A Knight's Hand.

The messenger smiled at the two young men standing in front of her. "These are the best you have?" she asked, smiling at the Queen sitting behind them on her throne.

"The best that volunteered," the Queen admitted. "Many didn't see the necessity of going to interfere in this matter." She waved a hand around the nearly empty room. "As you can tell, most of them don't think this is a threat. If they did, they'd all be standing around glowering at you."

The messenger nodded. "Though, Cora did say that she saw your palace being invaded by hunters," she mentioned casually. The Queen glared at her. "You know how she sees, it might not happen now, but the humans know that you exist and what you can do."

The Queen nodded regally. "Good enough. I'll discuss that with the rest of the Knights later. Will one of these two do for now?"

"They sure will," a female voice said from behind them. Rain appeared, smiling at the Queen. "Hi. Thanks for the scepter, I've hid it from everyone." She looked at the Knights, then at the messenger. "You bellowed?" she asked.

The messenger shook her head. "Not me, my Lady. Possibly your mother though."

Rain grimaced. "I'm not going there." She looked the Knights over then shook her head. "They won't make it in the human world. Things have changed." She snapped her fingers and a young man appeared. "You'll do," she announced, grinning at him. "And you'll annoy the hell outta Rayne." She smiled at the messenger. "I'll bring him," she offered nicely.

The messenger snorted, then started to laugh. "If you say so, my Lady." She looked at the Queen. "If it's all right with you?"

"It's fine with me," the Queen admitted, smiling subtly down at the Protector. "You have plans for this one?"

"No, but I think he'll fit in better with the present society. He's not as hard-set in the old ways." She nodded at the other two Knights. "I doubt they'd be able to handle the ride over, much less the methods of transportation, the finicky nature of the mortals, or even having to deal with my father."

"Then he's back?" the Queen asked, looking interested.

Rain smiled brightly. "He is, and he's wonderful. We've bonded, we're becoming great friends. He even enjoys helping me with my job sometimes." She smiled at the young Knight in training. "I think he'll be able to do everything that needs to be done. By your leave?" she asked.

The Queen nodded and relaxed, watching as the young Goddess and her third son left together.
"Remember his wardrobe," she called after them.

"Mother!" floated back.

The Queen laughed. Her son was so predictable. But she would make sure that he had everything a Knight should have.


Rain popped them back to her apartment, flopping down into her husband's lap. "Daddy, we're back!" she called. Her father was doing *something* with her step-father, something she didn't want to pop in on again - she so didn't need to see Methos hanging upside down while they were floating in midair and fucking hard -, so she'd wait patiently.

"Bad timing," Strife said as he appeared, working on getting his pants back up and rehitched. He looked the boy over. "You got any magic, kid?" he asked.

The young Knight in training puffed himself out. "I'm being trained by the best, and I'm nearly through with my education. I dare say I can handle anything that these mortals could throw at me." He looked Strife over. "If I may know who you are, sir?"

"He's Strife," Blair told him. "As for this one, this is your Protector." He patted his wife on the back. "You're going to be dealing with the Legacy house in San Francisco and their people because, frankly, they need the help." He grinned. "But by all means, be yourself. They'll *love* you."

"Oh, and we've got ta take him ta Ireland," Strife put in. "He's *gotta* meet the Xander."

A young looking, dark haired, thin God appeared behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Leave my boy alone," he whispered in Strife's ear, making him stiffen, in more than one sense. "I have him right where I want him and he's gonna stay there until the stubborn streak ends." He kissed the side of Strife's neck. "Glad to have you back, nephew." He disappeared.

Strife shuddered. "Jett hasn't changed," he noted, changing his stance so his hard-on wouldn't hurt so much. He looked at his daughter. "Did ya meet them yet?"

"Oh, yeah," Rain said with a brilliant grin. "Uncle Jace took me shopping for my first set of real leather pants. Jett gave me my first moment of wet panties. And Joxer was such a babe when he found out. Took me aside and everything." She winked at her husband. "Jett even taught me how to hunt lovers."

Blair patted her again. "I'm glad they were there for you when you were younger." He looked at Strife. "Who's Jett anyway? I never met him."

"He's the one who helps Joxer do the darker stuff, an immortal triplet. Used ta be the King of Assassins back in his day. Joxie really liked him though so he begged and pleaded until his bros were brought across too." He grinned at the Knight in training. "Do ya think you'll make it on a quest?"

"Of course. I have no doubt of my success. I *will* succeed in completing this quest and gain my official Knighthood, possibly even well enough to garner extra honors." He puffed himself up again. "I could do no less, it would dishonor my line."

"Good," Strife said, nodding. "We still gotta intraduce him ta Xander and Philip. I think he'll be able ta help them some too."

"Fine by me," the young man said. "I can handle any challenge."

"Oh, Xander's not a *challenge*," Strife said with a naughty grin. "He's a fun guy. You really should get ta know him."

"Mine," floated out of the air and another thin, young looking God appeared but he looked different somehow - maybe more frilly. "That boy is *ours*!" He stomped his foot. "You will not interfere with our boy or we'll make you suffer." He glared at Strife. "You will be sorry."

Rain looked at him. "Uncle Jacey, I thought you did the fluffy stuff," she said, looking a little confused.

He smiled at her. "Sometimes I can be the mean one." The God from earlier appeared behind him and tapped him on the shoulder, making him jump. "Don't do that!" He slapped his brother on the arm. "Bad you! I should punish you!"

Jett smiled. "I'm sure you'll try." He looked at Strife. "We're all in agreement, Xander's ours to play with. If ya mess with our boy, you're gonna go down. Hard." He smiled at Rain. "I gave you your first wet panties moment? I thought Joxer did that."

"My first natural one," she agreed with a grin. "Joxer taught me a lot with his unique teaching method, but you gave me my first experience." She hugged her husband. "Now I have this snugglebunny and you wouldn't *believe* some of the stuff that your brother has sent us recently."

Jett and Jace nodded together. "Oh, yes, we can," was said in unison.

Even Blair blushed with that pronouncement. He cleared his throat. "So, um, kid. What's your name?"

"I'm Horatio."

"Bad nicknames," Strife groaned. "I'm gonna go now. Have fun with Derek, if they get him back." He disappeared, still shaking his head.

"What's a nickname?" Horatio asked.

"It's what people call you when they don't want to use your full, real name. It's some sort of endearment usually," Blair explained.

Horatio nodded. "Thank you for the explanation." He looked at Rain. "If I may have a ride to my appointment, my Lady?"

"Sure. Let me get a better cuddle," she agreed easily. She snuggled into her husband's chest for a few moments then sighed and got up, taking him by the arm. "Come on. I want sex and this is gonna take a bit." She popped them to the room where Nick was sitting, making him spit his soda across the room. "Gee, thanks," Rain said, wiping some of the spit off. "New helper."

"Hey," Nick said, waving a hand. "Care to take Karen?"

She shook her head. "'Fraid not. Can't do that. She's yours until you figure out how to make the guy in her go away for good. After he teaches you some sort of lesson." She looked at Horatio. "Anyway, this is another sort of help, young help that's trying to prove his worth to his people. Experienced with magic, strong of heart and courage, ready to kill anything that you put in his way."

Horatio smiled at her. "Thank you, my Lady, for the glowing reference, but I can speak for myself." He bowed to Nick, barely, refusing to show any hint of submission. "I am a Knight of the first order and I've trained very hard for any type of battle that may come up. Just point me at an enemy and I'll gladly kill them for you."

Nick put his feet down onto the floor and sat up. "Kid, this isn't a joust." He looked at Rain. "Human?"


"Prince of our smaller territories," Horatio informed him. "I've fought in a few battles, mostly magical and small skirmishes though."

"Uh-huh." He looked at Rain. "Why did he get sent to us?"

"He's going to be splitting between you and Phillip." She smiled at Alex as she walked into Nick's room. "Hey. Want me to talk to her?"

"No, but you can scare her into sense," Alex said dryly. She smiled at the boy. "You're a dragon?"

He nodded. "Yes, ma'am. I am the third in line for my throne and I've been ruling a small group benevolently for a few years now. I'm officially all but fully Knighted, missing only my quest for greatness. I am also somewhat experienced in battlecraft and the art of strategy." He couldn't lie to her, it was a feeling that was crouching in his stomach that she would instantly know and try to destroy him if he lied to her, so he vowed never to do so. She was a lovely woman though, so he would protect her.

She nodded. "Good. That'll make up for the lack of some people." She looked at Nick. "Have you looked at the spectral resonance from that spot in the hallway yet?" Nick shook his head. "Why not?"

"Because it wasn't finished processing," Nick told her. "Relax, we'll get Derek back."

Alex gave him a smile. "If we don't, you have the yearly paperwork to do next week. All of it because Derek was slacking off." Nick groaned. "Not only that, but we've also got to file a report on the status of our house's progress and how many things are finished on this problem."

"Go for it," Nick told Horatio. "There's a spot in the hallway where two people have disappeared," he explained at the confused look. "We need to find them, get them home, and make sure that they're safe."

"Please show it to me. I'm very good at countering magic. My speciality is actually domestic magic, but I'm very passable at combat magic." He nodded at Nick and followed Alex toward the hallway. He stopped and looked at Rain. "If I may be so presumptuous, my Lady, would you please have my mother send my things to whatever room I'm to be assigned?" He smiled and left them alone.

Nick looked at Rain. "A dragon?" He took a sip of soda.

"A dragon," she agreed. "He's going to be a lot better than the ones that were almost sent. At least he won't freak when he sees his first car." She wiggled her fingers at him. "Later, gotta go snog the hubby." She grinned and disappeared.

"Great," Nick sighed. He looked up. "Why me?"

"Because we like you," Ares said as he appeared. "The dragon kit here yet?" Nick nodded, finishing his soda. "He fixing Karen?"

"Can he?" Nick asked. "Alex would love you forever if you fixed her."

Ares smiled. "I'm sure she would. It'll probably get worse first." He looked around the room. "Have you heard from the boy yet?"

"Xander? Not yet. I heard from Philip right after they got there." He sat up further. "Did you need something with them or did something happen?"

Ares shook his head. "No, nothing that serious. Joxer said he felt something funny when he went over and stole Xander for a few minutes." He grimaced at the disgusted look. "What he did was important, it made sure that nothing and no one would ever take Blair away from Rain. Now, we can't feel him though."

Nick shrugged. "I'm sure they're fine. Philip draws trouble to him, but I'm sure that they can handle it. After all, they're in Philip's hometown. I doubt very much can get through his relatives. I know I couldn't."

Ares nodded. "That's a wonderful thought, but Joxer said that the tower's not only in Ireland and he doesn't know where else it is." He shrugged. "I guess I'll go see them."

Nick grabbed something out of the drawer beside his bed. "Give this to Philip please?" Ares gave him a disbelieving look. "It's his, he had it at a local jewelry shop to get fixed and I picked it up for him." He held out the small gold crucifix and silently begged.

"Sure," Ares sighed, taking it from him. He disappeared, going to check on the boy. A worried Joxer had bugged him, and begged him, until he was nearly mad.

Nick relaxed again. Alex was handling everything for him.


Philip looked up at the ceiling. Something had woken him up from a sound sleep, something abnormal. He smiled when he felt Xander snuggle into his armpit but that wasn't what had woken him. It had been some sort of sound, something so alien that it disturbed his soul. There wasn't any noise now. Nothing abnormal, nothing creaking, nothing moving in the tower, not even the wind working on a window. He shrugged off his discomfort and closed his eyes. Then the screaming started again. He sat up and looked around. No lights, just candles. He lit one as quickly as he could and walked over to the window, looking down on that place that wasn't Ireland. One of the horses was backed against the windows, and it was rearing up, screaming at someone or something. Philip grabbed his shirt and pants, starting to head to the door at the top of the stairs. It had to lead wherever the horses were, it didn't lead back to Ireland, so it had to go somewhere else. It opened under his hand, silently sliding out of his way like all the other doors in the tower. He walked down the slick grass, apparently there had been rain recently. He found a large dog growling at the large horse and grunted in displeasure.

"Shoo!" a deep voice said from behind him.

Philip turned to look at him. "Me or the dog?" he asked.

"You." The man walked over and poked him on the chest, shoving him down the hill a few inches.

"I belong here," Philip said coldly, shoving him back. "Get your animal away from the horse. It belongs here too." The man moved toward him again and Philip used one of his not-well- practiced skills, he punched the man, knocking him to the ground. Above him was clapping.

"Way to go, Philip," Xander said as he slid down the hill. He *accidentally* kicked the fallen body. "Go get the dog, they don't like me." He looked down at the man, human looking, big, hairy, smelly. "What sort of human are you?" he asked, bending down to get a better look at him. The man grabbed him and Xander did what came naturally, he bit the hand trying to cover his mouth, taking a good sized chunk out of it.

"Owwwwww!" the man shrieked, getting away from Xander as fast as he could without standing up. "What are you?"

Xander spit the blood out of his mouth. "Pissed. You interrupted my sleep." He looked down at the horse, who was trying to knock Philip off his feet. "Go away," he told the man, using this chance to get closer to it. "Here, pretty pretty," he cooed as he moved closer. "I won't hurt you." The dog growled at him and Xander growled back, making it yelp and run away. "And take your dog!" he yelled after the man. He held his hand out, slowly moving forward, ignoring Philip's amused look. "I won't hurt you. I just wanna see if you're as soft as Willow's books said you were." He touched the velvet nose and the horse backed away. "Okay, I won't do that," he agreed quickly, backing away. "I don't want stomped on, you're bigger than I am. It's all good from where I'm standing." He was pushed onto his knees from behind and looked back, smiling at the other horse that had snuck up behind him. "You like me?" he asked, reaching out to touch that one.

"Must be," Philip told him, sounding nearly like he was laughing. "He's got a good shove on 'im." He reached out to pat the horse one last time, then watched it walk off. He came over to force Xander into standing, letting him pet the horse all he wanted. The boy must never have seen one before up close. It was a good learning experience.

"Good, I see they've found you," Duffy said from the window behind them, making both men jump and the horse stomp its foot, narrowly missing Xander's bare foot. "Oh, stop it," Duffy chided, his accent getting thicker. "They're nice fellows, of a sort." He nodded at the horse that had walked away. "Big, smelly guy with a dog?"

Philip nodded. "His dog was hurtin' him."


"Whatever," Xander put in. "The smelly guy was trying to hurt the horse."

"Probably more like capture it. He's one'a the keepers over at the castle proper." He pointed to the East, where there was just a touch of color. "You should both be in bed."

"The horse's screamin' woke me," Philip told him. He looked around, then back at the little man. "Where is this?"

"The realm's called Claradon. 'Tis a private realm, started by a wizard long past." Duffy blew his nose, aiming so his snot hit the bushes. "Now it's headed by his daughter, who's a might nicer, and those're hers. She releases one each year and takes another ta the palace." He pointed again, after wiping the finger on his shirt. "She'll probably be summonin' ya any day now that you've interfered with her beasts." He smiled at Xander, who was still petting the horse. "It can't come in, lad, let it go."

"It likes me," Xander defended. "If it wanted to go, it would." He stroked down the long neck. "Why are they so big?"

"Because the wizard and his get were all huge," Duffy admitted. "My kind are tadpoles next ta 'em." He smiled at Philip. "You want breakfast now?"

"No, I think we're going to go back to bed," Philip told him, tugging on Xander's arm to make him follow. "Come on," he said finally. "You can open the window tomorrow and pet 'im."

"Her," Duffy corrected.

"Whatever," Philip sighed, starting the long trek back up the hill.

"Maybe there's an easier way," Xander called from the bottom. He looked back at Duffy, who shook his head. "Well, damn," he muttered, climbing up the slippery slope to go back to bed. Or back to Philip's bed if he'd let him. At least then he wouldn't be having nightmares anymore. He finally made it in the door and followed Philip down the stairs, stopping at his own door to give the older man a hopeful look.

"Come on then," Philip told him, leading the way into his room. He stripped back down to his boxer shorts and climbed back in, holding up the blanket for the boy to do the same. "Sleep well, Xander."

"'Night, Philip," Xander murmured contentedly. As he drifted off to sleep, Xander contemplated the spot he was in. He was content, not only content but comfortable. He hadn't felt comfortable in a few years now, but he felt like he belonged right where he was. Maybe the spell hadn't been such a curse after all. He drifted off with a smile on his face. Yeah, he could do this and still be cool with Philip.

Philip looked down at the first soft snore, smiling at the look of bliss on the younger man's face. It felt good to make someone else so happy. He could even be that happy if his brain would shut up for a few minutes. He wasn't tempted, he really wasn't.


Dominick felt a pull and let himself follow it out of the nicely appointed drawing room. As soon as he walked through the door, he found himself back in the Legacy house. Oh, well, back to being the butler he guessed. "Miss Alex," he said with a nod. "Am I officially back?"

"Yeah, we've got part of the spell countered. Did you see Derek?"

The butler shook his head. "No, ma'am, I didn't. Where I was, only one other person showed up. She was quite amusing though." He smiled. "Quite a woman, even made proper tea." He nodded at the young man. "If I may ask?"

"I'm Prince Horatio," he introduced himself with a smile. "Where exactly were you? If we can find it, then we might be able to find the leader of this house a tad bit easier."

"I was in an old-fashioned drawing room. A very well appointed one I might add. A great selection of books and tea came regularly once my companion had left." He bowed to Alex. "I'll go check on the rest of the house, make sure it's still standing." He walked away, heading to do his work, hiding his disappointment. He hadn't been the target?

"We missed you," Alex called after him. He turned to look at her. "You know how badly we do things when you're not here, Dominick. We nearly stopped eating."

"That would have been bad," he agreed with a smile. He liked her, she always knew the right thing to say. "I hope you find Master Derek soon. I'd hate to see another house invade ours because of this incident." He walked away, still heading for the kitchen. Maybe he'd put something on for them, they probably needed it. The house did fall apart whenever he left, as he had learned after his last vacation.

Alex looked at Horatio. "Any idea where Derek is?"

"Someplace vastly different," he said, turning serious again. "The other image I received was from somewhere darker, but not more sinister if you can understand." She nodded. "I saw people dancing around him and singing."

"Bacchus has him," Rain called. "He's having fun." She appeared, grimacing in distaste. "Aphrodite has *really* bad timing, even worse than Blair's mother." She smiled at Horatio and zapped him, sending him some information. "Ask my Unc, he'll help." The boy pouted at her. "Did you *really* want to go talk to Bacchus personally?"

"No," Horatio told her, but he was blushing. "I dare say my mother would throw a fit if I did." He looked up. "Lord Ares, if I may be so bold as to request some of your indulgence?" he called.

Rain waved. "Gonna go now, maybe even beat the 'Dite woman." She leaned closer to Alex. "She was *really* impressed with Dominick," she whispered to the other woman. "Thought he was not only classy, but competent and exciting." Then she giggled and disappeared, hopefully not to be interrupted again.

Alex stifled a giggle and turned away so Horatio wouldn't see it. "Ares!" she called. She doubted Derek was having as much fun as Dominick had.


Derek swallowed as one of those *women* came back toward him, he didn't want to give in. They were getting insistent though. And that dreadful woman had said he would give in before he got to go home. Something about it being unnatural, how he had managed to stay sane without any sex for close to twelve years, and he would have to give in sometime soon. Even if the world went to hell while he was stuck there. He was sure she was wrong, that he wouldn't send the world crashing into hell if he stayed celibate, but then again, she was a Goddess....

NO, he would stay celibate, no matter how ... tempting these women were.

At least they weren't some of Bacchus' more evil women. No vampiresses in the lot of them. Just women who wanted to have sex with him. The tramps. He shuddered as the one tempting him tried to unbutton his shirt, but he couldn't stop her if she got insistent, he was still chained to the wall Aphrodite had shoved him against. He tried to move toward her willing hands, but brought himself up short.

NO, he would not give in!


Philip woke up warm, very warm. He hadn't been this warm since before he'd gone to Seminary and had shared a bed with his brothers. He looked down at the warmest part of him, the lump laying on his chest, and smiled when it became apparent that Xander was not only cuddling him, but wasn't going to be coming out of the blankets anytime in the near future. He tried to move, slowly shifting to the left, but the arm around his stomach tightened into a steel band that meant he couldn't move. He gave up and enjoyed it - it wasn't often that he woke up with someone next to him after all.

Xander snuffled and rubbed his cheek against Philip's bare chest, slowly waking up. "Morning," he complained.

"Go back ta sleep if ya want," Philip said quietly, patting the buried head. "I can wait."

Xander lifted his head and shook it until the blankets were off his face. "You sure?" Philip nodded and smiled. "You're really nice, Philip." He put his head back down and closed his eyes, but couldn't quite drift back off. He still had that comfortable and content feeling, and he didn't want to screw it up, but he wanted to talk to the man. "What was it like when you were growing up?" he asked quietly.

"Well, I had brothers and sisters, and all us boys shared the same bed." He stroked over the tense shoulders. "It was nice, sort of boring in a lot of ways, but it was calm. The most trouble we had was with the extended family, my Da's family didn't really like my Ma so there was always fighting when they came for a visit." He chuckled. "But the cousins made up for them. They always had mischief in mind." He shifted some and Xander curled up into his side a little more. "I was always the hellion," he remembered with a fond smile. "About drove her nuts when I was sixteen. The whole town decided to come complain ta her one night 'bout me and my pranks." Xander chuckled. "Most of my family still lives around here so you'll probably meet 'em soon enough."

"Maybe," Xander agreed. "You think they'll like me?"

"Probably. My aunts'll probably think you're a great improvement over me." He smiled at the ceiling. "I might even have to go look up my Aunt Edna. She's welcome ya with open arms if only because I couldn't dose her tea with sneezing powder with you there."

Xander burst out laughing and looked up at his friend. "You did what?"

"I was about nine and she was bein' a nag. My younger brother and I decided ta teach her a good lesson so we dosed her tea with sneezin' powder." He started to laugh. "You'd never seen a woman splutter like that. My mother liked to have killed us for it."

Xander giggled. "Cool. I'll have to remember that if I run into my family again. Think it'd work in gin?"

Philip gasped for breath, nodding. "Probably. Worked at the pub in ale."

Xander grinned. "You were just so cool back then." He nudged him on the chest. "I guess you still are, even if you're all serious now."

Philip patted him on the head. "Thanks. I'll treasure the compliment." The door was knocked on. "We're not up yet!" he yelled.

"Your sister's here," Duffy called back. "I've made tea."

"Thank you, we'll be right down," Xander called. He looked at Philip. "Bathroom?"

"Go for it," Philip offered, bracing himself so the boy wouldn't bounce him off the soft bed. Xander got up carefully and ran into the bathroom, closing the door softly. "A very polite young man," he reminded himself, forcing himself to get up and get dressed. He had showered before bed. This was family after all and he didn't stink, it was good enough for now.


Ares groaned as he appeared in the tower, someone else was yelling for him now. He smiled at the woman sitting on the couch, who looked a lot like the person he needed to talk to. "Who're you?" he asked bluntly, not willing to spend any more time on this than he had to.

"I'm Mary Callahan-Reynolds," she told him stiffly. "I'm Philip's sister. And you?"

Ares smiled at her. "Do you really want to know?"

"If you're not a demon, it's all good ta me," she told him.

"I'm Ares, God of War." He held out a hand and the small crucifix dangled down from his finger. She snatched it from his hand to look at it. "Presently God of Errands for pains in my ass."

"I'll give it to my brother," she told him with a sniff. He didn't disappear again. "Anything else?"

"Yeah, I needed to know some things about this temple. One of the others is over Xander and he's worried about him." He looked down the hallway and saw the little man, going to talk to him instead. "What's with this tower?" he demanded.

Duffy looked up at him with a smile. "Your kind don't rule here, my Lord, so I'd be a bit more respectful." He finished up the pot of tea and put it on the tray. "If you'd care to come back later, I'll tell ya everything ya need ta know. After she's gone." Ares scowled at him. "My own wee babe did that whenever he was constipated, that won't work on me either," he said with a smile, carrying the tray toward the living room.

Ares slowly counted to a thousand. He would get to the bottom of this. Another voice called for him and he growled as he flashed back to San Francisco. "What!"

"Um, we kinda need some help getting Derek back from Aphrodite," Alex said sheepishly. "Rain said he's with Bacchus and Horatio can't go there because it'll look bad." She gave him a smile. "Please?"

Ares groaned and shook his head. "What makes you think Bacchus will listen to me when he has a new toy to debauch?"

"Mistress Rain said so," Horatio told him, looking almost shocked. "The Protector knows all!"

Ares looked him over. "Kid, you've got a lot to learn. Bacchus likes *her* more than he does *me*. She just probably wanted to get laid."

Alex nodded. "And Aphrodite interrupted them in the middle of it." She grinned. "Rain was not that happy."

Ares shook his head again. Why him? This wasn't even his area. But maybe.... "Fine, I'll go try and talk to Bacchus about him." He disappeared. Maybe he'd get laid too. Couldn't hurt to ask if Bacchus could take off the cock ring that was keeping him at minimum power levels.

Alex sighed in relief. "Thank you," she called after him. She looked at the young Prince. "He's not usually so nice, but I think we should give him a prayer or two."

"With the upcoming battles, it's only appropriate that you pray to your God of War," Horatio agreed. Alex laughed, which smarted. "What?" he asked haughtily.

"Was there a single deity faith before you guys left this plane?"

Horatio sniffed. "Yes, and a most uncouth little cult it was too. Forceful little creatures who killed because you didn't want to hear about their ways. We lost a few knights driving them away from our lands. Why? Are they here?"

Alex patted him on the shoulder. "It's the predominant faith in the world today, that and the two offshoot religions." The young prince shuddered. "Philip is a priest in the Catholic version of the Christian faith. You and he should talk, he might be able to ease your mind about some things. They don't usually kill you anymore if you're not of their faith."

"Once was enough, thank you," he told her, giving her a faint smile. He turned towards the faint 'pop' behind him. "Lady Aphrodite, it's a pleasure," he said, his eyes bulging as he stared at her outfit. "How may we serve you?"

"You may quit," she said, pushing on his forehead so he looked her in the eyes instead of the cleavage. "I want him there."

"We'll need him for the upcoming battles," Alex reminded her.

"Yay!" She laughed. "Honey, you don't need him as he stands, you need him a lot looser."

Alex shook her head. "He gets careless when he has sex. His battle plans suck and we all get injured. His focus on the task when he's not getting any is sharper."

"Whatever. You still can't have him back until he's laid." She waved a hand. "He's having *fun*."

"Bet me," Ares said as he appeared behind her, putting an arm around her shoulders.

"I'd remove it before I do," she said, glaring at him. "Or have you forgotten that I'm more powerful than you now."

Ares smirked and leaned closer. "Wanna bet?" he asked, tightening his arm. "Let's go have a talk, shall we? Hera said so." He nodded at Alex. "Call Derek back, he should come soon." He disappeared, taking her with him. Bacchus had been one very helpful guy, and had even swallowed when all the pent-up come had come blasting out of him. He was a great god.

Alex looked at Horatio, who had to blink a few times. "Wanna try again or do you need more of a break?"

"Give me a few moments, please, to compose myself. I need to regain my focus." He cleared his throat and walked away, heading to go lie down for a few moments.

Alex smirked. She felt the same way, but wet panties were easier than a hard-on to ignore. She sat down to wait, unconsciously licking her lips. That Ares was a fine babe.


Philip walked into the sitting room, and his sister jumped up and gave him a hug before he could open his mouth to say good morning. "Hi," he said, patting her on the back. He moved out of her arms and sat down, looking her over. "No sprout?"

"She's nappin'," she said, holding out the cross. "Someone named Ares brought it over."

Philip smiled and took it, putting it on. "Thank ya. I left it back at my last postin' ta get fixed." He took the tray from Duffy, putting it between them. "Can ya make sure Xander's up?"

"Sure. He's in the bath." Duffy smiled at Philip's sister. "Ya might want ta explain it ta her," he suggested, then he left them alone.

"Yes, Philip, explain to me why it's mornin' here and afternoon at my house," she suggested dryly. "Because this doesn't seem as innocent as ya made it ta seem last night."

Philip sighed and poured himself some tea, and then his sister some. "This tower is a split place," he told her. She nodded, sipping her tea. "The place called out for someone to come study it and the Vatican sent me."

"And the boy?"

"He's my helper. I was takin' him outta a worse place." He smiled as Xander came down the stairs. "Duffy's makin' ya breakfast," he called. "Go eat in the library."

"Yes, Philip." Xander stuck his head in and smiled at the woman. "Nice to see you again." He looked at Philip. "I used all the hot water."

Philip nodded. "Thanks for the warnin'. Go eat. And say grace," he called after him.

Mary laughed. "Still a priest I see."

Philip sipped his tea. "I always will be."

"Then why were ya cuddled up with the boy?"

"Nightmares," Philip said quickly. "He crawled in because he was havin' nightmares."

"Oh. So nothin' that'll break your vows?"

Philip choked on his tea. "What?" She stared him down. "No!"

"Good," she said with a smile. "Ma woulda beat you senseless if you were one'a those bad ones that ya hear about."

"You think she'd come back from the dead ta do it?" Philip asked, taking a more careful sip of his tea. She nodded. "I'll warn Xander," he said with a grin.

"Good." She put her cup down. "So, explain this ta me, Philip. How is it mornin' here and noon at home?"

He shrugged. "I haven't found it all out yet." He stood up. "Come on, wanna show ya the other side of the tower." He took her hand and led her into the library, watching as she smiled at the picture Xander made trying to feed one of the horses his bagel. "They eat hay and grass, not bread," he chided gently. Xander grinned at him and then winced as the horse nipped his fingers. "Keep your hand flat," he advised. He pointed for his sister. "That's somewhere called Claradon."

"And it's got very big horses," Xander told her, making room on the window bench for her. "Come look, they're kinda nice." He stroked over the velvet nose. She sat beside him and he let her hand touch the nose, watching the horse for any response. "They're really nice," he told her. "Very soft, really big, and they like to hang out right by the window." He smiled back at Philip. "Can you hand me my milk please?"

"As long as ya drink it," Philip told him as he handed it over. "Ya need it more than the horse does."

Xander gulped his milk and set his glass aside. "I'm being good. She knocked to get some attention. I'll get back to looking through the index book in a few minutes."

"We have an index book?" Philip asked. Xander nodded. "Where?"

"Right side, second book on the chest-high shelf. It's maroon and really heavy. The guy who wrote it started on that side and got almost all the way through." He went back to his petting.

"And he did it in ten years," Duffy said as he walked in. "His whole term here."

Philip looked down at him. "Why only ten years?"

"He died." Duffy pulled down the book and handed it to Philip. "Too bad, he understood and went with the wishes easily." He gave the young priest a hard look. "Unlike you, he went with everything the Tower wanted." He looked at Philip's sister. "I'll bring the meal in here. Make sure the boy eats." He turned and walked away.

Philip looked at the book in his hands and sighed. He wasn't liking this situation. Xander giggled and he smiled as he watched the boy be nuzzled through the window. Someone was having fun, and it was good for him. He could withstand it for Xander's benefit.


Derek winced as the woman scraped her nails down his chest. He wasn't chained to the wall anymore, but he couldn't climb out of the pile of pillows for some reason. He couldn't escape them, no matter how hard he tried. All these floosies and he was stuck there. He sighed as the hand stroked over his stomach. The flesh was tingling, the tingling was remaining long after her hand was gone, but he still wouldn't give in. He was going to stay celibate, no matter what his body wanted. He would stay celibate because it would be an asset in the coming fight. His thoughts and plans were always clearer when he had been celibate for a while. Apparently the family priest from his youth had been right.

She leaned in and licked across a nipple, making him shiver and sigh, his chest arching up of its own free will. "Give in," she whispered against his damp flesh. His sweat conducted the words like a small shock of electricity, making it move across the lightly furred surface. "You know you want to and that Aphrodite was right."

He shook his head. "No, I must remain focused," he told her. She pouted at him and he nearly caved, but he held on. "No," he repeated, without any heat or anger. It wasn't her fault. She was needy, but he couldn't cure her need.


Rain sighed as someone popped in beside the bed and forced herself to pull her head out from under the blanket and glare at her cousin. "What?" she demanded gruffly. Her husband stopped licking her. "I'm busy. Blair, don't stop, babe," she pleaded.

Cupid grunted and shrugged. "I was sent to fix that problem with Derek."

"BacCCHUUUS!" she said, her voice going up as Blair nipped her clitoris.

"Oh. That's cool," he agreed. He sprinkled something on her head. "To help," he explained at her clueless look. He leaned down and kissed her on the head. "We like you."

"Then keep your mother out of our apartment," Blair's voice drifted out from under the blanket. "And go away."

"That's cool. I'll go talk to the big, red guy." Cupid winked and left. He heard the sigh of relief and his grin got brighter. He appeared in Bacchus' temple, looking around at his women. He wasn't sure what Bacchus gave them to make them this horny, but he wanted to know the recipe. He had some people that would love to get it, if only so that they could function. "Yo, Bacchus!" he called as he stepped over five women going at it on the carpet in desperation. Didn't they know that another of the women couldn't fix their needs? "Bacchus! Pop sent me!"

Bacchus sat up from under his pile of women. "Which one?"

"Both actually," he said as he walked up to the dias. He tossed over a small bag. "Hephie sends you his thanks for the idea and said to tell you it worked great. Pop sent me because he's presently torturing mom." He shrugged and shoved a woman over so he could sit on the edge of the huge bed. "Thanks for getting that off him. Maybe Strife'll quit laughing now." Bacchus smiled. "Besides that, I'm here to get the stiff guy." They both looked at where Derek was still resisting. "He break?"

"Not a bit. She's going to be begging soon." Bacchus smiled, anticipating her need. "Are you sure he should go back?"

"Yeah," Cupid sighed. "He's apparently better at everything when he's never getting laid." He stood up. "Can I take him off your hands?"

"Sure," Bacchus said, waving a hand to bring the woman over. "Precious, come, let me give you what you need," he told her. She leaped onto him, desperate now.

"Later, dude," Cupid called, waving. He walked down and grabbed Derek by his unbuttoned shirt. "Come on, let's get you home. Your people are freaking." He walked out of the temple, the man trotting to keep up with his longer strides. He stopped at the edge of the portal. "Didn't you like her?"

"She was quite pleasant, but I won't give in. I need to be celibate." Derek looked down at his chest, which was still tingling. "Every woman I've been with recently has done something to those I love."

"Ever think about switching sides?" Cupid asked, walking them through the portal.

Derek choked.


Alex looked in the empty room, then let the young man in. "This will be yours." She got out of his way so he could walk in. "Anything that you need, dial 66 to get the butler." She started to close the door, but a bright flash stopped her. "Derek!" she called, grabbing him from the winged man's hands to hug him. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," he said hoarsely. "I need to clean up." He gave her a hug and then headed for his room, weaving slightly.

"Lord Cupid," Horatio said respectfully. "Do I need to close the portal in the hallway?"

"Probably," he agreed, smiling at the young man. "Dude, you haven't gotten a care package yet?"

"I've only been here for a few hours," Horatio told him. "Thank you for saving me from going to visit Lord Bacchus myself. My mother...."

"Would have shit bricks," Cupid agreed, smiling down at him. "Just relax, we'll deal with it somewhat. Close the portal, then wait for the next battle. It'll be a few days." He looked at Alex. "He's safe and sound. Oh, and don't call on Pops, he's really not in the best version of temper right now. You guys have about made him break."

"We're sorry," Alex said with a smile. "Rain told us to call him."

Cupid nodded wisely. "She's getting laid. She's another you probably don't want to talk to for a day or so." He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. "Don't stare, Alex, it's just a chest," he whispered in her ear, then he disappeared in a flash of glitter hearts.

Alex licked her dry lips and waved at Horatio. "Call if you need anything. See you tomorrow," she said quickly, heading to her room.

Horatio smiled and sat down on his bed. This was nearly as fun as his own court. He smiled as a
few trunks appeared at the foot of his bed. "Thank you, mother," he called quietly. "My armor?" A new set of armor appeared on a stand in the corner. "My," he sighed, getting up to look at the supple chain mail, the best his mother's people could make using a forge and magic. "Thank you!" More things appeared and he was backed into the corner as the room filled with things for him. Then one last trunk appeared on the bed, an empty one. He smiled as he carefully threaded his way through the things, going to start putting them away. His mother was very generous. She had even sent him goodies and snacks. He might even share, possibly with Alex if she was nice.


Philip looked up from reading through the index as the library door was knocked on. "Come," he called, sitting up straighter when he saw how the man was dressed. "Did ya need something from us?" he asked the messenger.

"A royal invitation," the messenger said, handing it over with a bow. "You and your Knight are requested at the Queen's palace tomorrow. She'll send transportation." He backed out of the room and left the tower at a run.

Philip looked over the invitation. His Knight? He glanced at Xander, who was taking a nap on the window seat. Was that what the tapestry had meant?