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Lineage of the Damned 6: Birthright Issues.

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Lineage of the Damned 6: Birthright Issues.








Xander looked up from his tending a plant in the park in New York that he liked to hang out when he was avoiding Hansel. "Yes?" he asked, getting back to the plant. It was a bit sick so he was healing it.

"You're the one that's part maenad, yes?" she asked.

He stood up and looked at her, nodding some. "I am. Why?"

"Can you tame snakes?"

"Never tried."

"Can you nurse animals?"

"I'm mostly a guy," he said dryly. "Sometimes I do switch but I've never tried to nurse anything. Not really something I'm into. Can I calm animals? Yes. I got seriously yelled at for nearly bringing home a wolf cub from Germany after I was reveling there."

She blinked a few times. "Can you call forth water springs, wine, anything like that?"

"There's been over eight hundred generations between us," he said dryly. "But never really tried. Then again, I don't carry a thyrus wand either." She gaped. He grinned. "I know, the internet's a great thing. Hamadryad?" he asked. She nodded slowly. "There's a local group that revels monthly in some woods outside of town. I usually end up with some in the midwest. There's a town out there that accepts us. The local group is usually well protected though. That way no one tries to interrupt the revel going on."

"Do we do it on certain days?"

"No, well, kinda. The group I tend to revel with does it usually on moon dark. That's their usual choice. Technically, by historic sources there was no set date. There were dates of celebration to Dionysus but revels were anytime they or he wanted. Depending on the source and the amount of divinity they put toward us." He shrugged. "Some say they're all chaste too and that just doesn't work for me since I'm also part incubus."

She blushed. "You are?"

"There was a freaky orgy way back when." He shrugged and grinned. "I do like plants. I have a lot of them at home. The one I study with complained about them earlier and threatened to burn them all on me but he had a hangover."

"What about the other gifts?" she demanded.

He shrugged. "I'm not all that interested in trying it. Why do I need to call forth a fountain of wine? I have some at home that I've chosen because I like the taste and I don't have to filter dirt out of it."

"There's the gift of prophecy."

"Yeah, there is," he agreed. "And it sucks ass. I know those with visions. It comes with huge headaches that feel like someone's using an oil drill in your brain. Even the dream ones suck ass because you never want to sleep again."

"Why?" she asked, looking confused.

"You don't get visions about fluffy, sweet things, dear. You get visions about bad things. Things like battles, being attacked, that sort of thing. Sometimes things like your family dying in a car wreck." She shuddered. "Not exactly what you want to see. I've never met one with visions that could spit one out on command or because someone asked. That may have been a lost gift." He looked around then at her again. "Who knows."

"You said you're mostly a guy." He switched then switched back, making her stare in horrified awe. He grinned. "How?" she squeaked.

"That. Sometimes I revel that way, sometimes not. It depends on what I'm doing." He grinned and tucked his hands into his pockets. "Why did you want to know?"

"That's not the benefits as we know them."

"There's also a difference between those that were turned by Dionysus and those that were his immortal priestesses. Really, I had a nymphly ancestor that turned maenad, though I'm not sure why. Apparently it suited her."

"What type?"

"Napaea."

"Fields?"

"Groves," he corrected. "Usually shy, quiet sorts."

"Huh." She stared at him. "Can you do the ritual dances?"

"No, when I'm reveling, the wind gives me the music I dance to. It gives us all the music we dance to as we move through the woods. You really should revel the once. It's very freeing. Even for the few uptight Wicca I know who think they can fly a broomstick backwards. I got one of them into reveling and she suddenly remembered her joy with the earth."

"I didn't think about it that way." She blinked a few times. "What about those who go in costume?"

"The groups I know about, no one's in anything but clothes. Fawn skins aren't really necessary. I tend to go in jeans and a t-shirt. I go barefoot usually. So do the girls."

"I haven't seen those. Do you cosplay at conventions?" He smiled and shook his head. "Oh. Did you know there was one on tv?"

"I've seen something about that. Someone I know sent me links about it but I don't watch paranormal shows too often. Too much like homework and I want to yell at the tv too often. Which makes the one I study with pissed off. He doesn't watch those sort of things either. Rome sometimes but not True Blood."

"Wow. Why?"

"Naked times."

She blushed again, nodding slightly. "I guess that's a guy for you."

"Sometimes," he agreed, smiling at someone walking toward them. "You look like it's a bad day. Come meet the plants?"

"I can do that," she agreed, nodding at the young woman. She sniffed the flowers Xander had been healing. "Very nice work, Xander."

"Thank you, Mal. Mal, she was asking questions about if I could manifest the natural gifts."

"Most of the ones that I know of who are maenad offspring can deal with animals very well but I'm not sure about the rest. Never tried." She looked at Xander, who shook his head. "Not that I'd expect you to try to nurse anything."

"Me either."

Mal batted him on the arm with a grin. "Are you coming to join us this month?"

"I can do that instead of the one I end up at. The woods are still pretty."

"There'll be peace this month. We've already arranged it with the locals." He grinned, hugging her. She looked at the young one. "Those with any heritage are welcome among us."

"I'll keep that in mind. Thank you," she said, nodding and leaving them to cuddle or whatever. Her cosplay group would not believe this.

Xander winked at her. "She's got some but I think she meant they playact it," he said quietly.

"Probably. Nymphs are popular creatures." She pinched him on the arm. "Hansel's looking for you."

"He got grumpy earlier and threatened to burn all my plants on me so I gave him some space."

"Figures. He's pouty now. He said to go help Jason with someone."

"Sure. I can do that." He kissed her on the cheek again. "Yell my way to remind me?"

"I can do that." She swatted him, letting him jog off. She got to work on the flowers. She did adore flowers.

***

Xander walked up to where Jason was outside the station on his phone trying very hard not to yell at someone on the other end. "Gas company?" he guessed.

Jason jumped, staring at him. "Don't sneak up on me, Xander."

"Sorry. I got told to come help you by Hansel, who called Mal at the bookstore."

"I could use it. I have a total fruitcake upstairs."

"Of which path?"

"Claims he follows the Norse ones."

Xander nodded. "Okay. I've studied them a tiny bit. We can see how deep he's into it. What did he do?"

"We think he did some sort of ritual thing to kill his friend over something trivial."

"Were they tied naked, spreadeagle between two trees and had their lungs pulled out of their bodies to dry out in the air?" Jason nodded slowly. "That's what they do to oathbreakers so maybe." He smiled at Casey as she walked over. "Norse oathbreaker?"

"No idea."

"I can ask." She led him up there. He walked in and stared. The man stared back. "I've studied some Norse," he said in Swedish. The man blinked and sighed. Xander grinned. "I had a girlfriend who was and followed. Well, kinda girlfriend. What oath did he break?"

"I will not speak without an attorney."

"Okay. I'm just here to see if you did it properly for my cousin, who's an officer. I'm not part of their investigative team." Xander nodded at the window. "They're out there." He crossed his feet, leaning against the wall beside the door. "Did you properly prepare him, tell him his crimes and sentence, write it on him so others would see and know?" The man blinked. Xander stared back. "That is how it's properly done from what she said. She'd know, she was originally Norse way back when before she got a job being slightly immortal."

"Valkyrie?" he sneered.

"Vengeance demon." The man swallowed hard. "Anya lost her job so I took her out." He shrugged. "She explained things to me very well. She was always happy to do that."

"He broke his oaths to me."

"Okay," Xander agreed. "Which oath did he break?"

"All of them. He was like family and he broke them," the man said, staring at him.

"The one I had like that died when he was captured," Xander said quietly. "I know how much it hurts to lose someone that important." The man nodded, looking at his hands. "Did you properly do the ritual?"

"I...." He swallowed and looked at him. "He was leaving me, us. He was leaving to go with some floosy instead of doing right by his family."

Xander hugged him. "I understand." He kissed him on the head. "I hope your family understands the honor he broke." The man nodded, looking down again. "Did you do it properly? Was he honored?"

"Yes, I honored his honorable life until that point. I was going to give him a proper send off but I forgot something to sing songs of his valor and had to go back to the car. When I came back, there were others there."

Xander nodded. "Then I hope he's honored in the afterlife as a true man." He patted him on the arm. "I'll leave you to think. My cousin is the blondish one." The man nodded. Xander walked out and looked at Jason and Casey. They patted him on the arm and went in there. Xander went home via the grocery store. He wanted ice cream. He missed Jesse so much sometimes. He walked in and flopped down onto the couch, opening it to eat with an old spoon that was on the table. "Someone killed their brother-in-oath because he was leaving the family with a girl," he said quietly. "And all I can think of is if Jesse was going to die, it should've been at my hand instead of the vampire's teeth."

Hansel patted him awkwardly on the shoulder. "Family is important," he agreed. "Even the ones that you make into a family when you do not have a blood one." Xander looked at him. "That spoon had dirt on it."

"That's fine. I was healing plants earlier until a hamadryad offspring showed up to ask me if I still had the traditional gifts. I had to point out I've never had to nurse anything and you wouldn't let me have pets." He ate another bite.

Hansel shook his head. "No you may not. No wolf cubs, panthers, or anything else." Xander grinned a tiny bit. "Mal find you?"

"Yup."

"I figured she might. You like to go to the park near her store." He patted him again. "You missed sparring."

"You were in a shitty mood again," Xander said dryly. "Yes I did." He ate another bite of ice cream.

"You still have to keep in practice."

Xander looked at him. "I do."

"Sometimes," Hansel said dryly.

"I get plenty of practice in the real world too."

"Good point. That has always counted for Gretel and I." He shifted to cross his feet. "Why are you eating ice cream?"

"I miss Jesse."

"That's a good reason. I usually drink those moods away."

"I don't want to drink that often."

"Even better. It's bad for you." Xander snorted but looked happier. "Are you going to the revel here or out there?"

"Here. Mal asked."

"That's fine." He looked at him. He was slumped down but tired looking. "Are you not sleeping again?" Xander nodded. "Why?"

"More nightmares."

"About?"

"Graduation, a few other things." He stuffed his mouth again. "It'll go away again soon. It usually does after revels."

"Fine. Do you write them down?"

"I don't want anyone to get that sort of information about me. Visions yes, that no." He looked at him. "If someone like Jason gets hold of those sort of journals they can use them against you. Like how most agents don't believe in hunting witches any more."

"True," he agreed. "I had not thought of that." He patted Xander on the head. "Put that up. We'll spar and then you can dance around in here." Xander snorted but looked happier and followed orders. He also put on his anti-possession necklace. "Gretel is back?"

"Yeah, she's in my bathroom," Xander said dryly. "She's trying to figure out curling irons apparently."

Hansel went in to look at her. He tried to keep those two apart. "They're to make him pretty for when she goes to bait."

"I figured as much. Why do they work?"

"You plug them in and they get warm, like the ones you warmed on the hearth before."

She nodded at that. "That makes much more sense." She looked at him. "He is upset about something."

"He's having nightmares."

"I noticed."

"Stay out of his head," he reminded her. He went out to help Xander spar. It was good for them. Gretel watched. Xander still didn't get her full approval as a student but at least she quit being so bitchy about him. Most of the time. Now and then she backslid and criticized everything Xander did. Like today. Hansel glared at her finally. "He's still learning. That's why you train." She huffed off. "I'm sorry," Hansel said quietly.

"I have no idea what's wrong with her either," Xander admitted. "At one time I thought it was jealousy because I got to grow up with parents, even though they weren't always there."

"Perhaps. They traveled?"

"They drank heavily from the moment they got up until they passed out. Getting up usually happened after I left for school, because I usually came home to being sworn at because I had woken them up, and passing out was about dinner time."

Hansel shook his head. "I've seen men do that but not usually women."

"She ran away just as much," Xander said dryly. "Apparently I was an infection that ruined her life."

"An infection?" Hansel snorted, taking a bat at Xander with his practice sword.

Xander nodded. "She told me once that I was a yeast infection until the doctor told her otherwise."

Hansel shook his head. "That is insane and not good."

"No, it's not." Xander dodged a hard swat and used the new position to hit Hansel again then kicked him when he blocked it but left his leg open. Xander grinned. "Should I try to see if I have some of those other gifts?"

"Please do not. We do not want to see if you can make a fountain of wine one day. Or nurse infant animals. Especially not taming snakes."

Xander shuddered. "Not something I ever want to try."

"Thank you." He pulled back, nodding. "Not as bad as you were. You're getting better." Xander smiled at that faint praise. "You still duck too often."

"Fighting vampires is like that. They're stronger and faster. It's easier to duck to the side and then strike. It's not like I'll be doing honors duels where you stand and fight."

"True. You're doing better." Xander bounced some. "Make dinner." He swatted him with the blade and took them to put up.

Xander went to start dinner by washing his hands and staring at the refrigerator so he could see what they have. He'd call for pizza but he only had thirty bucks and he might miss that twenty it'd cost. Xander finally decided on burgers and pulled down hamburger to thaw in the microwave. Hansel smirked some as he watched him but it was good. Xander made edible things and usually very filling ones. He could appreciate that since almost none of it came with gruel, oatmeal, or sugar.

Gretel floated back in to look over his shoulder. "What are you doing?"

He looked up at her. "Working on the seasoning stuff that goes into the hamburger once it's defrosted."

"You didn't plan ahead?" she asked dryly.

"I had no idea who was doing dinner tonight and nothing was defrosted. It was this or cereal." He got back to mixing the ground stuff he'd be putting in the hamburger. When it was done, he unwrapped the burger and sprinkled the spices over it as he kneaded it. Then he formed patties and browned them. "Find bread, we're out of buns," Xander told Hansel. Who came in to do that and toast them. He fixed his the way he wanted, letting Xander fix his own since he liked pickles and things on his, and Hansel had a hatred of pickles after eating them all winter long one year. "I know, you hate my choice of vegetables, but I'm still a growing boy so I need them."

Hansel looked at him. "Growing?" he snorted. "Again?"

"I went up another two inches."

"You need to quit doing that."

"Sure, make it all stop," Xander quipped. "I'd like it if I find my final height."

"We'll see why that happens." He took his burgers to the table. "Bit rare," he said but he ate it anyway.

Xander grinned at him. "I like mine a bit rare."

"Yes, I know why. Thankfully you only eat cooked meat." He gave him a look then went back to his dinner and the news that was playing on the tv. Thankfully nothing that would get too critical or get them noticed. Someone knocked and Hansel got up to answer it, letting Jason in. Jason was scowling. "Bad day? Xander made fairly rare burgers. You can cook one some more to get it less rare if you want."

"The higher ups loathe all of the hunters in the city."

"I haven't hunted in weeks," Xander said. "You said to lay low so I have been."

Jason nodded. "It wasn't even about where you rescued the kids. It's just the thought. He just found out and he's freaking out."

Xander nodded. "Then again, he's got issues." He ate another bite and looked at his burger. "I did not make you that rare." Jason snorted but looked at Hansel.

"If we must, we can go back to the house in Sunnydale."

"Slight issue," Xander said. "Buffy's and Willow's last emails both mentioned commando teams there to take out anyone and anything not human for experimentation." He got up to microwave his burger for a few seconds then settled back in to eat it. He'd put up with the warmed pickles for now.

Hansel grimaced. "Why?"

"From what the local demon community has said, they're being tortured/experimented on/all that bullshit that makes normal people gag." He ate another bite of his burger.

Jason snorted. "It's never easy for you guys, is it?"

"Hey, some of the hunters use credit card fraud," Xander said dryly. "Not like we get paid for this shit."

"Not since the seventeen hundreds," Hansel agreed. He looked at his nephew, which was how he thought of Jason and the others most of the time. "Should we leave?"

"I think you guys should be careful. A few know who Xander is."

"Did they come to tell you about this?" Xander asked.

"Nah, another officer I know is on guard duty this month and he warned me because he heard you were in town." Jason stared at him.

"I can be a girl for a while if it helps."

"You might, yeah." Xander changed and went back to her dinner. "That's still really weird."

"Kinda," Xander said with a grin. "I got asked earlier if I could do like the legends and nurse small animals like they were my kids."

"Eww," Jason said, grimacing at him.

"By legends, some maenads did," Hansel agreed. "Or tapped their staves on the ground to create wine fountains."

"Gross, having to filter out the dirt," Xander complained.

Jason shook his head. "You guys are weird." He hugged Xander and left, going back to his desk. Casey was looking worried. "It'll be okay."

"It won't be okay. Someone told the Commissioner that you knew," she said quietly with a point at the office.

Jason walked in there and stared at him. "You'd rather have that sort killing more people?"

"No," the commissioner said with a scowl. "Is that really necessary?"

"The first one that I heard about had killed twelve people," Jason said. The commissioner shuddered. "The next one six. So yeah, they do. Especially since the most traditional sort eat kids."

"Like *eat* kids?" he demanded.

"Yes, sir. Like nibbling on them to repair the damage the magic did. Not all of them go toward black magic and get infected. Xander's really good at telling which type they are. Also with taking out some other shitheads we have in the city that are causing problems."

"I've heard," he said dryly, giving him a pointed look. "He should probably stop that."

"He should, yeah, but they usually bother him first." He shrugged. "The PD has a peace treaty with the local succuba and incubi. They don't come near us, we don't go near them unless we have to, and if we find out there's officers who get sent on that stuff. I'm not one. I only know because I found out I'm related to Xander and Hansel."

"Named after the fairy tale?" the Commissioner asked.

"No, sir." The head guy winced. "Apparently there was a curse by one of them. He's trained various family members and now he's working on Xander's."

"Wonderful," he said sarcastically, leaning back in the borrowed desk chair. "What are we going to do about it?"

"Personally? I ignore it unless it comes up on a case. A few times I've had to call the local poker circuit place to see if something was one of theirs."

"They play poker?"

"Yeah. Kitten poker mostly but yes, sir."

"Kitten.... why?"

"Them or homeless people as Xander put it."

"Kittens are good," the commissioner decided, sitting up. "Your cousin?"

"He's really good at kitten poker. Won some magicked bows recently." He shrugged. "I stay out of it unless I get dragged into it, then I call and ask Xander for help. Like with the guy who went Norse killing."

"I saw that file. Nice work." He looked at him. "Can they be more quiet?"

"You probably wouldn't have heard about any of it, sir, except for some of the hunters going after Xander for doing the same thing and them not liking him for the bloodline gifts that got woken up in him."

"Yours...."

"Nope."

"How did his get ...woken up?"

"There was a swim coach that was tampering with the team to make them faster. Detoxing it activated all the little hidden nasties in his DNA from what he said. Oh, and if they're from his town, they might be bad."

"Where is he from?"

"Sunnydale, just outside of LA." He grinned. "It has a hell portal and a few neat things like the battle at their graduation recently."

"I saw something about a gas explosion." Jason shook his head. "Damn."

"Basically? That whole town, sir."

The commissioner made himself a note and nodded. "I'll see if anyone's from there."

"Xander said his whole department was dirty to the guy who attacked the graduation ceremony. To the point where Xander turned him in to the ATF and he tried to turn it around on some teenagers." The commissioner snorted. "He had Xander's parents killed and tried to blame it on them, sir. They're totally dirty. They're so dirty they make up things. Their federal reporting statistics include multiple deaths by chainsaw, animal attack, gangs on PCP, and barbeque fork accidents to the neck. The team he worked with got it down to under twenty percent death and disappearance."

The commissioner blinked a few times then nodded once. "I like that sort of service. I'll make sure none of our officers come from there." He stood up. "We have people who handle this stuff, yes?"

"Yes. The one I know about is from the same group that wants to kill my cousin for daring to help their special warrior woman. Because Xander didn't think a teenage girl should have to save the world alone."

The commissioner's right eye started to twitch. "Teenage girls?"

"They're Brits, but yes." He walked out and came back with his laptop, getting onto a site. "That's what they do."

He read it over, grimacing. "That'll stop. Especially if he's getting a second paycheck from them. That's not on the approved second job list." He looked at Jason. "You?"

"Nope. Not a chance. I deal with enough strange stuff here, sir." He smiled. "It seems to like this precinct."

"Fine." He let him take the laptop back and shut it down. "How many know within the department?"

"I think there's at least one for every three precincts. Mostly they've run into it in the past. Or it's tried to eat them. In one case, I know Xander was going after a witch who we were trying to get for people smuggling. He pickpocketed the officer and handed back his wallet, with the cash still in it, when they caught him doing it. They also found out what she had done at the same time and we had a charming car fire I'm told."

"So burning..... Okay."

"For them," Jason said. "There's over three thousand species plus crossbreeds," he said quietly. "Plus ones that have bred with humans." The commissioner grimaced again. "I'm told they're like cultural enclaves hidden within the city. They tend to be peaceful, quiet, and kill any member that gets notice."

"Good! I like that!" he assured him. "The other hunters?"

"Xander's more subtle and smooth than a lot of them. Hansel too. Some of them are downright sore thumbs in some places."

"Okay," he decided, considering that. "Can you please tell the local community I want them to stay hidden? However they do that? And to tell the hunters the same thing? I do not want it to hit the news. People will not like that the supernatural exists."

"I can do that."

"Thank you." He left, going to take some rolaids in his limo on his way back to the office. He had a few things to look up.

Jason walked out and took Casey with him. "Over the guys who jumped Xander a few months back," he said at the dirty looks he was getting. They all grimaced. They had heard about that. "Way too much attention on them."

***

Xander walked into the incubus bar, getting a few odd looks. "Not my fault the hunters attacked me and I fought them off." They all smirked. "As long as we all lay low, don't get press attention, and I don't help any cops but my cousin, we're good." They smiled and settled down again. He looked at one of the succuba. "I suck."

"Sometimes," she teased, running her nails over the back of his hand. "Why and who are you sucking this time, Xander?"

"No one unfortunately, and I still suck at being a girl. And now, get this, since someone so *nicely* asked me, I might start lactating." She whimpered, looking at him, shaking her head slowly. "Yeah, I'm told that's what the damn nipple itch means?"

"Never done it, wouldn't know," she admitted. She gulped her brandy and looked around then at him. "Are you certain?"

"No! I have no idea about nipples and it's not like I can ask Willow. She'll pass out. Buffy will turn me in to her commando boyfriend so I'll have to fight off some Rangers as well as hunters, and it'll all be grand." He flopped down in a chair pouting some. "It won't stop itching."

"That's probably a bad sign unless you have something like ring worm there," she agreed.

"How would you get ring worm there?" he asked.

She shrugged, getting another glass of brandy from the bartender and coming back. "On your stomach during a revel in the woods?" She sat down. "Most of us wouldn't know a thing about that problem, Xander."

"Okay, anyone have a friend who might?"

"Have someone try to suck on them."

He snorted. "Then it might not stop! I don't want to lactate."

"That's a good point." She sipped her brandy, looking at the head incubus, who was shaking his head. "You never have the easy problems."

"No, I don't. And I have to deal with a huger one, this is just annoying me to the point where it's taking my focus."

"Well, for us, it's all cured by great sex," she said with a smile.

He grinned back. "Great sex might be great. I have to disappoint Buffy horribly though." He pulled out his phone to text her. //Why is it that everyone I know on the east coast seems to think that you have very kinky tastes since your boyfriend likes torture as foreplay?// he texted.

//He does not,// came back a minute later. //Riley's a really nice guy, Xander. Butt out.//

//For a really nice guy, he probably should give up torturing demons. Or at least not enjoy tasing them and then taking the *long* way home as much.// This time he also sent a video he had been sent by someone.

//Where did you get that?// Buffy sent back, followed by one from Willow.

//One of the local peaceful demons took it when they took his clanmate so he could petition his people for help getting them back.// He paused. //They do want to help. They've talked to others. There's not a single demon on the east coast that doesn't run from every single Army person out there, Buffy. All because of his people. Even the peaceful ones.//

//He's not one of the ones investigating things.//

Xander sent back another file, and to Willow as well. //Really? One of the east coast hackers in the poker circuit said he was.//

//Who got that?// Willow demanded. //It can't be right. It has to be altered. I saw them yesterday, Xander.//

//That's great since they disappeared last night, Willow. It's time stamped. One of Bert's people got it off their system. Then she went to hide like hell from them since they pinged her.//

//Oh,// Willow sent back. //That's bad. I'll talk to her.//

//Thanks. We don't want another 'us' issue like we had with Angel.//

//No, we don't. Have fun out there doing Xander things.// She apparently turned off her phone because his casual one after that wasn't answered.

Xander put his phone back into his pocket. "Willow's trying to get through to Buffy's haze of sex life." They all groaned. "Since she likes predators so much, can one of you go hit on her instead? Not like we'd mind if you ate Riley at the same time."

"None of us want tainted by that or we might to spare everyone harm," the elder incubus in the bar admitted. "We're all hiding like hell, Harris."

"I told them that. Buffy said he's not torturing people." They all groaned. "If I have to, I'll head back and kick some ass then." He leaned on the table, looking at the head succuba. "Still there."

Hansel walked in. "Buffy called complaining."

"I told her about what a douchebag Riley is," he said, looking at him. "I even sent over film that got sent to me." Hansel nodded at that. "We have bigger problems because I had a vision last night."

"I heard. What was it?"

"It's bad. It's hell goddess on the way bad."

Hansel nodded once. "We can go help them."

"If my vision is right, we'll end up taking her out after she kills Buffy," he said quietly in German - which Hansel was teaching him. One of the incubus across the bar choked, staring at them. Xander nodded. "And it's wrapped up in Joyce's sickness." He looked at Hansel again. "So I need to pop home for a bit probably unless we can kick some ass with Buffy."

"I can help," he promised. "If we do get a hell goddess I will ask for more help."

"We might need it. I can't find more than a mention of her because to say her name is to call her into being and noting you." Hansel winced. "Her host is old enough to be an oncologist."

"Fuck," Hansel said. "Who?"

"The one that would be treating Joyce unless we do something harsh."

"Give them a reason," Hansel said. "Get her help."

"I've been nagging her for two days. She quit answering texts and calls."

"We can visit."

Xander nodded, standing up. "I can use the wand. I'll let you know if we need more help?"

"Do so." He patted him on the cheek. "No hunting. It's too dangerous."

"Buffy's dating one of them, Hansel. I'm going to have to walk into the lion's den and then back out with Joyce and Buffy. And if I'm right, Buffy's new mystical little sister." He pulled the wand and went home to grab something, then to the holiday dinner. It was an early Thanksgiving dinner since they were having problems. Xander heard Buffy moan when he landed. "Shut up." She glared. "I'm not here for you but if your boyfriend caused the reason I had a vision last night of your mom's sickness, then you can grieve."

"He can't have, Xander." He tossed a folder onto the table in front of her. "What's that?"

"Bert's cousin, the one with the flaming orange hair, is a hacker."

"How is Bert?" Willow asked.

"Decent. Hiding like hell from you guys and anyone in a uniform." He looked at Joyce. "We need to get you to an ER tonight, Joyce. There's good doctors waiting on you in many ER's all across LA."

"Xander, calm down," she said firmly. "It's nothing."

"Is that why my vision about the hell goddess about to show up came up with your oncologist being her host and killing your elder daughter?" Buffy choked. So did Giles.

"I can't drive," Buffy said, starting to hyperventilate.

"I can," Giles said. "Xander, what do you know about this?"

"Last of the file. It's the full vision." He grabbed the file, glaring at Riley over the first part. "Like I said, if it's caused by their nifty little shot, which is a side effect that was noted by the same people who took Brian and brainwashed him into thinking he was someone else, then he's mine. You won't have to worry about hurting humans, Buffy." He helped Joyce up, kissing her on the cheek. "The vision said that you're growing a brain tumor," he said quietly.

"I only have one daughter."

"Yet."

She blushed. "I'm pregnant?"

"Hell goddess." She huffed. He grinned. "You'll like her. She's a bit squealy and nicer than your elder one. It's to protect her." He gave her a pointed look then at Buffy. Giles was gripping the pages tightly. "Giles." He flinched. "Need that." He handed all but the vision over. "C'mon, Mom." He walked her out by force, grabbing Giles keys and waving them in the air before taking her to the car.

Giles looked at Riley. "If, as the demon hackers thought, your people caused her tumor, I do not think Xander will get a chance to harm you," he said quietly. "Because I will forget that I turned my back on things in my youth." He handed the vision to Buffy, who started to cry. Willow hugged her. "We are fixing it. LA has a lot of very good oncologists, Buffy." She nodded, making herself stop crying and sitting up to drink some water. "We have caught it early, there's a lot of hope."

"Good!" She looked around. "I need my phone. Angel's in LA and he might have a doc recommendation that wouldn't freak out about my stuff when I'm there helping her." She patted herself down but Willow found it and tossed it over. She had three voicemails from Xander, all about this. She dialed Angel's phone, making herself get up and walk into the kitchen to get some ice water. "Xander's bringing my mom your way," she said in greeting. "Hi, Doyle. Yeah, like it's a family emergency. I need Angel's help." She sipped her water while she waited.

"Hey, Cordy. Yeah, he is. Because according to Xander's vision, my mom has a brain tumor that some demon hackers think Riley's people gave her." She shouted something at Angel and he came up to give her a name. "Xander's got her. I don't drive," she said, her voice hitching a bit. "His vision was not only that but a mystical little sister and a hell goddess, Angel. I could use some backbone right now and I need to know if you know anyone who can help Mom." She listened, nodding. "I can do that. Thank you." She hung up. "He'll come up with Cordelia tomorrow, Giles. That way he can see the vision and what we might need to fight it."

"As far as I know there's not much written about her and it's done on purpose. I can ask the Council but I doubt they'll answer."

"Proves they're worthless, like I knew before." She sipped more of her ice water. She finally came back to the table and dug in. "We'll have someone verify this."

Willow nodded. "I've written Oz an email and a few other hackers I know," she said quietly. "We'll figure it out, Buffy."

"It wasn't me," Riley said. "I had nothing to do with it."

She stared at him. "If it was your mom, would you accept that?"

"No," he admitted. "I'm sorry, Buffy."

"I get that. You...." She nodded and sipped some more water. "I'm not real good right now and I'm about to start having a kiddy fit." He nodded and left. She looked at Willow. "You and your new girlfriend? Move to Xander's house. Tonight," she said quietly. "It's safer, it has protections." She nodded, calling her and heading out to do that. Buffy looked at Giles. "Why us?"

"I do not know but I do know it will be stopped and Joyce will be all right. It's been caught very early, Buffy."

She nodded, leaning against his arm. "I can't lose Mom."

"You won't. None of us will." He patted her, giving her the comfort she needed until they heard something.

***

Xander walked in the next morning, tossing Giles his keys. "The healer Angel sent us to found a weak, balloon sort of spot on one vein." He sat down with a sigh of displeasure. "He found what looks like lesions starting so she's under careful monitoring. She's in Sinai, Buffy. He had her admitted as soon as he saw the weak spot for more testing and has referred her to an oncologist. She's still fussing a bit but yay. I tucked her in myself before heading back. She's got a more detailed scan this afternoon."

He tossed over the card he had gotten from the nurse. "That's her room number and the phone number there. She's being scanned at four. They know she's fussing and trying to tough it out but her daughter ordered her dragged in. They're not going to let her check herself out. The nurse said she'd kindly slip her a valium first. The doc that admitted her agreed to it." Buffy nodded, staring at him. "They caught it super early on and the weak spot can be easily fixed they told her."

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"It's what I do for family. Your mom's almost like my own." She nodded, relaxing some. "You and Giles can go hover this afternoon." She smiled and nodded. He looked at Giles. "Did Willow find their files?"

"Yes, they did. She proved who had ordered it and why. She's tried to turn them in."

"I've gotten the name of an incubus offspring in the government. I'm going to hand it to him. Because I'll be damned. We protect the peaceful and take out the shitheads causing problems." Giles smiled and nodded. "I've already sent it to them with a nice cover letter." He grinned. "By magic gram." He looked at Buffy again. "Hey." She looked at him. "It'll be okay. That means we have one huge ass problem with the hell goddess."

"There's almost nothing written about her."

He nodded he knew that. "All I've found out is that her host is the key to penning her back up."

"A human," she sighed. He nodded. "Why?"

"I don't know."

"Fuck."

"Basically." He grinned. "And yeah, I can come back for that. Hansel said he would too." She smiled and nodded. "Because I don't have a huge ass problem with them."

"I forgot." He smiled. "Thank you."

"Welcome. Get to driving, Buffy. Your mom's one fuss away from checking herself out."

She hopped up. "I need to do that." Giles took her out to the car, locking the door once Xander had sent himself off. She and Giles drove to LA, finding her mother fussing back at the nurses. "Mom!" She hugged her, crawling onto her bed to cuddle her. "You'll be okay."

"I'm fine, Buffy. It's not a problem yet."

"Lesions doesn't sound like a *good* thing," she said dryly. "Especially since Willow's friends found the same information."

"They did," Giles agreed, handing the file to the nurse. "For the doctors," he said quietly. "A hacker found it from her daughter's former boyfriend's military group."

The nurse looked and her face hardened. She looked up. "Serious?"

"As far as we have seen, yes." She nodded and walked off to page the poor woman's doctor. Then the oncologist who was going to be looking at those lesions later on. He was not impressed. He was downright pissed off. He had been a Marine. Giles came out to talk to him when he heard him throwing his fit.

***

Xander appeared in Angel's office, shrugging at Cordelia. "Tell him I said thanks."

"I will if he didn't hear." She looked at him. "You look weird."

"I'm fighting the hugest case of nipple itch," he admitted dryly. "And trying really, really hard not to go bust that mother fucking base to bits."

She smiled. "That's the dork I used to know, though TMI."

"Sorry." He shrugged. "It's slight but there." She nodded. "She's in Sinai." He wrote down the room number for her and handed it over. "She's got a scan later and Giles had a copy of the file I got sent."

"Good. Then they can handle it."

"We hope. Oh, and you'll need to meet the younger Summers daughter, who is thirteen when she appears."

Cordelia blinked a few times. "Why?"

"Vision."

"I heard." He handed it over with a smirk. She read it and went pale. "What. The. Hell."

"Yup. Angel?" he called. "Since there can't be a meeting tonight I brought it." He smiled at the guy he didn't know. "Xander Harris, I used to date Cordy in high school and I worked with Buffy."

"Doyle. I work with 'em both and I'm their seer." They shook hands and each one got a tiny hit of vision. Doyle winced. "That's really weird."

"Yeah, freaky orgy way back when." He rubbed his forehead. "Brachen are cool. I play with Pauley in New York a lot."

Doyle smiled. "He's a distant cousin."

"I'll tell him you said hi." Angel came off the elevator. Cordelia flapped the paper so he took it and went perfectly still. "Which is why I've been bullying Buffy for days," he admitted. "Then I had the whole 'who's her host' revelation second so I came to nag in person and drag her off if I had to."

Angel looked at him. "How long have you had visions?"

"Since they detoxed the swim team stuff. Just like the other gifts."

He shook his head. "How is that going?"

"I find many mobsters and bad guys that don't like to respect women and treat them as human beings are really tasty," he said dryly. "And I get a lot of regular hunting in too with Hansel."

"That's blunt," Cordelia said. "Did you take blunt candy today, Xander?"

"I haven't eaten since before dinner time last night actually. This is me being cranky." He grinned. "Any idea on how to cure the nipple itch? I'm kinda worried since traditionally some maenads were known to be able to nurse injured animals and things."

"Like *nurse*?" she asked, looking disgusted.

"And Dionysus when he was a baby," Angel agreed. "Ice cubes. Dru had that problem at first." He reread the prophecy and handed it to Doyle. Who huffed at it. "When?"

"Within a year. He's at the Sunnydale hospital. I looked at their online roster of idiots."

"Great," Angel said dryly. "I think we can handle that."

"I know Buffy won't be able to and if she needs me, all she has to do is call," Xander said bluntly, staring at him. "Because I don't want to see her turn into Faith."

Angel nodded. "Neither do I. Where is Joyce?" He pointed at the note. "Thanks."

"She's like my mom too. Listen for Willow and her new witchy girlfriend? They're at my house."

"I can do that," he promised. "Would they?"

"They have two or three from what I heard."

"They need to be stopped," Cordelia said.

Xander nodded. "They do. They definitely do." He waved the sparkly wand and disappeared.

"I didn't know he could do that," Cordelia said, staring at the bare spot.

"It's a mystical artifact," Doyle told her. "Handy for that, huh?" He grinned at her then at Angel. "We'll start asking around tonight while you visit. Meet us at the bar?"

"I can do that." He went back downstairs to call some contacts until sundown so he could go to the hospital.

***

Xander looked around as he landed in DC and casually strolled out of the alleyway and toward the agent he had sent that information to. He smiled at one suit who is giving him a nasty look. "What? Am I underdressed or something?" He walked around him and to the agent, who is getting something off a lunch cart. "Did you get the file I sent you earlier?" he asked quietly.

"I did." He turned around to look at the younger guy. "Prove it."

Xander nodded. "I can get you in there."

"Not really needing that much."

"They have security cameras someone can hack if they're good."

"We tried. They have a high protocol going."

"Well, with their bosses and their issues I would too." The agent smirked, walking off with him. They had a lot of things to talk about. Including that the agent knew nothing of Sunnydale and barely knew about the funny looking ancestor he had eons ago.

***

Willow looked up as someone leaned into her girlfriend's ear and hissed something before running off. "What's going on?"

"The president is here," she almost mouthed.

Willow's eyes went wide. "I didn't do anything wrong," she hissed back.

"I don't think they're here for you." They shared a look and finished their lunches, heading back to their dorm to do some laundry. It was public enough that no one could say they were running away but more difficult to find them. So when an agent did, Willow near peed herself and Tara shrank back into a corner.

"They killed them all," the agent said, staring at Willow. "That is not your fault, Miss Rosenburg. They had someone in DC who told them we were flying out unexpectedly to LA." Willow slumped, staring at him. "Thank you for doing your patriotic duty, though I hope it never has to happen again," he said, staring at her.

"Okay," she said weakly. "All?"

"Yes."

"Riley and them?"

"You know them?"

"My best friend was dating one but she didn't know and when she did find out she dumped him."

"Can we talk to her?"

"Her mom got given a shot by them. She's on an oncology ward at Sinai."

The agent winced. "I'll let that be known, Miss Rosenburg. Thank you again." He stared at her. "And for the other help you've given over the years." She smiled slightly at that. "Is it going to continue?"

"The other help? Yeah, it kinda has to. Unfortunately. We'd all like it to stop."

"Us as well. We'll see what's going on later." He left with a nod at Tara.

Willow sat down where she was standing, panting so she didn't hyperventilate. This was so bad. So very, very bad. Even if it had worked out okay it was really horribly bad. Tara helped her up. "We have to tell Willie before he hears." Tara nodded at her to go so she ran off to the demon bar. She rushed in and to the bar, pulling Willie almost all the way across it. "The Initiative people heard they were getting visitors. They had someone bribed," she said, staring at him. "We're really damn sorry."

"Fuck," he said, getting free.

"We did not know."

"No, we get that, Rosenburg. If you had, you would've knocked the whole base out first." She nodded at that, and he could see the idea percolating through her brain. "Temporal magic can get others killed instead."

"Good point. I know not to mess with time and space. I might draw that other, leather vampy me here again." The demon bartender shook his head quickly at that. "I'm not sure how things are going to happen up there though. The *president's* here."

He grimaced but nodded. "Hylar, go ask them?"

"I can do that." Willow hugged him. "It's not your fault. They're the assholes." He patted her and hiked up there, looking at the agents standing guard. "I got told that I need to claim my mother's body," he told one. "How do I do that?"

The agent stared at him then called inside. "Let's find that out, kid." The president came out to talk to him, with a guard making sure this one wasn't harmful.

***

Xander reappeared at home, pouting hard. Hansel looked up from his research. "They killed all their hostages."

"That sucks," Hansel said, pushing the books aside. "It's not your fault."

"They had someone in DC bribed to tell them if a higher up came their way. The president went on a short trip out to LA." He sat down, still sulking. "A lot of the military guys shot each other in a death-before-dishonor thing too."

Hansel nodded. "Sometimes the bad guys seem to win for a bit. The others?"

"All under arrest. Including some of their supposed science teams." He slid over a list. "From Willow so we can make sure John hears. That way none of the military guys end up hunting."

"I can pass that along." Hansel stared at him. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not really. Which is really disturbing." He looked at his mentor. "Am I becoming cold and unfeeling?"

"No. You simply cannot process a tragedy like that. Many people can't process the thought of a dead body until they see one. That slowly moves up to the point where only if you've seen massacres can you imagine that many bodies piled up." Xander nodded, relaxing a tiny bit. "Did they work out a way for the community to gather bodies?"

"Yes. Willow ran down to tell the bartender at Willie's, the demon bar we went to terrorize for information now and then, and he sent one who he knew had a mom up there to ask. The president worked it out with the demon clinic the kid showed him. The community will bury the ones that aren't claimed. They also found a few humans. Mostly college kids that may have had slight magic. Willow went on a freak-out about that. The president's team also found the capture orders on all of us, including Buffy, and came to ask why she was such a high priority target. So she was honest and he hates the Council." He grinned slightly. "She never told him about me. I was listed as an accessory hunter, they were going to capture me to turn me onto their side."

"That's excellent news. How is her mother?"

"They did give her that shot. Willow asked and the search team found the report and where it came from. The president's not all that happy with that program that got Brian brainwashed." Hansel smirked a tiny bit. "So we'll see if that gets him free. Someone will tell me when and if he goes free." He leaned his elbows on the table. "The lesions have grown and they're already treating them. They got the weak vein spot fixed so it shouldn't hurt her. Buffy's basically camped in her mom's hospital room, which we all expected, but the communities in Sunnydale and LA are quiet for right now. They don't want to see her take out her emotions on them and no one wants to raise their head yet. Except that stupid hell goddess."

"Is she around?"

"Yup. Caught him talking to himself while I was up there killing energy." He rubbed his face. "I reported that to Angel, who can help her. She knows she only has to call to get me. Oh, and Spike's got a chip in his head." Hansel shuddered. "It means he can't hunt people. Only demons. He made a deal with Buffy to be the new vampire on the team." He looked down then at Hansel again. "I nearly fixed that problem for her. I probably should have but I debated with myself and nearly got caught by the PD. And one of the Secret Service guys. They heard the officer nagging me about my parents being dead and me shooting back that I had seen them doing some of it so it must've made them happy if they were bragging. I'm pretty sure the president is not pleased with the town now either if that got reported to him."

"I'd hope not. Especially with how high your town's death rate is. Do you want to go home for a while?"

"I don't know." He looked at him. "It's easier to hide in Sunnydale. There's always hunting and patrols. We have things up here we need to take care of."

"We can go out there. I've been looking up things for John. We can pause on the way to give it to him."

"Then yeah, can we?" Xander asked.

"We can. Go pack." Xander grinned, getting up and walking off scratching his chest. "Did you run into some poison ivy?"

"No, my nipples itch. It started right after that one girl asked if I could feed animals."

Hansel shook his head. "Have we taken a test?"

"That's not possible. And yes, I did, because I had that panicking thought at first." He leaned out of his room. "It sucks ass." He ducked back in there then went to answer the door when someone knocked. He was almost closer and Hansel was getting coffee. "Hey, John."

"Kid." He came in and shut the door. "Hansel."

"John. I have been looking. There is not much on that subject. Xander, have you heard more on their demon?"

"Not much. I know he's on hiatus at the moment. He's not due to find a new crop of kids to taint anytime soon. I know he's went after some of the people Sam knew. He told me that. He wrote me a long email the other day. He's found a nice girl."

"I heard about Jess," John said.

Xander smiled and nodded. "In three years, he's going to have a replay. That's his hook into Sam."

"Is it her?"

"No."

"It's to get him back with Dean," John said. Xander nodded. "Him, not a minion?"

"As far as I could tell from the slight vision. It was kinda dark in the dream vision. I got a lot of low-lit scenes in a bedroom and then a spotlight on her face just before she's lit on fire on the ceiling." John gripped the counter. Xander nodded. "So I think it's him but he's trying to block it maybe or something."

"He can only open the gateway at a certain time," Hansel said, showing him that book. "So it should be within reasonable time from there."

"Um, no, because he wants Sam to have no other options but him. He's playing head games," he told John. "To get his chosen warrior."

"The last one will do what he wants because they've really got no options," John said. Xander nodded. "Anything else we know?"

"He has a daughter from really timid rumors. Her name's Meg."

"Meg," John said. "Not very demonic. Any idea where?"

"No. That I haven't heard. Sorry."

"It's more than we had." He lunged to catch Xander when he grabbed his forehead and crumpled to the ground. "Visions are bad," he decided. "I've got to make sure Sammy doesn't get any. Ever."

"He's having dream ones," Xander moaned. He heaved but kept everything down. "That's going to suck. Phone." He waved a hand until Hansel handed him one. "Mine. Cordy." He called her for him. "Cordy, stop the fucking Irish idiot when the Nazi-like demons that took out his family show up. Before you turn into me." He winced. "Hush," he ordered. "Headache. Vision. Bomb, huge bomb. Like atomic mine bomb. Him, trying to disarm to save you and Deadboy. Him kissing you so you have visions just like the head ripping one I just had."

He moaned, squeezing his eyes shut. "Cordy, serious headache!" he complained at her spazzing out. "Yes, just now. Doyle, do not go after that bomb. Because, dumbass, Angel needs you more than he needs her. We'd miss her but he'll go seriously darker and it'll get worse. You can save Gunn later. No, how about you turn in the bomb to the LAPD instead? They have officers who know. Yeah, that might help instead of you dying and giving Cordelia your visions. I don't know. It came with a last kiss before you went all pokey faced and hop on the bomb as it's about to go off, Doyle. Think you shouldn't do that."

He swallowed. "Just now. Usually I get dream ones," he snorted. "I think the higher powers don't want Cordy as his seer. Well, yeah, but full human with those gifts?" He said something quietly. "Exactly, Doyle. Have you tried that purple flower syrup? It's supposed to help. No, asking for mine. I just had one in the kitchen instead of in bed. A nature witch up here suggested it for my post-napping headaches. Thanks, man. Be safe. Yeah, the Scourge is coming. Don't go there. Get help. Buffy's in town and needs to blow off energy. Call the LAPD when they have the bomb. Thanks." He hung up and slumped. "Fucking Powers."

John helped him up with Hansel's help and they dropped him onto the bed. Hansel got the purple flower syrup and gave him the dosage written on the label, then called Mal to make sure that's what it was for. She said it was and it should work even on his weird background. Xander drifted off and it was easier. The two hunters looked at each other.

"I need to get Sammy detoxed before he has too many of those," John said quietly.

"It may be too late if the gift's been activated. Dream ones are easier to bear though."

"That's good." He walked out calling his son's cellphone. No answer. "Probably in class," he muttered. He called Dean, going onto the porch to talk to him. "Hansel, one of his plants out here is looking sick."

"It eats dead things and we have killed all the rats in the building." He got some leftovers and gave it some. It could decompose that instead. Gretel showed up grimacing. "Problems?"

"Why does he have plants like that?"

"They keep people from breaking in. So does the one with the paralyzing spines." John looked and moved carefully away from it. "One on each side, John." He pointed at it then went back inside with his sister floating after him. "New things?" he asked her.

"Where's the kid?"

"He just had a full vision. We gave him something to encourage a nap for the headache."

She grimaced. "I've seen him wake up with some." She looked around then at him. "Others are wondering about him."

"We're going back to help Buffy in a few days."

"Good. She could probably use it." She looked in there then at him. "What is wrong with his chest?"

"He said his nipples are itching like he might lactate."

She grimaced. "I know the ancient ones were said to be able to but he's not a real girl."

"It's been bothering him as well," Hansel said dryly.

"Huh." John walked in. "Bad hunt?"

"Dean's got one that's hunting kids. He's taking it down tonight then fleeing for his life because the local town is full of assholes."

"They can be that way," Hansel agreed. "We were going back to Sunnydale for a bit because Buffy's mother is in the hospital in LA. The Initiative people gave her some sort of shot that started off a tumor."

"Initiative?" John asked.

"The military people under the college," he said dryly.

"I've barely heard a tiny bit about them." He sat down because this looked like a sitting talk. "What were they doing?" Hansel found the notes Xander had been gathering for Buffy. John read them, growling. "Which branch?"

"Army. The president was there. They had unfortunately killed all their hostages and a few shot each other so they could not go to jail."

"Pity it wasn't all of them," John said bitterly. Hansel handed over the personnel list. "I love hackers," he said, looking them over. "One of them has family that does hunt. I recognize the last name and it's not real common. Thanks." He tucked it into his pocket after folding it. "Need help packing?"

"We leave the plants here since usually he allows some of the younger succuba to sublet while we're gone." John smirked at that. "I had not ever seen succuba who had a job but most of the local ones do. They're very responsible young women who just happen to feed on bad sorts. I was most amazed at that."

"I've never run into one that wasn't just hunting," John said, considering that. "Are these ones older?"

"Perhaps. I've never asked. I know one works as a social worker in a group home. She deals with some of the problems that way."

"Huh."

"One was crying about her boyfriend being a non-touching sort when we came back. Apparently they broke up. She let Xander comfort her about that."

John smiled. "I'll have to tell the others about that. I'd never have expected that from them." He looked at the bedroom. Xander was making kitty noises. "New dream?"

"Possibly a good one," Gretel said dryly.

Hansel looked at her. "If they go without sex for too long they get sickened and can die from it." She rolled her eyes. "The senior incubus down here told him that. That's why whenever he's bouncy, he goes there to let them take some of his excess energy. Especially as he's not feeding when he hunts."

"Don't you mean she?" Gretel taunted with an evil smirk.

"Perhaps but Xander still looks better in that one outfit than you ever would, sister." She huffed. "Or the one that Buffy made her get, which is a bit...trashy." He sipped his coffee and got up to get John some. "You can borrow our couch if you want."

"Sure. I know Xander won't jump me."

"Not unless he's sleep walking. He did with a vision the other night," Gretel said dryly.

"If so I'll be gentle when I toss him on the floor." Hansel smirked, letting John go get his bag so he could shower and settle in for the night. Hansel also told Jason they were going back to Sunnydale for a few days. Buffy did need the help.

Gretel looked at him. "Why?"

"Her mother is in treatment for a brain tumor caused by that military group, including the one she had been dating," Hansel said. John looked over. "She apparently likes them quite dangerous."

"Charming. Well, Dean's a hunter so that makes him dangerous. Maybe she'll have better taste and flirt with him."

"That might be nice." He listened to Jason. "I would but he's asleep, Jason. He had a non-sleeping vision." He nodded at that. "Ask Candice at the incubus bar. She works with them. Yes, her. She is, yes." He smiled. "That's good. Probably. I don't have her number or I'd check for you. No, we knocked him out for now. Let me know if you need help with them. If there's others there, they could be causing problems. Of course, and you be safe as well." He hung up. "They had a mummified drained body at one of the homeless shelters. No signs of vampire attack."

"There's not many things that can do that," John said. "A few types of spirits can drain you but not usually to the point of mummification."

"One of the younger looking succuba locally works there, as well as another half-demon that Xander knows from the kitten poker circuit. He'll talk to her again without her coworkers being able to listen in."

Gretel looked in there. "What, Xander?" He hissed something again. "I didn't hear that." She floated in. "What now?"

"Check the local museums for Ampata. She had to drain people that way so she could live. She didn't choose to be sacrificed, all she wanted was a real life for a change," he said quietly, eyes at half mast.

"You know this how?" she snorted.

"I kinda started to date her. I made her try to eat me instead of Buffy and she couldn't because she liked me."

She groaned, floating out there. "He said he used to date some demon named Ampata. She killed like that because she needed it to live but she was made to be the sacrifice. She couldn't kill him when he demanded she take him instead of Buffy."

Hansel looked up that name, John doing the same thing. "Incan princess."

John shuddered. "I heard about some of their rites."

"She just wanted to live for a bit. Someone broke her seal. They had a guardian that came to hunt her down. We put the seal back together to put her back," Xander called weakly.

"Thank you. Rest, Xander."

"Yes, Hansel."

Hansel went back to looking her up. "There's three like her locally in an exhibit. Museum's closed. We can check on them tomorrow."

John nodded. "I've never seen that happen but I guess it can. Especially for one that was taken against their will." They shared a look and John shook his head. "Only in Sunnydale," he muttered.

Hansel nodded. "Probably." He smiled at his sister. "We're going back there to hunt for a bit to ease things for Buffy."

"Is she overrun?"

"She's tending to her mother while she's in treatment."

"Oh."

"Yes, the same as I would have tended to you and ignored the hunt," he said firmly.

"I.... I did the same for you."

"You did." He smiled. She rolled her eyes and went to look at the plants.

John shrugged. "No clue beyond salting and burning," he said quietly.

"Don't tempt Xander," he muttered back. John smirked a bit. They all looked toward the bedroom when they heard a thump. Xander was moaning because he had fallen off the bed. "Do you need help back into the sheets?"

"Nope, I'm good. Was reaching for my water," he complained, crawling back into the bed and huffing at his water glass. "Never mind." He let himself drift off again.

"He's very stubborn," John said.

"He is," Hansel agreed. "But charming about it most of the time." Gretel shook her head but left Xander alone.

***

John and Hansel walked up to the display of the mummified princesses. They could see all three's seals had been broken sometime in the past but one wasn't fixed. It was simply laying there. They read up on who she had been, what little they had known, and went to talk to the people in that home themselves. Candice had a good feeling for the supernatural around her. Casey was there pressuring her about something. John cleared his throat. "Candice?"

"Mr. Winchester," she said, blinking at him. "Hansel, is Xander all right?"

"He had a standing vision last night about his former girlfriend's new team. We gave him some of that syrup Mal made for him."

"Wonderful. That stuff will knock out a rhino." Hansel smiled at that and nodded a bit. "We have no idea, Detective," she told her. "I really don't."

"We may," John said. "Thanks to Xander's dating history."

"Xander's what now?" Casey, Jason's partner, asked.

"Back when he was in tenth grade he dated a foreign exchange student, or a supposed one. She ended up being a sacrificial princess."

"I heard about Ampata," Candice said. "Oh! The museum has three."

"One with a broken seal. We got more out of him this morning, and called Mr. Giles about it. The seal has to be fixed. There's supposed to be a guardian hunting her to put her back."

"Saw the scary guy," Candice agreed. "He almost attacked me until I drained him a tiny bit. He tasted like disgusting ashes."

"Whoa, hold up," Casey said. "What now?" Hansel told her about Ampata, and what had happened. Casey blinked then nodded. "Okay, so that's who we have running around....."

John held up the brochure. "We think she's this one."

"Ah!" She took it to look at. "That's not a bad artist's rendering. We can try that."

Candice looked then pointed. "She came in for lunch earlier but left."

"Thank you." She looked at them. "How do we handle that?"

"Fix the seal," John said. "It has to be repaired."

"Okay, we can do something like that," she said, considering that. "I don't know how."

"That's the only way to seal her back in," Hansel said with a slight shrug. He looked behind him, frowning. "Is he new, Candice?"

"Yes. Dumbass is from Ontario. He's flashy, loud, and going to get a lot of people killed."

Hansel walked over, looking smug. "Let's talk," he said, walking him off. He stared at the young pup incubus. "I'm Hansel Kuhn." The incubus stiffened and winced. "The ones locally have a peace treaty with various entities. They do not attack people in such a flashy manner. They do not cause problems that make me itch for my shotgun. There is a bar with many of your kind uptown. I would suggest you go there to learn the local rules."

"I'm an incubus, we don't follow rules."

Hansel stabbed him with his silver dagger, making him yelp. It got some attention but otherwise he faded out and Hansel did the banishing back to hell with him. The mortal remains fell down as ashes and he walked back there. "He thought there were no rules."

"Yeah, he's young and stupid."

"When do they start getting responsible?" John asked. "I've only run into full time hunters."

She smirked. "Some of that's to do with the local climate. Here, you have to have a job to survive. You can't just feed on anyone and live in their place." She grinned at Hansel. "Are you guys going back soon?"

"We were going to go today but with his headache it's a problem."

"That's cool. Can I sublet? Please?"

"You may." She hugged him and bounded off. "Take care of his plants for him."

"We will."

Casey walked off shaking her head. "I don't want to know."

"Okay," Hansel agreed. He looked at John. "I can show you where the bar is if you wanted."

"Probably too much temptation for me to go in there and make a point about teaching the ones in the midwest responsible behavior."

"Could be." They left together. By the time they got home, Xander was mumbling into some coffee and had packed. They walked in and Xander hugged John then took him and Hansel to Sunnydale, still holding his cup of coffee. "Go nap."

"Am." He stumbled that way, climbing back into bed. He could unpack later.

Hansel called Buffy. "We are back in town to cover for you, even though Xander has a migraine at the moment from a vision." She sighed at that, sounding relieved. "Family is important. You help her. We'll help the town, Buffy. Yes, I'll have him show me the usual patrol routes if we don't make our own. Tell her we said to feel better." He hung up. Xander was already asleep so he checked their supplies, going to get some necessary things and bullets.

***

Buffy hung up and looked at her mom. "That was Hansel. He and Xander are back to cover for me so I can fuss more."

She patted her on the hand. "I'm sorry I yelled at Xander for nagging."

"I tried to ignore him, Mom. Xander nags when he has a reason." She shrugged. "He'll forgive us. He's like that."

"I know." Cordelia leaned in. "I'm awake, Cordy."

"Good." She came in and handed Joyce a small fruit basket. "From me and Doyle." She grinned. "We needed to know if you needed us to head up for patrol," she said to Buffy.

"Hansel just called. He and Xander are back, though Xander has a migraine from the vision."

"Doyle gets those too. Visions suck. The whole 'grabbing your head as it feels like it's being ripped apart by claws' thing really does suck."

"Ow," Buffy said, rubbing her own forehead. "I can't even imagine. I'm so glad I get dream ones."

"Xander's vision this time was that something huge was coming here and Doyle would be passing his on to me."

Buffy stared at her. "You guys okay?"

"Yeah. For now. If they do come, we'll call an SOS so you can get some of the crying stuff out on them instead of your mom."

Buffy grinned. "They have a gym here with a very nice heavy bag."

"That helps Angel sometimes too," Cordy agreed. "So we'll call?"

"Okay. I can do that."

"Great." She patted Buffy on the shoulder. "You need a shower."

"Every time I leave they take Mom somewhere," she complained. Joyce snorted and pointed. "Yes, Mom." She went in there to shower. Cordy could do some mom watching for her.

Cordy looked at her. "She fusses because you're her anchor of sanity," she said quietly.

"I know." She patted her on the hand. "If you need her, you can borrow her."

"I'm sure we can. This one's...pretty darn bad. Though you guys might have worse." She sat down in Buffy's seat after checking it for debris or sweaty spots. "Are you okay?"

"Mostly. It's very small. The treatments are horrible but I'm surviving."

"That's the important thing." She stared at her. "The big dork would say the same thing."

"He nearly carried me to the car."

"Good." She smirked a tiny bit. "I would've too."

"I know. I don't mind them fussing over me."

"Even better. I'll tell Angel you're getting better. I know Giles probably wants to fuss too." Joyce blushed. "Not like he'll care if you lose all your hair, Joyce. The man had fun with you on a police car's hood in public. To some people that's claiming behavior." Joyce was blushing bright red now and almost laughing. "Sure, you giggle now, but I'm pretty sure he's got great hands to rub out muscle cramps and things." She gave her a catty smirk. "And hey, since you lost ten pounds you shouldn't have, you can fit into some of Buffy's bait patrol outfits."

"I doubt that. I'm much to old for booty skirts, Cordelia."

"You're never too old for sexy, even if you're being laid low. There's even people who do wigs for cancer patients so they can feel sexy again."

"We'll see if I need one. Right now I've only got a bit of heavy shedding."

"It happens," Cordelia said. "And hey, bald can be beautiful. Sexy is all in the mind."

"It can be."

Cordy handed over a fashion magazine she had been reading on the bus over. "Here, find something nice so you two can have a date when you get out of here." She winked and strolled off. Buffy's shower had just cut off so she was done.

Joyce was still blushing when Buffy came out dressed in sweats and a t-shirt. "Did Cordy flirt, Mom?" she teased.

"She suggested I should find something sexy and take Rupert out on a date."

"Yes, you should. It's about time that you got happies. It's been a while and I'm told that not having them makes you look and feel older. Plus it's supposed to make you feel better when you're in pain too."

Joyce looked at her daughter. "Who told you that?"

"Anya." Joyce shook her head but opened the magazine. The new spring lines were out. Of course, most of it was too young for her age, but some of them were pretty. "I can ask Xander if he can help. He has to get flirty now and then."

"I don't think I could wear his clothes either, dear."

"You never know. A few of them I looked at and gaped in awe. She's kinda stacked." Joyce swatted her with the magazine. "She is!"

"I saw." She went back to the new clothing trends while Buffy fussed over things and nagged her into eating a plum.

***

Xander and Hansel ran into Willow and Spike that night. "Hey," he said. Willow jumped, staring at him. "We're in to help cover."

She sighed, smiling at him. "Thank you, Xander and Hansel. Guys, have you met Spike? Riley's weenies got him so he made a deal with the team to help us. Just like Angel used to do."

Xander looked at Spike. "Are you going to lose your soul and start stalking people too? If so, tell her now so she can get more fish for you to use like he did."

Spike snorted, shaking his head. "Not my style, whelp." He sniffed and stared. "That's not the same as you were."

"It got activated," Xander said dryly then smirked. "It makes me an exciting hunter and Hansel's been working on my training."

Spike looked at him. "Heard of you." Hansel smirked at that. "Good enough. Few things. Few rising tonight."

"We have no idea on that hell goddess," Willow said.

"We do," Xander told her. "It's one of the docs."

"Oh. Ow. That's going to be a problem."

"Yup. Had been the one treating Joyce if it was being done locally."

"Shoot. Okay, we can handle that."

"Great." They walked on together.

"What's with the guns?" Willow asked.

"I'm very good with them," Hansel told her. "I also have compressed wood bullets loaded."

"You can do that?"

"Yes."

"Huh." She nodded. "We hate guns."

"You and Buffy hate guns," Xander corrected. "I have three I almost always sleep with under my pillow."

Spike looked at him. "Why?"

"It's safer," Xander quipped. "Though no one likes to roll over on them so when I have visitors I use a few knives or my machete."

"You have *visitors*?" Willow asked, looking at him. "Why?"

"Because I'm a sexual being," he said dryly. "I get to do it often." He smirked.

Spike nodded. "Most incubus offspring are," he agreed. "Horny as fuck too."

"Yeah, and the maenad is too," Xander said dryly. Spike stopped to look at him. Xander smirked. "I'm a bit complex."

"Heard about that," he said.

"Not here for you."

Spike nodded. "Thanks, mate."

Xander laughed. "It's all good but maybe I can help with the whole problem coming up thing."

"Yeah, might be good."

"Have we checked Buffy's house recently?" Xander asked. "With no one staying there for a few days they might have taken it over."

"We can do that later," Hansel said. "On the way home."

"Okay." They got the fledges rising and some vampires out for a snack. Xander stopped him from shooting a few of the harmless ones he didn't recognize. "Poker circuit locally."

"Good to know." He nodded at them.

They stared and then at Xander. "You got a sugar daddy?" one asked.

"Hansel's a relation." He grinned.

One whimpered. "You're that Hansel?" He nodded. "Can I talk to you about dealing with my ex-husband for me? He's a shitbag and wants my eggs to eat."

"I can give you suggestions. Xander has shown me how many of you are peaceful."

She nodded. "I'm usually peaceful. He's a drunken idiot who likes to get high."

"Then we'll talk tomorrow." She nodded and hurried off.

"We're at my house," Xander called after her. "Show up."

"Yup, thanks, Harris."

"Welcome." The others walked off going to spread that gossip.

"How do they know about you?" Willow hissed. "That's dangerous, Xander."

"Not really. I work pretty well with the peaceful community when I'm in New York and I've helped take out a few really bad things up there, plus had a short, intense war with the other hunters because they didn't think I needed to be there. They got proven wrong. A bunch of them got proven wrong on the way to the hospital." He grinned. "They decided I'm just a bit weird but I'm good at what I do."

"You are," Hansel agreed. "You've learned a lot since I brought you with me." Xander beamed at that compliment. "Gretel, leave the young witch alone."

"I'm only testing her for dark magic."

"It's mostly where I'm pulling up the native magic here," Willow said. "There's no Brita pitcher to filter it for me. I'm not a bad girl and I'd never hurt babies. Tara would be really upset with me."

"She would," Xander agreed. "And I'm pretty sure you'll be okay." He winced. "Um...." Hansel took his gun and sat him on a headstone while he held his head. He looked up. "Fucking stop it before I find a way to come up there. I'm not yours, Powers That Be. Leave me alone." It quit. He sighed, leaning forward to rest against Hansel's chest. "Fuck."

"Need to go back to bed?" he asked quietly.

"No, I'm good to finish patrol and then I'm going to collapse and not move for the whole day." He made himself stand up and take back his guns. "Okay, let's go." They walked off. Willow was giving him worried looks. "Visions suck and each time I have one my nipples start to itch like I need to lactate or something like the legends used to." Gretel burst out laughing and floated off.

"They what?" Willow squeaked.

"Maenads were known to nurse forest animals," Spike said dryly. "Wasn't going to ask."

Xander changed for a moment then changed back. "Why?"

Spike's mouth fell open and his cigarette dropped out. "Huh." Xander grinned, heading back toward the car. "Um...."

"Bloodline gifts," Hansel said dryly, following Xander. He drove them to Buffy's house to check on it. Xander opened the door with the hidden emergency key, looking at the young girl that came out with the frying pan. "Xander?"

"Hey, Dawn." She blinked. "You don't remember me?"

"Xander?"

"Yup." He let her hug him. "It's all good."

Hansel realized what this was. "We can bring you home for tonight, Dawn. That way you're not here alone." She nodded, going up to grab stuff and came back down to go with them. They'd have to make plans about Glory later. It was clearly time to.

TBC....
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