NC-17  m/f

Old Ones With Plans.

Dawn came home in a sulky mood.  She had told Pepper, who had a few suggestions.  She wasn't sure and she couldn't talk to her mother about it.  Though she did go to visit.  Joyce looked at her.  "Boy problems?" she asked.

Dawn snorted.  "Bigger."  She got up to close the door.  "I got told that if I'm still a virgin by graduation there's a cult that's going to use me to bring back a higher god that's going to destroy humanity.  And there's a potion to fix it if I break that problem."

Joyce swallowed.  "Bit worse than Glory then."  Dawn nodded, sitting down again.  "Are you all right?"

"Trying to figure out who.  You know I had plans of dating, Mom."

"I know, Dawn.  You're a very sensible girl."  She patted her hand, smiling at her.  "If I could make cocoa....."

"I know."  She hugged her.  "I'll figure it out.  Just don't let Buffy pick on me?"

"No, she won't."  She smiled.  "She will about the pictures of you in a bikini that made a few tabloids."

Dawn grinned.  "It was fun.  I drove people batshit insane over it," she said quietly, cracking her mother up.  "Including a lot of guys on the beach.  I should've let one but it felt so wrong."  She sat down again.  "Also, head's up.  An agent has asked me to get him into a club I checked out for Tara."

"The not real nice one?"

"Yes, that one."

"Oh, dear."  She blinked.  "Is it necessary?"  Dawn nodded once.  "Shit," Joyce said, making her daughter flinch.  "That deserves a swear and I heard you were doing more of it.  Real women don't have to swear."

"I'm trying to correct it, Mom."  She leaned her head on the beside rail.  "So?  Any wise advice here?"

"Pick someone that you at least feel something for.  That wrongness was because I raised you right, to not get it in the club."

She smiled.  "Definitely not this trip."  Her mother looked at her.  She shook her head.  "More Russians."

She shook her head.  "They need to arrest them."  Dawn nodded.  "Find someone you can respect the morning after.  That it won't get too awkward with," she said quietly, rubbing over her daughter's hair.  "That's always the best.  A friend, something like that."  Dawn nodded, looking at her.  "Then expect things to be a bit strange for a while and you to react differently to them.  It'll even out if you make sure it does."

"Thanks, Mom."   She kissed her on the head.  "Get better faster.  We need you out of here.  The world going to hell isn't the same when you can't make cocoa during research times."

"I'm trying."

"I know."  She hugged her and left, going home.  Phil was already in there.  "Stopped to talk to Mom."

"I heard.  We have a nurse on her floor in case someone comes for her about Buffy."  Dawn hugged him.  "Are you all right?" he asked quietly.

"I tried and it felt so wrong I had to walk away from the hotty guy.  He actually made the speedo look good but he understood I was a virg and I was freaking out a bit."  She hopped up to sit on the counter next to where he was making a salad to go with their pizzas.  "They both coming?"  He nodded.  "Got any suggestions?  Mom said to find a friend so it wouldn't get as weird but to expect some weird."

"That's often the best way to do it anyway," Phil said.  "Usually you'd find a friend through dating."

Dawn nodded.  "Yeah, but I don't have that many friends."  He stared at her.  "I could pick a junior agent."

"They'd probably brag."

"I know.  Most of them look tiny too."

"They do," he agreed with a smirk. 

She nudged him and he nudged her back.  She picked up some cheese to nibble on.  "Why are we having a salad?"

"None of us have eaten yet today.  We spent all night in the library.  Bia did theirs."

"Did we call Wes and Giles?"

"Not yet."

Dawn called him.  "Giles, Dawn.  Yup, I will if the world is still standing.  Yes, it's in question.  There's a cult to call Thanos back."  He choked.  "Using me, yeah.  Fixing that soon, Giles.  We need to know everything everyone knows.  We do but we're not the library geek you are.  Or Wes is."  He said something and she took down book titles.  "Thanks.  Please do.  Right after grad," she said dryly.  "I don't get an attack, I get a cult.  Magna cum laude."  She grinned.  "Thanks, Giles.  I did talk to Mom.  We're working on it, Giles, and I'm going to fix it so they can't pick me.  I'm tired of being the wanted damsel for distress in the universe."  She hung up, leaning her head back against a cabinet, thumping it a few times.  "He suggested I fix it with Xander."

"I doubt either of you could handle that," he said.  "It would get very strange and you'd never make it."  She nodded.  "Someone a bit less known to you would probably be easier, but one you're still on friendly terms with."

"Which leaves out most everyone I know."

"I know.  We'll figure it out.  How soon?"

"Tuesday or early Wednesday."

"That's more than enough time."  She sighed.  He handed her some tomatoes for her nibbling.  "Pepper said you didn't eat either."

"I didn't.  Not for the last few days.  Outside some candy.  I totally broke my diet."

"I'll run it off of you for that stupid smiley face bikini Natasha told you not to buy."  She hugged him but he gave her a nudge.  He went to answer the knock on the door, taking the pizzas from Barton.  He and Natasha walked in and he shut the door after checking the hallway.

"Evening, people," Dawn said.  She looked around and pointed.  "That blue box has my notes on the club."  They moved to get them.  "I asked Giles for anything he knew about the bad guy."  She handed over the book list.  "Because I know the library is huge.  Tara and I have been researching healing spells."

"Are you all right, Dawn?" Natasha asked.

"It go so weird I fled the guy in the speedo," she admitted.  "I was nearly throwing up afterward and there's no reason for that."

"Performance anxiety," Barton said.  "Lots of people get it.  Like stage fright."

Dawn smiled.  "I hope so.  It's going to suck otherwise."

"There's a betting pool," Natasha said.  "Xander showed up to kick someone who had suggested him."

"I'm sure he'll get Giles for the same thing then."  She grinned.  "How is the betting going?"

"Strongly in the wrong direction," Phil said dryly.

"I think that would be much too weird," Dawn agreed.  She thumped her head again.  "Maybe suicide instead?"

He patted her on the knee.  "Things aren't that dire and sex is almost always better than death."

"If you're sure."

"Where did you get your porn stash?" Natasha asked.

She smiled.  "Spike.  The world was going to end and he was planning to go with it so he gave it to me.  When he didn't die and the world didn't end I asked if he wanted it back and he said no, he could get better from Dru."

"At least he's an option you can cross off," Phil said.

"True.  I did promise Mom it would not be a vampire if I could help it.  She said it'd be a nice and great thing.  She also said it was simply divine that Buffy's most stable relationship was actually with a psychotic, multiple personality vampire with an occasional soul.  She was holding out hope for Spike though because he knew what a relationship was.  He had taken care of Dru for over a century when she was fully batty so maybe he could finish curing my sister's version.  Spike, the anti-depressant of choice for slayers."

"Have you asked him for a recommendation?" Natasha asked.  "I remember you talking to him weekly."

"He'd suggest a vamp.  I'm not into the dead penis society."  Phil groaned.  "They are!"

"Still not the most popular phrasing."

"You're right, they'd have to twinkle or something then," she quipped back.  "She said the hero sounded a lot like Angel.  She said it was nearly like reliving her past and she giggled her way into falling through a floor over the sparkling vampires."

"We'll know to shoot any sparkling ones so we don't get angst," Barton quipped.  Dawn grinned at him.  "Why didn't we find your porn stash when you got moved?"  She hopped down to show him the box.  "He had some weird taste.  Is that tentacles?"


"You need a pass to a real adult site," he decided.  She laughed, heading for the bathroom.  "No wonder she went for the gay male porn to get the bad ideas out of her head.  The rest is creepy."

Dawn came out.  "Did you read the roomba story?"

"I haven't.  I've heard it mentioned."  She pulled it up and handed it to him.  "How bad is it?"

"Very funny but you're a bit strange."

"I am a bit strange," he admitted, settling in to read it.  Coulson finished dinner and Dawn put things on the table, finding them all glasses and forks.  They ate while Barton read and laughed.  "We need one of those."

"There's one floating around the lab," Dawn said with a smile.  "Pepper got it for Tony.  Callia thinks it's the neatest toy ever.  No AI yet though."

"Aww, we have to fix that," he decided.  Coulson shook his head.  "Maybe even bring it to work.  I'm sure this one has made the rounds."

"Probably," he agreed.  His phone beeped with a text message.  He stared then turned it off.  "We need to do a bug sweep."

Dawn looked at him.  "If he's trying to make it today that's going to be a tiny bit icky."  He nodded she was right.  "Can I kick him in the nuts?"

"I wouldn't be able to stop you," he admitted.  "Natasha?"

"I could probably stop her but probably would not."

Barton shrugged.  "I'm all for a good kicking."  They found her bug sweeper and ran it over the apartment.  She had some of the best she could get, courtesy of her big brother for her birthday.  Even the CIA didn't have that one yet.  They settled in to talk about the upcoming mission.  They had to assume Dawn could handle the other part or they'd have to stoop to something no one was willing to contemplate.


Coulson walked into Fury's office the next morning.  "Sir, with all due respect, could you try not to make a difficult situation much worse?"

"She's hesitating."

"She tried in Miami, she ended up vomiting."

"It's not like it's a huge deal," Fury complained.

"Unless you're a virginal teenage girl," he shot back.  "Which she is.  She's not been trained to lay there and take it for the team with a fake smile and a faked shout of pleasure at the end."  Fury actually flinched at that.  "So leave her alone.  Beyond the point that it wasn't really practical last night thanks to her cycle, let her handle it."

"She's probably waiting until the last minute," he said.

"Really?  And yet last night she almost thought about ending herself so it wouldn't matter."  Fury groaned.  "You're making it so she can't do it with all your pushing and your asshole tendencies, sir.  If you keep up, I'm going to have to take steps to protect everyone."

"Really?" he sneered.

"Yes, sir.  Tell me a lie."  Fury's mouth opened.  "Or else I'm calling for a med exam."

"You've been aberrant more recently than I have."

Coulson let out a tiny, evil smirk.  "I told the nurses what she did.  They thought it was great, sir.  Now, please tell me a lie right this moment.  Or else I'll be calling the infirmary."

"I don't need to."

Coulson touched his earpiece.  "Agent Hill, Director Fury is acting oddly and refusing to take a lie test."  He hung up and crossed his arms again.  Medical personnel walked in.

"He blood tests normal," one said after sticking him.  "Isn't definitive though."  They stunned him and took him off on a stretcher.  The nurse stared at him.  "What did he do?"

"He's applying force unjudiciously and he's clearly having bad mental problems with the way he thinks Dawn Summers is going to perform better and as a trained agent when she's not."

"I heard.  Does she need any pertinent facts?" she asked quietly.

"She's more needing a name."

"There's a few good choices among the junior agents."

"She's got performance anxiety."

"We can give her a pill."

"I'll suggest it."  She smiled and patted him before leaving.  "He also had her place bugged.  Apparently it's his cheap thrill of the year."


Phil walked out, still seething.  Maria Hill looked at him.  He shrugged slightly.  "They'll check to make sure."

"Good.  How is Dawn?"

"On her cycle and stressed beyond belief," he said quietly.

"You could...."  He shook his head.  "You're comfortable."

"She's like my sister.  Neither of us could stand that," he said quietly.

"Thankfully I haven't bet."

He smiled.  "Probably a good idea.  I have no idea.  I'm simply trying to keep her calm enough so she can think and figure something out in time."  He walked off.  He'd hear the results of the scan later.  As it turned out he was a bit off from his last kidnaping so maybe it had been a great idea.  Fury was put on leave for two weeks and ordered off the hell carrier under threat of being stuck in the infirmary for that time.  That was enough of a threat for most agents to scurry away like they were going to be shot.


Dawn flopped down beside Natasha in the female changing area of the gym.  She had locked the door and made sure they were alone.  "You're giving me looks like I'm evil and poaching," she said in Russian.  Natasha was teaching her that language.

"I am not."

"Bullshit.  I'm not poaching."

"It is not like that," she said.

"So I've heard.  I got the 'it's complicated' answer too."  The older woman scowled at her.  "It's been pushed so hard that I almost didn't consider it and I won't if it'll mess things up between us."

"It won't.  It's not been anything."

"Because of the rules?" she snorted.

"No, not just that.  Sometimes familiar is too familiar as you know."  Dawn nodded.  "Are you certain?"

"No.  I'm still so screwed up in the head I had nightmares about it last night."

"You can do it and get it over with."

"I tried that.  I don't think any guy would appreciate being thrown up on."

"No, not really," she agreed.  She looked at the younger woman.  "There is no way to get around it."

"Oh, there's a way," she said dryly.  "Phil's going to have me drugged if I consider it."  Natasha cracked a smile and nodded.  "It's almost looking like the easier alternative though," she said in English.  "John Sheppard and Clay both said they could if I needed to."

"They are attractive."

Dawn looked at her.  "Not helping.  I don't think of people that way.  I'm a personality sort," she said, switching to Latin, which she was teaching Natasha.  "There has to be a connection there or else I'll probably freak out again.  I'm not hardwired for impersonal and cheap."

"Many women aren't.  We're trained not to be," she agreed in Russian.  Her Latin was better in reading than speaking.

"You're still giving me looks like Callia does when I steal her brownies."

"It is...irregular and causing us all stress," she told her.  "Even if it were done it would still cause some stress."

"Mom said it'd get weird.  How weird would depend on how I handled it."

Natasha nodded.  "It does.  Then you can move back to friendship if you want."  Dawn asked her very quietly if there was a friends with benefits thing and she nodded.  "That should not matter to you."

"Bullshit.  That's still poaching."

"It is not," she said, stopping her from moving.  "There is no real net there for it to be a legal capture."  She stared at her.  "I think most pushed because he is about the most capable of teachers.  Look at is as a learning experience.  You may need it when you do finally get to date someone indecent who wants evil things from your body."

Dawn smiled.  "The Goddess only knows if that'll happen."

"Perhaps it will happen at that club."

"No, I'd never go out with someone who had that serious of a kink base.  I couldn't meet their needs.  It'd be wrong on many levels," she assured her.  Natasha smiled and nodded.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  We will not push.  You two can have dinner later."

Dawn grimaced.  "I'm still not done yet."

"It is best to talk first anyway.  Relax, get used to having someone there.  We have a few days."  Dawn nodded, getting up and going to unlock the door, leaving her to think.  Was she reacting too oddly?  Showing too much?  Perhaps but Dawn was a perceptive girl in many ways.  Most others probably hadn't noticed.


Dawn walked onto the range, finding her two big brother sorts there.  She took Phil's ankle gun from him and signed in, grabbing some earmuffs and glasses so she could take range time.

Phil looked at her.  "Where's yours?"

"Home before I shot Fury," she said.

"Probably a good idea."

"Found another bug. It was in the oven.  It exploded when I burnt bacon this morning."  She carefully fired.

"Mind only on the targets, Summers," Coulson reminded her.  "In here and in the field, everything else is not on your mind."  She nodded, refocusing and starting over.  She was still off.   He moved closer.  "Mind off everything else," he said, touching her shoulder.  She flinched.  He took the gun from her and turned her around.  "Flinching now?"

"Yeah, all day."  She leaned against the partition.  "I flinched when the alarm went off, when the smoke detector went off, when the bug exploded.  I flinched earlier at the elevator dinging."

"Go get something to calm you down," he ordered.

"I'm not into chemical dependency."

"It might help."

"It's not going to help.  Nothing's going to help.  I spent all afternoon meditating.  My pulse was so low Tara freaked out and thought I might've passed out.  I came out to tell the medical response team I was fine."  He grimaced.  "I...  I need to get it outside of me.  Now, can I have your backup gun back please?"

"Use it as intended."

"No, he's not here," she said dryly.  She got back to her little cubicle, sending out another target to shoot at.  "Maybe I'll turn him into a girl, see how he likes it."

Coulson squeezed his eyes shut.  "That's a bad mental image."

"Well, yeah, but I can make him one of the cute, frilly dress wearing ones."

"No, please don't.  I'll puke," Barton complained.

Dawn leaned back and grinned.  "He'd look cute in a ruffled dress like Callia's pink one."  She stood up again.  Both guys were groaning.

"Dinner?" Barton called.

"Need a day."

"Dinner can happen anyway.  I don't feel like cooking."

"Sure.  I can order.  I need to grocery shop."

"That's fine.  I'll pick up?"

"If you want."  She got back to her targets.  "I need a heavier gun."

"I can't carry one of those on my ankle," he said patiently.  She cleaned his before handing it back loaded.  She went to the storage closet and got something huge and heavy.  It worked better for her.  It made her concentrate more.  The guys stared at her but she was making much better shots now.

"You need to learn subtlety here too," Phil told her. 

She nodded.  It helped though.  By the time she was done she felt calmer.  She should've done this instead of meditating.  She cleaned the gun and then herself, logging out her scores.  She went home to try not to clean everything in sight.  She had actually done her own laundry last night so none was laying around to embarrass her.  Her house was beyond grandmother standards.  And she was still jumpy.  She nearly teleported off when someone knocked on her door and it was just some guy asking if she wanted to buy a flower.  She bought one and he left.  She sniffed, then sent it down the garbage disposal.  Flowers weren't supposed to smell like chemicals.

Barton came in with their usual order from the usual chinese place.  She got him something to drink.  They both needed a bit of mental lube so they had a drink and then water.  "What's that flowery smell?"

"Someone selling them.  It smelled chemical so I trashed it in the disposal."

"Good idea."  He dug in.  "Are you sure?"

"No.  Which is why I'm still jumpy."

He shrugged.  "It happens."  She looked at him.  "Guys get performance anxiety too," he assured her.

She smiled.  "That is reassuring."  She dug in, sipping her drink.  "This is ridiculous."

"Probably."  He stuffed his mouth.  "How are things looking?"

"A lot of cleaning up.  You'd probably be asleep long before I got out of the tub from shaving and all that.  The cleaning itself usually takes a soak."

He nodded.  "There's faster ways and no one said you had to shave."

"I feel I have to shave and the faster way is nasty and burns."

"Okay.  So...tomorrow?"

She nodded.  "Tomorrow's good.  I guess I can consider it a date," she said dryly, stuffing her mouth and not looking at him.

He smiled.  "Could, yeah.  I've had worse ones."  She smiled.  "C'mon, let's watch some bad tv."  She nodded, settling in next to him on the couch to finish their dinners.  It let him subtly touch her.  Her arm, her wrist, her shoulder when he moved.  She shivered a bit so he pulled her closer.  He had to gentle her but that was fine.  Tonight it was fine.  Tomorrow it'd take less time.  She slowly relaxed against him.  "How's your mom?"

"She had treatment today so she's knocked out but otherwise she's showing signs of improvement."  She looked up, not realizing she was on his shoulder.  "She's got really good docs this time."

"She does."  He stroked over her far shoulder, making her lay her head back down.  "Heard from your sister?"

"Nope.  I told Mom not to tell her.  I didn't want to hear the complaining or the teasing."

"I guess sisters can do that.  My brother might've."  She looked up at him.  "Long story."

"I think everyone has one of those but me.  Being created at fourteen did help me shorten my life history."  He tweaked her ear but she put her head back down.  "I do not want things to get too weird," she said quietly.

"Then they won't.  I'm not a strings sort of guy."

She nodded.  "I'm going to try not to."

"Don't get clingy," he warned.

"I don't think I will.  I really should have dated more and worked less."  He laughed.  "I have no idea if I'm clingy or not."

"We'll figure it out.  What're you wearing to graduation?"

"The blue wrap dress and my black heels.  Shit, that gala is tomorrow night."  He laughed.  "Damn it!"

"Calm down.  We both have Thursday off now."  She looked at him.  "I made sure."

"Thanks for thinking of that."   He shrugged.  She settled in again.  This touching thing was okay.  "I need to find my dress.  I know it's in the closet somewhere."

"I think they put all the longer stuff on the right side."

She smiled.  "Thanks."

"Welcome."  She was taking the calming well and didn't nearly jump at all when her phone rang.  He took it from her at the growl she popped up, very impressively he decided.  His own was about as good.  He turned it off and went back to calming her down again.


Stark looked at Dawn as she walked into the gala.  "Late," he teased with a smirk.

"Lost an earring down the drain."  He shook his head.  "No, there's no late for that reason," she hissed.  "I'm trying not to think about it."

"That's fine.  We have a real entourage tonight because you got a death threat."

"Was it from the same person who texted me to just get on with it last night?" she quipped.

"Maybe.  Who?"

"I'm pretty sure he stands at his mirror and practices growling 'I'm Nick Fucking Fury, asshole' each and every night before bed."  Tony burst out laughing.  "Was it someone else?"

"Yes.  The reporter from Miami has a group."

"Are they as big of idiots as she is?  Because if so, I'm surprised they found one of them that could type."

He smiled and patted her on the arm.  "You look nice."

"Thank you."  She looked at herself.  "I could be a bit more twinkly."

"Callia would love that."  He handed her the earpiece.  "You might need it tonight."

She stuck it in and grimaced, taking it out and putting it in the other ear.  "Noticeable?"

"No."  He walked her out to join up with the others.

"Sorry, dropped an earring down the drain when I got another nagging text message."

Phil looked her over.  Subtle yet flattering black asymmetrical dress with one shoulder strap.  Slit modestly up her thigh.  Two rings on a simple chain.  Simple stud earrings.  Hair up in a caged bun.  High heels.  He smiled slightly.  "Very nicely done."

"Thank you."  She looked at Pepper.  "Too heavy?"

"Lipstick's a bit bright but it fits.  Makes you look happier than you are.  No drinking."

"Not in my plans."  She smiled.  "Let me go make the rounds.  Gotta know people to move up," she quipped.  She walked off, smiling at a waiter.  "Sparkling water?"  He handed her one.  "Thank you."  She strolled over to greet the people she knew.  She ran into a reporter halfway around the room.  "I hope you're better than the one I ended up talking to in Miami.  She didn't even do research or know what oncology meant."

The reporter smiled.  "Miss Summers, I can assure you some of us are *much* better than that heathen pretender."  Dawn grinned.  "That's an interesting jewelry piece."

Dawn smiled and held them up.  "That's my Mom's wedding ring, she's divorced but still kept the solitaire.  The other is her Mother's ring from my sister and I.  She can't wear them right now in the hospital and she's lost weight again so I said I'd guard them."

"A very sentimental choice, dear, and very appropriate.  How is she?"

"They think she's doing better.  The last scan was showing some improvement.  She's got some excellent doctors here in New York, like the great ones she had back in LA.  If there's any chance she'll come through she'll take it.  The whole group would really be devastated if Mom doesn't make it."  She sipped her water.

"Champagne?" the reporter asked.  "I know you're slightly underage but things like this often get it overlooked."

"Sparkling water.  I hardly ever drink, even a glass of wine with a good meal.  Pepper taught me about it, and I appreciate it, but not enough to spend my own money on it."  She smiled.  "Even when I'm out letting it all go in the clubs I like I don't usually do more than virgin fizzy frozen drinks."

"That's very wise.  I'm sure you've seen your boss tying one on."

She nodded.  "A few times.  He gave me advice for my single hangover."  The reporter looked interested.  "The day we found her tumor had come back."  She took another sip.  "I went through a lot of rum and coke trying hard not to scream and go find someone to kill for that."

She patted her on the arm.  "It's reasonable and you've always been sensible.  It will be fine if it can be made fine."

Dawn smiled.  "Your lip to the Goddess' ear."  She smiled and Dawn looked back at the person touching her.  "What are you doing and why are you touching me?"

"Your strap was slipping, ma'am."

"Then announce it, don't just grab," she complained.  Pepper came over.  "Thank you for the help but I'm a bit freaked out right now," she told him.  He nodded and left.  Pepper and the reporter got it fixed for her.  "Any sign he was trying something?"

"You're a bit loud," Pepper said quietly.

"That's because the earpiece is a huge buzz saw."  She pulled it out and winced.  "Yeah, he did something."  The thing was funny looking.  "I'm going to go home."  Tony was suddenly there.  "Sorry, boss.  Don't mean to make a bad impression."

"It's not your fault someone did that.  None of us saw him sneak up on you either."  He walked her out to Happy and the car.  "Take her to the infirmary."

"I'm good," Dawn slurred.  "It's rophy."  Tony winced.  "Yeah, got caught accidentally at the club in Chicago when we went there.  Had bloodwork there.  Shit this sucks."  She climbed into the back.  "Let me nap it off.  Thanks, Happy."

"Not a problem, Dawn."  He took her home and helped her upstairs, handing her the emergency switch.  "Here, your switch in case you need help."  She nodded.  He put a bottle of water beside her and left her there.  She could get herself undressed if she wanted to.  Or giggle at the walls possibly.

Tony walked back inside, holding up the skin colored patch he had found.  "Perfect match for her skin tone."

"Which means someone planned it," Pepper said, looking around.  "Who?"

"No clue.  She identified it though.  That same thing that happened in Chicago that she never told us about."

"I knew," Pepper admitted.  "She looked like crap and there was bloodwork."  She sipped her drink.  "Which was smart of Dawn."  She heard the others spreading the news looking for that waiter.  "Why slip her that?"

"It's Wednesday," Tony said quietly.  "Pretty damn sure it's because it's Wednesday."

"I'm going to kill if it was," Pepper said, walking off.  She went to talk to Coulson.  Tony heard the report from Happy and thanked him.  He was on the way back.  Her apartment was being monitored by the Stark security system, which meant JARVIS was talking to her probably.  The AI loved Dawn.  Whenever she had gotten creeped out about him being *there* while she was doing something she told him knock-knock jokes.  JARVIS probably liked her more than he did Tony.


Coulson stopped Barton on the way out, holding up something.  "I want it back."

"I made one off yours."

That got a slight smile.  "Good idea.  I might have to be out of town."  He walked off.

Barton took off his earpiece and handed it to Tony.  "Those things are still deadly dull."

"That's why I wear the sunglasses.  So no one can see me rolling my eyes or leering at the pretty girls who are flashing way too much skin so they won't be bored too."  He walked off after patting him on the arm.  "JARVIS said she's awake and mostly aware."

"Thanks."  He took a cab to Dawn's place, letting himself in.  "Dawn?"  She jumped, he heard her.  He walked into the bathroom.  Her hair was down.  She was still in the dress but no shoes.  "Hey.  You better?"

"I want to know who dosed me."

"We all do."  He helped her up, taking the heel callus remover from her hand.  It got tossed into the sink.  "Your feet are fine."

"I do have calluses.  They cause rips in my hose all the time."

"It was from all the warm sand you walked on."  He led her back to the bedroom.  "Get comfortable."  She nodded, grabbing something and going to change in the bathroom.  He got out of his jacket, undid his formal shirt to take it off, showing he had on a t-shirt underneath, and loosened his belt a bit.  He kicked off his shoes and got comfortable on the couch.  She came out in soft cotton pajamas.  He patted the couch and she settled in.  "You'll be fine."

"I know.  It happened in Chicago once.  I had one of the guards with me but he was paying more attention to the hotty in the low cut dress.  I realized it pretty fast and went to puke.  The girls in the bathroom called me a baby even after I told them I had been given something.  So I left and went to the ER.  They were really nice and understanding.  They let me nap it off and then I discharged myself and went to the hotel.  I slept for a few more hours but Pepper knew something had happened because she said I looked like hell."

"You do, yeah."  He stroked over her hair.  "No gel?"

"No, not for the bun cage.  If I don't use it, I have to use hairspray."

He nodded.  "Crunchy hair isn't fun."  She shook her head.  She yawned.  He let her rest for now.  He wasn't going to take advantage of that.  They had tomorrow off.  It'd be fine.


Dawn woke up with a start, looking around.  "Easy," he soothed, patting over her hair.

"No, smoke." 

He got up to look, checking the hallway.  There was a tiny bit but no fire that he could find.  "Nothing.  Probably just a neighbor cooking."

"Or a neighbor smoking.  I have one who does for personal use only."  She yawned.  "Whatever it is is making me sleepy again."

"We have time.  You sleep."  She nodded, curling up on the edge of the couch.  He settled in again.  She shifted closer but stayed curled up.  "You can go to bed," he offered.

"Bed's all sweaty.  I'll change it when I'm awake." 

He smiled and patted her knee.  She slowly uncurled as she got deeper into sleep.  He almost thought about getting her something to calm her down but he knew she wouldn't go for it and he wasn't the sort to take advantage of someone.  So when a bit more smoke got blown in he got up to stab the agent doing it.  Dawn slept through it thankfully.  He settled back in.  She was almost snoring.  It was cute on her.


Dawn woke up and stretched, running into someone.  "Oh, hi."

"Morning."  She looked at them.  Both dressed but on the bed.  He smirked.  "I changed it.  Your couch is too short."  She blushed.  He grinned.  "Flipped the mattress to the better side too."  She blushed harder.  He pulled her closer to kiss.  "It's fine, Dawn."


"I know."  He kissed her again, taking her mind from all this.  He had to get her into the moment, not letting her think or plan.  "Anything that's ticklish or no touching?"

"Ticklish yes but not badly.  You?"  He nodded he had one.  "Nothing else?"

"I'm good.  Don't scar trace?"  She nodded and kissed him back.  She got up and went to brush her teeth then came back without the heavy top.  She was in a just a bra.  That was easier.  He pulled her back down and let her cover them with the sheet.  Girls were like that sometimes.  She giggled a few times so he flat out tickled her to break the tension.  She squealed and wiggled, kicking him on the thigh but she got him back and did indeed find the one ticklish spot he had.  That helped a lot and she was panting by the end.  That was a better mood to be in.

She moved closer, running a careful hand up his chest.  He nuzzled her throat, keeping her occupied while he worked on the bra clasp.  Unfortunately in front but that did give him an idea. Once he had popped them open it was easy enough to touch and she didn't react too much.  Some women didn't.  Her nipples were nicely hard and made her happy but she wasn't a girl who had them as the most sensitive spot on her body.  He found one on her side.  She gasped into it when he sucked on it.  An involuntary hip thrust and that was nicer.

"Shouldn't I be helping?" she panted.

"Not this time."  She squeaked.  He grinned.  "We'll see about that later."  She nodded, pointing at the table.  "I saw.  It's good."  She relaxed and he put her back into her happy mood.  It was a nice start.  Maybe it'd be easy enough.  The pajama pants got pushed down.  She kicked them off for him.  He got up to strip down too.  She watched.  "Never seen one?" he teased.

"Only on tape and on the beach."  He got back onto the bed.  She got to explore a bit now.  It meant he got to distract her too.  "Very soft," she said happily.

He groaned.  "Too light."  She firmed her grip a tiny bit and it was nice.  Gave him an opening to explore her too.  She moaned and clamped her thighs together at first touch.  "No, relax."  She relaxed and let him touch her.  He moved to kiss her at the same time, taking her mind off his fingers.  He found her clit and it was nice.  She was nicely damp.  No hymen when he checked, which was even better.  "Protections?" he asked, pulling back.

"Around the bed on the carpet."

"Good."  He went back to it.  "Pill?"

"Yup.  Took it last night.  I take it at bedtime."

"More than a month on it?"

She moaned.  "Six or seven."

"Even better."  He got back to it.  She was very happy.  He could tell by the gaspy noises she was making.  She wasn't that easy to get off but it did eventually happen before his wrists locked up.  He moved down to tease her nipples some while slipping on the condom.  She was wiggly.  He slid into her slowly, making her freeze up.  "Relax," he reminded her.  "It won't hurt that much."  He kissed her, slowly taking control.  She let him and it was better as she relaxed.  Much too tight but he expected that.  He could work with this. 

She slowly got back into it and again, hard to get off.  That nerve damage really needed to be fixed soon.  He was braced on the bed, concentrating on taking her to a better, happier mental place.  He found out she did have a g-spot.  That was good news.  It worked better than her clit in some ways thanks to that tiny bit of nerve damage.  She was making the happy, breathless, panting noises, gulping air, and he wasn't much better.  Just a bit more.  He could hold on a bit longer.  Finally she went over and he let himself follow fairly quickly.  She was nowhere ready for anything more athletic yet.

"He was right, I need more stamina," she panted.

Clint burst out laughing, hugging her.  "We all need more stamina."  She started to say something.  He shut her up by kissing her.  "Never ask.  Always assume it was the greatest ever and you're a superhero at it," he said quietly.  She nodded, snuggling into his chest.  He let her.  It was nice to have someone that cuddled.  He swatted her hand when she found a scar and traced it.  "Not that one."  She kissed it and then another higher up.  That got a groan.  "Dawn, recovery time."

"I know.  I'm just cuddly I guess.  Sorry?"

"No, it's nice."  She smiled and snuggled in.  She yawned.  He smiled.

"I thought guys fell asleep afterward," she complained.

"Not this time. Sometimes women get too happy and get to nap too."  She shrugged a bit and let herself fall asleep.  He stayed there, thinking a bit.  He would not leave and freak her out.  Or make her feel cheap and used.  They'd talk when she got up and he made breakfast.  It was only fair.


Dawn wandered out and paused, staring at his naked back.  "Coffee?" she asked, hoping for a touch of normal.

"On the counter."  He nodded at it.  She got it and came over to see what he was making.  "Scrambled eggs and toast."

"Better than I do.  I tend toward microwave lunch things for breakfast most of the time.  I'm never awake enough to cook."  He smiled.  She grinned back.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He handed her a piece of toast.  She nibbled while he finished up.  They ate on the couch and it was almost comfortable.  He pulled her closer.  "Girls probably need to talk."

"No, I'm not confused or anything.  Worried about weird moments or that I might get clingy."

"No clinging.  If we were dating it might be different."

"With that club thing?"

"Not sure how we're working it.  I'm not sure if you or Coulson can pretend well enough to pretend to be together."

She shook her head.  "No.  Not if I have to do more than hug him.  He's a great giver of hugs."

"I'll have to ask for one sometime," he teased.  She grinned back.  She stole a quick kiss and got up to get more coffee.  She even brought him back some.  "So no questions?"

"Is that normal?"

"What part?" he asked smugly.

"The part where it seemed to cut in and out?"

"No, I'm pretty sure that was the nerve damage.  I've seen others that had back injuries with the same problem.  Especially women."  She nodded, accepting that.  "At least you still could."

"Yeah, that was a great part of it."  She sipped her coffee because she wasn't going to mention the being cuddled thing as the best part.  He had said no clinging.

He pulled her closer.  "Relax."  She nodded, settling against his side.  "You're fine.  Sore?"

"Tiny bit but not too bad."

"Good."  She was leaning into his touch now.  The difference a day and less stress made.  "I should make you get me back in the mood," he teased with a smirk.

She grinned.  "How would I do that?"

"Don't know.  Figure something out."

"Ooh, a test."  She considered it.  "I could go find something more bikini to wear."

He grinned.  "Those were pretty hot."  He scanned around the room.  "Why do you have a pole set up?"

"I took pole dancing lessons.  It's great cardio."

"Seriously?" he asked, looking at her.

"Yeah, I was missing a cardio PE requirement and that one was offered there so I took an independent class.  It's a really great cardio workout."

"We're talking like strippers?"


"Your high school offered it as PE?  Did they expect you to need it?"

"Well, they did teach us really crappy sex ed.  Including that masturbation caused cancer."  He shook his head quickly.  "Yeah, that's what that fight was about.  I called bullshit on the teacher for it.  Handed over the report Mom made me do."

"I heard about that."  He poked her.  "Do you wear the high heels too?"

She pointed.  "Those.  They're cheap in case the pole tears them up."  He looked then at her.  "I know, six inches is way too high for me, but Natasha taught me how to walk in higher heels when all we could find in my size were sneakers and high heels at the stripper store.  Phil *so* hates my shoes some days."

"I don't think anyone minds the lower ones but that red pair that're clearly stripper shoes....."

"We found one pair that were fire engine red with clear heel parts but they lit up little kid shoes as you walked."

He laughed.  "That's sad."

"Yeah, it was.  Pepper and I spent the rest of the night cracking bad jokes about the poor shoes."  He shook his head.  "But yeah, I don't usually do it in front of anyone, outside the class that had a lot of slightly padded older ladies and a former stripper teaching it, but I can do some.  I'm not great with arm things.  I can't climb a rope worth a damn."

"That's usually a matter of strength training."

She shook her head.  "I've put on tons of muscles and half of my strength training is my arms because they're weaker.  Still can't."

"Huh.  What's the other half?"

"Core and back."

"That's not a bad plan when he has you jogging."

"I nearly lost my mind and went without him," she admitted.  "I cured that shit by means of ice cream almost immediately when it got me up at six on a Sunday morning."  He laughed.  "And they say I'm the bad influence."

"The training gets to be a habit and is good for you," he reminded her.

"I now but still I shouldn't wake up and suddenly want to jog."

"No, most people don't."  He shook his head.  "Where did you even find that bikini with the smiley faces?"

"Stripper store.  Natasha took me there."

"Yeah I can see them using it for an act."

"I would've probably gotten a ticket but I was on the topless beach that day."

"Probably a good thing."

"They all thought it was cute.  If I was into girls I could've gotten more than one."

He gave her a shoulder-to-shoulder nudge.  "If you want to try girls, try girls."

"I'm pretty sure I don't want to try girls.  Tara made it sound a bit...comfortable but boring."

"I always thought it was all oral sex and toys," Clint admitted.

"She said she hates toys.  I asked.  She went bright red and nearly crawled inside her shirt.  She said Willow wasn't into them either."

"Huh.  Well maybe she'll find a nice girl to date."

"She has."  She smiled.  "No one else knows because she's a junior agent.   I'm not sure if it'll last though because she only really wants her to be delicate and sweet, not get stronger.  She doesn't want Phil to get into trouble over it."

He shook his head.  "There's no rules against it, Dawn.  Fury might try something though.  I don't know what's wrong with him."

"Me either."  She looked at him.  "What were you going to do with your day off last week?"

"I wasn't going to have a day off this time last week."  She gave him a look.  "I take a few days here and there in the vent system to get away from people.  When they need me someone calls."

"I thought I heard someone's phone in the ceiling over the women's bathroom."

"That was another agent they wanted to make sure wasn't claustrophobic.  They had me chase him through the vents on that floor."  She smiled.  "It was fun, yeah.  And yes, he was not comfortable in tight spaces.  Still isn't.  One of the female junior agents rode him about it until I stuck her up there and she did a good job but she's weak in hand-to-hand so they'll be put together for more training."

"That might be handy.  Like thief training?"

"That too probably.  I know some agents got it."  He looked at her.

"Not even considering it."  He smiled.  She leaned in slowly, letting him take the choice.  She kissed him and then got onto his lap.  "Natasha called you an interactive textbook."

"I'm going to spank her later."

She smiled.  "I'd like to see you two spar."

"We could use it," he agreed.  He put his hands on her hips and it was all right.  He -spanked her, earning a bite.  "Ow."  She smirked.  "Go change and show me what you learned in that class."

"It was better than spinning."

"Like weaving?"

"No, like bicycles."  She got up and went to change into that smiley face bikini.  He did give it an appreciative look.  "I can't pedal faster on command and that's really boring.  It was either pole dancing or belly dancing."

"Did you talk Pepper into trying it?"

"Twice.  She took two classes, said she got too sweaty and sore, and tried belly dancing.  She did that for a few weeks until she sprained an ankle then never went back.  We tried zumba too.  I wasn't too bad at it, which is why I went to learn salsa dancing."

"I heard."  He watched how she moved.  "Slower.  Draw it out," he said quietly.  She did and it was nicer.  "Smile more, Dawn.  Most guys want to be the center of your world."  He shifted, spreading his thighs some.  She wasn't half bad but without the pole climbing spins it wasn't as hot.  He patted his lap.  "They teach you this part?"

"Nope."  She strolled over, kicking off the shoes.  He smiled.  "Didn't want you to throw them."  She straddled his thighs.  "How do I do this?"

"This is just the same, only now you're closer.  If you're working it's a no touching.  If you're just thrilling a lover, then it's however much teasing he can take."  She smiled and raised her arms above her head, moving a bit.  He pulled her closer.  "That's too far away for a tease."  She writhed and wiggled, slowly which he liked, and he was getting very hard.  "Turn around."  She stood up and then slid backwards into his lap.  She reached back to link her hands behind his neck while moving.  "Very nice."  One of his hands slid into her bottoms.  She wasn't nearly as tense this time.  He found the right spot, earning a moan and her butt grinding back into him.  "This is also a great way to have sex," he said in her ear, touching her clit gently.  "Guys like this position and the other way around."  She nodded, bucking into his fingers.  "Let the feeling dictate the motion.  Here, find it with your own hand.  That way you know where it is."

"I heard guys like to watch," she said.

"Some do.  A lot do really."  She found it herself and she was a bit non-rhythmic now.  "Slow down.  A tease is always a great thing unless you only have ten minutes and a broom closet."

She groaned.  "Damn it."  He helped her flip around, earning a look.  He smiled and sat her back across his lap. She wiggled out of her  bottoms and unzipped his pants. "I should learn that too, because guys like it."

"All guys like blow jobs," he agreed smugly.  "Some girls don't do great at it and some won't without reciprocation.  Some guys hate giving oral sex, some love it, some love every part of a woman's body."  She slid down him and he arched up.  "Hands on my shoulders," he said, putting the free one there.  "For balance.  Just like before."  She was grinding.  "Up and down." 

He lifted her a few times until she got it.  It was apparently good, she kept losing her rhythm.  He smiled as she turned back around to try it that way.  He moaned as she slid back down.  "A lot of guys take this as an opening to shove you over something and do it doggy style," he said in her ear, earning a shiver.  He let her have her fun for now then tossed her onto the couch and followed.

"Hey!"  She fought back.  Her arms were pinned behind her back.  "Is this some sort of test?"

"Yup.  What're you going to do, Dawn?" he asked with an evil grin.

"Depends on who's doing it, doesn't it?  A boyfriend I'd complain about my arms being sore.  A guy I didn't want there I'd kick and fight.  I don't want to damage you though."  He laughed so she kicked him on the thigh and he let her shift.  "Sore arms."

"That can happen."  He let her pounce him back into the couch though she stopped his head from hitting the arm magically and put a pillow under it.   "Now what?"

"Now I guess I should try something."  She moved down to lick at him.  "So that's what girls taste like."  He laughed until she sucked him in.  "Can't learn this from a tape," she said between attempts.

He guided her head.  "Inhale," he ordered.  She did.  "Play with it, Dawn.  Anything is good as long as it's not your teeth, a gag, or too hard of a squeeze."  She figured it out after a few attempts and it was a pretty decent blow job.  Not on his top ten all time list but definitely a great one.  Good enough to make him moan and contemplate flipping her over.  He was getting close to coming so he arched up and flipped them over so he was kneeling over her.  He slowly pulled back, smirking at her. 

"My turn."  He shifted her up and she went willingly.  She was blushing but damned if she wasn't happy.  She was damp and she tasted good.  Her clit was easy to find.  She had been teasing herself while sucking on him.  He teased her until she did come and then kept going.  She wiggled but he pulled her hips back and went back to it.  He got her back to the point of writhing and happy then flipped her over to teach her about how great doggy style was.  She kept reaching back for him.  He leaned over her, letting her have his arm to grip.  Some girls needed something to grab onto during sex, he never minded.  She was thrusting back. 

"Off tempo, meet me," he said in her ear.  She panted and did that.  She lost track a few times which meant she was definitely lost in the sensation.  He kept her there for as long as he could. He finally reached around to tease her again and her clit jumped in his fingers.  She let out a high pitched whine.  He bit her on the shoulder gently.  She bucked back into him, nearly making them sit up.  He did it again and she growled. He tried the other side and she melted.  That might be important to know.  He nibbled on her back over her spinal cord.  She came and he smirked.  He rode her through it, letting himself come after she was calmer.  She flopped down.  He laid down and pulled her against his chest.  There was just enough room to spoon.  She was asleep before he got the condom off. He napped too.  It was a great workout.


Dawn came out of the bathroom dressed for work.  He looked her over.  The pencil skirt was dark blue.  The shirt was a pale cream.  Open at the throat.  Very demure and tasteful.  Even with the four inch heels.  She paused and stared then kissed him.  He grinned.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He stroked his knuckles over her cheek.  "You good for work today?"

"I'm fine but Fury is getting my foot up his ass.  That's why I'm wearing these shoes."

He laughed.  "I think there's a short line but you're definitely near the front.  We might have to gang up on him."  She moved closer to kiss him again.  "We have ten minutes before we have to leave, Dawn," he teased.  She texted she'd be twenty late and pushed him against the wall, bouncing up to rest around his waist.  "You should be against the wall so it helps me hold you up," he said, flipping them around.  It was still good and she was getting off faster now.  She got loud too.  They both calmed down afterward and she carefully slid down him to the floor.  She reached down to help him back into his pants then kissed him.  He shook his head but he was smiling.  "You better?"

"Yeah, I think I am."  She walked out, pausing to lock the door.  Nothing.  "Try this."

He did, frowning.  "It's jammed open."  He noticed the person lying up the hall.  "Sir, do you need EMS?" he asked loudly.

"No, man, happy smoke," she moaned, thumping her head back down.

Dawn nodded, pulling out her phone to call security.  "It's Dawn.  Can I please have a tiny bit of help?  Thanks."  She hung up.  A few minutes later one of the guards jogged up the stairs.  He paused, took in the person on the floor that was still moaning happily about happy smoke.  "My lock's jammed open." 

He frowned and tried it.  "You don't bring home classified files, right?"

"No.  I barely touch classified files.  Which is why this is odd."

He nodded.  "I'll have a locksmith come, Dawn."

"Thanks.  I have no idea how to handle this.  I need five keys for emergency keys."  He nodded.  "I have no idea what to do with her.  She's the neighbor up the hall and around the corner."

"I'll have someone come check her.  Go to Stark Tower, it's probably safer and Mr. Stark just said you're late."

"I texted I'd be late."  She patted him on the arm.  "Thank you.  Call me when he needs a credit card or whatever so I can pay him."

"Yes, ma'am."  She smiled and they walked out together.

Dawn goosed Clint, earning a pointed look.  "I would've done that before."

"You have many times," he agreed, putting on his sunglasses.  "Poke me later, when you have sparring practice with Natasha and I."


"Yeah, we can borrow Stark's gym.  Probably safer for you."  He walked off, getting into his car to head off.

Dawn walked up to work, smiling at the guards as she ran her passes.  "My lock was jammed open."

"That's not good," the guard agreed.  "We have a locksmith we like."  She smiled at him and headed up to the office.

Tony stared at her.  "You okay?  I have advil and we do have shrinks on staff."

"I'm good.  Sorry about being late."

"I heard you called for some help?"

"Lock was jammed open and I sent that before I knew that."  He smirked.  She got into her phone and tossed it over when she had found a text message.  "Maybe he's possessed."

He read the simple 'do I have to send Stark over to do it instead' and snorted.  "That would not have happened."

"Thank the Goddess," she complained.  He threw it back, letting her catch it.  "That was Fury's toss-away, right?"

"Yeah, it was.  We'll have a talk with him later.  I've heard he's had a lot of medical checks for the last few days."

"The drugging?"

"Probably, no concrete evidence."  She grimaced but nodded.  "You did look nice but again, a bit older than you are."

"Yes but all the dresses for girls my age are for prom.  Not even Callia would like me to be that twinkly."

"No, probably not.  I heard about a cream colored dress?"

"Thickish straps, sweetheart neckline with a bit of dip in the center, only an inch.  Ruched down to the waist then it flares down a more flamenco inspired skirt that starts with a slit at about mid-thigh height and moves down to mid-calf in back."  He raised an eyebrow.  "Pepper said it was a bit too light and too showy for the gala.  I'm saving it for something else since I look very good in it.  What's my job today, boss?"

"Fix my desk."  She came over to do that.  "Then go help Pepper like usual.  I think she wanted a girl talk."

"She's really good at the girl talks."  He grinned, leaving her to it.  Once she got done filing and sorting for him, she carried the few things up the hall he needed to sign.  He saw her and looked curious.  "Signage."  He looked and signed things.  One had notes on the margin that he read and he took that to reread better.  The rest were simple things like leave requests for his assistants and new parts being ordered.  She took them to Pepper, who smiled at her.  "Morning.  Sorry I was late."

"I know you said twenty minutes," she said dryly.

"Then we found a jammed open lock on my door."  Pepper winced.  "A neighbor slobbering about happy gas in the hallway, and then I stopped to fix Tony's desk first."

"That makes more sense."  She took the papers.  "Not the agreement?"

"He has it.  He's rereading it.  He noticed he made notes."

"That's good.  He's over a day ahead of where it would usually be."  She signed what she needed to and sent it on.  Dawn got to work on her filing and messages.

Natasha walked in.  "We are sparring here today, Dawn?"

She smiled.  "There's a great private gym."

"True."  She smiled slightly.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Natasha.  Really.  It's all good and I can still pick on him," she said quietly, glancing around.

"Excellent."  She patted her on the shoulder.  "That collar does not cover up bite marks."

"It's fine and only you noticed," she said, moving it some.  Natasha smiled and went into the office.  She got sent to herd Tony while Natasha dealt with huffy higher ups who wanted impossible things.  Dawn strolled in.  "Pepper said congrats on getting to that agreement sooner than usual."

He smiled.  "It's a bad one."

"I have not read it and do not know what it's on.  It's not my business, boss."

"Good point."  He looked her over.  "You sure you're fine?  You only wear those shoes when your feet hurt."

"No, I'm good.  I wore them in case I run into a certain person so I can kick him."

He laughed.  "I think Coulson's in line in front of you but he was vowing poison."

She nodded.  "Poison was a good band.  Phil introduced me to 80's music."  She smiled.  "What do you need me to do?  Natasha's here so I'm your sheepdog."

"I never considered myself a sheep."

"Now and then you pretend very well," she quipped.

He pointed.  "Go straighten out the tools for me?"  She nodded, going to do that.  "So, are we going to see further meetings?"

"You didn't hear about the club assignment?"

"Excuse me?" he demanded.  "What club assignment?"  She looked at him.  He had been at that meeting.  "Oh hell no!  You're not an agent!"

"We think we can do it with very minimal exposure for any of us, especially in the press.  Because that is not the sort of club I want to be seen coming out of.  I did warn Mom to ignore any strange pictures."

"That's nice," he agreed sarcastically.  He grimaced.  "Which club?"

"The pagan club that Tara got invited to."

"I've heard things."  Natasha strolled in with Steve.  "Are you sure you have to go there with my assistant?"

"She has an invitation.  Or else we would not."

"Which I could do without," Dawn agreed.  "Tony, did you want me to leave out the half finished kiddy drawings?"

"Please."  She filed the rest in the cabinets she had pulled in there for him.  They were discreetly under the stairs.  "What's up, Steve?"

"I came to see if Dawn could straighten out my files too."

Dawn looked at him.  "Since when did you use an office?"  He shrugged.  She walked over and tested him, then swatted him on the back of the head, making him turn into Loki.  "Not cute."  She walked off.  "I know you don't have an office outside your boyfriend's and he has an assistant."

"She's not nearly as fetching."

Dawn smiled.  "I only fetch if someone turns me into a puppy.  What do you want now?"

"There was something taken from the secret caverns under the Hall."  She nodded slowly, making 'get on with it' motions.  "Some of it was an incense that Freya used for special ceremonies and some of it was an oil that created a problem which no one will mention without blushing."

"I think both of those tried to come my way.  The smoke only made me sleepy and the stuff on the flower got put down the garbage disposal."  He stared at her.  She grinned.  "Hellmouth taint," she said cheerfully.  "Want me to check Thor for a possession?"

"We believe someone made my daughter retrieve it."

"Had her wife hostage?" Tony guessed.  Loki stared at him.  "Xander told us.  She sounds like a really nice guy."

"I believe so.  I have no idea and I cannot get near her house.  Nor can I find my son."

Dawn looked up.  "Hey, Roque, you busy for a minute?"  He appeared out of the shadows under the stairs.  "Who stole the stuff from Valhalla?"

"Xander's sister.  We've since gotten her wife back and she only took a very tiny amount.  What's wrong with Fury?"

"We've all wondered that.  He's taken a whole lot of personal interest and glee in my life this last week."

He stared at her.  "Is it handled?"

"Yup.  Unless they use that potion Loki mentioned.  Are either of those ingredients?"

"Quite," he admitted.  "Oh, dear."  He disappeared, trying not to smile.

Dawn looked at Natasha, who was warning the others.  She looked at Roque.  "If I ask can you please go take out that cult?"

"We mostly have."  He smirked.  "Clay was bored."

She gave him a hug.  "Thanks, growly one."  She let him go.  "Was the text message asking if I'd surrogate for you and him from your mother or who?"  He shrugged.  She found the message to show him.

He stared at the number, looking it up in his phone.  "No, that came from Aphrodite.  I'll have Xander go talk to her."

"Please.  Thank you.  Anything else we need to hear on that bad guy yet?"

"Not a lot.  That night, be very conspicuous."

"It's my graduation from high school.  I made up over a year's worth of work to graduate on time.  I'm graduating in the top ten percent.  I'm going clubbing in something slightly trashy with high heels on."  He laughed and walked off, heading back to talk to Xander.  She looked at Tony and Natasha.  "Does that work for being in the open and yet protected?"

"Very," she agreed.  "Here?"


"We can make sure it's clear that night," she decided.  "Wear the purple dress to tease others?"

"Eww, no.  I look bad in that one, Natasha.  I can wear the green one."

She smiled.  "Not that one you're thinking of.  We'll figure it out.  Maybe the gray one to go with the boots?"

"Maybe.  Though I need it fitted.  The sides are a bit loose."  That got a nod and she left them alone.  Tony was giving her a funny look.  "It's the Second Rule of Buffy.  Always have the perfect outfit for any apocalypse battle or major fight.  The first Rule is remember Scooby Rule #1: No one dies without permission and it's never given."

"You guys had rules?" he asked, smiling.

"Yeah, every group's gotta have bylaws according to Organizations class.  We ended up violating the second rule of the group, Xander is not allowed to do magic.  The third was always take time for fun, even during the darkest days. Fourth was no one touches Giles' special mug, not even Spike for blood.  Fifth was that only Buffy could use Mr. Pointy."

"Mr. Pointy?" he laughed.

"She got him from Kendra, the one who died to call Faith," she said more quietly.  "She was Council raised and she put all her frustration and desires into carving him.  Mr. Pointy is in a case in her bedroom."

"I can understand that.  I'm glad no girls are being raised by them now.  I would've killed them over my daughter."

Dawn smiled.  "A few weren't.  They had private teachers and a tutor from the Council because their parents fought back and were wealthy.  So said one of the Xander's at the convention."

He nodded.  "That would've been mine and then I still would've blown them up."  She smiled and got back to her sorting job.  "Leave the laser cutters out."

"They're on the charging pad."

"Thank you."  He got back to work.  He wasn't about to let Dawn be taken by some funny cult.  He'd never find anything in his office or his workshop again.  And he'd miss the mouthy brat.


Dawn walked up to Phil outside the SHIELD building, smiling at him.  "How was your day?"

"Not bad.  How was sparring?"

"I didn't do too badly.  I'm still hitting weakly.  I need to figure out why I cannot put the arm strength to work."

"Sometimes it's form over ability."  He walked her off.  "Risky."

"I got told to come gather you.  You were late."

He smiled.  "Not that late."

"Natasha said you're late."

"Oh, yes, she's in a mood today."

"She nearly kicked Clint's ass but he was picking on her."  That got a smile once they were in the car.  "Anyway...."  She handed him her phone.  He looked over the latest text messages.  "Clearly out of the loop."

"Clearly and good.  Did you talk to Loki?"


"Wonderful.  What did he want?"

"A few things stolen from under the main hall.  Mostly used to sex drug people or in that renewal potion."

He groaned.  "Damn."

"We're having dinner and it's your turn to buy."

"I can do that."  He drove them off, taking them on a new route tonight.  He found a nice place he had been looking for and went in to get it, coming back.  Dawn held it next to her in case anything seeped through.  They went back to her place.  She handed him a new key.  "Good idea."

"Lock was jammed this morning when we came out."

"Even better idea.  Maybe you can move again?"

"Hell no."

He smiled.  "Fine."  They walked in and found the other two looking at her box of porn.  "Are you that bored?"

"She didn't believe that there was vampire and tentacle porn together."

Dawn walked over and lifted a box to grab one, handing it to her.  "One of Spike's favorites so a piece is a bit stretched.  He said he'd send me a copy on DVD."  She went to change, coming out in shorts and a t-shirt, with no shoes and her hair loose.  She got them drinks and they sat down to talk about what had happened, what Loki had said, how sparring had went, and that club.  It was only open seven days a month and the next one was the week after her graduation.  Natasha told them about her plans for after graduation, getting a nod of appreciation but a veto on that outfit.

Clint looked at him.  "You never let her wear anything too flashy."

"A good brother doesn't."

"I'm ordering something," Dawn said with a hand wave.  "I ran it past Pepper earlier and she thought it was just the right sort of clubbing dress.  So we can use it wherever.  I needed something new to club in.  Somehow the agents lost some of mine."

"No I believe they're in my closet," Phil admitted.  "They thought they might not be appropriate and put them there on me."  He stuffed his mouth.

"Is this like how you broke your toe?" she asked dryly.  He shook his head.  "Okay.  I want them back."

"We'll see.  You're clearly growing again since everything's getting tighter and shorter."

"I did my own laundry, Phil.  It shrank."

"Still, Dawn."

She shook her head.  "We'll see."  He nodded they would.  "As an added bonus on top of today, the doc at Stark industries that pulled me in for my yearly physical said that I'm fat.  Apparently my BMI is high.  I cackled my ass off and pointed out I wasn't fat, I barely had any fat left, and it was all muscle.  He said he still had to put it in there.  That I'd get a letter from the insurance company offering me a reduced rate if I lost some weight."

"You barely weigh enough to matter," Natasha said.

"BMI was never meant to be a measure of weight," Dawn said.  "It was created by some social scientists for some other reason.  It doesn't take into account muscle mass versus fat or anything.  It's a simple height to weight comparison."

"Did you tell Pepper?"

"I called her and let the doctor tell her that.  Pepper corrected him, making him huff and tell her it was his duty.  I took off my shirt and said to please find the fat.  The little tiny bit on my stomach is supposed to be there for healthy breeding whenever I want to.  He stomped off pouting."

Natasha shook her head.  "SHIELD's standards are more realistic."

"That's because they expect muscular people," Clint said.  "I registered as a bit heavy last time and the doctor shook his head and signed off on it being all muscle."

"I need to have him do mine," Dawn quipped.

"Did Stark hear?" Phil asked, eating a bite of his sub.

"Yup, and cackled himself sick.  He told me I had to eat more for lunch because clearly the measures were warped."  They all smiled.  They'd deal with it at a later date when it became necessary.  "Had that second interview today so it came up.  She said I had a very nice body but she wondered why I didn't have a six or eight pack of abs.  I told her I thought they looked a bit funny on women."  That got another group nod.  "Cap is still blushing when he looked at me today."

"That bikini was evil," Clint assured her.  She smirked.  "Coulson, did you know that they taught pole dancing as PE in her high school?"  Phil choked.  So did Natasha.

"They teach it in many gyms in the city too.  It's still a good cardio workout," Dawn said.  She stuck her tongue out at him.  "You're just jealous because you can't do it."

"I could probably do it and those pole moves you said you can't do because it takes the upper arm strength."

"Excuse me," Phil wheezed.  "How did we get onto this topic?"  Clint pointed at the pole.  "I wasn't going to wonder about it," he admitted.

"It's a good cardio workout.  I was missing a PE cardio requirement.  They offer it and said it was fine if I took it off-site too."

He looked at her.  "No.  Just say no."

"They have belly dancing for cardio too."

"No," he repeated.  She laughed and grinned.  "Seriously?"  Natasha nodded.  "Where?"

"I know of at least six gyms that offer it and a few private teachers offering classes," she said.  "Some are more of the dance moves for those learning how to belly dance.  Some have been adapted for workout reasons.  It's not a bad workout.  I followed it with yoga."

"I tried yoga, I'm not that flexible," Dawn said.

"You should work on that," Natasha said.

Dawn grinned.  "Maybe I'll take a class for my PE at NYU."

"They do offer it," she agreed.  Dawn nodded.

Clint shook his head.  "What's zumba?"

"You've seen that ad on tv for the dance classes workout video?" Dawn asked.  He nodded.  "That.  It's big like the tai-bo kickboxing thing was a few years back.  Suddenly latin music got hot and girls wanted to dance like them."

"Who took off to get salsa dancing lessons?" Phil countered.

"They said I moved pretty well for my first lesson."  She smiled.

"Uh-huh."  He ate a large bite of food.  Dawn was getting up to get more water.  Something thunked into the window.  Dawn ducked and moved, pulling her hidden gun.  The others pulled their guns.  "Arrow," Coulson said.

Clint grabbed his backpack that had his backup bow in it.  He pulled it and flicked off the lights on his way to the window.  "Crazy knight," he said, firing on him.  That one fell and the other one trying to fire on them got hit next.  "Two down."  Coulson called that in.  Stark Security was there to help within minutes.  They found a few more.  "How many more are there?" he asked.

"We thought a dozen but they may have junior members at home that we didn't find," he admitted.  "We know they're against breeding except for an heir to carry on their duties."

Dawn looked over.  "I'm so over them.  Can I go stomp them?"

"No.  We'll let others do it," Coulson said.  "You're too valuable to risk."  She nodded, and slowly straightened up.  She put her gun back.  It looked like it disappeared.  "Nice concealment spell."  She smiled.

"I want that one," Clint said.

"I can't put it on electronics," she said.  "Only mechanical things."

He considered it.  "I might ask for a mission."  She shrugged and nodded.  "Thanks, Short Stuff."

"I'm not that short.  Buffy's shorter than I am."

"They fed her munchkin food," he joked with a grin.  "You got half real food so you're not as short."  Someone knocked and Natasha went to get it.  She knew all the security team, Coulson did but he was examining the arrow for any poisons.  Dawn looked around and pointed.  They looked at the spot on the wall.  It was oddly lumpy.  Clint pulled a knife and opened the spot.  "Bomb," he agreed.  "Easy one though."  He pulled out the wires he needed to, handing it off.

"We've got the bomb dog coming," the security team member said.

"I guess I'm camping on Phil's couch," Dawn decided.  Phil nodded.  She sighed and clapped a three-clap pattern.  Everything not on the table and her purse packed into three boxes.  "That'll make moving easier."  She strolled around to make sure it had gotten everything.

"Nice," Natasha said.  "That's very practical."

"Emergencies or earthquakes could happen at any time in Sunnydale.  Willow wrote it.  She's the one that made the warding template I use too."

Phil patted her on the shoulder.  "Like all addicts she got lost," he said quietly.

"I know."  She patted his hand.  "There's plenty of days when that's a bad thing."  The security team got them moved after checking Dawn's car, and Phil's car.  She got bundled to Phil's couch.  By the time they got to his place to finish dinner and make plans, there were worried calls from Thor and Steve.  Tony's call was a bit angry sounding.  He was swearing at the top of his lungs about something they couldn't understand.  Dawn frowned and texted him that she was fine and would make it on time in the morning from Phil's couch.  He sent back one saying to call him. 

She walked off calling him.  "What happened, boss?"  She blinked a few times.  "What did I supposedly do?  No, I paid for the locksmith."  She waved at Phil, who scowled.  He had it traced.  "No, that wasn't me.  I was in the gym.  I was sparring with Natasha and Clint both in the gym at that time.  No, just regular sparring, not agent sparring.  They were trying to teach me to box, and failing a bit admittedly.  I was nowhere near the safe room at that time and I don't have the codes to safe room.  I've never been past the doorway while you were putting something in there. You had me help you carry it," she reminded him.  "If that's what you want, fine," she agreed.  "You have a better night and I'll make sure I sue you to get visitation with my niece, Mr. Stark."  She hung up and shook her head.  "Whatever got Fury has him."

"We'll figure it out," Phil soothed.

"Well at least I don't need to get up early tomorrow."  She went to pour some milk then tossed it out and got some water.  "Milk was chunky."


She shrugged.  Natasha gave her a pat on the back.  "I know it's nothing I did.  He said I got into the safe room and I've never been down there except for that time he had me help him carry something.  I couldn't get past the door because of the security system.  So how did I get the lock?  It's electronic and I can't pick those magically.  He knew that."

Xander appeared, hugging her.  "We'll figure it out."

"Whatever got Fury got him."

"I'm pretty damn sure I know the cause."

"Willow?" she guessed.

"Tara's stepmother."  He disappeared.  He found Fury and blasted him with magic, making the people in the bar flee.  "Good."  He followed to where he had landed, scanning him.  "Yup, definitely a curse."  Someone floated in wearing a cheesy outfit.  "Hi, butt out."

"Who are you to tell me such?" he demanded.

"I'm Alexander, God Protectorate of Humanity."  The man blinked.  "This man is presently under a curse.  It's a friend's stepmother trying to take out one who protects her stepdaughter from her hell."

The mage tested then nodded.  "He is and others."  He ended them.  Fury was shivering.  "There's more than one."

"I'm pretty sure the other one's on Tony Stark and possibly Pepper Potts at the moment.  I'm going there next."

"I will follow."

"Cool."  Xander appeared there, looking up as alarms went off.  "Like that's going to stop me."  Guards came rushing and he immobilized them.  "Guys, I'm trying really hard not to be mean.  Right now I'm going to visit my goddaughter and her father."  He walked past them, freezing the whole building.  Stark came out of the office with a glove from his suit on.  "Repulsors won't work on me either."  He tried it anyway.  Xander teleported out of the way and behind him, grabbing his head and freezing him.  Tony shivered.  "Not the same curse.  That's nice.  That's the other Loki though.  Huh."  He called his uncle.  "Feel this."

He did and grimaced.  "That other Loki," he sneered.  He looked at his nephew.  "Why are you involved?"

"He just yelled at Dawn for something she had no part of."

"That hussy...."  Xander knocked him down and out.

"Really?  I think it's a clear cut case of infection."

"He wears that first one's curse," the mage said.  "The other wears something that stinks."

Xander unfroze him.  "Tell me a lie."  Tony tried to shoot him so he froze all but his head.  "Tell me a lie, Stark.  Now."

"Xander," Pepper warned.  He raised a hand so she was held against a wall.  It wasn't hurting her.  It was barely wrinkling her.  She was still fighting like it was burning her.

"She wears the same stink," the mage said.  "What is that?"

"Tell me a lie," Xander told Tony.

"You're good at what you do."  It took a second for him to melt but he did.  Which made Pepper freak out.

Xander looked at her.  "Tell me a lie."  She was shrieking.  "Now, Ms. Potts.  Before I call more help."

"Let me remove that curse first," he ordered.  He did that then got Thor's.  "Those are odd."

"Some idiot in Germany makes them for foreign intelligence interests."  Xander looked at her.  "Tell me a lie."

"I'm Pepper, I swear I am, Xander."  She turned to goo.  The security guards were all being horrified. 

Xander looked at them.  "They both attacked Dawn earlier."  That got a nod.  "That is how you test for that infection.  It ran through SHIELD a few weeks back.  That means that both of them are hostage somewhere."  The head guard nodded.  "Do whatever your protocol is, people."

"Dawn?" one asked.

"Safe.  That Tony tried to say she was fired.  I have no idea how to handle that.  Handling a temple full of warriors is a bit different.  A lot fewer protocols."  Someone came flying in and stomped his way.  "Hold," he ordered, freezing him.  "Raise the visor."  The guy was forced to but he was growling.  "Tell me a lie, Rhodey.  You know me, I don't attack without a good reason."


"Tell.  Me. A.  Lie."

"You're a pretty girl."  Nothing.  They waited.  Still nothing.  "What the hell?"

"New goo clones.  They take a few extra seconds."  He pointed.  "Tony started to scream at Dawn about the safe room she's never been in."

"She couldn't get into it.  Only Stark can.  I can't even get into it and I have design access levels," Rhodey said.

"She can't magically pick electronic locks," Xander said.  "Tony, this clone of him, tried to fire her.  I have no idea what your protocol is.  Do I need to take Callia?"


"Let me check her nanny," one of the guards said.  "If she's not her, then yes, sir.  I know you're her godfather."

"She'll go to her aunt," Xander assured him.  He looked at Rhodey.  "Fury was cursed."

"We heard he was going to turn into a teenager."

The mage backed away from Thor.  "He's finally free.  He is quite strong."

"Well, he is Thor," Xander said dryly.  He looked at him.  "Did you get the new bad guy?"

"There's higher ups scared enough to need new panties," he said bluntly.

"As I have it, I'll pass out new info.  We have nothing new."


"They stole what they need to renew her.  She knows though.  Dad told her."

"You're not bad for being the son of a chaos god," Rhodey joked.  The mage tested him.  "Who're you?"

"The one who is ending the curse."

"I say I release Rosenburg on Tara's stepmother since she did that."

Rhodey shuddered.  "She's alive?"

"They're making sure she can't kill Coulson when she goes since she called him back."

Rhodey's eyes went wide.  "Seriously?"

"Yeah.  When that other Loki busted out.  She said it was to make sure Tara quit crying."

"Uh-huh.  Can we end her soon?"

"We might need her for this," Xander admitted quietly.  "She's more power than discretion but we might."

"We might," he decided.  He took a deep breath.  "Stark has a tracker on him.  Anyone look at it yet?"  One of the guards ran off to do that.  Xander was handed the baby.  "Not her?"

"Neither one.  I video called the other one and she's goo."

Xander nodded.  "Okay, we'll go see Auntie Dawn at Uncle Fi-Fi's house."  She beamed and patted him.  "Her bear or whatever?"  It was handed over with two bags, one a diaper bag.  "Thank you.  Let me drop her off then we'll go test the last few Avengers."  She cooed when he teleported them.

"Twinkly," she cooed.

Dawn jumped up and took her to cuddle.  "Danger level?"

"Extreme.  Goo and they're now lasting a few seconds."  Coulson nodded, reporting that in.  "By the way, Tara's stepmother is responsible for the curse."  He flashed out to find Rogers.  "Hold," he ordered, freezing the guards.  Steve glared.  "Tell me a lie."

"This again?"

"Yup, and they last a bit longer now.  Tony's missing by the way."

"He's upstairs somewhere."

"He went to goo at Stark Industries after the goo clone yelled at Dawn for something she couldn't possibly do.  Lie?"

"I'm naturally a blonde girl who likes ice cream."  Nothing.  He relaxed. The mage showed up to test him.  He removed the curse, making Steve wince and hold his head.  "What was that?"

"Tara's stepmom.  I'm going to sic Willow on her."

"She's going tonight," one guard said quietly.

"No.  We'll need her during this upcoming thing.  We need all the strength we can have.  Fury's in a bar up the street."

"The president said so," that guard said.

"Dad, go get him to rescind the order.  We might need Willow."  Loki appeared with the redhead in tow.  "You knew?"

"He's affected."

"So it's hitting anyone who might have influence over someone who could shelter Tara."

Loki sneered.  "Who would touch the pure one?  She is so pure she makes my skin itch but I would not see such harmed."

"Her stepmother," Xander said.  "We think."

"I will handle that."  He went to talk to that young woman and then her stepmother.  She was the cause of the curse.  He made it rebound onto her.  She went into a shrieking and shaking fit until her head exploded.  "My son favors your daughter.  I would not have him upset.  His anger is not something the world needs to court."  He disappeared.

Xander looked at Willow then at the guards.  "Safe room?"  They nodded.  He put her into a mild trance and let them lead her off.  He looked at Steve.  "Who's in charge when Fury's off his rocker?"

"Agent Hill."

"In the hall, sir, waiting to make sure it's safe," someone male called.

"I never attack unless it's warranted.  It's why I'm the protector of humanity instead of the destroyer of stupid humans."  He looked at her.  "Have you told a lie recently?"

"I did and will again, Alexander.  I'm madly in love with Mr. Stark."  Nothing.  She smiled.  "Who has the baby?"

"Her aunt.  Both her nannies went to goo.  The new ones last a few seconds later."

"Good to know.  Her aunt?"

"Stark was one.  Pepper was one.  Pepper was also infected by the curse from Tara's stepmom.  Dad went to talk to her."  She shuddered.  "Yeah.  Rosenburg?"

"Presidential orders."

Xander took her with him to the white house.  The president shouted when they appeared.  Xander glared at the guards, who backed off.  "We need Rosenburg until the next apocalypse battle."

"I've heard there is one.  Why?" he demanded.

"He's strong enough he managed to kill Gods that can't be killed by anyone but one of them.  He's tied into creation," Xander said honestly.  "That means he's able to probably sneeze and destroy the world.  Just like she can."

"I can grant a reprieve until that battle is done.  No further."

Xander nodded. "She'll go during it or after it," he agreed.  "I've nearly taken her down a few times and I never understood why we didn't.  Clearly someone had a notion and never told us."

Janus appeared, nodding.  "I did know and stayed the hand many a times, Alexander."  Xander looked at him.  "You will need her.  He is strong but you can be stronger."

"If must needs so be it," he said quietly.  He knew that meant he was going to die.  He'd have to burn himself out during the battle to kill him.  "When?  Do you have an approximate date?"

"The calling will not happen.  The summoning will not happen the first or second time.  The third will be the charm when they have a new sacrifice.  Your goddaughter needs better protection than her aunt."

"Do they still want her?"

"It is not her.  It is the baby.  They may still try with your adopted daughter but will fail."

Xander bowed his head and nodded.  "She'll have the best I can find, even if I do send her to Pegasus."

Janus smiled.  "That is not a bad place as long as you pick somewhere you have cleared."  He stared at him.  "We know you can handle it, even though the elders who remember are scared," he said quietly.  "You and the others are younger, stronger, more crafty, and they were new to the way of wars beyond their family squabbles.  You know of wars.  Your people know of wars."  Xander nodded.  "Even the chaos gods will help you.  All but the displaced one.  He is influenced."

"I'll take that into account.  Thank you."

"You are most welcome.  Also, that blue shirt?  It looks bad on you since you'll wonder."  He smiled and disappeared.

"Dad?" he called.  He walked up the hall and in.  "Did you hear?"

"We'll lock him up extra tightly, my son."  He looked at him.  "You will not die for this world," he warned quietly.

"I will do my duty as I was taught," Xander said firmly.  "If my duty is to kill the bastard by blowing myself up during the battle then so be it.   The duty is my duty."

Loki shook his head.  "There are others."

"Not who have a leak.  You're the only one I know of still alive and yours is much smaller than mine."  Loki stepped back.  "I can feel it."  He grimaced.  "Can you lay protections on Callia and Dawn that would divert attention around them by the people who want them?"

"That is a plan I can do," he agreed.

"Can you please go tell John to find me a safe spot in case I need to send them?"  He nodded, going to do that.  He looked at the president then at Agent Hill.  "Orders?"

"We'll let her live until the battle."

"Thank you."  He took her back to the headquarters.  He wrote down what Janus had said and left it on the Avenger's table, getting a nod from her.  He went back to tell his people and then checked on Dawn.  "Any news yet?" he asked as he appeared.

"No, not yet.  Your dad put on a divergence spell," she said.

"I asked him to."  She nodded.  Callia was napping on her.  He hugged Dawn around the head.  "Be careful."  He disappeared.  He had some plans to make.  Including who was going to take his spot.  John was adamant he didn't want it.


Tony Stark stomped into his office the next day.  "Where in the hell is my assistant?" he demanded.

"At her hiding place with your daughter," one of the guards said smartly.  "Sir, tell me a lie please?"

Tony looked at him.  "I'm Pepper in disguise."  Nothing happened.  "Why is she there and not here?"

"Because that you threatened her for doing something she couldn't possibly do and then fired her."

"Excuse me?" he demanded.  He found his cellphone and called her.  "Where in the hell are you?"  She said something a bit coolly.  "That wasn't me, Dawn.  What did he accuse you of?"  He winced.  "No that would get you locked out of the building until it was investigated.  Is the investigation done?"  The guard nodded.  "Is she no longer locked out?"

"We can't reauthorize her pass without the CEO's digital permission."

"Where is Pepper?"

"Haven't found her yet, sir.  We're still looking."

Stark considered it.  "Dawn, go to SHIELD.... Is Fury better?"

"No.  He's madder.  He threatened to kill Dawn and Alexander.  He showed up and dared him to take a swing then laid him out again from the gossip we've heard."

"What is wrong with him?"

"We think an infection by the being."

"No one's sure?"  The guard shook his head.  He listened to the phone.  "Dawn, where's Pepper?  Why is she in LA?  Sure.  Thank you.  No, I want you back.  I'm not missing out on your coffee and I'll never find anything.  I'll get the baby later."  He hung up.  "She's in LA somewhere."

"We'll reroute the searches."  He went to tell the search team that.

"Xander," Stark called.  He appeared looking a bit too calm.  "What the hell?"

"You ask like I'm omnipotent.  I'm not that sort of God, Stark.  I'm doing the best I can and handling the major emergencies as they come.  Right now I'm stopping a nuclear reactor from going up.  Again."  He disappeared.

Stark calmed himself.  Xander did not look good.  He texted Roque to see if he had any new information.  He got told that Janus had given some up but it was at SHIELD.  He'd get it faxed over.  Stark made himself stay calm.  He called the others Avengers.  "Are the rest of us all right?" he demanded calmly.

"Mostly," Steve said.  "Being out of the way meant that Natasha, Clint, and Agent Coulson were all safe.  Callia's with them."

"That's fine.  Are they there?"

"No.  They reported that they're staying where they are in case they're attacked again.  Also, FYI, Rosenburg got a reprieve thanks to Xander until the battle is done with."

"That makes sense.  At the very least she can throw power at it.  What about you and Thor?"

"Thor was cursed and he's got a heck of a headache," Steve said.  "Tara's made him something and apologized to the point of crying about her stepmother.  By reports Loki made her head explode."

"Good.  That suits me.  Anyone else affected that we can't clear?"

"Bruce is nowhere to be found."  Tony turned on a security camera.  "Is he there?"

"Looks like he slept on his desk last night.  I'll check him."  He took a calming breath.  "Tell Agent Hill I need that new intel."

"It's in your email she said," Steve said.  "Are you staying there or coming here?"

"I'll be here today.  That way I can calm down the panic because no one can find Pepper, even Dawn."  He hung up, rubbing over his face.  It was too early to drink and he needed a clear head in case he had to go rescue Pepper.  He called Angel's people.  "Gunn, Tony Stark.  My CEO, Pepper, is out there somewhere.  Let me know if you hear about her.  Thank you."  He hung up and got up to do something while he thought.  There was no reason to take Pepper out.  Unless it was to isolate Dawn.  Which made scary sense.  She was very powerful.  She was fairly open.  She had leverage to get Alexander and him, plus most of the rest of SHIELD if she got taken.  He sent a text to Coulson about that.  He assured him he had it covered.  So he'd simply worry in the gym for now.


Phil hung up, looking at Dawn.  "Stark thinks Pepper got taken so they could get you," he said quietly.

She looked up from playing with her niece, nodding.  "It makes a scary sort of sense.  If I could dump it and become normal I would."

"You don't have that right," he told her.  "You have to stay here to help us."  She nodded, going back to playing.  He went to make some coffee.  No coffee.  This was not starting out to be a good week.  Dawn summoned some.  "Stole it?"

"Yup.  Sorry."

"I'm not."  He made some and drank the first cup.  The other two agents were resting in his bedroom.  The other two bedrooms didn't have beds.  It was his turn on watch.  "Are you all right?"

"Fuck no."

He patted her on the head.  "Stark will scream again if you teach her to swear."

"He already taught her damn it."  Callia repeated it with a smile.  "Exactly, it's one of those days, dear."  She looked up.  "Is it safe enough to video call Grandma?"

"No.  They might trace it.  We're open here and should move but I have no idea where that's near enough for help to get to us."

"I know.  It's not your fault or my fault.  We're simply pawns."  He nodded.  "Very mad pawns."  He smiled.  She handed him the baby.  "Here, let me go pace for a bit."  She got up and moved to pace.  She looked outside and sighed.  "Knights are here," she announced.  Natasha bit out a curse word in Russian.  "Ya think?" she asked dryly.  She considered it.  She flashed down there and froze them all.  She looked at the head one.  "We are facing the destruction of humanity in a few months by Thanos," she said quietly.  "I am needed for that.  My powers are needed for that.  Back the fuck off before I destroy you all first.  I do not need this and I will lose control of my powers if you don't leave me alone."  She unfroze him.  "Do you have any questions."

"How can we be sure of this information?" he demanded.

She called someone the monks would trust.  One of the local priests had spotted her and told them.  "Tell them of the upcoming battles."

"It is said that Thanos is coming," he said.  "They have even spared Rosenburg's life for the battle."

"Then we will make sure she is safe afterwards as well," the head knight said.  He stared at Dawn.  "You are still a danger to humanity."

"You'd think you'd appreciate me having conscious, good control of it," she snapped back.  "Not letting it bleed out of me."  The head knight shuddered.  "Nothing and no one uses me."

"Yet one has.  We can tell," he sneered.

"I'm eighteen, I thought it was about time, especially since his cult likes me too."  The knight moaned.  "Protecting everyone includes protecting myself.  And if I so much as hear you've went near my mother or sister I will slay you all.  I did learn a lot watching my sister the slayer having to do her duty.  Am I clear?"

"We have no need to go to them," he assured her.  "We can find you.  You glow with it."

"Not that one I don't."  She smiled.  He gasped.  "Aren't you so glad I'm the favorite adopted little sister of Alexander?"

He bowed his head.  "We trust you to keep in control until the battle.  Then we will see."  He and his knights rode off.

She looked at the priest.  "Would your god like that?" she sneered.  "Get right with him."  She stomped off while he shivered.  She went back upstairs.  "Okay, the knights are going to wait to kill me like everyone is to kill Willow."  She slammed the door.

"Hey!" Callia yelled.  "No slammies."

"Sorry, dear."  She cuddled her.  Her niece snuggled in and hugged.  "Thank you.  I needed that."

Natasha patted her on the back.  "You will survive and if we must, that order will be reborn at some other time."

Dawn looked at her.  "Maybe.  If I die, the Key goes with me.  Which means I'll probably ascend according to John.  He told me what that meant.  It's not too horrible but they won't let me interfere in anything."

Natasha patted her again.  "It will not be needed in any way."  She went back to sleep.  She noticed how stiff Clint was.  "She is sensible and making plans in case," she said quietly.

"I know.  I hate anyone has to."

She patted his wrist.  "Reality sometimes does suck."  He nodded.  They went back to napping.  Coulson had it for now and Dawn could be calmed down later.  She teleported off to deal with the rage in a way her niece couldn't see.  Callia didn't need to know about this stuff.


Bia looked out the window at the explosion of power.  "Dawn," she said.  Everyone nodded and let her have her crying, screaming fit.  She deserved it and needed it.  When it was mostly over, Xander went to cuddle her and calm her down.  It was all they could do.


Dawn looked up at Xander when he moved closer.  She was on her knees on the dirt.  "I don't want to die," she said quietly.  "I have plans.  Things are going well."

"Neither do I," he said, pulling her up to hug her.  "We have to do what we can to make sure the first rule isn't violated.  If we can manage it we will.  Though Willow's going before she can pull either of us back."  She sniffled and nodded, crying on him.  He just held her.  Neither of them wanted to make these plans.  They had to and it sucked everything out of their lives.  They'd do what they had to do, because that was the duty and they knew that only they could do it.  They just wouldn't talk about it.


Up in the temple, John left to talk to Hera.  "Lady Hera, I have a petition."

"Come closer, John."

"In private, ma'am.  It's important."  She nodded, taking him to her temple garden.  "How do I do what Xander did and break through the barrier?  We'll need more that can access it beyond him.  I'm volunteering."

She shook her head.  "It cannot be forced as I know of it.  Only the oldest Titans could do something like that.  You are not of their blood, John."

"I know.  Still, sometimes it has to be done."

"We would miss you when it killed you.  As would your family."

"We'll be doing the same missing for Xander and Dawn," he said quietly.  "I want to make sure none of us have to be missed.  Spread the weapon duty around."

She considered it.  "Go to Hades, talk him into letting you talk to Cronus."  He nodded and bowed, going to do that.  She sat down on a bench, worried even more now.  If he managed it and didn't die, that would create a powerful godling without a position.  They had to confirm him.  She went to Zeus.  "We must confirm Jonathan."

"Why?  He's content."

"If not, he won't be as much of a help during the battle.  He asked if there was something he could do to help more.  I thought of this after I sent him to talk to our Father."

Zeus considered it and nodded.  "Get his mother to agree."

"I care not if they agree.  They won't start a war over this."

"No, they won't," he agreed.  "What's open?"  She got the scroll.  "He does like to fly.  He is a good warrior."  They looked.  Nothing really fit John's nature.  Zeus created a new seal.  It was the Protector of their Pantheon.  It would give him power, access to asking for help if needed.  Ares appeared looking amused.  "For Jonathan.  Surely you will not fight it?"

"No, I will not fight it."  He called something over.  "There's already one made.  Made during the Twilight."  He handed it over.

Zeus looked then merged them.  When Jonathan came out of Hades' realm, he'd confer it on him.  "Thank you, Ares."

"Desperate times and I can stand Jonathan in that role where I could not stand my half-brother.  Jonathan has a mind he uses and sense."  He left.

Hera sent a message to Hades to have Jonathan come back before he went to talk to their father.


Dawn frowned, looking up.  "New god?"

Xander felt and nodded.  "John.  Protector of the Greek Pantheon.  The Roman will probably follow."  They felt it happen too and nodded.  Then John disappeared back to talk Hades.  He let her go.  "Are you all right?"

"Hell no."

"Me either.  We'll fake it until it happens if we must."  He looked at his temple.  Then at her.  "Clay will do good taking over my spot if O'Neill won't take it."  She nodded.  He brushed her hair back.  "They've got to be worrying."

"Possibly."  She hugged him again.  "If I don't make it, watch Mom and Buffy?"

"Yup.  Ditto.  And you inherit the dog."

She nodded, going home.  She went to the bathroom to clean up.

Natasha watched her then looked at Phil, who shook his head.  They couldn't help with this.  She had to deal with it with their support but no one could fix her worries this time.  Cocoa wasn't enough this time.


Nick Fury found the apartment he wanted and knocked on the door.  "We need to talk, Coulson."

"Not unless you're back to yourself, sir.  You proved you were compromised earlier."  He stared at him.

Fury looked over his shoulder, seeing Callia Stark and his face went rigid.  "I see."

"Callia needed protected while her father was missing.  I'm listed as an alternate contact."

"And the two agents you're harboring?"

"They're helping me guard her.  That's not exactly harboring.  I've reported in every few hours as protocol demands."

"I see.  So you think this is the right thing to do?"

"Yes, I do."  Fury growled and started to pull a gun.  "It's clear you're still compromised, sir."  He slammed the door.  Dawn and everything moved to Alexander's temple.  Dawn was clutching the baby.  Phil smiled.  "Sorry to interrupt, Bia."

"Boys, go take out Fury," she ordered.  "Dawn, Hephie put up your own special house out back, dear.  Take the baby out there."  She nodded, taking them back there, the boxes of stuff floating with them.  "You two, go pack for the two agents," she ordered quietly.

"Already did," Dawn called back.  "Earlier."

"Then never mind," Bia said with a happier smile.  She went to help the ones taking down the compromised head of SHIELD.  She was Force, and Force was always stronger than Fury.  They kept forgetting she was a Titan and a Goddess.  It was a shame.

Coulson called in that they had evacuated after running into a compromised Fury again.  That they were safe and out of practical contact but within the US.  He would check in daily through email.  Agent Hill agreed and said they had it handled.  He was locked out of the systems.  He thanked her and hung up, turning off his earpiece.  He put it into his pants pocket and looked at her.  "They gave you a real tub."

She smiled sadly.  "I could use a good soak.  Callia, bath time?"  She squealed and babbled, hugging her aunt.  "Guys, find a spot however."  She took her niece into the bathroom and gently closed the door.  Hephaestus had given her a tub worthy of a football team using.  It had padded seats, water warmers, jets for bubbles and muscle tension.  A shower at one end that you stepped up into.  It automatically filtered any soap not that wasn't bubble bath as she discovered.  It was what she needed.  She got Callia bathed and sent her out for a bedtime story from Phil, then settled herself in it to cry quietly.  She hated this apocalypse.  Why her?


Natasha put the baby down on the smaller cot in Dawn's room, listening at the bathroom door.  She shook her head.

Clint sat on the couch, looking at them.  "I found her with one of those heel scrapers, the type with the razor blade, the night she got drugged," he said quietly.

"She's not suicidal," Phil said.

Natasha nodded.  "She's not but she knows that her death may come with this battle. If we need raw power, she is our best source.  Her and Xander."

"Which is why he looked like hell earlier too," Clint said.  "We can't let her do that."

She looked at him.  "We would."

"We're not eighteen-year-old kids," he shot back.  "We're agents.  Big difference."

"She's as much a warrior as the others, even though she chooses not to fight daily.  She goes into this a warrior and if she can come out she will.  Those knights may be waiting but we can kill them afterward if we survive."

"I've talked to SHIELD Europe's head," Coulson said.  "They've agreed to deal with that issue.  They don't want anything to harm the people that will be taking the biggest part of this fight."  He looked toward the bathroom then at them.  "Buffy preplanned her funeral the night she heard her mother had gotten another tumor," he said quietly.  "Dawn doesn't know."  They nodded she didn't need to.  "Joyce has hers preplanned."

"Dawn is probably thinking on hers," Natasha admitted. "This is not the situation I want to be in."

"If a wish could help," Phil said dryly.  "I'd have made it by now."  She nodded she knew that.  He heard Dawn splash and went in there to help her calm down.  She was getting frustrated again.  They had seen the large, circular bare patch down the hill as they walked back to the house.  Dawn was not past the anger stage to the point of making real plans.  She let him hold her and that was what she needed.  Even if he was getting his suit wet.


John came back the next morning looking like hell warmed up.  Roque stared, backing away slowly.  "I heard you got appointed."

"That too."  He handed him the scroll.  "From Cronus, who said he remembered the battle.  He said if he had the power he would break out to help us."  He went to his temple to calm himself and get control of the extra energy.

Roque looked over the scroll.  It was good information.  He took it to SHIELD.  "Agent Hill."  She flinched.  He smirked.  "Nice reflexes.  Someone asked Cronus what he remembered of the battle.  That needs to be passed around." 

She took it to look at then scanned it in and sent it by email to everyone who needed to see it.  "Thank you.  Dawn?"

"Girl's pissed off, rightly so.  We're helping her handle it."

"Callia?" she asked even more quietly.

"Little brat walked into my bedroom at five this damn morning and poked me demanding a story about elephants," he said dryly, making her smile.  "Thankfully I can manifest clothes because she nearly climbed on top of my naked mate."  She laughed.  Everyone stared.  "Girl's warped.  Has to come from her mother."  He left.

"Why does this foul machine of my brother's creation beep at me again!" Thor yelled.

"New email, Thor," she called.  "Please don't destroy the computer.  We can't replace it.  Have Doctor Banner get into it."

He looked over.  "Like with the cat videos?"

"Email, like letters."

"Oh."  That calmed him down.  "How do I turn off the foul beep?"  Bruce leaned over to do that so they were all spared his hangover.  He scowled at the tiny print.  "Who did they ask?"

"Roque said they asked Cronus."

Thor nodded.  "Aye, he would remember.  It was much before my time and before he started to have and eat babes."

"Is Dawn all right?" Bruce asked.

"Roque said she's very angry right now," she said.  "They're helping her."  He nodded.  "He also said that Callia tried to climb in with them for a story while they were naked."  He smiled.

Thor looked at her.  "It is good and right that a warrior like Roque find a mate that suits his skills and temper.  He is lucky he found one."

"Ask your father for an exemption due to the battle," she said.  "It's not like you can date during this."

"I tried.  He is not seeing any petitions," he complained.  "He wants me to marry someone he likes and she is sweet but mindless and not for a true warrior.  She is meant for a farmer who likes her to bear mindless babies that will work his fields.  She could not even bandage a wound, much less heal or stitch one."  She got him some water and aspirin.  "Thank thee."

"Welcome."  She went back to monitoring things.  She was in charge with Fury wherever he was.

Stark stomped in.  "Is my daughter all right?"

"Roque said she tried to crawl in with them while they were naked for a story on elephants this morning."

"That probably means she realized they were naked," he said dryly, texting him.  Coulson answered with a video of her splashing with Bia in a fountain to get dirt off their hands.  That made him relax.  Now if they had Pepper back he could approach calm.


John Sheppard walked onto base and a few people stared at him in awe.  "I know I'm glowing.  I'm trying to dim it," he complained.  He went to talk to O'Neill.  Landry had been banished a few weeks back.  "Sir."  He saluted.

"At east, Colonel.  Why are you glowing?"

"I need to report a change in status."

"I figured you had broken out," he said quietly.

"And now I have a job protecting my father's people.  Especially with this battle coming up."

"I get that.  Not like I can put that on the forms though."  Sheppard smiled.  "They're still arguing about how to close a wormhole."

"Shoot it?"

"That creates a void."

"Which then sucks in the thing coming through it hopefully."

"They've discounted that."


"Anything else to report?"

"Agent Fury was found to be a simaculum.  A golem," he said at the confused look.  "Bits of this and that animated and given personality."

"Oh shit."

"Yup.  They think he's being held wherever Pepper Potts is.  They think it's in LA."

"Great.  If we have a way I'll scan for it."

"I asked one of Janus' people to find them.  Too many are upset right now and we need calm thinking."

"Sheppard, I'm going to be indelicate.  Did you do more than break out?  You feel slightly like your little brother to me."

"Yes, I did, sir.  It's the only way to defeat the bastard.  Otherwise Xander would probably die from it."

"Okay," Jack said.  "I want you practicing night and day to keep control."  John nodded.  "However you do that."

"I'd need space I could exercise my powers without people freaking out and calling me an Ori again."

"Go to your brother's temple."

"It's months before the battle, sir."

"Yay.  Go anyway."  John nodded and left.  O'Neill made a private note and hid it.  This was going to be bad.  He considered it.  "Doesn't Fury have something odd about how he lost his eye?  That's why the veins are so pronounced around the patch?" he called.

"Yes, sir," his assistant called.

"See if you can scan for that reason around California.  Intel has them probably around LA."

"Yes, sir."  He told McKay that and what it was so he could figure that out.


Tony Stark landed in his armor in Xander's front yard.  He looked around then at the person that came out to meet him, putting his visor up.  "What would happen if he comes out of a hellmouth?"

"Thousands of demons underneath the kraken?" Xander guessed.  "And then him?"

"That's bad," Tony decided.  "We'd be too tired to fight him.  We were going to use the Sunnydale hellmouth.  There's no civilians for casualties at first."

"There's a book that I cannot find.  It has how you retune a hellmouth.  It's a chaos book.  I remember seeing it in Dad's shelf but he said he can't find it.  I can't find it on any of the book finder sites for antiques.  There's only like eight copies.  If we do it that way we can use the hellmouth out there," Xander said.

"The New York Public Library inherited the collection of a research watcher," Coulson said as he joined them.  "In it are chaos magic related books according to Tara.  I'm not sure."

Stark called that in.  One agent got beamed with one.  "That one?"

Xander looked.  "No, the other one in that series."

"It's under lock and key," the agent said.  "They won't release it at all."

Loki appeared, looking at the book.  "One of my greater priests who handled the chaos that the Council caused.  I was quite proud of him but I had no idea he had those books."  He changed his clothes and went to the library with the agent.  When someone started to scream at him he changed into his battle armor.  "They were mine originally, woman, and it may be important to save the earth."

"The Avengers will stop you," she sneered.

"They know I'm here."  He handed over the one he needed and another one.  "To my son please."  The agent nodded and disappeared.  He looked at her.  "Do quit huffing.  I'm too magnificent for you to sully my armor by steaming it up."  He disappeared.  His 'boyfriend' was getting too anxious about everything that was going on.  It was going to ruin his bid to be first husband.


Xander took the books.  "Thank you."  He walked off.  "They're out back, Stark."

"Thank you for guarding her, Xander."  He looked at Coulson.  "They found Fury and Pepper.  Fury walked in spewing so much vile swearing Cap covered his ears and started to pray for it to stop.  Fury's venting went on for three hours."  Coulson smiled because that sounded like the Director Fury he knew in a snit.  "He said you can come back and prepare from there."

"To be honest, none of us need the added stress levels," he said quietly.  "Natasha hasn't said a single word all day.  Barton's cleaned his bow six times already.  Dawn's trying to meditate and think and it's not working."

He nodded.  "I get that.  That's why I took the rest of them to the lab."  He followed Coulson to the back yard areas.

Bia was looking at the mess Callia had just created.  "Dear, if you don't blow up those flowers, we can plant those and another patch."

"Two?" she asked, looking amazed.

"That's right, two.  Blow up over there."  She pointed.  "Mr. Stark."

"Hi, Scary Dada!"  She smiled and waved then blew up another patch, cackling.  "Two!"

"That's right, two.  Be careful of the roses.  They're special to many goddesses, Callia," Bia said patiently.

"Roses?" she asked, looking confused.

Bia summoned one over.  "Flowers that look like this are called roses.  They come in all sorts of colors.  These are pink roses.  These are special to a few of my favorite goddesses, including my mother."  She smiled.  "So we never hurt the roses when you blow stuff up."

Callia petted the rose. "Pretty rose."  Bia smiled and tucked it into her braid.  She picked another area without the pretty flowers she was learning about and blew it up too.  "Three!" she cheered.

"That's right, now we can plant three flower beds.  Let's do that before you blow up more, okay?"  She ran over to hug her father then they got to work planting the flowers.

"When did she get magic?" Tony asked.  "The books we have said that slayers can't use magic."

Bia shrugged.  "No idea.  Maybe the people that created her did a bit of tinkering.  She's clearly not the normal slayer to be."  She smiled.  "Tara can help her learn control."

"That's fine.  I don't mind that.  Just wondering if it was something we hadn't run across."

Dawn strolled out.  "I see you blew up something beyond Clay," she said dryly.  Stark looked at her.  "She wanted a story about elephants and they had to get dressed really quickly so she helped a trunk manifest and giggled madly."

"Sounds like my little girl, yeah."  He walked her back inside.  "Are you all right?  I know it wasn't you, Dawn.  I'd never yell at you like that anyway."

"I'm not okay but I'm figuring things out.  Right now I've got this little voice that says I need to learn harder, more evil spells but then a tiny voice that sounds like my mother pops up and says she'd be disappointed in me and you know I hate disappointing Mommy so I'm not sure what the hell I'm doing in the it has to be us or them battle I got dragged into.  Is Pepper all right?"

"She's fine.  They found her and Fury."  Barton looked over, stopping his cleaning.  "You have a new one in R&D that's a touch lighter and stronger metal mix to try."  He looked at her.  "The first thing she asked was if Callia was safe and then asked about you."  Dawn relaxed and nodded.  "As for disappointing Joyce, she'd be more pissed off if the world ended."

"I know, I don't know what to study."

"You'll figure it out.  Want to come back home for a bit?"

"I...  No.  Agent Hill sent someone earlier to deliver something important to Phil and he gave me a look like I'm some Goddess that can cure everything," she said quietly.

"Okay.  The rest of the Avengers are at Stark Tower at the moment," he said.  "We have tentative plans to try to open the Sunnydale hellmouth if they have to pull him out."

"It'll open easily enough.  It's getting it closed again that'll take some power.  Tara can do that if she's not tired.  Willow has a bad habit of tying herself into the weave of stitches closing it."

"Good to know.  We'll factor that in.  John's scary geeks have gotten with ours."  He patted her on the cheek.  "Want me to take the baby?  It might keep Banner calmer."

"Sure.  I can come get her when it's time.  Xander's thinking about sending her to Pegasus with a few of John's people."

"That would be safer, yeah.  We will make it out of this alive because your mother will kill you if you don't graduate college."  She sniffled and walked off crying.  "What?" he sighed.

"She talked the knights into not taking her out until after the battle was over with," Barton said.  "She's in bad plan land."

"Sometimes bad plan land is the only place to be.  That's where I got the suit from."  He went to talk her down.  He handed her his phone.  "Call Pepper?  She's better at soothing things."  She smiled but waved her phone.  "Okay.  Let me grab Callia and be teleported back.  We'll be back in two days for a meeting.  All of us."  She nodded.  "Good girl, Dawn.  I know it's not your chosen job but we all know you'll do fine and make your mom a grandmother some year in the future."

She smiled weakly.  "Maybe.  Thanks, Tony."

"Welcome, kiddo."  He went to get his daughter, who was enjoying the planting.  "Bia, can we have her back for tonight or is it too dangerous?"

"No, tonight should be fine.  Tomorrow's Dawn's graduation so we can take her back then.  Xander and John are figuring out how to protect her."

"Thanks."  He picked her up, getting dirty hands patting his cheek.  "Pepper wants a hug."

"Pep Pep!" she cheered.  "Cool!"

"I'm very glad your aunt taught you that word."  He walked off.

"Damn it!"

"Yeah, it's been that sort of day, that's why Pepper needs a hug.  He saw all the research with beer and winced.  "Guys, can we not do that around the baby?" he asked.  They stared at him.  "She'll have enough of a problem with it from me.  I'd like her not to have much more temptation."

"We hide it when she's in here, Mr. Stark," Jensen said with a smile.  He waved at the baby.  "Have a good day, Callia."

"Be good boys," she called, waving at them.  Stark smiled, activating the transport mechanism.  He put her down and she ran up the halls screaming for Pep Pep.  Pepper caught her and hugged her, nearly crying on her.  "Pep Pep."

"I'm so glad your aunt had you," she whispered, clutching the baby.  "How's Dawn?  She started to call and then hung up and went to meditate some more."

"Bad.  Not good at the moment."

"I need to be there."

"Her graduation is tomorrow. We're holding a meeting the next day."  She nodded, walking off with her.  "Let Steve and them hug her too.  They're too tense."

"That's what I'm doing.  Let's go see your uncles, Callia.  They need hugs too."

"Damn it."

"Yeah, because of that.  Don't say that in front of Uncle Steve.  He hates swearing."  She grinned and hugged her aunt until they found the Avengers.  Then she launched herself at her favorite uncle, hugging him.  "Dawn had her."

Steve smiled and nodded.  "We figured she did."  He hugged her.  "I'm glad you're okay."

She kissed him on the cheek.  "Damn it all to hell," she said.

"Who taught you that?" he asked with a smile.

"Fi-Fi."  He kissed her on the head and handed her to Doctor Banner.  "Grr guy!" she cooed, cuddling him.  He was slightly green.  He started, looking at her.  She smiled.  "Grr guy?"  He hugged her and calmed down.  "Hi, Unclie Brucie."

"Hi, Callia.  Thank you for making me calm down."  He cuddled her.  "You're nearly as good at that as Dawn is."

"She was helping Bia blow up ground for flower gardens magically," Tony said as he came in with a bucket of water bottles on ice.  He had gotten out of the suit.

"Really?" Pepper demanded, looking at him.  "None of the books on slayers said she could use magic."

"She shouldn't be able to.  They're not sure why."

"Fucking NID," she muttered.

Callia looked at him.  "Bad boys are bad.  Kitties are kitties."

"That's very prosaic," Tony said with a smile.  "It's also a very good life's lesson.  And if you're possessed I'm letting Pepper kill whoever it is." 

Callia laughed and hugged her uncle then stared at her other one.  She got off Bruce by climbing up his arm and jumping over to try to capture the pretty hammer.  Thor caught her and let her pat it instead.  She always tried to get his hammer and his hat.  Then she tried to braid his hair.  She pulled her rose out.  "Pretty rose.  Important rose."

"Yes it's very pretty and many goddesses do adore roses," he said.  "My own mother likes them."  She smiled and put it back into her hair with a bit of help from Steve then cuddled him.  He sighed in pleasure.  "I need a pack of you some day soon.  I hope they will be as smart and wise."

"I'd let you borrow her to get your parents off your back but I don't want them to think we're married," Tony joked.

Thor looked at him.  "I like my wife to be more comely and attractive to me, with longer hair and bigger measurements than your scrawny muscles, Stark."  He went back to cuddling the baby.  "My nephew?"

"Had that 'this shit is bad and we're all going to try not to die' look," Tony said.  Thor looked at him.  "So did Dawn."

Thor nodded.  "It is sad that the youngest of us have the most to worry about in this fight.  The elders should fight as hard even if they have tried to give up hope."

"Well, if your father leaves Valhalla for a long vacation so he doesn't get killed then you can claim that he ran and his edict to have you married off is invalid," Pepper said.  "If he can't rule over one area he can't do it in others."

"I shall think on that."  He sniffled her hair. "You smell like your Aunt Natasha's shampoo."

"John had that godhood glow around him," Stark said.

"Aye, I felt him confirmed.  He is the Guardian Protectorate of the Greek and Roman pantheons.  He may also have broken through the barrier.  I am not certain on that but I felt more power than he should have."  He let the baby go back to Bruce and coo at him to keep him calm.  "She is very understanding of human nature."

"I think she's a bit empathic like Dawn is," Pepper admitted.  "Which means that's probably part of a Rosenburg baby gift."

"I think Tara said she blessed her to understand people."  Tony sipped some water.  "Dawn's graduation is tomorrow.  I told them we'd have a meeting the next day."  They nodded.  "Banner, call McKay.  Xander has a book on how to retune a hellmouth and agreed that doing it in Sunnydale might be for the best."  He nodded, grabbing the phone while cuddling the baby so they could talk.  "Cap?"

"I want to get into a fight and I know it's the wrong thing to do."  He sat down.  The baby crawled over Bruce and Thor to sit on him and grin.  "Thanks, baby girl.  You're so much better than a fight with a punching bag."

"Cool!"  She patted his lips, getting her fingers kissed then he tickled her.  "Hey!"  She got free and smirked.  "Not pretty!"  She ran off to hide behind her father.  He was out of scary daddy mode and into cuddly daddy mode.  He picked her up and cuddled.  "Story?"

"I can tell you a story, or Uncle Steve can tell you a story."

"I can tell stories, yes."  She cooed and launched herself at him so she could be told one.  Then she'd get one from her father and Auntie Pep Pep.

"Usually when our children are that hyper there is honey or sugar involved," Thor said with a smile.

"No, she's a bit hyperactive," Tony said.  He looked at Pepper.  "She try to call back yet?"

"No, not yet.  Are you sure she's all right?"

"No, but she's trying to work through it."  She nodded, walking off so she could leave Dawn a voicemail in private.


Dawn got pulled out of her meditation by Phil.  "I'm okay."

"You're not okay.  Eat something?"


"You haven't eaten since yesterday, Dawn.  You ran three times our usual route, which means I'm adding another mile when we get back home.  You've meditated for hours.  You've been visibly sweating for a while now.  You need to eat," he said quietly.

"I ...  I can't focus."

"I realize that.  That's partially because you haven't eaten or slept in over a day."  She slumped.  "We all handle the major stress differently," he said quietly and calmly.  "Natasha hasn't spoken all day and has cleaned all her weapons.  Barton's cleaned his bow about eight times. You're trying to fight through it but you're not fueling the fight."  She looked at him.  "This is not the time to reduce your stamina or strength because you ignored basic biological needs.  Now, please eat?"

"I don't have time for that."

"You do.  Focus on the moment, not on the what if of the future.  You have time.  We have weeks at the very least.  For right now, you need to take care of yourself so you can keep fighting and figuring out what you need to do.  Just eat a few bites.  Please?  Force yourself if you have to."

She nodded, taking the simple ham and cheese sandwich to eat a bite.  She was forcing herself to eat because her stomach was in a tangled web of knots.  She knew he was right and she had to keep up her strength.  Hecate appeared.  "Goddess Hecate, is there a new problem?" she asked, sounding incredibly tired.

"I wish to view your memories of Willow."

"Go ahead," she said, eating another bite.  Hecate read them and scowled.  "It's not pretty but it is what it was."

"That is not what I saw."

"I was there, you only viewed," she shot back.  "The same as you still call them slayer, singular, instead of slayers, plural."

"How is there more than one?" she demanded.

"Buffy drowned and Xander revived her."

"He restored her?" she demanded.

"No, he revived her.  She was only dead for a few minutes, easily revived without magic.  It was before my time but I know what the monks showed me."

"I will read his.  What is all this?"

"You've heard by now that Thanos is coming," she said.  Hecate sneered.  "We must fight him, no matter what.  Even if it means all our lives.  I'm trying to figure out what to study.  Do you have any suggestions of a place I might add to?"

"If you must fight it seems reasonable to study that art."

"I have been studying it and defense.  I was hoping that you knew of a weakness he had or some other area that might come in handy during the battle."

Hecate shrugged.  "I know nothing about fighting.  My chosen were not meant to fight."

"And yet Willow used her magic to float stakes and kill vampires," Dawn said.  "Sometimes the fight picks us, not us picking the fight."

She nodded.  "That is a point.  I know not of any weakness he may have.  I'm sorry, child."  She went to find Alexander.  "You restored a soul?"

"No, that was Willow," he said dryly.

"The slayer."

He looked at her.  "She had drowned.  I made her lungs start working again.  As I did for that babe on the beach years ago."  She calmed down and nodded.  "Both slayers are very good at it, even though one had to fight her way from the dark.  Why is this an issue?  I checked for a prophecy before I did it.  No one had one."

"I wish to view your memories of that and of my chosen."  Xander shrugged and opened them to her.  She scanned them and glared at him.  "That is not how I saw it."

"Then you saw wrong," he told her.  "I was there, Hecate.  I witnessed it, I lived through it, I felt it wash over me when she destroyed the town.  I'm still maimed by it because it took my eye and left me with scars that no mate wants to look at."

"You have a consort to fix that with."

"She's a consort, not a mate.  We are not compatible that way.  In the ways that usually matter we are but right now we're preparing for a battle and Bia is a sweet young Goddess who is very much one to worry about being killed.  If you can't help, can this please wait in case we live through this battle?"

She considered it and manifested something.  "Named a time turner by that most charming author," she said.  "It may be of help."  She disappeared to find a different way to verify what she had seen.  Maybe she would go back and view it in the Halls of Time.  She could step into it and be immersed.

Dawn's voice floated around Olympus after Hecate had screamed.  "We are sparing Willow's life through the battle, Goddess Hecate.  We have need of her strength and skills.  Please do not kill her before then or else all might have to die.  We need all the fighters and the battle advantages we can get.  Thank you and blessed be."

Ares appeared to Dawn.  "The only known weakness he has is a certain weapon that was destroyed."


"Greatly.  You have backup."

She looked at him.  "I don't think that's going to save some of us."  He gaped.  "Even Janus said so."  He went to talk to him.  Phil nudged her with the plate.  "I'm not hungry!"

"Eat anyway," he said, staying calm.  "You have to eat."

"You sound like someone's mother."

He smiled.  "If you survive I'll let you turn me into a girl for a few days and maybe someone will get lucky.  Now please eat?"  She burst out laughing and he smiled.  "Please?"  She hugged him, letting herself break down.  He let her and got her calmed back down.  He even got her to eat the sandwich and take a rest.  He settled in to check and clean his own weapons again.

Clint stared at him.  "Thanks," he said quietly.

He nodded.  "Dawn needs it."  He didn't let himself think of anything beyond this moment.  SHIELD agents all had wills on file that they were obligated to update each year.  He had updated his not six months ago.  All he had to worry about was surviving.


It was the night after graduation.  Dawn had walked, the headmistress had tried not to sneer.  Dawn's diploma was blank but there was a nice note that the official would be mailed to her and a second note that said her offspring and family's offspring were forever banned from her school.  Which suited everyone just fine.  Joyce had managed to get free enough to come.  Buffy was hovering over her while nervously looking around for any sign of an attack or someone starting to chant in Latin.  Xander was more subtle but for different reasons. 

Callia was clinging to Grandma, not sure why Grandma was wearing the funny surgical mask and scarf over her hair.  One of the girls had remarked but Dawn had fake-perkied them about it being great her mom got off the oncology ward for a few hours to come for her graduation.  That stopped all the rumors of her being weird.  They all smiled, took pictures, let Grandma get in all the baby hugging she wanted of Dawn and Callia.  Then it was time to put Joyce back to bed, put Callia down for a nap, and the serious stuff to come back.

Into that too serious debate was entered Coulson reminding Dawn to eat, again.  Crackers and cheese this time, and some non-diet soda because she needed the calories.  It also was entered Xander having a vision.  Which he pulled Stark aside to hiss at about.  Everyone was watching but Tony just nodded and made a few calls.  So apparently nothing soon, nothing on the attack.

Natasha was enjoying watching people fuss over Dawn and her not noticing because she was thinking again.  "We should do something for a break," she said.  Xander stared at her.  "Is that not one of the prime rules?"

He smiled.  "It is, yes.  What did you have in mind, lovely one?  Movies, scrabble?  Twister?"

"Skinny dipping in the lake," Barton said.  Even Dawn stared at him.  "It's warm tonight, it's pretty out.  Not like it's going to be something odd since we're all adults."

"I'm not really interested in seeing either big brother figure naked," Dawn offered.

"Then don't look when they climb in."  Clint smiled like it was the best idea ever.  "Finish dinner."  She huffed but did finish eating.

Xander looked at Bia.  "I have no problem with it," she pointed out.  "Any shy people can leave on their boxers or whatever."  She hauled Dawn up.  "C'mon."

"I can put on a bikini," she said, pointing that way.  "I'm not really prepped to be looked at naked."

"You're going to be in the water.  They won't see if you haven't shaved your legs this week."  Bia hauled her out and got them both stripped off with a bit of power.  Dawn sighed but dove in on the deep side. A swim was a good idea.  The others, minus Steve, trooped down to join the ladies.  Most of the guys kept their boxers on but Bia was in a pranking mood.  She also had one of Xander's knives so a few guys went missing their boxers.  Dawn burst out laughing and turned around so they could toss them to the bank when they floated up.

Phil winced when Bia got him.  "Must you?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, I must.  You need stress relief too.  You're just too stubborn to take it."  She swam off.  The pond went from four feet to over eighteen feet in depth.  Xander had done a great job making it and it was more than big enough for all the people in the temples and the Avengers.

Dawn blushed when Thor climbed in.  He was almost fully naked.  Asgardians, not much different than other people, and he was at least proportional if not exceptional.  "Why are you wearing that hat?" she asked.

"It seems appropriate.  I usually wear the hat."  He smiled.  "Hats are nice."

"I never really got into wearing hats," she admitted.  She swam off before he could nakedly hug her.  She was not ready for that.  She felt someone splash in next to her and rolled out of the way and underwater to come up a distance away.  "Stark!" she complained.

"Sorry."  He smiled and waved.  "Why is Thor wearing his helmet?"

"He said he usually wears it."

"Oh, okay."  He yelped.  "Bia!  I'm not wearing anything."

"Sorry, wanted to see if you lived up to the hype," she joked with a grin.

He stared at her.  "Ask and I'll show you."  She giggled and swam off.

Dawn whimpered, going back under the water to do some more laps on the really deep end.  It was also darker on this side with the hill behind them and the trees shading an edge.  She wasn't going to be disturbing anybody.  She could float and no one would see.  At least until she felt someone grab her ankle and had to stop herself from flailing.  "Hey," she complained.

"Towing you into the light," Bruce said.  "Before you get lost."

"I'm an excellent swimmer.  Xander taught me."

"Fine."  He smiled.  "Happy to have that roadblock out of the way?"

"Yup, a whole lot.  It was good for Mom to get out too.  She needed the happies."  She smiled.  "Callia is still her favorite though."

"Grandchildren often are because you can hand them back," he said.  "You can come soak with us."

"I'm good.  I was going to do some laps."

"I know.  Come soak with us anyway," he ordered, hauling her back toward the group.  "Found her."

Xander hugged her under his arm.  "You made it and there wasn't even an attack."  She smiled.  "I'm proud.  You did better than any of us, even Willow, did."

"Thanks, Xander."  She hugged him back.  "Just one more and then college."

"Yup, just one more and then college for you," he promised.  She looked up at him.  "What?"

"No doing Buffy things," she said quietly.

He gave her a squeeze.  "Don't nag me.  Nag Stark.  He's going to get drowned if you don't save him from Natasha."

Dawn smiled and swam over to pounce Tony under the water.  "Saving Natasha some work," she quipped then swam off.  Tony chased her to dunk her.  It was good to relax.  Even if she did feel someone grab her now and then to pull her back into the group.  At one time she landed next to Phil, nearly on top of him, making him blush.  "Sorry, got shoved."

"I saw."  He settled her next to him so she wasn't in his lap.  "Breakfast then four miles tomorrow?"

"Must we jog?"

"We must," he assured her.  "Unless you had busy plans for the night?"

"Not really.  I haven't slept a whole lot recently."  He nodded he knew that.  "Thank you for the nagging."

"You're welcome.  You need it and I do like being your big brother." 

She hugged him then swam off.  Thor snagged her to hug her.  She looked up at him.  "Thor, sweetie, you're a big, big guy and I'm a tiny woman sort.  There's things on you that make tiny women sorts blush."  He laughed loudly and squeezed her then let her go.  "Thanks.  I don't want to embarrass either of us."

"Half of Asgard runs around mostly naked during the summers," Xander said.  "It's not embarrassing him. This is the only way we swim up there, even in the winter."

John shivered.  "Don't remind me.  I think I shrank a foot that night."  Roque laughed where he and his team were lounging.  "You did too."

"I had that extra foot to lose," he quipped with an evil grin.

"Gee, I didn't know you were built like Spike's tentacle porn movies, Roque," she quipped back.  He choked on his sip of beer.  "If so, I can let Clay have those for the times when he's missing you."

Xander groaned.  "I wondered where Spike's porn went."

"The whole container," Dawn quipped.

"Then you only got half, Dawn.  Was there anything more kinky than the tentacle and vampire porn?"


"I guess he was being delicate then.  He had some stuff even *I* had to wonder about.  Shit, even 'Dite had to wonder about some of that stuff."

"Demons have porn?" Bruce Banner asked.

"Yeah," Xander said, smiling at him.  "They do.  They have whole dedicated websites, mags, video companies.  There's ones that just do vampire porn for the goth and vamp communities.  There's mixed ones and ones that only do demon porn.  I was so sick with the flu I could not move our last year in Sunnydale.  Of course Giles had someone over so I got custody of Spike, had him tied up in my recliner.  Somehow he talked my fevered butt into putting in a movie he picked.  I was too tired to get up and turn it off so we ended up watching demonic gladiator porn.  With real victims, one being eaten during sex, and one species I still can't identify to this day because it's not in any book I know of.  Kinda looked like an elephant body with a horse's head in a few ways."

Dawn grimaced.  "I caught him watching that at Mom's when he was in the basement," she said.  "You're right, I have no idea what that species is because really...odd looking. Though the fairy-winged warriors were almost hot."  She swam off.

"Spike said Dru used to coo at the turnings, calling it 'making babies'.  That was her sappy love story," Xander said with a grin.

Bruce shook himself.  "That had to be really strange."

"No, strange was coming home to find my ex girlfriend watching it with Spike on our couch.  She was explaining how she tortured some species while they were both getting off separately."

"Your ex is clearly not someone I want to meet, even as the other me," Bruce said, patting him on the arm.  He swam off to talk to Tony, who was teasing Natasha into killing him.  "You met his ex and came out normal?"

"I had to make her a machine to help her with her needs," he said.  "We had one drink, lasted twenty minutes because I couldn't escape.  In that time I heard about eighteen minutes of her talking about Xander and about how she was missing all the sex he gave her, even if it wasn't enough at the time to get eight orgasms a night."

"When did he sleep?" Bruce asked.

"Apparently he didn't," Tony said.

"He still doesn't," Bia called.

"Gee, thanks, woman," Xander called back.  "Where are you?"

"Teasing Pooch.  He's adorable when he blushes."

Xander considered it.  "Hey, Roque, shouldn't his wife be here to save him?"

"Jolene is here and she's laughing that Pooch is blushing so hard."  Xander grinned at him.  "Where's the princess?"  Xander pointed at the deep end again.  He sighed.  Xander shrugged.

John blipped off and came back with Rodney, who was complaining.  "Just strip down and get in."  He slipped back into the water.

"I don't usually get naked with a group of people," Rodney complained.  "I do prefer my action one-on-one almost always."

"With the occasional deviation for twins?" Tony joked with a grin.  "It's a stress break, McKay."

"No tentacles here?" he asked.

"No, we'd kill his ass," Clay assured him.  "The only tentacle here is Pooch's son.  He's sucking up to mommy and daddy until they put him in the basket on the side."

Rodney slid into the water, and had his boxers taken from him, and his socks.  "What?" he complained.

Bia swam over to hug him.  "Relax.  We're all big people here.  We all have the thing one way or another, and even if yours is as magnificent as your brain is, it can't be as widely used as Stark's is."  Rodney burst out laughing.  "Relax, enjoy, worry tomorrow, Rodney.  Not like we're going to gang up on you and make you like it."  She swam off again.

"I believe if I ever do marry it'd have to be a mouthy one like her," he told John.

"Bia is pretty cool.  That's why we used to prank with her."  He looked around, catching Xander's eye.  He nodded behind them so John nodded.

Phil had noticed so he swam over to the deeper end, finding Dawn floating.  He had noticed some sitting spots on the sides of the pond and found one by touch then hauled her over to sit on his lap.  She blinked at him.  "Live in the moment before you make yourself sick."

"I really shouldn't be on your lap."

He stared at her.  "Not like I'm getting happy, Dawn."  She shrugged and relaxed.  "You need to learn to live in the moment.  Whatever happens will.  You have plans."

"I don't have plans."

He stared at her.  "You do have plans.  One of the assistants down in Legal gossiped that you had made out a will."

"That's only part of the plans I have to put in place.  I was stuck earlier on wood or metal."  He gave her a squeeze.  "I know it might not happen but I have to deal with this now, since I probably can't do it later.  I don't want to make Mom or Pepper deal with it either."

"You will make it through this."

"Even if the whole family group doesn't?" she asked quietly.  "Xander and I are pretty darn sure ...."  He covered her mouth.

"He's right, Dawn.  You have to learn to live in the moment and for the moment," Natasha said, coming out of one of the shadows.  The girl slumped some.  She hugged her.  "The rest will fall into place."

Dawn looked at her.  "What if it doesn't?"

"Then it won't matter to you or any of us," she said simply.  "Which is not comforting in the least I know but looking practically will save some stress.  You do not want to get sick right now."

"No, I don't.  I know I'm worrying but I have no idea what I need to be doing or anything else."

"We have over a month," Natasha said.  "We can and will figure out a good battle plan."

Dawn nodded.  "I know.  I know that my part's mostly going to be throwing power at him instead of real spells.  Or powering some weapon."

"We found the remains of the weapon the Chitauri were using," Phil said.  "It's hopelessly broken but Stark has it to get ideas."  He gave her another squeeze.  "You can't let this eat into your brain or you won't survive.  Positive reinforcement, just like when I started making you run."  She nodded, resting her head on his shoulder.  "And for that matter, I've went behind your back and fixed all those choices," he said quietly.  She looked at him.  "That way you don't have to stress."

She turned to hug him properly.  "Thanks, Phil," she said quietly.

"It's not a problem."  He patted her on the back.  "Turn back around before I get embarrassed?"  She laughed.  "Though I think doing that in a bikini would be worse, still."

"You're the one that put me on your lap."

"I did."  He shifted.  "Natasha, there's barely a ledge here to sit on."  She shimmied onto it and they turned to talk to Dawn about other things.  "College?"

"I sent a letter saying that I had to push back my enrollment to this fall due to my mother's treatment getting a bit worse and a lot of personal stress at the moment from work.  I got official permission and registered for classes in a totally hopeful move."

"Anything decent?" Natasha asked.

"English.  I have some AP credits so I'm ahead by about a semester."

"That's good.  Which english?"

"Fantasy lit."  She smiled.  "I've already read half the books and a few were favorites."

"That's a wise choice," she agreed.  Clint came up from under the water next to her.  "Feel better?"

"Getting away from Bia before she pinches."  He grinned.  "You look comfy."  Dawn splashed him.  "You said he gave good hugs."

"He does.  He gives great hugs," she said with a smile.  She looked at Phil.  "I suppose we still have to go to that club thing?"

He nodded.  "Thursday."  He felt the shelf dissolving and moved them.  Natasha's part was still safe.  Dawn bobbed back up, pushing her hair back.  "Sorry."

"It's all right.  Any new news on that whole potion thing?"  They shook their heads.  "Great."

"We have to assume someone will try," Natasha said.  "They were supposed to take you tonight."

"Almost no one can get up here right now," Dawn said.  "Xander had to pop down to talk to the sheriff's deputy that tried and got blocked.  He wanted to know if we were a cult.  I think he decided we're a paramilitary cult after talking to Xander."

"In many ways," Phil said dryly.  She pinched him.  Clint pinched her.  Phil laughed at how she hit him.  "We need to work on that with you, Dawn."

"I know."  She settled next to Natasha against the wall so she could quit treading water.  There was a small sandbar around the edge at a good standing height but that left her submerged up to her neck.  "Do we have plans yet for the going in?"

"Not yet.  We were going to make them the night before," Phil said.  "You're going to sleep tonight?"

"Probably, unless Callia climbs in with me again."

"Even then you can still sleep, Dawn."  He stared at her.

"I'll try."  He smiled.  Clint slipped off the sandbar and came back up quickly.  "You're just trying to peek," she teased.

He smirked back.  "I already know.  Why do I need fuzzy, water vision versions?"  She blushed.  Natasha slapped at him.  He laughed and swam backward.  "How well do you swim, Dawn?"

"Xander taught me.  I'm not competition quality but I can swim for enjoyment and exercise, or to save myself."

"Excellent.  Otherwise we'd have to teach you."

"Teach me how to have rhythm since a lot of people don't think I do," she quipped back.

"You don't," he agreed with a grin.  She splashed him again.  "Ask Natasha how to do that.  I don't dance all that often."  She stared at him.  "I may have learned but it is a very rusty skill."

"He looks like a dork," Phil said.

"Hey," Clint protested.

"I don't know the way to fix that.  I have very good rhythm for most things," Natasha admitted.

"Find a song you like that fits the mood and follow the bass beat, like when you're clubbing," Phil said.  Dawn and Natasha both looked at him.  "I had that problem when I was younger.  It helped me a lot and you can change mental songs as the mood fits you."

"I'll have to try that."  Clint stared at her.  "Sometime.  Especially if that potion was used."

"Only one way to check," he said dryly.

"Nothing to check the last time," she reminded him.  "It wasn't there."

He moved closer, staring at her.  "Sometimes things break it but there was a ridge for it."  She shifted and blushed, ducking down and swimming to one of the deeper shadows.  They all heard her huff.  He nodded.  "I think they did."

She swam back.  "They did.  Great," she said sarcastically.  She got back in her lounging spot.  "How do we counteract that?"

"I'm not sure how long it lasts," Natasha admitted.

"Would that be what smelled like flowers earlier?" Phil asked.  Clint nodded.  "You knew?"

"Someone stole some according to Loki," Clint said.  "They dosed a flower with one of the ingredients and gave her one."

"It was only a dollar but I put it down the drain when I smelled the chemical smell," Dawn said.  "Was there smoke?"

"Yup.  That was the other thing that they stole.  I heard your neighbor is finally out of the hospital and is no longer happy."

"She'll go smoke some weed and feel better," she said.  "That night I almost went up to buy some from her so I could calm down."

"I probably wouldn't have minded," he said.  "You were okay after that drugging."

"Thank you for letting me sleep so long.  Usually I only sleep six hours but I think I slept like ten."

"Nearly twelve," Clint corrected.  "You clearly needed it."

"That smoke made me sleepy."

"I stabbed the guy putting it in the second time."  He smiled.

"Even better."

"Weren't those stolen the next night?" Natasha asked.  Dawn nodded.  "Interesting."

"We think it had to do with all the text messages that went something along the lines of 'get on with it'," Dawn said dryly.  "I was so going to kick his ass."

"He asked me that day why I had been noted buying an exotic poison.  I told him it was for the next time I got really pissed off at someone," Phil said.  Dawn looked at him.  He smiled.  "It's a medium slow acting one too."

She hugged him.  "You're the scariest but coolest big brother ever.  Even more than Xander is."  He laughed, giving her a squeeze.

"Please kill me cleanly, sir," Clint said with a smile.  "I'd rather not draw it out."  Dawn poked him.  "He'd make me suffer, Dawn."

"I would," Phil agreed.  "I'd ask Tara to alleviate symptoms so it went on longer and all sorts of nice things."

Dawn snuggled him.  "You need those beach nymphs to come back.  You know, three do go to NYU."

"If you sic them on me again I'm going to spank and then make you watch movies with Barton," he said dryly.

"We like some of the same movies," Clint admitted.  "Her bootleg collection has a lot that I really like."

Natasha shook her head.  "I remember teaching her how to do that."  Dawn grinned.

"I found a remake of an ancient breaking in tradition the other day," Dawn said.  "Taken right from the texts.  I remember reading it and being horrified."  They all stared at her.  "Really strong witches were often ritually broken in or their virginity sacrificed for certain rituals."  She hiked herself more comfortably on the wall.  "The book was an ancient, pre Druid, one.  It was for ritual virginity sacrifices, including the implements and all that.  There was a feasting for her, a drinking of some specially herbed wine.  Then she was cleaned with special soaps and blessed water.  Put up there.  Spread open, then they used this little cone shaped dagger to actually fix it, then the high priest finished it.  While the whole coven watched and cheered."

"I'd need to be drugged for that," Clint said.

Dawn nodded.  "Me too."

"Age of maturity for the witch or younger?" Natasha asked.

"Upon her majority or if they needed it for something really important sooner.  Something in the herbs of the wine and the soap made sure she wouldn't conceive that night.  The book gave the recipe and all that."

"Was the film underage?" Phil asked.

"Yup, and I turned that shit in."  She grinned.  "It was done somewhere overseas.  I don't think she had any gifts, it was just someone's way of having fun."

"Damn glad you didn't need something like that," Clint said.

"If that potion renews, I might like that dagger.  Might make it a bit easier."

"You'd still have to do the other stuff, princess," he said, staring at her.  She shrugged.  "Though you're right, probably a bit less painful."

"I think that's why it was cone shaped," Natasha said.  She shook her head quickly.  "Are there many things like that?"

"In the very old days.  Hey, Xander, I was telling them that I found a remake of the Historical Tarafax rite online.  Didn't your people have that?"

He looked over his shoulder.  "Yeah, there was one.  They did it to Valkyries for years until someone stopped them.  Mostly the girls ganged up and beat the people to death."  He smirked.  "Where was it done?"

"Used to be part of the USSR that I can't name on a map."

"Huh."  He nodded.  "That was pretty rare to find."

"I don't think she had powers."

"Ah, that reason.  Yeah."  He nodded.  "You should've heard the one that Mom's people had for the longest time.  Their witches were considered priestesses and had to have it done too.  Including a piercing."  She shuddered.  "There's a few of those traditions."

"That's what I was wondering.  Thanks."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  Thor was looking confused.  He switched to Norse and told him.  Thor grumbled but nodded he remembered the girls ganging up and beating the priests to death for it.  They had lost a whole order of priests to that.  Odin had decided it didn't make a difference after that.

John shook his head.  "I only remember hearing about one but she was vowing herself to Diana's service so she had to take that step to keep her magic going in the right direction."

Bia shrugged.  "Not something I listened to the gossip about."

"They had a festival, Bia.  We were traveling."  She shuddered.  "Yeah."

"I remember a Chinese festival," Xander said, considering it.  "I haven't seen any modern versions of it though."

Clay looked at Roque.  "I give you permission to go change the channels in his mind."

Roque summoned Xander over and kissed him hard until he moaned and went limp.  "Change the subject.  You're making my mate pissed off."

Xander grinned.  "Sorry, Clay.  Want some straps to beat him for that?"

"I gave him permission, Xander.  I'll spank him later if he wants me to."  Xander laughed and swam off.

"Thanks," John called with a grin and a wave.  "I didn't want to encourage anyone who thinks that godly incest is right and proper."  Rodney slapped him.  "Hey!  Watch the hair."

"I'm surrounded by crazy, horny people," Bia complained, looking up.  "I really should buy more batteries."  She got hit with a few bits of power and laughed.  "What?  Xander's right, we are not compatible in bed by any means.  I don't feel like dying from his stamina issues either."

"We must find you a good laying before the battle, nephew," Thor said.  "Or else you will twitch the whole time."

"I think I can focus now," he said, shooting his uncle a glare.  "I haven't done that since I was nineteen!  And that was my first battle!"

Thor smiled.  "It is always good to go into battle with lax muscles and a clear mind."

"I'll hire him someone to give him a good night's rest before," Bia assured him.  "Maybe I'll even let Anya sic herself on him again."  Xander shook his head.  "No?"

"No.  I hardly ever sleep with my ex's, dear."

"Pity.  A few were hot."  She smiled.

He grinned back.  "So are you."

"But I'm not going to let you do that to me.  My mother said that a few goddesses have mirrors trained on us to catch it the moment we do so they can declare us mated and the vows unbreakable."

"At least it won't be like my team's," Roque said, glaring at Cougar, who grinned back.  "They sneak attacked us."

"Not like you seemed to mind the audience," Jensen quipped.  He changed to his smaller dragon form and paddled off.  He found Dawn and swam up to her, wrapping himself around her before he changed back.  He stared down at her, grinning.  "Are you good?" he asked quietly.

"Renewed but okay," she said.  He quirked an eyebrow up.  She kissed him then grinned.  "It's all good."  He smiled and changed back into his dragon form.  Natasha pulled him over to look over his form.  "You need more sun."

"Been a bit busy," he admitted.  He cooed at her.  "Dragons are very cuddly but the rumor that we steal maidens isn't true."  She poked him.  He laughed and smirked at her.

"They did?" she demanded.  He nodded.  "Damn it," she said in Russian.  He cooed and hugged her then swam off before someone hit him for it.

"How would they get you?" Dawn asked.

"If they're magical they can probably put it into something she's eating," Phil said.  He rubbed his neck.  "I'm staying out of that debate unless I'm asked to participate," he told Natasha, who inclined her head slightly.

"Did they miss Dawn?" Clint asked.

"They probably decided it would distract someone," Dawn said.  Clint rolled his eyes.  "Beyond that, not my business either."  Natasha poked her.  She grinned.  "It's not."

"Thank you.  I will deal with that thought later."  Clint leered.  "Not that way."  He laughed and patted her on the shoulder then hugged Dawn because she gave pretty good cuddles.

Cougar swam over.  "How are you not getting the hat wet?" Dawn asked.

"Practice," he said with a smile.  "Do you with that matter?" he asked in Spanish.

She smiled and shook her head. "My Spanish is still pretty sucky but not at the moment.  If they were going to try to sacrifice me they should've already snatched me."

He nodded.  "That's fine.  If you must, there are those who will help without expecting things."

She swam over to hug him.  "I like that about you and Jake."  She swam back.  "You should get back before he gets into trouble."

"Not my duty," he teased.

She stared at him.  "There's whole *chains* of gossip that say it is."

He rolled his eyes.  "They are still wrong."  He winked.  "Being a Yellow Fur has helped many a thing."  She shivered.  He swam back to the group.

"What's a Yellow Fur?" Clint asked.

"The Pegasus galaxy's answer to a werewolf but it's based on emotion instead of moon phase," Dawn said.   "Highly protective and pack creatures.  He got bitten and turned most of the rest of the team.  Which would probably make me the pack's bitch," she said, considering it.  Then she shivered.  "I did not need that thought.  They're all much to old for me."

Phil patted her.  "They are and I'd have to kill them all.  Does silver work?"


"Pity.  I've been meaning to try those new bullets out."

Clint shook his head.  "That's just...  Incredibly dirty minded, Dawn."  She grinned and nodded.  "So that whole team?"

"Not Jake.  Dragons can't be turned that way.  Jolene and Pooch are mates.  Roque and Clay are mates.  But if a female goes into heat, the whole pack takes care of it, not a single mate or a single male."

He shivered.  "Yeah, that's a dirty thought."  Phil hit him on the arm.  He smiled.  "You can't tell me it's not."

"I'd rather not think about it," he said bluntly.  He looked at the ladies.  "Are we going back before Thursday?"  Dawn shrugged.

Natasha shrugged.  "We have to verify the condition of hers and your apartment."

Tony swam over.  "Yes, I'm eavesdropping.  Your apartment, Coulson, is a shambles.  Someone tried to toss it and did a really poor job.  It could use picked up mostly but your kitchen table is scratched.  Dawn, you're moving."  She sighed.  "But it's just as nice, in the same building, lower down so not as long of an elevator ride or you can do the stairs to the second floor."  She smiled.  "The only thing is you will now have a family overtop of you.  That floor has two bedrooms instead of single bedrooms."

"That's fine.  Are they noisy?"

"No, not that we've noted.  We have put in the security system.  The landlord understood with how you got attacked.  So you can move all your clothes and shoes back anytime now."  She smiled.  "And you're due in Wednesday for that meeting.  Most of the Avengers are at Stark Towers right now to live.  Barton, Romanoff, that's up to you."  They nodded.  "Fury is still growling.  It got so bad Pepper reached over to scratch behind his ear and he had to keep himself from swatting her."

"Pepper's in a sassy mood," Dawn quipped.  "Though I don't think those two would work.  I doubt she's put up with him at home.  If he has a home."

"Probably not, no," Tony agreed.  "Actually I don't think she's ever dated anyone who wasn't a masters degree graduate."  He shrugged.  "Anyway, you're clear to come back for that meeting with Joyce's docs."  She winced but nodded.  "Everyone's hanging around the gym.  Callia's loved that.  She got to braid Thor's hair and one of the ladies in the caf taught her how to braid flower and leaf crowns."  Dawn beamed.  He smirked back.  "Yeah, pictures are around."  He swam closer.  "Wear something hot, come in acting like nothing's wrong and you're not freaked out, and just ignore everyone else," he said quietly.  "Though Fury wanted you back because his office is a mess."

"We'll see."

He nodded.  "That's what I told him you'd say."  He grinned.  "Make Pepper swallow her diet soda up her nose again."

"I think I'm growing again anyway.  My shorts got a bit tight and short the last time I wore them."

"Could be," Natasha agreed.  "Some girls do have a final one around their majority."

Tony shrugged.  "That just means she's gotta shop."

"After.  Definitely after," she said.  He smiled.  "I can fake it."

"Good girl."  He swam off.  "Dawn has to come in Wednesday for a conference with Joyce's docs."

Thor nodded.  "It is good for her to take her mind off one problem with another."

"Dawn, want me there for it?" Xander called.

"No, it's okay."

"Okay, let me know how it goes."

"I can do that."  She swam over and hugged Tony.  "If I wear something that makes Pepper snort diet soda out her nose, you've got to let me hide behind you because the only dress that would do that you've never seen and Phil about had a heart attack."  She swam back.

"She gives a good cuddle," Tony said.  "That's fine.  Watch the shoes though."

"Find me ones in lower heels then," she called back.  "Because I can't find below a three inch and most colors not below four or five."

Xander shook his head.  "I saw some neon yellow eight inch heels the other day," he admitted.  "In her size."

Thor patted his nephew on the head.  "Your mind needs altered.  She has taste and does not look like one of those dancing girls Jane giggled about people taking me to see."

"I found fire engine red six inch ones with clear heels that light up like kid shoes," Dawn called.  "Pepper and I cracked on them for hours."

"I saw those," Xander agreed with a grin.  "Bia, I bought you a pair of shoes."  She power-swatted him, making him laugh.  "Wear 'em home, dear."

"Hera would freak out at the stripper shoes, Xander."

"She could use a good mental clearing probably," he quipped with a grin.  "I about put Discord in them but it's too typical."

"You should see the boots Buffy got me," Dawn called.  "But only four inches."

"I did see.  She told me after she sent them," Xander called back.  "You can come back you know."

"We're making plans for Thursday."

Thor looked that way.  "Is there a battle Thursday?"

"No, Fury wanted me to get them somewhere so they could watch some targets."  She smirked, her teeth showing in the dark.  He shuddered and turned back around.  "The green dress?" she asked Natasha.

"It is sweet looking but perhaps the more nylon one?"

"I'll look but I'm pretty sure if I'm growing it's going to be too small."  Phil shuddered.  "I won't make you shop with me."

"I should so I can't complain about anything, but I'm sure it will take hours," he said.

"What about that cream dress I got for clubbing?" Dawn asked with a grin.

"You vowed to never to wear that without armed escorts when I threatened to beat you," Natasha said blandly.  Dawn pointed at the guys.  "That is true, but they'll be busy."

"Good point.  I've got to move a few things to their own bags or boxes.  That way I don't have to overlook them each morning."  She popped her neck.  Phil reached over to work on it for her.  She moaned.  "Thank you, Phil."

"Welcome.  You clearly slept funny.  What cream outfit?"

"I could not even take a picture of it," Natasha admitted.  "She and Pepper bought it, though I believe Pepper didn't see her in anything other than store lights in it.  It is most...inflammatory.  She wanted to wear it to a party and I had to force her to change.   Partially because she looks so innocent in it."

"No, if I want innocent I have that rose pink dress," Dawn said.  Natasha poked her.  She grinned.  "I look good in it."

"We will have a whole different class of knight coming to your aid," she said in Russian.

"I can wear it to work Wednesday.  Mom likes it on me.  Pepper might not snort diet soda out her nose like Tony wanted but I do look nice."

"Thor, if she should wear the rose pink dress when we come back, we will need her guarded," Natasha called.

"Aye, I can do that.  Is it immodest?"

"No, I look very sweet and innocent in it," Dawn said with a smile.  "Just barely above my knees, tiny cap sleeves."

He looked over at them.  "I sense bad thoughts so I will not comment but aye, she'll be protected even if I have to ask warriors to step in for me."  He sipped the beer he had summoned from the temple.

"I don't think I've even seen pictures of that dress," Xander admitted.

"Mom has.  She thought I looked like an innocent angel hiding little dark horns in my hair and a pair of leathery wings on my back."

"An innocent angel and succuba mix," Xander said, considering it.  He shook himself quickly.  "Thor, you have those warriors that O'Neill doesn't need right now."

"I may need them yet, nephew."  He sipped more beer.

Dawn grinned.  "I can wear that Wednesday."  They all smirked back.


Dawn walked in that Wednesday, smiling at the guards.  "Hi, guys."

"Good to have you back, Summers," he said, not staring at her.  "Pepper got here early.  She's in her office.  All the Avengers are in lab two," he said with a nod for Natasha and Coulson, then Barton behind them. "Stark's not out of bed yet so she may need you to go nag him."

"I can do that," Dawn quipped.  "Thanks, guys."  She strolled off.  "See you guys in a few."  She got on the elevator and went up to Pepper's office, strolling in.  "Morning, boss lady," she quipped.

Pepper looked up.  "That is the most non-slinky, non-innocent dress I have ever seen, Dawn.  And it's so innocent looking."

Dawn grinned.  "Tony said I should look hot today."

"You do.  If I liked girls, I'd be drooling."  She shook herself.  The dress clung to the curves Dawn had without being overly clinging.  The material was a silk/gauze sort of material.  It was slightly see through.  You could barely see her tan behind the rose pink outfit.  The neckline wasn't too dipping but it hinted broadly.  The cap sleeves emphasized her stature and made her waist look tiny.  The skirt casually brushed just above her knee, drawing the eye to the great legs, which were encased in matching stockings - because Dawn couldn't stand pantyhose so she wore thigh-highs and a garter belt - and the shoes matched too. 

She looked like someone had taken an innocent, virginal angel and debauched them.  The makeup was perfectly light.  The hair was slightly messy like it was windy outside but loose and slightly curly today from the humidity.  Pepper frowned.  "I'm so going to gut Tony for telling you to dress up today.  Go wake him up for the Avengers meeting?"  She nodded, strolling off.  Pepper whimpered.  The back was even more see through, it was mostly lace, and it hit every single highlight the girl had.  Pepper needed a dress like that, but in a color that would look better on her.

Dawn strolled into Tony's apartment courtesy of JARVIS, who had told her she looked very nice today.  She stood beside the bed and casually poured water on Tony's head, making him splutter.  "Pepper said she's going to gut you for encouraging me to dress up."

He stared at her, mouth slightly open.  "I didn't think you could pull that off."  She smiled.  "Meeting?"

"Soon.  Go shower, you're all sweaty and damp."  She strolled off.  She had just the perfect stride to make the skirt a bit swingy but not too unsmooth so she didn't look like she was bouncy.

Tony stared at her.  "Yeah, I think I'll go take a cold one," he complained.

"Already running, sir," JARVIS said.

"Thanks."  He got up and went to do that.


Dawn walked into the meeting with Tony, putting down bottles of cold water and handing Thor two packets of painkillers.  She kissed him on the cheek.  "Because I'm sure you have a hangover today, Thor."  She strolled off.

Thor watched her go then looked at Tony.  "Now I see why my nephew wanted her guarded."  He swallowed the pills.

"I told her to come in looking hot and unconcerned," Tony said, sitting down.

Fury finally closed his mouth.  "She is not allowed to wear that on my hell carrier."

"Thank you, sir," Coulson quipped.

"Is it some sort of spell?" Steve asked.  "She looked so...innocent."

Tony shook his head.  "Some women can do that, Steve.  She is still mostly innocent but she's a horrendous tease."

"Aye," Thor agreed.  "My nephew's chosen daughter is too scholarly for me but I am but a man."  He shook his head and drank some of his water.

"You did order," Clint reminded Tony with an evil smirk.

"Watch me quit making you weapons," he offered back.

"Boys," Natasha said.  "Do remember that Dawn can probably hear you and is probably giggling.  Also, she must meet with her mother's doctors later."

Fury shivered.  "She's going out of the building in that?" he demanded.

"I'm having her driven," Tony said.  "It's safer in many ways."  He sent that text.  Pepper said she had already arranged it.  That she had sent Dawn to the archives to find a few older things for her so the guards would quit staring.  "Pepper's got her in the archives."

"So she's bending, reaching, and squatting in that dress?" Natasha asked.

Stark glared at her.  "I did not need that mental image.  Thank you anyway."  Natasha simply gave a little kitty smirk back.

Fury shook his head.  "Back to business.  Do we have any new information on this upcoming problem?"

"Very little," Coulson said, handing down his report.

"I got part of this."

"Xander asked Gladriel if she could talk to the most ancient of the Hindu gods, the ones who have merged with time and space during meditations and aren't quite dead but aren't really part of reality anymore."

"Xander had a vision he had me handle," Tony said.  Everyone stared at him.  "It was after the battle.  It was Dawn going off on all the major networks for putting the battle on live tv.  She kept saying that her niece had seen it, had watched her mother die on live tv, and nearly saw me going to.  That it had been beamed to schools and almost every channel had preempted something for it.  He said he saw her keep repeating 'no child deserves to see their parents die on live tv'."  He shifted.  "I've started a legal request.  I'm hoping we can get it into the courts quickly."

"Freedom of the press," Bruce said.  "It's too entrenched."

"But they don't have to show the graphic parts of the battle," Tony said.  "Not the dying, the destroying parts.  They didn't with the New York battle, though a few got caught."  That got a nod of understanding.  "I think he's right.  We don't want some kid who looks up to Cap seeing him go down.  We don't want some kid that looks up to me seeing me go down."

"I agree," Fury said.  "I'll help you back that up.  It doesn't need to be seen in schools anyway."  They all nodded they could agree with that.  Tony called up the legal challenge and handed him a copy.  "That's not bad and it's not infringing on them reporting, just showing the most graphic parts based on the damage it'll do to children and some adults.  I can definitely get behind that."  He put it into his note stack.  "Anything else we know?"

"We're still looking for sources," Coulson said.  "Most of the elder gods who were in that last battle have passed on, sir."

"Or been overthrown," Thor agreed.  "The Elder Ones are scared but Alexander has goaded them into fighting instead of fleeing or giving up.  They believe they are too old to fight but it was pointed out that elder warriors who died in battle were glorified and if they left the young to do it their lines died out with the less experienced warriors' deaths."

"What sort of death count did Xander get?"

"He said it was secondary but he was sure Buffy was and he admitted he saw Joyce's death report.  It said that she suffered a heart attack as Buffy fell, because she was watching it, and then an arrow hit her."

"Not mine," Barton said.

"No, not yours. He said he heard a tiny voice say something about the 'mother of the abomination'," Tony said, looking at him.

"So the crazy knights as Dawn calls them," Bruce said.  Tony nodded.  "Would they?"

"Yup.  He said they have one of them on her floor as a janitor."

"Do they?" Fury asked.

"Hospital won't check."

"They might be moving her to Hospice care anyway," Coulson said quietly.  "Dawn's not sure of the progress they'll be told today."  That got a nod.  "If not, there's a private cancer center that they do work with and we may be able to get her a bed there."

"Pepper told Joyce, because I have no idea how to talk to women in pain beyond letting them cry on me, or really try to hit me instead of crying on me, but she was going to suggest it might be safer.  Also closer to Buffy as it's closer to the train station she comes into.  It also has built-in Hospice care if she needs it.  It looks nice."  He put the place's webpage up, showing the hospital.  "Pepper toured and said it looked very nice.  Flowers in the rooms, happy patients.  It's not a nursing home by any means.  Even if they do have BINGO and other things."

"That might do her good," Steve said.  "I know she's feeling a bit isolated since she can't come out of her room right now.  Joyce is a super nice lady.  Very motherly.  She had me talking about Peggy within minutes."

Tony smiled.  "When Spike was down about his ex Dru, she made them cocoa so he could talk about her."

Steve smiled.  "That's what a mom does as far as I know."

Fury nodded.  "Getting her to safety would ease some stress."  Stark nodded.  "Is she handling it all right?"

"Mostly," Natasha said.  "She's still trying to find other methods of helping and not finding much."

"If you can't find much on the battle it doesn't surprise me," Fury admitted.  "About that cult?"

"They did dose her," Coulson said.  "We found that out last night."  Fury grimaced.  "But they could not snatch her for the sacrifice."

"Janus said it would be the third attempt that would work," Tony said.  "And that they'd try for Callia for that.  That doesn't mean that the second one won't be her."  That got a nod of understanding.  "If she hadn't made herself indispensable I'd have let her stay at the temple until the battle."

"She needs to take her mind off it, not wallow in it," Barton said quietly.

Tony nodded.  "We all needed it.  That's why the skinny dipping was so stress relieving."

"You went skinny dipping?" Fury asked, looking at Stark.

"Everyone at the temple but Cap went skinny dipping," he said with a smile.  "Xander has a really nice pond.  We pulled McKay up to talk.  We relaxed some.  Thor got drunk on beer.  Dawn swam some laps on the dark side of the pond.  Bia cut everyone's boxers off if they wore them."  Fury shivered.  "We needed the break in our thinking circuits and it helped."

Steve nodded.  "I went over the obstacle course.  That thing is really hard."

Barton nodded.  "You need a tightrope across that one part to make it in under forty minutes."

"I made it in forty-two without it.  That would've helped though."

"We saw the three Gods going over it during that training time," Coulson said.  He smiled.  "They were popping around it, hitting at each other, until they got into the rhythm of the fight.  John Sheppard is a very good warrior."

"He is," Thor agreed.  "Tyr is no match for Ares, who helped train John.  That is one reason why my nephew also trained with Heimdall and the dwarves.  Then he later took training where he could.   Including with Roque's family when that alignment marriage was proposed."  Fury stared at him.  "My nephew was trained in battle tactics for a standing war.  Roque's people hunt and track in smaller groups."

"So he started off with wars and moved to smaller group combat," Tony said.  Thor nodded.  "That actually explains a lot and why he's more of a weapons fighter than a bare-handed one."  The others nodded.  He looked at Fury.  "Are the same people that got scared of Thor scared of him?"

"Even more scared.  He popped in on them and reminded them he had spent most of his life down here handling battles.  Including backing up Buffy in Sunnydale.  As I found out, some of them are Council."  Tony sneered.  "The rest were also over O'Neill's program on their oversight board that caused so much hell.  They wanted him taken into custody as a threat to humanity but Xander proved them wrong and the various presidents said to leave him the alone until after this battle."  He looked around.  "I saw the reprieve on Rosenburg?"

"Until the battle's done," Coulson agreed.  "The president agreed and he took Agent Hill with him, sir."

"Good.  Those knights?"

"Will leave Dawn alone until after the battle," Barton said.  "She told them why and they agreed they didn't want to die due to that."

"Her outing of the priest that told them let us track them back better," Coulson said.  "I had Agent Hill send out a few agents to finish tracking them down, tag them for later threats, and why."

"Good.  Thank you.  Can we take them out?"

"We still won't get them all, sir."

"That sucks.  I know it's a probable ending but it still sucks."

"There's no way in any hell that I'm going to let that girl die for no reason," Stark said.  "She's got a bright future.  She's a good woman.  The world needs more of her, not less."

Fury nodded.  "If you can save her, do it.  I'm not against that.  As long as it doesn't lose us the battle."

"Which is why she's been making plans," Coulson said quietly.  Natasha crossed her legs.  Barton was not happy either.  "She knows she's to do what she has to do and she had better come out the other side."

Fury smiled.  "Good!  I expect that from all of you as well!"  They all nodded.  "And Alexander!"

"It will take one with a leak into Creation to be the weapon against him," Thor said quietly.  "That is only my nephew.  My brother's is barely a pinpoint leak.  John's as well.  My nephew's is much larger but less than the one that is coming."

"Can we make a weapon that can help him?" Fury asked Stark.

"Sure, let me make a gun that runs on hellmouth energy."  Fury winced.  "You know I'm looking.  I'm going to do everything I can so we win this thing as quickly and as painlessly as possible."  Fury nodded he knew that.  Thor patted him on the arm.  "I have no idea what sort of energy weapon would even work.  We have rumors that the hellmouths started when he showed up the last time."

"The book to retune it had a spell to basically block the others for a few hours," Coulson said.  "We've taken it to the coven that the Council used to work with.  They said they will help and it's a very good idea to have done.  They'll leave Sunnydale alone so if possible we can start the battle there."

"Did Dawn ever do the evacuation plans for LA?" Fury asked.

"Yes, sir, and the City Council thought them very nice of us to do for them.  They don't believe it will be necessary."

"How long will a practical evacuation take?"

"A day with the way she made it.  That includes outlying areas.  It also includes how to rotate the coverage depending on where it starts, whether it's a water-based or a land based and on which side.  Including one for it starting toward Sunnydale.  It does lean heavily on them getting the National Guard and the San Diego contingents of the military to help."

"I'll talk with O'Neill so he can warn them."  He made that note for himself.  "Anything else we have planned right this moment?"  No one said anything.  "Then rest up and prepare for battle, people."  He took his notes with him back to the hell carrier.  This was not going to be a happy month for anyone.


Dawn came out of the meeting sniffly but Pepper was waiting so she hugged her.  "She's getting better but they have to change her treatment."

"Can they move her there?  It looks really nice."

"They did and Mom said it was a great idea."  She smiled.  "She'll have grass outside her window and they can do most of her treatment there.  Plus it'll mean more visitors are allowed."  She wiped at her cheeks.  "Thank you for finding that place."

"You would have if you had thought about it.  Your mom is important to you.  Mine's important to me."  She smiled.  "Now, let's clean up.  Is Buffy coming?"

"She had to video call.  They had a massive rush of vamps last night."  They got into the back of the car and Dawn pulled her gun, pointing it at the demon up front.  "I know damn well you're not Happy so change the fuck back, bitch."  The demon shivered but did so.  "Why are you in our car?"

"We wanted to talk to you, Key."  He put his hands up.  "He is not harmed, simply going for a coffee so we may talk."  He turned.  "We know there is a battle coming."  Dawn nodded.  "We know that you will be part of it.  We also know that it is dangerous for you to explode your energy as it may be needed."

"I can channel it.  I'm in full control of the Key's powers."

The demon swallowed and nodded.  "We just wish for you to think of the rest of humanity and the danger that the battle could pose."

"You'd rather he won?"

"No, but we would rather not be destroyed as a side-effect."

"If humanity is going to survive, we have to fight this battle to the best of our abilities," Dawn said simply.  "The current plan is to take it to Sunnydale since there's almost no one out there."  He whimpered.  "Any demons still there should probably move."  He nodded, swallowing again.  "We do not want to hurt anywhere or anything but that bad guy.  Like my sister, the harmless ones aren't a problem.  For that matter, Xander leads the battle."

"We know of why, we have recently found out, and that is dangerous as well."

Dawn smirked.  "Xander, dangerous?  Really?"  He let out a light chuckle.  "He and I are both in total control.  If demons are that worried, make sure Sunnydale is cleared.  If he gets free, make sure you're out of the way of the evacuation path.  If you can help and want to help, then we'll gladly take it."

"I will let that be known.  I am sorry to have worried you."

"With the crackhead knights I'm a bit paranoid," Dawn said.

"I understand why.  Thank you, Key."

"I have a name.  Use it," she said firmly.  "That is not to be tossed around.  Others can use that against me and my family."

"I understand and apologize."  He bowed and got out of the car, disappearing.

Dawn put her gun back and looked at Pepper, who had called Tony.  "I say we find a few mai tai's."

"A drink might be nice right now," she agreed.  She listened.  "That is what he said, yes, Tony."  She smiled.  "We're needed at the hell carrier."  Happy got into the car with his coffee.  "Thank you, Happy."

"Not a problem, ladies.  And, Dawn, if I haven't said it, you look spectacular in that dress."

"Thanks, Happy.  We need to hit the hell carrier's dock."
"Sure."  He drove them that way.

Dawn leaned her head back.  Pepper handed her a wet wipe for her face, earning a slight smile.  "Thanks."

"It's what we women do," she said quietly.  Her phone was up and she was calming down.  It would be all right again.


Dawn strolled up the hallway, smiling at the agents she passed.  "Agent Hill."  Hill spun and looked at her, mouth slightly open.  Dawn heard a slight whimper and smiled.  "Stark wanted me to dress up today."

"Clearly," she mouthed.  "Agent Fury is in a meeting.  Agent Coulson is in his office, and probably so are Barton and Romanoff, Dawn."

"Thank you.  Fury said he needed me to work on stuff so let me know when he gets back."  She strolled off.  She definitely heard the whimper this time.

One of the senior agents stopped to stare at her.  "Coulson let you out in that?"

"What makes you think he plays in my closet?" she quipped with a smile.  "Stark said to dress up today."

He nodded.  "Can I escort you somewhere before someone gets a bad idea, Miss Summers?"

"Going to Agent Coulson's office and you know it's only a floor down."

"Yes, but I'll escort you."  He glared at a junior agent staring at her backside.

She smiled.  "Over the next few weeks I'll have to buy new clothes.  Apparently I'm hitting a growth spurt."

He looked down at her.  "I'll keep that in mind, Miss Summers."  She smiled.  "How was your vacation?"

"Very beachy.  I had a lot of fun on the beach, no matter how many times people complained about my bikini habit."

"I heard about the one you showed up in for that meeting," he said, keeping it professional.

She patted him on the arm.  "That was probably one of the two baddest ones I had.  The others were nice, normal string bikinis.  Agent Romanoff has pictures of most of them for approval."

He nodded slightly.  "It's good she can help you with that sort of thing.  Girls always need a wiser female who has taste."  He knocked and opened the door.  "Agent Coulson, sir, Miss Summers, escorted properly for your meeting."  He walked off.  He had to find a few junior agents and remind them they weren't teenagers and she was.

"Dawn," he said.  "Didn't change?"

"No."  She came in and shut the door.

"Your mother?"

"They're switching up her treatment and she is moving to that center.  Thank you for helping Pepper find it."  She gave him a hug across the desk.  Someone walked in.  "He helped my Mom find a great treatment center for her to finish her cancer treatment at," she said at the shocked look.  "It's only a hug."

"It's a good hug, Miss Summers."  She nodded, handing Phil the file.  "That's for you, sir."  She walked off.  Maybe she had bet wrong in the Virgin Stakes.  Though there were sightings of her with Barton and her with Romanoff too.

Phil looked it over.  "I think you sent her to a mental area of hell, Dawn."

She smiled.  "She's a big girl and she can clear her own mind."  The other two walked in.  "Hey.  They are moving Mom tonight.  They have a great room open for her.  She's allowed more visitors and she'll actually get to see grass again."  They smiled.  "They said it's about thirty percent shrank but they're still hopeful they can get it smaller before going in to remove it."

"Good," Phil said, smiling at her.  "Thank Agent Betts as well."

"I can do that."  She crossed her legs.  "So why the call?  Fury's at a meeting."

"His whole office looks like he threw a tornado in there and locked the door," Barton said.

"I glanced in.  He was throwing a Callia fit like the ones when you won't give her tomatoes."

"That is not a mental image I wanted either," Phil assured her.  She grinned.  "All right, tomorrow."  They nodded.  "Dawn, do you have any idea what you're wearing?  We'll need to put a wire on you for taping."

"Not a clue.  I tried on what I was planning on wearing and it's seriously small now.  It's like it was meant for an A cup and I'm so pornographically falling out of it even porn stars would blush."  He did blush.

"Like the smiley faces?" Natasha asked.

"It covers about to where they did, yeah.  Skirt's about an inch too high too.  It's bordering on 'charging for it' instead of 'slutty' in length."

"Which dress is this?" Phil asked.

"The black one you had me get.  The other one is the same way.  So it's definitely a growth spurt."

He winced.  "That was a bit flashy on you before."  She smiled and nodded.  "You two find something tonight."  They nodded.  "How are we doing couples?"

Barton shrugged.  "Can you and Dawn act like you're together, sir?"

"Probably not.  I'd probably give it away."

"Then I guess it's set," Barton quipped.

"Fine."  He showed them the updated needs of the operation.  They needed a map.  They needed intel.  They needed to scout the location for further issues.  That's all they needed this first time.

"Okay," Dawn agreed.  Her phone beeped.  "Agent Hill said he's back.  Let me go straighten out in there."  She blew a kiss at Barton, who snickered.  "There are *rampant* rumors at Stark Tower that Xander gave me to Tony as a wife."  She got up and strolled off.  She found Agent Betts and hugged her.  "Thank you for helping my Mom find that great center.  She thinks she's going to love it there and they're moving her tonight."

She smiled.  "You're welcome.  My mom did when she had breast cancer."  Dawn gave her an extra squeeze then strolled off.  A few of the junior agents were watching.  "I helped find her mom a good treatment center for her brain tumor."  They nodded and walked off trying hard not to gossip.  They knew Betts was straight, she was said to be dating one of the agents on the bridge.

Dawn waved at Agent Hill, pausing to make coffee.  "Let me fix his Callia fit system of filing."  Hill turned so no one would see her laugh.  She walked in there and looked around.  "Did no one want to give you tomatoes, Fury?"

He looked up.  "Go change."

"No time to change."  She smiled.  "You need it fixed and I'm here for that.  After I fix this pile of shit, I have to find something to wear tomorrow."  He groaned.  She moved to start categorizing the sloppy, falling over stack of files he had beside his desk.  She had to squat down to get them but she could keep her knees together.

"Must you?" he asked.

"You want me to sit on the floor like we're in kindergarten on the rug listening to stories?  I can do that but I might have to flash some panty."  He groaned and walked off.  She shrugged and got back to it.

Hill leaned in.  "At least you're not on the floor."

"He didn't want me to sit this way so I suggested that.  That's why he stomped off to pound his head into a wall."  She smiled.  "I have to find something to wear tomorrow.  I'm growing."

"Oooh," she said with a wince and a hiss.  "But maybe a regular shoe size now?"

"Maybe.  So far it's shirt and height sizes."  Hill smiled and left her alone.  Dawn finished sorting the files out and stood up to file them then came back to do his desk.  "I swear, sometimes Stark is more organized.  And I do mean the baby Stark," she complained quietly.  She finally got done, prepped the coffee maker in there, then strolled off.  "It should be fixed until he throws another Callia fit," she quipped.  Hill laughed and nodded.  She walked past the gym because the pass system had said Natasha was in her rooms.  She heard the fighting grind to a halt and grinned at the agent walking past her.

"Summers, are you hiding horns under your hair?  Because there's no way you're that sweet and innocent," that agent complained.

She laughed.  "Stark wanted me to dress up and I'm mid late growth spurt so it fits."  She smiled.

"Oh, damn," he complained.  "I'll have someone start sensitivity lectures again."

"I have a look but ask before touching and it'll take a *lot* of dates to get permission system going," she quipped.

One of the junior agents whined.  "She's an ice princess with a body that makes a man want to go to confession," he complained.  The senior agent swatted him so he went back to the gym.  It really wasn't fair!


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