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The Ones They Want.

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Notes: yes, he's starting out tougher than he should be. That'll be explained during the time flip you'll see in a few minutes. Yes, he realizes this will get him into trouble, there's a reason why he doesn't care.

The Ones They Want.

The man staring at the agents sneered. "I will set this bomb off. It's set to go off if I die. I will have the one I wanted and I'll let you have the switch. Deal?" he asked dryly.

"No, not really," the lead agent said. "We don't usually hand over hostages that way." He glanced back at his team. They were not looking happy.

"You will or I'll let this charming nuclear device go off. I'll have what's mine in hell instead." He knew very well there was no way they could get a sniper into his bunker. The agents weren't going to kill him since he had said it would go off if he died, they couldn't take that chance. The tactical thing would be to get him what he wanted and then take him down with that one as bait. Which would work for him. He just wanted him out of the way of future plans.

"What hostage are you requesting?" the lead agent asked snidely. "Maybe we'll get him to call you to say goodbye."

"You don't negotiate very well." He sneered back. "He's a hunter, a pure little brat that is in the way of many plans. This way he's not."

"We have no idea who that is without a name," the agent sneered back.

"If you look, there's at least two different prices on his head. It's not like I'm going to make it easy on you." He smirked and put his feet up. "I can wait a week."

One of the agents went out to report. The FBI had ways of tracking people that had prices on their heads. The guy hadn't given them many clues but they could start a search and narrow it down.

No one noticed a few agents in the background looking pleased at how things had went. They had to be new to be so happy looking at a hostage situation.


Five days later, a late teen boy looked up from patrol with his friends as dark SUV's pulled up around the cemetery they were in. "Huh," Xander said quietly. "What did we do?"

"No idea," Buffy said. "Just stay calm, guys. Those are agents. I talked to a few after I burned down the gym in LA," she said quietly.

"Mr. Harris."

"I haven't done anything to get your kind's notice," he said blandly.

"We need you to come with us."

"Why?" He shoved the guy trying to grab him. "Since I'm not under arrest, you'd better give me a damn good reason, guys."

"We need your help with a hostage situation," one of the agents said. "We think you're acquainted with the subject."

"Is he a local?" Xander asked. "Because I've never been outside of Sunnydale."

"I have no idea, all we know is he asked for you," one of the agents said.

Xander sneered at him. "I should probably point out that I'm seventeen." They all winced. "Great." He walked off with them. "I need to pick up two things. Buffy, I'll see you in a few days."

"Are you sure?" she called. Because Buffy wasn't.

"Yup, I sure as shit am." He looked at her. "Let me go pick up my phone at the library and something in my locker." He walked past an SUV. "I'm not going in that. I don't want to hear the rumors." They shoved him in one anyway and took him to the school. He walked in, past the principal, who was glaring at him. "Someone wanted me to take hostage," he said dryly. He walked into the library. "Three days or there's stuff in my locker for Willow to handle," he told Giles as he grabbed his phone off the table. It was a little prepaid thing but it had what he needed in it. "Let me get something." He called someone.

"Gus, Xander Harris. I'm breaking your lock because there's agents here who claim I can help a damn hostage situation, dude. Yep, if I don't return, ask Willow to get into my locker. She can pay you. Yeah, like literally out of a bad movie. Thanks." He hung up and got into the guy's locker by kicking the lock and finding the little baggie in there. He took something from it and popped it into his mouth. "Fuck this shit," he muttered as he walked. "Whisk my underage ass away, guys." They glared but took him anyway. It was a fairly long trip to the other side of LA. Xander got shoved into the bunker. He stared at the guy there. "You wanted what?" he demanded.

He smirked. "You to destroy as my own personal toy."

Xander nodded. "No." The man laughed. Xander called someone. "Hey, Paul, it's Xander. I know I owe you a few kittens, dude. Want the guy that wants to take me hostage? Because apparently me being seventeen works for the FBI to hand me to him for some strange damn reason. I have no idea." He listened to him consider it. "Sure, I get that it's possible they'd hurt you for it. I'll find you someone else. Or hey, go eat Angel. Make Buffy angst less. Thanks, Paul. See you soon to pay you." He hung up and shrugged, grabbing an agent's gun and shooting the guy. "I have no idea why they decided you raping me was legal enough to solve this."

"That's a nuclear weapon!" one shouted.

"No it's not." Xander walked over. "It's not even a bomb. No explosive materials in it." He looked at him. "You'd think if I could find that for a class project, you guys would've called someone to look at film of it." He kicked the guy over and took his picture with his phone. "Wonder who you were," he muttered, tossing the gun back as he walked off. A few agents tried to stop him. Xander glared. "I'm still seventeen." They hadn't apparently known by their wincing. "I'm not bait. I'm not expendable. I'm not a toy."

"He cited three different prices on your head," one said.

Xander nodded. "I know that. Just because I help their chosen warrior who's supposed to be heroically lonely and die tragically young and hasn't." He stared at him. "Handing me to him was a critical mistake. Because a, underage. B, not going to play that way. C, even if the drugs wore out I would've killed him. You don't go staking bad things in my town without realizing that there's bad things that look human." He walked around him. "I'm going home." He waved. "You guys are obviously stupid and not worthy to play with."

"Freeze," one of the agents outside said.

Xander looked at him. "Me or your idiots who tried to hand me to someone?" he demanded back. "Do you usually use seventeen-year-old guys as bait to get them raped?" The agent winced. "You're damn lucky I haven't called reporters yet."

"We can arrest you for that."

Xander snorted. "You go right ahead. And the first thing I'll do is start talking to people. Lots and lots of people. I have rights to a lawyer. Lawyers who can sell this story for huge money to fund my defense and their fees. Which I'd gladly give them eighty percent of to handle it." He smiled slightly. "Beyond that, fuck you." He walked around him. "Are you really agents or just training to pretend to be ones? I've seen vampires with better crackhead plans."

"No, we're not," one said, pulling a gun on him. "But it's nice we have you now, Harris."

Xander smirked. "I thought I smelled tea." He stared at him. "Well? You have me, Mr. Watcher. What are you going to do about it?" The guy firmed his stance. Xander held out his arms. "You go right ahead. It won't matter. There's others who're going to help her. Others already know I'm here." He smiled. "And beyond that, not the bitch to fuck with." He smirked and pulled out something from his pocket. He held it up. "Got it for halloween." The man blinked at it. "Yeah, that halloween." The man backed up slowly and carefully. "The things you learn when you're possessed by a guy who was a Ranger in Vietnam." He walked off shaking his head again. "Fucking morons."

"Freeze, we are the FBI, Mr. Harris." He stomped over to turn the guy around.

Xander stared at him. "Good for you, baby. I'm still seventeen. You still brought me here to hand me to someone psychotic. Did you think that was going to play well? Did you actually think that me being raped, and you handing me over for it, was going to be less hard for higher ups to take then you shooting him?"

"He had a kill switch."

"That's. Not. A. Bomb," Xander said slowly and clearly. "No explosive materials." The guy gaped. "I know you're not from the LA office. They're better trained than that due to it being LA." He snorted, shaking his head. "Did you think I was going to be happy and just cry a bit?"

"We were going to use you as bait."

Xander snorted. "No thank you. And it might've been nice if you had said something in the SUV." The agent winced. "Beyond that, no. Not only no but hell to the fuck no." He stared at someone as they drove up. "Hey," he said, nodding at him, walking that way. "Whisk me away?"

"You sure?"

"Yup." He got into the SUV and buckled up. "He mad?"

"He just heard and he's on a swearing rant."

Xander laughed. "Oh well." He rubbed his forehead. "I hate coming down."

"What did you take?" he demanded as he backed off and drove them off at a higher speed.

"Some liquid courage in pill form," Xander said dryly. "Sometimes you gotta have balls, even if you're seventeen." He leaned his head against the window. "He really freaking out?"

"He shouted so much they tried to get Pepper to calm him down," the driver said quietly.

Xander snorted. "Well, at least we know it's the same sort that got us."

"What did happen? All I heard was a rescue had to be made and there was strange idiots involved."



Six Months Earlier.


Xander Harris got to blink right before he got knocked out. Not by a vampire but by a guy wearing a knock-off ninja outfit. That'd be the last thing he knew for a few hours at the very least. He almost woke up once, enough to hear people complaining that his bloodwork had come out wrong somehow. They spotted it though and knocked him out before he could do anything, even groan.

When he woke up again he was in a cell with another, older guy. Xander and the guy were both wearing what looked like hospital scrub pants and no shirts. They had hospital bracelets on their right wrists. Xander had a headache from hell. He rubbed the sore spot with a wince. "They couldn't have been a tiny bit nicer?" he muttered. "I'm going to have someone eat their asses."

"If you could do that, we'd all be happy," the guy said, looking at him. "You okay?"

"Headache. Bit hungry. Where are we and who are you?"

"At least you didn't ask who you were."

"I'm Xander."

"Your bracelet says Alexander Harris."

He looked and nodded. "They got my birthday wrong. That's charming of them." He looked at him. "Who're you?"

"Tony Stark." He held out a hand.

Xander shook it. "Xander. Any idea why we're here?"

"No. I haven't seen anyone since I woke up. They made sure we didn't have a thing on us to help us get out of here."

Xander looked around the room. No air vent, no grating, doorway looked like a jail cell door with a closed off window. "They should at least tell us what's going on soon."

"That might be nice." He leaned on his bed, staring at the doorway. "You sure you're okay? You're kinda pale."

"I do a lot of work at night. Not a lot of time in the sun recently." He shifted to curl up with his back against the wall and his knees pulled up. "Any idea where we're stuck? I've never been outside Sunnydale so I can't tell geography too well by sight."

Tony shook his head. "The tiny almost window looks on a concrete wall." He looked at him. "You in college?"

Xander snorted. "College isn't for guys like me when I get there." Tony winced. "I'm a hands-on guy, Tony," he said quietly. "Meant to be menial labor, not a college guy." The door opened and two guards with guns walked in. "Do you think that will save you?" he asked dryly.

"You should cooperate," the man in the labcoat said, staring at him. "What is wrong with your bloodwork?"

"You're an idiot, that's what's wrong with it," Xander said bluntly.

"You're expendable."

Xander smirked. "I doubt that. Anything else you wanted to talk about, like why we're in your less than charming company?"

"You could behave," he sneered.

"I can find a way to blow your ass up too. Why. Are. We. Here?" he asked again, staring at the guy. One of the guards shifted. Xander ignored him.

"You're here because you're in the way of some grand plans, both of you." He smirked. "Therefore you're going to stay here. Even if you get out, there's a small capsule with an explosive in your bloodstream that will explode if you get more than ten thousand feet apart." He smiled. "We'd prefer it if you two *bond*."

"I'm sure he really wants to face a statutory charge," Xander said dryly. "I'm sixteen, that's illegal in my state." He yawned. "Beyond that, what makes you think I want gay sex?"

"It's an improvement over your history," he sneered.

"Yay me, I like pretty, deadly things." Xander stared at him. "You're still not going to be happy."

"You're going to stay right here. The more bonding you do the more distance you can go."

"Or we can find it and rip it out," Tony quipped dryly.

"I doubt that, Stark. Not even you can do that." They left, the guards last, and locked the door again.

Xander looked at Tony. "I had no idea helping the really high death rate in my town would get me such notice. I thought the British cranks trying to kill me were fun," he said dryly.

"Who are you?" Stark asked. "You're awfully calm."

Xander nodded. "I'm mentally freaking out. Have you ever heard of a group called the Watchers Council? Or the International Council of Watchers in a prior incarnation."

"Yes. They're secret society sorts. The family had a guy that was family to them and we found out what they did when they tried to blackmail him into coming back home."

"They really hate it that I'm helping one of their girls in my town of hell," Xander said quietly. "Even if she's on a kick to get me to go away at times because she says I'm normal."


"Yeah. They hate her anyway," Xander admitted, looking at him. "Especially now that there's two thanks to me and CPR." He grimaced a tiny bit then shrugged slightly. "This microcapsule thing? Since I recognize the name from many happy geek moments?"

"It's possible. It'd have to be a radio wave signal."

"Well, if we can get out of here, we can stay close together until we can find it and cut them out."

"You're still too calm."

Xander stared at him. "I've been helping thin the nightlife population for the last two years, Mr. Stark. I've seen a few bigger battles, been at them, and a few smaller ones. Crackheads with ideas? This isn't even as good as a vampy vamp's crackhead plot to take over the world." He shrugged again. "Between that and a few other issues in my life, I'm freaking mentally. We can get out of here because someone will probably want to rescue you." Tony smirked and nodded. "Then we can cut these things out and go back to our normal lives."

"You're awfully ballsy."

Xander nodded. "They gave me something. I'm not usually this blunt." Tony smirked a tiny bit. Xander shrugged. "Apparently they thought I'd panic and jump you or something. Gay sex doesn't sound all that fun to me. There's no breasts. I always imagined breasts would be nice to play with."

"You're a virgin?"

Xander nodded. "I'm not exactly high up on the status pole," he said dryly. "My parents are poor, I'm not a jock, I'm not a brain, and I hang out with weird people."

"Oh, one of them. Okay, I get that." Xander grinned a tiny bit. Someone shoved in two food trays. "Do they really expect us to eat that?"

Xander looked and grimaced. "Wow, they hired lunch ladies to fix their slop. I'm not eating that shit!" he yelled. "I get enough of that at lunch! My mother can cook better even when she's drunk!" He looked at Stark again. "Go ahead and have mine." He laid back down. "Let me cure this headache before the foul mood means I chew on someone." He faced the wall and closed his eyes so he could rest. His inner soldier from last halloween was screaming at him about that move and about hostages that were planted to make you complacent. Xander mentally told him to shut up, he had a headache, and he was pretty sure the guy wasn't since he was a billionaire inventor of all sorts of happy weapons that the military panted, begged, and bent over to get.

Tony heard the mumble and shook his head. That pretty well did describe his life, yeah. He looked at the slop. Maybe the bread was edible and they had water from the sink. He could handle this until his security team got them free. Hopefully it wouldn't take too long.


It took two days for Xander to find his temper. Two days of headache, of bad food, of no privacy, of worrying about Buffy and Willow handling things without backup, and of trying to act calm and reasonable. So when the door opened he was up and in one of the guard's faces. The guy threatened to shoot him but Xander snorted and shoved him back out the door. "Really? You go right ahead. I'm sure that'd make some people really happy." The guard growled and raised his gun.

Xander's instincts gained from possession clicked into place and that was not a good thing. For anyone really. The guard did try to shoot him in the arm. Xander snapped his neck and moved after the other one. That one tried to hit him in the thigh, hit his outer thigh as Xander kicked him. It was an easy shot since that was the leg that was kicking. Xander yelped but oh well. Stark came out and grabbed the guns. Xander growled and stomped off. "Let's see if the elevator goes up."

"It's not tactically sound, Xander," Tony yelled after him. "Get back here before those things go off."

Xander sighed and came back. "If they're waiting, I'm going to kill people."

"I'm tired of this too," Tony said, starting to lose his temper.

Xander nodded. "Then how do you want to get out of here?"


"Probably as likely for a welcoming committee." He pointed at a camera. Stark shot it then looked at him. "Sweet. Thanks. It was humming."

"Still have the headache?"

"Yup." They looked up and down the hallway. "Elevator?" he said but pointed at the emergency exit. Tony nodded and they headed that way then down when they found it was an option. Xander wasn't sure why, it seemed counterintuitive to him but Stark was really smart. They found a few guards. They found an office. They could barricade themselves in there while Stark called for help.

"It's Tony Stark. I know that!" he shouted. "We're presently holding off the person that has us hostage! That's what I'm doing. Can you trace this?" He listened to them starting that. "Five minutes," he mumbled.

Xander looked around the office. "Looks like the doctor idiot's place of residence." He looked at a few things, finding the bathroom that had a shutting door. That helped if they had to stay in here. Better than the cell. He hadn't wanted to crap in front of anyone. Tony smirked a tiny bit. "A guy's gotta have privacy sometimes."

"Yup, I fully agree." The door rocked and Xander shoved a filing cabinet over in front of it. Tony put down the phone so it could run. The filing cabinet would hold just about long enough for the Stark security team to get there. They were being led back to a cell when they stormed the building.

"Mr. Stark, let's go," one of them said, grabbing him and pointing a gun at Xander.

"Take him too!" Tony snapped. "He's a hostage."

"This is a mental hospital, Mr. Stark."

"Yeah but he's here because of me and there's an explosive in our blood if we're too far apart." Xander got grabbed and helped out. He looked at Xander once they were in the helicopter. "So, where do you want to go?"

"Get this thing out and I need to hit home to help with patrol," he said as quietly as he could, getting a nod of understanding. They had talked about that stuff last night. Xander watched the pretty scenery. "It's pretty country."

Tony looked then at the guards. "Canada?"

"Upper Montana, sir," one reported.

"So still in the US at least." They got taken back to the main Stark Enterprises building and whisked into their medical bay. It was a long ride and they were both tired but it'd be okay. The doctors on staff stared at Xander then at Stark. "There's a small explosive in our blood system. It has a ten thousand foot radius from what they said."

"We can find it," one of the doctors promised. "Sir, what's your name?"

"Xander Harris. Most of my medical records are at Sunnydale General Hospital." He saw the grimace and smiled. "Yes, we know about their high death rate. I'm lucky I survived them screwing up my appendix removal." The doctor nodded at that, calling up there to get his notes. Xander looked at the phone. "Can I...." They let him call. "Giles, me. Yes, I'm alive, Giles. No, some freaky idiots took me hostage and put me in a cell with another guy they wanted out of the way of things. Getting medical attention. Might be a week, not sure yet. Tell them I'm okay. Thanks." He hung up. "That way no one has to keep worrying because I'm pretty sure Willow did at least a tiny bit."

Tony looked over from his bed. "Your friend Willow?" Xander nodded. They had each talked a bit about their usual lives to pass the time. "Shouldn't friends worry a lot?"

Xander shrugged. "Probably. Things have been going...in the bad direction recently though. They keep thinking I'm *normal* and *worthless* so I'm about to forget she exists. It's.... it's like mental hammers breaking at you at times. So I'm guessing there was a tiny bit of worrying but probably not tears."

"When you get out of there, you should find real friends, Xander."

Xander nodded. "Then Buffy could easily die."

"Point. That's a fucking bad choice."

"Yeah, well, sometimes life sucks that way." He shrugged. "Something shifted under my shoulderblade." They took the hand-held metal detector to that area, finding something, and one near his ankle. "That may be shrapnel. I got hit with some a few months back."

"Okay," the doctor agreed. "We can take pictures of those to make sure." That helped them find Stark's and where it was drifting around his body. They glared at the redhead that stormed in to nag Tony. "Not now, Miss Potts."

"Pepper, I'm okay. They kidnaped us to get us both out of the way," Tony said quietly, staring up at her. "I'm okay."

Pepper sighed. "What are they doing?"

"Small thing to make us sorry if we get too far apart," Xander said. "Hi, Xander Harris."

She shook his hand with a nod. "Was Tony okay?"

"He was fine. He ate the slop they provided us. He called people who could come get us since I don't have someone who can do that." He shrugged a bit and grinned. "I'm still getting over the headache from whatever they gave me." A nurse came over to draw blood. "They complained the entire time that my bloodwork was screwed up," he warned with a grin.

"We can figure out why," she said with a grin back.

"Pretty sure it was foreign DNA," he admitted. "There was a swim coach and a sauna... and kids that got really sick from it." She nodded, making that note. Pepper was back to trying to look like she wasn't having a breakdown at Tony about him being kidnaped. He looked at the doc and nodded slightly at the curtain, getting a nod and her pulling it. He grinned. "I thought they might want privacy," he mouthed.

"Probably." She finished up her scans. "Let me check your head. Any ringing in your ears?"

"I have a slight concussion, nothing huge. I've had a few from tripping into gravestones a few times," he said quietly. "Nothing affecting more than a headache."

She nodded, making a note and checking his eyes. "Do you have training as a paramedic?"

He snorted but smiled some. "My friend Willow's mother has medical texts from her training and Willow used to play doctor out of them whenever I needed things like stitches." The doctor pulled back to look at him, scowling. "It helped."

"The ER?"

"With the high death rate? No thank you."

She sighed but nodded. "I can see that." She went back to her checking on him. "You look okay. We'll monitor it for tonight." Xander nodded, laying down with her help. "Try to rest, Mr. Harris." She walked over to look at her boss, who stared at her over Pepper's shoulder. "He's going to be fine, Mr. Stark. It's your turn."

"Sure, I can do that. Pepper, they have to find the little explosive thing." She shuddered and walked off. "I'll talk to you when I'm out of here later," he called after her.

"Tomorrow," the doctor corrected. "We need to do some bloodwork to make sure they didn't give you anything."

"Please. I know I'm missing at least a few hours." The nurse drew some blood and the doctor used the little scanner. "He good?" he asked quietly.

"He was giving you some privacy with Miss Potts, Mr. Stark." She smiled. "He seems like a pleasant enough young man. Should we call his parents or anyone?"

"I doubt his parents want to be called," he quipped. "He called someone there." She nodded and got back to work. He knew by now Pepper had the security teams looking at Xander's background to see who he was. She was like that about Tony's welfare, which admittedly he paid her a very high salary to do for him. He let them do the minor surgery to remove the little capsule then stitch him back up before letting him nap off the rescue.

He'd be woken a few hours later by 'fish dna' being yelled about. He shook his head and went back to sleep. He wasn't going to wonder yet. Someone would tell him why that was important.


Xander blinked awake when someone touched his foot. "Miss Potts. Is there a problem?" he asked, glancing outside to see it was really dark, then back at her.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Alexander Lavelle Harris."

"There's a whole lot of strange things...."

He held up a hand. "My town is a whole lot of strange things." She grimaced. "There's interference by British people who want to kill me for jumping into their chosen, special girl's battles. There's huge problems with the city's death and disappearance rate that I help her lower. Nothing about me is normal."

"I'd guess that's why the doctor is scowling about fish DNA."

"Probably," he agreed with a slight grin. "There was a swim coach and a sauna...." He shrugged. "All the wacky that is my life."

"You're sixteen."

"I know that." He smiled. "I'll be seventeen in two months. They wanted us to *bond*."

"Oh, dear."

He grinned. "He may be hot but only deadly, pretty things like me that way," he said sarcastically. "The rest think I'm the king of cretins at times."

"I noticed you weren't listed as a popular kid in the high school."

Xander shook his head. "Not by a long shot." He shifted to cross his feet in front of him so he could lean on his knees. "What did you want to know?"

"Did anything happen?"

"No. I've been in a goddess-fucking foul mood," he admitted, making her flinch a bit. "Sorry to be blunt but headache, no privacy, kidnaped, will *never* hear the end of this from the girls." She smiled a tiny bit. "They thought it was bad when the bad girl society members liked me." He shrugged again. "It happens to me."

"Did they ask anything specific?"

"They didn't ask me a thing that I know of. I almost kinda heard some of the doctors complaining about my bloodwork once but otherwise nothing. They locked us in a room. When I woke up the doc came in to gloat at us that we were both out of the way of problems that they wanted us away from. He said that us bonding would make the range longer on the capsules."

She nodded. "How did you know it was a capsule?"

"The idiot doctor said so."

"Oh. Okay. Where did they take you from? There's no missing persons report."

Xander snorted, shaking his head with a slight grin. "Miss Potts, my parents are both diehard alcoholics. The only person they'd realize was missing would be the guy who works at the liquor store who always has their favorites next to the register on their usual days to come in so they don't have to stumble into the displays to break them again. Last time they broke over a grand worth of whiskey." She winced at that, shaking her head slightly. "Willow might've tried to report me as missing but our local police are so pathetic and so dirty they wouldn't care. They never do. It keeps down the official count. They only care if the Mayor cares about it or it causes too big of a mess that gets attention. Or they can use it to bully or blackmail someone."

"We can help you get into the social system so you can be moved."

He grimaced. "The girls might not want to consider it but I'm kinda needed there. It's not much and it sucks money ass at times, but it's home and they need my help. Otherwise Buffy would die. Again."

She frowned. "Again?"

"She drowned."

"Oh. And you revived her?" Xander nodded, smiling some. "That's nice of you."

"You do for friends. Even when they hate you later on."

"True." She patted his foot. "You should be able to be released tomorrow but there's agents that want to talk to you."

He nodded. "I'll let them give me a ride back home." He smiled. "Thank you for the hospitality and the nice infirmary time."

"You're welcome." She smiled and went to check on Tony instead. He was awake and staring at the curtain separating them. "He wanted some privacy," she said quietly.

"He pulled it so we could have privacy, Pepper," he shot back. "You better?"

"I'm fine. How are you feeling?"

"Really mad. What did they want me out of the way of?"

"I'm not sure yet. We're looking into it. Agents will be here in the morning. I've got you clothes picked out." He smiled. "Is .... should we be sending him home?" she asked quietly.

"As he told me, sometimes it sucks but that's your life and you have to do your duty."


"There's a lot that we'll never know but I know some of what he's doing there thanks to someone who used to work for the family back when my father was alive." She nodded, relaxing at that. "They couldn't find anything?"

"Not really. His birth certificate took some looking up as the State office doesn't have them. The local town's office apparently doesn't send them? I thought they had to."

"Sunnydale's weird that way," Xander called quietly. "The Mayor said so and he's got a lot of weird people in a lot of very bad places."

"Great," Tony quipped. "Why?"

"We're not sure," Xander admitted. It'd be better not to freak people out too much.

Pepper looked at Tony, who shrugged. "I'll tell you later," he mouthed, getting a nod and a smile. "Anyway, I'm fine. Let the agents come nag."

"I can do that. They were really upset."

Xander snorted. "Probably dirty too," he said. He shifted and drifted off again thanks to the medicine the nurse put in his IV.

Tony nodded. "Could be. We'll see." She nodded and let him nap. He laid back and considered Xander. Something had to be really wrong around him for him to be that cynical at sixteen.


Xander blinked at the agent walking into the infirmary. "They're here," he called out. Stark snorted but looked up from the reports Pepper had made him read.

One of the agents stared at Xander. "We should arrest you."

"For?" Xander asked, staring at him. "What did I do wrong?"

"You should not have been there."

"Hey, yell at the people who kidnaped me," he said dryly. "That wasn't my choice. I had shit I needed to do that night."

The agent snorted. "You'll never do anything, Harris."

"Yay me. Maybe the next apocalypse battle you guys should handle then instead of letting a few teenagers do it. You know, we have film." The agent backed up looking scared. "I didn't ask to be kidnaped. Or given a small concussion. I didn't ask to be put into a cell with someone I didn't know more than a few newspaper articles on and be told to fuck him. Or to let him fuck me." The agent shuddered. "And by the way, still sixteen so yeah, underage by this state's laws." He stared at him. "Thankfully I held off," he said sarcastically. "So you can't charge either of us with that. Now, anything else, you puss sucking little bitch?" The agent glared and Xander kicked him, knocking his mask off. He grinned. "You think you might remember to mask that scent, dude. Not like I haven't smelled it before. My chem partner was half one of you." He stomped off. Xander smirked and waved. "You have a *great* day." He looked at the other agent.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"Xander Harris. Just a sixteen-year-old guy who jumped in to help a pretty girl because it was the right thing to do." The agent shuddered. "By the way, how much is the Council's price on my head?" The second agent blanched and backed away slowly. "Really, I'd like to know. I've heard rumors of three mil."

"Um.... five." He fled.

Xander nodded. "Good to know. Hey, nurse, can I please have something I can go to the grayhound station in? That way they can't possibly harm you nice people."

"Sit," Tony ordered. "Stay." Xander looked at him. "How did you do that?"

"Which that?"

"Don't play dumb, Xander." Tony stared at him. "You may not be a genius and you may not be book smart but some of us can find the intelligence in everything."

"Did you have to look hard? Willow says she does most of the time."

"Don't try that either." He stared at him.

Xander shrugged. "Demon guy or the Council guy?"

"Fuck," Tony muttered.

Xander grinned. "I've felt that way about the Council a few times too. I mean, you do CPR to bypass a stupid prophecy that wasn't absolute and made no sense not to, and suddenly everyone wants to kill your ass. I should probably go before they try again."

"Stay," Stark ordered more firmly. "You're not moving." Xander sighed and slumped, grabbing a magazine to look through. Stark called Pepper. "The agents turned out to be plants here to kill Xander." Xander shook his head with a snort. "Or at least piss him off until he gave them a reason to arrest him." He listened. "Yeah, we need to do some searching," he said, looking at Xander. Who shrugged but didn't look up. "There's apparently a huge price on his head at five mil."

Xander looked over. "There's a bigger one from a demon source that hates me because I was there during a huge battle and helped during it, which took out their future power attempt." He went back to reading the magazine. "I really should go home."

"Shut up, Xander." Xander huffed. Pepper said something. "That'd be great. Thank you, Pepper." He hung up and looked at the doctor on shift. "Let me get us both upstairs." They nodded, getting them stuff to wear to a guest suite or home. Xander followed because Tony made him.


Pepper decided some in-person intelligence gathering was in order. She had Tony's driver Happy Hogan take her up to Sunnydale. It was a charming looking town. Very neat and tidy. If she hadn't seen their death statistics she'd think it was a pretty nice place. She walked into the school, staring at the secretary. "I need to speak to Miss Willow Rosenburg please."

"Only family members can sign her out," the secretary said but she looked very tired.

Pepper smiled. "I'm not checking her out of the school. We need to have a chat about someone she knows to see what's going on with them."

"She's got lunch in twenty minutes," the secretary said. "She'll probably be outside with Summers." She pointed. "Stone tables."

"Thank you." She went that way. Happy was shadowing her protectively. She looked at him.

"Something weird's around here," he said quietly. "It feels wrong."

"It does," she agreed. "This is where Xander comes from."

"I've only heard rumors, Pepper."

She smiled. "He's a bit tough and cynical." She heard the bell and watched. Willow Rosenburg looked like her state ID picture. She walked over to her. "Miss Rosenburg, I'm Pepper Potts and we need to talk."

"I haven't hacked anyone at Stark," she yelped, looking scared.

Pepper smiled slightly. "Tony said it was a nice attempt and it made him giggle but not why I'm here. I'm here about Xander."

"Is he okay?" she demanded, staring at her. "Where is he?"

"He's been rescued but a few things have come out that we'd like to know about." She walked her off to the car so they could talk privately. She looked at the young redhead. "Why would they kidnap Xander to get him out of things?"

Willow blanched then cleared her throat. "Out of things?"

"We've already had a few charming people from the Council there," Pepper said, fibbing a bit. She had tried to look at them and found a few crackpot sites. Nothing concrete. "Including one pretending to be an agent and one agent that was wearing a disguise to make him look human."

"Dirt," she muttered. "Then it must be about Buffy and her duty. We've been trying to keep Xander out of it. He's normal and he keeps getting hurt. He's never going to be able to help us patrol because he's not special."

Pepper stared at her. "Really? Because he seems to handle emergencies fairly well."

"No he doesn't."

"He was totally calm and able to handle things very well from what Mr. Stark said when they were kidnaped and put into the same cell."

"That must be from the soldier. Last halloween Xander was kinda possessed by a soldier. We were all mostly possessed by our costumes thanks to Ethan Rayne and Xander went as a soldier. I'm guessing he's somehow managed to remember some of that, even though none of us do." She paused. "Or did his eyes glow yellow? Because if that's the case, somehow the hyena came back and Giles said that he penned her up fully," she babbled. "She's really bad news and she tried to attack Buffy and maybe rape her or maybe just kill her."

Pepper blinked. "I'll ask him about them to see if he's going back to those states. What, exactly, is going on that a group of people in another country have a five million dollar price on his head? They don't usually do that to teenage boys."

"Like I said, he helps here, even though we don't want to let him. They don't like people helping their girl." She shrugged. "I can't tell you more than that, Miss Potts. You'd have to ask Giles."

"I see. Anything on the other prices on his head? We've noted three total, and Xander quipped that one was from a demon."

"I don't know anything about those and Xander would never know either. He's not like that. He's not smart or anything. Why did they stick him with Mr. Stark? To hobble your boss's escape plans?"

Pepper stared at her. "Miss Rosenburg, Xander was more than able to help him escape. Including taking out two of the guards before Tony could."

"That must be the soldier then. He was like that. He was a PFC in the Army."

"I'll talk to him about that. He'll be back in a few weeks if you could gather his homework for him?"

She snorted. "Not like the teachers here care. He can do everything perfectly and still get D's. The principal doesn't like him very much."

"Hmm. We'll see what happens when he's out of our infirmary."

"He's injured? Tell him we miss him?"

"I can do so but he's not injured. We had to remove a small tracking capsule they had implanted in his back."

"Aww, poor Xander. Thank you for letting us know he's okay. We were worried that some of our bad things had gotten him."

"He called."

"Giles said that but he could've been lying to trick us into a trap to get Buffy."

Pepper nodded. "I doubt that. He called from our infirmary." She smiled. They heard the bell ring. "You have a good day, Willow." She nodded and shook her hand then ran inside before she was late. Pepper huffed, looking at Happy through the window to the front seat. "Maybe we can find Xander a foster family."

"Maybe," he agreed. "Want to stop at his house?"

"Sure." They went there. It was a bit run down. It was ringing with shouting. The trash on the curb was full of names from the List For Cheap Beer Drinker's Guide - Tony had gotten a gag copy of that in college. Pepper watched for a minute then got out to go knock on the door. She smiled pleasantly at the man who answered. "Are you Xander Harris's father?"

"Why? The kid steal your shit?" he sneered.

"No, he's in our infirmary. He wasn't badly injured but it'll be a few days before we release him."

The guy snorted. "He's got a medical card and they'll pay you, lady."

"I'm not worried about that or the state of his insurance. I'm more worried about him being able to come home while he's got a few stitches."

"He's handled them before," he sneered. "Little bastard can do it again."

"I see. Then we'll talk with Xander about how to bring him back if he needs more care than bandaging. Have a pleasant day." She walked off. She got into the car and resisted the urge to grab the hand sanitizer and rub it all over her body. "Happy, let's go before that stench infects me."

"Gladly." He drove them back to the office. They got back to see Xander kicking the shit out of someone and yelling about 'next time don't grab me' and Tony trying to get the kid to stop it.

Pepper got out. "Xander!" He looked over at her. "Please leave Rhodey living. He probably thought you were a threat to Tony."

Xander gave her an incredulous look. "Really? Is he more dumb than I am? I was being hauled behind Tony by the wrist," he said, shooting a glare at Stark, then at her. "And he grabs he me like I'm his toy to break. Hell no! I don't let anyone do that anymore."

"Good." She smiled. "I talked to Willow."

He rolled his eyes. "So I guess you know I'm normal and just a guy now?" he said bitterly. "Great. Let me find some real clothes somewhere." He walked off.

"Freeze," Tony ordered. Xander shot him a glare and walked off. Tony grabbed him by the shirt. "Stay."

"Still not your dog, Stark."

"Uh-huh." He stared at Rhodey. "Why did you grab him?"

"For all I knew he was a threat!" he defended, getting up. "You're going to pay for that."

Xander shrugged. "You think so? Bring it."

"Enough," Stark ordered. "I was yanking him along, Rhodey."

"I didn't see that part."

"Fine, whatever. Apologize to each other." Rhodey snorted and Xander walked off again shaking his head. Pepper went after Xander to calm him down. Tony glared at Rhodey. "Are you happy that you can add assaulting a sixteen-year-old kidnaping victim to your resume?" he asked sarcastically.

"He's sixteen?"



"You might be. Pepper can talk him out of pressing charges."

Rhodey sighed. "Thanks. Who is he?"

"He's the guy that they took at the same time as they had me and shoved us together. Then we had fake agents showing up to get him to do something so they could take him out. Probably due to one of three prices on his head." Rhodey winced. "He's also involved in some really bad things going on in his town by helping a few friends protect the kids caught in the center." Tony stared at his oldest friend. "I'm pretty sure he's not the bad guy here."

"No, maybe not," Rhodey said. Pepper came out with Xander, talking quietly to him. The boy didn't look happy but oh well. "I didn't see Stark pulling you," he told him.

Xander looked at him. "I'm not pressing charges unless you do, Colonel. Pull the stick out of your ass." Rhodey flinched. He looked at Pepper. "Why did you talk to my parents?"

"Because by law I'm supposed to."

"Hmm. Yeah, that law doesn't get observed very often in Sunnydale either. Our school's just a fattening pen really." He shrugged. "Thank you for trying." He looked at Stark. "When do I get to go back to my version of hell?"

"Next week or so, once we figure out why they took you."

"To get Buffy," Xander said bluntly. "Or to get me away from Buffy. Same thing really."

"How would a guy that wanted something from Stark Enterprises want something from the Council?" Tony asked.

"Maybe they gave him a research grant. Who knows. If Giles reported stuff like the swim team incident they probably consider me a thing anyway. Good thing that all my important stuff is away from everyone like Willow and my family." He looked around. "We have SUV's at the gate."

Tony looked. "Pepper, go lock him in the safe room." She nodded, walking him off. He looked at Rhodey. "See the blond guy? He's the one that Xander took the mask off of to show he wasn't human," he said quietly.

"What? Stark, did they drug you?" he demanded.

"Yup. Got both of us. It's giving Xander steel balls and me a really mean streak." Rhodey shuddered. The agents parked and got out to storm over. "You can remove the non-human and the member of the secret society from my compound," he told the agent in front. "Now."

"You're clearly drunk," the lead agent sneered.

"No, I'm not. Haven't had a drink in days." Tony stared at him. "This is private property."

"We're the FBI."


"We have a warrant for one Alexander Harris and we know you're harboring him."

"For?" Rhodey asked.

"Injuring two agents here to take a statement from him."

Tony laughed, calling up the video on his phone to show them what had happened. The lead agent grimaced. "No. I don't think so. He's not here."

"We saw him, Stark. You don't want involved in this."

"I already know what the Council is. We had a butler who had relatives there when I was a kid. They showed up and my father nearly killed them."

"Thankfully he can't do that now," one of the agents said dryly.

"Do you think I can't?" Tony asked, smirking at him. "Remember, I may design weapons but that also means I have to be able to use them." The agents all stepped back. "Your fruitless search is annoying me. Get off my property. I doubt that warrant's valid. Even if it was, he's not here." Tony waved the waiting security team over. "They're leaving. Because even if Xander was here, we have an *excellent* legal department. Your agents threatening him to fulfill one of the three contracts on his life isn't exactly legal and I'm pretty sure my legal team can make a moving argument for PTSD that would make the judge and jury cry about it."

"There's a what?" Rhodey and the agent in the lead demanded.

Tony nodded. "Three. One from the Council, one from a being in Sunnydale, and one without a name attached. We're not sure which one got him kidnaped and shoved into my life yet." He stared at the head agent. "Leave. Now please."

"We still have to arrest him, even if that's true."

"If he was here that'd be different," Tony said dryly. "I'm pretty sure that many people I know within the DoD would *love* to search for him to see what I'm tinkering with in the labs." The agent backed off at that note. "You have a pleasant day on your way back to your office." He walked off, Rhodey following him. Once they were safely inside he looked at him. "Get me a real agent, silently, to talk to Xander." Rhodey nodded, calling his contact within the DoD to arrange that. Tony went to talk to Xander. Who was resting his head on his knees and muttering something. "Praying?"

"God's a myth and she's an evil bitch." He looked at him. "I can go. They can't keep me."

"They aren't arresting you. I'm having a real agent come look into this, Xander."

Xander nodded. "The infirmary called Miss Potts down to look at something immediately about whatever was in that capsule," he said quietly.

"Great." He helped him up and down to the infirmary so they could both hear it. "What's happened now?"

"The drug they gave you was like Rohyphnol on steroids," the doctor said, looking at them. "It's long lasting, barely traceable, and it's apparently making you both super aggressive."

Xander shook his head. "I have days like this," he said dryly.

"It's working differently on you thanks to that weird DNA contagion you have." He nodded once. "It's making it last longer."

"Would the normal stuff do the same thing? Not that I'm probably going to be hit with it since only evil bitches like me, but you never know."


"Okay." He looked at Tony then back at her. "How long before it's out of our systems?"

"At least a week. Mr. Stark, that increased aggression...."

"Is more about being pissed off," he assured her. "Pepper, anything on the why of the kidnaping?"

"Not at this moment," she said. "I can't figure out what you're in the way of, Tony. Xander....."

"I already know they're trying to get me to leave Buffy's side, which would get her killed so a *proper* slayer can be called."

Pepper gasped. "I read that on some crackpot's site," she said, staring at him.

Xander nodded. "Buffy is. I've been helping her on patrol. Unfortunately I'm a guy and therefore worthless suddenly." He sighed and rubbed his neck. "Whatever. I need to get back there. I can hide in Sunnydale better than anywhere else. I've been finding the stupidest things there since I was a kid."

"No," Tony said slowly and clearly.

"It's not safe for me to be here. They might try to take you out too."

Tony snorted. "I doubt they'd manage it."

"They managed to find all the dirty agents to try," Xander shot back, staring at him. "If I go missing, no one's really going to mind. Them taking you out would possibly mean we lose the next war the US is in. I'm not stupid, Stark. I know what 'expendable member' means." He looked at the doctor. "Anything else I have to hear before I head home?"

"Yes," one of the security team said. He handed a file to Tony. "Sorry, kid."

Tony looked at it, blinking hard. "What the fuck?" he demanded, staring at that security guy. "When did we find that?"

"Two hours ago, sir. We've been verifying it's real."

Xander leaned over to look at the pretty piece of formal paper. "Is that actually legal there?"

"Barely by six months," the guard admitted. "It's the only country so far." Xander grimaced but nodded then huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. "We're not sure what's going on yet, Mr. Harris."

Xander looked at him. "The three prices on my head, as far as I know, are from the International Council of Watchers, or the Watchers Council in more modern times. They're a bunch of paranormal researchers out of England that lord over and train their chosen female warrior as soon as they find her, even though they enjoy turning her into a little robotic warrior wench who'll willingly die young for the cause." Pepper flinched. "There's one by a higher vampire master in Sunnydale. He's mad that I help my friend Buffy. We apparently took out someone important to him during one of our yearly apocalypse battles."

He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "The last one has to be supernatural but I don't know the absolute cause and if I'm right it probably leads backward to a hidden part of the Council for some reason. I'm not sure why or how but all I've heard from the kitten poker circuit is 'high level magic user' and 'thinks bad things will come from me'." The guard took that down. "Maybe they have visions of me being taken and turned then going after the slayer line. Who knows." He shrugged. "I doubt it'd happen. I'm not like that."

"Why didn't you tell us this a few days ago?" Pepper demanded.

Tony shrugged. "I knew." Pepper blinked at him. "We talked there, Pepper. I asked him about who might be behind him being taken. He was honest about it. I've known something about the Council and I mentioned them to you as a source too." He looked at Xander. "What do you want to do about that certificate of ownership?"

Xander snorted, smiling some. It was the first one they'd seen from him. "You're cute and all but I'm still thinking that breasts might be fun some day. If we don't ignore that I'll never find out and that might be a shame."

Tony nodded. "Breasts are fun." He looked at his guard. "Hand that to the legal department. Let them fight it." He nodded, walking off with it. "Breathe, Pepper."

"That's not reality, Tony," she complained, glaring at Xander.

Xander looked at her and shrugged. "It's my reality, Pepper. The whole town's like that up there. There's an energy hole in the middle of the library floor that draws it there."

"Energy hole?" the doctor asked.

"It's called a hellmouth. It's a weak spot between hell dimensions or whatever. Our group meets beside it most nights."

The doctor got a few things. "We're going to test you for energy contamination like radiation."

"Sure," he sighed, letting them lead him off. "Can I have lunch later?"

"We'll make sure you get something, Xander." The doctor grinned. "If you're not irradiated in a harmful way I'll even let them give you pudding."

"I like me some pudding. Chocolate's one of the few goddesses I admit exist. The other is the Goddess Twinkie."

She laughed and patted him on the arm. "My son is four but he prays to the same two gods, who then hand him to a chaos one."

"According to Ethan, Janus is fun. That's why he does neat things like turn us into our halloween costumes last year." Pepper gaped at him then at Tony.

"I didn't hear a thing about that," he defended.

"Willow said that tough guy thing had to come from the soldier he went as," she said more quietly.

"Yes, it does," Xander quipped. "And if she mentioned the hyena it was trying to get Buffy to join the pack or drive her off as an unaligned female in her territory."

"That explains what she said about it," she decided.

Xander looked out with a grin. "You should hear them going off about the shape changing science teacher we had that wanted virgins and Ampata. I'm surprised she didn't." He got pulled back into the exam room.

She mouthed that phrase then shook her head quickly. "I don't want to know." She walked off.

"I would've cured the virginity if things like that come for it," Tony said dryly, walking after Xander to see what was going on.

"Not like girls like me, Stark. Girls think I'm a degenerate waste of slime for the most part. Then again, most of them are snotty bitches at the school who only care about their status and clothes."

"That's always been high school and the first year of college," Tony assured him with a smirk. "Hooker?"

"They tend to be undead in Sunnydale. I'm not Buffy and I don't sleep with walking corpses."

"Eww," Stark and the doctor both complained.

"Buffy has *lusties* for Angel because he *understands* her," Xander snorted. "The guy's over two hundred, likes to be cryptic, is a coward, is known to have tortured a bunch of people before he got a soul stuck back in him, and he's a pathetic loser."

"Tell us how you really think, Xander," Tony quipped, staring at him. "Jealous?"

"No. I had a crush. She killed that within months by being her charming self."

"You need new friends," Tony said bluntly.

"There's no one in town that would. Then what, they die from it?" He shrugged. "I've already buried too many friends, Stark."

"I can understand that." He looked at the results from the radiation sensor. "You have non-harmful radiation. A lot of non-harmful radiation."

Xander nodded. "Great. I love my hellmouth and it loves me more than any girlfriend ever will," he said dryly. "Just the sort of relationship I wanted in my life. I wonder if it'll form breasts for me, though not on the kraken Giles said is on top of it."

Tony shook his head quickly. "That's just wrong."

Xander shrugged. "I'm a practical guy sort. All I really care about are comics, staking vampires so I don't bury more friends, food, sexy time thoughts, and avoiding the 'rents."

Tony nodded. "Pepper nearly had a hissy fit about your father."

"He does that to many. I'm guessing Mom was a drunk before they got married. It's the only excuse I can think of for why she took him in since I came out fourteen months after they married and they haven't had sex since then."

"I don't have that problem," Tony quipped.

Xander looked at him. "You didn't have my mother complaining that she had gotten pregnant and her figuring out how to use the stove for the first time by heating a pan with oil and then pouring it on his crotch for making it so she had to drink less for eight months." Tony winced and grabbed himself. "My father told me about that once, said I was the worst thing he had ever done because it had broken his dick with the scar tissue. Not even the hookers in town would touch it with that many scars. Which... well, I'm not sure if I'd be willing to let him be eaten by a vampire or not." He shook his head quickly.

"You're not going home yet," Tony assured him. "We'll get your friend help. Rhodey knows a whole bunch of people who want to be heroic and volunteer to go into dangerous situations to save pretty girls." He walked off to talk to him. Rhodey was verifying things for them all through the Department of Defense. They knew about Sunnydale. They had a file on it and were more than willing to share since it meant that Stark would cooperate with them for a new weapon they could blackmail him into undercharging them for.

Xander grinned at the doc. "You're really nice."

"I'm married or else I'd make sure that your little stigma wouldn't draw another one, Harris."

He hugged her. "I like some of your clan. They play good kitten poker." She winced. He grinned. "I'm not going to bust you," he said quietly. "I can tell the difference."

"Mermaid DNA?" she demanded quietly.

"Swim team."

"Damn. Even we heard here in LA."

"Slightly." He grinned. She swatted him and got back to checking his radiation levels. The kid should be glowing by what she saw. They had to weed that out of him.


Xander looked up from his mindless tv staring when a knock hit his guest room door. He got up to answer it, nodding at Pepper and Rhodey, and the guy behind them that looked way too uptight to be anything but an agent. "Is he a real one?"

"Yeah, he is, kid," Rhodey said. He looked at him. "Be nicer."

"If he's not here to take me out for that price on my head or trying to screw with me, of course I am." He looked at the agent. "It's been a long week."

"We've heard." He got him sitting down and turned off the tv. "I heard you have some attention issues." Xander nodded. "Okay, let's start with the kidnaping. Where were you?"

"On patrol. I turned because I heard someone walking up behind me and got hit by someone in a knock-off ninja costume."

"Ninja costume?" Pepper asked.

"All covering black jumpsuit with a mask and head covering. Looked like a cheap halloween version of it."

"Okay," the agent agreed, taking that down. "Where were you when that happened?"

"Heaven's Rest cemetery. Near the new section. Like I said, we were on patrol."

"I've found out a bit about that...lifestyle." Xander gave him a dirty look. "How did you get involved in all that mess?"

"They took someone close to me," Xander said, staring at him. "Beyond that, why should one little, tiny, bitchy cheerleader have the duty to save everyone if you can jump in and save yourself?"

"Good point. I wouldn't let anyone else handle it if I was threatened." He went back to his notes. Then looked at him. "What do you remember first about waking up?"

Xander shifted to curl up some. "I heard someone complaining about my bloodwork but I couldn't open my eyes. It was like I was half asleep. Then I passed back out or was drugged, whatever. The next thing I knew I woke up in a cell with Tony Stark staring at me."

"How long were you there?"

"Three days, two nights. We had a tiny window that looked at a concrete wall."

"Okay." He made a note of that. "Why did you guys go down instead of up?"

"Tony decided that. We both thought there might have been a welcoming party. Tony shot the camera too." That got a nod of understanding. "We found an office, holed up in it for as long as we could while he called someone he knew for help, and were being dragged back to our cell when his people rushed in. Then Tony had to tell them to take me too so the capsules in us wouldn't explode."

"I heard about that." He made notes and looked at him again. "Then what?"

"There was a helicopter ride, it was my first," he said with a slight grin. "I still had a headache from the mild concussion. We came back here to the infirmary where Miss Potts had a panic attack on Mr. Stark for being kidnaped. The doc and I closed the curtain so they could have some privacy." Pepper blushed and looked down. Xander shrugged. "Friends do that I guess." He looked at the agent again. "They found the capsule thingy and took it out. I rested then the next morning an agent showed up to try to taunt me into taking his demonic ass out. The other was somehow liking the Council's ideas since he went totally pale when I mentioned them."

"I've heard about that." He made more notes. "Did you hurt the agent?"

"The demonic one? I kicked his mask off because he was taunting and threatening me. If he had actually touched me I would've probably taken his head off. I'm a bit firm on that problem thanks to what I've been doing for the last two years."

"And you know that in most of the US that's not acceptable behavior?" the agent asked.

"I've never been out of Sunnydale but I pretty well knew that the whole world wasn't as screwed up as we are there. They don't have our mayor or our vampire problem," he said dryly. "Or the denial problem the town loves."

The agent stared at him. "If it was anywhere else, hurting that agent, even if he's taunting you but not physically harming you, is considered a felony, Mr. Harris."

"If he's inciting me to commit suicide he's probably going to get it anyway," Xander said firmly.

"I get that," the agent agreed. "Just...never again unless you have to." Xander sighed but nodded. "Thank you." He went back to his notes then looked at him. "What are your present plans?"

"I've tried to spare them the drama by going home a few times. They won't let me."

"I doubt Stark's holding you hostage," the agent snorted but he was smiling slightly.

"I never said he was. He won't let me spare them the drama by going home. Miss Potts talked to Willow and apparently my worthless sperm donor. Well, supposed one. Mom said a few times he wasn't her only dick in life."

"Our infirmary doctor said that the drugs they gave them was making Xander a bit blunt and too tough for his own good," Pepper said.

"Guys like Xander is turning into are always tough guys, Miss Potts," the agent said dryly with a smile for her. "Sometimes they turn into agents."

Xander shook his head. "I know the Mayor's screwed up my files somehow. The principal too probably."

"Probably," he agreed dryly, smirking at the kid. "You're listed as part of a violent gang that goes around causing problems for the town."

"Well, we knew he was some sort of bad guy," Xander said dryly. "Yay for us."

"Do you think we could stop the bad guy?"

Xander snorted, staring at him. "Have they yet?"

"No. A lot of people don't look at it that way."

"And yet our extremely high death rate keeps going on and on," he said sarcastically. "And no one's said a word about it. Not the state, not the feds, no one."

"You think he's got a way to block it?"

"Don't really know," Xander admitted. "Not sure if it'd help even if we could figure out how he's doing it. It might just make people more mad and make them attack us for finding out and taking away their blinders."

"That is a possibility," the agent agreed. He made a note to look into that. He looked at Xander. "I've had the warrant to arrest you removed." Xander nodded his thanks and grinned. "What are your current plans?"

"Gotta go back up the slayer," he said quietly. "Before she dies again."

"If you can't go home?"

Xander stared at him. "Sunnydale's denial problem means that no one would realize I was in trouble. They don't realize it when their own kids come home dead. They'll just think I was at some sort of camp or blood told and I ended up in a cell for a few days."

"That's possible," the agent agreed. "I'll let you and Stark handle that." He stood up. "Try to relax?"

"I'm not worried about those sort. If they come they do. If they don't, there's always another bad thing going on."

"Good point." He left, going to talk to Stark and Potts together. Then his boss. He had taped the interview. His boss called in those first agents and the agent with the statement removed the mask on him, making the demon attack him. His boss wasn't pleased but he wasn't going to bother the kid for being kidnaped or defending himself. Those agents.... They probably needed to quickly find a new job somewhere else. Before he told the higher ups about it.


After the earlier incident.


Xander walked into the office, nodding at Pepper. "You wouldn't believe the idiots in this world."

She grimaced. "I would. I deal with a lot of them, Xander. What happened?"

"Another fake move by the Council to get me," he said dryly. She huffed. "Fake bomb, mostly fake agents, handing my underage ass over to the supposed hostage guy."

"Oh, dear," she sighed. "Will we need to intervene with more agents?"

Xander smiled and tossed over his phone. "That might help."

She listened to the tape and nodded. "That proves you're turning into an asshole." She smiled at him.

He grinned back. "I was already there, Pepper. Sometimes I have to prove it."

She nodded. "You did."

He grinned. "Thank you for sending Happy to pick me up."

"Not my doing."

"Ah. Well, thank him then." He grinned. "Let me get to grayhound." Happy made a complaining noise. "It's the middle of the night, Happy, and you need to rest. I can take a bus for the two hours it'll take to get to Sunnydale."

"No you can't. The boss said you're staying here today."

"Fine. I have to make sure Willow doesn't get into my 'in case I disappear' stuff after all." He called her from his phone. "It's me, I'm alive, the guys who took me are all suffering greatly and tell Buffy they sounded a lot like Giles?" He grinned. "Hi, Mr. Rosenburg. No, actually, fake agents trying to hand me to someone earlier. Totally unreasonable. Apparently he thought I'd make a nice toy," he said dryly. "Willow has my locker combination to get my 'in case I disappear' letter. I told her earlier in case she needed into it." He listened. "Exactly and I'm okay but I'll probably be back late tomorrow. LA at the moment."

He snorted. "Like the Sunnydale PD is going to do a thing about anything my family does," he said sarcastically. "If they won't come out when my father was chasing Uncle Rory up the street with a carving knife, I doubt they're going to care about this. Exactly, which is why I warned Willow in case I disappeared," he finished dryly. "No, I didn't think you'd be home until tomorrow. That's what she told us. Sorry to have woken you as well." He hung up and shook his head. "Her parents are such pains," he muttered.

"They seem nice," Pepper said. "I've seen a few interviews with them."

Xander looked at her. "Which Willow was patiently waiting at home alone while they did," he said. Pepper winced. "Yeah, not really good at it. Then again, like mother like daughter in their case because they both whine about things that don't really matter and nag about things that never did while ignoring the important stuff." He shifted his weight. "Willow probably complained that I got taken from patrol, which they didn't want me on anyway, which left Buffy all alone out there and she might have gotten hurt without anyone to make sure she was helped."

"If they didn't want you there," Happy said.

"I'm not *special* because I'm not a girl," Xander said with a grin for him. "Or Giles. Apparently my training on the job doesn't count."

"They're girls and therefore cranky a week every month," Happy offered, getting glared at by Pepper. "Most are at their ages. They mostly grow out of it later on."

"Then explain the rest of the month's problems?" Xander asked.

"Can't do that," Happy admitted. "You sure you want to go back there?"

"And who's going to help and backup Buffy? Miss Float A Stake? She who thinks that demons are the only bad things in the world?"

Happy grimaced. "That's a sucky choice."

"Yeah, but it's a duty," Xander sighed then shrugged. "If I'm not there, no one else seems to want to help most of the time. So we do what we gotta do."

Happy nodded. "I've had many days of doing the duty even though I didn't want to." Xander grinned. Happy looked behind him. "Rescued him, boss."

"Thanks, Happy. Xander, can't you stay out of trouble?"

"They're the ones that set it up."

"I heard. I talked to some local agents and they heard. They're not real happy."

"With me?" Xander asked dryly. "Wow, it's almost a track record now." He grimaced.

"No, with them. You were called inappropriately mouthy but they saw the last file too." Xander grinned. "When did they show up in Sunnydale?"

"Few weeks back." He smirked. "Buffy killed a robot pretending to be her mom's boyfriend. Got arrested for it too."

Tony winced. "For some reason I feel the need to take something for this new headache." He got into Pepper's desk drawer to find something. He took it and looked at him. "Robot?"

"Named Ted. Kinda looked like the guy on _Three's Company_."

Tony considered it. "I know him. He was a robot? Not that I'd be shocked since he wasn't really able to deal with people." Xander wrote down the guy's address and handed it over with a grin. "Thanks. We'll see since he used to be one of ours that got fired." He looked at Pepper.

"He was going to find grayhound. Did you know Willow's parents were absentees?"

"Yeah. Her school record has almost no absences and they travel on and off throughout the year. She doesn't have a nanny or anything either."

"They've been doing this since she started school and couldn't travel with them anymore," Xander said. "Back then they'd leave for a day or two and leave her food in the fridge in tupperware. When they caught her trying to make cookies at seven her mom taught her more and they went on longer trips since she could handle things."

Pepper grimaced. "There went any respect anyone should have for them."

Xander nodded. "No one pays attention to that stuff in Sunnydale." He shrugged. "It's the way it is. Blame the Mayor since we've just found out he helped set up the town."

"Isn't Sunnydale nearly a century old?" Tony asked.

"Yeah it is." Xander smiled. "He's been our only mayor."

"So he's really a bad thing, not just a bad guy," Tony said. Xander grinned and nodded. "Hell."

"Basically, yup." He smiled.

"You're way too happy about that."

"It's like the thread we were missing in the tapestry of the town," Xander said. "Kinda wraps things up nicely in the same ribbon."

"I guess it does." He blinked a few times. "You don't have to go back."

Xander stared at him. "That leaves two problems: me doing what, and Buffy being backed up by who?"

Tony smirked. "I don't think the Doctor would like patrol too much."

"No, probably not," Xander agreed. "It's pretty much a violent thing and he's more a non-violent guy instead unless you're at least partially robotic."

"Any idea why he's been doing this so long?" Tony asked.

"No clue. We're still looking into it."

"Huh." He grimaced, looking Xander over. "You're losing weight? At your age I was gaining."

"Gave myself food poisoning last week." Tony stared at him. "Not like my mother cooks, Tony. I had some bad ranch dressing."

"Eww, but did that in college."

"Not a place I'm going to visit so I'll do all that wild and wacky stuff now," Xander quipped with a smirk for him.

"You could go," Pepper said blandly. "You're a smart guy, Xander." She had gotten used to Tony and Xander quipping back and forth at each other instead of holding an actual conversation.

"Yeah, but I learn best by doing, not by reading or lectures that knock me out." He stuck his hands in his pocket. "That's not the guy I am, Pepper. Some guys like things simpler."

"They do," Tony agreed. "You'll miss out on some of the fun stuff though. You could go to get a few credits here and there."

"I heard what frat parties are like from Buffy and Cordy when they snuck out to one. I don't think I want to be sacrificed to the demon under one of them like they nearly were."

Tony blinked. "I've been to many frat parties in my day but never seen one with that.... Addams College," he said. Xander smirked. "We wondered what was going on with them all suddenly being disgraced."

"The demon under their frat got killed."

"I'm so glad I never rushed a frat," Tony decided, smiling at Pepper.

"No, you have honorary membership in a few sororities though," she quipped back with an evil smirk.

"They're great to me." He grinned. "That's something you'll miss, Xander. College girls."

Xander snorted. "With the way the girls are around me, I'm starting to see the point of gay sex," he said blandly. "Because I'd never date a bitch like them." Tony burst out laughing. "Seriously! If there was ever a reason to be gay, it's Buffy and Willow. Though I'm not sure Willow didn't subtly drive another kid to suicide the other day. Because one of her tutoring cases did after a session and he was doing better." He shifted his weight again. "We're not sure what happened there but Willow got pouty about it for a day then huffed a bit, then apparently she's a carrier of the Sunnydale Denial Disease because the next day neither she nor Buffy understood why we were having a moment of silence for him." Xander shook his head. "At least there haven't been any more memorial services this year," he muttered.

"You guys had memorial services?" Happy asked.

Xander looked at him and nodded. "Every few weeks."

"Why?" he demanded.

"Because our class started kindergarten with just about two-hundred-fifty kids. We've got one-thirty-two at the moment. Not all have died, but a good number of the ones we dropped have." Happy slumped. Xander shrugged. "That's why Buffy patrols and I back her up." Pepper shuddered. "The town has the highest prescribing rate of psych drugs too, for those that the denial problem doesn't work for."

Tony shuddered. "That's just .... that's really horrifying, Xander."

"Well, yeah. But welcome to Sunnydale, home of a hellmouth and a ten percent vampire population," he darkly quipped with a slight smirk. "It's got everything you need so you won't have to try to escape the town."

"Damn," Tony said. Xander nodded. "You sure you want to go back there?" Xander stared at him. "I get why." Xander nodded. "Want to spend a free day?"

Xander smiled. "I should go back before Willow gets into my locker anyway to see what I have in there."

"I can have you driven."

"I'm good, Tony. I can take grayhound. One gets there about six in the morning so I'll even make classes."

Tony stared at him. "Don't argue."

"Happy's tired," Xander said more firmly. "He had to go about an hour away from here to pick me up from the supposed agents."

"Fine. We'll have one of the security guys bring you."

Xander nodded. "I can accept that. Thanks."

"Welcome. Still working on the annulment."

"I know. You're meant for pretty, big brained things, not guys like me."

"Quit putting yourself down before I have Pepper spank you," Tony shot back, staring at him. "That's a really annoying habit, Xander."

"In some people it's seen as reality. Guys like me don't get girls like Pepper. Guys like you get girls like Pepper. I get girls who work at fast food places." He shrugged. "It happens like that."

"Not always."

"No, then people wonder how you did it," he shot back with a grin. "I'm not a porn star, they're not going to get with me for that." Tony snorted but batted him on the arm. Xander smiled back.

"Go take a nap on the break room couch. We'll get you up about shift change," Happy said. "One of the guys lives about an hour from there, Xander." Xander looked at Tony, who nodded that was a good plan. Xander grinned at him and let Happy lead him to said couch.

Tony looked at Pepper. "He needs a self esteem shot."

"He could, yup." She looked at him. "How is that going?"

"They don't want to admit that someone took a bribe to put the wedding into the files without us being there. Therefore they're saying that it's legal and they can't do a thing about it. Even with paperwork from both of us."

She grimaced. "So if they won't openly admit it's happened....."

"They won't undo it. Someone actually said it was to protect me from the harsh glare of the press that follow people like me around."

"Hmmmm," she said dryly. "Not likely. We can spin it if we have to. People know you were taken for a few days. The FBI leaked it."

"I heard," he complained. He walked off shaking his head. "Make sure he gets home okay, Pepper."

"I will, Tony." She made sure Happy had talked to that guard then went to her own home. Xander brought a lot of frustration to their lives but it wasn't really the boy's fault. He didn't do it on purpose and he hadn't wanted to be married off to Tony Stark. It was mostly because it was highly apparent that Xander didn't fit into Stark's lifestyle or life in any way possible. Tony Stark would never go for anyone without a college degree.


Xander walked up to his locker and took the letter from Willow's hand. "I told you I'd be back." He shut the locker door and smiled.

"In case I've been missing for three days and probably turned or dead?" she demanded.

"Yeah, that way you can make sure that things like my photo album don't get burned." She blanched. "Not like my parents would care. It won't make them money."

"Good point I guess."

"I can name someone else, Willow."

"Who?" she snorted.

He glared. "I do know other people." He walked off. "Going to get something to drink for breakfast."

"Where were you?" she demanded.

He looked at her. "There was a guy who demanded me so he could have that *charming* price someone British put on my head." She went pale and shook her head. "Yeah, it was." He shrugged. "It's handled and if there's more pretend agents we'll see what happens." He turned and found the principal sneering at him. "It's sad that you couldn't tell they were fake agents," he said dryly. "Even I caught that." He walked around him.

"Why did they want you, Harris?"

Xander looked at him. "Because there's some English guy that's decided I'm worth a few mil to him. Not sure *why* he thinks that or why me." A lie but oh well. "But they were trying for that." The principal's mouth fell open. Xander shrugged. "Personally I think it had to do with the last guy that took me and had me hostage with someone else for a few days." Willow squeaked. "So who knows. Right now, I need a soda before classes start so I can do my best."

"Not like it'll be good enough," the principal sneered and stomped off to report that.

"He might call someone to get you," Willow hissed as she caught up to him.

Xander snorted and got a soda out of the machine. "I'm sure he'd like that but I doubt it. He'd never be able to do it himself and anyone like that would take him out to get all the money for themselves." He shrugged. "I'm not worried about him." He walked off sipping his soda to go to home room.

"No books, Xander?" the teacher asked.

He took a drink of soda. "Would it do any good?"

"Probably not. You could get out of here and do things."

Xander stared at her. "Even if college was an option with my grades, do we actually see me doing good there?"

"No," she said honestly. "Well, maybe a trade school."

"I've had that thought, and if we had one here I'd go." He sat down.

"It's strange that we don't have a vo-tech program." He grinned and settled in. "Long night?"

"Yeah, super long night." She nodded, accepting that. Not like everyone didn't know that his parents drank.

Willow and Buffy walked in. Buffy looked at him. "You made it home already?"

"Yeah, the fake agents that showed up to get me for that stupid British guy were handled." Someone else came in and he paid them the few bucks in his pocket. "Thanks, man."

"Welcome, Harris. What happened?"

"Huge issue." He waved his soda can. "There's a crackhead somewhere wanting their fairytale back." The other guy snorted but nodded at that. The bell rang and the school day started. Another day of fun learning on the hellmouth, where you learned absolutely nothing.

Giles looked at Xander during lunch. "You look stiff and uptight. Is there still a problem?"

"During the last kidnaping I was exposed to something and it takes a few days to wear out of my system but it brings up the soldier," he said quietly. "Last night, thanks to some fake agents that wanted the price the Council put on my head, I took something to renew that feeling so I'd have a slight edge. So I'll be semi-soldier Xander for a few days." Giles gaped. "Sure as hell beats being killed," he said dryly. Giles' mouth shut and the older man nodded. "I think it's sad your people had some actual agents messed up in that. Their poor careers will probably never be the same." He walked off. "Going to patrol."

"No you're not," Buffy said.

Xander looked at her. "Yes I am and if you want to join me, you can do that." She gaped. He grinned. "The soldier's back out. It helped with last night." He walked off.

"Does that mean you took a stupid pill with it?" she demanded. "I'm the slayer, Xander." He turned and punched her, knocking her out.

"Huh," he said, then looked at Willow, who backed off slowly. "Maybe I'm still affected by it a tiny bit. It does tend to make me intolerant of bitching." She fled. He looked at Giles. "Sorry." He grabbed his crossbow. "She's been bitching at me about things that aren't my fault all day long again. Even I have a limit." He walked off.

"That was uncalled for," Giles complained.

"Then trade places with me for a day, Giles. I'm sure Ethan could do that for you," Xander shot back before the door closed.

Giles came over to check on his slayer. She was waking up. "He took something to bring up the soldier," he reminded her when she blinked at him. "He's reacting a bit meanly due to it."

"I'm going to break his arms," she said, sitting up.

"I doubt that will solve anything. He'll apologize once he's got it out of his system." She glared. "If it was take that or death due to the Council," he said quietly.

"I guess I'd take it too. I'm still breaking his arms."

"I'm sure you will." He helped her up. "He left with his crossbow."

"He'll never get anything done," she said dryly. "I'll go behind him and patrol later." She rubbed her cheek. The pain was already fading due to her faster healing. She sat down and pouted. Xander had turned on her. "All guys suck."

"He said you've been picking on him all day?"


He stared at her. "Are you certain? Boys like Xander don't snap for minor things, Buffy, and your attitude toward him has gotten a bit outrageous."

"He's *normal*!" she complained with a point at the door. "He's going to get hurt. He doesn't have any training or anything else. Angel agrees with me too!"

Giles grimaced. "Not that I'd take Angel's word for anything," he said bluntly, making her back down. "Xander has been helping you for years."

"So?" she snorted. "That's gone now." They all heard something explode and went to look. There was a burning car in the parking lot but no sign of anyone. "You don't think that was Xander, do you?" she asked quietly.

Giles looked as he called for the fire department. "No, I see feet from under the back bumper," he said with a point. "Those aren't his." She huffed and went back inside. He'd talk to Xander in the morning about apologizing to her. It was really out of Xander's normal character to be so mean to Buffy.


Buffy cornered Xander the next morning. "You had better apologize, Mister. Now."

Xander stared down at her. "For what? Giving back what you keep putting out? Did you think you could keep pushing and not get it back?"

"That wasn't pushing."

Xander nodded. "You're right, that wasn't pushing. Me pushing you would get you out of my face."

She glared harder. "You still up there?"

"No. It's been gone since last night." She gaped. "Some of us are just tired of a lot of things." He walked around her. "Including the bait outfit you wore to school. Not like he'll show up here to appreciate it, Buffy."

She sneered. "Not like you'd know anything about that, Xander."

He looked back at her and shrugged. "Mine have been kinda pathetic. So?" She gaped. He went to his locker and then to class. Willow was already glaring at him. He stared back until she backed away slowly. "Thank you for getting out of my seat." He sat down.

The principal sneered as he leaned in. "Harris, weren't you in the parking lot last night?"

"I was halfway to the Bronze when someone blew up the teacher's car, Principal Snyder. I believe they found the reason when they put out the fire since she was mumbling about drilling into her gas tank to put something on it as I walked past there." Snyder growled. Xander shrugged. "I didn't set her car on fire. I don't carry matches." Snyder stomped off. Xander waved at the doorway.

"She was?" the home room teacher asked.

Xander nodded. "She was mumbling about emission controls they gave her a ticket for not having."

"Oh, dear. She did say that." The principal didn't come back so apparently Xander had been right. The kids went to their later classes.

"I don't even know why you try with how badly you do," Willow said bitterly.

Xander looked at her. "And yet, I got an A on my last test," he said quietly. "I already know what I can and can't do, and I'm not going to let some pathetic loser like the principal tell me that." She flinched. "Or anyone else." He looked at the teacher.

"He adjusts everyone's grades when we submit them," the teacher agreed. "He has since he got appointed vice principal." Willow slumped. "If he hasn't touched yours, that's because he thinks you're not worthy of the time and effort, Willow. Be thankful. He could have done a lot of harm to your future career." He looked at Xander. "You're a bit bitter today."

"It's fine."

"You sure?"

"Yup." The teacher nodded and handed out the pop quiz. Xander stared at it and considered not doing it but sighed and did it anyway. The teacher smiled at him. "Not like it does any good."

"No, but maybe you'll get out of here one day and it will."

"That'd be a nice future."

"You can always go," Buffy said dryly.

"Sure, and I can also end up in social services custody since I'm a minor," he shot back. She slumped. He looked at the teacher, who suddenly understood why Xander was icy and snotty to the girls. They had started it. Again. The teachers had remarked a few times on the girls starting on him again and how they were all looking forward to Harris blood telling when he beat them both.

"Miss Summers, please adjust your seating," the teacher said firmly. "I did not need to know that much about you." She blushed and pushed her skirt back down. "I think that skirt's a bit out of dress code, don't you?"

"I didn't get a chance to do laundry last night. Sorry."

He handed her the slip to go to the office. He stared at Willow, who slumped down. "At least we never have that problem with you, Willow." He went over their new material for the day. Xander looked interested, that was a good thing, even though they were going over acids.


Buffy went to whine to her mother, who gave her a confused look. "I got put into detention for my skirt. Xander's mean and evil."

"He's not."

"He hit me."

Joyce stared. "He did what?"

Willow huffed in. "My mother's back. Someone noted to her that she was abandoning me and that wasn't a good thing for her career."

"Xander hit her?" Joyce demanded.

"She was trying to make Xander quit going on patrol again. He's *normal* and he's going to get hurt."

Joyce stared at her daughter. "It was my understanding that you'd be dead right now if it wasn't for him, Buffy." Buffy flinched. So did Willow. "So why the sudden change?"

"He's *normal* and he's going to get hurt."

"Well, apparently he can handle you," Joyce said dryly. Buffy stomped off. "And change that skirt! You grew out of it last year!" She looked at Willow. "How often is your mother not home?"

"Um.... they have to do book tours?" she said hesitantly.

"Willow, go look up what child abandonment means."

"I'm not a child!"

Joyce stared at her. "By law you are until you're eighteen or emancipated."

Willow sighed but went to look that law up so she could refute her mother's claims and send her away again. Everything was easier without her mother.

Joyce went to find Xander to talk to him. He had a part-time job, she knew that. He was at it and came out to talk to her. "You hit her?"

"Yup. Because I'm tired of being told I'm worthless. I get enough of that from other sources. Your friends shouldn't be one." Joyce winced. "I don't know what's wrong with her hormones but it's been constant for over a month, Joyce. I love your daughter like a sister but *damn*."

"Language," she warned.


She looked at him. "Are you on something?" she hissed.

He walked her off further, sighing some. "Did she tell you about the fake agents that showed up?" She slowly shook her head. "Thanks to helping her, the Council so nicely decided they want to kill me. So some agents showed up the other night to try that in a complicated, messy manner. Thanks to that Halloween...."

"I remember that. No one... you remember?"

"If I take something like rophies, yes. Which I did because fake agents showed up to kill me," he said more quietly, glancing around then at her. "Personally I think it was a really good idea."

"It was if it helped, but... that only lasts for a few hours."

He nodded. "It did. It also showed me just how much bitching I've been putting up with. The soldier, he's not happy. I had many dreams of 'maybe you should let them do it if they want it so much'." Joyce winced. "Which I can't and won't do. It's my choice to jump in and do things to protect myself even if your daughter doesn't like it."

"Harris," his boss called.

"Be right there, this is Buffy's mom and she's been acting strange," he called without looking. He looked around then at Joyce again. "You should go. That car has one of the fake agents," he said quietly. She looked and nodded, heading home to talk to her daughter. Xander went back to work.

The fake agent stomped in. "Mr. Harris," he sneered. The boss came over so he flashed his ID.

Xander took it to look at. "That's not proper Latin."

"You read latin?" the boss and the fake agent demanded.

"Yeah." Xander tossed it back. "I do." The fake agent stepped back looking scared. Xander grinned at the Sunnydale PD officer who showed up to gloat. "Hey, guys, his ID's a fake one." The officer looked happier at that. "The Latin's totally wrong and the words are the wrong color."

The officer took the ID to look at and nodded. "It is. Thanks, Harris."

Xander grinned. "Doing my civic duty."

The officer snorted, staring at him. "At least you don't drink."

"I don't really like drinking. It makes you dumber than you already are." He looked at the fake agent, smiling some. "He tried to remove me from town a few days back."

"Kidnaping too. We heard Rosenburg tried to report that." He walked him off. That made the guy very interesting and the Mayor would like to hear about that, which would get him a bonus.

Xander smiled and waved. "You have a great life, however long it lasts." He went back to work. His boss was looking worried. "Totally came up to me while I was hanging out and tried to have me removed from town, which made Buffy and Willow act weird. Which meant her mother showed up."

"Kids are like that when they're stressed out. You're acting a bit tough."

Xander nodded. "Sometimes you gotta."

"Yeah, you do." He patted him on the back. "Get back to work. I won't count you off for that."

Xander grinned and got to work. That was a nice extra break.


Xander walked into Tony's garage without warning. "Red or blue?"

Tony didn't look up. "Blue. You look better in blue. For the prom?" He looked over. Xander held up the wires. "Blue please." He took it with a smirk. "Social call?"

"I got told to leave the town forever more by Buffy. Of course that was after she had been told that she nearly got blown up by someone trying to get the school." Tony winced at that. "And that I was there. I pointed out I stopped the bomb, I didn't plant it, and nagged until Willow hacked the security footage to prove it. She's still huffy and insists I have to leave my own town. I pointed out I was there first and she should probably move if she wanted to quit looking at me every single day."

"Still trying to push you out of patrol?"

"Yup, and did that last night too." He sat down on one of the rolling stools. "That's not why I'm here." Tony turned to look at him since that sounded serious. "When I was disarming the bomb, which I have never seen before, somehow I knew what I needed to do."

"What sort was it?"

"Stump removers on top of propane barrels."

Tony grimaced. "Knew how?"

"Like I looked at it and up popped the thought of 'that wire's critical'."

"They didn't tamper with you there."

"That we know of."

"True, they apparently had you for three days before they sent you into the cell. Do you think they tampered?"

"I'm not sure if they did something to make the soldier more prominent all the time or not. I'm not sure if he knew explosives or not. I know I realized I was doing military PT this morning."

"That's not a bad idea with your current unpaid job," he said dryly, getting back to work.

"The soldier guy, I looked him up, was a Ranger."

"So possibly some special skills."

"He was a radio guy." Tony grimaced. "So probably not that much. And somehow I know more medic training too. That was probably him. That's something I'd do before I went to a war zone."

"Me too. How much do you know about him?"

"I used that new site, Google, to look up his name. Found his death announcement." Tony stared at him. "His mom used to live outside of town after he died. She died during a huge storm, which I'm not sure if it was a coverup or not, and all her stuff got sent to the thrift store locally."

"Which is where you got them," Tony said. Xander nodded. "Need me to ask Rhodey if he can find anything on the guy?"

"I'm not worried about him. I was more hoping your people had thought to grab any records from the lab."

"No, not really. If they had found us in a lab they would've. I can ask Rhodey if anyone went back there."

"Thanks." Xander tossed down an envelope. "Since I no longer have a 'please make sure no one destroys certain things' person in Willow, that's where my safety deposit box is in LA. I had to lie like hell to get it since I'm only seventeen but it's got things like my picture albums and stuff. Make sure my parents can't claim it?"

"I can do that." He stared at him. "They've still got it buried."

Xander shrugged. "It'll matter more to you than me, Tony. I'm realistic. There's not a lot of chance you won't end up being a widower."

"That's kinda depressing, Xander."

"Yeah, well, we're coming up on something bigger again. We might have to make peace to deal with it."

"You could leave after that."

Xander nodded. "I'm going on a road trip." He grinned. "See some of the US, all that. My parents even made me buy a boat from Rory since he wanted to sell his old car."

"Boat?" he joked. Xander pointed. He walked over to look at it, nodding. "That's a huge, gas guzzling boat."

"That has a lot of rust," Xander said dryly. He smiled. "It should get me far enough and if I get stranded, I'll figure it out."

"You sure?"

"Yup, I'm kinda looking forward to getting the hell out of dodge after graduation and seeing some of the prettier version of reality where people don't get eaten because they ordered a pizza."

"That does suck." He looked at him. "You going to be okay on it?"

"Yeah, it'll be a relief to get out of hell for a bit. Then I'll decide if I'm going back or not."

"That's kinda smart. You're sounding burnt out."

"I am. I know I am. It's been three years and we've made a dent, a tiny little dent, but nothing else. Though, and this was cute, they awarded Buffy a special umbrella thingy for making us the largest graduating class since the school opened."

"Did you and Willow...." Xander shook his head. "At all?"

"No. I'd never expect them to. Not like they see the real me either. If Willow, who's known me forever, can't, the others certainly won't."

"Why do you have a D average?"

"Snyder can't lower it any more than that without keeping me there forever," he said with a grin. "Since he can't make me quit or drop out he doesn't want that."

"He should be fired."

"He's one of the Mayor's flunkies, Tony. Of course they're not going to fire him. He helps cover up stuff and gets his power kick jollies off at the same time. Even if he does try to blame everything on the group. Since I'm fray adjacent I'm an easier target but not that much. Oh, fake agent guy showed up the other day. His ID was so fake. Wrong Latin, wrong text color."

"Great," Tony said sarcastically.

"The officer that showed up to gloat about another Harris going down got all happy that they had a fake agent to turn in." He grinned.

"Your town's so screwed up."

"Yeah, it kinda is." He shrugged. "If I die during the whatever it is this spring, don't destroy the photo albums please. They're the last ones in existence."

"I can do that." He clapped him on the arm. "You in for a long visit?"

"Nah, just came by to ask that and hand you that. I'm destressing. It's a pretty day and I'm going to be ignored by pretty girls on the beach who think I'm basically slime." He got into his car and started the engine. He saw the wince at his engine and shrugged. "What did you expect?" He drove off.

Tony sighed, sending Xander a car manual so he could tune up that wreck of a car his parents had made him buy. He put the envelope into his safe with Xander's name and 'pertinent documents' on it. Pepper would understand that if she had to use it. He got back to work after sending a text to Rhodey to look into that. That was a bit weird, but then again Xander dealt with weird things. Who knew with Sunnydale.

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