”

“Now. You get to explain to the old men what that was all about.”

Heidi blinked, pouted, but didn't argue. “Okay.” She looked back to Hannibal and his team. “So, what do you want to know?”

“Kid...I don't even know where to start.”

xxx

They'd ended up at a small diner that B.A. was familiar with, Hannibal paid for their food, even though all three teens protested the entire time. And while they waited for their meal...Xander told their story. He spoke of the Hellmouth, vampires, demons, hyenas, Vampire Slayers, and the occasional Apocalypse.

Hannibal felt sick. And he wanted nothing more than to head to Sunnydale, kidnap all of their friends and bring them to LA where they'd be safe. Xander snorted. “You're thinking too loud.”

“Kids like you shouldn't be fighting that fight.”

Cordelia was glaring at him. “No one else will. Most of the adults don't know; the cops are useless...and the corruption goes all the way to the Mayor.”

Heidi shuddered. “He'll probably be the next Big Bad we'll have to face.”

Xander nodded and took a sip of his coffee. “We don't know what his end game is yet and until we do we're being very careful around him.”

Murdock had remained eerily silent through the discussion and Face was starting to get worried about him. He slipped his hand under the table to squeeze the pilot's thigh; however his eyes remained on the kids. “What do you know about him?”

“Not much...just that he always smells like magic.”

“I go by his house sometimes.” Heidi murmured, which earned her glares from Xander and Cordelia. “What? It’s not like I went in...but he's got wards up there...so I couldn't break in even if I wanted to. Besides, you haven't taught me how to pick locks yet.”

Xander's eyes flickered to that creepy green that Heidi's had during the battle with the gang of vampires. “I will eventually teach you all to pick locks...but you do not go into enemy territory like that alone.”

Heidi's gaze held a bit of challenge. “Is that an order?”

“Yes.” There was something in Xander's voice...that made all of them shiver.

Heidi huffed and sank in her seat. “Fine.”

“Heidi.” Xander's voice was a low and quiet growl.

Heidi ducked her head and blushed. “I hear you Alpha. I won't do it again.”

The tension immediately slipped from the two brunette teens and both reached for Heidi to give her comforting pats. They were very touch oriented this group...

“I don't like it Hannibal. These kids doing what they do.”

“Neither do I B.A.”

Xander shrugged. “You don't have to like it, but we're not stopping. We've already lost too many people as it is.”

“Is it really that bad there?” Face asked.

Cordelia snorted. “Please, our school news paper? It has a section dedicated to the dead and missing students and faculty. Although...we've made a difference. We saved Ms. Calendar.”

“We stopped some zombies the other night.” Heidi's smile was only slightly amused.

Xander snorted. “And of course we stopped a couple of Apocalypses.” His amusement disappeared. “We couldn't save Jesse.”

“Or Kendra.”

Cordelia shuddered. “You almost died twice last year.”

Xander took her hand. “The Judge didn't almost kill me. My soul just ended up in Limbo for a few hours cause my DNA hit my inner panic button and mixed what was left of my hyena with my Mazoku genes.”

“Angelus still gutted you with a knife.”

“Yeah...and that sucked. On the bright side he couldn't use my blood to suck the world into Hell with that wacky ritual.”

Heidi nudged Cordelia's arm. “And we totally got him out of there and got him healed.”

Murdock finally lifted his head up and looked at the three teens. “You mentioned Nam earlier in the alley. You're too young to have fought in Nam.”

Xander nodded his head. “Yeah...we were all born in ‘81. But I have the memories of a Vietnam Vet in my head.”

Both girls stared at him in surprise; it was Cordelia who punched his arm. “You dork! I thought the nightmares were just about...your dad...or Jesse's death...”

“Nope.”

“How the heck did...” Cordelia sighed. “It goes back to Halloween doesn't it? This year if we take a bunch of kids trick-or-treating we are all going to Party Town. No more costumes from a crazy Chaos Mage.”

Hannibal rubbed at his forehead. “Could you clarify that for us?”

Heidi rolled her eyes. “Some of us bought Halloween costumes from this guy last year. He'd just opened up a costume shop, the prices were very reasonable...but he was a Chaos Mage. And when he started his spell...we all turned into our costumes.”

Xander shrugged. “I was a soldier. I had some fatigues...bought a toy gun...and I used Grandpa LaVelle's dog tags. So I kinda turned into him...I think...”

Hannibal felt shock go through him, and he knew his men felt the same. “Alexander LaVelle?”

“That's my name...oh...you mean my grandpa...I'm named after him. I never actually got to meet the guy.”

“So that's where the LaVelle came from.” Cordelia nodded. “You should have told me about that.”

“I didn't think too. I don't have those nightmares very often...actually I haven't had any all summer. Not since that first night in Japan.” He shrugged. “Moving on, we should be talking about Heidi...or ya know, going back to the funeral home.”

“Subtle, Xander, real subtle.”

“We'll give you a ride.” B.A. told them.

Cordelia's phone rang then and she dug it out of her purse. “Hello? Oh, hey Sammo.” She listened for a bit before looking at Xander. “Sammo wants to know if we need a ride back to Louis' place...since we're obviously not at the funeral home like we're supposed to be.”

Hannibal's eyes sharpened. “Who are Sammo and Louis and why are you staying with Louis?”

Heidi cackled a bit. “They're cops here in LA. From the Major Crimes section. Louis is letting us crash at his apartment, and he'll be at Sammo's since he and Sammo are partners and all...on and off the job.” She smirked pointedly at Murdock and Face...who actually blushed. Hannibal had to snort, his daughter had no tact.

Xander groaned. “Heidi, try to be polite.” He shook his head. “I'm sure these guys can give us a ride to Louis' apartment.”

Heidi grinned. “And then Face and Murdock can give you and Cordy advice on keeping a stable threesome.”

Cordelia nearly dropped her phone and murmured into it. “Sammo we have a ride. We'll see you later tonight.” She hung up and looked at Heidi, then Face and Murdock. “Run that by me again?”

Heidi was really enjoying this too much. “They smell like sex, each other, and a woman.”

Again Xander groaned. “Heidi, again, there is such a thing as over-sharing.”

She turned a very innocent expression to him. “But they're older and more experienced and we all know the second Spike comes back to Sunnydale you and Cordy will be tying him to the nearest bed and not letting him out of your sight.”

Cordelia's voice was very serious. “Damn straight.”

Xander slumped back in his chair in defeat. “Yes, fine, we probably will...we might want to used chains though, not rope.”

Murdock was snickering...and Face was still blushing. “You can smell Amy on us? What about the kids?”

Murdock grinned. “They probably can Face. We did help Amy give them a bath before B.A. swung by to pick us up.”

Xander nodded. “Yes, but I wasn't going comment...unlike someone.” He shot a glare at Heidi.

Heidi shrugged and grinned. “I have no shame...hey, they can give you parenting tips too...for when you and Cordy decide to make little pint-sized contributions to the pack.”

Hannibal snorted. “Looks like you're going to have a busy schedule boys.”

xxx

Cordelia peered out the window watching the two figures walking down the beach in the moonlight. “What do you think they're talking about?”

Xander looked over her shoulder, watching something entirely different happening down on the beach. “No idea.”

“Are you sure she'll be okay with him, alone on the beach?”

“It’s cool. Billy is with them...actually right now Botan is playing Frisbee with him...don't ask me where she got the invisible Frisbee. But they're both down there, being invisible and keeping an eye on Heidi and Hannibal.”

She quirked a brow at him. “When did you have time to call Botan here?...and you realize you sound like a crazy person.”

He quirked a brow right back. “You realize we met someone who lived in the crazy house for more than ten years right?”

“...So when B.A. was calling Murdock crazy...?”

“Yep.”

“Wow.”

“Do you two need anything?” Louis asked from the kitchen.

They shook their heads and settled in a chair, Cordelia in Xander's lap. Sammo watched them from the sofa in amusement; Louis joined him, a beer in each hand and gave one to Sammo. Sammo accepted the drink and nodded toward them. “How was your summer?”

Both teens snorted.

xxx

They had been walking up and down the beach for a while now, talking about little things, things that didn't have much meaning. Finally Hannibal fixed a look at her and said with a serious tone; “I have a feeling a lot got left out.”

Heidi slid her own gaze to Hannibal. “A few things.”

“Like the identity of the Slayer?”

“That's not important.”

He smiled at her. “Relax kid, I get it. She's a member of your unit and you want to protect her. I get that.” He watched her for a moment more before grinning at her. “So you like the Jazz.”

“The what?”

“The adrenaline rush.”

Her eyes widened a bit and her jaw dropped. “So...that's not just the hyena? That...that actually makes me feel better.”

“Why is that?”

“The hyena...what's left of it...it was starting to scare me because of what happened to Principal Flutie.”

“I think that might have been one of the parts that got left out...what happened to him?”

Heidi stopped walking and looked up at him, she kept her eyes steady, and her voice soft. “We ate him.”

Hannibal stopped as well, his eyes just a little wide at her words. “While you were possessed. So it’s not your fault. You were not in control.”

“Doesn't make the screams in our heads go away. But what was really freaking me out...was that I embraced the beast so much after...after our relapse.”

“How did Xander get you four back under control?”

Her lips quirked. “You might not want to know that.”

“Humor me.”

“We had an orgy.”

“Come again?”

“Kyle took us hunting, some local livestock kept us sated...and then we holed up in a hotel room. Kyle...well when you're that out of your mind not much can keep you grounded. So we had our own orgy...but Kyle's not an alpha.”

“And Xander is.”

“He's our first Alpha, and if he hadn't tracked us down and reclaimed us as his...” She shuddered. “We might have...”

Hannibal put his hands on her shoulders. “But he did, and you didn't. There's no point in what ifs. Okay?”

She nodded. “Okay.”

“Good...now. You think your mom, Janet, would mind if we got to know each other better? There's a lot we don't know about each other.”

“Are you still wanted by the army?”

“No, we got a full pardon.”

“Then she probably won't mind, but I'll ask her tomorrow, after the funeral.” She wrinkled her nose. “The Jazz? Really? That's what you call it?”

Hannibal laughed and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, steering her back toward the apartment building. “It’s as good a name as any.”

“If you say so.”

XXX

Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Two: At Home in Hell

Word count: 6455

XXX

Willow bit her lip as they grouped around an empty table across from the school, minus Xander and Buffy. “Maybe we shouldn't be too couple-y around Buffy.”

Rhonda snorted and waved her hand at the lack of partner beside her. “Not all of us are being couple-y.”

Heidi took a bite of her sandwich. “Some of us are single.”

Tor shrugged. “Not painfully though.”

Cordelia looked at them all with a raised brow. “Why are you guys single? You weren't single at the end of last year.”

“Didn't work out, Owen still has some issues.”

“Teresa and I had a mutual parting.”

“Got bored with him.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “Then you can join Buffy's ‘woe is me’ singles club. I'm sticking to the ‘I'm getting some regularly’ club.” He pulled Larry closer to him; proving his point.

Larry gave him an amused look and a smirk. “Oh yeah? With who?”

Kyle paused and made a confused face at his boyfriend. “You?”

Larry snickered. “Not tonight you're not. I've got practice tonight. Later guys, I need to talk to Coach about my work out schedule.” He started to walk away; slipping out of Kyle's hold.

Willow waved cheerfully, amused at Kyle's expression. “Bye, Larry!”

Kyle finally snapped into action and took off after his lover. “Larry, wait!”

There was a brief silence before Rhonda made a face. “That was more info than I wanted.”

Xander settled at the table with them. “What was more info than you wanted?”

Cordelia sat beside him and laced her fingers with his. “Kyle and Larry's sex life.”

He blinked and shook his head. “Stop. No more. Rewind. What were you talking about before that?”

Willow grinned as she sat beside Oz. “Being couple-y around Buffy.”

“Or not.” Oz added.

Willow nodded and continued. “Cause of everything that happened and...” Willow blinked in confusion at their smiles. “She's behind me isn't she?”

Buffy came around them and perched on the table top. “It’s okay Wills. You guys were couple-y all summer, no need to stop now.”

“But that was different. We were being all pack-y too. Now we're back at school and can't all pile up on one another without getting weird looks and hearing the word orgy in the background.”

Xander let out a dismayed groan. “People still talk about that?”

Tor gave him an incredulous look. “You really need to tune into the rumor mill more.”

“Why? What's being said?”

Cordelia sighed. “Oh you know - the usual. That we're all your property and there is a waiting list to get into your harem.”

He rolled his eyes. “Funny, Cor.”

Oz shook his head. “She's not kidding. Devon actually asked me if you were the sex god everyone says you are.”

Willow gave her boyfriend a curious look. “Why would he ask you...oh...he thinks you’re part of the Xander harem.”

Xander groaned again and let his forehead hit the tabletop. “Oh my god...tell me he's not interested.” He peeked up at Oz who smiled before groaning again. “Ugh. Tell Devon he's not my type and if he ever hits on me I will shoot him...or bludgeon him with the nearest blunt object.”

Tor snickered as he leaned over and gave him a poke. “Hey...Xander.”

Xander raised his head up. “What?”

“Isn't that Rinku?”

Xander's gaze followed the gesture Tor made. “Over there with Jono?”

“Yeah.”

“Yep. Definitely Rinku.” They watched as Rinku took Jonathan's hand and led him toward a picnic table with food. “Ya know, Yusuke said he'd come here to explore. Guess he found something interesting.”

Buffy watched them as well, her gaze a mixture of curious and predatory. “Rinku a demon? From Makai?”

“Yeah. He's cool though.”

Cordelia looked at them like she was some sort of fashion judge. “Cute couple.”

xxx

The rest of the school day went by quickly with nothing unusual or Hellmouthy happening. It was the kind of peaceful day that made Xander twitchy. Willow had noticed this and was trying to distract him in an attempt to get his help playing match maker. It made him roll his eyes at his best friend as he gathered his things from his locker.

Willow in turn gave him a poke to the ribs. “I'm just saying that he likes her and when she's ready she should consider him. He's cute.”

“He doesn't.”

“Doesn't what?”

“Like her.”

She frowned at him. “Yes he does.”

He closed his locker and looked at her. “Then why does he only put out lusty smells when he looks at Tor?”

Willow gaped. “...Scott Hope likes Tor?”

“That's what it smells like.”

“Oh.” She pouted. “Guess it’s a good thing Buffy isn't interested in him then.”

Cordelia joined them and settled against him, car keys already in her hand. “Ready? And what are you talking about?”

Willow gave a dejected sigh. “Scott Hope.”

Cordelia frowned. “He hasn't made his move on Buffy yet?”

“No...and Xander said he'd rather be making that move on Tor.”

Cordelia glanced up at him. “Really?”

“Scents and pheromones don't lie.”

“Wow. I never saw that coming. Now, come on. Snyder wants to see us in his office.”

Willow tensed. “Thought the Mayor told him to back off...and how creepy is it that the Mayor could be a potential Big Bad?”

“Very creepy, but it’s good to talk with Snyder...less misunderstandings that way. Later Wills.”

Willow nodded and Cordelia gave him a tug in the direction of Snyder's office. They bypassed the secretary who only gave them a nod and entered the office. Snyder was sitting at his desk.

Xander gave him a look. “You called?”

Snyder sneered at them. “I was ordered to congratulate you, Your Majesty, in your excellent choice of consort. I'm told that elevates Ms. Chase to the rank of princess among the demon community.”

“Okay...thanks. Anything else?”

“Ms. Summers will still have to make up the rest of her finals...and complete four sessions with the school counselor.”

“That's fine...oh you need to add someone to the do not mess with list.”

“Do I now?”

“Yeah. Amy Madison.”

Snyder smirked. “And why would I do that?”

Xander grinned, baring his teeth. “She's my little sister. And that makes her a princess, now doesn't it.”

Snyder's expression turned sour. “I suppose it does. We're done.”

“Nice talking to you Snyder.”

Cordelia gave him a little wave. “Bye now.”

xxx

Amy and Tor were at the counter of Happy Burger, waiting patiently for the guy at the drive thru window, the only employee not in the back cooking, to finish and take their order. They had told Ms. Calendar that they'd come by for an introductory lesson. Amy needed to start from scratch with her magic, and Tor just wanted to see how human magic was different from the magic he was using. But if the guy running the window didn't get to them soon they were going to leave and leave hungry.

“This is ridiculous.”

Tor shrugged. “It’s hard to get people to work nights anywhere in Sunnydale.”

“Yeah but...” She paused in surprise. “There's a limo at the window.”

Tor looked, Amy was right. A limo had indeed pulled up to the window. Who would come to Happy Burger in a limo? “Maybe's it’s the Mayor's. Xander said he's bad news.”

Amy had nothing to say to that as they watched. When a vampire lunged from the back of the limo and grabbed the guy working the window, however, Tor was over the counter and pulling the guy back in. Amy was only seconds behind him helping to pull the guy to safety while Tor growled at the vampire. Then the limo sped off.

She looked at the guy who was shaking. “Are you okay?” She looked him over. “You're not bleeding.”

“Yeah...yeah I'm okay. Thanks. Geeze, you expect the gangs to be hopped up on that PCP stuff. But not some guy in a limo.”

Amy and Tor shared a look and Tor smiled. “Probably some dealer sampling his own product or something.”

“Yeah...yeah probably.”

Amy grimaced and whispered. “Better call Xander.”

“Yeah, my thought exactly.”

xxx

Xander nodded to Tor and Amy as they entered Giles' apartment with Jenny in tow, as they had just arrived with dinner for her and Giles.

Jenny waved. “What have we missed?”

“Nothing yet. We've been waiting on Tor and Amy actually.”

“Oh?” She looked at the teens who had met her at the parking lot. “Did something happen?”

Amy nodded. “We stopped by the Happy Burger before coming here.”

“We were waiting for the guy working to finish at the drive thru, when a limo pulled up to the window. You don't see limos in Sunnydale often.”

Amy shook her head. “Except at Prom or Homecoming.”

Cordelia snorted. “Or if you're a creepy mayor.”

Tor nodded. “Anyway, one of the guys in the back of the limo was dressed in this really fancy suit. Then suddenly he vamped out and tried to grab the drive thru guy and eat him...and he was black.”

Amy gave him a look. “Why would that matter?”

Tor shrugged. “I haven't seen many African American vamps.”

Buffy gave a half nod. “He's right, the last time we saw one was last year; some wanna be preacher that worked for the Anointed one...” She stopped herself mid-sentence, a thought obviously crossing her mind. “...does anyone know what happened to the Anointed One?”

Xander grinned in amusement. “Spike killed him, just after the fiasco that was Parent Teacher Night.”

She perked a bit and smiled. “Really? I'll need to thank him...any word from him?”

Cordelia sighed, frowned and shook her head. “No.”

“Moving on.”

Tor nodded. There was someone else in the back...but it was too dark to tell what they were. But the only scents I caught were the worker's fear...and vampires.”

Xander grimaced. “It sounds like there's a new player in town, one with money and resources.”

Buffy groaned and hung her head. “Bad guys get to ride around in limos and we have to take out the trash to earn an allowance.”

Giles hmm'd and rolled his eyes. “Yes well, best keep your guard up. Everyone be doubly careful when you go out tonight.”

xxx

The Bronze was pretty packed, which was normal. Cordelia moved along to the music and fit his body perfectly, which was also normal. However the couple closer to the stage was certainly not normal.

“What has your attention instead of me?” Cordelia asked him, a dangerous edge to her silky voice. “Unless Spike has suddenly appeared on the dance floor I want your attention right here buster.”

He leaned in to kiss her. “That girl in the bad acid trip pants.”

She gave a prim snort. “Waste of money.”

He grazed his lips against her jaw as they danced. “I think she's a slayer.”

“What?”

They twisted and moved so that Cordelia had a better view. “Watch how she moves like a predator. Also she feels like a slayer, and her partner there is a vampire.”

“Great...” She drew his attention back to her, a little frown of confusion on her face. “Kendra didn't club.”

“Kendra was raised by her Watcher.”

“So this one could be another the Council missed?”

“Probably. Let’s just watch and see what happens...come on, mini pack meeting.” He pulled her off the dance floor and they meandered to the corner where Willow, Oz and Buffy were gathered. However they bumped into Scott Hope on the way.

He smiled at them. “Sorry.”

Xander looked at the guy for a moment, and waited. Sure enough, Scott's eyes stayed on him, and there was just a trickle of lust. Huh, guess Scott thought Tor was prettier. Still, better to head the guy off, if he really wasn't interested in Buffy she didn't need the complications. “Buffy is still recovering from a bad break up.”

“Oh...I wasn't...I mean...”

“Don't go near her again unless you're serious, and I can't see you being serious about her or any girl the way you watch Tor. You might try giving into those urges a little.” Scott's eyes were huge by this point and he was shaking a little...but not in fear. “Plenty of guys are willing to experiment.”

Scott made a squeaking sort of sound and ran away. Cordelia moved closer to him and leaned her chin on his shoulder. “That was a little creepy.”

“Good.” He grinned before tugging her toward the others and their corner.

As they sat down Cordelia gestured toward the couple still dancing on the dance floor. “Xander thinks the slut-o-rama is a slayer and her disco Dave is a vamp.”

Oz glanced toward the couple, his hands never leaving Willow. “Slayer?”

Willow blinked with a frown; Kendra was still a sore subject for them. “Another one...oh right...one dies another called. I hate that.”

Buffy gave a nod as she watched the couple. “She might be...but Xander is definitely right about the guy...and there they go...not sure who is leading who to the dark and secluded alley. Come on, we should check it out.”

Xander held up a finger. “One condition.”

Buffy had already stood and was looking down at him. “What?”

“Giles has been keeping certain things out of his reports to the Council.”

Willow shifted and got ready to stand. “Like Pack stuff?”

“Not so much pack stuff but possibly. But I know he's been keeping anything Makai related out of the picture. Let’s keep it that way.” By now they were all starting to move in the direction the couple had gone.

Buffy nodded in agreement. “So you guys are just my rag tag freedom fighters, unless we decided to reveal the pack structure.”

“That'll work.”

“Neat.”

They stopped talking and moved silently, tracking the couple, watching as the guy made his move toward the girl's neck, slamming her against the fence a bit.

“Stop struggling.” He vamped out and she slammed him back.

“Definitely not a Council raised slayer.” Xander commented, almost idly as they watched her kick the crap out of the vamp.

“How can you tell?” Oz asked. “Ow, that was a nice move.”

Buffy motioned toward the girl. “Kendra moved different. More precision.”

Cordelia made a face. “And she had better fashion sense.”

He nodded and slipped his arm around her. “True.”

The girl finally noticed them. “Hey, I'm Faith. Got a stake?”

Xander eyed her. “Shouldn't you have your own?” Faith blinked at him in confusion hitting the vamp as it tried to sneak up behind her. He snorted and tossed her a stake. She wasted no more time and dusted it, tossing the stake back.

“Thanks handsome.”

Xander caught the stake and shook his head. “Rookie.” Buffy gave him a look. “Well she is.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and looked at 'Faith'. “Come inside, we'll talk.”

xxx

God he was bored. She'd been a slayer for a few months … how could she think her stories were this interesting? They could have patrolled a good portion of the ‘dale by now. Cordelia gave his arm a little shake to draw his attention back to Faith.

“Isn't funny how slaying just makes you hungry and horny?”

All eyes turned to Buffy. She winced. “Well sometimes Xander and I hit the late night bakery.”

Wow...thanks Buff. Faith's eyes flicked to him; in a much too interested look. “Really? And what else do you hit with Xander?”

He met her gaze and said plainly. “I go home to Cordy.” So there. The heat in Faith's gaze didn't change; it just sort of flicked over Cordelia.

Cordelia smiled at the girl, baring her teeth, it was actually more of a warning than a real smile, her hand firmly in his. “Not that this isn't fascinating...but why are you in Sunnydale. Kendra was only sent here when some dark power was about to rise.”

Faith shrugged. “I wasn't. My watcher went to some fancy shindig in England. So I came here to meet the infamous Buff and compare slaying stories.”

Buffy looked less than thrilled. “Won't that be fun?”

“Did you really use a rocket launcher?”

“Yep. It was a birthday present from Xander and Cordelia. They stole it from the Army...but I think the most interesting weapon I ever saw though was when Xander killed a vamp with a pumpkin.”

They all stared at him; he hadn't realized they hadn't heard about that. He shrugged. “Eh, no big deal. The stem hit it just right.”

Willow frowned at him. “When was this?”

“Just before Halloween; hence the pumpkin.”

Faith smirked before looking to Buffy again. “So what was your hardest kill?”

Buffy stilled, her smile gone. “Ford maybe...he'd been a friend.”

“That sucks.”

Oz held up a hand. “Thought...where do you stand on neutrals and werewolves?”

“What's a neutral?”

Willow smiled; eager to share knowledge with the younger slayer. “A demon that just lives their life, ya know? Working the night shift, unless they're good at blending in, and raising a family.”

“There are demons that live like that?”

Xander raised a brow at her. “Yeah, there are.”

“Hey, they ain't killing people, I don't care, not even on my radar...werewolves?”

Willow nodded. “Oz is one.”

“You keep him on a leash when he gets wild then we'll be fine.”

Oz gave a half nod. “Good enough.”

Faith grinned at Buffy. “But those vamps, they're in for hell once we get out there, fancy free and no watcher in sight.”

That made them all freeze and Buffy said, “No watcher? Why no watcher?”

Xander shifted and looked at Faith closely. “I think we missed something.”

Faith looked unsure for just a second. “Didn't yours go to England?”

xxx

He'd called a quick meeting in the library before Buffy and Faith got there the next morning. Buffy knew to take her time in getting there; he wanted a chance to talk to Giles before the new slayer got there.

Kyle looked contemplative, he'd liked Kendra, and she’d made a good addition to the pack in her final battle. If she'd lived she'd be pack now and they all knew it. So they were curious about the new girl. They were all wondering if Faith would measure up...not to Buffy, but to Kendra. “So we're keeping pack stuff and Makai stuff on the down low.”

“Yeah.”

Cordelia nudged him. “What's really bothering you about the new girl, it kept you up last night.”

Xander ignored the look Giles gave them. “She smells like fear and sorrow.”

Willow looked like she was ready to pounce on the nearest computer and begin a search. “So she's hiding something?”

“Yeah.”

Giles cleared his throat and gestured toward the phone. “I'll see if I can get in contact with her watcher at the retreat...I used to love a good kayak.” Jenny smiled and gave his shoulder a pat. The doors opened and Faith and Buffy came in.

Faith eyed their rather large group and glanced at Buffy. “Just how many people in this town know your secret?”

“Everyone in this room and my mom.”

“Why so many?”

Giles gave Faith a reassuring smile. “Most of them have training. Either in self defense, weaponry, or magic. Xander, Willow and Tor make excellent wards.”

“Wards?”

Buffy nodded. Kind of a protective barrier.”

“Witches then.”

Xander shook his head. “Nah. Amy's our only witch in the making.”

Jenny gave a little wave. “I however am practitioner and I'm tutoring Amy and Tor some but his magic is a bit different.”

Buffy glanced around the group as if she were doing a head count. “Where is Amy?”

“Saw her with Jono last. If he wasn't dating Rinku I'd say they were a cute couple and then I'd have to give him a talk.”

Faith looked to Buffy for a translation, Buffy shrugged. “Amy is Xander's sister...I guess introductions are a must. Everyone this is Faith. Faith, these are Larry, Kyle, Tor, Heidi, Rhonda, who is Cordy's sister, Ms Calendar and my Watcher, Giles. You met the others last night.”

“He's your watcher? If I knew your model looked that good I would have transferred.

Xander shuddered. “Eww.”

Buffy nodded and shuddered a bit herself. “He has a girlfriend.”

Jenny moved closer to Giles and shot a warning look to Faith...funny that was the same sort of look Cordy had given Faith the night before. “Who he is happily dating.”

Faith grinned. “So what, they're all your side kicks?”

“Not exactly.” She turned to Giles. “Anything new?”

“Um, other than the incident at Happy Burger last night not really...except two missing persons from the Sunset Ridge District.”

Kyle blinked. “Since when?”

“Just this morning. It was on the radio. Why?”

“Larry and I patrolled there after his practice was over. Things were quiet then.”

Faith stared at them in confusion. “You all patrol?”

Xander nodded. “Uh, yeah. Buffy can't be everywhere at once.”

“Still, self defense training or not, patrolling is dangerous.” She took a step back when several sets of eyes focused on her in a glare.

Buffy hid a smile and gave them all a scolding look. “Easy.” She gave Faith's shoulder a comforting pat. “They've been doing this a while. They have skills, besides, it’s nice to have someone watching your back.”

“If you say so.”

“Yeah. So we all patrol tonight. Carefully. I'll be on the streets late-ish Mom wants me home for dinner.” She gave Faith a smile. “To which you are invited. Mom wants to meet you.”

“Cool.”

Willow jumped a bit. “Hey, don't you have another final to make up?”

“Yeah...help me study?”

Willow gave her thumbs up and Giles nodded and cleared his throat. “Alright then, while Buffy makes ready for her exam, why don't one of you show Faith around.”

Heidi stood from her seat. “I'll do it. Come on Faith. I'll show you around Hellmouth High.”

“Sounds great.”

xxx

“Parent-Teacher night was pretty crazy last year. And most people got turned into their costumes on Halloween.”

“A lot happens here huh.”

“You have no idea. On top of all the monsters and mayhem everyone seems to have personal family-type craziness to deal with.” Heidi shrugged. “But you get used to it.”

“Had your own family crisis lately?”

“Oh yeah. It’s always crazy when you find out you're adopted...but still related to your family.”

Faith gave a non-committal nod before she stopped and turned to face her. “So what's up with B and Xander? They're both wound up pretty tight. She needs to find some fun and he needs to get laid. That Cordy chick not doing it for him or what?”

Heidi stared at her. “Wow, blunt much?”

“I'm just saying...I get she doesn't like the idea of another slayer on her turf. But him? Dude needs an attitude adjustment. He's pretty high and mighty for a side kick...but I could probably help him with that adjustment.” She smirked. “I always wanted groupies.”

Heidi snorted. “For your information Faith, we all liked Kendra, she was one of us. And you try and adjust Xan's attitude you won't like what happens.” Heidi walked away from her, leaving Faith standing in the middle of the hall confused.

xxx

A few minutes later Heidi plopped herself down beside Xander in the library. “So I think we're gonna have to go ahead and level about the pack stuff.”

“Why?”

“Faith has some misconceptions. And I might have made a challenge to her...and I kinda don't like her attitude.”

“Oh is that all.” Xander rolled his eyes. “I'm wondering if maybe we shouldn't limit your exposure to Hannibal.” Heidi glared at him.

Giles put down the book he was holding and took off his glasses. “What kind of challenge?”

Her gaze shifted to the Watcher. “She might try to sex Xander up.”

Xander sighed and looked to Giles, who was by now polishing his glasses. “Exactly how much does the Council know about us?”

“Only that you lot seem to have retained a pack mentality and the primal attributes. Nothing about anyone’s family.”

He nodded. “Okay, I can work with that. If she needs to know we can fill her in on the pack info. Spread the word Heidi.”

She grinned at him. “Guess Buffy can't pretend to be in charge now huh?”

xxx

“Mr. Trick? Tell me you have good news.”

Trick smirked at his employer. “I was right about this town. To an extent. There still is some violence, a decent death rate, lots of demons around. Excellent communications system. You can get just about anything you want,” he snapped his fingers “like that.”

“I want the blood of the--”

He sighed and rolled his eyes. Older vampires were so...boring. “The Slayer. There's good news and bad on that-”

“I don't care, tell me all of it. Nothing will keep me from paying that little bitch back.”

“There was already a slayer in this town...not sure how we ended up with two. But it seems the local Slayer has a connection to some demonic royalty.”

“I don't care who or what, they will all die if they stand in my way.”

Trick felt a chill go through him; the boss was getting a little crazy with this...there were some people you just didn't threaten. “Now wait, this particular royal is a Makai Prince. A descendant of Raizen. I believe you met him once?”

“I did.”

“Well this prince is one of his...and the younger brother of Urameshi. So we want to tread carefully.”

“Very well.”

xxx

Cordelia broke the nose of the vampire that jumped her as he staked his own. He watched her in awe as she spun and kicked the vamp before moving in for the kill. All that training had strengthened her, as it had all of them. He was no longer as worried about her going out at night alone.

“Nice.”

She blew the dust off her stake and smirked at him. “Thanks...whoa.” She jumped a bit and reached for her jeans pocket, tossing him her stake.

“What?”

“My pocket is wiggling.”

“Your what is what?”

She snickered and pulled out her spirit egg, which was indeed twitching...and cracking. Then there was a small flash of light, and the egg disappeared. In its place was a small delicate looking bird, about half the size of a dove. It was pink and red with just a touch of white and even looked like a dove, except for the crest on its head.

“It’s so cute!” She shot him a quick glare. “You call it a chicken and I will hit you.”

“Yes ma'am.” He grinned at her. “What are you going to name her?”

She held the bird up close to her face. “I don't know. I'll have to think on it...is there a pet store still open?”

“Should be.”

“Cool. We're gonna need a perch...and she'll have to stay at your place.”

He smiled and offered her his arm. “That's fine. Shall we?”

The little bird whistled and hopped onto Cordelia's shoulder. “That's a yes I think.”

xxx

Buffy met them in the parking lot the next morning, a small blond bundle of anxious energy. Of course Faith was the ultimate source of all that energy and Buffy could barely wait for them to get out of Cordelia's car before she started ranting. But they smiled and listened and really couldn't blame the girl.

“So then Mom wanted to know if she could slay in my place while I go to college or just take over for me and I reminded her about the destiny thing and how you get a slayer and we had a teary moment.” She sent Xander an apologetic look. “And I think Mom wants to bake you a cake and possibly pin a medal on you for bringing me back from the dead.”

He shuddered. “No medals...however I will happily accept the cake.”

Cordelia grinned. “You can't blame her for freaking out and wanting you out of this town. I mean who wants to stay in Sunnyhell their whole life?”

Xander froze and looked at her. “...Me...”

Cordelia stopped and looked at him in confusion. “But...I wanted to move to LA after high school.”

“I'm staying right here.”

Buffy looked from one of them to the other and took a step back. “I'm just gonna...” And she was off like a shot, escaping a possible lover's quarrel.

He looked at Cordelia, a mild sense of panic settling inside him. “I...I just assumed we'd get a place and go to UC Sunnydale...together.”

“I've wanted to get out of Sunnydale forever...” They stared at one another for a moment and Cordelia reached for his hand. “What now?”

He pulled her close. “I'm not giving you up. LA isn't that far...and that ring should give you some protection. Most demons look at it and want to run away screaming.”

She bit her lip. “You really don't want to leave Sunnydale?”

“I don't think I can. Not and be happy.”

Cordelia leaned her forehead against his shoulder. “This will take some thinking.”

He kissed her temple and held her. “Yeah.”

Her arms tightened around him. “I'm not giving you up either.”

xxx

Rhonda swung around in front of Heidi with a mad grin. “So I totally just overheard something interesting.”

“Oh yeah? What?”

“The new big bad in town, vampire called Kakistos, and he's after Faith. He killed her watcher.”

Heidi blinked. “So that's what she's running from. Xander said she smelled like fear and sorrow.” She frowned. “Doesn't really explain her attitude though...guess this means more patrolling?”

Rhonda nodded, though her grin was more subdued. “Yeah. Go tell the others? I'll tell Xander.”

“Will do.” Heidi waved at someone down the hall. “Hey Kyle! Got something to tell you!”

Rhonda smirked and breathed in, trying to catch Xander's scent. She needed to track him down and tell him.

xxx

Xander was pretty much a seething mass of snarling alpha by the time he and Cordelia had tracked Buffy and Faith to Kakistos' lair. They got there just in time to watch Faith kill the beast. She and Buffy were just sort of standing there breathless from their battle when he stomped in.

Buffy took one look at him and took a step back. “Xander?”

Faith snapped her gaze to him, unconcerned with his presence. He barred his teeth as he stepped in front of her. “Faith.”

“Yeah?”

“The next time you put my pack in the line of fire like that you will be leaving town in a wheelchair.”

She smirked and put her hands on her hips. “That right?”

Xander growled, flashed his eyes and rushed her. Her own eyes widened in shock and she tried to take a step back...and to fight back. But he had her on the ground and immobile before she could do much more than blink. “Next time, ask for help.” He released her and she scooted back, staring at him. “Now, about that dump you're staying in.”

“What about it?”

“There are abandoned houses all over town that are in better shape. Little work and one will be quite cozy. Just gotta know the right people...or demons.”

Buffy cocked her head. “Xander?”

He shrugged. “Clem knows guys who work for the water and power companies and has a cousin or two in construction. Giles can foot the bill, that's what Watchers do. Now, let’s go get you packed.”

Cordelia smirked. “You already have a place picked out don't you?”

“Yep, come on.” He offered his arm to her and led her out.

Faith stared as she rose from the floor. “Is he for real? Where's he get off giving orders like that?”

“Because he's the boss.” Buffy grinned at the younger slayer. “Hey, I'm just the second alpha of the pack. Xander's the one in charge. But I agree with him. That motel is a dump. Besides Xander can put up stronger wards if you're in a house.”

“Today people!” Xander called from outside.

“Come on.”

Faith just sort of nodded. “Yeah...he's not gonna make me eat my greens is he?”

“He might. But it’s not so bad. Once you're one of his, you're his for life.”

Faith had nothing to say to that.

xxx

Xander was dozing when Cordelia came out of the bathroom, squeaky clean from her shower. She quietly ushered Marshal out, who had her spirit beast perched carefully on his back; he winked as he passed her. She closed and locked the door, then made her way to the bed and gave him a nudge. “Xander.”

His eyes came open. “Yeah.”

“I talked to Rhonda. She'll go with me to LA after graduation so I'll have some back up. And you're right it’s not that far and we can totally get you a cell phone and talk every day.”

He smiled at her sleepily. “I love you too Cordy.”

She nodded. “Yeah. And this ring. It’s a commitment thing.” She let the robe she was wearing drop to the floor, and stood there, waiting for him to make a move. She wore nothing else.

The sleepiness faded from him in a second and he sat up, eyes wide. “Cordelia?”

“So, I'm ready.”

He held out his hand and she took it, settling on the bed beside him. He kissed her gently. “Only if you're sure.”

She pushed him back against the headboard and straddled him. “If you say no I know where you keep the rope for unwanted guests.”

He grinned and shifted his hips. “No ropes tonight Queen C.” He leaned up to kiss her again, running his hands down her sides. He moved his mouth to her jaw and throat in a series of small kisses before settling to suck at her pulse point.

She ground her hips down and gasped a bit. “Where...are...those condoms?”

“Drawer. I'll get to them.”

She pulled back and glared. “Listen buster I spent my entire shower getting worked up to do this, I'm ready, I want it and we can play later.” Xander rolled his eyes even as he reached down to caress her...she was...very, very wet. She wiggled her hips against his hand and raised a brow. “Told you.”

“Yeah...yeah you did.” He inserted two fingers and massaged her a bit.

“Xander.”

“In a minute.” He thrust his fingers in again, grazing his thumb against her clit, she ground down again.

“Xander.”

He kissed her, his other hand reaching up to gently squeeze one of her breasts, fingers still pumping inside her.

Her hips moved faster...then stopped. Her voice was breathless. “Xander.” She stared behind him and he looked over his shoulder. The bedside drawer was open and a condom was floating up out of it.

“Okay...I get the hint.” He snagged the condom and grinned at her. “Let me undress and we'll do things your way...tonight anyway.”

“Good. Next time we'll do it your way.” She moved off of him and he handed her the packet. He barely got his shirt and boxers off before she slid the condom on him and straddled him again.

“Be careful-” She slid him inside of her as she lowered herself down. He felt something inside her tear and she gasped. “Cor?”

“Ow.” He took her face in his hands and kissed her before reaching down to stroke her clit again. It took a few seconds but she started moving and his eyes nearly crossed at the sensation. She whimpered. “Oh god...I'm closer than I thought.”

He shifted his hands to her hips, helping her move, his voice nearly as breathless as hers. “That's okay. All that wiggling you did earlier almost killed me.”

She laughed and lightly smacked the back of his head. The laugh shook things up just enough that suddenly she was spasming around him and he saw stars. Cordelia cried out, her body jerking uncontrollably as she rode out their orgasm before collapsing against him. He was too weak to hold either of them up so he fell back against the pillows.

“Damn Queen C. You pack a punch.”

“You are such a dork.”

“I love it when you call me names.”

xxx

Across town at the old Crawford place there was a flash of light and a nude body fell from a portal to the cold stone floor. Dark eyes darted around the shadowed room, searching for the ones who had been tormenting him just moments before. But the room was empty. He was alone and unharmed for the first time in over a hundred years.

He keened softly and cured up in a ball, as small as he could make himself, and shivered in the night air.

XXX

Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Three: The Animal in You

Word count: 5515

XXX

Being dead was...well it wasn't that bad. The part that she hadn't particularly liked was over and done with. Standing around looking at your corpse was...what was the phrase? Oh yes, it was a real downer. And Dave thought she'd couldn't master the...lingo...of the American teen.

And hadn't that been an even bigger surprise than being dead? One moment she's being whisked from Xander who was keeping her company, the next Koenma is telling her she's on 'the good list' and offering her a job.

In a mere hour she'd gone from Vampire Slayer, to Rekai Operative in Training. Her Commanding officer was one Jesse McNally. Dead best friend of Xander Harris. Her heart ached for both boys; Jesse spoke of his friend often and with sadness.

“Hey, how goes the weapons training?”

She jumped a bit and did her best not to blush, Jesse was entirely too sneaky. “It goes well Sir. Dave and Morgan are doing much better but-” She bit her lip to stop herself.

Jesse frowned. “What have I told you about calling me sir?”

“That you don't like it.”

He nodded. “And what have I said about speaking your mind?”

Her blush deepened and she smiled a bit, forcing herself to meet his eyes. “That my mind is as sharp as my weapons and you want to know what I think.”

“Yep. And I think your brain is as beautiful as the rest of you, so flaunt it girlfriend.”

“Sir!”

Jesse only grinned. “What were you gonna say Kendra?”

She had to think for a second to recapture her original thought...Jesse had that effect on her...much to Dave and Morgan's amusement. “Dave and Morgan have gotten much better with weapons...and their hand to hand...”

“But?”

“If Koenma is to send us out in the field...we are going to need more fighters...and someone used to working with a team.”

Jesse grimaced. “I'll go over the list of the dead kids from Sunnydale...but we might have to look somewhere else...or wait until someone new gets here.” Until someone else died was left unsaid.

“Wouldn't that be a better idea, to look elsewhere?”

“Maybe...but I like working with people I knew in life.”

“But...you did not know me in life.”

He grinned again and grabbed her hand, she hated that she blushed again. “You were one of Xander's, and that's good enough for me. Come on, its taco day in the Mess Hall.”

Kendra laughed and let him pull her along. Being dead...it really wasn't all that bad.

xxx

Xander smirked at the two teens who were practically coupling in public. “Boys.” Kyle and Larry jumped apart, pants undone and practically falling off.

Larry made a grab for his pants. “Jesus Xander!”

Kyle however glared at him. “Ya know my boyfriend should be calling out my name, not yours.”

Xander's grin was unrepentant as Larry continued to blush. “And I thought you were patrolling.”

Kyle blinked and looked away. “We were...at first.”

Xander snickered. “Finish up, then get to it...and be careful.”

At that Kyle perked his ears a bit. “What is it?”

Xander's smile faded and his expression grew contemplative. “Don't know. Town feels off tonight. Well, I'm off for Oz watch. Have fun.” He disappeared into the shadows.

Larry looked at his boyfriend. “That was weird...has he seemed different to you?”

Kyle shrugged. “Considering how he and Cordelia have smelled like sex for the past week I'd say yeah.”

Larry blinked and blushed. “Oh.”

Kyle smirked and tackled him to the ground again.

xxx

Oz lunged at the cage door, which made Willow jump a bit and take a step back from the cage. “Okay so maybe reading about the rabbit part wasn't the best idea.”

Xander yawned as he entered the library, catching the last of her words. “Probably not.”

The relief on her face was nearly palpable when she saw him. “Oh good you're here. Thanks for this.”

“No problem. What are alphas for?”

She grinned. “I just don't like having him in this cage ya know?”

“Yeah. It was easier during the summer, all of us running around Genkai's three nights a month, hunting. Good times.”

“Yeah, but there's too many people here to do that.”

“Yep. But, no worries, I got this. You go study for your test.”

“Thanks Xander...no Cordy tonight?”

“Nope, she's at Rhonda's.”

“Does she ever go home anymore?”

He grimaced. “I get the impression things aren't going well between her parents. She'll tell me when she's ready.”

“And we'll be here if she needs pack support. Well I'll see you in the morning.”

He gave her a little wave. “Night.” She waved back and headed out for the night. He flicked his gaze to the pacing Oz. “If you don't get some sleep you'll be exhausted tomorrow.” Oz ducked his head and Xander smiled. He put his bag on the table and unlocked the cage before going inside. He closed the door behind him. “Make room.” Oz shifted and Xander sat down, leaning against the wall. Oz snuffled a bit and lay down beside him, putting his head in Xander's lap. Xander smiled and scratched behind the werewolf's ear. “Night Oz.”

xxx

Patrolling with company was nice, and Heidi was able to keep things balanced between her and Faith...though she could have done without Faith's cynicism.

Buffy pouted. “All men aren't beasts. Tell her Heidi.”

Heidi shrugged. “Most men aren't beasts.”

“Hey.”

The other blond grinned. “Trust me; I've dated my share of beasts.”

Faith shared the look. “Even Xander. He proved that, all that growling.”

Heidi gave Faith a knowing smirk. “I can definitely attest to that.”

Faith's interest peeked and her gaze sharpened in curiosity. “Really?”

“Eh, there was an orgy, which Xander doesn't like to talk about. But he skillfully topped everyone that was present...of course that was before Xander and Cordelia.”

“Way before.” Buffy added.

“So...who played orgy with you and Xander?”

Heidi smiled fondly at the memory. “Rhonda, Tor and Kyle.”

Faith's eyes widened a bit. “So boy swings both ways.”

Both blonds nodded but Buffy did some clarifying. “These days though I think Xander is strictly Cordy sexual.”

Heidi snickered. “And William sexual.”

Buffy smiled. “And William sexual.”

“William?”

“Xander and Cordy had this thing with an older guy. Kind of a free lance demon hunter.”

“He hot?”

Buffy sort of nodded. “He was okay I guess...very nice cheekbones.”

Faith snorted; already losing interest. “So where is William now?”

Heidi's smile faded a bit. “No idea.”

“He left town...they don't talk about him much...” Buffy paused. “How are things with Scott?”

Faith wrinkled her nose. “Think I rode him too hard. He's avoiding me now.”

Heidi gave a bit of a cackle. “Damn.”

Buffy made a face. “That was more info than I wanted.”

“You asked B.”

Heidi kept cackling.

xxx

“That is so cute...and kind of hot...but it would be hotter if it was Spike.” Cordelia's voice made his eyes fly open.

Xander grimaced...the floor was not comfortable. “Morning...what's cute? Hot? What?”

“You and Oz, all cuddled up.”

Xander looked down at the very naked Oz curled into his side and smiled. “Wanna open the gate and hand me that blanket?”

“Sure.” She was still grinning at him as she did and handed him the blanket. He draped it over Oz, giving the other boy a gentle shake. Cordelia moved back to give them some privacy.

“Morning Oz.”

Oz curled deeper into his side for a moment before he opened his eyes. “Morning. School?”

“Soonish.”

“Cool.”

Xander grinned. “You need to let me up.”

“Right...sorry.”

xxx

Willow made a face, in obvious disagreement. “I don't think that's true, it’s not all about the chase. According to Cordy getting caught is fun too.”

Buffy laughed. “I don't want to know.”

“Yeah she over-shared a bit that time, but the lesson was appreciated.” She giggled and shot a glance toward her boyfriend.

Oz's amused expression didn't change as he nodded in the direction of some incomers. “Company.”

They looked up to see Scott and two others approaching them. “Hey Buffy!”

Buffy stopped herself mid-shudder. “Geeze.”

Willow gave her a confused look. “What? I thought Scott was chasing after Faith, even though he'd rather have say, Tor.”

“Faith caught him and now he's had his fill of her and now he's back to me.”

“Maybe Faith was too much? Maybe we should get him a boyfriend? Maybe Tor?”

Scott made his way to them and smiled at Buffy. “Hey.”

She gave him a small non-encouraging smile, even as she shuffled a step away. “Hey.”

Pete and Debbie, who had followed him over, sidled up next to Scott. Oz nodded to them. “Pete, Debbie.”

Pete nodded back with a smile, his arm casually draped around Debbie's shoulders. “Oz.”

Debbie was holding a bouquet of flowers close to her face. “Hey Oz, you're not doing Jazz marching Band this year?”

Oz eyed Pete, as if looking for something, as he answered. “No, too much pressure. Everything okay Pete?”

Pete just smiled at him. “Never better.”

Buffy, looking for a way to escape, glanced at Scott's watch. “Oh, look at the time, I gotta go. Gotta see Mr. Platt today.”

Debbie looked sort of surprised. “The school counselor?”

“Yeah. See you guys later.” She made a run for it, much to Willow and Oz's amusement, and Scott stared after her.

Willow curbed her amusement and made an effort at damage control. “Those are pretty.” She motioned to the flowers Debbie was holding.

“Thanks. Pete got them for me.”

Pete grinned; well it was more of a smirk really. “I'm sure Oz picks you flowers all the time.”

“Nope.”

Oz shrugged. “Flowers are so temporary.” He and Willow grinned at one another, not really noticing the frown on Pete's face.

xxx

Giles paced about the library, muttering to himself, fast approaching a full blown panic. “We need to check every exit.”

Xander sat at the table and waited for the silly grown up to take a minute, hoping he'd relax...no such luck. “Giles.”

“He could have gotten out. We need to check all possibilities.”

“He didn't get out; you're not thinking about this rationally.”

Willow and Oz came through the door then, pausing at the tense feeling in the room, of which Giles was the source. Oz looked at Xander. “What's up?”

Xander shook his head. “Nothing.”

“The hell it isn't.” Giles cleared his throat. “Oh...um...No need to um...panic.”

Willow gulped. “Then why do you look panicked?”

“A male student was mauled and killed last night in the woods.”

Oz and Willow grew pale, eyes wide. Xander slammed his hand on the table, making the three of them jump. “I have your attention?” They nodded. “Good. It was not Oz. I was in the cage with him all night. He was here when I woke up. He does not smell like blood, human or otherwise. We have an understanding, and even in wolf form I'm his alpha and he follows orders. We stayed in. Okay?”

Giles fidgeted a bit. “You're sure?”

“Giles. I'm sure. I'm a light sleeper, had to be growing up in a house with Tony Harris. I would have woken up if Oz had been even a little restless. Now stop making everyone panicky.”

“Alright...that means something else killed the young man then.”

Oz swallowed. “Who was it?”

“Jeffrey Walken.”

Oz sat in the nearest chair, the one closet to Xander's. “He was a friend.”

“Wasn't you, wasn't even wolf you.” Xander assured him. Oz nodded, though absently. Xander reached over and gently lifted the other boy's chin. “It was not you. I promise.”

Oz tilted his head back further and exposed his throat. Xander leaned forward and gave it a little nip. Oz sighed, relief flooding his eyes. “Thanks.”

Over his shoulder Willow nodded and mouthed a silent 'thank you'. Xander nodded to them both. “Any time.”

xxx

Jenny smiled at her pupil as they gathered up their things. Amy's magical re-education was coming on well. “Okay, we'll meet tonight at my place for some cleansing rituals. The full moon is a good time for that.”

Amy grimaced and tried not to blush. “We're not going to do the sky clad thing are we?”

Jenny laughed. “No. Besides, I'm afraid having a naked teenager in the apartment would give Rupert a heart attack.”

Tor stuck his head into the classroom. “Hey guys, meeting in the library.”

Jenny paused and looked at him. “What's up?”

“There was a kill last night in the woods. Giles was afraid Oz got out.”

Jenny and Amy exchange horrified looks and Amy gulped. “Did he?”

“No. Xander says he doesn’t smell like blood. And Oz's relatives lock themselves up tight...and they live in Oxnard.”

Amy blinked. “So...something else? Was it a vampire?”

He shrugged. “Don't know. Vamps don't usually maul.”

Jenny nodded in agreement on that. “Sounds like we'll be adding some research to our schedule...who was killed Tor?”

“Jeff Walken. Oz knew him.”

“Oh, wow. Bet that didn't help any...”

xxx

Kyle, Faith at his side, snagged Larry's arm as he passed him in the hallway. Larry went willingly even as he shot a curious look to Faith, though he pointed in the direction that he had been going. “I've got to warm up before practice.”

Kyle kept tugging him along, and Faith smirked at them. “Xander called a meeting, and I'm not ready to test the Boss-man just yet.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “Pack meeting Larry, it’s important.”

“About what?”

“Jeff Walken's murder.”

Larry nodded. “I heard about that. Jeff was a nice guy, I can spare a few minutes. More if I need to.”

xxx

Buffy and Heidi entered the library; they were the last to join the meeting. “Heidi filled me in. Glad you're in the clear Oz.”

“That makes two of us.”

“All of us.” Larry clarified.

“Yes.” Giles nodded. “Agreed. But we will need to step up patrol tonight.”

Larry shrugged. “I have practice, but I can help Kyle make a sweep afterward.”

Buffy smiled. “Okay, I'll patrol the area Jeff was found.”

Xander nodded in agreement. “Wills you probably should go to the morgue. You'll have a better idea what you're looking at, and for. Tor, you're with her.”

“Got it.”

“What about me?” Faith asked. “Where do you want me?”

Xander was quiet a moment, thinking seriously about her question. “I need someone to make the normal rounds, check out the newest graves. Willow can give you a list. No reason to stop tracking down the vamps while we deal with the new baddie.”

“I'm your girl. Those vamps will be dust before supper.”

Giles fiddled with his glasses, his mind already elsewhere. “I have some things at home I need to look at.”

Jenny put a hand on his arm. “Amy and I can help after our ritual.”

“Totally...at least until my curfew.”

“Thank you.”

“Good plan.” Xander nodded toward Oz. “I'll keep Oz company.”

“We'll keep Oz company.” Cordelia corrected him.

“Wish you didn't have too...” Oz nodded. “But thanks.”

Heidi blinked and cleared her throat. “Do you think something could have escaped the zoo?”

Giles shook his head. “I don't think so...wouldn't there be a report on that?”

Rhonda however was already following Heidi's train of thought. “Not if someone did a Primal ritual thing and got a tiger or something inside them.”

“Yes well, you have a point. Primals can be rather...brutal.”

Xander rolled his eyes, but nodded at the girls. “That's good thinking, you two go to the zoo then. Check for recent magic use.”

Oz sighed, rather dejectedly. “And I will lock myself in a cage.”

Cordelia gave his shoulder a pat. “I'll order pizza. Meat lovers for you?”

“Sounds good...no anchovies.”

xxx

Buffy's part of patrol started out routine enough; the woods were normal, if a little quiet. At first she couldn't sense anything out of the ordinary, nothing seemed amiss. But after a while...she got the feeling that she wasn't alone.

She moved deeper into the trees, staying alert, watching where she stepped. She really didn't want a repeat of Cain's booby trap; getting caught in a net was not fun. Suddenly, there was movement ahead of her. She couldn't tell what it was, but it was definitely no werewolf, not hairy enough, she could see that much in the moon light.

She gave chase, and wished, for just a second in her head that she had Xander's sense of smell. Something like that would make patrol and hunting that much easier.

Buffy wasn't sure what it was, but it was fast and man shaped. She wasn't expecting whatever it was to circle around and knock her down. And she definitely didn't expect it to be...Angel. With blood on his lips. Oh god. He attacked her again. His movements were wild and sloppy, no recognition in his eyes. She managed to knock him out. Barely. She remembered staring at his unconscious form for the longest time before shaking herself into action.

With nowhere else to take him she dragged him to the Crawford mansion and chained him up. Then she quietly freaked out and had a good cry, knowing she'd have to tell Xander, and afraid of what her Alpha might do.

xxx

The morgue was quiet, and as the cliché went, it was too quiet. Dead quiet. Tor shuddered and tried to ignore the antiseptic smell that filled the air, it was an icky reminder that they were in a room filled with drawers of dead bodies. Ugh. “This is weird.”

Willow seemed unfazed by their location. Lucky girl. “Not if you've been here before.”

He looked at Willow with a 'eww' sort of face. “When were you here before?”

She paused and looked at him in thought. “Well it wasn't actually here. We were at a funeral home. It was Buffy's one and only date with Owen.” She opened a drawer.

“Eww.”

Finally Willow gave an indication that she was not as unperturbed as she seemed. “I second that...” She frowned. “There's not much to go on...anything could have done this.”

Tor frowned as a scent caught it nose...he thought it was familiar. “Not anything.”

“What?”

“I don't smell anything...non...human.”

Willow stared at the remains of Jeff Walken before meeting Tor's equally horrified eyes. “You mean...a person did this? A person-person? That almost...makes it worse.”

He wrapped an arm around her, making the beam of his flashlight dance over the body, in a gruesome sort of way, knowing they both needed some pack closeness. “Yeah. Xander isn't going to like this.”

xxx

Xander and Cordelia were eating pizza, Cordy's spirit beast, that she had yet to name was sitting on the table pecking at little pieces of crust they had given her. Oz had already devoured his extra-large meat lovers; though he had spared Marshal a few bites and the two of them were in a pizza coma, which made for some very easy Oz Watch. They were mid bite when Buffy burst through the library doors.

He could smell the tears, sorrow...and, surprisingly, panic on her. “Buff?”

She seemed lost for a second, eyes darting around, not focusing on him or Cordelia. “I...can you...”

Cordelia put her pizza down. “What's wrong?”

Her eyes were red, and her cheeks were tearstained and she finally focused on Xander. “I don't know what to do.”

Xander swallowed his food as he stared, visually checking her for injuries but he saw none. “What happened?”

“I was patrolling in the woods...and...He was there...and we fought. He didn't recognize me. He didn't talk...and I don't know if any of it was real.”

“Buff?”

“I think Angel's back.” She wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered.

Cordelia stared at their friend open mouthed. “But...he was sucked into hell.”

Buffy let out a broken laugh. “I know...it doesn't make sense.” She looked at Xander pleadingly. “Will you just...come with me? Maybe I imagined it.”

He somehow doubted she imagined it and knew that he'd go wherever she needed him to. He looked at Cordelia. “Will you be okay on your own?”

“I can use the dart gun.” She glanced toward the sleeping Oz. “But that pizza really knocked him out.” She handed him her car keys. “Take my car.'

“Thanks.” Xander smiled and kissed her. “Be back soon.”

xxx

Sadly, Buffy hadn't imagined anything. Angel was definitely back, and she had him chained to a metal fixture on the wall. They approached the chained form cautiously, even at the distance they kept Angel growled at them.

Buffy gasped and trembled. “I thought it was all in my head...I...I had just let him go.” She started to cry, quiet little shaking sobs. Angel lunged and growled at her. Xander got between them and made sure to make eye contact with Angel and growled back. Angel froze at the sound, but he kept quiet after that. Buffy collapsed, the stress too much as she curled in on herself to weep. Xander went to her and settled on the floor, pulling her into his lap and started to rock her, back and forth.

Sleep took her easily, and he repositioned her on the floor, pillowing her head on her arm and covering her with his light jacket. With one last warning look toward Angel he moved away from them both and pulled out his communicator.

Tor appeared on the little screen. “What's up?”

“I need supplies for a barrier...Angel found his way out of hell...we're at the Crawford place.”

Tor's eyes bugged a bit. “...was it him? I mean I didn't smell any vampire on what was left of Jeff...had he eaten anyone?”

Xander shook his head. “The only blood I smell came from a squirrel.”

“Well, that's good news. Willow and I will be there soon.”

“I'll be here.” He shut his communicator and looked back at Angel, Angel who bared his teeth at him, though his dark gaze was wary. Xander approached the feral vampire slowly.

When he was within range Angel charged at him, but Xander was ready. Angel was a wild thing, all instinct and animal, nothing left of his centuries of talent or experience. That was probably the only reason Xander managed to best the vampire, and he knew it. But it was now or never.

A quick jab to the face caught Angel off guard, made him stumble back and Xander rushed forward to slam him into the wall, pulling the chain up to keep Angel's arms up, and his deadly hands away from Xander. The vampire snarled and struggled, but Xander kept calm, his gaze level and let out a growl of his own. He let the power of the hyena fill his eyes...and he could feel the crescent tribal mark on his shoulder tingle a bit. Angel faltered for a second; it was all Xander needed, so he changed his growl to a low rumble...a purr. A sound of comfort. Angel shuddered and whimpered a bit, his body slowly going slack.

There was one more glare of defiance one more twinge of a struggle in his limbs and Xander darted forward a bit and latched his teeth to Angel's throat...but he didn't dare bite hard enough to leave a mark. He didn't want to claim Angel as pack...but the things Angel had probably seen, felt, experienced in hell...well they were probably a thousand times worse than anything Tony had done to him or his mom. Not to mention his stupid memories of a war that was over before his time. Stupid Ethan. He needed to let Angel know he was safe now, as safe as anyone could be on the Hellmouth, and this was the only way he knew how.

Angel's legs gave out then and he lowered the older male to the floor, releasing his hold on Angel's throat. Then...Angel clung to him, practically crawled into his lap and Xander found himself rocking the vampire into a fitful sleep as he had Buffy only moments before.

 

Tor was true to his word. They arrived just a few minutes after Angel had fallen asleep, if a little winded and the three of them worked quickly. He moved Angel to the center of the room and they set up a circle, then a barrier, and activated it with sutras.

Buffy awoke and watched the finishing touches be put in place. Her voice was small and quiet. “Did he?”

Xander gave her a smile and cupped her cheek. “He ate a very unlucky squirrel, but he's in the clear on Jeff's murder.”

“Thank god.”

He bit his lip, hoping she wouldn't be upset about what he had to say next. “We have to tell Giles.”

She stared at the sleeping form and nodded. “Yeah. Secrets from the pack never end well...and he and Jenny will need time to deal.”

xxx

Xander entered the library in silence, tossing his jacket on the table; Cordelia looked up at him expectantly. “Well?”

“He's back...thankfully he's not our killer.”

“Oh boy.”

He nodded and yawned. “Come on. Let’s get some sleep.” He helped her stand and led her over to the cage her spirit beast on her shoulder, and like the night before he opened the door stepped inside and closed it behind him. Only tonight Cordelia was with him.

But it didn't matter. They were pack. And Oz's fur was soft and he made an excellent pillow. It only took a moment to shove Marshal over so they could all cuddle up with Oz.

xxx

The sound of the gate opening woke them up and Giles gave them a smile. “Sleep well.”

Xander started to nod, but stopped and shook his head instead. “We need to talk.”

“Oh?”

He grimaced, knowing Giles wasn't going to like this. “Angel's back.”

Giles turned a good deal paler. “What?”

“Coffee. Need coffee. Tell you after coffee.” Xander yawned again as he tried to wiggle out from under a naked Oz who snuffled and clung to him tighter. Xander pouted.

Cordelia yawned even as she snickered. “What he said.”

Marshal and the little bird watched them in amusement from the top of the weapons cabinet.

xxx

Kyle looked from alpha to alpha. “So Angel is back.”

Willow yawned a bit but nodded as she sat, half asleep, in Oz's lap. “Yep.”

Heidi slumped at the table. “And we still have no idea what killed Jeff. Nothing at the zoo by the way.”

“That about sums it up.”

Rhonda leaned against Buffy and gave her a nudge. “How are you doing?”

Buffy contemplated her answer before saying; “Well...I'm not crying or having a breakdown. I'd say it’s an improvement from last night.”

“You can relax about that for now.” Tor gave her an encouraging smile. “He's sealed up tight and can't hurt anyone.”

“Right...so moving on...” She looked to Xander.

He nodded. “We still need to find Jeff's killer.”

Larry raised his hand. “This might sound like a stupid question, but couldn't you guys sniff the killer out?”

Heidi made a bit of a face. “Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint in this school.”

Kyle threaded his fingers with Larry's. “There's all kinds of old blood...and the trail has already gotten cold.”

Xander sighed...they couldn't just sit and do nothing. “Wouldn't hurt. We can do an all over sweep after class, case the entire campus. If there's a lead, hopefully we'll find it.”

xxx

The entire pack remained on edge and alert the rest of the day...and it wasn't until classes were well over that Xander got a hit. Fresh blood. Damn.

He found Buffy in the hall outside Mr. Platt's office where the smell of blood was coming from. Her eyes were sad and teary. “Buffy?”

Her voice was hollow, and Xander knew this death had hurt her... “He's dead...Xander I liked him. It’s Dr. Gregory all over again. Why do the normal teachers who like me end up horribly dead?”

Xander sighed and gave her forehead a kiss before heading into the office. It looked like Platt had died quickly, probably never knew what hit him. The smallest of mercies. He moved closer to the body, taking in every scent that he could. One...seemed a bit familiar. He locked on it and went back into the hall, giving Buffy the barest of nudges to get her moving toward the library before he focused on his new task. It was time to hunt.

He yipped loudly and began tracking the scent. He yipped and barked now and again, letting the pack know he was on the hunt, that he had a scent. That he had a damn lead. It took only a minute or two before he heard the answering yips. And then Kyle, Heidi, Rhonda and Tor were with him.

Together they followed the smell of Platt's blood and the killer's scent to a storage room. A woman's scream was all it took to make them break the door down, sending splinters into the room. And there, was Pete...all crazy looking and vein-y. And there was his girlfriend Debbie, cowering on the floor with a fresh shiner.

The pack attacked. Pete was on the floor and bound with an electrical cord and duct tape...several layers of duct tape before he could blink. He wasn't breaking free...but just in case Xander knocked him out. With more than a little pleasure.

Debbie struggled to her feet as she cried. “Don't! Don't hurt him! He didn't mean it.”

Xander went to her and put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye. “He killed Mr. Platt and Jeff.”

“What...he...it’s not his fault...he's not himself when gets like that.”

Xander sighed. “Or when he hurts you?”

“I just...I make him crazy because he loves me so much.”

He forced her to meet his eyes. “Anyone who loved you wouldn't hurt you.”

“You don't know...”

He softened his voice. “I spent my entire childhood watching my dad hurt my mom...I know.”

She sobbed a bit. “I love him.”

“I know. But this ends. He's killed two people. Not even my dad ever went that far.”

She nodded and cried into his shoulder. The Feral Four wouldn't meet his eyes...it was hard to think of their alpha growing up in a house where he had felt helpless. He shuddered; he'd never tell them how bad it had really been growing up under Tony's roof.

xxx

Jenny was perched on the library counter for the latest pack meeting; Giles leaned back against her legs. “So they have Pete in custody?”

Xander nodded. “And in solitary confinement. What with him being super freak and all.”

Cordelia leaned into him and shuddered. “How creepy is it that he Jekyll’ed himself up like that?”

Amy mimicked her shudder. “That was so very creepy.”

Buffy gave them a small smile. “I just wish we'd been able to save Mr. Platt. I really liked him.” Willow gave her a hug.

Oz looked at them all. “Now what? Aside from me going in the cage.”

Buffy shrugged. “I should probably get some blood from the butcher for Angel...and just wait. See if he's a lost cause or if he can find his way back mentally.”

Giles looked at her with pride. “That does seem to be a logical course of action.”

“And after you feed Angel everyone meet back here for an Oz pile and a pack movie night.” Xander grinned. “I'll get the TV ready.”

Buffy grinned. “Sounds good.”

XXX

Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Four: Full House

Word count: 6023

XXX

Again Hannibal stared at the men gathered around him. They always came whenever he needed them. Always dropping whatever they were doing. He hated to do this, to ask so much from them, but he really needed them.

He had been content before, to simply let go, spend his final days relaxing...before he knew about Heidi. Heidi changed everything. He needed more time.

“I know you're all busy, but I have something to do, something that I need your help with.”

“What exactly is this about? We can't just drop everything Hannibal. Murdock and I have Amy and the kids to consider.”

“I know Face...and you just might want Amy to hear this...where I'm going...and what I plan to do. There may not be any coming back. But I don't feel like I have much of a choice.”

“Hannibal, what you talkin' bout?”

Hannibal sighed and handed B.A. his chart. “I don't have a lot of time.”

B.A. looked it over carefully before he met Hannibal's eyes in shock. “Cancer?”

Face and Murdock grew pale and gripped one another's hands. “How long?” Murdock asked.

“Not long enough. Not long enough to really get to know my daughter. I need more time, and the only way I'm gonna get it...is by doing the impossible.”

“It sounds like you have a plan.”

“I do Face. But I can't do this alone. I need the A-Team and that includes Amy.”

“Boss-man, our kids.” Murdock murmured. “We have to think about them.”

“Trust me Murdock, once I explain everything, you'll want her with you for this mission.”

“Whatever you need Hannibal...as long as I don't have to fly.”

“Won't that be interesting.”

xxx

It was early, so early that not even a hint of dawn was creeping in the eastern window which meant it was still very dark...but there was a ringing from somewhere close to the alarm clock. There was no way either of them would set the alarm for dark-thirty and Xander groaned, even as he hoped whoever was calling wasn't in the middle of a crisis. “Cordy, sweetheart, is that your phone?”

“Mmph.” She grumbled and wiggled halfway out of his arms and reached for the offending piece of technology blindly. Somehow she was able to find it and answer it without even opening her eyes. The talents of a teenage girl never ceased to surprise him. “Hello.”

“Hello Princess.”

The smooth chuckle, that he could just barely hear, on the other end of the line made her sit up with a gasp. “SPIKE!”

Xander was sitting up and practically on top of her in a second. “Is he okay?”

She shoved him back, which made him pout. “Are you okay? Why the heck didn't you call sooner? I know I had service the entire time we were in Japan...well almost the entire time.”

“Japan?”

“Xander has family there.”

“Have a good summer then?”

“It was different. We fell down a magic well and ended up five-hundred years in the past and got attacked by a horde of demons. What about you?”

“Oh you know...Got Dru to South America. Got her hooked up with a Chaos Demon. Wandered about a bit...”

Xander mouthed at her neck to distract her. “Is he coming back?”

Cordelia moved the phone so he could hear as well. “You get that?”

Spike chuckled again, and his voice sounded...lost. “Yeah. I'll be back soon...don't know for how long though.”

Xander's voice came out in a rush then, as if he was compelled to pave Spike's way back to them. “Everything came out in the open. Buffy won't hassle you when you come back. Also she wanted to thank you for killing the Anointed One.”

“I wasn't expecting that...I'll keep it in mind.”

“We'll be waiting.”

“Come back soon.”

xxx

Xander refocused on the conversation, when Cordelia gave him a gentle nudge, giving Willow his attention. “What about Homecoming?”

Willow rolled her eyes. “We could rent a limo.”

He made a face, his eyes moving back to the band playing on the stage. “Have fun with that.”

Willow frowned. “You don't want to go? But it’s our last one.”

“We never cared about going before.” He pointed out.

Willow gave him big eyes and repeated. “But it’s our last one, Xander. We're Seniors; there are no do-overs.”

Kyle gave her a smile and a comforting pat to the shoulder. “Larry and I are going; the four of us can split the cost of a limo.”

Buffy shook her head. “Not me.”

Cordelia grinned, as if everything was suddenly settled. “You and Oz can double date with Kyle and Larry...and you have to take pictures because I want to know about whatever monstrosity Harmony is going to try to wear.”

Kyle nearly choked on a pretzel. “Queen C not going to Homecoming? Is there an apocalypse we don't know about?”

Cordelia smirked and looked down her nose at them, though her eyes were shining in amusement. “Queen C and Xander got a call early this morning from Spike, finally, and are too anxious to go to Homecoming when he could show up at any time.”

Buffy nodded. “Understandable.”

Willow gave her a sad face. “Buffy, you bought tickets.”

“Yeah...not sure what I was thinking.”

Xander gave her a nudge and tugged at her hair gently. “You could take Faith.”

The face Cordelia made was sort of sour. “We have kind of been excluding her...even though she keeps eying my Xander like he's prime rib.”

Willow tried not to giggle. “Yeah, if Faith goes it can be a slayer bonding experience.”

“Maybe.”

Oz gave her a sort of neutral smile, the kind only Oz could pull off. “How's Angel?”

She shrugged and slumped further into her seat. “Jumpy, nervous...twitchy. But he's talking now.”

“He's strong Buff, he'll make it.”

“Yeah...we just can't...”

Xander sighed. “I know. I'm sorry.”

“Yeah...and now that I'm thoroughly depressed...I'm gonna go. Check on Angel, take him some blood. Check in with Giles. Fun stuff like that.”

xxx

The sun was just coming over the horizon, when Sammo pulled his car out of the parking lot of their apartment complex. He counted himself lucky that Louis had gotten him an apartment next to his own. It made things so much simpler and no one questioned when they came into work together, or went to the store together...or went home together which was all the time.

It had been a very long time since he had been in a relationship with someone, and what he had now with Louis was unlike anything he had ever experienced. Many years ago when they had been boys...there had been a time when he thought maybe Lee Hei could have...but that was more than a life time ago. And his wife was a distant memory as well.

He wondered what Louis saw in him. Louis who was young, beautiful in all the ways a man should be. American. So different. So out of sync with him. But Louis was willing to change, even though Sammo loved him the way he was. Every day he learned more about Sammo's life, his customs, his language, and he would eat almost anything that Sammo cooked.

It had been a long time since anyone had looked at Sammo with adoration, with that kind of love. And Louis already had his number as the American saying went. One flash of what his students called 'puppy eyes' and Sammo found himself agreeing to whatever Louis wanted.

So they were driving up to Sunnydale because Louis was curious, and there was no way Sammo was going to let the man he loved explore the Hellmouth on his own. He'd only just found the young man. He wanted to hold onto him for as long as he could. Life was too short to ignore what was right in front of him.

“You're being really quiet.”

Sammo glanced at his lover. “I thought you were asleep.”

“Nope...you okay Sammo?”

“I do not think this is a good idea. We should at least call first.”

Louis gave him a smile that made Sammo's heart skip a beat. “Relax Sammo. It'll be great. We'll stay away from the danger zones, hang with the kids, take in small town life, and then head back to LA.”

“It is the Hellmouth. It is one big danger zone.”

“We'll be okay...think there’s a decent hotel there?”

“Someone's home would be safer.”

“Xander?”

“Xander.”

xxx

They were nearly ready for school when Cordelia sort of paused and asked; “Where exactly is your mom?”

“I think she's pretty much moved in with her boyfriend.”

“Wow.”

“Just makes it easier to hide things. So, breakfast here or on the way to school?”

“Here is fine.” She smiled at him and they headed downstairs with their bags. The sound of a knock on the front door made them freeze.

His eyes met hers. “I'm not expecting anyone.”

“Don't look at me.”

Marshal ran to the foot of the stairs and looked up at them. Sammo and Louis are here. Diana, Cordelia's spirit beast, was perched on his head; it seemed to be one of her favorite spots.

They shared another look and finished walking downstairs. Xander reached the door first and opened it. There stood Louis and Sammo, each with a suitcase.

Cordelia raised a brow at them. “So are you moving?”

Louis grinned. “No. Took a couple of days vacation. Wanted to see the Hellmouth.”

Xander just sort of stared at the detectives. “Crazy much?”

Sammo sighed heavily. “I could not talk him out of it.”

Xander winced in sympathy and nodded sagely at the older man. “I know how that can be.” He grunted when Cordelia elbowed him. “Ow.”

“Can we come in?” Louis asked.

Xander and Cordelia moved as one, standing aside and leaving them room to enter. Louis gave them a confused look, but Sammo nodded in understanding and stepped over the threshold. Louis followed. Xander closed the door behind them. “Sorry, but it’s a rule of the Dale. You never invite someone in verbally; they could get vamped at any time. And all a vampire needs to get in your house is a spoken invitation.”

Louis swallowed. “Got it.”

“Cordy, show them to the guest room? I'll call Buffy and get started on breakfast.”

“Sure, come on guys.” She led them upstairs and Xander headed toward the kitchen phone.

He dialed Buffy's number before peeking in the fridge; she picked up on the first ring. “Hey Buff. We have company and I have just the thing to get your mind off those Homecoming blues.”

xxx

Buffy stared at him. “So you just left them at your house?”

“Well ya know they're not like Kagome, they can't blend in with the high school crowd.”

“Don't worry, we have it covered.” Cordelia grinned. “Marshal can play tour guide, and that way Diana can get out in the sun without the neighborhood cats trying to eat her.”

“Who's Diana?” Willow asked.

“Finally named my spirit beast.”

“It’s a pretty name...are the three of you sure about Homecoming?”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah.”

“Besides, there's always Prom.” Cordelia looked at him pointedly. “We are going to Prom aren't we?”

He gulped and nodded, figuring it was safer. “Prom is a go. Now, let’s get those yearbook photos taken.”

xxx

“Xander.”

He paused and took a few steps back until he was even with Amy. “What's up?”

She wouldn't meet his eyes. “Back before, before Raizen fixed me...I was spiraling.”

Xander focused on her further, taking in her body language, her scent...whatever she was about to tell him was something she wasn't proud of. “Amy? Come on Ames, you can tell me. I won't judge.”

Amy swallowed. “There's this guy named Rack he's got a space in the bad part of town...he deals in black magic.”

“Is he giving you trouble?”

She nodded. “It's my own fault. He had a taste of my power, and knew my mom's really well. He's calling me back to him...and I'm not sure I can resist.”

A chill settled in his stomach. “What are you trying to say Amy?”

“Rack deals black magic like a drug. I was starting to get addicted. I'm clean now, thanks to Raizen...and Rack doesn't have his claws in me now...but...”

His heart pounded in alarm as he realized Amy was fighting that addiction...unlike their father who just let the alcohol take him, just knowing she was fighting it made him proud of her. “You can feel the pull.”

She nodded and her eyes met his. “I don't know what to do.”

Xander pulled her into his arms and hugged her. “I'll take care of it. You just tell me where to find him.”

“He's human Xander...or at least I think he is. Killing humans is bad.”

He ruffled her hair and held her tight. “Don't worry about it. I doubt he'll die. Besides, I wasn't going to handle this one alone.”

xxx

“I just don't understand why you won't give me a chance.”

Buffy hid her grimace. She had been avoiding Scott for ages now...but he'd finally managed to corner her. Darn. “Scott, listen, I'm sure you're a great guy. I'm just not ready for a relationship...with anyone. You know, I had a really bad break up and my ex is still sort of hanging around.”

“Can't we at least get to know one another better?”

“I'm sorry...I'm just not...interested.”

“Is it because of what I had with Faith?”

And suddenly Xander was there, crowding into Scott's personal space and slipping an arm around his waist. “Or maybe, it’s because you've been telling people she's gay because she keeps rejecting you.” He tugged Scott closer to him and Scott blushed. “But I'm thinking you might be the one having an identity crisis.” He cupped Scott's cheek and looked closely at his face. “Keep it up and it'll count as stalking. Now be a good boy and leave.”

He released Scott and they watched as the guy tripped over his own feet in a daze as he walked away. Xander's expression was...amused. He glanced at her. “What do you think? Maybe he'll leave you alone now.”

“After that he might just start panting after you instead of me. How'd you know he was spreading rumors anyway?”

“Tor and Heidi. They always hear the gossip first...even before Cordy.” He tilted his head a bit and frowned. “You okay?”

She shook her head and barely suppressed a shiver. “Xander, I think I'm being watched.”

He gave her a slow blink with a raised brow. “Well, that's not surprising...you're a pretty girl after all.”

She smacked his chest, “ow.” “Not in an admiring way...more like a predator way.”

“Well you're a pretty slayer, unless you mean in a sexual predator kind of way...are any other high school boys stalking you?”

Buffy glared at him, hands on her hips. “You have an answer for everything today don't you?”

Xander gave her an unrepentant grin. “I try.”

Jonathan appeared a ways ahead of them in the open corridor; he waved when he saw them before heading toward them. As he reached them he gave a small, nervous smile. “Hey guys.”

Xander grinned. “Jono! What's up?”

“Can I talk to you?”

“Sure, what's on your mind?”

Jonathan gave Buffy a shy glance. “Just you Xander, it’s kind of...guy stuff.”

Buffy shrugged and smiled. “Then that's my cue. I was going to meet Faith in the library anyway. Later.”

Xander waved her off and focused on Jonathan. “What's up?”

“I'm dating.”

“Okay. Congratulations.”

“Like serious dating...and he's...and please don't think I'm crazy...not human...and it’s getting serious.”

“You said that part already, but I get it.” Xander nodded. “Rinku is courting you huh.”

Jonathan blinked and nearly glared at him. “How did you know? I haven't even told anyone...except my mom and she totally adores him.”

“Saw him meet you for lunch a while back.”

Jonathan nodded and blushed. “Oh...so uh...do demons mate for life?”

“Some do...If it helps Rinku is our age and has never courted anyone before.”

“It does...but what if he wants me to go with him to the Makai after Graduation?”

“What were your plans for next year? College? Work force?”

“I didn't really have any.”

“Then you could give it a chance.” Xander shrugged. “I've been told that the air there can really mess with humans...but then again we are Hellmouth born. You might take a trip there and see how you do.”

“But it’s a demon realm.”

“And some of the cities there have wicked technology straight out of a comic book.”

“Whoa.”

Xander grinned. “Talk to Rinku about it and congrats. Also, if you'd rather live on a Hellmouth, but want a change of scenery, there's a Hellmouth in Cleveland.”

“Hellmouth? Rinku mentioned it...is that really what makes everything so weird?”

“Yep.”

Jonathan grinned back. “Thanks...so you're really a prince?”

“Technically...and you know...Amy Madison is my half sister and that makes her a princess. Crazy huh.”

“Whoa. So uh...any advice? Since you're like a demon prince.”

“Hey, I'm mostly human. But, if you're not comfortable with Rinku you tell him to slow down.”

“No, I'm totally comfortable with him.”

“Okay...tell you what, why don't you take him to Homecoming. You haven't done that yet right? Gone out in a group?”

“No. We've always gone on our dates alone.”

“Well Kyle and Rinku know each other, Larry is in the know, so you guys and Willow and Oz can all go to Homecoming together.”

“You're not going?”

“Cordy and I are gonna stay home.”

Jonathan stared at him in disbelief. “Cordelia Chase isn't going to Homecoming?”

“Crazy huh?”

“Did we fall into an alternate reality while I was talking?”

Xander laughed and slung his arm around the smaller boy. “Not today, Jono. Come on; let’s go find Kyle and Larry.”

xxx

Cordelia peeked into Jenny's classroom, and found exactly who she was looking for, finally. “Hey, Giles, Jenny. I looked in the library for you first. Imagine my shock when you weren't in there.” She grinned when Giles jumped a bit. “I need the two of you to go on a double date with a couple of cops from LA.”

Giles looked at her like she was nuts as he waited for Jenny to gather up her things. “Why on earth would Jenny and I go on a double date with two policemen from LA?”

She smiled brightly at him. “Because you're in their age bracket, and when I say that I mean Sammo is your age and Louis is Jenny's age, also most of us are patrolling tonight while some of us are getting ready for Homecoming.”

Jenny smiled. “Are you excited about Homecoming?”

“Not really, but then Xander and I aren't going, we got a call from Spike so we're waiting for him to mosey into town. Anyway, our spirit beasts are babysitting the guys today.”

Giles sighed. “And you're volunteering us for the night shift.”

“Bingo. Besides, if a vamp shows up the guys could probably handle it. They're both really good fighters who tend to Kung Fu their opponents into unconsciousness before ever reaching for a gun.” She brightened her smile a touch more and added the icing to the cake. “And Sammo dives a Caddy, a classic convertible, powder blue.”

Jenny grinned at her, her eyes twinkling...probably because any car was better than Giles' midget freak show, Sammo's car being a classic was just window dressing. “I'm in.”

Giles however gave his lover a look that was almost a pout. “But I have research.”

Jenny gave his cheek a consoling pat. “There's nothing world ending going on right now. We should have some fun. With people closer to our own age...and not high school kids. No offense Cordelia.”

“None taken, trust me, the last thing any of us want to do is go on a double date with old people.”

“You do realize Spike is older than me.”

“That's different. He's ours.”

“Rupert, please stop arguing with Cordelia's logic. You know you won't win.”

Giles caved, almost instantly at the look Jenny gave him. “Alright. You win Cordelia. We'll go out...as long as it’s not Monster Trucks.”

xxx

Patrol had been quiet, normal even...right up until a black limo turned onto the street they were walking on. Goody.

Xander pulled Cordelia aside as the limo approached them, as it could be the Mayor, or a new bad in town. He relaxed just a bit when the Mayor stepped out. Better the evil you're just getting to know than a completely new and unknown threat.

“Mr. Mayor.”

“Xander. I thought you should know there are some unsavory characters in town.”

“We had suspected that.” He nodded in appreciation; it was a lie but it seemed better than letting the man know he'd been caught off guard. “Thank you for confirming it. I'm guessing they're up to something heinous? Something that you actually disapprove of?”

The Mayor's smile reminded him of...well to sound cliché, like a used car salesman. “Indeed they are. They're planning a little game with your slayers.”

Cordelia gave the Mayor a puzzled look. “What kind of game?”

“I believe they're calling it Slayer Fest ‘98.”

Xander groaned. “Some kind of hunting game? Really?”

Mayor Wilkins stepped forward and handed Xander a folder. “I'll admit it lacks a certain class.” He chuckled. “This is all the Intel I have on them.”

Xander accepted the folder, Cordelia however had another question. “Why?”

“Well you kids do such a good job of cleaning up our town and showing the riff raff the door. It’s good to see today's youth giving back to the community.”

“In other words we're keeping any and all competition you have out of the way...But Mr. Mayor, whatever it is you're planning we will stop you.”

Wilkins just smiled, got back into his limo, and rode away into the night.

Cordelia gripped his arm. “Now what?”

“We go through the packet. Take out the trash.”

xxx

Sammo and Louis were cuddled on the couch in front of the TV when they got home. Louis looked up. “You two are late.”

Xander gave a half sort of wave as he shrugged. “Patrol. How was the double date?”

“It was fun, but I think next time Sammo would rather go see Monster Trucks.”

“What is wrong with that? I have never seen Monster Trucks before.”

Louis gave his leg a pat and grinned at them. “So, you patrol every night?”

Cordelia made herself comfortable in an armchair. “Less people die that way.” Xander sat on the floor at her feet, leaned against her legs, and opened the folder.

Sammo frowned at them. “Did anything happen?”

He nodded. “Some unknowns are in town, they want to do a little slayer hunting. We may have to remove them from town before they make their move.”

“You need some help?”

Louis nodded. “We worked a case where some guys were bringing in large game for hunts here in California. Sammo ended up getting hunted.”

Cordelia looked at him. “What do you think?”

“That actually sounds like a good idea. I have their stats here.”

Sammo shifted and held his hand out. “Then let’s get to work.”

 

Much later after Cordelia was asleep Xander slipped downstairs with his communicator and called Yusuke.

“Xander? What's up?”

“You want a chance to play the protective big brother and beat up a bully?”

“Who's giving you trouble?”

“Not me...Amy. Seems she was fighting a black magic addiction before she worked the gypsy curse for us. Her drug dealer has been putting out feelers, trying to reel her back in...and she's not the only magic user in our group.

“Tor and Willow.”

“Yeah.”

“I'd planned to visit anyway. I'll take care of it.”

“Thanks. Later.”

“See you soon Xander.”

Xander closed the communicator and slumped against the wall at the bottom of the stairs, sliding down. He'd called Yusuke because he wasn't sure he could handle a drug dealer...that was unknown territory. Vampires? No problem. An Apocalypse? Give him a few hours to scramble a plan together. But drugs? Addictions scared the crap out of him, and he didn't want Amy to turn into Tony. Hell, he didn't want to turn into Tony.

Was it wrong to cry for big brother in this case?

xxx

“So what's the deal?” Buffy asked at their latest meeting the next morning, noticing most of the pack was present.

Xander placed a folder on the table. “Mr. Mayor is content to let us be for now and continue cleaning up town like we have been. But it looks like you were right about being watched. We have some work to do.”

Heidi leaned forward eagerly. “We get to hunt?”

“Yep. Wills, I need you to find where these guys have been staying.” He pushed the folder toward her. “Some of them are pretty tech savvy.” Willow accepted the folder and headed directly for the computer. “Now, Sammo and Louis offered to help. So we'll need to keep this as clean as possible.”

Heidi pouted. “Damn.”

Cordelia ruffled her hair. “You can still kill the vamps and the demon.”

“Oh. Good.”

xxx

The Germans' dependence on their technology was their downfall and pretty much everyone else's as they were all in the same place. Willow was able to track their movements and Xander broke a window and tossed in a couple of tear gas canisters.

The group of hunters barged out coughing and choking, the Germans were taken down easily by Sammo and Louis. Their wheelchair-bound boss received a conk over the head from Cordelia. Willow stayed out of the fray itself but took out the fur covered guy with a tranq dart. Buffy and Heidi staked the vamps...and Xander decapitated the demon.

They all looked at one another and Heidi pouted, hands on her hips. “That's it? I thought these were pros. Baby vamps are more challenging than this.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Let’s just get Daniel Boone here loaded into Oz's van. We'll put the Hellmouth Scare in him before we kick him out.”

“And these three?” Sammo asked, as he gestured to the two hit men and their boss.

Xander gave a shrug. “They have records all over. I'm sure your boss won't ask too many questions if you bring them in.”

Louis gave him an amused look. “Police work isn't quite that easy.”

Cordelia waved him off. “Duh, that's why we're vigilantes. Less legal clean up.”

An idea chose that moment to ping in Xander's brain. “The Mayor won't ask any questions if you drop them off at City Hall...actually...Cordy hand me your phone.” She pulled it out of her little purse of awesome and handed it to him. He dialed the most recent number he'd memorized.

“Hello? This is Allan Finch, Deputy Mayor.”

“Hello Mr. Finch. This Xander Harris. Mayor Wilkins and I had a meeting about the new characters in town. I just wanted him to know that they've been taken care of. However, some of them have outstanding warrants and should be dealt with in a more legal capacity.

There was an awkward moment before, a very nervous Finch answered. “Of course, if you would just give me your location I'll send the police to take care of it.”

Xander rattled off the address and gave everyone thumbs up. “Thank you Mr. Finch, have a nice night.”

“Um yes, thank you so much Mr. Harris.”

Xander hung up. “So we're letting the local police deal with the crazy people who have the law after them.”

“Xander...”

“What is it Heidi?” He blinked at her and the wad of cash she was holding up. “Where did that come from?”

Louis frowned at the bloodstained money. “That's probably what one these guys paid to play the game.”

Heidi grinned. “There's more inside...lots more. I think this was just part of one payment because there is more bloodstained cash in there.”

Xander bit his lip in thought before finally nodding. “Everyone do a quick sweep, if there's any more money I want it found.”

“The money is not yours Xander.” Sammo told him. “But I understand it would be awkward to hand it over to the police.”

He looked at Sammo and Louis closely; Heidi had already gone back inside. “We end up hurt more often than we like or let on. That means hospital bills and medical supplies...not to mention the clothes we lose when we get covered in demon ick.”

Buffy shuddered. “Like that time I got covered in pink slime. So...this is going to go toward a pack fund?”

He nodded. “Seems like a good cause to me.”

“I don't like it.” Louis muttered. “But I can understand why you would need it. We'll just tie up these guys while you do that.”

“Thanks Louis.”

xxx

Homecoming was Sammo and Louis' last night in Sunnydale and Xander and Cordelia had decided to stay in and watch a movie with them, having already made a sweep of a good portion of town. Heidi, Tor and Rhonda were in full patrol mode while everyone else was at the dance, with plans for their own quick sweep later.

They had only just started the movie when there was a knock on the door. Xander did a cursory feel with his senses and grinned before he opened the door. Botan floated through the open doorway on her oar, Amy following after on foot.

Amy's smile was the brightest he'd ever seen it. “Guess who we brought to meet you?”

“Who?”

Yusuke and Keiko stepped over the threshold, and in Keiko's arms was a tiny baby dressed in pink. Yusuke smirked. “Xander, this is your niece. Urameshi Kazumi.”

Xander stared for a moment. He was an uncle. It really hit him for the first time...it was a real thing. He reached out just barely touching the rosy, pudgy cheek, and Kazumi opened her eyes. And for a second he could feel Raizen's presence, could feel the old man looking through his eyes at his newest descendant. He could feel the pride and the love Raizen had for them all, a father's love. It was a pretty awesome feeling.

xxx

“So what did you think?”

Rinku tightened his hand around Jonathan's knowing that how he answered was very important. “It was fun...sorry if I embarrassed you though.”

“You didn't...why would I be embarrassed?” Jonathan stopped to look up at him. “There's nothing embarrassing about you.”

“I didn't dance very well.”

“You caught on.”

“My clothes weren't like Kyle's or Larry's...”

“Oz was dressed more casual too.”

“He was in the band.”

Jonathan rolled his eyes before he reached up and around Rinku's neck and pulled him down for a kiss. The move surprised Rinku and he stumbled a bit as he fell forward and into the kiss. He wrapped his arms around Jonathan to steady himself and pulled his boyfriend closer.

The kiss was brief, just a touch of tongue and then Jonathan pulled back a bit to look into Rinku's eyes. “It was perfect. Stop apologizing.”

Rinku snorted and leaned in to kiss him again. “Still...I'll do better at Prom.”

xxx

Xander was alone in the living room when Yusuke slipped back inside, pausing in surprise when he saw his little brother waiting up for him. “Xander? It’s late.”

“Were you taking care of Amy's problem?”

Yusuke nodded. “Botan and I dealt with Rack. She stripped his power from him and I made my own impression. If he ever remembers his own name he won't want to come back to Sunnydale...not that he can make it back.

“I don't want to know.”

“No, you really don't.” Yusuke sighed. “Listen, I'm glad you came to me for this...but I don't want any more surprises like what happened with Acathla. We live in this world too and I'd like to have a heads up if the world is gonna end.”

Xander nodded; a sick feeling settling in his stomach. “I didn't think of that.”

Yusuke sat in front of him on the coffee table. “I know, you were still recovering, you'd just lost a friend, and Giles was kidnapped and being tortured. You were in the middle of a crisis and didn't have time to think. But that's why I wanted to talk.”

“Okay?”

“I spoke to Mukuro, and some of the others, the more powerful demons in the Makai. They've started construction on some cities...towns really with barriers. Barriers that will let humans living in them slowly get used to the atmosphere of the Makai.”

“Refugee towns.”

“Yeah. Hiei planted the idea in Mukuro's head first and by the time your little crisis happened she already had one town almost done. She's recruiting help from all over, so next time, at least give me a call so I can get Keiko and Kazumi out, and my mom, Keiko's parents...okay?”

Xander nodded. “Tor said his and Botan's parents live in a pocket dimension...he has access to it here in the Dale...so that may be where we go if we can't save the world...it all depends on if Merlin and Nimue mind putting us up for a while.”

Yusuke ruffled his hair. “Don't try to take on so much. You have a lot of people to shoulder the burden.”

“Yeah...I guess.”

xxx

Cordelia was awake and on her cell phone when he finally made it up to his room. “What's up?” He asked as he sat by her on the bed.

She held her hand up for a moment as she spoke to whoever was on the other end. “No its fine. Thanks for not slaying them...we can give you a list of the friendlies later. Night Faith.”

She hung up and Xander quirked a brow. “Faith?”

“She was patrolling and ran into Rinku and Jonathan. She recognized Jono from school and just had some questions, especially since she attacked them and Rinku was stronger than her. But they called a truce...and ended up hanging out.

“Huh. Ya know it might be good for her to have friends outside out little group.”

“Especially since you have her set up in that cute little house all to herself. She can have friends over...should we have her over here? For a movie night or something?”

“It’s something to think about.”

XXX

Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Five: Ultra Cool Adults

word count: 5856

XXX

“I don't really understand why you have to do any of this.”

“Dude, just ask the questions so we can answer them.”

“It’s a rite of passage and a lot of colleges look at SAT scores. It’s like putting one foot in the doorway that leads to the rest of our lives.”

Rinku made a face and continued to flip through the book. “Ugh, humans are so weird. How is a piece of paper going to tell anyone what your skill set is?”

Andrew and Russ stared at Rinku in surprise. Jonathan was too busy snickering to really comment on his boyfriend's words.

“You guys are the most boring friends ever.” Faith plopped herself down, practically on top of Rinku and Jonathan. “I invite you over for a movie, popcorn and beer and you're studying?”

Andrew gave her wide eyes. “The SATs are important.”

Jonathan gently shoved Faith off of him a bit and rearranged his answer book. “Andrew, you just skipped a grade, you'll be fine Mr. Genius. We already know you'll score high.”

Russ made a murmur of agreement as he ruffled his boyfriend's hair and kissed him on the cheek. “Which is why I'm here. I need all the help I can get so I can get into whatever college Andrew gets into.”

Rinku wrinkled his nose and accepted the beer Faith handed him. “It still doesn't make sense. If someone is going to take stock of your abilities it’s better to see it firsthand. Reading about it doesn't leave any sort of impression.”

“Which is why I dropped out.” Faith took a swig of her own beer. “School was a waste of time.”

“It all depends on what our plans are.” Jonathan eyed the beer. “Where did you get that? You're younger than us.”

“Fake ID. Rinku hooked me up.”

Rinku choked on his beer at the glare Jonathan gave him. “You weren't supposed to tell him.”

“Oops.” She smirked. “So, what are your plans?”

Jonathan was still glaring at Rinku. “Well, I guess Rinku needs to make a decision about me. Are we going to the Makai?”

“Uh...I kinda like it here. But I don't want to step on Xander's toes...it is kinda his town.”

Andrew snorted. “If there was another Hellmouth we could all go there and be Faith's sidekicks.” They stared at him. “What? I know some magic...and Jonathan has shown an interest in the occult...and Rinku could totally be a heavy hitter, not being human and all.”

“Sounds fun Andy...too bad we can't do that.” Faith's smile was a little wistful.

Jonathan bit his lip. “Actually...there's a Hellmouth in Cleveland.”

xxx

Giles' expression was a touch weary as he spoke. “Is the answer A: Violence breeds violence. B: All things must end. C: --”

Buffy stopped him. “B! I pick B!”

Heidi glared at her from where she was sitting next to her on the blanket in the middle of the cemetery. “It could be C or D.” She glanced at the Watcher. “Is there a D?”

Giles' sighed. “Yes, there was a D.”

Buffy ignored their byplay. “But we haven't had B for like six questions.”

Heidi gave her a poke. “I don't think that matters...Hey Bookman, duck!”

Giles ducked and Buffy threw her pencil, dusting the vampire that had been creeping up on him. He stood back up and tossed a new pencil to her. “The answer was C by the way. Now do quit interrupting me unless there is another vampire.”

Buffy resisted the childish urge to break her new and shiny pencil. “Why isn't Xander here, sharing our misery and prepping for the SATs?”

The Watcher barely looked up at her pout. “Xander, Cordelia, Rhonda and Amy are prepping with Jenny. And before you ask - Tor, Kyle, and Larry are prepping with Botan.”

Heidi sighed mournfully. “And Willow and Oz are geniuses and they don't need to prep.”

“Quite.”

xxx

“Are you sure about subcontracting? It seems a little low brow.”

“The guy I have lined up for the job has worked the Dale before. He's pretty classy...but he's unsure of working it this time.”

“Oh, yes. You're thinking of Mr. Rayne.”

“Yeah. Evidently he doesn't want to cross a few people.”

“Yes. Young Mr. Harris and the Lady Botan...I really need to get her out of the way before the big day...oh well. I still have plenty of time to think on it. Scotch?”

“Don't mind if I do.”

xxx

“So how did your prepping go?” Buffy asked him the next morning. “And is your mom a crazy person who demands lots of quality bonding time? Because mine is getting clingy and not wanting me to do much besides school and the necessary slayage. And she still won't let me drive.”

“That's because your driving is scarier than Cordelia's.” He dodged the elbow she aimed at his ribs. “And my mom has a boyfriend and a job to keep her occupied.” Xander shrugged as he responded. “But the prepping, I feel pretty good about it. Of course when we apply for college it’s gonna help that we all know a foreign language. SAT scores are just one thing to worry about ya know?” Buffy was still glaring at him for the driving comment.

“I've heard UC Sunnydale has a good foreign language program.” Willow added almost absently.

“Yeah but I need to find one in LA.” Cordelia couldn't quite hide her grimace. “And LA is a lot bigger than Sunnydale.”

He grinned and slipped an arm around her, pulling her closer. “Bigger isn't bad. Just means there's got to be plenty of colleges and community colleges just waiting to be applied too.”

Willow's step faltered as they walked; her eyes wide in surprise. “Cordy, you're not staying in Sunnydale?”

“Nope.”

Oz kept his gaze neutral, but placed a hand on Willow's arm, ready to pull her away if an argument broke out. “So...?”

Xander gave them all a smile, meant to reassure his pack. “We're not breaking up. We're committed.”

“I just want to live away from Hell for a little while.”

Their progress was cut short when Principal Snyder stepped in their path and tried to shove a box of chocolate bars into Xander's hands. Xander however refused to take it and even wrinkled his nose in disgust. “I think your candy has gone bad.”

“Its band candy. You're going to sell it.” He again tried to hand it off.

“Uh...not in the band, and your candy doesn't smell right. When people all over Sunnydale get sick I'm not gonna be in their line of fire.” They stared at one another before Snyder silently conceded defeat and backed off, letting their group pass him.

Buffy shuddered. “That was close. Did the chocolate really smell wrong?”

“Oh yeah. Trust me; I know when candy has gone bad.” He looked at her a moment longer. “Is your mom really still wigging about the running away thing?”

“Some, she hasn't turned into Uber Mom or anything. It’s just...I have my hands full with Giles helping me with the studying and then patrolling and then Mom wanting more time...and keeping an eye on Angel is harder than I thought it would be...sometimes I think I need two of me...maybe three of me.”

Xander shuddered. “Buff, no offense, but I don't think Sunnydale can handle more than one of you. Maybe we can rearrange the patrol schedule. Do it in shifts?”

“Oh, hey, that's a great idea! That way everyone gets more study time in for the SAT prep.” Willow's excited grin wasn't exactly catching. Not everyone was as excited about Academics as she was.

xxx

Xander wasn't sure what he was doing here, coming with Buffy to see Angel. He didn't even like the guy, never had and never would. Even if he had held the guy and comforted him right after he escaped Hell. And despite the fact that Angel loved her...he would just keep hurting her, even if he didn't mean it. But that was life and Buffy had to make her own choices. But if Angel got his happy on and went fruit loops on them all over again Xander was gonna drop him in a dust pan.

“He was glad to get out of the barrier.” Buffy murmured to Xander as they made their way through the old mansion. “He still doesn't leave the grounds though.”

“Can't blame him.”

They eventually found Angel in the courtyard doing katas and Xander had to admit, grudgingly, that Angel looked good. He stood serene as his body made its sure movements, gestures he'd obviously done a thousand times before. Why did the Aurelius vamps have to be so damn pretty?

Patiently they waited for Angel to finish, or to notice them, whichever came first. Of course when he saw them he only had eyes for- “Buffy...” His gaze moved a bit. “Xander.” The fact that there was respect in his tone made Xander gape...just a smidge.

Buffy stepped forward, her smile unsure, guarded. “I didn't know you could do that.”

Xander nodded and kept his face neutral, but did give a little. “Nice form by the way.”

Angel nodded back, acknowledging that they were allies at the least. “I'm feeling better.” Then he staggered a bit, predictably Buffy rushed to his side.

Xander rolled his eyes but joined them and offered his shoulder for support and helped Buffy get him inside to the sofa. “Easy Angelcakes, you're rushing things.”

As Angel sat down and leaned against the sofa back, he breathed in deep and blinked at Xander in surprise. “You've...been...”

Xander shrugged and hoped he didn't blush. “Yeah. Cordy and I took that step. She's wearing Raizen's crest on her finger.”

Angel nodded. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks.” He stepped back, unsure of how to deal with this calm Angel who didn't sneer at him or snarl or get jealous when Buffy so much as smiled at Xander. “Buffy brought you blood.” He shrugged and glanced at Buffy. “I'm gonna patrol, you good?”

“Yeah.”

He nodded. “Later.” Xander made his way out, barely pausing to look at his friend sadly as she offered the pig's blood to the one guy she could never have.

xxx

“Heidi!” Ryan's voice was shrill and annoyingly loud. She sighed and closed the front door, having just entered the house, five minutes before curfew.

“What?”

“Get your stupid rabbit out of my room!”

“Lucy is not stupid!”

“She's eating my homework!”

Heidi rolled her eyes and made her way to her little brother's room. “Maybe you should do your homework at your desk and not on the floor.”

“I left it on my desk. Maybe you should put a lock on her cage.”

She snorted and scooped Lucy up from the middle of Ryan's math book...where she had indeed been nibbling on the work sheet. “Goodnight.”

“Hey! She pooped on my book!”

“Maybe you should keep your door closed. Then she wouldn’t go in your room.” She went down the hall to her own room and put Lucy back into her cage. Lucy turned to sit and watch her, brown eyes intent. Heidi reached in to pet her, fluffing her mane a bit before she filled the food bowl. “You really do need to quit the Houdini routine.” Lucy ignored her and started eating her food.

A knock on her door and her mom's voice drew her away from the cage...after she latched it. “Heidi.”

Heidi stuck her head out of her room. “Whatever Ryan said he's exaggerating. Lucy only nibbled on one corner of his homework.”

“I wondered what the yelling was about...but that's not what I wanted to say.”

“Oh...what's up then?”

“Hannibal called while you were out. He wants to speak with you.”

“Pops? Did he say why?”

“No, but he might still be up if you want to check in before bed.”

“Cool, thanks mom. Night.”

“Goodnight sweetie.” Janet gave her a kiss on the cheek before Heidi closed her bedroom door. It was nice and Heidi was glad things had sort of gone back to normal with her family. Even if her mom was her biological half-sister and her dad wasn't her biological father. She was just glad she'd figured out how to fit Hannibal in; and that he didn't mind being called Pops.

She grinned as she picked up her extension and called his home number; it rang ten times before she hung up with a frown and dialed his cell phone instead. He picked up on the first ring.”

“Hello?” A bit of worry crept into her heart when his voice sounded so very far away.

“Pops? Hannibal? What's up?”

“Just wanted to let you know I'd be out of the country for a while.”

“So where are you now?”

“On a plane, headed for Shanghai.”

That certainly wasn't what she was expecting. “Shanghai? China? Did someone need you there?”

“Well no, but it’s our first stop...and we weren't exactly hired. It’s a personal trip.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, no worries kid.”

Heidi let that sit a moment. “What's really going on?”

“Nothing too important, just a bit of sightseeing. Hey, when I come back you can give me a tour of Sunnydale, we can catch a movie, and I’ll even spring for a shopping trip. Have some bonding time.”

“That, sounds like a bribe to keep me from worrying.”

“That's nonsense. There's nothing to worry about. I'll see you when I get back kiddo. Take care.” And he hung up.

Heidi stared at her phone a moment...then called Xander. He answered on the first ring. “It’s late, and I just got back.”

“Sorry.”

“Heidi?”

“Yeah. I might need a favor.”

“Shoot.”

“Can you come with me to LA again?”

“...why? Did someone else die?”

“No...I just talked to Hannibal...and he was acting strange...keeping secrets...I just have a bad feeling.”

“You want me along so I can pick some locks and help you snoop in your old man's business.”

“Pretty much.”

There was a voice in the background and Xander chuckled. “Cordy wants to come.”

“Cool...so he's already on a plane on his way to Shanghai...”

“We can leave after school tomorrow, will that work?”

“Yeah.”

xxx

“Morning.”

Xander waved as he and Cordelia joined Buffy and Willow, sitting across from them. “Hey Will, do you have that new patrol schedule made up? And did you include Faith?”

“Yeah...”

“Good, but you'll need to leave the two of us and Heidi off the schedule tonight.” Cordy told her.

That made the two of them stare and Buffy gave them a worried look. “Is Heidi having another crisis?”

“Possibly.” Xander shrugged. “She wants us to help her be nosy. Hannibal is keeping a secret and she wants to know what it is. We're going to LA after school to break into his place and poke around.”

“Do you need me to do anything?” Willow asked. “Go through a computer? Hack a system?”

“Don't think so but I'll keep you posted. Heidi just wants to know why he's taking a sudden trip to Shanghai and took the entire A-Team with him.”

“That does kinda sound hinky...and how weird is it that you can just casually talk about breaking into a place?”

“Weird is the new normal Buff. Besides, that's hardly weird compared to our usual activities.”

“Like patrolling and kicking vampire tail?”

“Yup.”

xxx

Kyle slipped up next to him as he closed his locker. “Are you sure that candy is bad?”

“Uh yeah. Can't you smell it?”

He nodded. “I can. But no one is getting sick, and everyone is eating it.”

Xander gave his beta a concerned look. “Have you?”

“No, but look around.”

Xander did and grimaced. Everyone was eating the chocolate. Students, some faculty, heck even Snyder. “Ask the others, find out who's sold some to their parents and give me an update on their behavior.”

“You think it could get serious?”

“Maybe...maybe it’s not supposed to make anyone sick...maybe it’s supposed to do something else.” He sighed. “And I had plans to be out of town tonight to help Heidi.”

“Crap.”

“Yeah.”

xxx

Later during study hall Tor tapped his pencil on the table he shared with Willow in the science lab. “There is a distinct lack of teachers today.”

Willow nodded, almost absently. “You noticed that too? Is there bug going around?”

“I don't know, but now that you mention it Giles wasn't even in the library this morning. In fact I haven't seen him all day.” Buffy added, watching Xander in amusement as he balanced his pencil on his nose.

Xander didn't miss a beat and kept his pencil right where he wanted it. “He could have been in a faculty meeting.”

Cordelia threw a paper wad at him, he caught it, pencil still balanced. She snorted. “There needs to be faculty around to have a faculty meeting Xander.”

Right then Ms. Burten stomped into their once adult free classroom and promptly glared at them. Xander dropped his pencil and gulped, however her words made them all stare. “Listen up people. Study hall is for squares. Let's go! I'm canceling this humdrum fest!” And then she stomped back out.

There was a moment of stunned silence, which Willow broke first with a broken, “B-but...”

Tor gave her shoulder a comforting pat. “What just happened?”

Cordelia glanced at Xander. “You think maybe the Hellmouth made her crazy?”

He returned her gaze...really the thrill of being excused from school was too good to pass up. “Should we even worry about this? After all we have plans to go to LA.”

Buffy was already starting to gather her notebooks. “Maybe after we play hooky? We do have permission from an authority figure and all.”

Willow whimpered. “I don't play hooky well.”

Tor was rubbing comforting circles on her back now. “It’s not hooky, we've been pardoned.”

Xander glanced back at Willow. “You can do some snooping, see if any other adults are acting weird. Cordy and I really need to get Heidi for our little LA trip. The sooner we leave, the sooner we can come back to help with this.”

That seemed to balance things out for Willow because she finally nodded in agreement. “Okay, so not hooky, but research and snooping. I can do that.”

xxx

It was odd leaving school so early in the day, but it really was for the best. Like he told Willow, the sooner he got this out of the way, the sooner they could deal with the new situation in Sunnydale.

The lock clicked and he grinned. “Got it.” He opened the door of Hannibal's apartment and listened.

“What are you doing?” Cordelia asked.

“Listening for booby traps.”

Heidi snorted and scooted around him. “There are none, he's not wanted by the military anymore, remember?”

“Sorry...well...let’s look around.”

It didn't take long to find what they were looking for. Cordelia held up a map with a big circle drawn over a section of the Himalayas. “What the heck is Shangri-La?”

He frowned. “Not sure...sounds familiar though...Heidi?” He turned to her, her scent filling his nose, her grief. “Didi?”

She turned big watery eyes to him and held up a medical chart. “He's dying...cancer.” The tears started to fall. “It’s not fair. I just found him. He lied...I knew he was lying. He said he was okay, that everything was fine.” She glared the paper. “Why do adults do that?”

Cordelia pulled the other girl into a hug. “I don't know...at least he cared enough that he didn't want to worry you.”

Xander ruffled Heidi's hair. “We know what to look for now...we can hit the books when we get back.”

xxx

Cordelia had dropped him off at the corner so she could take Heidi home; it was just starting to get dark so there was no reason to hurry. It would be a while before vamps would be out in force. However...as he approached his house he became more and more uneasy. The lights were on...there was loud weird music coming from inside...and the front door was even standing open.

Cautiously he peeked inside. To Chaos.

There were adults in various stages of undress all over the living room...which his mom was in the center of...dancing with some man. Dirty Dancing with some strange man. A warm body pressing into his side made him squeak unmanly and jump away. Their neighbor, Mrs. Laugherty giggled and winked at him, Mr. Laugherty gave him what Xander thought was a come hither look. He shuddered and made a run for the stairs and didn't stop until he was safe in his room and locked the door. Then for good measure he shoved the dresser in front of it.

Thank god your home! One of your mom's guests tried to play badmitten with Diana!

Xander gaped for a moment at his spirit beast. “How could this happen? The wards are working...I felt them when I came in.”

Did you not notice the mountain of candy wrappers in the hall?

“The Band Candy...it really is Bad Candy. I knew it didn't smell right. It just threw me off when it didn't make anyone sick. Ugh.” He pulled out his communicator and called Botan...Tor answered.

Tor's eyes were wide and panicky. “I am officially freaked out.”

“Why?”

“Botan.”

“Has she eaten any of the candy?”

“Has she, dude I don't even know where she got it because I didn't sell it to her.”

“How bad was it?”

“Let’s just say...that back in his Ripper days...Giles was really into...orgies.”

“Do I even want to know?”

“Probably not, but I'm telling you anyway so you'll have it in your head too.”

“Please don't.”

“Giles, Jenny, Botan, and Mrs. Summers.”

Forbidden images swam in Xander's head. “Oh god, I did not need that.”

“Hey, you didn't actually see it. They're spiraling...and Buffy is lucky she only saw her Mom, Jenny and Giles chilling and listening to records.”

“That's unusual...why didn't she question that?”

“Her mom handed her the car keys.”

“Ah. Okay.” A car horn sounded from the street, and he looked out the window to see Cordelia, Heidi, and Ryan in the car. “Cordy's back...try not to panic and stay somewhere safe.”

“You're kidding right? I need to decontaminate the living room before I'll be able to sleep in this house again...is your house safe?”

“No...Mom's partying in my living room right now...I think they're moving toward their own orgy.”

“So where are you gonna sleep tonight? And can I join you?”

“I'll let you know.” Xander shut the comm before grabbing his duffle. “Get Diana, we're not staying here tonight.”

Good. Marshal made a chirping sound at Diana, who chirped back and the two were out the window in a flash. Marshal making use of the tree and Diana glided down to the street and Cordelia's hand. Xander followed, jumping straight from the roof.

When he got to the girls and Ryan, Cordelia made frustrated gesture. “So your mom decided to throw a crazy party too huh?”

“Yep.”

Heidi glared at his house. “We were kinda hoping to stay with you. My parents...well let’s just say Ryan is scarred for life.”

Xander peered into the back of Cordelia's car where Ryan sat, clutching a small animal cage with a rabbit inside. “Hey Buddy.”

“Hi.”

“Rough night?”

“Yeah.”

“Me too.”

“So where are we going to go? And any idea what caused the craziness?” Cordelia asked. “Did the wards fail?”

He shook his head. “The wards are working fine, but it’s the candy...and it might be more of a chemical thing than a magic thing.”

“We need a safe house.” Heidi muttered.

“That's...not a bad idea.”

xxx

Xander knocked on the door. Seconds later Faith opened it...and stared at them. “What's up?”

He left nothing to chance and cheated...he gave her puppy eyes. “Can we crash here tonight? All the adults have gone insane and are acting like frisky teens.” Faith stared at him for a long moment...before stepping aside and letting them pass. Her eyes were kind of dazed. Another victim falls to the Puppy Eyes. “Thanks Faith. You have a guest room?”

“There's a clean mattress on the floor in there.”

“We'll take it.” Heidi nodded at Faith. “Thanks for this; my little brother is still kinda in shock. No kid should ever see their parents doing that.”

Faith shuddered a bit in agreement. “This way.” Heidi followed her, guiding a very quiet Ryan in front of her, he was still clutching the rabbit cage.

“Now what?”

“I'll tell Tor where we are...you see if anyone is at the library. Chances are Willow is already doing some research.”

“Got it.”

xxx

In less than an hour Tor showed up...with pizza and Rhonda. Xander left them there, thanking Faith again on their way out before he and Cordelia headed toward the factory. Cordelia had indeed gotten in touch with Willow at the library. She, Oz, Kyle and Larry were already hitting the books. Buffy was going directly to the source, the factory that was distributing the candy...that’s where they found the newest scene of chaos.

“Oh my god.” Cordelia gasped.

There was a crowd of adults jumping around and yelling, while others stood up on the loading dock, tossing down the candy. “Yeah...that is something you definitely don't see every day.”

“No, look. Buffy is gonna be in therapy for years.”

He looked to where Cordelia was pointing. “She won't be alone...in fact I suggest we have group sessions.” They shuddered together and approached their shocked slayer. “Buff?”

She didn't look at them; instead she continued to stare at the sight...that was Giles...with three women hanging off of him. Jenny, Joyce, and Botan. He wasn't sure but it looked like they were trying to have an orgy through their clothes. “Is this real?” Buffy asked him in a small voice.

“Yup.”

“I need brain bleach.”

“Right there with ya Buff.”

“At least their only kissing...and grinding.”

“Uh...about that.”

Buffy moved so fast he didn't even have time to step back, she put her hand over his mouth. “Don't, I don't want to know. Not ever.”

He nodded and gave her a thumbs up, she released his mouth. “Yes Ma'am.”

She moved toward the...adults...and snatched her mom from Giles' clutches...though Jenny and Botan were being just as gropey with Joyce and each other as they were with Giles. Shudder. Joyce made a sound of protest, but was no match for the strength of a much freaked out daughter. “Buffy!”

“You leave her alone!” Giles made a move to stop them and Xander stepped into his path.

“You need to back off Giles, you're not thinking clearly...and all of you are freaking us out.”

Giles...sneered at him. “What, you think you're all big and bad just cause you're part demon? I can take you.”

Xander simply stared for a second before he narrowed his eyes...and growled, teeth bared, and eyes aglow. “I am first alpha of this pack.” He raised brow. “Do you really wanna do this? Have a throw down and get your butt kicked in front of your ladies?” He took a step forward, crowding into Giles' personal space. “I am younger, stronger, and faster than you...and I really don't want to beat up my father figure. So back off.”

“You could always give him puppy eyes. Those usually work on anybody.”

“They might too well Cordy...think about that.”

Her eyes widened and she shuddered. “Yeah, don't do that.”

“Tosser.” Giles muttered at him, tucking the women under his arms.

Xander rolled his eyes. “Come on, let’s go inside.”

Evidently his little scene with Giles had taken longer than he thought; by the time they got inside Buffy had Ethan Rayne cornered and was interrogating him. Much to Giles' delight.

“Hit him again!”

Xander gave the Watcher a look which quieted him. “So what's the what?”

“Call Willow, whoever is behind this needed the adults out of the way for a tribute to a demon named Lurconis.”

Cordelia had her phone out in record time. “Hey Willow. Demon named Lurconis, big tribute. Look it up.”

Ethan gestured to get their attention. “In my defense...I'm subcontracting and this wasn't my idea. So, this time...when you toss me through a portal...could you make it somewhere a bit warmer?” He looked to Botan and then Xander. “Please? Your majesty?”

“Hey Botan?”

“Hmm?”

“No portals.”

“Kay.” She giggled as Giles...he really didn't need to see that.

“However you may be paying our therapy bills for the next three years.”

“Done.”

“Xander.” Cordelia's voice was small, quiet, terrified.

“What?”

She turned off her phone and put it away. “Lurconis eats babies.”

“Aw crap.”

Buffy shuddered. “Guess we're going to the hospital...after we do something with Ethan.”

“I can watch him.” Botan offered. “I promise no portals...and he'd get out of any ropes you'd tie him up with.”

Xander stared at her. “Are you sure, you're still pretty high from the funny chocolate.”

“I'm sure.” And for a moment he could see her struggling past the effects of the candy.

He nodded. “Okay. If you need to, shove him into your parents pocket dimension.”

Ethan blinked. “Pocket dimension?”

Xander laughed. “You mean you didn't know? Botan is Merlin and Nimue's daughter.”

Ethan's expression was priceless.

xxx

At Buffy's insistence her mom rode with her...and Giles and Jenny were in Cordy's back seat for the ride to the hospital. However they were too late. Four babies were missing, and the nurses on staff had been too busy watching TV to be watching them.

The thought of the babies, scared and about to be eaten had sobered up the adults a bit, though Joyce and Jenny were a bit weepy and clinging to Giles. Shudder.

But their first break came from Jenny, and how weird was it that in her teens Jenny had been a Goth? “Lurconis.” She whispered. “That means something...doesn't it?”

Giles nodded, that old Watcher intelligence starting to show through. “It does...Glutton. It means glutton.” His eyes widened. “We'll find it in the sewers.”

Cordelia made a face. “Seriously? What is it with demons and the sewers? Yuck.”

Xander inwardly agreed, but he had a more pressing question. “Where did the candy come from? That's been bugging me.”

Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Snyder said it came through the school board.”

A bad feeling filled him, like his stomach had just bottomed out. “Oh...crap.”

Buffy tensed at his reaction, clearly not expecting it. “What?”

“The school board...that's an official channel.”

“So?” Cordelia wasn't making the connection...none of them were.

“The Mayor.”

Their stares grew horrified as realization set in. Buffy gulped. “This is his doing...we have to save those babies.”

“Cordy, call Clem. See if he knows where in the sewer we'll find Lurconis.”

“We have got to get you your own phone.”

xxx

Xander only got a glimpse of the Mayor as he ducked out of the chamber where the ritual was taking place. But Xander could definitely smell him and the magic around him, as well as other less mentionable things. Yuck.

Buffy flew into action drawing the lackey vamps to her while Joyce, Jenny, Cordy and himself each grabbed a baby. Then he promptly grabbed Giles before he could jump into the fray and put the baby in his arms to keep the Watcher out of trouble.

Then, like the Mayor, Mr. Trick slipped away and there was no time to go after him. Xander staked one of the two remaining vampires and Buffy got the other. “Thanks.”

“Welcome...” The chamber started to shake. “Uh oh.”

“Lurconis?” Buffy grimaced. “Wonder how...big...he...oh boy.”

The large snake-like head slithered into view from the tunnel in front of them. Xander scrambled to get the toys out of his jacket pockets, tossing one to Buffy. “Get ready. Just pull the pin and throw it.”

She gave him a wide-eyed look but did as told and when Lurconis opened his mouth they pulled the pins, and tossed the grenades inside. “Now what?”

“Duck and cover!” Xander yelled as he pulled her away and toward the others who were crouched down and shielding the crying babies. They heard Lurconis slither back into its den...and then the chamber was rocked by an explosion.

When the dust cleared Buffy glared at him. “You've been carrying grenades in your pockets all night long?”

“Um...maybe?”

xxx

“I could sleep for a week.” Cordelia murmured into his neck as they stumbled into Faith's house.

“How'd it go?” The younger slayer asked.

“The bad candy should wear off some time this weekend. We saved the babies, killed the demon. The Mayor and Mr. Trick got away...you mind if we just collapse on your couch?”

“No, go ahead, it's a pull out. Tor, Rhonda, Heidi and the kid are on the mattress in the spare.”

“Thanks Faith.”

“No prob.”

xxx

The morning sun shown in, blinding her as she woke. She felt like she had...of all things...a hangover. What in the world had happened last night? She shifted...and then froze. She wasn't alone in bed. A very masculine arm was around her waist.

Botan sat up and looked behind her. Ethan Rayne was in her bed...and just as naked as she was.

“Oh my gods and goddesses.”

XXX

Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Six: A Toast to Our Youth

Word count: 6662

XXX

Nimue was gazing into a fractured crystal as he entered her study, the expression on her face one of amusement.

“Nim? What has you all atwitter?”

“Hmm? Oh, the children amuse me...or at least they're going to.”

“Are you gazing into the future?” He moved behind her, wrapping his arm about her waist as he peered into the crystal as well. “Which scene are you looking at?”

“Wouldn't you like to know?” Her eyes met his over her shoulder.

“You're feeling playful...should I be worried?”

“Of course not...” Her eyes twinkled at him. “I don't suppose you'd mind working up some Elixir of Youth?”

“Why would you need it? We're not aging. Most of Tor and Botan's friends won't need it.”

She continued that infuriating twinkling and said, quite mysteriously. “Quests should be rewarded.”

“I suppose. Of course this means I'll have to pick some apples from the orchard.”

“You never did tell me how you convinced Idun to part with one of her trees.”

“I didn't? Sorry. I actually gave her a rope that could subdue Loki when his tricks got to be too much.”

“Ah.”

“Care to join me in the orchard? How much Elixir am I making?”

“Hmm, enough for five I think.”

xxx

Xander gazed around the small personal library in Botan and Tor's home, originally he and Cordelia had come to talk to Botan, but she had been nowhere in sight. “Does Giles know about your library?”

“I thought he would...but the only time he was here he was too busy having sex with three women...so probably not.”

“Ugh. Can we please not talk about parental sex? It’s gross.”

Tor snorted. “At least you didn't see it.” He pulled yet another book from a shelf. “So Shangri-La huh?”

“Yeah. We think that's where Hannibal is headed, for some secret to life or something. His notes were sketchy and hard to read. We're lucky to have a location.”

“It’s like on the other side of the planet? How would we get there without Botan?” Cordelia asked, fiddling with a crystal globe on the desk, her fingers landed on the Himalayas. “What if Botan doesn't even know where it is? Like the exact location.”

He sighed. “I don't know, but we have to at least try, Heidi's really getting messed up over this.”

“I can probably get you there.” Tor stated, putting back a book he didn't need. “Botan is the only Fairy that uses portals to travel, but that's because she works for Reikai. Usually we use mirrors...but we can also use water, like lakes and ponds and stuff...”

Xander took the next book from him and met his eyes, currently their original green. “Do you even know how to do that?”

“No...but mom mentioned it. She would probably teach the spell to me if I asked. Besides, think how fast you'll be able to get to LA to visit Cordy when she moves.”

Xander glanced at Cordelia who nodded. “That...would be kinda handy.”

He squeezed Tor's shoulder. “Do what you feel comfortable with.”

“Sure. If there's water in Shangri-La we'll get you there to help Hannibal.” He frowned at the handful of books he'd placed on the table. “Think Giles might have more books on this? Because I'm not finding a heck of a lot on Shangri-La, or it could be I haven't looked hard enough.”

Cordelia picked up a book. “I'll help Tor, you go raid Giles books.”

“Thanks.” He gave her a quick kiss and ruffled Tor's hair before leaving.

xxx

There was an odd tension in the school library when he got there. Buffy and Faith were sitting at a table across from Giles...and a woman he'd never seen before was standing up pacing a bit...and berating Giles?

“Hey guys, what's going on?”

The woman stopped and stared at him. “And who might you be?”

“Xander.” He frowned and moved closer, hoping to catch her scent...and as he did he looked closely at her aura. “And you?”

She straightened her spine, showing off her perfect posture and said primly. “Gwendolyn Post. Watcher. Faith's to be precise.” She looked at Giles askance. “And this is one of the civilians helping your slayer do her sacred duty? Really Mr. Giles.”

Her scent filled his nose as he moved ever closer...the dark sludge-like appearance of her aura made his stomach twist in an un-fun way. “Giles.”

Giles must have heard the note of alarm in his voice, because he was sitting straighter, his eyes harder, more alert, a bit of Ripper peeking out behind those glasses. “Xander? What is it?”

“She's lying.”

“I beg your pardon.” Gwendolyn scowled at him. “Who are you to accuse me of--”

“She doesn't smell right...and her aura is really messed up. I think she deals in bad mojo. It's all sludgy and oily looking. Kinda gross actually.” He blinked and the vision faded.

Gwendolyn was staring at him. “An Aura Reader. I didn't realize any of your civilians had such ability.” She didn't see Buffy sneaking up behind her. With a quick blow to the head she was down and unconscious.

Xander made a face. “I feel like I need to wash my eyes out after that. Yuck.” He shuddered. “Hey Faith, there's some rope in the bottom drawer of Giles' desk. Would you get it? And possibly some duct-tape?”

“Sure boss.” She smirked. “Glad she was bad news. I don't like authority figures who talk down to me or my friends.”

He reached over and gave her chin a gentle tap. “Me neither.” She headed toward the office and Xander looked to Giles. “Guess you need to call Watcher HQ about the sludge-lady.”

“Yes, I suppose I should.”

“Is killing evil humans bad?” Buffy asked, eying the unconscious woman, accepting the rope as Faith returned with it in hand. They started trussing her up with the rope...and then the duct-tape.

“It is not a slayer's job to kill humans, no matter how evil.”

Xander knew his eyes were a little green when he nudged the woman with his foot. “Yeah...but sometimes humans are the worst monsters of all.”

Faith jerked her head up in surprise at him. “Yeah?”

Their eyes met...and he saw something in her he hadn't noticed before...a kindred spirit. Another scared kid from a broken home. “Yeah...I guess we should talk about that some time.”

She shrugged. “There's nothing to talk about. It’s over.”

“It’s never over Faith...it’s still there in your head and it always will be. The pain, the nightmares. They can ease up and fade...but never completely.”

“Yeah...sucks huh.”

“Completely.”

Buffy shifted uncomfortably. “Your dad?” He nodded and she gave him a little smile. “Well at least your parents didn't lock you up in the crazy house for burning down a school gym.”

Faith gaped at her sister slayer. “Your mom had you committed? Seriously?”

Buffy shrugged. “I'd just been called, my first Watcher was killed in front of me...and I burned down a gym full of vampires who were trying to snack on my friends. Yeah, and trust me, being so pumped full of anti-psychotics that the only thing you can do is drool all over yourself...not fun.”

Faith made a face. “My mom blamed me for my dad leaving...then my mom and her boyfriend tried to pimp me out to their friends so they could have money for drugs. I ran away and my Watcher found me living on the streets...you know the rest.”

Both girls looked to Xander. “My dad used me and my mom for a punching bag...and he liked to push me down the stairs. And a few times he threw me down the basement stairs and locked me in the basement for a weekend at a time with no food. Jesse and Willow broke me out once and the beat down was worse...so the next time he locked me in there they only snuck food to me through a window. There's a faucet down there so I had water.”

“Good lord.” Giles rubbed tiredly at his eyes. “No wonder you were happy when he went missing.”

“Happiest day of my life.”

Faith gave a broken laugh. “We're a sorry bunch.”

Buffy grinned at them. “But we have each other...and things are pretty good now, compared to what they could be.”

“Yes, quite...Xander...”

“Yeah?”

“What did you originally come here for?”

“Oh...right. You have any books on Shangri-La?”

“Shangri-La? It doesn't exist.”

“Huh. Well...Monkey Poop.”

“Why?”

“Heidi's biological dad is searching for it...for the immortality or whatever...he's dying of cancer.”

“Oh, poor Heidi.”

“Yeah.”

xxx

Cordelia had left some time ago and Tor, having found nothing else in his books decided to change tactics. So he made his way to Botan's room where a large mirror leaned against one wall. He tapped the ornate silver frame gently “Hey, Rora. Wake up please.”

The vague face of a woman appeared within the glass. “Tor?”

“Hey, I need to talk to Mom for a bit.”

“Of course.” The face faded and Nimue appeared in the mirror.

“Hello son. You needed something?”

“Yeah...you know that spell we were talking about over the summer? The one that lets you travel by water?”

“Yes...do you wish to learn it now, rather than wait until the next visit?”

“Please?”

She smiled, her pink eyes twinkling as she held out her hand. “Come on through.”

He grinned and reached into the mirror, grasping her hand and letting her gently pull him through. “Thanks.”

She kept her hand in his and guided him outside. “It would best to practice this with the fish pond and one of the larger fountains...where is your sister by the way?”

He shrugged. “No idea. She's been acting weird since the band candy incident.”

“Band candy?”

He grinned a bit. “You didn't hear about that?”

“No.”

Tor laughed a bit as they approached the fish pond. “I'll tell you about it after we practice some.”

Nimue smiled at him in amusement. “For that, I cannot wait.”

xxx

Xander entered his house to the smell of food...good food. Which made no sense because Cordelia couldn't cook. Cautiously he made his way to the kitchen and peered around the doorway...his mind flashed back briefly to the first time he'd ever laid eyes on Yusuke...he'd been peeking into the kitchen that night too.

Cordelia's hair was clipped up messily in concession to the heat in kitchen. It showed off the column of her neck in a very enticing way. She moved about the kitchen, checking on the food in pans, the bread in the oven...and it was then he noticed...that the oven wasn't on, nor were the burners.

He scented the air, smelling magic, and smirked. Cordelia was tapping into whatever magic she had, using it to cook, rather than the appliances. Still grinning Xander moved closer to her, reaching out with his aura, letting it brush against hers. Her aura twitched, much to his delight and blended with his.

“Welcome home.” She turned to face him and accepted the kiss he gave her.

“So it’s the appliances you don't get along with.”

She blushed. “Every time I try to use them the food ends up wonky. So I decided to try it this way. At least it smells good. Set the table for me?”

He kissed her again and got the plates out. “So anything new with Tor?”

“He's starting to sound like a mini-Giles when he can't find what he's looking for in the books. How did it go at the library?”

“Giles says Shangri-La doesn't exist...also there was a fake Watcher, Gwendolyn Post, who is now waiting to be deported back to Merry Old England.”

“Whoa...how did you know she was a fake?”

“Didn't smell right...also her aura was funky.”

“Huh...if it makes you feel any better Tor is pretty sure Shangri-La exists. He was getting ready to talk to his mom about the travel spell when I left.”

“Cool.”

xxx

The clinic was near empty this time of night...and they had been ushered into a back room the moment they had arrived. He wasn't really sure why she'd dragged him here, after all she'd been with Ripper that night as well. What confused him the most...was her nervousness. She was more than a thousand years old...and she seemed terrified.

“I'm the one who should be nervous...you're an immortal. Why are you so bloody terrified?”

Botan glared at him from the examination table. “I'm supposed to be working the Hellmouth...and keeping an eye on Xander. If...Ethan I'm the youngest of the natural born Fae, and I'm more than a thousand years old.”

“I believe you mentioned a younger brother.”

“We adopted him...and really that only worked because there was already a touch of Fae in him...probably one of Mom's relatives got a little frisky with a mortal a few thousand years ago.”

“Alright...but why am I here? You were with Ripper that night as well.”

“Rupert and I aren't compatible...if we were...there would have been a child born back then.”

“Oh...so you think...but why are you so scared?”

“The Fae are a dying race Ethan, Tor and I are the youngest, and he was adopted, not born. If my mother's relatives found out I'm with child...if I'm with child...and the father is human...There is a good chance you'll be taken.”

“Because the child would be a half human bastard?”

“No, because you'd be compatible. If you can impregnate one Fae, you can impregnate others. The Fae are desperate for children, they are the Fairies greatest treasure...do you seriously want to be a Fairy concubine?”

“Er...not particularly.”

The door opened and the doctor, a being of onyx skin with a scattering of stars looked at them kindly. “My Lady? Are you ready?”

She sighed. “Yes.” Botan gulped and lay down...Ethan, feeling her worry stepped closer and held her hand. After all, it was his candy that had caused all this.

xxx

Faith kicked at a headstone as she and Rhonda walked through their second cemetery. “What does it say about me that I keep attracting losers...and then this fake Watcher?”

“Nothing. You should talk to Xan and Willow. They've had their share of freaks. All of us have.”

“You too huh?”

“Adrenaline Junkie to the extreme. The only time he felt alive was when he almost got killed. Not even nookie could distract him.”

“Damn.”

She nodded. “Come on, we'll go find something to kill. It'll make us feel better.”

xxx

It was sensual, standing next to Angel in the early light, going through the workout, the slow and graceful katas. It was peaceful...and then his hands were on hers and there was heat, passion and she just barely pulled herself away from that perfect flame.

“I should...I should go. Lots to do...we still have a fake Watcher to ship somewhere that is else...and Heidi might need someone to talk to...or she might want someone to spar with to get her mind off of stuff.”

“Stuff?”

“Oh...she just sort of met her biological dad...and he has cancer. So she's having a crisis...and of course there's a demon called Lagos looking for a fancy Glove of...what was it...”

“Myhnegon, the Glove of Myhnegon.”

“Yeah, that thing. We need to find it, kill him, and destroy the glove. Fun huh. Just another night in Sunnydale.”

“I know of it...the glove. I can probably find it...and I can probably destroy it.”

“Oh...that's good. Giles will be glad to hear that.” She gulps. “I really...”

“You should go.”

“Yeah...yeah. I'm gone.” She slipped out, knowing Angel was watching her every move, and it hurt.

xxx

“Are you sure about this?”

“Mom taught me how to do the spell. I got it right on the first try.”

Xander stared at the plastic kiddies’ pool Tor had set up in his back yard. It wasn't quite full, which made sense as they were going to be stepping into it. What didn't make sense was the circle of large stones with symbols painted on them. “The stones are for what?”

“Runes, for extra protection, cause of the Hellmouth.” Tor settled himself just outside the circle of stones. “Ready?”

Cordelia stared at him. “What exactly are we supposed to do?” Diana trilled nervously from her shoulder and Cordelia ran a finger down her back to comfort her. Marshal had moved closer and was pawing at the water's surface.

Tor rolled his eyes. “When the water starts to get all glowy, you need to step in.”

They looked at one another before Xander asked; “Why aren't you going?”

“Well I've only done this short distance...so I figured I should stay here and keep the gateway open...maybe.”

Heidi glared at him before smacking the back of his head. “You have no idea what's going to happen, do you?”

“Ow! And I have some idea.”

Cordelia sighed and grabbed his and Heidi's hands. “Let’s get this over with already.”

Tor nodded and started chanting in a language none of them recognized. Probably some sort of faerie language...since it was a faerie spell and all. Then the water started to glow, as Tor said it would. He pointed at it and motioned them forward. Cordelia tugged them toward the pool and they all stepped in, Marshal jumping in behind them. For a moment they started to sink...and then there was a blinding white flash.

xxx

“Huh.”

Larry froze and looked at Kyle. “What?”

“Angel's out and about.”

Larry peered around him at the large crypt ahead of them. “He's not evil anymore, right?”

“His soul is back in place, remember? Willow has to detox now? And Amy's aura got all fractured.”

“Right...so what's he doing?”

“Taking something out of the Von Hauptman family crypt.” He grinned at Larry, and Larry gulped. “HEY ANGEL!”

The vampire ahead of them jumped, clutching the wrapped object to him in surprise...then he glared at Kyle. “You're one of Xander's.”

They moved closer and Kyle dialed the manic grin down a few notches. Xander had insisted they play nice. “You feeling better?”

“Yes.”

He nodded. “So...out shopping?”

“What? Oh, no. Buffy said that the demon Lagos was looking for the Glove of Myhnegon.” He held up the wrapped item. “I knew where it was, and now I can use a living flame to destroy it. Then all Buffy will have to do is take out Lagos.”

“Cool. Need any help? A few of the magic stores are still open.”

Angel looked at him a bit warily. “I need to look at my books first, but if you don't mind tagging along...”

“We have time, right Larry?”

Larry shrugged. “Sure I guess, we were almost done with our patrol anyway.”

“Alright...follow me.”

They walked behind him a bit before Kyle asked. “So what happens if someone puts on the bad glove?”

“Tremendous power...and it can never be removed.”

Kyle was silent a moment, thinking. “So what if their arm was cut off.”

Angel stopped and looked at him puzzled. “I suppose they would die if cut off from the power.”

Larry snorted and bumped his boyfriend's shoulder. “Only you would ask something like that.”

“Oh come on, Xander or Heidi would have totally asked.”

xxx

They were exhausted. Finding this place had taken longer than he'd thought...not to mention B.A. was still mad about the flying. They'd drugged him as usual. Of course now Hannibal wasn't sure how they were going to get back. Their plane had crashed on the mountain...though Murdock had managed to get them out safely...the plane wasn't going anywhere.

The snow was falling; they were tied together with rope so as not to get lost in the endless white around them. Amy and Face were with him, helping him along, he was weaker than he'd like...and B.A. was behind them, to catch them should they fall.

Murdock was the one leading them...because apparently Billy knew the way, and Murdock was the only one who could see Billy. It made for a worrisome trek, more so since his vision was fading with exhaustion. He barely had time to warn Amy and Face as his legs gave out.

They seemed to be at their end as they were unable to support him...and B.A. cursed weakly behind him.

But Murdock's voice rang out in joy ahead of them. “We found the Yeti! I told you they were real B.A.”

And then the white world went dark.

 

When his eyes opened again he felt...still tired, but he was warm, dry and comfortable on some sort of soft bedding. He sat up, his team still unconscious around him. However he felt eyes on him and looked up to see a young woman, Chinese, sitting on a boulder, watching him. She was pretty, and her gaze was intense, and held the weight of ages that they should not have.

“Where are we?”

She kept her gaze steady. “Where did you wish to be?”

“Shangri-La?”

“Why?”

“The water of eternal life.”

“Why would a man of today's world go looking for an impossible dream?”

“Time. I need more time.”

“All men want more time. But eternity is lonely alone.”

“Why do you think I brought my friends?”

“It was a foolish journey. Immortality is not what you might think it is.”

“How would you know?”

“I was immortal for two-thousand years... I gave up my immortality to save the world...then my husband and I came back. The Yeti cannot guard the Fountain alone.”

“So you're immortal again?”

“Yes.”

“But you won't let us drink from the water?”

“No.”

Movement caught Hannibal's eye and a young man, one with focused, strong steps and blond hair joined the young woman. He smiled at her. “Lin, you could ask him. I mean to go chasing a legend like Shangri-La he has to be desperate.”

“You must be the husband.”

“Alex O'Connell, you've met Lin. So...why are you really here?”

“I'm seventy. I recently found out I have a daughter who is only seventeen, she is my only child...I need more time with her.”

Lin frowned. “Wouldn't it have been better to spend your remaining years with her instead of chasing a dream?”

“I don't have years. I'm dying; I only have months...if that.”

B.A. suddenly shot up, as he usually did after waking up from forced unconsciousness. “Where are we...?” His eyes found Hannibal and he glared and shook a finger at him. “Hannibal if you knocked me out and put me on a plane again I am gonna-”

He rolled his eyes. “Relax B.A. We just passed out in the snow...I think the Yeti brought us here.”

Murdock giggled, finally revealing he was awake. “The Yeti are real! We found Big Foot's cousins! You were wrong B.A.! Again!”

“Shut up Fool!”

Amy and Face came too then, with a groan and a grumble respectively. Amy smacked at B.A. blindly. “He's been right twice now B.A. First Billy, now the Yeti. Let him have his moment.” She moved closer to Murdock and ruffled his wild hair a bit.

Face mirrored her actions, snuggling into Murdock. “That's right...actually that worries me some. H.M. being right about supposedly non-existent things.”

Murdock grinned at them. “Nothing to be worried about Face, just cause I'm not as crazy as you all thought I was.”

Hannibal grinned at his team fondly, though he kept an eye on Lin and Alex as they too watched the A-Team's antics. At least the immortals found them amusing.

Amy finally noticed them and blushed a little. “Sorry, guess we should introduce ourselves. I'm Amy Allen.”

“Templeton Peck.”

“H.M. Murdock.”

“B.A. Baracus.”

Lin nodded at them and then looked at Hannibal. “And you?”

“Hannibal Smith.”

Amy watched them curiously before focusing on him. “So...did we make it to Shangri-La?”

He nodded. “We did.”

She smiled and relief flooded her face. “Have they let you drink from the fountain yet?”

“No...and they're not going to.”

Face's jaw dropped a bit in surprise. “You're kidding? After all we went through? Drugging B.A. to get him to China and again to get him here?”

“Still gonna get you guys for that.” B.A. grumbled.

Murdock stuck his tongue out at B.A. “If you weren't so scared of flying we wouldn't have to drug you...or knock you out...or trick you.”

“Enough Murdock.” Amy murmured. “Why won't you let him drink?”

Lin shook her head. “A quest such as yours was foolish.”

Amy was glaring at her now. “We traveled so far...and I'd like to get back to my kids...but this isn't fair.” She turned to look at Hannibal. “Didn't you tell them why you-”

“I did. Guess it was too much to hope for...and now I've wasted time.”

Face's eyes widened in surprise and worry. “It’s not like you to give up so easily Hannibal.”

He sighed, suddenly feeling more than his seventy years. “For once Face, I don't have a plan.”

Murdock had finally sat up, his mood darkening with their failure. “How are we supposed to get back—hey is that it?” He stood to get a better look. “The fountain?” He frowned. “Billy is watching it all close like, like he's waiting for somethin'.”

Alex wrinkled his nose in confusion. “Who's Billy?”

B.A. groaned and stood as well. “The Fool's invisible dog.”

Hannibal let B.A. pull him to his feet, even as he chastised him. “Now B.A., you know Billy is real, you saw him yourself.” He paused, catching sight of the fountain for the first time. “Is the water supposed to glow like that?”

All eyes turned towards the Fountain of Eternal Life, and they watched as the water continued to glow...and then bubbled. Then hands appeared, splashing and breaking the surface of the pool and three familiar teens rose in a wave of water, coughing and spluttering.

The boy got out first and helped the girls out of the water, one at a time. He continued to cough. “Think this is Shangri-La?”

Cordelia spat out a mouthful of water. “Don't know, don't care, but I am gonna talk to Tor about his magic. I did not want to drown on the way here.”

Heidi was quiet for a moment, looking around them at the ornate structure of the fountain; her eyes grew wide in realization. “Oh crap...he put us right in the Fountain...does this mean we're immortal?”

The other two froze and looked at one another in shock. Cordelia's voice was calmer, quieter. “Does it?”

Xander simply blinked at her. “Huh...oops?”

She smacked his shoulder. “We could be immortal and all you can say is oops?”

He grinned at her. “You'll be the envy of everyone in Hollywood? And just think of our first high school reunion when all of your former sheep will be relying on Botox and plastic surgery.”

She seemed to absorb that for a moment, but frowned. “...still not happy about it.”

Heidi was still gazing around them...and her eyes landed on Hannibal and widened in surprise. “Hi Pops!” Then she was glaring at him. “So what the hell were you thinking? Running off on a crazy mission!”

“I...”

“How the heck am I supposed to get to know you if you run off?”

He smiled. “In my defense I did find what I was looking for. That lovely fountain you just took a dip in.”

The three teens shared another look and Cordelia grimaced. “How mad do you think Nimue and Merlin will be when they find out Tor tossed us in the Immortal bath?”

Xander shrugged. “Don't know as I haven't met them yet.” He looked to Hannibal. “You guys had a turn yet? The water's fine.”

Lin stood, her expression torn between amusement and confusion. “No they have not...and how did you come to be here?”

Heidi glared at her. “A friend of ours used a water transportation spell. The kind only Fairies can use...and why haven't you let my father have some water?”

Before Lin could respond...the earth shook a bit and the Yeti appeared in front of the teens...and they knelt in front of Xander and Cordelia, heads bowed in respect. Alex moved to Lin's side. “Lin, why are they doing that?”

Xander however rolled his eyes. “Jeeze, does everyone recognize the rings? Or know who I am simply by looking at me?”

“Ring?”

Xander met Lin's eyes and shrugged, before holding up his right hand and showing the ring he wore. “My bloodline ring. Only one of Raizen's kin can wear it...well Cordy has one because she's my consort.”

All of his team was standing now...and Amy looked rather upset over the kid's words. “Consort?”

Cordelia smiled a bit. “He's demon royalty.”

“Hey, I'm mostly human...besides Raizen turned good and stopped eating people when he fell in love with a human.”

Lin was staring at the boy in wonder. “Raizen...the Demon King. You are one of his?”

“Yep.”

Movement by Xander's feet caught their eyes...and a striped cat sneezed before shaking water from its fur. A small pink bird was beside it, shaking water from its feathers. Lin's eyes seemed to grow ever wider at the sight. “You travel with guardians.”

Cordelia motioned to the two animals. “Marshal and Diana are our spirit beasts...reflections of our souls.”

Alex took his wife's hand. “Lin? What is it?”

She glanced at him and smiled. “Two of the guardians of legend.” She motioned to Hannibal. “You and your friends may drink from the fountain.”

Hannibal gave her his best skeptic look. “Just like that?”

“Yes.”

Then the water began to glow again, and three more figures appeared; another teen and two adults. However instead floundering in the water, they floated out and gently set foot on the cavern floor...completely dry. Heidi, Xander and Cordelia were glaring at the newly arrived teen.

Cordelia pointed at the blond boy and frowned. “That is so not fair.”

Xander's glare was lessening to a look of amusement. “Methinks you need more practice.”

The blond boy gave them a sheepish look. “Oops?”

Lin smiled and bowed to the older couple. “Lady Nimue, Lord Merlin, it has been quite some time since your last visit.”

The woman, Nimue, smiled at Lin, her pink eyes shining in amusement. “Hello Lin. It’s good to see you. We came to offer the children passage home. Our son Tor tapped his magic out sending them here.” She approached Xander then, a curious look on her beautiful face. “Alexander LaVelle Harris. Thrice named child. Prophecy Breaker. White Knight. Wild Card. Hated by the Fates.” She smiled. “It is good to meet you Little Prince.”

Xander, though blushing a little, bowed to her. “And you Lady of the Lake.”

Nimue nodded in acknowledgment of her title before looking to Lin again. “Now, Lin. These people have traveled far; I think they deserve a reward for their quest.”

Lin shrugged. “If the guardians approve.”

The cat and bird looked at one another...and a voice echoed through their minds...as if the cat were telepathic. Why wouldn't we? Hannibal didn't have to look at his team to know they were as wide-eyed as him.

The man, Merlin, stepped closer and handed a vile to Hannibal, he accepted it gingerly. “Just a taste.” Merlin told him. “Then use the water to wash it down. Each of you now, come, come. Things are happening on the Hellmouth.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “Figures.”

Each of them took a taste of from the vile and drank from a cup that Alex held out for them. Hannibal could feel the change almost immediately...and could witness it on each of his friends. They were all growing younger, their bodies changing...and their clothes no longer fitting. If he were any judge, the others looked about thirty...and he felt better than he had in decades.

Xander approached him then, scenting the air as he grew closer, and grinned brightly. “Cancer smell is gone.” And then Hannibal found himself with armful of trembling Heidi.

“Can we go home someway that does not involve water?”

Nimue laughed at Cordelia's request. “Yes, I do believe that Lin still possesses the mirror I gave her mother five-hundred years ago, we can have you back at Tor and Botan's home in moments.”

“Thank God.”

xxx

Xander and Cordelia had just walked into the main room of the mansion, where Angel stood over an alter performing some sort of spell. The glove was next to him, out in the open. They moved closer and Xander glanced at the spell the vampire was using and nodded, good thinking.

Cordelia peered at it as well. “So he's taking the glove's power away?”

“Which will probably destroy it.” He nodded to Angel who was still concentrating and they moved back...and then Buffy and a demon crashed through the large window a ways behind the vampire. “Make faster with the magic Angel, Lagos is here.”

Angel gave him the briefest of nods as Xander and Cordelia moved to stand between him and Lagos as Buffy continued to battle him. He was almost twice her size, and his body almost seemed to absorb her punches like he could barely feel them.

“I have a sword in my purse.” Cordelia murmured to him.

“Get ready to throw it.”

She pulled the blade out and he ran around to attack Lagos from the other side, hitting the big guy with all his strength, unsurprisingly Lagos barely budged.

“Buffy!” Cordelia threw the sword, Buffy caught it and Xander dropped as she swung it, slicing Lagos' head off neatly.

“Xander?”

He popped back onto his feet and grinned. “I'm good. You?”

“Yup.” She wiped the blade clean on the corpse's sleeve before handing it back to Cordy. “Thanks.”

A small explosion sounded behind them and the room filled with blue smoke for a moment or two. “Ugh, that's gross.”

“Angel?” Buffy called out.

“I'm fine...the glove is inert...and dusted.”

A gentle breeze blew the smoke out through the broken window, and when the air was clear again Cordelia breathed in relief. Xander raised a brow at her and she shrugged. “I don't like breathing in smoke...don't ask me how I did it though...Tor's the one who can control the elements. I might have willed it out though.”

He smirked at her before looking at Angel. “So, we done? For the night? Cause I'm exhausted.”

“Yeah.”

Buffy nodded. “So did you guys find Heidi's father?”

Cordelia snorted. “Yep, went to Shangri-La and everything.”

Angel's eyes bugged a bit. “Heidi? Shangri-La? How?”

Xander rubbed a hand over his face. “Tor is part Fairy and used a spell to get us to Shangri-La. Heidi's father went there to drink from the Fountain because he's like, seventy and was dying of cancer. Not the best of circumstances when you find out you have a teenage daughter. But he has lots more time now and looks like he's thirty. So it’s all good.”

“Of course Tor tapped his magic out and his parents had to come get us and bring us home.”

Buffy grinned. “So you got to meet Nimue and Merlin? What are they like? Are they as bubbly as Botan?”

He frowned. “No...I mean Nimue might be if we knew her better...and holy crap...I just realized she named me three times.” They all looked at him in confusion. “Three titles. Prophecy Breaker. White Knight.” He glared at Angel who shrugged. “And Wild Card.” Xander sighed. “Stupid Fates.”

Cordelia curled around him. “At least Hannibal is okay now and the cancer is gone.”

“Yeah.”

Buffy smiled. “Gotta take our happy endings where we can get them. I'm happy for her.”

xxx

Tor had passed out as soon as his head hit his pillow. Leaving Merlin and Nimue alone to explore their children’s' home. They settled in the kitchen, taking a moment to figure out the coffee pot...and rather than letting Merlin blow it up in frustration Nimue made coffee with magic as she did at home. It wasn't much later than that when Botan came in the front door...Ethan Rayne at her side. When she entered the kitchen she stared at her parents in shock.

Nimue however was staring at her stomach...and nearly dropped her coffee. “You're with child.”

Merlin choked on his, spluttering on his hot drink. “What?”

Botan winced. “Um...surprise?”

Merlin wiped the coffee from his closely cropped beard and glared at Ethan. “I believe you and I need to have a talk young man.”

Ethan grimaced. “Won't that be lovely?”

xxx

The next morning Faith was sitting at his kitchen table, devouring the breakfast he'd invited her too. Cordelia was still in the shower.

“I know you explained everything...but aren't you worried about Buffy and Angel getting it on?”

“No...you weren't here Faith. It...wasn't fun, having Angelus running lose, and Buffy knows that Angelus scares the ever lovin' crap outta me.”

“You? I didn't think you were scared of anything.” She winced, remembering another conversation. “Other than bad adults.”

Xander raised his shirt to show her the scar on his stomach. “This scar here.”

“Yeah?”

“He nearly killed me when he tried to sacrifice me and end the world.”

She stared at the scar until he let his shirt fall back down. “So he really scares you?”

“Yeah.”

“But Angel doesn't?”

“No.”

“And you're not riding Buffy about being in love with a vamp.”

“I can't, I'd be a hypocrite.”

Her eyes doubled in size. “You? but...Cordelia.”

He smiled at her gently. “The freelance demon hunter that Buffy and Heidi told you about?”

“William right?”

He nodded. “William the Bloody, Spike.”

“Seriously?”

“Trust me, Spike is on our side. He played spy for us when Angelus was loose. He helped us save the world...and Ms. Calendar.”

Her eyes were thoughtful. “So...he's not one of the losers you've hooked up with? Heidi mentioned you'd had your share..something about a teacher?”

“Ugh, Ms. French.” He shuddered. “She tried to eat me.”

“Come again?”

He sighed. This was not the story he wanted to share over breakfast. Oh well.

XXX

 

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Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Seven: Love's Acquired Taste

word count: 7665

XXX

They were gathering in front of the school that morning, just another day. The others were talking excitedly about their SAT results...Xander however was sitting on the concrete bench, his own results clutched in his hand. The shock hadn't passed yet.

“It’s just so exciting!” Willow murmured, barely able to contain the giddy. “We all did so well! We...Xander?”

He looked up. “What?”

“Are you okay...did you...”

“Hey guys...what's the what?”

They all looked at Buffy...who looked about as shocked as Xander felt. Oz looked from one to the other. “Well we were gonna celebrate. But if we need to help you two mope we will.”

Buffy sat beside Xander, and handed off her scores to Willow. “It was just a test Xander. It’s not the end of the world...did I just jinx us?”

“Buffy...” Willow's eyes were wide in surprise and pride as she handed the paper to Oz. “You kicked ass! You can go wherever you want with scores like this...Oh...Xander...”

Cordelia muscled her way through the crowd of pack members that were currently hovering, unsure of how to comfort their alpha in his time of mental and emotional crisis. “What happened?”

“Did you see his scores?” Kyle demanded. “Because he hasn't said anything.”

“Oh...” She grinned. “He's fine. Just in shock.” She snagged Xander's paper out of his limp hands and handed it to Willow. “Read and rejoice.”

Willow wasted no time in unfolding the paper. And then gave a joyous whoop that made all of the hyenas in the crowd trill in pride. “Xander! You're like...secretly a genius. You've been holding out on me buster.”

His eyes grew wide and he shook his head. “No. No holding out. I don't know how I did that well.”

Willow passed the paper around and Buffy glanced at it. “I know how you feel Xan. I'm just as shocked as you are.”

He groaned and let his head fall to Buffy's shoulder. “Buff, there are not enough words in Webster to express my shock.”

“It’s still an awesome thing.” Cordy laced her fingers with his. “Think of it this way. Everyone who ever told you two that you were losers or stupid is like totally wrong. Including Snyder.” Her smile grew a little feral. “And with so many of us making such high scores, it makes him and the school look good. One more thing to hold over him.”

“You, Queen C, are made of awesome.”

“So...” Tor ventured, now that Xander's crisis seemed to have passed. “Should we celebrate?”

The rest of the pack jumped in and started planning a little party. At Xander's house evidently from the way the conversation unfolded. Buffy nudged him. “I've never really thought about college or the future seriously before.”

Larry dragged himself from the sudden discussion of cookies vs. cake to grin at her. “I know...I didn't really think about it either...but I've got all kinds of scouts talking to me about scholarships so I can play college ball...” His eyes flicked to Xander. “How mad would you be if I went to college somewhere else?”

Xander drew himself up and smiled at Larry reassuringly, pushing his shock away. “I'm not holding anyone back. You guys want to leave I won't stop you. Just remember that you're pack and always will be. You have a home here...and I'll be here if you need me.”

xxx

They had almost forgotten about telling Giles and Jenny about their scores, such was the result of Buffy and Xander's shock over how well they did. When they walked into the library, however, their jaws dropped because there was a 'Congratulations' banner and they ended up with confetti in their hair.

Amy waved from the table and motioned to the cake on it and grinned. “Think we can eat the entire cake before Snyder catches us?”

Heidi was already across the library and had a paper plate filled with the frosted goodness. “Gonna try.”

Once they were all settled with cake on their plates Xander gave Giles a curious look. “Not to spoil the mood.” There were several groans at that. “But what happened to the fake Watcher?”

Jenny grinned. “A couple of Council members took her back to England.”

Giles managed to roll his eyes as he handed Faith another piece of cake. “It turns out she was fired two years ago for abusing Dark Magics.” He sighed. “And now the Council members know you see auras Xander. Bloody woman wouldn’t shut up about it.”

Xander shrugged. “At least they don't know the big secrets. Who knows what they'd do if they got wind of like Willow's miko-ness or Tor's parents...or even the mystery of Cordy and Rhonda's magic. And I'd have to make them disappear if they tried anything on Amy.”

There were several grins at his show of protectiveness. Jenny however had started tidying up...because they had indeed devoured the cake. “So...college plans anyone?”

Xander shrugged. “UC Sunnydale.”

Cordy and Rhonda grinned at each other. “LA.”

The rest of the pack murmured various answers and Xander caught Faith's eyes. “You should totally try for your GED.” When the younger slayer wrinkled her nose at him he continued. “There's more to you than slaying and a pretty face. And there's lots of people to tutor you. Giles, Ms. Calendar, Kyle is good at Spanish, Larry is good at French. Wills and Oz are geniuses. Most of us speak Japanese. All sorts of possibilities.”

Faith's eyes looked a little shiny at that...possibly even wet. “I'll think about it.”

xxx

In hindsight Giles and Jenny probably shouldn't have given them cake so early in the day...because Xander felt like a menace with that much sugar in his system. He was bouncy throughout his classes, and could barely keep himself still and focused when Amy dragged him aside between classes. “Sup little sister mine?”

She gave him an amused look. “I want to keep up my magic study after high school...but I don't know about staying in Sunnydale.”

He thought about that for a moment and managed to focus his thoughts for all of three seconds. “Yeah the Hellmouth probably isn't the best place for a fresh start magically. Oh hey, there's a coven in England that Giles is friendly with.”

“They're not from his Ripper days....right?”

“No. Definitely not from his misguided days of youth.”

She bit her lip. “What about Tokyo?”

He shrugged. “I think if you want to go for it you should. Maybe not Tokyo University because it’s like an elite college and makes my brain quiver and turn to goo in fear. But you can learn some magics there if you wanted to.”

“I kind of wanted to get to know Yusuke and Keiko better.”

He smiled. “There would be that advantage. How about you apply to some schools here...and see about applying to some schools there. And you can decide after you spend some time there. Like Spring Break maybe?”

She nodded. “I'll think about it. Thanks Xander.”

“It’s what I'm here for.”

xxx

The results of the SATs seemed to bring out the curiosity and curious future plans of everyone...even those not human. Because before he could make his way to lunch Rinku climbed into the class room Xander was about to leave through a window. “Wow, really?”

Rinku shrugged. “I wanted to talk to you.”

“Okay, go ahead.”

“Do you mind me being here?”

“Nope.”

“And if I wanted to stay here?”

“That's fine...why?”

Rinku shrugged. “It’s your territory. Thought I'd ask...is there really another Hellmouth?”

“Yep.”

“In Cleveland.”

“Yep.” Xander blinked. “Do you even know where that is?”

“Jono does.”

Xander grinned. “You might check it out, over Spring Break, just the two of you. It’s a way off but it’s a thought.”

“What's Spring Break?”

Xander grinned. “Ask Jonathan.”

“Right.” Rinku turned to leave through the window when Xander stopped him.

“I hear you're getting along with Faith.”

“Faith is cool.”

“Good. She needs more friends.”

xxx

Closer to the end of the school day Cordelia started to eye him, worriedly. “You've been bouncy all day...but the sugar from the cake should have worn off by now. What's up with you?”

“No idea.”

“Is something coming?”

“No idea. Just...can't be still.” He motioned to the pamphlets she and Rhonda had spread out in front of them. “So what are you two doing?”

Rhonda lifted one brochure up. “Checking out colleges in LA.”

“Anything good?”

Cordelia nodded. “Some look pretty promising. What about you?”

“Still UC Sunnydale. I still need to look through some stuff though. Like I'm not sure what I want to do after college ya know?”

Rhonda gave him big innocent eyes. “Guard the Hellmouth?”

He snorted. “Well yeah, but what about the rest of the time? I get bored easy.”

xxx

It was their last class and Buffy and Xander were the only ones taking this particular torture. He nudged her as he sat down beside her. “Everyone else is chipper. Why are you so glum?”

“Chipper? Is that what you call it? Some people would describe you as a chipmunk on drugs as much as you've been bouncing around.”

He pouted. “Mean.”

She rolled her eyes unable to withstand a Xander pout. “Mom saw my scores.”

“And?”

“And she started talking about colleges and me and someplace that's else.”

“And?”

She closed her eyes. “I can't.”

Xander reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Yes you can.”

“I can't leave you here alone to guard the Hellmouth.”

“I won't be.”

She gripped his hand, just this side of painful. “Xander, Cordy and Rhonda are leaving. Where Larry goes, so goes Kyle. Heidi has family, more family, in LA now. Willow and Oz can go wherever they want.”

“So can you, besides, Tor is staying.”

“Still, I can't leave it to you, Tor...and Faith.”

“And Giles.”

She rolled her eyes. “If the Council lets him stay if I'm elsewhere.”

“So he and Jenny get married and he gets citizenship.”

“Xander.”

“Buff. Sunnydale is my home. Tokyo is nice, so is LA...but...I like it best here.”

“On the mouth of Hell.”

He shrugged and gave her a wry grin. “Yeah...so I'm a bit damaged. All those concussions.”

She snickered a bit and leaned into him. “Me too.”

“What you too? Concussions?”

“No. Sunnydale is my home too. I mean before...I just wanted out...now that I have a choice...”

“Don't want to go?”

“Yeah.”

“Nothing wrong with that.”

xxx

Cordelia couldn't sense the vampires coming the way he could, and her senses weren't as good as his or Rhonda's so she couldn't hear them or smell them before they attacked. She was however very in tune with her sister's moods, and his now, so the moment the two of them tensed Cordy was on high alert, stake in her hand.

The first vampire never stood a chance between the girls as they tag teemed it and Cordelia landed the killing blow before tossing her stake to Rhonda and cart-wheeling away from the second vamp. The third never made it to them because Xander dusted it the second it appeared in his peripheral vision. Rhonda staked the second, then tossed Cordelia's stake back to her. Cordy caught it with ease and pocketed it.

Xander grinned and clapped a little. “Very nice.”

Rhonda grinned. “And on that note I need to go home.” She gave Cordelia a quick hug. “Promised Mom I'd be home at a decent hour.”

“Give her a hug for me.”

“I will.” She nodded to Xander and slipped away into the night.

“Home?” Cordelia asked and moved to link her arm with his.

“Yeah.” They walked the rest of the way in comfortable silence until they were inside the house. “Hungry?”

“Starving.”

He grinned at her and let her help with the food, which for Cordelia meant fixing a salad; he still didn't trust her cooking without magic. Just...no.

When they were done they carried their dishes to the sink and then he nudged her toward the doorway. “Go ahead and shower, I'll clean up here.”

“You sure? You did most of the work.”

“Yeah, its fine.”

“Okay.” She gave him a quick kiss and headed out and up the stairs.

He smiled at her exit fondly and continued cleaning up. He wiped down the table and filed the sink with water and began washing dishes, listening to the shower upstairs start as Cordelia showered.

He never heard the front door open, and really he should have locked it when they came home, he did however feel the presence as whoever it was entered the kitchen. Then...the familiar smell of whiskey taunted his nose and Xander couldn't help but freeze as the old fear churned in his stomach and the smell of his fear filled the room.

Then his nose picked up other smells. Comforting smells, leather and smoke and Spike. He turned around. Spike stood there a few paces from him, confusion on his face.

“Hey.”

The vampire frowned. “What was that?”

“What was what?”

Spike took a cautious step forward. “You smell like fear...because of me?” His words slurred a bit and the whiskey smell made sense. Xander's heart skipped a bit faster and on hearing it Spike turned to leave.

Xander moved forward and reached for him, grasping his arm. “It’s not you. It’s...just the alcohol.”

Spike let himself be tugged closer. “You're scared of it?”

Xander shook his head, heart pounding. “I'm scared of what it can make a man do.” He closed his eyes and took a calming breath before he opened them and looked into Spike's eyes. “Remember when I said if there was ever a human I'd feed you...”

Those blue eyes grew a bit sharp. “Your Da.”

“Yeah.”

Cool hands reached up and cupped his face. “What did he do to you luv?”

“Doesn't matter. It was a long time ago.”

Spike stared at him a moment more, but Xander didn't elaborate. So with a sigh of defeat Spike let him go before slipping off his duster. “Hang this up would you, wouldn't hurt to let it air out a bit...there a shower down here?”

He nodded and gave a vague motion with his hands as he accepted the coat. “Down the hall.”

“Right...I'll clean up a bit then.”

Warmth settled somewhere around Xander's heart. “There's a new toothbrush under the sink...we'll be waiting upstairs.”

Spike paused in the doorway. “Cordelia's here?”

“Yep.”

“Right. Be up in a bit then.” He disappeared into the hall and Xander took a moment to clutch the coat to his chest, ignoring the lingering smell of whiskey.

Steeling himself he took the time to fix and start the coffee pot and finish up the dishes before going upstairs. He entered his room, almost as if in a daze as he grabbed a hanger for the coat and hung it on the closet door from a hook. Cordelia entered the room a moment later already in her night shirt, her hair still clipped up.

“Hey I'm done if...” Her eyes locked on the leather duster. “Is that? Is he here?”

“Downstairs shower.”

His voice must have betrayed him because she was across the room, her hand on his arm in a second. “What's wrong?”

He swallowed. “I panicked when I smelled the alcohol on him.”

“Oh Xander.”

“He almost left because of that stupid conditioned response.”

She leaned her chin on his shoulder. “That's not your fault. And if I ever get my hands on him I'm gonna dress him up like a piñata, slap a bow on him and toss him into the first demons only party I can find.”

“That's certainly inventive.”

They turned as one to face Spike, who was currently standing in the doorway of his bedroom, cup of coffee in hand, towel wrapped around his hips. Xander and Cordelia both swallowed at the sight...it was hard not to...those abs.

Xander managed to speak first. “There's blood in the fridge.”

Spike nodded. “Found it when I got some milk for my coffee. Thanks for that by the way.” He stared at them for a moment. “So...do I get a welcome back now that I've sobered up?” His words didn't slur in the slightest.

Xander smiled and found himself moving toward Spike, Cordelia only a step behind him. He fit into Spike's side as he always did; though being able to touch this much of Spike's skin was new...and very, very nice. Spike was still taller than him, but not as much as he had been a year ago, not even a few months ago. Xander hadn't realized he'd gotten any taller; it hadn't been obvious, until now because Spike barely leaned down at all to kiss him.

That kiss was gentle, tentative, like Spike was afraid Xander would bolt if he pressed in too hard. Which was stupid because the smell of whiskey was completely absent and all Xander could smell was soap, coffee, and Spike. Well there was a touch of blood but it was barely there and Spike's lips were soft and chased that particular thought away. Xander pressed in a bit more, slipping his tongue toward those lips, teasing as he pulled away, grinning.

Cordelia stepped in closer, raising up on her toes so Spike wouldn't have to lean down to meet her lips. Both of them had slightly glazed expressions as they kissed, eyes drifting to Xander and back to each other as lips and tongues caressed and Xander couldn't help but sigh in satisfaction at the sight. When Cordelia broke the kiss she smiled at Spike. “Welcome back.”

Spike's smile was soft, still tentative. “It’s good to be back.”

Xander groaned inwardly...might as well do this. “Then why were you drinking?”

The grimace he made behind his coffee wasn't a pleasant sight. “I'll admit I drank a bit too much. But I haven't drained a human since... before the accident.” He let that sink in a bit. “I've only been sipping here and there, never enough to kill, just enough to make them light headed.” Xander felt his eyes widen in shock and Cordelia's hand gripped his. “The booze...was just to toast my old unlife goodbye as it were. Giving Dru one last toast.” Spike took a breath he didn't need. “Now...before we move forward...want to tell me about your Da? Don't want that hanging over us.”

Xander made a face. “No.”

Cordy, the traitor, elbowed him. “Tony Harris was a drunk.”

“Cordy-”

She turned to look at him, a frown on her beautiful face. “Xander...you still listen for him sometimes, searching for his footsteps, creeping silently through the house like you're afraid he'll hear you. Whatever it is you're hiding, whatever it is you haven't told me...you've kept it in long enough.”

Xander had started to tremble as she spoke. That wasn't something he'd ever shared, not with anyone. He barely noticed Spike placing his coffee on the dresser before he grasped Xander's chin and their eyes met. “Xander. Pet. Tell us.”

His body shuddered and his knees gave out, Spike barely caught him as he curled in on himself. He hardly even registered that Spike was cradling him, carrying him to the bed and placing him on it. Cordelia was there, on his other side and he was suddenly cocooned between them, their arms wrapped around him as he shook, memories bombarding his mind.

When he was finally able to speak...his voice was soft, barely there in the quiet of the room. “The worst it ever got...Mom took it. Shielded me. He hurt her more than me...made me witness it.”

Cordelia swallowed; her head on his shoulder. “It?”

“I don't know if it was the alcohol or if his darkness is just that deep and twisted...”

Cool lips pressed against his temple. “Take your time.”

He nodded and took a steadying breath. “When I was eight...something set him off...I don't even remember what it was...but Mom stopped him from doing whatever he was going to do to me...but...” Xander gulped and his stomach churned. “He tied me to a chair...and raped her in front of me...” He felt Cordelia stiffen and then curl protectively around him, a rumble started deep in Spike's chest. “I closed my eyes...but I could still hear it and the smell...”

Cordelia's hand was clenched tightly, his shirt caught in her fist. “The alcohol...”

“I managed the traditional sake at Yusuke and Keiko's wedding...and the mixed drink at the Frat Party when I was watching over you and Buffy...but straight whiskey.” He shuddered again. “I associate it with Tony, his addiction to it...and all the crap he did while drunk...he never remembered what he did that night...”

A cool hand sifted through his hair, while another caressed his arm. Cordelia placed a kiss to his collar bone. “And the night Yusuke threw him out?”

“He had Mom terrified. She'd locked herself in the downstairs bathroom...he was waiting for her in the hall with a broken bottle.”

Spike nuzzled at his ear, giving it a gentle nip. “Haven't seen him since?”

“No.”

“He shows up I'll eat him for you.”

“Promise? I don't want him to know about Amy.”

Spike pulled back and looked down at him. “Amy?”

“My sister. I don't know what he'd do to a daughter.”

Spike's eyes were heated with something that wasn't passion, but he placed a kiss on Xander's forehead. “Promise. Now...let’s get some sleep.”

“But-”

Cordelia snorted a bit. “This did kind of kill the mood huh.”

Spike grinned at them both. “I'm not going anywhere.” He reached for Cordelia's hand and they settled in place on either side of him. Xander closed his eyes, exhausted from the emotional upheaval and drifted into darkness.

xxx

When Xander's eyes opened again it was dark, well mostly dark, there was just the faintest hint of early morning light coming from the window. It was the only available light as the bedside lamp was no longer on...funny...he didn't remember turning it off. He shifted a bit, and became confused when he found it hard to move. On his right was Cordelia, warm and soft, her breathing deep and reassuring. On his left was...the night's events came flooding back to him and he couldn't help but smile. Spike was on his left, a still and cool presence that was not soft, but just a reassuring.

Xander lay there, basking for a while; everything in his personal little bubble was perfect and seemingly untouchable. He thought he could wake up like this the rest of his life, however long it might be, Cordelia on one side, Spike on the other. Then he noticed that it was starting to get lighter...and just a hint of sunlight started to creep into the room. Aw crap. The sun was gonna come straight at them from the eastern window.

He wiggled out of bed, desperately trying not to wake the other occupants, and managed to not land on the floor in an undignified heap. Then he managed to not trip over a boot, it was stylish and looked expensive which meant it was Cordy's, and got to the window and closed the curtains. The light still peeked through. So he rummaged around on the top of the dresser until he found a couple of clothespins, a safety pin, and some tape for good measure and sun-proofed the curtain. The end result looked like crap, but no sunlight leaked through which meant he wouldn't lose a sexy vampire to the morning rays.

Satisfied he turned back to the bed, to see Spike smirking at him, without a doubt amused. Xander blushed. “Er...I didn't want you to catch fire?”

The smirk changed to a grin and Spike held out a hand. “Come back to bed?”

Xander didn't have to be asked twice. He climbed back on the bed to reclaim his spot between them and found himself to be pulled flush against Spike and his lips taken in a kiss. There was no fight for dominance, Xander gladly yielded, parting his lips and letting Spike in while his own hands explored pale, pale skin he hadn't yet had a chance to touch.

When Xander made a contented purring sound Spike smirked into the kiss before breaking it, just long enough to steal Xander's shirt and toss it to the floor. Cool lips on his collar bone pressed in a chaste kiss before nipping with human teeth made Xander bare his throat without thought, with no fight. However with nothing happened he lowered his chin in confusion and pouted at the vampire. Spike leaned in to kiss his lips again, in another chaste show of affection before he leaned back and bared his own throat.

Xander's world spun a bit at the meaning behind that bared expanse of pale tempting skin. Spike had turned his back on his clan, his sire and grand sire, for Xander and Cordelia, a couple of human children that certainly weren't average...but still. He swallowed and nodded, if Spike wanted to belong, Xander had no objections.

He leaned in, feeling his teeth grow sharper, his eyes glowing as he went for Spike's throat. A single bite: a sinking of teeth into Spike's neck, just above his collar bone, and a mouth full of cool blood. A rich dark taste, and for a second Xander understood why it might be appealing to live off this ambrosia. However he didn't think he could stomach just anyone's blood, specificity is a good thing. He swallowed and licked at the bite, somehow knowing it would scar. Spike keened and growled a bit as Xander licked and pulled back, eyes still glowing.

“Mine.”

Spike panted, just a bit and nodded, blue eyes wide. “I just signed up for more than I thought...didn't I?”

Xander could feel the glow fade and he blushed, ducking his head a bit. “Oops?”

Cordelia's voice was more amused than exasperated. “You've been saying that a lot.”

“Eheh...I should probably get the ring.”

“Ya think?”

Spike's eyes narrowed just a bit, but he smiled. “Getting married are we?”

“Um...I think I just marked you as my mate...or at least a potential mate.”

That seemed to confuse Spike a bit. “And Cordelia?”

Cordelia had snuggled closer and rested her chin on Xander's shoulder so that she could smile at Spike. “I'm his Consort.”

Spike snorted. “Only royalty...” His eyes widened again. “Dru did call you a Prince didn't she? And you have ties to the Makai...” Spike stared at them both, the reality of what was going on truly sinking in. “You're a bloody Makai Prince.”

Xander gave him a sheepish smile, and held up his right hand where Raizen's ring was on his ring finger. “I am a Descendant of Raizen and the younger brother of Yusuke Urameshi.”

Spike stared at the ring, startling a bit when Cordelia held up hers as well. “I just betrothed myself into the strongest Mazoku bloodline.”

“Yep.”

Spike reached out to trace a finger over Cordelia's collar bone. “He hasn't claimed you.”

She grinned. “We've been mixing our auras. So King Enma told Yusuke to hand out a few more rings and here we are.”

Xander shrugged. “One was for Amy. There's one left...which means I've got one more sibling in the ‘Dale I haven't found yet.” He met Spike's curious gaze. “Do you...do you want the ring?”

Spike seemed to think on it for all of two seconds. “Yeah. You two still a package?”

Xander felt Cordelia relax into him and he nodded, grinning. “You get both of us.”

Cordelia snuggled closer to him and Xander knew she was holding Spike's gaze. “I can be your consort too.” Spike raised a brow and Xander snorted as he tried to meet her eyes over his shoulder. She huffed at their expressions. “What? He's from the Aurelius Clan. That's royalty among vamps. You said Raizen approved of us both.”

“He did.” Funny how Spike's eyes snapped to him at that.

Cordelia carried on. “So there. I get my way.”

Xander snickered and Spike rolled his eyes. “So, where's my pressie?”

It took some wiggling and crawling over lean solid pale abs before Xander retrieved the ring from the bedside drawer on the far side of Spike. When he had it in his grasp he settled back into place, grinning at the heated smirk Spike was giving them...and ignored that the towel from the night before was just barely hiding anything at all. Gulp. He held up the ring and Spike offered his right hand, with no sense of ceremony Xander slipped it onto his ring finger, though his eyes never left Spike's.

Cordelia's murmur was the only reason he looked down in time to watch the crest change from red to ice blue. Spike's hand lingered in his as he asked; “Supposed to do that?”

Cordelia shrugged. “Ours changed color.”

Xander frowned. “Yusuke, Keiko's and Amy's didn't.”

Cordelia and Spike both made an hmm sort of sound...and then the damn alarm went off, making them jump. Well it made him and Cordy jump. Spike just continued to look thoughtful...and amused.

Xander made a whimper sort of noise and flopped against the pillows. “Damn.”

“Do we have to go to school?” Cordelia asked him. Their eyes met for a second before turning pleading looks to Spike...whose eyes clouded with lust and he groaned.

“I told you last night. I'm not going anywhere.” He leaned forward and caught Xander's lips in a kiss first, drawing a needy sound from Xander that didn't even make him blush. “The sooner you two get to school the sooner you can get home for my personal brand of corruption.”

Xander grinned and he was sure it was wicked. “On that note, I'll start on breakfast.” Before he could move however Cordelia was moving in for her kiss, crawling over Xander to reach Spike's lips. Xander stared mesmerized as Spike cupped her jaw, and devoured her lips with his own, his teeth tugging on the bottom one just so. “Cor...if you don't stop we're not going anywhere.” He could see her mouth twisting up into a smile as the kiss continued. “Gotta update the pack.”

That made her stop the kiss. “Right...” Her hazel eyes were dazed, from lack of oxygen or from lust he had no way of knowing. “We'll be back later.” Her eyes cleared and she grinned at Spike. “Welcome home, Spike.”

Spike flopped back to the bed, towel shifting in a tempting manner, his eyes were a bit bright, possibly with tears but neither of them commented on it. “Haven't had one of those in a while.

xxx

Neither of them could stop smiling as they walked hand in hand through the halls of Sunnydale High. Not even Snyder's usual scowl of grumpy trolldom could derail their smiles. Their matching expressions drew quite a bit of attention as they entered the library for the morning meeting.

Buffy immediately raised a perky brow at them. “Someones' in a good mood.”

Kyle immediately sniffed the air, taking in their scents. “No sex smell...but...huh.” He tilted his head a bit in curiosity. “Spike?”

Willow bounced a bit and grinned, happy for them. “Spike's back?” Then her grin grew mischievous. “Wait...if Spike's back why isn't there a sex smell? Is he not as pretty without his clothes?”

Xander could feel his attention slip away for a second as he recalled Spike's abs. Cordelia must have made a similar expression because the Feral Four were cackling at them in amusement. Oz gave them just a hint of a smirk. “That good huh?”

Xander met Cordelia's eyes for half a second and they replied at the same time. “Abs.”

Kyle was a bit closer now, chuckling instead of the cackling Heidi was still doing. “Blood though.”

Buffy tensed at that. “He bit you?” She frowned. “Should I be mad or was it a fun bite?”

At that Cordelia smirked. “Actually...Xander bit Spike.” There was not a pair of eyes among the group that was not wide in surprise.

Xander blushed. “I uh...kinda marked him as mine?”

Giles removed his glasses and began to polish them furiously. “In what capacity?”

“Intended Mate. Already gave him a bloodline ring.”

Giles continued to polish. “Well...as long as he behaves himself.”

Cordy scoffed. “We don't want him to be too well behaved...that would mean no sex.”

Giles sighed and proceeded to hide in his office.

xxx

Mayor Wilkins pressed his fingertips together thoughtfully as he watched his Assistant Mayor, Allan Finch, titter about nervously. “So. We may have a Spike problem?”

“His Desoto was spotted running down the Welcome sign again.” Allan admitted glumly.

Wilkins chuckled. “That one is quite the character. Remember all those shenanigans last year?”

Allan sighed. “I remember...do you want me to send a committee to set some boundaries? Or Mr. Trick?”

“Mr. Trick is busy...but a committee sounds ideal.” He smiled. “What would I do without you Allan?”

xxx

The day had seemed to drag on more than usual. The classes they had together Xander and Cordelia would both watch the clock, catch one another’s gazes and sigh miserably. The classes he had without her he suffered through grins and winks from the pack...mostly from Heidi. Brat.

By the time the last bell rang they totally skipped the afternoon meeting and raced to Cordelia's car.

“Home?”

“Hospital first.” Xander murmured as he buckled.

“Gonna sweet talk some more throw-away blood from the nurses?”

“Yep.”

She started the car and they made their trip to the hospital as swift as possible. No one liked the hospital anymore. And before they knew it they were pulling in the driveway in front of his house, parking beside a classic car with blacked out windows.

They made their way into the house, and this time Xander locked the door behind them, briefly checking the wards. Absently glad that he'd let Spike be an exception when he'd put them up. Otherwise Spike never would have been able to come in on his own.

They moved quickly Xander dishing out leftovers from the night before while Cordelia put away the bags of blood that they'd gotten the nurses to part with. After all if their Vampire was going to stick around not biting people he'd need something...something besides pig’s blood. Raw pig was just ew.

When they were done there was nothing left to do...but head upstairs. And for just a moment Xander paused.

“Xander?”

“It’s just...I've never...” He looked at Cordelia. “He's getting another of my firsts.”

“But...the orgy...”

“Nobody was in...anybody.” He blushed and cleared his throat. “No penetration.”

“Oh.” She tilted her head and smiled. “But you want him to.”

“Yeah.”

“Then come on.”

Quietly they moved up the stairs, coming to a brief stop in his bedroom doorway. Spike was in the center of the bed now, still as well, a corpse. His face relaxed in sleep, his hair looked soft, tousled. And Xander could smell his own want, and Cordelia's desire in the air around them. When's Spike's arousal drifted to his nose he grinned and winked at Cordy. “I know you're awake Spike.”

Spike's eyes stayed closed, but his mouth moved into a smile. “Now how would you know that?”

“I can smell how much you want us.”

Blue eyes opened and he smirked. “Then why are the two of you still over there?”

They moved then, in sync as they often found themselves these past few weeks. Shoes and socks were discarded; there was no other way to describe that because there was no way to make the action look sexy. Especially the socks. Shirts were next, and then pants before Cordelia turned to give Xander access to the clasp on her bra. He unhooked it with practiced ease, kissing her shoulder as he slid the straps down, baring her breasts.

She smirked at him. “We probably should have just stripped in the bathroom and come in wearing robes. Quicker. And I like the shock factor.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “Yeah, that definitely got my attention.”

“You two going to stand over there all afternoon?”

Xander swallowed and shook his head as they moved toward the bed again. He could hear the wisp of cloth as Cordelia's last piece of clothing was slid down her legs and dropped to the floor. Spike's eyes took in Cordelia's body and Xander didn't even have to look to know what he was seeing. He'd already had the pleasure of memorizing her soft skin, generous breasts and all her hidden wonders. And while Spike was distracted Xander slipped his boxers down, careful of his erection, already risen to the occasion, and let them fall away to the floor.

Cordelia, in her awesomeness, hopped on the bed first laying beside Spike and kissed him. Xander was thankful for the continued distraction, even after everything, he was self-conscious about his body. He was nowhere near as perfect as Spike, or as ripped as Kuwabara or Yusuke...or as pretty as Kurama. He just wasn't.

So he slid to Spike's other side and settled on the bed. Content enough to watch. Even though he yearned to touch. Then Cordelia was pulling away from Spike's lips to whisper and nibble at his ear, a moment later Xander had a naked vampire straddling his thighs, a pale and slick hardness settled beside his own and Spike thrust against him. Their cocks sliding, touching and moving up into that feeling.

Cordelia was grinning beside him, pupils blown wide in lust when Spike leaned down to whisper against his lips. “How do you want me?”

“Everywhere.”

His chuckle was deep, warm. “How do you want me this time Xander?”

Brown eyes met blue. “Inside. Please.”

“Be easiest if you rolled over.”

“No.”

An understanding smile was given and Spike nodded. “Alright.” Lips that had been warmed by Cordelia's pressed against his, a slick tongue curling against his own and cool fingers roamed down his body. Spike shifted, releasing his trapped thighs and Xander spread his legs even as he felt his face heat. Cordelia's lips teased at his neck her hands placing something into Spike's reaching fingers.

Then there was a click a squirt, and a bit of a shuffle before a slick finger entered him and his hips bucked up into the air, surprised by the new intrusion. Cordelia hummed against his neck, her hand finding his, their fingers intertwining. Spike's finger continued to explore him thrusting gently, reaching for something it seemed, though Xander had no idea what exactly that could be. He didn't have any mental capacity to travel down memory lane to Willow's lessens on anatomy when they'd played doctor as kids.

When that finger withdrew he pouted, couldn't help it. Why was Spike taking it out before they'd...oh...that was why. Xander shifted, spreading his legs just a bit further apart as two fingers twisted inside of him, opening him up, and it made sense to him them that it would take more than one or two to get him ready. He'd seen Spike's cock, which was just a bit longer than his, but not quite as thick, but definitely bigger than one or two fingers. So when a third slid into him he canted his hips and thrust onto them...and then a sharp white flash of pleasure slapped him.

Xander shuddered and gazed wondrously up at Spike who was grinning. “Good?”

“Yeah.”

“Gets better.”

Xander made a whining sound in his throat and wondered if he could survive better. When a fourth finger wiggled inside of him he figured that even if he didn't survive, there was no better way to go. “More.” He whispered brokenly.

Flat human teeth nipped at his lips and those fingers, which he was falling in love with, were pulled out. “Anything you want luv.” And Spike shifted again, his hand sliding over his pale length, adding more lubrication to ease the way before he raised Xander's hips a bit. “Princess, mind putting a pillow under his hips?” And then Cordelia was detaching herself from his neck and doing just that. “Good girl.” And then he kissed her...even as he slid slowly into Xander.

Jesus the guy could multi-task, and then...Xander was full, impaled in the best way possible. And it wasn't enough. He wanted. Spike was inside of him, and kissing Cordelia like he had all the time in the world. And Xander wanted.

He shifted his hips in an attempt to get some much needed movement, friction, something...and Spike pulled back just a bit before moving back in. Which was better, but not enough. So he moved again, and then reached down to jack himself off, but hands that didn't match smacked his away and he pouted again as hazel and blue eyes glared at him.

And then Spike pulled out, until just the head of him was inside...and he thrust back in, and Xander groaned and moved with him. That. That right there was what he wanted. And the world fell away as Spike continued to thrust into him, while Xander's legs had somehow found their way around Spike's waist of their own accord.

“Pay attention luv.”

Xander reluctantly opened his eyes, the words he was going to say died as he watched Cordelia lean in to press a soft kiss to the tip of him before she slid a condom on his length. And then she was climbing on to him, as she had their first time and moved to align them together. The angle was awkward, she was on her hands and knees, his hips were raised as Spike moved inside of him...and then Spike raised his hips up further and took hold of Xander before guiding him into Cordelia. So that every time Spike thrust into him he pushed Xander into Cordy. And then Cordelia was kissing him and he couldn't think, not even the most basic of thoughts because Spike was inside of him, he was inside of Cordy and they were both working to unmake him and pull him apart and put him back together all at once.

And when that sharp killing white hot pleasure hit him inside and out he broke the kiss and screamed before biting down on Cordelia's shoulder drawing blood as Spike continued to move them to his rhythm before coming with a roar, his demon face coming forward. Their lips met, just barely, Xander passing the taste of Cordelia's blood to Spike as he continued to thrust, still hard. Xander was twitching by then, almost over sensitive...then Cordelia cried out, clenching around him...and he swore he came again before she collapsed on top of him.

When Spike fell to his side cool lips licked at his, though they felt a bit warmer now, and Xander returned the kiss lazily. He was done, dead, exhausted and sated. Damn.

Cordelia's voice was shaky as she huffed with laughter. “We are chaining him to the bed and keeping him forever.”

Xander could only nod as Spike pulled them both closer, arranging Cordy so that she was using them both as a mattress. “Worth keeping around am I?”

Xander opened his eyes. “Never gonna throw you away. You've got us for as long as you want us.”

For a second Spike's eyes were unreadable. Then he smiled. “Fancy another go then? Our girl really seemed to enjoy herself. I want a shot at that.”

“You'll love it.” Cordelia smirked at him. “Just give us a minute. Still twitchy.”

xxx

“Sir?”

Wilkins looked up from his paperwork to Allan in the doorway. “Yes?”

“There's been a new development in the Spike situation.”

“Oh?”

“His car is parked in Mr. Harris' driveway. It was there all night; all day...and the committee I sent...could hear...that is...I think maybe we won't need to worry about Mr. Spike. Mr. Harris and Ms. Chase seem to be keeping him occupied.”

He tried not to let his surprise show. “Well then. Mr. Harris is doing us a favor, but really? Two consorts?” Wilkins hmmd a bit. “Maybe not a consort...oh well, it doesn't matter.”

“So I should tell the committee to stand down?”

“Yes, but keep tabs on the situation if you would.”

“Yes sir.”

XXX

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Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Eight: No Fair Trades Here

Word count: 6201

XXX

Spike and Buffy managed, somehow, to have a wary sort of truce. Meaning they avoided one another...mostly. At least they didn't hunt one another. They acknowledged that they were both important to Xander but they didn't have to get along. Though Spike seemed...disturbed and more than a little freaked out when Buffy thanked him for killing the Anointed One.

They were walking home from patrol, the three of them, plus Rhonda when Spike finally asked, after a night of fidgeting; “Why exactly did the Slayer thank me?”

Xander gave him an amused look, he'd expected Spike to ask much sooner than this. “For killing the Anointed One?”

“Yeah.”

“He led her to her death.”

Spike started to nod, but stopped and grasped Xander's arm, fingers coiling over the crook. “What?”

“He led her to the Master and the Master killed her.”

“How is she alive then?”

Rhonda grinned at them as she walked backwards ahead of them. “Xander broke a prophecy.”

Spike gaped at him a bit and pulled him closer. Xander let him, basking in the solid line of his body, “How?”

He shrugged. “Well, we lucked out. He didn't drain her. Instead he be-spelled her, drank enough of her blood to free himself...and dropped her face down in a pool of water...she drowned.”

Cordelia lifted her chin a bit, pride in her voice when she spoke, “And Xander brought her back.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “It’s not my fault that the stodgy old men who wrote the prophecy didn't know about CPR.”

Rhonda kept grinning, deepening her voice as she spoke. “The Slayer shall die and the Master shall rise.”

Spike's arm was around his waist now. “You really broke a prophecy...”

“And man was Koenma mad.”

“Koenma?”

Cordelia snuggled into Spike's other side, “Prince of Reikai.”

“Judge of Human Souls,” Xander added helpfully.

“And you know this bloke?”

“He went to my brother's wedding.”

“Any other surprises I should know about?”

Xander's hand found Cordelia's as they each wrapped an arm around Spike. “The Fates hate me and have it out for me. They don't like Prophecy Breakers and Wild Cards...both of which I am apparently.”

Cordelia nodded. “At least you only broke the one prophecy.”

Xander blushed and ducked his head a bit. “Heh.”

Everyone stopped walking and Cordelia eyed him with a narrow gaze. “Xander.”

“Yeah...yeah there might be a second...but it was a little one I swear.”

Rhonda groaned, her shoulders slumped in dismay, “When?”

“And where were we?” Cordelia asked.

“My first summer in Tokyo and when I met Kagome. We might have stopped a localized apocalypse...Yusuke doesn't know...and we are not telling him.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes and pinched his wrist. “How bad was it?”

“Not bad...we just ended up running around Tokyo collecting slightly evil talismans so Kagome could purify them...and then killed the demon mage that placed them.”

Spike smacked his ass which made him jump a bit. “Does anyone at all know about that?”

“Just you guys, Kagome, and her son.”

“Any other prophecies we should worry about?” Cordelia's gaze was still narrow.

“Nope, there was just the two.”

Spike let out a snort. “So you're the reason there are two slayers.”

“Yep.”

“The Fates are going to try again to end you, aren't they?”

“Most likely.”

He was pulled in for a kiss and Spike pressed the words against his lips. “Let them try.” He pulled away and focused those blue eyes on Xander. “Not giving either of you up that easily.”

xxx

It was easy how they fell into the pattern he and Cordelia had already established. Spike just sort melted into it. Their days consisted of school, classes, research if anything had popped up; while their nights were dinner, TV, patrol and Spike. Xander worried some that Spike would get bored during the day but he always seemed content when they got home from school; and it was freaky surreal when he actually helped them with homework. One moment they'd been bickering over history reports, the next Spike had been telling a tale of things that happened behind the scenes, things their teacher had only glossed over. They'd gotten A's on those reports.

Then there was the sex.

Both Xander and Cordelia, as comfortable with one another as they were, were still inexperienced when it came to sex. At least in comparison to Spike who had more than a century of practice. They were more than willing students and Xander was just starting to believe them when they made comments about him being attractive. If anyone as pretty as Cordelia or alluring as Spike could be attracted to him there had to be something about him that warranted that attraction.

Blood during sex didn't happen often and when it did it was just the bare breaking of skin, just enough to taste and only in the heat of the moment. Though both Spike and Cordelia now carried the imprint of his teeth, Spike above his collarbone, and Cordy on her shoulder.

Condoms were a must...even when he was only watching Spike and Cordy. Spike had rolled his eyes when Xander had insisted but it was the Hellmouth where mystical pregnancies were not outside the realm of possibilities. Just because Buffy and Angel weren't the proud parents of a bouncing ball of madness didn't mean they wouldn't have that kind of luck.

Their mornings varied, sometimes Spike would slink downstairs to have a mug of blood while they ate breakfast, and he occasionally slipped a bite of food from their plates. Laughing at the faces they made when he dipped said food into the blood and nibbled at it.

What worried Xander, despite the domestic bliss...was the way Spike would sometimes stare at the ring. He'd fiddle with it, thumb caressing the crest, wearing an almost frown. And Xander knew that it meant something, and he wasn't sure he was going to like it. However...if Spike decided to leave Xander wouldn't stop him. Everyone needed space and being bound to two teenagers might feel suffocating to a demon that was used to doing whatever the hell he wanted.

xxx

“Buffy Summers. That's when all my trouble started. When she moved here...I mean if she hadn't come here then Xander wouldn't have even looked marginally cool and I wouldn't even have noticed him.”

Anya gave her a sympathetic nod. “Here, I think you need this more than I do right now.” She slipped her necklace off and fastened it around Cordelia's neck.

“Yeah I could use some luck. Thanks.”

“After that loser a little luck certainly won't hurt.”

“He's...God...this whole thing sucks.” Cordelia bit her lip in thought. “I wonder if it could be any better...ya know? Like I wish I could be in a reality that was better, cooler, one where I wouldn't get cheated on.”

“Done.”

“What?”

xxx

Their day started out normal, but then most days did. They woke up to lazy kisses with Spike; kisses that didn't really gain any urgency until the alarm went off, sending him and Cordy scrambling to get ready for school. Spike's hands and lips were a welcome distraction, though the shower really wasn't built for three...and definitely not three people shower sex. More sex tended to happen during the showers when they all tried to cram inside at once.

School was normal as well. They had their usual brief meeting in the library before Xander walked Cordelia through the school until they parted ways in the quad. They shared a kiss and Xander left for his own class, smiling in amusement when Cordy made a brief detour to save Jonathan from Harmony and her sheep. From the corner of her vision she could see him taking a moment to listen and appreciate her barbed words that left the scatterbrained blond confused, intimidated, and infuriated.

There was nothing like cutting Harmony to ribbons first thing in the morning. With a final wave to Xander and a friendly push to Jonathan to get him on his way she turned a corner to head to class.

Then...the world rocked a bit and her vision got a little swirly and she stumbled. Cordelia caught herself on the brick wall, steadied herself and waited for the dizzy feeling to pass. When it did she shook her head. Maybe she'd been up too late after patrol? She seemed fine though and had a class to get to.

xxx

When Xander felt the strange surge of magic he stopped dead in his tracks. He looked around him, feeling out with his aura. Whatever it was had already gone. But still, it was unlike anything he'd ever felt.

xxx

“That was weird...” Cordelia looked around, Anya was nowhere in sight. “Anya?” She whirled around, looking everywhere. “I just made a wish...everything looks the same though.” She put a hand to her stomach, the wound was gone. “Alright. I could get used to this.” She grinned and went to class.

However things started to get a bit weird. Like Harmony not talking to her...well that part wasn't weird, what was weird was the way Harmony and her groupies looked at her with...apprehension? But Amy Madison came up to her and started talking like they were friends. Weird but she could deal. Amy at least was intelligent and interesting, even with all that magic stuff.

Then Jenny Calendar walked by her with a smile and a wave and Cordelia nearly had a heart attack at the sight of her. Did Angelus not kill her in this world? She didn't even bother stopping to talk to Oz and Willow when they tried to flag her down.

The most unnerving thing though...was the way Rhonda Kelly kept staring at her like she was a pod person. What was with this reality?

xxx

The first time she realized something was wrong was when Harmony and her flock laughed at her in between classes; when just that morning she'd given the blond a verbal lashing. And the taunts about getting dumped didn't make any sense. She most certainly had not been dumped. There had been awesome kisses and shower sex this morning thank you very much.

The second time she realized things were off were when she popped into the computer lab to ask Jenny if she could use the lab during her free time...only Jenny wasn't there and some creepy old man was. Jenny's name plate wasn't even on the desk, so she backed out of the classroom, confused.

So she tracked Willow down, thinking the young miko would know what was going on because out of all of them she was closest to Jenny. However at the sight of her Willow looked pale...and guilty. What was going on?

“Hey Willow. Ms. Calendar isn't here today and some old guy seems to have taken over her classroom? Did Snyder fire her for dating Giles? Do Xander and I need to have a talk with the troll?”

Willow somehow managed to grow paler, looked sick even...and just a bit mad. “I know we hurt you Cordelia...but that's not....that's going too far.”

“What are you talking about? And while I'm asking, why does the whole school seem to be laughing at me behind my back...and in front of me even.” It was true; the increasing stares were starting to get to her.

“You know why.”

“No, I don't.”

Willow bit her lip and shut her locker before scurrying away. “I'm sorry.”

A little taken back by the girl's reaction an increasing sense of unease filled her. Something was definitely wrong and she needed to figure out what. So she followed Willow to the library.

She pushed the doors open with determination and the core Scoobies stared at her entrance. “What is with everyone today? The stares? The laughs? Willow freaking out when I asked about Jenny missing class.” She continued walking toward them, moving to Xander's side and tried to take his hand in hers.

He pulled away like her touch burned him. “You made it clear we were through.”

That sense of unease grew into an almost stabbing pain. “What? When did I-” And then she looked at Xander, really looked. “You look different.” His hair was shorter, which didn't make sense as he'd let it grow out over the summer. So she moved so she could look directly into his eyes. “You feel different.” Something was missing from his gaze...his aura. She glanced down at his right hand and what was missing from it. “Oh my God. You're not my Xander.”

“We established that.” His words were bitter and felt like ice.

“No. I mean...everything has been different since my dizzy spell...after I stopped Harmony from picking on Jono.”

They were all staring at her, as if she were crazy. Only Giles seemed willing to speak at the moment. “Who?”

“Jonathan.”

Buffy looked at her, hopefully that was only curiosity in her gaze, “Why would you help Jonathan?”

“Uh, because I'm Queen C and one half of Sunnydale High's power couple and Xander, my Xander, and I do not endorse bullying.” She rubbed at her forehead, ignoring them for a moment. “I must have fallen into an alternate reality...oh God...” Something clicked about Willow's attitude. “Did Jenny die in this reality?”

Giles head snapped up and he glared at her with nothing but Ripper in his eyes. “That's enough.”

Cordelia's heart ached for him. “She did, didn't she? Damn. We didn't get to her in time here.”

Willow sucked in a breath, her expression wounded, “That's not funny.”

“No it’s not.” Cordelia shook her head. “Back home she was in a coma the rest of the school year and then didn't remember Giles when she woke up. But she's better now. I'm pretty sure he's considering buying her a ring.”

“That's enough Cordelia. You're game isn't amusing.”

Cordelia glared back at him and spoke again, this time in Japanese, “Watashi wa gÄ“mu o purei shite inai yo. Kore ga watashi no sekaide wa arimasen. Anata no sekai wa orokadesuga, watashi wa sore o sukide wanaito watashi wa ie ni kaeritai.”

They gaped and only Giles managed to speak for a moment. “Good lord...you...”

She shrugged. “What other proof do you need?”

Buffy ignored her and looked to her watcher. “Is she possessed?” Okay, obviously they needed more proof but Cordelia wasn't sure what to give them.

“Possibly...some research might be in order.” She really did not like the look in Giles' eyes. “Restrain her please. Just in case.” Oh hell no!

Cordelia tried fight them, the Xander and Willow of this world were no contest, no training at all...but Buffy was still the Slayer and stopped her in her tracks...at least after a flurry of movement that left them shocked and Cordelia bruised from Slayer strength. Why were they so shocked? Did Giles not train anyone here? At all? But that was so sloppy!

As they were tying her to a chair the fake Xander eyed her warily. “Maybe she's a demon in disguise?”

Giles hmmd, already elbow deep in his books, “Possibly.”

“This is so not my day.”

xxx

Xander finally managed to track Cordy down. He hadn't really seen her since that morning and it was like...he just had a bad feeling was all.

“Did something happen?” He asked, reaching for her, “It’s like you've been avoiding me...” When she glared at him he froze. “Are you okay?”

Her voice was cool...and her eyes were...Cordelia hadn't looked at him like that in a long time. “Fine. Never better.”

Larry stopped by them, distracting Xander for a moment, “Hey, there a meeting later?”

Xander shook his head, eyes on Cordelia. “Don't think so.”

“Cool. See you tomorrow then.”

“Later.” He kept watching Cordelia, her gaze was appraising now, as if she were surprised that Larry spoke to him...as an equal...or someone with authority. He felt Kyle approach...and noticed the other boy was staring at Cordelia just as he was. “Yes Kyle?”

“There a-”

“No meeting. Larry went that way.” He motioned.

“Thanks.” He started moving, glancing between them in confusion.

Cordelia now looked impressed, satisfied even. “Wow, you really are cooler.”

“What?” Xander looked at her, really looked. Her hair was different, her eyes were different...her scent was different and he started to panic. Lastly he looked at her aura. This...was not... “You're not my Cordy.”

She was staring at him, eyes wide, probably because he could feel his own gaze glowing. “What? Why are your eyes-?”

“Your aura isn't mixed with mine and you should still smell like me and Spike.” He grabbed her right hand and brought it up, “And no ring.” Then he proceeded to drag her toward the library, passing Kyle and Larry as he moved, “Kyle spread the word, emergency meeting.”

“Why?”

“This isn't my Cordy.”

“Thought she smelled different.”

“Smelled different? What are you talking about, hey! Let go!”

He ignored the imposter and forced the first tingling of panic in his chest deep down so it wouldn't cripple him. When he got to the library he shoved her into the book cage and locked the door behind her.

Giles was standing and staring at him like he was crazy. “What on earth?”

“She's not mine. That's not my Cordy.”

“Are you sure?”

“Giles, I know every inch of her and that's not her.”

The imposter scowled. “Excuse me? Yeah right, in your dreams!”

He ignored her. “I don't know what happened. Things were normal this morning when we woke up and got ready for school.” Xander not knowing what else to do started pacing.

Willow was the first to enter the library, stopping in front of the book cage to stare at the Cordelia look alike, “Huh.” She glanced at Xander and Giles. “Her aura is different...but it’s still a version of Cordy.”

Xander nodded, an animal sort of whine escaping his throat, as he continued to pace. The shocked looks Willow and the not-Cordy gave him were ignored; even when Willow moved to the counter and the phone.

The others began to file in, Rhonda taking a moment to examine the newcomer that had replaced her sister. The other Cordelia glared back and snapped. “What?”

“I thought something was off. I always know where my sister is...and I'm looking right at you...and I don't feel her at all.” She sneered at the shocked expression the girl gave her and moved toward Xander, stopping his pacing and burrowing into his arms. Right, he wasn't alone in this, Rhonda had every right to freak out. He could be strong.

It didn't hurt that Amy joined the mini cuddle/panic session and gave him a much needed hug.

The new Cordy looked at them like they were crazy before addressing Buffy. “What, does this Xander have a harem or something?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “All joking and rumors aside, no. We're pack. Also Xan and Amy are brother and sister.”

“How is that possible?”

Amy shrugged and answered. “Tony Harris got around.”

Giles cleared his throat and gained their attention. “I'm not sure what could have caused this. A dimensional shift perhaps.”

Xander swallowed and clung to Rhonda and Amy. “Can we reverse it? Can we get Cordy back?”

“I don't know.”

Xander couldn't stop the keening noise he made as he sank to the floor, both girls going to their knees with him.

“Oh please. Like you appreciated her.” Not-Cordy sneered at him. “I bet you cheated on her with Willow just like the Xander back in my reality.”

He didn't remember slipping out of their grasp, much less getting back to his feet, but suddenly he was in front of the book cage. Stalking toward her, a growl coming from his throat, and his eyes glowing in rage, “The only one I kiss or sleep with besides Cordy is Spike. The three of us are together.”

Her eyes were wide and he could smell her fear as she stepped back. “How does that work?”

“Rather well. My Cordy likes to watch as much as she likes to participate...” He felt a bit of calm settle over him, though it felt false, like it wouldn't last. “Now, how did you get here and how do we get her back?”

xxx

Her arms were tied tightly to the chair, she'd tried to break free by force, but she wasn't strong enough. “I'm not possessed. I'm not a demon in disguise. I'm just from an alternate reality.”

The local Xander made a face at her, “A reality where you're in a relationship...with me ...and Spike the vampire.”

“Yes...” she paused. “Well, technically Xander was with Spike first, what with Spike getting Xander's first kiss anyway...and his second.”

Their Willow looked up, shocked at that. “What about Ampata?”

Cordelia frowned at her. “The Mummy girl? She was Willow's first kiss...but Ampata really liked Willow and couldn't drain her. And then Kagome set her free.”

Giles looked up from his books. “Kagome? Set her free?”

She rolled her eyes; she was not used to being go-to-girl. “Kagome Higurashi. She's a miko and she was Xander's guest last year during the cultural exchange thing. Willow is actually her apprentice.”

“Willow is a Shinto Priestess in training? Does this Kagome have any actual power?”

“Didn't I just say she set Ampata free? As in released her from the curse so she got to be all glowly, sparkly and move on? Also she totally unmade the Shikon no Tama so that it couldn't be used for evil anymore.”

He stared at her, mouth open for a good minute, “She's one of the priestesses from that legend?”

“Yeah...look. The entire pack spent the summer in Japan.”

“Why? What pack?” Buffy asked; the stake she'd been twirling in her hand stilled.

“Our pack...because we needed time away from the Hellmouth. And Xander's older brother lives in Tokyo.”

Local Xander gave her his confused face. “What brother?”

“Ugh. Yusuke Urameshi.”

“Good lord.”

She rolled her eyes at the watcher. “Oh it gets better Book Man. Since Xander is technically a Prince of Makai, even though Yusuke gave up his throne, Xander has claimed me as his consort and Spike as his potential mate...” She grinned as he started to put her words together.

“Then you're...”

“I'm a Makai Princess buddy and you're holding me against my will.”

“Bloody Hell!”

xxx

The rest of the pack huddled together, on edge, the occasional whine escaping from one of them. He couldn't blame them, he wanted to curl up in a ball...but that wouldn't help anything. Instead Xander stared at her while trying to make her words make sense. “You made a wish.”

“Yeah. I was talking to this new girl. Anya. I said it would be nice to be in a world where everything was cooler...where you were more popular.”

He turned his gaze to Giles, who looked like he might be having a revelation, “Giles? Is something like that possible?”

“I'm afraid so...” He paused. “Did you say Anya?” Even as he asked he was diving for a book.

Willow tittered a bit. “What is it?”

“There is a group of demons that grant wishes, led by a demon called D'Hoffryn. Vengeance Demons...though some prefer to be called Justice Demons. The way to end the spell...would require the destruction of her power source.”

Tor spoke for the first time. “Do we have that kind of time?”

“I don't know. It’s unlikely that our counter parts will believe her.”

Xander froze. “They...they wouldn't hurt her...would they?”

“If they don't have the abilities that you lot have...they'll perform tests.”

Buffy carefully put down the book she'd been looking through, a contradiction to the way her shoulders had tensed, “What kind of tests?”

“Some...can be rather uncomfortable...even painful...and a few could be considered a mild form of torture.”

Xander felt his knees give and nearly let the darkness at the edge of his vision take him, he only remained conscious because he caught the familiar smell of smoke and leather...though Spike was a little more smoky as he appeared from the stacks to catch him.

Even as he was a bit singed, probably from the sun outside, Spike lifted him up in a bridal carry and settled into a chair that one of the pack pulled out for him. “Red called me.” He nuzzled at Xander's temple and Xander shuddered, burying his face in Spike's throat. “What's the plan for getting Cordelia back?”

Tor made a motion with his hands. “I can open a portal...with Rhonda's help.”

“Me?”

“You're sisters and your magic comes from the same place. That might be enough of a connection.”

Heidi elbowed him. “The last time you used your magic long distance some of us ended up half drowned in mystical water.”

“This is totally different, but if it makes you feel better we can get Botan to do it.”

Xander took a breath and shook his head, doing his best to keep his voice steady. “She...might not be able to interfere. You know the Fates can be bitches like that.”

“What do you want to do Pet?”

“Whatever it takes to get her back.” Their hands found one another and their fingers twined together. “You might need to stay here. It'll be just as sunny there and you're already singed.”

“Sun's starting to go down. I'll be fine.” Blue eyes focused on him, intense in their seriousness. “I'm not staying here while you run off alone to save our girl.” He gently bumped his forehead against Xander's.

“Tor, do what you need.”

xxx

Willow was setting up ingredients for whatever spell work she and Giles needed for their tests...but Cordelia wasn't sure she liked the look of some of the tools. “What are you doing exactly?”

“Just a few simple spells. I mean you sound legit. But I owe it to the real Cordy to make sure you're not just using her body.”

“This is going to hurt isn't it?”

Willow didn't meet her eyes as she shook her head. “Not at all.”

“Probably.” Everyone glared at Xander who shrugged.

Cordelia glanced at Giles...who was polishing his glasses...but then he did meet her eyes...and there was nothing but Ripper there. Oh shit! “Crap.” She swallowed her panic and concentrated on the ingredients Willow had set out. And sent them flying in every direction.

Willow jumped back. “Whoa!” Buffy and Xander each reached for a weapon.

Giles slipped his glasses into place and stepped forward. “What on Earth?”

“I've got magic too...and you're not doing anything that'll cause brain damage or scar me for life.”

Giles held up his hands in a placating gesture. “The effects are temporary.” She didn't believe him. “I'll admit it’s drastic.”

“What were you going to do? Look in my head against my will?”

“Yes actually.”

“That's...” She shuddered; the others seemed unaffected by his admission. “Giles, that's a kind of rape.” That at least got some wide-eyed expressions. “What is wrong with you people?” Willow seemed shocked at the accusation and Cordelia focused her anger on the red-head. “After you watched your best friend grow up in an abusive home you'd be willing to do this?”

Buffy dropped the dagger she'd picked up at the first sign of Cordelia's magic. “What?”

“Tony Harris...did you know he used to push Xander down the stairs? Just because he could? That he'd lock Xander in the basement for an entire weekend at a time?”

Local Xander made a face. “That never happened.”

“Then I guess my Xander had a shittier childhood than you. God...all of you are so...very messed up.”

xxx

Tor had a salt circle set up. He and Rhonda were sitting on the floor in the middle of it, facing one another, holding hands. Xander, Spike, Alternate Cordy, Heidi and Buffy stepped into the circle when Tor nodded at them. Tor said something in a language none of them understood...and a portal opened.

“You're clear.”

They stepped through, Xander dragging the fake Cordelia behind him. One moment they were in the library, the next they were in an outer corridor, in the shade. Buffy nodded at Heidi.

“Guard the portal.”

“Will do.”

And they headed toward the library...and Spike had been right. The sun was already going down. Still, a few students were lingering in the lengthening shadows. One guy, a jock who's name Xander couldn't remember, shook his head at Cordelia.

“Guess you couldn't do without your loser. Especially since no one wants Xander Harris' leftovers.”

Xander let go of her arm and slammed the guy into the nearest wall. “You ever talk to her like that again and your parents won't have a body to bury...at least not a complete one.” His eyes flashed in the fading light. “Got it?”

“Yeah...sure. Got it.”

“Apologize.”

He gulped. “Sorry Cordelia. Won't happen again.”

Xander nodded. “Damn right it won't. You're not good enough to take out Queen C's trash. Out of my sight.” He shoved the other boy away and he took off running, leaving only the scent of fear in his exit.

Cordelia gulped. “Whoa.”

Spike made an appreciative noise and nodded, slipping closer to Xander to steal a kiss. Buffy grinned at her. “That was nothing. He can actually take me sometimes when we spar.”

“Freaky.”

Xander smirked at her. “Well, I am part demon. Let's go. I've got her scent.”

 

When they entered the library...and saw Cordelia tied to a chair...another chair floating back and forth in front of her keeping the alternate Scoobies at bay Xander lost it a little. He flew across the room and attacked the other Buffy, subduing her easily. She was weak compared to the Buffy he spared with regularly. The locals stared.

“Buff, keep your alternate in check please.” Buffy nodded and literally sat on the local Buffy. “Thank you.” He glared at the group and they took a step back. “You come near her and I start ripping you apart.” Then he turned to face his Cordy. They stared at each other a moment before he went to her, sinking to his knees and placing his head in her lap. She did her best to curl around him even with her arms still tied in place.

“Why do we end up like this?” She asked. “Buffy fell into a hell dimension in LA. We fell into a dry well and ended up in Japan's feudal era...freaking five-hundred years in the past...and now an alternate reality.”

“Just lucky I guess.” His words were muffled.

“That and the Fates hate you, Mr. Wild Card Prophecy Breaker.”

“Damn titles.”

Spike snorted as he moved closer, untying the ropes that held her in place before he leaned down to kiss her. She smiled up at him. “I'm glad you were there for him.”

“Definitely. You have no idea.” Xander muttered. “I had a brief emotional breakdown.”

Spike leered and reached down to run a hand through Xander's hair. “Caught him before he actually hit the floor.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes and sighed. “Xander...what are you going to do when I move to L.A. for college?”

“Be abso-fucking-lutely miserable...but this was totally different! You were switched with an icky Cordy. A fake Cordy. She's not you.”

“And I reckon I'll be keeping our boy company while you're in LA.” Spike added.

Xander nodded. “Totally. Besides, we'll see you on weekends. You know I'm not giving you up. Ever.” They huddled together for a moment before Xander stood and turned to glare at the local Scoobies and let his eyes glow. “We're exchanging. You can keep yours. Ours is the superior Cordy.”

Spike offered her a hand and gently pulled her to her feet. She grinned and nodded. “Of course I am. Like any alternate in that outfit could compare to me.”

They ignored local Cordelia's indignant complaint and Xander kissed her. “Love you.”

“Even when I call you names?”

“Cor, wouldn't want you any other way.”

Spike wrapped them in his arms and they molded to him willingly. “Bit of insanity.”

“Probably.”

Cordelia flicked their noses gently. “Dorks, both of you.” She sighed heavily. “Can we go home now?”

Buffy finally stood, letting her double up. “Yeah. We left Heidi watching the portal.”

Xander nodded and motioned her to follow as they moved toward the doors. “We should probably head back before Tor gets in trouble for opening said portal...and we don't really want Botan to scold him...or us.”

Giles spoke for the first time, face pale. “Botan? What sort of world are you from?”

They ignored him and Buffy halted their progress. “What about that wish demon, Anya?”

“Anyanka?” This time Giles voice drew their attention.

Local Cordelia nodded, coming forward, “She gave me this.” She took off the necklace she wore and held it out.

Spike examined it, but didn't touch it, “Probably her power center.”

Xander hmmd a bit. “What did our Giles say that Demon's name was? The Boss of the wish demons?”

“D'Hoffryn?” Spike asked.

“That's it.” He nodded and let his eyes glow, let his voice deepen and echo with power, “D'Hoffryn!”

There was a circle of fire and a tall horned demon with bluish skin appeared within the ring. “I was wondering when you were going to contact me your highness.”

Xander snarled at him. “This never happens again. No one takes what's mine, especially not my people. My pack.”

D'Hoffryn nodded, bowed even in apology. “You have my word, Prince Alexander of Makai. I apologize for any undue stress my employee may have caused you and your court. When you return to your world Anyanka will be properly chastised.”

Xander nodded. “Good enough.” D'Hoffryn disappeared, leaving charred tile behind. “Let's go.”

Giles moved forward to protest. “You can't just...”

Xander bared sharp teeth at him. “You were going to hurt her. You don't get a say in this. Come on Buff.”

Buffy waved merrily at them. “When the Alpha speaks it’s better to just nod and agree.” And they left.

The resulting silence in the library was beyond shocked.

Xander gulped. “Uh...that...was different.” Then he grinned. “My alternate is a total badass and still has his hyena powers!”

xxx

They got back through the portal in one piece and apparently just in time because as soon as they were through it disappeared. Rhonda staggered to her feet and just managed to drape herself over Cordy in a parody of a hug, exhaustion making her eyes heavy.

Giles smiled at the scene as he moved closer to help an equally tired Tor clean up the salt. “How did it go?”

Buffy made a face at him. “Not too bad.”

“Oh?”

Cordelia grimaced, but kept her arms around Rhonda who had pretty much passed out. “They were gonna do painful tests on me.”

Xander nodded. “Our alternates suck.”

xxx

That night they had all but collapsed into bed, not bothering with showers...or food. Cordelia was in the middle tucked between them like the treasure she was, Xander on her left, Spike on her right. Kisses and caresses were exchanged tiredly and lazily with a promise of something more frantic in the morning.

Spike was the only one awake when Jessica came in around ten. When she paused in front of the open door of Xander's room he stared at her, brow raised in challenge. She gulped, took in the sight of Xander and Cordelia curled together with him, and nodded before hurrying to her own room for the clothes she needed.

Spike rolled his eyes at the woman's giggling and settled in to watch his lovers until he too drifted off.

XXX

A/N: I've forgotten all the Japanese I used to know. Totally used Google translate. Also, reviews are lifeblood. o^^o

Watashi wa gÄ“mu o purei shite inai yo. – I'm not playing a game.
Kore ga watashi no sekaide wa arimasen. – This is not my world.
Anata no sekai wa orokadesuga, watashi wa sore o sukide wanaito watashi wa ie ni kaeritai. – Your world is stupid, I don't like it and I want to go home.

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Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Nine: Yuletide

Word count: 6165

XXX

It was the oddest thing Spike had ever seen.

There had been a close call on patrol. Spike hadn't seen that part but from what the pack said the demon had been larger than they were used to dealing with. Rhonda was nearly gutted, if she'd not been with Willow and Tor she would have died.

The three of them had only been back for a few minutes when the miko and the Fairie had dragged the unconscious girl in between them. She'd been covered in drying blood, the red hers, the blue obviously not. It almost looked like one of those tie die jobs from the sixties the way the red and blue had mingled in some places to make a purple stain.

“What happened?”

“We got surprised; I don't know how it happened Xander. I didn't sense anything, one second normal patrol and the next a huge ugly furry demon-y thing with too many claws! Tor zapped it, I purified it...or I tried too I'm not strong enough to just poof a demon away so there's a crispy demon corpse over on Palm Street three blocks west of the hospital.”

Cordelia had already started piling blankets and pillows in the middle of the living room floor. “Take the bloody clothes off, Tor go get some more blankets.”

Xander knelt on the floor and put his hand on Rhonda's forehead and Spike watched as there was a...sort of transference of energy between them. When the boy looked up at Spike he smiled. “Pack can share energy. It’s how we can help heal each other. Rhonda, Heidi, Kyle and Cordy all stayed with me the night the Judge touched me. It’s why I woke up the next morning instead of slipping into a coma.”

“Never heard of something like that but then vampires aren't pack animals.”

Xander just grinned and motioned him over. “Come on. The others are already on their way.”

“How do you know that?”

“I can feel them.”

“How, pet?”

“Because they're mine.”

“Like a Sire can sense a Childe?”

“I guess, but I'm not a vampire, I'm not sure if that's a good comparison...we're just...pack.”

Spike snorted, kicked off his boots, and slid his duster off before he joined Xander and the unconscious Rhonda on the growing pile of blankets. Xander was on one side of her, Cordy on the other. Spike lay down behind Xander.

Then it got weird.

It got weird because the rest of the pack came in through the front door: Kyle, Larry, the Slayer, Heidi, and Amy...and the next thing Spike knew he was in the middle of a pile of teenagers; caught between Xander in front of him and Willow with her wolf behind him.

And then as they all settled he could feel it. Just a trickle but he could feel the energies of each pack member flow back and forth from one teen to another...the feeling of...belonging was something he'd never felt before. He didn't know what to think of it. A hundred years and he'd never...

Xander snuggled back into Spike's chest before baring his throat. “You're thinking too loud. Just relax.”

So he did but only after he leaned in enough to suck a very nice bruise on Xander's throat. Then he relaxed and let the power of the pack lull him to sleep.

It was still the weirdest thing he'd ever been a part of.

xxx

It was strange. Normally at this time of year she'd be packing her bags to go on whatever vacation her parents picked; usually somewhere with snow. This year there had been no mention of a vacation. No mention of snow, skiing, or anything really. Her parents were more quiet and distant than ever before. Not that Cordelia cared; she had found a way to fill the void they left her with.

Besides, she would rather spend her time with the pack and with Rhonda; especially after last week's close call. She shuddered at the memory of her little sister covered in blood. It wasn't a good one.

This explained how she found herself shopping with Buffy, Rhonda and Heidi. No one shopped like the four of them, especially when they were together. The four of them were a force to be reckoned with and now every sales clerk in the mall knew it.

The night had been peaceful, no talk of slayage or baddies, just four girls with good taste doing their Christmas shopping. They were just leaving a higher end boutique, having gone in just to look but then needing to retreat from what mainstream adverts tried to pass off as style, when Rhonda asked a question.

“Why aren't Willow and Amy with us?”

Buffy gave a small shrug while trying not to drop the presents she'd bought at another store. “Something about not worshiping Santa? Also Amy mentioned buying gifts for Winter Solstice...which might be like a pagan Christmas...but I didn't really ask.”

Cordelia was the first to get to her car, unlocking the trunk so they could store their purchases, when Buffy gave a little surprised oomph. She'd bumped into Angel who looked out of sorts walking with the rest of the holiday foot traffic.

She shared a look with Rhonda and Heidi as they observed the stilted conversation between the former lovers; eyes growing more concerned every moment that Angel twitched and looked behind Buffy like he was seeing a ghost. And then...he ran off.

Buffy blinked in confusion at his hurrying form before turning her eyes on her friends.

Cordelia took the gifts she'd been holding and added them to the cache in the trunk. “Any idea what that was about?”

“A whole lot of no.” Buffy bit her lip. “Did you guys sense anything? Smell anything?”

Heidi shook her head. “No, he just smelled like himself...maybe some anxiety?”

“Huh.”

xxx

Spike wrinkled his nose at the dust that covered the box he was accepting from Xander who was above him in the attic. It was large, long and had a picture of a Christmas tree on it. He hadn't minded going up to help Xander get it down, especially as he'd gotten to watch the boy hop up into the crawl space, wiggling his arse as he lifted himself up. Bringing down holiday tidings though wasn't something he'd really enjoy...maybe. Also the dust was annoying, not that he needed to breathe, but how did the box gather that much dust in just a year?

“Wouldn't a real tree be more festive?” He remembered days past when everyone had a real tree because there was no such thing as an artificial tree.

Xander peered down at him before shimmying out of the attic. “I have nightmares about real X-mas trees.” At the incredulous look Spike gave him he expanded. “The only time we had a real tree Tony set it on fire...while I was under it dragging out presents.”

He grimaced; glad he had permission to eat the elder Harris should he ever get the chance. “Won't this one have bad memories attached to it?”

“No. We haven't put it up since I was five. I uh...I always put up a little bitty tree in my room though.”

They got the tree downstairs with Xander helping mostly because it was awkward to carry alone. Once there they rearranged the living room a bit to make room for the tree so it could be placed in front of a window and be seen from the street.

Spike opened the box and blinked at all the artificial branches. “It’s like a bloody puzzle.”

“The stems are color coded; we just have to match them to the slots on the trunk. It’s easy.”

Xander was right; putting the tree together was easier than he he'd thought. Testing the lights was another matter. The first string was completely dead. The second string only had about half that worked. Xander however found the faulty bulb and replaced it. The third was in the same sort of shape and while the boy was distracted, looking for the bad light, Spike subtly wrapped the lights around him. Xander let out a small cry of victory, replaced the bad bulb and the rest of the lights came on...then he looked down at himself, all decked out in lights.

“Well, my decorating is done.” Spike smirked and moved in closer. “Look at you, all wrapped up and colorful, just waiting to be undone.” He leaned in and kissed Xander, making those wide brown eyes close in bliss as he nibbled on his lower lip.

There was a beeping from the kitchen and Xander broke away, flailing a bit, but unable to escape. “Oh my God, the cookies!”

Spike tugged him closer. “Rather have this than your goodies.”

Xander pouted up at him. “That's because you haven't had them yet. Also burnt cookies and house fires are not conductive to nookie.”

Boy was going to kill him with those eyes, but he grinned and helped Xander free himself from the lights and watched him dash into the kitchen to save the cookies from a charred fate.

Xander returned a moment later. “Cookies are fine, just needed to let them cool. Help me get the lights on the tree? And not on me this time?”

They shared a grin and strung the lights on the tree. “People used to use candles for this. Expect a plastic tree like this would melt with real fire.”

“Probably.”

“What's next then? Decorations?”

“Yeah, I'll need to get them out of the attic...and then we can wait for Cordy. I promised her that we would.” He wandered into the kitchen, Spike at his heels. “Just let me put the next batch of cookies in.” Spike watched in appreciation as Xander spooned the peanut butter cookie dough on to the cookie sheet and then placed it in the oven.

“Now what?”

“Oh, we have about twelve minutes before their done-eek!”

The surprised yelp made Spike smile from his new position, on his knees, face nuzzling into the crotch of Xander's jeans. “Plenty of time.”

“In the kitchen? Really?”

But any other objections were forgotten by the time Spike had his pants undone and Xander's hardening cock in his mouth. All the boy could do was make sounds of appreciation and want and Spike loved that he could reduce the young man to a quivering puddle of lust. That was a perfect description of Xander as his knees buckled and Spike lowered him to the floor with his hands holding his hips down as he worked his throat and made Xander scream.

xxx

Buffy settled on her bed, phone in hand, Willow on the other end of the line. “So how did your non-Christmas shopping go?”

“Pretty good. Kinda makes me wish we had winter festivals like they do in Japan. Think we could go to Japan some winter and wear kimonos and stuff?”

“That sounds fun, and non-Hellmouthy.”

Willow picked up on her not-so-stellar mood. “Hey, you okay?”

“Yeah...we just ran into Angel while we were shopping.”

“Oh. How is he?”

“I'm not sure. He was acting a little...well a lot strange. Not very Angel-like.”

A pause. “Was he acting evil?”

“More...haunted.”

xxx

Faith opened her front door and stared. Jonathan, Rinku, Andrew and Russ were standing on her front porch, each with their arms full. Rinku was dwarfed by the real tree in his arms as he peered around its branches at her. The others all had bags and boxes.

She wrinkled her nose. “Uh...what?”

Rinku shrugged. “Don't ask me, I have no idea what’s going on or why I'm holding a tree.”

Jonathan gave his boyfriend a smile. “Its Rinku's first Christmas.”

That seemed to floor Faith more than having her boys standing on her porch laden with holiday stuff. “Really?”

Andrew huffed at them. “Are you going to move so we can come in?”

“Uh, sure.” She stood aside and the guys trooped in. The next thing she knew she was being roped into getting the tree set up. And then Andrew commandeered the kitchen, not letting anyone in while he baked. Russ put on a Christmas CD and Faith found herself eating popcorn and helping the guys decorate her house...and turned it into a home.

It was already the best Christmas she'd ever had.

xxx

Giles sipped at his wine while admiring their Christmas tree. It had been years since he'd put one up but Jenny had insisted despite her devotion to techno-paganism. It was their first official Christmas as a couple; last year had been more tentative and less official as it were.

He smiled as he watched her through the pass-through, a window in the wall that divided the kitchen from the rest of the flat, as Jenny hummed along to the song playing on the radio as she made eggnog. While she was distracted he slipped the small black velvet box from his pocket and hung it on a branch of the tree where it would be easily spotted.

He hoped that when she saw the diamond surrounded by sapphires that she'd say yes. A knock at the door nearly made him jump out of his skin and made Jenny smirk at his guilty expression. She knew he was up to something, just not what exactly.

He gave her a smile and answered the door, wondering which of the children...he froze when he saw Angel standing outside.

“I'm sorry to...interrupt...” He glanced apologetically from Giles to Jenny, wincing as her face paled. “I need...help. Something's happening.”

“You're not exactly welcome here.”

Jenny disappeared for a moment; only to reappear with a loaded crossbow in her hands and aimed at Angel. Giles reached for the cane sword he kept in the umbrella bin.

Angel nodded at their weapons in approval. “I...there's no one else.”

“What's happening then?”

“I'm seeing things...ghosts maybe...people from my past.”

“Those you've killed?”

Angel swallowed. “Yes...I...” His eyes widened, locked on the window clear across the room, as if he could see someone standing outside. And then he was stumbling away with a cry of dismay.

Giles stared after him before meeting Jenny's equally surprised gaze. She shrugged. “Whatever it was...was out there...it couldn't come in.”

“So he's not imagining things. Something is haunting him. Something that couldn't cross the wards.”

xxx

Spike was on the phone with Marshal on his lap and Diana on his shoulder when he heard the front door unlock and open. It was nearly noon and the car he'd heard drive up wasn't Cordelia's. That left only one person. Jessica hesitated in the doorway when she saw him on the cordless, sitting at the kitchen table like he owned it.

“So they're intact then?” He listened to the demon on the other end. “I'll need two. Not sure when I'll collect. Be in touch.” He rolled his eyes at the grumbling. “You know I'm good for them. Ta.” He turned off the handheld and motioned Jessica to enter. “Suppose you have something to say.”

She glanced into the living room at the tree the three of them had decorated before focusing on him. “He's my only son.”

“And?”

“He's seventeen.”

“He's old enough.”

She huffed. “He'll be eighteen soon actually, just after New Year’s, and I know he's already grown up...but he's more fragile than he lets on.”

Spike nodded, he'd already seen that more than once. “I know.”

“Right...so...just don't break him.”

“Do my best.”

She stared at him a moment longer before leaving.

xxx

Tor followed Botan through the mirror in her room and stepped into what passed as a living room in their parents' castle. He dumped the boxes of gifts on the lounge and turned to his left when he felt a familiar aura...then yelped in shock when he saw Ethan Rayne standing there. “What the hell dude! Why are you here?”

“Haven't told him then?”

Botan placed her burden on a side table. “No. I was waiting.”

He glanced from Botan to Ethan, eyes narrowing in suspicion, as he sent a tendril of magic and poked at Botan's aura with it. The action earned him a slap to the head but it was worth it. “What is with your aura?”

“Your sister is with child Tor,” Nimue murmured, watching her children in amusement.

Tor stared at Botan for a second as the words sank in and actually clicked into meaning in his head. “You're pregnant?” He glared at Ethan accusingly. “By Ethan Rayne!”

“Sharp isn't he—Ow! Bloody Hell, lad!” Ethan rubbed his thigh where Tor had zapped him with a bit of static electricity. “Playing Zeus are we?”

“No, I'm not allowed to throw lightning in the castle. But if you want to play catch we can go outside.” Tor bared his teeth in a not-smile. “Since you're gonna be the dad of my niece or nephew we should spend time getting to know each other.”

“I think I'll pass.”

“I think I'll insist.” Tor barely dodged the oar that Botan swung at him. “Botan!”

“I'm as guilty as Ethan...”

“You were under the influence of bad candy. He wasn't.”

Ethan looked a little sheepish. “I might have had a little once we were alone.”

“Ugh.”

“Relax Tor. It’s a time of celebration.” Nimue smiled and hugged him. “Now, what do you think of our tree?”

Tor glanced at the large fir tree in a pot. “Uh...we’re doing Christmas? Mom, you're not Christian.”

“A holiday is a holiday. We'll do something for solstice too. Besides, this is a tradition you're used to. We want to share it with you.”

“Thanks...but what about decorations?”

Nimue frowned. “What decorations? I thought all we needed was a tree?”

Tor smiled. “We might need to go shopping.”

xxx

Heidi was really enjoying herself. It shouldn't really surprise her; she usually did, no matter the situation. She was adaptable like that.

The A-Team was a lot like her pack...though Pops was a bit more of an adrenaline junkie than Xander was; it was obvious he was the Alpha. At the moment that didn't really mean much since they were on down time and relaxing because of the holidays.

They were at the large home where Face, Murdock and Amy lived with their kids. It was almost a mini mansion, considering the tales she'd heard of Face's exploits with and without the team, and she wasn't sure she wanted to know how he acquired the estate.

Not that it mattered or that she really cared. She was happy to just be hanging out, playing with the kids. Lucy seemed especially happy, picking up the little card board toilet paper tubes and dancing around the room with them. The kids, Carol and Michael, had never seen a rabbit up close before, and were in awe of Lucy. Even without how playful she was being, the fact that they had never even seen a Lionhead rabbit left them enamored of her.

Of course Hannibal thought it was hilarious that Lucy didn't seem fond of Face...attacking his ankles whenever he got too close. Murdock on the other hand she loved, zipping in and out of the maze of presents under the tree to untie his shoes before darting back to hide in among the gifts.

All in all it was going to an interesting and fun Christmas.

xxx

Their tree was already up, the house was decked out and festive, and she could hear the TV on downstairs as Buffy tried to find a Christmas movie that was just starting so they could watch it together while they stuffed themselves on yummy appetizers.

Joyce smiled, letting the noise of her daughter fade into the background, her eyes focused on the picture in her hands. She looked so young in the photograph, young and happy beside the giant of a man who stood beside her. His dark blond hair cut short and naturally curled blended with hers, their faces close together, posing for the camera all those years ago. His blue eyes blazed up at her from the picture and her own eyes watered in the here and now.

It had been a whirlwind of a romance, one that hadn't lasted very long, given she and Hank had been taking a break. She should have known then that her marriage to him wasn't going to last, all the fighting they'd done before they'd even said their 'I do’s'.

Finding out that Buffy wasn't his had been the last straw for Hank, it didn't matter that he hadn't been loyal during the 'break' they'd taken before getting married. He still loved Buffy, or so he said, Joyce wasn't so sure since he hadn't returned her calls after Buffy ran away. Joyce didn't really expect to hear from him again...though maybe she was wrong...maybe he'd still take Buffy to the ice show for her birthday.

The photo really was captivating. Her lover dwarfed her in the picture, a mountain of a man, despite her own height. Buffy certainly didn't take after either of them in that department. In fact she was short, much like his mother had been. Joyce smiled, her hand drifting over his strong jaw.

“Josiah.”

Buffy's voice from downstairs startled her and she nearly dropped the picture. “Mom! I found Rudolph!”

“Coming, sweetheart!”

Carefully she put the photograph back in its hiding place with a fond look. She hadn't seen Josiah since they'd parted ways and wondered for a moment what he was doing now. He'd been her knight in shining armor for the time they'd been together and for a moment Joyce considered finding him. Telling him he had a daughter.

“Mom?”

“Coming!” She closed the drawer and headed downstairs. Maybe someday she'd find him, tell him. She had plenty of time.

xxx

Xander's house was full to bursting and his mom was nowhere in sight, not in any way a part of the festivities. Not that he thought she'd be here; they hadn't connected over Christmas in years. But the sheer number of people present was a little daunting...and a much more fun experience than the time a bunch adults from the neighborhood were high on bad candy.

Voices carried into the kitchen from the living room, happy voices, laughter, something he didn't think had ever happened in this house. Xander couldn't help the grin he shot Yusuke. The two of them had taken charge of the cooking and would continue to do so throughout the holidays.

He peeked into the living room often though, heart warm every time he looked on the group of happy individuals he called his. Cordelia was cuddled in Spike's lap in one of the arm chairs. Keiko had Spike trapped deep in conversation even with keeping an eye on Kazumi while Amy and Rhonda kept the baby girl entertained.

A couple of times a mere glance into the room wasn't enough and he found himself drawn toward Spike and Cordy so that he could get a kiss or two, much to the amusement of the others.

After it happened a fourth time Yusuke kicked him out of the kitchen with a laugh and he piled into the chair with his lovers, leaving his brother to finish cooking on his own.

xxx

The shrill ring of the phone woke him and Xander blinked awake, sort of, and glared at the annoying machine on the bedside table. When it kept ringing he clambered over Spike, or started to, Spike's sudden grip on his hips kept him in place and straddling the vampire as he finally reached the phone.

“Yeah?”

“We may have some trouble.” Buffy's voice was unsure, cautious even.

He groaned, partly because they didn't need trouble especially over the holidays, and partly because he was naked...and Spike was naked. And Spike was running those magic fingers along his morning erection.

“Buff, it’s entirely too early for this.”

“Xander...Angel's been acting weird. You can ask Cordelia, we were out shopping the other night and he wasn't himself when we saw him.”

Xander glanced at Cordelia, whose eyes were starting to open. “Cor, hey, wakey wakey.”

“Hmm?”

“Buffy says something was up with Angel.”

“Mmmhmm.” Her eyes blinked, became just a touch more alert. “He seemed...skittish.”

He nodded and trailed his hand down her naked side and said into the phone. “Anything else?”

“He was freaking and went to Giles and Jenny for help.”

Xander couldn't stop his frown, even when Spike reached up to smooth it away. “If he went to them after everything...”

“Yeah...and here's the kicker...Angel and I were in each other's dreams last night or I guess I was in his.”

He wanted to freeze...because that sounded like major magic...but Spike had lined their cocks up side by side and was rolling his hips up into Xander. Evil vampire.

“Any idea why?”

“No...but in the dream, I had a glimpse of these guys in robes, chanting...they didn't have eyes.”

“No eyes?”

“Well there were carvings where their eyes were supposed to be.”

“Like runes?”

“I don't know...maybe.”

He held back a gasp as Spike's now slick hands grasped them both and worked them together. “What was the dream about?”

“Things from Angel's past...his...victims...and-”

He bit his lip to keep from crying out as one slick finger entered him before he asked her. “Buff?”

“And he dreamed of killing me.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay...” He couldn't help but move into Spike's touch, though he wasn't sure if it was the hand on his cock or the finger in his ass that he should pay the most attention to. Both were very, very nice. “Research mode then. Need to figure out who the guys with runes for eyes are.”

“Cool...so I'll talk to Giles. Meet you at the library later?”

“Sure.”

“Okay, bye.”

“Bye.” He hung up the phone and a second finger slipped inside, the hand on his and Spike's cocks squeezed. Then Spike sat up, mouth pressing on Xander's, tongue slipping inside, the change in angle pushed his fingers in deeper, just enough to press in the right spot.

Xander came with a shout that Spike stole away with his kiss and worked his body though the aftershocks until he shuddered with his own release. He sighed and let Spike lower him down until he was just lying on top of him, boneless.

“Damn.”

He opened his eyes and met Cordelia's smile. “I will never get tired of watching that.”

xxx

Xander had barely stepped into the library when Buffy dragged him back out. “What's the rush? Already got a lead?”

“Yeah. The guys in robes are called Harbingers...or just Bringers.”

“Okay...so what are they?” He let her drag him to the parking lot and Cordelia's car, which he'd borrowed, having left a sleepy and pliant Cordelia in Spike's arms.

“High Priests of The First.”

They settled into the car and buckled up. “The First what?”

“Evil.”

He stared at her. “Say what?”

“Something brought Angel back...Giles said The First would have the power to do that.”

“Okay...so...why is it making Angel all jumpy and making him dream of Buffycide?”

“I don't know but they've got to be in town.” She eyed him. “Feel like a trip to Willy's?”

“Information time, gotcha.”

xxx

They stepped into Willy's bar, and took a moment to observe the Christmas lights that had been strung up in an attempt to bring cheer to the room.

Willy looked up and smiled, if only a little edgy. “Slayer. Your Highness.”

A couple of vampires made a quiet exit out the back way, probably to a sewer access tunnel. Xander snorted and he and Buffy each sat on a stool. “Hey Willy. There something going on in town we should know about?”

Willy continued working, wiping down the counter. “There are demons leaving town.”

Buffy frowned. “I guess not many are leaving to visit family for the holidays.”

A small smile was aimed at them. “A lot of demons intermarry with humans around here; more celebrate Christmas than you might think. But no, that's not why they're leaving.”

“So? What's the word?”

Willy poured them each a glass of something. “Coke and Diet Coke.” They each took a sip and nodded in thanks and waited. “Word from the underground is that someone or a group of someone’s is working some major mojo down there. Makes the locals nervous.”

“The mojo makers aren't local then?”

“Nope.”

“Monks with carvings for eyes?” Buffy asked. “Bringers?”

“Sounds right.” Willy frowned and looked a little worried. “You two be careful with this.”

Xander grinned. “No worries Willy. Yusuke is in town for the holidays.” The remaining demons in the bar grew very still.

Willy just grinned back. “That so? You tell him to stop by for a drink.”

“Ah, but he brought his family with him. Not sure Keiko will let him.”

They stayed long enough to finish their drinks and put money on the bar. “No, no. That was on the house kids. It’s Christmas.”

“Thanks Willy. Take care.”

xxx

Yusuke chased him around the house. Xander couldn't even remember why they were acting like five year olds. A comment on Yusuke's hair maybe. Either way his brother had let out a mock growl and Xander had taken off. But Yusuke was faster and eventually caught him...and a noogie ensued.

“Ack! Ack! Help!”

Of which there was none because everyone was too busy laughing at their antics; when the phone rang, however, Cordy had no trouble standing from Spike's lap and answering it. “Hello?” Her smile vanished, and Xander paused, holding up a hand for Yusuke to stop. Her eyes met his. “It’s Buffy.”

He wiggled free, or rather Yusuke let him go, and Cordelia handed him the cordless. “Buff?”

“Angel came by...he's...he's losing it. I may need back up.”

“Library?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” He hung up. “So...” He eyed Yusuke. “You're always complaining I don't share my crises with you. Wanna help?”

“What's going on?”

“Don't know yet.”

Cordelia sidled up to him. “Need us to come?”

“I don't think bringing Spike will help keep Angel calm.”

“No kidding.” Spike sipped at his hot chocolate. “Poof can dust for all I care.”

“Yep, definitely not helpful.” He kissed her forehead. “Hold down the fort?”

“Sure.”

xxx

Yusuke stared at the books that were piled around them at the table. “This is what you do? You look at books when demon stuff happens?”

Xander snorted. “We can't just go out and kill something. We might end up attacking the wrong demons if we don't research.”

“I've got something!” They looked to Giles who was almost jittery with excitement. “‘For they are the Harbingers of Death. Nothing shall grow above or below them’...not as helpful as I'd thought actually. Sorry.”

Buffy stilled. “Nothing shall grow above?”

“Hmm...oh. Yes?” Giles looked at her. “Why?”

“The tree farm. A whole bunch of them were dead.”

Xander tried to make the information make some sort of sense. “What?”

She rolled her eyes and closed the book in front of her. “If you got a real tree, you would have seen them. Drive me.”'

“Real trees are fire hazards and are not to be allowed near Tony Harris because of incurring childhood trauma.” He stood. “Coming Yusuke?”

“Sure. Let’s make some noise. Sunnydale style.”

“Wow...” Buffy stared at him. “You realize it’s 1998, not 1990 right?”

xxx

It was after hours so the tree farm was completely empty. A quick hop over the fence and a short walk brought them to the circle of dead trees.

“We need to get underground. They're probably doing their magic directly beneath us.”

Yusuke knelt on a clear spot in the middle of the circle and punched the ground. It gave way, creating a hole big enough for them to jump through. “Let’s go.”

It was hard to see at first, there hardly being any light coming from their entrance but as they walked into the cavern however, candle light guided their way. At a low stone table, which was more of a flat topped boulder, sat the Bringers who were chanting over bones and other magical paraphernalia.

Yusuke lifted up his hand, pointed a finger and blasted them, some didn't get back up, and the two that did he blasted again. Buffy and Xander flipped the boulder, first scattering the ritual items before crushing them with the boulder.

A chuckle drew their attention. There standing before them, was Darla, or what appeared to be Darla.

It smiled at them. “Wow. I'm impressed.”

Buffy pulled a stake out. “We're not.”

“Please, your feeble mortal minds can't begin to conceive what I am.”

Yusuke raised a brow at the figure. “Not really caring. And I can just shoot you.”

It was smirking now. “You can't touch me. You can't do anything.” It moved a bit closer. “A slayer in love with a vampire. A king with no kingdom.” The Darla image focused on Xander, noticing his staring, “Something wrong little prince?”

He shuddered. “I see you.” And he could. And it was horrible.

It frowned and scoffed. “You can't-

He narrowed his eyes, letting them glow. “I can see you.”

It stared at him for a moment, almost as if in awe. “You can, can't you?” A smirk. “Doesn't matter. My work is done. Angel has gone to face the sun.” And then it disappeared in a flash of ugly.

There was a horrible silence in the cavern for a long moment. Then Yusuke asked, eyes a little wide, probably feeling out of his depth. “Now what?”

Xander and Buffy met eyes. “Nearest bluff?”

She nodded. “Nearest bluff.”

“What?”

xxx

They were right. Angel had found the nearest bluff, one facing east to be exact, obviously. What better place to greet the sunrise?

When Angel and Buffy started to exchange blows Yusuke moved to intercept and stop them. Xander held him back. “Let them.”

“I thought they loved each other.”

“It’s a complicated and dramatic relationship.” They watched until Buffy had him pinned and then Xander approached, Yusuke following, curious. He knelt by them, met Angel's eyes and cupped the vampire's cheek. “Stop whining.”

“Stupid child, you know nothing! Just let me-”

“You're you. Not Angelus, trust me on this Dead Boy. Angelus scares the bejesus outta me.”

“Xander.”

“I can see your soul.”

Angel shook them off and stood, ready to fight again. Before he could make a move however Yusuke punched him which sent him flying to the ground with minimal effort. Angel looked up in shock and Yusuke sneered. “Anyone can change. Even a demon. Raizen changed his ways...otherwise we wouldn't exist.”

And then...it started snowing. Xander felt the magic on the air, even as it chilled. “I don't think the sun is coming up today.” He raised a brow at Angel. “Looks like someone on a higher plane is rooting for you. Stop being a prick and get with the program.”

Yusuke caught a few snowflakes in his hand, watching as Buffy helped Angel to his feet and help the stunned vampire down from the bluff. “Now what?”

“Home. Cuddles. Hot chocolate.”

xxx

Xander left Yusuke to cuddle with Keiko on the couch, making his way upstairs to bed where Cordelia and Spike were waiting for him.

They watched him strip off his clothes before he climbed on the bed with them.

“Everything okay?”

He nodded. “Angel's not dust. Sun's playing hide and seek today...it’s snowing.”

“Yeah pet, we noticed that.”

Cordy looked at him. “What happened?”

He shuddered. “I looked into pure evil with my freaking sight.”

Spike cupped his cheek. “You alright?”

“Would you believe-” He shuddered again. “That Tony still scares me more than The First Evil?”

XXX

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Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Ten: Witch Hunt

Word count: 6088

A/N: I played around with Xander's birthday.

XXX

It had been years since he'd celebrated his birthday, and he hadn't expected to celebrate this year either. Xander just hadn't held much hope for his eighteenth birthday, it being January second, due to the fact it was also the first school day after Christmas break. Also Spike was leaving which was extremely shitty.

Only not quite as shitty as it could have been because certain family members decided to celebrate with him and to celebrate early. On the morning of New Year's Eve he woke to alternating cool and warm kisses. Spike and Cordy. And just as he was awake enough to respond he was yanked from bed and dressed...

And then Yusuke kidnapped him for the day.

It was one of the weirdest days in the history of ever. Yusuke had extremely weird ideas of fun. He dragged Xander to LA...and to the shadiest parts of LA where somehow someway Yusuke had contacts. Contacts! Shady contacts who hooked Xander up with a professional looking fake ID that said he was 21.

And then there were the bars.

Oh ye gods and goddesses. The bars. Keiko was going to kill them both...or maybe just Yusuke. Yusuke couldn't pull off an innocent puppy look if he tried. So she'd probably just kill Yusuke if Xander put on his best puppy eyes and made his lip tremble just right.

He barely managed to pull Yusuke away from the strip clubs without actually going in one. That had been entirely too close, and finally Xander gave in and picked a bar, just to keep his brother out of trouble.

Weirdest birthday celebration ever, babysitting his brother. Ugh.

Once they were passed the security at Caritas he practically shoved Yusuke into a chair at the nearest empty table. “Stay in your chair, applaud when needed, don't get on the stage and no more alcohol for you mister.”

Yusuke gave him a confused laugh and spoke, he'd been speaking Japanese ever since they'd left their first bar. “Watashitachi ga nonde inai baai wa sono nai pÄ�tÄ«.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “Anata ga nonde mo jÅ«bun ni atta. Keiko wa anata o korosu tame ni okotte iru. “

His older brother frowned at him. “Tan'itsu no nomimono o motte inakatta. Sono anata no tanjÅ�bi.”

“Boku wa nomimasen.”

“Wandorinku sÄ�.”

Xander glared at him. “Īe.”

A touch of sobriety entered Yusuke's brown eyes, eyes so much like his own, and his brother switched back to English. “Then why are we at this bar?”

“Because I know the owner and he won't serve me alcohol. He won't give you any either if I tell him not too.”

“You really don't want to drink?”

Xander took a page out of Keiko's book and smacked his older brother upside his head. “Moron. I spent my childhood dodging empty liquor bottles. Why the hell would I want to get drunk?”

“Ow! Shit! You hit like Keiko!”

“Good.”

Yusuke glared at him. “Alright. I get it. This was a shitty idea. Let me sober up and we'll find an arcade.”

Xander nodded. “And that sounds like so much more fun.”

“Everything okay over here?”

Xander nodded and gave Lorne a smile. “It is now Lorne. I don't suppose we could have some water? Coke? Coffee?”

“Well sweetheart I happen to have the perfect recipe for a quick sober upper. I take it your friend needs such a fix?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Big brother has been celebrating my eighteenth birthday a little too hard.”

Lorne nearly dropped his Sea Breeze. “Big brother?” He stared at Yusuke who gave a little wave. “Yusuke Urameshi?”

“Yep.”

“I see good looks run in the family.”

Xander grinned and leaned into Lorne a bit. “You should see our sister.”

Lorne gave him wide eyes. “You bring her by sometime. You kids are good for business.” He smiled. “Have a seat Pumpkin and I'll bring you a coke, and your brother my specialty guaranteed to sober him up in less than five minutes.”

“Thanks Lorne.”

“Oh no honey, thank you.” Lorne wandered toward the bar, murmuring under his breath about celebrities.

Yusuke gave him an apologetic look. “Sorry.”

“Nah, no worries. I'm just glad you stuck to beer and fruity drinks. I only freeze up at the smell of cheap whiskey.”

“What fruity drinks?”

“Yusuke, if you don't remember the fruity drinks, be glad I'm cutting you off.”

xxx

By the time they got back to Sunnydale Yusuke was stone cold sober, but the look in Keiko's eyes promised retribution. But Xander gave her his absolute best puppy eyes...and then abandoned Yusuke to his wife and ran for his room.

The door was closed, which okay was odd, but he opened it and then barreled in, closing and locking it behind him. A gasp from the bed drew his eyes and he stared.

Cordelia was laying on her side, facing the door. Spike was behind her, buried to the hilt inside of her. Xander watched them draw it out, and decided that this was a much better present than the day with Yusuke.

By the time Cordelia was a relaxed lump of satisfied goo, Xander was naked, hard and climbing onto the bed and piling on top of Spike. Pausing only long enough to give Cordy a deep hello I missed you kiss.

Then he eyed Spike, even as he reached for the lube. “You still leaving?”

“Won't be forever love and it won't be till later in the week.”

“You don't have too.”

“Have a few errands to run, a few items to collect. Its an honor to be chosen the way I have. Need to make sure I honor you the same way.”

Xander stretched Spike the way he'd been taught and slid inside. “And again, you don't have to. Having you here is enough. This is enough.” In response Spike's legs wrapped around his waist, pulling him closer, deeper into his body. It was a slow, cool slide and felt so tight and good that Xander felt infinitely more appreciative of the blissful looks Spike gave him when their positions were reversed. He settled, flush against Spike, no space left between them. “I don't need a trinket.”

The vampire's eyes were darkened in lust as Spike stared at him. “Etiquette, love. We're doing this, we do it right. Need to make a pick up and raid the Order of Aurelius coffers.”

Xander twitched his hips and made Spike groan. “Will raiding the Aurelius coffers piss Angel off? He is head of the line now.”

“Probably, if the wanker is paying any attention to them at all.”

“Cool.”

A delicate snort from beside them drew their attention. Cordelia, though sleepy, watched them in amusement. “Such a mature thing to say just a couple of days before your birthday.”

“I thought you fell asleep.”

“Just resting my eyes. I'll be ready to play some more in a bit.” Her eyes roamed over their bodies, taking in every inch, before she smiled. “We have all night.”

Their eyes met again and Spike looked from Xander above him to Cordy beside them. “What exactly are you two thinking...and when are you going to move?” He shifted a bit to gain some friction.

Xander pulled out halfway and pushed back in. “Cordy is having thoughts.”

Cordelia grinned. “I'll share my thoughts later. Don't leave Spike hanging on my account.”

So he didn't.

xxx

“Stay with her!”

Heidi rolled her eyes but nodded; not really daring to leave Joyce alone. It wasn't her place to judge whether or not Buffy's mom should tag along on patrol. If her own mother tried something like this, not that her mom knew about the night life, Heidi would probably knock her out, drag her home and convince her she dreamed the whole thing. Pops had been telling her about all the ways they'd managed to get B.A. in the air over the years. She had plenty of ideas for that sort of thing now.

“I can't believe it...poor Mr. Sanderson. He was such a nice man.”

“It happens.”

“That's a little callous Heidi.”

Heidi ducked her head a bit at the scolding tone in Joyce's voice. “Sorry.”

Joyce sighed and slipped her arm around Heidi, giving her a small hug. “No, I'm sorry. You see a lot of this, every night. I guess you need to distance yourself from it to keep from going crazy.”

She nodded. “It’s not as bad as it used to be.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Used to be we'd see vamps all over the place, now it’s like maybe we'll each get one a night. And the nights when we get a bunch of vamps, they're not local, like they wear leather and smell like city traffic.”

“I'm glad that you kids are making a difference.” Joyce paused, eyes wide, as she stared ahead of them at the play ground. “Oh God.”

Heidi slid in front of her in a protective stance, stake ready...and froze. There on the merry-go-round was a little boy...and on the ground beside it...was a little girl. Both were blond. Both were very dead. “Jesus.”

“Got him.” Buffy came up beside them; staring at them in confusion for a moment before following their gazes. She gasped when she saw the kids. “Oh no.”

“They're not breathing.” Heidi murmured.

“Can you smell anything?”

“Nothing. The vampire didn't come this way...there's no blood.”

“We...need to call someone.” Joyce's voice was quiet, strained and in shock.

“There's a payphone not far from here.” Buffy hugged her mom. “Heidi, do a quick sweep between here and there?”

“Yeah.”

 

When the police and crime scene people showed up they stayed out of the way and gave their statements when asked. Coming up with some silly excuse for why the three of them had been out at night in the park had been worrisome. But the cops didn't pick at their story, more focused on photographing the bodies and solving the grisly crime in front of them.

Buffy approached them, hands in her coat pockets. “They said we can go home now...Heidi?”

“I...I need to go home.”

“Yeah, we can-”

Heidi shook her head, not finished. “I need to go home and hug my bratty little brother...and possibly lock him in his room for like ever.”

Buffy glanced back to the bodies. “He is close to their age isn't he? Still in elementary school.”

“Yeah.”

Buffy's eyes landed on the little girl's hand and realized there was a symbol drawn on it. “Hey...see that?”

Heidi nodded, though her eyes were still a little wide. “Ritual? Maybe?”

“Yeah and who do we know in town who's big on rituals?”

“Who?” Joyce asked. “Who do you know that could do such a thing?”

Buffy moved closer to her mom making a shhing noise. “Not so loud.”

Heidi was still watching the police. “We might ask Jenny if there's a black coven in town? If this were a local group we would have seen something like this before.”

“Maybe.” Buffy started to pull her mom away from the flashing lights of the cruisers and cameras. “Some demons use symbols and rituals too.”

Heidi nodded as she followed, eyes finally leaving the scene. “Probably not Mayor related then.”

“Probably...but we can't rule him out. Not after the babies.”

“The babies?” Joyce asked. “Oh, right. I remember...what did the mayor have to do with that?”

“It was his idea...we don't know why yet though.”

“Oh my goodness.”

xxx

Ryan was already in bed when she got home; though not quite asleep. When she sat on his bed he opened his eyes and stared at her, waiting for her to speak. Heidi said nothing though, simply stared back at him like she was content to stay still and quiet, her eyes flickering to a glowing green now and again.

“Heidi?”

“Yeah?”

“You okay?”

She shook her head. “Not really.”

“Something happen on patrol?”

“We found two kids. The boy was probably your age, the girl younger.” She swallowed. “You might be missing a classmate in the morning.”

“Oh.” He frowned. “That hasn't happened in a while...was it vampires?”

“No.”

“You wanna sleep here tonight?”

Heidi stared at him a moment more; he'd more or less gotten used to this side of her. The side that ruffled his hair more often, hugged him, and always checked on him before bed. He didn't really understand what it meant, but she was protective and liked keeping him close.

Finally she nodded. “If you think you can handle the cuddles.”

He rolled his eyes and scooted over to make room. Heidi curled around him on top of the covers; only bothering to kick her shoes off.

xxx

Buffy paced back and forth while occasionally waving her hands in Giles' direction where he stood close to the stacks where he was looking down at her. Tor sat at a table while going through one of the books.

“This was not okay Giles. I've never seen little kids dead like that. They were just lying there!”

“I'm sure it was rather-”

“My mom is still in shock. And last night, I thought Heidi was going to cry, because of the close call Ryan had last year with the Kindey-thing.”

“Kindey-thing?”

“Der Kindestod.” Tor's voice corrected absently.

“Ah, that would bring up unpleasant memories.”

Tor closed the book he'd been sifting through. “It'll be worse if Ryan knows them.”

Buffy huffed and sat beside him. “I hadn't thought of that.”

Giles cautiously came down the stairs. “Was it a vampire? Demon?”

“There weren't any injuries or marks on the bodies...except for a symbol on their hands.” Tor handed her a notebook and pen before she could touch any of the fragile manuscripts so close to her hands. “It was a triangle with a squiggle through it. Does it mean anything?”

Giles accepted the drawing and looked it over, hmming a bit. “A ritual murder perhaps? A cult?”

“We thought about asking Jenny if she's heard about any new practitioners in town; but Giles, humans aren't the only ones that use magic and rituals.”

Tor nodded. “Any sentient species that has religion or beliefs uses rituals of some kind.”

Buffy nodded. “See.”

“Well, yes...but usually its humans.”

Tor snorted. “Then they have no idea what they're doing.”

Buffy frowned and Giles cleared his throat. “What?”

“There was nothing special about last night. No pagan holiday, nothing with the moon. And that park isn't exactly the ideal place for any sort of ceremony. The energies aren't right.”

“So...a bunch of wannabes?”

Tor shrugged. “Or a fake.”

Giles stared at Tor, surprised by his insight. “I hadn't thought of that. You're right, we should definitely ask Jenny, see if she can give us any more insight on this. Good work Tor.”

xxx

Buffy was picking at her food, still upset over the past night's events. Willow and Xander shared a look before the redhead tried to verbally help. “We can check out the bodies, see if there's any residual magic and what it was for.”

Buffy shrugged. “Giles said he was going to ask Jenny if she's heard anything, about rituals, the symbol used...or even new cults in town. Tor thinks they didn't know what they were doing...or it’s a fake.”

Amy swallowed a bite of food. “Maybe Ms. Calendar can go with us to the morgue?”

Xander shook his head. “Too large a group might be bad...hey Wills, you can access the crime scene photos right?”

“Yep-” She cut herself off, eyes wide and Xander turned just in time to see Mrs. Summers.

“Oh, are you going to investigate the murders?” She sounded hopeful. “Buffy said you would.”

Buffy stood, looking frazzled. “Mom? What are you doing here? Here at school?”

“I just couldn't stop thinking about last night...and I know you kids are into the symbols and the rebellion and the occult. But it’s really not a game.”

Buffy practically dragged her mom away just as Willow pouted. “I'm not a witch. I'm a Priestess...in training anyway.”

“I am though.” Amy murmured, now staring down at her food.

“And we're both Demon Kin.” He patted her shoulder and shot Willow a look. “The sooner you look at those photos the better Wills.”

xxx

When Xander and Cordelia got home there was an unfamiliar car in the driveway, parked where Spike's used to be. They still weren't used to him being gone. In front of the strange car...was his mom's.

Cordelia turned her car off and looked at him. “What's going on?”

“No idea.”

Cautiously they exited her red sports car and made their way to the porch. The front door was unlocked, and there were no signs of forced entry. He opened the door and stepped across the threshold, the wards were still in place, their energy a calming thrum of quiet power. Xander stepped fully inside and didn't close the door until Cordelia was clear, still behind him, but he could see her slipping a dagger out of her purse.

“Mom?”

“In here Xander.” Her voice came from the kitchen, he sniffed the air. His mom's scent was clean, no anger or fear mingled with it. He gave Cordy thumbs up and she put the dagger away. They entered the kitchen.

“Hey.” His mom sat on one side of the table, a man beside her. Simon something or other, the guy she'd been seeing for a while.

“You remember Simon, my boyfriend.”

“Nice to see you again.”

“Hello Alexander, Ms. Chase.”

Jessica motioned to the chairs across from them. “Have a seat sweetheart, you too Cordelia.”

They shared a look before sitting at the table. “What's up Mom?”

Jessica took a breath. “I'm moving in with Simon. He's opening up his own practice in Oxnard.”

“But-”

“I'm giving you the house.” He stared at her, trying to make sense of her statement, she continued on. “Tony has no claim on the house or the car; they're both in my name.”

“Uh...thanks...but I wouldn't be able to keep up the bills with a part time job...which I would have to get like ASAP.”

“You're eighteen now.” Jessica smiled at him. “Your Grandpa Harris left you everything.”

Xander felt his jaw drop. “...but...he was loaded.”

“He was.”

He stared hard at her. “Is that why Tony hated me? Because Grandpa didn't leave him anything?”

Her smile dimmed. “That was part of it.”

“Suddenly all the abuse makes a twisted sort of sense.”

Simon grimaced and then cleared his throat as the topic obviously made him uncomfortable. He pushed a stack of papers toward Xander. “If you'll sign these the house and the car are yours.” He pulled a folder out of his briefcase. “And this is the information on your trust fund. The lawyer who handled the estate is one of the best. I believe there's also property in LA attached.”

“Uh-”

Jessica reached across and patted his hand. “Just sign sweetie.”

Xander looked over the paperwork carefully, signed and initialed where he was supposed to. Then Simon had Cordelia sign a few things as a witness. After a few minutes more Jessica hugged them both...and was gone.

Xander just sat there, even after the front door closed and the sound of Simon the Lawyer's big expensive car faded in the distance.

Cordelia put her hand on his. “Xander?”

“I'm legally on my own...”

“And? You've kind of been on your own for a long time...adult wise.”

He gave her big eyes. “I have to pay bills...Yuck!”

She flicked his ear. “Dork.”

xxx

Ryan was in the living room reading something for school when Heidi got home. She settled beside him and ruffled his hair. “How bad was it?”

He turned a page without looking up. “Not bad...no one was missing.”

“What? Maybe they were younger than you?”

Ryan looked up then. “No, I saw their pictures on the news this morning. I asked around and Rita Overstreet has a little sister who's seven she wasn't missing any friends either. No one is missing. We all asked around.”

“Huh. Maybe they were home schooled.”

xxx

Buffy and Willow let themselves into the house using Willow’s own key. Cordelia looked up from the table she was clearing away, they'd just finished dinner. “What's up?”

Willow moved to help Cordy clean up, taking a spot at the sink to scrub a pan that was already submerged in sudsy water. Buffy collapsed in a chair. “Such badness. Mom's all gung ho about finding out who’s responsible for those little kids.”

Willow seemed to shiver, despite the warmth of the dish water. “There was a vigil at City Hall and everything. It was really creepy.”

Xander caught the last bit as he came down the stairs, wearing sleep pants and a towel around his shoulders, still patting at his damp hair. “What was really creepy?”

Willow rinsed off the pan. “The Mayor. He was acting all concerned and sad about two dead kids like he didn't try to sacrifice babies not too long ago.”

“Ah. You know he's probably not in on this. Did you check the crime scene photos?”

She nodded as she placed the pan in the drain rack. “It definitely looks like a ritual sacrifice...except for the lack of blood.”

“Huh. Broken necks?”

“Cause of death undetermined.” Willow frowned at her own words, as if that bothered her. “I'll check it again tomorrow afternoon. They'll probably put a rush on the autopsies.”

Cordelia snorted as she put the last of the dishes in the sink. “I am so glad we're done eating.”

Buffy perked up a bit. “There wouldn't happen to be leftovers? Would there?”

“No.” Xander smiled as the slayer pouted. “But we have ice cream.”

“Goody! Gimme!”

xxx

The first thing Xander and Cordelia noticed as they entered the school was the tenseness of pretty much everyone. He sniffed the air.

“What's up?”

“Everyone's on edge, obviously.” He gestured to the wary looks some of their fellow students gave them. “There's fear in the air.” A shiver flowed over his skin, making it itch. “And magic too.”

“Yeah, I feel it.” She stayed close to him until they ducked into the library.

Once they crossed the wards in the library the tenseness faded and they could no longer feel the magic that had been pressing on them. “So...” He started as they approached the group at their usual table. “When we crossed the wards my skin stopped itching.”

Willow made a face. “You noticed that too?”

Tor nodded. “It didn't really get bad until I got here...Botan said something was working some major mojo over the whole town though. Not sure what it is yet.”

Buffy hopped up on the table. “If it’s a mass thing it makes sense that Mom was all 'Down with magic and monsters!' last night at the vigil. But at home she was normal.”

“And as long as your wards stay up, she should be fine at home.” He nodded. “We should probably make some protection amulets or charms for everyone to carry...like your mom.”

Heidi cleared her throat. “And Ryan...also Ryan said no kids were missing from the elementary school yesterday...so unless they were home-schooled something is up with them.”

“Definitely, everyone stay alert...do damage control when you can. We don't want a witch hunt.”

xxx

He'd totally jinxed them when he'd said the words 'witch hunt' that morning. Now he was going nuts. Already he and Cordy had had to shadow Amy in the halls. Kyle, Larry, Andrew, and Russ had to save some kid named Michael who was a friend of Amy's. And at one point someone had thought it would be fun to give Jono grief...that idea was quelled because Rinku came out of freaking nowhere and sent that particular jock flying down the hallway. Willow had even had to defend herself; someone grabbed her and she flipped them over on their back with a thud.

Magic was all over the place, pressing in on them, making them twitch. They seriously needed to make some charms soon.

Buffy snagged his arm in the hall to talk to him, just as the locker searches started. It was all happening way too fast.

“Shit.”

“What?”

“I think we have some mob mentality going on.”

“What do we do?” She asked. “You're right, this is getting beyond crazy.”

“Get everyone out now...Willow and I will seal up the library.”

“We're running?”

“Hell yes. It could be us against the entire town Buff.”

She bit her lip, worried. “What about the fringe kids?”

“Grab them and run.”

“To where Xander?”

“My house. Not even my mom can enter now if I don't want her too. It’s in my name.”

“Oh...well...Right. Okay. Be careful.”

“You too.” They parted ways and Xander let out a series of yips.

Buffy grabbed the nearest pack member, Rhonda, and he heard her say; “Grab the magic users and scatter, meet up at Xander's.”

Rhonda nodded. “Got it.”

xxx

Willow, Oz, Xander and Cordy were sealing up the library as Giles and Jenny had already left. No one would be able to enter the library from any entrance without using their own magic. The pack had followed orders and whisked away everyone who felt or smelled like magic. Their group was the last.

They finished the barrier just as a mob of adults came around the corner and started toward them in a rush. Cordy cried out a bit as one man grabbed at her and suddenly every locker in the hall was open, the doors waving, closing and opening again. Then a whirlwind of air pulled all the books and belongings from the lockers and the mob was attacked by the tornado of school paraphernalia.

Cordelia slumped a bit and Xander caught her and carried her to the nearest exit, Willow and Oz hurrying behind him, staring at Cordy in awe. When they got to the parking lot he settled her in the backseat of her car and waved his friends off. They piled into Oz's van and peeled out of the parking lot. Xander followed while occasionally glancing at his nearly unconscious girlfriend. That had been quite the display of magic, those little every day uses were making it stronger.

xxx

The group gathered in his home was larger than ever with his living room full of kids he didn't even know. Rhonda and the others had really grabbed anyone that smelled like personal magic. And certain members of the pack had not met at Casa de Xander. Tor, Willow and Oz were at Tor's house. Which made sense because Tor had the internet while Xander did not...he also had a library that rivaled Giles' collection thanks to Botan. So he could forgive their disobedience because they'd been smart about it.

Tor had called him via communicator while Willow got her laptop hooked up to his phone line. “I skipped my morning class to go to the morgue.”

“And?”

“I snuck in to check out the bodies...and guess what? No bodies.”

Xander stared at Tor's image. “What?”

“I mean there were no bodies. And the scent I caught from the empty body bags...wasn't human.”

Willow's voice came from somewhere behind Tor. “Records are still incomplete. No autopsies, no identities. No one has come forward to claim the bodies either.”

Giles leaned over Xander's shoulder to frown at the communicator. “That doesn't make sense.”

Heidi poured herself a cup of coffee at the counter. “Ryan didn't know them, none of his friends or their friends did either. There are no missing kids.”

Xander frowned. “No kids missing...but two dead kids. And now we have missing dead kids and a witch hunt.”

“Good lord.”

“Yeah. Someone get Faith on the phone and tell her to stay in tonight!”

“I got it!” Jonathan was already heading toward the cordless on the kitchen wall.

“Hey!” Willow's voice came from the communicator again. “I checked for similar circumstances online and found something!”

Buffy crowded into Xander's side. “What?”

“There was another case, out of state, two dead kids and claims of witches involved back in 1949...oh...”

They all shared a look and said; “Oh?”

Willow's face appeared by Tor's. “I found it again...in an old article from 1899.”

Jenny shuddered. “Every fifty years.”

Willow nodded. “Yeah...and it’s the same kids. In the pictures.”

Giles hummed a bit, deep in thought. “How far back to these reports go Willow?”

“Um...” She moved away, out of sight, but they could still hear her. “1649...hey, they have names! Gretta and Hans...Black Forest...that's in Germany right?”

Giles slumped into one of the kitchen chairs. “Hansel and Gretel.”

Buffy shot her Watcher a look. “Really? The Hansel and Gretel?”

Kyle's eyes were wide even as he was perched and wrapped up in Larry's arms. “Fairy tales are real? Lovely.”

Xander looked over at Giles as well. “But...why?”

Giles removed his glasses and started cleaning them. “Some demons depend on discord to survive, emotions are quite the meal and they quite enjoy a good persecution. Watching humans destroy one another is good source of fun...or food.”

Xander gaped. “So…we're their reality TV with a side of snacks?”

Giles took a moment to translate that to adult speak before nodding. “Yes actually.”

Buffy rubbed at her forehead, possibly trying to ward off a headache. “This just gets better and better.”

xxx

It took some doing.

They sent Tor out under a glamour, looking like Amy, to distract as many people as would follow a supposed witch. Follow or chase, whichever. So Tor led a mob of people on a not-so-merry chase through Sunnydale. Meanwhile the rest of them gathered in Xander's backyard to set up a circle and summon the demon pretending to be two dead kids.

Amy and Andrew set up the circle under Jenny's direction and Xander could tell that Jenny was already thinking of adding Andrew to the lessons she was giving Amy and sometimes to Tor. He was okay with that. The more competent magic users they had on their side the better.

The circle was of salt and as an added precaution Willow put down a circle of sutras to keep it contained. Amy spoke the words...and the two children appeared, the boy slightly taller than the girl. Both with faces deathly pale, eyes sunken in and dark like corpses.

Giles stepped forward then spoke the incantation, in German, to force them to reveal their true form and at the end of his speech he threw down some foul smelling concoction that stained the grass and rose as a mist.

The image of the children blurred a bit and then they melted together to become...one...very...large...demon.

Buffy stared up at it in awe. “Whoa.”

“Can we kill it now?” Heidi asked. “It made me feel all weepy and girlie when I didn't have to be.”

Willow huffed. “After all that effort to contain it you want to let it out?”

“I want to rip it to pieces.” Heidi countered.

Xander rolled his eyes. “Willow, just purify it into nothing...or at least enough to kill it.”

Willow nodded and knelt by the circle, placing her hands on the salt and letting her miko energy fill the interior. The demon’s screams echoed and nearly burst a few ear drums; and while it didn't disintegrate, it did fall apart into several large charred pieces.

Rhonda looked at Cordelia and they grinned at one another before looking at Xander. “Bonfire?”

Kyle bounced a bit. “And can we order celebratory pizza?”

Xander laughed. “Break the circle Wills. Jono, call Faith, give her the all clear and tell her to come over. I'll call Yano's Pizza. And someone call Tor on the com!” He yelled, making his way through the crowd back to the house.

xxx

“Did you need something Botan?” Koenma looked up from his paperwork to stare at her...her cheeks were...rosy. Her eyes brighter than usual. Her smile so cheery it was manic. “Are you dying?”

She glared at him. “No! I'm not dying! I'm immortal! Why the heck would I be dying?”

He blinked at her outburst. “Why else would you be looking at me with a face like that?”

Her fingers twitched and he got ready to duck in case her oar appeared, aiming for his head. “I'm going to need time off at some point.”

“Why?”

She rolled her eyes. “I'm pregnant.”

Koenma snorted, laughed even. “Good one Botan. If you wanted some vacation time-” The oar hit him and sent him tumbling to the ground.

“You're the prince of the dead so I know you can see souls you jerk. Take a good long look Koenma.”

He rubbed his head and climbed to his feet, grumbling under his breath about insane women but did as she said...and nearly fell back down. There was a new light shining in her womb. She was definitely pregnant.

“Oh...oops. Sorry Botan, I just never thought...I mean...” He swallowed nervously as her glare darkened. “I mean congratulations. Who's the lucky guy?” He tittered...hoping she wouldn't hit him again. He might be a demigod...but immortal fairies could do some damage when they wanted to.

“Ethan Rayne.”

“Are you insane?”

“There was bad candy involved...I believe you read my report on that.”

“Yes...but you left out the part where you had sex with Ethan Rayne!”

“And Giles and Mrs. Summers...and Jenny Calendar.”

“Stop...I don't want to hear anymore.”

Botan just grinned. “So, about that maternity leave...”

“Just send in the paperwork.”

xxx

They could just see the stars here in town, so they sat on a blanket in the backyard drinking hot chocolate. Just the two of them, though it was on the far side of the yard, away from where the pack and company had had their impromptu demon bonfire the night before. Cordelia leaned into him and sighed.

“You miss him too?” Cordelia asked.

“Yeah.”

“You really think he'll come back?”

Xander slid an arm around her waist and pulled her close. “We gave him a taste Cordy, now all we can do is wait and see if we can be enough for him.”

“What if we're not?” Her question was soft, fearful.

Xander kissed her temple. “Think about it sweetheart. He spent just over a century not being enough for anyone. We accepted him as is, no improvements required, he was exactly what we wanted. Drusilla always wanted Angelus. Darla didn't want him at all. Angelus got distracted by whatever shiny thing caught his attention and then took his time destroying the shiny. You and me...we just wanted Spike.”

She rested her head on his shoulder. “We overwhelmed him.”

“Yep.”

“I still think we should have chained him to the bed.”

“We did do that.” He grinned at her and felt her laugh.

“Not long enough.”

XXX

Translation may be crap, but you get the gist.

Yusuke: It's not a party if we're not drinking.

Xander: You've had enough to drink. Keiko is going to kill you.

Yusuke: You haven't had a single drink. Its your birthday.

Xander: I don't drink.

Yusuke: Come on one drink.

Xander: No.

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Chapter Text

XXX

Xander looked over the gathered pack members. Only Heidi was absent as she was with Buffy to keep her distracted that morning as they had plans, big plans. This was going to be the first of the big ones, the important birthdays. Buffy deserved a decent party.

“So,” He started, “Buffy's birthday.” Looks were exchanged and grins shared.

“We can rent the Bronze.” Larry suggested.

Jenny kind of winced at that idea. “That didn't go so well last year. There was an arm in a box if you recall.”

“Okay, no Bronze.” Kyle grinned. “We can party at Xander's.”

“Heck no.” He shook his head, emphatically. “My home is still recovering from the post-slay party of Hansel and Gretel.”

Giles voice drifted out of the office, just a touch annoyed. “If you lot will stay and help with the clean up you can use the library.”

Willow's face was open, honest, not that the Watcher could see her. “You know we will Giles.”

He poked his head out of his office and gave her a serious look. “Like you helped Xander clean up?”

“Um...” She shrugged with a sheepish smile. “Some of us did...and I started too...I just kinda fell asleep.”

“Table cloths will be mandatory.” Giles smiled a bit to soften his words before eying Xander. “And how does it feel to be a responsible adult?”

Xander made a non-committal noise. “The trust fund makes it easier. Grandpa Harris had a lot of money, like oodles of it. Stocks and investments too, it’s all kind of overwhelming. I'm just glad that the utilities and cable are taken care of through the trust fund and the bank. Still have to keep an eye on it though.”

“Have you considered a job?”

“Possibly a part time deal when I start classes at UC Sunnydale.” Xander shrugged. “I'll need something to do when we're not saving the world.”

“Right,” The look Giles gave him was...uneasy and Xander could tell something was off with the Watcher. He just wasn't sure what.

Until that night.

xxx

He and Buffy were supposed to patrol together. It had been a while since they'd done so as Xander normally patrolled with Cordelia. But Willow had rearranged their schedules a bit and Cordy was patrolling with Tor tonight. So he'd arranged to meet Buffy at the library, Giles was putting her through some sort of special Slayer Training with crystals or something. Marshal trailed behind Xander as they slipped into the library through the stacks.

Xander wondered if she'd be there because he vaguely remembered Buffy mentioning training with Angel before meeting with Giles for yet more training. However he couldn't remember Giles mentioning anything about the training when they were discussing Buffy's birthday.

When he emerged from the stacks to see Giles, a syringe in his hands, he paused for the briefest of moments. Then he was flying down the steps and grabbing the older man's wrist stopping him from injecting whatever it was into Buffy's arm. Buffy didn't move and it appeared she was in a trance. Marshal stood on his hind legs, front paws perched on her knee as he looked at her.

This is freaky.

Xander nodded at his spirit beast before turning an enraged glare at the Watcher. “What the hell Giles?” His voice came out in a hiss

The shame on Giles' face and in his scent floored him. “You don't understand I-”

Xander gave him a hard shake. “You better tell me now or I will start breaking bones and I really don't want to do that Giles...but I have no patience for shitty Dads. You know this and I will break you for either of my girls.”

Giles seem to almost sag in relief, as if he were glad to be caught. “Let me wake her up and send her out.”

Xander's stomach twisted unpleasantly. “Jesus. Have you done this before?”

He shook his head, eyes wide. “No, no. This is the first time.”

It would definitely be the last if Xander had anything to say about it. “Fine. Marshal, you're going out with Buffy tonight.”

Okay.

Giles put the syringe away, out of sight and Xander, along with Marshal, made their entrance louder this time. When Xander gave a well timed stumble through the stacks Buffy jerked out of her trance. She looked around at them, blinked and rubbed at her eyes. “Sorry guys, guess I zoned.”

He grinned. “No worries Buff. Hey, you mind just patrolling with Marshal tonight?”

She eyed him with a little smile. “You guys aren't being very subtle with the secret meetings.”

He and Giles shared a look that would have been comical under better circumstances. “We're not?” Xander hated how his voice broke on the words.

“Not at all. It’s kind of obvious really, especially from the viewpoint of a girl with a rapidly approaching birthday.” She gave them both a big grin and scratched behind Marshal's ears when he hopped in her lap.

Xander tried not to look too relieved and instead gave her his best innocent look. “Why whatever do you mean?”

She laughed and grabbed her things. “Come on Marshal, I'll be ready after a brief visit to my locker.” Marshal hopped back down and followed her out of the library. She waved at them as she left. “Have fun planning my secret party!”

When Buffy and Marshal were clear Xander glared at the Watcher and pointed to the chair Buffy had vacated. “Talk. Now.”

Giles collapsed onto the chair and ran a weary hand through his hair. “When the Slayer turns eighteen...if she turns eighteen she is put through a test called the Tento di Cruciamentum. She is given a series of injections that consist of a mixture of muscle relaxants and adrenaline suppressants. Then she is locked into a cleared area with a rather ferocious vampire. If she survives, on wit and resourcefulness alone, she passes.”

Xander did his best to keep his dinner from making a sudden reappearance and stared at the man he thought he'd known for a long moment, glare intensifying by the second. “So, Watchers kill their slayers for fun when they get bored.”

If anything Giles looked horrified by that accusation. “No!”

Xander motioned to the now hidden supplies. “That shot would weaken her. That shot could have gotten her killed.” He growled. “Don't do it again.”

“I didn't have a choice Xander.” Giles sighed and leaned back wearily in his chair. He looked years older. “The Head of the Council is here to test her.”

Xander moved toward him and tipped Giles' face to meet his gaze. Giles' eyes were full of self hatred, regret, and it made Xander feel a little better. He smirked at the man. “How about we test them instead?”

And just like that, the weariness was pushed aside, and Ripper was there in his eyes, eager for payback against those who had put him in this position. “What do you have in mind?”

xxx

Xander left Giles in the library while he used the office to call Spike, glad he'd been able to switch the cell payment method from Chase's account to his own as Cordelia's relationship with her parents was getting rockier by the day. He had no idea where Spike was, or what time it was, wherever he was...but he was glad that Spike answered after only a couple of rings.

“'Lo?”

Xander tried to keep his voice from sounding too accusatory. “So...you ever hear of something called the Cruciamentum?”

“Yeah?”

Xander frowned and let a little more of his irritation color his voice. “You couldn't have maybe warned us about it?”

There was a pause, followed by a sigh. “As tight as your group is, I thought the Watcher had told you about it.”

“Not so much, and assumptions are made of badness.”

“Hell pet, I'm sorry.”

“No, it’s not your fault. Giles should have told us...just needed to rant or something.”

“So...what are you going to do? I imagine there are more Watchers in town now.”

“Oh yeah, the head honcho himself is here.”

“Travers? So what are your plans?”

“I'm totally gonna mess with them.”

“Tease. Tell Spike all about your devious plans.”

So he did, and Spike laughed.

xxx

Marshal was waiting for him on the porch when he got home, Diana on his head. I don't know what happened, but Buffy showed up crying.

“Aw crap. Thanks Marshal.” Marshal nodded and Xander opened the door so they could go in.

His nose twitched as he crossed over his threshold, Buffy's scent was indeed fresh. He peered into the kitchen, the living room. No sign of Buffy or Cordelia. He followed the scent of Buffy...and tears up the stairs.

They were in his room on the bed, curled together, Buffy's head on Cordy's shoulder.

He hadn't seen her so broken in a while; something bad had to have happened. “Oh God.” He murmured. “What happened? Does someone need killing? Do I need to maim someone?”

Buffy wiped at her eyes and shook her head, her makeup ruined. “My dad canceled on me. He won't be taking me to the ice show.”

His heart ached for her and the broken promise. “I'm sorry Buff.” He kicked off his shoes and joined them on the bed. “I know it’s this big tradition for you.”

She resettled between him and Cordy. “No, it’s okay. Now I can just focus on the surprise party you guys are going to throw for me.”

He smiled, though it didn't quite reach his eyes. Cordelia and Buffy both stared at him, their eyes narrowing. Cordy raised a brow and he knew there was no escape...if he ran they'd chase him. “What's up?”

He grimaced. “You won't like it...”

Buffy gently gripped his arm. “Xander?”

He sighed and tucked a strand of blond hair behind a delicate ear. “Just remember that I already scolded Giles and threatened to break several of his bones. Just for you.”

Her gaze sharpened. “Tell me.”

So he did.

xxx

They pulled up to the old boarding house where the Watchers were holed up with the crazy vampire they'd intended to set on Buffy. It was three stories tall, abandoned, and falling apart. He wondered exactly how the Watchers expected to entrap two super strong beings in a building that looked like a strong wind could take it out. Sheesh. Adults were stupid.

Oz turned off his van and looked back at Xander, a seriousness in his eyes that wasn't usually there. “Ready when you are.”

Xander nodded and both he and Willow slipped out of the van, leaving Tor to stand guard, and Oz in driver's seat of the van for a quick getaway. Getting into the old, abandoned building was easy, it wasn't locked and there were no wards at all. Again, stupid. The two shared a disgusted look and moved on.

The first Watcher was standing guard in the room where there was a box, a coffin really, which they assumed contained the crazy vampire, who according to Giles had been a serial killer when human. Ugh. Where did the stodgy old men find these kinds of monsters? Who goes looking for vampires who used to be serial killers? What kind of monsters did that make the Watchers? Xander wasn't sure he wanted an answer to that.

The Watcher never saw them, so focused was he on the coffin, that Willow had him tranqed before he even knew he was no longer alone with the vamp. It was worse than they'd thought. Travers had brought idiots as back up.

The second Watcher, the only other Watcher, was easier to take care of because he was asleep on a cot in an adjoining room. Two lackeys? That was it? Travers was overconfident. Xander shook his head and gave a couple of high pitched yips and Tor appeared, carting off one unconscious man, then another.

As Xander and Willow approached the coffin in the main room there was a rustling from within, and a melodious and eerie voice taunted them. “I can hear you.” Then the voice took on a gruffer cast. “Change of plans?” A chuckle. “I smell a girl. You brought her early.”

Xander brought out his picks and took care of the locks on the coffin, opening them one by one. He then opened it and they stared at the vampire, secured in place by a metal strap on his forehead...and a straightjacket. The vampire grinned, game face on. Xander had a feeling this vampire rarely went without his fangs in place there was so little humanity in his eyes.

The vampire grinned at them, all teeth and hungry predator. “Hello there and who might you be?” He eyed them, sniffed the air. “This girl is definitely not the Slayer.”

Willow wrinkled her nose cutely, the vampire seemed fascinated by her. “Xander?”

He glanced at Willow, putting away his picks. “If you'd do the honors?”

Willow stepped forward, hands out to touch the vamp. The vampire licked his lips and smiled at her appreciatively. “I haven't had a-” And then Willow touched him, her hands glowing, the light shifting from a light pink to a lilac. The vampire screamed as the light stretched over him...then he disintegrated.

“All done,” She said cheerily. “Can we leave now? It’s really creepy in here and I need to wash the vampire ick off my hands. Also the bricked up windows are kinda depressing and terror inducing.”

He too eyed the bricked up windows in distaste before he nodded, so that's how they had been planning to keep Buffy and the vamp trapped together. Sickos. “Let’s go.”

xxx

The darts Willow had used on the younger Watchers were filled with a mild sedative so they were already starting to come too when Xander and Tor unceremoniously dumped them on the ground beside a fresh grave.

In the distance they could hear a man cursing and threatening Giles with deportation approaching and a moment later Giles, Jenny, and an older man came into view. Jenny held a crossbow on the stranger, a round balding man who had to be Quentin Travers.

“This is foolish Rupert.”

Giles eyes were hard and fierce, almost nothing but Ripper in his gaze. Xander wanted to trill in approval but kept silent. “And I told you, you have no hold over me Quentin. I quit. I have a different superior now.” Then Giles hit him, knocking the older man to the ground, leaving him stunned. “I suggest we move. The barrier will be up soon.”

Xander nodded. The cemetery they were in was surrounded by a stone wall, perfect for the barrier that Willow and Tor were going to put up in a moment. Let’s see how the young Watchers and the Council Head liked being tested and locked in with the monsters. Hehehe.

They exited the graveyard quickly, and the barrier went up as soon as Xander, Willow, and Tor were standing on the wall itself so they had a better view of the Watchers. The younger ones were awake now and helping Travers to his feet...just as fledges started crawling out of their graves. The looks on their faces as they realized what was going on were priceless.

It was even better when the two took off, leaving the older man to fend for himself. He seemed stunned that they had left him behind and moved in a different direction trying to avoid the reaching questing dead hands. However the young vampires decided the younger prey would be tastier and gave chase. Travers stumbled a bit, a look of relief on his face, until he ended up face to face with an older vampire...one that grabbed him...and bit him. The shocked expression on the man's face was a soothing balm to Xander's rage. Only then did he give Willow the signal.

Willow pulled back her arrow and let it fly, the glowing projectile met its mark and the vampire dusted, leaving Travers to stumble to his knees, hand to his neck to staunch the bleeding.

The younger Watchers were running back now, being chased by fledges who had circled around them, toying with them. Buffy and the rest of the pack brought them down with ease, their dust scattered. Kyle, Heidi and Rhonda dragged the terrified men to Travers and pushed them to the ground. They stood around them in a half circle, at attention and waiting for orders, eyes aglow. Well Buffy's eyes were more filled with glee, but he was pretty sure she'd make her eyes glow if she could.

Willow and Tor took down the barrier and they joined the others. Travers was glaring at all of them, berating them, scolding them. Tor snorted and shot a bit of lightning toward the man, making him jump and stare at Tor in shock. The other Watchers whimpered and cowered beside him.

Buffy spared Xander a glance and he gave a minute nod to her, letting her run the show. So she stood over them all, arms folded, glowering at them. “So, you were going to lock me up with a monster, without any slayer powers, and let it eat me.” She glanced at Tor. “Tor, what would your parents say about that?”

“They wouldn't like it.” He smiled “Want me to call them?”

Travers frowned a bit, mostly in confusion. “Telling civilians about this would get you nowhere.”

Buffy and Tor shared a smirk and she turned that smirk to Travers. “Tor here is the son of Nimue and Merlin.” When his eyes widened a bit she continued, motioning to Willow. “And my friend, Willow, is a miko.” Her smirk turned to a deadly glare. “We're doing a good job here. We don't need old men who don't know how to fight trying to kill me for fun...” She knelt so she was eye level with him. “Next time, I let the vamps eat you.”

“I can have Rupert deported.” He threatened with a simpering smile.

Xander snorted. “Not gonna happen, he's married now, has citizenship and everything.”

Buffy stood and looked at him, pointedly ignoring Travers. “You dusted the crazy vamp?”

“Willow purified him. There was screaming. Heidi was disappointed when she found out. She wanted to tranq him, have a funeral pyre and roast marshmallows. But we did that for Hansel and Gretel.”

Travers stared at him. “You're the Aura Reader.”

Xander nodded; his eyes aglow as he gazed back. “Yeah...and your aura...is icky. I suggest a good cleansing...maybe an exorcism...or a lobotomy.” He sneered. “This war is hard enough without the murder attempts disguised as friendly fire.”

xxx

“If I take you to the ice show will you forgive me?” Giles asked. They were in the library once more, gathered as they usually were. Only now there were no more secrets.

Buffy pondered that a bit as she spoke. “There will be cotton candy, popcorn, cookies, pictures and souvenirs.”

“And then?”

“If Xander says it’s okay you will be forgiven.”

Giles nodded in acceptance of her terms before looking at him. “Xander?”

Xander made a face and swallowed the cookie he'd been eating. “Swear you'll never do it again. Not to Buffy, not to Faith, not to any of us. Give me your word.”

Giles nodded and sat down in a chair. He whispered. “You have it. My Prince.” He barred his throat to Xander, for the first time ever, “My Alpha.”

Xander didn't let his surprise show as he stepped forward and placed his teeth on Giles' throat, biting down just a bit. He backed off, satisfied. “Word accepted. You're forgiven.”

They all turned at the sound of the doors opening, Travers stared at them with a sort of revulsion. “How quaint.” He didn't move any closer, probably because five sets of glowing green eyes were a bit unnerving. Especially with the growling. Xander held up a hand to quiet them.

“Shouldn't you be leaving?”

Travers cleared his throat. “You failed the test, both of you.” He focused on Buffy. “You will be sent a new Watcher, be glad that we're not insisting you be brought back to England for retraining.”

Xander moved a bit closer, Travers took a step back. “If you tried to take her the Council would never find you alive or dead. And if the new guy gets us hurt or any of us killed we'll send him back in a pretty pine box.”

Amy grinned from her seat at the table. “I can turn him into a rat.”

Xander smiled. “That would save on shipping.”

Travers said not a word more as he backed out of the library.

xxx

“Have you ever heard of anything like that?” Tor asked Botan as he handed her a cup of tea, non-caffeinated.

She nodded with a yawn. “I had heard rumors that the Council had such a test...but that was centuries ago. I hadn't realized it was still in practice.” She took a cautious sip of the hot tea. “I imagine Rupert is in the dog house with everyone.”

Tor nodded. “Yep, but he's making amends...What is it?”

“What's what?” She countered.

Tor tilted his head. “Your face says there's something else.”

Botan grimaced. “Genkai once tested Yusuke. None of us knew...and we all got caught up in it.” There was the barest hint of a smile to her lips. “Kuwabara lasted longer than Hiei.”

“Huh.” Tor sipped at his own tea. “Was it a life or death test?”

“No.”

“Did Yusuke forgive her?”

“Yes, right away even.”

Tor thought for a moment. “She was testing him to protect him.”

“Yep.”

“Totally different from what Travers did.”

“Mmhmm.”

“It will be a while before Xander will completely forgive Giles.”

“It serves Rupert right.” She muttered, taking another sip. “Idiot man. Xander should make him take all of you to the ice show.”

Tor grinned.

xxx

They were on the sofa, Xander's head in Cordelia's lap, her fingers carding through his hair. “Wanna talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“Gonna let it fester then?”

He frowned. “Festering would be bad I guess.”

“It would.”

He sighed and caught one of her hands with his. “I'm not the goofy kid I show the world.”

“I know.”

“I don't really trust easily.”

“No you don't.”

“Giles is like our Dad. The best one most of us have ever had.”

“No arguments here.”

“So why would he even think about going along with something like that?”

Her hand squeezed his. “Maybe you should ask him?” She frowned. “And while you're at it you can yell at him for getting married in secret. I was looking forward to being a bridesmaid.”

He smiled up at her. “Not the Maid of Honor?”

“Obviously that would be Buffy's job. You could have been Best Man.”

“There will be other weddings.”

“You think so?”

“Sure, just not for a while, what with us all still in school and everything.” Then he gave her a wicked smirk, his free hand slipping under her shirt to ghost across her ribs. “Conversation over now?”

“That depends, you done moping about Giles?”

“For now.”

XXX

Chapter Text

XXX

Xander felt Cordelia cross the wards as she entered the house; however it was the sound of the front door slamming closed that made him venture out of the kitchen, dish towel in hand. Cordelia stood there, just inside, arms full of a box of things, and she was trembling. Her scent was a whirlwind of emotions. Anger, hurt, sadness...rage.

“Cordy?” He asked, moving closer, cautious, as if she were a spooked animal. “Moving more of your stuff?”

Her hazel eyes were big and wet with tears with swirling emotions; sadness winning over the rage. “Have too.”

“What happened?”

She carefully put the box down by the stairs, her movements controlled, as cautious as his own would be right before a break down. “My entire life is a lie.”

“Sweetheart?”

She stood to face him, expression broken, and took a deep breath. “Dylan Chase is a fraud and a liar. We were nothing but accessories to him. Accessories, Xan, pretty shiny things to impress his rich friends!”

He felt his own anger twitch at that. “Do I need to kill your dad? There are plenty of scavengers in town...if I leave the body in the right place he'll be just another disappearance. Or would you rather ship him to Spike?”

She swallowed and shook her head. “No, he's going away, you don't have to do anything to him...and he's not my dad. Like literally.”

Xander moved toward her, taking her hand and leading her to the living room. “Start from the beginning.” They settled on the sofa, facing one another, he kept her hand in his.

“I went to the house, just to check in, mostly with Gwen, you know?”

“I know.”

“Except she wasn't there because they let her go. They let all the staff go because the money is gone because the IRS found out he hasn't paid taxes for like twelve years.” Her eyes widened. “Oh my God! I need to get my things before the IRS takes everything; including my car because it’s not in my name.”

“You can use mine until we get you another.”

“You can't buy me a car.”

“You'll be eighteen soon. If I want to buy you a car for your birthday I will. Probably won't be a brand new one.”

“Good. I... God. I have to tell Rhonda.”

He watched her for a moment. “There's more isn't there?”

“There's always more.” She sighed. “Turns out, and I only know this because they were yelling, Dylan's infertile. Rhonda and I aren't his; hence the he's literally not my dad part of this conversation.”

He frowned. “But...you're still sisters...I can tell by your scents. It’s because of that that you always smelled like pack.”

“Yeah...evidently he wanted kids, just couldn't father them...but still wanted them to be related to him.” She rolled her eyes. “Adopting some poor little orphans was beneath him.”

“So...? What? Some relative just made a donation?”

“Oh, not just any relative, it’s some mysterious British relative.” She paused. “There was a spell or something.” Cordelia pulled out an amulet from her pocket. “It was only good for one use. The woman puts it on, she has sex, and boom she's pregnant with another man's kid. He did the same with Rhonda's mom. I doubt though that she knew about the spell part.”

“So some guy sent them a sperm necklace? That's got to be the weirdest thing I've ever heard of...”

“Says the guy who likes living on the Mouth of Hell.”

He smirked and gave her a quick kiss. “Do you know the guy's name?”

“Yeah...he was just a teen then, still in school.”

“A name Cordy.”

“Sirius Black. Dylan seems to have been from a branch of the family that was disowned because his grandma was a...squib? Whatever that is.”

Xander kissed her again, deeper. “We'll worry about it later. You call Rhonda, I'll call Oz. We'll take his van and the cars and get your stuff. Okay?”

She nodded. “Okay.”

xxx

The cavern was filled with mist, so full that it overflowed and billowed out the entrance, however it did not cross the barrier Willow had set up outside the cave. She had the entrance blocked so that no more demons could enter and surprise her friends; and none that were inside would be able to escape back out.

She listened for any out of place sounds. No warnings came from Kyle and Larry who were searching the area, in case they missed a second entrance. If they saw the mist seeping through an unknown opening they'd call out and let her know.

What she could hear were the sounds of battle coming from inside the cavern itself; along with Amy's chanting as he kept up the cover spell that created the mist. Their blooming witch wasn't much of a fighter; hence Heidi was guarding her, watching her back so Amy was perfectly safe. Doing just as pack should...also no one wanted to see Xander go into a panic or rage because his little sister got hurt.

Mostly Willow worried for Giles. These new demons were...well...new. They were female, extremely strong...and Giles, while awesome, did not have super strength, no matter his other skills.

When Amy's chanting stopped the mist immediately began to dissipate, the sounds of battle continued only a moment longer. There was a loud inhuman shriek...and then nothing. Another moment and the group exited the cavern, a little winded and bruised, but nothing a few days and some rest wouldn't cure.

Willow took down the barrier and climbed to her feet. “So? How did it go?”

Buffy grimaced and rubbed at her shoulder, as if it were sore. “Demons dead. No idea what they were, but they're dead.”

Faith was rolling her shoulders, fidgeting, as if she was still spoiling for more of a fight. “Yeah. What was with them? They were tougher than vamps.”

Giles cleared his throat and cleaned his glasses. “I'm not sure. I've not come across them in my research...and my sources are rather lacking these days.”

“Since the Council sacked you?”

He sighed at Faith's bluntness and replaced his glasses. “Yes.”

Amy shifted her large candle from hand to hand. “My mom had a couple of books on demons. You can have them if you want them.”

“Thank you. I appreciate any help.”

“I'll bring them to school tomorrow.”

Heidi nudged the Watcher. “You know Botan and Tor would totally let you use their library too.” She grinned wickedly and Giles sighed. “You know, since she has books about Shangri La being real and you don't.”

He gave her small smile. “You're not letting that go, are you?”

“Nope.”

Kyle and Larry entered the clearing, eyeing the main group. Kyle nodded at Buffy. “All done?”

“Yep. You guys can get back to your regularly scheduled programs.”

“Awesome.” Larry smiled and started to drag Kyle away. “Homework it is.”

Kyle shot her a pout. “Nothing else needs killing?”

Buffy gave him a smile and a little wave. “Goodnight Kyle.” He flipped her off as Larry dragged him into the night.

xxx

Xander sat between Rhonda and Cordy at the table while the others trooped in. Buffy eyed the oddly quiet brunettes while Xander gave her a serious face.

“Family drama with the Chases. Also Mr. Chase is in deep with the IRS.”

“Ah.” She petted Rhonda's hair once she was close enough. “Do you two need anything?”

Cordelia shook her head. “Oz helped us move my stuff out of the house last night. I had to leave my car because it's in his name and I have no right to it.”

Rhonda leaned into Buffy's hand a bit and shrugged. “Mom wasn't dependent on him...though she's been putting money away for years. We're not in any trouble.”

Cordelia huffed. “I'll survive.”

Xander kissed her temple. “And you'll thrive because that's what you do.” He grinned before looking back at the others. “So that was our night, how was yours? Did that new vamp nest give you any trouble?”

Giles shook his head. “It wasn't a vampire nest. In fact I'm not sure what they were. It’s not often one comes across a group of female demons.”

Xander frowned. “Koorime?”

Again Giles shook his head. “Nothing so peaceful.”

Xander snorted and then tried not to outright laugh. “The Koorime aren't the peaceful snow angels you think they are.” At the stares his comment earned he shrugged. “Remind me to tell you about Hiei's origins sometime.”

“Yes, well. So far my research has yielded no results. Amy is supposed to bring a couple of books by.” He paused, and scrunched up his face, it was an odd look for the ex-watcher. “Tor?”

Tor sat up, at attention. “Yeah?”

“Would you mind searching your sister's library?”

“No prob. Just give me a description.”

“Right.”

Buffy moved away from Rhonda to settle beside Tor and handed him a set of notes describing the demons, but she focused her attention on Xander. “Feel like going to Willy's during lunch Xan? I always get better results when you're with me.”

“All you have to do is be polite and buy a coke and Willy cooperates just fine.”

“Please Xan? He likes you better.”

He rolled his eyes. “Sure.”

xxx

The inside of Willy's bar was dim as always. Willy himself was at the bar, wiping the surface clean. He waved to them cheerily and greeted them loudly even as he eyed some of his clientele worriedly. “Hey! It’s the Slayer! And our local royal!” A couple of vamps made a hasty exit through a back door, probably headed for a sewer access point. “What can I do for you two today? Diet coke? Yoohoo?”

Buffy sat on a stool, Xander joined her. She nodded at Willy. “I could use a diet coke.”

Xander shook his head. “Ice water for me please. Thanks Willy.”

“Sure.” He got their drinks and they sipped at them for a while before he spoke again. “So what's shaking kids?”

Buffy put down her glass and frowned. “Took out a nest of demons last night. Went in thinking it was vamps. So wasn't.”

“Yeah? You kids come out of it okay? No one hurt?”

“No close calls. They were stronger than we're used to though.”

Xander emptied his water glass and met Willy's eyes. “You hear anything about a bunch of demon ladies hanging out and having killer slumber parties, emphasis on killer?”

Buffy sipped at her drink some more and added. “Bluish skin, dark hair, and pointy ears. Badass.”

Willy seemed to ponder that for a moment. “Actually yeah. Some kind of sisterhood. But that's all I got.”

Buffy frowned. “That's it?”

Xander nudged her. “It’s more than we had a minute ago.” Something tapped his shoulder and he glanced behind him. There was a familiar female demon with grey skin behind him. “Natasha! It’s been ages! How have you been? How's your sister, her mate and their spawn?” He nearly blushed at the amount of babble he spewed at her, but he honestly liked Natasha.

Natasha grinned with sharp teeth. “They're doing well. She might need a babysitter again soon.”

“Well Amy adores the kids. I'll let her know...oh hey we have a problem...have you heard about this new sisterhood in town?”

“You mean the Sisterhood of Jhe. They're an Apocalypse cult.”

Xander felt his jaw drop and his voice came out in a whine. “Already? But it’s too early for an Apocalypse attempt. Those aren't supposed to happen until May!” He sighed and tried not to pout. “Monkey poop.”

“I second that.” Buffy drank the last of her diet coke. “Everyone has to be different.”

xxx

Larry glared at his so called friends and wondered why he bothered hanging out with his fellow jocks at all these days. Football season was over and done so he didn't have to hang out with the jerks if he didn't want too. Especially since none of them made a move toward O'Toole or the football that had ruined his lunch, it was obvious they were going to abandon him. “Really?”

“Hey, it’s your ball man.”

“But I'm not the one who nailed O'Toole with it.” Larry sighed and approached Jack O'Toole...not that he wanted to. O'Toole was dangerous, didn't matter that Larry was a quarterback. O'Toole scared the shit out of him. “Hey man.” He gave his best 'I'm harmless' smile. “Sorry about that. Stevens is a bench warmer. He never quite caught the hang of passing right.”

O'Toole glared up at him, not at all charmed by his smile. “That so?”

Larry nodded. “Yeah...so, can I have my ball back?”

Jack stood and Larry took a step back; not because he was a coward, but because he was smart. “You wanna start somethin'?”

He shook his head. “Not really. Last time you kinda pulled a knife on me.” He remembered the switchblade from last year vividly. Unfortunately Giles was nowhere in sight so Ripper wouldn't be coming to his rescue this time.

O'Toole smirked. “Like this?” He pulled out a large hunting knife. Holy shit.

“Yep. Just like that.” Larry started to take another step back, but relaxed. Kyle was behind O'Toole.

Kyle stepped into his vision then and Larry felt himself relax further. He was saved, no way would Kyle let O'Toole touch him, he was safe. Kyle just grinned at him and then moved beside O'Toole and propped his arm on the other guy's shoulder. “There better be a really good reason for this. I don't like it when trash threatens my man at knife point.” The way O'Toole's eyes widened was priceless.

Suddenly Xander and Cordelia were on either side of Larry and he let them pull him back a bit, just in case. He was most definitely safe now. O'Toole looked at them all uneasily and Cordy casually removed the knife from his hand and dropped it in her purse; like she took weapons away from psychopaths every day.

Then Kyle started sniffing Jack before wrinkling his nose. What the hell?

xxx

Lunch was only half over by the time he and Buffy got back to school, so they parted ways ; her to the cafeteria while he went to wander in the quad as he wasn't especially hungry, not that he was above snitching food from pack members. One glimpse of puppy eyes and he'd be sure to get a roll or a cookie. However thoughts of food slipped his mind when he got there just in time to see Kyle intervene with Jack O'Toole on Larry's behalf. Then Cordelia caught his eyes across the quad and they moved to flank Larry.

Cordy took away the knife...and Xander just stared at O'Toole.

Kyle still sniffing looked at Xander. “Alpha? Is he?”

Xander made a face. “Yeah...definitely. Don't know how, but he is.”

Cordelia and Larry gave them confused looks. “What?”

“Guys?”

Xander shrugged. “He's dead.”

Cordelia and Larry looked at each other, looked at the sun over head, and then back at O'Toole.

“Sun's up.”

“Not a vampire.”

Xander shook his head. “Nope. Zombie.”

That got a frown from Cordy. “The zombies at Buffy's party...”

“Were mindless and being controlled. Jackie boy here still has his soul...I'm not familiar with this type of magic though. So no idea how it works.”

Kyle grimaced. “Giles?”

“Oh yeah.”

O'Toole shook his head. “Shit no. That librarian is scary.”

Larry grinned. “Well yeah. He used to go by Ripper and summoned demons when he was bored.”

Jack just looked resigned as they hauled him toward the library. They got some odd looks from their fellow students...but no one said anything. No one ever did when O'Toole was involved; and since it was Kyle and Xander dragging him along they parted and stayed as out of the way as possible.

When they got to the library they passed right by Giles and immediately locked Jack in the book cage. Giles looked up from his work and eyed the caged teen. “Do I even want to know?”

“He's dead.” Xander replied.

Giles looked toward the windows, sunlight coming through. “He's...

“He smells dead.”

“Very dead.” Kyle added. “Also he's not breathing.”

Cordelia settled at the table. “We have a talking zombie this time, soul included.”

Larry sat beside her. “You know, he was scary enough before when he was just human.”

Giles stared at the dead delinquent in fascination. “Right...well. I suppose Jenny, Amy and Tor can run a few tests.”

O'Toole was really starting to look worried. “Tests?”

Giles smirked for a second, and then ignored him, his eyes focusing on Xander and the others. “We need to concentrate on last night's demons.”

Xander nodded. “Sisterhood of Jhe.”

The former Watcher stared at him. “How?”

He shrugged. “Sources. Also Buffy was kinda right about me being able to get more information than her. It helps to be Demon Kin...and technically a Demon Prince.”

“Right. I suppose you do sort of fill the role as unofficial liaison to the demon community.”

“I'm not entirely sure what that word means Giles...but if it’s a compliment, thanks.”

Giles rolled his eyes went back to his books.

xxx

Oz came in that afternoon and headed for the cage, stopping when he saw it occupied. “Uh...” He pointed at O'Toole who was leaning against the wall, glaring at them all. “There's someone in my cage.” Then Oz frowned, nose in the air. “Something not human?”

Xander nodded. “Yeah...zombie.”

“So...”

“We're not sure how to unmake him yet. You can change in Giles office.”

Oz gave him an uneasy look. “But...”

Xander smiled reassuringly. “You'll be fine. I'll be here. Be just like in Japan...only no demons to chase and maul. We'll have a quiet night in.”

“Right. Okay.” Oz then disappeared into the office.

Jack had moved during the conversation and now leaned against the front of the cage. “What was that about?”

“Oz is a werewolf.”

The zombie sneered. “Right, you expect me to believe that?”

Xander stared at him, growled, and gave him glowy eyes. Jack stepped back, his face shocked, and Xander grinned, eyes brown once more. “Buddy, you're a zombie, a member of the walking dead. That doesn't really give you much wiggle room in the disbelief area.”

Jenny strode into the library with a book in her hands. “Sisterhood of Jhe, they're an Apocalypse cult. Their only reason for existing is ending the world...why is there a boy not Oz in the cage?”

He grimaced. “Fun. The not Oz guy is the zombie we mentioned over the phone. Can we go back to the zombie problem for a moment? Please?”

“Oh.” Jenny stared at O'Toole for a moment. “I might know a guy who can undo the voodoo...or Willow can just purify him.”

“Nifty.”

“Purify?” They ignored O’Toole’s alarm.

xxx

It was dark outside, the moon had risen...and Oz was content to lounge by Xander's feet, rumbling happily when Xander's hand slipped down to pet him now and again. Amy, Jenny and Tor were scattered at the tables, concentrating on zombie stuff. Willow had been in earlier and had tried to purify O'Toole. Which resulted in Jack's soul being released from the magic...but now they were stuck with a creepy drooling brain-dead corpse. One that was slowly chewing its hand off.

Cordy came in then and headed straight for Oz, settling by him on the floor to pet him.

“How was it? Any problems?”

Jenny looked up with a frown. “Something else we should be worrying about?”

Xander shook his head. “Family stuff.” He looked back at Cordelia. “So?”

She shrugged. “Rhonda helped me get the last of it. Neither of us are talking to Dylan. My mom has skipped town to avoid the IRS.”

He leaned toward her and cupped her cheek, letting his thumb rub over her cheek bone. “Sorry.”

She shrugged. “Kyle, Larry and Faith are patrolling. Jono and Andrew are going over some books they have.” She went back to petting Oz.

Amy jumped up then. “I got it!”

Giles stuck his head out of his office. “How to stop the Sisterhood?”

She paused and blushed. “Oh. No. How to dezombie Jack's corpse.”

“Oh...well, hop to it. The chewing is rather...unnerving.”

“More like vomit inducing.” Xander muttered.

 

Dezombying Jack was relatively easy. Disposing of the body wasn't. They had to use the exit through the stacks and the hidden cellar to get it out of the library and off school grounds. Larry wasn't exactly happy about using his truck to drive O'Toole's body off campus either. He was happy when Xander and Cordelia followed him and Kyle to help dig the hole.

xxx

It was just after midnight, all the children had left quite some time ago having exhausted themselves, not from research but from burying O'Toole. Oz had been loaded into Xander's car and ridden home with Xander and Cordelia. Giles wasn't sure how he felt about that but Xander seemed to have the werewolf well in hand and was in no danger.

Giles and Jenny were putting books away and quite alone when Botan came through the double doors of the library instead of through the wall like she usually did. Giles gave her a curious look at for her unusual behavior.

Jenny however smiled. “Oh, hey Botan.”

“Hello Jenny, I was wondering if I could speak to you and Rupert for a moment.”

“Sure.” She put down the book she'd been holding and Giles gave Botan his full attention, becoming increasing worried as she was not acting like herself.

“Botan? What is it?”

The guide took a calming breath which did nothing to decrease his worry. “I wanted to let you know that Ethan won't be up to any tricks for quite some time.”

Oh good lord. Giles sighed and took off his glasses. “What did he do?”

She smiled, a little of her usual mischievousness shining in her eyes. “Well, back during the candy incident...”

Jenny huffed and blushed. “Oh God.”

Botan's smile gentled; became soft even. “Turns out Ethan and I are compatible.”

Giles nearly dropped his glasses before he managed to return them to his face. He knew exactly what that statement meant. “Good lord...you're pregnant.”

She nodded. “Yes...and I was wondering...if you would be the godparents.”

Jenny, bless her, was already agreeing, but before she could say 'yes' Giles put a hand on his wife's arm. “What exactly will that entail Botan? I gather being a godparent to a Fairy child is rather an important role.”

“It is actually. You'll need to be there for the naming ceremony...and...”

“Oh just spit it out Botan. We've been friends long enough that you can divulge a secret or two.” Jenny elbowed him and he did his best not to wince.

Botan wearily sat in a chair at the nearest table. “Becoming godparents is a huge deal and a huge responsibility. There's...a bit of a magical transfer.”

Jenny moved away from the counter to sit beside her. “From the baby to us or from you to us?”

“A little of both actually; and from you to the baby. It’s a way...to make you family.” She hesitated and only continued when Jenny took her hand in hers. “You'd become just a little bit Fae. Not to the extent that Tor has. Just a tiny bit of a power boost and some longevity.”

Giles leaned against the counter. “To ensure we would be around whenever the child has need of us I suppose? What would the child gain from us?”

“Yes, and he or she would have more options for the type of magic they wish to pursue...I'm just hoping the kid doesn't want to become a chaos mage.”

He nodded in amusement; another chaos mage was the last thing any of them needed. “What exactly brought this on Botan?” He asked. “This doesn't seem like a normal request.”

“Its not...did you know Tor and I are the youngest?”

“Youngest what?”

“Fairies. I'm the youngest that has been born...and Tor...well he already had a touch of Fairy in him otherwise the transformation wouldn't have worked. He's not quite full blooded, but he's close now. We are the youngest Fairies. Period.”

“How is that possible?” Jenny asked. “Fairies live so long.”

“True, but we're a dying race and a selfish one.” Botan sighed. “Long ago, not long after I was born Mother locked away all of the Fae in Avalon to keep them from harming humans.”

Giles and Jenny stared at her. “I thought she had exiled herself.”

“Yes and no. She and Father created their home beneath the great lakes; the only doorway to Avalon that exists now is there. And it is locked...mostly because Dad misplaced the key a few hundred years ago, on purpose. But when they exiled themselves they locked away Mother's kin because the Fairies were going among the humans, finding compatible lovers...and then taking them.”

“And keeping them?”

“For breeding.”

“Oh my God.” Jenny squeezed her hand. “And that made Nimue mad?”

“Livid. Dad said she used so much magic to lock them away she put herself in a coma for nearly a month and it took years before she was up to full strength.”

“Good lord, for a Fairy Queen to use that much power...”

“Yeah...they really pissed her off...it wasn't until I was older that she told me why...I was on their list. I was the youngest so they assumed I would be very...fertile.”

“I can see why she would be livid.”

“Yeah.” Botan snickered. “So now Mom is making new connections.”

Giles gave her a look. “She's rebuilding her court? After all this time?”

“Dad didn't use those words...his exact words were 'Your mother is nesting, just nod and say yes'...and then she zapped him into the fish pond.”

Jenny laughed. “I'd like to meet your mom, I think we'd get along great...but what did you mean when you said...making connections?”

“To other courts...Xander's and Yusuke's.”

“I don't think they actually think of themselves having courts per se.”

Botan shrugged. “Only in the most technical of senses. Yusuke has his wife, daughter, and his friends. Despite having given up his throne he's a powerful ally.”

“And Xander?”

“Mom has been looking into her crystal quite a bit, but she won't share any details...just that Xander will get stronger.”

“Enough to form his own kingdom? In the Makai?”

Botan scoffed. “Can you see Xander ever leaving here?”

Giles pinched his nose to ward off a headache. “Are you telling me he'll be Master of the Hellmouth someday?”

She bit her lip. “I don't know. Like I said, Mom isn't sharing, but it’s something that could happen.”

“Good lord. I need a drink.”

“So...will you be my child's godparents?”

Jenny of course didn't hesitate. “Yes.”

Giles sighed, but really, he couldn't refuse. Botan was still a very dear friend to him...and any child of Ethan's was bound to need looking after. “Of course.”

Her smile was relieved, happy. “Thank you.”

xxx

The next night everyone was gathered in the library, ready for battle, even though they'd found little else about the Sisterhood of Jhe. For a cult that was singularly dedicated to the end of the world not much was known about them...which made exactly no sense. Nevertheless they armed themselves and stood guard over the Hellmouth.

The Sisterhood of Jhe stood no chance, not with the entire pack present.

The cult of female demons came charging in the main doors, no plans, no special tactics; just straight forward aggression. They were cut down by The Feral Four, hacked and slashed and ripped to pieces, Heidi was especially gleeful and in her element with the carnage. But then one managed to slip by.

Xander didn't see what she did...but suddenly there was a gaping hole in library floor. The demon from the Sisterhood was no more as she had apparently thrown herself into the Hellmouth...and in its place a huge creature was rising from the Hellmouth.

Buffy and the others stared, taking a step back. Giles' comment was not comforting. “My God, it’s grown.”

Xander flailed a bit and gestured to the thing with tentacles and many heads and teeth. “Grown? You mean it was a baby last time you saw it!”

“It’s tripled in size!” Jenny added, not helpfully.

Xander felt his eyes bug out bit and yelled. “Put up a barrier so it won't get past the library!”

Willow and Tor had the barrier up, just as one of the heads tried to bash through a wall. Instead it bounced off the barrier.

“Xander look out!” Buffy's shout came too late and unfortunately he was the one closest to the beast.

One of the heads came rushing toward him, mouth open...then it stopped. Xander swallowed and did his best to calm his heart which was beating like a marching band on steroids. It...the thing sniffed his hair...and then...cooed at him. Xander stood there, jaw gaping, heart slowing and he blinked at the thing in confusion. The demon kept cooing...purred a bit and nuzzled at his cheek.

Cautiously Xander brought up a hand to pet the beast. When it didn't bite his hand off he grinned and tempted fate. “Aww, who’s a giant cute Hell beastie? You are!”

After nearly ten minutes of petting and cooing and equal attention for each head...the demon sank back into the ground and the floor was restored. Xander wobbled on his feet a bit and sank to the floor. “Holy crap.”

All eyes were glued to Xander in shock. Except for Oz who was sleeping in his cage. Xander stared back at them, quite comfy on the floor. “Don't look at me like that, I thought it was gonna eat me!”

xxx

Hours later, tucked away safe in their flat Jenny poured the tea and handed a cup to Giles. “Rupert?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you think it’s true?”

“What?”

“That Xander will be Master of the Hellmouth someday?”

Giles sipped at his tea. “I had doubted when Botan mentioned it was possible...but after tonight. That beast...it’s already accepted Xander as its Master.”

“Are you going to tell him?”

He sighed. “No...Xander doesn't want that sort of responsibility...he may never want it. I'm sure he'll take it on if he has too, but he'll do so when he's ready, when the time is right.”

“No rushing things?”

“No. Definitely not. I'd rather things progress as they should.”

XXX

Chapter Text

Xander was strong enough to get the mattress down the stairs on his own...but it was a mattress and maneuvering a mattress down a set of stairs by oneself is awkward and could lead to tumbles. He didn't like tumbles. So Kyle was helping him move the old mattress from the master bedroom down the stairs. Kyle wasn't happy about it but Xander was the boss and occasionally it was his right to make his pack help him clean house...or change out bedroom suites. Being First Alpha definitely had its perks.

“So...dump?” Kyle asked as they made their way down the stairs.

“Actually I've been thinking about setting up a safe house or two.”

Kyle gave him a peculiar look in between steps. “Paranoid much?”

“Hellmouth.” Xander answered back simply.

There wasn't much Kyle could say to that. “Right. So where is this thing going?”

“Garage.”

“Is there room in there?”

Xander shrugged a bit; Kyle glared at him for the action as it shifted the mattress in their grasp. “No idea. I haven't actually been inside in a couple of years.”

“That's not comforting.”

“It wasn't meant to be.” They got to the front door just as there was a knocking. “Someone get the door please?”

Cordy flew down the stairs. “Why isn't Buffy helping?”

“Because Buffy is having Slayer-Bondy time with Faith before patrol.”

She eyed him as she walked past. “Bondy?”

“I might have had one too many Twinkies today.”

She snorted and opened the door. Two delivery guys stood there on the porch. “Delivery for Harris?”

“That the new bed set? Mattress and box springs and everything?”

“Yes sir.”

“You’re going to set it up?”

“That's what I'm paid to do.”

Cordy grinned at them. “Thank God. It wasn't easy getting the old one apart. Did you bring the matching dresser and wardrobe?”

“Yes Ma'am.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “They didn't have to match.”

“Yes they did.”

Xander huffed and called up the stairs. “Rhonda, you and Tor bring the box springs down and put them in the garage! The delivery guys are here with the new stuff!”

“Will do!”

“Come on Kyle, to the garage.”

xxx

Oz, Willow, Buffy, Xander and Cordelia were grouped on the couches, lounging before class, talking over college stuff. Willow was looking through possible early admissions but still managed to keep him on his toes.

“Xan?”

He rolled his eyes. “UCSD has my current GPA, my SAT scores, a list of my club activities, and foreign language skills. I'm all set and they've accepted my application. I start in the fall.”

“Busy as a beaver Xan...” Buffy gave him a look after going over his words in her head. “Club? What club? When did you join a club?”

He grinned back at her. “History and Ancient Texts. How many high school students can recognize Sumerian, Etruscan, and Egyptian while also being able to read Latin?” Buffy stared.

Willow hummed and laughed in good humor. “I can!””

“Just a dab.” Oz murmured.

Cordelia made a note on her own college brochure. “I need to remember that one, it'll make me look eccentric but dedicated.”

Buffy was still staring. “What?”

He shrugged. “What what? All that research info is stuck in my head. Might as well benefit from it and use it.”

She made a face at that but didn't disagree. “At least I can put Japanese on mine...oh and French. I'm decent with that now.”

Willow grinned. “Has Larry been tutoring you?”

“Yep and my noblewoman alter ego was fluent. Studying with Larry just sort of brought it all back.”

“Cool.” Oz nodded. “Still kinda sad I missed that Halloween.”

“You didn't really miss much.” Xander shrugged. “Got possessed, participated in some chaos, spell ended...kinda wished I'd seen Kyle in costume though.”

“Why?” Willow asked, curious.

“He didn't go into detail...something about a proton pack?”

That got a laugh out of the slayer. “He went as one of the Ghostbusters? That's so 80s!”

“True.”

Xander grinned. “Yeah, but a proton pack! I'd love to play with one of those babies.”

Buffy shook her head. “If you feel the need for destruction you can borrow the rocket launcher...just don't fire it in town or get caught by the police.”

“Nah, waste of ammo...we should save it for the next supposedly unkillable thing.”

“In you insist.” Buffy said as she gathered her things. “I need to meet Giles.”

They watched her walk away and Xander caught Willow's gaze. “Something up Wills?”

“Er...maybe? Giles is kinda not in a good mood.”

He frowned at that but didn't say anything, instead he blinked and looked down the hall. “Huh.”

“What is it?”

“Giles isn't the only one not in a good mood.” He tilted his head and concentrated, ignoring how freaky it was that he could actually feel anyone else's emotions. It was vague and slightly echo-y...but it felt like maybe Kyle and Larry were... “See you guys later.”

xxx

He found his Beta and the Quarterback arguing at Larry's locker. “Boys? Am I going to have to separate you? It’s a little distracting to feel you arguing from all the way over there.” He motioned down the hall. “In the lounge.”

“You could feel us-?” Kyle glared. “Since when?”

Xander shrugged. “It’s only a sort of recent thing and it’s only gotten stronger since Rhonda's close call.” He looked at them closely. “Anything I should know about?”

“Just Larry choosing UC Sunnydale when he could pick anywhere because a lot of schools want him on their team.”

“Ah...” Xander stepped back, avoiding the glare Larry shot his boyfriend. “Okay then, if no one's bleeding, maimed or dying I'm just gonna...” And he fled.

xxx

Having narrowly escaped becoming part of a couples' dispute and still having free time before class Xander made his way to the library and walked into it just as Faith was walking out, her stride was agitated but he gave her a smile. “Hey Faith.”

“Boss.” The emphasis she put on the word and the snarl she threw over her shoulder made him pause. The younger slayer moved past him and left the library; leaving him alone with Buffy and Giles and with the scent of someone he didn't recognize. A man.

He moved further into the room giving the others a confused look. Buffy was sitting on the counter with Giles leaning against it beside her. She nodded at him. “Hey.”

He waved a hand. “Didn't we just hang out? Also, what was with Faith?” They gave him grim looks, which did nothing to ease him, and then a new man stepped out of Giles' office; he was the source of the new scent.

“And who is this?” His voice was British and what Xander imagined was very upper crust. Xander looked at the guy, letting his eyes travel up to the perfect black hair and down the... He was wearing a pressed suit, very proper. Huh...gelled hair, fancy suit, and an English accent with snotty tone. Great.

He glanced at his pack members, unable to keep the frown off his face. “New Watcher?”

Buffy and Giles nodded. “New Watcher.”

Xander stared at the new guy and moved a bit closer; he tilted his head just so and spoke low. “If you do something that gets any of us hurt or killed I will ship you back to England...possibly in pieces.” Then he gave the man a cheery if contradictory smile and held out his hand. “Xander Harris.”

The Watcher didn't take his hand but then Xander hadn't expected him too. “Ah, yes. The hyena boy.” And he then dismissed Xander to talk to Buffy about changes in her routine. Xander stared at his hand and then at Buffy who suppressed a giggle.

Giles ignored their antics and huffed speaking over the Watcher. “You realize he helps train the slayers.”

That seemed to surprise the new guy. “What could he possibly provide them-?”

Buffy leaped from the counter and lunged at Xander, giving no mind to her trendy skirt. He was ready for her as he'd noticed her twitching. She flew at him, fists and feet blurring, mostly her fists, because again, her skirt was indeed very trendy. They sparred for a good minute, maybe two, moving very, very fast. Then they stopped as suddenly as they had begun and bowed to one another.

The new Watcher's eyes were very wide. Xander smirked and slunk toward him in a predatory way, eyes flashing green. “I'm only going to say this once. This is our town and I'm a bit territorial. We'll protect it how we see fit. We don't need a desk jockey telling us how to kill vamps.”

“Really now-”

Xander scrunched up his face and glared at the interruption. “You can't possibly control two Slayers, five Primals, who are each as strong as a Slayer by the way, a miko, a Fae child a werewolf and a witch-in-training. Just don't get us killed like your boss tried to do and stay out of the way.” He backed up and turned to face Buffy and Giles. “So... What's up?”

Buffy groaned. “The usual. Faith and I killed some vamps. I'm thinking maybe we should train as a pack with her? She still lacks the concept of team work.”

“How bad?”

“Like the part where we act as a team and don't treat me as a distraction that almost gets killed while Faith is off going 'Weee!' with the carnage. Not even Heidi loses herself like that.”

“Huh.”

“Also one of the vamps looked like he was apart from the first set. He wasn't dressed like them...like he was more than decade out of date?”

“How much out of date?” Giles asked.

“Like a century...and he used swords.”

Xander frowned at that, but before he could say anything the new guy began to titter in excitement, Xander's warning already forgotten. “Swords?” He drifted over to a box on the table and began going through it. “One long, one short perhaps?”

Buffy nodded, eyes dazed in thought. “Bejeweled like a crown.”

He brought over a book to show them. “El Eliminati. They were a fifteenth century duelist cult. Deadly back then. Nearly wiped themselves out with pointless dueling. Eventually came into the service of a demon named Balthazar. He brought them to the new world, to Sunnydale specifically.”

Giles looked over the page that contained a picture of one cult member, swords in his hands. “You seem knowledgeable on the subject.”

He puffed out his chest a bit. “I simply did my duty, researching this town's history.”

Xander frowned. “So why are we just now seeing them?”

“They were driven out one hundred years ago; happily during the incident Balthazar was killed. I don't know by whom.”

Buffy eyed him. “Again, they're back why?”

“Balthazar had an amulet. They could be trying to retrieve it, probably for sentimental value.”

Giles closed the book. “Was it an item of power?”

“Supposedly.”

Giles looked ready to strangle the new guy. “So it could pose a threat.”

“No, no. However it wouldn't hurt to keep it out of their hands. It’s located in the Gleaves Family crypt. Buffy will retrieve it tonight.” He took the book back and moved to put it away. “Take Faith with you.”

She glared. “That's it?”

Xander patted her shoulder. “Be careful...I'll ask around about Balthazar.”

The Watcher frowned at him from the table. “He's dead.”

Xander snorted. “No one comes looking for a trinket after a hundred years unless they need it. And one hundred years is a pretty big milestone. Balthazar may be looking to stop the guy who ran him out of town from doing something big.”

“Now see here-”

Buffy ignored him. “The Mayor?”

Giles slipped his glasses off. “We have been waiting for him to make a move.”

New guy huffed and folded his arms. “How could the Mayor possibly be involved?”

Xander raised a brow at him. “Because he smells like magic; so much that I can't tell if he's human or not. Also he tried to sacrifice four babies a few months ago to a big snaky demon. And I don't dare look at his aura, ‘cause I'm afraid it could damage my psyche.”

Before he could say anything else the bell rang. Buffy hid her smile and hopped from the counter. “Come on we have classes.”

“Gladly.” He followed her from the library, ignoring the continued conversation between Giles and the new Watcher.

“Well...that was...”

Giles put his glasses back on. “You realize Xander is the one who split the Slayer line.”

“What?”

Giles continued as if the younger man hadn't spoken. “He's been named a Prophecy Breaker...Lady Nimue is quite fond of him.”

The new Watcher simply stared.

xxx

The cemetery was quiet as Buffy and Rhonda made their way through it. Faith had not said one way or another if she'd be joining them. Buffy wasn't sure how she felt about that. Sure Wesley was kind of a dork and a snobby know it all...but that was no reason to forgo patrol or their responsibilities. So for the time being it was just the two of them.

The Gleaves Family crypt wasn't overly large and only had two sarcophagi in the center of the stone structure. Though there were shelves with urns on the far wall. They opened the first sarcophagus to find only remains, no amulet. They shared a look before heading toward the second. They opened it as well and the green amulet shone in the light of Buffy's flashlight. The girls grinned at one another.

However before either of them could grab it, they heard voices and shared a look of alarm before they dove into the first sarcophagus, sliding the lid closed behind them. Buffy clicked off her flashlight and they huddled together in the small dark space and tried to ignore the bones beneath them. They listened for the vampires as they entered and then listened to the cries of triumph when they found the amulet.

They touched hands briefly before bracing and then shoving the lid toward the crowd of vampires, managing to knock most of them down with the heavy stone. The ones that weren't dazed and flattened they staked immediately, so by the time the others had gotten out from under the stone slab Buffy and Rhonda were ready for them and not quite so outnumbered. Rhonda managed to grab the amulet before her next prey dusted.

The last vampire tried to make a run for it but met Faith's stake as she entered the crypt.

Rhonda eyed the piles of dust before pouting at Buffy. “I thought Watcher Boy said these guys were defunct.”

Buffy brushed the dirt from her clothes and sighed, giving them up as a lost cause. “Yeah well, he's new.”

Faith bobbed and paced a bit, not having satisfied her need to hunt. “Come on, that was boring. Let’s find some more.”

Rhonda and Buffy stared at her before sharing a worried look.

xxx

They were hanging up curtains. Curtains! Xander smiled at the thought, glad that at least the comforter on the bed wasn't some sort of matching print. He'd have protested if it had, way too girly.

“So, what's the new Watcher like?”

He shrugged. “Like a mini Giles? Who never had a Ripper phase?”

She wrinkled her nose. “No backbone?”

“Probably.” They hung the last curtain.

“What's on your mind?”

“Other than curtains?”

“Yes smart ass, other than curtains.”

He grinned. “I'm thinking about getting a safe.”

“Why?”

“Might be a good idea for keeping magical trinkets in until they can be destroyed...unless they're good trinkets.”

“Makes sense...what was the new guy's name?”

He paused and tried racking his brain for the information...that evidently wasn't there. “Huh...ya know I never asked.”

xxx

Giles eyed the amulet as Buffy and Rhonda regaled their adventure in acquiring it the night before. The new Watcher, Wesley, frowned at them. “This young lady went with you? When I specifically told you to take Faith?”

Rhonda waved and smirked at him, which made him blush. Buffy rolled her eyes. “Faith was late. If Rhonda hadn't been with me your ‘nothing to worry about’ cult could have killed me.”

“You're both alright?” Giles inquired as he handed the amulet back to her.

“Yeah. Thanks to Rhonda.” She stood from her chair and helped Rhonda to her feet as well. “Come on, class awaits.”

They passed Jenny as she entered the library. “Hey girls, anything new with the slaying? Or that new vampire cult in town?”

Rhonda gave her a grin. “Yeah, Giles can fill you in. We'll see you in study hall.”

Wesley sputtered a bit as they left and the new woman came to stand beside Giles. “I say...what? Why does a civilian know about-?”

Giles gave her a kiss. “Allow me to introduce Mrs. Jenny Giles, my wife.”

“Oh...a pleasure...but why does she know about the Slayer?”

“You have been reading my journals haven't you? Though I suppose you haven't gotten that far.” Giles asked smugly. “Allow me to catch you up; Jenny is a member of the gypsy clan who cursed Angelus. Her knowledge has been invaluable.”

“Was, as in not anymore.” Jenny corrected. “They consider me a traitor. My family is here now.” When she kissed Giles again Wesley blushed and fled to the office.

xxx

Xander shifted to accommodate Buffy as she leaned into him while he was rummaging through his locker. “What's up Buff? You're being quiet, too quiet, as the cliché goes.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Faith is sorta rebelling...and I don't mean with the Watcher. She took her time showing up to help last night.”

He eyed her. “So that's why she tried to lure you away during the Chem. Test? And only left when I gave her a look?” He asked referring to the incident when the younger slayer had poked her head in through a window and tried to get Buffy to join her.

Buffy nodded. “Yeah, you had concerned parental face and everything.”

“I did not!”

“Xan you totally looked like a disappointed parental unit.”

“Ugh.” He briefly considered crawling into his locker since the earth refused to eat him.

“Xan.”

“What?”

Buffy bit her lower lip. “She took out a vamp nest. By herself, and even if it was during the day that's not stable behavior.”

“Damn.” He sighed. They did not need a reckless slayer on their hands. “Watch her.”

“She's getting too into it. We may need to have an intervention which means more than just watching.”

Xander nodded and closed his locker and gave her a brief one armed hug. “Patrol with her tonight...Take Tor.” He added.

“Not Heidi?”

He shook his head. “Tor is a little more level headed and less of an adrenaline junkie.”

“And he can throw lightning.” She said perkily.

“There is that.”

xxx

Tor and Buffy hung back a bit from Faith as they patrolled. “Well, this is boring.”

Buffy shot him a look. “Maybe I was worried for nothing? I mean she's all smiles tonight.”

He looked thoughtful for a second as they watched Faith swagger ahead of them. “But it’s a kind of manic smile. Like the kind the monster has on its face right before it eats you...trust me, I know.”

She bumped his shoulder gently. “Sorry.”

He shrugged it off with a small smile. “Come on; let’s not let her get suspicious.”

“Nothing for her to be suspicious about.”

“That's the spirit.”

xxx

They no longer had their morning meetings in the library, not with the new Watcher always lurking in there. Instead, this morning, they were huddled in Jenny's classroom. Jenny had laid the morning's paper on one of the desks for them to look over. There was an article about a break in at a sports goods store and two cops that had gotten beaten pretty badly. The store was not far from where Buffy and Tor had met up with Faith.

Their eyes met and Tor grimaced. “That might explain why Faith was so twitchy and smiley.”

Buffy angrily folded the paper. “I can't believe she broke in...and beat up the police.”

Xander settled at another desk. “Believe me when I say I'm not their biggest fan, not after what happened last year, but that is unacceptable. Stay on her tonight. Like white on rice.”

Cordelia leaned a hip against him. “One of your hunches?”

The others looked at him sharply as he nodded. “Maybe.”

“Oh!” Willow exclaimed, practically jumping from Oz's lap. “Surprise order of business! I finished the protection charms! They're in my locker so we should go and get them so I can pass them out to the pack.”

“Anything particularly special about them?” Jenny asked.

“Nope they're pretty basic but they're all key chain friendly.”

xxx

Heidi was with Faith when Buffy and Tor caught up with the younger slayer that night. Buffy bumped shoulders with the other blond who often was her double. “You joining us for patrol tonight?”

“Nah, Faith and I were just blowing off steam at the Bronze a bit. I'm meeting up with Willow to patrol.”

“Be careful. Watch Willow's back, watch your back.”

“Always. Happy hunting.” She grinned a hyena-ish sort of grin at them before slinking into the shadows, a flash of red hair was the only giveaway that Willow was already there waiting for her.

 

Heidi linked arms with Willow for a moment once they were out of sight from the others. Willow smiled a bit. “So we're on standby and to follow them?”

“Yeah.”

Willow gave her flat line answer a curious look. “What's wrong?”

Heidi looked troubled, which was never good. “She really let loose tonight.”

“You worried?”

“A bit...yeah.”

xxx

As they walked through the more industrial part of town Faith darted into an alley and then returned with a top of the line long bow. Buffy and Tor exchanged a look, this was the sort of confirmation they had been hoping to not get.

“Faith?”

“Yeah B?”

“Where'd you get that?”

“Did a little shopping last night.”

They shared another look but neither said anything...there really wasn't time. Tor tensed for just a second, moving so that he was back to back with Buffy. The blond Slayer called out a warning as Faith couldn't sense the El Eliminati the way Tor or Buffy could.

Buffy and Tor fought well together, like most of the pack did. Their defense was near perfect and neither took a blow to the back. Faith, in comparison, was a loose cannon.

Just as Buffy and Tor were staking their last vamps, Faith, who had abandoned her new toy for the more traditional stake, attacked a guy in a suit who had snuck up on her.

They sensed the life-force and aura of the guy and horror set in. Tor gaped and Buffy shrieked; “Faith no!”

But it was too late; the stake was in the man's chest. He stared down at his chest as the wound started to bleed and he slumped to the ground. Faith backed away, horror on her face, where moments ago there had only been excitement.

Buffy rushed forward, Tor only a step behind. “Oh God, Tor, can you?” He knelt beside her and the man. Buffy ripped the guy's shirt open and Tor put his hands directly on the man's chest. His hands started to glow white.

“Pull it out.” Tor growled through gritted teeth. Buffy pulled the stake out slowly. Tor poured his energy, his magic into the wound, healing it. His hair turned blue and his eyes pink, his new fairy form no longer hidden. Then his body started to shake in exhaustion and he let out a keening sound.

Buffy put her hands on top of his and let him drain some of her own energy to help in the healing but he wouldn't take much. There was no sense in both of them being exhausted since Faith was pretty much in shock.

There was a scramble of feet to their left and then Heidi and Willow were there. Heidi dragged them back, forcing them to stop, to rest and let Willow take over. Her hands on the wound she let her pink miko energy finish the job Tor had started.

Heidi kept Tor and Buffy on their feet, managing to get them to lean on one another so that her hands would be free if Willow needed similar support. A minute later Willow was pulling her hands back with a tired sigh. “The wound isn't as bad now. It won't kill him.”

Heidi nodded, ears perked as she listened. A car came to a screeching halt at the end of the alley. Doors opened and closed and familiar footsteps came toward them, along with familiar scents. “Xan and Cordy are here.”

“Oh, good.”

Xander came into the light and eyed the situation. “Cordy, go open the back door.” He didn't wait to see if she would, just knowing she'd follow the order. Instead he went to their victim and gently lifted him up in a bridal carry. “Cordy will get him to the hospital. Tor, Willow see if you can squeeze in the backseat with him, to keep him stable. He'll also need wards when he's settled in a room.” He went back to the car and with help managed to get the man in the back. “Cordy, you're driving them.”

“Okay, so you’re staying with Buffy and Faith?”

“Yeah. Go.”

When the car was gone, the tail lights glowing faint in distance he turned to face the still stunned slayers. Heidi stood at his side worriedly. He approached them carefully, giving Buffy's arm a comforting squeeze before he hugged Faith. She stayed stiff for a moment...then clung. However she stayed very, very quiet.

“Alpha?”

Xander carefully transferred Faith to Heidi's arms. “Take her home. Stay with her.”

Heidi nodded and led Faith away.

When they were alone Buffy took a breath, steel in her eyes once more. “What's up?”

“We have a location on Balthazar. Angel asked around the underground. I asked around up top. Our info matched.”

“Let’s go then.”

He caught her arm. “You okay?”

She shuddered. “No...but we have work to do.”

“Promise you'll break down later and have a cry?”

Buffy slumped against him for a moment and pressed her forehead to his shoulder. “I promise.”

He nodded at that and started to lead her away, neither of them looked at the blood on the ground. “Rhonda is meeting us there.”

She eyed him carefully. “What aren't you saying?”

“The El Eliminati grabbed Giles and the New Guy.”

“Great. This night just gets better and better.”

xxx

Rhonda and Angel were waiting for them outside of Balthazar's base, in where else but a warehouse. Kyle slipped into view just as Xander and Buffy were close enough to peer in the windows. Giles and the new guy were standing sort of before...Balthazar?

He blinked and made a disgusted sound. “That's the guy? The demon we're supposed to be worried about?”

Angel nodded with a similar distaste on his face, hey; they were in agreement about something...weird. “Yeah.”

“He's an immobile tub of lard. He's an insult to tubs of lard everywhere. Someone should call the Union Rep and make a complaint.”

The vampire snorted. “The amulet could change that.”

“Yeah well, the amulet is safe behind a barrier.”

“I know. He doesn't.”

Kyle peered over their shoulders, face slightly annoyed. “So, we’re doing this?”

Buffy tightened her grip on her stake. “Yeah.”

Rhonda was trying not to snicker. “Like maybe before the New Watcher wets himself?” About that moment Balthazar snarled something about his amulet, like a child in the midst of a tantrum. The new Watcher let out a shriek of terror as some of vamps tried to drag him closer to the demon.

So they attacked.

It was the center group of the cult they targeted. The El Eliminati scattered to face them, the Watchers momentarily forgotten as they were pushed aside. Buffy went one way, Angel another. Xander took out the vamps closest to Balthazar, possibly his personal guard.

Rhonda freed Giles with a dagger she'd supposedly been hiding on her person, which was possible. She didn't always carry a purse the way Cordy did. She scooped up a sword and tossed it to him before jumping back into the fray.

Kyle was gleefully tearing the vamps to pieces, startling them a bit when he managed to rip one's head off. Xander zipped forward and decapitated one that nearly got the new Watcher. The guy nearly passed out and Xander had to wonder why Travers would send the guy into the field.

Then out of the corner of his vision Xander saw Angel zooming toward Balthazar...and not on his own. He managed to tackle the vamp to the ground before the larger demon got his hands on the vampire. “Stay down.” He whispered.

“Not a problem.”

Xander stood and snarled at Balthazar. The demon tried to use his power on Xander like he had Angel. Nothing happened and Balthazar's eyes were wide in confusion. “What the-?”

Xander grinned, his face beyond gleeful. “Yay for miko protection charms. Now, I got some questions for you.”

The lard demon regained his composure. “Oh?”

“The one who did this to you...crippled you. He's a big power?”

“You'll get nothing from me.” His eyes widened when he caught sight of Xander's ring. “Princeling.”

Xander moved closer and leaned in a bit, smirking, eyes glowing. “Is it Wilkins?” Balthazar's jaw dropped in a gasp. Xander jumped back when the tub of demon made a grab for him. “Thought so.”

When he tried to use his powers again Buffy flew at him and a snick later his head rolled down his stomach to hit the floor. She looked at him and they shared an ew sort of look before she asked; “Well?”

“We have confirmation. Wilkins is our Big Bad.”

xxx

Xander peeked into the hospital room. “He awake?”

Willow shook her head. “Nope. Who is he anyway? We had to have him admitted as John Doe.”

“Allan Finch, Deputy Mayor.” He sighed. “Wish he'd called instead of trying to talk to the girls when they were working. We need therapy enough already without this kind of thing.”

Tor opened his eyes, blinking sleepily from one of the chairs. “Doctor said he'd make it. Wound is just shallow now.”

“Good.”

Cordelia appeared at his side, a cup of coffee in her hand. “Heidi got Faith home, she called earlier. She's staying the night, so are Jonathan and Rinku.”

“Okay. Wills, you and Tor go home. Larry's outside, he'll drive you.”

Tor yawned and stood, letting Willow lead him out. “Cool, I'm exhausted.”

Cordy looked at him. “We’re keeping watch tonight?”

“Yeah.”

Willow poked her head back in the room. “The doctor said he can leave tomorrow if he wakes up...provided he can give them his personal information.”

“Ugh. We'll have to sneak him out.”

“Guest room?” Cordelia asked.

“Until we can get him out of Sunnydale. My guess is he was coming to us to share info about the Mayor.”

“I'll call my parents.” Tor murmured as Willow led him out again. “After I sleep. They have room...and the Mayor can't reach him there.”

“Perfect.”

XXX

Chapter Text

XXX

It took some maneuvering and subterfuge but they managed to safely sneak Allan Finch out of the hospital and got him to Merlin and Nimue's safely. A couple of nurses looked the other way while they played sneak the mystery John Doe out, mostly in amusement. The yelling when the doctors discovered their patient missing however wasn't as funny and Xander knew he owed the nurses. Chocolates and flowers were definitely on the menu and possibly a babysitter. Amy would enjoy the employment...even if he'd be the one paying her. She was good with kids.

At least they had managed to keep everything under wraps, the Mayor didn't know a thing, didn't know his Deputy Mayor had been at the hospital at all. Or so they hoped; really, really hoped.

They had given Finch a few days to get settled in the pocket dimension before checking in with him. Tor had done the checking in and was now lounging on the couch in Xander's living room while they discussed what to do about Finch.

Xander handed Tor a soda after entering the room. “How is he?”

Tor shifted a bit. “He's better. Still tender.”

Xander collapsed in a chair. “It’s all over the news...him being missing. The Mayor seems pretty intent on finding him. Won't be long before one of the doctors sees his picture on the TV and calls it in.”

“He won't find him, you know that.”

“Yeah.” Xander rubbed a hand over his face and groaned. “We really could have handled this better.”

“What do you want to do now?”

“Whatever it is, whatever we decide, the New Watcher is out of the loop.”

“Doesn't he have a name?” Tor sat up, eyes wide. “...Wait...you think he'd do something to Faith?”

“Possibly. Remember what the others wanted to do to Buffy because of tradition? Wonder what sort of horror awaits a slayer who messes up. Has an accident?”

“Ugh.” Tor's face was one of disgust.

“Exactly. Adults suck.”

Tor nodded, both ignoring the detail that Xander was eighteen and legally an adult. He was quiet for a moment, unusually so and his expression became...troubled? “So...” He started. “I'm gonna be an uncle.”

Xander stared at him, as if the words didn't make sense. “You're going to be a ‘what’ now?”

“Uncle.”

“...how?”

“As much as you and Queen C smell like sex I thought you would know the how.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “Don't be a smart ass Tor; obviously I know how she got pregnant. So, what I should have said is who. So... who?”

Tor made a classic teen 'ew' face. “Ethan Rayne.”

Xander couldn't help the shudder. “Okay...now I'm asking how...and why?”

“The candy.”

“Oh...well...I can't think of anything witty to say to that.” He shuddered again. “Let the girls know when she's having a baby shower or whatever so they can do their thing and we men can hide.”

“Real brave aren't you Xander.”

Xander scoffed. “Not when it comes to a horde of cooing, squealing women I'm not. At that point it will be every man for himself and I will leave the rest of you in the dust.”

“Thanks man.”

“Any time.”

xxx

Faith stared at the TV, not paying attention to the program that for most of the night had held Jonathan's attention. Some sort of documentary, kid was weird; nothing else was as boring as educational crap. Still, having him over beat being alone with her thoughts. Her thoughts were less company than usual and she didn't want to get too far into her own head.

Jonathan must have sensed something because suddenly he was focusing on her instead of the TV. “Are you going to be okay on your own next week?”

Faith frowned at him. “You’re going somewhere?”

“Spring Break. Rinku wants to check out the Cleveland Hellmouth, not sure it'll be much different than this one.”

“Bigger town, more demon bars.” She snorted. “Have fun.”

His eyes turned a little hopeful. “You want to go?”

She gave his arm a gentle punch, super gentle even. “I'm not gonna crash your romantic getaway with your man.”

Jonathan rolled his eyes. “It’s Cleveland.” When she shrugged he tried again. “Andrew and Russ haven't decided if they're going with us. If they stay here they might be available to hang.”

“I don't exactly like being a third wheel, it kinda bites.”

“Maybe Russ can introduce you to boys you haven't broken in yet?”

She smirked at him. “Now you're talkin'...can we watch somethin' else now?”

“Sure.”

xxx

They were walking toward the library, arm in arm when Cordelia asked. “So, did you ever find out the new Watcher's name?”

He made a show of trying to think. “Wesley...something...Winsome?”

“Winsome?” She gave him her best skeptic look. “Why does that sound not right?”

He grinned. “Probably because it’s not.”

She laughed and kissed his jaw. “How's Faith?”

“I haven't talked to her directly, but Heidi says she's still twitchy. Spending time with Jono and Rinku seems to calm her some.”

“Guess you were right about her needing her own friends.”

He shrugged as they reached the library doors. “Everyone needs friends.” He held the door open for her before following her in. Buffy, Giles and Faith were sitting at the table, looking bored and listening to Wesley. All three of them gave him hopeful looks. Oh geeze. They expected him to save them. Sigh.

“Supernatural or not I want you to look into the disappearance of the Deputy Mayor.”

That drew them up short and they shared a look before Xander frowned at Wesley. “Um hello? Didn't we discuss this already and veto it? As long as the Mayor can't find the guy he's safe.”

“Safe?” Wesley asked. “He's missing, that hardly equals safe.”

“He's safe from the Mayor, who is an evil baby sacrificing fiend. And a politician. The Finch guy is probably in hiding.”

“Never-the-less...” Wesley paused and eyed Cordelia, as if just noticing her. “Why do you keep bringing in civilians? Do none of you understand the need for secrecy?”

Cordelia raised brow at him, which made Xander smile. “Civilian? Me?” She snorted delicately and then ignored him. “Hey Giles, I need a book for psych class.” She handed him a slip of paper with the book information.

He nodded and headed toward a stack of text books. “Of course.”

Wesley perked up a bit. “Another teacher?” His eyes started to take their time on her form.

Cordelia corrected him. “Student.”

Xander stared at Wesley...not liking the way he was looking at Cordelia. He sniffed...and felt his eyes widen. “Hey!” His voice came out sharp, almost a growl and he stepped in front of Cordelia and bared his teeth at Wesley. “Watcher Wannabee!” Wesley gave him an insulted look.

“I beg your pardon? What on Earth has gotten in to you all of a sudden?”

Xander glared. “Keep your creepy adult eyes off my girlfriend.”

The man's jaw dropped. “I would never-”

“I can smell your lust pal. I'm Hyena Boy, remember?”

Wesley made an eeping sort of sound and retreated to Giles' office. Giles handed Cordelia her book with an amused smile. “Well, that made my day significantly brighter.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes and dragged Xander back out of the library. Buffy and Faith clung to the table, giggling.

xxx

Xander took a moment in between classes for an impromptu meeting with the slayers. He ducked into an empty class room and the girls followed. He'd rather they meet in the library as it was more secure...or it used to be. That wasn't the case these days and he needed to talk to the girls, away from employed Watchery eyes.

When he closed the door Faith shrunk in on herself a bit and asked; “How is he? The Deputy Mayor?”

Xander smiled at her reassuringly. “He's okay. Alive. Tender.”

Faith nodded and bit her lip; Buffy leaned into her a bit. “Okay...” Faith didn't lean into Buffy, but she didn't lean away either. “Okay. What do we do about Wesley?”

He shook his head. “I'll keep him out of this. You just do normal stuff. Patrol. Hang out.”

Buffy folded her arms, a little anxious herself. “Has he said anything? Like why he was there that night?”

“Ugh. Not yet. He wants a few things...like his family safe and sound before he talks.”

“Don't blame him.”

“So he's really okay?” Faith's dark eyes were troubled; this was really getting to her.

Xander nodded and stepped forward to give Faith a hug. “He's fine. And it was an accident.” He pulled back. “Before patrol tonight, talk to Rinku or Jono. See if they'll help you meditate, or blow off steam.”

“Right. I can do that.”

xxx

They were doing a routine sweep before their scheduled act of crime for the night. Just hitting a cemetery with a couple of fresh graves when they stumbled upon Angel. Angel who jumped back and looked a little shocked when Cordelia's stake nearly staked him, on its own. However she stopped it before it hit his chest and brought it back to her hand, smile apologetic. “Oops.”

Angel made a frowny face. “That was more than an oops.”

Xander, in the spirit of team work did not laugh or giggle, really. Instead he shrugged. “Don't sneak up on your allies then.”

Angel snorted and rolled his eyes before getting down to business. “The police found the blood. It won't be long until they match the blood type to Finch. They'll assume he's dead with that much blood loss.”

Xander sighed and looked up at the sky, the stars hidden by the city lights. “Damn. I was hoping it would rain before this. We should have cleaned up the scene.”

Angel frowned. “Saving him took precedence. You made the right call.” Angel's face turned sour with disbelief. “I can't believe I'm trying to reassure you.”

Xander hid a grin and waved him off. “Yeah, that makes two of us; you can totally pretend it didn't happen if you want I won't tell.” His grin disappeared “...still... Next time someone's getting volunteered for clean up.”

Cordelia shuddered. “I suggest Heidi, she's the least squeamish.”

He rolled his eyes. “Keep your ear to the ground?”

Angel nodded, already moving away. “Are you going to check out City Hall?”

“Yep.”

“Don't get caught.”

xxx

Faith huffed, her concentration shot...not that she'd ever had it. This meditating stuff was bullshit. So she decided to share her feelings with her friends and threw the cushion she'd been sitting on at Jonathan. It smacked him in the face. He opened his eyes and huffed back. “Done already?”

“I'm bored.”

“You want us to patrol with you?”

“I was thinking pizza first...You don't have to patrol with me.”

“Yeah I do.”

“Because Xander wants you to keep tabs on me?”

He shook his head. “Because you're our friend.” He threw the cushion back and she caught it.

“Pillow fight?”

His eyes widened at the suggestion and he scrambled to hide behind Rinku who was still meditating. Faith came at them with a big grin.

The only casualties were the pillows.

xxx

There was no one standing guard outside, or inside for that matter, of City Hall. Getting into Finch's office was easy, ridiculously so. Cordelia however wasn't happy about playing cat burglar. No matter how good she looked in her all black ensemble. Which she did, so good it was a little distracting.

She huffed as she opened a file cabinet. “Can't we just ask the guy what's what?”

“Not right away, he got staked, which made him jumpy and non-trusty. He's not very talky feeling with us.”

She shot him a glare as she rifled through the file cabinet. When she spoke again her voice was less sharp, more thoughtful. “You're giving him time to feel safe then?”

“Yeah...also I need to get his family out before he'll talk. He wants them safe and away from the Mayor.”

“We better get on that then.”

He looked up from the desk drawer and the lock he'd been picking. “Why?”

“Because all of his files are gone.”

“All of them?”

“All of them.” She confirmed, holding up an empty folder.

“Crap.”

“Time to go?” She asked hopefully.

“Yeah. If there are no files there, I doubt they would have left anything in the desk.”

They started to slip out then, but Cordelia shoved him back inside the office with no explanation except for a hand over his mouth and finger over her own to indicate silence. In the hall they heard the Mayor and Mr. Trick pass by the closed door.

“You think he's dead?”

“There's always hope I suppose, but I saw the pictures and that was a lot of blood. I doubt he survived, and that part of town isn't exactly friendly...and old Balthazar was in that area. Could be his boys ate poor Allen.”

“Nothing to worry about then.”

“The paper trail he left does worry me though. And the Slayer did kill Balthazar...I just don't know.”

As their voices faded Xander and Cordelia's gazes met. She frowned. “Not good.”

He nodded and spoke softly against her hand. “No, it’s really not.”

xxx

The phone was ringing when they got home and Cordelia motioned him toward it, while she locked the door. He nodded in thanks and answered it. It was Buffy.

“What's up Buff?”

“The police were here at my house. There were witnesses that saw me and Faith nearby the scene.”

“Okay, listen, don't panic. Keep calm.”

“Easy for you to say the police haven't been to your house.”

“True, but they'll need to tread lightly after what happened last year. So just keep cool, okay.”

“Okay...that would be the better option...especially since Mom's a little shaken up. I'm really tired of the police showing up here.”

“I know.”

They said goodnight and he hung up, just as there was a knock on the door. He and Cordy shared a look and she shrugged. “Aren't we popular tonight?” She checked the peephole and then unlocked the door.

Jonathan and Rinku were on the porch.

They didn't stay long; mostly they had stopped by to warn Xander that a detective had showed up at Faith's asking questions about where she'd been the night Finch disappeared and if Buffy Summers had been with her.

When they left Cordelia collapsed beside him on the sofa and he groaned. “Shit.”

She nodded in agreement. “Do you think we should sneak Faith out of town too?”

“I really hope it doesn't come to that.” He reached for the cordless. “Guess I should update Giles.”

She nodded and gave his leg a squeeze. “Hungry?”

“Starving.”

She stood again. “I'll make sandwiches, you call Pops.”

“Thanks Cor.” He squeezed her hand before she got too far away...then watched her walk a bit, enjoying how her trendy jeans clung to her...then shook his head and dialed the school library.

“Yes?”

“Oh good, you and Jenny haven't left yet.”

Giles came out a bit sharp and worried at his words. “Did something happen? Wait...Jenny wants to know if we...need to saddle up? What in the world do horses...oh. Never mind. Sometimes I simply do not understand Americans-Ow! Bloody hell woman!”

Xander bit his lip and held in his laughter. “How's married life working out there for ya G?”

“Xander either shut up or tell me why you called.”

“Right. There was a detective waiting for Buffy when she got home. Another...or possibly the same one was at Faith's. Someone saw the girls close to the scene. Also when Cordy and I went by Finch's office, all his files were gone.”

“Gone?”

“Every folder was empty.”

“Who on Earth?”

“The Mayor, probably, and his trusty side kick Mr. Trick. Who were there, in the hall, discussing the possibilities of Allan Finch being alive or dead.”

“And?”

“Well the amount of blood at the scene is sort of in favor of him being dead. They're being cautiously optimistic that he's dead and can't talk. But it seems he left a paper trail that worried them...though it’s gone now. I'm just hoping he won't want to press charges against Faith for the accidental almost slayage.”

“You think he will?”

“I think that if we get his wife and sister out of the Dale and out of the Mayor's reach he'll be happy.”

“Good point. Keep me posted Xander. I'll do what I can to appease Wesley, let him know the Mayor destroyed his files.”

“Cool, just don't tell him about Faith.”

“No worries there. The last thing she needs is the Council putting her on trial for staking a human. Accidental though it was.”

“No kidding. Go home Giles, eat dinner with Jenny. I'll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight then.”

“Giles updated?” Cordelia asked from the doorway as he hung up.

“Yeah. Sandwiches?”

“In the kitchen.”

“You're a goddess.”

She gave him a satisfied smile. “I know this.”

xxx

The next morning they had barely set foot inside the building when a man in a suit, with a badge in his hand, approached them. By the look of him, the tired eyes, determined set of his shoulders, he was probably the same detective that had talked to Buffy and Faith. Xander frowned at him.

“Do you have a warrant?”

The detective paused in surprise. “I don't need one just to talk to you and you just turned eighteen Mr. Harris.”

“Do we need a lawyer?”

“You sound like you have something to hide Mr. Harris. Which I don't really doubt because some friends of yours admitted a John Doe to the hospital with a chest wound.”

Xander shrugged. “So my friends are good Samaritans. No crime in that. Guy lived. It was a shallow wound; with some deep bruising.”

“He disappeared from the hospital.”

“Maybe he was a shady guy and left on his own. We're not hiding anything.”

“Then what's the problem? What's with the runaround you're giving me?”

Cordelia gave the detective wide eyes, shocked eyes. “Wow, maybe it’s that the last time the cops came around you shot at a terrified and unarmed teenager who had just found a friend's body.”

Xander kept his face serious, his voice solemn. “We get twitchy around adults that are violent. But you would know that.” He quirked a brow. “How many times were the police and social services called out to the Harris household when I was a kid and nothing was ever done? You want cooperation Detective? Start doing right by the kids in this town...and you can start by not harassing minors. Cordy here is only seventeen and Faith Lehane isn't quite seventeen yet. Shame on you Detective.”

“This isn't over.”

“It never is.” And they left him standing there.

xxx

“Hey Wills.” Xander pulled Willow aside as soon as he saw her.

She went with him willingly and gave him a curious look. “What's up?”

“See if you can hack into City Hall's security.”

“Why?” A pause. “What did you do?”

“Ah...Cordy and I might be on camera.”

“Oh...sloppy Xander.”

“Yeah, didn’t think about it until after a detective stopped us for a chat in the hall a little while ago.”

“Bad Xander.”

“Yes, yes. Can we move past that now?”

She nodded. “I'll see what I can do. Want me to access some files too?”

“If you can, searching Finch's office was a bust. There were no files.”

 

 

That night they got Finch's family out and Willow cut them from the surveillance tape. It was almost ridiculously easy. That should have tipped Xander off that something was going to go spectacularly wrong.

xxx

When he and Tor got back from the pocket dimension they headed straight to the library, where they were greeted with arguing.

Xander took in the scene for a moment. Everyone was yelling at Wesley. Faith was nowhere in sight...and Heidi was unconscious on the table. Jesus.

“HEY!” He yelled. Everyone froze and he raised a brow. “Someone want to tell me what happened?” He held up a finger. “One at a time.”

Cordelia was the one who spoke, her hands carding through Heidi's hair protectively. “So Wesley found out about Faith.”

“My fault.” Giles muttered. “Bastard over heard my conversation with you on the phone.”

Wesley huffed and folded his arms. “She killed a man. The council needs to investigate.”

Cordelia glared at the Watcher and he was silent. “He doesn't know everything obviously. And Heidi was patrolling with Faith. The council members tried to grab Faith...Heidi gave her time to get away. They drugged her with that crap they use to weaken slayers...mixed with a tranquilizer.” Her worried hazel eyes met Xander's. “Heidi's a primal, not a slayer...we're hoping there won't be any bad side effects.”

Xander snarled a bit and went to Wesley, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and forced him into a chair. “Okay, here's the way things stand. You are going to stay there and listen. First, are you stupid?”

“What?”

Xander began to pace. “You don't send a bunch of men after a girl on the edge. Especially one with an abusive past.”

“What on Earth are you talking about?”

Xander paused and looked at Wesley...beyond surprised. “Do you know anything at all about Faith?”

“She's a willful girl, one that needs a firm hand-”

Xander growled. “Her mom and her mom's sleazy boyfriend tried to pimp her out for drug money; which forced her to run away and survive on the streets.”

Wesley had gone pale. “I didn't know...why do you?”

“We bonded over the crappy adults in our lives. I was my old man's favorite punching bag before he disappeared. Those of us who have taken a hit or two during our childhoods can recognize it in others.” Wesley started to shake a bit and Xander's eyes grew a bit wider and he moved closer and sniffed. The scents coming from the man were complicated, but he had a hunch. “Who hurt you?”

“No one.” The answer was entirely too quick.

“Mmhmm.” Xander glanced at the unconscious Heidi. “You should know Heidi's old man, is a war veteran, Special Forces, and a master of disguise. If he finds out about this, you'll never see him coming.” He gave a sigh and calmed down a bit. “Now. Here's the deal with Finch. He's not dead. He's alive. We have him stashed away with his family. They're safe.”

“Why didn't you say so?”

“Obviously it’s because we don't like or trust the council. You guys wanted to kill Buffy for fun, because you were bored.”

“It's a tradition.”

“That kills terrified teenage girls. How about I lock you in a crypt of hungry vamps and leave you there with only a single stake.”

“That would be murder-”

“Exactly.”

Wesley tried a different tactic. “But...we need to question Mr. Finch. Withholding information on your part is...”

“Smart.”

“Is he still in Sunnydale?”

“No. He's in a pocket dimension, under guard and protected by Nimue and Merlin. The Mayor isn't getting anywhere near him or his family.” At the look on Wesley's face Xander rolled his eyes. “Oh my God! Did Travers not tell you that part?” He motioned to Tor. “Merlin and Nimue are Tor's parents. Talk about withholding info. He sent you in to the Hellmouth blind, man.” He sighed and looked toward the others. “Any word from Faith?”

Giles shook his head. “No. There's been no sign of her.”

He nodded. “We back off then. Let her come in on her own. No tracking, no chasing. She needs to come back on her own.”

“And if she doesn't?” Wesley asked.

“If she's not back in a week, then we bring her in, and get her off the Hellmouth and away from the Council's clutches.”

“You can't!”

Buffy snorted. “We know Merlin and Nimue...and the psychic Genkai and one the mikos from the legend of the Shikon no Tama. Trust me, if we don't want Faith in your hands, you won't ever get near her.”

Jenny stepped forward then, voice calm, reasonable. “It’s late guys. Buffy already called Heidi's mom, to let her know Heidi 'fell asleep' studying.”

Xander nodded. “Right. We'll call it a night.” He shook his head. “Buffy you mind if I take Heidi home with me instead?”

She smiled. “Go ahead.”

He picked Heidi up gently. “Come on Cordy, you're driving. Everyone else go home.” He shot one more look at Wesley. “Feel free to go back to Merry Old England any time.” And he walked away, following Cordelia out of the library.

xxx

Faith was on the front porch when they pulled up, looking a bit ragged, slouched on the steps. Cordy got out of the car first and went to the Slayer, kneeling in front of her. He watched them as he got Heidi, still unconscious, out of the car. Faith was pale, kept her head down and didn't meet their eyes. Cordelia helped her to her feet and let her inside, holding the door open for him.

No one said anything as he carried Heidi upstairs and to the master bedroom. There Faith watched quietly as he and Cordy removed Heidi's outer clothes and shoes before dressing her in a baggy t-shirt and shorts and tucked her under the covers.

She seemed kind of shocked when Cordy handed her similar clothing and gestured to the master bathroom. “Shower if you want.” It was the first words anyone had spoken.

“What...what do you-?”

Xander shook his head. “It’s occurred to us you've never experienced a pack pile. No worries, completely platonic.”

She gave them a weird look, and instead of going into the bathroom to change, she started dropping her clothes there in the bedroom. Then Cordy started doing the same. Xander however grabbed his sleep pants and shimmied out of his clothes in the privacy of the bathroom.

When he returned to the bedroom Cordelia had Faith tucked into bed with Heidi. Cordy herself was beside Faith, leaving Heidi's other side free for cuddles. He climbed into bed as well and waited for Faith to talk.

It didn't take long and her voice was soft but determined. “I killed Trick.”

He watched her carefully and kept his own voice neutral. “Okay.”

She finally met his gaze. “And I took his place.”

Xander sighed and closed his eyes. “Faith.”

“You need someone on the inside. This was the perfect chance to get close. The Mayor thinks I want to get back at the Council...which I kinda do. But you're my boss. Not Wesley. Especially not now.”

“I don't like it.”

“Gotta do somethin' Boss Man. We gotta.”

Cordelia sighed and wrapped her arms around Faith. “You watch your back.”

He nodded and reached for her hand, draping an arm around Heidi as he did. “You get in too deep you let me know. We'll get you out and away from here.”

“Okay.”

And they fell asleep.

XXX

Chapter Text

XXX

Cordelia dialed the familiar number on her new cell phone. She had to give up the old one when she officially left home. Xander was paying the bill anyway, and getting a new phone was easier, as they discovered when they transferred Spike's bill to Xander's account. Less hassle meant fewer headaches.

Spike answered on the first ring. "Cordy?�

She grinned. "Yep, got a new phone.�

His warm chuckle made her insides twist in an interesting way. "Something eat the old one?�

"Yeah, actually the IRS did. Daddy skipped his taxes for twelve years.�

"Do you need anything Princess?� It was amazing how his voice when from teasing to concern.

She smiled though he couldn't see it. "Maybe. Do you feel like company? Where are you anyway?�

"London; and I could always do with your and Xander's company. What do you have in mind?�

"My birthday is next week and it's going to be Spring Break.�

Spike's laugh was a deep and rich sound that made her want to crawl through the phone and tackle him. "Come on over, I'll get you a pressie. Bring our boy.�

"Like he'd let me leave without him. Where can we meet you?�

"I'll get us a hotel and let you know. Give me ring when you get here.�

"It's a date. See you Sunday night.�

xxx

Larry gazed at Heidi's house impatiently and honked the horn again...and he ignored Kyle's amusement. He didn't, however, ignore Kyle's hand on his thigh.

"Why are you so anxious?�

He shot his boyfriend a look. "It's our first vacation together as a couple.�

"It's just LA.�

"And we're taking Heidi with us.�

"We're dropping her off at Hannibal's apartment.�

"Still.�

Kyle unbuckled and move closer, settling beside him. "It's a two hour drive babe. We'll drop her off, get a hotel, and have a week to ourselves. No pack, no patrolling, no annoying Watchers; it'll just be you, me, and fun.�

There was a thump as a duffle was tossed in the bed of Larry's truck. Heidi waved at them and climbed in the cab beside Kyle, a small pet carrier in her lap. "Thanks for this.�

"No problem.� Larry turned the key and put the truck in drive.

Kyle snorted. "You're taking your bunny?�

"Yep. Murdock got a cage for her; he's going to bunny sit for me while Pops and I bond.�

"Okay then.�

xxx

Lucy was safely ensconced with Murdock and his family while she and Hannibal were officially on the road for their spring break trip. Most teens and college students headed toward the beaches and wild parties. Heidi, however, thought it would be more fun to have this road trip with Pops.

They were on their way to a small town in Oregon where an old friend of Hannibal's lived. One 'in the know' who wouldn't be quite so shocked about his transformation after the encounter with the waters of Shangri-La and the elixir of golden apples Merlin had given the A-Team.

Either way she couldn't wait. She was going to get a lesson in modern weapons and survival training. It was smart, that way Xander wouldn't be the only one with the knowledge, so if she needed to she'd be able to handle a gun as well as her Alpha could.

She grinned in anticipation. She also couldn't wait to show off her hunting skills. Hannibal glanced at her from the driver's seat of the rental truck and they shared that grin.

This was gonna be awesome.

xxx

They got a hotel and went straight to clubbing, courtesy of some fake IDs that proclaimed them over eighteen...twenty-one to be exact.

The first club they went to was a gay club, and though neither got a drink, there were enough pheromones in the air that Kyle got just a bit of a buzz. They danced, made out, ground up against one another and ignored their lives and world for just a little while.

Then...a demon tried to slip between them and put his hands on Larry. He looked human at first, the flashing colored lights disguised his skin color, and the horns looked like hair accessories.

Kyle gripped the guy's wrist; it was definitely male, and growled with his eyes flashing green. The demon paused and then backed off a step. "Sorry. Thought you were human. What are you?�

Kyle kept his teeth bared. "You go around poaching guys from their boyfriends just because they're human?�

The demon shrugged. "Its fun and usually I can get them both in bed.� He grinned at them, mouth full of sharp teeth. "So? What are you?�

"Primal.�

He scoffed, laughed really, in genuine amusement. "That might be impressive in whatever backwater town you're from. LA is different. Keep your pet human close.�

Kyle sneered. "You're lying.�

"Oh yeah?�

Kyle moved closer and breathed in. "Primals have an enhanced sense of smell. You smell like lies.�

"Come on Kyle, let it go.� Larry started to pull him away. "I never thought I'd miss Sunnydale.�

The demon's eyes widened. "The Hellmouth? Never been there. I hear it's okay.�

They were starting to move off the dance floor now, no longer in the mood to dance or party. Larry shrugged, "Its home.�

The demon followed. "I heard there was a slayer there.�

Kyle sneered at their annoying hanger on. "Two Slayers, four Primals, a Miko, a werewolf, a Fairy, and a Fledgling Mazoku.�

"No kidding. You know the Mazoku on the Hellmouth? I heard Urameshi had a brother.�

Kyle smirked. "He's our Alpha.�

"So why hasn't he killed the Slayers?�

Larry snorted. "Because they're pack.�

"That's messed up.�

They were by the back exit now and somewhat out of sight, so Kyle slammed the demon against the back wall and Larry stood ready, dagger in hand. Kyle grinned, eyes glowing. "Want me to rip your head off? Because I can.�

The demon swallowed. "Sheesh. You Hellmouth kids are weird.�

Larry put his dagger away and dragged Kyle out the back exit. They didn't say anything. They didn't have to. When the demon from the club jumped them they were ready, and Kyle ripped its head off easily.

"How'd you know he was going to follow us?�

Kyle made a face. "He smelled like human blood...and a fresh kill.�

"Oh...I'm done clubbing. You?�

"Yeah. Let's get a pizza and go back to the hotel.�

xxx

It was sunny and noon when they left Sunnydale. A couple of minutes later, thanks to Botan and a portal, they were in London...and it was a couple of minutes past 9PM.

They waved to Botan, who slipped back into the portal before it disappeared as she still had to take Amy to Tokyo, and then they ventured out of the alley they'd appeared in. Xander looked around them. "Now what?�

Cordelia pulled out her cell phone and called the number of a cab company Spike had given them the night before. Ten minutes later a cab pulled up, the cabbie gave them an odd look as he got out and put their suitcases in the trunk. "Where to?�

Cordelia smiled. "The Egerton House Hotel.�

The cabbie tried not to stare at them; Xander guessed it wasn't every night the guy picked up a fare on the street and took them to a swanky hotel. "You sure about that luv?�

Cordelia's eyes turned icy. "Yes. In fact our room has already been paid for.�

"Right then.� And he drove.

 

Spike was waiting outside the red brick building when the cab pulled up. He opened the door for Cordelia and helped her out and gave her kiss. Xander let himself out of the cab but gladly accepted his own kiss from Spike. The cabbie wasn't staring any more; at least not after Spike paid him. Then a bellboy was taking their bags from the trunk and leading them inside.

The red brick of the front had been misleading. The inside...well he supposed this was what a palace might look like. A slightly cramped palace...but a palace.

Cordelia gently closed his mouth. "You were staring.�

He blushed. "Yeah. This is new.� She grinned and led him along as they trailed behind Spike. When they entered the room his jaw dropped again. "Holy cow!�

"Like it?� Spike asked with a smirk.

"Shiny.�

Cordy laughed as she sank into the blue loveseat that perfectly matched the bedspread. "That means yes in Xander-speak.�

"Will there be anything else Mr. Pratt?�

Spike shook his head and slipped the bellboy some money. "No.�

"Very good sir.� And he shut the door behind him.

"Now, we have hours before sunrise. What do you two want to do?�

Xander and Cordelia shared a look before eyeing Spike...and then the bed. "Sex?�

Spike rolled his eyes. "Bloody teenagers. I give you the run of London and you want to stay in.� But he grinned wickedly as he said it. "No help for it then. How do want-� And Xander didn't let him finish; rather he tackled their vampire to the bed and unbuttoned his tight black jeans with his teeth. "Alright then.�

xxx

Amy poked at the translator in her ear, and fidgeted a little, nervous. Yusuke pulled her into a hug. "You can always stay with me and Keiko.�

She shook her head. "No, I don't mind staying with the Yukimuras.� She glanced up at him. "Keiko is still going to take me to some of the different schools right?�

"Yeah. Come on. I'll introduce you.�

 

Keiko's parents adored her as much as they did Xander and were thrilled that she already seemed to know a little about Japanese cooking...thanks to a lesson or two from Xander and Yusuke.

She got situated right away, helped in the kitchen, and took orders from customers. Yusuke stood back and watched with a smile of approval. It was sort of funny how both she and Xander seemed to be naturals at this sort of thing.

When Kuwabara, Hiei and Kurama came in he watched them closely, wondering if they'd figure out who she was.

Amy approached them to take her order and Yusuke shamelessly listened in. Kuwabara and Hiei ordered their food...while Kurama just sort of stared at her, almost star struck, which made Hiei smirk and Kuwabara start to tease the fox.

He gritted his teeth just a bit.

 

"You're new here; it's not often the Yukimuras have such a pretty girl working here. I'm Kuwabara Kazuma, this is Hiei, and this is Kurama. We're friends of Urameshi and Keiko.�

Amy smiled and gave a little bow. "I'm Madison Amy.�

Kuwabara's eyes got a little wide, not to the point of being comical, but it was close. "Not Amy-chan? Urameshi and Xander's little sister?�

"Yeah.�

"How do guys like that end up with such a cute sister?�

Amy frowned, hand on her hip. "My brothers are good looking guys.�

Kuwabara smiled at her gently. "I was only teasing.�

She huffed and took their order before turning on her heel.

 

Hours later Kurama was still in the shop, drinking tea when he invited her to join him during her break. They talked about Xander, about Yusuke and the Hellmouth...and a little about his past...and her black magic addiction. Neither judged the other and when the shop closed for the night Amy saw him to the door.

When Kurama started walking home Yusuke was waiting for him around a corner.

They stared at one another for a long moment. "Do we need to have a talk?�

"I am a gentleman Yusuke.�

"That's not what I meant. She's not Xander.�

"I did notice that.�

"She's not a consolation prize.�

"Yusuke...I would never...though I suppose with my history with Xander you might think that. However I assure you that is not the case.�

"Just so we understand each other...if you ever hurt her it's not me you'll have to worry about.�

"Xander?�

"Kid is gonna be really scary some day.�

"I noticed that as well.�

xxx

"The guys already leave?� Rhonda asked as Faith creamed her character. Faith had some mad skills at Mortal Kombat.

"Yeah.�

"Why didn't you go with them?�

"Got to look the part. If I left with them for Cleveland the Mayor might get suspicious.�

"So hanging with me, Willow, and Oz is okay?�

"I'm supposed to be playing you guys' right? Hanging out is okay.�

Rhonda nodded at that. "Wanna patrol later?�

"Sure. Hey, you think the Cleveland Hellmouth is anything like this one?�

"Who knows. What's the apartment like that he's got you set up in?�

"It's the kick! All open spaces, flat screen TV, another play station, all the comics I want and a fully stocked fridge. No liquor though.�

Rhonda gave her look. "You have liquor here? As in beer?�

"Sure. Want one?�

"God yes. How did you-?�

"Rinku hooked me up.�

"Huh.�

xxx

Tor finished unpacking and wandered from his room to the study where his mom was reading a thick book; it wasn't a language he recognized. "Hey.�

"Welcome home Tor.� She smiled when he kissed her cheek. "Feel up to helping me in the gardens?�

"Sure...where's Dad?�

"Sulking in the library.�

He stared. "Why?�

She huffed. "Because he and Ethan are no longer allowed to experiment in the lab unsupervised.�

"I don't want to know the specifics...do I?�

"Probably not.�

xxx

Buffy passed the popcorn to her mom absently; eyes not leaving the TV screen and the Lifetime movie they were watching. Nothing like a quiet spring break.

When the commercial came on she felt her mother's eyes on her. "What?�

"I was just wondering...what was Ted? He wasn't human...was he?�

"Nope. He was a robot.�

Her mom was quiet for a moment. "Oh...that was unexpected. How did you know?�

"Xander couldn't smell his pheromones. Just metal and plastic. We just weren't sure of his intentions at first. I mean he could have been a nice robot you know? A lonely robot, but then he turned out to be a serial killer.�

"What happened to him?�

"We took him apart and junked him. Willow tried to keep some pieces.�

"Why?�

"Mostly for recipes...without the drugs.�

"Drugs?�

"That's part of why you liked him so much. He was drugging the food.�

"That's why you and Xander didn't eat any.�

"Yep.�

xxx

It was early and only their second night in LA. So they found the karaoke bar that Xander had told them about, Caritas.

It was nice with an unusual inside. Definitely friendlier than the clubs they'd been to.

A green demon, Lorne they supposed, approached them as they settled at a table for two. "We don't serve alcohol to minors, human or otherwise, but the appetizers are delish and you can of course take a turn on stage.�

"Lorne right?�

"At your service sugar.�

"We're part of Xander's pack. I'm Kyle, this is Larry.�

Lorne smiled at them. "In that case, the non-alcoholic drinks are on me.� He winked. "How about that song?�

Kyle looked to Larry. "What do you think?�

Larry nodded. "I'm curious. You?�

"Not really interested...but if you want to I don't mind.�

Larry nodded and Lorne gave them a book to look through. And...though it was kind of ridiculous they ended up singing Savage Garden's 'Truly Madly Deeply'. Which Larry freaking excelled at. He hadn't known his boyfriend could sing.

When they sat back down at their table Lorne applauded them and smiled. "Lovely, you know it's rare for soul mates to find one another. Congratulations.� They grinned at one another and Kyle kissed him before going to get their food.

Larry looked at Lorne. "Anything else?�

Lorne looked a little sad. "You should know...you have a possible expiration date coming up.�

"Apocalypse season.�

"Maybe...but...if you face it...you'll still have your happy ending with him.�

Larry smiled. "Thanks.�

"No problem handsome.�

xxx

Years ago, before everything, before his world exploded with the death of two of his closest friends and the betrayal of another...he'd been considering a trip to the States. He had daughters there after all and he was curious about them. Moony had never really thought that had been a good idea, but he'd went along with it because he was Moony and he understood why Sirius did it.

Growing up a Black...had been horrible and at a young age Sirius had decided that if he ever had children they would not be raised near any of his relatives. His parents would never be allowed anywhere near any children of his, ever.

And then he'd intercepted that letter. Written by some distant relative...a relative whose grandmother had been a Black...and disowned because she had been born a squib; the woman was lucky she'd not been outright killed as a child. In any case, Dylan Chase had given him the perfect opportunity to have children that his mother would never get her crazy bigoted hands on.

It had been so easy to get the Progeny Amulets. There had been a handful of them tucked away in the house, they were only used when the head male of the line had trouble...passing on his bloodline...or rather when he suffered impotency and couldn't get it up. Pure bloods had all sorts of tricks for passing on their 'superior' bloodline. Sirius had also been impressed that Dylan had a wife and a girlfriend, who were satisfied with him and knew about each other and weren't fighting like cats and dogs or eviscerating the man for having more than one woman. He had been a teenager; that sort of thing had been impressive then.

So with the right incantation his 'essence' had been transferred to the Progeny Amulets and sent by owl to Dylan Chase in some small muggle town in southern California.

Obviously with the deaths of James and Lily due to Pettigrew's betrayal he'd never had the chance to take that trip. He could now, that is if he could find a way out of the country with Buckbeak. Of course he wanted to get his watch first.

It was a nifty trinket, his pocket watch; he'd had it made after his daughters had appeared on the tapestry, oh how his mother had screamed when they'd appeared under his name. Cordelia Chase had come first then a month later Rhonda Kelley had been born.

The watch had two hands, one with a C and the other an R. When the girls were safe, the hands would point to the word safe in the traditional 12 o'clock position. If they were in danger the hands would go to 'danger' at the 3 o'clock position. The 9 o'clock position was 'okay' which was where the hands had been most of the time. The 6 o'clock position didn't have fixed text. Instead it changed whenever one asked the girls' location aloud; usually the watch had said they were in Sunnydale, though occasionally one of them was in Los Angeles.

He'd never gotten the chance to travel to America and see them before his imprisonment. Now he could, he might as well; leaving the country would be a good idea anyway.

So he retrieved his watch from where he'd hidden it years ago, one of his many stashes around London. It felt good to have it in his hands and giddily he asked, "Where is Rhonda?� It only felt right to ask about the baby, his youngest, first. And as he'd hoped, the R hand landed on the 6 o'clock position, and the name Sunnydale appeared. Good. "Where is Cordelia?� And he stared in shock as the C hand swung down and the word Sunnydale changed...to 'London'.

His oldest daughter was in London. Right now. For the first time ever he was in the same city as one of his children. So he went a step further. "Where in London?�

The name appeared, 'Egerton House Hotel' and then another, 'Knightsbridge'. Somewhere in muggle London then. He knew the area a bit, especially Knightsbridge; there were a lot of posh muggle inns there. And that was where he'd find his daughter.

xxx

The three of them spent the entire day in bed...trying lots of different positions. They ordered room service, managed to squeeze into the bath together without making too much of a mess, and then made a mess of each other in the most fun ways possible.

By the time the sun went down they were clean once more and dressed for a night out in London. Cordelia wearing a flashy blue dress that showed off her legs, Xander in tight faded jeans and an equally tight green shirt...and Spike in his usual black jeans, black t-shirt...and an open white shirt instead of his preferred red.

They made quite the impression at the first club they went to and all the others after that. Then Spike took them out to dinner...or rather an extremely early breakfast.

In short, it was perfect and they were glad to have an entire week of this.

xxx

This was not what he had expected. There was his daughter, his oldest daughter, enjoying the London nightlife with a vampire! And a strapping young lad with dark hair and brown eyes. But a vampire! And he'd never seen such a pretty vampire; he almost looked alive which was unnerving. What was the girl thinking? But oh she was beautiful, tall, slender, brunette, tan. He could understand the boy and the vampire's infatuation with her...but a vampire! He had to wonder how the muggles could be so blind. It's not like the bloke cast a bloody reflection. In fact it was absent in every store front the trio passed. This would not do.

He followed them. This way and that, on the London streets, in and out of clubs. What kind of children roamed the streets this easily? With no fear? Sirius huffed, he'd felt his animagus form would be best for this, following them unnoticed, only changing back to follow them inside the clubs. Except that it wasn't really working. Every now and then the boy would see him and stare...sometimes it even looked like his eyes flashed to a bright green. It was unnerving.

Cordelia seemed to notice him too sometimes, just giving him a puzzled look. The vampire, however, stared at him coldly, baring his teeth in warning and when he did...his face changed. Merlin's Beard. He was a blood-demon vampire. How did one kill such a creature? Demonic vampires were not something that was brought up in Hogwarts curriculum. But...that warning...meant that he considered both teenagers to be his...which meant property and not food. He knew that much.

Sirius just wasn't sure how he felt about that.

xxx

"Is that dog still following us?� Cordelia asked as they waited for a cab to take them back to the hotel.

"That's no dog, pet. We caught someone's attention, a wizard.�

"Thought I smelled magic.� Xander shook his head. "He's not very subtle...but I don't feel any ill will coming from him. He's just watching.�

Cordelia shrugged. "Then don't worry about it.� The cab pulled up and they got in.

xxx

Sirius continued to follow them off and on for a week...right up until they were suddenly gone. Cordelia and the boy were nowhere to be found...and he lost track of the vampire in the London Underground. One could only go so far down there...too many things ate dogs in the Underground.

So...that left him with one option. Go to Sunnydale. He hoped Buckbeak was up for the trip.

XXX

Chapter Text

XXX

Spring break had been good for everyone, leaving them all refreshed and ready to face the trials of the Hellmouth once more. At least Xander felt refreshed and Cordelia still had this little smile on her face.

They had gotten back Friday night, so they could use the weekend to recover from all the fun and awesome sexy-time they'd had with Spike, which meant they'd left their bags packed in a corner of the bedroom to deal with later.

It was Sunday afternoon now and Cordy wasn't letting him get away with procrastinating any more. So they had their bags open, sorting the dirty clothes into the wash pile, clothes they hadn't worn were going to go back into the closet and drawers. He was in charge of the clothes...because Cordelia was sorting through all the shoes she'd packed. Yikes.

As he was going through the luggage he noticed Marshal and Diana sitting on the back of the loveseat in front of one of the windows and were staring down at something outside.

"Marshal? What's up?�

Marshal glanced over his shoulder at Xander; Diana still perched on his head. There's a dog across the street.

"Huh. Be careful when you're outside then.�

I don't think it's a real dog.

Cordelia looked up from her task and they shared a look before Xander joined the spirit beasts at the window and looked across the street. There under a tree was the black dog that had followed them around London.

"What is it?�

He shot her another look. "That dog...the one Spike said was really a wizard?�

"He's here?�

Xander nodded and looked back across the street and blinked in surprise. "Well, not now.�

"Think we should tell Giles?� Cordelia's voice held a note of worry.

He shrugged. "Or maybe Botan. I mean it's not like he's done anything, and I'm not feeling all that paranoid at the moment.� He ignored Cordy's eye-roll.

xxx

After his quick getaway… and really he hadn't expected to be detected so soon or at all really. Perhaps that striped cat in the window was like Crookshanks and knew he was no dog? He'd been a bit...surprised? Shocked maybe, that his daughter was living with her...boyfriend? Lover? He certainly hadn't expected to find them sharing quarters like that, sharing a home.

Anyway, after that close call Sirius tracked down his other daughter, Rhonda, to the house where she lived with her mother. It was a small, if quaint, domicile. Only one story, but the yard was well kept, clutter free, maybe a bit boring compared to magical standards but muggles were a bit odd.

He caught sight of her through the windows as he crept closer in his animagus form; she looked a great deal like Cordelia. The same bone structure, the same brunette hair, though hers was very short...He was grateful their windows were open to let in the breeze because he could hear her voice. He'd seen both of them now, heard their voices. They were...everything he could have wanted in children.

Sirius wondered for a moment, what it might have been like, to watch the girls grow. To really be a father to them. It hurt his heart tremendously, he'd missed so much, and he was going to miss so much more.

He started a bit when Rhonda suddenly lifted her head from the book she was looking at, nose in the air, as if she were scenting it. Which was impossible...but just in case he fled. He was out of sight and around the street corner by the time she got to the door to peer outside.

Really, what was going on with his daughters?

xxx

Buffy walked more than a little awkwardly beside Angel down the street. The trip to the movies was supposed to be a bonding experience...not a night of throwing stuff in their faces that they couldn't do. She was almost glad to see Faith ahead of them, anything to cut their tense evening out short.

"This is where we part ways I guess.� Angel's smile was apologetic. "Sorry about the movie. I thought it was about...something else.�

"Yeah...guess we should check out the reviews next time huh.�

"Probably.�

She smiled at him, kissed his cheek and let Faith gently pull her away, arm looped through her own. Faith gave Angel a salute and a wink. "I've got it from here big guy. Night.�

"Ladies.�

 

And patrol was boring, a bust, mostly. Just one vampire had the misfortune of creeping out of a crypt as they walked by. Faith dusted it no problem and Buffy applauded her.

"It's almost like I'm not even needed.�

"Yeah right. You're peeps totally need you.�

"Yeah. I know. The routine sweeps are just getting kinda dead, you know.�

"Oh I know.� And then Faith was twirling and yanking a demon out of the shadows where he'd been spying on them. "Then again.�

"Hello there.� Buffy said all smiles and perkiness. "Do you make it a habit to spy on pretty girls out for a night time stroll?�

"No, no. I wasn't spying, and you're no ordinary girls, you're the slayers. I mean what guy would even think about being pervy and spying on you when you could ya know break them? I was just trying to figure out a way to approach you ladies. I have an offer you're going to be interested in.�

"We're not buying.� Faith sneered, stake at the ready.

"Oh come on! I've got something you want.�

They shared a look, Faith shrugged and Buffy sighed. "Which is?�

"The Books of Ascension.�

Faith's eyes met hers and they both frowned. Buffy shrugged this time. "Sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about.�

"These are important and the going rate is five-thousand dollars for the set. You know...the Mayor would gladly pay that much for them.� He grinned at them, all teeth. "But if you give me the money first, they're yours.�

"What do you think B?�

"We'll need to think about it. We'll get back you?�

Faith released the demon and he straightened his coat. "It's a limited time offer; don't want to let it pass you up. The sooner you pay me, the sooner you get the books...and the sooner I can get the hell out of here before it all goes down. Have a good night.� He skipped away and they took a moment to just stare.

Then Faith slipped her stake back in her pocket. "What do you think? He legit?�

"Maybe. This is just the first time I've heard anyone use the word 'Ascension'. Sounds big.�

"Big enough to look into? I mean if he is legit the Mayor will definitely have the cash. He hears about this he'll get the books no prob.…unless you have five grand lying around.�

Buffy nodded, anything they could get or confirm on the Mayor's plans could definitely be worth the money. "We have a pack fund.�

"And? What do we do?�

"You keep an eye on the Mayor. I'll catch the others up. Cool?�

"Cool. Later then B.�

"Watch your back Faith.�

Faith tossed her a grin. "Always.�

xxx

City Hall was quiet this time of night, but she knew the Mayor was in his office. He had a habit of working late...side affect of being single or something she supposed. Faith knocked lightly and then let herself in.

He sat at his desk, like always, smile in place. "Faith, what a pleasure to see your pretty face. How can I help you?�

"Actually, I might be able to help you.�

"Oh?�

"Yeah. Ran into this skeezy demon on patrol. Said he had something to sell us...The Books of Ascension?�

"Oh...now that is interesting. How much does he want for them?�

"He wants five-thou...cash.�

"And Ms. Summers reaction to this news?�

Faith shrugged and folded her arms. "Buffy is gonna catch the Scoobies up with the info. Make their plans from there.�

"Interesting. Thank you for being so on top of things Faith, and for bringing me this information.�

"You want me to-?�

"No, no. Don't worry about it. Now, it's late and you need your beauty sleep, though how you could possibly become anymore beautiful I don't know.� He chuckled and handed her a box. "Here, some cookies for the road.�

"Thanks...�

"Don't mention it. Only the best for my slayer. Off you go.�

Faith nodded...and let herself out of his office, box of cookies under her arm.

Once she was out of earshot he picked up the phone and dialed. It rang for a moment. "I've got a job for you.�

xxx

Xander made faces at Wesley throughout Buffy's entire catch up session, much to the amusement of the pack, but didn't let the constantly frowning Watcher catch him doing it. Seriously, the guy was gonna end up with a permanent frowny face if he didn't quit it...the best part though was how Giles was totally letting him get away with the faces, an amused gleam in his eyes.

Buffy managed to stay all business throughout his Masterface Theater. "So that's the sitch. Skeezy demon wants oodles of money for the moldy ascension books.�

Wesley continued to frown and paced a bit, Xander schooled his face to a neutral expression as the Watcher spoke, "It's odd that the demon wanted the money.�

Xander rolled his eyes, finally getting serious. "Not really. Most of the neutrals work nights, like at Walmart and gas stations.� When he got a blank stare from Wesley he continued. "Some of them have human spouses and have to buy human groceries like us. Heck some of them just eat human food. Don't you know anything?�

Wesley continued to look confused and Buffy cleared her throat. "He said the books were worth the price.�

Cordelia looked up from the tome she was skimming through. "Which probably means they're old and the real deal.�

"Yes well, we're not clear yet on what this Ascension means.� Wesley took his glasses off to clean them.

Willow frowned, a bit confused. "Not a common thing among demons?�

"Not particularly.� Giles sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. "Usually Ascension is associated with lighter creatures than demons.�

Xander snapped his fingers, a thought occurring to him. "Atavism is a kind of Ascension.�

Wesley slipped his glasses back on. "It's also very rare and is strictly relative to Makai demons...how did you know that?�

Xander shrugged and grinned. "I dated a kitsune for a while. Good times. He taught me how to pick locks and took me to a Gackt concert.�

Wesley blushed at the word kitsune. "Yes well...�

Willow shared that grin. "Also the priestess who's training me traveled back in time and met all sorts of demons during Japan's Warring States Period.�

"Er...�

Buffy ignored Wesley's speechlessness. "So Ascension does happen with demons?�

"Yeah...� A chill went through Xander as the pieces started to click into place. "...the Mayor wants to be a demon. A powerful one...�

Rhonda sat up from the table where she'd been almost asleep, only half listening to the conversation. "Meren...something. There's a book in Book Man's private files that mentions Ascension.�

Giles looked at Rhonda in surprise. "How do you know that?�

Heidi grinned from the steps. "Xander taught us how to pick locks.�

This time it was Willow who looked surprised. "Oh! You mean the Merenshtadt text! Amy and I were looking through it the other day.�

"Yeah, Ascension is mentioned in the section on genocide.� Amy shuddered. "Lovely light reading by the way.�

Giles took a moment to stare at each girl. "You broke into my office and went through my private volumes?�

Xander snorted as all four girls gave Giles their best innocent expressions...though Heidi wasn't so good at that sort of face. Instead she just rolled her eyes. "We didn't break anything. Nothing was broken.�

Giles snorted and left to retrieve the book, Amy bit her lip and called after him, sounding apologetic. "We weren't doing anything really bad. Just reading. I'm so not ready for the spells in the top of your cabinet. Jenny put her foot down on those.�

Giles returned, book in hand. "As she should.� He skimmed through until he found the passage he was looking for. "There is a reference to the journal of Desmond Kane, pastor of a town called Sharpsville. May 26, 1723.�

"Oh my god.� Xander groaned and slumped against Cordelia. "Apocalypse season.�

Buffy sighed heavily. "Of course. We get all the fun seasons in California. Spring, Summer, Hell.�

Cordelia gave him a consoling pat on the head. "What are the odds the Apocalypse will happen on Prom this year?�

He sat back up. "Let's not think about that.�

Buffy blinked. "The Apocalypse?�

"I meant Prom, but that works too.� He winced when Cordelia smacked his arm.

Having enough of their teenage antics Wesley looked at Giles. "What does the book say?�

Giles hmmd a moment. "Tomorrow is the Ascension. God help us all.�

There was a moment of silence. Then Rhonda coughed. "That's ominous.�

"It is actually.� Giles agreed. "That's the last anyone ever heard from him...the entire town seems to have disappeared.�

Heidi groaned and flopped back on the steps, sprawled out in defeat. "Great. We're gonna be at ground zero. Again.�

The next silence was a little more serious, with a slight charge, maybe the beginning of fear? Buffy looked at Xander. "So, we need those books.�

He nodded. "That would be a yes please.�

She grinned at him perkily. "So can I borrow five-thousand dollars?�

"I can cover that...or we can.�

Wesley looked from Buffy to him. "How?�

He shrugged. "We have the money we took from Mr. Trick.�

"What?�

Giles handed the book to Wesley. "I'll tell you later.�

xxx

Rhonda slipped inside Jenny's classroom as the last student left. "Hey, got a minute?�

Jenny looked up from the papers she was grading. "Of course. What's up Rhonda?�

"What do you know about animals...that sometimes smell like animals...sometimes smell like people...but always smell like magic.�

"That...sounds like an animagus.�

"Huh. Tell me about them? I think I've seen one.�

xxx

"What do you think is coming?�

Xander blinked and kissed Cordelia's shoulder as he curled around her in their bed. "In what sense?�

"The Ascension.�

"I don't know.�

"Think it will be an actual Apocalypse? Or just a local catastrophe?�

"I don't know Cordy, but we'll deal with it. Whatever it is. And we can have all the backup we could possibly want.�

"You think the books will help?�

"Can't hurt to have them.�

"Would you be disappointed if I said I was scared?�

"Cordy, I could never be disappointed in you.�

"Promise?�

"Promise.�

xxx

This guy...animagus...wizard...whatever he was, was good. Very good. She'd lost his trail more than once tonight.

Rhonda looked over the cemetery from atop of the highest crypt. His scent was fresh here, but he wasn't holed up in the crypt, but he'd been here. She frowned and cursed silently. When she caught him she was going to get some answers. She didn't like being watched.

xxx

Faith had a bad feeling, had had one since she showed up at the Skeezy Demon's apartment first thing that morning to find him dead and the books gone. Maybe she shouldn't have told the Mayor about him so soon? Maybe she should have let Buffy give the others the heads up first?

Well it was possibly too late now, she could only move forward; which was why Faith was once again standing outside the Mayor's office. She knocked and waited for his voice to welcome her in. When it did she opened the door, concerned expression on her face.

"We may have a problem.�

"Oh?�

"Yeah.� She stepped inside his office and leaned against the door after closing it. "I stopped by the demon's place. Demon was dead on the floor. Books long gone.�

The Mayor smiled and scoffed. "Oh, I know about that. I took care it, not personally of course. But the books of ascension are in my possession.�

She frowned. "But I thought I was-�

His smile turned from joyful to kind. "You're not some errand girl Faith. You're special to me. You young lady get only the best jobs.�

"Right.�

"So? What do you want? More friends? Better friends? A special guy to call your own?�

"Boys are so breakable.�

"Not all of them my dear. Angel for example seems to be sturdier than most...if that's your type.�

"Maybe. He is easy on the eyes.�

"Okay dokey. I'll see what I can do about him, just need to evict that pesky soul of his. I assume Angelus is more your cup of tea.�

"I do like to party.�

"As long as he has you home by curfew.�

"Oh come on.�

xxx

Their first class had just ended and Xander found himself being tugged away from Cordelia's side by a pensive looking Amy. Cordelia merely smiled and walked herself to her next class. Amy poked him in the shoulder to regain his attention.

"Everything okay Amy?�

"Did you...really date Kurama?�

"Yeah.�

She blushed, just a bit. "Would you...you wouldn't mind if I asked him out...would you?�

"No.�

"Really?�

He smiled and kissed her forehead. "It was a few dates. A few kisses. It never went any further.�

"Okay. Cool.� She kissed his cheek. "Thanks.�

"Any time sister mine...do I need to have chat with him?�

"Oh my goddess no. I think Yusuke already did that.� She winked and practically skipped away. Xander smiled and shook his head before proceeding to the library...he really should have gone there first thing when he and Cordelia had gotten to school. Carrying around a bag of five-thousand dollars was a little nerve wracking.

He passed Faith as she was coming out of the library. "Anything new?�

"Nope, sorry boss. Nothing to report.�

"Later then.� He smiled and entered the library, and tossed the bag to Buffy on sight. "Five-thousand dollars and-� He pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket. "Skeezy demon's address.� She took the paper from him with a nod.

"Thanks.�

"No problemo. Now, I'm off to class. Be careful?�

"I will.�

xxx

It was sundown and Faith, Buffy, Angel and Giles were gathered in Jenny's classroom, alone. The rest of the pack were absent, as was Jenny.

Buffy glanced at her sister slayer. "So what's up? Why didn't you want me to go to Skeezy demon's apartment earlier?�

Faith bit her lip. "Here's the deal. The Mayor already has the books and the demon is dead. He made a move without telling me, got to the demon before I did. So...we're gonna play him, even more than we already are.�

Giles frowned. "Xander should be in on this.�

Faith shook her head. "This could seriously blow up in my face. I don't want Boss Man anywhere near this.�

Angel nodded in understanding. "The fewer who know the better off we'll be.�

Buffy folded her arms and glared. "Uh hello, Xander is First Alpha. It feels kinda wrong to not include him.�

The vampire huffed. "You're slayers. If it weren't for the hyena Xander would be on the side lines.�

She kept up the glare on her former lover. "Fine. I'll fill him in later then, when I give him the money back that we don't need.�

Angel held out his hand for the bag. "It's already late. I'll stop by; let him know the demon is dead.� She reluctantly handed him the bag. "So, what's the plan Faith?�

xxx

Sirius could not believe this town. There was absolutely no magical community what so ever. Oh there were the ridiculous Earth Witches, Practitioners...but no one who knew how to use a wand.

And the demons. They were bloody everywhere. It was insane.

He was just glad the barkeep in that poor excuse of pub, really, who ran a pub just for demons, accepted his money.

All he had to worry about now, aside from making contact with his daughters, was finding food for himself and Buckbeak.

xxx

Faith really hoped this worked...that it didn't blow up in her face. Xander had put his...trust...in her. So she was thinking for herself and making a plan.

"The one known as Wilkins called upon me to remove this one's soul.� The masked demon before them gestured to Angel.

Faith nodded at him. "But you won't.�

"No. For Rupert called upon me to exchange the favor I owed him. My debt to him is paid. I will not be called on again.�

Faith shook her head. "No. We're done.�

"Very well.� He stepped back from them and disappeared into the shadows. Angel looked down at her and smiled.

"Ready to play?�

She nodded and really hoped she was. "Let's go play the big guy.�

xxx

"Where is everyone?� Wesley asked.

Xander wrinkled his nose at the man and cast a glance at the small group that had gathered in the library. Buffy, Willow, Cordy, Oz and himself were present, and really that was a decent number for a night of research. So intelligently he responded; "Huh?�

Wesley waved at the group. "Shouldn't the whole team be here?�

He raised a brow. "They're my pack, not yours.�

"Yes, well...this is rather important.�

"So do you want to challenge me as Alpha? Cause that's what it sounds like.�

Somehow Wesley managed to grow a tad bit paler. "No, no.�

Buffy hid an amused smile behind her hand. "Well the group is about to get smaller. I'm gonna catch up with Faith or Angel, whichever I find first.�

"Anything new to report?�

She blinked and looked a little uncomfortable. "Ah, actually Faith is trying to get more info out of the Mayor.�

"What? Since when?�

"Recent development.� She gave him an apologetic smile and kissed his cheek. "Gotta watch her back. Later.�

"Watch your own too.� He told her and she waved to acknowledge his words. When she slipped out the door Xander turned to Willow who was glaring at the computer. "Anything on the Mayor's files?�

She slammed a notebook down in frustration. "No! By the time I got through the encryption all I found was regular Mayor-y stuff. Nothing on black magic or Ascensions...or personal info.�

He gave her wide eyes and edged to her cautiously, reached over the counter and patted a hand on her shoulder. "There's got to be records somewhere.�

Oz met his eyes and moved closer to Willow to help calm her down. "What about the Hall of Records. That would be a good place to start.�

Wesley, though he'd been eyeing their movements, couldn't seem to make sense of their behavior. "Would they even be open?�

Cordelia closed the book she'd been looking through with a satisfied thump. "I can pick the locks if they're not, and it would be better than getting nothing done here.�

The Watcher made a face and glared at Xander disapprovingly. "Is there anyone you haven't passed that skill on to?�

"Yep. Giles already knew how to pick locks. He can hotwire a car too.� He grinned at Wesley's shocked expression and looked at Cordy. "So you guys go mobile research mode and I'll patrol.�

She rolled her eyes as she gathered her purse and gave him a kiss when she reached him. "Slacker.�

"Only sometimes, and patrol is totally work.� He slipped from her grasp and winked before slipping out the door.

xxx

Sirius squawked and thrashed as he was taken by surprise...tackled really...from behind. He'd never even seen it coming, having just gotten a bite to eat at that awful demon pub, he was still human and didn't have the advanced hearing of his canine form.

He and his attacker tumbled until they came to a stop across the street and a feminine laugh hit his ears. "Got you and now you're going to tell me why you've been spying on me.�

Sirius opened his eyes and blinked in surprise. Rhonda. His youngest daughter had him pinned to the pavement...and he couldn't break her hold. "Um...�

"Who are you?� She asked...and he blinked in surprise when she growled at him, baring her teeth like a dog...with glowing green eyes.

"What in the name of Merlin?�

"Nice try buddy but there is no way you could be Merlin. So who are you?�

He swallowed. "My name is Sirius Black.�

Her eyes stopped glowing, but she kept him pinned, even though her eyes were wide in shock now. "Why couldn't you have just knocked on the damn door? Moron.�

"You know who I am?�

"I know who you're claiming to be.� She tilted her head. "But I don't think you're lying. You're heart is steady and your scent didn't change. Still. I need more confirmation than that. Come on.�

She stood and helped him to his feet. "Where are we going?�

"To find Cordy.�

xxx

It was late enough that the more heavily trafficked streets were pretty much deserted, of people anyway. It was perfect for a lone Demon Kin such as himself to go for a stroll...or a patrol...not much difference really when you got right down to it.

His interest peeked when he saw Angel and Faith ahead of him, heading toward him, no Buffy in sight. Huh. He waved at them and smiled. "Buffy tells me there's interesting things afoot. Care to fill me in?�

His eyes were on Faith...he never saw the blow coming.

Angel hit him and both Slayer and Vampire kept walking as he staggered to the side. "Did you have to hit him?�

"He'll be fine.�

Only Xander wasn't. Angel's blow sent him staggering into an iron lamp post, which his already ringing head hit. And then it was lights out. He never felt it when his head hit the corner of the side walk, when it bounced off and hit the pavement of the street twice before his body came to stop...blood spreading around his cracked skull. His eyes dull and unseeing.

That was how Jonathan and Rinku found him less than a minute later.

They were hand in hand as they rounded a corner and saw Xander laying there in his own blood. Rinku didn't even try to keep Jonathan back. "Xander!� Jonathan's hand slipped from his and the shorter boy ran to Xander, stumbling when he got close, the blood drawing him up short. "Oh my god.�

Rinku knelt by his boyfriend and winced. Xander was not in good shape. His eyes were slightly glazed and didn't seem to see them when Jonathan waved a hand in front of them. There seemed to be more than one head wound. Xander's jaw was already bruising, but it looked like he'd been struck more than once...and...Rinku gulped as he moved to get a better look. Was that his brain peeking out through that particularly nasty crack? Oh gods.

Jonathan was breathing heavy, his eyes were watering and he reached for Xander's throat to check his pulse...but the exact second Jonathan's skin touched Xander's...Xander's eyes glowed green and Jonathan froze, his own eyes glazed and became unfocussed.

Rinku started and stared. "Jono?� He started to reach for his lover...but stopped when he felt a familiar thrum of power coming from both boys. "Oh crap.�

xxx

Xander looked around his mindscape. He knew where he was, and was glad the inside of his head looked like the library once more, instead of the weird acid trip it had after the Judge had touched him.

He let his hand run over a few of the books on the nearest shelf, wondering what would be on the pages if he opened one. Obviously something had brought him here; he was probably hurt...or had gotten zapped with mojo. Xander just didn't remember anything.

And then there was a pfft sort of sound and Jonathan was standing on the other side of the table. He glanced around, wide eyed and shocked...and then yelled in relief when he saw Xander. "Xander! You're alive!�

Xander blinked and came around the table to stand in front of Jonathan. "Why wouldn't—oh crap. What does my body look like?�

"Your body is fine. Your head is kinda bashed in though. There was a lot of blood.�

A twinge of pain made Xander frown. "Right.� It was sort of coming back to him. "Angel...hit me. Jerk. He and I are going to have some words about that.�

"You look fine now. How do you look fine now? How'd we get in the library?...and why is there suddenly red string everywhere?�

"What?� Xander blinked in surprise...as red string did seem to be everywhere. All of them seemed to be coming from him, from his heart and they led off in every direction. One even led directly to Jonathan. "Whoa.� He moved closer to the shorter teen and cupped his cheek.

"Xander?�

Xander was too busy searching Jonathan's face...and then there was another pfft sort of sound and then Raizen and a woman appeared beside them. Xander groaned and let go of Jonathan. "I'm dying aren't I? And just when I found the last one.�

"Last one what?� Jonathan waved his arms around a bit frantically. "What is going on?�

Xander just smiled kindly at him. "Too bad I didn't know we were brothers before this.�

"How can we be brothers?�

Xander shrugged. "That's the only reason you'd be here with me.� He looked up at Raizen and Kazue, both were taller than him. "So, I'm dying?�

Raizen sort of poked at his forehead in amusement. "I don't think so, but you're not healing.�

Kazue easily brushed Raizen aside and put her hand to Xander's forehead and closed her eyes...as if she were looking... "Your body is at war with an ancient magic. Both sides want to heal you.�

Xander groaned. "My demon parts...and the eternal life gifted by the waters of Shangri La. Great.�

Kazue nodded. "Should you stay here too long, you will not be able to return to your body. This one;� She motioned to Jonathan "is anchoring you for now.�

"Wonderful.� He looked at Jonathan. "Hey Jono.�

"Yeah?�

"Don't let me go?�

"I won't...I'm pretty sure I'm stuck to you in the real world...cause I guess we're in your head?�

"Yep.�

"Why does the inside of your head look like the library?�

"I try not to think about that.�

xxx

They hadn't been at the Hall of Records very long when Cordelia felt a blinding pain in her head and equally strong tug on her heart. When she grabbed at her head and cried out she had the attention of the others, their eyes filled with worry. Willow reached out to her. "Cordy? What is it?�

She stood, shaking a bit. "Xander's hurt.� She moved away from the table, a tremble in her step, she stumbled a bit as she moved toward the door.

Oz started to put his books away. "We'll come with you.�

"No!� She commanded, wincing at the touch of power in her voice. "Don't� The second word was softer, but still an order. "You guys stay here, we need everything we can get on the Mayor.�

Wesley frowned, hand reaching out as if to steady her. "How could you possibly know he's hurt? How will you get to him?�

She glared at him and bared her teeth and felt her eyes change a bit as the room took on a pink glow...which might be coming from her eyes come to think of it. "None of your business.� And then she raced from the room and out of the building.

Ronda was waiting for her on the sidewalk, a strange man beside her. Cordelia growled and Rhonda ducked her head. "Uh...I was looking for you?�

"What the hell Ronnie? We don't have time for creepy old men. Xander is hurt.�

"That's what I felt...but this guy? He's been spying on us.�

"Ronnie! Call the pack.�

Rhonda's eyes grew wide. "It's bad?�

"Very bad.�

Rhonda nodded and tilted her head back and called the pack with a series of howls and yips, her eyes glowing green. The sound echoed through the air and Cordy let the briefest sigh ease through her. Then she glared at the man who was staring at Rhonda like she was an alien.

"Who are you?�

His gaze whipped back to her. "Sirius Black.� Rhonda's eyes faded back to their normal brown and met Cordelia's. They knew that name. Sirius Black was the name of their sperm donor...their biological father.

"As far as I can tell?� Rhonda nodded. "He's not lying.�

Cordelia took a step toward him and poked a finger sharply at his chest. "We'll talk later. Right now we have to get to Xander.�

"Shouldn't he be okay? I mean after Shangri La he can't die...right?�

"He should be okay...but nothing is ever simple when it comes to him.�

"I'll go with you.� Sirius said, as if his words made it so, and then his form flowed...and he became a large black dog. The biggest dog Cordelia and Rhonda had ever seen...the same dog that had followed Cordelia, Xander and Spike around London.

Rhonda's jaw was practically on the ground. "What the—Jenny was right, that is why your scent kept changing.�

"How did you-� Both girls reached to touch him...just as he turned back into a man, their hands ended up on his shoulders. Then he grinned and turned back into a dog. Cordy saw the magic, felt it...and knew how to use it. Her eyes met Rhonda's and Rhonda grinned widely her eyes flashed green and Cordy knew her own were glowing pink.

And then Rhonda was a hyena.

And Cordy was on all fours as well, and though she couldn't see her form, she knew what she was. A Great Pyrenees, her grandmother had had one when she was little. She'd loved that dog.

Rhonda gave a yip and Cordy barked back...and then they running, three large canine forms dashing through the streets of Sunnydale. A Great Pyrenees. A Hyena. And a freaking huge black hound.

Nothing dared to step out in front of them.

 

Kyle, Tor and Heidi were already there when they reached Xander. Jonathan had his hand on Xander's throat and seemed to be just as unresponsive. Rinku hovered behind him worriedly. Cordy knew how he felt...and she wasn't entirely sure how she'd managed to find him...whether it was her nose or her heart that led her to him. The other three blinked in surprise when they skidded to a stop and shifted back to human form at Xander's side.

Cordy didn't even hesitate, she knelt in the blood and carefully placed Xander's head on her legs, managing to not jostle Jonathan's hand away, feeling it was important that he stay connected to Xander.

Xander who lay there bleeding, his head cracked open, she could actually see inside and her stomach rolled in protest. His eyes were glowing green...and she placed her hands on his cheeks and her vision went pink again.

And suddenly she was in the library, standing...and there was Xander in front of her, whole, uninjured. She threw herself at him, wrapped her arms around him in a crushing hug and sobbed.

"Hey Queen C. Missed me?�

And then she was snarling and shaking him. "Oh my god! What the hell happened to you! Why are you bleeding out on the ground!�

His arms pin wheeled a bit before he managed to hug her to him and stopped her throttling. "It wasn't my fault, Angel hit me, and then my head hit a few random motionless objects...and now apparently I have head trauma.� He glared at the two adults that were standing beside them, laughing. "Not funny.�

"Who are-?�

"Raizen and Kazue.�

She blinked. "Oh.� Cordelia nodded at them both respectfully. "Ojiisan. Obaasan.� Then she looked back to Xander. "So...why is Jonathan here?�

"Because I picked the perfect time to locate my youngest sibling.�

Her eyes widened and she looked at Jonathan. "Oh.�

"And he's been keeping me anchored.�

Cordelia shuddered a bit and tugged at Jonathan until she could hug him as well. "Thank you.�

"Uh...yeah. Okay. I'm just glad the freaky red strings disappeared.�

Before she could ask...Amy appeared beside them along with Yusuke, Yusuke whose eyes were filled with worry and an undercurrent of rage. "What the hell happened to you?�

Xander blinked. "Uh...ask again later when I don't have head trauma?�

Cordelia frowned. "Angel hit him.�

"Buffy's vampire.�

"Yep.�

"Good to know.�

"Don't dust him.� Xander said, a note of finality in his voice, "You can beat the crap out of him, obviously I can't stop you. Just don't dust him.�

"Fine.�

And then Xander pushed Jonathan towards Yusuke and Amy. "And hey, look what I found. Amy's not the youngest.�

Yusuke glared at him but did tug Jonathan into a hug. "Nice to meet you kid.�

"His name is Jonathan...and he's dating Rinku.� Xander grinned when Jonathan glared at him.

"Wow, really?�

Raizen laughed at them all. "I think it would have been nice, to raise a brood such as this.�

Kazue smiled behind her hand. "Perhaps in another life.� She nodded at them. "You're fading. It seems your body is finally healing. The girl's magic is anchoring you now, and forcing your body to heal.� She frowned. "But it is the blood of the dead that is pulling you back.�

"Yeah. Cordelia always delivers. She's a force to be reckoned with...wait...what? Blood of the--� He glanced at Cordelia. "You think?�

She shrugged. "Botan may have brought Spike. You know of any other dead guys whose blood would pull you back?�

"Eww. And no.�

Cordelia flicked his ear...and then his mindscape faded away. But Raizen's voice reached his ears. "I hope to meet your vampire some day.�

When he opened his eyes Spike was crouched beside a blinking and dazed Cordelia, blood on his lips and a bloodied wrist to Xander's lips. He gave Spike's wrist a lazy lick...and everything went black.

xxx

Faith had been uneasy since the start. It was like she could almost feel the entire meeting going south the second she and Angel had walked into the Mayor's office. Like he knew something she didn't.

It was like he was humoring them, just going along with their game. Going along with Angel's Angelus routine, it was pretty convincing when he threw the letter opener.

Wilkins let them dig themselves deeper and deeper...and Angel couldn't see it coming. But Faith did. And then nearly half an hour into the game...Wilkins smiled.

"I'm going have to stop you there son. I suspect that you might be faking all this. And even if you weren't...at this point it really doesn't matter. You might want to run.�

"Run? From you?�

"From me? No. From a certain Demon King who has just arrived in town.� He smiled and Angel swallowed in dread.

"What?�

Demon King? Faith frowned and repeated the question. "What?�

Wilkins smiled kindly at her. "Didn't your little friends tell you? Mr. Harris is part demon. Royalty actually. A Prince, and big brother is on his way...�

It really couldn't have been timed better, because just as the Mayor started chuckling...the door burst open. And a man, a few years older than Xander...who looked a lot like Xander stormed in, eyes aglow with an inhuman light, tattoos on his face. He spotted Angel, and moved so fast that Faith couldn't track him with her eyes, grabbed the vampire from her side and stormed back out. Dragging Angel, who was taller and built bigger, like he weighed nothing at all. Faith could only stare.

Wilkins laughed again. "Well, that was fun. Milk?�

She collapsed in a chair. "He's a demon prince?�

"Yes indeedy.�

xxx

Buffy peeked into the room cautiously and winced at the bloodied pulp that had been Angel. He twitched and didn't turn to dust...so he'd probably recover. "Kind of went over board didn't you?�

Yusuke was wiping the vampire's blood from his hands, with what like one of Angel's shirts. "No.�

"Are you sure?�

His eyes were hard and unforgiving when he stared at her. "I saw his brain.�

She winced. "Okay. Definitely not overreacting. It was a stupid plan...I didn't know that Angel would hit him. Faith just...I shouldn't have gone along with it.�

He raised a brow at her. "I'm not the one you should be explaining yourself too. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go have a talk with Rinku about Jonathan.�

"Big brother speech?�

"Yep.�

xxx

They had opted to save the 'Big Conversation' for later, when Cordelia and Xander could be present...but Rhonda had still taken him home with her to meet her mother.

Sirius watched his youngest daughter, who'd fallen asleep on the recliner across from him. Stacey, her mother, entered the room with two steaming cups. "I don't have any English tea...but I do have coffee.�

"I could try some.�

She smiled and handed him a cup. "It nice to finally meet you...and I wanted to thank you.� She sat beside him on the sofa.

"For what?�

"If you hadn't answered Dylan's letter...I wouldn't have this amazing daughter. We wouldn't have this amazing daughter.�

"She is something, isn't she...they both are.�

Stacey smiled at him. "Would you like to look at some pictures?�

"Pictures?�

"Of Rhonda growing up. Cordy spent a lot time here as well, so I have pictures of both of them.�

"I would, if it's not too much trouble.�

"Not at all.�

xxx

Xander opened his eyes and blinked his bleary vision away, wondering what it was that had woken him. However he realized...that the bed was moving. The heck?

A whimper, a strangled sound caught his ears and the last of the sleep fell from him and he was aware...but weak. He turned his head, and blinked, and let the sight of Cordelia on her hands and knees, Spike behind her, rocking into her, fill his vision. He breathed in, taking their scents, their arousal...their despair...and finally their relief as they saw him watching them.

"Hey.� He smiled and took Cordy's hand...and accepted the kiss Spike gave him, pressing his chest to Cordelia's back as he leaned down to reach Xander.

"Welcome back love.�

"Don't-� Cordelia gasped, her hips rocking back into Spike's. "Ever do that again. That-ah...that stunt gave you another-nn...tattoo.�

Xander blinked and checked himself...there was indeed a new tattoo on his left shoulder; it matched the one on his right. "Hey, I'm symmetrical.� Cordelia bit his wrist and he sighed wearily. "No promises Cordy, not on this.�

"You two are talking entirely too much.� Spike pulled Cordelia up so that she was in his lap instead of on her hands and knees. "Enjoy the show Xander.� Spike smirked down at him over Cordy's shoulder. "Your turn next.�

Xander smiled.

XXX

Chapter Text

XXX

It took a while for Xander to heal. Almost a week, but Spike and Cordelia were there for him. Every step of the way, and while it was nice to be doted on, he was looking forward to being able to get around by himself. No matter how fun showers with his lovers were...or how thorough they got. At least Spike was letting him walk around and not carrying him everywhere.

He was lounging on the couch, tired because he'd over done it and took the stairs too fast, when Rhonda, Botan and Sirius let themselves in. The three of them came into the living room and he waved a hand. "Welcome to my humble abode.� He looked Sirius up and down, frown on his face. "So you're done with the stalking routine right?�

"Ah, yes.�

"Good, it was really creepy.� He motioned to the chairs around the room. "Have a seat.�

They did and Sirius gave him a...heh...serious expression. "What exactly is your connection to my daughter?�

Xander raised a brow. "I don't think someone who's been absent from her life the past eighteen years has any right to ask me that. Also if you get snippy, mean or judgmental I will throw the nearest pillow at you.�

That got a confused blink from the man. "Well...I was still in school when I volunteered to be a father; I'm assuming you know about the Progeny Amulets?� Xander nodded. "...and then there was a war...I lost two of my best friends to a mad man.� Sirius seemed to take a moment to push back the grief in his eyes. "...and then I was sentenced to prison for crimes I did not commit. The deaths of my closest friends specifically.�

"And you're out now?�

"Actually I escaped...and tried to bring to justice the one responsible for James and Lilly's deaths. Unfortunately the little rat got away, I'm still a wanted man...and my godson is still forced to live with relatives who hate him.�

"Well...damn. Hey Cordy! Your dad's here, and man has he got story to tell you!�

xxx

Botan took pity on the man sitting at her kitchen table and placed a proper cup of tea in front of him. He looked up, blinking in surprise, as if he'd forgotten she was even there. She smiled kindly at him. "It's a bit much to take in, isn't it?�

"I thought...that they would be overwhelmed with the world I come from, growing up among muggles...but those girls...all of these children who know the truth about this town...� Sirius rubbed at his eyes and barked out a laugh that was tinged with a note of hysteria. "They have got to be some of the bravest people I have ever met...and not just brave...but smart. They go after their enemies with a vengeance, but they plan and think things through, I've never met...They are extraordinary.�

"They are.�

Sirius looked up at her. "You know much of my world.�

She nodded. "I do.�

"I need help, an ally, someone who can move about my world while I am unable too.�

"What do you need?�

"I want you to handle my affairs, if you would. I want Cordelia and Rhonda to be my heirs, officially.�

Botan blinked, surprised, but honored. "I wouldn't mind...but Lord Black you are still a wanted man. I'm not sure what your rights are, as a fugitive.�

"I know. But if I'm ever exonerated...even if it's after my death my wealth will go to the girls and Harry.�

"I'll see what I can do...I have to take Spike back to London anyway.�

Sirius gave another snort of laughter. "I can't believe my oldest daughter...is the consort of a Demon Prince...and his Demonic Vampire mate.�

Botan giggled. "Ah...the kids didn't mention something...�

He sighed. "What didn't they tell me?�

"Spike? Is also William the Bloody...�

He stared at her, hoping she'd tell him she was only jesting. "He's part of the bloody Scourge of Europe.�

"Yep.�

"Gryffindor's Honor...I think I need something stronger than tea.�

"I don't have Fire Whiskey...would some muggle scotch suffice?�

"Whatever you have.�

xxx

Xander and Cordelia paused in their trek down the hall at Willow's locker where she, Buffy and Heidi were gathered. His arm was around her waist as he was still a tad unsteady on his feet and she was supporting just a little bit of his weight. Said hall was filled with the usual student population, but there was an undercurrent of excitement that Xander couldn't figure out the reason for.

"Why does everyone look happy...were they all replaced with Pod People?�

Cordelia gave his ribs a rather sharp poke. "Have you listened to a thing I've said today?�

"Ah...about which topic?

"The pep rally? The big game?�

"Oh. Yeah, I mean you've been psyched all morning so I know why you're all peppy, I meant the rest of our school pop.�

Cordelia gave him a sad look and gently pet his chest. "This happens before every big game Xander.�

"Since when? Where have I been during all these peppy times?�

"Being part of the fringe crowd, fighting evil, nearly dying. Take your pick.�

"Huh...so why am I noticing now?�

"Because your popular genius.�

"I am not.� He tapped Buffy's shoulder, interrupting her conversation with Heidi and Willow. "Buffy tell her I'm not popular.�

Buffy barely looked up from her hand which she was starting to rub red and murmured; "You're not popular...wait...what?�

"Thank you.�

"You are too popular; you're one half of this school's power couple.�

He made a face. "When did that happen? You'd think I'd remember crossing over into Coolsville territory.�

Cordelia frowned and gave Willow a nudge as she opened her locker. "Tell him he's cool and popular. He doesn't believe me.�

Will nodded in agreement. "It's true Xander. You're the most popular guy in school.�

"I...what?�

Willow ignored him and gave Buffy a concerned look. "You okay?�

"Yeah...just...that demon I slayed last night? It did something to me...and now my hand is all itchy.�

"Did it zap you?�

"No. Why?�

"No reason.�

Heidi peeked at the reddening skin of Buffy's hand. "It really had no teeth?�

Buffy shook her head. "No teeth. No mouth.�

Heidi actually looked disgusted at the idea. "How can it rip its prey apart without teeth?� The four of them stared at Heidi long enough that she blinked back in confusion. "What?�

Xander pat her shoulder with the hand not at Cordy's waist. "It's okay Heidi, we still love you.� He changed the subject, rapidly. "We know anything new about the ascension? Anyone hear from Faith?�

Buffy shook her head. "I think she's still a little shocked about your heritage.�

He groaned. "I guess I should have told her.�

Heidi bumped his shoulder gently. "Rinku and Jono still hang with her, Russ and Andy too.�

"Good, at least someone isn't keeping secrets from her.�

Buffy leaned against the lockers and looked up at him, eyes sad. "I haven't apologized for the Angel thing.�

He shrugged. "I heard Yusuke beat him to a pulp.�

"Yeah.�

"Then consider me satisfied.�

Her eyes staid sad but her lips quirked and she barred her throat. Xander leaned down to gently press his teeth to her skin. He pulled back with a small smile. "Secrets bad. We both dropped the ball this time. Me with Faith, you with Angel.�

"We're good?�

"Yep. So, Ascension. What do we know?�

Heidi gave one of the lockers a idle kick. "Faith did pass a couple of things through Jono.� When they all looked at her to continue, she grimaced. "The Big Day is graduation.�

Cordelia groaned and rested head on his shoulder. "Fun.�

Heidi nodded in agreement. "He's impervious to harm right now. Angel threw a letter opener at him and he healed right after he pulled it out of his hand. Felt no pain either.�

Buffy gaped a bit. "That's it? Xander ended up with his brain on the sidewalk for nothing?�

"Contrary to rumors, my brain did not exit my head. Any of it.�

Cordelia shuddered against him. "No, but we could see it, and I never wanna see it again.�

"We should tell Giles about this.�

"Yes you should, go forth and inform the Watcher my little Priestess.�

Willow closed her locker and tugged Buffy in the direction of the library. "Later Xander.�

"Xander! Cordelia!�

Xander let Cordelia manhandle him until they were leaning against the lockers and waiting for... "Why did Hogan Martin call out to us?�

"Beats me.�

Hogan Martin, star of Sunnydale High's basketball team came to a stop about a foot and a half from them. "Hey.�

"Hey yourself.� Xander looked up; geeze was the guy ever tall.

"Hey Hogan.�

"Are you two going to the game?�

Cordy grinned. "Well yeah, I am kind of cheering at it. Xander?�

He blinked. "I am a supportive boyfriend so I will definitely be there to watch you cheer.�

Cordelia kept grinning and Hogan smiled too. "So uh, after the game, do you two maybe wanna get a bite? Like at Happy Burger or the Taco Shack? Yano's Pizza? My treat.�

Xander flicked his gaze to Cordy; she looked just as surprised as he felt. "Uh...Hogan...are you asking us out? Both of us?�

Hogan ducked his head a little and smiled. "Well you two seem like a package deal...and you're both cute.�

Cordelia smiled, it was one of her gentle ones. "We're flattered, really.�

"And we are package deal.�

"So?�

Xander gave his own gentle smile...Hogan looked like he melted...just a smidge. "We have an older boyfriend.�

Hogan looked so sad then that Xander was ready to buy the guy as many cookies as he could eat. "Oh...he in college?�

Cordy shook her head. "Older than that.�

"Lucky guy.� He smiled, though it was sad. "But you'll still support the team at the game?�

"Definitely.�

Hogan raised his hand and Xander clapped it. "Later then.� He walked away and Xander looked at Cordy.

"What just happened?�

"I think we were propositioned by a really tall and handsome basketball player.�

"Huh.�

"At least it wasn't Devon.�

Xander shuddered. "Cordy, sweetheart, don't even joke about that.�

xxx

Buffy was one of the stragglers who took their time getting to the pep rally. However, unlike other stragglers who looked happy to be out of class she looked...distressed. Worried even, as she sat beside Willow and Oz on their bench. Larry joined them a moment later, standing beside Xander on the steps.

"Hey Buff. What's got you so gloom and doom?�

"That demon that did something to me? Turns out it bled on me...and now I could get a demon part.�

Larry glanced down at her, brows furrowed. "How does that even work?�

"No idea...and Giles doesn't know what part I'm gonna get. Scales, horns, claws all he knows is that I have a demon infection.�

Xander grimaced...then Cordelia caught his eye as she winked at him mid cheer. "Could be nothing...could be an enhanced sense that will help you patrol.�

"If only.�

"Here let me take a look.� Willow turned a little more towards Buffy and concentrated on her.

"Uh...it bled on my hand Wills, not my face...thank goodness.�

"I'm looking at your aura silly...oh...�

"Oh? Why doesn't oh sound good? Is it a bad oh?�

"Xander.�

He turned back to look at the girls. "What?�

"Look at Buffy's aura.�

He blinked but did as she asked and opened up his extra sense of sight, and blinked again. "Did you by chance drink anything radioactive?�

Buffy's eyes seemed to grow huge, but it was hard to be sure while looking at her aura. "Radioactive?�

"There's a kinda neon blue glow going from your hand up to your head.�

"I'm radioactive?�

"Not in the sense that you're gonna become a puddle of mutated goo...you're just a little glowy...and only someone like me and Wills can see the glow...so no big?�

"Why did you make it a question?�

"Cause I've never seen an aura do that before.� He shut down his sight and blinked again. "Maybe it just means your hand to eye coordination has improved?�

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Will? What do you think?�

"We can keep looking, and maybe Xander's right, maybe it won't be anything bad.�

Xander caught their attention again when he growled. Larry elbowed him a bit. "Dude, chill. What is it anyway?�

Oz lifted his chin in Wesley's direction. "Watcher is making eyes at Cordy again.�

Buffy sighed. "Xander. You know Cordelia is yours and Spike's.�

"Yeah...but he keeps putting his pervy adult eyes all over her.�

"You do realize that Spike is older than Wesley.�

"That's different.�

"Right, I forgot I was dealing with Xander-logic.�

"Hey!�

xxx

"You don't have to patrol with me Heidi.�

"Ball games really aren't my thing.�

Buffy smiled. "You'd rather be out killing something huh?�

"That and its Sirius' first non magical sport game and Rhonda is doing the bond thing...and Sirius is still trying to wrap his mind around Xander being royalty and non-magical culture.�

"You want to avoid possible drama.�

"Yeah.� Heidi frowned. "Which I'm failing at. Hello Angel.�

Buffy whirled to look behind them. "Angel.�

He stepped closer to them, out of the shadows. His face was still a mass of bruises, his diet of cow's blood keeping him from healing quickly from the beat down from Yusuke. "Buffy.� He frowned. "Heidi.�

Heidi bared her teeth and growled; Buffy put her hand on the other girl's arm. "Enough Heidi.�

She huffed. "I'll catch up with you later.�

"You don't have to leave on my account.�

Heidi sneered at him. "As far as we're concerned you're not even an ally.�

"Heidi, Xander said everything was okay. He was satisfied. No more retribution.�

"He might think so, but me and Kyle? We'd be happy to rip his throat out.�

"Xander is fine now.� Angel frowned. "He's in better shape than me.�

"We saw his brain through the crack in his skull that you left behind.� She shook her head. "Later.� And then she was jogging away.

"It was pretty bad Angel...if Xander had been entirely human you'd have killed him.�

"Buffy.�

"I don't know why you have all this animosity toward Xander, but he's been nothing but supportive of my love for you for over a year.�

"Really? Because he started out as a jealous child who-�

"Where exactly have you been recently? Xander has Cordelia, he loves her, he adores her and would do anything for her. I'm like a sister to him, family.�

"He still doesn't like me, even though I have a soul-�

"He doesn't have to like you...and a soul wouldn't make any difference to Xander...and he makes exceptions with the vampire thing.�

"What?�

Buffy stared at him for a moment. "Angel...you did know about Spike right?�

"What about Spike?�

"That he has a thing...with Xander and Cordy.�

Angel stared back. "When did that happen?�

"While you were evil. Real evil, not pretend evil.�

"I...really?�

"Yeah. Part of the reason Xander came out of what you did to him is because Spike gave him some of his blood.�

"So...the three of them...�

"Have had sex.�

"I need to sit down.�

"Baby.�

"Can we talk about something else? Anything else?�

"Talking about Xander having sex really makes you that uncomfortable?�

"Yes.�

"Huh.�

"Please?�

"We can talk about my possible new demon parts.�

"...What?�

xxx

"And their only purpose is to cheer the team? In those short skirts?�

"Cheer on the team, get the crowd excited, keep everyone pumped.�

Sirius wasn't sure where to keep his eyes. On Cordelia as she cheered in that ridiculously short skirt, or on the boys who were bouncing a ball across the floor. "Tell me again how the points are scored.�

Stacey, Rhonda's mom, smiled as she explained what the players were doing. She was on Sirius' right, Rhonda on his left. It was their first outing as a family, and they'd chosen to come watch the game and Cordy cheer her heart out.

Sirius seemed to be enjoying himself, even though the game wasn't a Quidditch game, whatever the heck that was. He was smiling and laughing, a coke in one hand and cotton candy in the other...and he kept stealing handfuls of popcorn from Rhonda. It was obvious the guy hadn't had this much fun in years.

Xander grinned and snapped another picture of Cordy, before getting another of Sirius, Stacy and Rhonda. Stacy had handed him the disposable Camera as they had entered the gym with instructions to record Sirius' first 'muggle cultural experience'.

It was...weird to think that the guy came from a 'world' where magic was relied upon so heavily. His people used magic for practically everything, it seemed kind of wasteful to Xander. To have that kind of power...and...well...when he thought about it, it made a kind of sense. Cordy simply did not get along with the kitchen appliances and used her magic for cooking, but still.

Using magic for everything?

"What's the what?�

Xander jumped a bit and glared at Buffy. "We're winning, finish patrol?�

"Yeah, thought I'd drop by, see what all the fuss was about.� Heidi dropped onto the bleachers beside her, popcorn in hand, Buffy grabbed a handful. "So if we're winning why do you have a frowny face?�

"Just thinkin'.�

"About?�

"A world where everyone depends on magic and can't do a thing without it.�

"Cordy and Rhonda's dad?�

"Yeah.�

"Strange huh?�

"Very, gotta say though, I like him better than Dylan Chase.�

"He's gaining some good guy points?�

"So far.�

"And if he turns out to not be a good guy?�

Xander shrugged. "I'd rather not think about that...Stacey seems to be entering the girlish crush zone.�

"Oh.�

"Yeah.�

"Oh, hey, that was a nice move. Hogan can really jump huh.�

He glanced at her and smirked. "That was not your most subtle topic change ever. You know he asked me and Cordy out today.�

"No...really? Seriously? He wanted a piece of the XanCordy pie?�

"Yep.�

"Wow.�

xxx

"How was the game?� Botan asked as Sirius let himself in. She was sitting on the sofa, watching some reruns, with a cup of tea in hand.

"Interesting. I may have developed an addiction to the drink I had...Stacey called it a coke?� He sat down in one of the arm chairs. "Have you thought about what I asked?�

"I stopped by Gringotts while in London.�

"And?�

"The girls were born before you were arrested, it might take a little work on my part, and a look at your memories. The Goblins have their own rules, obviously, since your accounts haven't been frozen. I will need permission to access them.

"Albus Dumbledore can help you with that; he has access to them right now.�

She wrinkled her nose. "I'd rather not have to deal with him. The moment he finds out who I am he'll want me involved in this...mess...�

"Who you are? Are you someone important Botan? I know you work for...Reikai was it?�

She shrugged. "Merlin didn't die you know. He simply retired.�

His eyes were huge now. "Retired.�

"He lives in a pocket dimension with his wife.�

"Wife?�

"The Lady Nimue.�

"How could you possibly know that?�

Botan smiled. "They're my parents.�

"You...you're the daughter...of Merlin.�

"Yep.�

An explosion rocked the house.

"What was that?�

Tor's voice came from the attic. "I'm okay!�

Botan rolled her eyes. "That was my little brother, experimenting with his magic.� She sighed before yelling at the ceiling. "Did you break anything?�

"...no!�

"Are you sure!�

"Yes!�

She gave a prim snort and sipped her tea. "Are you alright Sirius?�

"I just found out my hostess and her brother are the children of Merlin and Nimue...and that the greatest Wizard who ever lived is still alive! No I'm...I don't know yet if I'm alright.�

"I got you some identification today.�

"What?�

"Something to help you blend in with the non-magicals. I'll explain how it all works later.�

"Alright. I need some tea...is there another reason you don't want to get involved in the Voldemort mess?�

"There is.� She sipped her tea again.

"And?�

"I'm with child.�

"Oh.�

"That about sums it up.�

xxx

Angel was sitting on the front steps when Xander parked the car. Cordelia gave him a look. "What do you think?�

"No idea. Just hold off on any violence until after we get an idea of why he's here.�

"So I shouldn't rip his throat out with my new doggy teeth...or try to set him on fire.�

Xander blinked. "Should I be worried? Because it sounds like you've been spending a little too much time with Heidi.�

She leveled a Queen C glare on him. "Brains.�

"Yes, and I only have the one, and it's in my head and my skull is healed. No violence in the front yard please.�

"Fine.�

They kissed on it and then got out of the car, Xander pausing only to get Cordelia's bag of cheer-leading gear, her uniform and pompoms, out of the back seat. Then they walked hand in hand to the steps. Angel looked up at them, gaze pausing on their grasped hands before focusing on Xander's face.

"Exactly how bad was it?�

Xander shrugged at the question. "I ended up in a mindscape type place, sort of like limbo. The first time that happened was the crazy Halloween when I used face paint from Ethan's store to paint Raizen's markings on my face. The second time it happened was when the Judge touched me.�

Cordelia glared at Angel. "The stunt you pulled gave him another Mazoku Marking. He has two now. Congrats on making him a little less human.�

Angel winced a bit. "I should have pulled the punch. I'm sorry.�

"Just don't do it again.�

"Why haven't you tried to get back at me?�

"Because kicking your ass would alienate Buffy. I love her more than I dislike you.�

"You do love her.� The tone was accusing.

"Oh my god...Angel don't tell me you're jealous?� He stared at the vampire, who huffed. "Seriously? She's family. She's pack. There will never be anything between us.�

"Because you have Spike and Cordelia.�

"Yep.�

"He's evil, Xander.�

Xander rolled his eyes. "No, really?�

"He feeds on humans.�

"Angel...he hasn't killed a human since that night in the church.�

"You can't know that.�

Xander took a step forward, released Cordelia's hand as he did so and grabbed Angel's chin so they're eyes met. "When a vampire feeds on a human and kills them, traces of their soul stay in the blood, for at least three days...sometimes longer. I can see those traces...just like I can see your soul.�

"You...you can see my soul...that night in the school...when I showed up in the hall with you and Willow...you knew. Just by looking at me.�

"Yeah.�

"So Spike is drinking blood from the butcher.�

Xander released his chin with laugh. "As if, why on earth would he drink that crap?�

"You just said-�

Cordelia put her fist on her hip and looked down on the vampire. "He's a Master Vampire; he does have control of himself.� Her eyes glazed for a second, a tiny smirk twisting her lips. "Lots of control.� A touch of arousal drifted from her.

"Cordy?�

"Sorry.�

Angel looked a little horrified. "He still feeds.�

"But doesn't kill. Also whenever he's in town we have bagged blood in stock, the Red Cross can't use all of it. We get the reject blood for him.�

"Why? He's evil and unrepentant.�

Xander sighed. "Angel, you can't help who you fall in love with.�

"Demon's can't love.�

"Do you know the story of Raizen and Kazue?�

"No.�

Xander shrugged. "Maybe you should do a little research, because if a demon as powerful as Raizen could starve himself to death for 700 years because of a promise to the human woman he loved...I think Spike who devoted himself to Drusilla for over 100 years could be capable of not killing humans for the same reason. I mean...he chose us over Drusilla. You understand what that means.�

"He could be playing you.�

"Angel. He barred his throat to me...there's no getting rid of a mark like that.� Xander shook his head. "You know Spike. He's always been different right? So just accept it.� Xander offered his hand to Cordy and they walked up the steps around him. "Good night Angel.�

They left him sitting on the steps, never checking to see when he left.

xxx

He woke the next morning to an amorous Cordelia who was demanding and clinging and commanding all at the same time. Xander only smiled and held her tight as she fell apart all around him and kissed her through the tremors of their bodies.

"Morning.�

"Good morning.� Her eyes were still a little glazed as she pulled free and threw the condom away. "I'll start the coffee if you'll warm the poptarts.�

"The alarm hasn't gone off yet, I can cook.�

She grinned. "No time. I turned off the alarm. We have to rush now.�

Xander groaned. "Sometimes I think you're evil. We're stopping somewhere for breakfast.�

Cordy kissed him as she slipped from the bed. "Better hurry then.� However he watched her get dressed for a moment before following suit with a grin. "What?�

"Nothing. Just another beautiful morning on the Hellmouth.�

xxx

Things got weird in English class.

Buffy wasn't stupid, sometimes the slaying just got in the way of studying. Not so much anymore, because the pack had grown enough that they had actual group rotations, but still...Buffy never answered questions like this.

It was as if she was plucking the answers from mid air. Something that shouldn't be possible. He peeked at her aura. And shuddered. The neon color from before had spread, nearly wrapping completely around her head. It didn't look comfortable.

Xander shot a look at Willow and waited for his best friend to feel his gaze. When she eventually did he shot a glance at Buffy. Willow frowned and glanced at Buffy...concentrated...and blinked in confusion. She glanced back at Xander with a frown. He shrugged. He had no idea what was going on with their BFF either.

When class was over they grabbed Buffy, pulled her aside and gave her matching inquisitive stares until she cracked.

"What? Is it my hair?�

"What exactly was going on in English class?�

Buffy bit her lip and met his eyes. "Um...I figured out what demon part I got?�

Willow huffed. "And?�

"So the scabby demon didn't have a mouth because it was telepathic? And now I can hear thoughts...and see aura's apparently...Xander did you know your aura is kinda green...with a lot of pink mixed in?�

He nodded. "The pink is Cordy's.�

"Oh...�

Willow however folded her arms in disappointment. "You hear thoughts now?�

"Um yes?�

"So all those answers in English class?�

"Um...they weren't technically mine?� She winced as Willow gave her the ultimate 'I'm disappointed in you' face. "Oops?�

Willow kept up the look. "Cheating is wrong Buffy.�

"Yeah...but did you see Nancy's face?� She winced again. "Okay, so not important. Um...So why can't I hear you two?�

Xander blinked. "Willow has her scoldy face on and that's what you say?� He sighed. "We have our shields up.�

"Shields?�

"...they're kind of like...internal wards. When we let them down a bit we can see auras.� His eyes glowed a bit. Can you hear me now?

"That is so cool. I need shields.� Her eyes got an excited look. "But first...� And then she was sprinting away.

Xander stared after her for a moment before looking at Willow. "You're a girl.�

"Yes, thank you for noticing.�

"You're welcome...what just happened?�

"No idea. Must be a Buffy thing.�

"Huh.�

xxx

They were in the library when Buffy decided to rejoin them. Cordelia was perched on his lap; Rhonda was across from them, Willow beside her...stringing together some beads on what was looking like a necklace. Xander caught a whiff of Angel's scent and rolled his eyes. No doubt Rhonda had as well from the frown she was sporting. "Tried to get a read on Angel?�

Buffy nearly missed the chair as she sat but caught herself on the table and gave him wide eyes. "How?� He tapped his nose and she blushed a little. "Right. Sorry.�

"Nothing to apologize for. Just don't run off mid conversation and leave us hanging.�

"Yeah.�

Willow finished her crafty thing and handed the finished necklace to Buffy. "Here.�

"Thanks...it's pretty.�

"It'll help block thoughts.�

"Oh...I don't really need-�

Xander shook his head. "You might. Giles hit the books and found out something you'll want to know. Put the necklace on Buff.�

She frowned but put it on. Giles and Wesley entered from the office a moment later. "Ah, Buffy, there you are...where did that necklace come from?�

"Willow just made it.�

"Ah, to shield her?� He asked, looking impressed.

"Yep. All part of the miko training.�

"Very good.�

Wesley frowned. "Yes, we've never actually discussed how you came in contact with an actual miko.� Giles cleared his throat and Wesley coughed. "Not that its relevant at the moment.�

"Thank you. Now Buffy, this has happened before, to a man in Ecuador.�

"And? Is he living it up? Rich because of ill gotten stock market tips?�

"Ah, not exactly. He's living in seclusion, Buffy he can't turn the power off...he's...been driven mad I'm afraid.�

Buffy grew very still, her face a mask of shock and sudden worry. "Oh.� She glanced at Willow. "Thanks again for the necklace. I now fully appreciate it.�

"You're welcome.�

Giles smiled worriedly. "There is something else...the man in Ecuador...wasn't able to see auras.�

Cordelia shifted in Xander's lap. "So why can Buffy?�

"I don't know.�

"The circumstances are different.� Rhonda stated. "Buffy has been exposed to different magics, creatures, she might have developed the ability on her own the way Xander and Willow have. Maybe this just gave her a jump start.�

"Rhonda might be right. I can still kind of see auras.� Her eyes flicked to Xander and Cordelia. "You two look really pretty, kinda like a sparkly watermelon.�

Cordelia frowned. "What?�

"My aura is green. Yours is pink.�

"Oh...weird. So is there a cure for this? Buffy can't wear a gaudy set of Mardi Gras beads for the rest of her life. No offense Willow.�

"None taken...they do kinda clash.�

"We're working on that.�

Buffy sighed. "Fun.�

xxx

They had two tables pushed together in the cafeteria so they could all eat together. All of them being the Feral Four, Larry, Amy, Jono, and the Scoobies – so everyone in the group. Cordelia was on his left, Amy to his right, Jono next to her with an empty seat on his other side. A seat that Rinku mysteriously appeared in when he turned his head to listen to Larry.

Cordelia smirked at Rinku. "So does no one ever actually ask about your being here because you so do not look like a student.�

Rinku shrugged. "No one has given me any problems.�

Xander smiled. "You're welcome.�

Jonathan frowned. "What did you do?�

"Had another talk with Snyder, he knows you're one of us, and my little brother, therefore you are off limits.�

Buffy put her tray down beside Willow's. Her hand seemed a little shaky and she was pale. "A thought got through.�

Willow frowned. "I'm sorry. It's my first shieldy necklace, I'll make a better one?�

"No...Wills...the thought I heard...someone is gonna go on a killing spree tomorrow at lunch.�

Xander shuddered. "I guess a murder spree thought would get through even a top notch shieldy necklace Wills.�

"Right.�

Buffy fingered the beads around her neck. "We have to stop them.�

He gave her his most encouraging smile. "We will...dibs on it being the lunch lady.� All eyes landed on him in a series of disbelieving stares. "What? Oh come on, you've seen the food she serves us.�

Cordelia sighed and elbowed him. "Xander.�

"I'm being serious.�

Heidi was looking thoughtful. "He's got a point.�

He reached over to pat her hair. "You're my favorite.�

Heidi preened and gave the others a haughty look. "Alpha likes me best.�

xxx

Angel looked at Giles grimly. "What is it?�

"The children are a little busy with a new problem. Buffy overheard a thought...someone is going to attack the students with a bit of a killing spree tomorrow. We're not sure if it's a student, or a faculty member, but they're working on that. I however have found the cure.�

"Alright.�

"The heart of the second demon. Its mate. You'll need it to make the cure. Tor will help you procure the demon's heart.�

Angel looked up at the boy and frowned. "I can handle one demon.�

"Dude, you still look like crap. I'm doing this to help Buffy, so deal.�

"Fine.�

xxx

"You're really using mass murderer profiles from the FBI?� Cordelia asked. "How do you even find something like that?�

Willow shrugged. "Hacked their servers.�

Xander blinked and leaned forward. "Tell me you covered your tracks. The last thing we need is the Feds showing up to start poking around.�

"Of course I covered my tracks. Jenny helped.�

Giles gave a snort and muttered. "I'm not hearing any of this, I'm ignorant of any illegal computer hacking my wife and one of my charges have been up to.�

Willow grinned. "What hacking? Hacking is wrong.�

"Quite.�

Xander rolled his eyes. "I still say it's the lunch lady.�

Cordelia smacked his arm. "Not funny.�

"Come on people, we have work to do.�

xxx

It didn't take long for Tor and Angel to sniff out the demon that night. Nor did it take them long to kill it and extract its heart. Angel sort of stared in confusion when the demon actually tripped and practically fell into their arms.

"What the?�

Tor just grinned. "Magic. Now come on. We have to make Buffy's cure.�

Angel nodded and they got to work cutting out the demon's heart.

xxx

They had exhausted themselves interviewing everyone who had been in the cafeteria...except the lunch lady because no one believed it was her and Xander had been outvoted. So no one interviewed her. Which was so not fair.

But it wasn't Hogan; it wasn't Percy, or Nancy, or Mr. Beech or anyone else. They were stumped; originally they thought they had a lead because Freddy kept avoiding them, especially Oz. But that had turned out to be a bust, turns out he had written a bad review for the Dingoes and thought Oz was angry about it.

Cordelia collapsed beside him on the couch, feet in his lap while he rubbed them. "Xander, what are we going to do?�

"Evacuate the cafeteria and see who decided to sneak a semi-automatic under their shirt?�

"Funny.�

xxx

Angel and Tor barged through Buffy's front door, startling Joyce, Jenny and Giles. "We got it! Mixed it and everything.�

"Good, she's upstairs.�

Buffy was sitting on her bed, hands at her temples as if trying to ward off a headache. She didn't hear them come in, or sense them at until Tor touched her shoulder. She looked up at them, eyes bleary. "The necklace isn't working like it was.�

Tor gestured to Angel. "We got the cure.�

"Thank god.�

Angel handed her the glass. "It won't taste pleasant.�

"What is it?�

Tor made a face. "You really don't want to know.�

"That icky huh.�

"Oh yeah.�

xxx

The next day there had been no change, even with Buffy back in action and telepathy free they still had no idea who was going to get their happy on with a whole lot of bloodletting. Even with the pack spread out across the cafeteria keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. Until Heidi darted to Xander's side, eyes wide.

"The jello smells funny.�

Xander signaled Kyle and they converged to the kitchen...where they caught the lunch lady pouring a box of rat poison into the newest batch of jello.

"Fire alarm.� He gave Heidi a shove and she went to pull the nearest one. "I told you guys it was the lunch lady.�

When she came at them with a meat cleaver they subdued her easily and tied her hands up with her apron.

The fire alarm went off then and they heard Heidi scream; "Don't eat the jello! Its poison! Lunch lady went nuts!�

Kyle rolled his eyes. "You're never gonna let this go are you?�

"Heck no. I was right, and no one believed me. I will hold this over you guys forever.�

xxx

Xander glanced in the rear-view mirror at Sirius and Rhonda, Cordy was beside him in the front. Somehow he'd gotten roped into joining their little family outing, though he wasn't sure why.

"Where exactly in LA are we going?�

Cordelia grinned. "First, we're going to Caritas. Then Lorne is going to give us directions to one of the magical shopping districts in LA. Dad is going to buy us our first wands and Post Fowl so we can keep in touch.�

"Post Fowl?�

Sirius coughed. "We call it Owl Post back home. The Americans don't use many Owls it seems; Botan said your lot prefers Water Fowl for long distance communication.�

"Actually we use phones or the internet.�

"He meant the Wizard community Xan.�

"I know.�

Rhonda grinned. "So I finally get to meet Lorne. Is he pretty?�

Xander nodded. "If you like them green with horns he's very pretty.�

"I can deal with green and horns.�

"Why is he green?� Sirius asked.

He and Cordelia shared a grin. "Ever been to a demon bar?�

"Only that sorry excuse of a pub in Sunnydale.�

"You'll definitely like Lorne.�

XXX

Chapter Text

XXX

Xander watched Cordelia out of the corner of his eye while he gave their new...pets...fresh food and water for the evening. The shopping trip they'd gone on with Sirius to one of the many magical shopping districts in LA had been interesting. Both girls and Xander had ended up with Post Fowl; all three of them were Muscovy Ducks.

Rhonda's duck was, of course, at home with her, a female named Hera. Xander had ended up ordering habitats for both places, enclosures so that the ducks would be safely tucked away at night.

He was petting the drake, Ares, who was a touch friendlier than his mate, Coco, when Cordelia stomped her foot in frustration. Ares hissed a bit at the commotion and Coco warbled. Xander shhd them both and looked over his shoulder. "Everything okay?�

"No. Magic is so much easier without this stupid wand.�

"Still having trouble with it?�

"Yes.�

"What were you trying to do?�

She pointed to one of the lawn chairs. "I'm trying to make the stupid chair float. My wand is not cooperating.� She held up the wand. She'd been so excited to get it, and Sirius had been just as excited to be in an American Wand Shop. "I mean what good is a wand if I can't get it to work...it worked at the store. The guy said it picked me. I mean what good is a wand made from the Madrone Tree with a feather from a thunderbird as a core going to do me if it won't work when I try to do a simple first year levitation spell.� She handed the wand to Xander and stared at the chair. It lifted off the ground and hovered. "See. Easy.�

Xander smiled and kissed her cheek. "When you move to LA, go back to the wand guy and ask about lessons. Or you can ask Sirius for some pointers while he's still in town.�

She huffed and folded her arms. "Sure, be logical.�

He only laughed and handed her wand back to her. "Come bond with Coco. She's feeling neglected.�

xxx

"I still can't believe...�

"I know. We have to tell Xander.�

Russ eyed his boyfriend worriedly. "Are you sure? I mean we can't go to Harris because of every little crazy thing we see.�

"Well we can't go to the police about it. They were demons Russ. They were demons in cages trained to attack people.�

"I know...just...you brother is obviously crazy. What if he comes after you?�

"We can't do nothing.�

"Yeah...okay. Just be careful. See you at school tomorrow?�

Andrew nodded and stole a quick kiss. "Yeah. I'll stop by Xander's in the morning and tell him what we saw. Night.�

"Night Andrew.� Russ staid in his car and watched until Andrew was safe inside his house. Tucker's car wasn't in the driveway, still parked at the abandoned house where the older Wells brother was keeping his little...project. Russ just hoped Tucker never found out they'd followed him and discovered said project.

xxx

It was early; their alarm had just gone off when there was a knocking on the front door. Xander smacked at the clock to shut it up, the knocking downstairs continued, accompanied now by the sound of the doorbell. He groaned and tried to snuggle back under the covers with Cordelia.

"Come on, time to wake up.�

He kept his eyes closed and pouted, even as his hands slid over her nude body. "Don't wanna.�

Cordelia huffed and gave his morning wood a gentle squeeze. "The sooner we get rid of our company the sooner we can have morning shower sex. Now go find some pants.�

He kept his pout up but let her go as he opened his eyes. "Only one round this morning then.�

"Yep.� She grinned down at him, already out of bed and wearing a silky strappy nighty thing. "Come on, it could be important.� She snagged his robe and slipped it on over her nightwear. Xander rolled out of bed and grabbed his sleep pants from the floor and pulled them on.

"Whoever it is better have a really good reason for being here so early in the morning.� He didn't bother with a shirt and they left the bedroom, making their way downstairs where whoever was outside was still knocking.

Cordy got to the door first and peeked through the peephole. "Huh. It's Andrew.� And she opened the door. The younger boy froze, hand still raised to knock on the door again.

"It's about time, what took you so long?�

Cordy stepped aside and Andrew entered, still looking annoyed. Cordy closed the door and gave him a little push toward the kitchen. "We were sleeping.�

"And about to have morning sex.� Xander grumped, already heading toward the coffee machine. "So this better be really good.�

Andrew blushed and nodded. "It's not good. In fact it's very, very bad.� He quieted for a moment as he started to pace the length of the kitchen; while he did this Cordelia sat at the table and Xander started making breakfast. By the time the coffee was ready they'd managed to get Andrew settled at the table with a glass of orange juice and a few sausage biscuits. Andrew looked at the sausage and winced. "I don't eat pork.�

Xander blinked. "Its turkey.�

"Oh. Thanks.�

"So what exactly is going on?�

Andrew sipped at his juice. "My older brother, Tucker, he's always been a little...weird, and I don't mean weird like me okay. I mean like creeper/stalker crazy man weird.�

"Okay.�

"And he's been getting worse ever since some girl turned him down when he asked her to prom. I mean, sure he's weird, but he's still my brother so I was worried about him you know? Getting more and more distant, not talking to our parents or anything anymore.�

"It's good that you care about him Andrew.� Cordy smiled.

"Yeah...well last night Russ and I followed him to this abandoned house...there's really a lot of those in Sunnydale...how weird is that?�

"Focus Andrew.�

"Right sorry. So we followed him to this house, he went inside and we peeked in one of the windows.�

Xander put Cordy's food in front of her before sitting at the table with his own food. "And?�

"He had demons in cages...he's been training them.�

Xander and Cordy shared a puzzled look and she swallowed a bite of food. "Training them for?�

"We saw him let one loose in a room of manikins...it ripped them to shreds...but it only attacked manikins wearing formal wear. Like tuxedos and-�

Cordelia's jaw dropped a bit. "Prom dresses?�

"Yeah.�

Xander winced. "That's crappy...and all of this because he doesn't have date for prom?�

"I said he losing it.�

"Andy that's beyond losing it.� Xander shook his head. "What's the address?�

"You'll take care of it?�

"You bet, now finish your breakfast.� Cordelia blinked. "Wow...did I just go into mom mode?�

Xander tried not to smile. "Would you feel better if I said it was more of an Alpha mode?�

"Undetermined...but I'll take it.�

xxx

"Would you please say something already?�

Xander looked over his shoulder at her. "What do you want me to say Buff?�

"Something? Anything? I can't take the silence!�

He frowned and glanced at Cordelia, whose eyes were thankfully on the road as she was driving. "Was I giving off a disapproving oppressed silence?�

"I didn't think so.�

"See Buff, nothing to say.�

"You picked me up at Angel's.�

"Yeah? And?�

"No comments? Or anything?�

He twisted to look more fully at her, she was almost pouting now in the back seat. "About what?�

"About...I don't know.�

Cordelia parked the car a few houses from the address Andrew had given them. "I don't see a car. Maybe he's not here?�

Xander nodded. "Buff, I trust you. Can we leave it at that? We have demons to kill.�

"Yeah. Thanks.�

"No prob.�

They exited the car then and made their way to the house where Tucker Wells had been hiding his little horde of demons. The lock on the front door was basic, simple, and Xander picked it with ease.

The inside of the house was dim, and the smell of biological waste made Xander sneer. There was nothing in the entryway. Or what had once been a living room. The kitchen however, had a bunch of TVs set up, each with a scene from a teen movie playing. There were couples in tuxes and dresses on every screen. Directly in front of the TVs was a large cage, with an ugly...thing...inside of it.

"So that's how he was training them...before the test run with the manikins. God that had to have freaked Andrew out.�

"So how do we kill them?� Cordelia asked.

Buffy held up the duffel she'd been carrying. "Pick an axe.�

"Oh yay, decapitation in the morning. My favorite cardio activity.�

Xander snorted and held out his hand. "We better check the rest of the house; if Tucker was looking to commit a real slaughter he'd need more than one of these things.�

Buffy nodded. "I'll slice and dice this one, you two check the bedrooms.�

"Good idea.�

Cordelia shuddered. "We are so gonna need to shower after this.�

xxx

Several decapitated demons later they were on their way to school where they showered in the locker rooms and then headed to the library. Cordelia quickly drew a rough sketch of the demons that Tucker had been keeping for Giles so the former Watcher could identify them.

"Hellhounds.�

Cordy put the sketch book down with a grimace. "Great.�

Xander shrugged. "At least they're dead now. He won't be able to get more will he? On such short notice? How does a guy even go about getting his hands on a pack of Hellhounds anyway?�

Wesley had picked up the sketch, none to subtly glancing at Cordelia. "He could have summoned them...or perhaps bought them on the black market. This sketch is very accurate. Impressive.� Xander glared.

Giles rolled his eyes. "I doubt he'll be able to get more before the prom.�

Buffy leaned back in her chair, finally relaxing a bit. "Good. I'd like to at least enjoy prom without badness happening. Especially since I have the kick dress.�

Willow practically bounced out of the stacks as Oz followed a step behind her and at a more leisurely pace. "The pink one? You bought it?�

"Yep. What about you? Have you decided between the blue or the grey?�

"I'm leaning more towards the blue.�

"Yeah? Cordy picked out this sparkly number when we were shopping.�

Cordelia smirked. "You like the sparkly number. You guys should have seen his face when I stepped out of the dressing room. His jaw totally hit the floor.�

He felt his face heat, just a bit. "Well yeah Cor, but you shine without it. You know that right.�

"I know. Still loved your surprised face though.�

xxx

They hadn't been home very long, their back packs still unopened on the kitchen table when there was a knock on the front door. They shared a look, Xander standing up straight and removing himself from the fridge where he'd been deciding on a snack.

Cordelia was already moving toward the door. "What is it with us and visitors today?�

"No idea.� He kept an ear out for trouble as he snagged a couple of apples and a trey of veggies from the fridge, intent on getting them to the counter where the cutting board awaited.

"Mrs. Summers is here.�

He looked up from the carrots he was cutting up when both women walked in. "Hey Mrs. S. What's up? You hungry?�

"No, thank you though. I just wanted to stop by and talk to you...since you're on your own now...and I worry.�

Cordy sat at the table, Joyce remained standing...and Xander put down the knife and leaned against the counter giving Joyce his full attention. "About what?�

"This thing the two of you have with Spike. It really won't work out in the end, you know that right?�

Cordy stiffened in her chair. "What are you talking about?�

Joyce paced a little. "I had this talk with Angel earlier, and it occurred to me that no would have thought about having it with the two of you. Spike is going to live for a long time...or I guess exist is the better word. He won't age; he'll look twenty-something for a long time. It's cruel to all three of you, making him watch you grow old and die...and the two of you are so young with your whole lives ahead of you. You can't just focus on him...you have-�

"You had this talk with Angel?� Cordelia was frowning. "You realize he'll break up with Buffy now, right?�

"That was sort of the point.�

The frown had changed to a glare. "He'll break up with her right before prom. Are you nuts? We just killed a bunch of Hellhounds this morning that had been trained to attack people in formal wear cause some loser didn't have a date for prom. Do you have any idea of the emotional trauma Buffy is gonna go through because of the timing alone?�

Joyce sighed. "It had to be done. Like Angel, Spike is going to live forever.�

Xander nodded. "So will we.� His words brought her up short. "We swam and drank the water from the Fountain of Eternal Life at Shangri-La. We'll age very slowly. In a thousand years the two of us will have a laugh line and a couple of gray hairs...and there's always the chance I could turn into a demon. My ancestor Raizen lived for thousands of years and only died when he starved himself. He starved for seven hundred years Joyce.� He motioned to himself and Cordelia. "We're different. Our situation is different than Buffy's.�

"But-�

"We appreciate that you're worried, that you give a crap about us when Cordy's mom has skipped out on her, and my mom has started a new life in another town...but I think you need to leave.�

Joyce sighed again and nodded; she didn't say another word and let herself out. For a long moment neither of them spoke, but Cordy was the first to break the silence.

"Now what?� Her words soft, worried.

Xander swallowed the anger he felt on Buffy's behalf. "Buff is gonna need hugs when Angel breaks up with her...probably tonight after they patrol.�

"You think he'd really break up with her so soon?�

"Joyce pulled the guilt and star crossed lovers thing, and you were right. He'll do it before prom.�

"Call Willow, tell her to meet me a Buffy's tonight.�

He nodded. "I'll call the other girls too, give them a heads up.�

"I'll pick up Rhonda on the way there.�

"Thank you. I figure she'll need girl support.�

"Yeah, and you don't have to thank me. We're all pack.�

He smiled at her sadly. "I love you.�

xxx

Xander woke up alone the next morning for the first time in what seemed like forever. Scratch that, he wasn't alone. Marshal was curled up on the opposite pillow, Diana nestled in his fur. He watched them sleep for a moment, wondering how he was going to handle waking up alone after Cordy moved to LA...because he had no idea when Spike was coming back.

Then there was a knock on the front door and he groaned. Marshal opened his eyes but didn't raise his head. Again?

"Don't look at me like that, I have no idea what's going on with the wake up calls.� He rolled out of bed and made his way downstairs, making a detour to flick on the coffee maker before he answered the door.

He didn't bother looking through the hole; he just opened it, and like the morning before, Andrew was on his porch. Xander sighed and stepped aside so the younger boy could enter. "Morning Andrew. Is this going to become a habit?�

Instead of answering, Andrew went straight to pacing in the entryway. "My brother totally knows I gave him up...he trashed my room. I got lucky, cause most of my stuff is at Russ' house. I stayed with him last night; I figured it wasn't safe at home.�

"You could have stayed here.�

"Thanks, but like I said most of my stuff is at his house, because we're going to Cleveland together after graduation...did we tell you that?�

"No, but I figured you would. So, do you have any idea where Tucker would go? Since we killed all of his hounds.�

"No...I just wanted to let you know.�

"We'll keep an eye out.�

"Thanks...where's Cordelia?�

"She stayed at Buffy's last night. Angel broke up with her and she needed girl support.�

Andrew's eyes were wide and horrified. "but...prom...�

"Yeah. I know.�

"Poor Buffy...I feel the need to shower her with ice cream and hugs. Is that normal when dealing with girls?�

"Yeah pretty much.�

"Okay...be careful? I have no idea what Tucker will do.�

"Sure Andy.�

xxx

Xander caught up with Rhonda before classes started. "What's the what?�

She blinked at the wording before rolling her eyes. "Cry fest. Ice cream. Pizza. More ice cream. Food coma.�

"Ouch. She still going to prom?�

"She has her ticket and her dress. She might as well.� Rhonda tilted her head. "We're all going to take turns dancing with her, Cordy's orders.�

He grinned...then made a show of looking around. "Where is she?�

"Well...she and Willow are having a 'talk' with Angel.�

"...there won't be chainsaws involved...will there?�

"No idea. Probably not though. How are things on your side?�

"Tucker is MIA; he could turn up at any time with a plan B. So be ready.�

"Yay. Constant Vigilance just before prom.�

"Speaking of which...who are you taking?�

Rhonda smirked. "Thought I might make Wesley's night, it will at least keep his eyes off Cordy when she's wearing that shiny dress.�

Xander snorted.

xxx

Xander stilled when he heard a familiar click behind him. He wasn't sure at first just who was behind him, but whoever it was...they had a gun. It was doubtful that the mayor had sent some lackey; guns weren't really his style, too messy. Snyder would probably wet himself at the sight of a gun...most demons wouldn't use them...

"Tucker right?�

"How did you know it was me?�

Xander gave the barest of shrugs; he didn't want to agitate the kid. "Simple deduction. You're the only one who has a beef with me that would use a gun.�

"Oh yeah, so you make a habit of pissing people off?�

"Yep. Not always intentionally though, darn my luck.�

"Turn around. Slowly.�

Xander did. "You know, the school hallway isn't the best place to do this.�

"You mean where anyone could interrupt and get themselves shot?�

"Well yeah, but truthfully this isn't a good idea at all.� He nodded at the gun in Tucker's hand. "I mean do you even know how to use that thing?'

Tucker frowned and shook the gun a little. "What's to know? You point. You shoot.�

Xander sighed. Then he dropped to the floor and kicked Tucker's feet from under him. A punch and a brief scuffle later and Xander had the gun, he stood and Tucker stayed on the floor. As a precaution he put his foot to the other boy's throat. "Stay.� And then he ejected the clip, pocketed it, and checked the chamber. Empty. A glance up and down the hall revealed no onlookers and he slipped the gun in the back of his pants. Then he moved his foot from Tucker's throat and knelt down.

"Now what?�

"You haven't hurt anyone yet, so you have that in your favor.�

"So?�

"I know a girl who doesn't have a date yet, and she's just crazy enough to go with someone like you. Just don't piss her off.�

"Oh yeah? Why?�

"What guy in his right mind would piss off Heidi Barrie?�

"Oh.�

"Exactly. Her dress is a shimmery bronze. Get something that won't clash.�

"And after prom?� Tucker asked.

"You get some help, because I really don't want to have to hide your body.�

"Like you've really hidden a body before.�

Xander grinned, all teeth. "Haven't seen Jack O'Toole around lately now have you?�

Tucker swallowed and shook his head, eyes wide. "Uh...no.�

"Go. Buy your tux. I'll tell Heidi she has a date.�

Tucker scrambled to his feet and ran down the hall. Jonathan peeked around the corner. "You're kinda scary sometimes.�

"Only when I have to be.� He stood and moved toward his little brother, draping an arm over the shorter boy's shoulders. "How's the special project coming?�

"Done. Thanks for suggesting the write in votes.�

"No prob. Buffy deserves the recognition.�

"And you don't?�

"Nah. I'm good. I'm happy being in the background guy.�

"Uh huh. Says the guy who leads a pack of Power Teens.�

"Shush, you're making us sound like super heroes.�

Jonathan grinned. "Aren't you?�

"Nah. Just a bunch of kids trying not to die on the Mouth of Hell.�

xxx

They smiled for what seemed like the hundredth time. All of the adults wanted pictures and multiple copies. So they complied.

They had ended up at Rhonda's house, where Rhonda's mom, Sirius, and Botan were snapping away with their cameras. Their half of the pack had chipped in for a limo; the driver had picked up Jono and Rinku first before swinging by to get Xander and Cordy, and finally Tor, Amy, and Rhonda.

Sirius was the most enthusiastic about the pictures and kept snapping them. He wanted pictures of all of them and even planned on chaperoning the prom with Giles and Jenny so he could get pictures of the entire pack. Xander wasn't really sure why Sirius wanted to take pictures with his own camera...until the wizard showed him an old snap shot he had of his old friends from school.

The people in the photo freaking moved. Whoa. It actually explained everything then.

Eventually they got away from the adults and piled back into the limo and headed to prom. Buffy and the rest of the pack were renting another limo, as the entire pack wouldn't fit in just one.

 

Stacey ended up as Sirius' date and they followed the limo to the school in her car. Once there they snapped yet more pictures of the entire pack before joining the other chaperons.

Everything was perfect, just like in the movies; Tucker even behaved himself and didn't give Heidi any trouble. Not that any guy on Heidi's arm would give her trouble at prom.

Xander danced with most of the girls in the pack, starting with Buffy, but about a half hour into the prom Hogan got on stage between songs and called for their attention.

"Hey guys, glad you could all make it tonight. I'm your host for this, your last dance at Sunnydale High and I wanted to start the night off by announcing our Prom King and Prom Queen.� He grinned at the crowd. "Our Queen, was an easy choice, she's been our Queen since preschool. Who else would we chose but Cordelia Chase!�

Cordy grinned and Xander gave her a gentle push toward the stage. The crowd parted for her easily, all smiles and applause. Hogan helped her onto the stage and winked at her.

"Now, a few years ago...most of us would never have picked this guy as our King. But things change. People change. And this guy is very special, even if he doesn't realize it...especially if he doesn't realize it. Get up here Xander.�

Xander froze. "What? Me? What?�

The next thing Xander knew Kyle and Larry were escorting him to the stage where Cordy offered him her hand. She smiled and whispered. "I told you we were Sunnydale High's power couple.�

"What?�

"Just smile and nod Xan.�

"Yes dear.� She rolled her eyes when he kissed her palm.

Hogan crowned Cordy first, the tiara sparkling brilliantly from the light of the mirror ball above them. Xander's crown wasn't as ornate as hers, but he was still speechless. Never in his life had he thought he'd be crowned Prom King. Hogan placed the crown on his head with a grin. "Sunnydale High! I give you Queen C and King Xander.�

Cordy led him from the stage then and the dance floor cleared so they could dance their first dance as the royal couple. It was slow, the beat easy and smooth, and Cordelia couldn't stop smiling at him, even when a tear slipped down one cheek.

"Cor?�

"I'm glad I'm here with you.�

Xander smiled and kissed her forehead. "I love you Cordy.�

"I love you too.�

xxx

Much of the dance became a blur after that...but when there was only about forty-five minutes left Jonathan took the stage for the last award. Buffy looked a little confused and the entire pack had trouble keeping the smiles from their faces. This was going to be so awesome.

Jonathan grinned at them and winked at Xander. "We have one more award to give out tonight. It's a new category, one that's never been awarded before. We created it specifically for one person who has become very important to us. Not just a particularly close knit group...but as a student body.� Jono took a breath. "Buffy Summers.�

Buffy nearly dropped her punch.

Jonathan continued, now reading from a piece of paper. "Most of us aren't good friends. A lot of us never found the time to get to know you. But we have noticed you, you aren't invisible. It's not something we talk about much, but we all know how different Sunnydale is, the school, and the town. A lot of weird stuff happens in our home town.�

"Cheerleader combustion!�

"Vampires!�

"The Swim Team!�

Heidi grinned and yelled. "The lunch lady!�

Jonathan laughed and kept going. "Whenever there was a problem, or something horrible happened, you had a way of making it better. Most of us have been saved by you, helped by you, even if it was just a reassuring smile after something almost ate us. You put the Sun in Sunnydale, and we're proud to say that the class ‘99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history.� There were claps, cheers, and a few whistles and Buffy ducked her head with a smile. "We know at least part of that is because of you, so the senior class offers its thanks and gives you this.� He put the notes away and Hogan stepped forward with a small pink parasol, just above the handle was a small plaque. He handed it to Jonathan who opened it up. "It's from all of us, and it says; Buffy Summers. Class Protector.�

The cheers were louder than before and Buffy walked to the stage, the crowd parting easily for her as she accepted the award from Jonathan and kissed his cheek. There were tears in her eyes and a smile on her face as she turned to face everyone. Her gaze met Xander's and the rest of the pack. "Thank you.�

xxx

Hours later Xander and Cordelia lay in bed together, their crowns on their respective night stands, the cordless phone on speaker between them turned as loud as it would go so they could tell Spike about their night in detail.

It was almost perfect.

XXX

Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Chapter Nineteen: Fools Rush

Word count: 7815

XXX

There were definitely some advantages to dating the star quarterback in Kyle's mind. One such advantage, that he had discovered nearly a year ago, was that despite their near matching height Larry was strong enough to pin him to the wall. It was awesome, because that led to wall sex, and wall sex was definitely one of his favorite things to do with Larry.

Wall sex where Larry had him pinned, back against the wall, his legs wrapped securely around Larry's broader body. Their foreheads pressed together as Larry thrust upwards, deep inside of him, brushing against his prostate with every movement. Kyle grinned at the almost pain of it, his blunt nails attempting to leave marks on Larry's back.

Larry managed a chuckle. “Something funny?”

“Yeah. We're gonna be late.”

He was hoisted up a bit higher, speared a bit rougher, and he flung his head back...there might or might not be a dent in Larry's bedroom wall now. Larry smirked against his throat. “Then you should have stayed over last night instead of climbing in my window this morning.” Then Larry bit down and Kyle's brain short-circuited.

When he could see and think again they were on the bed, Larry still deep inside of him, Kyle on his lap and content. Possibly with a few less working brain cells. “Damn.”

Larry just grinned. “Ready for school now?”

“Can't we just skip?”

“Nope. We get our robes today.”

Kyle groaned. “Graduation is our D-Day. Why even bother?”

“Rite of Passage crap, now come on.”

“Fine.” Kyle managed to remove himself from Larry's lap. “Where are my pants?”

xxx

“I wish they'd gone with the teal.”

Xander picked up one of the packaged robes and turned it over in his hands. “Maroon is the school color though.”

“Teal would have looked better.”

“If you say so.”

She grinned. “I say so.”

“Okay then.” Xander held out his hand to her and their fingers intertwined. “How are you holding up?”

Her smile dimmed a little. “Nervous. A little terrified. We still don't know exactly what the Mayor is gonna throw at us, just the day and absolutely no details.”

Xander blinked at her. “You didn't hear?”

“Hear what?”

“Oh boy...let’s go find Buffy and Wills. They'll need to hear this too.”

“Hear what Xander?”

“Just wait—gah!” He yelled as they were waylaid by a chipper Harmony.

“I'm going to miss you guys so much! You've got to sign my yearbook Cordy, you're my best friend. You too Xander!”

He eyed the blond wondering if she'd been possessed but signed her year book when Cordelia was done with it. When Harmony stared at him expectantly he sighed and dug his out of his bag. Finally when all books had been signed and Harmony had hugged them they were able to get away.

Xander shuddered. “That…”

“Yeah.”

“Never again.”

Cordelia smirked at him. “Come on, I see them up ahead.”

And his best friends were indeed ahead; camped out at the table by the coke machine. “Ladies.”

“Buffy thinks she can't do both.” Willow informed him.

They settled at the table but Xander looked a little unsettled at them. “Do I really want to be part of this conversation? Should I leave?”

Cordelia gave his arm a light punch. “Both what?”

Buffy sighed, chin in hand. “Go to graduation and fight the Mayor.”

“Oh. You guys didn't hear either huh. Weird, usually I'm one of the last in the know.”

“What are you talking about?” Willow asked.

“He's been cryptic about something for the past ten minutes. Spit it out Xander.”

“Well you won't have to worry about being in two places at once, because guess who our commencement speaker is.”

“Snyder?” Willow's voice was hopeful.

“Sorry Wills.”

“Giles?”

“In what reality would Snyder ever let Giles speak to the masses?”

“Poop.”

Buffy groaned a little. “I can't believe this. All those kids, right there with front row seats for his ascension. That does not bode well.”

“No.” Xander agreed wholeheartedly. “No it does not.”

“He's going to eat us all, isn't he?” Cordelia shuddered. “Well at least the blood won't show up on the maroon robes.”

Xander tried not to smile. “You find the weirdest silver linings.”

Before Cordy could retort a sound went off, her cell phone. She dug it out of her purse and answered it. “Hello?” Her eyes focused on Xander. “Yeah, just a sec.” Then she handed the phone to him. “It’s for you.”

Xander blinked but accepted the phone. “Yeah?”

“Hey Boss.” It was Faith. “We need to talk. I'll be in the boiler room in twenty minutes.” There was a click and she was gone.

“Xander?”

Xander handed the cell phone back to Cordy. “I've got a meeting...this may be my only chance to get Faith safely off the Hellmouth. Call Botan and tell her to find me in twenty minutes.”

Cordelia nodded. “Sure.”

“Need help?” Buffy asked.

“Nah, I got this.” He gave her a weary look. “Better for Faith to only be mad at one person. Thanks though Buff.”

xxx

She was in the boiler room just like she'd said; he walked to her, trying not to be cautious, trying not to give anything away. Nothing had been the same between them since she'd found out his heritage, and he smiled a little, hoping to ease her mood. “Didn't know you had a cell phone now.”

“I don't. There's a pay phone a couple of blocks away.”

“Smart.” He nodded. “You look good.”

Her brown eyes were hard, angry. “Yeah. Mayor's been taking care of me...look...can we skip the small talk?”

“If you want.”

“Cool. So the Mayor wants me to kill some professor.” Jerkily she handed him a slip of paper. “The address is on there, he's some rock expert or something.”

He accepted it and pocketed it after skimming the information. “Do you know why he wants this guy dead?”

“Didn't ask.”

Xander took a breath and tried to sound as calm as possible. “Faith...giving me this info, you know you can't go back to him.”

Her gaze lowered, and she huffed out a dismayed laugh. “Yeah...” She kicked at the boiler a bit, body tensing. “Why didn't you tell me? I mean you're a prince and I'm just street trash.”

What? “Not true. You and I are just a couple of kids from broken homes.”

She sneered, but didn't meet his eyes. “Whatever.”

Damn. “Faith.” He tried to reach out to her, to put a comforting hand on her arm. She wasn't having any of it and struck first and nearly clipped his jaw. But she never saw Botan step behind her from nothingness or heard the spell the fairy used to knock her out. Xander caught Faith before she hit the floor. Xander sighed and leaned in to kiss her forehead. “Sorry Faith.”

“I've got it from here.”

“Thanks Botan.”

She gave him an unamused look. “Don't thank me...and you really need to start asking Genkai before you just saddle her with troubled teens.”

 

Xander skipped the rest of class and made his way out of the school, he crossed the road to the area where many seniors had picnic lunches and then looked up into the tree tops. Rinku was there, right where Xander thought he would be; where he always was when Jonathan was in class.

“Hey!”

Rinku looked down before casually jumping from the branch he was sitting on. “Xander. What is it?”

Xander held up the slip of paper with the address on it. “There's a guy at this address that the Mayor wants dead. Would you keep an eye on him until Cordy and I get there to get him out?”

“Isn't he just going to kill a bunch of people during graduation...and destroy the town? Why worry about one man?”

“Because the Mayor wants him dead now.”

“Doesn't make sense.”

“Hence I want someone to watch him and make sure he doesn't end up dead.”

Rinku took the paper, eyes going over the address. “I know the area.”

Xander gave him a small smile. “After all the time you've spent here you should. Be careful.”

Rinku handed the paper back and flickered out of sight, leaving Xander alone to wonder just what the Mayor was trying to hide.

xxx

Later during lunch they all ended up in Jenny's class room, several of the desks shifted into a circle, where they ate. Giles and Jenny were actually at her desk sharing their meal, Wesley was absent as he hadn't quite figured out where they were having their meetings.

“So what's up?” Buffy asked.

“The call Cordy got on her phone this morning was Faith.”

Heidi shifted a bit. “She okay?”

“She's been really quiet lately, subdued.” Jonathan made a face. “Very not Faith.”

Xander frowned and rubbed his forehead tiredly. “Yeah, I had Botan get her out. She's at Genkai's now. And probably not very happy with me.”

Giles took a sip of his drink. “Things are getting more serious then?”

“Definitely. The Mayor gave Faith an order, to kill some guy. I've got Rinku watching him to make sure no one else goes after him. Which is why he's not here for lunch, sorry Jono.”

“It's okay.”

“Cool, we'll need to do an extraction after school.”

“Who is this guy?” Cordelia asked. “What's so special about him?”

“I don't know; his name is Lester Worth...he's some kind of professor attached to the University.” Xander shrugged. “Everyone needs to stay alert; I don't know what the Mayor will do with Faith missing.”

“Business as usual then?” Rhonda murmured.

“And then some.”

xxx

Jonathan caught a ride with them to the part of town where Professor Worth resided. Cordelia parked the car on the street, under a tree and as they got out Rinku hopped down, landing on the sidewalk.

“Anything?” Xander asked, watching with a smile as Jonathan drifted to Rinku's side.

“All quiet. Nothing to report.”

“Cool, you've officially been relieved. We'll take it from here.”

“Awesome, I'm starving.” Rinku grasped Jonathan's hand and tugged him along. “Yano's Pizza?”

“I don't know; I'm kinda in the mood for tacos.” They watched the other couple for a moment and shared a smile before crossing the street to the apartment building.

“So how are we going to play this?”

“No idea.”

“So we're just winging it?”

“Yep.”

“What, were you just going to knock the poor guy out if he said no?”

Xander gave her an innocent look. “Only if I had to.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes as they got to the Professor's door. “Maybe I should do the talking.” She knocked and a moment later a man who looked to have several years on Giles opened the door. Xander blinked a bit and tried not to gape.

“Yes?”

Cordelia smiled brightly. “Professor Worth?”

“Yes?”

“We need to speak to you.”

“I'd rather you make an appointment during my office hours.”

Xander shook his head. “We're not from the college.”

“Oh...” Worth looked to Cordelia. “Are you Faith? Mayor Wilkins said you were coming.”

“Actually I'm Cordelia, a friend of Faith's. It’s really important that we get you out of here.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your life is in danger.”

“What are you talking about?”

Xander watched as Cordelia put on her most earnest and sympathetic look. “Mayor Wilkins is not a nice man. He meant for Faith to kill you, lucky for you Faith is a double agent and gave us a heads up so we could keep you alive.”

“What exactly is this about?”

Xander shrugged. “We're not sure, we just know that he wants you dead...are you working on anything special?”

“Not really.” Worth looked from Cordelia to Xander. “Normally when I'm being pranked students can't keep such a straight face. You two are serious aren't you?”

“Yes sir.”

“Come in.” Xander and Cordelia both winced at the verbal invitation but neither commented on it as they entered and the Professor closed the door behind them. “I can't imagine why he would want me dead...”

Xander tilted his head a bit. “You have demon blood.”

Cordelia elbowed him. “Xander!”

“Ow.” He shot her a brief pout and continued. “He does...just a little.”

Worth blinked, eyes a little wide. “How did you know? I mean I'm human...but my great-great-great grandmother claimed she was...but it was only a silly family legend.”

“Your scent. If it makes you feel better it’s barely there...do you know the truth about Sunnydale?”

“Truth?”

“I guess that's a no, huh.”

Worth looked thoughtful. “I know it’s not safe to wander about at night...due to unnatural reasons.”

Cordelia nodded. “Vampires. Listen, do you have family outside of town? Somewhere you can go where the Mayor's lackeys can't reach you?”

“I have a sister in LA.”

“Perfect, get in your car and drive. Don't stop until you get there.”

“You really think the Mayor would kill me...because of my research?”

“We don't know. The guy is over a hundred years old and a sorcerer. He has big plans for graduation.”

“Well, you're welcome to my notes...I suppose I should leave before the sun goes down.”

Xander nodded. “That would be ideal.”

Cordelia helped him pack a bag and got him out the door, then they looked around at the apartment and the research the professor had left behind. “Now what?”

xxx

They ended up packing away the Professor's research and lugging it into the car while they still had daylight and none of the Mayor's vamp lackeys could catch them in action. When they had everything in the trunk they made a quick stop to the Red Cross for a few pints of blood and then back to Worth's apartment.

Then they staged the scene. Made it look like there had been a bit of a struggle and splashed blood on the walls in a few places and left a pool of it on the floor. They took the empty blood bags with them and left before the sun set.

Xander hoped their ruse would buy them some time and that the Mayor would assume a scavenger had taken the body for food. Or that Faith had disposed of the body where demons could easily cart it off.

Sirius was on the porch waiting for them when they got home, though he came to the car and helped Cordelia out and then helped them lug the few boxes of research inside.

“What is all this?”

“Some stuff the Mayor doesn't want us sifting through.”

They placed the boxes in the living room and Cordelia eyed them. “We hitting the books tonight?”

He shook his head. “No, we'll take them to Giles in the morning. Feel like pizza?”

“Pizza is good.”

Sirius looked from Cordelia to Xander. “What's pizza?”

Cordelia met his gaze, and he was sure that he had the same horrified expression as she. “We are definitely having pizza.”

xxx

Richard Wilkins was leaning back in his chair polishing his letter opener, idly listening to the spiders move around in the box on his desk. It had come in several days ago and he'd managed to obtain it without any trouble from the local meddling kids. He was so close now, so close to achieving the power he'd always wanted, always craved.

But where in the world was Faith? She should have been back by now, they had reservations for dinner.

There was a knock on the door. “Yes?”

One of his subordinates stepped inside. “Sir, we may have a problem.”

“Oh?”

“Faith is missing.”

“Oh no. She's not at her apartment?”

“No sir.”

“What about that cute little house young Mr. Harris set her up in?”

“No. She wasn't there either.”

“Well gosh this is bad, and I was looking forward to taking her out for dinner. Do you know if she completed her task?”

“There was evidence of a struggle at the Worth apartment, lots of blood. It looks like she disposed of the body for scavengers.”

“That's my girl. Check around any other place she might hang out would you? See if anyone has seen her.”

“Yes sir.” The vampire started to leave, but paused. “What if they got her?”

He only smiled, and it wasn't a nice smile. “Then I'll deal with them accordingly.”

xxx

Jonathan woke up the way he did most mornings, the same way he had for months now in fact, in his bed with Rinku wrapped around him. His mom didn't necessarily know...sure Rinku was over all the time but he 'left' every night after dinner, only to sneak into Jonathan's room through the window.

Buddy was hogging the foot of the bed, snoring, and Jonathan smiled at the Rottweiler’s carefree slumber. If only he could be so relaxed.

“Jono?”

Jonathan smiled and burrowed closer to Rinku, partly because he wasn't ready to get up and partly to hide his blush. They'd taken their relationship to the intimate level a few months ago, but Jonathan always blushed when Rinku stared at him too long...especially when they were naked.

Like now.

“Morning.”

Soft lips pressed against his forehead. “You okay?”

“Just worried.”

“Nothing's going to happen to you. I won't let it.”

“Okay.” And Jonathan believed him.

xxx

“You really know how to work wonders with this guy Willow.” Hogan grinned, clapping Percy on the shoulder.

Percy shrugged him off good naturedly. “Yeah, still can't believe I got a B-. It’s like I'm a scholar or something. You really helped me out Rosenberg. I won't forget it.”

Willow smiled and hugged him. “You did the hard part Percy. All I did was point you in the right direction.” When she released him, he and Hogan wandered off and the smile slipped from her face.

Oz slid into her personal space and nuzzled her at her neck. “You okay?”

“No. I really like Percy and Hogan. I don't want the Mayor to eat them. They’re ours ya know? Our people.”

“Children of the Hellmouth.”

“Yeah exactly. We have to find some way of stopping all this.”

“Xander will think of something.”

xxx

“Please tell me we don't have to lug these around after this?”

Xander smiled at Cordelia's huff. “The library and Giles is the last stop for these Cor.”

“Thank God.”

He moved ahead of her to push the door open with his body and held it for her. “Hey G-Man!”

“Xander.” His name was said with long suffering.

“We brought you goodies.”

“Professor Worth's research?”

“Yep.”

“Put it on the table please. Did you happen to make any headway with it?”

“Nope, it’s all Greek to me, which is why we brought it to you.”

Giles reached for one of the folders. “I'll see what I can figure out. Off you go.”

Cordelia happily dragged him out of the library. “Come on we're dismissed, hurry before he makes us help with something.”

Xander laughed and let her drag him along.

xxx

“You know what to do?”

The vampire nodded. “Yes sir. I shoot Angel but miss the heart...you sure about this?”

“Yes, I want him to die slowly; those kids will be so busy looking for a cure they won't have time to meddle too much with my plans.”

“Slowly?”

“The arrow is poisoned. You might not want to handle it bare handed, it’s made specifically for vampires.”

“Right. Good to know.”

xxx

“Why must they always act alone? Just because he led a bunch of possessed children-”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Wesley, give it a rest. They got us the research, now start doing the Watcher-y thing and figure it out. We're on a deadline here.”

“Just remember that you work for the Council, not Xander.” He eyed the papers in front of him, but before he could say anything more on the subject Jenny bowled into the library, nearly out of breath.

“I found an account of a successful Ascension.”

Giles gave her look. “How? We searched everywhere.”

“A friend of a friend of an acquaintance who was cursed by a Vengeance demon had heard about it. Evidently Anyanka witnessed it.”

“The demon who dragged Cordelia to an alternate reality?”

Wesley made a confused face. “When was this?”

“Before you arrived.” Giles answered. “Jenny?”

She handed him a print out. “We're just lucky some demons keep diaries, about eight hundred years ago a sorcerer achieved Ascension. He took the form of the demon Lohesh.”

“A four-winged soul eater? I was under the impression they weren't that fierce.”

Jenny frowned. “He took the form, not became it. There's something else.”

Buffy peered at the illustration on the print out that Giles held. “What?”

Jenny took a steadying breath. “It described the demon as being...more...bigger...a pure demon.”

“Pure demon?”

She nodded. “Like the kind of demons who roamed the earth before the creation of vampires.”

Giles and Wesley grew very pale. “Good Lord, one of the Old Ones.”

Buffy winced. “That's not good is it?”

“No, I'm afraid it’s not.”

xxx

They met in the library for lunch, something they hadn't done in a while, but Giles had called an emergency meeting and they all showed.

“We found out a few things this morning, from the Professor's notes...and from an account of Ascension that Jenny found.”

“Go Jenny.” Xander gave her a thumbs up. “So how bad we talkin'?”

Jenny gave him a grim smile. “From what we can piece together the Mayor plans to become an Old One.”

Rhonda tilted her head. “That's a new term.”

“Actually it’s not.” Giles said and focused on Xander and Willow. “Remember when you first found out about vampires? The story I told you of the demons who used to rule here before they lost purchase on this reality?”

Xander and Willow nodded. “Yeah.”

“They were the Old Ones...the last of them was the demon who created the first vampire.”

“Oh.” Willow murmured. “Fun.”

“What about the Professor's stuff?” Xander asked.

“He was studying an ancient lava bed...where the remains of what he thought were a dinosaur was found.”

There was a stunned and uneasy silence...Heidi broke it. “So...the Mayor...wants to be a demon the size of a friggin' dino?”

“So it would seem.”

“How big are we talking?” Kyle asked. “Dinos came in all sizes.”

“We're not sure yet. We're still looking into it.”

“One thing is for sure.” Buffy muttered. “My mom is leaving town tonight if I have to ship her to Doctor Sloan in a crate with air holes.”

“Don't shove your mom in a box Buff; just tell her how serious this could get.”

Cordelia spoke for the first time. “Xander?”

“I may have some plans in mind...but I need to make a few calls.”

“Really?” Wesley asked. “Who could you possibly know that could-?”

“Enough Wesley.” Giles ordered. “You concentrate on the notes. Don't worry about Xander's contacts. You will keep us in the loop Xander?”

“Yep.”

xxx

Xander made sure he was alone before he made the call on his communicator and prayed it would work. It went through, thank the gods, there was no interference this time.

Yusuke appeared on the tiny screen looking frazzled, his hair not slicked back. “Time zones kid.”

“Sorry, but I thought you might want a heads up.”

“What's going on?”

“Well we might not have an actual Apocalypse on our hands but the town could end up a little flattened. Thought you should know.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Try to contain this circus to the school grounds. Put up a barrier maybe. Botan's going to help some in a minimum capacity so hopefully she won't get in trouble. Maybe you can look after her if she gets fired?”

Yusuke frowned at him. “Minimum capacity? Won't she be fighting with you? I know she's stronger than she ever showed us.”

“Hell no, are you nuts? She's pregnant!”

Watching Yusuke's lower jaw nearly detach from his face would have been funny on any other day. “Since when?”

“Ha, and you scold me for my bad communication habits.”

“Shut up. You need help with this?” He asked in all seriousness.

“If you don't mind being on standby, the last time or two an Ascension happened...one town was destroyed...the other time the thing that ascended got eaten by a volcano and that's what stopped it.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

xxx

By the time the sun set Mrs. Summers and Rhonda's mom were on the road to LA. And then things got a bit hairy.

The majority of them were in the library that night, the only ones absent were Kyle, Larry, Jonathan and Rinku. Sirius was elsewhere as well, actually making sure the moms were out of town before the Ascension. Wesley and Giles were pouring over Professor Worth's research while the rest of them were doing weapons inventory or getting ready to patrol when Buffy walked in, supporting Angel who had a freaking arrow sticking out of his chest.

Xander was standing and offering his chair before clearing away the sword he'd been sharpening. “What happened?”

“We met up doing a sweep by the Professor's apartment to see if the Mayor bought it you know? The blood and set up scene? The arrow came out of nowhere.” Buffy answered as she helped Angel to the chair.

Xander's nose twitched and he leaned down to sniff, trying to get a fix on whatever scent he was picking up. Angel reached up to give him a little push away. “What are you doing?”

Xander stopped the hand and sniffed the arrow anyway. “The arrow smells funny...but not funny haha.”

“And in Sunnydale-speak that means what?” Wesley asked.

“That there's something on it. Wills run some tests would you?”

“I need the arrow first.”

They took a moment to break the arrow and slide it the rest of the way through Angel's shoulder. Angel grimaced, “Its poison, I can already feel it.” His face relaxed a bit. “My shoulder is going numb.”

Wesley pushed away the notes he'd been going over. “The Council has all known toxins on file, I'll call them.”

Buffy nodded. “Thank you.”

Cordelia handed Buffy a bandage to put over the wound. “We should probably get him home.”

“Be careful. Mostly likely this was simply a diversion tactic.”

“No kidding.” Xander looked toward the others. “No patrolling tonight, help the Watchers with the research, we don't need anyone else taken down like this.”

xxx

Xander and Cordelia were the ones to help Buffy get Angel to back to the mansion. Xander helped her remove the vampire's jacket and shirt and Cordelia kept the water fresh and cool. The poison was something quite wicked, none of them had ever seen a vampire sweat before.

Really, it felt like an intrusion, standing watch like this while Buffy tried to keep her lover as comfortable as possible. But it was better to be here, help Buffy defend Angel if the Mayor's lackeys showed up. Between the three of them they would be able to handle the vamps.

Giles showed up not long after they settled in; needing a break from the research, having stared at it fruitlessly for too long. He had, however, left the notes in the capable hands of Jenny and Tor.

He and Cordelia were dozing on the sofa, so much for playing watch dog, when Wesley entered the mansion. Xander's eyes opened a bit when Giles spoke to the younger Watcher.

“Did you reach the Council?”

Buffy's footsteps sounded in the quiet, everyone waited for Wesley to speak. “Ah, yes. They...couldn't help.”

Buffy's voice was filled with disbelief. “Couldn't.”

Cordelia gave Xander a little shake and he sat up in time to hear Wesley's reply. “Wouldn't...” They shared a look and started to rise off the sofa. “They did inquire about Faith. Something should be done about her.”

Buffy's reply was instantaneous. “No. Xan got her out of the country.”

“What?”

“He knocked her out, got her out. Genkai is looking after her. Can we talk about Angel's lack of cure now?”

They were moving quietly towards the main room now. “It’s against Council policy to cure vampires.”

The Slayer's voice was cold, final. “Then we're done.”

“What?”

“I'm done taking orders unless they're from Xander or Giles.”

“You can't just quit the Council.”

Xander and Cordelia peeked into the room. “You sure about that Buff? That's a lot of resources to give up.”

She nodded. “I'm choosing my Alpha.”

“You can't!” Wesley exclaimed. “You can't choose a Hyena boy over the Council.”

Buffy's head was held high, her gaze steady. “I'm not just choosing my Alpha. I'm choosing my Prince.” She moved toward Xander and knelt before him, reached for his right hand and kissed his ring. “I'm your Slayer.”

Wesley sputtered. “What on Earth?”

Giles snorted and smiled. “Wesley, allow me to introduce you to Prince Alexander of Makai. Descendant of Raizen. Brother of Yusuke Urameshi.”

Wesley took a step back, eyes wide. “What?”

Xander pulled Buffy to her feet. “Buff, don't you ever kneel like that again. You're my equal. You're not a servant. You're family.” He eyed Giles. “You've got to start introducing Amy and Jono like that now and stop singling me out.” Then he blinked and smiled, maybe a touch too gleeful. “Hey does this mean we're deporting Wesley?”

Buffy huffed. “I'm quitting the Council Xan. They won't help; I don't know how much longer Angel will last.”

He pulled her into a hug. “Blood will probably do it.”

Cordelia snapped her fingers. “What if we all donate? I mean we're all pretty powerful right? A slayer, a bunch of primals, witches, a fairy, and even a miko – wouldn't a blood cocktail like that knock any poison on its ass?”

Giles took his glasses off. “I suppose it’s worth a try.”

Buffy pulled Cordelia into the hug. “Finally. It’s about time we had a plan.”

xxx

The blood cocktail seemed to work wonders on Angel. It also made him a little drunk but it was working and while he slept off the effects of everything they were gathered in the mansion's living room eating cookies and plotting.

Buffy was pacing a bit, still full of energy from nearly losing Angel. “The rocket launcher won't be enough, not if the last time someone took this form it took a million tons of lava to kill it.”

“But it can be killed.” Giles murmured. “That is something at least.”

Willow sighed. “Too bad we don't have a volcano.”

Xander twitched; thoughts and memories not his own racing through his brain. “Maybe we don't need one.”

“What do you propose?” Wesley asked.

Buffy glared at him. “Why are you still here?”

“I want to help.”

She huffed and looked back at Xander. “Xan?”

“Volcanoes aren't the only thing that go boom.”

“Explosives?”

He grinned at her. “Boom.”

Heidi was already moving. “Want me to call Pops? He might show up anyway.”

“Can he get us a tank?”

“Probably.”

“Call him.” Xander pulled out his communicator and when Yusuke appeared on the screen he grinned. “So...we're gonna blow up the school.”

Yusuke stared at him for a moment. “...seriously?”

“Yep. So that should keep the whole thing contained. Just giving you an update.”

“You're insane Xander.”

“It runs in the family.”

xxx

They had moved back to the school, the library specifically, where Willow had everyone capable of magic gathered at the table.

“You're here for a lesson in barriers. The Mayor is gonna turn into a big, scary demon and we don't want him to eat the entire town or us. So we're going to trap him on school grounds.”

Jonathan's eyes were a little big at the notion. “Will a barrier really work?”

Xander clapped his younger brother on the shoulder. “Yep. We put one up before, but this will need to be uber strong. Last time we only had a temperamental ghost to deal with.” Suddenly Giles zoomed past them and toward the stacks. Xander watched him worriedly. “Giles?”

Giles didn't look back as he searched the shelves for a particular book. “The villagers at the volcano site made a reference to the legend of Ollukai which could actually be Oliviken.”

“And that's the kind of demon he's gonna turn into?” Xander asked, going up the steps to join him just as Giles found the book.

He opened it, found the page he was looking for and; “Good lord.”

Xander peered over his shoulder and unfolded the picture...the illustration took up three page widths. “That’s gonna need a lot of explosives.”

“Can you procure that much?”

“I don't think I can steal that much from the army tonight no. But I can make a few of them. Some wiring, some diesel fuel, and lots of fertilizer.”

Giles looked at him, eyes wide. “You have this knowledge?”

Xander grinned at him. “Scary?”

“Quite.”

“You know how to hotwire a car.”

“Your knowledge of explosives is a different level of awe.”

“...yeah. You got me there. Good thing Heidi called the A-Team huh?”

xxx

A black van with a red stripe drove up to Sunnydale High in the early morning light. It parked in the student parking lot where Heidi was waiting for it. Hannibal was in the front passenger seat and leaned out the window a bit. “Heidi.”

“Hey Pops.” She waved at B.A. “Amy stayed home?”

“Yeah. What do you need for this party?”

“Xander mentioned a tank, but I'm pretty sure he was joking. We are gonna make bombs though...if you could get your hands on some actual explosives that would help. The Rocket Launcher we have isn't gonna be enough.” She paused and scented the air. “Who's with you?” She could smell Face and Murdock...but there were two other men in the back of the van.

“Your friend Cordelia called a doctor and his lover.”

The side door opened and Steve Sloan and Jesse Travis climbed out of the van. “Hey Doctor Travis.”

“Hey Heidi. We're here for first aid, you're probably gonna need the help.”

She nodded. “We hope to keep the number of casualties and injured to a minimum, but until the actual fight we need help clearing the library out. We don't want to blow up the books. Giles wouldn't survive the destruction of his books.”

“Lead the way kid.”

Hannibal nodded. “We'll be back.”

The van drove off and Heidi led Steve and Jesse inside the school where several of the senior class was already packing up the books and weapons.

xxx

There was an energy in the air and it wasn't pleasant, a sort of morbid excitement. This was a big day, the biggest of their lives up to this point. Graduation. The threat of impending doom certainly didn't help.

The number of parents attending was minimal, many had been convinced to not come, or been given the wrong date. Botan was hidden from sight, waiting and ready to get the few that were there out of harm's way. They were as ready as they could be.

All they could do now was wait for the Ascension to start; because until the Mayor changed form he was impervious to harm.

They sat in their robes before the podium, waiting for the adults to start the ceremony. Snyder came up first to look out at them, to sneer at them one last time.

“Congratulations to the class of 1999, you have proved yourself to be somewhat functioning adults and hopefully you will go on to be useful members of society.” Snyder's eyes fell on Buffy, then Xander. “Well, most of you. Maybe.” He eyed the rest of the class. “This is a time of celebration, so stay in your seats, and keep quiet.” Another pause. “Now, please welcome our special guest, our esteemed Mayor, Richard Wilkins the third.” Snyder's eyes snapped to one side and Xander followed the gaze, Kyle had just flipped Snyder off. “I saw that Dufours, you see me after graduation.” He stepped back and clapped a little, there was a light clapping in return from the class.

Then the Mayor himself stepped up and pulled some note cards out of his suit jacket...the heck? Wilkins smiled at them, it was friendly and open, and such a lie Xander wished they'd brought rotten fruit to throw at the guy. That would have made him freak out and been worth a good laugh.

“Well, this is special day. Isn't it? Not only is it your graduation, but it is the centennial of our beloved Sunnydale. You probably didn't know that, and I doubt you care, and that's okay, still, big day right? Today you kids graduate from high school. All the pain and work tears and sweat you put in five days a week, four years in a row, it all ends today. And it was worth it, don't you think? Now you're free.”

Xander and several others groaned a bit, instead of just attacking them, Wilkins actually intended to give his speech. Dear God. He was going to bore them to death before he ate them.

“What's keeping him from just eating us?” Someone whispered.

“He has to wait for the eclipse.” Xander murmured.

Wilkins went on. “It’s been a long and winding road getting to this point, full of unexpected bumps and little surprises along the way. Some good, some bad, we've had our share of success and loss on this journey, there's a few names missing from the roster. But we shall prevail, we shall go on” ...and then the sky grew dark and Wilkins smiled. “It’s a little earlier than I thought it would be...so I guess-” He winced and doubled over. “We'll just skip to the big finish.

Show time.

“Get ready.” Xander murmured to the teens around him. “Everyone knows what to do.”

“I had this whole section on-” Another wince. “But no matter. I hope you kids are ready for this. Nothing is going to be the same after this.” Then the transformation started. Wilkins' head started to bulge and swell as he screamed out in pain, scales appeared on his skin, his body grew flowed outward...and then there was a giant snake with lots of teeth snapping out at the graduation committee.

“Jesus.” One classmate whispered.

“Now!” Xander yelled. And his controlled chaos began, starting with four magic users and their guards heading to four corners of the property. Andrew and Russ, Jono and Harmony, Amy and Percy, and Michael and Larry. The plan was dependent on those four to put up and hold the barrier, while the other four guarded their backs.

Flames shot out of Sirius' wand on one side of the platform to distract the newly turned demon, giving the adults there time to run. When the demon lashed out on the other side Tor was there, fire coming from his hands, his human guise gone, and his newer fey form in full view.

The barrier went up and Wilkins roared in rage, the only thing that kept him from lashing out was the unexpected sound of automatic gunfire from the A-Team. It was just the thing they needed as the majority of the student body ran to the panicking parents, herding them toward a pond that had not been on the grounds before. The pond glowed and Botan floated above its surface, holding open a gateway to safety.

Hogan was the last to go through nodding and saluting Xander before Botan pulled him into the water. All the civilians had made it out...except for Snyder. He was pointing a finger at Wilkins scolding him, yelling at the giant snake about order and ceremony when the creature snatched him up and swallowed him before anyone could get to him. Xander was uncertain about how he felt toward the death.

It was just the pack now and their allies.

When the Mayor screamed again, this time because of a particularly nasty holy arrow that took out one of his eyes, courtesy of Willow, a horde of vamps descended on them. Their heads went flying however when Rinku let loose his yoyos, knocking a few heads off directly while winding the string around the necks and using them as garrotes. The few that somehow managed to avoid the attack were taken out by the Feral Four, and Cordelia, the sisters enjoying their new animal forms. He'd never seen a vamp so scared of a dog before, but Cordelia was beautiful in her viciousness, and since they dusted when she ripped into them her white coat stayed white.

Xander and Buffy tag teamed the Mayor with their best swords while Sirius and Tor kept the overgrown pest from attacking the others with bursts of flame, backed up by the gunfire. Buffy dropped her sword unexpectedly and held up a knife Xander had never seen before, but obviously the Mayor had.

“We have Faith.” She yelled up at him, he snarled at her. “You want your little girl back? Fetch.” And then Buffy took off, the Mayor slithering after her.

“Move, move, move!” Xander yelled as he chased after them. “You know your orders!” He didn't look back, knowing everyone would do their part and ran after the Mayor, swiping at his tail with his sword to distract him and slow him down what little he could, managing to slice the tip off, so Buffy would have all the time she would need. The Mayor ignored the pain Xander caused, keeping his focus on the slayer.

Buffy ran inside, through the doors and down the halls, the Mayor smashing through everything like a car on steroids and Xander briefly lamented that he couldn't really appreciate the destruction at the moment. This place had been hell for him some days.

Buffy ran into the library ahead of them where the finale was to take place. The Mayor just barely fit into the room where they had all become friends, allies, family. Xander almost hated what was going to come next. The library was the only part of high school he was going to miss. Buffy dashed around the explosives they'd set up and launched herself through the window.

Satisfied that she was safe, Xander turned to make his own exit when he heard the glass break; however the coiled snaky tail of the Mayor came at him and all he felt was pain as he was launched through another window. Then there was only air as he flew across campus, coming to stop at the barrier itself and actually hitting it. Right at the corner where Michael and Larry were stationed.

Then the school blew and Xander's world went dark even when he knew there would be fire and debris all around him.

 

Larry and Michael exchanged a look of horror as the debris came raining down and the barrier faltered on their corner for just a second. Larry took that second and ran for Xander, grabbing him and throwing to safety...and then the barrier was back up, and Larry was trapped.

 

Xander's eyes opened in time to see Larry's soul rise from the rubble. “No! Damn. Larry! I wouldn't have died. I can't die!”

Larry smiled at him and shook his head. “Lorne told me I might die in battle. Take care of Kyle for me?”

“Larry!” But the barrier went down and a girl on an oar swooped in and carted Larry's soul away.

“NOOO!” Kyle ran to the pile of rubble where Larry's body was buried and Xander crawled to him to drag him back.

“It’s too late Kyle. He's gone.”

“NO!”

Everything became a blur after that; the part that Xander did remember was Jesse Travis sedating Kyle. It didn't make sense...Larry knew that Xander was immortal. He would have survived the battle...why would Larry need to die? Maybe he should take that up with Lorne.

Xander managed to climb to his feet and Buffy helped him drag Kyle further from the rubble. “Any other casualties?” He asked with regret.

Jonathan nodded. “Maybe, I lost track of Harmony when the barrier went down.”

“Damn. See to the wounded? And someone take Kyle home. I'll call Botan and tell her to bring the others back. It'll look weird when the fire department shows up and almost everyone is missing.”

“I've got him.” Buffy murmured.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Make the call. Do a headcount.”

Xander pulled out his communicator and watched the burning building for a moment. It seemed so unreal, that that burning mass of hell had once been his school.

XXX

Chapter Text

Tied up in Red
calikocat
Epilogue: Not Broken

Word count: 1035

XXX

Koenma looked up at the young man before him. “You'll take the job?”

Larry nodded. “Yeah. This was the right path to take.”

“It was.” The demigod smiled at his newest recruit. “Meet your team leader.” A door slid open and a familiar face stepped inside. “Jesse McNally.”

Jesse grinned at Larry and shook his hand. “Dude! Larry!”

“McNally.”

“How was graduation?”

Larry raised a brow. “I died.”

“That always sucks. Come on, the others are waiting.”

“Others?”

“Kids from the Dale, Kendra too.”

“Cool, where do we start?”

xxx

“Yusuke!”

Yusuke looked up to see Chu and Jin coming toward him. He waved but stayed where he was, sitting on a rock formation overlooking a section of forest. They were pretty deep in the Makai, about a week's trek in. “Guys.”

“Are you here for the tournament?” Jin asked.

“I'll watch it a bit. Don't think I'll be fighting.”

“Why not?” Chu punched him in the shoulder. “Be fun if you did.”

“You know I have a wife and kid now right? Maybe when my daughter is older.”

“So what are you doing here then?”

Yusuke pointed down to the forest below them. “Watch.”

“What are we-” A flock of birds burst from the tree tops...and then a small herd of what looked like deer broke through the tree line. Close on their heels...was the pack. All three demons watched in awe as a group of humans took out each beast, one by one. One was taken down by a hyena and a large white dog. Another by a shaggy primate looking thing and a boy with blue hair. A third by a blond and what looked like a younger version of Yusuke. “What is that?” Jin finally finished.

“Part of my brother's pack.”

“Oh are they finally out of the woods?” Willow asked joining them and sitting beside Yusuke. “Oh, we'll be eating good tonight huh?”

“Looks like.” Yusuke motioned to the other two. “This is Willow. A miko in training and one of my brother's best friends.”

She smiled warmly at them. “Hi.”

They nodded to her. “Never seen humans hunt like that.”

Willow's smile changed to a confident grin. “Well, most of the pack isn't entirely human.”

Yusuke nudged her. “I don't see Buffy or Kyle down there.”

“Yeah, they're still roughing it on their own, together. Kyle's not really up to mingling with the rest of us. I mean it’s only been a week since Graduation you know? And Larry's death.”

“I can't imagine.”

“None of us really can...except Buffy. I mean she's lost Angel three times, one of those times she actually killed him. It’s good that they've found solace you know, until they're ready to get back out there.”

“I suppose.”

“Come on. I'm hungry.” Willow gave his arm a tug. “Let’s go before they eat everything without cooking the meat. You guys too.”

xxx

They ended up spending a total of a month in the Makai, long enough to watch a few rounds of the current tournament. Then it was back to the human realm.

Xander's first stop was Genkai's...where he and Faith went a few rounds nearly beating the crap out of one another. In the end however Jono stopped the fight by temporarily paralyzing them with a spell and then offered Faith a place with him and Rinku...the two of them were going to Cleveland with Andrew and Russ. She'd have her own Hellmouth to patrol, her own territory that she wouldn't have to share with another slayer. It was more than she'd hoped for. Though she gave him a noogie once the spell wore off...and gave Xander one more punch to his face.

The next stop had been making sure Amy was settled, and she was, already going to a Cram School and looking into universities. With Keiko and Kurama's help. Kurama was treading lightly as he'd been given calculating looks from Xander...and he'd heard about Jonathan's paralyzing spell.

The last stop had been getting Cordelia and Rhonda settled in LA. There were still a few issues with Sirius' money so the girls were on a tight budget, neither wanted to take much from Xander, no matter how much he wanted to help.

So they got a small apartment to share, one where the landlord knew about wand users and didn't object to their post fowl or Diana. One with an itty bitty balcony that Hera and Coco didn't object to.

He was lying in bed with her, spending the night in her tiny room, opting to explore LA for a few days before going home.

“You still going to fix up your own library?”

He tightened his arm around her just a bit and kissed her head. “Well now that I know that open storage room Mom was using for junk is in fact a dining room and already has that nifty table...just put a few shelves in and maybe a computer and I'll have a mini library.”

“Don't forget the overstuffed chair.”

“But where would I put it? I have no cozy fire place.”

“You are such a dork.” She smiled at him and kissed him.

“You sure this is what you want Cordy? It’s not too late to pack you up and take you home with me. You can go to UC Sunnydale with us.”

“No. This is what a want. I want to live somewhere else, somewhere bigger. I just...”

“Hey, I get it. It’s not for me, but I get it. Just remember you can come home whenever you want.”

“I know...so...how's Heidi? Enjoying her road trip with Hannibal?”

“I think so.”

“She coming back?”

“Don't know. We all have to find our own path right? Even if it means separating.”

“You sure you want to stay in Sunnydale?”

“Yeah. The Hellmouth is home, but for now, I'm all yours.”

“I like the sound of that.”

XXX