Traveling Complications.

Xander bounced around the house.  Tara huffed but she couldn't get him calmed down.  It was an awards dinner.  He was dressed but wrinkling himself bouncing around watering plants and dancing with the cat.  She finally managed to save her poor, dizzy cat and put her into a chair, pushing Xander into a chair at the table so she could attack his hair.  He huffed but oh well.   Someone knocked and Xander bounced over to get it.  "Hi!" he said happily.

"Ah, nerves," the woman on the other side sighed.  "Come on, kids.  Xander, we did *rent* something?"

"No, Paula's boss gave me a new car," he said with a cheesy grin.  "It's very shiny and pretty."

"Uh-huh.  We'll see."  Tara joined them, locking the door behind them.  "You look very nice, Tara."

"Thank you.  Alexis and I took her shopping card from Xander for her help and went looking.  She found it."

"My daughter does have spectacular taste," she promised.  She smiled at Xander's new car.  The old one was still there.  "Are you selling the sedan?"

"I haven't decided yet."  He undid the alarm with the keychain remote and held the doors for them.  Tara got into the back with a wink for him. He walked around to get in and drive.  His new girlfriend played with his hair.

"I tried but he was bouncing and making my cat dizzy," Tara told her.

"I know, dear.  It's nerves.  I've seen it before."  She knew Xander was ignoring the fact that she was his mentor's ex-wife.  She was as well.  Xander drove them to the hotel for the party and dinner, letting the valet take it.  He got out and walked over to take their arms.  Tara patted him and walked in beside them.  "Paula," she said when they ran into her in the hallway to the ballroom.  The agent was on her phone complaining to someone.  "Did your date have to work?"

"Yes," she complained, hanging up.  "Apparently having a baby is more important than this."  She looked at them.  "Xander, I didn't know you were dating."

"We met a few weeks back," he said with a grin.  "The muses even like her."

"They wrote on me last time," she quipped back.

"Wonderful.  Tara.  Thank you for keeping him calm and making sure he does things."  She smiled.  "Come on, you can pretend to be my date."

"I said I'd be bringing them both," Xander told her.

"Really?  Hmm."  She walked them inside and to their table.  Tara did have a place card.   One of the others had been moved.  She got hers and moved one of the ones at the table.  "They put me with the boring drama novelists," she sighed.  She sat down.  The ladies got their chairs pulled out for them and then Xander sat down.  "Are we going out to party after this?"

"I don't know," Xander admitted.

"I have to work tomorrow," Tara admitted with a small smile.  "They can go close down a club or two in my place."

"We'll try not to wake you up when I bring him home," the girlfriend said with a smirk for her.

"Please.  Or step on Miss Kitty's tail either please, Meredith."

"I will try, dear."

"She might claw you next time."

"I know."  She smiled at her daughter when she walked in.  "That makes you look fresh and young, dear."

"Mom, hi."  She looked around then at her.  "I didn't know you were dating Xander."

"Yes, dear, I picked him up the other night."  Xander nodded, smiling slightly.   "You know how I love artistic men."

"Mom, you know he writes fantasy, right?"

"Yes, dear, and he's very much one in bed."

"I don't need to hear that.  Let me tell Dad you're here."  She walked quickly out to where her father and grandmother were.  "Did you know Mom's picked up another author?"

"Yes," he complained.  "She told me she was going to go after Xander the other night when she showed up suddenly."  He looked at her.  "I still say that dress is too cutesy."  He signed another book with a smile.  His mother sighed but walked on.  He glanced at his daughter.  "I take it they're here?"

"Yes.  With Tara guarding him.  Mom just shared *way* too much."

"That sounds like her," he said dryly.  He took her arm and walked off with her once the last autograph was signed.  Paula spotted him and waved him off.  He walked over anyway, smiling at the kid.  "Someone's going to say something about you turning into me."

"You know, this new series means we're going to be competing," he teased back.

Castle snickered.  "Maybe.  We'll see, kid."  He smirked at his ex.  "Mother probably says hi, Meredith."

"I already waved at her."  She smiled.  "No date?"

"There's no one I'd rather bring than my daughter."

"Poo, you're no fun."

Xander looked at her.  "He has a lot of fun.  He's getting all sorts of ideas working with the detective."

"I saw the preview of the new book," she purred.  "How is she?"

"She's very good as a detective and doesn't let him tease or flirt," Alexis told her.  "She's not a groupie, Mom."  She walked her father off.  "I'll see you later."

She watched them go.  "My poor daughter," she sighed.  "He dressed her to look younger."

"Alexis picked it out," Tara corrected.  "She liked it."

Meredith looked down at her. "She did?"  Tara nodded.

"She tends to dress like that when she does formal things," Paula agreed.  "Very tasteful at her age."

"I saw her in that white dress you got her, Tara," Meredith reminded her.  "Can't you find her more like that?"

"In different colors.  I did talk her and her friend from getting leather bustiers.  Her friend wanted to try one."

"He would've yelled," she agreed with a sigh.  "That would be much too old for her."

"I think her friend was going for that one picture of the heiress slut last month," Xander said dryly.  "I told her how chaffing leather pants could be."  Tara smiled at him for that.

"The one in People or the one on ET?" Paula asked.

"The one in Maxim."  She shivered.  "I told her friend if she wanted to buy it to keep the receipt for when her mother caught her."  Castle looked over from his table of dry authors he had nothing in common with.  He looked at the other cards and shrugged, pointing at them.  Alexis made their excuses and changed the cards with the excuse of she wanted to talk fashion with her mother for a bit.  They all smiled at her and agreed to the change.  The three of them settled into their seats with a small sigh of relief.  "Aren't they the ones who write the terribly relevant novels?" he asked quietly.  Alexis nodded, grimacing since they couldn't see it.  "Did your friend go back to get that outfit?"

"Her mother saw it and threw an absolute fit.  She had to take it back and was grounded for a month," she said dryly, smirking at him.  "You told her a parent wasn't going to like it."

"What outfit?" Castle asked.

"Did you read Maxim last month?" Tara asked.  He nodded slowly.  "The black and blue leather outfit."

"I talked her out of that and a leather bustier," Xander said dryly.  "She went back for it."

"Her mother must've had a fit.  She's vegan too," he complained.  Martha laughed.  "That was a tawdry outfit, Mother."

"I saw it.  If my body was just a bit more firm I might've tried it on."

Alexis shook her head.  "I don't have the hips or body for it."  Xander smirked at her for that.  "I'm realistic.  Maybe in two more years."

Her father looked at her.  "I don't care if you do go out to get a bit wild now and then," he told her.  "But don't go out looking like a dominatrix or a whore please."

"I wouldn't!"  She smirked.  "Or make you a grandfather for many years."

"Thank you, dear."  He smirked at her.  She cackled back.  "Xander, quit giving her ideas.  By the way, I saw those boots."  He gave him a dirty look.

"She wanted higher ones."

"No.  Not really practical."

"I can wear them with a few different outfits," she complained.  "Very pretty mid-calf stiletto boots," she told her mother.

"Those are for older women on the prowl, dear.  Please don't make me a grandmother.  Ever."

Martha shook her head.  "She's a wise girl.  I'm sure she'll wait until after she's fully committed herself to someone and they're suitably settled into at least living together."

"If not, I have a few shotguns he can borrow," Xander quipped.

Castle nodded.  "I heard."

Tara nodded, ducking her head.  "He got a new one the other day.  Very pretty but I don't like guns."

Xander nodded.  "Very pretty.  The new .308."  Castle moaned.  "Yeah.  I was petting it like I do the cat.  She got very jealous."  Alexis cackled at that, shaking her head.

"She was.  She went up to have a hairball on his bed," Tara sighed.  "My poor kitty is getting too many rich heiress ideas again.  Next she'll want a kitty massage."

"So get a kitten that'll knead her," Xander quipped with a grin.

"No, that's a bad idea.  She might not like having the competition for your lap when you're writing.  Even if the new one would knead her like a kitten would its mother or Miss Kitty does your shoulders when you're trying to sleep on the couch."

"How did you find something that works on pet hair?" Martha asked.  "We used to have a dog but the pet hair was horrible."

"Yellow tape," Xander said.  "Works wonders whenever I have to defur.  She's still sleeping in my shoe organizer so I moved the shirt she climbed up a few times next to it.  Since I can't wear it, she can fur it all she wants."  He looked at Tara.  "Can you not feed her that one organic fish wet food again please?  I had to air out my closet and bedroom thanks to that stuff."

"Puked?" Paula asked.

"No, other end.  Farted in my closet for *four hours* one night.  I almost made Tara go sleep in my room since it was her fault."  He sipped his water.  The others cracked at that, shaking their heads and smiling.

"I won't feed it to her again, Xander.  Or the beef one that not even Febreeze worked on."

Alexis snickered.  "I was there the day you were trying, with the windows all opened."

"It still smelled two days later," Tara assured her.  Xander got into his pocket to grab his vibrating phone, looking at the message.  "Important?" she asked quietly.

"No, not really.  Buffy wanted to talk later.  I said I'd call after this and before we went out."

"You two.  I have to work," she reminded him.

"Fine."  He smirked at her.  "Should we try to find you a really nice young lady to date?"

"Nope.  Your taste is bad."  He smirked at that.  "It is!"

"It's different," he corrected.

She stared at him.  "Last month they arrested your date during dinner, Xander.  It's *bad*."

"I remember telling them to do a background check on her," Castle said dryly.

"Gee, thanks, Dad," Xander quipped.

"Hey, I'm the cool dad, but you still date evil wenches."

"She was only wanted for business tax evasion," he complained.  "Much nicer than my usual ones."

"Like Helmsley?" Alexis asked.

"No, more like Jameson.  She ran an internet based business that she forgot to report."  Castle was choking.  "Thought you knew her?"

"I don't hit those sites.  I can find decent women to date."

Xander smirked. "Mine are probably more fun."

"Mine are safer for me, don't have anything, and don't try to kill me," he countered.

Xander shrugged.  "I haven't had one try to kill me in over a year.  And that was during bail jumping"

"She knows that word, kid.  She stopped over for some before she jumped bail?"

"Yeah, she's somewhere in Europe.  I got an email from her the other day.  She wants to visit if we do a book signing thing in Europe."

"You're *so* paying someone to go with you," Tara assured him.  "That way you make it to things and eat."

"I'll probably explore like the tourist I am," he said with a grin.  "Not like I've been out of the country.  The muses might even find whole new things to coo about over there."

"I noticed you had visited St. Patrick's Cathedral for one of the books," Paula agreed.  "Someone asked me where you got all the ideas for demons."

"Kitten poker circuit."

"I told her you loosely based them on people you knew," she said dryly.

"Which might be a problem in book two since it's got the arms dealing hoarder clans," he mused.  "Well....  Huh."  Tara patted him on the hand, but shook her head.  "What?  I made sure it got to the right people."

"I know you did when you blundered into it after a poker game."

"Kitten poker?" Alexis asked.

"Information circuit," he told her.

"Oh!  Yeah, Dad's got a guy for everything."  She sipped her own water.  "So, Dad, the new book is coming out about when his is.  Are we going to get jealous if he gets higher?"

"I don't think he will."

"I might do it later," Xander offered.  "I have to climb up since his starts out higher.  It's the name recognition thing.  I wonder if I gave any more agents headaches," he mused.

"Probably," Martha said.  "I read the first one and had a migraine thinking that there might actually be a world where that's needed."

"But I'd have fun there and date a whole lot of bad girls to attract them for cases," Xander quipped.

"I'm sure you would, young man."

Castle stared at him.  "You're so bad," he complained.

"Yeah," he grinned back.  "But I'm allowed since I'm young and only dating.  Not like I got to go wild back in high school.  Well, outside that hyena thing, but I don't discuss that around normal folk."  He beamed at Alexis.  "You and your grandmother both have delicate ears according to your dad."

"Yes they do," Castle agreed.  His phone rang.  "Castle."  He listened.  "Awards dinner but I can....  You sure?"  He shrugged and grimaced.  "I can do that tomorrow then.  Hey, I know her.  She should be here.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Paula, you need to tell someone that Sherry was just found hung," he hissed at her.  She nodded, going to do that.  "Sorry, work."

Xander beamed.  "I never get those calls.  I get more calls that start out 'eww'."

Tara nearly choked on her sip of water.  "Cordelia did complain for three hours."

"It was good to hear my former bitch whining about things," he said with a small shrug.  "Though if anyone ever tells her I said that, she'll try to take her petite battle axe to me."

"She has a battle axe?" Alexis asked.  "The fashionable brunette?  Wanna be actress Cordelia?"

"Yup.  You two met at the convention?"

"Tara introduced us while we were palling around and ran into her and Wesley."

"That's cool.  Wesley's a much better guy than we originally thought.  Cordelia, well, in high school she was the head cheerleader and had a group of sheep who followed her every fashionable step."

"Literal or figurative?" Martha asked.

"Depends on the outfit the other fashionable girls wore," he said dryly, cracking her up.  "Some did like fluffy things."  Tara moaned, shaking her head.  "Sunnydale wasn't the home of fashion," he reminded her.

"True.  I fit in very well in my long skirts."

Xander nodded.  "And the corset dresses."

"Those too."

"So that's how Alexis learned how to tighten one," Castle's mother realized, looking at her.

"Yes, Martha, she showed her and made her look *wonderful* at the convention in that black dress."

"I was about to make sure no one got any bad ideas," Castle said, giving Tara a pout.  "Put her in girlish things?"

"She can try on my old dresses if she wants.  Or the new silver and scarlet dress."

"I nearly wore that tonight with the new boots," she said with a smile for her father.  "I thought I'd look more formal in this."

"Quite possibly.  Have I seen this dress?"

"No."  She smiled at Tara.  "She finds some of the neatest things in the older stores."

Xander nodded.  "She won't let me buy her clothes either."  He looked at her.  "Should I pout for your birthday since you don't want presents?"

"I don't need presents."

"You made me have presents on mine."

"Good point."  She smiled. "I'm fine with a good ice cream cake."

"Birthdays should be celebrated until you forget you have one," Meredith told her.

"I don't worry about being too old.  Wrinkles, silver hairs, and lines are a sign that I've lived and survived the living."

"Tara," a woman said, walking over with a smile.  "I see Alexian dragged you to another event, dear.  You look pretty in that, even though it's a bit old fashioned."

"I like the older fashions.  I'd never be able to sit in a mini skirt without worrying."  She smiled at her.  "Besides, older fashions have grace and beauty that teases and tempts instead of blatantly states what you have."

"Of course I brought Tara," Xander said, ignoring his urge to kitty hiss at her.  "If it wasn't for her I would've died a few novels back by starvation.  She's the one that makes me quit writing and do other things, like sleep and eat."

"I suppose it's fine but people may talk," she told him with a catty smirk.  "The same as they might about you mimicking your mentor."

"She chose me when she got tired of all the wannabe models and actors who were more concerned about their body than hers," he said dryly, staring her down.  "She needed someone who was deeper than a mirror and who knew what a woman's body cried out for."  She blushed and walked off.  Now he hissed.

"You're picking up bad Miss Kitty habits again," Tara said quietly, patting him on the back.

"I've always liked smart men," Meredith agreed, smiling at Castle.  "Now I find it hard to keep one among the prettier ones but he's very good."

"I heard one was taken out while limp from him and begged for him to let her rest," he shot back.

"TMI," Martha complained.

"Sorry, Mother," Castle said.

"What was sad was I wasn't near done," he sighed, shaking his head.  "She had no stamina.  I need women with good stamina and brains," he told Tara.  She smirked and nodded.  "If you find one that's bi?"

"I'll send her your way, Xander.  Trust me.  I like sweet girls, not naughty girls.  Mine cuddle, not scream in three octaves a night."

"I've only had two," Meredith pouted.  Xander smirked at her and she actually blushed.  "We'll see."

"I'm not doing anything tonight."  He looked at Alexis.  "Your dad will be able to separate out the bad boys for you until you learn how to pick them."  She nodded at that.

"Yes I will be," he said bluntly.

"I don't know as it'd help.  Bad boys are fun," Martha sighed.  "If I was younger, I'd try to steal that one."

"Mother, eww," Castle complained.  "I don't need a stepfather, really."

Alexis was blushing but patted his hand.  "If she did remarry I'm sure they'd move her to his house after a lavish, sparkly wedding with a lot of flowers and a huge cake."

"Probably," he agreed.  That was a good thing of her finding someone to date, she'd move.  He cleared his throat.  "So, Meredith, anything going on professionally for you?"

"No.  I need to get those new headshots taken."  She sipped her water.  Paula came back.  "Are any of your clients going to have books turned into movies?"

"Only if we suddenly run into a big spot of murder mysteries being popular again," she admitted.

"Mine might make a good action movie."

"They'd have problems with the demons," Alexis reminded him.

"Good point."  He shrugged.  "Maybe one day."

"Maybe," Castle agreed.

"Rick?" a woman purred, walking up to him to stroke his shoulder.  "A few of us are at the bar making some plans for a weekend getaway.  Maybe even some skiing.  Would you like to join us?  We'll be finalizing when Shelly gets here."

"Let me go talk to them," he said, not looking happy.  He walked her over there to give them the bad news.  The one who had come to get him burst out crying the but the others looked grim.

"That is something I'm glad I never need to tell," Xander said quietly.

"Me too," Tara agreed.  "I want to go make them feel better."

"They wouldn't understand if you tried to give them a hug," Paula told her.  She nodded she knew that.  "Right now they're remembering all the others we've lost to addiction or depression."

"That's one thing I don't think I'll ever fall to," Xander told her.

"No, you've seen addiction very closely.  I doubt we'd lose you to that.  To a girlfriend possibly or a jealous fan, but not to an addiction."  She smiled.  "By the way, your parents missed their court hearing this morning.  Their lawyer had them GPS'd like you suggested and had them brought in from the bar.  They weren't happy."

"I'm sure they're not.  Was today the sentencing?"

"No," she said.  "It's the last day of testimony and the jury debating."

"And?" he asked, stiffening up.

"They came back guilty on the lesser charges of assault and violating the restraining order by sending threats to you."  Xander nodded, staring her down.  "The extortion charges they were mixed on.  They didn't convict your mother on them so she's free.  Your father is probably going to get some jail time."  Xander nodded, relaxing some.  "Your mother was told to go home by the judge.  His sentencing is in two weeks."

"Let me know how it goes."

"I will.  You're not going?"

"No.  Because I don't care."

She nodded.  "I can agree to that.  There has been some press attention?"

"Do I need to make a statement?"

"You have an interview tomorrow.  She might mention it."

"I have an interview tomorrow?"  He checked his phone, texting back to Buffy when he saw her new message.  "It's Wednesday and my phone said it's Friday, Paula."

She took it, getting out of the message that just popped up.  She synched his phone with hers after a few tries and handed it back.  "Buffy wrote."

He got into it and sent it back.  She sent back a groan and she'd call later, after ten.  He put it back into his pocket after sending back an 'okay'.  "Thanks, Paula.  Are you sure?"

"Yes, I checked earlier so I could pass those out tonight.  Wear something *decent*."

"The white shirt and shorts," he promised.  Castle came back.  "Are they okay?"

"They'll be okay," he assured him, sitting down again.  "Hopefully we'll know soon what happened and it'll make things easier."  He saw someone walk in and groaned.  "Kid, who did you piss off?"

Xander looked.  "It's a mask.  They got the color wrong," he mused.  "Huh."

"Do not pull out your paintball gun or anything else," Paula hissed.

"What makes you think I'm armed?" he asked, looking fondly at her.  "I'm not *always* armed."

"Yes you are."

"No I'm not."

"You can fight, yes you are," Castle said.  "I have to agree with her, kid."  The man with the shotgun and the demon face mask stomped their way.  "Hmm, cheesy costume, no hand coverings.  I would take that gun far away from my daughter before I make you eat it."

"Don't resist and no one gets hurt," he sneered.  He pointed the gun at Tara and then at the other women.  "Just give me what I want."  Xander sighed.  "You, no heroics!" he sneered.

"No, you're in the wrong place for me," Xander said, glancing at Tara.

She looked at him.  "Maybe."  She looked up at the man.  "We don't have anything you'd want."

"You have money."

"No, I'm a librarian.  I don't."  He growled.  Xander shifted and the gun got pointed at him.

"I said, take the gun away from my daughter," Castle said.  "Now."

"Listen, old man...."

Tara muttered and flicked a finger, making him wince and step back a few steps before growling.  It gave time for Xander to pass Castle the knife he was carrying.  Castle threw it and the guy screamed and fled.  "Thanks, kid."

"I wasn't in a position to deal with it.  You were."  He shrugged, getting up to get his knife back.  He put it back into his ankle holster after he sat down.  "Nice throw."

"Thank you.  That thing's weighted toward the grip knob."

"Yeah, I needed that balance for hand-to-hand," Xander admitted.

Martha looked at him.  "You look so nice and sweet, young man.  You're not the sort that I'd peg as dangerous enough to get into knife fights."

"In my former town I was on the protection patrol.  Tara and I both were."  He smiled.  "We had a few times when it happened."

"Like walking kids home from the club?  Tara said Sunnydale was really tiny," Alexis said.

"Some of that, some problems with gangs.  It happens.  Which is why your dad's going to use me to threaten every single one of your boyfriends," he finished with an evil smirk.

"Sure, I'm sure I'll remain a virgin forever," she quipped back, grinning at him.

"No, some day you'll tell him you love him enough that he'll call me off and let you have that one to make your parents grandparents."

"Not for *many* years," Meredith complained.

Xander patted her on the hand.  "You'll never look like a grandmother," he promised, giving her a soft, gentle smile.  "You'll always look like the blushing young ingenue until you're ready to move on to better roles that comes from looking more mature."

Martha coughed to clear her smirk for that load of crap that had made her former daughter-in-law blush.  "There is an ever growing set of good roles since all the *good* actresses are now older.  Most of the young actresses today have very little talent.  It's almost turned me off seeing shows or movies."

"Most of them are found very young, and they're too young to know what they're really like," Meredith agreed.  "Then they get into the party mindset.  Which can be fun but they live there instead of dipping their toes.  I *swear* some of those children are fetuses I should be diapering, Martha."

"They saw the ones in your generation ruining their lives and decided the consequences couldn't happen to them," Xander told them.  "The same as any other addict."  Tara gave his arm a squeeze.  He smiled and patted her hand.  She relaxed again.  Then her nails dug into his arm.  He looked where she was.  "Interesting.  Are they going to strip?" he asked.

Castle looked.  "No, I know two of them."  He got up to ask them what was going on.  He pointed at the hallway.  They headed that way.  He came back.  "They were looking for the idiot in the mask."  He sat down again.  Their appetizers got delivered and the waiters disappeared again.

Tara waved at one to get his attention and held up her water glass.  He nodded and grabbed a pitcher to come refill all theirs.  "Anything else?' he asked quietly, looking around.

"Is there white or red wine with the main dish?" Martha asked.

"White, ma'am.  It's chicken."  She smiled and nodded at that so he went to refill other water glasses.  A few waiters did the same.  It made people happier again.  They went back to talking about the current gossip.

The head of the company came over, smiling at Paula.  "I see we regrouped ourselves?"

"I really couldn't find anything to talk about with some of them, sir," Paula said.  "They wanted to compare their contracts to others' contracts.  I'm not comfortable pimping the contracts of the better selling authors."

"That's most reasonable," he assured her, patting her on the shoulder.  "Mr. Castle, and family.  Mr. Harris," he said, nodding at them.  They both smiled.  "Do we know these lovely young ladies?"

"This is my date, Meredith," Xander introduced.  "This is my roommate, Tara, who makes sure I do mundane things, like eating, when I'm writing."

"Wonderful work, young lady.  We'd miss him."  He shook their hands. "I remember when Alexis was a young child," he said with a smile for her.  "During the first book's coming out you were nearly tiny, young lady."

She blushed.  "My mother and grandmother are about to wail about that."  He laughed, shaking her hand.  "I'm looking forward to my father being honored."

"We're looking forward to many more years of wonderful sales from him."  He smiled at Xander.  "And of yours of course."

Xander beamed.  "Just don't make me give a speech, please."

He laughed, shaking his head.  "It's not necessary.  Just wave and smile."  He patted Paula on the shoulder again.  "Let me press more flesh."  He walked off.  They were a happy table full of chatting and laughing.  Some of the other ones weren't as happy but there was a bar for them.  Once the main dish was served, with the wine for those who wanted it.  He noticed none of the Harris party outside of Castle's former wife drank.  Smart of him but he was probably going to need the relaxation.  Some people didn't handle public acknowledgment very well.  He seemed the sort.


Xander walked into the bar, finding Buffy there.  "You got her to send you?"

"No, one of the demon bars has a pass-through," she said, looking up from her hand of kitten poker.  She stared at him.  "Um, wow.  Suit?" she asked, looking at his face.

He smirked.  "The publishing company had a dinner tonight to acknowledge those of us who have sold majorly this year."  He looked at a vampire.  "Get me a chair?"  The vampire growled.  He smirked.  The vampire got out of his seat and took his cards to the new chair with him.  "Thank you, Paulo."  He got dealt in.  "Thank you, guys."

"You guys know he's a shark, right?" Buffy teased.

"Yup, we know," Paulo complained.

Xander smirked at him.  "Is that because you're concentrating more on my neck and ass than your cards?"

"Perhaps."  He put down his cards.  "I already owe him too much."  A few of the others playing folded for that same reason.

"I take checks as long as they don't bounce," Xander quipped.

"I'm sure you do," the dealer sighed.

"I thought you were at that because you were selling really good," Buffy said.  "Speaking of, I heard a rumor of a new series?"

"Yeah, thanks to Willow."  She shivered.  "It's coming out near the holidays."

"Am I in this one?"

"You aren't in any of them yet, Buffy."  She glared at him.  "No, that hunter looks a lot like Chuck's ex girlfriend, the amazon nazi chick."

"Oh."  She shrugged.  "I knew she was taller."

"That too.  She had a bigger chest too.  Played football."

"Point."  She folded and they all smiled at her.  "I've seen him in evil Xander mode.  He even looks like the evil, corporate Xander in the suit."

"Don't you still owe me fifty bucks?" he asked absently, staring at his cards.

"I thought you were going to forgive that," she pouted.

"I did until you compared me to Lex Luthor."  He looked at her, earning a grin back.  He snorted.  "Not my type, Buffster."

"Yeah, I know.  I'm glad too!  I'd make a bad evil slayer.  My hair would have to be dark again and all that.  Plus, she wears a lot more leather than I do."

He smirked.  "She's healed a lot."

"I know.  I visited with Wesley.  Completely freaked her out when Mom gave her stuff to do and cookies for her birthday."

"I put money on her account and sent her a card since I couldn't get out."

"What were you doing instead?"

"Book signings."  He smiled at her.  "I had three to do in the last week and they're talking a tour in Europe."

"Um... you do know that the Council has it in for you, still?  And it comes with a price on your head?  'Cause Wes let that slip."

"Yeah, and I'm hiring a bodyguard to fuss over me for Tara since she said she didn't want to go."

"She doesn't?"

"Nope.  We talked about it and she decided it'd hurt her job.  She might go sometime and invite me but not this time."

"I guess I can understand that.  Working sucks."

"She's a part-time librarian."  She smiled and nodded.  "So I'm going to find a bodyguard.  I'll tell them about the Council being an ass though."

"Good.  Remind them of your girlfriends."

"I will.  I haven't decided if I'm going to ask someone for a recommendation about knowing about demons."

"It'd probably be better if they did," she pointed out.  "I know you've got a good following in the community."  She pointed at one beside her at the table on the floor.

He looked under the table.  "You could have come over here.  I'm not mean unless you're attacking."  The demon beamed and held up a book.  He took his pen out of his pocket.  "Who do I sign it to?"  He laughed at her burbled answer.  "No, not Mrs. Harris.  Tara has to agree to whoever I marry so they can get along."  The demon burbled something else and Xander signed it to them.  "There you go."  He winked as he handed it back.  The demon burbled her thanks and wobbled off on his jelly-snail like bottom.  He put down a bet and the card game went on.  "How's things?"

"Not bad.  I'm kinda lonely.  Willow and Daniel are getting firmer by the day.  He promised if she started to go bad, he knew someone he could call to handle her."  Xander nodded once at that, grimacing some.  "Where did she send you?"

"New series, Buffy.  Did you get the info on what had happened in their apocalypses?"

"Yeah, we did, and what they had on that cult thing."  She stared at him.  "You went there?"  He beamed and nodded.  "Were they shocked?"

"No, the base was full of the activated slayers and I was a main force as an agent."  He beamed a cheeky smile at her.

She shuddered.  "You as an agent."  She shuddered again.  So did some of the demons.

Xander smirked at her.  "Gee thanks."

"That's a really bad thought, Xander."

"Uh-huh.  You're just jealous that I'm all over that world.  Highly respected.  Their Council was blown up so Wes and I rebuilt it."  She looked like she was ready to cry at that.  "It was going good, Buffy.  They had it."

"It's still horrifying!" she complained.  He shrugged.  "Trip to Europe before my head gets stuck?"

"They're thinking after the holidays.  New Year's here, then six weeks signing books in major cities in Europe and Asia.  Sightseeing a few days in each place."

"Wow.  So like a rock star?"

"There's four of us going.  Me, one other big name fantasy writer, one with a best seller, and someone who writes in the same style as Clancy.  They're in other publishing houses and one's a Brit."

"Wow.  Really moving up in the world.  Next you'll get a bigger apartment somewhere less falling in."

Xander shrugged but smiled.  "Apartments in Manhattan are *atrocious*," he told her.  The demons all nodded at that.  "We paid a crapload for mine plus the fixing up.  The nicer, bigger ones, are up to a million for a loft in some places.  Tara wouldn't want to share a bedroom with me because she snores and so does her cat.  And farts!  There's an organic pet food that gives *way* bad gas to cats," he said, looking up at her.

"I think Willow used that a few weeks back.  It drove Angel out of the Hyperion for about two days of living in the sewers instead."  He cackled.  "Not that I enjoyed it but I couldn't do more than hide on Mom's couch and she said I brought the stink with me."

"It took us days to air out what Miss Kitty did to the apartment.  Especially in my room since she likes to sleep in my shoe organizer."

"You have a shoe organizer?" she asked, giving him an odd look.  "I thought you were still dating girls."

"I am mostly, the same as I was before," he said at her opening mouth.  "It came with the closet organizing system.  I put belts and things in it."

"I guess that makes more sense.   Who bought you the suit?"

"My agent made Cordy come out to help the personal shopper she hired at Nordstrom."

"At least it's classy.  She has good taste in men's suits."

He smirked.  "The rest is Tommy Bahama."

"Ugly printed shirts in silk.  Moving up from your hawaiian collection," she teased.

"It's only for signings and things.  Not like I'll wear silk every day."  His phone beeped so he pulled it out to look at it.  "Huh.  Tara says hi and you can have our couch and breakfast if you want."

"I wouldn't mind."  She texted her mother.  "So she won't worry.  She's been heavily on the nagging bottle again."  They packed up and left.

Xander leaned in after he heard the sigh of relief.  "It's not like *we're* the mean ones, guys.  Really."  He walked her off, taking her to the car.

"Shiny," she said in awe.  "And one scratch."

"The valet earlier.  Meredith nearly took off his head.  It was a prezzie from my publisher."  He beamed.  "I have no idea why."  She laughed but got in and buckled up.  He did the same and off they went.  Tara opened the door when he walked her up the stairs, letting him get the meowing cat.  "We didn't abandon you," he complained, petting her.  She leapt over to Buffy, purring at her.

"Aww, thank you.  I needed kitty lovies."  They walked in.  Tara handed him a soda, Buffy an iced coffee drink, and smiled.  "You do the mom thing very well, Tara."

"That's because Xander's going to beat someone."

"Why?  Beyond the fact that my mother is back in Cali and has told some people that I know weapons?"  He sipped his soda.  Tara moaned.  "Beyond that?"

"Yup. Sorry," she said with a wince, turning on the answering machine.

He listened to the nice message from a friend in LA who said that his mother was back and trying to get him taken out by encouraging people to kill him.  "Huh," he said, calling someone else.  "It's Harris.  Can you please remind my mother that my will doesn't leave her anything even if I do die and it won't get my father out of jail for extortion or assault?"  He took a drink.  "Yeah, exactly.  No, got told by someone.  You can tell her that I didn't bring the stash either.  So yay her.  Also, if she's being that bad....  Tell Epps.  Thanks, Joseph."  He hung up.

"Joseph at the Goth and Angels store?" Buffy asked, looking confused.

"Yeah."  He beamed.  "Why do you think I took Tara there so often.  He's a poker buddy."  He walked off, heading upstairs.  "Let me change into real people clothes."  The cat followed him.  "Aww, did I close the closet on you again?" he teased with a smirk.  "Poor kitty, couldn't sleep in your chosen hole."  He opened the closet for her, letting her hop up into her cup in the shoe organizer.  She settled in after a few wiggles and was quickly asleep in *her* spot.  Xander changed into real clothes, hanging the suit up so it could go to the dry cleaners.  Because it stunk of Meredith's perfume and they had only had sex the once in the bathroom.  He went back downstairs.  "Any other horrifying news?"

"Not yet," Tara said, smiling at him.  "Are we expecting some?"

"That depends on who hears that I used to do the crossbow fixing," he said dryly.

"They won't listen to that," Buffy assured him.  "I talked to Gunn and he said they've shut down all the rumors by pointing out you're not doing that now that you're famous.  You're UC for hunting stuff."

Xander nodded.  "I am, yeah.  Speaking of, we have *got* to stock the cabin, Tara.  I don't even have a first aid kit up there."

"We can do that," she promised.  She smiled at him.  "Meredith was fairly nice."

"Castle told me that she's slightly nympho, has bad ideas, will start trying to make me buy her designer clothes soon, and he calls her a twinkie sometimes."

"So, like Anya light?" Tara guessed.

"Apparently.  I'm almost having flashbacks."  Buffy snickered from her place on the couch.   He got another soda and the bag of nachos, going out there catch up with her now that she was normal again.  Tara joined them with her own snack and a sandwich for Buffy.  They could do this for a while.


Xander got the text message, which made him quit writing.  He read it and saved, grabbing things.  "I've got a park meeting," he called.  No answer.  The cat stared at him from her spot so he looked at the clock.  "Okay, she's at work."  He left, going to the park as requested.  He ran into Castle and his detective partner.  "That bad?" he asked as he walked up to them.

"First, I did *not* need to know that my ex and your ex, the nun, are a lot alike, kid," Castle said.

"I didn't have Anya call you."

"She did."

Xander shrugged.  "I have no control over her.  Sorry?"

"Fine."  He sighed.  "No wonder you get along so well with her."

"Yeah, Anya was the one who broke me though.  I did tell Meredith why I didn't buy clothes or anything else beyond minor presents ever again.  She pouted."  He shrugged.  He looked at the detective.  "Did my ex call you as well?"

"No, thankfully."  She pointed.  "What're those?"

Xander walked over to the crime scene, staying on this side of the tape.  "Alathanian ritual markings for a sacrificed mother," he said, walking around it.  "Apparently her child died during birth so they decided she was unworthy to breed for their higher ups."  He looked at them.  "They're very rare to breed so it's considered evil if your child dies before it's blessed.  It's always blamed on the mother unless the father did something or gave the child some sort of sickness.  Also, she probably begged and wailed for them to do it because she was so unworthy."  Castle gaped.  "They only have about six kids a century and they only live about a hundred ten years.  Kids are *real* rare."  He looked.  "It looks like she picked up bad human habits or someone did since there's cigarette butts around the body."  He looked up again.  "In the old days they would've made her do it to herself.  Paint it, kill herself, all that for being unworthy and evil for not being able to breed."

"Where are they?" she asked.

"Soho at the moment.  They probably moved after this though."  He shrugged.  "I can ask if you want."

"Does it say that her child died?"

"Yeah."  Xander waved them over, translating each mark around her and why it was there.  She took notes.  He just stared at him.  "A lot of communities still use rituals for the heavier things.  That way it never becomes *fun* or a game."

"So they'd do this to their own for this reason but not on others," Beckett translated.

"Basically.  And there's a herd-like competition to be the alphas.  That's very ritualized."

"To decide who breeds," Castle said.  Xander nodded.  "What if they can't."

"Well....  I'd hate to be them.  It's not pretty.  They have two weeks to implant one in one of the rare females that's given to them.  If not, then they're taken out and another is chosen and she's handed to them."

"Do they have a cycle?"

"No.  Theirs is activated and it's on until she's knocked up."

"Okay," he decided.  He looked at his partner, who looked back.  "Can we get them to not do this in public?"

"I don't know why she was left so publically," Xander admitted.  "Usually that's done in their temples."

"What do the non breeding people do in their culture?" she asked.

"Every being is important to teach the young," he said.  "They each have something to teach even if they can't breed.  Some accept it more readily than others, especially in this generation.  This generation has had some problems with overly aggressive males."

"By picking for aggressive fathers, that makes sense."

Xander shook his head.  "Their type are guards of some of the highest of the high courts," he said quietly.  "They're highly desired to be personal bodyguards.  A secret told to them is tighter held than any vow ever could be.  There's one species that can pull secrets from their blood so if they're captured they have a suicide desire upon interrogation, but otherwise they're the ones *everyone* wants as their guards."

"But not the females?"

"When you only have six kids a century and only two are girls, yeah."

"Oh."  She grimaced.  "How many kids did she probably have?"

Xander looked at it.  "It says this was her sixth child, her fifth one had health issues that they blamed on the father and think that it may have been passed to the mother."  He looked at her.  "It takes them a decade to grow up and she'll be bred to within three weeks of the child moving into the training creche."

"That doesn't add up to the six kids a century."

"That's their number on how many make it out of training."  She winced at that.  "That's why they're so highly wanted.  Like Butler in Artemis Fowl, only better and more silent about things."

"I read that book to Alexis," Castle admitted.  "So, if they don't make it through training?"

"They don't make it through training," Xander said bluntly.  "They won't let inferior warriors out unless there's a war.  There's been two or three historical accounts where the training creche was captured and turned into warriors, and once when the training creche was handed over for that after weeding out the top ones likely to make it through all the training.  But those would have destroyed everything so it was considered a good way to die."

"So, the six are the super Klingon warriors?" she said.  He beamed and nodded.  "Do the females go through training?"

"No.  There's not many born.  It's a genetic instability within the females.  From what I read, the females tend to be rejected by the mother's body.  They miscarry them.  That's not counted as a flaw.  Only when the child is nearly born or fully born.  It's blessed at a year old."

"Okay, so nothing like SIDS?" she asked.

"No.  Not among their species."

"Interesting.  So why drop her here?"

"I don't know."  He pulled out his phone to call someone.  "It's Harris."  He listened to the groaning.  "If you're guessing I'm calling from a certain park you're right.  Because normals are involved."  He listened, taking her pad to write a note down.  "And why ....  Really?"  He looked at her.  "Huh.  How did they find this out?"  He made another note.  "Both?  Interesting.  And...."  He nodded.  "Thanks.  I'll let them know.  Whet about the next one?"  He hissed.  "That's sucky.  Yeah, I can see that.  Thanks, man."  He hung up.  "The Council had one of the Watcher teams invade their tribe," he said quietly.  "They're scared to death of them as warriors and hate them for being better.  They shot the females with human blood.  Personally with the aggression problem I think they got all of them."

"Do they have any untainted?" Castle asked.

"No."  He looked then at her.  "That was a statement that there's none of them untainted."  She groaned.  "The last generation is all dead by now.  All that's left is tainted ones.  The others made sure that they knew of it.  She was taken out here because she was unworthy to be with the clan."  He called someone else, talking quietly as he walked off.  He looked over then came back.  "They told the other clans.  They made sure it was done so that none of them were allowed.  The ones who've passed training are being looked at but they won't be allowed to breed.  Ever."  Castle nodded at that, looking grim.  "So yeah, not a problem anymore and they've been on the watch for the Council to do something so cruel again."

"Why would the Council do this?" she asked.

"Because they're asses.  How much do you know or are you just informed enough in case something happens?"

"In case something happens.  Why?"


"Never heard of them."

"According to a source, this Council of Watchers has a chosen female warrior who is meant to fight the demons and darker beings," Castle said, staring at the boy.  Xander nodded.  "They lord over her."

"Take her from her family, turn her into a perfect little warrior who knows it's her duty to run into every single battle every single night until she dies and another is called," Xander added.  He looked at Beckett again, seeing her pale and shaky.  "I stepped in to help one.   As I found out recently they hate me enough to have a price on my head.  And yes, I have told Paula we're hiring me a guard on the trip overseas," he admitted.  He looked at her again.

"I've talked to the local guy.  He doesn't treat his girl like that.  She's trained but most of them send potentials out to handle minor things even though they're not gifted at that time.  His is in training.  She can't date, see her family, anything like that, but she's not that bad.  I've seen one that they raised.  She had *one* outfit. She knew she'd die and hoped it was during an apocalypse instead of something getting a lucky shot during a patrol.

"Something that would get her more than a mention in the memorial book.  Then her memories would be transferred to the next girl, who might be able to access them if she tried.  Some girls get that easier than others.  The one I worked with only got occasional dreams.  Mostly showing her their history to welcome her since they never found her."

"That's barbaric," she said.

He nodded.  "Which is why we'd like to change it for all the girls.  The one I worked with has lasted since she was fifteen.  She's my age."  She groaned.  "That's more than record breaking."  She glared at him.  "Not my system and I've tried to help where I could.  That's why they're willing to pay someone half a mil to get rid of me."

"There's two from what I was told," Castle said.

"Which is why my bounty's so high," Xander agreed with a small smirk.  "I know CPR."  He groaned.  "The other's in jail because of a collateral damage incident.  We were all too damn young and too wrapped up in things to help her and she turned.  She's better now.  I've written her and Buffy said she's talked to her in person."  He shrugged.  "I'd do a lot to help her if she wanted me to but she apparently doesn't want to deal with me."

"So...." Beckett started.  "The one here?"

"She's in a normal, girls only school.  If the Council found out, he'd probably be taken out and she's be taken from him and handed to another one.  Which is one of the many reasons I hate the Council enough to beat their asses if they try anything anywhere near I am.  Even if I'm not involved."

She nodded at that.  "Can't anyone stop them?"

"They predate writing and they're a secret society.  Can you stop the Masons?"

"No," she sighed.  "Why take out this clan?"

"Because that's one less set of guards to the higher things that they hate, even if they're not the ones causing problems.  To them, there's no such thing as peaceful species.  That's how they train *most* of the girls too."

"So some are different?"  Xander smiled and nodded.  "Good!"  She closed her notebook, looking at him.  "Are you watching over her?"

"I may have slipped out to see her one day.  I have talked to her watcher.  He's very pissed because he just found out I gave her Buffy's address so they can chat.  He left a screaming, ranting message on my machine the other day.  I kindly reminded him that this way she got the benefits of her experience before she got picked.  Though, unless Faith dies in jail there's not going to be another chosen until she's taken out.  That makes his girl pretty safe."

"Which is why they need your friend," she said.  Xander nodded.  "Have they tried it on her?"

"Yeah, they've tried to wet works her a few times.  Including a very neat coming of age present in the form of a ritual test.  Take her powers, lock her in a house with something.  If she lives, she's lauded.  If not...."  He smirked.  "They weren't going to even give her a  stake."

"That's beyond what I'd tolerate," she decided.  "They're where?"

"England.  That's the main branch.  They have people everywhere."  He spotted one and smiled, waving.  "Morning.  How are you today?"

The officer turned and walked off.  He started to run when she went after him.

Castle looked at him.  "They shouldn't be doing this."

"If they treated the girls humanely, we wouldn't mind as much," he said quietly.  "Unfortunately to them they're tools.  There'll always be another one.  Until they're scarce, they'll keep it up.  They hate Buffy for being so good because she had backup.  They know the minute there's a slayer back in their control, she's going to be culled with the heaviest thing they can send at her.  Willow and I have already prepared for that because they'll hit us too.  Me especially since I'm normal and they can't see why a normal would hunt."

"The roaming ones like you write about?"

"They ignore they exist until they run into them.  Then they put them down, try to get them out of the field by taking them out for interfering in their jobs, you know, the normal things when you think you've got the holy calling to purge things.  Though I will say that they did fight against Nazi's."

"One good thing doesn't mitigate centuries of disgusting behavior."

Xander nodded.  "We know."  He smirked.  "Anything else I can tell you or can I fade?"

"Fade."  Xander saluted him and left, handing him a card.  He smiled at that information.  The ones that were on those hunting teams in case it became necessary.  The kid was gone before Beckett got back.  "You get him?"

"Yes.  I had the two uniforms that helped me take him to my captain to explain himself.  I gave them the notes he made and the ones I made."  She looked around.  "He gone?"

"He faded back into the shadows."  He smiled at her.  "So, apparently we won't ever solve this."

"I'm going to talk to him.  We'll talk about it being ritual suicide," she said quietly.  He nodded, walking her back to the car.  "Tell CSU to hose it down," she ordered.  The cop holding the scene nodded.  Once they were in the car she looked at him.  "How can he stand seeing and knowing that?"

"It would've come for him anyway.  He's a classic white knight as well."

She sighed, nodding.  "That I can understand."

"Like a lot of men with pasts, a pretty girl got him into it," he quipped.  She snorted, starting the car and taking off.  He was slightly worried about her being taken out by the Council but he'd find out from someone if they had put a price on her head for knowing too much.  He was famous, they'd have to work harder to get him and there were already a few people who could do without him.  She was easier to take out and he worried about her.


Xander looked up as someone slammed something down on the table across from him before sitting down.  "You're Riley's wife," he said, smiling at her.  "Hi."

"Xander."  She stared at him.  "Why do you need someone that Riley would suggest as a bodyguard?"

He smirked.  "Half a million dollar price on my head thanks to the Council."

She gave him a horrified look.  "Why?  We've only got twenty each.  They only want sixty on Summers."

"I.  Know.  CPR," he said bluntly.

"Oh, so you're the reason there's two."

"And I'm a normal who helped out and warps prophecies," he said with a smirk.  "We're starting in England."

"Ooooh.  Yeah, that's a good reason," she sighed, handing over a list of names.  "In return he did not want us mentioned in those books."

"They're only listed in the first part and get turned down on their idea for a national hunting squad instead of a new agency."  He handed those pages over to her.  He knew Riley would've demanded it in return for his contacts.

She looked up at him.  "We start off with what?"

He shrugged.  "Technically...."

"I saw.  You made Riley and Graham both have scotch bonnet level of heartburn with the very *thought* of that having to happen here."

"Hey, there, I helped rebuild after the First."

"That poor world."

He smirked.  "Thanks, really, since they all appreciated me."

"As long as they don't run here when they get destroyed."

"Did you see about Georgia?  They had about nine of us then."

"I saw.  That's why I lived on pepto for two days and had our team's medic asking if we had a birth control failure," she said dryly.  "It let me give PT for *weeks* on end."

He beamed.  "You're mean but I know you're not hitting on me because you're taken."

She burst out cackling.  "Exactly, kid."  She stood up.  "Need anything else from us?"

"The stuff on Black Thorn?"

"There's no way you can help with that.  We can barely touch it."

Xander held up a CD.  "Who their people are, where they are, and how Angel can get to two of them."  He held it out.  "If you need me to help, you let me know.  Not like I want them to succeed."

She took it.  "Thanks, kid."

"Poker contacts," he offered with a grin.

"What if it gets back to them?"

"I told them it was for the series.  Since they had succeeded there.  It took the whole agency, all the slayers, and there were *all* the slayers activated, and six others who jumped in, plus about half the agents in town who jumped in late."

"Damn," she muttered.

"Niagra had nothing on that flow.  I told them quite bluntly I wanted to know if we had that sort of situation here so I could warn Buffy.  Buffy is well known not to use a computer."

"Good point."  She stared him down.  "Even if it does, they'll probably laugh about one slayer and a normal guy who's being an author now getting in their way."

He smiled.  "Exactly.  Watch out for the Belize problem if you're going there.  There's a huge ass zombied demon from what I hear and he's been told your husband is a tentacle toy.  He wants to find him."

"I saw that mention," she said bluntly, picking up her bag.  "Let us know if you hear more about this."  She left, going back to talk to her supervisor and teammates.  It was an uneventful trip back to DC.   She walked in and handed over the CD.  "Distribute it.  Harris asked some contacts citing that it had happened there."  The sergeant at the desk nodded, running it to copy it and email the contents to those who needed to know.  She got given the original and walked in.  "Sir."  She saluted.

"At ease, Captain."  He looked at her.  "Was it a productive meeting?"

She handed Riley the pages.  "He knew you wouldn't want to be included."  She looked at her boss again, holding up the CD.  "Black Thorn's people?"  He snatched it to run.  "Also, did you know that his bounty from the Council is so much more than ours?' she asked her spouse.

"I thought it'd be about Buffy's because they loathed that team.  Is it less?"

"It's half a million, Riley."  He shuddered.  "He knows CPR as he put it."

"So he's the one who brought her back," he said flatly.  She smirked and nodded.  "No wonder."

"That and he warps prophecies.  Oh, and get this, there he was rebuilding the Council.  The girls all liked him."

"That doesn't surprise me," he admitted with a sigh at the end.

"The thing in LA, he said Niagra had nothing on it.  It took all the slayers, that whole agency, and agents jumping in out there."


"He said *all* the slayers were active then as well."  He nodded at that.  "We have to stop them.  Oh, Belize?  The demon is a zombie and he heard you're a fun toy."  She smiled.

"Charming," he said flatly, giving his wife a dirty look.  "Have fun taking Graham with you, dear."

She looked at her boss when he coughed.  "How do we stop them, sir?"

He looked up.  "Three are our people.  High in the US.  Some are other problems.  I want Summers and her team to meet with us over this.  I think he might be able to get into it since some of them are with Wolfram and Hart."

She nodded.  "I already texted them to expect a request for a meeting."

"Good."  He looked at the computer.  "This is probably dangerous to know."

"Harris offered his help."

"Of course he did," Riley agreed.  "He's not a soldier though."

"Neither is Willow and she's damn handy," Sam reminded him.  "For that matter, all that separates you and Harris is your training, Riley.  The same as mine does me and him."  He nodded at that.  "Plus, I have the feeling he knows more about weapons than we think."

"Clearly since part of the way they fixed the thing with Glorificus was a bomb," he said bluntly.  "That he built."

"The Harris in that world got possessed by someone and was building weapons," she said with an evil smirk.

"Oh, crap," he said, straightening up to stare at her.  "He was?"

"Yeah.  According to that hard drive they gave him, they had a chaos idiot on Halloween that brought back souls.  He, their lab tech Abby, and a Dean Winchester all got possessed by two great geeks who wanted them to finish their lives work."

"The geek trio," he sneered.  "I hated them in Sunnydale."

"They had a working light saber."  He shuddered.  She moved closer.  "He was working on weapons design."

"He can't be possessed by himself."

"We have no idea if they shared anything."

"I can ask," their boss offered.

"He'd never tell you," Riley said with a sigh, looking at his wife.  "And?  I can see the hamster wheel turning."

"He's going to need a very good bodyguard.  Their first stop on the tour is England."  He snorted at that.  "Plus we're letting Xander Harris loose in Europe."  He shuddered.  "We've got to find him a very good bodyguard, dear."

"I'd tie his ass to a chair when he wasn't due in public," he said bluntly.  "Graham said the same thing if the kid asked him."

"He's Buffy's age."

"I know that, they're both still very young."  He sat down again.  "No.  No way in hell am I following his chaos in Europe."

"Fine."  She looked at her boss.  "What is his security clearance?"


"Why?" Riley demanded.

"I can't find out."  His boss shrugged.  "I have no clue.  We didn't do it."

"Probably a kitten poker buddy," he muttered.  He looked at his wife.  "Send him one if you want but warn them how bad he can be.  Sometimes he's a fanboy and sometimes he's Rambo.  Sometimes he goes Rambo then tries to hide it as being a fanboy."

She sighed.  "We have to find out if he has weapons knowledge from the him there."

"Fine.  Do we think it's possible?"

"Yes.  I think he'd consider it helpful, so would the him there probably.  It's very practical and Xander is forever a practical person.  I'm also betting, since I saw the signs of it, that he has an implanted chip in his shoulder."  Riley moaned.  "Since his base was being run by a certain linguist named Jackson."

"Let me talk to them," he muttered.  He left the building unhappy.  He was so unhappy even his wife offering to play slavegirl wife for him wouldn't make him happy.  The Pentagon was nicely nearby at least.   He walked in and went up to the right section, tapping before walking in.  "Is the general in?' he asked the secretary.

"Yes, Captain.  He's being bored and playing Nintendo."

Riley didn't want to know why this lower level plebe knew who he was.  He knocked and walked in.  "My wife thinks that the trip he took left him loaded with excess information," he said in greeting.

"I thought it might since Danny's letter to himself said he did."  He looked at him, pausing his hockey game.  "Why is this a concern?"

"He's going on an international book tour," he said dryly.  "Thanks to the new series."

Jack moaned, shaking his head.  "That's not tragic, Captain."

"He's going to England and the Watchers Council has a half million dollar contract out on him."

"That could be."

"My wife saw signs of an implanted chip."

"That's a bad thing."

"They're going to Germany, England, Italy, Paris, then two cities in Asia beyond Hong Kong."

"So he needs a guard?"

"He asked for a favor from me to get some names."  He looked at the closed door then at him.  "The him there was possessed by two super geeks who were building weapons.  Light sabers and other weapons, sir."

Jack winced.  "That's an impractical one."

"Maybe not.  It is an advanced laser application."

"I know that."  He grimaced.  "Are we really worried someone will take him?"

"The Council wants him dead.  Harris sows chaos wherever he goes.  If he does have a chip we need to get it out and see what they downloaded because the Council will not hesitate to kill him if he's on their home soil."

"Do we think he has a lot of information that needed passed on?"

"Yes, sir, and I believe that he'll probably keep a copy since he does seem to attract spirits."  He stared at the general.  "Plus he's got a security clearance?"

"He does?"


"Huh.  I didn't know that."  He leaned back.  "All right, I'll talk to the kid.  Where is he?"

"New York."  He wrote out his address and phone number.  "Also, if you've got to go rescue someone from overseas, take him.  He'll screw up something so it's easier.  He's just like that.  It irritated us forever."  He saluted and left.

Jack smirked.  That was some very interesting information.  He wondered who had gotten the kid a security rating as well.  He noticed a CD had been left on his desk and ran it, smirking at the information on it.  Those sounded like some bad people.  On the end of it was a video clip labeled with a date and 'invasion of LA'.  He ran it and it was horrifying.  That made him lose his lunch, breakfast, and last night's dinner.  He took it out and went to catch a flight to New York.  The kid clearly had answers he needed in this case.


Xander looked up when someone knocked hard on his door.  "Who is it?" he called, moving the cat out of his way and heading for the door.  No answer.  He looked out the peephole and grimaced, opening it.  "Am I in trouble again?" he asked, letting him inside.

"Yes.  You didn't tell me you were carrying information."

"Um....  Oh!  Danny said that until you asked, you couldn't get it, and that you'd need something to retrieve it."  He checked for Miss Kitty then closed the door.  "He said you'd need something like the repository to get it out of my head and the chip has three things you need to know on a purely classified way in case I couldn't get the letter to you fast enough."  He took off his shirt.  "It's right there."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because they laid a compulsion.  I couldn't tell you until you asked."  He sat on the back of the couch, petting the cat.  "For that matter, I'm not allowed to tell you what I'm hoarding unless you tell me what you need.  Dawn's really strong at compulsions."

"How many chips?" he asked calmly.

"Six mini info sources, one chip."

"Six!" he demanded.

"Two have information, one has other files, the other three have case files from you guys and things they've found from an ancient database.  The chip has an encoded thing to let you activate it and the compulsion to keep me from telling you."

"Can we take them now?"

"Only if you've got a surgeon waiting in the hallway and they have local."

"Where are they?"

"Each one has a small tattooed mark next to it.  It'll react to a small red light he had."

"Danny had?"

"No, House had.  Danny had Doctor House and Chase implant them after having me possessed by the same guys who were helping the me there build advanced weapons."

"How advanced?"

"I don't know.  It's behind all that other stuff."

Jack gave him the oddest look.  "C'mon, we're going to Colorado."

"I can't.  My agent wants me in today."

"We overrule her."

"Not really.  She pays my ass and she's mean.  She said if the military showed up about the books, I'm to shoot and wound you guys so I can get to the meeting."

"Fine," he said.  "We're going with you."

"That's reasonable."

"Do we need to meet with more than her?"

"I have no idea what's coming."

"You couldn't have hinted when you were on my porch?"

"No.  The compulsion said no.  I'm sorry!"

"No, that's Danny's paranoia at work probably."  He checked his watch.  "When is your meeting?"

"Two."  He checked the watch.  "I should've left about ten minutes ago.  Miss Kitty, please quit turning off alarms on me," he complained to the cat.  "I know you hate them but oh well!"  He went to get dressed.  He came down to put on his shoes, wincing.  "Ow."

"Another thing I need to know?"

"Danny there said that Xander was allowed to load me full of other ideas that you guys needed."

"Good to know.  I meant about the pain?"

"Hemorrhoid."  He stood up, petted the cat, and shut down his computer to bring with him.  "Did you drive?"

"Yup.  C'mon."  He walked out with him.  There was no way this information was getting away from him.

Paula looked up when Xander walked in.  "I thought I said to wound him."

"He drove.  Miss Kitty turned off the alarm again."

"Tara needs to train her cat better," she complained.  "All right."  She paged the other person.  They came rushing in.  "This is Alexian Harris."

"Mr. Harris," he said, shaking his hand.  "We're finalizing details for your European signing tour."  He sat down.

"That's cool."  He smiled.  "I have a passport."

"That's good.  I notice you said to make plans for a bodyguard?"

"Yes.  There's a secret society in Europe who wants me dead and are willing to pay for it."

"Ohhhkay," he said, considering it, looking at Paula.

"He's retired from what got their attention."

"They're housed by Stonehenge and I'm going to Ireland for a day to deliver a letter to a friend's family."

"I can make one in whatever city you're going to," he offered.

"I'm going to about sixty miles outside of Cork.  I figured I'd commuter flight up and back for the last day's signing."

"That would work for the schedule," the other guy said.  He checked.  "We have six days in England."  He looked up.  "So after the third day and before the fifth?"

"Did you plan a day for jet lag?" Jack asked.  "He'll have some at each stop."

"Are you going as his bodyguard?" he asked.

"No, I'm probably going to be giving him some idea of who's going with him."  Xander handed over the list he had gotten from Sam Finn.  He pointed at a name with a smile.  "I'll look him up."  He put it into his shirt pocket.  Paula stared at him.  "He unfortunately ran into a classified project so we want to make sure no wants him for it."

Paula nodded.  "I figured this would happen.  It always does.  He seems to get into the strangest trouble."  She glared at Xander, who shrugged.  "What did you do?"

"Willow trip."

"Never mind," she said, holding up a hand.  "I don't need to know.  Is it in the books?"

"No," Xander and Jack said, Jack shaking his head.

"Good!"  She looked at the assistant.  "Yes, he's like that."

"Make sure we have time for jet lag and some sight seeing?" Xander asked.  "Don't make it too tight?  Because there's been all those stories about flight delays and this is the first time I've been *anywhere*."

The agent nodded.  "I can talk to the other ones to make sure that's fine with them.  Most of them want to get it done with."

"I love my fans.  I'm a new writer, I appreciate the hell out of all my fans, and if they're that lined up that I'm going to be there forever signing autographs; I'm not going to disappoint a single one."

"Most of them have a selected time to sign autographs," the assistant told him.  "Say four hours at a time."

"Then what happens to the ones that don't make it in front of them by then?" Xander asked.  "Beyond being disappointed and not buying anything ever again."

"I can see that point."  He made that note.   "Mostly it's joint signing events so as long as you're in the same area it's all right.  We have put all of you on the same flights?"

"That's fine," Xander agreed.  "As long as they're not too tight.  I don't want to miss connections because one's delayed."

"Agreed," he said.  "Direct flights as often as possible."  He smiled.  "I'll schedule an extra day for each city.  I know another one is bringing his wife.  She might enjoy that.  He made that note.  "I'll ask them."  He looked up.  "Any other things you can think of?"

"I'll have to bring my laptop for notes.  I need to know any of the regs for flying overseas.  Do I need shots?"  Paula shook her head.  "Because we remember my parents, not the best, probably not up to date on inoculations?" he suggested.

"Then you need a tetanus shot," the assistant said.  "I'll get that note to your agent today."  He made that note as well.  "You said you have a passport?"  Xander pulled it out of his wallet to hand over.  He looked.  "It's expired."  He took down the information.  "We'll need a new picture."  He pulled out his camera phone and took one.  "That'll work," he decided, putting it back.  "I'll file for the new one."  He looked up and smiled.  "We're used to people who don't have any at all.  It's not a quick process."

"I remember it took me about six weeks the last time."

"Usually about what it is now," he agreed.  "Anything else we need to take into account?"

"Um...I eat a lot?" he guessed.

"Food is on your own," Paula told him.  "We pay for the hotel, the traveling.  You pay for the food, souvenirs, that stuff."

He nodded.  "That's reasonable."

"Good."  She smiled. "It'll be okay.  Really.  We won't let you get lost like your luggage."

"They always lose my luggage.  Can I ship it ahead to the hotel by UPS?"

"No.  That won't work.  Sorry."

"Damn.  Okay, if and when they lose it this time?"

"They have a Nordstroms in London, Paris, and Hong Kong," she said.  "Pack one spare outfit in your laptop case."  He nodded at that.  "You can run out and get something."

"Paula, I don't make that sort of money yet."

"I know that, dear, but you'll be fine."  She held up something.  "This is the accounting of your royalties for the next three months."

"I need to buy luggage," he said dryly.  "Plus pay the water bill."

"You have a good bit in the bank."

"I have duffle bags."

"I'll have Rick give you his packing list," she said, making that note for herself.  "Also we have to approve of what you're bringing."

"One bag of nice stuff, one of real people clothes?"

"Non ragged jeans, t-shirts without logos, pictures, or anything that could get you mocked in the press, clean sneakers, always wear socks and underwear.  If you're going to date, take it out of public view, not like with Meredith at the dinner."

"She insisted."

"I know she did," she quipped back.  "She's done it before."

"She's like Anya light," he said with a small shrug.

"No wonder she thinks you're perfect," she said dryly.  "She won't be going, she's off shooting something."

"Okay.  I don't think we're going to be sticking together."

"I've already got a prenup written out for you.  She won't get a cent."  He beamed.  "Or any other evil bitch you date."

"If I could draw good girls I would," he reminded her.

"I know.  I wish you could draw good girls too.  Did they arrest my assistant?"

"I think she went to confess when she realized she was *really* liking me now."  He grinned at Jack.  "We don't know why bad girls love me."

"I know a few who have that problem," he admitted. "Any groupies we should worry about?"

"I was promised some but not yet.  Maybe some day I'll be running like the Beatles did."

Paula snorted.  "Then we'd be able to pick up all the homicidal women at once," she decided.  She smirked at him.  "We'll make sure you're ready before Christmas.  I'll make sure Tara packs the nice things for you so you don't go over weight limits."  The other assistant smiled at that.  "Okay, anything else critical for right now?"

"If not, he'll be back in a few days once we make sure he knows the rules about foreign agents who might like him, and possibly talk to his future bodyguard," Jack said.

"That works for me.  Make sure he has his phone," she ordered.  "That way I can get in touch with him."

"I can do that."  He looked at Xander, who sighed and handed it over.  "Let me whisk him away."  He got up and walked Xander out.  "Come on, kid."

"I am.  Just don't yell at me."

"I'm not.  It's not your fault they did it this way."  He got them to the airport and on the plane.   This part he had planned out.  The part where once they were on the plane someone made a move for a weapon he didn't.

Xander watched the guy, pretending to be shocked, horrified, and scared like the other people.  He saw someone with his book and winked at her.  He got up and walked over to her.

"I said stay in your seat!" the man shouted.

Xander pointed.  "I'm signing her book, dude.  I'm not going to upset one of my fans and it'll help keep her calm."  He pulled out a pen.  "I'm not challenging you."  He picked up the book and clicked the pen.  The man came at him to hit him.  Xander staked him in the throat with the pen, handing her back the book while the man gasped.  He stared at him.  "What's wrong?"  He knocked his feet out from under him, staring down at him.  "Hi," he said with an evil smirk.  "Did you need something?"  The man whined, trying to pull the pen out.  Xander stepped on his chest, staring down at him.  "Are you acting alone?"  The man glared so he stepped on the pen, making him scream and choke.  "Again, are you acting alone?" he demanded more coldly.

"No!" he hissed.

"How many more."

"Two loading crew, one cockpit, one inside," he gasped.  Xander got off his throat, letting him pull out the pen.  "Who are you?"  Xander took the book back and held it up with a smile.  "You're an author?"

"That too," he said bluntly.  The stewardess came toward him.  "Here, have him."  He sat down with a huff.  "Got a pen?" he asked Jack, who handed one over.  He signed the book and handed it back with a smile and a wink.  "He was really mean; I'm sure he's sorry he was so scary and dumb."  She gave him a little smile back.  Xander handed the pen back to Jack.  "Can I pull out my laptop?" he asked the stewardess.

"Yes, sir.  Does it have wi-fi or anything?"

"No, ma'am.  It hooks into a line for the internet."

"That's fine then.  Put it up when the doors are closed."  She pulled down the handset to announce things.  "Passengers, we are going to have the aircraft scanned for anything illegal.  We will have agents here in a moment and they may decide to bring you back into the terminal for a few minutes while we scan things.  They will ask you to leave your things here.  Do bring your ticket stub please."  She hung it up, nodding at the captain.  She glanced at the young idiot who had helped.  Really, didn't he know he wasn't supposed to do that?  Everyone else did.

Jack looked at the kid, kicking him to get him out of his current bit of proofreading.  "That was stupid," he said quietly.  "You're supposed to go along to stay alive."

"I hate bullies," he said bluntly.  "And he was alone."

"With a weapon.  He could've hurt anyone."

"It was unloaded."  Jack glared at him.  "It was."  Jack's glare got colder.  "If it had been that dangerous I wouldn't have done it."  He went back to his current rereading.  "Do you want to be younger, have tattoos, or a blond in the stories?" he asked dryly.

"Make me a bit younger give me a beard," he said dryly.  He got comfortable.  He'd ignore the little voice that sounded like Danny and Sam's voices telling him he would've done the same thing.  The stewardess came to unload everyone but she waved him down so they could go last.  The agents came on and she got out of the way.  "Morning," he said, pulling out his credentials.  He kicked the kid again to bring him out of whatever he was doing.

Xander gave him a confused look then looked at the agents when he pointed.  "His gun was unloaded."

"That was stupid," the agent said bluntly.

Xander nodded.  "Okay.  It was still unloaded."

"Sir, are you military?"

"Not quite," he said dryly.  "Just...a bit trained."

"I see," the agent said.  "How did you get him down?"

"Pen in the trachea."  He smiled at their confused look.  "I've gotten into a few hand-weapon fights in my time."  He held up his ID when they glared.  He shut down his laptop and put it into his bag.  "Sorry, I was working on a new story.  I think I violated my own cannon."

"Sir, are you native to New York?" one asked.

"No, about three hours outside of LA.  Then LA, then here."

The agents pulled him up to pat him down and look over his carry-on bags.  They got into his laptop but it was a normal cheap laptop.  They put it back and looked at Jack, who held up his Pentagon ID.  That got a nod and he was treated with respect.  They sat the kid back down and went off on him.  Xander sat and stared at them.  Finally one had enough of him staring.  "Who in the hell are you, boy?" he snapped.  Xander pulled out his other ID and held it up.  The agent growled and snatched it then stared at him.  "I read that report."

"I turned them in."

"So you're used to acting rashly."  He tossed it back.  Xander caught it and put it back.  "Do not do it again on an aircraft or in an airport," he ordered coldly.

"It's not like the stewardess would have and he could've used the knife in his boot.  He was looking really anxious like he wanted to do something stupid.  His gun was unloaded.  It was a good opportunity.  Especially since she had my book.  It gave me a good ruse."

"It might have but it was still fucking dumb," the lead agent assured him.  "You ever do something like that and I'll have you arrested."

"Yes, sir."

He looked at the agent.  "Is he being recruited?"

"He's about to go overseas and ran into a few classified areas by accident so we need to make sure he knows how to deal with it if someone comes up to him."

"Teach him common sense!"  He stomped off.  So did the other agents once the scanning team was done.

Xander pulled one foot up to hug his knee.  "Sorry," he said at Jack's stare.

"Not even I would've pulled that, kid.  It was helpful but really dumb.  You need to lay lower before more people realize you're not exactly the normal geeky author."

"Yes, General."

"Try harder, kid.  Most guys, they'd be a bit more scared and only react as a last resort."

"Not like I know anything about how other men react.  I was surrounded by women.  I still am."

"Well, then think about how I would act, or anyone else you've ever been around."

"The only male influence I have presently is from a past possession," he said quietly.  "And he was special ops."

"Oh.  How....  Do I want to know?"

"Long story."

"We'll talk later," he decided.  "How bad was he?"  Xander leaned over and hissed a name, making Jack stiffen.  "So...did you already know who I was?"

"Barely whispered at me that you were trustworthy.  I can't hear him like that."

"We'll talk about this later," he decided since the normal people were coming back.  "Put the laptop up."

"If he doesn't have anything that would interfere, he can use it once we're back in the air," the stewardess said as she walked past him.

"Can I have  soda then?' he asked.  "They wouldn't let me bring one from the airport."

"Once we're in the air, sir."  She got the rest of the people resettled and they made sure they were all there.  They closed the doors and headed away from the gate, sighing in relief.


Xander was walked into the infirmary.  "Hi, doc."

"What are you doing back here?" she demanded.

"A few months back, he went on a cross realm trip," Jack told her.

"I remember getting a letter from myself.  So?"

"They laid a compulsion so I couldn't admit I'm carrying more information until they asked," Xander told her.  "Six little disc thingies and a chip."

"Where are they?"

"I don't fully know.  They're marked with a little dot of ink that'll show up under this weird red penlight that Danny had.  He said to call him that," he said at the heated look Jack gave him.

"Fine.  That one did.  Probably because the demons drove him insane."  He put him onto a bed.  "Describe the pen?"

Xander looked around and pointed at one.  "Like that only it was red?" he said.  "And it had stuff scratched on the handle."

Doctor Lam looked at him and went to get something out, bringing it out.  "Like this?"

"With a red light."  She switched it on and changed it.  "There," he said. She flipped it back.  "Like that only his was brighter."  She switched another switch.  He took off his shirt.  She shined it.  Nothing.  He took it and smiled, twisting the end.  It was much brighter and now it showed up faintly.  She grimaced, looking at them.  "There's one on my leg and one just above my knee I think.  It's been itchy since that night."

"Strip," she ordered, adding something else.  It showed a lot more, including that ink had written a message to her on his back.  She found them, circling them with a marker.   She found a second one she shouldn't have and circled it too.  One last one and she looked at his thigh.  There was a glow.  "Are you pierced?' she asked.

He looked at himself.  "I didn't used to be but I was knocked out so they could do this.  Apparently it was beyond classified.  Though, if I am, wouldn't my last date have noticed it?"

"You'd think," she said dryly.  She pulled a curtain around.  "Drop 'em."  He sighed but wiggled out of them.  There was another message, making her smirk.  "Now I know O'Neill and Jackson did it together," she said, turning around.  "You can have them back."

He looked at himself.  "Do we hope it comes out?" he asked.  "It's been weeks."

"I don't know," she admitted.  He put on his boxers and she turned back around, opening the curtains.  "Okay, it shouldn't be too hard to remove them."  She looked at Jack, swatting him on the arm.  "The you there is still warped."  She walked off to get some local.  "I'd do a scan to see how deep they are but it might ruin it."  She came back.  Xander winced at the needle and bottle.  "I can cut you without it," she offered.

"Please do.  I don't like needles.  Even from nice, pretty doctors who're mean enough to date me."

She cackled.  "I'm not quite that bad and we don't torture people."

He shrugged.  "Not like I take pain medicine most of the time, Doctor."

"Uh-huh.  Tough."

"It could hurt them."

"Do you really hate needles that much?" she asked.  "You're willing to let me cut on you without it?"

"Yup, or I'll cut them out for you.  That's not a problem.  I can do that."

"You try to reach for a scalpel and I'll kill you, bring you back, and then hurt you until you're normal," she vowed.  He scooted back but she heard the subvocal purr.  He did look cute like that.

"Doc, only evil women like him," Jack said dryly.  "Should we check you to make sure?"

She looked at him.  "I will stab you," she vowed.  He backed up and held his hands up, going to get someone to help her.   She smiled at him.  "Now that the pesky annoying one is out of the way...."

"He got really frustrated and upset when I stopped the plane's hijacker," he offered, giving her puppy eyes.

She pinched him on the cheek.  "I would've beat you until you begged."

He leaned closer.  "Do you like me a whole lot?  I could use a nice girlfriend."

She patted him on the cheek.  "You're too young for me.  Otherwise, I might make you beg."  She looked at it.  "Let me do the chip first."

He scooted up the bed, crossing his feet so she could get to the one on his leg, but he couldn't kick and he could hang onto the handrails.  "Okay."

"I can still give you something."

"No thanks."  He heard an alarm and sighed, looking up.  "Some other mean woman coming for me?"

She snickered.  "Probably not."  She made a small cut.  He only gripped tighter, didn't do more than suck in a deep breath.  She got the chip out and put it onto a waiting tray.  Someone stomped in.  "See, I told you it wasn't an evil woman coming for you."

"Well, it was an ally," Cam said dryly.  "Kid."

"Hi."  He waved then gripped the handrail again.  "Okay, Doc."  She got the others out and bandaged them for him.  She scanned.  She hadn't missed any.   She smiled and took off her gloves.  "Can I run away?"

"No.  The general wants to talk to you some more, kid."  She smiled at Cam, handing him the tray.  "To Sam."

"Yes, Doc."  He looked at the boy.  "What did you do?"

"I wasn't available for it.  The other you guys did it and put a compulsion so I couldn't talk about it until directly asked by one of you."

"Is there anything else you can only tell us?" she asked.


"What?"  He looked at her.  "About a mission, an enemy, or a personal problem?"






"Personal problem?"

"Yes, but not yours."

"That compulsion is very strong," she decided.  "Whose personal issue?"

"Doctor Jackson's and possibly that nice guy who was a watcher to a young slayer from the project."

"Sheppard?" Mitchell asked.  He nodded at that.  "What sort of personal problem?"

"Go," she ordered when he couldn't answer.  She looked at him.  "Personal how?"

"Past relations and little bug thingies."

"Bug...replicators?"  He shrugged.  "Okay.  Can you tell me or do you have to tell them?"

"I don't know," he admitted.  Daniel was walked in by Jack.

"Ask him about the personal problem he can't tell me about," she ordered.

Daniel stared at her then at him.  "Compulsion?  It sounds like the fantasy novel idea."

"Yup.  Laid by the you there and Dawn."

"Okay.  What personal problem did I tell you to tell me?"  Xander pulled him closer and said it in his ear, getting a shudder.  "That's very bad," he agreed.  "Anything else I should know that he gave you?"

"Um...."  He considered it.  Then he said something very quietly, making Daniel stiffen.  "I think I can tell you the other one."  He whispered that one and another something.

"That one's happened already."  He patted him on the arm.  "Thank you and I can make sure it won't happen, Xander."  The boy beamed at him.  "Are you holding any other secrets?"


"What two?" he asked.

"The me there thought it might be important if I knew how he created things so he let me share his memories of that and the possession part way, but I can't bring it out.  He said to tell you guys the repository thingy would have to work on me and to remind you that I suck in spirits and things because my shields aren't that great."

"Okay," Jack agreed.  "What was he building?"

"Most recently?  Artillery for their upcoming base apocalypse in a few months time.  Though they did have a light saber and other neat things, like a Ghostbuster's pack."

"The thrower packs?" Daniel asked.  Xander beamed and nodded.  "They got a compact proton accelerator to work?"

"Yeah.  It's really neat and kinda heavy.  The me there had also recently created a new explosive ball that took down a building during testing."

"We need that," Jack decided.

"Can we get it out without cutting out my brain?" Xander asked.  "Because I need to finish my current story or my fans will wail."

"It won't be more than downloading your memories," Daniel assured him.

"Including the bad ones?"

"We'll ignore those," he promised with a slight smile.  "The other I'll pass on myself."  Xander beamed and nodded.  "You look really happy."

"You don't have to cut off my head."

"It'll give you a migraine," Daniel assured him.  "But not that way."  He went to find some way to do that.  It'd be okay.  They needed this information.  He walked into Sam Carter's lab.  "Can you get the information off it?"

"The chip, yes.  The decoding method I clearly didn't make.  It's in geek babble."

"Abby.  McKay's girlfriend," Daniel told her.  "She's a lab tech at NCIS.  She published something a few years back," he said, moving to another computer to look it up online.  "There, decoding data streams from impossible media."  She looked it over and put that process into going on, which brought her to the point where her encryption key worked.  She smiled at him and decoded everything.  "What do we have?"

"We have...."  She pulled them all up together.  "SG files.  We have Atlantis files.  We have a partially decoded database and the decryption key they used.  That's a pretty algorithm."  She pulled up more of them.  "We have ...oh, shit.  We have info on the Ori from there and their new super gate."  She paged the general and Mitchell.  She kept going while waiting on them to appear.  "We have...  Ooh, plots and plans.  We have things on a Black Thorn?"

"They're the ones who're going to invade LA in a few years," Daniel said.  She looked at him.  "Like opening a portal and letting another realm come over to take over."

"That sounds bad."  She got back to it.  "And here we have a ...huh.  We have a personnel file or six."  She put those aside for now.  "And lastly we have a history of their base and their current lives.  Including from Atlantis since they're on that base due to emergency sickness."  She looked at him.  "Plus we have how they did the portal that got him back."

"Wonderful.  Can we use it?"

"I hope so."  Landry and Jack walked in.  "We decoded it."

"Good," Jack said.  "Anything good?"

"The full SG files and Atlantis files.  Their decoded database using a new algorithm.  Stuff on the Ori and their super gate.  Stuff on Adria?"  She got into it.  "Huh.  We need to protect Vala better, Daniel."

"I'll see what we can do."  Mitchell walked in.  "How much is different?"

"They have five and a half years on us."  She looked at them.  Landry moaned at that.  "And it's not pretty, Generals."  She let them see it.  Landry let out a small whimper a few times.  Jack looked at them then back a few times.  "I can see why they wouldn't let him talk about having it until we asked."

"I should've asked when he showed up," Jack admitted.  "If this had been found out overseas we'd be in trouble.  Hey, the IOA has plans," he said dryly.

"To get everyone in trouble," Daniel shot back.  "What else is new."

Cam snorted.  "How bad?"

"Vala's going to be captured," Sam told him.  "She's going to be knocked up and the Ori are going to claim the baby as some sort of Harsis child.  She's going to be named Adria."  Cam nodded at that.  "And she'll have super powers."

"I say let the kid date her," Jack muttered.  "He was making the doctor nearly purr when she was in a mean mood earlier."

"I don't want to know," Landry said.

"He joked that the incoming alarm was some evil woman here to date him," Cam joked.

"Close," Daniel said, smiling at him. "Really close since it was Anise."

"Think we could?  He might make her calm down."

"No," Landry ordered.  "Please don't."  He went back to his reading.  "I must need rogaine from pulling out my hair," he complained.  "Anything else?"

"Sheppard's ex-wife is somehow going to be involved in a replicator down here," Daniel said.

"We'll let him know so he can give us information on her," Landry decided.  "Anything else I need to hear right now before this is printed?"

"Yeah, apparently the us there wrote a dirty note on the kid to make the doctor blush," Jack said dryly.  "When Danny there took over, they eventually ended up moving us under them and apparently I'm his assistant director over us.  It means I lounge on base and deal with the kid creating things."

"We need some way to download his memories since he was creating artillery there and had himself possessed so he'd know how," Daniel said when the General could only give Jack the most horrified look ever.  "Harris was very thankful we wouldn't have to cut off his head to get to his brain.  The note said we need to find a way to do the repository in reverse.  But I did say I'd ignore any bad or girlfriend memories."

"I don't need to see anyone's mind that way," Cam said.  "That machine I used for my buddy?"

"It won't get deep enough," Jack sighed.  "This isn't his first possession either.  He told me he still carries the memories of one of the commandos who trained me."

"Wow.  How did that happen?" Daniel asked.

"All he said was it was a chaos guy on Halloween's fault but it was very handy out there.  This would be after he used a pen to take out the guy trying to hold the plane hostage so he could blow it up."

Cam smirked, holding out a hand.  Sam and Daniel both paid him five bucks.  "Thank you."  He put it into his pocket.

"You bet on what?" Jack asked.

"We know something bad would happen as soon as we heard you had to bring him back here to debrief and things," Mitchell said happily.

"He nearly got taken from me by the agents who came to get the dickhead," Jack told him.  "I want half."

"You didn't place a bet, sir."  He walked off.  "Let me know what's pertinent to me.  I'll write Sheppard."

"Thank you," Landry called after him.  "We'll send it with this file."  He went back to his reading.  It wasn't pretty by any means.  "Jackson, make sure Vala sees this part?"

"Of course."  He went to find her.  She was flirting with Xander but Doctor Lam wasn't in the infirmary.  "Did she have an emergency?" he asked.

"No."  He smiled.  "She's fine.  She's in her office."  He looked, she was crashed on her couch in there.  He decided he didn't want to know.   Vala smiled at him, teasing Xander's arm.  "Part of the information was on you, Vala.  Landry wanted to make sure you saw it."

"That's fine.  Right now?"


"Shoo, let me talk to him about what he knows."

"Fine," he agreed, leaving her to her seduction.  He did not want to know that either!


Sam sat down at the meeting table the next night.  "There's two words that translation algorithm disagree with," she said, passing that down to Daniel.

"We got those directly from them," he admitted. "Is the rest right?"

"I compared it against works you've already translated.  Everything else comes out the same but those two words.  I think those may be context words?"

"Probably," he admitted.  He put them down.  "How much more did they have decoded?"

"Most of the physical database.  None of the AI databases," she told him.  He smiled at that.  "Which is a lot of information we needed and so does Atlantis."

"Can we give it to them easily?" General Landry asked.

"Yes," she said.  "I can walk a copy of it there if I have to."  He smiled at that.  "Also, their files?  They're going to freak out.  There's a few things that hadn't happened that I know of."

"But that could be a good thing," he decided.  Daniel nodded at that. "Anything for this project?"

"A lot, sir.  There's a lot of information we did not have, some we desperately needed, and a lot more on the demon and magic connections."  She smiled at him.  "Including the fact of how some demons can sense Gou'ald larva."

"Can we use it?"


"Anything on the Ori?" he asked.

"A literal ton.  Including their future plans, their next super gate, all of it.  Including some interesting technology from their universe, sir.  We have information on a lot of other ancient weapons and secrets as well.  Plus, a possible help to Thor's people on the breeding issue.  Apparently the girlfriend of McKay there noted to him a prophecy in Ancient Norse
about the last son of Valhalla being born from outside their people.  That was included with the translation the you there worked up, Daniel.  It might help them some and it mentions some forgotten outposts of theirs."

"I'll gladly hand that over," he promised.  "Will it help us as well?"

"Yes, it should when we have to deal with clones.  Oh, and it does mention Ba'al and his many clones.  Including how they beat him multiple times and where he's hiding at the moment.  It lists every single gou'ald we have down here hiding."

He smiled.  "That is very good to know."

"It also lists every single IOA plan they had that failed since they were originally partially secretly funded by the NID.  They were taken out when we were given to DCIS there.  Including that the Initiative had another base where they had people stashed for testing."  Landry's face hardened at that.  "I've already started a query through the system on them.  It's an active base, sir."

"If they're still doing that shit, we'll stop them."

"Yes, sir.  If I find them active I'll tell you."

"Good.  Anything else that's important right now?"

"Vala's presently keeping Mr. Harris occupied in the infirmary," she said.  "Doctor Lam is helping when she wants to, sir."

"I don't want to know what they're doing with the civilian, Carter.  They're big girls, the same as you are."

"I'm not that naughty, sir."  She gathered things up.  "It does give us another seventy gate addresses for us and some for Atlantis."

"Wonderful."  He smiled.  "Get to it.  Break it down so even I can understand it.  By tonight I want the full packet for Atlantis ready to go.  Prioritize the other information in what we need to know or do immediately."  They nodded and left.  He relaxed.  It was not a good thing to know that the Ori were coming back for another try.  But now they knew how and probably where they were coming from.  They could handle this.

Maybe they'd even figure out how to guard Harris before some foreign power wanted him or killed him for sleeping with their people.  He'd ignore him sleeping with anyone willing while on base.  He knew the boy drew them.

The End.