From: "mm_contrary" <email@example.com>
Date:Sat, 07 Apr 2007 00:13:41 -0000
Subject:[imaginings] Re: NY Connections/Father Benis bunny
What kind of ideas did you have in mind? I had one where Xander was sent to Xena/Herc Greece by either Willow or Anya(as a wish demon) with Horatio/and or/Speed/and or Ray Jr being sent several years later. The idea being the wish/curse was something like "You and yours I send to ....?"
Just imagine, Horatio being thought of as a pleasure slave because he is: A) redheaded, B) dressed in clothes not able to hold up to hard work, and C) wearing silk boxers (only kings, queens, and pets would have it because of the price, and to wear silk on your bum?)
Or even alpha Xander as a warlord. I would have said hero but lately I just can't see Xander as the hero type anymore because of all he went through, and the examples of heroes he had. An antihero yes, prissy/doom gloom hero no.
Smiles and hands over the leash to the rabid plot bunny that bit me 4 days ago.
your bunny gave me nightmares. Woke me out of a sound sleep to tell me this one. ::shaking head::
A Warlord For All Times.
Xander walked into the town's marketplace. The Gods had tipped him off that another refugee was here. One he needed to pick up. He glared at the person who got in his way. "Move." He walked around him and went to the slave market. That was the typical place for a new refugee to end up. The three of them were clearly up there. They were babbling in English. He cleared his throat. "Ares is pissed," he announced in Greek. "You're in deep shit. He told me to burn the town unless the refugees from other lands are handed over immediately to his service." The auctioneer laughed so he pushed back his cloak hood, giving him one of his 'bored now' looks. The man started to sweat. Xander pulled his sword, staring at him. "Now," he growled. They were pushed down, all but one. "The redhead too." He was growled at. "Archer!" A flaming arrow flew in and fell a foot away from the auctioneer's feet. "Well? Are we going to have fun today or not?" The man lunged at the redhead and Xander rushed up there to stab him and gut the other two coming for him. "I've had enough!" he bellowed. "I am the Warlord Alexander! You're in deep shit! Ares is pissed as hell at this whole town!" The people started to run. The smart ones went to the temple. Xander looked at the redhead. "American or do you speak good English?" he asked quietly in English.
"Where are we?"
"Ancient Greece. Long tale but you're coming with me to a safer spot. C'mon. Let's gather your people. Are we missing any?" he asked as he freed his hands. He hopped off the stage and walked to the others, freeing their bound hands too. "Come on, guys. Food, baths, and information are back at the camp."
"We're missing two," one of them said, stopping him. "Horatio's nephew was with us but he was taken while Horatio was knocked out. Also we had a blonde female with us."
Xander nodded. "Okay. Pictures?" Horatio pulled one out for him. "That'll work." He went to find one of the guards for the auctioneer, finding them cowering in the back. He squatted down in front of him, sword in one hand, picture held up in the other. "Ares wants them all. Where are these two and any others who showed up with them?" he said slowly and clearly. "I'll leave you living if you help me get them." He nodded, scooting back away from him. "Well?"
"The boy we dropped at the temple of Asclepias. He was ill, sneezing. We didn't want to risk an epidemic and get blamed," he whimpered. "The blonde was bought specially last night."
"She'd better still be alive when we rescue her. Disappear. I'd suggest a career change too." He stood up, walking out with them. "Come on." He found his people getting fruit. "Gratus has the blonde," he said, showing one the picture. "She's a refugee. Bring her back here immediately. As healthy as possible. Any damage is all on you and you can have a good share of the spoils." His commander whooped and gathered his team to go free the damsel. He nodded at the others staying. "These are the new refugees. Someone go to the temple of Asclepias. See if the young one can be released?" One of them took off. "The rest of you finish shopping and come back to camp by dark. You know the rules." He walked them off. "Come on, guys. There's a cart we can take." He led them to it, making sure they all got into it so he could swing up and drive. He twitched the reins. "Come on, nags."
"They look like they're good horses," Horatio said quietly.
Xander grinned. "They hate my mare. So they hate me. The ones who took off usually drive this set." He gave him a look. "Relax. It'll be okay. With any luck she's still all right. My people have had to do this before. I'm a refugee too." He drove them back to camp, letting them talk quietly in the back. He parked at the first guard. "Take it back to town. We found refugees." That got a nod and he walked them to the larger tent, then through it to the one in the back. "We need baths and clothes!" he shouted. "Refugees in!" A few people went running and Xander opened up his personal tent. "You can wait in here while the bath water is heated." He flopped down. "Welcome to Greece," he said when they were all inside. "You're about three hundred miles from Athens. You're also in about year 168 BC. It's inexact because our calendar hasn't been invented yet and I don't remember how to convert the years." They all gaped at him. He shrugged. "I have no idea how you guys got here. I got sent here because my friend is stupid. You? A witch, a wish demon? Any clue?"
"We're officers. We don't usually believe in those things," the redhead said quietly. "I'm Horatio Caine, this is Tim Speedle and Eric Delko. The blonde with us is Calleigh Duquesne and apparently the other was my nephew Raymond."
Xander smiled and waved. "I'm Xander Harris from Sunnydale. I was a pretty normal teenager until my best friend, a witch, sneezed while having a 'you're dumb' day about me and accidentally sent me back here." They gaped. "So if you watched the Xena show, I'm like a cross between Joxer and Xena." Eric snickered at that. "Seriously. I still trip over my feet." A shining thing started next to him and he rolled to his knees, looking at his patron saint. "Hi, Ares."
"Xander. Good work." He smiled at him. "She'll be fine. She stabbed him when he tried to rape her so she's locked up while his people wait to see if he dies. Your guys will get there in time."
"I told them they could have the majority of the loot."
"That'll work. Thanks for scaring the town too. They've forgotten what they're supposed to be doing." He looked at the stunned people. "Morning, welcome to Greece." Eric sat down, staring in open-mouthed shock. "That's a better reaction than this one. He passed out when he landed in my temple in front of me."
"Not my fault I had travel sickness," Xander complained, frowning slightly at him. "Any others?"
"Not yet. Ray is quarantined. The priests there weren't sure if he was truly ill or not. We've left word to bring him to you once he's free and well." That got a nod from Horatio. He looked at him, smirking just a bit. "Not scared?"
"Should I be?"
"We'll see, Horatio Caine of New York and Miami. Head of the crime lab." Horatio glared at him.
"Chill, Horatio. He's here to protect us," Xander told him. He looked at Ares. "Any others?"
"Not yet. I'm happy Asclepias' priests warned him and he told us." He patted Xander on the head like he was a dog. "Xena's heading to help your boys. Joxer heard and he told her. She'll bring her back while your boys go to the new village." Xander nodded, standing up. "So far it's a good job, Xander. Keep it up." He smirked. "Also, the wife is complaining."
"Your sister made me marry her," he said grimly. "Can you please make her leave me alone? Please? Hell, I'll even blow you again if you make her leave me alone, Ares."
"I'll see what I can do." He shook his head, disappearing.
Xander looked at the stunned men. "Sorry. I've been here now for about sixty years their time. You won't age until you start in a moment you've never hit in the future." They all groaned. "Dying does hurt and yes we may be the foundation of the show Highlander as well." He looked at Horatio. "Ares had me start to build a village in the mountains. You're more than welcome to stay there until you can get back, Horatio. It'll be safe there. There's been a few other refugees. It's a popular time to send people to. They tend to get captured and sold or killed very quickly." That got a grim look and someone patted the side of the tent before leaning in. "Baths ready?"
"The healer is back too, Warlord."
"Thank you. Warn the guards that Xena is with the troop I sent after their female friend. She may be the one who brings her back. As soon as she is here, bring her to me, get the healer, and them if they're not in here." He nodded, going to pass that on. He looked at Horatio. "Come on, I'll show you the bathing area." He walked them that way. "I've also had them get you something closer to what the locals wear. That way your Armani suit won't stand out. They must've thought you were a runaway concubine." Horatio whimpered. "Silk is only for royals back here. Only very rich ones. Since you're not regal by any means based on your attitude, they probably thought you were a favored pet. After all, not like you could do any of their sort of work in the fields in a suit."
"It's a good thought," Speed said. "So we're getting the equivalent of jeans and t-shirts?"
"Yup, keep the shoes. Our shoemaker got killed by a war party about six months back." He opened another tent, smiling at the aroma. "Including things to kill any bugs you may have picked up." He let them inside. "The brunette is a healer. She'll be very gentle or I'll spank her again. She's a refugee too. We found her about a year ago?" She nodded, helping Horatio to a bench. "Let me know what you need. There's two others."
"I've heard, Xander. Relax." He nodded, heading off. She smiled at them. "Horatio and his boys." They all stared at her and Horatio burst out laughing. "Yes, I got sent back because my case came up as a sorcerer who wanted to get away with murder. Did Mac start throwing fits?"
"What date was it when you disappeared?" Speed asked. "You're Stella, right?"
"I am. Hi, Stella Bonasera. Mac Taylor's second in command." Eric grinned at that. "Also part time healer. I've learned a lot. Did Mac know what happened?"
"We haven't heard anything about your disappearance," Horatio told her. "It hasn't hit national news and he hasn't put out a CSI-wide missing persons."
She frowned. "What date did you disappear?"
"August 12th," Speed told her.
"Me too." She considered it. "2004?" They all nodded. "So it's the same day. Well, shit." She sighed. "Okay. We'll figure that out later. Xander's been here nearly forever. We'll work it out with him. Did Ares show up again?" They all nodded. "He's a decent sort as long as you don't piss him off. I did that once. I was a bit upset about being back here. Xander had to walk me off before he killed me. He destroyed a barn instead." She looked at them. "Any injuries? I've got a good salve for cuts or whip marks."
"I have one," Speed admitted, taking off his shirt. She got some to smooth over it, earning a moan. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Into the bath, guys. The herbs I put in will kill any fleas you've picked up or anything else." They nodded and she left them alone. "I'll put clothes in front of the door for you guys." She did that then went to talk to Xander. "Do we think their friend is all right?"
"She's a coworker. Ares said she stabbed him before Gratus could hurt her." He looked over from his planning map. "They have her locked up in case he dies." She grimaced but nodded. "The other's with the temple of Asclepias."
"I've sent for the local priest to see what's wrong with him. What are we going to do, Xander?"
"We're going to drop them off at the village. Horatio's used to command? Ares said he did the same job you did."
"We all do the same job, including her."
He grinned. "Good. Want to stay around? The guys still consider you a witch."
"Please," she said. "I could learn to like not living in a tent." He grinned at that. "So I'll help them and the people at the village finish building?" He nodded, getting back to planning. "Is there a problem?"
"Between us and there is either a lake or a river. If we take the lake path, the people on each side of it are fighting. We'll have to go around it by a good bit. If we take the river there's a chance of other problems. Including a slaver caravan." He looked at her. "We'll figure that out later and you can yell at my wife for me if you want. Ares said she tried to nag him."
"I don't know why Aphrodite made you marry her. She's a shrew."
"I'm used to shrews. She's worse," he said dryly, making her laugh. "Help them where they need it, Stella. They're your people. I'm a simple construction worker and hunter." She nodded, going back to take care of them. He got back to his planning until Strife showed up. He grinned at the first God he had met. "Hi."
"Hi. What's up?"
"A war or slavers?"
"The war. You can scare the shit outta both sides for Unc." He marked a path and Xander traced it for him. "Good boy." He took a kiss. "Unc said you're tired."
Xander looked at him. "I'm very tired. I miss tv."
"I know." He gave him a hug, leading him back to his sleeping pallet. At the very least they could relieve each other's stress and it was always great fun.
Stella listened at the front of Xander's tent, then cleared her throat before walking in. She turned and walked out blushing. "Strife's down. It's going to be a while. Let's go eat." She shoed them with her, taking them to the fire. "Boys, these are Horatio, Eric, and Speed," she said, pointing at each one. "They're the new refugees." They got grunts and bowls handed over. "Thanks. Strife's down." The guys smiled and laughed, getting together to relax for the night. It was clear there wouldn't be a fight if he was down for the night. She smiled at the boys. "Sit and eat. It's stew. Rabbit if I remember right." They sat down and she sat beside Eric. "Relax."
"How can I relax? My mother will worry."
"Xander got sent ten days before I did," she told him. "You guys got sent on the same day. I've been here a year. He's been here sixty years. We'll handle it when we get back. For now, get comfy. It's going to be a while. No one's sure how to get us back that I've heard or Xander's heard." They nodded, digging in. "Also, did you notice you speak Greek suddenly," she teased Horatio, who smiled at that.
"I had. Thank whoever for us?"
"Welcome," Strife's voice floated out.
"He heard." She dug in, nibbling on a piece of meat. "Barry cooked. It's a bit tough," she warned. They shrugged and ate anyway. They were starving. She heard a horse and stood up, handing Horatio her bowl. "Guard that for me." She went to the guard, who was staring at someone. "Xena. Is that our missing refugee?"
"She is," she said, handing her down. "She's shaken and sore, she was beaten but not touched."
"I can help her. Xander's in with Strife but you can share our fires if you want."
She smiled and shook her head. "I'd hate to piss Xander off again. Last time I ended up waking up naked in the middle of a marketplace. I nearly had to kill three men to get free." Stella smirked. "Take good care of her."
"I will. We're heading back to the village soon."
"Good idea. Which path?"
"The map had a line around the lake to the right and swung a bit wide."
"I'll head that way first, make sure they know not to touch your people." She turned her horse around. "Be well, Stella."
"You too." She walked Calleigh off, taking her to the bathing area. "Hey, Calleigh, it's all right. Horatio!" He came jogging in. "Get her some food. She's got to be starving." He nodded, going to do that. She moved the cloak hood. "Hi."
"I'm Mac's second, Stella. You're in Greece."
"I noticed that." She moved the cloak, showing off the thin, pale green gown she was wearing. "What is going on?"
"We were stolen or sent, honey. I have no further clue at this point. I'm getting you a bath to soak and something for the bruises. Plus food. Xander will be out in the morning. He's another refugee and Ares made him find the rest of us." She sat down, staring at her. "It's all right. We'll talk tomorrow. For now, know that you're safe here. If one of the warriors around us touch any of us Xander's going to gut them." That got a smile and a nod. Calleigh sniffled. "Shh. It's all right," she said, giving her a hug. "It's all right, honey. You're safe, let it out." Horatio came back in with a full bowl. "Talked to Barry?"
"I did. He's one of us?"
"Horatio," she said, looking at him. "You're okay? Eric and Speed and Ray?"
"Ray's at a healer's temple in quarantine. The other two are outside." He cupped her cheek with a smile. "For now, eat, bathe, change. Before Eric leers." She laughed and let the tears come while he held her. Stella went to fix her bath. "Shh. We'll figure it out and we're safe for now. Xander's another refugee. He's from Sunnydale?" he asked Stella.
"Yeah, out by LA."
Calleigh stiffened and looked at her. "He's from the hellmouth?"
"I heard my name invoked," Xander said as he strolled in. "You must be Calleigh. Yes, I'm Buffy's Xander." He shook her hand. "You're under my protection. I find all of us under Ares' orders. Once we get the sick one from the healers we'll be moving you back to our village so you can rest there. It's a safe place. All right?" He tipped her face up. "Gratus still living?" She shook her head. "Pity I can't stab him again then. He's been a pain in the ass for months now." He smiled gently. "We're still working on getting you guys back to your right time and place. We'll figure it out, Calleigh. For now, let Stella help you bathe and all that good stuff. Watch out for crunchy things in the meat. Barry sometimes get cartilage in there." She smiled at that. "You can be as amazon as you want here. Stella is. She often hunts for the pots." That got a nod. "Good girl. Now, rest, heal, and we'll be moving in a few days. Come see me in the morning." He grabbed something off the shelf. "Gotta go back to my stress relief." He strolled back to his tent.
Stella snorted. "Strife's such a bad influence on him."
"I think it's part of his nature," Horatio said dryly. "If he's the personification of Strife...."
"True," she agreed. She tested the water. "Come cook, Calleigh. Out, Horatio." He left them alone. "I put in herbs to kill any bugs you got. It's kinder."
"Thank you." She gave her a hug. "Clothes? I look like a girl."
"You do and I've got some spare stuff. Want pants or a skirt?"
"Pants, please give me pants." Stella smiled and went to get some for her. She had been doing washing earlier today. After she had dropped off the clothes she went to see if anyone had saved her dinner. Eric handed over her bowl. "Thanks." She sat down. She sent up her daily silent prayer that Mac and the other boys in the lab weren't panicking too badly. For being kidnaped, she'd have to recommend being sent back to Ancient Greece and being protected by Xander. It was much nicer than any of the others she had worked on the job. She smiled as a familiar voice started up. "Come on over, Joxer." He bounced over and gave her a hug. "Staying overnight?"
"The ladies wanted some time alone," he said dryly, settling in next to her. "Is she all right? I know Xena had to knock some guys around when they wanted to see if she was a debauched Valkyrie."
"She's fine. A bit bruised. She's like me, she'll be pissed tomorrow," she said with a smile. He grinned back. "How are the ladies?"
"Grumpy. This is keeping Xena from fishing," he admitted. She groaned, shaking her head. "Gabby talked her into staying in an inn tonight so she could take a hot bath. So they're probably keeping the inn up." He smiled at the newcomers. "Hi, I'm Joxer."
Horatio shook his hand. "I've seen you on tv before."
"Stella told me about that when we found her," he said happily. "I think it's neat I made it into history." He looked at her again. "I'm heading to Meg's for a while."
"We're going to the village."
"It's on the way. I can go with you if you want."
She pinched him on the cheek. "You're very sweet, Joxer." He beamed.
"He needs to go see if any more are coming," Strife's voice floated out of thin air. "Uncle Ares thinks more are heading this way soon."
"Sure, Lord Strife. I can do that. Can I do it from Meg's?"
"Have fun, make some good money, Joxer," he called. "Don't catch anything this time."
"Yes, Lord Strife." He winked at Stella, who laughed and swatted him. "I'll stop through on my way back. Want to play cards tonight?"
"Sure, I can do that." She finished up her bowl of food. "Let me get these three settled?"
"Sure. I'll be in your tent."
"That's cool." He headed off so she smiled at the trio of amused men. "They got him very well. I'm suspecting one of us told them." That got a mass nod. "C'mon, I'll show you guys where you're bunking down. If the snoring bothers you, stab him." She led them back to the only empty tent, letting them inside. "Clydus!" He sat up panting hard. "You're in charge of our refugees tonight. Make sure they're okay. Joxer's here so I'm going to play cards. The other is in the bath. When she's done send her my way. Strife's in so Xander's busy." He nodded at that, making sure his lap was covered. She smirked. "Good boy." She patted him like she would a dog and went to her own tent. Joxer always had some of the best stories. And a really good tongue.
Horatio coughed. "I'm Horatio...."
He waved a hand. "I don't care. It woke me out of a dream where Aphrodite and Discord were tag teaming me in bed. There's bedrolls. Fix it however you want, guys." He laid down and flipped onto his side. He was snoring within minutes, mumbling Discord's name.
Speed looked at Horatio. "Well, it's a bed," he offered.
"I've camped," Horatio said, going to fix the bedrolls so they'd at least be a bit comfortable. They settled in for the night. "We'll talk tomorrow, boys. Us and Calleigh."
"Sure, H," Speed agreed. They all sat up when a horn went off. "Is that an ancient burglar alarm?" He heard feet go running past.
"Yup, I think it is," Eric agreed, starting to get up.
Clydus growled as he got up. "Stay! I doubt you can use a sword yet." He grabbed his and stomped out there in his long shirt.
Xander came out of his tent only wearing the pants he was tying up again. "You'd think the scary reputation would keep people from interrupting a night's pleasure. But *noooo*, they have to come anyway!" He stomped that way, glaring at the man on his horse. "Get off and go away."
"Who're you, boy?" he sneered.
"Alexander." The man laughed. Xander cut his saddle girth, making him fall. The horse ran off, being caught by one of his boys. "You wanted what?"
The man got up, pulling his sword. "You have women in this so-called war camp. I want them."
Xander took a swing and cut into his throat. "No. Anything else?" he asked the falling, gasping, choking body. "No answer? Good!" He turned and walked off. "Anyone else comes, deal with it," he called back. "Or use them as sex toys, something like that as long as they're enemies and not Amazons."
"Yes, sir," they all answered. The ones who were on rest went back to their tents. The ones on guard had a few of the younger boys in the camp drag the body off for a proper burial and search.
Clydus looked at the trio of men. "Didn't I tell you to stay in there?" he demanded.
"He cut his head off," Eric said, looking confused.
"You'd rather be someone's sex toy?" he countered.
"Then yes, he cut his head off. All praise Ares for his skills with a sword. It's what keeps us all safe. That and he likes to take it up the ass from Strife and sometimes Ares himself. Anything else or can I get back to the ladies of my destruction?" They got out of the way. "Night, boys. See you at dawn." He went back to his sleep, his sword under his hand, just in case.
Horatio looked at Speed, closing his mouth. "This is not our time," he said quietly. "We'll figure those things out tomorrow too." That got a nod and the boys trooped back to bed, him following them. Stella had seemed a bit more bloodthirsty as well.
"Maybe it's all the fresh air and lack of caffeine," Eric joked.
Speed hit him with his folded up blanket/pillow. "Shut up, Eric." He settled in again, letting his mind drift while his body at least rested. He felt a touch to his forehead and drifted off, content in his dreams for the night. The others followed soon after Morpheus found them staring at the tent's ceiling. They needed to rest to deal with tomorrow.
Xander looked up from his reading, one leg thrown over the arm of his chair and onto the table to brace his foot. "Morning."
"Good morning," Calleigh said cheerfully. "Are we all good?"
"We're fine." He grinned at her. "There's no caffeine. The withdrawal is hell. I'm very sorry about that." He put down his book, pages open and down. Speed glared so he smirked. "It's a very sturdy book. They built things better back here." He pointed at the table. "Jett, Joxer's brother, dropped those off. There are rules to getting your gun back, guys. You have no spare bullets. No one here can make gunpowder yet, not even the Chinese. So unless you can make some, you have no spares. If you absolutely must use your guns, you will police your brass and your bullets. No matter what. I don't want to make it home to hear some archeologist complaining that they found a thirty-eight or a forty-five caliber bullet in a set of remains. Am I clear?" They all nodded. "Good. I had to beg Hephie to fix mine when mine broke so if they do, good luck. He likes to have someone to tell him stories and drink with him."
"I'm a ballistics tech," Calleigh told him. "I can make gunpowder if we can find the chemicals. I can also handmake bullets and fix the guns."
He got up and hugged her. "I already love you, dear." He grinned at her. "So, what else can we do? We're building a village."
"A lot," she admitted. "We'll do what we can to help. We're like that."
"Good." He went back to his chair and one foot propped up. "Before you ask, I tripped getting up this morning. Twisted it. I'm making it unswell before Stella hears and bitches me out." He looked at Calleigh. "Do you need better medical treatment?"
"I'm only bruised and I'm a bayou girl. It's all good," she said with a smile. "How was Buffy when you left?"
"Cranky. She had PMS and an English test on things Willow hadn't read for her yet."
Horatio shook his head. "Do we know how we got here?"
"I'm going to go out on a limb since I heard it from Ares. Your nephew's girlfriend is a witch and banished him and all his because she's a trifling bitch and he wanted someone who wasn't. When they broke up, she banished you all."
Eric moaned. "I'm so glad it wasn't one of mine."
"We'd have killed you, Eric," Speed assured him. He looked at Xander. "What're we doing today?"
"Today, you're getting to know people, letting Stella make sure you can at least use a bow. Our weapons master will drill you in a sword if you want. We're moving tomorrow once your nephew gets back here tonight." Horatio smiled at that. "And there might be a few more. Ares wasn't sure but he sent word he thinks another group got sent or something. He went to check on them but he thinks they'll be able to get themselves to wherever we are." That got a nod. "Yo, Yodela!" he yelled. A woman came in and bowed. "Don't do that," he complained, making her sneer at him. "Keep it up. Practice with me later."
"No thank you. Last time you swatted me with the sword, Alexander. What's wrong?"
"We're moving to the village tomorrow." He rolled up the map and handed it over. "Pass it out to the usual sort. Xena went ahead so we shouldn't have too many problems with the war going on by the lake. Strife suggested the path." She nodded, taking it and leaving. "We have one refugee coming from the healer's later," he called after her. "I want to know immediately!"
He looked at Horatio. "I saw her born. Her mother was one of my favorite Amazons." That got a smile from Calleigh. "Yes, they're literal here. You can be as Amazon as you want. Stella is. They adore her." That got a giggle from her. "Not kidding. We'll probably run into one of their villages. They won't make you sleep with them but it's as safe as you're going to get outside of hiring someone at an inn. The only women in the village you've now met." That got a nod. "Except for the wife and if you want her, please take her. She begged Aphrodite for me and the pink one was in a gooey mood so she gave me to her while bound, drugged, and concussed. It's the only way I ended up married with a daughter, who thinks Stella's a Goddess in her own right. It'll take us about six weeks to get to the village. We'll have to pick up supplies on the way. You guys can walk or ride in a cart. I know how tiring it is when you're not used to it." Someone walked in and whispered in his ear. "Thank you." He nodded and left. "Make sure the others are up. We're moving tomorrow." That got a nod and he hurried off. "A young, dark haired boy of about fifteen just showed up asking for you, Horatio." He hurried out to find his nephew. He looked at Eric and Speed. "There's a library there too," he offered. "For being back here, the eighty books are a spectacular collection. On the way we'll make sure you guys have more clothes than those and can at the very least get used to living in the village. I won't make you go out and help Ares stop stupid shit the way I do."
"Thanks," Speed said quietly. "You killed him last night."
Xander nodded. "If I hadn't, others would have tried to take the ladies or kill all of us. Back here, a scary reputation is worth more than having an armory that you're a master in. Which I do have. If I have to use it, I have to be able to prove I can and will use it to do what has to be done. Or else we'll be killed or taken over by someone." That got a nod. "It's like a gang warfare situation only it's a bit more cultural and regional really. That's why Xena went ahead to warn the warring towns that we weren't going to interfere and to leave us alone." He stood up. "Almost all the people here can fight. I don't want to make them. That's a leader's job." That got a nod from them all. "Good. Calleigh, we may have the chemicals to make gunpowder. I gathered everything I remembered needing in the village. If we do please, Goddess Discord, make me some more thirty-eights?" She smiled and nodded. "Thanks. I've got two older revolvers." He led them outside. "Listen up!" he yelled. Everyone stared at him. "We are moving tomorrow. That means tidy the camp, do wash, all that stuff, today. Cooks, do the shopping for what we can today as well. We leave after breakfast in the morning. I'm sure the locals will be relieved and give Hera many children in celebration of us going away. Like the last time they did that." That got a nod and a few smiles. "Anyone who hasn't reappeared is to either reappear and check in by then with their commanders or appear suddenly at the village. Am I clear?"
"Yes, sir," everyone offered.
"Good. Get to it." They rushed around to get to their preparations. He smiled at Horatio and his nephew. "You guys can help Stella. She's got a ton of crap to pack up and put in her wagon." They nodded and he looked at Ray. "You good?"
"I had the flu."
"That's fine. It's one of those things we don't want getting out around here. They have no resistence." The boy nodded. "Good. Go work with Stella. It's not hard work and she's the on-site medical person. Suck up to her, she's also the best cook we have."
"I've taken cooking classes," Speed offered.
"Decent. See the guy with the bun?" He pointed at the guy with his ponytail bunned. "Help him. That's Barry." He walked off, going to check with the commanders.
"I can pack and then help you cook." He went to find Stella with Horatio and Ray Junior while Speed went to introduce himself.
"Hey, Xander said to help you cook. I've taken classes."
"From a woman?" he asked in a high, squeaky voice.
"From a few teachers," he admitted. "In our time we have schools to teach you more than your mother could."
"Even better, brother." He clapped him on the back. "We've got a deer. Can you chop it up?"
"Sure. Bite sized or just parts?"
"Parts for now. We'll chop finer later." He went to show him where things were, letting him get to work while he checked what they had. He sent his underlings off to buy things for him. He hated to shop. Xander gave him an odd look. "We're almost out of flour."
"Unless they finally got the grain planted, we'll be out at the village too," Xander reminded him.
"I'll send a runner ahead," he promised, going to do that. He tapped one of their messengers. "Run to the village. I need to know what I need to pick up before we get there. That way we don't piss Alexander off by having to backtrack to shop. That Buffy Goddess he used to serve gives him nightmares about shopping for her." He nodded, going to do that. He went back to watch what the new boy was doing. He was trimming very carefully. It was good he wasn't hacking away or creating scraps. "We've got three to do today."
"I'm all yours. The others are helping Stella," he told him.
"Even better." He wrapped what they had and took it to smoke it. That way it'd keep on the way home. Speed brought him more parts in an hour, making him smile and nod his thanks. "The last one?"
He grimaced, going to look. "It is bad," he agreed. He nodded and Speed helped him pick it up and toss it out into the woods for the wild animals to eat. "We'll have Stella bring down another one." They went back. "Stella, we need more meat," he called into the healing tent.
"I just got you deer."
"One had bugs," Speed told her. "We only have two."
She came out grimacing. "Fine. If I can. I heard a wild boar." Barry drooled. "Fine." She went to find her bow and arrows, taking off with them. "Finish that packing, guys." She tapped three guys who weren't doing much. "We've got to hunt more meat for the cooks." They nodded, grabbing bows and swords to follow her. Xander came too. "Stressed from last night?" she teased.
"Ares was stressed. Something's going on," he said quietly in English. None of the others understood it. He had made sure of it. "He was distracted too."
"Major war?" she asked in English.
He shrugged. "Not a clue. We'll find out when we're needed or if we're needed." He pointed. "Boar. I can hear it." He dropped into hunting mode, sneaking that way with her behind him. He handed off his bow and let her hit one of the three. He rushed out to get the other one while the guys shot the third one so it couldn't run. He finally got the boar after a short run and pounce. Then he stabbed the last one. "In the head, boys," he reminded them in Greek. He looked at Stella, dropping back into English. "Well, I guess we're starving."
"Maybe," she agreed. She looked at their escorts. "Go see if there's boarlettes." They went to do that while she and he got to work field dressing things. "You know, I never had to do this before you showed me how. Mac may have."
"Mac may have since you said he was a Marine," Xander agreed. He finished gutting his and whistled, bringing their escorts back. "Piglets?"
"Jewels. It looks like they're guardians."
Xander went to look, whistling at the prettiness. "Huh." He looked up. "Okay if we take this?" he called. "If not, let me know now." No God said anything. "Last chance. Strife?" Nothing. "Good." He picked up one and Artemis showed up. "Thank you for helping us find the boars and the recent deers, Lady Artemis. Are these yours?"
"No, take them. They're some princess's running away stash and she's long dead." She smiled. "Piglets?" He pointed at the four they had found and corralled. "Are you taking them?"
"Alive if possible," he admitted. "Should we drop some of them or some of the meat for you? I know you have a temple in town."
"Please," she agreed, smiling at him. "A live one and a side of a whole one?"
"More than happily," he agreed, bowing to her. When he straightened up she was gone. "Stella, one of the live ones and a half split down the spine goes to Artemis. We interrupted her hunting," he called. The guys brought back some bags and he carefully selected a female piglet for her. The others went into the bag with the jewels. He made sure everything was out of there, killing the snake he found as well. He made sure it was dead then put it in his belt. "Okay. These stay alive." They nodded, carrying them back. "The single one goes to Artemis," he reminded him. He walked back to where more people were gathering the whole boars and the half that was already split off. He smiled at Stella. "Coming? Barry, keep the three piglets alive. The village can raise them." He nodded at that and he helped carry his share of the load back there. He turned the two and a half boars over to Speed and took the half one that Barry had wrapped in leaves. He let Stella take the bag. She checked and smiled, reaching in to pet it. He handed her the snake. "Figured you could use the scales at the least." She beamed and went to put it up, coming back to mount her horse beside him and ride with him into town. Xander rode up to the temple Artemis had, walking inside with his half. He laid it on the altar and bowed, saying a prayer of thanks. He turned and took the piglet, letting it free. "She asked for a live one," he told the priest. "We interrupted her hunt."
"That's fine, Alexander. She said to expect you." He clasped his hand. "Moving on?"
"Tomorrow. If more refugees come, save them and send them to the village. I'll be back this way in about ten months to look for more. We're still up just past Corinth."
"Agreed. Good hunts."
"Good hunts and many quail to you as well," he offered, getting a smile. The old priest loved baked quails. He nudged the piglet with his foot, making it squeal. "We picked a female."
"She'll like that." The boy smiled and walked out with Stella, going to the market to get her what she needed. He picked up the piglet to look at it. "You look healthy." He looked over and saw the boar was gone. He smiled, taking the pig back to their garden area. It could grow well back there.
Xander looked up as Ares appeared, going to his knees automatically as a show of deference. "Yes, Lord Ares? Are we going in a direction you don't like?"
"No. Not yet. Avoid that fight. It's necessary to thin the population." Xander nodded. "Get up." Xander stood up, looking at him, arms crossed over his chest. "More did come. They're able to take care of themselves and they do know the ones here."
"Is there a reason for that?"
"They came looking for their own," he admitted dryly.
"Then I'll welcome them into the village," he promised. That got a nod. "If I can ask, Lord Ares, you've been distracted and absent minded again. Is there a war you'll need help with?"
"Yes, but not yet. There's a Roman legion coming this way and it's important Greece doesn't fall at this point in time."
Xander nodded. "We are a war band," he reminded him. "The village will be protected by those who can and will stay behind."
"Good man." He clapped him on the arm. "Busy?"
He checked outside then closed the curtains on his tent. "I'm planning. Don't bother me. Or else I will attack." He tied it off and came to offer his Lord and Master some stress relief. It was good for both of them. Ares went home more relaxed and happier. He got back to his plans, smiling at how they were looking. He reopened the flap, finding Stella there. "There's more refugees coming but they can handle themselves. Lord Ares thinks they came looking for one of us."
She beamed. "That could be Mac."
"It could be. Let's hope he doesn't think I'm keeping you as a concubine like the last person who showed up for you," he teased.
"I hope not. I'd hate to have to beat him and then hug him. Beating the last warlord who wanted me took days out of my busy schedule." She came in to look. "What's with the battles by the lake?"
"Crap." He nodded. "Okay. Want a runner?"
"Yeah." He went to find one. "You, Bartemus." He hopped to his feet. "We're going here," he said, showing him the map. "They're at war. I need them to understand we are not intervening, we are traveling past. We want no part of it, we're not helping either side, and the only way we're dealing with them is if they attack. We might shop in the closest village but not if it's going to create problems. However, if they wanted to set up a market out in the middle of nowhere they can do that. Otherwise I don't want to see them. Lord Ares commands." He nodded and took off on his horse. He went back to his tent, going back to his planning. "Horatio around?" he called. He came walking in a few minutes later, putting down a plate of meat. "Thanks. I forgot lunch again." He looked at him, his frown clearing up. "There's more refugees. Ares said they came looking for someone. Stella thinks it's Mac."
"That's fine. If it is we know them too."
"Good. Then we'll handle shit. And once we get to the village, some of us are going to end up turning around and going out again. Can you get me the three commanders?" He nodded, going to do that while Xander nibbled on some of the meat. They stomped in. "Romans are coming. Ares said Greece is not to fall at this time. This is a head's up if he needs us." He looked at them, seeing the disheartened look. "We'll make it home. It won't be on the trip." They all relaxed. "It simply might not be a very long vacation."
One nodded. "We can handle that. Your daughter?"
"She's been training from what I've heard. It's good for her. When she's older I'll allow her to make her own decisions about marriage, the Amazons, or joining us." That got a nod. "She has been taking healing lessons as well. She could be very useful to a patrol unit but she'll have to work her way up."
"Yes, Xander," that one agreed, much happier. "Thank you."
"Welcome. That war we're skirting around? Ares said to leave it alone. It's population control. Don't touch, don't look, and unless they set up a market outside of the village in our path we're not dealing with them. I sent a runner." That got a nod and they left while he nibbled another piece of meat and made plans for moving them past that area. There were some problem roads beyond that with vandals and muggers. "Hey, Strife, are we going to run into the pirates this time? If so, can we rob Nebula and take the grain and stuff to the village?" He smiled at the 'sure, go for it' he got mentally. "Thanks, dear." He went back to planning how to get them there. "That's a good sized town. We'll need a village break by then," he muttered, highlighting that deviation. It was good for his boys and girls. Besides, Nebula was hell in bed and she wouldn't mind. Much. At least not until after he and the boys were out of the area.
Xander looked at the amassed villages in front of him. "I told him to tell you we're not getting involved. Ares said so."
"Who are you to say that!" one shouted.
"The Warlord Alexander," he said dryly. The villagers backed up. "We're heading home for a break. Do you mind getting out of the way? We're all tired and want to see our village."
"You go through us or you don't go," another said.
Xander sighed, looking at his commanders. He took a quick head count of the villagers then of the commanders. "Well?"
"You're in command," Stella reminded him.
"And I'm tired," he pointed out. "That means I'll be vicious and they'll need some men to take care of them in the next few years."
Stella sighed and shrugged. "If they won't let us go through injure 'em. We can break here tonight to treat the injuries." Everyone stared at her. "I'm a healer, I'm supposed to think like this."
Horatio stepped forward. "How about a negotiation?"
Xander waved a hand. "Go ahead but if they try to kill you they're dead men walking."
Horatio nodded, walking forward to talk to them. He came back a few minutes later. "Would you be willing to pay a toll of ten gold?"
Xander considered it then nodded. "This once. The men are tired. Though I did give them the option of setting up a market for us to visit on the way past."
"They don't have anything left. They burned each other's storehouses." Xander groaned, leaning on his horse's mane. "That's why they've been fighting."
Xander dug it out. "This one time," he announced. "Because you're stupid enough to burn your children's food. So I don't I'll have to deal with the starving people later on." He tossed the gold to Horatio, who carried it back. They spilt it. "Evenly," he ordered. "Or become one village." They whimpered. "You're the stupid ones who burned each other's storehouses." Ares appeared. "I tried."
"I know you did." He looked at the town's leaders. "I like that idea. Make yourselves one village. It would please Hestia and Demeter." They bowed and scurried off. He looked at Horatio then at Xander. "You tried."
"I know. I even sent a messenger. Did he stay?"
"He slept with the wrong girl," Ares said dryly.
"Then he can bring her back or he can stay." He shrugged and his horse shifted. "Any other orders?"
"Not yet. You'll meet them at the pass."
"Decent. Pirates?" he asked with a hopeful smile. The others hooted behind him.
"If they're there," he complained, shaking his head. "Don't destroy the taverns this time. I don't want to hear the complaints, Xander." He disappeared.
"You heard him. We're going to Corinth and we're not to destroy the inns or the city this time, boys. If there are pirates they're ours if we want." That got a cheer. "Let's go! I want to camp at the pass tonight if at all humanly possible since there's more refugees we'll be meeting there." They nodded and he pulled Horatio up behind him, letting him wait until the right wagon pulled up beside him so he could hop over. "Good job." He smiled and rode on, getting ahead of everyone. He always scouted ahead. He found the small war band waiting on them and smiled from his vantage point. "Well. She described two of you perfectly," he said quietly. He rode his horse down to where they could see him too. "Well met," he called in English.
The one in the lead jumped. "Do I know you?" he called back.
"Not yet. I'm told by Ares that I was to meet you here."
"You're with that Alexander guy?" another one asked, pushing his glasses up his nose.
"I am that Alexander guy," he said with a smirk. "Stella's about an hour or two behind us with the others. Along with the people from Miami." They all blanched. "Relax, they're all fine." He rode up to face them. "Hi, Xander Harris, Sunnydale, California." He looked at one. "She said you're Mac Taylor and she showed me pictures of you and Messer, Flack." They both stiffened. "She's fine. She's been our healer for the last year." He looked at the other warriors then at Mac. "Mercenaries?"
"We were told we might have to take her from you. That you're keeping her hostage," Danny told him.
Xander snickered. "If you knew Stella you know that's not true, boys." They all nodded at that. He looked at the mercenaries. "Good morning," he said in Greek. "Let me guess, you're part of Scytha's army since he wants Stella as a wife?" They all sneered and drew their swords so he drew his. Their boss hated him because he had outed him from his position of power and favor as one of Ares' chosen warlords. Then he had seen Stella and fallen in lust. So of course he had offered his men graciously to the refugees to come see him. One attacked and he got him, got another, got a small cut from a third and ducked the fourth, who took out the third for him. Then he backhanded his sword into the fourth's neck. The fifth stared. "Go tell him," he offered. "You know how much he loves to hear about us meeting."
"He's ours," Danny told him. "Doctor Sheldon Hawkes."
"Cool. Can you birth babies? I know at least one's due next month."
"Probably. I was a surgeon and then an ME."
"That's more than she has. It'll do." He whistled, bringing the other forward guards. They pulled their swords. "Relax. Scytha sent people with them. They're gone. These are Stella's people."
"You're bleeding!" one yelled, coming over to look at him. "Get down here so we can bind that! If you die we're all in bad trouble from Ares and Strife."
Xander tipped his chin up. "I've had worse. I was married with worse. Go tell Stella so she can fuss too." He smirked at him. "Really, it's only a scratch. Go, now. Shoo." He got back onto his horse and rode back there, making him shake his head and his men laugh. "I know, you guys fuss over me. Now and then I feel like my daughter." He looked at Mac again. "Do you get that?"
"Now and then Danny fusses. It's in his nature," he admitted.
"That's fine. You guys can come with us if you want. We're going to our village for a rest and to see if Ares needs us. On the way we might even get to beat some pirates and take their stuff for the village." He turned his horse around. "Find a camping spot," he ordered. "Stella will want to hunt as soon as she's finished fussing and crying." They nodded, going to do that. He looked back. "Come on."
"We've got our stuff on the other side of the pass," Flack told him.
"Bring it. We've got wagons and we won't make it tonight." That got a nod and he rode back with Sheldon. Danny and Mac followed him. They ran into the camp being set up in the open. "I take it we think it's safe?" he called.
"If it was only Scytha's men, yeah," Stella said. She saw Mac and squealed, rushing over to pull him off his horse and hug him. "Danny too!" She pulled him down to hug him too.
"Doc and Don are on their way with our stuff," Danny said. "Missed you too, Stel." He looked at her. "We heard you were his favorite concubine; he was holding you hostage and making you do menial stuff."
"I'm the only healer they have and I won't talk about the menial stuff. I do miss flush toilets *so* much." Xander laughed, walking off to put his horse with the others. "He's been good and protected me, Mac. Don't worry about that." He smiled and gave her another hug. "How did you get back here?"
"We found the guy who sent you and demanded he bring you back to us. So he sent us," Danny said grimly. "Scared the shit outta me when someone asked if I knew Thor because I'm nearly blond."
She giggled. "He's a bit of an asshole." Don and Sheldon rode in and she hugged them both. "I've missed you two too."
"Of course you did," Don said happily. "So, that young guy?"
"Ever hear stories about the guys on Prospect?" she asked. He grimaced but nodded. "Xander's one of them."
"No wonder he can use a sword," Don said dryly. "Okay." He got off his horse and stretched. "Still not used to that ache." She walked them to where they could put their horses up and where the crew from Miami was. "Ah! The ones missing from Miami," Don said happily, shaking Eric's hand. "You guys went missing yesterday."
"We've been here for three weeks," Eric complained. "How did you guys get here?"
"We found the guy who banished Stella and made him give her back. He sent us instead," Danny said grimly, shaking hands. He looked at the stuff Speed was doing. "What was that?"
He looked. "Wild pig."
"At least I can eat that. I can't eat bunnies for anything."
"It's not so bad. You get used to it," Stella offered. She heard the horn and sighed. "What!" she bellowed, moving away from them. "Tell me it's not the idiot warlord's people!"
"No, it's a stampede of feral cows," Xander called. "Archers!" They came running up, him taking his bow and Stella hers. "Guys, out of the way," he ordered impatiently, hopping up onto a wagon's seat to take his position. "Oh, shit," he said. "We've got about fifty! Horatio, Calleigh, get the guns!" He fired at one, downing it. The others fired too. A few shots from Horatio, Calleigh, Mac, and Don, and only two got through to trample anything. One ran into the fire and tried to spread it but Horatio put it down. Another tried to trample someone and a horse. Xander got that one from behind. "Stella?"
"I'll help," Sheldon offered, going to assess injuries and splint broken bones. "What are we doing with them?"
"We'll have a lot of leather," Xander said dryly. "You don't waste meat when it comes to you." He looked around. "Speed, can we set up a smoking place?"
"I can use a tent for it," he offered, going to find one that was clean to do that with. He wet it down once it was up but that was a safety precaution. They got the cows gutted, blooding and cleaving them in there while the smoke built. They only had so much time without a refrigeration system. Mac and a few others came in to help. He grinned at him. "So, how has your historical working vacation been so far?" he quipped.
"Less interesting than this."
"Yeah, this was not how I planned today to go." He finished his cow and piled the hide in a corner for now, taking Mac's with him. They got to work on the next set. By the time it was getting hard to breathe in there all but one was cut into useable pieces. "Leave it," he ordered. "We'll trade it in Corinth." That got a nod and they left, letting him and Stella seal the tent up. "Okay, someone man the smoker part," he ordered, walking Mac off back to where Xander was helping set a bone. "He okay?"
"No," Xander said honestly. "It's going to take godly intervention since he's got a cracked pelvis and he had a spinal fracture last year in the same area." He looked at him. "Corinth has most of the healing temples. We'll use some of the meat to pay for extra treatment." That got a nod. "We good?"
"We left one whole. Some are in sides."
"That's fine," Xander agreed. "As long as they won't go bad."
"They're being smoked. We're using your tent."
"That'll work," he agreed. "I can camp in the map tent." That got a nod and they headed off while he went to check on everything else. "The horses okay?" he asked Ray Junior when he saw him over there.
"A bit scared and a few are shy of people."
"They have been," he assured him. "Take some of the stored hay to put down and make sure they can graze." He nodded, moving a few's stakes so they could graze better. Xander grabbed some of the beef and went to make an offering in the woods. He found Artemis out there. He put the large piece of meat in front of her. "Thanks for not letting them really hurt anyone. I saw them turning."
"You're welcome. Is that one boy all right?" He shook his head. "The temple of healing in Corinth will be waiting on him." She kissed him on the cheek. "You're a good boy, Xander." He beamed at that. "Good option to use the guns too."
"There were too many." She smiled and nodded. "Can I do anything else for you?"
"Finish setting up the temples."
"I told the wife to do it. Nag her."
"I have, she doesn't listen."
"That'll change," he promised. She beamed and left with the meat. He got up and went back to the camp, running into Don on the way. "Artemis." He looked at Stella. "They'll be expecting you and him." She nodded at that. "Can someone *please* go chew my wife a new one? She hasn't finished setting up the temples yet and Artemis was not happy!" They groaned and someone rode off to deal with his wife. He shook his head at Mac's curious look. "I've been here sixty years. She got Aphrodite on a gooey and happy day. She got me when I was nearly dead. If you want my wife, please, take her before I drop her off the mountain. My daughter would be *very* upset with me and demand I give her a stepfather or a baby brother." He walked off, going to check on the others. Stella joined him. "Taking him tonight?" She nodded. "Take a few guards with you, just in case."
"Yes, Xander." She went to do that, taking Don too because he made her. She shrugged and took a wagon they weren't going to use tonight. They loaded the poor broken guys and went off to the city that they'd reach in the morning. The others would get there about dusk.
Xander looked at the spare things then sighed. "We'll have to pack things tightly," he told the person in charge of that.
"I saw Stella take the boys. It's fine, Xander. We've packed tighter before. Was that the reason for the cows?"
"No. They were spooked by something else. She warned me when I went to give thanks for them turning aside." He nodded at that, going to tell the others. He went to his command tent and flopped down on his bed in the corner, putting an arm over his head.
"You've done a good job so far," Mac said from the doorway.
"After sixty years, I'd hope so. My first year I nearly got half of us killed." He looked at him. "Do you have a headache?"
"Definitely. Mine's lack of caffeine."
"I remember that one. I prayed to be beheaded at one point. That's how I met Strife." He got a small smirk from the older man. "You can sit. I only bite on Wednesdays and that hasn't been invented yet."
"Good to know." He sat down. "Now what?"
"Now, we rest tonight. We go to Corinth in the morning. We do some shopping, hope those guys get fixed better, then head to the village. Where we'll rest for a while and see if we're needed to help repel some Romans who went for a wander in the wrong direction." That got a nod. "Plus we pray to the Gods that they figure out how to at least get some of us home."
"You don't want to go home?"
Xander looked at him. "My friends are nice but they don't listen to me. They don't respect me most of the time. They only like me half the time the last time I was there. I fit in here so much better." That got a nod. "Whatever happens will but if I go back and things are the same I'm going to gut someone like they're a deer." He flipped onto his side. "Wake me for dinner?"
"Sure, kid." He got up and went out. He ran into Horatio. "He said to wake him for dinner."
"That's because he missed lunch again," Ray Junior told him. "He does that a lot." He went to help Speed with the smoking. "Can I help?"
"Sure, feed wood chips, kiddo." He clapped him on the back, looking at Barry when he came over. "Green wood, right?"
He looked and nodded. "Those are fine. Don't use the pine trees."
"I remember that lesson." That got a smile. "Dinner?"
"We'll turn one of those into the soup of the day." He slid inside to grab a huge piece and came back out, letting them seal it back up. He coughed. "Are you sure you didn't use pine?"
"I put in two sticks from a juniper bush," Speed told him.
"That's fine then." He went to cut up the hank of meat and start the night's stew. Two of the new guys to the army went to draw him clean water from the nearby river. He tossed the fish he found in one bucket at one but that was to be expected. They were young and stupid. That's why they were on water duty. When they were released they went to learn how to use their weapons from the arms master. Horatio grabbed two bowls when it was ready, earning a smile. "Yes, make the boss eat," he ordered.
"I seem to do a lot of that." He went into the command tent, finding a young boy leaning over him. "You are?" he asked quietly. The boy jumped and looked at him. He smiled. "Those are very pretty wings."
"I is Bliss," he said happily. "He not happy."
"I've noticed that. Do you know why?"
"Grammy has bad taste." He beamed at him. "You feed him?"
"He needs to eat."
"Good! That'll make him happy again." He floated up and popped out.
Horatio coughed loudly. "Xander?" He started awake. "Bliss said you needed to eat too." He handed over a bowl of soup. "Want some of the journey bread?"
"No thanks. I don't need the gas pains. Thanks for this, Horatio."
"It's not a problem, Xander. Will we have problems in Corinth?"
"Not likely. The king respects me and thinks I'm scary. As long as Jason's there we should be fine." He took a bite and moaned. "Fresh meat."
"He took it out of the smoking tent." He settled in to eat with him. "What if it's changed? We did hear that rumor."
"I'm sure he's heard and was warned we're decent and won't destroy the city this time."
"Did you last time?"
"There was a huge demon! Of course I did! It was clearly something I needed a rocket launcher for." Horatio smiled at that. "I have one at home."
"I'm sure you do." He ate a bite of soup, nodding. "It is good." Xander smiled. "Then what?"
"Then another week's travel into the mountains. We'll send the carts and wagons ahead and go behind them. There'll be a force scouting ahead for rockfalls and troubles. There's only a few good camping spots so we'll have to force the pace a bit." That got a nod. "If my wife is doing what she's supposed to, the pass is supposed to be clear. Since I don't think she is? Well...." He shrugged. "It'll be clear one way or another." He nodded at that and ate another bite. "I have no idea what to do with her."
"Divorce?" Mac suggested as he came in.
"With Aphrodite marrying us? I'd have to get her permission and she likes us together. That's why she had me attacked so she could marry us." He finished his soup and Horatio held out his bowl. "I'm fine. Don't worry about it. Worry about them actually planting this year like they were supposed to. The early spring rains held it off for a while. If not, we're going to have to buy a lot of stuff."
"It'll be fine, Xander. It always is," Horatio reminded him gently.
"Not always. I know *nothing* about planting crops. Fortunately a few of the guys are farmer folk and I put them in charge of it. I'm hoping they did it. I left my second-in- command and my daughter there to handle things when I couldn't." He slumped again. "This is going to be a loud homecoming. We'll probably have a few barrels of homemade wine but no other alcohol at this time. There's some hallucinogenic mushrooms in the caves above us. There used to be seers who lived up there and they used them. Anything else we'll have to wait and see in about a week and a half." Horatio smiled. "I'm allowing a two day leave in Corinth since the guys haven't been able to wench or go to taverns for a while. They certainly won't in the village." He stretched and laid down again. "Sorry but the headache's still here. It always happens around here."
"Some sort of radiation?" Horatio asked.
Xander looked at him. "It's an alternate hellmouth that's not active or open. It's about ten miles to the west. It's calling. That's why we're moving at first light."
"I'll make sure they know." Horatio grabbed the bowls and headed off with Mac. "Boys!" he called. They all looked at him. "He's got a headache. He said it usually happens." Most everyone nodded. "He said we're leaving at first light. We're going to Corinth. We will not destroy things. He's said there's two days of leave and then we're heading up to the village." That got some cheering. "Plus he's been seeing if there's any pirates there." That got another cheer. "So don't unpack too much." The guys went about their business and settled in early that night with the new guys. He looked at Mac once he was in their tent. Clydus had moved in with his new shieldmate. "Welcome to our home on the road," he quipped.
"It's better than we've had. We haven't had a tent." He settled in on the foot of Horatio's bed. "Has it been okay? We've heard some rumors."
"Xander's very much someone to do what's necessary to protect others. Our first night here we saw him kill someone who came for the women. It was a single man so he faced off with him."
"He did that when the mercenaries with us jumped him," Don said as he came in. Stella had sent him back when she figured out he was too sore to ride. "Have we noticed he's kinda scary?"
"Only when he has to be. He said back here reputation is everything in keeping people safe. He's got a so-called scary reputation to do that but now and then he has to prove it. He compared it to gang warfare."
Mac nodded. "We heard the scary reputation part. How has Stella handled it?"
"She's settled in. She's one of the first people we saw when he rescued us from being sold. The guys listen to her. They consider her a scary Amazon wench according to most of them." That got a laugh from Mac and a nod from Don. "She's also the only healer we have. He rescued her after she had been sold so I'm not sure there. She didn't say more than that to us. Have you guys run into Xena?"
"I knew it wasn't a hallucination," Danny said happily.
"No, it's not," Horatio told him. "Stella and Joxer play cards and trade stories." That got a smirk. "He's a nice man." They heard the horn and he groaned. "Not again." He heard Xander swearing in a language he didn't know as he stomped past. "Stay in here. There's no telling what it is this time." The horns hit a new pitch and people went running. "Aw crap." He jogged out to see what he could do. "Stella?"
"Vandals." She looked at Xander. "I got six of them. Two took off with one of the guys and probably killed him by now. One tried to take me and I gutted him. I need a hunting party. They took the wagon." Xander grabbed a sword from someone and his horse, following her out. "You sure?"
"They touched one of mine, they're in deep shit," he assured her. "Let's go!" he snapped. More men mounted up and went to retrieve their people, or bury them with their afterlife's servants. When they had cleaned up the mess, Stella took the remaining two sick ones on to Corinth. He looked at his people. "Go. I'll be there with her. Join us as soon as possible after first light. Let the others sleep." They nodded and headed back at a fast canter. He rode beside the wagon, looking at the men. "Didn't you two get captured in the last battle too?" They groaned. "Are you sleeping with Strife too?" That got another groan and a dual head shake. "You sure? He's really good. Plus pretty comfy to nap on afterwards because he's got stamina even my mare doesn't."
"My wife would get pissed," one whined. "I'll pray instead."
"Good plan!" Xander said happily. They kept going, reaching the gates at near midnight. "They need the healing temple. I need to talk to the captain of the guards," he ordered. One guy went running and the gates were opened after the two injured ones were checked. The captain came out and swore at him. He smiled. "Nice to see you again too. We're going back to the village. We'll be here tomorrow for two days. I ordered no tearing up the town this time. Just pirates if they found one."
"Fine, Alexander. Who was with you?"
"We ran into a stampede of feral cows." That got a shudder. "A few people got run over by the last couple and then there were some vandals outside of town. Did you know about them?"
"I heard but we hadn't caught them."
"Pity, but we caught about nine and buried them with our dead," Xander told him.
"That's fine by us. You know that." He let him into the gates. "Jason stepped down for Iphicles."
"I'll go pay my respects in the morning. Where's Xena hiding so I can hide somewhere else?"
"She's at the Tall Mast. The Widow Twanky is in town for the wedding."
Xander gave him an odd look. "I still say she looks like Iolaus in drag." That got a laugh. "Where's good tonight?"
"Try the Flag's Pole," one guy offered. "They've got new wine in too."
"Decent. Thank you." He looked at the Captain. "Find me if they start shit. You know my rules." That got a nod and he rode on. "Have a better night."
"You too. Who else is already here?"
"Stella drove them," he called back, waving a hand. "We have more refugees too." He found the inn he wanted and went to check in for the night, then stabled his horse before getting some wine and going to bed to solve his headache. He'd find the ones he knew in the morning.
Xander walked into the palace and the guards all growled. "Oh, quit!" he ordered, punching one. "Stupid bitch. Next time don't hit on me if you don't want me to take you up on it." He walked into the meeting hall, smirking at the horrified looks. "We're heading home. They'll be here later. They know not to tear up the town, Iphicles."
He took a calming breath and swallowed his extra spit. "Thank you, Alexander. How is your village?"
"Hopefully the wife finished things by now but I'm doubting it since I heard she hadn't finished the temples. I'm wondering how much my daughter will whine when I toss her off the mountain." Xena gave him an odd look. "You've met my wife."
"I'm trying hard not to remember that."
"Yeah, me too. The daughter's looking very good from what I've heard." He handed over the message that had been on his pillow this morning. "From our local, loving God of War. There's Romans coming."
"Shit," Iphicles muttered, looking at the note. "It's outside of Corinth."
"If they come, we've got to stop them. They won't stop unless we do," Xander said patiently. "Even my guys are on line to help."
Iphicles nodded. "I'll let my commanders know. I've heard of new refugees?"
"A number of them. Some of Stella's people and some who do the same job in another city." That got a smile. "Well, I'm done doing the formal things. I'm going to go whine and beg and plead on my back if I have to for an annulment. Need me?" That got a head shake from the new king. "Decent. Oh, there were brigands on the road. You're welcome for the nine that attacked our sick people. They're lucky it was only Stella and two guards." He walked out, heading to check on his men first and then to Aphrodite's temple when he found them sedated and not in pain for a while. He walked into the pink and white marble temple and knelt at the private altar, putting something on top of it. She shrieked and appeared to kill the mouse. He looked at her. "I feel the same way about my wife. Would you maybe consider taking her back before I do the same thing to her?"
"No," she snorted.
"You do know that she didn't finish any temple but yours?" She pouted. "Seriously, go look. Because if she hasn't finished things, I'm kicking her out. She can hike her pretty ass back here, Lady Aphrodite. I thank you for my daughter. She's wonderful when her mother isn't trying to turn her into her. Please, pretty please, let me divorce the wife? I'll beg. I'll blow you. I'll give oral sex for *days* if you need me to. Just don't make me stay married to the shrew? Please?" he begged.
"Let me check on her," she complained.
Bliss appeared, tugging on her hand. "She stupid."
"You've been checking on her for me?"
"He's not happy. He should be happy with wife. Wife not do things. Daughter *very* not happy and growly like Gran'pa Ares." He grinned. "Gran'pa Ares say daughter very cute when she do it."
"Ares?" she called. He appeared, looking bored. "What did Xander's wife do this time?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. She didn't finish the village. She didn't finish the storage barn. She didn't do anything. She even tried to keep others from doing things. By the way, I kicked someone in the ass," he told Xander. Xander hugged him around the knees. "Your daughter and your second agreed with me when I released them from the jail. The only building she had finished other than your house. Your wife is now in it."
"See, good reason," Xander told the Goddess of Love. "Please? I'll let you set me up with someone nicer and more reasonable. Someone who might actually like me. Or who'll at least put up with me. All she wanted was status."
"You'd let me have free reign?" she asked.
"If you try to get me together with Jett again remember why I have the scary reputation?" he asked.
She rolled her eyes. "I'll see, Xander." He beamed and knee-walked over to hug her around the knees too. "Thank you." She patted him on the head a few times. "Go away. Go do something less constructive for humanity. You have to let go too."
"Lord Strife would get really pissed at me if I went to earn money in the whorehouse again," he said dryly. She flashed out with a groan. He looked at Ares. "I was going to yours next."
"I know." He disappeared.
Xander got up and headed out. He was even nice enough to toss the dead mouse outside for one of the city's stray cats. He found Stella in there and hugged her from behind. "She's letting me annul it," he said happily.
"Congrats. Get off." He laughed and got off, offering his own prayers to his Lord and Master, then to Strife, then to Discord. Because now and then he still had the gift of sowing tension and discord among people. She appeared sitting on her altar, giving him a thoughtful look. "If you make him look bad in front of the others again they'll name Mac and Mac will spank him," Stella told her. Discord snorted. "They will."
"They probably will, or Horatio," Xander agreed. He stared back. "Who?"
"The Roman commander is in town," she said smugly. "It would help Ares quite a lot." He gave her a feral smirk. "Do you think you can do that for me, Xanny?"
"If you don't call me pet names that remind me of Buffy, Willow, Cordy, and Anya," he said happily. "Just do him?"
"Please. He's an annoying prick."
"All you had to do was ask, not give me nightmares. Oh, Clydus?"
She shrugged. "Every man's fantasy."
"No, you and Aphrodite in the same bed aren't. You and her jell-o wrestling...." She disappeared with a cackle and a hiccup. He looked at Stella. "I'll be around." He nearly skipped out, heading to find something to entice the poor man to his lair. He found what he needed in an out of the way stall, taking it back to his room with him. He changed out of his leathers and into something less clingy in the wrong way. He didn't want to look *dangerous* after all. She had supplied that he liked them to appear a bit younger so he messed up his hair too. Now he looked like the concubine Jett had once thought he was. He strolled out, going to find the man. He ran into Joxer, but blinked. Something was off.... "Jett?"
"Xander?" he asked, looking him over. "Playing or making money?" he asked dryly.
"Yeah, me too." They shared a look and he smirked. "Sure, for old time's sake." He led the boy off, showing him their targets. He had two. Xander had one of them. It was good for them. Xander strolled inside and Jett went to keep the innkeeper out of it. The boys went off with Xander and the picnic outside the city ended up being their last. The demon blood Xander had found and slipped into their wine made their last few hours better than any theater production. Jett and Xander walked back into town, running into Xander's lead commanders. "Hey, guys," he said with an evil smirk.
Xander grinned at them. "Before you say a word the commander for the Roman legion that's going to become a problem was in town. We had a joint talk with them." His commanders shuddered. "Be safe, play safe, do not destroy the city. I promised King Iphicles." He skipped off, going back to his room to change again and head out to find dinner in the marketplace and maybe some dancing. He had missed dancing recently. He'd have to let the guys have a celebration when they got home. He finally found the dancing and let himself be pulled out onto the square, waving at Horatio and Eric when he saw them go whizzing past. He laughed with his partner, then danced off with another one. This one set off his bad shit radar so he looked at her. "Anyanka." She gaped. "Go away. Now."
"Who are you to...."
"I'm the one you'll nearly marry in a few millennium. I was sent back by Willow sneezing. You'll understand some year soon and don't blame me. Aphrodite made me marry her. I was drugged and she did it without my consent. The same as she made me complete the bond while I was drugged, which is the same as rape." He let her go and danced off with another girl. He noticed she had stormed off and he was fine with that. As long as he didn't turn into a fish or something when he got home. It wasn't his fault but Anya had never been considered a reasonable woman. He got himself and his dance partner some juice then went back out with her, having a lot of fun. He saw a familiar figure and winked at his partner of the moment, heading over to spin her out, making her squeak in fear since she hadn't seen him coming. "Ha, got you!" he called over the noise of the laughing and music. "Does this mean we get to rob you too?"
"No but there's two pirates who've stolen grain recently. You can have them. I'm empty and up for the wedding."
"Pity but I can do that." He kissed her and left, going back to the other woman. The next dance he ended up with Eric somehow and it was okay. He was a bit stiff. "It's about the fun. Like clubbing is about the sex. Let it go." He handed him off and forced Horatio to come out with him sine he was staring at them oddly. "Come on. You can let it go too. It's about having fun. Not like anyone's going to say anything about what happened back here." Horatio nodded and watched his feet so Xander kissed him and made him quit. "See, fun." He passed him off to his original partner. "He's a bit stiff. He's a friend. Help him?" She nodded and pulled him out to teach him the dances, making him relax finally when she kissed him too. Then he disappeared and headed back to the temple of healing to check on his boys. They were still sedated and the healers thought they'd be fine so he went to bed at the inn. It was a nice bed. Very nice. Not a bedroll in a tent on pillows. It was an actual bed. He loved his bed. He'd carry it home to the village if he could. He hoped his wife at least had put up beds. Someone knocked on the door. "Occupied."
Mac leaned in. "I know that. I heard about earlier. You okay, kid?"
"I'm fine. Jett was with me. We had a lot of fun before the poison finished working." He yawned. "No offense, Mac, but go have fun. That's what shore leave is for." He flipped onto his side and drifted off, letting him go do whatever.
Mac closed the door, heading back down the stairs. "He's fine, Don. Exhausted but fine."
"If you're sure."
"He told me to go have fun on shore leave. He fell asleep while talking to me."
"Then I'm all for keeping him happy. Think we should tell him his wife is in town?"
"I'll let his daughter do that since there was a girl dragging her in wearing chains." That got a nod and they left, going to have some fun of their own. Everyone but the few guys guarding the shed they had things stored in were off having fun and they'd be changed out in the morning so they could have their own fun. It was only fair.
Xander was woken by the smell of food. He groaned, reaching blindly for it.
"Get up, Father," a female voice said. He opened one eye to glare at her. "I was ordered to drag Mother in wearing chains. We were halfway here." She helped him sit up and gave him food. "There. You're due at Aphrodite's temple in a few hours." She kissed him on the head. "I tried."
"I heard. I'll want a report later. That way we can do the shopping we'll need."
"We'll need a lot. Mother tried to interfere with the crops and things. She nearly succeeded so they're shorter than they should be." He sighed but nodded. "Finish up so you can at least take a cloth bath. You're smelly and sweaty." She left him alone to change, going down to find Stella waiting on her. "He's up." She gave her a hug. "Mother so majorly screwed up. She tried to ruin the crops."
"Tell Paulan. He's got the purse." She nodded, going to find him to do that. She went to get Xander up. "Come on."
"Let me bathe. She drug her mother down." He got up to splash his face and body clean then do a wash cloth bath. She handed him his usual leathers. "Remind me to take things to the laundry." She nodded and headed out with it. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Mine went too. The boys took over the Pink Staff again."
He snorted. "At least they'll feel better." He got dressed and grabbed his usual weapons, heading out to go to her temple. He walked in and a priest pointed. "Thank you." He walked into the private audience chamber and went to his knees. "Thank you, Lady Aphrodite. Did you see Anyanka last night?"
"I did. Weren't you dating her in your time?" He grimaced but nodded. "I'm so sorry." She looked at the woman then at him. "I've heard and seen. Your village will need a lot of supplies."
"Stella sent my daughter to handle that."
"Good. It's a good thing she can do that."
"She's no daughter of mine," his wife sneered. "My daughter is a delicate thing."
Xander looked at her. "Not if she came from my loins, woman." He stood up. "Please?"
She pulled out the cord she had bound them with, cutting it in half. Then in half again. "Dissolved." He beamed and hugged her with a small squeal. "Good boy. Get off before you wrinkle me." He pulled back and went back to his knees. She looked up. "Anyanka?" She appeared, frowning at her. "This is a marriage I forced on him. He is the hurt party, not her. I wanted you to hear this from me so you wouldn't punish him for her going schitzo and hurting others."
"I'll not have a husband who lays with the Gods and brings me nothing," she sneered. "Since they follow him and he lays with the Gods, they should suffer." Xander backhanded her, knocking her into a wall. "I call injury on him."
"You can't do that, we're not married anymore," Xander told her. He looked at Anya, then at Aphrodite. "You think you want to show her so she won't get me if and when I get home?"
Aphrodite waved a hand and Anya burst out crying. "That's why he warned you last night."
"I'll kill her!" she promised, glaring at him. "You still...." He pointed at the Goddess of Love. "We were still engaged."
"Ahn, honey, I loved you, but you don't want to do more than use me. The same as she did. She reminds me a lot of you now and then when things don't go the way you want them to." She disappeared in a puff of foul scented smoke. "Sorry, Lady Aphrodite."
"Not an issue, sweetie. You're right, I didn't look far enough ahead. All I did was get you out of that first year." She pinched him on the cheek. "I did see one for you." He grinned at that. "Go make sure your village survives since its creation was the order of the Gods."
"Thank you, ma'am." He got up and walked out after kissing the back of her hand, heading for Demeter's. "M'lady Demeter, may I have a second?" he called. She appeared, looking confused. "I'm Alexander. The one who finds the refugees?" She nodded, sitting on her throne. He knelt in front of her, getting a smile for that. "My former wife stunted our crops." She hissed. "I know that there's ways of growing things in winter months. Especially something like a greenhouse. I'm not sure how it would work here or if I'm allowed since it may not have been seen yet. Gardening is not my strength so I need suggestions and permission."
She considered it then sighed. "There are those that grow plants indoors for things like their garden or to start a flowering bush. The greenhouse idea itself is not a bad one but we don't have enough light at the right angles in winter. Not with the way your village is situated in the mountainside."
"I'm in the mountains on the growing side, m'lady. Grapes grow wonderfully but not grains or vegetables sometimes. With her stunting the cycle and having them plant late I'm worried about my people. I know I'm asking a lot."
She considered it then nodded. "There is a town who has recently fallen ill and been abandoned. The sickness left with them and the gardens have been left to rot and grow on their own. You may go there to harvest and then plant a second crop cycle as long as I get ten percent, the villages the Fates had you step in to help get twenty percent, and the orphan's fund gets another ten percent."
He considered it then nodded. "As long as my people won't get ill."
"They will not. It was a disease from the African Plains."
He bowed. "I thank you. May I have a map?" She created one and handed it over. He smiled and relaxed. "Thank you, m'lady." He got up and bowed. "We'll donate the personal items that have not been taken to you as well. That way you can distribute them." She smiled before disappearing. He went to find his daughter and his commanders. "Find the others," he said as he walked into the whorehouse they were using. His daughter and another soldier went running. He sat down, looking at his second-in-command and the others paying attention. "I just talked with the Goddess Demeter." They gaped. "There was a town that was taken and decimated by an African plague. It did not touch the plants and she gave us the right to harvest and plant a second crop cycle, as long as we donated some to her, a village the Fates stepped in to save against Ares' orders, and an orphan's fund as well. We'll get sixty percent of it. Anything on the pillage side I promised to her so she could donate it wherever."
"That seems fair," he agreed. "Where?" He handed over the map, nodding. "We heard they had a plague." The others came in. "There's many announcements to make and things to go over." He laid down the map. "You first, Alexander."
"Due to my wife's problems with the village and me being the plaything of Strife Aphrodite has relented and let me divorce her." That got a lot of smiles and his daughter squealed before pouncing. He patted her with a smile. "The other news I have is that I talked with the Lady Demeter." That got a lot of quiet around the whorehouse. "She understood that my former wife was being vindictive. She's placed a few tithes on us but she gave me a map to a town that was decimated by a human plague, nothing would have touched the crops. We're allowed to harvest and then plant a second crop cycle." That got a loud cheer all over. "As long as we tithe her ten percent, the villages that stopped us and tried to have us take them out twenty percent, and then the orphan's fund ten percent. The rest is ours." That got a lot of smiles. "We need the farmers there once our harvest is done."
"It's well done and put up," his daughter assured him. "I'll ...." The map disappeared and she smiled. "Thank you, Lord Ares." She looked at her father again. "I tried."
"I know you did." He hugged her. "There's one other thing. There's a Roman legion that was going to cause problems around here. Jett and I ran into each other yesterday and we had a talk with them of the poisonous kind." That got a louder cheer. It meant a longer vacation for them all. "I'll lead the main force up to the village and get to work on what needs to be finished. Paulan?"
"We've got enough for a few months," he admitted. "I've managed to purchase more to go with what you're already bringing. Where did all the cows come from?"
"A stampede a few days back," he said dryly. "Fifty feral cows." They all shuddered. "A few are still in the temple of healing." That got a nod from his daughter. "We have nine more refugees too. I'll leave it up to them to help us build or help harvest and then plant." That got some nods. "One is a former military person from my time. Another does lead. One's a very good cook. Barry loves working with Speed. The others have been doing general help but one's a healer." That got bright smiles and some nods. "So we'll deal." That got some nods. "Figure out how to split people up that night. Make sure the farmers have guards outside those helping plant and harvest." That got some nods. "Anything else I should know?"
"We're finished with most of the housing you ordered," Paulan said proudly. Xander clapped him on the arm with a beaming smile. "The things you wanted done in a mechanical way we're figuring out how to do some of them. The bathing hall is complete and the indoor privy system is also complete. That took a lot of labor."
"It'll be worth it when you don't have to go outside to pee in the winter," Xander reminded him. "The tunnels?"
"Are also complete, Alexander," another said happily. "As is the gate." That got another smile and a nod from him. "We're set up as long as we can get food supplies and the water doesn't run out."
"As long as there's snow we can melt it," Xander reminded him. "That's what those big metal tubs were for." That got an understanding 'ah' from a few of them. "Anything else I should know?" A small bag was handed over. "Oooh, my allowance?" Paulan nodded. Xander handed over the bag he had stuffed in his backpack once the piglets were out. "We found this with piglets and wild boar. Lady Artemis said the owners were long gone. Also, Nebula said that there's two ships in port that have grain." That got an evil smirk. "Be nice, don't destroy the city." They nodded and headed to make plans. He looked at his daughter. "Come on. We should buy me something pretty to court someone in." She laughed and they walked off together. They ran into Sheldon and Danny in the market place. "Do you want to go with our boys when they go somewhere to harvest that had an African plague?" he asked in his ear, making him jump. Xander looked at him. "It'll mean helping with the harvesting and maybe planting and harvesting the next crop cycle."
He considered it then nodded. "I might be able to help."
"As far as we know the town was abandoned."
"Then I can definitely tell what it was and watch for new symptoms once we've burned the bodies," he agreed. Xander nodded at that. "Who's going?"
"Paulan?" he called, drawing his attention. "This is our other healer, Sheldon Hawkes. With him is Danny Messer. They're both of Stella's people."
"Well met," he greeted, clasping their hands. "Healer, are you going to go help those who plant?"
"I should, just to make sure it won't pass on and we can safely burn any bodies we find." That got a nod. "We're going to meet the others soon if you want introduced."
"Please. Xander said one may have command qualities." He smiled as the family walked off. "She is quite the leader in training."
"Who will not start out in command," Stella assured him. "He said so."
That got a happy look. "It's better if she learns how to command men that way. Commanding at home is wearing on her."
"On both of them," she corrected. He nodded, walking off with them to meet the other new ones. It was good to get new blood into the town. They found Mac and Horatio talking about Xander, mostly Horatio explaining Xander to Mac, but that wasn't that unusual. Stella sat down between them earning smiles from both men. "Guys, this is Paulan. He's Xander's second-in-command. He's been fixing the problems Xander's ex- wife has let happen in the village. Plus we've found somewhere we can harvest and plant another round of crops if either of you wanted to go with Sheldon and a few of the other guys."
"I wouldn't mind," Mac offered. "When are we leaving?"
"Two days." That got a nod. "The healer that came with you said he wanted to go to make sure none of us got sick." That got a smile. "Stella?"
"I don't mind one way or another," she reminded him. "But one of us has to be up there for the birth. Which I need to brush up on." She got up. "'Scuse me, guys. Going to the temple of healing to go over the procedure again." They watched her go.
"She has been a strong woman through everything," Paulan told Mac, who smiled and nodded. "She's one of the few who can make Xander quit bouncing too. The rest of us consider it a bad sign and a telling sign of trouble coming."
"I think he's just bouncy," Horatio offered with a small smile.
"True," Paulan agreed. "Fortunately his daughter wears him out often. They're off shopping. She's shaping up to be a good administrator." Horatio smiled at that. "He's talked of her?"
"Often. Which way is he going? I seem to have been adopted as the reason he eats."
Paulan stared at him. "He needs it more than most. Too many things take his attention. Even though we've been planning the village for nearly half a decade this is our first winter up there."
"What was wrong with his wife?" Mac asked.
He shook his head. "She was mad that being the wife of a favored warlord of Ares wasn't what she expected. He didn't bring her home pretty spoils of war. He didn't bring her home presents. He was finding stress relief with others and it wasn't helping her life get any richer. She expected him to be like a normal warlord and she didn't realize he wasn't like that and she wasn't bearing him heirs. When she did she started to sabotage things. We went behind her back to fix things and keep them on plan but she had us jailed for going against her wishes. The rest of the town was very mad at her for it. Most of them kept to the plan fortunately. We have banished her and it's better now." A soft arm went around his throat and he smiled. "Yodela."
"Well met, Paulan. How is our village?"
"It's mostly complete," he said with a smile. She beamed. "Are you going with the farmers?"
"No, I look forward to a hot bath in our bathing house." He nodded at that. "Good." She sat down with them, taking Stella's former seat. "This one," she said, pointing at Horatio, "has taken your former job of making sure the boss eats, sleeps, and comes out of his tent."
Paulan looked at him. "Good job. He hasn't lost weight this trip." That got a smile. He looked at her again. "Stampede?"
"Stampede," she agreed. "I saw the young one."
"She's been helping me much when we could get around her mother. She's becoming a very good administrator." She smiled at that. "His wife was divorced and banished." She cheered, getting up to do a happy dance.
"I didn't know the snoopy dance was that old," Mac teased with a smile.
"I learned it off our master," she said dryly, sitting down again. "He taught Joxer and I learned it from him." That got a laugh from Horatio. "So. We're all going home?"
"Some are going to scavenge food and plant another crop cycle." She frowned. "We need it. His wife messed with the crops."
She nodded. "So I've heard whispered. Will we have enough to eat?"
"When we harvest there we surely will," he promised. She beamed and nodded. "Next year we'll be more self-sufficient." That got a nod and she gave him a hug before going off. "You're lucky we were on our way down to meet you. The mountain pass can be a bit dangerous."
"All the better to keep us safe," Horatio said.
Paulan nodded. "Definitely. When we get back I'll want to know where you can help. That way you don't have to sit around." That got a nod so Paulan got up. "I've got some shopping of my own to do. I haven't been in months. If you'll excuse me." They both shook his hands and he left. He found Iolaus and Xander staring at each other in the market. "Just have an eating contest and get over it," he snapped.
"Daddy just ate," she said with a happy smile.
Paulan looked at her. "He's much too old for you and never home." He walked off. "Xander, some of the boys wanted to know about the rules for taking on drunken pirates?"
Xander frowned after him. "Don't kill them?" He shrugged. "Don't get the city guards called on you?" That got a nod and he went back to staring at Iolaus, who was smirking. "Not my fault. Blame my ex-wife."
"That's why I'm not marrying."
"I can agree with that. Especially not my daughter." Iolaus laughed. "What did the big dumbass want this time?"
"For you guys to leave town. He thinks you're causing trouble."
"My boys? No, sorry."
"If they had given the guards work, we would have heard," his daughter agreed.
"Sweetie, this is Herc we're talking about. Remember, he lives on assumptions without making sure that they're true most of the time," Xander said gently. "He still thinks I'm like Joxer's father." She snorted at that, walking off shaking her head, taking Iolaus with her. "Fine, have him shop with you if he wants. Stay out of trouble and kill whoever tries to grab you this time."
"Yes, daddy." She beamed at him. "I have to find him a pretty present for coming home."
"I can help with that," Iolaus agreed. "I need to find something for the happy couple." She beamed and they went to find something together. He was a proper escort and when someone tried to take him from her she kicked their ass and smiled happily. "I'm under orders to make sure she's all right," he told Nebula. "Have you met Alexander's daughter? Hecarart, this is Nebula." He helped her up. "Play nice," he told the girl.
"Sorry but she tried to grab you and that's wrong." She smiled at Nebula. "I'm sorry I beat you that way," she said with a smile.
The older woman smirked. "You're a lot like your father. He gave me that same smile after the first time we fought." The girl laughed and hugged her. "Meeting up with them?"
"I drug my mother here in chains so their marriage could be annulled and she could be banished."
"Even better," Iolaus said dryly. "She doesn't have the security plans, right?"
"No. I made sure of that. I asked Ares and he erased her memories of the village and us." That got a nod and a smile. She smiled at Nebula again. "Want to shop with us? I need to find Daddy something pretty since some of the boys are going to harvest in a town that's been sickened and abandoned." She heard a cleared throat and looked back at the tall, blond man. "By Lady Demeter's orders, Hercules. My mother decided to screw with the crops in the village." He nodded at that. "If you find her, please throw her somewhere else. Or sell her to a whorehouse. She might like that." She walked Nebula and Iolaus on. "Come on, I can never find anything for Daddy. Not that he won't squeal over any present but he deserves a good one so I can butter him up about liking boys."
"As long as it's not me," Iolaus told her.
She looked at him. "You're cute and fun, but no. You'd never settle down. Daddy was right about that."
He smiled and nodded. "Good. You do have a great mind. Everyone's said you've done very good with the village, Hecarart." She smiled shyly at that. "How about something like that?" he suggested, pointing at a fabric stall. "I've got to find something for the happy couple," he told Nebula at her odd look.
She shook her head and led them off, showing the girl a small arms stall and Iolaus that they also did gifts. "Here." They smiled and looked. She smiled at Hercules. "How have you been, Hercules?"
"Good. What's Alexander doing here?"
"Most of them are on their way home. The rest are going to that village Lady Demeter told them about," Hecarart told him absently. "We've found nine new refugees." She looked at him. "Including one Daddy said has military experience and one who fusses over him because he still forgets to eat now and then." She found the one she liked and fingered it. "It's dull."
Iolaus looked at it. "It's not the best metal." He pointed at one. "Try that one." She put it down and looked at that one, smiling at the good metal. "How much for the shirt pins?"
"Two dinars," he said.
Iolaus looked then added a third one and paid three, getting a smile. They were put into a cloth bag for him. He moved to help her buy what she wanted. One of the unmarked ones got his attention and he looked at it. He nudged her. "This way he can mark it himself."
"Thank you." She held it up. "How much?"
She frowned. "I didn't pay that much for my sword, man." He snorted at that. She smiled. "I'm Hecarart, daughter of the Warlord Alexander. It's his homecoming present."
"Five," she countered.
He smirked at her. "Your father did that to me once too." He smiled. "Five." She paid him and let him wrap it up for her. "Have a good trip."
"You as well." She walked off with them again, Hercules following along. If he wanted to play her bodyguard she'd let him. For now. Though a cute boy did catch her eye.
"No," Nebula ordered patiently. "He's young, he's untried. Find someone who would do good for your people." The girl looked at her so they walked off talking about men and how to pick a good one. Obviously her mother had neglected other duties too.
Xander rode through the gate of the village, smiling at the construction. "You guys did great in my absence," he called. "Thank you for getting around the wife!" That got a cheer. "Put things up, plan a celebration, I'm going to take a nap!" That got a louder cheer. He always did this. He dismounted, undid his horse's gear, handed it to a young boy nearby with a pat to his head, then trudged to his house and up to his bed. He loved his bed. Beds were great inventions and his was nearly as good as the one at the inn. He fell face first onto it and patted the covers a few times before falling asleep.
Horatio looked in on him, shaking his head at the snores. He came in to cover him and left to help the others unpack. Hecarart gave him an odd look. "I made sure he was covered so he wouldn't catch a chill."
"Thank you. Did he still have his boots on?" He nodded with a smile. "Good idea not to take them off. He'd wake up and stay awake. Then he'd be grumpy while he fussed over everything and got in the way."
She handed him a box and he carried it with the other boxes into the storage building. He noticed the rest of the smoked meat went into a cavern in the back. "It's colder?"
"It is," Speed agreed as they passed. "Nearly refrigerated. They promised they'd be harvesting ice to freeze things soon." They went back to more things to carry inside, getting a barrel of grain between them to roll inside and set up. By the time they were done everyone was sweaty. They followed the other men to the bath house. Those who had houses went to their own to bathe but here there was a huge, heated wading pool and a hand pump that could create a suction effect so they could get a shower. Even the soap wasn't too harsh like it was on the road. Stella waded in like one of the guys, splashing a few of them. Calleigh waded in to soak but she was wearing underwear. A few of the guys looked at them but Stella slapped one who tried to touch so it got the point across. They got out and went to deal with dinner, then hold the celebration Xander had promised. It was a great night. Speed had to smile when Eric and Calleigh ended up asleep on each other's shoulders on a bench. He nudged Horatio. "Look," he said with a nod.
He looked and smiled. "We'll get them to beds soon." He went to find their hostess, who was sitting on the stage with the musicians. "Where are we bunking down?"
"Our house." She smiled at him and looked where he nodded, beaming. "I'll show you." She got up and went to help him remove the sleepy ones to the house, sticking them into a bed together. Speed yawned so she got him tucked in too then she left, heading back to the celebration. She got a few odd looks. "I'm more than old enough to stay up with the men now. After all, I should get used to one of you if I decide to get married instead of becoming an Amazon."
One of the men carried her back to the house, sticking her in her room. "You're not old enough until you're married. You know that."
"How am I supposed to find a man to marry!" she complained.
He smirked. "That's why you have a father." He closed her room door and left. He knew she'd sneak out but that was fine. He came back and found Xander up and bathed. He was still damp and had on clean clothes. "Done with your nap?"
"Definitely. Any food?" The table was pointed at so he went to eat himself full then joined in on the dancing. He looked around. "Daughter?"
"Her room," someone called. "We carried her off."
Xander looked at him. "I'd hope if you did that for real you'd be marrying her?" That got some laughs and the men finished getting happy, and Stella of course. Strife showed up and Xander teased him with some butt shaking dance that made him give it appreciative looks before walking him off for a dark corner. The others laughed and got happier. They loved it when their leader was happy and content.
Xander looked up as Mac came back with his troop a few weeks later. "We in?"
"We're in," he agreed happily. "Sheldon said it was a form of cholera. We left the farmers taking over the crops they were planting and I left about half a troop there. It's only two days' ride over the mountain." That got a nod and Xander went back to his map. "That Roman legion?"
"No. Corinth's going to war soon and we'll have to guard the valley and that valley." That got a nod and Mac looked, pointing at something. "I would but it's got some poisonous bushes. I need to go burn them out soon." That got a nod. He looked at him. "Go bathe in the bath house, Mac. Then settle into a room in my house." He got back to it. "Stella's in with the new mother. We had a moment of panic last night but she did deliver the baby successfully." That got a smile and Mac went to find Stella.
He found the healer's house and she was in there walking a fussy baby while milk warmed in a pot over the fire. "Boy?" Mac asked. Don walked in behind him.
She spun and smiled at him. "He is. A fussy, hungry boy and Mom's not making milk yet." She tested the milk and handed him the baby so she could pour the milk into a small water skin. Then she attached a make-shift nipple and took him back to feed him. He still fussed but that was a baby as far as she knew. "There. Let's go see Mom." She walked her up there, handing the baby back. "Here you go. Milk." The mother gave her a gentle, tired smile. "Some of my people are here so I'm going to see them." She walked down there, flopping down on a chair. "Okay, she's comfy, he's eating. She's got butt cloths and a damp cloth. Sit, guys." They settled in. "Where's Sheldon?"
"With the others to make sure the boys working the new crops won't be hurt," Don offered, giving her a hug. "So this is the village?"
"It is and it's a lot bigger than I thought it'd be." She smiled as the mother came down. "You should still be resting."
"I can rest at home and come see you in the morning, Stella. Thank you." She walked out, heading to her home, escorted by a few of the fussy men in the village. "It's a son," she announced. That got some happy looks and the baby got patted a few times. She walked into her house. "We're back. I'm still to rest." She went to bed and snuggled in, letting her husband fuss over her and the baby. She heard a pig squeal. "We brought back live ones?"
"Xander and Stella were hunting meat when they ran into some boars and a few piglets," her husband said happily. "So we brought back three of the piglets alive and gave one to Artemis for the good hunts we've had this trip." She beamed at that. "Xander's working to finish the temples."
"Good. Then we'll dedicate him soon." She settled in to let him get her something to drink and eat. They were near the gate so she saw someone come riding in. "Husband!" He came to look where she did. "Who is that?"
"That is the Healer Sheldon. He's one of Stella's people. He's a formally trained healer in the future." She smiled and nodded at that. So when he knocked he wasn't surprised. "Come in, Sheldon."
"Thanks. Stella told me to check on the baby and mother." That got a smile and he was led back there to take the baby to check over. He smiled at something. "Doesn't like the milk in the skin?"
"He fusses and breaks out. Our last one did but she died of it. I don't produce much milk."
"It's an allergy to milk," Sheldon told her. "His body can't process it." He handed him back. "I'll see what we can do. For now, can you feed him enough from your body?" She nodded. "Then that should help him the most until we can find something to help him." He checked her stomach over, nodding. "Not unusual amounts of pain so we'll be fine. Let me see if Xander has a book on milk allergies."
"What do your people do for it?" she asked.
"We have a plant that can be made into milk and we use that," he admitted. "I'm not sure what we have around here." That got a nod. "We'll do what we can." He got up and went to talk to Stella and Xander. She had been right. "Milk allergy," he told her. Xander groaned, putting his head down. "I know some people try goat's milk first."
"No goats. Sheep," Xander offered.
"He fussed at the sheep's milk," Stella told him. "Wouldn't drink it."
"Okay, so it's a lactose issue," Sheldon said. "Do we have anything like soy milk?"
Xander looked at him. "I don't think we'll have soybeans for another few centuries, Sheldon." He looked up then went to his library to find something. He came back. "Here. A healer's journal from a desert tribe. They had one." Sheldon looked at it then nodded, going to grind the grain he needed as fine as he could and make the watery mix for the child. He looked at Stella. "Anyone else pregnant?"
"Not yet." She smiled. "We do need more women."
"I fully expect some of the boys to go out this winter and come home with wives," he said dryly. She smiled and nodded at that. "How about you?"
She blushed then shrugged. "We have to work together, Xander."
"There's every evidence we might have to go through all of history to get back to our old lives. It's not like this won't change your relationship anyway. Besides, if you wanted to jump him, it might not carry over later." He shrugged. "Just an option." She punched him on the arm and went to help Sheldon with the mixing and pouring. The baby slurped down the thin, fatty, warm grain slurry like it was starving, which it probably was. He explained how to fix it and she nodded, hugging them all. Xander tossed down his marking crayon and went to have some fun of his own. He was tired of making plans and Corinth wasn't stupid enough to attack them. Iphicles was smarter than that. He dove into the temple's construction and helped setting the walls. It was his duty, it was his village. His people. Which still freaked him out but he'd be fine he guessed.
Paulan looked around the communal table then took a second look. "Horatio?" he called. The redhead looked over at him. "Where is he this time?"
"Last I knew he was covering a wall in one of the temples," he admitted, getting up. "Let me find him. Eric, don't steal from my plate this time." The guys around them laughed and he went to find their boss. He was yawning and still covering a wall with something that looked like adobe. "Will that be patterned?"
Xander jumped and looked at him, holding his chest. "Don't do that to me. Dying sucks." He grinned. "You put the marble over this." He finished up a section and laid the marble panel in place, tapping it to make sure it fit squarely and stuck. Then he braced it with a wooden brace. He stepped back. "Not bad for a day's work." He looked at Horatio. "What's up?"
"You're missing dinner." He took his tools and put them into the bucket, covering it tightly with the cloth to keep it moist. He drug Xander out by his wrist, letting him stop to clean up in a fountain. Then he drug him into the dining hall. "There, go eat."
"Yes, Horatio." He smiled but went to his usual seat, flopping down in front of the empty, clean plate. Paulan handed food down. "Thanks." He dug in, eating quickly.
"The walls will still be there tomorrow," Paulan said wisely.
Xander looked at him. "We'd rather I be bored?"
"No," he admitted. "You're horrible when you're bored." That got a beaming smile and the boy finished eating, grabbing some bread to nibble on while he got back to work. He shook his head. "Someone make sure he makes it to his bed tonight. Otherwise we'll hear him complain in the morning about his back hurting." That got a few laughs. He looked at the troop commanders and Hecarart. "Are we finished with the unpacking and setting up?" They nodded. "Then we'll meet tomorrow to set hunting patrols, guard patrols, and training times?" She slid down a scroll. "Already?"
"Yup. I got bored earlier. Father's such a bad influence." The others joked at that. "He is." She smiled at him. "You've got new people to help work with."
"I know. Anything else we should make him aware of tomorrow?"
"The wife situation," one of the commanders said.
"Dad said he expected some of the boys to run out this winter and find wives," Hecarart told him, earning a smile but a snort from another. "Are we set up for the winter snows? I remember last year it was horrible."
"This year's will be worse," one old man told her. "It's due to be a very bad winter." She nodded at that. "We'll have to have someone go compact the roads."
"We'll figure that out soon," she told him, getting a nod. "I'll take ideas how to do that the most efficient way." That got another nod. "Anything else we have to tell Dad that we've done behind his back?"
"You need a new mother," one warned.
"He gave the Goddess Aphrodite free reign to find him someone," she quipped. "Besides, I'm nearly of marriageable age. He's talked about sending me to the nearest Amazon village to refine my village leadership and warrior skills. That way I can make an informed decision." That got some nods. "If not, it'd have to be a man who saw me as more than a producer of dinner and babies."
"You could go this winter," Paulan told her.
"I was thinking about that." That got some smiles. "So I'll talk to Dad about that tomorrow. Anything else that needs to be brought up while we help him build something?"
"I swear sometimes your father is like a vessel storing extra energy from the God Strife," one of the commanders complained.
She nodded. "It can seem like it." They laughed at that. "Okay, look over that. I'll find Dad tomorrow at a decent hour and either make him give up building something or we'll work around him while we talk." They all nodded at that. "Good. Have a good rest, everyone." She got up and went to get a book from the library, taking it back to her room with some new candles. She'd have to get with Stella and the others tomorrow to make some more. Plus she'd have to sit with that blonde woman and see what she was doing. She had been making explosions earlier. It sounded like fun.
Horatio finished dinner and walked off with Mac and Danny. "It's definitely quiet and calmer here," Horatio said finally.
"I haven't seen this many stars in years," Danny agreed. "I still miss Chinese food."
Mac nodded. "I'm still missing my morning coffee." That got a smile from Horatio. "How's your nephew?"
"Helping Calleigh most of the time," he admitted happily. "He's been making himself useful but he's worried about his mother."
"With any luck there won't be that much time between when we left and when we get back," Mac offered. Horatio nodded. "Stella was only missing half a day when we heard about you guys going missing as a full team. Stetler went onto the news to threaten whoever took you. We went to find the person who had last seen Stella because we figured it might be the same person."
"Is anyone else worried that Xander's not going to be comfortable going back?" Danny asked quietly. Mac nodded.
"He and I talked about that," Horatio admitted, looking around before looking at him. "His friends haven't been very close recently. His last girlfriend and he had just barely broken up when he left her at the altar. His life was constantly in danger at home. The only thing he really misses is soda and tv."
"I am kinda missing the Discovery channel," Danny admitted. He looked at the village then back at them. "If he's right and we've got to live through history to get back to our time, are we supposed to stay here the full time?"
"I don't know," Horatio told him. "It's almost depressing to think about how long that is." That got a nod from Mac, who sat on a half-built wall. "We'd get to see science and the arts come out and flourish but we couldn't prompt anything for fear of changing it."
"If we're really back in time instead of in another world, it's possible we've already had to meddle to get the world where we are today, then," Danny offered. "Some sort of strange paradox."
"Maybe," Mac agreed. "It's still a depressing thought, having to watch the world around us. Now I know why Xander considers us the inspiration for that Highlander show." Horatio smiled at that. "How are you guys handling it?"
"Speed's been doing studies to see what plants were poisonous and what had uses. Sheldon's been helping him with that. Stella too now and then. Calleigh spent today making bullets for us. Eric's been helping with the construction teams. He can't use a bow for anything," he said with a small smile.
"Every village needs people who can stay home to do things," Danny pointed out. "I can use a bow but I suck with a sword."
"We've got an arms master," Speed said as he joined them with Stella following. "Training times start soon since we're all settled in." That got some nods. "Eric's going. So am I."
"Not happy in the kitchen?" Stella teased.
"There's got to be things we can make beyond soups, stews, and beast roasted on a stick. Even while camping. Maybe baking things."
"You can do that," Mac told him. "Hawaiians do it in pits."
"I've seen that. I've got to talk to Barry about trying new things. I keep burning things on a spit." He looked at Danny. "Coming to help tomorrow?"
"Yup. Do you miss anything from home?"
"My bike," he sighed. "A horse isn't the same as going ninety down the interstate." Horatio let out a soft moan at that. "Which he hates but I'm doing it when we get home." He grinned. "I miss the local libraries and the internet. Thousands of books and unlimited information when you go looking for them." He sat down on the wall beside Mac, closer to Danny. "Eric was missing Cuban food." That got a small laugh.
"I miss my conditioner. I've had frizzy hair for weeks," Stella told them, earning a smile. "I have. I also miss tampons. A lot."
"At least we don't have to worry about you being separated out when you have it," Danny offered. "If I remember right, most Native Americans separated out their women when they were bleeding."
"Calleigh's going to growl during her next one. There's no chocolate ice cream," Horatio realized. Speed nodded. "How is her bullet making going?"
"She's tested some from each batch. She's got a lot of nine mil and some thirty eights made for him." That got a smile from Mac. "Did you bring your guns?"
"We were wearing them," Mac admitted. "I think Don lost his. I dimly remember hearing it fall to the ground as we disappeared. He's got a good hand with a bow and a sword. He went with the hunters earlier." He waved at a few of the guys walking back to their house. "Do you think they're humoring us?"
"I think they expect us to jump in and get over it," Danny offered. "I was whining about not having coffee and I got told to get over it and to deal with the current reality." That got some smiles. "They were right, even if I would like overhead lights and a good library with thousands of books up the street."
"At least if we slip and mention something from our time we only get tolerant looks," Speed offered. "If we had been put later in time we would've been seen as witches for knowing the future and probably burned at the stake or tortured."
They all smiled as Xander was led off by a few of the men and shoved into his house before the door was slammed. "He takes good care of his people," Danny said happily. "It could've been a lot worse. We could all be slaves."
"I'm wondering if there's others in other areas," Horatio admitted. "Rome maybe since it was so well studied by most everyone?"
"We can check," Mac offered. "Xander shouldn't mind."
"Joxer and them travel around all the time," Stella told him. "He knows what to look for and if he finds anyone he has a letter of introduction from Xander in english so they know what's going on and Joxer knows to bring them here. So do the two he travels with."
"You don't like Xena?" Danny teased.
"I like her just fine, even though I think she's going overboard. Xander said she reminded him of someone named Angel who was atoning too hard too. I do not like the preachy one. She tried it with me and I nearly slugged her. Joxer and I are buddies though." She grinned at them. "They've got council meetings tomorrow if they can find where Xander's working himself to death. Did you guys notice the potty system he designed?" They all smiled. The toilets were bowls with a flap installed and you poured water in when you were done then opened the flap to let it go down the pipe that ran to a hole under the mountain. "They put a lot of work into that and the tunnel system." That got some smiles. "Speed, pasta?"
"The Chinese had it by now," he admitted. "We don't have the right grains to make it though." He considered it. "We have dough so I'll try something." She gave him a hug. "Welcome." He smiled at her when she walked off. "Night."
"Night. I'm going to take a turn on the walls above the gate." She went to do that.
"She's adapted better than I have," Mac said quietly.
"She's been here longer," Horatio reminded him gently. That got a nod and Mac stood up. "I'll see you boys in the morning. Sleep well."
"You too," Danny said, clapping him on the arm as he walked off.
Speed hesitated. "You sure you want to be out here alone?"
"It's fine, Speed. Have a good night." That got a nod and he left him alone to his thoughts. Horatio stared across the valley, looking back when he felt someone appear behind him. "Lord Ares."
"No one said you have to be a general helper, Caine. You can take on vows here."
"I'm still Catholic."
"You can be Catholic and help one of ours if you want. I doubt your God would mind that much since you keep your vows in your heart."
Horatio smiled. "I'll think on that." He looked at him. "I take it there's not much hope getting us home soon?"
"Not at the moment," he admitted. "A few who've come have been pulled back by the same reason. Xander's curse was worse than everyone's so far." He grimaced. "It might take a long while."
"I saw him change."
"So have I. That's why we tease him. It helps." He sat beside him. "Before you ask, we know there's more. We can't always track them. Some have died because they couldn't adapt."
"Can we be killed?" Horatio asked quietly.
"You can if you die of certain things. We know beheading. We know that one died of starvation a few times and never came back eventually. I know one woman killed herself." He nodded at that. "So we're seeing. This is new to us too."
"So this is meant to be a permanent settlement to hide us?" Horatio asked quietly.
"It is. Some day we'll have to pull back when Greece loses power. This will keep the town whole and out of the others' eyes. It'll keep you safe."
"If that happens, do we lose hope of getting back?"
"Not as long as the people who sent you still live."
"How fast is our time moving?"
Ares shrugged. "I don't know. I can't see that far ahead. Any other questions? I answered all these for Xander."
He looked at him. "If you're handling Xander's curse that way when you sleep with him and you have to pull back, then what happens?"
Ares smirked at him. "That's very wise and by then we'll have that part figured out. Hecate has finally relented. She's looking over it now. Since most of it was done by magic she, Janus, and Chaos are all looking over the problem." Horatio nodded at that. "For now, you learn new skills. If you're lucky you'll wake up when you get back and this will seem like a dream. If not, you might have to wait until you've gone missing and then suddenly appear." He stood up. "I'm off to satisfy the greedy thing in the bedroom."
"He works hard to support us and protect us," Horatio said quietly.
"I've noticed that. I'm proud of the boy. If my other warlords worked this hard we'd have stomped Rome long before now. By the way, there's a few that way and I've sent Xena." He walked off, going to play with Xander.
Horatio sent up a silent prayer to his usual God and thought hard about what he wanted to do if he was going to be here for decades instead of months. He couldn't keep being Xander's secretary and minder. Eventually he'd marry. He got up and went to his bedroom and bed, snuggling into the grass-stuffed mattress. It was odd but comfortable. Much better than a bedroll. Now he knew why Xander headed for his bed when he got back.
He smiled at the louder than usual sex noises from Xander. He was apparently having fun tonight.
Don Flack found Horatio the next morning at breakfast, sitting across from him. "What curse?" he asked quietly.
"Ask me yourself," Xander said in his ear. "Like a big boy." He sat down next to him. "My friend Willow who banished me accidentally on purpose back here also did a gender oops at the same time. So technically I appeared as a girl." He gaped. "Me having fun with who I do keeps that at bay for now. They're working on a cure for that part at least."
Xander shrugged. "I'm having a lot of time to cool my temper and think up unusual punishments for her. Do you think being stuffed up an elephant's ass would work to teach her to think before doing magic?"
"Poor elephant," Horatio said, eating a bite of breakfast. Xander grinned at him for that. "If we get back before you I'll have a talk with her."
"Cool. Can you tape it?"
"If I torture her I will," Horatio promised, getting a grin back.
"Thanks." He gave him a hug.
"Don't forget you have meetings today," Horatio told him.
Xander looked at him. "You make nearly as good of a mother as my daughter does." Horatio smirked at him for that. "You take very good care of me and plenty of the boys think I should marry you next. You do realize that?"
"I couldn't share you with Strife. I'm possessive of what's mine," he joked back. "Try Stella."
"I think Mac would be mad at that." He shrugged. "Anyway," he sighed. "They'll find me when they want me. They always do." He stood up but Don pulled him back down and put a plate in front of him. "Yes, second mom." He dug in, eating heartily. "I'm off on a hunting patrol this afternoon," he called.
"Then we'll bother you this morning," one of his field commanders called back. "Thank you for the warning, Xander." He smirked back and waved. Then he finished his breakfast and headed out. "Do you think if we hitch him to a plow he'll get a full field done before he remembers to eat?" he joked with the guys at his table, who all groaned and shook their heads.
"We tried that once, Xander decided he loved horses after that," Stella reminded him. "He gave a major gift of thanks to Poseidon for making horses."
The guys all laughed at that.
Mac ended up with Xander on the hunting patrol. "What are we looking for?"
"Edible things," Xander told him. "Or dangerous things we have to take down. I know there's a few bears that have migrated this way." That got a nod and they kept going. Xander held up a hand and lowered his fist so everyone went down to watch where he was.
They watched as a few soldiers tromped around. Mac shot Xander a look, getting a head shake and a frown. Xander waved behind his back, giving hand signals. A scout snuck off to see if there were more. They heard a bird noise and Xander muttered a swear. Mac saw the hand signal he recognized and nodded, heading to knock those two out. They got them down, tied up, and out of sight before anyone could investigate. "Who are they?" Mac asked quietly.
"Not Romans and not who Corinth is going against." He looked at one guy. "Reinforcements," he ordered. He headed off at a quiet run. They heard a bow go off and Xander growled, nodding at another guy to go while they snuck up on whoever had fired a bow at their person. They were standing over him. Xander coughed. "Morning," he said loudly, making them jump. "You're in my territory. Why? Mac, get my boy." He came over to help him up and back to his feet, letting someone else have him so they could help him off. Xander heard his people give an alarm. "I'm waiting."
"Who are you to demand anything?" one sneered.
Xander pulled his sword. "Recognize me now?" The man sneered more. He attacked and two of them fell but not the sneering man or anyone past him. "How about now?" he asked calmly, staring him down.
"All...Alexander," he stuttered, stepping back. "I had no idea."
"Pity. Who are you serving, why are you here?"
"We're sneaking up on Corinth for Scadia!" one in the back said, bowing to him. "Please don't kill us!"
"Where's the rest?" Mac ordered. They all pointed and he snorted. "I'm former military myself, boys. If we have to find them it'll be worse." They pointed in another direction and he stared one down until he broke and pointed the right direction. "Thank you." He looked at Xander. "Well?"
"I'm having a bitchy moment and we should probably kill them so the village isn't in danger," he said dryly, considering it. "Hey, Stella, should we kill them?"
"No. It's a waste of blood and energy." She came forward. "Who are they?"
"Here for Scadia to invade Corinth."
"Give them to Corinth." That got a nod and she led Mac and the rest of them off once those ones were bound. "Get him a cart." Someone went to do that and take the injured person back. The rest of the force wasn't that large. They were quickly taken out and beaten to the point where they wouldn't complain. Their supplies were taken and they were stripped before being put into the cart. Xander was left with enough water skins and food for them for the four day trip but that was all. "Get me some more cloth?" she asked.
"Sure." He kissed her on the cheek. "You, Paulan, and the daughter are in charge until I get back." He got onto the cart, one of the guys riding escort with him. They headed down the woods. It was a faster trip since they could bypass the switchbacks they had created in the road. It was more steep but his horses could handle it.
Xander rode the cart up to the gates. "Morning, guys. Can I see the guard captain?" They all laughed. He looked at one and took off his hat. "Now please. These nice boys were sneaking through our woods to attack you." A few went running and he looked back then at them. "They're being good. I'm in a bad mood this morning." He smiled at Iphicles when he came running. "Morning."
"Alexander. What's going on?"
"We were out hunting and found these guys who claim they're from Scadia. They were coming over the mountain instead of through the pass to invade you." That got a groan. "I was not a happy boy."
"He sleeps with Ares!" one yelled. "He's a girl!"
"It's part of the curse that got me sent back," Xander said dryly, staring him down. "The witch who banished me here changed me. Ares likes me anyway. Especially since I'm a *good* warlord and my boys do his work very well for him." They went silent. He looked at the amused Iphicles. "So, I'm here to get Stella some more cloth."
"That's fine. Boys, take them to the jail. Scadia?"
"That's what they told us," Xander said dryly. "They agreed when I asked a few less politely on the way here too." He got down and helped them haul down people. "Can we get the rope back or an equal measure?"
"Sure," Iphicles said, leading him inside, letting him walk the cart in once it was empty. "I didn't expect that one."
"Me either. I was out with a hunting party." He shrugged. "It happens I guess. They're jealous. You have a better harbor. Theirs sucks."
"I know." He smiled. "You might want to watch out. Jonas is back in residence."
Xander snorted. "Let him come." He shook his head. "Anything else I should be warned of?"
"There's two pirates who hate you in the harbor."
"Oooh," Xander said, considering it. "Who?"
"The one who pisses Nebula off for being a woman and his cohort."
Xander grinned. "You wouldn't mind, right?"
"Not in the least. They've been causing trouble." He clapped him on the back. "I wouldn't have mentioned it if I had minded. Have fun shopping for Stella."
"I usually do," he agreed dryly. "Oh, my daughter's going to the Amazons sometime this winter to study under them and make her decision." That got a smile and a nod. "She's very good at administrative things." He skipped off, letting a for-hire stable take his cart and horse for now. He went to scope out the pirates. He hated these two idiot captains. And hey, one had Nebula in chains and was taunting her. He considered it. Usually he'd use a shotgun but oh well. He couldn't do that in town. He put together the mini-crossbow he had on him when he had been sent back, sticking in an arrow. He took aim and fired at the one who had Nebula, watching as he stiffened, then fell overboard.
She looked very confused, watching where he fell. "I didn't even kick you," she said. The men shouted and went running. "One of you at least untie me?" she yelled. A dagger hit behind her on the deck so she squatted down to grab it and do her wrists, ignoring the ugly dress she was in. She saw a body sneaking over the side and shook her head. "Al," she muttered. She finally got free and left the dress there too. Maybe he'd take it so she didn't have to see it again. She whistled for her crew and they came rushing up too. By the time they were done the dress was gone, all the loot was gone from both ships, and they were left with old ships that weren't very seaworthy full of dead bodies. They left, considering what to do with them. "Sail them out and burn them?" she suggested.
"Sell the ships to someone who wants to start fishing?" Xander said from a nearby doorway, leaning on it with a smug look. "Why put you in polka dots?"
"I don't know, it was ugly."
"Stella needs more cloth. Maybe she'll use it for female problems." That got a laugh and a nod. "Can I have my dagger back?" She handed it over and he smiled. "Love you too, Nebula. Sell 'em. Make some money and let the harbor eels have the bodies." He strolled off with that advice.
"Who is that?" one new boy asked.
"That's the Warlord Alexander," she said dryly. "We taunt each other often. Someone go check our ship, make sure it's got cargo?" They went to do that, coming off shaking their heads a few minutes later. "Okay, clean up the ships and toss the dead to the sea. We'll sell them." They cheered and did that for her while she shook her head. She found someone who wanted the wood at least and got a good price for it. That was all she needed. She paid her boys and they went to have fun in town. She went to trail the little bastard. She found him and another warlord in the same bar. She winced at that. It was going to get bloody. She also saw Joxer. She thought. It could've been another one but she hoped it was Joxer. The drunk warlord slurred something about Xander and he laughed.
"I do not sleep with my horse! She won't fit on my pillows and she's a lumpy one herself." He sipped his wine, looking at the older man. "You're Joxer's father, aren't you?" he asked with a bright smile. "I know him." The man roared and pulled a sword to attack him. Xander used the table to defeat him and knock him out. He looked down at him. "Are you *really* one of Ares' favorites? You seem to attack dumbly." He shrugged and clapped the man in the chains he had picked up earlier. "Oh, well." He drug him off, taking him to a building up the road. He smiled at the man in there, dumping him in front of him. "I suggest he quit drinking. He's a bit mental from it," he told Jace, blowing a kiss. "From Joxie, pretty one." He walked out smiling.
Jace looked at his father and sneered. "I don't want you. Someone get this filth before he ruins my stockings?" he asked in his heavy stage spanish accent, batting his made up eyes. A man he knew sold slaves came to get him. "Thank you." She ran a gloved hand over his cheek with a wink. "You're very kind to ladies." He smirked back and came back for her later show, letting her finish that one. Their father would get free sometime but he was still safe.
Xander drove back into the gates of the village a few days later than he should have been. "Sorry, ran into Joxer's parents. His mother got very mad I beat her husband and Jace had him sold." He waved a hand. "Also had to play with Nebula twice!" He beamed. "Stella, I hired someone to drive up the rental cart. Go get it?" he yelled, heading to his house and his bed. He loved his bed. He hated camping. He really hated camping.
"I love how he leaves the unpacking for us," she said dryly. "Someone go get the other cart!" Calleigh hurried off to do that with Speed. A good idea since there were two. She walked the horses pulling theirs over to the storage building, letting the guys come help her unload. She didn't find her cloth and frowned at the house up the street. "I'll get him later." They did have more grain and some food from India and Chin. "Hey, Speed, think you can do anything with Indian peppers and spices?"
"Yes!" Danny shouted. "Chinese food! I'll pluck a chicken, Speed."
"Go for it," he shouted back. He drove in that cart. "Got another one too, Stella. Looks like what you asked for." She smiled and went to get it for the hired boys, tipping them with a kiss since they were so young and impressed with her. They ran back to their towns, totally forgetting the carts. "Huh," Speed said, closing the gates. "Nice of them." He helped move things into the storage building, shaking his head. "The guy must love Costco." Mac laughed at that. "He must!"
"If he was playing with Nebula, he was playing with the pirates again," Hecarart complained. "Not that I don't like Nebula. She's a nice woman for a pirate." She hefted a bale of something. "What is this?"
"Paper," Danny shouted.
"Charming. What are we supposed to do with it?"
"Write things?" Mac offered. She punched him on the arm, earning a smile. "Make more books and write down recipes, birth records, those things?" She sighed, shaking her head as they continued on. "Stella, how much cloth did you need?"
"We'll use it," she noted. She held up the dress, giving it an odd look. "I have no idea." She saw the note pinned to a sleeve and smiled. "Oh, one of the pirates he took on put Nebula in it to make her marry him since she was only a woman. Xander freed her from that horrible fate. Goodie." She handed it to Hecarart. "Give that to someone." She nodded, going to give it to one of the other women. The rest of the supplies were put up and they found another cart waiting on them outside the gates. The driver was gone. They checked the load to make sure no one was sneaking in then brought it inside too. This one had barrels of smoked and salted meats. She was going to have a good dinner tonight one way or another. The other harvest had come in while Xander was gone. The farmers were there doing the crop planting and they were having a lot of fun. The live chickens and piglets in the third cart were let loose by Don, who ran out of the way when one of them came for him. "Flap something at it," she ordered.
Danny caught it and looked at it. "It's not a rooster, right?" They all shook their heads. "Then it's suitable for dinner." He took it to kill with the other three he had picked out. He, Speed, and Stella had control over dinner that night. The others were appreciative of it even if some of them did belch, and Horatio got Xander up to eat with them.
Stella hugged their boss. "I love you but I gave that dress away. It was ugly."
"I know. I figured you could use it for womanly things or something." She laughed at that. "Food?"
"Asian food," she teased. He dug in, eating thirds. She smiled at his back, shaking her head when he got up and went to make offerings in the finally finished temples. He was such a goofball sometimes.
Joxer showed up a month later, earning a hug from Stella. "Hi, who're you guys?" she asked the two men with him.
"I'm Randy, I'm from Texas."
"Andrew," Xander said dryly from behind Stella. "Welcome to Ancient Greece. Willow get you too?"
"Yup." She gave him an odd look. "I'm an arch villain in Xander's town."
"I'm a cop in New York," she said dryly, making him gape and whimper. "Good, we understand each other."
"There was one I couldn't get. He was a slave and his owner wouldn't sell him," Joxer told them.
Xander smirked. "I heard. Xena convinced him by siccing Gabby on him." That got a cackle from Randy. "I take it you met the ladies?" He grinned at Joxer. "Come on. Let's get them settled in. Andrew, you hit on the women here and I'll put you crawling through the sewer pipes to make sure everything falls."
"Yes, Xander." He pouted. "Why are you in control?"
"Because I'm the warlord. I'm favored by Ares and Strife, and I had the village built," he said firmly, staring him down.
"No fair," he said weakly. Stella smacked him and he ducked and ran for cover behind someone else. "She's mean."
"Then make it back home to beat Willow for me," Xander called. He walked Randy off. "How did you get here?"
"Girlfriend," he said grimly. "Bitch."
"Mine was my best friend. Don't worry, we'll protect you." That got a nod. "You'll be helping out but it's a safe town. Not many women so....." the kid shrugged. "Good. Horatio?" He came out of the kitchen. "This is Randy, he was in Rome somewhere. Joxer found him. He's from Texas."
"Welcome," he said, shaking his hand. "Lieutenant Horatio Caine, Miami-Dade PD."
The man gaped. "You've been missing a week when I left. It was all over the news."
"That answered my next question. Who's the other guy?"
"Andrew. A wanna be super villain from Sunnydale," Xander said, rolling his eyes as he walked off. "I'm going to do something before I lose my temper. Willow sent him too." He went to the shrine he had set up to Hecate and prayed that she'd at least get Andrew home before he annoyed him to death. He heard him getting loud and hung his head, shaking it.
"No, he's their donut getter and coffee fixer, not a leader. Even if he did get more people into the graduation battle and led it he's still a goofball without skills!" Andrew complained loudly. Someone slapped him.
"He's not now," Calleigh told him. "He's been here for a while and he protects all these people. They look up to him as a warlord and he's proven his worth, Andrew. I will not have you putting that boy down. Am I clear?"
"Yes, ma'am. Do you spank hard?" She walked off in a huff. "She's cute." Another slap. Then some quieter talking. "Wow, so she's like Batgirl?" A mass groan and they walked off.
Xander looked up at the symbols he had carved. "Please? I'll beg. Just get rid of Andrew before he undermines me here? Make him go torture Willow for a bit?" He heard the yelp and smiled. "Thank you!" He kissed the altar and walked out. "He disappear?" he asked hopefully.
Horatio nodded. "He did. An older woman in a gold gown showed up and grabbed him by the collar, dragging him off."
Xander looked up. "Blessed be Hecate and whoever she sent to help since I know she's not an older woman," he called. "Thank you, glorious, young maiden Goddess of Magic!" He looked at him. "Sorry. Narrow viewpoint of my friends too. That's why I'm back here and they're probably not complaining too much." He walked off again. "The one who was a slave is a cop of some sort," he called as he walked off. "Ares said Xena dropped him off at the bottom of the hill." He went into Ares' temple to pray to him too. When he was done he went to curl up in a corner and take a nap. No one would look for him in there. When he woke up there was a plate beside him and a note to eat. He smiled. Horatio was turning into a very good hunter. He did eat and prayed to Ares again then went back to his house to go to bed. In the morning he felt miserable so he went to see Sheldon. He sent him back to bed and had someone make him some broth to sip to calm him stomach. It was like the flu had come to Ancient Greece. He had probably caught it off one of the pirates. One had sneezed on him.
Stella came down the next morning. "He's fine, just has a headache and body aches. It looks like one of those minor fevers that go around in the spring with the sneezing," she announced. That got a sigh of relief and they went with Sheldon's plans. "Why is it that men whine when they're sick?" she asked Sheldon.
He shrugged. "Because you women let us get away with it." She smirked at that. A cloaked body appeared in the middle of the street and he pointed. "Any idea?"
"Nope." She went to talk to them. "Hi, you are?" she asked in English. The woman gave her an odd look. "Stella Bonasera."
The woman frowned. "You're one of the reasons I'm here." She smiled at her. "Hecate sent me here to help."
"That's fine. Let me get the other refugees? I'll meet you in Xander's room? He's got the flu."
"If you wish." She headed that way with the person Stella whistled at and pointed at. She smiled. "This Xander?"
"Alexander?" Don suggested.
"Oh! He's been annoying her," she admitted dryly. "That's why she brought me down." They headed up there and she looked at the young man. "You look exhausted."
"Am," he said, staring at her. "A healer?"
"Cool." He coughed, covering his mouth. "Go over there. You guys don't have an immunity to the flu."
"I'll be fine as the Goddess wills," she told him, sitting on the foot of his bed. The others came in. "Welcome. I'm Glorinda of Britannia." They all gaped.
"She was the last super strong witch of the world before Willow," Xander noted. The woman looked at him. "I grew up on the hellmouth across the ocean. The Boca hellmouth. Or in this time I think it's called the fluxing one?" She nodded once at that. "The witch we have helping us fight the evil there banished me back here because she had womanly issues."
"That can happen now and then." She looked at the others. "I can hopefully reverse what lesser beings have done. Hecate has shown me what has happened." She looked around. "With any luck I can send most of you back tonight."
"Not all?" Speed asked.
She shrugged. "I have no idea," she admitted. "I can try all but for now let's work on most. All right?" He nodded at that. "Come to me tonight at sundown." They nodded, leaving to gather their things and tell the others. She locked the door and looked at him. "I don't think I can move you. You've been here much too long."
"I figured as much since I'm celebrating sixty-two years next month," he said quietly. "I think my only help may be from Hades."
"An unusual strategy."
He smirked. "You know of the slayers line?" She grimaced but nodded. "I fight with one. Have fought with a few others. Death likes me."
"Then Hades may be able to help," she admitted, leaning down to kiss his forehead. "The one who sent you?"
"Seers have foreseen her doing great and horrible things," she admitted. He nodded. "Then I'll leave you to rest and get better. Come with them tonight. At the very least you can say goodbye." She got up and headed out to pick where she wanted to do it. She found a fully appointed temple to Hecate and set up with her native Goddesses as well. They already had a casting circle carved in the floor. She got to work filling it with sand and making sure it was even. Then she prepared herself. This was a major casting. With any luck she'd get at least some of the minor ones back there faster. Perhaps not all of them but the greater majority of those who weren't fully assimilated. She looked up when they walked in, smiling at them. "I've been told you came in groups?" They split off that way. "Let's try you first," she told Randy since he was the only single one except Xander. He walked into the circle with her and she found the spell on him. She closed the circle with the sand she had saved and got to work undoing the spells on him. When she was done he disappeared and she prayed, tracing the magic. It was lost in the weave of time. She got a feeling of contentment from her Goddess and more information. "For the larger groups I'll need help. Xander?"
"Of course." He came over to help her, doing as she ordered by adding some blood. "Hellmouths come in handy for some things," he quipped. The portal opened at her summons and the others were sent through. He paused Stella to hug her. "Be safe."
"You too." She walked through last and it closed. She looked behind her. "Guys, Xander didn't make it." They all groaned but she looked at them. "Well?"
"Let's find civilization since this is the middle of nowhere," Don ordered. "Then we can call off the manhunt. If she can, she'll send him back and he can handle himself until we can check on him." That got a nod and they headed for the city lights they could see in the distance. "Is that a college?" he asked when they finally got close enough to make out buildings.
Mac nodded. "It is."
Danny grinned. "We're in Xander's town." They all stared at him. "He described it perfectly. We're in Xander's town. Let's go find Willow, shall we?"
"Gladly," Horatio agreed. "Let's get to a hotel or something first." They nodded, continuing down to the college. They were stopped by campus security. "We were kidnaped," Horatio said quietly. "We're officers from Miami, Florida, and New York City." The guard gaped.
"Dude, sweaty and nasty here," Don noted. "Can you get our local brethren?" That got a nod and they were summoned. They sat down on a bench, enjoying the night air. At least until a few vampires came running. Then he and Horatio took them out while Danny and Stella got the other side and guarded Mac, Calleigh, Sheldon, and Eric.
"Hey!" a blonde girl said, frowning at them. "How did you know to do that?"
"Buffy?" Danny asked. She frowned, nodding slowly. He smacked her on the head. "From Xander back in Ancient Greece. Where Willow stuck him." She gaped and slowly shook her head. "Yeah. So we wanna talk to your witchie poo."
"But she's a good girl again."
"Bet me," Stella said dryly. "She turned him into a girl part of the time too." Buffy burst out laughing. She smacked her across the face. "I lived with and hunted with Xander for over a year. She's got some explaining to do since he's been back there about sixty years." She whimpered. "Now!" She ran off. The police officers trooped up. "Hi."
"Hi," one said quietly, looking at her. "You're the officers that were kidnaped, right?" Horatio nodded. "Thank God you're all right. You are all right, right? Nothing that blonde girl will have to deal with?"
"We had a Willow sorta problem," Don told him.
"Oh!" They both nodded. "Understood."
"They said to tell her Xander's back there too," Stella told him. "He's a bit pissed. Mentioned a rocket launcher he had and her hind end a few times?"
"I don't blame him," the one in the back offered. "Come on, guys. We'll take you to the station where it's safer and let you guys call home. Then we'll take you to the good hotel so you're safe for a few days." They nodded, heading out with them. Stella was in a leather vest and pants like a male Xena. Horatio and Mac were both dressed about the same. Don, Danny, and Sheldon had on cloth pants and a leather vest over a simple shirt. Calleigh had on a skirt and her former normal shirt. Eric had on his normal clothes. The others carried things with them. He had noticed the swords and things. Someone was going to have to swallow some stories they didn't want to hear about this one. They got them back to the station, gave them coffee, and helped them dial out so they could call people at home. A note was made in the file some of them kept up about what really happened but that was as far as they were going. The Harris boy could take care of himself and they'd be staying out of the way when he got back to deal with his friends. Willow stomped in and they all glared at her, making her squeak and turn to run out.
"Hey, she is smart," Danny said dryly.
"Even I want to slap her and I'm usually non-violent," Sheldon said dryly. "What about that one that never showed up?" he asked Stella. She kept on top of all the information back there.
"His spell bounced back once he was free," she told him. "He disappeared the same day Ray Junior did from the kitchen." Mac hung up with their people. "Let me guess, there's paperwork?"
"A lot of paperwork," he admitted. Horatio hung up. "You all right?"
"I will be once the hand cramps are gone. I talked to Frank." Everyone smiled. "They're flying out tomorrow to deal with us. We're to meet them in LA tomorrow night?" The officers nodded that was doable. "Thank you." He shook their hands. "Hotel?"
"This way, sir." They took them there and told the owner they had been rescued so it was a cheap stay for them. In the morning they went to talk to young Willow and deal with her. Then they were driven to LA's headquarters so they could be debriefed and do the paperwork.
Horatio walked into his office his first day back, putting his sword in the corner as a memento. He sat behind his suspiciously clear desk and leaned back in his chair, sunglasses still on. Miami was much brighter than Greece. A familiar body leaned in his doorway. "Frank," he said happily, smiling at him.
"Welcome home." He came in. "Xena?"
Horatio nodded. "That's where we were."
"How big was this place?"
"We traveled for weeks," Horatio told him. They all thought the kidnapers had set up somewhere to hide them that was an homage to Xena.
"Was that other guy one of them?"
Horatio shook his head. "No, he was taken from the town we reappeared in," he admitted quietly. "He's still stuck there but they're finding a way out for him."
"So he stayed to cover for you guys?"
"I think he considered it worthwhile to sacrifice himself to allow others time to get free," he admitted, taking off his sunglasses. He squinted some. "Light was less bright there." He put them back on. "So, how was Miami while we were gone?"
"They damn near put us under Martial law twice," he said, sitting across from him. "You okay?"
"I'll be fine and I did learn a lot of hunting skills. Including how to field dress a pig and a deer. Plus a bear and rabbits and lizards." Frank shuddered. "We were fine, Frank. I promise." He grinned at Speed when he came in wearing a loose t-shirt and jeans. "Comfortable?"
"I'm missing the leather crawling up my ass," he said dryly, handing over something. "That was in my mail this morning. Can't I pull a Xander and cut off their head?"
"We'll see," he said, pushing the Hercules and Xena catalog away. "Start a search to see if he's back?"
"Eric's already doing that. He'll show up on one of ours doorsteps," he reminded him. "Probably Stella since he was with her longer." He patted Frank on the back. "So, we're back. Happier?"
"Much. The Chief freaked when you all disappeared." He looked at him. "You wanna share stories?"
"Not really. I spent a lot of time cooking. I did learn how to use a bow but it's better that I cook instead of Eric." That got a knowing smile. "He did good but it was bland. Boar soup." He walked off, going to hug his microscope. He had missed it and his lab. Calleigh was petting all her guns. Eric was scowling so he went to make him feel better. "What's wrong? Forget how to make Cuban coffee?"
"Something happened in Sunnydale last night. They're saying a meth house blew up and hit the sewer lines so it destroyed a good portion of the town and college."
"Damn." He looked at the news feed he was watching. "I see Willow's alive. Think it was her?"
"Maybe. I haven't seen Xander."
Horatio walked in. "What happened?"
"Sunnydale went boom," Speed told him. "They're saying a meth house lit the sewer."
Horatio watched it going on. "Anyone die?" Eric nodded. "Then it wasn't Xander." He pointed. "There's Buffy and her mother."
"That's Giles walking into view," Eric offered. They had not been that impressed with Giles simple scowl at Willow for starting off that trend. Or Xander's ex Anya. Horatio had told her off and Mac had repeated it when she started again without having heard Horatio's version. They kept watching. No Xander. Horatio sighed and went back to work. They were stuck in the lab today to make sure they could handle being in the lab again. All their cases had been cleared up in the two weeks they had been gone. Even the reports were done. So Eric and Speed watched the news throughout the day. Just in case Xander showed up.
Two days later Horatio opened his house's door, looking at the man standing there. "Xander." He pulled him inside to hug him. "You're all right and didn't destroy Sunnydale?"
"That was Strife." He looked at him. "You all right? Came right home?"
"With a stop in Sunnydale," he admitted, leading him to the couch. "Why are you here?"
"I came to check on you, make sure you're all right and didn't die from the transfer back," he admitted, looking him over. He looked at his hands then at him again. "Also I thought maybe you'd be able to keep me calm and not going out there to kill her. I still want to shove her up an elephant's ass and plug it then enema her out a few hours later."
"That's a bit disgusting," Horatio said dryly, smiling at him. "How long were you there?"
"I got to watch Star Trek in the original broadcasts," he said quietly. Horatio pulled him back into a hug and he sank into the welcoming arms. "Thank you." He pulled back. "I need to get used to being able to interact with people again." He rested against his shoulder again. "Everything okay in New York?"
"It's fine. Mac and all of them are back to work. I heard Stella threatened someone with her sword earlier but they expected that." He felt the nod and relaxed, sitting down with Xander next to him. "Is the other curse gone?" He nodded. "Fully?"
"Has been since about a decade after you left," he admitted, pulling back to look at him. "It's been a long time since anyone hugged me." Horatio smiled and smoothed a hand over the fashionably cut short hair. "Thanks."
"Welcome. Are you staying in Miami for a while?"
"I am. If I ever go back there the magic I learned over the years will cause problems." Horatio nodded at that. "I had to do something."
"I understand. You did what you had to so you survived and kept going." He smoothed over his hair again. "Want dinner?"
"Can I take you out? I cashed a royalty check the other day." Horatio gave him an odd look. "I write very realistic historical romances. It kept me away from people." That got a smile and a nod. "Please?"
"Sure. We'll eat out. Want to see the others?"
"I don't think I could take more than a few people around me right now. I haven't been able to come out of the house in the last five years because my magic kept going out toward Willow to kill her. The house was shielded so I couldn't reach beyond the walls."
"You do what you have to so you and others survived, Xander," he agreed gently. Xander smiled and nodded. "Want me to order pizza?"
"Nah. I've had plenty of ordered pizza. Something with fish?"
"Fish is nice," he agreed, getting up and grabbing things so they could go together. "What happened to your family?"
"I got all the way to great-great-great grandkids before the Romans tried to take the village. I was out hunting and they tried to defend it. The Romans managed to get someone up the sewer pipes and inside. I came back to a massacre." Horatio took his hand to hold. "They paid. Heavily. Then I left Greece for Istanbul. It was easier there. I could still see friends but I wasn't in the way or drawing attention." That got a nod. "Then a few years back I led an expedition of college students up there to excavate it and hid the gun you left." He handed it over. "You left your service revolver on my bed?"
"I did." He tucked it into his space under the armrest. "I thought you could use it and would give it back."
"I did use it a few times. I didn't get to get that one out until a few years back because the place I had it hidden got caved in." That got a nod. "But I only used it to hunt a bear that tried to break into the house. I have a beautiful house on Cyprus." That got a smile. "The Greek side of course." He laughed. "Things are really okay?"
"The brass decided it was someone who had taken us to somewhere they had a Xena-scape set up to hold us in."
"Ah. The denial issue. I know it well."
"You're not going by Xander. Eric and Speed have been checking for me for the last two days."
"Andre Ares Trouble," he said, pronouncing it like it was 'troubee'. Horatio laughed and pulled into somewhere, letting him get out and sniff the sea. "It smells different here."
"It's all the people." He walked him inside, taking him to a booth in the back. They sat there staring at each other for a few minutes. "Are you moving back?"
Xander shrugged. "It depends on how much tension I'd have. I can't stand the stress anymore. For being twenty-and-a-half I'm really tired. The old instincts come out now and then. I live in the middle of nowhere because it's safer," he admitted. "For everyone."
Horatio nodded at that. "We can help you calm that down, Xander. All of us."
"Mac thought I was violent before I got taken, Horatio."
"True," he admitted. "He thought you could use some anti-cult deprogramming too." Their orders were brought and he smiled at the waiter, making him walk off again. Xander sniffed and smiled. "Living on your own cooking?" he teased.
"Often. Thankfully cookbooks have been around for a very long time." Horatio smiled and nodded. He dug in and moaned. "Oh, this is nice."
"It is," he agreed, smiling at the happy boy across from him. Happy man, he couldn't consider Xander a boy after having seen him take on part of an army to protect them.
"I'm not the same guy I was then," Xander said in a conversational tone. "I wish I was. I was more idealistic back then." He ate a bite. "History was really mean and messy."
"It was," he agreed gently, taking his hand to give it a squeeze. "We'll help you get back to the normal person you are, Xander."
Xander smiled. "Thank you."
"Welcome." He gave the hand another squeeze and let it go. "Did you want my spare room tonight or are you going to a hotel?"
"I stayed at your house for nearly six months," he teased. Xander smiled and nodded, digging into his food again. He even got the check, letting Horatio get the tip and drive them back. It was good to be with him. He clearly needed to relax. They got back to the house and Xander relaxed again. He wasn't used to having even a few people around him anymore. Horatio watched him walk around to look at the pictures. "Ray Junior got back fine," he assured him at the curious look. "His mother wouldn't let him talk to anyone and he only got back a day before we did." That got a nod and Xander moved to the couch. Horatio sat beside him, watching him look around at the stereo equipment. "Don't have one at home?"
"I've gotten too used to the quiet," he admitted. "The last time I had someone babble at me it was another refugee during the Crusades. One of the guys out of Las Vegas. He was badly freaking out since the knights found him and treated him like a runaway slave. He finally convinced them he was insane so they left him alone and in the desert to die."
"About a day. I was two days outside the city's walls. It got me left alone and kept me out of the political battles. He found me first and babbled at me, so I told him I knew and what was going on. They got im back after a few days back then." He cleared his throat. "Sorry. I'm nervous."
"It's because you're not used to being around people."
"No, that's not the reason," Xander admitted, looking at him then leaning over slowly to kiss him. "That's why." He stood up. "Um, I should...." Horatio pulled him back down. "I'm sorry, it's clear it's not your thing."
"Shut up, Xander," he said, kissing him again. Xander blinked at him. "Are you still playing with Ares and Strife?"
"I'm the last priest they have left but they're in a coma-like sleep. When their power base fell they retreated and did that until the day when the neopagans gave them more attention. They have enough energy now to start controlling things but not to wake up." Horatio nodded. "I'm sorry, I've got to be boring..."
"Shut up, Xander." He kissed him again. "I do not share," he said, staring at him. "Even if they wake up."
"We fell out of the sex stuff and became friends with a stress relief habit once every few wars," he admitted quietly, looking at him.
"No later wives?"
"Two, both forced on me. I hated them both too." He smiled at that. "I didn't want to father my line. I didn't want to be responsible for me coming to be, ya know?"
"I did have that thought," he admitted, kissing him again. Xander finally started to relax and let him do what he wanted. "Are you going to go back to Xander?"
He shook his head. "I don't want to. They might find me and then I will kill her. The world needs her."
"That's fine," he agreed, kissing him again. One hand found its way into the dark hair, tangling in the soft, short strands. Xander moaned and shifted back, looking at him. "Problem?"
"Should I tell Stella?"
"We can tomorrow, Xander." He smiled and dove in again. Apparently that was the last worry he had at the moment. They kept it at kissing that night. Xander needed the comfort of having someone else there and Horatio was a big fan of *dating* instead of sleeping around. They did curl up in the same bed so Horatio did get to soothe his nightmares. He finally fell fully asleep while Horatio watched. The calm, peaceful sight made him drift off and helped his usual nightmares stay away. It was good for both of them. Yes, in the morning things might be a bit different but Xander was a very loyal man. A strong man that would support him. A warlord for modern day Miami's problems as much as he was for the problems back in Greece and those in Sunnydale.