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Burden of the Beast

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Alpha Harris". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Xander goes to amazing lengths for his friends. When there's a chance for Oz to have control over his wolf...Xander steps up to the plate.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Teen WolfcalikocatFR13111,68622233,14810 Oct 1310 Oct 13Yes
Burden of the Beast
calikocat
Word count: 12,079

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Teen Wolf aren't mine.

A/N: This is sort of a response to Challenge #7608: Not a Werewolf, a Teen Wolf over at Twisting the Hellmouth but also sort of not...cause my beta wanted something a little different.

“The Challenge (#7608: Not a Werewolf, a Teen Wolf) had this line about how they would like to see the Teen Wolf werewolf mythos applied to Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe.

Then I couldn't help but think of you and how you mix universes that you might be interested in thinking over the idea of what would Oz do if he heard about Beacon Hill wolves (or if the Watchers even had categories of werewolves and knew about the Teen Wolf type) -- the idea that their bite might be able to change him into something a tad more 'tame' then what he is currently.

I just couldn't help but share the thought.”


So after I scolded her for putting ideas in my head...a plot bunny was born.

Dedicated to my beta because this entire fic is her fault. She threw me a plot bunny...and it grew. But she deserves hugs cause she recently nominated me in the White Knight Awards!

XXX

Xander had gotten used to living a SNAFU sort of existence ever since he'd met Buffy and Jesse had been taken. He'd gotten used to vampires and demons as well as the end of the world happening at least once a year. It was already getting to be old hat. But this? This was bad. This had gone past SUSFU and ran straight into FUBAR or almost anyway. The soldier was close to the surface tonight, along with the hyena, which always happened around the full moon.

The night had started with a phone call, one from Giles actually; it wasn't even the beginning of the night, far from it. It was around one a.m. and still several hours until sunrise. The only reason his parents hadn't answered the phone was because they were at Uncle Rory's...probably passed out drunk.

Luckily, despite his lack of coordination when first waking up, he managed to not knock himself out with his cast. Stupid vampires, did they have to break his right arm? It was a close call and he eyed the blocky sleeve as he answered his phone. “Hello?”

Giles' voice was a bit breathless. “Xander...something's happened.”

“Did the Hellmouth open?”

“No, no, it’s something much more mundane, but still not very good. I'm afraid I was remiss during the Oz watch.”

He let the words wash over him, confuse him. “Why isn't Willow there?” He sat up with a start. “Did he hurt her?”

“No! No, she called this evening; her parents are dragging her on some silly last minute vacation. She stayed home to pack; she was going to call you in the morning.”

“Right...so what happened with Oz? Are you okay?”

“A little banged up, no scratches or bites...but he escaped Xander.”

He felt a cold chill fill him, even as he balanced the phone on his shoulder and turned on the lamp. “Did he get out of the school?”

“Went right through a ground level window I'm afraid.”

“Damn.”

“I need help finding him, I doubt anyone will be on the streets at this hour but there's always a chance.”

“Yeah, homeless people never last long in Sunnydale, but there could be some poor slob sleeping it off outside a bar or something. And Oz doesn't deserve that.” He was already moving, reaching for what looked like a clean pair of pants. “How are we going to find him?”

“Drive around until we see him I suppose. I'm no tracker.”

Xander paused, pants on, fastened. “What if...what if I could?”

“Could what?”

“Track him.”

“How on earth would you do that?”

“I...might have some leftovers...from the hyena.”

Giles was quiet for a moment. “What sort of leftovers?”

“Some nights when I caught up with Buffy on patrol I found her by her scent.”

“Do you know Oz's scent?”

“Yeah...I know Willow's and yours too...and Mrs. Summers.”

“Why on earth would you have us committed to memory like that?”

“Because you're family.”

There was another pause, this one surprised, emotional, and then Giles' voice was a touch rough and he cleared his throat. “Right then. Best be off. I suppose you need to come here for the dart gun.”

“No, I've got one here. It’s a pistol, easier to hide, last thing either of us needs is getting caught on the street with the one you keep at the library. Also I'm fairly certain I can shoot it with my left hand.”

“Right, I'm not going to ask how such an item came to be in your possession...I'll still keep the other in the car with me.”

“Okay. Happy hunting.”

“Be careful Xander.”

xxx

He headed toward the high school, Oz may be long gone but his scent would still be fresh. Xander caught that scent before he even had a chance to circle the building, noticing as he took off that Giles' car was already gone. He hoped that he was the one who found Oz and not Giles, the pistol he had was smaller and easier to use than the large tranq gun Giles had. And Giles was right; he probably didn't want to know how Xander had gotten his. The less the Watcher knew about his solo hijinks the better.

As he tracked Oz's movements Xander wondered what could be going through the werewolf's head. If his friend was looking for hormonal partying teens he wasn't going to have much luck. The Bronze was closed by now, or at least it would be winding down, he'd never actually been at the Bronze after one in the morning. That left his choices limited, but as he followed Oz's scent, glad he'd managed to memorize its differences in his wolfy form, Xander knew where he was going.

Freaking Make Out Point. Typical.

xxx

There were only two cars at the point. One with slightly steamed windows while the other held a couple relaxed on the hood, stargazing. The pair that was stargazing weren't even touching and Xander couldn't smell their arousal... so they were not actually a couple then... but he could have done without them. Because the two teens stargazing from the hood of the older model car were Heidi Barrie and Tor Hauer. The blond duo of the hyena kids. Lovely.

He ignored them, keeping to the edge of the clearing, scenting the air. Oz was definitely close.

“Harris?”

Crap. “Tor.” He nodded at the other boy.

“Do you always come up to the point alone...on foot?” The smirk was seriously uncalled for.

“Only when I'm tracking something dangerous. You guys might want to leave.” He wrinkled his nose as the smell of sex reached him, coming from the fogged up car. “Take Rhonda and Kyle with you.”

They stared at him, Heidi's eye flicked to the other car. “How did you know?”

“You four always hang. And I can smell them. Now seriously, get in the car and leave.”

“You're seriously telling us what to do?” Tor asked, sliding from the car hood. “Really?”

Xander narrowed his eyes at Tor and bared his teeth causing Tor to freeze. “I'm trying to keep everyone alive. So leave.” The sound of rustling from the tree line made them all tense. “Seriously. I don't want your deaths on his conscious...Oz can't control himself right now.”

“What is he?” Heidi asked before she swallowed nervously. “Is he...like we were?”

“No. He's a werewolf.”

Then Oz broke out of the undergrowth and headed straight for the fogged up car. Xander tackled him and rolled them away, both of them snarling, he barely avoided the claws. He managed to kick the beast away, enough to knock the breath out of him. Oz gasped and flailed a bit, trying to breathe.

“What's going on?”

Xander wanted to stomp his feet in a tantrum. Of course now Kyle came out of the steam-mobile. “Get back in the car and get out of here!”

Oz came at him again and Xander let the soldier memories take over. The marine training was going to get a work out tonight, if he survived...and didn't break his cast on Oz's head. He kept his vitals away from the swiping claws and gnashing teeth, barely, and wondered how Willow ever managed to get a shot off at Oz to knock him out because Oz wasn't giving him time to do anything but not get bit.

And then when he was struggling to keep Oz's teeth from his face Kyle and Tor were there, on either side of the werewolf pulling him off of Xander. Next Rhonda and Heidi were holding his legs. But Oz was already starting to break free.

“Do something Harris!”

Xander pulled the tranq gun from the back of his pants, turned the safety off, and shot Oz. There was whine so Xander shot him again. Then Oz collapsed. The four teens scrambled away, looking at the gun with wide-eyed surprise. Xander clicked the safety back on and put it back in his waistband.

Cautiously he knelt by Oz, checked his pulse, and sighed in relief. It was strong, steady. “We need to get you a better cage.”

“You lock him up?”

“Have too, three nights a month he turns into this. He doesn't have any control...he hasn't hurt anyone...and we'd like to keep it like that.”

The sound of an approaching car made them tense and Xander snorted. He knew the sound of that engine. “Relax. It’s just Giles.”

“Who?” Kyle squinted as light from the headlights washed over them.

“The Librarian.”

The four teens exchanged disbelieving looks and Kyle spoke again, evidently their spokesman of choice. “Why is the school librarian here?”

“Because he's an expert on this sort of thing. Now shut up and let me do the talking.”

“You going to make me Harris?”

Xander let out a snarl and pulled Kyle close to him by the collar of his shirt. “If I have to. And trust me Kyle, I can easily break you.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah moron. Did you not just see me fighting a werewolf hand to hand?”

“How did you do that?” It was Heidi who asked.

The car had parked and shut off; Giles approached them and shook his head. “Really Xander, fighting him hand to hand? How much of those soldier memories do you still have?”

“They're actually a Marine's.”

“Oh...well...came in useful tonight did they?”

“You have no idea.”

“And the hyena's skills?”

“Tracked him by scent all the way here.”

The others stared at him and Rhonda huffed. “That is so not fair. We get nightmares of eating Flutie and you get to keep the cool powers?”

Xander rolled his eyes. “They only came back after Halloween, ya know? It was a crazy night when a bunch people turned into their costumes.”

“Not all of us go trick-or-treating Harris.”

“Kyle, you call me Harris one more time and I'm going to break something of yours. My name is Xander. Use it.”

“Why don't you make me-?”

And then Xander had Kyle in a chokehold. “Unless you want to spend the rest of the night unconscious, you need to stop pissing me off. Okay?” A brief nod was Kyle's answer and Xander let him go. “Try to behave? Okay? Good.” He looked up at Giles who was cleaning his glasses. “He should be out for the night, but we need to move him. This many cars will draw attention, especially if a patrol car comes by.”

“Right. We'll get him into my car-”

“Giles, you don't have back doors. There's no easy way to get him into your back seat.”

“We can put him in my car.” Tor offered. “Just tell me where we're taking him.”

“Back to school, we can watch him there...but we seriously need to reinforce the door on the book cage.”

“Yes...quite.”

xxx

Oz was secure, sort of, in the cage once more. Kyle and Tor had helped him rig up a chain to hold the door in place, though the werewolf was still out cold. Xander didn't want to take any chances. The tranq rifle was close to Giles where he was at the counter doing paperwork and Xander kept his own gun close to his hand.

He'd expected the others to leave after helping get Oz settled. Instead they stayed, grouped around him, each occasionally touching his arms or shoulders. And the odd part...it didn't feel weird or unnerving. It felt normal. Maybe he was just touch starved? It’s not like his parents were very touchy feely...and he hadn't had a Willow hug in several days. A Buffy hug in even longer. A Jesse hug for over a year. And Oz and Giles weren't the hugging type.

“We doing this again tomorrow night?” Kyle asked, shattering Xander's thoughts.

“We?”

“Yeah.”

He looked closely at Kyle and the other three. “What exactly are you after? Why would you even want there to be a ‘we’?”

For a moment none of them would look at him, Giles however watched them with open curiosity. Finally it was Heidi who met his eyes, only for a second. “We missed you?”

“Uh huh...as flattering as that would be, try again.”

Kyle huffed and glared at him, though the glare lessened as Xander continued to stare him down. “We want the power back...but with control. Is there a way...to do that? Like you?”

“I don't have speed and strength anymore...just the senses and the skills; like I said I only got those back because of Halloween.” Xander sighed. “I've been possessed twice now; it’s not fun...though while I was Marine guy I beat the crap out of Pirate Larry. That was fun...of course that was before I knew why he was so aggressive.”

Tor shifted and blushed a little. “I heard he came out...he's really gay?”

“Yeah, I confronted him when we were trying to figure out who the wolf was...he'd been especially bitchy lately so I cornered him in the locker room. We got our wires crossed. I was talking about lycanthropy and he thought I was trying to oust him...but he's a lot nicer now.”

“We noticed.” Rhonda's voice was amused. “If your sense of smell works so well why didn't you know it was Oz?”

“His scent changes when he gets all furry. I can tell now that he's different from a human, but it’s still different when he changes.”

“There has to be an easier way to do this.” Kyle offered, staring at the still form in the cage. “I mean sitting up all night with a dart gun has to get old.”

“You have no idea.” Xander ran a hand through his hair...it was just starting to grow out again. “But this is the way it has to be.”

“Actually...” Giles started...and jumped a bit when all five of them eyed him. “Er...that is I've continued my research on werewolves...”

Xander's eyes narrowed. “And? Come on Giles, don't keep us in suspense.”

“It seems Oz’s werewolf type is a subspecies of the North American werewolf. Sometime within the last two hundred years a hellhound and an omega...er...bred and created that.” He motioned to Oz.

“What the hell is an omega?” Heidi asked while her nose wrinkled.

Xander racked his own brain...the term felt familiar. “Pack bitch?”

“Err...in real wolf packs possibly.” Giles muttered. “But with werewolves...Omegas are lone wolves...wolves that don't have a pack. An Omega can be a Beta or an Alpha.”

“How does this work?”

Giles pushed away his paperwork. “According to my research, and my council contacts, an Alpha is the only one capable of turning others. Unlike Oz's... breed of werewolf. The main line is...more refined I suppose is a way of putting it. The Alpha leads the pack, which consists of Betas, and sometimes humans because some packs are in fact families.”

“Really?”

Giles nodded and then seemed to hesitate. “Alphas take on wolf form...that is they become an actual wolf. Betas and Omegas only have a beta form.”

Xander frowned. “But they can control themselves.”

“Betas in a pack can. Omegas don't usually bother to control themselves...but they rarely last long without a pack.”

The others remained quiet, thoughtful...Xander however was thinking at a furious rate. “How often does the main line of werewolves have to change? Three nights a month like Oz?”

“If they're still learning control...they have to change on the night of the full moon. However they can change at any time. For one with control...they don't have to change at all.” There was a look in Giles' eyes and it gave Xander hope for Oz.

“Where can I find an Alpha? Do you think they'd be able to bite Oz and make him like them?”

“I don't know; it’s never been done before.”

“Its worth shot though. I mean Kyle is right...Oz could get loose again and we might not be so lucky next time.”

Giles nodded. “True.”

“So? Where can I find an Alpha?”

“We.” Kyle stated. “We want the power back...and if we can have it with control...we're going with you.”

Xander leaned into Kyle's personal space. “That so?”

“If you'll let us.” Kyle bared his throat. “It feels like we're still yours.”

Xander patted the other boy's jaw. “Good to know.” He looked at Giles. “So, I know you know where to find an Alpha. Mind giving us a hint?”

“According to my sources there's been a stable pack here in California for quite some time.”

“Where in Cali G-man?”

“Don't call me that...and it’s a small town, such as Sunnydale, though much farther north by the Washington state border. It’s called...Beacon Hills I believe.”

“Cool.” Xander looked at the other four teens. “So...tomorrow night we have Oz watch...and then I'm thinking road trip.”

“Xander.”

He looked back at Giles. “It'll be Oz's choice, but this could be really good for him Giles. To actually have control of himself so he won't accidentally hurt, maim, or kill one of us? I doubt he'll say no.”

“As long as you're careful. I've heard the Alpha of the Beacon Hills pack is fair...but I don't know how well they'll deal with outsiders...They've had to deal with hunters.”

“Right...hunters...fun.”

xxx

Xander was the only one awake when the sun came up and Oz changed back. He was the only one awake when the other boy started to stir and finally opened his eyes. Oz sat up slowly, eyes taking in the new chain on the door, and the teenagers piled on and around Xander. Giles was separate from them, softly snoring in a chair.

“What happened?”

“You got out.”

Oz jerked a bit, crawling toward the door, his face worried. “Did I hurt anyone?”

“Just bruised me and Giles a bit. We're fine.”

“And them?”

Xander looked at the other teens around him. Kyle and Rhonda were curled together, he could just see them behind him...he'd been using Kyle as a backrest. Heidi was curled up at his left, Tor at his right. Tor was using his right thigh as a pillow. “They held you down so I could tranq you.”

Oz stared for moment before reaching for his pants and slipping them on. He tested the door, the action made enough noise that Giles shot up out of his chair. “Oh... good morning. Just a moment Oz.” He retrieved the key from his pocket and undid the chain, then the door itself. Oz nodded in thanks and made his way to the pile of teens, before squirming in between Tor and Heidi. Xander snorted as the older boy hugged his calves and used his left thigh for a pillow. Giles cleared his throat. “I'm going out for a bit, I suppose you'll want coffee?”

“God yes. And doughnuts. Chocolate everything.” Xander gave him big pleading eyes. “Please?”

Giles snorted. “Be back soon.”

“I'm certainly not going anywhere.”

Oz was quiet until Giles left and then he rose up to look at Xander. “Something change last night?”

“Oh yeah. Seems Giles has kept up on his research of werewolves.”

“Anything new?”

“You're sort of...not a real werewolf? I think he called you a subspecies? Or breed? Anyway, there's a type of werewolf that has more control than you...a kind that has a pack.”

“How much more control?”

“They only have like a...Giles called it a beta form? I'm thinking it would be like a Chaney Wolf-man kinda thing. And the ones that have really good control don't even change the night of the full moon.”

Oz's eyes were wide. “Just the night of?”

“Yeah.”

“Must be nice. That kind of control.”

“Yeah. So after tonight's scheduled Oz watch we're thinking road trip.”

“We're?”

“Me plus these four...and obviously you if you want.”

“Why?”

Xander sighed. “Last year the five of us were possessed by hyena spirits and we were as strong and as fast as Buffy...with hyena senses.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah, so the five of us ate Herbert...and then these four...ate Principle Flutie.”

Oz winced. “And you?”

“I tried to rape Buffy. If she hadn't knocked me out with a desk I would have.”

“And they want the road trip.”

“We're thinking that maybe if an Alpha, the only kind of real werewolf that can turn someone evidently, bites you...maybe you'll be like them. More control. Less wild.”

“Sounds good. I'm in.” Oz eyed the others for a second. “They want it too?”

“They want the power back...with the control. We didn't have control before, obviously.” He snorted. “They're actually kinda pissed that I have the senses.”

“How did that happen?”

“You weren't in town Halloween night.”

“No.”

“A lot of us turned into our costumes. It kinda brought back the senses from my first possession. So now I've got enhanced animal-like senses on top of Marine training.”

“Rocket launcher.”

Xander grinned. “Among other things, but you knew that since I sent more than one box out the window to you and Willow.”

He nodded. “Cool. So...why are we cuddling?”

Xander shrugged. “Left over pack thing?”

“Okay.”

“That's it?”

“Yeah. Gonna sleep more. Feel tired.”

“Yeah, I kinda shot you with two darts.”

“It’s fine.” And with that Oz settled back down and fell asleep.

There was a moment of quiet and then Kyle whispered behind him. “You really tried to rape Summers?”

“Yeah. It’s not something I like to talk about. The girls think I don't remember.”

“Why is she so strong?”

“She's the Vampire Slayer. One girl in all the world with the strength and skill to fight vampires and force back the darkness and all that hides within it.”

“That's why she's always getting in trouble isn't it?”

“Yeah.”

“And her mom's boyfriend...the one she supposedly killed.”

Xander snorted. “Would you believe he was a freaking serial killer robot? We found three dead women in his underground bunker.”

Kyle shuddered. “Seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“Our town is messed up.”

“Go back to sleep Kyle.”

There was a moment of quiet and Xander thought he'd followed the order...then... “What rocket launcher?”

“Sleep Kyle.”

He did and Xander wasn't far behind him.

xxx

By the time Giles trudged back in with breakfast and coffee Heidi was awake enough to help him set the goodies at the table. If awake was qualified as having her eyes only half open and wavering as she set the box of doughnuts on the table before collapsing into a chair. However as the smell of coffee filled the room Kyle and Rhonda roused and managed to drag one another up off the floor and to the food and drink.

When his back rest was suddenly gone Xander slid back and nearly hit his head on the floor. He startled awake enough that he caught himself on his elbows and glared at the snickering couple. “Jerks.”

Tor and Oz woke when he jerked and climbed to their feet and helped him up. Then the three of them made a beeline for the food. Xander grabbed an éclair and a coffee before he moved away so no one was within grabbing distance. “Thanks Giles.”

“You're quite welcome.”

Breakfast was a quiet affair and as they finished each of the teens left with a promise to be back before sun down. When it was just Giles, Xander and Oz, the werewolf motioned for Xander to follow him. “Need a ride?”

“That would be awesome. Willow is supposed to call this morning before she heads out on vacation with her parents.”

“Yeah.”

“Later Giles, see you tonight!”

“Indeed.”


The rest of the day and the following Oz watch went off without a hitch. Mostly the teens spent their night planning their sort of impromptu road trip. Oz had already offered his van before the moon rose, as the proffered vehicle of choice, which made sense as it had more room...even if there were only two seats. Kyle and the others could lounge in the back on the way. Xander had already called shot gun.

xxx

Xander imagined this was what a single parent felt like...or possibly an elementary school teacher. Between the bickering, and the 'are we there yet?' every hour on the hour of their first day of travel Xander was ready to break out the duct tape and chains that he knew Oz had in a box in the back of the van.


By the second day he'd literally had to physically separate Rhonda and Heidi because their bickering had gotten on everyone's nerves. Except Oz who was a freaking Zen wolf.


On the third day he'd crawled into the back of the van growling and snarling and possibly glowy eyed at the others because they WOULD. NOT. SHUT. UP. And once he'd gotten back there with them they'd quieted and he had a pile of content teenagers on top of him.


They arrived in Beacon Hills on the evening of the fourth day, still in one piece and still sane. He didn't even have to bludgeon anyone into submission with his cast of doom. Xander was considering it a miracle.

“Where to?” Oz asked once they entered the city limits.

“There's got to be a camping ground around here.” Xander muttered. “I noticed you had a small portable grill thing in the back. Burgers and dogs?”

“What's wrong with a motel?” Kyle asked, leaning into the front.

“We're here, uninvited, in a well established pack's territory. That could be seen as pretty damn insulting. I'd rather not stay inside town.”

Oz pulled into the first gas station he saw. “I'll fill up.”

Xander nodded. “I'll get some food.” He eyed the other four. “Behave. Act like you're civilized.” They glared at him.

“Can I come with you?” Tor gave him hopeful green eyes and Xander sighed.

“Sure. Oz is in charge while I'm out of sight.”

“Why Oz?” Kyle asked, frowning.

“Because he is less likely to piss off total strangers or anyone else for that matter.” Xander said with a smirk before he headed toward the building, Tor following at his heels.

Inside it was cool, quiet, and pretty clean for a gas station at the edge of town. Xander handed a basket to Tor, who happily followed him around while he filled it. Three packs of hot dogs went in, one of cheap burgers, some charcoal, and lighter fluid. Tor tossed in the buns.

“Good thing Kyle's parents are loaded huh?” Tor commented.

“Yeah. Though we would have been okay for a while between me and Oz. However I'd rather not use up all my funds for this trip. I'm glad everyone chipped in...Especially money pants DuFour.”

Tor grinned and snagged some ketchup and mustard. “We done?”

Xander grabbed a couple of boxes of Pop-Tarts. “Breakfast.” And a box of soft drinks. “Let’s go pay.” When he turned he nearly ran over a little boy, a toddler really, that was staring up at him with big whiskey colored eyes.

“Hi.”

He stared at the kid. “Um...hi?”

“My name is Kostek.”

Xander winced. “That's...an interesting name.”

“What's yours?”

“Xander.”

The kid's face wrinkled. “Really?”

“Well...its Alexander...but I don't like Alexander. Xander sounds better. It’s a nickname...do you have a nickname?”

“No.”

“A last name?”

“Stilinski.”

“That's a mouthful, Kostek Stilinski, huh. I guess it has style.”

The whiskey eyes got a little wider and the kid grinned at him. “Style?”

Xander blinked at the kid. “Yeah, style.” He looked around quickly, hoping someone was missing the kid with all the questions and saw a young woman whirling around in a panic a ways over. “Miss? Did you happen to lose a munchkin about yay tall?” He asked, pointing to the kid now clinging to his knee.

“Kostek!”

The little boy laughed as his mother pried him from Xander's leg. “Sorry about that. Kostek gets sneaky sometimes and wanders off.”

“No problem. We were discussing the validity of having nicknames.”

She was a pretty woman, definitely older than Xander but still young. Her hair was dark and she had the same whiskey eyes as her son. “Oh really? Claudia Stilinski by the way.” She held her hand out and he shook it, both blinked at the tingle they felt. Her eyes narrowed a bit. “You're not part of the Hale pack.”

“No Ma'am. We actually came here to ask the Alpha for help.”

“You're not a wolf.”

“Nope.”

“Hmm. Who should I say has come to see her?”

Xander blinked. “The Alpha is a friend of yours?”

“An acquaintance.”

He nodded. “Xander Harris of Sunnydale. My friend Oz is the one who needs help...also of Sunnydale.” Xander hesitated for a second. “We'll be at the camp grounds. If you could pass word along?”

Claudia nodded. “Xander...short for Alexander...” Her eyes clouded for a moment and the next words she spoke were whispered. “Protector of Man...The White Knight...” Then her eyes cleared. “I'll give Talia Hale a call. It was nice meeting you.” She smiled and whisked her son away.

The kid waved. “Bye!”

Xander waved back and Tor stood staring. “That...”

“Was weird I know...even for me.” He shuddered. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

xxx

They'd actually had to go back into the gas station for a bag of ice, a gallon of milk, and a Styrofoam cooler. Certain people refused to have pop tarts without milk. Sigh.

By the time they parked the van at the campgrounds, after paying a modest fee, and got their grill set up it was just starting to get dark. When the first of the burgers and dogs were ready their mouths were watering.

It was then Xander sensed it, his head shooting up, and his eyes searching the tree line. “Everyone get in the van. Oz, you're with me...keep the grill going.”

Kyle was the first to object but Xander growled at him, broking no further argument as the four teens clambered in to the van, sliding the door shut behind them.

“Something here?” Oz asked, seemingly unconcerned.

“Smells like a wolf...different from you.”

Oz nodded and flipped a burger. “The local Alpha got the message?”

When a black wolf broke away from the shadows of the tree line Xander nodded. “Looks like.” They stayed still waiting for the wolf to reach them. Oz kept his attention on the food he was grilling. Xander kept his eyes on the wolf.

She was a thing of beauty and natural grace, her black fur shining in the moonlight, red eyes glowing eerily. Xander watched her approach them, and realized, this was what a werewolf was supposed to be like. Not the creature Oz became three nights a month; and he became that much more determined to help Oz become this...not an Alpha, but a real werewolf.

She stopped, leaving several feet between them...and then she shifted. Flowed really from wolf to human...to woman...Yegads to a very naked and attractive woman! Eep!

“Xander Harris of Sunnydale?”

“That's me.”

She looked at him and he tried really hard to keep his eyes on her face. “You're not a wolf...something different?”

“I was temporarily possessed by a hyena spirit...I still have a few perks from the experience.”

Her eyes drifted to Oz and a look of kindness and understanding filled them. “You didn't come here for you.”

“No...I guess you can tell Oz is wrong? Not a real wolf.”

“Yes...I've heard of his kind, but this is the first time I've ever met one.” Her smile was gentle. “How did you become this way...Oz?”

Oz flicked his eyes to Xander, Xander nodded, Oz spoke. “I was babysitting my little cousin Jordy. He was teething. Got bit.”

Her eyes were wide. “He bit you with human teeth? That was enough to change you?”

“Yep.”

Xander snorted. “Oz got out of his cage on the full moon, one of the three nights he turns into a mindless beast; no one was hurt...but I had to track him down and tranq him.”

“You put him in a cage?”

He sighed. “Have too. Oz has no control at all. There's hardly anything wolfy about him. When he changes he looks like a mutant ape on drugs. And we go through this every month for those three nights.” And then he threw his hands up in the air because he seriously could not take it anymore. “Rhonda! Toss me a blanket!”

The side door slid open and Rhonda appeared briefly to toss a blanket at him...and then covered Kyle's gaping eyes so Heidi could close the door.

“Something wrong?”

Xander did his best not to blush. “Talia right? Talia Hale?”

“You may call me Talia.”

“Right, so Talia...” He held up the blanket. “Can you please cover up? I'm a seventeen year old boy and I can only keep from ogling you for so long.”

Talia laughed and accepted the blanket, when she had it wrapped around her he sighed in relief. She eyed him in surprise. “I was making you uncomfortable.”

“Well yeah...the last time I was in the presence of an older woman who was as intimidating as you she wanted to breed me and eat me...and while I know you're a wolf and not a giant praying mantis who wants to bite my head off in the middle of sex...you're kind of a trigger. So covering.”

Her head tilted a bit, as if she was listening to something. “You're not lying. You're heart beat remained steady.”

“Yep.”

There was a moment of contemplation before she spoke again. “You've seen more than I have. I suppose the Hellmouth is an interesting place to live.”

“Only if you want to stop a freaking apocalypse once a year... like every May. We came way to close to world endage this time...there was literally a portal that opened and started to suck the world into a Hell dimension.”

Talia remained composed. “What stopped it?”

“Not what, who. A friend...the Slayer.”

“She's not a myth.”

“Nope...and that sounds weird coming from a werewolf.”

“Maybe. I'm surprised a slayer has such...unique friends.”

Xander shrugged. “Our Slayer is one of a kind.”

She smiled at him. “Are you going to ask me what you came to ask me?”

“Er...first I want to apologize for coming into your territory without asking...I didn't exactly know how to contact you. The Watcher just gave us a town name and told us to be careful.”

“Until you ran into Claudia.”

“Yeah.”

Talia nodded. “You should come to dinner, eat with my family, my pack.”

“Um...okay?”

“We'll talk more afterward.” She unwrapped the blanket and handed it back to him. “Come to the Hale House, day after tomorrow, 6 PM.” Talia smiled at him. “It was nice to meet you, Alpha Harris.”

He blinked and frowned at the title. “It was nice to meet you Alpha Hale.”

And then she shifted into a wolf and jogged to the tree line, disappearing into the shadows. The van door slid open and four ravenous teens nearly waylaid Oz to get to the food that was by now done.

“That was formal...and freaky.” Kyle said around a mouthful of burger.

“Definitely.” And then Xander dove in, grabbing a couple of hot dogs before they were devoured.

xxx

The rest of the night passed in peace even when they bedded down for the night in the van in a pile of limbs and elbows. Xander was seriously glad for the collection of cushions Oz had accumulated. Just wow.

They woke when it started to get warm; and not wanting to die of heat stroke they clambered out of the van and inhaled the pop tarts and milk for breakfast. They ended up passing the milk around because neither he nor Tor had thought to get cups the night before. Oops.

“So now what?”

Xander looked up at Tor. “Now what what?”

“He means, what do we do to kill time until we show up for dinner tomorrow?” Kyle grumbled, snagging the milk from Heidi.

“Go into town, explore.” Xander narrowed his eyes. “Stay out of trouble.”

“How come you don't look at Oz when you say stuff like that?” Rhonda asked.

“Because Oz is SuperZenWolf and doesn't cause trouble. You guys are the mean kids who like to pick on others just for kicks.”

Heidi groaned. “You're not gonna let us have fun anymore are you?”

“Not at the expense of someone else, no. Definitely no. Capital N. O.”

“Library?” Oz asked. “Find a park for lunch?”

“Sounds good to me.” He eyed the other four. “You guys won't find much trouble at the movies will you?”

“God Xander, we're not hyperactive six year olds. We can manage a day without you supervising us.” Kyle shook his head. “We've managed without you this long.”

Xander snorted. “And if I remember correctly you guys always did twice as much detention as me...Look Talia will probably have eyes and ears in town today observing us. You guys want her to bite you, give you that power? I suggest you act like you can handle it. No bullying. No delinquency. At all.” When they nodded he sighed. “Okay then. To town Oz.”

xxx

Once they were back in town they parted ways. Oz ended up at the library. The girls at the mall, Kyle at a coffee shop...and Tor followed Xander into the local theater to watch the summer's latest action flick. The theater was practically empty that early in the day, which wasn't surprising. If they'd been in Sunnydale Xander would probably still be sleeping himself.

The movie was okay...not the greatest but it had explosions and passed the time well enough. When they trudged back out into the sunshine it was time for lunch. Xander stretched and then dragged Tor to the first fast food place he saw. Ordered enough to feed a small army of teens and then headed for the park Oz had indicated that morning.

The others were at a picnic table when they got there. Heidi was actually lying on the table top, staring listlessly at the clouds over head.

“I come baring food!” And just like that the bags of food were removed from his and Tor's hands. Heidi was knocked off the table by Rhonda and the bounty spread in her place.

“Ow!”

“You'll live.” Rhonda murmured, biting into a curly fry. “God this is good.”

Heidi got back to her feet before joining them at the picnic table, glare completely dissipating once she started to eat.

“So anything interesting?”

“Some guy stalked us at the mall for a while.” Rhonda said between bites. “Cute, if a little creepy. He really seemed to like Heidi.”

“He wasn't creepy.”

“He kept sniffing in our direction...” Rhonda frowned. “You think maybe he was one of Talia's eyes and ears you talked about?”

“Probably.”

Heidi grinned. “So he should be at dinner tomorrow night.” Then a look of horror came over her face. “Did anyone notice if there were showers at the campground?”

Oz nodded. “There were.”

“Oh thank God.” The relief on her face was amusing. “We should totally get some shampoo while we're in town and body wash.”

Xander let their talk and banter wash over him, idly agreeing that a shower would be a good idea. As they prattled on he let his mind wander until he felt eyes on him. He looked toward a play ground...and there was the boy, Kostek, and his mom Claudia. Kostek waved. Xander waved back.

Then the kid was racing toward him and his mother was scrambling to keep up. The next thing Xander knew he had a lap full of bouncing toddler...one who immediately stuffed his mouth full of Xander's curly fries.

Tor was smirking and gave him a nudge. “Your newest fan has no shame.”

“Kostek!” Claudia's face, while at first was livid...changed to a look of exasperation and amusement. “Hello again Alexander.”

“Xander.” He corrected her absently, moving to hold his coke at a better angle so the kid could take a sip...otherwise the little hands would have spilled it everywhere. “So does he always do this?”

She shook her head. “No, and I'd drag him off your lap but then there'd be screaming and we'd cause a scene.”

He nodded and handed her a burger that hadn't been claimed yet. “Care to join us for lunch since the little guy has already invited himself to my food.”

She laughed and accepted the food before sitting beside Heidi and across from Xander. “I am sorry about that. I've never seen him take to someone so fast.”

“Trust me; no one is more shocked than me. I don't know the first thing about kids...other than giving them tips for getting the most Halloween candy.” When the other teens looked at him funny he rolled his eyes. “You know not everyone is as suave as you guys and can avoid mandatory volunteering by Principle Snyder. So yeah, I had to supervise a group of kids on Halloween.”

“I like Halloween.”

Claudia swallowed a bite of burger and smiled at her son. “Last Halloween was definitely interesting.”

“I was Batman!”

“Batman is cool.” Xander offered just as he managed to steal some of his curly fries back and shove them in his mouth.

“Batman is the best! What were you?”

“A marine.” At the kids scrunched up look Xander tried to translate. “A soldier.”

“With a gun?”

“A toy gun.”

“My daddy has a real one. He's a dupity.”

“Deputy.” Claudia corrected. At that everyone but Oz tensed. “Oh relax. He doesn't know about werewolves or anything like that.”

Xander smiled. “Sorry, bad experience.”

“With the police?”

“They shot at a friend. She was unarmed.”

“Oh.” Claudia sobered a bit. “Is she...?”

“She's missing.”

“Hey.”

Xander looked down at Kostek who was still in his lap. “What you do?” He patted Xander's cast.

“Got attacked.”

“By what?”

Xander eyed Claudia but she only shrugged, which was not in any way helpful. “Vampires.”

“REALLY!”

He winced at the shrillness of the kid's voice and resigned himself to a PG retelling of the attack in the library. Everyone's eyes were wide and he realized that none of them, the other teens, really knew about what went on in Sunnydale...Oz being the exception.

xxx

The rest of the day passed quickly enough. Xander ended up with, and eventually enjoyed, having Kostek glued to him. At some point he and Tor had ended up playing with the kid back on the playground, much to Claudia's amusement...and she was going to have proof the evil, evil lady because she'd whipped a camera out of her purse.

So they had fun, acting like kids, for the first time in a long time; at least for Xander. Though he suspected that all of them had enjoyed going down the slide at least once. Probably the only thing that kept the other parents from reporting them was that they were hanging out with a deputy's wife and kid. The adults still did not seem amused that a bunch of high school students were playing on the playground. Jerks. Just because they forgot how fun it was to be a kid didn't mean that they had.

By the time the sun was starting to set Claudia had invited them home with her for pizza. And while it was tempting, especially with all the puppy eyes aimed at him, Xander declined. Feeding all of them might just break the Stilinski's penny bank and Xander liked Claudia and Kostek too much to do that to them.

“Are you sure?” Claudia had asked, watching as the others grumbled and got situated in the van.

“Yeah. We'll be okay. I'll probably have to go ahead and get them pizza though to smooth things over.” He glanced down at the kid, who was frowning and not happy about parting ways with his new friends. “Hey, don't worry about it.” He knelt so he was eye level with the tyke. “Your puppy eyes were pretty good. You just need to practice, eventually you'll have them down and no one will say no.”

Whiskey eyes looked at him hopefully. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Then Xander made his own puppy eyes at Kostek for a good long moment.

“Oh my God. Don't teach him that. My husband will be a goner.”

“That's kinda the point.” He grinned and ruffled Kostek's hair. “Take care kiddo.”

He nodded, and then did a near perfect imitation of Xander's puppy eyes. “How that?”

“Much better.”

“John and I are doomed.”

Xander stood and smiled at her. “He's a lucky kid.” He nodded at her. “Thanks for today and for the directions to the Hale house.”

“You're welcome.” They shook hands...and she pulled him into a hug. “You have a lot of work in front of you. Alpha Harris.”

When she released him he gave her a strange look, but shrugged it off. “I don't know if we'll see you again...but it was nice to meet you.” He grinned at them both. “Both of you.”

And with that he reclaimed his seat in the van and Oz drove in the direction Claudia had pointed them so that they could get some of the best pizza in town.

xxx

The next day everyone seemed a little on edge, even Oz seemed to carry a barely there quiet nervousness about him. They took turns showering in the provided bathroom facility the campground offered, quickly using up the shampoo and soap they had bought the previous day.

And despite the waiting, and the anxiousness, they somehow managed to not go insane. Though at one point Tor and the girls had taken off with the van purpose unknown and Xander puzzled over the action until they came back around four in the afternoon with freshly baked cookies that vaguely smelled like Claudia and Kostek. He'd grinned and praised them; because it was beyond smart to bring something to what essentially could be a political dinner. Finally at half past five they headed toward the Hale family home.


It was big. Two stories...maybe three or least the attic seemed to be livable if the windows up there were any indication. It was hard to tell how deep the house was from the front, but that's what going inside was for.

Talia was standing on the porch waiting for them. Beside her, and slightly behind, stood a man who was just a bit taller than her and human by the smell of him. As Xander and his...pack...approached the porch the others stayed behind him. Oz was the closest, slightly to his right.

Huh. Whoever the man with Talia was, was quite possibly her second. Oz was mirroring that. Interesting. A human second... who was watching Xander with amusement and even winked one of his almost green eyes.

“Alpha Hale.” Xander held out the container of cookies. “Our contribution to dinner...or rather Tor and the girls' contribution. I'm pretty sure they commandeered Claudia Stilinski's kitchen to make them.”

She smiled and accepted the cookies. “You may call me Talia for now while we're being informal, Xander. This is my husband, Elden.”

Elden held out his hand and Xander shook it. “Nice to meet you kid.”

“Xander.”

“Xander then. And your pack?”

They released hands and Xander motioned to each teen. “This is Oz, Kyle, Rhonda, Heidi, and Tor.”

Nods were exchanged and Talia spoke. “Please come-”

Xander held up both hands and waved them a bit in mock panic. “No, no, no. Verbal invitations are bad.” When they gave him confused looks he elaborated. “Sometimes a verbal invitation is the only thing needed to enter a home. Like with vampires. Which are real.”

Talia smiled. “Understood.” And then she and Elden went inside, leaving the door open for them.

“That true?” Heidi asked in a whisper.

“Yep.”

“Huh.”


The inside of the house was grand but with a relaxed feel. The wolves peering at them weren't as relaxed as the house though. A boy, who looked close to their age, sneered at them while his eyes glowed blue.

“Sister mine, I thought you said we had company, a visiting pack.” His teeth were bared and he took a step forward in challenge. “They're human.”

Oz stepped in front of Xander, a growl escaped his throat, and Xander noticed his eyes turn inky black...that had never happened outside of Oz's three change nights. The sight made the teen falter and Xander reached for Oz with his good hand and gripped the back of the older boy's neck. “Easy Oz.” He pulled him back to his side and then glared at the boy whose eyes were wide. “Obviously your nose is broken.”

The teen regained his bravado. “So he's not human. You are.”

Xander shrugged. “Yeah, so?”

“A human Alpha?”

“Evidently. Stranger things have happened.”

“Like what?”

“Portals to Hell dimensions. Vampire attacks. Demons who can burn the humanity out of a person.”

The teen looked at him curiously now; his eyes back to their normal human color. “You're not lying.”

“Nope.”

“That's enough Peter. Alpha Harris and his pack are from Sunnydale. The Hellmouth.”

That brought the other kids further into the room. Another boy, much younger than Peter, came up to Xander. He had Elden Hale's eyes. “Vampires are real?”

“Yep.”

“You've seen them?”

“One broke my wrist.” He held up his cast. “And I've dusted a few.”

“Whoa.”

“You're human.” Peter repeated.

“I've got a strong survival drive.”

“Really.”

“Yep. That kinda thing happens when people all around you die, disappear, and then reappear as soulless demon possessed corpses. And could you be any sassier?”

A feminine hand swatted Peter on the back of his head. The teen winced. “I apologize for my younger brother.” Talia said. “This is my oldest son, Derek,” she motioned to the boy who had moved closer to him. Derek grinned, showing cute little bunny teeth. “This is my oldest, Laura.” Laura stepped forward and nodded. “My youngest daughter Cora,” Cora peeked from behind Laura bashfully. All three were wolves, Xander could feel it. “And this,” Talia smiled as Elden reappeared with a human baby in his arms, “is our youngest, Seth.”

“It’s nice to meet you all. I'm Xander Harris. Evidently I'm the Alpha of the Sunnydale Pack, which is news to me.” He shrugged and grinned. “Oz is our only wolf. These four and I were possessed for a couple of days back sophomore year.”

“Possessed by what?” Laura asked.

“Hyenas.” He smiled at Laura before addressing Talia. “And you totally don't have to apologize for your brother. He's no worse than these four.” Four sets of eyes glared at him but he just smirked back at them. “Hey, you're the school bullies, you're due some payback.”

Talia smiled at them. “Dinner is on the table, shall we?”


Dinner was actually civil. He'd taken a seat...Oz on his right while Derek, who told him he was eight, sat on his left and asked all sorts of questions. Xander kept the stories PG because there were kids present and they were eating. So that meant no stories of finding headless bodies or bloodied corpses around... which actually limited his supply of stories. Huh.

Oz's story of finding out he was a werewolf was met with concern...and some amusement since he'd had no idea he wasn't human until he'd woken up in the woods, naked. The Hales' favorite part was when the Slayer bent Caine's gun and ran him out of town. They weren't fond of Hunters. Xander didn't blame them.

After dinner, much to his surprise, Heidi snagged Peter's arm and dragged him outside. He gave Rhonda a look, assuming she'd know what was going on, and if Rhonda and Heidi were anything like his girls she would.

Rhonda rolled her eyes at the look. “He's the creepy guy who stalked us in the mall yesterday.”

“Ah. And Heidi likes that sort of thing?”

“I don't think about Heidi's taste in guys. It makes my head hurt.”

“As long as she doesn't break him.”

Derek grabbed Xander's hand then and started to tug him toward the stairs. “I have a PlayStation. Do you wanna play?”

“In a bit Derek.” Talia smiled. “Alpha Harris and I have a few things to discuss. If you'd come into the study?”

Xander nodded and motioned Tor to hang out with Derek before eyeing the others. “Oz is in charge. Pretend to be adults.”

“We're not adults.” Kyle said.

“I know; that's why I want you to pretend you are.”

Tor snickered and Rhonda and Kyle rolled their eyes. Oz simply motioned him to go with Talia. Elden stayed behind to entertain them, Seth in his arms and Cora had attached herself to his leg.

When he entered the study she closed the door behind him before taking a seat on a sofa. She motioned to the other end and he sat down, twisting to face her. “So, what's the what?”

“I won't give him the bite. Not Oz, not the others.”

Xander sighed. “Any particular reason why? Or will the bite just not work on Oz because of what he is?”

“It should work, though I've never heard of it being done, but they have an Alpha. You.”

“We're a group of human teenagers and a distorted wolf. That doesn't exactly scream wolf pack.”

Talia smiled. “I have a theory. Would you be willing to test it?”

He scrunched up his face, wondering where this was going. “Depends on what the test entails. I don't test well.”

“Do you want the bite?”

“No.”

She frowned. “You didn't lie.”

“Nope.”

“The other four who were possessed want it.”

“They did something horrible while they were possessed...but they know they could actually be in control if they were like you, like your wolves.”

“My betas.”

“Yeah.”

“What did they do?”

“They ate Principle Flutie.”

Her eyes widened just a bit, but softened in understanding. “They paid a price for their power.”

“It was a power none of us were looking for. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and stepped into a spell working.”

She reached for his hand and held it in hers. “And you? What did you do while possessed?”

“I made my best friend in the world cry by being mean to her and the girl I had a crush on...I tried to rape her. Luckily said crush is the Slayer and knocked me out with a desk.”

“And you don't want the power back.”

“Not if it turns me into a monster.”

Talia squeezed his hand before letting it go, only to reach up and tap his forehead. “Claudia said there was something special about you. I'm beginning to understand what she meant.”

“I'm not special.”

“You are.” She smiled again. “Why don't the six of you stay here tonight? We'll bring out the sleeping bags and you can pile in the living room.”

“And then?”

“Think about my offer. I'll ask you again tomorrow, or perhaps the next day, give you a chance to see what pack life is truly like.”

“The bite? Is me accepting it the only way you'll help Oz.”

Talia's smile was enigmatic, mysterious. “Say you'll stay.”

“Sure.”

xxx

They stayed the night. As soon as Xander reentered the living room Derek was dragging him upstairs so they could play on the PlayStation. He gave the other teens 'help me' looks but he was ignored. Tor however followed...much to Derek's displeasure and Tor's amusement.

So Xander ended up playing a little of every two player game Derek had before Talia called everyone back down for ice cream and a movie. They settled in the living room, Derek practically in his lap, a bowl with enough ice cream for the two of them in the kid's grasp. Xander had insisted on his own spoon though. The movie was just starting when Heidi and Peter strolled in; both smelling of lust and Xander really wished he couldn't tell what they'd been doing. Derek's nose wrinkled as well.

Peter sneered at them, well mostly he sneered at Derek. “If you can sit in your crush's lap I don't see why I can't have a rendezvous with mine.”

Derek blushed and ducked his head. Xander bared his teeth and glanced at Talia who was glaring at her little brother. “Permission to kick your little brother's butt?”

“After the movie.” She confirmed with a smile.

“Like you could.” And there was a challenge in Peter's voice. Heidi looked ready to abandon him.

Oz watched the opening credits, his eyes never leaving the screen as he casually ate his ice cream. “There's still grenades in the van.”

Everyone froze.

Xander blinked and stared at him. “Really? I thought I got them all out?”

“There's at least three in the back.”

“Huh. Did I leave anything else in your van when we were robbing the army blind?”

“A couple of clips of ammo.”

“Not from the M16, those are at my house.”

“No, they were from hand guns.”

“Huh. Probably 9 mm.”

Peter looked from Oz to Xander, face pale. “You're not lying...how are you not lying?”

Xander grinned. “Well once upon a time there was this demon called the Judge. He's the one who could burn the humanity out of a person, thereby burning a person into nothing. Back in the dark ages it took an army to hack him to pieces, they all died, but they couldn't kill him. His pieces were scattered all over the world. This year a vampire named Drusilla put him back together...and we didn't have an army to take him back apart. And no weapon forged back in the day could kill him. So we stole a few things from the army. A lot of it I kept for me. The big score was a birthday present for the Slayer and I believe her words were 'Best present ever'.”

“What did you get her?” Derek asked, looking up at him, eyes big.

“Rocket Launcher. Boom. Judge is a million pieces now and scattered so thorough no one will be putting him back together, ever.”

Peter was paler, shaky even, and Heidi helped him sit on the floor. It was Talia who asked; “How did you get them?”

“Some of us turned into our costumes on Halloween; there was a chaos spell involved.” He tapped his head. “I've got all kinds of Marine training and black ops procedure rolling around my brain now; and I can in fact take apart an M16 and put it back together in 55 seconds. I checked.”

“You are full of surprises, Alpha Harris.”

He frowned at the title but shrugged. “Just a heck of a survival instinct.”

Derek was staring up at him in awe. “Wow.”

xxx

The movie had been okay, some Disney animation that Xander had seen a million times but classics are classics, and by the time it was over the kids were all sleepy and ready to be tucked in. Elden had gotten up in the middle of the video to put Seth in his crib; Talia had put Cora to bed around the same time. Laura made it through the movie and managed to get herself up to bed as the tape was rewinding. Xander however ended up carrying Derek up to his room, following Talia and getting the boy settled.

As he walked back toward the stairs he snagged Heidi before she could sneak into Peter's room and quietly dragged her back to the living room where the others were making a pallet of blankets and pillows on the floor. Heidi glared at him.

“We already-”

“Don't care.”

“So why can't I-”

“Not up for discussion.”

“Jeeze are you a prude or what?”

He rolled his eyes. “If the two of you want to go have sex in the woods fine, but I'd rather you not have sex while we're all under the same roof and house guests to boot. How old is he anyway?”

“Sixteen.”

“Huh. Could be worse. Just...save those hormones for tomorrow would you?”

She pouted, but nodded before kicking off her shoes and crawling into the growing pile of teens. Talia peeked into the room. “Everything alright?”

“Peachy.” He took off his own shoes and nudged Tor to the side before settling in beside him. “Night.”

Talia smiled and flipped the switch. “Good night.”


Some time later in the dark a small warm body slipped under the covers between him and Tor. Xander shifted and then curled around Derek in a protective gesture, but never actually woke up.

xxx

“Well isn't that adorable.”

Derek made a whining sound and Xander sat up, teeth bared and snarling. Peter's eyes grew wide as he stumbled back before falling on his ass and scrambling away. Derek's eyes were wide as well and he reached toward Xander's face.

“It’s way too early for crap like that Petey.”

Derek giggled and tugged on one of Xander's ears. “You're eyes were green.”

“There's still a little bit of hyena in me.” He sniffed the air. “Coffee?”

Talia appeared in the doorway. “In the kitchen.”

“You are a goddess.” He looked around at his pack pile. “Huh. Evidently we stole your kids during the night.” He pointed to Derek, who blushed, and then Cora and Laura who were curled up with Rhonda and Kyle. “Oops?”

“It’s fine. Usually the only teenager they spend time with is Peter. They find you interesting. How does breakfast sound?”

“Like a whole lot of heaven.”

xxx

Breakfast was in the kitchen and more casual than dinner had been. Once he'd eaten and had some coffee Xander felt better; becoming less snippy and not growling at Peter again. Peter, though, kept his distance...mostly by dragging Heidi out to explore the property...not that she needed to be dragged.

Elden left for work, and Talia kept herself, Cora and Seth amused. Derek and Laura dragged Xander and the others to the back yard for a game of hide and seek. Xander and Oz won almost as much as Derek and Laura; both of who had the better noses. However the more they played the better Rhonda, Kyle and Tor got.

Then they just ran through the woods, Heidi and Peter joined them mid run, and the wolves, except Peter, began running on all fours. Derek and Laura were wolfed out by the time they stopped at a stream. Xander watched them drink from the stream, fascinated by their golden eyes, sharp teeth and side burns.

Derek grinned at him, fangs wet from the water. Xander grinned back...and then when Peter wasn't looking Xander shoved him into the deepest part of the stream. While Peter shrieked indignantly and waved his arms trying to shake some of the water off Xander gave Derek a piggy back ride back to the house. Heidi, despite her giggling, helped Peter out of the water.


Lunch was as casual as breakfast though Peter, now in dry clothes, glared at Xander and Derek throughout the meal. Talia remained amused but said nothing, just observed Xander and the others. She was waiting for him to make a decision he realized. Xander just wasn't sure what that decision would be.

xxx

They ended up piling into the van and heading into town. The girls took Laura shopping and dragged Kyle along despite his protests. It was amazing what one pointed look from Rhonda could achieve. Heh.

Xander took one look at Derek and then said; “Movies?”

That was how they ended up running into Claudia and Kostek at the movies...and watching Mulan with them. It would have been great...except that Derek and Kostek seemed to have some sort of unspoken territorial dispute over who got to sit with Xander. So he ended up with a kid on each side. Claudia snickered at him off and on throughout the movie, and by its end the popcorn bucket in his lap had somehow been replaced by Derek and Kostek, both half asleep. He still wasn't sure how that happened...or where the popcorn went.


By the time the girls caught up with them at the park Derek and Kostek had come to a truce and the older boy played with the younger much as he would have with Cora. Xander was relieved because he was no longer the prize in a game of 'he's my friend not yours'.

xxx

Talia pulled him aside once they came back, ushering him into the study. “Well?”

Xander paced a bit before shrugging and collapsing on the sofa. “Today was fun. Hanging with the pack was great.”

“But?”

“I still don't want the bite.”

She smiled sadly at him. “I see.”

“But I'll take it, if you're willing to give it to me.”

She considered him for a moment. “For Oz?”

“For all of them. The others want the power back, but they don't want to lose themselves for it. Oz doesn't want to hurt anyone. He's come too close more than once. His girlfriend is my best friend. I don't want her hurt or accidentally eaten or turned.”

“You want to protect your friends.”

“I'll do whatever needs to be done.”

Talia smiled at him. “Good answer.”

“What? Was there a wrong one?”

“Sometimes there can be...but not right now.” She tilted her head. “Elden is home. Is now a good time?”

“Yeah, better do it before we eat.”

“Come.”

He followed her out of the study and through the house, all the way to the back yard. Everyone seemed to sense the seriousness of the situation and joined them. Talia's family was behind her, Xander's pack was behind him.

“So...do I just stand here or...?”

“Take off your shirt Alpha Harris.” He wrinkled his nose but did as she said, then watched in curiosity as she stepped forward and knelt before him. Her eyes glowed red and her face changed; became more lupine the way her children had earlier in the day. “There is no taking this back. Do you want the bite Alpha Harris?”

Xander breathed deeply. He didn't want the bite, but he did want to protect his friends. His town. Strangers even. So... “I do.”

She bit him. And man did it ever hurt. Worse than any time his dad had ever smacked him around. Worse than when the vamps beat him up or broke his wrist. Then he felt it...power. It was stronger than the hyena or the marine that had possessed him. Something that could be wild and tame, strong and structured, at the same time; he could feel the emptiness left behind by the hyena being filled. He was no longer weak, no longer human, he was whole.

His vision was gold tinted for only a second...then there was red around the edges and everyone but Talia gasped.

“How is that even possible?” Peter asked. “No one just becomes an Alpha seconds after getting the bite.”

“He was already an Alpha, Peter. He only lacked the power.” Talia smiled. “How do you feel Alpha Harris?”

He considered the question for a moment before shrugging, his vision still vaguely red. “Like me.” Then he looked to his 'pack'. “So, who wants the bite?”

The others let Oz go first; his eyes turned inky black for only a moment after the bite before changing to a pretty gold. The others though, all had blue eyes like Peter and Xander ruffled their hair without thinking about it. Blue was as pretty as gold after all.

xxx

They ended up staying with the Hales for a month, long enough to experience their first full moon. It was the first peaceful full moon Xander or Oz had had in a while. No tranq guns required. The others were a bit growly and snippy, no more than whiny puppies compared to what they'd been while possessed. Talia was impressed at their natural control, especially Xander's as he hardly even felt the need to hunt. Xander figured it was because he was just lazy and his new inner wolf was too.

All too soon though they said their goodbyes and headed back to Sunnydale. After all, Willow couldn't patrol the Hellmouth alone.

xxx

Willow was curled up on Giles' sofa with Oz, Xander sat alone in an armchair...and Giles brought out a tray of cookies and tea.

Willow was chattering away about responsibilities and such; scolding him until he finally couldn't take it anymore.

“Willow! It’s done. We're all werewolves now and we don't have to Oz watch anymore. I'll take the pack out into the desert on the full moon and keep them in check. Don't worry about it.”

“They're not your responsibility Xander.”

Giles sighed. “Actually they are Willow. He is their Alpha, their leader...Oz's as well.” He looked at Xander, and there was some pride there in his eyes. “I must say I didn't expect you to go that far to help Oz.”

Xander shrugged. “All I ever wanted was to keep everyone safe, the super powers are just a bonus, because this way I won't get eaten walking home.”

The Watcher smiled. “Congratulations on your change, Alpha Harris.”

“Ugh, just call me Xander, or else I'll call you G-Man.”

“Deal.”

XXX

The End

You have reached the end of "Burden of the Beast". This story is complete.

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