Not Even Chocolate Will Cure This.
Xander woke up alone with a note sitting next to him. Someone had moved him into the bed even. "Huh." He read the note.
We're going to go hunt down the remains of the demons that got away from us. You know we're only a call away if you need us. Dad has Faith. Buffy's in Sunnydale. Tara went with Bobby to help him. She's loving his guard dog Rumsfeld. Buffy's got nine new hunters in town who want to help her fix the place. Joyce is ill but is having it taken care of by a very good healer. She said not to worry about her or to come fuss. She said if you did she'll be spanking you. Even if you do snort at that, she said she would. Anyway, we're headed to get the cars and go hunt the rest of the evil bitches down. I'm writing this so Sammy doesn't go all mushy and emo and shit to make you blubber too since you're a lot like that sometimes thanks to the girls. You need us, you call. Dean.
Xander put the note back down and yawned, putting his head back down. He heard the quiet voices outside. "If it's a spell that shows I'm awake, I need caffeine before I deal with people." The guard stuck his head in. "They still okay?"
"Your consorts are quite well, Lord Xander. So are your friends. We have caffeine if you want. It's an official holiday today anyway. Tomorrow you can be nagged and sucked up to."
"Oooh, yay me," he muttered. He sat up. "When did they leave?"
"Early last night. John had you put into bed because you were nearly falling off the couch thanks to the injury on your back. By the way, the healers had a fit that you didn't call for one of them."
"I'm used to injuries. Need any after care?"
"No. They fully healed it and all theirs. Ready for food and caffeine?" He nodded, coming over to sit at the eating table. It was brought in for him along with the papers. Before Xander could look at the papers he patted him on the wrist. "We told them it wasn't just you."
"Did Buffy yell?"
"We can send her copies." He went to do that. Xander let out a yell of complaint so he chuckled. "He'll get over it. They'll be blowing anything he does out of proportion anyway." He sent the new guards down to finish sorting out Lord Xander's storage areas and bring up anything that was his, weapons, or anything that might be useful. The former vampires' clothes got sent to Faith in case any might fit her. Buffy seemed to think that slayers needed clothes so they'd do that for her. Tara had left a never ending box up here for them. It'd be helpful for the younger slayer.
Lord Xander could take today to calm down and ready himself for petty politicking that would start tomorrow. Before he ended up shooting one of them for annoying him. They really did have to talk to his consorts about pleasing him. Even if they weren't liking boys they could at least touch each other. Right?
John looked up as the guard appeared, stopping Ellen's hand reaching for a weapon. "He's peaceful and a guard for her friend Xander that just got appointed. Problems already?"
"We finished sorting out the warehouses of stuff that Lord Xander had collected from nests and things, Mr. Winchester. We've given him all the magic books, the supplies, the weapons, but a few things we think the Slayer Faith could use more."
"I don't need anything," Faith told him firmly.
The guard looked at her. "Us giving you the clothes and a few of the weapons will keep the Slayer Buffy from shopping for you, Slayer Faith."
"Ooooh." She winced. "B power shopping already?"
"We showed her all the clothes that were sorted out. She agreed that if you wanted them it'd help you and you'd only need a few things to round it out into a good wardrobe. She did make a joke about you liking all the leather pants however." He handed over the bag. "We had the Lady Tara make it neverending like her boxes for you. Inside are also three swords and a set of guns we thought might look nice in your hands. Lord Xander agreed you'd need weapons to keep up with Mr. Winchester." He backed up and bowed. "He said to call him if you needed him. He found out we do have a cellphone plan that's much cheaper than his current one with roaming. It works on all planes. He wanted to know if you and the boys wanted to subscribe to that," he said, handing John a brochure. "That way you could call them whenever you ended up on another realm so your boys would quit fussing and angsting, his words, when you disappeared next time." He smiled and disappeared.
John looked at the brochure. "It says it covers the eighty major planes and this one." He tucked it into his back pocket. "Cheaper than mine too."
Faith looked at him oddly. "Xander's strange. Clearly too much chocolate, even if he has to eat some every day."
"He had four storage areas full of stuff he confiscated from nests, Faith."
"I didn't know he was a packrat."
"I don't think he was, but it was necessary apparently." He shrugged and looked at Ellen. "Xander's a hunter, he worked with Buffy in Sunnydale. He had no idea about any of this before they told him in the hospital. He's also the only one they got as an heir who can protect others. He's doing his duty."
Xander appeared. "Going to kill me a council member who just sent me twenty nubile young virgins to have fun with as a payment for his future position on the council." He smiled at Ellen, putting down money. "Can I please have a beer? We don't have any up there."
"Who're you?" she asked.
"Xander," he and Faith said in unison.
He looked at her. "Buffy's seriously going to shop the mall in Sunnydale bare if you can't use any of that. Whatever you can't use, give away or something. Don't tell her because even Joyce was complaining how much that trip'll cost, but go ahead. John, is it wrong to take him up on his offer and kick him off the council for being a dick anyway?"
"Shit." He took his bottle of beer and disappeared again to shoo the virgins out of his suite.
Faith looked at John. "He could use a daddy figure sometimes."
"I know. I figure that's why they wanted my boys to be his." He sipped his beer while Ellen choked. "Yup, they took all of them up there for that. The coronation was nice, but long because there were too many heirs."
"You went to a demon plane?"
"Yeah. They were very nice people. Very gentle people. Though they had no idea what underwear was for. The guys who dressed the boys for the coronation thought it was amusing and some strange human ritual garment."
Faith shook her head. "All very happy chocolate lovers who just wanted to be touched and petted. Look pretty all the time."
"That's why they needed someone like Xander. None of the other heirs could do more than duel and they all sucked. Only one of them went beyond two minutes," John added. "Sixteen of them challenged Xander. By the last one he sighed and went down there to thump them on the head then walk back up to his spot and ask them to get on with it." He finished his beer. "He's going to be insane soon. He's got to set up a National Guard system for emergencies and natural disasters. He's got to make peace with the remains of the demons who attacked. Though I heard he told them he could come there and hit another sugar missile into their palace if they didn't decide to be peaceful again."
Faith snickered. "Xander's used to more pressure. He's gotta have it bad without Anya since B told me about her."
"Quite," John said dryly. "He has two hands, Faith. He can handle that."
"Uh-huh." He smirked at Ellen. "X used to be this geeky boy. Very geeky boy. He's got muscles now but they're going to be driving him nuts since he's a lot like Dean."
"Yes he is," John agreed. "He's like a less serious version of Dean unless something critical is going on." He got another beer from her. "He's not a bad guy. I like the kid. I respect him because he's doing what he has to do, even if it does make him a demon lord now. I respect him for trying to stand up his council who wanted to marry him to Sammy and Dean without their consent. They managed it with stand-ins while we showered so Sammy's still growling at that. They decided they'd be good advisors and helpers for him," he said at Ellen's hysterical look. "We all like the boy. He's a nice kid. Sammy's age but a nice kid."
"It took me a while to see what X tried to do to help me," Faith admitted. "And talking to him over that time before and between the battles showed me that he ended up a really good guy. He earned his white knight rep and name."
"He did. He'll be protecting Sam and Dean for years yet."
"You too probably," Faith teased.
"True. I've seen a few demons that were scared of touching any of us thanks to him." He took a drink once he had his new beer open. "Anyway, he helped at the cemetery. He helped in Sunnydale. He arranged for a vampire that worked with their team to marshal some other demons into helping us by distracting and attacking the demon to hold him down for us. But he's gone now. Dean celebrated his first night back down here by finding strippers. Took Sammy and got him laid too I think." Faith snickered. "Bobby has Tara to watch over her. She needed it because she's a powerful, good witch who has a girlfriend problem."
"She has one?"
"Hers is Rosenburg. They're soulmates and Rosenburg has a magic addiction," he said grimly. "Xander had a vision that her thing was going to cause an apocalypse some year soon." Buffy stomped in. "What are you doing here?"
"MaryBeth brought me. She's fuming in the car because I can't stand country music." She looked at the bag then at Faith. "Will it fit?"
"I'll try it on later, B. Having a calming down time now. X even came to get a beer."
"Why? More problems?"
"One of the council sent him twenty cute young virgins to keep his spot even though he pissed Xander off," John told her.
"I need to sneak Anya up there to pounce him again."
"They said if they caught her trying it'd be her forcing him to cheat on Sam and Dean so they'll throw her in jail this time," John reminded her.
"Crap." She grimaced. "He's going to be pouty, violent, and bouncy until he gets some again." MaryBeth, the female hunter Bobby had talked into going to Sunnydale, walked into the bar. "MaryBeth, did you get to meet Faith?"
"I hadn't. Faith." She shook her hand. "I heard good things about you coming back from the edge of the dark." She smiled. "You should talk to Pastor Jim. He's good when we reach that point. I'm taking Buffy to him next week."
John looked over. "Why?" he asked patiently.
Buffy ducked her head. "Riley and I got into it when he went back to the vamps. His wife agreed with me but I kinda, um, nearly staked him to death for it. And for when he cheated on me too kinda."
John nodded. "I would've beaten the boy bloody but I know you girls have a stricter set of rules with the slayer spirit in you." Faith looked at him. "You didn't tell her about calling the First Slayer, Buffy?"
"No, I hadn't." She walked Faith and her beer off to talk to her about it. Faith moaned at what she found out but it was good to know and pass on to any other potentials they found.
John looked at MaryBeth. "The others doing it for her?"
"Yup. Rosenburg still in Oklahoma?"
"Oh, yes. With Tara helping Bobby it's good for her."
"Excellent." She sat down. "Ellen, can I please have some holy watered beer? I can feel the hellmouth even now."
"It does radiate," John told her. Ellen got her one. "Buffy, what would you think about sinking the town?"
"I'd find my old pompoms," she called back with a manic grin. "And the cute uniform."
"You needed help to be on the happiness and prozac patrol back then," Faith told her.
She shrugged. "I was cute and popular before I was called, Faith. I don't hide that I used to be a cheerleader. Or that Spike might've followed us."
MaryBeth looked back at her. "If you take up with him again I'm going to paddle you like Joyce should, Buffy Summers. She said so."
"Yes, MaryBeth." She leaned closer to Faith. "She's like a female version of John. Marine and all. She even made Spike quit smoking." She leaned back. "So, how's traveling with the grumpy, scruffy one?"
"Not bad so far. It's only been a week."
"If you need to talk, I'll listen. So will Mom," she promised. She grinned. "I'm so glad I'm not alone anymore. Even with Xander and Willow I always felt alone. That's why I got sucked into the party scene my first semester in college. You would've laughed at the caveman beer, Faith." She took a drink and told her that story, cracking Faith up. It was funny looking back, but not that funny. She took another sip of her beer and paused, rolling it around in her mouth. "John, does your beer taste like bitter chocolate?"
He sipped then nodded. "I'm going to beat that boy."
Faith sipped hers. "It does?"
Buffy took a sip and nodded. "Yup. That makes you need chocolate every day, Faith." Faith groaned. "But hey, no more PMS." They shook their heads and went back to drinking. Might as well. They were already tainted by it.
Tara tasted her tea then looked at it. She looked up. "I'll get you for that, Xander!"
Bobby looked over then looked in his cup, sniffing it. "Mine's normal."
"No it's not. He got us with spring chocolate."
He sipped carefully. "Mine tastes normal, Tara."
"Trust me." She glared at the ceiling. "I'll make it so you can bear those heirs you need, young man."
He appeared, giving her a confused look. Which was a lie but she didn't have to know that. "Huh?"
"Chocolate, Xander. In my tea."
"I didn't do it, Tara." He kissed her on the head. "They wanted to make sure I had people to talk me down from killing the guy who sent me twenty virgins to keep his spot on the council after he pissed me off." He disappeared again.
Tara called Dean's cellphone. "He got us with chocolate and is denying it, Dean." She listened. "Really? I guess that's fair and all with what they decided for you two." She hung up. "They got them when they first got up there."
Bobby shook his head slowly. "Mine still tastes normal."
"If you feel hungry tomorrow, try eating normal chocolate. He needed about a cup a day before he got sworn in."
"I'll do that." He finished his tea and went back to his current book. If that was true, Tara could beat him later he was sure.
Dean hung up, looking at Sam where he was watching the stripper dance on the top of their table. "Xander got Tara and possibly others with chocolate."
"Hmm," he said, watching her move. "Interesting."
Dean smirked. "I knew you had it in you, little brother."
Sam looked at him, then snorted. "I get all the girls I want, Dean. I'm picky, not asexual." He went back to watching the stripper dance. She was very good at it and her breasts even looked like they were real. It was amazing.
Dean was watching her too. She was really good and the implants looked almost natural to him. She got her tip and moved to another table to dance for them. "We should go hunting soon."
"Hmm," Sam agreed. "Sometime. Or we could handle the succuba that's keeping us here."
"Good point." He sipped his last beer. "Finish up." Sam did that and they headed out to handle the issue that kept drawing them back to this strip club. They found her back in the office having the manager service her. "What's wrong, babe? Can't get a real man with the leathery wings?" Dean taunted.
She glared at him. "Who're you to interrupt my fun?"
"Sam and Dean Winchester," Sam said with a grin.
She glared. "Winchester. Where do I know that name?"
"Hunters for years," Dean told her. He shot at her, making her shriek and fade out then come back in a different spot.
"No, that wasn't it." She considered it while Sam took aim. "Oh, I know." She moved herself again. "You two just married Wozaataran's heir."
"Not really," Sam said. "We're not like that. His council decided it without our input." He shot her. Dean got her when he injured her. She faded out. They shared a look. "We've got to find a way to annul that. Before they decide to arrest whoever Xander's wearing himself out with." They headed out, getting in the Impala to go back to their motel room.
Dean tapped his steering wheel with the music going. "I think he hasn't been wearing it out. He sounded kinda needy when he called a bit ago to complain about the councilor that gave him the virgins."
"That would be kind of funny. Wouldn't they have to arrest them?"
"Not real sure," Dean admitted. They and their car disappeared off the road. They reappeared in a flash of light in front of the palace. Thankfully he had good reflexes and brakes so they didn't crash into the palace. "Not cute," Dean called as he got out.
The head of the guards came down to greet them. "Go cure Lord Xander before his bouncy, violent spell destroys the building please, Consorts."
"We only wanted to be family protectors," Sam pointed out. "Mostly because we're not down with the boy love."
Dean looked at him. "Strange, rapper way of putting it, Sammy."
"The succuba got to my brain for a few minutes." He looked at the guard again. "We're not like that."
"We can provide you with chocolate to confuse your senses so you don't realize you're with a male if it'll help but please go calm him down? He just broke the heavy bag off the chain."
They sighed, heading that way, Dean calling his father. "We're at the palace. Xander's pissed enough to break the heavy bag off. Car and all, Dad, but got the succuba running the strip joint." He hung up and walked inside, waving at the adoring guards who nearly drooled after them. "Think they've got a lust spell going?"
"I think Xander's so frustrated that he's making them horny," Sam corrected. They checked the workout room. He wasn't there. So they went to his suite, finding him pacing. "Xander, they pulled us up to sex you up so you quit being so violent. Need to talk?"
"No, I need laid," he muttered, pacing in the other direction. "It's been weeks. This isn't natural for me. They won't even let Anya visit."
"If we can get the marriage annulled, you can have her all you want," Dean offered.
"No mystical marriage divorces," he complained.
"As in ever?" Sam asked.
"Nope. I asked, they just smirked and said it was for the best. Even though they might all be going up in flames when I get too frustrated next time." He gave them a dirty look then went back to pacing. "So I'm going to be frustrated sexually for the rest of my very long, nearly eternal life until I finally give up and starve myself to death. How was your week?"
"Oh, you know, succuba in a strip club keeping customers there," Dean said dryly. "Where are these council members?"
"In their meeting hall. Somehow I accidentally locked them in magically in my frustrated state."
"Huh," Dean said, walking that way. On the way he had his gun taken by one of the guards, who thoughtfully walked it back to the new gunlocker in their suite. Dean shrugged. "Not like I need it, dude." He called his father on the way. "There's no annulment that they'll admit to, Dad. Congrats, you don't get grandkids unless you adopt Faith and she has some." He hung up before looking at the door then casually lifting a foot to kick it in. "Better." He walked in and kicked the door shut. "Gentlemen, and lady," he said with a nod. "It really is no fair to sabotage Xander by making him so frustrated with the world in general."
"You could," one started.
Dean held up a hand. "I like tits. I like how women taste. I don't want a man. If I had wanted him, I could've been grateful for all the times he took away my boredom when my thigh was broken." He stared them down. "It was highly dangerous to do that to us in the first place. Thankfully we were too involved in the battles to plan anything destruction related. You see, Winchesters don't bend over for any demon unless it'll save the world. And while sexing Xander up might save you guys, this is only one world." He stared them down. "You married us against our objections and against all reasons. I don't want to be married to my little brother either by the way. To humans, incest is a vile thing that gets you killed." He stared around the group again.
"I'd fix it. Soon. Because Xander's not going to last much longer. Oh, whoever sent the virgins, wouldn't that cause the same problem as Anya coming up would?" He gave them another glare. "Really, people. Xander's just out of a relationship with a girl who could wear out dildos. Do you really think he can go this long without and not be affected?" He walked off again. His point had gotten across. He had seen the horrified realization of how bad Xander was going to become soon. Because yeah, Xander was going to turn into a bouncy, violent young man who would be killing them for marrying him off to other straight guys.
Sam smiled as he walked past them. "They in there?"
"Yup. Feeling really sorry about it too hopefully."
Sam walked in after a quick stop in the library, putting a book down and finding the page he wanted. Then he slid it to the head of the council. "Xander's going to start destroying things to wear out that extra energy. Not to mention the hellmouth radiation leaving him." He smirked. "And I still don't want to be married to my big brother. He's a disgusting tit hound who'll sleep with any firm assed, big titted woman and I know way too much about his sex habits from the times they've bragged. Especially when he went after twins. So no, annul the marriage or however. We don't really care. We'll gladly fall back to family protector spots. That's what we wanted originally and you guys wouldn't let it happen."
"The oracles said it was for the good of him. That you two would help him," the lone female told him.
"We'd help him without having to try to calm him down too. Because then he could date girls and get laid. That'd make him calm down a lot more and faster than we ever could."
She groaned. "Same sex relationships are more normal for us."
Sam shrugged. "Oh well. We were born human, we were taught to be human. We don't personally care about who you fuck as long as they're able to consent and do consent. Personally I don't see how people can sleep with vampires, but that's their thing. I don't care if you see him screwing girls to be like we humans see those who screw dogs. It's not happening right now. And if someone tries to force it, they will end up destroyed. Because if Xander can't, I can."
He smiled sweetly. "Now, let's get on with however we do this so we're just family protectors and someone Xander can lean on for advice. Before he causes more accidental magic as the hellmouth taint leaves him." They groaned so Sam left. They were talking quietly about how to cure that problem. Sam handed the book back to the library and went to stop Xander from pacing. "Xander, you're wearing out the rugs," he reminded him. Dean had tried. Xander growled. "Dude, calm down before we summon a succuba."
Xander gave him an odd look. "I tried one of those once. She got very tired." Dean gaped. Xander shrugged. "Apparently I had natural skills before Anya built my stamina," he said dryly. "Or the hellmouth baby stuff came out when she fed off me. She did say I tasted like chaos but that was back after I just got broken in." He shrugged and went back to pacing. Sam pushed him onto the couch. "Hey!"
"Xander, the rug is probably priceless and a pain in the ass to replace," Dean told him. "Calm down. If we have to, we'll take you to Vegas and put you in a whorehouse."
Xander moaned. "I haven't done that in years."
The head of the guards walked in. "We can make the portal go there since part of the gardens are now sprouting milk from the fountains." Xander snickered. "We think perhaps you need to be spell cleaned as well, just in case this is some sort of magical accident, Lord Xander. They did say that the consorts' tempers were very nicely calmer than yours." Xander glared at him. "Come, let us work to weed any other spells off you, then we'll let you go play somewhere on the human realm that might have working girls." He walked him off to have their people take off all magic spells. As they thought, it helped some. Then they and the Winchesters went to a small, exclusive brothel outside of LA. It was a demon place but they were known for their lack of talking to anyone. He pointed. "They married him to two straight consorts." The madam snickered. "Exactly. His last girlfriend was Anyanka. She was apparently next to a succuba."
"I see." She looked Xander over, running a quick spell check on him. "You forgot a spell." She called in her tame sorcerer who worked for fun instead of income. "Remove it so he can go play please?" He looked then groaned and mumbled something as he removed the spell from Xander. Xander looked happier but she led him to a room and let the women there pounce him. She arranged the fees with the guard, who'd charge it to the one who cast the spells on him. The two consorts stayed to make sure he'd be fine. One texted someone on his phone but otherwise they were content to wait on their husband. Sometimes political marriages made no sense to her.
D'Hoffryn looked up as a messenger demon appeared in his main hall. "What do you want?" he asked it. It was amusing someone had sent him a message. Usually they just bellowed.
"Lord Lavetella's Council sends this, Great D'Hoffryn, so you can pass it onto those who it needs to go to." He bowed, handing over the two envelopes then he disappeared.
He looked at the names on them, scanning the one to his vengeance demon. He burst out laughing, summoning her there. He held it up. "It's amusing when a messenger demon shows up for you, Anyanka." He handed it to her, watching as the magical summons took hold. "There are those that aren't happy with your last curse."
"It wasn't my doing," she complained. "I didn't curse him."
He stared at her. "They know that. You asked that witch to do it for you. They're making you both responsible for the fees and to replace the things that he destroyed in his frustrated state."
She slumped. "He'll pay it for me."
"I doubt it," he countered. "He may have loved you but not that much. Especially since it says it caused him to leak accidental magic that harmed the palace's grounds. Something about milk geysers?"
She shuddered. "I can't tell Willow that. She'll kill me."
He smirked. "I'll do that for you. That's your summons to pay them for it." He went to check on the witch, appearing outside the wards of the house she was in. He walked up to the door and knocked, nodding at the furious looking witch who answered. "I'm only the messenger. She got caught." He handed her the letter. "It will activate when it touches her."
"Who are you?"
"D'Hoffryn. I'm over wish demons, young woman. One of mine came to Miss Rosenburg to cast a personal curse for her that would be outside her job duties." He smirked meanly at her. "She's now responsible for some of the cost of fixing what that curse caused. His people said so." He disappeared.
She walked the letter in to Willow, handing it to her, watching as the glow flowed up her arm and over her head. "Well, open it, girl."
She opened it and moaned. "I didn't do anything wrong. Anya said it was just."
"Then she could've done it herself," she told her. She took the letter to read, snorting at the contents. "Isn't he your best friend?"
She moaned but nodded. "He'll forgive me."
"His council apparently won't. You've now got a debt to pay to them." She handed it back and went to tell the other witches in the coven. The girl clearly didn't stop to think now and then. It was the only way she was that stupid at times. She told Bobby and Tara as well. Just so her girlfriend would hear it from a nicer source.
Tara opened Bobby's email when he only grunted at the new email sound. "Oh, damn it."
Bobby snapped to attention, looking around. Tara *never* swore. He noticed what she was doing. "Apocalypse?"
"Willow cursed Xander for Anya." She let him see it, going to fume outside with the dog. She settled in to pet him, letting him lean and slobber on her all he wanted. "Maybe I don't need a girlfriend after all, Rumsfeld. Maybe a nice puppy to go with Miss Kitty would do me good?" She noticed her cat walking up Rumsfeld's back, earning her a dirty look from the human and the dog. "Quit tormenting the dog, Miss Kitty. Before you turn into your other mother." She took her to cuddle too. Rumsfeld didn't mind sharing the petting. He even lapped the cat and seemed to doggy grin at her. "I know, she's got kitty PMS from Willow probably." She went back to cuddling them anyway. Eventually she couldn't handle it anymore and put down her cat, then walked off into the woods. She let loose a burst of frustration and magic, letting it bleed back into the ground.
Bobby looked out the back door at the pets, shaking his head. "That girl's going to be beaten soon. Willow has no idea what can of worms she opened." He came out to pet both animals. Tara came out looking much more calm and centered, coming back to pet them again. "We can head to Oklahoma if you want."
"I can get there," she said quietly. "Then back here in time for dinner." She smiled at him. "I'm stopping myself from doing that, Bobby. Thank you anyway."
He grinned back. "I can order a pizza, Tara." He went back inside.
She looked at her familiar. "He really shouldn't encourage me right now. I might hurt her." She tried to calm herself down but she so wanted to be with Willow. She finally handed her cat to the dog and teleported off. She walked into the house where Willow was. "Excuse me, can I have her for a moment please?"
"Who're you, dear?" the older woman asked with a smile.
"Tara," she said quietly, making Willow flinch. "I think we need to have a talk."
"We'll be beating her ourselves later."
Tara smirked. "He's her best friend since the first day of school. You can have your turn later." She hauled Willow up and out back, taking her to the barn to have a ...talk with her. If the other witches heard her screaming, oh well. Sometimes Willow was just plain dumb. She got interrupted by Faith and John. "No, you can't have her yet."
"Bet me," he told her. "The witches said to come deal with her like I would my boys." He looked at Faith. "Can you take her inside and get her some tea, Faith?"
"Sure. I don't think I need to see this."
"Don't hurt her?" Tara asked, staring into John's eyes.
"I won't kill her, Tara."
She smiled. "Thank you." She walked off with Faith. "How is traveling?"
"Not bad. I'm seeing a lot of stuff I never realized about. Including that there's some really nice people out there." They heard Willow scream and Faith walked her into the house by her arm. "John's got her."
"Good," the elderly witch said. She handed Tara a tea cup. "You look like a tea sort, dear. Or we have coffee."
"Tea's good," she agreed quietly. "Thank you for trying. I know now and then Willow doesn't seem to think before acting."
"This time either."
"What did she do?" Faith asked. "Just in general terms?"
"Cursed Xander for Anya. He already hasn't had sex in months. He was so frustrated he was letting off accidental magic." Faith winced. "They sent him to a brothel after removing the spells." She took a sip of her tea. "This is very good. I can't find a good herbal blend with grapefruit in it. What brand is it?" The box was pointed at. "I'll have to look it up." She smiled. "They removed it from Xander. He'll be fine once he's had some stress relief."
"Good. He sounds like he's doing all right with the duty that got handed to him," the witch said.
Faith nodded. "We've kept in touch with some gossip rings. They say he's doing okay so far."
"Do you want some tea too, dear?" the witch asked.
"No thanks. John's about coffee'd me out for the day and I was never a big tea person. Not my scene." Tara smiled at her. "It wasn't."
"I know." She patted her on the knee. "How has it been besides long and interesting?"
"A lot of driving and I had to complain about some music now and then but he just snorts and said 'driver picks the music'. After the second time I kinda knocked him out and got to pick the music while I drove and he napped. When he woke up he wasn't happy but it was nicer."
Tara giggled. "Sam complained about that too."
"I know why." They looked outside at a wail from Willow. "Hopefully he's just beating her ass."
"He promised not to kill her," Tara reminded her.
"True." She looked at Tara again. "How's the scrap yard stuff?"
"Bobby's very sweet and very intelligent. He's letting me research whatever I want. I even get to spoil his dog. Miss Kitty's being a butt by tormenting Rumsfeld but he's really a big puppy."
"I saw the drool marks, I was hoping it was something like that," Faith teased.
Tara blushed. "I don't cheat, Faith. I'm not that sort of girl." She gave her a nudge back. "Any cute things on your trip?"
"Yup. Knocked one down and wore him out too. John only sighed so I guess he was having Dean flashbacks." Tara nodded. "Brothel? X-man?"
"Apparently," she agreed. "An exclusive, quiet one probably. They don't have divorce or annulments up there from what we found. Even though they made Xander marry Dean and Sam against their wishes."
"I'm surprised X didn't take some of those excess weapons to 'em," Faith said.
"I think he considered it but Dean didn't want to waste them."
"Hmm, good point." John walked in. "She need bruise cream or stuff for whip marks?"
"Don't tempt me," he said, cracking Faith up. "Tara, I think she wants to apologize."
"She can write Xander an email like the rest of us. Supposedly he's busy wearing out what she caused." She finished her tea and squeezed the witch's hands. "Thank you for helping my temper calm down, ma'am. It was very nice of you."
"We need more good witches with sense in the world, Tara. You'll take our place some day if the Goddess is kind." Tara smiled and got up, heading back to Bobby's to play with the dog some more. And her cat when she pounced them.
John sat down, looking at her. "I beat her good like her parents should have if they weren't book-writing shrinks."
"That does explain a lot," she admitted.
"They left Red alone all the time," Faith told her. "Went on long trips without coming home between. She and Xander raised each other."
"Xander has his vices but they were strengthened by his hunting," the witch told her. "And his last girlfriend I suppose since I heard she's a bit insistent from Willow. Hers seem to be not thinking before acting. Which does breach the main rule of Wicca. First do no harm means even to your friends."
"You won't hear an argument from me," Faith assured her. "Magic creeps me out. It's weird and creepy and funky stuff that I've never gotten into. Even when it helps the slaying."
The witch patted her on the hand with a smile. "Have you talked to Pastor Jim yet, child? He's very good when you're stressed out from the hunting."
"We're on our way there now," John assured her. "This is the slayer Faith. She was called when Buffy died momentarily thanks to Xander knowing CPR."
"Interesting." She smiled at her. "You'll do fine, Faith, and learn a lot of healing while with John. After all, he raised his two boys to be mostly moral young men. Even if Dean will hit on female-shaped rocks at times." Faith cackled, nodding some. "You'll do fine with him as a guidance system." She stood up. "Should I take her an ice pack or just some tea?"
"Tea would help but she might need a warm bath. I was a bit brutal since she's screwing up so badly. She was warned back in Sunnydale she's on the edge of being a rogue."
"We heard. We made her tell us all the spells she's done since she started magic." She took some tea out to the girl. When she got back, John and Faith had left. She might not agree with all of John's methods but they did get results when you needed one quickly.
Xander came into the Council's room the next morning, looking much calmer. "Thank you for putting up with me in that state. It may happen again since I'm unlawfully married against my will to straight guys, but we'll figure it out." He took his seat. "Now, let's start with some serious discussion. Why am I being made to fawn over that pink, jiggling thing with the purple hair?"
"They're a delegate from a mixed demon realm," the lone female on the council said.
"Hmm, and they want what? Not even the translators have a clue what she's said."
"He," she corrected absently. "He wrote it down for us." She slid it down. "He was just as frustrated, Lord Xander."
"I doubt that since I saw her...him, whatever showing signs of wanting to pounce." He read it over then snickered. "We do that?" They all shook their heads. "Didn't think so. So I can say a polite 'no' and they'll go home?"
"No," she said with a smirk. "They'll want reasons." She slid down a long list to him. "There you go, translated into their language. You can hand it to him. He understands that you don't know his species' language at this time."
Xander stared at her. "I barely passed my native language's classes and I flunked French twice. Keep the translators handy," he assured her. He read it over. "We can't add that it's disgusting?"
"No. It's impolite."
He looked at her again then shrugged. "Okay, and?"
"They'd become enemies."
"Fine." He put the list down. "Though the next person who curses me I'm going to give them to them." The council all shuddered. He gave them a sweet looking smirk. "Exactly," he said cheerfully. "Anything else I should know before I run from his flower-headed dick again?"
"Ummmm," she said. "He was naked?"
"It was clearly popping out. I tried really hard not to stare. I had no idea anyone but Buffy wore their skirts that short. It looked more like female genitalia to me but if you say he's a him then I guess it was his dick."
"Oh. Eugh." She shuddered. "I'll go to the meeting with you, Lord Xander."
"Thank you." He passed the list back to her. "You're very diplomatic."
She smirked back. "I have children, Lord Xander. I can treat you and annoying diplomats like I do them."
He burst out laughing. "That'd be fine. I know I'm annoying now and then." He looked around at them. "Okay, next topic up for discussion?"
"Unlawful?" the head of the council asked hesitantly. Xander went to get the same book Sam had, handing it over to him open to the right part. He read it over and went pale. "Ummm......"
"Yeah," Xander said dryly. "So I'd fix it. Soon. That way I don't have to get frustrated by being married to men who won't touch me." He grinned. "Or who I won't touch." He sat down again. "Any other problems before I go down into town to work on the new housing development?"
"That's menial labor, Lord Xander," the councilor that had sent him the virgins pointed out. "Why would you do that? You hire people for that sort of thing."
"I spent the last few years doing that sort of thing," he said dryly. "I like to work with my hands. Though I don't do well with plants so I won't mess up the gardens beyond fixing the fountains my accidental magic leaks screwed up." He looked at him. "What did you want me to do between diplomatic visits?"
"Learn about the other diplomats?" he suggested.
"I have a whole file on the various diplomats, their species, their usual complaints, their usual plots, who's conspiring with who at the moment, and it reads a lot like a soap opera. I've been over it twice and I'll keep going over it until I no longer pass out at the soap opera-like feelings it causes in me." He leaned closer. "In case you forgot, I learned a lot from the slayer's watcher. Spent a lot of time researching too." That got a shudder but a nod. "Good." He leaned back. "I also know that I have a new cabinet to fill with things just to take out diplomats that're going to try to kill me. Like the other weapons I'll be putting around the palace for safety and in case of sudden attack."
"You're a bit paranoid," the female told him patiently.
"Is that why the newspaper this morning noted that I had a six billion dollar, in gold, price on my head thanks to Wolfram and Hart not liking me taking over up here?"
She gasped. "There's no way." He went to get a copy of the paper, bringing it back to her. "This is usually a gossip rag."
"I called home. Spike said he's heard about it." He sat down, putting one leg slightly against the arm of the chair but not over the arm. There was a curve just below the arm that did nicely. "So yes, I'm paranoid for a good reason. Buffy's not pleased. She's not-pleased enough to call Faith so they can go barge in on Angel to get his help bringing them down. She's so pissed it makes PMS look like a fond time of the month. I haven't seen her on this sort of rip since the sex demon tried to hit on her." They all shuddered again. Apparently someone had spread that rumor. He grinned. "So, the head of the guards has agreed to my paranoid arsenal around the palace. He said I can have a guard who actually knows what construction work is to go with me when I go down to help build things. Fortunately it's one of the ones I like anyway. Any other topics we need to go over?"
"We did send your former girlfriend and Miss Rosenburg a bill for the damages they caused, Lord Xander," the head of the council stated. "Magically binding of course. That way they couldn't beg on your good graces."
Xander shrugged. "Anya would try to get me to pay for it. Willow would pout. I'd ignore it until the guilt baking started." They all nodded wisely. "What happened when the witches she's with found out?"
"They sent for Mr. Winchester to have a parental discussion with her," the female told him with a smug look. "Apparently hers didn't?"
"Hers wrote books, went on tours, and tried to overprotect her until she could speak, walk, and mouth off. Then they quit taking her on trips." They all glared. "It's why she was free to help me raise myself when my parents were too drunk to." He shifted to put his leg up over the arm of the chair. "Before anyone asks, I got stung by a bee on my walk." They all nodded politely at that. "Any other issues?" They shook their heads. "Good, then get me the announcement for the fixing it thing by tomorrow if possible. Let me know if more diplomats show up. I'm going down to be useful." He got up and walked out, heading to get his tools and the guard. "C'mon, let's go do something more practical than primping and studying."
"Where are we going, Lord Xander?" he asked, hurrying after him.
"To do some actual work." The guard gave him a horrified look. "I'm not going to be able to just sit around and look pretty. I'd go insane. Dru would look competent, calm, and in control of herself by how insane I'd be." He walked outside, waving at the guard out there. "Going to the new housing project, tell me if there's more diplomats." That got a funny look but a nod from the guard. It was a good walk, it felt good to be outside too. He walked up to the site, nodding politely at the foreman. "I'm helping."
"Lord Xander?" he asked, looking confused.
"I spent the last two years working construction and the last few months leading my crew. I'm bored."
"Ah!" He nodded. "Do you prefer interior or exterior?"
"I do interior better but I don't care if I'm planting sod at the moment. Though I do suck at plants."
"That's fine. We've got a good lot of wallboard going up on the upper levels."
"I'm your man. Same method we use in Sunnydale?"
"Yes, sire." Xander grinned and took a hard hat, walking onto his new job. Even if he didn't get paid he'd feel better if he was doing something useful. The guard followed, even helping hold sheets of wallboard while he screwed them in. He got all the walls in a room done and came back to do the joint compound and tape. Once that was smoothed down he moved onto the next room. It was good to get back into the swing of things. Much better than the pool too. The construction foreman called the palace. "Lord Xander is helping us by wallboarding," he told the receptionist. She nodded once at that. "Is he ill?"
"Bored. He said he's been working for years, he's not going to stop now."
"Let us know if we have to correct any methods of his work. We figure there's differences between our way and the human ways." She hung up.
He went to check. The first room was well done. The joints were ready to be sanded once they dried. He had done the ceiling as well. He did seem to know what he was doing after all. He went to check on his current room. "You mud all at once?"
"Sure do. It's faster to do it that way and lets you know if anything has to shift, which would mean redoing the joints if it did." He looked over with a happy, sated grin. "Because now and then a board will shift some and you'll get cracks. This way everything's set and I can do that all at once so no wasting mud."
"Good reasoning, Lord Xander."
"While I'm working I'm only Xander."
"Sure, I can do that," he agreed, mentally swatting himself. "We take lunch in about an hour."
"I can do that." He got back to work. The guard was still giving him odd looks but oh well.
The foreman went to make a note in his log about this. It wasn't every day you had a royal person on your construction crew.
Dean and Sam walked into Bobby's, Sam hugging Tara. "We're back," Sam said with a grin.
"I can see that," Bobby agreed. "What happened?"
"We had to take Xander to a very nice brothel to wear out the rest of the aggression problem he was having thanks to not getting any." He flopped down, looking at Tara. "We heard Dad got her. Can she sit yet?" Tara shook her head. "Good. Means Dad was just as hard on her as he was on us." She smiled slightly, shaking her head but going back to her reading. "Anyway. Before they took us we did the succuba that was running a strip club in Iowa." Bobby made a note of that. "Also there's a price on Xander's head. Heard it from Spike." Tara gave him an alarmed look. "Something about a law firm. Animal names. Something Harry Potterish....."
"Wolfram and Hart," Sam said.
"Yeah, them. Six billion in gold." Tara sighed, moaning a bit at the end. "What?" Dean asked her.
"Angel's been having problems with them," she told him.
Dean smirked. "We saw Cordelia." She gave him an alarmed look, eyes going wide, starting to pant, all of it. "She came to check out her ex's new spouses," he said dryly. "Decided we were good enough for him and warned us not to let Xander have too much chocolate. We told her what had happened so she had a vision and then a migraine." He gave her a smug look. "Then she decided Xander would have all sorts of little bouncy babies who got high off the chocolate."
"Oh, dear. Is she all right?"
"More or less," Sam said, sitting next to her. "She's calmer now. Wesley reminded her that he couldn't infect her." He grinned at her. "Other than that, it's been a bit fun. Xander was making magical accidents with the hellmouth taint that was leaking out of him. Made some of the fountains shoot milk instead of water." She shuddered.
"He's calmer again. Only took three pros," Dean assured her. Bobby gave him a horrified look. "Anya was needy."
"She complained a lot if he didn't give her enough," Tara agreed. "Is he really all right?" Both boys nodded. They all stared outside when they heard an engine puling up the driveway. "It's John and Faith."
"Cool with us," Dean assured her. "We like Faith. She's less stiff than Buffy is."
Tara smiled. "Buffy needs a new boyfriend."
"I'm only for the playing, Tara, not for the keeping yet," Dean said dryly. His father and Faith walked in. "Hey. We got he succuba in Iowa that was running a strip club."
Faith stared at him. "Is that why B's having flashbacks to the one that hit on her that she ended up ripping to pieces by hand?"
"Maybe," he said with a grin. "Or that we had to take Xander to a brothel to cure him last time. Oh, might be careful. Some law firm in LA put a bounty on his head, Dad."
"I'll look into that."
"Spike told us," Sam said, waving at Faith, getting a grin back. "How's the trip been?"
"Not bad so far even if I did have to knock him out to get control of the music and the truck." John gave her a dirty look but she just grinned. "You said I had to drive to pick the music, J."
Dean snickered. "I do the same thing to Sammy when he whines, Faith. Driver picks the music. The passenger can shut his cakehole."
Faith looked at Sam. "Knocked him out many times?"
"Not yet but the next time I do he's going to wake up to David Arkenstone." She cackled at that, leaning on John's arm to hold herself up. Tara swatted him but she was giggling as she went to put on water for tea and coffee. She even remembered to add holy water to the pot so Bobby could relax again.
"Any other reason my place is the preferred Winchester meeting grounds?" Bobby asked them.
"Happy coincidence?" Dean teased. John nodded at that. "Any new jobs coming up, Bobby?"
"And how's Ellen?"
"She's fine, boys. She's not real sure you two weren't tragically tainted for good."
"Xander has the book on how illegal it was to marry us against our wills," Sam said dryly. "We'll be family protectors again very shortly."
"That way I'm not married to my dorky little brother there ever again," Dean agreed. Tara came out to give him a hug then went back to making coffee for the boys and tea for herself. She brought out the tray, handing it over. "Remembered the holy water?" he teased with a grin.
"I did. Last time I forgot." She sat down with her own tea, looking at Faith. "Are you staying overnight? You can share my room, Faith."
"Not sure yet. That's up to the big lug there," she said with a head nod at John. Who shrugged.
"If you are, go buy groceries. I'm out," Bobby said, sipping his coffee. "Good job, Tara." She smiled at him. "Hear anything new from up there?"
"Xander's buying new weapons for stashes around the palace," Dean said.
"He texted earlier that he was working on one of the housing projects they had going up. Apparently they thought he was going to be a normal royal and primp all day. He's doing wallboards today instead." Tara smothered a grin by taking another drink. "Took a guard with him to be safe," he assured her.
"They probably could use the help anyway," Dean admitted. He finished his coffee and put his cup down. "So, any hunts, Bobby?"
"Not that I've heard of. Small werewolf preserve had a fence break last full moon but I'm sure they've got it fixed by now. They're the sort to tie themselves up during the three days." That got a mass nod. "Pretty nice folk overall. A few hunters I know watch out for them to have bad problems or one to get free and go after people. Most of the time they have guards who tranq 'em and put them back."
"Which makes sense but it's a sucky future," Dean said.
"Willow's ex was one. He locked himself up," Tara said. "He had to fight a female were that wanted to kill Willow so she could have Oz." Dean and Sam both grimaced at that. "He ended up going to Tibet to find control of the wolf. When he came back, he didn't change on the full moon but he did when he got too upset. That's unfortunately how we met. I wrote him a letter later saying I didn't blame him. She had said she'd wait and didn't."
John looked at her. "Huh?"
"When he left, she said she'd wait for him to come back. Then we ended up clicking. I had no idea about that promise until he showed up, sniffed me, went furry, and got captured by Riley's people." John shuddered. "They saved him, John. He's back in Tibet."
"I'd like to learn more about that control method," Bobby said. "Any tattoos or anything?"
"Henna on his chakras and beads in some places. I don't know more than that. I can write him and ask. That way you can pass it onto that preserve if they want it."
"I'd like that," he agreed with a smile. "Thanks, Tara."
"It's not a problem. Things like that might help others. It's usually not their fault that they got bitten. He got bitten by his two-year-old nephew while babysitting."
"That's gotta suck, being a werewolf at that age," Dean said. Sam nodded, finishing his coffee.
"You two drove me enough nuts at that age, that would've ended what little was left of my sanity," John told him. "We probably all would've been shot some full moon when I went outside to howl and a hunter caught you two causing hell while I was locked up."
Dean smirked. "You say some of the sweetest things, Dad." His father reached over to swat him but he ducked with a laugh. "Getting slow, Dad."
"I can still kick your ass, Dean."
"Maybe. But Xander did give us some goodies before we left today." He gave him a smug look.
"I don't think you need artillery, son."
"Nope, got demons parts that emit a sleeping gas when exposed to the air. Got a few other neat things too." John stared at him in horror. He smirked back. "It works pretty well. The sleeping gas thing knocked Sammy out after a vision. Kept him down long enough to get some real sleep." Sam glared at him. "Didn't it?" he asked smugly.
"I'm going to kick your ass for that, Dean."
"Blue, kinda messy looking skin?" Tara asked. They nodded. "If you use it too often you can get addicted. Some vampires eat them to get high."
"Good to know. If he needs it, I'll use it sparingly," Dean assured her, giving her a pat. John was still shaking his head with a light moan.
"Do I know them?" Faith asked. Tara got her laptop to pull up the demon identification site they used, finding it for her. "Oh them!" She grinned and nodded. "Not great fighters and they wander around like pot smokers. The only one I slayed tried ta hug and grope once." Tara giggled. "He did! Slimy hands on my last clean jeans of the week." She finished her coffee and put it down on the table next to Sam's. "So, nothing going on anywhere?"
"Hunter's picnic in a few weeks sponsored by Ellen but I'll have to make sure she won't sic anyone on the boys," Bobby offered. He reached over to grab his phone, calling her. "Ellen, Bobby. Have all three Winchesters here. Yeah, they're fine. Drank holy water, moved out of my devils trap, all that."
"The marriage is being annulled soon," Sam called.
"That too," Bobby agreed. "No, they're perfectly normal. That's what I was wondering. Sure, we can head there tonight. We'll see you in a few hours." He hung up. "She said to stop by." He got up with a groan, helping Tara out of the squishy spot on the couch. "Go get pretty. I'll make sure Ash doesn't flirt this time, Tara girl." She blushed but went to do that. "You two too. You look like hell."
"Long night making sure they didn't keep Xander at the brothel," Dean admitted, heading for the bathroom. Sam headed for another one. John went to find one for himself and Faith took Dean's when he was done to use it for bodily functions.
Bobby shook his head. "Gotta remember to get more toilet paper before they use it all," he muttered. He did walk far around the bathroom Faith was using. John had clearly been cooking by how bad it stunk this time.
Ellen looked at the boys, splashing them with holy water. "How in the hell?" she complained.
"Well, first, they're not that sort of demon, Ellen," Sam said, sitting on the nearest bar stool. "They're of the born different, not of the hell-born spawn classes. Secondly, it's not like we changed species. Even Xander's still human. He just got fed from their sacred spring and got adopted thanks to that. They can adopt any species they want that way." She nodded slowly. He took Tara's laptop to get into the demon identification site, letting her read it. She blinked, staring at it then at him. He grinned. "Xander was adopted when he was little. His parents did it for some sort of favor. Their oracles decided we'd make him good husbands but they're fixing it shortly. Then we'll just be his family's protectors."
"That's good to know." Ash came over to look over her shoulder. Then he snorted. "Know them?"
"Heard of their last ruler. What happened to him?"
"Decided he couldn't handle it anymore and starved to death," Dean said, sitting beside his brother. "That's when they came hunting heirs and found Xander in the hospital."
"We heard he was in there. That's when your dad decided to visit."
"Rosenburg decided his diet needed fixed so she bound him away from chocolate without knowing he was adopted by them," Sam explained. "He didn't even know until the heir hunting team told him."
"That's interesting," Ash agreed. "I've been looking at his history. Zombies?" They both shrugged.
Tara got a look but she shrugged too. "Before my time probably."
"Probably." He went back to reading over Ellen's arm. "They sound nice."
"They're very happy, slightly strange, very gentle people who didn't even have a National Guard unit," Dean told him. "People keep giving Xander funny looks for having weapons."
She shook her head, handing Tara the laptop back. "I suppose it could be worse."
"Actually, the hellborn ones can take them over and possess them," Sam said. "They're basically like a different species of humans in a lot of ways, only they need the chocolate after they're exposed to it."
"Evolutionary diversion?" Ash asked. Dean nodded. "An interesting thought but one to make someone like Pastor Jim drink."
"Xander keeps blowing their minds by not being a stuffy royal sort. He went to help work on a construction project earlier."
"Huh," Ellen said. "I guess it's fine if you two come to the picnic. You're not tainted. You're not reacting to anything holy?" Sam lifted his cross. "Hmph. Fine. I suppose, but others have heard when your dad said you got married off against your will."
"They had stand-ins do it," Sam said blandly, giving her a dirty look. Someone came up behind them but Tara made him hit the ceiling with a scream as his sword dropped out of his hand.
Dean looked up at him. "Hey, Thomas. Thought you were in Sunnydale."
"You're unholy now!" he said, struggling. "Put me down before I burn you at the stake, girl!"
"You touch Tara and we'll make your last few minutes miserable," Dean assured him. "Let him hit the floor, Tara. We can kick his ass." She let him down gently. She also held down his sword so he couldn't get it. "Dude, get a life. Really. We weren't turned. Tara's a white witch who's studying with Bobby. Why aren't you in Sunnydale?"
"Buffy sent him away for being a dick before she fed him to Spike in little, tiny chunks," Ash said, getting another drink and walking off again. He smirked at Faith. "Pretty."
She gave him a look over. "I'm too tired to put up with drunks. They can't preform near well enough to get me hot and heavy. So no, sorry." He snickered, patting her on the arm as he walked past her. He didn't even try to grope. She gave John an odd look.
"That's Ash. He's just...him."
"Sure, I get that. Hey, Ellen. Can I please have a soda? I'm all coffee'd out again." She handed her one. "Thanks. No Jo this time?"
"Nope. She's cowering in her room afraid that Dean will drag her into the demon planes he's been to recently."
Faith snorted. "They're damn nice folk." She opened the can and took a drink, gulping it as someone stomped in with a shotgun. He pointed it at John so she crushed the can on his forehead, making him scream in pain. "Dickhead," she snorted. "Try it again." She stared down at him. "Really."
"Who're you?" he demanded. "Some girly hunter?"
She leaned down. "I'm a slayer, dear. I'm Faith." He went pale. "Yeah," she said with a smirk. "You're interrupting my calming down time away from J driving us nuts with his bad music. Sit down and be a good puppy. Before I have to get mean and evil again." He got up with a yank from her, being stood on his feet after she made sure he realized she had picked him up. "There ya go. Have a beer and sulk over being less good than a girl." He pouted all the way to the bar. She looked at Ellen, who tossed her another can of soda while she was drawing him a beer from the tap. Wisely the boys didn't snicker at him. She tapped the can a few times before opening it to take a drink. "Always fun here, Ellen. More floor shows coming?"
"We've been busy recently but most of them know that Dean and Sam aren't tainted, just unfortunately married to one."
"X is still fully human," she assured her. "Just a bigger chocolate freak than he was before this."
"It took three pros to wear him out once they removed all those spells," Dean told her.
"He had some virgin talent when I pounced him that once, plus Anya probably rode him hard and put him away sweaty and trying hard to catch his breath a number of times. It only took three?" He smirked at her. "How long?"
"Five hours," Sam told her, making John whimper. "Yeah, he's got to find a mistress or something." He looked at her. "I need a new girlfriend."
She nodded. "Might help, yeah. That way you could discourage them from keeping you three married."
"They didn't care about incest," Dean said dryly. "And took him from Anya."
"Who is she?" Ellen asked. "She sounds familiar."
"Anyanka? Over women scored?" Tara said. "I'm sure someone's run into her handiwork before. I know she came to brag about her latest cursing. Some guy hit his wife for not putting back up the toilet seat for him. His wife decided to make him the only working indoor toilet in the whole village." Ellen burst out laughing, banging a hand on the bar. Tara smirked. "Exactly. He realizes it too she said. Fortunately she said the village was small, only about sixty people using him until he dies or breaks down, however that works."
Dean shuddered. "That's disgusting and so damn bad, Tara."
"She's like that when she's working," she quipped. She gave him a pat on the arm. "It'll be okay. You won't have her called on you."
"God I hope not," Sam said. "I'd hate to have to burn down the toilet to free him and end his suffering." John nodded at that.
Ellen burst out in a new set of giggles. "I can see that!" She walked off to tell that to her daughter. Plus to spread the news that the Winchesters weren't tainted and were still pretty normal, just a bit more warped. It'd keep people from being beaten by one of the group.
Tara looked over as someone ran in with a scream, frowning. "That's a demon." She stopped it and floated it off the ground, making it struggle. "What are you doing in here?"
"They left Lord Lavetella!" he shouted, trying to get down.
"Dude, they married us against our wills and we're brothers," Dean told him. "Get over it. We're friends, not husbands." The demon pouted. "Now scoot, kid, this is a hunter's bar." Tara let him down and he ran off. He reached over the bar to get his own beer. He handed one to Sam, then one to Bobby and his father too. He handed Tara and Faith a can of soda then he popped his beer to take a drink. "Damn, that's better."
John sat on Dean's other side. "It'll be fine, son. Some day it'll calm down."
"You hope. With that price on Xander's head it might be a while."
"Then you can go back up there for the annulment," he said. He took a sip, nodding at Ellen as she came out. "We shooed off the demon who was pissed that they're not sleeping with Xander."
"That's fine. Pay for the beers, boys." They put down money. "Thank you." Tara put down a dollar for her soda. "I don't charge designated drivers, Tara."
She smiled. "I don't drive."
"I'll be fixing that," Bobby assured her.
"So?" He looked at her. "If you have to get away that way, you'll be able to."
"I can but I'm too nervous to be behind the wheel without a nerve pill and they're bad for me."
"We'll work on it around town, Tara. Practice takes some of the nerves away." He looked at Faith then at John. "She need the work too?"
"Yup. A lot."
"B aims her car at the sidewalks to hit demons," Faith told him. "At least I kept the truck on the road, John. I didn't even hit the hitchhiking demon."
"That was good of you," he said dryly. "You're still getting driving lessons, girls. One of us will do them."
"I gave Sammy his," Dean said quickly. "That was more than enough for me." He took another drink then shuddered.
Xander appeared, putting down a ten, taking some beers from Ellen. "Thank you. The pink, jiggly thing that wants people to play with and then eat once they're too tired came back and tried to hit on me again by putting out his flowery dick. I'm in for complaints because he touched me and I nicely ripped the dick off for him before he could try anything else." He disappeared with his six pack.
Sam looked up. "Pink, jiggly thing?" he called. Xander came back with the briefing sheets, handing them over before he disappeared again. He found that one, then shuddered, hading it to his father since he had the strongest stomach of any of them.
Faith looked over John's shoulder. "Killed two of those for wanting a threesome with me. B got a few too. Good job to rip it off. It's not that easy to do." She took another sip of her soda, making John give her an odd look. "What? Like I wanted it to touch me?"
"No, probably not." He read it over, then handed it back to Bobby, who could use it to learn more about demons. "Sounds like a reasonable action to me."
The head councilor appeared, nodding politely at Ellen. "Um, Family Protectors, could you please come calm him down?"
"Let him rant," Dean advised. "He'll get it out of his system in a few minutes. That's why he came down to get a beer or six." He looked back at him. "Is that one sorry?"
"Quite and his leader was not impressed with him hitting on our new leader, but was quite impressed with Lord Xander enough to start off on a mating binge." They all shuddered at that. "Just let him pace and rant?" They all nodded but Tara whispered in his ear. "I can do that. Thank you, Tara." He disappeared, going to order that for him. It'd make him feel better to have some twinkies and ice cream for a bit so they could honor that. It really was most rude of that diplomat to hit on their leader. Against all diplomatic codes.
Tara looked at them. "I told them to give him some ice cream and twinkies. He'll feel better in the morning."
Ellen took the briefing sheets. "Who're these guys?"
"The diplomats who'll be bothering Xander soon," Sam told her. "He said it's better than the demonic soap his ex got him to watch with her."
"I can see that. Intrigue, playing around, attempts to take control of things that they want but can't have. All they need are a few baby's mommas."
"They keep those hidden. It's not polite," Dean said with a grimace.
"Ah, that sort. Good to know." She went back to her reading, handing them back to Bobby. "How many other species are there? I know that there's a lot but how many?"
"The online source I use has over ten thousand listed," Tara offered. "No one knows for sure since there are some cross-breeds. One's very sweet. Helps us a lot with news from the kitten poker circuit. His name's Clem."
"Clem was very nice and very polite around me," John agreed. "Wrinkly, sagging skin, huge paws, but a nice guy underneath. I have no idea why you play poker for kittens but I'm not sure I want to know either."
Sam grinned. "Some play for food, some play for boredom, some play to have something to play with. Spike trades his for cash for cigarettes, blood, and liquor."
"Figures," John agreed. "Someone really should unchip him. It'd be a pain in the ass to have him back functioning but it's almost...cruel and torturing him. Especially since he's helping the team out there so often." Ellen gave her the oddest look. "I'm not into torturing them, Ellen, just killing the bad ones. I can't agree with torture."
Tara nodded. "Willow and I agreed. But the first thing he would do is make us all very sorry. Supposedly Angel was looking into it as his sire, but he's been busy being a Champion of the Powers That Be. He doesn't really like Spike or Dru from what I heard though."
"Dru's batty, that's why," Sam told her. He looked at Dean. "The only vampire in all of the town. Hadn't seen any demons in *months*. No one turned, nothing like that in the news. Not even a haunting going on from an OD'd frat brother." Dean grimaced. "But one night at a club, this loony, swaying, long haired, Victorian dress wearing, pale woman walked up to me and started to babble that her stars said that I'd meet a good friend who would...." He paused. "She said he would solve the problem of the blood that called out to mine and that the hunting would be sweeter then. That he'd bring new life to my grief and doom, plus that her kitten would be good and hiss at me all I needed when I got needy. Heard from Spike who it was later." He took another sip. "She's a seer?" he asked Tara, who gave him a smug look and nodded. "Shit."
"Spike said she's always right when the stars talk to Miss Edith, but sometimes you have to translate. The mob in Prague made her that way. Though he did say she was loony before."
Sam shuddered. Dean patted him on the back. "Seers like her happen, dude. Calm down. Be thankful you aren't one."
"I am. I just realized that she was right." He took another drink at the amused look from Ellen. "It's not often a vampire walks up to you in a club, doesn't want to try to at least nibble on you, and gives you a prophecy."
"No, it's not. Thankfully." She patted him on the head and handed him another beer, getting a grin back. "MaryBeth said she made Spike quit smoking," she told Tara.
"Hmm, his last email said he got her back for that. A few of the guys who were newly turned captured her, tied her up, and sold her to some slaving demons. He taunted her until she said she'd put up with secondhand smoke as long as he cut the ropes around her. He did and they tore the demons up. Spike got the money they had and all their other stuff to sell. She went to take a long, hot bath. Buffy went to complain to the rest of the clan that hadn't been there, making them flee for their lives."
Faith nodded. "About what I'd do too," she agreed. "She good?"
"Spike said they didn't touch her, just taunted her. Called her a lesbian a few times until she shot back she'd slept with men more recently than their gay butts had." She sighed. "Willow just appeared nearby guys. I can feel her." She walked in. "What are you doing here?"
"I tried to apologize to Xander but I can't get up there." She pouted. "I want to apologize."
"He's had a bad day, Rosenburg," Dean said firmly. "Leave him alone and write him an email."
"It's not the same."
"No but it'll have to do until he gets over having to rip the dick off some pink, jiggly demon who tried to touch him."
"Shoot." She gave Tara a hug. "I'm sorry I disappointed you," she said quietly.
Tara gave her a squeeze. "You need to keep getting better, Willow. It's a good step that you're finally apologizing for all the times you've magiced him." She flinched. "And I do mean it." She nodded. "Good. Start with those here if you want. It'll be good practice for when you go distract Xander tomorrow." She nodded, moving Faith off to talk to her. She gave John's arm a hug. "Thank you."
"Welcome, Tara." He smiled at her. "We'll help her as long as she's getting help. One more stunt though and she's getting more than my hand on her behind."
"I understand." She went back to her soda. "That's my girlfriend," she told Jo when she peeked out.
"She's pretty," she admitted, coming over to talk to them. "So, chocolate?"
"They have a sacred spring," Sam told her. "They're the ones who introduced cocoa plants to this plane."
"Wow. I'd love them for it if they weren't demons. Works to cure some of my bad days." Her mother swatted her. "It does. Yours too."
"They're nice people," Sam assured her. "Polite, nice, gentle people."
"Who can't fight worth a damn," John added. "Even dueling." Xander appeared to grab more beers. "That bad?"
"Yup, sure is. Now I've got nagging bastards so I'm going to hide in the gardens and wake up next week."
"Xander," Willow said.
He looked at her. "Do not," he warned coldly. "I'm not ready to bitch you out for that yet, Willow Rosenburg. Right now I've got diplomatic problems with suckers who deserve to be staked, even if it won't kill them." She backed off. She knew that tone of voice. "So I'm going to have a drink in the garden before I decide to go on patrol tonight." He paid for the rest of the case and took it with him. "Thanks, Ellen. The guys said some very nice things about you." He disappeared.
Willow shuddered. "Someone's going to get it."
Tara called Buffy. "Xander's in a 'kill them all and let Satan have fun with the parts mood'," she said quietly. John and Dean both choked at that name for that temper of his. "Beers at the moment. Diplomats. No, it's bad. He just chewed on Willow. He said he might but he's been drinking so no clue, Buffy. Sure, if you need me, call." She hung up and put her phone back in her skirt pocket. "He'll be fine. Someone may be very sore tomorrow but he'll be fine." She looked at Dean. "It's not often you hit the bottom of his temper but when you do, run. He'll enjoy the chase."
He nodded at that wisdom. "Buffy?"
"And Spike once. He's the one who named that mood of his." She went back to her soda, still calm. Xander didn't get upset with her. "I should find him a familiar or a puppy or something. He likes Miss Kitty."
"Speaking of," Bobby said. "Why is she tormenting Rumsfeld? My poor dog just whines at her."
"I don't know. I think she's pushing his boundaries until he finally acts like a dog to her but I'm not real sure. Or maybe she thinks he's your familiar." He shook his head. "I try to keep her in the house, Bobby. You know that."
"I do, Tara. It's all right. Rumsfeld is a big, happy dog, even when your familiar decides his head is her favorite napping spot." John gave him a horrified look. "Dog won't get up either. Just lays there until she moves."
"She likes to frustrate him by walking up his back too," Tara agreed. "He's never done more than sniff and lick her a few times. She batted him on the nose the last time but he went back to it anyway. They get along just fine but she treats him like he's a toy and a slave."
Bobby nodded. "Cat's seriously warped anyway. But a good judge of character. Came out the other day when a local officer showed up and hissed at him until he backed into the devils trap, then hopped off to torment the dog again." He took a sip of his beer, making Tara laugh. "He was possessed."
"She's my familiar," she said happily. "Even if Xander does spoil her rotten."
"It's nice she ate more of his breakfast than he did some days," Sam teased.
She shrugged. "She does it to me too. She's a horrible mooch but you can't train a cat that way. She's a gift from the Goddess even with all her quirks."
"Some day I've got to introduce you to Missouri," Bobby decided. He finished his beer and got comfortable with his next one. "So anything going on tonight beyond the stupid young'nes, Ellen?"
"Not yet. We'll have to see if they show up later." She got Dean another beer too.
Xander appeared back in the palace, walking off with his beers. One of the guards gave him a dirty look. "It's this or I'm hunting," he said sweetly. He dropped most of them in his suite, taking his and a spare outside to the garden shed. That way they'd leave him alone. It didn't have any real weapons but if he had to he could use a shovel as one. He knew a few ways of using a shovel as a weapon. He sipped as he surveyed the damage he had done, going to fix it since he wasn't busy at the moment. It'd give his temper something to wear itself out on that didn't involve a weapon. Though he could probably use a trowel as one if he got really needy. He was even muttering to himself about that while he worked. But hey, it was nicer than the diplomats.
The guards went to get the head of the council, who listened for a few minutes then went to take care of the diplomatic problem with the newly chosen heir. She was nicely content to just play mind games with them now and then to keep Xander more evenly balanced. He walked up to her suite, knocking on the door. "Lady Estria, Lord Xander is presently out muttering about diplomats while fixing the damage his outburst caused in the garden. He's nicely muttering he won't use the gardening implements as weapons at this moment."
She grimaced. "Which one did what this time? I know the pink one was bothering him earlier."
"Oh, yes, but he had to be taken to a healer because he...flowered and it touched Lord Xander's leg. Lord Xander kindly removed the offending part. Literally."
She laughed. "Knife?"
"Ripped it off I do believe." She stared in awe. He nodded. "Now we've had two others appear and be huffy because he's not formally dressed and he's clearly inferior and other things they complained about until he went to earth to find a few beers. Some of which are in the garden with him."
"I'll come complain back to them." She grabbed an over-robe, walking out to find them shouting. "Do shut up now, thank you," she said quietly, making them stare at her. "Lord Xander is presently not happy due to a diplomat earlier. I am his heir. He's out wearing out his frustration before he goes to hunt down the ones who have a price on his head. Is there something I can do for you?"
"Why did he pick you?" one sneered.
"Because I'm more likely to use diplomacy than a weapon," she said dryly. They all backed away from her. "Lord Xander is the same Xander that helped the Slayer Buffy in Sunnydale. We all upset him earlier. It's best to let him calm down for a bit. Now, is there anything I can help you with?"
"He still hunts?" the one sneered.
She shrugged. "Before he only hunted the harmful things and vampires with her. I'd assume he'd do the same now if he was. It's nice, the Oracles chose two hunters to be his family's protectors."
"We heard mates," one noted.
"We had them married by stand-in since they were off at a battle. Lord Xander has protested that he only wanted them as family protectors and that to do it that way was illegal. They'll be moved back to family protectors at their instigation," the head of the council said. "We were trying to do something to help him find a quicker balance in his new role."
"That's not unreasonable," the third of the diplomat problems agreed. "We heard he was betraying the royal code by being menial?"
"Lord Xander spent the last few years doing construction. He likes to work," Estria told him simply. "He's insistent that he's going to continue whenever he's bored up here."
She grimaced. "That is not how royals do things."
"Lord Xander is not like any other royals," Estria said firmly. "Nor is he like any other person you've ever met. He's very unique, and if you don't piss him off, very nice and tolerable. If you do, well, I don't think many haven't regretted it." She stared that one down, making him flinch. She looked at the other two. "Since he's had such a long day I doubt he'd be in here later tonight to talk to you. Why don't you go to your rooming houses for the night and send word tomorrow about what you wish to talk to him about? He seems to prefer that method so he has time to look pertinent details up and give you time to rest."
"That's why we're putting in the new welcoming center," the head of the council agreed. "So diplomats can come in, hand over an itinerary, and then go settle in before coming to talk to him. That way we don't have any more exhausted people up to negotiate but you're all given full honors."
The fussy one nodded at that. "That is befitting our station. Where will it be?"
"Near the better hotels, ma'am," Estria told her. "That way it's a short jaunt to get settled in and you have time to wander through the market on your way up here. Or find something as a souvenir on the way back before you go."
She smirked. "Which increases your market's traffic. That's nearly ingenious."
"Lord Xander's idea so he didn't have to deal with tired people who just got here," she admitted. "Plus it lets him meet you on a less than formal footing since he's not really a formal sort." She smiled. "If you want, we can have you escorted back tonight. I notice your usual guards aren't here."
"I left them at home guarding my daughter. She's about to give birth."
"Congratulations," Estria said honestly. "I hope it's healthy." The soon-to-be grandmother smiled and nodded slightly at that. "I'll tell Lord Xander at his morning briefing so he'll know you might have to leave at a moment's notice as well."
"That would be acceptable. I thank you." She stood up. "We'll let him do whatever he's doing that's menial now."
"A few days back a witch who was a friend cursed him and it caused him to leak accidental magic. He's fixing some of the damage he caused in the gardens by making our fountains shoot milk instead of water." They all looked alarmed. She shrugged a bit. "She's been fixed but he likes to work with his hands. It's the sort of man he is."
"We'll keep that in mind," the sneering one said distastefully. "I've come about that trade situation you're starting."
"It was suggested since we did have so much more to harvest this year we could add to the foreign trade surplus plus also make sure there were emergency supplies on hand in case of another cave-in like on Ptolemy."
She shuddered but looked disgusted. "That was horrible. They should have known better though."
"Some of those caves had been in use for centuries from what we heard," Estria told her. "Ancient homes and their nursery. That way we'd have supplies we could send to help them out. We'd all hate to see anyone suffer."
"I suppose that's generous but you're adding too much surplus to your external shipments."
The head of the council shrugged. "That may affect our supplies' prices but that shouldn't affect others' dealings. Plus it's going to a few new places. Lord Xander rightly reminded us some of our people are on Earth so we moved into some markets down there as well. That way we're not looking bad to those who had less generous harvests." She stomped off. The other one walked off shaking his head in amusement. He looked at her. "Thank you."
"They'd send me into a fit as well," she said quietly. "I'll brief him tomorrow on the upcoming problems."
"We left him a briefing sheet but we think he's shared them with the family's protectors."
"That's reasonable. Some of them might go to them to see if they could change his mind about things." She smiled. "He'll even out once he's more used to the insanity that they cause. Even if he does end up using some gardening implements on someone who bothers or upsets him too much." She walked off, going back to her dinner. She looked outside. She had beautiful french doors that led onto the garden's nearest path. "Lord Xander?" she called, heading over to where he was working on fixing some small fences. She squatted next to him. "They've went home for the night to complain to their own people. I have pointed out you're not like other royals to the one who thought you were weird and wrong. The one who was complaining about us selling too much of our harvest was told we went into other markets. The other didn't really specify a complaint but he'll send one up since I told him to. You can have a full briefing tomorrow for breakfast. For now, just calm down. The sneering one who doesn't understand liking to work is about to be a grandmother so she might be leaving suddenly."
"That's a happy thought." He blinked at her. "How often do I get to do this?"
"After this first round they won't be ganging up like this," she assured him with a pat on the shoulder. "It's just where you're new that they all want to set up good relations."
"I like people a lot when they leave me alone."
"I know but they're diplomats and things like that have to happen." She stood up. "It's a nice job on the fence, Lord Xander. Oh, the blue things are weeds, the others are flowers that bloom at sunrise. Very pretty things."
"I might be out here then."
"No, sleep some tonight. If you're grumpy they'll expect you to always be grumpy." She smiled. "They all grew up like your friend Cordelia did. Wealthy and spoiled. Think of them like that."
"So they're the cheerleaders of their people?"
"In many ways diplomats are. They're here to mainly tell you about how good their people are and what we usually do with them. Mostly to make sure nothing's changed and we're on friendly terms."
"I can deal with them like that but not all at once and no sneering."
"That will be spread around. The diplomats are highly known to each other. We all hung in the same clubs basically." He nodded, understanding that. "They know who I am for all the work I did for Wozaataran. We also told them about the welcoming center and how it'd help by treating them as their station demands." He smirked. "One thought it was an ingenious way to increase traffic to our markets."
"That too. Less time I have to deal with fussy people too."
"Very true and for that it's brilliant." He beamed. "So finish up and eat something so you don't have a thundering hangover tomorrow. Not even healers can cure those. Have a better night, Lord Xander." She left him to his mending job. He now had keys on how to be less frustrated by the stupid people that couldn't hold a real job but were too rich to be left alone to cause problems, so they were politically appointed to be a diplomat.
Xander went back to his mending, replanting the few plants he had taken out by accident before getting up and moving to the fountain to make sure it wasn't damaged. He noticed the guards weren't very close by but that was fine with him. He wasn't used to bodyguards.
Xander walked up to the head of the Council the next morning, staring at him. "Your wife is very well spoken and quite the fussy sort." He went pale. "I ran into her pacing around last night when I had a nightmare and couldn't get back to sleep. She was worried that I was going to hang you by your toenails off the tower for marrying me off." He gave him a dirty look. "Is she pregnant? I've only seen pregnant women that fussy."
He smiled. "She does want to be. The healers are encouraging her fertility right now," he said quietly. "I'm sorry if she annoyed you."
"No, I liked her. She had common sense. It's a rare thing apparently in politicians and higher ups."
"That is why I married her."
"Good. By the way, the one who sent me the virgins, he won't have a job. You will because you actually explain shit to me. You can tell her to calm down and quit worrying about feeding your future offspring." He walked around him. "Gotta go deal with fussy people."
"I'll let her know, Lord Xander." He smiled at his back. Yes, the man was quite like his wife now and then. He hadn't realized it before but clearly they shared some qualities. He walked into the Council chamber. "I just ran into Lord Xander. I had no idea my wife was pacing around last night but they talked." He took his seat. "They're a lot alike I realized."
The lone female member considered it then smiled. "They are. That same heir of the plain people." The others stared in horror. "Really, they are." She looked at him. "Did he say anything else?"
"He asked if she was pregnant. She was being fussy and worrying while pacing. He couldn't sleep after a nightmare so they talked when he ran into her." He smiled. "He's off to deal with diplomats." The head guard came in. "Ah. Good. Do you have a report on how effectual your guards are in relation to this price on his head?"
"Not very. Lord Xander is slightly a loner but he likes company. He doesn't understand being bodygaurded but he likes company. I'm going to assign very calm guards around him. Probably two man teams. Lady Estria's team is going to be more tricky because of her children."
"None of us would hurt children," the one who had given Xander the virgins pointed out.
"Plenty would," he countered. "One came up to the oldest one yesterday to try to get her to talk to her mother about something." He sat in the visitor's chair. "As of right now, Lord Xander usually is more comfortable with a single guard. Someone he can talk to, work beside if he's doing things, that sort of thing. Though I did suggest he change when I ran into him just a moment ago. The diplomats would not like to see him in his jeans and t-shirt. He smirked and said they'd catch him tinkering anyway so why bother to put on something he'd ruin."
"I realized after our talk that he's quite a lot like my wife," the head of the council said.
That got a nod. "Quite. Including the same sort of fussy about his family." He gave him a pointed look. "She was worried last night."
"I heard. I'll talk with her in a few moments so she can calm down." He looked around the room then at him.
"Any idea what the diplomats wanted to complain about or are they just up here to meet the new leader?" the virgin sending one asked.
"Mostly that, to make sure their things are staying the same or tilted more toward what they want. Lady Estria did note that one wanted to talk about how much of our harvests were taking over markets in place of theirs. She's also about to become a grandmother. Her guards are staying with her daughter for some reason." That got a nod from a few of them. "One wanted to sneer more than anything. The other was mute on why he was here but we know he's been here many times to basically hang out and watch for problems coming."
"That's interesting. Is he at his house?" The head guard nodded. "Good. One less person to annoy him."
"We can arrange his schedule some so they don't get to gang up on him again," the lone female member pointed out. "That way he has some time to calm down, make notes, get some food or chocolate in him. It'd keep him from beating a few of the more annoying ones."
"That's another great thing we can do with the welcoming center," the head of the council agreed. "Set up a scheduled appointment so he knows when he has time to go tinker or fiddle with things." He made that note to himself. "Plus it'll tell us how long they'll be here. Oh, no planning formal events for a while. Lord Xander doesn't really understand those sort of things. That's going to take a good bit of coaching to get him up on the polite version of dancing and things." They all nodded at that. "So invite him if you have one but don't make it too gushing and tell him you'd understand if he couldn't make it. This year is going to be too busy and deals are usually made at those sort of things."
"We can easily do that," the guy who was about to lose his job agreed. "Did he say anything about any diplomatic presents?"
"No, but he did note that he had been given a few by locals who wanted things." That one looked stunned. "Twenty virgins was a bit much, don't you think?"
He shrugged. "He was stressed and has a large appetite according to his last girlfriend. He sent them all back untouched anyway. Clearly I have bad taste in what he wants."
"He didn't think it was appropriate, especially since we wouldn't let his last girlfriend up to help him with his problem from the witch," he countered. That guy grimaced. "So we may be finding him a royal mistress until he's married but it should be more his choice. He was slightly confused and insulted by that by the way." He nodded he'd apologize later. He looked at the female member since she was snickering. "If he's married he's not going to cheat. That's why his former girlfriend didn't get her powers back before the coronation."
"Good point." She smiled at that one. "I'm sure it'll be fine after you apologize." She looked at the head. "Has he said anything about changing any of our jobs?"
"I asked him casually since that's what my wife was worried about. He said I explain things to him and put up with him when he's in one of those moods of his. He didn't specifically say much beyond that."
"Hmm. I'll talk to him about it later then."
"Remember, he does not play politics," the head guard said as he stood up. "I've already warned his guards against doing more than explaining situations to him when he's confused. That way they can't seem to be siding with one side or another." He left them alone to rearrange the guards around the palace. He really wanted one of the spring's guards back but he was too high to bring back. Though he did go out to talk to him. "Evarol."
"Boss," he said, saluting him. "Inspection already?"
"No, son, wondering if you'd give up the cushy job to guard Lord Xander."
The guard stared at him. "Why would he need my skills?"
"Wolfram and Hart put a six billion gold price on his head. He's a commoner who ascended very quickly. He's a former demon hunter. I think you two are scarily alike with your past military service on the human realm. I have one I can send with him when he's off working on a construction crew around town. I have no one who can help him if he's attacked that way since he prefers weapons and will need someone to spar with. You know we don't train you beyond honor duels. He's shown a definite like of artillery."
"I saw that during the coronation." He looked around. "This is a really boring job unless someone tries to poison the spring."
"Feel lucky you're not assigned to the back entrance at the caves." He smiled. "Name a replacement."
"Going with Lord Xander when he goes to build stuff."
"He used to do the same thing so I'm sure he can handle it." He shrugged. "My nephew?"
"If he'll apply to the guards I'd let you both guard Lord Xander."
"Hmm. Rotate Helis from the caves and put Dalton back there?"
"That I can do. He's a screw up but that's usually because he doesn't understand people. He'd like a job where he didn't have to see anyone who wasn't threatening." He called that choice in, waiting around until they switched out. "I'll give you a ride back." The guard ran to pack his kit and go back to the palace. He checked the throne room. No Xander. The armory, no Xander. The gardens. Still no Xander. He got a feeling and went to the new range, finding him there talking with one of the guards while he cleaned guns. "Lord Xander, this is Evarol. He's your new personal guard. Corsor will keep going with you when you leave the palace to go do work things. Evarol here was military on your plane for ten years. He also did some demon hunting for a few."
Xander looked at him. "Initiative?"
"Hell no," he said firmly. He smirked. "Army but no."
"Good." He shook his hand. "I'm sorry if I caused problems last night going to wear out stress in the garden."
"No, Lord Xander, we prefer that over you going on patrol last night. That would've been messy for many, including those who'd have to explain." He smirked. "I'll leave you two to talk and get to know each other." He left them alone. Those two would either rub each other the wrong way, Evarol would treat him like a new cadet, or they'd end up friends.
Xander looked at him. "I got possessed by a PFC once."
"I read your dossier," he admitted with a grin. "Can you spar?"
"I'm better with weapons but I won't turn you down for practice time. I know I need to be able to protect myself and others."
"Good. Then we'll do that after the last diplomat's gone back to their rooms for the day. Gives you some stress relief from all the fluffy, irritating people who want stuff." Xander grinned and nodded. "No current ones?"
"One just left after I looked so confused about why she was complaining about having a good harvest year. I don't know why she cares. I'm told her plane doesn't produce the same things."
"No, but she probably decided it'd bring down their prices too."
"That'd make them seem more rare I thought."
"Probably. They also control very stiffly how much goes out to market," the other guard told him. "That keeps the prices up. They tried to get Wozaataran to agree to that plan but he basically said it'd be bad for their farmers and left it there."
"I think that'd be bad, yeah. Oh, well. Can't make everyone happy I guess." He finished up his current gun and put it back into the case in there. "There, that one's done." He looked at his usual guard. "Do I have a lot to do tomorrow?"
"No, Lord Xander. Not a thing as far as I know."
"Cool. Then we'll be going to help on the new clinic's site since I seem to like that boss to work with." He looked at the new guard. "Are you going to fuss?"
"No. I can't stand to sit and do nothing either, Lord Xander. That's why I joined the guards after I left the Army." He smirked. "We can make sure you get an official scheduler if need be."
"I don't want to make someone have to handle that stuff. It'd be a boring job to only do that and someone would complain about me paying someone to do just that one thing."
"Wozaataran had a personal secretary who did all those things," Evarol told him. "Including keeping track of who was who and which one was being gossiped about so he kept up to date about palace going ons."
"Would anyone mind if I did that?"
"No," Corsor told him simply. "Her name is Madge. She's got blue hair, is very tough, and will smack my hands when I reach past for her cookies in the break room."
Xander grinned. "What's she been assigned to do now?"
"She's been subbing in for someone else I suppose." Corsor walked him out to the break area, finding one of the local guard commanders there. "Where's Madge?"
"Kitchens. She's been doing inventory. Been nagging about it too." He sipped his coffee, nodding politely when he spotted Xander. "Problems?"
"He needs an assistant to keep track of things too," Corsor told him. "That way he knows when he can go tinker on the local building sites."
"She'd enjoy it."
Xander grinned. "Thanks." He headed for where he thought the kitchens were, letting Corsor turn him around when he got lost. "I really do have to finish making a mental map of this place. It's huge! I feel like a first day student at Hogwarts."
Evarol laughed. "It can seem that way sometimes. Building and renovating got us through an economic slump a few decades back. No one uses these rooms anyway unless there's an emergency."
"Good to know." Xander leaned into the kitchen, finding the complaining woman with blue hair. "Madge?" She looked over, giving him a horrified look. "Do you think it'd be okay if I stole you away to work on my schedule and stuff too? Because I have no idea when I'm allowed to go be myself and not put up with fussy people who probably want to annoy me to no end. And hey, you can even add on a rating about how much I'll want to grab a weapon because they'll be annoying me," he offered with a cute grin.
"Of course, Lord Xander. It'd be an honor." She stood up. "They told me you wouldn't need one."
"Bullshit," he said bluntly. "I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time and no clue why I need to know the rest." He gave her a pointed look. "I'm a demon hunter and a construction worker, Madge. Institute a weapons needing rating quickly?"
She smirked. "Of course I can. Mellie, I'm going back to my real job. Have fun with the rest of the inventory."
"Until the welcome center gets finished, there's supposedly bored pages," Xander offered her, walking off with his new assistant. "So, how bad have I already screwed up things?"
"Not yet that I've heard," she admitted. "Welcome center?"
He smirked. "So the diplomats have somewhere to land that'll let them give us what we need to know while they go rest up until I can see them. That way they feel properly greeted and respected."
She giggled, nodding some. "Letting the ego stroking go on without us having to gag at it. Good idea, Lord Xander." She nodded politely at the female on the council. "He does need me to help him schedule."
"I figured you would still be in your job."
"No, Heimal said he wouldn't need me."
"Isn't he the one that sent me the virgins?" Xander asked the council member. She nodded. "Well, shit. Find someone to replace him? I'm not putting up with sabotage. It'd look bad if I had taken him up on his offer of the virgins. He's making my life harder, have the council deal with it."
"Yes, Lord Xander," she agreed, looking amused. "Any other new business today?"
"No new diplomats since the last one got huffy when I didn't understand why she was upset we were putting more things out to market. Other than that, I have no idea." He looked at Marge.
She smiled. "You'll probably be pounced later but we'll make sure they give you some time to rest and regroup first, Lord Xander. They won't be offended if they come in and you're doing something either. There's a few that will need proper greeting and meeting times. Some will gladly talk to you or nag you about things while you're cleaning weapons or whatever." He beamed at that. "I'll make sure you know which is which." She smiled at the council member. "I'll take my old office back then?"
"Please do. I don't think he's seen his actual office. He seems to do everything at the table in his suite. Lady Estria is the same way at the moment, though I think she's more redecorating with some things from her private home."
"I have an office?" Xander asked.
"Of course you do," she assured him. "All leaders have an office, Lord Xander. That way they can keep important papers and have somewhere to retreat to when things have to be decided. Or to play their gameboy when they're bored." He grinned and nodded. "I believe yours connects to the garden out on the east side. Madge knows. She worked there for years."
"Cool." He followed her, whistling at the bare office area. "No desk?"
"It went to the new hall honoring Wozaataran," Evarol told him. "I had to help move the massive desk that he got as a present."
Xander looked around again. "How do I decorate this without spending the people's money? Do I get an allowance?" he asked Madge.
"Well, yes, and you are allowed to spend for certain expenses, Lord Xander."
"That's money that's for public works," he told her firmly.
"Sure, I understand that decision," she agreed with a smile. "No one expected you to spend the people poor decorating or anything. There's a small allowance in the budget for normal expenditures, like clothing for state visits, and to redecorate because it does create work and social trends."
Xander gave her a confused look. "I can paint. I'm pretty good at painting."
"Yes, but it creates jobs for decorators, Lord Xander," she told him. "Plus it sets some new social trends so we're not all doing the same thing all the time. It adds new ideas into the pool of fashion, design, and those things."
He shrugged. "You're talking Cordy language. It's not one I'm fluent in."
"I can tell. We'll go over that later." She walked him to her office. "This is mine. I see no one moved anything of mine." She smiled at him. "If you need me, I'll be in here most of the day. You'll see me right after you eat breakfast so I can tell you what you're doing that day." He beamed and nodded at that. "Good. Now, where are you if you're not here in the palace doing things?"
"He likes to work at the Kerist Co's sites," Corsor told her.
"I'll make note of that. That way we can reach you in case of sudden going ons and things." She pinched Xander on the cheek. "I'll work up a weapons rating for how much you'll want to hurt someone as well, Lord Xander. For now, go rest. You probably have a few hours before anyone else shows up."
She laughed. "Take Evarol and go spar. That way he knows what you can do if it comes down to a physical fight." He beamed and dragged his guard off to the practice area they had found the first day. She looked at Corsor. "Has anyone made any decisions about any salary he'd be earning down there?"
"No but I'd expect he wouldn't mind if it was into a fund to help someone or something. Maybe an educational fund or for those who're poorer? Ask him." He walked off to watch the practice. He had to know too. "Do tell him how you got that one person with the hammer when they came onto the site to get you," he said as he walked in. Evarol gave him an odd look. "Someone snuck onto the site. I looked over from helping install wiring and found he had just bopped someone on the head with his ball-peen hammer and was now staring at her like she was stupid."
"That's good to know." He got to work with his new master. He wasn't *too* bad but clearly had learned from having to duck instead of any formal training.
Xander and Estria met at the table that night for the more formal palace dinner. "Good evening. How are your kids?"
"Quite unhappy that I had to cut our movies short tonight," she said, letting him hold her chair for her. "Thank you, Lord Xander."
"Just Xander, Estria." He sat down. "I found out I can have an assistant."
"Madge is very good."
"We found her in the kitchens."
"Even better." She smiled. "How are things otherwise? And is that a black eye?"
"I was sparring and Evarol got me with his elbow. I didn't duck fast enough. I've had others so it's all right."
"Good." She watched the others file in. "We do this to promote harmony within the palace's staff. So they see that we're mostly just like them."
"I'm more used to doing real work than talking to people," he agreed. He handed her the bowl that the waiter handed him. "Ladies first." She smiled and dug some out. Then he got his own. "Madge is going over the budget for what I'm allowed to use my allowance for tomorrow. Are you sitting in on that?"
"No. Should I?" He shrugged. "I can stop around. I haven't been horribly busy since my husband's brother is moving my office this way." He grinned at that. "I know they gutted yours for the new honorary hall."
"I had no idea I had an office before today."
She smirked. "Yes, you do. There's even an escape hatch down to the guard barracks if you need it." He beamed at that. She handed him something. "That's going to be salty." He added it to the stuff he had just put on his plate. "What plans do you have for after this?"
"Bedtime probably. Madge said I have tinkering time tomorrow so I'll be on the new site."
"That's good to know. I know the palace becomes dreadfully boring if you don't have hobbies and things for after hours. Even my children are bored with all the hiding and seeking they've been doing."
"I saw all the unused rooms."
"We needed the economic push a few decades back. I was barely my youngest's age then but I remember everyone fretted until Wozaataran announced he was renovating the palace. That created a lot of new jobs and the easing spread from there." She looked at him. "You could take some on-your-own-time classes," she suggested. "Maybe a language or something?"
"I'm thinking about it but I hated school. I think education's important but I'm a hands-on guy, not a lecture sort."
"Which is important."
"Did you know we don't have a Vo-Tech for those who want to go into practical trades?"
"I hadn't. We don't?" He shook his head. "That might be something to look into and talk to your site's crew about. Perhaps something we can fix." He beamed and nodded. "Any other large plans?"
"Emergency response teams. In case we have another cave in or something bad happens due to a flood or something. Better than the US's FEMA agency but less than the National Guard?"
"That's not a bad idea," she agreed. "Plus it will create new jobs and training for those who'd rather do practical things. Not everyone's meant to be a high thinker or studier. No one's really planned for those sort before because they mostly probably got their training by direct apprenticeship. But you can look into it. I know some who would like to do that sort of thing." He smiled at that. "It's something to go over." She dug into her dinner. "Can I have the meat?" He smacked himself on the forehead and handed it to her. "Don't stress so much, Xander. They won't expect you to be perfect for at least a decade. They're even making sure that no one tries to force you to any society events for a bit." He shuddered. "I know but important contacts are made at them."
"Go right ahead. As my heir, you have my permission to do that," he assured her. She smirked at him for that. "The only dancing I know is how to taunt vamps in the Bronze and the only society things I know are from Cordy's upbringing and her snobbish parties. Not my thing."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"Plus it means less politics going on around me. No more maneuvering to get my attention and things." He shuddered. "Definitely not something I'll put up with."
"Most diplomats do have something like that."
"So do soap operas but I don't like them. They're girl things. Well, there was that one demon soap Anya got me hooked on but it was pretty cool because it had all sorts of demons. I learned a lot from that one. All the backstabbing, the plots and plans, all that stuff annoy me and I'd have to find a weapon."
"Good to know," she said dryly. "We'll try to point that out gently." She leaned closer. "Since your marriage has been annulled, basically, there is talk about some people coming to you as a favored mistress," she hissed in his ear. "That will get that sort of planning going." She sat back up.
He looked at her. "No. Flirting is fine. Not that. I'd never accept anyone who I didn't really like and who I couldn't be seen with in public like we were dating." She gaped. He stared back. "I believe in dating. I really do. I even made Anya see that going on dates was nice instead of always being at home to just have sex and watch tv. Dating maybe. Maybe someplace to wear myself out now and then. Because I'm not against that if that's your *choice* and not something you got forced into doing. I feel sorry for them but I'm not going to just appoint a concubine. Dating's nice. It'd also get me out in the city to learn it a bit better and to be among the real people instead of the people who put up fronts and try so hard to be something that they're not."
She gave him a long stare then nodded. "That's good to know and it is suitable that you do date, Xander. I'll make sure all the prize hunters know that about you." He grinned a boyish grin. She seriously wanted to cuddle the boy. "Is there a sort of woman that you like?"
"I seem to have the unfortunate draw of bad girls. I don't know why. A shape changer that wanted virgins, a reanimated Incan mummy, Cordy and Anya." He shrugged.
She gaped. "A what?" she asked.
"Mummy?" she squeaked. That was odd even by demon standards!
"Her seal got broken. We got to the cute stage. But we found out she was actually killing people to stay alive. I made her try to eat me instead of Buffy but she couldn't. Ampata was pretty sweet and cute. Her people forced it on her as a princess or something. Something chosen that they thought would make the Gods happy I guess."
She blinked a few times. "I'll make sure your guards know to do a good check on anyone who you date, Xander." He grinned but shrugged a bit. She looked back at Corsor, who shrugged. "Did you know that?"
"The guard that checked up on him saw Ampata. He was...amused in many ways." He grinned when Xander looked back. "He saw you dating Cordelia and Anya as well. He thought Anya might turn out a bit stranger than she did since she descended."
Xander shrugged. "She learned a lot from Cosmo, Buffy, and Oprah. I tried though." He dug into his dinner again, adding some more of the butter looking stuff to the green potato looking stuff since it was still salty. "What is this? Or do I want to know?"
She looked. "It's a type of root vegetable. It's good for you, but the cook usually oversalts it."
"Okay, so the salt isn't natural?"
"It's very bland without it."
"That's good to know. Anything of the food that I don't want to know what it was?"
She pointed. "That's technically an edible type of seaweed but it's commonly eaten in Japan."
He looked at her. "I've had sushi. I did live in Southern California. Sushi, tofu, and Starbucks are our native cuisine." She giggled, covering her mouth with her napkin so she wouldn't spit. "Nothing like eyes, tentacles? Anything freakier than some Japanese food?"
"No. We're not that strange, Xander."
"Cool." He dug in, eating heartily.
She shook her head. Xander was quite...original in many ways. Maybe she'd set a few friends up to meet him casually so he might date them. It'd do them good to be seen with him and they might make him happy. A few had common sense like he did. One was even slightly wicked since it seemed his tastes went that way.
The End, but there is a part 4 coming sometime.