It was still bright outside, so Xander had no worries about going for a walk. They headed down the street, oddly quiet, considering that there was so much that needed to be said. Willow and Xander, side by side, surrounded by John Winchester and his three older sons. It made Willow feel especially small; considering how short she was compared to the men she was with.
“This is Willow, by the way,” Xander introduced. “My best friend since we were, like, four.”
“Nice to meet you.” John nodded at the girl, surprised about Xander calling her his best friend. He would have gone for Willow being Xander’s girlfriend, rather than just a friend. None of the boys had been friends with girls growing up (well, in the non-romantic sense anyway). John had a gut feeling that while Adam would be a lot like his older half-brothers, Xander would go against the grain and be the one that did things differently.
It was definitely going to make life interesting.
Eventually they reached a park and they found a picnic seat. Xander, Willow and Adam sat down on a picnic table bench, leaving the three older Winchesters on the opposite side. John immediately spotted the resemblance between Xander and Adam when they were sitting side by side.
“So,” Xander nervously began, “what do you want to talk about?”
“We’ll start off with a question,” John said. “I’m taking the boys on a road trip this summer, we were wondering if you would like to come.”
Xander broke into a wide grin but it slid from his place very quickly.
“How long would I be gone for?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll be back in time for school,” Sam said quickly. Xander chewed his lip and shot a sideways glance at Willow, so brief that it was only because they’d been trained to be observant that the Winchesters noticed it.
“Xander, don’t not go because of me. I can look after myself and there’s always Giles to hang out with,” she told him.
“But Wills…” Xander began.
“Xander… See… resolve face. Go,” Willow interrupted, gesturing at her face. Xander sighed in defeat.
“That’s a formidable weapon you’ve got there,” Dean chuckled. Willow blushed at the compliment.
“So, when are we leaving?” Xander asked.
“Whenever you like. I’m happy to stay here for a few days… see if the town’s changed much since the last time I was here. Give you boys a chance to get to know one another before we hit the road.” John shrugged. Xander nodded, knowing that a few days would give himself adequate time to pack and to go to Giles to see if the Watcher had some… spell or something to determine whether or not John Winchester was actually his father. Xander had seen enough freaky stuff since meeting Buffy to know to double-check things. He didn’t want John to turn out to be some psychopath that intended on abandoning Xander in the middle of the desert or something. Knowing Jessica Harris’s taste in men, if Tony was anything to go by, it was highly likely that there was much more to John Winchester that met the eye and most of it would be bad.
Xander would be on his guard.
“So, what can you tell us about yourself?” Sam asked.
“Um, like what?” Xander asked.
“What do you like doing outside of school?” Dean asked
“Um, listening to music, hanging out with my friends at the Bronze – that’s a local teen hangout – going to the movies, eating Twinkies and other foods rich in chocolaty goodness and watching TV.”
“What type of music are you into?” Dean asked. Xander shrugged.
“Anything, although lately I’ve been listening to a lot of country stuff.”
Dean groaned. “God, you’re worse than Sammy. Dad, I shotgun taking Adam with me when we leave here. At least he has descent taste in music.”
Adam grinned at being recognized by his oldest brother, something that Xander noticed and quirked an eyebrow at.
“Adam here has only known Dean and Sam for a few days too,” John said as a way of explaining. Xander nodded in understanding. Dean and Sam were full blood brothers, while he and Adam were sired (Xander tried to ignore the shudder that went down his back at that particular word… fathered sounded so much better and less vampiric) a few years later, perhaps after John and the older boys’ mother split up, or something. Xander wasn’t going to pry; it wasn’t like it was any of his business.
“So how old are you guys anyway?” Xander asked.
“Dean is 27, I’m 23 and Adam is 16,” Sam replied.
Xander nodded before moving his attention over to John. “So, are there any other sibling out there that I should know about?”
“None that I’m aware of.” John growled, shooting a glare in Xander’s direction as a rebuke for his cheekiness. Already John had figured that Xander was a jokester, the class clown. It was different from all of the other boys. Dean had always been very serious (until he’d become a adult), Sam had been the quiet, studious one, and Adam was following in Sam’s footsteps, perhaps not being quite so school-focused but still favoring books over being overly popular.
John, Dean, Sam, and Adam continued to talk to Xander. They learned that he and Willow hung out with another girl (who was visiting her father in L.A. for the summer) and that they had previously hung around with another boy, who had died (obviously a sore subject, John had quickly skipped over it pretty quickly). Adam, Dean and Sam shared a little bit about themselves, although Adam was more forthcoming than either of his older brothers and Sam said more about himself than Dean did. John had expected this and he understood Dean’s reluctance to talk. Firstly, they had only just met Xander; secondly, it was a public area; and thirdly, Willow was there and she wasn’t a relative… she was an outsider and John had trained Dean and Sam to be distrustful of outsiders.
John understood why she was there. She was there to support Xander, something familiar for him to have around as he tried to process everything that was happening, everything that he’d been told about. She was doing a good job of it, keeping quiet, but if Xander looked worried or tensed up, she’d softly nudge him or move her arm so that she could take his hand reassuringly under the table. John could see how much having Willow there meant to his youngest son and how much she cared for him, knowing when Xander needed extra support without being asked.
It pleased John that Xander had such a good friend. He was willing to bet that Xander’s childhood hadn’t been great, despite being the only one of the boys to have a male and a female role model growing up, so it would have been important for Xander to have a friend who would look after him and care for him and John knew just from watching them that Willow had been that friend for a very long time. Probably for as far back as they both remembered.
John was glad that Willow was there, because he felt that if she hadn’t been there then he and the boys wouldn’t have learned nearly as much about Xander compared to the information they had been able to gather with her present. John would always appreciate her loyalty to Xander throughout the interrogation he was being taken through.
It came as a surprise to the entire group when they realized that the sun was hanging low in the sky. They were not far from Xander’s house, so Xander was not worried about the dangers of walking home in the night but he was surprised at how quickly the time had passed. Overall Xander had found the process of talking to his father and brothers enjoyable. There had been moments when he’d tensed up but Willow had been there beside him, loyal, trustworthy, and reassuring, unwavering in her support of him, just like she always had been.
Xander, however, felt as though his head was going to explode with the amount of information it had gathered during the one and a half hour discussion, along with the revelations that had taken place back at his house.
“We should head back,” Xander said. “This part of town gets a bit rough at night.”
John nodded and they all got tho their feet, John wincing and cursing under his breath when he felt his leg protest after being still for so long. Xander’s eyes narrowed in concern, as did the eyes of the older boys.
“I’m fine,” John said gruffly before he started to limp off, the stiffness wearing off after a couple of steps, allowing him to take up his usual striding walk. The others had to hurry to catch up, or rather, the teenagers did. It wasn’t much of a struggle for the tall Dean and it was easy for the extremely tall Sam to catch up with their father.
Xander, Adam, and Willow ran to catch up before walking with the rest of the group back towards Xander’s house, although Xander and Willow instinctively slowed down cautiously when they saw Tony’s car parked in the driveway.
“Maybe you guys shouldn’t go back inside,” Xander said cautiously. “Tony is home.”
“Tony?” Sam asked curiously.
“My step dad,” Xander supplied. John nodded in agreement, remembering the man who he had met the last time he had seen Xander. The man had felt dangerous and John had gone along with his order to leave to avoid bringing violence into his youngest son’s home. Judging by the pinched look on Xander’s face and the slight worry on Willow’s, Tony Harris was not known to be a nice guy. John felt himself bristle in anger at the though of anyone hurting Xander.
He wasn’t going to confront Tony that day, however. Yes, at some point, but not now. Tony was dangerous and while he knew he could look after himself and Dean and Sam were capable of looking after themselves, Adam and Xander were not and there was no way John was going to put them in danger.
Willow glanced at her watch at that moment and groaned.
“What?” Xander asked.
“I’m running late and my bag is inside. My parents are going to kill me.”
“I’ll run in and get it,” Xander offered. Willow shook her head.
“I’ll go with you.”
Xander scrunched up his face. “Are you sure?”
“I’ve met your dad before, Xander. I’ll be fine,” Willow told him. Xander groaned softly and faced the Winchesters.
“We’ll be right back.” He smiled charmingly before the pair headed into the house. John winced as he heard a loud male voice emit from the house, knowing that it was Tony. The words were slurred and difficult to understand at the distance the Winchesters were from the building, but the tone was definitely negative and it was focused at Xander.
A few minutes later, the front door opened and Xander and Willow hurried out, both carrying backpacks and shooting looks over their shoulders back towards the house.
“Do you guys happen to have a spare bed in your motel room?” Xander asked. “Usually I stay with Willow when he gets like this, but her parents are in town at the moment and they don’t really like me.”
“Sorry, Xander,” Willow mumbled.
“It’s okay, so not your fault. Can I just say now that I am so glad that I am not actually related to him?”
“Of course,” John scoffed. As if he would turn Xander out onto the street. Sure, it would be a bit squishy, but they would manage.
Willow smiled. “Well, I better head home. Mom was planning a family dinner tonight and I was supposed to be back ten minutes ago.”
“Ah, Willow, always the rebel.” Xander teased.
“It was nice meeting you all.” Willow smiled at John and the boys before she turned and began to walk down the darkening street.
“Hey, kid, do you want a ride?” John offered, hating the thought of a girl walking alone in a steadily darkening night.
Willow stopped in surprise. She and Xander had once lived next door to one another, but then she had moved and it was at least a fifteen minute walk. Buffy had warned her against walking the trip without either the Slayer or Angel present at night and Willow guessed from the dimming sky that by the time she got home, even if she practically ran the whole way, the vampires would be out and she would be in danger.
“Um…if it’s not too much trouble.” She smiled sheepishly. John smiled and gestured towards his truck. Willow and Xander moved towards it and Adam followed the two older sons of John to the Impala.
Willow gave directions to her house to John as he drove, nervously chewing her lip as they went. She was going to be in deep trouble. It was going to be horrible, Willow hated being in trouble. She knew that she should not have stayed out so late but Xander had needed her.
She thought back on what Tony had yelled, about how Xander spent all his time sleeping around with girls, meaning herself and Buffy, and that it was a wonder that Xander hadn’t gotten either of them knocked up yet before turning on Xander and saying it was proof of how much of a failure he was. It had been horrible for Willow but she knew it would have been ten times worse for Xander.
Willow was glad that now Xander would have a chance to escape his brutal home life, even if it was only for the summer. Thanks to the arrival of John Winchester and Xander’s half-brothers, she hoped that maybe Xander would have the opportunity to experience what life with a real family was like. Sure, it wouldn’t be the stereotypical nuclear family that her mother babbled on about in her books, but it still had to be better than what Xander was escaping from.
John parked the car at the curb outside Willow’s house and she smiled, getting her bag together.
“Thank you for the ride. I really appreciate it.” She smiled to John before she climbed out of the truck and onto the lawn outside her house. The front door of her house was opening and she sighed. This was obviously not going to go well.
Sheila Rosenberg stormed out of the house, glaring at her daughter as Willow trudged up the path to her house, her head bowed.
“What time do you call this, Willow? Your father and I allowed you to be out all day with that good-for-nothing Harris boy and we ask one thing of you. One thing, to be back at a respectable hour of the night. Can you do that one thing? No, you can’t. You flaunted the rules, Willow. We’re very disappointed in you. It was disrespectful and rude, Willow, and your father and I will not tolerate it,” Sheila scolded, completely unaware that John had gotten out of the truck, Xander at his heels. John had been intending on taking some of the slack off Willow but then Sheila had made the comment about Xander and he’d felt his blood boil. John grew closer to the pair, seeing how much the verbal assault was tearing Willow apart.
“And who do you think you are?” Sheila spat before she stopped, taking a good look at him. John felt his stomach constrict, her face very familiar. L.A., if he recalled rightly. He had just finished a hunt for Bobby and had gone to a bar in order to unwind for the night when he had met up with the redhead, who was already heavily drunk.
“John Winchester.” Sheila smirked. “It’s been a long time,”
“It has,” John agreed.
“Hang on, you know him? You know her?” Xander asked.
“Of course,” Sheila said, “like I would ever forget the only man other than my husband that I’ve slept with since I got married.” Willow actually choked at her mother’s comment. Sheila turned cold eyes on her daughter.
“Of course, you silly girl. Why do you think you have no siblings? Ira Rosenberg is infertile… he always has been. John Winchester is the one who got me pregnant with you.”
A stunned silence met Sheila’s announcement. Xander needed to only glance at John’s face to know that the man had never known that Sheila had carried his child. Sheila looked rather triumphant at the look of shock on John’s face. Willow, in contrast to her mother, had gone almost white in color, her pale skin going almost translucent.
“I guess that makes me your sister, Xander,” she said softly before her legs gave way beneath her and she fainted.