Warped Planning.

John got called into the lab by Radek, who was worried abut McKay.  "What's wrong?" he asked as he strolled in.

"He is so huffy he's gone silent.  Is unnatural and worrying."  He pointed at where Rodney was outside on the balcony staring at the water instead of ranting.  "Was yelling about demons and things then maybe had a stroke.  He said no but you never know."

"I'll talk to him."  He walked out there, making sure the door was closed.  He leaned his back against the railing to look at his friend and teammate.  "Which demonic thing got to you?"

"They can do improbable things."

"Yup, but that's kind of the definition of magic."  He grimaced but let it clear up.  "I'm not particularly fond of magic most of the time.  It worries me and it's easy to misuse."

"I can see why."  He looked at him.  "That food thing is a food replicator that's biological."

"Hmm.  So some replicating species?"  Rodney nodded.  "How long will it last for?"

"Years probably.  I have no idea.  Plus they warp the boundaries of what we know is the truth about the world."

"Yes but if they didn't, we would all be dead by now."

"I can't reconcile magic in a world of science."

"No one's asked you to yet, just explain the effects."

"Which I'll never fully be able to do because magic is illogical and unscientific."

John considered it.  "It may be that magic calls on other forms of energy and has a physics of its own.  There are some technopagans but most of them are computer sorts."

Rodney leaned down on the railing, shaking his head.  "It can't be reconciled."

"Why not?  We know energy reacts in different ways when you use it.  The same as different radiation waves do.  The same as we know electric works different than ZPM energy, this is just a different form of energy with its own physics rules and regulations."

"It seems like there's no end of what they can do."

"It's bounded by the energy, the spell itself, and intent.  It can warp natural forces but not always.  A lot of people use it to add to natural forces' effects.  Some, like Rosenburg, try to warp things with it."

"But it covers everything from spirit to chaos to earth's core energy," he complained.

"That's different focuses.  The same as there's biochemists who work on drugs and some who work on hormones and some who work on ancient Chinese herbalism to see if it works."


"There are limits to what magic can do.  Usually it's a personal limit based on the spell and ethics.  Because most practitioners do have ethics.  Willow is not the average, she's an exception."

"It still doesn't relate back to science."

"I think, if you looked, a lot of it does, it just relies on baseline laws.  There's probably some unifying theory somewhere but I wouldn't know where to look."  He straightened up.  "Beyond that, you can mimic what they can do."

"It takes us years of research, thousands of dollars at the very least to build the proper machines, and all they have to do is learn a spell."

"It's never that easy, Rodney.  You have to take years to learn what you're doing, build up reserves to do more than light a candle, train your mind, those things."

"So like certain Eastern monks and priests with their martial arts?"

"Same thing teaching themselves," he agreed.  "Or they're wrong somehow.  Rosenburg skipped all that.  She went from floating a pencil to resouling Angel when he lost his."  Rodney gave him a horrified look.  "No one's sure how she did it but we all believe that's a root cause to her problems.  That and she built her identity on it.   Before she was the smart girl of the school and then she could do things that certain people noticed.  It's how they nearly drove Xander off, because he was normal."

"He's not normal."

"They still don't see it that way," John said with a small shrug.  "You and I see that he's done some things.  They ignored it even when he saved their lives because he was too normal.  Meaning he wasn't trained, didn't have magic, and wasn't a chosen one."

Rodney snorted, shaking his head.  "That makes no sense."

"Most teenagers don't," he agreed.  "Especially teenage girls."  Rodney nodded at that.  "There's a unifying theory.  The same as people have studied how those priests train themselves for years.  You always get to a point, even in physics, where the individual's impact matters.  In magic, it's if they have a gift.  Because if they don't they won't be able to do anything but use stolen or hoarded power.  Xander has to do that with his hellmouth taint in emergencies.  He can't do magic but he can use all that energy that he's got stored in him to do the same thing.  Tony said it was like quickening."

"I loathed that movie," Rodney admitted with a small, bitter chuckle.  "It seemed so unnatural."

"It might be.  It's not 'you go to school to learn to wave a wand' the way it is in books.  It's studying, a lot of studying, and experimenting with your personal stores, slowly making that grow to where you hit the high point of your potential.  No one was meant to be as strong as Willow is."

Rodney nodded.  "So it's a personal energy instead of a universal one?"

"From what I'm told, magic is like the Force, everywhere has it but only a few can use it."

Rodney grimaced.  "Another movie series I loathe.  Mystical guidance systems that let someone who's never flown before blow up a huge installation by hitting the two meter spot that no one else could."  He shook his head quickly.  "Not even you can do that."

"Actually, at one point in time, I could do that.  There was a sim game; one of those booth arcade games.  I won it nearly every time."  He smirked.  "That's how I knew I was meant to fly."

"You'd look strange in the robes," Rodney snorted but he was smiling now.

"Yeah, I kinda do.  But I could kick ass with a light saber."

"Teyla would do like Yoda," Rodney reminded him.

"Yeah, but I can learn just as much as she has."  He smirked.  "Just think, Teyla's like the Pegasus version of a slayer."

"Yes, she is, isn't she," he realized, scowling again.  "Is she affected by the slayer calling?"

"Nope.  I asked how they spotted slayers and made sure for her.  Different needs.  Down here they needed help against demons.  Pegasus had wraith to deal with instead."

"Hmm."  He shook himself.  "Do you think there might be a unifying theory?"

"I have no idea what it would be but according to most science gods, there's a unifying theory out there that explains everything."  He smirked.  "Which may put it into the realm of magic since it's still unknown."

"It may," he agreed.  "I hadn't thought of magic that way."  John nodded.  "Did anyone ever figure out how they do it?"

"Desire to train, a lot of training, it took well in them.  Training passed down for generations.  Which most powerful witches have in their background.  Another strike against Rosenburg.  Most powerful witches have it as a bloodline gift.  She doesn't."

"We're sure?"

"Very."  Rodney nodded once.  "So I'm not real sure about her.  She may be the exception that proves the rule."

"She may be," he admitted.  "If we take her out of the equation, it makes more sense.  She seems limitless."

"It depends on what she pulls from.  She can access the hellmouth, probably both of them, to enhance what she has."

"So she has a booster?"  John nodded.  "It's usually dangerous to amplify without testing."

"Yeah, I think we've proven addiction to magic is like that."

"Good point."  He considered it, going in to work on his computer to see if he could figure her out.  If he could prove she was a statistical anomaly it'd help others figuring out the unifying theory behind magic and physics.

John walked inside.  "Don't forget to eat," he reminded the two in there.  Radek nodded, looking at Rodney.  "Rodney, figure out what she's going to do next.  That way we have some warning."

"That's a probability issue," he complained.  "Ask a mathematician."

"Fine."  He went to find one to ask.  They had a few on base.


Tony looked at his team, who was scowling at him.  "It wasn't made to make me happy, guys."

"No, it wasn't," Gibbs agreed.  "It was made because he and I are among six others in CID, NCIS, and JAG that have clearance or have worked with one of their project before."

"Then why move Ducky and Abby?" Ziva asked.

"Because they could use Ducky's expertise in some things and Abby would pout and slow down the local lab."

"I would not, Gibbs," she complained, stomping a foot.  "Pout yes, slow down the lab, no."  She looked at Ziva.  "I'm someone who wouldn't look down at any strangeness they have either.  I'd just think it's cool.  Most of the other lab techs are a bit more uptight if you haven't met them.  Some of them make robots look like Disney Princesses if you want my honest opinion."  McGee snickered at that.  "Don't they?"

"They do," he agreed.

"Xander said to say that they're more uptight than Data when he first rolled off the manufacturing line," Tony offered.  "The upside of sending us is Ducky and Abby would just shrug whenever something odd came up instead of trying to figure it out in a way that would let information get out and you, Ziva, because it is an international program now.  Sending me was a nice gesture so things can go a bit more smoothly because they're not sure Vance is going to act like Sheppard about things.  McGee is really the one being sent because of the rest of the team.  I'm low man on the clearance totem pole even though I have worked with their alpha teams in the past before the aunts got that in their heads."

"I was wondering why now," Abby admitted, raising a hand slightly.  "I know the Vance thing is worrying but why worry about getting a team for their project?"

"Because they haven't had oversight in a while," Gibbs admitted.  "There's been a few problems and some of them are just now off combat situations."  Tony nodded at that.  "Beyond that, the higher ups have seen some reports saying that things have had to happen in the past that weren't exactly the most legal but were the most effective."

"Which we, as a team, have seen and handled before," Tony added.

"So we're there in case they have to step over the line to save lives, but we'll be able to make a judgement call because we've seen it and had it done before," McGee said.  Tony and Gibbs both nodded.  "That makes it more reasonable that I'm going as the baby brother to the team."

"You have the choice of changing teams if you want, McGee," Gibbs offered.

"Hell no.  You have me trained where you want me, Gibbs, and you'd kill any of them that joined the team.  Not like I can't deal with strange things too."  Abby grinned at him.

"Fine."  He looked at Ziva.  "There is an Israeli unit in the program, some Russians, some Canadians, especially in the science corps, and a few other countries are included."

"That's fine.  I don't have a problem with the assignment.  I was wondering why we were being sent."

"Because any normal agent, with the normal agent mentality, would be horrified, shocked, and an alcoholic after having to deal with the subject matter they deal with," Tony told her bluntly.  "Plenty of their own people don't deal well with it.  The normal agents, stuffed shirt, by the book, very mentally categorizing, would die from their brains exploding.  We've got a mentally easy-going thing going among the team."

"I have seen many strange things from my travels in my youth," Ducky agreed.

"So the only decision is are we moving to San Fran to be closer to the newly relocated portion of the project, that's just come off battlefield status, or do we move to Colorado Springs?" Gibbs asked quietly.  "They're letting us decide which one we want to nest at."

"Do not decide this one because of me, people," Tony ordered.  "I can still commute either way."  They nodded at that.  "Colorado Springs has a good national forest, mountains, snow, hiking, outdoorsy stuff, and a smaller city.  No direct major flights unless you change over in Denver.  It's about an hour from Denver, which is the New York of the Midwest, western part.  Chicago's the eastern version of the Midwest New York."

"San Francisco is a huge city, on hills, has state parks out the butt, art festivals, major tourist attractions, and a lot of bases nearby," Abby offered.  "It's more expensive to live there, it's a more open city, and there's lots of things to do for everyone who doesn't enjoy a good hike."

"Colorado Springs has a lot to do," Tony told her.  "I got a rundown from Sam Carter and Cam Mitchell."  He got into his email to put it onto the big screen.  McGee pulled up a tourists guide to San Francisco so they could compare.

"The city has a bigger range of activities but it's much more expensive," Ziva said.  "More expensive than it is here."

Tony nodded.  "That is one thing.  Though, with call in, you can live a few miles outside of the main center and get it cheaper.  Like we do here."

"What is the base's call-in?" Gibbs asked him.

"Three hours in normal traffic.  They have a local guy in the science corps who marked a map for normal traffic and heavy traffic.  Before you ask, Xander lives past Alameda by a few miles.  On the coast."

Gibbs nodded at that.  "Well within call in then."

"Even during heavy traffic, yeah.  Also, San Francisco is not flat," he told Ziva.

"I've heard that.  Seen pictures of Lombard Street in the news."

"Yes, but the rest of the city isn't flat either.  Also, we'd have earthquakes now and then."

Abby nodded.  "That's my big thing.  Though I love the city.  There's some parts of the city I'd be considered too normal," she said at Ziva's look.  "San Francisco is where hippies started, free love started, tattoos got really popular before they hit Seattle, piercings too.  Now they have people who're doing things like tongue splitting."

"I saw an article on that," McGee said with a shudder.  "Yes, Ziva, a tenth of the city is filled with people like that.  Another tenth are filled with very influential people.  Wine country is a few hours outside the city.  A few excellent colleges, silicon valley is nearby too."

"LiveJournal's servers are there," Abby added.  "It's very technological but still has that upper crust society portion.  Plus a lot of arts, artists, comedians, music groups all start from there."

"Colorado Springs is a lot more quiet but it has things to do," Tony told them.  "Cheaper, no earthquakes but if the Mountain has a problem we'll be in the line of duty.  And probably fire," he admitted at Gibbs' look.

"You're pushing hard to have to commute on the weekends," he said quietly.

"I don't want them choosing just so I don't have to, Gibbs.  That's an added bonus but if they won't be happy there then I can't and won't push it that way."

"I like that," Gibbs agreed.

"I think San Francisco's annoyingly loud," Ducky admitted.  "But there is much more to do."

"On the downside, the main project's in Colorado Springs," Gibbs told him.  "One part of the project is outside the city there, and then the main program is inside Cheyenne Mountain.  Their head is there too.  All programs answer back to the Mountain."

McGee considered it.  "How long is flying?"

"Three hours non-stop when you can find it," Tony told him.  "Four to five if you have a layover."

"That's a long commute for you," Ziva said.

Tony nodded.  "Beats it from here by nearly a day," he told her.  "Here it's something like seven hours on a plane total nonstop."  She shuddered.  "So yeah, really closer."  He realized he was starting to sound like Xander and mentally slapped himself.  Good agents didn't use valley slang.

"Would we be responsible for the bases in San Francisco?" Abby asked.

"No, they have their own office," Tony told her.  "There's mostly Coast Guard.  Some at the recruiting center.  A private laboratory that's listed as a military base by google maps.  I think they're laser research.   A few closed bases."

"The main training center on the west coast used to be there," Gibbs agreed.  "They used to rave about the beaches."

Ducky nodded.  "I've seen that one.  Well, I've seen all of San Francisco many years ago and I've never been to Denver.  It seems the majority of our work would be in Colorado."

"Maybe," Gibbs said.  "The project out in the bay is just off battle status.  They're having to do things to deal with boredom as they move back to a research oriented program."

"In hiding," Tony added.  "Because you can stare at it and not see it."  They all groaned at that.

"Which is going to be less of a problem if your family's training comes up?" Abby asked him.

"San Fran has a lot of peaceful demons, Abby.  Including a city council.  They have some harmful demons but as I've recently learned through John, Xander's made a dent in a few of them.  Colorado Springs has a few demons, mostly peaceful, some on the project.  We'd also be dealing with associated projects, which would mean Area 51 and, as my mate calls them, NID Weenies now and then.  They want on the project badly.  Both parts."

"Did they leave Xander alone?" she asked him.

"Finally.  Sam Carter did some skin and blood samples that made them decide he wasn't worth the money to capture and keep.  The day they had him in custody after that they had to spend a lot in the ER," he said when Gibbs stared at him.  "Which I didn't hear about either, no."

"I'm guessing that's something you'll have to talk about," Gibbs said plainly.  "And his weapons stash.  Again."

"His hunting closet is his own, boss, and Carter was dealing with that.  Though, on a lighter note, someone did suggest they move that one project to somewhere like that one show, Abby.  It'd make everything easier."  She burst out giggling, nodding as she leaned on McGee's shoulder.

"I like that show," McGee moaned.  "Is it that bad?"

"That warping," Tony said dryly.  "The science corps on both bases would be that bad, yes.  Though I don't know who Fargo is yet among them.  They do have some of the finest minds in cultural and hard sciences in the world on the project."

"Which means some of them have little sense," Gibbs reminded him.

"Boss, I'm waiting on you to meet Doctor McKay."  He smirked at him.  "He's loud, he's rude, he's sarcastic, he's a genius, he was on a team, Sheppard's team actually, and I'm not sure if you'll want to shoot him or befriend him.  Even John's not sure some days if he wants to shoot him or not."

"Where's he placed?" Gibbs asked.

"Head scientist for the project out there."  He looked at the others.  "Realistically, whichever we end up in, we'll be traveling a good bit."

"Which has more problems right now?" Ziva asked.

"Both.  The one out there has problems with people being jealous, bored, just getting leave after being in combat situations all the time, and changing personnel in some areas, like the infirmary.  The main base has problems with people on teams screwing up majorly, people doing things in town, and other issues."

"Vance has said whichever we don't stay at, we'll have an apartment with enough sleeping areas for us and a work area," Gibbs told them.  "We'd have an office in the Mountain in Colorado.  In the other area, DiNozzo?"

"Work area, boss.  There's no daily commuting but there is a commute/leave facility in town that we can put an office into.  They have a nice hanger to help commuting for conjugal and leave visits.  There's enough room in there to put in a small office."

"Us?" Abby asked.

"Colorado Springs most likely," Vance said as he came to join them.  He looked at the tourist ideas.  Then at them.  "This really is an easy assignment, we hope."

"Yeah," Tony snorted.  "But we've had other problems among the staff.  Including guys who haven't been on shore leave in a while causing problems in both projects."

"I'm hoping that's the worst you have to handle," he admitted.

Tony shrugged.  "They had a scientist that calibrated the security measures on purpose to exclude anyone not like her, Director Vance."

"I've heard.  The hunting issue?"

"Both are mostly peaceful areas.  No difference except that Xander's hunting those that aren't near him."

"So the only real change for you is commute?" Vance asked him.

"Which I don't want to be the reason we decide in that area's favor."

"I doubt they would," Vance said dryly, turning away from him.

"No, I would," McGee said.  "If it was even, I'd probably swing that way to help him out.  Xander and John being around make him happier.  He gets to play with the dog more often too."

Abby nodded.  "I would too.  What about the local offices?"

"Federal building.  Presidio," Vance told her.

She considered it.  "Neither have *great* labs.  The one out there would be more tolerant and open than the one here though."

"Some of the agents out there are more uptight," Gibbs warned.  Tony nodded quickly at that.  "To make up for the looser atmosphere they feel they have to be."

"Hmm.  Their lab techs never say things like that."

Tony shrugged.  "Half of them have their guns stuck up their ass cracks," he told her.  "Seriously uptight, Abby."

"I'll ask Sheila about them."  She moved to email her.  The email notice chimed a few minutes later while everyone else was pointing out their points.  "Guys, the Federal Building does not have our office."  She looked at Vance.  "Nor do they have open areas."

"Since it's mostly Coast Guard now, NCIS shut that office under Morrow," Gibbs said.  "There's a few bases that have officers there."

"The nearest is six hours to the city, boss," Tony told him.  "John's been looking at family off-base housing."

"Hmm.  Too far for a day pass probably."

"Three hours is their limit."

"You could split the team, sitting one in each area and the rest floating," Vance offered.  "McGee might like being in Colorado."

"Ziva's the better option there since it's an international project," Gibbs told him.  "Which would leave Tony in San Francisco without backup unless we were out there on a case.  We'll work that out ourselves."

"Fine.  Pick a city today so I can set things up."  He walked off.  Then he came back to look at DiNozzo.  "What happened to cause this situation?"

"Our aunts drugged us.  We're fifth cousins and I got sucked in unexpectedly due to calling at the wrong time."

"I see.  How bad is it?"

"Bad enough that Xander has visions that Tony feels and gets things off of," Ducky told him.

"That's very bad then.  Would closeness matter?"

"Nope.  John was getting some before all this, because those two were closer, before the big thing hit Sunnydale."


"If they hadn't finished it off, we'd be losing both of them due to traumatic brain damage," Gibbs told him.

"That's very interesting.   Do we have other agents who have this problem?"

"No," Gibbs admitted.  "Not that I'm aware of.  You'd have to ask them, sir."

"Fine.  Thank you for that information."  He walked off considering it.

"Even if they did, it wouldn't mean they'd see anything related to cases," Tony said as Vance walked up the stairs beside them.  "It depends on what you're focused on.  Some see big things, some see personal things, some see things like fires ahead of time.  There's a good book series by ...."  McGee pulled his copy out and tossed it to the director.  "I didn't know you had that."

"I was looking at it as possible information on what you were going through and how to help you since the people in Cleveland said she got a lot of things right about gifts in that series and another author got a lot of magic things right in another one."

"Do we have the other series?" Vance asked him.

"I do at home," Abby offered.

"Can I get the name at least?"

"Of course.  I'll send you a link to the Amazon.com page."

"Thank you, Abby and McGee."  He went upstairs to look over that book.  It wasn't his genre of choice but he needed to know how to deal with agents who had gifts like these.  He had no idea what to do about it so far beyond leave time.


John suddenly smiled during dinner.  "Guys, the NCIS team that's being assigned to us is moving to the Mountain," he announced.  They all groaned at that.  "They'll handle it for CID and international groups as well.  One of their people is Mossad."  That got a few nods and Woolsey stared at him.  "If we need them, they'll travel out to us or the other projects like Antarctica if it's still going."

"That'd be acceptable," Woolsey agreed.  "So they'll be handling everything but JAG?"

"They'll be handling the initial but if they have to turn over for trials they'll brief one person in the local office for that.  Since we know that one out here, it may be him."

Woolsey nodded.  "That will work for me if Landry likes it."

"I think it was left up to the team."  He ate a bite, considering it.  "We might have to brief them.  So they know when things are wrong and going worse than usual."

"I'll do that if the generals want," Woolsey decided, finishing up so he could call the main base and ask about that.

John looked at the other guys.  "Anyone have any problems with the program having its own NCIS team?"

"They don't do Air Force," one said.

"No, but they can handle us until we have to be handed to JAG."

"How did they get a Mossad liaison?" one asked.

"The last director put one on Gibbs' team.  Since Gibbs has worked cases on the base, they have her, and Tony has high enough clearance, we're getting their whole team, plus their chosen lab tech and ME, Ducky Mallard."

A few smiled at that.  "Abby definitely won't look oddly at us for strange things," a pilot said.  A few gave him strange looks.  "Gibbs' team figured out who shot one of the pilots I used to serve with when he was off-base one night.  Twenty as a Marine, and twenty or so in NCIS."

"He is a hardass," John offered.  "But he's good."

"Sucks for you three though," McKay noted, stuffing his mouth afterward.

"Not really.  It cuts an all-day flight down to three hours."

Woolsey came back to stare at him.  "That is your spouse's team, isn't it?"

"Yes, Tony has high enough clearance to deal with cases out there and Gibbs has dealt with a Cheyenne Mountain case before.  That and Vance wants him out of DC before people start to think more about moving the team to a hunting squad that he doesn't want to see come into being either."

"That's fine.  Shorter commute?"

"Down to three hours."

"Even better."  He walked off again.  "McKay, I need to brief them about the science corps and city's capabilities.  Get it to me by tomorrow afternoon."

John thought at Tony then grinned at him.  "Basics, the ATA gene thing, that stuff.  Not individual bios.  Enough so if they get called here they aren't startled by anything and can find their way around."

"I can do that tonight while I'm in my rooms."  He finished up and headed back to do that since it was his day off.

John finished his dinner.  "Teyla, sparring?"

"You don't get enough beating up the others during training?" she teased.

"Not really.  Ronon's beating them up most of the time."  She smirked and nodded.  "Thanks."  He finished up and went to the practice area to strip down to a tank top and stretch.  He heard a purr from Xander and smirked mentally at him then shut him out with a 'practice' answer.  Teyla came in and grabbed fighting sticks, tossing him a pair.  "Thank you."  They moved into the usual center of the room and started off.  It was good until John winced as Xander got hit somewhere hard.  "Ow, Xander."  She gave him a look as she backed off.  "No, it's all right.  He's fine.  He got banged on the knee and kicked the demon's ass for it."  He attacked this time and it was good.  Xander was going to get chewed out later.  Tony was already starting on him for hunting without backup.  The answer that he was in the club didn't help any at all.

"You're distracted," she said, breaking off.

He sighed.  "Tony's chewing Xander a new one."

"You need to focus, even with them having a fight."

"I know."  He pulled up his shields and went back to it.  He could ignore them.  Even when Tony poked  him a few times.  He finally gave up and yelled at them both.  They quieted down and Xander apologized.  Tony apologized for chewing him a new one.  John apologized for yelling and said they'd figure it out this weekend or during a dreamtalk.  They decided that was a good idea.  He got back to it.  "Sorry."

"You have to learn how to weed them out sometimes.  You can't stop a firefight to yell at them."

"If it was a firefight they would have stopped," he said blandly, making her smile.  "He doesn't bother us when we're working.  It's just that he was hunting by himself and got hurt."

"Ronon said he was a good warrior but not a great one.  Is that not foolish?"

"Which is why Tony was yelling at him for it," John agreed.  "We'll be talking about it later."

She smiled.  "It is always better to talk than to yell."

"Yes but sometimes you want to yell.  Especially when they do stupid things like dance with succuba," he said, turning away to kick a wall while muttering at Xander.  Who told him to quit distracting him.  He waited until he had drawn the demon outside to banish then yelled at him.  Tony joined in.  Xander pointed out it was his job and if they didn't like it, go do it for him.  Then he put up the heaviest shields he had so he could go back to it.  John looked back at her.  "Spanking a spouse is wrong, right?"

"Probably unless they enjoy it?" she guessed.  "I have not been married."

"Want mine before I spank him or afterward?"

Ronon leaned in.  "I'm glad you have not offered me that choice."

"Xander is off hunting alone," she told him.

"That is not wise," Ronon said.  "Even for the best of warriors.  There are distractions."

"Which he decided us nagging him was just now."  He turned back to get into sparring.  He needed the stress release.  She smiled at his actions.  They were more jerky than usual but it had to happen to clear your mind sometimes.

Ronon shook his head.  That young one was worrying at times.  He had no idea what was wrong with him this time.


Tony and John appeared on the dream plane, looking at Xander's spot.  It was cobwebbed over.  "Shields?" he guessed.

"Or mental floss."  He touched it and got smacked at mentally but otherwise no Xander. He poked until Xander swatted him again and went back to what he was doing.  Then he finally showed up an hour later, sweaty and dusty.  "Vampires?" John asked dryly.

"Some, yeah.  Decided to pounce instead of paying their poker debt."  He looked at them.  "What?"

"Hunting alone," Tony said bluntly.  "It's dangerous."

Xander stared at him.  "It's not like I don't do it all the time, Tony.  You two don't hunt.  The girls didn't exactly hunt *with* me.  They thought I was an accessory."  He disappeared.  He had something he had to deal with.  He had thoughts stuck in his head and he needed them moved to the right spots so he could figure it out.

John and Tony shared a look.  "You two don't hunt?" he asked John.

"No, I barely get any time off base."

"Think you can move him to base housing?"

"Nope.  Not unless he signs on."  He grimaced at the spot.  "We've got to have a longer talk," he decided.  He disappeared.  He could apply for a weekend pass.  Then he'd sit on top of Xander to hold him down while he talked to him about some smarter choices.  They could get a slayer out here who might work with him.

Tony went back to his own body to think the rest of the night.  This wasn't going to make him happy.


Xander found the reference he needed online and grimaced.  This was going to hurt.  A lot.  But it had to be done.  Because clearly, higher beings and common sense didn't always mix.  Or appear on the same plane, whatever.  He went into the former work area, carefully drawing the markings in chalk before starting on the chant.  An angel he didn't know appeared, grimacing in distaste.  "Sorry, dude, but it's kinda important.  We met with one of you guys about this whole Powers vs. Powers thing going on and there's a few points that need to be looked at from a higher end."

"Who are you?" he demanded coolly.

"Xander Harris.  Hunter, former backup to the Slayers.   I'm also known as Captain Common Sense and Captain Improbable depending on which demon clan you talk to," he said dryly.  "I was trying to get the one we talked to last time."

"You can't just summon one of us," he sneered.

"Yet you came," Xander shot back.  "I wasn't going to be hostile.  I just foresaw some points that are going to make your job kinda obsolete when there's no more humans."

"Of course there will be," he laughed.

"Not when you've got two higher powers fighting on this realm.  The power struggle is going to create an apocalypse.  Both sides will try to claim the slayers and hunters, so who's going to protect the normal ones?"  The angel glared at him.  "You know what, I don't wanna talk to you.  That's why I was trying to get the other guy, who actually knows what's going on.  Clearly, you and the old Powers share a problem of being out of touch with reality."  The angel he wanted appeared.  "Thank you."  He looked at him, getting an impatient look back.  "What happens when they fight?" he asked him.

"There'll be a battle."

"Beyond that.  Two higher powers, the ones who had power over those who protect the normal humans from the dark, fighting on *this* realm."

The second angel considered it.  "An apocalypse," he realized.  Xander nodded.  "That's not something we can help."

"There's no way of getting them to argue on some other realm?  Hopefully a dead one?  Even if they try to pull the slayers or it bleeds over to here to cause an apocalypse, that's still better than it happening *here* and killing every human on the earth.  Which kinda renders you guys obsolete, doesn't it?"

"It would," the second one agreed, considering it.  He ignored the seething of the first one.  "I have no idea how we'd manage to make them fight somewhere else, Xander."

"Neither do I.  I thought maybe you guys might have an honorable combat rule book?  Some way of forcing it for all the other Powers out there?  I doubt even Hell wants it here because then they'd lose too."

"What?" the first angel demanded, starting to laugh.  "You have no idea what you're speaking about, boy."

Xander stared at him.  "No humans means no demons who can steal souls, no reason for angels to be around, and no way for you guys to possess people.  By the way, begone before I unpossess you."  The angel snickered.  Xander started the chant he knew, which wasn't the one Sam and the other hunters used.  The second angel got out of the way.  The first one screamed in pain and disappeared.  "Sorry you had to see that."

"Some of us aren't involved fully in this situation yet," he admitted.  "Though that was mean."

"He's middle management and you're a grunt soldier?" Xander guessed.

"To put it bluntly and crudely, yes," the angel admitted.

"No one ever taught me tact outside of Willow, and look what she's become," he said dryly.

"That is a whole other problem."

Xander nodded.  "I figured she was.  Especially with that radical power spike she had way back when."  He stared at him.  "Which side decides the realm?"

"I don't know but I can ask and point out that problem."

"Please.  I'm going to make John pissed at me anyway in a few minutes.  Then Cordy and them."

"Why piss off the one who was returned?" the angel asked.

"How old is the called Slayer MJ?" he asked him.

The angel gave him a horrified look.  "That is a good reason to have him there."

"I'd say it was his job to help them the most.  The older girls yes, them definitely.  Am I missing any other really important points that we forgot to consider?"

"Not that I'm aware of.  I will ask the higher ups about those points.  Thank you.  Don't try to summon us again."

Xander shrugged.  "I didn't think I could call for you like I do my dog, even if I knew your name, dude.  I doubt you guys come like that.  Cordelia sure as hell doesn't."

"No, I wouldn't be summoned that way," he admitted, almost smiling.  "You are not the normal human."

"No, I'm not, no matter who thinks I am."

The angel stared at him.  "Every human has their blind spots and prejudices."

"Yup and I realize that.  It sucks that even after proving it to them they still have it.  To this day."

"You have a better reward and support structure."

"Who like me, which is nice and something I've been missing since about...forever, but there's some wounds that probably won't fully heal.  I'm mature enough to let the past be painful but not let it fully color the present."

"Good.  Because that would defeat you in this battle."

"I kinda doubt that.  I've had to deal with friends before," he said quietly.  "I know they can't."  The angel slumped but nodded.  "I'll sob if I survive and pay my penance if I don't.  Because war sucks ass that way."

"That is one way of looking at it."  He disappeared, going to talk to the higher bodies.  That was a problem in the making.  All the humans would be destroyed.  That wasn't a good thing.

Xander called Cleveland, putting it on speaker while he worked on relaxing himself.  "John, you're going to hate me."

"Kid, do you know what time it is?" he demanded calmly.

"It's ten in the morning on the west coast, John, so it's later out there.  I'd figure you'd be up by now."

"I was laying down for a nap before patrol," he admitted.  He groaned a bit.  "What's wrong?  Major incursion?"

"No, major issue that you're going to hate me for."

"Why would I hate you?  Is it going to get my sons killed?"

"No, but this present issue that got you called back?"

"Yes," John said slowly.  "Why?"

"How old is MJ, John?"


"So what will a fully called slayer who is nine be doing in this battle?" he asked.


"Like I said, you'll hate me, but the older girls can make their own decisions.  Buffy and Faith will be pulled but they can make their own decisions."

"The younger ones can't," John sighed.

"Which I think is your job.  Right?"

"I guess it would be."

"John, we have no idea when it'll come.  I'm at the stage of hoping like *hell* they can find a way to fight on another plane.  Before we have an apocalypse *here*."

"I can see that point, Xander."

"Thank you.  Let me know if I'm missing more common sense points."

"Of course I will."  He hung up and got out of bed, redressing and heading down there.  "Buffy, call a senior meeting," he called as he walked.  "Xander just had a common sense moment."

"Aw, crap!" Buffy called, coming out of her office with Giles.  "Why?"

"A probable apocalypse with the fight.  There's kids here who're called.  Ones who'll want to jump in."  He stared her down.

She grimaced.  "I hate it when Xander does that."

"Well, now we have to."  He looked at Giles.  "If the Powers are going to fight down here it's probably going to be an apocalypse."

"With their range of abilities, we might be looking at a super apocalypse, well beyond what would have happened if we had lost in Los Angeles," Giles said.  He took off his glasses to clean them.

"Then let's make some plans on how to respond," John said.  "Including who takes the younger slayers and witches out of harms' way.  Because some of them may want to jump in."

Buffy nodded.  "I can get behind that plan.  Why couldn't Xander do that?"

"He's the one who called me, Buffy."  She groaned.  "Another point, you older girls are going to be pulled by both sides.  Do we have an idea of which ones might go to the other side?  Or how we can restrain them so they can't hurt themselves or others?"

"Um, no.  I don't think Faith will."

"I don't think she will either," John agreed calmly.  "But some of the older slayers?"

"I don't know," she admitted.  "Half of them only know that there's a problem among the Powers, not what.  We didn't want to worry them."

"I'd rather have the older girls worried and assure them that the younger ones are going to be guarded so they don't have to worry about that either.  We need to know their best skills.  Where we can absolutely count on them no matter which side they're on."

She nodded.  "Okay.  Plus what needs to happen in case of a major apocalypse."  She walked.  "This is a kitchen talk."  She jogged down the stairs.  "KITCHEN TALK!" she yelled and slayers piled out and down to the kitchen.  Andrew was already working on snacks.  "Xander had a moment of foreseeing issues," she announced.  "Bad ones.  Someone call Faith who has a lot of minutes?"  Andrew put it on the house phone, on speaker.  "Thanks."

"What?" she complained.  "It's damn early, guys."

"Xander had a moment of seeing the reasonable and unseen," John told her.

"Aw, shit," Faith said dryly.  "What now?"

"If they're fighting here," John started.

"We're having a major apocalypse that'll leave very few living people," Faith finished.  "Okay.  J, you take the minis who're too young.  The not trained, the very tiny, all them including the support staff that can't fight.  Make a fall back."

"That would work," Buffy agreed.  "But we also need to make plans.  John pointed out that we might be pulled too," she told the phone.  "All of us.  We each have something that they can use as a lever.  I don't want it to go slayer on slayer, Faith."

"Me either," she agreed.  "But if there's an apocalypse, petty shit gets tossed aside due to the duty.  That's how we trained them, B."

"Maybe," she agreed.  "But we're still human, Faith."

Faith snorted.  "B, I have less levers than any one of you.  I have no family they can use.  No hidden secrets.  No desire to be more powerful as a slayer, nothing that they can use really.  I'll be there for the apocalypse."

"Thanks.  Ladies?" she asked the others.

"Even if we're fighting, we're still slayers," Kennedy agreed.  "What about Willow?"

"She's a heavy pawn," John told her.  "I'm sorry to say it but the old Powers saw her getting that powerful."

"She had a bunch of power raises suddenly," Giles sighed.  "She's in a safe location, girls and John."

"If they fight down here, is there a safe place?" one of the other slayers asked, shifting on her bar stool so she could get something to nibble.  "We're talking the people with the power to change reality, Buffy.  There's six billion people for the hundred of us that're trained fully to protect.  Can we handle that sort of situation?"

"You have backup," John reminded them.  They stared at him.  "Hunters.  Military.  The guys in Homeland.  Others who will jump in.  Like they did at the invasion from what I saw."

"Daniel and Jack," Buffy said, looking at them.

"I can find them," Andrew promised with a smile.

"Ask X, Johnny's part of their people," Faith said.  "Tony would know too and he was at the invasion.  Actually, X said that they got moved to handle the military program's issues as NCIS because of the marriage and stuff."  She yawned, then moaned like she was stretching.  "We need a conference, Tweedy.  Us, them, Riley's boys. All those of us involved."

"I can work on some of that," John offered.

"We can work on getting everyone to one location but I'd suggest pie," Faith said dryly.  "For some reason that Jack guy seems like a pie guy to me."  She hung up.

"Okay, I can arrange that too," John decided.  "I need numbers?"

"Arrange an area, I'll call Tony and Riley," Buffy told him.  "You get Xander, the other hunters, Tony will get Jack's people."  He nodded.  She looked at the other girls.  "We need to start making concrete plans of who goes where if we have an apocalypse down here."

John coughed.  "Xander said something when he was out here about demons being nervous about this?"

Buffy nodded.  "I've heard that too.  This is the Powers versus the old Powers.  We're all stuck in the center.  Us, guys like Connor.  Any chosen one.  They're very nervous."

"Probably about the same thing that Xander saw," Rona pointed out.  "Common sense.  Two greatly powered sets of beings fighting on a closed realm like earth, and we're all screwed."

"I think Xander saw that and was going to talk to someone about that," John admitted, rubbing his head.

Buffy looked at him.  "You can't get visions," she sighed.  "If you do, the demons think the Powers can use them against you, John."  She pulled her hair back then let it go.  "Okay, Vi, Rona, Giles, make plans based on where in the world the Powers have spots that they can get to easily.  Easy access portals, their portals, whatever."  They nodded.  "The rest of you, figure out what they can use against you so you can make some decisions now, but know that you're slayers and slayers are a sisterhood.  We may not always get along.  Dawn and I are a perfect example of that, but we're family."  They nodded.  "Help where you can, get more girls trained if possible.  The truly minis, work on self-defense, getting away, and hiding stuff."  They nodded.

"I'll start weapons with them," John agreed.  "Let me call some people."  He walked off, pulling out his new cellphone.  He had copied Dean's numbers and a few people weren't going to be happy to hear form him.  "Bobby, yes, it's me," he sighed at the complaining and spluttering.  "Slayers."  He smirked.  "No, worse than that.  You know it had to be bad if they brought me back to life," he said dryly.  He smirked.  "Worse than LA."  He sat down.  "No, worse.  The higher ups are going at it in a way that even hell doesn't like and heaven hates it.  That's why I got brought back by priests, Bobby."  He nodded.

"Exactly.  No, we need to meet.  Us, slayers, the guys who helped in LA, all that.  I got asked to make sure it had good pie.  That would include you at the very least so the hunters are represented.  No, I got given a calling, Bobby.  Because some of the slayers are really young girls," he said firmly.  "One's six."  He waited through the swearing.  "I have to help protect the girls.  We need to talk about this because those who can see are seeing hellish apocalypses, Bobby.  Even demons are scared.  True ones and the ones like in LA.  Please.  Pie, yup.  Some military folk, a few in Homeland.  Yes, them," he sighed.  "Please.  Thank you.  Yeah, I can get Dean there.  He knows most of 'em I think.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "Bobby'll find a place, Buffy.  Give him a day to set a date and time."

"That'll work for me," she agreed.  She called Tony and Riley on a conference call that Andrew dialed for her.  The phone was kinda complicated.  Too many buttons.  "It's me."

"Buffy," Tony said.  "Bad news?"

"Majorly.  Xander had a moment of seeing common sense.  Even Heaven's worried about the Power versus Power battle."

"Hold on, Power versus Power?" Riley asked.

"Yeah, as in the old Powers That Be fled when their plans to create a new balance by taking most of us girls out after having Xander and his spouses changed to vamps failed.  Now there's new Powers That Be but the old ones want their jobs back."

Tony hummed, thinking at Xander, who ran down what had happened.  "So we're looking at the super apocalypse that even disasters movies can't do realistically," he said.

"Yup, looks like it.  We're holding a strategy conference with some of the hunters and things.  One of John's friends is setting up a meeting place that has pie."

"Pie's always nice," Tony said.  "I told John, he's passing it onto O'Neill and Daniel."

"Who are you?" Riley asked calmly.

"NCIS Agent DiNozzo," he said dryly.

"His whole family are hunters and their aunts decided to marry him to Xander and a military guy named John," Buffy told him.  "Long story, I emailed it to you guys to share the news that Xander's not dating evil girls anymore."

"No, I'm not evil or a girl," Tony said dryly.  "John either."

"So, Xander's gay?" Riley asked.  He sounded a bit amused.

"Not the point," John called.  "We're setting up a place and time for a meeting within a short while.  We need those who need to know so they can spread it around to be there."

"Who are you?" Riley demanded, starting to lose his patience.

"That's Dean and Sam's dad.  The priests that have always watched out for the slayers had to bring him back to help protect the girls.  He'll be protecting the little slayers, Riley.  I trust John.  He did this for many years on his own while raising Dean and Sam."

"We trust him because of that?"

John looked at the phone.  "Little boy, I know *exactly* what you did.  When I got sent back from the afterlife, I got a full debriefing."

"Ohkay then," Riley decided.  "How soon will we have a meeting time and place?  And why would O'Neill need to know, DiNozzo?"

"Because they were the fence in Sunnydale and helped in LA," Buffy told him.

"Oh.  I did not know that.  Is that the same O'Neill who works on the super classified project that people get scary about ?"

"Yup," Tony agreed.  "The other of us three is in that project."

"Oh, damn.  I'm so sorry.  You hear so many rumors, but it sounds like something that Xander should fit right into if they needed grunts."

"Xander gets along very well with most of the science corps.  Especially during the Sunnydale clean out when he had to work with multiple physicists."

"Enough snarking," Buffy ordered.  "We can talk about this in person."

John's phone beeped.  "Mae's Diner, Anatolia, Oklahoma,  noon in two days," he ordered.  "We have a back room ready.  They are hunters there, boys."

"That's fine," Tony agreed.  "Should I tell the family?"

"Yup, we need the other hunters to know.  I don't know many of them.  Only met the one."

"Okay.  I can do that too.  Buffy, are we talking to the witchly support and please tell me Willow is staying in England."

"She is and I hadn't asked but I can ask our coven."

"Please do," John agreed.  "They'll need to help too I'm sure."  She nodded, making that note.  "Any problems?"

"Nope," Tony said.  "Thanks, guys."  He hung up.

Buffy smiled at the phone.  "I'll see you then, Riley."

"Of course you will.  I'm sure this one will be a bad one since Xander's involved."  He hung up.

Buffy grimaced.  "I don't like that thought."

"Then prove him wrong," John said bluntly.  "Because now and then you have the same feeling about the boy."

"Yeah, I guess I do."  She walked off to think.

John settled in to make plans on what he could do easiest and what he needed to set up before any real plans could happen.


Tony hung up.  "Boss, belay packing.  We have to head to Anatolia, Oklahoma."


"Meeting between the hunters and others who will be handling the apocalypse if the Powers fight down here," he said quietly.  "I'm told they have pie."

"That might be helpful.  When?"

"Two days at noon."

"We can finish packing this stuff," he decided.  "McGee, figure out how we need to get there."  McGee nodded, turning on his laptop to do that while the others packed their desks and the gear around them.  It was all going to Colorado with them.  The next team in their row would get all new gear.  Abby's lab too.


Tony and Gibbs walked into the meeting, him smiling.  "Aunt Thelise."

"Tony."  She patted his cheek with a smile.  "And who's this hovering protectively behind you?"

"This is Gibbs."  He went to where he could hear talking, walking in and sitting beside John and Gibbs got his other side.  He looked at him.  Then around.  "Xander?"

"I'm staying out of swatting range," he said bluntly.  "I have enough of a headache without it."

Sam Carter turned to look at him.  "What did you do?" she mouthed.  He shrugged.  "Ah."  She glared at John, who scowled back.  "What did you do?"

"Nothing yet."  He glared at Xander.

"Not my fault the thing tripped me."

"Backup?" he suggested.

"You're busy," he said bluntly.  John slumped at that.  "So don't nag."  He stared down Buffy too.  "What?"

"Plenty of hunters hunt alone," John told her firmly.  "Some by choice and some by necessity."  She clamped her mouth shut at that.  "You going to the demon bar?"

"They respect me more than some people do," Xander shot back.  "As proven by the emails I got this morning," he said, glaring at Buffy again.

"Kids," Jack ordered.   John nodded at the new guys coming in.  "We all here, Winchester?"

"Yes," he said, looking at Bobby, who nodded.

"Our family's strangely outside," Tony admitted.  "Aunt Thelise?"  She came in and sat down.  "Thanks."  He leaned forward.  "Okay, what's the huge bad?"

"Two things," Xander said, standing up.  "Which I had from one of those suddenly awake  moments.  By the way, talked the guy that agreed to sending the priests," he told them, getting a few nods from those who knew.  "And one of his people who wasn't happy.  The first is that there is no known way for them to decide to take the fight elsewhere.  Away from humans and demons.  I've talked to two possessed people recently that had higher demons in them.  They're damn worried too."  He looked around.  "When two higher beings fight, just two, we have chronicles from a demon society that used to live in Africa that state half the Sahara used to be really pretty."  Jack moaned.  "Before any of the stuff you guys are concerned about, Jack."

Buffy looked at him.  "How did you find those?"

"I asked."  He stared at her.  "There's a huge demon library from their chroniclers in Pasadena.  Found that out on my roadtrip."  He smiled.  "They have books going back that far and farther, back all the way to the Ancient Courts."  She shuddered.  "So we're screwed because that was two higher beings.  We have at least four and whoever they can pull up.  Second problem, they can pull people to their sides and we can only fight it so long."  Everyone stared at him.  "The old Powers are as likely to pull as the new ones will try to guard.  That's Winchester's job, but anyone who knows a seer?  We're fucked.  We're the front lines of being fucked this time.  Because they'll set us all off on purpose so we can't help either side."

"They hate you?" Buffy guessed.

He stared at her.  "Considering they left because I was going to release the rest of the hellmouth taint I carry onto them for doing all this," he said with a wave at Tony and John, "so we'd be turned and take out their extra champions?  Yeah, and it's not just me.  Me, Sam Winchester, six seers at the Council, three on Jack's project, another one on John's.  Two in the regular military that we know of, and I don't know how many of them that're just latent who're going to be screaming in pain soon.  I can fight mine.  Most of the others can't because of the way they were gifted.  Cordy couldn't fight hers and we're not sure if they'll still do that then, which means Whistler's got a disadvantage and he's used to the old playbook so I'm guessing you girls are going to be more active than not.  Beyond them stepping foot on this plane starting off portal after portal and calling up every higher being they can."

Dean sat up.  "One of the hellborn possessing someone came up to us at the bar last night.  They are scared."  The other hunters stared at him.  "They're scared enough that one admitted some are locking all the ways of getting to hell.  I asked and he said if it's that bad, even the banished ones won't be able to make it back in.  Souls either."

"I got a cocky response from the one angel I got while trying to summon the one we had talked to, which was because I didn't know his name," Xander admitted.

"That's bold," Bobby said grimly.

"The one we talked to agreed, after I got to hear attitude from a middle manager, that yeah, we're going to have multiple apocalypses.  Bad ones.  Super ones like LA, maybe a few the level of the First depending on who they pull up.  Which they've already started," he said, looking away from Buffy toward John.  "You guys got a shield, right?  And it works?  Even for heavy defense?"

"Maybe for heavy defense.  We need more power for it."

"Yeah, you do.  Today.  I talked with Rodney last night and warned him when I got the screaming demon who came to find me because someone woke up something the approximate strength of Gozer yesterday.  She's a water demon so you guys will at the very least get waves when she finishes coming up."

"Why didn't you tell us?" Buffy shouted, standing up.

He stared at her.  "I did, Buffy.  Would you like me to pull up the email response where you told me Giles said she wasn't real but her minions are going around living in the city's fountains?"  She sat back down again.  "I can probably handle her with some artillery.  She'll go back to sleep if we drain her enough by drying her out.  Rodney and I agreed late last night on how the city could help.  So we have that one.  New York has three sleeping.  Denver has one sleeping.  LA has *nine* that were gathered to there by their minions.  Hawaii has *two*.  Japan has three or five, depending on which person you ask."  She moaned, rubbing her head   "England's was destroyed by Ethan a few years back when Janus foresaw the problem.  So was Europe's.  We have to set some priorities and where we're each hitting."

"How likely are the other Old Ones being woken?" John asked.  "Why ours first?"

"She's the stepsister of one of the old Oracles.  A seer that they can rely on totally.  She also controls water in the areas around her.  So they can move her somewhere where we're fighting, screw up all water, probably including that in our bodies, and they get us that way.  As for the others, I've gotten copies of the books we need."  He pulled them out of his bag and walked them to Bobby.  He pointed.  "That is Doctor Daniel Jackson.  He is a *major* PhD brain in research stuff," he said, looking at him.

"I can work with him," he promised.

"Thank you."  He walked back there.  "I know you kick ass in the field, Danny, but we need yours and Sam's brain.  And Rodney's because we need to figure out one very big problem.  The slayer scythe, the colt, none of the 'kill any demons' weapons we have access to will work."  They all groaned.  "Some you can dismember.  Some you can blow up to dismember.  Some, like the one in San Fran, you have to puncture her enough to make her dry out once she's out of the Bay."  He shrugged.  "I'm still learning but I'll do what I can between visions, guys.  I need to know what I'm doing though."

"Your artillery collection?" Sam asked him.

"Of course it's yours if you need it, Sam.  Let me use it first?"

"Agreed.   We have some knowledge of bigger weapons."  She looked at Jack, who shrugged.  "Including energy weapons."

"What's in Denver?" Daniel asked.  "I have the feeling we're the odd one out for a reason."

Xander smiled and nodded.  "You guys' Ancient One?  Yeah.  Remember those stories of the Dwarf King?"  Daniel and Jack both nodded slowly.  "Including the ones that were recorded by the people your project work on?"  Jack gave him a horrified look.  "He's somewhere under the outskirts of Denver.  We have no idea if he's awake.  If so he's been cautiously finding things out so far.  If not, well...."  He shrugged.  "I'd make friends.  I haven't found any reference on his weaknesses."

"He helped when they first appeared," Daniel told Jack quietly.  "He might not go after us."

"What's his position in this line up of power?" John asked.

"No clue.  Not related to any that I could find.  Dumped by the one in San Fran once.  That's all I've been able to find and stories glorifying him and his powers.  He seems reasonable but I have no idea."  He patted Jack on the back.  "I'm letting you guys handle that one exclusively because it'll impact you and he was a former warrior king."

"Thanks, kid.  So he may be friendly?"

"He may be.  From what I've seen, which is sitting in Daniel's inbox, it's entirely possible he's on the humans' side.  I don't know."

"Okay, I'll look at that later," Daniel agreed.  "The ones in LA?"

Xander pointed at the books.  "Prayers, stories, and myths of them in ages past."  He looked at Buffy.  "New York is going to be a bitch.  There's no way we can get to their underground, underwater tombs.  LA has a slightly disassociated Parthenon of temples to them. Only one's had worshipers dancing around them so far.  Also, they're at war with New York's but both pantheons may decide to leave us the hell alone.  I don't know."

"So we need to talk to their people?" John suggested.

"Without threatening," Bobby added.

"I can help with that," Sam Winchester offered quietly.  Everyone stared at him.  "Demons tend to respect seers.  Even if they aren't theirs."

"Seers and those with natural healing gifts," Xander agreed.  "It's gotten a lot more respectful since they found out I have visions.  We're seen something like sacred prostitutes to the Old Ones."  He shrugged.  "We're targets if you're at war with us but if not, we're usually peaceful emissaries."

"So Sammy could talk to both sets, guarded by a few slayers and Dean," John decided.  Dean nodded he liked that plan. "The slayers and Dean could get us information on who they are, what they can do, and their forces possibly."

"How likely are your visions to take out John and Tony?" Gibbs asked Xander.

Xander shrugged.  "There's things I can do to disassociate myself.  I'm figuring that out now."

"Which is dangerous and could lead to you getting dead," Tony pointed out grimly, staring his husband down.

"Not without a fight.  I'm not going to lay down and die for this.  If worst comes to worse, I can be turned.  That breaks me from the link."  His aunt gasped in horror.  He stared her down until she looked away.  "I won't let them take out John and Tony, Gibbs.  One of them will have to fill in for me when I'm down with the visions we know are coming as an attack.  If I have to, there's demon drugs that can block visions totally.  I'd have to detox afterward but that's only if we survive as a species."

"Which two fought in the Sahara?" Daniel asked.

"One of the ones in LA and one of the ones in New York."

"Crap," he muttered.

"Basically.  Then your buddies showed up soon after that, within a decade I think.  They saw the weakness of the rebuilding time...."

"Took advantage of it, and the rest is history," Daniel finished.  Xander nodded.  "Okay, so we need some concrete plans on how to deal with things, and for when they step onto this plane?"

"Yup.  The guy I talked with is trying to figure out how to get the other higher beings to suggest that they move it off plane.  He wasn't hopeful."

"I'd give them easy access to a planet that was already dead or had no people," Jack offered.

Xander smiled at him.  "They're arrogant, Jack.  They'd think they wouldn't need transport.  Cordy and Whistler might take you up on that however."

"How mean are the new ones?" Gibbs asked.

"Xander's ex and their former minion?" Buffy asked.

"The old ones had no problem wasting champions and slayers," Xander told him.  "Whistler, one of the new ones, was their balance demon and messenger for a bit to their champions.  He saw their idea of balance being enacted and gave really cryptic hints to those who needed a shove to fall into line with their plans.  Cordelia was one of Buffy's slayerettes for a few years then went to work with Angel in LA.  She knows how slayers work, how champions work, and was their mouthpiece for a while.  She's stubborn as anything.  Her I can almost predict.  Whistler, no clue."

"How likely is it that they'll come after you for this information?" Jack asked him.

"They might try but they never took a good look at me, Jack.  We found that out when they tried to have us turned.  Guess who possessed the aunts?" he said dryly.  "Because they thought we'd need a shove."

"Oh, shit," he muttered.  "We saw how they weren't paying attention."

"Yeah, they thought I was Jesse.  Apparently he was supposed to survive that night and the vamps hit the wrong one.  Praise Janus for that by the way."  Buffy gave him a horrified look.  "He sees both ways, Buffster."  He smirked.  "Ethan said so."

"Is he on our side or his?"

"Whichever gets his ass saved," he said bluntly.  "Same as always.  So probably ours."

"Has anyone talked to Illyria?" Sam asked suddenly.

"Yes.  She's pouting that they're going to be calling her a pussy.  Her words.  She got it from Fred's mind."

"She's a god king," Buffy said.

"And we're dealing with people who would pat Satan on the head and go 'you good puppy," he said dryly.  "Her too."  She slumped.  "That's why we're here, so we can figure out how to fight the apocalypses coming our way and save most everyone."  She stared at him.  "Which is why I reminded John that he's going to hate me because he needs to shield the little ones."

She nodded.  "He does.  Is there any idea of how many apocalypses it might cause?"

"If they step foot on this plane, we'll have one, then the battle, and whatever comes afterward," Dean told her.  "From what the demon last night said.

"They can create smaller ones to weed out the other side's warriors," John added.  "Up the usual problems a bit to take out some of the slayers."

"I don't like being pawns," Bobby said.

"Neither do I," Jack agreed.  "Can't we force them to fight somewhere else?"

"Not that I'm aware of.  If all the other higher powers, those being woken and those already in power, force it, maybe.  I'm not sure how many we can count on to do that."

"Where will they fight if not?"

"Cordelia said the old Powers favored a few places.  She's hoping for somewhere in the middle of nowhere."  Whistler appeared.  "Whistler."

"Thanks, kid."  He looked at them.  "Some of the higher ups are trying to push the fight for elsewhere.  She and I are not fighting against it.  They are.  They had power for a long time."

"You have the slayers behind you," Buffy said.  "You treat us better, don't see us like pawns."

"Thanks, Buffy."  He smiled at her then at Xander.  "Don't you even think about starting on Stragia."

Xander shrugged.  "It'd stop the visions, wouldn't it?"

"It can pass over."

"I have shields."

"That can still pass over, kid."  He looked at John and Tony.  Then back at him.  "With you being a wildcard, like usual, your trio may end up being very important.  Even Janus said so.  By the way, Buffy, she'll be going to Janus soon."  She slumped again.  He stared at the boy again, getting stared back at.  "Good plan for San Fran and her.  Cordy talked to her and she's upset."

"If I can be blipped back, I can deal with it tonight."

"We can do that," Aunt Thelise assured him.

"We can, save your strength," Jack ordered.  "Dog?"  Xander pointed at where she was napping.  "That's good at least."

Xander nodded, then looked at Whistler again.  "I won't let it fall if possible," he said quietly.

"I know, kid.  We'll do our parts.  You guys protect the normals.  If they pick LA and we can't change it, that prophecy about the west coast falling off?  Learn to swim all the way to Denver, people."  He disappeared.

"Stragia?" John asked.

"Demon heroin," Buffy interpreted.  "Spike told me about it once.  Stops visions cold and vampires are the only ones that don't get hooked, including humans."  She glared at Xander.

"I could go for regular heroin but the demon version is a bit less hard on the body," he said dryly.  "It was a last resort anyway, Buffy."

"Fine."  She looked at the others.  "Okay, so we have who will go talk to them.  We have to figure out who can respond where and what we can do."

"It looks like most of the dangers are here and Japan?" Jack asked Xander.  Who nodded.  "You could sit."

"I'm bouncy today and I'm avoiding the swatting, still."  He paced while he thought.  "The Japanese have two slayers, right, Buffy?"

"Two native ones."

"Send them and a few of the priests that the Order worked with over there."

"I can do that.  Any in Africa?"

"Two," he sighed.  "I talked to priests of both of them a few years back.  I didn't understand why one was happy that I had shown up.  The other was a bit sour and unhappy that the Sleeping One would wake some day."  He looked at her.  "I've gotten a message to the slayers in those areas to talk to them about this.  That's why I gave them magic phones."

"That's not a bad idea," she agreed.  "It has text?"

"Yup.  In Swahili."

"Can it translate from English?" she asked.

"If not, we can," John told her.  "There's online translators or you can ask Xander."  Xander nodded at that.  "I don't like begging them to stay out of it.  It seems wrong."

"We're not really begging, just requesting," Daniel told him.  "Please let them handle their own thing instead of jumping in to make it a reason you have to recreate the world so you have worshipers.  They tend to get pissed at the other powers for taking out their worshipers."

"Which we don't want," Bobby reminded him.

"I know, but asking them to intervene to push the battles somewhere else would be helpful," Daniel said.

"True.  If they'd all push I'd be happier."

"My main worry is if they want something in return," John said.  "Most higher things seem to want something."

"Hell, I'll put up an altar," Bobby said dryly.  "Anything to keep this from destroying us all."

Xander nodded.  "Me too.  It can go next to the forge."  Tony gave him a dirty look.  "It can."

"Why can't it go with your normal one?"

"They'll get pissed."  He sat down next to his dog, petting her gently.

Jack looked at the maps, marking where there were known problem targets.  "None in South or Central America, kid?"

"Not that I've heard."

"We'll leave that as a possibly then," he decided.   "All right, if it's in Denver, we have the base and DiNozzo," he said.

"You'll have us," John reminded him.  "We're also closer for LA."

"We can use the ship to get there," Jack said, looking at him.  "Get McKay to work on plausible things?"

"Hey, if he pulls out a death ray, I'll clap," John said dryly, cracking Jack up.  "Or you, Sam."

"I've only gotten to a freeze ray," she admitted dryly.

"Andrew can do those," Buffy said with a shrug.  "I'll see if he's tinkering again.  Since they built the Buffy bot he might be able to."

"Yes, she means a good, responsive in real time, can't always tell the difference robot," Xander said at the looks Buffy got.

"I'll see if they can build you one, Xander.  That way you have backup."  Sam Carter growled softly at that.  Buffy gave her an odd look.  "He gets hurt!  That's why they complained at him!"

"We all get hurt sometime," Xander said bluntly.  "I'm really good at stitches because of it.  If they do build one of me, make sure they want to play with the dog too.  Or maybe succuba since we've had a lot in town recently."  Buffy gave him a horrified look.  "What?"

"Aren't you *married*?  That means no more playing with succuba, Xander."

"I wasn't playing with them that way, Buffy.  I banished a few and baited a few others away from the normals.  Then got them to leave too.  The most one got was a kiss on the cheek because I remember when she was stripping where I was working during that road trip."  She gagged.  "Not like I'm going to play around on them."

"TMI," she said firmly.

"You brought it up," Daniel pointed out with a smile.  "I saw Xander bait one the day we got back.  John was very amused."

"That's because they hate me," John told him.  "Tony too."

Xander shrugged.  "Hellmouth baby stuff.  Back to the point.  Am I traveling or handling local and anything in LA?"

"That sounds good to me," Jack agreed.  "Until they take you out with the visions."  He looked at the kid petting his dog.  "She okay?"

"She's fine.  Tired.  She didn't like the trip here so I had to give her half a sleeping pill."

Jack nodded at that.  "I know a lot of dogs get that when they travel.  Plane?"

"Yup."  He leaned back, looking at his dog then at his husbands.  "I'll head back tonight to deal with the San Fran thing if she's not going to be peaceful."

John nodded.  "Thanks."  He looked at Jack.  "You want us on call for Denver and you guys or all of them?"

"I'd rather have you guys ready to handle anything on that coast or Denver with us.  If something happens somewhere else, you'll be called and given about ten minutes' warning."

John nodded.  "I can spread that around."

"Is there any way to stop this?" John Winchester asked.  "Anything?"

"Me going back and stopping their plans that got me married off?" Xander suggested.  "Which then pissed me off and nearly got them blown up."

"Thought you didn't mind being married," Buffy said with a smirk.

"I don't, but it was a plan to get us to go evil to take you girls out."

"Oh.  Is that why you date evil girls?"

"No.  That's why they had a plan at one point in time to date you though."  She gave him a horrified look.  He smirked.  "Good thing they thought I was Jesse, huh?"

"No.  Eww.  We'd never stand each other.  You do...things and stuff."

"Yeah, well, Anya liked it.  That's why you heard about it so often from her."

"Kids," Bobby warned.  "Plenty of us don't want to know."

John looked at Xander.  "How did you make your point clear?"

"I corralled all the hellmouth taint and energy I'm still carrying and was about to release it in their faces on the astral realm for forcing them into it to further a plot to take out the slayers."

John Winchester stared at him.  "Excuse me?"

"I went up to stop him," John Sheppard said with a sigh, slumping some in his chair to stretch out his legs.  "Then we realized why the plot was going on.  That was a later revelation.   At that time, I had channeled some of his energy away and was going to use it on them too.  Because I refuse to be a pawn."

"Bad enough it got you visions," Sam Carter agreed quietly.

"He had those before Sunnydale and the aunts," Jack reminded her.  He looked at him.  "How?"

"When we first taught them to dream walk, they ended up falling into each other," their aunt said.

"He fell into me," John said.

"That's how we knew you two were meant to be.  Most people don't fall through the other one."  She smirked.  "Especially since you two have been able to share more since that day."

"I fell through other people up there," Xander pointed out.  "Hell, I nearly fell through Daniel once when John brought him and I was hyena'd out but John caught me before I fell."  She gave him an odd look.  "I suck up energy like the hellmouth, could that have something to do with that problem?"

"Welllllll, spirits are technically energy on a dream walk," she admitted.

"So Xander's funky powers ride again?" Buffy asked.

"That's one way of putting it, but not a kind one," the aunt said, glaring at her.

"He knows I don't mean it that way."  She got back to the map.  "We're here so we're natural to handle New York when it explodes.  Can we get down to them at all?" she asked Xander.

"If we had a sub that can go to the bottom crack in the harbor, go down it, interface with their opening, maybe."

She grimaced.  "I don't know anything about subs.  Jack, is that possible?"

He shrugged.  "I do planes.  I can ask."  She beamed at that.  "You can send the girls to Japan tonight?"

"Yup, sure can.  Two are already over there."  He nodded, making note of that.  "Should Sam or should I go to LA, Xander?  Half of them there know me."

"That's the lower demons, Buffy," Sam Winchester pointed out.  "Sending a warrior isn't always considered a peaceful negotiation."

"Okay, I'll let you handle that with Deany then.  Pick which girls you want to go with you as a guard?"

"We'll take Rona," Dean told her.  "That's two guards, she's well trained, and she knows urban combat better than most of the girls."  She nodded at that, making herself notes.

"She'll put up with Dean's music too," Sam said dryly.  His brother hit him on the arm.  "Ow, jerk."

"Shut up, bitch, the music is fine.  You listen to crap rock."  Everyone stared at them.  "He does!"

The dog barked, coming over with a groan while stretching, to get petted by them.

"Hey, Muffin," Sam cooed, petting her.  She lapped his nose and hopped up to lick at Dean but be a huge lap dog for the moment.  "Sure, you can be my lap warmer."  He shifted, making her shift but she was comfortable enough.  He looked over but Xander was gone.  "John?"  He pointed at the corner when John looked at him.

John thought at his husband, grimacing.  "He swears he's in the bathroom but it sounds suspiciously like his car."  He got up and went to check.  He came back.  "No, he left to do something.  He won't tell us what."  He sat down again.  Tony thought at him but got nothing.  "He's got full shields up."

"Maybe that angel wanted a talk," Dean offered.  "Who knows with Xander."

"Xander's known for doing the oddest things that somehow work out," Buffy agreed.  "Zombies come to mind," she sighed.  She went back to the plans.

"You know those zombies were building a bomb?" John Sheppard asked her quietly.  She looked at him, shaking her head.  He nodded.  "He got it stopped too."

"But we sent him away...." she said calmly.

"Yeah, which meant he was open for O'Toole to plant the bomb," John said dryly.  "And for Xander to stop him."

She shuddered.  "I'll thank him for that."  He smiled.  "He still did wrong things."

"He thought strategically instead of as a friend," John countered.  "It's always different when it's personal to you."  Which set off an alarm in his head and he snapped something at Xander, who sighed and said he wasn't going to do anything stupid.  He groaned, holding his head.

Tony patted him on the back.  "With the way things happened, Xander's looking for a way to stop it.  Or himself that night."

"I don't like the old Powers being around anyway," Buffy said firmly.  "Stop him from being an idiot."

"I can't.  He's going to see if there's a way.  Something about Anya and D'Talen?"  She shrugged, not understanding.  "I don't know, he's fuzzy so he's in the middle of magical interference."

"There's a very strong coven around here somewhere," Bobby admitted.  "That's why I picked here.  That and decent food."  He looked at the map.  "I can suggest hunters hit certain areas.  Are there any skills we absolutely need somewhere?"

"Is the one in Denver why we have almost no demons there?" Daniel asked.

"Could be," Buffy admitted.  "LA is a mecca.  Mostly peaceful but it had Wolfram and Hart there drawing things in."  She put purple pins in some areas.  "Those are major demon living areas or immigration centers."  She looked around.  "This one here," she said, pointing at the one in the midwest.  "Has almost no one near it."

"Not true, me and about ten other hunters live within twenty minutes of there," Bobby told her.  "We don't see many of the strange ones though."

"They, like Xander, have a 'you don't see me' thing going on," John Winchester told him.  "Unless you know about them you don't realize they're not normal."

"Why does Xander have that?" Buffy asked him.

"Drunk parents and people who always discounted him."

"So he nearly went invisible boy like our invisible girl out there?" she asked.

He considered it.  "I only heard about that from Rupert but it's possible he was halfway there.  Then again, the boy knows his own strength and she probably didn't at the time."

"Heard about that and at one point in time, nearly," John Sheppard told her.  She nodded at that.  "Then he realized he could do things on his own, he was making a difference, and even if you didn't see him, it was about at the level of 'who gives a damn' most of the time.  Which is why he had that rep for doing the most insane shit that worked."

Tony nodded.  "I remember hearing about some of those.  He had a nightmare the other night about a kamikaze run on the Initiative's base too.  Blowing up the cells to release the ones that could get free so they could fight them themselves.  Letting their own faults take them down basically,"

"Xander wasn't really happy then," John sighed.  "His letters were downright depressing."

"Spike," Buffy said.

John looked at her.  "I heard.  Everything."  She flinched.  He glared at Riley, who backed down.

"You two were friends before the aunts started," Tony agreed.  "I thought he was overreacting until you guys, Riley."

"It was not my idea.  Remember, I helped end them."

Tony nodded.  "Thankfully."  He stared him down.  Riley looked away first.

"We all hurt each other," Buffy told him.

"Yup, and you still do it to this day.  You guys can get to each other faster than anyone else," John agreed.  "That's why we like him making other friends.  Like Sam. And Sam and Dean."

She nodded.  "He needs more friends anyway.  Everyone should have friends."

"I get seen like a favorite uncle with Cam for some reason," Daniel said with a small shrug.  "I like the boy.  He's a nice guy, good head on his shoulders most of the time.  Does things that I understand."

Sam looked at the dog then at Dean, who stared back.  Dean grimaced and got up, heading out.  "He'll be back in a bit."  He went back to petting the dog.  Dean wasn't going to put up with Muffin being in the car all the time.  John stared at him.  "We'll do what we can.  After this traveling, where do you want us to hover near?" he asked Jack.

"East coast since you guys can work with the slayers," Jack told him, getting a nod from him and Buffy.  "I don't care how you do it but help the slayers since they're the major pulling force here."

"We all agreed, even if we're at war with each other, duty has to happen," Buffy assured him.  "We're slayers first and then girls, Jack."

"Good.  They might be counting on you girls fighting against each other."

"No.  Slayer on slayer is a bad thing.  Been there, done that, hated myself for weeks afterward.  So did Faith."

"Good.  It's good you've both grown up some and moved on from the past."  She smiled at that.  "How fast can you girls react to a problem?"

"At the speed of witchly moving unless they're exhausted."

"That moving thing, General?" Gibbs asked.

"Is classified but I'll be damned if we have to.  They can complain."

"It's almost like we're forming that committee that the congressmen who sold parts of their souls wanted," Tony realized.  "Without helping them."  He shook his head.

"That's a Xander thought if I ever heard one," Buffy quipped.

Sam Carter nodded.  "Definitely."  She went back to the maps.  "I'll get with McKay tonight, Jack.  Let's see what weapons we may need but have on hand or in planning."

"Thank you.  Have them work on the shield issue too, Sheppard."

"I am.  Rodney's starting to hate the shields with as much tweaking as had to be done recently."

"It's not his fault that one doctor decided to snare you so she could turn you het," Sam Carter said dryly.

"I pointed out you were due in about an hour," John said blandly.  "We all agreed we wanted to see you kick her ass and then zat her, Sam."  He grinned.

"It would've been epic," she agreed.  Jack snickered.  "Any problems from the locals?"

"The local peaceful community see us as a holy city.  They've agreed to stop trying to trek out to visit the holy city until it's more open.  I have good standing in the local peaceful community's council."

"Good," Jack decided.  "Make sure this new one waking up won't destroy that."

"I will once I get home.  They like to send Xander information too."  He looked around.  "Why no one from LA?"

"They're having a problem today," Buffy admitted.  "Connor would be here otherwise.  Gunn was too injured.  Angel got Shan'su'd and disappeared."  She shrugged.  "We have no idea where he is."

"I do," Jack assured her.  "I kept track of all the people who might run into problems that would cause us hell."  She smiled at that.  "I'll make sure he and Connor know.  Especially with as much problems as they could have with so many out there."

She nodded.  "That'll work."  She looked around.  "Pie?  They said we'd have pie."  Aunt Thelise went to get the lunch stuff she had ordered for them.  She grinned at the older woman.  "We like you even though you did steal Xander and make him marry John and Tony."

"Thank you, dear.  You could use some weight on you."

"Yeah, it's been active recently."  She nibbled on a sandwich while they broke apart into planning and research groups.  They'd manage it somehow, like usual.

The End...for now.

To Part 13

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