GodWarII: Protectors.

Giles looked at the book that appeared beside him on the table then up at the God that had made
it appear. "Ares?"

"Some mythology for you. Past GodWar things." He sat on the table, looking down at his
Consort's assistant. "You should read it. Wyvern would have been one of my best ever."

"What happened to him?" Oz asked as he walked out, picking up the book in question to look

"He, and his family, got sucked up by a dimensional portal. He should be about nineteen now."

"Says he was born in the fourteen hundreds," Oz noted.

"Yeah," Ares said, rubbing a hand through his hair, "we figured out time ran differently there
when his mother was forced back to this realm a few years later in their time and about two
hundred in ours."

Oz whistled, putting the book down so Giles could see the page. "Transference," he said quietly,
looking from the God to the picture that could have been their boss, Xander. "Bloodline

"Yes," Ares said. "Wyvern was an Alpha Protector, one that went out to right the wrongs done
to his ..." He searched for a word.

"Pack," Oz suggested with a small smile.

"Yes," Ares said, smiling back at him, "his pack. See," he told them as he shifted to get
comfortable, "there are Alpha Protectors, Beta Protectors, and Theta Protectors. Alpha's are like
Wyvern. Beta Protectors are more like home guards. They protect against the problems in their
own pack. Theta Protectors are those that are loyal only to the one they serve. These are the
ones that you really have to watch for because they'll start a holy war over their Lord's death."

"Like the fanatical bodyguards?" Giles asked. "The ones that are so dedicated that they'd
willingly die for their Masters?"

Ares nodded. "That's what makes them most dangerous. If they don't die with their Masters then
they'll come after you and destroy everything to get to the person who destroyed their life's
meaning. Alpha and Beta Protectors will stop once the wrong's been atoned for, Theta Protectors
will keep going until that whole race is destroyed." He hopped off the table. "Wyvern would
have been one of my best warriors had he stayed around. Xander isn't a replacement for him
either. I seriously doubt he's an Alpha protector."

Giles shook his head. "No, he's actually got a bit of all three." Ares winced. "That makes him a
Theta Protector doesn't it?"

"I'm afraid so. His Master, you at the time, told him to go out and save the rest of the world so
he did it to please you because you convinced him there was a need to do so."

"That's why he kept trying to jump between Buffy and the vamps for a while," Giles said quietly.
"I gave him the impression that he had to protect her as he would have me."

Ares yawned. "Yup. I'm going to go nap. If you guys figure out who he serves now, tell me

Oz watched the God of War leave then looked at his fellow assistant. "Who does he serve now?"

"Himself mostly," Giles said slowly, leaning back in his chair. "Though we could extrapolate and
expand that to those he cares for."

"So, he's protecting his pack because the pack is his Master?" Oz's brow wrinkled as he thought
about it. "We're in deep if something happens to Ares, then, right?"

Giles nodded. "Or us I'm afraid. His family is his Master and we're all his family."

Oz shuddered. "I hope I never see that day."

Neither of them noticed the open book's picture of the young man that looked like Xander
glowing with a soft gold haze.


Xander closed the portal Hades had set up for him to watch a younger Ares, back when he didn't
have an assistant. "Then what happened to Strife? He said something about Callisto." The God
of the Underworld glared at him. "That bad?"

"Let's just say she has a special torment in my domain." He leaned back in his chair. "Why the

"Because Ares looked so sad when he mentioned Strife's name. I wanted to know if there was
anything in my powers I could do to ease it." He sat on the edge of the desk, staring at the spot
where the portal had been. "Where's he? I never noticed him before, not even when I went
through to input all those records."

"He's not here," Hades said softly, looking up at the ceiling as he stretched. "That's one of the
greatest mysteries of that era. He never appeared here." He finished stretching, looking at the
young God. "As to whether or not you can do something about it? Only if you can find him."

Xander nodded, biting his bottom lip. "I should be able to. My powers let me know when one of
you guys has been there and where you are. It shouldn't be that hard to deal with."

"Ah," Hades said, smiling, "but no one else, not even Ares, who doted on the boy, could find him.
He was motivated enough to declare no war would happen until Strife was found until Zeus
forced the issue."

"So then he knows?"

"He used to, but I think he's been blocking that particular memory." The older god shrugged.
"I'm not sure what I can do to help you, Xander."

Xander stood up. "I think this is something only I can do." He smiled and waved a hand,
popping out, heading back to his assistant's research room since they were there. He leaned down
to kiss Giles' cheek. "I need some answers. One of Hades' souls never made it down to him, and
no one's ever been sure where it went. How could that happen?"

Giles thought for a second then nodded at Oz. "There are many things that could trap a soul,
certain relics and the like. It's most likely one of them got it, by design or not."

Xander sat down, thinking about that. "It happened ages ago, before Ares needed assistants. It
wouldn't still be holding it, would it?"

"It may but that does put a different spin on it," Giles said, getting up to go over to his
bookshelves. "There are only two cases I know of, but not who the soul was." He pulled down a
book, bringing it over and opening it. "These two cases, both are demons though, as far as we

Xander looked at the entries from the Chronicles. "No, that's way after this happened." He stood
up, moving to the center of the room, closing his eyes. "Strife," he whispered, calling all the
books that might help him to the table. He heard a thump so opened his eyes, looking at the book
Oz was staring at. "What's that?"

"Ares dropped it off," Oz said. "It's past mythology, and other things, about a warrior who would
have been one of his had he not been sucked into a pocket dimension." He handed it over. "It's a
bloodline relative of yours."

Xander looked at the picture and frowned. "I don't look like that." He put the book down. "Was
this the one that bounced?" Oz nodded. "Then something in there should help me." He laid one
hand on the cover, exerting his will to know what was written in the pages, sighing. "No direct
references." He flipped back a few pages. "But the book landed here so it must have something
to do with him."

"Or it could have been where Ares had control of it earlier," Giles reminded him. "That's
happened before." He took the book back. "What are you looking for? Maybe if you'd be a bit
more specific we could help."

Xander pulled them closer so he could whisper. "I'm looking for Ares' nephew Strife. When he
died he never made it to Tartarus. Ares really loved him and I'd like to see if my powers can't do
something about the situation."

Oz hissed, pulling back, and got up to get a book. He handed it to the God of the Paranormal,
sitting back down. "That's what happened. Dahak."

"Wasn't he a Chaos one?" Giles asked. Oz nodded, watching Xander flip through. "What's that?"

"The diary of someone who was there. He witnessed the action. He tried to help both Ares and

Ares popped in, glaring. "Can we please not talk about ...him? I don't want his name said in this
temple again." He glared at his consort. "Do you hear me, Xander?"

"Sure," he said, bending over the book to read. "I won't mention his name again." He looked up,
giving his lover a small, sad smile. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you any more than you are."
Ares nodded and popped out. Xander laid the book back on the table. "I found something," he
whispered, pointing at a line. "That doesn't fit, does it?"

Giles shook his head. "No, it doesn't, though a mortal seeing that would be most unusual."

"But he saw it," Xander said. He stood up. "I'm going to go talk to him. You guys do a little
research for me?"

"Of course," Oz told him, taking the book back. "What are we looking for?"

"Where is he? I may be able to do something but only if I can find him." He popped out, smiling
at the man he landed behind. "Iolaus?" The blond man spun, mouth hanging open. "Hi, Xander,"
he introduced himself, waving a hand and creating a bench to sit on. "Please, I need to ask you
something." The dead mortal sat, looking at him. "I'm looking for Strife."

Iolaus groaned, rubbing his forehead. "I've been asked this before," he said, looking at the God.
"Why do you want him?"

"I want to bring him back. I think his presence missing has been hurting the rest of the world."
He sat beside him, laying a hand on the man's shoulder. "Where did he go? Your diary said you
saw him float off."

"I did, or so I thought at the time. I saw what looked like an image of him floating off into the
sky." Xander gave him a small nod to continue. "I don't know where he went. I'm sorry."

"No, I think that's actually a really big help. One last question. What thing would have been with
him most of the time? Something that would hold a trace of him?"

"Well, I noticed he had some piercings. One of them may." Iolaus snapped his fingers. "He used
to wear a small pendant. Always had it on though no one ever really saw it. I caught him looking
at it once and asked him about it. He almost killed me for it." He stood up. "Sorry I couldn't
help more."

Xander stood and made the bench disappear. "You've helped me tremendously." He shook the
dead mortal's hand, popping back to his home temple. Right in front of Ares' box of mementoes
of his past. He had been asked to never go into it, but calling something from it wasn't the same,
was it? He concentrated on the picture of the locket he had gotten from Iolaus' mind, calling it to
him from the box. To his surprise, it came from a box in the closet. He looked at the box then
toward the door since he could hear Ares outside the door. He popped out, using his powers to
send him to wherever the matching essence of the pendant was.

A small child looked at him, smiling. "Hi," he said, giggling.

Xander squatted down in front of him, making sure no one else could see him. "Strife?" he asked.
The child nodded so he looked around. "Where is this?"

"Hey!" some woman yelled, walking out. "Who are you? I can feel you, come out and act like a
real God."

Xander reappeared, reaching down to pat the child that was now clinging to his leg. "Yes?" he
asked coldly. She recoiled from him, her mind projecting that she knew him. "Yes, I am Xander.
Why do you have this child? Or the other one?"

"They're mine," she said hotly. He shook his head. "You can't know that, you're not that old."
She looked him over. "Or that strong."

Xander smiled at her, projecting an image in her mind as he stole the two children. "Come on
guys, let's go somewhere safe." He brought them to Angel's office, sitting down on the couch
with them as he called the vampire from his basement. He nodded at Wesley, who was looking
older now, and then at his ex. "Hey, need your boss. He still around?"

"He's having a bit of trouble. May we help?" Wesley asked, looking at the children. "Who are

Xander held up a finger, tipping his head back. "Giles?" he whispered then looked at the former
Watcher as his assistant came in. "I want you to take the blonde one, he's familiar to me
somehow. We need to fix this." His assistant nodded, popping out with the child and he turned
back to the mortals. "This is Strife," he said quietly "and he's supposedly dead but he's become
this child. I need to fix him to make Ares happy again." Strife clapped at the name. "Yeah, your
Uncle's real unhappy without you, little one." He patted the dark hair. "How can you help?"

"I'm not sure," Wesley said, sitting behind the desk. "I'm sure of a few things though. He needs
to be cleaned up."

Xander smiled. "Good, practicalities are good." He stood up, looking down at the child. "Will
you stay with them for a few minutes?" The child nodded, giving him a big eyed, trusting look.
"Wes, I'm trusting him to your care," he said, turning on the former Watcher. "If he's hurt, there's
not a force in the universes that will save you." He glared at the mortal, who nodded. "Thanks.
I'll be back tonight." He handed over the pendant, watching as the child looked at it. He slipped
the leather thong over the thin neck, straightening back up. "If you need me, call my name." He
popped out, heading home, into Giles' room where he and Oz were watching the child. "Who is
it?" he asked.

"Bliss," Oz said, turning to look at him. "Ares is looking for you."

Xander nodded, heading up to where he could hear him raging. "Ares," he said softly, stepping
into his arms to calm him down. He looked up to see the sad look. "What's wrong?"

"You took something precious to me," Ares said, pushing him away. "After I told you to drop
the subject."


Ares cut him off. "I *asked* to never hear about my nephew again and then you take something
of his?" His calm and quiet voice was scary. "I needed that to remember him."


Ares held up a hand. "I don't want to hear it, Xander. You're not my consort any longer." He
turned away from him. "Go away. You can have your part of the temple until you get your

Xander nodded. "Fine," he said, determined to prove his intentions since the older God wouldn't
listen. He popped to see Cupid, who glared at him. "Hey, let me explain at least." He pulled
him closer, popping them both to Giles' bedroom, making him look at the child. "Who's that?" he
asked coldly.

Cupid sat down beside the child, touching him. "It's Bliss," he said softly, looking up. "It's the
missing part of him."

"I found Strife too," Xander said. "He's on the mortal realm." Cupid swallowed hard. "Problem
for you?"

"Were they together?"

"Yeah, in some woman's yard. She knew who I was and who they were too."

Cupid nodded. "I know. She took Bliss to keep Dahak chained."

"He wasn't there," Xander told him. "There wasn't another Godly-type creature there." Cupid
nodded and he shook his head. "No, there wasn't. I can bring you there, then, and show you."

Cupid stood up, kissing Xander's forehead. "I'll go look. You go guard Strife," he whispered,
popping out.

Xander looked at Giles. "I've been banished down here, I'll be back later. Watch him for me?"
Giles nodded, taking Oz's hand as the God popped out. He ended up in Angel's office again,
looking at the child watch the world from the window. He sat down, marveling at the changes.
"You're aging," he said quietly.

Strife turned around and grinned at him. He wasn't a young child now, he was about seven or so
apparently. "No, I'm returning to normal." He walked over, hugging him. "Thank you."

"Some questions. Did that thing that had you have someone besides Bliss?"

Strife nodded. "But he's been gone since I first got there. He's a bad guy, but she let him go with
a kiss and a promise to return. But he never did." He smiled at Wesley as he walked into the
room with a glass of chocolate milk. "Thanks, you," he said, taking it happily.

Xander smiled at Wesley. "You're good with him." The former Watcher bowed. "How much

"Before he ..." He stopped as the child choked on the milk.

Xander frowned, pulling some nectar from his pocket and crumbling it up into the milk. "Here,
try this. I don't want to keep you as a child so I can't give you too much." Strife nodded,
drinking now. He looked at the God that just appeared. "Discord."

She looked at the child then at Xander, frowning at him. "Dahak's not been there for a while we
think." She looked at the child again. "He seems familiar."

Xander caught Strife's frown and mentally soothed him. "She was holding him hostage. *He*
said Dahak's not been there for a while now." She nodded, sitting beside him. "Could you do
something for me? Go ask Ares to come here?"

She laughed. "I doubt he will and I don't like pain *that* much."

"Whatever," Xander said after she disappeared. He patted the couch. "We'll get some other help
to bring you home when it's time." Strife curled up against him, finishing his milk.

Wesley cleared his throat quietly. "We think he's lost some of his memories too. He seems to not
know anything more than who he is and that he trust you because you smell like his uncle."

Xander nodded, reaching down to pat the tired body. "Then we'll have to fix that too."


Ares grumbled when he was called to the meeting area of the Gods, flashing into his usual seat.
"Can't this wait?" he asked his parents.

"No, son, I'm afraid it can't." He nodded at Cupid to stand up and tell the rest of the Gods.

"I went to where we had Dahak chained, with part of Bliss guarding him. He hasn't been there in
a while," he said, looking at his father. "And Bliss wasn't the only one there." He looked around.
"Where's Xander?"

"I don't care," Ares said coldly. "What do you want me to do about Dahak? I could use a good

"No, we need Xander here," Cupid said, looking at Hera, the only one he had told.

She touched her husband's arm. "We do need Xander here, he's the one that originally found out
that Bliss wasn't alone."

Zeus frowned. "So be it, send someone for him. Hermes?"

"Yeah?" he said, floating up. "Want me to go find the kid?"

Ares stood up. "I don't see why we need him here! He's of no use..." He dodged his mother's
thrown fireball. "He shows up and I leave," he growled.

Cupid sighed, popping his father good with an energy bolt. "He's found Strife," he said. Ares
turned on him, sending a lightening bolt at him, making him duck around the center scrying pool.

"Don't say his name!" Ares yelled, sending another one at his son.

"Fine," Cupid said, pulling his bow from the air and aiming it at him, pulling back the string to
notch an arrow. "Come and get it, Ares. I'm more than able to take you on."

Hera sighed and hit them both, making them both freeze. "Hermes, I'll go find him."

Discord looked up from cleaning under her nails with a small knife as she popped in. "I just saw
him. He's fine. In one of his minion's places." She looked up, holding her nails up to examine
them. "He had someone there talking to him."

Hera nodded, standing up. "I'll be back," she told Zeus, who nodded. She disappeared, ending
up in LA, looking down at the rapidly growing young God. "How is he?" she asked.

"Mostly okay. He's got some memory gaps. Doesn't know how to use his powers." He smiled
down at the man the child had become. "He's about the right age? Wesley thought he was."

Hera sat beside the curled up feet, touching her grandson's forehead. "He's almost there. We
should go."

"I won't until he can come. I won't go face down Ares without him. He blames me for betraying
him for taking Strife's pendant back for him." She nodded, smiling sadly. "I know, they were
close, like more than best friends close, and I'll step out of the way if he still wants me too."

"I'm sure he won't," she said softly, touching his arm. "Come, let me feed him some nectar. It'll
help him have the power to get home."

"I asked Wesley to go down and pray to him, make him a little stronger too." That got another
motherly smile. "Thanks."

She pulled a tray out of the air, handing it over. "Here, you eat too. You'll need it to face down
my son." She smiled at the now open dark eyes. "You too, Strife, you need to eat some nectar to
regain your strength." She watched over them as they ate.

Zeus tapped his fingers on his throne. "Okay, someone go after them both now."

Cupid nodded, having recently regained the use of his body. "I'll go, I know where they are." He
popped down, smiling at the man on the couch. "Hey, you're being summoned."

Xander looked up. "Ten more minutes, Cupid, he's not strong enough yet." He saw the small
frown. "Please? I'll owe you. Even if Ares does blast me back to mortality."

Cupid nodded and left, heading back to Olympus. "He'll be here in about ten minutes, mortal
time. The problem he's dealing with will be finished then." He retook his seat beside his mother,
sending her a quick thought.

Zeus grunted. "What problem was it?"

"It's related," Cupid promised with a small smile.

Xander smiled down at Strife, standing up and holding out a hand. "Come on, let's go see Ares.
I'm sure he's going to be happy to see you. And if not, then you'll stay with me and my assistants.
We'd love to keep you until you're ready to be on your own again." He joined hands with Hera,
letting her lead him back to the meeting area, or the edge of it. He patted Strife's arm as he
wrapped it around his own. "Relax, you'll be okay. I'll protect you. I promise."

Strife smiled. "I know. Somehow I know that you'll do your best to do that." He waved at the
seating area they could almost see through the ether. "We should go. I can hear them."

"Yeah," Xander said quietly, walking with him. He stopped at the edge of Zeus' visual range,
nodding at him. The father of the Gods' mouth fell open so he started forward. "Quiet," he said
softly. Everyone looked at him. "Sorry we're late, but we had to wait until someone was old
enough." He led Strife into the light in the center of the seats, past his mother, who just sat there
with her mouth open. "I think he belongs to you," he told Ares, stopping in front of his seat.

The God of War looked up, glaring at his consort, his eyes moving from the arm to the man
clutching Xander with desperation. His mouth started to move, his chin wobbling. He stood up,
looking him over. "St...Strife?" he whispered. The young God nodded, handing him over and
taking a step back. He hugged him hard, clutching each other. "Oh, Gods, you're back." He
looked over his nephew's shoulder at his consort. "Where?"

"He was with Bliss. I asked him about Dahak, he told me the woman that had him and Bliss
released him right after he showed up."

"Then where was he in between?" Hades asked. He stood, walking over to look at the young
God. "It's him," he said softly, rubbing the back of the dark head.

"Of course it's him," Ares snapped. "Get off him, he's not yours." He pulled Strife away from

"Ares," Hera said in warning. "Maybe you should take him to your temple so he can rest. It
wasn't that long ago that he was a mere child."

Xander shook his head. "He still doesn't have any memories. I offered him my protection if it
was needed. We'll both be watching over him."

Zeus smiled at Xander. "Good man," he said, looking at the pairing. "Though we will have to
question him."

"He has no memories," Xander repeated. "All he knew was who he was and Ares' name." He
turned to Ares. "I took the pendant to find him. It's his and it's connected to him as a cherished
item. You can bitch later." He took his seat, looking up at Zeus. "How can I help with Dahak?"

"I'm not sure you can," Zeus said. "Ares, take him to your temple." Ares nodded, taking him and
disappearing. "Now then," Zeus said, glaring at the God of the Paranormal. "You should have
told us you were doing that."


"Because he could have been infected by Dahak." Hera slapped his hand. "He could have, we
don't know where he was."

"Then find a way for the Fates to trace him," Hades suggested. "No one can be shielded from

Xander stood up, patting his shoulder as he walked around him. "If you want to punish me that
badly, do it. I'm not going to regret giving Ares the one thing that would make him happy." Zeus
frowned at him. "I did what was best for Ares, my former consort, that's part of my life. If you
don't like my actions then you can take it out on me."

"I can return you to mortality," Zeus warned.

"Then do it!" Xander yelled, holding out his arms. "Go ahead, I'll go back and do something
useful with my life. Go ahead, you'll feel better if you do, but I guarantee you will not hurt Strife.
No one will, ever again." He looked at Discord as she popped in. "Not even you. He flinched
when you didn't recognize him, even though he didn't know who you were." She glared at him.
"Yay. At least I'd recognize my own child." He turned back to Zeus, putting down his arms.
"You want to punish me that badly, do it. I'll stand right here and take it and still prove that
you're not the ultimate bad guy."

Zeus got enraged, throwing a thunderbolt at the young God, making it past the shields the other
Gods had put up in front of him. He banished the unconscious man back to the mortal realm,
sending him where he had been. He looked at his children. "I will not tolerate such impudence,"
he told them.

Hera stood up. "Nor will I." She hit him with a bolt of her own. "You will never touch another
person again," she said, smiling meanly as she manifested the piece of bone that had just a few
months earlier almost killed the man her husband had returned to his mortal life. She lunged at
him, and Hades stopped her, holding her close.

"Don't," he whispered. "He's not worth it." He took the bone, turning to the other Gods. "It's
obvious there's a problem here now. Go home, this meeting is dismissed." He glanced at Athena,
who nodded. "Now."

"What about..."

Hades held up a hand. "We'll figure that out next. We have to investigate the mystery he's
presented us first."


Xander woke up looking up at a ceiling, groaning at the pain running through his body. He tried
to sit up, but a cool hand touched his shoulder. "Angel?" he whispered as the face swam into
view. "I'm mortal?" The vampire nodded so he did too. "Okay." He passed back out.

The next time he woke up, he was in a bed, Wesley was sitting beside him, brushing over his
forehead. "Hi," Xander said quietly, accepting the help to sit up. "What day is it?"

"You've been back for two weeks," the former Watcher said gently. "You're still mortal and
we've not seen any of your friends. Not even Oz or Giles." He handed over the glass. "Angel
said to drink that. You need to regain some strength before you can get out of bed."

Xander nodded, sipping the juice gratefully. He realized he was hungry for the first time in a long
time, and looked at his stomach in disgust as it growled. "You've not been deprived that long," he
told it, earning a small smile. "Sorry." He finished the glass, handing it back with a yawn. "What
do I have to do?"

"Nothing, just rest," Wesley said. "Next time you wake up, you should be ready to try and eat
something." He stood up, watching until the younger man was asleep before going out to sit in
the living room with Angel. "He's not even asked," he whispered, touching the cool hand.

"I called on Giles, he said Zeus did it because he defied him." He looked at his associate. "I'm
not even sure we should be harboring him."

"We will," Wesley said firmly. "Until he's able to go back to his own life."

"And do what?" Cordelia said as she walked out of the kitchen. "He's never been good for
much." She sat down across from them. "What are you planning on doing with him? We don't
have a lot of work."

"College," Wesley said, looking at her. "It'll give him some time to figure things out and maybe
he'll find something that interests him." He relaxed. "At the very least, he could study


Ares looked at his nephew, checking him over with his magic as well as visually. "You really
don't remember do you?" Strife shook his head. "Are you hungry?" he asked after a few seconds
more of silence. He almost sighed in relief as he felt someone popping in to join them. "Hades,"
he said, nodding at the couch. "Come sit. Where's Giles and Oz?"

"How about..."

"Don't mention his name," Ares said coldly. "He could have told me."

"He meant it as a surprise. Telling you would have spoiled it," Hades told him. He smiled. "If
I'm right, he tried to tell you and you didn't listen either, but that's beside the point since he's
mortal." The God of War nodded, making Hades very pissed. "You don't care?" he asked coldly.

"Why should I? He didn't tell me, he took the pendant without my permission."

Strife looked at Hades, smiling. "Xander?"

"He's back on the mortal realm," the God of the Undead told him gently. "You won't be able to
see him anytime soon."

"But he said he'd protect me."

Ares snorted. "He can't do that anymore." Hades shocked him lightly. "Well, he can't."

Cupid popped in, arms crossed and glaring. "Father, you're absolutely the biggest dick on this
mountain. Strife," he said, leaning down. "Xander's had his powers taken from him. We don't
even know where he is." The young God nodded, looking very sad. "It's not because of you,
don't think that. Zeus got tired of Xander fighting against him so he took Xander away from
everyone." He looked at his father. "Because someone else didn't stick up for him."


"No, not you, Strife," Ares told him, reaching over to pat his cheek. "This has nothing to do with
you. Xander was...unstable." He looked at the other gods. "Leave. And never mention him to
me again."

Cupid shook his head. "No." He looked at Hades, who nodded. "Strife's coming with me. I'll
take over Xander's protective oath. He and Bliss would be fine together." He held out a hand.
"Come on, Strife, let's go see my Bliss."

"Bliss?" Strife frowned. "He didn't like me." He shied away from the hand. "I don't know you."

Hera popped in. "Strife, he's a safe person. You can go to him." The young God nodded, taking
the hand and allowing himself to be teleported away. She turned on her son. "Ares, your
unreasonable anger at Xander is not going to harm the rest of Olympus. I won't allow it. He was
a good God, even if he didn't have the necessary control." She stared him down. "You may not
want to hear this, but he did it out of love for you."

Hades nodded, patting his nephew's back. "He did. He said he wanted to find Strife to make you
happy. That he had seen how sad you had become when you mentioned his name that one time."
He stood up. "Where is he?"

"I'm not sure. Zeus sent him somewhere." She looked at her son. "Get over it, Ares, before you
destroy us all. We can't afford to be divided now."

Hades glared at his sister. "Hera, not having him here divides us."

"He's mortal again. He could even be dead," she told him coldly, "he is none of our concern any
longer." She left them alone.

Hades looked down at his nephew. "Well?"

"Her word is law." Ares looked up at him. "Though if he's dead, I want him back. I'll have him
as an assistant."

"No you won't," Hades said firmly. "If he's dead, he's not coming near you ever again." He

Ares looked around his empty living room and then headed for where he could hear Xander's
former assistants talking. "You two can stay and help me if you want," he said, leaning against
the doorway. "Or you can be returned to life."

Oz shook his head. "I don't think he's gone."

"That," Ares said with a glare, "is a forbidden topic. For both of you. He's not coming back,
even if someone found him and made him a God again." He disappeared.

Giles sat down at the table, looking at the book he held. The one Ares had given him a few days
earlier. "We'll keep on with our normal duties. I'm sure the information could be useful." Oz
nodded, pulling the book to himself. "I'll see what I can't find later," the older man whispered,
holding his head.


Xander looked at the college. "No Buffy, right?"

"No one will tell her you're here," Wesley told him. "After you told us what was going on, I'm
not looking forward to seeing her anytime soon." He patted the tense shoulder. "Just walk in and
hand over the forms. They'll lead you around." The young man got out of the car, heading into
the offices of the college Angel had arranged for him to start at. "I do hope this is the right thing
to do," he whispered, starting the car and pulling away.


Hades backed away from the viewing pool, looking around him. "Dahak's been in the world since
Bliss was split practically." He heard Cupid's quiet swear. "He's not loose though. Not on this
plane. Rayden's dealt with him a few times but he's not coming for us presently."

"Those people..." Aphrodite asked, looking at Ares, "*he* dealt with?"

"Dahak is the power behind the sorcerer that created them," Hades told her.

"It's settled then," Ares said, standing up. "He's not our problem." Everyone glared at him.
"What? He's not. He's Rayden's and his chosen few."

"He's ours too," Hades told him cooly. "He came after your participants for GodWar, same as he
did Athena's. He's coming after us again, we just need to have a better solution this time.
Ripping his minions apart won't stop the God."

Athena shook her head. "I still don't understand how he knew what to do."

"He's fought beside your chosen one for years," Giles told her quietly. "He was one that backed
up Buffy, as did Oz and I. That's how we knew each other." She nodded, waving a hand.
"Shouldn't we warn those that he's went after?"

"That would be interfering with the pawns," Athena told him. "They're supposed to be judged on
their own merits."

"How can they protect themselves against a God?" Cupid asked hotly. He turned on his aunt.
"You have to at least warn them. Two of your own pawns aren't on this planet half the time and
Dahak can mess with their mode of travel." She shook her head. "Then you'd let him have them
to use against you?"

"This timing is suspicious," Hades said finally. Artemis stood up, handing him a scroll. "This is
something we found when we fought him off last time." He unrolled it and winced, handing it to
Ares. "He's after you. You're the lynchpin to get the rest of us."

Ares grabbed it, reading it quickly. "He can't do this."

"He can," Hades said. "You've given him the perfect key." He stepped away from the group.
"I'm going to check on him. Just because we couldn't take him as a pawn doesn't mean he's not

Ares rolled up the scroll, tossing it away. "Leave him alone. He doesn't deserve our help. You'll
see him soon enough." He sneered then disappeared.

Hades shook his head. "I don't even want to consider why he's acting like that." He disappeared.

Zeus cleared his throat. "We will leave Xander alone as Ares asked. He is no longer the concern
of us." He could hear the pained gasps from where the assistants were standing. "He is no longer
our concern," he said louder.

The other Gods left.


Xander looked up at his teacher, raising his hand. "Why is it that we don't hear about the minor
ones? Didn't some of those Gods have more impact on daily life?"

"Such as?" the man asked, smiling.

"Discord? Cupid? Any of the so-called minor Gods?"

His teacher nodded, turning to the list on the board. "Very true, Mr. Harris. Some of them did
have more impact on daily life but not much is known about them. We'll hear more about them
later this term." He pointed at another student. "You."

"Why are we sorting them that way?" a deep voice asked. "Why should one be considered minor
and another major even though they supposedly all had the same amount of power?"

Xander looked over his shoulder at the man in the row behind him, eyes closing as he saw who
the man looked like. His head started to throb but when he looked again, the man didn't look at
all like Hades so he must have been imagining things. Maybe he should blow off his next class to
get a drink and some aspirin.

After the class, Xander hurried away, heading for the campus bar, smiling at the bartender that fed
him nightly so he could sleep. "Hey, give me a rum and coke and a packet of Advil please," he
said, putting some money on the bar. He took the pills with the drink, stopping the little shakes
he had been having since he had seen who the man looked like. He set the empty glass down,
heading out to his next class. If he was lucky, he'd only be a few minutes late.

He didn't see the man from his mythology class leaning against a tree watching him. Or the
picture he took of him.


Strife looked around the assembled Gods. "Why was I called?" he asked. He crossed his arms
like the picture of him that Cupid had shown him had, cantering his weight off to one side. "Did I
cause some trouble?"

"No, not yet," Zeus said. "That's what we're worried about." He grimaced. "There's not been a
prank in a month and we're all worried that you're ill."

Strife shook his head, his longer hair brushing his collar. "I'm fine. I'm still adjusting to some
things. I haven't felt like playing pranks. Sorry if it disturbs you." He shrugged. "Don't know
what to tell you to make you feel better."

Hera turned to look at her husband, her throne farther away from his now. "We should allow him
time to get used to being himself again. He was kept as a child for millennia and all this must be
a bit much."

"May I see Ares?" Strife asked. He looked at the empty seat.

"He's not in his temple," Cupid said. "I'll help you find him after the meeting." The young God
nodded. "Is there anything else? He's due to see Asclepias soon." Zeus shook his head. "Strife,
come on, lets get you checked out then we can go find Ares." He held out a hand and the God of
Mischief took it, teleporting out with him.

"He's not fully back," Aphrodite said, standing. "I've checked him over. He's not able to pop
around on his own yet. It's like he's missing part of himself, the way Bliss was."

"But where could it be?" Hera asked.

"The only person who might know has disappeared," the Goddess of Love reminded her. "The
woman that kept them may have taken it with her or may have given it to Dahak."

"Then he's still potentially dangerous," Zeus said calmly. "We'll have to deal with him if he is."
He glared at Hades as he popped in. "Where have you been? You were summoned as was
everyone else."

"I've been busy," Hades said. He looked at his niece. "I did hear what you said though and
looked up where he should have been. There's something there now but it's not truly him."

"Could it be that part?"

"The only way to find out is to take him to it."

"No," she said firmly. "You're not going to hurt him like that. He'd freak."

"If he doesn't then he'll be a dysfunctional God," Zeus reminded her. "He has to."

"Why? Because you said so? I don't think so. He's not ready to remember who we are, Tartarus
would kill him again."

"It will be done," Zeus told her firmly.

"I'll go with him," Hades told Aphrodite calmly. "I'll make sure he's not hurt any more than
necessary." He popped out, heading for where he could hear Cupid arguing with him. "What's
going on?" he asked, landing behind Strife, who jumped. "Sorry, relax."

Cupid snorted. "If he's going down there, I'm going with him."

"That's more than acceptable."

"I want Xander," Strife said. "I'm not going anywhere off Olympus without him. Not that I don't
trust you guys, but I want him there."

"I can't arrange that," Hades said quietly. "And don't say his name so loud. You know how your
Uncle Ares reacts to it."

"Yay," Strife said, pouting. "I want Xander with me or I'm not going. Zeus can go fly."

Giles ran in panting. "Portal, the portal, it's opened." He leaned against the door. "Wyvern's
back. That's where Ares' been." He slid down the wall, looking up at the healer. "And so's part
of Strife, he walked out with him."

Strife looked at him. "Why?"

"I'm not sure," Hades said, holding out a hand, "but we should go find out." Strife nodded, taking
it and following along.

They landed in a clearing not far from Olympus on a beach, looking at the people standing around
staring at each other. "Me?" Strife asked, letting go of Hades and walking up to the man who
looked like him. The other him gave him a cocky grin. "You're really part of me?"

"Yeah," the other Strife said. "I'm really you. I'm the part of you that didn't die." He walked
forward. "Come be with me."

Strife backed off because of the strange feelings he was getting. "NO!" He backed into Ares,
who held him still. "No! Hades! Cupid!" he yelled, trying to get away. Hades blasted Ares,
allowing him to get away. "Stay away from me. I don't know you. You're not part of me."

The man that looked like Xander looked over the Strifes and shook his head. "I'm sure you two
will straighten it out." He bowed to Hades and Cupid, who had just arrived. "Praise be to you
all. Thank you for freeing us."

"You weren't contained," Hades said, looking him over. "It was a pocket dimension not a prison.
It was also an accidental creation." He picked his nephew up off the sand. "Now then, what
happened? Tell me you didn't open it, Ares."

Ares snorted. "I was watching the mortal plane when I felt it open." He looked at his warrior.
"Come, we need to get them settled."

"No, we need to report this," Cupid said. "Strife?" Both of them looked at him. "Come on, we
need to take you back to make sure you're all right." He held out a hand and their Strife grabbed
it tightly. "Later," he said, popping out.

Ares smiled at the other Strife. "He's not remembering anything." He looked at Wyvern. "What
do you have planned?"

"I wish to know what's going on, then I'd like to know how to serve you, my Lord Ares."

Ares laughed. "So much better."

Hades' mouth fell open as he watched them all disappear. He silently headed back to Ares' temple
taking Xander's former assistants and all of their things to his temple for safekeeping, before Ares
lost more of his mind. He would talk to Xander in the morning.


Hades stopped his classmate on his way out of their mythology class. "Stay, I need to talk to
you," he said quietly. He nodded outside at the benches.

Xander shook his head. "I'm not interested in hearing it, Hades," he whispered, "and I have a
test." He walked away, heading for his next class, and the lecture he had. His former friend
caught up to him later that night when he was watching a fight on the bar's tv. "What?" he asked
tiredly as the God sat down across from him. "I can't help you anymore. Can't I just have some
semblance of normalcy? Some peace sometimes?"

"I know it hurts to see me," Hades said, taking his hand and putting up a privacy shield so they
wouldn't be disturbed. "Strife needs you." The bitter laughter stunned him. "Zeus has
commanded that he go to Tartarus to help him regain part of himself. He wants you there."

"In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not dead, I can't go there." He leaned closer. "Why won't Ares
go with him?"

"Because Wyvern came back with another Strife and he thinks that's the real him." He took the
drink from in front of the younger man. "I thought you swore to never drink."

"I did, but it's the only way I get to sleep anymore. One drink before bed." He sat back, turning
his attention back to the tv. "I can't help you, no matter how much I'd like to. If there was a way,
I would gladly go with him and hold his hand if he needed it but I'm not one of you anymore, it's
not possible."

Hades nodded. "I can create a small exception for a while but you'd have to get in there and get
out again or else you'd be there permanently."

Xander nodded, taking the glass back to finish it. "Fine. There's a long weekend in two weeks.
Do we have that long?" Hades nodded, smiling. "Come get me then."

"Thank you."

"Hey, I told Strife I'd help him when I could and I will." He smiled weakly. "Tell Ares hi for me
if he wants to hear it."

"I will." Hades dissolved their privacy shield and got up, leaving the bar.

Xander turned back to the fight, losing his mind in the meaningless violence.


Xander groaned as he saw Wesley waiting for him. "Not today," he said, walking up to him. "I
have important plans tonight." The older man looked hurt so he leaned next to his ear. "I
promised someone to help them tonight, Wes, otherwise I'd gladly come help you anti-demonize
the city."

The former Watcher put an arm around the younger man's shoulders, walking him away from the
buildings. "I know, that's why I'm here. You can't go tonight. Cordelia 'saw' you in trouble."

Xander shook the arm off. "I promised Wesley, I'm helping. No way in, well, Hell that I'm not
going to go." He handed him his books. "Here, watch these. I've got to go get ready." He
turned and started to walk away so never saw the energy bolt coming for his back. Not even after
he went to his knees. "Wes?" He looked at the older man as he turned into Strife. "No," he
moaned, falling over and blacking out.

Strife, the one that had come with Wyvern, giggled and dropped the books, picking up the human
and taking him away. Unfortunately not unwitnessed.

Discord materialized, frowning. "You're not my son," she said.


Xander woke up in an all black bedroom, looking at the chains that tied him to the bed. "Okay,
not a good," he muttered, trying to get free. Fortunately, he hadn't lost any of the knowledge he
had gained from his training time in Ancient Greece with Joxer and Ares, including how to pick
locks and get out of bonds. "Come on," he whispered, working his wrist free of the leather strap
attached to the chains.

Ares looked at the man on the bed, then at his nephew. "Why is he here?" he asked coldly.
Strife, the one that had brought him up there, flinched and stepped back. "I thought I made it
clear I never wanted to hear about him again."

"So don't hear him, Unc, but you're miserable and you need to fix this." He waved at the bed,
tightening the strap before the mortal could get loose. "He was going to go with the other part of
me to Tartarus, he's trying to hurt you. Get back at you even."

"Xander's not like that," Ares said, considering the man on the bed. He waved his nephew away,
becoming visible to the man on the bed. "Why are you here?"

"I don't know, ask Strife."

"I've seen him, he didn't know either. He told me he found you."

"Ares, reality check," Xander said, closing his eyes as his former lover walked closer. "How
would I get up here without help?" He felt the cool hand on his stomach and flinched. "Get off!"
He shifted away as far as he could. "That's not yours anymore."

Ares leaned down. "You're a mortal, you're mine if I say you are."

"Then be prepared to rape me because you're not getting it," Xander said, biting the words off as
he was slapped. "I knew that you weren't right for me. Let me go and I'll gladly leave."

Ares shook his head. "No. I can't let you help that other Strife. He's not the real one."

"Why not? Because he was hurt when he died?" Xander wiggled one wrist free finally and sat
up, working the other free. "Ares, this is reality calling. Dying hurts people, no matter how
gentle or painful it is. I'm sure you're not you now." He released his feet. "Now if you'd kindly
send me home," he said, waving at the blank wall. "I really don't want to be here anymore than
you want me to be."

Ares gave him an appraising look. "No." He smiled down at the mortal. "Call one of the others
to help you."

"And tell your father how I got here? Do you really want that?"

"He won't be mad at me. You're the one who snuck up here." Xander snorted. "There's no way
Strife brought you up here. The other one can't teleport."

"Wasn't him then," Xander said. "If there's still two that leaves one." He stood up, toe to toe
with his former lover. "I don't care if you don't believe me, send me home or I will call your
father here."

"He won't come at a mortal's call."

"But I'm betting he's still pissed enough at me to kill me or send me away," Xander said quietly,
all the iciness he could muster in it. "Want to bet which one I'd want?"

Cupid popped in, glaring at his father. "So you finally call him back up here when we're trying to
help Strife? Why are you punishing him?"

"Wasn't him," Xander said, walking over to him. "It was Strife, but not the one I rescued." He
looked at the God of Love. "Can you send me to wherever Hades wants me to meet him?" The
younger God shook his head. "No?"

"No, but I can take you down there instead." He grabbed the mortal by the neck, taking him
down there, squeezing his neck the whole way.

Ares swore, trying to follow them, but a shield kept him in his room. "Zeus?" he called, hoping it
was his father meddling. There wasn't an answer. "Dahak," he whispered, sitting down, the
breadth of his stupidity and blindness apparent now. "Strife." He stood back up, searching for a
weakness. "If Hercules could get out of one of these, I should be able to."

Xander came to in a familiar cage above the Lethe river. "Yup, fun," he sighed. He looked at the
water that was just touching the bottom of the cage. "Hades?" he called. "Help?" Nothing
happened so he looked down at the water again, seeing a reflection of something. He looked
closer, leaning down to see Hades leading Strife down through Tartarus. "No, that's Dahak," he
growled. "Strife would never make you lead, he'd cling." He looked up as he caught a flash of
light from the side of the river. "Discord," he said in relief. "Get me out? I have to save Hades,
that's Dahak with him, not your son."

She nodded. "I know. What do I get in return?"

"How about your son? Isn't that enough of a reward?" She smoothed a hand down her leather
dress. "Fine, what do you want?" he spat.

"I want you gone," she said simply. "You took my spot."

"Then have it, I don't want him. He's an asshole." He touched the side of his face. "I wouldn't go
back right now if I had to." She pulled the cage closer. "Where's the real Strife?"

"With Hades," she said, shrugging, opening the cage, very careful of the water. "Jump," she said,
disappearing with a small laugh.

"That's not Strife," he called after her, "Hades had Dahak with him." When there wasn't any
answer, he looked at the span he had to cross, gauging it as about three feet. He walked to the
small opening in the cage trying to find a way to get across, maybe pull the cage closer. He really
didn't want to take a dip in the river of forgetfulness, but if that's what it took... "Okay,
whatever," he told himself, swinging the cage and jumping when it was closest, thinking of Ares
as the water hit him. He could forget him and not be hurting. He landed on the edge of the
water, a few more drops hitting his shirt and jeans, but he didn't mind it, taking off. "Being the
assistant helps sometimes," he reminded himself, heading for where he needed to go but not
thinking about it in case any more of the water hit him.

He found the Gods quickly enough, watching Hades watch Strife examine something. "Stop," he
whispered, falling into Hades. "Not Strife." He looked up into the dark eyes, not sure what he
knew or how but he knew that wasn't Strife, wasn't the man he had sworn to protect, even if he
didn't know why he was telling this person.

"How did you get out?" Strife asked, turning around to look at them, sneering. He laughed at the
shock. "Like I'm that being? I'm not that weak."

"No, neither am I," the real Strife said, walking out of the shadows. "Mom told me to come
down here, that I had to help Xander." He looked at his friend, who was looking blankly at him.
"What's wrong with him?"

"Lethe water. How did you get down here?"

"Me," Hera said, appearing. She waved a hand at Xander, drying him off instantly. "That's
Dahak," she said, pointing at the false Strife. "The boy had it right." She gave him a sad look.
"I'm sorry I stuck up for Zeus' punishment now."

Strife, the real one, picked up the little dark blob of soul on the bare ground. "Is this mine?" he
asked, looking at it. Hades nodded. "It feels strange."

"It should," Hera said. "We had to transplant some of Ares into you so you would survive many
years ago." She covered her mouth. "Damn."

"Explains Deimos," Hades noted, frowning at the fake God in front of him. "Leave Dahak, you
have no more power here. We've found your little game out."

Oz appeared at Hades call, taking control of Xander, and checking him over. "He's fine," he said,
touching the bruise. "Except a few things." He looked at Dahak. "I, on the other hand, spent the
last few weeks researching you. You found a weak link but Ares isn't the Pantheon's weak link.
They'd gladly let him go."

Dahak changed forms. "Yay, as the child would say. I can easily go after these pitiful gods later.
I want Ares. He cheated me."

Xander stood up, looking at the Dark God he knew he had to defeat, for some reason. "You can't
have anyone," he said coldly. He took Hades sword from him. "He's not yours." He caught Oz's
shocked look. "Not sure who's he is but he's not his."

"He's yours," Oz told him calmly.

"No he's not," Xander said. He faced off against the evilness, adjusting his stance so he was more
balanced, not sure why. "This isn't for you."

Dahak laughed, throwing back his head and grabbed his stomach as he did it. "Oh, child, even
when you don't know why you do things, you're quite amusing." He waved the sword away but
it stayed. "What?" He tried to take it away again. "Why can't I do that?"

"Because he's an innocent," Oz told him. "You can't corrupt him if he can't remember his
weakness." He smirked. "Can you use that thing?" he asked his friend.

"I don't know," Xander admitted, "but I'm going to try." Dahak charged him and he dodged out
of the way, cutting his spinal cord, splitting his back open. "Maybe," he conceded. "Guess I'm
better than okay." He ducked the wild punch swinging up under the reaching arm, not dodging
fast enough to avoid being knocked into a wall. "Ouch," he whined, getting up. "Bitch." He
faced off him again, watching his eyes for his next move. When the God tried to fake him out, he
dodged his actual blow, driving the sword into the firm chest. "Gotta hurt," he quipped, smiling
until Dahak got up with a smile of his own. "Or not." He flinched as a light went off near him,
holding onto the sword when someone tried to take it from him. "No, I need this."

Hades pulled Xander away from Dahak, letting Ares take his turn. "You can't fight him, you're
mortal." The young man looked confused. "He'll kill you."

"I can't let him hurt Strife," Xander told him.

"Why?" Oz asked, walking over to him and taking the sword. "Why can't you let him hurt

"Because he's important. All I know is that I can't let him hurt Strife." He flinched at the small
explosion behind him, grabbing the sword, accidentally cutting Oz's hand in the process. He saw
another man down on his knees and yelled, tossing the sword at the open cut he had caused

Dahak pulled the blade from his back, tossing it aside. "Didn't anyone ever tell you not to throw
your only weapon, boy?" he asked with a sneer. He advanced on the small grouping, grabbing
Xander by the throat and holding him off the ground. "You shouldn't have done that." He
reached back and scratched. "What was on that?"

Oz smiled at Hades. "To cure my furriness, Xander had me bite him while he was still a new
God." Hades smiled back at him so he focused on Dahak, who had dropped Xander so he could
scratch the burning part of his back. "That's Godly blood. Young, innocent God's blood. Isn't
that something bad for you?"

"Who's Xander?" Xander asked. Hades groaned. "Okay, guess that's not a present question." He
turned back to the Dark God, seeing him with Strife and Ares both on their knees. "Leave them
alone. I told you they're not yours." He stabbed Dahak again, hitting the already sore spot on his
back. "Need something else," he said, frowning. He caught the sword Ares tossed at him,
frowning at it as it's power spread through him. "Huh. Really pretty. I'll give it back later,...
whoever you are." He took another swing at Dahak, kicking his old sword away, letting this new
one guide his movements.

Dahak screamed in outrage, turning to face him, trying to kill this menace before it killed him. It
only enraged Xander further, making him wince at the sound and strike quicker to shut it up,
giving him a priceless opening at his chest as he tipped his head back. One which Xander took
and used to split the Dark God open like a chicken. The power started to take him over, making
him enjoy what he was doing, allowing him to lose control as he started to hack at the still body.

"Xander!" Ares shouted, trying to grab him. He found himself back on the ground, pushed there
before his own sword could kill him. "Damn. Strife?" he asked, turning to his nephew. "Help
him, I can't get near him while he has my sword."

"Gee, Unc," Strife said, picking up the now smaller blob, watching as it finished absorbing
through the cut on his chest. His eyes closed as he felt the power flow into him again, wincing as
his chest closed in a flash of heat. "Xander," he called, blasting him. "Enough."

"What?" the temporary God of War snarled. "You would help him?"

"No, I'm making sure you don't hate yourself in the morning." Strife walked up to him, slowly
taking the sword from his bloody hands and tossing it down. "Shh, friend, we'll figure this out."

"Mine," Ares said as he picked up his sword.

"No he's not," Oz pointed out. "He doesn't remember you." He stepped into the God of War's
path. "And if I found out that bruise came from your hand, I will find a way to hurt you worse."

Ares smiled, patting the immortal's shoulder. "I'm sure you will." He walked over to where his
nephew was looking at the groaning body at his feet. "How are we dealing with him?"

Hades shrugged. "Lock him and Zeus up together," Hera suggested with a mean smirk.
"Xander," she said, opening her arms. "Come here, let me see if I can't heal you."

"Lethe water is permanent," Hades whispered to his sister. "There's no cure."

Oz snorted. "Of course there is, you just have to go back and fix a few things. The Xander
cure." He shrugged, taking possession of his friend. "I'll protect him, Strife. He'll be fine."

"He has classes in a few days," Hades told him. Oz glared at him. "He does. Your friend, the
pale one, arranged it." He looked at his mother. "We could arrange for things to be different."

"My husband would kill us both," Hera said with a small sigh. "Come up to the meeting area and
chain that thing up somewhere."

"Reciprocal punishment," Oz suggested. "Dunk him in the Lethe?"

Hera laughed. "Oh, young man, you are definitely starting to become one of us." She touched his
shoulder, disappearing with him. Zeus frowned at them as they appeared. "Oh, shut up you old
fool. He just fought Dahak." She turned to look at Discord. "Thank you for telling us where he
was. He was the one who saved us all this time." She looked pissed.

Cupid looked at her and sneered. "What's wrong? Did you make a deal with him when you let
him go? I'm sure he'll honor it for a while." He stood up, helping Oz steady the mortal on his old
seat. "What's wrong with him?" he asked after getting a blank look. "Fighting that thing
shouldn't have hurt his mind."

"He was over the Lethe," Oz said. "Hades said he was wet." Hera frowned at him. "And she did
make a deal."

Cupid frowned at his grandmother. "Why?"

"That's where Dahak sent him," Hera said.

"As Cupid," Strife said as he popped in. He patted Cupid on the back, yanking on his feathers. "I
scanned him, so did Ares." He looked sadly at the mortal. "Hades is looking for a cure but he's
not real hopeful." He looked at Zeus, not bothering to bow. "You could fix this," he offered.

"Why?" Zeus said, bored-sounding. "He's not one of us."

"He will be again," Hera said, "or you will have a mutiny on your hands."

"You know the rules, if a God is punished by taking their powers, they're never allowed back."

"That's because none have been able to ask," Cupid told him. He flinched as the lightening bolt
hit near his wings.

"Leave it, Zeus," Ares said as he walked in, dropping Dahak in the middle of the viewing pool.
"He took care of our biggest problem. He deserves it back."

Oz cleared his throat. "You're not getting him back."

Xander brushed everyone off him, standing up. "Get off. I don't even know who you people are
and you're trying to make decisions about me? Why doesn't someone try explaining it to me
instead of talking around me?" Hera smiled, waving him over. "No, I'm not knowing any of you
and I'm not coming when called." He got away from Ares' grabbing hand. "No! I said no!" he
said when someone grabbed him from behind, fighting them.

"Leave him alone," Cupid told Giles, calling his power up. "You're scaring him."

"All of you," Strife said coldly. "He's my charge." He glared at the gods and immortals
surrounding the man that had helped him. "I owe him my life. I'm taking care of him." Hera
shook her head, starting to open her mouth. "Unless you plan on letting me die again, I'd stop
now. I feel no more allegiance now than I did a few days ago." He looked at Zeus, who was just
staring at him. "How many times did someone go check the fates that week? And no one heard
that Callisto was going to do something? I doubt that." He brushed Ares off. "You could have
left the Hind's blood alone but you didn't. You're as much to blame as those who ignored what
was going to happen to me. Xander's the only one who's ever not wanted something from me.
He actually offered to protect me before we left. Before I became useful to him. Even before my
own mother recognized me." Hera glared at Discord, who disappeared. "He's my duty."

Zeus shrugged. "Then have him. I refuse to have him up here."

"And you wonder why people don't pray to you?" Strife asked him. "I wouldn't." He walked
over to Xander, smiling at him. "Come on, I'm going to take you somewhere safe and we'll be
fine. I'll help you remember things." The younger man looked at him and nodded, stepping into
his arms and hugging him. "Oz, you and Giles are more than welcome to come visit. I'm taking
him to the mortal realm."

"He has a test next week," Hades told him. "Two days, mortal time, but it's in mythology at
least." Strife nodded. "I'll be there if you need me." He disappeared.

Oz stepped closer to his friend. "Just be careful with him. He's scared right now."

"Then I'll be gentle with him," Strife assured him, teleporting them to the young man's dorm
room, which he had gotten from Hades' mind. He looked around the plain and cheerless space,
shaking his head. "Not even a picture, Xander?" he asked as he laid him on the bed, brushing
over the mortal's forehead to put him to sleep for a while. "Heal, my friend. I'm here," he
whispered. He mentally searched the room for something to start with but came up practically
empty. He found a few pictures in a drawer but looked at them in confusion. He only recognized
Giles and Oz in them so put them back. He was sure those two would be around sooner or later
in person. He stiffened as he heard the doorknob start to turn. He noticed for the first time that
someone else had things in that room. Another man walked in and raised an eyebrow at him.

"Who're you?" he asked, running a hand through his blond hair, messing up the already messy
style. "And what happened to the sulky one?"

"He hit his head earlier. I'm ... Misha," Strife said, holding out a hand. "I came for a visit and he
got hurt a little while ago. Is it okay if I stay to keep an eye on him?" He used his power on the
mortal to make him want to go somewhere else.

"Sure, let me go talk to my RD, I'm supposed to be moving soon anyway. We just don't get
along. He's sulky and moody." He picked up a bag from his closet, starting to stuff clothes in it.
"Later," he said a few minutes later when he had all his stuff. "I'll be down the hall if you need
me." He slammed the door behind him.

Strife let out a sigh, sitting on the bare bed, shuddering as his leather made the plastic-covered
mattress squeak. He looked around the room, snapping his fingers to redecorate to suit his tastes.
And maybe Xander wouldn't mind so much, if he even realized something had been done. He got
up when someone knocked on the door, changing his clothes to match closer to what the mortals
were wearing. The woman on the other side smiled at him so he did it back, taking the books she
held out. "Thanks. Where were they?"

"On the quad, off to the side. I found them earlier and no one was sure who to give them to so I
thought I'd drop by. Are you Xander?"

"No," Strife said, opening the door so she could see the man on the bed. "That's Xander, he's
really tired. Someone jumped him earlier." She made sympathy noises and waved, walking
away. He remembered to lock the door, dropping the damp books on the cleared desk as he went
back to the bed he had just made up to suit himself. "So," he told the still man, "what do I do
with you now?"

Giles smiled as he walked in. "Making him wake up would be a good start, I have something that
may work somewhat." Strife gave him a grateful smile, tapping Xander's nose to wake him up.
"Ah, good, you're up," he told Xander when he looked at him. "Drink this, it may help your head
clear some."

Someone knocked on the door and Strife groaned, shaking his head as he walked over to answer
it. "Yeah?" he asked the woman on the other side. She started to push past him but he pushed
her back. "I'm sorry, but Xander's sick and you can't come in."

"I'm his Residence Advisor, I come in or he gets kicked out." She tried to stare Strife down but
he shrugged. "Who are you? And why did his roommate leave?"

"Xander got beaten up earlier while I was in for a visit. I'm an old friend so I'm taking care of
him. As for his roommate, he said he was moving out, down the hall somewhere." He waved her
in, glancing at Giles. "This is another friend of ours, he's trying to help Xander's headache."

She looked at her resident, frowning. "He doesn't look bruised except that one."

"He doesn't bruise easily," Giles told her, taking back the cup he had mixed the potion in. He
handed it back with a frown. "All of it, please." The young mortal frowned but took it and
finished drinking it. "Thank you," he said with a small smile. "Now rest, it's the only way for
your head to clear." He pushed him back, turning to the young woman. "He was knocked about
the head a little and he's not very lucent at the moment."

"Why didn't you take him to the clinic?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips.

"He said something about rather dying," Strife said dryly, exerting his will, but she didn't budge.
"Great," he muttered. She looked at him. "Listen, you can bitch at him later, okay? Just let him
sleep now and you can question me some other time." Her eyes narrowed. "I promise, once he's
better he'll gladly tell you all you need to know." She handed him a form and left. "What's this?"

"Visitor's form," she called as she shut the door.

Giles leaned against a dark purple wall. "Did you redecorate?" Strife nodded with a grin. "I
thought as much. He should be fine, just let him rest for a while longer. The potion may reverse a
bit of the damage but not all of it." He looked down at his former student and boss. "I don't
know how to cure him," he said quietly, "and I hate seeing him done this way."

"He'll be fine," Strife said, patting his arm. "I've seen plenty of things about him recently. Cupid
took me to view some of the recent past to let me recenter myself." He snapped his fingers. "The
humans that helped me could help him."

"Wesley?" Giles asked and the God nodded. "He's the one that set him up here."

"So then he'd have a clue, right?" Strife prompted.

"He may but I seriously doubt there's much Xander would need to remember from his short time
here on campus. I doubt he jumped into mortal life like he did into being a God." He smiled
sadly. "I really do wish I could cure his mind without the rest of his deeds tonight being

"You love him, huh," Strife said, climbing onto the extra bed to look at him. Giles nodded, not
looking at him. "And Oz?"

"It's mutual between all of us," Giles admitted quietly. "As it used to be with all of us and Ares,
but I do believe that will change for good now." He looked up, his eyes wet. "He once told the
whole pantheon that there were only about two assistants and three gods he loved enough to let
touch him." He laughed, wiping at his face. "And now I've lost him before I could tell him it was

Strife pulled him in for a hug. "He'll get better. Between all of us, we should be able to fix this
so he's fine again, and I'm sure he'll come running back to you so you can tell him."

Giles kissed the young God's cheek. "Are you sure you're not Bliss?"

"Quite," Strife said with a small frown that turned into a smile after a second. "But he'll start to
grow up too."

"We could all use more happiness in our daily lives," Giles said, touching his pendant and

"You'll be fine," Strife assured the sleeping man, laying down to watch him.


Oz looked up as someone walked into their research room. "Hey, Wyvern. Something wrong?"

"Do you have something I might read?" he asked, leaning on the table to look down at what Oz
was reading. "Ah, how is the man that looks so much like me?"

"Xander's head is still bad, he's lost a lot of memories." Oz picked up a book. "Um, any
particular subject? Most of this is paranormal."

"That would be fine." He brushed his shoulder-length hair back, the only real distinguishing thing
between him and Ares former consort Xander unless you heard them talk, Wyvern had a much
deeper voice. "My mother was a high priestess, not of Ares but one of Athena's. She left when
she met my father." He looked down at the thin scars on his hands. "He was a good man." A
hand covered them and squeezed his hand. "Thank you." He looked back up. "I am sorry that
my coming back caused your friend so many problems."

"He wouldn't mind," Oz told him quietly, giving his hand another squeeze. "He might have
whined for a while but he wouldn't have actually minded." He cleared his throat. "So what do
you do?"

"I am one of the top warriors where I was. That's why Strife...Dahak," he blushed lightly, "found
me. He said Ares had sent him to watch over me." He shrugged. "I do wish I hadn't brought him
with me."

"Hey, he was going to find a way back one way or another. You were just convenient. There's
no blame there, not from any of us. And if they do then they're narrow minded p. o. s."

"P. O. S? Is that some modern term?" Oz leaned over, whispering it in his ear. "Ah, just a
shorter version of it then. Thank you. Things seem to be much different than they are where I

"Truly. It's been a good five hundred and some-odd years." He saw the small wince. "Our time.
Sorry. " Oz thought for a second. "What do you do for fun?"

"I ride my horse. I fight sometimes just for the release. I have met a few women, though they're
scarce. Apparently not many got sucked up when the rest of my village did." He shrugged again.
"I trained most of my young life. There wasn't much to do. No big window like the one in the
room with the couch." Oz nodded. "How do you deal with all this information?"

"Practice. Same as you've learned all about fighting. This is the training I have, both social and
actual education training."

"Ah, so then it's much the same process?"

"Muchly." Oz looked up as Giles walked in, giving him a hopeful look.

"He's resting again," Giles said, patting Wyvern shoulder. "Did you need something to do?"

"Yes, I couldn't sit up there and watch the window any longer. Or watch Lord Ares play those
things he calls games any longer. It seems like such a waste of time."

"Yes, well, Ares is worried about Xander too." Giles smiled at the young warrior. "If you'd like
something more substantial, I believe I have a book on Ancient Roman architecture. It would be
something you'd be a bit more familiar with than demonology."

Wyvern put down the book he held with a smile. "Please. I may learn something to help my
people if I go back." He watched the older man walk over to the shelves and hunt for the book.
"What exactly was Xander doing up here? Someone told me he was mortal."

"He was for most of his life," Oz told him. "Then he became Ares assistant through a fluke."

"Then immortal shortly thereafter," Giles said, coming back with a few books to hand over.
"Here you go, just be delicate with the leather covered one, it's an antique." The warrior nodded.
"After that, he was granted Godhood in a surprise move by a few of the Goddesses."

"He switched titles a little," Oz reminded him, wrapping an arm around Giles' waist to hold him.
"Then his mouth got him in trouble with Zeus that one last time after he found Strife." He looked
up, seeing the small nod. "Why don't you go rest, Rupert, I'll be there in a minute." The older
man nodded, leaving them alone. "It's been hard on us. We've known Xander since he was
mortal and we loved him as much as Ares did, if not more." He stood, seeing the sad look
Wyvern gave him. "But we would like to be friends with you."

"Thank you," Wyvern said quietly, holding out his arm, which was taken. He left the study,
letting the two men relieve their grief how they needed to.

Oz walked into the bedroom he and Giles, and usually Xander and Ares for a while, shared and
stripped to climb in beside him. "Hold me," he whispered, sliding into the strong arms.

Giles wrapped himself around the younger man. "We can always rebuild what we had."

"He won't be Xander though. He may never be Xander again."

"He may well be. It all depends on what he was thinking and if he drank any of the Lethe water."
Giles rubbed himself against his lover's body, needing a little release for his tension. "May I?" he
whispered, doing it again.

Oz rolled over in his arms. "Please. I need it just as much." He closed his eyes as the slick finger
entered him, laying still as he was prepared slowly and carefully. When Giles was finally done
and was sliding into his body, he pushed back slowly, sinking down the mostly hard cock. He
entwined their hands on his stomach, setting a slow and gentle rhythm, letting all his fears and loss
out in the simplest of all comforts. Neither was disappointed when Giles lost his erection before
he had come, that wasn't the point of this time, it was purely about comfort.

They fell asleep together, comforting each other even in their dreams.


Ares felt the God pop in behind him but didn't pause his game, ruthlessly shooting the enemy
soldiers. "What?" he growled.

"You're going to have to make a decision," Cupid said gently. "You can't have them all, dad."
He reached around, pausing the game, making the God of War look at him. "If you really loved
Xander, you would be checking on him."

"I do care for him but I also know I'm not welcome to ask." He watched Wyvern walk back into
his bedroom. "I'm not sure what I want," he admitted quietly, "but I may not have a decision to

"I won't allow Giles and Oz to suffer, Ares. I'm going to find a way to cure him, if only so those
two have their love." He stood up. "You can help or not."

"And what happens to Wyvern if I do?" Ares asked, just a hint of insecurity in his voice. "Or to
Xander if I pick Wyvern? Why can't I have them all?"

"Because Xander loves you, Wyvern worships you, and Giles and Oz love Xander enough to offer
their soul for him." He disappeared, leaving Ares alone to think about what he had said.

He looked up as Wyvern walked out. "What's wrong?" he asked, patting the floor beside him.

"I was wondering the same thing, my Lord Ares." Wyvern sat beside him. "I wouldn't be upset if
you picked him as he was your consort, but I do wonder what would come of me."

Ares made the warrior look at him. "No one's sure of anything. There may be nothing we can do
to get Xa...his memories back. There may be no decision."

"Then that's not fair to him," Wyvern said, standing up. "I will not take what belongs to another
man. Not something that he holds dear enough to fight and give up his life for." He headed back
toward his bedroom, shutting the door softly.

Ares could feel the walls closing on him so got up, thinking his clothes straightened and him into
wherever the mortal was at that moment. His breath caught as he saw Strife sleeping, holding
Xander's hand because he was whimpering in his sleep. "Shh," he whispered to his former consort.
"You're safe." The small noises got louder so he faded from view before his nephew could wake
up. He watched as the God of Mischief woke up and pulled the young mortal into his arms to
comfort him as if he were a child. He sent himself back home to think about what he had seen,
running into Giles and Oz as they fixed a snack. "What are you two doing back here?" he asked.

"We were hungry and Hades sent us back earlier tonight," Oz told him, finishing his sandwich.
He turned to the God. "Is it a problem that we're inhabiting a part of your temple again? He ran
out of room once his other assistants came back from vacation."

Ares shook his head. "No, you're welcome to the space. I never use it."

Giles stopped the God before he could leave them alone. "We all miss him, Ares, and we're all
sorry how it turned out. We will find a way to cure him, no matter what." The God of War
nodded, smiling at them. "All you have to do is tell us whether or not we're to stay here."

Ares waved a hand. "I just told you that you can have the space."

"Even if Xan's given his godhood back?" Oz asked, looking at him now. He saw the brief hurt
look flash across the expressive face. "Even if you choose Wyvern over him?" He picked up the
plate. "We'll be quiet." He walked around the still god, heading down behind Giles to their room.

Ares drug himself out to the couch, sitting down and looking at the changes that had happened to
his formerly bland space. He couldn't imagine it that way anymore, Xander had changed his life
that much. "I don't know what I want," he admitted, leaning into the warm arms that went
around him. "Hi, Hades. Did you come to remind me I have to choose too?"

"No, just to not hurt Xander until he's healed."

"And if he's not?" He looked up, seeing the frown and determined look. "He may never truly
regain those memories, even if you take him back and show them to him."

"I don't know what will happen, all I know is that we have to try." Hades released his nephew.
"One of us should go find Rayden and tell him that Dahak is contained for a long while."

"Did you dunk him in the river?" Hades nodded, adding a grim smile. "Did it help?"

"He forgot you but not Xander, no matter how much I prompted it." Hades disappeared.

Ares stood up, tugging his vest back down and thought about the Elder God that had once healed
the man he had loved, closing his eyes as he traveled there. He smiled at the man that met him
with a weapon pointed at him. "Relax, I'm here to see Rayden. I have information for him." The
weapon didn't lower.

"It's all right," Rayden said as he appeared. "He belonged to Xander." The man with the weapon
walked away, leaving them alone. "How is he?"

"He has lost a lot of memories but no one's sure how much of it." Ares looked around to make
sure they were alone. "Dahak has been taken care of. Xander did it and Hades dunked him in the

"Does he remember his purpose?" Ares shrugged. "Then I'll check with him later. Where is your

"In his mortal life," Ares ground out. He started to leave but felt like he had to stay. "Xa... he
told me that you used to know what was going on when he realized it. How?"

"Easily. I listened to his soul as it radiated." Rayden disappeared and Ares did the same, ending
back up in the small dorm room, looking at his nephew.

"I'll watch for a while, go check with Asclepias." Strife shook his head. "Now!" The God of
Mischief disappeared so he climbed into his spot, trying what had been suggested to him. But all
he could hear was confusion.


Zeus looked around the assembled Gods. "Where's Strife?" he called. "I'm not waiting for him."

"He's with Xander," Hera reminded him.

He waved her off. "That doesn't excuse him from our meetings."

Strife appeared, glaring at Zeus. "I have a more important duty right now than to listen to you
trash the man who saved us." He was glowered at back so sat in his seat, opening a line to listen
to Xander.

"Let Oz do it," Cupid said, leaning closer to him. "I'll ask him to go down." Strife nodded,
giving him a small smile. He sent a call out to the immortal assistant then nodded.

Strife kept the link going until he felt Oz land, paring the contact back until he would only hear
something if there was a problem. He looked up to see Hera watching him. "He's sleeping right
now and having nightmares."

The father of the gods growled, "Enough. We have other things to worry about." He looked at
Hades. "What did you do to Dahak?"

"He was dunked in the Lethe and had forgotten his vendetta against Ares and why he hates us but
not that he hates us. I couldn't remove Xander from his mind at all."

"If I have to hear..." Hera stood up, walking away from her throne to sit beside Hades. "Get
back in your place."

"I am. I've been reminded recently why we used to serve humanity." She simply looked at him
before turning to Hades. "How do you plan on curing him?"

"I'm not sure if going back to view it would be enough," Hades told her, patting her hand.
"Though I do know much of his early life he wouldn't want to remember." He looked at Strife.
"I found one of his best friends from when he was growing up. I could send him to help Xander
remember, see if any of the memories remain."

"Would that be the one that hit him with Titan's bone?" Ares asked dryly. Hades shook his head
and smiled. "No? He had another? He only mentioned her."

"He had another for most of that same time but he ended up being turned undead and Xander
staked him. His first killing." Ares winced. "That's why I was hesitant to send him. As for her,
I'm not sending her anywhere near him. She seems to blame him for how she turned out."

"She blames him for starting to use Chaos magic?" Ares asked, shocked to say the least. "How
unreasonable is she?"

"She blames him for getting her involved with Athena's chosen one, and therefore magic. As well
as for not stopping her when he found out and got his powers."

"He wasn't looking for her," Ares said, rubbing his forehead to make the beginning headache go
away before he wound up in bed. "Any other candidates?"

"The viewing one seems to be the best idea," Cupid said. "It's also viable to withhold a few of the
things from him." He glared at his father, making sure he knew that many of those were his
doing. "The best would be to take him on a voyeuristic trip."

"No," Zeus said firmly. "He took enough trips through time as it was when he was one of us."

Ares growled, standing up. "I don't really care what you think, you're way out of touch with the
world. I refuse to listen to him be criticized for not being born one of us."

Hera reached over, patting his leg. "Relax. Though he does have some lineage to him. Both of
yours and Strife's as it turns out." Ares and Strife both looked at her. "Yes, both of you. Strife,
apparently you fathered a child out of one of Ares lineage." The God of Mischief looked at his
Uncle and shrugged in apology but Ares waved it away. "It's been long ago," she went on with a
small smile, "but it is there. That's why it was so easy to accustom him to become one of us."

"That would explain the toilet problem," Cupid muttered.

"Toilet problem?" Strife asked him.

"For a while there, any major use of power on ...his part resulted on every toilet on Olympus
overflowing," Ares said, sitting back down. He laughed in remembrance. "He invariably cleaned
it up with sand, making it look like a big litter box."

"Kitten," Cupid said with a smirk. Then he dodged the fireball. "Hey, you were."

"Not anymore," Ares ground out. "Never call me that. That isn't a luxury you have."

"Boys," Hera sighed. "Enough." She smiled at Strife's quiet snickering. "Yes, that young man
tamed Ares to the point where he accepted a pet name, literally, from him." She smiled at her
son. "We all miss that Ares."

"He's gone, mother, get over it." Ares disappeared.

"ARES!" Zeus yelled. "Get back here!" When there was no return he stood up, going to find his
son himself and teach him manners.

"SIT!" Hera said sharply, and Zeus did. "Thank you. Now then, we were discussing how best to
fix him and I do believe Ares didn't need any more pain or guilt over his actions, no matter how
deserved it was." She looked at Cupid. "You really think that would be the best way?" The
God of Love nodded solemnly. "Would you be willing to do so for him? Possibly sharing it with
another god if needed or warranted?"

"As long as it wasn't Ares, yes," Cupid said. "I don't think I trust him to show him everything.
Which would change who he is."

Strife shook his head. "I don't think he'd let Ares that close to him. When he popped in the other
night, he started having nightmares." He swallowed as Ares reappeared. "I'd be willing to go
with him though. He trusts me."

"That still leaves his position vacant," Athena reminded everyone. "There's a mass of power
building and no one can make it discretely dissipate without having the job."

Hera nodded. "We could name an interim God of Paranormal Activities and Things. We were
going to have to name a few new Gods anyway to take care of some vacant positions."

"I want Xander to either have a war or a love one," Ares said, sitting down next to his mother by
making Hades disappear. "I know he may balk to work under me but I'd feel better."

"I'll consider your request but I would sooner give him one under Cupid," she told him, patting his
face. "I too refuse to allow you to harm that boy any farther if he gets his powers back." Ares
nodded, looking at Cupid, who nodded.

"Just not the God of Lust," Cupid said with a small smile. "I don't think I could keep up with his

Hera laughed lightly. "No, I definitely think that was not the position for him, though it still
seems to be working on some."

Giles walked in, smiling. "He just awoke and knew who I and Oz were." He looked at Ares.
"He has no memory of you at all. Nothing after the night he left my flat." He took a seat beside
Cupid, hugging him. "Please tell Hades that it worked partially." The God of Love nodded,

"That is good news," Hera said, smiling herself. "Now the question remains about the rest of his

"Or if we should," Giles said, looking at Ares. "I'm sure some would be more comfortable with
him not knowing."

"I want him to remember us," Ares ground out, glaring at the immortal.

"I was thinking of him," Giles said gently. "The time you were together wasn't always the most
pleasant of his life, though there were moments of blinding happiness from what Oz and I

"I'm not apologizing again," Ares said firmly. "Once was enough."

"You may have to if he learns of what transpired," Athena told him coldly. "Otherwise nothing
would be accomplished."

Zeus frowned at his children and wife. "If you decide to take him back, be careful about what
you change, you know how fragile time is. He could easily warp it in many places."

Cupid popped back in. "Hades found a remedy for most of it. He's giving it to him now." He
set the viewing pool to show the small room where the mortal lay. "Granted, it's dangerous for a
mortal to take it but it's better than what we had."

Giles looked at Hera, silently begging by sending her a mental prayer. She nodded, tossing him
an apple from the Tree of Life. "If it's necessary," she told him.

They all watched as the young man's body arched in pain and his eyes squeezed shut as the
memories hit him, watching as he grabbed Oz's hand in his and squeezed as hard as he could like
he was in pain. Giles popped out, sent by Ares, and the gods watched him straddle the young
man's head to feed him the apple before he quit having the seizures and died. No one objected
when instead of only giving him a slice to cure him he was given the whole apple, regranting his

Except one man on the outer ring of the viewing area. He felt his stomach plummet as he walked
away to go back to his room, not sure where his future laid now, a strange thing for a warrior to
not know if he wasn't horribly injured.


Xander looked around what had been his temple with a look of terrible sadness. He jumped as
someone touched his shoulder and ended up looking at the man who would replace him. "Hey.
Wyvern, right?" The other man nodded, pulling him down to the couch. "I just had to see it
before I go back to a mostly mortal life."

"Why? He wants you?"

Xander laughed bitterly. "You're so much more what he wants and needs. I'm not a warrior, I
don't even understand wars. We fought constantly."

"Yes, but he loves you."

"He will you eventually. Just give it a few weeks." Xander leaned back on the comfortable
couch. "We fought constantly for the longest time. Mostly because I wouldn't sleep with him,
but we had some real bad fights. I took my out with Hades for a while, deciding death was better
than the fighting with him." He looked at the other man, seeing the sadness on his face. "Not
fighting yet?" Wyvern shook his head. "That just means that you two are more suitable."

"No, we're not. I love him, but it's more of a mentor/student love between us. He's proud of me
but he doesn't desire me like he did you. He's never even hinted that I could sleep with him."

"He was just freaked by the situation," Xander assured, standing up. "As soon as he's sure I'm
gone, you'll be in within seconds." He stretched. "I've got to go back, I have to make up a test."
He touched the pendant Cupid had given him that allowed him to come up and look around.

"No, wait," Wyvern said, getting up to stop him. "You train?"

"Well, I study. I'm in school."

"Like Plato used to run?"

"Not quite. He pointed at the viewing monitor. "Focus that on me later today and you can watch
me go through classes. Okay?" He smiled at the small nod. "Ask Giles, he knows how if you
have a problem and he's had tons of real education." He waved and disappeared.

Wyvern walked over to the portal, turning it on and concentrating on the man he wanted to
watch. He felt a warm body walk up behind him and relaxed into it when the strong arms went
around him.

"Watching him to see how to be different?" Oz asked, making him jump. "Not who you were

"No, I expected Cupid or someone of that nature." He turned, giving the immortal a slightly
guilty look. "I'm sorry, did you need this?"

"No, just wondering if I could help you do whatever. I was kinda out of things to do so was
going to play a game but watching Xan be frustrated in class might be as good."

"He seems to enjoy his classes," Wyvern told him, turning back around. "Is this the present

"Um, no that was yesterday's. He's asleep right now probably. It's the middle of the night in LA."
The warrior nodded. "Why are you so interested in his classes?"

"Because it sounds interesting."

Oz turned him around to look at him. "You're too much like him so I know that you're lying. Are
you thinking of taking his place?" Wyvern nodded, looking down. "Listen, I think that might be
the idea solution, whichever one that Ares doesn't pick goes to take his mortal identity. I'm fully
behind that plan. It'd kinda be a win-win situation for you. You'd be able to study things to help
your people in case you go home again at some point in the future." That got a small smile.
"See, I knew you were smart. Now all we have to do is wait on Ares."

"I've heard he can be a bit...impatient. Is it true?"

"Oh, yeah. That's what caused one of the worst fights those two ever had. Xander wasn't
allowing the God of War to take him sexually so Ares slept with one of his pawns in GodWar."
Oz scratched the back of his neck. "I'm wondering if those two aren't someone else's pawns.
Maybe Rayden's." He shrugged. "Anyway, it was such a bad fight, Hades and Aphrodite had to
intervene to keep Xander from running away."

"Why would he run? Ares obviously loves him."

"But he slept with someone else."

"That's just silly, a God like Ares would need variety in his personal relationships. Too much of
the same person would make him complacent and possibly irritable, then we would all suffer no
matter which one."

"That's a good point but Xan believes in the absolute theory of relationships now. If he doesn't
feel loved as an equal, he can't give himself over to his lovers. He and Ares used to fight all the
time before they became lovers because Xander wouldn't let him do more than hug him."

Wyvern smiled, shaking his head and turning back to view the scene on the portal. "That's just
silly. He's a man, he has needs that have nothing to do with feelings and emotions."

"But for him they do," Oz told him, resting his chin on the other man's shoulder. "Things have
changed that much in between our times."

"So I've noticed. If a woman wore that short a skirt in my day, she'd be beaten by her husband."

"She's probably not married."

"Then it would be even more improper. An unmarried woman should remain chaste."

Oz didn't laugh but it was close. "There was this thing called the sexual revolution a few years
back, it made it permissible for women to not be virginal at marriage and for them to enjoy sex as
often as they wanted."

"Really?" Wyvern smiled. "I may like his life then."

Oz did laugh at that, but it was a happy sound.


Wyvern approached Ares where he was lying on his bed, sitting beside him. "I wouldn't mind if
you decided you wanted him back more than me," he told him quietly, not looking at his God. "I
think I could live in his life and learn many useful things to take back to my people."

Ares sat up, hugging his warrior. "Nothing's certain yet," he whispered.

"You love him and he's miserable without you and those two downstairs. He misses his life, but I
could learn to love his life." He looked at the God, seeing the indecision in his eyes. "Ares, it
would be best for all of us."

The God of War snorted. "He said the same thing about me picking you. It's like trying to decide
between twins with you two." He squeezed him, letting him sit on his own again. "What
brought this on?"

"I was watching his teachings on the portal with Oz and I asked a few questions of him and Giles.
Both of them would be happy to help me if I stayed but they miss Xander as much as you do."
He rubbed over the rough cheek. "As much as he misses you. It was in his eyes when he was up
here earlier." He smiled, leaning in for a short, sweet kiss. "There would be many advantages
personally for you to pick me, the least being that I wouldn't dictate to you about who you sleep
with, but I doubt I could handle life up here the whole time. I'd have nothing to do and if I was
gifted with even the hint of power I'd fear for all of your lives because I would undoubtedly have
less control than he did."

Ares smiled at that. "I don't think that's possible. But as I said, nothing's certain."

"Then something needs to be decided," Wyvern said, standing up. "Ares, pick him and become
happy. I have no problem accommodating you as a faithful worshiper, and even as a lover on
occasion, but I could never be the love of your life, the one that makes you happy enough to make
peace with those around you." He smiled sadly. "I would rather go learn things that I could use
for my people than I would sit around here and simply spar all the time. I'd miss fighting."

Ares laughed, standing up and hugging him. "I can understand that. You are an honorable
warrior, Wyvern, and I welcome you into my service. You will always have a special place in
my heart." He kissed him again, stopping when someone cleared their throat from the doorway.
"Xander, come here," he said gently, holding out a hand with a satisfied smile.

The newly immortal Xander walked in, hesitantly taking the hand. "I just, um, forgot something
and needed to talk to Oz."

"No, you forgot to stay," Ares said, smiling at both of them. "Wyvern has decided that he wants
your life so he can do the whole college plan that you were set to do." The immortal nodded,
looking confused so Ares kissed him, pulling him into his body. "Come home, precious," he

Xander stepped back, shaking his head. "Ares, I don't want to take his place. He can have my
old life, I'll just do something else."

Cupid groaned, popping in. "Density reaching maximum?" he asked Xander, hugging him. He
got a glare from all three men. "Hey, this is my area. Xander, he wants you back, did even
before Wyvern told him it was okay to want you back. The guy just made it easier on you by
bowing out to enjoy your old life."

"But I was starting to get happy there, and I was helping Angel and stuff, and...and you don't
want me, you were kissing him."

Ares groaned, laying back down covering his eyes. "Cupid, could you please explain to my
consort about goodbye kisses?"

Xander looked at Cupid, who nodded, smiling slightly. He gave the immortal a hug then a push
toward the bed, taking Wyvern's hand and teleporting them away. "Really?" he asked as he sat on
the side of the bed. "You really chose me?"

"Why wouldn't I have?"

"Because he was so much more like you and stuff." Xander looked down at the leather hem he
was playing with. "Because I aggravate you to no end and he would like to play swords with

Ares sat up, tipping Xander's face up to look at him. "But then who would I play Laser Tag with?
Or that stupid racing game with the plumbers and the things? Or even learn all sorts of new
things about myself that are just as fun to destroy." He planted a small kiss on the bridge of his
consort's nose. "Come home, Xander, before I have to go live in that little dorm room and follow
you to class."

"Were you going to pick me before?"

"I was, I just wasn't absolutely sure it was for the best for you. You looked like you were
enjoying your classes." He kissed the immortal again, bringing them both down to a horizontal
position during it. "Please, just stay."

"Okay," Xander whispered, "since you begged."

"I never beg."

Xander leaned up to look down at his lover. "I remember you begging quite nicely at one point
for me to touch you with something." That got a small smile. "Didn't you beg?"

"If I beg again, would you?"

"Gee, I don't know, this is awfully fast." He grinned at the pained groan. "Maybe I should just
lay here and cuddle tonight, or maybe cuddling naked to torment you for a few more weeks." He
'eep'ed as Ares rolled over and pounced on him, making him shriek as he tickled him.

"You are such a tease," he whispered, leaning down to kiss the laughing mouth. "I should punish
you. Maybe invite Giles and Oz up here to sleep with us instead of all of us down there from now
on." That got him a bright smile. "Would you like that?" Xander nodded. "But you know that
means they'd get to watch if we just wanted to fuck like bunnies in the middle of the night."
Xander blushed, wiggling under his body. "Oh, does that thought bother or excite you?" he
asked, leaning down to kiss him again, this time ending up stretched over the seemingly-frail
body. "I do want you, you know. There was nothing more miserable than me after I screwed

"Was that an apology?" Xander asked, lifting his head to nip the moving lips.

"I don't apologize, you know that." Ares kissed him again then rolled onto his side, pulling the
immortal with him. "But we probably should deal with a few things. Yes, I overreacted when I
didn't let you explain. I should have...." Xander laid a finger across his lips, so he kissed it.

"I know, but it's good that you know now too." He smiled, removing his finger for a quick kiss.
"Bring our bed bunnies up here, I need to cuddle them."

Ares smiled, snapping his fingers, and the couple downstairs were instantly behind Xander, who
rolled over to hug Giles to him. The God of War had no problem pulling them all into his body
since Oz and Giles were still connected and Xander was holding on like he was going to lose them
again. He pulled the blankets up over them, sending out little kisses to each of them as the lights
went out. "Night."

"Xander," Oz said quietly, "did anyone ever tell you you had bad timing?" The immortal giggled,
then Oz moaned as a new hand found it's way around him. "Okay, I give. This wasn't bad
timing, it was good timing."

Giles groaned as he started to feel things behind him. "I had no idea we were going to do this
tonight. If I had I might have been a little more prepared."

"Shh," Ares whispered, "we're just being gracious hosts."


Oz woke up and looked at the person clutching him. "Xander," he said softly. "Got to get up."
He felt a hand rub down his stomach. "No, I need to get up and fix that before you do that." One
of Ares' hands came up and waved and suddenly he was in the bathroom alone. "Thank you," he
whispered, going on to do what he had to do.

Xander grinned wickedly, sneaking out of the bed and toward the bathroom, making it up behind
Oz and plastering himself against him before he could say anything. "Morning," he whispered,
licking over the relaxed neck. "Missed you," he said, giving the spot a kiss and stepping back.

Oz stepped away from the toilet, waiting until it flushed automatically, a remnant of Godly
Xander days, to look at the other immortal. "You're weird this morning." He got jumped on and
kissed, wrapping his arms as tightly around his friend as Xander's were around him. "Hmm, good
morning to you too. Why the attitude change?"

"I realized I missed you while I didn't remember you. When I finally realized why I was feeling
empty when I was alone, I remembered you and the lonlies were gone." Oz nodded. "Make

"Yeah, it did. We missed you too. We kept going over why we didn't tell you that we felt the
same way you do about us." They shared another kiss. "What about big and studly in the bed?"

"Well, both of them have been having at it for a while now so I guess that just leaves me as the
odd one."

"No, I never slept with Ares."

"No, silly, I meant with Giles." Oz tweaked his nose. "Thanks. Should we go wake them up?"

"Only if you want to slide into their sleepy bodies."

"Hmm, could. But you're not sleepy."

"Ah," Oz said wisely, "but I am. This is just a sleepwalking thing." He turned, heading for the
bedroom. "Don't take too long." He met Ares in the kitchen. "Are you actually getting us

"No, I'm getting me nectar." He slurped a piece then pulled Oz over to kiss him. "Why? Did you
want some?" he asked after swallowing.

Oz licked over his lips, eyes closing at the taste. "Hmm, I'd give up sex for that."

Ares laughed in the young immortal's ear. "That'd never happen around here." He led Oz back to
the bed, settling him in on the other side of Giles' still body, and laid the tray aside for later.
"Where's my consort?" he asked quietly.

"Humming in the bathroom." Oz frowned toward the doorway. "Why is he running water?"

"Because he thinks he needs it," Giles said. He opened his eyes. "Remember, he's not a god now,
he can't instantly clean himself." He smiled as he felt the hardness creep up his backside. "Ah,
good morning to you also, Lord Ares." He turned his head for a kiss. "Nectar?"

"Yes, nectar. Food of the gods. Sextoy of some of us." He gave Xander a wicked grin as he
walked back in. "Come lay down, pet, I want to play with you."

"Hmm, all of us? Are you sure we're ready for more than one on one and switching off?" He slid
in behind Oz, putting the small pot of lubricant onto the shelf headboard. "Giles, did you hear
what I told him in there? That I realized when I got my memories back that why I was lonely was
you guys?" The older man smiled, taking his hand to hold. "Okay, just one request, go slow with
me. Ares hasn't done all the breaking in and taming he needs to so I'm still a little skittish pony."

"No animals in bed," Oz said firmly. "Especially not horses." He rolled over, kissing Xander.
"That one on one thing sounded good though. You and me and let those two have each other?"

"Please," Xander whispered as he felt the warm hand encircle him. "No foreplay?"

"Next time," Oz told him. "This time is about cuddling. Switch places." He got behind the
slightly younger man, holding him tightly. "Just watch the old pros there go at it."

"I beg your pardon," Giles said with a smile. "I am not old nor a pro at this. I just have a fair bit
of experience." The last word was squeaked as he felt a wet finger invade him. "Ares," he
moaned, pushing back. He joined hands with Xander as he was filled slowly so his Godly lover
didn't have to stretch him so much. He pulled the young immortal closer to him, holding him
while Ares rocked in and out of his body.

Oz looked down at them as he worked a finger in and out of Xander's body. "You two look
comfy. You sure you want to do this now?" His lover groaned, squeezing his finger. "Okay."
He withdrew it and Xander started to roll over. "No, just going for more lube," he said quietly,
slipping two fingers in. "I'm not leaving you."

Xander nodded, closing his eyes. "If you're not comfortable, we'll gladly just hold you," Giles
told him gently, brushing his lips with a kiss.

Xander opened his eyes, frowning. "I'm here and not complaining, right?" Giles nodded, smiling
at him. "Then I want this."

"Want me to go slower?" Oz whispered. Xander looked at him and let him see the emotions
racing through his eyes. "Okay, slower I can do," he said, withdrawing one of his fingers.

"Two was okay, good really," Xander protested and the extra finger was put back. "That's nice,
thank you."

Oz shared a look with Giles, then surrounded his lover with him. "We're here for you this time,"
he whispered, licking the delicately pinkening ear. "I'm not letting you go or be hurt. We take
this as fast as you want it."

"Xander, get over it," Ares said, stopping his relentless pounding into Giles to look at his consort.
"I'm not going to hurt you, they're not going to hurt you. No one in this bedroom right now will
ever hurt you." The young immortal shivered at his intense look. "Do you want me to come over

"Stop it," Oz warned. "It's a natural thing to not feel comfy with this." He rubbed his free hand
down Xander's side. "I'm not sure I would ever have sex again after being blackmailed then
having a bipolar relationship with you." Ares glared at him. "Well, you did."

"Think of it this way," Giles soothed, "how long did it take him to allow you into him?" That got
a small grunt. "He's just as careful now as he was then. Neither Oz or I are shocked at his

"I'm okay, this is just different," Xander told them. "I'm not used to having one person who really
wanted me so three is, like, wow." He smiled at Giles, using their joined hands to trace his
bottom lip with a finger. "I just need slow, I'm okay with the subject, really."

"Good, then it's settled," Ares said. "Oz, take him and get him comfortable with us." Xander
shook his head. "No?"

"No, I want this to be special too, just as special as it was when you first took me." Xander
smiled hopefully at him. "It was, to me at least."

"It was to me too," Ares said warmly, smiling at him. "I can understand that. Just hurry up. I
want to have you too."

"You have Giles," Xander told him, squeezing his friend's hand. "You can have me later. This is
mine and Oz's time now."

Oz nipped the back of Xander's neck. "How special do you want it and what sort of special
would you like?" He withdrew his fingers, earning a little moan of protest. "Would you rather
we be alone?"

"No, I want to cuddle Giles while you make me feel nice and loved," Xander said, turning his
head to give Oz a kiss. "I don't know what's missing."

"Or what feels strange and unusual?" Giles suggested. Xander looked at him then nodded
suddenly. "Could it be that your powers are missing? That you've only really done this while you
were a heavenly being?"

"Well, mother sent enough nectar for all of us, it's her method of quiet suggestion these days."
Ares smiled down at Xander, until he felt someone with power coming in. "Damn! Privacy!" he
yelled at the body he could feel land outside the bedroom door.

An older, more weary looking Xander walked in, smiling wanly at them. "Later, Ares." He sat
on the foot of the bed, looking at them. "If you continue on this path, you'll all die, I was sent to
fix it."

"You're not Dahak?" Ares asked.

"Scan me, you can tell I'm not," the other Xander said, opening himself fully to inspection. Ares
nodded, pulling himself out of Giles and getting all of them dressed with a thought, getting up to
get his things so he could go fight. "Unfortunately, this is a bad situation. I'm not supposed to be
here, the Zeus from my timeline has a godly version of Alzheimer's and he's not seeing a
problem." He coughed lightly, taking off something he wore and handing it to Ares. "You'll

Ares looked down at the simple pendant, the one he had given Strife when he had come of age,
and felt his stomach drop. "It wasn't fixed?"

"No, it wasn't fixed. Dahak's not contained. What I did beat him, but now he's going to focus on
me and start destroying the Gods to get back at me, the way you bound him wasn't good enough."

Xander groaned, holding his head. "Another time thing?"

"Another time thing," older Xander said. "The Fates told me where the line unraveled and I'm
here to fix it, with your help." He smiled at his younger self. "I could let you go on, but then
you're going to end up without a lot of people. Ares was taken first, by surprise ambush on the
mortal realm. Cupid and Strife went to help him and Strife went after him within minutes, he
jumped in front of the person who would kill Cupid. Cupid's been in bed but he's not getting
better." He took a small breath. "Hades said they never made it down there."

Ares mumbled something and sat down. "How do we fix this?"

"We go back and stop this from happening." He tipped his head back, closing his eyes. "Cupid,"
he whispered. The God of Love popped in and looked at them, then at the other God. "Come
here, I need your help to fix things. Otherwise everyone will die."

Cupid walked over, reading the God's mind. "All right. I'll go back and talk to me." He

Ares handed back the pendant. "You'll want this." He looked down at Xander and blew a kiss.
"Later." He disappeared too.


Ares walked into his bedroom, seeing Xander looking at a small pendant in his hands. "Why do
you have that?" he asked. His older self had told him what was going on but he also said he had
to talk about it or else he would lose the young god forever. He walked over to his lover, pulling
him onto the bed to sit beside him. "Why do you feel the need to take the last piece of my
nephew from me?"

"I want to find him for you," Xander said, looking up at him. "It was supposed to be a surprise. I
wanted you to have him back so you'd be happier."

"I'm perfectly happy," Ares said, giving him a kiss. He took the pendant, looking down at the
small words he had had Hephaestus engrave on it. "I miss Strife, but I'd rather have you." He
waved the pendant away, turning back to his consort. "If you find him, I'll gladly take him back
but not today. There's going to be a problem soon and I'm going to need your help." He gave
him another kiss. "Go get your sword, the one I had made for you, and go tell Giles and Oz how
you feel." The younger God blushed. "Go, they know, they feel the same and I'm going to
encourage it." He leaned back, relaxing as his consort left in a muted flash of light. He closed his
eyes. "Please let this work."


Ares and Xander felt the portal opening, both looking at the other and teleporting down to
surround it before whatever could get fully into the world. Ares felt his stomach plummet when
he saw Strife, every molecule in his body calling on him to reach out to him. He walked up to his
nephew and hugged him.

Xander looked at his other self then at the man his lover was hugging. Something tickled the
back of his mind, making him scan the God his Ares was holding so tightly. "Ares! Get away
from him!" He walked over, separating them. "Scan him, he's not the same Strife that wore that

Ares started to complain but did as his lover asked. He felt himself go cold. "Dahak," he
growled, pulling his sword. "Xander, get out of the way, he's mine. Take Wyvern with you to
tell Cupid."

"No, I'm staying." He created a small pendant, tossing it at the warrior that had come through the
portal. "Think of Cupid," he called, matching Ares as he faced off against the Dark God.

"I said you!"

"Shut up!" Dahak laughed and Xander glared at him, lunging forward to kill him. "Stupid thing,
why didn't you just leave?" They matched swords, Xander backing up to get out of Ares way.

Ares got into the fray with a small yell, hacking and slashing at what he could reach, Xander
moving in synch with him effortlessly.

Wyvern appeared in front of a winged man and fell to his knees. "My Lord Cupid, Ares sent me
up here to tell you to attend to him."

Cupid frowned at the mortal. "How did you get up here?" The pendant his other self had given
him was shown to him. "Damn, where are they?"

"On the beach where the portal that brought me was. Ares called Strife Dahak."

Cupid blanched under his tan, patting the mortal on the head. "You did good. Come on, we've
got to tell the others." He helped him up, popping them into the meeting place, calling the other
Gods in. "Dahak's back," he yelled when people started to complain. "Xander and Ares are
trying to fight him now." Hades flashed out, followed by Athena. Cupid looked at his mother.
"Protect him, Xander's marked him as Ares'." He grabbed the sword his mother sent him, heading
out to help. He got to the beach and Xander looked at him.

"Where you been?" Xander asked.

Another Xander, an older, harder version, walked up to him. "Go find your son and his bindings.
It's important and only you can do it," he said quietly. "You won't win unless you have them."

Cupid didn't know what was going on but he trusted this other God for some reason, going to do
as he was bid. He flashed into the yard where the split-off part of his son was, looking around.
"Where's your keeper?" he asked.

"She no be here," the dark haired child said, looking up at him. "Me go too?"

"Yes, you'd better." He grabbed both of their hands, taking them back to the beach, sending Bliss
to his son's body so they could be rejoined, he could feel Hera starting the spell to do so. Cupid
looked down at the dark haired child. "Who are you?"

Xander, Ares' Xander, walked back toward them frowning the whole way. "Ares is trying to
protect me. Hey, buddy." He reached down and ruffled the kid's hair. His mouth fell open.
"Strife?" The little boy nodded so he looked up at Cupid. "That's Strife."

The other Xander popped out of existence.

Cupid looked at him. "You're sure?" Xander nodded. "Okay then." He looked down at the
child. "Become yourself again," he said, waving a hand.

Strife grew, standing in front of them. Xander calmly pulled a piece of nectar from the air,
handing it to him. "Here, you need it more than I need a snack." The God of Mischief grinned at
him. "Welcome back to the family." That got a confused look. "I'm Xander, Ares' consort.
You're his favorite nephew so therefore you're mine." He hugged him, stepping back and handing
him his sword. "He won't let me fight."

Cupid shook his head. "You both need to do it." He handed Strife his sword, giving Xander back
his. "I'll send fireballs." And he did.

Xander nodded toward the fighting and Strife nodded, both of them rushing back into the fray.
They flanked Ares on either side, both of them attacking Dahak at the same time, in time with
Ares throwing a fireball. The Dark God screamed in pain, going to his knees. He looked at
them, then fell over.

"Hades," Xander called. "He's down, bind him." He pulled Ares away from the fight, healing his
wounds, deep and minor both, kissing him gently the whole time. "Be okay," he whispered. He
held out a hand and Strife walked up to them. "Cupid found him with Bliss," he whispered,
getting out of the way.

Ares focused on the God in front of him, his breath catching. "You're really Strife?" The God
nodded, grinning, and punched his arm. The God of War laughed, hugging him. "Yeah, you feel
right." He looked over his nephew's shoulder smiling at his consort and his son, who were leaning
against each other. "We're going back to my temple. Meet us there." Xander nodded. They
flashed out, leaving the other Gods to deal with Dahak.

Xander glared down at the body being bound. "Guys? Is that going to work this time?" Hades
glared at him. "Never mind. Giles!"

The immortal walked out a rock face, smiling as he handed over a box. "I do believe this would
hold him nicely. Ares said it could be used."

Xander leaned closer to his ear. "How do I do this?" He flinched as the Dark God started to get
free and made a sudden decision, sending his power into Giles' body. "Take it, you know this
stuff better than I do." He stepped out of the way, letting Cupid hold him while he fed Giles his

Giles opened the box, chanting softly as he touched Dahak's chest. The bound god started to
glow even as he started to scream, becoming less solid by the minute and flowing into the box.
He shut the lid, sealing it as tightly as he could so no one would ever open it unknowingly.
"Hades," he said, handing it over. "Bury it in the bottom of the Lethe."

"There's a special little lake where all the rivers come together, it'll be buried on the Lethe side of
it as deep as I can get it." He took the box and left.

Xander grinned at Giles, holding out a hand. "Come on, we need to go fix a few things." They
held hands, allowing Cupid to take them up to Olympus. "Hera," he called as they appeared in
front of her. "How's Bliss?"

"He's fine." She looked up at them and frowned. "Xander..."

"No, this should be his. I've always felt like a fraud, going to him to help me solve everything."
He pulled Giles closer to him. "Yeah, the supernatural used to flow around me but I was never
tapped into it. He did all the magic stuff, I just fought the physical demons." She smiled. "Could
you give him my job and give me a different one?"

"He wants one under me," Cupid said.

"No," Ares said, popping in with Strife. "He wants one under me."

"Ares, kitten, I'm always under you," Xander reminded him, "but I'm not into the whole war and
fighting thing. I'd like something under Cupid, maybe."

Ares smiled at him. "Just so long as I still have you."

"Oh, yeah, I'm not leaving," Xander complained. "Never again." He looked up at Cupid.
"Doesn't mean you're *getting me* getting me, understand?"

"I wouldn't even try to take you away from Ares," Cupid told him with a small pat. "Why would
I mess up one of my best creations?" He dodged his father's fireball. "Hey! Be happy, you're

Xander grinned. "Having more troubles with the wife?"

"Yes," Cupid groaned. He rubbed his face.

Hera clapped her hands once and everyone looked at her. "Thank you. Yes, Rupert, you shall
become the God of the Paranormal. We'll find a spot for Xander under Love's banner, and Cupid,
your wife's problems can easily be cured. I will allow you to divorce her as she's made you so

Bliss flew out, smiling. "Gramma," he yelled as he ran into her, kissing her.

"Yes, hello to you too," she said with a tolerant smile, hugging him and allowing him to sit in her
lap. "It's good to see you fully back together again." Hera looked up at the Gods around her.
"He's fully himself again. Cupid, do pick a better mate this time."

"He wants Strife," Xander said. Ares growled at him. "Hey, there's some changes up here and
I'm leaning against the guy."

Oz coughed lightly. "Xan, give it up, you suck as a matchmaker." He walked up behind him,
rubbing over his back to take the sting from the put down away.

Strife smiled at Cupid. "I could do with a keeper."

"No," Ares said. "You're staying with us."

"But Unc..." he whined.

"Dad," Cupid whined.

Ares threw up his hands then pushed Strife over to Cupid. "For now, and I don't want to have to
hear about it!" he said as he disappeared.

Xander grinned up at the taller God that was his new boss. "I looked at the old times and saw it."
He winked at Hera, then followed Ares home, bringing Oz with him, knowing Giles could follow
on his own now. They landed beside Ares on the bed, hugging him. "Hi," he said happily.

Ares opened his eyes to look down at him. "You had to start them off again? Do you realize
how they'll drive everyone else insane?"

"Like you two did?" Oz asked. He kissed Xander, ending up clinging to him as the kiss
deepened. "Hmm, liked that. Why the change?"

"I love you both. I wasn't ready before to say it but I am now."

"Cool. We'll be gentle with you until you're ready to give yourself to us." Oz lay his head down
on Ares' stomach, getting comfortable. "See why you liked him so much now."

Ares grunted. "I'm going to have to get used to you cuddling me to death, aren't I?" he asked
dryly. He shook his head at the nod. "Fine," he sighed, smiling. He pulled Xander up, kissing
him hard. "Go play with him for now. I'll have you later."

"Yes you will," Xander whispered against his lover's lips, then went down to cuddle next to Oz.
"He does have a comfy tummy, doesn't he?" he asked his fellow cuddler.

Giles smiled from the doorway, taking a picture. "Cupid asked me to do that." He walked in,
laying beside Ares, kissing him. "Good morning, my Lord."

"We're equals now," Ares reminded him. "What was Xander given?"

"No one's sure yet. They pulled out this basket of scrolls and Cupid is looking through it with
your nephew. They'll choose it for him." He reached down to stroke over the back of Xander's
head. "I do feel the same as you do," he told him. "Though I can understand why we're all using
Ares as a pillow, his muscles do lend themselves well to pillows." He laid his head on the strong
shoulder, allowing himself to be held also.

Xander looked up with a wicked grin. "I hope I'm not the Lust God again. I'd hate to leak that
all over the house."

"That's one way to keep Ares from working," Oz quipped. He winked at Giles, who laughed.

Cupid popped in with Strife, both smiling. "Yes, you will be the God of Lust, and fill in for all
the other pesky stuff I don't feel like doing," Cupid told Xander. "Consider yourself a God of

"Smut?" Xander suggested.

Cupid laughed. "Yeah, you can be the God of Lust and Smut. Better?"


"Does that mean he's over all those horny teens?" Giles asked as he brushed up against Xander's
body. "All those teens fighting so hard to make it through a day without hiding in the bathroom
to cure their lustiness?"

Cupid smiled down at him. "He's God over sex, and lust, and smutty thoughts. Oh, and porn
falls into that too. Which is way cool because I really don't need it."

Strife hit Cupid's bare chest to clear the smirk. "No, you don't." He handed a scroll to Oz,
grinning. "Hera noticed that you took over the kid's old job of updating everyone. She said that's
you." He looked toward Cupid and winked. "We should go before Xander starts to radiate."

"Too late," Cupid whispered, kissing him. "I won't have him back too late," he called to his father
as they left.

Ares groaned. "Those two will kill us all yet."

"But the world will have a lot more happies," Xander declared, pulling his head up to look at his
consort. "So, God of War, is it going to be a problem for you to date the God of Lust?"

"No more than it was the last time." He smiled. "Attack them, I need a nap. A good battle
always gives me this nice calm feeling."

"What about the human?" Giles asked. "The one that came through with Dahak."

"He's with Hera," Ares said with a yawn. "She called and told me a minute ago." He snapped
and a tray of nectar appeared. "Here, play and eat, all of you."

Oz unrolled the scroll and groaned. "No," he moaned. He tossed it, frowning. "Why did she do
this to me?"

"Because you deserve it," Xander told him, kissing him gently. "You've been doing the job beside
me and you're well suited for it. And she didn't want us to have any inequalities between us." He
ran his hand down the flat stomach. "Wasn't there something else in there?"

"A music thing. I get to be over young musicians."

"Like Dingoes were?" Giles asked. Oz looked up and nodded. "Then you should understand
them very well." He smiled down at the pair. "You two need to play and get comfortable."

"Yeah, the God of Lustiness shouldn't be uncomfy sharing his specialness," Oz noted, leaning
over to kiss Xander. As it got deeper and deeper, they ended up laying on top of Ares, who
groaned as he was forced to watch them.

"Get off," Ares complained, trying to move out from under them. "In a bed this big you'd think
you two could find another spot to do that." He succeeded in getting them off him by standing up
and glaring down at them.

Xander pulled away from Oz's mouth, grinning at his first lover. "But you were comfier than any
old mattress. And warm, and you liked it."

Ares smiled at him. "I may have liked it but I wanted a nap." He held a hand out. "Giles, let's go
so they can cuddle."

"I think I'd like to stay and cuddle them also." He smiled, patting the bed behind him. "I'll shield
you from them if you'd like." Ares climbed in behind him, closing his eyes as he wrapped his
arms around the newly minted God's body. "Good night, Ares, rest well."

"Only if they're quiet," Ares muttered. "Xander yells."

"I do not," Xander protested, until Oz took control of his mouth. "I would if you asked though,"
he whispered, going back to his in-depth survey of the inner surface.

Oz pulled the younger man closer to his body. "Shh," he whispered, licking over the swelling
lips, giving the bottom one a light nip. "No waking Ares or he'll be grumpy."

"And a grumpy kitten is one that needs taken care of orally," Xander quipped with a small grin.
He plastered himself against his friend's body. "Can we do this?"

"Which this? Kissing this or the other this?"

"Both this?"

"I can do that, but only if you strip us." Xander grinned and stripped them both with a thought,
bending down to lick over Oz's throat. "Hmm, nice."

"I can do more."

"I'm sure you can, but only if you want to." Xander raised his head to look into the gray eyes.
"Really, nothing unless you want it."

"Then can I have some lovin'?"

"If that's what you want." Xander nodded. "Okay then." Oz grabbed the pot of oil Giles handed
him, dipping a finger into it. "Why don't you learn me while I open your body?"

"Because I want to taste you?"

"We can do that. That's the whole purpose behind sixty-nines." Oz grinned as Xander got up,
lying down again on top of him, legs spread around his head. "Hmm, can taste too," he reminded
him, taking a lick of the younger God's cock as he anointed the area around the hole he could see.
Xander moaned, pushing back to get another lick so Oz rolled them onto their sides. Now he
could lick, pull back some to tease, and see what he was doing, as well as help Xander if he
needed it. "You okay down there?" he asked after a second.

"I'm fine," Xander murmured, taking a small, delicate lick of Oz's cock. "Um..." Oz removed his
hands, letting him move. "I'm ..." A slippery finger went across his lips. "You really don't

"No, I don't mind," Oz told him. "I actually expected that to be a thing for you." Xander nodded.
"I'm not him, and neither's Giles. We would never force you to do anything."

Ares snapped his fingers. "There. Quiet."

Xander looked at the God of War and glared, and apparently Ares felt it because he rolled over.

Oz shook his head, looking up at Giles for support and sanity. The older man handed him a piece
of nectar, then nodded at the tense body, so he used the springy substance to brush over Xander's
nipples and stomach. When he had a limp body under his hands, he laid the younger man down,
tracing the path with his tongue. "Let me do this part," he told him, going back to playing the
nectar around the nicely rippling stomach muscles. "I never realized how built you are," he said in
appreciation as his tongue played with all the little lines that separated the muscles. He had a
squirming mass under him now, and Xander's full attention, so he crumbled the nectar over the
heaving stomach, bending to lick the first piece off. The taste exploded in his mouth, making him
gasp as the lights went off behind his eyes. "Wow." He felt a finger tracing over his cheek so
opened his eyes to look at Giles and Xander as they watched him. "Seriously religious
experience," he told them. Xander nodded, smiling at him. "I'm one now, huh?"

"Yup," Xander said, kissing him, "but you need more so you're stronger. Bliss can out-do you
right now." He licked over a piece of the nectar, biting off a small section and kissed Oz to pass it
to him. "Want me to feed it to you?"

"If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to lay here and enjoy it." He quickly slurped the rest of the little
bits off Xander's stomach, laying back in Giles arms so the younger man could straddle his hips
and feed him. He accepted the next piece and kiss, licking over the swollen lips. "You eat too,
you've not any today."

Xander swallowed the next piece, humming in appreciation as the warm feeling ran down his
throat. He bit off another piece, bending down over the body he loved, dropping the little piece
of orange jiggly stuff into the waiting mouth. "This is fun."

"But slow," Oz added. He picked up the next piece, looking at the little flecks dotting the opaque
mass. "Wonder what that is? I thought nectar was clear."

"Don't know." Xander looked at it, then took it into his mouth, letting half hang out so he could
share it with Oz. He quickly swallowed that one, leaning up to share that piece with Giles. "Like
feeding you guys."

"And we both are enjoying it," Giles told him, "but maybe you should concentrate on eating
instead." He picked up a piece of nectar, slurping it down, earning a frown from Xander. "No,
we should eat. Food isn't a sextoy."

"Is too," Xander countered. "It's a good one." He picked up the last piece of nectar, brushing it
over Giles' cock, grinning when he gasped at the cool but warm feeling of the nectar against him.

"Yes, I believe I do," Giles said, pulling Xander up to kiss him, handing Oz the nectar since he
was under Xander's stomach.

Oz got a wicked look as he took the nectar, using it to rub the youngest man's cock as he bucked
against his face. "For me?"

"Yes!" Xander moaned, swallowing, closing his eyes as Oz took him into his mouth to gently lick.

"Wouldn't stop even if there was a sudden war," Oz told him when he pulled off for a breath.
"This is where I want to be."

Giles slid out from under them, sitting on his knees to help hold Xander up, stroking over his
stomach as he let Oz suck from underneath him. "Is this all right?"

"Don't ask!"

"Shh, we're fine," Oz told him, licking over the cock, sharing a look with Giles. The older man
nodded so he worked his way down the wet cock.

Giles pulled the pot of lube over to him, spreading some of his fingers. He gently entered the
youngest man's body, using his thumb to gently open the entrance. He heard the little gasp and
the rapid breath catch so moved faster, switching to two fingers without warning. Xander
moaned, pushing back against him, almost ready to sob and beg for it as he was stretched open.
Oz reached around, using his fingers so Giles could prepare himself, holding the cheeks open as
Giles positioned himself and started to slide inside the tight body. "Oh, yes," he moaned, moving
deeper in one steady push. He looked up to see Ares watching them. "He is so very tight."

"I know," Ares said. He moved to hold Xander up so Oz could escape from under him, pulling
him against his body and across his knees, hugging him while he held him up. "Shh, Xander,
relax," he told him. "Let it be special."

Giles smiled, pulling out and pushing back in in long, slow strokes. "Tell me if you'd like
something faster," he whispered, steadily going into the youngest God's body.

Xander nodded, head against Ares' neck as he was taken, eyes closed so he could enjoy it. He
wasn't ashamed of the small tears that leaked out, they were purely from happiness. He
whimpered as he felt the older man slow down. "No, more," he begged quietly.

"I was going to take a turn," Oz told him, kissing his cheek. "You doing okay?" Xander nodded.
"You sure?" He brushed off a tear. "We love you."

Xander opened his eyes, pulling himself up to kiss him. "I love you too, that was just an
incredible feeling." He looked at Giles, who was looking at them. "No more from you?"

"Later," Giles assured him, holding out his arms, mimicking Ares' body position. "Let me hold
you?" Xander nodded, scooting over to lean against him. "This is nice," he admitted, "I think I
could learn to enjoy this position." Xander nodded, taking a lick of his neck.

Oz slicked himself up, moving into position and slid in slowly. He used little half-strokes, almost
teasing with how gentle he was. He could hear the quiet moans so pulled out all the way and
slammed back in, giving him a good ride, making Xander go limp again. "Just relax, let us do all
the work to make you feel good," he whispered. He adjusted his position so he could use what
Giles had been, slowly invading. Giles shifted, instead of sitting on his knees he sat cross-legged,
spreading them a few inches before pulling Xander around them, pulling their bodies into close
contact. He sat on his feet, giving Xander a better roost. Oz scooted up to get into a compatible
position, able to go deeper now and Giles able to rub his and Xander's cocks together with each

Xander breath started to hitch and he clutched Giles tighter, quietly going over the edge from the
dual stimulation. He blindly kissed the older man, keeping his eyes closed. "Look at us," Giles
requested, brushing over the swollen lips. The brown eyes focused on him. "It's simply us," he
assured, pulling him closer again as Oz started to move again - having suspended at the first
tremor of orgasm. "Let us do this for you, pleasure you." He nodded at Oz, who moved a little
harder and faster.

"Touch him," Oz whispered, leaning closer to kiss Xander's lips. "I'd like to see you do that."
That got a small smile. "Do you want us to move?"

"No," Xander whispered, squeezing Oz painfully where he lay in him. "Don't move."

"I won't then, just release those tight muscles." Xander nodded, relaxing as he ran a gentle hand
down the older man's chest, down into his lap. "Pleasure him because you want to," Oz reminded
him. "We'd be happy if you just wanted to lay there."

Xander kissed Giles', softly working his way deeper as he stroked where they lay together. He
wiggled his butt, silently urging Oz to start moving again. "More," he said when he came up for
air. "Please?"

"All that you can handle," Oz assured him, starting move a little faster. "You call our shots."

"Take me?"

"Aren't we?"

"Harder," Xander said with a small grin, looking back at Oz. "Deeper and faster would be okay
too." He sighed as the slightly older man worked himself deeper, setting a good, strong rhythm.
"Good, like that." He possessed Giles' mouth again, diving back inside of the warm cavern to
tease the roof of his mouth, squeezing his cock lightly.

Giles groaned, grabbing him, rubbing his back as he got deeper into the motions of love going on
around him. "Xander," he sighed as he came, closing his eyes. He felt warm, strong arms going
around him, relaxing into the body sliding up behind him. "Thank you, Ares."

"I want to take your place. Oz, hold him up so I can get under him." The young men stopped,
Oz pulling Xander down onto his lap, making him moan. Ares lifted Giles out of the way, gently
laying him on the bed so he could watch them, and took his position, pulling Xander across his
lap. "I never considered doing this with you," he whispered as they kissed. "Just relax, I won't
hurt you either."

Xander nodded, squeezing Oz to make him start again. "More?"

"Anytime you want," Oz assured him, shifting closer so he could get deeper. He nodded Ares
down to the hard, dripping cock, and the God of War nodded, shifting so his rubbed against it.

"OOOH!" Xander yelled, closing his eyes again, clinging as each thrust Oz did pushed him down
into Ares' cock, which sent a shiver up his spine, which Oz kissed as he pulled out. He started to
shake as he got closer again, reaching down to stroke Ares in time with Oz's motions, panting as
he squeezed the cock in him.

"Xander," Oz moaned, clinging to him. "Not much longer," he promised, moving faster and
harder. He reached around to play with both cocks, resting his weight fully against the younger
man's back. Ares moaned at the new weight and the hand on him, speeding up and forcing Oz to
keep up.

Xander came again, his breath catching and stopping for a second. His spasms started Oz's
orgasm off, and the sight and feel of them set Ares off, making him moan loudly. The elder god
held them up, letting them rest against him as they all came down. Xander sighed as Oz pulled
out, pulling him closer for a kiss. "Thank you," he whispered, pulling him down to lay entwined
with him, his legs between the slightly older man's. "Yours," he promised.

"I know," Oz told him, brushing down Xander's back, shooting a grateful smile at Ares. "And
I'm yours."

"As I am," Giles said, moving up behind Xander's back and wrapping them both in his arms.

Ares smiled at his lovers, covering them all as he laid behind Giles, looking at the God's watching
invisibly in the corner. He subtly waved them away before falling asleep with a smile on his face.

Strife looked at Cupid, mouth open. He got a small kiss so swallowed hard. "I didn't know," he
whispered, hugging his lover tightly. "He's good for him then. I'll gladly stand up for Xander, no
matter what he does." The God of Love nodded, giving him a small smile as he popped them
back to his temple. "Wow."

"Very wow. Those two started out fighting it very hard, well Xander did, but Ares eventually got
worn down over simply dominating him." Cupid laid them on his bed, kissing Strife gently.
"That's what's been making Ares happy. And the rest of us are happy because Kitten is happy."

"Kitten? Ares calls Xander kitten?" Strife asked in amazement. Cupid shook his head, laughing.

"No, Xander calls Ares that, his Kitten of War. It was to make Ares stop calling him pet." He
hugged his lover to him. "I want one-tenth of what they share." They shared another kiss. "And
now I have it."

"Why was Xander so insecure?" Strife asked, pulling back. "Do I need to go curse someone?"

"No, I think Giles did, but you could ask him later." Cupid got up, unlacing his pants and pushing
them down, stepping out of the skin-tight leather. "Strip, Strife. It's been too long since I felt you
against me."

Strife grinned, jumping up and stripping as fast as he could. He looked down at his body. "I need
to decorate it again."

"I'll help you do that later, but only if you promise to be gentle on my wings when you take me."
The God of Love laid down on his stomach, waving his butt to entice the younger God. "Come
on, I know you want it."

"Oh, I want it," Strife told him, spanking the firm, round mounds, "but I think you need more of

"Yeah, spank me." Cupid howled in delight at each tender reminder of love they shared. By the
time his ass was red, Strife was more than ready to take him, and Cupid was ready to beg for it.
"Babe, please," he moaned, preparing himself mentally.

Strife grinned, pulling a tube of modern lube out of the air, putting the small bottlemouth into
waiting hole and squeezing some into it. "How's that?" he asked as he pulled it out to squirt some
onto his fingers so he could prepare himself. "Want me to be gentle?"

"Only on my wings," Cupid moaned, spreading his legs more. He felt the push against his hole.
"No working me up to it?"

"Shh, I'm pretending you're a virginal little thing." He slowly pushed through the barrier,
spreading his lover open as he went, inch by inch so he wouldn't tear him. When he was finally all
the way in, he kissed between the pure white wings. "You're so tight this way, almost as pure as
your wings, my little debauched angel." He pulled back and slammed into Cupid, making him
howl as he did it repeatedly. Strife worked his lover hard, not showing any of the tenderness that
they had seen Ares use with the newly made gods, just using him as hard and as well as he could.

Cupid screamed Strife's name, his wings sticking straight out as he came, then flopped down,
everything going limp at once. Strife grinned, grabbing the hard hips and pumping in a few more
times, shooting off himself with a bite between the wings. He laid his head where he had marked
his lover, falling asleep there. The God of Love laughed, closing his own eyes. He would get
Strife back later for that bite.


Ares walked into his spot at the meeting his father called, sitting tenderly. He looked across the
viewing pool, smiling as his son sat just as slowly, trying hard not to laugh at the hickeys and bite
marks that were openly worn. He watched as Strife smugly took his place beside him, reaching
over to pat his shoulder.

Xander walked out to his new seat, stopping to kiss Cupid's cheek and say a quiet, "No more
voyeurism or no sex this week." He smiled at Hera as she walked in, then at Giles and Oz as they
took their new seats near Hades.

Hera cleared her throat. "I'm glad this family is finally working again," she said with a pleased
smile. "Zeus would be here but he's not feeling good." That got a small frown. "It's nothing to
worry about, we just have to announce the newest positions." She motioned and Ares' three
consorts rose. "You know them already but Xander has changed over to Cupid's service after
giving Rupert his duties, and Oz has graciously accepted the position of updating all of us to the
modern world." Everyone clapped politely and they sat down. "Now then, there is one more
thing. Hades?" He stood up, patting Giles' shoulder as he walked past him. "Did you take care
of Dahak?"

"He's somewhere very difficult to get too and only I and one other person know where." She
nodded. "Was there something else?"

She nodded, her face going very hard. "Yes, I would like to know why you were sleeping with
my husband."

Hades choked. "Me?"

Xander cleared his throat, standing back up. "Is this something that I need to look into? Cupid
said sex was under my job now."

She shook her head. "No, not unless you're under someone being very pregnant." Xander shook
his head. "Then don't worry about this." He wisely sat back down.

Hades shook his head. "I wouldn't touch Zeus, you know that. Why would I want to?" She
frowned at him. "And who's supposedly pregnant?"

"I am," Athena said as she walked out to join Hera. Everyone looked at her spot, which was
empty, then back at her. She tapped her mother on the shoulder. "It wasn't him. I can read
power signatures, even now." She glared at Ares. "It was him."

Ares stood up. "Wait a minute. I wouldn't sleep with Athena if someone paid me." He waved at
Xander. "He can tell you where I was for every second of the last week."

Giles stood up. "As can Oz and I for most of it. Has someone tested the child to see who's it is?"

Athena glared at him. "I know who I slept with."

"No, he has a point, niece," Hades told her. "You have a specific birthmark, anyone who's slept
with you would be able to describe it." She nodded. "Have him describe it."

"He would lie!" Hera said angrily.

"Not with us scanning him," Hades assured her. "Artemis, you scan us all, especially him."

"Um," Xander raised a hand. "I know what it looks like. I, um, accidentally caught sight of it one
day when we were walking. I was looking down and she walked over a puddle." He blushed.
"Sorry, Athena."

"Then he's excused," she said. "I'll be more careful about that." She looked at her brother.
"Describe it!"

Ares glared at her. "All I know is that it's supposedly on your inner thigh, the right one."

Artemis shook her head. "His mind speaks the truth and I didn't hear a sign that someone knew
what it was."

Athena crossed her arms across her chest. "Then who has a power signature near his that could
have done this?"

"Discord and I both have one close to Ares," Strife said, "but neither is that close." He looked at
his Uncle. "Though, there is one other..."

"He wouldn't do it," Ares told him, waving him away.

"Who?" Hera asked, taking her seat, waving at everyone to sit.

Ares retook his seat, shrugging. "I had a son once, an immortal one. Evander could have done it
as our powers were almost identical unless we were physically in battle."

Xander snapped his fingers. "Nemesis' son?" Ares nodded. "What happened to him?"

"He's still living," Ares temporized, "but I'm not sure where."

Giles walked up to the scrying pool, activating it by thinking of the immortal. He waved Ares
over, showing him the picture. "Is that him?"

"I haven't seen him since he was an infant, his mother refused me access. He's been with ..." he
cleared his throat and Hera nodded. "Unless he came up here without any of us knowing, I can't

Athena looked at the image. "He's almost your twin," she murmured, concentrating on the power
signature. "It's close to that but not quite exact."

"Could he have a son?" Giles suggested.

Apollo stood up. "I can find out. Each of our children's birth's are recorded by the Fates since
the Xena episode." He flashed out and everyone waited the few minutes he was gone. When he
came back, he was frowning. "It was his son, born last decade. He's just a teen." He handed the
scroll over to Athena, who nodded.

Ares took it, looking at it. "He's only fourteen, Athena, you can't kill him."

"No, she won't," Hera said. "It would harm the child. It's bonded to it's father."

"Then how do we help her?" Oz asked. Artemis patted his arm with a small smile. "Can we
switch it over? Connect it to a surrogate father?"

"We could," Hera temporized, "but who would raise the child?"

"I won't," Athena said firmly.

Xander looked into Ares' eyes, seeing the knowledge there. He glanced at Oz, then at Giles, who
smiled as he stood. "I think we would have the strongest house here and the most absolute
influence to raise the child."

"He raised me," Strife piped up. "The first time anyway." He glared at his mother.

Ares bowed to his husband. "If she wills it, I will take the child as mine," he said formally,
gripping his sword, his sign of office. "My consorts all agree to it."

"My child would need a mother," Athena sneered.

"Why?" Strife asked. "I didn't have one."

"You're not the best example," she mocked.

Xander glared at her. "Leave Strife alone, it's not his fault his mother's a ho." Discord sent a
fireball at him and he deflected it back at her, making her pop out. "The four of us together
should be a good enough mother. If not, then we'll import one. I don't want another child to
grow up feeling unloved."

Athena nodded at him. "Good. I'll accept them as surrogates for my child."

Discord popped back in, mouth open. "You're going to let *Ares* raise your child? Is she ill?"
she asked Hera, who waved her off. "You let Ares raise *my* son and look how he turned out."

Xander glared at her, tossing a fireball at her. "Strife is *fine* and a *decent* God. He actually
gives a damn about his fellow Gods. I'd shut up now." She screamed in anger, heading for him.
"Come on, I beat uglier things when I was mortal."

"Discord!" Ares yelled, stopping her cold. "You will not ever harm my consorts, nor act to harm
them by chance, nor will I *ever* hear a bad word from you about Strife. I wholly agree with
Xander about Strife, I'm proud to say I raised him. If you're not proud of how he turned out,
maybe you should have been more careful." He turned to Strife, smiling gently and holding out a
hand. "Will you help me with this one?"

"Sure," Strife said, standing up and stepping up to get a hug. He was shocked when he felt
someone hug him from behind, turning to see Xander and Giles, Oz off to the side and not having
enough room to get in. "I'll gladly help you raise her."

"Her?" Athena asked, frowning. "It's a boy. Apollo said so."

"I'm getting female thoughts too," Xander said, shrugging. He let go of Strife, hugging her. "I'm
sorry," he whispered, "but we'll good to it, no matter what sex it is."

She patted his face. "I wouldn't allow a girl to be raised by you." She turned to Hera.

Hera shook her head. "I wouldn't allow that child to be raised by you at all," she said dryly. "The
child, when born, will become part of Ares' household. It will be well loved and cared for and
you can take as much of an interest as you want." Athena nodded her assent, though she was
frowning. "Relax, daughter, I'm sure a child would be inconvenient for you. Let them do it."

Athena smiled as she sat down. "Yes, mother."

Xander looked at Hera. "Was there something else? Otherwise we should go make plans on
where to put the child since the only room on the main floor is a wind tunnel." She waved them
away so they all disappeared, Strife and Cupid in tow.

Hera smiled at her daughter. "That is an interesting way to keep Ares from bothering you,
daughter, but I will not allow it to happen again. I like his consort, the main one." She stood up.
"Leave us." She left the area in a dim flash of light.

To be continued...

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