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Summary: It seems that the Scoobies family histories are more complicated than they had believed ...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > FantasyGladiusFR181053,4101610229,2668 Aug 1218 Jan 13No

Part 3

Part 3

Disclaimer: Surprisingly, neither the characters of BtVS or the
themes of 'Scion' belong to me. Instead, they seem to belong to Joss
Wheadon and White Wolf, which seems very unfair to me.

Rating: MA15+(mostly for violence, language and occasional sex)

Spoilers: Begining of Season Three for BtVS, just background info
for 'Scion'

Innately aware of the fight going on to one side, Xander nevertheless devoted the majority of his attention to the well-dressed vampire in front of him. Lanky and girly were clearly near-fledglings, weak and uncoordinated, unused to the power they wielded, and too drunk on said power to think clearly. Preppy, on the other hand, moved with a smooth, clear gait and was certainly more wary than his companions.

Striking light lightning, the vampire sent a right hook that would have taken Xander’s head off - if he hadn’t ducked under it. Smoothly changing tactics, he launched a sweeping kick to knock Xander’s feet out from under him, which Xander leapt over - and kept going. Easily leaping six feet into the air, Xander snapped a kick directly into the vamp’s nose, sending him reeling back, clutching at his face. Xander landed easily, flexing his knees slightly to absorb the impact.

Even before he straightened again, the vamp was coming at him again, launching into a flurry of blows. Sent on the defensive, Xander blocked the first two strikes to his head with his forearms, and drew his stomach in to just avoid the spinning kick to his abdomen, but the straight right to the chin rocked him back, stars filling his vision.

Snarling, preppy-vamp followed up on his success, and launched into a spin kick that aimed to send Xander reeling - and was shocked when his opponent caught the offending limb with a single hand. The vampire, precariously balanced on one leg, the other held at the ankle by a recovered Xander, looked up in amazement as the teen simply shook his head, as if in grave disappointment. Then Xander snapped out a kick of his own, striking the vampire fully in the chest and knocking the creature flying back, to land several yards past where Cordelia and Harmony sat huddled together, a distance of over twenty yards. Before the vampire could pick itself up, Xander grinned, took a step, then another, and then leapt into the air.

*** *** ***

Harmony watched in shock as Xander - Xander, for Gucci’s sake! - not only fought the horrible (yet acceptably dressed) creature that had attacked her and Cordelia, but do so with an ease that was unbelievable to anyone who had shared a PE class with the teen. Xander’s opponent had been inhumanly strong and fast, but Xander had been stronger and faster - and merciless. Harmony gasped as Xander kicked the brute - and shrieked as it flew in an impossible fashion to crash into the asphalt just passed where she sat.

And sat speechless, her mouth gaping open in awe, as Xander (Xander!) flew the length of the alley to land on top of the creature, which had just started to get to it’s feet. True, the impact sent him sprawling, himself, but he quickly scrambled to his feet - which was considerably better than his opponent was doing.

Ignoring the creature (what the freaking hell is that thing?), Xander turned to where she lay and smiled, walking the few steps over to them. “Ladies. Forgive the interruption, but your friends seemed to be playing a little rough, so we,” he paused, gesturing to where Rosenberg was approaching, dusting, well, dust, off her hands, “decided to cut in.” Bending slightly, he offered a hand to each girl. “But it shouldn’t ruin what’s left of the night, should it?”

Harmony just stared dumbly at the outstretched hand for a moment, then looked up at Xander’s face. For most of her life, Harmony’s mind had held little but contempt for Xander and Willow, occasionally tinged with a touch of pity. They were poor, unpopular and social outcasts by popular demand. More than once, she had reduced Willow to tears, for no greater purpose than she could. She was wealthy, popular, pretty and there was nothing anyone could do.

And now those two outcasts had saved her life, as though nothing had ever happened. From a group of monsters, as horrible as any she had seen in horror movies. Performing impossible feats of speed and strength. And they did it as though they had never even thought twice about it, as though it had never occurred to them that there was anything else they could do.

She felt hollow inside. For the first time in her life, she actually felt ashamed for how she had acted.

Forget the monsters. Forget the impossible feats Harris and Rosenberg had performed. They had saved her.

Harmony reached up, and grasped Xander’s hand.

*** *** ***

“Touchdown!” crowed Sif.

*** *** ***

Xander pulled both Harmony and Cordelia to their feet, and once again marvelled at the new strength that he possessed. Not that lifting two California-bred hotties was any great chore, even without divine strength, but still, he barely noticed their weight at all. Harmony wore an expression of amazement and curiosity, a vast improvement on her standard look of vapid contempt. Cordelia, on the other hand, looked at once worried, grateful and (his newly sensitive nostrils flared slightly) seriously turned on.

“Xan, what the hell is -” Cordelia began, but was immediately interrupted by Harmony’s cry of “Look out!” just as he became aware of a presence behind him.

Xander whirled about, and snap kicked the recovered vampire in the stomach, sending it flying back against the brick wall of the alley, rattling the building and sending clouds of masonry dust flying into the air. Stepping away from the girls slightly, he reached down and grasped the hilt of Fafnir, and smiled at the gasps of the girls as his sword materialised as he drew it. It’s amazing - when the belt’s hidden, it’s as though it doesn’t exist - didn’t hamper my fighting at all. But when I need it, Fafnir just appears. Swinging the rune-inscribed blade in a strong backhand blow, he barely has time to see the rage in the vampire’s yellow eyes fade into disbelief before Fafnir smoothly decapitated the undead creature, sending a spray of stolen blood to splatter over the brick wall.

As the collapsing body turned to dust, he turned around, cleaning his blade of blood with a flick of his wrist before returning it to it’s scabbard. Harmony and Cordelia were both still standing against the wall, both shocked by the casual display of power. “Now, where were we?”

“How?” asked Cordelia tentatively.

Xander understood what she was asking. “It’s a long story. Hey, Harmony,” he said, turning his attention to the blond. “Freaky night, huh?” he asked with a trademark grin, while tapping into his inner core just as he had during the fight, and focussed his will on Harmony, suppressing her natural urge to panic. He smiled as the terror drained from her face. “I bet you’ve got a lotta questions, am I right?” She nodded, no longer scared out of her wits but still confused and shocked. “Come on, let’s get you guys inside, in case more critters decide to turn up.”

“More?” mewed Harmony, her fear almost returning despite the damper that Xander still held over her terror.

Cordelia took hold of Harmony’s arm. “I know, it a whole freaky thing, but we’ll be safe inside.” She turned and glared at Xander. “And you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, too! Since when did you become boy-Slayer?”

“Like I said - long story.” At Cordelia’s death-stare, he relented. “Look, cutting out most of the detail, I met my long-dead mother last night, who turned out to be a goddess, and she endowed me with superhuman abilities and enchanted weapons.”

“Nice recap,” interjected Willow, who was wiping her hands on her pants legs. “Sorry - dust. Hi, Cordelia, welcome back,” she said, and surprisingly enough actually seemed to mean it.

Cordelia, on the other hand, was still staring at Xander in bewilderment. “Huh?”

*** *** ***

Almost an hour later, Xander sat with Harmony while Cordelia was dancing with Willow. The new confidence her Visitation had brought her was really starting to show, and she was enjoying dancing to the music that her boyfriend was playing, as though just for her.

“Vampires, demons, Slayers, gods, magic, the Hellmouth,” counted Harmony, ticking off on her fingers.

Xander nodded, setting his soda aside. “That about covers it. Look, like they say, you’re more likely to be hit by a bus than bit by a vamp. Just keep a few precautions, like carry a cross and holy water, don’t invite people into your house after dark, and stick to the crowds, and you should be fine.”

“Yeah, I totally get that,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure there weren’t any more surprised left. So, do you do the whole ‘rescuing the damsel in distress’ thing often?”

He laughed. “Actually, until very recently, I was more likely to be the damsel in distress. Unless you’ve got an edge, like Slayer strength, magic or a lot of training, fighting vamps and demons is in the category of not-smart. Which,” he added, grinning crookedly, “Pretty much explains why no one was surprised when I got involved.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” said Harmony, smiling into her glass. “So, the whole thing with Cordelia - who rescued who?”

“Well, actually that was more of a case of mutual cowardice: scary demon bug guy had us trapped in a basement. Close quarters, high stress level, lots of fear … I don’t want to say ‘one thing led to another,’ ‘cause that’d be cliché, but … there you are. The whole relationship thing kinda took a bit longer, but we’re getting there.”

Harmony nodded, edging closer to the brunet boy, so that their knees were touching. The attraction that Cordelia obviously had for Xander was becoming more understandable as time went on, and Harmony smiled up at him with hungry eyes.

Warning bells were going off in Xander’s head. Memories of the love spell debacle clashed with even older memories of Harmony’s casual cruelties towards her ‘lessers’, and over all was the memory of Cordelia’s smile. Obviously, I’m not going to cheat on my girlfriend - I’m not that kind of guy. Plus, you know: Harmony, while freaking gorgeous, is not exactly my dream girl.

“Anyway, I’d better go dance with my girl before she gets bored,” he said hurriedly, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor for the evening, and beat a hasty retreat, leaving Harmony behind, looking both surprised, confused and disappointed.

*** *** ***

Cordelia was enjoying herself. Discovering that Mrs Harris was really a goddess was … very Sunnydale, but strangely not entirely surprising. She had memories of Xander’s mom as one of the most beautiful and stately adults she had ever seen, and even today used those memories as inspiration when needing to impress.

Learning that Xander was himself divinely endowed was also good news, in several ways. Firstly, his powers meant that he was better able to protect her: very important in her world view. Secondly, his power now made it more likely that he himself would survive the trouble that inevitably was drawn to him. Lastly, it was simply proof that she really had incredible instincts when it came to selecting men: after all, what could be a better catch than the literal son of a goddess, a potential god himself?

Plus the extra advantages, she thought, closing her eyes as she danced, remembering the smooth grace he moved with, the speed of his fists and feet, the power of his blows … while she had watched Buffy fight in the past, there was something different. Maybe it was just the old hunter/gatherer instinct of picking the best hunter to father her children, but seeing Xander beat the crap out of that vampire had quite simply got her hot in ways she hadn’t expected. It wasn‘t PC, it wasn‘t feminist, it wasn‘t even particularly civilised. The advantages to having a lover who possessed superhuman strength, coordination and endurance were … surprisingly easy to imagine.

The revelation that Willow had a similar parentage was something of a revelation. However, the while the changes in Xander were more of degree than type, Willow’s transformation was far more dramatic. Whether it was the added strength and brainpower, the knowledge of actual divine favour, or the result of her recent successes in battle, little Willow Rosenberg was riding a wave of confidence and surety that would have seemed impossible a day or two before. Still, that sort of confidence is brittle, mused the veteran politico of Sunnydale High, if something knocks her off her perch, she’ll fall hard.

Still, it was odd to see Willow actually dancing, not only doing so fairly competently, but also clearly enjoying both the sensation of moving to the music, and the attention she was garnering from all corners. She’s even looking better, Cordelia noticed. The way she moves, the way she holds herself. Her hair looks redder, and her skin is like ’wow!’ Plus those eyes are really - Cordelia pulled herself out of a potentially embarrassing train of thought. Okay, maybe it’s not just her brains and brawn that got enhanced, after all.

A pair of strong arms encircled her waist from behind just as the band moved into a slow song, and Cordelia’s face split into a hungry grin as she looked back over her shoulder at her boyfriend. “Hey, hero,” she purred as he pressed against her from behind. God, that feels good! How’s Harm recovering?”

“Surprisingly well,” he said, pressing his lips against her neck in a way that made her shiver. “But enough about blond ambition: lets have some fun, hey?”

Cordelia turned around slowly and reached up to link her hands at the back of his neck, looking up into his eyes and seeing only that he loved her, and that was enough. As the music intensified, they began to move together, and they grinned at each other, not letting their eyes wander as they danced. Damn, he’s gotten better, Cordy mused as his hands caressed her hips as they swayed. Pity it took divine intervention to teach him how to dance!

When he asked what was making her giggle so much, she just laughed.

*** *** ***

After the ‘Dingos’ finished their set and the Bronze reverted to canned music, Oz joined the group, and was filled in on the recent happenings, to which he responded with a long pause, followed by a “Huh.” When pressed for a more elaborate response, he simply shrugged, and looked right into Willow’s eyes. “I knew you were a goddess from the moment I saw you.”

That won him a groan from Xander, a sigh from both Cordettes, and a passionate kiss from Willow.

That one had to be interrupted before management complained.

*** *** ***

“You’re just a voyeur, aren’t you,” observed Hephaestus with a grin.

“Piffle,” dismissed Sif with a wave. “That one was this close to bolting when she named you as her father,” she declared, holding up finger and thumb to demonstrate. “A little nudge was in order, to keep him from breaking her heart. Still, he‘s loyal at heart, and in the days to come, she will certainly need that unflinching support. I simply reinforced what was already there.” A pause. “You know, something should be done about him: we can’t have a wild therianthrope just wandering about: any change could be his last before the beast takes over, and he becomes a thrall to the Titans.”

Hephaestus nodded. “I’ve got a few ideas. Leave it with me.”

*** *** ***

Eventually, the night came to an end, and the Scoobies plus one separated again. Willow waved goodbye as she tugged Oz along, who wore a bemused expression as she pulled him into his van and slammed the back door shut. Xander just shook his head at the new, assertive Willow. At least she’s getting some happiness, he mused. God knows we haven’t had much of that recently.

Xander, Cordelia and Harmony set off in Cordelia’s convertible, and drove mostly in silence through the streets of Sunnydale. Harmony sat in the back and seemed deep in thought, as strange as it sounded, and Xander was still a little freaked from their earlier … encounter. The atmosphere was … kind of tense.

Finally, the trio arrived at the Chase mansion, a fairly impressive setup atop a hill above a sheltered cove. The gates automatically opened for Cordelia’s car, and they quietly motored up the long drive to the house. Cordelia set the convertible to park, then turned to face her boyfriend. “Well. Not quite the welcome back to Sunnydale I had expected, but as surprises go, this whole ‘god’ think doesn’t entirely suck.”

He laughed, and she felt better. After weeks in Mexico with the parental units, their rich and oh so boring friends and their eligible-but-kinda-creepy sons and heirs, the simple sound of Xander’s laugh and the sight of his crooked grin reminded her why exactly she had fallen for the looser in the first place. Adrenaline, check. Danger, also check. Incredible kisser? God, way check. But the ability to make me forget all about ‘Queen Cordelia Chase of the Sunnydale Chases’ and just be ‘Cordy‘?

Now that’s divine.

“Well, there are the moments where I have to concentrate to keep from curling up into a ball and gibber in terror,” he admitted, then his grin grew as a thought hit him. Holding up a finger to ask Cordy to wait, he opened his door and slid out of the car, before turning back to her and winked. Then he leapt over the car, landing next to her door, and had it open before she could fully comprehend where he had gotten to. “But I’ve gotta say, the perks are kinda nice,” he murmured as he helped a stunned Ms Chase from the car.

“Okay, I’ll admit, that was freaking awesome,” she grinned up at him.

He helped her to one side, then pulled the driver’s seat forwards and held out a hand for Harmony, who accepted his help with a hesitant smile. Both missed Cordelia’s frown, which had vanished by the time the car door closed.

Slipping an arm about his girlfriend’s shoulders, he pulled her close as they walked up the drive, Harmony following close behind. “It’s not all gravy, though,” he cautioned. “From some of what Mom said, there’ll be some nasties coming around, some working for the bad guys, some just because they’ve got a grudge against Mom, or Mom’s family, or whatever - I guess when you’re immortal, you kinda forget the whole ‘letting it go’ concept. But what I mean is, your garden-variety vamp isn’t really a whole lot of threat to me or Wills - but there are a whole lotta critters out there, and lots of them are meaner and tougher than vampires.” As they reached the steps to the front deck, he stopped and pulled Cordelia to face him, stroking her hair as he looked into her eyes. “Being with me won’t always be safe, you know? I mean, I’ll protect you the best I can, but I can’t be with you all the time, and like I said, there’s bigger and scarier thing out there than me. So you might want to think about -”

He was cut off by Cordelia grabbing him by the belt and jerking him forwards, wrapping her arms around his waist and attacking his mouth with hers. He recovered quickly, moving one hand to cradle the back of her head while the other ran down her back and rested itself on the curve of her backside. Cordy moaned and pressed harder against him, lifting one leg to curve around his thigh and intensified her kiss, exploring the insides of his mouth with her tongue.

He responded by moving his hand lower to cup her ass and ground himself harder against her belly, eliciting a slight whimper from her as she felt just how excited he was. God, he’s getting damned good at this! It’s like he knows exactly what to do to - eek! she stopped thinking as he pulled away from her lips and moved his mouth to her neck, licking the spot just below her ear, promptly revealing an erogenous zone she hadn’t previously known she possessed.

Their attention was finally drawn away from each other by a loud sigh. They turned their heads and looked at Harmony, who’s sundress was pulled tight across her front as she stroked her hands against her stomach while watching them intensely. Noticing their scrutiny, she jerked her hands to her sides and turned away, her face flushing a deep red of embarrassment.

Reluctantly pulling himself away from Cordelia, Xander laid a gentle kiss on her forehead and smiled at her. “Hey, I’d better get going - if I stay any longer, I might not want to go.”

Cordelia smiled up at him. “And if I don’t want you to?”

Eyes widening in shock at the invitation, Xander (unbelievably) shook his head. “Nooo - better not: your parents might let Harmony stay over, but something tells me they wouldn’t be as understanding if you invite me to stay the night.”

Nodding in understanding, Cordelia reached up and touched his cheek. “Are you going to be okay getting home? I mean, hello? Sunnydale!”

Xander grinned roguishly and winked. “Nah - any nasties’d better be worried about meeting me in a dark alley these days! Besides,” he leered at her, “A good run’s even better than a cold shower - and I seriously need one right now!”

Darting close to peck her on the lips one last time, he spun away and leapt off into the darkness, quickly becoming a dark shape that traversed the grounds in a few swift bounds and then straight over the ornate wrought-iron gates.

Sighing, Cordelia turned to Harmony, who was still looking embarrassed, and jerked her head imperiously at the door. Together the teens moved up the stairs, and Harmony remained silent as Cordelia fumbled with her keys and opened the door.

As Harmony followed Cordelia into the darkened house, she turned to close the door behind them. Turning about to face her friend, she was startled when Cordelia stepped into her personal space, forcing her to stumble backwards and lean against the front door. “What the hell was that, Harm? And don’t try pretend you don’t know what I‘m talking about! What the hell gives you the idea that it‘s okay to hit on my boyfriend?”

Harmony quailed at the intense look in Cordy’s eyes, her blue eyes wide in shock and not a little fear. Generally, Cordelia ruled the Cordettes with wit, cutting sarcasm and shear charisma. Now Harmony was quite sure that if necessary, Cordy was capable of going a lot further to protect what was hers.

*** *** ***

Xander smiled as he jogged down Ravello Drive. Despite running across Sunnydale, he hadn’t met any leaches or other nasties, and was barely sweating. Man, gotta love preternatural stamina! Is this how Buffy feels all the time? Speaking of which, he mused as he arrived at 1630, noting that the lights were still on.

Pausing a moment to catch his breath, he wiped some sweat from his forehead and bent over, resting his hands on his knees and breathing deeply. Note to self: enhanced capabilities do not expunge all human weakness. Finally, he declared himself mostly recovered, straightened up and knocked on the Summer’s front door.

Moments later the door swung open, and Joyce Summers peered out. “Xander? Are you alright? What are you doing out at this time of night?”

“Hey, Mrs Summers. No, I’m fine - well, for a certain value of fine, I guess.” He offered a smile. “Lets just say it’s been a long couple of days. I was swinging through the neighbourhood on my way home, and saw your light on, and thought I’d … “ He paused, searching for the words.

“And you thought you’d check up on me?” Asked the Summers Matriarch, one eyebrow raised. “Oh well, you’d better come -”

“Woah, hold it right there, Mrs S!” he blurted, holding up his hands. “Inviting someone in this late at night in Sunny-hell is not the best idea - really.”

She frowned, before flinching in recognition. “You mean … you mean that’s real too?” She paused, then stepped back, allowing him to enter the house.

“Sure, rule numuro one: no invites. If it needs an invitation, chances are you probably don’t want to give it one.” He hesitated. “I kinda thought Giles would’ve given you the basics by now.”

Joyce flinched. “He, er, I … kinda didn’t really let him get that far.”

“Oh.” Beat. “I guess I can see that. Being angry, I mean. Realising that someone close to you’s been lying to you … kinda hurts. Believe me, I get that. But -”

“Xander!” The teen scion looked up to see a small Xander-seeking missile fly down the staircase, long brown hair streaming behind like a banner. Only his supernatural dexterity allowed him to open his arms to catch the littlest Summers as she leapt at him, wrapping slender arms about his neck.

“Woah, Dawnie, careful there, you almost went splat!”

“Dawn Marie Summers, get down this instant! You’re not a little girl anymore!”

“Meh, she’s not that heavy,” he declared, supporting the young girl in his arms, “But she’s right, Dawnie, you’re getting tall. Must’ve got all the tall genes, hey?”

“Mugglfum,” came the muffled response from where her face was buried into his neck.

“I gotta say, huh?”

Dawn pulled back and dropped to the ground, but switched her arms to around his waist, and pressed her head against his chest instead. “I said, I missed you. You havn’t been ‘round since before Buffy -” she paused, tightening her grip on her favourite Xander-shaped crush. “Went away,” she finished lamely.

“Hey,” he murmured, brushing the hair away from her face and wiping at a tear that was running down her cheek. “Sorry, Dawn Patrol, I’ve just been … kinda busy.”

“I know,” she mumbled. “Taking over patrols while Buffy’s gone. Keeping us safe.”

Joyce’s eyes widened, and she fell to her knees beside her youngest. “Dawn? What do you mean? What do you …”

Dawn turned her head and glared at her mother. “I know everything - remember? I found her diary, remember? I ran tattling like a brat, and you and dad sent her away, and it was all my fault! Then we came here and she started going out at night again, but I didn’t tell,” she sniffed, freeing a hand to scrub at her eyes before moving it back to hold on to Xander, “Because I didn’t want her to go away again! And then I saw … I figured out she was real, that everything was real, and she was still keeping us safe and I was such a little creep to her!” She tilted her head up to look at Xander. “But I didn’t want her to go away again, so I kept quiet, and mussed up her sheets so Mom’d think she slept there some nights, and when her clothes’d get cut or gooped I’d say it was me, and I read her diary so I’d know what was going on, and let her eat my deserts, ‘cause she never ate enough, and, and, and she went away anyway!” She started to sob, and Joyce rested her hands on her shoulders, but Dawn shrugged her away, “And it’s ‘cause you told her to! You said to go and never come back! And she didn’t! And ‘cause of that, Xander and Willow and Oz and everyone’s out there keeping us safe an’ they’re gonna get hurt and -”

As the little girl broke down into tears, Xander squatted down and held her close, and nodded as Joyce wrapped her arms around her from behind. “Shhh,” he said, stroking her hair. “Look, I know Buffy’s gone. I also know she’ll be back. You know, the first time I saw your big sis? I was so distracted by how beautiful she was, I literally skated into a railing. Landed flat on my back, gasping like a landed trout.” Dawn hiccupped through the tears, almost a giggle despite her grief. “It wasn’t until the next day I realised exactly what she was. I had an episky.”

Dawn snorted. “Epiphany, doofas,” she sniffed, “Episky’s from ‘Harry Potter’.”

“Really? Cool. Anyhoo, due to elements completely out of my control, I was stuck in a tunnel beneath a power station, trapped by hordes of hungry vampires, and I said: ‘It’s cool: Buffy’s a superhero.’ And that’s what she is to me: a hero. She hates the slaying, wishes like hell - er, heck - that it could be anyone else than her out there. But she can’t stop, because she knows that she’s the best at what she does, and that being out there is the best way to keep you and your mom safe.” By now Dawn had stopped crying, and was peering up at Xander. “And I know that your mom didn’t mean what she said: all she wants is for Buffy to come home. And she will. Because Buffy’s more than just a hero - she’s our hero. Buffy had to do something really hard, had to fight something that wore the face of someone she cared about, to save the world, and you. And it hurt her, so she had to go, to run as far and as hard as she could, until it stopped hurting. And when it stops, she’ll come home. Because even heroes get to run away sometimes. But they always come back.”

Dawn gulped, the lump still in her throat from crying. “But you guys’r gonna get hurt til she gets back,” she whispered. “I don’t want you getting hurt.”

Xander grinned a patented Xander grin and leaned down. “Wanna hear a secret?” When she mutely nodded, he beckoned her closer with a wiggled finger, and whispered into her ears. “I got me some powers, now. Willow too.”

Her red-rimmed blue eyes widened. “Really?”

He nodded. “Really and truly. Well, not Slayer level, but cool none the less. So we’ll take over patrol ‘till Buffy gets back, and then you can tell her all about how you’ve been helping her.”

“Hey! You can’t tell her that,” Dawn said indignantly.

“Really? Why not?”

Joyce answered for her. “Because you can’t let Buffy know that her little sister actually cares about her,” she said, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Dawn nodded vigorously. “It’d wreck the whole sister to sister dynamic,” she stated imperiously.

Xander just looked from one to the other, then shook his head. “I really, really, don’t understand women - especially the Summers variety.”

*** *** ***

Hephastus observed and nodded in satisfaction. “Smartest damned thing the boy’s said all night,” then ducked Sif’s slap aimed at the back of his head. “What?”

*** *** ***

After settling Dawn back to bed, Joyce and Xander regrouped in the kitchen over hot coco. “I’m still not okay with all this,” stated Joyce firmly.

Xander smiled ruefully. “Honestly, I’d think you were crazy if you were,” he said, not noticing the shiver she experienced when he said the word ‘crazy’. “The world’s been mad since Buffy came to town, that‘s true. But the fact of the matter is, I divide my life into two sections: bad things before Buffy, and bad things after Buffy. I meant what I said, Mrs Summers -”

“After all that, I think you can call me Joyce,” she said, and he smiled.

“Right. Joyce. I think I’ll probably still call you Buffy’s Mom in my head, but okay. Anyway, I meant what I said. Buffy’s a hero, not because some great power tapped her on the head and said, ‘I dub thee Slayer’, but because of who she is, because of who you raised her to be.” He paused, then shook his head. “Sorry, I’m rambling. Like I said before, the last few days’ve been crazy, and I’m tired. Have I been making any sense at all tonight?”

Joyce nodded, smiled and laid a hand on his wrist. “Lots, believe me. And I want to thank you for saying that to Dawn, about you having powers. I think she’ll worry a lot less if she thinks you -” she trailed off, distracted by Xander’s expression. “Xander?”

He was looking down to where her hand touched his wrist, over the leather bracer that his mother had gifted him with, and then looked up to her face. “I, er, this is gonna sound weird, but I do have powers, and one of them just kicked in.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“When’s the last time you had a CAT scan?”
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