A Bit of Traveling
Xander looked up at the sound of his doorbell. "What?" he called. "I'm on the lawn looking at the dog." Horatio and Ryan walked around. "Case?" he guessed. Ryan nodded. "My car?" he asked, sounding more hopeful.
"Not yet," Ryan admitted. "Other case. Stalker case." Xander slumped and shook his head. "The neighbor guy. Have you been contacted by his wife?"
"Not that I've been told. Unless one of the guys made her run away."
"Not that we've heard either. Though someone did make an anonymous complaint that you were tainting the neighborhood by sunbathing naked. The person who took it pointed out you lived behind a fence and couldn't be seen by anyone," Ryan offered. "That if they were looking that hard, perhaps they should put up the telescope since they said you had razor burn." Xander blushed a little bit at that. "Anyway, we wanted to make sure she hasn't come over to bother you."
"No, not yet," Xander admitted. "But thank you for checking on me." He gave them a smile. He looked at himself then at Horatio. "Does this outfit go together?"
Horatio shook his head. "Not even Speed could match that shirt with those pants, Xander." Xander grinned at that. "Laundry day?"
"Dry cleaning day," he said dryly. "Way too much of the laundry is dry clean stuff." The dog started to bark and he looked around, frowning at the small glassy spot hovering above the lawn. "That's not a good thing," he said. And then people came out with clubs and swords. They screamed and struggled but they had swords, Xander didn't, and they pulled Horatio wrong and made him yell too. Ryan got knocked out temporarily.
Danny walked in the door and saw someone's rearend, encased in fur, disappearing through a spot on the lawn. He called Don. "Since when did we have furry people on the lawn? No, not your dog! Like someone wearing fur running." He hung up and grabbed his sword, heading out there. The shiny spot was only a few inches now, but he could see through it. "Get me something," he called when he felt a quickening. "I can see Horatio, Xander, and Ryan over there."
Don came jogging out with something to hold the small spot open. "Here." He looked. "They're in fast forward." Danny hit him on the arm. "What was that for?"
"Xander said some planes run faster than others. Look. Chains! Lots of people. Oooh, and Xander's breaking bad. Ow."
They watched, Danny propping the hole open for as long as they could while someone hopefully called a witch of some sort. He called home. "Monroe, Messer. Do you know any sorcerers or anyone? Yeah, like them. Um, no, a portal on our new lawn that ate Xander and two of our new coworkers. Montana, he told me what you are," he said dryly. "Really. Please?" He smirked. "Thanks. And thank you for not kidnaping Xander when he was around." He hung up. "She knows someone who knows someone so she's starting the calling chain."
"Yay. How long will that take?" He heard a footstep and looked. "Someone stole our boys and Ryan."
"You had best be joking," Eric said blandly.
"Nope. People wearing fur with swords," Danny offered, letting him see. "And see, Xander's kicking ass."
"I'm so going to kill Xander if Ryan's hurt." The other immortals looked at him. "I know very well they came for Xander."
"Maybe not. Your honey's on the block too," Don noted dryly. "Only Speed's isn't."
"He probably started to ooze the hormones so they're keeping him special," Danny offered. "Xander would've fought back first and then oozed."
"Let's hope it's good enough," Don offered, looking again. "I don't know how to get there and rescue them this time. Should we call Speed?"
"Um, probably," Eric said bitterly, pulling out his phone. "H has been stolen," he announced. "Along with Xander and Ryan this time. I knew it was a bad idea to introduce Ryan to Xander." Don swatted at him. "It is! Look how much trouble they get into!"
"It's not all his fault," Don defended, glaring at him. "This could be why this house was so cheap."
"Yeah, whatever," Eric said grimly.
Xander was drug up onto the auction block and the native guy growled something. He saw the situation. He saw how bad it was going to get. He tested his chains. He still had problems with iron. Probably that little bit of accidental magic. He concentrated and then sighed and said a mental prayer to the Goddess to forgive him. Then he grabbed the guy holding him's sword and used it on him, turning to get the other guards and then the auctioneer. The crowd cheered and clapped so he dove off the stage and rolled to his feet, heading for where he *knew* Horatio was. Ryan was behind him and a slice to his guards got him free. He and Ryan headed back to the tent Horatio had been taken to, and Xander gutted his guard, then they defended it. "Horatio?" Xander called. "Armed?"
"Only my pistol and he took it." He rubbed his back. Then he spat on the body. "I don't like this." He stood up and looked at Ryan's chains. "We need these off."
"Mine were welded," Ryan offered.
"There's a way." Xander turned when he didn't see anyone. "Pull them tight. Let's see." Ryan did that and Xander swung but it only created sparks. "Okay, that's a later thing to work on." He turned and stabbed the person trying to get in. "Hey, Horatio, at least he decided to eat and get more greasy first."
"Fortunately," he agreed, picking up the sword from his captor's body. Ryan took it and dove in as well. Horatio blinked. "Hmm. Someone has been doing some training."
"Yeah, mostly with Xander," Ryan panted. "Damn I hate these things!" He hit someone with the chains instead of the sword.
"Enough!" Xander roared, starting to emit. He was finally able to think himself hard, happy, and content. The iron at his throat, wrists, waist, and one ankle was hindering him some but not that much. A few of the men wobbled then fell. He concentrated, bringing up happy slutty thoughts. Then he walked out there, tipping the guy who had been giving order's chin up. "Name? That way I can let the Gods know you're coming?" He said something incompressible. "Know any others?" he asked in Greek. The man looked confused. He growled. Ryan babbled something and the men glared at him. "Not their language and it looks like you called them pig fuckers."
"Xander," Horatio complained.
"It does." He looked at another one, one who was holding a book. "Speak." He said something in the same language. "Any other languages?" The man said something in another tongue, one that was near one of the demon ones he kinda knew. He said something in that one and the man looked confused, then sighed and said something else. That one he understood. Xander replied in Latin. The man translated that he was not a happy person. That he did not ask to be stolen, that those two were under his protection and only his protection. He also added that Xander was going to destroy the whole village if they didn't let them go. One man stepped forward and pointed at the chains. Xander nodded and carefully shifted, letting him knock the chains open. Then he got Ryan's. They were still cuffed but the chains were separate now. "Thank you. Let's go."
"Where?" Horatio asked. "The portal they brought us through is here."
Xander repeated that to the languages guy, getting a babbled explanation. "No, it's not. It travels. Some mages can open it. If we go over the valley and to the other side of the forest, there's a city with a mage. He can help us?" The man nodded at that. He asked if there was water on the way and got a nod. "How many days?" The man replied three. "Anything else we should be aware of?" The man babbled that they had earned the right to the lost one's possessions. "Hey, we get to scavenge."
"We'll get fleas," Horatio said, glancing at his former captor. "Or worse."
"Ryan, pick up a bedroll. Pick up a canteen. Then pick up a dagger if you can." Ryan was led off by the guy to do that, coming out with a small traveling pack and a bedroll tied to it. "Let's go," he replied calmly, backing away slowly. One of the customers at the slave auction tried to grab him and he swung, cutting into his hand. "Do not touch," he snapped, glaring at him. "Not for you."
"Tumie," one said in awe, bowing to him. "Tumie!" he called, pointing.
"Huh?" He looked at Horatio, then at the guy. "Tumie?" he asked. The man babbled something about a God who could make men beg. Xander just nodded and concentrated. The whole group moaned and started to fondle each other. "Let's go." They ran off into the woods in the direction the man had been pointing. He kept them moving for a few hours, heading past one stream and to the next one. That one had a small indent in the river, a small shelf protrusion. "Rest," he ordered, letting Horatio pant and sit down. "Let's work on the chains. Showing up in them isn't the best of ideas." He took the dagger and sat down, then put his wrist on a rock and chipped at it until one opened. Then he did the other side, scratching himself but it was worth it. Ryan came over to get his neck and waist, which wasn't welded very well. His ankle chain was gotten by him then they got to work on Horatio. Then Ryan's last few while Horatio stood guard. Xander looked at them. "Okay, what he said was that the portal does travel. That it's opened by magic but only at certain times of the year. We can find a magic user in the next town and he'll either be able to fill in some information or he'll be able to send us to who can send us home." He looked at Horatio. "We'll go more slowly."
"Do we have time to wash the blankets?" Ryan asked.
"No but I'm not intending to sleep in them. I'm intending to use them as tent materials." Ryan smiled at that and nodded. "Horatio?"
"I'll be fine, Xander. How many days?"
"He said three with their group. He said on the other side of this forest is a valley. We cross them both and we should run into a trade road. That'll take us right to the gates later that day." He sniffed the canteen and handed it over. "Rinse it really well, Ryan."
"You don't know what's in that water."
"Not like we can boil it," Xander noted patiently. "There's animals using it, it's clean enough." He and Horatio both shuddered. "Survival, guys. Just until we can get there."
"Then what?" Horatio asked. "We do what to survive?"
"I've got some magic skills," Xander offered quietly. "If I have to, I can take an apprentice's position and you guys can stay with me. Or maybe it won't be that long. I don't know yet. Not until we get there." Horatio nodded at that wisdom. "For now, splash, cool off, and we'll go for another few hours, until we're past at least another stream. That way we're farther away from the camp."
"We should walk through the water," Ryan offered. "Break our trails."
"I didn't see any hunting hounds," Xander told him. "They're going to be busy dividing up the spoils of war and finishing with anyone else they had on the block. For right now, I'm concerned about us. Horatio's obviously in pain. We're all used to brighter civilizations. It's going to be an ordeal." Horatio nodded at that. "Then let's do what we can and then we'll figure out the rest once we see how long and how hard it'll be to get home." They both nodded. "Now, splash off the grime." He moved to the water to do that, sending up mental prayers for help and guidance. Because he was lost. This wasn't him anymore. He wanted to lay down and throw a fit at the moment. He looked at Ryan. "What do you want to bet at least one of them is blaming me?" he joked.
"For many decades," Ryan assured him. "Eric's going to be swearing that he shouldn't have introduced us."
"Speed's going to turn into Alexx and fuss me to death," Horatio offered with a small grin. "Have you camped, Xander?"
"Every single Christmas. Plus some memories from being possessed by a soldier. I got survival training memories," he said happily. They both relaxed at that. "Okay, we're heading for the valley. I'm going to guess that's by that mountain that way," he offered, pointing at the only visible one. "So we should head that way. Even if it's not the right direction, it's not back toward them and we'll run into civilization somehow." They both nodded and walked off with him.
"Does anyone else feel like we're in a live action D&D game?" Ryan asked finally. Both other men laughed and nodded. "Is that a road?" Xander looked and smiled. "So we're going in the wrong direction?"
"Probably not. The road will lead to at least a village and we can probably get some limited help there if we are." They both sighed and nodded at that. "I promise, guys. It'll be okay. We'll get through this and have many stories that'll get us cuddled and babied for years."
"I could almost wish I was going to be there with you two," Horatio said miserably.
Xander looked at him. "I'll ask Cordy if she knows a way if you want. For both of you."
"Speed would hate it."
"He might but not totally." He pointed. "That's a cairn or a road sign. Can anyone see writing?"
Ryan nodded. "There's shadows on the side I'm looking at. Maybe it is a road sign." They hurried over and they watched as Xander looked it over, running a hand over the weathered carvings. "What language is that?"
"Greek. Ancient Greek. I only read it but I know some words in the more modern." He ran a hand over another side. "This way," he said, pointing. "Temples." Horatio gave him an odd look. "I'm Wiccan. If there's one to Hecate, I'll go beg us a room for the night and a bath until we can get some help. If not, we'll see what's there. Most temples would help travelers."
"If you say so," Horatio offered. "I have no idea."
"Think about it this way, Horatio. If there were ten churches in a town and there were some really bedraggled and pitiful travelers who came in, wouldn't at least one help them?"
"I'd hope more than one," he offered quietly. "Then again, not all churches deal with the realities of life. How far, can you tell?"
"Yeah, it has a moon. Others have two moons. So I'm guessing a day." They both nodded and headed off with him between them.
A few minutes later Ryan looked at him. "Xander? Hormones?"
Xander considered it then looked at him. "We keep joking you'll make a good keeper, Ryan, and Danny won't mind. He was going to suggest that we start playing together on the nights he's too tired anyway. He was going to ask you soon."
"He already did but I never talked about it with Eric."
Horatio looked at him. "With the way Eric's nature is, I'm sure he'll understand. Besides, he wouldn't want Xander to enslave the entire world."
"Realm," Xander corrected. "This is a realm off ours."
"Whatever. He wouldn't want them bowing at your feet no matter what it is."
"True," Ryan agreed, smiling at him. "I know you're married...."
"There's things I can do and I'm not as bad as Xander is," Horatio pointed out. "Stress makes us go down."
Xander nudged him and grinned. "I'll give you backrubs anyway." Horatio smiled at that and hugged him. "We'll be okay. I'm an okay fighter and Ryan can do more than a newbie can. I've already worked on his training some."
"Including the last time. He's very impressive with the sword," Ryan agreed. "Even today."
"Today I was in a vicious mood," Xander agreed, shrugging a bit. "They deserved it for trying to sell my cute ass." They laughed and got out of the way when horses were heard, watching them run past. "Those were uniforms, right?"
"Those were," Ryan agreed. "War party?"
"Not with only five of them," Horatio said quietly, watching them disappear. "Advanced scouts would be spread out more." Xander nodded at that. "Messengers?"
"Or they're headed back to base. Which means that the village or whatever will be higher in civilization than the camp was." Horatio relaxed at that and then groaned, holding his back. "Let me see." He looked it over. "When did they twist you funny?"
"When they grabbed me," he complained. "I get it now and then."
"Well, you've got it now, Horatio. You've got a small lump there." He touched next to it and watched him flinch. "Next set of big rocks, we're resting." Horatio nodded and let Ryan help him for now. Xander played forward scout and found the rocks to shelter them from the road. He also found some deadwood branches and twigs lying around. He got Horatio seated against the rocks and then pulled his sword and his dagger, scraping them together to get sparks that would light the twigs. Ryan coughed and pulled out a flint set from the pack. "Cool." He started it more properly and babied it until they had a good fire going. "There. That should help. Drink. What else did you get?" He took the pack while Ryan used the bundle of blankets as a pillow for Horatio. Xander found a small bag in the bottom and sniffed, grimacing. "I think this is jerky but I'm not eating it."
"If you're not, I'm definitely not," Ryan said. "You've got a stronger stomach than I do." He looked up. "Should it be safe to camp here?" Xander nodded. "Can you catch us something small and furry to cook and get more wood?"
"I can," he admitted, handing the pack back. "Feed it more twigs and stuff while I look." He looked at Horatio then took the canteen with him. "I'll get more water." He went to get some bigger branches, piling them next to Ryan. "Keep it small so it won't go out or get out of hand." He headed off into the nearby trees, going to look at things. He did find a small stream but it looked cloudy. He sat beside it and watched the animals, sword in hand. He knew what hunting was. His hyena was cackling madly at the prey around him. He focused on smaller things, finding a rabbit looking creature. He raised an eyebrow and it paused, sniffing the air. So it knew what hunters were. That made it prey. He fingered his sword then pulled the dagger out as quietly as he could. The thing took off and he threw, hitting it with the hilt. He rushed over and stabbed it in the head, then grimaced. "Eww, brains." He picked up the beast and went back to the river to field dress it. They weren't going to eat the intestines. Or the fur. When he had it dressed out and cleaned off in the water, he cut small holes and shoved a stick through it. Then he walked upstream, finding the place where the water turned cloudy from a boulder it was running over. "Hmm, chalk." He moved up higher and tested the water. It tasted clean. He drank another few swallows to make sure then carefully refilled the canteen. He carried it back, finding one of the guys in uniform at the fire. "Greetings," he said in Latin.
The man looked at him. "Greetings. They said a member of their party was hunting dinner. Or at least that's what I took them as saying. Their language is different from most of the ones I've heard." Xander presented the beast and he smiled. "Those are good." Xander smiled and handed the stick to Ryan.
"What do I do with this?"
"Pretend it's a marshmallow and make sure it doesn't burn," he answered, handing Horatio the canteen. He looked at the guard. "Do we violate some rules? We were stolen."
The guard looked amused. "We had heard that the beasts had opened something and stolen someone." Xander nodded. "Where are you headed?"
"To find someone who can tell us about the portals and to see how long we'll have to fend for ourselves," Xander answered honestly. "I can do some limited magic."
The man nodded. "The next town is a half day's walk from here. With his injury it'll take a day. That one's very small but the temple there will help travelers in distress and they may have something to help ease his pain. The nearest magic worker is in the next city, which is five day's travel." Xander groaned and sat down. "They may be able to help you if someone is going that way to sell things. It's usually done on a trade basis."
"They stole me from my home."
"I understand. It is not the first time that's happened. How did you get away?" Xander pointed at his sword. "You can fight?"
"Some. Usually enough. I lost control and went badass on them." The man smiled. "Will one of us be able to find work?"
"When you get to the city, head to the magic worker's first. Tell them you're an apprentice sent to study with him and ask one of the guards to escort you." Xander nodded at that. "That should allow you the best time. He will know the herbs to help his back, and if he doesn't there are temples there who could help and he would probably know someone who could lend you a spare room as well."
"How long do you think?"
"They only open every few years. I do not know how you will age." Xander grimaced and nodded. "Perhaps he can open it sooner."
"I'll pray so. Thank you. Share our meal with us?"
"No, I've got to move on. I was staying until you got back. One of my people wasn't too thrilled with strangers and started to make threatening moves. I sent him on." Xander smiled at that and gave him a hug. "It will be fine," he promised. "Stay on this road and talk to the temple first. Before anyone else." Xander nodded. "Good luck." He stood up and walked over to his horse, getting on and heading off.
"I heard the number five," Horatio said.
"Good news and bad news. There's a small town within a half day's normal travel from here. With your back it'll be a full day. They will help travelers."
"And the bad?" Ryan asked.
"The nearest magic person is in the next city, which is five days past that. But the temple may be able to get us in with someone going to sell or trade in the city if we could help him. We'll have to see." They both nodded at that. "He did say the temple has helped travelers in the past and should help us."
"The portal?" Horatio asked quietly.
"Opened by magic. He said all he's heard is it being opened every few years. We're not sure if it can be opened before then or not." Horatio swallowed. "He also said something odd. He wasn't sure if we'd age at their rate or not. His exact phrase was 'I'm not sure how you'll age'." Horatio looked at him, frowning. "We know time runs differently in different planes. In the demonic ones my body aged like the time was running. It may not here. This isn't demonic. This is a naturally occurring realm, Horatio. We could be nearly immortal here, even you."
"Will we heal slower?" Ryan asked, turning the animal over and then handing Horatio the stick. He grabbed the dagger and cut into his thumb, watching it heal. "Normal rate. On the demon plane that time I healed slower."
"You and me both," Xander agreed. "Right now, we need more information. The local temple might have some. Depending on how many people from our world have been drug here like we were." Horatio brightened up at that. "For right now, let's focus on the immediate goal of getting to that village and seeing if they can do something for your back, know anything about the portals, and can help us." Horatio relaxed and nodded, letting Ryan have the animal back. "Turn it, Ryan. It's smoking." Ryan flipped it over and let it burn on the other side. Xander considered his options, then looked at himself. "I need a bath." Horatio nodded. "I'll do that in the morning."
"Sure," Ryan agreed. "Both of us and we'll help Horatio if he needs it."
Horatio smiled and patted him on the back. "I'm not helpless, Ryan. Pampered and spoiled but not helpless. I can function now like I do on the job."
"If we have to, we'll play your bodyguards," Xander offered with a grin. "Since Ryan thinks I'm hot with a sword."
"I had a few fantasies about you with it," Ryan admitted with a small blush. "Then again I dreamed of superheroes a few times too." He looked at Xander. "Do you need spanked?"
"Not yet. I'll let you know," he shot back, making Ryan grin.
"Boys. Don't distract Ryan, he'll burn the creature."
"It was a bunny."
"I don't want to know," Horatio assured him. "I'm forgetting you said that and I'm never eating meat again once we get home." Xander nodded that he agreed, then took his turn with the beast on a stick.
Xander walked up to the gates of the city, smiling at the guards while the other two caught up. They had helped someone selling his cows come up to the local beast market. It was about a quarter day's walk behind them but Horatio had gotten to ride the few days they had been with him. "I'm an apprentice magic user sent to see your sorcerer. Is he in residence and where might that be?" he asked politely.
"Back by the temples," one of them said, sounding bored.
"Which way is that?" Ryan asked, looking confused. "We've never been here before."
One of the guards peeked his head out of the wall and nodded. "I can take you to him. He's shopping." They smiled and nodded their thanks, following him. "So, you're a sorcerer?"
"I have a small gift with plants," Xander offered. "I need to ask him questions."
"That is understandable," he said, looking them over. They were wearing clothes he had never seen before. He noticed one was in pain. "Your friend is ill?"
"We were attacked and drug here against our will," Xander said quietly, looking at him. "During that his back was hurt. Just slightly but enough to cause some discomfort."
The guard nodded. "We've heard that there were barbarians who sold people. We don't do that here."
"I killed most of the ones trying to sell me," Xander admitted, shrugging a bit. "I was not a happy person." He still hoped his dog was okay. He hadn't been taken with them so he hoped he was guarding Don and Danny at the moment. They were led to a small stall and he coughed politely, getting the attention of the customer, who turned around fully and looked at him. He looked like a standard white guy from their world. The local people were more tanned and had more bluish tints to their coloring than most of their version of humans did. "We were sent to you," he said in English. "We were snatched through the portals. I can do some limited plant magic."
The man groaned and nodded. "Come my way." He looked at Horatio then sighed. "There is help for him. Come to my house, boys." He paid for his things and smiled at the guard, tipping him. "Thank you."
"They were lost."
"It happens when one is snatched." He smiled and led them off. "I haven't seen anyone from home in a few years," he admitted, his accent odd and not one any of them could place. "Who are we?"
"I'm Ryan, this is Horatio leaning on me, and that's Xander," he introduced. "Where are you from?"
"I was educated in Latvia but I grew up in Denmark." He walked them to a small house and let them inside, then closed the door with a sigh. "I hate the market." He walked them back to the kitchen, pointing at a chair. "Sit, Horatio. It will help."
"I think he's starting to slip a disk," Ryan offered, helping him sit down. Then he looked at him. "We were stolen off Xander's lawn in Miami."
"I hear it's a beautiful city in the making. What do you do there?"
"They're cops and I'm pampered and spoiled," Xander told him with a small grin. "Did you get stolen too?"
"No, I got banished by someone. I lost a fight with a stupid wizard."
"Watcher?" Xander asked.
"No, but I've heard of them. You can't do much and not hear of them in my world. How would you know?"
"I helped a slayer in Sunnydale." The man gaped. He nodded. "Which is why I have some limited plant helping powers."
"Wonderful," he agreed. "Sit, boys. I will not harm Horatio. There is much to tell you first." They sat and he made some tea, bringing it over. "Horatio, yours is laced with a mild pain killer to ease some of that. It's basically their version of natural aspirin."
"Thank you," he said quietly, sipping it. "We were told the portals only open every two years?"
"Yes, they do. They can be forced open then. They don't occur naturally. Now, where they open is different every year." He looked at Xander. "What are you?"
"GHS," he admitted. The man looked confused. "I've got a hormone problem that makes people go gushy and nice over me."
"You're going to Cupid's temple tomorrow then. You and Horatio both." He looked at him again. "There is good news. You will age at the rate you do at home. It will only be a few hours there." Horatio put down the cup and stared at him. "Exactly. Those of us who ended up here have found a very long life if we're not killed." He frowned again. "Your hormones, they soak out and make others feel lust?"
Xander nodded. "Basically. There's others of us here?"
"Who is? We heard that name from the people who stole us," Ryan offered.
"He's one of you and he's seen as an avatar of Cupid. He blesses weddings and things and acts as a high priest." Xander nodded at that. "We'll get you three there today, young man. There have been those who would harm him."
"We see plenty of those," Ryan admitted, making the wizard laugh. "What is your name?"
"Hershal." He saw Horatio's amused look. "My mother's father. Call me Hersh."
"Sure, Hersh," Xander agreed. "What else can you tell us?"
"For right now, let us deal with the practicalities. I can shield you here." He looked at Xander. "You'll probably want something to do most of the day besides my magic books. What else can you do?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "Maybe I can help out in a library? Giles ran one for years and we worked there with the slayer."
"All right. Would you consent to date someone?"
"Probably not. I don't want to whore myself."
"That's not a problem," he agreed. "I know that Tumie must take on many partners a year to keep himself under control. He's visited here a few times. He's been here eight hundred years local time."
Horatio did the math. "A few years back, a level eight named Randal Tumie was stolen," he said quietly. "He disappeared off the face of the earth. We thought he was either dead or content. It could be him."
"He does serve Cupid. That's why I would suggest you three start there. They could also probably help you." He swallowed. "It'll be all right, boys. We'll do what we can."
Xander nodded. "Thank you. Is there anything else we can do?"
"There is a small church for those who are Christian. There was a priest who followed one of us over and set up a chapel." Horatio nodded at that. "The others if I may ask?"
"I'm borderline Wiccan," Xander offered quietly.
"On this side of the city are Cupid, Ares, and Strife's temples. Along with a small shrine to someone I take as being like Zeus but not in the standard forms. It's to a flying bull?"
Xander straightened up. "That's a demonic symbol. It's one of their deities. Generally considered benevolent. He helps those stranded. He's the God over the Quarth." He looked at the others. "The Quarth are the sex demons. Where my hormones draw them more often, I'm often asked if I'm part one." They both gave him thin smiles. "On the other side of the city?"
"Ones to Aphrodite, Hera in her local name, and Artemis. Athena has one but again it's a smaller shrine instead of a full temple with priests. She's got a major one a few cities over. Hecate has a small shrine as well, Xander."
"Good to know. The local language. Is it hard to learn?"
"No, not in the least and the priests can help you with that," he assured them. They smiled at that. "It will be fine. The two years won't be arduous."
"I'm married," Horatio told him.
"Then the priests there can help you and share you with Aphrodite. That is her domain," Hersh assured him. "No one here will push that issue. Well, maybe the priest but he's a bit picky most days. We don't associate much. He hates what I can do."
"Then I'll drop Horatio off," Ryan offered. "Is there anything else we should be aware of?"
"If someone comes after you to take or hurt you, it is common to save yourself but if the guards jump in they're going to expect a bribe. They're highly underpaid." He smiled. "That is a problem world-wide around here. Should I write Tumie about you three?"
"Let's see what the temple can do for Horatio's back," Ryan offered. "Though we should probably talk with him to see if he wants to go home."
Horatio nodded. "Was he harmed by whoever took him?"
"It's said that whoever brought him over or bought him from whoever brought him over did mark him so he could not function as a man. Not castrated but a system of two bars with bolts holding them together so he had blood but not function."
"It's not that uncommon when one has us," Horatio agreed. Ryan gave him a horrified look.
"If they do that, we can't fight as much and we won't enjoy anyone else or do their guards," Xander told him. "A good half of us who're taken by someone, especially in parts of the Middle East and Asia, are gelded, Ryan. One of the demons did that to me. Thankfully he did it wrong so I healed."
Ryan shuddered. "I never, ever want to be like you, Xander." Horatio gave him an amused look. "I'd guess they're stolen more often when they're like Xander than you." Horatio nodded. "Would they...." He nodded again, pressing his lips together. "I'm so sorry. No one and nothing is coming near you two." He hugged his boss then Xander. "Sorry but that's foul."
"It hurts too," Xander agreed. "Thank you, Hersh. Let us do that now, that way they can have someone who can hopefully help his back." Hersh smiled at that. "When should we return?"
"Whenever they release you. I'm here unless I'm at the palace doing something for him." Xander nodded and stood up, shaking his hand. "Be safe." He watched as they helped Horatio up and out to the temple. Then he sent up a prayer for their safety. This is not their world and they wouldn't be happy here.
Xander pointed at the temples. "That's Cupid's. The one on the right is Ares'. The one just to the left and behind him is Strife's. The church is there, Horatio." Horatio nodded. "Let's go to Cupid's."
"Do we think they won't take advantage of our gifts?" Horatio asked.
"They're over us. Cupid was over lust. We'd have been like his priests back in the day. Aphrodite would be over you and Speed. You can go there after you can move."
"I'll be fine, boys. Quit fussing."
"Shut up, Horatio," Xander complained. "I've got to fuss over someone." Horatio moaned. "Seriously. Otherwise I'll go insane from the boredom." He walked them into the temple and knelt to say a quick prayer. One of the priests came out and he looked up at him, blinking hard. "We are travelers stolen by the portal from our world."
"I can feel you," he agreed. "Come, into the safer areas." He led them back, watching Horatio move. "You are injured?"
"We think he twisted his back," Ryan agreed. "You speak English?"
"The Gods gave us the language a few years ago. They said more would be speaking this." He looked at Xander. "You emote."
"Horatio and I both emote. He is mated and married. His mate is not here so we're protecting him."
"Agreed. Let me get a high priest. Sit and rest." He pointed at the pillows then hurried off. He found the Highest of the High in the temple talking with someone he knew. "Lord Cupid," he said, falling to his knees. "Two who emote are here. One is injured, his back."
"I'll look at them," he agreed. "Come, Tac." He patted the younger one when he walked past him. "You've done the right thing. Quit stressing." He followed the hormone trail. "Oooh, one's a level ten GHS. The other's..." He sniffed. "Level seven or so." He tapped and walked in and Xander gaped, then got to his knees. "Enough," he ordered. "I don't need it at the moment." He smiled at him. "It's all right, you're safe."
"You have wings," Ryan said, stating the obvious.
"That's Cupid," Xander said dryly. "Welcome to the other strange stuff, Ryan."
"Oops. Didn't mean to insult or anything," he offered, blushing some.
"Plenty of people stare at my wings, Mr. Wolfe," he said with a smug look. "They're very soft too." He looked at Horatio. "Seven?"
"Six," he said quietly, staring at him. "I don't..."
"Things are different here. This is where we retreated, Horatio Caine. Your own faith is here as well. For right now, we can help you suppress that problem and help your back." Horatio smiled at that. "Plus give you something to do. My mother's priestesses could use someone to talk to the young and stupid who want to marry for no reason. You know what it takes to make a true love match work." He tipped his head at that. "Come here." He helped him stand up and looked him over. "Let me see your back." He turned him around. "You've got a swollen and protruding disc. Not the first we've seen. There's some massage techniques we use that can minimize it plus some heat. Come into the back. This is a section only for people like you and Xander there." He smiled and hauled Xander up. "Come on. Quit thinking those thoughts."
"Not like I can help it."
"True." He looked at the priest. "Get me some of the redberry oil and some of the berries for them." He nodded and hurried off. Cupid led them back, opening a special door. "Anything with that mark means they're mine and for GHS, guys. Memorize it." They nodded so he let them back there. There was a large wading and lounging pool. There were a few doors off to each side. "On this side of the room are rooms to help you wear those out if necessary. Go find something, Xander." He blushed but walked off. He let out a squeal at the sight of the toys at various heights around the room. "That's to let them do whatever they need. There's ones in the pools in certain spots that're warmed by the water and the water laps around you to make it better while you play. The middle one has a bed with a toy chest. The one on this side...." He smirked. "Xander?" He came out and went where he pointed. "Find one you like. I'll show you how to strap it in." Xander looked and walked in, looking at the strange things. "Pick a toy." Xander pointed at one. "Good choice. I like that one." He strapped it into the small harness at the end of the swing. "Strip, swing up." Xander stripped, facing away from Horatio, then looked at the swing. Ryan helped him into it. "Play often?"
"Now and then. How does this one lower?" Cupid pointed. "Ah. Scoot back down, Xander. Hands in the loop, stretch out. Xander stretched then wiggled his way down. "Lower." He helped Xander's hips hit where they needed. He got some lube and slicked the marble toy, then gave them another yank down, making Xander yelp when the toy slid in. Then he gave the swing a shove, watching as the natural rhythm of the swing moved the toy for him. Ryan smiled at him. "I'll have to remember this for his home." He set it moving harder then suddenly stopped it and Xander shot off, panting hard. "Swing." Xander shifted and the swing moved. Ryan set it in motion again then he walked Horatio out and helped him lay down on the padded table someone had set up. "Thank you." He looked at the berries. "Will that help them?"
"It helps suppress it," Cupid called. "I'll be there in a minute. Let me finish wearing him out." He took off the toy, making the boy whimper. "Hold on, greedy." He grinned and put a different one in. "This one is longer. It'll hit your prostate better." Xander nodded eagerly. "Bring me a few of the berries," he ordered, taking a few to feed them to him while one of the priests moved the swing. "Gotta love you level ten boys. You're my best curse ever," he shared, smiling and patting his hair. Xander moaned. "Relax. It'll take a few hours. After this, go to Strife's temple. We'll take care of Horatio for a few hours." Xander nodded. "Good boy." He walked out, going to feed Horatio a few of the berries. "These will help you suppress it. It'll bring you down to a level one or two. It'll bring Xander down closer to you if they work on him." He took some of the oil and worked it into his hands, then attacked the lower back, making Horatio moan.
"Relax, let me do this. Dad did this to himself a few times, Horatio. After you're more relaxed, we'll send you to the church tonight. I'm sending Xander to Strife's and then probably to Ares' temple. He'll come get you. Come back here tomorrow and we'll work on teaching you and Ryan the local language. Then we'll send you to mom's since you're married. That way you have something to do and you're not so bored." Horatio nodded. "Good boy. Just relax. I've got you." He worked a few spots harder, releasing the stress that was keeping the disc in compression. The lump got a bit less prominent and he applied some heat via some wrapped warmed stones. Horatio moaned and shifted. "Good. That'll help. You'll need this every few days but that's easy enough." He stroked over the back of his hair. "You guys were the best curse I ever laid," he whispered. "One young man wanted to be as wanted as I was. So I let him be. One finds another because you call out to others. He found others and they formed the group you belong to." Horatio looked at him so he smiled. "Truth."
"We were told it was a group of concubines."
"Which was under me, dear. I'm over passion, lust, and desire." He stroked through his hair again. "No one here will ever make you violate your vows. If they offer, they're trying to help. Be polite and firmly state you're married." Horatio nodded. "Good man." He ran a hand over the mark. "He loves you and misses you." He smiled. "When you're done, I'll have one of the priests escort you to the church."
"You're one of mine. Of course I take care of my own. Especially since Xander could probably enslave the whole city," he said dryly when Xander shrieked in pleasure. He looked around, Ryan was back in there. "We'll help you keep him under control. Remember, you're not helpless. You're a very strong man with a very strong mind. There shouldn't be any danger of you losing either one for years." He smiled at his thoughts of his mate. "Or him, Horatio. You'll go together." Horatio nodded and swallowed. "They lost viewing abilities when you guys escaped. How did you escape?"
"Xander got the people trying to sell him and got a sword."
"Hmm. No wonder Strife wanted to see him. Guys his level are as much Strife's as mine," he said with a wink. "They cause a lot of chaos and very pretty hell."
"All over my poor city," he agreed dryly, putting his head back down. "Thank you, Cupid."
"I know it's strange, but the world is a wonderful place. If you need me, I'm here. I don't expect you to convert. Like I said, you're already mine." He grinned. "Now rest and let the heat and berries work. I'm going to get Xander out of there and rinsed off in the pool then send him to Strife's temple." That got a nod. "Thank you." He got up and went in there, finding Ryan was helping Xander out and letting him cuddle. "Good. Is it better?"
"He's not oozing it anymore," Ryan admitted. "I think he drove some of the cattle we traveled with into heat."
"It's possible. Go toss him in the pool. He needs to go to Strife's. You'll stay with Horatio for now." Ryan nodded, whispering in the sleepy man's ear. That got a nod and Xander went out and dove into the water, getting fully clean for the first time in days. Ryan dove in with him, letting them scrub each other's backs. He swatted Xander with a wing and he got out, going to get his clothes and head off. When he checked the rocks and found them cool, he put Horatio into the pool and let him bath with Ryan's help. Then he led them to the other side's rooms and put him onto a bed for now. Once he woke up he could go to the church.
Xander looked around the temple as he walked in. "This isn't what I expected. For some reason I expected pink and orange paisley." A high pitched voice giggled and he followed it, finding someone beside the altar. "I was sent here to give thanks for our survival."
"I heard already," he promised, grinning at him. He pulled Xander over, staring into his eyes. "You've been mine since you were five and pulled your first pank, Alexander Lavelle Harris. Do you acknowledge that?" he asked, smiling at him.
"Um..." He pulled back and looked at him. "I don't recognize you."
"I'm Strife." He pointed at the symbol. "You used to find me in the clouds." Xander stared then looked at him and nodded, going to his knees. "Not necessary and Cupe should've worn that out of you for now. All you level tens are mine but you're special. Your daddy even gave you to me by naming you mine." He pulled him up and closer again. "Do you acknowledge that you're mine?"
"I'm yours," he whispered.
Strife kissed him. "Good. Now, mine, there's some things you gotta know. All you level tens are mine because you guys cause hell that makes me hard and wet." Xander blushed at that. "It does." He grinned and hopped up, pulling him up beside him onto the altar. "You are as much mine as you are Cupid's. There is much not even Giles' books told you, including that we have anchors in your world as well."
"I figured you would. Faith itself is an anchor."
"Yes, but we have priests we imbue with ourselves to protect ourselves and keep our powers steady. Our main anchor is one of you. Immortal." Xander blinked at that. "Unc's half over the game," he said dryly. "We knew when you were pulled across."
"Was it me?"
"No, it wasn't. It was Horatio. Redheads are really rare around here. I'll make sure he knows that too if he nags you." He stroked over his face. "I should mark you as an anchor but I'd need the other two you serve's permission."
"Who? Cupid and who?"
"You're a warrior as much as a lover, Xander. Think." He flipped him on the forehead. Xander gave him an adoring look. "Think he's hot, huh?"
"Who didn't! After that show? Did you guys do that?"
"Jace, the main anchor, did." He smirked. "He's related ta Joxer." He stroked him again. "Unc? Can I have a few? Cupe, I'm marking this one as mine."
"Go for it," Cupid's voice called. "Add mine too, dude. He's definitely anchor material." It faded off.
Ares appeared, looking at Xander. "Coming my way next?"
"Cupid said to come here first, Lord Ares," he said, sliding off the altar. "I meant no offense."
"Good." He looked him over, moving closer until he could lay a hand on his head. "Interesting. Would you give up my area while you're here?"
"I'll need to be able to defend myself and Horatio."
"Agreeable but you would let others fight for you?"
"I can have him trained. You would not lose yourself while you are here? Berserkers upset many around here."
"I would. It's a survival instinct."
"Agreed. I will train Ryan. You will sit around and look pretty, plus work for Cupid and Strife."
"I'll train him and he'll train you at home. Hershal could use it too. In return, we'll guard your party, Xander. Nothing will touch you if I have my way." Xander considered it. "Let it go, Xander. You're one of mine but not naturally. It is counter to your true nature to fight. When you go home, you'll go to Las Vegas and see our anchor, Jace. You and Ryan both. She'll help him and you'll split her duties. You'll be able to fight when necessary, but it is not your nature."
"I have no true keeper, Ares."
"I know. Danny is good for you." He smiled. "You'll make it with what you have and what you can find. That alone will keep Strife in power for centuries each time you try to date." Xander blushed at that and looked down. "Think hard, Xander."
"I know I need to drop into that special spot when I fight, but the berserker tendencies are dangerous." He looked at him again. "I won't use them if we'll be protected, unless I have to protect us and nothing else will."
"Good enough," he agreed. That was something he could understand. "For that, we'll protect you and only let those who want to worship you near you." Xander nodded at that. "It will make your life easier and we can use it to show them how big their egos are because you three are untouchable. Now, when Tumie comes, he'll be going with you. He's getting ill."
"Can I learn from Hershal, Lord Ares? Or Lord Strife?"
"It can only help," Strife promised. "Learn away, kiddo." Xander smiled and he felt himself melt. He came over. "I'm marking him as an anchor, Unc."
"Agreeable. It will hurt, Xander. It's a tattoo here so it's visible."
Xander swallowed. "I don't think they'll mind and it won't have to be done every day, right?" They shook their heads. "Then I accept. It'll give me something to do." They both smirked at him. "Will Ryan agree?"
"He needs the instruction, Xander. I'll escort you to talk to him personally," Ares promised. "On the altar." Xander walked back there and stripped down, letting them do whatever they wanted. Ares growled. He was very pretty. Strife gave him a smirk. "Where is he on Cupid's scale?"
"He's a level ten GHS, Unc," Strife said proudly. They got together and Cupid came over to help wind the tattoos with their marks around the boy's waist and hip bones. All their marks, but a few new ones popped up. One or two of Aphrodite's. One of Hera's. One of Hecate's just under his navel. Ares let a small line of symbols flow down from the back to the crack of his ass, then they sealed it off. Xander closed his eyes and prayed, they all felt it. It was an energy rush like they hadn't had in years. They sealed their influence into him. That's when Cupid grimaced. "What?" Strife asked.
"He's allergic to the berries. He's gonna surge." He hauled Xander up and disappeared with him, coming back a minute later. "There, solved," he said, sounding sleepy. "Ryan and Horatio are in the church." They nodded and he smiled at Xander. "We'll make sure you're safe, Xander. Here and at home. Remember to see Jace when you get home."
"Yes, Lord Cupid." He kissed him again. "Thank you."
"Welcome, dear. Put back on your pants. We'll work on clothes tomorrow plus something for your hair. That's gotta be braided again."
Ares smirked. "He is a consort of a chosen warrior, Cupid. He can pick and choose what I've been given. It's only fair. They need new swords." Xander concentrated and called his to him, handing it over. "That's crap," he noted dryly. "No wonder you beat the barbarians. We'll get Ryan a better blade too. Come on. Say goodbye to Strife until tomorrow." Xander waved with a shy smile and walked out with Ares beside him protectively. Even then a few tried to touch him. "I'm giving you guys a guard," he said finally, giving one a disgusted look. He shook his head and opened the door of the church. Horatio and the priest were talking, countering each other about his marriage being valid. It sounded friendly and Horatio was smiling at the logical arguments. "Good, you're here."
"Lord Ares?" the priest asked, looking horrified. "You never come here."
"This time I had to." He looked at Horatio. "You will not see another redhead on this realm. They're so rare, they're more precious than being the lover of a God." Horatio blanched at that. "Tumie's one. He'll tell you the same thing when he comes soon. Xander and I talked. If he stays in warrior mode, he'll start to lose control and he'll surge and then explode one day. As much as Strife might like it, we don't want this city to be under his boot." Horatio nodded quickly. "So we've come to a deal. We have people who are our special priests."
"Anchors, those who hold the faith when the times are hard," the priest agreed. "He is?"
"He is. He's mine, Cupid's, and Strife's. All level tens are Cupid and Strife's together." Horatio nodded quickly at that, making Xander grin at him. "So he's going to leave the defense to Ryan. Who I will see trained." He looked at Ryan. "Starting first thing tomorrow morning, Mr. Wolfe. Am I understood?"
"As soon as I've gotten up."
"Wear him out before you come," Ares said, handing him over.
"If I do that, I'll nap afterward and won't get up until noon," he noted dryly, smiling some. "How about each night?"
"That's fine, just try. Between you and what Cupid can do, we should be able to keep him under control. Unfortunately he's the type that the berries made surge." He looked at Horatio again. "Also, since even *I* couldn't keep him from being touched, I'll assign you a guard."
"Why?" Horatio asked.
"Xander's important. There's not a lot of anchors who can be anchors for more than one God or Goddess. Xander has three. We're going to keep him safe at all costs. That's why Ryan can spend an hour a day after he's done working with Xander on what he learned that day." Ryan nodded at that. "Good. Do your best, Wolfe. Let the priests know if he starts to surge or send Horatio in with him. They'll expect to see you both often." Horatio nodded at that. "Also, Aphrodite is squealing in eagerness over you. You're the sort of couple she loves, Horatio. You'll help her a lot. Tomorrow, he'll bring you over there to make his prayers over there in thanks, including to Artemis," he reminded Xander, who nodded. "Good. Aphrodite will use you to teach and tell others what a marriage should be. Not what is always is."
"I'll do what I can," Horatio agreed. "What about his...admirers."
Ares moaned. "Don't remind me but I'll be letting Ryan borrow some of the tithes I've gotten. To everyone around here, Ryan will be seen as a favored warrior of mine in training. Xander is his consort and they both protect you. Xander consented to be marked." He moved his waistband to show off the tattoo. "It shows who he belongs to and who he powers basically. It lets us check on him and help him if he's in trouble."
"Will it work in Miami?" Ryan asked. "This is the second time I've been stolen with him."
Ares smirked at him. "And you'll get to do that for many more centuries, Mr. Wolfe. We're going to make sure of it," he said cheerfully. "Nothing will happen to Xander. Ever." Ryan nodded at that, looking down. "Good boy." He patted him on the head like he would one of his dogs. He looked at Horatio again. "You're in charge." He disappeared.
Horatio looked at Xander. "Well." He smirked. "No wonder you get along so well with the ferrets." Xander blushed but giggled. "You okay?"
"I'm fine." He moved forward to hug him. "He said I'd explode and it'd be worse than the cows trying to mate under you."
"Wonderful. We'll keep you out of the public eye, Xander. As much as we can." He nodded at the priest. "Thank you."
"I'm here if you need me, Horatio. Even knowing this. Knowing and helping an anchor shouldn't shake your faith, just widen your perspective." He nodded politely at Ryan. "No weapons in my church."
"Of course not." He smiled and shook his hand. "Thank you." He walked out, guarding those two. "Xander, less cuddly you. We're getting a lot of looks." He saw a few warriors coming their way and mentally hoped they were good guys. One of them stiffened and hurried over.
"Let us escort you to your friend's house before something happens." They surrounded them and escorted them back to Hershal's house, waiting until they were inside to go back to their fun. It was their night off.
Ryan sighed and looked at Xander. "Are you on a high?"
"I'm happy and at peace, Ryan. It explains so much! My father offered me to Strife when I was a kid."
"That does explain a lot about your high school years," Ryan agreed dryly. Xander shrugged at that. "Horatio, how's your back?"
"It's better. Not fully perfect but better."
Hershal came out of the kitchen, pausing to look at Xander. "Hmm, three of them and you do the work of a few others. Hopefully we'll be able to keep you safe."
"We were escorted back and I'm learning how to use my sword better," Ryan offered.
"Good, you'll need it. I threw those gross blankets into the wash to soak, boys. Come eat." They headed back with him. He smiled at Xander. "That feeling of peace will last. Reset your levels based on it tonight." Xander nodded, concentrating until he was muted. "Good." He handed over food. "Tumie will be here within two months' time. He's heard and he sent a messenger. The king is always pleased. It gives him someone to mentally spar with and talk to plus his wife always ends up pregnant. It's a good omen for the city." They all smiled. "Eat." They dug in and ate, Horatio moaning. "Are you allergic to things?"
"No. Thinking about something. You surged on the berries?"
"Cupid kinda had to help me personally," Xander agreed sheepishly. "I'm sorry, Horatio."
"It's all right, Xander. We'll work on it." He patted him on the back. Someone tapped on the door. Hershal got up and went to answer it. "Try, Xander. Please?"
"I am," he assured him. "I promised I wouldn't fight unless I had to so we were protected."
"That's fine," Horatio agreed. "It's probably wiser." Ryan smiled at that. "Good boy." Hershal dropped a box in front of Xander. "Already?"
"Tumie sent it with his messenger. He heard one was like him. Where would you be with what he is?"
"Higher," Xander offered.
"Lower," Horatio told him.
"Interesting. Did they say anything?"
"Ryan's going to Ares' in the morning. Horatio and I are going to Hera's first, that way we do it in the proper order. Then he'll go to Aphrodite's while I go to Artemis' and then back to join him. I'll put some of my lunch at Hecate's." He finished up and opened the box, staring at the hair sticks in there. "Those are beautiful works." He pulled one out to look at it more closely. "I'll have to thank him for letting me borrow them. Horatio." He pulled out a bracelet. "Since you don't have girly hair."
"Thankfully. I'd look dumb in it."
Xander looked at him. "Do I?"
"No, it suits you."
Xander beamed. "Thank you." He looked at Ryan. "Bring your sword with you. At the very least it's a decent enough practice blade."
"Sure." He smiled and pulled Xander over to wind up his hair, using the hair sticks to hold it up. "There. Off your neck." He looked at Hershal. "Will we sleep on a normal schedule and all that?"
"You will. Your hair will grow on a natural schedule as well. It's only the aging, the base cellular issues, that are on your native planet's schedule." Horatio gave him a searching look. "I've been here so long it makes no difference, Horatio. It was barely the turn the century when I was banished."
"The nineteen hundreds?" Ryan asked. He nodded. "Wow. It's 2003 at home." Hershal moaned. "Sorry."
"No, I knew my body was aging. I'll use the last of my time to tutor Xander so he's not perpetually bored and so he learns more control and more than how to make plants grow." He smiled. "Eat more, boys. You're not robbing me of resources." They dug in and ate more. Then he showed them up to the attic. "It's not the best but it's clean and private."
"That's fine," Ryan agreed. "It's a great room. Thank you, Hersh."
"You're welcome, Ryan." Xander hugged him. "You as well, young man. Now, get Horatio to bed." They nodded and he left, leaving them a small oil lamp.
"I agree, let's go to bed," Ryan said. They looked at the large straw mattress then at them. "Horatio, do you mind sharing with us?"
"I like to cuddle, Ryan. It's all right." He stripped down to his boxers. "Was there money in the box? I don't want to depend on the temple for things."
Xander sat down on the foot of the bed to dig in it. "Yup, about ten coins." He held them up. "We'll go to the market after you're done at Aphrodite's." Horatio nodded at that. "That way we look more like natives. Because no one around here wears suits." Horatio smiled at that and they all stripped down. Ryan looked at Xander, who put back on his pants. "Sorry."
"I know you won't molest me, Xander. Snuggle into Ryan's back," Horatio ordered. Xander stripped down and snuggled into Ryan's back while he got Ryan's front. He blew out the lamp and they listened to the house go quiet. "Xander, are you sure you should do that?" he asked finally. "It could warp their world."
"It won't and I'm sure. It's an acknowledgment of who I am, Horatio. I was already theirs. So much made sense," he offered quietly. "It all clicked into place when Strife said my father had given me to him when I was younger."
Ryan shifted to hold him. "We'll still watch over you, Xander. You'll need it." Xander nodded against his shoulder. "Go to sleep." He stroked his back and hair, waiting until he snored. "Horatio?"
"I'm worried he'll decide to stay."
"He won't. He likes his tv and computer too much," Ryan assured him. "We'll be fine." Horatio nodded. "You can cuddle. Speed knows you won't cheat with me."
"Thank you." He shifted closer, taking Xander's hand to hold. "I'm just as worried as you are; we'll watch him, Ryan."
"Thanks. Sometimes he enjoys being the courted one."
"Everyone does," Horatio assured him. "It's a massive ego boost when you find out someone wants you enough to treat you well and buy you things. For boys like Xander it's addictive. We'll still be fine." He snuggled in a bit better. Ryan stroked his back. "Thank you."
"Welcome, boss. Whatever you need without making you break your vows to Speed. That's too special to break unless you're in the worst sort of surges."
"Agreed," he said quietly. He closed his eyes and Xander shifted. "Sleep, Xander. We're safe now." Xander mumbled something and snored a few more times. Horatio let himself drift off as well, comforted and warm for the first time in days.
The three immortals got together in the living room that night with Speed. "We're doing what?" Speed asked again.
Danny coughed. "I got a call from someone who deals with some strange stuff. They'll only be gone for a few hours total, guys. Two years will pass for them but only hours for us." Speed nodded slowly at that. "They're fine and well. Someone is watching over them for us. Her contacts said that they're safe. They've found someone who knows about the portals and another GHS over there."
"Why were they taken?" Don asked. "Did she know?"
"Yeah. Redheads are so rare they're almost mythical over there." Speed moaned, holding his head. "They've got it and it's okay. They've got shelter and there's a few temples who're looking after the boys. Including one to Ares that's helping Ryan protect them."
"Tell me Xander didn't charm a temple?" Eric begged. Danny shook his head so he relaxed. "Then why?"
"Someone must've seen the fight. Realized Xander nearly lost it during it. They said they're protected and all we have to do is get ready to spoil them when they get back." Danny smiled at Speed. "Our guest room is yours. Anything you want, go ahead and get. Oh, she did say that Horatio's back went out. Something about a lump, might've been a disc?"
"He's had a few problems for the last few months. Stress and physical reasons," Speed admitted, sipping his beer. "I need to get him home."
"For the first few minutes, let's keep the boys together," Eric offered. "They're going to be used to being together. This way if we need to deprogram the instincts they've got to protect each other it'll be easier." Speed nodded at that. "Like prisoners held together."
"That's fine. I need to get some lube and stuff."
"Steal from his toybox, please," Don said dryly, sipping his own beer. "Plus we've got nearly two cases of lube in the closet. Take some." Speed smiled and nodded. "You too, Eric. You can have the other guest room. Speed, take my bedroom. Eric, pick a bedroom. We'll set up now." They nodded and went to do that while he and Danny set up to welcome Xander home and spank him until he begged for mercy. "How does your contact know what's going on over there? Are they a sorcerer type?" he asked finally.
"No, Jace has some odd contacts," Danny admitted. "She runs a resort on holy ground that's a sanctuary and refuge for us and our families. She's a great lady. She's also Ancient Greek. She still prays to Ares and them."
"So she's got a hotline to the Gods over there?"
Danny shrugged. "I don't know. I didn't want to ask. She sounded certain and that's all I needed to know."
"Sure," Don agreed. "Whatever." They shared a look. "Xander's got to be in heaven."
"Yeah, hot and cold running strange stuff that's not dangerous. Plus some mild adoration." They shared a smile and got out the handcuffs. Xander wasn't going to be getting away for a very long time.
Xander came to the door when Hershal called a few months into their tenure. "Yes?"
"Sire, we have a summons for you to attend Tumie," the messenger said. "You and your party."
"Give us ten minutes to change." That got a nod. He walked off. "Guys, Tumie's here and wants to see us," he called. "Put on clothes and stuff." He headed up the stairs and put on what Horatio laid out, then let Ryan fuss with his hair. Ryan liked his hair and he was good at fussing over it. They came down the stairs and found their shoes, following the messenger back to the palace. Xander smiled at the man waiting on them. "Well met."
"Well met, Priests of Cupid," the man said. "Tumie is this way please." He looked them over and nodded. "You are appropriate." He walked them into a private audience chamber and smiled at the squeal and hugs they got. He left them alone, closing the door behind him.
"Oh, thank the Gods! You're what, American?" he asked, his accent sounding French.
"We are. Ryan and I are native of Miami and Xander's recently moved out there," Horatio said, smiling at him. "I'm Horatio Caine."
"I've seen your name in the membership book, Horatio. And this one?" he asked, looking at Ryan. "A keeper?"
"Temporary for Xander. Ryan Wolfe." He shook his hand. "I work with Horatio."
"Wonderful. I don't know you, young man."
"I'm Xander. I've only been found a little bit over a year now. I'm a level ten," he admitted sheepishly.
"Dear Lord, man. How are you surviving with only one of you?" He looked at Horatio, who shook his head quickly. "No?"
"I'm married to my keeper."
"Ah. Love can be like that."
"Cupid's temple helps a lot," Ryan assured him. "We drag him back there at least once a week." Tumie laughed at that and drug them to some seats. "We're figuring out how to open the portal."
"Please, Goddess, take me with you," he begged. "Please?"
"Of course," Horatio agreed. "Anyone who wants to come with us." Tumie smiled and relaxed, nodding at that. "We're hoping to land back in Miami."
"I can always call my former keeper and have him pick me up or get a ride somehow, dear. I'm not going to be picky. Just get me home. I want this bar removed!" he complained. Horatio nodded. "If I do it here, I'll infect and possibly die."
"We'll get you to the hospital right after we get home," Horatio promised.
"Oh, good. Would you two like to help me now and then? Blessing weddings and the like? It's good money in presents and Xander could probably find someone now and then if he needed to. I've taught many a young man how to be a better lover for his wife."
"If you need my help, you'll call," Xander promised. "Right now I'm studying magic. Horatio's teaching at Aphrodite's temple about how to have a good and happy marriage. Ryan's learning at Ares'."
"Wonderful. The portal won't open in the city. You'll need to be out further away from humanity. At least a day's walk. That'll come in handy." They smiled and nodded. "Anyway, I'm going with you boys and I'm staying in town until you go. I'll be at Hera's a lot since I do sanctify weddings and make them want to mate that night. They think I bring fertility and I'm not sure if I do or not anymore." He touched Horatio's hair. "You are so rare here."
"I was told that's why we were taken."
"Why you were taken. They were taken to be sold as slaves. You were taken to be someone's concubine. They wouldn't know Xander was without him broadcasting."
"Which was why I killed a few people getting us away," Xander agreed dryly. "Who took you?"
"Oh, there was a king once who had a sorcerer he ordered to find him someone exotic and special as his concubine. He found me when the portals opened and stole me." He fingered his own copper hair. Then he smiled. "He's also the one who put the bar on me. He died centuries ago and I went to Cupid's temple because they had told me to. I found shelter and they suggested I help sanctify marriages." He shrugged. "It's great. I get to tell some guys that they're stupid for wanting that girl. I get to tell some women that they can do better. Every few months I give a short class on how to prepare and treasure your lover on your wedding night so I get what I need." He smiled at Xander. "Plus I get bribes to make weddings go through sooner. Including some very nice kings who wanted their daughters to be blessed with fertility since they were pregnant. Those hair sticks you wear came from one of them recently. I loathed the man but he was good at what he did." They nodded at that. "Oh, I've been so *bored*!" he complained.
"I can understand why," Ryan assured him. "We're down with Hershal, the sorcerer, if you want to borrow us." That got him hugged again. "Thanks."
"You'll learn, sweetie, trust me. You'll learn. Having a boy like Xander on your lap is a wonderful thing."
"Oh it is," he agreed happily, smiling at him. "As a matter of fact, I'm supposed to bring him with me tomorrow." Xander looked at him. "The trainer said so. From on high."
"Sure. Any idea why?"
"No. I was told to make sure you weren't going to smarm the whole training group but maybe you'll be there to help them learn to fight while distracted by their bodies. It's a valuable lesson." Horatio nodded at that. "Either that or we'll be getting new guards since the last ones tried to break in and steal him from the bed a few nights ago." Tumie laughed. "I heard a long rant about how Strife had gotten a rush so bad he was shiver and shaking for hours before he finally got it under control."
"It's a good thing you're training then," Tumie offered, smiling at them. "Now, come, tell me what I've missed on tv." Xander smiled and chatted with him in one of the few subjects he knew while the other ones looked around the room and guarded them from the people who wanted to come in during it.
Ryan pulled his sword and glared. "Out!" They ran out and he put it away. "Xander, please lock it down?" he asked patiently.
"That might be me, Mr. Wolfe," Horatio offered. "If it was either of them, they would already be taken and we'd have been taken as well." Ryan moaned and nodded. "I'll go tonight."
"Thank you." He smiled sweetly. "This is the toughest job I'll ever love. I won't need military service after this."
"I've got my own guards, boys. No one would *dare* touch me," Tumie assured them all. He rang a small bell and three men rushed in and fell to their knees next to him. "Someone tried to break in and steal us. Guard the doors, boys." They moved to do that. He sighed. "I'll miss them. I always do when they die."
"We all must die some day," Xander said pragmatically. Tumie nodded at that and let himself be hugged. "It'll be all right. You're nearly done here."
"Thank the Goddess," he said quietly. "I love it here but I want to work and I want to go home." Xander nodded and he let go, comforted by others who understood what it was like to be taken.
Xander walked into Cupid's temple on their year anniversary and knelt to pray. He was surging, he knew he was surging, and there was going to be a problem soon. Ryan was out of the city on maneuvers with the rest of his training class. Horatio was at Aphrodite's. Hershal had died the week before. So not only was he surging, he was bored, tired, and stressed out. He had taken on some of Tumie's duties since he was feeling more ill. He was also doing some freelance magic work. He looked up at the statue behind the altar. "Lord Cupid, it's going to be bad. Please, help?" he whispered. "I've tried everything. I was back in the back room yesterday. I've gotten worse since then. I'm surging," he said frantically. "I don't want to enslave anyone." He felt someone pop in behind him and looked at Strife. "I'm so going to give you a rush," he said pathetically.
Strife nodded. "Already there, sweetness." He yanked on his braid, making him hiss, but the hormones didn't care, they liked that. "Crap. Cupid!" he yelled. "He's out of control already!"
Ares appeared. "Cupid's out of town with that priestess giving birth." He looked at Xander, then at Strife. "How do we solve this?"
"We wear it out," Xander said, looking at him. "I was in the back room yesterday. I wore Ryan out before he left. I don't know what to do, Lord Ares. I'm afraid I'm going to hurt someone or make them break their vows."
"Come on," Strife said, hauling him up and into the back room, going to work on him. Anything he did, the surge got worse as he got happier. Ares came in and shielded the room but it wasn't going to help. Strife could already feel the trouble radiating. "Tell Hera," he ordered. "Get 'Dite here." Ares nodded, heading to do that, dragging the scent clinging to him to their temples. Strife got to work trying to make Xander come quickly. His body wasn't cooperating, even though he knew the boy was trying to help by fantasizing loudly enough that normal people could probably hear.
Ares appeared in Hera's, watching the nearest priestesses swoon. He looked at his mother when she flashed in. "We need you at Cupid's. His level ten is out of control no matter what he's doing. He's broadcasting. He's been handling it," he said at her opening mouth and harsh look. "He tried to relieve it yesterday and it didn't work. He called out to Cupid but he's with his favorite priestess since she's giving birth."
"I'll check on her and tell him then meet you there." She flashed off.
Ares left the priestesses groping each other and headed to Aphrodite's, watching as the marriage class Horatio was running moaned and went after their partners. Aphrodite came out looking alarmed. "He's tried to get it down and it's not working."
"Tartarus!" she complained, heading over there.
"Excuse me, Xander?" Horatio asked, standing up. Ares nodded. "I'm coming."
"You can't. You'll surge too," he ordered. "Stay here." Horatio opened his mouth. "If you surge, there's nothing here that can help you, Horatio. Your spouse is at home." Horatio nodded, getting away from the new orgy. "Get them to rooms, each couple to their own. Stay here or go air out the house tonight." He headed off, finding the training group. Most of them moaned when he popped in.
Ryan looked over from his battling one of the priests, glaring at him. "He surged?"
"Fully. He's out of control. He tried last night to get it out. Go. You'll be back by tonight." He created a horse and Ryan mounted, heading back to the city. He headed back to the room Xander was locked in, walking in and shutting the door, sealing it. Aphrodite was trying to channel the energy he was putting out. Hera was helping her. "With what I feel, you two are going to have a boost soon." He came over and helped Strife. He was the better lover between the two of them. Xander moaned when he took over, but he was lost in the haze he was putting out. Ares finally got him to come and the surge washed over them all. The city was definitely going to have a surge of births and marriages. It should make Hera happy.
Strife tested him, sharing a look at Aphrodite. "He's still too high. It's already leaked out."
"The orgy's nice but way too much. I'm getting a headache from the extra energy," she complained. She knocked Xander out but his surging got worse. They looked over as Cupid came in and helped. "How is she?"
"Better, but she felt it in the center of a contraction. She lives a few hours travel outside the city and they're already reaching her." He worked on lowering the hormones while they channeled the pheromones. He woke him up and it went down some because he was trying to control it with them. "Dude, what did you use?" he demanded.
"Oil in there," he panted.
Cupid made it come to his hand. "It's normal oil. Not the berries."
"I hadn't even thought of that," Aphrodite offered, creating some.
"NO!" Strife yelled. "He's allergic, he'll surge worse!"
"We'll never get him stopped," Ares groaned. He was back to trying to wear him out. A few priests broke in and took Xander with them to help them. The open air of the temple diluted it some but it also let it spread further out.
Ryan got there about the same time Xander was worn out, even though he was still broadcasting. Ryan walked over and grabbed Xander, shaking him. "What did you do?" Xander whimpered and hugged him. "Damn it, Xander. I've been gone a day!"
"I can't help it," he whined. "I tried! I really tried! It just started to go up!"
Hecate appeared and glared at him, then manifested a knife. "I need some of his blood for lust and love spells. Would you mind?"
"Yes!" Ryan complained, handing it back. He made Xander look at him, shaking him when his focus shifted. "Lock it down, Xander! You have more control than this! I know you do!"
"I'm not doing this!" he shouted, getting free.
"That's how," Ares said suddenly. "Xander, drop into hunting and fighting mode!" he snapped. He sent a spare sword at Xander, letting him catch it. He nodded at Ryan, who attacked him. Xander had to drop to defend himself. His mind snapped out of it and he dropped hard since he couldn't think well enough to stop himself. Ares grabbed his head as the headache started. "Ryan, he's fully gone. Bring him back."
"How!" he said, sounding a bit frantic. He was getting really good, but damn it! He finally pinned Xander and smacked his head on the floor, yanking on his braid to do it. "Xander," he growled. "Let it go! I've got you. You're safe." Xander growled. He did it again. "Now! Let me handle it!" Xander whimpered at that. "It's Ryan," he said more calmly. "Come back out."
Ares came over and squatted down, making a link between Ryan's voice and bringing him out of this lost state. "Do it again," he ordered. "I linked you two. You can bring him out."
"Xander, it's Ryan. Come on, time to come back." Xander blinked at him and he yanked on his hair again. "It's me, come on. Time to come back." Xander whimpered and dropped the sword, then started to cry. "Shh, I've got you," he soothed, holding him. "I've got you, it's all right. You're down now."
"I tried," he gasped. "I tried so hard to keep it under control but it surged during lunch. I don't know why!" He looked at Cupid. "What did I do?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "Strife'll find out. Grandma, could use the help? Please?" She nodded and went with him. The scent on them got the rest of the small village and their animals. He didn't care and his priestess was ready to start pushing.
Ares hauled Xander up, making the kid look at him. "Go soak in the pool."
"I'm sore," he whispered.
"That's fine. Soak off the scent, Xander. We'll vent it that way and bottle the water later." Xander nodded, letting Ryan walk him that way. He ran his hand through his hair, looking at Strife, who was lounging against a wall in relief. "Go find out what he did and if it was done to him or not." Strife disappeared. He looked at Hecate. "You're not exactly helping, Auntie." She snorted and disappeared. Ares looked up then around. "We need some new weather. Some rain and wind to disperse it." He went to call in a favor to get it dispersed. The whole city was already engulfed in it and even Horatio was trying to hold on. He went to get him, making it rain on him. Horatio shivered at the cold water. "It'll clear it off you. He's down."
"We're trying to figure that out. Go home."
Horatio nodded, heading home quickly. Before anyone could grab him in the marketplace. He walked in and found Strife in the dining room. "Was it the berries?"
"I haven't found a thing with them on it," he admitted. "He was having meat and cheese for lunch." He held up the meat, sniffing it. "How would you tell?"
"pH. The berries are fairly acidic." He looked at him. "Do we have anything like litmus paper?"
"There's a natural plant that stinks whenever anything acid comes in contact with it," he offered, bringing some to him. Horatio walked around, testing everything. He found it on the silverware. Strife licked one and nodded. "Yup, that's it."
"This wasn't Xander's doing."
"Nope, probably not. Someone's a goner when Unc finds out." He gathered them up and headed to his uncle's temple, putting them in front of him on the altar. Horatio walked in a few minutes later, once he had changed. "We've got it."
"I can find out who touched it. I can pull fingerprints."
"Huh. I forgot you and Ryan did that stuff." He looked over as Ryan stomped in. "Shouldn't you be with my boy?"
"I asked a few of the priests who're soaking off the scent too to watch him. He's napping on one of the beds." He looked at Horatio. "The charcoal from the smithy would do as fingerprint powder, boss." That got a nod so he went to get some, and some tape because the priests still used tape to tie down bandages. Someone had imported it probably but it'd work to capture the fingerprints. He and Horatio got to work on it, the berries made Horatio's hormones lay down and nap so he was safe. "Did he use one for lunch?"
"It's possible he's sensitive enough to rubbed against one," Ares said, sounding tired. He yawned. Ryan grinned at him. "Unless you want to clean the stables again, I'd wipe it," he said firmly.
"Xander in normal mode is enough to wear out a strong man, Lord Ares. When he's like that I would expect him to wear you into needing a short catnap. A lesser God would need a real nap." Ares snorted at that but it was a compliment. "Sorry if I overstep myself, but was there a guard on the house?"
"There was. He's nearly dead from the strain," Ares said grimly. "When he wakes up I'll get him to tell me who was in there with him."
Horatio pulled off a fingerprint and blew gently across it. He handed it to Ares. "That's their fingerprint. I know Xander's and Ryan's already. It's not ours."
Ares looked at it, then at him. "Good work, Horatio."
"It is what we do, Lord Ares."
"True. Strife, find this person," he snapped.
Strife took it to compare, finding them and bringing them back a few hours later. Ryan was pacing in the temple waiting on him. "Here." He gave the kid a shove.
Ryan looked at him, glaring at the teenager. "You were in our house?" he said calmly.
"Your fingerprint and essence was found in our house," he countered. The kid swallowed. "Why?"
"I was paid." Horatio came out and he gaped, then looked at Ryan. "I was paid by Lord Tysdit! I swear! He wanted the dark one for himself! Said with him he could gain Ares' and Cupid's ears for favors! I didn't mean to hurt anyone!"
"Any children that are born you should help birth. Your actions caused Xander to spike to the point where the animals outside the city were affected," Horatio said grimly. "Lord Strife?"
"That's perfectly reasonable to me," he promised. "Hey, Unc?" Ares appeared. "The kid's a flunky. He was paid so Tysdit could steal Xander to get yours and Cupid's ears. Horatio said he should have to birth the babies who came to be."
"He should," he agreed. "That's a reasonable punishment. Send him to Hera's to help with the healing and the marriages that'll be upcoming." The kid gaped. "You made them do that and get hurt. You'll help them heal. When the last one is born, you'll be allowed out of punishment." He whimpered. "Tough."
"Only women help birth babies!" he said, his lip quivering. "I'm not female."
"I can change that for you," Ryan promised, hand on his sword. The kid backed away and bowed, then allowed Horatio to walk him off. Ryan looked at Ares. "I want to be there to help you bring him down. He tried to bribe one of the other priests a few weeks back."
"I heard. You can help. You and the kid both," he said with an evil looking grin. Ryan grinned back and bowed, then headed back to Cupid's. "He's got balls."
"Yeah, more than I do," Strife agreed. He yawned. "I'm gonna nap."
"Go." Strife disappeared and Ares checked the city, seeing how many of his people were going to be in trouble.
Horatio walked into Hera's temple with the boy, handing him to the high priestess. "It was decided that since he was paid to spread the berry's gel on our things to get Xander that he should help heal those who need it and help deliver the children he caused to come into being. Then he'll be free of his punishment." Hera appeared. "Lady Hera."
"I heard, Horatio. It is reasonable," she agreed coldly. "Take him to the medical ward. We do have some injuries from today. Let him see the one who fell from the ladder and died because of it as well." The priestess bowed and drug the boy off. "It is a unique punishment."
"It will also give him a way to earn his own way later in life so that none need to pay him," he offered respectfully, hands going to his hips. "Xander is better now. He's resting."
"Thank you. Did you find all the sources?"
"As far as I could tell but I was going to ask Lord Ares for one of his hunting dogs to see if they could sniff out more." She nodded at that, cracking a smile. "Do you have need of me, Lady Hera?"
"No, Horatio, you've done well today. Go soothe the boy. He's unduly distressed."
"He is gentle and he had no intention of doing this."
"I know. None will punish him and I'm quite certain Ares will make the problem known very shortly." He nodded and bowed, then left, going back to help Ryan with Xander. She sent a thought at Ares, getting back a smug, content thought about he would be exposed publically. It was the only high point of today. That and the increase in the birth rate. At least a quarter of the city and surrounding areas' women were pregnant and most of the animals as well. She and Aphrodite would be doing a great many weddings soon.
Ryan bowed at Ares' feet a few days later. "Your horse refuses to stay, Lord Ares. She's been nibbling on Xander's hair and trying to nibble on Horatio's suit." That got a smirk. "May I take care of her for you?"
"You're keeping him in control?" Ryan nodded. "Fully?"
"He's so far down at the moment he's nearly at Horatio's original level," he said proudly. "Thank you for excusing me from practice for the last few days to do that."
"It was worthwhile, Ryan. As long as you keep Xander down, you can keep the horse."
"Thank you, Lord Ares. I'll take good care of both of them." He bowed again and grinned. "Does she have a name?"
"No, but the stablehands thinks she's a princess Aphrodite changed for being vain," he said dryly.
"Then I'll name her Princess, thank you." He backed out and went out to practice, putting his horse in the stables. "Stay here for now and we'll go eat more of Xander's hair later." The horse dug into the food he put in her stall with her and he went to jump into the training of the new cadets. He was good enough for that. The priests nodded at his training style and he picked a few who *really* needed the boost of self-confidence to help personally.
Ares came out to watch him, nodding at his performance. Xander came a few hours later to lay an offering on the altar, then came out to watch. Ares looked at him. "Pick one." Xander looked at him. "Now." Xander shrugged and took a practice sword, picking the most cocky guy out there to work with. Within a few minutes he was less cocky and pouting. Ares laughed at that and crossed his arms over his chest. "Now teach him correctly." Xander nodded and showed him the right way to do what he was trying to do, getting a nod. Ryan mirrored him. When it came time for Ryan to teach a new move, he used Xander as a demonstration model. Xander mirrored it back. The cadets all 'oohed' at Ryan nearly tripping but he rolled back to his feet, getting some claps for it. "You should be learning that and Ryan should better learn his terrain."
"There wasn't a rock there until a second ago," Ryan panted. He looked at Xander. "You're so spanked later," he hissed in Spanish. Xander just smirked and took Ryan's students to work with. They were happy to work with him, his standards were less than Ryan's but he still got them up to the same spot. Just a different way.
Ares nodded. They were good. "You two, stay after. It's time you learned to fight together." Xander nodded and went back to teaching. The bragger was doing it again and Ryan smacked him with the blade of his sword, making him yelp and Ares laugh.
"Pay attention or I'm wounding you and making you do it that way," he said coolly. "Your ego is out of control."
"I can beat you and him," he sneered, nodding at Xander.
"Really?" Ryan said with a smirk. "Lord Ares, which one would you like him to prove that with?"
"Xander's the lesser skilled. Let him. Xander, control."
"I will." The class moved and the priests looked at Xander, who snarled. They got out of the way too. "Come on, little boy. Come to your spanking." Horatio walked out. "In a minute, dear. He thinks he can beat me and Ryan." The kid lunged and Xander beat him badly. By the end the kid had a bunch of small cuts and a lot more bruises from sword swats. Xander, however, was frowning. "It's too heavy I think."
"It is," Ryan agreed. "I think you should be using something longer but lighter."
Ares considered it and manifested a sword, handing it to him. "Spar with Ryan with that." Xander felt it and grimaced. "Tough." Xander nodded and attacked him, but the balance was throwing him off. Ares changed the sword in the middle of a lunge and Xander stumbled but it was better. He shifted his stance and it was much better. The katana was easier and fit better in his hands. "That one I think." Xander got Ryan against the stables, making Ares laugh. "So much for his ego too," he joked.
Ryan frowned at him. "I don't have a swelled head, Lord Ares." He shoved Xander off then went after him again, making him dance backward and fall down but come back up with a grimace and start off again. Ryan lunged, laughing when Xander tripped again. "Having fun?"
Xander smirked and let some of his control slip, making Ryan moan. "Yes, I am." He went back to his former style, side and rear attacks, making Ryan moan when he got his side. "Ha!" He lunged again and the sword was changed with a snap of the fingers. This one, it was longer and it felt perfect to him. Xander sped up, making Ryan keep up with his boundless energy. Finally Ryan pulled him in and kissed him, making him moan and cling to his chest. "Okay, do my hair?"
"You did win one round, I got the other so I get a backrub when I'm done?"
"Agreed." He stole another kiss and they bowed to the priests and Ares. "With your leave, Lord Ares?"
"Have it. Keep the sword, practice once a week so you and Ryan get used to working together now." They nodded and left, taking Horatio home. "Ryan, horse?" He came back and got Princess out, walking her away, boosting Xander onto her back to make him laugh. They pulled Horatio up too and he let them ride her back to the house and the small stable behind it.
The three immortals and Speed all looked out as the portal opened again and luggage came flying out.
"Gee, they did take Xander," Speed noted dryly, going out to help. He was almost run over by an elephant. Then again this was Xander's house so things were supposed to be strange here. A few more bags got tossed out. "Can't you pack it on the elephant or something?" he called.
"Not mine," Horatio called. He came through in a gap. He looked at Speed. He was wearing the same shirt he had put on that morning. His hair was messy, he had been running his hands through it, and it was down to his shoulders in the back. He stepped closer and Speed pulled him in, kissing him. "I'm home."
"You are home and you have princess hair. We'll have to fix that." He walked Horatio out of the way of the second elephant. "It's going to step on stuff," he called. A breeze blew out and moved most everything out of the way. Horatio got that one. "Let me guess, the elephants are Ryan's?"
"Bribes to bring Tumie back some day," he said dryly.
"Tumie? The level eight who disappeared a few years back, that guy?" Horatio nodded. "Oh. Hell. No wonder! Guys, come help! We've got another one being rescued!" Don and Danny came out, Eric trailing behind them with bottles of water. Fourteen guards came out, two leading horses that were packed with things. And Ryan, who looked like he was asleep. The rest hefted things, sorting them into groupings and then bowing at Tumie and Xander before leaving.
Xander stepped through last, smiling at one and stroking his cheek. "Tell him we'll see Jace within the month. As soon as I'm no longer tied to the bed," he ordered quietly.
"Yes, Xander." He bowed deeper and ran off. The portal closed.
Xander had to fight to get his shirt from it. "I like this shirt. Let it go!" He concentrated and it reopened just enough to let him go, and a new thing flew out. He caught it and looked at it. "Sure. Just as soon as I'm not tied to the bed I'll go visit Jace." He grinned and ran over to pounce Danny and Don. "I'm back!"
"I'm nearly scared," Danny teased, hugging him.
Don looked at the wound-up hair. "How long were you there? Horatio has princess hair like you do. Yours was trimmed."
"Two years." He stole a kiss and grinned. "Only a quarter of it is mine. I swear. Oh, we need to get Tumie in to see someone *today*. They stuck a bar on him to semi-castrate him and it's showing signs of infection."
"I'll call someone," Eric agreed, watching Ryan nap. "I see he's vigilant." He pulled out his phone and dialed. "Jessup, Delko. Send an ambulance to Xander's house for a newly unkidnaped GHS please? Yeah, he's been semi-castrated, whatever that means. Xander said so. Thanks." He hung up. "Why is he napping?"
"There was a celebration since I came home," Tumie called. "Don't worry, the forty virgin dancers wore him out."
"Hell, they wore me out," Xander complained.
Don gave him an odd look. "How many were virgins this morning?"
"None of them were my fault. I danced with them. Ryan was off playing with the other guards trying to keep our asses *there* and safe." He shrugged. "Ryan, get off your nag!" he yelled. Ryan snapped awake and looked around then relaxed and spotted Eric, coming over to hug him.
"We'll be talking."
"Xander's got a ticklish belly button." He gave him a squeeze. "I'm better trained too."
"Good. I can feel the new muscle." He pushed him back some. "Forty virgins?"
"Yeah, dancing for Tumie to send him on a fond voyage home and to entice him to come back. This morning he sanctified all but one's marriage. She didn't have anyone and we weren't going to bring her home. You might try to adopt her." Eric gave him a look. "She's beautiful."
"She might've snuck into one of the bags," Xander called.
"Point." He went to look in the bags. "Xander, can you maybe locate her?"
Xander concentrated. "Purple flowers?"
Ryan went looking and found that one, finding her sleeping in it with the purple flowers. "Looks like Miami has another runaway immigrant." He helped her out and stood her up. He pointed at Eric when she tried to hug him. "He's mine." She pouted at him and walked over to hug him. Eric moaned. "Told you you'd adopt her." He spotted the ambulance and went inside to let it in. Then he pointed at the redhead in the cream silk. "Him, guys. It's starting to infect and he's been weak and lethargic. He's just gotten home. They basically put two warm pieces of gold on either side of his ball sac and then drove small spikes through it to pierce anything that wasn't a vein or the main nerve." They shuddered at that. "He's been gone for a while now and it's starting to heal in but it infected for some reason." They walked over to talk to him, leading him off. "We'll watch your horse and your elephants," he called. "Come see us when you get out, Tumie."
"Thank you, dear. I'll come back soon." He waved and let himself be loaded into an ambulance.
Xander looked at the elephants. "We need hay."
"Where would you get hay in Miami?" Speed asked. He was having a surreal moment.
"Call the animal store. They'd know," Don offered. He looked at the other things. "How much of that is his?"
Ryan coughed. "See the bags in the pile I rescued her from? That's Xander's new magic collection from Hershal. He died a few months ago. He was about a hundred and sixteen our years. The pile of blue bags are gifts Xander got given to sanctify marriages and promote wedding night fertility and lust. Tumie was doing it, he made Xander help when he started to get sicker. The few green bags are gifts from the admirers in the city and the few other places we visited. Including some that Tumie hated and gave over. Like his hair sticks. Oh, and the two red bags are clothes from all of us. Horatio's got a bag of his own. I've got two bags on the back of my horse." Eric gave him an odd look. "He's going to Vegas to live at Jace's. Ares said so." He looked at Danny and Don again, who were gaping. "And the rest is all Tumie's." That was the two largest piles and what was on the other horse and the elephants. "We should strip them down, Xander."
"We should. Someone call and get them hay and stuff." He came over to unbuckle things and strip off the packing straps and baskets. They were all put with Tumie's stuff in the garage. Xander and Ryan carried their stuff into the rec room/practice room. And then Xander growled and pounced Danny. "I want sex, now. I need it. I want it. And if I don't get it I'm tying you down and licking you until you beg me to top."
"Sure," Danny agreed, leading him back to the bedroom. "Don, do the animal stuff then come relieve me before I die?"
"Sure," he called, going to call their pet store. "Hi. We just got a newly rescued person dropped off on our doorstep with animals. I'm not sure where I go to get hay for them. No, two elephants and two horses actually. That's what I said. Yeah. Oh, on the news," he told Ryan and Eric as they walked in. Ryan shrugged and drug Eric back to one of the guest rooms. "Really? How much?" He smiled. "I can be there in a couple of minutes. Thank you." He hung up and grabbed Xander's wallet, heading out with it. Only their boy could come home with another GHS member, four animals, and enough luggage to pack the entire royal family of Great Britain.
Speed looked his boy over once they made it to Don's room, paying attention to his back. "You still have a lump here."
"It doesn't hurt today but I need to see someone." He held up a hand. "Call Philip and then come cuddle me?"
Speed stripped down and called while he cuddled. "Hey, it's Speedle. Is Philip in? Horatio's having a problem with his back and there's a small lump. Just give him my name, Janice, he'll take the call. Sure, I'll hold." He stroked through the longer red hair. "You definitely need a trim tonight and we're taking tomorrow off." He smiled at the cheerful voice. "Philip, it's Speed. No, he's okay, but he's got a lump on his back and he's had some pain. No, recently kidnaped. We just got him back. We're at Xander's actually. Yeah, him. I was going to ask you to take them on anyway, man. There's too much strange shit in their lives as is. Yeah, Xander's a member too. Ten." He grinned. "Thanks." He hung up. "I can only cuddle you until he gets here."
"Join with me, Speed," he ordered. "We'll be gentle but it's been two years since I've been touched by you." He swallowed. "I did let them cuddle, I'm sorry."
"I'm not. Danny's got a friend who told us how long it'd be for you guys," he promised, stroking through his hair, giving him a smile. "I would've understood if you had broken your vows to me. That was an extreme circumstance. I'm not mad that they got cuddles. You needed them." He sniffed him. "You smell off."
"There was some berries there that suppressed it some. I'm down around a level one now. At least for a while longer."
"Huh. Did they work on the little trouble magnet?" Horatio moaned and shook his head. "No?"
"No. He's allergic. He surged badly. Cupid had to take care of him personally." Speed looked confused. Horatio stood up carefully and slid out of his pants, letting Speed see his claim marking, the tattoo of his name that he had gotten when they had gotten married. "The two little marks at the bottom. I was helping at Aphrodite's temple, teaching what a marriage should be," he said quietly. "And we're all Cupid's. Somehow they were there."
Speed pulled him down to kiss him, then his forehead. "It's all right, you're home now, Horatio. You're mine and you're home. I don't mind that they did that. It kept you safer and mine." He stroked over him, making sure he was all right in every other way. He got up to get the bottle of lube he had borrowed, sliding in behind his boy again. "I'm here and you're mine. Say it."
"I'm yours. You're my keeper and my sanity," he vowed. He relaxed with a small whimper as Speed stretched him. "Please?"
"Shh. What did you do to solve it, Horatio?"
"Toys. They had a room full of toys attached to the walls and a pool with toys on the benches. I imagined you but it wasn't the same."
Speed smiled as he slid in. "Good to know." He rocked them gently, back and forth, in and out, bringing his poor mate over the edge quickly. "I'll get you again in a while. I love you."
"I love you," he said, taking his hand, putting them over his tattoo. It felt right to him. He closed his eyes, feeling a warm glow go over him.
Speed tried to move but it didn't let him. It did stop on the top of his head. "What is that, Horatio?"
"I'm not sure. I saw it at the temple a few times. Plus in the church there. Just relax. It's beneficial I'm sure." He felt Speed relax and the glow finished, meeting above their heads in between them. He heard what had been requested in the Goddess' voice and sighed. "They wanted us with them."
"We're still mortal."
Ryan walked in and closed the door, leaning against it. "Out of everyone that any of us have met, you've impacted us the most. Not only would we miss you but we'd miss having you there with us. We're a family, guys, and we want you to join the family. This is the only way we could." He came over and touched their throats, the new necklaces sitting on them. "When you're ready to move on, take them off. But if one dies, you both go," he said quietly. "Before you say a word, I asked. Xander feels the same way but I'm the one who asked her. We were talking about it when he brought me lunch. One of the trainers brought up the fact that we'd lose you guys and it'd devastate us to the core of our beings." The necklaces sank in, all but the clasp. It looked like a beautifully colored and realistic looking tattoo now with the Goddess Aphrodite's sigil hanging off it. He touched the clasps. "They're there. In a few hours, the skin will grow over them but you can still get to it. It'll just take a few minutes to give you time to think." He looked at Speed. "We need you two. More than we need each other. Eric and I will probably break out some year soon - he's getting antsy and wants a woman again. You're the ones that hold this family together. You two and Xander. That's why we're all his harem according to the demons," he finished with a small smile. "Please don't make us face that agony soon."
"That's dirty," Speed said coolly.
Ryan nodded. "Yeah, but think about it this way, Speed. You'll have however long you want just like you are now, all to love Horatio." Speed melted at that. "He'll be your boy as long as you keep those on. Nothing like what we are, you have to keep them on. No extra prayers or anything. You guys are what Aphrodite wants from her love matches. We're watching you two to see how to have a real relationship. So wear them, please?" he begged.
"We will, Ryan. Go back to Eric."
"He's pouting and wants to spank me." He hugged them both and went to help Don for a few minutes. Eric came out and drug him off by the wrist again, making him come back to bed. "You were pouting."
"I'm still going to spank you later," he vowed, slamming the door.
"My Tim," Horatio said quietly, squeezing his hand.
Speed moaned. "Say it again, Horatio."
"Timmy. Please? I'll feel better if you have me some more. Your touch is the best pain killer ever made." Speed felt himself get hard and reinserted himself, making Horatio groan. "Please, Tim? Please!"
Tim moved, slowly. "I'm going to claim you like I should, Horatio. Every inch of you will be begging for me by the time I let you go in a few hours." He inched out slowly then inched back in even more slowly. It was a test of his patience. He wanted nothing more than to put Horatio on his knees and pound him into the headboard. Or to spank him for being taken again, one of the two or both. "What way do you want to do this?" he asked.
"On my back, I want to see you."
"What about your back?"
"Prop my hips up, Tim. If I was in better shape, I'd ask for you to tie my knees to the headboard." Tim moaned and went to find something to do that. Two pillows under his hips to ease it, one going width wise, the one on top cradling his lower back as well. Another pillow was tried but Horatio shook his head. "Too high." It was tossed aside and Tim looked down at him. He smiled at the love he showed, reaching up to stroke his face. "I missed having stubble burn. Please?"
"You'll have plenty tonight," he vowed, moving back inside him and starting off slowly again. The longer he could draw this out, the more insane Horatio would become. "Need something?" he teased a minute later.
"Ring," he panted. "So I can finish in you." Tim moaned and tensed up, nodding at that. They didn't do it often but if Horatio wanted to claim him as well, he was his husband and it would be good. It would make him feel like he was home again. "I got naughty ideas at the temple. They had a swing with a toy attachment. Xander loved that thing often." Speed laughed and worked on his boy, going a bit faster now. His control was ready to shatter. He finally gave up and went his usual speed, making Horatio moan and wiggle underneath him, making him beg and groan his name with noises that made his brain rot and his insides turn to mush. He came because he had to, Horatio needed it from him and he couldn't hold back. He untied him and let Horatio turn him onto his back and prepare him then slide in.
"Want me on top?" Speed panted, clutching Horatio's arms.
"Screw my back, Tim. I have sick time. I need this to feel like I'm home." He sped up, doing it as best he could with the way his back was screaming at him. He came and Speed caught him, holding him close, just holding him for now. "I'm home."
"You're home," he vowed. "You're staying home. The next time some barbarian wants you, he can go through me."
"Xander killed him before he could do more than touch my hair and my face and make disgusting hand motions at my crotch. He decided to have a snack for energy first. He was seriously greasy as well."
"I should see if Xander can revive him so I can kill him again." Speed flipped them onto their sides, letting Horatio wrap himself around him. Someone tapped. "We're good."
"The doc's here," Don called, bringing in a small tray with drinks and a snack. "I figured you two could use it. You two okay?"
"We're good," Horatio said, smiling at him. "The tattoos mean that Xander's found his spot, Don. They protected us."
"What tattoos?" Speed shrugged. "Okay then. Let me get your doc in here. I've already signed us all up to go see him soon for our physicals." He nodded once he was in the hall. "They're cuddling."
"Cuddling is good for them." He smiled. "Go cuddle your lover." Don nodded and walked across the hall, slipping in and shutting the door again. Philip walked in. "I could've sworn I said no sex, Speed," he complained as he shut the door.
"I needed it, Philip. Someone had me and I needed him. I haven't been touched in a while."
"I noticed the hair. Realm or plane?"
"Xander said realm. Let me guess, you know some?"
"Yeah, I'm a former Watcher. It's the family business you know," he said dryly, smirking at him. "That's why I don't blink at you guys." He looked at the lump. "What did you do and how long has it been?"
"Two years," Horatio offered. "And a few hours here."
"Okay. What treatments did you use?"
"Some minor massage, some heated rocks. One time with something that felt like a chiropractor."
"Even better," he agreed. "Rest more fully on Speed so I can press and prod." Horatio snuggled in on top of his husband, whispering at him. He did yelp once. "Sorry. It does look like it slipped, Horatio. I'm going to prescribe an antibiotic and a scan to look at it. We hopefully won't have to do surgery. Got it?" Horatio nodded, putting his head back down. "Can you go tonight?"
"I'm taking tomorrow off to get a hair cut. The guys at the station would laugh at the hair."
"They don't laugh at Xander's hair but he's a princess and they all know it," Speed teased. "You're not usually a princess." Horatio gave him a look and he grinned. "You're not."
"I'm not a princess. I'm a prince. I'm every bit male, Timothy."
Speed shivered. "Hmm, sounds like you need a spanking too."
"Not until his back is better," Philip ordered. "Gentle cuddling. Non-energetic sex in the spooning position if you must. Nothing else, Speed."
"Thank you." He stroked over Horatio's spine. "The rest looks okay. Still having the stress aches?"
"Not for two years. Xander spoiled me often with massages."
"Good. You're off work until I see whether or not you need surgery. It'll give you time to deal with the elephants having sex on the lawn." He gave them a knowing look and left.
"Maybe he can donate them to a wildlife reinsertion program," Speed offered.
"Both elephants are male, Speed. They weren't gay last night." They shared a look. "XANDER, QUIT BROADCASTING SO LOUD!" he yelled. "NOW! YOU'RE AFFECTING THE ANIMALS AGAIN!"
"Sorry," floated that way. "Can't control it, Danny keeps breaking my concentration." The sound of a slap. "Ow! Meany! Spank me again and I'm going to sleep with Ryan!"
"Mine," Eric called, slamming that door. "If you come in here, you're both ours'."
Danny opened their bedroom door. "That's an interesting image. I'll remember that for when I'm too tired to pop him again." Eric opened his. "They did?"
"Ryan and a lot of toys."
"Huh. Want him now?"
Eric smirked. "After I make Ryan beg for bringing home a horse." That got an evil smirk from Danny. "Are we all going to Jace's?"
"Probably could. It's a refuge." He smirked evilly as he closed the door and went back to tormenting Xander with Don's help. They all moaned as the surge snapped over them and then suddenly crested. At the crescendo, Xander squealed and screamed, then it drifted down slowly, just fading off on the breeze.
Speed and Horatio shared a look. "Someone is going to be wondering why Miami had a sudden birth surge in nine months." Horatio groaned and tickled him, making him squeal and shriek and wiggle underneath him.
To next part: