Poor Baby

Xander sneezed violently, sitting up so he wouldn't hurt his back again. "Ow," he complained, rubbing his arm. "Why does it hurt when I sneeze?"

"Muscle reflexes," Ares told him from the bedroom. "Why aren't you in here?"

"Because I was bored," Xander called back. "Why are you fussing?"

"Because your harness isn't done yet," Strife said as he popped in. He flinched as Xander sneezed again. "Wow. Way harsh on ya, huh?"

"Germies love me," Xander said as he reached for a tissue and blew his nose. "Ares? When can I go to work?"

"When you're not sick, Xander," Ares reminded him as he walked out with another blanket and pillow, sending them over to make the younger God more comfortable. "You may not leave this temple in that condition, and if you do, I'm going to chain you to the bed." He glared down at his consort. "Got it?"

"The fact that you're overreacting? Yeah. It's just a cold!"

"Gods don't get colds," Strife said, looking confused. "I never did."

"Xander isn't naturally one of us so he's still susceptible to mortal illness."

"Eww." Xander made a gross face as he looked at the tissue he had just used. "Need the thicker ones."

Ares rolled his eyes and made a new box of tissues appear. "There. Anything else?"

"Hand sanitizer?" Xander suggested as he delicately threw the soiled paper away. A bottle appeared next to the tissues. "Thanks." He pumped some out, rubbing his hands together.

"Welcome." Ares looked at Strife, who shook his head. "Why won't you help?"

"Because this is my day off?"

"Gee, geeks everywhere are going to be happy," Xander sniffled, tipping his head back to look at Strife. He coughed and rolled onto his side, grabbing his ribs. "This sucks."

"Obviously." Strife sat down on the floor in front of his friend. "What's so important that ya have ta go play in the mortal realm today?"

"I have to go watch over my pawns. I noticed that someone was going to make a play for one or two of them so I was going to go shadow them and see how they reacted."

"Whatever," Ares sighed, rolling his eyes. "Strife and I could go and watch over them for you."

"Really?" Xander asked hopefully, giving him a begging look. "You'd do that for me?" He turned it on Strife.

"Hey, anything ta get away from ya and your germs." Strife stood up and looked down at the God of Lust. "Which pawns?"

"Jack and Daniel, and Nickie."


"He's in LA," Xander said, giving Ares a smile. "You'll like him, lots. I promise."

"We'll see about that," Ares muttered. "You rest. We'll go watch your pawns for you."

"Oooh, can I go play with Danny?" Strife asked, grinning. "I owe him somethin' fierce."

"Don't hurt him," Xander whined.

"I'm not, I simply owe him a noogie." Strife grinned at him. "Be good or I'm going to make Maribelle make you tea."


"Sorry, dude, but it'll help."

"Maybe." Xander sneezed again, and Strife jumped out of the way, leaving the temple.

"Where, exactly, will I find this Nickie person?" Ares asked, adding another pillow under Xander's shoulders.

"In LA, at a bar. The Silver Star. He's in there today. All you have to do is make sure that no one shoots him today."

"Fine," Ares sighed, leaving him alone.

Xander settled into his nest of pillows and blankets, getting comfortable for his nap.


Strife popped into the workroom behind Daniel Jackson, grinning at the woman facing him. "Just a body guard," he said quietly, making Daniel jump.

"Strife?" Daniel asked, looking up at him. "Why are you here?"

"Because," Strife said, wrapping an arm around the anthropologist's neck, "Xander said so." He tightened his hold and gave the owed noogie, grinning at the woman. "I owed him this."

"Ah." She backed away from the table and walked out. "I'll leave you two alone."

"Great." Strife waved. "So, Xander said that ya are gonna be attacked today?"

"We are?" Daniel asked, pushing his glasses back up his nose. "Where?"

"Not sure, that's why I'm here."

"Oh, Daniel," Jack said semi-cheerfully from the hallway. "We have to leave in an hour. Don't you think...." He trailed off as he saw Strife. "What happened this time?"

"Xander asked me ta watch over ya today," Strife told him, giving him a trademark grin. "Just ignore me."

"I doubt it," Jack muttered, glaring at Daniel. "Packing? We leave in an hour? Sound familiar to you?"

"Yeah, I'm almost done," Daniel said, leaning down to finish his report.

Jack shook his head and walked off. "I'll come get you in ten minutes," he promised.

Strife giggled. "This is gonna be *fun*!"

"No!" Jack yelled from the hallway. "Not fun! Never fun!" He came back to the doorway. "No fun, not for any of us. Got it?"

"Yeah, sure, no fun for you guys. I can still have fun." He winked at Jack. "We'll just be right here."

"Good. Yeah, you stay there and we'll be good." He walked away as fast as he could.


Ares appeared in the bar he had been told to go to, looking around at all the tight bodies in spandex and shorts in appreciation. "Hey, this job I could like," he told himself, making sure he stayed invisible while he looked for the man he was supposed to be guarding. He frowned when he saw the knot of soldiers around the bar, heading for them, sure that Xander had given him a person that he could appreciate, but he saw the man before he got to them. And he was dancing, or something approximating it anyway - unless he was having a seizure.

Ares shook his head, looking the man over mentally. He started to like what he was getting from his memories, but this was going to be hard. The guy didn't know about Xander at all. This was one he had chosen to keep in the dark. He mentally shrugged. Oh, well, he would have to become creative then. He turned, as did everyone else, when someone kicked in the door. "Oh, yeah," he said, teleporting to a corner and appearing there. He glared at the human waving the guns around. "Stupid of him," he muttered, sizing up his competition. Out of nowhere, the Nick guy pulled out a gun and shot him in the leg.

"That's what ya get for messin' with me!" he shouted, heading for him, but his friends held him back. "Let me go! The man tried ta kill my mother!" He struggled for a few more minutes but no one that had him would let him get any closer. Actually, the female holding him was trying to get him upstairs to the office but she wasn't making any progress.

Ares could appreciate the strategy of turning his attention away from the incident, but he had his own job to do. He wiggled his fingers at the man, who was staring at him. "Bye," he said quietly, making the wound bleed harder.

"Ares," the shot man gasped. "Why? I pray to you!"

"Because I feel like it," he growled. He changed himself so only the man could see him. "You fucked with the wrong man this time, Harrison. He's one of my consort's mortal's." The man groaned and put his head back down. "I suggest you pull your body out of this bar before I let him come down here for you. *I* don't even want to fuck with Xander over his mortals."

The man got to his feet and dragged himself out of the bar, moaning and bleeding the whole way. A few of the patrons went after him, but not the main crew of soldiers. Ares smiled at them, but didn't reappear. This had been an easy assignment.

"What was that for!" one of the soldiers, a thin, blond man, yelled. "You didn't have to shoot him, Nick!"

"He tried to kill my mother! What did ya want me ta do? Dance with him?" He got free of the restraining hands. "Bite me. I'm going home." He glared at the people around him. "Let them arrest me if they want." He stormed out, nearly getting hit by a car, which he flipped off.

Ares hopes fell as he followed the mortal out, making sure he made it to wherever safely. Xander was going to pay for this one.


Xander blinked as Melvin bounded up onto his stomach. "What?" he moaned.

"Are you sick like Auntie 'Thena?" he asked, looking the adult over. "Or are you other sorta sick?"

"Other sort of sick," Xander said, shifting himself up. "Athena's sick?" The little boy nodded. "Huh. Why is she sick?"

"She throw up, lots," Melvin said, making a face. "Very gross. And not even the cool sort of gross."

"Oh." Xander closed his eyes, searching for Athena's mental signature, but it was muted. "Hera?" he called. She appeared in front of him. "Why is Athena sick?"

"It's a normal part of pregnancy," she said, looking him over. "Why are you sick?"

"It's a cold. It's a mortal thing," he explained.

She sighed and shook her head. "I'll take the children with me today." She held out a hand. "Come, young one. Let's go find your sister and Martna. Your temple's cat is already at my temple."

"Baby sleeping in the garden with sissy," Melvin said as he slid off Xander's stomach. He waved at him. "Night. Feel better."

"Thanks. I will after a long nap." He grinned at Hera. "It's just a cold, really. I could watch them."

"I don't want these children exposed to those germs of yours," she said firmly. "I'll watch them for today."

"Okay," Xander sighed, giving up. "Have fun. Don't let Melvin eat broccoli. He threw it up last night."

"Yech," he said, shaking his head and sticking out his tongue. "It's bad for you." He looked up at Hera. "Are you mean? Lots of people think that you are. They say that you're mean and that you eat people because you don't like them. Do you? Do you really eat people because you're mean and don't like humans?"

"Only if you're a bad little boy," she told him, leading him out to the garden. "We'll be at my temple."

"Fine. Have fun. Be good, Melvin."

"I always am," he said, grinning up at Hera. "Aren't I?"

"I don't know yet. We'll figure that out today."

Xander closed his eyes, floating off into his fevered nap again.


Strife felt the power surge around them as the gateway opened and instinctively acted to stop it, shielding the two members of the team that he was supposed to be protecting. He sighed when the power washed over the shield in a wave, letting his guard down a little bit, and getting knocked on his butt for it. He blinked up at the guards that were now standing around him. "What?" he complained, standing up. He looked over at Daniel, who was groaning. "Ya okay? Xander's gonna skin me if I let ya get hurt."

"Not a problem," Jack said, reaching over to tap the back of Daniel's head. "You still in there?"

"Yeah, that wasn't a pain sort of groan."

"Why is he here again?" their boss called down via the speakers.

"He was sent to watch over us today, sir," Jack called back. "Seems someone wants to do something bad to us."

"Get up here," General Hammond yelled, turning off the microphone.

Jack nodded at the stairs. "After you." He watched as Strife disappeared. "Or not."

"He's like that," Daniel said, trying to soothe his friend.

"Yeah, I noticed." Jack looked at his other team mates. "Stand down, guys, it's gonna take a few minutes."

"We will wait here," Teal'c said, sitting on the end of the ramp.

"Bring them too," Hammond called down. "I want all of you in the briefing room."

They all trooped up there, walking in to find Strife with his feet up on the table. "Maybe you shouldn't do that," Daniel suggested gently. "The General doesn't like it when we do that."

"I'm a God, he can get over it," Strife said, waving it off. "So, what's up?" he asked, looking the General over, contrasting his slightly heavier form and bald head with the Generals he had known over the ages - and coming up with a favorable opinion.

"Why you're here would be a good place to start," the General suggested, taking his seat. "What happened down there would be another."

"Well, I'm here because Xander has a cold and he's *real* grossly sick." He shuddered. "Keeps saying his arm hurts when he sneezes." Daniel snorted, nodding. "Know that feelin'?"

"Very. So, what was the energy thing?"

"He said someone's tryin' ta get ya guys for some reason and I'm here ta guard ya from whoever."

"And we don't know who that is?" the General asked. Strife shook his head. "How are you supposed to guard against something that you don't know?"

"I'm a God," Strife reminded him, putting his feet down to glare at the General. "I can do things like that."

"I'm sure you can, but we would appreciate knowing what's after my men so I could help protect them."

"From another God?" Strife snorted. "You mortals. Joking's good though." He looked at Daniel. "It was focused on him. It was another God, but not one'a ours. And they were testin' him to see how much he could stand."

"Okay," Jack said, turning to face him. "Then why did I feel it too?"

"Because you're a pawn too," Daniel reminded him. "They'd want to test us both, but I was the primary. It's because they found out that I've been trying to get Xander to answer some questions for me, right?" Strife shrugged. "He didn't say?"

"He didn't do much'a anything but sneeze," Strife told him. "All he said was ta guard you guys."

"Wonderful," Jack said, looking at the General. "I assume we're stuck on the base now?"

"Definitely. At least until this threat is gone." He coughed lightly. "Is this going to keep happening?"

"Pawns lives are never simple," Strife told him, getting serious. "That's how we know who wins. Whichever mortal goes the way their Gods say they will, or the best fit, will win."

"What about if a lot of them get it right?" Sam asked. "That's not very scientific."

"Gods underestimate mortals all the time," Daniel told her. "Mostly they think we need them a lot more than we do, for certain things." He looked at Strife, but the God of Mischief waved him on. "It comes down to which one has the best grasp of humanity and the people that they serve at that time. This particular game of GodWar could go on for centuries."

"The last one went on for almost a week," Strife put in. "The one before that was trickier. There was a lot of young Gods then, busybodies like Xander."

"Yeah, but he could win because of it," Jack pointed out. "He's pretty in touch with the mortal plane still."

"Which is why he has a cold," Daniel said with a smile. "There's probably also a way to get pawns from the other Gods involved."

"Yup, by stealin' them," Strife put in. "Or by tradin' for them. 'Dite already owes Xander one, but he doesn't know that yet."

"So this is like some great cosmic horse race?" General Hammond asked, his face showing disbelief. "What do the Gods get out of it?"

"Whoever wins gets control," Daniel told him. "Or the right to decide who has control if they don't want it." He shrugged at the dirty look he was getting from Sam. "Sorry. The last one was during the Roman Empire."

"Yeah, Nero sucked," Strife sighed. "I knew he was insane, but I went *way* overboard in my estimate." He looked at the General. "You already know more than most mortals. Accept it, it's happenin' and you aren't a chosen person. Yet."

Hammond shuddered. "Thank God for small miracles." He looked around the table. "Can we protect them from these things?"


"I didn't think so. SG-1, you are cleared to go to your next rendevous. Please be careful." He stood up. "Dismissed."

"The most vulnerable time is when you're getting ready to go or come back," Strife told Daniel quietly. "Always check to make sure no one's there." He disappeared.

"Oh, goody," Jack said dryly, standing up and walking out. "Come on, let's go do this now before we change our minds."

The rest of the team filed out after him.


Ares waited until the man he was following laid down for a nap before appearing before him. He changed into a big cat, a predator, and hopped up onto the bed, licking him on the nose.

"Eww!" Nick said, batting the furry head away. He came awake and sat up, looking at the cat in shock. "What are you doing here?" he asked it, reaching for the phone. "Operator?" he asked, his voice a little shaky. "Can you please put me in touch with animal control? No, it's an emergency," he assured the man on the other end. "Yeah, a wild animal in my house." He swallowed as the cat sat down to stare at him. "Nice kitty," he said, backing away.

The Ares-cat glared at the human. //Stop it,// he sent mentally. //I'm here to protect you. Think of me as a Spirit Guide of sorts.// He grinned at the increased panic look. //Put the phone down. I'm not going to eat you.// He yawned and curled up. He had always liked this form, it was easy to get around in and it liked to take naps in the sun. He couldn't think of a better form to laze around the mortal plane in.

"Um, hi," Nick said, closing his eyes. "Did someone loose a panther or somethin'? 'Cause I got one here in my house," he said. "No, I'm not jokin', it's big, black, and it licked my nose." He groaned, covering his eyes. "No, I'm not making this up! Don't hang up!" he said, glaring at the phone before slamming it down. "You try to be good and this is what happens," he muttered as he got out of bed and grabbed his robe, disturbing the big body. "Sorry. Want some milk?"


"Cats don't drink beer," Nick protested, then he hit himself on the forehead. "Cats don't talk," he reminded himself. "This is some strange reaction dream from the shooting." He walked out, going to get himself some milk. Or maybe a beer.


Xander moaned as he felt another God popping in. "Go away."

"Sorry, can't do that," Deimos said, grinning down at him. "Why're you sick?"

"Because I have a cold."

"Oh." Deimos sat on the coffeetable, looking him over. "So, whaddya do normally?"

"I'm usually working or with the kids," Xander said, reaching around the other God to get a tissue so he could blow his nose. "Sorry. Had to." He tossed it away and grabbed the bottle of hand sanitizer, rubbing it into his hands.

"What's that stuff?"

"Stuff to kill the germs so the kids don't get it." Xander looked at the bottle. "I'm going to have to get more soon," he muttered.

"Hey, I can do errands."

"I know, but I can materialize some when I need it." He grinned at the other God. "I'm not really that helpless, Deimos. Honestly, I'm not."

"Nope, you're not. Wanna go have fun?" He winked and leered.

Xander shifted so he was sitting up. "Deimos, apparently someone's playing a bad trick on you. I don't share. Ares can share if he wants to, but I don't share myself. I'm not like that."

"Oh, come on, I'll be nice to ya."

"Nope." Xander forced himself to stand up. "Sorry, man, got the wrong God for that. Go ask Apollo." He wandered into the kitchen, getting himself a glass of juice.

"You don't use your powers, either, huh?" he pouted. "You're a lousy God."

"Maybe, but doing things the normal way makes me feel better on occasion." He sipped his juice and considered the man that might as well be his step-son. "Deimos, I may be the God of Lust, but I'm not like you guys. I grew up with way different ideals about life." He put down his glass as he sneezed. "Eww." He brought the tissues over, taking one so he could blow his nose. "The way you guys share is great, but it's not me. I can't do that and let myself stay true to your father." He turned, finding the God of Pain behind him. "Um, okay," he said, backing away from him. "Not that close, man, don't want you sick."

"I won't catch your cold." He grabbed Xander and tried to kiss him but he found himself on the ground from the knee that hit his groin. "That was cruel. Welcome to the family, Xander!" He got up, grinning at him. "Around here, that's called foreplay," he offered as he stood up. "Wanna do more?"

"Go away," Xander said coldly. "Not going to get into you, Deimos. I don't cheat on Ares. Especially not with his own son."

Harmonia cleared her throat. "Good to know. Bro, I'd back off. The God of Lust can make sure that you never get any again." Deimos glared at his sister and left the temple.

Xander sighed, leaning against the counter. "Don't get too...." He sneezed again, grabbing a tissue to blow his nose. "Too close," he finished, giving her a grin. "Timely save, Harmonia, thank you."

"You're welcome. I'd hate to see what Daddy would have done." She looked at the refrigerator. "Any good beer?"

"Um, one question before you bring some up. Are you gonna get drunk?"

"Nope, I'm a recreational drinker." She patted him on the arm. "Strife pulled me aside and told me not to get drunk and I wouldn't anyway. Don't worry so much."

"Thanks." He picked up his glass of juice and stared at it. "We're going to go commune with the couch again." He waddled back to the couch and laid back down. "Bring beer if you want, just keep it away from the kids."

"Where are the little creatures anyway?" Harmonia said, staring into the refrigerator, then taking out one of the beers she had brought from her own home.

"Hera agreed to watch them. She didn't want them to have my cold either."

"It must suck," she said, walking out to sit in the chair and look at him. "How long you been one of us?"

"Counting from the first time?" She nodded. "About three years, human time."

"Oh, no wonder," she said, grinning at him. "At least you have some control."

"Thanks to Cupid and Strife. We ended up out of time to teach it to me. Long story," he said, taking another sip. He looked at the mostly empty glass. "I'm going to make you refill and be cold," he decided, concentrating. The glass filled, and kept filling, overflowing onto the couch and floor.

Harmonia giggled and waved her hand but the juice kept going. "Ooops. Xander?" He groaned. "Can't stop it?"

"No." He glared at the glass, working his will on it, but nothing would stop the juice.

"Grandma!" Harmonia called.

Hera popped in and made the glass disappear, and the mess with it. "Yes, dear?" she asked sweetly.

Harmonia grinned at her. "Thanks. We couldn't stop it."

"Xander's had a lack of control for a while now, his being sick has apparently made it worse. I have no idea why Asclepias isn't here yet."

"It's a cold. It can't be healed away," Xander said, sounding very stuffed up. Harmonia brought over the tissues and gave them to him. "Thanks, you're a nice person."

She giggled. "Don't let Daddy hear you say that." She winked at her grandmother. "What can I do to help since everyone else is gone?" She subtly sent what had happened with Deimos to Hera as they talked. Hera raised an eyebrow but Harmonia shrugged. "Daddy's in LA with one of Xander's pawns and Strife's with another set of them."

"They're protecting them for me since Ares won't let me off the couch," Xander moaned, holding his head. "That sucks majorly."

"The world just started to spin?" Harmonia suggested. He nodded, sinking farther down until he was lying flat. "Relax and nap, it'll help you lots," she told him.

"Harmonia, why don't you run the temple until your father comes back or Xander's better, whichever comes first, and let him rest?" Hera suggested.

Harmonia nodded, finishing her beer. "Sure. As long as you keep the little people."

"That would be fine, dear. The children are delightful."

"You left them alone?" Xander asked, looking up at her. "Melvin's an acknowledged chip off of Strife's mischief."

Hera's eyes widened and she left. A few seconds later a scream floated through the open windows.

"Guess you were right about that," Harmonia quipped. "What do you think he did?"

"Probably played with some of the delicate little things that litter her temple."

"They do now," Hera said, reappearing with Melvin. "They were having a fight with them."

Xander glared at the little boy. "You know better than to throw things at your sister. Apologize to Hera for hurting her things."

"Sorry," he said, looking up. "Can I go play now, Uncle Xander?"

"Nope. You have to be good to play," Harmonia told him. "So you get to sit and watch the other kids play for half an hour."

He sighed and nodded. "Okay." He looked up at Hera. "Can I do it in your big chair? It's comfy and I could nap then."

"Yes," Hera sighed, giving Harmonia a harsh look. "Where is their father?"

"Cheyenne Mountain, in the US," Xander told her, glaring at the little boy. "Melvin, if you screw up again, Hera's going to make you stay here with me all by yourself. And no mud."

"Yes sir." He hung his head. "I didn't mean to break the pretty things." He turned his most pitiful look on Hera. "Don't be mad at me?"

"I'll consider it." She disappeared with him. "We'll be back later," she promised.

"Okay." Xander covered himself up and snuggled in. "I'm going to nap too. Go have fun with someone your own age."

Harmonia shook her head and got up, heading out of the temple. "I'm going to find Oz, maybe I'll get to jam with him again." She walked through a wall, leaving him alone.

"Cool. He'd like that." He gave the refrigerator a pitiful look. "But I wanted juice."


Strife waved as Daniel walked through the stargate, making sure his protection would reach to this new world. He knew his powers wouldn't work on the new world, but these guys were really vulnerable on the trip there and back. He turned to find the team's boss staring at him, so he shrugged. "They got there fine," he told him.

"Good. How long are you going to have to watch over them?"

"Until I figure out who's doin' it," Strife said, walking over to him. "Not too long."

"Good." He looked the God over. "You do seem to take attention off their assigned tasks."

"Yeah, I do, don't I?" Strife said, giggling. He stopped and turned to the gateway. "They're comin' back already? I thought it'd take days."

"It usually does." General Hammond looked up at the control room. "Are they coming back?" The gate activated behind them, making them turn and look. "Bad place?" he asked as Daniel fell down the ramp.

"Oh, yeah," Jack said, walking down. "They decided that Daniel was evil because he wears glasses." He watched as the other two members of his team followed him down. The gate closed and he nodded at his boss. "Very hostile and stuck in their ways. The gate was in the middle of town."

"Ah. Let's go debrief and we'll code that planet as off-limits."

Daniel looked up at Strife. "So, what sort of trouble are you getting into?" he asked flippantly. He was helped up by Jack, but he still grinned at Strife. "I almost destroyed a culture just now."

"He's a bit hysterical," Jack explained as he led Daniel away. "Ignore him."

"But I did!" Daniel protested. "I almost caused mass hysteria because their God of Evil wears glasses! We appeared just like he would have, out of nowhere."

"Oh, boy," Strife sighed, rolling his eyes. "And I thought Xander said he didn't get into trouble."

"I heard that," Daniel called back. He passed out.

"Why do you do that?" Jack asked the body in disgust. "Medic!"


Ares purred as Nick tossed him a piece of chicken, then smiled at his host. Until the doorbell rang. He paced over to it, testing the person on the other side.

Nick pushed the cat out of the way. "Go away," he hissed. He opened the door to find Deke on the other side. "Yeah?"

Deke, a very tall, badly dressed African American, pushed his way inside, stopping when he saw the cat. "Friend of yours?" he asked, pointing at it.

"Not real sure. It woke me up and Animal Control thought I was jokin'." Nick shrugged and shut the door. "It's not dangerous, I think." He headed back to the kitchen, going back to his pan of food. "Want somethin'?"

"Nah, I'm good." Deke looked into the dark eyes of the cat and ended up shivering.

Ares grinned at him. He liked this mortal. Maybe he'd be a good pawn after all. He'd have to check with Xander to see if he had chosen him. He padded back to his chosen seat and laid down, curling up so he could watch the discussion.

"So," Deke said, taking off his purple jacket to show off his orange vest. "What happened today?"

"The man tried ta kill my mother!" Nick said, his New York accent coming out stronger. "I owed him that."

"Good, but you did it in the middle of a crowded bar. Brother, that was stupid."

"Maybe, but I owed it to him," Nick said again, stirring the chicken. "Check on him. He's been begging."

Deke looked him over, then shook his head when he thought he heard a deep, smooth voice in his head. "Is the cat talking to you?"

"Only that once. He wanted a beer." He glared at his teammate. "And no, I'm not crackin' up."

"If you say so." Deke made himself comfortable as far away from the big cat as he could. He kept glancing at it. "You woke up and it was here?" he asked finally.

"It licked me, that's why I woke up." Nick brought out a plate of food and sat down between the cat and the man, breaking their staring contest. "Why're you here?"

"Matt sent me. He wanted to make sure that you're okay. The police got that guy and he refused to tell them who you are."

"Okay." Nick took a bite and nodded. "Not bad. If you want some, there's extra in the kitchen."

"No thanks, man." Deke stood up. "I think I'll go tell Matt you're fine." He grabbed his jacket. "You coming in tonight?"

"Not if I can help it. I don't want to leave this guy alone." Nick reached over and patted Ares on the head. "No tellin' what he'll do."

"Yeah, you got a point." Deke walked out, closing the door firmly behind him as he pulled out his cellphone.

Ares listened to the conversation, smiling internally. This way, he'd get the guy he was guarding back with the soldiers. And maybe he'd find someone to talk to there. Nick really didn't seem like the talkative type. All he had to do was convince Nick to go back to the bar tonight.


Daniel looked up from his place in the sickbay, turning away from Jack. "Go away," he said, rolling onto his side, careful of the IV in his arm.

Jack walked around the bed to make his friend look at him. "Nope. You okay?"

"Yeah, they sewed up the cut. Did anyone see what got me?"

"Strife did." Jack pulled something out of his pocket and unwrapped it on the table. "He said it looked like this."

"Huh." Daniel looked at the round blade. "Someone got me with a circular saw?"

"A flying blade," Jack explained. "We found something like a fingerprint on it, or more like a glove print, but we don't know who sent it."

"Whatever," Daniel said. "It had to have happened on the other side of the gate."

"Not really," Jack reminded him. "We didn't see anyone with a weapon, and all they seemed to throw was vegetables."

"What are you thinking?" Daniel asked, his eyes narrowing. "You think that this... whoever sent it at me while we were traveling?"

"Not really," Jack admitted. He took a deep breath. "Strife's supposed to be an expert in thrown weapons."

"And he's here to protect me," Daniel reminded him.

"No, he's right to be cautious," Strife said from the doorway. He leaned against the doorframe. "I do throw knives. I don't do round ones." He shrugged. "Besides, I don't wanna mess with Xander's people. I'm one'a the people that hopes he wins."

"Do you know who did it?"

"From the weapon, I can narrow it down. Other than that? Nah." He grinned. "Unless Athena's pissed at ya, not a clue."

"Could it be her?" Jack suggested.

"Well, she *is* a bit pissed at the world right now," Strife said, still grinning. "Anything's possible. If it's her, she won't do it again."


Daniel turned over to look at him, giving him a weak smile. "Thanks for the protection."

"Hey, more coulda hit you," Strife reminded him, waving as he disappeared.

"Very true," Jack said quietly, looking down at Daniel and stroking through his hair. "Let's not go through this again, huh?"

"Sure, that'd be fine with me."

"Good." Jack gave him one last smile before he walked out.


Strife appeared back in Ares' temple, leaning down to kiss Xander. He got pushed away. By his cousin. "What?" he asked, flopping down into the chair.

"Leave him alone. He's sick, he doesn't need people putting their lips on him." Harmonia glared at him, hands on her hips. "Let the poor boy nap."

"S'okay," Xander groaned, looking up at her, giving her a weak smile. "I'm still okay."

"Sure you are." She walked past him, going for the refrigerator. "Giles said to give you juice. Without the mess this time."

"Tell me you didn't tell them," Xander moaned, pulling a pillow down to hide his face. "I don't need them to laugh at me too."

Strife looked at his cousin. "What's been goin' on? Where's the kids?"

"Hera," Xander said through the pillow. "They trashed her temple earlier."

Strife groaned and disappeared, coming back a few minutes later with the kids. "She's down for a nap."

"Poor Grandma, they wore her out," Harmonia said, grinning at her cousin. "Since you're back, you can run the temple."

"I can do that," Xander reminded her.

"You, nap," she ordered, patting him on the top of the head. "I'm not doing this again tomorrow if you're not better." She walked down the stairs, going back to her room. "I'm going to rest. Yell if you need me."

"Okay," Strife called after her. He looked at Xander, noticing his pile of blankets. "You're really sick, huh?"

"I feel it," Xander admitted, pushing himself up until he was sitting. "Go put them down for a nap. Then you can tell me about what happened."

Strife carried the kids into the bedroom, making Martna float behind him since his arms were full. He came back out to find Xander leaning over the side of the couch, coughing so hard the God of Mischief thought he was going to cough up a lung. "Easy, dude, you only have two of those things and they're real hard to regrow," he joked, sitting on the end of the couch. He awkwardly patted Xander's foot. "Want me to call someone?"

"It's a cold, it can't be cured," Xander moaned as he pushed himself back up onto his pillows. "Thanks."

"Hey, anytime. Daniel's got a small cut from a flyin' blade, but he's fine."

"Good. Did she get him?"


"All I know is that it's a female," Xander said with a shrug. "Maybe Athena."

"That's what they thought. They'll be more careful." Strife grimaced. "All that time talking with Hades changed my speech."

"Yeah, I noticed," Xander said dryly, pulling the tissues over to blow his nose. "Ah, better."

"Not." Strife stood up, glaring at the man on the couch. "You don't feel well, at least let me call 'Sclep to see you."

"He's busy and it's just a cold."

"Yeah, maybe, but Ares'd feel better if you'd let me call him."

"Your Uncle is in LA, you can go ask him if you want," Xander said, giving him a weak smile. "It's nothing."

"Sure." Strife rolled his eyes. "Can I get you somethin'?"


"Sure." Strife made a glass full of juice appear on the table. He snorted at the clap. "Can't do that?"

"I tried to make one that would refill itself earlier. Hera had to make it stop because Harmonia and I couldn't."

"Wow. I've never seen that sort of power loss." He shook his head. "You rest. I'll be back in a while." He disappeared, teleporting to where Ares was lounging on a couch. He landed beside the cat, grinning at it but staying invisible to the man next to them. "I need permission to force 'Sclep to come see Xander, he's being stubborn."

//So what else is new. Go ahead. He okay?// Ares sent mentally.

"No, but it's not fatal yet." The Ares-cat growled lightly.

"Hey!" the man said, jumping up and glaring at the cat. "Don't do that!"

Strife snickered. "He's nice at least."

//He's still scared of me, it's a good thing.// Ares looked up at Nick, licking his lips. //Beer?//

"No, you can't have any beer!" Nick said, storming into his bedroom and slamming the door. "Damn cats," floated out through the thin wood, "don't know what's going on but I can't take much more'a this."

Ares grinned at his nephew. //He's fun. What else happened?//

"Twins drove Hera to a nap. Daniel has a small cut from a flying round blade. Xander's coughing up green stuff. Harmonia is apparently not havin' it anymore."


"Round. Looks like a saw blade without the teeth. I couldn't tell who sent it, but Xander said female."

//Hmm,// Ares purred. //Get Apollo to look at him if 'Sclep's busy. Ask Oz about the blade, it sounds vaguely familiar and he can research it, and get Giles to watch over fussy.// He yawned. //I'm going to go nap on the bed since he won't give me a beer.// The cat disappeared and landed in the bedroom, making Nick scream. //What? Shut up and get me a beer!//

Strife started to laugh as he left the apartment, bursting out in the giggles as he landed in front of Apollo and Zeus. "Sorry," he said, waving it off. "Ares is tormenting someone he's supposed ta be watchin'." He grinned at Apollo. "In his cat form."

Apollo snorted. "Good. That means he'll keep the kid out of trouble." He looked Strife over. "Did you need something?"

"Someone to look in on Xander. He's coughin' up green crap and he's sneezin' bad. He sounds rotten."

Apollo nodded. "I'll tell my son to look in on him later. We can't heal a cold."

"Green?" Zeus asked. "Isn't that unusual? I thought anything green coming out of a mortal was fatal."

"Not when it's slimy," Apollo told him. "Or when it's from his nose."

"Nope, this is from his lungs. And he's not a mortal," he reminded Zeus respectfully, for him.

"I'll send Asclepias to him when he's free," Apollo said, waving him away. "Anything else?"

"Do you know who throws a round blade with no teeth?"

Zeus started. "No. I've seen a few but I've never known who threw them. Why?"

"Someone sent one at one of Xander's pawns. He asked me to protect him for a while." Strife shrugged and left.

"Hades had a large influence on him," Apollo noted. "He's not the same cocky kid he used to be."

"Yes, but I'm not sure if it's a bad thing or not." He looked down at himself. "So, how am I?"

"Fine. Just a little tired."


Xander woke up as he felt the cool hand touching his forehead, reaching up to push it away. "I'm fine."

"Of course you are," Asclepias assured him. "For a man who can't breathe and is running a high temperature, you're in great condition."

"It's just a cold."

"Ah, I see. And did you think that a cold was beneath us?"

"It can't be healed," Xander said, giving him a petulant look. "See, no big." He sneezed and moaned as the pain shot down his arm again. "Oww!"

"Muscle reflex," the healer assured him gently, touching the pained area to ease it. "It's like a small cramp from the movement." He smiled at Xander. "What would Ares say if he saw you like this?"

"He already did," Xander said, rolling into the comforting body. "Can you make my head not so stuffy?"

"I can try. And if not, I'm sure I could go find you some medicine to make the symptoms go away for a bit." He waved a hand across the damp head, bringing down the fever. "There, how's that?"

"Good," Xander admitted, still sounding stuffy. He looked up. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Asclepias opened his hand and in it were two tan pills. "Take these."

"What are they?"

"Advil cold and sinus." He watched as the young man took the pills with the juice sitting on the table. "Good. Now, you go sleep in your bed, not on the couch."

"But I need to be here. The kids are back and I need to hear them."

"The children are at Aphrodite's and they're driving her insane," Asclepias corrected. "Go to bed."

"I stick to the bed," Xander whined.

"So change the sheets." Asclepias stood up and held out a hand. "Come on, let's go put you into bed and I'll even help you change the sheets." He walked the young man into his bedroom, shaking his head at the polyester sheets on the bed. "No wonder you stick to them. I would have thought Ares would have demanded comfy sheets."

"He does. We ran out." Xander concentrated on the bed, changing the nasty sheets to soft cotton ones that floated gently in the room's breeze. "Cool," Xander managed to get out before he sneezed again. He barely had time to panic as the sheets rose up to attack him.

"Father!" Asclepias yelled as the sheets overtook him and buried him before he could teleport out.

Strife, Apollo, Cupid, and Harmonia all popped in at once, all groaning at the mass of cotton building up in the room. Cupid floated above it all, his wings beating gently as he tried to remove the sheets. "Can't do it, dude," he sighed. "I can't move a bit of it."

Strife and Apollo had backed themselves up until they were standing in the doorway, guarding the rest of the temple from the growing mass of cloth. Cupid flew down and landed behind them, joining with them to try and remove the cloth.

Harmonia got practical. "HERA! HE DID IT AGAIN!"

Hera appeared on top of the growing mass of cotton and groaned. "Asclepias, we do have to cure this boy soon. Before we all get buried by something. First it was juice and now this." She waved a hand but the cloth continued to grow under her, making her bend down because the ceiling was getting closer with each passing second. She teleported out of the room, landing behind the young Gods. "Apollo, can't you cure this?"

"I gave him some medicine," Asclepias admitted as he appeared. "Just before he sneezed." He frowned at the cloth bringing Xander to him. "Good, you're living. Undo it."

Xander moaned, curling up against the healer's side. "I can't. I tried. I really tried." He sneezed again and the cloth went from a nice, cool tan to a bright purple. "Oops." He looked over at Hera. "I don't mean to do these things."

She frowned, turning it on Strife after a few seconds. "I think this is your lineage's problem. None of the rest of us have ever had this problem."

"None of the rest of us have had a cold," Apollo pointed out. "What did you give him?"

"Advil Cold and Sinus." Asclepias shrugged. "It works best from what I can tell." Xander started to snore, making everyone sigh. "I don't think he could help it."

"Me either." Apollo scratched his head. "It'll take Ares to undo this probably. It's his temple."

"He's in LA," Strife offered. "He's watching over one of Xander's pawns since he didn't want him to get off the couch."

Harmonia grabbed Xander and carried him over to the couch, tucking him back in. "There. That's one less problem." She sent a thought winging out into the ether, bringing both Oz and Giles, both of which sighed when they saw the sheets flowing out of the bedroom. "He sneezed," she said dryly. "Think you can clear this up?" She moved out of the way of a tendril of fabric before it could wrap around her ankle.

Oz and Giles joined hands, concentrating on the fabric. It turned striped, tan and purple, but otherwise kept growing. Oz looked down at Xander. "You are in so deep when Ares gets home. We're going to go stay with Cupid tonight so he can have you all to himself."

"Not a chance, you'd bring some of this with you."

Strife teleported out, going for the boss.


Ares stretched as he heard the door open. He bounded out, following Nick out the door. He ignored the groan, carefully following along so nothing could get his tail. They walked back to the bar, Ares smirking internally because he was causing quite a stir, and a lot of women were looking at him in appreciation. He followed Nick up to the office, taking up a position on his lap and giving him a head butt to get ear scratches.

"I got problems," Nick said, breaking the shocked silence. "It appeared while I napped." He looked down at the cat, stopping his scratching. "Get off!"

//Pet me or I'm going to knead you with my claws,// Ares sent to him.

Nick sighed and went back to petting the large cat. "See?"

"Not really," his boss, Matt, said from behind the desk. "Did you try to call Animal Control, or the Zoo?"

"I tried Animal Control, they laughed and hung up." Nick groaned as he heard the other demand. "No, ya don't need beer. You're a cat, you don't get beer." He caught the look everyone was giving him. "What? He's doin' it, not me!"

"Calm down," the blond man from earlier said, patting Nick on the shoulder. "It's all right." His eyes crossed as Ares sent a mental image of him without a hand. "Okay, Major, the cat's now talking to me too." He backed away.

//Can I please have a beer?// Ares asked the man behind the desk. //My consort won't let me drink anymore. At least not in the temple.//

Matt whimpered and got up, going down to the bar. He came back with a tray of drinks, and a bowl of beer. He handed them out and sat back down, taking his shot as fast as he could. "All right, I'm ready for this now. Nick, does your friend have a name?"


The woman coughed. "I'm not in this discussion," she said, walking out.

Everyone watched as the cat followed her, licking his lips.

"Stop that," Nick said, tapping the cat on the nose. "Margo's not like that." He looked at Matt. "I have no idea what's goin' on, but I'd like it to stop. Now, please, if possible."

Matt nodded. "Me too." He picked up the phone and dialed. "Trout? No, we have a little problem here so we might have to put off departure for an hour. No, Nick's apparently inherited something like a panther and it's got a very odd name. No, Ares. Why?" He closed his eyes and hung up. "Trout said that if that's who he thought it was, he really shouldn't be here. He's usually only in Cheyenne Mountain."

"Sir?" the blond man said.

"Benny Ray, there's a project down there that's so secret no one knows what's going on. And Nick's cat has apparently shown up there before."

Strife appeared, to everyone this time, and leaned down, whispering in the cat's ear. "Sorry," he said, shrugging. "Personal problem." He grinned at Matt. "The mountain guys are fun by the way. You'd like them."

Ares stretched and disappeared, Strife following him. Ares prowled into his temple's living room, glaring at the people standing around. He jumped as some of the fabric reached for him, landing as a human. "How'd this happen? Or shouldn't I ask," he amended when his mother glared at him.

"That boy of yours has so little control. *He* did this." She waved at the fabric. "He was trying to change the sheets and sneezed."

Xander sneezed again and the tan stripe changed to royal blue. "Sorry," he moaned.

Ares leaned down, kissing him on the forehead. "You are in such trouble," he whispered.

"I didn't mean to," Xander whined. "I couldn't stop it."

"What one God's done, another can't undo," Zeus reminded as he teleported in, narrowly missing getting grabbed. "He did this?"

"It was an accident," Asclepias said respectfully. "He was trying to change the sheets to something more comfortable to sleep on. It just never stopped growing." He waved a hand at the fabric mass. "It's not his fault he's sick."

"Point," Zeus said, looking at his wife, who sighed. "How long has this been growing?"

"A few minutes at the most," Hera told him. "We had the same problem this morning with him trying to make a glass of juice automatically refill though." She looked at Asclepias. "How much longer will this illness last?"

"I've given him some medicine. As long as he takes it, the symptoms should mostly disappear and leave him clear-headed enough to have control. The cold itself will last one to two weeks."

"No," Xander moaned, sitting up. He glared at the fabric. "Go away," he growled, making it flicker. "I mean it. Go away!" He stomped his foot as best he could on the other side of the couch in protest when nothing happened. The fabric left. "Now, everyone out! I need a nap!" He pulled the blankets up over his head and hid.

Hera smiled at her husband. "That's a relief at least," she said. He nodded. "Shall we go and leave Ares to watch over his own consort?" She looked at her son. "I suggest you not leave him alone again, Ares."

"Hey, I was here," Harmonia complained. "He was napping when 'Sclep showed up. Yell at him for movin' him." She glared at her grandmother. "I was doing fine."

"I'm sure you were," Hera assured her, giving her a hug. "This isn't about you. Only Ares can control the boy." She disappeared, taking Zeus with her.

Apollo shook his head. "This is royally screwed up," he said, grinning at Ares. "At least it's in your house. You're used to this. Ta." He wiggled his fingers and disappeared too.

Asclepias rolled his eyes. "My father is such a drama queen some days."

"I heard that," floated out of the air.

"Yay," Asclepias called back. "You are. Even more than Discord some days." He covered his mouth. "I'm sorry, Ares. I know she's a touchy subject."

"Don't worry about it. What do I do for him? I need to get back to those boys."

"I'll go," Harmonia said, disappearing as fast as she could.

Ares sighed and looked around. "Okay, what else happened while I was working for him?"

"Well," Strife said, blinking as Harmonia sent him something. "Oh, I'm gonna get him, bad." He disappeared.

Ares looked around. "What was that about?" he asked quietly, his voice cold.

"Strife, leave him alone!" Xander yelled. "He's already been punished enough."

Ares glared down at his consort. "What happened?" he repeated, his voice losing all leftover warmth.

"Your son got a little frisky," Hera said as she reappeared. "Your father sent you this," she said, handing a red box over to Asclepias. "Is that what he takes?"

"Yes. Every six hours." He handed them to Ares. "Make sure of it." He looked around. "I'm going to go veg. Later." He left them alone.

Cupid waved. "I'm gonna go save Mom from the kids. They'll be at my place tonight." He left, Hera following him.

Ares sat down next to Xander, stroking his forehead. "What happened? Tell me and I'll fix it."

"I think Strife went to do that," Xander complained. "And I told him not to."

Deimos popped in screaming, hiding behind his father. "You sent Strife after me?" he screeched.

"Nah, I'm havin' fun now, and on my own time," Strife said, appearing behind him. "Don't you *evah* touch the guy again!" He shook his cousin, disappearing with him.

"He did what?" Ares yelled, calling both younger Gods to him. "What did you do, Deimos!"

"Drop it, Ares, this is between me and him," Xander said, forcing himself to sit up. "I handled it, it's done." He glared at Deimos. "Isn't it?"

The God of Pain nodded, disappearing again.

Strife looked down at him. "You're gonna let him get away with it?"

"Yes. He was punished."

"A knee to the groin around here is foreplay, not punishment." Strife disappeared right before Ares' powerbolt hit him.

"What did my son do!" Ares shouted.

"He tried to make out with me," Xander admitted in a whisper, sliding back down under the blankets. "I stopped him."

Ares calmed himself, reaching down to remove the blankets. "Are you all right?"

"He didn't get beyond a kiss and I stopped him," Xander told him, giving him a big-eyed look. "Don't hurt him any more, Ares."

"I won't, as long as you're satisfied that he's been punished." Xander nodded. "Okay then. Is Nick going to be all right?"

"You left him with a lot of questions but I think Harmonia can handle them." He smiled at his lover. "Can I have a hug? I still feel rotten."

"Of course you can." Ares watched as Oz and Giles walked out of the bedroom. "All clean?"

"Very clean, and there are new sheets on the bed," Giles said, coming around to sit under Xander's feet. "Oz, shall we cuddle the poor boy?"

"Sure." He disappeared and reappeared under Xander's middle. "I'm comfy," he said with a grin as he got glared at from Giles.

Ares lifted Xander's head up, sitting under it. "We'll stay until you fall back to sleep," he promised. "You nap and we'll be fine." He shared a look with their bed bunnies, telling them they'd be talking later.


Harmonia appeared outside the office above the bar and tapped politely on the door. "Hi," she said as she walked in. "I'm here to answer questions that my father left?" She smiled at Nick, leaning down to kiss him on the cheek. "At least you're safe."

Matt stared at her. "Who're you?"

"Harmonia, daughter of Ares. Better known as the big cat that lounged around and drank beer." She smiled at him. "And yes, he's the same one that was in Cheyenne Mountain."

Matt closed his eyes and finished off the beer in front of him. "All right. Whatever."

Nick raised his hand. "I'm sensin' a pattern here. Greek Gods?"

"Bingo," she said, clapping her hands. "Right on the nose."

"Oh, man," Benny Ray said, walking out and leaving them alone. "I don't want to know."

Matt got up. "Me either. Nick, keep the strangeness to yourself." He walked out, leaving them alone.

Nick smiled at her, moving his feet so she could sit on the couch. "So, why was I focused on? I'm not special."

"Let's just say my father was doing a favor for another God and leave it there, okay? He was supposed to make sure that you made it through the day."

"Which God? It's not like I pray to you guys."


"Gee, don't remember him from my schooling." He frowned at her. "What's he over?"

"Presently lust and trouble, but I think it's going to change soon." She winked at him. "He was sick so he sweet talked Ares into coming down for you." She leaned closer. "Don't worry about it, you didn't do anything wrong, it's a part of your life that's brought you to our attention. Just go about your normal life and deal with it. You can even forget all about us." She disappeared.

Nick nodded to himself. "Yeah, forgetting sounds good. Real good," he muttered as he stood up and walked out, wanting another drink himself. He met Deke down at the bar. "Hey, the cat's gone."

"Good." Deke looked at the other team members. "Did it talk to you guys too?"

Everyone turned away from him.

"Oooh," Harmonia said, reappearing. "I *like* you," she purred, giving him a bright smile. "What do you do?"

"What's your name?" Deke asked, returning the interest by leading her away to a private table.


Hera looked across her study at Zeus and Apollo. "Do you have the feeling that we have underestimated that boy again?" she asked.

"Definitely," Zeus said. "I never did anything like that."

"But Strife did something similar," Apollo reminded them. "We could change his title again, give him something harmless but under Strife's and Ares' heading. They'd know how to handle such unpredictability."

"Yes, we could," she said, giving him a bright smile. "How about...." She thought for a second. "God over the ones who fall into the cracks?"

"We'd have to rename it," Apollo said. "That way he won't be insulted."

"I doubt he'd be that over the change," she said, waving her hand. "He's changed areas a number of times so far and he's never complained yet."

"How many followers will that give him?" Zeus asked. "We don't need a dysfunctional God with too few followers to stay strong enough to live."

"True, but there's enough that have fallen through the categories we already have to more than give him enough."

"All right," Zeus said, nodding. "I'll allow the change, but this is the last one." He stood up. "Write it out for me so I can present it once he's better." He walked out.

Apollo looked at his mother. "Let's get Athena into this. She can name almost anything poetically."

"Good point. Go get her."


Ares looked at his bed bunnies, giving them a grim smile. "We have to fix this, guys. Xander won't be allowed to be this dysfunctional with his powers for too long."

"Then we'll have to start the control lessons again," Giles said. "It might not hurt for all of us to have them at that."

"Yeah, I could use some fine-tuning," Oz agreed. "How do we get him to give in gracefully?"

"After today?" Ares asked. "If he complains, let *me* take care of it. You two are in charge of rewarding the guy." He smirked. "I'm sure we'll get his attention somehow."

"We had his attention last time," Giles noted. "And he had appeared to have learned the lessons well enough."

"Yeah, but that's gone now," Oz reminded him. "Simply changing the sheets shouldn't endanger the Pantheon."

"And it won't, ever again," Ares said.


Jack walked into his office and screamed as a pile of fabric attacked him. He was pulled away before it could really suffocate him, but it left him panting. "Oh, someone's going to pay," he whispered, glaring at it. "I need someone to contain this thing!" he yelled, bringing guards. "Be careful, it tried to eat me."

Strife popped in and started to laugh. "I wondered where he sent that." He winked at Daniel as he walked up to where they were standing. "Never sneeze when you're powerful." He smirked at Jack and left.

"That's it," Jack said, glaring at Daniel. "No more praying to Xander for you for a week." He tugged his friend down the hall, all the way to the General's office.


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