It's All Starting Again.
Xander walked into the Senate the first day back. "Good morning, people." A few frowned at him. "It's another starting point so let's get things started." He banged his gavel and they went back to their seats. "I hope this term of Senate will be productive, as opposed to the last one. First, we have to decide some important seats." He smiled. "So I'll take nominations now."
"In the open?" one asked.
"Yes, in the open. How would you know who to talk to if we don't figure out what you're doing beyond this?" They all nodded. "I see we have sixteen seats appropriated by state and the rest are open." He put those up on the overhead viewer so they could see it. "And I see the matter of my house update is on the schedule again."
"Sir, is it really that bad?" one asked. Xander put up a picture that went with that request. She hissed. "That's really far out of date."
"Yes it is," he agreed. "And broken as of last night." They all nodded at that. "That's a later issue. I didn't put it on there."
"I did so we could get it settled," one said. He had been here since the renewal as they were calling it. "The refrigerator broke?"
"Totally died with a puff of smoke."
"How are you eating?"
"The stove still works." He shrugged. "The freezer's being used with dry ice." He smirked. "Let's get back to the point at hand. Changing seats and filling them. Does anyone want to switch seats?" A few brought up their requests. He looked them over and added them to the list and took off where they had been. Seniority gets that privilege. The rest were quickly filled and the last few weren't really wanted but they were newbies so they got the crap seats.
They moved on to the first day of real work and they passed the remodeling needs for the White House and the Admiral's House where Xander lived. They started to work on an actual piece of legislation and it was better. Most of them could reasonably talk to work things out so far. No shouting matches. Not as many snide people either. It was a nice start.
Xander walked out of the house, finding Ezra pulling up. "I didn't think I had anything to do tonight."
"You don't, but you do have to appear better dressed for the press conference tomorrow." He got out. "What were you planning on doing tonight?"
"Getting lost in an upscale, very security conscious club." He grinned. "I was taking the Secret Service guys so no one would say we were out on a date again."
Ezra smirked. "I have no doubt you could use that sort of attention, but they're still not very safe for you. They tend to hesitate."
"Not always. Besides, I can pretty well handle most everything." Ezra nodded he knew that. "Then I was going to come out and baby the horses before I go in tomorrow."
"That would be nice. Yours pouts." Xander grinned. "Tomorrow's outfit?"
"Blue dress pants you had me buy at that last place, a nice shirt?"
"Wear the charcoal gray ones. They tend to like those on you and perhaps that blue jewel-toned shirt? That way you don't clash with John?"
"Sure. Thank you, Ezra."
"You're quite welcome." He smiled back. "You should have one of us."
"I'd probably traumatize most of you. It's a gay club, Ezra. Chris would scowl at all the people. JD would probably lose a lot of innocence watching everything, and Buck couldn't handle it I don't think."
"Not that part."
"Ah, one of those clubs." Xander held up his invitation with a grin. "That is not a place you should be seen."
"But it sounds fun."
"It would look bad on others."
"Not like I'm dating."
"True," he admitted. "I doubt the other guards could deal with that situation."
"It was one of them that got me the invite."
"Hmm. Fine. I'll come with you."
"Ezra, you have a life to live too. Go play."
"There's no way they'll handle you being there by yourself. Anything could happen." He stared at him. "I'll go and then head home."
"Ezra, I'm going to probably be closing down the club," he pointed out. "It's been a long time since I played." Ezra gave him a dirty look. "Not like I can go to the bar and pick up someone," he said dryly. "Or even really date."
"True, but that sort of entertainment is not healthy either."
"Yay." He shrugged. "I'm still going."
"Fine, then I'll go with you."
"No," he sighed. "If you do they'll never stop saying we're dating and it'll hurt your job and stuff."
"It will not. Get in the car."
"We're taking the SUV." He pointed. Ezra locked his car up and walked him over. The two guards smiled at him. "We're still not dating, guys. He got pushy."
"Hopefully you won't pick up the next evil one there, sir," one said dryly. He got in to drive. Ezra got into the backseat. The other got in front and they drove off. Hopefully the press hadn't gotten wind of it. They were supposed to be highly overprotective of their people and discreet. He hoped.
They made it to the club without incident and inside the back entrance. Xander handed over his invitation, getting to meet the manager on the way to the VIP room. Xander chatted happily and the manager was happy with them. Xander went down onto the floor while the guards watched him carefully from the window. Ezra sighed. "We're not going down there, Standish."
Ezra watched him. "No one's dancing with him."
"No, but I don't want to be in that pile when it starts," he countered. "You can if you want."
"I think he wanted to find someone different to dance with this time," Ezra said dryly. They all watched as someone causally hit on the boy and Xander let him dance with him. It was nice. The boy was clearly used to being the one hunted in the clubs instead of the hunter. That one wasn't worthy but a few were happier to have him in their personal space. "This is the most polite dirty club I've ever been in," he admitted quietly. They snickered. "Most clubs do have their elements but this one is very polite, very clean, and they do try to hide the sex in the hallway in the shadows."
"There's rentable rooms upstairs," one of the guards told him.
"Even more discreet. Thank you, gentlemen." They both nodded. Xander was having a lot of fun. They all winced when someone bought him a drink but it was unopened so probably not tampered with. Xander was clearly having fun. A few of the people only wanted him for his body but he was willing for that. They all sighed when someone walked in the main entrance and clearly headed right for the boy. "Do we know him?" he asked.
"No, not yet," one said, taking his picture and running it through the FBI and Homeland Security databases. "Hmm. He's on the terrorist watch list. Figures." He went to find the manager, who said they had to wait until he was outside. They understood that and called in Homeland agents to subtly wait for him to come out. He went back up there. "They'll be waiting for him to walk out."
Ezra coughed. "It appears Xander already knew him." They groaned and nodded. "I wonder where he met that one."
"Africa or helping the slayers probably." He looked at Ezra. "Go get him to drink some water?"
"I can do so." He went down there and to the bar, getting the boy some water and bringing it to him. "Here." Xander grinned, taking it to drink. "How did you meet him?"
"He took me hostage once and wanted me back." He shrugged and drank the rest of the water. "Thanks, Ezra."
"Welcome, Xander. Try not to pick up anyone too... evil?" He walked off again.
"I never do it on purpose," he complained. He got back into the crowd dancing. It was a release he needed. Even if he didn't pick up anyone. Though there were a few people he could see slamming against a wall, kissing them stupid, and then riding them until they begged for mercy. Maybe they'd like that too?
John looked up as Xander walked in. He looked a bit tired and was drinking coffee instead of soda. "Both of us are too damn old to close down clubs, Xander. Men our age should know better."
"Quit before I don't tell you how bad the sex was," he shot back dryly.
"Fine. Feeling better?"
"Much. Just getting onto the floor made me feel better. The admittedly craptastic sex wasn't bad. Just kinda short and kinda pointless. I'd rather be dating someone." He shrugged and took another drink. "I'm letting Ezra nag the workmen in my kitchen for me today."
"That's fine. Chris said he had been warned Ezra made you take him."
"Well, yeah. I was going to take the Secret Service guys." He shrugged and took another drink.
"That had better not be your breakfast," Nathan complained.
Xander looked at him. "No, I was giving a blowjob for breakfast, Nathan." He gasped and backed out of the office. Xander shut the door and smiled at John as he walked back to the desk. "So, press conference announcing more of the adjustment?" John handed over the speech so he could go over it. "I still don't like that one idea."
"It's only being tested in two units."
"That's good but I think it'll cause problems and less solidarity."
"Possibly. That's why we're doing the test in small units." He smiled and got back to his own coffee and paperwork. "Thank you for keeping the Senate on track again."
"Honestly, they all want to work and do the job. So far no one's been infected with politics. I'm sure it's coming up since the Cost of Living bill is coming up."
"Forgot about that. When?"
"Next week sometime probably." John made a note of that. "A farm bill at the same time and the appointment to the FDA." John nodded, marking that down as well. "And those two judges are going to be fought over hard."
"I know. They're good judges."
"Yeah but they don't play politics either."
"Good point. Neither do we." He shrugged and got back to his paperwork. Someone knocked and Chris walked in. "Ezra argued himself into going from what I'm told."
"That's what he told me." He glared at Xander. "You had to make Nathan rant that way?"
"Yup. He was nagging again." He sipped his coffee, getting some more from John's pot, which got him scowled at by John. "I deserve it. I didn't even pick up the terrorist that wanted to hold me hostage again." He walked off to his office. "I'll quit making you gasp like a teenage girl if you quit nagging, Nathan," he called as he walked past that group.
"Were you at least safe?" he demanded.
Xander stared at him. "You do realize you're talking to a guy who grew up after AIDS started and I was in Southern Cali?" Nathan slumped. "Duh! That's something that I'd probably do even after I got an evil or dangerous thing of my own." He went to his office and shut the door, shaking his head. Sometimes the ATF team were really fun but Nathan clearly needed some girlfriend time. Chris leaned in after knocking. "Can't Nathan go pounce his girlfriend for a few weeks?"
"Next month is his off. It's time."
"Crap." He finished his coffee and brushed his teeth, following him out once he had rinsed and spit. He smiled at John when they met up outside the room.
"Shirt change," John ordered. Xander looked at the toothpaste mark and went to change into one of the ones in his office, which didn't match his pants so he had to change those too. He ended up in a jade green shirt and a pair of black pants that were tight enough to cause drool. He walked out and John nodded, letting him fuss with his hair before they walked in together. "Good morning," John said. "Let's settle in so we can get this statement out of the way." He smiled.
Ezra watched the speech, staring at the boy. "That is not what I told him to wear."
One of the workmen looked at the tv. "He looks nice, sir."
"He does. I put that outfit in his office for that reason." He sipped his tea. "How much longer on this renovation?"
"Two more days to install the last of the cabinet locks and the countertops." He smiled, leaving him alone since it looked like he had been up all night. Clearly the VP was THE Man for his boyfriend.
Xander strolled into the politician and agent bar later that night, looking around. Buck was with him so they went to sit with the agents. Buck got them both a beer and they settled in to relax.
"You know, there's all sorts of stories about Standish from the Atlanta FBI office. I don't know how someone so dirty gets such a prime job. I couldn't get it even if I applied," one agent nearby complained.
"Standish didn't do any of those things. He was undercover, man. You know how things happen on undercovers." He slung back his own drink. "Beyond that, they probably picked him because he could put up with the VP's gay leanings. There's no telling what he does at night because of that."
"I still don't get it and some of those rumors had to be true."
Xander cleared his throat. "Do you really think Larabee would have him on his team if that was true?" he asked. The agent sneered. "I mean, Chris Larabee is the original hardass. He hand-picked his team. Must mean some of those are false. So maybe it was because Ezra found a dirty agent down there or something." Buck had told him about those rumors when they had shown up in case he heard them.
"Yeah, I bet," he sneered.
"Boys, I think you've had enough. You're embarrassing your agencies," Buck noted.
"I don't think that's your business," he said, taking a swing at Buck.
Xander swung at both of them and they both fell down when he connected with their jaws. "I think it's my business, boys." They gaped, giving him horrified looks. He saw police come in and waved them back. "Make sure these two get home. They're mightily drunk and started the fight. I won't press charges this time since they're drunkenly dumb."
"Sir, they could press charges against you," one said quietly.
Xander shrugged. "I've been in a few fist fights in my time, guys. If they do, so be it."
"No, we won't press charges," one said quickly, covering his friend's mouth. He hissed in his ear. "That's the damn VP!" and he decided he didn't want to press charges either.
Xander let the officers cart them off before he wiped at the small spot of blood from his split lip. "Huh. They do get stupid and petty." He sipped his beer. The owner glared so he smiled. "I only stopped it."
"I know, sir. We have a VIP room."
"Then I can't be around people. It sucks." He moved to talk to others in the bar, getting friendly responses and some information that some agents thought their directors were idiots. Which he agreed with after he heard some of the stories. Clearly stupid. He and Buck got sucked into a 'my director is more stupid than yours' contest, but Xander used Buffy and Giles as his entries. They all laughed at a few decisions. The shoe shopping for the apocalypse incident nearly won the whole thing.
Xander looked up as someone was let into his office the next Monday. "Director Vance," he said with a smile. "Sit please."
"Sir, is there a problem with my agency?"
"Yes, and from what I heard, it's because you're shallow, petty, and following in some really dumb footsteps." He stared at the man once he sat down. "I know that your agency is in transition but did you like it when the last director made arbitrary decisions that caused problems?"
"No," he said carefully. "Who have you been talking to?"
"About a quarter of your agency in the last three days." He stared at him. "Starting with a few in a bar after hours. Then I went looking to verify the rumors and stories I heard. Sheppard herself was bad. We wouldn't have put up with that if Jack had known. I know Jack would've booted her within seconds. You're affecting your agency so they're hindered solving crimes. You're following in some very bad footsteps." He held out the notes he had taken. "If a quarter of your agency complains about the same sixteen things, and a few others randomly, then there's probably a problem with that, right?"
"Are any other directors getting this talk?"
Xander smiled. "Hell yes. And don't you dare warn them. John may be hiring for one of them soon." He could see the clear mental 'shit' mantra going across his face. "Read and see, Vance." He looked over the notes, grimacing at a few. Xander handed over a few more when he was handed those back. "This is something that could help. It was a suggestion that a few of your best people came up with.
"It lets those who have the skills do what they need to do. Makes a few purely physical response teams and some that aren't. You can move some that have been in the field there instead of back to a computer based approach since they don't want to be in the office anymore. They've been trained for field work and you're not using them to their full ability."
"I see." He read the idea over, nodding. "I had plans of doing some of it."
"Yes, but they said the people you'd pick for it wouldn't want to be there." Vance winced. "That they're field trained and like being in the field now. It'd be like retirement at a very young age for them. You have a lot of unhappy people. Unhappy people don't solve crimes as fast or at all. Which means you're going to have a high turnover rate as well."
"I'll take a look over my staffing decisions and see where the unhappiness is, sir." Xander pointed at the notes. "I saw." Xander smiled. "Can I take this idea?"
"Yes, they drafted it for you. I told them to give me an idea to give to you. They've been working on this idea for months."
"Thank you, sir, for letting me know I have problems." He shook his hand and stood up. "Does the President know?"
"That I've been hearing rumors of unhappy agents. That I was going to bring it directly to the directors. One's going to be a meeting with him later today."
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention, sir." He left, swearing all the way back to his agency to fix things before he lost a quarter of his staff. They would quit, he had no hope that they would stay because they were loyal to him. Sheppard had to do a lot of hiring because she had driven off a lot of her people as well. This was bad for NCIS.
Xander walked his next set of notes into John's office. "I rearranged that call on you."
"I already handled it when I had a few free moments last hour. What's going on?"
Xander handed over the whole pile of notes. "We're talking to the head of the FBI together because some of his things are bordering on criminal as far as I can tell." He sat down. "I talked to Vance at NCIS just now."
"Those are good complaints." He put that aside to go over last. The other agencies he winced at. "Is that the same one that caused Ezra problems?" he asked quietly.
"Yeah, he was found to be dirty and then got bumped up the scale because of it." They shared a look. "I don't want that in my FBI."
"Me either." He put that pile to the other side, going over the others. "Homeland?"
"Looks bad but I was going to go over it with him and Homeworld since some of his problems are crimping Homeworld."
"Good idea. I can talk to them with you." He looked at the other ones. "Not enough at the DEA?"
"Not that many. Theirs is more 'internal affairs needs to work harder' sorts. I had an informal talk with him last night about the rumors I had been hearing and the complaints. He had a beer, agreed it needed to work harder and he wasn't sure how to make it so. I told him who to talk to about getting the IA people for the covert agencies to help him. Same job but external people."
"That's a reasonable idea," John agreed. "If not, maybe he could borrow a few for a while."
"That's what he was thinking," Xander agreed. He smiled. "The other one is a shithole ready to be set on fire." John read that one and winced. "I was going to talk to him in private because I'm sure he realizes it but I wanted to see if he had any ideas and suggest that he come to you with good ideas."
"Definitely. We can talk to them together too." He put them to that side too. He smiled. "Good job."
"You're finally getting the hang of this."
"Yup, and thankfully I only have a year left," he said with a smile.
"You and me both, Xander." He leaned back. "Chuck, tell me when the Director of the FBI gets here."
He leaned in. "His secretary said he had an emergency call to handle today."
"Is it on the news?" Xander asked. He shook his head. "Is his wife expecting?" He shook his head again, smiling now. "Then it's not an emergency and he'll be here within an hour."
"On my orders," John told him. He nodded and made that clear. "You'd give him an hour?"
"Traffic's a bitch today," he said.
"Good point. It took you how long to get in today?"
"Almost an hour."
"Yeah, basically. Even JD swore at the traffic this morning." John smiled. "I don't know what Metro was doing today but it was clearly a cluster fuck."
"Maybe it was accidents."
Xander shook his head. "No. I didn't see any." He turned on the local news station. If it was accidents they'd be on the news. No, it turned out the police were doing a lot of raids today. It was a few blocks at a time being shut down. "Hmm. Warrant sweep."
"I pity their judges," John said. Rodney beamed in glaring at him. "What?"
"The damn room wouldn't let us free until today."
Xander smiled. "Clearly she thought you needed it." Rodney glared at him too. He stared back. "Treat her well or I'll make you regret it before she does."
"We're not together!" he shouted.
"Clearly you are," John said dryly. "I'm happy for you, Rodney. Quit fussing and realize it's nice."
He huffed. "She can't even think about heterosexual sex."
"Willow could never talk about sex without blushing," Xander said with a small shrug. "She used to call it 'the sex' because she couldn't talk about it when she was with Oz and Tara."
"Oh." He considered it. "So she's just being shy?"
"She's nervous," Xander admitted. "Oz left to get control of the wolf. He came back but she had moved on with Tara then. If she's nervous enough about things, she'll move back to something she considers safe. Which is why I broke up with Cordelia and she nearly lost Oz when we started a kissing thing for a few weeks."
Rodney considered that. "I see."
"It was never more than her panicking and me feeding a need Cordelia wasn't giving me." He gave him a pointed look. "Make her relax about things. You can be subtle I'm sure?"
"Yes." He cleared his throat. "How did her relationship with Oz go?"
"She was just getting into magic. He distracted her but he was also a bass player in a local band. They didn't have sex until the build-up to graduation. I think a few days before. That was months after they started to date."
"So I've probably had more relationships than her?"
"She's had three that I know of. She didn't even try to date after Kennedy died that I heard."
"Oh." He added that to his mental file on Willow. "So that's why she's been nervous." Xander and John both nodded. "Hmm. Thank you."
"Welcome. We all think Willow will be a lot better about everything once she has someone to fuss and whine at. It'll mean things will fall back into a more natural state. Unless you ignore her by spending all your time in the lab."
"Half the time she's in there with me. So I couldn't abandon her that way." He went back to the city to talk to her. They clearly needed to talk about non-pointless things like they had for the last month.
John smiled at Xander. "I think they'll be good for each other."
"Hopefully she won't hurt him." He shifted again, watching the tv. One of the guards walked up to the desk and Chuck, saying something. "The Director of the FBI?" he called. The guard nodded. "Show him in please. We need to have a talk."
"Yes, sir." The Director walked in and Xander shut the door. "You think this is over that fight?" he hissed.
Chuck shook his head. "Xander heard a lot of unhappy reports from agents," he said quietly. "He's spent the last week talking to a lot of agents." The guard hissed and winced. "Not yours."
"That's good." He went to talk to the other gossips around the office to see how bad this was going to be. Apparently he hadn't been talking to Secret Service agents. They all looked toward the office when someone started to shout. It wasn't John or Xander, though Xander's voice carried very well when he wanted it to.
"Sit down and shut up!" Xander said firmly. "You don't argue with the president because you're an idiot!"
The shouting quit and they all relaxed again. Even when a telegram arrived for the VP they were happier and relaxed again. Chuck brought it in to Xander and left again because he didn't want to see the man in there be that huffy.
Xander opened it, smiling. "From Prince Sel."
"Good news?" John asked casually. He was aware of why Xander had gotten his mare. Xander grinned. "Very good news?"
"It's a set of twins, a girl and a boy. The girl may still be a slayer. She's got a mark but not a full mole."
"That's wonderful news. I know he needed a son." He looked at the director of the FBI again. "I'm going to have someone go over those people and their problems." Xander slid over a name and number. "Covert IA people?"
"Yup. Their head person. I think he'll be happy to ruin some people's careers."
They both looked at the present director of the FBI. "I'll retire," he sneered.
"Good," Xander agreed. "Take those people with you. Today."
"You're protecting Standish," he sneered.
"No. I'm standing up for good agents, all of them. He's tried it to three other agents who wouldn't play with him that way. Frankly, I'm more impressed with Ezra since I heard what happened." The man went pale. "Make no mistake, he will go to jail for it if Ezra or the others press charges. I'll have a talk with the prosecutor myself to make sure of it. You guys are the people the local law enforcement people look up to. You can't be that corrupt or they learn bad habits. Then the world goes to hell. We can't let that happen."
"Fine." He stomped out.
Xander leaned back, looking at John. "That's going to be a bit messy for a week or so but good people will be able to fill in."
"Is there an AD that's good to sub?"
"The local one I'm told is a bastard of epic proportions but decent enough. Fornell?"
"I'll call him. Chuck, get me AD Fornell of the FBI. Now."
"Yes, sir." He called that office and got to him after a few transfers. "Sir, this is the President's office. He wanted to see you ASAP over an issue," he said quietly. "No, sir, all I can say is that your director was just here. Thank you, sir." He hung up. "He's at the courthouse about to testify, sir, he'll be here as soon as he can," he called.
"Thank you, Chuck." He looked at Xander and set up the time for the other meetings. Xander was stepping up very well as his second-in-command. It was saving him a lot of work.
Ezra walked into Xander's office, closing the door. "Xander, did the situation in Atlanta play any part in the firings today?"
"No." He looked at him. "They didn't just do it to you, Ezra. That night Buck and I went out we started to hear a lot of unhappy comments so I went looking. That one agent who hurt you will be arrested because he was forcing another agent into a sexually submissive relationship with him to keep her name clear when she hadn't done anything." Ezra grimaced but nodded.
"They know she wasn't the first it happened to, and may come ask you, but I didn't do it just because of the hell they put you through. I got into the fist fight because of the hell they put you through and the new rumors," he finished dryly, making Ezra moan. "Buck did the same thing when they took a swing at me for it," he said with a grin. "I don't let friends get that level of shit piled on them."
Ezra stared at him. "I'm supposed to be your bodyguard."
"And you are. That doesn't mean we can't be friends, Ezra. That bodyguarding thing only means you can't be asked to bend me over the desk." Ezra smirked at that. Xander smirked back. "Which I think you'd be picky in bed so I wouldn't ask anyway. I don't trash my friendships usually."
"Thank you." He smiled. "There's all sorts of rumors that you did this to protect me."
Xander shook his head. "No, it's going to come out. There's a good ten charges against him from that one agent and the other five he did it to can all join in. Including you. The other problems made the temping director yell at his whole agency for ten minutes before he switched from swearing to real words."
"Oooh," Ezra said with a wince. "Who got appointed the temporary director?"
"Hmm. Much is said about him being a hardass." He shrugged. "At least I'm now ATF."
"The ATF's problems I heard were few. I talked with the director about them casually and he agreed they had some problems with those areas and he was looking at them. I told him who had given me a few good suggestions, including JD, and he'll be asking them for ideas." He smiled. "He was happy JD had a good idea."
"He doesn't really understand our team all that well."
"Sometimes teams are the right fit, even if they seem odd. Look at my former team." He shrugged. "You should probably open the door before they think we're in here making out again."
"I have Mr. Larabee outside the doorway in case I had to shout and rant myself hoarse."
Xander grinned. "I'm sure he'd help and it'd be epic." Ezra nodded, leaving him alone. "I'm heading out to play with the horses later," he called.
"That's fine," Chris agreed. He looked at Ezra. "Well?"
"He's done it to others."
"Definitely. It's going to be quite voluminous soon." He walked off shaking his head. It was sweet of the boy. He'd have to make sure he could keep his professional distance to him.
Chris leaned into Xander's office. "You two good?"
"Yeah. I didn't do more than get into that fist fight because of what happened to him, Chris." He looked at him. "I get into fights for friends though."
"True." He smiled. "His month off is next month."
"That's fine. I can dress myself for a while," he quipped with a smirk.
"I'll make sure he remembers to rearrange your closet on you again, kid." He walked off shaking his head. The kid was definitely unique and his relationship with Ezra was clearly just as different.
Xander was home the night of the primary elections, frowning at the music that got interrupted for the news he was trying to avoid. "NO!" he shouted. "Not happening!" JD leaned in to look at him. He pointed at the radio. "They fucking did it again!"
"Yup. By the news you've got about twenty percent on everyone. Sorry, Xander." He fled before the fit could start. He called Chris to warn him. Apparently the White House was in lockdown because John was throwing an epic fit in the gym.
Xander looked at his plate. "I'm not eating steak, damn it!" he shouted. "You can't do that to us!" He heard Cordelia cackle and got a very bad feeling. "Oh, no! No way in hell!"
She fade in and smirked at him. "You're not a higher power," she taunted.
"Rodney said he can make a Ghostbuster's trap," he growled.
She faded out cackling. She was so giddy she went to brag to Buffy and Jack. Who were ignoring the phone and tv. Then to Willow and Rodney, but he managed to banish her for a bit. She'd brag later, when they weren't naked cuddling on the balcony talking about her going back to school.
John glared at his press secretary the next morning. "We're not running. We both want to retire."
"Sir, apparently they don't care." He dropped off the notes. "I'll let it be known that once again you're not running." He fled. He could hear Xander growling in the hallway.
Xander walked in. "Willow suggested a suicide pact to get out of this. Maybe it'd move us to another part of hell so we can be punished some other way."
"I'd hate to mess up my prettiness, Xander. I'll beat both of them later."
Xander pointed. "I can go on a slutty, coke induced boyfriend binge if it'll help," he offered.
John shook his head. "Probably not. It might keep you out in four years though."
"We'd never let you do that," Chris said as he walked up the hallway. "Sorry."
"That means they'd try to keep you here for another four years," Xander called. "Since they originally said a year and it's been almost two." He looked at John again, giving him the begging look. "Can't I at least quit?"
"Probably not," he sighed. He stared at the poor guy. He could see someone trying to make him president in four years to protect everyone. Not that anyone screwed with the US. Jack had scared the hell out of most of them. John had proven himself to be scary, and every country didn't want to know what would happen if Xander ordered the slayers to let them suffer or didn't go to an apocalypse. "We'll figure it out."
"The offer for the boyfriend slutty binge stands," Xander offered.
"I know, Xander. We'll consider that." Xander pouted. "Go to the gym or play in the pool, make yourself feel better."
"Nathan tossed out the ice cream again."
"I'll beat his ass myself," John assured him, getting up to go yell at Nathan. Today was a day for ice cream if any was. And beer. Lots and lots of beer. Maybe a good, long scream too. He growled at Nathan. "Quit picking on the diets around here. We save the fucking universe, we deserve ice cream when we want it." Nathan backed down and nodded, pointing. "And not that diet shit either. Real ice cream." He walked past him to the kitchen. "Can you please get us some comfort food for tonight?"
"Yes, sir, and having heard I went around Nathan. There's some Ben and Jerry's in the deep freezer," the chef said with a smile.
John smiled back. "Thank you."
"When did you adopt the girl diet anyway, sir?"
"I think I got it off Xander, who probably got it off all the slayers." He got his ice cream pint and went back to his desk. Nathan had made himself scarce, thankfully. Maybe he needed to give him some more girlfriend time. He didn't nag for a few days after he came back from Denver. He got Chris sent to his office. "Send Nathan to screw his girlfriend for a week, Chris, so he quits nagging again," he said between bites.
Chris smirked. "I would but Vin's back there."
John shrugged. "We can handle it without both of them. Xander can not go screw half a club to get bad notice on purpose. I won't go get drunk in public. We can do this without the nagging."
"I'll see if he'd like that optional week off without it taking from his vacation time," he said, walking off shaking his head. "Nathan, you nagged yourself into a week with your girlfriend." Nathan scowled. "Tough. Sheppard ordered because you annoyed the hell out of him just now. He said you don't nag when you come back happy." He gave him a look. "Where's Harris?"
"The pool." He huffed but he knew an order when he heard it. He'd let Ezra nag the boy into eating this week. Ezra had him well in hand most of the time. No one was going to speculate how unless they worked for some sort of entertainment news magazine.
Chris went to the pool, finding the VP floating on his back, rubbing his side. "That injury bothering you?"
"Just a stitch," he said quietly.
"Uh-huh. When do you go back to Baltimore?"
Chris looked at him. "I think it needs to be sooner, Harris." Xander shrugged. "Call him or I'm calling Lam."
"Damn it, leave me alone," Xander complained.
"Hell no." He called the comm officer to tell John. Dr. Lam stomped in a few minutes later. He pointed. "He's looking a bit... greenish."
"He does," she agreed. "Xander, out of the pool now."
"Oh, bite me!" he complained.
"I can have your ass beamed out, young man," she ordered. He huffed but swum over and got out so she could scan his side. She grimaced. "When was the last time you saw your liver doctor?"
"Six months ago."
"So, right before the last attack?" she guessed. He nodded. "It looks like you're not doing it any good." She found his number in her digital record for him, walking off talking to him. The boy dived back in and she grimaced but went back to talking about what she had seen. It wasn't cirrhosis. It wasn't anything that was blatantly a problem but it had lost some more function. So they had to do something about this.
He agreed to her using the healing wand and he'd see the boy on Saturday. She hung up and got the healing wand, getting him back out with Chris's help. She ran it over his side. No benefit. She stared at him but he shrugged. She did another test and swatted him hard on the head. "Damn mermaid taint, Harris."
"Not my fault."
"I don't care. Go shower off the chlorine and I'll see you in your office in ten minutes. Just in case it was pulling up due to the water." He grimaced but went that way rubbing his head.
"I know a Marine who did that head swat," Chris told her with a smile.
"I learned it off a Marine," she quipped, grinning back. "Go make sure he's fully dried off in case it was swimming that brought it up." He nodded, going to check on the boy. He waved her in there since he was bent over holding his side. She checked over it again, grimacing. "There's no way that's good." She got him out from under the water. The mermaid taint did calm down again. "That's what it was. It looks like you're trying to grow another organ."
"Probably for processing seaweed," he muttered. "I had sushi the other night and it started then."
"They probably got one of them in a net or it had some in one of the fish," she decided. She called Keller to work on the DNA issue. She was the best they had at that. Well, the best would be Carson Beckett but he was in stasis. She had to get Willow onto that problem, see if she could find something magical to fix it. Keller appeared with a different machine. "What does that one do?"
"Weeds out DNA taint. We used it after the Iratus bug incident. It's why John shows so little taint from it."
"A what?" Chris asked.
"Iratus bugs are what the Wraith evolved from," Keller told him. Chris shuddered. "Exactly." She put it over Xander's side. The beam made him yelp and hit the ground but that was fine. It was easier that way anyway. Keller made a shallow cut and black blood flowed out. "It's sending it from you," she said calmly. An hour later, the blood switched to a mix of black and red. Then slowly it faded to red. It was just a trickle of blood by then. She checked again. "He's down to three percent taint."
"That's what Willow said she weeded him down to after he got tainted," Lam said. She looked at the boy, who was deep in his head. She reached down to stroke over his hair, making him flinch. "Hey." He blinked at her. "You're back to three percent, Xander." Xander nodded, staring at them. She pointed at the cut that was now healing. "You barely have any left. No more fish."
"I don't like fish, but it was a diplomatic thing."
"I'll make sure they know no more fish." She helped him up. The healing wand helped more this time. She made notes for his liver doctor and he said he'd see him at his regular appointment instead since they had fixed it. Xander got put onto his couch while the doctors made their report to John. He nodded at that, getting his chief of staff to let the other embassies know. The doctors went to have tea at a shop they adored in DC then home. It was a nice day.
Xander walked into the press room the next day. "You guys needed to ask a question?"
"Sir, it was put around that you're not allowed to have fish anymore. A sudden onset of allergies?"
"No, apparently I managed to find the one in a million piece of fish that was tainted with the same sort of taint I got back in high school that you guys made such a big deal about. It made me a bit sick so we don't want to take that chance again."
"Bit sick how?" another one asked. "Like nauseous?"
"No, like it set the taint to try to grow an extra organ next to my liver," he said bluntly. "Before anyone asks, unless you've been tainted by it already you don't have to worry about it. Where I had that prior taint, it was like radiation and then the new taint helped me try to adapt." He looked around. "Otherwise I'm fine. A bit sore but I'm good."
"Did they stop that process?"
"Yeah." He smirked. "Doctors Lam and Keller, from John's project, both were amazingly helpful with that."
"How many others have this taint?" one reporter asked.
"As far as I know, they all turned into sea creatures." He shrugged. "I've never heard of another case." They all nodded at that. "Then again, most people aren't going to catch one, cut it into chunks, soak in a sauna that held said chunks, and possibly eat some of it too." A few shuddered. "The swim coach wanted to win *really* hard."
"Did he go to jail?" one of the reporters asked.
"No, the ones that turned killed him."
"Sir, how many people died in your graduating class? We heard Sunnydale had a high death rate."
"Um... Hmm. Buffy got a nice award from the school during the prom for causing the lowest death rate in forever there. We were down to a twelve percent death rate for the town." They all stared, a few had mouths open. "When Buffy moved in it was closer to thirty, guys. Plus disappearances, the suicide rate, all that. The class before mine started with about four hundred kids total in kindergarten if I remember right, and graduated about a hundred-twenty-three or so."
"That's about twenty percent," one said.
"I know." He shrugged. "It went down my sophomore, so their junior, year. Otherwise they would've graduated probably just under a hundred, maybe about eighty with a few of the major things that happened."
"How in the hell did people live like that?" one demanded.
Xander shrugged. "Sunnydale residents had the best 'I don't see anything' shield going on ever. We were never sure if it was the hellmouth or just a general panicked denial problem. We had years it was worse. We had one year that only graduated seven people if I remember right. That was when I was ten or nine, something like that. It was all over the papers that it was the smallest graduating class ever. But everyone who went to the school and survived it did graduate. They were always very proud of that."
"Can that be done on the current hellmouth?"
"I hope not. Have we seen anyone who's been around that long and hasn't changed? Beyond Dick Clark?" A few giggled at that. "The old mayor, Wilkins, built Sunnydale to enhance the hellmouth because it added to his plans to change into a pure demon. Which was a ninety foot snake." A few moaned and a few more shuddered. "That was our graduation. Frankly, he let Sunnydale be a feeding ground because it was good for his plans. The current Hellmouth has no one like that on the city council and Cleveland's a really big city. The death rate raised about two percent due to the flocking vampires but nothing like Sunnydale's."
"So would you consider Cleveland a safe city to live in?"
"Mostly. I wouldn't personally want to live near the hellmouth. I mean, we're not sure if any of us took excess radiation from it. Since hellmouths are basically thin spots between the walls of the worlds, we're not sure if there's going to be some radiation spillover or anything. I know that I was raised really close to it. I was actually born overtop of it," he admitted. "I don't think anyone's noticed anything different about kids who were raised close to the one in Cleveland since it opened. I'd like to see someone study that in case there are problems."
"Do you think that's why so many strange thing happened to you? That you were born overtop of it?"
Xander shrugged. "We think it's just Harris luck. We have no idea. The girls teased me about being a demon magnet for years. When they finally stopped it was because I pointed out their former bad taste in boyfriends. No one else could ever date a demon that got put on the internet." A few raised their hands. "Long time ago, people." He smirked. That would pay Willow back for sending him fish things. "Back before I dated Cordelia."
"No one's seen her recently, sir. Did you finally banish her?"
"No. I saw her on the night of primaries. She was cackling about me not being able to disappear to get away from all you guys." He pointed. "Anything else?"
"Sir, do you think there's some boys who look at you as a role model and might want to be a knight themselves?"
"I'm told someone did show up at the Council building to learn how to hunt but they got referred to Dawn and her spouse and brother-in-law for that. Most of the people who hunt do it because we were affected by it. It got into our lives. I jumped in when vampires took my best friend." They all nodded at that. "I got downright pushy to help Buffy because of that. I knew I could be killed but it was more important that no one else got hurt the same way. If there's others who want to hunt, they need to know it's not glamorous. It's not a healthy job.
"It's like joining the PD because a criminal took out your whole family. You're there to get revenge and make sure the same bastards don't come after anyone else. It doesn't usually lead to a long life, a happy life, or really any sort of contentment. Hunters do it because we're driven to do the job by our experiences. Slayers have very little choice. They're called even if they don't like it. Some do take enough training to protect themselves then fade into the light but most of them get drawn back after being attacked. We'd like to have never exposed everyone to how bad this life is, but Jack said it was for the best." He shrugged. "Anything else?"
"Would you say joining the military if you had a white knight complex would be just as healthy?"
"Probably more healthy. They have ways of supporting people with knight complexes and channeling those urges into methods that lead to longer lives. Or psychological counseling in some cases, depending on why you turned into a Knight."
"Sir, do you still hunt with the slayers?"
"Not unless they need me to. Unfortunately I'm trapped by my duties here. The slayer in DC knows she only has to call me for backup and I'd be there."
"What about the others?"
"I'd draw too much attention to most of them thanks to you guys following us like there's a leash attached to my butt. That would only end up hurting them. As for having to hunt? I handle what I need to when something attacks me, I help with apocalypses, I train for apocalypses. I made their battle plans, help the main armory person get what they need, and work with the girls I trained in Africa for a few years."
"Sir, you've been to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for your slayer duties. Did you go anywhere else?"
"I helped set up the house in Brazil. It needed some construction work. I brought my girls with me to train them in the jungle. It's a different hunting environment and none had come from that sort of area in Africa but there are some. That way they'd know if they had to track something there. I helped a bit with the Asian house but that was by phone deciding the first girls going. I helped set up the one in New Zealand for about a week but the girls had a problem and I had to head back home to help them solve it and never quite made it back."
"So you've actually done a bit of traveling." Xander nodded. "How do you feel about some countries making what basically amounts to a reservation area for the demon populations?"
"I'm kinda mixed. I think it's probably safer for the peaceful demon community. I know it's caused some problems as well since they don't all get along with each other. I know it's because people are scared and I'm hoping that they aren't treating them badly like we treated the Native Americans when we did that to them. I'm not sure how the community as a whole feels about it. I know some are really pissed off. I know some accept it because it would mean less random attacks by bigots and scared people. Or church groups like the one in Kansas that tried to attack a demon church last week."
"Were they caught?" someone asked quickly.
"Nope. We know who did it. The local police aren't listening. The FBI said it's not their job. It's not the slayers' job because they're human supposedly. I have the feeling if it's not settled, some hunters are going to take care of it because they've caused other problems. I'm not waiting that patiently on that matter and I might go deal with them myself in a few days if someone doesn't. Because I'm sure there's plenty that they've done wrong beyond that."
He sighed. "I think the communal idea is a decent one for protection but I think it should be voluntary. If they want to move together for safety reasons, then I'm all for it. If they don't... I don't think they should be pushed just because someone's scared. Half of them have been wherever longer than the humans living there have. I think like all other sub-groups we'll learn to get along sometime in the future. I wish it were sooner but then again I wish bigots were a thing of the past too. Because I hate bigots."
"Sir, were you ever gaybashed?"
"No. I think a few would've if I wasn't known really well for weapons work." He smiled. "Being a bit scary means that the stupid people don't usually try me unless there's a whole lot of them."
"Is that why you got into a bar fight?"
"No. That was over a different matter. Those agents found AA the next day because they were spouting off stupid, drunken shit to put it bluntly."
"We heard the Director retired less than a week later."
"That night, a lot of agents took the time to tell me that things were going badly. So I talked to more. I talked to a lot of people in a lot of agencies. We found some problems. Some that John needed to help give ideas to solve, and some that the lower agents had ways to solve but the higher ups weren't listening. Then I sat down to talk to most of them over the next few days.
"Anything too huge, I brought to John. The more minor things I told them what I had heard, from their own people and other agencies, and why we were having that talk. Most of them have since taken some of the ideas and used them. Some of them have become better listeners for problems.
"The one problem in the DEA was solved by bringing in an independent source to solve, which was suggested. It was a good thing and something that I think future presidents should have someone do to make sure their people are working their best."
"Do you think they'll elect you president?" one asked.
Xander shuddered. "I'm not presidential material, guys. Really. I... I'm much too blunt, too plain spoken, to deal with that. Most of the other world leaders treat me like John's puppy. The French first lady pats me on the head." A few snickered at that. "Honestly! So did the Queen of England."
He shrugged. "I'm not meant to do that. I'm not really meant to be in the job I am in. I've raised up to my level of idiocy to quote Murphy's second law. After all this, I'm going to hide from all of you and play with my horse. Please?" He left them on that.
"Does that mean you're buying your own place?" Vin teased with an evil grin.
"Yup, I have one already." He smiled. "Chris knows. He scowled for three days."
"I saw that. I wondered why." He walked him back to his office. "You think they'll let you go?"
"I figure if I start begging now they'll pick someone decent like the one Jack wanted as his VP who was too young then. Or maybe a really tough senator. Someone else."
"Fat chance," the chief of staff said. "None of them have stepped into apocalypse battles."
"His name is Evan Lorne, he's led sections in all the apocalypse battles and on Atlantis," John quipped from his office. "He might kill me but he'd make a good VP, Xander."
"I hope I don't have to make that choice. If so, maybe I'll nominate Chris. He can scowl everyone into choosing someone else."
Chris looked up from his desk an hour later when that piece of gossip hit him. He went to thump the boy for that. Before he got any bad ideas. Unfortunately he had the dogs outside playing fetch to the amusement of the press. He'd have to wait until he came back inside.
Xander walked the black roses into John's office a few months later, handing them over. John was being plagued by people who refused to learn how to get along. "Hand them both crayons and art paper since they're acting like kindergartens?"
John looked at the black roses then at him. "Am I dying?"
"Shit." He turned on the tv and there it was for everyone to rant at. "I won by less than O'Neill did his second term."
"Yeah," Xander said dryly. "And we're having a rare fall apocalypse next week." He walked off.
John put the black roses into a vase and got them some water from the bathroom. It was sweet of Xander to try to cheer him up. Maybe he'd treat them both like children since they were fighting that way. World leaders could act like toddlers when the mood struck them.
Xander walked into the head of the ATF's office. "Absolutely not. They're needed in Denver. You've already kept them there over two years when you told them a year."
"Are you unhappy with them, Mr. Harris?"
"No. It's nice to have friends. You're driving them nuts though."
"I can see that point but the Secret Service are more than pleased at their performance."
"And the fact that arms dealers actually moved into Denver?"
"Well... We do have nine other teams in that office."
"Clearly not as good."
"No, but I doubt most anyone would be," he admitted. "What have they said?"
"Nothing to me directly." He nodded. "But I know they're not happy in DC. This isn't their sort of people either."
"I understand that. I'll talk with Agent Larabee's team to see if they want to switch off."
Xander nodded. "Thank you." He left, going back to the White House to prepare for the funeral that was John's second swearing in ceremony. "Hey, maybe you'll find a girlfriend," Xander said to cheer up his pouting. "Jack did during his second term."
John looked at him. "Don't help."
"Fine." He went back to his office. Buck glared at him. "What?"
"You wanted us to go home?"
"No, I don't want you to go home, but I don't want you guys to be as miserable as you are here either."
"JD was just blowing off steam, Xander."
"No he wasn't. Chris is ready to shoot some of the politicians. So was Ezra the other day." Buck nodded that was true. "Even Nathan's had it with some of them. You guys are miserable here. I don't want my friends miserable."
"Fine. We'll talk about it." He went to talk to the others. They had taken over the gym. "He didn't ask to get rid of us. He asked because he heard JD and Nathan complaining," he said as he walked in.
"That's what the director said, that we were miserable here," Chris admitted, looking around. "Well?"
"There is a chance if we acquiesce, that we'll be here for the next twelve instead of simply the next four years," Ezra said.
Josiah shook his head. "I don't think they'll elect the boy."
"We have a fall situation coming up in Cleveland and then the regularly scheduled one is just after the midterm elections, plus O'Neill and Sheppard's projects have been antsy about whatever they're fighting showing up. Which would mean Xander was in charge while John went off to fight."
"He can't do that," Nathan said. "He's the president."
"Atlantis will only respond to very strong gene carriers, and this is still classified," Chris noted. "There's only three strong gene carriers, O'Neill, his nephew, and Sheppard." They all moaned. "There's a planetary seat as well. Atlantis works best for Sheppard because he found her. He woke her back up."
"Do we have any other gene carriers here in the White House?" Nathan asked.
Chris nodded. "Harris is but I'm not sure how strong." He looked around. "The choices are we can leave him in the good hands we've trained or stay and live through another four years, if not twelve."
JD shrugged. "I was just venting steam the other day," he said, looking miserable.
"The boy would want us to stay," Ezra pointed out. "But right now, he's thinking along the lines of friendship. That we're his friends and not happy, so therefore he's going to solve that issue for us."
"Your choice?" Chris asked him.
"I'm not sure. Going back would mean I'd still be unable to be undercover. All those heathen reporters still think I'm dating him. I've gotten all together too much notice for any future undercover work. That would change the team dynamic at home."
Vin shrugged. "I'm not real comfortable among all the power players here but I do just as much good work among the poorer neighborhoods here."
Chris nodded. "I'm damn proud of you for that too, Vin. You've been doing a lot of good and helping the kid get out of the office to do some himself."
"Thanks, Cowboy." He looked at Ezra. "You'd miss all the shopping," he teased.
"Possibly but not likely. I'm simply glad he's not a woman who has to shop for the position." He shook his head quickly. He looked around. "JD?"
"I don't care," he admitted. "I'm tired of the pushy people but really as long as you guys are here, I'm good."
Chris nodded. "There's plenty of days I'd like the simpler threats in Denver. The old homeplace and things."
"I sold my condo so I'd have to find a new one," Ezra said. "But housing is looking good right now for an investment."
"I've been back home as often as I could," Vin said. "They'll accept me back and most of 'em will help me celebrate being back."
Buck shrugged. "I don't really like the politicians but the kid's going to run over anyone else." Chris nodded that was true. "And who'd arrange his closet for him?" he asked Ezra.
"He has an assistant. I helped him pick a new one when Marta went off the deep end of sanity that day."
Nathan shrugged. "Rain's getting a bit peeved that I'm always here but she's come out a few times too."
Josiah sighed. "I have a few nice churches I'm working with here but I did back in Denver too. I don't like the politicians, the same as the rest of you, but I'd hate to see what he would do to his next guard set."
Chris looked around. "Was that a yes or a no on going home?"
"I wouldn't care to stay but there needs to be less pushy people," JD said. "Especially about pushing him with Ezra."
"He does have an allure but I could not date him while I was guarding him. He was correct about that."
"So I'm hearing Denver," Chris said. Everyone shrugged. "Want me to make it official?"
"After the swearing in," Vin ordered. "Because that'll be the worst threat yet."
Chris nodded. "Then we're all agreed?" They all nodded. "Good."
"I know Xander was thinking about retiring to Denver," JD said. "So his horse wouldn't miss ours."
Chris smirked. "He bought the farm up the street from me so they can escape and play together he said." They all smiled at that.
"The one with the razor wire that used to belong to that militant yahoo?" Ezra asked.
"I'm sure he'll be safe there," he decided. They all nodded and Chris went to tell the director of the ATF they had decided to go home for a bit. Of course, they might be called back if something too horribly big happened. You never knew what the next apocalypse would bring.
Ezra went to tell Xander. "You knew?"
He looked up. "That all this shit drives you as batshit as it does me? Yup. I'll get to visit though."
Ezra smiled. "Of course you will. Your mare would pout."
"I'm looking for a place to put her right now. There's no stables in DC. John said there are in New York."
"Yes but they're horribly small and you can't really do more than ride in the park."
"Hmm." He shrugged. "I don't know." He got back to things. "I'm scared that they're going to do it to me next."
Ezra smiled. "If so, fake your demise?"
Xander grinned. "Don't tempt me."
"I won't." He smiled as he walked off. They'd see plenty of him over the next few months plus whenever he ran away to work on his new house. He went to find Chris. "He needs to find somewhere to put Companion."
"True. Hadn't thought about that." He went to help the kid look. Good stable space was hard to find anywhere near a city.
The fall apocalypse went off without too much damage. Though Xander ended up on crutches for the time he nearly had to cut his own foot off to get the kraken tentacle off it. He had many too many stitches at this point in time. Doctor Lam had yelled at him for an hour about that move but it had worked and the kraken had died shortly afterward from blood/ichor loss. Of course it was snowy in DC this time of year so Xander's guards got to catch him all too often when he slipped on the ice. The press was having a field day with that. He hoped they were healed by the swearing in but that was over a month away.
Xander had to finish Christmas shopping first. Buck was with him since he had to buy for Ezra and JD. Of course the press was there so he got to growl too. He really missed painkillers that worked on him. Advil wasn't even cutting the ache of falling so many times or the stitches pulling. He got to growl at the woman who tried to trip him and the two that ran into him. Then the one that nearly tripped over him. That one had kicked his bad leg so she got an extra special growl. She fled the store too.
Buck patted him on the arm. "Quit growling like your dogs, Xander," he said quietly. "You wanted to come out."
"I have to finish my shopping." He pouted as he found something neat for JD. He held it up, getting a nod from Buck. He'd play with the robotic kit if the kid didn't. Ezra was harder to shop for but Xander knew he had a weakness so he went to the pastry shop and got him a lot of very good pastry shipping for the next few months. Plus an expensive, highly recommended bottle of wine. Buck dropped the boy at home and went to Chris's place. "He's wrapping the last two," he announced as he walked in.
"Who did he splurge on?" JD called. "We saw he was in the toy store and the pastry shop."
"You got something neat and Ezra's getting the expensive one. I guess that suits him." Ezra gave him a dirty look. "It's something that'll give you a lot of good moments though. Worth it according to the salesguy." He sat down. "Is Companion still hating her new stall space?"
"Yup. Xander came out to play with her last night and she nearly bit him for it. I think she might be in heat though." He shifted to lay down on the couch. "She'll get used to it."
"If you're sure."
"I'm positive. Regan had a horse there secretly." They all smirked at that. Blossom was there too. They were next to each other even. Just cranky together.
John looked at the two cranky horses and sighed, making a good decision for them. They were pets, they needed some good care. He called his assistant. "Chuck, buy it." He hung up. He took Blossom out to exercise her. Xander showed up to exercise Companion, who was still cranky with him. She even tried to bite him again. John stared at her until she put her head down. "Try it now."
Xander put on her headpiece again and petted her. "I know you're not happy. I'm looking."
"I'm buying somewhere," John said quietly. "You can pay me rent for her."
"I think they miss the others."
"Probably. Horses are herd animals," John said. He climbed up into the saddle, walking Blossom up to the practice ring.
Xander looked at her. "Pretty soon we'll be in Denver so you can see your herdmates. I promise." He put on her saddle. She tried to walk off but he had tied her to the post this time. He moved with her, finally getting it on her. He mounted and untied her, walking her up to the practice ring. She didn't want to go 'round in circles but oh well. She needed the exercise. He needed the calming time. He and John shared a look. "Country ride?"
"Yup. I'll arrange it." He nudged Blossom into going a bit faster. Nope, she didn't want to. Companion didn't want to either. He sighed, looking at them. "Let's go outside."
"Sir, it's snowing," one of the guards said. "You can't."
Xander snorted, walking Companion that way. He got the door open and rode her outside. She was a bit happier out there. Blossom got a bit more lively too. The guards got huffy but they didn't really care. They had an outside practice ring. The horses hated it but they were happy to be outside for a bit. Eventually Companion started to shiver so Xander brought her in to warm her up. "There, how's that?" he asked, laying the warmed blanket over her back. The stall cleaner came over. "Is her stall cleaned?"
Xander led her that way then came back to grab him by the back of his hair and walk him back there. "That is not clean," he said bluntly. "That is really fucking filthy." He let him go, watching him run off. "John, find the manager when you come down," he called. The manager came down huffy. Xander pointed. "Your person said that was considered clean?"
He looked and sighed. "It's not, but you shouldn't have grabbed him, sir."
Xander stared at him. "I can shoot him if you want. I hate it when people fuck with me."
"No, that's fine. I'll have someone come clean it." He hurried off. The vice president always seemed so much nicer in the press.
Xander looked at his horse, who nibbled his hair. "I agree. How about a good curry combing since they've clearly fallen down on that too." He got the comb and removed the blanket to work on her coat. "Yeah, that's happy making." John dismounted next to him. "Check the stall."
"I did and I'm disgusted. Did you threaten him?"
"I grabbed the cleaner guy by the hair. When the manager complained I offered to shoot him instead for fucking with me."
"You so need laid, Xander."
"Yeah, well, I have uptight guards who won't even let me go to the discreet club." He went back to combing. "She has knots."
"I got a few out of Blossom's coat earlier. This is really not a good place."
"We're the best stable space in this city," the manager huffed as he walked down.
"Then the stables would be clean, my horse wouldn't have knots, and they might not be cranky," Xander told him. He went back to combing out the knots. "Better?" His horse pawed the ground and got happier with him. "Where are you getting?" he asked quietly.
"Don't worry about it," John said with a wink. He finished up with Blossom, going to clean the stable himself if he had to. Fortunately the stall cleaners were working. John put Blossom in then helped Xander with the coat combing. She really did have some knots. The stall cleaner got to come back for Companion's stall since half the hay was still damp and smelled like piss. They left and John called the Humane Society. The other owners there had to know.
He went to sign papers on the farm that Chris had rented. It was nicely cheap since it was a seizure property. It was a perk of the job. He sent someone out to move the horses there and got comfortable. Xander had secretly bought a condo that had been seized and was flipping it once he did some work to upgrade it. It was a good hobby when he had nothing to do.
John looked up as Landry and Evan Lorne beamed into his office. "Did I screw up enough that you're here to take me out?"
"No. We have a wraith hive spotted about two light years out, Colonel," Landry said.
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