Next Main Page(NC-17)
Oh, Boy, Did They Screw Up!
Ares stormed into his temple's main area, too livid to say anything. He pushed Xander away when he walked up to him, shooting him with an icy glare.
Strife popped in and pulled Xander farther away before he could be hurt. "This is Ares in the worst possible mood," he whispered. "It's best to leave now and come back when he's worked through whatever caused this problem."
Oz popped in and gave Ares a sympathetic look. "I just heard. You okay?"
Strife shook his head. "Leave him alone, it's for the best."
Oz shrugged and looked at Xander, who was being held. "Ares has a right to be pissed. Another school shooting happened today. This one said that he got the idea from mythology, from one of Ares' warriors."
Strife groaned. "Oh, man, no wonder." Ares turned on him, his hands starting to glow with power. "Hey, if it helps, hit me," he offered, moving away from Xander. "Just don't hit the kids."
"No hitting," Xander said quietly, walking up to Ares and enfolding him in his arms. "You're not responsible for this, Ares. Everyone who knows you knows that you wouldn't advocate that sort of thing. The kid was copping out for what he'd done." He could feel the body vibrate and squeezed harder. "Nope, not going to let you explode and hurt someone. This isn't your fault. This is some stupid kid's fault, he never should have blamed you." Ares was still shaking so he went on. "I bet this kid didn't even pray to you, did he? He picked up the idea and went with it before anyone could stop him. Did he even try to resolve the problems he was having? Did he call out for your help like the kid in the myth probably did?"
Ares shook his head, he was still icy and dispassionate, but it was a start.
Xander led Ares on a route around the main room of the temple, continuing to talk to him in quiet tones and whispers, soothing his consort down until he could focus on his own. Eventually, Xander got Ares sitting on the couch, and he curled up against him, holding his hand. "Did anyone get hurt?" he asked finally.
"Two kids," Ares ground out. "Xander, I can't..."
Xander stood up and offered him a smile. "Go, wear it out. Now that you won't destroy everyone on the planet, I'll let you do that. I'll be here waiting."
Ares nodded and left, his usual flash much darker.
Strife started to clap. "Man, way to go, Xander. I've never seen anyone calm Unc down that much."
"Has anyone tried?" Xander asked sadly, giving him a weak smile. Strife shook his head with a frown. "Sometimes you have to vent, but he couldn't do it in that much of a rage, someone innocent would have gotten hurt." He looked over at Oz, who was waiting in the kitchen. "Want ice cream?"
"Sure. Get me chocolate."
Xander disappeared, heading down to the mortal plane to get them some comfort food.
Hera walked into the meeting area of the Gods and clapped for silence. "Where's your consort?" she asked Xander. "He should be here for this."
"He's down on the mortal plane wearing out some anger. A kid blamed an old myth with him in it for him shooting the kids who were picking on him."
"I heard about that," Athena said. "He didn't even figure in the myth. Where did that child get that idea?"
"I'm not sure but I'm thinking about finding out," Xander told her.
"If dad hasn't done it already," Cupid pointed out from behind them.
Xander shot him a grin and a nod. "Exactly. So," he said, clapping his hands together. "You've got me another job? Already?"
Hera took her seat and nodded him forward. "We found one that better suits your abilities, young Xander. While lust," she told the crowd, "is definitely in him, he is not well suited for this job and we knew it was a temporary solution when we appointed him to it. Since then, while doing an update of who we actually serve, we have found a large group of people who have no God or Goddess over them. They are much as you were in life, overlooked."
"Gee, thanks," he said dryly.
She smiled at him. "It's not an insult, just a statement of fact. When you were younger, there was no God over your path. So now you will guide all those that are as you were." She made appear a scroll and handed it over to him. "Accept your fate as God of the Overlooked," she said solemnly.
He took the scroll and opened it to look inside, then looked up at her. "I'll do my best. Do I need assistants?"
"We're not sure how many there are," she told him. "Let's not be too hasty."
Xander shrugged. "Okay. Will this person that slighted my consort fall under that?"
"Most definitely. Do with him as you would."
Xander nodded and disappeared in a flash of gray light.
"Gee," Strife said sarcastically as he stood up, "that was fitting at least."
"We may have renamed it, Strife, but it is for the best." Hera stood up. "That is all."
Athena raised her hand. "What about GodWar, where does he stand now? In changing his job, you may have changed his pawns."
Hera waved her hand and shook her head. "It's of no importance. Cupid, he will remain under your aegis until you can appoint one of the Godlings to aide you." She disappeared.
"Oh, boy," Strife said, looking at Cupid. "Think that was a mistake?"
Cupid nodded. "Very big one actually. Let's go help him figure some things out." They left together, ignoring the other Gods, who were staring at them.
Athena pointed her carrot stick, a recent craving of her child's, at Aphrodite. "They're right. There's a lot who have fallen through the cracks. I tried to point this out, but no one listened to me."
Artemis shivered suddenly. "At least he'll be decent with all that power."
Athena snorted. "It may solve some of his problems if you think about it." She got up and walked away, teleporting around gave her indigestion.
Artemis looked at Apollo, who was pale. "She may not be right," she pointed out. "Athena has been known to be wrong."
He nodded and disappeared, going to talk to his mother.
Hera had just sat down when Apollo appeared on her footstool. "What?" she sighed, making a drink appear in her hand and taking a sip.
"We may have screwed this royally," he said quietly. "Did we think about how many have fallen through the cracks recently?" Hera shook her head and put her drink down. "If you think about it, there are whole groups of people that we don't serve. Each small in number maybe, but together, they constitute a large majority of the world right now."
She groaned. "We'll have to watch him closely then."
"Artemis suggested something though," he told her, reaching out to pat her on the knee. "All this power may solve his recent power problems."
"Or he could become dangerous to the Pantheon," Hera pointed out.
"No, I don't think so. I think it might solve it. If you remember, when we first started to lose followers, we had some of the same problems, only in lesser degrees. He may have a problem with having too little power and that may be causing his lack of control. His powers want more to feed them, not less, and they're trying to build a reserve. If you've noticed, he doesn't have a problem if he's not been using it for a few days."
She thought then nodded. "Still, we'd best watch over him a little more closely. I think it would be reasonable to assume that he might have some trouble adjusting."
Apollo got a thought and stared hard at his mother. "You think he's going to win, don't you?"
Hera shrugged. "I have no notion of who will win GodWar, son, but I do know that I don't want him to."
He shook his head. "He's the best one of us to win, he'll be good to the humans while bringing our powers back up." He stood up. "I'll have 'Sclep watch over him for you." He disappeared in a flash of golden light.
Hera picked back up her drink and took a sip. "That went well," she told herself. She looked over to find Xander's cat on her couch. "What do you want, Furry?"
Xander walked into his home temple and looked around at the destruction. "Gee, guess Ares was home for a few minutes." He waved a hand and restored the TV, his mouth falling open as his exact wish was fulfilled. He looked at his hand, then in the broken mirror, willing it to be fixed too so he could look at himself. "Gee, that's strange," he said, looking down at himself. "I have a really good glow going now." He saw Strife behind him and turned to grin at him. "Something's working right!" he said happily.
Strife looked him over and grinned slowly. "More than you think." He pulled Xander into a hug. "Not only did you find your niche, but you have enough power to control yourself now." He pulled back and thumped the younger God on the back. "Way to go!"
Xander preened under the attention. "But why?"
"Because there's a lot of new people for you to lord over," Cupid said as he popped in. He looked at Xander, then at Strife, who was grinning widely. "He found it?"
"He's got enough to live on and enough for control. He works now." Strife passed Xander over for another hug. "Unc was here and he fixed it all, and it all works."
"Not so sure about the TV yet," Xander admitted. "I just wanted it fixed."
"Then let's try it." Strife called the remote to his hand and tried to turn it on, frowning when it didn't work. "Okay, so not perfect on your first day."
Oz walked in and walked over, plugging the TV in. He hit the power button and walked away, heading down to his office. "Ares is in Tartarus with Hades," he called out. "He'll be back later."
"Coolness," Xander whispered, looking at his friends. "I work!"
"Yup, you do," Strife agreed. "Wanna go give Unc the good news?"
"No, I want to do something first," Xander admitted. He looked down at himself and changed back into his comfy silk tank-top and drawstring, loose cotton pants. Then he waved and disappeared, going to figure something out. He appeared outside of a jail cell, and once he made sure he was invisible, he walked through the bars to wake the young boy up. "Hey," he said as he shoved him roughly. "Get up, I wanna talk to you."
The boy sat up and rubbed his eyes, looking around for guards. "Who're you?" he asked finally. "Why are you here?"
"I'm your God, boy, and I want to ask you something." The boy started to open his mouth but Xander rendered him mute. "No, you're going to listen for a second. I want to know why you chose to besmirch Ares' name with what you did? He would *never* condone such an action. He may be the essence of War, but he'd never take such a cowardly approach to fighting or for sticking up for yourself in such a way." He removed the block on the boy's voice, making it so only he could hear him. "Now then, why use Ares that way?"
"He's over War, I thought he wouldn't mind. But I *had* to, it was them or me. They made sure I knew that."
"Then they'll be punished, same as you will. Why didn't you tell anyone?" he asked as he sat on the bunk beside the boy. "Why not narc and save yourself?"
"Because they said no one would believe me."
"Do they now?"
He shook his head. "Nope. They were real clever about not letting anyone see them do stuff to me."
Xander read his mind, shaking his head at the lies he saw in there. "Calling names isn't a reason to shoot someone, kid. Having to keep yourself from dying is." He stood up and blocked him from talking about their discussion, then went to find his consort to tell him about what he'd found. He popped in behind Ares, leaning down to give him a hug, not even minding when he was pushed away. "I had a talk with your accuser," he said quietly. "You were a scapegoat to him. He never even read that myth the whole way through. He got to your name and decided this was how it'd work best."
Hades leaned back in his chair and nodded at Xander. "Anything else?"
"Only that the kids were picking on him, by calling him names, but there was never any threat on his life. He justified it to himself that he was in danger." He shrugged at the hard look. "He's one of mine now."
"That's right," Hades said, "you got a new job today."
"God of the Overlooked."
Ares jumped up. "What? They gave you a nothing job because you were *sick*?" he screamed.
"No, they ended up fixing me," Xander said calmly, holding out his arms. "Look at me, Ares, I work now."
Ares took a long look at his consort's power and then started to laugh, falling back into his chair because he couldn't stand up anymore.
Hades looked at Xander and smiled, shaking his head. "Oh, did they screw this up," he muttered. "How are you feeling?"
"Great actually. I fixed the damage to our temple easily, and it all works. For some reason, a hurricane went through and threw my toys everywhere," he confided in his friend, with a wink. "I might even get fancy and make dinner tonight." He smiled down at Ares. "It was Strife and Cupid that figured out that I worked now."
Ares, still laughing, nodded and gasped for air. "Mother's.... got to be... kicking herself," he panted.
"Probably," Hades agreed. "Xander, how would you like to figure out how many followers you have now?"
"Oh, I think I can feel them all," Xander said, rubbing his chest then the back of his neck. "It's like they're all staring at me right now."
"It would feel that way," Hades agreed. "Most of the time, we elder Gods can't feel that. Our followers are all old to us and we dismissed that feeling a long time ago."
"Are you feeling overcrowded?" Ares asked as he got himself calmed down.
"Kinda, yeah. It's almost like my powers want to go out and dance around without me."
Ares nodded and looked at Hades, who nodded. "They probably do," Hades explained. "Your powers are much more in line with Strife's. They're very chaos based."
"He told me that while he was teaching me control," Xander admitted.
"Right now, they're trying to gain a little... independence," Hades told him. "You're going to have to use them more often, wear them out a little more, to keep control over them."
"Or strange things will happen?" Xander asked with a grin.
"Exactly," Ares groaned. "Strife used to sleep-teleport when he was very young and couldn't wear out his powers. That's why he got adult level access so young."
"Okay, lost me there," Xander said, looking down at his consort.
"Sit," Hades said as he made another chair appear. Xander sat and looked at them both. "Younger Gods, and children thereof, aren't allowed full access to their powers until we're sure they're ready. Except for Strife. His was a necessary exception because his powers could have driven us all mad." He smiled at Ares. "Fortunately, someone understood their nature and helped the little guy out."
"Strife, and you, Xander, both have powers that can overtake you if you're not careful. It's important that you keep a tight rein on them by using them more often. Otherwise," Ares paused dramatically, "we could all be living in a big pond."
Hades snorted. "That was amusing."
"And the first sign of Strife's lineage is his heritage coming to the forefront," Ares pointed out. "It could have been much worse if you think about it."
Hades snorted. "Not for me." He waved at Xander. "I hear Oz calling you."
Xander tipped his head and nodded. "He and Harmonia want me to come play games." He blew a kiss at Ares. "Gotta go. Come play later?"
"Sure." Ares waited until they were alone. "Think he got the point?"
"Let's hope so. It'd be difficult to go rescue him from some of the places that Strife used to end up."
"But Xander's not five. We have an advantage there. He understands reason." Ares stood up. "Thanks, Unc, for letting me vent."
"Hey, anytime. Go get a hug or whatever." He waved his nephew away, smiling to himself. Another crisis adverted.
Asclepias popped into Xander's and Ares' temple, smiling at the young Gods playing video games. "Having fun?" he asked as he sat down on the couch.
"Yup," Oz said as he paused the game and looked over his shoulder. "Needed the Xander for something?"
"No, I'm supposed to check on him." He smiled gently at Xander. "Any more power losses, or surges?" Xander shifted and crossed his feet under him, shaking his head. "Good, those are the symptoms of the problem that you've been having. This new power of yours has apparently cured everything, but I still need to keep a closer eye on you."
"Because someone's scared?" Xander suggested lightly.
Asclepias grinned and touched his finger to his nose. "But we can't say that out loud, can we?" He reached over and touched the younger God's shoulder, marveling at the strength he felt there. "Good, you're very healthy, I won't have to worry too much about you."
"Yeah, I've already been given the 'be careful with it, it'll overtake you' speech by Hades and Ares."
"How is the studmuffin doing?" Oz asked as he went back to his game.
"Fine. He's lounging in Hades' office. Or at least he was."
"Nope, wrong again," Ares said as he appeared. "Hey, 'Sclep, what's up?"
"I was asked to come check on Xander, as you very well know." The healer stood up and gave the God of War a shy smile. "I've seen enough, I'm going to go make notes." He left.
Ares walked around and sat down on the couch, stretching out. "Why are we playing a racing game?"
"Because the shooting one was starting to be worn out," Oz told him.
"We need new games," Xander decided. Then he waved his hand.
Oz looked around him at the stacks of new games, standing up to look down at Xander from over top of a stack. "Where'd these come from?"
"He'd be over hackers and programmers," Harmonia said. She stood up and picked up the top game to look at it. "Are all of these finished?"
"Not sure," Xander said, frowning at the stacks. "I wanted new, fun, games to play and these are what appeared. But not all of them are really new ones, I know that somehow."
"We'll go through them tonight and label them all," Harmonia said, holding up an unlabled CD.
"Let's hope that's a copy of his work and not the original," Oz noted.
"It is," Xander said, grinning up at him. "I'm sure of that much."
Ares picked up one of the CD's and looked at it, handing it over to Oz. "Let's see what his little mind cooked up."
Oz slipped the CD into the converter he had created a few weeks ago and turned it on; there was more than one game system out on the market and he liked games on the systems they didn't have. He smiled as a little yellow circle appeared.
"Pac Man," Harmonia, Xander, and Oz said together.
"What's he do?" Ares asked with a frown.
"He eats pellets and gets chased by ghosts," Oz explained, handing over the controller. "Here, try it. It's one of the original games."
Ares tried to play the game, growing more and more frustrated each time the little circle got stuck in a corner. He tossed the controller back at Oz with a growl. "Here, I can't get him out of the cul-de-sac." He watched as Xander effortlessly maneuvered the creature around the board, quickly advancing levels. "It's rigged, right?" he suggested calmly.
"Nope, just a matter of this being my childhood." Xander paused the game and grinned at him. "I used to spend *hours* in front of this game. This was my life for a while."
Ares shook his head and stood up. "I'm going to get dinner. Anyone want anything besides nectar?"
Xander waved a hand and a lot of dishes appeared on the table. "I said I'd make dinner," he reminded his consort.
Ares looked over the dishes, then groaned. "Xander, I was thinking something more substantial than brownies and ice cream." Xander waved his hand again and a single plate of asparagus with cheese sauce appeared. "Gee thanks."
"Welcome," Xander said happily. "Ha! Got you, Oz."
"Xander, don't eat Oz, eat the pellets," Harmonia sighed.
Ares snickered. "If you had heard yourself say that," he told his daughter.
Strife popped in and immediately grinned at the food on the table. "The Xandman made dinner?" he suggested with a wink for his Uncle.
Ares nodded, glaring at him. "Why did you call him that?"
"It was a nickname in high school," Xander called. "One I'm not so fond of now."
"Yay," Strife said. "It suits you."
Oz looked over at Strife. "Be good or no ice cream."
"That's what I forgot," Xander muttered with a snap, and a giant sundae appeared. Complete with cherries and sprinkles. "Thanks for reminding me."
Oz and Ares shared a look and shook their heads. Xander would grow out of it in a few days.
When Xander was still only eating chocolate and ice cream a few days later, Oz and Giles decided to do something mean. They turned the bowl of cookie dough ice cream he was eating into broccoli. Xander looked at his bowl and blinked, turning it back. "I'll be out of it in a few days, give it up," he told them between bites.
So Giles got very sneaky. Each time Xander would take a bite, the ice cream would turn into salad in his mouth. Finally, Xander had had enough and put down his bowl, munching on his latest mouthful. "Not funny," he told the older man. "I'm allowed to treat myself."
"Yes, but you've been doing it for five days," Giles pointed out. "Even you can't live on ice cream alone."
"Pick one with nuts at least," Oz suggested. "We wouldn't complain as much if it had nuts. Some nutrition's better than none," he told Giles, patting him on the arm before he could protest.
"Yes, well, I'd rather that he didn't set such a bad example for the children as all that." Giles frowned at the younger God, who had just made a face at him. "You are. They'll never eat vegetables if you persist in only eating ice cream around them."
"I told them it was a special treat for me and that they couldn't have any except for dessert," Xander pouted.
"And I'm sure Melvin believed you," Oz said dryly. "He snuck out to steal one of your brownies last night."
"Wondered where that went," Xander muttered.
"Nope, I stopped him. You must have eaten it and forgotten."
"Nope," Strife said as he popped in, landing beside Xander, "I did. My first week of real power, I managed to make every practical joke device that would ever be thought up and filled the temple full of them. Unc almost had a fit, but he understood."
"See, I'm being normal and me," Xander said with a nod. He brought his bowl back up and looked down at the limp greens now in it. "Eww! That's disgusting." He put the bowl back down and glared at Oz. "You had to ruin perfectly good ice cream that way?" He disappeared.
Oz picked up the bowl and banished the illusion, taking a bite of the ice cream. "Yup, he did good," he said, holding out a spoonful to Giles.
Xander moved to the rhythm of the music, his hips really into the beat. He jumped as someone grabbed him, but spun around to find Angel standing there. "Hey!" he shouted over the music. "Wanna dance? I needed fun!"
The vampire shook his head and walked the young God out of the club, leaning him against a wall. "What are you doing down here? You're supposed to be on a higher plane."
"Yeah, but we don't have a dance club. Besides, it's not like I'm grounded to that plane. I get to come back to this one to work and to play."
"But your playing is ruining the city!" Angel told him, pulling him over to his car, where he turned on the radio.
"We don't know why, but we have a lot of people having sex tonight on the roads. Be careful out there, especially if you're driving."
Angel turned off the radio and looked at the man he used to know. "Well?" he asked after a few seconds.
Xander started to snicker. "Gee, deadboy, I'm flattered but someone else is over Lust now. I'm just having fun." He disappeared, popping back into the club.
He got back into the music, losing himself in the harsh undercurrents of beats, but was interrupted again by someone else. He turned, dancing with his step-son. "Hey, Deimos!" he shouted. "Go away. I don't need a sitter." He turned back around, picking out a better target to dance with and moving closer to her. He could feel the other God moving up behind him again and rolled his eyes just as she looked at him. "This guy's a pain," he said to ease her frown. "Wanna move with me?" She laughed and they danced together, her body shielding his from the God of Pain's.
Deimos pouted then flicked a slim tendril of power at the woman, who grabbed her side to try and stop the stitch from hurting.
Xander glared at him. "You are so dead," he mouthed, helping her to stand back up and leading her off the floor. He got her settled comfortably at a table and then went back to the floor, but Deimos was gone. He shrugged and went back to his fun time, not expecting to be ambushed again, but he was.
He turned, running into a dark haired woman. "Discord," he muttered. "Aren't you under lock and key for treason?" He moved away from her, going to dance with the other people.
The young actress shook herself. There were some definitely weird people in LA tonight. She really wanted to be back in New Zealand.
Oz stared at the clock, then at Ares, who pointed at the doorway. "You want me to go find him?"
"He's someplace music heavy. Take Strife if you want." He pushed his nephew's head off his shoulder again. "Please." He turned the page on his book, all without looking up.
Oz woke Strife up and nodded at the door, walking out through it and down to the mortal plane, following the music he could hear now that he was trying to find Xander. They ended up in a crowed dance floor, Xander working his way out to them. Oz got into the beat and started to dance as Xander came over to them, appearing to everyone else too. He nodded for Strife to go away, he could handle this one on his own. "Great music," he called out.
"Way great," Xander agreed with a grin. "Dude, Deimos was here and he got the girl I was dancing with."
"Bummer. We'll get him later." Oz scanned the crowd, moving closer to Xander so they wouldn't have to yell. "Is that Discord?"
"If it is, she's being good," Xander said with a shrug. "I asked her why she was down here and she didn't answer me." Xander moved a little closer, rubbing himself against Oz now. "We'll check it out later. It won't be hard to trace her," he said in Oz's ear.
Oz nodded, grinning as the rubbing started to get to him. "Home?" he suggested. Xander shook his head, making him pout. "No?" Oz asked.
"Wanna do this some more. It's been *ages* since we got out, Oz, let's revel in our youth now and I'll *gladly* do other things..." his voice dropped as the music stopped. "Later. Can't we stay for a few more minutes?" He gave his best begging eyes.
"Sure," Oz said, pulling him in for a tight hug. "As long as I get first dibs on you later."
"Hey, anything for my Oz snugglebear." He grinned and winked as the music started again. They started up again, writhing against each other.
Strife had seen the dark haired woman that was so much like his mother and went running back to Ares' temple. "I just saw mom," he said as he flopped down.
Ares dropped his book onto the table beside the couch and stood up, pulling Strife with him. "Come on, you need fun too. You're not that old." He dragged Strife back to the club, turning so he could hold him against his chest, pointing at the woman. "That's an actress. Your mother's in prison right now. Get over it." He smiled at the closest woman, bringing her over with a wink and a leer. "I've got to go, can you watch my cousin for me?" he asked, shoving Strife at her.
She looked him over and licked her lips. "Hey, anything. Can you dance?"
"Sometimes," Strife said, getting into the beat by gyrating wildly, in the best disco style seen to date.
Ares shook his head and went back to the history book he was evaluating for a follower.
Strife bumped into Xander at the bar, grabbing him and giving him a hug. "I'm having a *great* time, man. You're too cool!" He grabbed his water and left, going back to the woman he was trying to talk into spending the night with him.
Xander shook himself and smiled at the bartender. "Two waters, without the additives." He paid out a few bucks and took them, heading back to where Oz was crashed in a corner. He slid down the wall as he handed over a bottle, opening his own to take a sip. "I saw Angel earlier," he noted.
"Huh. How is he?"
"Decent but he thought I was causing the sex-breaking-out-all-over-the-city problem."
"That's a nice compliment," Oz said, nodding. "You set him straight?"
"Yup. Told him that was someone else's job now. Then I came back in here and found Deimos."
"Hmm. Personal stalker?"
"Maybe." Xander finished off his water. "You too tired to go on or not?"
"Want to do this more," Oz grunted as he stood up. "I miss doing these things."
"Hey, we could start a club up there. It'd go over well with everyone else."
"Xan, Hera's gonna crap bricks," Oz reminded him. He patted him on the shoulder and nodded outside. "Let's go find another place since this one has died."
"Cool." They walked out and looked around. "Oops, no ride," Xander said, frowning. A car appeared in front of them, and he giggled. "Coolness, I didn't know I could do that."
"Yup, but it's a wreck, Xan." Oz waved a hand and it turned new, shiny, and very artistic. "Come on, let's go."
"Hey, how'd you do that?" the dark haired woman from earlier asked as she walked up to them.
Oz scanned her then groaned. "They're making a show about Ares," he told Xander quietly, remembering something he had read.
Xander held out his hand. "Xander, God of the Overlooked." He grinned when she went pale. "No one heard it, it's okay. Sorry about earlier, we thought you were Discord, she's been locked up until she's tried next week." He shrugged and let her hand go. "Later."
Oz waved. "God of Young Musicians and Technology." He followed Xander to the car, handing over the keys.
She shook herself and looked around to make sure no one had noticed. Maybe she'd audition for that role after all. It couldn't hurt that those two confused her with the Goddess they wanted her to portray.
Oz walked Xander to the bed, their lips locked together. He pushed his lover back on top of the lumps under the blankets, stripping them both as quickly as he physically could. He climbed on, resuming his kissing, not caring when he felt himself being prepared mentally. He grunted as he was flipped over and Xander slid between his legs, wrapping them around the other God's waist so he'd have easier access.
"Gee," Ares said, turning on a light and sitting up, "I guess you two had fun."
They didn't even hear him. Xander entered Oz's godly-prepared body in one swift thrust, moaning into the lips that had him. He started off on a hard, fast, throbbing rhythm, one that matched the music they had been dancing to.
Oz bit Xander's lip as he came, throwing his head back to catch his breath.
"Does that mean that you don't want more Xander-lovin'?" he asked with an impish grin.
"Oh, I want more," Oz agreed, pushing up against Xander's hard body. "Get on with it though, we'll need to sleep sometime tonight."
Xander leaned down, licking over the extended neck as he thrust, delicately flicking his tongue over the pulse point again and again, in time with his thrusts. He came a few minutes later, his head falling onto Oz's shoulder so he could calm himself down. "Wow."
"Very wow. We do that well together."
Ares groaned. "You two have done that before," he noted.
Xander looked over at him. "Oh, hey, Ares. Did we wake you up?"
Ares groaned and pulled the blankets over his head.
Oz nipped Xander's neck. "We are good together."
"Yup," Xander agreed happily. "Very good together." He sighed and pulled out, rolling limply beside him. "We should nap."
"Yeah, tomorrow's going to be killer for some of us." Oz waved a hand, making them clean, then teleported them both under the covers. "Sleep," he whispered as he wrapped Xander in his arms.
"Yeah, sleep," Xander yawned, quickly falling asleep.
Strife checked all the decent hotels but he couldn't find an open room he wanted, so he had the woman he was with close her eyes and he teleported them to his favorite cheap motel. She squealed when she opened them and backed away from him. "What's going on, man," she asked.
"Just a little switch. You took a short nap," he told her, inserting the thought into her mind so she'd believe him. "It's all okay. I'll leave if you want."
She shook her head, biting her lip as she looked around. "You sure you're not some sort of sicko?"
"Well, I personally think tattoos give me a clearer head," he said as he pulled off his shirt, "but I'm not expecting that outta you." He sat on the bed. "All upta you. I'll give ya cab fare and everything."
She nodded. "Coolness. Thanks. I think I'll do that. I'm not too sure about life right now." She reached for her purse and put the strap over her shoulder. Then she pulled out her gun. "Who are you, man? And I want a straight answer."
Strife stood up and gave her a pitiful look, tapping her on the forehead to let her know exactly who she was with. "Guess tonight's off, huh," he said as he sent her away. He sat back down and considered his options. He really didn't want to go home after this. He *really* didn't want to run into Cupid right now.
"Oh, gee, why not?" Cupid asked as he appeared, following the thoughts. "That bitch," he said, looking at the door. "We should go find her."
Strife grinned weakly up at him. "Nah. Leave her be. Times are hard on women like her. She was bein' careful." He patted the bed beside him. "So, you know?"
"Know what?" Cupid asked with a grin of his own, attacking his lover. He shoved Strife back onto his back and dragged his nails down the pale flesh. "Do you really think some mortal *woman* can do what I do for you?" Strife shook his head. "Then why were you with her?"
"Because Unc shoved me at her when I said I saw Discord."
"Discord," Cupid said, sitting up. "But she's in prison."
"It was an actress chick that looked a lot like her. Unc checked when I went to tell him."
"Good. Cool even," Cupid said as he thought about it. "Maybe even more so." His head lifted more as he felt a wave of energy coming down the street. "Oh, damn," he whispered. "Strife, we've got to go!" He pulled his lover up and grabbed his shirt for him, teleporting them both home.
"What was that about," Strife complained.
"Deimos was broadcasting all over town." Cupid held up a finger. "Ares, you need to control your son better," he called out.
"Gee, you don't look like you need a leash," Apollo said from behind him.
Cupid spun and smiled at him. "Deimos is broadcasting all over LA." Apollo nodded. "You knew?"
"Yeah, we've been trying to get Ares up for a few minutes now."
"UNCLE ARES!" Strife yelled.
Ares appeared, sword in hand, and looked around. "What?" he asked testily, glaring at Strife. "You only do that when you're about to die. What happened?"
"Deimos. He's broadcasting all *over* LA," Cupid told him. "I just felt him doing it. He's *real* pissed at someone."
"Xander," Apollo said. One of Ares' eyebrows went up. "He hit on him again and your consort turned him down. Pissed is well below what he is right now."
Ares growled and went to the mortal realm, grabbing his son off the park bench and holding him high in the air. "Mine," he growled. "Never touch what's mine." He dropped him, glaring at the young man. "You are in deep, Deimos, go home."
Deimos stood up and shook himself. "I don't have to."
"Listen, you brat," Xander said as he appeared, kicking Deimos in the back and knocking him to the ground. "You have no right to do any of this to these people. They haven't done anything to you and I'll be damned if you're going to punish them because you're having a fit of rejection." He picked the God of Pain up and stared into his eyes. "I ... do... not... share.... EVER," he said slowly, screaming the last word. "Get over it already, it's not going to happen. I doubt that any *one* person could ever take Oz's place, much less Ares and Giles." He caught Ares' frown and smiled at him. "It'll take two just to fill Ares' shoes alone," he added. The frown eased. "Get it now, Deimos?"
Deimos disappeared, going to find someone sympathetic.
Xander looked over at Ares. "Is that dealt with or am I going to have a stalker now?"
"I'd be prepared to be stalked. You're the first person who ever told him no." Ares licked his lips as he looked around. "Okay, who's doing Cupid's job?"
"Not real sure. Angel pulled me aside because he thought I was, but otherwise, not a clue." He wrapped an arm around Ares' waist. "Let's go home, 'kay? I could use your big, warm body to warm up with." He looked down at his naked body, then up at his consort's face. "Now, please, before someone catches me?"
"Too late," a happy female voice said from behind them. Her smile brightened as she saw who it was. "Oh, it's Daddy's friend!" She clapped happily. "I get to play with you now. And your friend." She looked at the sword. "Those are naughty," she said, trying to take it. "It could poke
the stars right out of the sky."
Xander coughed. "Dru, I'm not dinner. Go find your Daddy." He waved at her but she didn't move. "Forgot that went on with the God of the Paranormal stuff." He grabbed her and teleported them both to Angel's apartment, dropping her in the vampire's lap. "Here, you did the crime, you deal with her." He left, after a wink for the stunned stare. "Later," he called.
Ares was tapping his foot by the time Xander got back to him. "Took you long enough." He grabbed Xander possessively and popped them home. "How did you know where I was?"
"Strife told me. He knew I wanted to take care of Deimos myself." He ran a hand down Ares' rough cheek. "Your beard thing is not good," he declared, making it disappear but leaving the goatee. "There, much better. I hate stubble burn." He winked and got free, sashaying into the bedroom.
Ares dropped his sword to follow, not caring who was sitting in his living room.
Hera looked over at Zeus, who was eating one of the brownies from the refrigerator. "At least he's keeping the boy under control," she said finally.
"These are good," Zeus said, handing over the last piece. "Have it. I'm full." He stood up and smiled at her. "Those two have a good idea though."
She nibbled on the frosted chocolate confection as she stood up, following him back to their temple.
Oz stuck his head out the bedroom door then shook his head, going back to avoiding the rolling bodies.
Xander reported to the meeting area, frowning at Hera. "You summoned," he asked as he sat down on his assigned bench.
"Yes. Don't yawn," she admonished.
"Sorry, we had a long night." He shrugged at the dirty look. "What do you need from me?"
"First of all, we need to know what you did in LA last night," Hera said calmly. "You were broadcasting all over the city."
"Gee, I didn't broadcast at all," he said, scratching his chest, frowning down at the hair that had sprouted. "Gonna get him for that," he muttered. "I went dancing, and Oz joined me later on. Strife was in town, you could ask him. Though, we did stop Deimos from broadcasting."
"This would have been lust," Aphrodite said, giving him a small wave. "You're still over that until we assign someone else."
He shrugged. "I didn't intentionally broadcast, I don't know what to tell you guys. I was having fun, but I think it started before I got there."
"That it did," Asclepias said as he teleported in and took his seat. "The broadcasting was followed and it did start before he got to town, though Xander seemed to magnify it somehow. Some sort of reflection technique."
Xander shrugged again. "Not a clue, man. Do we know who it originated from?"
"More or less. We know the area."
"Was it residential?" Aphrodite asked. "Otherwise it might have been a club and then we'd *never* find them."
Hera coughed to bring attention back to her. "It's most important that we find whomever did this. This person was broadcasting on a Godly level and that's dangerous."
Xander raised a hand. "Could it have been a kid down a long lineage? I mean, we've seen a few of the kids with powers in their own right. Maybe it skipped a generation or so."
"Or it could have been someone in my field," Giles said as he walked in. He bowed to Hera before taking his seat. "I've found who it was and saved them from their parents, who were trying to kill them for it." He reached over to pat Xander's hand. "Yes, they're from a long lineage, from yours when you were an immortal actually."
Xander shook his head. "Na-uh. I didn't sleep...." He blushed. "Oh, no."
"Oh, yes. We traced it back to a certain house in ancient Greece. One which Ares made you go to one night to wear yourself out. That girl that you were with had her first child six months later, very premature. Hera helped save it, that activated his talent."
Hera frowned. "I did?" He nodded. "Oh, dear. How is this child doing?"
"Fine. Her parents were determined to exorcize whatever demon was possessing her, and as a last resort were going to burn her at the stake if they couldn't cure her. She's presently in a safe place with someone who will protect her."
"Angel?" Oz asked as he walked in, forcing Xander to scoot over when he sat beside him. "Like the hair."
"Not my idea," Xander muttered.
"Yes, she's with Angel and Wesley," Giles said, smiling at him. "You seem to have grown some hair also." He pointed at the tuft sticking out of the t-shirt.
Oz looked down then grimaced. "Nasty crap. Gonna solve that soon."
Hera frowned at their group. "Enough of your new hair. You can curse Strife later."
"It was Cupie," Aphrodite said as she examined her nails. "He and Strife getting together is always a strange thing."
"Oh, I can cure that," Xander promised with a icy chuckle. She looked at him. "What?" he asked innocently, grinning at her.
"Just don't involve Bliss. I'll never hear the end of it."
"If you say so," he said, winking at Hera. "So, did you enjoy the brownie?"
"Yes, Zeus did," she said with a smile. "Other than that, wasn't there another topic to be discussed?"
"The lack of young Gods to fill in all the open spots," Oz pointed out. "We have sixteen open spots and only Bliss, Melvin, Maribelle, Martna, and any other hidden kids to take over."
Hera frowned. "I doubt Melvin would be able to handle a Godly position."
"At least not in the present time," Xander tacked on, glaring at her. "I think he'd do well in a few of them. And Maribelle loves everything."
"Except anything to do with boys," Giles corrected gently. "Or mud."
"Which is usually connected with boys," Oz pointed out. "At least as far as she knows."
"Enough," Hera sighed. "How short are we going to be?"
"Assuming we don't lose any Gods, maybe twenty under in the next decade. If we lose any, we're screwed."
Zeus walked into the meeting area, nodding at his wife as he sat down. "I heard a problem being discussed. What is it?"
"There's not enough people to fill all the vacant spots," Oz told him. "We'll have about twenty spots open in ten years if we don't lose a God."
Zeus frowned. "Why aren't we breeding?"
"Because we're bored and we do that very rarely?" Aphrodite, one of the most prolific on the Mount, suggested.
"What do we need more of, female or male Gods?" Hera asked.
"Both. Most of the positions are open to anyone. There's a minor under Agricultural Fertility that states male. There's one under Death's flag that's female. Other than that, we've got a lot of 'please take it' positions."
"Entry level?" Xander asked.
"Most of them. There's one major one open because you switched. There's actually another one open that's part of someone else's powers that were fissioned off at one time, and that one's female also."
"Mine?" Asclepias asked. Oz nodded. "That was done because at one point and time, I was going to have a daughter and we wanted her to have something in my field. I could take that one back."
Oz made his list appear and looked over it. "Maybe, but you'd be overworked."
"What a shock," Ares said as he materialized. "Did we find out who was broadcasting lust last night?"
"Yes, actually we did," Giles told him, shifting over to make room for him in their group. "Do you remember the night you sent Xander out to go wear himself down?" Ares smiled and nodded. "We'll, she's from that time. Her powers came out last night, during her...initial encounter."
"Oh, man," Apollo sighed. "Virginal broadcasting can be the *worst*." He pulled a notepad out of the air and made a note on it, making it disappear. "Got to start planning now," he told Aphrodite, who was staring at him.
"I'm sure she'll learn how to correct that problem in the future," Giles said kindly. "I think it scared her more than it did everyone else."
"Then we should be fine." Zeus snapped his fingers. "Could she be put into one of those positions?"
"Unless you want to make her the Goddess of Lust, no," Oz said. "There's nothing there that can fit her powers."
"Do we know the other side of her lineage," Hera asked.
"The initial woman that Xander was with was half-siren."
"She was billed as the best in Greece," Ares said helpfully. "It's said she could ensnare a man for days without rest."
"Yes, that would fit," Giles agreed. "It seems that those powers have skipped around in her lineage for quite some time. She's the latest victim of them and she's quite scared about having a normal life."
"I could go talk to her," Aphrodite suggested. "Get her into a line of work fitting with her powers."
"Dear, she wants a *normal* life. She doesn't want to be a prostitute. She waited until she was almost thirty to have sex the first time because the very idea of the act bothers her." The Goddess of Love made a sour face. "She really wants to counsel people and help them."
"She could become a nun," Oz suggested.
"She said she considered that but she couldn't agree with the Church's teachings on too many things. Though, if there was a temple devoted to Asclepias today, she said she'd gladly become a Priestess."
Asclepias blushed. "Only the hospitals. Does she want to become a Psychologist or just a Counselor?"
"She wants to work with high school students. She's got her Masters in Psychology and is working on her Ph.D. If you wouldn't mind, she'd like to talk to you about blocking this."
"Okay. I'll get directions later." He smiled at Xander. "You look much more happy today. Did you have fun?"
"Yup, lots of fun. Oh, does anyone know anything about the show that's going to be put on about you guys?"
Ares groaned. "I do. They don't give me enough credit and I'm definitely portrayed wrong."
"What show?" Zeus asked.
"A TV show," Xander said. "It's about..." He looked over at Ares, who shrugged. "It's about a certain son of yours?"
Zeus nodded. "Those myths would be good for today's youths. It might teach them some respect."
"From *Hercules'* life?" Aphrodite asked. "You've got to be kidding."
"They're mangling the myths," Oz added quietly. "He's always the good guy, never having a rampage, never losing his temper. And no definite interaction with males."
"That's American TV for you though," Xander pointed out. "Gay people are only for sitcoms."
"Please, stop the code," Hera said.
"Code?" Xander and Oz asked together.
"Those are common designations in the system for types of shows. The one we're discussing will be a Science Fiction/Fantasy/Action show. Sitcoms are supposed to be funny," Ares informed her. "Though, this one's supposed to have a lot of humor in it."
"Call me if you see it on," Hera said. "I'd like to see this... show."
"Gladly," Xander said, making a mental note. "Would you like to come watch TV tonight to get a feel for it?"
"No, thank you," she said with great distaste. "Your temple may have it's technology but I prefer to do things the old fashioned way."
"Okay," Xander said with a shrug. "Whenever you're ready." He looked over at Oz. "What's on your agenda today?"
"I'm going to attend meetings at record companies in stealth mode and see what's going on with Rock music today. You?"
"I've got to visit a few places and talk to a few people, give them some hope. Other than that, I was planning on visiting Jack and Daniel to let them know I switched again."
"They're probably still under your aegis," Giles pointed out. "There's no classification for any social scientists. Or for interplanetary explorers."
"That's cool. I'll pop in and tell them that then."
"You might want to check on your sheet monster," Oz said quietly. "Strife said you sent it there."
"I can do that now," Xander said proudly.
Giles patted him on the arm. "Good. Take care of it for them and we'll see you for dinner. I'll be making lamb, potatoes, and a cheeseball."
"Cool. I'll be there. Is there anything else?" Xander asked the pair on the dias.
"No, go to work," Zeus said, watching as he teleported out. "He does have better control," he noted.
Asclepias stood up. "He's actually got enough power now for his control mechanisms to work. Also, he has enough power for Strife's lineage to start showing up in his power signature. If you'd check him, you'd see he was now healthy and doing very well. No more sudden power losses at the wrong moment. No more surges when he gets prayed to. His powers have balanced out. This change was what he needed to thrive as one of us." He sat back down, his report over.
"That's good to know," Zeus said kindly. "Will it stay this way though?"
"Yes," Oz said, standing up. "He's got it all down to a science now. And, looking at our classification system, his area of power is going to be the one growing. There are plenty of things that aren't covered, country musicians for one."
"And hackers," Ares reminded him. "Otherwise we wouldn't have five thousand video games littering our living room."
"True, but also runaways," Cupid said as he popped in. "And rap artists, and gangs and all sorts of things."
Hera frowned. "I had no idea our categories were so outdated. What will it take to fix them?"
"A complete overhaul," Oz said firmly. "You have a few that aren't applicable anymore. The God of Carriages being a minor example under the traveling field. There are also big gaps in the system. I'm God over *computer* technology, but there are things that are part computer that I'm not over, like bionics and artificial limbs. But no one's over those."
Zeus frowned. "How short of Gods would we be if we did this?"
"Do you want a rough estimate or should I go find the six page list that I started yesterday about all the things that aren't covered?" Oz asked dryly.
Hera winced. "We'll leave it as is for now, until we have another population explosion." She squeezed Zeus' wrist. "Not from you. None of them end up Godly."
He sighed and nodded. "Yes, Hera. Not from my lineage."
"If I may," Giles said, "some new blood may well be in the best interest of the Pantheon. With all the inbreeding that's been done up here, the younger Gods aren't as hardy or as powerful as the older Gods were when they were the same age. Even now, there's a clear distinction between the powers of someone Strife's age can pull and the power someone Ares' age can pull."
"So you think some mortal blood might add a needed spark?" Zeus asked.
"Or blood from some other lines," Oz suggested. "Maybe a pact between us and the Norse, or the Hindu Gods, to switch some sperm. Both of them are having the same problem."
"You're saying that we make a pact to have someone like a Valkiyre have a child for us?" Hera asked. Oz nodded. "That would make the most sense. Which God would you offer up to do that with?"
"Any one who wanted to," Oz suggested. "Maybe start with one, picked out of who'd stand the best chance of having Godly twins, and then we'd get one and the other twin would be their's."
"A splendid idea," Zeus said enthusiastically. "We should ask them about that."
"They might be a bit prickly," Giles suggested. "They don't tend to like this Pantheon that much. They consider us libidinous."
"I could talk to Freyja tonight," Hera said, standing up. "We might be able to settle something much easier than the men." She disappeared.
Oz looked at Giles. "Think it'll work?"
"Let's hope so. If we continue this way, none of the next generation of Gods will have any powers, and any that do will be flukes and have problems." He followed Oz out of the meeting area.
Hera knocked politely on Freyja's door and walked in at her yell. "I come to discuss a delicate matter with you," she said as it closed behind her. She smiled as she was handed a beer stein. "Thank you." She took the seat across from her counterpart. "It's been brought to our attention that we have a common problem with the newest generation of offspring," she said, lowering her voice.
"Ah, the weak ones," Freyja sighed, her voice deep and rich. "What do your people propose?"
"Giles and Oz, two of Xander's consorts, have suggested that we do a little interbreeding." She held up a hand at the laugh. "Maybe a Valkyrie and one of our Gods, twin children to come of it. One for your house, one for ours."
Freyja took a sip of her beer and thought about it. "That might be best. How do we pick who the parents are?"
"On basis of who'd produce the best children for the first set," Hera suggested. "We'd wait on any others to see what became of the first two. Otherwise, we'll both have to resort to breeding with *mortals*." She shuddered.
"Sometimes those are the most interesting Gods," Freyja pointed out. "Your Xander was a mortal man before he became a God."
"Yes, and while he's an *interesting* God, he's not from the old lineage and he's having problems."
"I heard he was from a meld of Strife's and Ares'."
"It was a long time ago, back before Strife died. Though it does show in his power structure, it's very much like Strife's some days." She almost smiled. "He's a fluke though. Not at all what we'd normally get from breeding with mortals."
"Good point." Freyja took another sip. "You'd keep your husband out of it?"
"As much as I could," she agreed. "I reminded him that none of his children tend to turn out Godly outside of the Pantheon."
Freyja nodded. "I'll bring this to Thor and Odin. We'll see what the men think of it. Why our women and your men?"
"We don't have that many female Gods," Hera pointed out, "and most that we do have are in committed relationships or sworn to be virgins for their powers."
"Ah. Good point. I'll talk to my men tonight. Alone, out of the hearing of the others. Maybe we'll get one of your younger ones into this."
"Maybe," Hera agreed. "Asclepias might be talked into accepting it if he were asked. He wouldn't normally do that, he's such a shy little God."
Freyja smiled. "I would accept him. Never can have too many healers in the family. A set of twins?"
"I could help ensure it," Hera agreed. "Any sex would be fine for us."
"Good. I'll talk to the men tonight." She stood up. "It's nice meeting you on friendly terms, Hera. I hated our last meeting."
"No one hated it more than I," Hera said sincerely. "I've had no one to talk to in ages." She smiled and faded out, leaving Valhalla.
Freyja smiled and walked out of the meeting room, going to find her men. They'd enjoy this request.
Asclepias backed away from Hera, shaking his head. "Nope, not me. I'm not going to become a breeder for the Pantheon." He disappeared, going to find a friend. He landed in Ares' lap, with Xander cuddled up next to him.
"Gee, needed something?" Xander asked dryly, looking over at him.
Asclepias nodded. "Hera wanted me to be the first one in Oz's plan."
Ares patted him on the back and set him on couch beside Xander. "It wouldn't be so bad. You're a strong God, and a handsome one. Whomever was chosen might even want to start a relationship with you."
Asclepias shook his head. "I don't like that idea. I'm much closer to Xander's ideas about relationships than I am Zeus'." He looked down at his hands. "Besides, I'm not ready for a child yet."
"Which is a good point," Xander said, sitting up to give him a hug, "but who else might be chosen?"
"Yeah, what if Hermes got it," Ares said, supporting Xander.
Asclepias shuddered. "I remember his last son, actually, he's going to be up here for Discord's trial. They're going back in her life to find the basis of her lust for ... him." He looked over at Xander, seeing the calmness in him. "Sorry, had to bring it up."
"Hey, Autolycus was an interesting person," Xander said with a grin. "Maybe we'll be able to talk while he's up here."
"He's immortal, right?" Ares asked.
Asclepias nodded. "He got into the second Tree of Life and stole an apple. His father was so proud of him for it."
"Hermes would be," Ares pointed out. "What if your father got picked?"
"No, Oz's plan calls for a younger God the first time. Most of the older Gods wouldn't be acceptable," Xander pointed out.
"Oh, yeah. Forgot about that little war we had a few years back." Ares shrugged at the healer's dirty look. "What? It was Athena's thing. I told everyone it was a mistake."
"Yeah, you did," Asclepias agreed with a sigh as he leaned into Xander's body. "So I'm the chosen candidate?"
"Well, it's you, Cupid, who has an advantage over you because of Bliss, and Hermes from what I know," Xander admitted. "You're the optimal three."
Asclepias sighed again and nodded. "I don't want it."
"Go tell Oz, let him tell Hera. He'll stick up for you unless there's no one else."
"Thanks, guys." He disappeared, going to find the man who'd hopefully help him.
Ares pulled Xander back into his side, keeping him there with his iron grip. "Xander, I checked out one of those games last night. It was strange."
Xander grinned. "Oz said he found my game in there. You didn't like it?"
"It was very... colorful. That maze though, it was a killer." He smiled at the pleased look. "Strife did excellent with it," he told him.
"Wow. That's very cool," Xander said, snuggling in. "I'll ask how he liked it later, when he shows up for supper."
Cupid backed away from Strife, holding his hands out. "Hey, not my idea, dude."
"Yeah, but you *like* it," Strife countered.
"Well, kinda. It's really an honor. The newest Gods will be started off by *my* kid."
"Bliss isn't enough for you?" Strife pouted.
"What?" Cupid walked over and pulled him into a hug. "It's not like *that*. Think about it, the next version of the Pantheon would be started by my son. One which you'd know and learn to like, at least a little I hope. If something happens to our generation then they could be running things."
"It'll probably be under War," Strife pointed out. "You and a Valkayrie would make some sort of warrior."
"True, but still. Dad's heritage would be minor, and the mother's a fierce warrior if she's got that job already. We could teach it about modern warfare, the type that very few people get hurt in. And I'm sure Ares would love to train a real helper, someone he wants to let handle the wars he doesn't want to deal with."
"Hey!" Strife protested.
"Not to take your place," Cupid said softly, giving him a hug. "To take over Deimos'. A minor God of War under Ares' hand."
"Yeah, that might work. But what would I do?" Strife asked.
"The same thing that you've been doing," Oz said as he popped in, sitting down in front of them. "Hera's going to manipulate powers for the most needed areas. The kid's going to be over something in protection if it's with Cupid." He looked at Strife. "No one's going to take your place, Xander'll fight whoever tries." He smiled at the God of Mischief. "He's more and more like you everyday. Especially if you got that game last night."
"It wasn't hard. You had to work your way through a mind."
"A whacked one," Cupid snorted.
"No, actually his," Oz pointed out. "He made the map of his mind and how he sees things. That anyone could get through all of it was amazing."
Strife grinned. "Thanks. He's not that complicated. The colors were bad though."
"That's him being mixed up probably," Cupid said. "Or thinking."
Oz nodded. "Probably." He stood up. "We clear on how bad this isn't?"
Strife grinned up at him. "Sure. Thanks. He'd really fight for me to keep my position?"
"He already has," Oz told him, leaning down to pat him on the head. "Your hair's flat," he said as he left.
Cupid ran his fingers through the greasy black mass. "You need a bath," he said in disgust, standing up and pulling Strife after him to the bathroom.
"No, not 'Dite bubbles," floated out a few minutes later.
Oz popped onto the end of his temple's couch, looking at the sleeping God snuggled into the God of War. "Wore him out?" he suggested quietly.
"No, his first real day on the job did. He didn't realize how stressful dealing with runaways was. All he did was give out hope and counsel all day." Ares reached out and took Oz's hand. "We're going to have to keep him from overworking himself with this. He wants to go help each follower individually."
"You knew he cared before you took him in," Oz reminded him gently.
"Yeah, I knew," Ares agreed, "but I didn't know how deeply he cared. He sat down and helped bandage someone's wounds from a street fight." He looked down to see the dark eyes open. "I worry, shoot me," he said with a grin.
"Yeah, but that's not the point," Xander said as he sat up. "You worrying yourself sick is the point. I'm not going to go too far with my new job, Ares. I promise."
"Xander, you will," Oz said. "I can almost predict that it'll happen in the next few weeks. Our job is to make sure that you come out of it okay." He reached over to smoosh Xander's hair down. "You need to go nap on the bed. We'll get supper."
"Giles has supper," Xander said, shifting so he was snuggled into Oz's side. "Why do I have to go to the bedroom to nap?" he asked with a saucy grin.
"Because that's where tired little boys belong," Oz said quietly, soothing Xander with his voice, a trick he had found during his last bout of illness. "You're still in adjustment and you need a real nap, not a cuddle-nap." Xander shook his head, barely, and his eyes were all but closed. "Yes, Xander, you need a real nap. One which lets you dream."
Ares stood up and lifted Xander with his powers, catching him gently. He nodded toward the bedroom, carrying the young God in for a well-deserved rest.
Oz sighed and stretched. "I think we're going to have a problem," he told himself. He felt a tendril of prayer winging toward Xander and recognized the voices, so he decided to go fill in for his lover. He appeared in Colorado, nodding at the people gathered around the table. "Xander's taking a much needed nap. How can I help you, Jack?"
Jack shook his head. "You guys really are together, huh?"
"Very. Ares is making sure Xander actually sleeps so I'm filling in for the new God of the Overlooked."
"What happened to Lust?" Jack's boss asked. Oz knew he was a General, but wasn't quite sure of his name.
"He switched yesterday. Lust was a temporary appointment. Unfortunately, Xander's new job is already wearing him out."
"Oh," Daniel said quietly. "Will he be okay?"
"After an adjustment period," Oz agreed. "What can I do for you?"
"Do you know anything about a fabric mass?" Jack's boss asked, tipping his head off to the side when the chuckling started. "I'll take that as a yes."
"Xander had a cold about a week ago and his powers were having problems. He thought he had gotten rid of it. It ended up here?"
"Yeah. Strife knew," Daniel added as an afterthought.
"Then I'm sure he would have told us in the next week. I'll have Xander come down to take care of his mess as soon as he wakes up. Was there anything else?" He looked the couple over, smiling internally when he saw how strong their pawn markings were.
"There's the little matter of someone trying to kill us," the female officer said. "Every time we go through the gate, we end up being attacked."
"It wouldn't bother us so much," the General said, "but we've sent another team there by accident and no one bothered them at all."
"Oh." Oz leaned back in his chair. "I'm not real sure about that either. Did Strife pick up on anything when he was guarding you two that day?" he asked Daniel.
"Only that it's a female signature," Daniel said. "Has he said anything to you?"
"No, but I haven't really gotten to talk to him. Lets see if he's out of his bath. Strife!" he called softly.
Strife appeared, a towel wrapped around his hips. "What?" he asked in a cranky whine. "I'm busy!"
"Yeah, but we need to pump you for some information," Jack said, earning a leer. "Not that way. Please." He put his head down and thumped it a few times. "I've been doing that all day for no reason."
Oz reached over and tapped the back of his head, putting him to sleep. "That might cure it. He hasn't slept in days." He looked up at Strife. "They're being attacked no matter where they go. Other people aren't when they go the same places."
"Not a *clue*, guys, sorry," he said with a shrug. "All I know is what Xander and I both picked up on. Female God."
"Well," Oz said as he critically examined everyone in the group. "Ah." He pointed at the dark- skinned man with the gold embedded in his forehead. "Check his pawn status."
"I am not a pawn," he protested.
"Y'are now," Strife told him, walking over to look at the mark. "Hey, yeah, that's the same signature." He pointed at the man he was behind. "They're attacking him, not the group. Or they're attacking the group to make sure he's gone."
"Makes sense," Oz agreed. "Attack his friends so they can't help him."
Strife nodded. "I don't recognize the signature but I know it's someone close to our Pantheon's. Other'n that, not a *clue*, guys." He waved and disappeared.
Xander popped in and sat in Oz's lap, giving him a hug. "I could have done this," he whispered.
"I'm sure, but you needed a nap." Oz patted him on the hip. "Get off before you make the mortals uncomfy." Xander stood up and Oz let him have the chair. "They need you to remove your sheet monster and we need to know who his," he pointed at the new pawn, "overseer is."
Xander looked at Teal'c critically then nodded. "It almost looks like Discord's but it's off by about a degree to the sane side. What's going on?"
"We're being attacked whenever we leave here," Daniel told him. "We've sent another team to one spot by accident and they didn't have a problem."
Xander nodded slowly. "Well, it's all about Teal'c but I'm not quite sure who the Goddess is. I've been looking, and I've seen other traces, but I can't identify her until I see her in person."
"Or someone closely associated with her," Oz pointed out.
"Yeah, like her assistant." He looked at Teal'c again. "You won't go without him, right?" Everyone shook their head. "Then I'd suggest you guys take a small vacation while I work on this problem."
Oz, who had been looking at Xander's power aura started to snicker. He waved off the inquiring looks and left the room, going to talk to someone.
Xander shook his head. "Not a clue, guys, really." He stood up. "Where's my sheet monster?"
"It's in one of the jail cells we keep for hostile entities. Second down on the right, three levels down from here."
"Coolness. Give me a few days to ask around and I'll figure it out. Oh, and ignore us if you see us while we're doing this. It'll be easier." He left, going to find his sheet monster. He found it huddled up in the middle of the cell, just like he had been told. He walked through the door, touching the fabric to get it's attention. It gratefully wound around his hand, and legs, embracing him. "Oh, you're not so bad," he said, petting the sheet. "I wish I knew of a way to keep you." He got a bright idea and sat down to think about it. He smiled suddenly and tapped the sheet a few times, forcing his powers into the fabric, turning it into another cat. "Furry needs a friend," he proclaimed, "and you need a name."
"How'd you get in there?" a soldier asked through the window.
"Go get Daniel Jackson and ask him," Xander said, petting his new friend. "Yeah, we'll be fine. But what to name you?" He looked down into the toupe eyes and his smile became a grin. "How about... Snuggly?"
The door opened and SG-1's commander walked in, looking around. "Where's the sheet?" Xander pointed at the cat. "Oh. Okay. What's its name?"
Xander checked. "Her name is what I'm trying to figure out." He got up and walked out of the cell, holding up his new friend. "What should we call you, baby?"
Daniel came over to look at the tan and black striped tabby, sneezing from about three feet away. "What's she like?" he asked through a tissue.
"Very attention needing."
"You could call her Xander," Daniel suggested with a grin. He got glared at. "Sorry, but you seem like a cuddly person."
"Yup, I am," Xander said happily. "We're going to go home and let Ares help us name you."
"Snickers," Strife said in Xander's ear, making him jump and clutch the cat. "You look like a Snickers. And they get gooey when you warm them up." He appeared, grinning at everyone. "Unc said you're wanted at home right now or he's coming to get you and force you to nap." He winked. "He misses his teddybear Xander."
Xander blushed and disappeared as Ares stormed into the corridor, grabbing Strife by the back of the neck and holding him up to look at him. "You are in so much trouble," he hissed. Strife cackled and disappeared. Ares looked around at everyone. "What? He was picking on me!" He disappeared in a flash of light, coming back a second later to look at the man under consideration. "That looks like Discord's mark, but it's not quite...." He shook himself and left.
Xander teleported into the temple, holding his cat up so that Oz and Giles could see her. "This is Snickers, formerly known as my sheet monster that just wanted to be loved." He cuddled his kitten and got down on the floor, pulling Fluffy from where he was stalking Cupid's wings. "Fluffy, I got you a friend," he told him, showing off Snickers. "Will you play nicely with her? She's very new to being a cat." He carefully put Snickers down, watching as Fluffy sniffed her. Fluffy turned his back and walked away, and Snickers turned and climbed back in Xander's lap.
"Oh, you are in trouble," Cupid said as he appeared. "We're not supposed to create new things."
"I didn't. I changed it's form." Xander smiled at Zeus as he popped in. "It's my former sheet monster. It needed love." He held the kitten up, giving the King of the Gods his most pitiful begging look. "Please can I keep it?"
Zeus' heart melted and he reached down to pet the kitten, smiling when it purred for him. "Don't do it again," he said sternly, losing his smile when he saw an answering grin on Oz's face. "You're not supposed to make new lives."
"It was already alive," Oz reminded him. "The sheet monster was very friendly though." He walked over to pet the kitten, smiling when it hissed at him. "I won't hurt you. I like cats. They're great lap sitters." He tried to pet her again, succeeding this time. "See? Just don't take my spot on the bed." He went back to setting the table.
Zeus shook his head. "Try and keep her from Hera. She'll throw a fit." He disappeared.
"Cupid, would you like to stay for dinner," Giles called from the kitchen.
"Only if Strife's invited."
"Strife's always invited," Xander told him solemnly. "Same as you and Bliss are." He looked around. "Where's the little people anyway?"
"'Sclep took them," Oz told him. "He wanted to know if he could stand children."
Ares appeared and looked down at the cat. "Oh, I don't even want to know."
"This is Snickers, and she needs lots of love," Xander told him, holding the cat up. "Please?"
Ares grumbled but took the cat, looking into her eyes. "You don't sleep on my head," he warned. He handed the cat back as soon as Xander was standing. "Yours, make sure you take care of it."
"Hey! I do a good job with Fluffy."
"That cat will learn to respect my side of the bed," Ares said as he headed for the refrigerator. "Son, nectar smoothie?"
"Smoothie?" Cupid asked, looking at Oz, who pointed at Xander.
"I hate Jell-O," Xander said with a grin. "Try it, it's good. It's a mix of nectar and vanilla ice cream. We came up with it to fix my nectar problem." He accepted his glass from Ares as he sat down at the table, letting Snickers inhabit his lap. Giles frowned at him so he stuck out his tongue. "She needs love and reassurance, Giles, she won't get into the food."
"As long as she stays below the table line," Giles said as he carried the last tray out. "Sit, eat. Drink. Strife!"
"What?" Strife appeared, buttoning up his shirt. "At least this time I got to put on clothes." He smiled at the pink nose sticking up out of Xander's lap. "Hey, Snickers."
"She's a good cat," Xander said, making another two chairs appear. "Sit and eat. Giles made dinner and he can cook."
"What's that?" Strife asked, looking down at Cupid's cup with a horrified look on his face. "What did you do to the poor nectar this time?"
"It's a smoothie," Xander said patiently. "You have to at least try it before you say bad things."
Cupid held up his glass. "It's not bad."
Strife took a hesitant sip then grinned, gulping the rest down. "Okay, I like those. How'd you make it again?"
"Vanilla ice cream and nectar mixed together to the consistency of a milk shake."
"Cool." Strife made another and sipped it, ignoring Cupid's silent request for his cup back.
Xander ported another out of the fridge, grinning at his son-in-law. "It's good. Even Athena liked it."
Cupid smiled. "Pregnant women can be perverse at times." He took another sip. "It grows on you."
Artemis popped in and looked down at the cat. "I need to make sure it's healthy. Hera sent me," she told Ares, who was glaring at her. "I'm not taking your temple cat."
Cupid held out his glass. "Try this, Artie, it's a Xander creation."
"What is it," she said in disgust.
"Ice cream and nectar."
She glared at the creator. "Nectar is a sacred food, you shouldn't mess with it. We all eat it the same way."
"Try it and then yell," Ares told her, waving his own cup. "It's odd at first but then you don't taste the funny aftertaste. And you don't have to chew it so much."
She took the cup and held her nose, drinking a little bit. She moved it around in her mouth, her expression gradually going to a pleased one. "I can't taste the nectar," she said, looking at the cup.
"That's why I picked vanilla. It's a weak flavor but it's very covering." Xander held up his kitten. "This is Snickers."
Cupid shook his head. "I don't know who's going to hate that idea more. Hera or Zeus."
"Zeus had one today," Ares told him. "He came over to check on Oz's idea and stole my glass thinking it was milk. Seems he had a craving."
Xander grinned. "Did you tell him?"
"Nope. Didn't want my head taken off." Ares saluted Artemis with his cup. "You can tell Mother if you want to. She's gotten used to everything else."
Artemis handed Cupid his cup. "No, I think I'll wait." She took the cat and looked it over, purring at it. She handed it back after a few minutes. "It's healthy, for now. Make sure you train her to keep out of Athena's way, she hates cats." She waved and disappeared.
"Well, we'll see soon enough how Hera'll react," Oz said, passing the meat to Ares. "Cut, now. I'm starving."
Hera walked into Athena's temple, looking around at the mess. "Dear," she called out, straightening up automatically. "Athena," she called when she wasn't answered.
Athena waddled out and sat down on her couch. "What? My ankles are swollen and you told me to stay in bed."
"Yes, dear, I know. I came to check on you." She looked down at the glass beside her daughter's gravid body. "What's that, milk?"
"No, it's something else." She burped.
"A nice reaction at least," Hera said dryly. "Have you been eating nectar? You really do need to keep up your strength." She laid a hand over the child and nodded after a second. "Very healthy sounding."
"Yes, ma'am, I've been eating nectar. Xander found a way for me to eat it and not get sick." She picked up her glass and took a sip. "It's really good. No aftertaste. No stomach cramps. And I *enjoy* it."
"That boy messed with the sacred institution of nectar?" Hera asked in alarm. "How?" She looked in the glass, taking a sniff of it. "What is *that*?"
"That is ice cream, Hera," Athena said, snatching it back. "It makes nectar good to eat, well drink, again. And I'm not sick when I eat it any longer." She finished off the glass as Hera disappeared. Then she sent a thought winging out to Ares. He might be able to protect Xander.
Hera paced around the meeting area as the Twelve gathered in front of her. "That... that boy has changed one of our sacred rituals," she said, scowling at her husband, the last to arrive. "He's changed nectar!"
Apollo shrugged. "And? I saw how Athena was drinking it, it's good for her and the child."
"We're all drinking it that way," Ares told him. "Xander will actually drink it where he couldn't eat nectar."
Zeus coughed. "I rather liked it myself. It's a very good compliment. You should try one." Ares materialized his glass and held it out. "Try it and then complain, Hera."
Hera forced herself to take a sip and she made a sick face. "That's not at all good." She handed it back. "How can you stand to drink that?"
"Easily. I used to have to order Xander to force down nectar at least once a day because it made him sick. With this, I'm getting him to drink it at least four times a day and usually more often. Besides, after a while, you get used to the texture. Ice cream is a hard one to do that with."
Hera shuddered. "I refuse to allow this to go on. He can choke it down like the rest of us."
Apollo shook his head. "No, he can't. He throws it back up. We can't get him to keep it down. Asclepias spent a good two weeks at their temple because of it. Now he and Athena can keep down the nectar that they need to live. No matter how slimy it feels at first, it's a decent way."
"He'll have to learn," Hera proclaimed.
"We tried," Ares argued, making his cup disappear after taking a sip. "We tried everything to make him take nectar, it all came back up. We even tried hiding it in other mortal food and it *still* came back up."
Zeus laid a hand on Hera's shoulder. "Bring the boy to us, the rest of you may go. We'll discuss this in private."
Xander appeared and handed Snickers over to Ares. "She refused to go to Oz or Giles. Or even Strife." He bowed to the elder couple. "I heard you fighting about me."
"How dare you take something that has lasted for *millennia* and change it!" Hera screamed.
"Gee, millennia and no one else hasn't been able to eat it?" he asked, looking her over. He made them both go to her study, closing everyone else out. "What are you really pissed out, Hera. Get it out now. You can't fault me for finding a way around an illness."
"Illness?" She sat down in her favorite chair and put her feet up.
"Yes, as in nearly died because the outer covering of ambrosia is something I'm allergic to. This is the *only* way I can have ambrosia and keep it in my system. Asclepias even tried to teleport it directly into my stomach and it still came back up." He started to pace around the room. "Listen, I know you hate me because I'm not one of you, but you've got to get over this one." He stopped to look at her. "Do you know what'll happen to Ares if I get that sick again?"
"Why weren't we informed?" she asked regally.
"Gee, because you'd rather see me dead?" he suggested snidely. She spluttered but he shook his head. "You've made no secret of the fact that you hate me more than you do anyone else. I've known it since I was pulled up here to be an assistant and I still know it."
She shook her head. "Sit, child." Xander shook his head. "Now!" she ordered, pointing at the couch. He did. "Why do you feel it necessary to take every vestige of my life away?" she asked quietly. "First, you brought a television, then video games. And now this? You're ruining a sacred part of our existence."
He groaned. "Hera, I'm not trying to take anything away from you. Yes, I've brought changes, but you don't have to adopt them. No one's making you watch TV. Or to use a computer to track your people. Or even to drink my smoothies. If you go with the changes is all up to you. I've done what I've had to to help Ares deal with modern life. There are still people who don't use technology of any kind on the mortal plane. I'm sorry, I should have realized that you're scared of change. Forgive me." He stood up and bowed to her. "We'll keep all our changes to ourselves."
"Sit," she ordered. He did so. "Xander, all your changes have forced me from the life I was accustomed to."
"Who forced you?" he asked simply. She started. "Did anyone tie you to the computer and make you operate it? Or even make your assistants operate it?" She shook her head slowly. "And did we force you to come watch television with us? Or play games?" She shook her head again. "Then who forced you to change, Hera? It wasn't us. I don't force anything on anyone." He stood up. "Later. I'm doing dinner with the family, minus the kids." He walked away, disappearing as he went.
Hera considered his words, knowing that he was right on some level.
Xander reappeared at the table, taking possession of his cat again. He petting Snickers as he ate, not looking at anyone. Oz reached over but he dodged the hand. "Not now," he said quietly.
"Fine," Oz agreed, going back to his dinner. Everyone was silent for a few minutes then Oz tried again. "Did anyone tell you that Strife made it to the third level of your mind game?" Xander shook his head. "He did. He even kinda understood the colors before the maze, the curtain ones."
Xander put down his fork and looked at Oz. "It's okay, really. You don't have to cheer me up." He looked over at Ares. "We'd all best keep our shakes out of Hera's sight. She's uncomfy with change and we upset her a little too much this time." He went back to eating.
Giles cleared his throat. "I'm sure she'll ease off some of her distaste for a few of the modern items soon. Maybe not the smoothies but possibly the television. Or even the computer to help her assistants track her people."
"Maybe," Oz agreed, nodding. They both looked at Xander, who was staring at his cat. "She okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, she's fine. We're sleeping. It's been a hard day." He picked her up and walked over to the couch, settling her in his lap while he picked up a game controller and turned on the video game. He snorted when he saw his game was still in there but went with it. He was on level seven when Oz sat down beside him. "I'm still fine," he noted.
"Yeah, but I'm not. I could use a cuddle too." Oz leaned his head on Xander's shoulder, reaching down to pet the cat. "She's sleeping?" he asked after a second.
Xander reached down to check her, then paused the game to pick her up and look at her. He sent some energy through her body, waking her up. "You're supposed to breathe *all* the time. Even when you sleep," he told her.
"That's why we don't create new lives," Ares said as he pushed back from the table and came over to sit down. He took Snickers, looking her over. "We'll you're alive but you're not breathing. That's not good." He disappeared with the cat, going to find his father. Maybe Zeus would be nice and fix it for Xander.
Xander came when he was called, looking at his kitten, who was lying on her side on the table. He reached down to pet her, giving her a smile. "Hey, Snickers. How are you?" He picked her up, giving her a hug. "How are we, princess, huh?"
"Not too well," Ares said, walking over to take the cat back. "Maybe you shouldn't get too attached to her."
"Why? What's wrong with her?" He looked at Zeus. "She was fine earlier!"
"We know. The transition from semi-animate to fully animate can be difficult for any being," Zeus said kindly, coming over to wrap an arm around the young God's shoulders. "She's having a hard time adjusting to her new state. She's still living, but she's not functioning, Xander. Do you want her to suffer?"
"Can't I fix it?" he asked quietly, reaching out for his cat, which Ares kept away from him. He growled at his lover and stole his cat back, kicking Ares in the shin. "Mine!"
"Hey, just trying to save you some pain," Ares said, backing away with his hands held up. "Get attached, but we can't do a thing for her."
"How do I fix it then?" Xander asked, looking from one senior God to the other. "Is it more power, a different sort? What? Tell me and I'll do it. I made her in the first place." He looked down, giving her a smile. "Yes, you're my kitten, I made you. Yes I did," he cooed.
Ares looked at his father and shook his head. "Xander, you can't fix her. She can't be fixed. She's basically a zombie cat right now." He saw the icy glare and flinched. He'd only seen that look once before and it cost him his Godhood for a few hours. "I'm sorry, but you can't fix it. *I* can't fix it."
"But we have different powers. And I made the original form!" He turned to look at Zeus. "Why can't I fix her?"
"Because the cat shouldn't exist, Xander," Zeus said, not quite so gently as Ares was trying to keep it. "The cat is a sheet that you animated. It's inanimate."
"No, it's not!" Xander said, disappearing with his cat.
Ares glared at his father. "I told you to be fatherly, not be hard on him. He can't take that." He left, going to try and find his consort. He found Xander sitting in a park, looking at a sign that said this ground had once been a high school. He sat down beside him, not saying anything, watching him watch the kitten play in the grass. "He's right," he said after a few minutes.
"She's alive. I know that she's alive. She was breathing. She loves. She's alive." He pointed at the kitten rolling around with a puffball. "See, she's living."
Ares turned as someone appeared behind them, shaking his head at his sister. "He can't understand," he said quietly.
"No, I understand but he's wrong," Xander said firmly. "She's my cat and I'm keeping her. She's alive." He looked over at Artemis. "You checked her earlier. Didn't you feel her living?"
"Yes, I did," she said gently, laying a hand on his shoulder, "but I also found out that it wasn't going to last. You have to let her go. She's living a damned life."
"No, she's not. She's being loved." He got free and walked over to sit beside her, reaching out to scratch her stomach. "If she were damned, she wouldn't like me to touch her. Trust me, I've met the damned before."
"Xander," Ares started but Artemis put a hand on his shoulder. "Whatever you decide, I'll stand with you, but you've got to consider what's best for her." He and his sister disappeared.
Xander watched his kitten play for a few minutes before he felt another God pop in. "Go away, Hades," he said, curling up to play with his kitten and a long piece of grass.
Hades knelt down and touched the kitten, then looked at her owner. "They're right," he said quietly. "She doesn't have to be destroyed though." Xander looked up at him. "She could come live with me. I have a bunch of little kids down there, I'm sure they'd like to have a loving kitten." Xander blinked but didn't say anything. "She'd be well taken care of, I might even give her the run of the place." He reached out to Xander. "She'd be happy."
Xander reached out and shook his hand. "I get to visit," he said quietly. "And she's got to be happy and okay."
"I'll make sure of it," Hades promised. He scooped the kitten up and held her against his armor, leaving with her.
Xander gave himself a few minutes to grieve then went home, curling up in bed by himself.
Cupid looked into Ares' bedroom then at his father. "He's really not okay," he whispered, leading Ares farther away from the door. "What's going on?"
"His new kitten didn't make the transition," Ares said quietly. "Hades has him. He's been down there to play with it six times since last night." He rubbed through his hair. "I don't know how to deal with this."
"Of course not," Cupid said dryly. "You never were the greatest at dealing with matters of a broken heart." He patted his father on the chest. "Let Strife and I do it." He walked out of the temple, going to where his lover was playing with his kids. "Hey, did you hear about Snickers?" he asked as he sat down beside him, missing Melvin's mud.
"Yup. Xander still in bed?"
"Yeah. Dad's frantic because he doesn't understand." He leaned on Strife's shoulder. "I told him we'd take care of it."
"There's nothing that'll take this pain away," Strife reminded him. "Not even if we gave him a new kitten."
"That might make it worse," Cupid agreed. "So how do we help him?"
"We get someone who's lost someone to help him." Strife looked over at Cupid. "You think this is his first time?"
"Maybe." Cupid stood up, holding out a hand. "Guys, wanna go help Athena clean her temple again?" Melvin spit at him. "Hey, no one said that you couldn't play with the couch again and hide from the work." Melvin wiped his hands off on his pants and smiled at him. "Thanks. Let's go." He took Melvin, Strife took Maribelle, and Martna floated along behind them.
Strife plopped down on the bed in front of Xander, holding out his bowl of popcorn. "Here, you need popcorn to sulk right." Xander looked up at him. "Hi. Yes, it's me. I'm here to pull you out of this bed and to make you happy. Even if I have to get you tattooed this time." Xander shuddered and went back to his staring at the bedspread.
"Oh, no," Cupid said as he landed behind Xander. "You can't keep doing this. You're making Dad panic."
Xander shrugged and pulled the covers up higher.
"Nope, not gonna happen," Strife said, making the covers disappear. He looked at the pink elephant pajamas the younger God was wearing. "Um, those are cute," he said, holding in his laughter. The way the ears flattened around his hips and the truck wrapped down one of his legs was not only silly but suggestive.
"Get over it," Xander whispered.
"Nope, not gonna happen," Cupid said, leaning down to give him a hug. "Come on, we've got to get you out of this bed before you start to grow into it."
"Nope, not going."
Cupid looked at Strife, who nodded and went down into Xander's mind to read it.
"GET OUT!" Xander yelled, pushing Strife off the bed. "You *know* better than to do that to me."
"Hey, I'm tryin' to help," Strife complained. He pushed himself up onto the bed and pulled Xander up into his arms. "It's time to move on, Xander. This isn't like anyone you've lost before. This was a kitten that you created."
"The link between that and a child is big," Cupid agreed, "but Snickers wasn't your child, Xander." He wrapped both Strife and Xander in his arms, giving them a hug. "Come on, let's get out of this bed and we'll go find something to make the pain get smaller." Xander shook his head but Cupid tickled him. "Come on," he wheedled. "You need to get out of this bed. We can go to the mortal realm and make fun of Buffy again."
"Not into that," Xander said quietly, getting free and lying back down.
"Nope," Strife said, pulling Xander back up and teleporting them to the bathroom. He made the bathtub fill with mild-smelling bubbles and hot water, mentally stripping the younger God and putting him in the water in the same move. He knelt beside the tub, holding out a sponge. "Get clean at least. We'll let you go back to bed if you get clean."
Xander took the sponge and got it wet, staring at the bubbles. "Snickers was mine. My first real thing," he said quietly.
"I know," Strife said, reaching out to touch the pale shoulder. "I know that you wanted her to be all great and healthy, but it wasn't meant to be. She's being played with by lots of kids." He nudged Xander slightly. "I heard that she's taken up an official position on Hades' pillow, right on top of his head."
Xander almost smiled at that. "She likes to be held." He pulled his knees up to put his chin on them. "It's like she was proof that I was good. Not that I was a good God, but that I was a good guy. I saved her. *I* did it. Not Ares, not you, not even Bliss. Me." He looked over. "That's stupid, huh?"
"Nope. It's a good thing. It means that you care about things like happiness and love." He ruffled Xander's hair. "It means that you're better than a few of the older Gods. They would have destroyed the sheet monster as soon as they found out it existed because it was an embarrassment. You did your best to give it life and *happiness*. If you think about it, Snickers was better off in those few hours with you than she had been her whole life as a sheet. She had you to hold and pet her." He tapped Xander on the back of the head. "Take a bath, we'll be out playing games."
Xander reached out. "Thanks, Strife. Really a whole lot."
"Hey, anything for you." He grinned and walked out of the room, going to teach Cupid how to play that one game.
Xander picked up the sponge and got it wet, running it down his calf.
Xander walked out into the living room, looking around, but it was only him and Cupid. "Did you eat Strife?" he asked, walking over to sit down beside him.
"Yup." He grinned and winked at his friend. "Actually, I sent him to go find us something to do. He said something about Wyvern." Cupid shrugged. "Not a clue what that was about." He handed over the control. "How do you get through this realm?"
"Um, it's a trap door," Xander said quietly, restarting the round and going for the trap door that was a few inches in. "See." He handed the controller back after getting the little man past the first obstacle.
"It'd figure that you'd know. It's your game."
"It's my head," Xander corrected.
"Ah." Cupid turned off the game and turned to look at his step-father. "Why'd you make a game of your mind?"
"It was an idea I had a bunch of years ago, while I was playing Ms. Pac Man. It wasn't possible back then, but now it's almost a reality."
"It could be," Cupid told him, reaching out to touch his face and turn the young God's attention back to him. "You could submit it to a game company."
Xander shook his head. "No one can play it and win."
"Xander, gamers *love* challenges. This would be the ultimate challenge. So far, only you and Strife have gotten above the third level."
Xander shrugged. "Maybe, but it's complicated and..."
"And perfect for a gamer," Oz said as he popped in. "Can I submit it? I know a company that's looking for it's first game. We could at least see what professionals say."
"You already promised him, didn't you?"
Oz shook his head. "Nope. But I did feel him out, told him it was very new, very strange, and that it was based on a teen guy's mind. He was intrigued and he wants to play it himself. He's a gamer."
Xander shrugged. "Okay. But it's in Playstation Six format." They had had to change their adapter for future versions of all the gaming systems that would be invented for the next sixteen years; a lot of the CD's had been in those formats.
"I can change that," Oz reminded him, picking up the CD. He concentrated and soon another was in his hand. "There, now it's in three, which will come out in a year. He has a preview system." He stole a kiss then left.
Cupid smiled at him. "See, someone wanted to try it. And who knows," he said with a playful nudge, "it could be the big new thing."
"Gee, then someone would finally understand me," Xander joked weakly, complete with a faint grin.
"Maybe," Cupid agreed, giving him a hug. "Come on, we've let Strife be alone for too long. We should go keep him out of trouble." He stood up, pulling Xander up with him, and sent them both to where Strife was, or actually outside the dorm room because Strife had put up a privacy shield. "Gee, could he be more obvious?" Cupid huffed.
"Yup. They could be in the hall," Xander pointed out. He leaned against the wall, prepared to wait.
Strife landed behind Wyvern, giving the tense back a hug. "Hey," he whispered, stroking down the ticklish sides. Since Xander had introduced them, they had become great friends and Wyvern was his favorite person to come spend time with on the mortal plane.
Wyvern jumped and glared at him. "I have a test later," he admonished weakly. "I have to study."
"If ya don't know it by now," Strife reminded him, "ya won't ever." He pounced on the young man, giggling at his semi-shocked expression. "What? I'm in a touchy mood."
"So I can see," Wyvern said, wiggling to get free. "Why?"
"Because Xander's havin' a bad day and I'm cheerin' him up by kidnapping you."
Wyvern rolled his eyes. "How is your pouncing me going to cheer him up."
"Huh? Well, this is cheerin' me up and I'm gonna cheer him up, so we're all good." He grinned. "Don't you want to help me cheer him up?"
"You know I'd do anything for Xander," Wyvern sighed. "What shall I do to help you cheer him up?" He wiggled some more.
"That's good," Strife squeaked. "Real good." He leered down at his occasional lover. "Wanna do this now or later where he can watch?"
"I doubt that would cheer him up," Wyvern said dryly. "He doesn't seem like the sort that would be cheered up by watching us." He ran a hand down the leather-clad arms. "Are you going to get on with this? I really do need to study for my final."
Strife grinned and stripped them both automatically. "Better?" he asked as he leaned down for a kiss.
"Much, but you're being slow today." Wyvern pinched him. "I never expected you to be the mushy one of us." He was flipped onto his back and the cool body pressed itself down his length. "That's better," he gasped as a cold hand reached around to touch him. "Were you in a freezer?"
"Nope. In Ares' temple. Giles turned the heat down again for some reason." He bit the pale shoulder. "You need sun," he declared, mimicking his uncle. The displaced warrior laughed. Strife knew that Wyvern had come from a pocket universe, so he knew that the warrior was unashamed of what they did. His plane had a lot fewer women so it was natural for the guys to have gotten together sometimes. He had been surprised when he found out Wyvern wasn't a virgin, but the warrior had explained it all to him, including his sexual history. Which impressed the *hell* outta Strife.
Wyvern lunged back against Strife's body. "I could warm you up," he suggested slyly.
Strife growled and made some lube appear, tossing it up to where the man under him would could see it. "Oh, you will," he promised, leaning in to bite him on the back of the neck, just where the neck joined the back. "You're gonna warm me up *real* well." He grabbed the lube and flipped open the cap on the young man's thigh. He poured some out over the spread crack, letting it drip down, then tossed the bottle away. He reached in with two fingers to spread the lube around, sliding them into the willing body. Wyvern shuddered but he relaxed around him. "Good boy," Strife purred, moving the fingers around to spread the sticky, slippery stuff around. He smiled as Wyvern spread his thighs further apart for him without being asked, the warrior was very well trained to his likes now. He held his cock still and slid his hips up and down the slick crack to get some lube on it before sliding directly in. Wyvern clenched around him and he slapped him on the butt. "Relax," he reminded. "I'm not gonna hurt ya."
"I know, but that was a bit sudden," Wyvern complained. He relaxed under the cool hands, smiling as his lover leaned down to rest against him. "Thank you," he said quietly.
"You're welcome." Strife sat back up and pulled out, pushing back in as hard as he could. He had always enjoyed a hard ride. He spanked Wyvern again, grinning when his lover looked back at him. "What?"
"Spank me again and get thrown," he warned. He bucked backward, making Strife scream and giggle. "Oh, you like that, do you," he asked with a smile of his own. He moved against Strife's thrust, throwing him off rhythm. He did an impressive move and rolled onto his back, narrowly missing Strife's head. "Ha," he said, wrapping his ankles around the back of the God's neck, squeezing his head as hard as he could. "Think you're so tough, dontcha?"
"Yup," Strife said, wiggling his fingers and Wyvern was returned back to his original position. He leaned down next to the pink ear. "Who told you you were in charge?" he whispered, starting to pound into his lover's body. "Nope, not gonna happen," he crowed, riding Wyvern for all he was worth. He came with a squeal, leaning down to bite him again. "No more tryin' to gain control," he sang, licking over the bites. "No more dominant Wyvern."
"Bet me," Wyvern said as he pulled off and started to stroke himself. He shot off all over Strife's stomach and chest, aiming one spurt as high as he could and hitting his throat. "I'm always on top, even when you think that you're there," he whispered, leaning in for a kiss, smearing the cum into the pale skin.
Strife pulled back and looked down at himself. "Well, I'm dirty," he quipped. He grinned at Wyvern. "That's it, next time you're payin'."
"You say that every time," Wyvern reminded him. He flopped down onto his back and patted his stomach. "Want to take a short nap?"
"Nope, gotta go get Xander and Cupie." Strife tipped his head. "Or not. They're outside." He winked at the shocked look. "What? Cupie doesn't care!"
"But what about *Xander*?"
"He doesn't care either," floated through the locked door. "We just need to go do something before we mold out here."
Strife winked and stood up. "Well, we're gonna take a nap for a while. Can you guys hang out there?"
"Strife!" Cupid said, pounding on the door. "You're a God, you don't need a nap!"
"Yeah, yeah, remind me of that," Strife groused, licking his lips as he saw how his sleeping lover was spread out. "I have better things to do than nap in here though."
Xander walked through the door and waved clothes back on Strife, leaning down to recover the younger man. He set the alarm clock for half an hour, then dragged Strife from the room. "You said you were going to cheer me up," he said at the pout.
"Yeah, we're gonna cheer ya up," Strife said, winding an arm around Xander's neck. "But don't ever ruin my mushy moment again. I don't get too many of them."
Xander grinned weakly at him. "A guy like you? You should have lots of mushy moments. Whole lots, just because you deserve them for putting up with us."
Strife gave him a light noogie. "Thanks, but don't do it again."
"Yes, dear," Xander sighed, reaching over slowly to attack him. Strife fell down in the hall in a fit of giggles, trying to get away from the groping hands.
"XANDER!" Strife screamed, grabbing the hands and holding them. "Why do you *do* that to me?"
"Because you needed to lighten up," Xander panted, getting away from Strife. He leaned against Cupid, who was grinning at them. "See, I told you he needed to lighten up."
Cupid nodded then attacked Xander, sending him crashing to the floor in laughter.
"Hey, keep it...." A guy called as his head popped out of his room. "Huh? There's no one out here. Man, we don't need no more strange shit in here," he said as he pulled back into his room.
"Stop!" Xander demanded, batting the hands away. "Meanies!" He got helped up by Strife, who wrapped an arm around his neck again. "I won't interrupt your mushy moments," he agreed, giving the older Gods a quirky grin.
"Good," Strife said, nodding at Cupid. "We were gonna get him pretty, right?"
"And me," Cupid reminded him. "This time, where people can see it."
"Your mom's gonna shit bricks," Strife sighed. "I don't wanna hide from her again."
"So, I'll tell her it was my idea," Xander said, earing hisses. "What?"
"She'll hate you forever," Cupid told him. "She's sworn vengeance on Strife for my last one."
"How long ago was that?"
"Um, a few thousand years."
"Oh." Xander looked up at Cupid. "You're on your own, but you can hide behind me."
Cupid punched him on the arm. "Thanks." He walked down the hall. "Wyvern coming?"
"Nope. He's got a final."
Xander rubbed his arm and allowed himself to be pulled along.
Xander looked around the tattoo shop he had gotten his two piercings in and shuddered as the needle started again, shutting his eyes for a few seconds until the nausea stopped. "That's gotta hurt," he whispered, leaning in closer to look at a picture of a smiley face on the head of a penis. "Ow."
Strife snuck up behind Xander and grabbed him, looking at the picture over his shoulder. "That's gotta be fun to play with," he noted.
"That's not fun," Xander told him. "That's painful. Really painful."
"Yup, but that's fun too, just a different sort. Want one of those?"
"Hell no!" Xander looked around to see the trademark grin. "You do and I'm gonna tell your Uncle what you did to me. He's gonna spank you and we're gonna watch."
"Yeah, but you'd probably like it too much," Strife complained. "Okay, so if not something that unique, how about something simple." He pointed at some littler pictures. "One of those?"
"No pain," Xander reminded him. "I don't like that subject. No tattoos."
"Oh, come on," he wheedled. "You'd look cute with a tattoo. Just a little one," he begged, dragging a finger down Xander's chest. "Just around here?" he suggested, running around his navel. "Please? I'd hold your hand."
"Please?" Strife started to quiver his lower lip. "I think we need a bonding experience." He held out his arms. "Bond with me, Xander, become better friends."
"Man, Wyvern has turned you strange," Cupid complained as he walked back into the room. He turned, showing off his new tattoo, a snarling mouth with very sharp teeth right between his wings that looked like it was biting into his flesh. "So?" he asked when no one said anything.
Strife started to laugh. "Gee, babe, I didn't know you thought so highly of my little nips."
Cupid turned back to glare at him. "It's not about you. It's something that I like, no matter who I'm with." He sniffed and looked at Xander. "Well?"
"It's certainly a statement of like," Xander temporized. "Not something I'd do, but hey, if you like it."
Strife rolled his eyes. "He doesn't like body art."
"I like the natural look," Xander protested.
"Yeah, yeah, you're just chicken," Strife accused.
"Yup," Xander agreed, nodding. "And I'm going to go do something fun. Beach anyone?"
"Hey, cool. I could use some surf time," Cupid said, changing his clothes to a pair of surf shorts. "C'mon, Strifey, let's go! I want sun!"
Strife groaned and looked at Xander. "You really wanna go play in the sun?"
"Yup." Xander changed his clothes to the lightest of his work outfits, waving at the door. "Shall we?"
"Yup." Cupid grabbed his arm and disappeared with the younger God. "Ah, my favorite spot," he sighed as he looked around. "And no one's around here." He made his board materialize and ran out into the surf, going to go play.
Strife landed beside Xander, already sitting in a beach chair with a drink and a big hat. "Sit, it's gonna be a while. 'Dite grounded him from surfing for the last six hundred years."
Xander brought his chair down and sat down, not seeing Oz as he popped in. He jumped up and looked down at his lover. "Hi," he said, waving.
"Hey. Sun making you happy?"
Xander shrugged. "I'm not sure. I've only been here for two minutes." He curled up in Oz's lap, giving him a cuddle. "Thanks for putting up with me," he said quietly.
"That's what I do." Oz rubbed down his back, giving him a soothing massage. "Ares is coming down in a few minutes. He wanted to go play in the surf too."
Strife looked over at Xander. "We still burn," he said, holding out his bottle of sun screen. "We're gonna be here for a while."
Ares appeared farther down the beach with a whoop as he ran for the water with his board.
Giles teleported in under a tree, book already open in his lap, legs crossed in front of him.
Strife looked over at Xander. "You sure you wanna watch them play?"
"Go," Oz whispered, pushing on him. "I'll make sure they don't notice."
Xander took Strife's hand and let him take him away. "Why are we in a mall?" he asked when they landed.
"It's shady and we can get stuff." He held up his credit card, then Xander's with his other hand. "Come on, we need to get you stuff." He led the way into a movie and music store.
Ares wandered up the beach and flopped down in the empty chair. "Where'd Xander go?"
"With Strife," Oz said, looking up from his sunbathing position on his stomach. "They went to do indoor stuff."
Ares groaned. "I keep trying to get Strife to come play outside with us but he never really took to the sun and the fun to be had out here." He waved a hand around, ending up with an opened coconut with an umbrella sticking out of it. "Hey, mango," he said, looking surprised. "Mother must be getting ready to come join us."
Oz went back to his tanning.
Giles continued to read.
Xander looked at their stack of bags, and shook his head. "My office?"
"Your office," Strife agreed. All the bags disappeared. "Good job."
"Not me," Xander said, looking around. He smiled as he saw Aphrodite, waving her over. "Hey," he said, reaching over to give her a hug around the waist, laying his head on her bare stomach. "Whatcha doing here?"
"I was looking for you, Xander," she said, pinching him. "We're all outside," she told him reproachfully. "How can you spend this beautiful day inside?" she asked, waving her arms around. "It's *gorgeous* outside, Xanny. You should be with my Cupie and your honeys."
"'Dite, I don't like outdoor sports," Strife told her with an eye roll.
"Oh, please, I don't want you to come and prank us, I want to go play with Xanny here."
"'Dite, call me Xanny again and I'm going to turn your hair pink to match your breasts," Xander said. She frowned at him. "Don't call me that!"
"Okay, okay," she sighed. "But only if you come play with me outside."
"I've been outside. Now I'm inside getting myself stuff I want. I'll go be outside again when the sun get's a little farther away from my pale skin." Xander showed off how pale his skin was by putting it next to Strife's, which he almost matched now. "See?"
She blew out a puff of air. "All right." She wiggled her fingers as she disappeared. "Later."
Strife looked down at their skins. "Gee, you are pale." He looked around. "Wanna go find playtoys for Furry?"
"Cool!" Xander ran for the pet store, going to find his beloved animal a new toy.
Oz opened one eye and looked up as Xander rejoined them. "Uh-huh," he said, sitting up. "Aren't we having enough problems without another one?"
Xander sat down on the end of Ares' chair, showing off what else he had bought. "But it's a cutie," he swore, holding the little package out.
"So I can see." Oz blinked then shook his head. He laid back down. "Whatever. Your deal."
Xander looked over his shoulder at Ares, who had pulled his ballcap down over his face. "Don't you want to see my new thing?"
"I've seen it when you showed me the magazine," Ares pointed out, not removing his hat.
"Meanie," Xander muttered, turning around to show Cupid his new thing.
Ares pushed up his hat and glared at the younger God. "Remember, kid, I control what you bring into the temple."
Strife appeared on the end of Oz's lounger, grinning at his Uncle. "Gee, Unc. You look burned. And isn't it his temple too now?"
Ares pulled his hat back down. "Whatever."
Cupid leaned down to look at the little package, shaking his head. "Xander, that wasn't something that you needed."
"Yes, I did. And so do the kids." He looked up and gave his best begging look. "Don't you want to see the kids being happy even when they're not?"
"Video cameras don't capture us," Ares told him.
Ares limped into his temple, falling down into a chair. "Oh, man, I forgot how rough rugby could be. I *loved* it!" he yelled, catching Oz as he walked in to give him a hug. "*You* made a great cheerleader. Even better than Xander."
"He kept wanting to give it up," Oz reminded him. "It's been a long day, Ares. Let's go to bed."
"Sure." Ares let himself be pulled up and led into the bedroom. But he balked when he saw what was on the bed. "XANDER!"
"Yes," Xander said meekly from behind him.
"What is that?" Ares shouted, pointing at the lump on the bed.
"That's a cutsie puppy?" Xander suggested, backing away. "It'll be a big one," he said as he disappeared.
Ares tried to follow his lover but he wasn't fast enough to follow him.
TO BE CONTINUED...