Main PageNotes: Special thanks to LetsSingIt.com for the lyrics.
Notes squared: when they're talking about Martna sleeping all the time, it's based on my sister. She who slept twenty hours a day until she was about two. Don't roll your eyes, my mother was *really* happy about it.
Malfunctions of Motherly Instincts
"We gotta talk, Strife. There's a problem and it's coming from you."
Strife sat down on a bench, looking up at his lover. "What sorta problem, Cupie?"
"Big ones. It's Bane."
Strife groaned. "Not her!" He handed over Martna to get up and go punch a column. He came back a few minutes later. "What's going on with my other half?"
"She's the one who's been bothering Xander's pawns. Oh, and she's responsible for Xander's 'unique mental problem' as it's being called." He smiled gently at his lover. "We've got to get her to come out so we can all talk to her, Strife."
"It's not like I can just *wish* her up," he snorted. "If she's comin' out, it's on her own terms." He frowned. "Why would she be poisonin' Xander's pawns?"
"I'm pretty sure she has a crush on him, Strife," Cupid explained. "And besides, she sees a lot of Linesa in him."
"What're we gonna tell him about her?" Strife asked, glancing around to make sure they were alone.
"Um, the truth?" Ares suggested as he popped in with Oz beside him. "We've got another problem." He looked up at Cupid. "Xander's never been told the full rules of GodWar. He doesn't understand what's been going on and why he's got more pawns than he thinks."
Cupid shrugged. "Not my job, dad."
"It is now," Oz reminded him. "For that matter, Giles and I need to know too."
Cupid groaned and leaned back in the throne. "I don't wanna do this," he complained.
"Tough," Ares said with a cold smile. "You got elected and you didn't say no fast enough." He examined his nails. "It is *your* duty as the new King of the Gods."
Cupid glared at him. "Fly off," he warned coldly, sending a small zap at his father. "I'm deputizing. Hades?" he called.
The God of the Underworld appeared before them. "Having problems already?"
"No, just a job I don't want so I'm handing it over. Xander, and the other two, need to know the official and sneaky rules of GodWar."
Hades groaned. "I can't, Cupid, you know that. It's your job."
"Not if I hand it off officially," Cupid said, giving him a smile. He sat up, his wings steadying him by sticking straight out. "Listen, Hades, I know you really want what I have, but it got given to me. Now, I might be nice and come to you for advice and all, but I can't tell Xander about Linesa and I can't give them all the rules of GodWar since I didn't get to play last time."
Hades sighed and shook his head. "Fine, I'll tell him about Linesa."
"Hey, I'm doing that!" Strife protested. "Deal with Bane or tell them about GodWar."
Hades looked at him, seriously considering it. "I'll deal with Bane when she comes out next time and talk to her about Xander," he said, disappearing quickly.
Cupid groaned. "I can't tell them," he complained.
"Let Unc do it," Strife said, waving a hand at Ares.
"He cheats," Oz reminded him. "Xander won't do that."
"Oh, Heph," Cupid called out, staying nice. "Get up here."
Hephaestus appeared in a cloud of smoke, looking his step-son over. "What? I was in the middle of helping Maribelle learn how to shape with fire."
"I'm delegating to you the task of teaching Xander and his family about the GodWar rules and shortcuts." Hephaestus groaned. "Tough, dude, I didn't play last time because Hera wouldn't let me."
The God of the Forge looked him over. "Traditionally...."
"Tradition be damned," Cupid interrupted him. "Do you really want to see Xander break a rule and be punished for it?"
Hephaestus shook his head. "Oz, make sure you're all there tonight and I'll explain it later when I bring the baby back." He disappeared the same way he showed up.
Cupid smiled. "Good, that's taken care of. Any more emergencies from your house?"
Ares shrugged. "Like we know in advance," he complained.
Cupid snorted. "Coolness. Go find Xander and relieve him of childcare so Hades can explain to Bane about not bothering him and he can tell Xander about Linesa."
Ares groaned and left, taking Strife and Oz with him.
Cupid created a thick pillow under him and got comfortable. "Zeus must have calluses on his ass," he muttered. "This uncomfy thing they've got going needs to stop."
Xander relaxed on Hades' couch, looking over at the stammering God of the Dead. "Yeah, and?" he asked. "I've been told Bane was the female version of Strife. Why does she like me?"
"Because she sees a lot of someone in you," Hades said after thinking for a moment.
"Linesa, I'm still waiting for that explanation too." He shifted, putting his feet up. "Whenever you're ready to do this whole explanation, wake me up." He closed his eyes.
Hades shook his head and sent out a mental call to his niece, who had more dealings with Bane than anyone. Aphrodite sent a message back, and then a story scroll appeared. Hades smiled and sent a gentle thank you before tossing it at the boy's body. "There, that's Bane," he said, sitting down behind his desk to get some real work done.
Xander opened his eyes and picked up the scroll, reading it slowly so he wouldn't miss anything. After about an hour, he licked his lips and looked over his shoulder at his friend. "And this deals with me why?"
"She likes you," Hades said with a shrug. "This is her way of hitting on you probably."
"Ah." Xander sat up, swinging his feet back down to the floor. "Like I said, this concerns me why? She knows I'm taken."
"Ah, but to her, that's just a minuscule matter that can easily be fixed," Hades pointed out. He blanched and left as another God popped in, leaving them alone.
In front of Xander stood a slim, not-well-rounded female God with long reddish hair that didn't come naturally in that shade. He stood up and nodded to her. "You're Bane, right?" he asked, holding out a hand. "I'm the one you've been tormenting."
She snorted and batted the hand away. "They've got it all wrong, sweetie," she said, her voice silky but with a grating undertone. "I'm not hitting on you, I'm making overtures of friendship."
"By screwing with my favorite pawns?"
She shrugged. "It got noticed, right?"
He nodded. "True." He sat down and waved at the other end of the couch, facing her when she sat. "So, tell me what you want from me," he said finally, after checking her out some more. "Most of my friends don't punish my things to get my attention."
She giggled and it sounded exactly like Strife's laugh only in a higher register. "That's good," she said, leaning over to run a nail down his nose, cutting into it a little. "I want to be friends, Xander, nothing more. You're not my species."
He grinned. "Good, I was going to say the same thing." He removed her finger and trimmed the claw-like nail for her. "There, much safer for my skin now." He checked her outfit over again. "You look funny in his clothes," he noted.
"Yeah, well, if I'm wearing somethin' different, then he wears it when he regains control. He hates that." She shrugged and leaned back into the arm of the couch. "I need someone to anchor me when I'm out and I need a playmate to go have fun with. I was kinda hopin' it'd be you." She looked him over then nodded slowly. "You'll do. Your grandmother did for the longest time."
"Okay, I'll hang with you, but only if you tell me about Linesa."
She shrugged. "Why not. Won't they?"
"Everyone keeps saying that they will but no one's been very anxious to get this settled. And they keep comparing me to her," he complained with a mild pout.
She frowned, looking him over again. "You're not at all like her. Maybe a few of your reactions are similar, but you're not like her. Like her brother, now that's one man that you're a lot alike. Except that you're not a flaming queen." He snorted. "You're not. Otherwise, you're very like him. Joxer was a brilliant man, even though I did goof and split him into three parts when he was about eight or so."
His mouth fell open. "I'm from Joxer's line?"
"From his sister's." She grinned. "No one told you, not even Unc?" He shook his head. "Did you ever meet Joxer?"
"Yeah, I trained as Ares' assistant under him."
She giggled. "Yeah, I can see that happenin'. Unc musta been beshitted over that." She stood up and held out a hand. "Come on, I'll take you to watch it all."
He took it and allowed the surprisingly strong Goddess to pull him up. "And away we go," he said as they faded out.
Hades reappeared and grinned. "Both problems solved," he said jovially, going to tell Cupid the good news.
"You let *Bane* tell him about Linesa?" Cupid shouted. "How could you! She'll mess it all up and then he's gonna be too confused!" He came down off the throne. "This is really horrible , Hades. If he gets all the info from Bane, he'll never be right again."
"Then maybe my nephew should have told him about Bane and Joxer," Hades said, laughing at the dirty look he got. "Hey, it wasn't my idea." He disappeared.
"ARES!" Cupid yelled, bringing him in the blink of an eye, literally. "Hades is letting Bane tell Xander about Linesa."
Ares went pale and sat down on the nearest bench. "Oh, Gods, no," he moaned. He sent out feelers for his lover, and when he didn't find him, for Bane. "They're not in the Halls of Time, they're in the backup on the mortal plane," he said as he disappeared. "Go watch the kids," floated after him.
Cupid shrugged and went to go find the kids to watch them. It was his night anyway.
"So she was the complete opposite of Joxer," Xander was saying as Ares appeared behind him. "Hi," he said, turning to look at his lover. "Why didn't you tell me I was related to Joxer when you took me back there?"
Ares glared at Bane. "We were going to break the news to him *gently*," he told her. "Strife agreed that it'd be best."
"Yay," she said coldly. "You should have told him a long time ago, Unc. He's not fragile." She looked at her new friend again. "As for the other thing, yeah, it's gonna be emotional for ya. It was for her, and your reactions are a lot like her, even if you're like the whole that Joxer was once I put him back together." She stuck her tongue out at Ares as she disappeared.
"Xander, she lies," Ares said hotly.
"Shut up." Xander looked Ares over. "You lied to me for years, Ares," he said calmly. "Start with the truth now or I'm leaving for good."
Ares grabbed Xander, holding him tightly. "You can't. And I never lied. I left out that you were related to Joxer, but I didn't lie about the rest of it." He shook his consort lightly. "Let's go home and talk about this like adults."
"I got a better idea," Xander said, teleporting out of his grip. "How about you tell me the truth now or I go ask someone else? Like Aphrodite or Discord, or even Joxer."
Ares growled. "You will go home and we will discuss this as a family."
"Why, did they keep this knowledge from me? Did Giles get some Godly bulletin that told him who I was? Did it have a warning not to tell me?"
"No," Ares ground out, "there's nothing like that!" He grabbed Xander again, but his hands phased right through his arms. "How are you doing that?"
"Easy." He looked his consort over. "You've got ten more seconds, then I go to Heph."
Ares made another lunge at Xander before he could possibly be ready and brought them both to Hephaestus' lair. "Heph, I need you to tie Xander up for a few hours," he called out.
Hephaestus came out and looked Xander over. "You look sane. What's wrong?"
"Bane explained Linesa to me."
Heph nodded. "Cool." He looked at Ares. "I told you to tell him sooner."
"Yeah, well, now he won't tell me the rest of everything that he lied about," Xander said coldly.
Heph glared at the God of War. "Why not?"
"Because I didn't lie in the first place and I'm not holding anything back from him now!" Ares protested. He grabbed Xander's head and forced him to face him, staring into his eyes. "You were God of the Paranormal, use the knowledge to scan me."
Xander got free and shook his head. "I want you to tell me. That would be the same as having someone else tell me," he said quietly. "Verbalize or I leave."
Ares slammed his fist through a shield on a wall next to him. "I can't do that, Xander, I'm not like you!"
"Fine," Xander spat. "Apparently, you're still hiding stuff." He looked at Heph. "You knew my grandmother, right?" He nodded. "Will you tell me about her?"
"That's not my place and I only met her once," Hephaestus said gently, creating a chair behind Xander. "Sit and I'll tell you about that part."
Xander smiled at him. "Thanks." He sat down and Ares pounced on him again, this time forcing their minds to merge so he would see it all.
Hephaestus sighed and sent a call out to Apollo. Ares had no finesse in these matters.
Apollo appeared and looked at them. "What's going on this time?" he asked, sitting cross-legged in midair. "He start it or did the kid?"
"Ares did. Bane explained Linesa to him."
Apollo shuddered. "Then she's back?"
"Yeah, she's back," Heph said, smiling at him. "I heard what she said, they're friends now."
Apollo shuddered harder. "No, please, not that," he whined. He floated over to Ares back and touched the back of his head, freeing his mind from Xander's. "You know better," he scolded the God of War. "You get stuck doing that, dude." He nodded at Xander. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Xander said as he stood up. He looked at the other Gods. "I'm going home now." He disappeared, leaving Ares there.
Ares looked at Hephaestus. "You couldn't have stuck up for me?" he asked snidely.
"Nope. Xander deserves to know his family." He picked up a sword to work on, bringing it over to his anvil. "Out, I need to get this done. It's Strife's sword."
Ares went to his temple and landed on the couch beside Xander. "I didn't want to have to do that," he said quietly, "but I can't tell you that stuff out loud. It doesn't come out right when I try." He didn't get an answer. "Xander?"
"He's pissed," Giles said from the kitchen. "This is going to go on for a very long time, Ares." He brought over a smoothie and handed it to Xander, who nodded at him. "Here," he said, handing one to Ares. "Drink, you're going to need it."
Ares gulped the slick brew down as fast as he could, then made his glass go back to the sink to be cleaned later. "Xander," he said, turning to look at him, taking the clean glass from his hand and putting it in the sink too. "Please, Xander, tell me what I did wrong. I was only trying to make you understand."
"Yay," Xander said dryly.
Ares and Giles shared a look. They would have a long talk later so the God of the Paranormal could explain the complicated mind to him yet again.
Xander picked up one of the remote controls for the game system and turned it on to play a few rounds.
Ares looked around his bedroom then went to find his errant mate. He found Xander drinking one last smoothie and took the glass from him before picking him up and carrying him into the bedroom. "You will not sleep somewhere else," he growled as he put the young God down on the bed and walked around to his side. "We can discuss this now."
"Nope." Xander flexed his powers and was clad in his favorite pajamas, footies and all, and a blanket was over him. "Night." He rolled away from everyone and shut his eyes, quickly falling to sleep.
Ares glared at his consort's back, then turned it on Giles, who shrugged. "I want to talk to him," he pointed out.
"When he's ready, I'm sure you'll hear all about it," Oz reminded the God of War as he climbed in behind Xander and laid an arm across his body. "Can I snuggle?" He didn't get an answer, so he didn't move.
Giles grimaced and shook his head. "I'm sure he'll start talking to us again this century," he said carefully, getting in behind Oz so he could hold Ares. "Come to bed, Ares, let us comfort you."
Ares waved his clothes away and climbed in, pulling Giles in closer to hold. "He'll talk to us soon," he whispered, "or I'm going to do something to him."
Giles shook his head. "Don't, Ares. You know how he reacts to threats."
Ares nodded at the wiseness of this remark, but his eyes were still promising that something horrible was going to happen.
Ares landed in front of Aphrodite and Cupid, glaring at his son. "You, go away."
Cupid looked at him, his whole body a sneer at his father. "And who are you to order me?"
"Your father. Leave."
Cupid snorted but he walked out, going to find Bliss.
"What's wrong, Ar?" Aphrodite asked. "Xander's already told me that if I help you make him become suddenly unpissed he's going to give me bad hair forever."
He crossed his arms. "I don't want anything to make him unpissed. I want your cabin." She handed over the keys. "This'll work for us?"
"If he hasn't found a way to block it." She stepped closer to her brother. "Have you noticed how strong he is?" Ares nodded, his face showing his discontent. "One day at the cabin and you should be better at least," she offered.
Ares patted her on the shoulder and left, going to find his mate and take him to the place that read minds and broadcasted them.
Ares dropped the struggling Xander and used the key to lock them into the cabin, turning to face the very pissed off God. "Listen," he ordered. "This cabin will not allow us to hide anything from each other. Anything you or I think will be heard by the other." Xander snorted. "I've arranged for us to have this for one day so we could straighten this out."
"Blow yourself," Xander muttered mentally. Then a chorus of show tunes started.
Ares groaned and flopped down onto a chair, glaring at his mate. "Talk to me, Xander."
"Her name was Lola/ she was a showgirl/ With yellow feathers in her hair/ and a dress cut down to there."
Ares covered his face and thought about going back in time and committing murder, but he'd get caught.
"Yes, you would," Xander interrupted his song to say. "Honey came in and she caught me red-handed/creeping with the girl next door/ Picture this, we were both butt-naked/banging on the bathroom floor."
Ares glared at him as he lunged up and caught Xander, pulling him onto his lap. "I never cheated on you," he said quietly. "Except with the bed bunnies and when you let me go out."
Xander shrugged. "Yay. I was just singing." He got up and walked over to the lone couch, the only other piece of furniture outside of the bed and the chair Ares was in, and laid down. "Tell me when you're ready to talk."
"I'm ready now!" Ares insisted.
"Good, then tell me about Joxer and Linesa."
Ares shook his head. "I can't tell you more than Bane did, Xander."
"Pity. She said you could."
"She's a troublemaker," Ares pointed out.
"And we're friends, same as Strife and I are," Xander said coolly. "I doubt she'd lie to me already."
"That's because you don't know Bane. She lives off the energy our fighting is producing."
"Yay," Xander said, waving his finger in a circle in the air. "Tell me about them or I'm leaving."
"It's Aphrodite's place. If you try to leave, you break it."
Xander sighed and another song popped up. "Crazy/I'm crazy for feelin so lonely/I'm crazy, crazy for feelin so blue/I knew you'd love me as long as you wanted/and then some day you'd leave me for somebody new."
"Don't do that!" Ares yelled. He jumped up and walked over to look down at Xander, giving him a hot glare. "Listen, all I want to do is fix this. If you're not amenable to that, then we can leave."
"I'm more than ready to listen," Xander reminded him. "You're not talking."
"I would if you'd listen to me instead of sending out mental garbage. And who was that last woman?"
"Patsy Cline. I listen to her a lot. Why?"
"Because her voice popped up in your head." Ares pushed Xander up and sat on the couch. "Xander, I'm not seeing what I did to piss you off. Yeah, I took time telling you about Linesa, but that's because it's real hard for me to talk about her. She's....difficult for most of us to talk about considering she betrayed us."
"She saved you all by doing it," Xander pointed out.
"True, which is why she wasn't destroyed right off when she did it," Ares said grimly. "That and Athena liked her."
Xander looked at his consort. "She hates me."
"That's because Zeus jumped on her about Linesa." He shrugged. "Longer story than most."
"I heard it already. Bane was watching." He shifted. "Ares, we've got so many problems it's not funny."
"You're still my consort," Ares told him as firmly as possible without making it an order.
"Yeah, but we'll have a friendship sort of relationship." Xander got off the couch and looked down at him. "Really, that's okay with me. You have Giles and Oz, and so do I, so we'll be fine."
Ares groaned and held his head. "Xander, I told you that I don't need emotions to hit that state."
"Well, gee, it does for everyone else," Xander told him. "You're *my* consort, Ares. And you achieved something really rare with someone else, something that takes real emotion."
"So *that's* what's wrong," Ares sighed, looking relieved. "Xander, I'm more than willing to try and get there with you." He got glared at for it. "What?"
"You can't *try* for it, Ares, it has to happen. And it did, with Oz." He stood up. "Do you know what that feels like?"
Ares shook his head. "No. I've never really wanted to do that before, not until I..." He shook his head. "That's not important."
"You wanted it with Oz," Xander breathed, backing away from him. He shook himself. "Whatever." He sat back down and the music started again.
"Xander!" Ares shouted. "Quit with the music already."
"Blow me," Xander muttered.
Ares threw himself back down in his chair and glared at his consort. He wasn't up to this one after all. Maybe in a few more centuries....
Xander walked into Asclepias' temple, answering his call. "You yelled?" he quipped.
"Yeah, we've got to talk," 'Sclep said, waving at the chair across the table from him. Once his friend was sitting down, he looked at his eyes and nodded. "I knew it. You're the reason that your whole temple is emanating depression."
"No, that's Ares' fault," Xander said quietly. "You know that state that we can hit? That really special one?" His friend nodded. "Ares hit that with Oz."
"Oh, no," Asclepias groaned. "No wonder." He reached over to touch Xander's hand. "Listen, I know this is bad, but he could hit that state with you eventually."
"Which means he'll have to work to get there and that means we never will," Xander pointed out calmly. "I thought we had so much more," he said, looking down. "I don't know what to do. I can't break up with him."
Asclepias squeezed his hand. "I know this is hard, but you've got to move past this. You two have a good relationship otherwise. You really don't need passion with him, you have Oz."
"No, he has Oz," Xander said, looking back up at him. "'Sclep, I'm upset, I have a reason to be upset, but then he compounded it by not telling me about Linesa."
"Joxer's sister. She was the one who betrayed the Pantheon to save them all."
"Oh. What's she to you?"
"Oh!" Asclepias shook his head. "I didn't know anything about that really. I was dead then."
Xander's mouth hung open. "You were dead?"
"Yeah, I brought a dead guy back to life and Zeus killed me." He shrugged. "Hades sent me back for some reason." He glanced around the room. "That must be why Ares tried to merge minds with you."
"Which didn't work. He hit my mental walls."
"Ouch," 'Sclep said, wincing in sympathy. "I guess it could be worse, you could have been stuck in his mind. Someone else was once." He shrugged it off. "At least that's what Dad said." He let go of Xander's hand. "So, now what?"
"Now, I go back to my loveless relationship and exist," Xander said with a shrug. "It's really easy to live for the job these days." He leaned closer. "'Sclep, I think I need some help otherwise. I'm having surges again." The Healer looked alarmed. "Nothing's gone wrong, but Ares can't grab me when he tries to. I can do things that the other Gods can't."
"Oh, I think I know what that is," he said with a smile. "I came across an interesting entry the other day from the prior Gods."
"Yeah, they had a God that was over Mischief but he had certain problems that they had to go see another Pantheon about." He crooked a finger and a book floated over. He opened it to the entry he remembered, pointing it out after turning the book around. "That's what I found."
"A true God of Chaos can only be named and given Godhood by another of his own kind, otherwise they have problems relating to their powers." He looked up. "Huh?"
"That means that Strife or Discord would have to name you and officially give you your Godhood for it to work perfectly. That's why you've been having so many problems."
"Problems?" Apollo said as he appeared. The book was shown to him. "Huh. That explains a lot. Discord and Ares had to take Strife to Loki to get him named and initiated." He looked at Xander, and his face lit up. "Oh, dude, I forgot about where your power comes from!" he said excitedly. "That explains so much!" He slapped himself on the forehead. "We have to show this to Cupid."
"I will," Asclepias said, marking the spot in the book. "It does explain a lot." He smiled at Xander. "If we do that, then maybe this new sort of surge will stop."
"Surge?" Apollo asked. "That's why I came, I heard the complaint. You're havin' them again?"
"Yeah," Xander sighed. "I've been phasing through things and Ares can't keep hold of me when I'm pissed at him."
"Ooooh," Apollo groaned. "That's from you two." He shook his head. "What did he do now?"
"Nothing, it's personal," Xander told him. "It's just a problem in our 'ship." He shrugged and looked at Asclepias. "Will we have to go outside the Pantheon too?"
"No. We've got three Gods of Chaos-based powers here."
"Discord can't," Apollo reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. Okay, well, we have two."
"Huh?" Apollo asked him.
"Strife and Bane," Xander explained.
"Oh. Them." He grimaced. "I really would like Bane to go back into hiding."
"She's never really hidden," Xander told him with a slight smirk. "She's been here and there the whole time you supposedly had her locked away." He stood up. "Can I take this to her and Cupid?"
"Sure," Asclepias said, handing over the book. "Yell if you can't find it." Xander nodded and disappeared. He looked up at his father. "So, you think it'll be better now?"
"No," Apollo said dryly. "I think he's gonna scare Hera a bit too much." He waved and disappeared.
Asclepias shrugged and went back to his notes.
Cupid looked at the notes and frowned, rereading it. "And this means what?" he asked, looking up at Xander, then over at Strife. "I remember hearing that you had to be officially given your Godhood by Loki because we couldn't."
Strife nodded. "Because it woulda destroyed me eventually." He looked over at Xander. "Do you want me or her to do it?"
"I want you or the both of you to do it," he said with a grin. "I've known you longer. Bane and I get along great, but you and I are bestest buddies."
Strife grinned. "So cool!" he said, looking up at Cupid. "He wasn't given his official Godhood yet anyway. No one ever gave him an emblem."
"Point," Cupid grunted. He stood up. "I'll be back, I need to go check this out with someone who was there at the time."
"Tell Hera I said hi," Xander called as he disappeared. He looked at Strife. "You're really okay with this?"
"Yup." Strife clapped him on the back, and the boy didn't move at all. "Hey, no fair, you usually shove."
"I know," Xander mock-sighed, punching him on the arm. "Strife," he said, pulling his friend off the floor. "I'm *so* sorry, Strife. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Strife giggled. "You didn't hurt me. That wasn't that hard."
Xander gave him a hug. "Thanks. I'll be right back. Stay?"
"Sure." Strife waited until he was alone to rub his arm. "Ow!"
Xander landed in front of Hades' desk, giving him a bland look. "Why did you bring Asclepias back?" he asked.
Hades looked up and gave him a clueless look. "Huh?"
"Why did you bring 'Sclep back? He said you sent him back but he didn't know why."
"Oh." Hades tapped a few keys on his computer, frowning at the file. "I still have him listed as being dead." He leaned back, looking at Xander. "Apparently, I never have yet."
"Gee, but he's here. He's healed me a bunch of times. Including from the nearly-fatal Titan's bone attack, which was before I had to take on Dahak."
Hades paled as the implication hit him. "I'll go find out. You...." He stopped when Bane appeared behind him. "You needed me?" he asked, looking a little scared. Every smart God was a little scared of Bane.
"We need you to witness his naming and the giving of his official Godhood," she said, smiling at him. "I'll let Strife have his body back in a few minutes," she said, holding out a hand. "I'm so happy!" she squealed, giving him a hug. "Congrats." She disappeared, and Xander followed her after nodding at Hades.
Hades smiled and followed them to the meeting area, sitting down in one of the empty seats. "Why are we doing this now?" he asked Asclepias, who was sitting next to him.
"Because a God with chaos powers can only truly be given his Godhood by another chaos God," the God of Healing said quietly. "That's why he's had so many problems with his powers."
"Ah." Hades nodded and watched the proceedings. "I thought we had done this already."
"No," Apollo said, shocking him lightly. "Shh. It's been a while since we had one of these."
Cupid appeared on his throne and everyone clapped. He held up a hand for silence. "There's a few things that we've overlooked and something new has come to all of our attentions." He waved Xander up in front of him. "It has come to some of our attention that Xander has never officially been given his Godhood; and as a stipulation of that, if another Chaos God isn't the one giving it, then the new God will never attain true control." A few of the older Gods went pale. "Yeah, so we're doing this now and Xander's getting his from Strife. I have to ask, anyone gonna complain about this?" No one said anything. "Good. No more overflowing anything."
Xander looked up at him. "Funny," he said dryly. "I haven't done that in ages."
Strife caught the package Cupid tossed him. "Face me," he said, standing up to walk over in front of Xander. "Do you swear by all that you hold to be right that you will uphold your new duties to the best of your abilities?" Xander nodded.
"You can't do that," Ares said as he appeared. "His consort was never offered the chance to give it with the Chaotic Gods."
"I don't have to do that," Cupid said, checking with Hades just in case, but the God of the Dead shook his head. "I don't have to do that," he said more firmly. "You made sure he was made a God, but you can't give him his Godhood officially. He'll never have control."
Ares shrugged. "It's customary for new Gods who already have consorts to have them help prepare the candidate."
"Prepare?" Xander asked Strife.
"He's bluffin'," Strife muttered, reaching up to Xander's neck with the long silver piece of metal. "With this collar I name you Xander, God of the Overlooked." He flinched as a flash went off around Xander as soon as the collar was in place. "Wow," he said, backing away. "How do you feel?"
"Perfect," Xander said with a surprised smile. "Like I have perfect everything." He grinned at his friend and hugged him. "Thank you for not changing my name."
"Hey, I like your name. It suits you." Strife turned Xander around to look at Cupid. "It's done," he said semi-formally.
"Can we party now?" Xander asked.
"Sure!" Cupid said, walking down the few stairs to stand beside them. "I present to you the newest official God on the mount, Xander."
Everyone not related clapped politely then disappeared.
Xander shrugged. "Okay, so it's a party for us." He looked at Strife. "You comin'?"
"Yeah," he said, screwing up Xander's hair. "I wouldn't miss a birth party for anything."
Ares stomped over to them. "Which is why you were supposed to invite the consorts to participate," he said coldly, glaring at his son.
"Yay," Cupid said. "Like you were going to give him the ceremonial bath and oiling." He waved a hand. "Strife, go ask Dion if we can have some wine." Strife disappeared. "Ares, we couldn't wait, you know that. We didn't have time to follow all the protocols."
Xander looked at him. "Why not?"
"Because Athena's giving birth tonight," Ares told him gently. "We'll have to welcome him or her into the Pantheon after it's born. That'll mean that we'll all have to be at our top point of power."
"What about Oz and Giles? They weren't given emblems."
"We've handled that already," Oz said as he appeared. "Hera gave us ours a few months back without telling anyone so Zeus wouldn't have a chance to protest. She had Apollo and 'Sclep search for why she couldn't give you yours. She tried to call you while holding it and her voice wouldn't form the request."
Xander shrugged. "All right, whatever." He looked around the meeting area. "Can we still have a party?"
"Sure," Oz agreed. "You want to hold it here or at our temple?"
"Either's fine with me," Xander said. He looked at Strife, who reappeared with two bottles of wine. "Want to do this here or at the temple?"
"Let's go to my temple," Strife suggested. He disappeared again, everyone following him shortly afterwards. He waved a hand and streamers, a banner, and food appeared. "Party!" he called out, bringing Aphrodite and 'Sclep. "Here, have some," he said, pouring out some wine. "Xander, you can have a small glass," he said as the newly ordained God opened his mouth.
"I'd better have some," Xander said, nudging him as he took his glass. He watched as everyone else got a glass and raised him. "Here's to me having control," he proposed.
"Yeah, no more waterfalls," Strife snorted.
Ares shot a glare at him. "You weren't much better with your plant problem."
Strife stuck his tongue out. "Blow off if you can't be happy," he said, turning back to raise his glass again. "And to having control."
"To having control," everyone said before taking a drink.
Oz waved a hand at a corner and his stereo appeared, already playing something quietly. "Music," he said, letting Strife hug him. "Every party needs music."
"Yeah, they do," Xander said, looking around. "Oh, and I need to tell you something," he said, looking at his consort. "Willow came up and apologized to me the other day."
"She's still free?" Ares growled.
"She got permission," Oz said, stepping nearer to Xander to give him a hug. "Want to dance?" he asked quietly. Xander shook his head. "You sure?" Xander nodded. "Okay."
Strife followed Xander over to his corner seat, sitting in front of him. "Dude, you have to go talk to them about this. It can't be a party if you're not happy."
"I am happy," Xander said, grinning at him. "But I can't go talk to them." He sipped his half- glass of wine. "It's not like that any more."
"Whatever," Strife sighed, then blinked and became Bane without protest. "Come dance with me?" she asked, giving him an impish grin.
He put down his glass and got up to dance with her, joining Aphrodite and Oz on the floor. Xander got into the dancing with her, not minding at all when they switched partners and he ended up with Aphrodite. He got closer to her, almost grinding against her, grinning at her when she looked surprised. "What?"
"Oooh," she moaned and backed up, pulling Bane over to dance with, leaving the couple together.
Oz stepped behind Xander and started to move with him, resting his face against Xander's back. "Will you please talk to me tonight?" he whispered. "I can't take this coldness anymore." He was surprised when Xander turned around and put his arms on his shoulders, but the smile he got warmed him like nothing else had in days. "I'm sorry," he said, looking up. "I didn't want to take what should have been yours." He wrapped his arms around Xander's waist. "I still want you, and I feel like we'd hit that spot really well together."
Xander shook his head. "I'm not so sure of that anymore, Oz."
"I am," Oz said confidently. "We're good together, Xander, and I want to talk about this." Xander nodded. "Really?"
"Yeah, I think I'd like to talk to you about it," Xander said, leading him off the floor and back to the corner to sit with him. "Oz, it hurt me," he said quietly. "You took what I should have gotten, and it hurts still."
"Yeah, I know. It hurts me now that I'm thinking again." He picked up Xander's hands to hold. "Listen, if you want, I'll step out of the way." Xander squeezed his hands hard. "Ow," he complained lightly.
"Never say that. You'll wreck Ares like I never could."
Oz took a deep breath. "That proves that you love him," he reminded his younger lover.
"Maybe, but it's not that passionate love anymore, Oz."
"Was that because of me?" Oz asked gently. "I thought we agreed to share the big grumpy one."
"We did, but..." Xander pulled his hands back. "Oz, I feel like something's missing now and I'm not sure what."
"Is it something with us, or with me?" Oz asked. Xander shook his head. "Then it's a buckle in the relationship, right?" Xander nodded, giving him a thoughtful look. "Are you sure it wasn't this?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure it's not this. I've been feeling it for a while now." Oz nodded. "It wasn't just this, Oz, but this helped the feeling."
"Huh. Can I help you figure it out?"
Xander shook his head. "Nope. I think I need to go think alone." He stood up and walked over to where the food was, picking up a piece of nectar to look at. He clenched his hand around it and concentrated, the remains of the nectar flowing into his other hand as a smoothie. Ares clapped from behind him, making him turn around and look at him. "Thanks, I thought I should probably have some now since later's going to be hectic." He touched the thin band of Hephaestian silver. "What do I do with this normally?"
"Normally, you make it disappear but it's always around your neck." Ares reached out to touch it but Xander pulled it away. "I wanted to feel it, Xander, not take it from you."
"I guess I'm jumpy. I'm going to go think." He sent a mental message to Strife before disappearing. He was sure his best friend would come find him as soon as Athena's child was born.
Ares looked around, figuring out that everyone was staring at him. "He went to think," he defended. "It wasn't something I said." He picked up the remains of Xander's smoothie and gulped it down, watching Asclepias as he got another message from his father. "Is it time?"
"Almost," he said cheerfully. "She's fully dilated and screaming at Apollo now."
Ares snickered. "I remember women doing that."
"Gee, I can scream at you if you want," Oz offered dryly, coming over to get another drink. "Has anyone thought about the nursery yet?"
"Yup, it's all ready by now. Giles demanded the right to fix it up." Ares smiled as Asclepias disappeared, raising his glass in toast. "To the newest member of the Pantheon, may she or he not be too much like his or her mother."
Everyone cheered and drank to the toast.
Xander looked up as he felt someone appear next to him and shifted over to let Asclepias sit down too. "How's Athena?" he asked.
"Fine. Sweaty and sore, but fine." He lifted his robes off the little bundle he was carrying. "We thought you'd want to hold him first," he said quietly, handing him over.
Xander took the baby with a look of awe, looking down at his brown eyes. "Why aren't they blue?"
"We aren't born with blue eyes, we start out with whatever color we're going to keep."
Xander looked down at this new child and smiled, his whole life suddenly finding order. "It doesn't matter," he whispered. "None of this fight. I feel what I feel and Ares does what he does. If he doesn't love me like that, then I'll deal." He looked up at his friend. "Thanks, 'Sclep. I'm gonna go give him a bath."
"I've got everything set up in Strife's bathroom. He'll help you." He disappeared and Xander stood up carefully, taking the baby with him. He landed in front of the gathered people, right behind Strife. "Hey," he said, making Strife jump, which he grinned at. "Who would like to meet our newest family member?"
Strife's mouth hung open as he looked down. "Wow. They gave you to him?" He shook his head. "That didn't come out right."
"That's okay," Ares said, stepping closer. "Hello, little one. It's time for you to have your first official bath." He held out his arms but Xander shook his head.
"'Sclep said I get to do it," he said, giving his consort a smile. He looked at Strife. "Everything's in your bathroom."
"Hey, cool," Strife said, pointing at a door that just appeared. "Go bathe and oil him, we'll all float in and out." He frowned and wiggled his fingers. "There, now it's ready to be visited."
Xander walked through the Gods and Goddesses, who all got out of his way, and went into the bathroom. He smiled at his newest son as he mentally filled the tub with water and soft-smelling bubbles. He knelt down and unwrapped his son, gasping. "Ares, come look," he called out. "Oz, Strife!"
Everyone crowded into the doorway, looking down at the little golden spikes off the baby's back and heels.
"Hermes syndrome," Strife said, nodding. "Cupie must have had those when he was born."
"He had nubs but they never had points, and he never had ones on his heels," Ares said, walking in to touch them. "Very sharp." He looked at the tub. "You have to actually run the water this time, Xander."
"Oh." He waved and the tub was empty, then he reached over and turned on the spigots. "Can he have bubbles?"
"Sure," Ares sighed, reaching down to touch the baby's head.
"No fair, it's my turn to help," Strife said, walking in and kicking his uncle out. He shut the door, just allowing Oz and Ares into the antechamber Xander had created for them. "Cool. Thanks."
"Welcome. I think our temple needs one of those some days with the way people come talk to us while we're bathing." Xander reached over to check the temperature of the water, frowning. "It's cold," he complained. "Where's your hot?"
"Huh? Oops, forgot to light the heater. I don't usually use it." Strife grimaced and popped out, then came back as the water out of one faucet started to steam. "There, how's that?"
"Great," Xander said with a smile. He cocked his head to one side and handed over the baby. "I'll be right back," he said as he disappeared.
"Did he lose the right to bathe him?" Oz asked Ares.
"No, 'Sclep and Apollo apparently wanted him to do it. That doesn't mean that we can't help though." He got up, bringing Oz with him, and went to look at their newest son again. "Hey, you," he said fondly, reaching down to touch his round stomach.
"You look like Buddha," Oz said in greeting.
Strife snickered. "I think all babies look like that when they're first born." He checked the water and turned down the hot some, looking up as Xander appeared. The God of the Overlooked leaned down and whispered in his ear, earning a brilliant smile. "Hey, that's cool." He handed over the baby. "You gonna bathe with him or should we hold him while you bathe him?"
"I can do that?"
"By bathing with him," Ares explained, "you agree to take over all fatherly roles for the child." He touched the baby's head, then Strife's. "I did that with you."
"Ya did?" Strife asked.
Ares nodded. "You didn't get your official bath until a good week after you were born and by then, your mother had given you to me." He slapped Strife on the back of the head. "And you peed on me during it."
Strife and Xander both laughed. Xander looked down. "Would you like that?" he asked his son.
"That means that you'll be hearing the phrase 'Do you know what your son just did' a lot," Oz warned.
"Hey, as long as I'm not alone with the raising stuff."
"Nope, Unc's a champion baby raiser," Strife said proudly. "And I can babysit."
"No," Ares said firmly. "I remember how you used to torture Deimos."
"I won't do it to him," he complained. "I really won't." He gave his uncle his best innocent look. "I promise to be good to him. I won't hang him upside down out a window or nothin'."
"So that's what happened to Deimos," Oz muttered. He took off his shirt. "I'll join you in there if you want," he offered, holding out his shirt to Xander. "I'll gladly take over some of the baby stuff."
"I think you should all do it," Strife said, mostly to ease the hurt look Ares was starting to get. "That way you're all the dads."
"Yeah, I'd like that," Xander said quietly, handing the baby over so he could strip. "Giles?" he called out, summoning him to the bathroom too.
Giles appeared, smiling at the small baby. "Hello, little one. Would you like to take a bath with all of us?" He looked at the bathtub. "Strife, can we enlarge it without having to start over?"
"Nope," Ares grumbled. "That's okay, we can all fit. Oz can sit in Xander's lap." He stripped down and climbed in, helping Giles down onto his lap and taking the baby temporarily to let the two younger Gods get in with them.
Oz climbed in first and patted his lap, letting Xander sit on him. "There isn't going to be much free space to bathe him in," Oz pointed out. The tub shifted a little bit. "We can do that?"
"No, but I can do it some for accommodation purposes," Strife said with a grin. "Get in, Xander."
Xander carefully climbed in and took the baby back, holding him in the water between his legs. He shifted as Oz wrapped his legs around him, then let Ares and Giles spread their legs out on either side of his body. "This is really strange," he said.
"We'll give him a better bath with all four of us later," Ares told him, handing over the washcloth and soap that had disappeared. "This is the traditional stuff. We'll give him a good bath later to make sure his skin doesn't dry out from this."
Xander held the baby while Giles soaped up the cloth. He looked up and frowned. "Ares, you and Oz won't be able to wash him," he noted.
"We can switch," Oz offered. "Xan, you go sit between Ares' legs and I'll get the spot in front of Giles so we can all wash him." He stood up, taking the baby to hold while everyone switched around. He saw Ares' relieved look and the hug he gave Xander, and relaxed when he saw Xander's acceptance of it. "Okay," he said, sitting down to hold the baby. "Xander, you take his left arm, I'll take his right then the other two can do his legs. We can fight over his back and stomach later."
"We have to wash all of him," Ares told them. "Xander, you wash his face and hair, I'll take his arms and chest, Oz, you can have his back, Giles, you get the rest of him." Everyone nodded and Xander carefully started to clean around the baby's face and neck.
Cupid looked up from reading as the Gods all followed the quad in with the baby, smiling at them. "Has he been properly bathed and anointed?" he asked. Ares nodded. "Do you have a witness?"
"I do so witness," Strife said formally. "All the protocols were followed. No powers have touched the baby except to move him or to bring things for him."
Xander and Ares stepped up to the dias. "Cupid, we ask that you grant us parental rights for this child," Ares said calmly. "His mother has consented to let him live with us and we do desire him as our formal son."
"I do so grant it," Cupid said, holding out his hands. "Xander, I need the baby," he said when he wasn't given the baby.
Xander gave him a sheepish grin as he handed over his son. "Sorry." He stepped back as Cupid walked down to take him over to the viewing pool, following him closely. He watched as he was baptized in the water of the pool, the same water that flowed throughout the earth, then his mouth fell open as a picture formed in the pool. "He is?" he whispered.
Cupid stared at the picture, then up at Ares, motioning him closer. Ares burst out laughing and Cupid smiled at the group that were trying to look. "It's an honored occasion when the pool shows what a God will be over." He held up the child. "This is your new God of Reconciliation."
Everyone gasped then burst out in laughter and claps.
"What's his name?" Cupid asked.
"Huh?" Xander said. "Do we get to do that too?"
"Maybe, but we're not naming him Bert," Ares said dryly. "No matter what Melvin thinks."
"Cool, that can be his nickname." Xander looked at the boy. "Aislin," he pronounced. "It means dream or vision."
"So be it," Ares agreed.
"Isn't that a girly name?" Strife asked.
"No," Ares said firmly. "You who have a male pawn named Francis should probably shut up."
"Sorry," Strife said lightly.
"I like it," Xander said firmly. "L-Y-N?"
"Yeah, I like that spelling," Ares said with a nod.
"That's even more femme looking," Oz pointed out. "Make the 'Y' an 'I'."
Xander scratched it in the air to look at it, correcting the spelling a few times to play with various 'Y's, but he ended up with it the original way. "Okay, I like Oz's spelling best," he said finally.
Ares nodded, having watched the spelling re-arrangements. "Yeah, me too." He looked at Giles, who was wiping a tear off. "That okay with you two?"
"Yup, great to me," Oz said.
"Me also," Giles said, coming over to take him. "Come, Aislin, let's get you into something softer after putting you into a bubble bath." He walked away.
Cupid jogged after him, coming back with both of them. "We're not through yet," he sighed, earning a few chuckles. "This is the first baby on the mount since Bliss." He looked at Ares. "There are other children up here though. When will your house be presenting the twins and Martna?"
"As the twins ate nectar recently, soon enough. Martna is still only immortal."
"Ah." Cupid looked at the other Gods. "Do the rest of the twelve concur with that statement?" All but one of them shook their heads, that was the one filling in for Athena, Harmonia. "You don't?" he asked in shock.
"Personally, yes, I do. Athena doesn't though," she said with a shrug. "Not a big to me."
"Ah." Cupid looked around. "A full vote of all Gods can overturn a vote of the twelve. Does anyone besides *Athena* have any problems with the twins and Martna being presented?" Ares coughed but Strife glared at him. No one held up their hands. "I see. We shall make a comment time for it, as dictated by the laws. Hermes, let it be known to all Gods that they may come to me in the next three days if they do not want the twins and Martna to be presented. Unless someone other than Athena steps forward, we will have them presented in five days time." He stopped at the clapping. "Good. Now then, Aislin, do you accept your parents?" The baby sniffled as he was held over the water again. "Some other may be claimed by you as a stand-in parent if you wish. They will be those that will teach you what you need to do once you become an adult." The baby cooed and peed on Strife. "Ah, a wise choice to have as a Godly stand-in parent." He watched as the pee fountained off and hit Hades. "An even wiser choice. They'll both give you good insight into your future job." The pee stopped, after narrowly missing the blond guy standing in the back of the Gods. "Did you want him too?" he cooed.
"I'm not a God," the blond guy reminded him.
"Hey, Iolaus," Oz said, nodding him over. "Want to be our babysitter and nanny?"
Iolaus chuckled. "My new Goddess might be a bit pissed at that," he pointed out. "But I'll gladly help them if they come to me." He bowed to Ares. "Freely given, you have my help whenever you need it with the children. I will protect them as my own," he said formally.
"Good," Ares said, taking his son back. "Come on, let's go get you a real bath with good soap," he said, leading the way out.
Cupid waited until everyone had followed, watching as Xander took the baby back as soon as they were out of sight. "They're good," he said, getting more laughter. "Party!"
A cask of wine appeared with a blond, tanned God beside it. "Did someone call for me?" he asked.
"Yeah, the baby's been born, and Aislin is the new God of Reconciliation," Cupid told him. "We need to celebrate. Oh, and unless you really want to bitch, the twins and Martna are being presented in five days time."
"Excellent," he said, drawing the word out. "I like Melvin, he's such a card." He tapped the cask and poured the first mug, tasting it just to make sure it was good. "Wine's good," he called, getting out of the way.
Everyone surged forward. It was Party Time!
Ares climbed into the warm bubbles that Xander had run, sitting next to his consort in the large tub and taking the baby to hold. "You're going to spoil him," he said gruffly.
"This from the God who let Melvin go wild in Toys-R-Us?" Xander grinned. "It's just a bubble bath, Ares. He deserves it, it's a hard thing to be born."
Ares grunted as he looked down at the child. "At least you'll be spoiled in the good way," he noted. He kept the baby when Xander tried to take him back. "Are we okay again?" he asked quietly.
"You feel how you do about Oz, and about me, and nothing I can do can change that," Xander said with a shrug. "I still love you, and I'm still hurt by you feeling that much more for Oz, but I'll be okay." He managed to take the baby back and started to wipe down his stomach. "Giles went to get him clothes."
"Good," Ares said, relaxing into the warm water. "I still love you, Xander," he said quietly, after thinking for a few minutes. "As much as I do Oz."
Xander nodded, but he didn't look up from his sacred duty. "Okay."
Ares raised one eyebrow and reached over to tip up his lover's head. "I love you just as much, Xander, it never occurred to me that you'd want that so I never reached for that spot. If I had, I'd have done it our first time and you wouldn't be having this doubt. Really." Xander shrugged. "Really. I could have done this with you from the start. I never thought you'd want us to be that tied up with each other. For that matter, I thought I was being animal with Oz."
Xander shrugged off the finger on his chin. "It's okay, Ares, really. You don't have to lie to me. Actually, never lie to me again." He looked down and carefully lifted the baby out of the water. "Maybe you should hold him, before I drown him."
Ares laughed. "He'll float. It's a Godly thing." He held the baby out, watching as Xander carefully scrubbed the prior harsh soap off his little body. "I wonder what sort of wings he'll have," he mused.
"Big ones," Xander said, touching one sharp protrusion on the baby's back. "And sharp probably too." He glanced up. "These aren't like Cupid's?"
"No, not at all," Ares said, fingering one sharp point. "We'll have to be careful when we put him on his back to sleep."
"We can arrange to put him on his side," Xander pointed out. "That might be more comfy for him."
"Yeah, maybe," Ares agreed. He licked the drop of blood off his finger. "For a God of Reconciliation, you're going to be a very big guy," he noted.
"Maybe he's going to have a secondary job, something in punishment for continuing to fight," Oz suggested as he walked in and knelt beside the tub. "I sealed the temple so only sober people can get in."
"That won't work with Strife or Cupid," Ares told him. "Not that I think they'll come in here drunk. They know I'll hurt them if they do."
"Okay. Bliss is in the nursery. He was reading a story to Martna." He touched Aislin's head. "Melvin's waiting on Bert to get ready for bed. He wants to tell him a story."
"Cool," Xander said, shooting him a quick grin.
Ares looked from Oz to Xander and back. "Are you two all right again?"
"We have been," Oz said. "He wasn't upset with me."
"Yes I was," Xander said quietly. "But then I figured that you didn't plan on hurting me so it's all good again." He flipped the baby over to carefully wash between his wings. "Ares, can you hold him?" The other two Gods held the baby still while Xander bathed his back, watching as every inch of him was cleaned again. "There," Xander said finally, rinsing out the cloth. "All clean."
Ares held Aislin up to look at him. "How do you feel now?" The baby gurgled and wiggled. "Good." He handed him off to Oz. "Take him to Melvin please?"
"Sure," Oz said, getting up and walking out with the baby.
Ares grabbed Xander before he could move and pulled him into his lap, holding him against his chest. "We are fine, correct?" he whispered in a cool ear.
"Yeah, we're good," Xander said, staying equally quiet. "We have what we have and being upset over not having what I thought we did is stupid."
"Good," Ares said, giving him a squeeze. His head popped up and he frowned, taking them both out of the tub and getting them dressed immediately. "We've got to go," he said, handing Xander his sword. "Come on."
Xander followed Ares to the mortal plane, looking around the park at the massacre going on. "We have to stop this," he said, heading for the nearest demon to take him on.
"Xander, he's a good one," a male voice called out. "It's the humans."
Xander looked around then flashed over to Angel's and Wesely's side. "What's going on?" he asked, touching Wesley's bleeding side to cauterize it. "What's going on?" he asked louder when no one answered him.
"They just came and attacked," Angel panted, pulling Wesley out of the way of an arrow. "We don't know why. We were here having a meeting of the demonic community."
"Okay," Xander said, sending a mental call out to Ares and to Giles, telling them both what was going on. He rushed the nearest human, knocking them down. "Who leads you?" he asked fiercely. The woman laughed and spit at him, so he backhanded her. "Who?"
"Wylin," she gasped, holding her face. "He's a God!"
"I'm a God and I've never heard of him," Xander told her, turning to blast a few of the nearby humans into unconsciousness. He saw Ares fighting with his sword, and the demon coming up behind him, so he popped over to stop him. "I wouldn't," he warned.
"Wylin told me to kill any of you that showed up," it hissed.
Giles appeared behind it and looked at it for a second. Then a iron and lead lance appeared in his hand and he stabbed the creature through the thigh, making him gasp and scream, then fall down. "It's heart's there," Giles told Xander. "Go stop the humans. Knocking them out might be for the best. I'll make sure no one takes any pictures." He concentrated and a spell wove around the area of the park, making sure that no recording devices would work.
Xander ran for a group of humans surrounding a human child, going to save it. He kicked the first one he ran into, sending him to the ground, then went off on the others using his sword and his powers. By the end of that small fight, only the child was standing and she was crying for her mother.
Xander bent down to look at her. "Shh," he said, giving her a hug. "Go hide and we'll find your mother in a few minutes. Okay?" She shook her head and pointed at one of the women. "Is that your mother?" The girl shook her head. "Okay, see him," he asked, pointing at Angel. "Go stay with him. He'll protect you until we can find your mother." He gave her a gentle push and watched as she ran over to Angel's side and hugged his leg. He nodded at the vampire when he got looked at. Then he checked to see where his mate was. Ares and Cupid were fighting back to back, and Strife was on his knees beside them. He growled and flashed over there, stunning everyone with the light of his aura as he appeared. "Strife," he said, getting down to check him over. "You okay?"
"Hurts," he complained, removing his hand from his bloody stomach. "That'll take forever to heal."
"We'll work on that later," Xander told him, using his sword to block a blow from a human woman with a stick. "Stupid, aren't you," he said as he got up. "Mine!" He fought her back, widening the circle away from the injured Strife. He got her on the ground and turned to look for another opponent, but all he could see was Ares. A very angry, protective Ares. The guy was a pussycat with his family, but if you touched them, you'd better be ready to die right then.
"These people have done *nothing*," Ares spat at the human he was holding up.
"You can't do this," he squeaked, trying to breathe past the hand on his throat. "I'm a God."
"I'm Ares," he said fiercely, making the man go pale as he dropped him in a sprawl on the ground. "You are *not* a God. I am a God. He," he pointed to Cupid, "is a God. All of us standing here are Gods! You are a trifling mortal with delusions!" He lunged at him again, sticking his sword into the earth just millimeters from the guy's throat. "You are an inferior, contemptible, piddling mortal who has *no* idea what you've just managed to do." He shook his hair back and pulled his sword out of the ground, waving it around the man's stomach. "Where shall I put it," he said coldly.
"Back in your scabbard," Xander said firmly. "We have other ways of dealing with him, Ares. There's no need to kill him when we can teach him a permanent lesson." Ares looked at him. "I want him taught, Ares, not dead. At least not yet." He stuck his own sword between the guy's legs, grazing his balls and dick with the sharp edge of a blade.
Ares smiled cruelly. "Of course, Xander. Would you like to teach him this lesson?"
"No, you do it. Or let Strife do it." He shrugged. "I'm going to do my job. There's a little girl out here that's missing her mother." He walked away, going over to where Angel was helping heal some of the demons with Giles' help. "Where's the little girl?" he asked Wesley.
"She found her mother," he said grimly, pointing at where she was crying on a still body. He looked at the young man. "Xander, are you all right?"
"Pissed, but otherwise fine. The guy who started this was claiming to be a God. I left him in Ares' hands." He walked over to kneel beside the girl, ignoring the blood standing in a puddle on the ground. "Sweetheart, I need to talk to you," he said, making her look at him. "I need to know if you have more family than your mother so I can bring you to them." He gently searched her surface thoughts but didn't come up with anybody else. He came up with something strange though, something that made him frown. "You ran away? At your age?" He looked up as Cupid walked over. "I need to go check something about her family. Can you stay?" Cupid nodded and he left, coming back quickly. "I want them dead," he said calmly and coldly. "She had every reason to run away."
"She can't be more than five," Cupid protested. He caught sight of the images from Xander's mind and frowned. "I'll be damned. Those people are under your heading," he reminded the young God. "Go do something if you want." Xander nodded but didn't quit staring at the little girl. "What are you thinking?" he asked quietly.
"Wesley," Xander called, bringing him over at a jog. "This little girl ran away with good reason." He looked at the mortal, giving him a smile. "Find her a decent family. I'm putting her in your hands." He clapped Wesley on the hand and went to the police in the town where the girl was from. "Hi," he said, making it look like he was clean cut and blood free. His sword went back in his scabbard as soon as he realized he was still holding it. "I need to have you check out a family." He pulled out his current mortal identity, that of a Social Worker. "I talked to a five year old girl who ran away from her family due to extreme abuse."
The cop pushed a form over. "Make a report and we'll see what we can't do."
Xander searched for the people's address as he wrote out the report, making sure it was thorough and very graphic. He signed it and pushed it back. The cop looked at the paper, then at him, then walked back to an office. He came out and waved Xander back there. Xander walked in and gave the man sitting behind the desk a calm smile. "Hi, I'm a Social Worker and I just..." He stopped when he saw the gun. "Huh, I didn't realize that you were protecting the child molesters. Pity." He appeared in his actual form, the door closing behind him. "You should have stopped them," he said calmly, waving a hand to turn the gun into slag. "You should always protect the children, it's in your job description.
Outside the office, the cops winced as they heard screaming. One of them went pale and got up to go to the changing area. He couldn't take it anymore. He didn't care if the other guys did shoot him for not sticking up for the Mayor. He pulled out his keys and his cellphone, going out to drive around while he called in the State Police.
Xander walked out of the office and looked around, his sword glowing in his hand. "Anyone else?" he asked coldly. Everyone backed away from him. "Know this, I *do* punish those that hurt children." He disappeared, and his report went to the cop he could feel doing the right thing.
All the cops left in the room shuddered but they went back to their paperwork. It was safer that way.
Xander flashed into the clearing and glared at Ares. "Do you know what I just had to do?" he screamed.
"Yeah, I know," Cupid said, patting him on the arm. "We saw. You broadcast very well." He took the sword from the young man and handed it off to Strife. "You did a good job, that cop deserved it," he said quietly, trying to calm him down. His father pushed him out of the way.
"Xander, he was lower than dirt and you were too nice to him," Ares growled, pulling him closer to shake him. "I would have killed him horribly. You left him alive."
"He still has some good work under his belt," Xander admitted. He looked at the little girl, getting down to sit next to her. "Hi." She looked up at him. "They won't ever hurt you again," he told her, giving her a hug. "I promise, those people will never hurt you again. And if anyone tries, you call for me. My name's Xander."
She nodded, mouthing the word. She gave him a hug then looked up at all the tall people around her, stopping at Wesley. She held out a hand and gave him a smile.
"Yes, you're to come with me, young lady. I will find you a good family and you'll be safe there." He picked her up and walked away, going over to where Angel was standing.
Ares looked at the charcoal lump that had been a human, then down at Xander. "He's punished."
"Is he living?"
"Yeah, but he's going to need medical attention." He pulled Xander up and clapped him on the back. "I want to find the rest of his people. No one should be allowed to do this."
Xander kissed him on the cheek. "Come home safely. You taking Strife?"
"Yeah. He'll come back to me once he's fixed up." Ares flashed out, after handing Xander to Cupid.
Cupid took Xander back to the Mount, stopping in the meeting area since that's where most everyone was. "There's a problem," he announced, getting their attention. "Some mortals are claiming to be Gods. This particular one decided to lead humans against demons who were gathered peacefully." One of the senior gods snorted. "Including some children that were under their protection," he told Hermes. "Not only that, but Xander just found something so grody and gruesome that it's making me *sick*." He stuck Xander's sword into the marble. "I want us to have a higher profile again," he ordered. "You all have followers and pawns. Make yourself known to someone. Let's try to fix some of the problems that are going on."
"We can't," Hermes pointed out. "Hera and Zeus decided that we should limit our presence."
"They're a bit tied up right now," Cupid said without humor. "I refuse to let another little girl have to run away from her parents because they were abusing her and most of the kids in town." A few of the female Gods went pale. "Yeah. That sort. That isn't the only problem." He walked up to the throne and sat down, facing everyone. "This isn't the first human that's claimed to be one of us, and he wasn't the first to take other people with him. This has got to stop, before we lose followers." He looked at Apollo and Athena, who had just appeared. "I want you to start to show yourselves to your followers. You don't have to be blatant and show up with fanfare and aura to announce yourselves. I'm not asking for a parade of animals. I'm asking for a subtle presence to remind the humans that they're not alone." He glanced around at the somber faces. "Most humans that follow other Gods see them as abstract beings. Some sort of permanent cloud of thought. It's time they learned different." He looked at Hermes again. "I'm not telling you to go do Oprah, dude, I'm asking you to be a little less subtle when you go help the humans."
Xander cleared his throat. "Some of my followers know me, as do most of my pawns, and it's given them the added strength to fight for their lives." He glanced up at Cupid. "I'm dealing with a lot of runaways, guys, most of which could have been prevented if someone had decided not to ignore what was going on. We've got to start helping these kids, or we won't have future followers."
Athena stepped forward. "What are you asking, Cupid?"
"Just that you manifest a little more to a follower. You have historians and scholarly people under you. Make yourself a little more well known."
"Use one of those scrolls that you have hidden away and go talk to one about it?" Apollo suggested. Cupid nodded. "Will that really help the mortals?"
"They're not all going to be helped, but the few that will be can make a difference. It'll take a lot of small steps. A vision here, a new piece of information there. Maybe even someone who understands coming through and talking about us while being called insane." He shrugged. "Make it subtle, but make it happen." He grinned. "Besides, everyone knows about Xander, Ares, and myself. I'm still prayed to."
"I miss that," Apollo admitted. "We should coordinate this." He looked at Xander. "You appear to all your followers?"
"Just the ones who need some hope," Xander admitted. "The ones who need some encouragement to move on, or to heal. The rest of the time, I'm listed as a Social Worker." He cleared his throat. "Cupid, I'm going to go wash the blood off." He left the meeting area.
"Dudes, this has gotten brutal recently. We won't have a mortal plane anymore if something drastic doesn't happen soon." Cupid stood up. "Apollo, I like your idea. Would you handle the planning part?" The Sun God looked stunned. "What? I'm not into the whole organizing a rebellion thing, but you're good at it. And I'm good at finding people who can do the work. If you want it, it's yours. If not, Athena?"
Apollo looked at his sister, then nodded. "Sure. Totally bitchin' idea, Cupid. I'll handle it for you." He pulled Athena over to a bench and sat down to talk with her about it.
Cupid grinned at the rest of them. "Well, that certainly blew the party mood," he complained lightly.
Hermes and Dionysus laughed. "Yeah," Hermes agreed. "Totally blew it. But you're good at this."
"Hey, I know my strengths, and my ego is not right for this job." Cupid smiled at the God of wine. "We need to get everything ready for the real party in five days time, Dion. You handling that?"
"Sure," he said, standing up and leaving with his wine.
"That was mean," Hermes sighed, going to help Apollo and Athena.
Cupid sat back down in the throne and watched his family work. It was about time that they had something along the lines of power. And something more to take their minds off conquering the new order.
Ares appeared and whooped, waking Xander up from his nap on the couch. "We won!" he said needlessly, smiling down at his mate. "You okay?"
"Tired," Xander told him, holding up a hand. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. Strife is fine. The supposed Godling has been thwarted. And the God over him in GodWar is paying the price for it." He snorted. "Thor is *no* match for this family!"
Xander stood up and gave him a hug, grimacing at his clothes as he pulled back. "Eww. Go bathe!" He cleaned himself off and started for the bedroom. "I'm going to nap on the bed with the bed bunnies," he called over his shoulder as he closed the door.
Ares looked down at himself, frowning at the amount and various types of blood on him. "Okay, I reek," he admitted, heading for the bathroom. A good scrub after a battle was usually in order, and then he had some plans for his consorts. He walked into his bedroom a few minutes later and snorted in disgust. Everyone was curled up around Xander, who was trying to get free, and they were all asleep. "Oh, well, so much for wearing it out." He laid down behind Giles' pliant body and pulled him back, trying to get him to wake up and take care of his raging hard on.
Giles moaned and pushed back against the hardness rubbing between his bare cheeks. "Please, Ares. If you want, take me."
Ares smiled and lubed them both up, sliding into the well stretched hole in one smooth thrust. He waited a few seconds for the other God to adjust then started rushing to wear the battle energy from him. Giles moaned and bucked under his hands, making him work harder toward their peak, until the older man finally finished waking up as he came.
Ares smirked and leaned over to lick at a few beads of sweat. "I'm not done yet," he whispered.
"Shh," Oz complained, pulling a pillow over his head. "You're insufferable after a fight."
Ares' smirk got wider. "Why, thank you," he said happily, starting the hard, fast rhythm again. He came with a moaned swear and rested his head against Giles' back. "Thanks, I needed that."
Oz snorted, "You usually do." He pushed his face tighter against Xander's chest and kept it there, not caring what the other two did as long as he could get some sleep.
Ares stretched out as soon as he was free of the warm, limp body, wiggling around on the satin sheets to make sure he was comfortable. A pillow was launched at him by Xander and he tossed it back. "What?"
"Sleep," Xander complained. "I need sleep. We all need sleep. Aislin won't be sleeping soon."
"Oh, yeah," Ares said, then shrugged and closed his eyes. Just as the baby started to scream. No one moved so he got up and went to check on their son since he was still awake.
Xander grinned down at Oz, winking at him. "Good job?" he asked.
"Very," Oz agreed, giving him a squeeze. "Giles, you okay?"
"I'm fine," he said sleepily.
Ares ran into the room clutching Aislin to his chest. "He just threw up," he said frantically. "It wasn't spitting up either."
Xander climbed out of bed to look at his screaming son, testing his forehead with the back of his hand. "'Sclep?" he called. "I think Aislin's got an allergy."
The God of Healers appeared, yawning. "What's wrong now?" he asked, taking the baby to calm him down. He looked down at him, then at the mess on Ares' chest. "Hmm. Looks like a milk allergy." He made a bottle appear and stuck it in the open mouth, silencing the crying. "Yup," he said, handing Ares the baby. "Give him soy milk with nectar." He yawned again and wiggled his fingers. "Call Dad if it still happens," he said before disappearing.
Apollo showed up a few seconds later. "'Sclep told me he's got an allergy?" he said, taking the baby forcefully away from Ares to check him out. "Oh, you've got Xander's allergy," he sighed, taking the bottle away and creating a new one. "Give him really thin smoothies with soy milk," he said, handing him back.
"Milk comes from soy?" Ares asked.
"Yeah, vegetarians use it sometimes," Oz told him, waving from the bed. "Thanks, 'Polo."
"Welcome." Apollo looked at Xander, pulling him out into the living room. "How did he get your allergy? It's almost unheard of for a natural born God in our Pantheon to have it."
"What about the not-being-wanted thing?" Xander suggested.
Apollo nodded after thinking. "Yeah, that's what happened with the last case. That and lack of nectar during pregnancy. Which this little guy had for a few months. Good job," he said, slapping Xander on the shoulder. "I had forgotten about that stuff." He shrugged. "Soy milk, and make the smoothies thin enough to appear to be milk. Give him nectar at least three times a day, six or seven if you can work it in. Oh, and watch out for his wings. There's something seriously odd with them."
Xander nodded. "Okay. Any idea who his father is? I know we suspect Zeus and all, but he doesn't look a thing like the others."
Apollo shrugged. "I can tell you it wasn't Zeus, we checked after he was born. Other than that, not a clue, man." He disappeared in a shower of light.
Xander walked back into the bedroom and looked at the baby. "It's not Zeus'," he told Ares quietly.
Ares looked at him in shock. "It has to be!" he protested.
"They checked, it's not his." Xander brushed over the dark hair. "We're not sure who his father is now."
Ares frowned. "Great, just great." He handed the baby back. "I'm going to go talk to Apollo. You feed him." He disappeared, coming back after a second. "He's closed his temple off, he's sleeping." He frowned at the child. "Then who's his father?"
"Unless it was Morpheus," Giles pointed out, "it probably can't be one of us."
"True," Ares said slowly. "It'd be hard for another God in this Pantheon to imitate my power signature." He shook his head. "We'll figure this out in the morning." He climbed into the bed and pulled his Giles sleeping buddy into his arms, closing his eyes and willing himself to sleep.
Xander shook his head as he sat down on the edge of the mattress to feed their son. This would work itself out, one way or another, and he'd have plenty of time to think tonight.
Xander popped into Hades' office, holding his fussy son. "Hey, got a question and you seem to know a lot more than you let on." Hades waved and a comfortable chair appeared. "Thanks, he's a little heavy." He sat down, making sure he wasn't caught on the wing buds. "Okay, question. We now know Zeus isn't Aislin's father." Hades' mouth opened. "Not the question, Apollo found that out after he was born. Anyway, with his wings, I've got a sneaking suspicion. A God of Reconciliation would have two sides, right?"
Hades closed his mouth and thought about it. "He's the first one I've ever seen," he admitted. "But you're right. To reconcile a situation you could go one of two ways. Either it's settled through death, or through peace."
"That's what I thought," Xander sighed, handing him over. "Does he feel like Dahak to you?"
Hades delicately touched the baby's aura and flinched, looking up at the young God as he nodded. "More so than Discord does," he said quietly. "You have to tell them, especially Cupid."
"I'm going to talk to Apollo first. This could be the only good thing that the bastard's ever done." He shrugged and left with his son, going to the head healer on the Mount. "Apollo?" he called, bringing the healer quickly.
"Is there another problem?" he asked as he appeared, floating in air on his surfboard.
"Yeah, kinda. I know who his father is." The other God landed and waved his board away. "Feel his aura. He's a two-sided God."
Apollo delicately touched the one area they hadn't been able to test until the baby had it's Godhood. "Oh, damn," he said, looking at Xander.
"I'm thinkin' he's the one good thing Dahak's ever done," Xander said calmly.
Apollo swallowed. "Maybe," he agreed. "We have to tell them, the rest of the Pantheon."
"I went to Hades to check out my suspicions. See, reconciliation doesn't always mean peace."
"True," Apollo agreed, looking at him in shock. "Hell, I never even thought about that. When did you figure that part out?"
"During his fourth waking up last night," Xander said dryly. "Not being able to sleep lends to thinking a lot." He shifted his grip on the baby. "What do we do now?"
"Now, we call a massive meeting of all the Gods." He glanced around. "I'm going to tell Athena first. You go ring the gong."
"Do I have to? Can't I go tell Cupid and have him do it?"
Apollo noticed the fear coming off the young God in waves and decided to ease it. After all, Aislin was still a baby and might grow up to be all right. "Sure. You can do that. Go do that now while I tell Athena." He disappeared.
Xander closed his eyes as they traveled to Cupid's house, knowing Strife was over there even before he landed in the bedroom. "Guys, we've just found a major problem," he said, still keeping his eyes closed.
"We've got a sheet on," Strife said dryly.
Xander opened his eyes to look at the cute couple. He really hated to ruin people's days. "We found out who Aislin's father is. It's Dahak," he said quietly.
Cupid flinched and flew up to get a good look at the baby. "Damn, it's all over his aura."
"Yeah, and he's a double-sided God too," Xander pointed out. "Hades agreed with me, reconciliation isn't always done peacefully."
"Sometimes death is the only answer," Strife quoted seriously, getting out of bed to look at the baby too. "Cupe, what're we going to do?"
"Who knows?" Cupid asked.
"Hades and Apollo, though 'Polo went to tell Athena so she wouldn't hear it in Council."
"Good," Cupid said, nodding. "Strife, I need you to go find a Psychiatrist. A good one, one who knows about kids and stuff." Strife nodded, leaving after putting on some clothes. Cupid looked at Xander. "By our rules, no God can hurt him," he said quietly. "That doesn't mean that someone won't call for him to be hurt. I can quash that part, and I know we'll have some help coming. Hades just called." He patted Xander on the shoulder. "Let me get dressed. Meet you in the meeting area?"
Xander nodded and went to the meeting area, running into two Goddesses he knew. Hera and Hebe. "Um, hi," he said carefully, sitting beside them. "Hebe, I know I haven't seen you in my temple," he said calmly. "Are the other kids okay?"
"As far as I know," the Goddess over children said with a smile. "Xander, don't worry about this. If worse comes to worse, we can remove the child to somewhere safe from Dahak. You already know where the safest of all places is for him."
Xander smiled. "Yeah, I know." He looked at Hera. "How're you doing?"
"We're fine, Xander," she said, kissing him on the cheek. "May I see him?"
Xander handed Aislin over, watching as Hera tested him. "I figured it out last night, while I was feeding him again."
"That's usually when the most important decision are found," Hebe agreed with a slight smile. "Most parents find something of note in the middle of the night." She stood up as Cupid appeared. "I protect this child too," she reminded him.
"Good," he said, going for the gong. "He needs all the help he can get. Athena's out for blood." He hit the gong once, wiggling a finger in his ear as the tone rang out. "You'd think we'd have an intercom or something," he complained, sitting on the stairs leading up to the throne. "Do we have a backup plan?"
"Yes," Hebe said. "A very carefully thought out one. And we've discussed it with the me there." She sat down as the other Gods started to appear.
"What's going on now?" Hermes sighed as he appeared. "We've never had so many meetings."
Athena appeared beside Cupid and glared at everyone. "We found out who impregnated me. Dahak," she said coldly.
Everyone stopped chattering and looked at the boy.
"I want him taken off this mount," Athena continued. "He's a danger to us."
"Contrary to popular opinion, the genes don't always tell," Strife said as he appeared. "Cupid, I have the expert that you asked for. He's passed out on Ares' couch."
Cupid nodded his thanks as he stood up. "Good, then let's get this started. Go sit, Athena. You don't belong up here." She glared at him but went to sit down. "Now then, she was right," he said without preamble. "Xander figured it out this morning during a middle of the night feeding. He also found out that Aislin's a two-sided God. Hence his sharp wings." Cupid's own wings fluttered a little bit. "I have an expert that says genes, or the natural parents for those not up to date in the sciences, don't play that much of a role in personality or development. Does anyone have anything to contradict this?"
Athena stood up. "You're every bit like your father," she snorted.
"Actually, Strife would be the best example," Xander said quietly, breaking the staring contest between them. "He was raised by Ares instead of Discord, and he's not his biological father."
"Which proves my point," Athena said hotly.
"Actually, it proves mine," Cupid said calmly. "Strife isn't like his mother, who didn't raise him; he's like the Gods who raised him, Ares and my mom." He sat down in the throne, looking at the stunned Gods. "There is no proof that says he's automatically bad because of who his father is," he restated calmly. "I know this will cause some fear so I think it's better to get this out in the open now." He looked at Hera. "You've examined the child, as has Hades and Apollo. What do you think should be done?"
"We can block any influence from his father's powers," she said, thinking it through. "We know that Dahak could try to use the child as a proxy if his spirit could get through his coverings, but we can block any pathway to that outcome." She looked at Xander. "I actually think this child would be safer here under our direct influence than anywhere else, but we have planned for such a situation to occur also, and we've planned on how to block most of his powers from him until he's old enough to understand what's going on."
Cupid nodded. "Good. Are you certain we can block Dahak from his son?"
"We've done it before," she said with a shrug. "It's a work more ancient than us, but it can be done because it has before."
Athena shrieked, "That boy is *dangerous*. He'll corrupt the other children if he's not taken away."
"Gee, he hasn't corrupted Melvin yet," Xander told him. "He was in contact with Aislin since before he was born."
"Who got him to eat nectar?" Athena sniped.
"Why you did, dear," Xander shot back. "He wanted you to like him and you liked Bliss, so he decided that you'd like him better if he was a God too." She went pale. "Which is why I don't want you near my children anymore. I don't care if I have to split myself into more pieces, I will not allow you to taint my children any more."
Hera laid a hand on his arm. "I'm sure this can be worked out," she told him firmly. "You may not ...." She stopped, testing his powers. "They found out why?" she asked, looking up at Cupid. She peered at Xander's emblem, then smiled at him. "They found out why I couldn't give it to you?"
"I have chaos-based powers," Xander reminded her. "I had the same problem that Strife did when you tried to give him his powers."
She laughed, patting him on the head. "I had forgotten about that. It's good that someone remembered."
"'Sclep found it in a book," he told her, shrugging. "Strife gave it to me officially yesterday." He patted Aislin between the wing nubs. "A few hours before this one was born."
"Enough of this chattering!" Athena demanded. "You have to remove that child from up here!"
"He can do no harm at this age," Cupid said solemnly. "It is our judgement that alternate options to sending him away should be found. Including a detailed account of how the prior Gods blocked a father's pathway to his son."
"It wouldn't be hard," Xander said, looking down. "If you changed his genetics, his father wouldn't be his father."
Hera smiled at him. "That's brilliant. Can we do that? Is that something that any of us know about?"
"I do," Apollo said, standing up. "Genetics are hot on the mortal plane right now. I could go find someone and ask him."
Cupid smiled. "Good. Please do that. I want answers, people, and I want them before we present the triplets."
"What!" Athena shrieked. "You can't do that! They're not proper Gods!"
Xander had had enough of his old boss and sent a bolt of power at her. "Yeah, that's right, they're not. They're better. We're raising them with concern for their future followers and to have some sense." He handed the baby off to Hera and stood up, glaring at her. "You will not say shit about my children again, Athena. You were all too happy to bitch and moan about them before you taught them and now you're not going to be able to teach them ever again so you suddenly don't like them."
"Dude, that made almost no sense," Cupid complained. "Sit down and let someone who got some sleep argue with her."
"Oh, let me," Ares purred as he stood up. "Athena, you, who was too anxious to get rid of this child, should have *no* say in it's upbringing. You let us have custody before you knew what sex it was and well before we knew who his natural father was. You're not any better than Discord." He laughed sourly. "Actually, you're worse. Discord never talked about, or looked forward to, ditching her kid before it was born." Athena screamed and threw some power at him but he caught it easily. "Want to try that again? If you're well enough to do that, then you're well enough to challenge me over the fate of that child."
Athena blanched and sat down. "No, I'm not," she said coldly.
"I didn't think so." He looked at Cupid. "Can we get on with this? Our son needs to have his wings trimmed."
Cupid cleared his throat. "Besides the suggestion of sending him away and of blocking the power pathways, is there anything else that might be done?"
Asclepias appeared, smiling at them. "Yes, there may be," he said, bowing to Hera. "I just talked with a genetic therapist I know on the mortal plane about Aislin. He said that changing just one gene could fix this sort of problem, but we'd have to be careful about which one because he might end up sick instead." His father nodded for him to go on. "He did have a few suggestions about which one to change, and they're all doable. We'd have to do a complete rebirth though."
Cupid smiled. "Okay, I know how to do that part. Hera?"
"As do I," she agreed. She tucked her scarf tighter around the chains that held her. "How much power would changing this...gene take?"
"There's billions of them in the body," Asclepias told her, "but they're all microscopic." She looked confused. "With your leave, I could put the information directly into your head." She nodded her consent and he stepped forward, delicately putting his hands on either side of his head. "That's what needs to be done," he told her.
"Ah." She looked at the child, figuring out the power usage. "That shouldn't be that hard." She looked up at Cupid. "If I could have the manacles removed, we could start the process now."
"We need to get a rebirthing womb ready," Apollo said, bowing as he left.
Athena watched everything, her arms crossed across her chest, glaring every once in a while at Ares.
"Let's do this, people," Cupid said. "If it doesn't work, then we'll be able to go with another plan tomorrow."
Apollo looked up in shock as Ares appeared next to him in full battle gear. "What's up?" he asked cautiously, moving away from the infant that was nearing rebirth, but more than ready to protect him.
Ares looked him over. "He's in danger," Ares grumbled, sitting down next to the tank with the baby in it, touching the side where Aislin was pressed against the glass. "She's going to try something. I know she is."
"Oh." Apollo shrugged and went back to watching over the baby's growth. "If she does, have fun. I'll protect the baby." He looked up as he felt another god pop in, giving Strife a quizzical look. "What?"
"I wanted to see," he said self-consciously. "I've never seen a baby that's unborn before." He leaned down over the tank, looking at his newest nephew. "Wow. They're even smaller."
"Yeah, they are," Apollo said, grinning at him. "He's in a delicate phase right now. How's Xander holding up?"
"He's not," Strife said, grinning at him. "Between the pacing and swearing at Athena, it's a scary place in the lower levels of the temple right now."
Ares stiffened as he felt some massive power coming their way, standing up to get between whatever God was coming in and his son. "Rayden," he said, looking him over. "Why are you here?"
"I came to look at the child," he said, giving Ares a smile. "We've heard something about him being tainted and I was sent to make sure he wasn't going to be able to harm us."
"We're changing his DNA," Apollo told him. "His father won't be able to use him."
"Good," Rayden agreed, smiling at him too. "You managed to keep Xander away?" he asked in shock.
"We tied him to the temple," Ares said, sitting back down. He really wanted to ask a question of this very old God, but he didn't know how to put it.
"Yes, he is," Rayden said, grinning naughtily at Ares. "Anything else you wanted to know?"
"Yours?" Strife asked.
Rayden nodded. "Yup. I find him to be an ... interesting pawn." He smiled at Apollo. "You thought he was having so many troubles because he was new?"
Apollo shook his head. "No. It all makes sense now," he said, looking back down at the child. "What about if he wins?"
"That's how I'm betting," Rayden agreed.
Apollo snorted. "Yeah, I think that's where the smart money may be."
Ares chuckled. "Mine too. But at least he'll be good when he gets control."
"Maybe some peace will reign and some of the bad things will be fixed," Rayden offered. He walked up and touched the side of the tank, glancing at Strife. "Protect him well," he said finally. He disappeared.
"I like the guy, no matter how cryptic he is," Ares said mock-cheerfully. "Hey, 'Pol, can you find a similar marking on me?"
"Yup," Apollo said, grinning at Strife. "It's very prominent. That and Bane's 'keep off' mark."
Ares shuddered. "Why did she do that?"
"Because she likes you," Strife reminded him. "You always treated her like a real person instead of some funky growth of mine."
"She is an individual person," Ares told him. "She just hides in your body." He stood up slowly, looking around the main room in the temple as power started to build around them. "Strife, take him and Apollo somewhere safe. You know where."
Strife grabbed Apollo, who grabbed the baby, and they left for the permanent rip that Xander had formed a few months ago. They disappeared just as the temple imploded, but a wave of energy washed over them as they disappeared through the rip, changing the baby subtly.
Ares groaned as he woke up, trying to see around the dust and debris covering the formerly pristine floor. He saw six Gods standing there and got up to face off with them. "Where is she?" he demanded.
"She didn't do this," Hermes said, reaching out to touch him. "Hera did. She went mad."
"No, it wasn't her," Xander said as he appeared. "Hera was with me, she was talking to Melvin and Mirabelle." He checked Ares out, patting him gently to get some of the dust off him. "You okay?" he asked.
"Very," Ares coughed. He looked at the other Gods. "Your plans failed," he noted.
Xander faced off with them. "You'd hurt another God?" he sneered. "Breaking your own rules?"
"Zeus isn't here to punish us," Hermes reminded him snidely. "Fortunately for you, we're leaving the other ones living."
"I don't think so," Hera said as she appeared, her chains gone. "Zeus!" she yelled, bringing him and Hades. She pointed at the Gods, making sure they couldn't leave. "They broke your rules. Aislin was confirmed as a God before this went on."
Zeus looked at his errant children and shook his head. "Why?" he asked them.
"Dahak will still be able to use him!" Iapetus told him.
"No, he won't," Zeus said tiredly, holding out his chains. "Remove them, Hera. Let me deal with this."
"Oh, let me," Ares said coldly. "This was my child that they tried to kill just now. It's my right."
"I am your father!" Zeus reminded him. "I say what is your right." He looked around. "Where is this child?"
"Strife and Apollo have him safely away," Ares said, catching Xander as he appeared, holding him so he couldn't go after the other, mostly minor, Gods. "No, you can't," he ordered. "Strife has him!"
"Something went wrong!" Xander protested.
"He's still being born," Hera said, checking on the signature of the baby. She looked at Xander in shock. "He's still being born and there won't be a problem." She patted Xander's arm. "They went back in time when they crossed and the child was implanted. It's being saved." Xander just looked at her. "Trust me," she told him. "The child won't come to harm. We talked to the uses there, remember?" He nodded. "Good. They won't harm the child."
"They will," Ares said grimly. "The transformation wasn't complete and that'll scare them." He searched that other plane, smiling after a moment. He whispered something in Xander's ear. "So, we'll have to get him a horse of his own," he finished out loud.
Xander nodded, calming down slightly. "Ares, I don't want to be around them anymore," he said, looking at Hera. "What sort of precedent do I have to submit to before we can move off this place?"
"You can't," Zeus told him. "Get over it."
"No," Xander told him. He didn't move when the old man tried to hit him with a weak fireball. "No," he repeated. "For the health of my children, I'd rather that we lived on the mortal plane as homeless people. They'd be safer with the mortal predators than they would up here with them."
"Hey!" Hermes complained. "I'm not the one who took in the spawn of Dahak. I'm also not tainted."
Xander lunged at him, knocking him down and getting in three good punches before Ares and Hera pulled him off. "Neither am I," he spat. "If I had been, then you would've fallen a damn long time ago. If I hadn't defeated him either time, all of you would be in a hopeless war!"
"Good point," Zeus admitted. "That doesn't give you the right to attack him."
"Shut up," Hera snapped. "Your child started this. Xander didn't send them to attack his son, they thought up this idiocy with Athena's help."
Xander sneered at him. "Gee, that shows you what you get when you raise them by yourself," he sniped.
Hera glared at him. "Enough," she said calmly. "It's not his fault that Athena's a bitch."
"Yeah, it is," Ares said, putting Xander behind him. "He never stopped her when she tried to kill the rest of us to get his power. He didn't have to kill her mother and absorb her, and he didn't have to make her into the bitter creature that she is today."
"Let Artie hunt her down and put her out of her misery," Strife said as he reappeared. He smiled weakly at Hera. "He's safe. I made sure of it." He patted Xander on the shoulder. "You've seen him since we implanted him," he said quietly. Xander gave him a hug. "Thanks, man, I needed that. It's been a long day since you woke us up."
Hades appeared behind Zeus, looking from the older couple to the young Godlings across from them. "I was called?" he asked.
Zeus held up his manacles. "Free me," he ordered.
"I can't," Hades reminded him. "We've had this discussion before, brother." He held out Hera's set. "You need to put yours back on too," he told her.
"After this is settled. I will not go back into custody until this child is safe and we know if the procedure worked."
"It did," Strife told her from his position leaning on Xander. "He's gonna look a little funny, but it worked."
Hera nodded and took the chains, reapplying them. "There, better?" she asked her brother.
"Probably," he agreed, sending them both back to his realm. "Now then, what's going on?"
"They tried to kill the child," Ares growled, pointing at Hermes. "We just barely got him out in time."
"Not quite," Strife said. "That's why he's going to be funny looking. He's going to show the affect of the power that went over us as we left." He stood up on his own and looked at Hades. "I accuse these six of trying to harm a living God."
Hades frowned. "He was a God, he's being reborn."
"He still had his emblem on," Xander told him. "Otherwise, he wouldn't have lived through the rebirth."
"Which would make him a living God," Cupid said as he appeared. "I want them arrested," he said. "Ares, put them in the cell next to Athena."
It was Xander that noticed Cupid was bloody, and it was him that saw the large cuts on his wings. "Oh, no," he whispered, going over to check his step-son out. "Strife, go find 'Sclep. We need him, now." He didn't wait for an answer before he cleared a spot on the messy floor to put the young God down. "Ares, take care of them before I do," he said to motivate his mate.
Ares grabbed the few that were trying to get away, stunning them all with his powers. "Hades, can you help me?" he asked.
"Yes, I can do that." He grabbed three of the Godlings and carried them to the cells, letting Ares catch the others.
Strife and Asclepias came back together and the young healer choked when he saw the rubble. "Dad?" he asked Strife.
"He's fine. He's with Aislin right now." He pointed at Cupid, who was starting to pant. "I think he's in more trouble."
Asclepias fell to his knees beside Cupid, gently probing his injured body. "Who did this?" he asked quietly as he tried to stop the bleeding from the major artery in Cupid's left wing. He got that stopped and went to work on the other injuries. "We need to move him but we can't jar him. Strife, I need my father. This is much more his area than mine."
"I can't," Strife said quietly. "I can't bring him back until Aislin's reborn. The trip tied them together."
Asclepias looked up. "Then go get the Apollo from that timeline," he ordered calmly. "I can't heal Cupid by myself." He felt Xander touch him and some more power flowed into him. "Not even that will help this time," he said, gratefully taking it to heal a widening cut. "Help me move him to my temple. Strife, go get him!" he shouted.
Xander picked up Cupid's shoulders, holding them steady as Asclepias grabbed his feet. "Whenever you're ready, I'll follow," he told him.
"Now," Asclepias ordered, and they teleported out together with Cupid swinging between them. He put the young God on his altar and looked at Xander. "I need my father, Xander, I've never seen anything this bad, not since the first time you fought Dahak." Xander grimaced. "Is Strife getting him?"
"I'll go check. Want me to get 'Dite?"
"No, get Heph. He's much calmer and he'll be able to control 'Dite once she's told."
Xander nodded and flashed out to the forge, forcefully pulling Hephaestus away from his project. "Athena trashed Cupid," he said as the God of Fire started to complain. "'Sclep has him and he's in bad shape."
Hephaestus went paler. "All right. I'll go tell his mother. Where's Ares?"
"Taking care of the people that went after Aislin. I'm going to go help Strife." He disappeared, landing in another dimension, right beside of Strife. "This really is an emergency," he said, cutting Strife's formal request off. He turned to look at both Apollo's. "Asclepias can't heal Cupid alone. He's already had to stop the bleeding in one wing and he's got injuries that keep spreading even though the attack's done." Both of them stood up. "He needs whichever one of you that can come and he needs you now."
The Apollo from there bowed to his parents. "With your leave?"
Zeus nodded. "Go. I will keep this one here to tell me exactly what is going on." He looked at Strife. "You go back too. The less of you around, the easier the rip will heal." Strife flashed out. "Now then," Zeus said, leaning down. "What exactly is going on over there?"
Xander manifested a bench and sat down. "It's a long story," he said to ease Hera's frown. "Well, do you want me to start back with fighting Dahak or not? Because it kinda started there, but that's almost an aside to this whole thing."
"Start there," Hera agreed, manifesting some nectar. "Would you like some?"
Xander pulled a cup out of thin air and did his changing the nectar to a smoothie trick. "I'm allergic to the outer rind," he said when Zeus frowned at him. "It's the only way I can eat it." He took a sip to steady himself. "All right. I am Xander, now the God of the Overlooked. Then the God of the Paranormal..."
Xander reappeared next to Cupid's bed, leaning down to kiss him on the forehead. "Hey. You better yet?" he asked.
"Almost," Cupid agreed. "Did you fix it?"
"Yeah, and what I wasn't around for, our Apollo filled in. They were really impressed that you held on that long."
Cupid laughed weakly. "Yeah, me too." He blinked a few times, slowly going back to sleep. "Where's Strife?" he mumbled as he slipped off.
"I'm not sure. I'll go find him right now." He disappeared, going to the meeting area. "Strife, Cupid's asking for you," he said as he appeared. He smiled at Zeus, who wasn't sitting in his chair, but on a step below it. "They said it was amazing, all the problems we were going through."
Hera laughed. "I have no doubt. What about Apollo?"
"He'll be back in a few more weeks. Aislin's almost ready to be born." He looked at Athena, who was sitting in the center of the meeting area. "They said that they wanted to punish her too," he said calmly. "Even though the original rip was the fault of a child's wish that brought Strife and I there, it was nearly closed before today. Even when I had to go back a few days ago..." He stopped to smile. "That's where he is," he said calmly. "I named my own son." He hit himself on the forehead. "Man! At least he's in good company with the Ares' there's son." He shook himself at the Apollo's from there's frown. "Surely you're not against that child too."
He shook his head. "Not at all. Is it okay?"
"Was when I saw it last," Xander admitted. "They'll be born about the same time." He looked at Hera again. "Anyway, I explained *everything*. Including the original fight I had with Dahak that started off some of this mess." He grimaced. "Did we figure out if her tampering was from then?"
"It was," Zeus agreed. "What else did they say?"
"Just that they were amazed that Cupid held on as long as he did against her and that they wanted Athena over there for reripping the boundary. Oh, and Hera complimented our Apollo for his manners. She thought I was cocky but that I probably suited Ares very well."
Hera chuckled. "I have no doubts on that score," she said dryly. "Speaking of him, can you tell where he is?"
"Yup, there's a new Civil War started. One of the dirty, guerilla ones between two of the former Russian countries. He's blowing off some steam." He yawned. "Sorry, but it took days over there." He laughed. "The you there did say something else, Hera. She said that if I was what the new Gods were like, they'd rather stagnate."
She and Zeus both laughed. "We know that feeling," Zeus agreed, still laughing. "You're a credit to us all, Xander, but sometimes you are a bit impulsive in your ways."
"Yeah, but I get results," Xander pointed out.
"Yes," Zeus said with good humor, "that's what's keeping you alive." He looked the boy over, then looked at the Apollo from there. "He's more powerful than you described," he complained, losing all humor.
"We told you that the categories needed remodeling," Xander pointed out. "I'm living proof of that."
Hera looked him over then looked at Zeus. "As things even out again, I'm sure that some of his power will have to be handed over."
"Maybe," Xander agreed. "What about what Cupid was planning?"
"We're discussing that now," Hera told him. "You show yourself to some followers?"
"The ones that need hope," he agreed, taking his usual seat. "A lot of the people I've been dealing with recently have given up hope. To them, Gods are a big thought that doesn't have any relevance in their life, except to have someone to blame. Most of these are kids that I've shown myself to to give them the hope and the ability to move on from the bad spot that they're in. Except for the other day when I punished a cop for ignoring a family molesting about fifteen children."
Hera smiled coldly. "We heard about that. Good job."
He bowed his head slightly. "Thanks. I thought it was warranted. See, the reason guys like we fought earlier that night exist is because we aren't known about anymore. We're studied as an interesting footnote to Ancient Greece, but we're not *real* to anybody anymore."
"So Cupid's plan would have allowed a select few to know that we're still around," Hera said in admiration. "Which would strengthen us more, even if no one else believed them."
"Exactly," Xander said. "And it would also give hope, maybe a little strength, to people who needed some sort of God in their lives to help them along."
"Hmm, a good plan," Zeus agreed. "Who was planning on how to do it?"
"Apollo and Athena," Xander said dryly. "Apollo agreed and Athena was going to help him."
"Ah." Zeus sighed and looked around at his children. "When our Apollo gets back, I will allow him to continue to plan this event."
"It'll have to be done a few mortals at a time," Hera pointed out. "A slow and gradual showing. If we suddenly show up one day, it will cause too big of a reaction and we'll have problems." She looked at Xander. "That was the plan, wasn't it? To have a discovery of a scroll here, a rumor planted there? All designed to give the humans a clue but not a definite answer?" He nodded. "Good. I like that idea."
Zeus agreed. "As do I. As I said, when Apollo gets back, we'll work on that." He smiled at Xander. "What else was Cupid going to do?"
"The twins and Martna were to be presented in a few day's time," Xander said quietly, looking at his hands.
Hera clapped. "Good. I've been waiting for that. Has anyone disagreed?" A few Gods pointed at Athena. "Anyone else?"
"They still have two more days to comment," Ares said as he appeared. "Cupid was also planning on giving a few of the more senior Gods a little more leeway so we wouldn't be able to go after him."
"Which almost worked," Hera agreed. "If Athena had been doing her normal job, she wouldn't have time to have tried to kill Cupid." She looked at her husband's daughter again. "Why, Athena?"
"Because he wanted to let non-bloodline Gods into the Pantheon and give them great powers."
"Gee, I'm the only semi-bloodline God that has major powers. Giles' job is a minor one. So is Oz's." He stood up. "I demand the right of combat since she tried to kill my son."
"I tried that already," Ares said from his seat.
"Who is the official father of the child?" Hera asked. All four fathers raised their hands. "Ah, now I see where the confusion lies. Pick a champion."
"Ares," Xander said first. Giles and Oz agreed. "I'm pissed enough to kill us both. Ares can be cold and kill her."
Zeus coughed. "He can't kill her. He can hurt her as much as he wants, but he can not kill her, Xander."
"If he had died," Hera said, "then maybe we might have broken that rule. The child lives though, and is still living from what I understand."
"Point of order, mother," Ares said as he stood up. "Aislin is still wearing his emblem." Hera and Zeus both looked at him in shock. "Yeah. She tried to kill a baby God. And me." He smiled cruelly at Athena. "She broke a few rules, including the one to not harm her son. She all but demanded that the child be killed while in the earlier session of Council."
"Yes, I remember that," Hera told him. "Sit, Ares." He did so. "We will rule on that matter later." She held up her bonds. "Out of necessity, we are keeping these on. We will expect you to not behave in such a manner that we feel the need to beat you physically for it." A few of the younger Gods laughed nervously.
"That includes your family, Xander," Zeus told him. "I want you to take care of your other children until your son, what was his name again?"
"Aislin," Ares said.
"It means dream or vision," Xander added. "He's to be the God of Reconciliation. The pool said so," he said at the incredulous look.
"The pool showed it?" Zeus asked, looking over at Ares.
Ares nodded. "Yeah. It was Xander that figured out that reconciliation isn't always peaceful, hence his sharp wings."
"I look forward to seeing this child once it's back," Zeus said mildly. "It's been a long time since we had a new God up here."
Xander made a picture appear in a mirrored spot before him. "This was Aislin before he went through the rebirth process," he said, showing him off. "That's from last night, when he was welcomed into the family."
Zeus leaned over to look, smiling. "He's a beautiful boy, child. Where are his wings?" The picture turned over to show the baby's back and ankles. "Hmm, Hermes syndrome. Are they sharp?" He looked at the held up arms, smiling at the scratches. "I see that they are. I can't wait to see him once he gets back." He smiled as the mirrored puddle disappeared. "I see you found yourself," he said quietly.
"We found out why I couldn't officially be given my Godhood," Xander told him. "It's the same problem that led to Strife having to be named by Loki."
"Ah, yes, I thought that might be the case. Did Strife or Bane do it?"
"Strife did, but Bane and I are friends too," Xander told him. "Oh, she told me to tell you that you were not even close in putting her away. She's been in and out of the mortal plane much easier since you tried to lock her away. She said to tell you thank you."
Zeus roared with laughter, leaning back against the edge of his throne until he calmed down. "Next time you see her, tell her to come tell me that herself," he said finally. "I have a feeling she'd be quite a match in the wits department."
"She's very sharp," Xander agreed with a smile of his own at Strife and Ares, who were sitting together. "How's Cupid?"
"Better. He's sleepin' again." Strife grinned at him. "You need a nap too. The baby kept you up that first night."
"Yeah, I do," Xander said, starting to yawn. "With your leave?"
Hera nodded. "Go rest, Xander. If we have more questions for you, we'll come wake you up in a few hours." He nodded and left, so she turned her attention to Ares. "Now then, what exactly has happened in your household?"
"Nothing much," he said dryly. "You know how frantic things are with young children."
Hera snorted. "Yes, I do," she agreed. "Which is why I'm surprised that you're not sleeping too."
"Martna sleeps through the night," he said with a shrug. "She has since that first night. She's a long sleeper."
"We have to wake her up for meals," Oz added.
"Ah, one of those," she said in understanding. "I was one of those too." She looked at Zeus. "I think we need to decide whether or not to punish the Gods who went after Aislin."
Ares coughed. "Hermes said he wanted to plead for mercy. He said that Athena put him up to it using blackmail."
"We will hear that from his own mouth," Zeus decreed. "The Council of Twelve, with an alternate for Ares and Athena, will convene in a few hours to take up this matter. Remove Athena back to her cell." She was removed by Hephaestus. "Was there any other business for this meeting?"
"Just one thing," Oz said, standing up. "Did you want me to start on the rescheduling of talents?"
"No, I want to work with you on that," he said calmly. "I can't believe that we don't need some of those Gods, or that Xander is as powerful as he appears to be."
"Come to the mortal realm with me," Giles offered. "I will show you a true vision of what it is."
"I was going to go myself tonight," Zeus said. "I will let you help me pick a form though."
Giles nodded. "As you wish, sire." He pulled Oz down to sit beside him. "With all due respect, we left the children with Harmonia."
Hera waved a hand. "Go be with them. I'm sure Xander's not asleep yet." All three of them disappeared. She leaned over to her husband. "Things really have changed, Zeus. You'll need more than a new form to fit in. Trust that one, he's always very honest with us," she advised.
He simply nodded and disappeared, going back to his temple.
THE END, TO BE CONTINUED...