Note: Timline: this takes place simultaneously with part 8. // // means it's in Arabic. Takes place in one of the digs in Upper Iran.
That Digging Sensation.
Xander looked up as the owl flew at where he and Draco were sitting, watching the sun come up. They were still up but it was Saturday and neither of them had a thing to do. Besides, it was quiet and Xander was coming to appreciate quiet. He lifted a hand and the owl landed on his hand, dropping a tightly rolled scroll. "Gee, thanks." He put it down on his leg and let Draco open it while he scratched the tiny eye ridges.
"You're not going to like this," Draco warned.
"When have I ever," Xander snorted. "What is it?" He leaned over to read the letter. "What?" He took it to read it more carefully. "They've got to have other people." He finished reading it and picked up the enclosed personal note that was on top of the official papers. The Head Goblin himself was asking Xander to do this job for them because of the danger of the artifacts. "Wonderful," he said dryly. He looked at the owl. "Fine." It took off, heading home. He looked at Draco. "I have to go. They apparently can't find anyone else among the suspicious and superstitious people." He stood up and pulled Draco with him, giving him a hug. "You behave."
"How long will you be gone?" Draco asked quietly, staring as the sun came up.
"Maybe a month, not more than three." He pulled his consort into his arms and watched the sunrise with him, then gave him one last kiss and went to pack and leave a note for the headmaster. He'd come back and finish the mapping in a while, after he got done being tainted by unholy things of unknown origin.
Xander was stopped by the guard at the edge of the camp and pushed up his sunglasses, digging out his paperwork. He watched as the guard read it, then looked at him cluelessly. //Do you not speak English?// he asked. The guard shook his head. //That is fine, please get Dr. Amand for me and he will see that I am supposed to be here. I am an artifact researcher. He is expecting me.// The guard walked off and Xander pulled his wand, keeping it in his lap for now. Damn, it was hot out here. It was winter and it was still hot in the desert. He had forgotten about this part of working in Egypt for so long, probably on purpose. A different person in khakis walked toward them. //And you are?// Xander greeted. //I was told to expect Dr. Amand.//
"I am Dr. Jackson, Professor Harris." He shook his hand. "Welcome to our dig." He smiled at him. "Park and come help me."
"Sure." He took the papers back and parked his jeep where he was pointed to, then joined the doctor in the tent. He saw the military guard and frowned. "American military?" He looked at Daniel. "For holy relics?"
"Frankly, we're not sure why you're here," Daniel Jackson pointed out from his seat. "Tea?"
"Not really." He took a seat as well and leaned closer to the table. The table had all sorts of pictures on it and he tapped one. "Can we cut the bullshit?" Daniel nodded. "I'm here because of things like this." Daniel looked stunned. "I'm a bit more than most people need to know about."
"So are we," Daniel said, looking at the military officer. Then he looked at Xander again. "We weren't warned about you."
"Feeling's mutual. I was supposed to come help the very nice, yet very clueless Dr. Amand deal with some holy relics that have the potential to be dangerous."
"Dangerous?" the military officer asked.
Xander glared at him. "Are you of rank to be on this discussion?" He got a nod. "Then let me call my people and we'll see what's going." He stood up and went to the worker's camp, finding a small fire. He pulled a tin out while glancing around and tossed some into the fire. "Faruk Mythein." A human head came up into the small flame. "US Military?"
"You can tell them but you'll have to do a memory charm. Jackson is fine to let know and keep it if you can't charm him." He waved and disappeared.
Xander sighed and walked back into the tent. "Okay, fine, I am allowed to tell you, Dr. Jackson, and anyone of appropriate rank that you trust with your fucking life because I'm going to have to warp memories later."
"Wow, you really do cut the bs." the officer told him. He looked at the archeologist. "Well?"
"Fine." He walked out, standing outside the flaps of the tent, trying to listen in.
Daniel leaned closer. "Okay, give."
"I'm a wizard," Xander said, pulling his wand and producing a small flame under Daniel's teapot. Daniel blinked. "You've got magical relics here and I was told to come retrieve and make them safe from anyone ever finding them again. We're a secret community and you're taking me away from my consort and apprentices."
"Oookay," Daniel said, nodding finally. He removed the tea pot. "Can you undo that? This one's electric." Xander undid it and fixed the scorch markings. "Wow."
"Definitely. Hence the memory warping needed. I'm allowed to leave you if necessary, the Egyptian contact said it might be impossible to work on you."
"Okay," Daniel said, faster this time. "And I thought aliens was strange."
Daniel nodded. "I work with aliens." He pointed at the same picture. "Alien artifacts. We're not sure what it runs on."
"I should be able to tell you if it's magically run, but I can't let those get out of the community's hands. We're very paranoid and someone would end up coming after us. No matter how big or bad the security."
Daniel inclined his head. "Understood. We can do that. Jack?" The military officer came in. "We're in a bit deeper than we thought. We knew these were strange but Xander here is a problem solver of another sort all together. He's here to figure out the power source. Anything with a particular power source has to be put into his control so they can lock it up. We get everything else."
"We might need those," Jack said patiently.
"I doubt you could make it work," Xander told him plainly. "It takes a very special person to work most of those."
"Like psychics?" Jack asked.
Xander nodded. "Something like that, though I suppose they might be able to garner enough brainwaves to do it somehow." He stood up. "Up to you. It's me or someone less reasonable and waking up in a few weeks thinking you've been on a binge."
"Are you a psychic?" Jack asked.
Xander chuckled. "Not hardly." He smiled at him. "I'm a nice, normal, above-average sort for my kind. Not what you guys deal with usually though. That's the deal. Take it or feel like you have the hangover of all mothers."
"Deal," Jack snorted. "As long as you can give us schematics and things?" Xander shrugged. "You don't know?"
"I'm here to figure out power sources. I don't really do electronics all that well. I'll deal with it somehow if you want though."
"That's fine, we'll figure that out," Daniel told him. "Do you have any desert experience?"
"Nearly twenty years working in Egypt," Xander said dryly. "Though I seem to have purposefully forgotten about the heat after being in Cali and the UK for so long."
Daniel nodded. "I understand that. This is my first time in a few years and I had forgotten the dryness." He held out a hand and Xander shook it. "Okay, go get settled and we'll take you into the tomb. We've just uncovered it."
"Do we have grunts doing the manual labor or locals?"
"Grunts supervising, locals digging," Daniel told him. "I know how the locals depend on the digs for money."
Xander nodded. "Fair enough." He walked out, going to grab his bag and plop it down into his assigned tent. Then he walked back into the examination area and started to sort pictures based on some of the pictograms. He handed his small stack to Daniel. "Anything with these," he said, pointing out a few. "Or this one," he said, finding the one extraordinary one. "I'll need to look at them before anyone else touches them. They're supposed to be able to taint someone; they're considered unholy relics."
Daniel nodded. "We've left everything in place so far. Let's go look." He led Xander out and into another large tent, going down the stairs. "The air's a little stale."
"Been there, done that," he said. He pulled out a funny looking strip and pressed it against the wall, counting to five. "We've still got spores down here. We'll need to do a thorough cleaning later of the air and moss. It should be fine for a bit, but you'll want someone to watch for strange bacterial and mold infections." Daniel nodded, continuing down the path. Xander saw one of his markings and stopped to look at it, pulling out a small brush and uncapping it so he could brush some of the excess dirt off it. "Okay, we've got Egyptian and Assyrian markings, along side Marsthian and Thinial. Good deal, ancients." He looked at Daniel pointing out the various markings. "Don't ask me what they mean, I'm a cursebreaker and artifact person. This one I know means magic. That one I know means dangerous. This one," he said, pointing at one of the speciality Thinial, which was an ancient language some thought to be predating Atlantis, "means repository or archive." Daniel nodded eagerly. "This one," he said, pointing at the other in the speciality language, which was thought to be a magical form of Greek, only used by their highest scholars, "means that someone was here later and marked it as being off limits. The next to last was older, predating everything else on this wall. This one was done during the Greek era, only they used this one, and it means that someone thought this archive should be reburied and sealed shut so that no one could ever disturb what was in here."
"Interesting," Daniel said, brushing off a bit more silt with his own brush. He found a new marking and noticed Xander had gone pale. "What?"
"That's a death marking. Something in here has killed, is hungry, and will kill again. Most of my people run and seal things with that. I'm one of six people who's gone past one of these in the last three hundred years." Daniel looked very interested. "That mark literally means soul stealer. Something that steals souls and eats them. It's in the earlier language if that helps."
"Can you tell where it is?" Jack asked.
Xander and Daniel did some more brushing and he finally pointed behind them. "There's a sealed room over there. I can find the doorway later, after I do a spore clean, so we don't walk into it. Chances are, the doorway itself is the boobytrap." Jack looked impressed. "Okay, how many traps have you found?"
"We've found the normal trip wires and flying darts," Daniel told him.
"Who tripped the archive open?"
"She was Dr. Amand's student. Her name was Hallows and she was French. A grad student."
Xander nodded, taking out a pen and paper to write that down. "I'll check on it later. If I'm right, she's like me and she tripped the last few traps and opened the archive up. If I'm right, then she was probably very sorry before she died." He put the paper back. "Okay, lead on."
Daniel led him around to what they had uncovered, watching as Xander stopped to mark charcoal outlines on the walls. Their scans had said they were solid, but apparently he did know something they didn't. When they were done, he called an early night and sat to watch while Xander pulled out a large fabric bag. The wand came out as well, startling Jack, but he put a hand on Jack's arm to stop him from saying anything. Xander used the wand to create a subtle breeze and opened the bag into it. Some of the powder inside floated out and landed on the walls, eating through the silt and remaining grime. Anything organic and growing was killed as well. Xander nodded them back up the stairs and they watched as he released more of the powder and ran up after them, then created a seal on the door. "How long will that take?"
"It's the fast acting one, it should be done in about two hours, but it won't protect against two specific types of spores. I've got the stuff for that in my kit and I can teach any healers of yours how to deal with it."
"Healers?" Jack asked.
"Sorry, community term." He looked around the camp, then grinned. //What? We do not play music?// he called in Arabic. //Where is the happiness for getting off early?// The workers cheered and pulled out instruments, starting to amuse themselves. "A happy camp will not rebel and will not ask uncomfortable questions or think too hard about what's coming back up."
Daniel laughed. "You are good."
"No, I've had a lot of practice and I'm slightly wicked," Xander admitted with a grin. "Just ask my man." He strolled back to his tent, going to unpack his bag. His medical kit came out first and he checked all the bottles. Only one had come undone but the powder was easily scooped up out of the self-sealing pouch it had been in. Someone tapped on the tent's side. "Enter," he said, putting his wand under a shirt. A pretty blonde woman walked in and he bowed. "I see you're a doctor. Come to ask about the spores?" She nodded. "Okay, the stuff I used kills all the spores, except two." He bent back to his medical kit and came up with three bottles. "These are the antidotes and I don't know how we're going to do a mass infection." He noticed her gun. "Oh, put it away," he sighed. "I can hurt you even when I'm alone and without any devices." She blinked at him. "Really. I'm combat trained too." She frowned. He grinned. "It happens sometimes in life. You get used to it and survive." He took the gun from her limp hand and tossed it out of the tent. "There. Now, are you ready to listen?"
She nodded, sitting down. "Sure. I don't know why I brought that with me."
Xander pulled out a blue piece of paper and put it against her forehead. One of the spores had gotten her. He turned and mixed up the powders he needed, capable from much practice and handed it to her. "Cold water, steep for fifteen minutes, and hold your nose." She looked from it to him, and then frowned worse. "It comes from practice, Doctor. Really, it does." He sat down, making sure his wand was beside his hand. "The two spores are ancient. They live in a lack of oxygen. One of them was responsible for the curse of King Tut. Even though your science may not register it. If you look really close through a good, high powered microscope I'm told it's a little green thing in the blood. It's supposed to look like a tiny green blood cell." He yawned. "Sorry, I'm on UK time."
"That's okay," she said, standing up. "Was the other knowable?"
"The other makes the blood look kinda purple under that black UV light thingy. What they used on Profiler to show the messages Jack wrote." She nodded, understanding that reference. "Everything else should be dead, but if you find something odd that feels like the flu, tell me."
"Okay," she agreed, leaving him alone. She took her potion with her and took it like he had said. She did feel better now, she had to admit it. She went back and picked up her gun, finding Xander tracing lights in the air with a slim piece of wood. She decided she didn't want to know.
Xander found his first trap the next morning, clearly waiting for someone with strong magic to trip it. He carefully disarmed it and moved on. The military guys weren't allowed in here yet - he had resealed the entry against them bothering him while he worked. The guys could take another few hours off. He found another, this time a simple arrow trip wire and groaned because the military should have caught this. As he moved on, he started looking for lock triggers, things to open the hidden doors with. He found one for the door he didn't want to open and circled it in red chalk, then moved on to the next few rooms. Most of the locks appeared to be in a back room, all of them together. Apparently this creature had high priests that guarded things by the way it was set up.
"Xander?" Daniel called. "Why can't anyone else get in?"
"Because you're special and I was checking for more traps," he called. "Don't move."
"Okay. I'm fine, Jack, he's checking for traps." He looked around, noticing the red chalk, but he would not move. Xander knew more about some things than he seemed to. He may look like a goofy kid but he clearly wasn't. A door beside him opened and he glanced inside.
"I meant it, Daniel. There's probably a trap within the first few inches."
Daniel pulled back to wait, watching as other doors opened. He was very impressed when Xander came out, but pointed at the red chalk. "The bad door?"
"The bad door and I'm not opening that unless you call a night in town and the whole camp clears, military and all. You and Jack and a doctor only." He grinned. "Speaking of which, I freed one of your doctors from the spore last night. It makes people randomly violent." He moved into the first room and lit it up, finding the traps easily since they were photosensitive. "I'm out of practice," he complained as he disarmed everything, only getting a swipe from a poisoned dart. "Can I have my blue bag, the one I left on the stairs? I need the silver vial out of it quickly please."
"Sure." Daniel found it and handed it over, noticing Xander's hand was like ice. "Are you okay?"
"Small graze with a poisoned arrow. Pretty common for me." Xander took his anti-poison that his cousin had thoughtfully made for him. Then he moved on to the next room, this one a small hidden chamber. He backed out carefully and made a note on the floor. "That means no entry until I've had a better chance to look at things," he explained. "That without the green slashes means it's fine." Daniel nodded, following him to peer inside the next room as soon as Xander said it was clear. This one got the all clear marking as well. They moved through the rooms, finding the hidden chambers easily. They finally came to the last room, the unopened one. Xander pulled out the litmus paper and put it against the wall again, counting to five. "Okay, we're clear," he announced. "Supervisors only for a moment." He swished his wand and the barrier fell. "Supes only," he called up. "I've marked a few dangerous spots." Jack let down the military personnel and followed behind. He gave Xander the bag off the stairs. "Thanks, that's my med kit." He walked over to two close doors. "Okay, guys, this is *really* fucking important." He pointed at the marks on the floor. "This is an 'all clear' warning. That means your crew can go into it and clear it out, take your pictures, and all that good stuff. I couldn't find anything in it that would hurt you." He noticed a few skeptical looks. "I've been doing this now for a couple of years. I disabled any and all of the traps I found. Speaking of which, I also disabled the wire trap that you guys missed against the wall with poisoned darts pointed at the stairs." A few of them winced. "Good enough?" They nodded. "If you see this mark with the green slashes, like that one beside the stairs, you do not enter it. There is something there that is not cleaned or something dangerous beyond what we know of yet. It means I need to take a closer look at something. That give you guys roughly three-quarters of the tomb to play in. Any questions?"
"Aren't you a civilian?"
"I'm the person who can fuck up your world," Xander said honestly. "I'm also the person who can make your job a lot easier. Don't follow orders at your own risk and that means I don't have to heal you if you get fucked with a poisoned dart. Got it?" The man nodded, eyes wide. "Any other questions?" he asked patiently. "I'm a teacher, I can take it," he offered.
"How long have you been doing this?" one woman in the back asked.
"Long enough and you wouldn't believe me if I told you," he promised. He grinned at Daniel. "Right?"
"Definitely. He does not look his age." The woman stepped forward and peered at Xander, who posed for her, making her smile. "Really. He's got the credentials. So please, follow the markings. I'll be working with him on all the artifacts, people. Go get the workers and explain the markings to them."
The woman, Sam Carter, pointed at the big red circle. "What about that?"
"That you touch under penalty of being eaten. That's what happened to the nice grad assistant who called you in. Red, in most cultures, means stop. I'm following that norm. Don't touch that area." Everyone nodded and went to get the workers.
"How long?" Sam asked.
"I was deaged. I'm actually about eighty," he said with a grin. "I've done this job for twenty years in Egypt and nearly as long in other places. I do not exist on your databases."
"Okay then." She smiled. "Sam Carter. Scientist."
"Xander Harris, you could call me a tomb raider if you wanted. I'm an artifact specialist with a specialty in dangerous ones. I've done this a lot."
She looked impressed. "Wonderful. How many of them are you going to have to hide from us?"
"The rooms with markings are the sort that something will be in probably. So maybe ten percent if we're lucky. Anything more than that and it becomes a pain to move them."
"Good enough." She got out of the way of the first workers, repeating the instructions in Arabic. They nodded, glancing at the markings. "We should put a guard on the rooms we don't want entered."
Xander nodded. "That would be humanitarian of you, but if they enter them, then they'll end up toast." He repeated that in Arabic, going on about how the rooms were still cursed and until it was removed it was not safe for humans, not even those specially blessed by Allah. He figured one would sneak in tonight and they'd have a dead worker tomorrow, but it would be a good deterrent. He had warned them. That was all he could do.
Xander looked up as the examination tent's flap opened, waving at the doctor. "Hi, Sam. Give me a sec." She put down a file and he glanced at it. "The Initiative, how fun. I remember helping destroy them, and without any nifty skills." He went back to mapping to the thing he was studying.
"It runs on solar power."
"Solar is the backup," he said absently as he worked. He clipped the wire he needed and watched as it regrew. He frowned and looked at her. "Turn around for a second?" She sighed and did so, used to this by now. He pulled his wand and killed the magic in the device, then smiled as he clipped the wire again. This time it didn't regrow. He hid his wand. "Okay." She turned back around. "This one's got a mental component. If you could recalibrate it or use the *basics* of the design then you could find it useful," he said, hading it over.
"We've got one of these but it only works for a few shots."
"It's a power booster, Sam. If you can find someone willing to give up their life, it can be attached to them and use them as a power source. The only thing you could use it for is to learn from it." He traced an area with the tip of a small screwdriver. "That area if I'm right is the basic circuit. That's what you need to study to deal with it."
"I'll pass that on, thank you," she said. She leaned against the table while she looked at it. "That's an eyes-only file. How did you know?"
"I was there when they started their shit and I was there when we finished it for them since they were trying to kill us. They weren't happy with us, but hey, they died." He shrugged. "Brainwashed little people who wanted to take anything unusual and rule the world." He picked up the next artifact and tested it magically. No sensing at all. He checked the circuits and wrote down what it was and what it needed to be attached to, then put it carefully into Daniel's box. "Why?"
"There are things in there that are still blacked out."
Xander paused to look at her. "Have you ever seen something that changed the way you looked at the world?" She nodded. "That's one of those and it can make you paranoid."
"I'm already paranoid, Xander. Show me."
He shrugged and stood up, taking her outside. He had noticed the person in charge of the water filtration unit was actually a desert demon. He pointed it out to her. "What shade of green is he?"
"I thought that was a funny shade of jaundice," she complained.
"It's not. That's his natural color. He's a natural water filter. I talked with him last night and he said he's helping so you go away and leave his desert alone faster." He led her back inside the tent and tapped the top of the folder. "These people took harmless creatures like that and wanted to force them into being an army after doing all sorts of horrible tests on them. They tortured living beings and laughed and chatted while they did it. Any other questions?"
"You're very brusk about that part of your life," she pointed out, leaning against the table again.
"You've got to move on sometimes," he pointed out. "The city was nearly destroyed in the last apocalypse they handled. Without me I might add. It's part of my past, the way this is. I won't say I won't use it again, but I'm not ever going to live in a situation like that again if I can help it. I'm too old to fight sometimes."
"I know that feeling," she agreed. She looked at the circuit in her hand. "Really? Just that area? What's the rest?"
"Specific programming. This one responded to those mental waves I explained about. If you could fine-tune the basic circuit you could make it more eligible for more people, including the common grunt. We're rare and special creatures, Sam, that's why we hide from the rest of you."
"Okay," she agreed, sitting down to make her own notes. She glanced at Xander every now and then to check on him and noticed him cutting circuits. "So we can't use it?"
"To make this one safe actually," he admitted. "This one would feed off whomever picked it up. If you look at the records, it's probably the guy who fell and broke his leg."
She checked the tag against Daniel's records. "It wasn't, it was the guy next to him. The guy who passed out ten minutes later and had such low sugar Janet was thinking about sending him off if he hadn't stabilized."
Xander nodded. "That works too. What did the broken leg guy do?"
"Let me check." She flipped through the chart. "I can't find his name anywhere."
"Then he's probably having his stuff taken from him. We might want to find some way to check him over later."
"Sure." She smiled as Jack and Daniel walked in with a crate. "What's that?"
"New equipment. A better microscope for the small pathways," Daniel said happily.
"Good, I need to laser a few off this one," Xander said, putting it back into his work box. "I've cleared seventeen more things and kept six, with another four in the maybe box."
"That's pretty good odds," Daniel pointed out when Jack frowned. "At first, we had whole rooms, now we're getting down to the dangerous stuff." He shrugged. "We'll make about twenty percent loss to him."
"I'm fixing where I can," Xander pointed out. "Some of these things are really dangerous." He slapped at Jack's hand, stopping him from touching a little beaded and bejeweled pin. "No."
"It's just jewelry."
Xander held it up to the light, letting him see the sloshing thing inside. "Really?" He handed it to Daniel. "Don't break the seal, it is a poison, it will probably become fumes as soon as it hits the air. I don't have an antidote for that."
"I'm going to start calling you the three sentence guy," Sam told him, grinning at him when he looked up.
"You guys are keeping me away from my new husband. Be thankful I'm chatting at all," he told her.
"What's your husband like?" Daniel asked, sitting down to unpack his microscope. He'd do the broach first.
"Blonde. Seventeen. Snarky and cruel at times to others. Lots of fun with me. We compliment each other," he said with a smile. "Draco's a pisser and a half."
"No pictures?" Sam asked.
"I haven't gotten to take many yet and I left them at home since they're all group ones," he told her. He didn't add that they were mostly incriminating of the wizarding world, she didn't know about that. Even if his picture of Draco on his broom was his favorite. He was so focused in that picture. He got that same look during sex. He shivered and got back to work. "How many more rooms?"
"Maybe three and the one that's off limits," Jack told him. "It should be two by tomorrow night, but that's the scrolls and the vase room." Xander nodded. "Are you going to have to look at each scroll?"
"No, I can do something simple in the room and remove them tonight before anything gets touched," he pointed out. "It'll be easier."
"What if it's the greater majority?" Sam asked.
Xander looked at her. "Then I call in my contact in Egypt and you guys get a long weekend while *he* looks them over. I don't make those decisions, I'm a freelancer." He grinned. "It pays better."
They all laughed, understanding that mindset. They didn't like taking orders either.
Three days later, Xander looked over at Daniel, who had followed him into the archives. "Make that one room and the rest can clean up. This is a magical library."
"Shit," Daniel sighed. "We need to look through these for the artifacts."
Xander pointed at the wall with the only scrolls that didn't have a faint blue glow around them. "Those. The ones that aren't odd to your sight."
Daniel walked over and pulled down the fifteen or so scrolls, looking at them carefully. "These are what we need," he admitted. He put them into a box and turned to look at Xander. "Our boss didn't know anything about you."
Xander shrugged. "Shit happens, Daniel, and you're playing with things that can't get out. It could destroy everything the normal people hold dear. If he wants to complain, call me and I'll come and tell him exactly why I can't let these things out and why my bosses are putting them in a big ass vault under part of Europe." He conveniently left out the part where he was killing the power sources in the artifacts he was taking as well.
"I understand, but he's expecting us to bring home all this. Jack took pictures."
"Then tell him they were blank," Xander suggested. "Did you try to explain me?"
"Yeah, and he wants to talk to you tonight," Daniel admitted.
"Can I give you a lift back?" Xander asked.
"Sure, we'll take the scrolls for you guys and do that. Let me make my own call first." He walked into the room and waved at Jack, who had figured out what he was doing a while back. "Give me a mo to make a call." He stared a fire and tossed in some floo powder. "Gruinth, Paris Branch." A goblin's head popped up. "It's worse than we thought, it's a magical archive. There's twelve out of maybe three thousand that aren't."
"Nineteen," Daniel corrected. He blinked at the goblin. "What are you?"
"This is Daniel Jackson, the small kink I told you about."
"Ah." The goblin nodded. "Clear the site for the night and we'll come check them personally." Xander nodded and turned to look at everyone, finding an older man standing on the stairs. "Who is he?"
"New." Xander killed the fire. "Sorry, had to call my boss."
"Who are you?"
"And you're twenty?"
"Well, not exactly," Xander said, blatantly calling a chair into being and sitting down. The older, bald man looked startled. "You ran into one of *our* sites here."
"And you are?"
"A wizard. I'm allowed to tell you this because you won't be keeping full memories and you won't be able to talk about it."
"So you're doing what?" the man asked, walking closer.
"Personally, I'm supposed to be taking all the dangerous things that could expose us or kill you and move them somewhere safe after I've disabled them."
"We're at war, Mr. Harris."
"We're at war too, General, and it's not a very pretty one. These artifacts won't work against others, they were put here because they only act against your own people. This whole tomb was full of things that these ancients used to sacrifice their own. Usually as a handy power source and battery." He shrugged. "Besides, knowledge can't get out or it could destroy your world."
"I live a split existence between yours and mine, General. Life sucks, but it happens." He stood up and made the chair disappear. "I'm keeping power hungry assholes who don't have a clue from sacrificing your people and mine over a machine that even the people who built it didn't really understand," he said calmly. He summoned one of the last ones in the vault, handing it to him. "That one harnesses the sun's power." He called another one, one he had already disabled. "This one sucked the blood and energy out of a human being to do the same thing at a lesser rate. It was used for rituals." That one was handed back to him. "That's what I'm here for."
"My people are a secretive bunch. Think about it, who would believe that magic exists?"
The general nodded. "Understood. I see the point. What about my people?"
"We've had memory charms now for a very long time," Xander said with a small grin. "It's not that hard and I'm fairly proficient with them."
"And that file?"
"The Initiative? People who tortured and used those creatures that were different in hopes of creating an army of creatures to kill the people who bothered them. They liked to do experiments and have tea over their writhing bodies, then try to control the beasts they had unleashed. Yes, I and my former crew did take them down. That's not part of this really. That's kinda an in-between between your world and mine."
Hammond swallowed. "It was real?"
"I can show you proof if you want. The moon's out and there's a camp just a few miles away."
"No, that's fine. I saw some of the bodies as they moved through to be examined."
Xander nodded. "I figured as much. The soldiers were brainwashed and we were more concerned about staying alive because they decided to attack us too. They had to be solved and casualties were only counted on our side."
"I do understand, son, but I have to know if you're dangerous to our people."
Xander laughed. "I'm only dangerous to my enemies."
"That's not an answer."
"It is," Xander pointed out. "That's your choice though. I'm here to do my job, I'm helping Daniel with his. I'm pointing out things that you should look at, because even if you got hold of an artifact that wouldn't use you, you probably couldn't use it. We're less than one percent of the total population." He heard a pop behind him and glanced back. "Hey, Bill. Gruith. This is General Hammond, he's over Daniel and his people."
Bill nodded. "Nice ta meet ya." He looked at Xander. "Library?" He pointed. Bill walked the goblin that way and whistled. "Well, hell, Alex. This sucks ass."
"It does," Xander agreed, heading over to talk to him. "They've taken the non-magical with them. If there are any more, they're cleared for it. If you can find anything on the artifacts and can censor it, then they'd like those too."
"If it wouldn't work, why can't we know?" Hammond asked.
Bill looked at him. "On the off-chance that one of you happens to be one of us too and a witch hunt starts to conscript us." Hammond looked upset. "It's happened in the recent past by our standards. We're sorry, but we're not going to do that for anyone. If we wanted to, yeah, sure, I'm all for it, but the minute you force us the worst elements come out and you'll probably find yourself a slave to an evil bastard like we're fighting." He looked at Xander. "What did you get Ron for Yule?"
"Not a thing yet," Xander said. He grimaced and touched his arm. "I'll be right back, I think." He disappeared, following Ron's call to Nick Boyle. He had asked Methos to tie him and the boys tighter together than the other Banes, just in case they needed help faster since it was his duty to be there.
Xander wobbled back into view and sat down on the floor, looking at Bill. "Willow brought her back," he said sadly.
"Brought who back?" Bill asked, squatting down in front of him.
"Buffy." He sniffled. "She brought her back to life."
Bill gave him a hug. "Shh, it's all right, Xan. We all know she's gone bad. Dawn won't be hurt by this, you're an excellent big brother." He pulled back and gave him a short pat to the cheek. "Buck up, it could be a lot worse."
Xander rested his forehead against Bill's and whispered to him about what had happened. When he was done, he pulled back and looked at him. "I don't know if I can take that. Dawn's devastated even though she's not saying anything. I told them we were taking a ship back."
"That's probably a better idea anyway," Bill agreed. "The water would be safer with most of those thing." He stood up. "Why don't you go rest. I'll take the rest of this shift and it'll be fine." Xander grabbed his wand and stood up, giving him a hug. "I don't pretend to understand, Xan, but I know it's gotta hurt some. You go rest and let it out." Xander nodded, trudging out. "Xander trained me," he told them.
"What's going on now?" Sam asked.
"Brought someone back?" Daniel asked. "Was there a sarcophagus involved?" His brow wrinkled.
"No, just one hell of a spell and tainting her immortal soul." He turned back to look at the goblin, telling him what was going on. Then he turned to look at them again, sealing the steps so nothing could get out. "Xander's best friend died earlier this year. He adopted her little sister. His other best friend just brought the first back to life after four months of being dead. It's basically fucked with everything in the world for him at the moment. Everything but his consort and he can't visit him because of this shit."
"Why do you guys swear so much?" Sam asked.
Bill grinned and shrugged. "Because we hang with a lot of rough people most of the time. If this was our dig, we'd be camping with the workers in the same tents. We'd be doing everything with them. We work just as hard as they do usually."
"Oh." Daniel looked at him. "Then why did you pick this field? Xander said it's dangerous and deadly."
"It is," Bill agreed, "but I'm good at it and someone has to do it. It's got shit wages, hard work in bad conditions, but girls look at you sweetly when you finally find civilization and you have interesting stories in the right crowd. Plus, we're refinding ancient knowledge. In here alone is probably half medical records." He shrugged. "This is a calling, not an adventure or a career. We're too poor to make it a career unless you're very lucky."
"Like treasure finders?" Jack asked.
"It's similar," Bill agreed. "Only with more danger. Most of them don't have to deal with poisoned arrows." He nodded at the wall. "What's that?"
"Xander said it had something that ate souls and we couldn't open it until everyone was cleared out."
"Good. I'm not dealing with it. Most of us would have let you all die." He went back to help move the fragile scrolls. A few more were handed out. "Here, yours." He looked out at the woman. "When did the Americans finally realize women were good in combat?"
"I'm actually a scientist and I got sucked in," she told him.
He nodded. "I understand that. I started this job for the glory, now look at me." He grinned. "At least I'm not my little brother and getting singed by beasts all the time." He handed out a few more and went back to help. "Make yourselves comfy, I can't unseal that until right before we leave. Then you'll have Xan back."
Daniel walked to the doorway. "You called Xander Alex."
"Technically, when he deaged, he was given a new identity to hide him," Bill told him.
The goblin snorted. "Dumbledore was an idiot in his case. I'm not surprised Xander's reanimated family is going after him for it." He looked at Daniel. "His natal name is Dumass."
"Alex Dumass?" Daniel frowned. "He worked with my parents once. They said he was crude and an asshole in their diaries."
"He can be," Bill agreed. "He's changed since he had to grow up a second time." He grinned at him. "Jackson?" Daniel nodded. "I was training when he worked with them. They wanted to know too much too. Kept thinking they'd keep it quiet but he found them writing a paper on the significance of magical beliefs and how it worked it's way into the artifacts and other studiers. They mentioned Alex by name in it. That's why he had to erase their memories of the Pythagra dig." He shrugged, still grinning. "It happens to the best of you when you run into us."
"So Xander said," Daniel admitted. He watched them work, handing out any scrolls they could fix for their consumption, not minding at all. He knew that there were secrets that man was not meant to know.
Xander was finally released from the job. He was tired, sore, aching, dirty, nasty, filthy, had a few cuts and bruises on him, and really wanted a long, hot bath. The short break he had gotten to go retrieve the kids hadn't done much to help that but it had been the last bath he had gotten, maybe a week ago. He got into his jeep and drove off, moving the jeep and everything in it with his camp-moving spell. He drove into his driveway and trudged into the house, avoiding being touched. "I'm filthy and I ache, I'm going to take a bath and sleep in it. Wake me when the world makes sense and the muggles get a clue and quit being angry about it." He trudged up the stairs, avoiding the members of his family who had come back. Apparently it was a reunion time for them. He found a house elf drawing his bath and patted it on the head. "Bless you, kind one. My bag is in the jeep. Leave my wands and weapons on the bed. The clothes are all really dirty so they'll need to soak for a damn long time, and please bring me some of my tea with a splash of unicorn creme." It nodded, hurrying to do that. He stripped down and tossed the smelly, nasty clothes back into his room. They could stand up on their own, his pants were almost standing on their own. Unfortunately most of it was demon ick and blood. He had saved them, but he had needed every ounce of his healing potions to do so.
As soon as the water climbed to a nice height he climbed in and sighed in relief. It was warm water. Really warm water. It was going to be dirty long before it got cold. He turned off the water and did a first scrub, then let out the water and splashed the tub to take off some of the excess grime, then reran the water to soak in. The rest would have to be softened up before it would go away. The house elf carried in a mug for him and a vial. "Thanks." He took the vial first and washed it down the potion tasting tea. "Hmm. What's in here?"
"The first for that. Father say so," the house elf chided. It took the empty mug and left, quickly coming back with a plain mug of his tea, without the creme. "None left. We's sorry we's let it run out."
"Not a big," Xander promised. "I'll get some soon." He sipped his tea while he soaked. "I'm going to be in here for a while, make sure I haven't drowned every hour or so please. If my consort comes in, tell him I'm filthy." The house elf nodded and grabbed the dirty clothes, taking them down to the sink to soak them as well. Xander finished his tea and laid down, getting comfortable in his tub.
"Go away, dad. I'm still tired."
"I know, son, but Philip wanted to come over tomorrow. Do you think he could? We've been looking forward to talking to him." His son waved a hand. "You rest, son."
"Fair warning, I have a concussion," Xander said as he closed his eyes.
"I'll keep that in mind, son." He smiled as his boy fell asleep before going to snoop. He found his son's copy of the forms he had filled out, sitting down to read them. By the end, his mouth was hanging open. "He's been doing what?" he said in outrage. "That is it! My son is taking a damn long honeymoon with his consort! Fuck the bank and the Ministry." He put down the paperwork saying Xander had earned an award from the Ministry and went to tell his mother on him. "Mother, Xander took on a soul-sucking demon and had to save muggles. Make him take a break."
She smiled at him. "That's what consorts are for, son. I'm sure we can convince Draco to deal with that for us." She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Now go call that nice Philip and that nice Bill and have them both come over. Then we can spring Draco from that school and have him come home for a few days."
Her some smiled. "You are brilliant, mother. Thank you." He went to make his calls, doing Draco first since it would be the hardest. He smiled politely at the headmaster. "My son just came home bruised and sore from running into a soul sucker. May I please have my son-in-law home for a bit to take care of him." Dumbledore blinked a few times. "Now please?"
"I'll send him tonight after his classes are done for the day, please have him back by Monday morning," Dumbledore agreed, signing off. He rang for a house elf while he wrote out the message and handed it to her. "Give that to Severus please," he said weakly. She nodded and hurried off. A soul sucker? They could have lost Alex!
Downstairs, Professor Snape took the message from the elf and waved it away. He looked at it, then grimaced. "You will continue until I return," he told the class. He looked at Dawn. "You may not go yet," he told her. Then he walked out, heading up to Transfiguration. He tapped briefly and held out the note when the teacher came out to see what was going on.
"A soul sucker?" she said in outrage. "He must be made to quit that job of his. It should not be allowed." She walked past her favorite students, heading for the troublesome ones. She handed Draco the note and turned look at Harry and Ron. "You may not become curse breakers," she announced. They gave her a shocked look. "It is much too dangerous and risky for you two to be anywhere near things like that. The headmaster has forbid it."
Draco looked at them. "Xander ran into a soul sucking demon and just made it home," he shared. "He's slightly injured."
Harry grinned. "I hope he's okay. I know he knows how to handle them because we got that lesson."
"I remember. I'll send an owl if you're needed," Draco told them, leaving the class to pack and go early. He walked through the house, leaving his bag in the den, and found his consort laying in a clean tub of water. He knelt beside the tub and dunked Xander under the water, making him wake up and splutter as he came back up. "Are you all right?"
"I was better while I was napping," Xander told him, pursing his lips. He received a gentle kiss and smiled. "Pamper me and spoil me rotten?"
"Of course. That's what consorts do," Draco reminded him. "I'll even help you pick out Yule presents." Xander grinned and relaxed under his skillful hands. Yes, this is what consorts did: they worried, they waited, they picked up the pieces, and they pampered their men when they came back whole.