"President Harris!" one reporter shouted as he walked off the plane home. "Are you two planning on children?"
Xander looked at her. "I have no idea. If so, we'll adopt or I'll go ask one of the Council witches to help me carry one," he called back sarcastically. "Can't I have him all to myself for a while?" He helped Ezra into the car and got in after him. "Geez, who started that line of questioning?" he asked his guards.
"One of the mega preachers who hates you said it wasn't a right or proper marriage because you can't have kids," Gibbs said. "They can do that?"
"Yeah. Some of them are pretty powerful."
"Should you I'll have to complain, loudly and righteously before I hand you to Josiah to spare my throat," Ezra said calmly.
Xander took a kiss with a grin. "I have no want for kids at this moment. I waited a damn long time for you and I'm hoarding you jealously."
Ezra smirked. "Mr. Larabee had noticed that trait, yes. Then Mr. Wilmington noted that he'd have done the same thing when he was married."
"Probably. Chris does seem like the overprotective husband sort. Look how he fusses over Vin."
Ezra looked at him. "I don't believe you're reading them correctly."
Xander smirked. "You sure?"
"I believe I know them better."
"Did you see them when Vin got hit on the vest?"
Ezra swallowed. "That may be a point but I do not believe they've moved that way yet."
"If not, want to encourage it?"
"They could use the happiness."
"Exactly. They should be as happy as I am." He took another kiss and settled in. "Why aren't we going?"
"Luggage," Gibbs said dryly. "By the way, that same preacher said you're the First Lady President a few times."
"Hmm. Well, that's his opinion because I look damn hot with an assault rifle."
Gibbs glared. "I heard. Expect to be swatted later."
Xander pointed at Ezra. "He has."
"Not hard enough if you can sit."
Xander shrugged. "I handled it as it laid at that moment, Gibbs." Ezra stared at him. "I did."
"Yes you did and gave me more gray hairs."
"They look like highlights so you're still good." He grinned. Ezra huffed. Gibbs swatted him. "Ow!"
"Suck it up, Harris." The trunk got closed and the car drove off. Gibbs looked at the window. "Who's driving since the driver was loading the luggage?" He put down the window and then rolled his eyes, putting it back up. "Don't you dare wreck this car, Dunn."
"I'm not. We do have to stop for gas though."
"That's far against protocol," Ezra said. "Why?"
"Because the driver wasn't. He was one of Xander's ex's. Chris has him in cuffs by now."
"Cool," Xander decided. "As long as there's no bomb on the car."
"No, we checked her over. That's when Chris realized it." He turned onto the street. "Think you can quiet the press again?"
"Yup and that preacher too. Gibbs, tomorrow we're going to the firing range. A public one."
"You have meetings tomorrow," Ezra said tiredly.
Xander smiled. "They can come. They might need the stress relief. Because half of them are with Evan."
"And the republicans giving you fits."
Xander called one. "I need an outing tomorrow to blow off stress. Want to take your meeting and De'Sandral's meeting at the gun range?" He smirked. "Yeah, Evan can shoot. He's a soldier too. Thanks. Yeah, we can tell Tim that. Thank you. Just now going to bed. Night." He hung up. "That's fine."
Gibbs looked at his phone's schedule. "That'll work. You have lunch between the two." He watched Ezra send a text message to the rest of the team and Evan's phone.
"Evan said he'll bring the zat. That way he's tempted severely to use it on a few of the others." Ezra put his phone back in his pocket. "When's the next trip anywhere?"
"Um... speech in Ohio next week? I think."
"Hmm. I have a trial I have to testify at next week."
"Do you need some of the guys to go with you?"
"I'm assured by AD Travis that my former office's staff will be at my disposal." He smiled. "He would be most upset with everyone if I got so much as a scratch and they all know that."
"Cool." He took a kiss. "Are you going to be back for that dinner thingy?"
Xander laughed. "I know. But at least I need to go."
"I could be at home soaking my calluses softer in the tub." Xander grinned at him for that offer. "Make sure none of the socially climbing bimbos and pretenders to the throne of concubines hit on you this time."
"I will." He yawned. "Check in with Chuck and then go to sleep?"
"That is definitely in my plans." They swerved. "John Daniel, did we forget to teach you how to drive?" he called.
"No, Ezra. The truck in front of us lost something from the stack of stuff it's moving."
"Anything important or nice?"
"Nah, a few dresser drawers and some clothes." He called in which truck those belonged to so they could be stopped and helped to pick up their own messes. They made it back to the white house and the car went into the auto garage. They walked in from there with the bags.
Xander blinked at Chuck. "Sleepy. 'Mergencies?" he said through a yawn.
"No, Xander. No emergencies yet. Have a good nap." Xander nodded, heading up to their suite. Chuck grinned at Gibbs. "Long trip?"
"Very long trip from the airport." He shook his head. "Are they always that gooingly cutesy?"
"Only when Xander's in trouble or he's tired," Evan said from behind them, walking around them. "They back?" Chuck smiled and nodded. "Cool. Let him get some sleep. Gun range?"
"That minister is calling him the First Lady again."
"Oh, that idiot." He got some coffee and went back to his office. "Stupid budget bills are coming in."
"I'll warn him tomorrow," Chuck said. He smiled at Gibbs. "Hopefully it'll be a quiet night."
"I hope so too." He went to do a round of checks then went to the security office.
Chuck checked on Evan then went home. He didn't have to stay late unless it was an emergency.
Xander looked at the reporter that walked in with his press secretary. "Are you infesting us?" he asked his staffer.
"Not funny, sir."
"None of them get sarcasm at all." He looked at the reporter. "What's wrong?"
"The Council's witches can do transgender pregnancies?"
Xander shrugged. "I know Willow could before she lost her powers." She gaped. "One of the semi-terrorists that bothered the girls in Brazil kinda woke up a woman and no one can change her back that I know of. As for pregnancy, yeah, there's all sorts of fertility rites and some of the older books do mention that one."
Her mouth fell open. "Please tell me you were being sarcastic?"
"Yup. If we wanted kids, we'd figure that out on our own. Without press attention or help." He smiled.
She sighed. "I'll let that be known. Some people want to storm the Council and make sure the witches won't do that."
His staffer coughed. "The King of Saudi Arabia called to talk to Evan earlier because you being gay is problematic."
"Is that because one of my ex's is taking over a small town there?"
"I...." He went to ask Evan that. Evan found out what Xander had mentioned and called him back to point that out. The staffer came back. "He's decided, after hearing that she was your ex and the sort of woman you dated, that you being gay is *just* fine, sir." He smiled.
Xander grinned back. "Thanks. Anything else I should hear?"
"Are you running for reelection?" the reporter asked.
Xander stared at her. "Hell no! Woman, do I look like a masochist or that I'm fucking insane?" She gaped. "Hell no! We're finding someone to put ourselves behind. You guys drive me fucking nuts and I can't even go for a walk with the dogs without someone having to hover."
"Oh. Okay," she said quietly. "I guess I can understand that." She nodded. "Which one are you planning on supporting?"
"Whichever one I like best." He shrugged.
"Could that be Colonel Lorne?" she asked hopefully.
"You ask him if he wants to stay."
"Fuck no, I want to go home to my city and hide like John does from all the stalking reporters who won't leave me alone," Evan said from the hallway. "It's bad enough you guys drove him into hiding for two years. He couldn't even date thanks to you people. Some of you are like those demonic leeches they found in the sewer system recently." He looked at Xander from the doorway. "Gun time?"
"Ten minutes to look over this current crappile you left for me?"
"Bring it and we'll talk in the car."
"One needs signed today."
"You have until midnight." Xander nodded, bundling it up and following him out. They stopped in the armory to get their gear and then to the cars. Vin and Buck were with them today, both smirking. "Yeah, yeah. Sedan or what?"
"Limo," Vin ordered. "That way you two can talk about presidential stuff in private." Chuck jogged out, handing Xander a sealed note then ran back inside.
Xander opened it once they got into the limo. "The head cleric in Iran is praising me for having Ezra after two of my former girlfriends tried to blow him up. He agreed, it's healthier for all of us." He handed that note over.
"Why are all your ex's in the middle east?" Evan asked.
"Either business or a vacation. I'm not sure which."
"Huh." He put it into his pocket. Chris would want to keep track of them. Evan shifted to sit beside him so they could go over things. That one that needed to be signed they were both uneasy about but it really did need to be signed. The language was bad though. It was going to cause problems. This is where a real politician could've handled it easier than they could.
Jon got beamed to the white house, looking at the people staring in awe. "In for a Pentagon meeting. The boss here?" he asked the guard.
"Gun range, Lieutenant Colonel. With the Colonel."
"Cool. Which one?"
He called and Chris came to drive him over. "Thank you for trying to calm Xander down," Chris said once they were in the car.
"He'll be bouncy later," Jon reminded him. "Even if I do distract him for a few hours." They pulled onto the street. "He in one of his creepy guy moods?"
"No, but he has scared the two senators he was meeting with on the gun range. Apparently they forgot he was also a fighter."
Jon nodded. "He's seen as softer since they got married. Maybe it's because Ezra makes him giddy and do gooingly cutesy stuff."
"Definitely," Chris sighed. "Ezra's not sure why."
"I think it's called being happy and Ezra's not allowing himself to be spoiled." Chris glanced at him before turning onto a new street. "Xander's one of those who tends to focus on their lover. They get attention, spoiling stuff, all that. Anya taught him that way."
"We've heard about her," he admitted, considering it. "Yeah, this would probably go back to being raised by girls. I'll remind him of that later."
"Ezra reads people pretty well. He probably knows. He may not understand. Have him take lunch with Dawn and Buffy."
"That might help too." He'd make that suggestion once he got back to the office. Ezra was upset by all the spoiling. Maybe Dawn could show him what Anya was like. Some sort of witchly home movies or something.
Ezra watched his mate fuss at things and decided he had to break this streak before Xander fussed himself into the hospital. He found his handcuffs and pounced Xander, locking him to the bed, staring at him. Then he smiled and walked off to get something.
"For some reason being tied to the bed seems familiar," Xander quipped.
"I'll let you go in a moment," Ezra assured him. The valet walked in and gave him a horrified look. "He was fussing over everything and needed to calm down." He found his book, got a glass of ice water, and went back into the bedroom. He put the water on the coaster and sat beside Xander. He opened his book and started to read quietly to him. Xander slowly relaxed and shifted to put his head on Ezra's side. Ezra petted him, holding the book with his free hand. It was calming and Xander quit fussing. It seemed to work very well.
The valet George left quietly, letting them have their strange personal time. He would not gossip about that. He was not a gossiping sort and it would violate the trust in his position.
Ezra smiled, turning the page with his thumb and going on. Xander quickly succumbed to an absolutely calm state so he unlocked him. Xander cuddled up better on his chest, listening to him.
The guard peeked in and then closed the door quickly since they were clearly doing couplish stuff. He wouldn't even wonder about the set of handcuffs hooked to the bed. He didn't want to know what the gay president did in his bedroom.
Chris watched Xander the next day, smiling at his calmer nature. He looked at Ezra. "You did good."
"I don't know what you're talking about." He sipped his coffee. "I simply read to him."
"Sometimes it's the simple things," Chris reminded him. He went back on his rounds. Ezra had duties in the white house and reports for the ATF to do. It was causing a stink that he was still working. The republicans were throwing virtual fits in the press again. He watched Xander walk up the hallway reading something and followed. It was his job.
"Sir," one of the reporters said. She had been taking the long route to the briefing room. Chris moved up to arrest her. "Just one question?" she begged.
"Make sure there's no weapons," Xander said. He stared at her. "What?"
"What are you going to do about your legacy of being a single term president and what's next?"
"Next, I'm going to hide like Sheppard is from you stalkers. Right now, if they only want me for one term, that's the will of the people. I did what they wanted me to do and did it the best I could. I have many things I could do instead of listening to people whine at me." She pouted. "I'm not running for reelection. If they want me back, they'll have to O'Neill me."
"Would you support Colonel Lorne running?"
"If that's what he wants. Ask him if that's what he wants." He walked off again. "Up to you if she gets arrested, Chris, since she's out of bounds."
"Yes, sir." He glared at her, making her wilt and whimper. "I don't think that's going to work, ma'am." He hauled her to the security office. He snorted but took her to arrest her. He went to warn Evan. "People are thinking about letting Xander go hide and making you swear at them."
"I heard. That's why I have a hangover," Evan said, looking at him. "You can tell them all to bite my ass."
"I can't do that." He walked off again.
Evan went to the briefing room, looking at the press secretary. "I'm not taking control of the white house. I will not accept a nomination. I do not want to be president." They all frowned at him. "If you want Xander back, I'll stay, but if not I'm going to hide better than Sheppard is. That way you guys don't stalk me around too." He walked off again.
The press secretary coughed. "He has a hangover," he murmured. That got a nod from the group.
Xander leaned in. "Ditto from me. I'm not running, I don't care. If people want me to stay they'd better O'Neill me or else I get to hide with my husband and my horses and my guns." He walked off again. "We'll cackle and have a lot of beer that night in celebration of having less people stalking us around."
The press secretary nodded. "There are rumors going around about their personal habits," he said delicately.
"Are they doing kinky things?" one asked.
"No. He's not like that." He arranged his briefing. "Let's get started. Apparently the missing one isn't coming." He read off the morning briefing and let them go. He went to his office to call about that reporter but found a post-it on his door saying she had been arrested for trying to sneak around the white house. That explained it very well to him. She had run into the cranky people. He called her boss so she could be bailed out.
Xander looked at Ezra and Evan. "Okay, we're coming up on the midterms. We have to decide if we're going to back someone. Do we have any positive front runners?"
"The guy from Iowa," Evan said. "He's not bad."
"Can they get behind him as a 'he'll protect us' sort?" Xander asked. "They're saying you'll protect us better."
Evan shook his head. "I don't think he can fight and I doubt he'd be able to prove he could. You're right, they'll want someone like that."
"Have there been any hints from other world leaders who they might work well with?" Ezra asked.
"Cole, over in the UK, said that he wants to keep me and Evan. He likes our senses of humor." Evan slumped, shaking his head. "Though he did point out there was nothing keeping John from coming back. There's no prohibition for a former president getting elected after he's sat out a term."
"John would kill us," Evan assured him.
"Yeah, but what about Jack?" Xander offered with a grin. "They liked Buffy as the first lady."
Evan smirked. "The kids would tear up the garden." Xander and Ezra both nodded that was true. He shifted. "How close are they to me?"
"They're fighting hard but they're being a bit underscored by the whole 'he's gay' thing," Xander said. "But... we have an apocalypse next year." Evan and Ezra both moaned. Xander smirked. "Yeah. Which is a year before the election, but...."
"We're so screwed if we show up," Evan muttered, glancing at the door. "Hey, Chuck? Come in and shut the doors." He came in and shut both the doors. "Got any idea who we can support to take over?"
He considered it, sitting down on the couch next to Evan. "The guy from Iowa?"
"They'll want someone who can protect them probably," Xander said. "Unless we can show that we're all safe again."
"Which we are not," Evan said dryly. "Did you get the briefing from Jon?"
"No. I haven't seen Jon in days," Xander said dryly. "Who this time?"
"Ours or someone else's?" Ezra asked.
Xander stared at him. "Was I perhaps briefed on them by a different person?"
"Maybe," he admitted. "If so, wanna share?"
"I want what Jon knows." He crossed his feet, sipping his coffee. "We have an apocalypse battle next year, Chuck."
"So we have to find someone that the people will think can protect them," he said. Xander nodded. "Can we have them go to the battle with you?"
"Hopefully," Ezra agreed. "That would give whoever a leg up. It's too bad slayers are forbidden from politics," he told Xander.
"Buffy would never run."
"No, which is a pity." He considered it.
"If we could get that blowhard from Missouri or the one from Louisiana to show up, it might help their bids for the job."
"Ezra, they might die," Xander said. "Which I'm not sure if it's good or not."
"I'd like it if they did," Evan said dryly. Xander grinned at him. "What about females?"
"Rep Helen from Missouri?" Xander suggested.
"She's an ancient lady but she might treat the other world leaders like the misbehaving children they pretend to be," Ezra said. "The one from Texas thinks he's as tough as any of us."
"I'm going to Texas in a few weeks to talk about education," Xander said. "I've already arranged to spar with him for a children's charity down there." They all smirked at him for that. "He's been taking extra boxing lessons so I'll let him go for a while." He sipped more of his coffee. "You can tell you made it, Ezra. It's that rich, dark stuff that makes me want to add it to dark chocolate." Ezra smirked at him for that.
Evan got up to get himself and Chuck some. He sipped and moaned. "Ezra, you get some of the best coffee." He handed Chuck his cup as he sat down. "Any other governors who might run?"
"Usually by now we have at least six contenders," Ezra agreed. "I'm starting to worry why we don't."
"So am I but the news channels are saying they're expecting a few to announce in the next few weeks."
Chuck got up to talk to the Chief of Staff. He came back with a list. "Who he thinks will be announcing." He handed it over.
Xander looked and whimpered. "Oh, goddess, we're screwed. None of them are anything but politicians." He handed them to Evan. "Among them I'm not sure if there's someone we can get behind."
Evan read it, grimacing. "Damn it."
Ezra took it to look over, frowning. "The one from Colorado is running. He's been campaigning quietly." He looked up. "He's fit, does know about military service though he was only Reserves due to his health. I don't personally like him and some of his ideas make me shudder in horror."
"He's very anti demon," Xander said. "He's been pushing for reservations of them."
Ezra nodded. "If we could find someone honorable yet with his qualities it would be easier."
Xander considered it. "Washington's?"
Evan shook his head. "She's a flake."
"But she's got former military service, she knows about protecting everyone. She's not anti anyone. Her state has a good record and financial prosperity, even in the bad years." Evan nodded at that. "I think she's about to run into a term limit."
The Chief of Staff opened the connecting door, looking at them. "Iowa is a nice guy."
"Who won't ever be seen as someone who can protect the people," Xander said. "Plus, he's dumber than I am."
"I like Colorado's governor's qualities but hate his stances. I like Washington state's governor but they might not like her."
He considered it. "Maine?"
Xander shrugged. "Never met her. Or Vermont's."
"Huh." He nodded. "Let me draw up a list that you'd find good to follow in the O'Neill legacy. Unless you want to nominate Lieutenant Colonel O'Neill?"
"No," Evan said. "He'd shoot us all."
Xander nodded, leaning against Ezra's shoulder. The Chief of Staff left them alone to talk. "Maine is doing good and I haven't heard anything bad. Vermont is known for some odd views now and then."
"It does have the only totally un-coordinated college anywhere," Ezra said. "You design your entire college career outside of one mandatory class."
"I might've liked that," Xander admitted.
Ezra patted him on the knee. "It's where you're getting those correspondence courses."
Xander grinned at him. "Sneaky but thank you."
"Josiah reminded me of it."
"I'll thank him later." He relaxed again. "We're so screwed if we can't go," he said quietly. "I'm going to drive everyone nuts."
Evan nodded. "I'm already feeling my sanity slipping thanks to the politics. Chuck, got any opinions about those?"
"I like Maine's governor. She's a decent sort who doesn't draw a lot of attention. She's settled yet she does know that there's dangers and she can handle it." Xander nodded at that. "Should we call her in for a talk?"
"I might schedule something up that way so we can pop in and talk," Xander offered with a small smile. Chuck smiled, going to find a way to do that. Xander looked at Evan. "How is John doing?"
"He's having a lot of fun in Cleveland and the girls are rabid about his safety and privacy. One of the young slayers actually bit a reporter." Xander smirked at that. He stood up. "Let me know what you're thinking so we can look over the options." He left them alone.
Xander took a kiss. "I have something for you to do today."
Ezra smiled. "Really?"
"Yup." He winked and got up, grabbing something off the desk to hand over. "For Chris's special task force even."
Ezra read the letter and nodded. "That would be our job." He stood up and took another kiss. "Be safe, I'll see you for dinner." He walked off to talk to them. "Josiah, he said thank you for reminding me of that college." He handed the letter to Vin with a smirk.
Vin read it and groaned. "When did they let her out of jail?" JD looked up and stared at him. He handed it around.
Chris walked in when Ezra texted him. He took the letter and snorted. "We can handle that." They left to go to the ATF main office to work on that problem. They really needed to finish arresting and permanently putting away all of Xander's ex's.
Xander heard what he needed to know and had to do something that was going to make Ezra and Evan yell. But it was the slayers so he had to. He wasn't going to trust anyone else. He could handle this and get home before most anyone heard. He hoped. He was just finishing laying his diversion when he ran into a military unit. They all gave him horrified looks. "Here about the slayer they captured, guys?" he asked casually, going back to what he was doing.
"Sir, you're the president," the team leader said.
"I know that, Sergeant." He looked up and grinned. "They have a slayer."
"Um, sir, there's drug dealers in there that are trading chemical weapons," the team leader said.
"Yeah that too." He finished up. "Okay, I have myself a diversion. If you guys are coming, come on." He looked around and then set it off. The guards inside headed to the opposite side of the compound for the most part. They snuck toward the building and ran into a few guards being tense. The guards shot at them. Xander shot them back. His was silenced so more guards didn't come running.
One of the military guys went down with a wound on his arm. Xander took off his necklace and covered the guy's mouth before dropping it on it. "It's going to hurt like a bitch but it'll stop the bleeding in a minute," he soothed. The guy did scream, a lot, but the wound closed. Xander put the amulet around the guy's neck. "Hold that for now, it'll make sure it won't break open." The others stared at him.
"I got it before going to Africa. It heals most small things almost instantly. It kept me from drawing things with scratches." He got up and helped the guy up. They continued and found the house. The military guys went after their target. Xander went after the slayer in custody. He found her in a bedroom, chained to the bed, nearly naked.
He took off his overshirt and handed it over once she was free. "C'mon." She nodded, following him out of the house through a window and out into the woods. There was more opposition this time. Xander watched but the military guys weren't coming. Xander groaned, handing her his knife and a spare gun. "Go."
"They'll shoot you and you're the president now, Xander," she hissed in Spanish.
He nodded. "I have military guys in there who weren't here for you." She nodded and he pointed. "Start the car for me." He tossed her the keys and headed back toward the house. He heard the fighting and pulled out the spare explosives he had. They wouldn't have packed the chemical weapons in the garage and the cars were pretty nice. He resisted his old urge to loot the bad guys and just blew up the classic cars. Pity about the 1938 sports car but it went up in a pretty fireball. The guards came running and Xander shot most of them. The head guys came out and the military guys got them. He nodded. "We're clear, guys. Need more help?"
"Sir, how much explosive are you carrying?" the one with his amulet asked.
Xander checked. "Only another five pounds. Need it?" They shook their heads slowly. "Be safe, guys, and you did not see me. That's an order." He jogged off, heading for the car. She was slumped in the driver's seat, eyes closed. He tapped before he opened the door, that way she wouldn't shoot him. He closed the door and looked at her. "Want me to drive?"
"Please," she agreed. She shifted over his lap and he slid underneath to get into the driver's seat. "I feel like shit, Xander."
"I know, Clorice." He drove them off. "Want the local hospital?"
"Please don't. They'll ask bad questions and the local cops will get involved."
"Okay." He called. "Dawn, Clorice and I are in your car in the Nevada mountains. Clorice needs medical somewhere safe." He listened. "Thank you." He hung up and the car flashed around them. He parked in the open spot, staring at his buddy. He got out and walked around to help her out, picking her up. "Docs?"
"Ambulance is on the way," she said, coming over to help him. "C'mon, Clorice. The kids are being corralled by Sam so you can have the couch until the ambulance gets here." She and Xander tucked her in. Xander took the weapons back. The ambulance driver walked in with his kit.
"I just rescued her from someone who had her chained to a bed, guys," Xander said quietly and calmly. "She's one of my slayers."
"Yes, sir. Local?" the paramedic asked.
"No. Someone's handling that though." That got a nod and he came over to look her over. "That's my shirt. She can keep it for now." The paramedic nodded and got his coworker to bring in the gurney. Xander smiled and petted her hair gently. "Want one of us to go with you?"
"No, I'll be okay," she said, trying not to sniffle.
"Bullshit," Dean said as he walked in. "I'll go. Xander, people are already wondering about you being out of DC."
Xander shrugged. "They had her hostage." He helped the paramedic lift her, looking at Dean. "You sure?"
"Yeah, I'm good." He walked out with her, letting her hold his hand. Once they were in the ambulance he looked at her. "When you're out of the exam, you can cry on me like Dawn does during mood swings." She smiled weakly and nodded. "It'll be rough for the next few and then we'll do what we can to help you. Including a good counselor. One of Gunn's people from the gang just graduated with their counseling degree. She's seen it before."
"Thank you, Dean. He was like an avenging angel. A really pissed off avenging angel."
"Yeah, he was totally pissed off when he heard you had been taken. They weren't giving him any information in case he decided to do something totally stupid yet heroic and rescue you himself."
"There were military guys there," she offered.
"Good! That showed sense that he brought backup this time." She shook her head. "Damn it. I don't want to nark to Ezra." She gave his hand a squeeze. "We'll deal. You know that. If they aren't dead, Buffy's going to rip their heads off and piss down their throats."
"Yeah. He barely didn't." Dean smirked at her. They pulled into the hospital and Dean walked with her. "No, I need him," she said when the nurse tried to get Dean to wait.
"Someone rescued her. She's one of our slayers," Dean told the nurse. She nodded, letting him come in and calm her down again. The paramedic reported and the nurse got what she'd need for the exam. Dean did get kicked to the hall for that but as soon as she was done he got let in again. It kept her calm. With the injuries to her wrists and the broken ribs she had, she got admitted and Dean held her while she cried until the therapist got called down to help her. It was all he could do to help but it kept her calmer.
Xander looked at Dawn, who was giving him a dirty look. "What?" he demanded.
"The president is not supposed to go on slayer rescues."
"Fortunately I'll only be the president for another two years." He used his transport stone to get back to the apartment. He went to take a quick shower and change back into his everyday clothes. Ezra was back at the ATF office today so no one was going to realize he had done more than take a long nap. Which was sweet.
That night, the Sergeant reported to his commander. "Sir." He saluted.
"At ease, Sergeant. How did it go?"
"We confiscated all the vials of germs and various nasties, sir, and the president made sure that Mays got treated when he got grazed."
"Excuse me?" he demanded.
"Sir, apparently they had a slayer hostage."
"So the president. Our president? Went on a rescue?"
"Yes, sir. We caught him finishing his diversion plan. He went in with us, let us handle our task while he handled his, and then evacuated her to his vehicle. During the run in, Mays got hit on the arm but the President used some sort of necklace that healed it. By the time we got out, it was almost fully healed." He held up the necklace. "He said he got it in Africa to heal the scratches that could draw things, sir." He put it on the desk. "When we were pinned down, the president came back to blow up their garage to create a new diversion. When I asked how much more explosives he was carrying he offered me the last five pounds. I said we probably shouldn't need it. Per orders I turned over the vials to the waiting FBI agents. I did not mention our helper to them."
The commander nodded. "All right. Is Mays fine?"
"Yes, sir, fully healed long before we made it back to base." He handed over the report he carried. "I did not mention him in the official report. I figured it would get me yelled at plus he ordered me not to tell anyone he was there. I am disobeying in this debrief only so it's fully known about but does not make it into the official record."
"Not you, but he will be. Thank you for that notice, Sergeant." He read over the report. "Good work. The slayer and the president?"
"He disappeared from the road about as we made it back to the truck, sir. We saw a twinkle where it probably was but nothing conclusive."
"So he evacuated her to safety," he decided. "Thank you."
"Welcome, sir." He saluted and left.
The commander picked up the necklace, noticing his papercut was healing. "That's a handy thing to have in the field," he decided. He got up and went to find someone he knew would be able to tell someone else that bad news. "Lieutenant," he said, startling him enough that he jumped up and saluted. "At ease." He stared at him. "You were in Cheyenne Mountain's projects, yes?"
"Yes, sir, last year," he said. "I did a short stint but I couldn't pass the physical necessities for an away team. They needed commando skills and I'd have to do SERE training first. Why?"
"I need you to hand two things to someone there who might get a message to someone higher."
"Something bad, sir?" He held up the necklace. "I've seen one of those before. It's to heal small wounds."
"Yes, it's the president's." The man nodded once and found his phone on the table, calling someone. He smiled. "Than you, Lieutenant."
"Not a problem, sir." He said something quietly and hung up. "Sir, one of the senior team members that was over our initial training will be here in a few hours by beaming."
"That's very helpful. Bring him to me please." He walked off to wait in his office. This was going to give someone heartburn. The Lieutenant brought in the higher up, Colonel Mitchell, when he got there. "Colonel."
"Commander," he said, shaking his hand. "What happened?" He explained what the nice sergeant had admitted to him. He handed over the necklace. Cam nodded and said he'd handle it. He got beamed back to Atlantis and went to find John Sheppard. "Sheppard," he said when he found him. "I know you're stationed in Cleveland half the time but can you slip to DC to hand back something?"
"Sure, what?" he asked. He looked at the necklace that got handed to him. "That's Xander's. How did we get it?" Cam told him. John just nodded and smirked. "I'll make sure he gets it back, Cam. Thank you."
"Have fun, sir. He sounds like he should've been one of us." He walked off happier.
John got beamed to DC, startling Chuck. "Is Xander still here?"
"No, sir. He's at dinner with his husband. Colonel Lorne is still here in his office. Unless it's an emergency?"
"No. I'm going to commit treason by paddling the hell out of the president."
Chuck winced. "I can get Agent Larabee back with Agent Gibbs to meet with Colonel Lorne, sir. Just in case it causes us protests or something."
"Sure, please do." Chuck paged him and Chris stomped back in from outside. John walked them to the VP's office, staring at Evan. He let the necklace dangle from his finger.
"How did you get Xander's healing necklace?" Evan asked with a grin.
"Were you hiding something about a kidnaped slayer?"
"Should've worked harder." He handed it over. "She's somewhere but rescued. That little thing managed to heal a field injury to a team member's arm."
Chris cleared his throat. "The kid did what?"
"Reverted back to his training," Evan said dryly. "How bad?"
"From what got told to Mitchell, arm. The thing was fully healed. Xander had a lot of explosives."
Evan nodded. "Okay then. Are we medaling the team?"
"I have no idea." He smirked. "I was told the sergeant in charge did not include him in the official report."
"Wonderful." He looked at Chris since he was growling. "He'll hide from you."
"He can't hide from Ezra." Gibbs snickered at that. "Thank you, Colonel Sheppard, for that enlightening information. I'll make sure Agent Standish hears."
John smirked. "Thank you. Maybe he can calm him down too."
"He won't be sitting tomorrow," Chris assured him. He walked off, going up to the door to the apartment. He knocked and Ezra answered it. He held up the necklace. "He left this with the team he ran into while saving a slayer's life."
"Interesting news." Ezra took the necklace to look at. "Where was this done?"
"Nevada from what Sheppard heard."
"Ah. I thought he was taking a nap."
"Apparently it was with a lot of explosives."
"I'll make sure the bed doesn't have any tonight." He closed the door and turned around. "Xander?" he asked casually.
He looked over from cooking. "What?"
"Did you do anything today?" He walked into the kitchen.
"Um, not really. Why?" Ezra held up the necklace and he winced. "They had Clorice."
"It was dangerous," he said calmly.
"I was fully planned and all that."
"It was dangerous," Ezra repeated.
"Were we injured?"
"Did we perhaps take some explosives I did not know you had?"
"Is there more?"
"No comment?" Ezra glared. Xander backed up but he was trapped by the sink. "Umm.... you're pissed," he sighed.
"You risked yourself. You could have gotten a lot of backup. We would have went with you. The whole team would have backed you up." He moved closer and put the necklace back over his head. "You are in quite a bit of trouble for going alone."
Ezra covered his husband's mouth with a hand. "No. You are going to be hearing about this for *years*. If you had told us I would have went. My whole team would have helped her. We would not have let her suffer." He stared into the brown eye and patch. "I would have been with you if you had trusted me with that mission," he said calmly.
"I couldn't risk you."
"Yet you went to risk yourself."
"It's my duty."
"You are on reserve status for such things," he reminded him. "I can only think you did not tell me because you did not trust me or because you knew you'd be in yelled at."
"Mostly because I'd be yelled at and you were busy on a case. Or else I might've told you. You had to do that and it was important. I've handled similar things by myself before." He hopped up onto the counter. "If you hadn't been on such an important case I would have told you."
"Just me?" Xander nodded. "Why not the others?"
"I'm not real used to having a team with me," he said dryly. "It's not something I can really fit myself into. Especially since yours is so scarily efficient and wouldn't have room for me. Plus, Chris would bitch and complain for weeks ahead of it."
"Perhaps," he admitted. "I would have told them."
"I realize that."
"Why didn't you go yesterday?"
"Because they were totally pissing me off by not telling me. They told Evan."
Ezra sighed, moving closer. "That is because they know your first instinct is one that was dangerous, slightly foolhardy, and could have gotten you killed." He stared at him. "Which none of us want. I'm sure they did the same thing to Sheppard a number of times." Xander shook his head. "You're certain?"
"Yeah. They never would've kept that from Jack either. Just me because apparently my eye is too big of a handicap even though I've worked with it gone for years. I did bigger things when I was in Africa by myself because I had to."
Ezra nodded. "While that may be true, you do have people now that will go with you."
"Which I'm really not used to and they'd all complain I should sit at home like I'm an invalid or I'm too old to handle things. People are even complaining that I'll have to jump into the next apocalypse battle. I went to them when I was the VP and there wasn't that much complaint. Yet suddenly, I'm not good enough. It's like Buffy's 'you're normal' syndrome came back and bit me again." He hopped down and walked around his husband, going to sulk in the bedroom with the dogs. He slammed the door and locked it.
"Xander, I was not going to say anything about any of that," Ezra complained. He turned off the cooking food and followed. The dogs actually growled until he stared them down. "Go lay down so we may fight." They ran off. "Stay out of the kitchen." He closed the door more gently, staring at his miserably curled up mate. "I was not going to say anything of the like." He walked over to sit in front of him. "Have I ever judged you unfit to do anything?"
"You were going to."
"No. I was going to remind you that some of us do not see you that way. I'm quite sure that you will jump into the next apocalypse battle, even if it will fray my nerves to the point of snapping." Xander looked at him. "The same as I'm sure that you'd do similar things if I was in danger." Xander nodded slowly. "You must learn that you can trust some people, Xander. We would have went with you, backed you up to the fullest extent. We would have went in to help you save her and all that."
"I know, you've never worked in a team environment. My team is not like your former one." Xander slumped but hugged his pillow better. "You have to know that."
"They're still avoiding telling me things."
"I will be adjusting that attitude tomorrow." Xander gave him a hopeful look. "However you are still in trouble for not telling me. Relationships cannot have such problems and work. We need to communicate to make this relationship successful and comfortable. Though now I know why you volunteered to cook tonight." He shifted to cross his feet. "Get out of the kitchen!" he yelled when he heard the clang of a pot hitting the floor. The dogs ran for the sitting area. He rolled his eyes.
"They're getting old, Ezra," Xander said quietly.
"I know. We'll handle it when and if something should happen. We can grieve together." Xander nodded, shifting closer. He petted him but didn't let him cuddle. "Were you injured?"
"Did you have to harm anyone?"
"Do you wish to talk about it?"
"No. No more than I do the stuff in Africa or any of that."
"How about talking about why you feel they're avoiding telling you things?"
"It's always been that way. They forget everything I've ever done, anything I've ever handled, and treat me like I'm some child that they have to protect."
"Which is not good. I worry sometimes that they'll get you killed or you'll die proving to them that you are just as good as you know you are."
"They probably wouldn't care."
Xander looked up at him. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't...."
Ezra gave his hair a yank. "Yes, you should talk to me about these things. That is one thing a spouse is for." Xander looked confused so he petted him again. "Spouses share problems to make them easier and to help find solutions." Xander nodded. "If you had told me, I would have went with you and I wouldn't have told the Council people. My team definitely but not them. I do not like how they treat you sometimes and I've made myself plain more than once to some of the younger brats they house."
"You did?" he asked quietly.
"I have and made my feelings known to Mrs. O'Neill as well." He let Xander cuddle his stomach. "I'm still upset you did not tell me."
"It's nothing that shall happen again."
"No, I'll tell you from now on, Ezra."
"Thank you." He petted him again, calming him down. He knew how much that attitude hurt Xander. "Allow me to talk to the others first. That way they can be straightened out as well."
"They're probably at the farm bitching."
"Probably," he agreed. He looked at his mate. "Come on. We'll go for a night time ride."
"Chris said it's not safe."
"I doubt anyone is going to try anything tonight." Xander nodded, getting up with him and changing into jeans and a dark t-shirt. They left together, Ezra driving, and spent a quiet trip out to the farm. Xander went into the barn to get their horses ready while Ezra walked inside. "He was not sure that we wouldn't treat him like those blasted, spoiled girls of his do. That we would see him yet again as helpless and unable to do things."
Buck shook his head. "No one sees him that way."
"The whole Council does," Vin said. "They were talking about the kidnaped slayer to Evan to keep him in the dark. That's why he didn't tell us?" Ezra nodded. "Why didn't he tell you?"
"He thought I was busy and he knew I'd tell you, which would bring condemnation on him for daring to do what he's done many times in the past. Which they have never acknowledged and even the other higher ups have done the same thing. Which does bother the hell out of me if we were not aware of it."
"I can understand that but we would've went," Chris said.
"Yes, but he's not used to having backup. Remember, he had to do things that the girls totally discounted and then yelled at him about having to do. He was not secure in the knowledge that we wouldn't tie him up in a closet and treat him like he's an invalid."
"We know he's not!" Chris said.
"He doesn't know that from you," JD said quietly. "Does he?"
"No. Half the time you treat him like the girls do. Which is unable to do most anything to protect himself."
"That's part of the job," Josiah said. "Though I can see his point."
"We did not treat O'Neill or Sheppard or even Colonel Lorne that way," Ezra said dryly. "We do treat him as such because he was not formally trained and is missing an eye."
Chris swore and nodded. "We do guard him more heavily because of that."
"He doesn't have the experience we have," Nathan said.
Ezra stared at him. "What do you call his time in Africa, traveling and training slayers? He was alone for half of it." Nathan swallowed. "He handled many demons and humans causing problems because he had to or he ran into them. Xander has always been a problem solver and now we're causing him more problems. It's no wonder he ducks our protective instincts now and then." He straightened up. "We are spending some quiet time. The dogs are back at the white house." He left them to talk alone for now. His husband needed some support and careful, gentle retraining to trust others.
"Xander's never trusted anyone I bet," JD said. "If Buffy and Willow are his best friends and they treated him like dirt for being a guy, then he probably only trusts himself."
"With his past, it's not unlikely," Josiah agreed. "As a profiler, I'd peg him to have a lot more problems than he does. Or at least more than he seems to have."
"Do we think it hurt Ez?" Vin asked quietly.
"No, I think Ezra may be the best cure to the problem. The boy hasn't been close to anyone in years." He looked around. "We do treat him like he's some official stuffed shirt who has no idea what he's doing."
"I try not to," Chris admitted. "That's why I let him out with a single guard."
"And yet, whenever he acts to guard himself, like he's used to, you ground him," Vin said. He sat up. "We've got to figure this out. Ez looked pissed at us and at his boy."
"I think they probably had a bad talk," Chris admitted. "I let him talk to the kid about it."
"He's nearly forty," JD said. "When does he stop being a kid?"
"About the same time you do," Nathan told him. "When you quit bouncing around because you ate too much sugar." He looked around. Josiah looked contemplative. Chris and Vin were staring out toward the barn. JD and Buck were both looking sulky but like they were thinking. "I guess they're out for a ride?"
"Yup," Chris agreed. "If Companion was darker they'd be easier hid."
"We need to sit down and teach the kid how to work in the team environment," Josiah said.
"I can't see as how we'd need him to," Nathan said. "Even when they do retire to Denver."
Buck looked at him. "Do you honestly think if someone hurts Ez he's going to sit at home and mope?" he asked.
Nathan shuddered. "No."
"Then yeah, we need to teach him how to work with the team," Vin agreed. "Tomorrow?"
"Yup," Chris agreed. "Anyone want to follow them?"
"I'm fairly certain that if something happens, he'll be okay," Josiah said. "Ezra and he guard each other like they're precious. That's one reason why they work."
"Okay, we'll teach the kid how to act with a team backing him up since he's never known. How're we going to stop the others from yelling at him?"
"I think you and O'Neill need to have a heart-to-heart," JD said.
"Him or her?" Buck asked him.
"Both. Who told us?"
"Sheppard. He told me, Gibbs, and Lorne."
"Gibbs will follow on this. He reads some people pretty well and he knows the kid doesn't need heavy guards," Buck said. "DiNozzo reads him real well. They're a lot alike."
"I'll talk to Lorne, you talk to O'Neill and Sheppard?" Josiah suggested to Chris, who nodded. "Tonight?"
Chris looked at the time. "Yeah, that'll work." He called the comm officer to get him to them so they could talk about 'security matters'. He landed in the front area of the house. Jack O'Neill came out. "We gotta talk before I chew your wife a new one to stop her from complaining to her former best friend."
"I heard how stupid he was." Jack leaned on the porch support.
"He did things the same way you would."
"Without the same training. He only has memories."
"You know, it was pointed out the kid probably got some extra on the job training in Africa handling issues." Jack stiffened. "He didn't take anyone because he knew we'd bitch him out and treat him like he's helpless. The same as your wife has for years."
Jack nodded. "I've talked to her about that."
"Ezra had to calm him down earlier. He wasn't looking happy when he showed up. He didn't tell us so we couldn't back him up because he expected us to act the same damn way."
Jack nodded. "I can see that point. It was still dumb."
"If all you know is single, commando style combat maneuvers what else are you going to do? We might never have known if he hadn't run into a military unit."
"You think there's been others?"
"Rumors of what he's handled in Africa are conflicting, General, but a lot of it said he was a problem solver there too. No matter what sort of problem he ran into. Including minor rebellion groups and things going for the girls or the people he was around."
"I know he blew up some that were coming for them." He came down the stairs. "I'm not going to yell at the kid but he still has to take it a bit easier."
"Would you have?"
Jack shook his head. "Probably not," he sighed. "And I would've paid the price for it."
"You have more self esteem than the kid does. You had better parents, friends that backed you up, and a team you could count on. He had your wife and Willow."
"I know. He good? Injured?"
"No, just upset that Ezra and he had to talk. They're off for a ride and I doubt it's going to be happy tomorrow. So can you quit moving the problems around him so he doesn't hear?"
"That was not my decision."
"It hurt him."
"I ...." He looked inside, finding his wife watching. He waved her out. "You completely and totally upset Xander by not telling him."
Chris glared at her. "He's seen more combat than you. He's handled humans and demons causing problems. I doubt today's was the first time he handled an issue for the slayers that you totally discounted or ignored either because he's a guy or because he's missing an eye." She flinched. "He's not helpless and he keeps proving that to you and him. Only you never learn. Then you hurt him more and others have to deal with it."
"He can't do those things," she said firmly.
"Really? And yet today he helped take out a few fairly notorious drug and weapons dealers to save one of you girls."
She snorted. "He probably dated them."
"No. Not in the least." He stared at her. "Your girl would've been really dead, horribly dead, if he hadn't stepped in."
"We were going to rescue her tomorrow," she defended. "We were gathering plans and all that."
"Has it escaped your notice that he did the same thing before?" Jack asked her. She glared at him. Which meant he was sleeping on the couch. Oh well. "He rescued slayers in Africa too, Buffy. Against bigger threats than those today. With a lot less support. He doesn't trust anyone to back him up because you keep putting him down. He could've died today." She flinched and looked down. "I think it's time you mend that fence. He's a good friend to have and you haven't appreciated him in years."
"He's still normal!"
"So am I," Jack said dryly. "And yet I've been in every single apocalypse battle. He's been in all but two. That one you talked me into keeping him out of probably would've went easier with him there because the girls listen to him about battle plans."
"I'm not talking about this. He retired the day he got too injured." She stomped off.
Chris looked at him. "I'm sorry, but I've got to pick a side."
"I agree," Jack sighed. "Even if it does piss her off. You going to tell Sheppard to lay off too?"
"Yup." Jack called for John to join him. Chris glared at him. "You just had to ruin what little peace he's managed to build? The little bit of self esteem?" John flinched and winced. "We should've seen this earlier. He's a lot like you two only with less formal training. It's why he still swings his axe funny."
"I only meant for someone to stop him before he gets killed and Evan has to step in."
"So you don't value him as a friend at all?" Jack asked dryly.
"What? No, of course I do!"
"You just put Evan ahead of him, Sheppard, decided he was less worthwhile."
"No... Damn it, I was with Lorne in Pegasus. I know how he thinks. We're tight because of the shared combat. You know that makes people different."
"Yeah, same as I know no one shared his with him," Chris said. John slumped. "Quit sending information around him. He always finds out and then he has to react because people think he's fucking helpless. Again. You treat him like he's an invalid and helpless just like his wife does. The same as Willow does."
"I've tried to get that down when we were in DC."
"Well, now it's back," Chris said. "So today he saved a team's lives by helping." John nodded. "And you treated him like a kid playing dress up by running and nagging."
"Do we think he's really hurt?" Jack asked.
"With the look on Ezra's face, yeah. It's not a happy night for them. They're off on a midnight ride."
"I'll apologize tomorrow. I know he can do things like that even though he shouldn't have to."
"Buffy was going to take some of the girls tomorrow to rescue her," Jack said. "Most of the time she treats me the same way."
Chris nodded. "I know it's a long term problem. That's probably one of the reasons he went to Africa, to get away from them because they wouldn't respect his grief."
"Yeah, that's one thing he did say," John sighed. "I didn't mean to piss him off."
"You didn't. You hurt him," Chris said. "Not like he got trained that he could trust people or his team."
"We trusted him plenty," Buffy complained, stomping back out again. "I think you need to go."
"How did you trust him?" Chris asked her. "By shoving him away? Treating him like he wasn't useful."
"And yet he made your battle plans and the explosives for the graduation battle," Jack said. She glared at him. "I hate to say it but you treat me the same way and I've had a hell of a lot of training, more than he gave your girls."
"We're slayers. We have gifts."
"That means you're still not bulletproof and you're not any better trained than Xander was when he started until Xander trained them," John said. "I've had to undo a crapload of spoiled girl moments out of the younger girls because they think being a slayer means they're next to the Goddess." She growled. "It's the truth. You're just as vulnerable as the rest of us, even with the faster healing."
"For that matter, Xander heals faster than you do," Jack told her. "That one girl Amanda, her liver damaging hit healed weeks later than Xander's did when he got out of the hospital." She gave him a confused look. "She had the same sort of injury. It took her thirteen days longer to get out of the hospital, with the same doctors he had. That faster healing works on some things like broken bones but not everything."
"That must've been the mermaid taint," she said.
"Then he's definitely not a fully normal human," Chris said. She glared at him again. "If he was normal, he wouldn't have that, would he? The same as John's counted as more than human by the Council because of his bug taint. You treat Xander like that because you grew up with him and you were spoiled then and too spoiled now to see that he's not what you thought. You made an opinion based on being a slayer instead of a friend. I'm sure your mother hated that attitude." She slumped, stomping back inside.
"I'm pretty sure she did too," Dawn said from behind them. "Clorice will be fine," she told Jack. "I came to give Buffy that information and on who sold her. That demon's going down and Connor will see to it with Dean." She handed over the report. "What's going on?"
"There's been some fussing at Xander because he handled it," John told her.
Dawn nodded. "He's handled a bunch of situations since he got back from Africa and took over Cleveland. He's went on at least ten rescues I know of because he needed something magical at the time or to be blipped out. So?"
"Did he ever have backup?" Chris asked her.
"I offered and he refused, told me I was too vulnerable most of the time because of what I am and I'm not used to being in real battles outside of magical support. Which I agreed with." Buffy opened the door to stare at her. "You didn't realize that's how we got Faith back both times she got captured? That Xander actually came in limping with one of them and Andrew wanted to fuss but Xander wouldn't let him? You and Willow did bad things to him, Buffy. I love you because you're my sister but where Xander's concerned you're still a bitch." She looked at Jack again. "The guys who had her?"
"Reports state that they're fully arrested," John told her. She smiled. "She need more help?"
"One of Gunn's people just got her counseling degree and she's from the streets so she's seen it before. She's helping her. Andrew's already sent her stuff to nibble on in the hospital tonight and dinner. She's letting him fuss and I think that's a good thing. She'd probably let Dean, Sam, Connor, and Xander all fuss because the girls trust them implicitly to help them, back them up, and to be there when they need them. It's who they are."
Jack nodded. "It is. How many more do you think there were?"
"I don't know. I'm kinda glad he didn't even hesitate to assign someone for the one that happened right before the wedding. He didn't pause, just assigned a team to go."
Jack nodded. "So you think over twenty?"
"By the records Giles keeps there's been sixteen kidnaping attempts. That does not count the ones in Africa that he helped with, slayer and not, or the ones he handled without reporting. Those are from the houses run by the other slayers, usually beta slayers. Faith didn't tell him anything about hers and I know they're not on the books. Mine wasn't and Xander nearly destroyed that asshole into molecules."
"When were you kidnaped again?" Buffy demanded.
Dawn stared at her. "Contrary to my first few years of life," she said dryly. "I've only been snatched six times since Sunnydale fell in. Five of those by people who wanted the power in my blood and the other wanted me as a blood sacrifice. That was the one that Xander came back from Africa to stop in the most harsh and mean way possible. I nearly cried about how mean he was. And no, I'm not counting the NID thing where he took out ten agents by himself while in hyena mode." Buffy shuddered. "I think maybe you should talk to someone who handles combat stress, Buffy. Mom would be really pissed that you went back to that same point where you shoved Xander away." She stared her down. "Don't make me do a seance."
"I won't." She looked at her husband. "You're still a normal guy and not a slayer."
"You're right, I'm a guy and a general who has decades of experience that you won't let me help you by using because I've got a dick."
"That's worse than Carter's 'no, I can do it' thing," John agreed. "Some of them even tried to do it to Ronon. He survived the wraith culling his whole world. He was a training tool for the wraith for seven years, all by himself for those years. He killed more wraith than I did by himself, alone, usually with a knife." She shuddered. "The girls are spoiled. The ones from Africa never treated him like that. They saw what he could do."
She nodded. "I'll work on it," she muttered. Dawn bounced over to give her a hug. "Thanks, Dawnie."
"Not a problem as long as your head comes out of your butt again." She gave her a pointed look. "Because that could seriously hurt Xander and Ezra's relationship too. Remember, he never had a good role model outside of Mom's."
"I know. Thank you." She nodded and left. She looked at her husband. "Is there...."
"Someone at the mountain I trust? Yeah. We can both talk to him since I do about every week." She relaxed and smiled, nodding some. He looked at Chris and Sheppard, both of whom John sent home. He walked up the porch, looking at her. "We'll handle this last childish thing you have to grow out of," he said quietly. "You'll make it right and it'll go back to being more friendly again."
"I'm not sure I can."
"He'll listen. It's the sort of guy Xander is." She nodded, giving him a hug. "Let's go finish the dishes so we can put the heathens down." She nodded, walking him inside to help him with that. He understood both sides of it but it still sucked when she did it to him.
Vin met them at the barn when they rode back together. "You have three meetings in four hours," he said. "You should probably nap on the way back." He held Companion's head so Xander could dismount.
"They're all phone conferences. I can do it from the porch," Xander countered.
"No, they're all in person but one," Ezra corrected, smiling at him. "Though I doubt they would like to see you so under dressed." He dismounted and they put up their horses then he drove them back to the white house. They had caught a nap while talking in the woods but otherwise they were both exhausted. Xander got another twenty minutes but it wasn't peaceful sleep. Ezra got him out of the car and into the white house, ignoring Evan for the moment.
"You're late," Chuck said, looking him over.
"I was out riding while we talked." He walked into his office, staring at the man waiting on him. "Sorry, we were having a lifetime movie sort of talk while we went for a ride earlier." He sat down behind his desk, finding the folder he needed. "We were going to talk about jobs?" he said, looking at him.
"You're wearing jeans and a dirty t-shirt in this office?" he demanded.
"I just got back from exercising my horse. Not like I was going to make you wait longer so I could shower, dry the dogs off since they'd want to help, eat something, and change clothes. Now, job creation? Is it slowing down again?"
"No real politician would ever show in the white house dressed like that."
"I'm not a politician. I've never been a politician. I might have to shoot myself if I ever became a politician." The man glared. "If you're that worried that wearing a pair of jeans lowered my IQ, we can amend my schedule so we talk another day. Last chance. Jobs?"
"The private sector is starting to weaken based on spending again."
Xander nodded. "Okay. Is this seasonal and will it pick up again or is it pointing at a larger problem?"
"We're divided on that." He stared at him. "You're awfully insulting to me."
"I'm awfully insulting to most everyone who can't understand that I'm not a politician. I got elected to protect people, not to glad-handle and make people happy with me. I'm like a soldier only I was never formally trained and we don't have ranks or stars or bars or anything on our collars."
"You weren't at the last apocalypse."
"That was Mrs. O'Neill's decision. She thought they didn't need more help, they could solve it in other ways." He looked at him. "I was still going to go but she told me they'd call if they needed more physical help instead of higher energy weapons help since I'm good at artillery but I'm still learning higher energy weapons work and methodology." The senator shuddered. "Do we think the private sector is going to be offset by the summer spending season when kids get out of school and everyone goes on vacation?"
"I think it'll pick up some but not as much as usual. We might be missing about three percent."
"Okay, so if states start hyping all the neat things that they hold then that could increase tourism spending and probably make some new jobs, or at least create overtime?" That got a slow nod. "Maybe they should start hyping that now and we can see if there's a way to increase school spending."
"That might help. The major automakers wanted a slight tax concession this year so they could offer steeper discounts."
Xander shook his head slowly. "No. Sorry. They're already offering the usual summer discounts. How would that be different?" He gaped. "They're already back on the 'no money down, zero percent interest for so many months' plan. What else are they going to do?"
"Well, I'm not sure."
"Okay. Why don't we come up with a plan and bring it to me? I would like to see the states start to hype their vacationing possibilities. Some of the smaller states especially could use it. There's an air of nostalgia going around right now I'm told so all the old time stuff like the old amusement parks might get a lot of visitors if they hyped them right."
"It can take months to get a new ad worked out, sir."
Xander nodded slowly. "Maybe. Maybe not. If you're paying by the hour, probably. If you're awarding a reward for coming up with a new one, not as much and the contest itself brings publicity, plus you may find someone with some ideas for the future."
"I'll talk to the governor's council about that." He left him alone, grimacing all the way back to his office.
Xander thumped his head on his desk. "Chuck, if they're all going to be bitches, warn me please?" he called.
"Of course I will. Sorry."
Xander looked at him. "You didn't realize he was going to be bitchy because I'm wearing jeans. That's cool. I thought he was more grown up than that too." Chuck grinned. "Let me get something to eat." He stood up and winced, sitting down to work on his leg cramp. Buck came jogging in because he was grunting in pain. "Leg cramp. That's all it is. I could use some potassium probably."
"The chef made a dish with fried plantains for dinner in the caf last night," Chuck said, calling down there. "There might be some left." The kitchen staff sent one up and Xander ate it while walking around in circles to work the cramp out. He finally sat down to finish it. Chuck grinned. "I'm surprised there's any left with how we all pigged out on it."
"Thanks, guys." Xander cleaned th dish and put it down on the table. "I'll take it down in a minute." They smiled and left him alone. Xander got up, looking around. "Where's the dogs?" He went up to check on them. They were on the bed asleep. "Oh, kids," he sighed, petting them. They didn't want to wake up. "Ezra!" he bellowed. Mamma woke up but Pappa was still sleeping. That was not usual. "Oh, please let this be a poisoning instead," he murmured, praying. Ezra rushed in. "They won't wake up."
"I was wondering why I hadn't heard anything from them needing out." He checked them over. "We'll take them to the vets." They shared a look. "If it is, I'll call." Xander nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. "Help me get them to the car?"
"Yeah." Xander picked up Pappa, he was heavier. They carried them down, Chris muttering swears as he caught up to them and followed. Xander petted them. "Good dogs," he said quietly. "Excellent good dogs." He shut the door and stepped back. "Call."
"I will," Ezra promised, driving them to the vets they used.
Buck walked up behind Xander. "They're ancient for St. Bernards," he said quietly.
"I know. Today's going to be a really bad day." He trudged inside, seeing his next appointment waiting and huffy. He glared and they settled down. "So, what's up?"
"Sir, you had me come see you," he said bluntly.
"Sorry, I'm a bit scattered. The dogs wouldn't wake up and they're at the vet's with Ezra." He found the reason why and handed it over. "I think that's yours."
He read it over, grimacing but nodded. "It is. Is it a problem?" Xander found the other two folders and handed them over, even though one was 'eyes only' stamped on it. "I'm not supposed to see that one."
"Yes you are. I don't want that shit restarted," he said bluntly. The director looked it over, grimacing. "Now you can see why I let you see it."
"Yes, sir. I'll stomp them into greasy spots," he promised. "There's no way in hell I'll let that go on. Why not go to NCIS?"
"Vance is already looking into it. He called me but he's not sure that he can have it stopped fully."
"I'll get with Director Vance immediately, sir." He nodded and left. He sympathized with the loss of the dogs but still. The president couldn't be that upset. Things went bad in the world.
Xander called his phone conference early. He got a bit teased about being early but he told them why he was probably going to be out of the office the rest of the day and got some sympathy plus the problem being worked over. Vin came in to get him when Ezra called so he left and his last appointment could find him at the vet's for all he cared. They were going to whine anyway.
AD Travis, head of the Denver ATF office signed for the packages he had been warned were coming and looked at the simple box. Inside were two smaller boxes and he knew what they were. Chris had sent them to him to hold so they could bury them when he got back. He carefully put them on the mantle for now and told his wife. It had been all over the news that he had lost his dogs and was moping around DC. Everyone was starting on the 'what will he get next' bandwagon in the press. Or condemning him for daring to care and grieve his pets.
John Sheppard got a call from the pound he had gotten Blackhawk at and went to see them. "What's up?" he asked as he walked in, taking off his sunglasses. Blackhawk was with him. His poor dog was getting gray in the muzzle too. He'd have to go through the same thing Xander was right now.
"Sir, I think I have a great option for Mr. Harris, but I can't get through to him, and I've fudged the end date twice already," she said, giving him a pleading look.
He smiled. "We can look. Why do you think this one's perfect?"
"He's former bomb sniffing, not officially but he was trained." She led him back there.
"It's a basset?"
"Half bloodhound, half basset hound," she agreed. "He's very bouncy and loves to run after everything." John smiled at that. "I think he'd be great with the president but I'm guessing they're blocking our calls in case it upsets him."
"Probably." He let the dog be pulled out so he could pet him. The dog was hyper and bounced around them. "I've never seen such a bouncy hound."
"I knew he was special when he came in. That's why I fudged his end date by two weeks," she said.
John texted Willow, who got Dawn to send her. Willow landed and looked at the dog. "How did you get turned into a dog?" she asked it. John and the worker both stared at her. "He's a human."
"Well, you knew something was special," John quipped with a grin.
"Sometimes people are sensitive to the flow of magic even if they don't have the gifts." She squatted down to pet it. It was giving her the begging look. "If I still had my powers, I'd change you back," she promised.
"You don't?" the worker asked.
"No, it went into my daughter and son instead." She shrugged. "The Goddess wills." She called the Council's coven and had one of them show up.
"Oh, how charming," the witch said when she joined them.
"It's changed," Willow said.
"I can tell. How very charming of someone to do that."
"We have two others that feel the same way to me," the worker said quietly. "Can you look at them too?"
The elder witch looked at her. "I'll be looking over all of them. Just in case." The worker smiled at her for that. "We can start sending the younger witches around to shelters in their areas to search for others." She got the hound changed back into a guy, who cried on her. Willow got him calmed down and John called someone to help him. They checked on the two kittens first, who were fighting in their cage over a toy. The elder witch smiled and changed them back. "Boys, do quit fighting."
"Please don't tell Mama," the older one said. "We'll be real good."
"Did she do this to you?" John asked.
"Holy shit, you're the president," the younger one said.
John smiled. "Used to be. Xander is now, boys." He helped them out of the cage. "If your mother did that to you, I'll be having words with her myself." They nodded, looking down. "For now, let's go talk to official sort of people so they can find you someone to stay with." The witch summoned some clothes from Cleveland's emergency closet for them and they went to find a social worker as well. Then the witch went home to delegate the younger ones to search out more while she rested and recuperated.
John walked into the white house, Blackhawk barking and happy beside him.
"Sir," the guard said, saluting.
"At ease. Xander in?"
"Yes, sir. Moping in his office, sir."
"For some, their pets are closer than family."
"It's been two weeks."
"He had them for nearly ten years."
"Oh." He looked down. "I'm sure he'll heal in his own time then."
"Probably." He walked his dog and the little bundle in his arms back there. Chuck gave him an awed look. "Found her," he admitted. He walked in, finding Xander and Ezra talking quietly. "I was out and about and pulled a you," he said, sitting down. "Without them having an abandoned baby." Xander looked at him. "I saw a dog get hit and followed her so I could take her to the vet's." He opened the small bundle. "Mamma didn't survive the accident but she was moving her puppies to a better nest. I even coopted a few Marines to help me find the others."
He let them see the little bundles of fur. "They're still being bottle fed but Rodney got scary when Willow was cooing at them instead of him. These are the two that Atlantis hasn't adopted for some reason. The city loves the puppies and bottles seem to appear out of nowhere for them all the time. She automatically cleans up any messes they make and all that." He looked at Xander, who cooed and sighed, staring at them. "Since these are the last two...."
"They're what sort of dog?" Ezra asked.
"Mother was some sort of mutt. Looked like part grayhound, part Dobie by the coat and build but I have no idea." He let Xander hold the blanket wrapped bundle. "They got a bit chilly when we brought them back so I kept them warm."
"They're adorable," Xander cooed.
Ezra smiled. "They are adorable," he agreed. He moved closer, letting the dogs sniff his finger before petting them. "They're sweet looking."
"They're very sweet. Those two have been sleeping on my pillow for me." John smiled. "I know it's really soon but they need a good parent who'll teach them all the right things."
Xander swallowed and nodded, looking at Ezra, who smiled and nodded. "Thank you, John." He hugged him. One of the puppies mewled so he cooed and petted her. "Are we girls, boys?" He checked. "Both boys. Hi, boys." John smiled. Blackhawk stared so Xander petted him too. "Hi, Blackhawk." The dog wiggled and barked, hopping up to lick him and the puppies. "They are very nice puppies. Thank you." He kissed him on the head and petted him some more. John got his dog settled into his lap. "Thank you, John."
"You're welcome, Xander. They need someone like you." He patted him on the shoulder. "Some day I'll have to do this too," he reminded him quietly. Xander nodded, resting against Ezra's side. The press secretary coughed from the doorway. "We're just talking." He came in and stared at the little bundles of fur. "Their mother got hit right in front of me."
"Awww." He smiled at John. "I'm sure they'll be good foster parents." Xander glared at him. "Or adoptive parents," he amended, making Xander grin and nod. "Fine. Should I announce it?" Xander shook his head. "The pound has been trying to call, sir."
"Yeah, I talked to them. She had a dog that she knew was special and would've fit really well with Xander's life. Then we found out it was a changed human." The press secretary nodded once.
"We're going to the pound's event next week," Ezra reminded him. "We can make a sizeable donation then."
"Yeah, we can," Xander agreed. He petted the puppies. "Chuck, we need puppy nursing things," he called. He came in to look, cooing at them. "Can you send Vin to get some for us? And a basket for them to lounge around in?"
"Sure." He petted them. "Baby things are always so soft." He walked off to tell Vin that, getting a nod and him heading out. He knew better than the other guys what baby animals needed. He came back. "Cole's calling about their recent election."
Xander got handed the phone. "Hey, Cole." He listened. "I'm sorry to hear that. Who won?" He nodded slowly. "Wasn't he the Churchill wannabe?" He grinned. "Good to know. Yeah, I'm feeling better. No, John found puppies that got orphaned, still not weaned yet puppies. The city adopted most of them but he brought me two. Cute little mutts, yeah.
"Thanks. I'll call him to congratulate him in a few days and we can all talk about the oncoming problems together, how about that? That way you can tell him what you've done, I can point out our point of view, and we can listen to see if he can think. Even better. See you then. Happy vacation, man. I know I'm taking one when I get free." The Prime Minister laughed as he hung up. "Ezra, speaking of vacations, can I propose something?"
"Of course. Did you have somewhere you wanted to go beyond the farm?"
"Well, I've been told that the midstates' spending is going down and tourism isn't all that hyped right now." He looked at him. "Could we maybe take a few days of vacation here and there to go visit neat places you've seen? That you can show me nice things and we visit some of those areas then take a quiet weekend at the farm? Without having to do any speeches or anything? Maybe visit some smaller cities, some pretty college campuses that could use the stalkers that follow us around noting them?"
"Hmm. So a vacation but a travel show at the same time?" he guessed. Xander smiled and grinned. "I could accept that. Plus there's the upcoming speeches on education and immigration coming in three of the midwest states. We can sightsee for a day when we're there. I can arrange that. Should we give them an itinerary?"
"No. They'll get it leaked. We can treat it like any other trip. You can show me places that you liked a whole lot and had good food, all that stuff. You traveled a lot more than I have."
He smiled and nodded. "I could like showing you some of my favorite places." He took a kiss. "You'll drop them." Xander put them in his lap instead, petting them. He smiled at John.
"I could do that but I hate being stalked," he admitted quietly. "I thought about bringing Atlantis back to Pegasus for a while too."
Xander looked at him. "Would that bring more wraith?"
"Probably not. They wouldn't be able to track our backdraft."
"Then we'll talk about it." John smiled and nodded. "I'm not sure that the program isn't thinking in terms of going to blow them all away. The guy you put in charge is a pain in the ass who never tells me anything. He's another who thinks I'm an idiot playing dress up."
John shook his head. "Not with some of the things you've had to handle." He gave him a shoulder nudge. "You sure you can handle them?"
"Yeah. I need something to fuss over because Ezra hates it when I do it at him."
"I only mind when you're in fussing overdrive and can't calm down," Ezra corrected. "Though it will be nice to have something to take care of again." He took one to pet, earning a small whimper. "We'll have to take them to the vet's soon."
"We already have," John assured him. "When we found them all we brought them in to be checked over. They've all been tested and they're not carrying anything. Shots need to be given in about three more weeks. The Vet thinks they're going into their fourth week this week." Xander nodded, smiling at him. Vin walked in with a bag of stuff and a basket, handing them over. "Thanks, Vin."
"Welcome." He stared at the puppies. "You two're cute." He petted them. Xander put the blanket and the puppies into the basket, letting them snuggle up. Then he sat down to read the instructions on the formula container. Vin grinned at John. "Evan wanted a visit."
"I can do that." Blackhawk jumped down and John stood up. "Happy puppies, guys." Xander gave him a hug. Ezra shook his hand and he went to bother Evan. "I found puppies."
"I heard about the Atlantis mutts," he said, looking at him. "Thank you," he said quietly.
"Xander needs something to take care of." He lounged in the doorway. "I'm thinking about proposing Atlantis should be back in Pegasus."
Evan nodded. "I agree. I can talk to the general. He tries to avoid Xander all the time."
"Yeah, that's a habit he needs to break," John said. Evan grimaced. John walked in and closed the door, giving him what they had figured out about Xander. He realized he hadn't talked to Evan since the night he had narked about Xander's rescue. Evan nodded he'd lay off Xander and help him more in those things. John and the dog left, going back to the mountain to talk to the general and bitch him a new one. His former position gave him a bit of leeway with people of higher rank.
Evan considered it then had a better background run on Xander through the CIA's systems. They had spies everywhere and probably would've heard about anything Xander did too openly. Within an hour of calling he had a thick file in his hands, basically driving time. So they had gathered it before. He read through it, grimacing at some things but it was clear Xander was a warrior like Ronon was. He took it in to talk to them. They needed to talk. The military people babied Xander a whole lot and they didn't need to.
Xander noticed the file and shrugged. "The CIA got a few things wrong. Unless I went back in time I didn't take out that one pirate base. I was being held on the other one." He went back to feeding the dogs.
"Why do you let them treat you like you're some strange cult member then?" Evan asked.
Xander stared at him for a minute. "Because it makes you guys feel more comfortable and I'm used to it from the girls. If the Joint Chiefs saw that, they'd suddenly be uncomfortable and think I was a cult member again. That's about how they see anything I've done. I can't win them over so I let them do their own shit and ignore it most of the time. Beyond that, you guys gave me Jon to handle a lot of them sneering and being asses." He went back to bottle feeding.
"We would've treated you better if we had known this, Xander."
Xander looked at him. "No you wouldn't. Because it didn't come with formal training and a paycheck or any insignia or rank. They don't accept anything that isn't their methodology." He cooed at the puppy. He sucked harder and fell asleep. "Such a good boy." He put him down when he quit sucking and picked up the other to feed. That one was hungrier and happy to be fed.
Ezra looked at him. "The generals would no more respect the new information than they did the old information. Xander did point out some of the things he did and it was enough that they decided Jonathan can translate between the two."
Evan shook his head. "We would've respected that. He saved two units!"
Xander shrugged. "As far as I knew they went looking after I showed them that. Apparently they didn't respect that. Jon does a fine job translating and telling me when we need to talk. Even if they are trying to shut me out again." He gave him a look. "As for Atlantis going back to Pegasus, I'd like to see some facts on that. Your program got a funding cut from the Pentagon this year and your general is acting like it didn't happen."
"I'll talk to him myself today," Evan said, staring at him. "You're pissed."
Xander shrugged. "You never appreciated me for anything I've done either, Evan. Even the stuff you knew before like the apocalypse battles you've seen me in." Evan's mouth fell open. "Have you?"
"Well.... Um." He considered that. "I consider you a good warrior but not military."
"Which will always be a separate category in your mind," Xander pointed out. He took his file and put it on the desk. "Now you know more and you still believe I'm not as good as someone who was formally trained, but I know more than you thought."
"It's not exactly the same sort of thought process."
"No, it's not. Staking people you grew up with never will be." Evan flinched at that. "So I don't really care. You and all the other military people can all see me the same way. Fortunately I get to leave in another year and a half." Evan nodded, leaving them alone.
"We should probably mend fences," Ezra said quietly.
"I like the guy as a human being but now and then he turns into the same sort of ass that the Pentagon holds." He went back to feeding the puppy, letting him fall asleep too. "Every two hours?"
"Or three." He came over to take the puppy to feed, staring at him. "You had a good friendship with him at first."
"And then he got infected with the military version of politician syndrome. It's like academic snobs that look down on me because I can read six dead languages but I don't have the papers from a school so therefore I don't know anything."
"I saw that one," he admitted. He kissed him. "We'll handle it." He put the puppy into the basket and walked out with it. "We'll go upstairs."
"Thank you, Ezra. Bring them back for the next one?"
Ezra smiled. "I will." He went to show them off and talk to Evan. He had seen that educational snub and had gotten pissed at it. He walked into the office, seeing him pacing and complaining to someone. "When someone with an esteemed degree did the same sort of thing, you threw much the same fit, only at them," he said quietly.
Evan stared at him. "It's not the same."
"Yes it is. Only this time it's not over not having a degree and knowing what they were doing. It's the same sort of 'I graduated and you didn't' attitude." Evan grimaced, then shook his head with a sigh. He walked off with the dogs, taking them to his office for now. Things were not going well right now in the white house and he had no idea how many of the staffers would side with Evan over all that.
Later that day, Xander walked into the CIA, making the receptionist jump and salute. "At ease. I'm here to see your boss, Glenda."
"You remember me, sir?"
He looked at her. "Yeah. I did train your sister." She smiled. He smiled back. "He in?"
"Yes, sir. Let me call." Xander waved a hand and let security escort him up. She called because the director wouldn't want to be startled.
Xander walked in and dropped the file on his desk, staring at him. "Some of your people exaggerated. I'm not that great. I don't have super powers and I can't be in two places at the same time. Otherwise, it made people realize they see me as the poor country cousin who knows nothing. Which didn't make them happy with their biases being shoved back at them. Also, you're having a three percent budget cut."
"I heard that. I was hoping to find an easy way around that."
"I'd personally suggest you quit buying such craptastic gear from the bad sources. Buy for quality, not quantity. You have a whole section full of shit that doesn't work or will break in the field. You could've saved hundreds of thousands over the last decade by not doing that."
"They tell me what I need to authorize to buy."
"Then I'd talk to them about quality products. Because your gear sucks and it's contributed to six deaths in the field in the last year." The director gave him a horrified look. "Yeah, not like I didn't hear. A lot of people treat Evan like he's actually the president but I do have my own contacts and I hear a lot more than people think. Which pisses the Russians off when I tell them what they're trying not to say. Don't become one of them."
"I won't, sir," he said, looking at him differently. "That's been an ongoing problem."
"Yes, and I only have it for another year and a half and then I get to retire and let all of you bitch and whine at each other. Because I won't be putting up with it." He smirked. "You should've heard the bitching when Evan pointed out I had helped stop more than the apocalypse battles that everyone knows about. Even my assistant was giving me dirty looks." He walked out. That was a suitable warning.
The director of the CIA called his head of purchasing up to talk about all that inferior equipment and what they could do about it. They definitely had some ideas.
News got spread to the other higher ups. Some of them realized that Xander wasn't an idiot, and they treated him like he deserved. Vance. Fornell, the head of the ATF. The other directors quickly learned when he had them audited and then told them about their flaws. He ordered six restructurings within a week and the press was hating him for it.
The Pentagon was wondering what had possessed him but a few realized what it was. Evan had told them off for it. They were waiting when it was their turn. Xander had good points, he created a few problems that would be solved within a year as things got worked on, and then he left them alone to do their own thing. By the end of the week everyone who was a higher up in DC realized that Xander wasn't an idiot who was a figurehead. He had ideas even if they were quietly done.
People started to look into the bills he had pushed through and found that a good number actually got passed, more than most presidents. That got slipped to the press as well. The Speaker of the House agreed that Xander had good ideas. He just didn't hold press conferences about them unless it was important. He tried to avoid the press if at all possible, even though he had an easier relationship with them earlier in his term.
They all wondered what had happened. One of them had clearly pissed him off or something. They quit looking at Xander as 'he's gay and therefore inferior' as well. Even Time got the story eventually. They had a nice cover with a picture of him, and Ezra behind him, that called him the 'quietest, most effective president of our age' and a few people got startled by that.
Xander actually did give a speech right before going on vacation. Mostly about a planned defense program that he was proposing that would step on toes. Before he could leave, one of the reporters hopped up. "Mr. President, are you running for reelection? Your recent moves seem to say that you want considered," she called.
Xander stared at her. "No. I'm going to retire and hide from all the leeches in DC. If you guys want Evan to stay, keep him. He's a good man and a good leader. People listen to him. If he doesn't want it, we'll find someone to back. Because frankly I need the nerves you guys have shot."
"Sir, we've seen new dogs," another said. Xander hadn't been open to questioning in months. "Did you adopt some new strays?"
"John Sheppard found them. His city adopted all but those two. They still needed bottle fed when we got them." He smiled. "They're adorable little cuddlers and give me someone to fuss over."
"Then you're not considering children?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Ask Ezra. I've made my viewpoint clear on that. Anything else?" Hands went up and he sighed. He walked back to the podium. "What?"
"Sir, you've done a lot of work recently with the investigative agencies," one said. "Did you find problems?"
"I always listen to the news going around at the agent level. There were some issues that needed to be noted. I did the same as the VP. This time I helped solve them more directly than I did then." He pointed at another. "Yes?"
"Sir, you're going on a few days vacation soon?"
"Yes. Ezra's taking me to some places he liked to visit when he was still able to travel without attention." He smiled. "I'm told it's a beautiful city with great food and I'll adore it." They smiled at that sentimental thing. "Anything else?"
"Are the dogs going?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, just like Mamma and Pappa would've."
"What did you name these two?" another asked. "Are they shelter dogs?"
"Not shelter dogs. John saw their mother being hit by a car. They are Blacky and Greeny. They're nearly identical and that's their collar colors so the names stuck when the guards started to call them that."
"Sir, do you think that you'll go right back to Denver when you retire?" another asked.
"I think we'll be talking about maybe driving back so we have some time to decompress before we're back in the real world of real people instead of politicians. DC isn't really known for real people being here. I hope the next guy in the job has an easier time than I have with that knowledge. We'd send the horses back and hire a stable cleaner and I'm trying to talk my way into driving back so we can visit some more places on the way."
"Do you think Colonel Lorne would take the nomination if we voted for him?" another asked.
Xander shrugged. "I don't know, ask him." He walked off. He heard camera shutters going off and ignored it. That's how he knew he had been in DC too long. He was able to ignore being stalked by people with cameras. Ezra was waiting inside with the dogs. Xander let them run out to pee on things and then they came running back to bark and wiggle at them. "Good dogs," he praised, smiling and petting them. He looked at Ezra. "Think we could?"
"I think it'd be a darling idea and it would allow you to regain your emotional footing back to the more normal level of people." They walked off together. "If we time it right we can even go for Mardi Gras." Xander had told him he had wanted to go while on his post-graduation road trip but had never made it.
Xander grinned. "Make sure I don't drink too much?"
"Definitely." The dogs ran into the office after a bark at Chuck. Ezra smiled and Chuck grinned back but didn't look happy. "I'll be there in a minute. We have to talk about the personal correspondence issue I'm having." Xander nodded, going in there to do necessary things. He looked at Chuck. "What?" he asked quietly.
"He's very anti-everyone," he said quietly.
"No. He's tired of being treated like an imbecile that has no idea what he's doing again." Chuck slumped, nodding. "The same as he got tired of the rest of the city doing it. He still considers you the best assistant ever and a friend, Chuck." He went inside to calm the dogs down. "Basket," he ordered. They ran to their basket and settled in to chew on their rawhides. "Thank you, boys." He took a kiss. "I have to deal with reports."
"Have more fun than I will doing reports on the middle east again."
"Hopefully." He went to his office. He hoped the other staffers came down off their high horses soon. It was pissing him off and Xander was getting back to that point of 'fuck them all I can do it myself' again, which he couldn't and he realized it but it pissed people off when his innate response to being thought to be unable to do things was to handle everything in sight by himself.
Chuck sat down in front of Evan a few hours later. "He's not mad?"
"No, he's not mad. As Ezra put it, we're treating him like that PhD that snubbed him for knowing more than him without the formal degree."
"You took your cues from me, Chuck, and it upset him. With everything that went on before with the girls, he learned that when they started that he had to do it himself and not tell people. Like that rescue that started us all bitching this time."
"He went on a rescue?"
"Yeah, of a kidnaped slayer. He also managed to help save a military team that was working on capturing the people who had her. They ran into each other. Then it got narked up the chain until John told me."
"Oh." He considered it. "He's a lot like John."
"Yeah, he is. He tends to lead the same way just less noticeably. John can lead from the front, but he's very open about it. Xander will just show up and take charge, making sure things work. John will announce it first and pep up the soldiers."
"I get that. What if we go back to Pegasus?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "I would feel the need to be there. It's my duty. This is a hellhole of frustration. I'm not liking how it's changing my management style. I found myself being a politician the other day."
Chuck nodded. "I can agree with that." He sighed, slumping down in the chair. "So how do we fix it?"
"Remember how things were two years ago? Xander was more relaxed, all that? Before the wedding when we all decided this meant Xander was suddenly weaker for some reason?"
"I think it was like an insidious creep," Ezra said from the doorway. "There's a call for you from Pakistan? They're refusing to talk to Xander." He walked off.
"Shit," Evan muttered, picking up the phone. "Yes, Minister?" He listened. "Sir, that's the president's job, not mine. No, sir, I'm the Vice President. I know he's married to a man. Ezra's a very good man and one I'd want behind me in the field." He listened to him complain. "That's your problem, Minister. If you want sympathy and help with ideas, I'd talk to Xander. After all, he's helped take down a few militias in his day. No, he served in Africa for years with the Council. He ran into plenty down there that he had to help handle to protect them and others."
He smirked. "No, you all discounted him because it wasn't formal military. Some of ours did the same thing. I can easily transfer you back and I wish you luck with that." He transferred it back to Xander's phone. Then he hung up and looked at Chuck. "We have to break that. Xander's going to snap and start taking over other duties soon."
"I think he's already doing some of the Chief of Staff's job."
"Yeah, I think he is." Chuck nodded, going back to his desk to prepare for the afternoon briefing and to figure out what he could handle for him. Evan sat there and went over his suddenly shrunken pile of paperwork. He went to Xander's office to take it back. "Thank you for sparing me the writer's cramp, Xander." He walked off with the stack of folders. Chuck rescued a few more. Then Evan went to chew on the Chief of Staff. Plus the rest of the staffers.
"Xander has went from laid back to presidential," Vin said when the group gathered with Gibbs' team at the ranch. "It's like seeing one of the stick up his ass presidents."
"That's because they've been discounting him so much that he's handled half of everything in the white house," DiNozzo said. "I know Evan laid down the law about them doing their own jobs. I know that the Chief of Staff was nearly in tears after he got done with him." He sipped his beer. "I've tried to distract him but it's not working."
"No, it won't as long as they're treating him like he's an idiot savant," Chris agreed. "Ezra and he are going on vacation to Savannah in a week." They all nodded they knew that. "That's part vacation and part showing off the city so others will want to visit. Then they'll spend three days of quiet at the ranch." That got a few smiles. "I'm hoping Ezra can make him relax again."
"Someone in the press asked him if it was true that other leaders were seeing him as the figurehead and Evan as the real president," Vin said. "Xander quipped back that for being a figurehead he sure did a lot of paperwork and talked to a lot of people."
"I think that's been sneaking in since the wedding," Gibbs said. They all nodded. "So how do we counter it?"
"I think Evan had the right idea," Josiah said. "Though he could've been nicer."
"No he couldn't," Chris said. "No one would've gotten the point."
"How mean was he?" McGee asked. "I was off testifying when all that went on."
"Evan chewed everyone a new one," Nathan told him. "He laid down the law about him not being the president and to quit treating Xander like those heads on Easter Island." McGee and JD both grinned at that image. "Xander has seemed more serious and uptight."
"Even the dogs haven't made him grin recently," Tony said with a small shrug. "I think we've all pissed him off too."
"No," Chris said. "He hasn't wanted to go anywhere. It's like he's hiding within the white house. Which he probably is. Sheppard did the same thing for a while." They all nodded. "But then things were bad and he had to handle international problems. Xander doesn't."
"He has had the most problem-free presidency," JD said. "It's like they're scared to screw up and have him step in to handle it."
"Yup," Nathan agreed. "It's been nice and quiet."
"That's because everyone's afraid he'll grab artillery and go solve the problem himself," Tony said. "The French president told him that and he cackled then said he just might."
"I think the President thought it was a joke," Josiah said. "Then he heard about that rescue and other things."
"I think he's the most real person we've ever had in that job," Nathan said. "It's nice to see. He doesn't lie, doesn't tell half-truths. He doesn't spin things to look good. He's very straightforward and I hate it like hell for the person who has to follow him."
"It might not be Evan," Chris said. "There's been talk about going back to Pegasus so he'd go."
"He's on reserve status," Vin pointed out.
"He'd quit," Tony said. "He told Xander bluntly that if it was authorized he'd quit and go back." He finished his beer and peeled the label off to put it into the bottle. "Which means we'd get the Speaker of the House in that position and I'm sorry but I'd quit before guarding him." The others nodded. That man treated them like they were trained monkeys.
"Xander is thinking that if it goes, it'll be pushed back for when they can retire or just before. Evan can go out in the second wave," Vin said. That got a few grins. "How do we help him calm down?"
"I think Ez making him relax while on vacation will do a lot of it and them fixing the subtle pressure on him to be weaker will stop the rest," Chris said. "We've been a good buffer for some of it."
"We have," Josiah agreed. "Thinking as a profiler, he's going to snap soon and bite someone. It may even be an innocent someone, like a press person who makes a gay joke or something. Or a normal person who decided he's doing a bad job."
"No, I think he'll save it for the ones that deserve it. It took him years to snap at the girls," Buck said. "He had been holding that in for years. Since high school with some of it. I think Ezra should be ready to move him away from people when it starts because we're going to see people crying."
"He'd normally hide it," Vin said quietly. "Same as I would. He'd walk off and scream in private. Maybe he might use some sarcasm to bite them but not to the point of making people cry."
"He's not dumping all the stress," Chris reminded him. "It if it was a one-time thing, yeah. But he's ready to blow."
"Ezra reads people better than everyone else in the government," Josiah said. "He knows that. He knows Xander well enough to know how to calm him down. I think that's why they're going on that short vacation."
"Probably," Chris agreed. "Do we have the schedule for who's going with them?" They all got it handed to them by JD. "I see Gibbs' team mostly gets Savannah and we get Denver."
"Makes sense to us since you're from there," Tony quipped.
Ziva shrugged. "Where is Savannah?"
"Georgia," Gibbs told her. "It's a pretty southern city with a lot of class and history."
"Ezra spent some time there in his youth," Vin said. "Plus it's letting the stalker patrol of the press hype visitors to the city, which will help the local economy." Chris looked at him. "Ezra said that they needed to help that stuff and Xander asked him to show him places he had liked back when he was traveling. Ezra agreed they could do that as long as there were no speeches."
Chris nodded. "That's not a bad idea. Denver's had a spike of visitors since he got elected." They all grinned at that. It had meant the city cleaned up some of the problems and was rehabing Purgatorio, where the 'bad elements' lived. "Anything special planned?"
"Xander was looking to see if they were doing any Habitat building but they're not," Vin said. "I think in the future he'd find a thing to jump into quietly. He doesn't tend to give speeches about things, he likes to show him doing them."
"He is very quiet on the press front," Tony agreed. "I've heard reporters wondering what they did wrong since he was more chatty before the wedding."
"Suddenly after the wedding everyone decided he was weaker," Gibbs said. "I think that's half the reason for his temper being so high."
They all nodded. They had seen him taking over duties from others all week and Evan having to fight to keep some of his.
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