All characters, settings, and other minutiae are the property of their creators and distributors. No infringement is intended. No profit will be made.Not-The-Author's Note:
I did not write this. My brother did. Why the man can't get an account for himself is beyond me. I think he likes making me slave away for him. First, grammar nazi. Now, story poster. Hmph. I should charge him. At any rate, all feedback is welcome and will be forwarded to him. Wonderfalls, by the way, was a delightful, short-lived series killed by Fox. Two episodes were written by Tim Minear.Wonders Never Cease
Dawn awoke early Sunday morning. She stretched out her arms and wobbled her head around, working out the kinks in her neck. She let out a soft sigh and closed her eyes, enjoying the quiet moment. Turning over, she watched the sleeping figure next to her. As she studied his sleeping form, her thoughts turned to the night before.That was AWESOME!
Holy crap! I've had sex with guys before, but it never lasted over an hour, let alone three. I always thought Anya was exaggerating when she talked about Xander's stamina. But she was underselling him if anything. Oh my god, I can't wait to do it again. Actually, I better get a full meal and stash some bottled water around the bed before we go again, just in case. I can't believe I enjoyed it that much. Well I plan on having a whole lot of wild sex just like that every chance I get. Does that make me a slut? No, not if it's with the same guy.
Dawn glanced over at Xander's sleeping form. Huh, never been so close to him while he's sleeping before.
She lifted up the bedsheet and looked him over.Not bad. He should really stop wearing so many baggy clothes. It doesn't do him justice.
She studied the three long pale scars across his chest. Those most be from when he stopped Willow at Kingman's Bluff. I know he got hurt some, but I never knew it left such a mark.
Dawn caressed the scars and her fingers brushed over his body examining the other reminders of old wounds.Looks like a burn mark on his elbow, and if I'm not mistaken that's a vampire bite mark on his shoulder.
Her fingers came down to his abdominals and stopped at a round puckered scar.The hell? That's a bullet wound. He said he was just grazed. That lying liar guy. I am so going to give him a piece of my mind when he wakes up. In fact, I'm going to wake him up right now.
Dawn paused, and a wicked smile broke out on her face.Of course, I can make sure he wakes up happy.
She licked her lips and lowered her head, while raising the bedsheet.
“What are you looking for?” a high pitched voice asked.
Dawn bolted up, clutching the sheet to her nude form. She elbowed Xander in the side, waking him as she looked for the source of the voice.
A small figure about two feet tall, with orange skin and bright pink hair sat at the foot of the bed, intently watching Dawn.
“If you're having trouble finding it, maybe I can help. I like helping people find things. It's a great way to make friends. Will you be my friend?”
Xander slowly sat up and saw the creature. “Oh. Morning, Gobo. When'd you get in?”
“Just this morning, Mr. Xander. I've had the most wonderful time exploring this part of outer space. Did you know that Silly Creatures from all around the city gather to a field named Wrigley? They come because they like watching a group called the Cubs. They come every day to watch the Cubs play simple games. The Cubs usually lose these games. The people keep coming everyday, so they must like watching the Cubs lose.”
“Hey, there's still time in the season for them to turn things around. They're due,” Xander said. He glanced at Dawn. “Oh, yeah. Dawn, this is Gobo Fraggle. He's been traveling with me for awhile now. He's studying Silly Creatures, that's humans, in outer space, that's you know, above ground. He's very gentle and inquisitive, so be nice. Gobo, this is Dawn Summers. She's a friend of mine going back years. And we just started dating. Now there are some fresh radishes in the kitchen. Dawn and I would like to do some boyfriend and girlfriend stuff that Silly Creatures only do in private.”
“Okay, Mr. Xander. It was nice meeting you, Ms. Dawn. I hope we can become best friends,” Gobo said. With that, he hopped off the bed and walked out of the bedroom.
Dawn turned to Xander. “Traveling companion?”
“Yeah. He's actually pretty fun on the long drives. But don't get him singing. He'll start up and never end. I still have that one song stuck in my head.”
“So, you wanted to do some boyfriend girlfriend stuff? What might that entail?” Dawn asked, pulling Xander close to her. He leaned in for a kiss, but stopped an inch away.What's he waiting for? Is it me? Oh my god, I must have total morning breath, and he doesn't want to kiss my skanky mouth. Oh god, I haven't even showered yet either. I'm smelling pretty ripe, and he doesn't want to say anything.
Xander grimaced. “Sorry, but I just remembered I have to call Giles. I still need to talk to him about me getting some kind of staff position for the Chicago branch. Can we put this on hold for an hour? I promise to make it worth the wait.”
“Go on. I'll be waiting.”
Xander leaned in and kissed her. Pulling back he had a goofy smile on his face. “Damn, that just doesn't get old.” He got up off the bed and headed towards the door, but stopped and stepped back to the bed. He lifted the sheet and glanced at Dawn's figure. “Awesome. It is so cool that now I can do that anytime... that you let me.”
Dawn watched him grab his pants and hop into them as he exited the bedroom.
Xander took a deep breath before dialing.Okay, been putting this off long enough. I just have to beg Giles to let me help out in the Chicago branch. Maybe get him to convince Willow to take me on. As long as I get an assignment in the city
He dialed and held his breath as the phone rang.
“This is Rupert Giles.”
“Hey, Giles. It's Xander.”
“Xander, good to hear from you. How are you faring in setting up the Chicago headquarters?”
“Ahead of schedule,” Xander answered. “I found a place to set up headquarters and put a down payment on it. I made a contact with a detective in the Chicago PD. He's in the know. Him and his friend in the Canadian consulate will give us a heads up when anything supernatural pops up with the police and help us out if we ever show up on the police radar. And I contacted an MD who specializes in emergency treatment and surgery to deal with any injuries and a psychiatrist to give therapy sessions for everyone in Chicago.”
“Excellent work, Xander. I must say I'm impressed. Now I'd like to talk to you about your next assignment,” Giles said. “You were talking about a staff position in San Francisco.”
“Yeah, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Things have changed, and I would really like some sort of staff position in Chicago. I know Willow will probably be in charge, and I'm okay with that. I'm okay with working under whoever you put in charge. All I want.... What I need is a staff assignment in Chicago. Please.”
He listened to the silence on the other end. After a few seconds, a low chuckle coming from Giles.
“To be honest, I don't think a staff position would be appropriate for you.”
Xander closed his eye in frustration. “That's great. That's just great, Giles. I spent two years of my life on another continent because you needed someone out there. I've spent the last year roaming across the country, cut off from any friends or family so I can run your errands for you. But I'm not good enough for a staff position. I mean EVEN FUCKING ANDREW HAS A STAFF POSITION! He's been part of almost every posting available.”
“XANDER! Please just give me a moment to talk.”
He gripped the phone tightly in his hand. “Fine. Explain.”
“As you know, ever since the old Council was wiped out by the First, we've had a shortage of Watchers with field experience. When you originally asked about San Francisco, I was hesitant because we already have Robin and Faith out there. I ordinarily wouldn't assign two Watchers with such experience to the same post but due to their relationship they won't take separate posts. It would be waste of your talents to also assign you there.”
“So, you don't want me in Chicago because Willow and Kennedy will be there and it would be a waste also?” Xander asked.
“While it's true Willow asked about the posting, she's much better suited working as the official liaison with the World Coven Association.”
“But if she's not going to run the branch, what's the problem? I can work with whoever you choose.”
“Xander sometimes you can be quite obtuse. The reason I don't want you as a staff of the Chicago branch is because I want you to run the Chicago branch,” Giles explained. He waited for a response, but heard only silence. “Xander? Xander, are you there?”
“Uh, yeah. I just... You really want me in charge?”
“Of course. Really, you do undersell yourself. You worked as Sam Zabuto's right hand man, and that was setting up and running the affairs for an entire continent. And as you noted, for the past year you've been working without any direct supervision. You've helped train Slayers, manage teams, and are one of the most experienced people we have. Of course I want you in charge.”
“Oh. It's just... I wasn't expecting that. I don't know if I'm up for it,” Xander said.
“I understand that this is an important decision. So take a few days to think it over. But I'm confident you'll agree,” Giles said. “Oh, and Xander?”
“You do know the only reason Andrew has had so many posting is that as soon as he arrives, whoever's in charge tries to get him reassigned someplace else?”
“Oh. Yeah. That makes sense.”
“In any event, give it some thought. And if you need to talk or anything, give me a call.”
“Yeah, will do,” Xander said, then hung up the phone. He sat in his chair staring at the phone, going over the conversation. He lost track of how long he sat when Dawn's scream from the bedroom cut through quiet.
Dawn stood at the bathroom counter gargling mouthwash. Okay, breath? Check. Face?
She glanced in the mirror, then washed her face. Okay, presentable. Now, outfit.
Dawn walked back into the bedroom, towards her dresser. She pulled out a couple different shirts and stood before the mirror.What would I look the most sexy in? Way too tight T-shirt? One of Xander's button down shirts? Or maybe just au naturale. I can definitely pull off that -
A shimmering light appeared in the middle of the room. It faded away, leaving a man standing two feet from Dawn's nude form.
“Alexander Harris, I've come to- Oh my god.”
“I'm so sorry.”
Xander burst into the bedroom, clutching a butcher's knife in his hand. He spotted Dawn standing by the bed, covering herself with a bed sheet. Across the room, the newcomer stood, blushing furiously while averting his gaze.
“I apologize profusely, ma'am,” the intruder apologized. “I assure you I had no intention to appear at such an inappropriate time.”
It took a moment, but Xander recognized the man. He walked up to the tall sandy haired man. “Leo? Leo Wyatt?”
“Xander, do you know this guy?” Dawn demanded.
“Yeah, we met a few months back. I have no idea why he popped in to ogle you though.”
“I honestly didn't know this young lady was here,” he pointed to Dawn, then stared intently at the floor. “I was coming to speak to you.”
Xander glanced at Dawn. “I don't think he'd show up here unless it was important.”
“It is,” Leo said, holding his hand up to block his view of Dawn while addressing Xander.
“Go talk to him. Just give me some privacy and I'll be dressed in a couple of minutes,” Dawn said.
“So, Leo. It's been awhile. What brings you over here?” Xander asked.
“I'm calling in the favor you owe me,” Leo answered.
“Favor? When did I owe you a.... Oh. Yeah. So you looked into Amy. How is she?”
“Ms. Madison is.... She wasn't in a good place when her Whitelighter found her.”
Xander grimaced. “How bad was it?”
“You don't want to know. But she's getting better. Slowly, but it's happening. And it'll be a long time before she's fully recovered.”
“Thanks. She's had it rough. I'm glad someone's looking out for her now,” he said. “So what's with the whole working with the Watcher's Council now? Last time I saw you, you said the Elders didn't want anything to do with us.”
Leo nodded. “Apparently you and your friend made a pretty big impression on the Halliwell sisters. They spent the next few months badgering the Elders about getting help and working with others. Finally, the Elders agreed to limited cooperation with several conditions. At that point your Mr. Wood was in town, and we hammered out the details. To be honest the girls and I thought you would be coming out to work with them.”
“Yeah. I was actually planning on that. But things changed between me and Dawn, as you saw.”
“More than I intended. I'll inform Phoebe. She was wondering.”
“Geez, For some reason I feel like I owe her an apology. Maybe I should get her a card. Do they have 'I'm sorry I hooked up with another girl instead of you' cards?”
“Perhaps Hallmark,” Leo replied. “Look, the reason I came here is because I need your help. There's a dark mage targeting innocents for a demon. The targets are people who have are significant in some supernatural way. A Whitelighter charge was in danger, but I got her to safety. Unfortunately that's all I'm allowed to do. The mage is still out there and others are in danger. Last time I saw you, you said if someone needed help that I couldn't give them to call you. Well, that's what I'm doing.”
“Okay, I'll talk to Giles. We'll see if we can get someone over there soon.”
“Not soon. Now. You owe me for this, Xander.”
“Yeah,” Xander admitted. “I guess I do. I was hoping to spend a little more time just relaxing with Dawn, but I'll go and take care of it. Where is this happening?”
“Upstate New York. Right on the Canadian border. You'll probably like visiting there. It's in -”
“Niagara Falls?” Xander asked with a sigh.
“Yes. How'd you know?”
“It figures. Let me talk to Dawn, then I'll be on a plane out to Niagara Falls this afternoon.”
“We're going to Niagara Falls?” Dawn asked, coming out of the bedroom. “Cool. But don't you think you're rushing things a little?”
Dawn gripped the armrests of her seat as Xander gazed out the window of the plane.
“Check out the view. There's no clouds, so you can see really far,” Xander observed. He turned and saw Dawn'e eyes clenched shut. “Hey, you okay?”
“I'm fine. I just don't need to look out the window right now,” she answered.
“You sure? It really is nice.”
“I'm sure. I just don't like flying.”
“Really?” he asked. “I mean you flew to Europe and back. How'd you handle that?”
“Fistful of Xanax,” Dawn explained. “But how come you're okay with flying? I read the report that said you were in a plane crash in Africa.”
“That? That wasn't a crash. The plane just... landed... really quickly.... Then one of the wings fell off. But it was reattached for the flight the next night.”
She shook her head. “Can you put the shade down on the window?”
“Sure. Anything for you,” Xander said. “I only had it up 'cuz I like to check for gremlins on the wings. But out of the fifty plus flights I've been on, I've only seen them three times. So we're probably safe.”
“Oh god,” she moaned. “Help me take my mind off flying.”
“Well there is one thing we could do,” Xander suggested.
“Do you know what the mile high club is?”
“Yes, I know. And no, we're not going to,” she said. “I am way too tense for that.”
“Sorry. Tell, you what, turn your back towards me.”
As Dawn turned, Xander began to rub her neck and shoulders. “Oh, god, that feels good. Your hands are amazing.”
“Well, that is why Giles hired me.”
“Oh! Did you talk to him yet?” Dawn asked.
“Yeah, about that. Giles had this crazy idea that I could be in charge of the Chicago branch. Funny, huh?”
“That's great! You stay in Chicago and get to work with a team again.”
“Yeah. You really think I could do it?” Xander asked.
“Of course. Hell, ask anyone of the Slayers or Watchers you've worked with. You can do this. Besides you kept telling me how you want to work with a team again. And if one of the team wants to do something stupid like trust and work with someone evil, you can tell them 'Hell, no' because you're in charge.”
Xander's eye flickered. “That would be pretty sweet. I wouldn't have to be ignored or keep quiet. Of course, I'd want someone I know I can trust working with me.”
Dawn nodded. “You could see if any of the African Watchers or Slayers would like to relocate. And there's some of the American Slayers. Didn't you mention working with one of the surviving old regime Watcher? You can ask him. And there's also -”
“Yeah,” Xander said. “You. I'm pretty sure I mentioned how you'd be the first person I'd want with me if I ever could choose a team. You know I wasn't just saying that to make you feel better. I meant every word.”
“You did mention something about that,” she smiled. “But that's a big decision.”
“Yeah, but so's mine. And you're working off the assumption I'm just going to do it,” he pointed out.
“True,” she admitted. “Okay, so you haven't decided yet. But if you do take it, who will you want on your team?”
“Well, there's Rona. I've worked with her a few times. We've gotten on well enough.”
“Isn't she the one that hated all the Scooby Gang?” she asked.
“I wouldn't say hated. She has a healthy skepticism, more like it. Strong dislike at the most.”
“So how come she gets along with you?”
“C'mon, Dawn,” Xander said, flashing a smile. “What woman can resist my charm?”
Dawn raised an eyebrow. “Is that a question you really want to ask now that we've just begun dating?”
It had been a busy month for Jaye Tyler. So far she had been nagged into throwing a cup of coffee at a visiting state Senator, dancing the Macarena in the middle of lunch, and yelling fire in a crowded movie theater. The end result of these incidents was a student winning a writing scholarship and becoming the first in her family to attend college, a childless couple adopting an orphan, and an 80s hair metal band reuniting.
She currently stood at the security gates of the Niagara Falls International Airport watching her brother Aaron say goodbye to her childhood friend Mahandra. Mahandra and Aaron hugged, then kissed before she turned and headed toward the security checkpoint. Aaron walked back to Jaye and they waved goodbye.
“I can't believe you hogged my goodbye to Mahandra,” Jaye complained.
“Excuse me? She's my girlfriend.”
“But she's been my best friend for most of our lives. You've just been the brother of her best friend for years. I have seniority. And here you are, crapping all over my seniority. I should have done the final hug goodbye.”
“Sorry, but ever since we started having sex, I jumped ahead in line,” Aaron replied. “But if it's any consolation, we have been arguing lately. When we hugged she took one last chance to nag me about getting my own place.”
“She has a point. You're still living with Mom and Dad. I figure you'd be sick of it by now. I mean, how many times have you walked in on them having sex?” she asked.
“Well, that last time was really my fault. I should have noticed the tie on the doorknob before I came into the living room. Besides, I'm still a student. I don't even have a crappy job like yours to afford a crappy place like yours to live.”
“Still a student? You got your degree with a double major. You finished your thesis months ago. I'm pretty sure there aren't any classes left for you to take.”
“I'm taking some hours in Ancient Greek, and medieval French,” Aaron explained.
“Have you tried maybe getting a job?” Jaye asked.
“As what? I'm an expert on philosophy, comparative religion and folklore, and ancient languages. Not exactly a job market for that,” he answered.“Spill the coffee.”
Jaye looked around for the sound of the voice. She spotted a little girl sitting down in front of a table. The girl had a backpack by her side with a teddy bear sticking out of it.. The bear's head swiveled around to look at her.“Spill the coffee,”
the bear ordered.
Jaye sighed as she spotted a cup of coffee on the table by the girl. She reached out and knocked the cup over, spilling coffee over the table. The trail of coffee ran to the edge of the table and dripped onto the little girl's white dress.
“Mommy! My dress is dirty!” the girl cried out.
“Laura! I told you to be careful. Hold still,” the girl's mother ordered. The mother began rummaging through her purse for a tissue. “Honestly, the flight is over ten hours. Do you really want to sit through that in a stained dress?” She began pulling out an old handkerchief, then stopped. A moment later, she began frantically digging through her purse. “Where is it? I thought I packed them.”
The mother pulled out a cell phone, and dialed a number. “Sean? Can you check my desk? I think I left my passports there. Uh, huh. Okay. Can you please run them down to the airport? Thanks.” She hung up and turned to her daughter. “Lucky your dress got dirty. Otherwise I wouldn't have noticed we didn't have our passports. We would have been in big trouble when the flight landed without those.”
Jaye rolled her eyes as she watched the scene. Aaron turned to her. “So those animals still telling you to do stuff?”
“Think you can tone it down until you get back home?” he asked.
“Like I have any control over it,” Jaye muttered.
Brother and sister walked through the airport heading for the garage. Just as they approached the gift shop, Jaye saw a kiosk selling souvenir stuffed animals. The stand had dozens of them. She eyed then warily and quickened her pace. Jaye groaned as she saw the head of a stuffed moose swivel to watch her as she approached.
“I don't see why you keep complaining about them,” Aaron said. “You have definite proof that there are forces beyond our understanding. And they've chosen you as their instrument to help people. You should be grateful. I'd love to have some higher calling for my life. But all you do is whine.”
“Wow, you make getting jerked around, harassed, and driven to the point of insanity sound so appealing.”“Push your brother,”
the moose commanded.
“Maybe you should stop trying to fight it,” Aaron continued.“Push him.”
“For once you should just go with the flow.”“PUSH HIM!”
Jaye shrugged, then shoved her brother with all her strength.
“Because that's what Santa does to bad boys and girls,” Xander said. The troop of Cub Scouts stood in rapt attention before him. Their faces paled as most of them stood in silence. One of the boys in the back began to cry quietly.
“Xander!” Dawn yelled. “They just asked how you lost your eye. There's no need to scare them.”
“Sorry, Dawn,” Xander turned back to the Cub Scouts. “Don't worry. Santa will never think you're bad as long as you follow my advice. So remember what I said. If you stand by your friends and work together, there's nothing you can't do. Even the weakest person can provide crucial help, so don't exclude them. And always remember the number one rule. What is it?”
“BROS BEFORE HOS!” the boys chorused.
“That's right. Now run along,” Xander dismissed them. He turned to Dawn. “Good kids.”
She frowned at him. “Bros before hos? Do I fall under that?”
“Dawn, of course not. Just remember, you're my bro and
my ho,” Xander assured her. Her frown turned into a glare. “Or possibly something much less offensive,” he quickly added. “You know what? I'm going to pick up some flowers for you, because you're so wonderful and deserve them.”
“He's good in bed, he gives me massages,” Dawn told herself. “I will forgive you.”
“Which only shows how wonderful you are,” he quickly pecked her on the cheek. “I love you. C'mon, the gift shop is up ahead.”
“You don't actually have to get me flowers,” she assured him.
“I know. But I want to. I've never gotten you flowers before. So these will be special,” Xander told her. “So I'll just pop in and -”
Xander was abruptly cut off as a lanky man with poufy hair fell backwards, colliding into him. The impact knocked Xander off balance, causing him to stumble down a step and fall to the ground.
“JAYE! What the hell?” the man got up and gave a hand to Xander. “I'm very sorry. My sister just pushed me into you. I'm Aaron Tyler,” he introduced himself. He pointed to the short slender brown haired twenty-five year old woman next to him. “This is my sister Jaye.”
“Xander Harris. So what'd you do to piss off your sister so much that – OWW!” Xander hobbled over to a nearby chair. “I think I twisted my ankle.”
“Oh, god, I am so sorry,” Jaye apologized. “We were just up to some... tomfoolery and things got out of hand.”
“You shoved me,” Aaron pointed out. “Why the hell did you do that?”
“I had my...” Jaye gestured to the stuffed moose doll, “reasons.”
Her brother sighed and walked over to the kiosk. He picked out the doll and paid for it. As he did so, Jaye checked on Xander.
“So, is it any better?” she asked.
“It still hurts. I can hobble around some, but not much,” Xander answered.
“Can you still rent a car?” Dawn asked. “I mean, you can't drive with your right ankle hurt. And I'm under twenty-five, so they won't rent one to me.”“Push him,”
the moose in Aaron's hand intoned.
Jaye shrugged and turned to Xander. “It's probably not that bad. Maybe you should just ... walk it off?”
The moose shook its head, then raised a hoof and pointed it at Aaron.“Push him!”
Jaye shook her head in confusion. The moose pointed at Xander and Dawn. “Get them help.”
“Maybe my brother can drive you? It's only fair considering he's the one who's responsible for hurting you, at least from a legal viewpoint.”
“You shoved me!” he protested. Jaye pointed to the moose. Aaron shook his head and turned back to Xander and Dawn. “We're sorry for any pain and inconvenience. Can we make it up to you by driving you where you need to go?”
“Yeah, I guess so. Right now I'd like to get to someplace I can access the local papers. And maybe someplace I can rest my ankle.”
“How about our family house?” Jaye offered. “You can rest up there. We've also got this past week's papers. And you can use Aaron's laptop for internet access for anything else.”
The group headed out to the parking lot. As Aaron grabbed Xander's bag, he passed off the moose to his sister. She help it up close and whispered to it. “You could be more specific. Pronouns can get confusing. Could you just try using a proper noun?”
“You assaulted two tourists?”
Jaye winced as her sister, Sharon Tyler, shouted at her. “I didn't assault them. It was an accident.”
“An accident? Like running over Dad in the driveway was an accident? Or when you threw a TV set at your boyfriend's ex-wife?”
“I didn't know she was standing right outside the window. Besides, he wasn't my boyfriend at the time.”
“And she was still his wife,” Aaron added.
“You're not helping,” she told him. Turning back to her sister, she continued. “Look, Sharon. His ankle will be fine by tomorrow. Until then, it's only fair that we provide them shelter in their time of need.”
“You have to explain it to Mom and Dad,” Sharon told her. “I have to head out now. Don't let them near Mom's jewelry box.”
In the kitchen, Xander sat at the desk with his foot propped up. He was logged onto Aaron's laptop, searching local newsgroups. Dawn sat at the table with the week's newspapers spread across it.
“I've got a member of the Satsuma Indian tribe killed in a mugging two days ago,” Dawn said. “He was a respected member of his tribe, serving the traditional role of medicine man during official ceremonies.”
“Sounds like he may have been a victim of the mage we're looking for. I found a report online about a New Age shop being burgled last night.”
“Think they're related?”
“Could be,” Xander replied. “Every mage needs supplies. We should probably check out the shop.”
“You mean, I should check out the shop,” Dawn pointed out. “You're still Hobbling Joe. I'll pop over and see if I can find anything, while you stay here and keep looking online.”
“Dawn, this guy is dangerous,” he warned her. “I don't want you to get hurt.”
“I know. And I don't want to get hurt. But if I'm going to be working as a Watcher, I'll have to do some footwork when researching. Besides, whoever robbed the shop won't be coming back. I'll be perfectly safe.”
Xander sat at the table, drumming his fingers impatiently. He pulled out his cellphone and stared at it.
“A watched phone never rings.”
Xander looked up and saw Aaron at the doorway. “You should relax. My sister is with your girlfriend, so they should be all right.”
“Your sister knows how to keep out of trouble?” he asked.
“Not quite,” Aaron laughed. “More like she gets into trouble, freaks out, drags people into it, weird shit happens, then somehow it all comes out okay. So you don't have to worry.”
“Is there something... special about your sister? There's something a little....”
“Yeah, that's my sister. Special would describe her. The whole situation is pretty complicated. What about your girlfriend? You seem pretty worried about her,” Aaron asked.
“Can't really help it. I've know her for awhile, but we just started dating. And with my history, I'm worried I'll screw it up somehow,” Xander explained. “Plus she's urging me to take this new job.”
“Tell me about it. My girlfriend has been saying we need to have long talks about our future.” The two men gave a small shudder at the thought. “And apparently the most important aspect of our future is me getting a job she approves of.”
“Harsh,” Xander sympathized.
“I know. Plus I have to deal with the fact that I'm dating my little sister's best friend.”
“Know what you mean. I'm dating my high school friend's little sister.” The phone rang at that moment, causing Xander to jump up and dive for the phone. “Hello?”
“Hey, Xander. It's me,” Dawn's voice came from the other end. “I have some info for you. I spoke with the shop owner. She says the burglar stole a lot of high end items. But the interesting part is that over half of the stuff stolen was part of an order placed for one customer last week. The customer never showed up for his stuff. The owner was trying to reach them when the shop was hit.”
“Interesting. You have a name on the customer?”
“Yeah, Edward Rome. I'm getting a list of the stolen items right now. And the owner's also getting me info on Mr. Rome. Maybe we can track him down. Oh, I have a fun fact for you. While Mr. Rome had an out of state driver's license, he also has a library card to the local university library.”
“Okay. Call me when you get more info on this,” Xander ended the call and turned to Aaron. “Why would someone from out of town get a library card to a local university.”
Aaron walked into the university library with Xander behind him, using a cane.
“Basically, more people use the university library system than the city libraries. They're open longer, have a larger selection, and are part of the New York University system. Non students can pay an annual fee to get membership,” Aaron told Xander. He went up to the front desk. “I worked here for a few semesters when I was researching my thesis. Hey, Karen,” he greeted the head librarian.
“So our suspect must have used the library. How does that help us?” Xander asked.
“Allow me to show you,” Aaron turned to the woman he greeted. “Fran, can you do me a favor? Some guy hit my car backing out of the parking lot. He took off, but I found a receipt with his name on it. Can I check the system, maybe get an address on him?”
“Help yourself, Aaron. Hell, you know the system better than I do.”
Aaron led Xander behind the counter, then pulled up a chair to sit down in front of the computer. “I worked here for three semesters when I was writing my thesis. I was here for eighteen hours out of the day, I figured I might as well get paid for it.”
Xander watched as Aaron began typing at the keyboard. “Isn't this confidential information? Not that I'm complaining, but aren't you breaking some rules here? Your friend could come back and bust us.”
“I think they mentioned something about confidentiality in the five minutes of training they give. But the school should really pay more than minimum wage if they want us to take that seriously. Looking up personal information is like one of the few perks of working here.” Aaron went back to computer.
“I really appreciate you and your sister helping us out.”
“No problem. My sister seems to think we need to help you, so that's what I'm doing,” he paused as the information came up on the computer screen. “Okay, Mr. Rome's address is a PO Box. No luck there. He does have a few e-mail addresses. Names on the e-mail include Edgar Roth, Elliot Reynolds, and get this, Eleanor Rigby.”
“Same initials. Edward Rome is probably a fake name too,” Xander speculated.
“You know Edward?”
Xander turned to the voice. Karen the librarian stood before him. “Not personally. Do you know him?”
“Well, he is a very charming man.”
“What's he like?”
“He's older. Not ancient, but definitely well traveled.”
“Anything else? Is he... attractive?” Xander asked.
“Oh, he... he's not bad looking. But it's his voice. He has the most amazing British accent. It sounds like...” Karen blushed. “Sorry, I have a thing for accents. Anyway, you must have just missed him.”
“He was here today?”
“Yes. He left maybe five minutes before you two showed up.”
“What was he doing?” Aaron asked.
“He was logged onto one of the computers.”
Aaron got up and walked over to the station, with Xander following him. “I'm going to see if we can bring up his browser history. Maybe get an idea about what he's doing in town.” Aaron told him.
As Xander trailed behind him, he opened his cell phone, and called Dawn.
“Hey, Dawn? It's me.”
“Xander, I found out some more stuff on our mystery man. Okay, he bought a few small busts of different gods his first time in. They include Loki, Huehuecoytl, Anasee, and Eshu. Fun fact about all these gods -”
“Got it in one. Pretty good. Looks like all that research in high school paid off,” Dawn observed.
“Well, I knew Loki from comic books. And I heard a lot about Eshu when I was in West Africa.”
“So, this plus the initials on our target's fake name makes me think I know who we're dealing with.”
“It's Ethan Rayne.”
“Oh,” Dawn said, disappointed. “I thought I was being all clever figuring it out.”
“Well, it took me several aliases, an eyewitness description, plus your latest news before it clicked for me. I'm still trying to put it together though,” Xander glanced over to Aaron, who sat before the computer, pretending not to eavesdrop. “Ethan's a cowardly weasel, but he's not a psychopath. Why would he be behind the deaths?”
“Well,” she mused. “He does do contract work. He was behind the band candy thing for the Mayor. Or maybe he's in trouble. He was perfectly willing to let Buffy take his place when a demon was after him.”
“You may be on to something,” Xander agreed. “Leo said the people targeted have some kind of connection with the supernatural,” Aaron's head came up at this. Xander saw the questioningly look, but ignored it as he continued his call. “Maybe there's a third party that Ethan is trying to satisfy.”
“It's possible. I got a lead on an address Ethan may have stayed at last week. I went down to the grocery store and asked about him. He had deliveries sent to a local house up to a few days ago. Jaye and I are going to check it out,” Dawn told him.
“You sure you want to bring her along?”
“She kind of insisted that she come along. Actually at first, it seemed like she was eager to ditch me. But then she changed her mind and said she had to come. It was in a real put upon tone of voice too. Like how Buffy would act when Mom would ask her to do the dishes. I think there's something off about her.”
“As long as she doesn't try to kill us, I don't care,” Xander replied. “Can you give me the address of the place you're checking out?”
“Yeah, 1537 Bridge Street. It's down by the railroad. I'll call you if I find anything.”
Xander ended the call and turned back to Aaron. He saw the skeptical look on Aaron's face. “So, how much of that did you hear?”
“Enough to reconsider how I'm spending my day. This guy you're looking for is involved in some recent deaths?” Aaron asked. “And they're related to the supernatural?”
“Yeah. Look this may be hard to explain. It's a long story.”
Aaron shrugged. “I have plenty of time. And believe me, I've heard far stranger than you'd expect.”
“The guy we're looking for...” Xander sighed, as he mentally edited his explanation for believability. “He's interested in the occult. Now we're not sure why, but he seems to be targeting people with some occult connection. Or people who think they have an occult connection. I know you probably don't believe in this stuff, but -”
“Look, I know that there are people out there who do believe in magic. And it sounds like this guy is one of them.” Aaron paused, deep in thought. “Many cultures believed that the abilities of one person can be absorbed by someone else, almost always by killing the first person. There's ritual sacrifice, cannibalism, wearing the skin of another -”
“Ew. You know way too much about this stuff.”
Aaron shrugged. “Wonders of an advanced degree in philosophy, folklore, and mythology. Now let's see what we can find.... Looks like Mr. Rome, or Rayne if you're correct, did some googling today. I can just pull that up and ....” Aaron trailed off, as the blood drained from his face.
“Aaron? What is it?” Xander asked in a worried tone.
“You said this guy was targeting and killing people connected to the occult? Would that include someone who hears inanimate objects talking to her?”
“Yeah. That would probably fit the bill. What did you find?”
Aaron turned the computer screen towards Xander. On it was the website of The Niagara Falls Reporter
. The headline was ARMED ROBBER KILLED IN ESCAPE ATTEMPT, HOSTAGES UNHARMED. The picture below it showed Jaye Tyler giving a statement to a police officer. “This guy's going to kill my sister.”
“Okay, Aaron. Calm down. Dawn is with your sister right now. I'll call her and tell them to get home. They're perfectly safe.”
Aaron nodded, still nervous. He looked back at the computer screen. “He's got another search going. Something about a Key of Dagon. What the hell's a Key of Dagon?”
“Shit,” Xander cursed as his call went to voicemail. “We have to go right now. I've got the address.”
Dawn swung open the door to the rental house and entered with Jaye following behind her. She walked over to the kitchen desk and began looking through the books and papers on it. Jaye glanced around the first floor, always keeping Dawn in sight.
Dawn had sat down at the desk and was thumbing through one of the tomes. She grabbed a piece of paper and pen and began making notes. Every few seconds she would mutter a few words under her breath. “That doesn't make any sense.... The offering would be Sumerian, but the design is Aztec.... The dangers involved....”
Jaye walked over to the fireplace and saw two coyote skulls on each end of the mantle with an elaborate graphite drawing on the hearth. She leaned in close to get a better look at the drawing, when a deep voice startled her.“Wipe the drawing.”
One of the coyote skulls looked at her, as much as a skull with empty eye sockets could look at anything.
“Um...” Jaye whispered. “I'm pretty sure I shouldn't touch anything.”“Erase the drawing.”
The skull repeated.
“Could you just give me a reason?” she asked.“I'd do as he says,”
the other skull joined in. “It's going to be important later.”
Jaye glanced towards Dawn, making sure she wasn't looking over. Jaye rubbed the drawing with her hand, smearing it slightly.“More... a little more,”
the first skull said. “Put some elbow into it.”
Jaye glanced down and saw a rag on the floor. She grabbed it, spat into it, and began wiping the drawing. After a few seconds, she had erased it completely. Turning back to Dawn, she saw her shaking her head.
“So what are you looking at?” Jaye asked.
“Trying to get some clue to what Ethan is up to,” Dawn answered. “But if I'm reading this right, then he's playing a very dangerous game.”
“Okay, enough with the coyness. What's up with this guy you're looking into. You and your boyfriend mentioned some deaths. If this guy is dangerous, why don't you just call the cops?”
Dawn sighed. “Xander and I are... investigators. Well, Xander's an investigator and I'm a college student. But he wants me to take a job working with him. Which I'm of two minds about. On one hand, I'm glad that he wants me there. And I'm really flattered that he thinks I'm skilled enough to help. But on the other hand, I'm afraid everyone will think I only got the job because I'm dating Xander or because I'm Buffy's sister, and totally ignore the valid contributions I've made over -”
“Skip to the end,” Jaye said.
“Xander got a tip from a friend that someone was targeting people and we came to investigate.”
“Right,” Jaye nodded. “So why is this Ethan targeting people?”
“Ethan does things for one of three reasons. Someone's paying him, he's covering his ass, or just for shits and giggles,” Dawn explained. “But this is something different. It looks like Ethan made some deals with some very powerful and dangerous.... persons.”
“So how does making deals lead to this guy attacking and killing people?”
“Ethan made a deal selling... something he only had one of, for some power. Then he sold it again to someone else. And again, and again. Eight times total. But how did he think he was going to get away with it?”
“I promised them my soul. But when they come to collect, they'll accept substitutions,” a voice came from across the room.
Dawn looked up and saw Ethan standing at the doorway, pointing a gun at her.
“I think you should stand next to your friend there.”
Dawn stood up and moved closer to Jaye as Ethan covered them with the gun. “Okay, stay calm. No reason for anyone to get hurt here.”
“Yeah, just let us go,” Jaye pleased. “We won't say anything, I promise. And even if we did, I have like zero credibility with the police in this city. Seriously, ask anyone. They have a file on me.”
“Sorry, can't let you go,” Ethan apologized. “You're rather vital for this next part.”
“Jaye's a target,” Dawn stated. “When a demon comes to collect, you give them someone else in your place. But that shouldn't work. They would come for you, not anyone else.”
“A simple masking spell throws them off my track. Then a focusing charm sends them to the target. As long as the target has enough experience with magic and the supernatural to give it a little flavor, the demon is fully satisfied,” Ethan said. “I was scoping out Ms. Tyler there for the next offering when I watched her run into you. I was thinking about using you as an offering, but I think I can get so much more in a new deal for you.”
“This won't work,” Dawn said. “I read the contract on the desk. You're dealing with Huehuecoyotl. Do you really think he's going to let you fool him?”
“Actually, yes,” Ethan replied. “The thing about tricksters is that they respect someone who can fool even them. And as long as -”
The lights in the room flickered as the ground rumbled. Ethan, Dawn, and Jaye steadied themselves.
“Looks like we're going to see,” Dawn told him “Huey's arrived.”
“Don't worry, dear. This will all be over shortly. You see....” Ethan trailed off, as his gaze fell to the fireplace. His face paled at what he saw. “What happened to the protective sigil?”
The floor burst open knocking the three people down. Dawn was staggering to her feet when she saw the looming form standing in the middle of the room. The figure resembled a humanoid coyote with hands and feet instead of paws. It pointed a finger at Ethan and spoke a few foreign words in a guttural voice.
“Uh, sorry. Didn't catch that. Could you repeat that, maybe this time in the Queen's English?” Ethan asked.
Dawn backed up to the far wall, next to Jaye. Jaye sat huddled on the floor, muttering to herself. “Ohmigod, Coyote man will eat us.”
Huehuecoyotl shook its head and repeated the guttural sounds.
“Um, ego humilis cultor sum
,” Ethan said, bowing before the demon.
“That's Latin,” Dawn said. “He's speaking Nahuatl. It's an ancient Aztec dialect. I thought you dealt with this guy before.”
“It was a ceremony. I had everything written out phonetically. Do you know what he's saying?” he asked.
“He said your time has come.”
“Tell him I can give him something more valuable,” Ethan ordered.
“What? No! I'm not going to let feed me or Jaye to that. You made this mess, you clean it up.”
“Look, I'll let you two go unharmed. Help me out here. Just repeat what I say. Oh mighty god, please have mercy on your humble worshiper.”
Dawn turned to Huehuecoyotl. "This guy is begging for his life, he want mercy from you."
The Trickster laughed at this. "He knew what he was doing. He made the deal, and took what I offered. Now it is time for him to pay what he owes."
Dawn turned to Ethan. “Yeah, he says you're SOL.”
“Wait,” Ethan pleaded. “I used the items that he gave me in the deal, from all the deals I made. I've assembled a collection of the most powerful charms, books, weapons on the east coast. Tell him, it's all his, if he lets me go. They're in a storage unit. The key to it and address are in the bottom drawer of the desk. I've got stashes in cities all over. He can have them all. Just tell him. TELL HIM!”
Dawn nodded her head. She turned to the demon and took a deep breath. "He said you should go fuck yourself."
Huehuecoyotl bellowed in rage and leapt at Ethan.
Xander and Aaron broke down the door to the house and rushed in. Aaron gripped a baseball bat in his hands as Xander pointed the hunting rifle he acquired from the Tyler home. The two men staggered as the stench of blood hit them. Xander looked on in shock at the bloodstained walls and body parts strewn around the room.
“Oh, god,” he muttered. “Dawn.”
“Jaye!” Aaron shouted. “Jaye, are you okay? Please, Jaye, are you here?”
The door to the bathroom swung open and Jaye and Dawn stepped out. “We're both here,” Jaye answered. “We were just cleaning up.”
Xander crossed the room and pulled Dawn into a kiss. She eagerly returned it. Aaron glanced around the room. “Jesus, what the hell happened here?”
“The nutjob we were looking for found us instead,” Jaye began explaining. “Then this.... I don't know how to describe it. Oh, god, he was going to kill us.”
Xander reluctantly let go off Dawn. “We got here as soon as we figured out Ethan was targeting you two. What happened?”
“Ethan came in while we were looking around. He had been drawing power from several different demons. But when the time came for him to pay up, he decided to sacrifice mystically powered people to take his place. And both Jaye and I were on his list.”
“And one of the targets was a witch watched over by a Whitelighter,” Xander said. “That's what got Leo's attention. How'd you survive? ”
“Before Ethan could do anything to us, one of the demons showed up looking to get paid,” Dawn explained. “He tried to offer us up plus some treasures, but he couldn't get past the language barrier. I translated for him, but offered up a few alternate wordings. The demon took the wrong way and took it out on Ethan,” she gestured around the room.
Xander gazed at the blood and body parts spattered around the room. “So old Ethan got in over his head, then tried to get someone else to pay the bill, but things didn't work out for him. Yeah, that's him all over.”
“EXCUSE ME! This isn't funny!” Jaye yelled. “Some wackjob tried to kill us! And then this unholy monster barged in and....” she trailed off, then giggled nervously. “Him all over... I just got that.”
Back at the Tyler residence, Xander and Dawn packed up their bags, while Aaron and Jaye watched.
“We can stop by the storage unit in town to pick up Ethan's goodies. Do we want to take them with us, or send them to Giles?” Dawn asked.
“Better send them on to Giles. We've got enough stuff back in Chicago to deal with.”
“I'll let him know about the other stashes Ethan's got around.”
Xander smiled and leaned towards Dawn. “You are like seven different kinds of awesome. Have I told you how much I love you?”
“Not nearly enough,” she answered.
“Congratulations, Jaye,” Aaron said. “You finally met people who lead weirder lives than you.”
Xander turned to them. “Aaron, thanks for your help. You really know your stuff. I wish we had more people like you on the Council.”“Push your brother.”
Jaye looked up and saw the moose doll looking at her, pointing a hoof towards Aaron.
“What? I thought we were done?”
The moose sadly shook its head, then pointed towards Xander and Dawn. “Get them help.”
“Um, Mr. Harris? Maybe Aaron could do work for you? Like he could set up an office with a phone, fax, and e-mail?” As Jaye spoke, she kept her gaze on the stuffed moose. “And if you had any questions, he could like research them?”
Xander nodded, considering the suggestion. “That could work. The new Council is understaffed for researchers. And as long as he's plugged in, there's no reason he can't do it from here. What do you say, Aaron? Want a job? You'd get to help people. Maybe even save a few lives.”
“I wouldn't be in any danger, would I?” Aaron asked.
Xander shook his head. “Okay, I'm up for it.”
“THERE! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?” Jaye yelled. The moose smiled and nodded.
“Um.... what's with the yelling at the doll?” Dawn asked.
“It's this whole....” Jaye sighed. “Fine, if anyone will believe me, you guys will. Inanimate objects, usually in the form of an animal speak to me. They tell me to do things. And it's always some inconvenient or stupid thing that makes me look like an idiot, but in some roundabout way things turn out okay and people get helped.”
Xander stood silently, listening to Jaye. As she finished, he carefully studied her. After a moment, he shrugged. “Bummer.”
“Could be worse,” Dawn offered.
“That's true,” Xander agreed. “At least you don't get blinding headaches.”
“Or have to lock yourself up in a cage three nights a month.”
“Or turn invisible, because everyone ignored you.”
“Wait a minute. You guys deal with weird stuff all the time, right?” Jaye asked. “Please, help me. Why do they tell me things? How come no one else hears them? Why is this happening to me?”
On the plane trip back, Dawn handed an ice press to Xander.
“I can't believe she hit me,” Xander complained. “All I said was, 'I don't know. Maybe you're the only one that listens.'”
“You'd think after all these years, you'd know how to not piss off a girl with a special destiny.”
He chuckled. “I'd better work on that if I'm going to be running the Chicago branch. Of course if I had someone helping me out....”
“You're just going to keep bugging me until I agree, aren't you?”
“Fine! I'll do it,” Dawn relented.
“I see you learned all your negotiating techniques from The Simpsons,” she observed.
“And they have served me well,” Xander replied. He glanced out the airplane window, then closed the shade. “So how are you doing? Anything I can do to help you relax?”
“Well there is one thing you could do,” Dawn told him.
“What is it?”
“There's this club I'd like to join. Very exclusive. Want to help me get in?” Dawn asked him. “Please?”
“Oh, Dawn. You only have to ask me once. Actually you don't even have to ask me. All you have to do is make some vague hand gestures. You sure about this?”
She nodded. “I'll head for the bathroom. Wait two minutes, then join me in there.”
Four hours after the plane landed, Xander and Dawn were released from airport security custody.
“I can't believe they arrested us for trying to have sex in the bathroom,” Dawn moaned, as they walked down the hall to her apartment.
“I can't believe I had to call Riley to get us released,” Xander replied. “I couldn't even tell him the reason I was arrested. I just hinted about a demonic presence on the plane.”
“I'm just glad we're almost home. I've been feeling... anxious all day.”
“Why, Dawnie, have you been having sordid thoughts about me?” he asked.
“Oh, I passed sordid awhile back. They're downright filthy now,” Dawn told him. “The things I'm going to do to you once we get inside my apartment.”
Xander leaned in close. “What makes you think we'll reach the door? I've got a special move I've been saving for you. It's called the -”
“Buffy,” Dawn said.
“What? No. Why would I call my sex move the Buffy? This is -”
“No,” Dawn stopped him. “Buffy.” She pointed toward the door of her apartment.
Xander looked over and saw Dawn's sister, Buffy Summers. Buffy got up from the floor where she had been sitting.
“Hey, guys,” Buffy greeted them.
She carefully looked over her sister and high school friend. Her eyes took in their close embrace and the intimate placing of their hands.
“So..... What's new?”