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Chapter 8

Spike and Xander found Oz and Willow in the kitchen.

Oz  leaned back from the table, an empty plate in front of him. Xander smiled at his faded blue t-shirt that read “Never moon a werewolf.”

“Want a sandwich?” Willow asked. ”Or breakfast. I can do breakfast.”

Xander turned a chair around and straddled it. He looked around the cheery kitchen, noticing the witchy touches here and there with a small smile. “Eggs and bacon,” he finally said. “I would love buttery scrambled eggs and crispy bacon.”

“Give the man a slab ‘o suet to go with that,” Spike sneered as he joined them. “You’re going to be back to American paunch in no time, mate.”

Willow smacked Spike in the back of the head as she passed him on her way to the fridge. “Leave him alone. That’s an order.” She paused and kissed Xander’s head as Spike comically rubbed his injury and glowered. “He can have whatever he wants.”

Xander grinned at Spike like the favored child he was at the moment. “Then I want Seven of Nine in my bedroom tonight after dinner.”

“Sorry, dude,” Oz said. “No more ‘Star Trek’.”

“What?” Xander gaped, exaggerating.

“You missed most of ‘Enterprise,’ and for the first time in ages… no new ‘Star Trek.’”

“Damn.” Xander pillowed his head on his arms.

Gunn came in to see him like this. “What’s wrong?”

“Git’s in mourning over “Star Wars,” Spike said.

“Trek!” came a trio of corrections.

“What the bloody ever.”

Gunn sat and reached over a hand to rest it on Xander’s arm. “Don’t worry. We got all episodes in DVD, wide screen, surround sound splendor!”

“Don’t tell him that!” Willow squeaked. “I’ll never get to see him!”

Xander’s head popped up. “Don’t worry, Willow. You can join us. Now what about my eggs?”

After much laughter and talk over brunch, Xander stood and patted his full stomach. “That was the best breakfast ever, Wills!”

“Thank you.”

“It’s mighty quiet around here. Where’s Dawn?”

“She went out to spend the day with a friend. She tried to cancel, but I promised I’d convince you to give her some Xander time this evening. After all, One of the reasons she came to visit was to see Michael.”

“Oh? Who is this Michael guy?” Xander asked.

“A very nice young man. He’s been thoroughly checked out by everyone.”

“Not by me. I’ll give her some time tonight. Right now, I need to be outdoors and maybe walk some of this off. Who will give me a tour?”

“I’m not in the mood to burst into flames,” Spike scoffed.

“I’ll show you,” Oz said, as he helped Willow clear the table.

“I need to go out to the forge and check on something, I’ll go that far with you,” Gunn said, as he got to his feet.

The two went out the back door, but Xander hung back to address Spike. “I want to spar soon. Is there a place?”

“Oz will show you. I need to go into town tonight for business, if that’s all right, not boss.”

“Of course it is.”

“How about tomorrow after lunch?”

“More necro tinted glass?” Xander asked.

“Hardly. Go see. Get some sun.” He chewed his lip as he watched Xander join the other men.

Willow put down a plate and sat beside Spike. “Hey, Spike. How are you?”

“He’s fine,” Spike answered absently.

Willow put her hand on his where it rested on the table. “Spike. How. Are. You?

He met her eyes levelly. They had connected in the past three years and an easy friendship was between them. “I’m good. I’m… It feels right, Red. He asked me to help him.” Spike chuckled. “Hired me, actually.” He put his other hand over hers. “But it feels good to have him back.”

She smiled broadly, which always made Spike feel warm. “Doesn’t it? The fellas will be a while. Let’s look to those gems.”


Outside, they came first to the converted barn. Xander gave a low whistle when he took in the large space filled with training equipment and a rack of practice weapons to one side. A single high window let in a beam of sun. Otherwise, the huge space was dim and cool. “This is sweet! It sure beats the hell out of the Magic Box backroom, huh, Oz?”

“There are showers and changing rooms over there. The girl’s is, of course, bigger.” Oz said.

Gunn lowered himself to a bench and watched with Oz as Xander picked up a staff and hefted it. Gracefully, he fell into a fighting crouch before flinging himself into a vigorous series of passes and strikes with the staff. After some five minutes, he stopped and bowed to his invisible opponent. He was startled out of his meditative reverie by Gunn clapping.

“Damn! That was fine! I can’t wait to see you beat the bleach bum up one side and down the other.”

Xander returned the staff to its place and crossed to them. “Bleach bum. I like that one. What other surprises are there?”

Oz pulled a key out of his pocket. “Toys.” He crossed to a locked door and opened it to reveal a twelve foot square room lined with racks of swords, axes, stakes, chains, crossbows, and everything imaginable a proper slayer could want to in her arsenal.

“I’m a gladiator in a weapon store,” Xander sighed. He went to the rack of swords and pulled a simple one out. He felt it’s balance and weight. “You’ve got some sweet toys, my friends.”

“Thank you,” Gunn said. “I take special orders, but I’m back logged for Christmas.” 

Xander looked in wonder at the blade. “You made this?”

“That’s one of the better beaters. Let me show you my office next.”

Oz locked up behind them as Gunn led him to a smaller building in a clearing to one side. Xander could smell familiar scents of smoke and metal. “I thought you were a lawyer.”

“I got an evil upgrade from W & H. It cost me dearly and I hate it. Unless I can use it for the powers of good, I don’t. That last smack down left me gimpy, so I put my weapons knowledge to use and learned this.” Gunn waved Xander through the open door into a well appointed blacksmith’s shop.

“Sweet!” Xander said, peering at an ornate hilt hanging on a peg. He pushed away his memory of being taken into a much cruder blacksmith shop and the bands being welded onto his wrists. They’d been a part of him for five years now. He twisted one of them without realizing it.

“Um. Whenever you want… If you want, that is. I can take those off you.” Xander’s hand flew from the band as if it were still hot. Slowly, he lowered his eyes to his wrist.

“Can you? I don’t know if you can. They’re a part of me.”

“With Willow’s help, I can physically take them off. I’ve done it for others.”

Xander straightened and held out his clenched hands, palms up. “When?”

Gunn took Xander’s hands in his own. “It’ll be just after dark for the fire to be hot enough. How’s that?”

Xander turned his hands, opening them to clasp Gunn’s. “Please.”

Gunn grinned. “My pleasure. Hey Oz, lead the man on and I’ll start things cooking here.” Strangely, Xander was pretty sure he recognized Gunn whistling “Poor Wandering One” as he followed Oz.


“Spike,” Willow said as she sat on his narrow bed and poked at the glistening pile of gems. “Does he know what he has here?”

“I’m pretty damn sure he does. More than what the bank would give is what they cost him.”

“Midra said they were prize jewels.”

“Each one of those is a life, Willow. A life Xander had to take to save his own.”

Tears begin to roll down her cheeks.  “I want to get them, Spike. I want that king pin. They took my sweet Xander.”

Spike took the cloth with the gems on it from Willow and sat it aside. Gently, he wrapped his arms around her. “We will, pet. We will. Think of all the inside information we can get now. I’ll bet Xan can fill in all kinds of details. We’ll shut them down right proper.”

Willow cried herself out and pushed away. She pulled a tissue from its box and wiped at her eyes. “Let’s get done with these things.”

She determined that Xander had done a good job with the cleansing, even though three of the gems still contained inherent energy. She put eight gems aside to be sold as magical receptacles, and therefore as more valuable. “What about the pearl he wears?”

Spike had been thinking about it. When Xander had singled it out, he thought it was perhaps the stone someone would claim if they killed him. After hearing the litany of kills, he wondered if he’d had to kill his friend. “It belonged to someone close to him, Red. He’ll tell us when he’s ready.”


Oz went on to show Xander a large garage. It held the van Xander had ridden in, a sleek black Jaguar, and a couple of domestic cars. Off to one side, a motorcycle lay in pieces. Xander wandered over and admired the clean lines of the classic Jag.

“That’s Spike’s,” Oz explained. “So is the bike.”

“It beats the hell out of his DeSoto, that’s for sure.”

“He managed to get it away from Wolfram and Hart before the big to-do went down. It’s got necro tinted windows like the ones upstairs.”

“So he can drive in the daylight. Sweet.”

Oz lead him up a flight a stairs to the Slayer dorm which was the second story of the garage and could house up to twenty Slayers. “Isn’t that a bit much?” Xander asked.

“No, we’ve had it full a couple of times. Plus, as part of the organization, it’s been used to house California disaster victims. People who have lost their homes to fire and flooding. Do you want to see the best view on the property?”

He led them down a pebbled path. A sign post stood some fifty feet from the trail head. The sign was broken on both ends and read “zeb.”

“Zeb? Who’s Zeb?” Xander asked, peering up the overgrown path.

“There’s a big gazebo up there. A tree fell on it before we bought the property and no one has taken the time to fix it up.”

“Is it sound?”

“Let’s go look.”

Xander pushed through the overgrowth and Oz followed. The gazebo was a big one, with enough room on the floor for a good number of couples to dance and a curved stairway up to a covered widow’s walk. The tree had been cleared away, but the damage in the roof was clear.  There was rot here and there and it badly needed a coat of paint. Oz sat on a portion of the wide railing as Xander examined it.

Xander picked up a long splinter of wood, turned it over and over in his hands, and joined Oz. “This could be a really nice place,” he said, looking up at the high ceiling. “Could be a great place for shindigs.”

“Or hootenannies.” They both imagined the parties that had been and could be held there.

“If someone wants to take on the job,” Oz finally said.

Xander laughed. “I don’t know. I’ve made some book cases and helped some build buildings…” Xander shrugged and tossed the wood aside. “I never made it to community college like I planned.”

“Just think about it, Xander. There’s no way the council will let you be jobless. Besides, I’m groundskeeper. I can hire who I want. If I make you supervisor, you can hire who you need.”

Xander took a big breath and let it out. “Oz. I don’t know what to do now. I haven’t even thought about having a job, or being back in society. The government has to be told I’m back, don’t they? What all headaches will that cause?”

“We have one of the best lawyers black magic and money can create, Xander. Don’t worry about anything.”


“Yes. He doesn’t like to talk about it, but the upgrade to his skills directly cost him the life of one of his best friends.”

“Damn. No wonder he’d rather make swords.”

“He’ll get it all sorted out for you. In the mean time, you know you’re welcome at Chez Rosenberg for as long as you like, if not for always.”

“Always, Oz?” His one eye searched Oz’s face.

“Always. It’s one of the first things Willow said after she quit squealing and bouncing around the house with Dawn.”

“Always. I like that idea. Show me that view, my man.”

They followed the path as it continued to rise and walked in silence for a ways. Xander enjoyed the mild Californian sun and the fresh air. It felt like he’d been on that ship for months. He fought the urge to run.

“You can if you want to,” Oz said as if reading his thoughts.

“Can what?”

“Run. Hide. Explore the woods. Run to the sea and dive in.”

They exchanged a look in which one beast acknowledges another. “Where’s this view?”

“When ever the path forks, just keep to the left. You’ll know it. See you shortly.”

Oz thoughtfully watched his friend as he took off with his long hair flying behind him. He continued walking up the path at a steady pace, letting Xander have his freedom and space. The world felt more right now that the missing Scooby had been found. Willow had a bounce in her step he’d not seen in a long time, and the subtle changes in Spike bore watching.

Xander ran. He let all the energy he’d built up on the ship go. The cool, green life of the forest caressed him. The packed earth of the path felt alive under his feet. It was all so unlike forced runs across the baked earth of the African veldt.  Here again were the bird calls, flowers, and scents of his childhood.

He ran until he turned a corner and found himself in a clearing on a high hilltop. He stood overlooking woods stretching out to older growth areas in the distance in one direction and sloping hills and eventually the curve of the ocean some five miles away. Xander promptly sat on the picnic table with his feet on the bench. He closed his eyes and felt the wind in his hair.

Oz joined him a little while later and sat on the table beside him. “This is cool. How much does the council own?” Xander asked.

“Some hundred and fifty acres. It backs up to preserved lands, so we’ve got a big back yard.”

“Pretty sweet for moonlight runs, huh?” In the world he’d escaped, werewolves were considered less than men. When the full moon rose, the slavers would hold the equivalent of dog fights. Condemned humans were deliberately infected to continue the sport.

Oz grinned. “That it is, but more so in the winter. I worry about hikers.”

“I thought you… got control of it.”

Oz shrugged. “I do. But sometimes, it feels good to let it go.”

“I can understand that.”

“I’ve gone out for night runs with Spike. First time, we got in a tussle, but the wolf respects him now.”

“What do you do otherwise?"

“I’ll show you on the way back.”

They sat quietly together until Xander sighed. “Let’s head back before I give in to the urge to go to the ocean.”

“Dawn’s in town for another week. We are planning a beach picnic for her birthday.”

“Cool. Show me your set up.”

Oz lead him on a different path back and the downwards slope made the trip quick. Most of the way back, they come to a big clearing in the woods.

“Look at what I have.”

Xander eyed the fifty by a hundred foot heavily fenced enclosure before them. It rose twenty-five feet in the air before arching over to a caged roof.  Inside were a couple of low trees, which were gouged with claw marks, and a platform over a low cinderblock building. It looked like nothing more than a wild cat cage at the zoo. Xander nodded his approval.

“Beats the hell out of the book cage,” Xander said.

“Yeah. No one has to take all the books out before I go in. Angel’s girlfriend Nina sometimes stays here. Not with me in there, of course…”

Xander well remembered the encounter Oz had with a lady werewolf that lead to Oz and Willow’s break up long ago. He changed the subject. “Is that clover?”

“Attracts rabbits.”

Xander couldn’t tell if Oz was completely joking or not. “Let’s go see what the guys are up to.”


They approached the house from the far side and Xander caught a glimpse of a pale figure in black in the window of his room. He smiled to think of the vampire waiting for him, and returned his attention to Oz when he pointed out the enclosed porch they were going into and the hot tub it contained. 

“There was a hot springs in the cave,” Xander said. “Only the privileged got to use it.”

“We’ve got a few rules, but they’re posted. Willow walked in on Midra and Gunn one too many times.”

Spike slouched in his chair and flipped channels as if he’d not been waiting at the  window three minutes before. Xander rested his massive arms on the chair back and leaned on them. “Anything good on?”

Spike didn’t even look at him, but he could smell the sweat and foreign poisons that were leeching out of his system. He needed to give this man as many sparring matches as he could stand. “Nah. Never is.”

“What shows did I miss in the last five years?”

“Nothing. It was almost all reality TV.”

“What the hell is that?”

“They put real people in real situations and film them. Make them eat bugs and stuff.”


“Yeah, they’ve not come up with anything new. I’ve made plenty of people eat bugs in my day.”

“Some bugs aren’t  too bad, but give me pizza any day.”

Spike inwardly winced at yet another cruelty revealed. No wonder the man wanted steak and eggs. “What do you think of the Ponerosa?”

“It’s a nice spread.” Xander came around and perched on the edge of the sofa. “Gunn is going to unband me later.”

Spike nodded, and kept his delight covered. “Charlie knows what he’s doing. When he took the bands off Midra she fell for him right then, to hear him tell it.”

Xander frowned at the antics of a beautiful woman in a swim suit rolling in a pig pen. “What are you doing in town?”

“Need to do some banking and pick up some odds and sods. Any requests?”

“I can’t think of anything,” Xander laughed dryly. “I remember nights I would lay awake and dream of a toothbrush and tooth paste, but I have so much wealth now…” he waved his hand at the surroundings.

“When you were there…”

Willow came in just then and Spike dropped his question. His curiosity would just have to wait. “Clean up, boys. It’s time for dinner soon.”

“By that I assume you mean me, Willow, as the vamp appears tidy for once.” Xander got to his feet.

“Oi! I’m clean. I don’t take three hour showers like some people,  but I’m clean!”

“Then help me set the table.”

Dawn returned from her visit full of chatter and dominated the conversation with Xander for the duration of the meal. Spike slipped away the minute it was dark enough.

On to Chapter 9

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