Lacking an Anchor
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over the intellectual property of Mutant Enemy and DC comics.
Xander stared around him in confusion. One minute he’d been in the middle of melee and now he was in the middle of some street, holding his axe, covered in demonic fluids and seriously wondering what was going on.
He quickly got out of the road. 'Last thing I need is to get hit by a car. That'd be a whole new level of embarrassing. I can just see Buffy yelling about me not being able to cross the street without help. It's like she doesn't want me around anymore.'
Restfield Cemetery had gothic looking buildings, but this city took gothic to a whole new level. It was almost familiar. Glancing around at the old fashioned cars and towering buildings he knew he’d seen this place before, but where? 'New York, maybe…'
“What did you do,” Buffy asked carefully, trying not to upset the red haired witch, who had made Xander vanish in a burst of light.
“You saw the demon behind him, it was big and had claws,” Willow exclaimed.
“Yeah, that’s why I killed it. X asked me to watch his six while he took care of the oozing things,” Faith snorted, a bit pissed that Willow had done something to Xander when he wasn’t in any real danger. Well, no more than a battle with demons usually was.
“I cast ‘Safe Return’ on Xander. It’s a teleport spell that sends the target to a safe place, so he’s probably in the library,” Willow said, blushing under everyone’s gazes.
“However did you find Mor’tan ichor,” Giles asked, a bit concerned that Willow was casting spells that he thought were above her level, but curious as to where she got the rare ingredients.
“Mor’tan ichor,” Willow replied, a bit confused.
“Yes, Mor’tan ichor for casting the anchor. While I know that cannabis is easy enough to procure for high school students, Mor’tan ichor is notoriously hard to come by, as Mor’tans are rather reluctant to part with it and are themselves exceedingly rare besides,” the watcher explained, beginning to get a bad feeling about this.
“Anchor,” the young witch repeated nervously.
“Oh dear,” Giles took off his glasses and began polishing then absently, as he tried to figure out how they were going to find their wayward friend.
“This may seem like a strange question, but why are you out here with a battle axe and covered in gunk?”
Xander spun around to find a strangely dressed kid, hanging upside down from a grappling line. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Why are you dressed as Robin and where am I?”
“I AM Robin and you’re in Gotham. Did you lose a fight with a jello mold or what?”
“A bunch of sp’kan’lam and I won, unfortunately they tend to pop like a frog in a microwave when they die. It’s not dangerous, unless you get their goop all over you, then you have to deal with the whole ‘aspect of demon’ thing going on, which is pretty random in its effects unfortunately, cause being able to lick my forehead would probably get me a lot more dates.” Xander babbled absently, as he realized why things had looked so familiar and how much Jesse would envy him right about now.
“Aren’t you covered in their goop right now,” The boy wonder asked, still not quite sure if this was a practical joke or the man was just crazy.
“I’ve been hunting demons for a while now and after a little accident with a mouthless demon that almost drove a friend of mine insane, Giles got us some nifty amulets so we could avoid that problem. Hmmm. I really need to get this stuff off before it hardens though and if this really is Gotham then Batman will probably pop out of some shadow and bitch about me not having proper ID. Man, Bruce is a tightass about those things. I wonder if I start yelling out supes secret ID if he'd show up and help me. That’s a thought.” Xander’s stream of consciousness spewed out into the air to an increasingly pale sidekick.
"So, let me get this straight," Faith said, "You found a spell, but didn't bother to read the whole thing or test it even, before casting it on someone who was suppose to be your best friend, when he was in no real danger, cause I had his back." She was really enjoying paying Red back for the slut comments she had made behind her back.
Willow whimpered and sank lower in her chair as Oz comforted her.
"And Blondie here don't think it's important enough to put a lot of effort into finding him, cause he ain't her undead fuck toy."
"Hey, I just think that if the spell sent him somewhere safe, then maybe it's best if we leave him there for a while, until things are a little less demony here. It's not like I plan on abandoning him or anything. I just think we have bigger problems then one guy, who isn't even that big a help and keeps getting in the way, being sent someplace safe. That is the keyword here, 'safe'. The world however isn't safe at the moment and we need to take care of that before worrying about anything else!" Buffy finished, glaring at the dark haired slayer.
"I thought he'd be sent here," Willow sniffled, "it said someplace that feels safe. Where else would he go?"
"The number of places that are safe are beyond counting. He could be in any number of places, I daresay. At this moment he could be at a payphone in England trying to figure out the international dialing instructions or on a beach in Florida, trying to wash ichor off himself," Giles said, trying to show his slayer some support.
Oz tilted his head and considered what everyone had said. "Home"
Angel shook his head. "I already checked and he wouldn't consider his house safe either. The vampire version of Willow has been there, not to mention Dru."
"See?! He invited vampires in and he knows about all this stuff. It's best if he just stays out of it before he gets someone killed," Buffy growled.
"He didn't invite them in. He won't even invite me in," Angel said, a bit stiffly. "That's really not a surprise though."
"So they got the invite from the 'rents?" Faith asked, curious about the vamp's tone.
"They didn't need an invitation," Angel began only to have the sniffling girl interrupt him.
"Do his parents have a welcome mat," Willow questioned, worried about what the vampire version of herself could have done, had Xander been home when she was there.
"No, it's not that either. None of the Harris' consider it a home, so the normal threshold protections are really weak. You usually only see that kind of effect on motel rooms and vacation rentals and only rarely on those."
"There's nothing in the watcher's journals about weak thresholds," Wesley stated, clearly wondering why the Watchers didn't know about it.
"The threshold is weakened if the people who live there don't consider it a home, but that's rare. Most cases of a weak threshold are from places where they consider something a home, but don't actually have legal ownership or aren't planning on staying there long," Angel paused to see if anyone was going to interrupt him again before continuing, "Xander obviously doesn't consider it a home, it's just the place he sleeps at. A weak threshold will allow vampires entrance, as long as they have no hostile intentions, which leaves most vampires out."
"So, neither Drusilla nor the vampire version of Miss Rosenberg had hostile intentions towards the boy? I find that rather difficult to believe." Wesley took off his glasses and chewed on the ear piece, as he considered the possibilities and what wasn't adding up.
"They had no 'hostile' intentions towards him. Their intentions didn't have to be benign, just not hostile." Angel carefully stated.
"How do you know what their intentions were and how do you know both of them had been in his house," Wesley asked, figuring something was still missing from what Angel was saying.
The ensouled vampire winced; he'd been hoping he wasn't going to be asked this. "Because both times I had to untie him, clean him up, and help him get dressed."
Things got quite loud in the library for the next several minutes, until Wesley stuck two fingers in his mouth and let out a piercing whistle. "That is enough. We aren't going to find anything out by pointless bickering. Angel, could you please expand on what the situation was?"
Everyone quieted down, shocked at Wesley being forceful and useful, for once.
"He was kinda... tied to the bed and had some various... injuries," Angel finished uncomfortably.
"What a hypocrite! He gets all mad about me and Angel, but he's sleeping with two crazy evil vamps," Buffy yelled.
"Wow, Buff. I didn't know you were that kinky. I think most people consider being tied down and raped a bit different than willing climbing on top of a corpse, but hey, whatever floats your boat." Faith said, enjoying getting in some licks against Miss Perfect, as she was sure Xander hated vampires much too much to ever consider having sex with one.
"Raped," Buffy said, clearly confused. "Guys can't get raped. Their thingies wouldn't get hard unless they wanted it."
The blond actually shrank under the combined glares of most of the room. "They can?"
"Yes, Buffy. It is an automatic reflex, quite beyond our control. Not to mention the mental powers of Drusilla and quite possibly the vampiric Willow, means they could have made him see someone else in their place," Giles said gruffly, polishing the hell out of his glasses.
"But raping someone would be hostile... right," Buffy asked, trying to dig herself out of the hole she was in.
"Not to a vampire," Angel said gently, "and considering the questionable sanity of the two vamps in question..."
Buffy winced, as she thought of what those two would consider friendly behavior.
"Do you regularly check on Mr. Harris," Wesley asked, still feeling something was missing.
"Yes, I usually pass by his place to make sure he's Ok, if he isn't with the group and something is going on," Angel admitted.
"And why would you do that? I mean, from the behavior the two of you exhibit towards one another, I'd assumed you didn't like each other," The younger watcher probed.
"We don't," The vampire confirmed, "But I owe him. I owe him a lot!"
"What for," Faith asked, curious about how the normal guy rated so much.
"For one thing, he saved Buffy, when I couldn't do anything," Angel said, a haunted look in his eyes.
"Angel, that wasn't your fault. Who knew you'd need to know CPR in the Master's cave," Buffy tried to reassure him.
"That was just one of the times when he saved you. There was Angelus jumping you in the cemetery when you were sick, there was the time Angelus came to the hospital and Xander was there by himself and 'convinced' him to leave without a fight. I'm sure there were a couple of times I wasn't there that he saved you. I also owe him a lot for Acaltha."
"He got you sent to hell," Buffy growled, "if he hadn't lied..."
Angel interrupted her, "Then Hell would have become my permanent home."
"So you aren't trying to blackmail me," Batman questioned his latest guest, who was currently wearing some borrowed clothes and devouring one of Alfred's meals like it was the best food he'd ever eaten.
"Not remotely," Xander assured him and started in on another helping of mashed potatoes with gravy. "I'm just saying that since I know your secret identity and you know nothing about me, that you'd probably spend a lot of time worrying and obsessing about it, so why don't I stick around here, where you can keep an eye on me?"
"What do you get out of it?" The cowled man searched Xander's eyes for any trace of a hidden agenda.
"I get to eat Alfred's cooking," the dimensional traveler smiled, "and... swim in your pool, watch your TV, the usual lazy houseguest setup, while I wait for one of the JLA or the people at home to figure out a way for me to get home."
"How can I be sure you're telling the truth?"
"Get Martian Manhunter down here to look through my memories. I know you like to go through complex scenarios and figure out what anyone will do in any given situation, but let's skip all that and go with the simple mental probe deal, so you'll be able to sleep at night without wondering what I'm up to."
"That... sounds reasonable," Batman grudgingly admitted.
"You're thinking it sounds too reasonable, aren't you?" Xander snickered.
"What," Buffy yelled.
"The demons that tortured me had fun, lying to me about how Angelus had succeeded in sending the entire Earth to Hell and explained how, since my weakness was what allowed him his freedom, I was responsible. I would have earned an eternity in the pits for that and don't try and claim that you would have stopped Angelus. You let him run free and he killed dozens of people and the vampires he lead killed even more. I spent a century in the pits for the crimes I freed him to commit and I got off easy. If Xander hadn't lied to you, then you would have gone easy on him and then I would have spent an eternity roasting in the pit and for letting it happen, you would have probably been chained up with me. I owe him my soul and yours'," Angel fell silent, as did everyone as the enormity of the situation sunk in.
"I don't think I can be sentenced to hell for not doing something, otherwise we'd all be in trouble for not curing cancer or stopping murders in other cities. There is no end to what we're not doing," Buffy explained.
"Yes, but you physically stopped other people from dealing with him, which left him free to kill," Angel said firmly, having had plenty of time to brood... err, think about the situation.
"I couldn't let you go, not like that," Buffy sniffed, tears trickling down her face.
"I was already gone and it hurts to think that you couldn't tell the difference between me and HIM," Angel snarled. "The body may be the same, but we sure as hell aren't and since my soul was restored by Willow, she now bares the same guilt if he gets free again. That's another reason I... we need Xander back, because if Angelus gets loose again, I can count on him to do the right thing! Of course I'm also a bit worried he'll jump the gun, but that's still better than the alternative."
Wesley spoke up after a couple of minutes, trying to steer the conversation back on track, "So, has Mr. Harris spoken to anyone about his ordeal?"
"What?" Giles looked over at Wesley.
"He was raped at least twice and I was wondering if he had some friend he confided in that he talked to about it, to get it off his chest. He may have felt the need to unburden himself without mentioning they were vamps, but he had to have talked to someone."
"Willow," Giles asked the hacker, who burst into tears and buried her face in Oz's chest, while crying about being a bad friend.
"Buffy," Giles attempted and winced at Faith's snort.
"She'd probably tell him he was askin' for it and he was invitin' it, cause guys can't get raped and then gone on to tell him how useless he was," Faith replied, looking more than a little pissed as she thought of events in her own past.
Buffy just stared at the floor mutely.
The Oz question was met with a headshake and Angel a confused shrug before speaking, "I tried to talk about it to him once, but he gave me a strange look and asked what I was talking about."
"Maybe he repressed it," Willow ventured, remembering her mother talking about repressed memories.
"Or someone else repressed it for him," Wesley muttered. "Exactly how strong was their gift for domination?"
"Well, they did tie him down," Faith said, "so they had some basic skills at least."
The younger watcher looked over at his charge and repressed the urge to strangle her, as it would probably just get him killed. "Some master vampires have the gift of Domination, it's a mental ability that allows them to alter memoires, cause hallucinations, implant commands, and so forth. Drusilla and Rosenberg could have easily made him forget they had ever visited him and may have implanted some commands. Did he exhibit any changes in behavior after the events in question?"
"He wanted the vampiric Willow sent home," Angel said as it began to dawn on him, how unlike the boy that was.
"How is that unusual? Having a vampire clone of Miss Rosenberg around is hardly safe and most people find it difficult, if not impossible, to kill a demon that wears a loved one's face," Wesley asked.
"X woulda staked her. He's got a mad on for vamps and while I can't say I know him all that well, I do know he hasn't passed up any chance to dust one that I've seen."
"Staking someone you love isn't that easy," Buffy replied sadly.
"He staked Jesse," Willow announced.
Martian Manhunter stared at Batman, "You summoned me, Dr. Fate, and Superman, for a simple mind scan?"
"He asked to be scanned, so I decided to add some unforeseen variables to the equation, just in case it was a trap of some sort," Bruce stated as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Superman scratched his head, "I can't tell if that's paranoia or good planning."
"Good planning," Xander ventured. "I mean, here is an unknown guy who shows up knowing everyone's secret identities and suggests a course of action that would put him within arm's reach of the League's strongest telepath. It'd be the perfect opportunity to work some mind controlling mojo and use him to take over the league."
"That's a good point," Superman admitted.
"And while we're on the subject, can you really be considered paranoid when you have a large number of dangerous assholes after you," The dark haired dimensional traveler pointed out far too cheerfully.
"Another good point, but there has to be a limit," The kryptonian argued.
"If he had all your super powers he could relax a bit, but as a 'normal' human with several enemies that can match you in strength, I'm going to have to say paranoia is a survival trait," Xander countered, making quote marks in the air with his fingers while saying normal.
Superman scratched his chin thoughtfully.
Batman had remained silent up to this point. "As you can see he is extremely knowledgeable about us, as well as... helpful. It makes me uneasy; I'm not used to it."
Dr. Fate nodded and moved his hands in what everyone assumed was an eldritch manner while chanting in a language that hurt to hear.
Xander stared at his own softly glowing form worriedly, "What did you just do?"
"I cast several spells to neutralize magic and telepathy, as well as a diagnostic spell that doubles as a truth spell," Dr. Fate's voice echoed from his helm.
"I dislike magic, it never seems to work right around me," Xander muttered nervously.
"Truth," Dr. Fate announced.
"I have no plans of revealing anyone's secret identities."
"I don't know how I got here."
"Other than by magic, obviously," Xander rolled his eyes.
"I'm not planning on causing any trouble."
"With the exception of annoying people."
Batman broke in, "Do you mean to cause harm to any of the league?"
"Are you going to do anything that I would disapprove of?"
"Tons! If I spend the day telling dirty jokes to batgirl, you'll disapprove of me distracting her. If I spend the day watching TV and vegging, you'll disapprove of me being lazy. If I spend the day doing anything fun, you'll disapprove of it as frivolous and if I spend the day doing anything serious, you'll disapprove because you'll wonder what I'm up to. You are so anal retentive about things that if we stuck a lump of coal up your ass we'd get a diamond," Xander finished, exasperatedly.
"True..err I mean..." Fate cleared his throat and tried to pretend he hadn't said anything.
Superman, through superhuman effort, managed to keep from laughing, but his face turned a light shade of pink.
"Don't blame me if you don't like the answers, I pretty much call things as I see them and I figure you're mature enough to handle the truth."
"Fine! I don't think you're mature enough to handle the truth, but I thought you'd at least have enough self control to fake it."
"If I really wanted to upset you I'd tell you that you're parents are proud of what you've done, but think you put way too much pressure on yourself and your mother thinks it's about time for you to settle down and get married and thinks Diana is the perfect girl because she has nice child bearing hips," Xander remarked thinking about an alternaverse comic he'd read.
Batman almost went for him before Fate said, "Truth."
"How do you know," Batman demanded.
"The same way I know Clark's parents, both sets, are proud of him and what he's done and think he should marry Lois already and give them some grandkids. Jor'el would also like his son to work on expanding the bounds of science a bit. Sorry, Clark, but you're dad is a bit of a geek and would like people to see you have brains to go with the brawn."
"How do you know all this?" Superman asked in awe, some of his persistent worries about his birth parents' satisfied.
"I grew up on the mouth of Hell and have spent the majority of my High School career helping keep demons from opening the gates of Hell. I've monitored your dimension as a form of entertainment. It's kept me from going nuts and helped me keep my sense of humor when things have gotten dicey," Xander carefully worded his reply, figuring that telling people they were fictional characters was a bit... mean.
"I'm not any kind of superhero, I'm just a guy who does the best he can in a really bad situation to keep myself and my friend's alive. All of my friends are superheros with special powers or training. I'm just the guy that tries to keep them sane and fetches the donuts!"
"Who's Jesse?" Faith asked.
"He was our best friend since we were eight. Jesse and Xander were like Butch and Sundance, always getting into trouble and me trying to keep them out of it. Buffy saved me and Jesse her first day here, but he got recaptured and turned. They were like brothers, until Darla, Angelus' sire, turned him. He talked to me about it, afterwards, said it was half accident and half on purpose. He just had to push hard and it was done. He said Jesse would never forgive him if he let a demon run around with his face, killing people," Willow rambled, wiping her eyes.
"I'd have to say he'd stake you for the same reasons then, Red," The dark haired slayer said, "and that goes doubly so for any vamp clones, since he'd still have you around to let him know he did the right thing."
"I think it's safe to say the vampire Rosenberg did more than just repress his memories of certain events," Wesley ventured.
"But I don't remember her messing with the mind's of anyone while she was here," Willow protested.
"She could require a certain amount of time alone and without interruption to make use of those abilities," Giles offered.
"Was she alone for any length of time with anyone else here," Wesley asked.
Willow raised her hand, "I sorta ran into her here, but I don't recall her doing any of the mind mojoing."
Giles rubbed his temples, "The fact that you don't recall anything means little, as she could have erased the memories afterwards. I think we're going to have check you and Xander, when he returns, for implanted suggestions or commands."
Dr. Fate waved his hand and the glow around Xander faded. "I think we can dispense with this now."
Xander rubbed his arms. "Damn, goose bumps."
"Manhunter, if you will," Batman waved the silent green alien forward.
"Wasn't Fate's spell enough proof," Superman questioned.
"I just want to verify the information. I always try to verify everything from at least two sources before accepting any data as a fact or a possible fact."
"It's just common sense," Xander spoke up, before Superman could say anything.
Manhunter stared at Xander intently, telepathy being a little less flashy then most super powers.
Xander felt like his brain was itching. "I don't suppose now would be a good time to mention I've been possessed several times, would it?"
"A minute ago that would have been nice to know, now I already know that. You have multiple memories and thought patterns overlaying one another, I'm surprised you're still sane," Manhunter replied, still sifting through Xander's multiple mindset.
Xander quickly grew bored and a bit annoyed at how long it was taking. "Find anything interesting?"
"I've found the reason you're still sane."
"Are you sure?"
"What, that you're still sane or that I've found the reason," Manhunter grinned.
"Score one for the green guy! Either one," Xander snickered.
Superman looked at the alien telepath curiously, as Batman tensed up.
"I'm copying his style of humor. I never realized that personality trait was so versatile. He has it as an emotional defense and offense, as well as a tool to diffuse tense situations. He also seems to use it and body language as a form of camouflage and a way to insert ideas into a group so they'll think they're their own. As you'll recall, I learned to deal with humanity by imprinting on another, this is just an extension of that," Manhunter replied, to calm down his worried teammates.
"Damn it! I knew I should have had that copyrighted," Xander complained.
"Yes and I'm also stealing all the works you read by Stephen King. We don't have any of his books here and I'll consider that fair payment for being forced to dig through endless reams of porn!"
"I'm a teenage male and you should feel honored that I'd share my porn sash with you," Xander said firmly. "And seriously, stealing my sense of humor is completely out of bounds."
Xander winced as a series of images flashed through his mind. "Ewww, what was that?!"
"My people's porn. Now imagine going through reams of THAT and you'll understand how I feel."
"OK, point taken. Now about my question..."
"You are still sane because two other people, and I use the word loosely, have gone through your brain and reinforced certain traits, so you wouldn't go completely mad."
"I don't remember anyone shuffling through my brain, except Buffy and that was pretty much just receiving broadcast thoughts..." Xander trailed off. "I can only think of one 'person' who could have played with the toys in my attic, so I'm thinking I'm really not going to like the answer to this, am I?"
"No, I can pretty much guarantee you aren't going to like it. Here's number one."
Xander twitched and alternately looked pissed and pale for a minute before settling back down. "That was so very, very wrong. Fun in parts, true, but that was mainly because of the Joyce overlay."
Xander groaned and smacked himself in the head. "Pun not intended. I meant because of who I thought it was, although I'll have to admit, not having to breath has certain benefits. Shouldn't I be majorly traumatized by this and what else did she do?"
"I'm blunting any emotional trauma, which, due to your chauvinism, would have been light anyway. If it had been Spike..."
Xander turned green enough to look like Manhunter's distant cousin.
"Exactly. It was just Drusilla and she spent quite a bit of time in between... reinforcing bits of your core personality with the hyena. Hyenas, despite their reputation, are pack animals with social patterns very much like man. In action this means you're fiercely loyal to your pack, even if they don't deserve it. I'm working on reasserting your original mindset and blunting your hunting urges, which she also reinforced. It may have helped you deal with the insanity you call your life, but it's not really healthy in the long run."
"OK, I'm seeing that the loyalty may have been abused a bit, but the hunting urge I may still need. I mean, it's difficult enough to kill vamps as is"
"I'm not touching the fighting instincts, just the urge. Taking stupid risks because of an overblown since of loyalty and bloodlust, or rather dust lust, would actually lower the number of kills, since you'd die much earlier."
"OK, I can buy that. Who is number two on the mental mojoing countdown and what did they play with?"
Manhunter resumed snickering.
"Damn it! It's going to be a replay isn't it?"
"Almost. Here it is."
Xander blinked and shifted a bit uncomfortably in his chair. "OK, that wasn't too bad."
"She reinforced your attraction to herself and implanted some subtle commands to encourage obedience, nothing overpowering, just a strong sense of guilt if you went against her will. She also suppressed some of the soldier's memories that were giving you nightmares and reinforced your will and ability to keep calm under fire with the soldier persona. Anything you'd like changed?"
"Remove the compulsions and what memories did she erase?"
"Done. She suppressed memories of being a field medic during the Korean war."
"That's strange, I thought my soldier memories were from more recent times."
"It seems to be a random sampling from various large scale engagements, with modern wars making up the bulk of them. There is actually a section from a Roman legionnaire as well. I'd say it was a rather... chaotic mix," the big green alien snickered.
"Joy, just what I always wanted, a nebulous collection of random memories of battles throughout time. Just to make sure, there doesn't happen to be any head chopping involved and someone yelling 'There can be only one', right?"
"Not a one and just for that remark, I'm stealing your Highlander collection. I'll borrow some money from Bruce and see about making the movies, skipping the abortion of a sequel and re-writing the third into something other than a commercial for the TV series," Manhunter said firmly, having unintentionally absorbed a lot more than just Xander's sense of humor.
"How about doing 'The Crow' movies? The first one was great, but it went downhill after that," Xander said, as the rest of the JLA member stared at the two in confusion.
Batman broke in, before they could get too involved in their discussion about which movies that Xander had watched would make the best films here, "So you both agree he's no threat?"
Manhunter and Fate nodded.
Xander shrugged, "Unless you have demons or the undead walking around I'll probably just play couch potato, but I call dibs if you get any in!"
"Fine," Batman sighed, a bit frustrated at having wasted so much time on a non-threat, when he could have been out making the streets safer for the children of Gotham.
"So Grundy, what's the next big heist," a walking stereotype of a gangster asked their leader.
"Grundy say, we kidnap the richest people in Gotham and hold them for ransom," a large white figure in half rotted clothes replied in a deep and raspy voice.
"But what about Batman, Boss?"
"Grundy say, Batman not a problem. Grundy take care of bat."AN: Picture by Methos.