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Hunter on the Hellmouth

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This story is No. 2 in the series "The Stolen Hunter". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Book Two in my "Stolen Hunter" series. Xander is back on the Hellmouth, this time with a head full of supernatural knowledge and an over-protective uncle watching from South Dakota.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Xander-Centered > Theme: Real FamilyBluLadyKFR18985,724118037,4057 Oct 0927 May 12No

Chapter Nine: Going Through Changes

Hunter on the Hellmouth

BluLadyK




AN: Yeah – I can never be prompt with these things. What else can I say? This time I’ve been busy writing – but other stories that creeped into my head and refused to stop nagging me until I wrote them. But worry not – I will not be abandoning this or posting any other stories/chapters besides this and “The Paper Its Written On” until both of these stories are done. ^_^




Disclaimer: As always, anything that appears like so ‘dialogue’ is directly from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer transcript and is therefore thought property of the beloved Joss. Everything else is me.




Buffy Episodes Used:


02.14 “Innocence”


02.15 “Phases”




Chapter Nine: Going Through Changes




Xander lay on the counter in the library, scouring the book in his hands as he searched for anything about the Judge, the newest big bad to grace Sunnydale with his ugly, evil presence. As usual he was coming up empty. He rhythmically thunked his head against the counter, only half paying attention to Willow’s conversation with Buffy. Apparently Angel was MIA and that was causing the blonde a great deal of stress. He knew that broodiness often resulted in sulkiness, but wondered when the pair of them would figure it out.


“So, I take it no luck on the Angel front?” Xander said when Willow replaced the phone back in the cradle and released a sigh.


’She's checked every place she can think of. She even beat up Willy the snitch a couple of times. Angel's vanished.’


“She was just beating him up for fun at the end, I’m sure,” Xander said with a grin, his grin didn’t fade at the glare she directed at him, in fact, it only widened. Giles came out from the office that he had been sequestered in completing his own research for the Judge.


’But he does do that on occasion, no?’ Angel disappearing that is,” Giles clarified.


’Oh, yeah, but she's extra wigged this time. I guess 'cause of her dreams. God, what if something really happened to him?’


’Is she going to join us here?’


’Yeah. She's just stopping at home first.’” Xander slammed the book he had long since given up actually reading and swung his legs around. Jumping off the counter he made his way back to the shelves to put the book back to find another, hopefully with the solution they were all looking for. As he entered the stacks, he spotted Cordelia thumbing through a book she had just pulled from the shelf.


“Find anything?”


’This book mentions the Judge, but nothing useful. Big, scary, no weapon forged can stop him, took an army to take him down. Blah, blah, blah,’” Cordelia said flipping through the pages with a scowl on her face.


“There has to be something,” Xander said staring wistfully at the books as if the correct book that held the answer would just fly off the shelves at them at his beseeching look. Rolling her eyes Cordelia put the book she had been thumbing through back on the shelf,


“Well if there is, it’s not here.” Xander looked down at his hands, his fingers playing with the spine of the book still in his hands. Tilting his head back up, he looked at Cordelia with a forlorn frown, “look, I’m sorry that I got all snappish caveman on you earlier.”


“Yes, well, good to know if your precious Buffy is in danger you’d be willing to rush off to your death so easily,” She snapped back.


“I would have done the same had it been anyone else,” Xander said as he stepped up next to her, setting the book in his hand down on the shelf.


“Yeah, if it were Willow, or maybe Giles, but not if it were me.” Xander’s jaw lowered in shock, before he snapped his mouth shut and ground his teeth together in frustration. Walking right up to Cordelia, he pushed past personal space and got right into her face.


“That’s a crock and you know it. I will always go out on a limb for you, for any of you.” Cordelia’s face lit up, a smile pulling at her lips, her eyes shining.


“I know, but I wanted to hear it.”


“You!” Xander’s tirade was cut off as Cordelia closed the gap between them and pressed her soft, pliant lips to his. Xander smiled into the kiss as he wrapped his left arm around her waist, his right hand gliding up to tangle in her hair. Xander wasn’t sure if it was the need for oxygen or the soft gasp he heard behind him, but he pulled back from Cordelia’s lips and turned to find Willow staring at them, tears in her eyes, her hands shaking at her sides. “Willow – “he began, once again cut off before he could continue as the red-head turned and fled from the stacks.


“Sorry Cordy – I have to talk to her,” Xander said turning back to Cordelia. The brunette nodded numbly as he gave her a thankful smile and took off from the library after his friend. She brought her hand up to her lips and smiled – realizing in that moment that she wasn’t appalled that Willow had found out, she was…happy.


Xander finally caught up to Willow in the empty hallway, “Willow! Please – wait!” He pleaded with his best friend.


“I don’t understand, I knew you were lying about something and I knew it involved Cordelia but I don’t understand how you couldn’t have come to me about this.”


“Really? I would have gotten the Willow stamp of approval had I come to you when this whole craziness first started between us?” Xander asked dryly.


“Of course not! I would have talked some sense into you mister! ‘It's against all laws of God and Man! Remember? The, the 'We Hate Cordelia' club, of which you are the treasurer.‘” Willow said arms crossed over her chest, a sour look on her face.


“Come on, Willow,” Xander said exasperated. “I told you that what I was going through was personal and when I was ready to talk I was going to tell you everything.”


“Yeah – too bad shame and insanity kept you from talking.”


“You are completely overacting,” Xander said throwing his hands up in the air, “What’s your problem? Cordelia and I sort of just happened – and we’re both trying to make this work without all of the extra crap in our lives getting in the way. Why can’t you just be happy for me?”


“Oh, so I’m extra crap?” Willow asked as tears began to trickle down her cheeks. Xander heaved a sigh and rubbed his hand down his face.


“No – that’s not it and you know it,” however when he looked up, he just saw Willow’s retreating form as she took off down the hall. Shaking his head, he turned back to go to the library. It was useless to try and talk to Willow when she was this upset, it never got anyone anywhere.




***




Xander sighed as he walked out of the bathroom a few hours later. He had gone back into the library hoping to talk to Cordelia about what had happened, but when he got back, research mode was in full swing, Giles was having her run through some ancient tome looking for something and he didn’t want to have the conversation that he knew they needed to have in front of the Watcher. He was about to enter the library when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. It only caught his attention because it was late and no one else was here, or supposed to be here besides the Scoobies.


“Willow!” he said spotting his red haired friend walking down the hallway. He hadn’t seen her since their little fight, the teen having not come back to the library. He jogged over to her, where she stood arms wrapped around herself as she looked resigned at having to speak with him again.


“Xander,” she answered.


“What happened to you?”


“I went home for a bit,” she said still not looking at Xander directly.


“Well, I’m glad you’re back,” he said softly, shuffling his feet. “We…no I need my Will.”


’Let's get this straight. I don't understand it, I don't wanna understand it, you have gross emotional problems, and things are not okay between us. But what's happening right now is more important than that.’


“I can respect that,” Xander said with a nod, hands tucked into his pockets. Heaving a sigh, Willow allowed her arms to unfold as she finally gazed up at Xander.


“So where do we stand with the Judge?”


“In the same place, on a stack of books in all sorts of languages that say the same damn thing.”


’Lemme guess: 'no weapon forged.'‘


“Yup - 'It took an army.'


’Yeah, where's an army when you need one?’


“Ah! That’s it! Willow you are brilliant!” Xander said smiling and nodding as he began to work through the crazy idea that he thought was just crazy enough that it might work. Just as Xander was working up the words to go with his thoughts – the lights in the school went out, leaving the pair of them standing in darkness – only the lights from the street lamps streaming in through the windows and the few emergency lights in the hallways above exits illuminated the hall.

’What's going on?’” Willow asked moving closer to Xander sub-consciously.


“I don’t know, but let’s get to the library and check on the others,” Xander said grabbing Willow’s hand and turning to head down the hall.


’Willow. Xander.’” Angel’s voice. Xander turned around to face the vampire, eyes narrowed as he looked the man over from head to toe.


“You don’t appear to be crippled, maimed or otherwise disemboweled.”


“No,” Angel said laughing and shaking his head. “I’m better than ever.”


’Thank God you're okay. Did you see Buffy?’” Willow asked smiling at the man, Xander, however wasn’t convinced. Something was off with this whole situation and he couldn’t quite figure out what. That, more than anything bothered him. He hated being left in the dark, looking up at the lights he shook his head at his own pun and refocused his attention on Angel.


’Yeah. What's up with the lights?’” Angel asked catching Xander’s look skyward to the dark fluorescent bulbs. Xander shrugged and looked at Angel strangely,


“No idea, but we should probably meet up with the others,” Xander said hooking his thumb in the direction of the library.


’Forget about that now. I... I got something to show you.’


“What? Show us what?” Willow asked blinking in confusion. Angel smiled. A tooth filled smile.


’Yeah. Xander, go get the others,’” Angel instructed, keeping his eyes on the red-head. “’Willow, come here.’” Xander hesitated, something was off, something kept niggling at the back of his mind, but Willow didn’t have the same hesitation and she stepped forward to follow Angel.


’Willow, get away from him,’” Jenny said walking in from the other end of the hall, a crossbow held up – its sight locked on the vampire. Something was definitely up, Xander thought reaching into his back pocket and grabbing a cross that he had been keeping there lately – luckily Angel’s focus was entirely on Jenny right now and he slowly walked over to Willow to grab her and pull her back.


“What’s going on?” Willow asked looking from Angel to Jenny hoping that the answer would be written in the air, or that someone would start talking. Angel smiled, but there was something dark and twisted about that smile and then before either Jenny or he could react, Angel had his Willow around the throat, holding her body in front of him like a shield. It was an all too familiar situation – he remembered Angel holding him like that in almost this very spot when they faced Spike. Only now, things were very very different.


“Angel! Let her go,” Xander shouted stalking over to the pair.


“Make me,” he said flashing fang with a twisted grin.


“Angel, please,” Willow said as tears began welling in her eyes, she couldn’t get much more out because the vampire squeezed her throat, causing her to gasp as she fought to get oxygen to her brain.


’He’s not Angel anymore. Are you?’” Jenny asked, though her question sounded more like a statement to Xander.


“Of course I am, I’m finally free,” Angel said throwing his head back in relish. Dragging Willow back against him, he turned his head so that he was inhaling just at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. “’I got a message for Buffy,’” he began.


’Why don’t you give it to me yourself?’” Buffy asked from behind the pair, Angel spun around on his heel, roughly dragging Willow’s protesting form with him. He gave a soft frown that was clearly put on.


“You see…I would. But it’s more the message through actions than actual words. The sort of actions that leave your precious friends’ bodies and parts all throughout Sunnydale.” Licking along Willow’s neck, he laughed as the red head shrieked as much as she could with his tight grip still locked around her throat.


“Angel, this isn’t you, something is wrong. But we can help you,” Buffy pleaded moving closer to the pair.


“I’m pretty sure I’ve already explained that this is me, was I the only one listening?”


“There has to be a part of you that still remembers who and what you are.”


’Dream on, schoolgirl. Your boyfriend is dead and you are all going to join him.’


’Leave Willow alone, and deal with me.’


’But she’s so cute,’” he said pinching her cheek and grinning, “’and helpless, really a turn on.’” Xander had used the distraction that Buffy provided, purposefully or not, and had positioned himself behind the vampire. Angel was so focused on torturing Buffy and the squirming ball of red-headed girl in his arms, that he had stopped paying attention to him and Jenny, likely counting them out of the fight. Xander was going to prove the bastard very wrong. Without warning, Xander shoved the cross into the side of Angel’s face, smiling as the flesh sizzled slightly at impact.


“Son’ova bitch!” Angel flinched back, shifting into game face as he practically threw Willow into Xander in an effort to escape the cross and distract the young man enough to take the necessary steps back to safety. Xander took the brunt of her weight and stumbled back but managed to keep his feet. Quickly pushing her behind him, he stepped up, cross held out at arm’s length as he began to walk toward the vampire. “I think that’s my cue,” turning he ran over to Buffy and grabbed her by her shoulders. “’Things are about to get *very* interesting.’” He warned pressing his lips against her protesting form before he shoved her back into the wall and took off down the hall and out of the school.


“Is everyone okay?” Xander asked looking from Buffy to Willow. Willow nodded her head reluctantly, Buffy however just stood silent, and staring down the hall that Angel had just fled. “We should get back,” he said gently, wrapping his arm around Willow and walking with Jenny back to the library, he knew Buffy would be along in her own time.




***




Xander’s eyes trailed Giles’ movements as he paced from the one end of the library to the other. Slowing his movements only to pull his handkerchief out of his pocket, then he would resume his pacing, glasses in hand as he furiously polished them before stuffing the cloth back in his pocket and setting the glasses back on his face. “’And we’re absolutely certain that, that Angel has reverted to his former self?’” Giles asked, finally breaking the awkward silence of the past few minutes.


“I feel pretty confident that we are now dealing with the Angelus of Watcher Diary fame,” Xander said giving Giles a look. Willow nodded furiously and then winced when the motion made her sore neck throb.


’Giles, you wouldn’t have believed him. He was so…he came here to kill us.’


“So…what do we do?” Cordelia asked.


“I don’t know!” Giles said throwing his hands up. “Things are a mess, we already have to deal with the Judge who is a practically unbeatable opponent that I don’t know if we can survive, and now we have to worry about the driving force of the Scourge of Europe who is hell bent on torturing Buffy though us.”


“Well that’s a scary assessment of the situation,” Xander said with a sigh, dropping his hands to his sides. He watched as Willow stood to go talk to Buffy who had said precious little since she had walked into the library a few minutes after the rest of them had come to apprise Giles of the situation. She had sat very quietly at a table set aside from the rest of them and had stared at her hands, a far away expression on her face as he and Willow recounted the events of the evening.


Xander walked back to Giles office to get Willow a glass of water emerging just as he saw the blonde tearing from the library at a breakneck pace.


’Buffy!’” Giles shouted, moving as if to follow, “’I’m sorry, but we can’t afford to…Buffy!’


’Giles, shut up.’” Xander looked between Willow and Giles and wondered what the hell he had missed. He had only been gone a few minutes. What could the Watcher have said that had Buffy tearing out of the library as if it were on fire?


“Great!” Cordelia said throwing her hands up and slapping them back on the table. Xander jerked his head over to look at his girlfriend. “We have an un-stoppable evil that will wipe out humanity, Angel has thrown in with the dark side, and the one girl in all the world who can possibly do anything about this is a fruit nut, emphasis on the nut.”


“Well, I don’t have any suggestions for Angel or Buffy, but I have an idea about the Judge,” Xander said, figuring now was a good as time as any to go over his plan.


“Well, I’m open to suggestions,” Giles said looking over at the teens.


“Yeah, what do we do?” Willow asked.


“Well, this is something that Cordelia and I can handle, though I am going to need access to a large vehicle, Cordy and my vehicles are out, and I am not even going to think about the sardine can that Giles calls a vehicle.”


“Hey!” Giles indignant voice made Xander smile.


“Oz has a van that I think we can convince him to let us use,” Willow offered.


“Great!” Xander smiled, he loved it when plans came together. Now – to just convince Cordelia to play her part; he turned hesitant eyes to the brunette and gave her a wide smile.


“Okay, I give up. What do you want me to do, just tell me.” She said, arms crossed.


“It’s simple; just meet us at Willow’s in about half an hour.”


“What’s the catch?”


“Uh – can you wear something…er slutty?”


“How slutty Harris?” she said, eyes narrowed, “and you better be very careful here.”


“Not too slutty! Just like…I’m trying to impress a boy into my skirt slutty.”


“Oh. Okay then. See you in thirty,” she said twiddling her fingers as she strolled out of the library. Willow and Giles turned to look at him strangely.


“How did you just get Cordelia Chase to agree to dress like a slut for a plan that you haven’t explained?” Willow asked, finally breaking the silence. Xander gave her a smile.


“We’ve come to a certain agreement after the whole Order of Taraka thing; we’ve got each other backs.”


“So you’ve been…together…since then?”


“Yeah – and I don’t think we were quite ready to come out to everyone just yet, but I guess we’ll just roll with the punches and deal with it.” He said shrugging. “So – see you in thirty.”




***




“So your plan involves breaking into a high security military facility?” Willow asked looking up at the compound incredulously.


“Trust me, ‘wait here. When you guys see that window open get out the ladder, come up, we’ll pass you the package, okay?’


“Cool,” Oz said with a nod, the teen had agreed to allow them use of his van, but had insisted on driving them himself. It worked out for Xander anyway; he would need Oz’s assistance getting what they had come for down the ladder. Xander and Cordelia emerged from the sliding door of the van, a pair of bolt cutters held low in his hand, at his side to try and hide the tool. Creeping stealthily to the shadowed section of the base he quickly cut through the links in the fence. Reaching out, he carefully rolled back the metal enough so that he and Cordelia could squeeze through.


“So what exactly is my role again?” Cordelia asked nervously. Xander had briefly told her of his plan, and she had agreed to go along, but he could tell that she was not keen on getting caught. Xander however was planning on it. It made things easier if they were caught by just the right person.


“Just follow my lead,” he said taking her hand and dragging her gently further into the compound, toward the storage bunkers that held the weapons. The pair made their way silently along buildings, hiding in the shadows cast by the spotlights that lined the fence. Xander stopped short when he heard a contingent marching near their location. He wanted to be caught by a single soldier or two, not a platoon. Turning back to face Cordelia, he put his finger to his lips indicating silence, she nodded silently.


When the group had passed them, he motioned for her to follow again. When they reached the entrance to the desired bunker, he turned around and gave her a quick kiss. “Trust me; I won’t let anything happen to you, promise.”


“I do,” she nodded, “trust you.” Xander gave her a soft smile and pulled her forward, slipping his arm around her waist as he walked out toward the bunker like he owned the compound. He kissed and whispered nonsense in Cordelia’s ear pleased when she caught on and began to giggle.


“Hold it right there! Hands up, identify yourselves!” he heard a gruff voice command from behind him. Xander turned on his heel, a wide smile on his face as he pulled Cordelia closer.


“Private Harris.”


“And why are you sneaking around the armory private? And who the hell is the female?”


“I’m on leave and this is my girl. She flew in all the way from Arizona to see me this weekend, she really gets off on the army thing, if you catch my meaning,” Xander said wiggling his eyebrows.


“And there is a reason this army thing can’t be done in broad daylight?” the guard said eyebrow raised.


“You know how it is man, when the mood strikes, I don’t question my girl. ‘Specially because I don’t get to see her that often. Come on, you cut me some slack and I’ll cut you some slack.”


“What do you mean, cut me slack? I’m not the one sneaking onto base while on leave with a civilian.”


“Yes, but I’m not the one whose boots are not regulation, who was slacking when covering his post and,” he said reaching out and doing a maneuver with the M-16 before handing it back to the soldier so that he was holding it properly, “holds my weapon like a civilian.”


“Fine, twenty and then I’ll not be responsible for what I report.”


“Thanks man, you are a total lifesaver. Come on babe,” Xander said stepping back to Cordelia and once again wrapping his arm around her waist as he led her into the armory. Once they were inside and the door shut behind them Xander turned to Cordelia. “Okay, now to fin…” he was cut off as Cordelia launched herself at him and attached them together at the lips. Xander moaned into the kiss as she wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. They finally came up for air five minutes later.


Xander blinked and smiled lazily at the teen, “not that I’m complaining, but I was only kidding when I said the whole army gun things gets girls hot and bothered. Unless I wasn’t, in which case we are so moving in.”


“No nimrod, that was for being a genius and so that you looked properly kissed should dofus out there check up on us.” She said hooking her thumb toward the door.


“Did Cordelia Chase just call me a genius?”


“No – and I will disembowel you if you ever breath a word of it to anyone.”


“Roger,” Xander said giving Cordelia a military salute before he moved further into the armory, pulling a flashlight from his jacket pocket so that he could read the boxes for the desired label.




***




Xander rode with Oz, Cordelia and Willow in Oz’s van to the mall. They had the rocket launcher crate they had lifted from the military armory with them; Buffy was with Giles in his sardine can that he insisted on calling a vehicle. “So does anyone know what was up with Giles, Buffy and Ms. Calendar?” he asked to break the silence.


“It was pretty tense,” Oz said with a nod.


“I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with Angel,” Willow said. “I think she knew about him going all evil, remember how she warned me to stay away from him, before we knew he was evil.”


“Ah, Angel. Of course,” Xander said with a nod. “How could it be anything else?”


“Xander,” Willow said a tone of warning in her voice.


“I’m sorry, Willow, really I am. But look, I understand that her boy toy is now an evil boy toy but we have more evil fish to fry right now. We can’t be alienating people that can help us because they might have known about Evil Angel before we did.” Oz and Cordelia had remained quiet after Xander’s remark – not wanting to step into something that was rapidly becoming just as tense as the atmosphere between Buffy and Ms. Calendar.


“We’re here,” Oz said breaking the silence a few minutes later. After Oz pulled in and parked the van, everyone was in motion and things moved quickly, the tension vanishing in lieu of the upcoming fight. Oz and Xander hefted the large military crate on their shoulders, Willow and Cordelia carried bags of stakes and crossbows. Giles pulled his car up behind the van and he and Buffy got out, carrying their own bags of weapons.


“Alright everyone, stay back, only take on the lesser vamps, and leave big blue and ugly to me,” Buffy ordered moving into the mall, leaving the others to follow.


“One of these days, we aren’t going to do what she says,” Xander mumbled to himself.


“What was that?” Giles asked walking up beside the young man. Xander shook his head, waving Giles off.


“Nothing, nevermind, let’s get this thing set up.” Xander kept one eye on Buffy as she jumped up and leveled a crossbow at the Judge, breath evening as she took aim. He kept the rest of his attention on the large military crate that he and Oz were opening.


“You sure you got this man?” Oz asked, eying the rocket launcher in the crate warily.


“Yeah, no big, still got all the memories from the time I was possessed by a soldier,” Xander answered distractedly as he armed the weapon.


“Cool,” Oz said nodding and just like that, it was, for the newest addition to their group. Xander really thought that he had a chance to make it far with his calm acceptance of everything Hellmouthy.


’Who dares?’” Xander heard the Judge thundering from across the room, and knew that was his cue.


’Think I got his attention,’” Buffy grinned.


’You are a fool,’” the Judge retorted as he pulled the quarrel from his chest. “’No weapon forged can stop me.’


’That was then,’” Buffy started, holding her hand out to Xander who gladly handed her the anti-tank rocket launcher, hoping that she would remember her brief lessons he had given her on how to fire the weapon. “’This is now.’” Xander dove down behind the snack counter with the rest of the group, but he did peak his head over the edge to make sure that the projectile fired true.


’What’s that do?’” Head cocked to the side, Xander thought the blue skinned demon almost looked cute asking what the rocket launcher was. He didn’t have much time to ponder what the weapon was before the rocket was striking him straight in the chest and he exploded in a small mushroom cloud of flame of smoke. Soon the mall was raining Judge, and even Xander had trouble suppressing his ewwww, the same ewww that Cordelia had no trouble expressing vehemently.


’Best present ever,’” Buffy intoned with a grin, handing the rocket launcher back to Xander who took it and carefully set it back in the crate. He shared her grin with one of his own lopsided smiles.


“I’m only sorry they didn’t have Fashionista Pink on such short notice for you.”


“So that’s it? He’s dead right?” Willow asked, standing up from behind the counter cautiously as she surveyed the mall and the destruction around her.


“Well, we don’t know that this actually worked at completely killing him,” Giles said polishing the soot from his glasses, “not on a permanent basis, which is why we need to collect the parts and make sure you keep them separate.”


“Parts? Did I mention ewwww? And I’ll an extra ick just for fun,” Cordelia said walking over to a piece of armor that the Judge left behind and toed it, a sour look on her face. Xander followed Buffy’s gaze as her head snapped up and people began to scream. Angelus had reappeared from whatever hole he had ducked for cover in when she fired the rocket. Jumping off the refreshment stand, Buffy began to push her way through the crowd, chasing after Angelus as he turned and fled against the panicked traffic.


“So do you think bags will do or should I look for boxes to transport these parts?” Xander asked, looking to Giles. Before the Watcher could answer, the sprinklers kicked on and the group was drenched.


“Great! Now I will really need to throw these clothes out, the slight smoky smell I could have cleaned, but not this. I’m going to stake Angelus myself if I see him.” Cordelia huffed, hands on her hips as she glared at the sprinklers as best she could while still keeping the spray out of her eyes.


“Uh, yes, er that is, I think bags would be sufficient,” Giles answered Xander’s question, sliding his eyes to Cordelia’s fuming form.


“Right, I’ll see what I can dig up,” Xander quickly vanished into a nearby store and went behind the counter grabbing several of the largest sized bags they had. Walking back out to the wet mess that was the lobby, Xander handed out bags to everyone and began to join the search for body parts. Willow was soaked, her hair clung to her face which she tried to push back behind her ears, but the wet strands kept falling into her eyes as she bent down to search for the body parts.


’Uh…arm,’” Oz said holding up the first body part they found in the debris. He quickly stuffed it into one of the bags Xander had given him and tied the bag closed, placing it to the side. The group soon made short work of finding and bagging the body parts.


“Should we check on Buffy?” Willow asked, gazing worriedly down the hall where Buffy had vanished to fight Angelus.


“No, we are helping by staying out of her way. Angelus is someone that she needs to face on her own, and he will not hesitate to use any of you against her to gain the advantage. No, she is better off alone right now, and we need to get these parts loaded in the van.” Giles said hefting three of the bags in his hands. Xander and Oz followed suit, each grabbing as many bags as they could carry as they made their way to the van. Willow and Cordelia stayed back to bag the remaining few parts. Xander hung back and snagged the sleeve of Giles’ coat so that he would slow and match Xander’s slower pace.


“My uncle can take a few of these parts if you like,” Xander said keeping his gaze forward. Oz was already headed back to the mall, and didn’t seem interested in their conversation but Xander thought there was nothing wrong with being too careful.


“Uh, yes, thank you, that would be much appreciated,” Giles nodded. “The further we can scatter these parts the better.” The pair continued on back to the mall where the girls were gathering up the last of the parts into the bags. The rest of the parts had been successfully recovered, bagged and loaded in Oz’s van when Buffy finally came back to the group, soaked and more miserable looking that Xander had ever seen her.


“We should all head home, we’ll deal with the dispersement of the Judge in the morning,” Giles said looking at the weary faces of the teens standing in front of him. “I’ll take Buffy home, and see the rest of you tomorrow.” The teens nodded and split up, Oz, Cordelia, Willow and Xander climbing into Oz’s van, Buffy sliding into Giles’ car and the two vehicles motored away from the mall.


Xander directed Oz to drop the girls off first and then had him take him to the 24 hour storage facility at the edge of town. “I have a unit here that we can keep the Judge in until Giles can find homes for all of him.”


“Cool,” Oz said with a nod, offering to help Xander carry the bags in. Xander hesitated just for the briefest of moments before nodding, the storage unit was where he kept all of the tools of the trade, but he knew that while it might surprise Oz, he wouldn’t talk about it later. As expected Oz’s eyebrows rose when he walked into the unit and saw the wall to wall books, weapons and other assorted hunting paraphernalia. “Huh,” was all the teen said something that Xander appreciated. He also appreciated the fact that he knew he didn’t have to ask Oz to keep what he had seen between them.


“Thanks man,” Xander said when Oz finally dropped him off at home.


“No problem,” he nodded and pulled away from the curb. Xander watched his van disappear around the corner before he turned and headed up the walk to his home. Making his way to his room, he flopped onto his bed in his usual spot and picked up the phone on his nightstand, dialing his uncle’s number.


“Singer,” he heard his uncle’s gruff voice come over the line.


“Hi Uncle Bobby!”


“What’s wrong?” his uncle immediately asked.


“Why does anything have to be wrong?”


“Because you actually used a proper greeting, identified yourself and you sound like you want something,” his uncle said suspiciously.


“Can’t a nephew just want to say hello to his favorite uncle?” Xander asked with a pout.


“Sure he can, but you, Xander Harris cannot call me, Bobby Singer without some heart paralyzing story of some idjit thing you did, or you want something from me in terms of research or supplies.”


“Do I really only call you when I want something?” Xander asked quietly, realizing that he may have been using his uncle for his knowledge and the fact that he was in on the big secret that was Xander’s hunting life. “I’m sorry, I don’t, I mean I didn’t…”


“Shut up ya’ idjit!” Bobby said running his hand over his face. “If I didn’t want to talk to you I wouldn’t answer the damn phone. Jesus boy – I love the stories you tell me, even if they do give me minor heart palpitations and I would rather you come to me for your knowledge and supplies than some demon or some such nonsense.”


“Right, so…”


“So, I love you, stop being an idiot and tell me why you called.”


“Ah, yes - well have you ever heard of a demon called The Judge?”


“The name is familiar, but why don’t you bring me up to speed?” So Xander did – he told his uncle about everything, Angel losing his soul, the vampires bringing the pieces of the Judge together and how Xander figured out how to stop him.


“So I sort of offered to Giles that you might, maybe, possibly want to hold onto some of the parts for us. You know, in those safe warehouses that you got stashed around.”


“Did you now?”


“Was I incorrect?”


“No, not exactly; I know a few places that I can store them, so you can send them.”


“Thanks – I know I was assuming a lot.”


“No worries. So how are things going otherwise? You said that Angel was now a soulless vampire again out on the rampage. Is Buffy going to be able to stake him?” Xander spent the next few hours talking to his uncle about the situation. How he didn’t think Buffy would be able to kill him unless it came down to him or her and even then he feared that she would hesitate and it would cost her life.


“I don’t know, I guess we’ll just have to let it all play out for now,” Xander finally said.


“That sounds like the best idea. If you need help with anything let me know, you know I’ll be there.”


“I know thanks. Night Uncle Bobby.”


“Goodnight Xander,” his uncle said before hanging up the phone. Xander hung up the phone and looked at the clock with a groan. He had to be up for school in four hours. Not even bothering to change or crawl under the covers, he just switched the light off after setting his alarm and closed his eyes, asleep only a few moments later.




***




Xander held Cordelia to him, his right hand running teasing fingers along her back, his left was buried in her hair as the pair kissed deeply, turned toward each other over the gear shift of Cordelia’s bright red convertible. The pair had begun dating, of sorts, in that they would take turns driving to various secluded locations and would spend the entire night testing each other’s patience and self-control.


“Ow,” Xander said pulling back from Cordelia’s lips, the gear shift was pressing against his thigh and was bruising an already bruised leg. “Cordelia stop,” he said when she tried to resume their kissing frenzy.


“What?” she said breathless, eyes opening and she glared at him, angry that he stopped kissing her.


“Cordelia – don’t get me wrong, I love making out with you, but you have to agree this is not the most comfortable place that we could be doing this.”


“Well – what did you expect? That we’d find and pay for some seedy motel and what? Have sex every night. Please – you think far too much –“


“Cordy!” Xander said, placing his hand over her mouth to stop her tirade. “I wasn’t suggesting that…or anything like that.” He jerked his hand back with a frown as she bit into his palm.


“Then what were you suggesting?” she asked arms crossed over her chest.


“I’m suggesting, wait…did you hear that?” Xander asked head turning to the side as he tried to identify the sound. Cordelia rolled her eyes.


“No avoiding the subject dweeb.”


“Sorry, I thought I heard something, anyway,” Xander said shaking his head, “I was going to suggest that we try the backseat, no chance of gear shifts permanently indenting my body.”


“Oh, well in that case,” Cordelia smiled as she began to slide to the backseat. She was about halfway back when Xander grabbed her legs. “What the hell do you think you are…”


“Shh!” Xander said, knowing that he had heard something this time. His head whipped around, looking out all of the windows, trying to find the source of the noise. Cordelia screamed as a clawed hand punched through the top of her convertible. “Jesus!” Xander said, throwing himself back in alarm. The arm connected to the hand was covered in fur, like a bear, but Xander knew there were no bears in this area. “Get back, go, go, get into the backseat,” Xander hollered, Cordelia was quick to obey, as she finished sliding into the back seat. Xander hopped over into the driver’s seat and did a quick frantic search for the keys.


“Move Xander!” she screeched as she dodged the arm that was swinging around blindly inside the car, looking to grab her.


“I’m trying, hang on,” Xander said finding the keys; he quickly inserted them into the ignition and started the car. Driving forward as fast as he could for a few feet, Xander slammed on the brakes and watched with disbelief as a werewolf came flying over the windshield and onto the hood before rolling to the asphalt. “No way…” he said headlights shining on the groaning beast. He would have gotten out of the car to examine the creature had Cordelia not screamed for him to get a move on. He quickly snapped into attention and motored the vehicle out of the parking lot and onto the roadway, taking them back towards Sunnydale proper and the safety of their homes.


Xander pulled up along the sidewalk in front of Cordelia’s home, where he had left his vehicle. Shutting the car off, he turned around in the seat and looked at Cordelia who was huddled in the backseat, arms wrapped around herself. “You okay?” he asked. Looking up at the sound of his voice, Cordelia nodded meekly. Getting out of the car, Xander folded the driver’s seat up and helped Cordelia climb out of the car. As soon as she was out she threw herself into Xander’s arms and just held on.


“That was…was that really…it couldn’t be…” she stuttered.


“Yeah, I think it was,” Xander said hugging her to him, “I think it was a werewolf. We’ll talk to Giles tomorrow. We’re fine tonight.”


“Right, thanks. I mean for keeping a cool head and all,” Cordelia said pulling away from Xander. Placing a kiss on his lips she waved goodbye and went up the sidewalk to her front door. Xander waited until she disappeared inside the house before he moved over to his own car and got inside. He quickly motored his vehicle down the street away from the fancier homes and to the more modest cookie cutter development that he lived in. Parking in the street, for he didn’t dare park anywhere in the driveway that was for his dad’s car, he made his way into his house. Saying a quick hello to his mother, he raced upstairs to grab his phone, remembering that his uncle had hunted a werewolf when he was there this summer.


“Hey, what do you know about werewolves?”


“Why?” his uncle asked warily.


“Because one just tried to eat me and Cordy tonight,” Xander said chipper, despite the experience. “Tore a nice sized hole in the top of her car.”


“Her car?” Bobby said, brow raised,” do I want to know what you two were doing in her car?


“Exactly what you think, making out, of course.”


“Right, well tonight was the first night of the full moon, you have two more nights to find the were and kill it.”


“How do we kill it?”


“Silver blade through the heart.”


“How do we find it?”


“There is no way to tell during the day – werewolves don’t know what they are during the full moon. So they wouldn’t be acting any different than usual. But they have to be attacked by a wolf, so if the attack was recent, which it sounds possible since this is the first appearance, they might still have evidence of their attack on them. Or if it’s an older werewolf, you can always look at the people who have moved to town in the past month.”


“Thanks, we’re going to be in full research mode tomorrow and any information I can get now will speed up the process.”


“I’ll email you what information I can about what I already have,” Bobby said moving over to his living room that had become his study.


“Awesome!”


“So – did you want to talk about this you and Cordy thing?”


“Uh, not really. I mean we’re having fun, right now that’s enough for both of us.”


“Is your relationship out in the open?”


“Yeah, we got outted during the research of the whole Judge thing.”


“How is everyone taking it?”


“Willow’s still upset, but she’ll get over it. I think she’s madder that I couldn’t confide in her about us rather than the fact that we are together.”


“Ah, yes, well I think you two will be fine once you talk.” Bobby said. “You’ve been friends far too long for this to get in the way.”


“Thanks Uncle Bobby, I knew that, but…”


“But it helps that someone else thinks it too?”


“Yeah.” Xander smile, who would have thought that his parent’s neglect would have actually turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him last summer? It brought him to his uncle which he knew had saved his life many times while he was living on the Hellmouth and helped him understand more about himself than he would have ever understood before. And it started him and his mother on the healing path that Uncle Bobby almost literally kicked them on. “Thanks, Uncle Bobby, for everything.”


“Uh, you’re welcome?” Bobby said unaware where Xander’s thoughts had wandered.


“Ugh, I better go – I have school in the morning, and we’re going early to show Giles and the others Cordy’s car.”


“Alright – well goodnight then, let me know if you need anything else, and I’ll keep looking at werewolf activity around Sunnydale to see where this wolf could have come from.”


“Thanks! Night-night!” Xander hung up the phone and sighed, a bright smile on his face. Life was pretty much perfect right now.




***




The group watched as Giles walked away from the car, muttering about werewolves and lore and novels. “’He needs to get a pet,’” Buffy said shaking her head.


“Or something,” Xander agreed with a smile, “later,” he said waving to the girls.


“Xander!” Xander turned around at Willow’s voice, “where are you going? We have health class first period?”


“I know – I just wanted to talk with Giles about something, I’ll meet you guys there.”


“Okay,” Willow said hesitantly, not sure what he would have to discuss with the Watcher but shrugging as Oz tugged her toward the gym where they were meeting for a special health class. Xander jogged to catch up with Giles and fell into step with him as he reached the west entrance.


“Hey G-man,” he said clasping his hand on the man’s shoulder. Giles jumped up and spun around to glare at Xander.


“Really mature Xander.”


“Thanks,” he said with a smile, knowing that Giles was being sarcastic. “So, I talked to my uncle, and he’s got a lot of info about weres. He’s hunted a few in his day and said he was going to email me all the research he had compiled over the years.”


“I…Xander, I…thank your uncle for me.” As supportive as Giles and his uncle were to him about his relationship with the other, and his insistence that he hunt as well, they were still unused to or perhaps even uncomfortable taking information from each other. They would never admit it though, but he could always tell in how they both got quieter and more careful in their word choice when they were discussing the other mentor in Xander’s life.


“You guys really should just meet,” Xander said with a smile, walking with Giles to the library, “it might help with some of this awkwardness that you two still seem to have about each other.” Giles began to sputter, looking at Xander with wide eyes.


“I hardly think that would be necessary, I do not feel that there is any…awkwardness as you put it between me and your uncle, I have never met the man.”


“Exactly, and yet the both of you formed opinions about the other because you are a Watcher and he’s a Hunter.”


“Yes, well, be that as it may,” Giles said taking his glasses off to polish them.


“You should see your face right now,” Xander said with a smile. “It’s not like I’m trying to set you up on a date or something.”


“Xander!” Giles said turning to glare at the young man. “While I have no problems with anyone of that persuasion, I myself am inclined toward the female body.”


“Whoa there Giles!” Xander said laughing, “My uncle is as straight as they come, I was just…never mind, if I keep this up you’ll have a heart attack before I even print the info for you.” Giles remained suspiciously quiet as they finished the trek to the library. Once through the double doors, Xander made his way over to the computer in Giles’ office, sitting in the office chair. Quickly logging into his email account, he scrolled through his mail looking for the one from his uncle. Finding the correct message, he opened it and began to open the attached documents.


Scanning the contents as he was waiting for them to print, he then typed a quick thank you to his uncle and logged out of his account, not that he feared Giles would even know what to do with his logged in email account, but it was never good to keep personal information up and accessible in a public high school built over the mouth of hell. “Here you go,” he said handing Giles the printouts as he exited the office. “I figured you would prefer something you can hold onto instead of trying to read them while on the computer, but I did save them to the desktop if you need to access them again.”


“Yes…well that was rather thoughtful of you,” Giles said looking at his office and Xander was sure he gave a shudder at the thought of trying to access anything on his desktop without him or one of the Scoobies present. Xander refrained from laughing, barely and said his goodbyes, having to jog to get to the gym now and not be late for class. As it was, he managed to climb up the bleachers and sit next to Cordelia with barely a minute to spare before the bell rang.


“So – why are we here again?” Xander asked resting back against the bleachers behind him, looking around the gym at the mats set on the floor and one of the female coaches standing near their health teacher. Cordelia shrugged.


“I don’t know – something about health I’m sure.”


“Cute,” Xander said giving Cordelia a look. She just returned the look with a smile.


“I know.”


’Sunnydale is becoming more dangerous all the time. And a full moon like tonight tends to bring out the crazies, but with some simple basics of self-defense each of you can learn how to protect yourself.’” The coach said walking to the front of the room. Xander and Cordelia shared a look.


“Unless they are going to show us how to forge silver daggers and bullets, not sure they can really tell me how to take down a were,” Xander whispered. Cordelia snorted in agreement.


’What you wanna do is gain advantage of the situation as quickly as possible.’


“Can I get a duh?” Cordelia said shaking her head, “even before I knew about what I know about, you can’t survive here and not know that you have to have the advantage. Hell you have to know that to be Queen Bitch.”


“You are quite good at taking advantages of situations,” Xander said with a smile, thinking of many of their make-out sessions.


“Perv,” she said slapping the back of his head.


’Your attacker may have the benefit of surprise. But if you plot ahead then you can turn that advantage to yourself.'


“How do you plan to be taken by surprise?” Xander asked blinking, head cocked to the side.


“Idiot – you prepare so that you can’t be taken by surprise,” Cordelia said rolling her eyes.


’By being prepared, you have the power. Okay, everyone get into your assigned groups.’” Cordelia gave him a pointed look at the final words of the coach.


“Okay! I get it already, sheesh.” All of the students stood and began to shuffle down the bleacher steps to the main floor where all of the mats were laid out. Xander was about to make his way over to his group when he saw a flash of white out of the corner of his eye – the familiar white of a strip of gauze. He looked over at Larry, king of the asshole jocks as he took off his letterman jacket revealing the white bandage. He weaved through the throng of students to stand at Larry’s side,


“That looks painful, what happened?” he asked trying to imbue genuine concern into his voice.


'Oh, last week some huge dog jumped out of the bushes and bit me. Thirty-nine stitches. They oughta shoot those strays.’” Xander’s mind whirls as he processed the information Larry just gave him, last week he was attacked by a dog and now there was a werewolf running around. Although, the timing was off, last week it wouldn’t have been a werewolf that bit him as it wasn’t a full moon. Xander filed the information away to be used later, but Larry didn’t seem like the immediate threat now.


’I've been there, man,’” Xander nearly leapt out of his skin when he heard Oz’s voice from behind him, he hadn’t heard the teen walk over to them, he saw that he was holding up a finger as he spoke, “’My cousin Jordy just got his grownup teeth in? Does not like to be tickled.’


“Wow – hard way to learn,” Xander said with a chuckle as he saw the healing bite mark.


“You’re telling me,” Oz said with a nod as he walked away to join his group. Xander shook his head and walked back over to Cordelia – telling her what just happened and his theory that Larry probably wasn’t the werewolf.


“Shame,” Cordelia said shaking her head, “he sure acts like a beast and he doesn’t even have the excuse of being an actual beast.” Xander followed her gaze to the jock as he was harassing Theresa. Heaving a sigh, he was about to walk over and intervene when he saw Buffy walk over to the pair and figured that if the Slayer couldn’t handle one stupid meathead then there really was no hope for the world and turned his attention back to Cordelia and his group.


Xander was positioned behind Cordelia, his right arm around her waist, his left around her neck; the position the coach had directed all the male partners in. Cordelia was actually supposed to work with another student, but she had taken one look at the teen and crooked her finger at Xander. Xander smiled, because he really didn’t want anyone else this close to his girlfriend besides him. He was waiting for Cordelia to flip him when he watched Larry sail across the room and land just off the blue mat.


“And she worries about keeping her identity a secret?” Cordelia said with a snort. Xander couldn’t help but shake his head. He understood that Larry probably said or did something completely well…Larry and Buffy reacted as any normal girl would – but she wasn’t a normal girl, she was a supernaturally enhanced warrior.


“You gotta admit, Corr – sure is amusing to see Larry get his comeuppance.”


“Of course – just saying she’s not allowed to be surprised anymore when people find out who she is.” Xander just smiled – at least that was until he ended up flat on his back with Cordelia’s shoe pressed against his throat, a sultry smile on her face as he lay trying to catch his breath.




***




“Xander, I want to thank you and your uncle for that information, it was really helpful in putting together that little presentation,” Giles said putting his earth and moon model away that he had pulled out for the demonstration. The girls had left, Xander had said goodbye and that he’d help out where he could tonight, he had wanted to talk to Giles.


“You know – keeping the were alive hadn’t really occurred to me,” Xander said quietly. “Uncle Bobby said there’s no cure – and it’s not like they can control themselves when they are the wolf right?”


“Yes and perhaps it’s because I’ve never faced a werewolf in person – I just can’t see that killing them is the only option. I think that if we can find out who the wolf is we can talk to them and…I don’t know – work something out.“


“What? Like chaining them up or something?” Xander asked, thinking about what he just said and nodding. “I guess that could work – I mean we’d have to find someplace that would be secure and that we could have someone watching over them in case they break out, but I don’t see why that wouldn’t work.”


“See,” Giles said smiling, “I’m not ready to give up on this individual.”


“Of course, it also will depend a lot on who the wolf is right? I mean if it’s someone that’s not going to cooperate or doesn’t want to believe us we may not have a choice.”


“I should rather hope it would not come to that.”


“Me too, but plan and expect the worst but hope for the best right?”


“Very wise,” Giles smiled moving over to the cage where he kept his weapons. He didn’t really have anything that would be well suited for hunting the wolf tonight that wouldn’t kill the creature.


“I have a tranq gun,” Xander said moving to stand next to the Watcher. Giles turned and looked at the teen; brow raised in question, telling Xander he better elaborate. “I have a whole slew of weapons, both deadly and non-deadly. You never know when you have to tranq a possessed friend or something and a kill shot or weapon isn’t going to be the best option. I can meet you guys tonight if you like. “


“Yes – that would be wonderful, thank you,” Giles said. “We’re planning on checking out the park first, just after dark.”


“Right, I’ll meet you guys there,” Xander said waving as he left the library.




***




Xander kept to the bushes, trying to hide since he was the one holding the obvious weapon that would spook the werewolf. He had his head cocked to the side so that he could listen as attentively as possible for any sounds of screams or Buffy or Giles indicating that they had found the wolf. Xander heard a yelp that sounded like a woman, and raced towards the sound, stopping short of exposing himself as he saw a man leveling a gun at Buffy who was currently dangling ten feet from the ground in a rope net.


’What the hell?’” The obvious Hunter said head drawing back in surprise that he had caught a blonde, seemingly fragile teen in his werewolf net.


’Giles! Giles!’” Buffy shouted, causing Xander to wince, and he noted, the Hunter as well. Xander watched as Giles came running from his left, quickly taking in the scene before him,


’Hey! Whoa!’” Giles’ hands went up in the universal sign of ‘don’t hurt the harmless guy’ and moved forward slowly.


’Hands are good right about there,’” the man said gun now trained on the Watcher.


’Who, who are you? What are you doing?’


’The name's Cain. I'm the one with the gun, which means I'm the one who gets to do the interviewing.’” Xander almost stepped out, revealing himself but he caught Giles slight shake of his head, so the Watcher had spotted him and wanted him to stay back for now, that was fine, he raised the rifle to his shoulder and kept Cain in his sights.


'Ahem. Hey, before we get all chummy here, how about we do something about me being in this net thing?’” Cain sighed, lowered his gun and walked it over to a nearby boulder. He set the weapon down and reached for a knife. Xander didn’t relax his own weapon until Buffy hit the ground. Giles was quick to move to his Slayer’s side, helping her untangle herself from the rope.


’You alright?’


’Yeah,’” she said standing up. Cain gave Buffy a once over that had Xander frowning.


’Gotta say, I'm impressed.’


’Excuse me?’” Giles asked, clearly understanding his meaning but giving the man a chance to back out. Buffy’s head bounced like a tennis ball between the two men, understanding that they were having a conversation that only someone with a penis would understand but wishing they would explain it to her.


’ Well, it's good to get the fruit while it's fresh.’


’You'd be wise to take that back.’


’Hey, what a man and a girl do in lovers' lane at night is nobody's busi...’” Giles took a menacing step towards the man, but Buffy’s hand on his arm stopped him. Xander was a little disappointed, he would have liked to see the Watcher school the Hunter, although he didn’t know the Hunter’s skills, he trusted in the Watcher and the slightly darker past that he tried to keep hidden from the teens. He knew that Giles could handle himself out there in the world of the supernatural.


’Oh, okay, hey, enough, repulsive brain. It's not what you think,’” she paused chancing a glance at Giles before she continued, “’we’re hunting werewolves.’” Cain reacted as Xander suspected pretty much every Hunter except his uncle would (and that was only because he knew the sordid details of Buffy’s strength) at the image Giles and Buffy must have made as werewolf Hunters. Buffy, however, didn’t understand where his laughter was coming from, “’Okay, it's funny if you don't believe in werewolves.’


’No, it's funny thinking about you two catching one. I mean, this guy looks like he's auditioning to be a librarian, and, you, well, you're a girl.’


’I assure you she's quite capable,’” Giles said stiffly.


’Uh-huh. Lemme ask you something, sweetheart. Exactly how many of these animals have you taken out?’” Somehow, when Cain called the werewolves animals, it set something off in Xander, rubbed him the wrong way.


“As of today?’”


’I tore a tooth from the mouth of every werewolf that I killed,’” Cain said hooking a finger under his necklace and holding it out for the pair to see. “’This next one will bring the total to an even dozen.’”


’So you're just gonna kill it?'


'Well, see, that's the thing. Their pelts fetch a pretty penny in Sri Lanka, and it's a little hard to skin 'em when they're alive.’” Xander felt bile rise in his throat, if he was getting their pelts that meant he was skinning them alive. Uncle Bobby told him that as soon as werewolves were killed they reverted back to their human form.


’Y-you hunt werewolves f-for sport?’


’No, no, I'm in it purely for the money.’


'And it doesn't bother you that a werewolf is a person twenty-eight days out of the month?’


'That's why I only hunt 'em the other three. I'd really love to stay and chat,’” he began crouching down and gathering up the net that had previously been holding Buffy, “’but I'm on a tight schedule. Any idea where else the boys and girls like to get together around here?’


’You're looking for a party?’


’No, but the werewolf is. They're suckers for that whole sexual heat thing. Sense it miles away. Since this little doggie ain't here, I guess he found another place.’


’Sorry. Wish I could help you.’


’But you don't know squat? Gee, what a surprise.‘” Cain turned to leave and Xander raised his gun back up to shoot him for being an ass when his brain processed what he had said about werewolf hunting grounds. If the wolf wasn’t at Lover’s Lane, than it was sure to be headed for or worse yet, already at The Bronze; Xander felt a minor heart attack hit as he remembered Cordelia and Willow were going to be at The Bronze tonight. Quickly racing back to where he had parked his vehicle, he threw the rifle in through the window and hopped in the driver’s seat, making tracks back toward the city. He knew that Buffy would figure it out too and he couldn’t wait for Giles and his clunker.


He made it to The Bronze in record time, half surprised that he wasn’t pulled over in the process. He knew that the police in Sunnydale were inept but he figured they would at least be on top of the human crime. They must spend more time covering up the demonic crime than he thought. He grabbed his riffle and went to the alley entrance; he knew if he tried to walk in the front door he would be stopped. Luckily, he had discovered this entrance earlier and knew that it was never guarded by any bouncer.


He had just made it up to the second floor when he saw the werewolf drop down from somewhere on the second story or rafters and suddenly the entire club was in a panic. People were screaming, tables were overturning and chairs were being shoved and toppled in the chaos. Xander had a brief out of body experience to dwell on the thought that The Bronze should really invest in bolting the tables and chairs down, before the screams brought him back to the moment. Xander tried to track the movements, but the wolf was too quick and there were too many moving targets in the way. “Shit,” he said, never moving, waiting for the right moment to take the shot.


Xander watched Buffy come in from the back room, a chain wrapped around her arm ready to use against the wolf, hopefully she would be able to slow the beast down enough to give Xander a clear shot. As she passed the drum kit, the wolf jumped out from behind the stage curtains, Buffy spun around, dropping her backpack as she began to unwind the chain from her arm, swinging the metal loosely. She focused and threw the chain out, smiling as it looped around the werewolf’s neck.


Unfortunately, Buffy had placed herself in Xander’s line of sight, so he had to move to get a better angle to fire the tranquilizer. By the time he moved and reset, the wolf had torn itself away from Buffy and leapt up to the window, leaping through the glass and tearing off into the night. “Shit,” Xander said straightening up and heaving a sigh. They almost had it, just a few more minutes and he would have been able to take the wolf down.


’You let it get away,’” Cain said walking over to Buffy as she was shoving the chain back into the backpack she brought.


’I didn't let it do anything. I had the chain around its neck.’


’Chain? What were you gonna do, take it for a walk?’


’I was going to lock it up.’


’That's beautiful,’” he said walking over to her, “’This is what happens when a woman tries to do a man's job.’” Xander couldn’t believe this guy – not only was he a poacher, but he was a genuine ass. Buffy ignored him as she brought the bag up to her shoulder. Giles’ voice rang out from behind the poacher.


'Now, you look here, Mr. Cain. This girl risked her life trying to capture a beast that you haven't as yet been able to find.’


’Uh-huh. And Daddy's doing a great job carrying her bag of milk bones.’” Xander watched as Giles threw down his bag but stopped short of actually punching the man in the face.


’You know, sis, if that thing out there harms anyone, it's going to be on your pretty little head. I hope you can live with that.’


’I live with that every day.’” Buffy said staring at Cain, her voice and face serious. Cain shook his head and sighed,


’First they tell me I can't hunt an elephant for its ivory...’” he said throwing his hands up and turning around to leave, “’Now I've gotta deal with People for the Ethical Treatment of Werewolves.’” Xander couldn’t take anymore, raising the rifle back up, he took aim, exhaled and fired; smiling as Cain flopped off the stage like a ragdoll, instantly unconscious from the dosage in the tranquilizer dart. Buffy whipped her head around, looking around in confusion, Giles however immediately looked up to the balcony where Xander was and gave the teen a smile, shaking his head.


’Right, let's move out.’” Giles said tipping his finger from the corner of his head in Xander’s direction after Buffy had already turned and made her way out of the room. Xander decided not to follow Buffy and Giles as they headed back to the park, he knew that the wolf was probably going to ground at this point, it was getting late and most of the kids would be heading home for curfew by this time. Xander decided to do the same; he climbed into his car and made his way home.




***




’I can't believe I let that thing get away. Cain was right. I shoulda killed it when I had the chance,’” Buffy said pacing in the library the next day. Xander leaned against the counter, elbows resting behind him as he watched the girl pace. He saw the article in the morning paper about Theresa being killed by some kind of creature, although the popular theory Buffy was exercising was it was the werewolf. Xander wasn’t so sure. He nodded to Oz as the teen walked through the swinging doors.


’Killed what?’


’Uh, the, uh, (ahem) the werewolf. It-it-it was out last night,’” Buffy said, still uncomfortable about talking about the supernatural with Oz.


’Is everybody okay? Did anyone get bitten or, or scratched?’


’No, we're fine.’” Willow said giving her boyfriend a smile.


’Gladness.’


’Yeah, but he got someone. Theresa.’


“I’m still not sure about that Buff,” Xander interjected. “We are on the Hellmouth after all and last I checked one werewolf wasn’t the only thing that bumps in the night.”


“Xander does have a point,” Giles said removing his glasses.


“Yeah, but I could have stopped it last night, if it was the wolf that killed Theresa, I could have saved her,” she said flopping down into a chair, a frown on her face.


’Well, we, we have one more night.’” Giles encouraged his Slayer, he didn’t want her to blame herself and lose focus on the hunt.


’Another night?’” Oz said, his voice hitching as he looked around the room.


’Oh, yeah. Believe me, I'm gonna give that wolfie something to howl about.’” Buffy said her right fist smacking into the open palm on her left hand.


“And now the wolf is just your average Joe walking around completely oblivious to the fact that he or she is going to be furry tonight,” Xander sighed.


’There's really no way to tell who it is.’” Oz said.


“There are ways,” Xander hedged, “mainly a lot of guess work and research, our best option is either a new transplant in the last month, but that could really be anyone, any transient hobo on the streets, or someone who was attacked by a werewolf themselves in the last month.”


“Hey! Didn’t Larry have a white bandage on his arm?” Willow said perking up.


“Yes, I also remember him saying that he was attacked by a dog,” Buffy said nodding.


“I don’t think it’s Larry,” Xander shook his head. “He was attacked by a dog, not a wolf; it couldn’t have been a werewolf. Well, I guess it could have been but there is nothing in the lore that would suggest that a werewolf can shift at will, all research indicates it’s more like a curse and their transformation is linked with the lunar cycles.” Xander trailed off as all eyes turned to him. “What?” he asked confused.


“…who are you and where is Xander?” Willow asked.


“No – it fits, he could have lied about who or when he was attacked, ‘and he was awfully gleeful about tormenting Theresa.’


’Still, that doesn't necessarily mean that...’” Giles said agreeing with Xander’s theory – if only because he and Xander had already discussed a lot of the werewolf lore and Xander’s thoughts of ruling Larry out earlier.


“Look, he’s got weight training with the football team and neither Willow or I can go in the boys’ locker room, you can. Just check him out and make sure that he’s not the werewolf.” Buffy pleaded. Xander sighed.


“Fine, I’ll check back with you guys later,” Xander said walking out of the library and down the hallway. As he walked down the hall he contemplated how he was going to approach Larry about the subject of him possibly being a werewolf. He really believed the lore that said werewolves didn’t know who or what they were in their human form. But maybe whoever the wolf was knew at this point? He thought, unless the wolf was crawling back to his or her own bed each night – someone was waking up in the woods, or streets, probably naked.


“Time to wing it,” he said with much more confidence than he felt. Walking into the boys’ locker room, he looked around the room searching for his target. Finding Larry as he was coming out of the bathroom, drying his wet face off with a towel, Xander stepped into his line of vision, leaning against the lockers as Larry lowered the towel. Jumping, though the jock was quick to try and cover his surprise.


’Harris. Sheesh. Next time wear a bell.’” Xander had to smile, if only because he said the same thing about Angel all of the time. “What’s so funny?”


“Nothing – you just reminded me of something is all.”


“What are you doing here?”


’I know your secret, big guy. I know what you've been doing at night.’” Xander didn’t actually know shit, he was bluffing, hoping that Larry’s reaction would tell Xander something.


’You know, Harris, that nosey little nose of yours is going to get you into trouble someday,’” he said moving into Xander’s personal space and grabbing him by the shirt. Lifting him up by the shirt, he slammed Xander back into the lockers, “’Like today.’” Xander didn’t expect his bluff to work. Even if Larry wasn’t the werewolf, he was certainly hiding something or doing something that he was ashamed of.


“There’s no need to get violent,” Xander said hands reaching up to grip Larry’s wrists, he squeezed in just the right place and Larry let him go giving Xander a strange look. “You can’t keep this a secret forever.”


“What do you want Harris? Why are you here? To blackmail me?”


“No! Of course not,” Xander said trying not to be offended, but understanding that Larry didn’t know him well enough. “I want to help you.”


“Help,” Larry snorted, “it’s not like there is a cure out there, unless you know of a cure?” Larry asked hopeful. Xander was in shock, he didn’t th
ink that Larry could have been the werewolf, because of the moon cycle and the fact that it was a dog that bit him. But maybe there was some form of lycan that could shift at will. There was so much that he didn’t know about lycans. He just knew what he had learned from his uncle and his own limited research.


“I’m sorry, but no, there is no cure,” Xander said quietly. “I’ve been there, and I know it’s confusing and frightening but it doesn’t have to be the end of your life.” Xander said unconsciously rubbing the band on his right wrist that covered his permanent mark from the demon.


“You’ve been here,” Larry snorted, “that’s all fine for you, you are a nobody. But me, I have a reputation.” Xander was silent for a moment, thinking maybe he and Larry were actually talking about two different things when Larry really amped up, “’look, if this gets out, it's over for me,’” he said beginning to pace as he worked out the thoughts in his head, “’I mean, forget about playing football. They'll run me outta this town. I mean, come on! How are people going to look at me,’” he paused to turn and face Xander, “’after they find out I'm gay.’


Xander was silent. He didn’t know what to say. He had walked in expecting nothing except maybe a black eye for his troubles, but he had learned something he never thought could be true about the jock. Larry’s shoulders lowered as he gave a relieved sigh. Turning to Xander he smiled, his eyes suspiciously wet, “’Oh, wow. I said it. And it felt... okay. I'm gay,’” moving closer to Xander he spoke again, “’I am gay.’” Xander smiled, not sure how to react or what to say. He couldn’t say he was shocked because Larry thought he already knew.


’I can't believe it. It was almost easy. I never felt I could tell anyone. And then you, you of all people, you bring it outta me.’


“Yes – well what can I say, I have that way about people.” Larry leaned against the locker, looking at Xander. He studied the teen, and shook his head.


’No, no, because knowing you went through the same thing, made it easier for me to admit it.’


’The same thing…’” Xander trailed off confused, eyes widening as he realized that when he was confessing his own experience with the supernatural, the demon and the hyena possession, Larry thought he was admitting his own homosexuality. Larry wasn’t too far off, Xander had experienced love of a man in his love of Jesse, and he’d experienced love of male flesh in his one off with Kyle after the whole hyena possession. But he loved women too, he was pretty sure that what he had with Cordelia could be something more if they wanted.


’It's ironic,’” Larry said putting his arm around Xander’s shoulder, “’I mean, all those times I beat the crap out of you, it musta been because I recognized something in you that I didn't want to believe about myself.’


“Larry – I’m with Cordelia, if she…”


’Of course, of course not. Don't worry,’” he said patting Xander’s shoulder, “’I wouldn't do that to you. Your secret's safe with me.’” Winking at Xander he slung the towel he had come out of the bathroom with around his neck and turned and walked off without another word. Xander stared after Larry, blinking several times as he tried to wrap his head around what had just happened. Finally shaking the encounter off, he left the boys’ locker room and headed for the library where he hoped the girls still were, and he hoped that they had found a more viable contender for werewolf than Larry. He spotted the girls coming down the hall and flagged them down.


’I'll see you guys later. Cordelia asked me to look over her history homework before class. I think that means I might have to do it.’” Willow said leaving with a wave.


’Wow, those two gals are hanging out a lot together. This would be a good time to panic.’” Buffy laughed and shook her head in agreement.


’So how'd it go with Larry?’


“Eh, it went,” Xander hedged. “He’s not the werewolf though; we’re on to suspect B.”


“We don’t have a suspect B,” Buffy said shaking her head. “Willow couldn’t find anyone else would fit the profile of a werewolf.”


“Well, do we really know what their personality would be like during the day?” Xander asked. Buffy shrugged as she reached her locker. Dialing the combination, she put her backpack into the locker and closed the door.


“I guess not, we’re all working off guesswork and theories.” Buffy agreed. “I just hope we can figure it out before there’s another Theresa.”


“Buffy – we are assuming that the werewolf was the one that killed her.”


“I know,” she sighed, “you don’t think the wolf was responsible.”


“The timing is off, from when he was at The Bronze to when the attack happened. I mean, it’s possible, but I really think the wolf was hiding out from you after almost getting caught.”


“So, what are you suggesting we do?”




***




“I don’t think I want to know how you knew to pick the lock,” Buffy whispered as she and Xander walked through the empty funeral home where Theresa’s body was laid out. Buffy walked over to the body, frown creasing her forehead as she saw the scarf around her neck. Pulling the material back, her shoulder’s lowered, “’vampire.’


“At least we know that she didn’t meet her end because of the werewolf,” Xander said. “That’s some bit of good news.” Xander flinched at the withering look that Buffy gave him. “’No, there is no good here,’” he amended shaking his head.


’No good. Instead of not protecting Theresa from the werewolf,’” she said walking over the guest register from the earlier viewing that was still left out. “’I was able to not protect her from something just as bad.’” Looking through the pages of the register a soft frown appeared on her face, “’she had a lot of friends.‘” Quietly, without any flare, Buffy added her own name to the register.


’Buffy, you can't blame yourself for every death that happens in Sunnydale. If it weren't for you people'd be lined up five deep waitin' to get themselves buried. Willow would be Robbie the Robot's love slave, I wouldn't even have a head,’” Xander paused as he caught flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. Looking back to the coffin he continued, “’and Theresa's a vampire.’


Theresa sat up like a movie villain and turned her head to face the pair, a sub-vocal growl coming from her throat. Buffy spun around just as the vampire climbed out of the coffin. Buffy lunged at the dead teen, grabbed her at her arms and tried to wrestle her to the ground. Xander took a step back, to stay out of her way, but ready in case there was an opening. Using her vampiric strength,
Theresa threw Buffy to the floor, diving after the Slayer to pin her to the ground.


Buffy quickly shifted their position and was soon sitting on top of Theresa. Grabbing the wooden easel next to her that was holding a flower wreath for the vampire, she quickly snapped off a leg. Moving the makeshift stake in position when the vampire spoke, “’Angel sends his love.’” Buffy froze, it was only for a moment, but it was long enough that the vampire took advantage, kicking out, she hit Buffy’s arm that held the stake and knocked the weapon away. Not slowing her movement, Theresa lunged forward and pinned Buffy to the ground, the vampire putting all of her weight and strength into pinning the Slayer’s shoulders to the ground.


Xander wasn’t going to stay out of this fight, not when his friend was in danger and he could help. Moving to the easel that held the photo of Theresa he drove the leg through Theresa’s back, making sure to stop his thrust so that he didn’t shove the wooden stake through Buffy as well, after Theresa burst into a cloud of dust. Buffy stared up at Xander, surprise showing on her face, whether she was still reeling from the shock that Angel had turned Theresa to get to her, or that it was Xander who had saved her, Xander wasn’t sure. Buffy gave Xander a sad look before she rolled onto her stomach so that she could get up.


’Angel,’” she whispered to herself. Ah, so it was the former then, Xander thought moving over and holding his hand out to the Slayer. Buffy looked at his hand, and then drug her gaze up his arm to his face, and his eyes. “Thanks.” She said taking his hand and allowing him to pull her to her feet, but she didn’t stop her momentum, she wrapped her arms around his neck and held on for dear life.


“You okay?” he asked softly. She shook her head against his cheek.


’He’s gonna keep coming after me,’” she began, leaving off the part that didn’t need to be said. That he would continue using and hurting those around her to get to her. Xander wrapped arms around her waist and hugged her slight form to him.


“Don’t let his games work, that’s what he wants. Don’t give him the satisfaction. He’s not Angel anymore.” Buffy pulled away from his embrace so that she could look up at him. He gave her a soft, encouraging smile. Without reaction, or comment, she pulled away from him and bent to retrieve her backpack. She left the room without a word. Xander sighed and shook his head.




***




Buffy and Xander walked into the library to see Giles assembling Xander’s tranq gun, he had left the case for the older man earlier in case their little adventure with Theresa took longer than expected and Giles had to go after the wolf alone.


’Sorry I'm late. I had to do some unscheduled slayage in the form of Theresa.’” Buffy said casually, as if she had not just spent ten minutes clinging to him crying.


’She’s a vampire?’


’Was. Angel sent her to me; a little token of his affection.’


’Buffy, I’m so sorry,’


’Not now, Giles. We can all have ourselves a good cry after we bag us a werewolf.’” Giles stared at Buffy for a minute before shifting his eyes to Xander. Xander caught Gile’s look and shook his head silently now wasn’t the time to address Buffy’s issues. The librarian nodded slightly and returns to assembling the rifle.


“Alright, we’re set.” Giles said grabbing a dart and loading into the gun. “’Let’s go find this thing.’


’One question: how exactly do we find this thing?’” Buffy asked raising her hand like she was in class. Before Xander or Giles could offer up a suggestion, Willow burst through the library doors, out of breath and panting.


’It's Oz! It's Oz!’


’Wh-what's Oz?’” Xander had a sinking suspicion that he knew. He remembered Oz saying that his little nephew had bit him, when in human form. He must have been an unshifted werewolf and he passed it on to Oz.


’The werewolf,’” Willow said confirming his suspicions.


’Are you certain?’” Giles asked, unwilling to believe that it was one of their own.


’Can't you just trust me on this?’” Willow said frantically, the pace of her words began to increase into almost full-out Willow babble, “’He-he said he was going through all these changes. Then he went through all these... changes’”.


“We need to get to him before he hurts someone, there is no coming back from that mentally if he hurts or kills someone while in wolf form,” Xander said wanting to move this along.


“Xander’s right, we need to go, ‘where is he now?’


’In the woods,’” Willow said warily eying the gun that Giles was holding.


’Let’s go,’” Giles said moving forward, only to be stopped by Willow.


“Wait! You aren’t going to hurt him are you? Oz doesn’t mean to be a werewolf, it’s not his fault, don’t kill him,” she said beginning to tear up.


“We’re not going to kill him,” Xander was quick to reassure his best friend. “It’s a tranquilizer gun, it’s just going to put him to sleep until the morning and he’s all Oz shaped again.” Willow relaxed and nodded, turning to lead the group to where she had last seen Oz.




***




The group arrived to see a pile of meat sitting in the middle of the woods and a werewolf cautiously approaching the meat. Xander could smell a trap a mile of and quickly scanned the area, looking for any sign of Cain. Spotting the Hunter, he tapped Buffy on the shoulder and pointed her in the direction. As much as he would love to knock the man flat on his ass, Buffy was better at stealth than him, and they needed the element of surprise. He motioned for the other’s to be quiet. Giles raised the gun into position, ready to take the wolf out.


’Good, doggy. Now play dead,’” Cain said squeezing the trigger to shoot Oz the werewolf. Before he could get the shot off, Buffy landed a kick at his shoulder that threw his aim off, it didn’t however stop his finger from pulling the trigger with the force of the momentum. The sound reverberated throughout the woods and had the werewolf alert and on the offensive. Buffy lunged for the gun, wrestling with the hunter for possession of the weapon. Finally after rolling over the man, the gun held between them, Cain released the weapon at the force of the impact his back made with the ground. Buffy swung the butt of the rifle into the Hunter’s head, knocking him out before he could make another move.


Giles moved forward, trying to get a clear shot. But the wolf was in motion, serpentining toward Buffy. “’Damn it!’” the Watcher said, unable to take a shot before the wolf was lunging at the Slayer. Buffy gave Oz the same treatment that Cain got, slamming the butt of the rifle into his head. Oz fell backwards, stunned for a moment before he quickly regained his feet and his momentum. Shoving through Buffy, he apparently had decided to cut his losses and run, and he barreled toward the other end of the woods, straight for Giles and Willow. Xander who had been moving over to Cain when Buffy was, to help her out if needed, cursed as he saw the wolf running the opposite direction from him.


“Watch out!” he shouted, too late as the wolf bowled into the pair, knocking them over, and the gun from Giles’ hand. He watched frozen, as Willow scrambled on the ground and snatched up the riffle. Bringing it up she squeezed the trigger with a scream as Oz charged her. The dart hit home in his chest and he collapsed to the ground with a thunk, instantly unconscious.


’I shot Oz,’” she said numb and in shock, as she stared at her unconscious furry boyfriend.


’You saved us,’” Giles corrected, taking the gun from her as Buffy walked over to Cain’s gun that had gotten knocked out of her hands by the wolf so that the Hunter couldn’t grab it.


’No wonder this town's overrun with monsters. No one here's man enough to kill 'em.’


’Oh, I wouldn't be too sure of that.’” Buffy said bending the barrel of his gun almost in half and handing the now useless weapon back to him. Xander had and unbidden flashback to Cordelia’s snipe about Buffy not being allowed to be surprised anymore when people figured out her secret and he found himself agreeing with a snort and smile. “’How about you let the door hit you in the ass on the way out of town?’


“You give Hunters a bad name,” Xander added shaking his head, arms crossed over his chest. Cain stopped and turned staring at the teen oddly for a moment.


“Look me up if you want to learn about being a real Hunter, kid,” Cain said with a smirk before he turned, and headed back to his van. Xander rolled his eyes and shook his head. He turned to find everyone looking at him oddly. Well Giles shared his amused look that Xander would ever learn Hunting from that poacher, but the girls were blinking at him in confusion.


“What was he talking about Xander?” Willow asked.


“No idea, Will, probably thought because I’m male I would want to join him killing things. Who knows, the man was a nut.” Willow nodded, accepting his answer as she turned her attention back to Oz. Stooping down next to him; she ran a careful hand through his fur.


“Do you think he will be okay?”


“He’ll be a bit groggy when he wakes up, but he will be Oz again,” Giles answered, knowing that’s what the teen really wanted to hear. “I’ll talk to him in the morning, explain everything, although I have a feeling he knows a bit about what is going on already.”




***




“So, we figured out how the werewolf is,” Xander said into the speaker of the phone.


“Who?” his uncle asked.


“Oz, Willow’s boyfriend.”


“Oh, Lord, how did she take her boyfriend being killed?”


“Uh, well we didn’t kill him, because, well, he’s Oz.”


“Xander, he’s also a werewolf.”


“I know that, we all do, and Giles is going to explain everything to the wolf when he wakes up. We had already decided that our first option was going to be keeping the wolf alive somehow.”


“If you are hoping for a cure someday…”


“No, nothing like that, I mean he’s completely normal 27 days of the month, that’s no reason to kill someone. Not when we have a perfectly good cage in the library and access to tranquilizer’s. We’ll just lock him up each month when he shifts.”


“I…I don’t know what to say,” his uncle finally settled on, shaking his head as he moved over to his liquor cabinet.


“Oh, hey, do you know a Hunter name Cain?”


“Yes – that man is dangerous Xander; you need to stay away from him.”


“Buffy already ran him out of town, but did you know he was skinning werewolves for their pelts?”


“What! But to do that, he would have to skin them alive, Jesus!”


“I know, I figured that out too, he also rips out one of their canine teeth for his necklace trophy. Man is a real serial sociopath.”


“I hope that he doesn’t give you any problems, or hold any grudges.”


“Well, I can’t promise either, and I’m pretty damn sure he is holding a major grudge, but I doubt he’ll be back to Sunnydale anytime soon. He got his ass handed to him by a little blonde girl.” Bobby laughed, nearly choking on his whisky.


“That would make a man think twice about approaching a town.”


“I better go; mom is calling me to do something.”


“Sure, tell her I said hi.”


“Will do, night Uncle Bobby.”


“Goodnight, Xander.” Xander hung up and went downstairs to see what chore his mom was calling him to do.




***




Xander and Buffy were walking through the halls of Sunnydale High School the next day, heading for the lounge to kill some time before their first class. “How do you think the wolf man talk is going?” Xander asked the blonde.


“I don’t know, I hope that he takes it all in stride, this has got to be weird for him.” They stopped for a brief moment at the vending machine to get some munchies. As they did, they saw the jock-heads knocking a girl’s books out of her hand to the ground, laughing as they walked by. Xander watched as Larry trailed behind his friends, surprised as he saw the jock bending down to help the girl pick up her books.


’Hey, let me get those,’” he said startling not only the girl but Xander and Buffy, and his friends who had knocked the books out of her hand, who were starring at the teen bully in shock.


’Thanks,’” she said quietly, awkwardly.


“I’m thinking possession and research during lunch,” Xander whispered to Buffy as Larry walked over to the pair.


’Hey! Xander, look about what you did, I…I owe you.’


’What’d you do?’” Buffy asked staring at Xander and Larry as if they had each grown a second head.


“Nothing special,” Xander said giving Larry a panicked look.


“I know,” Larry nodded easing the constriction in Xander’s chest a bit. “’It’s just, well, thanks…’” he said putting his hand on Xander’s shoulder and giving it a comforting squeeze. “I wanted to tell you that.” And with that the jock was gone, walking away from them.


’That was weird,’” Buffy said shaking her head and walking over to an empty table.


“Yeah, weird,” Xander said giving a forced chuckle, hoping that the blonde wouldn’t press further. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of what he felt for Jesse, or what he had done with Kyle, he knew and accepted the fact that he was happily bi-sexual, loving both the male and female form. It was just…embarrassing, to talk about it with Buffy. He felt that if he were going to tell anyone, he owed it to Willow to tell her first. Not that he ever had plans to tell anyone, anything.


’Weirdness abounds lately. Maybe it's the moon. That does stuff to people.’


’I’ve heard that,’” Xander said with a smile.


’Certainly gonna put a strain on Willow and Oz's relationship.’” She said watching the red-head walk down the hall and out into the courtyard.


“It doesn’t have to,” Xander started. “I mean sure, it’s going to make things a little awkward at first, but when you think about it, it makes him fit in to the group even more. He’s now ‘in’ the club and not just a card carrying member of the Scooby gang.”


“I guess that’s true enough,” Buffy agreed hoping that things worked out for her friend.


“Only time will tell,” Xander shrugged digging into his breakfast of Twinkies and orange soda.




TBC!



AN: Wow – that took a lot longer than I thought – between my life and just crazy writer’s block. The second part was harder than I thought; I wanted to tweak the episode without losing what made it great.
Next up – Xander decides to try his hand at Love Potions…

The End?

You have reached the end of "Hunter on the Hellmouth" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 27 May 12.

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