Prophecies That Bite, Suck, And Chew.
Hera looked up from her studies, frowning at her husband. "Is there something you wanted, Zeus?"
"Is this really such a problem?" he asked his wife, taking the seat across from her. "They know about us now, we're not abstract thoughts from a mythology class." He touched her hand. "We actually have followers again. We're strong enough to stand against nearly anything now."
Hera freed her hand and sat back. "What about all the mortals who are suffering because they're now known about too?" He frowned but waved a hand. "Those poor children that have been fighting evil all along, and are now vilified? Or the people that are naturally fighting off the evil among the men, and are now forced into the open so they can't do their jobs?"
"But they'll adapt. Humans do that. We have strength again."
She shook her head. "The cost is too high, Zeus. We were starting to build back up followers before this happened. It was enough for most of us." She looked him over. "Do you know how many people have died because of how they've helped humanity? Not the ones that died fighting, but the ones who have died since this horrible incident happened? The ones who died at their neighbor's hands because they were fighting for them and it scared them?" He shook his head, starting to look defeated. "Yes, Zeus, I like the power, but not at that price. I've watched as some very horrible things have been done to the defenders that we set in motion ages ago. It's not right that they have to suffer because they were called to protect."
He nodded. "I know." He looked out the window. "Have there been many?"
"Too many," she agreed. She touched his hand. "We can't find new protectors, Zeus. There's only so many born each generation. If this sort of thing continues to happen, all of humanity could fall and then we wouldn't have any worshipers."
He sighed. "All right then. What can I do to help?"
She handed over a few scrolls. "Go through these. They're in Ares' handwriting and you know how horrible it is."
"Why can't our new Protector help with this? It *is* his job."
"He's helping the people trying to fight this event," she reminded him. She smiled at him. "Though, right now they're taking a break."
Zeus grunted. "Whatever. He'll have to take up his position eventually."
"Just as soon as this is all over with. I'm sure he'd be ecstatic to come up here and deal with most of this knowledge." She tossed a scroll aside. "That one's useless."
Zeus picked it up and looked it over. "Even the part at the bottom?" he asked with a smirk, handing it back.
"That wasn't there before." She frowned. "I'll put this in the pile for the muses to tell Strife about." She tossed it into a basket and picked up the next one.
Zeus smiled to himself, translating his son's handwriting mentally. That boy's handwriting was almost a foreign language. "Where did you send Joxer, dear?"
"To the mortal realm. He was itching to cause more trouble."
Xander hopped up from his seat on the stairs, smiling at the girl who came through the door. "Hey, you're Victoria?"
"Yes," she sighed. "I hate that name."
"That's cool. What do you want to be called?"
She fluffed out her pink hair. "I don't know. At my school, I'm usually called goth girl."
Xander looked over her outfit, then shook his head. "I know vampires, you don't dress like them at all. You're not wearing any leather." He grinned. "We could probably fix that though. Rain seems to have brought some." He nodded at the stairs. "Come on, they're waiting on you, then we can escape into the kitchen or the gardens."
"Cool," she agreed, leaving her two bags and her backpack beside the stairs. "Will someone take them up?"
"Oh, yeah, Dominick's a great guy. He even understands about teenage stomachs." He led the way into the library. "Guys, this is..."
"Victoria Valerie Ashley Monroe," she told them haughtily. "Why did you interrupt my studies? I was about to torment a nun."
Blair snickered. "With what?"
"History isn't what she thinks," she said, looking him over. Then she looked over the other people in the room. "Uncle Derek, why did you pull me out of school?" she asked as he walked in.
"Because you're the cause of this mess," he told her, giving her a fond smile. "Your sneeze triggered all of this."
Nick smirked. "We thought it would be safer to move you away from your home before someone else figured it out and lynched you for it." He pointed at a seat. "Sit. You too, Xander."
"Sure." He sprawled in his seat, waiting while she sat down. "So, you sneezed? That's what did all this?"
"She's powerful," Strife told him. "And sit up straight." He clamped a hand over his mouth. "Didn't say that!" he asserted. "That was *not* me!" He glared around the table, but no one seemed inclined to agree, though Xander was now sitting up straighter. He glared at the boy.
Rain patted her father's hand. "Don't worry, Daddy, it's just those horrible maternal things attacking you." She grinned.
"Not funny," he reminded her, removing her hand. "Just for that, you're gettin' coal insteada sex toys and handcuffs for Solstice."
"Please, not handcuffs," Blair pleaded. "I'm not ready for that yet."
Strife smirked at him. "How would you know until you try it."
"Um, kidnaped a lot of times?" Blair suggested, pointing to himself. "Bad memories of being in handcuffs, chains, ropes, and anything that might tie me down."
"I don't think we need to discuss that topic in front of the children," Derek said, stopping the topic. "Victoria, we are most concerned about your gifts. We will be retesting you. Until it is safe to go home, you will be living in this house and you will finish your course work by computer. We've already arranged it with your school." He tossed something down to her. "Please feel free to make yourself at home, but you may not leave the island for safety."
She blew out a breath, moving her bangs. "Really, Uncle Derek, no one's going to lynch me. It's not my fault."
"Yeah, well, it wasn't exactly Willow's mother's fault either, but half of Sunnydale tried to burn her and her house," Xander pointed out. "There's been a lot of incidents like that. Simple guardians of areas or artifacts have been attacked over the last week." He patted her on the shoulder. "We can do the classes together, 'kay?"
Philip shook his head, but he was smiling. "I'll be doing your classes," he told Xander. "Neither of you should leave. If they went after your friend's mother," Philip pointed out when Xander opened his mouth, "you're their next target."
Xander slumped a little. "Yes, Philip."
"Good boy." Philip looked down at Derek. "I'll deal with the kids. I get along with 'em better'n Nick does."
"Goot idea," Derek agreed. "You can have them help you finish going through the rest of those books." He glanced at Victoria. "Please go through the magical texts yourself, Philip."
"I don't dabble," Victoria said coldly. "You know my father would kill me if I did. He still has nightmares about my mother dying from overextending herself."
"Yeah, but I can't touch them either and I have *no* gift for magic," Xander told her. "Derek's just a tad bit paranoid about that."
She smiled at him. "Good. Then we can be victims of this together?" He nodded. "Coolness."
Nick coughed to break into their happiness. "Victoria, did you have any access at your house?" She shook her head. "That's one less thing to worry about." He looked at Alex.
"I think we can handle most of this easily," Alex said with a smile. "We have enough rooms for however long this will last."
Blair snorted. "Some of us have to go back to teaching," he pointed out. "I'm not losing my job because of this."
"You could be a target too," Alex reminded him.
"Yeah, I and my partner take down serial killers," he said dryly. "That's just so into this stuff." He looked at Methos. "How long did you apply for?"
"A month at the most," he said calmly. "Most likely two weeks is what I put on my request for leave." He looked at Strife, who shrugged. "You?"
"Same thing." Blair looked down at Derek. "That's how long we have here. If you can't tell us more by then, then we're obviously not that important, or you'll tell us when you find it. I'm all for helping right now, but I do have responsibilities beyond this. My partner needs me to help him at work, and my students need me to educate them. Deal with it or not, Dr. Rayne, but we're going to go home when our time is up."
"If they attack you," Nick started.
"Nick, I work with the top detective in Cascade," Blair reminded him. "If they attack me, there's going to be a *lot* of people pissed at them. From the mayor down through at least half the cops. Jim and I take the hard cases, freeing them to do the routine, the mundane, and the easier stuff. If Jim or I get attacked, the whole force will probably go beat that person dead."
Methos smiled and patted him on the hand. "We know." He looked at Derek. "Besides that argument, there is the fact that I'm immortal. It's very hard to kill us. Most people don't have the strength necessary to cut through a human neck." He smiled at Strife. "And even with all that, if I do get attacked, I'm sure I can count on my family to come to my assistance."
"Not to mention the department secretary," Strife said dryly. "She's been hintin' at the possibility of a threesome all week."
"And she's banging MacLeod," Rain put in, her tone the same dry sort that her father was using. "Plus, I doubt that Simon would want to take either of your heads, he seems to like you both."
"Good point," Strife said, smirking at his daughter. "She's got my brains."
"Yes, and then I learned how to use them," she reminded him. "What *did* you say to the mayor's wife?"
Strife's smirk got bigger. "Don't ask. He's had some *real* interestin' fantasies and I told her 'bout them. She was willin' ta try 'em for 'im." He winked. "It was a boost for Cupe, let me tell you." He stiffened suddenly, then relaxed equally as quickly. "Jox's in town. He just called ta say hi."
"Oh, shit!" Methos swore, getting up. "I'm going to go lock myself in our bedroom. Come get me when he's gone." He walked out, slamming every door he could behind him.
"Jox?" Nick asked.
"He's Cupe and 'Dite's left-hand guy," Strife told him, his smirk firmly back in place. "God of Fantasies. He *likes* Methos."
Rain groaned. "No wonder I had that thought earlier." She looked over at her husband. "Honey, remind me to hit him when I see him next time?"
"Sure," Blair agreed. "But I liked that thought. It was fun."
"Dear, I'm chaffed. Next time, we'll use a pool." She looked at Xander, who was staring at her. "Have you met Joxer?"
He shook his head. "Nope, not yet. I'm a nice, normal seventeen year old guy so I've probably given him a lot of power, but I've never seen him."
Blair clapped him on the shoulder. "You'd like Joxer. He's not very lateral with his thinking, but he's fun."
"Yeah, he was the life of our wedding reception," Rain agreed. "He even got your mom to dance naked on a table."
"Eww," Blair reminded her. "No thoughts like that about my mother please."
"Sorry, dear," she said with a grin.
Victoria raised a hand and Derek nodded for her to speak. "Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm Rain, Celtic Protector. My husband Blair has the mirror of my job for Strife's family. My father," she pointed at him, "is Strife, Greek God of Mischief. The one who just left is Methos, immortal and Strife's snuggle bunny." She looked at her father. "When are you going to get hitched anyway? I know Hera's looking forward to officiating. She's even dropping hints."
"I noticed and it ain't happenin'," Strife told her. "No way in Tartarus, or any other hell."
"Marriage can be fun," Blair told him, smirking at him.
"Fuck off," Strife told him.
"Dear, leave him alone. He's commitment phobic," Rain told her husband.
"Am not!" Strife cleared his throat. "He doesn't want it, 'kay? So just drop the subject and leave it dead and bloodied."
"Yes, daddy," Rain and Blair said together.
Strife glared at his son-in-law. "If you want to have sex *evah* again, I'd better never hear that word from yar mouth."
"Yes, Strife," Blair told him, waiting to smile until the God looked away. It went away as soon as Strife looked at him again. Strife zapped him, making him squeal and jump up, patting out the fire on his crotch. "That was mean!"
"Daddy, if you hurt my husband, I'm going to have to coo and gush over him," Rain pointed out. "You don't want to watch that, do you?" Strife sighed and turned his attention back to the laptop. "Are you okay, dear?" she asked.
"Just singed," Blair said, pulling out his pants to look down at himself. "Just a little singed."
"Maybe you should go take care of that upstairs," Alex suggested mildly.
Rain stood up and grabbed her husband, going to tale care of his singeing herself.
Derek cleared his throat. "Now that we've gotten that out of the way," he said, blinking a few times, "what's left to discuss?"
"Book scheduling," Alex reminded him. "Otherwise the rest of us are going to be bothering Philip and the kids every few minutes." She looked at Victoria's hair, then at Xander. "You were right, her hair is pink. It wasn't something spilled on the tapestry."
"Huh?" Victoria asked.
"One of the people on the tapestry has pink hair," Alex told her. "Xander pointed out that some people have pink hair, but we thought it might have been something spilled on it."
Victoria shook her head. "It's faded, the color's supposed to be vampire red." She looked at Strife. "Xander told me I don't dress goth," she told him. "What's your opinion?"
"Most of the blood suckers I know either wear preppy gear or leather," Strife agreed.
"I doubt she wants to dress like a lawyer," Xander told him, grinning at him. "The only vamp I know who wears lace and velvet is Dru."
"Yes, we should probably send someone to talk to her," Derek put in. Everyone stared at him. "She is reported to have visions, we should see if she's had any about this incident."
Nick snorted. "I'm not going there. I've had enough of vampires."
"Same here," Alex told him. "There's no way to do that safely."
Xander coughed. "Get Spike away from her and she won't fight to protect herself," he told them.
"Oh, Spike, I know him," Victoria said, smiling at the shocked looks. "I met him clubbing a few years back. I snuck out, but he was fun. Complaining because his 'princess' was so ill. I managed to not become food because I amused him. He picked some other goth kid who threw himself at him instead. They were on their way to the Hellmouth."
"Yeah, he showed up and things went to hell, nearly literally," Xander told her. "His Sire lost his soul while they were there, Dru got healthy again, we all got stalked." He looked at Derek. "I'm not going near Spike. He's even more pissed at me because of Dru reacting to that lust spell than she is. I'm going to sacrifice myself that way, it'd be a big waste."
Derek sighed. "All right. We'll figure out a way to get her somewhere neutral without him."
There was silence while everyone thought. A very long silence.
"Invite them," Xander suggested. "Say that you want to talk. Or I can, he knows who I am, kinda." He shrugged off the stunned looks. "I doubt he wants the publicity either. It's going to be fun for a while, but it'll make feeding harder."
"On the contrary, there's a *ton* of goth kids who'll jump into his lap and beg," Victoria pointed out. "Now that they know he's for real, they're in heaven waiting to be turned."
"Yeah, well, most of them still think it's all like Anne Rice," Xander reminded her. "It isn't. Hunting for your food's hard work. Besides, most would be mindless fledges, cannon-fodder. Spike doesn't make children. That's going to get them pissed at him."
"Good point," Victoria agreed, after thinking about it for a second. "We can call the local goth clubs and see if he's there. Invite him to a mall or something." She looked at Derek. "The food court maybe?"
"Spike would see the humor in that," Xander agreed.
"We'll see," Derek said firmly. He looked at Xander. "I thought you didn't want to go near them."
"I don't. I'm assuming that someone will be guarding my rear if I have to, but I have credibility that you don't with him. He knows me on sight. He'll be expecting an ambush, but he's more likely to come if it's someone he knows. He's lived long enough to not walk into traps."
"There's that little park in the shopping district," Nick told Derek. "It's perfect for both sides. Ambushes would be difficult because it's so open, but someone standing behind Xander would be easily done."
Derek took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "All right. Try to find him, we'll figure it out when you find him." Victoria and Xander got up and walked out. "Nick, you *will* be right behind them with a crossbow, loaded with the special arrows dipped in holy water." Nick nodded. "You too, Alex."
"No, Derek," she said quietly. "I'm not going to get near a vampire. They'll be able to sense me." He looked her over. "I know that they can because I can feel them. The same as I can feel that Victoria was bitten sometime recently. Let Methos go, he's worried about how well the boy fights."
"Deal," Strife agreed, reminding everyone that he was there. He looked up. "Spike would come, he's right about that. Someone's made sure of it." He closed his laptop. "I'm going to go talk Methos out of his room." He headed out, going to find his lover.
Derek leaned back slightly. "When did this get out of hand?" he asked quietly.
"The same time as the sneeze," Nick reminded him, getting up to go get his weapons.
"It'll be fine, Derek," Alex said as she stood up. "He'll be well guarded and we'll fix this so everyone forgets." She walked into the control room, going to play on the computers.
Derek sighed and stood up, heading for his office. Maybe he would make a report about this, or he could leave it off until later. Much later.
Xander waited while the bartender got Spike, humming in time with the techno music in the background. "Hey, Spike," he said once the vampire's voice came over the speakerphone.
"Oi! It's you!" he said happily. "Thought I might hear from one of you lot soon. Where's Smuffy?"
"In jail probably. Listen, we need to talk to Dru about that sneeze."
"Sneeze!" Spike interrupted. "This happened because of a damn sneeze?"
"Yuppers," Victoria agreed. "Hi, Spike. Listen, we just need to ask Dru if she's seen something. A meeting in a park, you and her and whomever, us and our guards. Agreeable?"
"Sure," Spike said happily. "Always happy to eat out." Someone in the background laughed.
"Not even close, Spike," Xander put in. "You know what's going on. You also know that as soon as they find out you're making minions then someone's going to come for you." Spike grunted at that. "How many of those kids want to be minions instead of children?" There was a click on the other end and then the background cut out. "Deal?"
"Quick meeting?" Spike ground out.
"Quick meeting. We just need to know what she knows," Xander agreed. "Nick said there's an open park in the shopping district. We'll have one side, you can have the other for your new family. You, me, and Dru in the center to talk."
"And me," Victoria added.
"No," Nick said as he walked in. "You'll be with me with the weapons since Methos isn't going."
"Nick, I have visions, the same as she does. There's stuff that she could tell me that Xander wouldn't understand. I'm going, even if you don't like it." She looked at Xander, who shrugged. "I can protect myself."
"I doubt you'll need it," Xander pointed out. "Deal, Spike, or do I have to help them hunt her down? That option was discussed and there are hunters out here."
"Fine," he spat. "Three hours after dark. Give us time to eat."
"Hey, good by us," Xander agreed. "I still don't want to become a snack." He hung up. "Deal."
Nick shook his head, but he went to report the progress made.
Xander smiled at Druscilla as she walked toward them, totally unprotected against her, not even a stake on him. "Where's Spike?"
"He's with those children," she said, stopping very close to him so she could run a clawlike fingernail down the side of his face. "Poor little boy, left all alone to the bad guys."
Xander pointed behind him. "Not quite. Victoria?"
"Coming. Nick's being fussy about my armor." She jogged over, smiling at Dru and bowing to her. "Thank you for agreeing to talk to us, Druscilla. I know you feel how wrong this situation is."
"It was you," she cooed, running a nail down Victoria's face too. "You had the dreadful cold." Victoria nodded. "Such a pretty little thing too."
"Yeah, but we need to know how to *fix* this," Xander pointed out. "Have you heard anything?"
"The stars have whispered to Ms. Edith," she said, smiling at him. "I'm not mad that you drew me to you, you're still very tasty-looking, it was a wonderful call of the stars. Such a sweet kitten, the milk practically flows from you." She picked up Xander's hand, looking at the back of it. "What will you do when they abandon you? Will you become a kitten? Licking milk for any who'll feed you? Will you beg to be one with the night?" She looked into his eyes. "Or will you still fight?"
"I'll do whatever I have to to survive, you know that much," he said calmly. She kissed him on the forehead. "Thanks." She pulled back. "What have the stars told your Ms. Edith?" he asked, dropping his voice down to a more sultry level.
"Just that the slimy ones come. That the knights will fight and maybe even lose, and that we'll all have to clean up after that one." She licked the back of his hand. "You still smell good," she purred. "I could make you a real kitten, purring for the milk inside ones like her," she looked at Victoria.
Victoria looked between the vampiress and Xander, and felt fear. She saw the look in the boy's eyes, saw the hunger in them. He could be turned so easily, he might even go willingly. He was on the edge and the Legacy would be put in danger because of him. She couldn't let that happen, she had a duty to the Legacy, it was in her blood. "Druscilla, please, we need to know how to fix this. If we don't, then you and Spike are in just as much danger as we are."
"The other kitten is demanding," Druscilla purred, pulling her closer. "The stars speak to you, you know the list, it comes to you in dreams," she whispered against her ear. "They'll speak louder if you listen harder, but they'll never speak to you like they do me. The jealously marks you," she cackled, letting her go.
"Dru," Xander sighed. "Please." He picked up her hand, tentatively kissing the back of it. "You're right, they've abandoned me. The Slayer's in jail, the police are guarding the Hellmouth. The witch is in the hospital and the watcher's hiding. It's just me and Victoria to fight this. We need the information."
Dru licked across his lips. "If you let me taste, I'll share," she whispered.
"I don't drink milk yet, Dru," he whispered back. "When I do, I'll come to you first."
"You'd kill your Master?" she asked, pulling back to look into his eyes. Then she smiled. "Good. You're the one they want. You can close this. It's in you, how the others come to you. All the scaly ones will come to you. You'll need their help too." She leaned in closer again, but Victoria got between them. "Her too. She'll start to hear." She grabbed Victoria and bit into her neck, but Xander pulled her away and put her behind him. "Poo, you're no fun," she pouted.
"Wait until I'm turned, then we'll have fun," he told her, his voice a sultry promise. "We'll drink the ones like her together." He ran his thumb across her lip, letting her suck on it. "Go back to Spike if we know what we need to."
She leaned closer, kissing him, passing some of the blood to him. "No, but you will," she promised him. "Let the scaly ones come, kitten. You'll like them." Then she giggled and turned, running off to the guards that Spike had sent with her.
Xander pushed Victoria in front of him so they could walk back, frowning at Nick. "She's fine, it's a shallow bite." He licked the blood off his lips. "She's going to start getting heavy visions while she's asleep and I think I need to talk to Strife." He climbed into the back of the Range Rover, buckling in as soon as he was settled.
Nick waited long enough to check the bite marks, then shoved her to the passenger's side so she could get in too. "That was dumb," he scolded.
"He was playing footsies with her," Victoria protested.
"Yeah, and you got between us," Xander reminded her. "She's wanted me since she first saw me, she even told me when she cornered me one night that I was destined to be turned." Nick looked back at him. "What? She's the one with the visions. She had me cornered in an alleyway during a fight, protecting me from a bigger, much nastier demon I might add, and told me that the stars had told her that I was going to be a kitten and I was going to drink the cream of humanity by her side. She even offered me some milk that night." He crossed his arms. "You face fate, then you move on instead of waiting for it to happen. That's the way we do things in Sunnydale."
Nick shuddered at the coldness in his voice. "Whatever." He started the engine and pulled away, glancing over at the vampires. They were all watching them. "Victoria, do you need medical attention?"
"I didn't lose that much." She looked back at Xander, then at Nick. "She really likes him."
"She sees qualities she likes in me," Xander said dryly. "She thinks I'd rival her daddy and make her a very nice family to worship her." He blinked a few times. "As a future, it's a lot better than being eaten, or being used to pound a hole in a wall."
"It's not a good future either," Nick pointed out.
"Yeah, but it's a happier ending than some that I could name that nearly happened to me." He looked out the window, watching the city go by. "There's plenty of worse ways to end up," he said quietly.
Victoria and Nick shared a look. They would be talking to Derek once they got back.
Derek looked up as Nick and Victoria walked into his office. "Where's Xander?"
"Up with Strife." Nick sat down. "We've got a small problem. We shouldn't have let Xander near her. She's obsessed with turning him."
"And he's going to allow it," Victoria added. "It's in his eyes. He could be so dark, Uncle Derek, so easily be turned. He was wooing her."
Derek muttered something under his breath. "Was there anything else that came of this?"
"Druscilla told me I was going to start having harder visions, right before she bit me."
Derek hopped up and came over to look at her. "It's a shallow bite."
"Xander pulled her away before Dru could drain her," Nick reported. "I recorded the whole conversation by long distance microphone." He pulled a tape out of his jacket pocket. "But I do agree, he could easily be turned to the dark side."
"You do know that you sound like Darth Vader's going to be coming after you when you say that, right?" Victoria interrupted.
Derek patted her on the head. "We know, but there's not much else that we can call it." He sat down again. "What did you pick up from the encounter."
"She wasn't going to drain me. She was teasing Xander by attacking me, trying to get him to play with her." She shrugged at Nicks' hard look. "They were playing footsie, teasing each other."
"She knows him," Nick agreed. "Xander admitted that she told him that he was going to be turned some day. He's apparently accepted that fate."
"He might as well have," Victoria said. "Things must be really horrible in this Sunnydale spot. Being pounded into walls, or attacked?" Nick shrugged. "I can't imagine fighting so often that you accepting becoming a creature of the night as a normal occurrence."
"It's a fact of life where he's from," Derek said gently. "That boy's been fighting beside the Slayer since he was fifteen. There has been too many occasions where the outcome was tenuous." He nodded at her. "Go get that cleaned up, it looks horrible."
"Hurts too," she said. "I'm going to bed after that. But Dru did say I was going to start having visions while I slept. Are there any precautions you want to take?"
"Keep a notebook beside you for now. If that's not working, then we'll figure something out." Derek waited until she had gone, then popped the tape into the player. "How was he really?"
"I got scared that she was going to turn him then. They were flirting." Nick shifted uncomfortably. "She kept saying stuff about scaly people and they'd help fix this."
Derek nodded, starting the tape so he could hear too. And he felt fear. That boy could very well endanger them. When it was finished he looked at Nick. "I want Philip to hear this," he said quietly, rewinding it. "He's looking like he wants to adopt the boy, it's only fair that we let him know."
"Maybe Philip can make him fight a little harder."
"Why would he want to do that?" Alex asked when she came in. "I heard already," she told him when Derek opened his mouth. She tossed a file onto his desk. "That's his medical records. They were sent today anonymously."
Nick whistled when he saw the thickness of it. "How many years does that cover?"
"Since he was ten." Alex looked down at Derek. "He's accepted his fate, that doesn't mean he won't fight now, Derek. Fate is for the future, not for right now. He's proven that he's still fighting. Every few nights by the look of that folder." She walked out, leaving them to stare at it.
Derek picked it up and started to flip through it. "He has been injured every few weeks," he said finally, tossing it back onto his desk. "Some of them probably aren't from a battle."
"He said something about being pounded into a wall," Nick offered.
"Yes, that would what a demon much bigger would do, it'd be easier than fighting him head-on." Derek scrubbed his face with his hands. "This is a mess."
"Yeah, well, he's still hiding stuff," Nick pointed out. "I don't want him at my back in a fight if I don't know what."
"We all hide things, Nick," Derek reminded him gently. "Even you." The younger man got up and walked out. "I will be talking with him," he promised himself. He buzzed Philip to come down, relaxing until the other young man, the kind and gentle one, could come down and find out what the man he was taking a liking to was like.
Xander tapped on Strife's and Methos' door, walking in at the grunt. "Hey. Can you talk?"
"Usually. Have been since I was really young." Strife looked up at him. "Close the door, kid." Xander kicked it shut. "What happened?"
"They're going to start worrying about me because my dark side is just a little closer than they're comfy with, but that's not it." He took a deep breath. "Is the reason that demons like me because of you? Dru kept saying stuff about scaly people and the only ones I know are demons, so I thought I should probably ask."
"Good breath control," Strife told him, giving him a smile. "No, I'm not the cause of the demons likin' ya. That's all due to your grandma."
"Your dad's mom, her lover did it to ya to try and protect ya. He knew where you were gonna grow up."
"Oh, the guy she consorted with," Xander said, waving his hand. "He's the reason demons like me?" Strife nodded. "Then who are the scaly guys that Dru was talking about. I doubt anyone in this house would willingly work with them and she said we had to."
"They aren't the only scaly guys around," Strife agreed. "But I can't tell ya yet."
Xander walked over and flopped down on the bed beside him, thinking about it. "Is this one of those times that I have to ask the right questions, or is it something like you can't tell me until it's more important?"
"Ah. Okay, so if the demon magnet stuff comes from grandma's lover, then ..." His face scrunched up. "Does it have something to do with my father being adopted and no one being able to find a biological family for him?"
"Bingo!" Strife said happily, giving him a hug. "Now I can tell ya." He got comfortable. "See, your father ain't all that human himself. He's not really full-blooded, but he's not really human."
"Okay," Xander said slowly, drawing out the word. "What is he?"
"Dragon. They exist. Trust me, I've met a few. They all went away with Rain's other family, but he's not fully one'a them either. See, his ma had an affair, she said raped but the magical court said not, and then she had your dad." He leaned closer. "It was a great scandal, so she sent the baby away, kinda fearing for its safety and kinda so everyone would forget. Anyway, your grandma was a sweet old lady so she took 'im in. Raised him, though how he got so messed up we don't know, she was really good. Unc and me think it was the war." He shifted again. "So anyway, you're like quarter dragon. That's why I'm guessing that the insane one said that the scaly guys were gonna have to help. Elves won't, neither will most of the infernal creatures like them, they don't want the world to know that they *evah* existed, but the dragons are gonna be cooler 'bout this stuff. There's still one or two 'round. I expect one'll wanna help stop this too, before someone comes huntin' them."
"Huh. That's cool, I guess," Xander said, sounding amused. "You're sure that you're not the cause of the demons liking me?"
Strife poked him. "I'd admit it if I were, kid. Unc and me like you where you are, and what you've been doin'. He's real impressed with how you've managed to jump into any fight and survive. Reminds him of Joxer," he said with a grin. Then he jumped. "Hey!" he yelled. "He does to me too, it's not a *bad* thing."
Ares appeared, glaring down at his nephew. "No, he doesn't remind me of Joxer, he's more coordinated." He grimaced at the outfit the young mortal was wearing. "Most of the time anyway. And yeah, kid, he was telling you the truth about your father."
"Then how do I get them into this? Do I send out some sort of funky call, or do I find one in the phone book?"
Ares smiled. "They'll show up when they're ready. They like to be mysterious like that. One will just show up and announce that he's going to help. Act nonchalant, they *hate* that." He winked at Strife. "As you very well know."
"Yup. Any new news?"
"Nope," Ares said, looking Xander over. "You know, you're nicely conformed."
"Not a horse or a dog," Xander pointed out. "Not a groupie either." Then he grinned. "But you're kinda hot too. Nice ass and all that."
Ares laughed. "I like you, kid, you're entertaining. Don't change." He disappeared.
Strife smirked then grabbed Xander and rolled the boy under him so he was pinned to the bed. "Not a groupie, really?" he asked, starting to tickle the youth.
"No!" Xander giggled, wiggling under him. "Not a groupie!" He squealed and wiggled more as a hand got between their bodies and played with his hardening cock. "Damn!" he swore as he got really hard. "No fair."
"Who said we play fair?" Methos asked, smiling down at him in his best predator fashion.
Philip clicked off the tape and looked at his friend and boss. "Everyone has a dark part to them," he said quietly. "Some are just closer to the top and some can access it easier."
"Philip, not everyone is dark," Derek countered.
"Even I have a dark side," Philip said quietly. "Not as close as his, but it's still there." He crossed his hands in his lap. "Just because he can pull his up doesn't mean he's a bad one."
"Philip, surely you can't defend his actions."
"Derek, your own father could pull his dark side up so quick it'd make your head hurt ta think about it. That's how he was able to kill so many on the dark side. The same as you can. The same as I can. The boy's no different. Anyone who's involved in the war we are, I'd be worried about if he couldn't." He stood up. "The boy's no different from you or me, he's just accepted his fate. It could be much worse with his life. You and I both know that." He nodded at the tape. "Destroy it, Derek, it won't help."
"Philip, I know you want to help him...."
"Stop, Derek. Those that I take under my wing and help need my help. The boy doesn't need my help, he needs support. If he comes to me for that, then I'll help 'im. If not, then he's found it somewhere else. His dark side's no more dark than your own, or mine, is."
"Philip, you don't have that big of a dark side," Derek protested.
Philip laughed. "How would you know? Been inside my head?" He leaned closer. "No one knows what's really goin' on in another's head until they crawl inside it. You don't know me that well, nor Alex or Nick. Leave the boy be, Derek, or you'll just make yourself more unhappy. The rest of us have learned to live with our dark sides and know it for what it is. If'n the boy's done that, then I'm happy for him. That makes him better than most of the general population. If he's just now comin' into it, then I'll be there for him to make him see that it's normal to have one. Those that don't find their dark side, usually end up living with the consequences. Let the boy be." He walked out.
Derek slowly let himself relax. It wasn't often that he was scolded so gently, but when Philip went off on someone, they knew it. He rubbed across his forehead, wondering what he should do now. Should he report this? If Philip was right, this was just a normal boy who had a lot of experience in seeing the darker sides of life. If he wasn't, then the boy could turn on them and endanger not only the house but the whole Legacy. He needed to know what the boy was capable of. He called up Nick's profile of the boy's history, looking it over. One thing kept sticking out at him, he had helped send someone to hell. He would question the boy tomorrow he decided finally. It could wait that long.
Philip smiled as he walked past the immortal and god's doorway, stopping to listen to the joy coming from in there. It was good to hear happiness right now. He nearly laughed as the noise in the married couple's room picked up, rivaling that of the trio, but he kept it in. Joy was always welcome, even in this house. Things had started to get too dark, everyone needed to lighten up. He headed to his room, stopping when he saw Nicks' door was open. "Not ready for bed yet?" he asked quietly.
"They're too loud for me to get to sleep," Nick told him, grinning at him. "Do you wonder if Strife is cheating on Methos?"
"Nah, they both know. They wouldn't do that to each other after so long apart." He closed the door and went to his own room, his inner voice fighting with his ideals about what God thought about all this, and about what he really wanted to do too.
Nick looked at Xander, who looked tired, but happy, as he came into breakfast the next morning. "Not sleep well?" he asked.
"Haven't really slept at all," Xander said as he sat down in front of the filled plate that hit the table. "Thanks, Dominick."
"You're welcome, Xander. I'll make sure today's meal is protein heavy to compensate for all the energy wasted last night."
Xander grinned at him. "Things like that are never a waste," he said, winking at the butler.
"Indeed, I remember it to be so myself," Dominick said as he brought over a glass of milk. "Eat it all, please. Anything else for you, Nick?"
"Not really, thanks though," Nick said, giving him a faint grin. He watched Xander eat. "So, was anyone hurt?"
"Nope." Xander put down his fork. "They both knew what the other was doing. That's the point of watching. Does that bother you?"
"Just that you kept some of us up," Nick told him, picking up his cup of coffee to drink from.
"Sorry," Xander said with a grin. "Ear plugs, man, they work wonders. So do radios and tv's." He started eating again, and soon he was finished, but his plate was refilled. "Thanks, Dominick. I'm going to get you a neat prezzie when I leave. Do you teach people how to cook?"
"It's not that hard," Dominick said, smiling down at him. "It's like physics."
"Ick," Xander pointed out. "Science and eating should not be together." He scraped his plate clean then got up, hugging the butler. "Thanks, man. I'm going to go check in with Philip." He jogged out of the room, going to check in with his boss. "Hey, where am I today?" he asked as he walked in.
"Derek wanted ta grill ya about how you've managed to stay alive," Philip said, putting down his book so he could smile at the boy. "Feel better now?"
"Yeah, I burned off a lot of stress last night. It was good for all of us. Where's the big guy?"
"The office. Down the hall, last door on the left."
"Thanks. I'll be back later."
"If not, tell me," Philip told him quietly. "I may have a solution for ya." Xander nodded, looking serious. "Good. Go talk ta him." He picked up his book and went back to his reading.
Xander headed for the office, knocking politely before walking in. "You wanted to rake me over the coals about last night or did you want to discuss how I've been able to survive while fighting nearly every night?"
"Sit, Xander." Derek shuffled some papers, putting them into a folder and putting them aside. "Nick made a tape of the meeting last night, in case one of you forgot something that was said. Both he and Victoria were worried about the darkness you showed."
Xander laughed bitterly. "Derek, you have no idea what it's like to really fight the demons in this world. You guys get to fight some bad guys, but they're pretty harmless bad guys. None of them have ever opened a portal to pull Hell onto this plane. None of them have really stalked you guys until you needed psychiatric help. None of them have ever played *real* head games with you. If someone doesn't like the fact that all those things have been my life, I'm sorry for them, but yay. I don't have to be here. You guys asked for my help, not the other way around. I'm sorry if this bothers you, but I could care less." He stood up. "Until you have to lie to a friend for everyone's good, and send a resouled being to hell to save them all, then don't even bother. Was there anything else?"
Derek shook his head and the boy left. He reached out and touched the key to dial the London house on the teleprompter, bringing the London Precept running to talk to him. "He's dark, he's very in touch with his dark side," he reported. They had talked earlier this morning. "He just said we don't really fight the darkness."
William Sloan sighed. "Derek, none of us fight the darkness he does. We fight the equivalent of the rich kids of the dark. He and his kind fight the street thugs of the darkness." He looked his old friend over. "You've got to relax about this. He won't turn on you unless he sees that it's the only way to win the fight. That's his method of fighting. Sometimes you have to lose someone to win."
"This isn't a chess game!" Derek hissed.
"At the level of fighting he was doing, it is, Derek." He smiled kindly. "You don't know this, but we've done a very thorough look into his background, even deeper than what Nick found. The New York house found that he's the sort that will do whatever has to be done to win this fight. You'll need him. He will make sure that you win this battle. Even though he can't really fight, he'll jump in and beat anything that stands in the way." His smile got a little nastier. "Think of him as a darker version of Nick when he first got to the house. You were worried about Nick's ability to handle the darkness. This boy lives in it, his whole life has been eclipsed by it. He's got to be bored by now because you're not fighting."
"Philip's helping him," Derek said quietly.
"Good. Philip's always been a very practical man. He'll see Xander for what he is and, if he needs it, will help him control any outpouring of darkness." He nodded at the tape that was held up. "You sent the transcripts to me and I read them. That's consistent with his life." He nearly sighed at the look on his friend's face. "Derek, what did Philip say when you let him hear that tape?"
"That everyone had a dark side, some people were more in tune with theirs and they could pull it up when they needed to."
"That's very true. You and I have both done what had to be done at times. He's no different. Neither's Philip."
"I've never let myself...."
"No, you haven't. You haven't needed to," William interrupted. "Philip has. Xander has. They've both had to dip into the darkness of their souls to save the day. That doesn't make them bad, Derek, that makes them heros. Unless they decide to live in that darkness, then they become the bad guys. And if Xander becomes that sort, then you'll never catch him. We, the Legacy, don't deal with his level of evil. He was much more comfortable with that vampire last than either of us would have been." Derek nodded. "This is *his* area, Derek. Let the gutter trash be dealt with by his kind. The Legacy has to deal with the upper levels of evil because we can play on their field. That boy will never make that field, not even with an engraved invitation and someone to lead him up by the hand."
"He slept with Strife last night," Derek said calmly. "And his lover."
"Don't be a prude, Derek!" William said sharply. "That was stress relief. They all needed it, those three just took the direct route. It's in line with what they all are. None of them are like you, they've still got that touch of the street that you and I can't even fake, much less find in ourselves. Let the boy be himself; if you try and change him, he'll attack you instead. If you try and force him to play by the same rules that *we* play with, you'll end up the target of not only Strife's ill will, but also that boy's. He will turn bad then."
"So I should just let Philip become involved with him?"
"Philip's a big boy and Xander's been grown up now for a number of years, Derek. Let them make their own decisions. I have a feeling that Philip finds something right in that boy. Some sort of harmonizing principle." He smiled. "Just sit back and watch. Work on civilizing Mr. Boyle, not Mr. Harris." The screen went blank.
Derek turned to look out his window. Maybe William was right. But civilizing Nick would be more of a challenge than he was up for. Nick was another who would never be high society, or upper echelon in the Legacy because of that. The Legacy was still very much a rich person's club.
"Don't you mean snob's club?" a female voice said as she appeared.
"Aphrodite," Derek said, looking shocked.
TO BE CONTINUED...