Consensus, Concerns, and Counting.

Xander managed to get to his feet, shaking his head. "I don't need them." He called a nearby
sword to his hand then yelped as it burned him. "What the hell is that?"

"Oh, did I forget to mention that all of my weapons are useless against me? That all of them are
set to turn on you and destroy you if you try to harm me with them." He waved a hand at the
burned palm. "Pity, but next time you should ask before you try to steal someone's toys."

"You're twisted," Xander said, backing away from the hand reaching for him. "And you're not
touching me. You're not worth the mental agony to fight."

Dahak laughed, his head tipping back. "Oh, boy, you seriously underestimate me." He lunged,
catching Xander's arm to pull him closer. "You're the real prize here, you only need to fight if
you want to."

Xander shook his head. "Sorry, don't think so. You have *nothing* that I want." He got loose,
staring him down, sending out a mental touch to all of his lovers, hoping to be able to reach one.
He found a small, dully shining contact in his mind and touched it, relaxing when he heard Strife's
mind on the other end. He sent what he knew, not focused enough outside of himself to dodge
the roundhouse punch to his jaw.

"Stop that!" Dahak ordered. "You might as well forget them, they can't find you, they won't find
you, and they're not going to come for you anyway. Their whole pantheon was grateful when you
lost your powers and they'll be just as grateful that you're gone now." He tried to grab the God of
Lust again but missed, Xander dodging around him and kicking him in the back. "Oh, so you
want to play, do you." He shot a fireball at the younger God, only to have it reflected back at
him, stronger this time. "Ooohhhh, goody, someone finally took your education in *hand*," he
purred, stalking after his escaping prey.

Xander ran out into the hall, looking at the doors lining it. He sent his powers out, just like Cupid
had taught him, to check each of the doors, trying to find a way out. When he saw all of them led
back to the hallway, he kept running, turning down another corridor of doors. Everywhere he
checked was doors that led nowhere. He shuddered, calling his powers to him, trying to escape
that way, only to end up on the floor, groaning in protest at the pain running through his back.
"Okay, no good," he told himself, trying to heal the pain, which made it worse. He let his mind
flow back into the old methods of coping with pain, the ones he hadn't used since he had left
home, getting up as soon as his mind had cleaned up the messiness. He looked at the doors,
judging them on purely physical means. He turned, checking the other halls he could see. He
could hear, faintly, someone else's footsteps so opened a door to go through it. He ended up in
another hall, getting frustrated very quickly. He paused to gather his resources around him,
letting the action calm and soothe him, allowing his mind to go back to a time before he was a
God, before he was Immortal. Before he was even a Slayerette and survival was harder. His eyes
narrowed and he moved to another door, opening it to look inside.

His attention kept being drawn to one door in particular so he headed for it, opening it to find
another hallway, but it was different colored. His instincts didn't want him to go so he closed the
door, heading for the one that least called to him. It was another hallway but his inner voice said
that was the right one. He walked through, looking at all the doors in the closed-off corridor. All
the doors looked the same this time, so he slowly turned to examine each one, ending up going
back through the one that had brought him here, but ending up in a different place. Now Xander
was ready to lose it and start screaming his frustration.

Dahak watched it all from his scrying pool, smirking in amusement. "I'll go rescue him in a few
minutes, he'll be ready by then." He sat back, soaking up all the anger the young God was
sending out.


Strife stopped Ares with a hand to his arm. "I heard him." He looked around. "Now I don't, but
I did." He looked at Cupid. "Go find Hades, tell him we could use some help." The God of
Love popped out and Strife turned to Ares. "Discord took him ta Dahak; she's got a broken neck
and it's not instantly healin' either."

Ares growled. "Where are they?" When Strife shrugged, he grabbed him and shook him.
"You're a God, trace the damn signal."

"I can't, it stopped," Strife said. He glared at his Uncle. "Trust me, if I knew where it was
comin' from, I'd already be there." He searched out the small light that was his step-uncle, trying
to find a way to trace him. That's when he felt Ares enter his head and he ran into Dahak's
shields. "Damn it," he said, pushing Ares away. "It's hard enough ta do this without you trying
to crawl through me." He walked away, searching for the place that matched that wall. And
there was only one place on Earth that had that much negative energy. Sunnydale. He looked at
his Uncle, nodding before he disappeared, sure he would be followed.


Dahak waved as his expected guests joined him. "Slow as usual," he said in greeting. "Go home,
you can't have him, he's mine."

Ares shot a fireball at him, or tried to, his magic having been damped as soon as he walked in.
"Oh, yeah, this is fun," he said, pulling his sword. "Come on and fight me, Dahak, you know you
don't want him."

"No, I want him." The God of Chaos smiled. "Go home, Ares," he said, waving, sending the
God of War away. "You too." He tried to remove Strife but he just looked at him. "Hmm, a
most unusual occurrence," he said, trying it again, getting back a little tingle. "Oh, no wonder,
you're one of mine." He shrugged. "You can't have him either. Go play with Ares."

"I'm *so* not yours," Strife said quietly, crossing his arms. "Don't think I won't call a higher
power ta deal with ya."

"Eh? Try." He waved a chair over. "Sit, watch the child enjoy his prison for a few more minutes
before I have *fun* with him."

Strife shuddered at the sliminess in his voice. "Not." He blasted Dahak, ignoring courtesy rules
about how to treat other Chaos Gods, taking his pent-up aggression out on him. "Ha," he
cheered when he knocked him over. "Such a wimp." He sent another one before Dahak could
get up, trying to immobilize him long enough to get Xander out of trouble. He could just barely
see the scrying pool, wincing at all the doors. "Just wait, Unc, I'm comin' for you," he
whispered, getting his full mind into the fight now.


Ares popped in before his Mother, panting and rubbing his sword arm. "Discord took him to
Dahak." She frowned at him. "Dahak has Xander."

She waved her hand, negating the idea. "He's under the Lethe." She sipped her tea.

"No, he's not," Zeus said, popping in. "I just checked with Hades, Discord has been down there
and he was freed somehow. Someone drew the box up without touching the river." He looked at
his son. "I'm sorry, Ares."

"Oh, no, I'm going to get Xander back. There's no way I'm not going to get him back." He
flinched at the weary sigh his father gave him. "You can't let him stay."

"And it's obvious he's found a way to get past our powers."

"Yay, and?"

"You're sounding like him, bro," Aphrodite said as she popped in, handing him something. "Heph
said to come give this to you."

Ares looked at the mirror and smiled. "Yeah, this just might do." He blew a kiss her way, going
back to the recreated gym of Sunnydale High School. "Oh, Dahak," he called, getting his
attention. He flashed the mirror to send the ball of energy away. "Cute, but not cute enough."

Dahak laughed. "Oh, parlor tricks. Can I play?"


Xander went through one last door, the last one he had patience for, and found himself back in the
original hallway. He could hear familiar voices but his mind wasn't processing any modern
information other than he was free of the maze. He walked back down the hall, stopping in the
doorway when he saw others fighting what should have been his battle. He grabbed a sword from
the wall, ignoring the pain it caused but welcoming the stimulation to his system. He pulled a
trick he had learned from Xena many centuries ago when he had been merely immortal, flipping
into the air to land behind Dahak. He slashed at his back. "Stupid fucker," he told him, smiling
cruelly. "Think you could trap me somewhere with just doors? How dumb do you think I am?"
He kicked the God of Chaos off the diaz, flipping after him to land in front of him. "Come on,
fight me, bastard, it's not like you're gonna win."

Strife stopped, looking at his friend, and he could truly call Xander a friend now. He saw the
smoke coming from his hands as the sword heated up and imagined the pain he was in; but he
knew pain could be as much of a help as it could a weapon, and it looked like Xander knew that
and was using it to his advantage. He stopped Ares from entering the fight. "Nah, let him. We'll
back him up."

Ares looked down at him. "Why? He's not able to..."

Strife shook his head. "You can only hurt Xander by takin' this on for him. Let him fight it out."
He saw the firm resolve turn into a wall in the black eyes. "Hey, hate me or not, it's his fight and
he's capable of winning." He pushed Ares away.

Xander was circling with the God of Chaos, sneering now. "What's wrong, Dahak, gonna cry?"
He lunged forward, making a shallow cut on the god's chest, then backed away before it could be
retaliated. "Wanna call for your mommy?" He did it again, this time putting the cut on the other
god's neck. "Ooh, poor baby."

Dahak screamed and lunged for the taunting God, but he was turned aside. He did it again, and
was again pushed away. "You're an annoying bastard, Xander. Do you even have a mother?"

"Yes, or at least I was told I was born. We'll see some other time." He smiled brightly. "Unless
of course, you want to claim my father as one of your followers."

Dahak snorted. "Not even I'm that cruel to children."

Xander frowned. "Why does everyone know what he did to me?"

"Because he watched," Strife called from a safe distance away. "Didn' you, Dahak?" He tossed
Xander his sword. "Here, less pain."

Xander nodded, tossing him back the sword he was using. "Keep that for me." He turned back
to his opponent, who was wearing his father's face now. "Cute trick. But it won't work." He
danced forward suddenly, taking a long, undercutting swipe, just like he would hit a homer with a
bat, coming up under his chin. "Bitch," he spit on the head. "Now you'll get what you deserve."

Ares stepped forward, showing the head it's reflection, and it screamed, starting to smoke. It
turned to stone, making him smile. "Thought so, it's the Gorgon's mirror." The rest of the body
fell forward, breaking into little pieces. "YES!"

Xander looked at the pieces then at the sword in his hand. "Wow, stronger magic than I have."
He dragged the blade over to it's owner, leaning against Strife's tense body. "Who're you?" he

"I'm your nephew," Strife said, patting his back, wincing as the blood-soaked shirt stuck to his
hand. "Come on, we've got ta get ya healed."

"Can't leave," Xander said quietly. He looked around, then at the one prominent decoration in the
room, a gold statue of Dahak. He growled softly, heading for it, and cut off it's head too. The
wall around the room fell and Xander could feel his usualness coming back to him. He winced as
he felt Ares' not-real-pleased touch to his mind, misinterpreting it, and figured quickly that he
didn't want a fight right that moment. He flashed to the only Ares-free space he could think of,
landing in the back of Jack's backpack, already shrunk so small he wouldn't notice just as he
walked through the Stargate.

Ares looked around the room, trying to follow his lover's mind and powers. "Where did he go
this time?" he asked, frustrated and ready to turn it on Strife. "Well?"

"Don't know," he said, popping out to go for Hades. Maybe he could actually keep Dahak sealed
up this time.

Ares popped to his temple, dropping the mirror into a chair and falling onto his couch. "He'll
come home soon," he told himself, staring at the room and waiting until it happened.

Strife brought Hades back to where Dahak had been defeated, watching as he gathered up the
pieces. "Any idea where Xander went?" he asked Hades casually.

The God of the Underworld looked at him, then smiled. "He's with a worshiper." He gathered
the rest of the pieces, sealing the box as tightly as he could this time. "We'll bring this to Heph to
bind, go get the mirror in case we need it." Strife nodded, popping out, and Hades put a mental
call out to Heph to meet him at his mortal forge. He didn't want to chance letting Dahak near

Strife popped into his Uncle's temple, behind the chair with the mirror in it. "I'm takin' this back
ta Heph." Ares waved his hand. "What's he done this time?"

"He *ran*," Ares said calmly, meaning he was about to explode.

"Wou'dn't you? Ya were vibrating your anger toward him." Strife wisely popped out with the
mirror, barely getting away from the bolt of energy from his Uncle's hand. He handed the mirror
to Hephaestus, watching as the silver box was put on top of it and sealed with molten silver.
Soon, the mirror and box were obscured by a large puddle of silver, then they were put into a
mold, more pure silver being applied around it until it was in the shape of a barrel. They watched
as the barrel of silver was covered with molten iron, a good six inches thick of iron. They all
stepped back as Hephaestus cooled the iron magically, sealing the box in forever, they hoped.
Then they worked together to send it somewhere that no one would ever consider, to a man in
San Francisco who would understand the significance of the warning they attached and make sure
Dahak never got out again.


Jack grunted as his backpack started to feel heavier. He pulled it off, sitting it on a rock to look
inside of it, one eyebrow going up at the sight of a little man sitting inside on top of his extra pair
of socks. "Out," he said quietly, not wanting to call attention to either of them.

Xander came out, looking around. "Sorry, I'm running away." He gave Jack a small look. "I'll
go back when you do," he whispered, glancing at the group, who were now looking at him.

Jack shook his head, grunting in disgust. "Just stay here," he said finally, putting back up his pack
and rejoining his group. "Why are we standing around?"

"Who's that?" a pretty blonde woman said, pointing at Xander. "And how did he get here?"

Jack looked at Daniel, silently urging him to come up with a lie. "Sam," Daniel told her calmly,
"that's on a need to know basis. Let's just say he's special and leave it there, okay." He turned her
around, pushing her down the trail they had been following. "I agree, stay there," he called,
heading after her. He gave Jack a small look, getting a worried one in return. "He'll be fine,"
Daniel assured him. "He is what he is after all."

"Yeah, and he smells like blood." Jack retook his position of rear guard, following the rest of his
team to go explore this new world.

Xander looked around, slowly coming back to himself and realizing he was sticky. He thought
about using his powers to clean himself but since he couldn't be sure how his powers would work
here he decided to get up and go look for a stream. He found it about the same time he thought
he heard Jack yell his name. He knelt down beside the stream, pulling up water with his hands to
rinse his face off, then pulled off his shirt with a wince, splashing the cool water down his sore
back. "This sucks," he told himself, getting onto his back but hanging that part of him over the
water, leaning farther and farther back until the water ran across it's back without his help. He
sighed in relief as the cool substance eased the aching fire that was his back.

"What the *hell* are you doing?" Sam asked, jogging up to him. She snorted as he went back
farther than he had wanted and came up coughing. She reached down, pulling him into a sitting
position. "What's wrong with you? You don't know what's in that water or whether it's harm..."
She stopped when she saw the bloody drips of water running down his side, pushing him forward
to look at his back. "What happened? And who had the skewers? JACK!" she yelled, bringing

A tall, very dark skinned man walked through the brush towards them, a gold emblem buried in
his forehead shining in the muted sunlight. "What is wrong with him?" He looked at the injuries.
"He has been in a great fight with a creature that had very sharp claws. He was right to want to
wash the injuries." He looked up at her. "Help me rinse them."

She stepped out of a running Daniel's way, letting him kneel in the soft earth. "I found him back
down in the river. Teal'c thinks he had a fight with a clawed creature."

Jack patted her shoulder. "Xander, want to tell us what's really up?" The God looked up at him
and yawned, shaking his head. "Do you want to tell us or do you want us to leave you here?"

"Here please," he said, popping his neck. "Ares won't yell at me here." He looked around.
"Where is here?"

"You decided to travel with us," Daniel said softly, handing Teal'c, the dark skinned man, his
handkerchief. "Here, wet it and let's go." He held the God steady while the other man wiped his
back off. "Why aren't you healing?"

"Tired," Xander said, leaning his head against Daniel's shoulder. "Just really sleepy. Sorry."

"No problem," Daniel said warmly, pulling him up. "Grab his shirt, we'll bring him back with us."

"You're going to explain this to the General?" Jack asked, calmly looking at the injuries. "What
did you fight with?"

"Dahak." Daniel almost dropped him. "Sorry."

Jack shook his head, handing Xander his shirt. "Put it on and let's go. We have about a half-hour
walk back to the gate." Sam cleared her throat. "We'll tell you some day, just ... ignore him." He
started off, adjusting his sunglasses as he walked. "Let's go, kids."

"Coming," Daniel said, making sure Xander didn't fall over and take a nap on the way. When
they were standing in front of the gate, he looked at Xander. "Could you crawl back into Jack's
pack again? It's going to be really hard to explain you away as a figment if the General or
someone sees you."

Xander nodded, shrinking and popping into the dark place. He snuggled down on the soft
material folded in it, closing his eyes.

Jack had Sam dial and they went home as quickly as they could, hoping no one saw the God of
Lust. He felt his pack getting heavier and jiggled it, hoping to stop Xander from coming out.
"Sir," he said, "we'll meet you up in your office." He breezed past the general, his back starting to
ache from the weight of the young God.

General Hammond, a portly, bald man, watched his favorite team walk down the ramp and knew,
somehow, that something was wrong. He didn't knew why he knew, but he knew. "Hold it."
Jack groaned. "What's wrong?"

"Too much water and it's working much faster on us," Daniel said quickly. "Ask Sam, she only
sipped a little." Their friend and co-worker nodded in their support.

"Teal'c?" Hammond asked, looking at the former Jaffa. "Would you like to add to their story?"

"No, sir, I would not. What Daniel said is true." He walked closer to Jack, brushing up against
the pack that was starting to bulge. "Maybe you should go now," he suggested.

The Stargate project's doctor walked in and looked at the team. "Everyone all right?"

"Just a water problem," Sam said, giving her a look, then glancing at Jack's pack.

Hammond was staring at the same thing. "Why is your backpack moving, Colonel O'Neil?" he
asked quietly.

"Well, there's a really good explanation, sir, but we can't give it down here. In your office, if you
wouldn't mind?"

"No, I mind. Tell me now or we're not moving at all." He was met by silence. "Okay, guards,
take their packs." He waved the armed guards forward. "Be careful, we don't know what may
have taken control of them."

The doctor walked over to the bulging pack, getting down to look inside of it, and promptly
gasped. Xander popped out of the restricting space, setting off a round of groans. He just snored

"Who is that?" Hammond asked quietly, and deadly.

"Um, sir, that's the reason we wanted to talk to you in private," Daniel said. "He's human, from
here. We found him there."

"Doctor, take him to sickbay, I want a full report in under ten minutes. Escort these people up to
my office." He glared at the team members. "Now!" Xander rolled over, showing off his
injured back through the wet shirt he wore. "Holy... what happened to him?"

"Fight, sir," O'Neil said quietly. "He heals quickly but he's not doing so now."

"So you do know this man." Jack and Daniel nodded. "The rest of you can go, you two in my
office now. I want explanations and they'd better be good."

Oz and Giles popped in beside Xander, Oz going down to look at him. "Had us worried sick," he
whispered, touching the sore back. "Come on, we'll take you home. Ares will want to deal with
you himself."

"And who are you two?" Hammond asked loudly.

"We are none of your business," Giles said formally. "This young man is ours and we'll be taking
him with us. Thank you." He picked Xander up, looking at Oz, then at the guards. "Some help
if you wouldn't mind?"

"Sure," Oz said, turning and blasting the guards surrounding them. "Feels good."

"Yes, it does," Giles said with fond tolerance. "Do hurry though, he's heavy."

"May I," Daniel asked, walking over. He took the God of Lust for a second so Giles could get a
better grip on him. "He rinsed his back in water but it wasn't local."

"We know about your project, it'll be fine, I'm sure." He smiled at the mortal. "Don't worry,
Xander is nearly indestructible. Oz," he said in frustration. "Quit playing and let's go. Before
*he* shows up."

"NO ONE'S GOING *ANY*WHERE!" Hammond yelled. "Who are you people?" he
demanded. He turned on his co-workers. "You'd better have a damn good explanation for this
stunt, both of you."

"Um, sir, privacy?" Jack suggested again.

"No, we're doing this right here."

"Sir," the doctor said, pushing her hair behind her ear. "He's injured, I should take him to

"Then do so, Doctor Frasier." He saw the glare starting on the younger, redheaded man. "Take
him with you. He seems protective. See if you can't get some information." She nodded,
motioning for a guard to take the sleeping man.

"Touch him and die," Oz warned quietly. He took Xander from Giles. "Think about it." The
doctor gave him a startled look and they all disappeared.

"Wonderful," Jack muttered. "Sir, Xander's, well, he's a special kinda guy."

Giles snorted in amusement. "That's an understatement if I've ever heard one." He patted the
colonel's shoulder. "Xander is the same as I am, and we're over top of these two. They're
actually Xander's people but that's a much different story." He looked at the General's reddening
face. "Shouldn't you lie down," he suggested. "Before you have to visit your own doctors?"

"In my office," Hammond said, trying to sound reasonable. He waited until the three men, or
whatever, had left. "Search their packs, I want to know what else they brought back." He slowly
walked up the stairs, giving himself some time to calm down, until he was truly calm and ready to
listen when he walked through his office door. "Now then, start at the beginning."

Giles smiled at him from his seated position. "It's rather quite easy. Xander and I, and Oz, are all
Gods." Jack groaned and Daniel sat down on the table. "What? You wished me to lie to him?
You've both taken the truth rather well, I should think that he would also."

General Hammond closed his eyes, sitting down in his own chair. "At least that makes sense,
even though I know it doesn't." He looked at Jack and Daniel. "Would you like to add to this,

"No, sir," Jack said. "He's got it well in hand." He looked at Daniel, who nodded. "You do?"

"Yeah, I think we should clear up a few things. I pray to Xander, and Jack and he get along. And
if you remembered a few months ago, you met him when you had to come save us, General."

"Ah, yes, that incident with the pawns that he and Rayden destroyed," Giles agreed. "I had
forgotten that you were there. And you're both his pawns now, I see."


"In GodWar sir, it's a way for the Gods to decide who has control. Last time it came out to tie,"
Daniel offered hopefully. "Xander's over our existence, in whatever way, I don't fully understand
it either." The general waved for him to go on. "Well, Xander is, basically, our God. He's saved
us, he's a very decent guy." Daniel started to pace. "Today was just a fluke. He had been in
some sort of fight and he and Ares, his consort, were fighting so he wanted to hide. Apparently
we're safe people to hide with. He hid in Jack's backpack but he noticed and made him get out.
That's when he wandered off to the river, which is how we found out he was injured."

"The shrinking spell needs constant attention," Giles said. "That's why he started to change

"Makes sense, if you understand that sort of stuff," Jack added, "but why did he come to us
instead of going to..." His mouth was covered.

"Please don't say his name, I don't think we need *him* here. That would actually be quite bad."
Giles looked back at the general. "Xander is as much ours as he is *his*."


"Ares," Daniel whispered, glancing out the window and flinching. "Oh, no, he heard."

Giles teleported down to get between the God of War and the soldiers. "Ares, stop, this won't
help Xander any. He's beside Oz and you need to go sit with him." The other god glared at him.
"Please, my lord, go sit beside your consort, he needs to know that you're not mad with him or
else he'll leave again."

Strife popped in, eating popcorn. "Kid okay?"

"Yes, just a little marked. Hopefully he's healing now since he's resting." The God of Mischief
nodded, not moving. "Not going to go see him?"

"More fun watchin' Unc explode."

Ares shot his nephew a look. "Go find Xander for me," he said coldly. "I won't have him here
with them." He moved his arm away from Giles' hesitant touch. "You, don't even try it. I'm not
going to be soothed."

"I'm sure you won't, but these are your people. This is a military installation and you do need to
not kill them all," Giles said reasonably. He backed away as the stare got icy. "I was just upstairs
explaining Xander's presence to this group's leader, I'll go back to that." He popped out, heading
for the office.

"Ares!" Oz yelled as he walked in. "Stop it, I had to stop Xander from leaving again because he
thinks you're mad at him." He walked up in front of the God of War, staring back at him. "Go sit
beside him," he said quietly. "He needs you, not me."

"You," Ares said, pointing at one of the guards, "take me to my consort." The other guards
snickered. "Oh, think it's funny, do we?" He blasted the whole of the guards back against a wall,
knocking them off their feet, except that one. "Now," he said, his voice reaching polar levels.

"Sir," he said respectfully, "I'd need authorization. You know how rule-bound militaries can be."

Ares threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, I like you, that was very good." He walked around
Oz to look at him. "Take me to him now."

General Hammond's voice came over the speaker. "Do as he asks, we don't want more

The Stargate caught Ares' attention. "Hmm, alien metal, not very healthy." He looked back at
the soldier he had selected. "Did my consort go through that?"

"Twice sir, once each way."

"Then there may be problems. That sort of metal has been known to hold a form of radiation.
Oz, go get Heph to make sure the metal isn't radiating."

Oz snorted. "No." He looked over his shoulder as more soldiers walked in. "Strife, wanna do
your thing before we kill them?"

The God of Mischief waved his hand and all but three of those soldiers tripped over an invisible
something. "Better?" he asked, eating a few more pieces of popcorn.

"Much." He punched one guard. "I'd stop," he warned.

"I always thought ya were an Alpha protector?" Strife asked him.

"Only Theta where Xan's concerned." He looked at the last guard. "Twinkle toes, right?" he
asked, sending a small bolt between his feet, making it buck up under him.

"We've got to teach you to fight fair too," Ares said in disgust as he watched Oz's performance.
"Didn't anyone ever tell you to play fair?"

"Yeah, and?" Oz asked. "Do you?"

"No," Ares snorted, "I'm the God of War though, you're the God of Technology and Rock
Bands." He looked at his chosen guide. "Now."

The soldier motioned at the door. "This way please." They left the room.

Oz flashed up to sit beside Giles. "Hi," he said, stealing a small kiss. "Xander'll be fine. He needs
to eat, he needs to rest, and when he wakes up, he'll heal." He looked at the general. "And you

"I'm Jack and Doctor Jackson's boss, General Hammond. And you?"


"Does that come with a title perhaps? For both of you?"

"I'm Rupert Giles," he said, holding out a hand. "God of the Paranormal."

"Ah." They shook hands, and he held it out to Oz. "And you?"

"God of Technology and Young Rock Bands." He shook it. "Thanks for helping him."

"Well, I would like some sort of explanation. Including what your friend did to the guys

"Oh, that's Ares," Oz said, nodding. "He's like that."

"God of War, Ares?" Hammond asked. Everyone nodded so he looked at his subordinates.
"When were you two going to tell me about this?"

"When it became pertinent, sir," Jack said. "Did you want to know before then?"

"Well, it would have been nice to know that the God of War knew who my men were," he
suggested dryly, leaning back in his chair.

"Oh, he knows," Daniel said, "but we're Xander's minions. He's the God of ... what is it now,
Jack, lust?"


"God of Lust," Daniel said.

Someone knocked on the door then walked in. "Sir, on examination of the packs of SG-1, we
only found three non-regulation items. A tube of personal lubricant."

Jack raised a hand. "We needed it in case something got stuck, sir. It's happened before and
vaseline about saved us all."

"A few condoms past their expiration date," the soldier continued.

"No one's sure what our bodily fluids will do to a new planet," Daniel added. "And sexual desire
is a natural drive of life."

"And a few extra articles of clothing."

"Thank you," General Hammond said, waving him out. He looked back at Jack and Daniel,
saying one small phrase. "Don't ask, don't tell, gentlemen." He looked at Giles. "Should I be
worried about you all being here? Some sort of contamination or everlasting hostility?"

Oz nodded. "Ares said the metal the gateway was made of radiated."

"We've checked every spectrum we know," Daniel protested.

"But we don't know everything," Jack finished, giving Daniel a 'shut up' look. "Did he say how?"

"Just that Heph would have to look at it."

The God of the Forge limped in. "Someone called?" He looked out the window, whistling.
"Pretty work, but it's radiating, Ares was correct about it." He turned back to Giles. "You could
probably feel it, it's radiating on your spectrum."

"Then could I fix it?"

"No," Hephaestus said, limping over to stand behind them. "It's part of the metal, one of the
smaller mix metals they used." He looked at the men in the room. "They've been affected but not

"Will it hurt us?" Daniel asked, looking at him. "I mean, as mortals, do we have to worry about
strange cancers or anything?"

"No, just sudden switches. Under the right circumstances, you could end up switching to
something you're not." He looked back down at Giles. "Where's Xander?"

"In a bed," Oz said, looking up at him. "He was so tired he wasn't healing."

"Okay. If I find something I'll give it to you to give to them." He disappeared in a small bout of

Strife popped in, sitting on the table, popcorn gone now. "Unc's bein' mushy and that's no fun.
Hey," he said, nodding at the general. "See some things don't change in the military." He looked
at Giles. "He wanted both of you at home, now."

"Yay," Oz said. "When Xander comes home so will we."

Strife nodded. "I love you three, ya do half of my job for me." He gave them one of his
trademark giggles and popped out.

"And that was?" Jack asked quietly.

"Strife," Daniel whispered, swallowing hard. "God of Mischief."

"How'd you know?" Oz asks, turning his head to look at him.

"I, um, fell into a portal on a dig once, ended up in Tartarus. Spent three weeks with Hades.
Strife was there most of the time, Hades was trying to keep him busy so no one else would

Oz snorted. "So like him." He looked back at Giles. "I'm going to Xander, you?"

"Oh, I'll be coming in a few minutes I think." He gave him a wicked smile. "Just as soon as you're
ready." Oz nodded, popping out. Giles looked at the remaining men. "Is there anything else I
can answer for you?"

"Are we in disfavor?" General Hammond wanted to know.

"No, not in the least. Ares was just concerned about...." He stopped as the God of War popped
in. "Ares," he said warmly, smiling at him. "How is he?"

"Fine, he needs to eat." He looked at Hammond. "No, you're not in disfavor. I do understand
about secret projects, though we've known about this one since before it started." He looked at
Giles again. "Didn't I give an order?"

"One which I'll gladly follow as soon as Xander is at home."

"He's heading there now, between Strife and Oz." He looked over his bed bunny. "I'd follow it,"
he said, hand on his sword, his voice attempting reasonable.

"Of course, my lord, anything else I can do for you?" Giles asked, standing up and stepping in
front of the dark, sexy, dangerous leather clad body. He licked his lips. "Is there another task
you'd have me do?"

Ares smiled at him. "Go wait for your punishment," he whispered, blowing at the dark brown hair.
"Never defy my orders again, Rupert." Giles nodded, leaving. "Jack, where was he?"

"Another world. We can show you on a map if you'd like."

"No, that won't be necessary, I just need to check that he didn't get into any trouble."

"Unless something in the water would hurt him, no," Daniel said. "He just thought..." Ares held
up a hand. "Sorry," he said, looking down.

"I'm well aware of what Xander was thinking and we'll be talking about it later. Next time he
shows up, send him home. I don't want him traveling that way." Ares popped out, landing beside
his consort, who was sitting on the couch watching Oprah. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed?"
he asked calmly.

"Can't eat while I'm lying down," Xander mumbled. He looked up. "Don't hurt Giles, Ares, he
was just concerned about me."

"Oh, I won't hurt him but he won't do it again." He sat beside his lover, taking the plate of nectar
and putting it aside before he pulled the younger God into his lap. "Xander, you worried me this
time. I couldn't find you. I couldn't hear you. Only Strife could."

"I tried to call you, but he had this wall thingy." He looked into the black eyes, silently begging
for him not to be mad. "I'm sorry but you were gonna yell and everything."

"Shh," Ares said, laying a finger across his lips. "I wasn't going to yell at you. At Discord but not
at you. It's not your fault Dahak wanted you as much as I do." He kissed him gently. "And I
wasn't mad at you, no matter what your confused mind said." He gently touched the sore back.
"How did that happen?"

"I tried to teleport out of his maze and it tore me up. When I tried to heal it, it got worse."
Xander snuggled into the warm, broad chest. "I'm sorry if I worried you," he whispered, "I was
kinda on automatic, sort of like the pain just drove me to this place."

"I know," Ares told him. "It's not uncommon. We'll just make sure that you're never in that much
pain again. And Discord will be punished."

"Did someone get her?"

"Not sure," Ares admitted. "Asclepias?" he called. The God of Healers popped in 'tsk'ing at
Xander's condition and sending a wash of healing energy over his body. "Enough fussing," he
said. "How's Discord?"

"Hades did remember to call father to go pick her up, she's at his temple."

"And is Apollo helping or hurting her?" Ares asked.

"He's repairing the damage, Ares. She's to stand before Hera to answer for it."

Xander looked up at him. "Dahak had her wrapped around his finger. She dropped me to get a
kiss, that's when he tried to twist her head off."

"We know, we got it from her mind, Xander," Asclepias said quietly, sending a second burst of
energy over him. He picked up the plate of nectar. "Eat, you guys already keep me in enough
business for it to be a war zone." He popped out, leaving them alone. Until Oz walked out,

"Oh, naked boy," Xander said, opening his arms. "Want a hug from naked boy." Oz snorted,
sinking into his arms to hold him. "Shh, we'll be okay now. They fixed it."

"You fixed it," Oz told him, looking up. "You seem to have this hero complex."

"Better than an ego problem," Xander quipped, rubbing down Oz's stomach. "Wasn't I enjoying
you earlier?"

"No, you were enjoying my hands working your stomach." Oz looked up at Ares. "You wanted
to punish us?"

"Oh, very muchly, but I need to have you two alone for that." Xander pouted. "You can cuddle
them later. After they learn to call me immediately when it involves you." He kissed his consort
deeply, then set him back onto the couch. "Get a kiss from Oz and don't come in until we say so,"
he said, heading for the bedroom.

Oz shivered. "Righteous fucking," he whispered, stealing a few kisses. "Later?"

"Yup, just us three later, maybe. Unless Ares goes all territorial."

"We all do over you," Oz reminded him, standing up. "Strife will be out in a minute."


"He's trying to convince Giles to try bondage." He saw the shiver and smirked. "You gonna be

"Yeah, just a small happy thought." Xander grinned. "Broadcast, please," he requested.

"No," Ares said from the doorway. "This is between us. You and Strife talk or do something

"Yes, sir," Xander said, looking back at him, whistling when he saw the tightest of tight leather
pants on his lover. "Can you wear those later for me?" he asked.

"We'll see." He motioned Oz back inside the bedroom, closing and locking the door behind them.

Strife popped onto the couch beside Xander, removing the plate of nectar from under him.
"Here," he said, handing it over with a grin.

"Um, thanks," Xander said, putting it down. "Not sure I can eat that once you've become that
acquainted with it."

Strife snorted. "Things just like my butt."

"So I can tell but it doesn't mean I want to eat it after they've been acquainted." Xander looked at
the plate and waved a new one up, handing the old one over to Strife. "Here, your butt - you eat
it." He slurped the first piece, grinning at his nephew.

"Unc'd eat it," Strife said, holding up a piece and wiggling it in front of the younger God's face.
"He's not afraid'a my ass."


"Sorry," Strife said, still grinning. "But he's not. And you shouldn't be."

Xander leaned around the nectar and the arm that was holding it up, kissing the other God's
cheek. "Not gonna happen. He can be as unafraid of your ass as he wants to be but I'm still not
going to get into it." He sat back in his corner of the couch, eating the next piece slowly. "Eat,
you need it too. Or no bon-bons."

Strife shook his head, slurping up the nectar. "You are so weird, but you're a credit to the family
name." He subtly switched the nectar around, mixing the two plates up. Xander groaned and
handed over the other plate. "Bet ya can't tell," he challenged.

"Strife, I don't want to tell. I'm not into the whole swinging thing." He reached over to pinch the
pale cheek. "I know everyone else does the whole orgy thing but it's not who I am."

"Awww, come on, you'd have fun. I'm sure Cupie would love ta break ya in." He leered.

"Strife," Ares said from the bedroom door. "Hands off or go through what these two will be."
He smirked at the shiver. "And I'll leave you hanging this time."

"Oh, Unc, that's so *cruel*," Strife complained. He looked at Xander. "He's gotten much more
refined in his punishments since you got together."

"Yup," Xander said, nodding. "But I really don't want to be on the other end of them." He
looked over his shoulder. "Does this mean I can come in and cuddle our bed bunnies?"

"No," Ares said in disgust, tossing the cat towards them. "I'm just kicking out your cat." He
slammed the door, relocking it.

"Oh, well, guess we'll cuddle them later," Xander said, leaning into his corner.


Ares walked back in, looking over his two lovers where they lay tied to the bed. "Are you two
sorry yet?" he asked, stalking over to stand in front of them. They both nodded. "I'm sure." He
pulled of his vest, stretching up to show off all his abdominal muscles to their best advantage, then
his hands came down with a small, flat paddle. "Do I really need to give you the entire lesson,
boys, or can I skip this part?" Oz's eyes opened very wide, tracking down his body to his hardon.
"Yes, I am enjoying this." He leaned closer. "I really am. But I have to make sure that you're
never going to do this again." He stood back up, moving closer to Giles' head so he could brush
through his hair with the paddle. "Do you need this lesson also?" he asked quietly. Giles shook
his head frantically. "Good," he purred, making the paddle disappear. "Then I see I can progress
into the next phase." He disappeared, landing between the bound bodies. "Boys," he purred,
running a hand down Giles' back. "What did I tell you when we all got together?" He cocked his
head off to the side. "Oops, no answer?" he asked with a cruel smile. Oz grunted. "Oh, yeah,
forgot about the gags." He made them disappear. "What was that one thing that I asked you

"To protect Xander," Oz panted, and received a hard, punishing kiss for it. "Thank you, Ares."

"Nope, not done yet," he whispered, switching them around with his abilities. Now Giles was
laying in front of him, silently giving him a begging look that said how sorry he was. "Rupert," he
purred, "why didn't you call me? After I specifically *asked* you to tell me when Xander was in
trouble? As a matter of fact I know that you tried to keep me from knowing." He pinched a
nipple hard, earning a small moan of protest. "What was that?" he asked, tipping his head to the
side to listen better. "Did you give me an answer?"

"I just didn't want us to fight in front of the mortals," Giles said quietly, trying to bury his face in
Ares' chest. "It looks bad and they lose confidence in us."

"Ah," Ares said calmly, then he spanked Giles hard. "Don't ever try that again. And then, you
topped it off by disobeying a direct order of mine too. One meant to protect the whole family."
He spanked him again. "Maybe I need the paddle," he suggested when he didn't get the response
he expected.

"No, please, Ares, I won't disobey you again," Giles said, pleading. "I'm sorry I did so, I wanted
to stay with Xander and to smooth over the problems that his pawns were having."

"That's not your job," Ares reminded him, removing Oz to a chair and retying him to it without
lifting a finger, literally. He smirked down at his bed bunny. "I think you still need to learn
where your place here is." He looked up at Oz as he started to struggle with the bindings around
his chest. "Relax or they'll get tighter. You can have him back later."

"This is *so* unfair, Ares, all we were was concerned about Xan."

"Ah, but so was I, and you both purposefully let me think he was still missing." He held up a
finger at the returning protest. "How would you like it if I had done that to you?"

"I would have been upset but I wouldn't be torturing us about it," Oz said firmly. He glared at the
God of War as he got off the bed, swallowing hard when he loomed over him. "I wouldn't," he
asserted quietly. "I would bitch and complain, but I wouldn't hurt you for it."

"I'm not going to hurt you, Oz," Ares said, straddling his lap to kiss him passionately. "This isn't
about pain, it's about giving you a way to remember this lesson forever. There's no punishment
involved beyond you not being able to hold Giles while I pound him into the bed." He gave
another kiss. "Can you handle that much?" Oz shook his head. "No?"

"No, I need him," he admitted quietly. "You're scary like this." He didn't realize he was
broadcasting to the man in the living room.

"I won't hurt you," Ares whispered, releasing the bindings and pulling him in closer. "There's no
punishment here, just pleasure as a means of learning." He let the younger God pull back. "Not
even Xander objects to this sort of lesson. Okay?"

"Okayer," Oz admitted, looking down at the leather pants across his lap. "But I don't want to
have Giles hurt."

"I'm not," Giles assured him, walking over because he was released. He stole a small kiss.
"There's no real punishment here, Oz, I'm fine and you will be too." He got to his knees beside
Ares. "Can you put him on the end of the bed, that way he could be closer in case he needed us?"

"I could," Ares said, moving them all back to the bed. "Oz, go to the other end. Stay there."
The God of Technology nodded, heading for the foot of the bed. "Okay?"

"Fine," he said, curling up to watch, "but I still don't like the idea."

Ares leaned down, ruffling his hair. "Yay." He pushed Giles onto the bed, the top half of him,
and made their clothes disappear. "Now then, what was the lesson?"

"No," Xander called from the other side of the door. "You're not going to punish them for my

"Go sit down!" Ares yelled.

"No! It's my bad, you punish me."

Ares growled, glaring at the door. "Go sit down, Xander!"

"No, you punish me or you punish all of us."

Oz looked at Ares, giving him begging eyes. "Please don't hurt him either. He's already in pain."

Ares threw up his hands. "Oz, punishment isn't always about pain." He waved at the door,
unlocking it. "See, we're all fine, Xander."

"No you're not, Oz is a lot like me when it comes to punishment." Xander sat beside him,
cuddling Oz gently. "I'm going to be here, he won't be allowed to hurt you."

"Thank you."

Ares' eyes narrowed, and his mouth twitched. "Why do I think that you planned this?" Oz looked
at him and shook his head. "No?"

"We wouldn't do that to you, Ares," Giles said, turning his head to the side. "Xander wouldn't try
and get around your punishments."

"Yes he would," Ares said. "He's done it before." He shook his head, waving the clothes back on
them all. "Xander, I want your *promise*. No more ducking me and no more running away."

"I promise," he said softly, looking up, still wrapped around Oz.

"We promise not to let him come to harm, Ares," Oz said. "We're going to protect Xander."

"Ah, missed the point again. See, that's *my* job *too*." The God of War gave Oz a bland look.
"Do you see the point now?"

"Yes, but if he doesn't want you to know, then we won't tell you, no matter how much you hurt
us or give us lessons."

Ares shook his head, walking out to the kitchen.

Xander undid Oz's bonds, walking out after him. "You keep stuff from me and I have to accept
it, why can't you see that there are some things I don't want you to know about?"

"Because you're my consort," Ares told him dryly, not looking at him. "I'm supposed to care
what you do and whether or not you're hurt."

"Yeah, but aren't there times when you don't want me to know? Like when you got hurt in that
bar fight a few months back?" Ares turned, glaring at him. "See? Now you know what they're

"Yeah, I guess," Ares admitted in a light growl, pulling Xander into a hug. "Just don't do it again,
brat. Or else."

"Oooh, threatening me?" Xander asked as he looked up, hands moving to the single ticklish place
he knew of on the older God's body, attacking it mercilessly.

"Xander!" Ares roared, backing away from him. "Behave."

"You're supposed to be resting, dude," Apollo said as he appeared in the room. "You won't ever
heal if you don't rest." He glared at Ares. "Didn't my son tell you to make him rest?"

"Have you ever tried to make him do something?" Ares countered. "I can't even get him to

Apollo snickered, shaking his head. He waved his hand across Xander's face, knocking him out.
"Now you've got seven hours free. Put him into bed and go see Athena. She wants to know
what your mates have found to help her." He waved and disappeared in a glow of gold sparkles.

"Good," Ares purred, sending the limp body to the bedroom. "Apollo knocked him out," he
called. "Watch him, I'm going to talk to Athena."

"I should go also," Giles said, walking out of the bedroom. "I have a strategy to help her
overcome this obstacle." Ares nodded, giving the nude body a long look. "Oh, sorry about
that." He waved his own hand and was clothed as Xander would usually be. "I see his point
about this being comfortable. Come, let's go talk to Lady Athena." He disappeared, Ares
following behind him. Giles landed beside where Athena was sitting in her garden, giving her a
gentle hug. "Are you prepared to hear our theory?"

She turned to look at him, nodding.

"We've found that you can petition the other Goddesses to help, to give them back your virginity.
There are other virginal Goddesses and if you get them to agree to help you with this, then they
can return you to the state you were before you lost your powers."

"So I can regain my cardinal rule of my powers, I just have to get the three others to agree?"

"And Hera," Ares added. "You'd have Artemis' sympathy, and probably you would have
Hectate's. You just need one more."

"I think I could do that," she said, giving them both a smile. "I had no idea you two would stick
up for me this way."

"Of course I will," Ares said, giving her his best smile. "If the Goddesses are focused on you,
then they can't watch us." He waved and disappeared. "Call when you're ready," he sent back.

Giles smiled. "I could do the offers to gather if you'd like. Ask them if they would consider your
case? Give them the precedents?"

"Please," Athena said, standing up. "I'd like that." She patted the side of his face. "You're
apparently one of those men that women can trust."

"I'd like to think so," he said with a bow, leaving her alone in the garden.

"Of course I'll support you," Hera said as she walked out carrying the makings for afternoon tea.
"That only leaves one of the other, younger and more minor, Goddesses to agree."

"I think it'll be fine, Hera," Athena said, a cruel and devious smile coming across her face. "Did
you hear what Xander did this time?"

"Yes, but we're not going to keep picking on the boy. It's not his fault. He was raised wrong and
it's still showing." She sat the tea set down on the table, seating herself on the other bench. "Eat,
dear, you need your strength."


Strife hid himself in the main meeting area of the Gods of Olympus, watching the meeting

Athena stood before the other Goddesses, attempting her most humble expression. "I asked that
you hear my plea so that you may judge my situation."

Hera nodded. "We already know of the situation, Athena. What is it that you wish us to do?"

Athena put the book she carried down in front of them, opening it so that all could read the
words. "It's said that the Goddesses together can correct a great wrong done by one of them.
My unintentional copulation would be one of the greatest wrongs I've ever done. I've lost my
abilities and the other Gods are starting to lose theirs because I was over Wisdom. We're starting
to lose the accumulated knowledge."

Hectate, the Goddess of Magic, looked up blandly. "So you want us to undo your sexual act?"

"No, just to restore my virginity," Athena said quickly. "My child will be well taken care of, but
to regain my powers so that all may flourish again I need to be virginal."

"Ah." Hectate picked up the book to read the spell enclosed. "This seems simple enough." She
looked up. "What if it harms the child?"

"Then I'll mourn."

"And?" Hera asked archly.

"I'm sure Ares' family, who agreed to take in the child, would mourn also."

Hera nodded. "I have not a problem with this act."

"Nor do I," Hectate said, putting down the book. She looked at Artemis and the other six
Goddesses aligned around the meeting area. "What say you?"

"I have no problem," Artemis said, "even though my area of concentration has not yet been

"I have no problem," one of the young Goddesses said softly. "My father and I both agree that
her getting her powers back would be for the best."

"Thank you, Harmonia," Hera said, nodding. She looked at Athena. "Meet us in the moonlight
tonight." She clapped her hands, adjourning the meeting. She walked into the mists surrounding
the meeting area, disappearing back to her temple.

Athena waited until everyone else was gone to look at where Strife stood. "Watching for
someone?" she said coldly.

"Not really," Strife said, becoming visible. "Just bein' nosy." He sat down beside her, patting her
back. "After all, you're not the only one with illegitimate children." He disappeared, leaving her
alone to walk back to her temple.

Athena shook her head. "I hope Ares doesn't just spring that surprise on Xander. I'd hate to see
that blood bath." She stood up and started the walk back to her temple alone.


Ares snuck back into his temple, looking around to make sure he was alone.

"Missing someone?" Oz asked from the kitchen, handing over a sandwich. "How is she?"

"She's fine," Ares sighed. "How long have you known?"

"About as long as Xander has. He came to tell me to think by cuddles." Oz shrugged, taking a
bite. "Ah, got the corned beef right this time." He waved, heading down to the offices.

Ares took a bite of his sandwich, shaking his head. "I don't know what we're going to do now."

"Um, how about you start by admitting the truth?" Xander said from the bedroom, walking out to
look at him. "How is she?"

"She's fine. Six pounds, thirteen ounces. Very healthy and strong." He smiled. "And she looks a
lot like Deimos."

"Family resemblance." Xander leaned against the door, giving him an expectant look. "When do
we get to see her?"

"When her mother lets me have custody," Ares said dryly. "She's sick right now. I have
Asclepias watching over her case so I know what's going on. It was an accident, really, Xander.
I know I promised to tell you if it happened, but I didn't expect it to."

"I know." Xander headed down toward the offices. "Bring her home, Ares, we'll be fine. Even
with the upcoming census." He waved as he disappeared through the door.

"Yeah, I knew you'd say that." He disappeared again, heading down to the mortal plane.

Xander walked into Giles' work room, sitting down at the large table, a direct copy of the one that
the group had worked around back when they had all been in high school. "So," he said, pulling a
book over. "Kids?"

"Will be a welcome addition to the temple," Giles told him, giving him a smile. "We'll have to get
someone to take care of them for us when we're not all here but otherwise it should be fine,
Xander. Don't worry so much. He still loves you."

"Yeah, I know," Xander said, putting his head down. "I'm just not sure we're ready for kids here.
Athena's not going to deliver for a bunch of months. The closest we've come so far was
Harmonia, who's not that young."

"I'm sure Ares does know about children. After all, he's raised a few. Including Strife."

"Yeah, I forgot about that," Xander admitted, giving Giles a small smile. "Thanks."

"You're welcome, as always. Now, where did we put the classification book?"

"I think Oz had it last time I saw it," Xander said as he got up, heading out of the room. "I'm
going to check on the planned nursery." He headed back up to the room that had been added on
next to the bedroom, marveling at the open, non-breezy spaces, smiling when he saw Strife
looking down at the cradle. "Fond memories?" he asked, making the God of Mischief jump.
"Sorry. Ares' youngest was just born."

"I heard. He's really happy, huh?" he asked, turning to the man who might as well be his step-
Uncle. Xander nodded, still smiling. "You too?"

"I've never really been around kids. I'm sure in about a week I'm going to be ready to yell at Ares
for it, but I think we'll be okay once I get used to being woken up all the time."

"Yeah, maybe," Strife said, giving him a weak grin.

"What's wrong?" Xander asked, walking over to touch the side of the shaking arm. "What's up,
Strife, tell me and let me help you fix it," he said as he pulled the older God into his arms.

"I just got word that my favorite lady-friend is gonna die soon," he said softly. "I have twins."

Xander pulled back, looking at him in shock. "You do?" Strife nodded. "Okay. Are they
coming up here?"

"Yeah, but no. See, while I was dead, Deimos let me take over his body to be with her. So
technically they're his kids."

"Does he want to claim them?"

"Nah, and Unc would kill him if Deimos brought them up here. Not ta mention what everyone
would say. Hera's forbid him to breed."

Xander closed his eyes to think. "Then they're yours," he said, opening them to look at his friend.
"Claim them, Strife, and bring them up here."

Strife sighed. "I don't think I'm strong enough for that."

"Census," Xander reminded him. "They're supposed to be up here."

"Point," Strife said, grinning for real now. "And if they find out that they're orphans then no one
would really bitch. Thanks, Unc." He disappeared, heading down to look for his kids.

Xander patted himself on the back, grinning. Until he turned to find Ares standing there. "Oh,
aren't you a sweetie," he said, wiggling his fingers at the baby he was holding. "What's her

"Martna. It was her mother's name." Xander was instantly hugging him. "Thanks. Asclepias
came in while I was in the nursery. The tumor took her." He laid the baby girl into the cradle.
"There, Marty, that's your spot now. You'll be safe and loved."

Xander looked down at her. "Hey, Marty, yeah, you'll become spoiled real quickly." He
reached down to pull the blanket up over her wiggling body. "There, now sleep, sweetness." He
turned to look at Ares, simply opening his arms when he saw the sadness. "She's not in pain,
right?" Ares nodded, relaxing into his arms. "There's no more worrying and Hades will let her
look in on Marty."

"I'm letting her come up to take care of her."

Xander pulled back. "Okay." He shrugged. "It doesn't matter. The fact that she'll be able to see
her daughter is the important thing." He gave his lover one last squeeze, backing away from him.
"We're going to have some more family news soon too." He headed for the door. "Yell if you
want me to take a turn watching or feeding her."

"I will," Ares promised, looking down at his daughter. "You look a lot like Xena. Of course, so
did your mother." He shrugged. "It's a strange thing."

Xander walked out to where Strife was sitting, looking at the little boy. "Hey, you," he said,
squatting down to get on his level. "What's your name?"

"Melvin," Strife said, grinning. "We're five."

"Yup, I'm five and I'm happy to be up here and do I really have ponies and sisters and brothers,
though I really don't *need* sisters, I already have one of those." He took a breath and Xander
smiled at him. "Who're you?"

"I'm Xander. I'm your step-great-Uncle." The little boy looked confused. "You can call me Uncle
Xander though." He sat down on the small pile of dirt, helping the little boy make mountains out
of it. "So, you have a sister?"

"Her name's Maribelle," Strife said.

Xander looked up at him. "Tell me you didn't name them, Strife. That's mean."

"Nope," he said with a grin, "totally their mother's thing."

"So where's the sister?"

"The sister is missing," he said tightly. "So's the mother."

"Ah. Want me to help you look?"

"Nah, I got it. Can ya watch Melvin for me?"

"Of course. Oh, and Marty's back." Strife shook his head. "Martna is Ares' daughter. Her
mother just died so she's in the nursery. So's he if you want to go talk to him."

"Thanks. I'm gonna steal Oz." Strife waved and left, leaving them alone.

Xander stood up, holding out a hand. "I have a bigger garden if you'd like to come play in it. We
can even make mud."

"Mud?" the little boy asked, his eyes lighting up. "Mommy hates mud."

"She's not a boy so she doesn't understand." Melvin took his hand and he walked the child back
to his and Ares' temple, heading for the mandatory garden. He created a small puddle in the
center of a path, sitting Melvin in front of it. "There we go, get dirty."

"MUD!" Melvin yelled, jumping in the middle of it.

A blond version of Strife popped in behind Xander, making him jump. "Mud?" he asked.

"Deimos, right?" The blond god nodded. "I'm Xander. Do you know a little boy that doesn't like

"No," he said, then burst out laughing. "Ares is going to complain!"

"Nope, I'll just give him puppy eyes." He demonstrated them, blinking his big, sad eyes at his
step-son. "See?" He banished them, going back to his normal, mischievous expression.

"Wow, even better'n Strife's." Deimos looked around. "Speaking of my cousin, where is he?"

"Looking for Maribelle."

Deimos shook his head. "Okay. I'm gonna go help him. Can you handle the muddy one?" He
looked at the boy beating the mud into interesting shapes.

Xander snorted. "I was hyperactive. No big." He turned his attention back to the child, getting
down on a dry part of the path to help him. "Here, lets make animals."

"'Kay," Melvin said, handing him some mud. "You do one first?"

"Sure," Xander said, molding the mud as best he could into something long that had four feet.

"Cool!" Melvin said, looking at it in awe. "You're way cooler than a sister."

"Thank you."


Strife popped into the nursery holding a screaming little girl, giving Xander a 'help me' look. "I
don' know what's wrong," he said, handing her over.

"Hey, Maribelle," Xander said, sitting down in the rocking chair to wipe off her tears. "What's
wrong? Would you like to tell me so I can fix it?"

"Bad guys hurt Mommy," she said, nodding, clutching his hand.

"Mommy was taken inta Police custody," Strife said, squatting down to look at her. "Don't
worry, they won't hurt your Mommy and you and your brother can stay here for a while, 'kay?"
She nodded, pulling her thumb up to suck. "Maybe ya shouldn't do that."

"It's okay, it's comforting to her," Xander told him gently. "Melvin's over on the big bed, would
you like to lay next to him?" he asked her. She looked up and nodded so he got up and carried
her over to lay her next to her brother. "See, you'll be fine. He's here and we'll all protect you."

She smiled at him. "You're nice."

"Thank you," Xander said with a bow. "Why don't you sleep for now, and we'll introduce you to
everyone else at breakfast."

Ares cleared his throat. "Would someone like to tell me what's going on?" he suggested dryly.

"These are my kids, Unc," Strife said, standing up straight. "This is Melvin and Maribelle." He
got out of Ares' way so he could look down at the two children. "They're twins."

"Let me guess, he's the reason we have mud outside?"

Xander held up a hand. "My fault. All boys like mud."

"Very true," Ares sighed. "All right. Where's their mother?"

"Bad guys have her," Maribelle said softly. "Who are you?"

"He's Ares," Xander told her, "he's your father's Uncle. I'm Uncle Xander and he's Uncle Ares.
And that one," he said, ruffling Strife's hair, "is your daddy."

She nodded. "'Kay." She put her thumb back in her mouth, snuggling up beside her brother.
"We nap."

"Sure," Ares said, covering her up too. "You sleep. We'll come get you for breakfast." He
waved all three of the Gods out to the living room, where Oz and Giles were playing a racing
game. "Yours?" Ares asked dryly.

"Hades let me inhabit someone because I found a woman that I liked a lot. I didn't think it could
happen either but they're mine. If ya check, they have my powers and everything."

"Then they're part of the family," Ares said with a shrug. "I wish you had told me, I would have
given them their own room."

"They can sleep in the nursery," Xander told him. "The British do it all the time and it's okay for
their kids."

"Truly," Giles said, turning to look at them. "It's a rather old fashioned concept but it didn't seem
to hurt the children in any way."

"Then we'll leave them in there until the census is over," Ares said firmly. "Strife, I want the

"Leave it," Xander told him softly. "Strife's their acknowledged father."

Deimos popped in, handing Strife a bowl of buttery popcorn. "Bliss wants ya for a while."

"Cool," Strife said, looking at Xander.

"Go," Xander told him. "I was watching the kids tonight anyway." Deimos stared at him. "It's
okay, really. They aren't that demanding." He winked at his step-son. "Go have fun, I'll be up all

Deimos nodded and left, leaving Ares looking very confused.

"Shouldn't the kids have toys?" Oz asked, breaking the staring contest. "Like a rattle or
something for the littlest one and regular toys so we don't have to clean up mud every day?"

"I'll go ask Aphrodite if you'd like to watch them for a few minutes," Xander suggested.

"I'll do it," Oz said, standing up. "Kids hate me." He disappeared, leaving Ares shaking his head.

Ares pulled Xander in for a kiss, probing his mind, pulling back to look at him in shock. "Really?"
Xander nodded. "Then they're Strife's kids," he said simply. "I'm going to talk to my sons about
birth control." He disappeared.

Xander shrugged, grabbing a drink on his way back to the nursery.


Athena stood out under the moonlight, looking up at the pure white light as the power of the
other Goddesses poured through her. She could feel her body going back to it's innocent state,
and the child within her was still moving. She smiled at Hera, going back to letting the power
wash through her.

Finally, Hectate stepped forward, taking the special robe Athena was wearing off her, letting one
last burst of power flow through her naked body. "It is done," she said reverently. "Let us not
have to do this again to save you, Athena," she reminded, heading back to the semi-circle of
Goddesses. "We are done, let us go our own ways to our beds." Then she disappeared, with a
good number of the other Goddesses. Except Hera and Harmonia.

Harmonia stepped forward, giving Athena's stomach a long look. "Is the baby okay?"

"It's fine," Athena told her with her usual chilling smile. "I thank you for sticking up for me."

"Hey, I didn't want to have to take your job." Harmonia shrugged. "Dad's waiting at home to
show me my latest sister." She waved and left.

Hera shook her head. "Ares' last paramour on the mortal plane died after childbirth. It was
unfortunate, but for the best since she was ill in other ways." She laid a hand on Athena's
stomach, nodding. "The child is still very healthy. We'll give you back Godhood in the morning,"
she said before disappearing.

Athena picked up her clothes, putting them back up. She almost had her robe hitched when she
felt a God pop in behind her, turning to find Ares standing there. "Hi," she said cautiously.
"What did you want?"

"Just wanted to make sure that you were fine." He smirked at her. "As long as you're fine then
that means I can have you babysit tomorrow." He shrugged. "Strife's children are of the age to
start school also."

Athena frowned as she finished latching her robe's closures. "How did he have recent children?"

"Apparently, he inhabited a mortal and it happened. He said Hades knew about it but the children
are about five."

"High time for them to start learning then," Athena agreed, nodding. "Send them to me after
Hera gives me my Godhood back. I'll evaluate and see if they're going to have the same problems
he did."

"I don't know what it is with my family, that learning problem seems to run through it. And
Xander had it too."

"I wonder how he got over it?"

"Why don't you ask him," Xander said as he popped in carrying a screaming infant. "Marty
wanted you. She refuses to take a bottle from me." He handed her over, watching as she
instantly calmed down as soon as she was in her father's arms. "See, she loves you." He looked
at Athena. "You mean my reading problem?" She nodded. "Someone taught me how to
translate what I was seeing into English. I can show you if you'd like."

"Please. It looks as if Bliss has the same problem."

"Ah. Sure, no big." He shrugged again, looking at Ares. "You want me to take her back to the
nursery since she's napping again?"

"No, I'll keep her with me for a while. Go get some rest."

"Can't, Maribelle's having nightmares." He waved and popped out, leaving them alone.

"Athena, this is Martna, after her mother. One day, you'll be getting her to teach too."

"That's more than acceptable. I enjoyed teaching Harmonia." She headed back into the main part
of Olympus, starting for her temple. "I'm going to sleep, the baby needs to sleep."

Ares nodded. "Yeah, they need a lot of that." He waited until they were alone to point up at the
moon. "That's the moon," he told his daughter. "It's a source of your power and will always
guide you." He watched as she started to shine, smiling at her. "Yes, you're going to be such a
good Goddess."

Hera popped in, looking at the child. "Did you feed her nectar?"

"A little. Same as I did my other mortal children. At the most they'll be immortal unless she gets
more soon." He held her so his mother could see her. "This is Martna. Her mother died after
having her, her tumor caused a stroke."

"I had heard," Hera told him, moving closer to look at her. "She's definitely beautiful. A credit to
your lineage."

"Oh, just wait until you meet Melvin and Maribelle, Strife's twins. They're full of life and energy."

"Yes, I remember Strife being a young Godling." She shook her head. "Let's hope they don't
share his penchant for mischief."

"Just mud so far," Ares said with a smile. "Xander was helping Melvin play in the garden."

Hera shook her head, laughing. "At least a child cleans easily." She touched the child's forehead,
then faded out. "Get her back inside before she freezes, Ares."

"Yes, mother," he said, bringing her back to the nursery. He found Xander asleep in the rocking
chair, and gave his consort a fond smile as he put his daughter down. He lifted Xander up,
carrying him back to their room, leaving the nursery door open so someone would hear if they
started having problems. "Here we go, you sleep in here," he told the barely-awake God.

"Babies need me," Xander mumbled, turning over in Ares' arms, clutching his body. "No sleep."

Oz lifted his head, looking at them. "I'll go watch if you want," he whispered. Ares nodded so he
got out of the bed, heading into the nursery.

Ares managed to get Xander onto the bed, and get free so he could lie beside him. "Sleep,
Xander, Oz is watching the children."

"'Kay," Xander mumbled, snuggling into Ares' chest with his nose. "Wake me later."

"Of course." Ares smiled at the soft croons that were coming out of his mate's mouth and closed
his eyes, soothed by the sound into sleep.

Oz looked down at baby in the crib, waving his fingers at her. "Hey, Marty. Let's nap now,
huh?" She coughed lightly but blinked at him. "No, don't blink, nap."

Maribelle put her head up. "She no nap either," she said. "We no nap and she no nap."

"Huh, maybe a story would work," Oz said, sitting down in the rocking chair and pulling one of
Bliss' old books over so he could read to them. "Thomas was a nice train...."


Xander sat down in front of Bliss at Athena's table, handing him a lot of paper, but helping him
sort it out into ones that had things on it and blank ones. "Okay, Bliss. This is going to be easy,
okay?" The winged Godling nodded. "Okay, I want you to look at the first picture here," he
said, pointing at the large letter 'A' he had drawn out, "and I want you to draw how you see it."
Bliss nodded, picking up his pencil to draw what he saw. When he was done with that one,
Xander put those two together and off to the side, exposing the next letter. "Okay, now do the
rest the same way and we'll show you a neat trick." He looked up as Athena walked back into her
dining area, giving her a smile. "I didn't think you'd mind if we started early."

She shook her head, sitting down in front of the grouped papers. "What are these?"

"That's how he's seeing the letters. After he's done them all, then we get him to translate them

"Ah." She nodded. "That's very wise. Who taught you that?" He flinched. "Your redheaded
friend? The one who got you with the bone shard?"

"She wasn't always bad, but yeah, it was her. We've been friends for almost as long as I was
alive." He took another set of papers, putting them together. "Don't mix them up, or we'll have a
royal mess."

She put the pictures back down in their order, watching as Bliss drew the next one out. "It's very
broken up."

"Which is why he needs to work on translating the letters back into what people expect to see and
you need to know what he's seeing so you can help him translate what he sees back into the
normal letters."

"Aren't they right?" Bliss asked, looking at Xander, his pencil dropping.

"Sweetie," Xander said, picking the child up to put him in his lap, "it's not that they're wrong, it's
that your brain's seeing them funny. What we're going to do is give your brain a way to see them
like most everyone else does. It's not a big problem, but it's something we have to clear up so you
can read and things."

"So I'm drawing them out so you know?"

"Yes, that's very good," Athena told him. "Then we're going to get you to relate what you see to
what I and Xander see."

Bliss nodded, wiggling down and getting back into his seat. "Okay. As long as I can read soon."
He finished drawing that letter out, handing them to Xander. "Here, what's the next one?"

"Um, 'F'," Xander said, nodding. He looked back at Athena. "It's a little slower sometimes but it
gets the job done."

"What do I do after he's got these done?"

"Then you set the original letters out next to his, and you have him draw the original letters,
telling him about each one to give him a clue to help him in translating. After a few weeks of this,
he'll pick it up easily."

"I'm going to have him look at his drawing and help him draw it the normal way?"

"Yup." He grinned. "Kinda simple, huh?"

"Very. How much slower is it?"

"Depends on how bad of day you're having. Reading isn't exactly comfortable to me but it's
something I can do."

"That'll be good enough. I'm sure you can spark a desire to read in him."

"He's going to start reading the other kids stories, aren't we, Bliss?"

"Yup," he said, tongue sticking out between his teeth as he drew the next letter. "How's that?" he
asked, holding it up.

"Does it look like what you're seeing?" Xander asked. Bliss shook his head. "Then flip that over
and redraw it. We need to have exactly what you see."

Cupid landed behind Xander's chair, leaning over to look at it. "Hey, that's a neat idea. Are we
relating it back to the original letters?"

"He'll be drawing those after this," Athena said. "That's how Xander was taught the alphabet."

"Hey, cool, man." Cupid patted him on the shoulder. "Much easier than helping Strife memorize

Xander looked up. "He's dyslexic too?" Cupid nodded. "You could do this with him, it's not that
hard. It even works on adults who can't read for the same reason."

"I think I can try that," Cupid said, giving him another squeeze. "Harmonia was looking for Oz,
do you know where he was?"

"I think he went down to talk to an up and coming band. He's somewhere in LA I think."

"Thanks, Xander." Cupid disappeared, leaving them alone.

"See, your father understands," Xander told Bliss. "Never feel you can't come talk to us about
this stuff." He reached over, ruffling the blond hair and tweaking the edge of a wing. "Finish the
letters, Bliss, and after you're all done with your lessons, we can go get ice cream with the other

"Okay," he said, grinning at his Uncle. "I want chocolate."

"Of course you can have chocolate. We'll even make sundaes if you do good today."

"I'll try," Bliss promised, handing that one over. "How many more?"

"You're on 'N'," Athena told him. "You're over half done."

"Just a few more," Xander promised, standing up. "I'm going to check on Melvin and Maribelle."

"I'm supposed to get them today," Athena said.

"Then we'll have sundaes after all the schooling's done." He waved at Bliss, disappearing.

Bliss grinned at Athena. "This is easy."

"It should be. Reading should always be that way." She looked at the letter he handed her,
nodding. "At least we know what problem you've been having now. We can fix it so you don't
have to worry about reading again."

"Okay," Bliss said, working on his last letter. When that was done, Athena laid out a pile of the
original letters, one of Bliss' letters, and a blank stack of paper. "Okay, when you see this one,"
she said, pointing at it, "it's an 'A' and it looks like this." She guided his hand to help him draw a
normal 'A'. "From now on, when you see, this," she said, tapping his 'A', "I want you to think of it
as an 'A' like you just drew. Okay?"

"So if I write it, I have to write it like you see it?"

"Please. It's going to take some time to get you used to it, but we're Gods, we have time."

He nodded, drawing another 'A'. "Like that, Auntie 'Thena?"

"Yes, Bliss, just like that," she said, giving him a brilliant smile. "Very good."


Xander looked at the clipboard Ares handed him, frowning. "I thought a few were staying with

"A few were supposed to, but we forgot to tell her that."

Xander nodded. "Strife can stay in the nursery, or at Cupid's then. That leaves us one room short
for all the kids, right?" Ares nodded, frowning at his daughter as she teleported in. "Hey,
Harmonia." He looked up at her. "Would you mind if we set you up a sleeping couch in an office
or in the library?"

"Library? In Dad's temple?"

"Well, it's Giles', Oz's, and mine too," Xander reminded her. "We imported a library downstairs.
We can move the table and the small bookcase to give you a sleeping couch under a window."

"What happened to my room?" she asked with a pout.

"It's being used as an office," Ares said, giving her a hug. "I'm sorry, sweetie, but you haven't
been home in a while and I needed the space for my assistants."

"You know," Xander said, putting the clipboard aside. "We could just move the office out of the
way, or into storage. Move the computer up here somewhere and just give the room back to

"That's a thought," Ares said, nodding. "Go do it, Xander. I'll leave it to you. I'm going to play
with the kids."

"Bliss is doing good with his translations," Xander called after him. He turned to look at Ares'
favorite daughter. "Okay, let's go move furniture and decorate your room."

She giggled. "You're going to help me decorate?"

"Yup. It's part of my job. I don't have to go be the God of Lust today so we're good." He
looked at Oz as he walked in. "Hey. Bliss is doing good with his translation and Ares is playing
with the kids."

"Cool. I just had to talk a Cobain-wanna be away from the heroin." He sat down, looking at
Harmonia. "We miscounted rooms?"

"Yup. So we're going to go toss the office into storage. We'll let you move the computer."

"Thanks," Oz said dryly. "Give me a few."

Xander and Harmonia walked down the stairs together, stopping to open the office door, when
she gasped. "Wood? Joxer decorated?"

"Yup. The comfy chair and the computer are mine but otherwise it's all his decorating."

"It's a good looking machine," she said, walking over to examine the computer. "Few years old."

"Yeah, but it beat the scrolls." He pointed at the full scroll rack. "Trying to find anything in those
was a pain. This way, you can cross reference and get an almost instant answer."

"Very cool," Harmonia said, looking around. "We have to wait for Oz?"

"I don't touch the computer since I had to run printouts on it." She gave him a softer version of
her father's bland look. "It decided to try and crash while I was running maps one day. Let's just
say it's a good thing Oz is God of Technology around here. We'd still be using the scrolls if they
had given it to me."

Oz walked in, nodding. "He totally screwed it up, just by hitting one wrong command key." He
shrugged, getting down to look at the wires. "Okay, I think I can move it upstairs all at once. If
not, I'll drop the monitor and Ares will have an excuse to go shopping." He touched the
computer, disappearing with it.

"Wow, he just amazes me some days," Xander said with a goofy grin. "Okay, storage room is
down on the last floor, after the page's quarters."

She nodded, snapping her fingers the same time he did, and the room was transformed. Now it
looked like an ornate tree house. There was a hammock attached between two walls, which
now looked curved, and a comfortable wicker sitting area. Even a bookcase came with the other
furniture. "Wow," she said, nodding. "I impress myself." She turned to Xander, who was looking
around. "It's not home but it's comfy enough."

"So I can see," he said, turning to look at her. "If you need anything, just yell in my direction. I'm
usually here since Cupid's been doing a lot of the work himself. Don't know why, he growled
when I asked, but he's demanding to do all the work himself." He shrugged, heading out of the
room. "I'm going to go watch the kids."

Harmonia sat down in her wicker rocker, picking up a book she had been reading. "Yeah, I'm
going to like this census. This is almost as good as home and he does great things for Dad."


"Everyone's in but Deimos," Ares told Xander as he walked out from his duty of changing

"Huh, I saw him yesterday," Xander said, sitting down on the couch beside his consort. "Does he
have a temple up here?"

"No, he chooses to live on the mortal plane. This year I think it's in Detroit." Ares waved a hand,
making a tray of nectar appear. "Here, eat. You forgot to get breakfast."

"Thanks," Xander said, picking a piece to nibble on. "Want me to ask Strife?"

"No, he'll show up soon enough."

Strife walked into the living room through a kitchen wall, yawning. "You called?"

"Do you know where your cousin Deimos is?"

"No. Wasn't he up here yesterday?" he asked Xander, who nodded. "Huh, not a clue. Want me
ta go find him?"

"No, if he's going to miss the opening ceremony, I'll send Hermes after him."

Deimos staggered in, waving a beer stein. "Happy Birthday!" he called.

"That was dumb," Strife said, hitting his cousin hard. "Sober up, stupid. There's kids in the

"Yeah and?" Deimos asked, leering at him.

Xander stood up, walking over to take the beer stein away. "We don't want you to spill it."

"Hey, you took my fun away!"

"Shh," Xander said, moving closer to Deimos. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Deimos said, shoving him away.

"Hey!" Ares warned. "You do not shove your step-father."

Deimos looked from Ares to Xander and back. "You finally got someone you can fuss over?"

"Yeah, he did," Xander said from the floor, pulling the intoxicated God down to sit with him.
"Listen, some of us know the truth, we're just saving you from the bitch fits. Okay?"

Deimos nodded slowly. "I know, but it still sucks. They're my kids and I can't even brag about
them because of Hera."

"Yeah," Strife said, sitting down with them, "but what would suck more? The fits everyone
would throw or this?"

"Okay," Deimos said, falling backwards when he nodded too hard. "Ow."

Strife shook his head, hitting him on the leg this time, sobering him up instantly. "Better?" he
asked his cousin.

"Much," Deimos muttered, glaring at him. "I was happy."

"We don't allow long term drunks in the temple," Xander told him. Strife looked at him. "Blame
me much?"

"Not at all," Strife told him, giving him a grin. He turned back to Deimos. "Did you really want
to admit it in front of everyone?"

"Nah, I really don't want to hear the fight if I did." He shrugged. "It still sucks."

"We three and the kids know the truth," Xander told him, trying to stay calm and reasonable, even
though Ares was doing his invisible fingers up the crack of his ass trick. "That's what's really
important, right?"

Deimos nodded. "Yeah, that's the perfect solution. I didn't want to admit it though, it kinda
hurts." He looked at Xander, giving him a long look. "What are you?"

"God of Lust," Strife said, pulling him up. He glanced at his father. "Is he down next to

"Yeah, across the hall and two doors down," Xander said, standing up and walking over to Ares
to hug him. "See, no big problems yet." He waited until the young Gods had left to look up at
his lover. "Did you have to play with me like that in front of them? It's embarrassing."

"Wasn't me," Ares said, glaring at the doorway his nephew and son had taken. "I'll put a stop to
that in a few minutes." He pulled Xander into a hug. "They were right, you know. I like to take
care of you."

"Hey, I'm flexible as long as it doesn't turn into ownership." Xander got free, heading over to the
couch. "I need a nap. Wake me when you want me to take a turn with the kids. Oh, and I
promised Bliss and the kids sundaes for trying hard today." He blinked hard, mouth open as he

"I'll get them," Giles said as he walked through to the bedroom. "Bliss just appeared downstairs
demanding his." He came out in time to hear Xander's first snore, sharing a smile with Ares as he
headed into the kitchen. "I think we'll have them down in the library," he said softly, taking the
tray Xander had prepared earlier, in between arriving children, out of the freezer, heading back
down to the library. "Have fun, Ares."

"Everyone's in. That just leaves tonight's party." He leered at Giles. "I'm sure we'll have lots of
fun tonight." He looked down at Xander. "We just have to keep you out of the limelight."


Zeus stood up, raising his hands for silence. "Welcome to the first night of this century's census.
Start the orgy!" He sat back down, smiling at a few of the Goddesses gathered in front of the

Xander looked up at Ares, raising one eyebrow. "I'm going home."

"I know, relax and nap. If you need me, call, or call for Strife."

"Of course." Xander took the stroller, leaving the room. Or he tried to, he was stopped by
Apollo. "Got to get them home," he explained, trying to push past him.

"But it's tradition, you have to stay," Apollo said, moving closer to him, giving him a sexy little

"I still don't share," Xander reminded him sweetly, "and I have childcare duties tonight. Get out
of the way before I decide to tear you apart."

Apollo backed away. "Whoa. Okay, go have fun by yourself."

"Thanks." Xander continued on his stroll out of the meeting hall, shaking his head as he checked
on the kid. He walked the garden paths back to his temple, slowly strolling with the baby. He
smiled as he walked in, he actually liked Martna's mother, who was helping them with childcare
until Martna was older. "Hey, no one told me it was an orgy." He put her back in her crib,
covering her frail body gently with the blanket. "All yours. Yell if you need something. I'm
going to watch TV." He walked out to the living room, flopping down on the couch with a
groan, turning the big screen TV with a wave of his hand, turning it off MTV Europe and to
NBC. "Yeah, comedies," he sighed, lying down to watch the sitcoms.

As soon as he was asleep another body formed behind him, leaning down to whisper in his ear.
"All alone?" she asked, blowing in his ear. "I can fix that, Xander."

"Not now, Willow. Gotta watch this," he mumbled, pushing her away. That was the last thing
he knew that night.


Ares stopped his seduction of one of the Fates, frowning as he heard the whispered mental call,
storming his way over to where Hades was holding court in a corner. "Willow's out?"

"Yes, but I don't think she's made it out of Tartarus yet. Why?" He looked Ares over, giving
him a smile. "Is there a problem?"

"Yeah, Martna's mother just said she stole Xander."

Hades shook his head. "I'm going to chain him to your arm. I'll get Heph to make sure he can't
leave your side."

"I'd like that," Ares growled. "Come on." He nodded at Aphrodite, heading out with Hades right
behind him.

Aphrodite looked at her husband, shrugging. "What was that about?"

"Xander got kidnapped by the woman that got him with the titan's bone. She's a wraith though so
Hades had to go catch her."

"Oh. Eww. So why were they talking about you?"

"Ares wants me to chain Xander to his side."

"It'd solve a lot of problems. Oh, pookie," she called, waving Cupid over. "Can you check in
with your father? It seems someone just came to kidnap Xander again."

Cupid groaned, holding his head. "I don't know why the boy's so popular. I'll go check if Pop
hasn't come back in a few." He smiled at Heph. "So, have you seen Strife's kids?" He winked.

"Yeah," Heph said, giving him a smile, stretching the scar tissue on his face from being burnt at
the forge. "They came down to help me investigate something. Xander was showing them

"He's good with them," Aphrodite said. "I could never get those two to behave that way."

"He wears 'em out," Strife said as he walked over, leaning over to whisper in Cupid's ear. Cupid
groaned and nodded, heading for the door. "Heph, Unc wants to know if you can make a harness
so Xander can't get away from him again."

"Sure. I'll get it started after this." He blinked. "I agree with him. Not even you got into that
much trouble."

"Yeah, but he's got my and Ares' lineage in him. That's going to cause more trouble than not."
He waved, heading for the door.

Zeus frowned at the Goddess of Love as she walked closer to the group he was standing in.
"Where were they going?"

"Xander was kidnapped or something. They went to go save him and chain him to Ares' side."
She shrugged, heading over to talk to Artemis. "Way happenin' outfit, sister."


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