Xander looked at his cabin, smiling in pleasure. It was rustic. It looked like a wreck but the inspection said it was solid. Yeah, he could rehab this so it was wonderful. He walked inside, choking on the dust. A few opened windows helped that and the one he had to pry got mentally marked down for fixing. It was only painted shut. He'd have to scrape and paint anyway. The old paint was flaking off badly. He ran a hand over a wall. It wasn't smoothed. "They must've done it like that one guy on PBS that uses the ancient tools but got tired before they were done." He wasn't that uptight but he knew how to use most of them anyway. Though he did favor an electric sander over a planer any day. Easier on his arms for big areas.
He decided to go down to the local town's UPS store since he had shipped everything there. They had it waiting for him and he smiled, helping them carry it out to his rental truck. That, a quick stop at the hardware store for a few more things, and he was done. He drove home, finding his phone ringing when he walked in. He answered it then hung up when the first thing he heard was 'you had better be writing'. He pulled his tools inside and dropped his bag in the closet. His phone started to ring again so he put a pad on the sander and plugged it in. He wouldn't hear the phone over it.
It was also nicer on his ribs at the moment.
A few days later, Xander was making himself chop wood. His body was screaming at him but he needed to let go of some of the anger. He had talked to his ...friends. He had talked to his agent. He was going to take this axe to them sometime soon if he didn't calm down his anger. He heard someone coming up behind him and turned, holding the axe ready. "You're trespassing why?" he asked calmly.
"I live next door and thought this was still empty. Who're you?"
Xander stared at him. "I know it was on the market for about six months, but I bought it a month ago. The delivery trucks for the last two days didn't clue you in?"
"Hey, I'm just being a good neighbor, making sure you weren't some squatter, kid," he said firmly.
"Well, I'm not."
"You could be nicer."
"Yeah, but unfortunately for you I'm not in the mood for it after talking to some supposed friends earlier. Right now, I'm chopping wood because of that. Come back in a few hours." He turned and went back to chopping wood. "I'll be in a better mood then." He split another piece.
"Sure," he said, watching the kid. "Are you...chopping off center for a reason?"
"Yeah, it's called a broken rib," he said dryly. He glared at him. "Just let me get unangry before you talk, okay? I can't take it right now and I'm about to go to LA without a plane."
"Sure. Let me sit." He walked up to sit down on the porch's steps.
"That's a weak spot," Xander warned.
"Thanks." He shifted and it was more solid. He watched the kid chop wood. "Doesn't that hurt?" he asked finally.
"Yup. Has to be done anyway."
Jack looked at the wall of wood behind him lining the outside of the house on the porch. Then back at him. "You need a shrink before we don't have more woods, kid."
Xander stared at him. "Yeah, but I don't think I'll find one anytime soon. So, vacation home or not?"
"Um, off-base home." The kid paused and glanced at him but split the next piece anyway. "Air Force."
"That too. General."
"Huh. I'm an author." He split it again. He tossed it aside and got the next one. "There'll be trees. My roomie will appreciate them but I'll have a lake view."
"Why not take from the direct path?"
"They'd be upset and Tara would be disappointed with them naked sunbathing all the time on their dock."
"Girlfriend?" he asked.
"Roommate." He split that current piece and tossed them down. "Near sister. She's the only one I'm only slightly pissed at."
"So maybe the axe is a bad idea?" the general suggested.
"No. It's keeping me from using it on a living being." Or an unliving being since Angel had stuck up for Buffy's 'run away' approach to after-apocalypse issues. He picked up another piece of wood and kept in the moan but not the wince since the guy moved. "Don't."
"I know some docs. I can call one to look at it for you."
Xander gave him a dirty look. "No. Thank you anyway," he said bluntly. "I've met military doctors before. I'd never want to be in their tender torture chambers ever again." He looked and split the wood. Then another blow to get the two halves cut into quarters.
"You know the military, kid?"
"Just stop. You're making me hurt by doing that." He got up and came down, taking the axe. "Who are you?"
"Is that your only name?"
"Yup." He took his axe back. "You might wanna move."
"We won't have any woods left by the time you're less pissed. Can't you just scream at them?"
"No. I tried that, they told me I was being a bitch and overreacting. So screw them and chopping wood is very useful." He took his axe back. "Don't take a weapon from my hand."
"How do you know about the military?"
"I probably shouldn't mention it unless you want psycho assholes here to talk to you."
The general stared at him. "Let's just say I know something about the more covert parts. Are you NID?"
"Hell no!" he snorted, staring at him. "And if I have to see more of *their* psychos, I'll call you to pick up parts." He walked away from him. "Why do you want to know?"
"Because I think it's odd that suddenly someone who knows about a covert military project moves into my neighborhood." He watched him walk. "You sore in other spots?"
"Yup. Don't worry about those either." He got his bottle of water, sipping from it before looking behind him. "Interesting."
Jack looked and moaned. "What are you doing here?"
"I found a most interesting energy signature," the little alien said. "I followed it to see why." He looked at the young man and said something in his native language, getting a flourishing bow. "You understood that?"
"I dated Anyanka," he said in Norse. "It's not my best language," he said dryly in English. He finished his water. "You probably shouldn't be near the military guy unless he already knows about you."
"Most humans are alarmed by us."
"I lived in..," he started in English. "Well, let's just say I lived in an energy well," he finished in Norse. The alien blinked at him. "A... ooh, what did she call them." He considered it. "I lived on a rip between realms," he finished in ancient Latin, the only other human language he spoke.
The alien blinked a few more times. "We had noticed that one of those was getting bad."
"Yeah, I lived there for years and helped a huntress," he said in Norse again. "One of the chosen ones."
"Ah!" he said, bowing back. Xander bowed then winced. "You are injured?"
"There's a long, loud, rant filled story attached to it. Your friend there stopped me from chopping wood to get rid of the anger," he said in english.
"You were going to strip the forest," Jack said dryly. "How do you know about them?"
"They're nothing stranger than I've seen before," Xander quipped. "And no, I won't explain that because I don't want to deal with the people who'd complain." He smiled at him. "If you want to, you go hunting."
"I'm a general, kid."
"Yay you. That makes me wanna yawn. And?"
The general glared. "So why did you pick this one?"
"I needed a new side project. Something to work on. You're apparently a side benefit," he finished dryly. "Little guy, want some bottled water or I made some instant tea?"
"No. Thank you for your hospitality." He added another word.
Xander shook his head. "Not me. I jumped in to help her, I wasn't employed by the bastard Council. We changed the rules so they want to gut me."
"Ah." The alien blinked a few more times. "Will they not find you?"
Xander smiled. "I so dare them to. Especially when I'm pissed." The alien blinked a few more times. "Don't worry about it. That's why I'm chopping wood. No matter how much general-up-my-ass might not like me creating a lake view. I'll be back. Let me get another drink." He kicked the door shut, holding his ribs all the way into the kitchen. He put his cold bottle next to his ribs while he called someone. "Finn, Harris. There's a covert general here wanting to know about you guys. I'm at my vacation place in Colorado." He hung up and walked out there, sipping his water like nothing was wrong. "I called the idiot officers so they could talk to you if they wanted to, General. Anything else or can I start painting soon?"
The alien moved closer. "He is a good warrior," he assured him.
"That's wonderful. I've run into the military in a bad manner before. I'm not going to trust any of them unless I know them personally."
"I do understand that. I would not trust if I had a negative meeting with them." The kid smiled and nodded at that. "Your energy is odd from the energy well?"
"Probably. That or New York." He shrugged and winced. "Sorry." He sipped his water.
"You should take care of that. In case something does happen."
"If something happens here, I'm going to suspect there's a military guy and they'd better have a sniper." The alien blinked quickly. "I won't put up with them trying to take me down and out again. They tried before and it worked well enough that it caused the problem that led to the anger today. Personally I could care less. I'm thankful that they decided to serve but I don't care."
"That is reasonable. Perhaps you should talk to someone? It would ease your anger."
"Maybe but if I start screaming at them, I probably won't stop, even if they did start to cry. There's a lot I should yell at them to feel better. If I do, they'll cause me more problems and be too distracted to do their jobs to save others."
"This one does that as well," the alien told him. "He deserves respect for that."
"Maybe if he had come at a different time, I might give it to him, but I warned him and he decided to stay even though I'm really in a bad mood." He finished his water and tossed the bottle back inside. His phone rang so he walked in to get it. "What? Yes, that is how I answer my phone. Because I'm having a bitchy day and the neighbor just showed up to nag. No, I'm not." He hung up. "Agents," he muttered, walking back outside. "I should go back to construction full time."
"More problems?" the alien asked.
"An older one that's gotten on my nerves again and it's her fault so she's nagging now. I'm about to yell at her too but she's my literary agent." Jack snorted. Xander glared at him. "I don't care if you don't like my stuff. Really." He heard a car and looked toward the front of the house. "Your people?"
He looked. "One of them." He looked at the alien. "You shouldn't have shown up."
"It was necessary to make sure this was not a weapon."
"Only when I want to be," Xander said dryly, leaning on a porch post. Two guys and a girl ran around the house. He stared at them. "Good, more trespassers. Take the original one and flee."
"Who are you?" the female asked.
"Xander. I bought here. Your buddy there is interrupting me from wearing out my anger on the wood pile. Now you're helping him?"
"No, we came when we found out Jack had a visitor," the female said with a smile.
Xander stared at her. "Hint, Colonel, since that's what's on your sleeve. Being blonde, perky, and bitchy doesn't work on everyone. Being cute about it works even less." He stared her down. "Also for the record, I don't care about him. I like him a lot more than I like your human friend. He has sense, common and otherwise, and he doesn't make me want to find a shotgun to run off the newest covert government group," he finished flatly, making her take a step back.
"There's no reason to be hostile," the guy in the glasses said. "I'm sure Jack wasn't."
Xander snorted, going inside to grab his phone and hit redial. He tossed it at the alien. "Talk to him if you want to convince me you're not hostile little assholes I have to help take care of this time simply because I decided to buy a vacation home that I could put some work into." Jack took the phone and walked off talking military matters after identifying himself. Xander looked at the others. "Shoo. Go. Now."
"Sir," the blonde woman started.
"I'm pissed as hell at half of humanity, lady, and they're all female. Do not start." She backed up again. "Usually I'm really nice, pleasant, joking, happy, but today you guys decided to trespass on a really bad day." The general glared back at him. "If that's Finn, tell him to tell his ex to go fuck some more corpses while he's yelling at her." The three in front of him gasped.
The alien coughed and moved closer. "You should get that anger out."
"Yes, but if I start chopping wood again, I'll end up dealing with a trespasser."
"That is a good thing to know," the alien said. "But perhaps sharing would be better? Even if they cannot know, I am not involved." Xander stared at him then told him everything in Norse. The alien stared at him for the twenty minutes it took. "You have every right to be angry," he said after the boy warrior was done. "I would be upset myself. One such as I am do not get upset easily." Xander nodded at that, sitting down. "These are good warriors, not the sort that would bother you."
"Yet, they decided to come push their luck by menacing and he called for backup when I told him to go away," Xander told him.
"They worry because Jack is known to get into trouble."
"I have that problem now and then," Xander said dryly. "Including with women being evil when I date them."
The alien let out a snort. "That could be a function of the energy within you."
"Maybe but that still sucks."
"It does indeed," he agreed mildly. Jack came back still talking.
"Tell Finn to just show up before I'm out of minutes."
Jack said that and hung up, tossing the phone back. "So, you're not here because of who I am?"
"I have no clue and don't really care who you are. As far as I'm concerned, you're an asshole who can't take blatant hints that I'd rather not have company until I'm not pissed."
"I get that," he said. "Finn said he'd be here tomorrow. He had to get some issues sorted out."
"Yay him. Is he going to bring any of his thug buddies?"
"No. He said to tell you it'd be him and Miller. That you were to stand down and he'd approach Buffy, whoever that is, to tell her she had made a major enemy this time."
"I haven't decided if I'm that pissed at her yet," Xander admitted.
"I would be," the alien admitted. "She did not appreciate your contribution to her latest problem being solved."
"Not the first time," Xander admitted. "That's one reason why I was so happy when Sunnydale fell in."
The alien nodded. "That makes rational sense, even if it is pulling at your sworn duty."
"I have a whole new city to help protect. Unless it's a major problem, she can handle it. I've had enough of her and Willow forever."
The alien nodded. "That is again a rational piece of sense. You have more important things to worry about, including perhaps planning for a next generation of warriors."
"Not with the evil bitches I date," he said dryly. "They might turn into serial killers."
"Serial killers?" the alien asked.
"Ritual using or methodology based killers who kill a lot of people," Xander explained.
"Ah, them," he said, blinking again. "That is not unheard of. These four do deserve your respect as fellow warriors."
"If it had been on any other day, they might've gotten it."
"I understand. Even I have had such days. I wish you much fun chopping down enough trees to see the lake. It is a beautiful view." Xander smiled. "We will leave and come back once someone has detailed to these warriors that there is no threat from you and shown you that they are no threat to you."
"That'd be fine. I'll be in a better temper tomorrow, I hope." They backed away slowly and left him alone. Xander got up to take down another tree and deal with it so it could be stacked. He was aching like hell but oh well! He didn't want to have to deal with covert military assholes and the next owner might like having that view. Plus all the firewood. He'd paint after his shower and something for his ribs.
Xander looked up from his painting when someone stomped up the porch and paused. "It wore out my temper," he called.
"She didn't know why you were pissed," Riley Finn said as he walked in. He looked around. "Nice job so far, Xander."
"Thank you. So who were they? The general guy was really paranoid when he came over to interrupt me working off my temper."
"So covert that's all I could get. I was told to tell him about ours, some of my people are inside his group, but I am told that they're basically fighting the same sort of fight Buffy and you guys do."
Xander put his paintbrush down in the paint pan, looking at him. "Really?"
"Is that why they had the alien with them?"
"I was told to tell you to forget you ever saw him, thought about him, or imagined him. If he shows up in a book, they'd make you miserable."
Xander shrugged. "It's not likely he'll show up." He went back to painting. "Any other revelations beyond the fact that they really should've left when I warned them?"
"They're not going to take warning from what they see as a kid, Xander. They didn't take mine that you would probably kill them if you had to or you felt threatened. The general snorted."
"Yay him." He looked over then went back to his painting baseboards. "Anything else come of it?"
"I got permission to buy the cabin and trade you evenly for one in the midwest that could use some work."
Xander gave him an odd look. "Why?"
"They're nervous as hell that your usual luck will fall on their project and then we're all doomed. By the way, they don't have your file."
"That's good since it was wrong."
"Crap. I need to tell them that."
"Yay. Have fun with that and if you go bother my agent ignore her complaining?"
"Why would we?" He looked at the cellphone Xander looked at. "Problems?" he asked dryly.
"Yup, I'm surrounded by bitches. Her because I gave enough of a damn to nag a tiny bit about a health problem that would've killed her. Tara's got Willow anxiety so bad she couldn't come out of the house for a week." Riley winced at that. "Buffy didn't even visit."
"Umm...." He sighed and sat on the floor next to him. "There's something you didn't hear."
"She ...didn't call an ambulance either, Xander. The watching officers called it." Xander just nodded at that. "She still has no idea why you're mad."
"I should let her know sometime."
"Joyce got told, Xander. Graham told her, in person, what had happened as far as we knew. That's how I knew she didn't call an ambulance. We talked to the Task Force captain up in New York."
"Ah. How is he?"
"Glad it'll never happen again. It can't, right?"
"Another thousand years maybe."
"Good." He stood up. "Want to trade cabins?"
"Let me do another two days worth of work so you guys can sell it but I get anything above the original price I bought it for."
"I'll talk to my higher ups."
"Your phone work?"
"Unfortunately but I'm on a minute contract."
"Sure. Let me call." He dialed, getting his boss. "Sir, Harris said to let him work for two more days so he can make the cabin more attractive. He wants anything that we sell it for above what he bought it for. Well, he has done an extensive bit of work and created a lake view. No, sir, anger. Yes, I think it was justified."
"Next time, I'll let Buffy face the hell goddess on her own," Xander quipped. "In an unfamiliar city. I'm sure they can get Faith out of jail sooner."
Riley repeated that and heard his boss nearly die from the thought. "He agrees, and wants to make sure they can count on you for the next big apocalypse. Not the minor things but the huge things."
"Maybe. If everyone's going to die, maybe."
"I get that." He told his boss that. His boss complained. Riley took it outside. "She didn't even call him an ambulance, sir. He has every right to be pissed as hell at both of them. I would be and I dated her." He listened. "Exactly. Well, I don't think he really cares. We could have him here freaking out that project." He glanced inside. "Sir, I'm standing in front of a chopped wood pile that is approximately six and a half feet high and about twenty feet long. From the listing, it didn't have a clear lake view but it was about six hundred feet away from the dock. I can see it very clearly from the porch, sir. He's not going to budge, sir."
Xander came out to take his phone back, listening to the complaints. "Shut up, you stupid fucking prick, before I go on Good Morning America. I do have some press appeal," he said dryly. "You leave me, Tara, and her cat the hell alone and I'll do the same. Because I'm still not in a good mood and I am the reason Buffy got that one thing in the mall." He handed it back. "Don't use too many more minutes." He went back to his painting. It was calming him down. He needed to be calmer.
"Sir," Riley said. "He's seriously not going to cooperate if you piss him off. With all respect, Xander's not going to be scared. Sir, what is he going to be scared of? Prison," he snorted. "Uh-huh. Sir, we're really lucky he hasn't snapped and went off like some people, like Faith did. Similar backgrounds and he was taking it out on the hunting and in his writing. I can't negotiate with him if you upset him." He hung up and walked inside, putting the phone back down. "He'll agree, Xander."
Xander looked at him. "I want it in writing."
"I can do that. Give him a few hours to realize that things were wrong and you're not the fluffy little tag-along they think."
"I never was, no matter how often you guys tried to get Spike to break up the group, or Buffy decided I was normal." He made another careful stroke with the brush. "You can assure the people in whatever program they're from I don't care, I'm not going to get involved unless they're trying to end the world too, and then I'll help someone deal with them."
"I'm sure you will," he agreed calmly. Xander's anger was a bad thing as he was learning. He might use him as firewood next. He heard someone coming up the path and groaned. "Just, stay in here." He went out there. "General O'Neill?"
"The kid in a better mood?"
"No. We have decided to buy the cabin from him, transfer the title to one in the midwest to him, and let him have the extra since he's put some work into it."
"That's fine. The kid more calm today?"
"No," Xander called from inside. "Barely."
"He knows he can't talk....."
"He won't," Riley assured him. "Neither will Graham and I. We were told you do important work, sir."
Xander came out. "If your group turns out like their group, I'll have fun helping someone. Until then, I don't care," he said bluntly. "Thank your little friend for letting me vent to him."
"How did you know that language?"
"Can we talk to her?"
"She's in a nunnery in Santa Rosa." He smiled. "She found faith."
Riley gave him a look. "Still?"
"Her last letter said it fulfilled her more than sex and shopping did. Now she understood why I had cursed her to it."
"Cursed?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, cursed." He smirked at Riley. "So why is Willow still tormenting Tara?"
"Because her husband isn't mean?"
"Maybe he should be a bit meaner. Or at least point out that that's cheating, again."
"I talked to her. She said she didn't say anything to Tara."
"Which was why a week later she was still crying on the cat?"
"Could be," he sighed. "I don't know. Buffy stood up for her." Xander snorted at that. "I know. I saw it in action. I hated it back then. I'm damn glad my wife is nicer."
Xander snickered. "Didn't get one of my castoffs?"
"No, she's a Captain." He smirked. "Do you think you can not tell anyone anything about this?"
Xander shrugged. "Unless it becomes necessary or they screw up like you guys did."
"They're not. They're doing things like you would, even if now and then it's not the best decisions, it's still necessary, important, and saving everyone's butts, Xander."
Xander shrugged. "Then I don't care and I can stay here for all I care."
"Oh, no," Riley said, shaking his head. "With their luck, your luck will come out and screw something majorly."
Xander stared at him. "You know, that wasn't as bad as you think."
"You destroyed how many prophecies?"
Xander shrugged. "Oh well."
"Fine. I'm not going to argue with you. We want you away from their project and them to stay away from you and all other Scoobies. Okay?"
"Fine." He looked at the confused looking older guy. "That good with you? You get new neighbors?"
"As long as they're not assholes, I wouldn't care," he admitted. "Do not let NID here."
"Not an issue. We don't like them either, General."
"Good." He looked at the boy. "What do you guys do?"
"Did in my case," Xander said. "Because right now, I don't care anymore."
"Go ahead," Riley moaned, sitting down on the stairs.
"I can tell."
Xander shrugged and took off his shirt, pointing at a few marks. "What do you think we did?"
Jack stared. "That's a claw mark."
"Yes it is."
"Go look up Sunnydale," Xander told him. "There's a very nice FBI report on the town." Jack nodded, texting that to someone, who sent back one word. FUBAR. Xander snickered. "Yes, in every way. Which is why the town got given to ODNs." He went back inside and slammed the door.
"ODNs?" Jack asked the captain.
"Other dimensional natives, sir. My commander is having our very highly sealed former project released to you so you can swear at us too. Do know that we did get disbanded, the people who aren't in jail are doing the better version of the job in places that need us, and a few have come to you."
"Uh-huh," he said. "When am I getting that?"
"Whenever Miller gets it off his email."
"Come with me, Captain. Explain this shit."
"Yes, sir," he sighed, following him back to his house. Graham got brought over by some of O'Neill's people, and another general. "Graham, Harris said we got him wrong."
"How did we get him wrong?"
"Because the people watching never really saw him either. I swear sometimes he was like Cassandra."
"That wouldn't really surprise me about Harris," he decided, sitting down. He opened his computer, getting into his email, and handed it to the two generals. "It's not pretty."
"I'm sure it's not with the way it was sealed," the other general said.
O'Neill looked up a few minutes later. "Your people did what?"
"We were stopped, sir," Graham said. "Riley helped shut the program down."
Riley nodded. "Yes I did. It hurt like hell to turn against my orders but I did because it was the right thing, sir."
"You're trying to justify this?" Landry asked.
"No, sir. I was shown how horrible they were to us and them. They were experimenting on their own people as well."
"You're doing what now?" Jack asked him.
"There's problems that have erupted in other areas," Graham said. "It's our job to take those out to save lives. We mostly work in Central and South America."
Landry grimaced. "We have how many of you in our project?"
"Three," Riley said.
"Four," Graham corrected. "The fourth wasn't part of that project but he was on the UN sanctioned teams we're both part of. He does know and has helped protect people in the past, sirs."
"Sir, to be blunt, we do what we do so that the people in the eight villages we saved so far this year don't get used as cannon fodder, slaves, which some were, or as minions when they're eaten and turned. I'm damn proud those eight villages are still there. We all know we're in a permanent duty assignment because we won't get to retirement."
"Explain," Landry ordered.
"Girls like Summers last maybe a year at the most usually. She's lasted longer because she was different and had help. Our people are going to be lucky to make it ten years. There's more of us, we're better equipped, we're better trained, but they're still faster, stronger, have magic, which we don't at this time, and can turn people into something we'll have to go through to get to them. We're all very realistic that we're doing something that needs to be done so more people don't die, but we're also very realistic that we have the life expectancy of the new guy on Star Trek."
"We know you guys don't appreciate this sort of service, Generals, but it's necessary to save thousands of lives every year," Graham added. "All of us who were in that program regret it now. We also realize that we created some of the problems going on because we took so many into custody. It bothered localized chains of command and councils that kept things peaceful. We're making up for it every day by doing what girls like Summers are, only they can't be everywhere."
"Most of us also agree that one chosen, gifted girl should not be doing this, the military should. It's our job to protect humanity." Riley stood up. "As of right now, Harris is not part of that group but our higher ups still don't want you guys to intermix because he's known to have some very odd issues, like happening into weapons. Dating evil women who want to destroy others. Getting hit with mermaid DNA and nearly turning into one." Landry groaned. "We all think that Harris and his fantasy novels should go somewhere else. Far away from the battles since apparently there's problems in that group beyond what we did to try to get Summers as one of us."
"He's that Harris?" Jack asked. Riley nodded. "Do we think there's others who do the same job, like he's written about?"
"We're sure there are. We have no idea who they are," Graham told him. "If we did, we're recruit." He would not wonder about a general who read fantasy novels.
"That depends on if they're stable or not," Riley reminded him. "We're guessing a lot of them got into it because they did them some harm. We don't want to hire suicide bomber sorts."
"I can fully understand that," Landry admitted. "I want the names of those four so I can look them over for flaws. If they have unacceptable ones, you can have them back."
"Yes, sir, it should be in there," Graham said. "The head of the hunting teams did say that if you guys needed to pull regular military in, we'd be on call first because none of us would blink at anything strange."
"Just thank God that there wasn't tentacles," Riley said dryly.
"Tentacles?" Jack asked.
"Yes, sir, common on some species. Some are extra arms, some are sex organs. Most of us are creeped out at the sight of tentacles."
"Is there a possibility that our problems could be mixing with yours?" Landry asked. "Could they call them up to have them form an alliance or anything?"
"I have no idea," Riley admitted. "For questions like that I'd ask Angel, in LA, or Harris. They both have good information networks. I have no idea how Harris has one. Angel is a champion for the Powers That Be, those who're over slayers. He's the main fighter in LA and Summers' former boyfriend."
"Eww," Graham muttered.
Riley shrugged. "She moved up with me, okay?"
"If you're sure."
"She's dating Hostile 17," he said.
"Would Harris know who to ask about that?" Landry asked before they could get into a SG-1-style argument.
"He might actually know the answer, sir, and he might know if there's some species that do let their children go into the military. We know there's at least some half and quarter demons in the service."
"Crossbreeding capable?" Landry asked.
"Depends on the species," Graham said. "Some only with other ODN, some with humans, sir."
Jack and Landry shared a look. "Go talk to Harris, Jack."
"He hates me."
"You got between him and him wearing out his anger," Riley told him. "I don't know what was going on beyond the thing with the last apocalypse, but he's mad at others too. Including Tara probably."
"Uh-huh." Jack walked out, going back over there. He found the kid on the porch holding his ribs, bent over in pain. "Our docs are good," he said quietly. "They won't torture, test things on you, or torment you if you'd like them to look at it, kid."
"I'm fine," he said, making himself straighten up. "New problems?"
"Questions we had. Though I can see why you don't like Finn."
"He tried to have the group split. He cheated on Buffy when he couldn't figure out what to do after they all got busted. I have a few other reasons too."
"I can understand that. It seems like he's another that never took you into account."
"Of course not. He was led around by his dick." He sighed as the older man sat down. "What's going on?"
"We have a few questions. They told us there's some half demons in the military?"
"Yup. A few different species that I personally know of actually. Why?"
"Do you think they'd help us defeat the bad things out there?" He pointed at the sky then let his hand fall.
Xander looked at him. "I think some of them would think you're crazy," he admitted dryly. "But if you could prove it to them, they're soldiers like any other and used to strange things. Some might still freak because things aren't *that* strange at home to them. Though, I have heard you have a few on base. Lower grunts who don't have to worry about getting doctored too often."
"That's good to know. Any others you know?"
"The community in New York was celebrating the life and loss of one who saved an orphanage in Afghanistan," he said quietly. "They're soldiers if they're there."
"I get that." He looked him over. "You look like you're fevered."
"I probably am. I know I overdid it."
"I can get one of our docs out here."
"Nope. I don't do doctors. I don't trust doctors. I didn't even before them."
"You sure? They have things like painkillers or antibiotics."
"I'm good. I have some of both in my kit but I haven't wanted to pull them out."
"Okay." He looked at him. "Apparently what you guys did was just as important as what we do."
"I get that. Your buddy told me."
"Huh, not blond at all," Xander said dryly. Jack snickered quietly. "I'm not against you guys doing your job. I'd hate to do your job. All I'm worried about is you guys turning into things like them."
"No, never. We'd be shut down first. I'd shut us down before then and so would my former teammates."
"Thank you." He looked at him. "Why the other worry?"
"Could our problems be forming alliances with them?"
"No. I made a call back to New York and a kitten poker buddy. He said, according to their histories, they fought with the slayer and the humans to get them to go away. That even the higher of their society didn't like the competition and really hated them for being unnatural. Also, that a few species could tell them on sight. They said they found one in Arizona a few years back and killed them before they could spread, and his little passenger, whatever that was. They used a word I wasn't familiar with."
"That's good to know. Is there any way we could talk to someone like that about joining the program?"
"I don't know. I'd ask the guys in your present unit if they could pass it back onto their elders, who might meet with you before setting things up. They're very underground for their own safety. True demons, the hell born ones, are a lot more open than these guys. These guys know being funny colored or looking will get them killed."
"I get that." He looked the kid over. "Is it the rib or something else?"
"I pulled the stitches on a few infected things. I used some good alcohol but it's a minor infection. That and pain. I'm fine."
"You're not fine. You shouldn't have been chopping wood."
"No, but I don't like the FBI enough to make them catch me after I chop some people up."
"That's a good point. From what I was told, I'd be pissed as hell too." He stood up. "Can we use you as a source of information?"
"I don't know everything."
"I know that. No one does."
"There's a whole council full of assholes who lord over girls like Buffy in England. They're not cooperative, they're pains in the ass who want to kill me for helping her, and they think they know all but they do have a huge library that they wrote."
"Do we know where?"
"In a town by Stonehenge. If you go to LA to talk to Angel, also talk to Wesley. He used to be one of them."
"I can pass that on. Thanks, kid. You sure? I mean, it's bugging the hell outta me that you're looking like you're gonna pass out."
"I'm cool. Don't worry about it. Just don't bring any evil women home until after I leave or they might migrate. I'm not ready for that right now."
"Sure, not a problem because they're not my taste. The blonde yesterday isn't by the way."
Xander shrugged and winced. "I don't care. In the state I was in yesterday, I wouldn't have cared if they had been made into sushi."
"I have been that angry. It eats you."
"As opposed to being happy that everything is going to hell?"
"No. Need help inside?"
"I'm good. It should sell for a nice price so I get some extra out of it selling."
Jack smirked. "Maybe." He walked off. "Let me know if you need anything, kid."
"I will, even though I won't."
"Yeah, sureyoubetcha," he agreed, walking off to share that information. Landry was still there. The other two were missing. "We kill them or arrest them?"
"Sent them off before I did either because beating was looking like a good option," Landry said, handing him a beer. "Anything good?"
"There are demons in the military serving honorably. The kid said the group in New York was mourning a guy who saved an orphanage in Afghanistan." Landry moaned, shaking his head. "We have some in the lower level members on the base. He said guys who wouldn't have to see the docs too often so they didn't get busted." He opened his beer and took a sip. "There's also histories stating that they helped drive off the Gou'ald the last time they showed up. They're probably in the huge library the council over girls like Summers has near Stonehenge."
Landry smirked. "I think perhaps we can get some of that from them."
"They're apparently secret society sorts. Harris said they wanted to kill him for helping Summers since it's not supposed to be that way."
"I know someone in England. I'll call tomorrow, see if they know these people and can get any history of that war." Jack nodded. "You don't look happy."
"A few years back, some Gou'ald got free in Arizona?"
"I think it was a Tok'ra, from what one said about someone disappearing after crashing down here."
"Some demons tore them apart, and his larva, because they could tell he was one of them."
"Even more helpful," he decided.
"I'm worried about that kid. He was chopping wood and painting yesterday with a broken rib. He just admitted he had a few infected cuts. He refused to show he was in pain whenever we were there."
"Sounds like you."
"Which is why I know if he's going to get into the stuff he has on him, it's bad."
"Pop around later."
"I offered to call a doc out for him. A peace offering, yesterday and today. He refused. He hates doctors according to him."
"I don't much like being poked and prodded either," he admitted.
"He showed off scars," Jack told him. "I don't have that many. Danny doesn't have that many. Hell, Teal'c doesn't have that many scars, Hank."
"Crap." He took another long drink. "So we think he's about to the point where he's going to do something stupid?"
"From what Miller said yesterday, he nearly did in New York, and the kid did call it an apocalypse."
"Charming!" He finished his beer. "Can we talk to him about that?"
"If you want. I got briefed from Finn, who had talked to Summers and Rosenburg."
He groaned. "I don't like that 'one chosen warrior' thing they have going."
"According to the file, there's two. One's in jail."
"Thor said the kid mentioned something about a collateral damage incident but didn't go further than that."
"Why did Thor let himself be seen by him?"
"He was tracking the energy the kid carries. He wanted to make sure it wasn't some sort of strange weapon being built."
"Think he'd let us stick a monitor on him to make sure he's not radiating or anything?"
"No clue. Go ask him."
"I'll see if I can unstubborn him."
"Bring Cam. He and the boy are a lot alike. They both have that 'whatever it takes to get the job done' outlook."
"I'll have him bring a doctor too." He called the base to get that moving. When they got to the cabin, he walked them over there, finding the kid curled up against his wood pile on the porch. "Harris," he said.
"Oh, fuck off for ten minutes," Xander moaned.
"I can't do that, son. The one you saw yesterday, Thor, he said you were drenched in an energy. I wanted to know if we could take a reading of it."
"Can't you go to the source in Sunnydale?"
"No. Not yet. I need to make sure that you're not radiating and hurting others. That's why I brought Cam, he's a colonel, and Doctor Lam. She's my top doctor and she will not hurt you or I'll let Cam shoot her." He helped the boy sit up. "She can look at that rib of yours too."
"I'm sure you are," Cam said. "You can relax. We've all had broken things."
"So you stepped in front of a hugely evil bitch to give your slayer time to hit something bigger, while waiting for the bomb to go off a few feet away?" he asked.
"That sounds like something I would do. What was this last issue?"
"A hell goddess who wanted to go home by pulling her realm onto earth."
"Hell goddess?" Xander nodded. "Anything strange like a snake in her? Glowing eyes?"
"Fruitcake, sucking sanity out of people's head, robbed a lot of fashionable designers? No snake. Sorry."
"Making sure she wasn't one of ours who got loose, kid. Doc, need help?"
"Please." She set the case down and opened it. "It's like an EKG, Mr. Harris. All it's going to do is read the energy that drew Thor yesterday. It won't hurt, won't interfere with you, nothing like that."
"I hate doctors."
She smiled. "No one likes us unless they have mental issues." She took his shirt off him, wincing. "That's very infected."
"I cleaned it a bit ago when I pulled the stitches."
"Do we have an antibiotic?"
"Yeah, in my bag. I've been taking it," he lied.
"Good!" She looked at his bruised side. "May I?" He glared. "I deal with generals and colonels who make me want to use a stun gun, Mr. Harris. Please? It hurts good doctors to see people in this sort of agony."
"I have pain killers."
"That you're not taking." She gently felt along his side, wincing. "I think it shifted. The bones aren't aligned properly." Xander groaned. "After this, we can take you to the local ER so they can do that if you want."
"I'll push it back into place later."
"A doctor should in case you start bleeding internally or you puncture your lung, young man."
He grimaced. "No thanks." He looked down then pushed suddenly on a spot, making himself flinch and nearly shout a swear word. "There, better," he panted, bending over. "Sorry, give me two minutes."
She looked at him. "You're incredibly more stubborn than this colonel," she said with a nod at Mitchell. She felt again. "It's almost back in place." She looked at him. "May I? Please? I can get it properly aligned."
"If you must," he moaned.
She nodded. "I must. I hate seeing people in pain." She got him laid out and had Cam hold his arms down for her. "That's all I'm going to restrain." She felt again then pushed on one spot hard, making the ribs grind but move back into place. Xander was trying very hard not to scream. "I think that does it." She checked his other areas. No other broken things but a lot of infections. "That antibiotic isn't working. Colonel, get it so I can check it."
He went inside to do that. "His phone's ringing. It's coming up agent."
"I don't care," Xander said weakly. "You're mean," he told the doctor.
"Perhaps but it was necessary." She attached the leads to him and turned it on, staring at it. "That's a lot of energy." She adjusted the range up, finding how it was going. "You're leaking it at an astonishing rate, Mr. Harris."
"I don't glow."
"No, but you should be." She looked at him, helping him sit up. She accepted the bottle of water, the two bill bottles, looking at them before she made him take the painkiller with the water. "This antibiotic is crap. It's also ancient. They didn't give you any when you got checked out?"
"Not that I remember when I signed myself out." He sipped his water. "Thank you."
"You're welcome but we should find a way to drain that energy out of you. It could be why I heard you draw evil women."
He shrugged and winced a bit. "Maybe. No clue." He took a drink. "You'd have to check with the source but it's closed off to humans."
"That makes more sense," she agreed. "Can I ask someone about how to detox you?"
"Even then, what works on normals might not work on me," he pointed out. "I do have some genetic ...imprints from incidences. Like fish DNA." He took another drink.
She stared at him. "You have what?"
"Mermaid taint. Swim team." He took another drink. She took the bottle and stared at him. "The coach wanted to win so badly he was tainting his people. Some changed. I went onto the team to see why." He took his bottle back. "I have no idea if the possessions did anything like that. Or the ghost given small pox, syphilis, and measles I got one thanksgiving, but that cleared up when they passed on."
She gave him an odd look then looked at Mitchell. "That's worse than Jackson."
"We should see if he has that sort of energy or not," he agreed. "Kid, how in the hell did you do that?"
Xander grinned. "It's just the way things were on the team."
"I'm never going to your former town," he decided. "Even if I have to get thrown in jail for disobeying orders. They might like me too much."
"We definitely can't send Jackson," Doctor Lam agreed. "But there is sending Carter." She smiled. "She's a scientist."
"She's the blonde from yesterday," Cam told him. "On my team and used to be on Jack's team."
"Okay. Why do I need to know?"
"Because she hates things like this. She'll be driven insane by the energy so I'm guessing she might pop up sometime to see if you're still radiating."
"Smart people can be annoying," Xander admitted. "Especially when they push their smarts on you."
"She tries not to most of the time," Cam promised. "We just feel inadequate around her because she's got multiple PhD's."
"I'll keep that in mind." He looked at the doctor. "Should they put me in a radiation bubble?"
"I don't think so but I do think we have a way of draining the energy out of you if you want. I have to ask a few people because the last time I knew we were using it on machines."
He shrugged and winced. "I don't really care."
She helped him sit back up. "Want me to tape that?"
"I'd rather you removed it."
"That probably wouldn't make you feel much better," she said, laying her wrist against his forehead. She looked over his chest, frowning. "That bruise is growing, Mr. Harris. You're bleeding internally. General, get the jeep." Cam jogged off to do that. "Sure, but I wanted his muscles," she sighed. They got Xander up and out to the jeep when it came. She got her case and climbed into the back. Since he knew.... They couldn't really drop him in the town's hospital with that energy.
"Our base," she ordered. "That way we can make sure that energy doesn't cause problems." Cam nodded, driving off as fast as he dared on this twisty back road. She kept watch on him. His breathing wasn't too bad. He was trying to keep calm. "I'm going to promise that we will not hurt you more than we have to, Mr. Harris. I'm not going to do any experiments. I might pull some extra blood to see if I can find that fish DNA," she said with a smile. "But I'm not like that project you helped stop. I would've killed them." He gave her a gentle smile.
"Relax. It'll be okay. I promise it will be. Even if I have to go in to seal those ribs together it'll be fine." She smoothed over his hair. "That'll let me give you some heavier antibiotics to knock out that infection too." He blinked but nodded. "Good man." They pulled into the base and she looked at the staring soldiers. "Get me a gurney now," she snapped. "Alert the infirmary we have a man with internal bleeding from a broken rib plus some extra energy exposure." The guard called that order down. There was a gurney topside in case of emergencies.
They got him onto the elevator, no matter how much he protested being wheeled down like an invalid. The infirmary was near the elevator thankfully. She walked in. "Broken rib started internal bleeding when it was put back into place. I want him on a heart and blood pressure monitor immediately. Start an IV with a double dose of the antibiotics we used last week." One of her nurses moved to get the IV while another hooked him up. She smiled at him. "Let me get your jeans off, okay?"
"Hidden spots," he whispered.
"Concealed." He moved something, making it come into view. "Have to take it off myself."
"Okay." She wasn't going to ask...yet. She helped him sit up while he took that and something else off. A lot more scars appeared and the bleeding looked worse. She got him stripped out of his jeans, socks, and boots. He giggled but they didn't mind funny colored underwear or moose print ones. She inserted a mild dose of sedative so he wouldn't feel it if they had to open him up. The technology came out to help him with the healing. She hated broken ribs. It was an injury that really had no cure but time unless you had something that prompted faster healing. She saw someone standing in the doorway. "What?" she ordered.
Cam looked. "Get in here," he said. The man blinked at him and he noticed his eyes blinked sideways. "You know Harris?"
"Is he joining us here? The world may well end when he dates one of the enemies," he said quietly.
"No. He moved in next to O'Neill somehow. We were talking and his ribs nearly killed him." He walked over there. "You're one of them?" The guy gave him a horrified look. "Yeah, we found out. Someone named Finn and Miller showed up to try to get him away from us."
"Yes, I am. I have helped," he said, almost sounding like he was pleading.
"Not like we mind as long as you're not working against us," Landry said, looking at him. He walked over. "There's things we did want to know however. Including if any of your kind could help us in the battles."
"My people must be water and earth bound but there are others," he said quietly.
"Can we debrief you about that?" Cam asked. "We're not going to hurt you. Quit shaking. We're not Finn or Miller."
The demon looked at him. "Most people are distressed."
"Finn said he only gets creeped out at tentacles," Landry said.
"That is because many of them see him as a fit toy since he had slept with *HER*. It makes them gain status by proxy."
Landry nodded. "I understand the concept behind it. Summers?"
The demon looked confused. "Short, blonde girl who fights?" Cam added.
"Yes, the slayer."
"Let's talk about this and about why he's got a buildup of energy," Landry said.
The demon looked then at him. "He is beloved of the hellmouth. That is why he carries its scent and energy."
"Can we weed it out of him so it can't come out to harm others?" Cam asked.
"I do not know. I would have to ask the elders and they will not be pleased."
"You can blame it on Finn for overreacting," Cam offered with a smile. "Because he totally freaked out when Harris told him to tell O'Neill about his thing."
"Then the elders might sell him to one with tentacles," he said with a small smile.
"I think he's married," Landry said dryly. "But ... I'm not sure I'd mind right now. Let's go to my office to talk, young man." He nodded, following him out. "Doctor?"
"It's not like he's going to wander, sir."
"Thank you," Cam told her. "Let us know if you need help. He did not like Sam Carter yesterday. Compared her to an evil woman." He left too. That being had things he needed to know to save their people. He hoped. He got Daniel on the way. "C'mon. Debriefing in Landry's office." Daniel nodded, grabbing some paper and a pen to follow. They walked in. "I brought Jackson in case he could correlate it back to any other information, sir."
"That's fine," Landry agreed, smiling at the young sergeant. "I'm sure you know Doctor Jackson."
"Yes, we revere him for coming back as often as *SHE* has."
"Which she?" Daniel asked. "Was she ascended too?"
"We do not know but *SHE* does dance with death as well as you do."
"That's good to know. Which she is this?"
"Her name is Summers," Cam said. "We got a whole lot of information from that guy Finn earlier apparently."
"Enough that I wasn't sure if I wanted to be sick or beat the hell out of them," Landry told them.
Daniel noticed the blink too. "You blink differently. Are you down here from another planet?"
"My people are from Gldourat."
"That's another dimension?" Landry asked. The demon smiled and nodded. "Harris and Finn both called your type ODN, other dimensional natives?"
"Mostly. Some are the remnants of the true lines that used to walk this plane. My family came because there were better paying jobs."
"Okay," Daniel said. "Another dimension?"
"Huh. Was it like this one only a bit different?"
Daniel put his pen and paper aside. "What are you?" He said something in his native language and Daniel stared, saying something back. "That's an ancient language."
"Yes, one of the trade tongues we demons use," he agreed with a beaming smile. "Most clans know of it and most know at least a few words."
"Demons?" Daniel asked Mitchell then looked at Landry.
"Finn's screwed up project was hurting their kind trying to find new sources of soldiers," Landry said with a smirk. "Which is why I wanted to kick his ass and Miller's."
"He did help *HER* shut them down," the sergeant told him. "Now many are amused that higher ones want him for their tentacle jewelry."
"How many other of you guys are there on base so we can talk to you all at once?" Cam asked. "We're hoping you guys have information on the Gou'ald or Ori."
He sighed but wrote out a list. Cam took it to get them. "My people are not warriors. We are traders."
"That would've been helpful on many early missions when we were looking for allies," Landry told him.
"We were to stay hidden."
"I understand why," he promised with a smile. "I'd probably do the same thing if I were you guys." Mitchell walked in with four others. "The others?"
"Off base." He shut the door. "First, let me tell you guys, you did an amazing job of hiding. We had no idea until Harris moved next to O'Neill."
One moaned, sitting down. "He is known for warping many things."
"Second," Landry said. "We don't care what you are as long as you're serving honorably." They all stared at him. "I don't personally care if you're from a usually evil race, if you're from a good race, or you're sleeping with bunny rabbits. As long as you're not breaking the law and are serving honorably, welcome to the SGC." That got a few timid smiles. "But I do want to know some things. Including if there's any historical accounts of the last war with the Gou'ald. Do any of you have any special skills that could help us here?"
"Or Atlantis," Daniel offered.
"Atlantis has protections. The Ancients, as you call them, were scared of the higher old lines," one of the new ones told him. "They had seen what they did to the new species they seeded here. It was at their consent that the chosen line was started."
"Okay," Daniel said. "Is there anything like that written down somewhere? In any format?
The original demon nodded. "The Watchers have a few accounts and the large library on Sedious does as well from what I'm told."
"They would never let a human up," another one said quietly. "They see your kind as pets to be trained and kept."
"Are they the ones with tentacles who want Finn so badly?" Landry asked.
One of the new ones burst out laughing. "It is suitable for his life."
Daniel coughed. "We've gotten some information on them and what they did."
"They panicked when they found out Harris had moved next to O'Neill," Cam told them, sitting on the edge of a metal filing cabinet. "We wouldn't have any idea if the general hadn't walked over to see if the noises he heard were some squatter or not. Unfortunately he got there on a day Harris was throwing a temper tantrum."
The original one looked at him. "Harris had his reasons for his temper according to the rumors going around. He was right to wear it out before someone ended up sending him at an army to kill them all so he was relaxed and calm again."
"They'd have to feed him sugar," another one said dryly from the back of the room. "A box of pixie sticks for ease of carrying and a few cans of mountain dew. The Gou'ald would be worshiping him to make him leave them alone."
"I'll warn Doctor Lam of that," the general said, making that note. They all stared at him.
"He had a broken rib that had to be put back into place," Cam said quietly. "That and one of our allies noted he had a lot of energy buildup. We were there to check on that reason when he started to bleed from the rib."
"He is in the infirmary," the first one told the others. "Harris has never hurt us."
"No, he has left us who are peaceful alone," the one against the back wall agreed. "Most clans appreciate that. Many more respect him for doing what he had to do, even though it broke the slayer for a few months." Cam looked at him. "Her boyfriend of the time lost his soul somehow. She could not defeat him because she was blinded by her lusts and emotions. Harris made sure he went away, even though his soul got reapplied a few minutes before. As was proper with how many more he killed, including one of the fringe members of their group."
"Where did he go?" Landry asked.
"Hell," he said bluntly. "He had started it and had to close it with his own blood. Then he came back, she took him back because she was a *girl* instead of a woman, and now he protects LA with her."
"That Angel person?" Landry asked. They all nodded. "Was it a soap opera out there?"
"That may depend on who you ask and when you ask about," the one against the wall admitted. "Especially when you talk of Harris and his place in the group or the slayer's desires."
"I'm betting she dated Finn because he knew about the demons and hunting," Cam said. They all nodded. "That's a situation I can appreciate since I can't find a good woman to date either. None of them want a soldier."
The trader demon nodded. "That is what happened. Now she is dating Spike, or so I have heard," he told the others, who cackled. "He is very fierce but of the same line as Angel."
"I don't need to know," Landry assured him. "Like I said, we need information, any help that can be given to help us with any of the enemies we currently have, and to know if you have any special skills that can be of help."
"I am still young," the trader told him.
"How old are you?" Daniel asked.
"A mere nine-hundred-sixteen. Barely out of my family's home." He gave him a timid smile. "My mother would be most upset and take my head off for this talk."
"We will make sure she doesn't blame you," Landry assured him with a smile. "Beyond having a family of traders, do you have any other skills? Languages, empathy, anything like that?"
"My sister does, and she is old enough to make her own decisions, especially since she has bitten the head off her mate after mating. She'll want to get away from the eggs until they reach a good age to foster. She knows many human languages. She works at the UN."
"That's good to know. So your people are mostly peaceful traders; you guys travel a lot to other realms?" Daniel asked.
"Basically. My father sells Verantha skins. We should give a few to Atlantis," he told the others, who all snickered. "It could help them and would feed many. They might even find a way to breed them to help with other trade situations."
"Humans find that meat a bit gamey and sour," the one in the back told him. "Otherwise, it's not a bad idea. I can imagine the look on their faces."
"What are they?" Daniel asked.
"Giant slugs we use like you use goats and cows," the trader said with a smile. "They regenerate and clone themselves. They don't take much work. You only have to keep them from eating themselves."
"How big do they get?" Cam asked, looking a bit worried.
"Our family's is a mere ninety feet. It is still young. They can live in dark places or some types can live in water."
"They sound handy but we'd have to get them to try the meat before we let them see the animal," Landry told him. "Humans might think it a bit strange."
"I can understand that. We do your use of pigs when they are smarter than your pets."
"Some people do keep them as pets," Daniel offered. "I know someone who kept a miniature pig as a pet." Cam nodded at that.
"You still do mean things like torment innocent deer," the one against the wall said.
"Bambi?" Daniel guessed. He nodded. "That's only a movie, make believe, not real. Animals don't talk human english."
"To their kind, anything like a movie would be considered real somewhere else," the trader said gently. He smiled at him. "Were you not watching One Life to Live again?"
"Bah! Whores and drug addicts, those who defile things that do not belong to them! That whole world must be a hell to live on."
"I'm sure it would be," Cam agreed. "So, what are your people like?"
"We are very good warriors," he said, standing up straight and proud. "If it had been allowed I would have asked to join a team so that I may die in glory instead of in boredom guarding the top egress."
"I can have Teal'c test you to see if you're good enough to put onto a team," Landry promised with a smile. "Though we don't encourage anyone to die. We'd rather we lived to fight another battle."
"Every good warrior eventually goes in battle. If he does at home, he was not favored of the Gods. It does not matter if it's the first, or the four thousandth. If he dies outside of battle then he will have to come back, probably as one of those meat slugs, until he is more humble, trained better, and can die properly."
"Just make sure you last as many as you can," Cam told him. "Truly great warriors teach the younger ones who want to be great."
"Of course. Otherwise is a mark of lacking." He went back to leaning.
Landry looked at the others. "What unique things can you offer the program?"
Xander woke up groggy but he recognized the person standing next to him. "You again?"
"Yup, me again," Sam Carter said with a smile. "We have managed to soak most of the energy out of you so you're on a better and healthier footing. Your rib is about halfway to fully healed thanks to some special stuff we have around here. Your DNA coding drove Doctor Lam to a nap."
"How long was I out?"
"About a day and a half. The energy sucking solution was an ooze and we usually keep people lightly asleep in it because we had to submerse you. You had a breathing mask on."
"I wasn't sure if I'd grow gills or not," he said dryly.
"No, not yet." She helped him sit up and gave him the glass of water. "She didn't want you to wake up alone and have flashbacks to that other program."
"That's nice of her."
"She's generally a nice doctor but she does use huge needles," Cam said as he walked in. He was smiling. "A few of those guys are really good warriors. We'll enjoy having them on a team."
"Not a problem. Am I in an alternate world or something?"
"No, we're all happier today. We found out those four from Finn's groups aren't here on this base but on an associated base."
"The flying one?"
"Yeah, that one. What's been said about it?"
"Not much. A few people saluted their bravery and stupidity for going there. They hoped you guys had a way of getting them back."
"Yes and no but it'll be fine." He patted him on the shoulder. "I checked on your house. Your phone is now out of voicemail space. I wasn't sure if you wanted them to know you got sick and hurt or not. One of them you had an email address listed so I did email that one so she could pass it around for you." Xander moaned. "Sorry but they were coming about every twenty minutes."
"Someone that came up Tara. Another one that came up as a detective. Girlfriend?"
"Probably wondering if I'm dating again. Thank you."
"Not a problem, kid. You feeling better?"
"I ache less."
"That's always helpful. Trust me, I spent months in one of those beds after a crash." Xander winced. "Exactly." He patted him gently on the shoulder. "The generals said you could go whenever you were ready to run away. Doctor Lam did say she wanted one small cheek swab to check something DNA wise."
"Got it," Sam said, holding up the swab with a smile. "He was snoring." Xander gave her a dirty look. "That fish DNA and we found a few other anomalies. That's all. No cloning or anything."
"Damn I hope not. That'd be extra weird even on my scale." He finished his water and put it down. "I can just leave?"
"Just don't tell anyone," Mitchell ordered. "You have a pretty high clearance thanks to all that you've blundered into but please don't. They will conscript you then if you spill it."
"Not a problem."
"Good." Doctor Lam walked in pulling up her hair. "Doc, he's up."
"Swab?" she asked through her hairpin. Sam held it up. She finished up her hair. "Excellent." She gave Xander back his jeans, socks, and boots. They had been cleaned for him. "I can steal a scrub shirt for you, kiddo." She went to get one and came out to hand it over. "There you go."
"You're probably the nicest torturer I've ever met," he said with a grin.
She smiled back. "Next time, take better care of it. If you're that angry, go swim." He nodded. "Good. Shoo. Let me stab someone with huge needles." Cam and Carter both left. Xander got dressed. She escorted him topside and they got him into a familiar car. Daniel had been waiting for him. She waved and smiled. "I tucked your new antibiotic prescription in your pocket," she called after him. She went back down to the infirmary, much happier now.
Daniel glanced at Xander while they drove. "So, if I make it to the big library, are there any social customs I should avoid?"
"That depends on who you meet. If they do let you up, they'll probably assign you an escort. They should make sure you don't make too many huge social blunders."
"How many societies are there? Different cultures?"
"Many? I know originally here on earth there were seventeen major courts that housed Old Ones. They had full courts, were treated like royalty. I know right now there's about two or three thousand different planes but some have mixed races, some have single species, and some have some humans on them. Some of them worked out the human/demon wars so they had a truce. Some didn't. Some we're treated like slaves."
"Okay, so species by species," he said. "Is there any sort of etiquette book? I'd like to not piss them off if they let me in their library."
"I have no idea. You might, if you go to LA, ask Spike. He plays kitten poker with a lot of demons."
"Okay," he said, shaking that thought off. "I know some cultures do eat cats and dogs," he said. "I can accept that. They are...eating them, right?"
"As far as I've been told, yes."
"Good. I can handle that then." He pulled up in front of the small cabin. "There you go. Thank you for the help, Mr. Harris."
"It's not a problem. Just don't turn out like Finn and them?"
"No, if we start going that way, I'll end them." He smiled. "Cam too. They will not make it to reassignment like Finn did."
"Thanks." He got out and waved, heading inside. He heard his phone ringing and groaned, glaring at it. "No, not right now." He went to bed. If they had emailed someone in New York, they'd quit nagging soon.
Detective Beckett got into her email, glaring at it. "Why did Harris email me from a military account? How did he get my email address?"
"I put it into his phone so he could tell you directly the next time he dated someone deadly. That way you'd have an easier few cases solved," Castle told her.
She glared at him. "Thanks, really."
"You'd rather stalk him out on dates like they did in LA?"
"No." She got into the email to erase it, staring. "Why do I need to know that he's been injured?"
"You're probably the only email in his phone," he admitted, pulling out his phone to text Tara first. She had to be frantic. He called instead, he didn't know if she had text messaging. "Tara, it's Rick Castle. We got an email from someone near Xander." He read it while she panicked. "They said he's fine, he's out of the hospital just a few minutes ago. Apparently his broken rib caused a bit of bleeding but he's fine." He listened to her. "No, don't. He should be all right. They said he got released and is back at the cabin, but that they're going to switch it on him? Huh." He listened to her.
"No, calm down. He's fine. It says he's fine. I'm sure he's not. He's annoyed beyond belief and Paula's probably trying to nag him right now. Sure, just calm down. Try later, okay? I'm sure they gave him good drugs for the rib. Because I got one from him yesterday that said he was so mad he was chopping wood with it, Tara. Exactly." She huffed. He smiled. "Just calm down for a few more minutes. It says he's out and back there. Sure. You rest and relax. Calm down. Good girl." He hung up. "She's nearly frantic and about ready to go out there to save him from whoever emailed you."
"Why did it come from a military account?"
"It was probably the closest hospital. I have no idea otherwise."
"Uh-huh. Thank you for doing the notifying." She erased it and got back to cleaning out department memos. "How can you chop wood with a broken rib?" she asked finally. "I could barely move with my last one."
"Xander's tough that way."
"Ow." She shook her head with a small sigh. "I don't want to know if any of his past dates tortured him." She got back to her inbox cleaning.
Castle got up. "Let me tell Paula to leave him alone for a few days." He put on his jacket as he walked out. He hated it when it rained. He got to her office, finding her ranting that Xander wasn't answering his phone yet again. "That's because they just released him from a base hospital," he interrupted, making her turn to glare at him while her poor assistant got to flee. "His broken rib caused some internal bleeding but they got it fixed."
"Why won't he answer the phone?" she demanded.
"Because you're being a bitch," he said bluntly. "They said he was chopping wood, even with a broken rib, due to his anger issues." She flinched back at that. "You need to heal this mess when he comes back. Before you lose a profitable, decent writer. I doubt he'll be Tolkein but he's good and you're hurting him because he was trying to be himself and take care of you like he does Tara." She stepped back. "I don't know how many times you bothered him since he left, but it stops."
"You know something," she said, eyes narrowing.
"Yes, I do. Including that no one visited him those three days he was in the hospital." She groaned, sitting down, running her hands through her hair. "Not you, not his friends, no one." She looked up at him. "From what I've heard, he nearly died then. That, on top of the depression you caused? You're damn lucky he woke up. So quit nagging the kid."
"You like him."
"He sees me as a mentor. Some day he'll be mentoring new writers who're too shy to face a reporter."
"Fine," she said. "I'll keep myself calm. Is he all right?"
"Just out of the hospital. His broken rib apparently caused some bleeding."
She took a deep breath. "How could he risk himself that way?"
"Why would it matter?" he asked her. "You clearly don't like him as anything more than a cash cow. His friends didn't appreciate him."
"Tara didn't visit him?"
"Tara was sealed in the house crying because of her ex."
"Oh. So he's mad at all of us?"
"Yup. Well, you guys. I haven't done anything wrong." He stared her down. "He will take all those books and leave," he pointed out.
"I'll work it out with him," she sighed.
"Good!" He walked off, going to check on Tara. Sometimes he felt like the kid's uncle. That wasn't a bad thing. He was learning a lot of new things doing it, but it was odd sometimes. He found Tara sobbing and let her hug him when she opened the door. "What's wrong?"
"He still won't answer."
"They probably gave him something strong enough that he could sleep, Tara." She looked at him. "Painkillers can make you sleepy."
"He never takes them. Nothing bigger than tylenol."
"Then I salute him for having that sort of pain tolerance. I definitely don't. My last broken bone I wanted morphine." She gave him a hesitant smile. "Now, what happened that meant you couldn't visit him?"
"I heard something about your ex being in town?" he prompted. She wasn't nearly as hard to read as the kid was. He was definitely going to be able to add some depth to his characters after dealing with this, and they'd be happier too.
"I didn't want him to know."
"Tara, he knows why you didn't get out of the house in a week from what I heard. What did she do?"
"She wanted me back. She's married and ...and I still love her even though she cheated on me but it's wrong."
"It is," he agreed.
"But I cursed her to the marriage so she could be redeemed and be happier again."
He shuddered. "That's a hell of a curse. Don't do that to me please. Two were enough."
She let out a small smile. "She's happy with him when she lets herself be."
"Were you the first time she cheated?" She shook her head, grimacing. "When?"
"She had smoochies with Xander back in high school while she was dating Oz," she said quietly, looking at her hands. "She told me about it. Called it a fluke."
"Apparently not. Some people can't be totally faithful. Sometimes it's fear of being tied down and sometimes it's other issues. Which is hers?"
"Probably her parents," she sighed. "I'd like to beat her parents but that's wrong."
He nodded. "Probably but a good sentiment. Drinkers?"
"Traveling psychologists. Xander's drank but I probably shouldn't talk about him behind his back."
"I figured his parents were bad, Tara. I do read people rather well." She smiled at that. "Relax. He's fine."
"I should go check on him."
"I'm not sure how long it'd take to get to Colorado."
"About two minutes. I'll be right back." She stood up and concentrated, squeezing her eyes shut to 'find' Xander. She appeared next to him, squeaking when the man in there pulled a gun. He hit the ceiling when she floated him, making her look up at him. "That's mean," she said quietly. "I'm only making sure he's okay. Who are you and are you a threat?"
"No, I'm checking on him for the doctor," he said casually. "How are you doing this?" Because this was wrong! Physics said it was wrong! He couldn't find a handhold either. This was going to end up hurting him a lot. "Who are you?"
"Don't worry about it." She checked Xander's forehead, frowning some. "Poor boy." She got him a cool compress and put a bottle of water next to him. "You drink that when you get up, Xander. Then come home. I'll make sure you're okay," she whispered, kissing him on the forehead. She went home. The soldier hit the floor, hard.
"How did you do that?" Richard asked.
"Magic?" she said with a shy smile. "It's really hard to do that."
"I'm sure it is." He stood up. "If Alexis wants to dabble, I'm sending her to you." He patted her on the cheek. "Now, take a hot bath, get ready for all the insanity when he comes back, and eat something, young lady."
"Good girl." He left, going to hug his daughter. He hated seeing kids with a world's worth of potential ruined by bastards like their parents. Tara's clearly had problems too. He hoped one day to meet their parents. Just so he could make them regret it.
Xander blinked at the thump that woke him up, staring at him. "What the hell are you doing on my floor?"
"Some blonde just made me hit your ceiling." He stood up, dusting himself off. "Doc told the general to have you checked on."
"I'm fine. Thank you anyway."
"We had to remove someone from Finn's group who wanted to take you into custody."
"I'll go on GMA about them later," he muttered, flipping onto his side. He blinked. "Blonde? You sure?"
"Yeah. Blonde girl, about your age, long skirt...."
"Tara," he said with a nod. "If it's a redhead, or a fashionable blonde, feel free to save me." He yawned and went back to sleep.
Cam stared at him. "How did she do that?" He got snored at in response. "Fine." He walked out, making sure the door was locked behind him. At least the kid hadn't reacted like he was a threat. No weapons had been pulled out of nowhere to deal with him being in there. Carter had gotten to the porch before the boy started to thrash in his sleep. He must really hate blonde women. He walked back into the general's cabin. "I didn't wake him, the blonde girl who showed up did when she thumped me into the ceiling, held me up invisibly somehow, then let me hit the floor."
"How?" Sam asked.
"Who?" the general asked.
"He identified her as Tara. Asked me to save him if she's a fashionable blonde or a redhead."
"Summers and Rosenburg by the files," Jack said, letting him see the picture he found. "Her?"
"Her. Who is she?"
"Rosenburg's former girlfriend, listed as a fairly powerful white witch," he said dryly.
"I'm sure it wasn't*magic*," Sam said dryly. "It doesn't exist."
Daniel coughed. "You never know. What was that radiation you guys drained off him?"
"It was small particle and wormhole energy," she sighed. "I don't know how. We can't get to that town to check it." She sat down. "This is all very confusing. How would there be a semi-stable wormhole or even a proto-wormhole in the US without us finding it on sensors before?"
Jack looked at the guy tied up in his corner. MP's had to come get him and they were in shift change. "Well, you got any answers?"
"None that you need to know," he said firmly.
"You know, the kid knows you tried to break in. He's promised he'll be on GMA in the morning." The man went pale. "Now, how did she do that?" Cam asked him. "Because we'd like to know."
"Magic, just what he said." Sam groaned, covering her face with her hands. "You didn't expect magic when you ran into the world of demons?"
Xander knocked on the door, letting Daniel let him in. "Sorry," he said, hauling the guy up with a wince. "Apparently someone needs their trash back." He walked him outside, shoving him off the porch to make him fall down. He stared at him. "Has it not occurred to you that your panicking brought them into it?" The man moaned, backing away from him. "Not like *I* told them anything about you guys. All I did was warn Finn someone was going to be looking because the general was a bit paranoid."
"Famous now, yes." He smirked. "Delightfully so sometimes. I'm still hoping for groupies," he said dryly. The man sneered. So Xander kindly kicked him in the side, making him howl. "What's wrong? Can't take what you and the psycho squad used to give?" He stared down at him. "In case you didn't learn the lesson the first time, leave the Scoobies alone or we'll destroy you. Then we'll have cocoa and party." He smirked. "Even if it's just me and Tara doing it."
"Summers will come back."
"Hey, you want her, you go see her. 'Cause that's her call, not mine. She and the bitch can stay on the west coast for all I care; but remember, if she falls, there's no new slayer until Faith goes." He started to splutter. "Yeah, so tough shit." He kicked him again, making him scream. "Good. You deserved it for Oz." He stared down at him. "Get on your NID pogo stick and go," he sneered. "They don't need your kind here."
"I'm not NID!"
"Oh, right," he snorted.
"I'm over their project now, IOA!"
Xander snickered. "Yeah. And I *so* believe that." He looked up and called out something that no one watching understood. Though Daniel was frowning like he'd heard it before. A very large, mean looking demon appeared. The soldiers backed up when the demon smiled and waved at them. "First, they're decent. They fixed my rib and took out the hellmouth taint." The demon beamed at him for that. "Secondly, this weenie here decided to try to roast something other than himself and apparently snuck into my place?" he asked, looking back at them.
"Yeah, we caught him trying to break in," Cam offered. "Is he one of the peaceful ones that we'd like to learn from?"
"Maybe." Xander looked at her. "Well?"
"Now and then I can be peaceful but humans are fun." She smiled, winking at Sam. "You'd be much fun."
"Um, sorry, I'm not open minded enough to date anyone but a human. I can't even date aliens." She would not panic because Jack wouldn't ever let her to go anyone or anything as a payment. Especially not a sexual payment. Cam either. Or Daniel if he could save her. They would save her. She was sure of it.
The demoness laughed. "They exist?" She looked at Xander, who shrugged but nodded. "Oh, dear. Like before, in the Great Times?"
"Um, yes," Daniel said, walking down there. "The ones with the symbiotes have returned and we're fighting them plus the Ori. We were told about your kind's worlds and realms earlier this week. We've been looking for information to see if you have any accounts from the last war or anything on either species."
The demoness purred at him. "You are cute, for being male. My husband may like you." She patted him on the head. "I will ask him if he knows of such." She looked at Xander. "This cancels my poker debt."
"Sure, whatever. Though, he wants to keep Buffy and Willow."
The demoness sneered. "Neither one is worthy of my tentacle," she said snidely. "You I would wish to keep if you were female, but not them."
Xander smiled. "Willow tried to talk to Tara again." The demon growled. Daniel backed out of the way. "Buffy left me there, injured."
She snorted. "There's many who would appreciate your skills and wish to be your muse, Knight." She stroked his cheek with a smile. "We'll see who wins the next game. Maybe I'll make it strip poker instead of kitten poker."
Xander smirked. "As long as your tentacle doesn't try anything, go for it. I'm sure there's a picture *somewhere*."
"Many," she growled. "I will take this one to my mate," she told the cute thing. She patted him on the head again. "He will know if there is anything to help you among our kind. Though he may ask for...payment for the information. I think you would look wonderful on his tentacle." She disappeared with him.
Xander looked at Daniel. "She's nice. Her husband has a very dirty mind too."
"They'd want to have sex, right? Not eat me?"
"Yeah, basically. Tentacle sex isn't that bad from what I'm told." He shrugged and winced. "Okay, now that the NID is gone." He walked off, waving over his shoulder. "I need another nap. I'll be out of your hair soon."
"Sure," Jack called. "Thanks, kid." He looked at Sam's phone, which he had stolen and dialed so Landry had heard. "I wonder if he'll come back." He hung up on the loud choking noises coming from it. "I'm not sure I'm going to like that idea."
"Well, better NID than Danny," Cam suggested. Or him, or Sam, or anyone he *liked*. Hell, he wouldn't even wish that on McKay.
"Gee, thanks," Daniel said dryly.
"We'll shoot you so you don't have to try it," Cam joked with a smirk. He was *so* glad things like this didn't happen to him!
Sam looked down at them. "How did she appear and disappear?"
"I don't know. Tara did the same thing," Cam said.
Jack nodded. "They're stranger than we are." He handed Sam her phone back. "Don't worry, Danny Boy, we'll make sure you don't end up a blushing bride."
"Thank you. Beer anyone?" He went to get himself one before that thought stuck. They might need the information but he'd try desperately to switch someone else out. He didn't want to know what tentacle sex was like. A twinkling happened on the counter beside him. He stared at it until it solidified. It was a videotape. He looked at it, swallowing more beer. "Sam, they wanted to answer some questions for you." She took the tape to the study to watch it, letting out a disgusted noise a few minutes later.
Cam looked in there. "So that's how.... Eww." He walked off shaking his head. "We'll try to send someone cuter in your place, Jackson. I doubt you'd like taking a foot of tentacle." He went outside to bang his head against the wall. There had to be something to take that really bad thought and picture out of his head. Maybe he'd shoot Daniel if they wanted to have him that way? The guy would probably thank him for it. He'd reciprocate too, that way none of the team was taken.
"You know, the kid is the most fun we've had out here in years," Jack decided. He went to turn the porn off. Sam was still staring in horror at it. He blinked at how much that human was taking then turned it off. "Not on my tv, Carter."
"Yes, General," she squeaked. "I think I need new eyes." He handed over his beer. She gulped it on the way to the liquor. Cam joined her with Daniel. That was just....so bad.
"We learned something important," Daniel decided before downing a shot. "They do have corollary societal functions and ideas."
"If you say they're good because they have porn, I'm going to hand you to the next Prior," Cam warned.
"No, but it's interesting that they evolved the same outlets we have, even though they don't do it the same way." He poured himself another drink. "Think we can give it to a few of the Marines?" he asked Sam. "Take volunteers?"
Sam and Jack both moaned and shook their heads. Cam was choking. "Sure, you suggest it to Landry," Jack told him. "Have another drink, Danny." He got one of his own. "Maybe I can send it to the social scientists on Atlantis," he said dryly. "Freak them out a bit so they know that demons are real too."
"What did Sheppard do this time?" Sam complained.
"Don't ask. Really." She groaned, taking the bottle to drink from directly.
"Well, they might like one of the scientists," Daniel said. "They're smart, want to learn, a few of them would willingly go on their backs for new ideas and things."
"Shut up," Cam ordered. "Please? Before I have to see McKay doing a tentacle?"
"Here, drink," Sam ordered, pouring him another one. Daniel nodded, gulping it down. "Sorry about your liquor cabinet and vacation, sir."
"Yeah, I'm sure we all are." He got another beer to drink. Those three could get drunk all they wanted. He was still going to send that charming tape to Atlantis so he never had to see it again. Plus info on the demons. Maybe they had demons up there?
Xander looked at his new cabin, then at Riley. "It's bigger."
"It's cheaper to buy here." He handed him an envelope. "They decided to buy the old cabin for other staff members who need some time fishing. They appreciated all the firewood too."
"I'm sure it did." He handed him the keys. "Four bedrooms but one's more a bunk room. Kitchen is rustic beyond belief. Doesn't need much work beyond some painting and sealing. The kitchen is crap. It's an old wood burning stove." Xander beamed at that. "It can be moved if you want. Or build around it." He gave him a shove. "Go. It's yours."
"Thanks. How much extra did I get?"
"Enough to do the kitchen." Xander beamed and went up to look in the windows before he opened the door. Riley left, going to report to his new boss. Since his old one was being a tentacle toy. "Sir, we moved him successfully so he could no longer warp that important project. He's very happy with the new cabin. It's a bit bigger and only needs minimal work. They did pay extra for all the work he had done and the firewood." His boss said something. He nodded.
"Yes, sir. He's all settled in. I moved the tools, his things, and he didn't bring any weapons. Which is shocking considering it's Harris. No, sir, the team is presently broken up outside of major apocalypses. Because Summers didn't appreciate him again. Rosenburg also tried to talk to Maclay so she didn't come out of the house for a week. It was nice that they did leech out the extra energy from the hellmouth. He's better. His ribs are barely sore or he's claiming they are. Yes, sir, it's all settled. They bought that one for him. Yes, sir, I'm heading back tonight. The last director? Um...." He considered it. "He tried to annoy that project after trying to annoy Harris. Harris introduced them to a poker friend who took the last director home as a tentacle toy."
His present one coughed and spluttered. "They were going to have him arrested anyway, sir. Not much difference when you're in prison beyond it being a demon instead of a human. And it's better than my team being taken this time, sir. Yes, sir, tonight. You have a better day too, sir." He hung up and smirked. He was sure his past director was *enjoying* himself a lot.
Castle sighed, looking at the moping person in front of him. "Have you even talked to him?" he asked her, going back to his writing. She had invaded his space very early. Usually he was in bed but his daughter had needed a ride to school.
"No, he won't take any calls. Not even Tara's." Paula huffed. "I don't know what's wrong with him."
"Every female in his life acted like a bitch," he said dryly. "Including you. What did you want him to do, crawl and beg for caring?"
"No!" He stared at her. "I was upset."
"Then I'd tell him that."
"How can I if he doesn't answer his phone?" she spat.
"Convention." He smirked. "Tara's going too."
She sighed. "You think?"
"He hasn't missed one yet."
"Good!" She stomped off. Rick waved at her back, smirking at it. He sent an email to Tara about the convention. She made the reservations for them. He had to find the kid since some government cover up had moved his cabin. He wasn't sure what the kid had done this time. He was only supposed to be healing, how had he run into a covert government project this time? And was it really bad enough that they had to relocate his *vacation* home but not his regular home? Then again, if he asked he might get freaked out so he might not ask him after all. Just figure out where he was so the women could nag him in person instead of Paula complaining to him when he was trying to write.
He saw one from the kid and smirked, looking at it. It was short and simple and said he was on his phone. He wrote one back reminding him of the convention. He didn't say that he was going to be ambushed. The kid needed it. He did send a second one wondering about the relocation. That one got answered. "Interesting. I thought they got disbanded." He sent that back and reminded him again about the convention. Someone had to ask good questions in the newbie panels.
Of course, the usual happened and his muses hit right after talking to the kid.
He had no idea why that happened. He desperately wanted to know why, because right now he wanted to run to the bathroom and couldn't because he would lose what they had just given him.
General Landry looked at the picture on his monitor. It was taking an incredible amount of power. "Colonel Sheppard, I have sent you a tape General O'Neill was given by some ODN beings that are looking helpful for our fight. Find out if there's anything like that in your galaxy. It's not something to watch around others, to put it bluntly, but it was sent as an offer by one of the ODN to Doctor Jackson for some information being exchanged. I also sent you the details of a closed, sealed, and buried project, of which you have three members and another who later served in another problem squad that was related back to it. I want formal evaluations of what sort of screw ups they are and if they're still in the same mindset. It was not pretty, it included torture, and yes they are real."
"Sir, is the tape something that I should lock up? Classified?"
"No, the ODN being was propositioning Doctor Jackson sexually."
"So it's porn?"
"Yes. Unfortunately. We had a lot of very drunk people thanks to that."
"What's an ODN?"
"Other dimensional native."
Sheppard gave him an odd look. "Really?" Landry nodded. "Huh. Okay. This project, how bad?"
"I was ready to kill the two people that ended up disclosing it because General O'Neill's fishing cabin got a new neighbor they were worried might corrupt us."
"Interesting. So these four?"
"Three were with the project. The other was on a later covert, problem solving team that was sanctioned by the UN. We know they didn't fight back against that project. We need to know if they're still fuck ups and how badly. Plus if you have demons in your galaxy." He hung up to save on power. Now, Sheppard could have a headache. With their luck, the tape would be a warning because everything with tentacles in that galaxy would want them. The two 'first' teams seemed to have problems like that. And now, Jackson and Mitchell could quit drinking and Carter could quit drinking while doing physics and math, before she blew up somewhere else by accident.
John Sheppard walked out, taking the box from the newly arrived supplies. "Is this what General Landry sent?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. As far as we know. It's the only thing addressed to you."
"Thank you." He went back into his office, darkening the walls so no one could see whatever was inside. Sure enough there was *two* tapes now. One had a bit of stuff on the side so he'd get to clean that off. He would not ruin the only VCR on Atlantis with it. There was also a CD and a printed booklet. He looked at it first, grimacing. "Demons?" he muttered. He ran the CD and got into the files. That... Okay, yeah, they were fuck ups. Bad fuck ups. He paged McKay. "Bring a swab," he added at the end before hanging up. The head of the scientists and his friend got there a few minutes later. "Figure out what that slime is."
"Why is it on a tape?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "But it's probably not a pretty tape." McKay grimaced, looking at the writing on it. "Is that Ancient?"
"No, it's a related language." He scraped off all the goo and used a tissue to get the rest with some alcohol. "What's the booklet and whatever you're reading? New information?"
"About a sealed and buried project that we have members of." He looked up. "What would you say if I told you the military had evidence of demons and other dimensional natives?"
"I'd call the medical team immediately. Should I?" The screen got tipped toward him. "That makes no...." John started one of the video files, making him grimace. "What is that?"
"I don't know," John admitted. "Landry sent it to warn us some of their people were here, and to see if we had any in this galaxy. Those two are probably both porn, apparently someone wanted to Jackson to exchange his ass for information." He shut down the show when it got too gruesome for him. McKay was nearly growling. He found the listed personnel. Three were highlighted.
"They missed one. He's in botany," McKay said.
"I'm to do an eval, see if they're still like that and fucking up, and we need to see if there's any in this galaxy. The enclosed note in the booklet said that they've been around longer than the ancients."
"You can have him. Shall I gather?"
John pointed at another name. "Him too please. Apparently they went from this to a UN sanctioned problem solving team."
"Wonderful," he said snidely. "Can we space them?"
"I haven't decided yet. I might use them as wraith bait if they're still like this." McKay nodded. "Get the soldiers first, then I'll deal with yours."
"That's fine. May I have those notes in case they become pertinent?"
"See if the database has anything on them first. The note from Landry said that they were around and helped during the first war with the Gou'ald."
"Gladly." He left.
Woolsey walked in. "Is that important information?"
"On a closed, sealed, very bad idea of a project. We have some of their members here and I'm to see if they're still that evil."
"That's fine then. The tapes?" he said, noticing them.
"Some ODN beings have come into contact with the main base. They propositioned Jackson in return for information. We're to see if there's any up here and if the database knows anything."
"Other dimensional natives."
"Dimensions?" He came over to look. John let him have the booklet. He read it. "Is General Landry having a mentally unstable moment?"
John looked at him. "The tapes are demon porn, Woolsey. Don't believe me, run them. The top one had goo on it. McKay wiped it clean so watch out."
He took them to run, shooing everyone else away from the VCR. What he saw horrified him. They wanted members of the military to do *that*! How dare they! He switched tapes and the second one had more beings. "Hold on, is that a wraith?" he asked, his mind latching onto a scientific piece of evidence. "McKay to the tv room," he called over the comm. He came stomping in. Woolsey rewound it. "The figure in the back, is that a wraith?"
He looked, ignoring the things going on. "Possibly. It looks almost the same but the eyes are different." He ejected the tape. "I'll have one of the mealy minded ones figure that out." He walked off with both of them before they warped more Marines. No wonder Jackson was drunk! He'd be drunk too if they had alcohol up there. It was thoughtful of him to email him a drunken warning. Now all he needed was to not have to see those ever again. Because of course they'd want him for his giant brain if they had wanted Jackson for his.
Back in his office, Sheppard had turned off the teleplay of that 'testing video'. "Now, we're going to talk. General Landry got told and is not pleased." The four Marines didn't look pleased that he had that video.
"Sir, I wasn't part of that," one said.
"No, you were part of the later teams. Or so I was told." He stared him down.
"Colonel, we took out problems that were eating, killing, and making slaves of people," he said firmly. "That stuff sickens me to hell and back."
"Good!" He looked at the other three. "How many of you are there on base? We know about one in botany."
"One in astrology," one whispered. "How did this get known?"
"I bet they had a case in Sunnydale," the one next to him said. "It's screwed up enough to get attention that way."
"From what General Landry said, O'Neill's fishing cabin got a new neighbor and the people behind this crap freaked and ended up exposing it." Sheppard looked at them. "I want an account of what you did, why you did it, if you're still having urges to do it, and if you have done it in this galaxy or on any other SG trip. Let me make myself perfectly clear that if I don't like your answers, you won't be here and if I find out you've lied, I'll use you as wraith bait. Am I clear?" They all nodded. "That includes you," he told the non-member. "I want it by tonight. Consider it confession. Especially since one of them approached Jackson for an information exchange sexually. We're to find out if there's any in this galaxy and if there is you'd better hope like hell you don't have a flashback and make things harder on this project."
"Yes, sir," they agreed, standing up and saluting before leaving.
"I want that other name," he called after them. "I'm meeting with them next."
"Yes, sir," one said. He went to gather them and hand them to Sheppard. And one he barely recognized. Sheppard gave him a look. "Sir, I know she was there but I'm not sure in what area." He left to write out his confession/suicide note. Sheppard was a hard ass when he needed to be and they would be given as wraith bait. There was no way he wouldn't know if they weren't lying. They had the files from the project. He was so dead. He ran into McKay. "Sir, I was told Jackson was approached by one. How do we know this?"
"Two tapes," he said dryly. "Can you identify species?"
"We gave them designations, sir." He looked around then pointed. "The British guy might know more though. I have reason to believe he's a Watcher, from their council."
"There's a chosen, mystically chosen, warrior female that they control and lord over the line of, sir. Their job is information gathering."
"Mystics now?' McKay snorted.
"Sir, my project was brought down by a carpenter, that female warrior, two witches, and one of their sort," he said bluntly. "Yes, magic is real. Rosenburg scared the crap out of us a few times."
"I see." He stared at him. "Do we think he can identify those creatures on the tape?"
"I'd hope so, sir. That's his job if he's one of them. If he's not, he'd know which one was on base."
"Thank you. Do whatever Sheppard has you doing before he guts you for that."
"Sir, I found three in the labs," he said quietly before he could walk off. "I delivered them to him."
"Then I might consider having the doctors drug you before we hand you to a wraith." He walked off to get that one, hauling him up and out onto the balcony. "You're what's called a Watcher?"
The man stared at him. "What do you mean, Doctor McKay?"
"General Landry sent information on a closed project out of Sunnydale."
"Aw, shite!" he complained, grimacing at him. "Yes I am. The Council wanted to know if there's demons up here."
"So do we now since apparently they have information on at least the gou'ald and possibly the Ori. If not the wraith and Ancients too. I want everything you have and there's tapes for you to identify species on."
"Tapes?" he asked with a grimace.
"Doctor Jackson got approached by an ODN being for an information exchange. They gave him encouragement to enjoy it."
"Oh, demon porn." He grimaced. "I can."
"One looks like a wraith?"
"It's a cousin to them. A succuba crossover from what we think. It doesn't eat life force. It eats DNA from sperm." McKay gave him the most horrified look. "Can I get into the Initiative's files?"
"That's up to Sheppard. I'd suggest you bring what you know to him."
"I can do that, sir. Thank you."
"I'll be there as well. Especially with the goo we found on one tape."
"It's probably slime or ichor, Doctor McKay. Some are like that and one even shoots paralyzing snot." He walked inside, going to his quarters to get the one personal item he had carried to Atlantis: a magical trunk full of shrunken books. He walked into Sheppard's office. "Doctor McKay said you wanted to talk to me with him present, sir."
"Why? Were you part of that program?"
"No, sir, I'm with the Watchers Council. It's our job to help the Slayer. If that's the Initiative's files, her name is Summers."
"She's listed," he admitted. "What do you know?"
"Quite a lot; it's our job, sir. Doctor McKay said he wanted to be here for this." John paged him and he came in looking disgusted. He opened the trunk and took out the shrunken trunks inside to open them.
"How did it do that!" McKay demanded, taking one to look over.
"Magic." He shrugged. "We deal with it more than we do technology. Half the Council doesn't even like computers." He looked at something and handed over a specific book. "One of the identification manuals. We have about thirty of them then on various species."
Sheppard flipped through it. "Why give me this one?"
"About page three hundred and eleven, sir. A cousin to the wraith."
John found it, reading it over. McKay snatched it from him. "Interesting."
"I was ordered to identify beings on the tapes that got sent and to help you see if there's any in this galaxy?"
"Plus find out if there's anything in the databases."
"I'd assume there was since the Ancients made the slayer line, sir. They were not fond of the demons who used to rule the world."
John stared at him. "Jackson will want to know that."
"I'm sure he would and I'd never let anyone sane go to one of them as a plaything, Colonel. That'd be evil of me."
"How was this found out?"
"Someone moved next to O'Neill. They ended up disclosing it."
"Hmm. Must be Harris. He tends to get things mixed up that way. That's why the Council has a bounty on his head, for stepping in and messing things up."
"Does he know this?" McKay asked.
"That we hate him? Probably. The bounty I'm not sure about."
"I'll pass that back to Landry so he can tell whoever," Sheppard decided.
"That's fine, sir."
"Let's go over this." The guy pulled out another book. "History?"
"A true history, yes, Colonel. Including Ancients. Most of the time they were taken out and just called humans in our history books."
"Thank you. Show McKay how to do that."
"I can barely light a candle. These were sent to me already packed, sir. In case I needed them. I've been wanting to test Miss ...."
"Hell no," Sheppard interrupted.
"We think she has the same gifts as a slayer."
"She'll end you too," he assured him. "No."
"It's a simple skin scraping into a solution test," he offered. "It will not harm her. Since the Ancients made slayers, that is one question we were wondering about. Or if the ATA gene is related back to the slayer line."
"Most of them are males," McKay reminded him. He looked at him. "This seems very scientifically done. Did we do like the others have?"
"I have no idea but we do not currently do scientific research that way. Our research council is now more focused on improving the slayer genes and taking unsuitable girls out of line without killing them."
"That's barbaric," Sheppard said bluntly.
"There's a lot of us who want to change the system but we're not in charge. Quentin Travers is. He adores the old ways because it gives him more power over the slayers. He sees them as his personal army. Summers does not conform and he hates her for that. Unfortunately with the way that Harris brought her back to life we have two. It's not Summers' death that will call the next into being so we have to leave her alone until she dies in a battle. Then the slayer Lehane would either be killed in prison or gotten out so she could do her duty until she passed on and a more suitable slayer was called."
"Still barbaric," Sheppard assured him dryly. This was not amusing him.
"It's not my call, sir. It's Travers' and he's an ass."
"I think Landry will hear about him," Sheppard said, starting a new list of notes about this stuff. "Did your people know about this project?"
"The backers, not exactly what they were doing or we would have laughed."
"Their files have something on werewolves."
"We have known for a while that there is a way to go around the common problems that they have, outside of the allergy to silver. Some Tibetan monastery has a way to help them control the shifting."
"We can get into specific examples that aren't pertinent up here later," Sheppard decided. "For now, tell me how badly this is fucked up and how many ODN are in this galaxy."
"I've only found evidence of a few tribes," the watcher said. "All peaceful and apparently extinct thanks to the wraith."
"That's a good place to start," McKay said. "Identify them in case we run into them." He pulled out another book with a sigh.
Xander walked into the convention and took a deep breath. He could do this. "This is nice." They had switched the convention to a more upscale hotel this year. A lot more glass and modern fixtures than the cheaper Hilton they usually used. He went to the bar. Castle was in there. "Thank you for nagging."
"You're welcome, kid." He looked at him. "You look good. Toned. Way too much weight lost."
"Yeah, I heard you said that right before you nearly passed out at the feet of a cute doctor." He smirked. His contacts had giggled about that and him nearly beating a general for being a nosy neighbor. "How cute?"
"Very but huge ass needles. A lot of smartasses though and I made people panic just by showing up. I didn't know I was that strong." He sat down. "Beer?" Castle gave him a sideways look. "Flight had nothing but sneezing and crying."
"I can understand that. Mine too," he sighed. "Thankfully business class had a privacy curtain that cut some of it out." He took a sip. "So you're healthy?" Xander nodded. "Still stuck?"
Xander snorted. "My demented muses are having a field day giving me nightmares."
"Garden gnomes for some reason. Paisley shirt, brown pants, neon blue hats, huge noses, dancing and signing around about how they were going to drive me insane. During the last one I think I told them they weren't because I'd give them up for good. I haven't had it for two days." He handed over his new PDA. "It's the big file."
Castle got into it, snickering at it. "That's something we've all had." He kept reading, giggling as he went. "It's cute." He looked at the kid, who looked upset. "She's going to apologize."
"The others haven't?"
"No. Not that I'm in the mood to hear it from them."
"They're not here. Relax."
"Welcome. Paula is."
"You can give her that."
"I might print it to hand out to the newbie panel."
"Go ahead if you want." He finished his beer. "Let me nap before the first panel." He turned and nearly ran into someone. "Tara?"
"The kitty misses you."
"I miss you both too." He gave her a hug. "It's okay. You'll like the new place. It has bedrooms."
She sniffed him. Then she pulled back. "Graphite?"
"Okay." She backed off. "You're coming home?"
"Yeah, after this." He smiled. "It's going to be okay."
"Are you writing?"
"I made the demented dreams stop." He pointed at his PDA. She took it to read, giggling. She corrected some things on him too. He grinned at Castle. Then at her. "Let me nap?"
"Here in LA somewhere. Still confused why you got so mad." She looked at him. "I talked to Joyce. She's going to beat her." Xander beamed, kissing her on the cheek. He went up to his room to rest after draining his beer and putting down a few dollars. She looked at him. "Do we think it's still a problem?"
"I don't know. It's nice that I haven't needed to go write myself after talking to him."
She punched him on the arm, then blushed. "Sorry." She handed back the PDA.
"That's his but I was going to print it for the newbies."
"He bought a PDA?"
"No new royalty checks in weeks," she said quietly.
"He said he got extra from the sale of the first cabin."
"You talked to him?"
"I nagged him a few times to remind him about the convention." She punched him again and left him with the PDA. He smiled, going to the in-hotel copy center to run those off. It was only a few pages and the newbie panel would like that. Paula found him first so he handed her a copy. She was muttering while reading it. He finished running them off and went to drop them in the room. He waved at his co-panelists. "Two hours, right?"
"Yup." She went back to typing on her laptop.
"Make sure the new writers get those. Harris wrote them because his muses were tormenting him." She snickered, taking one to read. She cackled. "Exactly. I thought they might like that." He went to find Paula, who was talking to Tara. "He's resting. The flight had a lot of crying and sick people."
Tara shrugged. "I think he's probably tired from whatever reason that made him smell like graphite more."
"He really needs to stop that," Paula complained. "Before he gets too hurt."
"He's a white knight, Paula. He'll never stop it."
"He'll end up dying."
"You're damn lucky he didn't die last time," he said quietly. "So quit nagging and apologize already." He walked off. His daughter was here. He grabbed her and walked her back. "Alexis, this is Tara. She's like Xander's sister. She's got a lot of brains and she's a librarian." He walked off again.
Alexis looked at her father's back then at Paula. "Huh."
"He's going strange. He needs to get laid or something." She sighed and walked off.
"Okay." Tara laughed. "My father's being strange."
"I think all writers are a bit strange," Tara told her quietly. "Xander forgets to eat."
Alexis smiled. "I've seen him do that to my dad somehow. So, what do you do besides library stuff?"
"I help my aunt sometimes at her herbal store." She looked around. "Chairs?" she suggested.
"That's a good idea. These shoes are new and they hurt." She walked over to talk to her. Her dad clearly wasn't hitting on this one so it wasn't an 'introducing the new stepmom' meeting. But she seemed kind of cool in her own way. Maybe. In a few minutes they were giggling. Tara definitely understood her better than her dad did.
Xander looked up from his coffee when someone sat next to him. "Hi, Paula."
"Xander, I should not have sniped at you. You were right, I was getting too sick, and I was wrong."
He gave her a hug. "I won't fuss."
"Yes you will," she sighed. "You're that sort of person." She stared at him. "I don't mind but don't do it in public, don't think that you've got the same rights as a sibling, and I won't complain too often back. Deal?"
He nodded. "I can handle that. Are you feeling all right?"
"I'm fine. Are you still blocked?"
"My muses are demented."
"I saw that story. Nothing?" He shook his head. "At all?"
"A small nibble but no. But hey, I've got five years of stuff backlogged."
"Yes you do. Have you had this before?"
"Slow down during apocalypses?"
"But you're over that one."
"It could be where you're injured," Tara said, giving him a kiss on the head as she and Alexis walked past. "I'm going to blow my paycheck."
"Go for it," he said with a smile. He handed her his wallet, getting a look back. "I'm sure I have a royalty check somewhere, Paula?"
"Or four." She handed them to Tara. "If you had told me I would've let you deposit them."
"It's okay, she's mean," Alexis told her. "C'mon. There's some great stores up the street." She walked off with Tara.
"Make sure nothing like our stuff runs into her," Xander called.
Tara smiled. "They're at Joyce's. I checked." Alexis looked at her. "My ex-girlfriend."
"Ah." She smiled. "My mom's somewhere in town too. I'll snark at yours, you can tell mine off?"
"If I can. I'm not usually that sort of girl."
"Don't' worry, she'll annoy you enough to get past the shyness, Tara." She took her arm, leading her up to the bank and then to the stores. She introduced Tara to some hipper clothes. She talked her into some pretty pants outfits. Tara introduce her to a goth shop that had a dress that looked stunning on her. Not that her father would like it. It was black, had leather highlights, and a corset. It made her look a lot more womanly than she was with the new bras they had just bought.
Tara looked up when someone came in, groaning quietly. "Daniel," she said quietly.
"Tara." He stared at her. "She tried something?"
"Tried, I turned her down," she promised.
"I know." He looked at her. "I don't know what to do about her."
"Maybe she's scared? Alexis' dad thought that she might be scared of being committed."
"She cheats on me and she'll need to be committed," he said dryly, his accent making Alexis sweat. He smiled at her. "You're cute but I'm married, young thing."
"A girl can swoon, right?"
"Definitely." He looked her over then Tara. "If you goth her up too much, her parents might mind."
"I don't think she needs to goth up more." She pulled down something and handed it over with a wink. "I had one like that." Alexis went to try it on. She looked at Willow's husband. "I tried."
"I know." He patted her on the arm. "Think she'd like to have a baby?"
"I think she'd freak but she might be okay once she calms down. I'd worry about her magic."
"No, that shit's gonna stop except for emergencies," he assured her.
"She tried a memory spell," she said quietly.
"On you?" She nodded, swallowing. "I don't believe in beating my women but that one...." He sighed, giving her a gentle hug. "I'll talk with her. She's mine now and I'll handle it or I'll have a priest fix her." She grinned, shaking her head. "Do you two need an escort back? Buffy's up this way."
"Oooh. We're going back to the convention."
"She knows he's there."
"I'll try to divert her." He winked at Alexis. "Well, that you look much more innocent and like some ancient rite was about to take you." He walked off with a blush.
Tara looked and nodded. "You do."
"Good! I can wear it to a dance." She bought both outfits and walked off with Tara and their bags. "Is everything okay?"
"My ex is somewhere around here. Buffy's going to talk to Xander and he's going to scream at her. I don't want to get in the middle of that."
"Good. You shouldn't. He should be able to yell at her if she did him wrong." She got them a cab and headed to her mother's condo. "I think it's time that I said hi. Do you mind?"
"No, not at all." She smiled. "I'll be your backup."
"Thank you." She paid and they got out with their bags, heading up to the right place once Alexis had signed them in with security, who took the bags for now. She walked up to the door, pausing. Tara patted her on the back. She winked and knocked. Her mother opened the door, goop on her face, towel around her hair. "Mom."
"Alexis?" she demanded, staring at her. "Oh, my god, what are you wearing?"
"I like it. I bought it for a dance. This is Tara. She's the sister of a writer Dad knows." She walked inside with Tara. "We're breaking our path because Tara's former girlfriend is trying to do stupid stuff. So I thought I'd say hi."
She closed the door, staring at her. "She's not trying for you?"
"No!" Tara complained quietly. "She's much too young for that!"
"Good!" She sat down, staring at her daughter. "You look like an old painting in that."
"Cool. Dad can't say I look too old."
"No, he can't," she sighed. "So, you're in town for a long time?"
"Oh, that thing. Let me get presentable." She went to wash off the goop and do her hair. She came out expertly dressed and looked her daughter over again. "You're getting too old."
"No you're not," she sighed. "I never was. Is Martha in?"
"No, Grandma's at home. Paula's here."
"That's fine. We can talk about him behind his back. Come on, I'll drive you two back. Before my boyfriend sees you two and figures out I lied about my age." Alexis laughed at that. "He might hit on you both, dear."
Tara shook her head. "No. Not my thing, thank you anyway."
"Good. Though you'd have to train him in bed. I am." She let the girls get their bags from security while she got her car out of the garage.
"Maybe I should change into the other dress?" Alexis asked. "It makes me look less ancient."
"Please don't. I'll feel even more ancient," her mother complained. "Or does it make you look more innocent?"
"Not hardly. I look like the goddess I am in this dress debauched me and made me a woman in that one."
Her mother moaned. "I want to see it. So will your father."
"Dad will. I'll wear it to dinner." She beamed. "Conventions are meant for fun. He even complains I don't get very wild."
"That dress will cure that," she decided. "Remember to use reliable birth control because I would not stand being a grandmother yet." She got directed to the hotel and they walked in, Tara walking Alexis around Buffy and Xander having a fight.
He spotted her, she noted when he noticed her. Buffy didn't. Security was going to try to break them up. She tapped one on the arm, shaking her head. "Don't. She'll attack, she had martial arts training," Tara said quietly. "Let him move them. They're old friends." He nodded, moving forward to break into it and ask them to move it somewhere else. Xander grabbed her by the arm and hauled her outside to tell her off some more. Tara smiled at Alexis. "It's okay. She needs to hear that. She has special girl syndrome."
"I've seen some girls in school that have that." She ran into her father and mother. Her mother had pounced him for a kiss. She smiled at them. "Maybe I'll get a sibling out of it?"
Her pulled back. "No. You know that. What are you wearing?"
"Tara helped me find it. You like? It's for a dance."
He stared at her. "No, I don't; someone might want to find a ceremonial knife or an altar."
"I'd never let them." She kissed him on the cheek. "I got something for the dinner too."
"Is it like that?"
"No." She beamed. "You did want me to explore some more."
"Yeah, but not that way. I'm not ready for that yet." Xander stomped in. "Xander?" He came over, staring at Alexis. "My daughter, kid."
"I realized that. She kinda looks like you." He looked her over, nodding. "Tara has that same dress in baby blue. I always feel like I should chaperone her when she wears it. Did you get sandals too?"
"No, no new shoes."
"Pity." He looked at Tara. "I already ran her off." She kissed him on the cheek. "Did you get anything for the dinner?"
"I have something new."
"Don't make me make you shop."
"I won't. You'll have flashbacks to Buffy." She patted him on the chest. "Is she better?"
"I hope so. C'mon, I'll escort you up to your rooms, ladies. Let them snog." They giggled but let him escort them up.
"She's much too old now," Alexis' mother sighed.
"She's a good girl usually. I've been nagging her about staying home all the time. Clearly she thinks I'm over reacting." He stared at the elevator then at her. "You okay?"
"My new boyfriend doesn't suck. At all." He smirked at her. "I'm feeling needy."
"Of course you are. I have a panel in an hour." He checked his watch. "Forty minutes."
"I can be happy in that time."
He smirked, taking her upstairs. Alexis had left the bags in there but had apparently went to Tara and Xander's room. That helped.
Xander smiled as he escorted the girls down, handing Castle his daughter. "Yours. Tara helped her buy it."
"It makes her look....much too old," he complained. His daughter smirked. "This is payback for nagging, isn't it?"
"Yes." She beamed at him. "And maybe I'll find a nice boyfriend soon?"
"You're not wearing that again until you're seventeen unless you're going out to be wild and then I'm packing your purse for you with mace and condoms."
"I already carry mace, dad."
"Good! You might need it." He looked her over again. "New shoes?"
"Yup. We snuck out a bit ago." She walked him into the dinner.
Xander smirked at Tara. "You do look very nice. I like the hair." She smiled so he took her arm and walked her inside. A few of the authors he knew stared. "This is Tara," he told one of them. "My near sister and minder." They smiled and shook her hand. He got them sat down, with Paula at their tables. "Didn't the girls do nicely today?"
"Alexis looks like some evil goddess figure," she said. "Tara, you're much too nice to pull that off." Tara blushed, ducking her head.
"Every girl has a bit of naughty in them," Xander said dryly.
"Maybe. Alexis usually doesn't."
"Should've seen her earlier."
"I did see the floating white dress. I had hopes that I wouldn't have to make her father not shoot someone for debauching her." She sipped her wine. "Tara, the dinner is always dry and fairly bland. Like every other function's dinner."
"That's okay. We had dinner while shoe shopping. He can have most of mine and I'll have the veggies."
"If that works for you, go for it." She looked at Xander. "I told Donnie you resurfaced. He sent a virtual hug and wanted to know what was wrong with your muses. I sent him that one Castle was running off. He was very amused and suggested you have one really good night drunk?"
"I've done that before," he admitted. "That's when I got muses."
"So maybe it'll help. I'm in my own room," Tara reminded him quietly.
He smiled. "Then I can't have fun the rest of the weekend. Though...." He glared when he spotted someone. "I'll be right back," he said, walking that way, grabbing Wesley by the arm to walk him off. "Yes, Wesley? Let me guess, she decided I was mean?"
"Well, slightly, until Angel and Cordelia agreed that you were right to be upset with her." He got free, looking at him. "We're more worried about the rumor going around that you had to help Captain Finn with something?"
"I bought a cabin near a general who works on another covert project, who sneered at Riley and Graham a lot, and they were worried I'd warp them. They already had NID problems and me being there meant they got disclosure about the Initiative crap."
"Oh, so no job?"
"No. Riley's boss made him switch my cabin to one in the midwest instead. That way my supposed luck wouldn't hit them."
"That's wonderful. I'll tell them that so they can relax."
Xander smiled. "Ask Max. I introduced them because they're looking for accounts of an ancient war."
"Past the demon wars, one where they worked together in Egypt and places?"
"Ah!" He nodded quickly. "I know where some accounts are. I'll send them to Captain Finn for them."
"When they got disclosed, I said to ask you that and to ask Angel about other things, like possibly their problems joining with yours."
"Even better. I look forward to that talk." He smiled. "Are you better? I heard you were injured from Max."
"A broken rib shifted, caused internal bleeding. They helped that and fixed the taint I was bleeding off."
"Wonderful." He patted him on the arm. "Tell Tara she looked fantastic. That Daniel and Willow are out of town for the rest of the weekend so he can talk to her in a serious manner."
"Tara said Willow tried to memory spell her."
"Oh, dear, Christ," he muttered. "If he doesn't stop her, I shall with Rupert's help, Xander. Do not fear."
"Just...not unless it's an emergency, Wes."
"I understand why and I respect that. They were wrong to leave that way. Especially since I heard you had knowledgeable locals in the department." Xander nodded. "Then well done and thank you for that help, even if she didn't say it. Be safe and happier in New York, Xander. Rupert said the same." He left.
Xander breathed and went back to the table. "Daniel and Willow are out of town for the rest of the weekend."
"I talked to Daniel earlier."
"Good. Wes said he'd talk to her about magic abuse too." He looked at her.
"I told him," she admitted.
"Cool." He gave her hand a squeeze.
"Just kiss her already," a male voice called.
"She's like my sister and I'm not her type," Xander called back. "She like them sweeter than I am." A few others laughed. "Excuse him. Conventions are for letting go. He's probably drunk."
She looked then nodded. "Maybe." Their meals came and Xander got most of hers. It'd go well. The dance had some nice people. Xander introduced her to two other authors, who smiled and danced with her. Castle had a fierce look on his face since his daughter was dancing with one of the under eighteen new authors at the convention. Tara walked over to him. "She's growing up."
"Yes she is," Rick agreed. "Did you have to make her look so...adult?"
"Yes. She picked out that one. I picked out the white one." She smiled.
"I'd rather have her in this one than that one. That one might give him thoughts."
She patted him on the arm, smiling at him. "Maybe but a bit of thinking can be good for a girl."
He smiled at her. "Has he beaten your parents?"
"Buffy almost did."
"Good! If they show up in New York, let me know so I can get popcorn." She giggled and walled off. Paula let her dance with her since she was a bit tipsy.
Xander got free of his latest groping attempt and walked over to the staring father, staring at Alexis. "Want to know where she got it?"
"No. I might go protest."
"Okay. The shop in New York is on 51st." He strolled off, taking Paula from Tara. Paula gave him a look. He smirked back. "I'm being a big hero and saving you from pinching from your next dance partner."
"Thank you for that. My butt's already numb."
He smirked. "I could be mean and say something."
She swatted him. "Do not."
"Fine." He danced her off.
Xander got back to the house, tripping over the pile of mail. Tara grabbed it while the cat ignored them for daring to leave her alone all weekend. Xander petted her, getting a dirty look. He smirked. "Fussy." He went upstairs to toss his bag on his bed and came down to check the fridge. She gave him a nudge out of the way, pulling out something to snack on. He gave her a pleading look.
"Only if you sit down and write one paragraph of something."
"Fine." He opened his laptop up and got into his word processing program.
"Xander, even if you can't write what you usually do, start off with the anger. Just write it out. I won't try to proofread it."
He looked up at her. "That seems wrong."
"No, it's not. It's getting it out of you. Start with her name and move on from there. You don't have to worry about sentences or anything like that. Just write it out so you don't have to chop down a forest."
"I only did seven trees," he defended.
"In Colorado. How many in wherever?"
"Upper peninsula Michigan."
"Okay, Michigan. How many?"
"Seven, eight, something like that. She decided to text me."
She stroked over his hair. "Just write their names and let it flow."
"I sucked at free form writing."
"No one's going to read it, Xander. Not unless you write them into something and kill them off."
"Then make them a zombie and do it again?" he quipped sarcastically.
"If you want to. Make sure you name her something else." She petted him again. "You can even include the dangers of magic addiction in the hunter series."
"Yeah, I can," he realized. He settled in to work on some of the anger. That wasn't a bad idea. He didn't even realize when she put a snack and soda down beside him at the desk. It was helping more than chopping wood and it hurt his ribs a lot less. That may be the best thing yet. Eventually he moved to a new hunting novel. Not in the series, but that was fine with him. He was proud of himself, he didn't even write himself into it. The lead female hunter was very mean in his place.
He was going along well until he heard yelling at a cat. He looked at his lap. Miss Kitty stared back at him. She always seemed to sneak into his lap to nap while he was writing. "You're the only cat in the building," he told her. She gave him a silent meow and hopped down to pace against the door. Xander got up and grabbed a small, for him, knife heading down the stairs to check it out. He came around the final bend in the stairs. There was a red mottled cat staring at the detectives working. "What's up with him, guys? His girlfriend/fiancee/ whatever have another fit?"
Beckett stared at him. "I forgot this was your building."
Xander nodded. "Yeah. When we got back, they were having another psycho fit."
"Psycho fit?" one of the other detectives asked.
"Yeah, she was screaming at him and he kept going 'just calm down, it'll be okay, if you can calm down I'll call the doctor so he can fix it'." He leaned against the wall. "I've offered my help getting him to an abuse shelter but he said that she was on the medicine roulette dance and apologized for her."
"Okay," Beckett said. "Girlfriend?"
"He said girlfriend mostly, fiancee once, she tried to say she was a full wife."
"Can you describe her?"
"Yeah." He leaned in and pointed. "That's her a few years back," he said. It was a nice, large picture.
The detective walked in and looked. "She let us in."
"Okay," Beckett agreed. "Is that your cat?"
Xander stared at the cat. "No, and it's not a cat." He picked it up by the scruff of the neck. One of the detectives started to make a complaining noise. He shook it and the cat changed. He smirked at her. "You're on the wrong coast," he said dryly. "Why?"
Beckett yelped, getting away from the tongue that had attacked her leg. "What are you doing?"
"Miss Kitty loves you," Xander said dryly. "The last time she did that to me, I had gotten bitten by some sand fleas."
"I do have some bug bites, but really." She picked the cat up and handed it to him. Miss Kitty got held carefully. "Is she related to this, Mr. Harris?"
"No, this is Tara's ex." He handed her over. "Give me a second to put the cat back." He went to toss her back inside and shut the door, coming back to grab Willow again. Tara was in the bathroom so she didn't know. He walked her around the body and outside, not saying a word to her no matter how much she complained back at him.
Beckett looked down a few minutes later when she felt new whiskers against her leg. "They're fine, cat. Really. Thank you for that though."
Castle walked in. "Ah, the complaining ones. She's trying to figure out which medicine works the best from what he said."
"How bad of a medicine case was she?" Espisito asked.
"Well beyond Thorazine helping. She was far enough gone that she needs to be on the drugs that create the zombies who wander while talking to themselves." He picked up the cat. "Tara?" he called. She came bouncing down and he handed her over.
"You must've jumped from the balcony to the neighbor's grill again," she sighed. "I'm sorry. Did she bother you?"
"She was very helpfully licking some bug bites for me," Beckett said.
Tara blushed. "I'm sorry. I'm sure she thought you were nice." She fled back up the stairs.
Castle smiled at her. "The cat has good taste." She huffed and turned away. "We seen the kid yet?"
"Not since he dragged someone out of here by her neck," the other detective said. "We're going to ignore how she had been a cat."
"That would be Willow?" They all nodded. "I hope he finds someone to deal with her then. She's been trying to upset Tara again."
"Stalking?" Beckett asked.
"That too." He grimaced, looking up there. "She looked happy so he didn't tell her. It'll be fine. He'll handle it."
"Without a new body?" she asked.
"Yes, without a body."
Xander walked her into a church struggling and trying to hit him. "Father?"
"Sir, we don't appreciate abusers here," he said calmly.
"She's not mine. Her husband is totally pissed at her though. So is her ex girlfriend who she's stalking." She shrieked. He shook her. She tried to change and then came back to human. "She's been hurting others on purpose with that sort of skill," he said at the horrified look. "I know there's a priest in the city who deals with those things."
"I know of him, my son. Is she Catholic?"
"No. Her husband is. She's addicted to her skills."
"I'll call the one I know, sir. Can you hold her?"
"Gladly. Before she hurts someone else." He glared at her when she started to mutter. "I will knock you out," he offered.
She stopped. "It's your fault," she sneered.
"I'm not the one who slept with my girlfriend. You did."
"You still gave her that curse," she complained.
"Remember, Willow, there is a cross curse that I can do to you and she can do to Anya."
She opened her mouth then gave him a smug look. "Statute of limitations."
"Do you really think that they won't deal with you because you cause everything everywhere problems? I can call one to come tell you that."
"Not in the church," she said smugly.
"Vengeance and other wish demons aren't bothered by holy objects," he said bluntly. She shrank back. The priest came back. "Should I knock her out, Father?"
"He'll be right here, son. He's in this borough. He knew he'd be needed somewhere near Manhattan today."
"That's fine." Xander turned and punched her, making her scream as she was knocked out. "That's helpful. Before she casts more magic on you, Father." He shuddered. "She didn't get to finish. It'll wash away later." A large man stomped in. "You're Black Morgan," he said.
"I am. You brought her in, sir?"
"Xander Harris," he said, holding out a hand.
The priest shook his hand. "Is she a demon?"
"Not yet. She's a magic addict right now. She's been casting memory spells to hurt her husband and ex-girlfriend."
"Technically she was bi, but after she cheated the last time, her ex asked the vengeance demon to give her a happy marriage with children. It'd help her be redeemed and also make her learn how to be more responsible. He knows this and he's very happy anyway. She is when she's not going after her ex to make her beg."
"That's a bit... Was she in Sunnydale?"
"This is Willow Rosenburg, yes." The priest stared at him. "I take it you met Anya?"
"I made a special trip. She's satisfied."
"Which was what I wanted." He picked Willow up, handing her over. "She's doing neat things like memory spells. Trying to get others to take the blame for things she's done. She warped Slayer Summers' mind as well," he said quietly. "I don't want to have to deal with her. I was so angry I was chopping down trees with a broken rib."
"Ow," he muttered. "You know of our group?"
"I do and I know that you won't kill her unless she's unredeemable. I also know her husband might not mind with the way he was talking about her to Tara on Sunday."
"I can understand that. What is her original religion?"
"Jewish to Wicca to black magic. She's been moving toward a magic addiction since she got magic. Her first real spell was to help Angelus. She had been floating pencils."
"That's bad," he agreed. He took her. "We will fix her. Where is her husband?" Xander took some paper the first priest held out, writing out their name, address, and phone number. "Thank you, my son. I will not let her go to hurt your friend again. I will call him after I've talked her into confessing."
"Remember, Father, she is dangerous. She hunted for years."
"I agree. She is dangerous if not handled. She will not hurt us."
Xander nodded, shaking his hand. "I used to love her like my sister."
"All friends and family of addicts have problems like that," the first priest said. "We see many who have those feelings in our addiction support group for families."
Xander smiled. "I'm a writer. I can beat her ass there. Just please keep her away from Tara." He left, going back home. The detectives were still working so he grimaced and got onto the bottom-most balcony's railing and climbed up to his own. Tara came out to move some of the planters for him. "Thanks."
"Where is she? I felt her change."
"With Black Morgan." She gasped. He stared her down. "She tried to blame her cheating on me."
"Yeah, but he promised he wouldn't hurt her and he'll talk to Daniel."
"Good." He gave her a hug. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Go get the cat?" She huffed and went to get her familiar, nagging her about leaving the nice detective alone, that she had her own pet to protect her from fleas. The male detectives laughed once she was back inside. That was decent of them.
Xander handed Paula the book. "To get me less pissed at Buffy and Willow."
She looked at the thick thing. "In a current series?"
"Technically within the hunter series but a different hunter."
"Okay. Are you feeling better?"
"More or less. Tara suggested it."
"I like that," she promised. "It's much better than you killing yourself chopping wood."
He stared at her. "I felt a shitload better at the time, even with the rib, Paula."
"I can understand that. Has Donnie seen it yet?"
"Nope. He's not in today."
"That's fine." She glanced over the first few pages. "Started right off with the bad guys. Some people like that." She kept going. "Is it going to be dark?" she asked.
"Yup. Darker anyway." He shifted some. "The subjects aren't happy. I'm sorry."
"No, there's a place for dark fiction," she assured him. She smiled. "That may be well above the usual spot on the top ten list."
"Most of the time, you know I don't care."
"You make more money if you're up there."
"I know. Which is nice but then you have to deal with fan things that get annoying, like book coming out events."
"Those can be fun parties."
"I'm not exactly a party person, Paula."
"I know. You're far away from that anyway, Xander."
"Thanks." He smirked. "So...."
"I'll take it to see if they like it too." She put it aside. "I'll get Donnie onto it soon. That interview?"
"I had one scheduled?"
"No one told me."
She sighed and checked her scheduling book. "No, that's next week. Wear something nice and pants, Xander."
She wrote down a few things. "That's the interview, the book signing next week, it's a dual event, and we did advertise it."
"The same bookstore?"
"Yes. They like them and have the nice open area." She smiled. "Be good?"
"You know I try."
"I know you try very hard. Just don't date or anything," she ordered.
"I have to date sometime."
"Well, date a socialite that Castle can arrest," she ordered, waving a hand. "Go find one of them."
"Payday?" he suggested. She stared at him. "Royalty check? It's that day."
She stared at him. "That's next week."
"No, that's this week. It's the week of the sixth. Right?" She nodded slowly, going out to her assistant's desk. She came back with it. He beamed and signed for it, whistling at the contents. "Thank you. I wanted ice cream."
"Don't get fat."
"Of course not. How could I swing a sword if I was?" He walked out, heading right to the bank. He didn't want to get mugged. Though, if he was he'd kindly teach them better. He was still like that. No matter what some disgruntled cops thought when the poor muggers begged them to make them stop mugging.
Done: November 17, 2009
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