Imagine: The List
Fic posted by members of Vo's Imaginings YahooGroup
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Story Notes:
Notes: this is going to be a 'themed' series. Meaning that they all share the same theme, but they're not really a *series* series. Inspired by TexasAries, who does some wonderful photo manips on TtH. Minor crossover into Numb3rs.

As usual, if anyone wants to steal this to continue, just let me know. It probably won't be finished without that.

Xander looked at the man in front of him. "Are you willing to sacrifice what and who you are for the good of all?" the man asked, almost sneering at him.

Xander stared back. "Should've already been evident and if you knew a thing about me, you'd know that." He turned and walked off. He was very tired of this man and his cronies. Just two more weeks and then he'd be a legal adult. He could leave. He ran into one of the other adults in the cult, one of them that didn't spark off his creepy senses. "Hey," he said with a nod.

"Hey back," the older man said, staring at the young boy in front of him. "Problems?"

"The idiot in there does not have a clue."

The man smirked. "You know, he says that's you."

"Yeah and I think he's telepathic now with how he can't read my mind," he said dryly. "I've seen someone who could and she didn't have a problem." He smirked a bit. "Besides, if I wanted to give up my life for him, it'd be different. There's better causes to give up your life for." He walked off, going back to his little bedroom. He had to do something. His parents had drug him here after graduation. He wasn't quite eighteen yet so he had to go. Well, two more weeks and that would be fixed. He found his prepaid cellphone and called Willow. "If I ran away, can I sleep on your floor for the next few weeks?" He listened to her giggle. "The cult leader just asked if I would be willing to sacrifice my life for his cause, Willow. Yeah, this might be a plea for help." Someone took the phone from him and hung it up on him. "Trying to talk," he said, snatching it back from the cult leader's hands. "Thanks anyway." He called her back. "Willow, can we do something? Maybe?" He smiled. "Great, thanks." He gathered up his stuff and stuffed it back into his backpack. "Laters." He walked out, heading for the main gate.

"Stop him!" the leader shouted. "He is not to leave. His parents want him to see the truth."

Xander turned to look at him. "No they don't. They want you to kill me so they can claim my insurance. You don't need to read minds to know that." He turned and started to walk again. He knew where the nearest town was. It wasn't that far off. He could easily walk to the bus station and she said she'd have a bus ticket waiting on him. Someone grabbed him but he hadn't fought with Buffy for three years without learning a bit. He got them off him and stared down at him, knife in his hand. "Don't start." He grabbed the bag he had dropped and walked off shaking his head, sticking in his earbuds for his cd player. It always made walks easier. He made it to the gate when the next line of defense came. His parents were there with another guy with a gun. "Dude, you can't stop me."

"You're not eighteen, you can't leave yet," his mother sneered.

"Really?" Xander asked. "Uh-huh." He stared at her. "Just because *you* want to be here doesn't mean this is my flavor of religion. Thank you anyway. Now, get out of my way."

"No," his father said.

"Fine, have it your way," he said. He pulled something and shot at the man's feet, then pointed it at his head. "Move," he ordered coldly.

"You won't kill me, boy."

Xander snickered. "Two weeks ago I led a battle that got twenty-seven of my classmates killed, saved the world, and saved over three hundred lives. Your not going to bother me later." He cocked the gun. "Now."

"You won't," he said. "Even soldiers don't fire indiscriminately."

"Who said I'm going to kill you?" He shot him in the side, making him scream and fall down. "Still outta my way." He stared at his parents. "Move." They gave him scared looks and got out of his way. "Thank you." He put the gun back onto his waistband and walked off, taking everything off to the road. There was traffic this way, maybe he'd hitch a ride. He heard cars coming behind him and turned to watch the cult's members start to pull out. He got off the road, going to hide from them. He knew, basically, which way the town was overland. His instincts would lead him correctly, or at least to a house where he could ask directions. Eventually he did find a farm and someone on the porch with a shotgun when he came out of the woods. "Sorry about your alarm, sir. I'm trying to get away from the idiot cult members and my parents."

"You're one of them?"

"Not voluntarily," he said dryly. "I'm heading for the bus station and a friend's floor. Which way is the town?"

"About two more miles on the same path but the river's in the way, boy. Get in here." Xander jogged over, leaving his bags on the porch swing, including his gun. The man gave him an odd look. "You're armed?"

"I had to wound one on the side to get him out of my way," he admitted grimly. "Just a flesh wound but enough to send him out of my way."

The man stared at him. "You psycho?"

"Soldier in a town with a high death rate."

"Where are you from?"


The man blinked. "I've heard bad things about there. I used to be a trucker."

Xander grinned. "I'm on the hometown defense society there."

"Ah. Why they drag you?"

"I'm not eighteen for another two weeks."

"That'll work. Let me call someone to give you a ride. You think they're dangerous?"

"The supposed telepathic leader just asked me if I was willing to sacrifice myself for him. I told him he had no clue and walked off."

"Let me call Pete." He did that. "Pete. It's John. One'a the kids out at the cult just walked off after wounding someone. Nice boy. Left his gun on the porch for me. Sure. Please. Says he's heading to the bus station. Thanks, John." He hung up. "He'll be right here and he'll probably even give you a ride." Xander grinned. "You hungry?"

"They actually feed us pretty well from the communal garden. He hadn't gotten to the point of hunger fasts for those who aren't having doubts." He sat down, grinning. "Deputy or the real Sheriff?"

"The real one. The deputy's his daughter. She's a nice girl and all but a bit huffy about them. Her father never taught her to be calm."

"Buffy's like that too but she's all quip and slay most of the time unless you mess up her hair or something." John laughed at that, getting him a glass of tea. "Thanks, John. By the way, I'm Xander."

"Welcome, Xander. So your parents converts?"

"Nuts," Xander told him. "Get a check for it nuts." That got a nod. "Every once in a while they crawl out of a bottle to find God and it's usually from a bigger nut than they are. I don't know why they can't find a normal church. There's thirty-seven of them in Sunnydale." He shrugged and took a drink. "This is why I'll never drink."

"Probably a good idea." He heard a car and looked outside, then grabbed the boy's things, handing them over. "They're here."

"Then someone's got some tracking experience," Xander said grimly. He looked at him. "Back door?"

"They'll try me anyway."

"Only if they want my foot up their ass." John gave him an odd look. "I planned our graduation battle," he said quietly. "They're not going to do this here."

John patted him on the arm. "Cellar, Xander." He pointed and the boy nodded, heading down there with everything, including the glass of tea. He waited until they got out of the car to head out there with his shotgun. "What do you all want? You're a bit lost if you're not kin."

The man behind the wheel looked at him. "One of our kids ran away, sir. Have you seen him?"

"Saw someone sneak past the end of the driveway earlier. Ran into my deer alarms I guess."

The man nodded. "Which way?" John pointed to the north, when the town was to the east. "You sure?"

"Probably going to divert around the river 'bout a mile away, son. There's a ford that way." Which there was. It was the smart path to take if you knew these woods. "Pretty well known, lots of the younger kids go there to hang out."

"Thank you, sir." He got back in and headed off to report in. Their leader must know the woods, he'd been here now for years.

Xander came back up when John tapped on the door, tucking things back into his pockets. "Thanks, John. You okay?"

"Yeah, I told the stupid ones to go to the ford, that you'd be there."

"Which would be obvious to anyone who knew these woods," Xander completed with a grin. John nodded. "Well, I don't know much about these woods so I'll wait for your friend."

"Good boy. Takes brains to know you don't know everything."

"Oh, I know hardly anything," Xander quipped, finishing his tea and washing the glass for him. He heard another car and glanced out through a curtain. "The friend have a pretty redheaded daughter?"

"Yup." He walked out onto the porch, going to meet them. "One of the kids there snuck off," he said once he got next to him. "He's almost eighteen. Didn't believe, didn't want to believe. Said they asked him if he'd sacrifice for them."

"I've heard those rumors," the Sheriff agreed. "Boy?" Xander came out with his bags. "That all you had?"

"Yup. I left the rest in storage." He grinned at the young woman getting out. "Hi, Xander Harris." He shook her hand. "From Sunnydale."

"I heard about your graduation."

"It was unfortunate," he agreed. "I was there."

"You're how far from eighteen?"

"Two weeks."

"We can ignore that age gap," the Sheriff told him. "Into the back, kid." Xander climbed in and buckled in. "Thanks, John. They been here yet?"

"Yeah, I told them to head to the ford, that he had crossed across the front of the drive heading for it," he told him. "Are they dangerous, Pete?"

"Very." He clapped him on the arm then slid back into his seat, backing out of the driveway. "So, where are you heading after here?"

"Sunnydale. Willow's supposed to have a ticket waiting on me at the bus station."

"We can check on that." He drove him back to the office. "Can you give us some information first?" he asked once they were inside.

"Sure." He sat down to sketch out the layout. "This is the explosives room," he said, tapping that room first. "Above it's the armory. Bad design since they've got moisture down there. Half the guns are pre-seventies models. Only a few automatics that I saw. Those are all with his supposed holiness's guards and in his house."

He tapped another box of building. "This is his office and home. All three of his women are in there with him. Two're early months pregnant. One's just started to get sick. One's barely starting to get uncomfortable in her clothes. I'm not sure if he knows or not. He's been saying a lot about kids being important but he's never bragged that his are coming into being. The other's probably about my age, maybe a year on either side."

He tapped another building. "That's the daycare. It's the fallback spot and has gas and oxygen tanks both in there for attacks." He stared at the deputy for a minute then at the sheriff. "The gas I'm not sure what it is." He made a notation off to the side. "It had that on the tank. Could be a refill. Again, not sure." He pointed at a few other buildings.

"Those are all housing, set up in single rooms for each family. Mine was in this one," he said with a tap of his pen. "Ours was laid out this way," he said, drawling lines and initialing what each room was. He slid it over. "I know I wounded one guy to get him out of my way but his supposed telepathicness just asked me if I was willing to sacrifice myself to save the world."

Pete looked at him then at his daughter. "Give us two." She huffed off. He looked at him again. "How long were you there?"

Xander grinned. "Three weeks. I'm highly invisible if you don't want to deal with me. I was in high school too. So I wandered and people didn't say anything. This isn't the first time my parents have pulled this sort of stupid move, sir. This is actually their fifth or sixth cult. Five that I remember but I wouldn't put it past them to have done it before I was old enough to remember. They crawl out of a bottle every few years to find God again."

The Sheriff smirked. "Military training?"

Xander leaned closer. "I'm on the Sunnydale protection crew," he said quietly. "I need to get back to it. The only reason they got to drag me is because of my age. If we can ignore that, I'll gladly leave as soon as that ticket gets here."

"I can do that, kid." He smirked at him. "Should we get Feds?"

Xander shrugged. "You might want to warn them. That would depend on whether or not they think I know anything and decide to move operations as well."

"They haven't packed up but they're out looking for you," the deputy said as she came back with some coffee for her father. "Need some water, Xander?"

"Soda?" he asked with a begging look. She laughed and got him one, handing it over. "Thank you, blessed one. We should start one to you." She giggled and walked off to call the bus station for him to see when his bus out was. He grinned at the sheriff. "Not hitting on her. She's not deadly enough for me."

The man gave him an odd look. "Not deadly enough for you?"

Xander smirked. "My prom date was Anyanka. You may not know her but she's pretty mean. Likes to torture guys."

"The one who comes when women break up with their guys?" he asked, looking horrified and a bit amazed. Xander smirked and nodded. "How?"

"We accidentally broke her power center. She's stuck."

"Damn, boy."

Xander nodded. "She's much too nice for me."

"I won't worry then." He sipped his coffee, looking over his shoulder. "When's he going?"

"Hasn't appeared yet," she called back.

Xander found his cellphone and called her. "It's me. The nice Sheriff and his deputy have saved me from the cult. Yeah, I'm with them. Willow, the guy has explosives. About eighty pounds but he's got moisture down there. Yeah, just a bus ticket. I'll pay you back. Ask your mom, Willow." She put her mother on. "Hi, Mrs. Rosenburg. No, my parents joined another cult." He took a sip. "Walked off. Had to, he asked if I was willing to die for him." He smirked. "That's what I need, yeah. Thank you. No, I'm with the sheriff. They had explosives so he's been pumping me for information. You know I'm good at sneaking around." He laughed. "Just like when I was younger, yeah. Thank you." He handed over the phone. "Mrs. Rosenburg."

"Ma'am, this is Sheriff Forrest." He smiled at her pleasant voice. "Yes, ma'am. Had to wound one to get away too. Smart of him." He heard a crash of a window. "Don't you move," he told the boy when he started to get up. "Dorothy?" he called.

"I'm fine, Dad. It was someone with a rock through the front window."

"I'll call you back, ma'am. Please. It's not safe for him to stay here." He hung up and tossed the phone back. "Stay."

"Only if you don't have to make a stand." He stared him down. "I'll help."

"You're a boy. We're trained, stay." He hurried out to check. "Them?" he asked quietly.

"Had to be. Anyone in the church would've thrown it through the door since they helped us replace it after the lightening."

Xander peeked around the corner. "They're around back." They both stared at him. "I just electrified the back door." She went jogging that way. He looked at the Sheriff. "Where do you want me?"

"Hiding. My office, Xander." He nodded, taking his things that way. He saw him checking his gun and winced. Then he made a decision and handed him a box of bullets for it before going to handle other things. These people had to be stopped.

Xander picked up the desk phone and hit a button for an outside line. He dialed the number on the card in his wallet. "Hi, this is Xander Harris. You might not remember me but you helped get me out of a cult in Dallas." He smiled. "Yup, them. They joined another one. We're in upper California in a small town called Thomasville. That's us. They're here and I just escaped. I don't know but they're presently attacking the sheriff's office to get me back." The deputy looked in. "The agent who got the last one." She walked off shaking her head. He smiled. "I don't know but I did tell him. You might want to keep an ear out. Doomsday. Explosives. Self sacrifice." He nodded. "That'll work. Thank you." He hung up and peeked out. "The guy who got my parents out of the last one said he'll call the local office so someone can come get those explosives for you, Sheriff."

"Thanks, Xander." He smirked at him. "Smartass."

"Well, yeah," he offered with an evil smirk. "And I enjoy every minute of it." That got a laugh until someone female screamed. Then they both headed that way. "Let her go," Xander ordered. "She's not part of this."

"We will if he hands you back," the leader said, a knife to her throat.

Xander looked at him then snorted. "Uh-huh." He looked at the Sheriff. "Let her go and if you can manage to catch me you can have me."

"No, son," the Sheriff said. "There's much too many of them."

Xander smiled. "I'm used to worse odds, Pete." He waved him on. "You want me, you'd better prove you're better than me and half of Sunnydale." The leader pointed and two of his guys came to get Xander. Who beat them both. He saw the horrified looks. "Now. Let the girl go." More jumped him and he beat most of them. One pinned him and he had to shove them off then hit his mother hard enough to break her jaw. "I feel better now. That's for Dallas, Mom." He got up and wiped the blood off his face. "Anyone else? Let her go." The leader let her drop, letting her get out of his way. He stared him down. "You're unworthy. Very unworthy. I've seen better cult leaders in D&D games."

"Who're you to judge?" he sneered.

Xander pointed at his father's limp body. "He drug us to five others. They're gone too. Who do you think?"

"You're an Angel of Justice?" one breathed, staring at him in awe. "You came to judge us worthy, didn't you?" Xander gave her an odd look, shaking his head. "No?"

"He's not worthy," he told her. "He's a poser with delusions and needs the good happy pills." The Sheriff chuckled from where he was checking his daughter over. He looked at the leader again. "Blow yourself up and only yourself. The rest don't deserve that and you don't deserve followers." The man screamed and rushed him so Xander disarmed him then used the knife to stab him in the stomach during the scuffle. He got off him and looked down at him. "So very pitiful. I'm sure God'll have words for you." He spat on him. "Have a happy trip, asshole." He looked at the others. "Go home. Now." They fled. He looked at the Sheriff. "Sorry. Having a violent moment. Can I get her an ice pack?"

"She's fine," he said, shaking his head.

Xander just grinned. "Sunnydale's worse." He walked back inside, going to call the agent back. "The leader's got a five inch knife in his gut and the others are scattering if you wanted to come get the explosives tonight." He hung up and grabbed the rest of his soda and things, putting the bullets on the desk in plain sight for him. Then he sat down to check his bags.

The Sheriff came in. "They're going to need a statement."

Xander shrugged. "They can come find me. It makes them smarter to hunt people."

Dorothy laughed. "I doubt they'd see it that way."

"I'll probably have a layover in LA. They can corner me there." She nodded at that, getting him another soda. "Thank you, beauteous one. Like marble statues or just hymns?"

She swatted him on the arm. "Behave." She walked off shaking her head but smiling. It was much better than the crying she had been doing.

"You're good," the Sheriff said quietly in his ear, getting a nod. "Thanks."

"Welcome." They watched SUV's pull in with lights going and watched them look at the people still out there. "Should we help?"

"Nah, let them wear out their wrists with the arrest reports." Two men in suits and one guy in jeans and flannel shirt walked in. "Boys."

"Sheriff," the one in flannel said. "I was up in my hunting cabin. Why didn't you call?"

"We thought we had it until Xander got free and said they're self-sacrificing and had explosives." He handed over the drawing. "That's what he did." Xander took it to finish making markings to go over what they had talked about earlier. Then he handed it back with a grin. "He's helpful."

"I'm sure he is," one of the suited agents said, staring at him. "Do I know you?"

"Were you over the gas leak in Sunnydale?" he asked dryly.

"You mean the assault that had a defensive action and strange crap that'll give everyone nightmares that they decided was a gas leak to spare the nightmares?" another agent asked as he walked inside. "I was." He stared at him. "Mr. Harris." Xander grinned and waved. "Why are you here?"

Xander got up and pointed. "Parents." He looked at him. "Their fifth cult that I know of." He dug out the card and handed it over. "He got them out of the one in Dallas."

The agent moaned, shaking his head. "Okay then. What happened?"

"They took the deputy hostage and wanted to exchange her for me. I told them if they could catch and hold me they could. They didn't." He looked around then at him again. "Then the supposedly telepathic leader tried me with his knife."

"Interesting. Okay. Boys, clean this up. Let's go back to the compound, kid."

"I've got someone sending me a bus ticket."

"I'll give you a ride back and have them refund her money." He called someone to do that and got him into one of the SUV's so they could go back to the compound. They found people at the gate, all staring, so he called it in. "We still have a heavy population, some armed." Others came rushing out to help them. "Explosives are which one?"

"Under the armory. See the pretty sign?" He pointed. "He decided to clearly label the buildings. Almost no automatics outside of his guards and house. Mostly pre-seventies."

"Good to know." He got out and briefed the others. They nodded and headed over to talk to the group en masse. One set up a wail and the others followed until Xander got out and glared. Then they quieted.

"You guys don't want to kill him, right?" one agent asked.

"No, he judges those worthy of God," one said in awe.

Xander moaned, shaking his head as he walked over. "No I don't." He looked at one he knew, the old man. "Let them have the explosives and stuff. Then you guys can decide what to do. The old man's in the hospital with a gut stab." That got a nod and he opened the doors to the agents, leading them that way. The others got out of the way, still watching him. He went back to the SUV, climbing into the back again so he could groan and whimper in peace. An agent came over so he rolled down the window to look at him. "One of them during the ass-kicking at the station called me an Angel of Justice, judging worthy cults," he said quietly.

"It helps." He smirked at him. "You okay?"

Xander looked at his hands then at him. "Could probably use an ice pack sometime in the near future. Otherwise, I've had worse recently." That got a nod and he walked off again. Xander went back to resting his head against the drivers seat headrest. He had a headache and his face was starting to really hurt. His hands ached and flexing his fingers was making them throb. He knew if he didn't they'd be too stiff to move for a few days so he had to. Still hurt. The agents started to load stuff into the back of the SUV, making him look. "Those were damp."

"We saw," the agent who had talked to him said. "Think they'll try something?"

"Depends. He asked me earlier if I was willing to sacrifice myself for him. I do know two of his wives are pregnant." He got out and walked over to them, staring at them. "Do not do anything stupid," he told the one who flinched away. He rested a hand on her stomach then looked at the other one. "Some of us knew. You have the ability to keep things calm and keep this from looking like Jonestown or Waco," he said quietly. "Please use it so you don't traumatize others." They both nodded, bowing and backing away. "Don't do that. Please don't do that," he said, walking off again. He went to his family's 'apartment' to search for things, finding his parents' wallets with their recent checks. The agent walked in giving him an odd look. "My parents' things. I'm looting as any good teenager will." He finished his looting and walked out with his pockets stuffed, handing him the bags. "Please arrest them for something? I'm almost eighteen."

"We can get them for endangering you," he said thoughtfully, looking at another one. "Think we can?"

"Know we can," he agreed. "This is what number for them?" Xander held up five fingers. He snorted. "Yeah, about time."

"Oh, they're drunks too. If it helps, they're on a check." That got an evil smirk and a nod. "Thanks, guys." He walked into another building and took the guns from in there, including one from one guy's hand, making him whimper. "If you use it for anything other than self-defense or hunting for the table, I will have them take it," he warned. The man nodded so he handed it back, watching as he petted and cooed over it. He looked at the agent. "I'm not usually that mean," he explained, handing over the other guns. That got him led back to the SUV and put back inside with an ice pack someone had made. "Thank you," he said with a gentle smile, resting his head against the headrest again so he could use it easier without hurting his arms more. The trunk gate got closed and the others, then a few minutes of quiet talking before the agents got in and backed out. "You're letting someone watch?"

"We are," the agent driving agreed. "You okay?"

"Post fight soreness. Nothing unusual. So you're getting me home?"

"Sometime tomorrow. Fortunately we were up this way to coordinate on a person hunt."

Xander looked up at him. "The greasy guy on the tv news?" He nodded, smirking some. "He's in San Diego. Heading this way would be stupid when he could get lost easier in Mexico. He's a former Army guy that just served five years in a desert. He's used to it. Just my opinion." He put his head back down at the laugh.

"That was my thought," the other guy agreed. "He'd be more comfortable there. He'd run there instead of woods, since he hadn't done anything in them in years."

"Unless he knew his parents wouldn't turn him in, going to where he grew up is stupid," Xander agreed. "No one's going to protect him out of old loyalties. It's been too long. If it had only been a year or two maybe but not five."

"We've got agents that way," the driving one told him.

"That's cool. Just an opinion." He grinned at the other agent. "Let me guess, statements?" He nodded. "Not the first time. After Dallas it took me five days to do them all. After Atlanta it took me two weeks but I had a sprained wrist and the agents brought in profiling candidates so they could learn firsthand what a cult member looked like." That got a smirk. "They did. Though one was nice and let me bribe him into giving me soda and things. I abused his soda fetching fingers horribly." He grinned. "I was ten." He put his face back down when he laughed. They went back to the sheriff's office and Xander got sat down to start on the formal interviews. They told the Sheriff what had happened, how many were still out there. Xander looked over. "None of the kids were in the open. They're in the daycare." That got a nod too. He looked back at the other agent, who gave him a horrified look. "There's about ten or twelve kids."

"Wonderful." He made a note of that on his forms, then pushed over the sketch they had worked off of. "What's the chemical notation?"

"Its on the gas canisters in the daycare with the oxygen stash."

"We didn't see any of those."

"They're in the back room, under the tarp. In the back of the stash. One of the older kids in there found it. She's fifteen and just had chemistry."

"She's in the daycare?"

"Yeah, until you're not a virgin you are," he said grimly. That got a nod. "She was planning on how to cure that problem so she could be an adult. She had the right to ask anyone but the leader. He said he would not let her ask him since he was married in God's eyes and didn't want to break his vows."

"So virgins weren't his thing?"

"Apparently not or the youngest wife got pregnant when she asked him so he's scared of it happening again."

"That's fine, Xander." He made notes of that. "What did you tell the two women?"

"To use the power of the kids they're carrying to keep them from turning into a Jonestown-like scene."

He smiled. "Thank you."

"Figured you didn't want to see it and they can be rehabbed into normal people again." That got a nod and he wrote that down too. He frowned, looking at the back door, then he walked that way, pulling the man away from the agent in flannel to stare at him. "Did he consent?"

"No," the agent gasped.

"Don't stake him, kid, he's our mayor," the sheriff yelled.

"Sure." He let him have him and walked the agent inside, getting something out of the front of his backpack. He smoothed it over the bites, watching them fizz then slowly seal. He looked at him. "Eat a steak." He nodded, wobbling off to take a nap. "Do the Red Cross thing with him."

"I wasn't going to kill him," the mayor complained.

Xander stared at him. "Uh-huh. Then he's wobbling why?" He crossed his arms, staring at him. "I work with Buffy." He backed away, looking scared. "You weren't going to what?"

"I wasn't going to harm him. I swear on my sire."

Xander stared at him. "Then we don't have a problem." He nodded, hurrying off. Xander sat down again shaking his head. "This has almost been a vacation," he said sarcastically, getting a laugh. "Seriously." He grinned at the Sheriff. "I sealed the wounds."

"Thanks, kid. Hunting kit?"

"Figured it'd come in handy."

"Probably does." He walked off shaking his head. The kid was just a bit odd, but nice. He had to admit the kid was nice, goofy, and cute. His daughter adored the boy. "You sure you want to go home?"

"And give up my town?" he said with a smirk. "Whatever would they do without me? Never mind, I sounded like Scarlet. I need a real vacation." The Sheriff and a few agents giggled at that, walking off to check the people they had cleaned up out of the road. He looked at the questioning agent, grinning a bit. "Yes, I'm always like this. It's my parents' fault."

"Probably all those cults."

"No, they used me to charm their way in. The leaders always loved me."


"No comment."

"Okay." He made note of that too and went on. "Do you subscribe to any of their thoughts?"

"I like Buddhists. They don't worry about tomorrow unless it's a matter of planning." That got a smile. "Other than that? Nope."

"Thanks, Mr. Harris."

"Welcome. You know where I am if you need more. Just come during the day."

"Of course. We heard what happened to the guy who didn't." He got up and went to report, making his lead agent smirk at the kid too.

Xander relaxed. They'd give him a ride home and no one had complained he had robbed his parents before they had left the compound. It was a pretty nice night so far.


Xander got back to Sunnydale two days later and stopped at Willow's house first to drop stuff in the spare bedroom. He hugged Mrs. Rosenburg. "Ten minutes after we hung up with you the cult leader took the deputy hostage to get me back." She moaned. He smirked. "He brought my parents too. So I finally got to hit her for Dallas." She patted his slightly bruised cheek. "I'm fine. We had a brawl in the middle of the street." He grinned. "Give me a few days to find a place?"

"Of course, Xander. Willow's up at the college, dear." She took him into the kitchen to make him something to eat, watching him eat. "That nice Mr. Giles wanted a call too, dear."

"I'll go see him after a while," he promised. "After I file some paperwork with the local offices." She gave him an odd look. "My parents killed themselves in jail. I filed with Social Security earlier today and now I've got to file with DHHR locally since they were with them. I'll do that then go see him." She nodded, smoothing his hair around. "Thanks, Mrs. Rosenburg." Willow came bouncing in and gave him a hug. "Hi, Wills. I'm an orphan."

"Really? Why?"

"They didn't like the FBI's plans to keep them in prison." He gave her a look. "By their own hands."

"Charming. Paperwork?"

"I need to file with DHHR then I'll go see Giles."

"He moved." She wrote down the new address for him, getting a nod since he was chewing. "Mom, any left?" She got her some too, making her sit down and eat. "Thanks, Mom. So, how was it?"

"The town was really nice. Lots of woods, really pretty and calm. The Mayor was a nibbler but he didn't offend anyone by taking too much. They kept trying to keep the cult from getting near me. Kept hiding me." He ate another bite and chewed. "The agents were very nice. Set me up in a decent motel for the last few nights. Better than after Dallas or Atlanta." She beamed at that. "All the explosives were wet so they got to destroy them and the guns they confiscated. It made the townspeople very happy and the ones left up there have decided they're not a doomsday cult any more."

"Less talking, more eating," the mother ordered.

They both dug in. They could talk later tonight.


Xander walked into Giles' apartment, looking around. "You need more bookshelves, Giles. You've got some double stacked."

"I'm about to shelve those, Xander." He looked him over. "Just bruised?"

"Yeah, they had a moment of stupidity. Took a deputy hostage to get me back. It turned into a brawl." He shrugged and collapsed on the couch, sprawling comfortably. "I've spent the last two days dealing with bureaucrats."


"My parents died in custody."

"I'm sorry."

Xander gave him an odd look. "This was the fifth cult that I remember, Giles."

He shuddered. "Never mind then. It's probably better. Any idea what you're doing now?"

"Job. I've already got an offer so I'll start there then look for something better." That got a nod. "Somewhere to live. The usual."

"Your former residence is up for rent."

Xander shrugged. "No thanks. At least everything's in storage so I can sell it off. Not that anyone would want it, but it's some cash."

"What did they have?"

"Furniture, that stuff, Giles." That got a nod. "Oh, slight issuage possibly." Giles stared at him. "One of the cult members decided I was an Angel of Justice, there to judge worthiness of cults. I'm sure that'll be stopped but with the strange here, one never knows."

"I'll keep an ear out for it to come up," he promised with a small smile. He shook his head. "So no harm taken?"

"Not really. Some bruising. A headache. Otherwise I'm good." He grinned at the girls coming in. "Hola."

"Hi," Buffy said. "Cult?"

"My parents. Because I wasn't quite eighteen they got to drag me yet again. The last time was the summer before you showed up."

"Wow." She gave him a hug. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, we got into a brawl about me going back with them."

"Ah." She patted him on the head like he was a dog. "Well, now that you're back, we can let you help us research and stuff again." She went into the kitchen. "Giles, do you have anything to eat? Our dorm food is slop and Mom's not home to cook."

"Look in the tupperware, Buffy," he said patiently, looking at the boy. "You'll let me know where you're moving to?" Xander nodded. "Thank you. Any ideas yet?"

"Not yet." He grinned. "All I know is that the FBI does know what really happened during graduation but they're ignoring it due to the headaches it causes. One of the agents said so."

"When did they find out?" Willow asked.

Xander shrugged. "They knew when they got there to bust the cult. One of them told me what happened."

"As long as they handle the next one," Buffy complained, finally finding something she considered to be edible, people food. "Thanks, Giles." She walked off with the container.

Giles watched her walk out. "I want that back," he called after her.

Xander giggled. "I'm staying in Willow's parents' guest room so I'm not going to worry about that at the moment." He stood up and looked at Willow. "Want to be walked back?"

"Nah, it's not sunset yet. Besides, I should probably go to the store so I have something to nibble on later." He nodded, heading back to her parents house. "He said his parents died in custody."

"He told me." He smiled at her. "It'll be fine, Willow."

"We hope."

"I know it will be." He patted her on the back then nodded at the door. "You should go do your homework. We don't want your grades to fall your first semester. You might not get them back up again." She nodded, hurrying to do that while he got a quiet house again. Plus he had to make himself some dinner since Buffy had taken his.


A few weeks later Xander looked over from doing his laundry in the laundromat, giving the woman staring at him a curious look. "Even I have to do laundry." She blushed and walked off. He ignored her since she was at the dryers. She'd be done by the time he was ready to take things out of the wash. He got to ignore her all the way up to the point where she dropped an invitation next to him as she walked off with her basket and laundry bag. He looked at it then outside. "I don't need another cult already. Let me finish processing the damage of the last one," he said, tucking it into the laundry detergent box. If she was watching, she'd get huffy if he tossed it out. He could toss it out later. He saw her pull out and went back to reading his present comic. He did not want to consider one starting so close to home. It'd get in the way of slaying duties and would probably become a buffet and then they'd have insane cultist vampires on top of the regular ones. Not fun for them. His wash got done and he drug it over to the dryers, sticking them inside and paying so he could turn it on. Then he moved everything else over. The attendant gave him a look then outside. He grinned.

"It's going to be dark soon. You should be home soon, Xander."

"I know. It'll be fine. I'm driving."

"If you're sure. When are your parents being buried?"

"They were cremated. They've already been spread somewhere they'd appreciate." She nodded, going back to her own reading. So did he. He looked up at the rattling going on, getting into the dryer to take out the chain in there. "I thought I took you out." He restarted the dryer then sat down again, putting the chain into his pants pocket. It was sharpened on the edges. A nasty little weapon. He got through his entire stack of comics by the time the dryer was done. It still wasn't perfectly dry so he put in another quarter and restarted it, letting it go again. Still not perfectly dry when that quarter was done but he was out of change so he decided they could dry at home in the closet. He dropped everything into the basket he kicked over, then carried it out to his car. One more trip to get his comics and the detergent, then safely into his car and heading home. A quiet night for a change. A nice change. He got everything into his new place and flopped down on the couch to watch some tv, enjoying the peace and quiet.

So of course it wasn't going to last. Someone screamed outside his window. He ran out to see what was going on, instinctively grabbing his knife and stake on the way. It was after dark, it was a good idea to be armed. He saw the cause and staked the vampire, helping her sit down since she was crying but not really injured. He got her calmed down and watched her walk into her apartment up the street, she had begged and clutched at his arm so he was happy to do it for her. He turned and found that same cult member there. "What?" he asked. She fell to her knees. "What are you doing? Get up. It was what anyone would do." He tapped a foot when she didn't get up, glaring at her. She scrambled to her feet and gave him a hug then walked off, not saying a single word to him. He sighed and went inside to make note of the strange stuff in case it started again. Especially if the cult's members got eaten. That way he could identify them.


Giles found Xander at work a week later, frowning at him. "We need to talk."


"About this cult of Justice you seem to have, Xander."

Xander gave him an odd look. "I have a what?"

Giles stared at him. "What you feared has happened only it's not a rumor, it's a full-blown manifestation of the theory." Xander moaned, putting his head down to bang it on the counter. "I believe we should talk to someone."

Xander looked at him. "Unless they're hurting someone or breaking the law, nothing is going to be done about them, Giles. That's the rules." Giles looked stunned. "Even if they're annoying others, as long as it's not illegal or against some other rules it's not going to be stopped."

Giles glared at him. "You're certain?"

"Yeah. That's the rule that the higher ups set down."

Giles moaned, shaking his head. "Then what should we do?"

"Encourage them to move away from Sunnydale so they're not a victim of the nightlife that comes back?" he suggested. Giles gave him a stunned look. "It's an easy feed, Giles."

"Fine. Can you do that?"

Xander shrugged. "I've seen one person twice in one night. What do you want me to do? Walk out there and announce that?" He gave him a look. "If I see her, I'll talk to her, Giles. They've got to know it's not safe to have them here." He nodded and walked off grimacing. He put his head back down and sighed then went back to work to think while he mopped.

His boss came out to look at him. "You have a what?" he asked.

Xander looked at him. "My parents were rampant cultists. They joined at least five." His boss gaped. "At the last one someone identified me as an Angel of Justice out to judge the various cults in the world." He wrung out his mop, using it to pick up the water on the floor. "I was worried that new nickname was going to spread and apparently it has." He got to work on the next section of the floor, not really liking it but it was a job. His boss walked off muttering something but he ignored him yet again. His boss wasn't any more than a bully and a former football player who had gotten lucky and survived high school. He could continue to ignore everything but direct orders. When he was done mopping he took out the trash and then went back to move things into the freezer for the truck coming the next day to have room in the cold storage area. He loved his glamorous job so much he was ready to cut his throat if he had to do another day of it. But it was a job and he needed money to keep his apartment. So he'd have to continue to work at the burger place.

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