Author's crowing: this is officially story number 675!

Notes: This happens after the whole Glory timeline, and before the debacle that was season seven, set in that summer where we were going 'how are they going to bring her back'.  Buffy never came back and we're taking a sharp turn to the right this time because no one has ever really called Ares liberal.  This starts a few days after the funeral, hence the anger.

Sibling Rivalry.

Ares felt his great-nephew scream for justice and looked at his nephew.  "Maybe you should answer that," he suggested lightly.

Strife looked at him, still grimacing.  "If I did, it'd just make it worse.  You know those three cursed him to never come near me again."

"I still say it was the effects of the spell Xena was under," Ares pointed out, gentler this time.  Strife was still pissed at his triplets because they had cursed his only other son and had him sent away before he could stop them.  "They've repented a lot, Strife."

"Yeah, but if I go near him, then Alexander's only gonna have a worse life," Strife said angrily, getting up and stomping off.  He went back to his plans on how to punish Hera for sticking up for his other sons on this.  His baby had only been a few weeks old when the triplets had been cursed and had sent him off.

Ares sighed as he stood up.  "Fine, then *I'm* going to do something about that," he called after him.  "I can't stand it anymore," he told himself, going down to get into the middle of this war.  This was ridiculous.  The kid wasn't one of his, he probably never would be a true warrior, and yet he was doing so much fighting it was hurting him because he wasn't using Ares' strength to do so.  He landed in the middle of the street, looking around at the chaos.  "Apparently this is where Discord is living," he noted, heading down the middle of the road.  The demonic bikers the boy had screamed about were coming toward him.  He pulled a metal staff out of his pocket and enlarged it, taking most of them off their bikes.  The few left living spun wildly and took off, heading out of town.  They may not know him but they knew danger.  Ares continued to walk, putting out little battles as he went.  He didn't particularly want to save this town but if he had to in order to reach his great- nephew, he would.

Ares found the house he was looking for, looking up at it.  "This is not good," he told himself.  He looked around, then made himself invisible.  "Discord, appear," he ordered, pointing to his left.  She appeared on his right and sneered at him so he backhanded her.  "Did you do that?" he asked, pointing at the house.  She looked then shook her head.  "Then who did?"  Discord opened her mouth and he balled up his fist again.  "Your grandson is in that house."  That shut her up and she sat down, looking up at him, totally shocked.  "Now then, we're going to fix this, aren't we, Discord?"

She swallowed and nodded.  "I will, Ares, I will fix this."  She stood up and looked around.  "The first thing I'll need to do is to get Chaos down here so we can get him to drain the hellmouth down to an acceptable level.  Then we'll need Hecate.  Two of hers are in there."  Ares nodded, letting her ramble on.  "Then we'll need to do something about the artifact."

"What artifact?" he asked.

"The Key," she said quietly, glancing around.

He groaned.  "Fine, then *we'll* take over Sunnydale," he ordered.  She looked impressed.  "Your grandson is the warrior guarding the Key."

"He's not a warrior," she reminded him.  "The curse said that we can't go near him either.  None of the Gods."

"Well, it's a bit late for that," he said bitterly.   He looked up.  "By Holy decree, this town is hereby under the official command of the House of War," he proclaimed.  "Any and all violators will be killed!  STOP THIS FIGHTING NOW!" he bellowed.  The town fell quiet as all the fighting stopped, all the normal citizens went to bed and forgot about their worries and the problems they had been having.  The people in the house, and a few others in town, fought down the urge to pack a bag and run like hell.  Ares walked up to the front door and tested it.  "Athena," he said, glaring at it.  The door opened and an older man looked at him.  "Good evening," he said as he walked inside.  Discord sat on the front stairs, staring at the street. "Good, you're all here," he said, looking around the group.  "Pack.  Most of you have another place you need to be."  He looked at Dawn, who was on the stairs.  "I have no idea what we're going to do about you," he admitted.  "But I'm sure Hecate can figure it out."

"And you are?" a dark haired young man asked from his position in the chair, his crossbow pointed at the leather-clad man.  "Besides toast in about thirty seconds."

"Xander, he's very powerful," Willow told him.

"Fucking yay.  Dawn, upstairs," he ordered as he stood up.  "Lock your door, don't come out until *I* say so."  She hurried back up the stairs and Xander walked over, looking this new man up and down.  "And you are?" he asked again.


"Uh-huh.  Delusional much?" Xander asked.

"Your great-uncle," Ares said, crossing his arms over his chest.  "Your life is probably about to get worse but it's better than this in the long run."

Xander snorted.  "I'm sure you'd like to think so, but I doubt you are who you say you are."  He gave him a small smirk, a cold, bitter look that wasn't his usual expression.  "Another like Glory perhaps?"

"No, he's not," Giles said, closing the door.  "He is who he says he is.  He just proclaimed the town under his control."  Willow nodded to back him up.

"And that's supposed to make this all better?"  He shrugged off Willow's hand on his arm. "Don't."  He looked at the man again.  "You touch Dawn over my dead body," he hissed, taking the step closer.  "And I dare you to do it in front of them."

Ares burst out in chuckles.  "Well, you're definitely like two of your big brothers," he noted, patted Xander on the cheek.  "Put it down, kid, you're not a warrior."

"No, but I seem to be the only one here," Xander pointed out dryly, backing away from him.  "Leave my town, leave this house, and never come near Dawn again."

"Xander," Giles said, trying to calm him down.  "He cannot hurt Dawn.  Her usable power is locked away now.  The date has gone past."

"If he is who he said he is, then I'm sure he's got other things in mind for her."

"Well, I was going to have Hecate look at her to see if we could stabilize her," Ares admitted.  "But as a last resort, I'm sure we could find a real warrior to protect and guard her.  Someone who's trained."

"I got on-the-job-training," Xander told him, eyes narrowing.  "You making fun of me is not helping you any."

"You're still holding a weapon and doing job that's not suited for you.  You're one of Hephaestus' people, not mine."

"Wonderful for him," Xander agreed.  "I can do this too."

Ares snatched the crossbow.  "Give me that."  He tossed it onto the couch, frowning at him.  "You are not a warrior.  This is the reason why your life is presently going to hell.  Do you not get this?"

"The reason my life is presently going to hell is because of people like you," Xander said simply, grinning coldly at him.  "If you left, I'm sure we could get on with our lives and make the world a better place again."

Ares groaned and shook his head, sitting down beside the crossbow.  "Kid, you're not a devotee of mine.  You were cursed to never be a member of your natal house.  By continuing, you're only making your situation worse."

"Like we trust you to protect Dawn," Willow sneered.  "You're not welcome here, even if you are who you say you are.  Get out of our house.  Now."  She pointed at the door.

Ares looked up.  "Athena, appear," he ordered.  "Hecate, a word?"  Giles and Willow both blanched but stood their ground, blocking the path to Dawn with their bodies.  Athena appeared first.  "Did you not hear about the curse placed on Strife's youngest?"

"Why would I care?" Athena asked.

Ares stood up and grabbed her by the throat, lifting her a few inches off the floor.  "Because you nearly caused the end of the world with your meddling."

"Put her down," an older female ordered as she appeared.  "I loathe her as much as you do, but you may not attack other members...."  She trailed off, looking at Xander, then around the room.  "Athena, you are hereby called to justify yourself before the Twelve. Leave now," she ordered coldly.  Athena snorted but she did leave.  "Ares, explain.  You're breaking the curse yourself."

"I had to," he said, sitting down again.  "Not only was Discord in town, but a Hell-God just took out half of the town's defenses, leaving my great-nephew as the only warrior here."

"He's not a warrior," Hera pointed out, gently for her.  She looked at the three mortals, then groaned.  "Hecate!" she yelled.

Hecate appeared, giving them bland looks. "What?" she demanded.  "First one of you yells for no reason then another?"

"First, tell your people to stand down," Ares ordered.  "Then, figure out what you want to do with the Key.  It's now in human form."

"It is?" she asked.   She looked at Hera.  "I turned it over to Zeus and Apollo."

Xander grabbed a sword with a credible battle yell and lunged at her.  "No one touches Dawn!" he shouted.  Willow and Giles were still frozen but Xander made a pretty imprint on the wall.  He struggled to get up again.

Ares looked at him. "How many times do I have to tell you, put it down!" he ordered.  Xander glared at him as he struggled back to his feet.  "Now you know my problem," he told Hera.  "Yes, this is Alexander, Strife's youngest."

Someone on the stairs coughed.  "Explanations would be of the good," Dawn said firmly, glaring at him.  Xander looked at her.  "I can kick their asses myself, Xander.  Relax."  She walked down to stand beside him, leaning against his side.  "First you show up two days after we bury my sister, my last relative, and put forth is crap, now you're hurting my guardian?  Who are you, what do you want, and if I kill you will you leave?"

"Dawn, relax," Giles ordered.  "You can't kill them, they're Gods.  That's Hera, Hecate, and Ares.  Discord was sitting outside."

Dawn shrugged.  "Yay them.  And?"

Willow broke free of the freezing, shaking her head.  "It's all right, they won't hurt you.  Or else I will let the Hellmouth reopen.  It's worth it at this moment," she told Ares.  "You're evil, just like Glory was."

"No, actually, I'm one of those things that just *is*," he pointed out dryly.  "People do things in my name, like your friend there."  He shrugged and looked at his mother and aunt again.  "So?"

Hecate nodded.  "Willow, Rupert, you are to go to Britain.  I have a temple there, you will man it."  They opened their mouths.  "Argue and be toast," she warned.

"I'm not leaving Dawn's side," Willow told her.  "Me or Xander.  We promised to protect her, even from the likes of you."

"Will your protection do much good if you're dead?" Hera asked.

Willow looked at her.  "Will yours?"

Xander coughed.  "I don't care what you guys want, this is her home, she's staying here. We've had to fight with others recently, and we'll win against you as well.  Dawn is in *my* custody, by law.  You three are trespassing.  I can have you eaten.  I'm sure Spike wouldn't care since you're not exactly human."

Giles nodded.  "That is a point," he agreed.  "But we should not be aggressive in front of the God over it, Xander.  He can make us all pay."

"Then bow to him," Xander told him, glaring at him.  "Dawn is under my protection.  I promised Buffy and I'm keeping it."

Hera clapped. "How very noble.  Sit!"  He didn't move so she tried to make him but he only shifted a bit, fighting her back.  "How on earth?"

"Easy, the curse makes it so," Hecate told her.

"Curse?" Dawn asked.  "Some of us have no frickin' idea here.  You're only making him paranoid by not explaining."

"No, I knew already," Xander told her.  "My parents let it slip," he told Ares.  "So why should I care that you've suddenly come down to screw with my life more?"

"Because if I didn't, your little family unit wouldn't have lasted a month," Ares said, standing up again.  "I'm here to stop this, mostly because you give me headaches."  Xander smirked and bowed, waving the sword still.  "Think that's funny?  I can have you assigned to a job on Olympus.  Maybe the royal toilet cleaner?"

"Unless they're going to force me to do the work, then it's a meaningless threat," Xander told him calmly.  "As your mommy figured out for you."

Hera coughed.  "Child, shut your mouth, now.  You do not want to get into a pissing contest with him."

"Go away," Dawn told her.  "I don't pray to you."

"No, you were under our control," Hera told her.  "We were not aware of this being done.  The Goddesses were to be told if anything was happening to you."

"So you gave her to Zeus?" Willow asked.

"He swore on his crown to protect her," Hecate told her.  "England, now."

"No."  She stepped closer to Dawn.  "This is my destiny, her and this town.  If you guys want to help, we're all for it.  After all, I'm still in school, Rupert's getting ready to leave again, and Xander actually works for a living.  None of these is really the greatest when you're slaying all night."

Hera looked at Ares.  "When did this get out of hand?"

"When he was born," Ares told her.  He looked at his great-nephew again.  "I could give you a cushy job that allows you to pay all their bills and save a lot so she can go to college, if that's what we decide upon," he offered, being pleasant.

"And for that I'd have to do what?" Xander asked coldly.  "Bow, pray, suck you off?"

"Eww," Dawn reminded him.  "Fifteen, don't need that mental image."

"Sorry, Dawn."  He looked at the Gods again.  "The only one who has the right to decide anything about Dawn is Dawn.  She's human, she has self-will.   She has the right to make her own decisions.  The only thing you three can decide is if you're going to do something after she dies."

"That won't be for a while, she's immortal," Hecate sighed.  She looked at Hera.  "Fine, we'll take them all."

"Huh?" Willow asked.

"I'll deal with you later," Hecate promised, waving her hand.  Everyone in the house was transported to a marble and gold room with high ceilings and no furniture or windows.  "Wait here," she ordered, leading the other Gods through a doorway, which disappeared afterwards.

Xander looked at Giles.  "Can we get back?"

"We can," Willow said firmly. "There's enough power around here to tap into.  I just learned how to do the demon teleporting thing."

Xander nodded. "Then you take Dawn and head back, taking Giles if possible."   She nodded and started to chant, grabbing onto them as soon as she was ready.  "Take my credit card in case you miss and have to move," he ordered before they left, sliding his wallet into Dawn's pocket.  They left with a squiggle of light, leaving him and his sword alone in the room.

"You really don't need that," a male voice said quietly.  He stepped out of the shadows, looking nearly like Xander, if a bit more lean and with messier hair.  "You really don't.  We won't hurt you or them."

"Bet me," Xander said bitterly.  "Father, how nice to see you again."

"I couldn't help it," Strife admitted, looking his son over.  "You're my boy.  I had ta check."

"And after you were gone, my girlfriend dumped me and a love spell backfired, making me the most wanted man in town."

Strife nodded.  "I can see why you're pissed," he agreed, giving him a faint smile.  "I still wanna kill your brothers."

"Do me a favor, go back in time and fix it," Xander suggested calmly.

"We're not allowed.  I'm gonna push for it ta be taken off ya again," Strife promised.  "I've blocked everything from ya.  Up here's different."

"So the hell on earth's going to be less when I get home this time?" he asked.

Strife nodded.  "Probably.  Ares stopped it all."

"Yeah, another person I'm not impressed with," Xander told him, looking at the doorway that was reforming.

"They did it because I loved ya," Strife said as his son walked off.

"Joy," Xander said, waving at him.  "I'll remember that when I'm killed this time."  He walked through the doorway, looking at the people staring at him.  "What?"

"Where are the others?" the bearded old man on the throne asked patiently.

Xander shrugged. "Not a clue," he admitted.  He looked around.  "So, how exponentially will this fuck with my curse?"

"You knew about it?" Athena asked, looking faintly shocked.

"Yup, sure did, ever since my adoptive parents told me when I ten."  He crossed his arms, keeping his sword in his hand.  "Not only have I known, I can also document each time *you've* been down near the house.  Did it feel good to get a good Slayer killed?"  Athena backed away from him and Xander looked at the ruling couple again.  "So?  No answer?"

"You're a very bitter young man," Zeus pointed out, leaning back and getting comfortable.  "Why should we do anything about this?"

Xander gave him that same cold grin.  "Because I'm the only guardian for your Key," he reminded them.  "Dawn now knows enough that she'll never let you near her, even if you kill her and return her to her energy format.  Which, by the way, would be a horrible idea.  Even if someone neutralized myself, Willow, Tara, and Giles, she'd still fight you.  You'd be surprised how many demons protect her because of who her sister was, simply out of respect."

"And how did she leave here?" Hera asked.

Xander looked at her and turned the cold smile into a smirk.  "Ask your sister.  She should have felt it."

"That girl," Hecate said coldly.  "I will stop her."

"Remember, Willow's the one holding the Hellmouth together," Xander pointed out.  "I'm one of the two helping her and the only guardian you've got guarding your precious Key."  Everyone looked stunned.  "The curse does spread out to those around me," he pointed out.  "Congratulations, Aunt Athena, for giving Willow the will to destroy the world and the ability to do so."  He looked at Zeus again.  "I could care less what you want.  If you guys want to come to Sunnydale and straighten the mess out, come to Sunnydale and set up temples.  I'm sure the townspeople will forget them within days, they're like that."  He popped his neck.  "You want to hurt Dawn, you go through me.  You go through Willow.  You go through the majority of the demons on the Hellmouth.  Then you go through some of the ones in LA."  He looked into Zeus' eyes, staring him down.  "You want to punish me further for being born, go for it," he said coldly.  "I can take out my big brothers as well.  I'm figuring that would stop this curse and keep it from spreading to the rest of the town."

"Them killing you would stop that," a female said in a very bored tone of voice.

"Yes, and it would also allow Willow to lose control," Xander reminded her.  "Or weren't you privy to that memo, Aunt Artemis?"  She glared at him.  "I could care less," he reminded her.  "Let me die, at least then I won't be in misery from my family."  He heard a quiet cough and looked at the one who had to be Hades.  "Is Buffy with you?"  He nodded.  "Is she okay?"  He nodded again. "Is she happy?"

"She's fine, Alexander.  She's not hurting at all."

"Then I'll pass that onto Dawn.  She'll want to know."

"Who is this Dawn?" Apollo asked.

"The Key," Hecate told him.

"Oh, shit," he said, looking at Xander, then at Ares.  "*HE's* the one who took her?"

"No, he's the one who *guards* her," Xander said bitterly.  "Get with the program, the monks made her human.  That happened last year.  Maybe you should pay attention."  He looked at Hades again.  "Can I come torture some people if I die from this?"

Hades burst out laughing.  "Sure.  I'm sure you'll enjoy it, nephew."

"Thanks."  He looked at the stunned Zeus again.  "Anything else?  I'm rather tired.  This whole having to slay most of the night then working hard all day shit is wearing me out."

"We will read your memories," Hera told him.  "We were not asked before the Key was removed from our protection."

"You were protecting her?" Xander asked.  "The monks seemed to think it was their job."

"Yes, we've heard how that came to be," an older woman said, glaring at her son.  "Boy, stand down and drop the sword.  You are not a warrior."

He looked at her.  "I'm the best they've got and I've had the training.  Even if I'm not supposed to be one.  It happens sometimes, great-grandmother.  It really does."  He looked at Hera.  "If you want to read my memories, go for it.  Can I take a nap during it or will Willow have to call off work for me?"

"It shouldn't take that long," Discord said, walking up behind him.  She and another Goddess, dressed in pink, laid a hand on his head.  "Close your eyes.  It's going to zip past."

"Been there, done that twice," he noted as he closed his eyes.  "Found things I had forgotten."

The goddess in pink shuddered and pulled her hand away.  "I can't.  Athena's tampering has removed him from my aegis."

"Excuse me?" Hera asked.  Aphrodite nodded.  "Fully?"

"Mostly.  I can't lock onto his mind.  Gaea, can you?"

"I can," she admitted.  She joined Discord, projecting the events into the air in front of the thrones.  At one point, Aphrodite burst out into tears and ran out of the room to find her husband.  Ares growled at a few other things, joined by a few other Goddesses.

At the end, Hera hit Zeus.  "You swore on your crown to protect her," she said coldly.  "You not only failed, you passed on the duty."

"She was protected," Zeus said, glaring at her.  He looked at Ares.  "Fix this.  Turn her back into the Key."

"No," Ares told him.  He shook his head at the incredulous look. "She's a human being, subject to the Fates, the Furies, and everyone else here.  I'll be adding warriors to the town to protect her."  He looked at the recently returned Aphrodite.  "You?"

"She's got my full support," Aphrodite promised.  "She's a nice kid.  That witch guarding her needs help though."

"She needs her head examined, she stood up to me," Hecate told her.

"Of course she did," Discord said coldly.  "You were threatening her sacred duty to her friend.  What did you expect?  They just took on a Hell-God, one of us wouldn't be that much different."

"Shut up, Eris," Hera ordered.  "Ares, control that town.  You can deal with your relative later."

"If I do more than enter the town, he'll be subject to death, which could conceivably kill Strife or send him back into madness," Ares pointed out, looking at Zeus.  "You and Hera cursed the triplets, only you two can remove it.  If you don't, then the world may well go to Hell quickly.  Not to Hades, to Hell.  Willow will react if he dies."

"Then I shall remove the curse," Hera agreed formally.  She looked at her husband. "Won't we?"

"If we do so, will the boy take up his calling?  I'm tired of the conflict coming from him."

"If he hadn't been infected in the first place, he never would have had that conflict," Artemis pointed out.  "The boy's been doing a warrior's job now for years; unless everything in the town stops, he'll have to fight."

"Ares, see to that," Zeus ordered.  He lifted his hand.  "Let the boy go free of the curse laid on him by sibling rivalry," he ordered, flicking his power at him.  Xander shuddered but most of it was gone.   "It looks like he'll have to allow the rest to be removed," he said thoughtfully.

"Of course he will, he's full of anger at us all," Aphrodite said harshly.  "How could you let this go on so long?  Strife and everyone else has asked, it would have stopped the problems sooner!"  She stood up again.  "I don't know what game this is, but the boy is now under my protection."

"I don't think we need another semi-mortal up here to sleep with us," Apollo pointed out.  She shrieked and threw a fireball at him, knocking him out of the air and stunning him.  "Ow."

"Aphrodite," Hera warned.  "While Apollo's mouth got ahead of him, that is all you could offer him.  He is immune from your touch, you said so yourself."

"Not from Cupid's," she said smugly.  She glared at both of them.  "Besides, there are many things that my people do besides get jumped against their will by the males of the Pantheon."  She looked at Ares.  "Give me a placement tomorrow.  I'll help you straighten the town out."

He shrugged.  "Fine.  What about the girl?"

"We'll leave her," Hera decided.  "As you pointed out, she is human and mortal now.  We'll gather her to us when she dies."

"She's *im*mortal," Athena told her.  "Not mortal."  She looked at Aphrodite.  "If Cupid does touch him, perhaps he and Pan would do well together."

"Athena, I'm one step away from taking away your sexual organs," Aphrodite warned.  "I can make it so they hurt whenever you touch them."  Athena shut up, the Goddess of Love was not the one to make angry at you.  "And?"

"Ares will protect the girl until we can talk to the Fates," Zeus told her.  "Your generous offer is accepted."

"Cool.  Now all we have to do is get him to forgive Athena, Strife, and the rest of you," Aphrodite pointed out.  She looked at Ares.  "Take him back home, put him to bed.  We'll deal tomorrow."  He nodded and removed Xander, taking him down to lay him on the couch, but taking the sword and putting it back on the wall.  Aphrodite looked up.  "Lachesis?  Would you please come here?"

"Do we have to do this now?" Artemis asked.

The Three Fates appeared in a gold glow.  "The Girl is to be left alone," Clotho announced.

"Her fate is your fate," Lachesis said, looking at Zeus.

"She will be a consort to a child of the Pantheon," Atropos finished.

"Which one?" Hera asked.

Clotho looked at her, then sneered. "Whichever one she chooses, Queen of the Gods.  Forcing her will only make her want to destroy us, along with the one who can."

Atropos nodded.  "The boy's blood is powerful.  Anger, hate, and rage fill him."

Lachesis looked at Strife, then at Hades.  "His natural mother's blood tells."  Then they disappeared.

"Who was his mother?" Athena sighed.

"Kristhina," Strife said quietly.  "Warrior a'Ares."  He scratched his eyebrow.  "She wasn't that special."

"Hades, would you please be a dear and figure that part out?" Hera asked.  He nodded, bowing to her.  "Thank you.  Strife, I want you to try and make up with the boy.  He won't go for flashy apologies, but an honest one might help.  Get to know your son before you lose him.  This may be your only chance."  He nodded, backing away.  "Athena, leave the whole town alone."  She glared at her step-daughter.  "I mean it.  If the boy can destroy us, you're the one who's made his life worse by peeking on him."  She stood up.  "Any other questions?"

"I believe that's my line," Zeus said firmly.

Hera looked at him. "Oh, yes, you gave away your sacred and sworn duty.  What shall we do with you?"

Justice cleared her throat.  "He thought it would be safe.  He did it out of laziness, but he did try to keep it safe.  By putting it onto the mortal realm, it created this whole situation."  She looked at Hera.  "While I might judge him, it would not satisfy many."

Hera nodded. "Thank you for your honesty."  She looked at Zeus.  "Feel lucky."  She walked away, ending the meeting.

Zeus looked at the remaining people. "Go," he told them, waving a hand.  They left him there, thinking about what he had done.


Xander looked up as his name was called by his boss, holding up a finger so he could finish nailing the stud in.  Then he strolled over, stopping to grab his canteen to get a drink on the way.  "What's up?" he asked.  "More changes?"

"No," he said, nodding at the parking lot.  "You've got a visitor.  Some freak."

Xander looked that way and shrugged, then looked at his boss.  "Give me five, it's not that hard to send him away."  He strolled that way, taking another drink before stowing his canteen in his car.  "What?" he asked the man standing there.

Ares looked him over.  "I know you don't want to hear this, but we're doing what is best for the town at the moment.  When you're done here, I'd like you to sit with Strife and talk with him."  Xander shook his head.  "He tried, Xander.  Every time an open forum occurred he tried to get you free of that stupid curse.  All he wants is a chance to explain."

"I got the letter," he said bitterly.  "Anything else?"

Ares nodded. "I'm having some of my warriors coming in to take on any additional fighting duties."  Xander shrugged again.  "I want your group to show them the town.  Would you consent to that?"

"If I must.  It's not really necessary."

"It is," Ares countered smoothly.  "There's more here than you know.  I promise, I'll even head over to LA to protect your girlfriend if you want."

"She's my ex and she's got that town under control with her boss.  You can offer but I don't think she needs it."  He ran a hand over his face to clean off the sweat.  "Anything else?  I'm really busy."

"No.  Did you want promoted?"

"No, I like the physical parts of the job and I'm already a crew manager.  That's the only good thing about being here, there's always room for advancement."  He walked away.

"Tonight, eight," Ares called after him.  Xander held up a finger, waving it a bit.  "I mean it," he called.  He frowned, at least it had been a start.  He went back to making plans for the town.  Something had to be done with that stupid hole in the ground and that seal.


Xander was led into the back room of the new Hall of War, looking around but looking seriously unimpressed with the dark marble.  Ares gave him a look for his attitude.  "At least you left the Bronze alone.  It's the only fun we have around here."  He stood in front of the God, arms already crossed, leaning to one side a bit, just in case he had to move quickly.  "And?"

"Your father's running a short errand for me, he'll be right back," Ares admitted.  "It was necessary.  His beast needed fed."  He pointed and a chair was created.  "Sit?"  Xander looked at him.  "It won't trap you."

"I could get out of one of those," Xander pointed out, sitting down and sprawling casually.  "Anything new come up?"

"The three groups of suicidal demons tried to break my control earlier.  They wanted to take out the school and blow themselves up in it.  Strife and Discord had to point out that the Hellmouth was under the former school, not the new one.  They thought a blood sacrifice would reopen it."

"It might," Xander told him, not moving.  "We know the thing is still sucking energy.  Other than that, we only worry about it when it opens."

"That's a good philosophy when you don't have all the information," Ares admitted.  "It's not a current threat so you only watch it.  Yours?"

"Giles."  He shifted this time, leaning on his other hip.  "Anything else I need to know before patrol tonight?"

Ares created a pitcher of water and handed him a mug of it.  "Not a lot.  There's been a small thing going on in the park but it's been normal people all day so far.  Most of the vampires are in hiding and will probably stay in."

"That leaves the fledges," Xander pointed out.  "Sixty people died in the last month by vampire bite.  Only twenty of them have risen."  He sipped the water, rolling it around his mouth to make sure there weren't any additives in it.  "Thanks, it was hot outside today."

"What is your problem?" Discord said as she appeared.  "He can and will give you anything if you stop this crap."

Xander looked at her, his bitter sneer returning. "What makes you think I need anything?"  He sipped the water again.  He noticed some warriors walking toward them.  "They're going to have to get rid of the armor.  The people around here are purposefully forgetful but they'll remember people in armor with swords."

Ares nodded, looking at his warriors.  "I only just got them here.  They'll be changing before you and your group take them out tonight."  He nodded at the leader.  "You're one short."

"He got sick, Lord Ares," he said smartly.  "He's resting in the infirmary."  He looked at he dark-haired man sitting in the chair, then sneered.  "Are you local?"

"Yup.  Xander Harris.  You'll be filling in when I'm tired."  He finished the water and stood up.  "First, no armor.  It'll get you noticed."

"But Lord Ares controls the town," one of the warriors protested.

"Bullshit," Xander told him. "Vampires control the town.  Demons control the town.  Willow and I control the town.  Leather jackets should be good enough for nearly everything, but wear some light kevlar underneath if you want."  He pulled something out of his back pocket and handed them over.  "These are the three types of bullets we've been using.  Wooden tipped.  Silver tipped.  Hollow-point with holy water.  Get a lot of them made, you'll need them."  The lead warrior looked at him in shock.  "Also, find a really good stake and find a way to camouflage your swords.  Even the scared cops get wary when they see people with a lot of weapons."   He noticed the man's look at Ares.  "He'll tell you I'm right."

"He is," Ares admitted dryly.  "This is his area."  He walked over, taking the bullets to look at.  "Interesting.  Does the wood splinter?"

"I've been using hardwood so it would survive.  Yew and oak splinter but some of the other ones don't."  Ares looked impressed.  "It helps when you're facing down three hundred vampires and there's six of you."  He looked at the lead warrior again.  "Go change," he suggested.  Ares nodded so they went to change.  "Are they all that stiff?"

"They're trained to follow orders," Ares pointed out.  He looked up.  "Hey, Heph!" he called.  Hephaestus appeared, looking at the bullets he held out.  "Think you can mass- produce me a few cases of each?"

"Sure," Hephaestus agreed.  He smiled at Xander.  "Excellent work.  Nice design."  He took them and disappeared.

"Am I taking them out weaponless tonight?" Xander asked.

"No, let them take their short swords and big knives," Ares said, steering the boy back to the chair by his arm behind his back.  Strife appeared with his cat and his cat's bundle of joy, setting them under the table.  "Did you finally find it something?"

"I did.  'Sclep said she had a bellyache because she tried to eat a vampire earlier."  He grinned at Xander.  "Hi."


"Not quite," Ares corrected.

"You'll find it's easier to patrol most of the night if you get to sleep in late," Xander pointed out dryly.  "If I didn't have to work, this would be early afternoon for me."

Discord hopped on that statement.  "We can do that," she offered.  Xander looked at her and she flinched back.  "Sorry."

"No, that's all right.  I don't need a new job, I happen to like my present one," Xander told her. "It's tiring when you don't get that much sleep at night."

"Give it a few days, then you can cut back to special emergencies," Ares ordered. Xander gave him a look.  "Really.  Only the special cases and protecting the...Dawn.  Speaking of, I popped in on your ex, Cordelia.  She squealed and tried to hit me."

"Good."  Xander looked at his father.  "Are we nearly done?"

"Let me get dinner and we'll chat over that," Strife said quietly, going to do that for his son.  He wanted this to go well.  Hestia had help him make everything.  He brought it all out and found the other Gods gone.  "They left?"

Xander shrugged.  "They said you should be able to make an ass out of yourself in private."  He saw his father swallow.  "I don't need anything."

"I know.  I just wanna get ta know ya," Strife reminded him as he set everything out.

Xander looked at the table and let out a dry chuckle.  "Cookie pie for dinner?"

Strife grinned.  "I'm still a little kid at heart," he explained.  "It's chocolate chip.  I helped Hes make it."  He sat down next to his son, but around the corner of the table.  "So, you're a carpenter?"  He dished out some of the cookie pie and moved the toppings closer.  "Make it however ya want.  I'm a butterscotch person myself."  He ladled some out, holding his tongue between his lips as he drizzled.

Xander unbent a little.  "I'm more into chocolate."  He added some to his plate, then some whipped cream and a few nuts.  "So, I'm your son."

Strife put down his fork.  "You are, Alexander.  You were only a baby when the brats did that to ya.  I was so pissed at them, I nearly went insane again."  He looked at his dinner, pushing it back so he could lean his elbows on the table.  "Ares kept me from killin' them and Hera.  She's the one who stuck you here."

"Then I know who to really hate," Xander assured him, taking a bite.  It was really good.  "Cinnamon?"

"I added a bit too much," he admitted with a faint grin.  "I seem to do that sometimes.  That's why I had Hes help me make it."  He ate a bite of his own and smiled, adding some whipped cream.  It wasn't his favorite thing but his son seemed to like it.  It did cut the extra cinnamon down to more manageable levels.  Apparently his son was kinda wise as well as a wise-ass.  "So, how do you think the patrol will go tonight?" he asked after a few minutes of silence.

"I expect at least one person to mouth off to me and at least one of them to need a doctor by the time we're done," Xander admitted.  "Unless we run into something unusual, that should be about normal until they adjust to the super-human strength and desire to kill."  He took another bite.  "Did you actually punish my brothers?"

"I sent them away for years," Strife said, putting his spoon down again.  "I wouldn't talk to them until Ares intervened a few years back."  He looked at his son.  "I was so pissed they nearly died.  Olympus nearly died," he said calmly.  "My rage activated all the chaos potential up there and things started to attack their owners.  Apollo nearly got garroted by  his favorite harp.  Artemis nearly got eaten by her animals."  Xander nodded for him to go on.  "I was so mad, I lost myself.  I used to be a lot more fun and a lot wilder.  Having you sent away that way nearly destroyed everyone around me.  Even Hera and Zeus weren't immune, but they got the others to cage me and forced me to break the curses I laid on them."

Xander touched his hand.  "I would have died to see them go," he admitted.  Strife gave him a gentle smile.  "So, who is my natural mother?"

"One'a Ares' warriors.  She was kinda pretty and had a great sense of humor.  Kept a separate shrine to me so I could come help her in battle by pranking the other side."  Xander hummed and took another bite.  "Your birth nearly got her killed by her squad, but Ares went down and kicked their asses royally.  They never were the same after that."

"What army was she in?" he asked.



Strife nodded.  "They sent you a bit through time, Xander."  He gave him a little smile.  "That's part of what drove me so nuts.  I was completely cut off from ya.  I still don't talk to the triplets that much because Hera did that.  If she had kept you back then, I'd have been able to just hurt them a lot instead of nearly killing everyone."  He reached over again, giving his son's hand a squeeze.  "I think you've done wonderful."  Xander snorted.  "Ya have!  Seriously!" he insisted.  "You've made the best outta a lot of bad situations.  Ya survived living here in that hellhole for all this time and you took up a job that wasn't ever supposed ta be yours.  You make me really proud.  Even if you do give Ares headaches," he admitted with a small smile.

Xander nodded and wiped his mouth, pushing his chair back.  "Thank you for that, Strife.  I'd better get ready for patrol."  He walked out, heading back to change clothes and gather weapons.

Strife frowned but a warm hand on his shoulder made him look up.  "What?" he asked dryly.

"You made him think, he's reacting," one of his sons told him, taking the empty seat to look at him.  "Being emotional probably isn't something he's used to.  You got through."

"Thanks," he said dryly.  "Want the rest?"

"No, that's more Joxer's thing than mine," Jace pointed out dryly.  "I'll bring it to him though.  Apparently they share the same dark love."  Strife grinned.  "He'll be fine.  Jett checked with the Fates and the Furies.  He's not got a judgement against him, even though he does want to kill us all.  Even if he manages it, he won't be punished.  He made sure of it."  Strife slumped a little.  "And the Fates said he was gonna do even greater things so he's safe for the moment."  He stood up.  "Joxer's beating himself up about this whole thing again.  It's my turn to hitch him to the wall."  Strife nodded.  "Be safe, dad.  He can sense you and you do kinda read like a dark entity sometimes."

"Sure, kid.  Thanks."  He watched his son disappear.  So many things had changed over the centuries.  His youngest son was a kicker and a half.  He was very proud of the boy, even though he was an asshole to Ares.  Or maybe because he was strong enough to be an asshole to Ares, who knows.  He ate some more of his pie and considered his triplets.  They would apologize.  Joxer might go into overdrive and start wailing and crying again, but he would get it out past the tears.  That voluntary bout with the Furies had done him some damage.  He was still broken from it.  Jett had managed to accept his own darkness and start to move on.  Jace had become more normal and was still dating the pretty boys, only now he did it openly as a model recruiter.  At least he was always surrounded by guards.  His son was not the most coordinated when it came to battles.

"No shit," Discord said as she popped in.  "The warriors are ready.  How bad did he think it'd be?"

"At least one injury," he said, looking back at her.  "I'm so screwed," he admitted.

"He sat and listened, that's what you wanted him to do," Discord said firmly.  "The same as I wanted it from you once.  Xander is a lot like Jett and Joxer put together.  With just enough Jace to be playful.  He'll come around."  She gave him a pat on the back.  "Did you tell him he had been moved out of time?"  Strife nodded.  "Did you praise him?"

"Yeah," he sighed, "then he left."

"Then he'll be back.  You've managed to make your point and things will happen."  She stuck her finger in the whipped cream and sucked it off.  "Go rest.  It'll be another emotional day tomorrow and you've always sucked at those."

"Yeah, I have," Strife agreed, taking his pie back to his bedroom to sulk in peace.  He brought the whipped cream too, it really did help.


Xander looked up from the football field, blinking to get the tears out of his eyes.  "Ares!" he snapped.  Ares appeared in a shower of light so Xander let himself sit on the ground.  "Did you forget to mention the stupid demons who were *really* hungry only once a year?" he asked.  He pressed harder the gored spot on his leg to stop the bleeding.  "The poisonous ones?"

"Shit!"  He got everyone back to his temple and sent for the doctors to come and take care of them.  "Did you go out without your friends?"

"Willow had a test and a planned chat with Tara," he admitted, rubbing his numb leg.  "Yo, they were poisonous," he called out.  "Anything that looks like a horn mark has some in it."  The nearest doctor gave him a look and came over to check him.  "I'm better than they are," he said quietly.  "They need it more.  I took an anti-venom before we left."  The doctor picked him up and took him back with the rest of the group, getting them set up and cleaned.

Ares went to call at the house, startling Dawn, who was playing a game.  "There were poisonous demons out tonight," he said quietly.  "Xander will live, he's got an injury so I'm keeping him for a bit."

Dawn stood up, staring him down.  "How bad and do you need the anti-venom he took earlier?  Willow always makes a large batch.  Willow!"  Willow and Tara both came.  "That demon invasion Giles thought was next month happened tonight.  Xander's fine according to him."

"Let me get my anti-toxin," Willow ordered.

"I've got some of my own," he told her.  "It'll work."  She gave him a look.  "It will work.  It's made from Golden Apple juice."

"Oh," Tara said.  "Go...good to k..know."  She looked at Dawn.  "Pause?"  Dawn paused her game then she looked at Ares again.  "Xander?"

"He's fine.  He got stabbed in the thigh.  I'm still getting an account from the soldiers."  He looked her over, then smiled, sort of.  "A pure witch, here?"

Tara nodded. Willow answered for her.  "A very powerful pure witch here," she pointed out.  "She balances me."  She patted Tara on the back.  "What did you need?"

"He was worrying about worrying you," Ares told them.  "He'll be back tomorrow."

"At least tomorrow's Sunday," Dawn offered.  "He won't have to work."  Willow smiled at her for that.  "What else was decided?"

Ares looked at her, then sat down, patting the couch beside him. She sat further away, clearly not trusting him.  "It was decided that Zeus was an asshole for putting you with those monks.  He was feeling a bit lazy and never told anyone."  Dawn snorted and Willow rolled her eyes.  "It was also discovered that your energy is immortal so we're going to leave you like this, under my direct protection, until you die a natural death or you beg to be let go."

"No!" Tara said firmly.

Ares looked at her.  "Even among her present kind, there are things bad enough to make you want release," he reminded her. "You've seen others suffer.  If she wants, and it is necessary, then I would do it for her.  So she wouldn't have to suffer."

Dawn shook her head.  "Won't happen," she said, sounding very convinced of that fact.

Tara nodded.  "Hopefully n...not."  She looked at Ares again.  "Yours?"

"Mine," he repeated.  "Xander was supposedly locked away from my powers.  He's not supposed to be a member of my House at all.  Not supposed to be aggressive, not supposed to fight, none of it.  He's done pretty well with it so far, but it gives me nasty headaches.  That's why I brought in some new warriors."  Willow snorted.  "And you can't tell him.  I'll tell him myself sometime soon."  He stood up.  "There is one other bit of news, and I'm trusting you to keep it from him."  Willow gave him a 'get real' look.  "One of his brothers is coming in to help with the new warriors I'll be sending.  Jett is a trained assassin.  He's fought since Ancient Greece.  He's very skilled.  He's also got his own family and he wants to make his own apologies.  I'll expect him to pop around soon of his own free will."

"Xander won't like that," Dawn pointed out.

"I know," he agreed. "But it is up to Jett himself to make his own apologies.  It's up to Xander to forgive him, and Strife, and me, and even Athena.  So you can act hostile toward him, but try to be nicer to his wife.  She's just out of the military and she's feeling disoriented.  Their kids are really nice," he offered.

Dawn snorted.  "Not happenin' as a matchmaker," she noted as she stood up.  "Fine, I won't snark at his wife or the kids.  The kids weren't around then and probably neither was she.  Let him hurt Xander more and I'll kick his ass myself.  Fancy fighting style or not.  Xander is mine to protect."

Ares looked at her, then smirked.  "You don't like him like that, kid."  He looked back at Willow.  "Speaking of kids.  Aphrodite sent Cupid down because she can't touch Xander to fix his fucking love life but he can.  So my son's around as well.  Blonde, six-foot something, wings."  He nodded and disappeared.

"Cupid's here?" Dawn asked, looking at Tara.  "I thought he was a baby."

"That's a cherub," Willow reminded her.  She sat down and looked at Tara.  "Can we keep that to ourselves?"

Tara nodded.  "W..we owe it to X...Xander to help them fix this."  She sat down beside Dawn, picking up the extra controller and unfreezing the game.  "The good maze," she said with a small grin.

"Yeah," Dawn agreed, getting back into it.  She liked playing games with Tara, she was pretty cool and only tried to hit her now and then and always playfully.

Willow watched them, smiling happily.  Her own little family.


Tuesday dawned bright and shiny, and Xander was still off work.  He'd be going back in the morning but his leg ached too much today.  So he was closest when the doorbell rang.  He opened it and saw a man who looked somewhat like him standing there.  Then he frowned.  "What?" he demanded.

"Can I use the bathroom?" an adorable little girl asked.  "Daddy said you had one.  Please?"

"Sure, go ahead.  Dawn?"  She came out of the kitchen.  "Can you please escort my niece up to the bathroom?"

"Sure.  Come with me," she said, smiling at the cute little girl.  She was wearing camouflage pants, a tank top, and combat boots.  What a darling little princess.

A woman strolled up while the brothers were glaring at each other.  "Daughter?" she asked quietly, her southern accent soft and rounded off.

"The bathroom," Xander said, letting her in.  "Top of the stairs."

She smiled and held out her hand.  "I'm Sarah."

"Xander," he said, shaking it.  "I have nothing against you, or any kids.  You're more than welcome here.  Your husband can dig holes in the front lawn for all I care."  A little boy sped past and up the stairs, making his mother sigh and follow him.  Xander then slammed the door in his brother's face, heading in to sit on the couch.  He still ached.

Sarah came in a few minutes later.  "He really does feel horrible," she offered.  "He was as afflicted as you were."  She sat down, letting her daughter sit in her lap.  "This is MaryJane.  The little hellion is named after you.  Scott Alexander."  Xander gave her a faint smile.  "I'm not asking for peace, Alexander, but he'll mope for weeks if you don't at least listen to his apology.  Please?  So *I* can sleep without being bounced out of the bed while he tosses around?"

MaryJane looked at her uncle.  "Are you my Uncle?"  He nodded.  "Why?"

"Because I'm your father's brother," he told her.

"Oh.  Why aren't you an aunt?  I'm a girl."

"Yeah, but being an aunt or an uncle depends on which sex I am, not which one you are," he told her.

"Oh.  That's okay, I guess."  She looked at her mother. "Then what is Jace?"

Her mother groaned and shook her head.  "He's an uncle, dear, no matter how many times you've caught him in a dress."

Xander snickered.  "In a dress?"

"He's a part-time drag queen," she shared.  "A very good one."  Her son came running in followed by Willow.  "Stop, now," she ordered in her best command voice.  Her son looked at her like he was about to be beaten to death.  "You will not destroy this house.  You will respect your uncle Alexander."

"Xander," he corrected, holding out a hand.  "Hi, Scott."

"Hi."  He shook the hand hard and grinned.  "Do you like guns?"

"I've had to use them but we don't keep ours unlocked," he told him.  "Why?"

"Because I want to grow up and shoot people like mommy," he proudly informed them.

Sarah sighed and shook her head.  "I was a Marine," she told them.

Willow patted her on the back.  "I'm sure you were a wonderful one and he'll be good at taking over your spot."

"No, I'd rather see him go Army and be a Ranger," she admitted, smiling at her.  "Hi, I'm Sarah."

"I'm Willow," she said, shaking her hand.

"Are you two...." she asked, glancing at Xander.

Willow giggled and shook her head.   "Sorry, nope.  We're staying here because we're Dawn's guardians and nearly-big brother and sister."  The boy suddenly grabbed his crotch and started to dance around.  "Come on, I'll show you where the bathroom is for future reference," she said, taking his hand and leading him up the stairs.

"Does she like girls?" MaryJane asked.

Xander shrugged.  "You'll have to ask her that."  Sarah stifled a chuckle.  "Where are you guys going to be staying?"

"We'll be at the temple until we find a house.  Jett's staying in the area," she sighed.  "He said he's one of the few people who can survive here."

Xander nodded.  "Quite possibly.  The last group of warriors Ares had here were nearly all killed while on patrol the other night by something with poisonous horns."  He stood up with a grunt of pain and kicked open the weapon's trunk, handing over a stake and a few vials of holy water.  "Here, you'll need them.  Don't go out after dark, even with a weapon, unless it's an emergency."  He closed it and sat back down with a sigh of relief.  Maybe another day off was in order.

"Did you get hurt as well?" MaryJane asked.  Xander nodded.  "Wow, can I see?"

"I'd have to take off my pants," he told her.

"Fine," she said, starting to pout.  Her mother handed her the stake and shared a look with him.  "This is kinda neato.  What do you do with it?"

"You kill the bad vampires," her mother told her.  "Just like daddy told you last night.  That's a stake."

"Oh."  She tried it a few times.  "Okay, I can do that," she said readily.  "Can we go see Lord Ares?  He always has candy."  She looked at Xander.  "I'm sure you'll have candy next time, Daddy said you didn't know we were coming."

"No, if I had known that, I probably would have been more prepared or went to work today," he agreed.  Her mother looked at him, making him feel guilty for being the hurt one.  "Fine, I'll listen to him."

"Thank you, Xander.  You've saved me sleeping on the couch for the next two weeks."  She stood up and kissed him on the cheek.  "I like you even if you are related to my husband and father-in-law."  She went to gather her son and take them back to the car.

Jett walked into the living room, looking at his baby brother.  "You've got to know it was unnatural.  It was that stupid curse."

Xander nodded. "So I've heard.  Doesn't make it much better from this end."  He stood up with a groan of pain.  "Sorry, time for pain killers.  Let me know when you're ready to head out on patrol and I'll send Willow with you.  Her powers are more useful this time of the month."  His brother touched his arm, making him stop.  "Did you really expect me to fall into your arms and sob about how I've missed you?" he hissed quietly.   "You sent me to a life that became a living hell.  I've nearly died because of you and I've had to do a lot of things that still bother me.  If you're seriously sorry, I'll know eventually."

"That's all I can ask," he agreed.  "Don't get in Joxer's way.  He did a round with the Furies to punish himself."  He left, going out and taking his kids to the local temple.  He did understand, even though it sucked.  He could see his brother was like him, too much like him for his own comfort.  He wanted to share what he had found out about killing things with him, make him ease up on his guilty conscience for killing monsters, but he knew he wouldn't accept his. He felt his wife touch his hand.  "What?"

"Want me to drive so you don't crash us into something?" she suggested lightly.  He looked at her so she kissed him.  "He's survived this long, he's not going to snap today," she offered.  "You've got time to help him heal from all the things he's had to do to save himself and his friends."  She kissed him again.  "Now drive before I make you walk."

He nodded, going in a more straight line this time.  She was right, he had time.  "What was wrong with his leg?"

"He got stabbed by something poisonous," his daughter said cheerfully.  "He said most of his patrol nearly died."  She waved the stake around.

"Don't stake your little brother, he'll cry," Jett said firmly.  She was so his, he could never doubt it.  His son was more like Jace had become, but his little girl was his pride and joy.

"Okay," she agreed.  "Can we find a vampire tonight, daddy?"

"No," her mother said patiently.  "I'm sure we'll find many without having to go looking."  She frowned at her husband.  "Quit encouraging that.  She's already too blood-thirsty to play with other kids."

"Yes, dear," he said with a wicked grin.  His prize was so great.


Xander looked up from laying wire in a wall when he heard a high-pitched squeal.  "Great, another one," he groused as he headed that way before the site boss could call him outside.  "What?" he demanded his brother. "And can you please act a bit less flamboyant?  The guys around here get nervous about gay guys wanting them."

Jace pouted at him.  "You're no fun."

"No, I'm not," Xander agreed.  "I'm too damn tired to be fun."  Jace's pout got worse.  "And I'm also immune from that look."  He crossed his arms and scowled.  "What?"

"I came to say hello and to ask you to dinner," Jace said, still smiling.  This one was so much like Jett.  It was clear they were family. "Please?"

"Not tonight," Xander sighed.  He couldn't get out of this one, or the patrol with Jett.  "I'm taking the surly bastard around town tonight."

"Ooh, you're bonding with him!" Jace said happily, giving him a hug.

"For that, I should shoot him," Xander said dryly.  Jace chuckled.  "Tomorrow night?"

"Fine," he agreed happily.  "Wherever you want is fine, make reservations and I'll pay."

"There aren't that many places like that in town," Xander pointed out.

"Pfft.  Like I care.  We can go for burgers if you want," Jace told him.  "I'm too used to New York."  He smiled.  "But I did get punished and moved to the LA office so I could handle them and all the little farm darlings coming in from the East."  He gave Xander's cheek a pat.  "Come get me whenever you're done and showered."  He wrinkled his nose.  "Do you know any *decent* actresses?  I'm desperately looking for one."

"I know an actress, I don't know how good," Xander told him.  Jace looked stunned and nodded eagerly.  "Call Angel Investigations, talk to Cordelia.  It's her."

"Ooh, thank you."  He gave him a grand hug then flounced off.

Xander looked at his boss. "Don't ask," he ordered.  "Just don't ask."  He went back to work, hoping to pull some of his frustration out by yanking on the stubborn cords.

Xander's boss looked confused.  "I thought he didn't have any brothers," he muttered, going to check his employment history.  The records had been updated.  "Oh, he's adopted.  They're just now finding him.  No wonder he's been like that."  He made a mental note to watch our for any more mood swings and offer to take the poor guy out for a beer and a chat if necessary.  Things like that were always tough.  Especially on those working around the confused person.


Xander looked over as Jett joined him in the cemetery, looking at his gear.  "Going for a private war?"

"No, just the necessary stuff," he said with a faint smile.  "Extra ammo.  GPS positioning system and a map.  Food bars and a canteen."  He shrugged and handed over a new gun.  "Hephie got the bullets done. That's loaded with wood and iron."  Xander looked impressed.  "Let's go."

"We're waiting on something to rise," Xander said, pointing at the fresh grave.  "He was the only new one and I try to start with them.  The rest of the town is inside because it's Wednesday."  He handed over an extra stake.  "Here, it's easier for close combat."

"Old-fashioned," Jett said, looking like he appreciated it.  He looked his brother over.  "How's your thigh?"

"Itchy."  He stood up as the dirt started to move, frowning at the vampire coming up.  "Yay you," he said dryly before staking it, it had been partially still stuck so he wasn't in any danger.  He walked on.  "I usually do a tour of this one first; it's the newest, and therefore cheapest and has the most open spaces.  Then I head through the nearest five, go around the school once, up by the college, then do the cemeteries on the other side, that's another two.  If nothing happens, you'll be done by two; if not, it may be dawn."  He looked back and saw his brother's look.  "What?"

"You always like this?  The commander said you were a bit stiff with them too."  He stopped his brother, forcing him to turn around.  "I fully admit this whole shit is my fault.  Ease up on me.  I'm really sorry.  This is as close to an apology as you're getting, kid."

Xander got free.  "It's about what I expected.  Personally, I don't think all this production was necessary.  We may be having a bad time but it would have slowed back down again.  We were handling it."

"So this is over your wounded pride?" Jett asked.

Xander shook his head.  "No, this is about my life going to hell yet again," he noted.  He walked on, forcing himself not to limp.  "The other guys nearly died because they didn't react very quickly."  He heard a shot and turned around, finding Jett had just killed another demon.  "Nice, but he's only killed by steel.  We'll pass on a copy of the Watcher's Guide to you."  He pulled a knife and threw it at the creature's face, sticking it in his eye.  It roared and fell down, wobbling for a few minutes before it went still.  He went to retrieve his knife, slinging the slime off it.  "Eww.  It'll dissolve in the sunlight."  He walked back to join his brother.  "Think of this like basic training.  You learn on the job."  He walked on.

"Shit," Jett whispered, staring at his baby brother like he was stunned.  "How did you learn that?"

"Practice," Xander told him.  "Lots of practice.  Hurry up, I still have to work tomorrow.  That new addition isn't being built on its own."

"Why are you still working?"

"Because I like working," Xander told him, sounding a touch bitter.  "I don't need to sit at home all day and veg before patrols."  He continued walking, heading around the perimeter of the cemetery.  "This is the shortest path.  You won't catch all of them, but you'll get the majority.  Plus, it means you'll have more to do tomorrow."  He led the way down the well-trodden path to the next cemetery and groaned.  "Shit!" he announced, pulling the gun.  He started to fire, hitting all but the blond man in the center.  "Not the blond, he's an ally most of the time," he ordered.

"Why?" Jett asked, helping him pick off the vampires.

"Because Spike's like that," Xander told him.  "He was in love."  When there were only a few left, he hobbled down the small hill, getting the last few from a closer range.  "Morning, Spike, how was your trip?" he asked after he got the last one.

Spike looked at him.  "What are you doing, whelp?" he demanded.  "You're not that good!"

Xander gave him a look.  "Practice will eventually make perfect," he reminded the vampire.  "I bet you weren't that good at first either but you got better, the same as I have."

Spike still looked stunned.  "Who's the poof?"

"My older brother Jett, and he's not the poof, that's Jace," Xander told him, turning Spike around.  "Wanna patrol or go see Dawnie?"

Spike gave him a little smile.  "That pathetic am I?"

Xander nodded.  "Yup, but it also makes sense.  So, how was wherever?"

"Good enough," he admitted.  "Lonely.  Not even another demon to kill."  He got free of Xander, taking a good sniff.  "Since when did you get stabbed?  You're gonna die if you don't get that looked at."

"I've had it looked at," Xander said with a touch of disgust.  "I'm healing, okay?  Can we drop it?  WILLOW!" he shouted.  She appeared, then squealed and ran over, hugging Spike.  "As you can see, he's back.  I'm going onward and through the motions.  Let him have the basement if he wants it," he suggested with a small grin for her.  "He wanted to see Dawn."

"Sure," Willow agreed.  "We'll take the route back to the Magic Box.  There was a small eighteenth birthday celebration tonight at the coffee house."  She led Spike off, babbling at him as they walked.  Then she shrieked and looked at Xander.  "I thought you were fine!" she shouted.

"I am!" he yelled back.  "I'm fine.  It's been looked at, I had two anti-poisons.  Go, shoo."

"Fine, but I'm checking that stupid injury the moment you get home, mister," she warned, stomping off with Spike so she could pick his brain about the poison, and tell him about Dawn and her amazing new crush.

Jett looked at his little brother.  "I can go on if you want to call it a night."

"I'm fine."

Jett let him get a little ahead, then pulled out his stungun and hit Xander with it.  "No, you're not.  Vampires have better senses of smell than we do.  Yo, pops!" he shouted.  Strife appeared and looked at Xander, then glared at him.  "A vampire friend of his said his leg was still oozing poisons."

"Shit!" Strife said, picking up his baby and taking him to get checked over.  "Thanks," he called before disappearing.

Jett looked at the map the warriors had given him, heading on through that path.  It was much easier than he had thought it would be.  He could even check on his house on the way past.


Xander woke with a groan and looked around the obvious hospital setting.  "What happened now?" he complained as he sat up, holding his head.  "I'll kill the fucker for this."

"No, you won't," Strife said from the bed next to him.  "You had more poison than all the others combined in your system because you took on the bull," he said impatiently.  "You nearly died, and that was yesterday.  Argue again and I'm puttin' ya over my knee and takin' a paddle to your ass."

Ares walked in.  "Calm down, Strife.  He obviously didn't know or he would have told the nice doctors," he asserted.  Strife glared at him.  "Wouldn't you, Alexander?  Because you really don't want to die."

"Oh, I don't know, Hades said I could help him torture people," Xander said smartly, glaring at him.  "I was probably fine."

Strife grabbed the back of Xander's head, making him look at him.  "You were not fine," he hissed.  "You came within inches of dying because they didn't give you enough medicine.  Accept that before I get another ulcer."  He let his baby go and stomped off.

"Thanks for the concern, dad," Xander called after him.  He slid out of the bed and looked down at himself.  "Silk pajamas?"  He looked at Ares, who shrugged.  "Well, it's nicer than my other hospital stays," he admitted.  "Can I go home?"

"No.  It's after dark and you're called off again tomorrow.  We forwarded the medical records to your boss."  He sat on the empty bed where Strife had been sitting.  "Sit.  You'll only aggravate it again." Xander sat with a sigh.  "He was frantic. "

"I was fine!"

"You weren't," Ares said with cold certainty.  "Want me to call up Hades and have him tell you that same thing?  The poison had moved into your brain.  You're damn lucky you're alive."  Xander slumped.  "You're welcome."

Xander looked at him.  "Thank you for having me treated, Ares.  Thank Strife for worrying as well.  I'll tell him that myself when I see him next time.  But I still have to go to work tomorrow or the electric bill won't be paid."

Ares snorted and waved a hand.  "Not the issue, kid.  It'll be paid for the next month only."  Xander looked at him, then nodded.  "You need to start saving money again.  You've got shit for savings in case something happens.  By the way, Jace said Cordelia wasn't right for the part but she knew someone who was.  She turned him down, they're having their own problems at the moment."

"That seems to happen around Angel," he agreed dryly.

Ares gave him a small smile.  "We figured the same thing about you.  Would you like to see your niece?"

"She's here? You're letting her into the hospital wing?"

"She's fine, she saw her baby brother being born," Ares told him.  "She even got to help since they were camping at the time.  I don't know what Jett was thinking but she was very helpful."  He stood up again.  "Get comfortable.  Your friend Willow has been in each afternoon and she knows to expect you for couch-sitting tomorrow."  He gave him a gentle pat on the arm.  "Thank you for helping my guys.  The ones who survived are going to do well enough here."  He walked away.

Xander put his head back down, then shook it.  "Why me?" he muttered.  He heard an excited squeal and braced himself as his niece climbed up and hugged him around the stomach.  "Hi, MaryJane."

"Hi."  She grinned at him.  "Are you better?"

"Nearly.  Why?"

"Will you read to me?  I hate reading."

"Well," he said, considering it.  "I think it's more important that you find something you like to read, but I'll gladly read to you this time."

"Cool!"  She scampered down and came back with a weapon's manual.  "It's daddy's," she explained as she crawled back up.  She saw his look and sighed. "Please, Uncle Xander?"

"If your mother says it's okay."

Jett strolled in.  "I told you that was too old for you," he said, swapping it out for the current issue of Guns and Ammo magazine.  "What?" he asked at his brother's look.  "She is my daughter."

"Ooh, the new Kalishnakov," she said happily, bouncing on the bed beside him. "Please, Uncle Xander?"

"Sure, MJ, I'll read to you about the pretty guns."  He opened the magazine, finding the article first.  "Hmm.  A semi," he said happily, settling in to read to her.

Jett took up his watchful position on the other bed, waiting while his daughter got her daily dose of spoiling, then sent her to bed with a hug and a kiss to the forehead.  He looked at his brother.  "The vampire still lives.  Your friend Willow defended him again when she saw me last night."

Xander nodded.  "She would.  Spike's fairly handy to have around."  He sat up a little more but his brother came over and forced him back down, tucking him in.  "I'm not Scott's age," he pointed out.

"I didn't get to do this when you were little.  I guess I'm making up for it now," he admitted, going back to his seat.  "So, you're going to live.  When can we patrol again?  We can talk about past kills."  He saw the shudder and gave him a little smile.  "Been there, done that, kiddo.  If you need to talk about it, I'm there for that too.  I started out as an assassin before I figured out my life was pretty empty and boring."

"I don't have a problem with it, just some of my kills and some events," Xander admitted after considering it for a few moments.  "I've had to do some things that I really didn't enjoy over the years."

Jett nodded.  "Life's like that, and so is war.   You made yourself a warrior and now you see the down and unfun side."

"You mean there's an upside outside of not being eaten?"

Jett snorted, shaking his head.  "For the true warrior there is, it's like the feeling you get when you look at a finished house.  You won, you survived, your ways go on and so does your family.  That's the upside and why so many people jump into the fray."

Xander nodded.  "Yeah, that was about my reason too.  Willow and I almost got eaten.  Buffy saved us but couldn't save our best friend."

Jett reached over and patted him gently.  "It sucks when you see a friend die, and that guilty little feeling that said 'it wasn't me' is a good thing.  It keeps you human."  Xander gave him a look.  "Really, it does.  It makes you realize you're not perfect and you should enjoy life more."  He stood up, moving closer.  "Like I said, I've got wise advice out the ass on killing and the aftermath.  If you want it."  He nodded at the doorway.  "Dad's all but crying again."

"Shit."  Xander forced himself to stand up.  "I guess I'm apologizing now then."

Jett forced him back down.  "He'll come in later when he thinks you're asleep.  He's done it to me before. Let him apologize and then give him a gentle pat on the back.  Don't try to hug him, he'll struggle and probably kick you in the leg."  He nodded.  "I've got to save Sarah from Scott.  Behave."  He walked away, not seeming to hurry in the least.

Xander flopped backwards, staring up at the boring ceiling.


Xander woke up when he felt the bed shift, pouncing the person before he realized it.  He was half-asleep so the startled squeak frightened him.  "Huh?"  Strife blinked up at him.  "Oh, hey.  Sorry about earlier.  I don't do pain or anger well."  He laid back down again, closing his eyes.

"Nah, you're too much like me for that," Strife admitted as he shifted up to hold his son.  "You okay?"

"Funky dreams.  A giant foot came after me to kill me."  He yawned over his father's shoulder.  "Thought Jett said you didn't like to be hugged."

"I don't when it's Jace," he admitted. "He squeezes too hard."  He saw the look and grinned.  "He does.  He's always been exuberant."  He grinned.  "How about you?  Like cuddlin'?"

"I got used to it when I was seeing Anya," he admitted, blinking a few times.  "You're too bony to be very comfortable as a pillow."

"I know, but I'll only stay until you get pissed again.  I respect that," he admitted, staring in his son's eyes.  So like his mother's.  "Anger I understand really well, Xander. I never wanted you to learn it though.  Not until you were ready."

Xander felt a warm, mushy emotion surface and stamped down on it.  "I guess," he said noncommittally.

"Dam those emotion things," Strife whispered in his ear.

"Reading my mind?"

"Nope, saw it in your eyes.  I'm *real* good at reading people, Xander."  He pushed himself up some.  "If you want, I can leave you alone.  Or I can stay and we'll work this out."  He grinned sadly.  "You don't know how much I wanted to kill them for doin' that to you," he said quietly.  "I wanted to be there for the things I missed with them while I was workin' for Unc.  He even gave me time off to spend your first two years with you exclusively.  Then Hera and her 'green eyed' curse struck again."  He laid back down, getting comfortable.  "I missed you while you were gone."

"I wish I had known," Xander admitted, looking down at his pajamas.  He noticed his father had changed to match him.  "More comfy?"

"Nah, I prefer skin, but you're still my son."  He gave him a light nudge.  "Why did they tell you?"

"To push it back in my face."

"Ah."  Strife nodded.  "Want me ta whack 'em for ya?"

"Not necessary. I survived."

Strife made his son look at him.  "Childhood isn't a reality show," he pointed out.  Then he grinned.  "Anyone who tells ya differently needs ta either be in jail or moanin' in pain as it's done back to them."  Xander did smile at that and he grinned back.  "I could you know.  Or Jett could.  He might anyway if he hears."

"I'm not exactly the most sharing person," Xander reminded him.

"Hmm, that might give them a few more weeks," Strife said, calling over the listening device MaryJane had left earlier.  "Your niece," he said with a small, proud grin.  "She wants ta be a spy."

"She'd make a good one, she's already got the techno-geek and guns things going for her."  He tossed the device away, then settled in again. "I don't mind."

"Hey, I know it's not gonna change anything, nothing good ever comes from regret.  Trust me, been there too.  Bein' dead teaches you that."  He stroked over Xander's hair.  "But sometimes ya gotta remember to move on.  Or to accept others had a better or worse one."  Xander nodded.  "So," he said, lying back down again.  "What's with this Anya chick?  She seemed kinda hot."

"She's mine, but I'm still having serious doubts and so is she," he admitted, feeling very comfortable.  "She got badly hurt in the fight against Glory."  Strife hissed.  "You don't like her either?

"I never did.  For that matter, Ares has found her in Tartarus and he's had a few...chats with her on the subject of hurting Dawn.  Seems he likes the little bugger.  I guess he's missing having kids."  He grinned.  "Any other prospects?  I noticed the vampire was hot."

"He's male."


"I'm male, he's male, the parts don't really interlock," Xander pointed out, giving him a pat on the back.  "I'm not like that."

"Okay.  If you say so.  You know we don't care either way, right?  I mean, Jacie's enough to drive most straight men gay anyway."

Xander shuddered.  "He came and *squealed* at my job site.  The guys razzed me forever about that."

Strife gave him a peck on the forehead.  "You'll get used ta him.  Joxer may take some more getting used to, but I'm sure you'll get used to it.  After all, we're not trying to take the dirtbag's place, but we want some of you too.  Okay?"  Xander nodded.  "We can try?"

"Sure, I'll try," he sighed, shifting uncomfortably.

"Want somethin' for that?"


"Sure thing."  He created a small paper cup.  "Tylenol.  The other stuff nearly sent ya into a stroke."  Xander shrugged and swallowed them dry, but Strife handed him some water.  "To make them dissolve faster."

Xander drank his water and settled in.  "I nearly did die?"

Strife nodded.  "You nearly did.  The bull had more venom in its horns.  Your tough luck and all that."

"More like I jumped first, the other guys hesitated," Xander admitted.  "We really need to get you a demon identification table so they quit having those 'what do I use on this' moments."

Strife nodded.  "Might help, yeah.  What about the Watcher dude?"


"Oh."  Strife grimaced.  "Cut and ran?"

"Emotional healing on his own.  But there is one in LA.  Someone Cordelia works with, and if not, Spike is very good at that."

"Hmm.  Interesting."  He grinned.  "Wanna pop in on them?"

"I'd probably be killed."

"Good point.  That vampire down there didn't seem to like you a whole lot."

"That's because he was a dick," Xander said firmly.

Strife saw something in his eyes and gave him a strong hug.  "He'll never touch ya again," he vowed.  "I will stake his ass if he so much as looks at ya wrong."

"We're down to friendly animosity," Xander squeaked.  "Air?"  Strife let up but didn't let go.  "I survived Angel's last rampage through town.  He'll live if he survives mine."

"Good.  But I'm still stakin' him if he goes nasty and tries to hurt you.  It's a father's prerogative and all that."  He winked.  "Now sleep.  Willow looks like the nagging sort."  Xander groaned and nodded, putting his head back down.  "Good boy."

"Not a dog."

"I noticed that.  It would have been so much easier if you had been."  Xander pinched him.  "Sorry, son."

"S'Okay.  I'd be a cat anyway."  Strife's giggles followed him into his dreams.


Jet put down the monitor and leaned back, looking up at the ceiling.  "I will kill them," he muttered.

"You can't kill Hera," his wife reminded him quietly, rolling over to hold him.  "And he might regret someone killing his adoptive parents before he got to kick their asses.  Support him, sweetie."

He kissed her.  "How many times have I asked you not to call me pet names?"

She grinned.  "That's half the fun.  You have to think up whole new tortures for me."  She kissed him this time.  "Night, sugarlumps."

He spanked her, but it only turned her on.  He was quickly at her mercy.  His wife was something completely different to him, that's why he had kidnaped her and kept her for a month.


Xander hobbled into the house and immediately headed for a couch.  Some warm hands helped him lay down, smoothing a blanket over him.  "Hey," he said, nodding at the man.  The last of his brothers.  "Joxer, right?"

Joxer nodded, kneeling beside the couch.  "I am."  He gave him the most frightfully honest look.  "We are all so sorry, Xander."

Xander patted him on the head.  "I'm coming to grips with you guys, but if you cry on me I'm gonna scream."

Joxer nodded, pulling it back inside.  "Okay."  He stood up.  "Do you need anything?  Everyone else had to go see someone named Mrs. Parks."

Xander groaned.  "Social Worker.  Snoopy lady who doesn't like me."  He stood up and patted himself down.  "I look like I'm sick, right?"  Joxer nodded.  "Damn."  He grabbed the phone and called Willow's cell.  "It's me.  I'm home now.  How bad is it this time?"  He listened.  "You're kidding," he said flatly.  "Why is she having a sudden change of heart?"  He heard the quiet explanation as Willow walked out into the hallway for privacy.  "She thinks I'm better at this because I'm not working?"  Joxer frowned a bit.  So he looked at his brother.  "Which one?"

"None of us that I know of," Joxer admitted, still looking confused.  "Pops?"  Strife showed up and gave him a strong hug.  "Did you get the social worker?"

"Nah," he said, shaking his head.  "It's a crappy system.  Give."  He held a hand out and Xander handed over the phone.  "Hey, toots.  Yeah, it's me.  Put 'er on."  He grinned.  "Just a little bit."  He waited while the other woman was put on.  "Hi.  This is Xander's legal father," he said in his best 'game show announcer' voice.  "Is there some problem?   Well, no, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on tv, but my favorite aunt is.  She's quite concerned that Xander is working too hard to support Dawn as well."  He listened to the rationale.  "Of course," he agreed, making a face while sounding perfectly sincere.  "No, he's been injured.  No, not on the job, just injured.  Nah, jumped while in town a few nights back.  Sure.  I can do that as well.  So there's not a problem when he can finally go back ta work?  Sure thing.  Thank you for that and if you need anything you call me directly.  No, I'm the secretary at the Temple in Sunnydale."  He chuckled.  "Yeah, I'm quite religious.  No, other members of my family.  Of course we're reconnecting.  What better time than when he's laid up and sick?"  He chuckled again.  "Thanks for that.  Sure thing.  Bye-bye."  He hung up and giggled in a high-pitched voice.   "No issues.  She thought you needed some help with your temper, son."

"Gee, I wonder why," Xander said dryly, slumping down again.  "She won't be bothering us?"

"Nah, and if she tries then I'm all for kicking her ass," Joxer said firmly.

Strife patted him on the back.  "I'm sure you want to," he agreed, nodding at him.

"Dad!  I can so fight!" Joxer said angrily.  "I thought we got past that argument!"

"We did.  You're still not in any shape to fight at the moment," Strife told him.  "Emotional people don't belong in battle.  Don't believe me, go ask the big stud."  Joxer grumbled and waved at Xander before going away.  Strife grinned at his youngest.  "So, now you've met all your big brothers.  There's a sistah around here somewhere too.  Pretty little bitch, and a lot less deadly than most people think.  Beautiful girl, looks a lot like her ma."  He sat down on the end of the couch and covered Xander up by snapping his fingers, bringing a warm comforter from upstairs.  "That's yours, right?"  Xander nodded.  "Cool.  Didn't want to steal Dawn's, she's a fierce bitch."

Xander snickered.  "You've only seen her stressed out.  You should see her with PMS."

"No, don't think so," Strife said, sounding very sure.  "I know which Goddess deemed all women should suffer like her.  I get enough of that at home, thank you."  He stood up.  "Need anything?"

"Nope, I'm pretty good.  Just toss me the remote?"

Strife handed it over.  "No food, no drinks, no dancing girls, nothin'?"

"Not a thing," Xander told him, giving him a faint smile.  "You're trying too hard."

"Even Joxer wants things, Xander," he said, starting to pout.

"What could I need?  I've got a job I like, I've got a decent paycheck.  I'm still living.  Most of my friends are still living.  The house is paid for.  Dawn's doing all right in school.  Willow's working on her thing so I don't have to get on her case.  I don't need anything, really."

Strife grimaced.  "Well, when you do, yell my way," he said firmly, going to pout at Ares.  "Has he ever called on you?"

"Only when the whole group was nearly killed," Ares admitted, not looking up from his paperwork.  "Why?"

"Because he said he don't need nothin' from us."

Ares put down his pen and looked at him.  "He might not.  As of this moment, he's probably very content.  Let's face it, after what we've heard about his youth from the friend Hades found, I'm not surprised he has very simple tastes.  If he needs something, he'll tell you."

Dawn knocked on the door and walked in, slamming it behind her.  "First, don't try to give Xander things.  He hates that."  She crossed her arms, doing a credible impersonation of a pissed Xander.  "Second," she said, looking at Strife.  "Don't threaten the people who sided with me staying with Willow and Xander.  She could have put me somewhere very painful.  Then I would have had to of run away, found a way back, and hidden until I was eighteen if I was lucky enough not to get sucked into the drug and whoring most runaways get sucked into."  Strife winced.  "Yeah, she's a tough old battleaxe, but she's necessary for another year."  She looked at Ares again.  "Xander?"

"Your couch," Strife told her.  "Are you out on your own?"

She shrugged.  "I wanted to see if I could look in the library.  I know I still have a lot to learn.  I also know that I'm not following down Willow's path and that Tara won't teach me magic because she's scared I'll turn into Willow.  I mean, great role models and all that, but still."  She looked at Ares again.  "Please?"

"Sure," he agreed, smiling at her.  "Want him to take you around it or Jett?  I think he's in there looking over maps."

"I'll help him with that if he'll help me find a fighting style I can learn in secret and a book on beginning magic."

"Deal," Jett said from behind her.  "Your guardians went for lunch."  He patted her on the back.  "How is Xander?"

"Xan's fine.  Oh, and don't call him that to his face, he'll throw another hissy."  She smirked at him.  "You've yet to meet the future sister-in-law as well.  She should be getting out of the hospital soon."  Jett looked a little confused.  "Don't worry, I can and will lead you through that landmine as long as you're good to Xander and I don't have to break into your house to kill you while you sleep.  Because, you know, it's not that hard."  She gave him an innocent smile.  "Deal?"

Ares chuckled.  "Accept it, Jett, she can be like your little sister too."

"She is like my little sister," he pointed out, leading her away.  "I doubt you'll be meeting her for a bit.  She's stuck with a shitbag I need to kill."  He led her into the library and to the table he was working on.  "I was trying to figure out a shorter path."

Dawn shook her head, sitting down so she could look at the map.  "Buffy only did half of it in a night, or maybe a little more if she felt like it, but if you don't hit all of them then things start to shift around when they memorize your schedule.  That's why Xander started doing the whole thing, the Glory-bangers were stalking us.  Especially Buffy."  She sniffled a bit and he awkwardly patted him on the back.  "Thanks."  She wiped her eyes off.  "It's still really recent."

"I understand.  Dad sent us away for a good few centuries thanks to the curse we were under and what we had done to Xander.  I missed him as well.  He didn't come when I needed him, he didn't answer when I called.  It's about the same only I had some hope of him coming back."

Dawn nodded.  "Yeah, I know that feeling. I think Willow's considering trying."  She grimaced.  "I know it's not right.  I don't want her to suffer more."

"Then you'll learn how to counter her," Jett soothed, patting her on the arm.  "I really can't change it?"

"You can do some small detours but that's the path we used to take because it was the shortest route overall.  Did Spike help you yet?"  Jett nodded.  "Was he a big help?"

"He was an okay source of help," he admitted with a grin.  "I never knew vampires were fun guys."

"Spike's not the average," she pointed out.  "Him or Angel."  She sighed.  "We've got to go see him this weekend."

"Not a big.  Don't let Xander drive, he'll still be in pain."  She grinned at that and pushed some of her hair behind her ear.  "Dawn, do you babysit?"

"All the time," she said proudly.  "Usually only Spike, but I can babysit kids.  MJ likes me and Scott thinks I'm scary."  That got a smile.  "Anniversary?"

"Yeah, our tenth anniversary of me kidnaping her," he said with a touch of fondness.  He noticed the look on Dawn's face.  "So I'm not the most romantic, she seemed to like it."

"I'm sure.  You two seem to be a lot alike in some ways," she agreed dryly, making him laugh.  "When and where?"

"I'll bring 'em over, but it'll be Friday."

"That's okay.  We leave Saturday morning, after I get done with my cartoon fix and Xander's had his satisfied too.  We'll be back late Sunday night."  Jett nodded.  "How long?"

"Maybe four hours?"  She shrugged.  "Thanks.  We'll drop them off at the house so you don't have to hike your game system to ours.  Scott's begging for one."  He tapped the map again.  "Is there another route?"

Dawn picked up a pen and traced all the routes they had taken in the past, explaining each one and the time of the month that they did them.  He paid attention and made notes of what she said, it was a heady experience.  He also helped her find the books to take home with her and agreed to help her learn if Xander didn't get totally paranoid.  A good few hours spent.


Dawn walked out to join Xander on the couch, looking at Tara.  "Where's Willow?"

"Shower," Tara said quietly.  "Why?"

Dawn put both books down on the table.  "I want to learn," she said firmly, sounding as adult as she could.  "I should be able to protect myself if something really bad happens, as a last line of defense."  She looked at Xander.  "I was helping Jett with routes around town today.  He helped me find the books."

"Did he suggest he help you learn defense as well?" Xander asked calmly.  She nodded.  "Do you really want to?  It's hard work and pain, Dawn."

"I know I'm not going to get to Buffy's level, but I can't always be the girl who hides like I am now.  It's making me feel helpless."

Xander nodded. "I can agree to that.  Tara?"

She shrugged.  "I don't see a problem."  She picked up the magical text.  "Hecate's training?" she asked Dawn.  Dawn nodded quickly.  "Progressive exercises."  She found the folded paper and looked at it, then at Dawn.  "Why?"

"Because I think it'll be needed," she said quietly, waving at her to put it up. The bathroom door had just opened.  Tara put it into her pocket, giving Dawn a smile.  "Do you think it'd be okay?"

"I think you're old enough to make those decisions for yourself," Tara told her.  "I have no problem as long as you're careful.  The first slipup and I'm so there."

Dawn grinned.  "I'm counting on that actually.  It's got a lot of stuff that I don't understand in the first few lessons.  Will you help me with them?"  Tara nodded and grinned, handing her back the book.  "Xander, will you help me with the self-defense lessons?  Be my practice buddy and all that?"

"Sure, Dawn.  I agree with Tara, you're old enough to make that decision for yourself.  Sunnydale's a dangerous town and you do have times when we're not around.  I'd rather you could push the nasty, smelly boys away and keep them away when they start coming for you," he added with a slight grin.

Willow bounced down the stairs.  "What's the dt?"

"I was helping Jett today with the various routes Buffy used to go on around town," Dawn told her.  "We talked about my training and I told him I wanted to learn how to defend myself."

Willow frowned and crossed her arms, shaking her head.  "I think we can do enough of that."

"Willow, there's every chance someone could try for her at school," Xander reminded her. "How many people came after Buffy there?"  Willow turned her frown on him.  "Jett's offered to teach her personally with his own kids and I'm gonna be watching out for her."  She was still frowning.

"Willow, think about it," Tara said, startling her.  "There are all sorts of human predators in school.  Boys, rapists, creatures that do walk during the day.  We're not always with her."

Willow sighed and sat down, moving Xander's feet for him.  "All right, I can agree to that."  She noticed the other book.  "You want to learn magic as well?" she asked.

"I figure I've got all this power stored inside me, waiting to come out the first time I get kissed or get pissed, I should at least learn how to control it," Dawn told her.  "Tara said she'd walk me through the basics.  I think she was trained that way anyway."  Tara nodded quickly.  "Besides, that's how Hecate trains her priestesses.  I don't think I can go very wrong with that.  It's not like I'm gonna do a love spell or have to close the hellmouth."

Willow grimaced as she considered it.  "Good point," she admitted finally.  "I will be watching as well, young lady."

"I fully expected that," Dawn agreed, grinning at her.  "So, I've now got lessons with Jett once a week, and I'm babysitting for him Friday night.  He said he'd bring the kids here because Scott's begging for a Playstation."  She grinned.  "It's the tenth anniversary of when he kidnaped her."

"Kidnaped?" Tara asked.

Dawn grinned at her and nodded.  "I figure it was romantic on his part.  He doesn't really seem like a hearts, flowers, and dating sort of guy."

"True," Xander agreed dryly.  "What style is that?"

She handed the book to him.  "It's a fighting style, totally martial arts and small weapons.  He said he'd get me to the point where I could handle a dagger because I don't need a sword.  It's the one he trained in originally."

Xander flipped through it, looking at the pictures.  Some of them made something flash in his mind and gave him a headache so he handed it back.  "Make sure my brother knows he's not to teach you how to go as psycho as he was in his youth."

"Of course not," she agreed.  "Is that the end?"

"I guess," Willow admitted.  "I still don't think it's necessary."

Dawn leaned against her side.  "Willow, I'm already being checked out by the guys at school.  This can only tone my bod and make me hotter while protecting me in case one of them decides I'm fair game."  Willow gave her a hug, moving them a little and making Xander wince.  "You okay?"

"Just moved wrong," he assured her.  "The stupid stitches ache."

"Next time, don't take on the big one," Willow told him, grinning to show she was being funny.  "Let the guys with the swords do it."

"I did.  I was in front so I got hit first," he pointed out.  "And half of them died."  She grimaced and shuddered.  "That's why Jett's here."

"Yeah, but I don't mind Jett," Dawn told him.  "Sure, he's every bit as much a slayer as Buffy was, but he's pretty nice when he wants to be.  He treated me like an adult, a nice change by the way," she hinted.  "He even asked my opinion on stuff.  I helped him pick out his present for Sarah."

"Something frilly and cute?" Tara asked.

"No, a camo nightie and thong," Dawn said, getting up to take her books upstairs.

"Gee, what a shock," Willow said, sliding down to give Xander more room.  "Are you going to live?"

"I'm told I will," he promised.  "I'm also driving this weekend."

"Jett said you'd probably crash into something when you get a cramp," Dawn called down.

"Gee, thanks," he yelled back, looking at the older women again.  "Anyway, I'll be fine.  I'll be returning to work either Monday or Tuesday."  They nodded.  "And I have it on good authority that the bills this month won't be a problem."  He saw Tara's look in his direction.  "I had someone peek at my paycheck," he lied.

"I guess that's okay," Willow admitted.  "I don't want you to feel obligated or anything.  I'm thinking there's still a catch somewhere and I don't want to see Dawn hurt.  They're being way too nice."

"Maybe they want what they say they want," Tara offered.  "They said Xander fighting all the time was giving Lord Ares headaches.  That's why he took over the town.  Lord Strife is Xander's daddy.  He just wants to talk to his boy and get to know him.  Besides, they're watching Lord Ares anyway.  We were told Dawn's going to be fine and given her own line."

"Of course she will," Willow agreed.  "Why though?  They could have unmade the situation or just killed us."

"Why would they have?" Xander asked her.  "They're getting everything they want and we're not doing all the fighting.  Trust me, if it had just been us, we couldn't have taken on the demonic bulls."

"We could so," Willow retorted.

"Willow, they killed trained soldiers.  Ones who were taught what to do."  He saw she wasn't budging so he pushed himself up, getting in her face.  "There were twenty of them, they were immune from magic, and they were twice as strong as a normal bull.  What part of that do you think we could have taken on?  Their hides were too thick to get crossbow arrows into it.  We were damn lucky we survived.  We would have needed to wade in with swords to kill them.  When twenty-one warriors go down and only eleven survive, I don't think three could do it.  Not even if we had Spike around then."

"He's right," Spike called from the kitchen.  He brought out a pitcher of water and set it down, sitting down to drink it.  Everyone looked at him.  "Even I need water sometimes," he pointed out.  He looked at Willow specifically.  "I don't take on those things unless absolutely necessary and I only do it one at a time.  They're deadly.  They're poisonous to even my kind.  The only demons who like them are the ones who try to ride them."

Willow grimaced.  "There are vampire cowboys?"

"We've turned a few in our day and they're seen as an adventure and bragging thing," he told her.  He poured himself some water.  "Dawn's gonna train?"

"With Jett," Xander told him.  "You're more than welcome to help her though.  I won't be up to fighting for a few weeks."

Spike grinned.  "I like that idea.  Between you, me, and the great assassin, I'm sure we can get her up to speed quickly enough."

"Jett was an assassin?" Willow asked.

"Back in his first days," Spike offered.  "He's changed since then.  I believe it had something to do with being kicked out of his family for most of his life."  Xander groaned.  "Not your fault. Hera did it to him."

"How do you know?" Tara asked, starting to frown.

Spike gave her a little leer.  "Easy, Glinda, I know Jacie.  Sweet bint of a guy.  Poof all the way and only out for the pretty sluts."  He saluted her with his glass.  "Talks when he's deep in his cups of rum too."

Xander snickered.  "I've only met Jace once.  The next night, I was kinda in the infirmary so we didn't get to dinner."

Spike leered.  "Gonna try that side of the fence now?"

"He's my brother, Spike," Xander patiently reminded him.

"Still, he's a bit hot."

"Yay.  I like girls.  Speaking of, Anya is still getting out tomorrow, right?"  Tara nodded.  "Does she know why I haven't visited her?"  Tara nodded again. "Is she going to curse me?"

"On sight," Tara said with a small grin.  "She's kinda pissed.  Said you're not Buffy either."

"No, I'm not.  I'd look horrible in most of her clothes," Xander said dryly.  Dawn snickered from the stairs as she walked down them.  "I would."  He shifted so she could have part of the couch.  "Wanna help pick up Anya tomorrow?"

"I've got an English test," Dawn reminded him.  "I'll see her when I get home."

"Good girl," Willow said cheerfully.  "School is important."

"Yes it is, otherwise you end up stuck like me," Xander pointed out.  "In an endless cycle of bad jobs until you find one you like."

Spike looked at her.  "Or I could always turn you," he offered with a grin.  "You'd make one hell of a vampire, love."

Dawn snickered and shook her head.  "I think Buffy would come back from the dead to beat you if you tried that," she pointed out.  She noticed she wasn't the only one who saw Willow pale a bit before regaining her composure.  "Xander, do you think it would be okay if I asked your dad if Buffy's still happy?"

"It's a permanent happy," he said, brushing her hair off her face for her.  "Once you're happy you stay happy.  It's being not-happy that you have to worry about and Hades said she was happy."  Dawn relaxed, nodding for him.  "But I wouldn't care if you asked.  He's a dad, he might even understand."  He blew a kiss.  "Soften him up with toffee."

She beamed and blew a kiss.  "I can do that," she agreed happily, then went to look up recipes on the 'net. She found a note sitting on the counter and grinned as she read it.  "Thanks," she called softly.  "I needed to know that."  She stuck it in her pocket and made herself a sandwich.  "Butterscotch," she mumbled as she sat down in front of Willow's computer to look up recipes.


Anya was led in and got to take Xander's place on the couch, thus allowing her to frown at everyone.  "Xander, why didn't you come visit me?"

"Because I got stabbed in the thigh by a poisonous horn," he told her, showing off his nice bandage.   "I'm just off the couch myself."  She pouted so he leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss.  "I only had two days when I wasn't in a hospital bed myself," he told her. "Otherwise I would have come to see you."

"I asked, they said you weren't in the hospital," Anya told him.

He sat on the end of the couch very gently, careful not to stretch his leg any.  "I was in the temple's hospital."

Her frown got deeper.  "I noticed it on the way back.  Since when does Ares bring more trouble to us and is he after Dawn?"

"No, he's not after Dawn," Xander said patiently.  "And he's here to *save* us some fighting.  I got stabbed taking his guys out their first night here.  That demonic bull stampede happened this month, not next month."  She sighed and rolled her eyes.  "What?"

"Ares isn't *good*," she told him.  "Everyone knows that."

He leaned closer.  "Anya, shut up," he ordered quietly.  "You're not going to make my life any more difficult than it already is.  My father works for him, all right."  She opened her mouth and he held a finger up.  "I haven't had any pain killers today, don't make me go for a hammer to knock my butt out."  He stood up and went toward the kitchen.  "Did you want water or juice?"

"Juice," she told him.   She noticed Willow lurking in the doorway.  "Give," she ordered. Tara had only told her part of this interesting story.

Willow walked in and sat in the comfy chair.  "Xander's related to Strife."

"Oh, shit," Anya said, taking off her ring.  "Not a chance."  She stood up, handing him the ring when she took her juice glass from him.  "I can't be related to him.  I'd never get over the embarrassment."  Xander looked hurt.  "He allowed his youngest son to be taken from him," she told him.  "He's a weak god."

"One, his triplets were cursed, that's what happened," Xander told her.  She snorted and rolled her eyes.  "Two, I'm the son.  Three, you're gonna be begging soon, Anya.  You dumped me this time."  He hobbled up to his room, going to sulk in peace.

Joxer appeared, smiling happily as he shook Anya's hand.  "Hi, I hear we're going to be related soon.  I'm Joxer."  Willow shook her head frantically.  "No?  Not Anya?"

"No, I'm Anya, but I refuse to be related to your father."  She went up to the spare room, going to shut herself up and sulk.  She couldn't even get her powers back because of this.  How could she have been so wrong?  "It does provide an explanation for his life," she muttered, clutching her pillow to her chest.

"What was her problem?" Joxer asked calmly.

"She's a former vengeance demon," Willow sighed, giving him a pitiful look.  "She just found out."

"Hmm."  Joxer knocked her out and ran up the stairs, pulling his dagger as he headed for the room.  He would fix this for his baby brother.  His baby brother needed him!  Xander opened his door, jumping him.  "Let me up!  I'm going to protect you from the heathen bitch!"

"Calm down!" Xander ordered, struggling to stay on top of him and keep him pinned.  Joxer got a knee against his injured thigh and gave it a shove, making him pass out in brilliant pain.

Joxer got an evil smirk on his face as he got up, ignoring the fact that he had just knocked out his baby brother, the one he was trying to protect.  He turned and found Jace standing in front of the door.  "You can't let her go for that," he said coldly.

"I'm more concerned with how you knocked out our baby brother," Jace said firmly, coming over to snatch the knife and drag him off, back to his wall with the chains on them.  "Jett," he snapped before they left.  "Trouble."  He sent them home.

Jett appeared a few minutes later, a dish towel over one shoulder.  "What happened to you?" he asked, and when he didn't get an answer, panicked slightly.  "Dad!" he shouted.  Willow came running up the stairs.  "What happened?"

"The other one, the nice one, knocked me out," Willow said, shrugging.  "I don't think he liked the fact that Anya broke up with Xander because of who he is."

Jett calmly handed over his dish towel but found his grandmother in his way.  "Move," he ordered coldly.  "I won't hurt her.  Much."

"Sure you won't," Discord agreed, nodding to show she was listening.  "Help your brother, then go help chain up Joxer again."  She opened the door and walked in, slamming it behind her.  Anya flinched and then went very pale when she saw who it was.  "My grandson's not good enough for you?"

"His father's weak," Anya spat.  "I can't have any future ankle biters being like that."

Discord sneered at her.  "Oh, really?"  She was grabbed and pulled off by an invisible hand in her hair.  "Let me go!" she shrieked, kicking as she walked.

"You hurt him more and I'm kicking you back to Ares," Jett warned.  That stopped her.  "Thank you.  Willow, get his door for me please."  She opened it and he lifted the young man up, taking him inside and putting him into the bed.  "There we are."  He checked the dressings efficiently.  "I think he's going to be fine.  It looks like a shove not a rip."  He looked over as Discord tried to get up the hall again but someone still had her by the hair.  "Hey, can you get someone to look at this bandage?  I think Joxer kneed him on it."

"Sure," Cupid agreed, dragging his aunt off to see his father.  "Pops, she's hysterical," he announced.  "She was going after Xander's ex."

"You did that, didn't you," Discord accused, finally free.  She straightened out her dress.  "Did you just make my grandson miserable?"

"Not me," Cupid said, shrugging when she growled.  "I don't much like Anya, but I didn't cause them to break up.  That was all her stupidity."  He grinned.  "Besides, we should let Strife handle this."

"Strife?" Ares called.  "Jett?"

"He's taking care of Xander," Strife said as he appeared.  "I just checked his bandage for him."  He looked at Discord.  "Explanations?" he suggested lightly.

"The bitch said you were weak and she couldn't have any future children being related to you."

Strife grinned.  "Cool.  Legal target."  He looked at Cupid.   "Yours?"

Cupid shook his head.  "Not a bit, Strife.  You know me, I'm much more subtle than announcing that you think your future father-in-law is weak so therefore you can't have kids with his offspring."

Strife's grin got brighter and bigger.  "Very cool."  He looked at Ares, who flicked a hand in his direction.  "Thanks, Unc.  I think I'm gonna go sit with the son.  Ma, you wanna come help?  I'm sure Dawn should get to know you too."

"No, that's all right.  I watch her when she's in here.  She'll never be a *real* fighter but she's got skills enough to learn protection."

"I'll tell Jett ya said so," he offered calmly.  "I'm gonna go sit with my baby boy.  Laters and all that."  He disappeared, going to help chain up Joxer again first, then went to sit with his son.  He was stroking his hair when Xander finally came to.  "Morning.  Want to help me later tonight?"

"She's messed up, don't hurt her," Xander pleaded.  "She's not used to this human thing, she still thinks like a demon."

Strife put a finger over his lips to stop the begging.  "She insulted me directly, that makes her a legal target," he explained quietly.  "Because you asked, I won't have her tortured, I'll simply make her miserable."  Xander gave him a pitiful look.  "Seriously, she insulted me directly.  Those are the rules, not even Ares or the gruesome duo at the top of the food chain could get in the way of that."  Xander slumped and relented.  "I won't have her killed, just in case she changes her mind," he added with a small, hopeful smile.  "Really."

"I guess that's fine," Xander said, sounding very upset.

"She brought it on herself," Strife reminded him.  "If she had some tact she wouldn't be waiting on me down the hall."  He kissed his son on the head.  "You all right now?"  He nodded. "You sure?"  Xander nodded again, giving him a look.  "Need somethin' for that?"  Xander nodded a third time so Strife materialized some tylenol and a glass of juice.  "Here ya go.  It won't even react against whatever the witch is makin' ya."  He stood up.  "You be a good boy," he said with a wicked grin.  "I'll talk to Cupe about findin' you a real lover, one who likes oral sex even."  He disappeared, going to do a quick review of Anya's life before he delved into her mind to find her greatest fears.

Xander took his pills and finished his juice, then laid down to rest.  His thigh ached.  His heart wasn't so bad though.  Maybe he didn't really like Anya that much.


Ares walked into the viewing room at the wordless scream of frustration. "What?" he asked patiently.  Strife was pacing.  "What happened?" he tried again.  When that didn't get an answer, he growled.  "STRIFE!"  Strife stopped pacing to glare at him.  "What happened?"

"She's so demonic it's not funny.  The only thing that annoys her is bunnies."  Ares shrugged.  "I mean it, it's the only thing that bothers her."

Aphrodite appeared and coughed to gain his attention, then gave him a catty smile.  "You're not looking right. She's a girl.  She's living the girl ideal.  What's her life focused on, Strife?"

"Sex and money," he said grimly.

"So make her sexless and poor," Ares said with a shrug.

"I can't," Strife complained.  "Xander begged for her life.  He'd take her in."

"Strife, you're devious, I'm sure you can find *someone* who could use a keeper, one who might even keep bunnies, and make it her eternal obligation," Aphrodite told him.  Strife looked at her.  "Like someone slightly mental who has a great grudge against her so she has to learn to get along?"

Strife shuddered.  "She'd try to kill Joxie.  I'd have to kill her then.  Then my son would complain," he said in disgust.  "Can't I just make him forget her?"

"Nope, sorry.  She's the one who kept him in town for the last year," Ares told him, giving him a pat on the shoulder.  "I'm sure you can figure out something.  Tell me if you need my help."

"Thanks.  I'm gonna use part of Aphrodite's right away.  Not that she's thinkin' much about sex with a back injury, but still."  He flicked his fingers and then slowly looked very devious.  "I've got it."  He stared around, then waved his whole hand, making it known on a subconscious level that Anya was the reason everyone in town was horny but couldn't get it up.  Aphrodite glared at him.  "It'll fix itself," he told her.

"Now I'll get begged," Aphrodite said in disgust.

"You could probably have a corner of the great room," Strife offered.  "Ma and I have one for prayers to us."

Jett walked in and picked his father up, shaking him brutally.  "My anniversary is tomorrow," he ground out.  Strife swallowed.  "You're interrupting my plans, father."

"So I'll remove it for just you, or you could learn what oral sex was," Aphrodite told him, giving him a look when he glared at her.  "I mean it, she'd probably appreciate it.  Sarah thinks you've forgotten or you're disgusted.  You haven't done it since MaryJane was born."

"That's a good idea as well," Jett agreed. "Thanks for that."  He looked at his father again.  "If Jace gets hit, think about the whining you'll get."

Strife sat down again.  "Xander begged for her to be spared.  The only thing she's terrified of is bunnies."

"Bunnies?" Jett asked.  "The big, scary demon doesn't like *bunnies*?"

"It's a phobia," Strife said dryly, still sounding bitter.  "I promised I wouldn't hurt her too bad in case your brother wanted her back sometime."   Jett rolled his eyes.  "He thinks he's in love."

"Yeah, well, so does the sister and look at her husband," Jett pointed out, glaring at Aphrodite again.

"Hey, you wanted her protected, he protected her.  It's not my fault she couldn't change him into a warm and fuzzy person."  She fizzled up and left.

Jett snorted.  "I've got to kill her honey and find her someone better."

Strife patted him on the chest.  "Don't worry, I'm sure Xander will like her too," he said calmly.  "If not, then she'll kick his ass and make him cry until he does."  He stood up again.  "I need help with this.  She's a tough case.  There's nothing there to work with."

Scott walked in and tugged on Strife's pants.  "Mommy wanted to know if you're the bastard that made her batteries run out."

Strife gave him a kiss.  "No, that wasn't me.  She forgot to plug the stupid thing in," Strife told him.  He picked him up to give him a kiss.  "Scott, if you had to hurt the girl who just dumped your uncle, what would you do?"

Scott, being four and a little brother, had a definite answer handy.  "Give her to MaryJane," he said immediately.  "She's real good at torture.  She tortures me all the time."

Jett ruffled his hair and chuckled, smiling at his son.  "I'm sure she's gonna make a great spy and you're going to be a wonderful Ranger, Scott."  He took his son back, giving him a cuddle.  "It's an idea.  Dawn is babysitting her tomorrow."

Strife got his most devious look and left to talk to his granddaughter.

"Can I play with Dawn's gameboy?" Scott asked.

"Sure, if she says it's all right," Jett agreed.  "We'll feed you, take you over there, then run around for a few hours.  She'll be putting you to bed so no fighting her."

"Yes, daddy," he agreed immediately.  His daddy's word was law because he knew neat stuff he could do to his sister.


Anya woke up and grunted at the person standing beside her bed.  "Who are you?" she asked.

"I'm MaryJane," she said happily.  "Dawn's sitting me so my parents can go shag."  She hopped up to sit beside the neat person.  "Do you want to play a card game?"  Anya shrugged.  "Cool.  Got any cards?"  Anya slowly shook her head.  "That's okay, I have some," she said, calling them to her hand with a brilliant grin.  "Here.  Wanna play poker?"

"I don't play that one very well.  How about go-fish?"

MaryJane snorted.  "Are you my age or what?"  Anya looked her over.  "Yes, I'm eight."  She dealt out the two hands.  "Normal poker, twos are wild," she said happily, looking at her hand.  "Cool.  You can bet first."

"We don't have anything to bet."

MaryJane looked at her.  "Yes, you do.  You have lots and lots of stuff to bet.  Should I tell you what the wager is?"  Anya nodded cautiously, she was starting to get scared.  "Okay.  Unclie Hades is really nice and he said you could go join Buffy or you could go help him torment people if you lost.  If not," she shrugged.  "Then he said I couldn't come down and pet Cerbie for a whole week."

"You know Hades?"

"Yeah, he's a great sitter, 'specially when Auntie 'Sephie's not there."  She picked up the deck.  "Did you need to discard?"

"Three," Anya said, putting them down.  She thought the girl was kidding.  She really did.  That would be her excuse when the girl laid down a royal flush and she was taken away.

MaryJane cackled and turned into Discord, then went to check on her grandson.  He was sleeping a lot and she was worried.  "Xander?" she called from the doorway.  He grunted.  "Get up."  She flipped on the lights, earning another grunt, and took his headphones, making the corny country music go away as well.  "Why don't you talk to your father?  He didn't get mean with her at all."  Xander gave her a look.  "I swear, he didn't."

"I felt you down the hall," he mumbled.  "Where is she?"

"Hades has her but he's giving her a choice of placement."  She smiled down at him.  "She'll get to torment souls if she's really nice to him."

"Which isn't actually a punishment," Xander finished.  She shrugged and grinned again.  "I liked Anya.  She tried to understand me."

"Kiddo, trust me, she didn't understand you.  She was thinking about listing some of your stuff on ebay."  She leaned down and kissed the tip of his nose.  "There, now you should be feeling better."

"My leg still aches," he said miserably.  He curled up again.  "Is that where my missing stuff went?"  Discord nodded.  "Wonderful.  Any chance I can get it back?"

"Some of it's presently listed.  We'll see," she told him.  "I'll get you her password and all that."  She tucked him back in.  "Want some dinner or the kids?  They're here."

"I think I'll wander downstairs to cuddle them," he agreed.  He looked at her but didn't move.  "I'm only in my boxers, grandmother."

"Honey, nudity is our biggest sport up there," she reminded him, but she did leave him alone.

Xander slid out of the bed and padded across the hall, knowing no one was in the shower right now.  He was very careful to cover his bandages with waterproof stuff, then hopped in.  Willow came in while he was washing his face.  "Don't look."

"I'm not," she said quickly, facing away from him.  "What happened to Anya?"

"You remember how she personally insulted my dad?"  Willow groaned.  He opened the curtain to look out at her.  "That made her a legal target, no matter how much I begged," he told her. "So dad sent her to Hades so she could torture people."  He was sure she would be doing that if given that choice.

"Uh-huh.  Why?  Because she said he couldn't protect you?"

Xander shrugged.  "You'll have to ask him that.  I'm not exactly up on Olympian rules."  He closed the curtain and went back to his cleaning. "What's for dinner or am I cooking for myself?"

"We made pasta and veggies.  Dawn put a plate in the microwave for you," she told him, mentally groaning.  She would have to break Xander away from these people before they hurt her too.  "Come down when you're done.  The kids are behaving."

"MJ will probably want something from Guns and Ammo read to her," he warned.  "Her dad said it was fine."

"Wonderful," she said bitterly as she left him in there to do whatever guys did in the shower. She walked down the stairs.  "Hi, MJ."

The little girl scowled at her.  "That's a pet name my uncle gave me," she said firmly, stomping her little foot.  "Only he can use it."

"Fine, sorry," Willow told her, heading back to warm up Xander's plate for him.  The little girl followed her.  "I'm warming up Xander's dinner.  What did you have?"

"We had roasted cow, two veggies, and milk," she said happily.  "Meat makes us grow big and strong. That way I can be a super spy."

"I'm sure you will be," Tara agreed as she joined them.  She smiled at Willow.  "Xander's?"

"He's in the shower," Willow told her.  "Hey, MaryJane, why don't you go play the game with Dawn?" she suggested.

"Games like that aren't that much fun.  My hand-eye is suffering this month.  Daddy said it's a growth spurt again."  She sighed and leaned her chin on the counter.  "Are you an official auntie?"

Tara gave her a little hug. "If you want me to be, I can be," she assured her.  Then she dropped a kiss on the girl's head.  "I'm not much into guns and hunting, but I can teach you other neat stuff.  I know a lot about plants."

"Plants are cool," MaryJane admitted.  "Know anything poisonous?"

"No, but I know a lot about healing herbs.  Those are just as important for spies because even the great ones get shot sometimes."

"Good point," MaryJane agreed, following her to help her water the plants and to listen to what she knew.  She learned really quickly.

Strife popped in and laid an arm over Willow's shoulders.  "If you hurt my boy, I'm gonna come for ya," he said quietly.  "If you're his friend, then you won't hurt him.  That's the only time you'd see me in a professional manner."  She looked at him and knocked his arm off.  "I'm not corrupting him, Willow.  I want to be a good daddy to him."

"Like you were to Jett and Joxer?" she asked.

"I'm surprised you didn't throw Jacie in my face," Strife said, hopping up to sit on the counter.

"No, that would make me a hypocrite."  She put Xander's plate on the counter with a fork and a glass of milk.  "I try very hard not to be that.  I also try very hard to protect my friends, even from psychos.  Even from the future ones."  Tara frowned from the doorway, walking MaryJane back into the living room to work on the plants in there.  "Sorry."

"We'll talk later," Tara assured her forcefully.

Strife snickered.  "She's one hell of'a girl," he noted.  He made Willow look at him.  "I don't wanna deal with you but I will if you *ever* hurt Xander."

"Why would she?" Xander asked from the doorway, his hair still dripping wet.  "Willow, what did you do?"

"Xander, I don't think it's healthy the way you've jumped into this whole new family of yours.  They're bad.  Lots and lots of bad.  They could hurt you a lot and then you wouldn't have anyone.  I don't want that."

Xander sat down, pulling his milk over to sip first.  His dad added chocolate syrup to it.  "Thanks, dad."

"Welcome," Strife said, starting to sniffle.  "I think that's the first time you called me dad."  He shifted so he could hug his son.  "I'm so happy."  He kissed the side of his head.  Then he looked at Willow again, tramping down the happy feelings.  "Yeah, I know the triplet's aren't that stable.  It happens, even to us.  They've lived a hell of'a long time so far though and they deserve to be a bit strange."

"A *bit* strange?" Willow asked.

"Willow, Joxer went a round with the Furies over what they did to me," Xander said quietly.  "I think I can excuse him for being touched in the head."  He ate a bite of his dinner.  "Besides, I like Jett.  Jett tries to understand me.  He didn't come in being all pretentious.  He didn't try to kiss my ass.  He didn't offer me anything to like him.  He wanted to get to know me, which is really nice because that hasn't happened in the past."

"Oh, yeah, Ma sent this," Strife said, handing over a slip of paper.  "Anya's ebay account and password.  She's only got four things of yours on there."

"Thanks."  He put it down beside his plate.  "Really, Willow, what harm is having a real family that gives a damn about you?"  He ate another bite.  "After all, they did a good job taking care of me while I was so sick."

"They wouldn't let us come in and see you," Willow countered.

"Honey, he was nearly dead there for a bit," Strife reminded her.  "You got to come in once we thought he might wake up."  She glared at him and he shrugged.  "It's the infirmary rules.  Sorta like the ones for ICUs all the world over.  Only immediate family.  That's why we let Dawnie in."  Willow pouted, leaning against the sink.

"I did nearly die?"

"You did," Strife admitted, scratching the side of his nose.  "The poison was workin' hard on your body and it was ready to make ya croak.  Hades said he doesn't want more of the family right now so you're safe for a bit longer unless something really bad happens."  Xander nodded, looking calm, but he could tell his son was very upset about that.  "Sorry."

"No, that's okay. I thought you were being dramatic, like Jace would."  He ate another bite.  "Any other interesting news?"

"Yeah, that cut you got to the underside of your...."  He trailed off and Xander shuddered.  "It partially scarred over your tube.  The healer fixed it for ya.  Ya might wanna invest in condoms."

"Kinda pointless now," Xander said bitterly.

Strife reached over, touching the side of his face.  "I had to react, Xander.  You know that."  Xander looked at him.  "Deep down, you know I had ta react."  Xander sighed and nodded, looking down at his plate.  "But Cupe said that your lifeline showed a great love, one that's nearly as great for you as Sarah is for your brother.  All ya gotta do is wait on it.  Okay?"  Xander looked at him, his eyes shining with hope.  "I swear.  He said the person's a bit geeky, just like you, and that they'd adore your Star Trek stuff.  Though I personally like Piccard better.  I like Q."  Xander chuckled and smiled at him.  "That okay with you?"

"How am I supposed to meet her?"

"It'll be accidental, he said he doesn't even have to do anything to help it along," he promised.  He left out the 'male' part of that sentence.  Then he looked at Willow.  "I'm not like this with everyone.  Watching me with Jett and Jace is a lot different."

Jace showed up with a large bag.  "I heard that," he said firmly, frowning at his father.  "Xander, since we didn't get our dinner, would you like to picnic with the future horde of Huns?"

He chuckled and finished off his latest bite before putting it into the fridge. "I'll eat it for a snack," he told Willow, kissing her on the cheek.  "Talk to him, please?" he whispered in her ear.  She nodded.  "Thanks."  He hobbled after his brother, going to sit and nibble with the kids.

Willow looked at Strife.  "Xander is my best friend ever.  I don't want him hurt.  If you *ever* hurt him, you're gonna answer to me before whatever form of divine justice comes down on top of you," she said quietly.

"You got spunk, I like that in a girl," he offered with a big grin.  "Not that you can talk with all the darkness in your own head."  She flinched and he grinned more.  "See, I do know about you, Willow.  I researched everyone around my boy to see who the problems were.  Xander has never asked me for anything.  The only thing I've ever gotten to give him was tylenol and juice."  She slumped a bit.  "Not that I don't wanna spoil him but he won't let me.  So work on him there, 'kay?  I'd like to spoil him rotten.  I decorated Jace's apartment for him.   I got MJ her first water gun for Jett because he was off doin' something."  His grin came back.  "I'd like to get closer to Xander and to have him look at me like I'm a good dad."

"Don't try to offer him anything.  He's not used to generous people."  She stared to walk away but he landed in front of her, putting a hand on her head.  "What are you doing?"

"His life was cut out of the viewing portals we have," he admitted. "It was part of the curse."  He read her memories, giving her a slight headache.  He also gave her some aleeve and Xander's glass of chocolate milk.  He tipped her chin up.  "Thank you for takin' care of him all this time, but it's my job too," he reminded her before leaving the kitchen and the house.

Willow took the pain killers, sitting down to consider what he had said.  She wanted Xander to be happy.  She really did.  And if this was best for him then she'd go along with it.  If not, she'd find something that would help her kick Ares and Strife's butts back to their own homes and then take over the town herself.


Xander walked into his bedroom that night and groaned at the presents on his bed.  "What's this?"

Ares appeared, smirking at him.  "Unfortunately, your father went on a major guilt trip earlier," he said, waving a hand at the presents.  "These are to make up for some of the birthdays he forgot."  He clapped Xander on the back.  "He will be very hurt if you don't at least open them."

"I didn't need presents," Xander said, but he was moving over to unwrap them.  He had never gotten that many presents at once before.  "How many are there?"

"Twelve."  He created a chair and sat down, watching as Xander opened them, and recording it for Strife later.  He was a bit busy making Xander's parents sorry for what they had done to his boy.  Not that he would tell Xander that.  He saw that he had opened the DVD player first and smiled.  "It'll be useful for a few of the other gifts," he said at the confused look.

Xander picked up one that was about the size of a box set of tapes, opening it.  Then he squealed.  "The Star Trek collection I've been saving for!" he said happily.  "This is *so* cool."  Tara came in and gave him a hug.  "My dad felt guilty so he made up for some lost birthdays.  Even though I didn't even hint," he told her.

"Getting him to accept the little things is like pulling teeth," Ares told her.  He noticed Dawn was in the hallway.  "You can come in too."  She and Willow came in.  "Strife decided he was guilty.  The last time he did this, Jace got a whole new set of sex toys and restraints."  Tara blushed bright red, Willow blushed a little, and Xander picked up a pillow to hide his reaction.

"That was wickedly cool of him," Dawn told him.  "It suits his personality to a 't' too."  She pulled the desk chair over, helping by moving the wrapping paper and gifts.  "Open the next one," she demanded.

"I've also got one for you, young lady," Ares said, creating and tossing over a small bag of workout clothes.  "Jett said you were in jeans and a t-shirt.  You should always save those for later lessons, ones where you don't have an overload of laundry."

"Oh, my God!" she squealed, looking through them. "This is so great!"  She hopped up and walked over to hug him.  "You are the best pseudo-uncle a girl could ever want!  Oh, my God this is wonderful!"  She gave him another hug then let Tara see.  "See, even things that will make me look cute just in case some warrior is checking out my butt," she said happily.  Ares growled.  "Not that I'd ever hit on one of them in the temple," she said quickly to ease his growing frown.

Ares wasn't sure why he was upset but he was.  He brushed it aside and looked at his nephew again. "Open another," he encouraged.

Xander smirked at him.   What an over-protective parent move.  "I know what you were thinking," he said happily, but he did open up another one, also a box-set size.  "Oh, wow!  The Avengers!"  Dawn laughed and took it so he could open the next one.

"You should check for cards," Tara said weakly.  For some reason she couldn't stutter in front of Ares anymore, maybe he had done something about that.  She looked at him and he nodded.  "Why?" she asked quietly.

"It goes faster, no matter how cute it is," he said gently, giving her a pat on the arm.  "It's only for me and Strife though.  You can stutter all you want in front of Discord.  Dissy will think it's her."  He looked over as Xander held the new leather coat against his chest, hugging it with tears in his eyes.  "You like it?"

"I love it," he agreed, his voice cracking.  "Another thing I've been wanting."

Dawn gave him a hard hug.  "You need it to protect you on patrol," she teased.  He laughed and gave her a gentle squeeze.  "Here, let me take it and hang it up for you.  You can ask Spike how to break it in tomorrow."  She hung it up on the back of the door and turned to find he was searching for cards.  "I didn't see one but I wasn't looking either."

"Strife wasn't quite feeling that mushy," Ares admitted.  "It takes a lot of guilty feelings to get him into a Hallmark mood."  Willow snickered against Tara's arm.  He watched as Xander opened the rest, mostly clothes.  "Why did he buy you such loud shirts?"

Willow walked over and opened the closet door, showing off Xander's Hawaiian shirts.  "That's why."

"Hmm."  Ares flicked a finger and six new suits appeared.  "There, so you have something more subtle.  Otherwise Jace might have to pull a Queer Eye moment out of his hat."  Xander chuckled, touching one of his new shirts.  "Are there any others?"

"Just one," Dawn said, spotting it under the clothes.  She pulled it free and handed it over.  "That's not squishy."

Xander opened the paper, then the long velvet box.  "Wow."  He looked at Ares, turning it around so he could see the pendant and earcuff.  "What are these?"

"Those are family markings," he told him, standing up to look closer.  "Those are specifically Strife's markings.   The earring has his marking only and the necklace has mine and his marking on it.  They're to state that you're a member of the house."  He looked at Xander.  "We would be honored if you'd wear it, Xander.  It would admit to anyone who knew that you're one of us."  Xander gave him a very cute, yet confused look.  "Not even the triplets have more than the necklace," he said quietly.

Xander's hands shook as he pulled the necklace out and put it on.  It sealed itself around his neck.  He looked at the earcuff.  "This would mark me as a son?"

"A son, a devotee, and someone favored by that God."  He pulled it out and touched Xander's right ear.  "There."  Xander nodded and put it on, making him smile.  "Thank you.  Remember, I am here if you need to vent about them going too fast."  Xander nodded, giving him such a trusting look.  "With that said, Jett wanted to know if you wanted to patrol Monday night with him since you won't be going back this week either."  He held up a hand at the startled outbursts.  "Unfortunately, there's a demonic convention going on in LA.  Some of it will spill over.  There's a room shortage.  I figure someone will try something.  I want all three of you ready in case something major starts."  The witches nodded so he looked down at his nephew.  "You as well."

"Yes, Uncle Ares," Xander said quietly.  "What about work?"

"They've finished up their last project and won't start the next one until next week," he told him.  "Some of the supplies they need aren't in yet."  Xander gave him a little smile.  "Not actually my fault, Home Depot oversold their stock again."  He ruffled his hair, he was coming to think of the kid as a son of his own.  He had felt the same way about Jett at one point in time.  "By the way, the vampire is doing very well but I would like a hard copy for reference.  Some sort of demon classification manual?"

"I use an online one mostly," Willow told him.  "We could ask Wesley to give us a few titles I suppose."  He nodded, then disappeared.  "Wow."  She sat down beside Xander, giving him a hug.  "I'm happy for you," she told him.  He grinned at her, truly happy looking.  "Even if your brothers are a bit mental and weird.  I can accept that from them as long as you keep them on a short leash and make sure that one never attacks me or Tara."

"Deal."  He grinned and hugged her, then got up to hug Tara and Dawn.  "We need ice cream."

"There's almost none left," Dawn told him.  "I ate a big bowl of it earlier."

Jett appeared with one of the five gallon tubs, handing it to her.  "For putting up with the mental problems," he said dryly.  "Did you enjoy Jace?"

"I think she's divine," Tara told him.  "She's obviously very nice."

"She is the nicer one of the three of you," Willow agreed.

Jett snickered.  "Fair enough.  That used to be Joxer before he got broken.  Xander, can you tell him you forgive him soon?  Maybe?  Even if it's a lie? It'll help him calm down again."

"I do," Xander admitted.  "I forgive all of you.  Maybe not those who put you under the stupid curse, but I know you couldn't help it.  I've been in the same position when I was possessed."

Jett hissed and walked over to look at Xander's ear.  "From Dad?"  Xander nodded, giving him a look.  "Good.  It's about time one of us was marked by him."  He gave him a back- crushing hug.  "I'm not jealous," he assured him.  "Jace will shit and eat it again, but Joxer and I know we're not dad's favs. We don't cause near enough problems.  We fix them."  He pulled back and looked at his baby brother.  "Want another shock?"  Xander shrugged.  "Dad called for our sister to come meet you.  She'll be here on Thursday I think."  Xander gave him a clueless look.  "Ah.  You don't know.  Ask Ares when he's in a good mood, preferably slightly drunk."  He patted his baby brother on the head.  He could see a question starting in his mind.  "Come on, let's talk for a moment, without any chance of eavesdropping.  Dish up the ice cream, Dawn, he'll need a sugar rush after this."  He took Xander to his house and sat him down in his study.  "What?" he asked.

"You can pop around.  Jace and Joxer do it."

Jett nodded and grinned.  "Yup, and so can you before you ask.  You're not a God, but you are a demi-God and do have that gift. It runs in the family."

"Then why hasn't it come out before?" Xander asked.  "I've been in places where it would have been really handy and it never worked, no matter how hard I wished it would."

Jett shrugged.  "Not a clue.  I know we have it, and some of the other gifts.  Jace has a touch of precognition.  Joxer's a warrior for the light most of the time.  I've got some enhanced strength and speed.  That is a really good question."  He looked toward his fireplace.  "Lady Hestia?  Are you busy?"

A grandmotherly woman stepped out of the fireplace and dusted herself off.  "Not this time of night," she assured him, giving him a hug.  She looked at Xander.  "Are you less angry?"  He nodded.  "Good.  Excellent in fact.  What's wrong?"

"He can't zip around like we do," Jett told her.  "Is it blocked?"

Hestia shrugged.  "I don't know, let me look.  It may well be."  She studied Xander, eventually touching him on the head.  "Hmm.  No, it's not blocked.  That's not his gift.  His gift is to help your father with his job.  What Joxer had when he was younger," she admitted.  "He may come into it."  She looked at Jett again.  "You weren't able to move yourself until you were nearly a hundred."

"I remember," he admitted.

"So, I'm only a demi-god?" Xander asked.  "Perfectly normal and all that?  I won't make stuff appear at all?"

"Not that I can tell," she assured him.  "There is a higher authority but I think Gaea is a tad bit busy at the moment cleaning up an oil spill."  Water erupted from a fountain in the corner.  "Yes?" she asked the mermaid.

"Poseidon sends his greetings, Grandmother, and says that the boy is partially under his aegis.  He is a wonderful swimmer and naturally nautical."   She gave Jett a shy smile.  "He said it runs in your family."

"It does," Jett agreed.  He reached over to close Xander's mouth.  "Yes, it will get a bit stranger."

"What is going on?" Artemis asked as she appeared behind Hestia.  "Hera wanted to know if we're holding an important meeting or just figuring something out."

"Xander asked an important question about why he didn't have the family gift of moving around," Jett told her calmly, not staring at her bare chest.  Xander was looking at his lap now to avoid hers and the mermaid's.

"He should have it," Artemis pointed out.  "If he is truly a son of Strife's it is a family gift."

"There are others, child," Hestia gently reminded her.  "He has most of them.  Most strange as well."  She looked the boy over, then suddenly smiled.  "Zeus, get your lecherous ass down here," she called.  It startled Jett, he'd never heard her swear in his life.  Zeus appeared, looking a bit scared.  "Was Strife permitted to give his children laced milk?" she asked.

Zeus thought back, then shrugged.  "I don't remember.  He might have.  We usually gave all the children born among us a taste of it, just enough to mark them as ours."  He looked at the boy, noticing the marker on his ear.  "Why?"

"He can't teleport," Jett said helpfully.

"I don't want to be a pain," Xander offered.  "I just wanted to know about the teleporting thingy since I'm still patrolling and injured."

"Injured?" Zeus asked, looking him over.  "That poison, it's familiar."

"It's demonic and from a changed bull," Jett said helpfully.  "Xander nearly died from it because Ares' healers thought he had gotten a light exposure."  Zeus suddenly smiled. "What?" he asked, not trusting that look.

"Boy, did you actually die?" he asked.  Xander shrugged.  "Ares!"  Ares appeared quickly, looking down at Xander, who shrugged.  "Did the boy die while sick?"

"I don't know," Ares admitted.  "We were really busy with all the warriors.  He might have.  Why?"

"Because he was fed laced milk at birth, the same as all young born on Olympus are," Hestia told him.

"Ambrosia laced?" Jett asked.  She nodded, giving him a pinch to the ear which he didn't dare brush off.  "Were we?"  She nodded again, still smiling.  "I thought we were born on the mortal plane."

"We were," Joxer said as he appeared, rubbing his wrists.  "Jace will be right here."  He looked at Zeus.  "Don't think about it, please.  It'll only make us miserable."  Zeus chuckled and gave him an adoring look.  "I'd still be under Aphrodite."

"Huh?" Xander asked, raising a hand.

"Dying can change your powers," Jett told him.

Joxer created a chair and sat across from him.  "Because we broke a few laws during our banishment, we're very strong demi-gods.  We broke into an ambrosia stash and got caught but managed to eat a little bit.  You, like us, had some given to you after birth."  Xander nodded slowly.  "While you should be able to teleport like we do, and possibly create small things, Jett thinks that your probable death changed your powers."

"Is there some way to find out what I can and can't do?  I mean, tactical advantage aside, teleporting really would be the most helpful thing in my life."

"There are only two Goddesses who might be able to tell without going to the Fates, and they'd probably bitch us out," Joxer explained.  "Hera and Gaea."

"Gaea was upset over an oil leak earlier," Zeus informed him.  "It's not among my gifts, it's part of the childbirth aegis."  He looked around.  "Am I still needed?"  Everyone shook their heads so he and Artemis disappeared.

Hera appeared a few minutes later and put a gentle hand on Xander's head.   "Well, you do have a few powers, but nothing very strong," she admitted.  "The ability to teleport is firmly locked up."  She looked down at her and he gave her a begging look.  "If I unblock it, what will you do with it?"

"Get my skinny butt outta trouble," Xander told her.  He noticed his brother giving him a look.  "Sorry, pain and all that," he excused his crude language.

"It's nice not to be formal *sometimes*," she admitted.  She patted him on the back of the head.  "Relax totally and close your eyes."  He did so and she unblocked that gift, making him moan as the pain in his head matched the one in his thigh.  "There."  She tipped his chin up.  "From now on, I do not want you fighting."

"Lady Hera, that's not practical," Jett interrupted.  She looked at him.  "Really.  It's not.  One of Ares' best units came here to help out, twenty strong, and eleven survive but are still ill.  Trust me, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that.  No matter how much I like my little brother, I wouldn't have brought the kids here."

She sighed.  "Fine. I suppose emergencies are fine.  Finish his training.  He reminds me a lot of the other one of you."  They locked eyes and he looked away.  "Good.  Anything else?"

The mermaid raised a hand.  "Lord Poseidon said he had powers in his area?"

"He cannot drown," Hera admitted.  "The rest is a natural affinity for the water."  The mermaid nodded and disappeared.  She looked over as the door opened and her great- granddaughter-in-law walked in.  "We did not want to wake you up."

"Don't worry," Sarah said as she slipped into her husband's lap. "What's going on?"

"We're trying to figure out why Xander couldn't teleport," he said, stroking up and down her back.  "Sorry, Sarah."

She kissed him gently.  "Like I said, I don't mind.  He'll need it in this town."  She looked at her brother-in-law.  "Make it safe for the kids if nothing else," she pleaded.

"I try every night, Sarah," Xander promised.  She gave him a smile so he looked up at Hera.  "What else can I do?"

"You can create something small, and probably worthless," she admitted.

"Concentrate really hard on something," Jett suggested.  "Something you don't have."

Xander concentrated at the table beside him, bringing himself a bowl of ice cream with whipped cream on it.  "Cool!  I like that gift."  He rubbed his forehead then dug in.  "Thanks, Lady Hera."

She leaned down and kissed his cheek.  "You behave.  I mean it."  She nodded at the couple.  "Next time, call me directly," she ordered, then disappeared.

Sarah coughed and Xander stood up.  "Sorry.  Let me head home."

"Hold on, I'll take you.  Otherwise you might end up in Outer Mongolia."

"You never will let me forget that," Joxer said dryly.  "I'll take him so you can cuddle Sarah some more.  And if she's pregnant, I want to help name it," he said with a wicked grin right before he took his baby brother home.  "Here we are."  He gave him a hug.  "Welcome to the family.  Stay safe."

"I do forgive you guys, Joxer.  I've been possessed, I know how it is to be controlled."  Joxer gave him the most brilliant smile then he left him there.  Xander hobbled into the kitchen to join his women.  "Sorry, took a bit longer than I thought."  He held out his bowl.  "Add some more for me?"

"I wondered where that one went to," Dawn snorted.  She saw his hurt look.  "What?"

"I thought I had created it," he said with a wave of his spoon, "no big."

"Hmm.  Interesting ability," Willow told him.  "If you've got the touch I can show you the exercises," she offered.  He nodded and ate another bite.  "We've got to get to bed tomorrow or you two will fall asleep in front of the cartoons and be ticked at yourselves."

"I can sleep in the car," Dawn reminded her.  "After all, I'm not quite old enough yet for driving lessons."

"When you are, I'm getting someone bigger and braver than I am to give them to you," Xander quipped.  She giggled and swatted his arm.  "Am I driving?"

"No," Dawn said quickly.  "Your brother said you'd still be in pain.  I don't wanna end up smooshed on the road or something.  That'd be really gross.  I'd rather die being pretty than die being graded and scraped up if I have to die."  Everyone looked at her and she stirred her ice cream.  "Sorry, sometimes you gotta think about that stuff."

"It's good that you''re coming to te...terms with death, Dawn," Tara said gently, giving her a smile.  "We've all had to think about that.  Car accident isn't how I want to go either."  Dawn gave her a grateful smile.  She looked at Xander.  "I'll drive."

"Tara, honey, if you drive it'll take us three hours to get there."

"Xander, it's supposed to take three hours to get to LA," Willow pointed out.  "Not two and a bit.  She and I will drive, you and Dawn can nap in the back, that way you can stretch across the seat if your leg bothers you."  She finished her bowl of ice cream.  "I'm going to bed.  Night everyone."

"Night," they called after her.

Xander waited until she was upstairs, then looked at them.  "So, I'm driving, right?"

Tara chuckled.  "Maybe for a bit.  The interstate makes me nervous."  She ate another bite of her ice cream.  "How'd you get whipped cream?"

"I think that's what he created," Dawn said happily.

"Well, they did say I could only create small stuff and that would count, but it's hardly worthless like Hera suggested."  He ate a bigger bite.

Dawn looked at him.  "You don't use the honorifics.  Do they get pissed?"

Xander shrugged. "I'm sure if they do, I'll get told by someone.  If they don't, then I don't know why everyone does."

"It's respectful," Tara told them.  "You wouldn't walk up to Jesus and say 'Yo, J-man'," she reminded Dawn.

"No, I did that in church," she said dryly.  Xander snickered and she swatted at him.  "Sorry.  Do you think I should?"

"I think it'd be polite," Tara told her, sounding very much like a mother.

"Yes, Tara."  She finished up her ice cream then kissed Tara on the cheek.  "You should have kids.  I'm going to bed."  She scurried from the room before anyone could say anything.

"I agree," Xander told her.  "Ask me for a sperm sample anytime."  She gave him a look.  "I heard you can do it with an eyedropper and a really good friend," he said with a shrug.  "It's not like I'm gonna have any with anyone else."

"We'll see," she told him.  Then she gave him a little smile.  "I think a kid between us would be a rotten being."  She kissed his forehead and left him there, going up to bed.  The thought wouldn't get out of her mind.  One day she would like to be a mom. Probably.  She heard it was messy and she didn't really like messes.

Xander ate more of his ice cream, thinking about his life.  It was better now, but so very odd.  He felt strong arms go around him.  "Hey, Jace."

"Morning," he said quietly, resting his head on his brother's shoulders.  "What's wrong?"

"Nothing.  Just thinking.  Why did you show up?"

"I felt you be confused, sweetie."  He turned Xander around to look at him.  "So, tell Auntie Jace what's wrong."  She sat next to him.

"I was just thinking about some stuff.  Life stuff, you know?"  Jace nodded.  "My life is so different now."

"Hmm.  Starting to sink in now, isn't it?"  Xander nodded and pushed his ice cream away.  "Don't worry, we don't usually intrude like this.  We're being nosy so you have to deal with us."  He leaned over and kissed Xander gently on the mouth.  "Because you look so cute with the whipped cream mustache," he said at the confused look.  "We really will not push things onto you."

"Not things like that, but I suppose I should firm myself on a spoiling policy since Dad seems so intent."  Chocolate was added to his sundae and he grinned.  "See?"

"He likes you.  Otherwise he wouldn't have marked you like he did," Jace pointed out, brushing a finger over his earcuff.  "None of us ever even suggested we wear one of those."  Xander opened his mouth and he shook his head with a faint smile.  "I'm not jealous, babe.  I'm not Dad's favorite.  Joxer was for the longest time because he used to spread chaos wherever he went.  Jett was because he was a tough bastard who made Ares laugh.  You were because you were just so tiny.  I knew even then that I was not the favored child.  Smart, deadly, and sexy, yes.  An actor, yes.  Loved by dad, sure, but not as much as the others."

"That sucks," Xander said quietly.

Jace laughed.  "At some point in time, you find yourself admitting and realizing the truth for and about yourself.  It happens to all adults."  He stood up.  "You are being spoiled because our father wants to make up for lost time.  It'll slow down, but don't try to curtail his fun or we'll end up with a dangerous overload of mischief again."  Xander's eyes went wide.  "Seriously.  It's happened in the past and I thought we were going to die from it.  We ended up calling on Father at once and begging to be taken back home so he could wear it out on us.  It was the first time he answered us in millennia."

Strife appeared, leaning on the other side of the island.  "If you had called sooner, I might have taken you back the year before," he offered.

Jace smirked at him. "Of course you would have.  If we had chained ourselves up and nearly killed ourselves.  You were still pissed at us."

"I was," Strife admitted.  "I don't think I'm ever not gonna be pissed about that moment."  He shrugged.  "But I know it wasn't really you three."  He grinned.  "Otherwise you'd be dead."

Jace nodded.  "I know.  Thank you, father."  He leaned down to get close to Xander's ear.  "Let him spoil you, it makes him feel like a father," he advised, then he left them alone.

"Thanks for the chocolate sauce."

"Wasn't me, but okay," Strife agreed, grinning slightly.  "Now you can teleport, do you wanna learn?"  Xander nodded.  "Cool.  We'll work on it Monday if that's okay.  I've got a big weekend planned.  I'm for bubbles and a long soak."

Xander snickered.  "I'm sure you'll look adorable covered in pink bubbles," he agreed.

"Even I need some pampering."  Strife stood up.  "You could call me dad."  Xander opened his mouth.  "I heard you add a mental 'daddy' to that sentence and I don't mind, but I'm not pushing you.  We'll grow on each other."  He winked.  "Anything else?"

"Am I supposed to be grossed out that my brother kissed me on the lips?"

"That's up to you," Strife said with a shrug.  "I wouldn't be too concerned.  There's a long history of bisexuality in the family.  Ares and Joxie nearly hooked up but he drove him insane."  He giggled.  "I love all of you guys, but Joxie was bad about that when he was younger."

"What would it have been like?" Xander asked quietly.

Strife leaned over and flicked him on the forehead.  "I can only guess, the same as you can.  I could see us all takin' ya ta lessons, teachin' ya how ta shoot stuff and how to throw knives.  I can even see Jace sending you to your first temple orgy after making sure you were spiffed up enough.  All they are is mental fantasies, Xan.  Wondering about that will eat us both.  It did me for years."  Xander nodded at that wiseness.  "You behave this weekend.  No shaggin' the vampire."

"Not a chance," Xander said firmly.  "Not even to save the fucking world."  He pushed his ice cream over.

Strife gave him a thoughtful look as he took a bite.  "Then why are ya gonna go visit him?"

"I want to see Cordy," he said firmly.  "Maybe Wes too, but mostly Cordy.  Can I tell her?"  Strife shrugged.  "Was that an 'I don't know'?"

"I don't think she'd believe," Strife admitted.  "She seemed like a hard bitch when I looked in on her little group.   With her attitude I'm surprised she doesn't have a pickup with a gunrack."

Xander burst out in laughs, holding his side.  "Only if it's Gucci," he howled.  Tara and Willow both came in.  "Dad thought Cordy should have a pickup with a gun rack," he said through the laughs.

Willow shook her head.  "She's much too concerned about being fashionable to be that nasty.  Sure, when the world's about to end, but no other time."  She shuddered.  "I can't even imagine her in that scene, wearing plaid."

Tara pinched her.  "They don't all wear plaid," she said with a touch of disgust.  "Jeans are more universal."  She looked at Strife and grinned.  "Thank you for the laughs.  We'll leave you alone."  She bowed and drug Willow from the room.

"She's nice," Strife noted, eating another bite of ice cream.

Xander fixed himself, wiping off the laughter tears.  "Please don't make her my step- mom," he pleaded.  "I like Tara but I don't think I could deal with that."

Strife giggled, a high-pitched, amused noise.  "Won't happen," he promised.  "She's a bit too nice for my tastes.  Now, give me a leather bitch any day."

"There was vamp Willow," Xander offered.  "She was one hell of a leather bitch."

"Hmm.  Liking the sound of that, but Willow would probably bring out my dark side and I'm tryin' ta stay light and fluffy these days.  It makes everyone calmer around me so I get better reactions when I pull something."  He winked and ate the last of the ice cream.  "You'd better get to bed."

"Yes, Dad," he said, getting up and walking over, giving him a gentle hug.  "Thank you," he said quietly, then he hobbled up to his room.

Strife got the most goofy grin on his face and left to brag to Ares.  He found him watching the scene and grinned bigger at him.  "Great, huh?"

"Excellent," he agreed, smiling at his nephew.  "Now what?"

"Monday we'll work on some of his training," Strife said as he sat down by Ares' feet to stare into the kitchen.  "Do you like one of them?"

Ares scoffed.  "No, they're not exactly my type.  You should know that by now, Strife."  He stood up.

"I was talkin' about Dawnie," Strife said as Ares turned and started to walk away.  His uncle, the God of War, looked so stunned and his mouth hung open.  He grinned gently, not meanly, at him.  "I noticed you were really nice to her."  He stood up.  "Just remember, my boy thinks of her like his little girl.  Be very gentle with her or else he'll try to come after you.  I don't wanna lose him already."  He strolled off whistling a cheerful tune.

Ares finally gathered himself enough to splutter, then glare at Strife's back.  He teleported to his room instead of walking.  He hadn't been aware he was paying her special attention.  He laid down to consider his actions toward her.  She reminded him a little of a younger Xena, before she had been corrupted to the dark by him, that was all.


Xander looked up from watching his leg move and twitch as he walked in the door of Angel's hotel.  He waved at everyone and pointed at the office, Wesley nodded that she was in there.  "Here I shall leave you all," he offered gallantly as he hobbled that way.  "Hey, Cordy, quit putting on makeup and hug me," he demanded.  She opened the door and hugged him as hard as she could.  "Good to see you too, princess."

She laughed and pulled him inside, shutting the door again.

Willow waved at Angel.  "Hi.  We brought him so he could mold himself to her again."  Wesley chuckled and came over to give her a hug.  She patted him on the back and gave him a gentle smile.  "Dawn?" she called.

"Right behind you.  Geez.  Look before yelling my name.  It's not like I'm a Goddess and you're praying," Dawn retorted, walking up to hug Angel.  "Hi, broody guy.  How have you been?"

He pushed her back some and smiled.  "I'm fine.  How are you doing?"

"Better," she admitted.  She forced him to sit down because she was still tired.  "My life sucks but not as badly recently.  Not since we got some new help in town."  She grinned as Tara coughed.  "I can't tell him about Jett?"

"You can tell him about Jett," she agreed.  She gave Angel her own hug.  "Hi."  She sat down and smiled shyly at the others.  "We could talk.  I don't know most of you."

Fred bounced over and sat across from her, patting her on the hands.  "It's okay.  I feel like that often and I live here."  Gunn and Wesley both snickered at that.   "I'm Fred."

"I'm Tara," she said, giving her a hug.  "You're kinda nice."

"Thanks.  I try.  I lighten Cordelia's gloom."  Willow and Angel both snickered at that.  "I do."  She grinned at Angel, then back at Tara.  "So, you're from Sunnydale too?"

"No, I'm going to college there," Tara admitted.  "And helping take care of Dawnie."

"Yeah, she's got to be one of the most important jobs," Fred agreed, grinning at her this time.  "Hi."

"Hi."  She leaned over and tapped her on the arm.  "Don't worry, I don't usually bite."

"Biting isn't always bad," Fred told her.  "Sometimes biting is fine, like when you're eating or something.  But biting people you just met would be bad I guess."  She laughed, a slightly geeky sound.  "Do you play games?"

Dawn nodded.  "I even brought my gameboy for the trip back," she offered.  Fred squealed and hugged her.  "Cool.  We'll head-to-head later."  She grinned and turned back to talk to Angel, babbling at high speed about her training.

Fred grinned at Tara.  "She seems really nice too.  I guess you guys get on great."

Tara nodded.  "Usually."  She blushed when she noticed the men were still staring at her.

"Mine, bright boy," Willow called out.  "The only one who stares at Tara is me."  Gunn coughed and blushed and Wesley laughed, heading to get some drinks.  "Sorry, Tara."

"That's okay.  If you ever work stuff out, I'll be yours again," she agreed with a smile for her recent sorta-ex.  She looked back at Fred again.  "What do you do here?  I thought Angel didn't need hackers and people like that."

She waved a hand and giggled again.  "So he keeps saying but he keeps me and Wesley around all the time.  He saved me from a bad spot and now I'm saving him from his own temper."  She shifted a bit.  "What did you do in Sunnydale?"

"Backup witch," Tara told her.  She blushed again when she saw Wesley staring at her.  "Hi."

"Good morning, Miss Maclay," he said, handing over a glass of water. "I wish you had been around when I was there.  I could have found a kindred spirit for my own gentle nature."

Fred hit him on the arm.  "Gentle nature?  You had a big, huge axe last night and were screaming like Conan."  Angel's chuckle broke through and she grinned at him.  "He did."

"When Wes came he was a bit stuffy," Willow told her.  "If he had been nicer, we would have accepted him."  She looked at Wesley, who nodded and accepted that as fact.  "But I guess he's changed."

"Everyone changes as they grow up," Tara said quietly.  She looked at Wesley again.  "Willow told me about you coming in.  I'm sorry I missed it."  He grinned at her and relaxed.  "How have things been down here?"

"Yeah, we heard about the demon convention," Willow agreed, merging the two groups together before Dawn could tell Angel everything.

"We're setting up to watch it the whole time," Wesley assured her.  "How did you hear?"

"Someone told us we might have some overflow," Willow said with a shrug.  "It's a little hard with Xander being injured, Anya gone, and Jett being the only *good* fighter on the Hellmouth."

"Hey, Jett kicks ass," Dawn defended.  "He's almost as great as Xander's daddy."  Willow looked at her and she nodded.  "I saw him working out the other day when I went in for my practice time.  He kicks some serious ass.  Like smooth water only with lightening speed and really quick reflexes.  I knew that knife wouldn't come anywhere near me."  Willow opened her mouth.  "He felt me there and tried to shoo me off by scaring me.  He has a definite balance and aim."  She wiggled closer to Angel's side, making him put an arm around her shoulders.  "You'd like Jett.  He's kinda deadly and snarky, but also very, very cool.  He's the one teaching me self-defense."

"I'd like to meet him," Angel noted.  "I've seen Harris's parents and I didn't know he had a brother.  Or that his father could fight.  He didn't look that coordinated when I saw him."

"Um, small matter.  Xander was adopted," Willow told him.  "She's talking about his real family."

"Ah."  He nodded.  "Is that where he got the pendant too?"  She nodded.  "Really?" he asked, sounding casual.

"Yeah," Dawn sighed in happiness.  "They are kinda cool.  Jett even pays me well for sitting his kids.  Even though I couldn't read anything to MJ that she liked.  We just didn't have anything except older-type weapons.  She's more into spy gear and guns."

"Speaking of, Wesley, we need the name of a good demon classification manual to get Jett up to speed.  He's been patrolling with Xander but he is injured."

"I noticed he was limping," Gunn put in.  "What happened?"

"Demonic bull," Dawn said, grinning up at him.  "He was helping a few new fighters learn the town and most of them died from the poisoned horns.  Xander got really sick, but they got the anti-toxin to him in enough time."

Wesley blinked a few times.  "Demonic bulls?"  Dawn nodded.  "Pure black, soaks in light, seven foot horns?"  Dawn shrugged so he looked at Willow, who nodded.  "What were they doing up there?"

"The whole herd was apparently doing a feeding frenzy.  They killed eleven people so far," she shared.  "Xander was lucky he survived.  They thought they had given him enough anti-poison but he had to go back in because of it.  Then he and Anya broke up and she disappeared."  Xander and Cordy came out of the office laughing and smiling at each other.  "How have you been?" Willow called.

"Just fine, Willow. You?"

"A few scary moments but otherwise we're fine," Willow assured her, giving her a smile.  "Come sit and tell us about this convention so we know what to look out for."

"I don't think you guys should have a big problem with some people on your side," she said as she sat next to Willow.

Xander sat on her other side.  "They're mostly letting Jett and I do it."

"I'm sure you and your brother make an excellent team," Angel told him.  He saw Xander glance at Willow and her shake her head.  "More to the story?"

"A lot," Xander sighed, "but I can't tell you.  Nothing personal, but I really can't tell you."

Angel nodded.  "That's fine.  Spike said the same thing.  We're wondering if you guys were seriously being controlled."

Wesley looked at Tara and smiled.  "Drink up, dear."

Tara took a sip and handed it over.  "They're not controlling us.  They came to help."

Angel looked down at her, then at Dawn.  "An assassin comes to the hellmouth to help?"

"He's my brother, of course he did," Xander said cockily.  "When he figured out I was still alive, he came to apologize and got stuck."  Angel looked a bit confused.  "Lack of competent fighters, big problems, sounding familiar?"  Angel nodded slowly.  "That's why my brother came in."  He stood up.  "I think I'm gonna go for some air.  Cordy?"

"Nah, I'm good," she said, giving him a pat on the arm.  "Go ahead and make a phone call."

He grinned.  "I can do better than that."  He strolled out, looking like he was going out to the car.  He concentrated really hard and went to Jett's side, then he eeped and turned around, bright red.  "Sorry."  He tried to move again but it didn't work this time.

"Panicking will make it freeze up," Jett said dryly, looking up from his nap with his wife.  "What's going on now?"

"Oh, nothing.  Big vampire wanted to know if we were being controlled.  Spike told them something.  We only told them about you.  He didn't seem impressed or that you might have changed.  Bye."  He thought really hard and disappeared now that he was calmer. He strolled through the park, enjoying it.  He wasn't sure which park, this definitely wasn't Sunnydale, but it was really nice anyway.  The people were speaking some form of American, it was okay.

Jett looked at his wife, who only gave him a kiss and shoved him out of the bed, then rolled over to curl up around her pillow.  "Let me find him. There's no telling where he went," he murmured as he pulled on a pair of pants and a t-shirt.  He pushed his feet into his sneakers and leaned down, giving her a kiss.  "I'll be back and I promise I won't dust the vampire in front of Dawn."

"I don't think she's going to mind too much," Sarah said sleepily.  "Go, you can tease me when I wake up."

He grinned and left, heading to where he felt Xander enjoying himself.  He looked around, then at his brother.  "England?" he asked when his brother nearly ran into him.  He crossed his arms.  "Spill.  Now."

Xander blushed.  "It just got a little tense so I walked out."  He pointed at a bench and walked over, sitting down so he could rest his leg.  "Angel thought we were under control because Spike told him...something.  I don't know what.   Wesley tested Tara using something in water.  Willow was going to get huffy soon.  We only told them about you.  I bragged to Cordy that you were really neat and so was dad.  She was happy for me."  He looked at his big brother, seeing the confusion.  "I was trying to go back to the park for a stroll."

"Oh.  You missed.  Happens to the best of us."  He patted his brother on the back and stretched out.  "So, what's this Angel like?"  Someone nearby spluttered and he glared at them.  "Butt out."  They blanched and ran off.  "Friend of yours?" he asked his brother, who was staring in shock.

"I think he's a friend of Giles."  He stood up and then went jogging awkwardly after him, catching up to him at a payphone.  "You know Rupert Giles?" he asked.  The man looked stunned and let the phone drop from his hand.  "Tell him Xander said hi."  He grinned.  "Tell him to call as well."  He walked away, giving his brother a look.  "I'm really in England?"

"Definitely.  The rest is imported," he said dryly, patting the bench beside him again. Thankfully the person with the rap music moved away again.  "Bad timing runs in the family.  At least it wasn't while we were doing anything," he soothed.  Xander gave a nervous chuckle.  "Something else I should know about?"

"He was a Watcher."

"Oh."  He nodded.  "We've heard of them. And?"

"Rupert was Buffy's Watcher."

"The guy who came back home to grieve in peace.  Gotcha.  And?"

"I'm not sure he won't lead an assault to free the town."

Jett snickered, giving him another pat on the back.  "I'm sure he'll be pleasantly surprised."  Xander gave him a worried look.  "What?" he asked patiently.

"You can't fight them, Jett, they play dirty.  I...."

"I'm not going to die, Xander.  I promise.  It is my duty to die for the town if necessary but I doubt it's going to be necessary."  He gave him a firm hug and squeeze around the neck.  "All better?"

"Yeah, I guess.  How do I get back to LA?"

"Easy, we ask for some help.  I don't even want to try and double with you and teleporting lessons usually take most of a day."  He looked up.  "Hey, Aunt Artemis?" he called quietly.  "Can we get a lift back to town?  Or LA?"  She appeared, dressed fairly conservatively.  "Please?  Xander managed to send himself here."

She nodded.  "It happens among the young.  I'll be seeing him Monday?"  Xander nodded. "Good.  Grab on."  They both stood up and took a hand, letting her move them.  They landed behind the couch Dawn was sitting on.  "Here you are.  Monday, Xander, early."

"Eight or earlier?" he asked.

"Eight would be fine.  Wear something comfortable."  He nodded and she left, taking herself to her symposium on conservation.  Her precious animals were dying too fast.

"Wow," Willow said, looking at him.  "Hi, Jett."

"Morning," he said dryly, staring at Angel.  "Quit bothering my brother or face me," he noted.

Dawn swatted him.  "Leave Angel alone!  He's not as bad as when he lost his soul."

Jett gave her a hug.  "Still, he bothered him."  He kissed her on the head.  "The same goes for you since Monday's a holiday.  Wear comfortable clothes, we'll be going most of the day."  She nodded, smiling at him.  "Now that we're all settled in, I'm going back to my wife.  I had just worn her out when Xander appeared."  He nudged his brother.  "I'll teach you how to send a mental knock Monday too."  He got another very cute blush and shook his head, disappearing.  He was quickly stripped and back in bed 'bothering' his wife.

Xander sat down, rubbing his thigh.  "Sorry."

"He teleported," Wesley said, staring at him.  He saw Xander's ear and frowned, getting up to look at it.  "Oh, dear."  Xander looked down at him and laughed.  "What?"


"Oh.  My."  He slumped.  "They don't need our help, Angel.  I swear they won't need our help."  He stood up and nodded at Xander.  "I've met Jett before.  He does bar brawl very well."

"I don't know about that.  He said he's calmed down since he had the kids," Xander told him honestly.

Wesley looked stunned.  "He spawned?  He vowed he never would.  Though, that was nearly ten years ago."

Dawn snorted and waved a hand.  "Yesterday was his tenth anniversary of when he kidnaped his wife."  Wesley chuckled and sat down.

Angel looked down at him. "How do you know a world famous assassin?" he asked patiently.

"We ended up chatting in a bar one night."

"Don't you mean a pub?" Gunn asked.

"No, I mean a bar.  The place was much too grungy and low class to be considered a pub," Wesley informed him.  "Even in England we have dives."   He and Xander locked eyes.  "May I ask you a few questions?"

"Sure."  He stood up with a light groan.  "Oh, Willow, expect a call from Giles soon."  He walked Wesley away, heading into the kitchen.  "What?"

"Which one did you vow to?" Wesley asked quietly.

"None of them."

"But, the earring means you have," he said patiently.

Xander touched it.  "It's my dad's, Wesley."  He saw the pale look.  "Apparently I'm a lost son."  He shrugged.  "I'm working my way through it all."

Wesley gave him a hug.  "Then I'm extremely happy for you, Xander.  You didn't deserve the parents I saw while I was there."

"Were you the one who called Social Services?"

"No, that was the school nurse.  She was a bit concerned because you never seemed to get enough to eat."  He brushed the boy's hair back.  "Is your father in town?"

"Him and his uncle," Xander admitted, sitting down again.  "Sorry, my thigh is starting to ache again."

"That's all right.  I've had many injuries and they always hurt for longer than they give you pain killers for," he agreed wryly.  "Which one?  May I look closer?  I only recognized Ares' mark."

"I'm Strife's," Xander told him, moving his hair out of the way so he could look.  "Jett's my big brother."

"Then I suppose you've also met Jace.  Remember, she may seem nice, but she is deadly in her own right.  Just more of a passionate deadly."  He looked at the earcuff, then smiled at the boy.  "I'm very happy for you, Xander.  You deserve every happiness.  I hope you get along."  He sat next to him.  "Did you have to beg a lot to get your brother to train Dawn?"

"No, she went and suggested she be trained," he admitted.  "That and her innate powers."

"Good.  Excellent in fact.  Your father, and most of your natal house, would appreciate such audacity."  He patted him on the knee, making him wince.  "Sorry."  He pulled his hand back.  "Should we schedule a time to come up?  I'd like to browse the library if possible.  I'm sure Angel is deathly afraid that it will spill over here."

"I think he's a bit more concerned about currying favor," Dawn said as she walked in with a small glass tube.  "Willow sends this and says to drink it all and no more putting it into something else because it dilutes it."  She handed it over.  "So, now you know."

Xander grimaced as he drank the vile concoction.  "I think I can do without this from now on," he admitted, handing it back.  He shuddered.  "That's just nasty."

"Yeah, but if it helps, you're going to continue to take it or I'm gonna tell your dad on you," Dawn said smartly, smirking at him. "He'll hold you down and make you take it."

"No fair," Xander pouted.  "I'm nice to you."

She snorted.  "He who makes me clean my room?"

"Yup, me.  Otherwise Tara would force you to clean it up."

"Fine," she said, rolling her eyes.  "Babyman."

"Every man has that attribute sometimes," Wesley said to stop the argument.  "Mostly when we're sick or injured."  She nodded, giving him a smug look.  "So, how is your training really going?"

"Not too bad.  Apparently I've got a hitting problem.  Jett said I need to hit harder, I hit like a flyswatter."  Xander snickered at that.  "Sure, laugh it up, he said you don't hit that hard either."

"I don't try to hit him that hard," Xander retorted.  "I'm not training with him."

"That should probably change," Wesley offered.  "Since he's there and he seems to like your company, maybe he could put you in Dawn's lessons so you do get stronger.  It would also help your recovery."

"She's learning stuff that's of no interest to me," Xander admitted.  "I'm more a bar brawler than anything else.  Jett is highly trained to take out people and things."

"Yeah, Jett is precision and stealth.  Xander is more destruction and mayhem," Dawn agreed.  "Should I stomp on Angel's foot?"

"No, I can do that," Xander assured her.  He looked at Wesley.  "They have a normal phone system.  You could call up and ask about times.  I'm not sure.  I don't exactly hang out there all day."

"Really?" Wesley asked.  "They haven't offered you a position?"

"I like my job.  It's comfy and I do a lot of good, plus I make really good money," Xander said as they walked out of the kitchen together.  He saw Willow lying limp on the couch.  "Angel, if you did that, I'm going to kick your ass again," he warned.

"I didn't do it and you haven't kicked my butt yet, Harris," Angel retorted.

Xander looked down at him.  "Really?  Should we mention Giles and a chair?"  Angel swallowed so Xander sat down.  "Is she napping?"

"She spilled some of your pain killer on herself," Tara said, giving him a little pat.  "Angel wanted to come up and see the new sights himself."

"Then he can look up the number and call," Xander told her.  "I'm not the local tour guide."  He kissed her on the cheek.  Then he looked at the Gunn/Fred/Wesley group.  "If you guys do come up, we can have a big dinner.  I'll even help cook."

"That's okay, I can do that," Tara assured them.  Xander cooking real food was a scary thought to her.  "But you should come up.  Dawn would love to see you guys again."

Xander beamed at them.  "Casa Summers is open to all friendly sorts who used to help us."

"Speaking of, I heard from Oz," Cordelia noted.  Tara shivered.  "Oh, no.  You're the one he lost control about?"  She blushed and nodded.  "Well, it can't be helped.  He came back for Willow and she made him think she was taking him back."  She shrugged.  "Sorry about that, and I know he is, but he's a nice guy most of the time."

"I'm sure he is, but I'd ra...rather not be in the same room a....alone," she stuttered.

Xander gave her a gentle squeeze.  "You won't be.  Oz is still really cool, I'm sure he's really sorry about that.  All he did was smell Willow on you."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "Better?"  She nodded.  "If he shows up, I'll gladly keep you guys company until you're comfy with him."

"Thanks," she said with a light blush.  "Get off?"  He pulled back with a chuckle.  "Thanks, you make me feel weird."

"I don't know why," Xander told her.  "You've known me nearly as long as you have Willow."  He grinned at Cordelia.  "She can give me a character reference."

Tara coughed.  "I think it was the, um, offering the other night."

He blushed.  "It's there if and when you want it," he assured her.  "It's not a problem for me."

She kissed him on the cheek, then wiped off her lip gloss.  "Thank you."  She looked at the other group.

"I offered her the ability to use me as an anonymous donor," he explained at the confused looks.

"Tara will make a great mom," Dawn seconded.  "She's already getting good practice on me."

"True," Xander agreed.  "With just a bit less fussiness over cleaning things, she'll be perfect for the job."

Tara blushed again and pinched him this time.  "Stop."

"Sorry."  He shrugged.  "She's also really shy."

Fred nodded.  "I noticed but it's nice to be shy and quiet.  I'm like that myself and everyone keeps trying to change me too."  She grinned at Tara.  "Come on, I'll show you around."  She stood up and took her hand, leading her off.

Gunn shook his head.  "That girl is every bit a tornado when she wants to be."

Wesley chuckled.  "Yes, but it's nice to see her so enthusiastic about something.  It has been a while since she was."  Gunn nodded, accepting that.  "So, Xander, how are things otherwise?"

"Quiet," he said happily.  "Outside of the bulls we've had a tapering off of the death rate.  We're down to five new vamps rising a night again."

"Good," Wesley agreed.

"That's good?" Gunn asked.

"That's excellent.  We had twenty a few weeks back," Dawn told him.  "A slayer really does make a difference."

"We could arrange for Faith to get out early," Angel offered.

"I think we'll be fine," Xander told him. He heard a phone ringing and dug Willow's out of her purse.  "Hi.  Yup, hold on, she managed to knock herself out."  He nudged Willow until she woke up.  "For you.  The worker at the shop."  He sat up again.  "I don't deal with that most of the time."

"Thankfully," Dawn said, giving him a nudge.  "You suck at the magic stuff."

"Yeah, but I know my strengths," he reminded her.  "A wise man learns his limits and only pushes gently on the boundaries. A lucky man gets to live within them and doesn't have to push or shove them."

She rolled her eyes.  "Yes, Father Time.  Thanks for the wise words."  He tickled her, making her shriek and wiggle.  "Stop it!"

"Guys, on the phone," Willow pointed out.  She went back to her conversation about herb substitutions.  Then she hung up.  "Thank you, Xander.  Did you take your medicine?"

"I did," he said proudly, "and I don't think I'll need any more of it."

"Right," she said dryly.  "Tough.  You'll take it until the stitches come out. I'm not having your father beat me too."  She looked at Dawn.  "Try respecting your elders."

Dawn stuck her tongue out at her.  "You can't get that wise in five or six years."  She stood up.  "I'm gonna go find Tara and the other one."  She walked off.

"Ah, adults," Gunn said happily.  Xander snickered.  "Sorry, I like kids, I just don't understand teenagers.   Especially the nice ones."

"Then you and Dawn should get along fine," Willow told him.  "She's not always that nice."  She heard a growl and looked around for a moment but didn't know where it was coming from.  She looked at Xander, who was staring at the ceiling looking like he was thinking hard.  "Was that you?"

"No, I think I know who it was," he said smugly, looking at her with his most innocent expression.  "Don't worry, it's not a problem."

"If you say so."  She went back to staring at Angel.  "So, can we go out and party in your town tonight?"

"Sure," he agreed.  "We made up rooms so you could stay overnight."  He looked at Xander.  "Please don't come in drunk."

"I hardly ever drink," Xander told him.  "I don't think it's me you have to worry about with that."  He stood up.  "I'll get the bags from the car."

"No, I'll go. You sit and rest," Wesley said, taking the keys from his hand.  "Still a silver car?"  Xander nodded so he went out to get their bags from it.

Xander considered it.  Was Wesley sucking up to him?


Xander giggled like a little kid as he teleported into his big brother's house, crawling in between him and his wife.  "Ah," he said fondly, then passed out.

"Not again," Jett moaned, sitting up.  He gave Xander a shove, but he stayed unconscious.  "Is he drunk?" he muttered in disgust.  He had thought Xander had better sense than this.  He climbed out of the bed and tossed back on some clothes, staring down at his brother to figure out what to do with him this time.

"Jett, am I bleeding?" Sarah mumbled.

"No, dear."

"Are you?"

"No," he said cautiously, not quite understanding where this was going.

She held up a blood-stained hand.  "One of the three of us is and if it's not us, it's got to be him."  She hauled herself out of the bed and went to put on a nightgown and a robe.

"Father!" Jett shrieked, bringing a tipsy Strife to hang off him and laugh at him.  "Father, it seems my brother has been injured," he said patiently.

"Huh?"  Strife turned too fast and passed out.  "Tha's good shit," he mumbled before losing it totally.

"ARES!" Sarah shouted.  He appeared before she got to the 's'.  She never yelled his name.  Not even when she had needed medical attention while she was having MaryJane.  She pointed at the three stunned men.  "One of them is bleeding, one is drunk, and my husband is presently stunned stupid."

"Hey!" Jett complained. "He woke me out of a sound sleep to come bleed on me!"

Ares groaned and shook his head.  "Okay, from the top," he said patiently.  "Strife, now!" he ordered.  Strife tried to raise a finger but it fell weakly back to the floor.  "I'm guessing he's the drunk one?"

Sarah stamped her foot and glared at him, making him flinch.  She was one scary woman.  "Get the bleeding man off my bed, treat his ass, go find out what the hell happened, and take it out of my house!" she screamed, picking up something to throw at him.

"Not my book," Jett pleaded.  He'd lose his place.

Ares gave her a strong hug.  "Of course I will.  Where was he?"  She continued to glare so he looked at his nephew.  "Well?"

"LA?" Jett suggested.  "It's not my night to watch over him.  It was dad's!"

"Fine, I'll take them all back to the hotel, get a healer there, and then go find Rosenburg."

"Find Dawn, they'll probably be together," Sarah suggested.

"Why?" Ares asked.

Jett shook his head.  "None of them would consider letting Dawn wander around the big, bad city by herself."  He walked back to the bed and sniffed.  "He smells like a vampire too."  Ares moved everyone but the angry wife when she drew in a breath to scream at them some more.  He landed in Angel's lobby, looking at the vampire.  "Put him into a bed, leave Jett with him.  Leave Strife on the floor.  It serves him right," he grumbled as he went to find a healer.  He sent her there then adjusted his clothes and went looking for Dawn.  Most likely Tara was with her and she could find Willow.  He paid the cover into the bar, earning a frown from the bouncer.  "I'm looking for my niece," he said bitterly.  "Her big brother just got hurt."  He created a picture of the girl.  "Her?"

"By the dance floor," he said, pointing.  He watched the big predator walk away, hoping he wasn't putting that girl into a world of hurt.  But there had been something in his eyes that said he meant that girl no harm.  The next one got double the pleasure of his fists however.

Ares tapped Tara on the shoulder.  "Not interested," she said, then she smiled, pausing in mid-motion.  "Dawn!" she shouted.  Dawn danced her way over after looking her way.  "What happened?"

"Where did Xander go?"

"Wow.  I thought it was an emergency," Dawn said as she sat down.

"It is.  He's been attacked.  He popped himself to Jett's bedroom and crawled in with him."  Dawn looked confused.  "He was bleeding from the head as well."

"Hmm."  Dawn pulled up her cellphone and dialed Willow's sending a text message.  She got back an answer.  "I think she's drunk," she said, handing the phone over.

Ares tracked the signal then handed it back.  "I'll pick her up.  You two go back to Angel's and wait to see how he is."  They nodded and gathered up their coats, then left.  Ares groaned and went to drag the drunken witch out of the coven orgy.  "Now is not the time," he said as he dragged her down the street.

"Hey, I was being good!" she shouted.  "Let me go!"

He turned to look down at her.  "Your best friend is hurt.  Don't you think that takes precedence."  Willow gasped and wobbled.  "Now, we should go back to Angel's and you should sober up."

"Why?" Willow asked.

Ares decided he wasn't going to play nice this time.  He laid a hand on her head and zapped some power into her body, detoxing her within moments.  She groaned and collapsed to the ground as every orifice in body oozed contaminants.  "Now, let's go," he ordered coldly.

She looked up at him.  "That was mean."

"No one's ever accused me of being light and fluffy," he sneered.  "I would have thought you'd be concerned about Xander being attacked."

"He was attacked?" she asked hotly, forcing herself to stand up.  "Why didn't you say so!"  She hit him on the chest a few times, then used her nifty new demon teleporting spell to get back to Angel's.  She started to go up the stairs, but Gunn was in her way.  "Move!"

"There's a doctor in with him and she said to keep everyone out," he told her.  He wrinkled his nose.  "What did you roll in?"

"Fine, then let me go up to my room so I can change," she said, pushing past him.   She was showered and changed by the time Tara and Dawn came back.  "I thought he was staying with you two," she asked, trying not to sound like she was accusing.

Dawn shrugged.  "The guy didn't want someone guy his age in there.  He thought he was looking for a young girl and it's supposed to be a predator-free zone," she reminded Willow.  That's why they had let her go there.  "He went up the street to a real club."

"Which club?" Wesley asked from the bottom of the stairs.  "You might as well wait with us."

"Let me hose off," Dawn offered.  "We were at Le Max."  She headed up the stairs.

Wesley looked at Angel.  "Didn't we have a problem near there recently?"

"Yeah, the vampires took over control of a dance club up the street," he agreed, still frowning. "Of course, that's probably where Harris went."  He kept his opinion of why Xander probably went there to himself, he didn't need staked and Ares was already giving him a dirty look.

Jett came down a few minutes later, scowling.  "Six distinct sets of bite marks, one gash in his head, a slight amount of alcohol in his system, and probably one hell of a leg cramp when he wakes up," he announced.  Willow and Tara slumped.  "How can you be so calm!" he shouted. "He nearly died!"

Willow looked at him. "I've seen worse on him."

Jett growled and walked down, making her run behind Angel for her own safety.  "What do you mean?" he hissed.

"She means that Harris has always jumped into trouble," Angel told him.

"They also found drugs in his system," Ares announced.  "I doubt he did it to himself this time."  Angel swallowed.  "What do you know?" he asked in a deceptively calm voice.

"Is it the full moon?" he asked Wesley, who shook his head.  "How far off?"

"Two days," Wesley admitted.  "Why?  I hadn't heard of anything this month."

"With the demon convention going on this week, it could very well have been a vampire frat prank," Dawn suggested as she came down the stairs.  "Or not," she said when she saw Angel's guilty look.  "Give, before I help you join my sister in the Elysian Fields."

Angel sat down, letting Willow sit beside him.  "There's supposed to be a new master trying to come up the ranks somewhere in that section of town.  He said on the full moon he'd make his grand move and then there would be hell to pay, his wording.  We all thought it was something to do with the convention, so he could prove how macho he was, but this could have been a move on that path.  I don't know.  Does anyone know who Harris is?"

"Only if they looked at his ear," Dawn snorted.

"I know; I figured it out and he confirmed my suspicions," Wesley admitted.  "I thought he was Lord Ares' though, that was the only mark I saw on the ear cuff."  He scratched his eyebrow.  "It would make sense with what he does for a living."

"No, he's not supposed to be fighting at all," Ares said, trying to stay calm.  "Discord!" he snapped.  She appeared promptly, behind him this time.  He rounded on her, picking her up by her arms.  "Your grandson was bitten by a number of vampires and physically attacked.  Your son is presently drunk."

"I can get his ass up," she said coldly.  "We'll go together."  He smirked at her.  "Jett, was there anything we needed to know?"

"I don't know how to find his location from his mind," Jett pointed out.  He flopped down and looked at his grandmother.  "There is one last thing.  His ear cuff is missing."  He looked at Ares.  "He kept saying something about a pretty and grabbing at his ear so I looked."

Ares' growl reverberated around them, and even woke up Strife.  He trotted down the stairs and leaned against his uncle's side.  "What's wrong?" he asked, slightly more sober.  His mother swatted him.  "Hey! I can have fun too, you know!"

"Your son was attacked," Ares said, moving away from Strife to make sure he could stand up on his own.

Strife snapped his fingers and was instantly clean, sober, and back into his normal, deadly calm, persona.  "Really?  Where?"

"I don't know," Jett told him.  "He popped into bed between me and Sarah.  She's the one who found out he wasn't drunk, he was injured."  He stood up.  "I guess I'm staying?"  The three Gods nodded, giving him a look.  "Can we *please* put my brother in a room and reprogram him?"

"No," Strife said firmly.  "He's fine the way he is.  We'll figure out how to shield him by the time he's healthy."

"The good news might be that his pain killer would make any vampire really sick," Willow offered.

"That will give us a way to track them," Ares agreed.  "Stay here."  He took the other Gods with him, tracing some very sick vampires, and Xander's earcuff.  They found one on the other and all his cronies were quite ill.  The fact that they were in the middle of a vampire ball didn't really matter to them.  Ares stopped the music.  Strife let out a high- pitched giggle.  Discord cracked her knuckles.  The vampires ran for the doors, the smart ones anyway.


Sarah walked into the Hyperion with her kids behind her, walking obediently.  "I hope you don't mind, Dawn," she said apologetically.

"Not a bit," Dawn assured her.  "I don't have much here to amuse them, but I'm sure we can find something."

"Thank you."  She hugged the young woman.  "Come on, let's go see your father and uncle, then Auntie Dawn can play with you guys."

Fred squealed as she came out of the kitchen.  "You guys are so cute!" she said, giving them both hugs.  Sarah looked at her.  "Oh, hi, I'm Fred, I work with Angel."  She shook her hand.  "I'm helping Tara with a poultice right now."

She nodded.  "We'll be back in a minute."  She patted the bag.  "Jett would go insane without some things from home."  She walked up the stairs, following the complaining.  She tapped gently before walking inside and handing off the bag in exchange for a kiss.  "You're welcome."

He grinned and hugged the kids, then unpacked his single outfit, extra change of underwear, and four guns, with extra clips and ammo, plus his favorite hunting knife.  "I love you," he told her, grinning up at her.

"You're welcome.  I know you're going nuts here."  She leaned down and opened one of Xander's eyes, making him smile and open them both.  "We need to talk, dear brother-in- law."  He groaned as he tried to sit up so she curled up on his less injured shoulder, cuddling against him.  "We have house rules, Xander, and you're going to have to learn them.  The first is that you cannot take the children out for unannounced visits."

He nodded slowly.  "I don't understand kids that much so I know I couldn't be as good as Jett is at keeping them safe."

"That and there's still people looking for Jett.  And me.  We don't want them to get caught in the middle.  Give us at least an hour's warning so we can clean them up and all that."  He nodded slowly again.  "You all right?"  He nodded slowly again.  "The second is that you pop into the living room.  Not the bedroom, not the bathroom, not even the kitchen.  The living room."

"To be fair, he might have died before either of us heard him this time," Jett reminded her.

"Okay, I can bend that one when it's a life-threatening emergency.  Yours or ours.  Got it?"  He nodded again, still very slowly.  "Good, the third is that you may not spoil the children with toys.  You can make them something, you cannot buy them horrendously expensive toys."

"I can make toys?" Xander asked, sounding happier.

Jett wanted to kick someone so he stood up.  "I'm going to take the rugrats down to Dawn.  I'll be right back."  He carried his kids down, handing them over to Dawn.  "Thanks."

"Hey, no big," she reminded him.  "Just don't wear out your aggression on me, I'm not that good yet."

He chuckled and ruffled her hair.  "Not a problem.  I have katas for those moments."  He looked around.  "I know MaryJane's going to bored."

"Pfft.  I'll teach her about ancient weapons.  Things that still caused a lot of damage and were the precursor to guns."  MaryJane gave her an interested look.  "Really.  I'm sure Angel has a few crossbows."  She noticed Fred lurking.  "Want to help me show them?"

"Are you sure it'd be okay?" Fred asked Jett. "They're not really for play."

Jett nudged his daughter.  "Tell her what you want to be when you grow up."

"I want to be a spy," MaryJane said proudly.  "I'm already really good at the targets and everything."

Scott bounced up and down.  "I'm gonna be a Ranger."  He noticed a stranger that he hadn't met yet and walked over to pounce him, handcuffing him with his favorite playthings, plastic handcuffs.

"Hey, no doing that to Gunn," Dawn said, handing off MaryJane to Fred for a moment.  "Gunn's a really nice guy.  He doesn't need tied up like some bad guy.  We'll do that to Wesley or Angel."

"Ooh, we can tie up Angel?" Fred asked, nearly bouncing herself.  "I've always wanted to see that.  He has all these stories about when he was younger and how he used to get captured by Spike and others."

Dawn looked at Fred.  "I like you," she noted.  "If you ever get tired of gloomy guy, come visit."  She picked up Scott and took him with Fred and MaryJane to the weapons and practice rooms, where Angel was working out his frustrations.  "Hi.  These are Jett's two adorable little ones," she said happily.  "This is MaryJane and Scott.  MJ wants to be a spy when she grows up."

"Oooh!" MaryJane said as she wiggled to get down, running over to the open weapon's cabinet.  "These are really neat.  Do they really work like a gun?"

"Most of the time, yeah," Dawn agreed, coming over to help her load one and shoot it at the wall target.  "See?"

"Cool!" she breathed, giving Angel an adoring look.  "Can you teach me about these, Mr. Angel?  Please?  I'll be good most of the day if you do."

"Awww, that's so sweet!" Fred cooed.

Angel looked at her.  "What's gotten into you?"

"They're kids, they're adorable," Fred told him.

Dawn walked over.  "If you help me teach them how to use a crossbow, I won't send you to meet Buff on the Elysian Fields this week," she said sweetly.

"Fine," he grumbled, knowing Dawn could and would.  Besides, Jett would owe him if he watched his kids for him.

Wesley was getting Gunn undone, listening to him complain.  "I swear, the little girl said she wanted to play with a weapon," he insisted.

"Why would she want to?  That's usually a male sport," Wesley noted patiently.  These cuffs were very tough to cut.

"It's that women's lib crap.  Everything went to hell in the world when women started to let things grow and not take care of things at home."

Wesley patted him.  "I'm sure you'll find a new girlfriend soon," he soothed, finally getting them undone.  "There, all free.  Where are they?"  He heard a loud squeal and hurried that way to try and keep the place together.  He found Scott busily wrapping Angel to a practice dummy.  He found the little girl, who was adorable in her little pink camouflage outfit, shooting at the targets with a break-apart crossbow.  "Dawn," he said quietly, not wanting to startle anyone.  The little girl looked at him and carefully put down the weapon before running over to drag him back to her spot.  She showed the proper deference and she was talking about using some of her father's weapons.  She obviously knew at least a little bit about them.  He supposed a quick safety tutorial wouldn't hurt.  Dawn grinned at him when he started to help.

"Dawn, I'm bored.  Did you bring your playstation?"

"Sorry, little guy.  I only brought my gameboy.  Fred has one too so maybe you guys can play head-to-head?"

Scott walked over and gave Fred his most adorable, yet pitiful, look. "Would you play with me too?"

"Sure," she agreed, giving him a kiss on his cute little forehead. "Let me go get them.  Okay?"  He nodded, following her out and up the stairs.  She was really neat; like his mommy, only quieter.  When he found out she liked electronics and robots, that made her doubly cool in his book even though she was a girl and they were all icky.


Xander woke up and wondered where he was.  The last thing he knew, he had been sleeping next to his sister-in-law, who was very comforting and he was going to steal her if Jett ever wanted to let her go.

"I don't think that will happen," a dark, amused voice said from behind him.

Xander turned around, noticing he was all better.  "I'm okay?"  The figure shook his head.  "I'm dead?"

Hades laughed, throwing back his hood.  "Not in the least, Xander.  I simply wanted to talk to you.  It falls on the older male members to teach the younger generations.  Come along."  Xander nodded and followed him.  "While you're down here, you will not be injured unless I change my mind.  Got it?"  Xander nodded again, just like his nephew did whenever he brought him down here to talk to people.  "Good."  He led the way into his throne room.  "You've found out a lot of stuff recently.  How are you adapting?"  He sat on his throne with a regal sweep of his cloak.

"I'm okay.  A little tired at the moment because someone wanted my earring.  I told them it didn't come off but they didn't like that answer," he said miserably, pulling a chair over to sit down in front of him.  "What did you want to know specifically?"

Hades coughed, hiding a smile.  "Strife has spent some time in my domain and I like to think of him as the son 'Sephie and I adopted."

"Yeah, dad needs love," Xander agreed.

Hades was impressed, this boy had seen to the root of his father very quickly.  "And do you give it to him?"

"All that I can," Xander admitted, looking up at him.  "I don't like it when he spoils me, but I'm okay with everything else.  I like him being around.  I really like hanging out and watching sports with him, even if he does like soccer so much."  Hades had to smile at that.  "He's neat and he listens to me.  Ya know?"

"I do," Hades agreed.  "Strife said much the same thing about Ares once."  He leaned down.  "Are you going to cling to him?"

Xander shrugged.  "I'd rather have a relationship with him.  I mean, it'd be gross if we did *that* with each other, right?  Like really wrong and stuff."

Hades gave him a gentle, fatherly smile.  "While it would to most of the world, things are a bit different for us."  He shifted, mimicking Ares' favorite pose on his throne - one leg thrown over an arm of the throne.  Xander burst out in giggles.  "What?"

"Now I know where Ares got that from.  I thought he was only teasing the priestesses the other day," he laughed.

"He probably was," Hades agreed, smiling down at him.  "You find that your rear gets numb after a while if you don't shift around."  He got comfortable.  "Did you want to ask me anything?"

Xander looked at him.  "Is dad the reason I draw trouble?"

Hades chortled, shaking his head.  "No, it's not.  It's the remnants of that stupid curse."  He stood up and walked down, running a hand over Xander's head to erase the last few markings embedded under his hair.  "There, that should solve some of it, Xander."  He smiled at him.  "Did you not want to ask about Anya?"

Xander looked at his hands and shrugged.  "I'm not sure I want to know."  He looked up again.  "It really hurt that she broke up with me because of who my father is and how he lost me.  It wasn't his fault, we all know that.  I did ask him to spare her, but he said he didn't kill her and she got sent down here to serve under you.  Is she all right?"

Hades pulled the boy up and gave him a short hug.  "She is fine.  When she figured out I couldn't make her a demon again, she requested to serve under Bacchus.  He's down here you see and he is the Lord over all Demons.  She's with him as his faithful servant now.  I could call him or her if you wanted."  Xander shook his head quickly.  "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," Xander said, looking up at him.  Not that far, Hades was only a few inches taller than he was.  "If she's happy, that's all I need to know.  I don't want to interfere with your domain."

Hades gave him a hard squeeze.  "Now I know that Athena was wrong.  You're not the sort to ask for things."

"No, I'm not," Xander agreed.  "Can I please be let go?  My ribs still hurt."

"Sorry, kid."  He let him go and gently sat him back into the chair.  "Why do they ache?  My injunction should have prevented that.  Unless someone else is interfering with your mortal body.  We'll go back soon," he promised, sitting down again.  "You really don't want a job up here?  You could bring Dawn with you.  You could even bring Tara if you wanted. It would be a cushy life and all you'd have to do is play the political games."

Xander shuddered.  "I hate those.  I lived that with Cordelia.  I like my simple job and my pretty satisfactory life.  I don't need big things.  Just finding out that I had a parent who gave a damn about me was mind-blowing.  Ya know?"  Hades nodded.  "And now people are looking at me like they want something from me and I'm not sure how to handle it and I don't want to get dad upset, but I don't want to be some pawn in some big game.  I've done that too and I hated it."  He looked up. "I know this may not make sense, but I want a normal life.  What other sort of fun is there outside of that?  I want to fall in love and to run around holding hands like Jett and Sarah do.  I might even go for kids some day, if the world doesn't end, but I want that sort of love.  I want peace and rest and some work and love."  He slumped a little.  "I guess that makes me stupid, huh?"

"No, though I doubt most anyone on Olympus will understand those desires.  They're used to people asking them for major things.  Even the Gods and Goddesses over the weather are surprised when they get nice prayers for only a few hours of sunshine at the right time.  You can tell me anything, Xander, really.  Come here."  Xander stood up and Hades pulled him into his lap to hold.   Xander felt weird but you didn't really argue with the Lord of the Dead about not being cuddled.  "You see, I don't like those games myself.  I thought I was content until I first saw Persephone.  Then my whole life turned into an obsession.  It was all I could think of.  She was the beginning and end of my entire world and I couldn't have her so I took her.  It was selfish but it righted my world so things made sense again.  Over time, she's gotten happier with the gloomy nature down here."  He gave the boy a squeeze.  "It will happen for you, Xander.  Keep that hope alive.  Know that while some people will want to bother you for favors and things, they are easily seen through.  Never announce who you are.  Never tell anyone who you know.  Let them find out on their own, that way you can see if they suddenly become friends or if they truly want to be around you."

"Hands off my son," Strife said as he entered the room.  "He's mine, you can't have him."

"Relax, he's giving me good advice," Xander said, grinning at him.  "I don't like guys, dad."

"You really should start getting past that," Hades suggested, but he did let Xander go.  "The rest of the family won't care.  We're mostly like that."

Xander shrugged.  "I have nothing against it but it's not really me.  I've never even thought about guys."  He looked at his dad.  "Am I in trouble?"

"For what?"

"For having my earring taken from me."

"Nah."  Strife gave him a quick hug and a pat on the back, making him wince.  "Hades, the least you coulda done was heal him down here."

"I did, I don't know why he's aching."

"Maybe it's from other stuff," Xander said with a light shrug.  "Thanks, Hades.  Tell them I said hi."

"I will."  He smiled at Strife.  "I like him.  He is a lot like you and has the same mentality about most things, except the fun that can be had from playing with people's minds."

Strife grinned. "Thanks, might-as-well-be dad."  He took his son back to his body, then made himself visible on the mortal realm.  "Hey."  He nudged Xander, getting one open eye.  "You're back."  He helped the boy sit up.  "How do you feel now?"

"Mostly fine," he admitted, touching his neck.  "Am I a really big mess?"

"Nah, we cleaned most of it up," Strife told him, sitting on the foot of the bed.  He caught Xander when he started to wobble.  "Think you're up to some soup?  I can hear Tara and that Fred chick talkin' in the hall."

"I think so," Xander agreed.  "Hi, Tara. Fred."  The door opened and they brought in two trays, settling one across his lap and sharing the other so they could sit with him.  "Is Angel pissed?"

"Not in the least," Fred assured him.  "He's been having a lot of fun with the kids all day and now he's resting before he goes on patrol tonight."

Strife kept his laughter in check, though he noticed Tara's eyes were shining in mirth as well.  He wanted to help the girl, she thought like him sometimes.  "I'd better check in, I'll be right back.  You eat, son."  He disappeared, going back to the main temple on Olympus.  "Hey, what's my line tonight?"

"You can either sit with your son and get maudlin or you can go walk among the convention to keep it under control," Discord ordered.  "Ares is down there already."

Strife nodded.  "Deal.  Watch the kiddies?"

She looked at him. "Don't I always?"  He nodded.  "Then shoo.  I'll check on Xander for you in a few minutes."  He nodded and changed his clothes before leaving; wandering around in a silk suit and looking like a high-priced assassin would be better tonight. Discord put down her book and then stood up so she could stretch.  "Maybe I'll go find him now."  She looked around, swearing there was someone else in the temple with her.  "Huh."  She disappeared, landing beside the bed.  "Hey, kiddo.  How's the neck?"  She dropped a kiss on his head.

"I'm okay, Discord.  Thanks."  He gave her a tentative smile.  He didn't know her very well yet.  "Have you met Fred and Tara?"

Discord nodded at them.  "Hey."  She created a chair and sprawled in it.  "So, you're taking care of him tonight?"

"Only the feeding parts," Tara said, not staring at her.  So this was what being struck by love was like.  Willow was much more subtle.  "Would you like some soup?"  She wondered why she wasn't stuttering.  Did Ares' anti-stuttering injunction work on her as well?

"Nah, thanks.  I ate earlier."  She looked at Xander, who was eating slowly.  "You will eat as much as possible or I'm going to get Jace to come spoil you.  He fusses very well."

"Eww," Xander said, putting down his spoon.  "I hate being fussed over."

"Tough, deal with it," Jett said from the doorway.  "Hey," he said, nodding at Discord.  "The kids have went back home."

"Good.  I'll make sure they get there.  Did you teleport them?" she asked at his look.  He nodded.  "Who saw it?"

"Jace did.  Apparently it's the first work-study payment this semester at the local colleges so they're partying tonight."  He walked in and sat on the foot of the bed, staring at his brother.  "Eat."

"I'm breathing right now," Xander told him, not rubbing the sore spot on his chest.

Discord stood up and checked his ribs, then shook her head.  "Inefficient healers.  He's got a broken rib too."  She handed Jett the tray.  "Watch out, he'll thrash."  Once the bed was clear, she put it back into place and stuck it there, healing it as much as she could.  "There we go, how's that?"  She looked down and found her grandson unconscious again.  "Geez, it wasn't even that bad of a pain."

"Xander's never had broken ribs that I know of," Tara offered quietly.

"That explains it.  The first two or three times are always bad."  He put the tray onto the floor out of the way and sat down again, patting Xander's foot.  "Wakey, wakey."  Xander groaned and grabbed his ribs. "Next time, say something."

"I doubt he knew what his injuries were," Fred offered.  "No one told him, they never do me when I'm in the hospital unless I ask."

"Most people ask," Discord told her.

"Some people don't want to know," Tara countered.  "Xander's had a lot of injuries this year."  She ate a bite of her soup.  "That might even be from earlier.  He never tells us when he's injured."

Discord looked at her.  "He's been injured a lot recently?" she asked flatly.  Tara nodded, taking another sip of her soup.  "How often, dear?"  She mentally shook herself, why did she call the girl that?

Tara shrugged.  "He never tells us, he deals with it himself unless it's somewhere he can't reach or it needs stitches.  Then Willow does it or he goes to the hospital."  She finished her soup and put it aside because she could see Discord was going to send it out of her hands in a minute.  "I know he's gotten some minor cuts and scrapes at work, nothing else, Lady Discord."

Discord grimaced.  "Fine.  Who would know?"  Tara pointed at Xander.  "He won't tell us."

"Then read his memories," Fred suggested lightly, sipping her soup.  "The myths say you can do that."

"We can," Discord agreed.  "Good thought, Fred wasn't it?"  Fred nodded and pushed her glasses back up her nose.  "Good job."

Tara stamped down the irritation she was feeling, it was irrational.  It was meaningless.

"It's jealousy and I don't know why," Discord told her, giving her a little wink.  "One never knows why minds do things like that."  She laid a hand on her grandson's forehead, reading his memories.  Then she let out a shriek, bringing Jett back.   "Did you know about that?"

"Which that?" he asked, looking confused.  "I have to bug his room to get any information on his past.  The guy doesn't share things."  He sat down again.  "Bad shit's happened to him and he doesn't want to tell us about any of it."

"Hmph.  We'll see about that," Discord told him.

"Grandmother, please don't lock us in a room together, I'd go nuts.  We get along but not for more than a few hours.  He's much more....Jace than I am."

"Actually, he seems more like Joxer," Tara told him.   "A little bit messed up sometimes, but very strong willed and stubborn."

"Yeah, that's almost a perfect analogy.  He's like a young Joxer, Grandmother."

Discord shuddered.  "Fine.  Then I'll have *him* get information."

"I doubt he'll tell even him," Fred pointed out.  "If he won't tell Willow or Tara, his best friends, then why would he tell the brother he just met?"  She gave a geekish little giggle.  "Though, if they're all like Jett they're pretty cute and nice."

He shuddered.  "Eww. I am not nice," he informed her.  "I am a badass that can and will make Angel cry some day for whatever it was he did to Xander."

"What?" Discord and Tara asked.

He shrugged.  "I don't know.  He won't tell me.  He mentioned that he doesn't like him, even more than usual, but he doesn't mention why.  He never mentions why.  It's like he's signed a secrecy pact or something."

"I'm waiting to write my autobiography so people will buy it," Xander moaned.  He looked up.  "Hi, Discord."

"You *can* say the word Grandmother, correct?" she asked.   He nodded.  "Then use it when addressing me unless it's a formal situation."  She looked up.  "Strife!"  He appeared quickly, grinning at his son.  "I want to know what you know about his past."

"Whoa," Xander said, forcing himself to sit up.  "Thanks, Grandmother, my chest does feel better."  He looked at her, finally tugging on her arm to get her attention again.  "If I wanted you to know, I'd tell you," he reminded her.  "There's nothing in my life that needs divine retribution."

She snorted.  "Bet me!"

He glared at her.  "Leave it alone.  I don't want you to know or else I would tell you," he repeated.  "I don't need other people to fight my battles for me or any of that."

"Calm down," Jett ordered.  "She wants to hurt the people who hurt you.  That's a normal thing that even normal families go through."  Xander gave him a look and he shivered.  "Fine.  You don't want us to know.  You don't want to be responsible for the body count.  Understanding that fully, but we still should know.  Otherwise we're going to start treating you like we do Joxer and reserving a spot on the wall for you."

Xander grinned. "I'm not insane or even going there, Jett.  I'm simply me and you can accept what you see with me.  I'm not that deep."

"You are so," Tara argued.  "Not that you're hiding who you are, you're very open, but you're by no means shallow."

"Okay.  If you say so," Xander agreed, not wanting her in this argument.  "Morning, Fred."

"Hi, Xander."  She gave him a hug.  "It'll be okay.  Even my family wanted to hurt people for me."  He shrugged so she gave him a kiss on the nose.  "You rest.  I'm going to take Tara out of harm's way."  She pulled Tara up and out of the room, closing the door behind her.  "I don't know why they don't ask others around him," she offered.

"Hmm.  Or Spike, he's been around for years," Tara agreed.  "Which would take the stress off Xander.  He'll react badly to that," she said loudly enough for someone in the room to have heard.

"Good idea," Strife agreed.

"Father, no," Xander warned.  He climbed out of the bed slowly, facing off with him.  "There's nothing in my past that needs to be known about."  They were eye-to-eye, Xander had never realized he was as tall as his father was.  Or what green eyes he had.  "No," he repeated.

"Kid, I'm your father, I don't take orders."

Xander shrugged.  "That's fine, then don't come back."  He sat down again, seeing the stunned looks.  "If I wanted you to know, I'd fucking well tell you, people.  I'm not hiding anything but I don't need every minute of my past watched over.  I am who I am now, deal with me in the now or not at all."  He covered himself back up and sat there sulking.

"I think he's right," Jett offered.  The Gods glared at him.  "We can deal with the way he is now without digging, but it'll still come out.  You keep dropping hints, Xander.  We'll eventually put the puzzle together."

"I'm sure you will," he agreed.  "And everything I say, I want you to know about me.  Try asking me, not digging into me."

"Fine, what's between you and Angel?" Strife asked.

"Nothing," Xander said honestly.  "We have some bad history when he lost his soul.  He tried to torment me, we got into a few fights, I had to save someone from him and royally got my ass kicked for doing so."

Discord grimaced.  "That's not all there is to it."  Xander glared at her.  "Don't give me that look, I will spank you."

"Do it only if it thrills you," Xander said bitterly.  "I don't respond to threats."  He climbed out of the bed again and left the room.  He found Dawn downstairs and looked her over.  "School?"

"I called her off," Tara told him, giving him a smile.  "Parents are supposed to be nosy."

"Yeah, feel lucky you don't keep a diary," Fred agreed.

Xander blanched and forced himself to head back to the house.  He got there barely before Jett and managed to grab his dairy and a lighter, he nearly even lit it on fire before his brother took it from his hand.  "Give it back!"

"No!"  He held it up, Xander was still shorter than he was.  He blinked a few times as Xander hopped up to get it, realizing he had an incredible pain tolerance if he could do that.  There were only one way to build a high pain tolerance.  He pushed Xander onto his bed and straddled his chest, holding him in place.  "I want to know who tortured you.  I could care less about who you've done in the past, kid.  You are my brother and it is mine and everyone else in the family's job to look out for you.  Yeah, we fucked it up, but we are here now and we can help."

"I'm over it."  He hissed as he moved to throw him off but Jett was still heavier and Xander was weak from his injuries.  He looked over as Ares appeared and picked up the diary.  "No!"

"Shut up.  I'll read it and won't tell anybody.  Then I will gauge how to control Discord and Strife," he ordered.

"Fuck you, give it back!" Xander growled.  He wasn't even aware he was slipping away.

"Whoa."  Jett got off him and out of the way.  His eyes had just flashed for a moment.  "What was that?"

"I think it's a prior possession," Ares said, looking confused.  "That Buffy person said that was fixed."

"Leave her alone too," Xander growled, getting off the bed and snatching the diary.  "I don't want you to know either."  He stomped out, heading to hide it again.  He would burn it but he needed the thing.  This was the only therapy he had.  He heard footsteps and turned, planting a foot in his brother's chest and knocking him down.  "Stop, now," he warned.  He stomped out of the house, knowing he was going to pay for this later.  He headed to Spike's, barging into his crypt.  The vampire looked at him.  "I need a hiding spot where my family can't get something."

"Why come to me?" Spike asked, looking confused.  Xander hissed and he jumped up.  "Hey, now.  There's not many places they can't go.  It's not my fault they're your family."

"It's not a fault, they're simply nosy."  He stalked forward, pushing Spike into the wall.  "For that matter, don't talk to them about my past.  What I want them to know, I'll tell them."

"Yeah, sure," Spike agreed, nodding.  "Go give it to the ponce and have him mail it back whenever you need it.  They'd have problems reading our minds.  What is wrong with you?"

"Don't ask."  Xander disappeared, going back to the Hyperion.  He landed and looked around.  "Deadboy!"  Angel came out of the office so Xander tossed the journal at him.  "Hide that for me.  I'll want it back someday."

"Okay," Angel said slowly.  "Why?"

"Because that's his therapy journal," Fred told him.  "Right?"  She looked at Xander, noticing he was on the floor.  "Wow.  So, he was possessed by what?"

"A hyena.  We're sure that part was cured so I'm not sure what that was from."  Tara stared at Angel.  "I don't know."  She got up and nudged Fred to help her, and she whistled, bringing Wesley.

"Let's get him back to bed.  He's worn out," Fred ordered.  They carried him up the stairs, putting him back into the bed.


Ares was pacing around his throne room, ignoring the disheartened Strife and his bitter sister.  "What is he hiding?"

"I don't know," Discord admitted.  "I can't read his memories.  Did anyone get anything other than surface thoughts?"

"I read Rosenburg," Strife admitted, giving a pitiful sigh.  "She wasn't that helpful.  That's why I went after his parents.  She couldn't be sure, it was only suppositions."  He leaned against his mother's side.  "We messed it all up."

"No, he'll come around," Ares announced.  "He needs us."

"No, Dawn needs us," Discord reminded him. "Xander will probably be on patrol tomorrow night.  He might even try to hurt Jett again."  She looked at where Jett was sitting against the wall, sulking as well.  "Snap out of it."

"Bite me," Jett said bitterly.  "I thought he liked me."

"He does," Strife told him.  "We all pissed him off.  Worse'n I do Hera."  He stood up.  "Fine, I'll go apologize, it'll only help.  Jett, you're doing a patrol tomorrow night, run into your brother and force him to deal with you.  If he struggles or tries to hurt you, get him back but be gentle."  He looked at his mother.  "I think we need more subtle means this time."  He looked at Ares.  "Big help, Unc."  He disappeared, landing beside his son's bed.

"Out, Lord Strife," Dawn ordered from the chair against the wall.  "He's not going to be happy when he wakes up.  He hates it when he does that."  He looked at her and she shrugged.  "I've only seen it once, I don't know the cause, and I'm the best chance you have of being talked to ever again.  Xander doesn't usually give second chances anymore.  He gives first ones, then walks away.  He said he's too tired to give more than that."  She leaned forward.  "There are things in everyone that they don't want others to know.  He will tell you, I'm sure of it.  He's told me some things to explain things to me."  Strife opened his mouth.  "Under strictest secrecy.  Things not even Willow knows."

Strife shut his mouth and walked over to stand in front of her.  "You're standing up for this action?"  She nodded.  "Why?  You like me!"

"I do, but I also like Xander and this is his life.  He has the right to privacy."  She saw the god slump and stood up, giving him a hug.  "Be patient.  You pushed way ahead.  This isn't a first date sort of conversation. This is for something like what Jett and Sarah would share in the middle of the night when they have nightmares.  I don't know what it is that he doesn't want you know, but it's that bad to him."  She let him go.  "Be patient.  He'll tell you some day.  He has nightmares about a few things.  Remember, not even you can fully know someone else because you weren't living in their skin at the time."

Strife nodded.  "That's wise."  He gave her a crushing hug.  "Look out for my boy.  I'll be back when he calls."  He disappeared, heading back to the temple to watch.  He nudged Jett on his way past.  "Dawn's a bright little girl."

"She is," Jett agreed, half into the conversation but still sulking.  "What did she say?"

"That you can't know anybody unless you were living in their skin," Strife told him.  Jett's head snapped up.  "I've got a job for Joxie."

"Why him?"

"Because he's most like Joxer," Strife reminded him.  "There'll be times for you.  Don't worry."  He headed to get dispensation for this brash act, needing to know.  This was his son, surely Hera would understand and support him.


Xander woke up and felt that something was different.  "What's wrong?" he called out weakly.

"Nothing," Dawn said from beside him.  She came over and climbed in next to him, giving him a cuddle.  "How do you feel?  You went kinda primal on Jett and stomped around a lot."

"I'm fine," he admitted.  He looked at her and grinned.  "I feel great actually."

"Good."  She pinched his nose.  "We're driving back in the morning so we can do a patrol tomorrow night."

"What we?"

"Okay, you're sitting in the back seat with me while Tara and Willow drive so you can do a patrol tomorrow night.  How about that?" she asked with a grin.

"I like that idea," he admitted.  His smile fell away when he noticed no one was around.   "I messed up, huh?"

"A bit.  I warned them not to push you.  You do have a right to privacy," Dawn assured him.  "They'll be back later I'm sure.  Strife said you only had to call on him."

"I'm sorry," he called out.

Strife appeared and gave him a hug.  "Families fight," he said with a light smile.  Now that he knew, he was much more calm around his son.  "Feelin' like some dinner?"

"I'm not really hungry," Xander admitted, sitting up.  He heard Dawn squeak and looked where she had been, then at his father.  "I'm not going to hurt her."

"Ares wanted to see her," he said with a flick of his wrist.  "I'm sorry about earlier."

Xander shrugged.  "I can accept that.  You wanted to know everything and I'm fiercely private about my life anymore.  It's one of those cautions we learned early on."  Strife nodded, sitting next to him.  "What's wrong?  You're not wiggling."

"Hmm? I'm not?"  He grinned and kissed his son on the forehead, making him realize something.  "You're not possessed anymore."

"I needed that."

"No, you've got better now," he assured him.  "Training will give you back all those reflexes."  Xander opened his mouth so Strife held up a finger. "I mean it.  It's dangerous. We talked to Hades about it and he said it was dangerous.  That it had to come out.  Otherwise you'd end up doing penance for that thing too."  Xander shut his mouth and nodded even though he knew better.  "So now it's gone.  How did you get that thing in there?"

Xander shrugged.  "I'm guessing it came somehow with the First Slayer."  He snuggled down again.  "Is Jett mad at me?"

"He's a little bit pouty because you tried to hurt him, nothing else.  He understands.  He's done things that he'll never tell me about either, though I was watching and already know.  That's what I should have had with you."  He brushed some of the dark hair around, then curled up next to him to hold him.  "Relax.  We'll nap some more."

"I think I'm all napped out."

"You sure?"  Xander nodded.  "Then we'll talk.  You can tell me whatever you want and I'll believe it until you say otherwise."

"I don't want to lie to you," Xander sighed.  "Dad, what did you do?"

"I sent Joxer to watch you in the past."

"The guy in the back of the crowd trying to burn the witches?"

"Was him," Strife admitted.  "He didn't tell me much either, only what you'd done around town.  He had more of an eye toward combat than personal stuff."  He patted his son's stomach.  "Seriously, he didn't share too much personal stuff at all.  He did mention that you and Willow messed up things badly."

"We're over that."

"I can see that," Strife sighed.  He sat up. "Xander, you've got to trust me sometime, okay?  I'm trying.  Please? I'll even go more than halfway if you'll tell me something."  He touched his son's forehead.  "You've got such strong shields that I can't get through them if I need to.  I can't find you automatically like I can the others.  It's almost like you're some orphan I took in."

Xander slumped.  "I don't mean to be that way."

"Then relax your shields and let me see," he pleaded.  "Please?  Or even Jett.  He'd be nicer about things."

Xander went limp, giving him a pitiful look.  "There's still stuff in there I don't want you to know about."

"And I accept that," Strife said quickly.  "I have stuff like that too.   I'd share it with you if it helped any.  I have a feeling some of it's the same."  Xander gave him a look.  "Please?  Just lower them a little so I can mark you as one of mine?"

Xander nodded and relaxed his mind.  He consciously lowered the shields he had put around his mind over the years, relaxing so his father could get in there.  He could feel Jett's mind as well and swatted at him.  "Not you."

"Shh.  He's marking you so he can find you on patrol," Strife told him, laying next to him again.  He cuddled his son close, linking into his mind with Jett behind him so he could see what was going on in there.  Joxer hadn't been able to find much out when he had possessed Xander in his earlier years.  That shield kept most everything from him.  He delved into the open mind, noticing he was getting some subtle help from Hera and Hestia.  He still couldn't get too far in but it was more than he had known.  He'd have to thank them later for keeping Xander unaware of it all.  He downloaded the mind's content so he could look at it later.  Then he pulled back, leaving a visible mark for him and Jett in there.  "There," he soothed, stroking his baby's stomach to keep him calm.  "All done."

Xander let everything snap back into place, shielding himself again.  He looked at his father.  "Anything you found out, I don't want to be treated weird."

"Deal," Strife agreed, grinning at him.  "Now, what can I do for you?  And before you complain, a dad's supposed ta spoil his sick son."

"I'm fine, dad, really," Xander told him.

Jett appeared.  "Let him do it or he'll fuss over us more."  He didn't move to sit beside Xander, standing instead.

"Sorry, Jett."

Jett grimaced.  "We're going to work on your form.  It sucked."

"Sit?" Xander suggested.  Jett sat carefully.  "This is why I didn't want you to know.  You used to treat me like a normal person.  I don't need careful handling."

Jett pushed him back down and leaned over him. "I'm still pissed at you.  That is all this is.  I'd never be careful of you after you got out of nearly dying and went to save a journal."  His eyes stared down into Xander's, making him swallow.  "Take better care of yourself or else.  I'm not going to stay in Sunnydale forever, Xander.  Once it's handled again, I'm going to go back to my own life.  You're more than welcome to come visit real life if you want."

"Humor is not your forte," Xander said dryly.  Jett smiled at him.  "You mean you won't stay with us forever and ever?"

"No!"  Jett pulled back.  "Not a chance.   I want my kids to grow up normal."

"I guess that's reasonable," Xander agreed.  "How long were you supposed to be in for?"

"Until things were settled," Strife told him.  "Or until Ares and I say so," he added with a smirk for his other son.

"We figured on about five years. That's why we bought the house.  That and because housing costs are so low.  I could nearly buy half the town for what our other house is worth."

"You've got another house?" Xander asked.  Jett nodded.  "Far away?"

"Far enough," he admitted.  "I'm closer to the North East."  He grinned. "I'll show you some time if you quit being a prick."

"Gee, thanks," Xander said dryly.  He looked at his father.  "I really have to train?"

"Yup, sure do," Strife agreed.  "And you'll be doin' it with me and Jett anyway.  We'll bond," he said, giving him a squeeze.

"Okay."  He sat up again.  "Anything else you guys want to feel odd about?"

"Only if we can't stake Angel."

"No, he's different now."

"Not that much," Jett argued.


"Fine," he sighed.  "Can I hurt that one guy?"  Xander gave him a look.  "Joxer said that one guy used to pick on you.  That's my job."

Xander gave him a hug.  "He died during graduation and he was decent after he came out of the closet."  He let him go.  "Really.  Larry was."

"If you say so," Jett grumped.

"Why did you want to hurt Angel?"

"Because he stalked you, dimwit," Jett told him.  Xander glared at him.  "Sorry, no personal attacks, I know."  He gave him a pitiful look and for the first time Xander saw why his was so powerful.  "Don't be upset?"

"I won't be."  He hugged him again.  "Anything else we need to go over?"

"Nah, let me move everyone back to Sunnydale," Strife offered.  "Anyone know where Rosenburg went tonight?"

"The demon convention.  She and Angel went to lurk."  Jett stood up.  "I'll take broody here with me.  And Dawn if she's not got anything to gather."

"Dawnie?" Strife called.  She came bouncing in the door and grinned at him.  "You all set to go back?"

"Sure am."  She ran out to get her bag and Tara, then came back with the bag.  "Tara said she'd rather drive up in the morning.  She wants to look at some of the magic stuff with Fred."  She took Xander's hand, sitting beside him.  "This okay?"

"Sure," Strife agreed, taking them all back to Xander's room in the Summer's home.  "Here we are.  That concludes our flight."  He gave her a gentle hug.  "You behave."

"I'm always good," she protested.  She looked at Xander and grinned. "Did you know that people think I'd fall for Ares?"

Xander giggled and hugged her.  "I know he's big and studly but I don't see it."

"We do," Jett and Strife said in unison, grimacing at Dawn.

"Be nice to him, okay?" Jett suggested.  "I'm going to go back home."  Xander pouted at him.  "What?  You suddenly want to talk?"

"I figured maybe you wanted to know something," Xander admitted, plucking at his bedspread.

"Well, yeah, but I figured we'd do it on patrol, kid."  Xander grinned at him.  "Good.  Then you behave and we'll see you tomorrow night."  He winked and left, going home to beat up on his heavy bag.  He congratulated himself on not hitting anyone else or dropping his act.  His wife strolled in and knocked him onto his rear, then grinned down at him.  "What's that for?"

"Because you're thinking too hard.  Xander obviously has it well-in-hand in his own mind.  You can leave it there.  Really."  She strolled back out. "I'm going to take a bubble bath.  Join me whenever you're ready."

"Okay," he called after her, getting up to work on his acting skills.  He couldn't tell this to Jace, he would fly into one of his infrequent and deadly rages.  Half the town would be destroyed.  Jace loved LA too much to destroy it.


Xander met up with Jett in a cemetery, hopping off the gravestone to give him a hug.  "Morning."

"Not really," Jett told him, looking serious.  "You can't joke, not on patrol."

"I can so, it's a wonderful Sunnydale tradition started by Buffy herself.  We snark at the vampires before we stake them.  It makes them get really mad."

"Yes, it probably would," Jett agreed, mentally sighing.  Now he saw the relation to Joxer.   "Have you done any yet?"  Xander nodded.  "Get anything?"

"Sixteen partying vampires at the Bronze.  But they're being nice and rented out the place.  I only freed their captives since they've got a demonic DJ as well."  He shrugged and led the way.

"I was heading for Shady Rest," Jett told him.

"You changed the route?"

"That way I end up back by the house instead of across town," Jett told him, leading the way.  "It makes it easier on me."

"I guess that's fine," Xander admitted.  "We used to drive the car to the far end and work back, then work back to the car the next night."  He followed his brother, his stake in his hand.  "So, what did you see?"

"Don't ask.  You don't want to try and kick my ass again."

Xander caught the back of Jett's shirt and forced his big brother to look at him.  "What did you see?" he asked patiently.  "And more importantly, how long was Joxer inside me?"  Jett looked stunned.  "I've been possessed a few times, Jett.  I know what it feels like all the way through my body.  I wasn't going to mention it in front of the family, but I want to know."

"We know a few things, Xander.  Joxer was only in there for a few years.  He really couldn't get that much because of your mental shields.  In the future, just tell me you've been picked on forever, okay?"

Xander shrugged.  "It hasn't stopped, but I wasn't worried about that."  He stared to walk again, taking the new path to Shady Rest.  They had made one but it wasn't that worn down yet.

"I usually cut down the hill to go through that really old one," Jett said behind him.  "That way I can check for new occupants in the crypts."

"Okay."  Xander followed him.  "Are you still doing out by the college?"

"I am," Jett agreed, giving him a grin.  "What was that about Larry?  He came out and suggested you were?"

"Yeah, apparently a lot of people think I'm in the closet, including dad and Hades."  He rolled his eyes.  "I never thought about guys, really I haven't.  I like soft and squirmy things.  They make me happy."

"What if the Fates set you up with a guy?"

"Then he'd better have an alternate opening," Xander quipped.  "I'm not touching him any other way."  He stopped and looked at his brother.  "They did what?"

Jett snickered, nodding.  "They did," he admitted.  "A nice, geekly little guy of you own.  Sort of like your very own personal Fred."

Xander shuddered.  "I could never date a genius."  He shook his head.  "No thanks, I think I'll pass.  I'd rather be celibate.  I don't like guys."  He continued on.

Jett looked behind him, finding Cupid frowning at his baby brother.  "Stow it," he ordered before moving on.

Xander heard and turned around, giving him a look.  "You look familiar."

"That's Cupid."

"Oh.  Hey."  He walked back and shook his hand. "Xander Harris.  Strife's youngest."  Cupid gave him a confused look.  "Would you please point out to whomever that I don't like guys?  I've never liked guys.  I probably never will like guys.  I like the way women taste and smell too much to ever go for something more salty and firm."

Cupid grinned.  "Are you sure?"

"I've never been more sure," Xander told him.   "I don't like guys.  I've never even had a dirty thought about guys outside of locker room envy."

Cupid giggled, giving him a hug.  "Welcome to the family.  I'll see what I can pull out for you.  'Kay?"  Xander grinned, giving him a happy smile.  "Anything you *do* like?"

"I like brunettes.  I'd like what Sarah and Jett have someday, someone who understands me and wants to mildly grope me in public, but not have sex in public.  I had that with Anya and she scared me sometimes," he said seriously.  "I like breasts, but I'm not really particular about them.  I like smaller sets if it matters."

"So, you like Fred?" Jett teased.

Xander frowned at him.  "I like Fred as a friend.  She is *way* too smart for me, dude.  Think about it.  My geeky ass and the super-brain-goddess?"  Jett shook his head and walked off.  "But like Fred only my intelligence level would be nice," he whispered to Cupid.  "Anything you can do would be great.  Thanks."  He hurried off.  "He was pretty nice."

"He was," Jett agreed.  "He's the one who pointed Sarah out to me.  He told me all about her and made me want to kidnap her."

"Wow.  See, that's what I want.  I want someone who likes me.  Not necessarily the kidnaping part, but the liking me part.  Someone who won't try to get rid of all my memorabilia.  Someone who won't try to remake me.  Someone who had tact and wasn't demonic would be *really* nice too," he added for good measure.

"You date strange women."

"Did you see Ampata?"

"Yeah, some of it.  I stopped about then.  I couldn't keep going."

"Yeah, she was really nice, but being a life-sucking mummy really wasn't for me."  Jett groaned and shook his head.  "Sorry."

Jett reached over and patted his brother on the back.  "If we hadn't been cursed, you would be normal," he promised.  "You could have had the pick of women to court you.  I'll ask Dad if any of the groupies are still around."

"I'd rather have more than just sex, Jett.  I like to be in a relationship.  I like spoiling others with little things."  He gave him a cross between a pitiful look and a small smirk.  "Anya did teach me that much.  I should use it."

Jett sent up a silent prayer to Cupid for his future headache finding Xander someone.  The boy was a mess.  He had viewed the Anya parts, he wasn't sure he wouldn't have killed her after she blabbed about what they did in the bedroom.  At least Sarah never gossiped when she called her friends.  Not after that time he had taken her so hard she couldn't sit for a week in retaliation.  He got a goofy grin on his face.  Xander sighed so he wiped it off and looked at him.  "What?"

"I want someone who makes me look like that."

"You'll find someone.  Cupid's really good at finding people," he promised.  He gave him a one-armed squeeze then let him go.  There were vampires moving around farther up the path.  "Come on, we've got targets."

"Ooh, playtime," Xander said happily, rushing ahead to go play with the nasty vampires.

Jett groaned and jogged to catch up.  For a sick person, Xander was certainly lively.  Maybe he wasn't unpossessed after all?


Cupid flopped down next to his mom.  "What female do we know who has dark hair, geeky, has a sense of humor, and might like Xander?"

"He's set up with someone, sweetie," she reminded him.

"He's not gay.  He's *never* thought of a guy in his life."  Aphrodite dropped her magazine.  "Really. I checked his loveline.  There has never been even a slight interest in him for guys.  Now, if we could find someone like that Fred girl, only a little less smart because he said he could never date a genius, then he'd be really happy and leave us alone forever more.  All he wants is to have what Jett and Sarah have together."

"Which is really sweet, but what are we going to do about that guy?"

"Give him to Joxer?"

"That's a really good idea," she agreed, giving him a blinding smile as the light flashed off her teeth.  She had been in the tooth whitener again apparently.  "Now, what about that poor boy? I don't know any girls like that.  I don't tend to pay attention to them."

"I don't think he'd care if she was a bit shy, as long as he could draw her out eventually.  Anya liked to chat about their sex life with everybody.  She also apparently freaked him in public a few times."  Aphrodite shuddered.  "Yeah.  So all he wants is a nice, geeky female, preferably brunette with a modest chest, who likes what he likes.  That's all."

She laughed.  "I'm sure there's at least one somewhere," she told him.  "There are always plenty of geeky girls and he is cute.  How is he on the causal sex?  Would he take a groupie?"

"He said he didn't want meaningless sex, he wanted to be in a relationship.  He also said he'd rather be celibate than with a guy.  He seriously doesn't understand why a man might be fun to play with.  He has no clue in that direction."

"Well, shit!"  She stood up.  "Come on, we'll go look at the list of fated lovers.  Maybe it has something on there."  She led the way to her office and the long scroll, looking up the current time frame so they could stare at the names.


Xander wobbled back into the house.  "I'm home," he called.  "I brought chicken."  Dawn rushed out and grabbed it from his hand then up the stairs so she could have it all to herself.  "Share, wench," he called after her.  She giggled.  "Thanks for that.  Tara, I brought you a special sandwich," he offered.  She looked out of the dining room and grinned at him so he went that way, handing over her sandwich.  "Still no Willow?"

"She's staying with Angel for now," she admitted.  "She said he needed a witch and she'd be home soon."  She unwrapped her chicken sandwich and looked it over.  "No mayo, thank you."

"You're welcome, my favoritist witch in the whole wide world."  He grinned at her.  "I met Cupid tonight.  He said he might find me someone if I'm totally incompetent to deal with that issue.  As I have proven many times."  The door slammed.  "Dining room."

Joxer came back to join them, handing Xander a handgun.  "Jett said you left it."  He gave Tara a hug.  "I think you're pretty neat."  He looked at his baby brother.  "What happened to you this time?"

"I stumbled and fell over a tombstone," he said with a negligent shrug.  "I've got a few scrapes and a twisted ankle."

"It happens," Tara agreed. "I've done the same thing."

"At least I didn't fall into a grave this time," Xander said with a goofy grin aimed toward his brother.

"At least I'm no longer the strange one," he said, giving Xander a crushing hug.  "Now, how do you really feel?"

"I feel fine.  All my injuries were healed somehow and I'm pretty good.  I'm still craving steak but I guess that's normal," he admitted.  "Oooh!  I met Cupid tonight.  He seemed really nice.  He knew just what I needed."

"Yeah, he is a nice cousin," Joxer agreed, sitting next to him.  "I'm kinda bored, can I help?  Anything at all?"

"We're collating a book for Jett," Tara offered.  "Printing off the usual suspects from online.  You can help with that."

He grinned and took control of the hole puncher while she downloaded the pages and Xander collected and collated.  At the end of the line, they were put into a book with a touch of Tara's magic.  It would make a nice housewarming present for the family.


Cupid looked up and stared at his mother. "How did this happen?"

"I don't know," she admitted.  "There are no geeky females at all due to come open anytime in the next ten years."  She put down the list and stretched up to ease the ache in her shoulders.  "I don't know what to do."

"Neither do I," Cupid admitted.  "I mean, everyone's taken.  He's not that picky but even most of the ones who don't fit his likes at all are taken."  He folded over and stretched from the waist down.  "What are we going to do?"

"There is one list," Aphrodite admitted, opening a drawer and pulling the other list out.  She opened it and sighed.  "I can see one, it's his sister though."  She handed it over.

Cupid groaned and shook his head.  "Not a chance.  Even though he doesn't know her."  He stood up and stomped out, going to talk to the Fates.  Their list needed updated anyway.  Besides, he still needed to set that one onto Joxer's line instead of Xander's.


Jett looked up as Cupid appeared in his room, giving him a shrug.  "No chance?"

"Not a one," Cupid agreed, sliding in beside him.  "No Sarah?"

"She's asleep on the bathtub and I didn't want to disturb her," he admitted with that same goofy grin. "There's no one?"

"Nah, not at all," Cupid assured him.  "I even went and bugged the Fates.  It turns out Xander and Joxer's lines are so close that one was meant for Joxer anyway."  Jett groaned and put a pillow over his head.  Cupid stole it to hold, curling around it.  "I don't know what to do about this, Jett.  He'll be miserable without someone.  I don't want to see anyone that miserable.  The demon ho would have been better."

"Where is she right now?"

"Slutting for Bacchus as his personal assistant."

"Eww."  He looked toward the bathroom.  "Did you think about checking people not in the Fates' directory?  Sarah wasn't in there."

"Hmm."  Xander would like that.  Sarah had been a once-in-a-lifetime special find.  "I'll look.  Maybe someone Norse or Hindu."  He curled up next to his buddy.  "How is your dad doing?"

"Good.  I think he's got a bit of a crush on Fred."

"I thought it was on Tara."

"It might be."  Jett shrugged, knocking him free.  "If my wife comes out and finds me cuddling with you, we're both dead.  She did say she'd never share me again."

"Yeah, I know.  I also know that she knows I don't have designs on your pretty-boy ass.  Now, Jacie...."  He grinned lecherously as Sarah came out of the bathroom.  "We're discussing who to set your brother-in-law up with."

"Which one?  Jace is still pretty indiscriminate as long as they're pretty, male, and young.  Joxer's needs someone more like Xander.  Xander needs someone like MJ."  Jett shook his head.  "No?  You don't think so?"

"No, he needs someone who understands him and his geekier side," Jett told her.  "Someone who can balance him the way you do me."  He held up an arm and she crawled in beside him, snuggling up to his side.  "We can't find one single geeky girl who might like him."

"What is his thing against guys?"

"He's never even *considered* it," Cupid told her.  "It's never crossed his mind to even *wonder*."  She groaned.  "So unless we can find someone really special who is nearly exactly like him, he's so very fucked.  We looked for decades."

She sighed, stroking her husband's chest.  "I'm sure you'll find someone, Lord Cupid.  I know none of my girlfriends would like him.  Some of them are geeks, but they're techno geeks, not fandom geeks."  She gave him a look.  "What does he like to do outside of work, watching tv, and hunting?"

"That's it as far as I could tell," Jett admitted.  "He's a nice guy and it'd be so easy to hurt him."

"Yeah, and his ex is now in with Bacchus so that's even out as an option."  He sat up.  "Do you think he could do someone more dominant?"

"Xander's got a dominant streak in him," Sarah warned.  "It'd be a heavy clash and he might lose himself."

Cupid slumped.  "Yet he's not dom enough to want a sub.  It sucks royally.  Xander's a nice guy who I can't find a single person for."  He pouted.  "I think I'm gonna hit up Bliss to get shot.  Thanks, guys."  He left.

Jett stripped himself with his abilities, then rolled against his wife's side, kissing her hard.  "Finally," he groaned.

"Daddy!" Scott yelled.

"Unless it's an invasion, go back to bed!" he shouted.  Scott left them alone, heading back to his room.

"Dear, he's four.  He doesn't understand.  Remember, your daughter did the same thing at that age."

"I'll talk with him tomorrow," he offered, moving down to play with her neck and shoulders.

"Good.  You do that."  She smiled and arched up into his mouth.  He knew her so well.


Xander looked up and grinned, then went back to playing poker with Joxer and Tara.  They were winning but he didn't care.  It was all good to him.  A pink shower of sparks behind him made him glance back.  "Hi."  He played his cards then laid them down and nodded for Tara to play the rest of this hand for him.  Then he turned around to look at the Goddess.  "Yes?"

"Sweetie," Aphrodite said patiently, "how did you feel Jett getting happies?"

Xander shrugged.  "I can sometimes.  It happens."  He grinned.  "I don't know.  It's not new though.  I could tell when Tara and Willow were too."  Tara blushed and hid behind her cards.

"Fascinating," Joxer put in.  "Hey, 'Dite, any luck on finding me someone?"

"Oh, yeah, we've found you one," she assured him.  "Nice sweetheart of a guy.  Your brother doesn't like men."

"Really?" Joxer asked, looking at him.  "That's abnormal in this family."

"Yeah, well, I've got to be abnormal, it's part of being a Xander," he said dryly, smirking at his big brother.  "Have fun.  I hear he's really nice.  I just never even thought about guys."  He looked at the love goddess again.  "I figure mine's going to take a long time so don't worry about it."

She leaned down, capturing his chin.  "We've got to talk, young man," she said calmly.  "You're not supposed to be able to feel this stuff.  You're locked out from me directly helping you so only Cupid can touch your soul.  How are you able to feel people having sex?"

He shrugged.  "I don't know.  I've never known.  It just happens sometimes.  And then I get bored and it goes away again.  Mental porn is great, but I'm much more of a visual person."

"Um, we might want to warn Jace," Joxer said, subtly escaping to do that.

Jace appeared.  "What now?" he asked, looking at Xander.  "I was about to have a nice aged, twenty-two year old toy."

Joxer looked at him.  "Xander can apparently feel when people close to him are having sex sometimes."

"So?"  Jace shrugged.  "I hope it makes him feel as good as it will me.  Don't worry, dear, if this distresses you, we'll fix it," he promised, then he disappeared.

"It's going to take a while for all of us to get used to having you around," Joxer admitted with a slight grin for the Love Goddess as soon as he got back.  "Should we leave?"

"No, sit, Joxie."  She pulled Xander to her then down to Hades' realm.  He had the most finesse of any male God.  "Hey," she said, leading Xander into the throne room.  "Hey, 'Sephie.  Got a question for you, big guy.  Xander here can feel sex.  He's still possessed.  Demons are attracted to him.  Was his mother one of Bacchus'?"

Hades looked startled.  "I have no idea," he admitted.  He called up the soul's image to look at the lineage.  "Damn, you're right," he admitted.  "He's a demi on both sides."  He looked at Xander again.  "Anything else you can do?"

"Um, sometimes I can feel some of the higher demons or some of the sexual ones.  I kept a succubus from going after Willow last year."  He looked really clueless.  "I don't have any idea, Hades, really."

Hades smiled.  "Neither do we.  Don't worry so much about it.  Hera?"  Hera appeared, looking very impatient.  "Did you know that the mother who bore Xander was one of Bacchus' offspring?"

She raised an eyebrow and looked at Xander.  "Well," she said finally.  "It shows.  That would be odd.  I can block off that, or Cupid might be able to I suppose."

"We should get him here," Persephone told her husband, putting a hand on his.  "Bacchus always wants to see his kin."

"Yes he does," he agreed, giving his wife a tolerant smile.  She had some very good ideas.  "Bacchus, can we see just you here please?" he called out.  Bacchus appeared and Hades quickly sent away his courtiers.  "I don't think we need to see them as well," he said, looking at Xander.

Bacchus looked at the boy, staring down at him.  "Huh.  Welcome to the family.  Anya is doing very well in her position as my *personal* assistant."

Xander chuckled and shook his hand.  "I'm not surprised.  The only things she wanted out of life were sex and money.  As long as she wants it, who am I to complain?"  Bacchus tipped his head back and let out a long, inelegant roar of laughter.  "Gee, not trying to get that sort of reaction, but if she agreed then I can't complain.  I couldn't keep up with her sometimes."

Bacchus slapped him on the back.  "I like you, little man.  You are a fine addition to my family."

"And he's Strife's son," Aphrodite told him.

Bacchus looked at the Goddess, then at Xander.  "So he is.  Is that the one the triplets...."  He glanced at Hera and she nodded.  "Well.  Indeed.  Strife!"  Strife appeared, looking faintly quizzical and queasy.  "Did you know his mother was one of my line?"

"No, but it sure as hell explains him," Strife said, frowning at his baby boy.  "You can feel sex too?"

"Only sometimes.  Usually I figured there was some sort of succubus or incubus around that I'm getting the radiation off."  He grinned.  "After a while it trails off."

Jett appeared.  "Am I needed?"

"Nah," Xander said, shaking his head.  "We just figured out another piece of what makes me tick.  Apparently my mom was part of Bacchus' tribe."

"Wow.  Oh, no," he said, realizing what that meant.  "That's why vampires either love you or hate you and why you attract succubus like a magnet."  Xander nodded.

"Apparently," Bacchus agreed dryly.  "Weren't you in the middle of something?"

"Yeah, and then I got Joxer's warning."

"Go shag your wife, Jett.  Damn, you never get a break," Xander told him.  "Please, have my room if you need it.  I don't want you to get hurt on patrol."

Jett shook his head and disappeared after bowing gently at the crowd of Gods.  He crawled in with his sleeping wife and buried his head between her thighs to take his mind off that situation.  She swatted at him but didn't tell him to stop.  She understood, this was how he thought when he didn't have a gun in his hand.  It was nearly as good as target practice for him.


Strife and Bacchus came back from discussing the situation, looking at the napping Xander.  They both smiled and went 'awww'.

"He is definitely your son," Bacchus told him.  "He sleeps the same way you do.  All curled up and protecting himself.  I'll try to exert myself to make him calm down some more."  He clapped Strife on the back.  "You can tell him or not about my favorite servicer being happy for him."  He looked at Hades.  "I'll do my best to help the boy."

"You should be brought back too," Strife said, making Hera look at him.  "Who else could control Sunnydale with Ares?  Or do you want him and Ma to rule it?"

"That is a good idea," Hades agreed, looking at his sister.

Hera nodded.  "It might be.  I'll ask Zeus."  She looked up and Zeus appeared beside her a minute later. "Did you know that Xander's other side is Bacchus?"

"And a touch of Cupid's, Hephie's, and Hermes," Strife put in.  "Way back in the line though.  Bacchus tainted the line only three generations before Xan's ma."

Zeus looked at him.  "How do you do this to us?"

"Shut up," Hera said, nudging him. "Answer the question."

"I had no idea.  All I know is that the Fates said the boy would be extraordinary and dangerous."

"Yeah, to those you point him at," Bacchus pointed out.  "Look at his history.  Ares?"  Ares appeared.  "Since this involves you and your house, you should be here as well."

"Did Dad finally die?" Ares asked Hades, ignoring his parents.

"No, Ares," Hades said patiently.  "We've recently found out that the other side of Xander's line is Bacchus'."   Ares mouth fell open.  "Yes, so there is a question about what to do at the moment."

Ares looked at Strife.  "How?"

"I don't know," Strife said with a shrug.  "I just liked her."

"Carnal lust, demonic ruling, and mischief.  That's a recipe for bad things to happen," Ares pointed out.  "Next time, check!"  He swatted at Strife, but his nephew ducked.  "It's bad enough Hera's line is in the triplets and Poseidon's in with your daughter."

Strife gave him a sheepish look.  "All I know is who I'm attracted to.  Like I am Tara."

"No," Ares told him.  "Not until Dawn is able to take care of herself and is safely out of harm's way."  Strife nodded quickly to show that he would obey that.  "Good.  Now what?"

"It was thought that Bacchus exerting some influence in town would help you a touch," Persephone said, giving him an earnest look.  "It might control the remaining vampires at the very least."

"It could also draw more to the town, making Xander more of a target," Ares pointed out.

"True," Hera agreed, looking at Zeus.  "We've got to do something. He's still fighting, he crafts as a part of his job, and Strife is all too-well represented up there."

"It's been too long to bring Bacchus back as a corporeal being," Zeus decided.  "His body is unretrievable.   Would you consent to being allowed to visit to help control matters?" he asked the dead god.  The dead god nodded.  "Good.  Do that.  I believe we're having some sort of demonic convergence near there this week anyway."

"There's a convention in LA," Strife told Bacchus.  "You'd like that.  It's really neat.  I've never seen zombies limbo."  He took Bacchus with him to show him the new rules of the world.  Hades would protect his son.

Hades looked at Aphrodite.  "Get him back to his body before he wakes," he instructed.

"He's here in the flesh," she told him, taking Xander back home so she could tuck him into bed, like she had her son.  "You sleep, babe," she whispered.  "We'll work everything out tomorrow."  She went to check on Dawn, finding the girl writing in her diary.  "Hey.  I thought I'd check on you.  How's the love gig treating you?"

Dawn looked over her shoulder from her sprawl across her bed, grinning at her. "I've got a major crush.  Some people pointed out that I should have one and I started to dream about it."

Aphrodite patted her on the leg.  "That's my girl.  You behave and pray to me if you need any guidance.  Got it?"  Dawn nodded so Aphrodite left, going back to finding a spouse for Xander.  He'd need someone more special than Sarah.

Down in the underworld, Zeus looked at his wife.  "How did the triplets get some of you in their line?"

"I bled onto one of their foremothers while I was delivering her," Hera informed him coldly.  "Since it was your precious daughter who cut me, I'm sure you know all about that."  She disappeared, locking herself in her temple.

Zeus looked at Hades.  "Which one?"


"Oh.  Her."  He nodded.  "I remember that.  I punished her for that.  What are you doing with the boy?"

"I've been a stand-in for a father for Strife since he was brought down to me," Hades pointed out.

"Wonderful.  It's probably what changed him so drastically."  He smiled and left.

Hades shook his head but his wife kissed him.  "He cannot see what is in front of him because he doesn't want to," she soothed.   "Someday he will look around and be very confused.  We can take pictures and show them to everyone."

Hades chuckled, giving her a hug.  The gloom in Tartarus lightened and the souls felt peace for a while.


Two days later, Ares growled from his throne as the incessant babbling continued.  "Stop that!" he roared.

Dawn looked up at him.  "Sure, deprive me of my new friends," she said bitterly.  She grinned at the girl.  "We'll meet tonight at the Bronze.  It'll be cool and I'll help you get his attention."  The other girl bowed to Ares and left, Dawn wandered off.

"You don't bow now?" he asked snidely.

She stopped walking and turned to look at him.  "With the way I fricked my back yesterday?  Do you really want to help me put it back into alignment?"  Ares shook his head, still silently glowering at her.  "So, until then, can I be excused from pretending to have manners?"

"Fine," he growled, waving a hand.  "Next time, bow."

"Each and every time we meet," she said, blowing a kiss at him.  She did have practice now and Jett would be upset with her if she was late again.

Ares stomped off, calling Xander the human way for now.  His great-nephew would get in trouble if he popped to the boy's site.  "Xander, did you not teach Dawn any manners?" he demanded.


Xander listened to the growling on the other end.  "Why are you telling me?  Talk to Dawn."  He listened to the rant about how he was falling down on the job as a stand-in parent.  "Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be guiding her, but bitching me out doesn't get her to stop it.  She probably did it to piss you off.  Talking to her about it is often easier.  Sure, I could tell her not to do it again, but it would have more impact if you did it, Oh Great Lord and Master.  Because she won't listen to me, she's a teenager."  Someone laughed and he looked over, finding the social worker standing there.  "Just a minute.  Dawn just blew a kiss at a crush," he explained.  "Someone's complaining about it."  He listened to the ranting on the other end.  "So?  Talk to the girl, she'll take it better and won't lose control."  He hung up and groaned.  "She got smart mouthed and blew him a kiss so he complained."  He nodded to his boss that he was taking her to the break area, getting a nod in return.  His boss knew who she was, she had interviewed him before.  "What can I do you for today?"

She sat down across from him.  "I came to do a standard evaluation.  How is she doing?"

"She's doing really well.  We had a bit of a problem on a recent trip to LA to visit some of our friends, mostly my problem.  It kept her out of school for a day but nothing major.  She's already made up the work.  We check her homework all the time."  The social worker pulled out a steno pad and made notes of what he was saying.  "Her self-defense training is going very well."

"You thought it necessary to put her into that?" the social worker asked.

Xander groaned and put his head down.  "Dawn's got the only bedroom with locks on the door.  Willow and I don't.  She hardly uses them."  The social worker gave him a patient look.  "I'd rather she be able to handle herself if some nasty brat of a boy tries to go farther than she wants.  She's sixteen.  She's running hot and wanting things that she only knows a little bit about.  I want her able to kick the guy if he pushes her or to come to the rescue of some other girl who might be in the same situation.  Besides, it gives her a good workout, keeping her in shape and toning her already impressive body.  That's why she came to me with the idea.  She knew my brother is very good at it and he's teaching her at the temple."

"I heard that from her," she admitted. "I talked to her today instead of her going to math."

"Not that class from now on," he instructed.  "That's her weakest.  Take her out of Chem, she hates that."

"I will from now on," she agreed.  It was a reasonable request and it did show that he was concerned about her education.  "That or PE."

Xander nodded, it seemed okay to him.  "Did you need to know anything in particular?  I'm putting in counters today."

"No, not really," she admitted.  "I wanted to check and make sure you were handling it all right."  She noticed the back of his hand had a bandage on it.  "What happened?"

He gave her a sheepish look.  "I was helping Dawn with her sword practice and caught the block wrong."  She frowned.  "It was a hobby of her sister's.  It makes her feel closer to Buffy to take up her hobby and to play with the small collection she inherited."

"It wasn't mentioned in the will."

"They're more a family heirloom," Xander admitted.  "Buffy was getting pretty good with them and Dawn's now taking them up.  She's also learning how to throw a knife.  That's the other part of the six-piece collection.  I collect them myself and I feel it makes her safer."

"All right, I can justify that.  She is sixteen and should be able to pick up hobbies.  At least it's keeping her out of trouble."

"It is," Xander agreed.  "Plus, she's been babysitting for my brother and she's been helping out around the temple now and then after her self-defense class."

"Are you joining the faith?"

"I was pledged at birth, but I was also taken from my parents by some people who weren't quite right in the head."  She made a distressed sound.  "They found me," he said with a happy grin.  "As for her joining the faith, that's up to her.  I know her crush works there.  He's a bit older but all her friends are.  She deals really well with older people and she's not exactly the normal sixteen-year-old girl."

"True, she is very mature and taking lessons with him would let her see what sort of boy this person is.  How much older?"

"He's about my age, but that's only six years.  I've told her she has to wait and he's waiting until she's a legal adult."  The social worker smiled at him.  "I've made sure he knows that he will wait that long or feel my wrath."

"Then I see no reason to prolong this visit, Mr. Harris.  You seem to have it well in hand. Where might Miss Rosenburg be?"

"Our friends in LA needed her help so she's been down there for a few extra weeks.  She'll be back soon.   Tara's been staying at the house again."

"Such a well-mannered role-model can only positively influence Dawn's behavior.  I did much the same thing when I was her age, all young women have a flair for the dramatic and nothing says that like a blown kiss and rampant notes."  She gathered up her things.  "You'll be seeing me in about another two months."  She shook his hand.  "Have fun with the counters."  She left.

Xander stared to stand up but he felt a hand on his shoulder.  "Yes, Ares?" he asked quietly, glancing around.

"I'll face your wrath?" he asked, sounding amused.

Xander stood up and glared at him.  "Yes, you will," he vowed.  "If you hurt Dawn, you will face anything and everything I can throw your way.  God or not, I am a sneaky bastard and I will protect Dawn."  He grinned suddenly.  "With that said, she won't be legal for another four months.  Have a nice day."  He trotted back to his spot working, getting back into the swing of things.

Ares stood there, looking stunned.  He went to talk to Aphrodite.  "What did you do to me this time?" he demanded, still looking very confused.

The Goddess of Love looked at him.  "What happened?  You look like you just ran into Iolaus naked and stiff again."

Ares shut his mouth and glared at her.  "Nothing that drastic.  Xander just threatened me if I didn't treat Dawn right."

She nodded.  "He would.  He's a big brother, Ares.  He's a stand-in father.  Think about what you would have growled at Harmonia's boyfriend and what you did growl at Hephie."  She went back to making notes.  "What did he threaten?"

"That he was sneaky and I would face anything he could throw my way."

She laughed.  "I'm sure it'll be as bad as Strife can do," she promised.  "Treat the girl right."

His mouth fell open. "You too?  Can't anyone imagine I'd like a woman my own age?"

"They'd be mummies," Aphrodite reminded him gently.  She stood up and gave him a hug.  "We like you and Dawn.  She makes you growl in a happier way.  Treat her well once she's legal, Ares.  Otherwise she'll try to kick your ass too.  Or she'll go cry on Jett about you and Joxer might step in."  Ares shuddered and left, going to rag on Strife about his son.  Aphrodite smiled and shook her head, laughing lightly.  "The poor man, he doesn't realize it's a done deal but he will."


Xander looked up as someone joined him in the living room, moving his feet in the dark.  "Hey," he said quietly, stroking through Dawn's hair.

"Hey," Jett agreed.  "She okay?"

"She's fine.  Ares let her beat his ass this time."  They shared a grin.  "Is it a done deal?"  Jett laughed and patted his leg.  "Good.  I like that idea.  He'll protect her if I can't."  He let Dawn's head go, watching as she curled up on the floor.  "Can you set the alarm for five?"

"Sure," Jett said, bending slightly to do that.  "Where's Tara?"

"Sleeping.  She didn't want to stay up and watch movies with me."  He shifted, scrunching up a bit.  "You can watch movies if you want."

"I came to check to make sure you were still living.  I haven't had anyone interrupting my sex life in a few days."

Xander snorted.  "I'm trying really hard, Jett.  I promise I am.  It was all accidental."

"I know, Xander.  I accept that from you.  You're new to all this and you won't take my centuries of experience in the matter.  Of course things are going to happen."  He stroked the slightly swollen ankle. "What happened this time?"

"Lack of water for the last few hours of work," Xander told him.  "It was hot and nasty outside."

"Ah."  He patted it gently then put it back into his lap.  "Sarah's having one of those girl days so I'm hiding."

"I find walking in the door with chocolate ice cream or a few candy bars saves my sanity until I can disappear."

Jett snickered.  "Won't work with Sarah.  She's much too mean for chocolate.  Unless you can find white chocolate fudge?"

"There's a nice coffeehouse in town.  They make fudge.  You can special order it from them."

"Thank you. You've saved my sanity this month."  He gave him another pat.  "Still no girlfriend?"

"Still no girlfriend, but I know I'm a hard case.  Just putting up with my patrol schedule and work schedule will drive any girlfriend nuts.  It did Anya."

"I'm sure you'll find someone," he encouraged.  He sent another silent prayer to Cupid to juice him up a bit.  He probably needed it with the headache his baby brother was causing the Love Gods.  "Maybe she'll be in construction?"

"I wouldn't care.  I wouldn't even mind supporting the right woman."

"Hmm.  Good."  He slumped down a bit, watching the horror movie.  It was cheesy and campy, and not at all like the real thing.  Which made it funny.  "What's the name of this one?"

"It's one of the Frankenstein ones," Xander said with a light shrug.  "I think he meets the wolfman but I'm not sure."

"Cool."  He leaned closer to his brother.  "Do you know if they're real?"

"Remind me to tell you about Oz tomorrow night," Xander told him.  "And Veruca."

"Oh. Shit.  Sarah will not be pleased if I start to turn hairy every month."

Xander nudged him.  "Imagine Jace doing it?"  Jett snickered, shaking his head.  "We'd have a were-bitch that had a poodle cut.  They're about three-quarters of a normal human size, can run on all fours, but they don't really turn fully wolf."

"Wonderful.  Point out what I can do to avoid that please.  Sarah would kill me."

"Sure.  I don't want to upset your wife, she's scary."

Jett burst out in giggles.  A very unusual sight.  "I'll tell her you said that.  Expect a hug."  He hit his brother on the arm, then went back to watching the movie.

Xander created some cheese popcorn and handed the bowl over.  "Here, nibble with me."  They put it on the cushion between them and shared it.


Aphrodite answered the summons from the Council of Twelve with a sigh of regret.  She had been watching one of her favorite local couples get it on, it always put her in a good mood.  She appeared, smoothing down her skirt before sitting.  "What?"

"What is Strife doing now?" Zeus demanded.

She shrugged.  "I don't know, why are you asking me?  Ask Discord or Ares.  They're over him you know."

Hera grimaced.  "We know, we cannot reach the town at this moment."

"Really?" she asked, looking highly interested now.  She felt around for Dawn's life and found it, then shrugged again.  "I can touch Dawn.  Her rampant crush is super powerful."

"Yes, but we can't get the Gods over the area," Hera told her.  "That is abnormal."

"They could be asleep," Hephaestus pointed out.

"I thought of that," Zeus admitted.  "I tried to get them through their life lines and nothing came from it.  It's like the town is shielded from us."

"It's not Xander," Aphrodite assured him.

"He's not that powerful, it hadn't even entered our minds," Hera responded, giving her a look.

Athena looked around.  "Was Hades not called?"

"He went to look at the shield," Artemis told her, sounding bored.  "It's one small town.  I'm sure it can be fixed in the morning."

"It's possible that Ares put up the shield himself," Aphrodite agreed.  "There might be some reason."

"I sent Bacchus with Hades," Hera told her.  "If there is, he is best suited to it."   She nearly stood up as Hades appeared.  "Well?" she demanded.

"Yes, there is a shield.  Apparently some of the demis are partying there and are quite drunk," Hades reported.  "Like they were in Athens that time."

"Or the time in Corinth?" Aphrodite offered.  He nodded.  "Cool.  So what's the big?"

"The God of Chaos is presently ill from it," Zeus told her. "It is a problem."

"Then have them relocate there," Aphrodite suggested.  "There's more than enough coming up there each day there to feed Janus for centuries."

"That is true," Hera agreed, looking at her husband.  "We could send him with Hades."

"Go," Zeus ordered, Hades bowed and left to find Janus.  "Oh, Hades?"  Hades turned and looked at him. "Which demis?"

"The triplets, Xander, and two of Hermes.  They're having a birthday party for Xander."  He gave a grim smile.  "Six demis to take over the place of a god or goddess is a good average, wouldn't you say?"  He continued off to find him.

"Why me?" Zeus asked, looking at Gaia.  "Why did you task me with that child?"

"If you had listened to me earlier, we wouldn't be having this problem," she said with a touch of sarcasm.  "If only you had listened and not cursed the triplets.  You have made the boy that strong.  We might have given him control quickly had he been raised among us."

"Fine," Hera said, breaking into the argument.  "Since this is not an emergency, you can leave."  Everyone disappeared.  "Zeus, quit picking on the boy.  He will make good on his threat to try for your life.  He is a great-grandson and of Ares' line.  That means we are vulnerable to him."

"The boy needs to learn how to behave," he countered.

"He will.  He's still finding himself in a very delicate position.  The only Gods he seems to like among us he does respect.  Ares, Strife, Cupid, Hades, and Bacchus are all very honored by him.  Discord is most of the time, though she seems to set his anger off now and then on purpose to test him.  Forcing respect from him is only going to make him angrier at us then Strife will lose his son again."

"No, he won't," Zeus said smugly.  "I will send him a tutor in the honor and respect we deserve."

Hera sighed.  "He'll rub Xander wrong, Zeus.  You know he will.  He sets Jett's teeth on edge and the boy is quite a lot like him."

"Whatever," he decided, going to visit his son, the civil rights attorney.  "Son," he said, smiling at him.  "Have you heard the good news?  Strife's youngest has been found.  He's in this time and in California."

Hercules looked up and smiled at him.  "Good.  Does he know?"

Zeus sighed.  "Hera thinks he's still feeling his way around the situation but Strife has not seen fit to teach him any of the common courtesies.  He walks up to Cupid and hugs him!"

Hercules shrugged.  "I do the same."

"You've known him nearly forever.  This boy did it the first time he met him."

"Did Cupid mind?"

"Not really, but I cannot have the Pantheon divided on the boy.  Artemis and Apollo seem to hate the boy for whatever reason.  Probably because he doesn't use an honorific title."  Hercules looked disgusted.  "It is the form."

"My expression was more about him.  Where is he?"

"Sunnydale, California.  His name is Xander.  Jett is also there so you might want to watch yourself.  He's been the one tutoring the boy so far.  They seem to get along very well.  Xander seems to fit right in with the triplets and has forgiven them for being cursed at the time."

"Then he's reasonable, he'll learn the formalities," Hercules assured him.  "Just in case, I'll pop around there.  Are there any dangers I have to watch out about?"

"Sunnydale is the town that Ares had to take control of to make it safe again," Zeus admitted. "Something about an excess of power and the guardian dying."  He waved a hand.  "I don't understand all that.  Ares said it was necessary and it has helped his headaches recently.  Even this boy has slowed down his fighting, which was causing the worst pain.  If you need anything, call on myself or Athena.  She broke the injunction to watch him now and then."  He gave his son a pat on the back.  "Make me proud, son."  He disappeared.

Hercules checked his calendar.  "I have time between that Native land case and the terrorist case," he decided.  He marked out a time to travel there, then went online to find a flight.  He didn't like to teleport, it made him ill.


Xander looked up as his boss called his name.  He was working on next week's schedule since they actually had enough people for him to do his real job this week.  "What?" he called back.

"How many new relatives did you say you had?"

"I'm guessing it's a cousin," Xander said, looking at the blond man.  He shrugged.  "Not a clue.  I'll get rid of him."

"Aw, hell, take the rest of the day off.  Bring in the schedule tomorrow, completed and ready."  He patted Xander on the shoulder.  "This has got to be messing with your head.  You okay?"

"Just fine," Xander admitted, gathering everything together so he could walk over there and greet this new Demigod.  He could feel him so he knew he was *family* though he didn't know who he was yet.  "Hi.  Xander."  He shook the bigger guy's hand.  "And you are?"

He smiled.  "Usually I get recognized, it's nice to not be known.  I'm Hercules."  He led his cousin away, walking him back to the parking lot. "So, you're a carpenter?" Xander nodded.  "I guess it pays well?"

"It pays pretty well and I like the work," Xander agreed.  He stuffed everything into his car then leaned against the side.  "What's up?"

"My father sent me to make sure you were getting the more formal aspects of our culture down," he admitted.  "I know you, we're a lot alike."

Xander glanced around.  "You've been possessed too?"  Hercules slowly shook his head.  "You have to work all day and then hunt demons all night?"  Hercules looked really confused this time when he shook his head.  "Then you know what it's like to have two identities and not have to hide it from those important in your life now that you've found them?"

"No, I have to hide mine from some of my friends," Hercules admitted.  "You're out to your friends?"

"Ares appeared in our living room.  It was kinda out of the bag then."  He brushed back some of his hair, reminding himself he needed a trim.  "So, what are you supposed to be showing me?"

"Get away from him," a strict voice said from behind Hercules, but they were shorter so Xander couldn't guess who it was yet.


"Hi," the guy said, walking around him.  "You're Xander.  I'm Auto, this is Herc, he's a bit stiff."  He grinned.  "Don't worry, *my* dad sent me to undo most of his crap."  He glared at Hercules.  "No one *has* to bow to a God they don't respect, Hercules.  Get over it."  He looked at Xander again, noticing some confusion.  "I'm one of Hermes'."

"Oh.  Cool.  I'm gonna go shower and change.  Want to meet up with me tonight?  Jett and I are going patrolling and Joxer might be joining us."

"Joxer and a weapon?" Auto asked.   Xander nodded.  "Is he any better than he was during the Middle Ages?"

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know, apparently I wasn't around then."  He grinned at Hercules.  "I'm not bowing.  Not until I understand everything.  He can get over it."  He gave him a bit of a smug look.  "I'm not respecting something that made this happen to me."

"The Fates do that," Auto reminded him.

"No, in this case, the supreme, on-high, big cheeses decided to curse the triplets.  Then they cursed me when they moved me here."  Auto shivered at the chilly nature of Xander's voice.  "Come see what I do tonight," he suggested.  "I don't think we have much in common really, but I'm always happy to know interesting members of my family.  Laters."  He climbed into his car and started the engine, then sped off.

"Well," Hercules said.  "He's a bit smart-mouthed."

"Of course he is.  He's exactly like Joxer," Auto reminded him.  "Only he's got some skills and less patience."  He looked at Hercules.  "Get over it.  He's to going to observe the formalities."

"Then Zeus doesn't have to recognize him."

"Zeus already has recognized him.  As have all the Gods in his line.  The only one he's probably never really had a conversation with is my dad.  He's been a bit busy recently in Rome."  He gave the other demi a bored look.  "Meet you at Ares' temple?"

"I don't teleport," Hercules reminded him.  "I don't need to abase myself by being ill."  He walked away, heading for the temple.

Auto waited until he was well out of sight then snorted.  "Of course you don't.  Big, strong mini-Gods like you never would."  He felt another demi nearby and looked around, spotting Jett's distinctive jacket.  He walked that way, interrupting his stalking through the drug store.  "Hey," he said dryly.

"What?" Jett asked.

"Herc's in town to teach Xander manners.  He suggested we get to know him before we said anything since Herc started out with 'we're a lot alike'."  Jett stopped browsing the tampons and looked at him - a serious, expressionless look.  "He's walking toward Ares' now.  Xander invited us along on whatever you two are doing tonight."

"Great, first a wife with DMS and now him."  He found the box he was looking for and got six of them so she wouldn't make him do this again.

"I've never heard of that one," Auto admitted.  "DMS?"

"During Menstrual Syndrome," Jett said with a small shudder.  "She's having cramps right now."

"Eww.  Sorry, man."  He gave him a sympathy pat to the arm.  "I'll see you tonight, I'm gonna bug Big, Dark, and Gloomy."

Jett looked at him.  "Check my student out.  I think you'll like Dawn.  Remember to leave her alone though.  He might not like it."


"You'll see," Jett said dryly, going back to his wife's shopping.

Auto shook his head and left, going around the corner so he could leave in peace.  He landed in the outer chamber of Ares' temple, looking around and nodding.  It was a nice place.  He walked toward where he could hear fighting, figuring Ares would be watching the lessons.  He was right, he was watching one girl spar with a staff with a look he hadn't seen on the God of War's face since he had last seen Xena fight.  "Hey," he said quietly.  Ares grunted.  "Herc's on his way here to talk to you about Xander's education."

"Fuck 'im," Strife said from the wall beside the door.  Auto looked back at him.  "And I meant that unliterally because eww."

Auto grinned at him.  "Thank you for not making me have that mental image."

"Dawn," Ares snapped.  "Your posture sucks."

"Sorry, Ares," she panted, sitting down then flopping backwards.  "I'm wiped.  Can I rest for five?"

"Will you be able to rest in the middle of a battle?" he sneered.

She sat up, looking at him.  "I've been fighting now for four hours.  If we have a battle that's going to run that long without any breaks for running, hiding, or regrouping, then we're all fucked here, Ares.  Really.  I'm new to this shit, break me off some patience, okay?  I know it's in short supply around here, but really!"  She forced herself to stand up, ignoring the shaking in her limbs.

"The only way to build stamina is to push yourself," Strife reminded her in a gentler tone of voice.

"I know, but yesterday I went from lessons with Jett to this."

"Good point," Strife agreed, looking at Ares.  "At least give her a water and potty break.  She has deserved it.  She's done great for only learning for a few months from my boy."

"Go," Ares ordered, nodding her away.  He looked at her opponent.  "Very interesting technique.  Where did you learn it?"

The warrior swallowed.  "From a movie, Lord, I'm sorry if I looked bad to you."

Ares nodded.  "Not the issue.  You look like you should have more training in that style actually.  Do so."  The warrior bowed deeply and hurried to find himself another teacher to bring him greater glory and order to his body and movements.  "Strife, I want you to start working with your son with Dawn.  I don't want her to be vulnerable to anything.  Got me?"  Strife nodded quickly.  "Good.  Start widening her skills as well.  She did very well with the unfamiliar staff but I'm not going to be impressed yet."

"Deal," Strife agreed.  He looked toward the doorway as Dawn walked back in, shaking her hands.  "Ready for me?"

"Fuck no," she said bitterly.  She looked at Ares.  "May I please be excused so I can go find female protections?"  Ares raised an eyebrow and started to sneer.  "Otherwise I'm going to bleed all over the place, Lord Ares."

"Go," he said, nodding her away.  "Come back when you've stopped.  Most women do not fight during those times."

"I'll be back tomorrow," she said firmly.  "I'm going to be weak or vulnerable to anyone."  She grabbed her bag and towel, then walked away. "I'm taking the bus if Tara calls," she called out.

"Yes, dear," Strife said, snapping his fingers and sending her back to her room.  "Anything else, Ares?"

"Get your sons working harder.  There is something building and I don't like the feeling."

"Yes, sir," he said smartly, turning and walking out to go find his sons.  He found Jett carefully feeding his wife a piece of fudge and looked at her.  "You too?"

"Her too what?" Jett asked.

"Dawn too."

"Eww," Jett said, shuddering strongly.  "Then I'll excuse her."

"She's not excusing herself."

"Good!  Women shouldn't have to take a time-out to bleed," Sarah agreed.

"Herc's in town," Strife told him.

"Fuck 'im," Sarah said around a bite of fudge.  "Literally by a cow or one of those demonic bulls."

"What did those poor bulls do to you?" Strife asked.

"One of them got Xander and he kept interrupting our sex lives at exactly the wrong moment," she said bitterly.  "It's nice that he's now got control."

"It's all right, he's apologized many times over it," Jett said calmly.  She looked at him.  "He said he would come directly to you and apologize but he considers you very scary and you'd kick his ass."  She nodded.  Xander appeared and hugged her, whispering in her ear.  "Get off my wife," Jett ordered with a touch of fond tolerance in his voice.

"Hell, your wife's more sane than my house right now.  Dawn and Tara are making things whip around the kitchen with their bursts of power.  Can I have the couch?"

Sarah gave him a gentle pat on the chest.  "I forgive you.  You're green and you needed to learn.  Promise me not to take any crap from the blond guy and I'll let MJ kidnap you to her room for a few days."

"Of course I'm not," Xander snorted, frowning at her.  "He started out way wrong by telling me we're just alike.  What do I have in common with a lawyer who smiles like a piranha?"

Strife snorted.  "Yeah, that about describes him.  A holy piranha of hate."  He ruffled Xander's hair.


"Tough, deal with it," Strife said, giving him a fatherly grin.   "You need to get that mop cut."

"I was going to do that later this afternoon."

"Good," Strife agreed.  "Either go long or go shorter.  That in-between stage is not you."

"Sorry, dad, but I've been kinda busy recently," Xander said, frowning at him.  "You know, that whole 'life' thing I have going for me?"  Strife grimaced.  "I'm going.  Yank the buttfloss out of your butt and go pick on the blond guy."  He waved.  "Laters."  He disappeared, heading back to his house.  "I'm leaving again," he shouted as he jogged to the door.

"I need you to pick up stuff," Tara called.

"Can't, going to get my hair cut," he said as he slammed the door.

Tara frowned.  "Butthole," she muttered.   The large, economy-size pack of tampons appeared beside her hand, making her smile.  "Thank you," she called out.  A bar of chocolate appeared on top of it.  She giggled.  "I promise not to scare him again."  The *big* box of Whitman's Samplers landed on the counter, making her laugh harder.

"Thank you!" Dawn shouted.  "Chocolate!"  She ripped open the box of candy, snatching a few pieces without even wondering what they were.  She wandered off to lay on her bed and read with the gooey things.

Tara ate a piece as she prepared her and Dawn's dinner.  This was very nice of them.  She should get them flowers.


That night, Xander met the people walking up to his position by hopping off a headstone and hugging Jett.  "Morning, dear.  I looked, we've got a good thing going tonight.  Possibly as many as seven rising and the rest of the convention hanger-ons.   Which route?"

"The standard one.  We can break at the Bronze for a beer and a game of pool," Jett decided.  He looked at Joxer.  "Weapons?"

"Sword, dagger, and my usual stuff," Joxer said, looking confused when Xander handed him a stake.  "What do I use this on?"

"Vampires.  In the chest."

"You get close to them?" Joxer asked, looking at him like he was insane.  "Why don't you just shoot them from afar like a safe person?"

"Because sometimes you don't have that option," Jett noted.  "Trust me, I've wanted to do that all along, and then our dear brother was being chased by a herd of them."

Xander nodded.  "It's also handy for when you trip and fall on top of them."  He looked at Hercules, who waved a hand and pulled out his own, a nicely carved one.  "Remember, they will disappear if you leave them in their chests too long.  Stake and retreat."  He turned around, looking around the graveyard.  "I did a quick turn around this one and Heaven's Gate.  No new graves."

"Good," Jett agreed, starting off.  It was his path after all.  "Xander, I've been wondering.  How did you, Willow, and Tara do this by yourself?"

"We were busy," Xander admitted.  "We did the whole route each night.  Willow floats stakes, it was her first spell.  Tara does now too.  I did my thing.  We managed."

"You and two women did this on your own?" Hercules asked.

Xander glanced at him and nodded.  "After the Slayer died, yeah.  What else should we have done?  Let the town go to hell?"  He handed off his weapon.  "I'm wearing out some energy.  Be right back."  He took off at a run and did a nice cartwheel into a flip, then into a few back flips, which he landed from with a bright smile.  A hand came up behind him and grabbed his ankle.  "Hey!" he said, falling on top of the hand, knocking himself out on the new marble headstone.

"Show off," Jett muttered, heading over to watch the new one rise.  He couldn't stake just a hand.  "Joxer, check him."

"He's fine," Hercules said, looking at Xander's prone form. "He's not bleeding."

"He was nearly killed a few weeks back," Joxer told him.  He knelt down, checking his baby brother's head.  "A bit of blood but it's already clotting.  Probably just a headache.  He is as hard-headed as all of us put together."  He stood up, dropping his stake beside Xander's hand.   He hopped up to sit on another headstone.  "Is this a normal wait time?"

"It is," Jett admitted, leaning against his own choice.  "They're usually slow to start and then they finally come up in a rush once their head breaks."  He pulled out a dagger and worked on his nails.  Sarah hated it when he came home with grime underneath them.  Made him clean them before he could touch her.

Hercules looked at the duo, looking very confused.  "Huh?"

"This is normal," Jett repeated, slower this time.  "We'll have to wait.  Otherwise we'll have to get him some other day."  He waved a hand at the arms struggling to get out.  "Unless you wanted to yank him up and dust him now."

"Ow," Xander complained, breaking into the argument by waking up.  "What happened?"

"The thing grabbed you for tapdancing on his grave," Joxer said with a small grin. "You okay?"

"Headache," Xander admitted.  He let Joxer pull him up and touched the back of his head.  "I think I need drugs.  Jett, advil?"  A package was tossed over for him. "Thanks, bro."  He swallowed the pills and crumpled the packet into his pocket.  He looked at the waving arms.  "That's it."  He grabbed on and heaved, helping the thing up the last few feet.  "You're taking too long," he said, then he staked it.  "Come on, let's continue.  The paper hasn't said anything about anyone being buried here and I didn't see any new graves."

Jett kicked at the ground.  "This one covered his with some sod.  That's all."   He nudged Xander.  "Where did you learn to do that?  You've never been that coordinated in your lessons with me."

"I don't know," Xander admitted with a goofy grin.  "I'm guessing it's from a possession but I can't think of which one it was.  It's absolutely stupid, but sometimes the urge hits me and I have to go with it."

Jett nodded.  "Good, we'll work that into your training since I know you can do that."

"Anything else like that you can do?" Joxer asked, walking behind Xander.  He was going to guard his brother's back this time.  Next time, Jett could and he'd lead.  He was sure Jett would agree.  Xander bothered and upset him whenever he got hurt, it would make sense to him.  "Xander," Joxer said quietly.  Xander glanced back at him.  "Let me stake the next one?"

"Sure," he agreed with his usual goofy grin.  Then he turned around and narrowly missed running into Jett's back.  "What?"

"Shh."  Jett sniffed and turned around, looking around.  "You might as well come out," he ordered.  "I can sense you."  The demon came out and looked at him.  "What are you?"

"Wind demon, harmless," Xander said, walking closer.  "Unless it's mating season."  The demon shook his head.  "Then what can we do for you?"  The demon lifted him, sending his needs into the boy's mind with his gifts.  "Deal, dude, lead on."  The demon let him down and led them to a small grove of trees.  Xander got down to look at her stomach, laying a hand on it.  "I think one's stuck."  He looked at the incipient father.  "I thought you guys weren't born with horns."

"Sometimes we are," the mother panted.  "Please, help," she pleaded.

"I'm gonna have ta look," Xander told her, moving to do that.  He reached in and removed the stuck horn, freeing the baby.  It came out into his hands and he held it up.  "I think it's a girl," he announced, pulling a dagger and cutting the cord before handing it to the mom.  The dad moaned and knelt beside her, touching the baby's face.  "Hey, still got another one, daddy.  You've got to do this job, got it?"  The father looked at him and sent a small breeze his way with his thanks.   "No big," Xander told him, standing up and getting out of the way.  "You guys are harmless.  We like you guys."  He nodded at the group.  "We can go.  I've got to wash my hands.  Babyjuice is not nice smelling no matter what the species."  He led the way to the fountain in the middle of the cemetery, washing his hands in it.  "There, that's better."

Hercules spluttered.  "But...but that was a demon and we let it live."

"Yes, and they're harmless unless it's mating time," Xander told him.  "Besides, unlike some people I would never stake a creature in birth.  I can't be that cold."  He sat on the side of the fountain.  "Wind demons like them deal with the weather.  They were often captured and held to make sure that farms and towns had good weather as often as possible, and flogged or killed when they couldn't deliver.  They deserve the right to breed and make more of them.  Maybe they can help smooth out the horrible weather fluxes we've had for the last few years, ever since global warming and smog and stuff overcame their abilities.  If you go near them, I'm going to kick your ass and leave you tied up against a headstone."  He stood up again, looking at Jett.  "Where to now?  I don't have your route memorized yet."

"We'll go toward Heaven's Gate for now," he said quietly, giving Xander a nudge as they walked, letting Joxer take the lead since there were signs.  "Good job.  How many demons have you delivered?"

"Only a few.  Mostly the more animalistic ones.  I also helped a kitty deliver once or twice," he said proudly.  "Got the shit scratched out of my hand for it, but they were stuck."

"Good job."  Jett gave him a small grin, then made him duck and ducked himself as something came flying overhead.  "Hey, Auto.  Steal your father's shoes again?" he asked dryly, helping Xander back up.  "Forgive him, he's an ass sometimes," he shared.

"Hey, Auto," Xander said, waving at him.  "Did you come to help?"

"Yeah, but I ran into this new family and they blew me away," he said, brushing himself off.  "Cute little baby demons however.  Very adorable."  Xander nodded, grinning at him.  "What's the route tonight?"

"Here, Heaven's Gate, then Shady Rest, Shady Palms, and Desert Sun.  The Bronze for a beer and a game of pool, or a quick dance with some of the teen chicks, then we'll swing out toward the college and back around to the other side of town so we end up near my house," Jett told him.  "It's about a six mile walk."

"It's about a seven mile fight," Xander corrected.

"I was wondering why my legs complained," Jett told him.  "Seven you think?"

"If you take that longer loop back, yeah.  Ooh, can we break out there?  I can show you were we went down into the Initiative.  We should probably check that soon all by itself.  Just in case some sort of carrion eaters are down there or something else is hiding."

"Sure," Jett agreed.  "Any power?"  Xander shook his head.

"Initiative?" Joxer asked, looking at his brothers.  "What was that?"

"Governmental demon hunters and fuckers," Xander told him.

"Oh."  Joxer frowned.  "Since when?"

"Since last year.  We kicked their ass and made them cry," Xander admitted with a small grin.  "That's why Spike's chipped."

"Okay then," Auto agreed.  "I think I'll miss that one."

"We could probably use you since it's an underground base," Xander offered.  "Lots of doors with locks."  Auto smirked at him.  "Hey, I asked Dad."  He shrugged.  "I'm careful most of the time."  He wiggled his fingers.  "Damnit, I hate that urge."

"Go do another run, do it on the road," Jett instructed, taking Xander's stake from him.  Xander took off and did another impressive tumbling run, making him shake his head.  "I will find out what did that to him and stop it," he muttered as they trudged to join him.  "You're too energetic for working all day."

"Herc's presence got me off work early.  I caught a nap in the temple on the couch."  Xander grinned at Herc.  "Thanks for that by the way.  Dad decided I should have a parfait for dinner."

Jett grabbed Xander, stopping him.  "He fed you chocolate before our patrol?"  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Father!" he snapped.  Strife appeared, giving him a sheepish look.  "Are you trying to drive me insane!"

"No," Strife admitted with a grin.  "But it couldn't hurt."  He hugged Xander hard.  "You're so my boy," he agreed, winking at Jett.  "Go do another one and then you'll be fine.  I'll suppress it until you're ready to jump someone tonight."

"It's not like I have a girlfriend, dad," Xander reminded him, doing another few flips around.  He ran into Auto and gave him an embarrassed look.  "Sorry."  He stood up and helped his cousin up.  "I didn't mean to run into you."

"Not a problem," Auto assured him.  "Jett said you were kinda clumsy now and then so I expected something like that to happen at least once tonight."  Xander gave him a hug and jogged down the road.

"I'll get you for this," Jett warned, heading off after his troublesome brother.  A hyper Xander was not a careful one.  He could get into all sorts of trouble before he could find him.  "Xander!" he shouted when he didn't find him.  He heard a muffled grunt and headed that way.  "Get your hands off him, whore," he said angrily, pulling the succubus off him and tossing her away.  "We've got to get you laid by a human woman," he complained as he walked on.  "Joxer, it's one of your buddies."

"Hi," Joxer said, catching up to the demonic ho.  "How are you?"  She smiled at him and leaned in to kiss him, then pulled back and screamed, crying as she ran off.  "Sorry!  I'll turn it off if you want more."

"Huh?" Strife asked, popping over next to Joxer.  "How did you do that?" he asked quietly.

"I don't know.  Ever since I possessed Xander, I seem to be able to drive off sexual demons," he said with a small shrug and a confused look.  "I made Jacie's neighbor move too.  He was a nice incubus.  We had a few long chats while I was on Jacie's wall."  He trotted after the group, catching up quickly.  "Xander, how do you draw them?"

"Not a clue," Xander admitted bitterly.  "I've always drawn the demonic, ever since puberty."

"It's that Bacchus part of your history," Jett theorized.  "He was their Lord and Master."  He looked back at Joxer.  "He realized you were in there."

"Cool.  Ever since then, I drive them off."

"Huh," Xander said, grinning at him.  "Maybe I need to hang with you more often."

"No, he draws them closer until they try to touch him," Jett told him.  "It'd be doubly worse for you.  We might have a whole pack of succubus here if you did that."

"Why not incubus?" Auto asked.  "It is a family trait after all."

Xander glanced at him.  "I've never even considered guys in that way," he told him.  "Never more than locker room envy for dick size.   Not one odd dream, not even one thought that way.  Besides, I need geeky women, ones who understand the other side of me."

"I'll see if I know any," Auto offered.  He, like Jett, agreed.  This boy needed laid.  Badly.

Hercules walked behind them, not sure why he was going through with this.  Strife had already warped his son, he would never be the dutiful demigod he was.  The Pantheon was in for more troublesome children if he ever bred.  He prayed to Hera and Aphrodite that someone find him a woman who would follow the traditional roles of demigod's wife and teach whatever children Xander spawned the correct ways because Xander was a hopeless cause.  Ahead, he saw a large shape looming out of the shadows.  He gripped his stake harder, trying to figure out what it was.

"Hey, gramps," Xander called, running off to give him a hug.

"Gramps?" Joxer asked.

"His mother's side was a granddaughter to Bacchus," Jett reminded him.  He stopped in front of the God over demons.  "Can you solve our patrolling tonight?" he suggested.

Bacchus smiled.  "I can do most of it, my son."  He patted Jett's face, then smiled at Joxer.  "I know you were volunteered back then, I have nothing against you, young man."  He glanced at Hercules, then peeled Xander off his massive chest.  "I've come back to get a feel for the town.  Ares wanted my opinion on what was happening around here."  Everyone looked at him.  "He thinks we're having a buildup again."

"WILLOW!" Xander shouted.  She appeared a few minutes, making Bacchus look really impressed.  "Ares is sensing a buildup, do we have a prophecy?"

"No," she admitted, walking closer.  She looked at the dark red god with horns.  "I've never seen you in the books."

"That's Bacchus," Jett said, leaning against a tree.  "Xander's mother's line was from his and a few others."

"That would explain why demons like him so much," Bacchus told her.

"Yeah, it would," she agreed, grimacing at Xander.  "Bastard."

"Brat," he retorted. "You left me alone with two women with PMS."  Willow frowned at him.  "Seriously!  I got cried on by Tara!"

"Fine, I'll be back tomorrow," Willow agreed. She rolled her eyes.  "Sleep at Jett's tonight."

"At least she didn't ask if you guys all slept together," Auto noted.

"I know twins who have to do that," Willow told him.  "They can't stand to be very far away from each other."

"Do they share boyfriends?" Joxer asked.  "I've never understood that.  We're not that close."

"They do more than share the boyfriends, I think," Willow told him, giving him a faint smile.  "That okay with you, Jett?"

"We put him in with MJ," Jett admitted.  "She demanded when she heard he was going to be on the couch."  He looked at Xander.  "Sarah's stopped, you're safe."

"Thanks."  He gave his great-grandfather a smile.  "So, buildup?"

"A slight rise in the levels of chaos from the hellmouth," Bacchus agreed.  "I think someone's trying to use it."

"Ethan," Willow spat.

"No, not him.  I know of him," the dark God admitted.  "This is different."  He looked the young woman over.  "It answers your call as well."  Her mouth opened and Xander dove behind him. "It does.  It dances to the tune you hum at it," he told her.  "Try to wield that gift gently otherwise it may turn on you," he warned.  He looked at Jett.  "I've called all the fledgling vampires not attached to a family group to my side tonight.  There are too many of them in town."

"That's what we're here for," Xander quipped from behind him.  Willow might still attack.

"I shall fix that problem this time," Bacchus said, turning to look at him.  "You will see me tomorrow after work instead of patrolling with Jett.  We will discuss the gifts you have from my side of the family, young man.  There must be a way to control them."  He looked around.  "Why was there an influx of succubus in the last few minutes?"

"Xander!" Willow said with a touch of disgust.

"It's not like I can help it," he retorted.

"Fine. Try to make them run *away* from the house this time.  Dawn made herself sick laughing at the last group."  She looked at Bacchus.  "Can you make the demonic loose women leave him alone?"

"I can only hope to succeed," Bacchus told her.

"Good.  Try," she ordered.  "We don't need to deal with more soul-sucking mummies."   She teleported off, heading back to finish helping Angel.  "You wouldn't believe who's in town," she told him.  "Xander's not only related to Strife, he's related to Bacchus as well."  Angel looked startled but Fred whimpered.  "Really.  He's dealing with the power issues on the hellmouth."

"Interesting," Angel admitted.

"Interesting indeed," Bacchus said back in Sunnydale.  He took another look around.  "The powers drained once she was gone.  She's drawing directly from it."  He smirked.  "Hecate and I will be having a discussion," he announced.  "Tomorrow night, Xander. Until then, try to be on guard."  He walked off, drawing all the demonic creatures with him.

"Leave the wind demons alone," Xander called after him.  "They're newborns."

"Fine," Bacchus said, waving a hand in their direction to free them.

"Cool," Xander decided, looking at Jett.  "Should we continue or go to the Bronze?"

"I drove," Jett admitted.  "Let's pick up my jeep and we'll go look at the entrance to this base before we get some pool and tease the women."   He put an arm around Xander's shoulders.  "You really are odd, aren't you?" he asked fondly.

"Very, but I'm used to it," he agreed.  "After all, this is nothing like the preying mantis woman who tried to eat me.  Or the soul-sucking mummy girl.  Or even the desouled Angel."  Jett shook his head.  "What?"

"Naughty boy," he hissed.  "You need to find a woman who will protect you."

"I'd rather have one who understood me," he argued.  "What good is protection if she doesn't get my jokes?"

"Yeah, good point," Joxer agreed from behind them.  "How big is this base?"

"A few buildings worth," Xander told him.  "Mostly lab and holding space.  The soldiers were all either killed or crushed and ran away.  Their head was killed.  The second head, the general, was killed by ADAM, who we toasted with Buffy's help.  The demons rioted as soon as they got free so we're pretty sure they're all gone.  I wanted to make sure new squatters hadn't taken up in it," he said, glancing back in time to trip over a rock and fall down.  "Ow."

"Baby," Jett said, helping him back up.  "Come on, we'll ride up there and you can show us this nice hole in the ground."  Xander nodded, giving him a goofy grin.  "How did you defeat the military?"

"Buffy defeated ADAM with the help of the First Slayer spell.  Then she came back to try and kill us, but we're good with that," he admitted.  "She's gone now."

"Hmm."  Jett nodded.  "I think I need to hear a more comprehensive account of that battle."

"Sure.  I've got that written down," Xander admitted.  "We had to send a copy to the Watchers Council.  I kept a copy just in case something happened to mine, like they edited it.  Or like Glory blew them up or something."  He saw the jeep and ran ahead.  "Shotgun!"

"No fair," Joxer pouted, catching up to him to wrestle him for it.

Auto nudged Jett.  "My house is open if you need a sanity break," he said quietly.

"Thanks," he agreed, giving him a grateful look. "Xander's got the finer qualities of all of us at the best of times, but he's most like a cross between Jace and Joxer."

"I'm so sorry," Auto whispered, giving him a light hug.  "I'm sure he'll calm down."  He climbed into the back so he could annoy Hercules some more.  It was one of his favorite recent pastimes.


Ares looked up from his brooding and drinking, focusing on his mother.  "What?" he asked bitterly.

She sat across from him, reaching over to touch the back of his hand.  "You must calm down.  She will be around."  He took another drink and continued to look at her.  "The Fates have finally found her string tucked in the weft."  One of his eyebrows went up.  "It is a strong, thick line for most of it, until at least twenty years from now.  After that, it gets a bit thinner but still strong enough.  They are more than willing to let you see it."

"That means mine doesn't match with it," he noted.

She smiled gently.  "I never said that, Ares. You know Clotho is looking for a way to pay back that debt she owes you.  All you have to do is hold on until after she's old enough.  If you can do that, then the town will prosper and she will be your prize."

"Bacchus said the buildup wasn't her, but it was happening around her.  Her line could be snipped."

"It goes clear for a few days," Hera admitted.  "It does not snap or unravel near there."  He looked surprised, that meant Dawn would be nearly dead but not - comatose or more - during that time.  "We do not know the cause yet.  Her string is intertwining with many others.  Including that of your youngest great-nephew.  Xander's has had to be moved away from Joxer's so they could tell the little silver cords apart."

"Silver?  Who has a silver line?" Strife asked as he appeared.  "Gold are prophecy children, the others are all colors, but I've never seen a silver one."

"Sure you have," Ares told him.  "You've seen one in Xena's.  You've seen Joxer's slowly turn silver over the years."  He looked his mother in the eye.  "For a non-warrior, and especially not a fated one, that's a dangerous thing to have."

She nodded, agreeing fully.  "I know.  It hadn't originally been silver. It had originally had no color until the curse, then it had turned pure black.  It's slowly faded over the years, moving toward gray and then on to silver.  You'd have to ask them for more specific details, Ares.  Strife, the Fates do not like you in their cave.  They asked that you leave this to Ares."

"Which means they've got something planned for my baby boy and I don't like that," he reminded her.

She nodded.  "Probably.  They're working on moving his line right now. It was too close to Joxer's and you make them nervous."

"You have no idea what?" Ares asked.

Hera shook her head.  "Not at this time.  If I had any thought I'd say it was in regards to his protecting things.  He does seem to have gotten stronger since being found."  She stood up and disappeared.

Strife looked at Ares.  "Permission ta bug the shit outta them?" he asked.

Ares shook his head.  "I'll do it for you.  If something that bad is going to happen, I need to know too."  He finished his present beer and stood up.  "I'm going to bathe if anyone needs anything."

"Have fun and all," Strife said, watching his back retreat down the hall.  He sat down in his favorite planning chair.  He would have to do something about this.


Xander bounced up to his sister-in-law when she brought Dawn and Tara into the Bronze, giving her a hard hug.  "The big red guy in my mom's family fixed it for us tonight.  Come help us bug Herc to death," he offered with a brilliant grin.

"Xander, no bothering him, his daddy gets mad," Sarah explained, leading him back to her husband's side.  "I think you need to teach him why we don't bother the big blond."

Jett grinned down at his cue before taking his shot, then turned to look at his wife.  "Why?  I enjoy the hell out of it."  He gave her a deep kiss, making the teenagers around them hoot and holler.  "Thank you, I enjoy the hell out of her too," he told them, making most of them blush and hurry off to the bathrooms.  "Teenagers," he said fondly.

"In four more years, MJ will be one too," Xander reminded him, leaning down to take his shot since Jett had sunk the wrong ball.  "I'll have to get her a nice 'welcome to puberty' gift."

Jett growled.  "My daughter will not be a wild little thing in the least," he warned.

Xander grinned at him.  "I'm sure Jace won't take her out shopping for lingerie at all," he agreed.  "Or Joxer and I won't take her out to clubs to teach her how to tease."  Jett's growl got louder as he advanced closer.  "Hey, teasing," he said, holding his cue defensively.

Jett grabbed him, pulling Xander closer.  "If she turns out that way, you're going to be the one I blame," he warned.  "Make sure she finds nice boys, Xander.  Nothing like the ones who like your ass."

Xander blew a kiss.  "Since when have *I* had non-nice boys after my butt?"  He got free with a little wiggle and blew a kiss at Sarah.  "Don't worry, I'll teach her how to tease and then run away."  He took another shot, then ducked Jett's swing.  "Ah-ah!  Don't hit the Xander.  Xander gets mean and picks on you," he reminded him with a mean grin.  "He'll do things like pop in and pop back out in the middle of the night while you're trying to have sex.  Or he'll send the succubus we found earlier over and tell her to tease you because your wife likes it like that."

Jett felt his mouth come open and hang there.  "I'm nice to you!" he said in shock.

Xander nodded.  "Yes, you are.  That's why I wouldn't have to try that hard."  He giggled like their daddy and took his last shot, handing the pool cue to Dawn. "Here, beat my brother and make him want to be soothed by his wife.  That way he's snuggled tonight."

"Oh, I think I'll be doing that anyway," Sarah assured him.  "Please, no demons in the house, Xander.  The little ones might grow to like them and they'd be really disappointed when I killed them."

Jett looked at her.  "You'd kill a succubus if she came near me?"

"Hell yes, you're mine, Jett," she reminded him coolly.  He swallowed and she gave him a bit of a smirk.  "Run?"  He shook his head.  "Pity."  He took off running, heading into a dark corner of the alleyway.  She strolled out after him to go 'catch' him and take her prize.  He needed to play.

"I guess it's you and me," Xander told Dawn, reracking the balls.

She beamed and watched around them.  Some of the guys were staring her way.  "Xander, am I especially hot tonight or are they just horny?"

Xander looked at her.  "Dawn, you're leaning against the table and cue like girls lean on hoods of cars in magazines.  They think you've got a cute ass if your pants were only a little bit tighter."  He looked at Tara.  "Either that or they think Tara's hotter than a forest fire tonight and they're trying to shag her."

"They'd better not," Tara told him, giving him a dry little grin.  "Did we scare you?"  He nodded, taking the first shot.  "Sorry."

"That's okay.  I'll get to spend time tonight with the kiddies."

"You should be a dad some day," Dawn announced.  "You like little kids, unlike me."  She looked at Tara.  "I think you two would have beautiful babies if you got him as the donor daddy."  She crowed as she took her shot, starting to wipe the table with him.

Jett walked back in, looking very smug and satisfied with himself and the world in general.  "Sarah's getting us beers or sodas."  He looked at Tara.  "I think she's getting you a soda."  Tara nodded and went to help, just to make sure.  He clapped Xander on the back.  "You need what I have."

"Jett, love you dearly, but Sarah would kill me in bed," Xander quipped.  His brother swatted him.  "Didn't mean that?"

"No, I meant the good woman part, not my good woman."  He noticed his wife looking at him.  "He was trying to be funny."

"He does that," Sarah reminded him.  "He should do standup."

Xander grinned before taking his own shot.  "Jett said I should have what he had."

"I'm pretty sure he didn't mean me considering the last person who tried to pinch my butt at a club ended up with two broken arms and a broken jaw from his boot."

"Hmm, scary brother is Jett, have to remember it's not Joxer," Xander quipped, moving around the table to take his next shot and get away from Jett.

Jett shook his head.  "Only in some ways.  I'm the tough one, Joxer's the mental one.  Get it straight."

Xander glanced up.  "I thought I was the mental one."  He took his shot and held a hand out, smirking at Dawn.  "You get to do the dishes for the next week."

"Crap," she muttered, setting up the balls again.  "No fair, I didn't agree to those bets."

Xander grinned at her, looking very much like a shark.  "So?"

"I'll tell your daddy on you."

"My dad is the king of tricks," Xander reminded her, handing Jett his stick.  "Here, see if you can beat satiation boy there."

"Satiation boy?" Jett snorted.  "Not hardly.  I won't be that until four or five this morning."  He waved at the table.  "Ladies first."

Dawn leaned down and broke the balls, watching as three of them sunk.  "Not bad.  Colors."  She walked past Jett to take her next shot.  "Hey, Jett, do you think Ares would be impressed if I came in wearing a leather bustier tomorrow?"

Jett choked, only saved by his wife's quick kiss to block that image from his mind.  "Dear," Xander said patiently.  "I don't think you have one of those in your closet and I don't think you need to try that hard.  The man has eyes, you're adorable and tough; if he can't see it then why in the hell are we worrying about him.  Go after one of the others.  Cupid is really nice.   Plus, his wings are fluffy and soft."

Dawn grinned at him.  "I'll consider it, but I like deadly people.  I'm going through my bad-boy phase."

"Hopefully you'll outgrow it," Tara said firmly.  "No dating thugs, Dawn.  Ares is as nasty as I want to see around our house.  He at least has manners sometimes."

"He has good manners whenever he wants to use them," Sarah reminded her.

"Exactly," Tara agreed, giving her a faint smile.  "He usually wants to use them around me.  I like that in a potential mate for Dawn.  He'd better learn how to respect her family."

Jett coughed. "I'll tell dad to pass that on.  Dawn, no leather bustier.  You're not near big enough for those yet.  Wait until you at least reach a 'c' cup, okay?  The things look better on the busty."  He took his shot since she was too shocked to shoot.  "Crap."  He had sunk the eight ball by accident.

Dawn's mouth was closed for her by Tara.  "I agree," Tara told her.  "You're not big enough around yet for a bustier.  Try for a leather halter."

"Okay," Dawn said, grinning at her.  "Can we shop for one of those?"

"Ask Spike," Xander offered. "I'm sure he knows where the better vamp leather shops are."  He took her cue back so he could play his brother again.  "What are we playing for?"

"Next round?"

"I've only got ten left until payday," Xander pointed out.  He chalked the tip then leaned against it while Jett set everything up again.  "Naughty or nice holiday gifts?"

"Christmas is five months away," Tara pointed out.

"So?  I can start picking out naughty things now if I win," he said with a grin.

Jett looked at him.  "Fine, but if I win, you kiss a guy once.  One *I* pick." Sarah nudged him and shook her head.  "Or that she picks."

"Sure," Xander agreed, grinning at him.  "And no gifts."

"Fine," Jett agreed, pulling out every ounce of hustler he had ever possessed.  He even said a quick prayer to Luck, and felt her answer. He took the shot, sinking the eight ball on the break.

"Fuck," Xander said simply.  He looked around.  "Anyone in particular?"

Jett got this totally evil smirk on his face.  "Auto?"

"Eww," his wife hissed.  "No, someone *good* for his first time," she told him.  "Auto's a lech."  She thought about it and felt her prayers be answered.  Cupid appeared, sans wings, and grabbed Xander, kissing him deeply.

"Whoa," Tara said.  "Now I know how guys feel when they watch lesbians kissing."  Dawn's snickering brought the two back to the real world.  "Nice?" Tara asked Xander.

Xander licked his lips, then looked at the man.  "Well, it was different, but I still don't like the whiskers.  Try shaving first next time?"

Cupid grinned, rubbing his cheeks.  "Sure.  Any time in particular?"

"Ooh, a date!" Dawn squealed, coming over to hug him.  "I'm so happy for you, Xander!"  She pulled Cupid closer intentionally, getting out from between them.

Cupid cleaned off all his beard then kissed Xander again, making him moan.   "Ooh, I like that sound," he teased.

Xander pinched him on the tit.  "Keep it up, Cupid.  I know where you live and I will get dad to help me prank you."  He winked and turned away.  "Better?"

"You're not hard," Jett said, looking confused.

"Told you so," Xander told him.

Cupid looked stunned.  "I'm losing my touch."

Dawn kissed him on the cheek.  "You made Tara and I hot," she promised, giving him her most adorable look.  He grinned and kissed her on the forehead.  "Can I have some advice about clothing?  I want to vamp out for someone."

Cupid whispered in her ear.  "That," he told her, then he winked.  "I'll make sure he's not ready for it."  He disappeared, heading to complain to his mother.  "Mom!"  She came out of her bedroom. "I kissed Xander, he didn't even get hard, and I was really trying!"

"Oh, shit," Aphrodite said, coming over to give him a hug.  "I'm sorry, sweetie, it wasn't you.  The boy's so straight he's a pin."

"Unless we find exactly the right person," he corrected.  "I saw into his dreams.  He's got a specific person he'll go for.  He's a personality sort."  He led her over to her worktable, looking at the list.  "Someone like her," he said, pointing at a name.  "If we can find him someone exactly like her, only a little geekier and tougher, he'll go for him."

The Goddess of Love grinned at her son.  "That's easier to search for," she told him.  "Good work."  She pinched him on the cheek.  "Go pounce Strife to get him to help us.  Him and Bacchus both."  He nodded and left, going to talk to them.  "Hmm."  She searched through the love lines she had access to, then moved onto another section of the world.  There had to be a male Xander out there somewhere beside the original.  If she could find a fandom geek who was almost exactly like Jett, the boy would be happy and she could quit being miserable about failing the family.  "Too bad he doesn't believe in brothers, he would soften my Jett pookie up a little bit," she muttered as she looked.


Xander looked up as he felt things starting to happen.  "Hey, magic," he said, pointing at the pretty lights in the sky.  "Near the Hellmouth, what a shock.  Tara?"

"I'm taking Dawn to the temple.  We'd have to pass by there to get home," she reminded him quietly, leading Dawn to the car.

Jett looked at his wife, then gave her a kiss and most of his gear.  He took his gun and his spare clips, plus a throwing knife.  "Come on, let's hit this."

Xander patted himself down then popped home for his weapons.  He popped back to the old parking lot for the school, waiting on his big brother.  "Humans," he said, pointing at them.  "Or vampires."

"Can you call them to you?" Jett asked.  Xander looked at him.  "Be your usual charming self, dumbass. *Summon* them."

"I can't do that consciously," he complained.  He concentrated and nothing happened.  One of the people looked toward them but then looked away.  "See?"  He faced front again, growling in frustration.  That got some notice from the people on the edge of the group, they came to search for intruders.

"Asshole," Jett muttered, shifting forward.

Xander moved up the tree he was hiding behind, smirking when he saw the person casting in the center.  "If I get the caster, will that kill the initiative?"

"Probably.  Why?"  He climbed up and took aim but Xander got there first, making the person bleed from the neck.  "Nice shot," he congratulated.  He looked at his brother.  "Thought it was a vampire?"

"She was really pale," Xander agreed, looking a little green.

The people in the circle screamed, bringing back the searchers.  There was screaming about 'the rite' and 'we need to finish it' and 'find the bastards'.  Jett and Xander stayed where they were.  Someone else stepped up and Jett took aim, but didn't fire.  "Is that white magic?" he hissed.

Xander shrugged.  "I don't use the stuff, I only work with witches. WILLOW!" he hissed.  She appeared underneath them.  "Your area."

She looked over, then grimaced.  "A resurrection spell."  Xander coughed.  "Don't worry, it's to bring back their mistress."  She walked out into the open.  "You're doing a good thing on a bad spot," she announced firmly.  The caster looked at her and she shrugged.  "Tell me why and I'll let you go, or not."

"We must bring her back.  She gives us strength."

Willow stepped closer, looking at the body.  Then she looked at the caster.  "Doing that here won't help her any, or you.  If you bring her back, it'll only be a worse fight in the end."  She started to pull magic from the ground, focusing it around the body and solidifying it.  "There, now she knows no pain."  The caster shrieked and pointed a hand at her so Willow lifted her into the air, making her shriek for an entirely different reason.  "You may not bring back a demoness lord on the Hellmouth.  The balance is too fragile here.  Go to LA and do it."  The caster looked at her.  "Seriously.  Angel can handle you if it's going to get bad and the power's more balanced there."

The caster floated down, clasping hands with her.  "We will do so.  Thank you."  The group gathered up their dead bodies and took them to their cars, heading out immediately.  It wasn't often they met a guardian but they knew one when they saw it.

Willow heard Xander retching and sighed.  "Jett, get him home.  He hates to kill.  Maim and make miserable, sure, but killing always bothers him."  She headed for the house herself, going to talk to Tara.  She found Dawn and Spike talking about leather skirts and shook her head.  "No, don't think so.  It's so not necessary at your age."

"But I want one," Dawn told her.  "I want to be stunning just once."  Willow shook her head.  "I'll take it back afterwards if I have to," she offered.  "Just one day?"

"No," Willow told her.  "Does Tara know about this?"  Dawn nodded.  "Oh.  Fine."  She stomped off, going to talk to Tara about Dawn and her odd urges.  "Leather?"

"She wants to be impressive the next time she walks into the temple," Tara said from in front of the sink.  "Ares is giving her extra lessons."  She looked over.  "How was LA?"

"Pretty good," she admitted, leaning against the island in the center of the kitchen.  "Angel really needs one of us full time.  Wesley's doing the research and magic job and he sucks."

"He's a nice guy," Tara protested.

"Yeah, but he doesn't even have your levels," Willow told her.  "He'll need stronger magical help eventually."

"I'm sure Wesley knows someone," Tara said firmly.  She heard Dawn giggling.  "Bed!"

"Yes, ma'am," Dawn called back.  "Spike's going out to beat up on demons and get a new pack of cigs.  Need anything?"

"Milk and bread," Tara called.  "Plus peanut butter if you can find it on sale."

"I need pads," Willow called.

"Fat chance," Spike said from the doorway.  "I'm not shoppin' for girly things."  He frowned at her.  "I'm not that insane."  He looked at Tara.  "Just those?"  She nodded.  "Good enough, I'll leave 'em in here if I remember."  He strolled out, going in search of a few victims.  What had Willow gotten into with his Sire?  She smelled like she had cuddled up to him or something.  Actually, he smelled like the whole group had been in a big pile on the floor.  That image made him smile, especially when he added strap-ons to all the girls and had Angel screaming and begging for mercy.  Yes, that was a pretty mental picture for him to muse upon until he could find a walking meal.


Jett's head popped up when he heard the trademark squeal.  Aphrodite soon appeared and his wife chucked her pillow at her.  "What?" he demanded. "I know you have more manners than Xander does."

"Pookie, hush, or never get any again," 'Dite told him, giving him a little smug look.  "I've found your little brother the most *perfect* mate.  The guy's so like him, only blond, that I thought he had been split in half."

Sarah lifted her head.  "He has, but they put him back together again," she mumbled.  "Go away."

Dite gave her a hug.  "Give me a sec with my Jett pookie bear and then he's all your again and I'll leave him with a jolt so you can pass back out, babe.  Trust me, I know just the right buttons to push on all the triplets."

Jett looked confused.  "There are two Xanders in the world?  And it hasn't ended yet?"

"Nope, not yet," she said happily, bouncing in place.  "Not only is he sorta like you, all that tough and dark, broody stuff, but he's cute as a button and such a wonderful teddybear.  He's a viking in the sac and out of it.  Think he'll like him?"

Sarah looked confused.  "Xander doesn't like guys."

"Cupie said he would *if* we could find someone nearly like him, with just enough angst built in that he would have a reason to help each other.  This way, Hans gets to feel a little naughty by corrupting Xanny and Xanny gets to feel really good for helping him join the right side, plus they can talk about tv and fandoms and all that geeky stuff," she told him.

"You're bringing *Hans* here?" he demanded, sitting up.  "My fucking arch-nemesis?  The guy I will kill some day?  The one I'm going to kill slowly and as painfully as possible so he learns never to look at my wife again?  If you bring him here, my brother won't be the one you have to worry about finding someone for!"

'Dite waved a hand.  "Poo, it'll be fine.  Hans wants out.  I'll make sure he knows he is to protect Xander, even from himself.  It'll give something for Xander to fight against until he feels more comfortable."

"Bad idea," Sarah said as she stole her husband's pillow.  "Jett and he will kill each other, then I'll have to go after you, Aphrodite.  No one touches my man but me."  She looked up at him.  "Pookie bear?"

He glared at her.  "I've been trying to get that one stopped now for years."  He stood up, making the Goddess of Love give his nude body an appreciative look.

"I can gouge eyes out," Sarah reminded her.  "The Marines did teach me that too."

Aphrodite giggled and bent down, kissing her on the cheek.  "I'd never touch Jett, sweetie, he's just so precious, but I saw his diapers being changed."

Jett grabbed her by the arm and led her down to his office, locking them in.  "This is a really bad idea, Aphrodite.  I don't want to move my standing on the list up because I had to kill Hans to free my brother from the psycho's mindgames.  Xander doesn't need mindgames, he needs someone sweet and nice."

"Actually, he's got a preference for slightly tart and tangy," she told him dryly.  "His thoughts earlier were 'someone like my big brother Jett, only a little sweeter and a little more geeky."  Jett looked stunned.  "Yeah, so Hans is about the best possibility."

Jett gathered himself together and shook his head.  "No, he's not.  He's so bad even Ares won't look at him.  He's a pycho in nice clothes with a big bank account. The only times he's been arrested was because he was abusing his girlfriend in public.  The only thing Hans is good for is fertilizer.  If I see him in my town, I'm going to have to do him before he can meet Xander.  I won't have him hurt like that."

"Whoa," Cupid said, appearing and getting between them.  "The guy's changed.  He's been trying to reform."

Jett snorted.  "Yeah, right.  And my dad will someday walk around in a pink flowered mu- mu and sing love songs about kittens."  He glared at the Gods.  "This is *not* what Xander needs.  Yeah, he needs someone who can keep up with his snarky side and his physical activity level, I've got your back on that.  And yeah, if Xander wasn't my brother, I might have made a play for him.  I would have tied him down by now to cure his bouncing problem, but it would have been fine with him.  Hans is so psychotic, he once left a victim tied in his living room and went to read on the 'net for three days without remembering they were there until they started to stink.  Hans is not the one you want.  Hans, basically, I can see.  Yeah, that's great.  Hans fully, not unless you want to comfort our dad at Xander's and possibly my funeral.  Because I would be honor-bound to get revenge if Xander is ever hurt," he said calmly.  "Do you really want to see our father insane again?"

Aphrodite looked broken.  "I'm sorry, Jett, but it's really hard!  Xander needs someone like a cross between you and him.  Hans was the only one we've found!"

Jett slumped, leaning against the front of his desk.  "I understand that.  He really likes me like that?"

"No, he really likes what he thinks you're like that way," Cupid pointed out.  "He wants that strength and that protective urge.  He also likes the way you pick on him sometimes and how you treat Sarah.  He's wants a funner version of who he thinks you are, with a bit more geeky tendencies."

Jett nodded, then he reached behind him, finding his rolodex by feel.  He looked up a number and held out the card.  "Him."  He walked away, going back to help his wife.  By the time he got up there, his wife was doing herself and he joined in to help her.  "I've decided to sacrifice an old contact to help the poor thing," he said as he worked his way around her neck.

"Which one?" she panted.  She felt him slip into her and moaned.  "Who, Jett?"

"Nathan."  She shrieked and he grinned, working her toward a second one.  "Yeah, that's what I thought too.  Plus, I could be home more often."

She laughed.  "Good job."  She kissed him.  "More, Jett, or else."

"Your wishes and all that, m'lady."  He kissed down her stomach, making her growl until he reached her favorite spot for him to fall asleep touching.


Xander looked up as his name was called.  "Who now?" he called back.

"Your big brother," one of the workers on the second floor called down.  "They just parked.  He's got a buddy."

"Wonderful."  Xander put down his pen and went that way, giving Jett an affectionate hit to the arm.  "Morning.  Decided I needed to be fired now?"

Jett nodded at his friend.  "Ares agreed, we're overworked.  He has no idea what he got signed up for but I think you two will get along.  Lunch?"

"Isn't for hours, Jett.  The boss isn't here today.  I probably won't get to eat until the day ends."

"Then we'll cook," the soft-voiced man offered.  Xander grinned at him.  "Do you eat meat?"

"Every chance I get," Xander assured him.  He shook his hand.  "Xander, bratty brother."

"Nathan, old friend of your brother's.  We used to work in the same field."

"Cool.  At Jett's?"

"Yeah.  It'll just be us.  Sarah's taking Dawn and the kids to the mall tonight for pizza and a movie."  He gave Xander a pat on the back.  "Come right over, don't worry about being sweaty, it'll just be us guys."

"Okay.  I'll not to be too nasty or gross, but it's a pretty day and we usually lose half the shift by the end of lunch."  He shrugged.  "I'd better get back there before they wire things upside down again.  Some guys cannot read a plan."  He waved and jogged off.

"He's cute," Nathan noted, looking at Jett.  "Now, finish telling me the rest."

"Sure, one more stop," Jett said, walking away.  They were pretty close to Spike's crypt.  He kicked the door open, startling the sleeping vampire.  "I brought company," he said dryly.  "You've got a new student."  He let Nathan inside.

"You!" Nathan said, pointing at him, looking really pissed.

"Do I know you, wanker?" Spike demanded.  "Close the bleedin' door!"  Jett kicked the door shut.  "Thanks."  He stood up, looking this new person over.  "Who the fuck are you?"

"I'm Nathan, you nearly ate me once," he said bitterly.   He looked at Jett.  "You're working *with* him?"

"Against most of his kind actually," Jett admitted sheepishly.  "Spike's kinda become a non-combatant and he helps my little brother.  I got sucked in to help my little brother because this town is overrun with the demonic.  Now you're getting sucked in because this town needs more than me and a half-trained brother."  The other assassin's mouth started to open and Jett held up a hand.  "That and they think you and Xander will be cute together. Sorry."

Nathan shook his head.  "You're shitting me," he said flatly.

Jett shook his head.  "'Fraid not.  Ares' has a temple in town if you wanted to go complain to him. We're down to having only a few rising a night now," he said helpfully.  "Between Xander, Spike, Bacchus, and me we're slowly moving and keeping a lid on most of it."

"Winning will take more fighters," Nathan reminded him.

"Winning is nearly impossible," Spike retorted, lighting a cigarette.  "Welcome to the Hellmouth, mate.  Hope you wrote out a will."

Nathan growled and reached behind him but Jett stopped him. "I can't kill him?"

"No, he's protecting the most special and precious of all things.  The woman Ares has a crush on."  Spike choked.  "That's right, Ares has a crush on her as well as her having a crush on him."  Spike leaned against his chair, continuing to cough.  He looked at Nathan again.  "I'm the only real fighter in town outside of this vampire.  I'm training Ares' future consort, my brother, and two witches along with my own kids.  I need the help, Nate.  This is too much for just me and you always did have a feel for the odd and fucked-up."

"Fucked up is right," he said quietly, still looking quite pissed however.  "Why me?"

"I trust you with my kids and my baby brother."

"Funny, he didn't seem to be checking me out."

"Xander's not gay," Spike wheezed, going to get some blood to calm himself.  He slowly looked at them again.  "Who's tryin' ta make him that way?"

"Aphrodite said he had an idea type, it was a cross between me and him, only with my toughness and Xander's geeky nature and the protective and nurturing streak."  He looked at Nathan.  "They were going to set him up with Hans because of his pretty exterior."

Nathan shuddered.  "Fine.  I relent.  I will stay for a while.  Eventually I will be going back to Maine."

"Hey, eventually I'm going to be going back to Lower New York too," Jett pointed out.  "It shouldn't take more than a few years to straighten all this out.  Surely by the time Dawn graduates, then we can evacuate the town and blow it the fuck up."  Nathan smiled at that.  "Deal?"

"Deal," he agreed, shaking his hand.  "Has Ares been told?"

"Fuck me if I know," Jett told him.  "Come on, we'll go tell him ourselves."

"You'd better.  I'm stayin' here," Spike told him.  "Glinda's got the book for you, we'll made extra copies for him."

"We can work off the same one for now," Nathan told him.  "I suppose I'll have to work with you as well?"  Spike nodded. "Why?"

"Because, like my baby brother, he's guarding Ares' future consort."


"Ever heard a Slayer named Buffy?" Spike asked.  Nathan slowly nodded.  "Her little sister Dawn.  Cute as a kitten, but nearly as deadly as her sis and Ma were."  He finished his blood.  "Out, both of you.  I need my rest if I'm gonna be putting up with the whelp tonight."

"Yeah, Xander does have a few trying moments now and then," Jett agreed.  "But otherwise I really like the kid.  He says he wants what Sarah and I have some day," he told his friend as they left, leaving the door open.

Spike slammed it and locked it this time.  He wasn't coming out tonight unless the thing fell in. Harris in love would be a *bad* thing.


"So, Pookie, what's this about my *future consort*?" Ares asked as they walked in.

Jett glared at him.  "Aphrodite only gets away with that because I can't wring her neck or I'll never get laid again," he growled.

"Pookie?" Nathan asked, starting to chuckle.

"You know about Aphrodite and her pet name thing.  I've been fighting that one since I was two."  Jett looked at him.  "You are.  She'll have you captured and tied up as soon as she figures out you like that sort of thing.  Pick on me or Xander some more, Ares, see what I tell her about your kinkier side."  Ares started to open his mouth and he held up a finger.  "Or I could *share* things with Xander."  Ares groaned and walked away.  "Nathan got sent here to help us and help Xander."

"Strife, the pink bitch set up your son finally," Ares called as he went to get a strong drink.

Strife appeared, already glaring at Nathan.  "Really?  What makes you think you're good enough for one'a my boys?"

"Easy, the woman said I was," Nathan told him.  "I'd rather talk with the young man myself and see if we have mutual ground before I have to defend myself," he offered.

"Smart move," Strife admitted.  "Hurt my boy and be plagued like the world will end," he warned.  He looked at Jett, then leaned closer, whispering in his ear.  Jett snorted and shook his head.  "So hide tonight, okay?"

"We're having dinner," Jett said.  Strife's eyes opened.  "I'll chaperone, you go hide."  He tugged on Nathan's arm.  "Come on, I'll take you to meet the rest of the town's fighters.  Two witches, they live with Dawn and Xander."  He led his friend out to the car and sped them away.  "Don't worry about my dad.  He's really paranoid about Xander, but he's fair enough if Xander sticks up for you.  Considering he stuck up for the nearly-demonic whore he had been dating, I don't think it will be a big problem."

"Demonic whore?"

"Anya, Bacchus' new assistant and slut.  Oh, he's Xander's maternal great-grandfather," he said casually.

"Does the boy draw trouble?"

"He draws the worst sort of trouble."  Jett parked and turned to look at Nathan.  "If you could keep him out of trouble I'd be really happy to have you around.  Just for that reason.  The last time we went on patrol together, he was pounced on by a succubus, one who wasn't sucking his energy.  I've heard he's went out alone since then and nearly got turned because of some female vampires who wanted his ass.  They staked their males, and one her master, because they wanted Xander for themselves."  Nathan started to look upset.  "The boy draws Joxer-level trouble.  Though people say we're a lot alike, I simply don't see it.  I think he's like Joxer with Jace's teasing nature.  You will be getting a total virgin.  He swears he's never thought about guys in the past.  Cupid found the one 'but' circumstance and you're it."  He grinned.  "Also, show him the pictures of you at the con last year.  He's been trying to figure out how to go to one next month."

"He's a geek too?" Nathan asked.

Jett gave him a look.  "Xander is, according to others, a geekier and sweeter version of me.  You and I did well together, you should do well with him."  He restarted the car and continued on.  "With that warning, I'm staying out of your way with the boy.  I'll only offer advice and information."

"He'd probably be depressed if you dropped out of his life totally," Nathan offered.

"Oh, I'm not.  I was talking about anything between you two.  I don't want to hear it, see it, or find it on my couch, but I won't stop you as long as you treat him nicely.  That was my main objection to Hans.  Otherwise, the geek master would have been perfect for him, if a bit loud, boisterous, and pushy."

"He might need pushy," Nathan warned.

"He might like pushy.  He seems to like pushy women," Jett agreed.  "Along with pushy demons who like to suck out souls and try to kill him.  Why they like him I have no idea, but they do."  He stopped outside a nice, tidy house and got out.  "Come on, let's meet our local backup."  He walked up to the front door and tested it, finding it locked.  He rang the bell instead, and had to smile when Tara came down the stairs in a teddy and a gaping robe with duck slippers on her feet.  "Morning, precious," he said, giving her a kiss on the cheek and making her blush.  "This is Nathan.  Ares imported him for Aphrodite and to help us."  He got out of the way, letting Nathan inside.  "Nathan, this is Tara.  She's the good witch of the town."  Tara's blush got brighter and she tightened her robe.  "Go change, sweetie, we'll tell you *all* about why he's here so you can help us with our devious plans."  She nodded and scurried up the stairs.

"Is she taken?"

"She likes the softer sex.  Sarah thinks she's really cute and adorable though.  I figure if she ever kills and leaves me, then she might try for Tara."  He sat on the couch, waiting for the women to get ready for the day.  Willow came down first.  "Morning.  No early class?"

"No, not today.  That's tomorrow," she said as she took her usual chair.  "And you are?" she asked.

He bowed and smiled.  "I am Nathan D'Arcy.  I am a former associate and coworker with Jett.  Aphrodite arranged for my quick release from my house to come here and help you."

"Why is the Goddess of Love importing people now?" Willow asked.

"Xander," Jett said simply, smirking slightly.

Willow grimaced.  "He doesn't like men."

"Cupid thought he might," Tara said shyly from the doorway.  "W...would an...anyone like" she stuttered.

"That's all right, dear.  I'm not much into warm caffeine," Nathan said, giving her his best disarming smile.  It had stopped a kidnaping dead once. It worked just as well on her.  "Sit, please.  Tell me about this interesting town and about that very gorgeous young man you live with."  Both women blushed and gave him a look like they were trying to figure out what to do with a normal person who liked this young man.  "That bad?"

Tara went up and grabbed something out of Dawn's room, handing it over.  "Nothing personal," she warned quietly, going to make herself some tea.

"Make me a cup too please," Willow called after her.

"Lazy," Jett snorted.

"Hey, you didn't have to deal with Angel for the last few weeks, Mister.  Don't get huffy with me or I'll make your wife really pissed because she'll have to start liking girls."

"Bacchus did say you were drawing on the darker powers," he taunted.  Her glare got a little more squinty.  "What?  Truth hurt?"

"Stop it," Tara warned as she walked back in.  "No fighting."  Nathan smiled at her.  "Children," she said, shaking her head.  She forced Jett to move so she could have a seat on the comfy couch as well.

Nathan laughed.  "I've had that feeling about Jett a few times.  But he's more fun like this.  Believe me, I knew him before he met and kidnaped Sarah.  He was one gloomy bastard back then."  Tara laughed and swatted at him behind Jett's back.  "You think I'm kidding?  He used to lower the temperature in a room by glowering at someone.  He was not a happy camper."

"Yeah, we like this happier Jett," Willow agreed, smirking at him.  "Does that mean that Xander will return to the goofy guy he was before all this if we get him laid?"

"Willow!" Tara said, blushing brightly in her shock.

Nathan looked at her.  "Only if he likes it and I'm going to move slowly on the young man.  He seemed much too nice and ready for a real relationship, not a quick tumble in a backseat."  He looked at Jett. "Speaking of.   I still need my car and gear."

"Dad!"  Strife appeared, giving him a bright grin.  "You made him leave without his gear?"

"I'll take him back for that and he can drive back," Strife said dryly.  "I wanted ta make sure he'd be okay first.  After we lost most of a unit to one patrol, Ares is kinda worried about importin' new people."

"Yeah, well, the demonic bulls are no more," Jett reminded him.

Nathan looked at him.  "Demonic bulls?"

Jett nodded.  "With poisoned horns.  Ares brought in a combat unit and sent them out with my baby brother.  Baby brother and five guys ultimately survived the poisoned horns."

"And two days later, he was sure he was able to patrol again," Strife said dryly.  "That was before we found out the poison was still in his system and he was slowly being killed by it."  He stared Nathan down.  "My son don't take care of himself for anythin'.  Fix that first.  Give him a reason to take care of himself and to eat better.  Really, the guy had cookies for breakfast."

"It was probably cereal," Willow pointed out.

Strife shook his head.  "No, he stole four oreos on his way out the door.  That was his only food today."

"We'll make a big dinner," Jett told him.   "And no, you're not invited.  I can play matchmaker quite well enough, thank you."

"Fine," Strife sighed.

"Did he at least get some milk?" Nathan asked.

Strife shook his head.  "Coffee on-site.  That's about it.  Did he eat last night?"  Willow shook her head.  "Why not?" he asked patiently.

"Patrolling," Tara reminded him.

"We didn't go last night," Jett told her, looking confused.

"He's been going out nearly every night," Willow told him.  "You two getting together is the highlight of his week, but he still goes out nightly in honor of Buffy."  She stood up, grabbing her tea to go.  "I'm going to check my mail."  She headed to the dining room.

"See," Strife said, pouting at Nathan.  "He won't listen to me.  He'd better listen to a lover though."

"I'll do what I can, Lord Strife.  Your son seems very nice."  He gave him a faint smile.  "Let me work in my own way."  He handed back Dawn's diary.  "I think I could handle this.  How are we doing weapons?"

"High and low tech," Jett informed him.  "Xander created some bullets for us and Hephie's mass producing them but the boy still prefers the low-tech stake."

"He gets that close?" Nathan asked.  Jett nodded. "Is he at least in our class of fighter?"  Jett shook his head.  "Fuck, man, what is wrong with that boy?"

"He sees it as his duty and his honor," Tara said softly, staring at him.  "You won't change that."

Nathan hung his head.  "Then we should probably take turns going with him.  If he's in danger I don't want to think about what could happen.  He seemed very nice."  He nodded outside.  "Let's get me settled so I can change and help Sarah cook dinner."

"On it," Jett agreed, standing up.  "Thank you, Tara.  I thought you might have already been up."  She blushed.  "That was a beautiful nightgown though.  Try not to wear it around Sarah, she'll drool," he teased, giving her a little wink before leaving.

"That's a fucking understatement," Strife snorted.  "The girl is a puddle for you if she ever leaves Jett and he allows her to go," he told her.

"I'd never break up a couple," Tara defended.

"I know, that's why she loves ya like I do, sweetie," he said, winking at her himself.  "You do look really cute in your slippers."  She blushed and tucked her feet under the table.  "You should get used ta it.  We've got some suave assholes in the family.  Not to mention the smarmy bastards.  Especially Athena and Artemis."  He giggled.  "You're more'n able to get past them.  You're a natural beauty and so very sweet and delicate.  Too bad you're not a disciple of mine," he sighed.  He heard a thought from her head and sat down next to her, pulling her closer.  "If you want to do that, I can help you with that," he offered.  "It's not that hard and I can definitely pick the best of his lot to get you knocked up."  He could feel the blush through his leathers.  "Oooh, how cute."  He patted her on the back of the head.  "If you want, just ask.  I like you.  You protect my baby boy from himself and the skanky ho's."  He let her go and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips.  "There, now you know what boys are like too, no need to think about it more."  She gave him a look.  "What?  I had ta try."  He grinned and disappeared from right there.

Tara touched her lips.  "Thank you, Lord Strife," she whispered.  Now she knew she really liked girls.  Willow's kisses were like a strong wine, his had been like a strong brandy.  She had always like wine but she decided she needed a less heady vintage.  She curled up to sip her tea, content for the moment.  Xander would be happier and the remaining anger inside him would dissipate.  Life was good for now.


Xander tapped on the door before walking into Jett's house, being polite in case Sarah was having another bad day.  He wasn't sure why women had so many bad days, none of the ones he hung around had ever explained it to him.  He felt he should know, just so he could create a scale in his mind to defend the poor thing against their barrages.  He walked back to the kitchen and found Nathan chuckling over an article in a familiar magazine.  "I didn't know I left that here," he said, handing over the bottle of port.  Jett seemed to like port.  Or sherry, one of the two, he was never sure which.

"No, this is my copy," Nathan said, smiling at him.  "Did you want to borrow it?"

"Nah, I'm guessing if I didn't leave it here, Dawn's stolen it for elf pictures."  He sat down at the breakfast bar with him.  "What can I do to help that won't poison anyone?"  He grinned at Jett came in.  "I brought you another bottle of that stuff I think you like."

Jett looked at the bottle.  "Nathan likes port, Xander.  Don't worry about it.  Next time, stick with the simple stuff.  I also drink bourbon and scotch."

"Which I will never touch," Xander said dryly.  "I have more than enough memories of those scents on breath that I found rather rancid when it woke me up."  Jett looked at him.  "No big of course."

Jett smiled.  "Of course not, just another thing I will get those idiots for.  Nathan, would you please keep Xander entertained?  He can't cook to save our lives.  He definitely cooks like Joxer does."

"Yeah, Joxer said something about poisoning about two hundred people with only two pots of chicken soup," Xander agreed lightly.  He looked at Nathan.  "Since we seem to have gotten started on the alcohol discussion, what's your drink of choice?"

"I'm usually just a beer guy unless there's a good dessert that needs a nice port.  You?"

"Mostly I do beer, and very infrequently tequila and sprite."  Jett shuddered.  "What?  I get the lime and the salt all at once.  It's a good thing."

"Xander, I'm going to fix you yet," Jett offered nicely.

Xander stuck his tongue out.  "Why?  I like myself.  If you have issues, yay.  Get over them.  I'm not changing for your comfort."

Nathan chuckled.  "Another happy family moment I see.  Want me to remove myself so you two can beat each other up in peace?"

"No, we're good," Jett assured him.  "I'm not going to hit Xander.  Joxer would get very upset with me and plague me for years."  He looked at Xander.  "That is not an excuse to get him into our mock-arguments."

"I'd never go to Joxer because we were fighting unless I had to hide from you," Xander pointed out dryly.  "Other than that, I can probably take you."  Jett and Nathan both snickered.  "Jett, I grew up in this town.  You've been here a month.  Even with the vampires hunting my ass, I still have multiple exits and places to hide until I can plot my revenge and carry it out."  Jett stopped and looked at him.  "I planned most of them out years ago to get Willow when we fucked up and she blamed me for it," he said quietly.  "Trust me.  I played in the town while Willow was safely at home.  I know tunnels around here that not even the demon population know about."

Jett looked impressed.  "Good.  Then you'll have to show me some time."

Xander shook his head.  "I'm not giving you my hiding spots.  How dumb do you think I am?"  He stood up and walked over to the cabinet, getting himself a glass so he could have some water.  "If you need them, I'll draw you a map."

"Thanks, you're all heart," Jett said dryly.  "Going to give Nathan one as well?"

"Sure, if he needs one."  Xander gave him a light and fluffy grin.  "See, I'm not the nice person everyone thinks I am.  I'm not Joxer.  Not only am I more sane most of the time, I like thinking up little things like revenge plots.  It makes me a better battle planner."  He went back to the counter and sat, watching his brother chop vegetables.  "Anything I can do to help?"

"No.  You sit there and be entertaining," Jett told him.

Nathan coughed and looked at Xander.  "So, you were raised here?"  Xander nodded.  "Wow.  How did you survive this long?  Before you came over I looked outside and saw a few biker gangs."

"They're back?" Xander said in disgust.  He took a longer drink.  "I'll be right back."  He jogged down the hall to Jett's weapon room, taking a rifle and shells before Jett could catch up to him, then he teleported off to go deal with the demonic hellgang.  He was tired of them, they kept trashing the building he was working on.   He stepped into the middle of the main road as soon as he heard their bikes, giving them a steady look, the shotgun loose in his hand.  A few of them stopped, one of the lead ones stopped and lifted his visor.  "Out of my town, dirtbag," he told him.  "Mine, all mine."  The demon laughed.  "Oh, that lets me know you don't know me."  He bowed with a flourish of the gun.  "Xander Harris, Buffy's second."  That stopped the laughter cold.  "Out of my town.  I am still here and having a lot of fun with your kind."

"We only want to party," one of the ones in the back complained.  "That fucking thing in LA won't let us."

"Yay.  Go to 'Frisco.  It's the party town of the state, not Sunnydale.  And take all your little buddies and sluts with you.  We don't need them.  We've got enough here without you."  He flicked off the safety, making sure they saw it.  "I mean it.  Now," he said calmly.  Most of the group turned around and sped away.  The leader stood up and walked over to him, towering over him.  Xander gave him a bland look.  "What?" he asked dryly.  "Can't follow instructions?"

"You may be a human but we do not take orders from humans.  Even if we leave, we will come back for you."

Xander rested the shotgun against his chest.  "What makes you think there will be a next time?" he asked patiently.  "I can easily kill you now."

"Human weapons have nothing that will kill us," he laughed.

"Really?  You mean like the holy water ones I put in this one?"  The demon stopped laughing and backed up.  "Yeah, I'm also her gear guy."  He squeezed his fist, cracking his knuckles.  "Out of my town.  Now."

"Fine.  Don't shoot."

"You've got five minutes.  You should be able to make it to the town's sign by then.  If not, I'm going to go on an old fashioned hunt, just like my possessors like."  Then he laughed a high-pitched hyena laugh.  "By the way, what makes you think I'm fully human?  With as many times as I've been possessed?  With as many demons as I've dated?"  The demon ran for his bike and peeled off, heading out of town.  Xander closed his eyes, calming himself down again.  "I'm not letting you out without a reason," he told himself, heading back to the path.  He heard a rustling noise.  "I've got holy water bullets on me, dude, do you really want to be that injured?"  The rustling stopped.  "Thank you."  He continued to talk himself back into control as he walked back to Jett's, doing a small turn through the nearest cemetery, the one where most new bodies were buried.  He found a few fledges and shot into their coffins, then went back to Jett's with a big grin on his face.  "Done.  They've left for 'Frisco."  He handed off the gun after unloading it.  "No need to patrol tonight either.  I got most of the fledges."  He grinned and patted Jett as he walked past him.  "So, Nathan, are you going to stay with my brother for good or just for a little while?  I can show you were the good apartments are in town."

Jett walked in and grabbed his baby brother by the back of his head, yanking the hair as he pulled him away.  "Excuse us, apparently my brother is insane after all."  He drug him into the study, shoving him in first so he could lock the door.  "You did what!" he yelled.

Xander chuckled and shook his head.  "You should see your face."  He sat down, getting comfortable for this long fight.  "I went and stated that this is my town, because it is, Jett.  My town.  My duty, my right, and my fun to kill the bad things in it.  Buffy left it to me and Willow when she died.  Until another Slayer gets here it's our job.  I didn't have to get physical with anyone."  He crossed his feet, giving his brother a look.  "Just stating my name made some of them nearly piss themselves.  They're presently running for the border or I get to have fun later.  You can even trail after me if you want."  Jett gaped at him.  "Now, what's for dinner and what can I do to help?"

"You need more help than I can give you," Jett said darkly, putting the gun down.  "So, you did what?  Threatened them with the gun?"  Xander nodded.  "Then who did you shoot?  You smell like gunpowder."

"I shot some fledges.  I took holy water bullets with me.  That's what would work best on those demons.  And if they come back, I get to go bestial on them and make them suffer.  It's my fun."  He stood up.   "Should I clean up and set the table?"

Jett frowned at him, confused and angry, but not sure which was stronger at the moment.  "No, right now I want answers.  Ares put *me* in charge, Xander, not you.  You're not even supposed to be fighting."

Xander laughed.  "Sure.  And I'm the fucking tooth fairy, Jett.  I've been fighting this war since I was fifteen.  I'm happy that you joined in to spare me some of it, and to save Tara from having to go out at all.  The same as I'm thrilled that Nathan's here because it means I can put you two together some nights and get to bed early."  He walked closer, sort of stalking.  "I did what I'm supposed to do, Jett," he said quietly, staring in his brother's eyes.  "Don't get upset about it.  This is who I am.  The demons are mine, and then you can play with what's left.  It's my duty."  He walked out, heading to clean up.  He found his niece in the bathroom doing the same.  "Hey, MJ, didn't you like the mall?"

"Scott poured a drink on himself so we're cleaning him up," she informed him. "Why do you smell like you've been doing targets?"

"Because I did a few to blow off some steam," he said with a smile.  "Go help your baby brother and hug your daddy for me.  He needs one more."

"Okay."  She hugged his legs and waist as well, then went to help her mother with the messy creature that had come after her.

Xander washed his hands and forearms, making sure to get most of the gunpowder off.  Someone knocked on the door.  "Just let me dry my hands," he called.  Sarah walked in and shut the door, leaning against it.  "Sorry if I upset Jett," he told her.

She shook her head. "I'm more worried about you, Xander.  How did you do that?  We saw you."  She moved closer, capturing his chin to look into his eyes.  "You've never had gold in them before," she said quietly.

He got free and grabbed the towel.  "Possession when I was fifteen," he admitted.  "It happens sometimes around me."  He dried his arms off then carefully hung the towel back up.  "I'm perfectly safe, it only comes out when I'm outnumbered and being brash."  She stared him down.  "Really, ask Willow if you don't believe me.  She attributes more to that than I do."  He shrugged and kissed her on the forehead.  "Did you want me to go away?"

"No.  I want this explained to me," she said quietly.  "I don't understand."

Xander nodded.  "Then I'll show you sometime soon, Sarah, when my big brother isn't lurking in the hallway being pissed at me and you don't have anything to do that day either."  He gave her a hug then left her there, going down to set the table.  "Sorry about that," he said suavely as he walked into the kitchen.  "Had to happen though."  He grabbed plates and glasses.  "Is it still just the three of us?"

"Yeah, and Jett said we could eat at the breakfast bar."  He looked the boy over.  "You don't seem the same.  You all right?"

"Just fine," Xander said, grinning at him.  "It's normal post-fight behavior for me."  He set out everything, making sure everything was lined up.  Jett was a big one for appearances and things being neat and tidy in his house.

Jett walked in and grabbed Xander by the arm, making him look at him.  "Are you dangerous?"

"Have I been yet?"  Jett shook him.  "I'm not dangerous, Jett, it only comes out when I'm under a great deal of stress."  He handed over the glasses.  "Here, your I believe."  Jett put them onto the counter before he could break them.  "Joxer didn't tell you about Principle Flouty?"  Jett slowly shook his head.  "He should have.  Ask him now.  Then you can bitch me out in fine fashion after you've blown yourself off for a few minutes."

"Guys, you're scaring me," Nathan put in.  "Xander's supposed to be the nice one, Jett, not you.  What is going on?"

Xander looked at him.  "You know enough now to know that things like possessions happen around me.  One of them was a hyena.  The pack leader."  Nathan dropped the spoon he had been stirring with.  "It only comes out during battles."  He looked at Jett again.  "I can go if you want, man."

"No, I want to talk to you about this."

"After the non-family is out of the way."

"No, I'd like to hear about this too," Nathan said, shaking himself free long enough to put the spoon into the sink and clean up the sauce he had dropped onto the floor.  "How did that happen?"

"Bad zookeeper who wanted it for himself.  I was trying to help another kid and got trapped by it.  Me and another four kids."  He looked at him and grinned, regaining his easy stance.  "It's nothing.  It was cured.  It's pushed so far back in my head it's only come out during a few really *bad* battles."  Jett touched the side of his face, making him look at him again.  "I'm fine."

"No, you're not.  This is not fine, Xander.  Fine would be it getting out of you."

"While that would be nice, if it's gone on this long, there's probably not anything we can do about it," Nathan pointed out.  Jett slumped.  "Have you noticed this before?"  Jett shook his head with a muted growl.  "Then he's obviously got it under control, Jett.  You thought I was wise in our youth, consider the proposition now."  He went back to helping with dinner.  "Xander, come taste this."  Xander walked over and tasted the sauce on his finger.  "Does it need salt?  I can't taste salt anymore."

"No, it tastes fine," he assured him, giving him a small grin.  "Thanks for not jumping to conclusions."

"Hey, I've seen it happen with other people inside someone.  I figure you've got it under control since it happened so long ago."  Xander nodded.  "Then I trust you not to eat me in the middle of a patrol, okay?"

"Thanks."  Xander gave him a light pat on the back, then turned to look at his brother.  "Well?"

"We're good, Xander, but I want to understand this.  You're handing me more pieces and they don't fit with what I already have."

"That's because I'm not some simple little guy," Xander pointed out dryly.  "I'm a very complex soul.  Most of the higher demons leave me alone because they know there isn't much they could give me to taint or taunt me.  The lower demons know enough to fear me because I've been here the whole fucking time with Buffy.  They fear Willow for the same reason.   Some of them still probably even flinch at Cordelia's name or Oz's name."  He shrugged.  "I'm me, man, get over it.  I'm not some simple little kid, no matter what big and broody guy thinks."  He sat down, moving around the opposite side of the bar from his brother so he wouldn't have to see him flinch.

Jett grabbed Xander, looking into his eyes.  "Tell me," he demanded.

"Tell you what?" Xander asked quietly.  "About which thing?"  Jett let him go slowly.  "Do you want to hear about the hyena and eating the school mascot?"  He shrugged.  "Or how the hyena saw Buffy as an ultimate threat since she wouldn't mate with me?"  Jett shook his head.  "Then what did you want to know?"

"I want to know you, Xander."

Xander rested their foreheads together.  "Jett, I'd only give you headaches," Xander whispered.  "You have enough to worry about without me.  That's what kids are for."

"Tell me," Jett repeated, quieter this time.

Xander closed his eyes and opened his mind, letting his control go fully.  Then he felt Jett's mind being sucked toward his so he let them touch.  Jett flinched back and Xander rebuilt everything before he opened his eyes again.  "Think about it.  We'll get drunk sometime soon."

Jett grabbed him, holding his head still.  "Do that again."

"You'll get a headache."

"If it's that bad, I've got sleeping pills and morphine in the medicine cabinet," he said quietly.  Xander nodded and let him in fully, something not even his father had been able to do.  Jett found himself shuddering, but now he knew.  He had what he needed to understand his baby brother.  People were right, he was more like him.  Xander was a nicer, geekier version of him.  He pulled back and Xander showed him one last secret, then built the wall between them again.  Jett opened his eyes and looked at him.  "How did you survive like that?" he hissed.

Xander shrugged.  "What was the alternative?  People need me, Jett.  They still do.  Once Dawn's safely away, it'll be a different matter."  He pulled away and found two glasses of clear liquid on the bar.  "For us?"

"Yours is tequila and sprite.  Jett, yours is vodka straight up."  Nathan looked at them as they took the steadying shots, then shook his head.  "Do I dare ask?"

Jett looked at him for a moment, then shrugged.  "You two will get really close," he told him.  He sat down, looking at his brother.  "We can do a short patrol if you need more stimulus."

"Nah, I'm good. I'll go home and play with myself, it'll be enough."  He blew a kiss at his brother.  "Use that against me and die."

Jett nodded.  "I'd never do that.  Joxer maybe, but never you, Xander."  He reached over and touched him on the arm.  "I'll up your training schedule so you're moving ahead and taking advantage of your gifts."  Xander grinned.  "Then we're going to figure out how to make the succubi leave you the fuck alone," he said dryly.

"But they're fun and they never try to eat me," Xander said with a coy smile for Nathan.  "Don't you agree that makes them safe?"

"No, that is not what I would call a succubus," he admitted.  "They don't nibble on you?"  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?"

"Because they don't like how I taste.  Apparently I'm their idea of a vacation shag," Xander said proudly.  He looked at his big brother again.  "You might want to keep MJ from becoming me, bro.  She'd break your heart."

"I'm going to talk to someone about shielding her this week," Jett vowed.  "My daughter will not suck in every loose spirit within twenty miles of us like you do."

Nathan gave Xander an interested look.  "Does that hurt or bother your throat?"

Xander grinned.  "No, only my head.  Some of them are really pushy people."  Nathan smiled at him and dished up dinner.  "Is that all we're having?"

"No, there's a salad in the fridge," Jett admitted.  "Dad mentioned something about your amazing four cookie breakfast."

Xander blushed.  "I was running late."

"Did you at least get lunch?"

"I had a granola bar," Xander admitted. Nathan dished him up more, skimping on Jett's plate.  "Thanks, but I could nibble later if I get hungry again."

"Eat," Jett ordered.  He smiled as Nathan took Xander's other side automatically.  Those two would be really cute together.  "So, Nathan, how goes retirement?"

"They pulled you out of retirement to come here?" Xander asked.  "That's not fair!  That was downright mean of them!"

Nathan gave him a bright smile.  "I was actually bored so I agreed."  He touched Xander's hand, watching as he shivered.  "It's all right.  I'm not that out of practice, but I would like to go out on patrol with both of you as soon as I get my gear here."

"How long will that take?"

"A week after I find a place to live.  Xander, where are the *safe* parts of town?"

"The next one over," he said promptly.

Nathan chuckled.  "I don't think I'd be much good in an emergency all the way over by the mall.  Anywhere close by?"

"That depends, what are you looking for?  There's all sorts of apartments and houses open right now.  The last year's been really hard and some people have actually admitted that things are going wrong and left."

"Hmm.  A house would be too big," Nathan told him, then he ate a bite of dinner.  Jett handed him the pepper. "Thanks.  Those stupid tastebuds of mine just went out again."

"Add a few hot peppers.  That seems to clear everyone else's."

Nathan chuckled again, a warm and happy sound.  "I'll try that tomorrow.  How about condos?  Maybe a nice big half a house?"

"There's not many of those around here," Xander told him, considering the local real estate.  "I know there are a few smaller houses for rent or sale.  Most of the apartments are one or two bedrooms."  He ate a bite and added a touch of salt to his then ate again, nodding.  "This is really good."

"I thought you said it had enough salt," Nathan reminded him.

"I'm used to eating with Tara, the little saltless witch," Xander said dryly.  "We salt things to her taste, then add to our own plates."

"Ah.  I'm surprised she's not a vegan."

"She might be but the rest of us have to eat meat sometimes," Xander told him.  "She usually eats a little bit of those and a lot more of the veggies. I think she's a half-veggie person."

"I'll invite her over for a barbeque," Jett noted.

Xander kicked at him.  "Don't do that to poor Tara.  It's bad enough that Willow wants her back."
"Those two are on the outs?" Jett asked.  Xander nodded.  "You'd never guess it from the way Willow was acting."

"Yeah, but she wants her back.  Tara told her she had to slow down her magic use and she hasn't."  He ate another bite of dinner.  Jett went to get the salad, handing him the larger bowl of it.  "Thanks, bro."  He dug in, eating quickly.  "What else were we going to do tonight?"

"Bronze?" Jett asked.  He looked at Nathan.  "It's the only club around here.  It's a half- teen place too."

"Eww," Nathan groaned.

"Don't worry, the little girls won't hit on you, probably," Xander offered.  "They stopped hitting on anyone above a sophomore in college recently."

"That's good to know.  I'm probably old enough to have a kid their age in some cases.  Do they at least serve beer?"

"Some," Xander agreed.  "Plus they've got the only pool tables.  Unless you wanted to hit a demon bar and play there," he offered.

"No, that's okay," Nathan said quickly.  "I'd hate to have to kill them all for a good pint of beer.  Liquor store?"

"Over by the mall," Xander told him.  "About halfway toward it on the left."

"I'll show you tomorrow," Jett promised. "It's well stocked."

"Yes, and I have a few aisles memorized," Xander quipped.  Jett reached down and squeezed his thigh.  "Thanks, bro."

"Not a big," Jett reminded him.  "Though I am going to kill the fuckwad someday."

"Yay.  Let him die of cirrhosis.  Couldn't happen to a nicer guy in my book," Xander told him.

"Speaking of your paternal unit, he showed up at the temple today to talk dad into giving him a boon.  Thought you were Ares' kid.  He told Ares you weren't any good."  He grinned at his brother.  "He was not impressed with our real father."

Xander chuckled. "Good.  Did dad get him?"

"Oh, yeah.  Dad got him quite well.  Apparently each time he says something bad about you or his wife he'll be spitting out baby frogs for a while," Jett said fondly.  Nathan choked.  "Sorry, but this guy irked dad to no end."

"I would have expected worse from your father," Nathan told him.  "That was pretty mild."

"Apparently he feels some pity for the guy for living here and decided he didn't deserve a really horrible death yet since he did manage to keep Xander alive, though he was very lax about that issue."

"Wonderful," Nathan said dryly.  He looked at Xander.  "Can I hit him a few times too?"

"Sorry, only immediate family."  He grinned.  "Even though you're obviously the one everyone wants me to date, I'm not quite ready for that yet."

Nathan gave him a little smile.  "Whenever you are," he noted.  "I do like you.  We share some of the same fandoms."

"Which ones do you watch?" Xander asked.  Jett groaned.  "Sorry, I guess we can do this later."

"No, go ahead and tell him about your memorabilia collection, Nathan. How many pieces are you up to now?"

"Nearly a thousand, mostly in comics, anime, and Star Trek."

Xander whimpered.  "A thousand?  I'm doing good to get all mine back and I only had like twenty."

"I've had a better paycheck and more years to collect," Nathan gently reminded him.  "Anything good in yours?"

"I have all the Babylon 5 plates, all of the Star Treks out on tape to date, and a few action figures.  All my comics seem to have disappeared when I moved.  Nothing too old but some favorites of mine."

"Pity.  Besides, the comics aren't worth as much when you've read them."

"I know," Xander admitted, looking a little down.  "But I can't resist."

"So buy two copies," Jett suggested.  Xander beamed at him.  "That way you can have a good copy and a not-so-good copy."  He looked at Nathan.  "Isn't that how most of you geeks do it?"

Nathan nodded.  "It is. I've got my 'excellent' editions in a fireproof filing cabinet within a special fireproof, archival quality safe."  Xander was drooling so he reached over and wiped it off for him.  "I'll bring the list back with me, Xander."

"Please.  Even seeing the names would be great," he said, wanting to get down and worship at the guy's feet.  "Are you the God over geeks?"

Nathan laughed.  "Not hardly.  Who would that be?"  He looked at Jett, who shrugged. "No clue?"

"I'm guessing it's either under dad or Apollo.  He seems to have all the little odd jobs of the universe.  Either that or it's a muse."

Xander giggled.  "Maybe Auto wants it?"

"Auto would ruin us all," Nathan said, giving him another pat to the hand.  "He'd demand a lot of first editions in tribute.  Though, I know he only like the hentai stuff, only the porn."

"Yeah, he seemed like a horndog," Xander agreed.  "He kept leering at Herc."

"Eww," Jett said as he pushed his plate away.  "I'm hoping he was only picking on him.  Otherwise I might be ill."

Xander gave him a hug.  "Think happier thoughts," he said.  "Dawn and Ares.  Dad and Tara."  Jett covered his mouth to stop the babble before he had to groan in pain.  "No?" he asked through the hand.

"No.  First of all, Ares will get really impatient with Dawn."

Xander pulled away.  "Yeah, but Dawn likes to argue.  She needs someone who will pay attention to her.  He'll do that.  And if not, then dad promised he'd help me sneak up there to castrate him for treating Dawn badly."

"Hmm.  I wouldn't count on that.  Ares knows most of your dad's tricks," Nathan told him.  "Discord though, she might help."  He ate a bite of food.  "Was Dawn the little spitfire you were working with this afternoon?"  Jett nodded.  "Hmm.  Very pretty for being so young.  Quite strong as well.  A definite credit to the name.  Your dad and Tara?  I thought she likes girls."

"She does," Xander told him, grinning at him.  "But I think Dad has a minor crush on her.  He's very nice to her and very sweet and gentle with her."

"Looks like we may have a new sister or brother soon then," Jett decided, pulling his plate back.  "You get to have your hand broken during labor."

"Of course," Xander scoffed.  "I offered to be the surrogate donor for her already, it should fall to me.  Unless it's dad's and then he can."  He took another bite of dinner, then winced and got up to microwave it.

"That's what happens when you eat and don't talk," Jett told him.

"You get used to cold food," Nathan agreed.  "There were many days when we had to eat cold food before a fight or a job."

"I try to save the granola bars for those times," Xander told him, rescuing his poor dinner from the machine.  He came back and sat down again.  "So, Nathan, anything really special about you?"  Jett choked and shook his head with a groan.  "He knows what I mean," Xander retorted.

Nathan laughed.  "Not really.  Jett's often said I'm the reincarnation of someone he used to know but otherwise I'm good this way.  I don't need that fancy teleporting stuff you guys can do.  It makes me dizzy."  He ate a bite of his salad.  "Other than that, I'm a normal mercenary soldier.  Army trained.  Intelligence bred.  I speak three languages.  I also read another two.  It came in handy in the field.  I'm a marksman of the highest caliber.  I prefer long-distance weapons if I have to use any.  Give me the sniper post any day.  I am not the guy who will walk up and shoot someone in the back of the head."

"Wow.  I never knew there were jobs like that."  He gave the other man a worshipful look.  Xander had a sudden thought.  He was flirting with a guy and he wasn't feeling odd.  It was like this guy was so *him* it was comfortable.  He suddenly smiled.  "Now I see why they sent you to me."

Nathan grinned.  "So do I, Xander.  I'm still taking it slowly.  A virgin is like a fine wine and should not be rushed."

Xander blushed.  "Thanks.  Want to play against me at pool tonight."

"Bad idea," Jett offered.  "He's a shark.  He won our way out of Berlin once with a lot of really good pool."  He ate a bite of his salad and looked at his old friend.  "Try not to shark my baby brother, okay?"

"We'll play for kisses," Nathan told him.  "That way he can get used to me."  He leaned over and kissed Xander gently, stunning him.  "Wow."  It had been like a light current of electricity had passed between them.

Xander looked down at himself.  "That didn't even happen when Cupid gave me one," he noted, looking confused.

"Doubly wow," Nathan said happily.  "I'll have to remember that you're very responsive.   Do you think we could dance a song tonight?"

"Sure," Xander agreed.  "Fair warning, I'm told I'm rhythmically challenged."

"We all are until we're taught better," Jett assured him, patting him on the back.  "The training I'm giving you will help some of that unless you're too much like our father.  He can't dance either.  Flails around and calls it slamdancing."

"Well, I flail but I don't mosh so it's okay," Xander told him, looking at Nathan.  "You?"

"My mother had me taught," he admitted sheepishly.  "Mostly I just move to the bass beat."

Xander nodded.  "Me too.  We'll work it out.  It's a Thursday, the early partiers are out tonight."  He quickly finished his dinner then brought his plate to the dish washer.  "I should go home and change."

"You left clothes here and Sarah washed them," Jett told him.  "They're patrolling clothes so they should be tight enough to club in."

"Yeah, but I don't want the little teenagers to stare at my butt this time," Xander complained, going to see what was there.  He found a pair of jeans, a pair of socks, and a softly worn t-shirt and decided it was good enough.  "I'm showering," he yelled.

"Fine," Jett yelled back.  "Save me some hot water."  He waited until he heard Xander's shower start then looked at Nathan.  "So?"

"I like him, he's neat," he admitted.  "He's so very young though, Jett."

"Not mentally. Xander's never been a little kid at heart.   Or he still is but he hides it really well. I know dad spoiled him with a few presents and he got choked up over some DVD's."  He let Nathan into his study, taking the time to check his rifle out.  "At least he didn't bang it against anything," he said as he put it back.  "Sit, relax.  It should be a few minutes."  He flopped down in his comfortable desk chair and put his feet up.  "What do you think you'll need tonight?"

"Can we carry into this club?"  Jett shook his head.  "Not even with a permit?"

"Not a chance.  Xander got busted for having a stake.  They've got a no violence policy but a lot of vamps feed there on the weekends."  He looked at his former colleague.  "Retirement suits you, Nathan, I'm sorry this was so necessary."

"Pfft.  I was bored anyway, Jett. We both know no real one of us is ever going to be able to retire.  There's always one more bad guy or one more hit to do and we'd all rather go out in a blaze of gunfire than in bed from a tumor caused by all the smokes we had on assignments."

Jett smirked at him.  "Nah, I'd rather go out on top of Sarah."  Nathan laughed at that, he could see Jett telling his wife that and her cooing at him for it.  "What do you think of the baby brother?"

"I think he's a sweet kid," he admitted. "I can see how alike we are and I can feel something could happen.  I'm not going to push him, I'd never do that to someone indecisive about the lifestyle."  He shifted.  "Speaking of, will we have problems?"

"Only if the teenage wasteland has been altered dramatically," Xander said from the doorway.  "Unless the demons of the Christian Coalition have been in town, we should be safe.  The Bronze is the only club in about an hour's drive so the gays come there, the gangers come there.  The teens go there to make out and score stupid shit to alter their minds.  Not that I'm putting the moral demon movement coming in out of my mind, but I don't think it'll happen tonight.  Things like that usually happen around Christmas."  He noticed Nathan was staring at him and he shifted.  "Not good enough?"

"No, wonderful."  He held out a hand and Xander came over to sit beside him.  "I like those on you, they look like they're your favorite pair."  He refused to let himself say anything about the obvious lack of underwear.

"About my only pair," Xander admitted.  "Buffy left some massive debts from Joyce's illness when she died."  He scratched the back of his neck.  "I'm the only one working in the house.  Willow and Tara are in college and running the store."

"Where is Rupert?" Jett asked.

Xander shrugged.  "Willow said she heard from him and he's not coming back anytime soon. That's all we know at the moment.  We know he's got his answering machine on but he's another who will drown his life in the bottle if he's allowed.  Another fine lesson I learned from Giles, do not drown your life away."

Jett nodded.  "True.  It's a pretty pointless death.  You don't solve anything by drinking it away."  He looked at himself.  "Let me change.  I hope Sarah did some of my wash too," he said as he left them alone.  He paused to listen but there wasn't any noise.  He couldn't decide if that was a good or a bad thing.  They were cute together but that was moving pretty fast.


Xander walked onto the job site the next morning and waved at his boss.  "Morning.  Have a good night out with the wife?"

"Decent enough.  She forgot to nag me about anything," he admitted with a small grin.  "You?"

"Wonderful actually.  Jett's friend was in and we hit it off really well."

"Oh, is that who the fucking fag was with you?" one of Xander's crew asked him snidely.  "I caught your act on the floor with him."

Xander glared at him.  "Yes, that's who that was.  Besides, I have the right to date someone nice.  After the shit I've dated in the past, it's nice to find a decent human who likes the same things I do.  The fact that he's male makes me pause but unlike you I have thoughts in my head and I can make my own decisions without my wife telling me what to do."

"Take that back, you butt pirate," the worker hissed, balling up his fists.

"Boys," the boss warned.

Xander pointed at the pipe laying nearby.  "Do you see that?  Do you want to see it closer, like after it bashes in your skull?  If not, I'd go back to work now."  The worker sneered so Xander pulled a foam bat out of nowhere and hit him with it, making the man flinch and yell.  "I warned you.  Next time it will be the pipe."

"Xander," the boss said firmly.  "As much as he deserved it, you can't hit them.  They could sue us," he said quietly.  Xander handed him the bat.  "Thank you."  He glared at the worker.  "You're late, again."  The guy ran off.  "Xander," he sighed, shaking his head.  "You really shouldn't have done that. I should suspend you for a week without pay."

Xander shrugged.  "I can make do if you feel you have to."

"I probably should, just to make an example out of you."  He grinned.  "But I'm not really that mean.  I like you and he did deserve it.  Thank you for not kicking his butt the old fashioned way."  He handed the bat back.  "You've got a week off," he said loud enough to be overheard.  "Come back on Monday ready to get past this little incident."  He winked at Xander when the guys were gabbing.  "With pay of course."

"Thanks."  Xander gave him a cheery wave.  "I'm going to go back to bed now."  He jogged off, heading for his car.  As soon as he pulled into the driveway he ran inside, already pulling off his shirt.  "I'm back, I'm suspended with pay, I'm going back to bed, wake me and die!" he shouted.   He made it all the way to his bed before anyone interrupted him.

"Why are you suspended?"

"I hit one of the lower slugs that I rule over for making fun of Nathan and I last night," Xander told his pillow.  "Later, Dawn."

"Sure."  She walked in and tucked him in then dropped a kiss on his forehead like her mother had done for her.  "You sleep well.  We'll see you after school."  She walked back to her room, finishing her preparations for school.  Willow walked in, already frowning and pointing.  "One of the slugs at work made fun of him for going out with Nathan last night.  So he hit him.  He's got the week off."

"Good, then he can look at the roof and that one wall Tara said was bowing."  She smiled.  "Hurry up, I'll drive through somewhere so you can have breakfast before I drop you off and head to my own class."  Dawn grabbed her bag, and Willow helpfully found her math book for her, handing it over as they headed outside.


Xander woke up to someone nudging his side.  "Better be good," he mumbled.

"I was checkin' on ya," Strife told him, sitting beside his baby boy.  "What's wrong?  You sick?"

Xander rolled enough to be able to see him.  "Suspended until next Monday with pay for hitting a guy with a foam bat for making fun of Nathan last night."

"Ah."  Strife grinned, getting comfortable by lying down and pulling his son closer so he could hold him.  "You like him?"

"I think I do," Xander admitted.  "He's so much like me.  We had a great time last night driving Jett insane with all the geeky stuff.  Then we showed him a few of the cemeteries.  He even got to stake his first fledge last night."  He yawned.  "I need more sleep."

"I know you do," Strife agreed, stroking down his back.  Xander wiggled until he was flat again.  "Can't do that?"  Xander shook his head.  "Fine."

"Sorry, I couldn't even do it when I was with Anya."  He grinned.  "I hope she's liking her new position."

"She is," Strife said smugly.  "You might say she's addicted to it now."  He continued to stroke his son's back, 'encouraging' a longer nap for him.  He waited until Xander was asleep to lean down.  "You can always come to me when you need help, son.  Even when it's about your boyfriend.  I'll be there for you no matter what."  He disappeared, going to talk to this Nathan guy now that they had decided to try something together.  He found him asleep on the couch and nudged him as he sat on the coffee table.  "Get up."

"What?" Nathan grumbled, flipping onto his side.

"I wanted ta talk ta ya about how ta treat my baby boy."

"I treated him very well.  Did he say otherwise?"

"No, he didn't.  He got a real goofy grin on his face about ya though, so I know you're in.  I will not have him hurt."  He leaned closer, nearly touching their noses.  "If Xander's *ever* hurt, you will be seeing me in your worst nightmares.  You might even get to live a few of them.  Xander is my baby and I'm takin' care of him."

Nathan gave him a pat on the head.  "Fine.  I won't worry about buying dinner for him tonight."

"Well, he's presently suspended for hittin' some guy for makin' fun of you two last night," Strife admitted.  "He didn't say if it was paid or not."

Nathan gave him a sleepy smile.  "We'll handle it. Any other rules?  Like curfew?"

Strife cackled.  "Yeah, see that he takes care'a himself.  He's nappin' right now too."  He stood up.  "Jett?"


"Hmm.  I like watchin' him."  He strolled off, going to share the good news.  "Hey," he said as he walked into Jett's practice area.  Jett grunted in return.  "Good news, Xander does have the family's violent streak. He's on suspension for foam battin' someone."

Jett stopped moving so he could stare at him. "Why?"

"The guy said shit about last night."

"Oh."  Jett nodded, giving him a smug look.  "Those two did hit it off.  Xander seemed really impressed that Nathan made him hard when Cupid couldn't."

"YES!" Strife said happily, starting to dance around.

"My brother has your sense of rhythm too," he noted, going back to what he had been doing.  "What's he doing now?  He could use the extra practice time."

"Nappin'.  The same as Nathan is."

"Good.  I'll go bother him later."  He moved into the next one.  "Anything else?"

"Willow has a list of chores made out for him."

"Yay," Jett said dryly.  "I can help him with that leak in the roof."  He took a deep breath and started again.  "Out.  I hate being watched."

"Fine.  You hate being watched," Strife sighed.  He turned around, whistling a happier tune.  "Any news on whether or not I'm gonna be a granddad again?"

"No clue," Jett admitted, looking back at him.  "Since you've broken my concentration, I might as well stop," he agreed, making his father very happy.  "Did you have plans for the day?"

"Fishin'," Strife said firmly, grinning at him.  "I hear there's sea creatures around here."

"Wouldn't surprise me if it was Xander's former teammates," Jett said dryly.  His father gaped.  "Yeah, he let me in."  He picked up a towel to wipe at the sweat on his face.  When he removed it, his father was directly in front of him like he knew he would be.  "What?" he asked innocently.

"Anything I need ta know?" Strife asked seriously.

"A few things.  Xander's a fucking medium.  He'll suck anything that's not firmly anchored into his mind if he's not careful.  He did that to me last night."  Strife looked impressed.  "I asked him to after I found out about the hyena."  He grinned.  "He's had some shit of a life, dad, but he's fine.  I trust him to handle himself no matter what.  The kid's got a fucking wall of willpower.  I have no doubt it comes from Hera personally."

Strife beamed before hugging his son.  "Show me?"  Jett pulled back and shook his head.  "No?"

"I didn't promise but I think you should ask him.  He's finally starting to open up.  That's how I found out he has funny ideas, like Herc and Auto getting together again."

"Eww," Strife said, shuddering hard.  "That's gross."

"Auto was prick-teasing again," Jett said with a smirk.

"Speaking of Herc," Ares said as he appeared, giving him a look.  "Anything I need to handle?"

"Yeah, Xander said to guard MaryJane, she's just as vulnerable as he is to sucking in people."

"I'll have Hecate do that tonight," Ares agreed, eyes widening.  "He is?"  Strife and Jett both nodded. "Since when?  The boy's mental shields were so thick I couldn't get through them."

"Yeah, and it's on purpose to stop that probably," Jett pointed out.  "He let me in last night.  After letting out the hyena who possessed him for a few moments on the demonic bikers."

"I wondered what scared them that badly," Strife admitted, looking confused.

"Xander only let it forward, he didn't let it fully out.  Apparently the demons around here *know* him and fear him."

"Cool," Strife said, grinning proudly.  "That's my boy."  He punched Jett on the arm.  "Now do you see it?"

Jett sighed and nodded, sitting down to stretch out.  "I do see how much he's like me.  Which is why he and Joxer only talk sometimes probably.   Joxer will drive him insane soon."  He looked at Ares.  "What about the big dumbass?"

"He's running here.  He was sent a few death threats and we've been ordered to deal with him," Ares said bitterly.

"Send him to LA," Jett told him.  Ares raised an eyebrow.  "He could probably help Angel take down the law firm for hell that Cordy was telling Xander and I about."

"Law firm?" Strife asked.

"Yeah, she had to visit about something while she was watching him so she told us about this ongoing fight with some law firm in LA that keeps hiring demons to kill them."  He waved a hand.  "With dumbass being a lawyer himself, he could probably help them and Angel would appreciate him a lot more than we would.  After all, he does help people."

"An excellent idea," Ares told him.  "Need a reward?"

"Yeah, help Xander pay off Buffy's debts so he can buy new clothes," Jett said dryly.  "The boy apparently doesn't own many pairs of underwear, he never seems to wear them except to work."

"He didn't say anything about any debts," Strife told him.  Jett gave him a look.  "Not that he would," he admitted, looking at Ares.  "Huh?"

"Xander's the only one really working in that family and they've still got bills from when Buffy and Dawn's mother was ill," Jett told him.

"Maybe I can ask Luck to intervene and have you take Xander to Vegas for a weekend," Strife offered.

"Luck hates all of us since Jace dissed her about her outfit way back when," Jett reminded him.

"Fuck."  Strife looked at Ares.  "Olympian Visa?"

"Hera has to approve those," Ares reminded him.  "Is he handling it?"  Strife shrugged.  He looked at Jett, who shrugged as well.  "Then I'll have someone check him over financially," Ares decided.  He shook his head as he went to wake up Xander.  Xander blinked up at him.  "Why can't you just ask for ten grand and get it over with?"

"Why would I need that much?" Xander asked sleepily.  "I'm making good money most of the time."

"Hospital bills," Ares said patiently.

"Buffy's, Joyce's, or Tara's?" Xander asked, looking really confused. Ares gaped at him.  "Sorry."  He yawned.  "You woke me up and I'm not quite awake yet.  What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about why you don't feel you can come to us for things like this."

Xander sat up.  "Why?  We've worked out payment arrangements.  We're doing okay."  He looked over as his father appeared.  "What?"

"When was Tara sick?"

"Um."  Xander curled up, grabbing a pillow to put in his lap.  "I'm not supposed to put it around, dad.  She's still bothered by it."

"Who the fuck touched her wrong!" Strife demanded.  He liked Tara, no one had better touch her!

"Glory," Xander said quietly.  Strife stopped his tantrum and looked at his son, who nodded. "Glory tried to suck her out.  Willow saved her."

"Oh."  He calmed down totally and sat beside his son on the bed.  "Do you need a loan?  Something like a consolidation?"

Xander shook his head.  "We're doing okay.  With only one hospital in town it's all going to the same place."  He gave him a nudge.  "Really, it is."

"Xander, where's your DVD player?" Ares asked.

"Downstairs.  I hooked it up to the tv.  I thought that's what I was supposed to do."  He started to look confused again.  "It didn't have a built-in screen or anything."

Ares rolled his eyes.  "Fine.  Play dumb."  He clipped Strife on the side of the head.  "Hurry up or else we'll be stuck with Herc for at least a week."

"Send him to Angel.  He helps the hopeless and needy."

"Jett said the same thing," Strife agreed, grinning at him.  "Seriously, do you need anything?"

"I need to do laundry and I need to eat a real breakfast," Xander offered.  "Nothing else."

"Willow left some chores."

"Of course she did," he said bitterly.  "Because we all know that Willow does so much around here some days."  He shook his head.  "Sorry, I'm still really tired, that came out mean."

"It did," Ares agreed, smirking at him.  "You could send her back to LA too."

"Spike thinks she shagged Angel," Xander told him.  "He said we shouldn't let her back there."  He shrugged around his pillow.  "I'm letting her do whatever she wants."  The door down the hall closed.  "Morning, Tara."

She walked in, smiling at him.  "What did you do now?"

"I hit someone for making fun of me last night.  A nice foam bat."  He created another one and handed it to her.  "For the next time Willow bugs you."

Tara chuckled and walked in to give him a kiss on the forehead. "Naughty you.  I'm going to the store, want to join me?"

"Apparently I'm the general fixer around here," he told her.  "Willow left a list."

"Do it this weekend so I have someone to talk to," she pleaded.

"Sure, let me get dressed."  She nodded and left them alone.  "You can't let on," he told them.

"I'm not going to," Strife assured him, giving him a pat on the back.  "It's not like I won't understand or anything but I won't tell her you told us."

"Told you what?" Tara asked from outside.

"They wanted to know what the medical bills were for," Xander admitted.

Strife let her back in.  "Hey, been there, done that," he said with a grin.  "Came back twice now and the scrambled eggs are gettin' fierce."  She gave him a pitiful look.  So he gave her a gentle hug.  "If you feel like you need ta rant or let it out, come tell me, babe.  I'm good for that with you."  He kissed her gently then disappeared.

Xander gave her a sheepish look.  "I figured he might have already known," he told her.

She shrugged.  "I'm better now."

"Yes, you are," Xander agreed.  "And much more understanding of Willow's issues."  Tara shook her head, walking away.  "I'll be right down."


Xander stood up and grabbed his jeans, putting them on.  He felt something hit his lower body and looked down, then at his great-uncle.  "I needed plaid flannel boxers?"

"Yes.  Jett said you were getting picked on about going commando.  Not that there's anything wrong with it.  That seems to be a family trait whenever we're wearing leather pants."

"I look scary in leather pants, I look like the vamp me in them," Xander said as he pulled on a t-shirt and then an overshirt.  "Thanks, Ares."  He waved and jogged out, going to grab his shoes from the mat next to the doorway.  "I'm ready."

"Good."  She came out to join him, handing him his keys and Willow's list.  "I only added one thing," she told him.

He looked down, then sighed.  "I'm sorry, Tara.  I wasn't going to tell anyone else.  I did think they had watched us far enough back to have already seen it."  He crumpled the note that had 'keeping a secret' added to it.  "I'm really sorry."

"It's all right," she soothed, patting him on the cheek.  "I am over it but there are other things that can't be discussed."  She saw his blush and sighed.  "Xander?"

"I kinda told Jett about you and Willow being on the outs.  I just wanted to share my life with him," he said, sounding like he was ready to beg.  "I'm sorry, Tara.  Maybe you should just leave me out of the loop from now on."

"Xander!"  She groaned. "What did you tell him about Willow?"

"Just that you two were on the outs because you wanted her to slow down.  He was agreeing with you that she can be kinda scary," Ares admitted from the stairs.  Tara looked back at him.  "Seriously."

"I wanted Jett to be able to hang with us," Xander said miserably.  "I don't want to have to split my affections into him or you guys."

Tara stiffened as Ares sent his feelings on the subject into her mind, telling her blandly that if she hurt Xander over this then she was going to be fighting with him.  She glared at him.  "I'd never do that to him!" she snapped.  "Butt out."  He looked smug. "I mean it, Ares."  She looked at Xander. "I would never make you choose," she reminded him.  "I like Jett and he might as well be our family too.  No more personal stuff, okay?"

He nodded and blushed a bit.  "He knew when your cycle was because you and Dawn scared me," he admitted.

She kissed him on the cheek. "I can understand that," she said softly, giving him an encouraging smile.  "It was obvious anyway, you were sleeping on a cot in your niece's room."  She took his arm and steered him out to the car.  "Come on, let's go before someone calls us."  He nodded, looking much happier with the world.  She put it into perspective, they were little things for the most part and if she had suddenly found a loving and wonderful family to belong to she probably would have shared anecdotes too.  "What else did you tell him?"

"Nothing much.  I'm trying really hard to live in the present anymore," he reminded her, opening the door for her.  "In you get."  He walked around to drive her down to the shop.  "Jett had to beg me last night to get him to share more of my past with him.  He didn't even get really upset."  He started the car and backed down the driveway, taking extra care since she was in the car.

"Really?" Ares asked himself as he stood up from the stairs.  "Strife?"  Strife hopped down them.  "Xander shared more of his history?"  Strife nodded.  "Why?"

"Jett asked him nicely."  He shrugged.  "Something about the possessions coming out last night."

"Jett," Ares summoned.  Jett appeared, naked and dripping wet.  "What did you find out?"

"You can wait until I'm done with my shower," he pointed out, heading back.  Ares followed, standing at the entry to the tub.  "What?  Can't a man have a few moments alone?"

"No.  Spill."



"I said out!" Jett shouted again, pointing this time.  "My house!  My rules!"  Ares glared at him.  "It was given to me in confidence, Ares.  I'm not going to piss off Xander by telling you everything.  The boy is safe and fine.  He can handle nearly anything.  He's had some bad shit in his life and he's always handled it to date.  He will always be a protector, no matter what you do to him.  It's from that same genetic quirk that makes dad like shy little sweet things like Tara.  Now, get out of my bathroom so I can take a shower."

"Fine, I will have a report," Ares growled, stalking down to the office to wait.   When he slammed the door, Nathan woke up and glared at him.  "What?" he demanded.

"Nothing, Lord Ares," Nathan said quietly, sitting up.  "Is there a problem?"

"What did you find out about Xander last night?  He won't tell any of us."

"Of course not. He's afraid you'll be disappointed in him," Nathan said immediately.  Ares looked stunned, like the idea hadn't occurred to him.  "Xander is a very fragile and delicate young man.  He is the most loyal and unselfish person you'll find this side of Joxer when he was younger, right after the curse."  He stood up.  "That young man will always protect whomever he considers family, no matter how far apart they've gotten over the years," he added quietly.  "I think it's rather sweet he and Jett have bonded.  It gives Xander an external focus to help him complete the transition to adulthood.   If the man wasn't one of us, I'm sure he'd be a monk somewhere living in austerity and believing totally in the life."  Ares shook his head.  "Yes, he would.  If he could believe in the Christian ideology he could definitely be a monk.  Xander throws every bit of himself into whatever he does."  He smiled.  "He practically glowed when he told me about some of his projects last night.  He throws himself into everything he does like it's the last thing he'll ever do.  I can only guess what taught him that attitude, but it seems healthy enough for such a strong will."

Jett coughed from the doorway, in his robe now.  "He had to stake his best friend when he was younger.  His first body."  Ares winced and Nathan nodded.  "Since then, he's been ready to fight, jump in and help, or even just be there so he had somewhere to belong as well as something he could do to help.  Though, I'd rather see him being a Buddhist monk than a Catholic one.  I think it'd suit him better."  He looked at Ares again.  "What brought on the hissy fit?"

"We've been trying to find a way to view Xander's past so we can judge how to help him relax around us," Ares told him.  Jett knew this so he nodded.  "Hera said if we can't find something then she might consider disassociating him."

"If she does, then I'll kill her personally," Jett told him.  "I agree with my baby brother, he's allowed to have a private life.  The rest of us get one, he can as well."

"Even while you were gone, we watched you," Ares sighed.  "Not me personally, or anyone else within the immediate family, but you were watched.  It's done to all demi's."

"Yippey," Jett said dryly.  "Xander's already had enough shit in his life.  All he wants is somewhere to belong.  People who like him for himself."  He looked at Nathan. "Which is why I will kill you in a most gruesome fashion if you hurt him."

"I'll do my best, Jett, you know me better than that."

"That's why I suggested they look at you," Jett told him.  Nathan's mouth fell open. "It was you or Hans."

"Me," Nathan said quickly, shuddering at the very thought of someone as sensitive as Xander and Hans getting together.  The boy would be broken within a few months. "Thank you."

"No mercy dating," Ares told him.

"I'd never dream of it," Nathan said coolly.  "I only date those worthy of my attentions."  He sat down again, looking at Jett.  "Would it hurt to tell one person?"

"Telling one God is like telling Hermes to spread it around," Jett told him.

"There is no such thing as a secret on Olympus," Ares agreed, sitting down as well.  "Speaking of which, Hermes has been helping Aphrodite line up a long-term love for MaryJane."  Jett gave him a bitter look.  "No arrows, she promised."

"Good.  I won't have her head fucked with that way," Jett told him.  He walked in so he could sprawl in his chair and use the massage function.  "Hera?"  She appeared, giving him a bitter and evil look.  "What did you need to know about Xander's past?  He wants to keep it private.  He's a very private person and doesn't want people to blab about it to everyone else on the planet."

"Some of it must come out," she said firmly.  "We must know whether or not he is justifiably one of us."

"You mean besides the birth, the powers, and the fact that his father loves him?" Nathan asked her.  She ignored him, like usual.   He looked at Jett.  "I'd get his permission."

"Oh, I will," Jett agreed.  "Xander?"  He appeared a few minutes later.  "Hera wants to know more about your past.  There's a precedent for demi's to be kicked out of the benefit package if they're seen as a threat to the way of life."

Xander shrugged.  "As long as I can still talk to you guys, what do I care?"

Hera looked at him.  "You are a strange young man and you have made many threats against us.  Can you honestly say you won't carry them out?"

"I guess that depends on you guys," Xander told her, shrugging at her look.  "If you guys fuck with me or with Dawn or with Willow and Tara, then yeah, I have every intention of following through with every thing I've said.  If you treat us decently enough, and we're not asking to be bestest buddies or anything, just cordial and polite when we run into each other, then I have no issues with any of you until someone fucks with us."

"Your line contains two exiled Gods, young man.  We can send you away from the family as well.  Force you to never see them again."

"Then you'd better prepare a will.  I'm not giving up my father or my brothers," Xander said softly.  "I will fight you over that."  She looked into his eyes, seeing the truth there.  He looked at Jett, who shook his head.  "Who?"

"Pick a champion, someone who can and will stick up for you.  Someone not dad and not from the House of War.  Cupid would probably do it but he's really nice."

"Hephaestus," Hera called, making the choice for him.  The God of the Forge appeared behind Xander.  "As the boy is supposed to be yours, you will represent him in the Council.  He is in a unique situation."  She looked at Xander.  "Hephaestus is the husband of Aphrodite and the brother of Ares.  He is also one of our more gentle Gods.  Will you accept that?"  Xander looked at Jett, who nodded strongly, so he nodded as well.  "Then let him see your past."

Xander looked back at him and took a deep breath, stepping forward as he lowered every one of his shields.  Hephaestus looked startled but he read deeply.  He then looked at Hera and closed his eyes.  "He is more than worthy of our help and your support, Hera.  He has a silver string for a reason."  He helped the boy put himself back together again, adding his own seal over the boy's mind to help keep out the others.  "He has fought to keep the world going, that alone is enough to qualify him above someone like Auto and Jace."

"Hey!" Jett complained. "I never tried to end the world."  He jumped up when Xander collapsed.  Hephaestus had caught him so he put him on the couch with Nathan.  "Is he all right?"

"It's strain," Hephaestus told him.  "I know why Aphrodite can't touch him though.  It's from Bacchus' line.  He'll ever know lust, but love is very rare to him.  Something that he thinks only happens in books."  He looked at Nathan.  "He thinks you're very special and as close as he might call it some day."  Nathan smiled at him.  Then Hephaestus looked at Hera.  "He has saved our asses a few times.  If the humans had died, so would we."

"Very well.  Zeus?"  He appeared, with Athena behind him.  "Why did you bring her?"

"We were discussing the situation," he admitted.  "Anything new?"  He noticed Hephaestus and then frowned.  "You know something."

"No, I know all of it and I'm keeping it inside my own head," Hephaestus told him.  "The boy has been hurt enough, his desire for privacy is well-founded in misery."  He looked at Athena.  "Leave.  Now."  She gasped but did so.  Zeus gave him a harsh look.  "What he showed me is not for Athena's amusement, Zeus.  I will not allow the boy to be hurt more by careless showing of what he is like.  The boy has helped stop the world from ending, from the whole human realm being destroyed, twice now.  I owe him thanks, Hecate owes him great gratitude for helping with that whole Glory issue, and you and I both know that he'll never be like any of your brats.  The boy is supposed to be in the House of War and he'll be staying there as a guardian of the realm.  The same as Joxer is a guardian of our realm.  Xander protects those closer to him whereas Joxer likes us more because we raised him."

Jett nodded.  "They did the whole spell to stop the Initiative and he was the heft and power behind it.  The witches suck him dry continually because he is energy, Zeus."  The head of the Gods looked at him.  "He deserves it more than I do for what I did in service to the Pantheon.  I will admit that he's going to need some support.  The boy's the most powerful medium that I've seen in years.  Bacchus knows though."

Ares nodded.  "He does.  He helped Xander firm up his shields without him knowing.  It comes from his line and Strife's always had a touch of it."  He stood up.  "The boy is under my protection, Zeus.  If you try to exile or banish him, I will have to stick up for him."  The Father God blanched.  "Not only because he is so important to Strife, but also because I've seen some of his life when allowed. The boy should be split between myself and Aphrodite, not between myself and Hephaestus."  He looked at Jett.  "Don't count on his possessions helping him.  They only come out when he's in danger."  Jett nodded at that wisdom.  "And get dressed, you're flapping."

"My house," Jett reminded him.  "I can run around naked if I want."  Hera gave him a look and he glared back.  "Seriously, woman, you do it in yours.  I can do it in my own."  He did adjust the robe, just so Zeus couldn't show any interest.  "Ares, we were thinking about bombing the town underground when Dawn graduates.  Good for you?"

"I'll consider it," he agreed.  "I doubt we'll find anyone to take Xander's place."  He bowed to his parents.  "Did you need anything else to make your decision?"

"I need to see or he does," Hera told him calmly.  "I cannot trust it fully."

Hephaestus stepped forward and put a hand on hers, showing her a few limited scenes.  "Those are the most worthy," he said quietly.  "I will not abridge his trust by showing you all of it."

"Has he done bad as well?" Zeus asked.

"He fights demons, father, what do you think?" Ares said bitterly.  "Sometimes you don't have a choice to make.  He's nearly lost it all too many times.  If you take Strife and Jett away from him then he'll never stop until he kills us and then the human realm is in danger."

"He is not a danger to us," Hera announced, knowing the next question.  "Unless we go after what little he has left."  She looked at her husband.  "I will not allow you to harm the boy."

"He is powerful, Hera."

"He is because we made him that way," she reminded him.  "The same as most of us nearly died because you stepped into a prophecy that fulfilled itself as soon as you jumped upon it.  This is another one.  The second of the trio."  Zeus shuddered.  "Leave the boy be.  He is Strife's by nature and by right.  He is Bacchus' by nature and by right."

"We checked, not even the Furies want to touch him," Jett put in.

Hera nodded. "So I've heard myself."  She looked at Zeus.  "Do you really want to see Strife lose control again?" she asked quietly.  "It will be worse this time because he knows his son is exactly like him only sweeter."  Jett snorted, then picked up a tissue and blew his nose when Zeus frowned at him.

"Fine," he decided.  "The boy is worthy to be one of us by birth, power, and deed.  What did he want to ask us for as a boon?"

Ares shrugged.  "I don't know, he won't even ask us for anything," he admitted.  Zeus opened his mouth.  "He seems to have this independence thing going."

Jett coughed.  "Make him stay asleep, Ares.  We've got to talk."  Ares waved a hand and gave him a look.  Jett knew he was the devious one of the group.  "Xander is experiencing, shall we say, cash flow problems.  All his money is going to pay other's bills.  They are the family he's gathered to him and he feels it is his duty to do so for them, even when they protest."  Hera nodded, seeing where this was going.  "But, my baby brother is also one of the most stubborn creatures in the fucking universes.  If we went behind his back to fix things for him he'll get pissed and yell at us, possibly even never talking to us again."  Zeus frowned at that.  "He thinks he can handle it.  I know how bad a hospital stay can be and I know he's paying for one person's cancer treatments and surgeries.  One person's problems when she was stunned by that renegade God from Hell, and another's problems from dealing with the renegade."  He leaned forward.  "My baby brother can't even shop for decent clothes, okay?"  He saw Ares keep Xander down again.  "If you could find a way to alleviate some of that, then he would probably be really happy with life again and could get on with making Aphrodite squeal in joy about him and Nathan."  Hera looked back at him.  "Yes, him, he's been the only person who understood the boy, Hera," Jett said firmly.  "He's very nurturing and caring, I appreciate them together as long as Xander isn't hurt and my brother doesn't do anything dumb to hurt my friend."

Hera smiled.  "How would we do such a thing without arousing his suspicions?"

"Easy, you go behind his back and make sure that the money's there when necessary, but always for plausible reasons.  Give the guy a raise at work.  Give him an artifact that they can sell at the shop.  Hell, give the boy something and tell him it's worthless to you and see if he can do something with it.  He is a crafter."

"Have him help Aphrodite with her redecorating project," Nathan offered.  "She's been wanting to redo her temple."

"What's going on?" Xander mumbled, struggling to sit up.  Nathan helped him up by letting him lean against him.  "Did something bad happen?"

"No, you passed out," Jett told him.

Hera looked at the boy.  "We find you suitable enough to be with your family for as long as you live, Xander," she announced.   He smiled at her.  "Now then, there are certain rights and responsibilities you must deal with.  We do have an honorific title."

"Sure thing," Xander agreed, nodding.  "In formal situations, I'll even remember to use it when I can."

"Then you'd be doing better than Strife," Ares told him.  He looked around, then leaned closer.  "This also means that you're the youngest demi on the Mount, Xander, and as such some of the others will want to bother you.  Some of the muses may want to escort them while they shop because they don't like being without an escort.  Aphrodite may force you to help her turn her temple more pink.  I may even have you come up for dinners so you get to know some of the other demi's."

"That does not mean you can be lax in matters of protocol," Zeus told him.  "No more open threats in Council."

"I have to attend?" Xander asked.

"No," Hera said, shaking her head.  "Not unless you are called.  Then we'll send Hermes to get you."  She nodded at Ares.  "You might want to watch out for Aphrodite.  She is on a remodeling kick again."  She rolled her eyes and disappeared, taking Zeus with her. They went to tell Hermes the news and ask him to come up with ways for them to implement Jett's boon for Xander.  He was sneaky enough to make it subtle.

"I guess I can help her.  I've seen plenty of it recently," Xander admitted.

Aphrodite appeared, already grinning.  "You are so sweet!" she cooed, pinching him on the cheek.  "I'll bring you *right* back," she vowed as she grabbed his hand.  They went to her main temple, letting him look around.  "I want to open that doorway," she said, pointing it out for him.  "And I want to add in some cutesy little kissing nooks."

Xander frowned, looking up at the ceiling.  "You won't be able to weaken that wall too much," he warned.  "It's load bearing and the ceiling won't have the support it needs."

"See, you're already way better than my Hephie.  He'd just shake his head and tell me no.  You *explain* things."

Xander grinned at her.  "I've worked with female carpenters before.  Women can do the job just as well as men can.  If not better because they usually have a sense of ascetics about jobs."  He looked around the main room, then created a pen and paper, drawing out his ideas.  "How about this one?" he asked, handing it over.

She looked at the crude drawing, trying to picture it.  "Think it," she said finally.  He did so and she created a 3-D model of his suggestions.  "Well, I like this part," she said, pointing to the openings.  "But it still seems pretty crowded."

"Hmm."  He walked around the model, then nodded and switched a few elements.  "How's that?"

"Perfect," she decided, smiling at his as she snapped her fingers.  The temple changed around them, the rest of it changing to suit the new rooms.  "How's that?"  She looked around, adding a few new spaces.  She couldn't go much wider but she could definitely change the depth of the walls.

Xander pointed at a small opening.  "What's that room?"

"Just a sitting area."

He looked at her.  "Do you use it?"  She shook her head.  "Never?"  She considered it then shook her head again. "Then do away with it, it'll give you more room in that area.  You can even turn it into an intimate place if you want."  She hugged him and bounced a little then did as he suggested.  "How's that?" he asked proudly.

"That is so damn hot, Hephie may wish he was back at the forge to cool off," she said with a catty grin.  "Thank you, Xander."  She kissed him on the forehead.  "Need anything outside of a ride home?"

"No, not really," he told her.  "Thanks though."  She nodded and sent him back, where he was promptly zipped off by Hermes.  "Hey," he said, slightly out of breath.  "Problems?"

"Nah, I like what you did to 'Dite's hole in the wall and I was hoping you could help me with mine," he admitted with a grin.  "I need a swinging bachelor pad but one where I can still kick back and put my feet up without worrying about my image."

"Hmm."  He looked around the temple once they had landed and suddenly chuckled, picturing it like he had for Aphrodite.  Hermes looked stunned.  "What?  Too relaxed?"

"Hell, no, that's perfect," he told him.  "And I can even have a few hard landings on that six-by-six bed."  He grinned and changed things, bringing Hephaestus to shore up one wall, which he demolished anyway so he could have a swing for when he felt in the mood.  "What do you think, Hephie?"

"I like," he admitted.  "Mine?"

"Nice," Xander purred.  "She wanted places to cuddle."

Hephaestus smiled.  "Good.  I like that about my wife."  He left to go do that, making a note to work on some erotic statuary for Hermes' new place.  His wife pulled him into their new grotto, laying him down beside the new koi pond.  "Hi."  He looked around then nodded.  "I like."

"So do I," she assured him, giving him a kiss.  "He knew just what I needed to seduce you all over again."


Xander found himself back in his room with a note on his bed about a storage warehouse full of the old stuff from Hermes' temple and that he could sell anything in it that he didn't want.  After a few centuries with it, he was tired of most of it.  "I guess this is like an Olympian Yard Sale," Xander muttered.

"More like hand-me-downs," Jett admitted as he appeared.  "Which one snatched you the second time?"

"Hermes.  He needed some help redecorating as well."  He handed over the note.  "Want to check it out with me before you head for your lessons?"

"Sure.  We can even bring Nathan, he needs to learn the town.  You show him around today before I run your lesson."  He pulled Xander to his feet and they headed off, walking that way this time once they had gathered Nathan.  It wasn't that far.

Xander opened the door and whistled.  It was pretty packed.

Jet walked in and looked at an old vase.  "I remember when these were fashionable," he noted, tossing it aside.

"Those are invaluable artifacts," Nathan told him.  "What is going on?"

"I helped Hermes redecorate and he said he's tired of all this stuff," Xander admitted with a grin for him.  "He said to keep whatever we wanted and we could Yard Sale the rest."

"More like auction it off.  I know a few museums who would want some of this stuff."  He picked up the vase Jett had been looking at and blushed.  "I forgot how graphic some of these can be."  He carefully put it aside.  "Do you know anyone who collects antiques?"

"Besides Giles?"

"Even him," Nathan suggested.  "He'd know how to deal with this and to get everything verified."

"Cool."  Xander looked around.  "Payphone," he muttered.

A phone appeared beside Jett, a nice cordless handset, so he held it up.  "Try this one," he suggested.  Xander took it and listened, frowning at the dial tone.  "I think Hermes misplaced it, he won't care.  I used to go up there to use his phone all the time.  He has the best long distance plan.  Clear to anywhere in the world.  Even the places with crappy lines."

Xander sat down on an old lounging sofa, dialing the number from memory.  "Hi, Giles, it's Xander.  We've just had some Greek artifacts fall into our hands and I was told that you might know how to handle that stuff."  The other end was picked up and he was grunted at.  "I helped a member of my family redecorate and Hermes said we could Yard Sale his old stuff. From the way Jett's looking at some of it, it's ancient."

Jett took the phone.  "Rupert, Hermes just handed him all his old temple's belongings, from back in the heyday.  The boy threw a vase from about the second century BC."  He had to move the phone away from his ear when the yelling started, but he was smiling.  "Yeah, so?  This *is* Xander."  He listened to more ranting.  "Then get your drunk ass back here to help him deal with it, Rupert.  Some of us have a life and would have to let Xander do it on his own."  He smiled and handed the phone back.  "He's coming back."

"Really?" Xander asked, listening to Giles rant.  "It's not like I'd do that to your antiques," he defended.   "I doubt Hermes had many things with people or demons trapped in them.  Oooh!  There's been a new development.  Did you know my mom was from Bacchus' line?"  Giles' groaned and hung up.  "Hey!" he said, looking at the phone.  "That was mean."

"He's just excited for you," Jett assured him, giving him a pat on the shoulder.  "Come on, let's find breakfast.  I'll buy."  He drug Xander out and Nathan followed, making sure the door was locked behind them.  "Where should we eat?"

"The coffee shop?"

"Sure," Nathan agreed.  "I haven't eaten in a good bohemian place in a while."

"It's only bohemian at night," Jett told him.  "Right now, it's full of business people who had insomnia last night."  He led the way back to the coffee shop, introducing Nathan around to those he knew.


Cordelia looked up as the door opened. "Welcome to Angel Investigations.  We help the hopeless."  She smiled at him.  "What can we help you with?"

"I'm one of Xander's cousins," he said quietly, handing over the letter.  "I was told to come to you for protection.  These things are sending me death threats and I don't know why."

She looked at the picture of his assailants.  "Hmm.  What do they do again?" she wondered out loud, taking it to Wesley and Fred, who were studying nearby.  "What do these guys do?"

Fred looked.  "Shoot mind-numbing snot."

"Cool."  Cordelia waved the man over.  "This is one of Xander's cousins, Xander sent him to us to help him."

Wesley looked at him, then nodded.  "Why are they after you?"

"I'm not sure," he admitted, taking a seat.  "It could be the Native land case, the suit against the government for drilling in Alaska and letting it leak everywhere, or possibly because I'm taking on a controversial defense case."  He shrugged.  "I don't know which but I was told that if I came to you, I could pay you back by helping you with some lawyers you're having trouble with."  He held out a hand and smiled.  "I'm Hercules, civil rights attorney."

Wesley shook his hand.  "Fred, go get Angel up," he ordered.  She jogged up the stairs.  "I think we can make out an agreeable arrangement."  He looked over as Fred drug Angel down the stairs.

"Sorry it took so long, he's having a brooding day again," Fred shared.  "Angel, this nice man wants to help us deal with our legal foes."

Angel looked at him, then at the death threat Cordelia held out.  "Why are they after you?  They don't usually work on a payment basis."

Hercules shrugged.  "I don't know which case it is.  I deal in civil wrongdoings and I've made a lot of enemies."

"I bet," Cordelia said.  "Like from the myth?"   He nodded and smiled at her.  "Wow.  And I thought Jett was good."

"No, Jett's never been that good," he told her.  "He's an assassin.  For whatever reason Xander looks up to him and likes him in spite of that fact."  He smiled at Angel.  "It was suggested that I come to you so I wouldn't have to go on patrol with them, and also because they said you needed some help against some lawyers of your own."

Angel nodded.  "We do," he agreed.  "Wolfram and Hart have been testing our limits again."

"The demonic law firm has been rather tiring recently," Wesley agreed.

"Wolfram and Hart?" Hercules asked, frowning as he thought about them.   "I've heard a lot of bad things about them.  I haven't had that much work against someone since I was fighting Ares on a daily basis."  Angel smiled at him.  "Deal?"

"Deal," Angel said, shaking his hand.  He felt a small prick to his back and looked around but didn't seen to see anything out of the ordinary, besides the fact that the new client had some very tired eyes. "It's been a long time, hasn't it?" he asked quietly.  "It has for some of us as well."

Hercules smiled.  "It's good to find someone who can understand what you're like," he agreed.

"I'm gonna go get something important in the kitchen," Fred squeaked, pulling Cordelia and Wesley with her.

"What did you need?" Wesley inquired as he was drug off.

"I don't know but it's definitely important," she told him. "Maybe an egg."  She pushed them into the other room then guarded the door.  She owed Angel, she could let him have a moment with his new interest without their help.  "Did you notice how they looked at each other?" Fred asked them.

"I did, and I'm hoping Willow managed to permanently stick the soul," Cordelia noted, hopping up to sit on a counter.

"What?" Wesley asked, looking outside.  "Oh, my."  He pulled back and pulled off his glasses to clean them, wishing he could do the same thing to his eyeballs.

Fred looked out and giggled.  "They're smooching."

"That's better than the time I thought for sure Xander was going to kiss Jett," Cordelia put in.

"That would have been odd, they're so much alike," Fred agreed.

Wesley simply had to get that image off his glasses before he had to see it again.  Two brooding individuals did not make for happy people around them!  He looked up and said a silent prayer to Xander's father, begging and pleading for him not to plague them any longer with such ickiness.

Fred suddenly shook her head.  "He said it's not him, Wesley, but he thinks you're really cute."  Wesley blushed and groaned, putting his face against the cooler wall.  "He wanted to know if you wanted to go see a guy flick later."

"No, I had plans for a foreign film tonight," Wesley mumbled.

Fred cackled.  "He said that's fine, as long as there's some blowin' up stuff."  Wesley looked at her.  "He said he likes you, Wes."  She punched him on the arm.  "You should be honored.  He only likes Tara and I out of the rest of us.  He needs more guy-type friends."

"Fine," Wesley agreed.  "I'll take him out tonight.  I'll even pay and he can call it a date."

Strife appeared, giving him a strong hug.  "Thanks, man.  I'm about to go into estrogen overload.  Sarah's definitely stuffed up."  He gave him a long, deep, probing kiss then left again before Wesley could regain his balance.

"Oh.  Oh, dear," Wesley said faintly before sliding to the floor.

"I guess he's a good kisser," Cordelia told Fred.  Who nodded and gave her a goofy grin in return.  "Think we should rouse him?"

"Nah, let him nap.  He was up and wandering last night.  I heard him, he was pacing up and down the hall."  Fred looked out again.  "Ooh, groping," she squealed, pointing out there.  "Hercules is definitely going for a long grope of Angel's meat locker."

Cordelia blushed.  "Fred!  I *so* did not need to visit that scary mental place!  It was bad enough I used to have to watch Buffy and him make out!"  Fred cackled and swatted at her.  She slid down and went to look as well.  "Yup, definite groping, my mental neighborhood was On-Star correct with that one."  She went to get some water for herself, pouring half the glass on Wesley's face to wake him up.

"You're missing the groping," Fred told him.

"Please, not yet!" he defended, then he blushed.  "Erm, sorry about that," he said as he pushed himself off the floor.  "Must have been a short nightmare."

"If you'd sleep at night, you wouldn't have those," Fred pointed out.

"Enough," Cordelia told her.  "Let Wesley be horny in peace."  She went to glance back out at the new couple, smirking at the way Angel was appearing to be the weaker one.  "Well.  Who knew he was a bottom slut," she said fondly.  She walked out and cleared her throat.  "Happiness clause," she shouted as she headed for the office.

"It's gone now," Angel called back.  He did pull back and straighten himself out however.  "Let's sit down again and see what I, I mean we, can do to help you with this terrible problem," he offered.  Hercules gave him a little smile and sat across from him, giving him a loving look.  Angel had to clear his throat again to get rid of the foreign spit before he could go on.


Giles stormed back into the Magic Shop later that night, making Tara squeak in fear.  "Where are they?" he demanded.

Tara pointed back at the workout room.  "There," she said softly.  "Discussing the inventory."

"For the antiques?" he asked as he took off his jacket and hung it up.  She shook her head.  "For the store?"  She nodded, watching him stomp that way.  "Xander, I want to see these things," he demanded.  Jett tossed him a key and went back to his poker hand.  "Where are they?"

"The Mini-Store-You on Fifth," Nathan told him, discarding a card.  Jett dealt him one.  "Not from the bottom of the deck," he said derisively.

"Giles, Nathan, possible boyfriend, father figure," Xander introduced absently, tossing down all but one card.  Jett snickered and dealt him something else. "Thanks heaps, bro," Xander said, putting down his cards.  "I'm out.  Not even Luck could let me win with that hand."

Giles looked at the blond man.  "I would like to speak with you, Xander," he said quietly.

Xander stood up with a small sigh and followed him to the office.  "What?"   He sat down behind the desk, grinning at Giles.  "I appropriated your office for the week."

"Fine.  Who is that man?"

"One of Jett's former coworkers.  He was brought in to help Jett and I do the patrolling.  Nathan D'Arcy."

"Do you know anything about this man?"

"Besides the fact that he likes to do the sniper job, likes most of the same comics and anime I do, we can have a friendly argument about Star Trek, he dances like I do, he's a pool shark, he's ten years older than I am, he's a neat guy, and he made me get hard when he kissed me?"  He counted backwards.  "Oh, and that he's just as big of a fandom geek as I am?"

Giles blinked.  "How long has he been here?"

"One day."  Xander grinned.  "Neat, huh?  I finally find someone decent and you spaz."  He stood up.  "I know what his life was like, Giles.  I really can guess enough to know that he's probably got some nightmares and some regrets, the same as I've built up over the years of patrolling.  He may have done his for different and less pure reasons, but we've both been hunters."  Giles looked stunned. "He *understands* me," he pleaded.  "Please don't ruin this for me."

"I have no intention of doing so," Giles said softly.  "I was more concerned that he might be in disguise or something."

"Well, Aphrodite and Cupid both vetted him when Jett said we'd be perfect for each other so I doubt it," Xander replied, starting to look hopeful.  "Please?"

"Fine, I'd like to meet the man more formally."  Xander nodded quickly.  "Now, come help me look through those things."  Xander followed him out, only stopping to say something into the practice room and grab a weapon.  Giles looked at the handgun.  "You've switched methods?"

"It was kinda necessary," Xander admitted.  "We're still outnumbered.  After I got stabbed by the demonic bull in the thigh, I had to be a bit more careful.  I'm still able to stake but I'm a lot more cautious because it still twinges now and then."

"They came early?" Giles asked.  Xander nodded.  "Wonderful.  Why is it still hurting?"

"Because they didn't counter all the poison the first time and it moved throughout my body.  The second time it was fixed I was much better.  You left while I was in the hospital with the first."

"All Willow told me was that you had been injured on patrol and that Ares was taking care of you," he said thoughtfully.

"Yeah, well Bacchus said that the hellmouth is like a faithful puppy following her whistles."

Giles grimaced.  "Then I should probably have a longer talk with her."  He looked up as they turned the corner and Xander showed the guard his key.  "I'm handling their stuff for them."


"No, someone paid me for renovating their place with their old stuff," Xander told him with a goofy grin.  "We're seeing what's valuable and what we want to keep for the house."  He strolled in, letting Giles into the storage area.  He frowned when he saw a few extra things.  "They weren't here before."  He picked up one and looked at it in the dim bulb's light.  "Huh.  Giles?"

The older man looked at it, then shook his head.  "Not Greek.  It looks Roman."  He glanced around, then sat down and looked under the velvet couch on top of everything.  "Well."  He dug out a wooden box, opening it.  "Xander, who did you renovate for?"

"Aphrodite and Hermes.  Why?"  He looked inside the box and blushed.  "Is that like those pillow book things?"  Giles gave him a look and he swallowed.  "Really?"

"Really," he agreed, handing it to him.  He stood up and walked through the aisle, looking at as many things as he could.  "Well," he said finally.  "Most of the furniture has been recovered in modern fabrics.  That will affect the resale value.  The other artifacts should be looked over by someone qualified in the field."  He looked over at the door as it opened and the guard walked in.  "Come in," he said tolerantly.  "I can assure you the boy didn't steal any of it."

"I didn't think he did," the guard admitted. He handed over a paper bag.  "Someone asked me to put this in here as well."

Xander looked inside then shook his head.  "That is one thing that I know isn't from the people I renovated for."  He handed it back.  "It's not mine, man.  I'm a good boy who works hard for my cash."  The guard smiled.  "I'm a foreman on the construction company doing Miss Chamber's old house right now.  This is from a private job."

The guard nodded and tucked it into his pocket.  "That's fine.  Thank you for clearing that up."  He looked at the vase behind Xander, then looked at him.  "Were they gay?"

"It's a greek revival piece," Xander said lightly.

"Oh.  Okay."  He nodded and then shrugged.  "To each their own, right?"  He smiled.  "You going to do more like this?"

"If I'm asked," Xander admitted.  "I like this sort of work.  It's neat."

"That's fine, I'll tell the boss."  He walked out, going back to his shack to call his boss and tell him about the tacky shit the boy had gotten.  Really, what real Greeks did things like that with other guys?

Xander looked at Giles.  "Would Spike know or should I go legal?"

"Going legal would mean having paperwork," Giles said quietly.  "I know some who would kill for some of this, Xander.  Give me a few days."  He made sure the boy had the box before making him leave and locking the door both magically and physically.  He added the padlock that had been in his pocket.  "Come along, Xander.  Let me make some calls."  He led the boy back to the house, going to do it from the comfort of the living room.


Xander looked up and grinned as Nathan sat down at the picnic table across from him.  "What's up?" he asked, then he took a bite of his sandwich.

"That Giles person said we're having a formal dinner tonight?"  Xander looked clueless.  "I take it he's used to giving orders?"

"To the whole group," Xander agreed before taking his next one.  "He is a pseudo-father person and I'm guessing he wants to threaten you too."  He finished his sandwich and took the can of coke Nathan was holding out.  "Thanks," he said through the food.

"And you are?" the boss asked as he walked over.

Xander swallowed and coughed lightly to clear his mouth.  "This is Nathan, he's a friend of mine and Jett's.  He was checking on Giles telling him we're having a real dinner tonight."  He opened the can and took a sip.

"I see."  He smiled at Xander.  "May I see you for a moment?"

"I didn't mean to get him in trouble," Nathan said calmly.

"Oh, you're not.  Xander is trouble on his own," he assured him.  "From now on, you'll need to sign in at the trailer," he ordered, pointing it out for him.  "Xander?"

Xander winked at Nathan as he stood up.  "Give me a sec, I'll be right back to find out when and where we're having dinner."  He jogged over to where his boss was waiting.  "What?"

"Your boyfriend or a friend?" the boss asked.

Xander considered it.  "I'm not sure yet," he admitted.  "I know where I'd like it to go.  He's the first guy I've ever even considered that way and it's ...intriguing and unsettling.  Why?  Am I going to have trouble?"

"Only with that one guy," the boss reminded him.  "Try to keep it quiet, all right?"  Xander nodded.  "Not that *I* care, but some others might."

"With all I've done in my life, why are they caring about that?" he asked flippantly, then he walked back to the table.  "Sorry.  He reminded me we have prudes," he said, glancing down the table at the scowling person.  "So, are you hosting or are we?"

"I think he wanted us to go to a real restaurant, somewhere we could talk without interruption by Dawn, Tara, Willow, Jett, or any assorted problems."  He smiled.  "I think it's a suit and tie place.  Delgatos?"

Xander nodded.  "Very suit and tie.  One of his friends runs it.  It's a little Italian place."

"All right, I won't wear a white or a yellow shirt," Nathan agreed, making Xander chuckle and smile.  "Anything else I should know?"

"Yeah, follow the spicy markings.  One of the two cooks thinks that hot sauce, taco sauce, and spaghetti sauce are interchangeable," Xander warned.  Nathan winced.  "Depending on the cook, we could be in for quite a hot night."  He took another sip of his coke, grinning at the stunned look on his boyfriend's face.  "What?" he asked innocently.

Nathan coughed.  "Are you aware of what you just said?" he asked.  Xander nodded.  "Was it on purpose?"  Xander nodded again.  The whistle blew and Xander stood up, giving him the can so he could drink the rest, and a gentle pat to the shoulder before walking away with a happy smile and a much lighter step.  "Wow," he whispered, watching him go.

"Harris, if he can lighten your mood that way, he can come every day for lunch," one of the guys called.  "Just don't turn into a flaming puff."

"That's poof," Nathan called.  "It's British."  He stood up, grinning at Xander.  "What color are you wearing?  So I don't clash."

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know.  I've got six suits in my closet.  I was going to have someone with taste help me pick one out," he called back, turning around to smile at him.  Then he licked his lips and turned back around, going back to work.  He could really get used to this teasing thing.

Nathan drank the rest of the can to calm himself down.  That boy was very playful and more than ready for the next step.  "Before I have to invest in handcuffs," he told himself as he walked away.  "He shouldn't have to bounce tonight."  He licked the rim of the can to get Xander's taste, smiling a goofy grin at it.  He had been eating chocolate as well.  He jogged down to the house, knocking on the door.  Willow answered and Nathan gave her the same happy, goofy grin.  "Xander told me to help him pick out a suit for dinner tonight."

She let him in and led him up to Xander's room.  "Excuse the mess.  Tara's neat streak hasn't made it this far yet today."  She opened the door and pointed at the closet.  "There the tragedy is."

Nathan chuckled. "I'm sure I can find something for him to wear."

"Just don't keep the rest of us up," Willow said dryly.  "Xander is loud."  She went down to the kitchen, back to her baking.  Fred had said she needed homemade cookies and Willow was very good at making cookies.  She'd UPS them later.


Xander came in from work and blew a kiss toward Tara.  "I'm showering for dinner," he told her.

"Nathan told us when he came over to figure out your clothes," she said with a small smirk.  "Have I mentioned that I like this one much more than I did Anya?"

"Not yet, but I agree," he said happily.  He jogged up the stairs.  "Out, Dawn!" he yelled, banging on the bathroom door.  "I've got an appointment tonight."  She opened the door, her hair wrapped in a towel.  "Out."

"Fine."  She rolled her eyes.  "I'm only dying my hair."

"Willow will hurt you," he said as he slipped past her.  "And if you made the huge mess it looks like, Tara's going to have you scrubbing the bathroom again," he called before shutting the door.  He stripped off and climbed into the shower, scrubbing himself as clean as he knew how.  He wanted to smell good, not like he had been hammering in walls earlier.


Giles looked up and smiled as Xander joined them.  "Did you have a long day?"

"No, I had a fight with my tie," Xander told him as he sat down.  "Which cook is in tonight?"

Giles sighed.  "The good one, Xander, as you call him."

"Thankfully," Nathan said with a smile.  He handed over a breadstick with sauce.  "Here, try."

Xander nipped it off, ripping the bread a little.  He hummed in appreciation.  "I like his sauces," he said once he had swallowed.  He opened his menu, then saw the special.  "I want that," he decided.   He looked at Giles, noticing the appraising look.  "Ares," he said quietly.

"Ah.  I hadn't thought your tastes ran to somber colors in silk for suits.  With the shirts you usually wear, I'm surprised it isn't bright red."

"Lupin," Nathan and Xander snickered, leaning against each other.

Giles relaxed.  The man clearly understood Xander, his odd sort-of-son.  "You shall take care of him, Mr. D'Arcy, or you will deal with me and everything I can pull up to harm you," he said quietly.  They looked so happy together.

"Thank you, Giles.  It means a lot to me."

"Gee, that's much nicer than Willow's 'don't keep us up tonight'," Nathan said with a grin for Xander, who blushed.  "I'm more than happy to help take care of Xander, Rupert.  It takes a special person to do what he's done and stay sane."  He looked at the older man, giving him a fainter smile.  "Xander is very special if only because he understands me like I do him.  We work seamlessly together on patrol.  Jett and I sparred earlier and he noted that Xander even fights like him, which I'm very used to.  Xander is everything I could have ever wanted in a partner, even though he does do sweaty work all day long."  He grinned at Xander.  "Want to give all that up and become my willing sex slave?"

"Nah.  We've still got bills and stuff to pay off.  Besides, I like working," Xander told him.  He took a breadstick and broke it in half, dipping it into the sauce.  "I'm going to continue to work, even if I had a few million dollars.  Jett said the feeling I get when I complete a project and have done it excellently is the same high that warriors get when they've won the war."

Nathan nodded, understanding that.  "I've had that feeling after a job well done and the world was safer by one or two people," he admitted.  "I agree, you should continue to work. It's important for a man's self esteem to work."  He tipped his head a little.  "Though, if you cut off too many fingers, I'm going to have to make you quit, Xander."

Xander chuckled and blew a kiss. "I'd never think about doing that to myself. That would hurt more than my thigh did."  He nodded at the waiter coming over with the phone.  "I think that's for us," he noted.  "Yes?" he asked the waiter.

"Mr. Harris?"  Xander raised his hand so he handed over the phone.

"Hello?" Xander answered.  He listened to the person on the other end.  "Why?"  He growled.  "Thank you.  No, it was just right.  As long as nothing else happens because of it.  She was one of the nice ones.  Thanks.  Yeah, love you too."  He hung up and smiled at the waiter.  "Thanks."  The man nodded and walked off.  "Daddy just had to fix a certain social worker," he said quietly.  "She got upset because the state says I can't be Dawn's guardian if I'm with Nathan."

"Shit," Nathan sighed, shaking his head.  "I hate those stupid laws.  Two parents that give a damn should be more acceptable than one who doesn't care at all, or even two who don't like each other."

"Will there be further problems?" Giles asked.

Xander shook his head.  "Not according to dad.  He said he had a nice, quiet, peaceful talk with her."  Nathan relaxed.  "I wonder who said something," he mused.

"The guy at your job, the one you had to bat?" Nathan suggested.

"Probably," Xander agreed.  He shrugged.  "It's cured.  I'm not going to get upset about this now.  This event is too rare to waste on anger."

"Very well said," Giles agreed, smiling at him.  "I must say, I'm very pleased with how you've dealt with Dawn's problems."

"She's not really a problem," Xander told him.  "She's occasionally frustrating because she's a girl and a teenager, but she's not a problem for us. We tag-team it all the time.  Tara makes her clean, Willow makes her do her homework, and I make sure she's having fun and being a teenager.  As well as being the male voice of reason in the house."

"Don't you mean the sole voice of reason in the household?" Nathan asked. "Tara was upset at Willow earlier."

Xander rolled his eyes.  "It happens.  They'll have it worked out by tomorrow.  Just like always."  Giles nodded.  "How long are you staying for this time?" he asked the older man.

Giles looked embarrassed.  "I'm sorry, Xander.  The memories caught me and it became very painful.  I should have told you before I left."

"Yeah, even a note might have been nice," Xander agreed dryly.  "We figured you either went home or you ran off to cry on Ethan's shoulder. The girls said you went home, I thought it was going to be the Ethan option."

"I ran into him the day after I got home and nearly hurt him this time," Giles admitted, giving him a look.  "Ethan and I are not together."

"Any more," Xander added.

Giles shrugged. He couldn't refute that allegation.  He looked at Nathan.  "What were you planning on doing for employment while in town?"

"I'm going to help Jett teach things at the temple," he admitted. "I have no need to work, I'm retired."

"I see," Giles said, looking him over.  "You're very young."

"Jobs like mine and Jett's are for the young. You shouldn't go past your mid-thirties.  You start to slow down.  Teaching is better at my age."


"No," Nathan said quickly.  "Xander does not have the temperament to do the job I did.  The training he could use is things that we'll share with him but I won't be taking him on as a student or as an apprentice."

Giles nodded.  "Good.  I would hate to have to kill you horribly for corrupting him.  Xander is fairly innocent."

"Giles!" Xander hissed.

Nathan smiled at him.  "I agree, you are very innocent in many ways," he pointed out.  "Not of everything.  I know you know what I used to do."  Xander nodded.  "And I know your fertile imagination has shown you all sorts of images of what it was probably like."

"I'm supposing it's like a more dangerous hunt or patrol, only over a longer time and against bad guys," Xander told him.

Nathan considered it, then nodded slowly.  "Fairly accurate.  Jett and I did only took on the human rights violators and the bad guys of the world."  He gave him another smile.  "Thank you for not shoving that back in my face.  My last girlfriend did."

"Is this a first for you also?" Giles asked.  He paused while their dinners were brought.  "Merci," he said, nodding at the waiter that he could leave.  The waiter smirked as he walked away.

Nathan shook his head.  "Not in the least.  I've never had a long-term, meaning over a year, with anyone to date, but I believe Xander could be the one to change that for me."  He smiled at Xander.  "I have had other lovers and I'm very open if Xander wanted to ask me questions."

"No, Xander only wants you to never mention whether or not you slept with his brother while out on assignment or anywhere else," Xander assured him dryly, grinning at him.  "I don't care how Hades hinted that it might be okay, I still think it's kinda icky."

"As well you should," Giles agreed, giving him a look.  "When did you meet him?"

"We've had a few chats," Xander informed him.  "He's been checking on me.  It seems he likes my dad a lot and so he's looking at me as some sort of really odd grandson."

"I see.  And Anya?" Giles asked as he cut into his lasagna.

"With Bacchus," Xander told him.  "As his personal friend."  Giles dropped his fork onto his plate, giving him a shocked look. "She made her choice," he said quietly.  "She threw me over because she didn't like my dad.  That was her thing, not my choice for her," Xander told him.  "Bacchus said she's really happy so I'm happy for her."

"That's very mature," Giles said gently, reaching over to touch him on the arm.  "I'm sorry she did that, Xander."

He shrugged. "It's not as bad as it could have been.  I got the stuff she listed on Ebay back."  He twirled some pasta onto his fork and stuffed it into his mouth.  He didn't want to talk about Anya.  That was one dog he wanted to leave lying dead in the street.  "How was the homeland?" he asked between bites.

"Cold, foggy, and dreary, just like usual," Giles said with a faint smile.  "It's the rainy season over there."

"England has more than that?" Nathan asked, smirking at him when Giles looked his way.  "I know London only has two seasons.  Fog and rain."

 "Indeed, but I'm out in the country.  We have winter, summer, and rain."  That got a small chuckle from Xander, who was eating another bite.  "Hungry?"

"Yeah," Xander agreed.  "We seem to have lost some of our crew last night," he shared. "I called the house and had Tara do a newspaper check but there wasn't anything in there so I'm assuming they ran off to be happy together."

"We can only hope so," Nathan agreed.  "That would be hard to handle."  Xander shrugged and nodded at the same time.  "I'm sorry, Xander, I didn't mean to bring up bad memories," he said softly, touching him on the hand.  Xander gave him a look.  "Would you like to talk about it later?"

"I'm fine," Xander promised.  "Sometimes it's harder than others."

"I do understand.  Jett, Amber, and I used to be a trio and she ended up turning on us.  She had been our apprentice. Fortunately, someone wiser said we couldn't do anything about her."  Xander relaxed.  "I can't even imagine what that must have been like."

"The first time is always the hardest, but by the fifth it's easier," Xander admitted.  "Can we switch back to happier topics?"

"Of course," Nathan agreed, giving him an understanding look.  "We'll chat later if you want.  Would you like to do a patrol after we change?"

"No, I think I'll leave them alone tonight.  I want to curl up on the couch and watch Adult Swim tonight," Xander said with a small smile.

"I've got a wall-sized plasma HDTV at my disposal," Nathan offered.

"Sold," Xander said in awe.  "You should be able to see pores with that thing."  Nathan grinned and nodded.  "Wow."

"Very.  And I still have to go get some gear from my house and my car."

"You have another house?" Giles asked.

Nathan nodded.  "I live on the coast in Maine.  I can walk out onto my front porch and play lookout for invaders coming from Europe."

"Have you seen any?" Xander teased.

"Only twice," Nathan admitted, grinning back.  "Once was a training exercise with NATO, the other was something else and the nice people wearing the very serious pinstriped suits told me I didn't see anything," he said seriously.  Xander looked stunned.  "Sorry, dear."

"Not a problem," Xander said, giving him a fainter smile.  "Did you know them?"

"I think it was a planned defection.  It was a Russian sub and it was a few years back," Nathan admitted.  "I was on vacation, I had just moved into the house.  The NATO thing was about three years ago."  He ate a bite of his dinner.  "Should I steal some of your dinner to spare you gaining weight?" he teased.

Xander put a hand over his plate.  "Touch and die.  My food and I need my food."

"If you managed to get breakfast, it might not be so bad," Nathan reminded him tolerantly, smiling at him to show he was teasing.

"Hey, I have to get there really early and I'm always up late the night before," Xander protested.  "If I only had to work, I'd have the energy to get up early enough to eat real food instead of grabbing as I run out the door."

"You really should try to add some toast to your usual bowl of cereal," Giles chided gently.

"He had four oreos the other morning for breakfast," Nathan told him.  "And a granola bar for lunch."  Giles frowned at Xander. "We made him eat a good supper before we went out and played at the Bronze."

"By then, I could have eaten my brother for dinner, raw," Xander admitted.  "That was one butt-kicking day.  Not only did part of the crew manage to run off and hide from doing the work, we were already short that day.  By three, there were only two of us actually working."  Giles winced.  "Tell me about it," he agreed, shaking his head.  "I don't know what they were doing, but I check attendance and hours at the end of the day, not the beginning like the boss does.  I've also put notes into files when they skip off as soon as the boss leaves for the day."

"I would do the same," Giles agreed.

Nathan nodded.  "I would too.  I wouldn't pay them for not doing anything."  He ate a bite of his meal and chewed.  Then he swallowed.  "Of course, I never would have run off the job in a middle of the day without a really good reason, like I was dying."

Xander nodded.  "Exactly!  I mean, there's employment around here, but still.  I know better than that.  I did it once or twice while I was flipping burgers, but I also quit when I did it."  Nathan looked at him.  "Sorry, I did little things like that to make ends meet until I found this job."

"I understand.  Making the rent is hard.  I know people who have done nastier jobs than that.  Including cleaning people's houses and stuff."

Xander shuddered.  "I can't imagine going into someone's house to clean their bathrooms.  That's just nasty."

"It is," Nathan agreed.  "Plus, they were expected to do the dishes and laundry in some cases too."

"I'd rather be the gardener," Xander told him.

"You do show a sense of esthetics," Nathan agreed.  "I'd hire you, but I wouldn't let you plan the garden out."

Giles nodded.  "Good idea.  Xander could probably kill the most delicate of plants."  Xander rolled his eyes.  "You have in the past."

"How was I supposed to know that you only gave that one herb an eyedropper of water a year?  You asked me to water all the plants and I did."

"You also killed three of them," Giles reminded him.  "You were very generous with the water."

Xander shrugged.  "Next time, get Tara to do it.  She likes plants.  She's even teaching MaryJane about plants."

"The hellion is playing with things that aren't weapons?" Nathan asked.

Xander nodded.  "Tara told her how some of them are healing plants and every good spy should know them."  He grinned.  "Tara is one smart cookie about kids.  She will make a great mother some day."

"Hopefully," Nathan agreed.  "I think she'd make a wonderful one as well.  I'm not so sure about Willow's chances, but then again I don't know her very well.  Tara and I have actually sat down and talked."

Xander groaned.  "Willow hasn't given you the third degree?"  Nathan shook his head.

"Oh, dear," Giles sighed.  "That probably means she thinks you're not good enough for him or that she expects it to end soon.  She's given her version of the 'l'll bury you' speech to each of the group's significant others to date."

"Either that or she's not really paying attention," Nathan offered.  "She let me into Xander's room to pick out his suit for tonight and only warned me not to keep them up."

Giles blushed slightly and took off his glasses to clean them.  "That is odd," he agreed.

"Giles!" Xander said, tossing his napkin at him.  "Don't think those thoughts about me."

"Oh, I've got one better," Nathan said, leaning closer to his boyfriend.  "You know how everyone suggested Herc should go to Angel for help?"  Xander grinned and nodded.  "We've since heard that the two brooders are together."  Xander cackled, leaning against him to hold himself upright.  He looked at Giles and licked his lips before smiling.  "His cousin Herc is a bit stuck up and tense.  Cordelia called Jett to complain about us sending Herc down there because Angel seems a bit preoccupied by his taste and feel."

Giles coughed, then shook his head.  "I hope the happiness clause was negated."

"Me too," Xander gasped.  Nathan patted him on the back, calming him down.  "Ooh, I wanted to see Jett's face when he heard that news."

"I answered the phone, I haven't told him yet.  We'll tell them tonight," Nathan assured him.

"Can we tell Sarah too?  I think she'll get a kick out of that news."

"Sure," Nathan agreed happily.  He liked to make Sarah splutter.  That's why he sent her odd and dirty pictures in her email.


Xander and Nathan strolled into Jett's house, giving the couple a happy grin.  "It went well," he announced as he sat them both down.  Nathan put an arm around Xander's shoulders, pulling him closer.  "Rupert was most impressed and will be staying around for a bit," Nathan informed them.  "He decided he can bear the town again."

"Goodie," Sarah said dryly.  "Why did he run?"

"He was grieving for Buffy.  She was his slayer and sorta like a kid to him," Xander told her.  "I only wish he had left a note saying where he was going.  We had to guess."  He looked up at Nathan.  "Should we tell them now?"

"Let Jett finish his water first," Nathan suggested, then they stared at Jett until he gulped the water he was drinking.   "The call I took for you earlier was Cordelia.  There's news from LA."

Jett groaned.  "Hercules took over and is running a tight and efficient ship?" he suggested.

Xander grinned.  "No, he and Angel are snogging their little hearts out in dark corners."

"And not so dark corners.  Cordelia said she's caught them in the kitchen going at it against the stove while Angel warmed up his dinner a few nights back.  She roundly cursed us for making her watch that spectacle."

Xander nodded. "Nathan told me earlier Herc's calling Angel his snuggly wuggly and things like that.  Apparently Fred is being cute about it and going all gushy over them too.  She thinks it's *sweet* and *cute*."

Sarah not only spluttered, but she turned green and ran from the room.

"Eww," Jett told them, looking very serious.  "I'm sorry for the girl.  That's got to be horrible.  Two brooding, dark creatures getting together must make everyone around them want to slit their wrists."  He stood up.  "I'm going to comfort my wife before we have nightmares about that.  Are you staying tonight, Xander?"

"I invited him back to watch Adult Swim with me," Nathan told him.  "We'll behave.  I'll even keep my pants on."

"Good," Jett told him.  "Remember, MaryJane gets up really early these days."  He walked away, heading up to comfort his wife.  He found her taking a pregnancy test and pulled her into his arms, resting his head on her shoulder so they could watch the little stick slowly turn pink together.  "Shit," he sighed.

"That's pregnant," she whispered.

"Hey, good news then," he said happily.  "No more needing fudge for another six or seven months."  He turned her around, kissing her gently.  "Of course, we'll have to celebrate."  She snuggled against his chest.  "What did you want this time?"

"Another boy.  Girls are scary," she whispered, smiling against his chest.  "Should I expect another fruit basket from your father?"

"I don't know, it might come from Joxer this time. He said he wanted to help us name it."  He stroked her back.  "Ready for bed?"

"Let me brush my teeth," she requested, turning to do that.  "Love you, darling."

He pinched her on the rear.  "No pet names, Sarah.  But I love you too."  He kissed the back of her neck, making her wiggle while she worked to get the gross taste out of her mouth.  "Hurry up, I'm waiting," he told her, leering at her in the mirror.

"Not for long," she mumbled before spitting.


Scott walked into the living room, rubbing his eyes.  He saw the big lump on the couch and snuck forward.  "Are you a present?" he asked it.  When it didn't answer, he poked it, jumping back when it groaned.  He snuck closer and peeked underneath, then giggled and ran up the stairs.  He ran into his parents' bedroom, jumping between them to wake them up.  "Why do big peoples cuddle on the couch under the blankets?" he asked his father.

Jett looked at him.  "Were they dressed?"  Scott shrugged.  "Did you see clothes?"  Scott nodded.  "Then I guess they fell asleep watching tv.  Go get cleaned up and dressed."  Scott wiggled until he hugged the boy then put him back onto the floor.  He waited until his son had disappeared into his own room before sliding out of bed and grabbing his robe.  He snuck down the stairs, worrying about Xander waking up.  Nathan could sleep through an apocalypse, Xander had nightmares sometimes.  He saw the two clumps of hair mingling on the arm of the couch and grinned, sending a silent call to his father to capture the moment.  When he felt his father's answer, he snuck closer and grabbed the blanket, ripping it off them.  They didn't wake up so he paused to let his father capture a good shot of the two entwined on the small space.  "Didn't I tell you two I didn't want to see you two making out on my couch?" he demanded.

Xander blinked up at him and grinned.  "No more nightmares," he said sleepily, then he put his head back down and took a long whiff of his boyfriend's shoulder.  "Night.  Blanket?"

Jett stood there, arms crossed, waiting for Xander to finish waking up.  The morning hard- on panic would be adorable he knew.

"Blanket?" Xander pleaded.  "It's cold air."

Strife appeared, looking over Jett's shoulder at Xander.  "Awww," he said happily, grinning at Jett.  Xander snuggled in harder, trying to get Nathan to cover the cold parts of his back.  "Give 'em back the blankie, Jett.  I'll go call him off."  He patted his son on the back.  "That was adorable.  I've even got stills."  He winked and teleported off, landing just out of sight of the site.  He strolled up to the trailer and stuck his head inside.  "Hey.  Xander's not feeling well this morning.  He never got up."  The man looked at him.  "I'm his dad."

"I remember.  What happened?  One of the guys said he was really happy last night."

"They kinda fell asleep watching tv and we can't wake Xander up for anything," he admitted with a grin.  "It's really cute."  He created a polaroid of the scene and handed it over after pulling it out of his pocket.  "See?"

"Awww."  The boss grinned at him.  "I take it they're official?"

"And then some," Strife agreed smugly.  "I'm not lettin' him go so Xander won't get hurt."  He took the picture back.  "So he's off for the day, okay?"

"Sure.  First times are always special."

"No, they never got that far, they're still fully clothed," Strife admitted, his grin getting more impish by the second.  "Just really comfortable.   Xander even tried to wrap himself up in Nathan when we pulled the blanket off them."

"He's got some time coming, he can burn a day," the boss agreed.  "Tell him to be on time tomorrow.  We'll need him and he's got to explain about the notes he's been putting on sticky notes in the personnel files."

"Yeah, about that.  Xander said some of the guys have left early, leaving only two people the other day."  The boss grimaced.  "He said he thought you should know."

"I expected some of that to go on, but this is ridiculous.  Most of the shift is gone today.  Thank you."  Strife nodded.  "I didn't get your name."

"Misa," he said fondly.  "Laters and all that.  I've got to pick up stuff for work before going back."  He jogged over to the drug store, picking up some of his favorite condoms for his son's use.  He would present them to him later in a nice present.  He picked up some lube as an afterthought.  It wasn't his personal preference, but Xander was new at this and the oils he liked didn't go well with condoms.


Xander woke up and moaned, tipping his head back to pop his neck.   He felt a warm tongue taking advantage of it and pulled back, not expecting the kiss.  "Good morning to you too," he murmured, starting to smile.  "Why aren't I panicking?"

"Because we fit together so well you can't imagine anything else," Nathan assured him, giving him another kiss.  He pulled him closer, giving him an extra squeeze.  "There, more comfortable."

"Actually, no.  My elbow's being squished."  He shifted, basically ending up on top of Nathan's chest.  "How's that?"

"I like that," Nathan agreed, shifting a little so he could rub against him.  Xander's eyes got really wide.  "Not ready for that much information?"

"I don't know," Xander admitted.  He rubbed back.  "It does feel good."

"It does."

"If you're doing that on my couch, I'm going to hurt you," Sarah pronounced.  "Get up and come get breakfast."  She pulled the blanket off them and found Xander with his head in the middle of Nathan's chest, looking like the most content kitty cat ever.  She smiled and felt Strife pop in with a camera.

"Dad," Xander complained.

"Tough," he said with his most wicked grin.  "Your boss said you've got today off and to be on time tomorrow since almost no one came."  He waved and took another picture before disappearing. This one would be joining the other on his desk.

Sarah shook her head.  "Don't mind him, he's being mushy.  He did the same thing when he found out Jett had kidnaped and kept me."  She hauled Xander up, then helped Nathan off the soft couch.  "Come on, it's nearly lunch but I'm having eggs and toast."

"What time is it?" Xander asked, looking at the clock.  "Shit, I really am late," he said.

"Your father called you off," Sarah told him.  She headed for the kitchen, saving her eggs from Jett and his desire to overcook them.  "Thank you," she said, stealing her plate and eggs from him.  She grabbed some toast.  "You missed it, he was curled up on top of the blond's chest."

Jett looked at the couple.  "No having sex on our furniture.  I don't want to imagine what you've done on it when I have Sarah on it later."

"Sorry," Xander said sheepishly, blushing brightly.

"Awww," Strife called, taking another picture and disappearing again.

"Gee, dad, going to run out of film soon?" Xander called.

Jett snickered.  "Probably not."  He handed over plates and watched as everyone sat at the smaller, informal table.  "Anyone need anything else?"

"My sanity restored," Xander told him.  Nathan looked at him.  "Because either I'm going insane or I'm willing to do some really odd things right this very moment, even if it does squick you and your wife.  I've never been like this before."

Nathan smiled, understanding that obtuse statement.  "It's okay, Xander, I feel the same way."  He gave him a gentle kiss.  "We'll try some more later today, when I get back?"  Xander nodded, grinning at him.  "Good.  Want to help me look at places to live?"

"Sure."  Xander ate a bite of his toast, nibbling contentedly.  It wasn't often that he got a real breakfast unless he went to Denny's after patrol.  "Where are we looking?"

"I was going to talk to a realtor today."  He looked at Sarah, who waved at him.  So he looked at his boyfriend again.  "I was going to ask your opinion in case you wanted to move in."

"I can't leave Dawn," Xander reminded him.  "I'm her legal guardian."  He took another bite of toast and added some egg, hissing when he tasted how much pepper Jett had poured on them.  Jett shrugged and continued to eat.  Xander steeled himself and took another bite, the pepper would get less effective over time.  "I'd offer to let you move in with us, but I'm not sure how the girls would feel about that and my room is really small."

"I understand," Nathan agreed.  "You do have a responsibility to Dawn.  Is that your house or hers?"

"Her family's."  Xander leaned over and gave him a hug.  "I'd like to say yes, I really would," he offered.

"I know, Xander."  Nathan gave him a kiss.  "I understand.  Don't worry, we'll work out visitation arrangements and I'll add some of my clothes to your dresser this week."  Xander grinned and went back to slurping his breakfast.  "Jett, do you think we could do the whole 'getting me back to Maine for a few hours and then back here' thing today?"

"Sure," Jett agreed.  "I'll take you personally and have dad help you back.  Don't you want to wait until you've found someplace?"

"I think I'll find somewhere quickly, but I miss having a few of my things, like my pillows."

Sarah nodded.  "I remember, you've got those wheat seed pillows."

"Aren't they lumpy?"

"It's like sleeping on a sand pillow," Sarah told Xander.

"Oh."  He shrugged.  "I really like the old feather pillows."  He looked at Nathan.  "You can bring over a pillow too if you need to."

Nathan smiled.  "Thank you, Xander.  We'll figure it out later."  He patted him on the leg with his free hand but Jett kicked him in the shin.  "I'm not groping."

"Don't care, both hands on the table.  That's another thing I don't want to see from you two," Jett told them.  "I don't want to see any groping maneuvers from either of you.  Learn to tease each other while here."

"Dear, calm down and drink more caffeine," Sarah said gently.  "They won't have sex in front of us or the kids."

"I'd never do that," Nathan reminded them.  "Though I agree, drink more coffee, Jett.  Your morning habit clearly hasn't been fed yet."  He glared at his old friend.  "As if I'd ever disrespect you that way."

"Hey, even you two can get caught up in the moment," Sarah defended.

"We'll try really hard not to," Xander said dryly.  "Is this a generalized house rule or newly expanded for us?"

"No, we expect it from the other two too," Jett assured him.  "We made it because of Jace and his little friends, but we do include Joxer and whomever he's dating at the moment in there as well."  He sipped some of his coffee.  "I'm not being unreasonable, we don't grope in front of you."  He and Xander shared a look.  "Often," he admitted, allowing that Xander had caught him with his wife recently in their house.  "Use the bathroom and clean up after yourselves like everyone else."

"Fine," Nathan agreed. Xander nodded to show his support as well.  "Any other house rules I haven't heard before?"

"You never brought anyone with you before," Jett reminded him.  "And yes, the no sex on the couch rule does still apply.  Even the non-penetrative stuff."  Xander was now a bright red.  "You're going to have to cure him of that," he told his old friend.

"Why?  I like him being that innocent," Nathan quipped, grinning at Xander.  "I'll tell you all about that later, okay?"  Xander nodded, picking up his juice to drink and hide behind.  "Don't worry, I'm going to keep you very innocent for a long time, Xander.  I'll miss your blushing."

"I'll probably blush for a very long time," he admitted.  "I did with Anya too."

"I'd blush too with some of the things that came out of that woman's mouth," Sarah muttered.  Xander looked at her.  "Bacchus was up with some of his," she cleared her throat, "staff the other day.  I had to peel MaryJane away from them."  Jett grimaced.  "She thought he was a very pretty color and wanted to ask him questions about his horns.  Were they heavy?  Did it hurt when they came in like teeth did?  Why were all those women crawling around him and did I do the same thing to you," she quipped.  He lunged over and kissed her, pulling her into his lap.  "Jett.  Naughty!" she said, glancing at Xander and Nathan, who were sharing a kiss of their own.

Nathan pulled back with a moan.  "You are as addictive as your great-grandfather is supposed to be," he assured him.  "I know why Bacchus' women crawl, Xander, and you've got it too."

"That must be why all the succubi like him," Sarah quipped.   Xander grinned and nodded, then went back to grinning at his intended.  "Xander, no sex in front of us."

Nathan sighed.  "Yes, dear.  Hurry up and eat Xander.  I'll take you home so you can shower and change."

"I can get there and you could walk over to join me," he offered.  "Kill some time?"

"That's okay, I want to pick out your clothes again today," Nathan admitted with a naughty grin.  "You can only wear what I'll put on your bed."

"Deal," Xander agreed, stealing a quick kiss then digging back into his food.

"If he'd quit broadcasting, *some* of us would think about doing nice things for you two," Ares shouted but did not appear.

"I'm broadcasting?" Xander asked, looking at his big brother, who nodded with the drollest expression he had on his face.  "Wow.  I didn't know I could do that."

Strife appeared and put something around Xander's neck.  "You just made Hera horny," he said happily, patting him on the back.  "Good job.  I knew the mischief side was still in you."  He clapped Nathan on the back.  "That should take care of most of it."  He wiggled his fingers at Sarah. "Hi, momma."

"You're pregnant?" Xander asked happily.  Sarah nodded.  "Wow.  I've never known a pregnant person.  You'll have to share things about what it's like."

"It's hemorrhoids, lots of food cravings, and stomach cramps," she told him.

"Yeah, but you're carrying a future little person in there," Xander said, still sounding awed.

Strife hugged his son.  "I felt the same way when I watched your ma while she was stuffed up with you," he shared.

"TMI, dad," Jett told him, stroking his wife's stomach.  "She can go to you to tell you all sorts of nasty pregnancy stuff since none of her girlfriends are presently stuffed up," he allowed.  "You can even rub her stomach when the baby kicks and I'm not around."  Sarah looked at him.  "Maybe he'll want to sit," he explained with a small grin for her.  She leaned over and bit him on the tip of the nose, then stood up and went to get some more milk for herself.

Xander beamed at Jett.  "Thanks, bro.  This is one thing I want to know about.  I'm still planning on begging Tara to take some of mine to have her own kid some day."

Strife looked at him.  "Tara will make one hell of a mother," he agreed.  He gave him another pat on the back.  "Don't take that off unless ya wanna blow someone away and make them your willin' slave.  And no, I don't mean your boyfriend either."  He grinned and left, leaving them alone.

"Take that off if you have to pull a rescue out of your ass," Jett told him.  "Wear it around me though."

"Okay," Xander agreed, grinning at Sarah.  "I wouldn't do that to you.  You need Jett."

"Yes, I do," she agreed, patting Jett gently.  "Many people like Jett and I together."

"Me included," Nathan admitted.  He pushed his chair back.  "Come on, bright boy.  Teleport home so I can go for my daily job, then come pick out your clothes."

"Deal," Xander agreed.  He gave the other couple hugs then left from the back step.

Nathan looked at his old friend.  "Is he interested in your wife?"

"No, he thinks she's like Tara to him.  An odd sister."  Sarah nodded, agreeing with that statement.  "He becomes gushy over her because she's like his sister, not because he wants her."

"Good.  I'd hate to have to kill you to get him safe."  Nathan bowed to Sarah.  "You I'd keep, my dear.  You and the kiddies will always be safe with me, my word on it."  He left, going to change clothes and then jog over to Xander's house.  He wanted to see how Xander would do in a silk suit without any underwear for the whole day.


Xander walked onto his site the next day, grinning wildly at his boss.  "Thanks for yesterday," he said as he walked past him.  His boss caught him by the arm and steered him away.  "What?" he asked once they were in the office.  "Am I doing something horribly wrong?"

"No, not in the least, Xander.  I'm not upset over you putting those notes in or anything." Xander relaxed and grinned.  "Personally, I did want to know who the slackers are."  He looked at Xander.  "We've got a bit of a bigger problem.  Do you know what happened to most of our crew?"

Xander shook his head.  "Dad mentioned that you were missing nearly everyone again yesterday, but I haven't run into any of them."  And he would have had they died and risen. "How many of them are missing?"

"Maybe nine-tenths," he said bitterly, sitting behind his desk.  "You and two others have shown up today."  Xander grimaced at that.  "I've put in a call for more workers, but you're it today."

"Not a problem, I can still handle the work."

"Good, but I wasn't worrying about that.  I was worrying more about keeping other people.  I know they didn't leave because either one of us was mean but I can't figure out why they would leave like that, not even a word.  One guy even left his tools."  Xander winced.  "Yeah, that's not right."  He looked the young man over.  "I've known for a while now that you've got a second job.  I also know that you've come in pretty banged up in the past."  Xander opened his mouth.  "I was torn about what you were doing.  I thought you were either fighting, bouncing at some underground club, or being a rent-a-pro.  I've since changed my mind about two of those."  Xander started to open his mouth again.  "It's the way you carry yourself, Xander.  You've seen more than your fair share of brawls."

"Actually, the first one was the right choice," Xander admitted quietly.  "And I haven't run into them while I was doing that other job.  I've gone out four of the last six nights and I haven't run into any of them."

"That's what I thought," his boss sighed.  "You're the one who makes things go smoother, aren't you?"  Xander nodded.  "Thank you for that."  He stood up.  "I've talked with the person who hired us, we're shut down until Monday.  I know that doesn't give me much time to find new workers, but I'm sure I can find someone, even if I do have to hit up the immigrants in LA.  While we're down, would you please find out about those others for me?"

Xander nodded.  "You bet.  I'll go now and check with some of my sources."  He handed over his hardhat.  "I'll pick it back up Monday.  One last thing I need to worry about."  He walked out, heading for his car.  When he got in, he paused to think, then shook his head and headed for the temple instead of home.  Ares could complain about his dirty jeans.


Xander walked into the main throne room and bowed.  "Ares, we've got probs," he announced, startling the God of War.  "Most of my crew has disappeared mysteriously.  I haven't seen them on patrol.  There's been no death notices.  One of the guys who disappeared left his tools at the site.  That is not done."  Ares looked thoughtful.  "Did we ever figure out what the upcoming trouble might be?"

"You think it's related?" Discord asked from behind Xander.  He spun to look at her and she looked him over.  "Came directly from work?"

"Yeah, I did.  When sixty guys disappear in about a week and a half, even my boss starts to take notice.  He also figured out that I'm one of the people who keep the town safe, he verified it with me today."  She nodded for him to go on.  "Over the last nearly two weeks, we've lost fifty-seven people who haven't shown up anywhere else.  Nowhere, not even Willow can find them.  They haven't been seen at the bars, the liquor store, or the Bronze.  They haven't been to work, school functions, or shown up in the morgue.  That's worrying."

"It is," Ares agreed, standing up and walking down off his dias.  "What would you like to do about it?"

Xander looked at him.  "I need to know what you were sensing as upcoming.  Things like mass disappearances have a reason in this town," he said quietly.  "And if I'm right and someone's building an army, I want you to take Sarah and the kids and send them home."

Ares nodded.  "I'd never let them be hurt, Xander."

"Yeah, but if we're distracted, they could come after our significant people to harm them.  It's happened in the past.  Angelus proved that to us."  He stepped closer. "They will use Sarah and the kids if they know about them.  The same as they'll use Nathan if they realize about him."

"And being your coworkers, they'd know," Discord admitted.  She scratched her head, looking at her twin.  "Ares?"

"I agree.  Discord, get Bacchus, bring him here.  I want him to read the town, you to read the town, and Strife to read the town.  Then get together and find a reason for the energy buildup.  If you can, ask Janus to come see if he can sense anything as well."  She nodded and disappeared.  "Xander, I need you to go see Jett and Nathan, bring this to them."

"Plus Willow and Tara," Xander added.  Ares looked at him.  "We've done it before, and we'll do it again," he reminded him.  He stepped back.  "Anything else?"

"Depending on what it is, we might have to do some intense training with you before the battle," Ares admitted.  "For some reason, I keep feeling like I should grab my sword."

Xander touched his new necklace.  "Should I be ready to take this off?"

"If it'll help," Ares agreed.

Xander nodded and walked out, calling the house and telling the girls to meet him at Jett's.  Then he called Jett and warned him they were having a meeting.  He went to the weapon's room, looking at the things hanging in the cabinets.  One weapon seemed to be calling him so he opened the door and took it, lifting the light sword out.  "I'm taking this one, just in case," he called.  Then he teleported to Jett's house.  It had been long enough for the girls to get there and Nathan was still there for another two days.  Xander walked into the living room with the sword in his hand, making Sarah looked at him funny. "We've got probs," he announced.  Willow sat up straighter.  "We've got massive amounts of missing people who haven't moved, haven't shown up anywhere, and are doing odd behavior-type things."  He looked at Jett, then glanced at Sarah.  Jett grimaced.  "So far, I know of about fifty- seven people who are missing, and that's off my job alone."

"I went shopping yesterday and the store was really quiet," Tara shared.  "It was social security check day and the day for senior specials.  The store should have been packed."  She looked at Willow.  "My classes have also had a rash of absences."

Willow nodded.  "Mine too.  Plus, we've had every single magic user in the store recently buying protection stuff.  Stuff to cast protection spells around their houses and amulets mostly."  She looked at the sword in Xander's hand.  "You think you're going to need that immediately?"

"It called out to me," Xander admitted, looking at Jett.  "Ares has called some of the other Gods to come sense for trouble, we don't know what's going on yet."

"Our house is warded," Tara said quietly.  "We can bring Sarah and the kids with us."

"Fuck no," Jett told her.  "They're going back to the other house."

"Jett," Sarah started.

He looked at her.  "No, woman.  I'm not putting you or my children at risk.  I will lose myself again if I lose you.  You're heading home and you're fucking well doing it today.  Go pack."  She started to argue and he stood up.  "Now.  I'll get dad to bring you.  You can come back once this is fixed or the puzzle is solved."

"They can go to my house," Nathan offered.  "My house is warded.  You know one of my ex's was into the magical stuff."  He looked at Xander.  "Don't even think about it.  You're down on fighters right now."

"I know, and while I'm having an over-protective moment about you I think you can handle yourself.  Sarah is in a very delicate condition and I don't want the kids here anyway.  As a matter of fact, I'm sending Dawn with them."  Jett nodded, agreeing to that.  "Go pack, Sarah.  Or I'll do it for you."  She glared at him.  "I'm not risking what little family I have to this town when hell's about to come out of the ground!"

"Fine," she agreed quietly.  "The kids and I will go visit Nathan's house.  We'll take Dawn."  She stood up and grabbed Xander by the hand.  "I don't take orders from you."

He blew a kiss.  "It's good that you're up to fighting, but you're still pregnant and I'd never send a pregnant woman into battle.  I haven't in the past and I'm not going to now."  She sighed and walked away.

"Who was pregnant?" Willow asked.

"During graduation.  A few of the cheerleaders didn't fight for that reason."  She 'humph'ed and settled down again.  "Ladies, I need you two to do it your way.  Yeah, the Gods will get something but you two are so used to the magical currents that you can feel the slightest change if you're looking.  Willow, I want you to check the hellmouth personally since it seems to like you so much."  She nodded quickly.  "Tara, I want your butt to stay in the house.  You can cast from in there if you need to.  Willow will be guarding you.  I know you're dangerous when you need to be, I don't want you to have to be.  Get Giles to help you.  I want you three in a magical bunker if possible."  They nodded and stood up, heading out.  Xander looked at his brother and boyfriend.  "This is going to get messy.  I've got a really bad feeling about this and I have since this morning.  This is someone trying to control the whole town, not an isolated incident.  We could even be looking at the normal, non-realizing people becoming aware of this crap.  Can you handle that?  I know you're a one-on-one guy, Jett."

"I can," he agreed.  "I've fought in wars before.  I'm better at leading a small group than being on the front lines," he admitted.

Xander nodded.  "That's good, because I can preplan the battles but I can't really do it during the fighting, I'm usually too involved.  You can do that part."  He looked at Nathan.  "This is going to get messy," he repeated.

"I can handle it, Xander.  I've seen some of the worst that humanity can offer.  I've had to go through masses of dead bodies to get the person who had caused them to die."

"Good.  I'm hoping we aren't going to get that bad.  Right now, whatever it is is gathering people and power.  He or she is being blatant, that's either a sign of over confidence or of stupidity, I hope."

"Or that he's not trying to be subtle.  He's hoping to run into us," Jett added.  Xander nodded, sitting down and getting comfortable.  "If that is the case, where should we meet him?  Pick a battle field."

"The woods out by the college.  It's dangerous but farther away from everyone.  Either there, the beach, or the smaller park."  Jett looked slightly impressed.  "If they've got vampires, we'll have to deal with them first.  If they don't have vampires, pray that they're hiding instead of out hunting when it happens.  They will jump in."

"I can only hope they're scared and that's why it's been so quiet for the last two days," Nathan offered.

Xander frowned.  "It has?"  Nathan and Jett both nodded.  "Oh, damn.  Tell me that he hasn't sucked them in."  He stood up and headed out, jogging to Spike's crypt.  He barged in and found him curled up in a ball against the far wall.  "I had wondered why you hadn't been over to bother us," he noted as he came over to check him out.  "Spike?" he called gently.  Spike vamped out and lunged at him but Xander stopped him by knocking his head into the wall.  He checked for physical injuries, finding a number of them.  Then he pulled out his cell and called Tara.  "Hey, it's me.  Spike's injured.  He's huddled in his crypt and he vamped out when he noticed I was there.  It was a good minute before he realized I was physically here."  He hummed and closed the phone, staring at Spike until Willow got there with a sun-proof cloak and her car.  He got out of her way, watching as she handcuffed the vampire.  "Take care of him.  We may need him," he noted, heading back to Jett's house.  He counted the fresh graves on the way, what few he could find.  Something was definitely keeping the bodies if they were turning them.  If not, then they had another MOO situation and it was going to get really messy.  He walked back into Jett's house, taking the gun Sarah handed him.  "Thanks.  Spike was hurt."  He went back to Jett's study, knocking first.


Xander walked in and saluted.  "Spike was beaten, he was semi-insensate and he wasn't aware I was standing there for nearly a minute."

"Fuck," Jett said.

Nathan looked at him.  "Why?"

"Because Spike fights on our side," Xander told him.  "Anything going against vampires would try to take him out as well.  If it was someone gathering power, they'd want to remove any and all resistance first.  In this case, Spike looked scared."

Jett slowly let out a deep breath.  "Okay, so you're thinking that they're building an undead army?"

"I'm hoping they're building an undead army," Xander corrected.  "We've had demons in the past that have taken over a great portion of the town and made them dance to a specific tune without turning them.  We had the Hansel and Gretel demon that took over everyone and made them deathly afraid of witches.  That nearly cost Willow and Buffy their lives at the stake."  Nathan winced.  "It worked through the parents by making them paranoid.  Buffy's mother formed the group that tried to take them out.  Willow's mother handed her over to the group."  Jett winced.  "There has also been a demon that took over all the adults through it's children and had the adults coming in to dig it up so it could be moved with the rest of her eggs.  Most of the time, the demons leave the normals alone though."  He nodded at a chair and Jett waved a hand.  "Thanks."  He sprawled in the chair, getting comfortable.  "I don't know what to tell you, Jett.  I know what could happen and what might be even worse.  I need more information."

"We'll have it by tonight," Nathan assured him.  "Ares thought you were being paranoid for a moment but then he started to feel around the town.  He said something is definitely off at the moment.  That same building feeling is back."

"I'm guessing they're slowly sucking in energy," Willow said from the doorway.  "They suck a bit, pause, suck a bit more, pause again.  The hellmouth has been touched.  I dropve past there on my way home to do a physical look.  Someone was digging on top of it."  Xander looked back at her.  "It looked like a single person because the ruins weren't that touched.  There was bare ground and symbols drawn in blood."

"How's Spike?" Xander asked.

"I left him to Giles and Dawn.  She's nursing and Giles is questioning."  She nodded her chin in Jett's direction.  "Where and what field?"

"It depends on what's going on," Xander admitted.  "Knowing that they're tapping into the hellmouth means that hopefully someone can block it."  She nodded, leaning against the door frame.  "Can you?"

"I can," she agreed.  "Or at least I can block some of it if I can't get all of it.  Do we think this is Glory returning?"

"No," Xander said, shaking his head.  "I don't have that same creepy feeling.  I'm feeling more...fluttery.  Panicked but not if that makes sense.  Like it's going to happen in just a few minutes and we're staring across the field at the enemy.  That slimy feeling that I got when we ran into Glory isn't the same."

"Xander, how many real battles have you been in?" Nathan asked gently.

"With the group, by myself, or otherwise?" he asked, giving his boyfriend a rakish grin.  "By myself, I've taken out a group of zombies while everyone else played with a kraken demon upstairs." Willow gasped.  "Yes, me, I took out Jack when he placed the bomb in the boiler room," Xander said patiently.  He looked at his boyfriend again.  "I planned and fought during graduation, being the general of that conflict.  I've led the way in some of the Glory fights, but always let Buffy have her head.  We were a pretty well-integrated team."

"We could use Buffy," Willow said quietly.

"Angel's offered us Faith," Jett told her.  "Do not think about it, Rosenburg."  She glared at him, straightening up again.  "A zombie slayer is not what is needed.  If this thing can control demons, which I think it probably can somehow, then I don't want to deal with the issue of her as well."  He looked at Xander.  "You fought in battles?"

"We were a small combat unit, a strike team," Xander told him.  "Even if no one wanted to acknowledge me, I was still there.  Sometimes I tripped and sometimes I was the reason the day was saved."

Willow nodded.  "We don't give Xander much credit, but he has saved the day a number of times," she had to admit.  Mostly because someone behind her was making her tell the truth.  "He's only tripped a few times during battles and even then, he still fought."  She shook her head and looked around, but didn't see anyone.  "That wasn't what I was going to say."

"Was it the truth?" Nathan asked.  Xander nodded and Willow sighed and nodded.  He looked at his boyfriend.  "If we ever get done with this duty, want to move into my house?  You'd like Maine."

Xander grinned.  "Thanks.  I think I will."  He looked at Willow.  "Anything else to report?"

"Not yet," she admitted.  "Cellphone?"

"Probably turned off," he said, pulling it out to check it.  "I'm out of minutes."

"I'll get you some more."  She took the phone and headed to the dealer to add minutes for him.

"Why did she do that?" Jett asked quietly.

"Because, back in high school, I was seen as more than a clutz who hung around," Xander explained.  "Then Willow and I kissed a few times and we were caught by the people we were dating.  Willow was forgiven and I wasn't."  Jett groaned and shook his head.  "Since then, I've become donut boy and helper boy, but I'm also their main support network.  For the most part, I am the support network and Tara does the emotional support.  Willow will *never* admit what I've done for the group, even though she wanted it just as much as I did.  Buffy sided with her because she's a girl and they're best friends."

"Fuck your lifelong friendship?" Nathan suggested.

"Basically.  Since then, and for a few times before then when they thought I couldn't contribute, like that whole bomb and zombie thing, I've been seen as pretty much worthless.  They've tried to send me away and all that good stuff a few times.  And I've stayed because I had to."

"I bet that sucked," Jett said bitterly.

"It hurt, Jett.  Soul-sucking pain.  Willow and I grew up together. Willow and I kept each other sane for a long time.  Then they went to college and I didn't so things got worse.  During the whole Initiative thing, we were so far apart we had a meeting to disassociate from each other.  We met at a crossroads on the school's campus because it was neutral territory.  Some of that was Spike but most of it was us.  They intentionally tried to cut me out of the group.  I was hurt and reacted.  We finally worked it out, but I'm still not given credit for anything I've had to do.  Buffy had no idea that I was patrolling as well as her, especially when she slacked off to have time off.  Giles had no idea that I was patrolling until I came in really injured one night and he treated me.  He yelled at me because he thought I wasn't suited to it as well," he said coolly.  "He soon learned otherwise when I told him to try me.  He gave me a shot and I put him onto his ass twice while injured.  He still doesn't *respect* me but he sees more than a goofball now.  He thinks I'm growing up."

"You were never a child in the first place," Jett protested.

"Yeah, well, ignorance is bliss is this town's motto," Xander said bitterly.  "Trust me."  He stood up.  "I'm going to work out since there's nothing I can do at the moment."  Jett nodded.  "I'll see you there."  He headed back to the temple, going to find his father.  He found him in the throne room and he was pacing back and forth.  "Dad."  Strife stopped to look at him, noticing the sword.  "It called out to me from the case," he admitted.  "I only know a little bit about swords.  Can I get a few quick lessons from you?"

"Sure.  I could use it too," Strife admitted, leading the way to a practice area.  He took the sword to look at, then looked at his son.  "Where did you find this thing?"

"In the cabinet.  I went in to look over things to see what was available and that called out to me."  He started to shift nervously.  "Dad, I'm feeling a bit paranoid right now."  Strife handed it back but gave his son a look.  "I don't know!  This is weirder than my usual shit."  He changed his grip, making the sword feel comfortable in his hand.  Then he switched hands to his left and it suddenly felt perfect.  "Huh.  I didn't know I was left- handed."

"You're not," Strife said patiently.  "Hey, Unc?  I think we've just grown a new dilemma," he called.

"I'm suddenly one of the problems?" Xander asked, looking hurt.  He even slumped.  Strife gave him another look, this time one of exasperation.  "I can always go bug Jett more if I have to."

"Not the issue, son," Strife said patiently.  "Ares!" he snapped.

"What!" Ares demanded as he walked in.  He looked at the sword in Xander's hand, then snorted.  "Is that the problem?"

"In his *left* hand?" Strife asked.

Ares shrugged.  "The stupid thing likes whomever it likes."

"It's his off hand."

"So?"  Ares walked over, nodding at the sword.  "Did it call out to you?"  Xander nodded, still looking miserable.  "Then it's chosen a new user.  Like some Samurai's katanas, that thing will pick it's new wielder.  It likes you.  It'll protect you.  It'll also kick your ass if you try to give it away before it's ready.  When it wants to move on, it will."  He looked at Strife. "Any other problems?"

"In his off hand?" Strife repeated.  "His *left* hand?"

"So?  He's got a silver thread too," Ares pointed out.

"Hello, needing in on this discussion as well," Xander butted in.  The Gods looked at him.  "And?  Silver thread?  Special sword?  Something more I need to know?"

"Yeah, they made you an official guardian," Strife told him bitterly.  "Joxer used ta have that thing when he was guardin' the Pantheon."

"Joxer?" Xander asked.

Ares shrugged.  "It liked him.  Now it likes you.  Don't worry, it won't change you.  It might even keep you safer than normal."  He looked at Strife again.  "The first person who used it was left handed, I wouldn't worry too much about that part," he said patiently.  Strife created a piece of paper and handed it over.  "Oh, that sort of left handed."  He looked Xander over, then shook his head.  "Not this one.  He doesn't fit the description at all."

"Bet me," Strife argued.

Xander snatched the paper, reading the prophecy.  "Yeah, I do sort of fit it," he agreed.  He looked at Ares.  "We're not exactly as close as we seem, Ares."

"Oh."  He looked confused then shook his head. "Are you sure?"

"I'm very sure that I'm nearly reviled some days for still existing," Xander told him.  "The same as I'm sure that my friends don't appreciate me for the person I am, or what I've done for them.  The only part that I haven't seen being me is the having a child part."  He handed it back.  "Unless someone hasn't said anything about it."

Strife shrugged.  "I don't know.  Unc?"

"If it's him, then it'll happen if it does," Ares said prosaically.  "It said he'd live.  Xander, if you get hurt during the battle or whatever, don't let go.  It'd drive your father and Hermes' grandson insane."  He wandered off again, going back to the library.  On the way he called Hephaestus, he had seen into the boy's mind.  When his half-brother got there, he handed over the copy of the prophecy.  "Strife thinks it's him.  Light's sword is in his left hand."

"Hmm."  Hephaestus read it over, then nodded.  "As far as I know, it could be.  I don't think he has any children, that's the only part that won't fit."  Ares looked shocked.  "Really."  He handed it back.  "What are you going to need for the fight?"

"We're still not sure what we're fighting," Ares admitted.  "Discord passed out when she tried to track the oddness.  Janus is here and he's fairly upset, he's not even ranting at anyone.  Bacchus hasn't appeared yet and Strife got a case of the jitters."  He heard Xander yell and winced.  "Ow, that had to have hurt."  Hephaestus looked interested.  "The sword wanted him to hurt a bit and bleed down it.  It let his arm be cut.  It's shallow and Strife's already angsting over it."  He rolled his eyes and headed into the library.  "You get to tell Hera," he called as he walked away.

"Why me?" Hephaestus complained.  "She doesn't like me."

"Yay," Ares called.

"Fine."  He took the paper with him to Hera's meeting chamber, handing it over.  "The sword like Xander, it made him bleed down the blade," he announced.  "It fits, all but the child part."  He left, leaving it in her hands.  That way he wouldn't have to deal with her any more.

Hera read the prophecy, frowning greatly.  "Who had this one?" she demanded.  "Apollo!"


Jett walked into the room Xander was collapsed in, kicking him gently in the side.  "You living?"

"I'm fine," Xander said weakly.

"No you're not," he snorted.  He squatted down, looking at the sword.  "I thought that was Amber Light's thing."  He took it and tossed it away, which eased the bleeding Xander's arm was doing.  "It did the same thing to Joxer," he explained.  "It needs manners. You've got to be firm with the stupid blade or it'll like you too much."  He stood up and bent down, grabbing Xander to pull him up as well.  He walked him down the hall to the infirmary, letting the healer on duty work on his arm.  "Blessed sword, it likes the owner's blood," he explained.

"Oh, I've heard of it," Asclepias said as he joined them. "I've got it."  The healer bowed and left.  "Xander, are you still in there?"

"Yup, still here and brooding."  He looked at him.  "Who're you?"

"Asclepias.  God of Healing.  I'm over the doctors."

"Oh.  Okay."  He giggled then passed out.

"He seems to do that sometimes," Jett told him, walking away to deal with the sword.  He picked it up by the tip of the blade and carried it off, putting it into a sealing trash can.  "You're staying there," he told it.  "You're not hurting him again."  Then he went to his usual practice area to warm up.  He and Nathan needed some practice together, they hadn't fought side-by-side in years.

"Where's Xander?"

"The infirmary.  He had the misfortune to pick up Joxer's old sword.  It decided it liked the taste of his blood.  'Sclep's with him."

"Oh. Good.  He's fine?"

"He's fine," Jett agreed.  "He's a tough old bastard.  As proven by teleporting while nearly dead to save a journal."  He took up his usual opening position.  "Come on.  Let's work."

"Fine," Nathan sighed, lunging at him.


Xander slowly lifted his head, looking out all the windows.  They were having dinner at his house that night, it had been two days and Jett needed to get out of his own house.  He stood up and walked over to the window, glancing outside.  "We've got a group watching the house," he said quietly.   Jett came over to look outside, looking like he was getting some water.  "One of them is my coworker," Xander said quietly, pointing him out under the windowsill.  Jett nodded then drug him back to the table.  "That's not worrying you?"

"No, it is," he admitted. "But we've still got to eat while we can."  He dug in, eating faster.

"The shields will hold," Giles told Xander.  Xander forced himself to relax.   "How many?"


"That's probably more of a fact-finding or a parlance group," Nathan offered.

"Gee, the last time we got that it was Harmony," Willow said, looking at Xander, who snickered. "Is she still going?"

"She is," Xander agreed.  "Cordy said she's shown up there before.  There was some vampire empowerment movement that she got mixed up in."  He shrugged.  "Harmony went looking for a guru."  He shoveled food into his mouth and chewed, flinching when someone rang the front doorbell.  He stood up and walked that way, giving the people on the front doorstep a look.  "What?" he asked as soon as the door was open.

"Alexander Harris, our founder wants to talk to you," his coworker said, looking at him.  "Please come with us."

"Fat chance," Xander said, leaning against the door.  "Why would he want me?"

"Because he has heard of you and your magnificence.  He wants you to join his glorious army to help him rule.  Possibly even to be his consort."

"No thanks, I've already got one."  He slammed the door and went back to the kitchen.  Jett, Willow, and Giles were unconscious.  Tara and Nathan weren't there. "Fuck me," he muttered.  He tracked the muddy footprints to the back door and looked outside.  Someone was dragging Tara off.  He let out a battle cry and ran out, pouncing him.  Before the vampire let Tara go, he was bleeding and broken.  She was simply not awake.  Not even bitten.  He carried her back inside, then woke up Jett with a not-so-soft kick to the side.  "Watch them, take care of Tara.  Spike!"  He heard a groan from downstairs.  "Is he in any condition?" he asked.

Jett looked up at him, then around.  "Nathan?"

"I'm going after him.  You take care of them for me."  He hurried out before Jett could make it off the floor.

"Shit.  Jace!  He's going to fight again against too many!" he called.

Joxer appeared.  "The queen is rather busy," he said dryly, coming over to help him up, then taking Tara and carrying her out to the couch.  "I told Auto," he said when Jett glared at him.  "If anyone can find the rash little brother, it's him."  He went back to help more people off the floor.

Jett shook his head.  "Strife, they acted, they took Nathan!" he shouted.

"Well, fuck me," Strife shouted, appearing.  "Where is your little brother?"

"He disappeared before I made it off the floor.  They used some light gas stuff through the door."

"Fuck me."  Strife disappeared, going to get the troops out into the town now.  He whistled, getting everyone's attention.  "The first move was made.  They took Nathan," he told Ares.  "Xan's out and about hunting."

Ares groaned, nodding.  He looked at his imported warriors.  "You are to go out and keep the peace tonight. Stake any vampires.  Watch out for my great-nephew.  He's hunting his mate because he was just stolen.  The town is going to break into battle unless we can stop it."  The commanders nodded and walked their troops out, taking their assigned areas.  Ares looked at Strife.  "Find him," he said firmly.

"I can't," Strife growled. "I can't feel him at the moment."

"Bacchus!" Ares snapped.  Bacchus came out of his room.  "Can *you* find Xander?"

He searched, then shook his head.  "No."

"That means he's probably going primal again," Anya said as she slinked out to stroke her Lord's back.  "Sometimes he loses it during battles, but never fully."

"Great, he's a mini-beserker," Strife said bitterly.  "I want to kill his mortal parents," he said, heading out to look for his boy.  Beserkers were not known for watching their backs.  Taking out armies, but not for protective maneuvers. "We need the God of Rage," he complained.


Xander found where they had taken his mate, and was using his neat new ability to sense things to check the inside first.  He could feel the rage building and didn't even try to hold it down.  "Mine," he said, reminding himself not to hurt Nathan.  Anyone else was fair game but never Nathan.  He loosened the controlling necklace and decided to take it off.  He walked in, stunning the demons in there with the buildup.  "Where is my mate?" he asked calmly.  A few of them bowed to him and one pointed to a back part of the warehouse that had been newly closed off.  You could still smell the paint.  He headed back that way, noticing how the demons got out of his way.  He kicked in the door, making a few of them wince and others go 'ooooh'.  He strode in, glancing at his mate.  Then he looked at the demon in the raised comfy desk chair.  "You wanted to speak to me this badly?"

"No, I want you to join me," he said, giving Xander a catty smile.  "As you can see, no one you love is safe if you don't."

Xander changed his stance and looked up, pushing forward his desire to make this person pay.  He saw the man groan and sneered.  "What makes you think I want a weak thing like you?  Or for that matter, a dead person like you.  I happen to like my living one, thank you very much.  He's very nice to me.  You, the only thing I want from you is your permanent death."

The man laughed.  "I am not a vampire, Alexander.  I am a glorious being in my own right.  I am just as much a demigod as you are.  I am suitable for you, he is not.  He is not even recognized by his family."

Xander shrugged.  "They don't particularly like me either.  What do I care?"  He pulled his short sword from his hip and turned, cutting off a few heads.  He noticed the blood and winced, but calmed himself and turned back around.  "You're not getting me."  He advanced, letting the rage take him.  "There is no way you're going to have me.  Over my own dead body.  I have a consort that I love."

"If I must."  The man stood up and walked down, calling a sword to him.  Xander gave a sketchy salute.  They lunged, meeting in the center.  Xander moved a bit quicker and the other's block was strong.  Xander moved and let it take him.  The anger was calling out to him.  No one touched his mate.  No one lived who touched his mate.  His vision slowly tunneled then went dark, and he let his body take over.  He could feel the swords hitting together going up his arm.  He could feel his feet following his opponent.  Eventually even those faded and he was letting the anger do it for him.  Perhaps not wise in this situation but it felt right.

When Strife came in, Xander was hacking away at his enemy, taking chucks out of him, not caring that he was begging for mercy.  "Xander!" he shouted.  Xander growled at him. "Shit.  Ares!"  Ares appeared and bound everyone not presently fighting, but freed Nathan.  "He's lost in his head," Strife told him.

"Xander," Nathan called.  Xander stopped hacking the body and looked at him, tipping his head to the left, listening to him.  "Come here, Xander.  No one is touching me now."  Xander trotted over like a faithful puppy, hugging him.  "Shh, calm down again," he ordered gently, patting him on the back.

Ares found Xander's necklace and put it back onto him, along with a charm of his own.  "No wonder he lived this long," he complained.  He nodded at Strife to take them.  "Get them somewhere safe for the night."  He looked at Nathan.  "He did this for you.  Calm him down later.  Do not do more than cuddle or kiss him.  Even if it's the only thing that he wants, he'll start to associate the states."  Nathan nodded at that wisdom, anyone who had basic psychology knew about Pavlovian responses.

Strife moved closer, putting a hand on his son's head.  "This was the first time fully gone," he noted, leading them out.  He had gotten them a room at a nearby Hilton and they were going to need the privacy.  He teleported them directly because Xander was pretty nasty.  Nathan immediately put him into the bathtub to hose him off. "Stay as long as you want, I put it on my Olympian Visa."  Nathan gave him a calm look.  "You all right?"

"I'm scared," he admitted quietly.  "I've never seen anyone who could do that."

Strife nodded. "It's rare.  It's also his first time.  He might not remember killing the humans.  It'd be better if he didn't."  He gave Nathan a pat on the back.  "Deal with it, kiddo.  This is him.  It shouldn't happen again.  Now that we know, we can guard against it.  I'm *definitely* going to bring in more warriors personally if I have to."  He waved and disappeared.  He went back to Ares' side, helping him clean up the mess.  "They're in the nearest Hilton."

"Good."  Ares nodded at the corner.  "Hera and Zeus."

Strife looked that way and sneered.  "See what you made him into?" he said bitterly.  "My son is a beserker."  He lit a fireball, sending it at a body, making it burn as hot as his temper was.  It didn't take long at all for it to turn to ash.

Hera delicately moved closer.  "I am sorry, Strife.  Had I known, I would have had him raised among us.  You would have caught this and stopped it from happening."  He glared at her.  "He will not pay for this, Strife, I'll help you cover it up."

"The locals won't dare say anything," Ares noted.  He looked at the captives, then waved a hand, erasing their memories of the last few weeks and sending them to the park.

"I'll have the Goddess of Memories make sure those memories are gone," Hera promised, making the call right then.  She felt her and Cupid's ex Psyche answer.  "Psyche went as well."

"Let's hope she doesn't screw my son," Strife said bitterly, burning another body.

Hades appeared and gathered what he needed, then he waved a hand, dissolving the bodies.  "There, less stench this way," he noted.  He nodded for everyone to leave.  "I'll take the structure as well."  He looked at Strife.  "I sent 'Sephie to help them," he assured him.  Strife nodded and relaxed.  "Your son will be fine.  He did what he had to do, Strife."  He gave him a pat as Ares walked him outside.  "Hera, Zeus.  Now you know why he should have been raised among us.  I hope you're pleased with your handiwork."

"The boy will never be allowed to fight again," Hera agreed.  "I'll deal with that issue myself.  I can admit when I've made mistakes."  She walked outside to join her family.

Zeus coughed.  "Why do you like the boy?"

Hades glared at him. "Because I happen to think of Strife as an adopted child since almost no one else wanted him.  Since you forced him away from his family, I took him into mine while I had him.  The same as I will Xander.  That makes him my grandson, Zeus.  Myself and some of the lesser Gods like him quite a lot.  Olympus will fall if we have to fight about the boy."  Zeus nodded, understanding the threat.  All the minor Gods could rebel and make their lives a living hell.  Just one had disrupted things for nearly three years.  Five or ten would make things impossible for longer.  "Treat my son and grandson right, Zeus.  You don't want me to have to shove the undead from my realm.  Mother would be most displeased with you."  Zeus blanched and left him to his gruesome duty.  Hades channeled all his anger into the building, sending it up in flames.  Then he walked out and headed back to deal with these souls.   A few had been killed unjustly but that was their own fault.


Xander woke up and looked around, finding his boyfriend snuggled next to him.  "You're all right?" he asked, rolling to his side to touch his warm face.  "You weren't turned."  He continued to touch the warm skin, making his boyfriend wake up.  "Hi.  You weren't turned."

Nathan leaned over and kissed him. "I wasn't turned," he agreed.  "You nearly turned."  Xander pulled back to look at him.  "Do you remember anything?"  Xander slowly shook his head.  "What you did is called beserking.  It means you let the rage and anger take over.   You lost yourself in the flames of your rage and you then went to take out a lot of things in your way."  Xander was shaking slightly.  "It happens to some of us," he soothed, stroking Xander's cheek.  "It's not that big of a problem, unless you do it again.  There's every chance that you won't come back if you *ever* do it again, Xander.  You can't let it take control."  He pulled him closer, holding him tightly.  "I don't want to lose you," he whispered. "Not to something like that.  Not to the bad memories, none of it."

Xander let himself be held while he tried to remember.  "I can't remember anything past when I declared you my consort."

"That's usual," Nathan whispered in his ear.  Xander moaned and pulled him closer.  "Not right now, Xander.  If I did more than this, you would start to associate it.  I can't ruin you that way."  He pulled back to grab another kiss.  "Soon, my little one."

"Not so innocent, huh," he said bitterly.

"Still very innocent, just not a blood innocent," Nathan corrected.  He stroked a finger over Xander's lips.  "You're still very innocent and I want to cherish each bit I take from you before adding new corrupt things to you.  For now, let's mourn this one, okay?"  Xander nodded, pushing himself closer again, snuggling into the firm, warm chest.  "I'd miss you if you got stuck in that place, Xander.  Please don't do it again?"

"I'll try," Xander agreed, giving him a kiss over his heart.  "I don't like this waking up thing."

"That's fine.  Let me hold you some more."  He squeezed his mate as close as he could.  "Ares put a charm on your necklace to help you with that," he shared.  "He can help you control those urges."

"I don't have violent urges, I lost it because you were in danger," Xander told him.  "I guess I started to lose it back at the house because I beat the guy who tried to take Tara harder than I had intended."  He closed his eyes.  "I'm never doing that again."

"Even if it means you can't fight again?"  Xander shuddered.  "I know, but you can't.  Not unless it's an emergency.  That's probably what was giving Ares' nightmares."

Ares appeared, nodding.  "It was."  Xander shifted so he was still being cuddled but could look at him.  "Flip over for a minute."  Xander did as ordered, letting Nathan hold him around the stomach.  "Beserkers are rare.  Some people only do it once in their lives, in the most dangerous times.  They're usually protecting their families."  Xander opened his mouth.  "You have the natural gift to do it again, Xander.  Nathan is correct, that is why I was getting headaches from you.  It's been so long since we've had one that I didn't recognize it."  He sat down, touching Xander's head.  "From now on, no fighting unless the world is going to end.  I've got other jobs for you."  Xander nodded, looking calm, everywhere but his eyes.  "You can talk to Nathan, myself, Jett, or even your father about whatever memories you still have."

"I killed people, didn't I?" Xander asked quietly.

"You did what you had to so your mate would go free," Ares corrected.  "That is all you did.  If they were human, then they were.  If they weren't, then they weren't."  Xander gave him a pleading look.  "Yes, your main opponent was human," he admitted.  Xander hung his head.  "Everything was cleaned up.  No one else remembers anything."  Xander looked up and opened his mouth.  "I'm not losing you to a bad system that would punish you for protecting your mate.  You would lose it in there and Strife would lose you permanently."  Xander slumped and nodded. "That's another reason why you can't ever go there again."

"I've fought before without doing that."

"It's always been there, Xander. It's what helped you get that extra moment of fighting in.  The thing that gave you your second and third winds," Nathan told him.  "The thing that made you fearless in the face of astronomical odds."  He stroked Xander's stomach.  "You can't fight, not unless it's a very bad situation."  Xander nodded, trusting him.  "So you can help me with other things.  There are other, more gentle, jobs within each army.  We can deal with the weapons.  I do a lot of that."  Xander slumped and nodded.

"Good boy," Ares told him.  "Also, a few of those you faced when you walked in are still entranced with you."  He pinched Xander's nose, then smirked at him.  "Expect to be chased by people for a bit.  I believe one of them sent you flowers out of the blue.  It was the guy who you got suspended for hitting."  He stood up.  "Come see me when you get back home.  We'll figure out what your job is going to be.  After we get you trained with Hephie.  Maybe you could design and let him build?"  He shrugged.  "We'll figure it out."  He looked at Nathan.  "Are you choosing him as your consort, Xander?"

"That's much too fast, Ares," Nathan complained.

Ares shrugged.  "Probably not.  Xander?"

"I love him, Ares," Xander said quietly.  "I knew I wasn't going to hurt him."  Nathan sat up and looked down at him.  "I told myself I wouldn't hurt you," he explained.  "I knew where you were."

Nathan smiled.  "That's sweet, Xander, but it's still a little fast.  We haven't even had sex yet."

Xander shrugged.  "I listen to my instincts.  They like you."

"Wow."  Nathan laid back down.  "Let's stick with a mortal relationship and marriage for now.  Taking me as your consort before the Pantheon is a bigger step."

"So?"  Xander flipped over, trapping Nathan under him.  "Are you going to suddenly change?  Make fun of me?  Anything like that?"

"I'd never make fun of you over this," Nathan assured him, reaching up to move some of Xander's hair away from his eyes.  "I'm not like that, even when we fight."  Xander grinned down at him.  "I'm not ready for consort status yet, Xander, and you don't know enough about me yet to make it official in the eyes of the Pantheon.  We haven't even lived in the same house yet and we can't until Dawn is out of high school."  Xander nodded, understanding that.  Nathan looked at Ares.  "We'll have to wait for that until Dawn is out of school."

"Fine," Ares agreed.  "I like that idea.  Say, six days after graduation?"  He grinned and disappeared, going to tell Strife what he had learned.  It would make him quit pacing in his throne room.  "Strife."  Strife stiffened and turned to look at him.  "Xander is fine.  He's awake.  He remembers nothing but he guessed that there were humans in there."  He smiled and Strife grimaced.  "He's also decided to keep Nathan in a long-term manner.  They're putting off their consort joining until after Dawn is out of high school."  Strife raised an eyebrow.  "Nathan made him see sense."

"They haven't even had sex yet," Strife reminded him.

"Nathan said the same thing.  Xander didn't seem to care."

Strife broke out in giggles and came over to hug him.  "Thanks, Unc.  How is he?"

"Nathan is a good counselor," Ares told him.  "He's helping him.  Xander was able to make his mind recognize Nathan."

"Really?" Strife asked.  Ares nodded, pushing him back.  "I'll start plannin' the ceremony then," he quipped, smiling slightly.  "Wow.  Now all I gotta do is get Jett ta step up and take Sarah in front of everyone."  He jogged out, going to tell his sons the good news.  He found them working with Dawn in Jett's usual room.  "Hey.  Just heard from Ares' 'bout your brother."

Dawn bounced over and hugged him.  "Is he all right?  Is he going to have funky mental problems or need equipment?  Are we going to have to chain him down like they do Joxer every few weeks?"

Strife patted her on the head and Jett stole her to hold her still.  "Give," Jett ordered calmly.

"He's back to normal."  Jett relaxed and lifted his chin.  "He made his min recognize Nathan while he was outta it."  Jett smirked at that.  "He's even agreed to do other things."

Joxer grinned.  "Good!  It's about time!"  He moved closer.  "Any other news?"

"Yeah, Xander said he's gotta wait until this one's outta school before he'll take Nate as his consort."  Jett shuddered.  "Speaking of," Strife said, looking at that son.

"No.  And she agrees."

Strife smirked at his son.  "You're married ta the original hormone bomb right now," he reminded him.  "Just think what she'll say about that."

Jett glared at his father.  "You wouldn't dare."  Strife cackled and disappeared, and Jett headed after him once he got free from Dawn.

Dawn gave the other two a look.  "Okay, now can I have explanations of the full and rounded sort?"

Joxer chuckled.  "You've heard a beserker, right?"  Dawn nodded.  "Xander did that when they took Nathan from him."

"Oooh."  She winced.  "Nice one, Xan."  She shook her head.  "Is he gonna be okay?"

"Just fine," Jace said, waving a hand.  "As long as he doesn't have to fight that way ever again."  Dawn nodded, walking over to join them on the floor.  "We've got to make everything seem very normal about this.  Otherwise he'll get upset and have to go cry."

"I've never seen Xander cry outside of Buffy's funeral," Dawn told him.

"He'd probably go hide with Nathan," Joxer told her.  Jett came back, hair sticking up, sweating, muttering about his wife.  "I take it she thought it was a great idea?" he teased.

Jett looked at him.  "You're expendable.  Father has Xander now."

"Yeah, but I think your dad would get really upset if you killed him," Dawn reminded him.  "Joxer fills in the calm bouncing spot."  She grinned at him.  "Please don't dress me in something hideous if I'm part of the wedding party."

"That's not an issue in this sort of ceremony," Jace told her, giving her a pat on the back.  "This will be those two standing up in front of Hera with the whole Pantheon watching to make this official in our eyes."

"Ooh.  Okay, I'll bring an air sickness bag," she told Jett.

"Thanks, I might need it.  That or a lot of liquor," he admitted, flopping down as well.  "Joxer, work with the girl, I've got a headache now."

"You want *me* to work with her?" Joxer asked.  "Me?"

"Yes, you, studly," Dawn said, reaching over to pinch him.  "You've got to be good at many things."

"Causing trouble," Jace offered.

"Poisoning whole armies," Jett added from underneath the arm over his face.

"Tripping and falling," Jace added thoughtfully.

"Being a bard," Jett agreed.

"Dealing with annoying people," Joxer told them.  "Patience, tolerance for most things, a liking for animals, dealing with heros who are very full of themselves, dealing with the insane.  Sounding familiar?"

"Wow.  You followed Hercules around?" Dawn asked.

"No, the female version of him," Joxer said with a wink.  "It was right after the curse and our eviction.  Jett went back to his killing people.  Jace decided to play drag queen for a living and I followed Xena around listening to her go on about how great she was."

"Ooh," Dawn said, wincing.  "I'm betting that was the definition of anti-fun."  Joxer shrugged. "Xena, I've heard that name."  She considered it.  "Ares said it.  He was mumbling about it while I was doing one of my Saturday day-long training sessions."  Jett looked over at her, removing his hand.  "He said I wasn't so much like her at all, but I did have the same form faults. He was mumbling something fierce about her so I eavesdropped."

Jett smirked and rolled onto his side.  "Really?"  She nodded so he shared a look with his brothers.  "We may have to do something about that."  They nodded.

"No lounging in the practice rooms," one of the warriors said from the doorway.

"Bite me," Dawn told him. "We are allowed to take breaks, dumbass."  She stood up.  "Come on, Joxer. I need help with my falling ability.  I keep banging my elbows."  He stood up and they moved to a clear spot on the floor to practice.

Jett looked at the warrior.  "What she said," he agreed, watching Dawn's problem area.  "Push your shoulders forward, not back."

"Let me," Jace said as he grandly stood up and came over to help.  "I have to do this on stage," he told her.

The warrior shook his head and went to find a different practice area.  Maybe outside would be nice.  There was a small group of people in the park who exercised, maybe he should join in.  Those three were strange and corrupting that young lady, but Ares favored them.  He couldn't complain about them.  The lady Discord got very upset when people complained about her grandsons and he liked his body in its present configuration.


Xander and Nathan walked in the back door of his house, waving at Willow, who was cooking.  "I'm back."

"I can see that. Are you sane?"  Xander nodded.  "Going to stay that way?"

"Willow!" Dawn said angrily.  "Leave him alone!  Xander is perfectly normal and nice!  Just like usual!"  She walked over and gave him a hard hug.  "Welcome back.  How was the sex?"

Nathan spluttered.  "Dawn!"

She grinned.  "Sorry, couldn't resist.  You guys were in a hotel room for three long days, we figured you finally broke through that barrier too."

"Men don't have one of those," Xander said dryly.  "And since you didn't know that, you can go take sex ed from Jett."  Dawn cackled and headed back to the living room to tell Jett that.  "I take it the family is here?"  Willow nodded, looking at him.  "I'm fine.  We've figured out why I went that way in case I have to fight again.  It won't happen again."  He blew a kiss.  "Should I head out for dinner?"

"No, I'm cooking stir fry," she said, starting to pout.  "I cook very well, Xander."

"I didn't say you didn't, but it's an awfully small pan."  He headed into the living room, looking at Tara.  "Should I head out and get chocolate?"

"It might be a good idea," Tara agreed, getting up to give him a hug.  "I missed you. Are you okay?"

"Just fine."  Xander grabbed Nathan and made him sit in his usual chair, then sat in his lap since there weren't any free seats.  "We worked out us too."  Nathan got a very content look as he stroked Xander's back.  "I made myself recognize him.  Ares was really impressed with that."  Nathan pinched him and he blushed.  "Sorry."

"That's all right.  We took the time to figure out the trigger and have fixed it so he won't do it again if he goes on patrol."

"Good, then we won't be stuck doing it alone," Jett agreed.  "The warriors who went out that night came back twenty short out of fifty."

"Hmm, the vamps ate good," Dawn told him. "What about the cranky babyman the other day?"

"Oh, he went to the park at dusk to workout with the Tai Chi vampires," Jett told her.  "He came back different."  He smiled at her.  "Dawn passed her first levels already.  Ares had dad test her and she passed very well except for falling funny."

"Good," Xander congratulated, smiling at her.  "What do you want as a reward?"

"I'd like a sundae but Willow is guarding the ice cream like it's holy," Dawn told him, pouting at him.  "Take me out for a sundae?"

"Sure, Dawnie, we'll go out for ice cream after dinner," Xander promised.

Jace tossed something over.  "Hera said you needed this," he offered.  "I don't know what it is."

Xander opened it and frowned, holding up the credit card. "Huh?"

"Hera said any stress could bring that state back," Joxer told him.

"And she didn't want you to go off on them," Jett finished with a small grin.  "That means someone can take you clothes shopping so you have enough underwear to wear *every* day."

"Hey, I put him in that suit without any," Nathan reminded him.  Xander's blush came back and he hid his face from them.  "Awwww, so cute," he cooed, pinching Xander again.  Xander mumbled something.  "What was that?"  Xander whispered in his ear, bright red blotches spreading down his neck and under his collar.  "Hmm.  A good incentive to behave," he agreed, cuddling Xander closer.  "I am going to buy you more clothes."

"I'll help, we'll get him hip and stylin' yet," Dawn told him.  "I could use something in the bra variety so hopefully my shopping allowance will come back," she said as Giles came down the stairs.

"You haven't been school shopping yet?" Giles demanded.

"Not yet," Tara admitted.  "She said she was fine."

"Yeah, but my new muscles are making my bras too tight around," Dawn told her.  She grinned.  "I think I'm going to go up a size or two.  Even my water weight bra is tight now."

"More than we needed to know," Jett told her.  "It's bad enough I have to hear about nursing bras at home.  I don't want to have those thoughts about you."

"You're an adult, you can make yourself not think them," Dawn retorted sweetly, sticking her tongue out at him.

"I'll take you shopping tomorrow," Giles told her.  He looked at Xander, who was playing with the credit card.  "You as well."  He took it and the wallet Nathan held out, putting one into the other and stuffing it into Xander's back pocket.  "Has Willow said when dinner was?"

"She's making stir fry," Xander told her.

"In a single serving pan," Nathan agreed.

Giles sighed and walked that way, then Willow ran up the stairs crying.

"I'm guessing someone ran out of midol as well?" Xander asked.  Tara nodded.  "That's fine, we'll pick some up when we go out for sundaes."

"We've got a new bottle in the medicine cabinet," Jett offered.  "Sarah won't need it and MaryJane won't for years," he said happily.  He looked at his brother.  "Why do I get to teach her sex ed?"

Giles coughed. "Pizza?"  Everyone nodded or shrugged.  "Cheese, meat?"

"I'll order," Tara offered, grabbing the phone and calling their usual place.  "Giles, did you want onions and peppers?"

"Please," he agreed, smiling at her.  He looked at Jett, then at Dawn.  "Why would she need further instruction in that area?"

"She thought men had a barrier too," Xander told him.  "I figured Jett's either seen it, done it, or knows enough about it to pass it on.  Besides, he'll need it to teach MJ soon.  This can be good practice for her and Scott."

Jett shuddered. "Hell no.  That's Sarah's job, thank you."  He looked at Joxer.  "You used to be hot with the ladies.  You teach her."

"At least you didn't say me," Jace said dryly.

"You've never had a woman in your life," Joxer told her.  Jace hit him on the arm.  "Ow!  Grumpy.  Did your latest toy leave already?"

"Joxer," Jace warned sweetly.  "You are one step away from hanging on my wall for an entirely different reason."  Tara squeaked.  "Sorry, love, I'll keep him quiet."  He turned and punched Joxer, making him grab his nose.  "There, that's much better.  No, Enrique did not leave," he sneered. "He's visiting his parents this weekend and they don't know."  Joxer excused himself to get a tissue.

"Jace, you need laid badly," Jett pointed out.  "You're getting violent urges again."

Xander cackled.  "I'm sure Jace will feel better soon," he soothed. "Otherwise I'll have to send some of my admirers his way."  Jace looked horrified.  "I know, the big, strong, tough construction guys would want to be on top, but I'm sure you could teach them better."

Jace pouted. "Mean snot."

"Guys!" Tara said. "I didn't need to hear about that.  Men are icky!"  She went back to ordering since she was off hold again.

"Add an order of anchovies on the side," Jett requested.  "I'll bring them home to Sarah."

Tara added that then hung up.  "It's the nice deal night.  We made the 'group discount'."  Xander snickered.  "Sixty-three."  Xander stood up and headed for his room but Nathan pulled him back and handed over his wallet.  "Are you sure?"

"Xander told me I'm marrying him," Nathan told her.  "That makes me family."  Dawn squealed and lunged over to hug him, making him wince.  "Ow, Dawn!  You're really strong."

"That's Jett's fault.  I was a normal little girl before I met him," Dawn said, smirking at Jett.  "Now I make Ares mumble."

"Hopefully he's reminding himself of your age," Xander told her.  Dawn smirked at him as well.  "Uh-huh.  Not until you're legal.  Otherwise I get to unleash my naughtiness on him."

"Yes, Xander," she agreed, settling in to wait on the food.  "How long?"

"Thirty minutes," Tara said patiently.  "Go clean your room."

"I like my room."

"I don't.  I need your laundry."  Dawn sighed and went to do that.  "Thank you."

"When did you want the sample?" Xander asked, grinning at her.  She blushed and gave him a look.  "Please?  It's not like I can knock Nathan up."

"I'd pay to see that," Jace noted.

Ares appeared.  "I can make that happen," he said, glaring at Jace.  Jace shuddered and curled up in his corner of the couch.  "Thank you."  He looked at Tara.  "Strife said he wants to be a grandfather.  You're it. He said that Xander would never trust another woman to have his children after the ones he's dated in the past.  He did say it'd have to be done by transfer instead of contact," he admitted to ease Nathan's upset look.

Tara blushed and looked away.  "I'm not ready yet," she said quietly.

"He thought you'd say that."  He tossed a letter to her.  "From Fred."  He looked at Xander and Nathan.  "You two, no corrupting Dawn by having sex in front of her."  He disappeared.

"I doubt I'm going to turn her lez," Xander called.

"Xander!" Tara said, frowning at him.

"I didn't say there was anything wrong with it, just that I probably wasn't going to be the thing that turned her in that direction," he defended.  "Seeing me make out won't turn her against men.  It might make her like them more."

Tara continued to frown at him as she opened the letter.  She smiled and chuckled.  "Strife and Fred got together.  We need to buy presents."

Jett and Jace both groaned.  That brought Joxer back.  "What's wrong now?"

"Dad and Fred got together," Xander told him. "I think they'd be cute together."

"Xander, you haven't met our sister yet," Jace pointed out.

"She's horribly spoiled," Joxer agreed, retaking his seat.

"I'm still going to kill her husband," Jett grumbled.

Xander shook his head.  "If she's that spoiled, I don't want her near Dawn."

Jett looked at him and grinned.  "She was held up in Philly by her charge of spousal abuse.  She found her husband with drugs and kicked his ass out to the street, all the way down four flights of stairs.  Expect her soon."

"I'm sure we can help her find a place in LA," Jace told him.  "That way she's close but not in our pockets."

"Yeah, because she doesn't like you," Joxer snorted.  "She thinks gays are strange."

"Then she's going to love me too, huh?" Xander pointed out with an evil grin.

"Probably," the triplets agreed.

Nathan chuckled.  "I haven't heard you three do that in years."  He looked at Tara.  "Whenever you're ready, dear.  I don't mind you at all as long as it's by transfer and not contact."  She blushed and nodded.  "That is if you want his."

"I wouldn't mind," she admitted.  "He's very nice.  I'd be afraid that the others would turn out like one of the triplets."

"Or Auto," Joxer said with a smirk.

Tara grimaced.  "Does that man not understand the phrase 'does not like men'?"

Joxer shook his head.  "It's never mattered to him in the past.  Why should it now?"

"Because I'll have Dawn kick his butt," Tara told him with a mean grin of her own.  She looked at Xander, then at Fred's letter again, then sighed.  She sent a silent prayer to her Goddess asking for guidance.  Fred sounded so happy.  Fred and Wesley and Strife was odd but she decided they sounded very happy.

Hera appeared and looked at her, then at Xander.  She touched his hand, then Tara's head.  Then she smiled.  She looked at Xander.  "I will expect you not to buy everything in existence, young man.  That is for necessities."

"I'm taking it and buying him clothes," Nathan said firmly.

Hera shrugged.  "Attire is important. Being properly attired at all times is very important.  Try to keep him in drawers when he's wearing leathers.  Unlike the rest of the family."  She looked at Jett, the last one she had caught.

"It rode up my ass, Hera, what did you expect?" he said blandly.

She sighed.  "Try," she told Nathan.  Then she looked up the stairs, then back at Tara.  "Dawn?"

"Cleaning and gathering her laundry," Tara told her.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  This town is highly dangerous.  You must take the opportunities when they present themselves."  She went up the stairs to talk to the young lady who had her very special son's attention.

Xander squealed and lunged over, hugging her as hard as he could.  "I'm so happy!"

"Xander, get off," Tara complained.  "You're heavy."  He pulled back and kissed her on the cheek.  "Thanks.  Fred's pregnant too but she's not sure if it's Wesley's or your father's."

"It's gonna be dad's, even if it's not really," Jett told her.  Joxer nodded and Jace groaned.  "What?  You don't like Wesley?"

"I've met Fred."

"So have I," Jett told him.  "She's neat, in a geeky way."

"Uh-huh.  Our father and a smart, geeky, sensitive woman?" Jace noted.

Joxer shuddered.  "That kid will be the God of whining."

"Or the demi of pranks," Xander pointed out.

"True," Jett agreed.  "I like his interpretation."  He looked at Tara.  "Xander said he's Sarah's pregnancy buddy so we'll let you join in."  She gave him a shy smile.  "Don't offer for those two, the kids will be horrible."

"I've already got one," Joxer pointed out.

"I've got someone picked out in case I want one," Jace added.

"Since when!" Xander demanded.  "I haven't met that one yet!  Don't you like me?"

"I do, but her mother hates me," Joxer told him.   "She decided to like God and not like our version of faith."

"Ah, her," Jett said, nodding.  "Wonderful."  A thought hit him and he thought it at their father to have him check.  Strife giggled in his head and made Jett shake his head.  "Wasn't she a Texan?"

Joxer grinned and nodded.  "Yeah, she was.  A very strong woman.  My daughter was the same way when I saw her."

Tara gaped at Jett.  "You can't mean."  Jett nodded.  "Eww."

"I doubt she knows," Jett said with a shrug.  "It happens among the higher ups.  We ignore it.  Just like the time we ignored Zeus getting drunk and losing his wife in a poker game against his brothers."

"I don't want to know," Xander said quickly.

"Sorry."  Jett shifted to look at the clock, then stood up.  "I'm going to get something to drink.  Want some milk, Tara?"  She nodded.  "Xander?"


"No."  Nathan gave him a squeeze.  "Not for another week so the new limits will set."  He gave him a kiss, making Xander drool.  "There, that killed the dry mouth you had," he said, pleased with himself.

"You two are just as bad as Jett and Sarah," Tara told them.

"That's what I wanted," Xander said with the brightest grin he could manage.  "And I'm not giving him up either."

"Good.  I'd hate to have to hunt you down and kidnap you like Jett did to Sarah," Nathan noted dryly, giving him a subtle grope.  "What should we put you in tomorrow?" he mused.

"Since I've got to go to work, how about jeans and a t-shirt?" Xander suggested.  "After I shower you can redress me to please yourself.  You know I don't care as long as I'm not naked."

"Oooh, photo album!" Tara said, going for Xander's.


"It's a ritual," Joxer told him.  "Hurry up, Jett, Tara's grabbing Xander's photo album."

"From high school," Xander said, starting to pout.  "Don't you love me, Tara?  I don't want them to see how awkward I was."

She grinned.  "It's the duty of family to embarrass you in front of your chosen mate," she reminded him.  "You did it for me with Willow.  Now I get to do it for Nate."  She pulled out all the photo albums, stacking them in the center.  "The pink one is Buffy's.  It's got some group pictures.  The blue one is Willow's.  The leather is Xander's.  I'm not sure what the black leather one is."

"His baby pictures," Jett said as he came back with a tray of drinks.  "Dad said he went and stole them."  He handed over the milk then sat down and let everyone else grab their own sodas.  He took the black leather one, hitting Joxer when he leaned too close.

"I want the other leather one," Nathan demanded.  It was handed to him and the other two triplets got the other ones.

"Awww," Jett said, holding up the book to show Xander naked in the bathtub.  "It shows great promise for later dick size."  Xander blushed and groaned, hiding his face against Nathan's chest.

Nathan looked, then shook his head.  "It doesn't even compare, Jett."  He grinned and went back to his own book.  He came to the swim team photo and held it up. "See?"  Xander moaned again so he patted his back.

Jace whistled.  "I would have hit that.  It's a good thing you're our brother."

"Yes, it is," Nathan said, giving him his most dangerous look.  "Mine."

"Yours," Jace agreed, smirking at him.  "It's good that the baby brother has someone possessive."  He looked at the book in his hand, Buffy's.  He flipped it open and sighed.  "She was a pretty girl."

"Yeah," Joxer said, grinning at him.  He held up his own photo, a young Willow and Xander on the same swing.


The doorbell rang and Xander hopped up.  "Pizza's here," he said, grabbing the wallet so he could grab them.  "Hi."  He paid the pizza guy then disappeared so they could be mushy in peace.  He didn't want to hear about his youth.


Up on Olympus, Hera cleared her throat to gain attention at the council meeting.  "There is some family news," she announced.  "Strife, stand?"  He stood up.  "Your future daughter is very healthy, and she has been tainted by your nature.  That will make her a weak Demigod."  Strife slumped.  "The more you ...infuse her womb with your seed, the stronger the taint will become," she told him.  He grinned and nodded, sitting back down.  "Also, Strife's youngest has been asked to be a surrogate father for a very nice young woman's child.  I transferred it over myself."  That got some light clapping.  "Also, Jett will be having his formal union up here next week.  I will expect you to behave.  Xander will have his in a few years, once his young charge is out of school.  At that time, we will elevate the demigod Nathan, from Hermes' line, up to the same immortality that Xander has."  Zeus looked at her.  She stared at him.  "They are exactly like Jett and Sarah as far as I can tell.  We will also be gifting Sarah with it as soon as she has delivered.  Otherwise the child will be as well."

"It's not fair to make them lose their children," Artemis protested.

"True, but that would take a gift from Zeus," Hera said, looking at him.  She crumbled a picture in her hand and he swallowed.  "Well?"

"I will grant it to them as they grow up," he agreed with a small sigh.  "As well as any children that Xander asks for.  Is he stable again?"

"He is," she agreed.  She looked at Ares.  "I have talked with your date for next week's event.  She seems very nice," she admitted.  Ares looked stunned, then started to back away from her.  "A bit young perhaps, but more than suitable for your future consort."  Ares whimpered and turned, running away.

"Dawnie?" Strife asked.  Hera nodded.  Strife broke, rolling around on the floor giggling madly.

Aphrodite sighed in pleasure. "Thank you, Lady Hera.  They are great couples and you supporting them means they'll be happy for a longer time. I can use them to inspire others."  She and Cupid shared a smile.

"It will also tame Bacchus' taint on him," Hera admitted.  "There will be no more random generation of lust near him that would draw the demonic to capture him for their own use."

Zeus smiled. "I like that idea.  How long before we can formally bind him?"

"As soon as Dawn is out of high school," she told him.  He raised an eyebrow.  "Yes, the Key," she agreed.  "And Ares' future consort.  What better way to protect her?" she asked with a catty smile.

Zeus laughed.  "Fine.  I'm sure he'll be happy with that later.  Once he calms down."

"If we're gonna get Dad to jump her soon, we'll have to work on Dawn's wardrobe," Cupid told his mother.  "She wanted to go in for practice wearing a bustier."

Aphrodite shook her head.  "She doesn't need it.  I'll dress her up for the formal binding next week."  She grinned at Hera.  "Is Sarah?"  Hera nodded.  "Boy or girl?"

"A girl I believe, but more like his brother Joxer if I read the string right," Hera told her.

"Again what?" Zeus asked.

"Sarah's pregnant," Hera reminded him.

"Oh, that."  He sighed.  "Fine.  I suppose it keeps them out of trouble."

"Yes, it does," Hera agreed smartly.  "Xander is much too preoccupied to do any further harm to us.  Jett and his wife are very stable and help anchor some of the younger couples by speaking to them before their unions for us.  Xander will be taking over part of Bacchus' temple," she announced.

"Not a chance in Tartarus," Strife complained.

"Yours has no more room," Discord reminded him.  "Besides, they've got all the good sex toys over there."  She looked at Hera.  "Unless you wanted to build the four or five of them a residence of their own."

"We have no room for such structures," Athena said coolly.

"We would if single Goddesses didn't have temples bigger than those with families," Discord shot back.  "What do you need all that space for anyway?  At least Artemis keeps her animals in hers.  You rattle and prune up in there."

"Enough," Zeus ordered calmly.  "All demigods live with their parents.  Xander can choose to live with Hermes with his husband, or with either Bacchus or Strife.  Though I do agree, Strife needs a bigger temple."  It would keep him out of trouble while he renovated.

"Nah, I was gonna get Heccy to put on one of those neat expanding spells," Strife told him.  "I'll have plenty of room."  He looked at Hephaestus, then at Hecate.  "That okay with you?"

Hecate looked at him.  "What would I get in return?"

"Joxer," Strife told her.  "Up here more often."

She smiled. "I can do something with that one," she agreed, licking her lips.  "What about his intended?"

"Next year," Aphrodite told her.  "Cute guy and all but kinda clumsy."

"Good," Hecate purred.  She had plans for that one's blood and body.

"Bacchus will be revived shortly," Zeus announced.  "As he is helping Ares' with that blasted town, we have allowed it."  Everyone nodded.

"Do not force Xander and Anya in the same room," Cupid said quickly.

"Who is that?" Athena asked.

"His ex, the one who's been Bacchus' personal assistant," Aphrodite told her.  "She dissed Strifey so he sent her to Hades to have him deal with her.  Via Discord."  She giggled.  "She decided to take up with her former God because it was as close to her former demonic state as she could get.  Now he's got her hooked and it's frustrating her."  She grinned at Strife, who had let out a happy sigh.  "She's also been complaining about being sore because of his size.  It seems she's regretting throwing over a normal sized man."  His grin got bigger.  "She's also complaining because she doesn't get to lead the way anymore, she has to follow whatever he wants to do.  She's not allowed to have any initiative or say at all."

"Good," Strife said contentedly.  "She's also not going to tell Xander anything outside of the fact that she's happy so he can't guilt-trip himself inta a funk."  He sat up and looked at Hera.  "No warnings about Bacchus' addicting nature?"

"I didn't think I had to," Hera told him.  "Though, I hear you son has that same thing."

Strife beamed.  "Sure does.  That's why we're binding them together the first time they screw."  He stood up.  "It's already a partial.  Nathan taught my baby boy how ta blow 'im.  It was so pretty," he cooed.  "He makes my son happy."  He grinned at Hermes.  "We'll have ta throw a bachelor party."

Hermes spluttered but nodded.  "Sure thing, Strife."  He nodded, knowing what those parties were like.

"Maybe you can have one at Bacchus'," Cupid offered.  "That way you don't trash anyone else's temple."

Strife beamed.  "Good idea!" he said happily, going to tell Bacchus about this.  He liked to hear about Xander.  It made him want to bang Anya even more.  Which was all good in his book. "Yo, Bacchus, got some juicy smut for ya today," he called as he walked in.  He headed back to the throne room, smirking when he saw Anya walking funny.  "Aren't ya glad I sent ya here?" he teased, going over to tell Bacchus about how his son took to sucking cock like he was meant to do it all along.

Anya pouted.  Xander had never shown such skills with her!