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Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well

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I am going to be posting short one-shots and bits and pieces of larger works. Some will have questions about directions of a story for those that I'm having issues with and if I take any suggestions they will be credited in the main story.

Currently, I am working on the fourth part of my Corrected Path series but I am having serious writing block for it. But have had a few ideas for other stories and will be occasionally posting bits and pieces.

Also, willing to take prompts but can not really promise more than one per month...unless especially inspired by a prompt. There are pairings that I am not a huge fan of, most of which are canon/het. [No Angel/Buffy, Harry/Ginny, or Edward/Bella, unless it is an ending relationship.]

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Fandoms that I am most familiar with:

Angel: the series

Avengers

Buffy tVS

Captain America

Chronicles of Riddick

Eureka!

Fast and the Furious

Glee

Harry Potter

Hawaii 5-0

Lord of the Rings

Stargate [SG-1 and Atlantis]

Teen Wolf

Thor

Twilight

X-Men

**This may not be the full list but my most common fandoms and I am very willing to do crossovers.

Chapter Text

“Are you ready now, my Phoenix? You have much to do.” A multi-toned genderless voice asks from a black cloaked figure, the shadowed face was startlingly unremarkable in appearance.

“Yes, it’s taken time but I feel much more ready now.” Came the quick reply from a messy black haired young man.

“Good. He is likely to be hostile.” The black cloaked figure warns, as he wraps a skeletally thin hand around the young man’s arm.

The young man let out a small laugh, “I’m aware. This will be quite interesting.”

There is an amused sound before the being replies, “You do enjoy an adventure.”

In the next second both beings disappear, leaving an empty house behind. There is a swirl of colors and an almost unbearable pressure for a few unnerving moments before it abruptly comes to a stop.

The pair reappears…very far away in both time and place. The air is hot and stifling even in the shade of the ruined temple they are in. The young man looks around before his gaze settles on a makeshift tomb. “He is in there?”

“Yes. Injured. Wait here and call if you have need of me.” The cloaked figure says before it disappears again.

The young man looks around before finding something he can settle on and wait for his quarry to wake. From what he has learned about the man, he should quickly become aware of his presence from his scent and heartbeat.

He had been preparing for a few years, after his transformation; for this and much more. Death had come to him and told him to prepare himself. It was funny that the witches and wizards believed that possessing all the Deathly Hallows would make them Death’s Master; as if you could control a primordial being who was so powerful, though Death did have limits and could only affect the physical world in very limited ways. That was why there were those very few like Harry, who were Death’s physical hands and they were spread across space, time, and dimensions; which meant little to a being such as Death. The Hallows in the form Harry had found them were nothing but a test to see if he was worthy and Death had been waiting for a long time for someone to be worthy of the Hallows. Death rarely intervened but sometimes something goes so terribly wrong that Death or other powerful beings had to interfere before a world destroyed itself long before it’s time.

When the Elder wand, which he had broken, and the Stone of Resurrection, which he had left in the Forbidden Forest, had appeared with the Invisibility Cloak folding to make the actual sign of the Deathly Hallows, he hadn’t known what to do. Though he had recklessly reached out to touch them and on contact, a green and black fire had enveloped him…he had lost consciousness not long after.

Upon waking he felt much changed and the wand, stone, and cloak were missing; not to mention there was a cloaked being of immeasurable power standing over him. The being had no discernable features, at the time, under the cloak and had told him he had much to learn. Harry had figured maybe he did when he realized he had massive wings laying across his back.
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Death’s appearance in his life had marked the start of his training. Harry hadn’t even begun to get over the recently ended war, when on his 18th birthday the Hallows had chosen to appear. But the purpose he had been given by Death had helped greatly in starting to recover.

The next few years had been full of learning and traveling, discovering cultures and magics he had never dreamed of. There was so much to the world that he had never seen and it had been a blessing to get out of Britain.

In the days and months after the war he had been constantly hounding by reporters, well-wisher, those who blamed him for the death of their loved ones, and escaped or unmarked Death Eaters. He had barricaded himself into Grimmauld Place, when he wasn’t at the Ministry, and had a fresh fidelius charm cast by the goblins with himself as the secret-keeper; which had made him wonder why his parents hadn’t been their own, as well.

Till Death showed up and Harry had gone up in a blaze of black and green fire. Much like a phoenix, he had been ‘reborn’ and the damage done to his previous body had been healed. He hadn’t woken till he had regained his adult body but had been informed that he had been in his phoenix form for a few days as he aged. Because that was what he was…a death phoenix or that was what they had been called by wizards in the past when those like him had been spotted, which was incredibly rare.

Harry had revealed the secret to Hermione, after getting an Oath from her, and she had done her own research into it. The only other one who had known anything had been George, after Harry had called Fred’s spirit back for a short time with his new powers. He had debated with himself for over a month because he hadn’t been sure if it would help or hurt George to see Fred.

Death had been adamant that he learn all that he could and thus had started his traveling. It had been the reason he needed to deny going back to Hogwarts for his eight year and get out of Britain. Hermione had kept him updated about what occurred while he was gone and he had come back for visits to see Teddy but kept contact with Britain to a minimum.

Harry had learned about magics that he had never heard of and wasn’t surprised to find them banned in Britain. Parseltongue and Necromancy had been at the top of the list of those he had heard about and knew were feared in his home country. To find tribes worth of people who could speak to snakes had been incredible and he had learned so much about the magic he could wield with the ability; something that had remained even after Riddle’s soul piece had been destroy, so an ability that was all his. Then to learn what true Necromancy was and what powerful ones were capable of; nothing like the inferi that Voldemort had created. Though they could do so but it was the lowest form of Necromancy.

True Necromancers could raise a person or animal that seemed almost alive and had the ability to make decisions; however, it was all powered by the Necromancer and didn’t call the soul back to the body. They could also call spirits but only for very short times and it required sacrifices of small animals to do so. The Necromancers that he had met had almost worshipped his ability and it hadn’t been as surprising as it should have been that he had true talent for it and that it was an ability passed down by the Peverells. The Tale of Three Brothers was just that, a tale for children; the three Peverell brothers were unparalleled Necromancers who called Death and were granted gifts. The two older brothers’ unfortunate ending was of their own design due to their arrogance, not retribution from Death for tricking him.

There was so much he had discovered during his travels. One discover was that Neville was likely an elemental mage with a focus on earth magics. Harry had wasted little time in forwarding his research and books on the subject to Neville. It had showed during the final battle; just what Neville was capable of when he believed in himself.

British wizards were so short sighted and had been crippled by the Ministry and their views. Not much changed after the war and Kingsley hadn’t managed to stay as Minister for an entire year before he was replaced. His replacement was almost as bad as Fudge or Scrimgeour and little more than a puppet of Damascus Greengrass-a supposed neutral and the new political powerhouse. The few repeals and advancements that had begun in the months after the final battle with Kingsley and Harry fighting the entire way, were stalled when Kingsley was swept out of office by stodgy old traditional pure-bloods who hadn’t been Death Eaters but who still looked down on muggleborns and creatures as less.

The public had again started to turn on Harry when he tried to fight for rights of supposed ‘dark’ creatures and the new Minister had begun doing all he could to destroy any political clout Harry had left. The prophet had begun to proclaim him dark, again, and most likely to turn into the next Dark Lord. Harry hated how fickle British witches and wizards were and so little had changed after the war had ended.

The truth was that Harry was a ‘dark’ or maybe ‘grey’ wizard to their definition because of the magics he was capable of. The Dark Lord business was unlikely, since he didn’t have any plans or want to torture and murder people but he wouldn’t have minded being a revolutionist. Something that the stagnant British magical community were firmly against.

This trip with Death to find a very unique man had occurred days after his 23st birthday and after the Minister had put out a warrant for him to be brought in for questioning about the death of someone. Harry had killed the person in question but he had done so in self-defense and the man had been a suspected Death Eater; not that the new Minister would have listened.

Now he was on some unknown planet, centuries out of his time.
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It wasn’t long before the scrape of rock on rock grated through the air and a flash of silver is seen in the dark, interrupting the young man’s wandering thoughts.

“Hello”, the young man greets and shows his hands free of weapons, though he was far from weaponless.

“Who are you and how’d you get here?” The words are growled out and it is obvious the large muscled man is looking for a weapon and planning an attack. The silver shined eyes are quite unique and attention catching.

“You can call me Harry and I appeared here. Apparently, you have gained the attention of a very powerful being and you have knowledge that will help me complete my goal.” Harry, though Death usually called him Phoenix, could see the thick aura of death and power that pulsed around this man; unlike anyone else he had ever seen.

There’s a disbelieving scoff. “Why would I help you?”

“I plan to completely destroy the Necromongers. They are claiming parts of people’s souls that aren’t theirs to claim and the previous Lord Marshalls used the power gained from the stolen soul pieces. It is causing them to be damaged or lost forever and they are killing those they have no right too. I would believe after they abandoned you here that you would be eager to kill them.” When he was done, the Necromongers would be nothing but a note in history.

“Right and just how do you know that?” The man, Riddick, climbed out of the tomb he had made for himself.

“I was told and I could heal that for you, if you wished.” Harry gestures at the bloodied leg.

“Uh huh, and just how would you do that?” Harry couldn’t help but smirk slightly.

“Like this.” He waved a negligent hand and the man in front of him froze in place and it was easy to see the shock in the trapped man’s eyes. “I’ve frozen you in place, so you wouldn’t attack me and don’t bother trying to say you wouldn’t.”

The smaller man walked forward before going to his knees in front of the injured leg and running gentle fingers over the self-done brace and then looking up into those flashing predator eyes. It was interesting to see that even in this situation, it seemed the large man liked what he saw and he couldn’t stop a small smirk.

“This will hurt.” Then he pulled the metal pins out and removed the plates before pulling a small knife from his belt and sliced it across his hand. He wrapped both of his hands around the badly injured leg, smearing his blood over the open wound. It took little more than a thought before there were black and green flames covering the leg and within a few minutes they flickered out and the leg was completely healed. Skele-grow would have worked, even if it would have taken longer, but his instincts told him to share his blood with this man.

“I can heal your other wounds as well and a few potions should fix you right up. And I figure you might want a bath, water, and food?” The last was added as a question as he rose back to his feet and moved away.

He slipped a small black dragon hide backpack off and unclipped the main buckle before pulling out a tiny round canvas bag, then setting it on the ground. A word had the wizarding tent erecting itself. The backpack, much like his pouch, had an undetectable expansion charm and a feather-weight charm on it, though this had an acromantula silk lining that allowed an even larger expansion and gave it the ability to hold other charms, easily. His moleskin pouch from Hagrid still hung around his neck and it held a shrunken trunk, among other things, in it. The war and running for months in the woods had taught him to be overprepared.

Then he turned back to the man. “I apologize for freezing you and I hope you won’t attack when I unfreeze you, since I helped with the leg and plan to help with the rest.” Harry flicked his fingers and Riddick burst into movement as soon as the freezing charm was cancelled.

The large man had a large hand gripping Harry’s hair and a knife pressed to his bared throat but the surprise had caused the smaller man’s wings to burst from his back. It was a reaction he hadn’t been able to completely train himself out of yet, they manifested half the time when he was unexpectedly surprised; though usually he kept them glamoured so they still couldn’t be seen but it was obvious this man could see them.

Riddick had stilled immediately when he saw the massive wings materialize in the air behind the small man in his grip. He could hear the soft, almost tinkling, rustle of them as they shifted slightly. He couldn’t seem to help but reach for them, wanting to see what they felt like and if they were truly real and not just some illusion.

“Wait, don’t-” The warning stopped when he felt Riddick’s calloused fingers brush against some of his feathers and stared in surprise when the feathers didn’t slice the wandering hand to shreds. Harry has to suppress a shudder from the intense feelings those fingers are causing. The black feathers tipped in dark blue, purple, or green look incredibly soft but they were sharp as razors and devastatingly effective weapons. “Huh.” Harry himself could touch them but when he had shown them to Hermione, shortly after they manifested for the first time, she had sliced her finger to the bone when she touched one.

“What are you?” The words were almost whispered as Riddick looked back at him but continued to run fingers softly through the feathers of his left wing. The large man even settled a couple ruffled feathers back into place.

“A death phoenix.” He saw no need to hide what he was and he needed the cooperation of the man in front of him; Death had insisted. Though with the startling submissiveness his wings were showing, he was now completely sure Death had a second reason for the insistence. Thankfully, the man didn’t know what his wings were broadcasting when they so willing showed their underside to Riddick or allowed the surprisingly gentle touch without shredding the man’s hand.

“And just what is that?” Riddick had yet to step back and the powerful presence of the man at such a close range, made the young phoenix want to take a step away to reclaim some of his own personal space.

“I’ll tell you but come on, follow me. Let’s get you cleaned up.” Harry slid around the man and walked into the tent, his wings disappearing with a thought.

The magical tent that Harry had bought contained two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a combined living area and kitchen. It was a much newer model then the one he had used on the run from Voldemort and had over a dozen extra built in security and luxury charms. Each bedroom had a queen-sized bed and standing closet, the bath was a good size with separate bathtub and shower, the kitchen was a nice sized and fully stocked, and there was a cozy fireplace in the living room. The young wizard had decided if he was going to be stuck in a tent again that it was going to be in much better style and stocked well enough that he wouldn’t have to worry about starving.

The tent and truck, slightly more advanced than Moody’s, that he had purchased had been customized for him by a very eager truck shop owner, who rarely got special request. Likely, because the man had been able to charge a premium but both had been well worth the galleons. It may be slightly redundant to have both but he would much prefer to be over-prepared then under, especially after close to a year in the woods when he had been hiding from Voldemort and looking for horcruxes.

Death had told him to bring everything he could and he had, it was all packed away in the tent and trunk. He had gotten the impression that he would not be going back or if he did, it wouldn’t be during the same time as he had been alive. The death phoenix could see no reason that he would need to know so much about the two hundred years of Great Britain’s magical society prior to his birth, otherwise. Though Death could be a bit of a bastard and saw no reason Harry should not learn all he possibly could, along with the fact the powerful being didn’t always tell him everything and seemed to gain some enjoyment from his ire.

The smaller man turned around and saw Riddick slowly stepping through the tent flaps with a barely concealed look of shock. “So, a death phoenix can defy physics or whatever?”

“I’m a wizard as well and it is magic that allows this to exist, using some type of extra-dimensional space that is far above my head to explain.” He had gotten a short lesson from the trunk maker but even in laymen’s terms it still seemed complicated; likely, why a mastery in runes and arithmancy was required because it was infinitely more complicated than a simple expansion charm. Harry gestured the man to come more into the space before opening a door of a tall hutch near the kitchen area and looking through the cabinet of stored potions.

“You can take a shower if you wish after I get a few potions in you and I can either cast a few cleaning charms on your clothes or I have some clean clothes for you.” He handed two small vials to Riddick, who looked at them suspiciously before sniffing them and making a face.

“I know they don’t smell nice but the darker red one will help with the blood loss and the light green one is to fight any possible infection and this dittany will go on any cuts that didn’t heal after you shower.” Harry showed the last container he had picked up from the potions cabinet. “I would suggest taking them quickly and not to breath, it helps with the horrid taste.”

Harry turned from the man who was still looking at the vials with the utmost suspicion and went into one of the bedrooms, he rifled through the wardrobe and easily found a pair of black cargo style pants, a simple t-shirt, underwear, socks, and a black dragon hide vest. Death had given him a glimpse of Riddick not long before they left and he had been able to pick some clothes up for the man, knowing he would be going into a situation where Riddick wouldn’t have anything but the clothes on his back.

“Here are some clothes that should fit you and the shower is through that door. There is even an extra toothbrush in the drawer.” Harry handed the clean clothing over after urging the man to take the two potions and resisting the urge to smirk at the faces Riddick made as he swallowed the two potions.

“I doubt any clothes you have would fit me.” Though Riddick still took the offered clothes.

“Well, the being I mentioned earlier showed me what you looked like and I was able to pick some up. I even got you a dragon hide vest, very durable and resistance to pretty much everything. Not to mention that I could change something to fit you better if it doesn’t. Now, go take a shower because truthfully…you stink. Then, I will be willing to answer any questions.” Harry gave a smirk and it widened when Riddick growled at him but the man did disappear into the bathroom.

Harry was curious that the man, a Furyan from what Death had told him, was being so docile but figured some of it had to be from shock, lingering pain from his various wounds, and exhaustion. Thankfully, Furyan energy was similar enough to magic that he was sure the potions would work to their maximum ability; potions were much less useful for muggles who had no magical core.

Harry wondered if the man would help him with the Necromongers, at least Riddick was likely to want revenge for the one who had left him on this deserted planet. Death had been firm that Harry couldn’t just be dropped onto one of the Necromonger ships but needed to be lead there by Riddick and would need the man’s help to completely eradicate the soul-stealers. Death hadn’t said why Riddick was necessary, just that he was.

While the shower was running, Harry put a kettle of water on the stove and pulled out some sealed containers that had preservation charms on them. Kreacher had cooked a ton of food for him to take and used elf magic to preserve it, since elf magic could make food last much longer then wizarding magic and didn’t affect the taste. Harry had given the house elf a few options before he left because he felt bad about leaving the small elderly elf behind and he was much more agreeable since the locket horcrux had been destroyed. Kreacher had chosen to bond with Andromeda and his godson, Teddy, before he left, since it would mean he was still connected to the Black family. Though Harry wasn’t sure the old elf would last many more years. Nor was he sure that it was necessary because Harry was fairly sure that he would be going back in time, though Death had refused to comment on the subject when asked.

Harry would miss his godson and the few friends he had but he knew what he was doing was extremely important and when he finally chose to pass on, he would see them again.

The sound of the shower cutting off broke into his thoughts and he cast a warming charm on the food; Kreacher’s preservation spells dispelling as soon as the container was opened. Harry didn’t think the man would take too long and he was right when Riddick walked out of the bathroom a few minutes later.

“Well you look better and I’m sure you smell better. I have some food, if you’re hungry?” Harry offered, as he set the food containers on the small table with a few bottles of butterbeer.

Riddick was wearing the new clothes and had put his massive boots back on. The man took a seat at the table and sniffed his food. “Smells good. What is it?”

“Oh, it’s shepherd’s pie or that’s what they call it where I’m from. It’s ground beef and mashed potatoes. I would give your compliments to Kreacher but he isn’t here.”

“Kreacher?” Riddick asked as he took a cautious bite of the food before making a pleased sound and digging into his food with much more enthusiasm. The man was huddled over his food and looked like he was prepared to defend it.

“Yeah. He was my house elf, tied to my godfather’s family for many decades, but he couldn’t come with me and is now bonded to my godson and his grandmother. They are small creatures that act as servants for witches and wizards, they bond to an entire family or a single person depending. Kreacher was a nasty bastard when I first met him but he came around and didn’t mind working for a half-blood so much.” Harry answered before digging into his own food.

The next few minutes passed in silence as the pair ate and when Riddick finished his food, Harry offered seconds which were gladly accepted. Harry unsealed a couple pieces of treacle tart and offered one to Riddick. Kreacher had made sure there were many of his favorites because the elf believed that wherever Harry was going, he would not be able to feed himself half as well as Kreacher could. The house elf easily forgetting that Harry was a very able cook and wizard.
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“So, you want me to believe that Death sent you here because he wants you to get me to help you take care of the Necromongers, who are stealing parts of people’s soul and the souls are…wasting away in the afterlife? Why does Death want me to help you and why do you need it, since you can do all those things with magic?” Riddick asked after Harry had explained how he had been sent here by Death and just what Harry, himself, was.

“I think Death likes you and is quite impressed with your body count. Death isn’t good or evil, it just is and it works towards a type of balance between life and death but that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate someone who has an aura that is so soaked in death without them being truly evil. You’ve survived and Death likes survivors. As to believing me, you can or not but I imagine I would be quite a bit of help on this deserted planet.” Harry didn’t mention his new suspicious of the other reason Death had been so adamant about Riddick’s help.

“You could be useful but I got lazy and lost my edge on that Necro ship and I don’t plan on doing it again.” Riddick glared at him as if it was his fault.

Harry just raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “Okay, didn’t tell you to get lazy and just because I’m here doesn’t mean you’ll lose your edge but that you’ll have someone who can have your back. My magic is a very useful weapon.” The death phoenix smirked at the last statement, his magic wasn’t the only useful weapon he could wield.

“Now I’m going to bed and you’re welcome to the other bedroom.” Harry had felt drained since arriving with Death on this planet and was ready for a good night of sleep. The wizard gave the other man a long look. “Also, if you plan to snoop around, do be careful and put everything back in place. Don’t try anything in the potion cabinet and if you unseal a container of food, eat it because the preservation charm will have been dispelled.”

When he didn’t get a response other than a raised brow, Harry gathered up the empty containers and spelled them to clean themselves in the sink, as he was too tired to do it by hand. Then headed towards the bathroom before going to bed.
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Chapter Text

Xander sits down with more than a little apprehension and wipes his sweaty hands on his jeans. He hadn’t expected to be led back to a curtained-off area, when he went to ask why his name wasn’t on the board that showed the results of the aptitude test that had been taken earlier in the week. Xander had given into a moment of insecurity about not being fit for any job but when he went to ask a teacher, he had been led here by a pair of men in business suits. Now he was waiting to meet a head recruit for a large software company.

Xander turned to the other student that was led back with him, who was munching on the tray of canapés that had been left for them. “Hey. Oz, right? I’m Xander.”

The red-haired male nodded. “Yeah, saw you last night at the Bronze. Canapé?”

Xander nodded before grabbing a shrimp and munching on it. “You guys played...uh good.” He was mostly trying to hold back a blush at the other teen noticing him. Xander had seen Oz’s band play a few times at the Bronze and had a tiny crush on the musician.

Oz let out a rueful chuckle, “You don’t have to lie but we are getting better.”

“No, you guys really were alright. You’re pretty good with a guitar. Better than the guys before you, dead something.”

“Yeah, Dead Ear. You almost have to have them to be able to listen to that.”

Xander looked nervously around at the empty room, the butler guy was missing as well. “You know why we’re here? I wasn’t really looking to be noticed with my computer skills, thought I’d covered my tracks better.” He really had thought he had covered his tracks but he could have gotten noticed for the work he had done recently at the computer store he had started working at.

Oz raised an inquisitive eyebrow at him. “Not that I was doing anything illegal or whatever.” Xander hurried to add but it was obvious he wasn’t believed by the second eyebrow joining the other. Who knew there could be someone else so expressive with their eyebrows.

The red head just shrugged, “Don’t know any more than you do.”

The pair continued to talk till the curtains were parted again and Willow walked in with the two guys in suits. Xander couldn’t help but think they were incredibly creepy, something about them set off his well-honed Sunnydale senses.

“Hey Wills. Your name wasn’t on the list either?”

“No, what are you doing here?” Xander couldn’t stop the small frown at Willow’s tone.

“Waiting for that McCarthy guy. Though I’m not particularly pleased to have been noticed.”

“What have you been doing? You shouldn’t use those skills-” Willow cut herself off, when he glanced towards Oz. The other teen was sitting quietly and watching the pair of them. Willow huffed and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Not like you haven’t used yours to do…not illegal stuff.” Xander smirked when he heard the amused noise Oz made.

“That’s-”

Xander cut her off, “What, different?” Willow’s lips thinned into a tight line but didn’t say anything and he knew he had hit his mark.

Once he had realized that he had kept all the memories from that Halloween night, almost a month ago, he had told the rest of the gang. Buffy and Giles thought that it was useful and were both willing to utilize the skills he had gained and saw it as a positive.

His costume had been a special op solider, Captain Jake Jenson, who was an intelligence specialist and computer hacker. The man was part of an elite team called The Losers and was in a relationship with the team’s sniper, Carlos ‘Cougar’ Alvarez.

Willow hadn’t been pleased about his new-found computer skills and thought that it wasn’t right of his to use them. Xander knew she was jealous about no longer being the best at that and it was causing tension between them. Willow hadn’t blinked about Buffy being fluent in French now and using her new skills to pass her language class but had taken special exception to Xander’s new found skills. Xander was beginning to think that she liked being smarter than him and her attitude was starting to piss him off.

Xander had no intention of letting the knowledge he had gained about computers or combat slip away and had begun to use both. He had started training with Buffy and had even taught her a few moves, which she was easily able to grasp and use against him. The knowledge was there but he didn’t have the muscle memory or stamina of a soldier. Plus, Xander had gotten a job at the local computer store and had begun building his own laptop and had built another one for a client, which was likely part of why he had gained attention from a software company.

Before Willow could say anything else, the curtains were pushed aside and they were introduced to McCarthy.

For the next hour, they listened to his recruitment speech and Xander was already positive he would say no. Though the man had shown interest in Xander’s ability to build a computer from scratch and had given him his card to get in contact if he became interested in working for the company he represented.

Once the man left, Willow wasn’t far behind. She had barely been able to hide her disproval of Xander being there.

“What’s her deal?” Oz asked as they walked out together.

“I don’t think she likes that I’m better at computer stuff than her.”

“Huh.”

Xander just shrugged, unwilling and unable to truly explain Willow’s behavior but it didn’t stop her attitude from hurting. “Anyway, want to get coffee sometime and maybe talk some more? Or you could come by the computer store off main street, sometime.” Xander cut himself off before he could continue to babble and knew a faint blush was spreading across his cheeks.

“Coffee sounds good. Saturday around noon?”

“Yeah.” Xander couldn’t help the excited smile and didn’t even try. “See ya then.”
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Oz watched Xander walk away and couldn’t stop a small smile of his own. He was attracted to both Xander and Willow, had been for a while, occasionally seeing them at the Bronze or around school but had never been introduced to either.

Honestly, he hadn’t thought that Xander was interested in guys or if he was, that he was firmly in the closet but there had been no mistaking that getting coffee together was a date or the lead up to one. The last two times he had played at the Bronze, Xander had been there and his gaze had been obviously appreciative; shy but unashamed of his attraction and it had made Oz’s heart skip a short beat.

Oz had tried to ignore the attraction, at first, because his last relationship was with a freshman from UC Sunnydale that had been firmly in the closet and had no intentions of leaving and Oz wasn’t willing to go through that again but he supposed he had guessed wrong about Xander. Plus, Willow’s behavior had been off-putting and unattractive. He couldn’t understand why she would be jealous of her friend’s abilities and not be supportive.

He liked the hint of butterflies in his stomach at the thought of a date with Xander and was willing to see where it went. Oz hoped the other teen wouldn’t try to hide it because he wasn’t willing to do that again but he was going to give Xander a chance, at least.
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Xander looked at himself in the mirror and tried to decide if he was dressed well enough for coffee…for a coffee date...maybe. He wasn’t positive that Oz had gotten that was what he was asking but he hoped so. Xander took one more glance at the dark green henley and new jeans before turning away to grab his wallet. If he didn’t stop second guessing himself, he would be late or never leave. Both the shirt and jeans were new and a good deal tighter than he was used to but they showed off his broad shoulders and trim waist; he couldn’t help but hope that Oz liked what he saw.

Xander was still nervous about going out with a guy, not that he hadn’t been secretly appreciative for years of the male form but it was something that he had kept firmly to himself. The memories that he had gained from Jenson had helped him come to terms with his bisexuality and he wasn’t going to let his father’s opinions matter; Tony was a no-good abusive drunk. Xander would be moving out as soon as he turned 18, at the end of January, anyway.

Sometimes the more personal of Jenson’s memories would flash through his mind and he would have a phantom ache for a love that he had never meet and that didn’t exist, at least not in this world. Dreams of being touched and touching someone that wasn’t real but it had helped him with his attraction for guys and in particular Oz. Something about the shorter red-head reminded him of Cougar and while he wasn’t trying to replace his not-lover, those memories had given him something of a type. Taciturn and a bit sarcastic with very expressive eyebrows.

As soon as he had realized he still had the memories, he had begun looking for Jake Jenson and his team but they didn’t exist. There were a few people named Jake Jenson and Carlos Alvarez but none born during the correct time and none in the military.

Though the technology was very similar during Jenson’s past and Xander wondered if it would develop the same and if he could use the possible future knowledge to his advantage. It was something he had been giving serious thought to and had begun researching to see what he could determine.

Xander shook himself from his thoughts and pushed his wallet into his back pocket while thundering down the stairs, he was out the door before Tony or Jessica could say something. At least, the mess with the Order of Taraka and Spike had been dealt with already because he didn’t want it interrupting his first date.
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The coffee shop was slightly crowded when he got there and it took a minute before he saw Oz at a back-corner table that was quieter than the main section; his spikey hair was dyed a dark brown now instead of the red from a few days ago. Oz looked up as he was walking over and Xander’s smile got bigger when he noticed him giving Xander an appreciative look before meeting his eyes again. Xander didn’t bother hiding his own because the black cargo pants with red tee and black collared shirt, left unbuttoned, looked good on Oz’s lean frame.

“Hey.”

“Hi.”

“So, uh I was going to go ahead and grab something since the line isn’t too long right now. Want something else?” Xander asked when he saw Oz’s mug was almost empty.

Oz gave a nod before giving him his order of some specialty tea and Xander gave him another smile before turning around. He really didn’t want to make a complete fool of himself but he didn’t really see the point of pretending that he wasn’t attracted to Oz and excited about their date.

It was a good few minutes before he made it back to the table with a tray that held Oz’s chai, Xander’s hot chocolate, donut holes, and a vanilla biscotti.

“I grabbed a fresh biscotti they just put out. I don’t know if you like them or sweets but uh…”

“Thank you. I do. Gonna sit?” There was a small teasing smirk on Oz’s face that caused Xander to blush slightly, when he realized he was just standing there.

“Right. Yeah.” Xander slid into the seat next to Oz. “So, hey.”

“Think you already said that.”

Xander nodded before giving an embarrassed chuckle. “Right. So, brown hair?”

“Sometimes, I like a change occasionally.”

It took a few minutes for them to fall into an easy conversation but they did and their conversation jumped from music to tech to any number of things as they talked for over an hour. Their heads bent towards each other and their shoulders just barely touching, as they talked quietly. Neither paid any mind to the weekend crowd of high school and college students that passed through the coffee shop.

They were talking about music again when Xander got the courage to reach a few inches over and run a finger over Oz’s black painted nails. “Fondness for glam rock or just like painting them?”

“Both. This okay?” Oz asked as he tangled a few of their fingers together.

Xander nodded and swallowed, his stomach flipping in excitement and nervousness at holding Oz’s hand. He wasn’t ashamed of his attraction to Oz but he knew people could be much less evolved than they believed themselves and he had to reminded himself that he was not in the military and that DADT did not apply to him.

“Good.” Oz’s relieved tone caused Xander to make a questioning noise. “I uh-. The last person I dated, and I use that term loosely, was a very closeted freshman at UC Sunnydale and I don’t really want to go through that again.”

“Ah, well, no closets for me. Not a huge fan of small dark spaces. But I don’t think I’m really into heavy PDA but holding hands is fine.” Xander squeezed his hand slightly to emphasize his point and made no move to hide their joined hands under the table, when a large group walked by to take the couches behind them.

“Cool.” There was a small pleased smile on Oz’s face and Xander had a flash of desire to taste it but didn’t give into it; this was only their first date and he wasn’t sure if it would be welcome.
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Later that night, Xander was at the Bronze with Buffy and Willow. Oz’s band, Dingoes Ate My Baby, was playing and Xander hadn’t bothered to hide his wave or smile when Oz had taken the stage.

“Hey, that’s the guy uh-” Buffy cut herself off and her cheeks flushed a slight pink.

“What?” Xander wondered about the blush but didn’t think that he had ever seen Buffy and Oz near each other and didn’t think she had a crush on him; her type was tall, dark, mysterious, and room temperature.

“I uh...might have slammed him into the wall the other day. I thought he was following me!”

Xander tried to hide his laugh but wasn’t that successful and weathered Buffy’s glare. “So, how do you know him?”

“I’ve come to see him play before and we met when that recruiter came to talk to us during the career thing. Then I asked him out for coffee earlier today to talk some more.” Xander could see Buffy’s eyes go slightly wide, as she realized what he meant before a sly smile made an appearance but before she could say anything Willow interrupted.

“What? Why?” Willow looking less than pleased with the conversation.

Xander shrugged, trying to ignore the well of annoyance he had that swelled at her tone. “Because I like him and wanted to talk to him more.” He turned away before she could say more and went back to watching Oz play. Plus, his heart was beating double time from sort of coming out. He was sure that Buffy had gotten it but he wasn’t sure Willow had; she had always been jealous of him spending time with others without her, even when it was Jesse. He had finally realized that she liked him but he just didn’t feel that way about her, his feelings for her were closer to what he thought he would feel for a sister. One that he was annoyed with at the moment.

When the band was done with their set, Oz came to the table to say hi and Xander introduced him to Buffy before pulling him to the dance floor for a few dances. Xander wasn’t the best dancer but he wasn’t going to take anyone’s eye out with his flailing. “Your friend, Buffy, she seems pretty tense.”

Xander laughed loudly at that, “Maybe but she hasn’t had the best week. There was that crazy police woman thing.”

“Yeah, heard about that but I had already skipped for the day.”

Oz moved slightly closer to Xander, still a few breathes of space between them, and that was the end to any conversation. The music was sultry with a thrumming bass that leant itself to the type of almost sensual dancing they were doing. Xander wanted to pull Oz closer, to feel his body slid against his own, but wasn’t sure of his welcome. When Oz slid a hand down his chest, Xander was thankful that he had chosen a tight and thin tee that left little to the imagination; he could feel the heat of Oz’s hand and it made his stomach clench. That distracting hand only stayed for a few second on his stomach before it was removed and Xander couldn’t help but be disappointed.

They danced for two more songs before Oz was pulled away by his bandmate Devon to pack up for the night and Xander offered his help if it was needed.

Moving some amps and such were very much worth it when Oz brushed a quick chaste kiss across his lips, once they were done loading up his van. Xander felt almost silly with the way his stomach swooped from that single kiss and couldn’t help but lick his bottom lip to see if he could taste Oz. The action had drawn Oz’s green eyes and Xander had been able to watch them darken and the pupils blow before Oz had taken a step back.

“Night.”

“Night.” They looked at each other a few more minutes before Devon yelled for Oz to hurry up.
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Chapter Text

The wolf surged forward putting just a bit more power in his long strides and the trees were no more than a blur and dirt was kicked up by his massive paws. His prey was close, he could smell its fear and hear their rapidly beating heart fluttering in its chest as it fled before him. The thought of tearing into hot flesh and sating the gnawing hunger in his stomach was his only goal as he mercilessly barreled into his fleeing prey and took it to the ground before he ripped it’s throat out without hesitation.

Blood splashed hot and wet across his muzzle, as he buried it into the throat of the deer. The wolf wasted no time tearing into the dying deer, seeking to fill his stomach. He striped chucks of warm meat from his kill and licked drying blood from his dirty muzzle.

After he had his fill of the deer, the wolf raised his head and howled at the full moon that hung heavy in the night sky causing the forest around him to go silent as it heard the call of a predator. In the distance was the faint howls of other wolves, answering his call. A call that till now hadn’t been answered before and he took off in the direction of the distant howls that filled the night.

Xander shot up, the feeling of a howl still caught in his throat. His shirt was soaked through with sweat and his entire body felt clammy and it ached fiercely. He had been having similar dreams for weeks and they always felt so real. Honestly, he’d had dreams about wolves all his life, along with other strange ones, but they had never been so vivid and visceral as they were becoming recently. His stomach clenched in apprehension and there seemed to be a feeling of anticipation hanging around him; anticipation of what, he didn’t know. Though having no idea of what was going on with him, set him in edge.

He shook off the strange dream and the feelings they left before dragging himself to the bathroom for a hot shower, hoping to sooth his aching muscles. His body had started aching just a few days ago and nothing made it stop; the ache was bone deep and had continued to get worse.

Xander had to meet Giles in a couple hours and go with the Watcher to check out a site at the edge of Breaker’s woods, as there had been reports of animals torn apart and a missing hiker. Just how he wanted to start his summer break…looking for beasties in the woods.

The pair planned to check it out during the daylight in hopes that whatever it was, wasn’t hanging around. Giles had said that if it had been the full moon recently that he would have believed it to be a werewolf or even two but the start of the three days of their change was still two days away. The Watcher had been researching what it could possibly be that could cause the kind of damage reported, yet so far hadn’t found anything concrete; which was why they were both going to check the area out. Buffy would have been great to have around at the moment but she was off the grid and completely unavailable.
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Xander could feel the hairs on his neck stand up, there was something very wrong here, and he glanced around nervously. He was equipped with a crossbow and a long silver dagger, that was closer to a short sword, while Giles had the tranquilizer gun and an iron-edged sword.

The June sun was high in the sky but it did nothing to dispel the feeling of danger or of being watched. The ground had dried dark brown splotches of blood that had sunk into the dirt and bits of fur scattered around; evidence that something was here and tearing apart the local wildlife.

Xander hears a branch snap in the wood line and spins to the left, to see a blur fly from the woods and barrel into him. A massive furred beast slams into his chest and sinks its fangs into his shoulder before he can get the crossbow up and it drops from spasming fingers. Its claws are scrabbling at the ground around him while it snarls viciously through its mouthful. He can distantly hear Giles yelling but his concentration is completely on the thing attacking him.

The rabid creature’s head draws back and looks like it was going to lunge forward for another bite but Xander brings the silver dagger, in his other hand, up with all his might. The dagger lodges itself into the left side of the beast’s chest and is easily long enough to reach its heart.

The dirty furred creature makes a strangled noise and falls to the side and begins to spasm before it turns into an equally dirty man with blood dripping out of his mouth; Xander’s and the creature’s. Xander scrambles up and away from it and is caught by Giles before he falls back down.

“What the hell is that?” The teen yells while looking at the still body of a man.

Giles shakes his head. “I have no idea, a shifter of some kind. Good lord, I hit the thing with three darts and it didn’t seem to faze it.” Then the man begins to inspect Xander’s shoulder wound, which is deep and bleeding heavily.

“We sure he’s dead?” Xander asks weakly as the pain from his shoulder starts to become more apparent. The bite is deep and jagged, covering part of his shoulder and the top of his arm.

“I do believe so. Let’s get you to the hospital, you’re going to need stitches for this.” Giles begins to pull Xander back towards where they parked.

“Good plan, maybe they’ll give me the good drugs. What are we going to do with the body?” Xander glances back at the now dead man lying in the dirt with blood pooling around him.

Giles just continues, pulling Xander along gently. “I’ll come back later and burn or bury it. Let us hope there was only one.”

Xander gives a weak laugh at that, he hopes there was only one too. He has no desire to face another one. The creature had looked like some Hollywood wolf-man of nightmares; it had stood easily eight feet tall if not more and was covered in thick fur with a snout full of fangs, ears on its wolf-like head, and claw tipped ‘hands’ that looked like they could shred metal. He hadn’t seen it till the thing had fallen off him and started to change back to a human but there had even been a tail.
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The next day Xander gets ready to head back to the library to help Giles look through the Watcher’s collection of books to find the thing that attacked him. The only thing they do know is that it wasn’t a werewolf and that it is some-kind of shifter, a wolf shifter. Xander hadn’t been aware that there was another kind of wolf shifter, other than an Oz-style werewolf.

He wonders if Giles has already found what it was that attacked him, if so maybe he could take another pain pill and go back to bed. His arm isn’t hurting as bad as he assumed it would be but it might once he starts moving around.

After hours at the hospital yesterday, getting the wound cleaned and stitched up the doctor had given him something for the pain that had made him too sleepy to help with any research. Thankfully, he had been able to decline rabies shots because while the creature had acted rabid, he doubted it had actual rabies. Giles had driven him home afterwards and said he would check out the site again and do something with the body before starting to research what it was.

Xander is just stepping out of his door when he sees a man approaching and the hairs on his neck stand up. “Hello? Looking for my dad?” Tony wasn’t there but already at the bar, drinking away part of his paycheck.

“No. I’m looking for you, Alexander. My name is Caden Kuznetsov, you do not know me but I have been searching for you.” The man greets solemnly, like what he just said wasn’t extra creepy sounding.

Xander takes a step back. “How do you know my name?”

“It was the one you were given at birth and while I wasn’t there, many in our House know of it because they searched for you when you went missing; when your father was killed. You have many of his features though I believe you get your coloring from your mother.”

“Look buddy, you have the wrong person. My father is very much alive and likely drinking himself into oblivion at the bar.” Xander wondered if he could outrun this man but quickly realizes, probably not. The man was easily six-foot-tall, well-muscled, and in the prime of his life; he had strawberry blond hair and bright green eyes that watched Xander’s every movement. There was a presence to the man that made you think predator and Xander’s heartbeat kicked up a notch.

“These people that you live with are not your true parents. Your father was a well-known kinfolk of our tribe and he was murdered shortly after your birth. Your mother is the leader of her pack and a fierce Garou warrior.”

“Okay, I have no idea what you’re talking about or why you are looking for me but I think you should go.” Xander shakes his head. No matter how much he wished he wasn’t related to his parents, he had given that hope up long ago.

“I came looking for you because your first change is close, possibly only a day or so away. I wish I had more time to explain this to you but your kin fetch only just found me days ago. You must have been having the dreams of wolves or hunting more regularly and they should have become even more vivid. Have you?” The man looks like he already knows the answer.

Xander swallowed, he didn’t know how the man knew about his dreams. Heck, he’d had another last night and his wolf had been joined by others in a hunt for prey much larger than a deer. “How did you know that?”

“It is common among all Garou cubs, who are about to go through their first change to have them. You have no idea how glad I am that I found you before then. We have not been able to find you before, though we searched after you went missing. It is my belief that this foul place’s energy interfered with our search and it was only luck that your kin fetch worked.”

“What are Garou? Kin fetch? First change? None of that makes sense and I have no idea what you are talking about.” Xander wasn’t sure if he wanted the answers either, his stomach twisted with nerves.

“Please, calm cub and I will explain everything. You are a Garou, just like I am. Like your mother and her mother, and your paternal grandfather and great-grandfather. Like thousands of others. Garou are children of Gaia, Mother Earth, and we are her claws and fangs; great warriors and wolf shifters. And you are about to go through your first change, though later than normal for an ahroun. I would have liked to have found you sooner, so I would have more time to explain. And a kin-fetch is placed on a Garou after birth so that it will notify their tribe when they are about to go through their first change and I was the closest of your tribe.” Xander interrupts when the man pauses for a couple seconds.

“Right…So either you’re crazy or you could be telling the truth.” Xander is leaning more towards the truth and he can’t tell why; something of what the man is saying, speaks to him. Though he could be a crazy and using something to make Xander believe him. The problem with learning about vampires and other demons, is that you can’t rule anything else out.

“I believe you have already encountered a Garou and have slain it. You will make a great warrior, once you have been trained.” The blond man informs him.

“Hold on! You mean that massive wolf-beast that attacked me? I’m going to turn into that?!” Xander yelps the last.

“No. The one you met had lost its humanity and was thankful for the swift death you gave it. You did him a great deed by slaying him before he could do more damage than it already had.” The man shakes his head and has a somber expression on his face.

Xander gives the man a look. “Right and he told you that?”

“Yes. I spoke to his spirit before burning the body. You survived an attack by a Garou, who had lost their self in frenzy, before even your first change shows you will live up to your family name.” The man’s reply throws Xander for a loop because he really hadn’t expected that answer.

“Okay. So, you are going to follow me and finish explaining what you mean. Then I’m going to ask Giles and we’ll see if you’re telling the truth.” Xander was sure Giles would know if this man was telling the truth, though he wasn’t sure if he should have mentioned him.

The man makes a considering noise before nodding, “you mean the Watcher? I suppose that is allowable, as he has long seen past the veil and Watchers are usually aware of our kind, even if they lack any useful information about Garou.”

Xander gives a start, “how did you know that?”

The man just smirks, “I asked a spirit.” Then doesn’t bother to explain what that means. “Lead the way cub.”

“Why do you keep calling me cub? I’m not sure I like it.” Xander figures he should start with a simple question.

“Well, you better get used to it till you get through your Rite of Passage and become an adult in the eyes of the Garou society.” The man’s answer is completely unapologetic and the barely there smirk shows that he is gaining amusement from the conversation.
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Xander walks into the library by himself, having left the man, who he should start calling Caden, in the hall. He figured that he should at least give Giles a warning before introducing the man.

“G-man, where you at?” The teen calls out.

“Ah, Xander. I truly wish you would stop using that infernal nickname but I’m glad to see you have finally arrived, as I have good news. The being that attacked you yesterday was a Garou or at least I believe it was, as they aren’t often known for attacking humans. The book I have, had very little information but did have a drawing of the form that we saw. Even the Council has very little information about them, though it does have a few works in their language but no one can read them. Shape shifters of any kind have always fascinated me. The body wasn’t there when I went back to look for it but the ground around it was scorched, it is possible another was there…” Giles keeps muttering as he flips through a large book and seems almost excited about finding out what attacked Xander yesterday. Xander just feels his stomach clench in nervousness.

“Funny you should mention that…” Xander trails off because he isn’t sure how to start.

“Oh, don’t worry Xander. Garou are only born and the bite you received won’t pass anything along. They don’t start shifting till they reach adolescence…incredibly fascinating species. Never encountered one before, at least not before yesterday.” Giles tries to assure him but just continues to confirm everything Caden had told him. “How is your arm doing? If it is bothering you overly much, I can give you a ride back home; there isn’t much we can do but keep an eye out for another. It was quite fortuitous that you brought that silver dagger yesterday, as it is the only metal that can harm them. It would have likely healed even a stab to the heart with just a regular blade and a healthy Garou could have possibly survived even a stab to the heart with the silver blade.”

“No, it’s fine. Hardly bothering me at all. The thing is…the Garou thing you mentioned-. I mean to say how can you tell it’s one of those?” Xander puts off telling Giles, just a bit more.

“Well, like I said the drawing in the book was very similar. Then there was the fact that it shifted back to human form after it was killed. It was mostly process of elimination of what it could not be. The Garou have been around since the time of the Old Ones and are said to have helped to kill or drive them out of this dimension; they are fierce warriors that are believed to have been created or birthed by Gaia, the Earth Mother, herself. Though like I mentioned before, the Watcher’s Council knows little else about them and the ones they have met have been mostly uncooperative about telling them more.”

“That would be because you lot are a bunch of old men who don’t know how to keep your noses out of things you have no right to and then you go and bind a part of a demon’s spirit to an innocent girl and make her fight your battles.” Caden says as he pushes his way into the library, causing Giles to jump and almost drop his book.

Xander clears his throat as the two men stare at each other. “So…this is Caden. You were supposed to stay outside till I mentioned you and were you listening the whole time?”

“Cub, I wasn’t sure you were ever going to get around to it and of course I was listening. Time is wasting away and we have things to do. So, let’s move this along. At least by now you know I wasn’t lying.”

“You’re a Garou? What are you doing here? If you are after vengeance for your fallen, he attacked first.” Giles starts walking back towards the check-out desk, which has a few weapons stored behind it. Xander is sure that Caden could reach Giles before the Watcher could reach the weapons, if he wanted too.

“Yes, I am a Garou and I am here because of Xander but I am not looking for vengeance. You were correct when you said that it isn’t often that a Garou will attack a human but that one was sick and it was a mercy killing that Xander provided it.” Caden says before his body starts to change and in seconds a slightly larger, more bestial, version is standing in his place. The man has gained close to a foot in height with sharp claws on his hands and feet, his hair is thicker and longer, and his ears are pointed but he is still mostly man-shaped. Caden had slipped out of his sandals, otherwise his clawed feet might have torn them, and his loose shorts and t-shirt are now tight and clinging to his well-formed body; details that Xander’s brain decided to take in as it tries to process what it had just seen.

“Holy Shit! Wait, that isn’t what the other one looked like.” Xander exclaims before feeling something inside himself want to answer, something which he ruthlessly shoves down.

Caden shifts back to his human form before answering. “No, I was in another form. Garou have five forms and that one was called glabro, while the one who attacked you was in his crinos form. After your first change, you will be able to reach all five of them and with time they become much easier to shift between. There is your appearance now, called homid, then you have the glabro form like I showed you, and then there is our war-form known as crinos. It will cause something called delirium in mundane humans, which is a great fear that makes them either forget or rationalize away what they saw. This allows us to keep the veil, as we call it, closed, so that mundane humans will never know of our existence. Next is our hispo form which is a large prehistoric looking dire wolf that is very good for hunting and lastly, the lupus form which looks similar to a normal wolf but we are stronger and faster than our wolf kin.”

Xander’s eyes widened at that and he hopes to find out what they all look like, which he might if he really is a Garou. He was still on the fence about being one because he knew it wouldn’t be all cool forms and neat abilities but it couldn’t all be bad, or at least he hoped not.

“So, you’re a Garou and you believe Xander to be one as well?” Giles asks while Xander just stares because, truthfully, that was amazing. When Xander glances over at Giles, the man looks like he can’t wait to start asking questions and doesn’t even bother defending the Watcher’s Council. Xander needed to remember to ask about that demon spirit thing later, he had always wondered were Slayers came from.

“I know he is and his first change will likely be during the full moon in three nights, since he was born under a full moon. He wished to come here to have you confirm if I was telling the truth and I allowed it because as a Watcher you were likely already aware of our kind. I wish not to waste more time because I must prepare Alexander for his first change and we only have a couple more days, hopefully. We must get away from this tainted place’s energies and I will be performing a cleansing rite to be sure that they do not affect Alexander’s change. It is amazing that he has lived here so long and been so unaffected by this place, though I do wonder if it has done something to delay his first change.” Caden informs Giles before the Watcher starts asking questions.

The next couple hours are spent with Xander learning some about what he is and what will happen during the full moon in a couple days. Caden tells Giles about what he knows of Xander’s father’s murder and Xander’s disappearance, which he had told the teen of already on the walk over. Caden refuses to answer some of Giles questions and states that some things are only allowed to be known by another Garou; the man pointedly looks at Xander when he states this and it is obvious he wants to make sure he doesn’t tell Giles later.

Xander’s father, Alexei, was a well-known kinfolk among the Silver Fang’s tribe and House Wyrmfoe in Newcomb, New York in the Adirondack mountains. His mother, Hathor, is a Garou and pack leader from the Black Furies’ tribe and part of a Moon-Daughter’s camp in Honeybee, Kentucky in the Appalachia mountains.

Kinfolk were those who were born from a Garou and kinfolk (or mundane human) pairing or two kinfolks pairing that were not Garou; they were unable to change and didn’t have the same spiritual connection all Garou possessed but they were more than mundane humans, often with a closer connection to nature or their primal side. They could apparently be either human or wolf, though the population of wolf kinfolk was much smaller as wolves were hunted almost to extinction. Wolf kinfolk were much smarter than regular wolves, with a near human intelligence.

Xander didn’t comment on the fact that Garou bred with wolves, though if you spend part of your life as a wolf maybe it wasn’t that strange. There was also the fact that if you were a Garou and your mother was a wolf kinfolk, then you spent the first couple years as a wolf before your first change; so maybe not so strange after all.

Caden went on to explain that Garou were broken into tribes, which were large groups of Garou, that often determined their social ties, totem animal spirit, bloodlines, and spiritual connections. A Garou didn’t have to join the tribe of either of their parents and some left to find a tribe that fit their personal philosophy better. Tribes were further broken down into camps, houses, or circles; each often had slightly different beliefs or culture, though some could be quite extreme from the others but still be in the same tribe. Then there were packs, those were usually made up of less than ten Garou but not all Garou were part of a pack. Caden told Xander he would explain it in more detail later and likely away from Giles.

The Silver Fang tribe was one of a dozen Garou tribes of the Garou Nation and had been considered the ancestral leaders among Garou, the ‘Alpha Tribe’; though their status had declined in the last few centuries. Caden said that many other tribes now considered the Silver Fangs nothing more than doddering kings and some believed they should be overthrown. The tribe had bred too closely to preserve their bloodlines, special abilities, and nobility and it had a detrimental effect on the Garou cubs born. So, in the years surrounding Xander’s birth the Silver Fangs sent out messengers to other tribes to find mating partners outside of those in House Wyrmfoe for a select group of their Garou and kinfolk.

Xander had been one of close to a dozen Garou born in the few years surrounding his birth for the New York branch of House Wyrmfoe, along with the same number going to other tribes; which was apparently a staggering number for them. It had kick started a movement among some tribes to find mating partners outside of their own tribe and the last two decades had seen a rise in number of Garou born per year; larger than it had been in centuries. Caden said it had brought a few of the tribes closer and helped to cease some conflicts.

Xander’s father mated with his mother for the sole purpose of creating a child, preferably a Garou, and because he had been male, he was given to his father to take back to House Wyrmfoe; if he had been female he would have stayed with the Black Furies, as had been the agreement between the two. Apparently, the Black Furies only allowed females to join their ranks, though Caden mentioned they had a few male metis; which were the result of two Garou breeding and was against Garou law because it created a deformed and sterile offspring that often put its mother at risk because of some ancient curse that was placed on the entire race by some demon mages millennia ago.

Xander’s father had never made it back to House Wyrmfoe in New York after Xander’s birth. He and a small contingent of other Silver Fang kinfolk had been set upon by a group of demons and slaughtered. One of the group, his wet-nurse apparently, escaped with Xander before she too succumbed to her injuries and from there he somehow ended up with Tony and Jessica Harris. Xander had plans to ask his not-mother, how exactly they came into possession of him.

So, his parents weren’t really his parents; being a Garou was worth it just for that. He despised Tony Harris and had no charitable feelings for Jessica. Xander was relieve to know that he wasn’t blood related to either of them and it made him much more open to possibly being a Garou.

When Xander asked about contacting his mother, Caden had told him that he would find out the address for the teen to send a letter. This way she would know that he had been found and alive and would contact him, if she felt like it. But he had been discouraged from visiting unless invited, which was unlikely even though he was her son, because most Black Furies had no love for men and often only used them for breeding purposes. They normally sent male Garou children to other tribes in exchange for females. Caden mentioned that they had once sacrificed male children but that it very rarely happened anymore…rarely, he said.

Once Caden was done explaining to Giles about the circumstances of Xander’s birth, though the man was determined to call him Alexander, he explained what Garou were in more depth.

Garou were the children of Gaia, the Earth Mother, and were created to be her claws and fangs. They were and still are great warriors with a triadic nature; part human, part wolf, and part spirit. It was their spiritual natures that gave them the ability to easily access the Umbra, the spiritual realms, where certain spirits would teach them gifts and help guide them. They were made to protect the balance of nature and protect Gaia against the Unbalanced Triat; especially the corrupted Wyrm. They did so by hunting powerful predators; such as demons and fending off tainted otherworldly spirits, such as Banes or other foul creatures of the mad Wyrm.

The older Garou explained the story of how the Weaver went insane and tried to spin all of reality into its Web, including the Wyrm; which had once kept the world in balance, destroying excess chaos or order. This drove the Wyrm mad also, so now it seeks not to balance but to destroy everything. The Wyrm and Weaver are now bent on the destruction of Gaia, the Earth. The threat posed by the Weaver and Wyrm caused Garou and other shape changers to revere the Wyld above all others and work to protect it and Gaia by hunting those tainted by the other two; hoping to stop their destruction of Mother Earth. The balance had been sliding slowly out of alignment over the last few millennia and had begun to favor the corrupted pair.

The Garou’s ability to shape shift, step into the Umbra and communicate with spirits, regenerate physical damage, resist illness, and their superhuman strength and speed made them the perfect warriors to undertake such a task. Garou were very hard to kill but not impossible; as they could usually only be killed by a fatal wound caused by pure silver, especially if they were in crinos form which was the most vulnerable to silver-proven by Xander killing one just the day before, or the claws and fangs of Garou and other shape shifters.

Caden went on to explain what would happen to the teen during his first change. Xander would most likely change into his crinos form and release his rage because of his auspice, the phase of the moon he was born under. He had been born November 22nd 1980 under the full moon at its peak. His not-parents had him celebrating his birthday as January 1st 1981. So, he was over a month older then he thought he was.

A Garou’s auspice often dictated their personality and their place in Garou society. Xander being born under the full moon made him an ahroun which, supposedly, meant he was a natural warrior, even more so then other Garou; the entire race itself was warrior-like and ahroun were Gaia’s strongest living weapons. They often lead in wartime and his paternal grandfather had been an ahroun who had been a warrior of great renown, known by all Silver Fangs. Though their affinity for warfare was in their instincts and mind, not just their rage and gifts, making them innately suited to war including tactics and strategy because a good warrior is not just one who fights well but effectively.

Caden said their nature was often a simpler one and that they have the most rage of any other auspice. Their claws were often the most bloodied by battle.

Xander wasn’t sure about all the rest but he had plenty of rage inside him but he had long learned to tamp it down to a manageable level. As a child, he’d had fits of anger that had supposedly scared his not-mother and he had even hurt Willow once when they were much younger. It had been years since he had lost control of his anger because he had never wanted to hurt his best friend again. In the last year or so, being able to work some of it out by staking vampires had helped.

Though the rage that Caden spoke of was some mystical wellspring of primal anger granted by Luna, the spiritual embodiment of the Earth’s moon. This rage enabled Garou to move at even greater speeds, shrug off mighty wounds, and change form quickly but since it was a gift from Luna they were susceptible to silver, as a trade.

The older Garou had been born under a waxing crescent moon which meant he had a theurge auspice and this made him a type of mystic or seer but mostly meant he could communicate with spirits with the most ease of any Garous from other auspices. The waxing stage meant he was more likely to build a friendship with a spirit then force it to serve him like waning crescent moon theurges were prone to do.

Caden explained that there were five auspices in total, each determined by the phase of the moon and even if it was waxing or waning. Ragabash who were the tricksters and often assassins of the Garou and were born under a new moon. Theurges were the mystics or seers and born under a crescent moon. Philodox were the judges, keepers of law, and leaders in peace time and they were born under a half-moon. Then, galliard were like warrior-bards who sung and were the Garou’s record keepers and born under a gibbous moon. Lastly, ahroun were the war leaders and often had the most blood on their claws and were born under full moons. Though that was a very simplistic view and Caden promised to explain in much more depth later, when they were away from Giles.

Xander’s auspice even affected the types of gifts, special powers granted to Garou by spirits, that he could learn. Caden explained that spirits normally asked for chiminage; which was ritual payment for their advice or gifts. Greater the gift, the greater requested payment.

Xander thought it strange that the phase of the moon that you were born under could dictate so much of your personality and place within your tribe but he imagined it wasn’t absolute and there was some variety. He didn’t exactly feel like some war leader, though that probably took time. The idea of rage, gifts, chiminage, and rites that Caden mentioned left him with a headache and he had no idea how he was supposed to manage to learn all these things; especially when most of it didn’t make sense to him.

Caden walked Xander home after he was done explaining what he was willing to in front of Giles and had answered what questions he deigned to from the Watcher, much more than Xander had expected, honestly. Xander was mostly quiet because he had so much running through his mind and he was gearing up for a talk with his not-mother, Jessica.

The older Garou left him on his doorstep and told him that he would be back in the morning and that they would leave to go find a place for his first change. Xander would spend tomorrow night in the woods after his cleansing rite and prepare for his first change the day after with the coming full moon.
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When Xander enters his house, he hears Jessica moving around in the kitchen and goes to talk with her because there is no point in putting off this conversation.

He crinkles his nose when he smells what she’s cooking, it doesn’t smell appetizing. She had never been a good cook and he had learned early on how to manage basic things to feed himself.

“Hey. I was wondering if I could ask you about something?” Xander asks once he has her attention.

“What?” The woman who had been pretending to be his mother didn’t even look away from the pot of stuff she was stirring. A cigarette dangling from her other hand and ashes falling onto the counter.

Xander sees no need to ease into the conversation and wants to keep it as short as possible. “Where did you find me?”

“What?!” Now he has her attention, the most she has probably paid him other than to tell him to get her a beer from the fridge in years. Her eyes are slightly wide, making their bloodshot appearance even more noticeable; he wonders when the last time she was completely sober was.

Xander repeats himself. “You aren’t my real mother and I just found out about my real father’s murder…so, how and where did you find me?”

“How did you-?” She shakes her head and closes her eyes for a moment. “Never mind, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I didn’t think you’d ever find out. Tony and I were on vacation in Pennsylvania, we were on the road about an hour or so north of Pittsburgh, when we saw a car run off the road and into a ditch. I had him pull over and that’s when we found a woman, your mother maybe, who had a bad stomach wound and you in the backseat. She was dead in minutes.”

Jessica stops and looks at him before continuing, her lips pulled down into a frown; causing her worn face to look even more severe. “We had been trying for a baby for a couple years by then and nothing, we had recently found out that Tony was sterile. I-. I don’t know what came over me but I just decided to take you. When we got to the next gas station, we told them that there was a wreak and a dead woman and to call the police but we didn’t wait around for them to show up. It wasn’t hard to get a birth certificate, we just told the doctors it was a home birth. Your name, Alexander, was stitched into the baby blanket they had you wrapped in and I decided to keep it.”

“That’s why he treats me so bad then because I’m not his. Though I wonder why you never stopped him, since you wanted me so much.” Xander asks with a hint of the hate and hurt he feels for the two of them. He remembers as a child it hadn’t been as bad but as the years had gone by it had gotten worse, especially after Tony had been injured and lost his job (the first, of many). Xander wonders if it is partially to do with the curse that Caden spoke of. Apparently, humans had an innate fear of Garou, even before their first change, and their instincts told them to be weary.

“He resents the fact you aren’t his and considers you proof he was unable to have his own. That I had to steal a child. I-. It wasn’t always like this but-.” Jessica just shakes her head before walking out of the room. “I’ll be right back.” Xander walks over to the stove and cuts it off before whatever is in the pot can burn and wonders what she went for.

When she comes back she is holding a folded soft looking dark blue blanket that has his name stitched in silver in one corner and sitting on top of it is a necklace with a few trinkets attached to it.

“The necklace was tucked into the blanket, it seemed strange that someone would leave something like that near a baby so I kept it.” Jessica passes the blanket and necklace to him. The leather necklace has a small crystal that seemed to glow slightly and on either side, was a symbol pressed into what looked like a circle of hardened wax. He wondered what they were and planned to show them to Caden because Xander was sure they were more than just trinkets.

“Thanks. I’ll probably be leaving soon. They had a private detective looking for me and he approached me today. They want to meet me.” Xander tells the lie easily. It’s much more believable and he has no wish to tell her the truth, anyway.

Jessica looks at him and nods slightly. “Oh, okay. How long do you think you’ll be gone for?”

“I don’t know. Don’t let Tony throw my stuff out, I’ll be back for it.” His not-mother just nods her head again and doesn’t bother trying to say that Tony wouldn’t do something like that.

Xander doesn’t tell her much more than his family lives in upstate New York and he is going to meet his father’s side, he doesn’t mention anything about his mother. He takes the only things he has from his birthparents and goes up to his room.

His wish that Tony and Jessica weren’t his parents had come true but he wondered if the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ would come true, as well.
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Xander listened to Caden explain more about Garou and give in-depth explanations of things he had already, briefly, mentioned the day before. The older Garou did ask that Xander be careful what he shared with Giles because any information would be given to the Watcher’s Council and the Garou Nation didn’t care for or trust them.

The main reason being that a trio of tribal shaman from ancient Africa created the first Slayer, forcing the essence of a demon into an innocent girl. They called themselves Shadow Men, and in-time those like them became what is the Watcher’s Council, and the demon they used was only known as the shadow demon. The demon’s essence destroyed the girl’s humanity and caused her to be exiled from her village but she continued to protect them. The first Slayer killed the last Old One, a pure demon, that still walked the earth back in prehistoric times. With time the demon’s essence become weaker and the Slayers retained more of their humanity.

Xander wasn’t sure if he was surprised or not because he knew from the beginning that Buffy wasn’t completely human. Though he did wonder if Giles or her first Watcher, had told Buffy how Slayers were created. It was horrifying that they would force part of a demon into a girl and then tell her that her destiny was to fight demons, and that she had to do so alone. He had heard Giles’ repetitive spiel about Buffy being the ‘chosen one’ or the one girl in all the world to stand against vampires and other demons. Now that Xander knew about the Garou, and other changing breeds called Fera, that were all created by Gaia to fight against anything that threatened the earth, it was absurd to have believed that a single Slayer had managed to hold back the tide of demons and other darkness. Garou had been around much longer then Slayers had and had been the force that had either killed or driven many Old Ones from Earth.

Caden was now explaining about the various tribes of the Garou Nation. When Garou began to split apart from a single group, thousands of years before, there had been sixteen tribes. Of those, twelve remained part of the Garou Nation and a thirteenth Garou tribe was part of the Beast Court; which was a group of courts composed of many different species of shapeshifters that was divided by regional lines instead of species lines. Two of the original tribes were extinct, one had been lost when they sacrificed themselves to hold back a powerful minion of the Wyrm and another had been hunted down by the rest of the Garou,who had believed they were tainted by the Wyrm and had strayed too far from Gaia’s path. Caden admitted that it was unknown if that was the truth or not but the Garou during that time weren’t willing to take that chance. The final tribe was truly lost to the Wyrm. The White Howlers were a tribe that had decided to take the fight to the Wyrm and tried to attack it in its home, a terrifying and twisted place known as the Black Spiral. The Garou of the White Howlers went insane and lost themselves completely to the Wyrm and became known as the Black Spiral Dancers, they now served the Wyrm. Caden’s explanation of them, made Xander sick to his stomach and he hoped he didn’t meet one of these corrupted Garou any time soon.

Though it was interesting to find out there were other shapeshifters of different species, called Fera, and he wondered if he would meet any but had been warned by Caden that some were very unwelcoming of Garou. This hostility had been caused by a war, called the War of Rage, between the shapeshifters. It was believed by most Fera to have been started by the Garou and was so ancient that none could truly remember when it had begun. Garou had believed themselves the first among Gaia’s children and wanted the other shapeshifters to submit to their rule, which had sparked the war. There had been no winners but many losers, as there had been entire breeds of Fera lost and had caused sacred duties to Gaia to be neglected or lost.

Xander was glad it was getting close to lunch because there was already so much information that Caden had told him and he worried that he wouldn’t be able to remember it all. Not to mention there was still so much to learn and Xander had never been the best student. They had been going since early this morning, when the sun had barely even begun to rise.

This morning, after Caden had picked him up, he had explained the necklace Xander had shown him and the trinkets on it, which were called talens. Talens were objects that had spirits bound to them, usually weaker spirits, and were often one-use. The crystal held a single moonbeam and was used when embarking on a journey into the Umbra. When the wielder activated and carried it, their journey would be a safe one but it would shatter once the Garou reached their destination within the Umbra. The two wax seals with the sign of the full moon pressed into them were called a Moon Sign, which could be used to change any Garou or shape shifter into their lupus or animal form; it was activated by throwing it at the feet of the target.

Caden had remarked that they were highly useful and would be something that he would be able to create himself, eventually. That they must have been gifts from his mother, as Garou from the Moon Daughter camp were known to be able to make very powerful talens. Though the ones he had on the necklace were simple ones, they were well made and strong. Caden had used a talen called Death Dust to speak with the spirit of the Garou that Xander had killed; it was a small jar filled with a certain type of ash and had a spirit of communication, and sometimes death, bound to it.

The talens attached to the necklace, he now wore, all had a Lune spirit bound to them, which was a spiritual embodiment of the earth’s moon. Caden had promised to teach him the rite that would allow him to bind willing spirits, enabling him to make his own talens.

Once they had made it to Caden’s chosen spot, outside of Sunnydale, this morning, Xander had gone through a cleansing rite. It was much simpler than he had expected. Caden had drawn a circle in the dirt and there was a small bowl of water gathered from a nearby spring and a leafy branch from a nearby tree. The older Garou had written some glyph on his forehead with mud and then sprinkled some of the spring water onto Xander with the branch. The water in the roughly carved wooden bowl had turned slightly cloudy, showing the taint that had been removed from Xander. Caden had been surprised at how little there was, even though the man had sensed that Xander hadn’t been overly affected by the Hellmouth.

“I see that your mind has begun to wander. Maybe we should take a short break.” Caden’s voice interrupted Xander’s drifting thoughts.

“Sorry. Just a lot of information to take in.” Xander apologized quietly, while ducking his head.

“It is fine, Alexander. Let us break our fast and then we can begin again and I will begin to tell you about the many totem spirits. The Silver Fang Tribe uses Falcon, who is a strong and noble spirit, but each pack may have a more personal totem spirit and some individual Garou have a private totem, as well. They are strong spirits that lend special powers in exchange for services or tribute to them. But as I said, we will start that after we eat.” Caden finished before leaping up onto his feet from a sitting position on the ground. The flex of the man’s muscles was eye catching and Xander turned his head before he could be caught watching.

Xander didn’t bother trying to copy the older garou because he knew he would make a fool of himself. He wondered it natural agility would come with his first change, not that he was overly clumsy but he wasn’t exactly athletic, either. Though he did have a problem trying to compare himself to Buffy, which wasn’t fair to himself when she was a Slayer and had supernatural strength and agility. Though it looked like he would soon have the same.
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Caden is bemusedly watching Alexander pace back and forth in the small clearing from his perch in a nearby tree. He refuses to call the teen by Xander and the boy’s grandmother would smack him upside the head if he did. He can’t wait to introduce the cub to her and watch her whip him into shape; the old woman loves her family but rules them with an iron fist, when need be.

He is sure that the teen’s first change will be tonight and they are just waiting for the moon to rise because it will finish calling forth the boy’s wolf. The first change was most likely to happen under the phase of the moon the cub was born under and this is the first full moon since Alexander’s kinfetch had found him.

The rage that is rolling just beneath the surface in the teen is astounding and Caden was surprised when he had found out that the cub rarely lost his temper. This change was likely to be a violent and bloody thing but he hoped that the teen didn’t lose himself completely in a frenzy.

They had done the cleansing rite the day before and there had been little taint from the Hellmouth, as Alexander and the Watcher called it. It was incredibly surprising that it hadn’t affected the cub more because it’s energies seemed to cling to most everyone else. The entire town made Caden’s skin crawl and caused the wolf hidden under his human skin to growl and gnash its teeth at imaginary foe.

This Hellmouth felt as bad as, if not worse than, a corrupted caern and he never thought he would think something could feel worse than a corrupted Holy Site of the Earth Mother. Caden wondered if any Black Spiral Dancers lurked within the mouth of Hell because it was easy to see the corruption of the Wyrm in this place. The gauntlets were thin enough in this place to allow creatures across, things that had no right to walk this Earth and there was heavy evidence of the Weaver and the Wyrm. The few stories he had heard from Alexander about something trying to ‘open’ the Hellmouth, sent shivers down his spine but the cub and his friends had managed to hold off the darkness, so far.

The older Garou didn’t want to extend their stay here much longer and planned to head back home tomorrow with Alexander. They had only stayed because Caden had worried that the stress of travel would bring the change on sooner. He couldn’t imagine the carnage of a first change happening while stuck in a plane, miles about the ground. Caden had considered using a Moon Bridge between caerns but didn’t think Alexander would feel comfortable traveling that way, even if it would be much quicker. Plus, Caden hated traveling by plane, something about hurtling through the air in a massive metal can that weighed tons.

The more Caden pondered on the cub’s unaffected state, the less surprised he was. Powerful spirits had lead him to the boy and foretold that Alexander would bring about amazing changes to the Garou. That this one cub could somehow, someday, lead them to saving their entire race, it was incredible. Alexander would have much on his young shoulders and would be made to live up to his grandfather and great grandfather, both Garou who did amazing things in their lifetime. It wasn’t an easy path the child would have but if he managed to walk it successfully, then there were so many amazing possibilities for not just Alexander but all Garou.

Caden felt the moon rise into the sky, Luna’s rays calling to the wolf within, and he saw Alexander go completely still. “Relax, it will make the change easier.”

“I can’t do this. It feels like this never ending well of rage inside me. I can’t let that go.” Alexander whispers but the words still reach Caden’s sensitive ears.

“You can and you will. Better to let it out then to keep it in, I say. The change will come no matter how much you try to stop it and it will be much better if you relax and bring it forth yourself.” Caden advises the teen. He can feel Luna’s call himself but he has no plans to change unless it becomes necessary, as he is just here to watch over Alexander as he goes through his first change. If he had found the cub sooner, he would have persuaded Alexander into going back to House Wyrmfoe with him before his first change.

Caden watches as the teen seems to nod to himself before sitting on the ground and just begins to breath steadily, if a little quickly, murmuring too lowly for Caden to catch what he is saying. When the moon finally peeks above the trees and spills across the small clearing, Alexander’s body goes taunt and he gives a loud yell before his body begins to change.

The shifting of bones and muscles goes on for long minutes before Alexander’s new form stills, panting heavily from the pain he experienced with the first change his body went through. There is blood and clear fluid in a puddle under the cub and in his fur, something that only ever occurs during the agonizing experience of the first change.

Caden can’t help feeling slightly amazed as he realizes just how big Alexander is, even laying down it is easy to see that he will stand close to ten feet tall already. Adult crinos forms usually ranged from nine to eleven feet and this cub was well within that range already and had years to grow still. Caden himself was barely nine feet tall and lean when he was in his crinos form but he was much more suited to a spiritual fight, then a head on physical battle.

Alexander seemed to shake himself before looking around the clearing and then up at Caden, making eye contact and raising his lips in a low rumbling growl that filled the clearing with a warning. Caden shifted enough to be able to growl back, not willing to give an inch, and it caused the teen to stop growling but Alexander’s gaze didn’t waver from his, unwilling to submit completely. It wasn’t till a few twigs in the forest snapped that the young Garou’s eyes left his and tracked some movement in the darkened tree line.

It took the young Garou a few minutes to get his feet under him properly and when he did, he stood on massive clawed feet. Caden could see that he was correct and Alexander stood near ten feet tall. The cub’s crinos form was broad, thick, and made to kill but it still showed the evidence of adolescence, a hint of gangliness that had yet to disappear.

Caden had heard stories of the sheer size of the Garou from Alexander’s father’s line but had never see one. The cub, obviously, took after his paternal grandfather and great grandfather in that regard. Alexander’s grandmother swore that her husband’s father, Dmitry Volkov, had been over twelve feet tall in his crinos form. The man had been the King of Clan Crescent Moon in Russia, the oldest and most prestigious house of the Silver Fangs, before his death and was succeeded by his youngest child, Natalia Volkov. Alexander’s grandfather, Victor, moved to House Wyrmfoe not long after he had completed his Rite of Passage because, unlike his father and younger sister, he was a Renewalist. It was where he met his wife, Diana, and she made him court her for a couple years before agreeing to marry him.

The man drew his attention back to Alexander from his wondering thoughts and began to take in more details. The teen’s thick fur was mostly black with an ivory undercoat that had hints of silver. The ivory and silver fur was most pronounced around Alexander’s muzzle, ears, and feet.

Caden knew the silver came from his grandfather and the black from his mother, just as Alexander’s homid coloring came from. Most Silver Fang Garou had ivory, various shades of blond, or silver fur; though Caden’s own fur was a reddish blond that was a few shades lighter than his homid form’s hair color.

Alexander had started to walk towards the tree Caden was sitting in till a noise in the distance caught the young Garou’s attention completely, causing the teen to turn toward the noise and then take off towards it on all fours. Caden dropped from his perch in the tree and silently followed the young Garou’s path through the forest, he wanted to make sure Alexander didn’t run into any humans, they were deep in the woods but so few places were truly human free these days.

The cub lacked any subtly, as he crashed through the underbrush after whatever had caught the young Garou’s attention. It was obvious that the cub was lost to anything but the hunt, which was very common during the first change. Even with Alexander’s lack of finesse, it only took a few short minutes of the cub’s truly impressive speed before he was on his prey, a small doe, and was ripping into it with fervor. Caden made sure to stay far enough away that Alexander’s highly enhanced senses didn’t think he was too close to his first kill and meant to encroach. Young Garou could be volatile and an ahroun even more so. Caden had no desire to be faced with one who could so easily slip into a complete frenzy.

Caden settled himself back in a new tree, while the newly awakened Garou cub made quick work of its meal. He had to ignore his own wolf’s hunger, as Alexander ripped the small doe apart; bones crunching between powerful jaws. He was sure that the young Garou would be hunting again before he turned back with morning’s light. The change took a great amount of energy, especially for those new to shifting.
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Xander groaned and rolled over, trying to get away from the sun light that was just on the other side of his eyelids. He couldn’t stop the pained noise he made as he rolled onto a sharp rock and it took his brain a few moments to realize that there shouldn’t be any rocks in his bed…and then remember what had occurred the night before. Flashes of memory and the phantom feeling of pain from changing for the first time, started to slowly surface in his muddled brain.

“Good Morning, Alexander.” The voice was far too cheerful and a pathetic sounding growl slipped passed his lips, causing the voice to laugh.

Xander made some negative sounding noises before trying to make the voice go away. “Ugh. Go away. Sleeping.”

“Not anymore. We must go to your house and pack, so we can catch our flight in a couple hours. I really wish you would reconsider the Moon Bridge, it would be much quicker.”

Xander grunted before sitting up and flushing, when he realized he was naked and covered in deer blood and mud. Caden just smirked at him with amusement, the big ol’ meany, and didn’t even offer him something to cover up with. “I am not getting on some metaphysical moon path, moon beam thingamajig, it sounds like the furthest thing from safe. I much prefer a good old fashioned airplane; it actually makes sense.”

Caden chuckled before offering him a hand to help him up. “Garou have been travelling this way for thousands of years. Long before planes existed.”

The pair had already had the discussion about traveling the day before and Xander was standing firm about not traveling on a fricking moon beam through the Umbra, no matter how the older Garou tried to explain it. Xander felt he was handling everything else about this and taking the fact his life was completely changed, fairly, well and that meant he could be stubborn about some wishy-washy moon travel.

“You can wash off in the creek and put on fresh clothes, we have a good hike out of here. Hungry? I still have a few trail bars in my pack.”

The creek? Hurray…not. At least it wouldn’t be too cold and he would put up with ice water, right now, to wash off the gritty feeling of mud and other things smeared across his skin.

“Kinda full, still.” More flashes of the night before came back, the feel and taste of ripping into fresh prey came to the forefront of his mind. It was disturbing, how undisturbed he was by it. Mostly he remembered the thrill of the hunt and only the thought of catching his prey, filling his mind. Last night, under the full moon he had felt bursting with energy, like he could do anything, and so powerful. The wolf thrummed beneath his skin now and wasn’t pleased with being hidden under human skin again. It was a heady feeling, that Xander knew he needed to be weary of because he didn’t want to lose himself completely to the wolf but co-exist in harmony.

Caden had warned him that is was possible to lose himself to the wolf part of his being and that he would need to find a balance between each part of himself; the human, the wolf, and the spirit. Garou’s triadic nature was what allowed them to change their shape and walk in the Umbra. Before his first change, he hadn’t understood it exactly but now he was beginning to and Xander knew he would need to find an equilibrium with these newly awakened parts of himself.
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Xander walks out of the airport at Caden’s side, wishing he had just agreed to strange moon path travelling. It was only thanks to the older Garou that he had managed the whole trip without a splitting headache and possibly changing forms. Even in first class, he had felt crowded and the noise and smells had given him an immediate headache. Caden had laid a hand across the back of his neck and everything had gone muted, his travelling companion had just smirked at him when he asked what he had done.

They had left from Sunnydale airport that morning and had a layover in Chicago before they reached Albany, NY. Xander wasn’t sure he ever wanted to get on a plane again, at least not anytime soon.

Caden had spent much of the trip speaking about the history of the NY branch of House Wyrmfoe and Xander’s family, along with what would be expected from him because of that. It seemed like a lot of pressure and he wasn’t sure he would measure up; for goodness sakes, his great grandfather had been a king and his grandfather and uncle had sacrificed themselves to save a caern, which was a holy site to Garou.

Not to mention, he worried how welcoming his family would be. His father, Alexei, was married to a kinfolk woman when he and Xander’s mother, Hathor, had sex to produce him. Though Caden reassured him that such ‘breeding’s’ weren’t uncommon and that his father’s wife, Grace, had encouraged him to do so; hopefully giving him the chance to continue his family’s Garou lineage.

Xander’s grandfather, Victor, had been a driving force behind trying to get House Wyrmfoe and its previous and paranoid king, Jacob Morningkill, to look for breeding partners outside of not just their house but the tribe. Even among the Renewalist of the tribe it was a, fairly, radical idea. It wasn’t till years later and after Victor’s death, that Alexei pushed through the idea with the support he had gathered, even with King Morningkill on the throne of House Wyrmfoe. Alexei had been less of a threat to the old king because he had been a kinfolk, unlike Victor, who could have easily overthrown Jacob Morningkill. The new king, Jonas Albrecht, was urging for the practice to continue and House Wyrmfoe was using it to build stronger ties with other tribes

Then, Caden had gone on to explain about how each house or clan, within the Silver Fangs’ Tribe, had its own king and then of those, one was chosen as the High King of the entire Garou Nation. Currently, King Jonas Albrecht was in that position and had achieved it by defeating a Wyrm agent who had tried to take the thrown from the murdered Jacob Morningkill and finding a powerful and ancient Silver Fang artifact, the Silver Crown.

Next, there was the spilt of royalist and renewalist in the Silver Fangs. Royalist were the hard-core traditionalist, who would cling to the old ways till they had destroyed the entire tribe and believed it was their divine right to rule all Garou; the decline of the tribe was largely on their hands. Renewalist believed to continue to be the ‘Alpha Tribe’ that they needed to prove themselves worthy. They also strove for change and bringing in not just new ideas but new blood, to counteract the inbreeding that had been done in years past when the Silver Fangs had tried to keep their lines of noble blood pure. This inbreeding had led to weaker Garou and the decline of the Silver Fangs’ might.

Xander had learned that Albrecht was Morningkill’s grandson, whom the paranoid old man had exiled years before because Albrecht was such a powerful Garou from a young age. The exiled Garou came back, upon Morningkill’s death wish that his grandson be brought back home. During that time, Albrecht discovered that Lord Arkady, a Garou exiled from Russia and a favorite of the old king, was positioning himself as the next king but there had been murmurs along a few of the Elders that the Garou was corrupt. After losing a duel with Arkady, through trickery, Albrecht and his pack went on a search for the Silver Crown, to ensure the corrupted Garou could not take over House Wyrmfoe.

The Silver Crown was a lost ancient artifact that had once declared who would be the Garou Nation’s High King and would kill any who were unworthy, if they placed it on their head. Albrecht and his pack searched for and found it but upon doing so were attacked by Arkady and his Black Spiral Dancer allies, who had been following their journey. Albrecht was tortured severely and submitted before Arkady to save his pack from being slaughtered. But when the crown was taken and placed on the head of one of the Black Spiral Dancers, it killed him horribly. Albrecht was able to retrieve the crown and it, along with the tribe’s spirit totem Falcon, accepted him as worthy; giving him the power to command the remaining Black Spiral Dancers to go back to their hive and kill everything they found there. He then exiled Arkady back to Russia and ousted him from the Silver Fangs. With his first edicts as king, he passed the Crown’s final test and the Crown’s commanding power went inert but it still showed to all Garou that Albrecht had been chosen as the king for their entire nation.

It was an interesting story that Caden assured him, he would hear in much greater detail while learning about Garou and House Wyrmfoe’s history. Much of the Garou’s history was oral and it was a lifetime’s work to learn and remember it…in perfect detail; these integral stories were known as the Silver Record. This task was left to galliard’s and Record Keepers, who preserved Garou’s history. Thankfully, it wasn’t something that was expected of Xander because he wouldn’t have done so well.

Xander’s attention is drug back to the present with a nudge from Caden, who is directing them towards a black SUV. A man with dark blond hair steps out and greets them with a smile.

“Alexander, this is your oldest brother, Donovan.” Caden motions to the tall man that he had mentioned during the plane rise. He knows this brother is a little more than a decade older than him.

Xander can’t stop the small falter in his step. “Uh…hi?” He gives an awkward wave.

The man laughs before pulling him into a strong hug that Xander automatically responds to. “Hello, little brother. It is good to finally meet you. Babka is pacing a hole in her rug, waiting for you. She isn’t happy with Caden for not allowing her to speak with you over the phone.” The man gives a look to Caden before turning back to Xander.

The rush of words put Xander at ease because that was a familiar habit of his own. He wonders if his other siblings have the same habit or not. The man, Donovan, has dark blond hair and a similar build to Xander but is a couple inches taller and broader due to his age. Now that Xander is looking their faces have a similar structure but Donovan’s eyes are hazel, where Xander’s are brown. He’s curious if Caden chose this brother, or if he volunteered, because Donovan has a different mother as well. He was their father’s first child with a Garou woman of House Wyrmfoe before he met his wife, Grace, who helped raise Donovan. Caden had been full of useful information on the plane ride, though Xander was sure most of it was to distract them both from their discomfort.

The ride, which takes close to two hours, is filled with Caden and Donovan talking and Xander only talking when directly asked a question. His nerves are getting worse, the closer they get to their destination. But he isn’t distracted enough not to notice the looks and brief touches between Caden and Donovan and wonders if they are together. It would be nice to not be the only one who liked males, as well. Something he had finally admitted not long before Cordelia had broken up with him and probably the only thing that had stopped him from doing something very stupid, when she did. He had gone to talk to Larry instead because that was the only other guy he knew who was figuring out he was gay or in Xander case bi. He appreciated them both equally…or well maybe he liked guys just a hint more but it wasn’t like he had any experience other than that brief kiss with Larry.

Xander wondered how long he could distract himself from his rising anxiety because he was sure he might start hyperventilating…any second now. He wants these people, who are related to him by blood, to like him but worries that he will make a fool of himself.

When the car finally slows down and turns onto a long gravel driveway, Xander has to take a deep breath to steady his nerves. They pull up in front of a pretty two-story white house with black shutters and white columns holding up the roof of the front porch. Only a few moments later, the door to the house is opening and a few people spill out. Xander cautiously gets out of the back of the vehicle and slings his bag over his shoulder before giving them all a weak smile.

The first to greet him is an older woman, with long silver hair in a French braid and bright blue eyes. This must be his grandmother, Diana Volkov. “Oh, Alexander. It is so good to finally have you home and you look so much like your grandfather.” She pats his cheek gently before pulling him into a hug with arms that are a lot stronger than they look. Her honey and lavender scent immediately fills his nose and puts him at ease because she sort-of smells like a grandmother and he has never had one of those. When she pulls back, she tucks her hand around his arm and pulls him closer to everyone…seriously, stronger than she looks.

“Come along, cub. I’ll introduce you to everyone. You’ve already met Donovan and his better half Caden and don’t you let your brother tell you different. Though I’ll be having words with Caden latter, keeping such things from an old lady. Next is your sister Alexis and your brother Gregory. You’ll meet her boyfriend, Thomas, later.” She points out a blond curly headed woman and a man with similar curly hair that is much shorter, the pair have identical smiles on their face and blue eyes. The two look obviously related and are both children of his father and Grace. Though it seems his father’s facial structure is shared between all of them and the height.

“The one pushed to the back by adults acting like children is Grace.” His grandmother’s tone is teasingly chiding. The woman is much shorter than any of the rest of them with a curvy figure, curly wheat blond hair, and dark blue eyes.

They all welcome him with hugs before he is pulled into a home that smells like…family, is the only word he can think of. His new instincts yearn for it, not to mention the part of him that is still a lonely, abused child. Everyone is talking and his grandmother is pushing a plate in front of him, as she directs him to a stool at the tall breakfast bar in the large kitchen. It’s hard to keep up with them all but it doesn’t seem to be expected, not that it stops them all from asking a million questions about him. He tries to avoid talking about Tony and Jessica Harris, in anything but the most general terms, because he doesn’t want to get into that right now.

It is a couple hours later, when his grandmother finally urges all the others out of the door and invites them back for breakfast in the same breath. “Bit much, huh?”

He nodded slightly, “little bit.” Though something in him had relaxed at the obvious welcome they had given him. It amazes him these strangers want him here so much and he wonders when he will do something that will change their mind.

“It’s alright, honey. You’ll get use to us and jump right in, eventually. Now, let me show you to your room. Mine is down here at the back of the house, if you need me, but I put you upstairs. The room is pretty plain but you are more than welcome to change it to your liking. Come along now, it’s past this old woman’s bed time.”

Xander grabbed his bag and followed her up a wide set of steps and down a hallway. The room he had been given was painted in a dark blue with white furniture. The long curtains are blue and white and the bedding matched. There were a few pieces of white art on the walls but no other colors. It was very nice and much bigger than the bedroom he had had most of his life.

“This one has its own bathroom and plenty of light because it’s a corner room. You get settled in and get some sleep because you are going to be busy-busy in the days to come. I’ll be by to wake you up in the morning for breakfast.” She gives him a kiss on the cheek before heading back out.

After she left, he pulled out some clothes to sleep in and got ready for bed. He felt absolutely exhausted after the last few days and so many changes. He was all the way on the other side of the country, he had a new family, a change of species, and so many other things that he wasn’t sure how he was holding it together so well. Even with how tired he was, he was sure it would take him forever to get to sleep but as soon as his head hit the pillow…he was out.
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There was a light knock on the door and Diana, his grandmother, telling him that she was about to start breakfast. He managed a sleepy grumble in return and rolled onto his stomach. That was when he realized that no matter what had happened the last few days…he was still a teenager and his body reacted so.

Xander sprang from the bed and tried to will away his erection, there was no way he was doing anything about that in his grandmother’s house. He tried to think unsexy thoughts but trying to use a naked Giles, revealed things he didn’t think should be revealed, and then went on to naked Snyder and dead puppies. By the time he had finished brushing his teeth, he had scared his erection mostly away.

When he made it down to breakfast, the kitchen was filled with the scent of blueberry pancakes and bacon. Caden and Donovan were already there talking with his grandmother. “Morning, little brother.”

“Morning.” Xander gives them all a smile while taking a seat at the breakfast bar next to them.

“Caden says he is going to show you around today. I might tag along for a bit but I have some work to do later.”

Xander just nods in reply. Diana sets a plate in front of him and gives him a kiss on the cheek before moving on, like she had done so hundreds of times. It makes his chest feel tight with stuff he isn’t ready to unravel. He wishes such a simple gesture of affection didn’t affect him so much but the only ones who had shown any such thing in years has been Willow and…Jesse.

There is little talk as they eat breakfast but he does find out his oldest brother owns a shop where he does custom woodworking and blown glass. He invites Xander to come check it out that afternoon. His grandmother tells him that Alexis is a nurse and Gregory works with the town’s vet and owns a farm near the edge of town.
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After breakfast, Caden and Donovan take Xander around town. Diana had invited, more like ordered, them back for lunch and had told the other two not to overwhelm him.

Xander would officially be meeting with House Wyrmfoe Elders and other Garou tomorrow evening and Caden would be going with Xander on his first journey into the Umbra before that. Caden had wanted to do so today but Diana had suggested that Xander should be given a day to adjust. It was quite amazing how she could word such things and there still be no question that they were orders.

There wasn’t much to Newcomb but the pair pointed out the small grocery, farmer’s market, doctor’s office, the town’s diner, a bar and grill, school, bed and breakfast, and a few other things. The entire town was owned and run by Silver Fang Garou and kinfolk, there were very few normal humans in the whole town; except for the tourist they got from people visiting the Adirondack mountains.

Right in town was Lake Harris and Rich Lake, just north of the main highway. Then there was Newcomb Lake about fifteen minutes north of the center of ‘town’. There was a large house there that belonged to King Albrecht and was used for meetings with the Elder council and a small island in the lake that was used for Garou ceremonies, it was connected by a small wood and rope bridge. They didn’t show him the King’s house or island but described them and Xander would see them soon enough; he, personally, wasn’t in a hurry.

Then, they took him out to Gregory’s farm, that sat out just west of Rich Lake, before lunch. Gregory was 22 and the closest to him in age of his half-siblings. The man raised rabbits, ducks, chickens, and dairy cows and grew fruits and vegetables. The farm supplied the local grocery with a good bit of its produce and dairy, not to mention he had a permanent stand at the local farmer’s market. It was neat meeting the rabbits but he didn’t want to get near the cows, though both of his brothers assured him that they were miniatures. Xander wasn’t sure they understood the word miniature because those beasts were at least six hundred or more pounds and wasn’t reassured when told that full-sized cows could get two or three times that size.

At lunch, he saw his sister again and met her boyfriend. Her boyfriend, Thomas Whitley, was the local general practitioner and she was one of three of the town’s nurses. The building they used was a large remodeled house near the center of town and it also held the dentist and midwife offices.

He had learned from Caden and Donovan that his sister was seven years older than him at 24 and her boyfriend was a few years older than that. Xander was the youngest of them all by four years at 17.

After lunch, they went to Donovan’s shop and his oldest brother showed him how he created blown glass art. There were some gorgeous pieces in his brother’s showroom that showed how skilled he was. Donovan went to local and not-so-local craft fairs and had pieces at a few galleries and shops in larger cities, such as Albany. Xander was thoroughly impressed and was awed that his brother could create such unique pieces of art; the super intricate and colorful spiders and octopi that seemed to be his brother’s favorite were both creepy and fascinating. Though that was far from the only thing his brother offered, as there were beautiful display cabinets with stained glass and wood and iron chests scattered around the large showroom.

Xander was excited by the offer to learn how to blow glass himself, though he warned his brother that he was not the fastest student but he had always been good with his hands. It would be amazing if could learn to make even the simpler looking round glass ornaments and they would make great gifts for Willow and Buffy.

Caden had a blacksmith forge set up in the building next to Donovan’s and did any decorative iron work that his brother needed. He employed two kinfolk, who did most of the silver work since Garou were sensitive to it. Though in human or homid form, it was to a much lesser degree. The two kinfolk were well known klaive-crafters for House Wyrmfoe. Klaives, he had learned, were silver daggers or swords that had a willing war spirit bound to them. Xander wasn’t sure what he had thought Caden might do but he hadn’t expected him to be a blacksmith but some of his wrought iron work was amazingly intricate.

Xander was exhausted by the time dinner was over and ended up heading to bed early because he and Caden would be starting very early. The day hadn’t been so bad and his family had been so very welcoming that it helped him feel less awkward. He had worried that he would feel like a bother to everyone but none of them had acted like it was a chore to spend time with him or show him around. Though he wondered if they would still be so welcoming when it turned out he wasn’t some amazing Garou warrior or future king material. He was donut boy Xander, the zeppo of the scoobies. The thought made him sick to his stomach and he had only known these people a day, the idea of losing them shouldn’t hurt.

His sleep was disturbed by nightmares of a second family hating him and thinking him not good enough.
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Xander and Caden were sitting on the bank of Rich Lake because water, a mirror, or any reflective surface was supposed to make it easier to step into the spirit world. The grass was still damp with dew, since it was barely dawn, and even though it was June, there was a slight chill because of the wind.

Caden was explaining how to ‘step sideways’ through the gauntlet and into the Umbra, to communicate with spirits. It was something the older Garou promised would come intuitively, once they started. Xander wasn’t so sure of that but was willing to trust his Garou mentor.

Gauntlets were some type of metaphysical membrane that separated the physical plane from the spirit world or Umbra and separated each Umbra. Earth was overlapped by the Penumbra, that mirrored the physical world but not exactly. Caden said that now they only touched but once they were one and weren’t separated by a gauntlet. Going to and journeying through the Umbra sounded, so very, complex. Not to mention slightly terrifying and Xander wasn’t sure he wanted to even try it. But Caden was adamant that it was, absolutely, necessary for all Garou to do so. That a Garou who didn’t regularly visit the spirit world would become depressed or have severe mood swings because Garou themselves were part spirit.

Caden was going to have him learn the Garou language and possibly Spirit Speech. The only way to truly learn the Garou language in its entirety, both the written and spoken parts was from an ancestor spirit. Garou’s written language was made up entirely of glyphs and the spoken was a mixture of words, almost words, growls, body posturing, and scent. While, spirit speech would allow him to understand any spirit, no matter the language or sounds they communicated in.

Most Garou waited until they had completed their Rite of Passage before beginning to learn gifts, but it wasn’t necessary. It was just that usually theurge Garou wouldn’t start teaching young Garou how to traverse and summon spirits till they had passed their Rite and were seen as adults in Garou society. Caden saw no reason to wait till then to begin teaching him and said that he planned to even teach him the Rite of Summoning next, though he recommended that Xander only travel the spirit world with him to start with.

The older Garou had spent the past hour telling him about all the many things spirits could teach him, if he was willing and if he made sure to pay them their due. This ritual payment, chiminage, that spirits would ask for in exchange for teaching could be anything from planting a tree, killing a demon or bane spirit- a twisted and evil spirit in service to the Wyrm, giving up processed foods, or even never setting foot in a city again. The payment asked for, all depended on what you wished to be taught and how willing the spirit was. Caden said it was best to have something for the spirit when summoning them, especially if you were planning to ask for something, and would then be required to give a smaller payment in return.

Xander had made a small bag of seeds, fresh peas, and hard corn for the pigeon spirit that Caden planned to summon to teach him spirit speech. Along with a small note of thanks that was tied with a piece of twine that Caden said would be used by the bird for his nest. Caden had asked him to write his family tree back at least four generations for when they summoned an ancestor spirit. His grandmother had spent some time the previous evening helping him with that and he now knew back to his great-great-grandfather on the father’s side.

As they headed out here, Caden had warned him that some of the more docile or meek spirits would be wary of him because of his ahroun auspice, especially at first, but if he showed proper respect and paid chiminage in due time that they would become less so. That even though they may seem weak, they often had very useful gifts they could teach; especially so, if approached the correct way. That the first few times he needed to have Caden with him to help summon, communicate, and barter with the spirits so that Xander wouldn’t be taken advantage of or promise something he couldn’t deliver.

Caden had admitted that some ahroun weren’t as proficient in traversing the many parts of the Umbra and learning from spirits as those born under the other phases of the moon and none were as proficient as theurges. This didn’t mean that they couldn’t or that there were those ahroun, who were wiser and realized the importance of the gifts that could be taught by any type of spirit. Ahroun often didn’t or weren’t willing to take the time to learn from or be patient with the meeker spirits, something that was a distinct disadvantage. It was not uncommon for them to limit themselves to interactions and gifts that were taught by aggressive or dominate animal, elemental, Lune, war, or pain spirits. All of which, were much bolder and didn’t fear an ahroun Garou when it walked in the ‘Spirit Wilds’; another name for the Middle Umbra and the home of most spirits, which was where Garou most often walked when they visited an Umbra.

“Now, this will be mostly instinctual. Stand and close your eyes almost completely and look towards the surface of the lake and then step towards it when you see a glimpse of the spirit world. As you become more use to it, you won’t need to do this and it will be as simple as stepping sideways.” Caden patiently instructs him.

Xander takes a deep breath before standing up and slitting his eyelids, then glancing towards the water and the reflection that he saw was…different. It was a flicker he had caught at the edge of his vision a few times since his first change. Though the image seemed to fade in and out. It took him literally stepping sideways a few time before he felt himself breaking through the metaphysical membrane. It almost felt like breaking through a thick gel, it gave him a slight resistance but when he opened his eyes completely, he knew he was no longer on the physical plane.

Everything around him looks wilder and has a strange hue to it and a massive moon was barely peeking through the top of the trees, giving off a hint of silvery blue light. The trees look older, taller, and fuller; the water looks darker and deeper; and the grass at his feet is much thicker, enveloping his feet completely. Not to mention he gets glimpses of things darting through the woods and the glint of eyes.

Then he notices he is naked, “what?! Where are my clothes?” That’s when he notices Caden beside him and takes a step back. “You have clothes and wings!” Caden was still wearing the pair of leather pants that he had been dressing in and had his backpack slung over a shoulder, though his shirt was missing. Then behind the older Garou were great silver and ivory wings that glinted in the low moonlight and seemed to almost shine with their own light.

“Look behind you.” Xander glances over his shoulder at Caden’s instructions before jerking sideways and batting at the large things attacked to his back. He’s kind of moving in a jerky circle trying to get away from the massive things before stopping when he hears loud laughter and sees Caden bent over, he is laughing so hard.

“What are those things? And why am I naked?!” Xander’s voice is a little shrill before Caden reaches a hand out and lays it on his shoulder.

“Calm down, cub. Your clothes cannot come through, unless you bind the article to yourself. It is a Rite that I will show you. The wings show the age of your soul and give representation of our tribe’s totem spirit, the Falcon. I’ve told you that a Garou’s soul is reborn, eventually, and this is a spiritual representation of that and the good your soul has done in its many cycles. Garou who have souls that have done many bad things, can have spiritual representation that show that. I already suspected your soul was very old.”

Xander takes a breath before looking closer at the…wings on his back. They reach high above his head and have long feathers in black and silver. They are very pleasing looking but it’s disconcerting that they are his. “Why are they different colors?”

“My wings show that my soul has gone through many cycles as a Silver Fang. Yours, I believe, show that it is a soul that has been part of the Silver Fang and Black Fury tribes many times. Each tribe has different spiritual representations and those two colors and wings are symbols of those tribes.”

“But I thought all Black Furies are female?” The question is random but Xander is still mostly distracted by the massive wings on his back and how they flutter and flex with nothing more than a thought.

“Most are, unless they are Metis, but your soul wouldn’t be the same gender during each cycle. You could have easily been a female the last cycle.”

“Do all Garou have them here? Cause if all of our souls are reborn, it would make them all old.”

Caden shook his head. “No, some souls have not gone through as many cycles or haven’t done deeds that have as large an impact, good or bad.”

Xander squints at that, “what does it mean though?”

“Like I said-.” Xander cuts Caden off with a shake of his head.

“No, I get it. Old soul, lots of good deeds. But what does this mean? Will others get to see it or know somehow and expect more such things from me. You said they would already expect a lot because of my family.” Xander thought the pressure might just squash him. He never went out of his way to do well because then people would expect more and better from him, the next time, and if he failed they would be disappointed; not to mention his overachieving as a child hadn’t garnered the positive attention he thought it would from parents, who had paid him less and less attention over the years.

“Those you travel in the Umbra with will be able to see them but they are something to be proud of, not to hide away like a shameful secret.” Caden looks at Xander’s wings and almost reaches out to touch them before pulling his hand back. Every feather was either the darkest black or a molten silver and each had an ivory edge. They were breath takingly beautiful and powerful looking. “You may not believe this now because you are but a cub and even when you go through your Rite of Passage, you will still be young, but that doesn’t mean that one day…you won’t do great things. Your lineage and the spiritual proof of the age of your soul, it will give you opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise but it will be all you, that will be amazing. Youth is an age of insecurity but time will give you experience and confidence in your abilities. Do not worry about rushing it and don’t think you must be the best at everything or perfect from the beginning. Time and dedication will give you what you need.”

“Okay,” Xander nods before smiling slightly. “You like doing the Yoda mentor thing, don’t you?”

Caden just rolls his eyes before telling Xander to follow him. The older Garou confidently strides back down the trail they had used to reach the side of the lake but it was much narrower now and in some spots almost completely overgrown. Xander follows but with much less confidence and keeps worrying about his wings snagging on branches that reach across the nearly nonexistent path but they tuck close to his back and don’t once snag.

Xander can see shadows darting around in the woods and flashes of eyes but doesn’t hear a single sound. It causes the hair on the back of his neck to stand up but he continues to dutifully follow Caden, who seems to know exactly where he is heading. When they make it back to the main road or where it should have been, there is nothing but a graveled trail. Caden had told him things in the physical world took longer to appear in the Penumbra and Xander wondered if this was what he meant by it.

Caden planned to let them walk through the spirit world for a short time before summoning a pigeon spirit of communication. It was to help teach him how to traverse the spirit world safely and what to look for and what to avoid. How to tell the difference between some of the many spirits that could be encountered. Then how to move from the Penumbra to the middle Umbra and back easily. Xander just hoped he could manage it all and not disappoint Caden.
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Xander laid in bed before dinner, wanting to escape for a short time and gather his thoughts.

His day had been full, with his first walk in the spirit realm at dawn and learning both the complete Garou language from an ancestor spirit and spirit speech from a pigeon spirit. He learned that pigeons were often communication spirits and were very talkative. Xander had laid down the small cloth bag of food and note of thanks that Caden had instructed him to make and had brought through in his bag, when they started the Rite of Summoning. The pigeon spirit had seemed pleased and had only asked that he spread the same treat once a week for a month in the woods as payment for teaching him spirit speech. The small bird had taken the tiny cloth sack in his claws and the note in his beak and had flown away when he had finished imparting his knowledge on Xander. Caden said the bird could use the cloth, paper, and twine to add to his nest, so it was even more useful. The Garou said that this type of thoughtfulness when giving gifts would help him build a better relationship with the spirits he communicated with and would look good on him and his tribe.

After coming back from the spirit realm, Caden had started teaching him how to properly address and act around the Elders and King. Mostly, it just involved being respectful, submitting properly, and not making challenging eye contact; which, apparently, was different from making regular eye contact. Because, after dinner would be his meeting with the King and the Elder’s Council.

He felt slightly nauseous at the thought of meeting with them but Caden had assured him they would only be setting up his training with other cubs and deciding if he would be allowed to go through his Rite of Passage this summer. Caden had admitted that the Council would likely want a full recounting of his time on the Hellmouth, especially after he became aware of the supernatural.

Xander had seen more combat than any other cub, who were often kept away from anything dangerous till they went through their Rite of Passage. Once that had been successfully completed, then they were adults in the eyes of Garou society and allowed to do as they wished or join hunting parties. But between their first change and going through the Rite, they trained in controlled settings and were rarely allowed near vampires, demons, or bane spirits. Where Xander had been killing vampires and various demons for a year and a half before his first change.

Since he didn’t have any dress clothes for tonight, his grandmother had borrowed a pair of dark grey slacks, green dress shirt, and dress shoes from Gregory because they were the closest in size. She had also told him that they would be going shopping sometime for some new clothes and Xander couldn’t help but be embarrassed that his clothes were all bought at thrift stores. It was obvious that his family was well-off and the Silver Fangs were one of the wealthier tribes; just another way he didn’t fit.
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Xander wiped his sweating palms off on his slacks, as the door to the King’s home was opened. They were greeted by an older Garou, who seemed familiar with Caden. Though with such a small community it likely wasn’t difficult knowing everyone.

“So, this is the Volkov pup? Looks like he might have potential.” The older Garou looked him over and seemed to be looking through him. Xander tried not to fidget, as he nodded and made sure to tilt his head just slightly to show respectful deference.

“Xander, I want you to meet my mentor, Elder Theurge Patrick Romano. Elder, meet Alexander Volkov.” The Elder was slightly shorter than Xander and slimmer, his hair was long and white with little bits and bobs tied into it, and his blue-grey eyes seemed to shimmer with power.

“Greetings, cub. Finding you, must be a relief to your family. They have long searched for you.”

“Elder,” Xander shook the hand that was held out but wasn’t sure what else to say. He was distracted by an odd chill that passed over his skin and couldn’t help the shiver.

“A sensitive one, good. Ahroun cubs rarely are, much too caught up in their rage. Come along, shouldn’t keep Albrecht waiting.” Xander wonders what the Elder did but isn’t brave enough to ask and firmly keeps his mouth shut.

They followed the Elder down a wide hallway off the foyer till they reached a set of double doors that had a wolf carved into them. The Elder knocked before opening the doors to reveal a large room with a long table that was filled with older Garou, all part of the Elder Council of House Wyrmfoe, and at the head of the table stood the King.

Xander could feel the power in the room rolling off these Garou Elders and even among them King Albrecht stood out. The King was a head taller than Xander and had the broadest pair of shoulders that he had ever seen and there was no mistaking him for any less than a king. He had an eye-patch, multiple scars on his face that didn’t distract from the man’s good looks, long white-blond hair, his remaining eye was ice blue, and he had a large jeweled earring in one ear.

The Elder that had let them in, introduced them and Xander couldn’t help fidgeting slightly under their assessing stares.

King Albrecht strode forward and held out his hand, “welcome to House Wyrmfoe. It is good to have found a lost cub and even better the lost child of the Volkov family. It seems you’ve already gained a mentor in Caden and have started to settle in with your family.”

“Yes, sir…my uh- King,” Xander nodded and had no problem baring his neck to this man, who’s power was a quiet but undeniable presence. His heart was beating hard in his chest and his palms were sweating even worse.

The man laughs slightly before shaking his head and laying a hand on Xander’s neck, “calm, cub. You don’t need to be nervous but I imagine meeting us all at once can be…disconcerting. Most of the Council is here because they are eager to hear about you living in such a corrupted place. Caden mentioned you called it a Hellmouth?”

“Yes, sir. That was what Giles, a Watcher, has always called it.”

“Indeed, Caden said you were acquainted with a Watcher but even more interesting is that you weren’t affected more by such a place and I imagine the Council will want as much information as you can provide. Sit and we can start.” The man motioned to a pair of chairs about mid-way down the long table before heading back to the head of the table and taking his own seat.

The next few hours were filled with Xander explaining everything in the best details he could remember since he first found out the supernatural; from the day he had met Buffy, to the lie he had told her to get her to kill Angel and close Acathla, only a couple weeks before. At first, he tried to give only the bare bones, so his mouth wouldn’t run away, but the Elder’s questions drew even more out of him.

Xander couldn’t explain how good it felt to get it all off his chest and, also, to admit to lying to a friend. He had felt guilt in lying to Buffy but at the same time, he knew what he was doing was the right thing and the Elders seemed to agree with him. It felt good to have adults tell him that he had done right and even if Xander thought Giles might agree with him, he hadn’t told the man because Giles allegiance was with Buffy.

The Council Elders listened raptly and asked dozens of questions during his re-telling of the past year and a half. All of them were shocked and disgusted that a Slayer was with a vampire, even one with a soul; something that went against both of their natures. Garou seemed to have a deep-seated disgust of most vampires and only vaguely tolerated those who had gained some level of humanity as they aged. They all thought it a major transgression against nature to curse a soul into a vampire, as the gypsy clan had done to Angel.

They had plenty of questions and theories about his two possessions but seemed to believe that each had left behind a gift for forcibly taking him over and Xander couldn’t deny that the memories from the soldier were useful but had only noticed a slightly enhanced sense of smell from the hyena primal. Now, all of his senses were sharper but that was due to his first change and they were still dull compared to his other forms, according to Caden.

As the stories wound down and the Elders ran out of questions, the King praised Xander for all he had already done in their fight against the corrupt Wyrm and Weaver.

Xander shook his head, it wasn’t his place to take credit. “It was mostly Buffy, I didn’t-”

King Albrecht interrupted him. “It does one no good to put themselves down and act as though their contributions weren’t useful or needed. Your Slayer would be dead without you and that is only one instance of your brave actions. Being too humble is just as detrimental as being a braggart. Do not put yourself down and do not let others make you feel less. Before you only had human strength and should not have compared yourself against a Slayer. Now you are an even more powerful warrior and you will make House Wyrmfoe proud.”

“Yes, sir. Of course.” Xander could only nod and agree with the King. He knew he shouldn’t compare himself against Buffy but it was hard to feel like his contributions were worth much against what she did. Though it was the truth that Buffy would have been dead without him, not that she had ever once thanked him for that.

“Now, I feel you will be more than able to complete your Rite of Passage this summer. A few other cubs will be doing so at the beginning of August and you will join them. Caden will help you create a training schedule and introduce you to the other cubs. That will be all for the evening, you are dismissed.”

Xander and Caden rise from their seats and nod at the King and Elders before taking their leave.

As they begin the walk back to town and Diana’s, Caden interrupts the silence. “You did well and I will have a schedule for you tomorrow. I had already been working on it because I believed they would have you go through the Rite this summer. The other cubs will have the advantage of having years of martial arts training but you have the advantage of already facing demons. You’ll learn quickly and you survived as a human, you will have no trouble surviving as a Garou.”

“Thanks, I guess.” Xander just hopes he doesn’t make a fool of himself and tries to swallow down his insecurities.

“There is a kailindorani from the Stargazer Tribe that was passing through and decided to stay here for a few months to teach kailindo, which is a type of shape shifting martial arts developed by that tribe, to those who were willing. I want you to join in with me because I attended a few session before I went in search of you and it is a very useful practice. Along with that, you will be joining the other three cubs in training. They haven’t released the detail of what the Rite will be but I imagine they will tell you closer to the beginning of August.”

“Okay,” Xander agrees because there isn’t much else he can do.

“Good and maybe you shouldn’t tell your grandmother about all your…adventures because she may never allow you to leave the house again.”

Xander laughs a little at that but it feels nice to know that someone is worried about him. “Alright, I’ll try not to but you know she could just order me to tell her in that way she does that makes it seem like she is just asking.”

Caden makes a noise of agreement, “that’s a skill I would definitely like to learn.”

The rest of their walk in done mostly in silence and Xander lets his mind wander to what the rest of the summer will bring.
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Chapter Text

Volterra, Italy 2010:

When he hears Aro’s unneeded gasp and exclamation that the human girl, Bella, is unharmed by Jane’s gift, he finally becomes slightly more intrigued by what is going on. He had been staring at the honey blond male that stood with the presence of a soldier and the gorgeous male had claimed most of his attention away from Aro’s irritating need for drama. Though living for as long as they did, he could understand the need for something to make the days less dull; he just wished Aro was less annoying. 

He steps forward and pushes back his black hood, gaining the attention of most of the rooms occupants. He stands out from the other Volturi guard, who all wear black and greys, because his black acromantula silk cloak almost sucks in the light around it and the inner lining is a bold emerald green that makes the black stand out even more. His eyes a green that stand out among the room of blood red and golden.

The blond male, Jasper, twitches slightly and he can’t help but smirk; before he had been completely hidden from the newcomers and the alert vampire hadn’t noticed him. Now those dark golden eyes are locked on him and he can’t resist giving the other vampire a small smirk and an obviously appreciative look.

“I would like to see if she can resist me as well, Aro,” he requests, as he takes another silent step forward.

The ancient vampire claps in overdone excitement. “Ah! Of course, Haden. Indeed, maybe you will be able to where we weren’t. You are the only other to be able to resist our gifts as well.” Aro looks on with avid interest as Haden walks over to the human girl and the other Cullen vampires are focused intently on him. He wonders what the mind reader can get from the Volturi guard about him and imagines it is disturbing, as the fear on his face is easy to read. Vampires rarely give away their feelings through expression but this one does nothing to hide his fear.

Haden wonders what is so captivating about this particular human, that a vampire would give his life over her death. At first, he had wondered if they were mates but that wouldn’t make sense as Aro had mentioned that her blood tempted the vampire, Edward. She isn’t eye-catching in any way that he can see, even if he does prefer males he can see beauty in females but this girl is plain. Her scent doesn’t stand out in any noticeable way, at least to him. But he supposes love or infatuation doesn’t have only to do with looks but something must have gained the mind-reader’s attention. Maybe it was the fact she could resist his gift, that would likely have been novel enough for a vampire use to being able to always know everyone’s thoughts.

Edward tries to step in between Haden and the girl but he just waves a hand and pushes the vampire out of his way with a bit of magic. “Do not worry, I don’t plan to grievously harm the girl.” He doubted his words were very reassuring but he couldn’t promise no pain, as invading someone’s mind could be uncomfortable.

Then with a gentle hand, he grips her chin and draws her eyes to his. Her fear already filled the air around them and it only increased when she met his eyes and her heart beat harder, causing her blood to be that bit more appetizing. “This will not feel pleasant,” he warns, before he casts himself into her mind.

Haden isn’t surprised that there is a barrier but is surprised at the form it has taken. It seemed like a thin, hazy bit of membrane that allowed you to just glimpse that there was something on the other side but not what and it stretched at his mental touch. He took care to ensure that he did the barrier minimal harm and planned to fix any damage he made.

It was long minutes before he pulled out of her mind and he made sure to repair any lingering damage to her mind barriers, though they seemed to be repairing themselves. His skill in the Mind Arts had come far since his fifth year at Hogwarts and had become even more advanced when he had been bitten. He was now able to read a person’s mind much like a book, unlike what Snape had said.

“Hmm...interesting,” though honestly it wasn’t but he didn’t mind occasionally pandering to Aro’s love of theatrics. He took a couple steps back from the girl and could see the flash of fear and anger that raced through her eyes. She wasn’t pleased that he could read her mind and he didn’t bother to hide his smirk.

“And were you able to read her mind, dear Haden?” Aro asked from right behind him, the vampire’s hand not quite touching him. The ancient vampire knew better than to touch him without permission and even if he did, he wouldn’t be allowed past Haden’s mind barriers.

“Of course, and I know why she was able to resist you and Jane. But before I answer...” Haden moved in front of Edward and froze the vampire in place before quickly diving into his mind. This didn’t take as much time, even if the vampire had more memoires, because Edward had no mind shields.

When he was done with his perusal, he stepped back beside Aro and slipped his hand into the ancient vampire’s and allowed the curious vampire a glimpse of what he had seen. He noticed Demetri holding the seer, Alice, and Felix had his arms wrapped around the blond vampire, Jasper, keeping them in place. The barely there stunned look on Demetri’s face caught his attention for a second before he turned back to Edward.

“The girl yearns for immortality and beauty, she has no wish to grow old. Much like any teenager, she wishes to be something other than plain and boring.” Haden ignored the protest from the human girl.

“She does not love him?” Aro asked with a faked curiosity, even if he had seen what Haden had, the ancient much preferred dramatics.

“Perhaps. At least, that is what she believes but I would more likely call it obsession and his is no different. Admittedly, vampires are much more prone to obsession and possessiveness, than a human. She came to love him after finding out what he was. She thought it much like one of her fanciful novels, to have caught the attention of such a being and wishes to live some charmed immortal life with him. She cares little for the things she would lose in becoming a vampire, such as her mother and father. Then, we have Edward. He is completely obsessed with her blood, he wishes to keep her and thus it. Not to mention, he sees this as some test of his humanity; being able to resist his singer. I wonder who forgot to tell him not to play with his food. It is rather strange to be so infatuated with your singer, in this way. I had assumed she was your mate, to so willingly cast aside your life.” It was so strange, even to Haden. Magical vampires dealt with singers in a very different way, that wasn’t available to non-magical vampires.

“She is!” “I am!”

Haden shakes his head at the idiotic pair. “As your singer, she cannot be your fated mate. Her blood would not call to you as it does if she was your mate. You would not need to fight with yourself to not kill her and you would have likely already turned her. You can love her, of course, though what I have seen between you two is far from healthy and not something I would encourage. You literally stalked a 16-year-old girl and watched her sleep, that screams boundary issues and pedophilia; the fact that she didn’t protest, makes her stupid and naïve. Her father is a cop and I would have thought he would have taught her better but she somehow believes your behavior to be romantic. That she allows you to treat her as you do, says nothing good and is borderline abusive. Maybe it has to do with him being turned at 16, a time when lust and love are so easily mistaken and they are known to rebel at that age and ignore advice.” Haden informs the watching vampires before pondering the last aloud.  

“And how she is able to resist our gifts?” The interest is clear in the Aro’s voice.

Haden held back a sigh, this would only cause Aro to be more interested in the human girl. “She has but a touch of magic in her blood, from a line of squibs I believe, and is a natural Occlumens. I could bypass it because of my training in Legilimency. I would imagine if she were turned that it could be a formidable defensive gift,” Haden added the last because Aro would be interested in such information.

“So very interesting. Did you learn anything else from them?” Aro looked quite delighted and his smile bordered on creepy. The ancient vampire was always on the lookout for gifted vampires and even though Bella had a defensive gift, that didn’t mean Aro would not like to collect her.

“A few things but I am most curious about Edward’s belief that vampires are soulless monsters, especially as he was sired by one of the more compassionate being I’ve heard of. I have seen someone who was soulless and they were nothing but a shell. Watching their soul sucked from their bodies, gives me chills even now.” Haden locked his eyes with Edward’s, “I can assure you that all vampires have souls and their ability to be so detached when they kill humans is nothing but a defense mechanism, so they can feed. You would not condemn humans from killing cows to eat but you would condemn vampires from doing the same?”

“We’re killers,” Edward proclaimed, as if that was the only argument that he needed.

“Of course, vampires are predators but so are humans. Vampires kill to eat, just like humans. Though your coven shows that there are other paths but you shouldn’t condemn other vampires because of what they eat or act like it makes you soulless. Think of all the atrocities that humans have committed, yet they have souls,” Haden stated. He knew that vampires had souls, whether they be monsters was another matter. Some were and some weren’t; the same as magicals, muggles, werewolves, and any manner of other beings. It was easy to see that Edward didn’t want to believe him, so sure in his belief about vampires and himself.

Aro asked aloud what they would do with Bella. Caius and Marcus believed she should be killed, which Edward vocally protested. Aro was obviously reluctant as well but that was only because he wished for Bella to be turned and join the Volturi guard and hopefully bring along Edward, as well. Though the suggestion to turn her was equally protested by Edward. Couldn’t seem to satisfy this one.

Bella stayed silent and kept glancing at Haden. The girl had been very glad when she had found out that she was immune to Edward’s gift and then Aro’s; she had been far from pleased that Haden could do what they couldn’t. Haden wondered if Edward would have been so draw to her if he had been able to read her mind from the start. It was no different from any other self-involved teenager.

“Why are you so against turning her? She will not lose her soul and it is something she wants. You do not have to worry about her parents, as she has little regard for either in this matter. Something I find distasteful. Nor does it bother her that she would be unable to have children as a vampire, as she would prefer not to have them since she feels she spent most of her childhood taking care of her own mother. Is it that you will lose the scent of her blood, something you’ve become so possessive of? Once she is turned, she will no longer be your singer but maybe her ability to shield her mind will be enough to keep your attention once the lust for her blood wanes. You may not be mates but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t continue your unhealthy obsession with each other. You could be together truly…marry even,” Haden offers slyly. He can hardly hold his smirk at the doubt he is placing in both of their minds. The pair seems hardly suited and would be unlikely to make it a decade, though their stubbornness may keep them miserably together. It will be interesting to watch. Haden didn’t particularly like the girl, as she was so willing to walk away from her family just to live forever.

Edward still refused to turn her, which didn’t make Bella happy. Haden wondered why Edward felt it was his decision if Bella was turned. He figured the century old vampire needed a ‘my body, my choice’ speech and a good smack on the head.

“There are other options,” Haden quietly offers, stilling the rising argument between Edward and Aro. “If you are so unwilling to turn her, she could be turned by the Volturi if she wishes.”

“No!” The bronze hair vampire protested violently, taking a step forward and pushing Bella behind him.

“But it is not your decision. It is hers alone and I’m not sure why you think you have a say in what she does with her body because you do not. Or I could compel her to be unable to tell any that are unaware of the supernatural about vampires, this could work till it is decided if she will be turned. If it is decided she won’t be, then a more permanent solution could be found; one that doesn’t include her death. That is if the Volturi kings agree to such a thing,” Haden turns toward Aro and the other two kings, both who look like they wished this business was over.

Aro claps and his eyes shine with greed at the idea of Bella being turned. “Excellent! That could work, at least till they make a choice. Your presence gives us so many more options, Haden,” the ancient vampire compliments. “Does that work with you?” The vampire directs the question at Edward but it is obvious that the decision has been made.

The details are worked out before Haden is instructed to compel the human girl into not spilling their secret to those who aren’t in the know. He makes it even more binding by including all supernatural beings. Bella will not be able to talk about vampires or any other non-human beings to those who are unaware of them.

Once the meeting starts to come to a close, Haden requests that he and Demetri be allowed to go with the Cullens to keep an eye on them and make sure a decision will be made soon about Bella. This is easily agreed upon and Haden makes sure to not show just how eager he is to follow the vegetarian coven.

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Haden and Demetri are given a short time to pack before they leave with the Cullen coven. Aro had given them permission to use the personal jet, so they did not have to worry about missing their flight.

“Did you feel it as well, Demi?” Haden asks his companion. They had been lovers almost since Haden joined the Volturi and had become close friends over the two years that he had been there.

“Yes. I saw how you looked at the soldier,” Demetri’s eyes hold a wicked gleam.

“And the way you seemed captivated by the little seer. She is definitely cute, not my type but still very pretty. You obviously have a type,” Haden teases gently. “I wonder if they will be open to it.”

Demetri presses a kiss to his temple before answering. “We will soon find out, piccolo morte.”

“Prat,” Haden shoved Demetri at the nickname before shrinking his packed trunk that held both of their stuff and slipping it into his pocket.

The pair knew each other well and Haden wasn’t wasting an opportunity to get Demetri away from Volterra for a while. Once they had become lovers, Haden had taught Demetri how to build shields in his mind, so that he could more securely hide thoughts from Aro and that had helped weaken the false bonds that Chelsea used to keep him loyal to the Volturi kings; most of all Aro. Along with Corin’s ability to make the guards feel content. Those two ensured that the guard stayed loyal to the kings and didn’t leave, once they had been acquired.

Haden knew quite a few secrets about the kings and the most damning was that Aro had killed his sister and Marcus’s mate, Didyme. He liked the taciturn vampire and thought it entirely cruel and selfish that Aro kept the vampire around when Marcus wanted nothing more than to join his deceased mate. The pair had been together for over a thousand before she was killed and with her death, she had taken all of Marcus’ desire to live.

Though he had yet to reveal that secret, he planned to but it had to be at the right moment. He wondered what chaos it would cause and knew that it could likely be the end of the Volturi kings. Marcus wouldn’t stand for Aro being alive and would likely kill Aro’s mate, as well. Caius was an unknown, he was aloof and slightly cruel but wasn’t near as power hungry as Aro and was content to sit in Volterra and let the decades and centuries pass him by. It didn’t stop him from reminding Haden of the Malfoys and he was almost positive the man was a distance ancestor. Yet, Haden held onto the information because the Volturi was needed or at least a governing body was required to keep muggle vampires in check. It was an issue that plagued his thoughts but he knew he would find a way to either replace the Volturi or ensure Aro’s actions were stopped.

Haden had been intrigued and curious about the Volturi since he had woken in a soft bed after being bitten by a lower guard, who was now nothing but ash blown away in the wind. The young guard had seen Haden cast magic two years ago, and before he knew what was happening, Haden had been bitten. Aro had been displeased that the guard had gone against rules to not attack anyone in Volturi or that he could have brought the weight of the magical world down upon the Volturi because of his target. Yet had been pleased that a fully trained wizard had been turned and chosen to stay with the guard. Not all magicals kept their full magic when turned and Haden had to be different even from them because he hadn’t turned completely, though that was because of the three Hallows he had inadvertently come into the possession of.

Aro had come to fear Haden because of his abilities but had yet to try to have him killed because he felt that Haden was a centerpiece for the Volturi guard and yearned for his loyalty. Something Haden would never give to the power-hungry vampire and had been trying to devise a way to dispose of the ancient vampire, who had forgotten the true purpose of the Volturi; a power that was meant to keep vampires in check and out of human sight, not to create slights and use those to slaughter covens just to collect gifted vampires. Something that had happened to Demetri’s coven centuries before.

As the pair were walking out of the door to their shared suite of rooms, Demetri caught Haden’s arm in his before pulling him into a gentle kiss. “I hope they are open to a bond but if they are not, then I would not be sad if we spent our lives together.”

Haden smiled at Demetri’s words before giving him another chaste kiss. “Neither would I.” He tangled their fingers together before continuing on. He had come to love the vampire beside him and he would not mind spending their lives together, though being denied their mates would be painful. It was intriguing that their mates were also a pair, though they had been together much longer than Haden and Demetri.

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Haden and Demetri settled in comfortably on the jet and watched gleefully at how awkward Edward and Bella were together. There was an obvious tension between them as they seat themselves away from everyone else. Bella’s anger was becoming more apparent, the longer she was in Edward’s presence.

If Haden were Bella, shudder the thought, he would make Edward grovel for the way he lied and left; though Haden wouldn’t have acted like a comatose zombie for months, no matter who left him. If there was one thing that he did…it was survive.

“I saw you but not you,” Alice’s voice breaks in Haden’s thoughts and sees she is pointing at Demetri after pointing at himself. Haden quickly raises a few privacy charms to keep Edward from hearing what they are talking about and from gleaning it from his coven mate’s minds.

“Maybe you were not meant to see him, so it would be a surprise,” Haden offers, as he sees Alice’s companion Jasper glance at her before locking eyes with Haden.

“You saw him? That’s why you insisted I come along,” Jasper has a southern drawl that has lingered, which is rather attractive, and Haden can’t help but hope to hear more of it. Possibly whispered in his ear, as they do unspeakably naughty things to each other.

At least, the other vampires had felt the mate bond as well, it gave Haden hope. While a vampire could easily live without their mate, if they had never met, and could even survive being rejected, it wasn’t a painless process. Though it was another story for a broken bond that had been sealed, such as Marcus’ with his now dead mate.

“Yep,” Alice agrees as she and Demetri stare at each other with curiosity. Demetri has a hint of smile lingering on his lips that looks rather self-satisfied, the smug bastard.

It doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn to Haden and what exactly he is because he had dropped the spell that had hidden his heartbeat, which was incredibly slow but still noticeable to vampire hearing.

Chapter Text

The black-haired man grimaced as he looked at the old transport, the spacecraft had to be at least three decades old and looked like it hadn’t had a single upgrade in that time. The only reason he was getting on the Hunter-Gratzner was because Cassie had left a video message that said he needed to be and to have his own ship, The Marauder, follow the transport ship’s flight path.

 

He’d had both himself and Mooney added to the passenger list, just the day before by the hacker he employed and had booted off two other passengers. He wondered what his oldest child had seen but knew she wasn’t likely to share, she got too much enjoyment out of withholding information. Not to mention, her and Luna always said that sometimes things must be unknown till they occur.

 

Harry had to ensure that neither he or Mooney were hooked up to the cryo-chambers. He’d slip Mooney a treat that had been dipped in a long-term sleeping potion and would use meditation and a potion himself. He hated the feeling the non-magical chemicals for cryo-sleep gave him; he never went fully under and they forced him from being able to wake completely on his own, as well.

 

The crowds at the transport terminal were bustling but they all seemed to give him and his companion a wide berth. It was the perks of traveling with a hell hound in crowded places, people were always weary to get too close. It was one of the reasons he had gotten companion animal papers for both of his hell hounds, so one of them was always with him.

 

He rarely spent much time in the Conga System and was only here following reports of his quarry being here. Which had lead him to boarding the Hunter-Gratzner, an old merchant transport. Thankfully, this was the ship’s last pick-up and then it would be a 40-week trip to the Tangiers System. Though why New Oslo Shipping Corporation was using this particular flight path through the M-344/G System was unknown, as most steered clear of the hard-to-navigate system.

 

His ship could make the same trip in half the time, or less, because of its advanced FTL drives and he wouldn’t have to be stuck in a cryo-chamber the entire time in a meditative sleep. Cassie had better have had a good reason to tell him to get on this hunk of space junk.

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Riddick despised cryo-sleep because he never went completely under but it was a necessary evil to space travel. One he would give up, if there were any other option.

 

Mostly, in his half-aware state, he lingered on the fact that Johns had caught him…again. He was pissed that the merc had hurt an innocent child just to catch him and hated even more that it had worked. But maybe he needed those soft spots to keep him from being a complete monster, though that’s how everyone he encountered saw him. Ever since he had been falsely charged and sent to Deep Storage by The Company, after trying to expose what they were doing on Sigma-3.

 

Now he fed into the tales that followed him, it was easier being the boogeyman, then trying to prove his innocence to deaf ears; though he wasn’t innocent anymore. It worked to scare off some of the many mercs that wanted to chase him, the ones who didn’t have enough guts to come after the ‘merc-killer’. It was one of the many names he had been given since his first escape from prison and one he had earned.

 

Johns was proving to be a bigger thorn in the side than he had originally thought the merc would be. The first time he had been caught by the man, he had almost respected the man’s ability and the dogged pursuit after Riddick had escaped Slam City-a prison that he had managed to escape in less than a day.

 

Johns had taken him to Butcher Bay, after capturing him. It had taken a couple days to escape that time and he had flown out of there with Johns, because the Warden had refused to pay the merc. He had been surprised the man was still there and even more when he offered him a ride out of there, after they had set the Warden up to be killed by his own guards.

 

Though the pair had been unwillingly pulled onto a massive merc vessel not much later but they had managed to escape. That was something Riddick hoped to never re-live.

 

Then…Riddick had allowed a pretty face and nice body to distract him from the fact that Johns was a merc and only cared about the bounty and his perfect record. When he had been sleeping next to Johns, after a few hours of getting sweaty together, the man had drugged and chained him back up. Riddick had woken up groggy and pissed…at Johns but mostly, himself. When he had escaped, that time, he had sunk his shiv into Johns’ back and figured it a lesson learned.

 

He had been surprised to learn that he had missed and the merc had lived. Though there was still a piece of Riddick’s shiv rubbing against the man’s spine. Leading to Johns developing an addiction to morphine.

 

The next time the man had caught up to Riddick, he had been half-high on morphine, vicious, and sloppy. Riddick had blown Johns’ ship up, in retaliation for the shotgun blast to his side. Thankfully, the shot had been mostly a graze because the merc’s aim had been off but it had still hurt like hell. He had managed to evade Johns for months after that and had killed some cocky merc that had caught up to him by luck, in the mean time.

 

There had been a few close calls but he had continued to evade or escape Johns till the merc had caught up to him in the Conga System and decided to play dirty.

 

This last time, Johns had shot at a little girl and Riddick had stopped to save the girl’s life and to avoid any more civilian casualties. Johns had gotten a lot more ruthless, now that he had picked up that morphine habit and had added a few more bodies to Riddick’s kill count that he had no recollection of ever meeting. Seemed like the ‘star’ merc was in a downward spiral.

 

Now, they were on this heap of a merchant transport because of the previously blown up ship. Though it was likely using a ghost lane and the longer they were out, the more time something could go wrong and give him time to escape. Johns had been eager to get off the planet quick before the local law enforcement had gotten the true story of what had happened and not John’s version. The blue-eyed devil had given the Captain of the Hunter-Gratzner a bullshit story about being a Marshal and had gotten them both transport.

 

Riddick had seen and heard a few of the passengers as Johns was locking him into a cryo-chamber, shoving a bit into his mouth, and wrapping a blindfold around his head. He could, also, smell the distinct scent of a hoodoo holy man; they always carried the odd scent of burned herbs and he had heard snippets of Arabic. There were a pair of prospectors and a few others that didn’t really stand out but one…one made the animal inside weary and watchful. Someone dangerous and he had always been drawn to dangerous things.

 

He had caught a very distinct scent that was almost like the smell right before lightning struck coming from the man. Riddick had caught a glimpse of the man and his…pet, right before Johns had blind folded him. The man had looked right at Riddick and there had been an almost mischievous look in those brilliant green eyes, that even he could see with his limited color vision. The man had stood close to 6ft tall but had a lean build with messy black hair and sharp cheekbones. Very attractive and obviously well bred. The man’s clothes had been simple black cargo pants, grey long sleeved shirt, and boots but they were all good quality. Then there had been the military style pack he had carried and his stance that showed he had some training.

 

Then there had been the massive beast of a hell hound that had walked beside the man, it’d had silver scales till someone had bumped into the man and the odd scales had stood up and turned blood red. The genetically altered animal had shined eyes, similar to Riddick’s but it seemed to have no aversion to light like he did. Riddick had seen a few at Slam City but Butcher Bay and Deep Storage hadn’t used them; the penal system had begun using the genetically altered animals in the last decade or two as a means of ‘enforcement’ and Riddick had heard that some triple-max slams allowed the beasts to eat prisoners, as a way to control the population.

 

Riddick allowed himself to relax, as much as was possible in a cramped cryo-chamber and chained up as he was, as the other passengers succumbed to the cryo-drugs. The man whose scent stood out so much from the others, heartbeat slowed at a much slower pace and Riddick wondered if he too didn’t go completely under. He couldn’t deny that his interest was piqued but it was likely that the man would be gone, well before Johns let Riddick out of the cryo-locker.

 

That is…if he didn’t manage to free himself first and take care of the thorn in his side.

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Harry’s meditation was broken when he felt the presence of Death and it was seconds later that the ship he was on collided with something. Warning lights started to flash, as alarms blared loudly through the air. The other passengers slept on, completely unaware, except for the crew that were pulled from cryo-sleep.

 

Harry felt and heard the death of the Hunter-Gratzner’s Captain and knew there would be more very soon. Even after all these years…it was still hard to allow Death to take people when he had the power to stop it. But there were rules and designs that were much too complex for him to fully comprehend and so he stilled himself from stopping the deaths he knew were coming. Though it didn’t stop him from being completely aware of each one, as the space ship rolled and spun through the atmosphere of a planet.  

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Harry stayed in his cryo-locker till the ship finally stopped skidding across the surface of whatever planet or moon they had crash landed on. He pulled the emergency release lever and slipped out before going to look for the other survivors. Harry glanced at the locker next to his that held Mooney, making sure his companion wasn’t injured; he would come back to wake the hell hound up after checking on the other passengers.

 

He found the others around a blond woman on the ground, kneeling next to a screaming man who had a bar through his chest. When the woman realized that the med-locker had been ripped off in the crash, she ordered the rest of the passengers out. Harry had only needed a single glance into her eyes to see that she was drowning in guilt.

 

Legilimency was an incredibly useful skill and one he had picked up over his many years. It and its counter, Occlumency, had served him well over his long life.

 

He had been able to see a glance of her trying to purge the passenger cabin and being stopped by the dying man, Owens. Harry knelt next to her and held out a small bottle of pain reliever. “Here, this will ensure he feels no pain.”

 

“Where? What?” She took the offered medicine, even as she asked. She poured the liquid into the man’s mouth and forced him to swallow it.

 

“I carry some on me, in case of emergencies. It isn’t as strong as the stuff you would have had but strong enough to ensure he doesn’t feel any more pain.” Harry had a small pouch on his belt that was full of different potions, a selection of those that he used most commonly. His military style go-bag had an even greater selection. Though there was nothing he could do to save the man dying in the woman’s arms, there was too much damage. If the man had been a wizard or one of the other races that had advanced healing…then maybe, but the man wasn’t and the only thing left was to ensure the man didn’t feel pain as he died. Owens was the reason the other passengers were alive. Harry would have survived no matter what but he was still thankful to the man.

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Harry left the woman in peace to mourn the last of her crew and went to release Mooney and get his go-bag from his own cryo-locker. This planet was very near ‘dead’ and he knew that he would have to be careful in using his natural magic. Thankfully, he had crystals with him that he had previously filled with his own magic.

 

While witches and wizards, and other magical beings, all had a wellspring of magic to draw from within themselves, it was limited and most pulled much of their magic from their surroundings without even realizing it. When space exploration began centuries before, it was found that space lacked the type of energy that most magical beings could use. House elves being the main exception.

 

It was realized that Earth was composed of certain elements that lead to it being quite conducive to producing the type of energy that magical beings could manipulate naturally. During the exploration that Harry had led with friends and family, those that were still alive, they found planets that were either more or less favorable to them. The planet they settled on was even more conducive than Earth had been but this barren planet must contain little of the elements that were useful to magicals.

 

This had led to an old and no longer common practice of storing personal magic in crystals to become popular again. The size, age, and composition of a crystal determined just how much magic it could carry. All a magical being needed to do was hold it in one hand and concentrate on drawing the magic out, as they cast whatever spell they needed.

 

Harry had a box with over two dozen different sized crystals stored in his go-bag and knew he would need them, even though he had a much larger than normal wellspring of magic within himself. He had never felt such a ‘dead’ planet before and wondered what it was composed of.

 

He busied himself with pulling the exterior lever on the cryo-locker that Mooney was in and used an injector of potion to counter the modified sleeping potion he had given his hell hound. Harry ignored the intent focus of the chained man, even with the blind fold he knew the man’s eyes were on him, knowing full well who the man was and not having time to give into his intrigue...yet. 

 

Mooney slipped to the floor with an annoyed hiss, once Harry unbuckled him, and his scales started turning bright red. He knew the hell hound always woke up from the sleeping potion in an ill mood. Harry nudged him with his boot and hiss a “behave”, before setting down a bowl of water and tossing a few strips of jerky beside it. The hellhound grumbled but wasted little time drinking the water and devouring his food.

 

Harry walked over to the convict, Richard B. Riddick, and silently observed him, while Mooney was eating.  “I’m going to take that bit out of your mouth and take off your blindfold.” Then preceded to do just that and saw the narrowed silver eyes, much like Mooney’s. Though this man didn’t have the spell that allowed Mooney to be unaffected by light. Harry hadn’t missed the fact the man had reacted to his magic.

 

“How’d you do that? Johns has the keys.” The large man asked and Harry could feel the power that was barely restrained in the man and wasn’t surprised in the least that Riddick was a Furyan. The entire race had something similar to a magical core but it had developed much differently from witches and wizards, instead turning inward and making them physically stronger with enhanced senses and advanced healing. Harry hadn’t met a Furyan that had this much power before and wondered if it had to do with the fact that Riddick was likely one of the last alphas of his entire people. Their race had been almost completely wiped-out a little over twenty-five years before.

 

“I didn’t need keys, Mr. Riddick. I was a little disappointed that you allowed yourself to be re-caught so easily.” Harry noticed the slight tensing of muscles. “Ah, yes. I am aware of who you are but I am much more interested in your captor, William J. Johns. The little girl he shot lived, just so you are aware, and the mother sends her thanks. Here.”  Harry held out a water bottle to the suspicious man and noted the barest flash of relief across silver eyes.

 

“Drugged?”

 

“No.” Harry took a sip from the bottle, then continued to offer it till the man gave in and took a few large gulps. He had pulled the extra bottle of water from a side pocket of his go-bag. “Interested in any food?” Harry held out some dehydrated fruit that he carried with him.

 

“Why are you doing this if you know who I am?”

 

“Even prisoners deserve to be treated humanely and I doubt that mercenary Johns will do so. It’s good, I promise. Tart with a hint of sweet.” The fruit had been found by one of his corporation’s research teams and was highly nutritious. Riddick took a piece before making a sound of pleasure and quickly took the next piece from Harry’s fingers. The hint of tongue across the pad of a finger sent a small jolt of pleasure through the wizard, reminding him that it had been too long since he had had a lover. It didn’t hurt that large and rough men were just his type; plus, something about Riddick called to him.  

 

“Could get used to someone feeding me, ‘specially, someone as pretty as you.” Riddick’s eyes roved over Harry’s body and it was obvious the man approved of what he saw.

 

“Is that, right? Well, you are quiet the gorgeous specimen yourself. I was just thinking you were my type.” Harry smirked at the bound man. “I wouldn’t mind having you tied to my bed, ready to use for my pleasure. Though I would only have you willingly.” He knew his comment threw the large man off and couldn’t help the smirk that flited across his face.

 

“Well, I hate to flirt and run but I need to check on the other passengers. Make sure the children have some water. Unfortunately, I will be putting these back in place, so Johns won’t ask too many questions. Though I imagine you’ll be out of them soon enough, a Furyan like yourself is unlikely to enjoy being chained.” With a wave of Harry’s hand the blindfold and bit slid back into place.

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Harry found the rest of the passengers on the roof of the ship, looking at the trail of destruction that had been left in the Hunter-Gratzner’s wake. The other passengers had decided there was no point in looking for survivors but Harry would do so anyway because someone could be alive out there or slowing dying.

 

The wizard took a few moments to look out over the barren stretch of sand and the only visible landmark was sand spires in the distance. The planet looked as dead as it felt. Harry could only see two suns but knew there were three in this system but wasn’t sure if it would be visible on whatever planet they landed on.

 

He gained the others’ attention before offering the three bottles of water that he had. He’d had the one from his bag and duplicated it, twice, along with the ever-refilling charm. At least, such simple magic didn’t drain his personal stores any notable amount. He hoped the charms held because this planet was incredibly dry and likely had very little moisture in the air for the charm to use.

 

When the holy man went to refuse, Harry showed him the mouthpiece tucked under the strap of his go-bag that lead to the hydration pack tucked in the bag. The small water pack tucked in the back of his bag also had ever-refilling and chilling charms.

 

“All the children can drink first but everyone should have some.” There was a small confundus charm on the bottles that would stop the people from getting curious that the water didn’t run out. No point in having them ask questions sooner than later and if he was lucky they would be picked-up before he needed to reveal himself.

 

Harry also offered a bag full of dehydrated fruit. “Here, it’s Uber fruit. You should all eat a piece or two, it will help you keep your strength in this heat.”

 

“Oh, I’ve heard of that. It isn’t commonly available.” The now-Captain, Carolyn Fry, exclaimed before reaching for a piece.

 

“Well, perks of being part-owner of Potter Corp.” Harry offered. It was his company that had found and was in the process of trying to cultivate the rare highly nutritious fruit outside of the single planet they had found it on. It was packed with all sorts of nutrients and a single fruit was enough to act as a meal replacement. It dehydrated well and Harry always kept a large bag of the stuff when he traveled. Not to mention it satisfied his sweet tooth without depleting his small stash of chocolate.

 

“Really, what are you doing on a heap like this then?” A dark-haired woman, Shazza he believed her name was, asked in surprise. Her and her husband were obvious prospectors.

 

“Came ahead of my personal ship, they should be following behind. So hopefully they will notice my tracker has gone off course and will be here within the next few days.”

 

Everyone perked up at that news because Fry had been unsure if the mayday had gone out before the communications array had been destroyed. He assured everyone that it was unlikely to take more than four or five days for his ship to find them, at most, depending on how far off course they went. There were enough supplies, even if they were meager, to last them that long.

 

While everyone was distracted by the food and water, Harry cast simple diagnostic charms on each person. He wanted to be sure there were no hidden injuries and they all came back showing nothing more than bumps and bruises. Though Johns showed a previous injury that Harry’s intelligence reports told him came from Riddick, a piece of knife that couldn’t be removed and left rubbing against the man’s spine.

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Harry followed Fry and Johns back into the ship because he needed to see what Mooney was up to before he went to look for any survivors. The hell hound was laying at Riddick’s feet…napping. Of course, the lazy critter. Though he had likely found a friend in the other hunter and the chained man was rubbing Mooney with his boot.

 

“Don’t get into too much trouble.” Mooney’s ears perked up slightly at his voice but the hell hound didn’t acknowledge him otherwise. Harry wondered if he was still upset that Padfoot hadn’t been brought along because the two were rarely apart.

 

“You talking to me…or him?” Harry obviously hadn’t put the gag back on well enough, if Riddick had already managed to get out of it. Not that he really cared one way or the other.

 

“Both of you.”

 

The chained man just gave a quick smirk, “I can’t promise that.”

 

Harry huffed at the man, while deciding to leave the sleeping hell hound behind while he looked for more survivors. The wizard was sure that a modified point-me spell would work to find anyone else alive.

 

On his way, out of the ship, Harry overheard Johns talking about keeping Riddick locked up and gave his own smirk. It was highly unlikely that Riddick would allow himself to stay chained for long. The merc was just fear-mongering, though of all the survivors Johns was the most at risk from Riddick and the most likely to throw someone in between himself and the convict.

 

He wanted to knock the man off his high horse but Harry wanted a larger audience than just the woman willing to sacrifice her passengers. Harry would have to instill doubt in the other survivor’s minds when it came to Johns, who all believed him to be a cop, and keep an eye on Fry because who knows what else she would do to ensure her survival.

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When Harry made it to a half-open cryo-locker that he had been lead to by his wand, he found a man with burns but still alive. He quickly cast a diagnostic spell that showed there were no hidden injuries and then forced healing and pain reliving potions down the half-conscious man’s throat. Then, spread burn salve over most of the worst burns.

 

It took a couple minutes before the man became fully responsive and Harry calmed the man as best he could before he offered water. He ordered the man to stay there and rest while he continued to look for other survivors.

 

The man had been the second he had found alive but the first that would survive. The first he had found, Harry had quickly put out of their misery. The woman’s leg had been ripped off and she had glass from the cryo-locker embedded in her face and eyes. Harry had been amazed she had still been clinging to life, even if non-responsive, but a diagnostic spell had told him there was nothing he could do. Likely she would have died immediately from the shock of trying to cauterize her leg and no amount of blood replenishing potion could have saved her after she had lost so much, especially since she was non-magical. Potions were much less effective on non-magicals and some didn’t work at all.

 

Harry cast the point-me spell again but found no more survivors. But at least he had found one, a man who could have been left out here because the others didn’t believe anyone could have survived in the carnage that had been left in the ship’s wake.

 

The short bursts of apparition he had done to shorten the amount of time spent looking, had drained him more than he had expected. He would likely need an energy potion, sooner rather than later, to help replenish what he had used. This place seemed to almost suck the magic from him.

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When Harry and the man he had found, Coran, made it back to the ship, they found the remaining people arming themselves. Riddick must have made his escape.

 

“What’s going on?” When people turned to answer him, not that he needed it, they all exclaimed over the man he found. Most unbelieving someone had survived the wreckage. Coran was walking on his own power and while he looked rough, most of his injuries had been healed.

 

Johns walked up to them. “You’re lucky Riddick didn’t get you while you were out there.”

 

“I doubt I have anything to worry about from Riddick, you on the other hand, he probably has a personal grudge against. You should stop your fear-mongering because as long as these people stay out of his way, Riddick isn’t going to bother them. You are much more of a threat to them.” Harry enjoyed the man’s flinch when he mentioned the man was likely Riddick’s primary target.

 

“Is that right? And you think you know anything about Riddick?” Johns tried to bluster but Harry could see that the man was thrown.

 

Harry tilted his head slightly and with a barely there smirk, he answered the man. “Yes, mercenary Johns, I do know quite a bit about Riddick and you.”

 

“You aren’t taking my-.” The man cut himself off, when he realized they had a captive audience.

 

“Your bounty, you mean. Don’t worry, Riddick isn’t my quarry.” No, Johns was who he was after. Not that he didn’t have a long list of questions for Riddick. Someone didn’t get sent to Deep Storage for what was listed in Riddick’s file and The Company had a long list of unproven shady dealings. They had as much power as the Central Government did, if not more, and enough money to do almost anything they wished too.

 

“Just who the hell are you?” The blond man demanded, taking a step towards Harry.  

 

“I suppose I should introduce myself. Harry Potter. Class-A Bounty Hunter with a Central Government Sanction. And you are, William J. Johns, Level 2 Mercenary for Lupus Guild. I would think you know that it is illegal to impersonate any government sanctioned law enforcement and you are in enough trouble for shooting that little girl back on Conga Prime. Not that you care but she survived, thanks to Riddick, and her mother sends her wishes that you rot in hell after Riddick slits your throat.” Harry could hardly hold in a smug smirk, as Johns’ eyes widen and he took a step back.

 

The others were all completely silent for a few moments before erupting into chaos, all asking questions from Johns and Harry. Johns was glaring at Harry with hate filled eyes before storming out of the ship.

 

At least now, the other survivors wouldn’t follow the man blindly, fooled by that shiny but fake badge pinned to the merc’s vest. Maybe during a crisis wasn’t the best time to spread doubt but Harry wouldn’t let these people be fooled by the man and put their faith in him, when it was likely he would use them to shield himself from Riddick or to recapture him.

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Harry had noticed Mooney missing as soon as he had arrived back at the ship but no one else questioned the hell hound’s disappearance till Shazza was handing out breathers to people. Harry passed on one because it was unnecessary for him and the others needed it much more than he.

 

It was the teenager Jack that asked him about his companion. “Don’t worry, he’s probably off looking around.” Harry figured the hell hound was following Riddick around, having found a fellow hunter. Though it was a little surprising that Mooney wasn’t hanging around the children but his companion had learned that most were weary of him, due to his appearance and size. The hell hound rarely wasted an opportunity to cuddle or play with them.

 

“It isn’t going to attack us…right?” Jack look worried and Harry was reminded just how young some of the survivors were. There were four among the group, with Jack and Ali, one of the Imam’s acolytes, being the youngest. Harry was sure that both were either just on the cusp of their teenage years or just shy. Imam’s other two acolytes were older and much closer to adulthood. Though the children were all handling the situation as well as possible.

 

“No, not unless someone attacks me. He’s pretty friendly and he adores children, so you have nothing to worry about.” Harry reassured the kid before finding a shaded spot to go through the supplies he had available in his go-bag. He hadn’t checked it in a few months and should have done a check and re-supply before this long trip but hadn’t been expecting to board the Hunter-Gratzner.

 

The black military style bag had a large main section with three smaller zippered sections on the front and four zippered pockets on the side. Each compartment was lined with moleskin and had a simple undetectable extension charm, giving him plenty of room to fit a variety of necessary items. There were a multitude of other charms added to the bag, from anti-thief to a re-call charm that would allow him to call the bag to him from anywhere.

 

Harry already had his stun gun strapped to his leg and the Elder Wand tucked into one of two arm wand holsters but he wouldn’t be using it unless absolutely necessary because it always used more power when casting. There was a box of four extra batteries for the stun gun but only two were charged; one was added to a pocket of his cargo pants. He used it when he didn’t want to expose his magical ability.

 

Even though magical beings were common knowledge, it didn’t stop some people from either fearing or wanting to exploit their abilities. Though a good many wizarding items were coveted and expensive. Harry could hardly believe what a non-magical would pay for a magically expanded bag or ever-refilling bottle but he couldn’t deny their usefulness. Though it was likely that he would reveal his abilities here if they were needed because he could always alter the survivor’s memories once his ship had picked them up.

 

Harry had long gotten over any reluctance to use obliviation and other memory charms; he was well-skilled at it now.

 

He pulled a couple smaller crystals from a box and dropped them in a pocket before downing an energy potion. The version he had was much better than the pepper-up potions of his youth and he didn’t have to worry about crashing once it wore off or becoming addicted to them. It would help him replenish his natural magic faster, along with the dried fruit and nuts he munched on.

 

There were a few changes of clothes still in the bag and he changed his shirt because the one he was wearing had blood on it from helping Coran. The new shirt, a cleansing charm, and a cooling charm helped him feel slightly better and much cleaner.

 

The wizard let out a weary sigh before getting up and going to find the rest of the survivors, again. He hoped his ship didn’t take long in finding them.

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Harry stayed behind when a group headed out to look for water or anything else on this barren planet. The wizard had no want to wander across the desert-like planet and had no curiosity to see if there was anything out there. Because if there was trouble to find, it would find him.

 

Johns, Fry, the Imam and his three acolytes, and Coran all headed out.

 

Harry stayed at the ship with Shazza, her husband Zeke, Paris, and Jack.

 

He figured he would help Zeke bury Owens and the other dead passengers that had been recovered, it would be much faster with two or even his magic, if he felt like revealing it. There was no point leaving the man to do the work by himself.

 

His interest was briefly caught by Paris P. Ogilvie and the variety of Earth artifacts the man seemed to be in possession of. Harry hadn’t asked for proper documentation yet but he would as soon as his ship recovered them. It was a hunch but he was sure that the man didn’t come in possession of all his rare artifacts by completely legal means. Not to mention the tomb full of, supposedly, expensive and rare alcohol he had been told about. It sounded like smuggling was a likely possibility, especially if those were real artifacts and not replicas.

 

It was easy to tell the man was a coward and useless in this situation. The man was currently relaxing under a misting umbrella with a glass of wine and a cigar, while all the others were working. Harry wouldn’t trust the man to be a useful look out and thought the others were idiots for thinking the man could do even that task. Paris was more likely to fall asleep then be keeping an eye out for dangers.

 

Harry and Zeke pulled the bodies away from the ship and around a mound of sand before stopping, which took a good while. Before Zeke could begin digging, Harry told him to stand back before waving a hand and displacing a large chunk of ground. He was in no mood to spend another couple of hours digging in this heat, especially when he had a quicker way that wouldn’t tire them both out.

 

“What? Hold on, you’re a magical?” Zeke turned to him with a hint of awe.

 

“Yeah. I don’t normally advertise it so easily but I didn’t see any point of us digging in this heat.” Harry shrugged, trying to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal that he was revealing himself to these people.

 

“Huh. My wife has some magical blood but doesn’t have the ability herself.” Harry had thought he had felt a hint of magic from her and possibly even from Jack but it was harder to feel when the person was a hedge magical. A term that had been coined by his friend, Hermione, because she had thought squib was just as bad as mudblood and it really was.

 

“I have a great grandson who is the same.” Harry offered. They had discovered that those who couldn’t access their magical core or didn’t have a large enough one to utilize, could often still use crystals that were filled with compatible magic to power a wand. It had helped his oldest great grandson from feeling left out, in a family packed full of magicals.

 

“You don’t look old enough to have great grandchildren.” Zeke looked disbelieving.

 

“Magicals age slower and me, even more so.” The truth was that Harry didn’t age at all and hadn’t since he first encountered all three hallows at seventeen. It was only because of his brilliant friend Hermione and her potions skills that had created a permanent aging potion that had let him look older than a teenager. He now looked to be in his mid-twenties and if he needed to look older or younger, a glamour sufficed. That, along with goblin medicine and medical advances over the centuries had helped erase the damage done by his relatives. He had gained a few inches of height and was just an inch shy of six feet, instead of the almost five foot eight inches he was at seventeen.

 

“I think I heard something like that.” Zeke said before he turned back to the grave. “Hey look, a hole. Wonder what’s down there?” Before Harry could warn the man to stay away because he had learned over his long life that curiosity could get you killed, Zeke was dropping into the grave Harry had dug with his magic and was making the hole larger.

 

Harry jumped in behind him and heard a noise that was similar to a hiss, something he could almost understand. He reached down in alarm to pull Zeke away from the hole, when the man was grabbed from within and pulled into it. Harry held the man’s legs tightly, while Zeke shot at whatever was in the hole with the gun Johns had given him. Zeke was screaming and Harry could smell blood but he couldn’t get a shot at whatever was in the hole because Zeke was in the way. Finally, whatever had him gave a strong tug and pulled him right out of Harry’s hold and deep into the dark and now bloody hole.

 

Harry fell back and looked up to see Riddick standing on the top of the mound of dirt he had displaced and Shazza came running as well. She was yelling at Riddick, who took off.

 

“Wait! Wait, it wasn’t him. Something in the hole got Zeke.” Harry told her while he managed to climb out of the grave. It stopped her from chasing Riddick but from the sounds of it, Johns had made it back and had recaptured Riddick.

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“Look, it wasn’t him. Zeke saw a hole was uncovered when the grave was dug and decided to investigate. I told him to leave it be and then I heard a noise from inside the hole and tried to pull him back but something got him. He shot at it but it was still able to pull him out of my grip. I have no idea what it was though.” Harry told the other crash survivors...again.

 

“And Riddick was what? Just standing around?” Johns asked. He had been the most adamant that Riddick had something to do with the other man’s death and had tried to get the others to agree with him. Even with Harry being a witness to what had happened.

 

“Yeah. I imagine he was wondering what we were up to and if there was anything he could take from us. He would probably like one of those breathers.” Harry rolled his eyes. Johns would blame world hunger on Riddick, if he thought he could get away with it. Riddick hadn’t had a drop of blood on him or his bone knife.

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Harry watched with amusement from the shadows as Riddick lured the ship’s Captain closer, her curiosity over the man’s eyes overriding her common sense.

 

Riddick’s looks didn’t hurt either and the woman’s interest was apparent. The large man was a few inches over six foot and was pure muscle, along with beautiful darker skin and a gorgeous face. Not to mention that deep, rumbly voice that sounded like good sex. The thought of how the man might taste, flashed through Harry’s mind. The wizard really needed to get laid, if his mind kept drifting away with such thoughts.

 

He couldn’t stop the chuckle when the man lunged at Fry and saw her jump back. She spun around to face him. “Having fun playing with the civilians, Riddick.”

 

Mooney gave a hissing growl before pacing around Fry and laying down at Riddick’s feet, again. The hell hound had been laying in the ship when Johns had chained Riddick back up, looking thoroughly unimpressed about being disturbed. As if, he hadn’t been following Riddick around since the man had disappeared.

 

The chained man shrugged. “Some. They’re just so jumpy but they’ll soon find out it isn’t me they need to fear, at least not this time.”

 

Jack interrupted them by asking Riddick how he could get shined eyes and Harry doubted the story the convict gave was true. Harry was almost positive Riddick’s Furyan heritage had something to do with them, maybe just the success of the surgery because he knew how dangerous and often fatal that type of work was. Though the Alpha Furyan he had met had similar eyes but it was something that could be called upon at will and wasn’t constant. It was possible that Riddick did get an eye-shine surgery and later came into his alpha heritage. Though the man could still be dormant and if so, it showed just how powerful an alpha the man would be.

 

Fry made Jack leave and then walked out herself, leaving Harry alone with Riddick.

 

Harry walked up to the man and held out the breather he had picked up that Zeke had dropped, he wasn’t sure if Riddick needed it but he might. After he helped situate it, he offered the mouth piece of his hydration pack. When Riddick leaned in, Harry could smell the man’s sweat and something else that made desire pool in his stomach.

 

“It’s interesting that you don’t fear me. Everyone else does.” Riddick’s face was right next to his and the larger man leaned in and ran his nose along Harry’s neck. The wizard had to bit his lip to keep a soft moan in because the action had sent a shot of pleasure racing down his spine and his skin broke out in goosebumps. He couldn’t miss how easily he had shown his throat to the man and he knew just how a Furyan was likely to take the action.

 

Harry took a breath and a small step back from the temptation that was Riddick. “I have no need to fear you. You can’t permanently kill me, no matter how hard you try. Plus, I’ve faced real monsters and you are just a guy who is trying to survive. I mean…who gets locked into Deep Storage because they killed some of their teammates and a few civilians? No one, that’s who. Except you. So, I’m guessing that you have something on The Company that they didn’t want you telling anyone else. I’ve seen your service record before that, you were the best in your graduating unit in the Rangers and marked for promotion even before you took that job on Sigma-3 and while there, got promoted to the Strikeforce Academy.” Riddick quickly pulled back even further from him and Harry couldn’t help but miss the man’s warmth, even in this heat.

 

“Is that right?” Riddick’s voice was flat and there was a warning in his silver eyes. One that Harry didn’t bother heeding.

 

“It is. You know something about The Company and that’s why they have such a high bounty out for you.”

 

“And just how do you know all this?” The words were almost a snarl and Riddick’s teeth were bared.

 

“Because I’m a Class-A Bounty Hunter, sanctioned by the Central Government. I was curious about you when I came across your file and did some reading, it’s all very interesting and leaves me with more than a few questions. Ones, I’m hoping you’d be willing to answer when my ship arrives to take us off this rock.”

 

“Then you’ll send me right back to prison.” Riddick let out a bitter laugh before turning his head away from Harry. “You almost had me but you aren’t nothing but merc.”

 

“Not a merc, a Government Sanctioned Bounty Hunter. Very different, as you’re likely aware. Plus, I’m not so sure you belong in prison because there is the possibility you are innocent of the first crime and the ones following, are just you trying to stay out of prison.”

 

“Bounty Hunters, might be a step up from mercs but they don’t just let criminals go because they aren’t guilty of one crime in a long line of them. And why were you after Johns anyway? Couldn’t just be that little girl.”

 

“I was employed by the government to track down stolen children, a long time ago, and it developed into this. My specialty is criminals who traffic, hurt, rape, or kill children and I never give up. Though I did became interested in the man that no prison could seem to hold, even if you weren’t my kind of criminal, and that is what made Johns catch my attention. Johns has been accused of killing children before but it couldn’t be proven and was a situation where it was his inaction and decision to save himself that got them killed. This incident on Conga Prime is just the last in a long line of marks against the man and he has gotten progressively worse.”

 

Harry could see that Riddick was starting to believe him and decided to tell him something that few knew. “I’m slightly sympathetic towards you. My godfather was wrongly imprisoned in the worst prison there was for close to a dozen years and then he broke out and was hunted as if he was the worst criminal alive and that’s how they made him sound but he was innocent. He didn’t even get a trial and wasn’t pronounced innocent till after his death. There isn’t anything but blacked out records of a trial for you and if I’m right, it was a sham trial with a Company judge and no other outcome than you ending up in Deep Storage for almost three years before you broke out.”

 

Harry watched Riddick swallow twice before he said anything. “You really think I’m innocent? That I wouldn’t slit your throat, right here? Lick your blood from my knife?” Something about Riddick’s tone was off…forced.

 

“I think it’s a possibility that you’re innocent of your first crime. And no, I don’t think you would slit my throat. How many people have been willing to listen to you? How many willing to take a chance on you? How much of your reputation is lies and exaggeration, some even made up by you?” Harry knew his questions hit their mark when the man looked away.

 

“We’ll see. Though Johns isn’t going to be so willing to hand me over.”

 

Harry shook his head. “Johns won’t have any say in the matter and is in his own trouble. There have been some kills added to your record by him, that don’t fit your profile or match where you were at the time. The man has been getting sloppier since he started shooting up morphine.”

 

“How do you know about that? All the others were fooled by his shiny badge.”

 

“Well, I’m a through researcher or I employ those who are. And you missed where I told everyone Johns was nothing but a mercenary and one who had shot a little girl. They aren’t so fooled by him anymore and it was a little funny seeing the man try to justify his actions. Other than sending her thanks, the mother hoped you slit Johns’ throat. The man wasn’t pleased to hear that.” Riddick let out a dark laugh at that before turning a serious look to the wizard. “Then you better watch your own back because he’s likely to shoot you in it.”

 

Harry smirked. “Well, I’d come back very pissed off.”

 

They both looked out when they heard screaming, cutting off whatever Riddick was about to ask. “Seemed the Captain went to go look down that hole for Zeke.”

 

“What an idiot. I told them something was in there.” Harry shook his head at the stupidity.

 

“Shouldn’t be surprised. At least, not by a Captain who tried to purge her passengers. Heard her telling Johns about it.” Riddick chuckled, as if he were amused by something. “Can’t believe she trusted him enough to tell him. Even after finding out what he did.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Harry mentioned and ignored Riddick’s look before walking out of the ship and towards the group of people hovering around Fry.

 

“So, find what got Zeke?” The answer he got was mostly useless but the woman had managed to see some type of large creatures down that hole. Something, nobody wanted to see and Fry looked seriously shaken by whatever had happened.  

 

The other survivors were all scared, glancing at the broken spire of dirt and sand they had busted up to pull Fry out of. All of them worried that the creatures down there would come out but so far, not even one had peeked out of the hole. It was possible they only came out at night, though the planet likely had little to no night due to the three suns.

 

Harry wondered just how many of whatever killed Zeke were underneath their feet.

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When Johns tried to offer Riddick a ‘deal’, Harry just laughed at the man. “Johns, I’m sure you remember that you are walking a fine line and are in enough trouble. I’ll handle Riddick.”

 

Johns stomped off but not without sending a hate filled glare in Harry’s direction. The man knew that Harry had the power to put him in prison and wasn’t willing to push it…yet. But Johns was the type of man to shoot you in the back when you were down and the only reason he hadn’t done so to Riddick was because the man’s bounty was twice as much, if he was brought in alive.

 

Harry touched the chains and they fell away, before he handed Riddick a pair of conjured goggles. “Wait. I can do something that will help you not be as affected by light. That way you don’t need to rely on your goggles so much. Johns seems to use them against you.”

 

Riddick looked at Harry for a long moment before he gave a stiff nod, obviously weary. Harry laid a hand on the side of Riddick’s face and ran a thumb gently under his eye while whispering the spell. It was very similar to the one he used on Mooney and the other hell hounds he owned. “There you go.”

 

He heard a small intake of breath from Riddick and saw the man looking around with something close to awe on his face. The spell would not only protect his shined eyes from sunlight but also gave the man back full range of his colored vision. “Thanks.”

 

The wizard nodded before they both walked out to the rest of the group gathering stuff to take with them to the abandoned settlement, that the exploring group had found earlier. There was a water system and an emergency skiff there; something that Fry wanted to try to get running, just in case it was needed.

 

Harry suggested they take more than one power cell, since they would have to come back for more anyway if they wanted the skiff to be able to power-up fully. They would all be more exhausted later and carrying two or three of the cells now, instead of later, was just common sense.

 

The power cells of the Hunter-Gratzner were incompatible with magic, so Harry didn’t bother to try to lighten them because it would have just shorted them out. Harry’s own ship was a masterpiece of technology combined with magic that was a primary focus of Potter Corp.

 

He hooked Mooney up to an improvised sled and had Riddick drop a power cell on it, the hell hound easily strong enough to drag it to the abandoned settlement that had been found. Harry slipped Mooney a piece of jerky while the others were busy and gave his companion a scratch between his tall ears.  Mooney gave a hiss of contentment before butting his head into Harry’s chest, who hissed back at him. “Good boy.”

 

“Your pet seemed to take a shine to me. Followed me when I left or was that you having him keep an eye on me?” Riddick asked as he walked back up, while Harry was giving the hell hound some water. Though the animals could go with very little water, in even the most extreme heat, there was no need for it.

 

“Mooney just likes you. You’re both hunters.” Harry handed Riddick some jerky to give to Mooney but the man popped it into his own mouth. “That was supposed to be for Mooney,” his tone teasing.

 

The large man just shrugged and held his hand out for more and this time a piece did make it to Mooney, who was staring intently at Riddick and demanding the food be given to him. “High quality stuff you’re giving him. You don’t eat it?”

 

“Not usually, it’s mostly for Mooney because it isn’t seasoned. A hell hound’s ideal diet consists mainly of raw meat and eggs but when I can’t manage that, he gets good jerky. The same planet that had that Uber fruit, also had these large rabbit type animals that he loves. So, I use that for his jerky and take him there on occasion to hunt them for himself. I have other stuff for me.”

 

They were interrupted by the group, who had finished gathering what they considered ‘essentials’ and were ready to leave. Harry had seen Paris, the ‘antiquities dealer’, load a few bottles of alcohol and other nonsense. Along with the bottles the man had in the bag he was carrying and Harry was sure he wasn’t completely sober.

 

It seemed they all expected Riddick to drag the sled of cargo but at least they didn’t expect him to carry the other power cell they were bringing, as well.

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Riddick was surprised when Harry fell in step beside him and offered to help pull the sled but he declined. It would be easier to do it himself, so they didn’t have to worry about keeping pace with each other. He even said no to switching off half-way to the settlement because, apparently, he wanted to be a pack mule but he didn’t miss the load becoming lighter.

 

He didn’t say no to the bottle of water that was passed to him, a fourth that he hadn’t seen before. Riddick hadn’t failed to notice how none of the other bottles had run out of water yet or that only Harry had offered him water. Neither did he say no to the dehydrated meat or fruit that was passed to him because before boarding the Hunter-Gratzner he hadn’t had more than a couple tasteless meal replacement bars for over a week, while Johns had him. The merc believed he would be less likely to escape if he was running on empty and while the cryo-chamber intravenously fed you nutrients, it did nothing for the gnawing hunger in his stomach. It was something he could easily ignore because he had gone hungry many times in his life but there was no need, when food was being freely offered. Good quality stuff too, something he rarely got a chance to eat.

 

The never-empty bottles, the lightened load, and whatever the man had done to his eyes…it all caused a pile of questions. Riddick couldn’t help but enjoy being able to see in full color again and appreciate the incredible green of Harry’s eyes. Something he had noticed even with his limited color vision. Riddick had seen the wizard casually walking among the others before they began their trek and he had felt random spikes of something, all caressing his skin. Then he had felt it again, right before he had felt a shiver of cool air down his spine and he felt much less heated.

 

He was almost positive that Harry was a wizard, or some type of magical being, something he had only seen twice before in his life. Magical types kept to themselves and rarely revealed themselves to the general population, though certain magical items were highly sought after and sold at a premium. It wasn’t even known if they had a new home world or where it was, since the Great Exodus of Earth around two centuries ago. Most magical races came from there, even if they had spread across the ‘verse since.

 

Though the two wizards that Riddick had come across didn’t smell like an approaching storm and he hadn’t been able to feel their magic dance along his skin, when they had cast a spell or gotten within a few feet of him. He wondered if that was something specific to the messy-haired wizard beside him. Plus, Harry’s scent hinted to age that the man didn’t show and there was just the hint of death that lingered around the man, a scent that Riddick was intimately familiar with.

 

Each time the man, or possible wizard, showed him a bit of common decency, it felt like something was cracking inside himself. The easily offered water and food, the ability to look Riddick in the eye, never smelling like fear, and treating him like a human and not an unstable monster wasn’t something he was used to anymore; especially not, when someone knew who he was.

 

It was something he knew not to get accustomed to either because it wasn’t likely to last long. Harry would either decide to try to send him back to a slam or maybe even let him go but neither option gave him much time with the interesting man. Riddick hadn’t forgotten the man was a bounty hunter but while the man was even prettier than Johns, there was no comparison between the two. Harry was a better man and it was easy to see. Plus, Riddick’s instincts were pulling him towards the wizard and they rarely led him wrong.  

 

Except a do-good man like Harry, didn’t need or want someone like Riddick hanging around. No matter how much the other man flirted or smelled of interest or piqued his curiosity. Even with the way he had bared his throat so easily to Riddick, like he trusted him there and the convict had been so tempted. It confused him, how Harry called to the animal in Riddick, in a way nothing had before, and it made him want to prove himself in some way and make Harry continue to prove himself to return.

 

Harry was chattering away beside him, telling him funny things that his hell hounds, Mooney and Padfoot, got up to and the trouble they caused together. He let the words wash over him and only occasionally gave a reply, mostly lost in his own thoughts but not willing to give up the company.

 

When they had started on the trek to the abandoned settlement, Johns had made a move to take the breather Harry had given him but one look from the black-haired man had stopped the blue-eyed devil in his tracks. Riddick had barely resisted poking at the cowed merc but had managed to hold his tongue.

 

The other survivors weren’t sure how to act around Riddick, though they were all cautious to varying degrees, between how Johns talked about him like he was the boogeyman and Harry treated him like everyone else. Although, Riddick had noticed that Harry was friendlier with him than the others. Not that the wizard had shown any dislike towards anyone but Johns.

 

Maybe, it was just curiosity on Harry’s part and some belief that Riddick was innocent. He may not have committed the first crime he was accused of but he wasn’t innocent anymore. The wizard didn’t strike Riddick as naïve, so he wondered what allowed the man to be so fearless around him. Riddick had a growing list of questions and wondered if Harry would be willing to answer any of them.

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When they made it to the abandoned settlement, dread filled Harry’s stomach because these people didn’t leave. There were clothes still hung on lines and pictures sitting on shelves. He wondered what happened to them, if maybe it was those creatures underground that got them. The massive bones they had walked through had shown signs of teeth marks.

 

Everyone split up, once the cargo had been settled outside one of the larger buildings they had chosen as a gathering spot.

 

Fry went to work on the skiff, Shazza to work on the sand-cat she had found, and Imam and his acolytes had begun fiddling with the water collection unit. Paris was likely resting somewhere with a bottle of booze. Johns had looked pale but had sent Riddick away from the skiff to look for something to repair the damaged wings with.

 

Harry wandered around the settlement with Mooney, till he found Riddick checking out a pair of locked doors. “What’s this?”

 

Riddick pulled down a tarp and uncovered Jack, who was now sporting goggles and a shaved head, and the words, Coring Room. “Locked, whatever it is.”

 

“Here.” Harry touched the door and heard a lock unclicking on the other side and a chain sliding to the ground.

 

“You’re going to have to show me how you do that.”

 

Harry turned a smirk to the larger man and wiggled his fingers, allowing sparks of green and gold magic to dance across them. “Have to be born a wizard and while Furyans have something like a magical core, it is more focused on giving them greater strength, enhanced senses, and advanced healing.”

 

“That’s the second time you called me a Furyan.” Riddick frowned slightly because it wasn’t the first time he had heard that word but that had been in his dreams.

 

“That’s what you are. You had to be nothing more than a baby when your race was almost completely wiped out by an invader, over twenty-five years ago. They outnumbered the Furyans twenty to one, at least, and were more technologically advanced. Still it took them two separate attacks before they wiped out most of your planet. A few escaped between the two attacks but it was only a handful.” Harry mentioned, as he pulled the heavy doors open.

 

“How do you know that?” Riddick reached out to stop Harry.

 

Before Harry could answer he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye but it was just Imam’s youngest acolyte, Ali, crawling through a small hole into the building and the wizard wondered if he had slipped away unnoticed by the older two, who were working on the water recovery unit. Harry was quickly distracted by the screeching and undistinguishable hissing made by a swarm of winged creatures that had been disturbed by the light that streamed into the building.

 

The flying creatures swarmed down towards the frightened child and Harry pulled his wand, casting a blasting hex and a physical shield in rapid succession. Mooney leaped over the child, knocking Ali down and covering him with his armored body. The hell hound’s neck and back scales were standing up and burning bright red to keep the flying creatures away from him and the child.

 

The creatures screeched louder and swerved away but Harry sent a fire curse at them and caught most of the swarm. By now the entire group of survivors were running towards them to see what the commotion was about.

 

“Holy shit, it’s those things from the hole but smaller.” Fry exclaimed as the few that had escaped Harry’s fire spell disappeared down a tunnel, after pushing her way through the small group.

 

“How did you do that?” Jack asked, looking at Harry with a hint of fear in her eyes.

 

“Wizard. Magic.” Which caused a few whispers to run through the crowd but nobody reacted too unfavorably. At least some religions no longer acted like having magic made you the devil. Though he knew there would be more of a reaction when the others were less shocked by what they had seen.

 

Mooney slowly moved off Ali and gave the trembling child a few sniffs before moving away so Imam could get to the child. Imam thanked him and Mooney for saving his youngest acolyte, when the pair had finally pulled apart. It was funny watching the hell hound’s chest puff out from the praise and bask in the child’s attention.

 

“Surprised he saved the child and didn’t go after the prey.” Riddick whispered in his ear as the others began looking around the now creature free room. Johns looked as though he would start shooting at the smallest sound, his shotgun whipping around.

 

“Not really. Mooney adores children, he’ll happily let them climb on him or tug on his ears and tail. If Padfoot was here, he would have gone for the creatures.”

 

“How many of those beasts do you have? Just the two?” There was unmistakable appreciation in the large man’s voice.

 

“Me, personally? Just Mooney and Padfoot but my family and Potter Corp own a few dozen. They are great protectors and companions, perfect for tracking if trained properly, and are highly intelligent.” Harry offered, as he and Riddick walked to the coring shaft the creatures had disappeared down.

 

A flare from Johns, revealed the unpleasant visual of a pile of human bones. At least, now, they knew what had happened to people who had lived here before.

 

Riddick’s words seemed likely, that the people here before had run to this building because it had the heaviest doors but had left the bottom of the shaft opened.

 

As people started leaving the Coring Room, Mooney tagged along with Ali and Jack. The pair being much friendlier with the large animal and the hell hound soaking up their attention. Both children had promised not to search through any other unchecked buildings and to stay in sight of an adult.

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It wasn’t much later that Fry called them all to a room with a working model of the system they were in. The model showed that every twenty-two years there would be a lasting darkness, an eclipse that would last close to half a year.

 

Then…Fry showed them coring samples she had found in the Coring Room from twenty-two years before. The fear from the other survivors was palpable and Riddick joking about them being afraid of the darkness didn’t help. 

 

Harry could only think that this was just his luck. Crash land on a planet that only had darkness every twenty-two years and he would crash on it just before the eclipse with some type of winged monster that seemed to dwell only in the dark. Just perfect. He really hoped his ship showed up before the eclipse happened but Harry wasn’t betting on it, not with his luck.

 

The group regathered in the larger main building and began to discuss what else needed to be done to get the skiff flight ready. The little space craft becoming even more of a priority.

 

Fry still needed three more power cells for the emergency skiff and Shazza reported she was almost finished working on the sand cat. Thankfully, the little skiff had a high weight limit for its size but space was going to be incredibly limited.

 

Harry broke into an argument between Fry and Johns, their raising voices and aggression scaring the younger survivors and causing a rising tension between the other adults.

 

Johns was trying to get them to wait on the power cells. The man tried to say it was because they weren’t likely to be necessary but it probably had to do with giving Riddick less time around the skiff. Fry was determined to get them immediately and was being vocal about it and everyone else saw this as the best option.

 

Harry let out a sharp whistle to cut through the yelling and everyone turned to him. “Look, we’ll get the power cells as soon as Shazza finishes with the sand cat because it’s solar. It’s best to plan for worst case scenario and not wait till it is too late. We can leave the children here with the skiff, just in case the eclipse starts. Fry, will running the lights on the skiff for hours run the power cells that are already in it down enough to matter?”

 

The woman shook her head and spoke over Johns’ objections. “It shouldn’t but I can check before we leave to see how much power the landing and onboard lights pull.”

 

Harry nodded, “That’s good. We will leave the children here and they can stay in or around the skiff till we return. It will be much safer for them and-”.

 

Jack interrupted, “I want to go. I can help!”

 

“Better if you stay. Too small to carry a cell.” Riddick added from where he was slouched in a darkened corner without his goggles on. The teen looked betrayed but didn’t say anything else, though they did slump in their seat and glare at Harry. The wizard had been at the end of plenty of similar looks from teenagers over the years and was completely unaffected by it.

 

“It’s a start. Riddick and I will look for something to repair the wings, while Shazza finishes the sand cat. Everyone else can look for any supplies that could be useful and pile them in here.” Everyone nodded in agreement, though Johns looked like he still wanted to argue. “How about I pull out some meal bars and we can all eat before we get to work? I imagine everyone is starting to lag because we’ve been on this planet for hours and we still need to make a trek to the crash site and back.”

 

Everyone seemed eager at the mention of food and tensions started to lessen. 

 

“Wait...the water bottle Ali and I have been sharing hasn’t run out yet. Is that cause…you’re a wizard?” Jack asked tentatively. Which pulled everyone’s attention back to the fact Harry had revealed what he was. The small confundus on the water bottles less effective, now that they were aware of Harry’s magic.

 

“Wizards.” Coran’s disgust was easily heard. “Did you use your freak magic on me too?”

 

“You mean when I found you barely conscious and covered in burns? Yes, I gave you a couple potions to ensure you healed.” Harry had to work to keep his voice level before he turned to answer Jack’s question. “And the bottles hopefully won’t run out because there is an ever-refilling charm on them, though it doesn’t work as well due to the dry environment.” Not to mention they didn’t work well in space either.

 

“So, you made the holy man and his kids work on that water unit for nothing?” Coran asked and Johns made an agreeing noise. The merc was likely to side with anyone against Harry

 

Harry took a breath before answering. “No, having a second water source is always a good plan and they wished to fix it. There was no harm meant.” He said the last to Imam, who nodded with a smile.

 

“None was taken. I thank you and your magic for saving Ali, without it I fear that he would have been lost to those creatures.”

 

“You’re alright with this magic user?” Coran sneered the hate-dripped words. Harry didn’t even need to peek in the man’s mind to see the hate he held for magicals, nor the fear. All from stories and rumors that were whispered about magical beings and their abilities.

 

“There is nothing wrong with any magic user, we are all created by the same god. Your hate and others who feel the same, are what keep magical beings from feeling they can freely reveal themselves in public.” Imam answered, his voice firm.

 

“They should keep their freak selves away from normal people.” The man took an aggressive step towards Harry but Riddick stepped in between them and Mooney was on his feet growling.

 

“I wouldn’t if I were you.” The large man’s voice was casual but his body was tensed for a fight.

 

“He even has the convict protecting him, what kind of voodoo did he use on you? Do you people see this?!” Coran’s voice was raised in agitation but he took a couple stumbling steps back from an advancing Riddick.

 

Harry stepped around Riddick, not needing the protection but pleased by it. “I will remind you it was my potions that healed you, my water you’ve been drinking, and it will be my ship that picks us up. So, how about you keep your narrow-minded thoughts to yourself. You are welcome to leave, while the rest of us eat my food. I mean you wouldn’t want to eat freaky magic food, would you?” Sarcasm dripping from the words, Harry’s only reaction to the man’s hate.

 

The man stared Harry in the eyes for a few moments before stalking off but didn’t leave the building. Even after all these years, he still couldn’t stand blind prejudice; whether it be about magic, religion, race, or any number of things.

 

“Anyone else have a problem with my magic because honestly the only time I appreciated being called a freak is when I’m in bed with a lover.” None of the others seemed like they had anything to add, even Riddick who had a smirk on his face because of Harry’s words.

 

After a minute of silence, Harry moved to grab his bag from by the door and pull out a small box that had homemade meal bars, individually wrapped in wax paper. They were made with an assortment of oatmeal and other grains, nuts, fruits, spices, and some even had chocolate and all had been made by the elf his ship employed. “These can be eaten like this or added to warm water and turned into a sort-of oatmeal. Some are sweet and others are move savory.”

 

The other survivors gathered around eagerly, though Coran stayed separated from the rest.

 

The wizard conjured bowls and heated water for those who wanted oatmeal. Then passed a single bar to each person, leaving him with enough for everyone to have one more. Harry usually kept a few dozen in his pack with a stay-fresh charm but he hadn’t taken time to replace what had been used in the last month or so.

 

At least there was still a half bag of dehydrated fruit, another mostly full bag of nuts, and about a dozen sticks of jerky left. That and the powdered meal replacement they had found here, was likely to be plenty for the few days it would take his ship to find them.

 

It only took a few minutes for everyone to eat and then start to separate to their individual tasks. Harry had to bite his tongue when Coran decided to eat his ‘freaky magic food’.

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As Harry headed out with Riddick to search for something to repair the wings with, Shazza approached him.

 

“Yeah? Need something?” The woman had been quiet since the loss of her husband.

 

“I just wanted to ask and I’m not making accusations or anything. Just…wasn’t there anything you could have done for me Zeke?”

 

Harry shook his head. “No. I used magic to dig the grave and he told me he knew someone who had magical blood but not ability.” Harry paused slightly and saw Shazza nod her head. “A small hole was uncovered and Zeke was curious. I cautioned him but he was already in the grave and making the hole bigger. So, I jumped in there too and that was when I heard a hissing noise and warned him and started to pull him out by his legs. But the thing in there grabbed him.” Harry stopped till Shazza urged him to finish. “He was able to shoot at it a few times and I think he hit it because it let him go for a few seconds and I was able to pull him out some. Then…then it grabbed him again and pulled him out of my hold. I couldn’t cast anything with him in the way.”

 

Shazza closed her eyes and tipped her head down, a tear tracking down her cheek. “So, nothing. I always told him his curiosity would get him killed.”

 

Harry reached a cautious hand out before softly gripping the woman’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss. I know it doesn’t help but…” Harry shrugged. He knew from experience it didn’t help when you lost a loved one, especially when it was so fresh. A thought flitted through his mind but he would have to think on the idea some more…later.

 

The woman nodded her head before squaring her shoulders and leaving the building.

 

Harry watched her for a few moments before turning to Riddick and motioning the man onward. Riddick directed them towards a storage building that set at the end of the small settlement.

“I’m not sure exactly what we need but I can help with fixing it or making it stronger if possible. I would try to just use magic to repair the wings but I’m likely to fry the entire skiff. It’s why I can’t use any magic near those power cells or it will short them out. Otherwise I would just apparate there and back with them.”

 

Riddick made an interested noise “So, magic and tech really isn’t compatible? I’d heard something like that before.”

 

“Not really, especially stuff that isn’t shielded or warded. Though there is a bit of tech available that has shielding, for one reason or another. Potter Corp makes stuff that is a combo of magic and tech but it has taken centuries to get as far as we have.”  

 

The pair chatted some while they searched through the building till they came across something that Riddick was sure would work to repair the wings. Harry could tell that Riddick had questions he wanted to ask but hadn’t and the wizard wondered what the man was waiting for.

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Riddick barely stopped himself from baring his teeth at Johns. The man stunk of morphine and his eyes were slightly glazed.

 

“Can’t you just magic the power cells here? Wave your little wand? Instead of us trekking across the desert and back.” Ever since Coran had shown his disgust at Harry’s magic, Johns had tried to sow even more discord but it wasn’t hard to smell the greed on Johns. The merc was less likely to try to shoot Harry in the back now, instead he would likely try to get the drop on him and sell him to slavers. Magicals could fetch an unbelievably high price in certain black markets. Riddick would help watch the wizard’s back because if nothing else, the man earned it for treating the convict with decency.

 

The wizard took a breath and quilled a spike of anger before answering the merc. Riddick wondered if Johns had never learned anything about magicals or if he was trying to get the others to doubt Harry. Riddick imagined it would be hard to seed doubt in the minds of the others, ignoring Coran, because Harry had freely offered food and water, and that meant a lot in a situation like this.

 

The others seemed to look more towards the ever-calm Harry over Fry or Johns for instruction and it bothered the merc and Captain, though Fry was smart enough to keep her mouth shut. Harry’s calm, along with a natural leader disposition, made him a much better ‘leader’ than anyone else in this situation and even Riddick was willing to follow the wizard…for now.

 

“No. The tech is older and likely to fry or even blow up if I used magic on it or near it. It’s why we had to fix the skiff’s wings by hand because I was worried about shorting something out, if I used magic on it.” Though he had used magic on the fabric to fix any small tears and to strengthen it but that was before it was placed on the wings. Riddick had been impressed by even that small show of magic but had tried not to show it.

 

Johns snorted in derision, “Fat lot of good it does than.”

 

The group continued to try to come up with other suggestions but it all amounted to Harry not being able to use magic on or near the power cells or skiff. The wizard was even worried about using magic inside the skiff for just air cleansing charms because the skiff only had a small O2 scrubber.

 

Harry had suggested apparating a group to the crash site but they would have to drag the cells back and it was something the others had seriously contemplated but, eventually, decided against. Another option was to hope the sun lasted long enough to get the solar sand cat to the crash site and back. Which was what Fry and Johns were banking on but Riddick wasn’t near as optimistic because it would still take close to an hour to get to the crash site with the sand cat.

 

Harry had even tried suggesting taking Riddick and Shazza ahead to the ship and start back with the cells and the sand cat could meet them but Johns had obstinately shot that down. Fry hadn’t seemed too eager about that idea either, even after Riddick knew she had seen Johns using…she was still buying what the merc was saying about the convict.

 

Johns was convinced that Riddick would do something to the cells or that Riddick and Harry were in cahoots. About what, Riddick wasn’t sure. Even the addition of the holy man, didn’t stop the merc from denying that course of action and Harry had looked sorely tempted to just do it anyway.

 

Riddick thought the idea was smart and would save them time but apparently neither Johns or Fry had any common sense. If he’d had any say, he would have gone ahead but neither Johns or Fry seemed to appreciate any of his suggestions.

 

It had taken almost two hours to fix the wings and they were just now ready to head to the crash site for the remaining power cells. Shazza had tried to suggest sending the sand cat on before that because it was finished sooner and that Harry and Riddick could apparate to the Hunter-Gratzner when done with the wings but, again, Johns and Fry hadn’t agreed with the idea either. Riddick wanted to know why they were so eager to keep the group together or at least the adults.

 

It was like trying to get reluctant children to do what they were told and who were determined to argue with everything that was said. Tempers were rising and the tension among some of the survivors was thick enough to cut.

 

Before they left, Harry had suggested leaving Paris behind to watch over the children. Riddick was sure that Harry had ordered Paris to stay behind with the children, not to ensure they stay in or near the skiff but because he didn’t trust the coward of a man, if it went dark and those creatures came out. Riddick didn’t either, not with the way the man reeked of fear. The Imam’s oldest acolyte had been given the same task, to keep an eye on the younger three, and had been given Harry’s stun gun. Hassan had been given a quick lesson on how to use it and took to it easily enough.

 

Watching the wizard fill small crystals with some light spell, for those staying behind, and creating blue flames from nothing had been interesting. Not to mention, the sparks of pleasure that danced across Riddick’s skin at the feeling of the wizard’s magic.  Harry had explained that the crystals could be used to hold magic or even certain spells and were very useful because some places, like this planet, didn’t produce any energy that a magical being could use.

 

The wizard had even tried to leave behind his hell hound but the animal had refused and stuck close to Harry’s heels when they loaded onto the sand cat. It had looked conflicted leaving the children behind but had refused to let its owner out of his site. The hell hound was smart enough to realize that its alpha was going to be in more danger than the children and was determined to help protect him.

 

Riddick knew Harry was just as sure that the eclipse would happen before they got back, as he was, and wondered if the man could feel the rising excitement from the creatures beneath their feet, like he could. He could hear the increased amount of noise from them and it showed they were aware of what was about to happen.

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They were halfway back to the crash site when the eclipse began and Harry heard Imam begin to pray. Shazza tried to get the sand cat to go faster but it was already maxed out. The barest edge of the planet that would block the suns, moved into the horizon.

 

Johns and Fry began to argue if they should continue or go back but Shazza ignored them both. There seemed to be a new hostility between the two and the wizard gave a thought to what it was about.

 

This time Harry wouldn’t be talked out of taking Shazza, Imam, and Riddick ahead with him and he apparated the group to the crash site. Fry, Coran, and Johns were left behind to drive the sand cat the rest of the way, even as they protested Harry leaving them behind.

 

Though apparating with Shazza, Imam, Riddick, and himself was a large drain on his magical reserves, he thought it well worth it. Harry was impressed that none of them had thrown up but they were all winded.

 

Riddick recovered before the other two and quickly went to gathering the power cells. Releasing the three needed cells and loading them onto a large metal piece of the ship that could be used as a sled.

 

Shazza corralled Harry and Imam to help her find more lighting. She directed them to pull tube lighting from the ship, while she removed the portable battery and set it in the center of the sled. The prospector also collected a lighted tool belt, a blow torch, and a few bottles of Paris’s alcohol that remained behind.

 

If they ended up needing anything else, Harry would be able to conjure or transfigure it…hopefully. They were all aware that it was unlikely they would make it back to the skiff before the suns were completely blocked.

 

They had been pulling the sled close to ten minutes when the sand cat pulled up next to them. Johns complained about them disappearing but helped them load the power cells and portable battery and tubing. Harry stuck the metal sled onto the roof with a bit of magic because it would be needed again when the sun disappeared completely.

 

Johns tried to get them to go back to the Hunter-Gratzner and wait out the darkness but the model had shown a lasting darkness and no one else was willing to bet their life on sealing themselves into the wreaked ship or cargo container to wait for Harry’s ship. Then he suggested Harry take him back to the skiff but the wizard refused. The man’s behavior was becoming slightly worrisome and made little sense. It didn’t help that Fry continued to goad him, calling him a coward, or that his eyes were glazed from morphine.

 

“Fuck. Fuck, we aren’t going to make it.” Johns was yelling as the sun was blocked by the massive rings of the larger planet. The sand cat had made it about a third of the way back to skiff before it had sputtered out, as the sky had darkened.

 

They all heard the calls from the creatures on the planet and Harry cast a spell on his eyes to help him see in the dark. He swallowed in apprehension at the sight of thousands of those creatures pouring out of tall sand spires, they were smaller like what he had seen in the Coring Room. While he couldn’t die, and had a variety of magic at his disposal, it wouldn’t feel good to be ripped apart and eaten by those things if they managed to catch him off guard. Likely to be reformed and re-eaten.

 

“Beautiful.” The words were whispered by Riddick and Harry had to admit there was a deadly beauty to the dangerous creatures. Something he wouldn’t mind admiring…from space and his armed ship.

 

Johns was yelling at them to get the lights set-up and get moving but the others were all un-moving. The dying light providing just enough illumination for the others to see the massive swarms of creatures before the sun winked out and left the planet in complete darkness.

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The group was jogging back to the site, at a steady pace. They had set the portable battery in the center of the sled and wrapped the cabling around themselves, while Riddick led with the lighted belt slung across his body. There were a few bluebell flames floating in the air around them but Harry didn’t want to drain more magic till it was necessary.

 

Right after the sun had gone down and they began unloading the now-dead sand cat, Harry had passed around the remaining energy potion he had left and told everyone to take a sip. Then had cast a scent covering spell on each person, hoping it would reduce the interest the creatures had in them. Swarms of the younger creatures had passed over them multiple times, while they had been getting prepared to drag the power cells back to the skiff.

 

Harry and Imam were pulling the sled with the three power cells and portable battery for the lights. The wizard had thought about using Mooney but decided it was better for the hell hound to be free to attack any approaching creatures.  

 

Coran had been lost, right after they had set the power cells on the sled. He had wandered too far from the light and been quickly snatched by a swarm of smaller creatures. Harry had cast a powerful lumos spell with the Elder wand but it had been too late for the man, though they had discovered that the flying monsters weren’t just averse to light but harmed by it. The closest few had been incinerated by the bright and powerful light.

 

The other survivors, minus Riddick, had been adversely affected by the gruesome death but Harry had felt Death hovering around their small group long before the suns had disappeared. The wizard was sorry the man had to die and in such a painful way, even if the man would have gladly seen him dead because he was a wizard.

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Riddick heard and felt Harry approaching, the wizard having traded off pulling the sled with Johns.

 

“Any reason you’re making a loop?” Harry asked in a low voice.

 

“Kill zone ahead, the canyon. Trying to think how we’re going to make it through because it is the only way back to the settlement. Got any magic tricks to help?” Riddick informed the wizard, who was watching Mooney take down an adult creature that had crept too close to the group. The hell hound was glowing bright red and giving off visual waves of heat that burned the deadly flying monsters. It screeched and its scythe-like tail tried to spear the hell hound but glanced off armored scales and had its throat ripped out in return.

 

“Plenty, just don’t want to use them till it is necessary. This place feels like it is draining my magic and I have hardly gained back any that I’ve used. But light, fire, and blasting spells will help with the canyon. I’ll use a powerful light spell and if worse comes to worse, fiendfyre. It will wipe out anything that it touches but is incredibly draining and this place has little oxygen to fuel the magical fire.”

 

“Good. I can circle around again if you need?” Riddick offered.

 

“No, no point in wasting more time and someone else might notice. I’m going back there before Johns gets any more suspicious.” The wizard dropped back to the main group and took a harness from Shazza, who was giving Imam a break. Riddick heard Johns immediately start in on the wizard and his lip curled in a low growl.

 

“What was that?” Johns looked like he wanted to stop pulling the sled to talk but Harry kept jogging.

 

“Just asking Riddick a question about the canyon ahead.”

 

“Shouldn’t we be there already?” Shazza asked as she tried to look out in the dark to see where they were but the only thing that could be seen was glimpses of those monsters, as they shed back from their light.

 

“Fuck! We just went over out tracks. What the hell?!” Johns voice cut through the darkness.

 

“That’s what I was asking Riddick about but he’s right, that canyon ahead is a kill zone. There isn’t another logical way to the skiff, at least not one that the rest of you could manage.”

 

“Right and you just believe the convict? Either he has you played or Coran was right and you’re using your magic to control him. So, which is it? Think he won’t kill you when this is over?” Johns was in Harry’s face, trying to push the wizard but the man stayed rooted to his spot.

 

The chill in Harry’s voice, had Johns stepping back immediately. “I would stop now. Keep pushing and I’ll feed you to those monsters out there. It isn’t like we need some drugged up merc anyway, you’re so high right now that you aren’t acting rational. So, shut up and keep pulling.”

 

Harry started to walk again and gave Johns a look when he didn’t immediately do the same.

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The group was all on the small hill just before they would go down into the valley that was death-trap central. So many crevices and bones for the flying creatures to hide in or behind. It would be easy for them to snatch someone away before anything could be done.

 

Harry had ordered a small rest for the group before they trekked through the canyon. Johns was pacing back and forth, giving Harry looks of hatred. The wizard pretended to ignore the man but was keeping an eye on the merc’s erratic behavior. Riddick seemed to be doing the same, the man just inside the ring of light but away from the rest of the group.

 

The creatures were amassed around them and the eerie sounds of their echolocation were ringing through the night. Mooney was stalking around the edges of the light, snapping at any advancing creature. One of them managed to knock Mooney over, sending the hell hound flying, before charging the light.

 

Harry used a blasting hex and Johns began blasting the suicidal creature with his shotgun, it was left in tatters that were quickly snatched up by the other creatures.

 

“Guess we know how they survived so long without food, they’re cannibals,” Harry mused.

 

“That’s it! Take me back to the fucking skiff, now!” Johns whipped around and pointed his gun at Harry. “I ain’t dying on this good forsaken planet or being eaten by those fucking creatures!” The man was waving his gun about and when Harry took a step forward, the merc shot at the ground in front of his feet and sent sand flying up around him. “Don’t take another step!”

 

“I thought you wanted me to take you to the skiff? How can I do so without getting closer?” Harry’s voice was completely calm but anger was boiling over inside him. If anything, he would apparate the man back to the crash ship and leave him with those monsters to see how the drugged coward fared.

 

“You’re playing some kind of trick! You and Riddick are in this together! Trying to steal my bounty! Trying…trying to kill me!” Johns had obviously lost any grasp on reason and the other survivors were backing away slowly. His gun swung from Harry to the others, who froze as the shotgun was aimed at them. “If you don’t take me, I’ll kill one of them.”

 

Only Harry noticed Riddick coming up behind Johns in the dark and it was with a quick movement that the merc was taken down and the gun thrown away. The pair rolled around a few times and Johns struggled but a knife in his back stopped him before the man could pull the lighted cabling from the portable battery. Once the cable was pulled free, the man was tossed into the dark to be taken away by the ever-hungry creatures.

 

Riddick had a satisfied smirk on his face and Harry couldn’t help but admire the Furyan and how quickly he had taken care of the threat. If he hadn’t noticed Riddick coming up behind Johns, he would have killed the drug-riddled merc himself.

 

The other survivors-Fry, Shazza, and Imam-were huddled as far away as the light allowed them to be. The cable that was wrapped around them acting like a leash and none had been brave enough to leave it behind.

 

“Well, one less problem. Let’s get ready to move out.” Harry said as he approached the others.

 

“That...that’s it? Riddick killed Johns and you say, mush on?!” Fry asked, her face shocked.

 

“I’m sure you noticed, but Johns was going to kill you. He isn’t a good man and you’re already aware of his morphine addiction. The man was far from rational and wouldn’t have been reasoned with in his drugged-up state. Johns would have killed every one of us, if he thought it would get him off this planet. Now, let’s go.” Harry didn’t bother mentioning the other thoughts that he had glimpsed in the drugged man’s eyes. The ones that had to do with what Johns had planned for the wizard…none good and most made Harry sick to his stomach.

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Harry contemplated the narrow canyon pass for a few seconds before letting off shots of light and then conjured his patronus with the Elder wand. He was hoping the bright creature could help lead then through the canyon. It came out of his wand as a massive Hungarian Horntail dragon, the shape gained when he fell in love with Charlie Weasley, and filled the valley they were in. These days, if he ever conjured his patronus, it switched between the original stag and this dragon with little rhyme or reason.

 

The dragon glowed bright blue-white and flew through the canyon, filling it with light. It was charging the largest creatures with the same aggression as if it were a true Hungarian Horntail and bathing the dark valley with patronus-light fire. Harry slumped slightly, at the power it had taken and dropped the now-empty crystal back into his pocket.

 

Screeches of pain rang out, as the creatures fled from the brilliant light. Though for the survivors the patronus filled them with hope, as it radiated the feeling of protection and happiness.

 

They were just at the start of death-row, as Riddick called it, and the larger man was pulling the power cells behind the group. It was incredible the strength Riddick showed at being able to pull the cells faster by himself, then when two people had been pulling the sled, though it had had the added weight of the portable battery for the lights.

 

Harry and Riddick had wanted to leave the portable battery behind because the sled and cabling would be cumbersome as they ran through the narrow valley but the others refused to give up their light. So, now Imam and Shazza were pulling the sled with the portable battery on it, in between Harry and Riddick.

 

“Go! Go!” Harry yelled as he took off, leading the others. He had dropped his own lighted cable onto the sled because he didn’t want it holding him back. The wizard followed the massive patronus as it chased the flying creatures out of the way with great relish. Mooney was at the back with Riddick, ensuring that nothing could sneak up on him.

 

About half-way through the canyon they ran into a major obstacle, a pile of fallen bones that had been caused by the sand cat. Harry blasted through them and directed the shards into the swarm of creatures above them and the sharp fragments sliced their way through the creatures and suddenly it became a feeding frenzy. The wizard realized it might have been easier and safer to just vanish the bones but it was too late to change it now.

 

“Keep going! Don’t look up and don’t stop!” Riddick yelled from behind, as blue blood started raining down on them. “Don’t stop!” The man yelled again, when Fry just stood there with a look of horror on her face as she watched the creatures tear each other apart.

 

They began to run again and Harry felt his energy draining quickly, at keeping his patronus up for so long and holding a shield up to protect them from the falling creatures. He had cast it after a creature had fallen onto Shazza and trapped her underneath its dead body; he would have cast it sooner but it took a lot of magic to maintain. She had been sliced across her arm and sprained her ankle in the fall but both were easily fixed. Harry had siphoned the blood off her shirt and cast another scent blocking charm on all of them, to hopefully hide any remaining scent of blood.

 

Harry refused to let his waning energy slow him down, though he could see his patronus dimming. It was unlikely to last all the way to the settlement without him burning out another two or three crystals.

 

The group was in a tight huddle as they traversed the bone scattered path of the canyon bottom, at a fast a pace as they could manage. The fear in the air was palpable and almost stifling, along with the rising hunger from the creatures above them. The creatures were becoming bolder and bolder, willing to injure themselves to get at fresh food. 

 

Harry knew they couldn’t be far from the settlement and pushed himself even more. Once they managed to make it out of the canyon, it was a straight shot to the settlement and skiff.

 

The wizard came to stop when he reached a steep incline at the end of the valley they were in. He had forgotten about it but he was sure Riddick would be able to manage dragging the cells up it, though the lights would have to be left behind.

 

As the others gathered around, Harry noticed rain was starting to fall before the sky opened and it was pouring down around them. The incline quickly turning into a slick slide of sand and mud. “Riddick, can you manage that by yourself with the cells or would hooking Mooney up help?”

 

Riddick looked at the incline before trying to pull himself up it and sliding right back down on the first and second try. “I could do it but Mooney will make it easier and faster.”

 

Harry nodded before hooking Mooney up to the cells with a conjured harness before turning to the others. “Alright, we’ll have to leave the battery and lights behind and I can apparate us up to the top of the hill.” He wasn’t even going to try making the others pull themselves up the steep and now-slick incline.

 

Harry waited for the others to drop the cables from around themselves before reaching out for them. A swirling second later, they were at the top of the hill. Fry had dropped to her knees and was heaving but the other two had again managed not to throw up.

 

They were surrounded in complete darkness because Harry’s patronus and blue flame spell had winked out the second he had apparated. He quickly conjured more blue flames and set them to circle the group and held his other hand out to hold a lumos spell.

 

Riddick and Mooney were just cresting the incline before Harry could conjure a rope to help them up it. Both were covered in mud but the rain was quickly washing it away.

 

The group pulled in together, while Harry filled a few crystals with a light spell and passed them out. Then before they continued to the skiff, Harry turned to the canyon. His spelled sight showed that it was, again, filled with those deadly creatures and he couldn’t help but want to do a little damage to the deadly beings.

 

Harry pulled the Elder wand and reached into his pocket for the largest crystal he had brought with him before yelling out a spell, “Fiendfyre!

 

Cursed fire poured from his wand in a rush of magical creatures and Harry circled his wand above his head and then whipped it towards the canyon. The dragon, phoenix, and basilisk rushed around the group scaring back any approaching predators, though letting off an almost suffocating heat, before plowing through the canyon and incinerating hundreds of creatures in seconds. The magical fire destroyed everything in its path for a long minute before Harry had to finally release the spell. Though he didn’t bother quelling the fire, which usually took as much, if not more, power as casting it. It would burn itself out in a few minutes, especially with so little oxygen.

 

“Beautiful”, the words were again whispered by Riddick, as the devastating magical fire made its way through the canyon.

 

Harry was slumped over, his hands on his knees, when Riddick nudged him in his side. “We need to go.”

 

The wizard managed a nod and stumbled forward, even with the use of crystals this place was draining him of magic at an alarming rate. Even as magically exhausting as fiendfire could be to cast and control, he had never had such a problem with holding it for such a short time.

 

The small group continued with Riddick and Mooney leading the way. The settlement was in sight and the lights from the skiff, glowed in the distance.

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The group let out a yell of triumph, when the skiff came into sight. The bluebell flames and exterior lights on the skiff illuminated the area well. The skiff’s ramp was closed and Riddick banged on it when they reached it.

 

Harry was surprised that they had all made it to the skiff, especially with the way Fry had run ahead of the group when they had reached the settlement and then had slipped in the mud. A waiting creature had stabbed her in the shoulder, as it was just around the edge of a building, and had almost gotten her. Its long tail had started to pull her into the darkness but Mooney, who was released from his harness by Riddick, had leapt onto the retreating animal and taken it to the ground. Fry had been able to get away, when it released her. She hadn’t tried to make another break the rest of the short trip to the skiff.

 

When the skiff’s ramp comes down, it reveals that all four children and Paris are still alive.

 

“You guys made it back! We were worried it was taking so long, especially when it got dark and those things came out. That’s when we closed the skiff doors, like you showed us.” Jack was talking a mile a minute and smiling, as Riddick loaded the power cells. Fry was already sitting in one of the pilot chairs and starting to prepare the skiff for take-off.

 

Imam’s three acolytes were surrounding the man, all glad to see the man alive and it was obvious the man was just as glad that none of the children had been hurt.

 

Jack continued talking, pointing out the two canisters of meal powder and three containers of water that was sitting next to the row of chairs on one side. It would be a very tight fit because there were only two pilot chairs and eight passenger chairs and their group was ten people and a hell hound. Mooney was going to take up most of the small center aisle.

 

Harry hoped that his ship was only a day or so behind, because it wasn’t going to be pleasant in such close quarters for any length of time. The wizard began checking each survivor for any new injuries, starting with the large wound on Fry’s shoulder. Before the skiff’s ramp was closed, he asked them all to come out to the end of it and began casting cleaning and refreshing charms on their skin and clothes. It would make each person feel a little better and would keep the limited air in the skiff cleaner. 

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Riddick had noticed that Harry had drifted off almost as soon as they had gotten through the atmosphere and into space, which had been a rough ride. The wizard had been strained from the amount of magic he had been using to protect them and kill those monsters. Riddick couldn’t help but think about how beautiful that fire had been or even that massive flying creature that had been made of light. He had heard that magical beings could do amazing things but to see it was completely different.

 

Most of the others had drifted off in an exhausted sleep, as well, but Riddick was keeping an eye on the sensors, he hoped that Harry’s ship reached them first and not a merc vessel.

 

His advanced hearing caught on the sound of distressed breathing and a slowed heartbeat, when he came out of his musings. Riddick saw that Mooney was a pale red color and shivering, making almost inaudible whimpering sounds.

 

Riddick unlatched the belt on his chair and knelt to check on the animal, while nudging Harry awake. “Huh, what?”

 

“Something’s wrong with big boy here,” Riddick motioned towards the distressed hell hound.

 

“Mooney?” The wizard’s companion opened an eye and whimpered louder. “What’s the matter?”

 

A hissing noise was made that caused Harry’s eyes to widen. “Merlin, I didn’t even think about that.”

 

“What?” Riddick asked, noticing that Harry had somehow understood the sound his pet had made. It wasn’t the first time he had heard Mooney hiss but it was the first time he realized that Harry understood him.

 

“The blood from those things. It must have been poisonous.” Harry slid onto the floor with Mooney and pulled the hell hound’s head into his lap. “Shh, boy. I have something.” The wizard slipped something from a pouch on his belt and tried to get the hell hound to eat it but Mooney turned his head away.

 

Riddick’s eyes widened when the same type of hissing issued from Harry’s mouth, causing the hell hounds ears to perk up and it to open its mouth. The sound reminded him of the few snakes he had come across. Harry placed the shriveled thing in his hand in Mooney’s mouth and the beast took a few tries before swallowing it. Then the wizard poured some water from a bottle into the hell hound’s mouth, though most wasn’t swallowed.

 

Harry stayed where he was and continued to pet his companion and the hell hound’s scales were turning a brighter red. Riddick could feel the increased heat coming off them and then heard another hiss from Harry and this time in pain, as the scent of burnt cloth and flesh reached him. Mooney jerked his head out of Harry’s lap and whined louder.

 

Harry hushed the hell hound, “it’s okay, Mooney, it wasn’t your fault.” The wizard pulled something else from the pouch on his belt and started rubbing a strong-smelling paste onto the burns that had been left by his sick companion and they faded away within moments. Harry then whispered a few quiet words and Riddick could feel the tingle of his magic along his skin before he pulled the suffering hell hound back into his lap.

 

Riddick wasn’t sure if he was surprised or not, when the wizard didn’t get burned this time. Mostly, he was just glad that the metal floor that Mooney was laying on could stand up to the heat that the beast was putting out.

 

“Is he going to be okay?” The question came from Jack, who was looking at the hell hound with worried eyes.

 

“He will be but it will take time to purge the poison or toxin that was in those creature’s blood.” Harry answered, while he continued petting the sick hell hound. The wizard pulled out a cloth bag when the hell hound started heaving and managed to catch the rank smelling sickness before casting some spell that made it vanish.

 

It was over an hour later before Mooney’s scales turned back to their normal silver and Harry was able to give him a potion for any lingering pain. The wizard had tucked the hell hound in a heated blanket because he was shivering.

 

“Is he really going to be okay?” Jack asked, the young girl had been drifting off to sleep occasionally but hadn’t stayed asleep for long.

 

Harry nodded and Riddick could tell the man wasn’t lying when he replied. “Yeah, he’ll be fine. He’s pretty tough, don’t worry.”

Chapter Text

Xander looked up at the large castle, he hadn’t been here in over a year and honestly wouldn’t have been back so soon, if Buffy hadn’t insisted. He’s still a little stunned about what she told him and wants to see for himself; he had mourned the vampire more than he thought he would. Xander takes a deep breath before walking up to the large wooden double doors and pulling one open, he sees a teenaged girl at a tall desk to the side of the large entrance way look up from the computer in front of her. Glad for the rush of warm air, the rainy cold weather of Glasgow, Scotland in December was a shock to the system, his leather coat and thin henley doing little to keep out the cold.

“Whelp?” He turns to the left and coming out of a hallway is Spike and he can’t help but let out a loud laugh. The vampire looks much the same as he always has, down to his signature black leather coat and Xander wonders how he still has it or if it’s just a really similar one.

“Not so much anymore. Good to see you, Fangless.” Xander teases back, setting his bag and large case down before walking over to the blond and pulling him into a tight hug, that he’s happy is quickly returned. He and Spike had reached a tentative friendship towards the end before the final battle with the First, after Xander had gotten over himself and also after finally letting go of the long held black and white view of the world he had clung to; one he hadn’t truly believed in for some time.

When Buffy had told them Spike hadn’t made it, it had affected him much more than he thought it would and he had thought about both him and Anya often, since the battle with the First. When Buffy had called and told him that Spike was apparently alive and had been so for a while, well it was the reason he had given in so quickly to her ‘request’ of him to come back to their main base.

“Oi, not fangless no more. No chip, remember, pet.” Comes the faux indignant reply, from a smirking Spike.

“That’s right. Well good for you.” When the chip had been removed that last year in Sunnydale, it had caused Xander fear but not anymore and not just because now he could easily take care of himself but because he trusts Spike. Plus, that chip had been wrong on many levels and Spike hadn’t even been able to defend himself against humans; demons were far from the only evil in the world. He had seen plenty of it in Africa.

At Spike’s surprised look, he can’t help but go in for another hug and burying his face in the stiffly gelled hair; taking in the smell along with leather and smoke. “It’s really good to see you, though I am ready to hear about how and what you were up to in LA. Buffy only gave me the barest details.”

“You too. You smell like a summer storm and I’m pretty sure you got bigger, yeah. Plus, two eyes?” Spike reaches up and gently rubs a thumb under his left eye, which is good as new, better even, and only a small part of the story he has to tell everyone. “Remember not being fast enough to save this.”

Xander had never really thought about it like that, he had always just been thankful Spike had helped him at all, had saved his life. “You were plenty fast enough, saved my other eye and my life, Spike. But yeah, got a story to tell, big one actually. It’s why I haven’t been back in over a year, not sure how everyone’s going to take it.” He’s been putting this off, declined every time Buffy or Willow asked him to visit and made excuses when they thought about visiting him, while he was in Africa.

“Well I’m ready to hear it but I’m guessing you won’t want to say it twice. You’re a bit earlier than expected, they were planning to have a lunch get together for you when you got here. The Slayer nor Red, have shut up about you coming since the other day. They’ve missed you.”

He just nods at the gentle rebuke because he knows, had heard it when they called to check on him or he called to report about a slayer. “Wanted to get in a little early, it’s weird being back in civilization like this. Spent a lot of time with tribes that barely had running water or electricity.”

“Yeah, heard you were a baby slayer wrangler now. Come on, last I saw everyone was somewhere on the second floor.” Xander just laughs at the name, it’s true enough, and after grabbing his stuff, follows Spike down the hallway and up a flight of stairs. He had spent more than a year in Africa, searching for the new slayers that Willow located there; thankful for the Watcher’s Council’s spell that she was able use to find all the slayers that were awaked.

“It was an experience and I had to learn Swahili, though lots of the tribes there are more aware of the supernatural, which made things a little easier.” He had picked up Swahili and a few other area specific languages well enough and some had spoken very broken English, which had been nice. Not all the slayers he had found decided to come back here to be trained or their parents wouldn’t allow them to leave but at least they were aware of what they were, and he had taken time to give them rudimentary training. It hadn’t been easy and he had seen a whole other kind of evil in Africa, but he had enjoyed his work and traveling.

As they came out on the landing for the second floor, Dawn and Willow were coming out of Giles’ office.

“Xander!” “Oh, my goddess, Xander?” He braced himself for the flying leap Dawn made, still being knocked back a step.

“Hey Dawn, Willow.” Giving Willow a hug as soon as Dawn let him go. She hadn’t taken her eyes off his face. “I’ll tell you what happened when everyone’s together, it’s kind of a long story.” He thought maybe he should have put on a patch, at least till he told them everything.

“Oh my god, Xander, your eye!” He smirked at Dawn’s late comment.

“Come on, Niblet. Let’s go round-up your sis and Peaches, they’re probably around here somewhere making cow eyes at each other.” Spike pulled Dawn down the hall, who kept looking back over her shoulder at Xander.

“Xander? What-?” Willow spluttered slightly.

“I promise I’ll tell you everything when we’re all together, don’t really want to tell it twice. Maybe you can point me to my room, so I can set my stuff down and freshen up. I would really love a hot shower; modern amenities have been few and far between.”

After a brief hesitation, Willow answered. “Sure. It’s the suite of rooms you had before you left, on the third floor. I had it cleaned and aired out, the door is unlocked and the key is on the dresser. So…just meet us down in the dining area in an hour?”

“Sounds great. It’s great to see you Will, I’ve missed you guys.”

She narrows her eyes at him. “You’re the one who didn’t visit, mister.”

“I know. See you in a bit.” He gives her another tight hug, closing his eyes as he breathes in the strawberry and mint smell of her hair. He really has missed her and everyone one else, but he just hadn’t been ready to come back before, still isn’t sure he’s ready.
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After a long shower and a change into clean clothes, he feels better but it isn’t till he pulls his main sword out of its case and strapped it to his back over his shirt with a leather harness, hidden easily enough under his hoodie, does he feel ready to face everyone. The matte black, single handed, gladius style, double edged short sword with blood red runes for focus and protection marked onto the blade had been a gift from…Adam, he needs to be sure that’s what he calls him when he tells everyone his story. Two swords and an assortment of knives all made it back with him from Africa and thanks to Giles had made it through customs easy enough. He doesn’t put the rest on because that makes him feel like he’s gearing up for a battle, which he doesn’t think this will be nor does he put on the micro-mail armor with leather backing beneath his shirt, a recent acquisition.

Xander doesn’t think they won’t accept him now or he really hopes not; if they can accept two vampires with souls into the mix, he should be no problem. Looking down at his watch, he takes a deep breath and lets it out before heading out of his room and downstairs.

He hears everyone talking and stops to listen for a minute, it doesn’t seem like anyone is talking about his eye, only his arrival. Seems Willow didn’t say anything, and he would bet his favorite bowie knife that it was Spike who kept Dawn quiet.

“Hey everyone.” He calls out as he enters the large dining area, where they’re all standing around a long rectangular table that’s covered in some amazing smelling food. His stomach reminds him he hasn’t really eaten since last night.

“Xander!” “Good lord.” Buffy gives him a hug that makes it hard to breath and he hugs Giles after.

“Buffy, G-man, it’s good to see you too and before you ask, yes I will tell you about the eye but after we’ve eaten. I’m starving and haven’t eaten since last night, so the questions can wait.” Xander tries to make it more of an order then a request.

He gets reluctant agreement from the group before everyone starts to take seats, he ends up between Willow and Dawn, with Spike on Dawn’s other side and Giles at the head of the table and Buffy and Angel across from them.

Xander piles his bowl full of fragrant meat and vegetables, glad for the warm hearty stew and fresh bread. The cold, wet weather of Scotland is drastically different from the heat of Africa and will take some time to get use to. He had stepped on a plane and it had been in the upper 80s (Fahrenheit) and stepped off it into the lower 50s with cold rain.

Across from him are Buffy and Angel, who keep sneaking looks at each other and Spike had been right…cow eyes. He wonders how Spike is dealing with this because Buffy had admitted what had been said down under the school afterwards, how Spike had told her he loved her and when she said the same, Spike had told her she didn’t. She had felt so guilty for it being the truth but you can’t make yourself love someone or help who you fall in love with; Xander had learned that the hard way.

He had tried to love Anya but he hadn’t, not the way she needed, and didn’t fully admit that to himself till months after Sunnydale collapsed. He peeks over at Spike who is focused on Dawn and they are having a conversation that’s more hand movements and funny facial expressions then words.

“So, Angel, I heard you and Spike had something big happen in LA? Plus, how exactly are you alive, well undead?” Xander directs the last question at Spike. He’s hoping to put off the conversation about himself a little longer.

Angel makes a complicated face that makes him look more constipated than normal, while Spike answers both questions. “Took on some evil lawyers that decided to open up hell right there in LA, huge fight but we won though we lost good people, yeah. For me being all undead again, not sure how but that bloody ugly amulet ended up being sent to Angel and when he opened the box, I popped out of the amulet. Non-corporeal at the time and then some nasty business with trying to be dragged to hell before I became all solid again.”

Xander shakes his head at the crazy that is their lives. “That’s crazy. Buffy didn’t really tell me anything other than there had been some big fight in LA and that you were actually alive.”

“If I told you everything, you might not have come.” Xander winced at the icy tone but he deserved that. He just shrugs at the look Buffy is giving him.

“Maybe not but I would like to hear what happened. Though why weren’t you there in LA?” Xander asks Buffy.

Spike answers again before Buffy can. “Peaches here called the Watcher for some help against Wolfram and Hart, those were the evil lawyers, but he thought Angel had gone all dark side.”

“Well now, what was I supposed to think when he was running them, his actions were hardly innocent.” Giles finally added to the conversation.

“Well, that was the plan, now wasn’t it? Couldn’t have ‘em thinking he planned to take ‘em out from the inside, had to look all swayed by the shiny evil office.” Xander decides to break in before Spike and Giles get into it and he’s a little blown away Giles had refused to help them.

“Hold on. You’re saying you guys refused to help Angel and Spike? Spike, who had just died to save the world?” Xander looks between Giles and Buffy.

“We didn’t know about Spike till recently and I went against Giles and called Faith to help Angel, if she thought they were telling the truth, since I couldn’t go myself.” When Xander looks over at Giles, he’s taken his glasses off and is polishing them, a telling frown on his face; one that says he made the wrong decision but doesn’t wish to admit it or that he would make it again, not willing to risk his Slayer.

“Yeah, told Andrew when he visited Peaches for that crazy Slayer who got chop happy with my hands and then Faith when she came with her slayerettes, not to say anything. We took some time after the big showdown to recoup and then decided to visit, that’s when Angel told them about me, though I’m not sure it would have changed the Watcher’s mind.”

The conversation degraded into Spike and Giles sniping at each other before Angel decided to explain more about what had happened, with Spike adding to it. About Angel’s son (which, how did vampires procreate?), Cordelia’s coma, and how he had been given the LA branch of Wolfram and Hart and then decided to take it out from within. How they took down the Circle of the Blackthorn in a simultaneous strike and about the final battle, where they had lost their team and a few slayers. Wesley before it began, then Gunn and Illyria in the battle. Xander had been a little shocked about how a girl named Fred, who both Spike and Angel obviously cared about, had been taken over by Illyria, a primordial god-king; who in the end sacrificed their self and was the turning point of the battle. Then how they all dragged themselves back into the Hyperion after the battle. That whatever linked Wolfram and Hart’s hell dimension to earth had been destroyed or damaged as most of the offices around the world had disappeared.

Xander sat back in his chair, more than a little stunned both by the story and how much Angel had said, the man usually was of few words. “That’s honestly insane. Though what about that Shanshu thing you mentioned, neither of you are humans?” This close he is able to hear that neither had heartbeats and could feel their ‘otherness’.

“Like I said I gave away my right to it, to gain membership into the Blackthorn. Afterwards, when Spike and I spoke with the Powers they said they weren’t able to do anything about it but did say something about it being as it should and shifting destinies and they also removed the curse, so soul but no ‘happiness clause’.” At that Angel glanced over at Buffy, who was looking right back before they looked away from each other. They were both ridiculous and Xander wondered when they would start with the wild monkey sex because they were both putting off pheromones like crazy, which was saying a lot since a vampire’s scent was muted.

“Hold on, they removed the curse? Well, why didn’t they do that before?” Sure would have saved a lot of lives and heartbreak.

“They didn’t say, just that things happened as they were meant to.” Angel didn’t look satisfied with that answer and Xander wondered if he really had wished to be human.

Spike scoffed before adding his own thoughts. “Bunch of rot, innit. Never just outright say what they mean and play with you like you’re a toy, expendable one at that.”

“Well, how about you? I mean you’re a champion too, saved the world twice, sacrificed yourself and everything. Why aren’t you a real boy?” Xander thought Spike was more a champion then Angel, plus he had purposely gotten his soul and had almost died for it, not been cursed with one and had helped save the world even without one.

“Said I could if I wanted it, since I fit the description and all but they said it was never meant to be my destiny and that being human wasn’t my true desire and some other hogwash. Truth that, don’t really want to be a real boy, like being a vampire, yeah.” Xander smiled at the flash of Spike’s ‘game face’.

“Couldn’t imagine you as a human, really.” Xander really couldn’t, Spike was meant to be a vampire.

“Meant to be a demon, was a poncy human. Now, it’s about time you told us ‘bout yourself there, pet?” Spike’s raised brow indicated he knew exactly what Xander had been doing.

Well, Xander didn’t figure he could put this off forever but he had gotten away with it for a while. He wonders for a second where to start, then takes a deep breath.

“Right. So, remember back last year, last November? Hadn’t been in Africa for more than a month, when I called about the slayer who had been shot and killed by some insurgents, that I had been injured too but nothing serious.” He waits till he gets nods from everyone but Angel and Spike.

“Well, I lied. I was shot a number of times in the stomach and chest-” The expected outbursts from around the room but Angel has a look on his face like he just figured out an answer to a question he hadn’t asked yet. Xander holds up a hand and keeps talking… “and bled out on the ground trying to stop the young slayer from doing the same, she was only 15 years old. She had been shot because she tried to save her mother from being taken.” He looks away for a moment because that still haunts his dreams sometimes, her begging him to save her mother. The feeling of the bullets hitting him and chocking on his own blood, as he watched the slayer die in his arms.

“I woke up later that night, covered in both of our blood and holes in my shirt but none in me and the village around me on fire. I freaked out but I had a pulse and found out the next morning, the sun didn’t hurt me, touched a cross and it did nothing. Ended up calling you guys to tell you what had happened but lied about myself because I had no clue what had happened to me or how I was still breathing. Next, I tracked the group who had attacked us and a few other local villages, they had been killing those who resisted and taking others, and rescued who I could and then blew their camp up.” Xander doesn’t mention how he had found a dark joy in killing the men he had found about to rape a young girl.

When he stopped talking, Giles, Buffy, and Willow were all trying to talk over each other but just raised his own voice to ask his own question. “Giles, you know there are other branches of watchers, correct?”

The man hesitated before answering. “Yes, a few, each with their own area of expertise. Mine is slayers and demons. Why?”

“Because what I am has its own branch of watchers and you may know what I’m talking about. Have you ever heard of immortals?” Xander pointedly ignores both Willow and Buffy, amazed that Dawn is just sitting back listening and watches Giles, as he obviously searches through all the knowledge he has in his head. Notes how Angel and Spike are looking at each other, like they are having a silent conversation.

“Good lord,” Giles shocked eyes stare at Xander before continuing. “Yes, I’ve heard of them. Immortals, those who awaken after their first death, which must be violent and not from natural causes and only reach their final death through beheading. That is about all I know, and I know that much only because I have a distant cousin who is part of that branch of watchers. Though I do know there is little proven or written knowledge about them. I’m guessing that is what you are and if so how did you come to this conclusion?” The man looks like he wants to pull out a journal and start writing down Xander’s answers.

Xander nods his head as he answers. “Yeah, I’m an immortal. About a week after my first death, a man by the name of Adam approached me and I could feel his presence across my skin. He was another immortal and he has also spent time…with a watcher. Me…Adam told me about what I am, trained me to fight, gave me my first sword, taught me the rules we live by, and how to protect myself from those who play the Game.” Xander fudged the details only slightly about Adam, as he had spent time as a watcher, making sure no one believed in his true name.

“What are you talking about? You’re just human, Xander.” He would take offense but he could hear the almost pleading note in Willow’s voice, she had never done well with change.

“I’m still human, mostly. My first death brought other changes or more it brought out stuff that was already there, nonetheless I’m still me.” He wanted her, wanted all of them to understand and accept that while he was different, he was still Xander. But he doesn’t mention how the soldier and hyena impressions were stronger than ever, brought back by his first death. Adam had figured he had been left with them in the first place because of being a pre-immortal and that they left behind memories like a quickening.

“Is that how you got your eye back? And who is this Adam?” Buffy asked him suspiciously.

Xander shook his head. “No, that was thanks to Adam. Like I said, I felt Adam approach. He had felt my first death and awakening, as he hadn’t been too far away and said it was one of the strongest he’d felt in a long time. Anyway, before your first death you are considered a pre-immortal and other immortals can sense you, like they can sense other immortals. They call it ‘the buzz’ because that’s what is feels like, a buzzing across your skin and you can almost hear it. Pre-immortals barely put one off, while the older and stronger the immortal, the stronger their ‘buzz’ is. It means they usually can’t really sneak up on you, which helps if they’re head hunters in the Game.” Xander knew he was getting a little off-track but he didn’t want to give much information about Adam.

“What’s this game you keep mentioning, mate?” Leave it to Spike to ask the question he had been hoping to put off till last.

He decided to recite what he had been told. “It is said that when only a few Immortals remain, they will feel drawn to a distant land, to fight for the Prize, this is the time of the Gathering. Because in the end there can only be one, the last one will receive all the power of all the Immortals who ever lived. So, the Game must be played.” Xander hated prophesies. “Though not all immortals actively participate. The actual existence of immortals, the ‘Game’, the rules we live by, can’t be tracked to a definite beginning, though many believe they, we, are touched by gods and others say it was the ‘Source’ but no one knows what that is exactly. None of our creation history was written and watchers only write about the actions of immortals through the ages.”

“You mean they kill each other? Their goal is to kill all the others?” Willow questions him.

“Yes. When an immortal deals a final death to another, through beheading, the slain immortal passes their knowledge and power onto the one who killed them, through something called the quickening. Which is a very concentrated lightning storm and the more quickenings you gain the stronger you become, they are…a unique experience and not something you can really describe unless you’ve been through one. It’s how the final Immortal will have all the knowledge and power of the others. They’re rules to the fights, like they must be one-on-one and they can never happen on Holy Ground of any religion, though cheating can occur it is often a sign of an evil immortal to break the Rules.” Adam had taught him how to handle all the influx of information and memories from a quickening.

“Does that mean they’ve tried to kill you? Or will try to? That you’ve killed someone?” Willow asked him, looking more freaked out the more he explained.

“Yes, they have, they will, and I have. It was why Adam came to teach me, he doesn’t actively participate in the Game and he became my mentor. He taught me to use a sword, it’s the most common weapon among immortals but not the only and he also taught me to fight dirty, especially if I want to live. He traveled with me while I searched for slayers and his teaching was the only reason I survived the two times I was attacked by other immortals, while in Africa. He is also the reason I have my eye back; limited vision and depth perception would have caused for a short life as an immortal. He had a witch friend who owned him a few favors, so a sacrifice and viola, two-eyed again.” It wasn’t near that simple, though he hoped to downplay this part.

“Good lord, what do you mean by sacrifice, do you know the kind of magic it takes to do something like that?” Of course, Giles wouldn’t let it go.

“I do know, she wasn’t exactly a white witch but she wasn’t evil either, more morally ambiguous.” Much like Adam himself, though he didn’t mention that. “It takes a lot of magic or a large sacrifice for something like this and restoring my eye needed a death, so I let her kill me. Let me tell you, dying does not get easier or less painful and being an immortal makes me harder to kill. When I woke back up, I had both eyes. She said I needed such a big sacrifice because I had ‘sight’ even if I hadn’t really been using it; not like seeing the future sight but more like, able to read a person’s intentions. I can see a sort of aura around a person when I want, it really helps me see a person’s true intentions and if they are being truthful or not. She taught me how to use it and read what I see, that and I’m able to sense when someone isn’t human.”

Willow was yelling at him, almost before he was done explaining. “Xander! What’s wrong with you?! You’re talking about your own death like it’s a joke and you’re not acting like it’s serious that you’ve killed someone. Something has to be wrong with you!”

“I think it’s of the good. Stronger and faster is always better when fighting demons.” Buffy added. Supporting him in her own way.

Two someone’s but he didn’t think that was an appropriate response. “Look Willow, dying was a big deal both times it’s happened. The first time was terrifying because I thought I was really dying and that it would be in some village in Africa, in the dirt, with a dying slayer in my arms. I felt each bullet, I felt as my blood drained out, as I chocked on blood from a punctured lung, and as my heart slowed and stopped. The next time, while I was fairly certain I would wake up after, dying is still dying, it hurts and it’s almost piss your pants scary. The two lives I’ve taken were out of self-defense and I did not take them lightly. I never had, nor do I have, any intention to actively play the Game but I will defend myself when someone tries to take my head. If I don’t fight, I will die, it’s that simple. That or live the rest of my life on Holy Ground, which isn’t something I plan to do. Do not make assumptions about me and my actions.” He couldn’t help but be a little harsh, his deaths or taking a life hadn’t been something he had dealt with easily.

“You’ve changed. What’s happened to you? Maybe we can fix it. Maybe-” Willow started rambling.

Xander had to break in right there because he didn’t like where she was going with that line of thought. He allowed himself a glimpse of her and the other’s auras, and Willow’s was unsettled much more than anyone else’s.

“Willow, just stop! Of course, I’ve changed and long before Sunnydale became a crater in California, you just didn’t want to see it and I didn’t really show it. I tried to be the comic relief guy, the friend who was always there and didn’t ask anything in return, and I tried to be the things you wanted, you needed, but I’m just not that person and I haven’t been for so long. Even if I hadn’t been changed by everything that happened in Sunnydale, Africa would have done so and it has changed me, even more so than I was. There’s a whole other kind of evil there; humans killing humans, children starving, so many people dying of diseases, and just all sorts of horrors that we never saw in Sunnydale. There we had demons; easily recognized by fangs, claws, scales, horns, and all manners of smells and slime but it’s nothing like that in Africa. So, of course, I’ve changed. You don’t get to be the only person who grew up, who’s been changed by the things we’ve seen and done.” Xander knew he was being harsh but he wanted her to understand.

“I-. I’m sorry, I just…” Then Xander watched his best friend since kindergarten get up and run away, it took everything not to follow her, to beg her to accept him but he knew she needed time. He could smell the salt from her tears as she left the dining room.

“Well, this could have gone better.” Xander said as he turned back to the table

“She just needs time; your story is a lot to take in.” Giles replies, like Xander doesn’t know Willow isn’t good with change.

“I think I’ve eaten a pre-immortal a few decades ago, wonder if they became an immortal?” Spike asks into the uneasy silence.

Xander had to try hard not to show his relief about the interruption from Spike. “Yeah, how do you figure?”

“Your scent used to smell like right before a summer storm, the barest hint of rain and static in the air from the coming lightening. It was alluring, probably why you were such a demon magnet. I’ve smelt something similar before, once, and it was some potent blood. Wonder what yours taste like now?” Spike waggled his eyebrows.

Xander couldn’t help but tease a little. “Maybe I’ll let you have a taste. What do I smell like now? You said something about smelling like a storm earlier? Were a demon magnet, as in no longer?”

“Slow down, pet. Yeah, now you smell like the middle of a storm, rain and lightning that’s striking all around you and you give off this tingle, you can feel…pleasant like. Suppose, it could be the buzz thing you were talking about. You may still be a demon magnet for some but not the same way as before when you just smelled like a nummy treat, now it’s better but you also have a feeling of power; like a treat that would bite back hard. But I’ll bite you anytime you want pet, make it feel real good.” The smirk on Spike’s face was downright filthy.

“Bet you could.” Xander added a purr to the words and let his eyelids go half-mast.

“Oi!” Xander let out a laugh at Spike’s shocked face, it was fun flirting with Spike and he had gotten pretty good at it. He had flirted regularly with Adam, who had flirted back but it had never gone beyond that. Plus, he needed something to distract himself from Willow.

They were interrupted by Giles clearing his throat and bring everyone’s attention back to him. “Well, I would hope to talk to you later, to get a more detailed account from you. Is there anything else you have to tell us?”

“Fine by me G-man and nothing else I can think of.” Xander thought for a second. “Oh, immortals are foundlings! So, that means Tony and Jessica Harris aren’t actually my birthparents.” That had been a pleasant surprise and he never had to worry about becoming like either of those two.

“Sad excuse for parents, those two.” Spike grunted beside him, he had never had anything good to say about them, not that Xander blamed him as he didn’t either.

“Yeah, but this means I’m not actually related to them, which I found to be awesome. Other than that, nothing else important. I would like to see the slayers I sent this way, then maybe take a nap. Where are they all?” He hadn’t seen anyone in the halls going to or coming from his room.

“Down in the basement training, it was completed shortly after you left and it’s now a state-of-the-art workout space for them. I believe they would like to see you also, they seem quite fond of you.” Giles informed him.

“Cool, who wants to go with me?” Both Buffy and Spike agreed to come with him, which meant Angel would tag along.

“How about you, Dawn?” She hadn’t said much during or after his story.

She gave him a small smile and a shake of her head. “Maybe next time. I think I’m going to go check on Willow. I’m glad you’re back and I’m sure Willow will come around, after she’s had her moment of drama and time to process.”

“Alright, tell her if she wants to talk more, I’ll be in my room later.” With another hug, Dawn headed out. He shook his head at just how much she had grown up.

As Xander, Spike, Buffy and Angel walked down to the basement, they asked a few more questions about his time in Africa and about being an immortal and Buffy told him tales about the slayers he had sent here. Angel admitted he thought The Immortal, who was an enemy of Spike and him, was an immortal, as he wasn’t a vampire.
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After spending a few hours with the new slayers and getting to see that they were doing well and some sparing with Spike, he was exhausted but glad he got to see how the girls were doing. Xander had worried, as for most it had been such a big change of environment but they were all thriving with their training and being around other girls, that were like them.

He laid in bed after taking another shower, thinking about taking a nap when he heard a soft knock on his door and Willow say his name.

“Come in,” Xander sat up and when Willow walked in, he patted the bed next to him.

“Hey.” Willow sat there for a minute and neither spoke till she continued. “I just want to say sorry, it was just a lot to hear. I mean I just found out my best friend died, not once but twice and everything else…it’s a lot to take in. I guess I didn’t handle it well.”

“Not so much but I get it. It wasn’t easy to deal with it while I was going through it either.” He wanted to move past this, but he wasn’t willing to let it go that easy. He had stood by her, even when she tried to destroy the world and he needed…no, not needed, not anymore, but wanted her to have his back.

“Sometimes, I just wish none of us had to grow up, especially like we did.” He heard the sadness in her voice, they had both lost their innocence far too young and had faced things they should never have had too.

“I can understand that but know that we’ve all become some pretty awesome adults. Hell, be glad we all made it to adulthood, made it out of Sunnydale. I feel like I’m finally finding the real me, not letting my insecurities and pre-conceived notions hold me back from being who I am and what I want.” He had changed but it wasn’t a bad thing, he felt like he was finally finding the real him buried under all those masks of juvenile humor and sarcasm.

“It shows, you look different. You hold yourself different, you walk and talk with a confidence you’ve never showed before. I’m proud of you but sad that I missed it, that I didn’t see before how you were changing and growing up. I don’t think I’ve been a good friend but I plan to change that. I hope you forgive me.”

Xander pulled her into a hug, “I do. We’ve been friends a long time and I hope we always have each other’s back.”

They spent the next couple hours laying in his bed, curled up together just talking about the last year. She told him about a possible new girlfriend, a watcher-in-training, and her work with her coven and other young witches. Xander didn’t mention how thankful he was she wasn’t with Kennedy anymore as their relationship has been toxic, she already knew his opinion on that. He told her about a few flings with guys in Africa, none had been serious, since she already knew he liked men but hadn’t ever done anything about that attraction in Sunnydale. She asked more about what he went through, how he felt about being an immortal and he told her about his training with Adam and admitted while it had its advantages, it also had its drawbacks. Like if he wasn’t killed, he would have to see all his friends die, that finding someone to spend his life with would be hard and joked he might have to ask out Spike.

Which got him a smirk and a knowing look, “Dawn said you two were flirting.”

“Yeah but it was just that, it wasn’t serious. Adam and I flirted but it didn’t go beyond that. I mean he’s probably still holding a torch for Buffy, he saved the world for her.” He didn’t bother to deny that he was attracted to Spike.

Willow gave a shake of her head. “No, he saved the world for all of us, not just Buffy. You know he loves Dawn, would do anything for her, and he’s wrapped around her finger. Plus, he hasn’t tried to get back with Buffy and she said he wished her luck with Angel, so maybe he’s moved on. And might I mention, you haven’t given a reason why you wouldn’t be interested.”

Damn, Willow was always too smart for his own good. “I-. I mean he’s gorgeous, kind of sex on legs but I’m not sure we would work out, probably too much history.”

“So, no issues with him being a vampire?” The question held no indication of opinion, just curiosity.

Xander thought about it for a minute but he knew he didn’t have any issues with it, not anymore. “Nope. I held onto my hate for vampires for a long time just because I wanted to believe what Giles told me about them being nothing but demons who took over a corpse, that they couldn’t love. It helped after Jesse. It was one of the reasons I hated Angel for so long but I saw Spike, even before the soul, he loved Drusilla so fiercely, helped save the world from Angelus, cared about Dawn and didn’t give her up to Glory, and I knew that demons could feel. Hell, he went and got a soul on purpose and even if it did drive him a little crazy for a while, he didn’t try to get rid of it. I have no issues with him being a vampire.” Willow had slipped her hand in his at the mention of Jesse.

Willow gave him a small nudge. “So, this means you’re interested?”

“I don’t know. I think I’ll work on us being friends, then if something’s there, we’ll see. You don’t care?” He was a little surprised that he was interested but not as much as he should be because he knew how much his thoughts had turned to Spike, since Sunnydale.

“No. I think you and Spike deserve someone who can love you like you deserve and both of you love so fiercely. Spike’s had it rough, I mean he was left by Drusilla, who he had loved for over a hundred years and then Buffy, who never loved him back. So, be careful. I don’t want to see either of you get hurt.”

“Okay, but I think you’re getting way ahead of yourself there. How about we go see if there’s any of that stew left, cause I’m hungry again.” From the look he got, he knew he wasn’t fooling Willow with the change of subject.
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The following couple of weeks were spent catching up with everyone and settling into life at Slayer Headquarters. Giving Giles the detailed recount of events he had wanted but leaving out Adam’s real name and age. Both Giles and Willow were interested in finding out more about immortals and he left them to it.

He took time to train with the slayers and keep up with his own work-out regimen; which now included sparring with Spike and Angel, who just happened to be better than Spike with a sword though both were a real challenge. Their styles were completely different; Spike had a controlled wild but viciously aggressive technique, while Angel seemed to like to draw it out if he could and learn more about his enemies’ weaknesses and both liked to play with their opponent.

Xander had already done most of his shopping for Christmas, which was still about a week away. He had also gone out for drinks and pool with Spike a few times and their flirting continued but they had also talked which had lead him to this.

Spike had complained about the ‘dreadful weather’, even if it did mean he could go out during the day some, and Xander figured he had to be pretty cold since he couldn’t generate his own body heat. So, while he had been out shopping for gifts, he had seen something that he figured Spike would appreciate; plus, he had gotten one for himself because he hadn’t adjusted to Scotland weather yet.

He knocked on the door across from his and waited for Spike to answer. “Hey, pet. What you got there?” The vampire asked, as Xander pushed the package into his hands.

“I saw it while I was out shopping and thought of you, got one for myself too. I know you don’t like the cold. Plus, this place even after some of the work I did before I left and the other renovations done to it, well it’s still a drafty old castle in Scotland.” Xander cut himself off before he could really start to babble, he had already had a ten-minute inner conversation over getting it wrapped or not at the store before he decided against it. He already had a gift in mind for Spike, it was a knife he had picked up in Africa that was made of carved bone.

“A heating blanket?” Xander didn’t really know how to interpret the tone or look on Spike’s face, it was just a blanket.

“Yeah, that way you’ll stay warm while you sleep. I figured it was that or invite you to come sleep with me and steal my warmth.” Xander teased with a smirk and then smiled when it got a chuckle from Spike.

“Blankets nice, pet. Though I wouldn’t have minded an invitation into your bed.” He laughed at the overdone leer Spike gave him. Their flirting hadn’t gone further and never had any serious intent behind it but he thought it could, if either of them let it. He thought there was…something between them or that there could be, but he didn’t want to push it, not so soon.

He watched as Spike looked back down and just kept looking at the box like it held the answers to the universe. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing, luv. Ta, pet.” It looked like Spike was going to say more before he shook his head and gently closed the door.

Well, that hadn’t gone the way he thought it would. Though he couldn’t say what he had been expecting but not the strange look in Spike’s eyes, something he had no chance to interpret.
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It was Christmas eve when he smelled it, as Buffy and Angel came walking into the kitchen where Xander and Spike were snacking on Jaffa Cakes; with Spike dunking his in blood and Xander pretend gagging each time. If Xander could smell them all over each other and sex, he knew Spike could too. He felt the tension in the body next to him and said bye to Buffy and Angel, but neither were paying anyone else any mind, then dragged Spike out of there and up to his room.

“You going to be okay?” This was something they hadn’t talked about, something that Spike had seemed to intentionally not talk about. He had hoped they would have had a little more concern for Spike, but both were too wrapped up in each other to care about anything else.

“Yeah, just-. Bloody hell, I don’t know really.” Spike’s tone was confused and frustrated.

“Well, you loved Buffy or you still love her and it can’t be easy seeing them together. Though if it helps, I don’t think they’ll last because they have too much history and both have changed so much since they first fell in love.” Xander wasn’t the best at comforting someone but he gave it a try. He had seen their ‘auras’ enough to know that it probably wouldn’t work in the long run, they just weren’t truly compatible.

“It isn’t that, not really. I mean I did love Buffy, still care for her but not in love with her anymore. We weren’t ever meant to be and we sure weren’t good for each other, always hurting the other. She couldn’t love me and I deserve someone who does, who can, and it took a while to figure that out. I just want that or well I want love, someone to love me, to be someone’s true love, yeah? The PTB, they said my true desire was to have love, to be loved. They said-.” Spike broke off before finishing and just looked down at his hands.

“Said what?” Xander asked when it didn’t seem Spike was going to continue.

“They said I would find my heart’s desire…with an immortal.” The last was whispered but Xander could still hear it.

“Oh.” Xander wasn’t sure how to feel about that. What did that mean? Was Spike only interested because of that?

“I didn’t know what they meant, I didn’t know about your kind of immortals. Thought they might have meant with another vampire but I didn’t know how that would work with the soul and all or maybe even some long-lived half-demon. Then when you told your tale, I thought…” Spike trailed off again.

“That they might mean me or another immortal, like me.” The thought of Spike with someone else made his stomach clench.

Spike gave a nod and quiet. “Maybe.”

“Is that why you’ve been flirting? Because something they said? Do you even-” Xander had to know.

“Like you? Yeah, I do. You’re a right treat, love. Got a nice body under all those layers and I’ve always had a thing for your dark hair and eyes. Plus, you’re a good man, a brave one, the Slayer’s White Knight and all that. Me and you get along or at least we have been now that we aren’t trying to take the piss out of each other. I don’t know if we could be more but I think it’s possible, that there’s something there and not just cause what the Powers said but do you really want to be with a vampire? Been love’s bitch a few times too many, don’t really want to get hurt or used again. I want someone who isn’t ashamed to be with me and will love me just as much as I love them.” Spike’s voice was even, determined, but he was staring down at his hands that were gripping each other in his lap.

Xander figured it was time to be honest and lay it out there. “I don’t have any issues with you being a vampire, got over that a long time ago. It had a lot to do with the fact I staked my best friend, even if it was an accident, and after Giles told me they weren’t the person they had been anymore, that they couldn’t feel love or friendship and I held on to that. Angelus didn’t really help either but like I told Willow, you showed me it wasn’t true. Yeah, maybe you were still a killer before the chip and soul but it was obvious you loved Drusilla, that you cared about Joyce, and took care of Dawn. It showed me that being a demon didn’t mean you couldn’t love and plus, I was with Anya and she was a thousand-year-old ex-vengeance demon. She had done things that made what you’ve done look like child’s play and I loved her, maybe I wasn’t in love with her like she deserved but I still loved her.”

Xander took a breath before continuing. “I want to try with you, can’t promise we’ll work but I would like to see where this could go. We could take it slow, don’t have to rush into anything. We’ve both got time as long as we don’t do anything stupid and end up dead.”

“Think that sounds like a good idea, pet. I’ve never done slow before, always been too impatient; why my plans never worked.” Xander let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, he hadn’t realized the answer was so important. Whatever was between him and Spike was so new but he thought it could be good, really good, and he wanted to give it a chance.

“Good. Willow’s going to be pleased.” He could already hear her gloating, like all her little less than subtle comments had pushed him along.

“She knows?” Spike sounded surprised.

Xander nods. Willow was likely to take all the credit for their relationship. “Well yeah. Called me out the first day for flirting with you and wanted to know if I liked you. Told her what I said earlier and that I thought you were attractive. She said we both deserved someone to love us.”

“Really, you told her? She didn’t mind?” Xander had never seen Spike show this kind of insecurity.

“No and even if she did, it wouldn’t have stopped me from liking you and from wanting to see where this could go. I’m not going to hide you or be ashamed of you. Spike, you’re a good man too, a good demon.”

“Oi. I’m still the Big Bad, still evil, pet.” Spike indignantly replied.

“Sure, you are, making all those baby slayers quake in their shoes.” Which got him a half-offended look and he had to bite his lip not to laugh. “But seriously, you’re nothing to be ashamed about; you’re gorgeous, a strong master vampire, and have saved the world a time or two and I’m glad you’re giving me a chance to show you that I’m not going to treat you like they did, that you deserve better.” He knew he didn’t have to specify who.

“Know that, Xander. Why I’m willing to give this a try.” He swallowed at the open and hopeful look Spike gave him and made a promise to himself he would do anything within his power to not hurt Spike.

“Good. I think as long as we’re honest with each other and you know…talk about our feelings and stuff, we’ll be good.” Xander couldn’t help but wince at that but it was the truth, they couldn’t work if they weren’t willing to be open with each other. “I learned the hard way and hurt someone I cared about when I wasn’t completely honest about my feelings, before.”

“Anya? I’m sorry about me and her.” Spike wasn’t looking at him but at his hands, again, which were picking at his jeans.

“Don’t be, you have nothing to be sorry about; you two just needed someone and the people you loved had hurt you both. I was so angry, mostly at myself, but I took it out on both of you.” It had taken Xander a while to admit that, even though he knew he had been wrong from the start. “I messed that all up and even if we worked it out after, I know I still really hurt her. We’ll probably have to talk about that more but maybe another day? I think I’ve had enough heart to heart for today. Let’s go spar, then maybe we can go out for a drink later?”

“Sounds good.” Xander felt his heart trip a little when Spike gives him a soft smile, one he had hardly ever seen and never aimed at him.

“I’m going to kiss you now.” Xander slowly reached his hand up, giving Spike time to stop him, and gently pulled Spike’s face to him before softly brushing his lips against Spike’s cool ones. He felt the soft sigh Spike released as their lips touched and could smell the orange, chocolate, and iron from their earlier snack. He felt heat build in his lower belly but didn’t let the kiss become more than the soft slide of their lips because he really did want them to take their time. While there may be attraction between them, he wanted more than just sex.

He pulled back and smiled at the half-lidded look Spike was giving him. “Bloody hell, you sure know how to leave a man wanting more, pet. I think sparring is a good idea, probably going to be doing a lot of that to work out the frustration while we take it slow.” The last was grumbled out but with a teasing smile.

“Nothing wrong with a bit of anticipation. Come on.” Xander stood up and grabbed Spike’s hand and pulled him up. He couldn’t help but smile when Spike didn’t let go of his hand as they walked out of his room, their fingers tangled.
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The next month was filled with Xander spending as much time as he could with Spike between sparring and training baby slayers; going out for drinks and to play pool, and just sitting together talking or not because their silence was comfortable. Also kissing, lots and lots of smooches and they got more passionate and longer; till they sometimes ended up making out like teenagers and had ended up coming in their pants, a time or three.

Xander hadn’t ever had a relationship like that and liked the slow build. With Cordelia it had been stolen kisses in a closet because she had been ashamed of him, Faith had just used him for sex, and with Anya they had a relationship but it started with ‘mutual orgasms’.

His 24th birthday had been a quiet affair but had been nice, he and Spike had gone out for dinner at this really nice gastro-pub and it had actually been fairly romantic. Spike had made him try lots of different stouts, saying he needed better taste in beer since he still liked that ‘American swill’ and so had ended up less than sober by the end of the night. Spike had gotten him a set of really nice leather-bound journals with an X branded on the front and a set of high quality fountain pens for him to write about his life because he had mentioned that if he did end up living a long time he didn’t want to forget certain things. He had actually been writing about some of the stuff that happened in Sunnydale in one of them and it seemed…therapeutic.

They had talked about so much both good and bad, which was necessary for them to work. They spoke about their travels, Xander around Africa and Spike around the world; though Spike did leave out most of the killing and mayhem, both agreed they would like to do much more traveling together. Spike telling him about Fred, a sweet girl who had been his friend when no one else was, about his time with Drusilla and her inability to love him like he wanted and needed, and even the unpleasant specifics of him and Buffy. Which made Spike’s actions make more sense and they had even talked about that and Xander admitted to his attempted rape of Buffy, when he was possessed by the hyena spirit.

Xander told Spike about Jesse, who had been his friend almost as long as Willow had and how he had been the first vampire Xander ever killed. He told him about Cordelia and the unfortunate time with Faith. He admitted to not being truly in love with Anya, loving her but not the way she wanted and not being brave enough to admit it. That the reason those fake ‘visions’ of the future worked so well was because he already had doubts and he should have talked to Anya about them and not just left her at the altar. How he learned you couldn’t force yourself to love someone and that you shouldn’t try to build a future on dreams you didn’t truly even want. That they didn’t give each other what they needed or maybe she didn’t give him what he needed, that their wants were too different. Xander apologized again for the way he had acted when he caught them together, that it was more he was angry with himself and taking it out on someone else instead of facing the truth.

He had told Spike about the deaths of the two immortals before they were together, how he had felt at the time and how he didn’t want to be a killer but wanted to survive more. It was then he told Spike about everything he had seen in Africa, all the horrors, he knew Spike would understand, he was someone who had seen it himself. The things he had seen there had caused more nightmares than he had experienced in years and Spike had petted him, whispered nonsense into his ears till he had fallen back to sleep a few times since they started sharing a bed.

The others knew evil but it was usually at the hands of a demon, not the evils the rest of the world knew; disease, famine, human cruelty. Xander admitted that humans were worse than any vampire or other demon because the human had a soul or consciousness to tell them when their actions were wrong. That most demons were just following their nature and a vampire eating a human was like a human eating a cow.

They both realized that together they probably had a barrel full of issue and insecurities, most from neglectful, uncaring, and abusive parents or sires; for Xander and Spike, respectively. They didn’t feed each other’s insecurities but helped alleviate them and were both working on them. Xander got to witness a softer side to Spike, he knew few had ever seen and Xander let go of his masks of sarcasm that hid what he was really feeling, he had gained confidence in himself while he was away. They were both really trying because they both believed whatever they were feeling for each other could become something real and amazing.

This didn’t mean that hadn’t run into issues or that they wouldn’t have fights, the biggest so far had only been a few days before and had been about a letter Xander had received from Dracula, something he hadn’t thought anything of till Spike saw it.
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Xander walked into his room to see Spike standing at his desk and came up behind him to wrap his arms around him, when Spike stepped away, avoiding his touch. “Hey, what’s the matter?” Xander really didn’t like the emotionless look on Spike’s face, because that always meant he didn’t want to give away what he was feeling.

“What’s this? Were you going to tell me? Were you just-?” The words were hissed out between a mouth full of fangs.

“What?!” Xander was surprised by venom in Spike’s question and he had no idea what he was talking about.

“This! Dracula, that poncey sod, is sending you letters and wanting you, and you didn’t think that was something you should tell me?” Spike’s voice was almost a hiss by the end.

Xander looked over at his desk and saw the letter he had gotten from Dracula earlier that day but he didn’t understand why this would upset Spike. He had planned to tell Spike and joke about it with him, thought he would find it funny. Then he realized Spike might think that…no he wouldn’t, would he?

“Spike, are you worried I’d go to him? Because I wouldn’t, even if we weren’t together and I wasn’t falling in love with you. That melodramatic, self-possessed, prick made me eat bugs and call him master, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell I would want to be with him. And he just wants me now because I’m immortal.”

Spike’s shoulders dropped and he just stood there a moment, “you really don’t want him?” Spike’s words were a whisper and the ‘game face’ had disappeared.

Xander shook his head. “No. I planned to tell you later, I just got the letter today. I thought we would joke over it and make fun of him. I know you don’t like him, something about owing you eleven pounds?”

“Cheap git, does owe me eleven pounds. By now, with interest, that’d be a right penny.” There was a short pause before, “Xander?”

“Yeah?” Xander took a chance and got closer to Spike, setting his hands low on Spike’s sides and this time his touch wasn’t avoided. Spike leaned in closer, tucking his face into Xander’s neck.

“What you said, were you telling the truth? That you’re falling in love with me?” The words were whispered against his neck, like Spike wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answer.

This wasn’t how he had wanted to tell Spike and he wasn’t even sure he had been ready to say anything; it was so new and fragile. “Yes, and I mean it. But we need to talk about the fact that you don’t trust me. Spike,-”

He was interrupted by Spike, “I do! I just-. Bloody hell!”

“If you did, you wouldn’t have reacted like you had to that letter. Do you think I would, what? Just leave you for Dracula? After everything we’ve talked about and you don’t trust me that much?” He tried to step back from Spike because he was actually getting a little angry now, the more he thought about it but Spike locked his arms around him and wouldn’t let him go.

“I just saw it and all I could think was, why hadn’t you told me or what if you did want him. I didn’t mean to doubt you or not trust you; just was letting my abandonment issues get the better of me, wasn’t I? Cause everyone else I’ve cared about has left me, for bloody greener pastures.” The words held the bitterness of well over a century of not being enough for the ones he’d loved.

Xander used a finger to lift Spike’s chin and looked him in the eye as he answered. “Spike, I’m not like them and I’m not going to leave you. I can’t promise forever, not so soon, but I will talk to you if there’s a problem and you have to do the same; won’t just walk away, not from this or you.”

“I know. I’m sorry, pet.” Xander was surprised Spike actually apologized, it wasn’t something he would normally do without teeth being pulled. He hugged him tighter and breathed in the smell of leather, whiskey, and smoke, along with whatever hair gel Spike used; the combination of scents had become familiar and comforting. “I am too, you know, falling for you, probably already half in love with you. Heart of mine doesn’t know how to take it slow, especially when someone returns the feeling, never truly had that, never been pursued before.”

“Well, they are returned. Falling in love with you is easy, never been like this for me.” And wasn’t that a surprise, just how easy it was between them, when they weren’t at each other’s throat.

“Yeah?” Before Xander could do more than nod, his lips were taken in a passionate kiss and hands were under his shirt, running up and down his sides and back.

They stumbled to Xander’s bed and started pulling clothes off and before long they were completely naked against each other for the first time. Neither were willing to allow much space between their bodies, hands were roaming over previously uncharted territory and they were rocking against each other. Their cocks slipping beside each other, the friction only slightly lessened by the pre-come they were both producing. Xander knew he wouldn’t last long and it didn’t sound like Spike would either, so he spit in his hand and wrapped it around both of their cocks and looked down; watching them slide through his hand and their foreskins. Spike’s skin was so much paler than his own and his cock was flushed a slight pink.

Spike’s hand joined his shortly and tightened their grip, the feeling of Spike’s slightly cooler flesh just increased his pleasure and made his hips buck harder. They sped up the strokes and when Spike let out a small grunt and came over their hands, Xander wasn’t far behind with a stifled shout. Xander felt like his orgasm was wrung out of him and could still feel shocks of it through his body as Spike kept touching them, to draw out the pleasure.

“Fuck!” “Fuck’s right, pet, if just wanking each other feels this good, think about how fucking is gonna feel.” Xander laughed at the leering look Spike gave him before bringing his hand up and licked their combined come off, smirking when Spike’s gaze went hazy and his mouth parted. Leaning over for a kiss to share their taste and was eagerly received, with Spike’s tongue trying to lick all their taste out of his mouth.
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It had been a week since then and they hadn’t done much more, well there was the blow jobs in the shower the previous evening and Xander praised Spike’s lack of need for air and his non-existent gag reflex but Spike hadn’t complained about Xander’s limited experience with giving a blow job, just gently instructed him on what he liked. Which was more teeth then Xander was comfortable with on his own cock and Spike just enjoyed the heat of his mouth.

Xander had thought that Spike’s lack of body temperature might be strange or something he would have to get use to but that hadn’t been the case, he enjoyed it, especially, when they slept together. Spike seemed to suck up all the extra heat Xander put off, which was nice as he had never liked sleeping with other people before because he always got too hot and Spike enjoyed the fact he was like a furnace when he slept, wrapping himself around Xander as much as he could and soaking in the warmth.

Xander had left Spike in bed when he had been called to Giles’ office by Buffy, he wondered what they wanted. He didn’t think there was anything left to tell them about being an immortal and Buffy had only recently surfaced from her room for things other than food; where her and Angel had done thing he didn’t want to know about but could usually smell anyway, if they were close enough.

Everyone already knew about him and Spike, Buffy had actually pulled him aside and told him he was lucky to have the attention of Spike and told him not to take it for granted like she had. Her and Willow had both given Spike a ‘shovel’ talk, though it was more a ‘I have a stake and I can rip your flesh off’ talk and he had received one from Angel, which had surprised Spike, that had been frankly disturbing and had a little too much of Angelus in there for his comfort.

He wasn’t sure what Giles had told Spike and Angel but they had come out of his office paler than normal, which was a feat when you were a vampire and he hadn’t been able to pry it from Spike, other than a ‘that man is terrifying and you should be lucky he considers you like a son’. Xander admits to being a little overwhelmed by that, as he had always seen Giles as a pseudo-father figure and was glad the feelings were returned. While Giles may not have been entirely pleased that both him and Buffy were with vampires, he knew there was no chance of changing their minds and was grudgingly accepting of them both.

He knocks on the door of Giles office before walking in, seeing both Buffy and Giles talking. “Hey guys, what’s up?”

Buffy looked at Giles, who answered, “We have a possible assignment for you.”

“Yeah? What is it?” Xander really hoped they weren’t sending him back to Africa because now that he was back to civilization, he wasn’t as ready to give up modern amenities again, so soon.

“We’ve been talking and realized that the American Slayer Houses need someone to check in on them. To make sure they are running okay, that all the slayers are happy with their current location, and that everyone is getting the training they need; that along with other issues they may have. We need someone who is familiar with slayers and what each house should be doing, plus you will be sure to inform us of any issue and won’t be shy in asking for what is needed. We believe that the newer houses may not be asking for all they need, and we just want to make sure they have everything to do their jobs correctly and efficiently. Since it was your idea that started the other Slayer Houses, we felt that you might like to be involved. You will also occasionally be tasked with finding new slayers if they are in your area. We have noticed that you and Spike have gotten a little…restless, perhaps, and thought you might enjoy a change of scenery. I know you’ve probably missed America, that you enjoyed traveling around Africa, and Spike has made it abundantly clear he isn’t fond of the weather here; though the houses aren’t in the warmest climates you will be free to sightsee and travel, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work.”

Xander didn’t mention how Giles and Spike couldn’t spend more than ten minutes in each other’s company before they were sniping at each other and that Giles was probably just as ready to be rid of Spike.

“You want us to go back to America?” Xander tried not to jump for joy, even if it did mean more work, he had enjoyed this break but had been getting a little restless; just being stuck in the castle with nothing other than training with the baby slayers and watchers-in-training had gotten tedious. Plus, Spike really wasn’t a fan of the cold and dreary climate.

“We think you would be the best suited for the job, yes, but that doesn’t mean you have too. This is only if you want and Spike, as well, since we figured you would travel together. We both agree he could give training to the slayers that would give them a different perspective and help them survive, as none of us can deny he is a highly gifted fighter.” Xander tilted his head down so Giles wouldn’t see the smile on his face caused by the grimace Giles gave from complimenting Spike.

Xander thought about it and he liked the idea, he really had missed America and all its junk food. Honestly, trying to get a Twinkie in Scotland or Africa was next too impossible and the serious lack of his favorite fast food or real pizza was horrifying, he may work-out more and take better care of himself now, but he still missed junk food.

“Alright, I might be interested but we’ll have a lot of details to work out first and I’ll need a vehicle that’s got that necro glass, so we can travel during the day and Spike will be safe; something big preferably, as we’ll need room for specialized storage for weapons and a blood cooler or mini fridge. I still need to talk to Spike though because if he doesn’t want to go, it isn’t happening.” Ideas were already running though his head and he hoped Spike was at least open to the idea because he wouldn’t mind more traveling, even if was just around the US.

Giles nodded. “We understand, and I’ll try to work on having a vehicle ready for you. Also, you’ll be given an unlimited expense account for anything you need, for yourselves or the houses, though we do ask that you are responsible with it.” Which probably meant keep the card far away from Spike, who would use it to buy smokes and expensive liquor.

“Alright, well let’s go over everything and I’ll take it to Spike, when we’re done. How many new houses are there though, I know of the one in New York beside Faith’s in Cleveland?” Xander asked curiously.

Buffy answered him then, giving him a run-down of the houses. “New York is the newest and smallest, only about six months old and is led by Vi. She is a 1st Lt. in the slayer army and was one of the potentials that helped with the First. She was originally from Brooklyn and wanted to go back. Then there is the house in Chicago, they have an unusually high number of demons for a place without a Hellmouth. That house started last year at the beginning of 2004 while you were in Africa and is led by Rona, another potential who was in Sunnydale and a 1st Lt also. Now, there are slayers who stayed at the Hyperion in LA, after the battle, and didn’t return to Cleveland with Faith and I’ve talked to Angel and he said it could be another base, gives us a presence on the west coast of the US. It’d be nice to have at least a small presence in most major cities but that will take time. Giles believes the next base should be in one of the southern states, though we haven’t decided if it should be Texas or Louisiana; both states have decent vampire and demon populations in their larger cities. Angel and I are going to be checking possible locations for International Slayer Houses, in the meantime.”

“The new Watcher’s Council headquarters near London is coming together and I have acquired a new building that will be quite suitable for it. All the items and books that were saved from the wreckage of the other and those that the original copies were locked away elsewhere, and new copies have been made of, will be placed there. I will be working more on that soon.” Giles added.

“Hold on, I thought the new Watcher Headquarters was here, too?” Xander asked confused, as there were more than a few watchers-in-training, hanging around.

“No, just some watchers-in-training who are learning alongside slayers; not the actual headquarters, those will be in this new building back in London. While this place may have watchers, witches, and slayers, it’s main purpose is the International Slayer Headquarters and will be the seat of the World Wide Council, we are trying to establish but it doesn’t have room for the Watcher’s Council also.”

“Alright, and Willow was telling me about the new council you’re trying to start, it sounds like a good idea. So back to what Buffy was saying, three established plus one possibly starting in LA and maybe more over time. How long will we be at each?” Xander asked, wanting at least an estimated time this would take.

“That will be to your discretion. When you arrive at a location, you will evaluate each house, the individual Slayers, and go from there. For example, you may only spend a short time at the Cleveland location but may spend many months at the other locations, as Faith’s house should be more established. We have reports that you can use to help appraise the situation but much of this will be up to your judgment and we are trusting you to do a good, through job. You took the search of slayers in Africa seriously and we hope you will be as dedicated to this. These young slayers are putting their lives in our hands and we need to make sure of their survival.” Giles informed him.

The three of them discussed details about the assignment for the next couple hours, each adding their own opinions and ideas to make the process more through. Xander was excited about the opportunity and he hoped Spike would like it.
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Spike was lying in bed waiting for Xander to come back, he had missed the warmth when Xander left to go see what the Slayer and Watcher needed. The heating blanket kept him warm but wasn’t the same and he still refused to get emotional over a blanket, he had been shocked by the simple gift when Xander had gotten it for him before Christmas. He had planned to keep Xander in bed all day, if he could, soaking in the scent and warmth of the man he was falling in love with.

Hell, who was he kidding, his heart was well and truly taken. It was almost embarrassing how easily his un-dead heart could be won but once it was, he was loyal to a fault. He had tried to take it slow and give himself time but the openness with which Xander showed affection and admitted his feelings, not just to Spike but everyone, made it next too impossible not to fall in love with the man. It was honestly embarrassing how much just holding his hand as they walked down to dinner together, meant to a hundred and fifty-year-old demon, even one with a soul.

Spike didn’t want to scare him away with the swiftness and fierceness with which he had given away his heart, again, but it didn’t seem like it would. He hoped this time was different, Spike wasn’t sure his heart could take another hit but he wasn’t stupid enough not to take a chance with Xander. He may have never thought of them together but that hadn’t meant he never noticed what a nummy treat the boy had made back in Sunnyhell; enticing scent and body that Xander had kept hidden under baggy layers.

The boy had grown into a man but Xander’s deflective humor and defensive attitude had once distracted from it but now the dark hair man showed an innate confidence that was incredibly sexy. A man who knew what he wanted and wasn’t scared to go after it, even if he might be turned down, and it seemed what he wanted was Spike and Spike was more than smart enough to accept that. He would hold on to this with all he had and hope the Powers were right, that he would find what he had always wanted with Xander, so far it seemed so.

He thought he couldn’t love anyone more than he had loved Dru but that love had been unequal, he had been her caregiver more than he had ever been her lover or childe and he had held on for over a hundred years; even as she carelessly threw away his love time and again. Then there had been Buffy and that was all tied up with the sodding chip, getting his soul, and the mess with the First; didn’t mean he hadn’t loved her because he had. She had needed him after she came back, even if it was just to hurt and Spike had always liked being needed.

Now there was Xander, a man who could take care of himself but wanted, not just needed, Spike and that was so much better. Xander was someone Spike could lean on if he ever needed too. Spike had given his heart away freely each time before and none had taken care of it but now he thought this could be so much more, an equal love, where he gives away his heart and gets Xander’s in return for safekeeping.

He looked up from his poncy poetic musings as the door opened, admitting a smiling Xander. “Hey, luv. Thought you’d be back long before now.”

“Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you up.” Xander glanced up from where he had been lost in thought.

“You didn’t, woke up and was missing you. So, come back to bed, pet.” Spike threw back the sheet, showing his naked body and stretched languidly, just to see Xander’s eyes go darker and his heartbeat pick up. Shivered under that gaze, that felt like a warm caress across his skin and luxuriated in the obvious appreciation.

“Uh…ok but I have something to talk to you about and no distracting me with all that sexy stretching.” Spike just nodded distractedly as he watched Xander undress at the foot of the bed, watched as beautiful sun kissed skin was slowly revealed and couldn’t hold in the growl when Xander played with the button of his jeans.

“Hurry up or I’m going to take it off myself.” Spike growled at him, already impatient.

Spike enjoyed the loud carefree laugh Xander gave him at that and the teasing. “And that’s supposed to make me hurry up? You need to work on your threats, Big Bad.” Still it got him out of his jeans, left only in some short boxer briefs and soon those joined the pile of clothes on the floor.

Xander slid in next to him and he plastered himself to all that warmth and gave the man a slow through kiss. “So, what did you want to talk to me about, pet?”

“Um…something.” He watched Xander shake his head. “Oh, Buffy and Giles have an assignment for me and well you, because they know I won’t go without you; plus, they think you’d be able to help. It actually sounds like fun; we’d get to travel some.”

“Yeah and what exactly is this job?” Spike asked, smiling at the thought Xander wouldn’t just leave without him.

Spike listened for the next while as Xander told him about the Watcher and Slayer’s idea to check on the houses in the US. He admitted it would be nice to get out of here, all the slayers here were grating on the demon, at least the other places would have less.

“So, these houses were your idea, Xan?” Curious as to where Xander had gotten the idea.

“Well, not exactly. After Sunnydale, we ended up in Cleveland…which has another Hellmouth. Giles didn’t stay long before he came over here to find out more about the Watcher’s Council and took charge of the whole thing. It didn’t take long after that before Buffy, Willow, and myself wanted to follow but before that we were all talking and I had thought that now there were more slayers and resources we could have small elite teams of slayers. I got the idea from the solider knowledge I still have but I figured small groups of slayers with a witch or watcher could be stationed anywhere in the world and could also be mobile, so that way we would have a presence everywhere we could. I mean vampires and other demons weren’t just in Sunnydale where we lived and where Buffy was but all over. The idea evolved into Slayer Houses in larger cities or wherever there was higher demon activity and also smaller mobile groups that could be housed anywhere, and they could handle smaller problems that cropped up where there wasn’t a house. Plus, with the resources Giles is willing to use we really could be a worldwide presence.”

“It’s a smart idea, pet. I’m guessing you’re the one who thought of the rank, too?” He knew Xander remembered everything from his time possessed by a soldier and that it was even more clear since his first death.

“Yeah, Buffy and Faith are the Generals and they chose Lieutenants who they feel could also lead groups of slayers. It’s not like the military because there’s only General and Lt. ranks but it’s a way to show experience and helps with chain of command. There has to at least be a 1st Lt. in charge of each house in combination with a watcher and they usually have a 2nd Lt. under them, then trained slayers and slayers-in-training. We want there to be a witch or even a small coven available to each house, also.”

“Demons aren’t going to have a chance. What about the ones who are peaceable like?” Spike couldn’t help but ask, thinking of demons like Clem.

“Well, those usually don’t get a slayer’s attention but Willow’s thought of that and is making a searchable online database of most demons, so that way they won’t go in and kill a clan of something like Gr’brxl demons, where the worst they do is eat road kill even if they look fairly lethal.” Xander hoped with more comprehensive training and not just a stake first mentality, there wouldn’t be unnecessary murder of peaceful creatures or demons and told Spike this.

Spike couldn’t help but shake his head. “You’ve guys have thought of most everything, this sure is going to be a new age. How about new slayers? Didn’t Red wake ‘em all up, how are new ones made?”

“Oh, yeah. We had to deal with that when we got back to London. Willow’s magic awakened all the potentials who had reached puberty and as new potentials are born they won’t gain their slayer power till they reach puberty, also. Willow with the help of her coven, was able to restrict it, so there wouldn’t be any babies with Slayer powers. They were going to go back to how a new slayer would be wakened when one died but with all the slayers it’s possible some will never actually join and others could live their whole natural life, get married and have kids, so then we would gradually have less slayers. This way we always have more available and they have a choice whether they want to join.”

Spike laid there just thinking of the possibilities of a worldwide slayer army, he was glad he was a reformed demon. Demons really wouldn’t stand a chance against an army of slayers but it did make him wonder if there would be even worse foes now; balance seemed to be important to the PTB and all the other big wankers.

Xander nudged him. “So, what do you think? I kind of like the idea of traveling around some more and checking out the Slayer Houses, it could be interesting. We don’t have to stay at the houses if you don’t want because I know the slayers have to bother you, even I can feel them now. I plan to get a car with that necro-tinted glass, so we can travel during the day and you’ll be safe. Plus, the Watcher’s Council will be footing the bill.”

Spike pulled Xander back down to him, rubbed his nose in the thick black hair and breathed in the warm scent of his boy. “Don’t have to worry about dosh anyhow, luv. I told you, Angel and I drained a few of the smaller expense accounts from Wolfram and Hart; not like Angel hadn’t already been well off before but now so am I. We took money, weapons, and cars; didn’t know the old Pouf still had it in him. You really want to do this, luv?” Spike didn’t have anything against the idea and a bit of traveling sounded nice even if it involved work.

Xander nodded slightly. “Kinda, yeah, but if you don’t we won’t. I’m not going to force you to do something you don’t want or travel without you.”

“Well, we’ll do it then and I can show you around New York and Chicago. Tell your Watcher to get it ready and book us passage on a ship, something nice, yeah?” He was hoping for something more cruise liner then freighter that he and Angel had traveled over on.

“You really don’t mind? Wouldn’t flying be faster?” Xander asked as he nuzzled into Spike’s neck.

“We’ll make an adventure of it, pet. Not meant to fly, prefer a ship myself, you know I don’t like mojo.” That was as close as he was coming to admit he was not willingly getting on a plane, had to be magic that kept those big metal monsters up in the air and like he said, he had never liked mojo.

Spike felt Xander smile against his neck and smelled the hint of amusement but he just nodded and agreed. “Ok, I’ll tell Giles at dinner.”

“I can probably have one of the vehicles we took from the lawyers sent to New York, that way the Watcher doesn’t have to buy something and it’s already got the necro glass.” He got an agreeable noise from Xander who was busy laying kisses across his chest and over his un-beating heart, that would have tripped over itself if it could.

They laid in bed till both their stomachs made them get up. While they were laying there, Spike told Xander about his last time in NY, he did leave out most of the killing but Xander already knew about the slayer he had killed there and where he wanted to take him. He even mentioned he might go back to his punk look from those days and wished he could take Xander to a Sex Pistols’ concert. Xander asked him to use less gel in his hair because he liked to run his fingers through it and Spike was willing to do that because it felt so nice, the petting and scratching the boy would do when his hair was free of gel. He soaked in those simple affections like a cat soaking in the sun.
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Xander told Giles at dinner that same night that they would go, and that Spike had a vehicle they could use. From there it was a waiting game, while final details were figured out and passage on a luxury cruise liner was booked which seemed to please Spike.

Xander had a few things he needed to do before they left in a little over a month and a half, their passage booked for mid-March. He asked Willow and Giles for a huge favor, a gift for Spike (and Angel) and they promised they would work on it but couldn’t make any guarantees. He knew it wouldn’t be a priority with everything else they had going on but he was sure if there was a way they would find it.

Also, he had a micro-mail shirt like his made for Spike with extra backing over the heart area, front and back, and even had it done in black, the thin leather shirt it was attached to was dyed black also and the whole thing had been blessed by Willow with a small protection spell. He figured he could probably talk Spike into wearing it under his shirt, at least when they were around slayers or fighting demons. He didn’t want an overzealous slayer or lucky demon turning his lover into a pile of dust because he didn’t think that Spike would be resurrected again. Xander hoped they had years, decades, hell even centuries together; though that was still almost impossible to imagine, such a long life.

He had Willow set-up the laptop she had given him for Christmas and show him how to transfer the pictures from the SD cards of his digital camera to a flash drive. He had well over a thousand pictures from his time in Africa and he wanted to show them to Spike, he thought it would be a good way to pass time while they were on the ship for close to 2 weeks. Plus, he had a few of everyone, including Spike and Angel since it was digital, during Christmas. He had to have Willow do some mojo on the pictures of the vampires to make them turn out less blurry; it was well worth it, seeing them all gathered together and happy.

Spike and Xander talked with the rest of the Scooby gang about plans for their trip, over the next few weeks, and what they all thought each house should have; training schedules, budgets, and such, till they were blue in the face. They were both excited about the traveling and even looking forward to the work.

Xander also took the time to talk to them about better ways to protect the Slayers and training them with more modern weaponry. He figured that making chain mail shirts for every girl was unnecessary, as there were plenty types of protection vests available. He helped Giles look for a supplier, so they could order some, and Xander had shipments sent to the US Slayer Houses also, so they could be used during patrol. While the Slayers all healed faster than normal humans, it was better to prevent injuries or possibly death. He had plans to pick up a firearm when they made it back to the states, along with a concealed weapons permit and a silencer. To not only train the slayers with but so if another immortal came after him, he could always shoot them then leave instead of killing them permanently, if that was possible, or chop their head off while they were recovering. He had no intentions of dying anytime soon and had no shame about fighting dirty.

Giles made sure to remind them about having already set it up, the year before, so that any collegiate or technical schooling was paid for by the Watcher’s Council and the new slayers were receiving monetary compensation, an actual salary for slaying. That Xander was to remind the slayers of this and ensure that they were taking advantage of it, if they were interested.

Buffy was still complaining she had never had that when she was the only slayer, even though Giles had given her back pay which was a hefty sum. Between the Council money that Giles controlled and a ridiculously large sum Willow…acquired for Slayer Headquarters, from a demon they had killed last year who had amassed a fortune, they were more than well off. The new slayers were given options that were never available to those who had come before, even the option to not become a slayer.
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The day before they boarded the cruise liner, there was a going away party. They planned to board the ship at night, so they wouldn’t have to worry about the sun. Xander gave Spike the micro-mail shirt he had commissioned, it was so fine that it would go almost unseen under a shirt and when Spike tried it on, well, Xander realized he might have a new kink.

Spike figured he could actually wear it as a shirt, make a new fashion statement. Xander had no problems with this, as his lover looked incredibly good in chainmail.

Angel and Giles made sure they had contacts for bagged human blood for Spike, who refused to eat ‘animal swill’ if there was human available. They had a large cooler packed that would last the next two weeks, if they kept some frozen, and Xander planned to offer some of his own; he was curious to how it would feel.

When the sun set and they left for the port, it was more like an envoy. Buffy, Willow, Dawn, Giles, and Angel all coming along for a final goodbye. It would be awhile before they would be back but not as long as last time, as Willow and Buffy has extracted a promise they would be back by the following Christmas, with threats of torture. Xander was firmly reminded by Willow to use his new phone to keep them updated along with emails or she would turn him into a toad and see if Spike would kiss him them. Xander had laughed loudly when Spike said of course he would, then he might get a prince.
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It didn’t take them long to settle into the large suite of rooms that was theirs and partially put away some of their things. They had no plans till the next evening when they would be dining at the Captain’s table. The suite had a small kitchenette and luxurious bathroom, that Xander was sure was named something different because they were on a boat. The bedroom had a queen bed and the open living area had a huge flat screen TV. It was much nicer than he expected even when Giles had said luxury liner and from Spike’s approving noises, he was pleased.

“Well, pet, the Watcher has much better taste then Angel. The prat made us come over on a freight liner even though we both have plenty o’ dosh. I got us a little pressie for the evening, figured it would be fun and hoped you’d be willing to try.” Spike had set a beautiful carved wooden box on the table in front of the couch and opened it.

“What is it?” Xander hadn’t seen Spike pack it but he knew the vampire could be plenty sneaky and the box was filled with all sorts of things.

“Absinthe, luv, the green fairy. This bottle right here was a pretty penny. Though its green color comes from a separate mixture of herbs steeped in clear absinthe, color can be faked if you don’t know what you’re looking for, though it won’t taste right.” Xander raised his eyebrows at the dark opaque colored, gorgeous glass bottle and listened as Spike talked about its history.

“Got everything we need, other than a bit o’ iced water. Absinthe spoon to hold the sugar cubes, jar of cubes, two absinthe glasses, along with a little water fountain. Now, we’ll be drinking it what’s considered the French way, I was actually in France the first time I had it. There’s also the Bohemian way that involves soaking the sugar cube in alcohol and burning it, which tends to make it a bit stronger but seems to destroy the true absinthe flavor.” Spike continued to talk about it, while filling a little metal and glass fountain up with ice and water, then set it so the two little spigots dripped over a sugar cube set on decorative flat slotted spoons setting over the strange shaped glasses that had a shot of absinthe in them.

“Why are you putting water and sugar in it?” Xander asked as he watched the sugar start to slowly melt.

“Cause it enhances the flavors and you won’t want to be drinkin’ it straight. Don’t have to worry, it won’t make ya hallucinate. That was mostly caused by shite people added or for shortcuts made with the wrong ingredients. Guessing ya never had any before?” Spike asked as he slotted himself in Xander’s arms, cold nose rubbing against his neck, sending little shivers down his spine.

“No, but I did do some hash in Africa.” Xander couldn’t help the little smirk at Spike’s surprised expression.

“Well, if I’d know that I would of got us some for the trip. Hadn’t had none in ages. I remember Woodstock, there were all sorts of drugs and the blood of some hippie made me stare at me hands for hours. Maybe we can find some in New York and relax for an evening. Don’t have to worry about any drugs killing you now.” Spike mused with a smirk.

They stayed entwined on the couch as the sugar slowly melted away. Once it had disappeared, Spike picked up one of the small glasses and handed it to him, then clicked it lightly with his own and a ‘cheers’ before drinking it. Xander sniffed the drink before doing the same. The flavor wasn’t like anything he had every drank before and had to agree he probably wouldn’t have liked to drink it straight but with the sugar it was nice.

As they sat on the couch, waiting for another round of sugar cubes to melt, both relaxed and just enjoying each other’s presence. Xander decided to ask a question he had been thinking about since they had gotten together.

“Spike, when we have sex will you bite me? I mean sex and blood is kinda a big deal for vamps, right?” They hadn’t had penetrative sex yet but he hoped they would soon, not that he was complaining because what they had done so far had been amazing. Xander hadn’t expected his question to make Spike go tense or start pulling away, so he tightened his arms slightly knowing that Spike could easily get out of them if he truly wanted to.

“Oi, pet? Xan, I would never bite you, not if you didn’t want me to and it’s not something we ever have to do. Hell, not something I’ve done since Dru really and even then, not often.” Spike was looking at him, obviously worried, Xander ran a hand down his back trying to sooth him.

“Not what I meant, really. More, would you? I guess I’m curious and I trust you; even if you did drain me, I would just wake back up. Besides, I know you want to, your neck kink is really obvious since I seem to be sporting a permanent hickey and you’re a vampire and blood is your thing. I’ve read it can feel good, though I remember Riley being kind of addicted and I don’t want that.” Spike looked almost god smacked, which was a funny thought in relation to a demon.

“You would really trust me to do that? I’m not sure I’d trust meself. Haven’t drank from a human in a long time.” Xander nodded and whispered his answer into Spike’s mouth as they shared a slow, almost drugging kiss. Spike pulled back before finishing answering him. “Cornfed was an idiot who let who knows how many vampires bite him and of course they were gonna try to make it feel good, so he would come back and there are those who get addicted. Wouldn’t work like that between us, though if we both shared blood it would cause at least some surface level bond to form and intent matters too, otherwise you’d be a human minion. If you liked it, can’t say you won’t want it and you’re more likely to get addicted to my blood. Gives humans a bit of rush, yeah.”

Xander hummed and he laid kisses on Spike’s neck before giving it a sharp nip that always turned Spike on. He thought about tasting Spike’s blood and the idea didn’t gross or freak him out, just made him curious. “Well, guess we’ll see and I won’t make you do anything you aren’t comfortable with.”

“This not bother you, pet?” Spike still looked a little worried and Xander knew he was waiting for something that would be that bit too much that would push Xander away. The blond was just unaware that there wasn’t anything that could do that except Spike not wanting him anymore. Xander gave a quick shake of his head, unwilling to let go of the collarbone he was nibbling.

They laid there sharing slow kisses and a couple more glasses of absinthe before a small snack, then headed to bed ready to sleep the day away.
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They had been on the ship for a week and had done little more than spend the days in bed together, going out to the dining hall for dinner, swimming at night under the stars in the heated pool, going to nightly entertainment that was offered, and Xander showing Spike all of the pictures from Africa.

Which inadvertently caused Xander to have nightmares one night, the pictures of the slayer who had died in his arms brought vivid nightmares of her death and his own. Spike had woken him and stayed awake with him, listening as Xander told him the gorier details of the deaths he dealt to those who had attacked that village and others. Not once saying there were other ways or being disappointed in him for his actions, like he knew the others might have felt, just listening.

Tonight, they had no plans after dinner other than a stroll around the top deck. Neither were interested in any of the entertainment events available for the evening and Xander had plans to drag Spike back to their room and hopefully have some mind-blowing sex.

Xander almost dragged Spike through the door as they came back from their nightly walk around the ship and immediately kissed him, pulling the shorter blond man into a passionate kiss. The fingers of one hand running through the curly strands of soft hair before gripping and angling the vampire’s head for a better kiss. Spike had dyed his hair before they left into a solid white that he said he used back in the 70s and had stopped using as much gel, so Xander could slid his fingers through the little curls. Xander started walking them backwards towards the bedroom but Spike pulled back from the kiss.

“Bloody hell, luv. That was some kiss, seems like you have plans for tonight?” Spike asked as he snuck his hands under Xander’s shirt, running cool hands up and down his sides.

“Yes. Lots of plans and most involve a bed and all require us naked.” Xander answered before pulling Spike’s shirt off and his own closely followed.

After taking the rest of their clothes off they tumbled into the bed and shared hungry kisses and let their hands roam over skin they were becoming familiar with. Xander laid in between Spike’s thighs, letting their arousal rub against each other and their pre-come slick the way. It was long minutes before Spike handed him a bottle of lube that had been on the nightstand.

They had both brought some with them in hopes of needing it on the trip and Spike had driven Xander almost mad with pleasure with his fingers the night before when he was giving him a blow job. The combined feel of Spike’s mouth and fingers had destroyed his normal stamina and had made him come almost embarrassingly fast. Xander had been quick to return the pleasure and had been gratified when Spike hadn’t lasted much longer than he had.

Xander slicked his fingers, while his mouth trailed down the lean pale body underneath him. Spike’s hip bones were prominent, and he couldn’t pass them by without giving them little nips. His first finger was gently entering Spike as his mouth licked up the leaking cock before taking the head into his mouth. Xander kept up a gently suction while he prepared Spike and knew the vampire didn’t like to wait too long between fingers, always too impatient and liked the hint of pain.

When he finally felt Spike was prepared enough and the vampire’s demands had turned to begging, he slide up his lover before taking his lips in a kiss as he slowly slide into Spike. Xander stopped when he was completely in, to give both Spike time to adjust and himself time to get used to the tight, wet, feeling around his cock.

Then he started to move; Xander kept his thrusts long and slow, no matter how much Spike tried to urge him for more. He wanted to drag this out as long as possible and drive the man below him crazy with pleasure. Spike’s legs were wrapped tight around him and his arms were like bands of steel keeping Xander within kissing range.

When Xander felt himself get closer, he leaned his head to the side and offered the long expanse of his neck to the vampire. “Spike, please?” Spike laid a gentle kiss on his neck before sharp fangs sunk into his skin and the feel of suction was almost enough to send him over. He felt Spike shudder against him before the vampire’s cock pulsed and wetness seeped between their stomachs. As he felt the heat in his stomach tighten, he bit into Spike’s shoulder and as he came was able to taste Spike’s blood, the copper flavor and magic in it sent tingles across his tongue.

He made sure to collapse to the side, while he might not crush Spike it was still polite, and pulled the vampire in closer for a kiss. He could taste his own blood on the vampire’s tongue and his cock gave an inappropriate twitch against his thigh, though it couldn’t manage much else so quickly.

They both fell into an exhausted sleep in the early morning after a final round of the laziest sex either had ever had and a long shower. After the first time, they had switched positions and Xander got to feel Spike fill him up with hard thrusts that tagged his prostate with unerring accuracy. It had been the first time Xander had ever bottomed and he had wondered why he had never done it before but was glad he was able to share this first with Spike.
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Xander and Spike spent the last days of the cruise only leaving their bed for food and their nightly swim under the moon, which would have been more romantic if they both didn’t spend most of the time trying to dunk the other.

Spike hadn’t bitten him every time they had sex but Xander made sure he knew it was more than welcome if he did. Xander had explained how amazing it felt and how connected it made him feel to the vampire, especially when Xander bit Spike back. Spike had admitted that there was probably already a blood bond forming between the two of them and it would only strengthen the more blood they exchanged. Xander didn’t mind, if it was equal bond that formed or if he did get addicted to the feeling of being bitten or the amazing feeling Spike’s blood gave him because he had no plan to give Spike up. Spike told him he had never tasted blood as good and powerful as Xander’s and a little of it, went much further than regular blood.

Spike also made Xander drink tons of orange juice and eat plenty of foods high in iron and protein, even though the vampire had barely taken more than a couple sips of blood each time. Xander didn’t argue, though he did point out that Spike could drain him almost completely and he would be fine after a few hours, that even if he was drained completely that he would be revived in no time. It was funny seeing the master vampire as a mother hen, though he had already been aware of the possibility from Spike taking care of Dru for a century and taking care of Dawn when Buffy was dead.

They relished their time together knowing they would soon have to work and wouldn’t be getting as much free time. The amount of sex Xander had been having was more than he’d had in a long time, but he wasn’t complaining; neither was Spike, though the vampire did agree that Anya was probably right about Viking levels of stamina. Xander didn’t even bother not being smug about that, even though Spike’s lack of need to breath really tested that.
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When they arrived in New York at the Ship Terminal in Manhattan, they waited till night fell to head to a hotel in Hell’s Kitchen where a room had already been booked for them. Xander had called Willow as soon as the ship had docked and had her get email confirmation for the meeting the following evening at the NY Slayer House. He already had Vi’s number and the address for the place in Brooklyn and planned to call sometime tomorrow to, again, confirm the meeting.

Xander didn’t want any surprises or over-eager young slayers trying to kill his lover or him; he knew well-trained slayers, like Buffy, could sense him now. At least, Vi would recognize them both since she had been in Sunnydale. He remembered her being sensible enough, if shy and nervous at the beginning. She’d had a watcher, one that had sheltered her instead of preparing her for potentially becoming a slayer; he had only ever showed her a single blurry picture of a vampire before the First Evil started attacking the slayer line and Watcher’s Council. Xander also remembers her taking her training seriously, becoming a good fighter, and gaining confidence before the final battle with the First Evil.

Chapter Text

Chapter 1: Werewolf? That wasn’t on WebMD.

Stiles couldn’t breathe but he couldn’t stop running or the red eyed beast would get him; he glanced back and tripped over a log. Slamming into the ground and struggling to get back up, when a body slammed him back into the dirt. He could smell blood and death on its breath and heard it growling and panting in his ear, as he struggled to get away. Unable to stop it from biting into him…pain shot through his side and he couldn’t stop the chocked off scream he gave.

Stiles shot up in bed, gasping for breath with a scream stuck in his throat, clutching his blankets to him. “Just a dream”, he says out loud but then looks down to where his right side was bandaged and realized that something had bitten him last night.

Stiles gently pulls back the bandage expecting to see the large jagged bite he had gotten the night before but saw…not that. The skin was still red with a barely-there outline of the bite and nothing more and while it was tender, it was nothing like the searing ache from last night.

Stiles just sat there and stared, maybe he really had dreamed it was worse. But where did all the blood on the bandage come from then? Was the bite really not that bad? What had bitten him? Because the more he tried to tell himself it was a dog the less he believed it and he couldn’t stop the shiver down his spine.

“Stiles! Get up, you’re going to be late for school.” His dad yelled from downstairs and Stiles almost fell out of bed, having jerked so hard. Guess he was a little jumpy and his dad didn’t need to yell so loudly. He leaned over to check his phone and had a text from Scott from last night, asking if he had gotten back okay. Stiles replied that he had gotten home and that he would pick Scott up for school.

Stiles laid back and groaned because he didn’t want to go to school and was exhausted from not getting enough sleep. Though that had been all his fault, he was the one who had gone into the woods looking for a body…half of a body. Half a body that had been a person; sometimes, Stiles couldn’t even understand why he did some of the things he does. Though he had stumbled across the other half before he was attacked, which had been his goal, but all he felt was nauseous about it and he wondered if the cops had found the other half he accidentally found.

Now he was thankful he hadn’t been able to convince Scott to come with him, though he had lied when he had left Scott’s and said he wouldn’t go into the woods by himself. Both of them knew that was a lie but Scott didn’t want to get caught sneaking out because his mom had been home, and he had already been in trouble for the mess they had made earlier in the week.

He finally rolled out of bed because procrastinating would only make him late for Harris’s class, which would get him detention; he hated Harris as much as the man hated him.
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“You got back okay last night?” Scott asks Stiles again as he jumps into the Jeep.

“Yeah, but I think I got bit by a dog?” Stiles isn’t sure he wants to share all the details cause he’s pretty sure he’ll sound crazy, well crazier than normal.

“Is that a question?” Scott’s confused puppy face would be funny any other time.

“It looked really weird and then this morning the bite was pretty much gone, maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought but the bandage had blood on it. Look.” Stiles pulls up his shirt to show his side, where the bite had been, still the same pinkish red outline.

“Dude! That looks weeks old, but it does look like a bite. What happened?” Scott exclaims as he leans over to look at Stiles’ side, gently running a finger over the tender skin.

“I found where my dad and the K-9 unit were looking, and I managed to not be caught by them and ended up finding the other half before I fell down a small ravine and then I heard something behind me; like a wolf’s howl but there haven’t been any wolves in California for 60 years. It knocked me down and bit me, then it was gone. Dude, I know this is going to sound crazy, but it looked like it had red eyes.” He glanced over at Scott before looking back at the road.

“Maybe the eyes were just like reflected light or something. You know when you take a picture of a dog in the dark and their eyes are all lit up? Oh my god, you don’t think it had rabies, do you?” Stiles didn’t mention the fact that there was only moon light in the middle of the woods and he didn’t think rabies was what he had to worry about.

“I don’t know, dude. And no, I don’t think it had rabies, but something was wrong with it.” Stiles still wasn’t sure if he should believe what he remembered or not because what he had seen hadn’t been natural.

Stiles distracted Scott with talking about lacrosse because he wanted to change the subject, even if he wasn’t sure why his friend was so determined to get on the lacrosse team’s first line. Stiles was self-aware enough to know that was highly unlikely to happen because he wasn’t the most coordinated person and Scott had asthma.

As they walked into the school, everything seemed louder than normal, it smelled really bad, and a headache started forming. Stiles hoped the day didn’t get worse.
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Stiles sat in the lunchroom trying to block out all the voices. He honestly should have known better than to jinx himself.

“…did you watch that show last night?”
“How about the party this weekend…”
“Can you believe she wore that?”

He jumped up and mumbled an excuse about needing to look something up in the library to Scott because he had to get out of there, he felt like he was going insane.

Sitting in one of the far back tables in the library, where there were few other people, was much better. He didn’t feel like clawing his ears off and the headache had eased off as he laid his head on the cool table and just breathed. He wasn’t sure what was going on with him but something was off…seriously off. He had growled, literally growled, at Harris when he made some asshole comment to Stiles and he’s sure he left marks in the lab table from gripping it so hard. He should be use to how the man treated him but today he had wanted to hurt the man, to retaliate.

Now the fact he was literally hearing conversations from across the cafeteria, whispered conversations that he should not have been hearing. Something was going on and he was beginning to think it had something to do with…whatever bit him last night. His mind was whirling and he just wanted to get home and start researching but he still had lacrosse and he wouldn’t leave Scott to go to that by himself. He couldn’t lie that a part of him didn’t want to know, wanted to bury its head in the sand and pretend like all was normal but Stiles was never able to just let something alone.
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Stiles could barely keep a hold of his anger, he was getting angrier each time Jackson hit him or made disparaging comments about him and Scott. So, when Jackson came at him again, even though the ball was nowhere near him, he planted his feet and shoved back right when Jackson hit him. He was expecting to land on his ass but he was still standing and Jackson was on the ground looking up at him with shock and anger written all over his face. Hell, Stiles was surprised because he was only 147 pounds of skin and bones...and sarcasm; but he had barely budged.

Stiles felt out of control, just angry and his skin felt twitchy and he spun around to leave the field before he actually hurt someone; completely ignoring the coach yelling at him. Cause if Jackson tried to start something right now, Stiles was sure he would punch him in his stupidly perfect face. So, he headed to the locker rooms to cool off.

When he felt someone grab his arm, he whirled around ready to verbally attack whoever touched him only to find Scott, who stumbled back away from him and squeaked out his name. “Stiles?”

Stiles deflated. “Yeah? Sorry, I’m just really not in a good mood today and Jackson was making it worse.” He took a few deep breaths to try to get his heart to stop racing.

“Dude, I’m not really sure how to say this or maybe I imagined it but your eyes were like…glowing just now.” Scott sounded unsure and scared and he still wasn’t coming any closer to Stiles.

“I…it was probably just the light, right?” Stiles asked.

“Maybe?” Stiles wished Scott sounded more certain.

“I’m going to leave and head back out to the preserve and see if the police have found the other half. Want to come with or want me to drop you back at your house first?” Stiles wasn’t even going to shower, though he smelled; the locker room smelled worse and he could hardly breath.

Scott nodded. “Yeah, I’ll come with. You don’t think that dog is still around do you?”

“Nah, probably not. Hopefully we can find where I was.” Even if all he really wanted was to lay in bed curled around his laptop, to figure out what was wrong with him. He was determined not to freak out…yet.
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“Come on, I think I was over this way.” Stiles hoped Scott wouldn’t ask how he knows because, honestly, he isn’t sure. He could sort of smell himself in this area. Which…what even?

Then he hears footsteps coming toward them and a guy comes out of the woods. “This is private property.”

Stiles just stares for a moment because…well the guy looks gorgeous even if he’s scowling like it’s the only facial expression he knows. “We’re looking for my friend’s inhaler, he lost it yesterday.” Stiles lies easily and motions towards Scott but can’t help to take a step forward, he can’t take his eyes off this guy and isn’t sure why and the guy is staring just as intently back. He can smell him, which is another thing Stiles doesn’t want to think about. Can smell leather, earth, and ash.

“You should both leave.” With that the guy turns around and walks back into the forest.
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A few minutes later is when Stiles realizes who that was. “Scott, that was Derek Hale.” Which only gets him a blank face and a “Who?”

“Derek Hale, one of the survivors of the fire that burned that house out in the woods down about six years ago.”

“Oh, wonder what he’s doing out here?” Stiles wonders the same thing.
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After dropping Scott off, heading home, eating the largest sandwich ever, and then standing in front of the mirror for like ten minutes to see if his eyes would glow again. Which they don’t or at least not till he thought about Jackson and how mad he was, causing anger to rise quickly to the surface and his heart to pound. Then Stiles freaks out for a few minutes because that was scary and he really wasn’t prepared for it to be real. His eyes had been a bright gold with maybe flecks of another color but they faded too quickly to notice; his shock at seeing them making his forced anger disappear.

Stiles finally turns on his laptop and now it’s time for some serious google-fu to figure out what’s going on with himself. He doubts WebMD will have the answers he’s looking for, this time.

Stiles puts in the…symptoms…he’s experienced so far in the search bar. Enhanced smell + enhanced hearing + fast healing + enhanced strength + glowing eyes + claws.

Which makes him sound crazy and the results are just as crazy. He thinks about what bit him last night; it was huge, it howled, it’s eyes were a bright glowing red. The most common result he finds is…he’s not even sure he can think it. Maybe he is going crazy but Scott said he saw his eyes glow, so maybe not. That or really localized mass hysteria.

Stiles looks back at the page he has pulled up, looks at the image of a full moon, the picture of some movie wolf man, and starts having trouble breathing because this…this can’t be real. He spends the next few minutes with his head between his knees and trying to not have a full-on panic attack, concentrating on the breathing exercises he’s always used. It calms him down and makes the claws and fangs that had appeared disappear; he tries not to think about that or he might have another panic attack.

He hasn’t had a full-blown panic attack in years and he didn’t miss the feeling of his chest being squeezed, being unable to breathe properly, his vision narrowing, and his heart beating so hard it hurt.

Okay, so over the freak out…well, the first one. Stiles isn’t going to lie to himself so much and say there won’t be another one. Now on to all the ideas about werewolves and while he’s at it, just regular wolves. There ends up being so much stuff but most seem to agree on the full moon, he wonders if he’s going to turn into the thing he saw in the woods and can’t stop the shudder that goes through his body. Stiles doesn’t want to be a monster.

Stiles can hardly believe he’s considering…werewolf, as the answer to what’s going on. He’s positive WebMD wouldn’t have been able to figure this out.

He figures he might be able to spend some time and see if he can figure if any of the myths are true before he goes to sleep. Stiles is pretty sure there is a set of real silver silverware and he wonders if it is deadly or poisonous to him now and he wonders how to get a hold of wolfsbane. Ways to gather data are already spinning through his head and he figures that maybe Scott will be able to help.
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The next morning, Stiles is sure he never actually fell completely asleep and feels like crap. He feels twitchy, agitated, he hasn’t taken his Adderall in two days and isn’t sure it’ll work anymore. The energy he’s feeling isn’t like his normal ADHD because he’s still able to focus even with the dozens of thoughts and ideas swirling through his head. Though the bombardment of smells and sounds are incredibly distracting; he could hear his neighbors talking last night like they were right next to him before the sound faded out.

Stiles really doesn’t want to go to school but needs to talk to Scott and tell him what’s going on, just to make sure Stiles isn’t going crazy. He needs to tell at least someone and refuses to put his dad through this.

Less than half an hour later, he’s pulled up in Scott’s drive way, turned off the jeep, and honked the horn. Then takes deep breathes in and out, tries to calm down, and slow his heartbeat.

When Scott jumps in after putting his bike in the back, Stiles can’t hold it in anymore. “I think I’m a werewolf.” Which gets nothing but silence and some weird faces from Scott. He could have eased into that a little better.

Fine, if he needs proof. “Watch.” He unclips the multi-tool from his key ring and flicks the little knife open and starts to drag it across his arm. He had done this the night before just to see.

“Holy shit! Stiles, stop! What are you doing?!” Scott reaches out to grab his arm but stops when Stiles wipes away the blood to show the wound closing. “What the hell?!”

“Like I said, werewolf. The thing that bit me in the woods, wasn’t a dog but some mutant looking wolf thing. The bite disappeared the next day, so fast healing which I just showed you. You’ve seen the glowing eyes and I can hear someone whisper from across the crowded cafeteria. I can smell that you had tacos for dinner last night and I literally knocked Jackson on his ass yesterday.” Not to mention he can smell Scott jacked off this morning, which is more than he wanted to know about his best friend.

“Holy shit, dude, you’re a werewolf! That’s so cool or maybe crazy, what are you going to do?” Scott looked like he’s weaving between excited and worried.

“I’m not sure about cool but it’s something alright. I have no idea but we can’t let anyone else find out, so you’ll need to help keep an eye on me. If my eyes glow, you can tell me. From all the stuff I read about werewolves, it seems they all agree that the full moon is going to be when I’m the least in control. Which is tomorrow.” Dread fills Stiles stomach like lead and he has to control his breathing again.

“Dude, that’s when Lydia’s party is, are you not going to be able to go?” Stiles sometimes wondered about Scott and his priorities. They were best friends and had been for years but they were very different. When Scott lost his dad, Mrs. McCall had sort of babied Scott and still does to a degree but when Stiles’ mother died…he was the one taking care of his dad and himself more than not. He tried not to be bitter about that and not get upset with Scott when he said such things.

“Seriously, Scott? A party is like the least of my worries right now. What if I attack someone? Turn into some monster wolf thing? I wonder if I bite someone, if they’ll turn too.” Mostly Stiles didn’t want to think about it or what he could end up doing.

“Oh. I didn’t think of that but I’ll keep an eye on you today, so no one will find out about you.” Stiles wasn’t reassured by Scott’s words.

The rest of the short trip to school is filled with Scott telling him all about the new girl, Allison, who had stopped by the vet office the night before because she had hit a dog and how Scott had asked her to Lydia’s party.

Stiles forgets to mention that he found out from overhearing his father that there was forensic evidence that a wolf was involved in the woman found in the woods death.
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The day didn’t go much better than the previous one, Scott had to warn him about his eyes a few times. He figured out that when his heart beat accelerated was usually when his eyes glowed and if it got worse, then the claws and fangs came out but thankfully his face hadn’t started growing those ugly sideburns again. He was really dreading lacrosse and wished he could skip it but Scott had asked him to stay.

He regretted that decision when it seemed like Jackson and his friends made it their mission to take every opportunity to hit or tackle him. He was able to miss a few hits, seemed being a werewolf gave him some coordination and the hits didn’t hurt as much or as long. If he had still been human, he would have been one walking bruise with probably a fracture or two but when he went to the lockers early to change his clothes, most of the bruises were healing already.

Maybe this thing had some advantages but he felt like his anger was literally boiling under his skin, he felt fangs in his mouth and claws on his hands and had to hide them after they ripped through his gloves. He skipped out of the locker room as fast as possible and waited for Scott in the jeep. Stiles wondered if this meant he would have to quit lacrosse if he couldn’t control himself.

He needed to look up some anger management techniques and check out the Beacon Hills’ library to see if he could find any books on werewolves.
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Stiles had spent the afternoon looking up ways to control his anger, found stuff about finding a center to think about and counting and breathing exercising that were similar to what he did for panic attacks. He didn’t think he would be able to meditate because clearing his mind sounded like an actual impossibility. Even if it seemed that his focus was better now.

He had too much energy to sit down and read or play a video game and he worried he might ‘wolf out’ if he got upset with the game. So, he decided to do some cleaning and maybe go to the grocery store. He could smell his room now, like really smell it…and it wasn’t exactly pleasant; werewolf’s enhanced sense of smell was not a blessing.

Plus, it was still a few hours till dark and he was so wound up and full of energy he didn’t think he would ever go to sleep. So, he did all the laundry in his room and the sheets, swept and mopped; thankful that they had some all natural non-chemical cleaner that wouldn’t burn his nose and even then, he had to leave the window open to air it out. His room was cleaner and more organized then it had been in ages, though it wasn’t like he let it get too bad in the first place.

Taking a shower after, he realized he needed to go out and buy new toiletries because his were all too strongly scented and figured while he was out he could go grocery shopping because the fridge was depressingly empty.

When he went out, Stiles was positive he looked a little weird smelling all the soaps, shampoos, and deodorants at the store but most people in this town probably already thought he was eccentric. At least, he had found new products that were either unscented or lightly scented that didn’t make his nose turn up in distaste; even if they were expensive because they were all-natural products.

Then he bought some red meat because he almost drooled walking by the meat counter at the grocery store. Stiles figured his dad would enjoy it and would probably think he was buttering him up for something he had done or apologizing in advance for something he was going to do.

He wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow and the full moon. Dread was pooling in his stomach at all the possible things that could go wrong; all the things that were running through his overactive imagination.
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Stiles went for a long run about mid-day on Saturday because he felt like he was over flowing with energy. He ran around the block a few times and then one of the shorter trails behind his house and was only slightly winded but he did feel better. More settled and less like he was going to vibrate out of his skin.

He fielded some texts from Scott, ensuring him it was okay for him to go to the party with Allison. Stiles didn’t want Scott there in case he did get out of control but was a little miffed that Scott blew him off so easily, especially when he was about to go through this.

Unfortunately, his dad was going to be home for dinner between double shifts and he didn’t know if he would be able to control himself but just the thought of hurting his dad made the claws disappear, so that was hopeful. Stiles hoped his dad wouldn’t have to shoot him, he wasn’t sure he would or if it would even be able to stop him.

He decided to make dinner early so it would be ready when his dad got home, so he could spend less time in his dad’s presence. He sliced up some steak and made a stir fry.

Stiles tried not to think about how he munched a few pieces that were very close to raw…cause there be madness.
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“So, what did you do?” His dad was looking between his plate and Stiles with a suspicious look on his face.

“Nothing.” Which was sort of true.

“What are you going to do?” Which made Stiles laugh because he knew his dad well and his dad knew him.

“Probably nothing.” At least he was honest. “I was just feeling steak stir fry and figured I couldn’t eat it and not allow you to have some, so I figured since you’ve been good about taking something healthy for lunch this week I would reward you. Plus, there are lots of vegetables in it, homemade sauce, and I used brown rice instead of white.” The stir fry was, actually, packed full of vegetables and had only a small amount of meat in comparison in it and Stiles wasn’t going to mention that he had already eaten close to half the steak before it made it to the stir fry.

“Uh huh. Well I’m not going to question it any further and just enjoy it.” His dad had barely finished the words before he started eating, like he thought Stiles might change his mind and take it away. It kind of reminded Stiles about documentaries they showed of prisoners and how they huddled close to their food. His dad wasn’t always very happy with the healthy foods that Stiles chose to cook but the man should have realized Stiles was going to find out about his doctor’s warnings about his cholesterol and elevated blood sugar levels.

Dinner passed quietly which was unusual and he kept getting suspicious glances from his dad.

“Alright, what’s up with you?” He felt a little pinned by his dad’s stare but this wasn’t something he could tell his dad, he didn’t want his dad to look at him like he was a monster.

“Nothing.” That only got him a look. “Okay, just had a bad week at school and haven’t felt the best today.” All true, Stiles had this telling the truth but not the whole truth thing down pat.

“Someone bothering you at school?” Stiles hated concerned dad face when it mixed with Sherriff face.

“Nothing serious. Jackson is just being more Jackson like lately. At practice, earlier this week I actually tackled him and now, him and his lacrosse buddies are paying it back tenfold. Nothing I can’t handle, though I do wish Scott had chosen a sport with less bodily contact or you know…no sport at all.” Stiles still couldn’t believe he let Scott talk him into lacrosse, just more evidence those puppy eyes still worked on him.

“Well, if it gets out of hand, you better tell me.” Stiles heard the concern in his dad’s voice and felt bad about not being able to tell his dad the truth. They had always been close and honest with each other. Lying to a dad who was a Sherriff was not easy, his dad had a bullshit detector a mile wide that was fine-tuned into Stiles’ level of bullshit and he only got away with lying when his dad allowed it.

“You doing something would just make it worse. I think I’m going to head to bed early because I haven’t been sleeping well.” He hoped his dad left for his next shift soon because he really didn’t want him in the house, in case something happened.

“Alright.” Though his dad sounded reluctant to give in. “I love you, son.” Stiles bent down and gave his father a hug and for those few seconds, his whole body relaxed for the first time in days. He really didn’t want to let go. Could smell his dad’s scent ten-fold, aftershave spice, coffee, gun oil, and something that was just said Dad. Smells that to him meant safety and comfort. Wished he could curl up in his dad’s arms like he did when he was a kid but…he couldn’t and he just needed to deal with this.

“Love you too.” He chocked out before letting go and heading upstairs. Stiles could feel his dad’s gaze on his back and knew he hadn’t fooled his dad into thinking it was no big deal.
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A few hours later, after his dad had headed back to the police station, he heard a howl that brought him out of bed and to the window before he realized what he was doing. He felt like it was calling to him and without really thinking about it put on some shoes and pulled an old grey BHPD hoodie over his head. He heard the howl again and it was more urgent, so he just pulled himself out onto the ledge under his window and jumped down.

For a second, he expected to break something but he just landed in a perfect crouch, like it was nothing; like it wasn’t him jumping out of a second story window. Not the time to dwell on those thoughts cause all they did was hammer home how much he was changing.

Stiles only hesitated for a minute before heading off into the woods towards the sound of that howl. He wondered if it was who had bitten him and even while he thought it wasn’t the best idea to just go running straight to them, he couldn’t help it. He looked up at the full moon over head and had to resist howling back. Stiles could tell that his face had changed completely and that he was rocking those horrible sideburns again.

He was close to where he thought the howl had come from when he heard multiple voices and after another minute, he was able to make out at least three men with crossbows. Then an arrow struck the tree near him and he took off but then felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and looked down and saw blood bloom across his clothes and an arrow sticking out of his shoulder, he almost fainted right there because he had just been shot!

He fell back against a tree but then heard whoever had shot him running in his direction and took off again but he could hear the other two trying to come in from the sides. He stopped and crouched down by a tree, trying to calm down and figure out what to do and why there were people out in the woods at night and shooting at him.

Maybe they were shooting at the other werewolf…maybe they were hunting him; it didn’t seem like a huge leap to think that if there were werewolves then there would be werewolf hunters, at least the movies had them.

Suddenly, a hand clapped over his mouth and he couldn’t help but struggle but they held him fast and he heard a voice hiss in his ear to stop. He did because their grip was like steel and then when he took a deep breath, he recognized the smell and it was the guy from the woods. It made Stiles relax even though he didn’t know why.

Stiles watched a hunter walk by them, barely ten feet away, and was sure it was the guy who had shot him.

“Just be quiet and follow me,” was growled in his ear and it made him shiver, it was a very non-human sound. He nodded as much as he could, it wasn’t like he had a better plan.
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It was maybe 20 minutes later, then they were in Stiles’ backyard and he wondered how this guy knew. “How do you know where I live?”

“Could smell it, now come here and I’ll get the arrow out.” Before Stiles could reply, the guy had cut through his hoodie and shirt and was looking at the wound. The guy’s claws cut through the shaft of the arrow and then the man pulled the rest of it out of the back of Stiles’ shoulder and he could hardly hold back the scream.

“Are you crazy? What the hell…” Stiles watched as the wound started to close up, he knew he could heal but he didn’t realize he could from an arrow wound. “Oh. Thanks, I guess.” Some awkward silence before he added, “I’m Stiles by the way.”

The guy looked at him for a second before replying. “I know. Derek.” Stiles wondered how he knew his name but he knew the guy’s name already, as well. “You better be glad it didn’t have wolfsbane on it.”

Then it hits Stiles that this guy, Derek Hale, was a werewolf too; he can actually smell it now and realizes this might be the guy who bit him. He takes a few quick steps back because the man hadn’t moved back after pulling the arrow out. “Are you the one who bit me? What are you going to do to me? Why did you do it?” Stiles feels a little sick to his stomach, the adrenaline was gone and he really thought about how he had just been shot, that this guy could be the one who had completely turned his world upside down.

“No.” Stiles waited for more but when nothing else came out, well he just got mad.

“No!? That’s all I get? I got bit by some damn mutant wolf man and then all of a sudden, I’m a fucking werewolf and all you have to say is NO!” Stiles was close to yelling by the time he was done. He was in the guy’s face now, his fear pushed aside by the anger.

Stile knew his eyes flashed, then saw a moment of shock cross the guys face and how his eyes flashed blue in response for a second before it disappeared. It made Stiles deflate because, “You don’t have red eyes.” The one who had bitten him had red eyes.

“No, only alphas do. That’s what bit you. If I had bitten you, it would only be a bite, it wouldn’t have changed you.” It seemed like the words were painfully pulled out of him, like the guy couldn’t believe he was saying this stuff.

“So, alphas, the ones with red eyes are what change you? Did it bite you too? What are you?” Though for some reason, Stiles didn’t think that the alpha had bitten Derek.

“No, I was born a werewolf and a beta.” Stiles watched Derek flinch then grit out. “This one is rogue, it’s what’s been killing animals.” The man looked back into the woods for a second before turning back to Stiles.

“Hold on, the animal attacks? It only bit me and just left.” Stiles couldn’t help but be a little glad it had only bitten him and hadn’t killed him.

“It wants a pack, a werewolf without a pack is…vulnerable.” Stiles could hear the guy’s hesitation on the last word, saw the way his face crumpled for a second before it went back to mostly blank and then Stiles smelled something that made his nose burn. “Plus, it could have bitten someone and it not take, then you die.” Like it wasn’t a big deal he had just said Stiles could have died.

“Wait? I could have died from the bite?” Stiles had to slow his breathing for a minute because he couldn’t imagine leaving his dad alone, no one to take care of him.

“Yes. You either change or die. Stay out of the woods.” Then he was just turning around and leaving.

“Wait!” The man stopped and looked back but didn’t turn around. “Come in, my dad is at the station. We have left overs from dinner and maybe you could answer a few questions?” The man looked like he was about to just keep going. “Please? I just…please?” Stiles wasn’t above begging, he really needed answers and this guy was born a werewolf and hopefully had them. Plus, he just didn’t want Derek to leave for some reason. He felt slightly more settled with the other werewolf near.

The guy nodded and started walking towards the back door, so Stiles followed.
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Stiles watched quietly as the guy started shoveling the plate of food in, like he hadn’t eaten in days. All the questions were swirling in his head and all vying to get out first. When the man looked up at him, “So, werewolves, huh?”

“Yes. How did you figure it out?” Stiles thought it sounded like he didn’t want to be curious but was.

“Google.” Which get him a confused look, so decided to expand. “Put in the symptoms, then added what I thought I saw when I got bit. Werewolf was the most common answer.”

“Huh. Most people wouldn’t accept that so easily.” Stiles couldn’t get a read on the guy’s tone of voice.

“Well, I’m not most people and I’m still adjusting. So, this…rogue? Isn’t your alpha? Where’s yours?” Which seemed to be the exact wrong thing to ask because Derek, growled and his eyes flashed blue.

Stiles was positive he wasn’t going to answer till, “Dead.” Which made Stiles snap his eyes up to the other man’s, he wants to ask but wasn’t sure if he should but couldn’t seem to help himself.

“The fire?” He barely whispered the words but knew he would be heard. Stiles thought there had been more survivors, the oldest girl and an uncle. If looks could kill he would be flayed open, right now.

“Yes and no. My sister was the alpha after. She’s dead, a hunter killed her when she came back to look into something.” Stiles was surprised he answered and horrified by the answer he did get. Then gears in his head started moving and he gasped.

“The girl in the woods, the one who was…” Stiles wasn’t sure how to say, cut in half. How about the fact, he had been out in the woods looking for half of her body when he had gotten bitten.

Derek gritted out a “yes”, before going back to his food. Stiles let the silence settle around them for a few more minutes before asking if Derek wanted more and figured the grunt was a yes. Stiles really wanted, no needed, answers and it seemed like Derek could give them to him; if Stiles didn’t piss him off.

“The alpha, earlier when he howled, he was…calling me or at least that’s what it felt like.” Stiles could hardly explain his want, no need, to go to the alpha when he howled.

“Yes. It was a call to pack.” At least he got an answer, even if there was no elaboration.

“Those guys in the woods are werewolf hunters, aren’t they? They’re after him?” Stiles was pretty sure of the answer but he wanted confirmation.

“Yes, and they would have put you down too. They don’t care, most see us as monsters or rabid animals.” Derek’s last words were growled through fangs and his eyes were that unnatural glowing blue again.

“We aren’t. Right? I mean, I don’t feel like a monster; maybe I have a few new anger issues but I don’t want to go out and kill people. We aren’t all like that alpha, right?” Stiles really needed the answer to be no, he didn’t want to be a monster, being a werewolf did not automatically make him a bad guy. He was going to continue to repeat this to himself.

There was a pause before, “No, not all are killers like this alpha. My family…they weren’t, we were peaceful. This one has something wrong with them, maybe lost their pack and went feral or they could just be a killer. Just because you’re a werewolf doesn’t make you a killer but you could still be one, just like with humans or hunters.” The last word was spat out. Stiles could literally taste the disgust Derek held for hunters.

“You really don’t like hunters, do you?” Though Stiles really didn’t think he had to ask.

There was barely a pause before, “No, they killed my entire family.” Which struck Stiles silent before he could ask another question. Stiles was sure the fire had been ruled an accident but his dad had dug a little more because he thought it had been suspicious but had been reassured multiple time it was an accident, so had to close the case.

“My dad thought the fire was suspicious but was shut down, he hadn’t been voted in as Sherriff then. If you knew it was hunters, why didn’t you say something? Obviously not they were werewolf hunters but something?”

“Just. Stop.” The words were gritted out between a clenched jaw, Stiles watched the man’s claws come out for a second before they disappeared.

“Ok.” Which got him a look, like the man couldn’t believe he dropped it but he knew how he felt when people had kept pushing and asking question about his mom, so he could sort of imagine. “Can you help me? Tell me how to control this, not become like that alpha? Every time I get upset or my heart rate goes up, my eyes change colors, claws and fangs come out. There has to be a way to control it. Please? I don’t want to hurt my dad.”

“You need an anchor.” Which wasn’t much of an answer but Stiles would take it.

“Anchor? I saw something like that when I was looking at anger management techniques, though mainly it mentioned a center. How does it work? What’s yours?” Stiles stopped himself, he knew he needed to give the guy time to answer him.

“It’s something you focus on that helps you keep the wolf at bay; a way to control yourself, hold to your humanity. Mine is anger.” The last was given reluctantly.

“Anger? How do you anchor anger with anger?” Stiles couldn’t even imagine that.

“Have a lot of it.” Which seemed like the only answer he was getting.

“Could my dad be my anchor? I mean earlier…”, Stiles paused because he wasn’t sure he wanted to admit it, not because he was embarrassed but because this guy didn’t have any family and it felt like rubbing salt in an open wound but he needed answers. “Earlier tonight, after dinner, I gave my dad a hug and his smell, it was…comfort and safety is the only way I can explain it and it seemed to settle me unlike I’ve been in days. I’ve thought about how I didn’t want to hurt him and made claws disappear. So, could he work?” Stiles watched as a few expressions crossed Derek’s face before the other werewolf just jerked his head in a nod and stood up.

“Come to the Hale house tomorrow and we’ll work on it and see if it’s a solid anchor.”

“Okay. When?”

“Whenever.” With that Derek turned around and walked out the back door, his shoulders a hard line of tension.

Stiles just laid his head on the table and breathed, the itch of the full moon still under his skin but at the same time he was exhausted and figured he needed to throw away his shirt and hoodie, then take a shower before his dad got home. He glanced at his shoulder again and touched the place he had had a wound a little over an hour ago but was just a pucker of pink skin now.
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When Stiles wakes up it’s close to noon and he’s so hungry it feels like his stomach is going to eat itself. He had begged waking up for an early breakfast because he had been exhausted and his dad had allowed it with barely any protest.

He stumbles downstairs, able to hear his dad asleep in his bedroom and goes to the kitchen. Stiles grabs a bowl and eggs, plus a little shredded rotisserie chicken, some spinach, and feta to make an omelet. He eats it all and still feels a little hungry, so makes a peanut butter sandwich and thinks about when he should head over to see Derek.

Maybe he should take him some food, doubt it would make the guy hate him more and with the way the man had eaten last night, he was positive he hadn’t eaten in a day or so. Though with his own increase in appetite, maybe that was just normal for werewolves. Wouldn’t hurt to garner a little good will though.

Deciding to make chicken salad with the rest of the leftover chicken and puts some slices of the good bakery bread in a baggie. Stiles pops it back in the refrigerator before heading back upstairs to change and text Scott about the party last night. He has barely a moment of regret that he wasn’t able to go, not like he would have gotten to even speak to Lydia; like she would have even looked at him anyway.

To Scott: How was the party?

From Scott: Awsm. Kissed Allison. How abt u n moon?

Stiles didn’t think he should tell Scott exactly what happened over text, figured he could call him later or talk to him Monday.

To Scott: Eventful. Tell you later. Bout to head out, gonna tell dad I’m with you. Will tell you everything later.

From Scott: K, u betr.

Stiles headed back downstairs and left a message on the fridge for his dad, then put most of the chicken salad in plastic container but leaving enough for his dad to make himself a sandwich when he woke up. He debated for a minute and grabbed a few of the oatmeal raison cookies he had made earlier in the week for his dad and put them in a baggie too and put it all in a cooler with drinks.

Then he headed out to his Jeep, a nervous flutter in his stomach. While he needed help and Derek could offer it, he still didn’t know anything about him but he felt oddly pulled towards the other man. Stiles wondered if it was a werewolf thing.
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It took about 20 minutes to get out to the Hale house, it was out of town down an old road that didn’t get a lot of traffic. Then the actual drive way was about half a mile long.

Stiles looked up at the burnt-out shell of the Hale house, he knew kids who had dared each other to spend the night out here and it was like something out of a horror movie. He had never done so himself because all he could think about was the loss of almost an entire family and his dad coming home smelling like smoke. The thought still made him sick to his stomach.

He really didn’t want to get out the Jeep but knew he needed to. There was a black Camaro and Stiles figured it was Derek’s. Calling out Derek’s name as he stepped out of the Jeep and grabbing the little cooler with food and drinks in it. He looked around and heading closer to the house, “Derek?”, he called again.

“Yes.” Came from behind him.

“Ah! Holy shit, dude! Don’t sneak up on me.” Stiles couldn’t help but clutch his hand over his heart, feeling and hearing it beat faster. He glared at Derek, though it seemed to have little effect.

“Don’t call me dude. Plus, I shouldn’t have been able to sneak up on you, you’re a werewolf.” Stiles could only snort at that, man this guy was an asshole.

“I’ve only been a werewolf for a few days, not even a full week. My senses have been all over the place, sometimes everything is too loud and smells and then they go back to human levels. Today they seem pretty low, is that an after the full moon thing? I went from being a normal human to some fairy tale creature of the night, give me a break.” Stiles paused in his rant then looked down to where he was still holding the little cooler.

“Oh, here,” Stiles held the little cooler out to Derek, who just looked at it. Stiles couldn’t hold back a huff. “It’s just chicken salad and cookies, not a bomb. You seemed like maybe you hadn’t eaten in a while last night, so I figured I would bring some food. I mean it’s literally the least I can do for you helping me because it’s not like you have too.”

Derek just stood there for a moment, his expression a mixture of disbelief and suspicion before he reached carefully for the cooler. Stiles thought it looked like maybe the guy thought he would snatch it back, like he wasn’t use to someone being nice to him. Hell, maybe he wasn’t; as far as Stiles knew the only family he had left, had recently been killed. Huh, maybe that’s why the guy was acting like an asshole. Stiles could understand and was willing to cut him a little slack, well a lot of slack, honestly. Especially, since he seemed to be the only person Stiles could ask about werewolves. Plus, Stiles could remember how he was after his mother’s death and just thinking about losing his dad too made his heart thud and caused him to swallow back vomit.

Then, Derek seemed to stare at the cooler in his hands like he wasn’t sure what to do now and Stiles didn’t think it was possible to find someone more awkward then himself. “You can eat and I can ask more questions before we start with the anchor stuff.” Stiles walked over to the steps on the porch of the husk of a house and sat down, figuring Derek would figure it out. Thankfully, it didn’t take him long to find a seat near Stiles.

Stiles just breathed in and smelled Derek next to him, his scent so much stronger than anyone else he had come across, maybe it was another werewolf thing. “Do werewolves smell stronger than humans?”

“Yes.” Stiles really hated monosyllabic answers but at least it was an answer.

“Have you ever met any others who have been bitten or is it uncommon?” Stiles watched as Derek piled chicken salad onto bread before taken a large bite and making a little noise of enjoyment that made Stiles lips twitch, he always liked it when people enjoyed his food.

After a few moments of silence, “I’ve met other bitten wolves, it’s depends on the pack. Some are mostly born, while others have more bitten wolves. My family, my pack, they were mostly born wolves, a few bitten, and humans. The Bite is a gift, it should be something the person wants and if offered the Bite from an alpha they should be honored.” The was a pause before. “Biting someone against their will, is a serious offense. It doesn’t happen often.”

“Why did he bite me? Is there a big difference between born and bitten wolves? I mean your eyes are blue and mine are mostly gold, is that a sign of that? And you said alphas have red eyes, is that all the colors? What do they mean?” Stiles wasn’t prepared for the flinch or how tense Derek went. “Um, did I ask something wrong? I’m sorry.” Stiles couldn’t seem to not put his foot in his mouth around Derek.

“No.” More silence before. “The alpha is feral, running on instincts and it was so close to the full moon, it probably couldn’t help but try to make a pack to become stronger. Alphas have red eyes, betas or omegas, which are those without a pack, have gold eyes, rarely blue. It doesn’t matter if they are born or bitten.” There’s another long pause before he continued. “I’ve never seen eyes exactly like yours before, only solid red, gold, or blue; the green streaks aren’t something I’ve seen before. And born wolves are more instinctive and closer to their wolves, it’s a part of me not a separate being. I learned this stuff growing up and you’ll have to learn it all now, while also having all your human instincts you’ve always had telling you something different.”

“You’ve never seen gold and green eyes? Does that means something is wrong with me?” Stiles couldn’t keep the note of panic out of his voice, leave it up to him to mess up becoming a werewolf.

“No and I don’t think so. You smell like wolf.” The words actually calmed Stiles down…what was his life?

Stiles sat there in silence looking out at the wood line in front of the Hale house, thinking about what Derek had told him. It made sense and he also noticed Derek hadn’t told him the difference between gold and blue eyes and figured that was why he tensed up when Stiles asked and he could hardly hold in repeating the question. Then, something Derek had just said made Stiles think of something else.

“You said that omega wolves were those without a pack? Are you an omega? Does that make me a beta since I suppose I have an alpha, even if I don’t want them as my alpha?” That seemed a little different then what he read about actual wolves but they did have alpha, betas, and omegas too.

“Yes, I’m an omega and unless the hunters kill the alpha, you’ll probably be tied to him even if it isn’t a strong bond.”

“Could we be…pack? That’s the right word, right? I mean at least as long as you’re here or does it not work like that? You said without a pack, we’re vulnerable.” When Stiles glanced over at Derek, he wasn’t sure what he expected to see but the look of surprise and badly concealed hope wasn’t it and being able to hear Derek’s heart beat speed up a little was just as surprising.

“We could. We could be pack brothers, it’s not the same as having an alpha but it’ll make us both stronger.” The words failed at sounding casual.

“Alright. Then pack we are…so do we hug it out or what?” Stiles couldn’t help a smile because something…his wolf, holy shit that was weird to say…was very excited by this and wanted Derek as pack. He just got a blank look from Derek. “Okay, no hugging, got it.”

Stiles saw Derek pull out the cookies and just stare at them. “Those are oatmeal raison but you could probably smell that and they’re really good. They are my mom’s recipe, she used to make them for everyone. After she died, I started cooking and she was really good at it, it was kind of a way to still be close to her that didn’t hurt. Well, that’s not entirely true but it was at least good memories.” Stiles figured Derek shouldn’t be the only one that had to talk about painful stuff and it was still really hard to talk about his mom to anyone.

Derek passed one to Stiles and he barely heard the whisper of, “these taste and smell just like the ones my mom used to make.” Stile gave him a weak smile and leaned his shoulder against Derek and was a little surprised when he leaned back against Stiles.

They finished the cookies in silence, which was weird for Stiles but he didn’t want to overwhelm Derek and his head was quieter than normal. Then Derek stood up and motioned for Stiles to follow him.

The next hour was filled with Derek attacking him or the other way around to try to get Stiles to ‘wolf out’ and then to calm himself down with his anchor. It worked with varying degrees of success. Though Stiles did completely change again, the feeling of his face shifting was disconcerting and he really wished he had a mirror but he had felt slight ridges on his forehead, had scruffy sideburns, pointy ears, and claws on his hands and feet. He did wonder why Derek’s massive eyebrows just disappeared and where to?

“Is this really the best way to learn this? I mean I know my control lessens as my heart rate goes up and my emotions get stronger but there has to be a better way.” Stiles couldn’t help but ask after getting his ass handed to him by Derek again. Stiles had self-defense training from his dad but still he wasn’t half as fast or strong as Derek or at least wasn’t able to control his speed and strength yet.

Derek looked away before answering, “I’m not sure. This stuff was mostly instinctive to me as I grew up and taught to me really young. I’m not sure how different it is for bitten wolves.” Stiles could tell just how much Derek didn’t want to admit that.

“Okay. How about we break for today? We can meet tomorrow or sometime later in the week if that’s better for you and work on this some more. I’ll try to practice some more, in the mean time. Lacrosse practice should be a good place with the way Jackson has made it his mission to turn me into a living bruise.” Stiles eyes snapped up to Derek when he heard him growl and couldn’t stop his own in response.

“You shouldn’t play lacrosse, you could lose control and hurt someone and they could find out about you.” Stiles heard the command behind the words but he had never been good at taking orders.

“I have to go, if I’m not there Scott could get hurt and if he doesn’t have his inhaler on him or something he could die. I don’t actually play or really like it, plus I’m second string but I am required to practice and if I didn’t do serious damage to Jackson the day before the full moon when he was trying to turn me into a breathing bruise, I’m sure I can handle it after the moon. I feel more settled, though kind of exhausted today. I can’t leave Scott hanging like that, he’s my bro.” Stiles shrugged as he finished his explanation because really it was that simple.

“Why go if you don’t like it and don’t you think they’ll notice how, all of a sudden, you’re so much better? You’re going to be faster and stronger than anyone out there.” Derek said as he crossed his arms over his chest and Stiles got distracted for a second by how large those biceps were before answering.

“Dude, I’m not stupid. I’m not just going to start showing off. Jesus, that would be like Scott’s asthma just disappearing overnight and my less than stellar coordination is well known. I play because Scott wanted to join the team and someone has to have his back. I don’t plan on outing myself as a werewolf, as I would prefer not to become a science experiment or be mounted on some hunter’s wall as a trophy.” Stiles replied and he wasn’t backing down on this, so he made sure to meet Derek’s eyes and he knew his flashed because Derek’s flashed blue for a second in response.

Derek just glared at him for a few moments before looking away, then just grunted. “Fine. Meet here again tomorrow.”

‘Huh’, Stiles figured there would be more arguing. “Okay. Well, I’m gone, see you tomorrow.” He walked up to the porch and grabbed the cooler that was still sitting there, throwing a water at Derek before downing one himself. Stiles clapped Derek on the shoulder because he figured a hug wouldn’t be welcome, which was too bad because Stiles had always been a hugger and if anyone needed a hug it was probably Derek.

Stiles headed to his Jeep, figuring he could get home and cook dinner and take it to his dad at the station before he decided to eat some grease and fat filled burger.
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Derek watched the Jeep turn around and leave, he didn’t know what to think of the new beta but knew he wanted to keep him around. He was still amazed the boy had asked to be pack, he couldn’t say no because he had no pack left and the young wolf had already smelled like home and pack; a scent familiar yet almost forgotten that caused his chest to ache. A home that was nothing but a charred ruin, now.

The scent of spices and fresh herbs, warm and sweet, a forest after rain, and the musky earth smell that was the mark of a werewolf were like a beacon to Derek. He couldn’t have turned the boy away, even if he wanted to and he didn’t. Derek had thought after the fire was the worst time of his life but he had still had Laura, still had an alpha, now he had no one and no alpha. He had a sister to avenge and a new wolf to train and keep safe, maybe he could still have a pack even if he thought he didn’t deserve one.

The young beta’s eyes were intriguing and he really hadn’t seen them before but he had heard stories from his grandmother as a child about wolves with magic that didn’t come from Mother Moon. How they should be guarded and treasured and how a pack was considered blessed if they had such a wolf. He wondered if Stiles was one of those fabled wolves. He was actually amazed at the boys control because it was far better than any newly bitten he had ever seen, especially one without a pack or stable alpha. He had found an anchor almost as soon as he realized what he was, the boy was extremely intelligent and would become an amazing wolf. Derek could see the intelligent mind working behind those dark whiskey eyes, they were captivating and something Derek was determined not to dwell on. He bet Laura would have offered the boy the Bite in an instant, if they had ever had the chance to meet, and that just made his chest ache even more.
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The first day of the week was an exercise in patience but Stiles had practiced some of the other anger management techniques the night before and was keeping a hold of his anchor, so hadn’t ‘wolfed out’ (he was trade marking that term) even with Jackson being a bigger douche than normal. Someone needed to get that kid a chill pill or something.

Stiles had told Scott what happened over the weekend, on the way to school that morning, even about getting shot by a hunter and being saved by Derek, who Scott was highly suspicious of. Stiles didn’t exactly know how to explain that he…maybe didn’t completely trust Derek yet but also didn’t think he was bad, it was just instinct even if they were new instincts. Stiles was sure he would think Derek was uber suspicious also and not that he doesn’t think he is a bit of a creeper but with his new senses he can tell so much more stuff about a person. Plus, the guy didn’t have anybody, at least not anymore and that was miserable. Stiles wouldn’t know what to do if he lost his dad and Scott.

He couldn’t wait for the day to be over, so he could go train some more with Derek. He wasn’t willing to take chances with the possibility of hurting his dad or Scott.

Stiles stopped by his house for a shower after lacrosse and packed some of the taco casserole he had made for dinner the night before. Feeding the older werewolf was becoming a habit.
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As Stiles pulled up and saw the Camaro, he wondered where Derek was staying. He jumped out of the Jeep calling for Derek, trying to concentrate and listen for him and heard a crackle of leaves behind him.

Stiles spun around and saw Derek. “Ha, didn’t sneak up on me this time.” He couldn’t keep the smug smile off his face.

“You only heard me because I made noise, not before.” Derek arched an impressive brow at him.

“Ugh, whatever. I still heard you. Don’t rain on my parade. I work better with positive reinforcement. Don’t be a meany or I won’t share any of the casserole I brought.” Stiles watched Derek’s nose flare, like he was trying to smell what he brought, he probably was.

“Tacos?” Stiles had him hook, line, and sinker. Way to get the werewolf to help? Feed him. Stiles didn’t mind feeding Derek, as long as he continued to help Stiles with this werewolf thing.

“Taco casserole, it’s really good. I made it last night for dad’s dinner. I maintain its healthier than the greasy burger he would have gotten because I used extra lean ground turkey, so that’s something.” Stiles always had to balance between healthy and what his dad would actually eat and not throw out as soon as he left the room and then sneak something bad for himself. “I heated it up before I came over and I brought some extra cheese and sour cream if you want to add some.”

They sat down on the porch again and ate in silence, well mostly, this was Stiles we are talking about. “So where are you staying?” Because he had been wondering that.

“Here,” Derek grunted at him with his mouth full. Stiles looked back at the house and he just couldn’t imagine someone staying here.

‘But dude, that’s-” Stiles wasn’t sure how to finish that without saying, sad, miserable, a little unstable, so decided to take a different tact. “There’s no water or electricity out here.” Which got him a shrug.

“You don’t exactly smell like you’ve gone without a bath for days.” Derek did smell strong and a little musky but not bad or unclean. Stiles really liked it, truthfully, and couldn’t help but take a deep breath of the scent that seemed to get his wolf’s attention, every time.

“Camp ground showers.” Stiles could hear just how much Derek didn’t want to talk about this but Stiles had never been good at letting something go.

“No wonder you like my food, you’re probably only had like fast food or something; though there are a few good diners and restaurants around here.” Which got another shrug and Derek looking out into the woods. “Hold on, have you been eating little forest creatures? Dude, how are you cooking them? Though I admit I ate some almost raw steak the day of the full moon but dude!”

“Stop calling me dude. I have a camp stove, if I need it. Just drop it.” Woah, that glare and those eyebrows together made Derek look scary, well scarier than normal.

Stiles couldn’t hold in the huff but decided to let it go, “Fine but if you need to, you can come to my house. You know where I live. Just text me or something, hold on, you do have a phone, right?” Small nod. “Here’s my number.” Stiles pulled a pen and old receipt out of his pocket and wrote his number down. Man didn’t make things easy.

“Alright, let’s get this training thing going. I still have to make sure my dad doesn’t ‘accidentally’ eat something unhealthy for dinner and do my chem homework.” Stiles still laughed every time he thought about his dad saying it was an accident when he caught him with something greasy or fried. Like it just jumped into his hands or something mid-bite.

The next hour was filled with Derek trying to make Stiles shift and it showed that he was getting better. Able to either not shift or only shift partially, instead of completely. Maybe this werewolf stuff wasn’t that hard. It was taking him less time to get back in control and his dad as an anchor felt strong and solid. Hopefully, this meant he wouldn’t turn into some killer like the alpha was.

When they were both dirty and sweaty, though only Stiles was out of breath, Derek called a stop to their training.

“We’ll need to work on you using the wolf, not just suppressing it. How to let it out safely and use all your senses. Come back tomorrow.”

“Alright.” Before Stiles left he figured he would ask about Derek’s sister because his dad still hadn’t found her other…half. This wasn’t going to be a pretty conversation but he figured Derek would have been able to find her with his sense of smell. He had said it was better than a bitten wolves and Stiles’ was getting better every day. Maybe his dad could figure out who killed her if they had the whole body.

“So, you know my dad still hasn’t found…your sister’s whole body or even been able to identify her yet?” He wasn’t sure how to ask the next part but saw Derek’s eyes dart to the edge of the house. Stiles looked back that way and didn’t really see anything but could hear Derek’s heart skip a few beats. Stiles started walking over that way.

“Stop. Just leave it alone.” Right, that just made Stiles want to know even more. When he got around the side of the house, he saw the ground was disturbed…like someone had been buried there and could smell something, this close.

The silence stretched for unknown number of minutes because Stiles really didn’t know how to ask what he wanted to ask. Stiles could smell the scent of blood and death faintly over some sickly-sweet smell that made Stiles nose itch. He had assumed the scent of death was just part of the burned shell of a house not this. Stiles saw a purple plant a few feet away from the disturbed ground and recognized that it was wolfsbane.

“Is…did you…why?” Really no idea how to put that question.

“I buried her. Leave it alone. Leave now.” Derek grabbed Stiles and started pulling him away and shoving him towards his Jeep.

“You need to tell the cops, it could help them find out who killed her. You can’t just bury her in your yard, that’s…” Fucked up, miserable, unstable. “Derek?” He wasn’t sure what he was asking and this wasn’t the first time he thought maybe Derek was unstable.

“I’ll find who killed her and get revenge, this has nothing to do with the cops. I buried her like she was supposed to be, like she deserved.” Derek was glaring at him with glowing blue eyes and his fangs bared in a snarl.

“It does if they use cadaver dogs and find her, you know they’ll think you did it. Burying her like that is…suspicious at best.” Stiles was trying to keep calm and decide what he should do, should he tell his dad or just let Derek deal with this. “Getting revenge isn’t going to bring her back and you could end up in jail. Do you want to be a murderer too?”

“You wanted to know how I got blue eyes, it’s because I killed someone. What’s one more death, at least they won’t be innocent.” That was honestly the last thing Stiles expected to hear and then he was almost knocked over by that acrid smell of mixed emotions that came off Derek. “Leave.” Stiles could tell Derek expected him to abandon him now, that he was using the information like a weapon and shield, to run Stiles off before Stiles left him first.

“Killing someone doesn’t make you a murderer. You feel guilt, I can smell it. Just think about what I said.” Derek looked surprised, like he expected a very different reaction. Honestly, Stiles just couldn’t deal with this too, he needed time to think. Plus, he was sticking with his wolf’s instincts that wanted to trust Derek and that he wasn’t a killer. Stiles didn’t know what else to say or do, so he just left.

He had finally realized that people’s scent changed some with emotions and Derek had mentioned that you could hear someone’s heart skip a beat when they lied, also. Now he was just trying to put changes in scent to actual emotion which was not easy since everyone wasn’t the same. Though he had figured out the overly sweet or spicier scents that clung to most of the people at high school was some type of lust or attraction. Plus, the acrid nose burning scent that Derek gave off sometimes wasn’t good and meant something like sadness, anger, grief, and guilt; all rolled together. It was a toxic cocktail of emotions that made the wolf whine in Stiles’ head.

“Think about it, Derek.” Stiles clapped Derek on the shoulder again as he left, figuring they would have to work up to more contact. He had read that contact was important to wolves and he felt it was equally important to werewolves because even Stiles wanted more contact and he was already tactile with his dad and Scott. Scott had gotten use to Stiles’ hugs and the lack of personal space over the years and really who would pass up a Stilinski hug, they were magical.
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The next day after lacrosse he had wavered between going out to see Derek or not but ended up deciding to go out there.

He hadn’t expected the cop cars or them loading what looked like a body bag. Stiles hoped his dad wasn’t around, when he saw Derek in the back of his cruiser.

He sat down in the front seat, “So, you called them?”

“And they arrested me.” Derek growled.

“Well it does look suspicious. I mean you did bury her. Once, they find out it wasn’t you they’ll let you go. It wasn’t you right?” Stiles just needed to make sure.

“No.” Stiles paid close attention to Derek’s heart, which didn’t skip a beat but someone who had been a wolf their whole life could have trained themselves out of a response, possibly, but Derek’s face which was a mixture of hurt and anger helped Stiles believe him.

“Okay. Then you don’t have to worry, you’re not guilty. You’ll be out in no time.” Stiles heard a growl from Derek. “Dude, you don’t scare me.”

Stiles slipped out of the cruiser because he heard his dad coming around the side of the house. “Hey dad. What’s going on here?”

“Stiles what are you doing here? This is a crime scene.” His dad looked and sounded exasperated.

“Well I was looking for you, I guess I’ll be going then.” Without waiting for a response, he jumped into his Jeep and was backing out before his dad could stop him.
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Later that night, he was woken by the sound of his window opening. “Wha?” He rolled over to see glowing blue eyes looking at him in the dark. “Derek? What are you doing here?” Stiles didn’t have enough energy to be scared or flail, even if it was happening in his mind.

“They just let me go. They said it was an animal attack that killed her, not the...” Stiles mentally added, ‘not being cut in two’.

“Um, okay? Does that mean it wasn’t a hunter? Was it the alpha?” Stiles’ brain just wasn’t running at full capacity.

“It had to be.” Then Derek was just standing there hunched over, like he wanted to collapse into himself.

“Come here, dude.” Stiles sat up and patted the bed next to him and when Derek sat down, he pulled him into a hug. He felt Derek go still and his whole-body tense like he was going to pull away before he just went limp in Stiles’ arms. Stiles just ran his hands up and down his back, felt the slight tremble in Derek’s body and the barely there scent of salt in the air but didn’t say anything. Sometimes people just needed a damn hug, Derek probably needed like a few hundred.

Stiles wondered if Derek had taken the time to mourn his sister yet, it hadn’t happened that long ago and he seemed like he was keeping it all in. Derek had lost the last of his family and his alpha, he already knew Derek wasn’t in a good place from some of his actions. Stiles was certain he wasn’t the right person for this, maybe a therapist or five but somehow it seemed he had picked up a damaged werewolf along the way. He had been taking care of his dad and Scott for years, what was one more he supposed, and Derek really needed someone in his corner. He wondered how he had let someone else into his life so easily because he didn’t let just anyone in.

“You want to stay here tonight? You can either sleep in bed with me or pull the sleeping bag out of the closet. Though I warn you if you sleep in my bed prepare to be sleep cuddled. Scott’s gotten use to it over the years, he compares me to an octopus, so beware.”

“Here.” Derek pulled out of the hug slowly, like he really didn’t want to let go.

“Alright, well boots and jacket off at least. Get comfortable. I bet a pair of my dad’s sleep pants would fit you, mine would probably be too small.” Stiles hopped up and went to go look in his dad’s room for some pajama bottoms.

“Here. These should fit, I got a clean shirt too. The bathroom is right outside the door if you need it or want a shower. There should be a new toothbrush in the pack still in the side drawer.” Stiles went out again to grab another pillow from the hall closet. He heard the shower turn on a minute later and figured he could maybe make Derek a sandwich or two.
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When Derek came back into his room 10 minutes later, Stiles was almost done with his first sandwich and had a few more on a plate for Derek. “If you’re hungry. Is eating more a part of the werewolf thing? Cause I’m always hungry now, like more so then is normal for a teenage boy and I was already a bottomless pit when it came to food.”

“Yes. Much higher metabolism. You need more protein in your diet.” Which Stiles could believe, especially with the way he was eating.

“I’ve have been eating like half a dozen eggs every morning and taking peanut butter sandwiches with me to school to snack on before and after lunch. Thankfully, I do most of the grocery shopping so my dad hasn’t noticed just how much more I’ve been eating the last week. Though he was suspicious the night I let him have steak because I usually restrict him to chicken, turkey, lean pork, or fish.”

“You do a lot to take care of your dad, don’t you?”

“Someone has to take care of him, if not for me he would eat himself into an early grave. I plan to keep him as healthy as possible for as long as possible. I mean he’s Sheriff, so there are extra risks for him, so I do what I can. Hey, do werewolves have to worry about high blood sugar and cholesterol?” He really didn’t want to think of the danger his dad was in from his job, though Beacon Hills was fairly quiet. Till recently that was.

“No. We don’t really get sick, unless we’ve ingested or been hit by wolfsbane.” Derek informs him.

“Those were the purple flowers by…” Stiles wasn’t sure how to finish that.

“Yes. She was wrapped in wolfsbane rope too, to keep her in her wolf form. I had to unwrap it.”

Fuck, that’s messed up. “Wolf form? Not like the alpha who bit me, right?” Because that was seriously creepy looking.

“No, an actually wolf. Her and our mom had the same alpha form, it’s rare and highly regarded among werewolves.”

“Oh. That sounds cool.” Stiles leaned his shoulder against Derek’s and was quiet as he finished his food. “So, going to take your chances with a sleep octopus or you want the floor?”

“Doesn’t matter.” Right, like Stiles didn’t see him looking at the bed, dude was not as unreadable as he tried to be or maybe Stiles new senses helped. So, Stiles just pulled his covers back and patted the bed.

“Come on, dude.” Derek laid beside him, stiff as a board, which wasn’t going to work. Stiles needed to get some sleep, he had a test first thing in the morning. “Ugh, seriously, turn this way.” Stiles started maneuvering Derek around, making him face away from Stiles and then proceeded to wrap himself around him. “Now sleep.” Which Stiles needed to do before his dick got any ideas because there was a gorgeous male, who smelled really good, in his bed. What was his life?
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He woke up the next morning to an empty bed that was still slightly warm but realized that he heard his dad coming up the stairs, so that was probably why Derek left.

“Stiles, get up before you’re late. I have today off, we can maybe cook out for dinner?” He heard the hopeful tone in his dad’s voice.

“Sounds good. I’ll pick up some shrimp from the seafood market or you can set out some chicken breast.” He heard his dad grumble and complain about that not being what he meant. “You’ve already had steak once this past week. Be glad I was being nice.”

“Alright, fine. At least you’re letting me eat something other than salad.” Stiles listened to his dad complain some more about not being a rabbit and a bossy son who worried too much. He was tempted to tell him someone had to worry but refrained because he shouldn’t be able to hear his dad.
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Stiles was walking out of school looking for Scott, who had walked Allison out before they headed to lacrosse, when he saw a man leaning against a large black SUV. He was certain his heart was going to leap out of his chest because Stiles was positive that was the guy who had shot him or at least one of the hunters in the woods. He watched Allison and Scott walk over to him and concentrated on listening to the conversation and shit…that was Allison’s dad.

Stiles was in his Jeep and on his way to Derek’s before they had gotten in their car. He texted Scott some excuse about his dad, thankful that Scott had biked to school that morning.

He came rolling up Derek’s driveway and was jumping out before it came to a full stop. He saw Derek already coming down the steps of the porch.

“Derek! I think I saw one of the hunters at school today. No, I’m positive I saw the hunter that shot me at school today. He was picking up his daughter Allison, who is Scott’s girlfriend!” There was no keeping the panic out of his voice because the man had shot him!

“What’s her last name. Did they recognize you.” Man needed to work on verbalizing proper punctuation.

“Huh? What do last names have do with anything?” He heard Derek start growling. “Ok. Um, Argent. And I don’t think so, they didn’t even look my way.”

Suddenly, Derek was in his face and growling. “Stay away from them.”

“Dude, it wasn’t like I was going to go over and introduce myself ‘Hey, I’m Stiles. Bet you don’t remember me but I’m the werewolf you shot.’ I’m not stupid. So, they’re hunters?” Stiles knew that he was panicking some but couldn’t help it.

“Not just any hunters. Their family has been hunting werewolves for centuries and they don’t always follow their own code.”

“What code? Are they the ones who did this to your house? Holy shit, are they going to come after me and my dad?” Stiles had to sit down and put his head between his knees because putting his dad in danger is literally the last thing he ever wanted to do.

“Their code says they’re only meant to hunt those that hunt others but they don’t follow it. Don’t let them know about you and you’ll be safe.” Stiles felt Derek’s large hand wrap around the back of his neck and focused on that while trying to calm his heart down and slow his breathing.

“Do you think Allison is a hunter? I mean she seems nice and Scott think she created rainbows or something.” Stiles honestly couldn’t see her shooting someone.

“Just stay away from her and don’t end up alone with any of them.” Which was the furthest thing from reassuring.

“Okay. I have to go. My dad will probably start to wonder where I am soon. He’s off today and we’re cooking out, so I need to go pick some stuff up. I just needed to tell you what I saw.”

“Fine. Just remember…” Derek’s shoulders were tense and his knuckles were white from how tight his hands were fisted. Stiles didn’t want to just drop this bomb and leave but he needed to go before his dad got suspicious.

“Yeah, yeah. Stay away from the Argents. I’ve got it. I don’t want to get up close and personal with the wrong end of an arrow again. I wonder if I should tell Scott.”

“You can’t tell him about werewolves.” Oops, like Stiles would have kept this from Scott.

“Dude, that ship sailed. I told him right after I found out but I told him he couldn’t tell anyone. This way he’ll be sure not to tell Allison, if I tell him about her family. Seriously, stop growling at me.” Derek really needed to learn a better way to voice his displeasure.

“This isn’t a joke.” Derek growled at him. Did the guy really need to growl so much, it seemed excessive.

Stiles reply was instant, “I’m not treating it like one. I had to tell someone and Scott knows everything about me. It was before I even knew you were a werewolf. I can trust him, just leave it.”
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The rest of the week and weekend followed much the same, with Stiles going to Derek’s after lacrosse and training with him. Though Stiles thought he kind of sucked at training a bitten wolf and wasn’t always willing or even able to answer all the questions Stiles had.

He had told Scott about Allison’s family, who couldn’t believe Allison would hurt anyone but agreed, none the less, to not tell her about him.

The alpha hadn’t killed anybody else but they knew it was still in the area even if they couldn’t track it. Its scent kept…disappearing. Stiles was beginning to think it was more than just some crazed feral thing but had a plan and was taunting them. Stiles had been trying to get a look at his dad’s file about the deaths to see if there was a link but hadn’t been able to get his hands on it, yet.
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Chapter 2: Rogue alpha, hunters, and strange dreams…Oh My!

Stiles rolled over and felt something jab into his back, reaching under himself to pull out whatever it was. He encountered, a rock, his fuzzy still half asleep mind told him. He opened his eyes and…that was not his ceiling, that was the sky.

He jerked up and looked around, there was blood on his hands and he was only in his boxers. “What the hell?” When no answer came, he got up and looked around again, like one would just pop out of the woods. He was pretty sure he was somewhere between his house and the school, so started jogging back to his house, hoping his dad wasn’t home. Thankfully, he wasn’t completely naked.

He texted Derek to call him, as soon as he got home, glad the man had finally texted him so he had his number. Though it had only been to repeat to stay away from the Argents. Then got in the shower, refusing to think about where the blood came from.
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When he got to school, there was an ambulance and a bus driver being loaded onto it and a bus corded off by police tape. He could smell blood in the air, his mind flashed back to his blood covered hands this morning.

He had told Derek, who had called him while he was on his way to school, that he had woken up in the woods with no memory of how he got there and had blood on his hands. Derek said it may have something to do with the alpha, now there was someone who had obviously been attacked.

Stiles didn’t say anything to Scott, who was completely distracted by Allison and didn’t notice Stiles oddly quiet behavior.

Later that afternoon, after school, him and Derek snuck onto the bus and he was hit by a flashback. Thankfully, it showed he had been trying to help the man and hadn’t been the one to hurt him. Derek said it was the alpha wanting them to hunt together, a kill to strengthen their bond.

“But you said that werewolves weren’t just killers but now an alpha and beta hunt people together, that seems contradictory.” Stiles protested instantly.

Stiles heard Derek huff behind him and didn’t have to be looking to know he was rolling his eyes. “Yes, alphas and their betas hunt together. It’s usually up to the alpha or the pack what’s hunted. My family would occasionally hunt deer on the full moon and take them down as a pack.”

“So, this one wants me to kill people. That’s reassuring.” Stiles couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of his voice. Snark had always been his shield. “Why didn’t I? I mean I came when he called, again, but I didn’t hurt the guy or even want to. Though I could feel the alpha’s hate and anger at the man. It felt…personal, more than just hunting for pleasure. It was vengeance.”

Stiles watched Derek look away before answering, “I’m actually surprised you were able to disobey the alpha, especially with his feelings coming through the pack bond. He’s obviously using his power as alpha and your bond to try to force you to obey him. It’s…extremely difficult to go against an alpha’s orders and uncomfortable and as a newly bitten wolf, you should be even more receptive to the alpha’s control. I’m not sure how you didn’t.” Derek looked back at Stiles, who could see the uncertainty in his eyes.

“Well, let’s hope I can continue to just say no. I have no interest in helping this alpha kill people for revenge, though now more than ever we need to link these people to see if we could find out who the alpha is that way.”
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There were no more murders that week, though the bus driver did die. Stiles was able to get a look at some of the files on the murders when his dad was distracted. The only link he could find was the Hale house fire, all the people were part of the investigation. This didn’t make sense to Stiles because the only surviving Hale was Derek and he wasn’t the alpha.

They had no luck tracking the alpha either, who seemed to be well hidden. They weren’t finding any scent trails now. It seemed the alpha had gone to ground or was waiting for something, though neither had an idea what that might be.

Stiles continued his training with Derek, it had moved on from just testing his anchor to learning how to use his senses better and how to control each part of the shift. How to focus his hearing and use his sense of smell, they had both gotten much better. Stiles was sure he would eventually get as good as Derek, maybe. He found he liked being a werewolf more and more, somehow it felt right, felt good. His body didn’t fail him, his mind had the focus it had always lacked but he hadn’t lost his unique ability to think about multiple things at once. He had lost the jittery and unsettled feeling under his skin he had always lived with but hadn’t realized was so bad, till it was gone. He was able to utilize all the extra energy he was always filled with and focus it, now.
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His arm hurts, so bad, and he could hardly concentrate, it was taking everything to hold off shifting from the pain. It had been hours since he had been shot, he had run till he collapsed trying to get away from the hunters. He had been so close to catching up to the alpha before he was shot by that bitch. Derek had to suppress a shudder that she was here, again. Derek could hardly think but he knew he needed to get to Stiles, to pack, to safety but he couldn’t find him.

He runs into someone at the school, he thinks his name is Jackson, Stiles always calls him Jackass and he can see why now and gets a little rough trying to get the kid to tell him where Stiles is. Thinks he loses enough control to scratch the kid and his control is slipping even more and he needs Stiles.

When Derek finds the Jeep, he collapses against it, waiting for Stiles, fading in and out of consciousness.

“Derek! Oh my god, what happened?” Stiles is kneeled down in front of him, his eyes wide, and he can’t help but feel better now that his pack mate is here, the scent of him soothing.

“Shot. Wolfsbane.” He’s able to get through his gritted teeth.

“Fuck! Why aren’t you healing?” Stiles hands are tearing the sleeve of his shirt off and gently touching around where he’s shot but it still causes a whine of pain to escape his mouth.

“Can’t heal from wolfsbane, if it gets to my heart…I’ll die.” Derek had figured at points in his life he would have welcomed death but he doesn’t want to leave Stiles all alone.

“Damn it! Who shot you?” Stiles is still touching his arm, fingers trailing gently along the black marks.

“Kate Argent.” He grits out the name between sharp teeth and he knows his eyes are flashing blue.

“Stiles! What the hell is he doing here?” Derek can hear Stiles human friend Scott but doesn’t look up.

“Dude, he was shot by the Argents.”

Derek fades in and out of consciousness while they argue, he’s pretty sure Scott said something about letting him die but at least Stiles protested. Next thing he’s really aware of is being put in the Jeep.

“Where are we going?” At this point he’s barely holding onto consciousness.

“Your place I guess.” The answer is more a question then a statement.

“We can’t. The hunters know where I live.” He hopes Stiles doesn’t just leave him there because he’ll either die of the wolfsbane or a hunter within a day.

“Fuck! Ok. How do we get the wolfsbane out? There has to be a way, right?”

“Need another bullet like the one that shot me, the wolfsbane inside it. Burn it and put the ashes in the wound.” The sentence takes more energy then he has to spare and he blacks out again.

When he wakes up again, he’s laying on a cold metal table and can smell disinfectant and animals. Stiles is standing over him, glowing gold-green eyes full of concern and it makes a warmth, that has nothing to do with the fire of the poison in his blood, spread through his chest.

“Awake again, big guy? Scott’s going to try to get a bullet from the Argents. Shit, you look bad, the black is getting closer to your heart. Is there anything I can do? Cause dude, I really don’t want you to die.” Derek almost smiles at the babble coming out of Stiles mouth, he’s pretty sure he’s been talking even while he was out. Stiles scent is sour sharp with fear and worry and Derek can’t help but like that’s there’s someone still alive who cares whether he’s alive or dead.

“I told you not to call me dude.” Which garners a weak laugh from Stiles. “You could try to drain the pain but I don’t know if you can and I haven’t thought to teach you.” It wasn’t something he had showed Stiles yet, wasn’t sure it was something he could even do.

“What?! I can do that? How-” Derek’s growl cuts off the flow of words he knows are coming.

“Just touch my arm, focus on the pain, and then pull. It’ll either work or it wont.” He really couldn’t focus enough to give a better explanation and he could hear Stiles muttering under his breath.

It’s a few minutes before he feels the hot burning fire that feels like it’s burning him from the inside start to slow down and hears a surprised noise from Stiles. Then feels an even stronger pull and his whole body relaxes, as the pain is drastically lessened. He rolls his head to the side and sees Stiles arms which have thick black bands twisting up to his elbows, his face is shifted and his pupils blown from the pain and a low whine escaping his mouth. “Fuck! Jesus, I can’t imagine the pain you must be in if this is what I’m feeling.”

“You can, you’re pulling most of it. You don’t have to do so much.” But honestly Derek hopes he keeps doing it for a little while longer, he can actually breath again and even if he still feels some burn it’s nothing like it was.

“Shit Derek, look! What the hell is that?” He looks over and sees black sludge dripping out of the wound and the black lines aren’t moving closer, they aren’t exactly fading but they aren’t getting closer to his heart.

“I don’t know, the poison is dripping out. Didn’t know that could happen.” He doesn’t know what’s going on but he knows that it has something to do with Stiles, can feel it. “When is Scott getting here with the bullet?”

“I don’t know. He hasn’t answered any of my text. What do we do if it gets closer?”

Derek can hear the strain in Stiles’ voice and sees sweat running down his face, knows they wont be able to keep this up for long. Shit. “You’ll have to cut my arm off.” He’s not sure it’ll grow back but it’s better then dead.

“WHAT?! Are you crazy? I’m not cutting your arm off, that’s just…not happening.” Stiles scent goes even more sour and his voice is cracking.

“That or I die.”

“Dude, I hate you so much right now.” Derek is glad he can hear the skip in Stiles’ heartbeat that says he’s lying. “But, shit, let me call Scott.”

“Come on man, answer the phone! Scott, thank fuck, have you got it yet? Just get the bullet! I don’t care! He’s going to die or I’m going to have chop his arm off. I will make your life hell if I have to chop off his arm. Whatever, I couldn’t care less about your damn date, this is more important, Scott!”

Derek listens to Stiles swear for a few minutes after hanging up and probably learns a few new words himself. “Fine. How long do we have before it’s too far gone?”

They both look at his shoulder where the black is concentrated, it’s not spreading anymore but it’s still close. “Not long. I don’t know why it stopped moving. If it starts moving again, you have to.” Derek looks up at Stiles and he knows his face is showing just how terrified he is and sees Stiles nod his head once. Then Derek turns over and throws up thick black poison over the edge of the table, that makes him gag even more from the stench of sickness and death that’s coming from it.

He hears a whimper from Stiles and him whisper, “well that can’t be good.” The pull of Stiles taking his pain gets even stronger and he puts his other hand on the wound and more black sludge drips out of it.