Imagine: The List
Fic posted by members of Vo's Imaginings YahooGroup
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Story Notes:
This was formerly part of the 'i'm stuck, wips' pile but i can't get it to go any farther and it's at a stopping point so it's now list only.

Possessions Of A Knight.

Xander looked around his skimpy motel room. He was seventeen, a few months from eighteen. He was supposedly on some demented post-graduation roadtrip to 'find himself' and it wasn't what he had wanted. Being stranded not four hours from home....not too much of 'seeing America'. And he hated it here. Oxnard was... Well, it was Sunnydale without the demon threat. It was boring, it was filled with petty people who ignored everything. Hell, even the cops hadn't really wanted to know why his car had set itself on fire. Until the insurance company had demanded to know why so they could try to invalidate his claim. Pity that hadn't went their way or for the kid that was about his age who had blown up the car.

So now... Well he was bored, he was overly tired from his supposed job. He had been hired to work in the kitchen of the club, occasionally he might have to deliver drinks back to the rooms if a waiter didn't come in. No one had mentioned a *thing* about getting naked. Or about teasing the customers, which his boss insisted he do. He should really complain and have them shut down but the Mayor might get mad if he took his naked boy staring time away from him and his buddy, the Police Chief.

So yeah, Oxnard was like Sunnydale without the demons. It was boring. Full of corrupt people. An annoying pit stop. And his boss had 'forgotten' to cut his check. Well, that wouldn't work. He decided to go talk to him. He was in his office by now, like usual, counting last night's take. He slid back into his sneakers and walked out, heading over there. The bouncer gave him an odd look. Xander just smirked as he walked in and went back to the office. "My paycheck cut yet? I really do need to find a new car."

The boss snorted, staring at him oddly. "I told you it'd be next week, Harris."

Xander nodded. "Sure, and if it's not tonight I'm calling CPS because I'm seventeen." The guy gave him a horrified look. Xander smirked. "That's why I was looking for a dishwashing job. Not getting naked and letting your buddies stare at me time." He leaned against the wall, behind the door. "So, my check? Then maybe, just maybe, I can go on with my road trip?" He blinked his big brown eyes at him. "I actually want to see something other than a small town. Or parts of LA."

His boss snorted. "Everywhere's like here, kid. You'll figure that out."

"Not everywhere. They all have their dirty little clubs but they have museums and parks and fairs and there's amusement parks out there that's not Disney related I'm told." The man glared at him. He stared back at him. "The offer stands for me to call someone. I'll keep working in the kitchen if you want. I could use the gas money for another week. That'll let you get someone else in, but I want out of Oxnard."

"You can't find a car for what you made this last week," he sneered.

"And yet I saw what that one guy tipped for you to let him touch me against my will," Xander said dryly. "And I saw him on the God channel the other day." He smirked. "I'm not the innocent little boy stereotype, boss. My parents are drunks. My best friend's parents were absent. For that matter, I've kinda been helping keep down a higher death rate in my hometown for the last few years." He stared at him. "I wanted *out* of small towns. It wasn't my choice to get stranded here because of that dickhead. Or to go onto the stage. You drugged my drink and stuck my ass up there. You had someone get up there and cut my clothes off me."

"You can't prove that," he sneered.

"Well, yeah, I kinda can. See, he cut me a few times." He smirked. "And I remember one of the cops taking film. Which I now have. I'm not stupid either." The boss started to sweat. "So, how about my check tonight? I'll do kitchen stuff for the next few days until you can sucker someone in. And then I'll be free to leave this little town for bigger places and other scummy clubs if I must?"

"They'd never take you, you're pathetic and can't even do what you need to so you get a decent check," he sneered.

Xander snorted. "I've never considered giving blow jobs for money to be a necessary habit. Or one I want to start. It seems to ruin your mood a lot so I'm guessing it's not that much fun to give one." He stared at him. "And I know a tiny blonde girl who can kick both of our asses and will if I tell her you've been trying to make me give blowjobs for money against my will." He grinned. "She's very against that sort of thing."

"Who the hell are you?" the boss demanded.

Xander grinned. "I'm the same Xander I've always been." He kicked the door shut on the bouncer's arm, making him scream as it broke. "My check please?" The boss handed money over. "Thank you." He opened the door and stared at him. "Does your other boss know that you helped him drug an underaged kid? Because I'm not eighteen yet." The guy gave him a horrified look. Xander walked around him and out of the club, going back to the motel to pack and leave. He found a cop there knocking. "What?" he called.

"You shot someone, Harris?"

"Kinda hard to do since I don't own a gun," he said dryly. "You searched my car's remains, did you find one?"

The officer sneered. "Getting too good for us?"

"I'm seventeen," Xander said bluntly. That cop gave him a horrified look too. Probably because he had been trying to force him to give him a blow job the night before. "And no, I don't usually use guns. I'm from Sunnydale. We go with the sharp and pointy stuff usually. Or stakes. They can be fun." The cop ran off. Xander packed and left, taking the next bus out of there heading south. It was leaving as he got there so it was handy.

Once he was on the bus he used the prepaid cellphone he had gotten before his trip to call the state police and alert them to that matter. They might not do anything but at least they'd know. And that they had tried to blame him for something he couldn't have done. He hung up and got comfortable. The bus only had two people on it. One was a white guy who looked kind of insane. He was humming and had those scary looking eyes you saw behind Hannibal's mask. The other was reading quietly.

Xander settled in to rest. His money was inside his pants, so no one could lift it on him. His wallet had nothing in it, including his ID. That was safely in the security pocket as well. He covered himself with his overshirt and drifted off. He'd be woken later when the State Police showed up for him. But they were nice and realized he didn't have a gun, didn't have any gun powder on his hands or anything else, and he was still only seventeen. He told them nicely about why he had demanded his paycheck and showed them the tape he had stolen. They frowned about it but their specialized vehicles could run the tape. They were even nice enough to give him a ride to the next city. That way he could disappear again.

Being him... not terrible at the moment.

At least until he ran into the undead person at the motel.


Xander concentrated, knocking the spirit back into his head. "Not my doing," he muttered to whoever it was. He was kind of creeped out by this newest one. It hadn't happened in a while in Sunnydale. So now he was in a new age bookstore looking at the _Exorcisms for Dummies_ books. The cashier was giving him an odd look. He smiled and looked at another one. Fewer versions of the rite but not as expensive. Finally he found one that mentioned the 'frequent sucking club' as they put it. He read that section and nodded, walking that book up to the check out table.

"Local?" she asked in a perky voice.

"No, I'm from Sunnydale and my best friend is a Wicca." She looked like she was ready to cry. "I'm Xander," he said with a grin. "I thought it'd be a nice souvenir."

"Oh, okay," she said, nodding a bit. She even gave him a nice ten percent discount.

He grinned and left, getting some chalk from the art store up the street. Then he went back to his motel room to deal with this issue. He really wasn't fond of this spirit like he was the hyena or his soldier self. This one kinda...sucked. A lot. Though it was nice he now knew how to give a blow job to someone thanks to the dead rent boy's spirit. It wasn't really on his need-to-know list but oh well. He finally got the spirit out of him and drew protections around the bed.

A motel this cheap probably had a lot of OD's over the years and other issues like the murdered, addicted rent boy. But hey, now he knew what being high felt like too. "Something I'll never have to try," he told himself. He settled in to sleep for the night. He'd find some sort of day work tomorrow and then make enough to move on after a few days. At night he could see some of the local sights. He still wasn't very far from home but he'd never even seen this town on the news in Sunnydale.

It was almost what he wanted from this vacation. Nearly.


Xander was off today, he had been doing day labor on a construction crew for the whole week, so he was in the park today working on his shielding. He really needed shields. He had nearly sucked someone up on the site. Twice for the same spirit. It made him look really weird when he started to shake his head quickly for no reason. The guys bought the 'ringing in the ears' excuse the first two times but he doubted it'd work for much longer. So he *really* needed shields. Quickly.

Of course, like magic, shields didn't seem to work right around him.

At dinner time he decided to go see someone. He had used the library last night after work to log onto a seer's site and find a local one. A real one. One who might have an idea of how to help him. He went to her shop, which had nicely late Saturday hours. He walked in and she stared at him, backing up slowly. "I came for help," he said quietly.

"What are you?"

"Born and bred in Sunnydale?" He shrugged slightly, looking confused. "I tend to suck up spirits. Or are you talking about... well, there was a swim coach once in town."

She nodded slowly. "Okay, that might explain why you read as unholy."

"No, that's probably Sunnydale taint." She looked confused. "Hellmouth?"

"Damn," she said in awe.

"Under the high school's former library," he said with a grin.

She snorted. "You need more help than I can give you, kid."

"I really just wanted help with how to put up my own shields. I'm not real happy with extra people putting me on like a track suit."

She blinked and nodded quickly. "Yeah, that's a bad thing." She walked him back to her crystal ball reading room. He looked at it and she let him run a finger over it. Inside the ball, the spirit she had trapped started to scream profane things.

Xander looked at it and smiled, then waved. "Hi, I'm from Sunnydale." The spirit in there shut up and shuddered, shrinking down. "Sorry."

"No, he needed to yell and scream a bit. He's been too quiet," she decided. She found the books she used whenever she found someone with a talent, letting him look.

He pointed. "I've been trying this and it keeps going sideways. Now only dead people who died by suicide can get in. I've already removed two kids who OD'd at the motel I'm staying at this week."

She shuddered. "That's sad." She found another one and walked him through it. That closed that loophole but he couldn't raise a real shield. It'd keep out the suicide spirits though. She considered it and called someone while he struggled with that complex thought. Her grandmother cackled long and hard when she told him where the boy was from. Apparently it was well known among some sorts. She got a name and that her grandmother would call and warn her. She hung up and got a drink, glancing at the kid. He was still working on it and not getting it. Her personal phone rang and she answered it, getting an older woman giving her someone else to send the boy to. She smiled, said thank you, and hung up. She went to stop the kid. "Do you really want to stay on this coast?"

"I'm kinda on a post-grad roadtrip to find myself and things."

She handed over the paper. "Plenty of things to see over that way and my grandmother knew her."

He beamed and got up to hug her briefly. "Thank you. Is there something I can do to help you?"

"No. Just find a shield." He nodded and nearly bounded out. She smiled, checking on her imprisoned spirit. "Did he scare you?" she taunted. The spirit put up an image to show her why he was scared and she shuddered. "That poor man." She went to clean up the area so none of his screwed up aura stayed to infect her things. She wasn't ever going to have kids if there was even a chance it'd end up like that boy. No matter how much her female relatives would complain.


Six weeks later he finally made it to the upper part of Louisiana. He found two older guys with shotguns waiting on him at the address he had been sent to. He got out carefully. "A young woman by LA told me to come visit her, guys. She said she called ahead and all that?"

One sneered. "What sort of uppity northern boy are you?" he sneered.

"Actually, I'm from about three hours outside LA, small town." He grinned. "Called Sunnydale." They flinched and backed off. He shrugged. "That's why I got asked to stop in and see her. Is she in? Or is this a bad time? I can go find a really cheap motel and some day work."

One of the guys nodded. "She's inside but said something unholy was coming this way."

"Well, I was born and raised there, but I don't think I'm carrying that much energy from the hellmouth." They both shuddered again and an older woman with a shotgun came out. "Ma'am, was I sent to you?"

She stared at him. "Little girl in Cali?" she asked.

He nodded. "Yes, ma'am. She tried to help me quit sucking up dead people. For some reason I can't build a good shield. Though we managed to block out all the suicides."

She stared at him. "Who're you, boy?"

"Xander Harris, ma'am."

She gave him an odd look. "From Sunnydale?" He grinned and nodded. "That idiot watcher boy don't have the books?"

He snorted. "He did, he let Buffy use them when she accidentally became telepathic, but apparently he didn't think me sucking up a hyena was a good enough reason to let me read them." He put his hands in his pockets. "Or the halloween thing that I kept."

She cackled. "I heard 'bout that!" she said with a grin. "What'd you go as?"

"Soldier." He shifted some. "Came in handy on patrol though. The slayer went as a rich girl from the early US." He grinned. "Fainting and all."

She cackled and nodded. "Suits her I hear." Xander shrugged again. "Get in here." Xander walked around the two guys with guns and carefully wiped his feet on the matt before walking inside. "Good boy. Go sit." She pointed. She noticed he walked through her protections but one was starting to smoke. He noticed too, he looked up and jumped up to put out the small fire. She snorted. "You know about them?"

"Willow's been learning magic on and off." He sat down on the couch, looking at her. "I don't know why I can't put up shields, ma'am. All I know is I'm tired of being the other side's vacuum. I've picked up too much dust and hairballs."

She nodded, getting some ice water for him. He sipped it and put it on his knee. She sat down. "Could be that you're infected with the energy from out there."

"I've often wondered if the hellmouth had radiation problems, but Giles thought that was a dumb idea." He took another sip.

She nodded. "He's an idiot at times."

"His duty is his slayer, not the rest of us. I'm *normal* you see."

She snorted. "Bull shit, boy! You're less normal than I am."

"They think I am." He grimaced and shifted, getting comfortable. "I could've sworn I was just fine until Willow learned magic."

"Stupid of her. Doing it there means she'll have problems."

"Willow.... She's a good girl," he told her. "But I worried that her first real spell was closing the hellmouth. She went from floating pencils to closing it, to sticking Angelus' soul back." He finished the water while she shuddered. "I'm worried that some day she'll be something that our slayer or team will have to hunt."

"Could be," she admitted. "Could you?"

"I don't think our slayer could. They're best friends. She's mine, kind of. Well, used to be. Now, not as much." She nodded at that. "I doubt our slayer would be able to do that and not break. I'm not sure if I could or not but I know it'd be better if I did instead of her."

"Maybe," she said. "Sounds like you consider yourself less important."

"I realize I don't have special skills outside whatever I've sucked up," he said dryly. "That got pointed out to me plenty."

She grimaced. "That's not right."

"As it was pointed out to me, I'm not a witch, a slayer, a werewolf, a vampire, or anything. I'm a normal, mortal guy who can occasionally suck up an extra helpful voice." He stared at her. "Though I'd like to be able to pick and choose when I can do that and get them out without them leaving things. I did not want to know what the guy in Texas thought was fun. It took me seven days to get him out of me." He sipped the water from the melting ice. "And I like animals so his version of fun wasn't mine."

She shook her head quickly. "Mine either." She stared at him. "Just shielding help?"

"Magic goes real wrong around me, ma'am. It goes so sideways it's almost laughable. And I admit that I screwed up a few years back. I fully admit to that. Hell, I can recount every bad thing I've ever done and justify it for myself even if now I know it was dumb."

She smiled. "I heard about some young witch and a love spell."

He snorted, shaking his head. "She broke up with me on valentine's day so her *friends* wouldn't get wind of being in an unpopular relationship." She gaped. He stared at her. "I only wanted her back long enough to do it to her. Unfortunately it caught everyone but her. When it was ended, we had a shouting match about that. She realized she was, frankly, a shallow bitch, and I realized I had my shallow moments. I've grown up since then. So has she."

She stared at him. "Seriously?" He nodded. "You're treading in the dark?"

"No. I was dumb. It was my first relationship. I acted like the girls I'm always surrounded by," he said dryly. "I know what I did was wrong. Now. Then I was emotional, struck dumb, and in pain."

She stared at him. "Get out."

"Sure." He stood up and handed her back the glass. "Thank you for your time, ma'am."

She stared at him. "You do magic?"

"Hell no," he snorted. "Then I'd be a danger to humanity. I'd have to off myself when something went wrong again. Because I can screw up Willow working in another room somehow."

She put a hand on his arm. "Sit." He did. She stared at him for a minute. "No one can screw up another's spell, kid."

"She's certain I do it often enough."

"No. That's not you interfering unless you're helping her cast?" He shook his head. "Do the potions?" He shook his head again. "Then how do you supposedly screw things up?"

"No idea. She thinks I'm some sort of magnet for it so it goes sideways."

She shook her head. "No, that's her having issues. Someone needs to talk to that girl."

"Giles is training her."

She shook her head. "I doubt it's enough. Go away." He nodded and left. She relaxed again. He was intense. She could feel the sucking coming from him. She called in her grandsons. "He's not evil."

"Bull! I can feel him," one complained.

"He's from a town where evil rules, boys. Not he himself being evil." She stared at them. "Boy needs help but he's giving me a headache." She rubbed her head, letting her son get her something for it. "Thank you."

"Want us to run him out of town?" the other grandson asked.

She shook her head. "Boy needs help. We're honor bound to help him stay on the light if he's sure he wants to be there." They both sulked. One sat down on the couch. "Boy could use some role models as well. He's got real flexible ethics thanks to the hunting." She finished her tea and put the glass down. "I have no idea how we'd help him since half of it we'd have to start by keeping the girls from warping him again and keeping him out of his town for a long while. Seems like they're not wanting him there but he's got a hunter's soul." They nodded. "Which is broken." She crossed her legs. "Make sure he stays in town for a few days."

One nodded, calling the local motel to tell him that. She was well respected and feared in town. They'd listen to her and watch the boy to see what was wrong with him.


Xander looked up from his packing the car the next morning, nodding at the man in the truck staring at him. "Yes, sir, can I help you?"

"Boy, you do day labor?"

"Yes, sir." He shut his trunk. "I've spent the last few months of my roadtrip doing day labor."

He smirked. "Follow me. We're doing a water line. Could use a strong back." He nodded and checked the motel room then came out to hand in his key so he could follow him to the site. It was way out in the middle of nowhere. It was hard, back breaking labor in the very hot, swampy heat and sun. He could use the money though. He'd find a room in another town so the old woman didn't get upset with him again.

Halfway through the afternoon, he heard a growl and looked around. The supervisor was too, and scowling. Xander saw the shadow and pointed. "It's there. Bush is moving." The supervisor snorted but when it came out, Xander pulled his hunting knife and threw it, injuring the beast on the side. It yelped and ran off. Xander climbed out of the hole to grab the knife. "Didn't go deep. Should we find it to put it down mercifully?" he asked the supervisor. Who was staring at him in horrified awe. Xander looked at himself then at him. "I've hunted a bit when I was younger."

"No, it'll be fine, kid." Xander nodded, putting his knife up and getting back to work. He waited for the next break then looked at him. "Why didn't you shoot it?"

"I'm not carrying a gun." He looked at the holster on his side, showing him what it was. "Taser wouldn't have reached it."

"Huh." He nodded. "Guess that's a good thing for being jumped in a bar."

"Or on the street." He grinned. "And it's non-lethal so I probably won't kill someone if I don't want to."

"Good point." He sipped some water, letting the boy get a second cup. The animal came running out growling and right for the boy. Xander picked it up and slammed it into the ground, one hand clamped around the muzzle. It yelped and then went limp. "Let me get someone. You tie it down with the duct tape." Xander did that, getting the muzzle first, while he called the local animal control people. They rushed out to get the cougar. One was staring at the boy but oh well. Then they all got back to work digging the trench. The supervisor told his boss what had happened so he wouldn't complain about the extra half-hour of break time. The boy did pull his fair share. He didn't complain too much but made a few jokes about how hot it got and his new sunburn.

When time was finally called, Xander climbed out, handing over his shovel. "Is there a good motel closer? I have a few days I can spend here."

The supervisor nodded. "The one they got you from."

"Nothing closer so I'm not burning gas?"

"Could be one in Morganville, not sure." He pointed. "About ten miles that way." The boy grinned. He paid him and the others. Xander drove off and the others wobbled to their cars rubbing their sore muscles. The supervisor went to tell his boss those interesting facts. It looked like there was a reason the kid came down there.


Xander's last day in town, and the job was nearly finished so he didn't feel guilty about that, he took his pay with a grin. "I'm getting a pizza before I leave tomorrow. Thanks for the work." He shook the supervisor's hand.

"Boss wanted a word. He has some friends in construction and he can pass your name on."

"I'm not sure which way I'm heading yet."

"He can point out a few friendly places." Xander smiled and nodded. The boss showed up a few minutes later and Xander smiled at him and shook his hand. Boy didn't expect the boss to knock him out. "Pity. He worked really good."

"He's still a threat. I can't let a hunter near me."

Xander kicked him and then got to his feet, yawning. "By the way, due to a swim coach infecting me with mermaid taint, drugs don't work right on me." The man gaped. "For that matter, I don't care unless you're an evil bitch. I'm on a road trip outside of Sunnydale. I'm not looking for supernatural or paranormal crap. I wanted an average, normal guy summer." He glared at him. "Get over it. Not all of us are coming for you." He snorted. "I've seen more powerful hippie witches." He walked off, taking his money from the supervisor's limp hand and heading for his car. "Have a nice life, guys."

"I'll get you," he called, starting to chant something.

Xander stared at him. The magic came at him and then fizzled. "Magic doesn't work right on me either. Something about being born and bred in Sunnydale." The men hissed and stepped back. Xander stared at them. "I may hunt with a slayer but yay me. I don't care what you boys do. Of course, if I hear you hit more innocents, I'll be back. Before I would've just left." He got in and drove off. His head was still a bit fuzzy but he'd be fine. He did get pulled over by one of the state cops. He looked at him. "Sorry, am I drifting? I worked all day digging a trench," he said quietly. "I'm going back to my motel so I can sleep tonight before I leave."

The officer looked at him. "Drinking?"

"I don't drink, Officer. My parents do enough of that for an entire bar."

"You're about a mile away. I'll follow you." Xander grinned and nodded, starting the car and driving off slowly. Which is why he had stopped him. The kid did indeed go up to his room, lock himself in, and lay down. He made a report on his timesheet and went back to his patrol. You heard bad things about guys who worked for the Rogit Company's projects but that boy was too young, too polite, and too damn straight for them.


Xander paused for breakfast the next morning outside the town the older woman lived in, finding one of her grandsons in the restaurant. "Just getting breakfast then heading east," he said quietly.

"Rogit got you," he said bluntly.

Xander looked at him. "No, I did some day work for him digging a new water line's trench. Nothing else. Anything he might've tried would've failed," he said quietly, glancing around.

The guy snorted. "Half of them know, kid."

"Half of my town has blinders so thick they never see anything even in their own houses. I'm still careful around normals."
"Good." He stared at him. "Grams wanted to see you again." Xander nodded and finished up, going out to drive over there. He called and got his own breakfast. She could handle one upstart little boy like that one. Though he wasn't sure how the kid had dug a trench in the heat they'd had for the last few days yet look well rested.


Xander parked and got out, walking up to knock on the door. "Your grandson said you wanted to see me, ma'am?" he asked politely.

She stared at him. "Get in here."

"Ma'am, I'm dusty and a bit sweaty. I don't want to pollute your house."

She smirked. "You're wasting the A/C." He stepped in after wiping his feet. She looked him over. "What did he try?"

"Tried to drug me to knock me out. Said he wouldn't allow a hunter near him. I got up and pointed out I had no idea about him, wasn't there for him, and didn't give a damn about him. Unless I heard he had hurt an innocent and then I'd find him." He grimaced. "He tried to hit me with some sort of spell and it fizzled about a foot in front of me, like Willow's do."

She gaped. "He did what!" she demanded. He stared at her. "Go sit." He went to sit on the couch. He put out that smoking protection again for her too. She looked at it then at him. "You fully human?"

"Swim coach exposed us to mermaid essence in some saunas to make us win more. I went undercover to see why we suddenly had monsters in the pool that ate people."

She grimaced. "Idiots."

He shrugged. "They ended up killing him. They detoxed me."

"Not near enough."

"I don't think they could do more than they did. They did a full blood transfusion."

She shuddered. "Damn." She went to get something and brought him out some tea. "Drink." He stared at her but did it. She watched around him. "How on God's green earth did you do that?" she asked, looking confused.

"Do what?"

"Build a defensive sphere."

He shrugged. "What's a defensive sphere?"

She stared at him. "Did you do *no* research, boy?" she demanded.

"Again, Giles' books. He decides what we get into." She moaned and sat down. He stared at her. "I did what I could. I got a book after the first OD victim put me on so I could get some protections I could put around my bed and things." She slumped, shaking her head and rubbing her chest. "Please don't die," he moaned. "I don't want to have to defend myself from your rabid looking grandsons and their shotguns."

She gave him an odd look. "They'd kill you, boy."

He snorted. "If a few master vampires, various other vampires, a werewolf, and others on the hellmouth can't, they won't be."

She gaped. "Well, that's good to know." He grinned. "You're weird."

He shrugged. "Said the hundred-and-fifty-year-old zombie lady?" She gaped, her mouth flopping open. He shrugged. "Library. Giles did teach us to research."

She snorted. "You're impudent."

He grinned. "I'm fun loving and young. Not quite the same definition."

She stared at him. "That defensive shield is put up wrong," she said quietly.

"I have no idea what you're talking about. Is that why I can't put up an anti-dead guy shield?"

She nodded. "Probably." She looked around him again. "You need rebuilt from the ground up."

"I have to go back to Sunnydale sometime but not today. I planned for at least another month."

"Things like that can take years."

He nodded. "I don't have years." He stood up. "Thank you for your time, Mrs. Haslet. I'll work on it as I can between hunts."

"Sit," she snapped. He stared at her. "You need the help, boy."

He snorted. "And yet a few days back you weren't all that concerned." She sneered. He stared at her. "I may have to hunt to protect myself and others, but that doesn't mean I'm a bad guy. Unless you want one of our yearly apocalypses to get free?" She shuddered and shook her head. "Then we all do what we have to do. Even if others don't like it. Not like I'm going to take over the world or something. That's cheesy and it won't get me a date."

She rolled her eyes. "You need better priorities."

He snorted, shaking his head. "I have plenty of priorities. They involve saving everyone's ass. Even yours." He stared at her. "It's not my fault I somehow got opened to every single dead person in the world. And sometimes spirit animals. It's not my fault that half of you wouldn't help me because I do what I have to do to protect myself and others. For being on the Light, there's sure a lot of judgmental assholes."

She burst out cackling, nodding. "Yup, there are. Some are nearly as stupid as the evil ones."

"Actually, some of the evil ones aren't all that dumb. They just have desires that aren't good for others. Usually of having powers. Even then, some of them can turn themselves around. Giles used to play with black magic and look at him now."

She stared at him. "He did?" she demanded.

"He gave it up when he went back to the Council. He was apparently young and stupid in his youth."

"People like that don't change."

"Everyone changes. No one's the same from day to day. Even then, some of the most evil can change sides if it suits their desires. After all, they don't want to die in an apocalypse either. We've had plenty work with us. Including Angel." She shuddered. He stared at her. "I'd appreciate the help without the nagging like Willow would do," he said quietly. "And I'll gladly take anything you can teach me."

"I can do that. You're stronger than you think."

"I know I'm strong. I know I'm pretty normal as well. I also know that some day I won't be good enough and at that time I'm hoping I fully die instead of getting turned to be used against others."

She nodded. "You're realistic then."

"I try every now and then," he said dryly. "Doesn't always work. I'd still like to date a Playboy Bunny."

"That just means you're a boy. Some day you'll settle down."

"And fantasize that my wife's a lesbian with one as a girlfriend," he shot back.

She snickered. "Probably. Hopefully she'll be *alive*."

"I'm not Buffy. I can't sleep with a corpse. I have no idea how she slept with Angel." She cackled until she fell out of the chair. He helped her back up. "I'd hate to have to dent your grandsons if they try to hurt me because you bruised yourself cackling."

"Sit, Xander." He sat. She got a few books and came back to go over the exercises with him. Which didn't work but she understood why and helped him bring down that stupid defensive shield he had somehow put up. It was only causing him problems and he needed one he could put up when needed, not an instinctive one.

It might even make him look less like a hunter and more innocent. That would keep him out of trouble.


Xander was just two hours from home when he ran into the next spirit he couldn't avoid. He had to stop so his car would quit overheating. So he was sitting next to it drinking some water and looking at the desert landscape. He spotted a spirit staring at something and sighed, checking the road. No one. He had picked this back road for that very reason. "Dude," he called. The spirit flinched and looked at him. "Go toward the light. Or whatever. Quit hanging around." It moved closer. "You do that and I'll destroy you." It paused and stared at him. Xander heaved himself up and walked over to where it was staring.

Dry creek bed.

Not real fresh dead body.

"Oh, damn," he muttered. The spirit came closer and he kept it out while he called the state police's speed number. "Hi, I'm on Reggie's Mountain Road, that back road by the desert, and I found a dead body when my car got overheated. About two hundred feet from the road. No, I was going to pee," he said dryly. He looked around. "About two hours from Sunnydale? Blue ancient heap of a car. There's a McDonald's sign about a mile away? No idea otherwise, ma'am. Yeah, I can stay. It'll be at least an hour before my car cools down and wants to run. Thanks." He hung up and put his phone back, looking at the spirit. "There, better?" The spirit shook his head. Xander walked back to his car and got his water. He waved when he saw a cop car. The spirit took the opportunity to try to slip into him. He glared at it and it backed off. He smiled at the cop pausing. "Dead body's over there," he said with a point.

"Thanks, sir." He parked and got out, walking over there. "Yeah, that's a dead one all right." He called it in, giving a better address. He came back to look at the car. "That's an ancient heap," he agreed with a grin.

Xander grinned. "I'm on my way home from a post-grad roadtrip. I'm lucky it made it through Texas." The officer laughed and helped him add some water to his radiator and showed him how to cool it better. "Thank you."

"Welcome. You'll be in the way anyway." He looked at the spirit then at him. "Friend of yours?"

Xander looked then at him. "Staring at the body. That's why I went to look. Unfortunately they like me too much."

"I know someone like that." He patted him on the arm. "When you can, you go on home, kid."

"Yes, Officer." He sat on his trunk, finishing his bottle of water. There was still steam. His car wasn't ready yet. More officers pulled in and the first showed them the body.

"Looks too fancy to have hitchhiked," one of the new ones noted. "Good clothes but wrinkled. Maybe huffed off or got drunk and wandered."

Xander looked at the ghost's clothes then shook his head. "I didn't touch him to see if he had a wallet," he offered. The officers nodded and looked, finding it.

"Max...." one read. He copied the information down and called it in for a search. "No such address."

Xander rolled his eyes. He looked up then at the officer. "That's the Old Mirror Inn's address. I did some table cleaning there on my roadtrip." They stared at him. He shrugged and pointed at the smoking engine. "I'm coming back from a post graduation road trip, guys. I didn't want to find a dead guy." They nodded. They also verified that information. The kid was right and they could ask the owner about the kid's claim of doing some shift work for him under the table. They took his ID's information as well just in case. When the car finally cooled off enough Xander hopped off his trunk, closed the hood, and got in to drive off. He beeped and waved, speed off into the afternoon heat. He noticed the spirit wasn't there and that made him very happy. He didn't need another mental friend from a possession.


Xander got the phone call to please call the sergeant at the state police office a few days later and called. "This is Xander Harris. I was asked to call a Sergeant Myers?" He listened. "Yeah, I'm the guy that had the overheating car." He put his feet up and listened, shaking his head. "No, I cleared tables, did dishes.... Tell him I'm the guy that got pinched, he'll remember me decking his bartender for it."

The officer told him that and he remembered Xander. Called him a young smartass too. "Sometimes," Xander agreed. He noticed the spirit was floating beside him and glared. It smiled at him. "No clue. I was on my way back from three days in Texas doing some day labor for gas money." He went over all the areas he had stopped and the officer groaned but took notes. That was good enough for them. He hadn't been anywhere near LA when the body was killed.

Xander stared at it. "Something bothered me. Why did the body have that hole in his shoulder and his hand?" He smiled. "Heat exhaustion had me bored and I've ... Well, I'm from Sunnydale. It was my graduation this spring," he offered. "Yeah, so I've seen a few," he admitted. "It was more disgusting than any I've seen but still." He nodded. "That's cool. Let me know if you need anything else I might know, Sergeant. I respect decent officers, unlike my local ones." The officer laughed and said he knew that about the Sunnydale PD. "Have a better week." He hung up and glared at the spirit. "Go. Away."

"You can help me with my plans."

"I can send your ass on," he offered.

"You won't though. I can help you out here."

Xander snorted. "I doubt that." He got up and got ready for patrol. It wasn't like Buffy was doing it tonight. She had *homework*. He walked around the spirit and out the basement door, heading for the local cemetery. He knew who was rising and who wasn't. He found Buffy out mumbling at her stake and snorted, making her flinch. "If it's talking back, that's a bad thing."

"Then I'd have to name it Xander because it's possessed," she quipped with a grin.

He smirked. "You know, it's not my fault that happened, either time."

"Still did."

"And you still went telepathic. Are we getting you an X-Man spandex outfit and red hairdye?"

"I hope not. I look sucky as a redhead." She smirked and let Xander help her that night, even though she did nag that he wasn't a slayer. Until he turned and threw a stake at a vampire and attacked it to kill it instead of letting it sneak up on them. She stared. "Are you possessed again?"

"There's one that tried, but no." He smirked. "Got into a few bar fights while I was on the trip though." She scowled. "I was bartending."

"Eww, gropey drunk people," she said with a delicate shudder. They kept going and she glanced at him a few times. "Okay, I gotta ask. There's a something behind us."

"Yeah, it's a ghost. I found his dead body on the way back when the car overheated in the desert. He's moping and thinks I'll help him finish his life's work. I'm ignoring him like the idiot he is."

"Oh, okay." She nodded. "It's good you can keep him out."

Xander smirked. "I found the books that are copies of what Giles has."

She winced. "Ow. That's mean."

"The same ones you used."

"Ewww. Sorry."

He shrugged. "Fortunately I found a senior witch who helped in Louisiana."

"Wow, you got really far away." He smirked and nodded. "Was she nice? Like Willow?"

"No, and she thinks Willow needs a better mentor. Apparently there's some rumors about her and her magic."

"Damn," she muttered. "She's been good."

"We should encourage her to find other practicing witches in other areas. They might be able to teach her things."

"We should," she agreed. "Would that one talk to her?"

"She was muttering about wanting to spank her after taking some Willow spells off me. Then she wanted to spank Giles for not watching her better."

"Oops. Yeah, I'll have her look for nicer ones then." Xander grinned and handed her a card from his wallet. "Where?"

"A very nice, peaceful retreat in Texas for nature witches. The head of the coven there used to hunt. She stitched up my arm when I had to protect one of their girls from someone stupid in a convenience store because he wanted to grope. He didn't like me when I didn't do more than yelp at his pocket knife and then he really hated me when I ruined his next year's worth of mating opportunities by smashing his balls in."

"Good job! We taught you to fight like a girl," she quipped, patting him.

He swatted her with a smirk. "No, I kicked his ass and then his balls. That way he'd remember not to touch girls who said no. She took me back to her aunt to stitch my arm. Her aunt had heard of the group and offered to talk to Willow when I asked if Willow could come visit."

"I'll let her know." She tucked it into her wallet and they went on with patrol. "Did you see anything fun?"

"A few local fairs. The Texas State Fair for a day. It was *really* hot. That and digging a trench in Louisiana for gas money." He shook his head quickly.

"Huh. So you did some work, had some fun, saw some sights." He nodded with a small grin. "Good for you. I know you wanted to see more."

"I kinda had to change cars in Oxnard. My original one blew up. I also got someone arrested for forcing me to work in the club. He suddenly agreed to pay me so I left." She nodded, patting him. They ran into Willow and he told her about the commune resort and the witches who wanted to talk to her and mentor her. She got happy with that idea so it was a good thing he had stopped that shape changer.


"They don't appreciate your help," the ghost told Xander.

Xander glared at him. "I know that." He went back to sharpening stakes. "They have it anyway."

"You can do greater things." Xander glared at him again. "I've never had to work this hard to get someone on my side," he huffed.

"You sound like a girl," he muttered. He heard someone near the door. "Who is it?" he called when they knocked. He got up to let Giles in, letting him stare at the ghost. "I found his body on the way home. He's been trying to get me to help him with his life's work." He sat down and went back to sharpening. "What's up?"

"How did you meet Miss Maratha?"

"I saved her niece."

"I heard nothing about that." Xander pushed up his sleeve to show the new scar. "What caused that?"

"Pocket knife. He was going to kill her." He looked at the older man. "Granny Maratha stitched it for me." He grinned. "She asked me questions about you and Willow too."

"Yes, that might be a good witch to mentor her," he decided. He looked at the ghost then at the boy. "This isn't usual for you."

Xander stared at him for a minute. "Ya know, I found the same books you gave Buffy to be *very* helpful with the shielding stuff." Giles went pale and shook his head. Xander smirked and nodded. "Yeah, a lot. Granny did too." He went back to sharpening that one and tossed it into his bucket. "Other than that, he can't get in because I don't feel like dressing like a low rent gigolo pretending to have class."

"Hey, this is Italian!" Max complained.

Xander looked at Giles. "I've been looking for a capturing device but haven't found a good one cheap yet."

"Do we know anything about him?"

"Nope. I'm wondering if he's as evil as some of my past dates though."

"Evil is relative. I was working to put North America back in charge," Max sneered with a huff. "You'd never understand."

Xander stared at him. "Actually, the soldier's memories I have thanks to a chaos sorcerer recognized your name as the guy who sent his whole unit to its death for a bet." Max shrugged. "Also, he said there's others waiting on you, which is why you're cowardly sitting on this side still." He stared at the ghost. "Beyond that, even if I let you into me, I'd never complete you plans, Max. I'd use your network to end a few bigger threats and to help some people that need it. Because your ideas are pathetic as far as the soldier knew. Pathetic, cheap, and weak."

"I don't hire cheap," he sneered.

"Yeah," Xander snorted. "You don't hire good either." He looked at Giles. "Do you have a capturing device?"

"I'm afraid mine is full," he said, glaring at the spirit. Who huffed off like a girl would. "I see he took lessons from Buffy as well," Giles muttered.

Xander snickered. "I got mine from Cordy." He picked up the next piece of wood to work on. "Other than my unwelcome house guest, is there a problem?"

Giles stared at him. "There's a rumor you took out a sorcerer in Louisiana?"

"No. He tried to take me out, I kicked his ass. Then I told him if I heard he was taking out innocents I'd be back." He stared at him. "I didn't have to kill a single being on my trip, Giles. I got into a few fights but I didn't have to slay."

"That's... that's good then I think," Giles decided. "You've clearly changed."

"Yeah, well, getting out there to see other versions of life, some that suck just as much as it does here even though they don't have vampires, is the reason you go on those sort of trips."

"I did some of that myself across Europe actually." He took off his glasses to clean them. "I did realize that there wasn't a mythical nice place that had everything being good and nice." Xander grinned. "Though I never had ghosts hanging around me."

Xander shrugged. "I learned how to get shields that worked this summer too. After two kids who had OD'd and a few others that tried." Giles winced. Xander stared at him. "Yeah. So the ghost is creepy but I've dated worse." He finished that stake and put it into the bucket. "The girls are spoiled bitches, you know that right?"

"I have actually. I have no idea how to solve that."

"I'm hoping like hell we don't have another 'running away' thing."

"I don't think she would," he said, starting to look uneasy. Xander stared at him. "You believe...."

"I think there's a lot of ways of running. I also think there's something wrong with her boyfriend. He's not .... He feels like the evil ghost there does to me."

Giles considered it. "I've only briefly met him."

Xander nodded. "Remember her thing with Angel when it was new?" Giles grimaced but nodded. "And Ford?"

"Unfortunately. You believe...."

"I believe if Buffy or you had went to the bars recently and heard the gossip, that you'd have heard something about a group under the college that's capturing demons," Xander admitted.

The ghost laughed. "I liked that group. They're doing things I like."

"Which proves that they're pathetic," Xander assured him. He looked at Giles. "He paid people to try to blow up LA recently."

"That's a bad resume," he decided. "I'll talk to her about those rumors."

Xander grinned. "She'll say I'm down on them because of that old crush. She threw that up against me the other day when I told her that Riley was a weak idiot. Which, if Willow looked, she would find military records."

"Crap," he muttered. "I'll have her look into that."

"Also, rumors again. Bigger shit coming down the pipeline. I'm hearing rumors of something major being raised for a specific time."

"Oh, dear. I'll look into that. This year?"


"That's bad. That means it's sincerely big." He left, going back to the shop. "Willow," he said, spotting her. He looked around. "Buffy?"

"Back room. Is there something going on?" she asked, smiling.

"Quite. Xander's heard some disturbing rumors about something being raised for next year's apocalypse attempt."

"Ooooh. Where did he hear that?"

"He didn't tell me that." She nodded, settling in with the prophecy books to see what they had. "Focus on higher demons that have to be summoned or raised. He said they were raising it."

"I can do that."

"Can you also do a background check without telling anyone?" he asked quietly. She looked at him and nodded. "I do mean no one."

"Of course. Why?"

"Because other rumors are showing up about a recent government program that's working in town."

"Oh," she said, wincing a bit. "I've heard a few rumors too."

"Please?" She nodded, pulling her laptop over. That was a more immediate need they had to find. "Also, keep your ears open for anyone selling something to capture spirits. Xander's apparently got one hanging around him." She looked up, mouth open, eyes wide. "He's not possessing him but he's not exactly...decent. He's mostly annoying Xander but I doubt he wants him to stay around."

"I'll look up how to make one."

Giles shook his head. "That's a set of runic magics that you haven't learned, Willow. Only masters can make ones that are permanent."

"Okay. I'll see if any are around." She opened a search in another window. She got back to the original search. After a few hours she found out why Giles didn't want her to tell anyone. Willow was pale and disgusted. "Giles?" He looked over. Buffy looked up from her reading of the prophecy books. He came over to look over her shoulder. He gave it a disgusted look.

"No wonder," he said quietly.

"Do I need to know?" Buffy asked, closing the book and putting it down. She came over to see. She shuddered. "What is that?"

"A group that's hiding up at the campus," Willow said quietly. Xander walked in with the bucket of stakes. "You knew?" she demanded quietly.

"I heard rumors that they were taking hostages for experimentation. How bad is it?" He came over to see then reached over to pause it, pointing. "That's someone I've seen getting burgers. He's with a frat."

Buffy swallowed. "That's one of my boyfriend's friends."

Willow stared at her. "Maybe he's not involved." She restarted the tape and was disappointed a few minutes later. Buffy stomped off sniffling. Willow followed.

Xander paused the tape, looking at Giles. "How do we handle that?"

"I do not know yet. This thing being raised?"

"I called one of the poker circuit and asked. He said something about a goddess?"

Giles frowned, going to that book. "There's only a few that they'd have to *raise* or summon." He found a few. Xander came over to look, shaking his head. "Something else?"

"They said something about a soul."

Giles looked like he got it and pulled down another book. "There's three that need a host body," he said. He looked them up. "None need to be raised." He put that book back and got another one down. Xander got a feeling about a book and pulled it down. Giles looked at him. "Why that one?"

"The demon in it said it's in him." He handed it over.

"Huh." He opened it to look up that subject. "I'll be helping you with the shielding issue in a bit." He walked off reading. "Bloody hell," he muttered. "Glorificus."

Xander looked at him. "What do we need to fight it?"

"No idea yet." Willow and Buffy came back out. He let her have the book. "That's the one they're raising we think."

She read it and shuddered. "That's bad."

"They were saying something about a soul needed," Xander told her.

"It says she needs a host body." Willow put it aside. "That's a later thing. The time they can call her back is in a few months. For now, we need to find these supposed people and stop them."

"We need to find out what sort of power they have behind them," Buffy said. "Who knows how high up this was ordered."

Xander patted her on the arm. "Even if they're ordered by the president, there's people who would have to investigate and stop it. Because it's illegal for military people not in the National Guard to work in the US."

"Soldier memories?" she snorted. He grinned and nodded. "So who would we call?"

"What branch was he in?"

"I don't know," she admitted.

"Willow, which branch was he in?"

"I can't get that yet."

"Find me a uniform," he said, walking back to her. He looked when she found one. The tape quit. "Did you save it?" he asked quietly. She nodded. "Give me a CD and make backup copies to send to the press." She nodded, doing that. He took the CD and walked off. "Max, which agent can I go to?"

"I don't want them stopped," he complained. Xander glared at him. "Fine, go see the ones in LA." He faded out.

Xander smirked and called someone. "I know you're in LA. Is there an agent who has a clue?" he asked, heading for his car. He paused, feeling something off. "Shit, someone put a bomb on my car." He hung up and called the local 911 number. "Hi, my car is in front of the Mocha Pump and there's a bomb on it." He hung up on the dispatcher's spluttering. Two cops pulled up with sirens. Xander pointed. "It's under the trunk." They looked and one glared at him. He looked and pointed. "That's a bomb. I can't make one of those." He looked at the officer and grinned. "Amazing what the army does." He got up and grabbed a few things then nodded back at the girl in the doorway. "Few days, ladies." He headed off, fading into the night. He had his ways to LA or even San Diego. They had a few military bases there.


Xander walked into an office and nodded at the secretary. "I think one of my friends found evidence of some military people working in the US." She got him an agent. He handed over the CD. "Might not be yours. The one uniform I saw was Army."

"Where was it happening?" he asked.

"Sunnydale." The agent blinked at him. He grinned. "There's a lot of ...bad things in my town but we didn't want them to be tortured." The CD didn't want to run so Xander called someone and Willow hacked into the feed for him and linked the agent's computer. "That's real time," he said quietly.

"What is that and why is it purple?"

Xander looked then at him. "It's not exactly nice but does anything, human or animal, deserve to be open that way and alive? We know it's awake, it's crying and screaming."

He nodded, calling his supervisor. He came in to look over his shoulder. "They found this in Sunnydale, sir."

"My friends and I do some protection detail stuff," Xander told the supervisor. "Because it's needed. They put a bomb on my car. I'm not real pleased. I'm especially not real pleased that the green thing they're walking past the purple one is harmless and eats cats."

The agents looked over what they had. "We need more information," the supervisor said.

"Your IM is up," Xander pointed out. They got into that to talk to Willow. Who sent over copies of the first CD. Xander sat down and let them ask what they needed to. He didn't want that in his town, no matter what his ghost wanted.


Two days later, Xander walked into a building in Washington, DC. The supervisor had been attacked and the agent had gotten him here. It wasn't the main office but it was a good place to meet. He found the man he wanted in front of the engineering exhibit. "Agent Gibbs?" he asked quietly. The man looked and nodded. Xander handed over the information. "From Agent Stanovski."

"Which agent are you?"

"I'm Xander Harris. That's my town. We're all sickened."

"I can see why." He looked over what the kid had brought him, taking him to one of the pedestrian benches. He stared at one picture. Then at him. "It's purple?"

"Yes, and not real nice. I don't really give a damn how evil it is though."

Gibbs nodded, going to the next screen capture picture. "The green one?"

"Is peaceful. It eats cats." He spotted a demon and waved it over. It was a janitor here in the Smithsonian. "Relax. I'm from Buffy's team," he said quietly. "We just found out and gave it to him."

The demon nodded. "There's many rumors. A few who have escaped. One you know."


"Spike." Xander winced and hissed. "He can't hunt. They chipped him."

"Damn it."

"Your teammates know," the demon said.

Xander nodded. "Thank you. Can you have someone send him anything?" The demon nodded and left them alone. Xander looked at him then dialed Willow. "It's me. I'm here. Talk to him about Spike." He handed over the phone.

"Miss," Gibbs said. He listened to her babble, wincing at what he heard. "I need all that information. I have two I trust. Abby and McGee at NCIS. Please. Thank you." He hung up and handed the phone back, standing up. "Hide. The line was probably tapped."

"Probably," Xander agreed with a sigh at the end. Max faded in. Xander glared at him. Gibbs looked and groaned. "Don't ask. I found his body." He stood up. "He was evil and liked that program."

"Who was he?"


"I know that name," he said dryly.

"The CHP people had it."

"Thank you, Mr. Harris." He walked off. He would ignore the ghost and all that strange stuff, though he would be cluing in the CHP about that body's past.

Xander looked at the ghost then wandered around the museum. He unfortunately ran into two dead engineers who were staring at their creations. He fought them off but yeah, they left stuff. He sighed, going back to the motel he had chosen. Of course, people were there tossing his room. Thankfully he had a backup room in a scummier place he had paid cash for. All they'd find in this room was a few changes of clothes. The other place was demon run. It had two agents there but the guard demon shook his head. Xander grinned as he walked around them.

"I know you from somewhere," one of the agents demanded. Xander turned to look at him. "Where?"

"I'm just visiting DC from my town in Sunnydale, guys."

"Sunnydale," they hissed.

Xander grinned. "Dropping off a few letters for someone."

"Uh-huh. And why are you here?" one asked.

Xander grinned. "Because someone is doing something really nasty in the other room I rented." He walked off, going up to his room. It was time to become someone else for a while. Thankfully he had sucked up enough of Max's aura to be able to do that. And possibly from the helpful minion that was hanging around Max too. He opened the bag he had gotten last night and went to shower and came out in the suit. He slicked his hair back and put on his guns. He looked like a thug. Not even a talented thug like some rappers. Maybe edging toward mafia style thug. He changed his guns around and it was nicer. He put on his sunglasses and grabbed his wallet.

Max scowled. "You look like a drug runner," he complained.

Xander looked at him. "Have to work with what I have."

"Whatever. You can do better."

"I don't have the money to do better."

Max stared at him. "I could get you into my things but I'd expect you to follow in my footsteps," he offered with a smooth grin.

Xander snorted. "I'd destroy your pitiful world domination plans." Someone knocked so he opened the door. The agent there stared over his shoulder. "That's Max. I found his body. This is how he thanks me for not letting him be a rotting corpse being picked on by vultures."

The agent looked at him. "Yeah," he said, nodding slowly. "He's a bad guy."

"I know. He wants me to finish his world plans and I think they suck ass."

"From what little I've heard, they do."

Xander grinned. "How is his unraveling?"

"A lot. Can you...." Xander smirked but nodded. "Thanks, Harris." He looked him over. "You look like a thug."

"I know. It's intentional."

"Sure." He led him out to their office so they could find the stuff. Max was huffy but Xander stepped into him and let his shields down somewhat. It gave him what he needed to know. He got into the files, all his plans, all that. Though Xander kept all his cash and stocks. The agents gave him odd looks so he just smirked.

"I need a new car and an apartment that's safe from the people working in my town. Plus pizza. I'm hungry."

The agents snorted but they'd have to go through the courts to get the money. They couldn't prove what they had because no judge would believe they had gotten it off a ghost. Therefore, it was a gray area ethically but not very nice. Which... with his dossier... Yeah, that fit Harris. They found all his properties and sent agents to raid them. Xander got to slip off after moving all the money to something in his name. The agents tailed him around DC. That's why they were there to stop the people who tried to gun him down. Then they found out why he was in DC. That did not make anyone happy. Especially not Gibbs when he got offered help.


Xander came back to Sunnydale a bit more wired and cautious. With his arm in a sling, a few new stitches, and a black eye. Giles looked horrified. "One of them caught me in DC for about ten minutes."

"Are you all right?" he demanded.

"Yup. I'm good. I've had tylenol. I'm fine." He sat down. "The agents?"

"We guarded them around town," he assured him. Xander grinned and passed out. "Oh, dear." He came over to check him over.

Max faded in with a smirk. "Smug little bastard. Tried to ruin some of my plans." Giles opened a small container and it sucked him in, swearing the whole way.

Xander got woken up. Giles stared at him. "I did trap him."

"That's cool. I can afford pizza tonight." He sat up with a moan, holding his strapped down shoulder. "They were worse at it than most minions."

"That's probably good. I'm not sure I'd like military officers and agents to be good at torture." He handed him the tylenol bottle and a bottle of water, getting a grin. "How can you afford pizza?"

"I got into Max's stuff for the agents." He took six pills with some water then sealed the bottle to toss back. "It let the agents bust a stash of nuclear weapons in LA."

Giles shuddered. "That's a horrible thought."

"He was even using *green* bombs. Ecologically sound ones." He smirked.

"Was Harmony one of his people?" Giles joked weakly.

"No, but I think she's been turned. I saw her out feeding earlier."

"Interesting to note." He made note of that. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Not up for patrol but I'm fine."

"Good. The girls will be here soon."

"Yeah, we get to spank Willow for breaking into the stash I stole." Giles moaned, rubbing his forehead. "I think they went to the mall. She only got a hundred thou."

He shook his head. "I'll beat them myself." He walked off. "Agents are still in town so we're not patrolling."

"That'll work for me," he quipped. Buffy stomped in and paused to stare at him. "It's my brilliant disguise."

"Why are you injured?"

"Two agents who sucked worse than minions."

"Ummmmm." She nodded once. "Huh." He grinned. "Suits look strange on you."

"The six thousand dollar shoes look bad on you. It's making you wobble."

She winced. "You found out?"

"Yeah," he said dryly. "I might've given some if I was asked. By the way, I locked her out of the rest. The two engineers that I ran into helped me a lot since I got them away from the demonic janitor at the Smithsonian."

"She was..."

He shook his head with a smirk. "Nope."

Willow stomped in and glared at him. "How did you do that?"

"I ran into two engineers who helped me for getting them out of their freak outs due to a demonic janitor."

She slumped. "Damn it. No wonder I got a virus!"

"Yeah," he said dryly. "The agents who wanted to talk to the ghost that's hanging around me said I could get it."

"There's a ghost...." Buffy said, looking around. He pointed at the rocking canister. "Huh. How?"

"I found his dead body."

Giles came out of the back. "Max is not a nice spirit. In his life he was quite evil."

"So it's the same draw that made him date evil girls?" Willow quipped.

"You can ask him," Xander offered. "But you have to put him back before he goes to one of his former minions about his nuclear arms dealing." She shook her head quickly and walked off.

Buffy nodded. "Sure," she decided. "Thanks for the shoes, Xander."

"Welcome." He looked at Giles, who smirked. Xander grinned. "I'm going to find a place to squat since I have money to pay rent." He stood up and held his shoulder. "Buffy, walk me to the glamorous Sunnydale Motor Lodge for the night?" he called.

"Sure." She came out with an apple, eating it as they walked. "Shoulder?"

"Baseball bat."

"Ow." She nodded. "I'd ache too." Xander got himself signed in once they got there then put up protections while she watched. "What's that?"

"Protections I learned on my road trip. It's to keep out undead and spirits." He looked at her. "One of the places I stayed had two different kids who OD'd so I learned real fast to put them up every single night."


He smirked. "One did come talk to me about why he ran away. About the boyfriend he thought he had loved. Who had only wanted something young and new then dumped him onto the streets six months later. I never need to try drugs because I now know how they make me feel."

"Ow," she said weakly.

Xander nodded. "There's seven different exorcism rituals that work well. There's three that work well on those of us who suck in spirits very often. The book on that is in my green bag." She grinned. "You can do them on yourself as long as you're in control."

"Good to know."

He nodded, pointing at his hip. "They're written on there. Tell me to read them."

"I can do that." She left, letting him calm down for the night.

Xander laid down and got comfortable. No matter what the engineers wanted, he needed a nap. He'd get up and do what they wanted later.


Xander came in a few days later tinkering with his new phone. Willow glared. He stared at her. "It's dead. There's a broken wire." He got the soldering iron he had stored there and fixed it then put the phone back together. He turned it on and it worked. "There," he said happily. "Now I can get calls from people who want to interview me." He put it into his pocket on his way out front. "Three hundred dollar phone for five bucks since it had a broken wire."

"Can you do that for shoes for me?" Buffy asked him.

"I don't buy shoes so I wouldn't know how to find sales," he quipped back with a grin. He sat down. "Unless they sell them in a pawn shop?"

"No, not usually," she sighed. She looked at Giles. "So now what's going on, Giles?"

"We've heard rumors that there's going to be a hell god raised," Willow told her. "Next year."

"Goddess, she's female," Xander corrected. "Big problem is that she has to have a host body."

"Which appears to be her weakness," Giles told her.

"So we have to trap it?" Buffy asked, looking hopeful.

"No," Xander sighed.

"Damn it." She looked at Giles. "Can we stop it?"

"In Europe?" he suggested.

"Can you ask the other Watchers?" Buffy offered.

"I have. They're not sure it's right. They don't trust a demonic source of information."

"That's because they're asses," Xander reminded him.

"Quite," Giles said dryly. He smiled. "We will handle it however, but do be aware that this is a problem coming up."

She nodded. "I can do that." Spike ran in under a smoking blanket. "Bad day?" she quipped.

"Bloody idiots," he muttered, taking off the blanket once he was out of the sunlight. He stared at Xander. "You're back?" he sneered.

"Yeah, I'm the one that took the info to DC," he shot back, giving him a look. "How's it hangin', Fangless?"

Spike growled and grabbed his head. "Damn chip!" he shouted.

Xander smirked and patted him on the head. "Have fun with that. Maybe you'll find something new to do, like a hobby. I'm sure you can make pots or maybe paint pretty things....." Spike stomped off with a growl. Xander smiled and waved.

"That's mean," Willow complained, kicking him under the table. "He's helpless, Xander."

"What's stopping him from encouraging minions to rip us up?"

"The chip makes it hurt when he has bad thoughts."

"So, if he says 'I need the worst idea to use on the slayer's group' to a bunch of minions and encourages them to go do that, will it hurt him?" Xander countered. The girls both looked confused. He looked at Giles.

"No, it wouldn't," he admitted. "Though we are working with him. Having a vampire on the team proved helpful in the past."

"Sometimes," Xander countered. "Sometimes not."

"Yes, well, Spike doesn't have an out clause that way," Giles said dryly. "Or else I'd have already gotten him."

Xander nodded at that agreement. They looked at the door as someone in a bad fitting suit came in with a state police captain behind them. "Yes, guys? Is there a problem?"

The state police captain nodded. "Miss Summers, Rosenburg, Mr. Giles and Harris." They shrugged at that statement. "What would it take to let the locals handle things? It looks bad that they have to have a vigilante group."

"Well, it'd take the locals actually doing something," Xander said dryly. "And the town to pretty well sink so no people would be here to be eaten. Or turning it over to the peaceful demon community."

The obvious agent nodded slowly. "Your police... Do what?"

"Not a thing," Willow snorted. "Unless it can embarrass you or get them points with the new mayor."

Xander shook his head. "We still haven't had an election to replace Wilkins after he attacked grad."

The agent winced. "I saw that film. Thank you." They all shrugged at him and Giles took off his glasses to clean. "How did we know how to do that?"

"Internet," Buffy quipped with a smile. "All sorts of stuff online."

The agent stared at her for a moment. "Miss Summers, we know about the Council and the idiots they house." She snickered. "We're now well aware of all the idiots in charge all over this situation. We all think it's sad that a bunch of teenagers had to deal with stuff that the US Government should have."

"Hey, learn how to stake," Xander quipped. "I'm hopefully starting work next week."

Max's capturing jar rocked harder and fell off the shelf, knocking the lid off. He sighed in pleasure as he dusted himself off. "Much nicer out here. No succuba to have to kill."

"Get your ass back in that jar before I find all your minions and make them gay," Xander said with a point. Max sneered. "Bet me I won't. One of the engineers I ran into in DC had been working on a gender switching ray." Willow burst out giggling. "And he got it to work." That shut her up because now she was moaning and shaking her head.

Max smirked. "That can't bother me."

"I can use it on your remains," Xander offered. "We know people who like remains too." Max shuddered and shrank down some. Buffy got up and retrapped him. "Thank you."

The state police captain looked at him. "He looked familiar."

"I found his body so now he's nagging me," Xander said with a grin. "Wants me to take over all his evil plans and things. I handed most of them to the FBI. That's how they got those snukes."

The agent shuddered. "That's very patriotic of you. Thank you for not hoarding them," he said.

Xander grinned. "If I need a nuclear weapon here, I'm calling the Marines."

"Sure, we can do that," the agent agreed. "Talk to the same guy you did in DC. He's one." Xander grinned at that and put his feet up. Willow stared at him. "Miss Rosenburg, please keep your hacking in town?" he asked with a smile.

She snorted. "Not if I need to expand it."

"If you should, let us know and we'll handle it," he promised.

The captain cleared his throat. "Do we have any ID on him?" he asked Xander.

"Max. Supposed world domination wannabe. Into higher end weapons and wants to start a huge ass war so we're on top again. Had a head minion named Wade. Tangled with some special ops people recently to have them declared traitors?"

"I saw that," Willow said, glaring at the jar. "That was his doing?"

"Yup. Apparently they were supposed to die and got the kids out not knowing that they were going to be killed. Or so his minion said."

The agent whimpered, looking him up. "Oh, shit," he said, looking at the jar. "He did more than that."

"Probably," Xander agreed. "I used the stuff I got from the minions to get what I gave them. And kindly took the money in return."

The agent shrugged. "We can't confiscate it unless we can prove where it came from." Xander grinned. Willow glared at him. "Is that part of what she raided from your accounts?"

"Yup." Buffy slunk down in her chair. So did Willow.

The agent shrugged. "We probably can't prove anything so it's his. Finders keepers laws." Xander beamed. "Back to the subject at hand. The locals?"

Xander looked behind him. "The ones putting the bomb on the state police car?" The captain stormed out there to stop them and arrested both officers. His backup officers kindly took them off with them. Xander grinned at him. "They've tried to pin all sorts of stuff on us. We do what we have to do. You guys do what you have to do. Until someone else does what we have to do, we gotta do it."

"Agreed. It'll take a while to get something set up. That way we can move Miss Summers and whoever to a nicer area that's safer and has less death."

"And next year there's a hell goddess," Buffy quipped. Spike moaned and shook his head. "Gloriana or something."

"Glorificus," Giles corrected patiently. He handed over the book with a smile. "We think they'll be summoning her somewhere in Europe."

The agent read it then nodded slowly as he handed it back. "There's actually agents who deal with supernatural things over there. I'll talk to them about that." He smiled at the children. "Now, what can we do to ease this burden before the president has another migraine or the stroke he nearly had when he learned about that group?"

Xander shrugged. So did Buffy. Willow smiled. "Well, we're in college. There's almost no other hunters and Xander's normal....." Xander slapped her on the head. "Hey! Mister, you'll pay for that!"

He stared at her. "Normal is relative, little Miss I Can Only Float a Branch To Stake Vamps." She gaped. He stared back. "I may not be the best since I have no training outside on-the-job training but being *normal* is like everyone else in this world. Including you since you have *no* control over your magic most of the time. By the way, the witches I went to about stuff? They found the spells." She went pale and shook her head. He grinned and nodded. "Oh, yeah. One in Louisiana was *real* unhappy with that." She slumped down.

"You are normal," Buffy said. "Giles has watchery stuff and magic."

"Gee, if someone had trained me, I'd have more skills," he said dryly. "And are we forgetting the soldier's instincts I still have?" She blanched and shook her head. He nodded. "How did you think I got the base codes, Buffy?"

"Oh, shit," she muttered.

"I don't believe this is the time or the place, children," Giles said firmly, glaring at Xander.

Xander stared back at him. "Bite. Me. You did it too." Giles nodded he knew that. He looked at the agent again. "Beyond that, she could use someone to spar with her since Giles can't. Since apparently I'm not good enough anymore."

The agent nodded. "I know a few people who are excellent at self defense things. I can ask one to come test you both so we can see where you need some work."

"I got it mystically napster'd," Buffy said.

"Yes, but if you don't practice it, you'll lose it," he told her. "Like any other skill."

She nodded that was true. "I hate practice."

"I feel the same way about jogging," he told her. She shuddered. He smiled. "For right now, let me get someone in who can help you with that, Miss Summers. That way Mr. Giles can concentrate on the store and his research?"

"That would be helpful for a few weeks, yes," Giles said. "It would also allow you to see what other hunters would need until Xander's injuries are cleared up."

"Sure, and maybe I can get in a date night?" Buffy asked hopefully. Xander and Willow stared at her. "Not with him! He's gone and turned evidence and stuff. Someone decent. It's college, I should be able to find someone decent."

"I'll tell the agent to gather some that would like to possibly be introduced," the agent said, making that note as well. "It's a hard job if your significant other doesn't understand your duty."

"I know," she sighed. "It sucks being me some days."

"But, hey, leather pants all you want," Willow offered. Buffy grinned at that.

"She saves the world?" Spike asked Giles. Xander threw a knife at him, making him yelp and duck. "Never mind then."

Xander grinned. "Thank you for your cooperation. If you're really a good boy, I'll help you taunt Angel."

"Nasty poufter won't do anything," he sneered.

Xander smirked and pointed at Buffy. "Let her talk him into helping you, Spike." Spike shuddered and walked off shaking his head. He shrugged and got his knife, putting it back with a grin for her. "I'm sure you can *convince* Angel to quit stalking you and help him?" He nodded. She looked and went to talk to him. "Teenage soap operas," he complained, shifting some. Willow was still staring at him. "What?"

"When did you learn to throw knives?"

"When I was ten."

"Oh. I didn't remember you doing that."

"I wasn't allowed to keep one in the house. My father knew I'd use it on someone." She nodded quickly and let that go. He looked at the agent. "We're like a huge dysfunctional family."

"I can tell. My kids squabble the same way." He put his notebook up. "Let me talk to people. I'll see you in a week back here?" They nodded. "Thank you for your help and for saving all our chubby butts, people." He left. The captain was still arguing with the head of the local PD. The agent kindly arrested him and handed him over. "This idiot actually tried to plant drugs on a corpse earlier by our reports."

"Interesting." He took him with him. "Go get that capturing jar?" He got that from the shelf so the captain could take it with him. Then they left town to go get a beer and work on getting real agents into the job instead of a group of kids.

Agents were predictable, had training, and would hate the job but do it. Buffy Summers went shopping before battles for new shoes. You couldn't trust most teenagers to do an agent's job. Even Harris, who seemed to be the only one that had sense sometimes.


Xander finally looked at the two engineers that had possessed him and were now hanging around. "What?" he asked finally. They were both pouty. "I don't know what you want."

"We want to create again," one told him. "Can we please? We'll come out later on, cleanly as we can." Xander sighed but shook his head. "Why not?"

"I have work tomorrow."

"Saturday then?" one asked with a grin. Xander nodded, resigned to being a Xander suit again. "We'd hug but you know...." He waved at their spectral bodies. Xander nodded he understood. They got to work making plans on what to make him do to help their ideas. It was kind of neat that the boy was just enough geek to understand half of what they wanted to do and warrior enough to teach them how to design more practical things.


Buffy and Willow caught Xander out shopping at the computer store of all places. Willow was scowling but they could see the ghost following Xander giving his opinion. Buffy groaned. "The exorcism ritual is tattooed on his hip," Buffy told her friend.

Willow grimaced. "You think it's happened again?"

"I don't know. Could be. That ghosty ghost looks like a geek to me." Willow nodded. "More than you used to."

"Yeah, the plaid shows it." They walked toward their buddy but Xander disappeared before they got there. They checked the food court, because Xander was usually found eating something, and no Xander. So maybe he was fixing the ghosty issue. "We really need to have Giles figure out how to make the ghosts leave him alone."

"At least they're not just trying him on for size anymore," Buffy said.

"Maybe." They finished their shopping and went back to the shop to talk to their mentor. Giles would know how to keep Xander away from ghosts.

Even if it could be handy in all their lives, they didn't want Xander to turn into the guy that got possessed to help them do things.

The End.
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