Xander walked in that night. "Thanks, Auntie Hecate," he called quietly. He looked around. "We safe?"
"I made sure Buffy couldn't sneak into your window again," his father offered. Xander beamed and let his wings out. "Feel better?"
"They've itched all day because Willow's been trying to unhide them." He shook them out, watching as a few more feathers fell. "Is that normal?"
"You'd have to ask Cupid. I've never had wings." He grinned at his son. "Ready for a nap?"
"Yup, especially with patrol tonight." He went up to his room with a blown kiss on the way. He fell down on his side and curled up to rest. He felt someone come in but grunted at them. They stroked his cheek and it was nice so he finished going down.
Cupid looked at his feathers. "The witch bent some. Poor guy." He preened his feathers for him. He was shedding badly so he called Apollo. "He's shedding."
"It's not uncommon. You shed grossly when you came into your powers." The snore amused him. "He's a cute kid." He looked at his feathers. "This looks like that and some bent feathers."
"That witch has been trying to uncover them all day." He looked at him. "Should we hurry it up?"
"He has patrol tonight," his father said from the doorway. Both Gods shook their heads. "He said so and he is more stubborn than Hera at times." He leaned on the wall. "What was he planning against Zeus?"
"Don't know," Cupid told him. "All I know is he supercharged Strife *so* high he nearly exploded in confetti." That got a smile from the father. "'Pol?"
"He'll molt. He needs time to molt." He stepped back. He looked down at the arm that had sneaked around his thigh. "I thought you liked girls."
"I think he thinks you're his teddybear," Cupid said dryly. "Xander, let Apollo go?" he asked gently. Xander grunted and pulled him closer. "Come on, let him go and I'll stay." Xander shifted back against him. "Let the nice God of half of everything go," he said, making Apollo snort. "I always wondered if you were the catchall or if you kept getting back in line when they handed out Godhoods."
Apollo smirked at him. "Next time I'll let you molt," he teased. "Xander, let go." The boy growled. "No, don't growl at me. Let my leg go. I have to go do God stuff." The boy growled deeper. He managed to flash out just after the teeth sank into his thigh, limping into Ares' temple when he reappeared. "He bit me!"
"Yeah, if he grabs you he does," Strife told him. "What's wrong? Headache?"
"Molting. Looks like Cupid did."
"His wings were nearly bare for two weeks," Strife reminded him. He checked on his cousin, smiling at how he had pinned Cupid. "They're cute together." He banished the mirror. "He wasn't kissing anyone gross today." Apollo snorted and went home to let the muses baby him. Life was not going to be boring for a very long time. He looked up, frowning a bit. He had asked Xander to let him oversee his first major Olympian prank but no one had seen Zeus today. He wondered.... He searched Xander's mind, finding it open and willing to share with him. Hmm, so he had started without him but the big finale was something he was going to be howling from laughter at and Xander wanted him to witness that one. He cackled and let his mind go, watching as he fell deeper. He decided to do the nice thing and make Xander fully molt, that way he could get back to the regrowing part. Not that the whole thing wouldn't itch but he'd live. Cupid grumbled but he didn't care. Asclepias and Ares appeared to look at the wings. Xander made whimpering, begging noises and Cupid kept him calm while the healer worked to start the regrowth portion of the molt. By the time the boy woke up he'd be featherfull and happy again. Even if his wings did itch. Cupid and Ares both helped him with that, letting him stay asleep for now. It was a nice thing. He went back to his plans, looking forward to the thing later tonight.
Xander was at breakfast the next morning when he heard his proper name shouted. His parents looked at him. "I don't answer to that."
"Good to know," his mother said dryly. "What did you do?"
"I tried asking nicely for a dispensation for formal events so I wouldn't have to pop anyone in the nose for calling me Alexander." They both smirked at that. "Strife was amused."
"I'm sure," his father agreed. Hermes appeared. "Morning. Toast?"
"He's going to be. You have to answer when Zeus calls, Xander."
Xander looked at him. "I don't answer to anything but Xander or my formal title." Hermes gaped. He beamed. "I asked nicely first."
Hermes coughed and disappeared, zooming back up there. "Zeus, he said he's not answering to anything but Xander or his title. Something about asking nicely for a dispensation?"
The currently fuchsia King of the Gods, all from embarrassment because the boy had been mean and let others see, tapped his fingers on his throne.
"He did ask," Hera said kindly. "He was even very polite and he does have a good reason. The same as he didn't drink during his party."
Zeus looked at her. Then at Ares. "Does he answer it for you?"
"I'm not that dumb," he admitted. "I know he'll ignore me."
"Fine. I summon the God of Weapons and Tactics!" he bellowed. Xander appeared before the echo vanished. "Why did you attack me?"
"I did?" he asked, grinning some. "I don't remember coming at you with a weapon." He looked at Ares. "Did I borrow one?"
"No," he admitted. "He meant the part where you tied him down, covered him in glued on skittle and jelly bean pictures, let everyone on Olympus see him naked and covered in candy pictures making faces at him, and then let Strife film it."
"Strife filmed it?" He looked at his buddy. "Did it come out?"
"Yeah, and the immortal ants were cute too."
"Not me. I don't deal that well with bugs." He looked at Zeus then grinned. "I wouldn't consider that an *attack*. I would consider that a prank. I said I'd convince you." He beamed and waved. "Gotta go be tortured in school again." He disappeared.
Hera tried very hard not to laugh but she couldn't stop. "Who added the ants in his bedroom?" Discord slowly raised her hand. "Get rid of them before they spread, Discord." She snapped her fingers and they disappeared with the candy. "Strife, the film?" He disappeared. "Strife!"
"I'm locking it in the blackmail vault," he called back.
"Shoot, I didn't get to see," Hades muttered. Ares nudged him and handed over a mirror of it, earning a smile. "Thank you."
Zeus looked at them. "Must you?"
"He was being playful," Ares pointed out.
"Fine, from now on the God of Weapons and Tactics may be known by his nickname unless I'm personally yelling the full name to get his attention." Hermes made note of that and zipped off.
"He had worse planned," Strife called, reappearing behind Ares. "So if a chorus of show girl show up....." He disappeared again when Hera scowled.
"He wouldn't upset you, Mother," Ares promised.
"Uh-huh. A chorus of showgirls?" She looked up. "Xander, dear, can we see that one anyway?" He snuck up behind Zeus, clapped on Hephaestian chains on him, stripped him naked, then willed up the chorus of fat, unshaved, dirty haired show girls in see- through clothes that looked exactly like what Aphrodite wore. Then he blew a kiss at Hera before going back to his trek to school.
Aphrodite stared, then at Ares. "Who warped him?"
"Why?" she asked.
"They were drunk."
"Drinking is bad. I'm going to ban heavy drinking from most of my parties from now on." She got up and went to have a headache in peace.
Hera was nearly in tears from laughing so hard when one of the fattest jiggled her belly in a strange lap dance that left much to be desired. A four-hundred-fifty-pound woman just was not built to do a good lap dance. Neither were the other nine of them who were all just barely lighter. Sagging breasts, jiggling, hairy bellies. Unshaven armpits, legs, and untrimmed bikini lines. A few even had ear hair. Zeus was whimpering. "The boy was right. I could not be upset by this chorus line," she said finally.
One leaned down to kiss Hera. "Happy Birthday, My Queen. Can we do another number for you?"
"Go ahead," she said with a wave of her hand. And they settled in to do their impersonation of the Rockettes.
Ares tipped his head back, he could hear Strife howling in laughter. He looked at his twin sister Discord, who was staring at them in shocked horror. She finally burst out crying and left. Ares looked at Hades. "Yup, he's one of my house." He got up and tipped the ladies then sent them back to their proper places. Then he walked away laughing his ass off. The rest of them did the same, leaving Zeus strapped down naked and whimpering.
A picture floated down to land on his stomach of all the ladies in skimpy bikinis that even Aphrodite wouldn't wear for the lack of cloth. It was signed and had lipstick prints. It was addressed to Zeus. He burst out crying. The boy was mean! Very, very mean!
Strife came out to undo him. "It's all right, Zeus. He's a good boy most of the time until you piss him off." He let him calm down. "Now, why don't you go rest in one of the guest rooms? Let Hera baby you?" He nodded, going to do that. Strife sent the picture to Hera's room and headed back to his rooms to go back to howling in laughter. He had never been that mean but it was so fun! He sent a copy of the tape to Tony. That way he'd have warning.
Tony looked at the tape that appeared in his desk drawer. "I'm not sure I want to know." It was labeled 'Xander Convinces Zeus to Use His Nickname Instead'. He decided to go watch it in the evidence room, just in case. The first one was really funny. He had to admit that. The hearing was good but the chorus line made him cackle so high pitched someone went running to Gibbs to stop him before he broke something. Gibbs came in so Tony rewound it, letting him see.
Gibbs squeezed his eyes shut on the chorus line. "We'll straighten the boy out." He ejected the tape, looking at the title. "I would've spanked."
Tony cackled, taking it back. "Zeus always said mischief could never get him," he giggled, going out to his desk. The others gave him odd looks. "Cousin," he laughed. "Got even."
McGee grimaced. "That good?"
"Chorus line," Tony cackled, falling into his chair to laugh.
Gibbs came out. "Someone filmed his cousin Xander being mean to someone who kept using his full name. Remember that when he shows up this summer for some training time with DiNozzo." He looked at his panting agent. "You done?" He nodded, running to the bathroom. "Good. Let's not mention this again."
"Chorus line?" McGee asked. Gibbs glared at him. "Never mind, I might be horrified with the way Tony was cackling." Tony came back looking much more calm. "Is your family related to a mischief God?" he teased.
"Kinda but my family is more related to a love god." He grinned at him. McGee just shook his head. "I'll introduce you sometime." He got back to work. "Next time I'll wait until after work, boss. Um, did I mention yet that the post office said she's got three different addresses?"
"You hadn't. Are they relevant?"
"One's the PO Box that the threat came from." He looked up. "Enough to ask?"
"Enough to interrogate," he decided. "Come on, DiNozzo. The fresh air will do you good."
"On your six, boss," he agreed, hopping up to follow him.
McGee looked at Kate. "Think we can sneak the tape?"
"It'll only take them an hour to get her. We can wait. He'll brag later."
"If you're sure. I was going to let Abby see it."
Kate looked at him. "Don't do that. She'll never get anything done and then Gibbs will growl and bite." She went back to work. "Do you have anything?"
"Not really." He kept looking. He'd get the tape later. She was right, Tony would share.
Xander skipped into Tony's row, beaming at him. "I'm here. They said so. They also said I had to bring those leather pants to make sure it wasn't a Sunnydale thing."
Tony looked at him. "You're not supposed to be here for two days."
"It is two days." He moved his computer's mouse over the time/date function, letting him see. Tony groaned. He kissed him on the head. "Can I help?"
"We've been working on a missing person's case."
Xander nodded slowly. "Could someone like Willow help?"
"Tried that, didn't work," he said quietly. That got a nod and Xander moved to read over his shoulder. "Not allowed to show you," he said grimly.
"Have you tried looking in the national forests since it says she likes to camp?" They all stared at him. "That's what the file says," he said, pointing at it.
Tony put a query into the system. "There's a lot of parks around here."
"Where did he get that?" McGee asked.
"Um, purchases for a four man tent, two sleeping bags, camp stove, pots for a camp stove, thermal underwear," Xander said, reading off the receipt. "Two other things that are listed by code but not name and then two candy bars."
Tony looked at the receipt then at him. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. It's nice being useful. Can I do anything else?"
"Go make coffee," Gibbs ordered.
"Sure." He went to do that for them, finding the break room easily enough. One of the people in there gave him an odd look. "I'm up to study with Tony for a few weeks."
"Why?" another female asked.
"Because I'm his cousin." He gave her an odd look. "Because he's a nice guy and he's going to teach me how to dance in clubs and other important life skills so I quit dating girls who want to kill me?" They just walked off at that shaking their heads. He shrugged it off and went back to his coffee making, bringing the pot out when it was done. Tony grinned at him. "I told the nosy people I was up to study under you and you were going to teach me how to club."
"I am," he agreed. "Also we're going to work on your weapons skills and tracking ability." Xander beamed and went to refill the other cups too. He sipped. "Good coffee, Xander."
Gibbs sipped. "Not too strong but good enough," he agreed. Xander smiled and took the pot back then came back. "Sit. It's going to be a while. He can let you into his place during a dinner break."
"Sure. I don't mind." He settled in next to Tony's desk but slightly in his alcove. "What are the two code thingies? Weapons?"
Tony looked then at him. "For one-fifty each?"
"You can get some cheap shotguns for that. I've been hyping our arsenal at home."
Tony looked up the store online. "Boss, gotta go there to ask them. I'll take Xander home." He got up and walked him out. "That was a really good thought."
"It could narrow down the park too. Not all of them would allow hunting," Xander pointed out.
"Good point. Plus the licensing would mean we'd get another name if it was a shotgun." He smiled and let Xander into his car. "Bag?" He pointed at the backpack. "That's all you brought?"
"It's linked back to the closet," he said once he was inside the car. "Strife packed. Well, repacked since Buffy and Willow packed the first time."
"That's fine." He took the boy to his place and let him in then headed off after a warning not to destroy anything. The camping supply store was very helpful with the sight of his badge and the receipt. He came back to the office. "He was partially right. A twenty-two caliber rifle and a compound bow, boss." He put down the information he had gotten. "They also picked up maps and hunting information five days ago on two different parks." He put down copies of those. "The gun was registered in her name and the clerk did get his since he paid for it." He put that one down as well.
"Good work." He handed out the state parks. "Call, find them." Tony took the guy's name and went to run a search on him. Missing four days was too long.
Tony got home that night and Xander handed him a plate of microwaved food. "You cooked?"
"As good as I can." He grinned. "I knew you'd have a late night after spending all afternoon tramping through a park."
"One of the rangers remembered seeing their campsite. Led us to it."
"For some reason they had pulled their cookstove into the tent. The fumes off it knocked them out and hopefully killed them before the stove turned over and burned them half to charcoal. The sleeping bags were fire retardant and snuffed out the flames inside. McGee nearly passed out from the gas fumes too." He sat down and dug into his dinner. "So, what happened while I was gone?"
"You had two females call and I told them I was a pesky younger cousin in for a few days but you could easily dump me if they were your girlfriend. One cooed at the idea of dropping me somewhere like an amusement park for the day and then coming back to have dirty, nasty sex. She was thinking out loud." He handed that message over. "The other one said family was too important to do that too and she wanted to meet me." He handed over that one. Tony smiled and shook his head. "Then one of the old ladies up the street came up to quiz me about your love life. I had to admit I hadn't been here to watch you before now. She's pouting but she made you cookies. They're in the kitchen. Your landlord came up too and I told him I'd tell you once you came home but I was expecting it to be very late because of the current case. So you need to call him and I didn't ask why."
"I probably forgot to slide the check under his door," he admitted. "I've had some long hours recently."
"I hear you guys have theme parks around here."
"We do." He grinned. "I've got this weekend off so we can go." Xander squealed and hugged him. "You picked that up off the girls," he taunted.
"Well, yeah. All I have around me are girls. And Giles but I don't think he counts at the moment. Even Strife's been busy."
"We all are now and then," Tony admitted, putting his plate down. "Thank you."
"Welcome and there's seconds and cookies." Tony smiled and went to get that and his cookies. He came back. "So what else are we working on?"
"I don't know. I know tracking skills will always help you. Weapons you need to go over and we can get you manuals if Gibbs doesn't already have them for you. When someone came to ask for a political scandal and step-in for your mayor Gibbs got sent a few weapons manuals for you." Xander nodded. "You're over tactics too?" Xander nodded. "Then you guys can go over that. I'll help you with the weapons manuals and tracking since I do okay in that area, and then we'll help you shop and learn how to attract *good* girls." Xander gave him a shy look. "How much did your mother send with you?"
Xander looked confused. "I don't think she did." He got into his backpack to look then shook his head. "She didn't." He looked at him. "I have some money. The 'rents had life insurance and since they're dead...."
"They let you file for it?"
"It's through an office in Sunnydale. They're used to people disappearing. All they needed was a statement from the Feds that were out there that they had died in federal custody. One of them gave it to him and wham, I've got about three grand."
Tony grinned. "That'll work." Someone knocked on his door. "That's Gibbs." Xander went to get it, taking the stack of manuals he handed over. "Hey, boss. Cookies in the kitchen."
"You make cookies?" Gibbs asked Xander.
"No, his neighbor does and she brought them over to try to get gossip about his love life." He sat down with a grin, going through the manuals. "Cool." He opened the first one. "Training manuals," he said happily.
"Along with designs, just in case you have to disarm some," Gibbs told him. He came out of the kitchen with a cookie "There's another stack in the car." The boy hopped up and went to get them, letting Gibbs sit down. "Schedule?"
"Tracking, tactics, weapons. Fun."
"That'll work. He's only in for a few weeks." Ares appeared and he waved. "Lord Ares."
"Where is my stupid grandson?"
"Getting manuals," Tony told him. "What happened this time?"
"I heard your question." He handed over something. "He managed to leave his other bag there." Xander came in and kicked the door shut, earning a look from Tony for that. He gave him a sheepish look. "Xander, you left a bag."
"You did, moron." He cuffed him on the head.
"Hey!" He sat down, going back to the first manual. He looked at him. "What other suitcase? I only have one."
Ares handed it over. "Your mother leant you one of hers."
Xander put it down and opened it. Then he looked at him. Then at Tony. "Mom must think you're going to get me laid. She packed leathers, thongs, and lube." He zipped it back up and put it aside because that was scary. Very, very scary.
"I think the girls did that last one," Ares admitted. "She also sent you with a shopping allowance since nothing in Sunnydale suits you other than jeans and a t-shirt."
Xander frowned at him. "I'm not exactly the leather or the suit sort, Grandfather," he said, looking a bit confused. "What's wrong with jeans? I can get dirty and hunt and track in jeans."
"Sometimes you have to have a suit," Tony told him.
Xander slowly shook his head. "No I don't. I don't do things that would require a suit."
"Higher end dating?" Gibbs said dryly.
Xander frowned worse. "There's nowhere like that in Sunnydale and dating bad. Everyone said that me dating is a very bad idea."
"Only if you date Cordelia," Ares sighed, handing the envelope to Tony. "His. Don't spend us poor. Try to find him a decent woman."
"I'll try." He grinned. "Anything else you want us to teach him?"
"Tracking, tactics, and weapons. You've only got him for two weeks."
"Good point. Thanks, Ares." He nodded and disappeared. Tony looked in the envelope. "Hmm. Olympian MasterCard." Gibbs choked. "They're very nice." He called to activate it and heard the limit. "You've got five grand on it, Xander."
"Okay. I doubt I can find anything that costs that much." He shrugged and got back to his reading. "Do I get to touch the hands-on models too?"
"I'll see," Gibbs told him. "I'm going to be quizzing you on each one." Xander looked up and nodded at that. "Good. We'll work on tracking this weekend since we're off." He stood up and Xander gave him a hug. "You're welcome." He nodded at Tony, heading out.
Tony grinned. "What else is in that one?" Xander handed it over so he could see it. It was a bit scary. If it had been a girl's suitcase it was a clubbing/getting laid suitcase. Leather pants, thongs, tight t-shirts, jogging shorts. "You run?"
"Only when I'm being chased."
Tony smiled. "I run, you can learn with me." Xander gave him an odd look. "Sometimes I have to run after suspects; I have to stay in shape. I run three days a week."
"I run about four days a week but usually about a block and then I'm out of breath. Buffy still likes to use me as bait."
Tony smiled at that. "Jogging is different and you could use the conditioning. It'll lead to muscles and muscles are good to women who're hunting for boys." Xander shrugged and nodded. "Sneakers?" He lifted a foot. "I guess those'll do for tomorrow." Someone pounded on the door so he got up to answer it, looking at his landlord. "I was going to pop down on the way to work in the morning since Xander said you came up. Did I forget to pay you? I've had some painful cases recently."
He snorted. "You missed both informational meetings. The building's going condo."
Tony blinked at that. "Uh-huh. We have information on that?" It was handed over. "Thank you. Thanks for the warning too. How long?"
"Six weeks." He smirked and walked off. "Good luck with that."
Tony shut the door then threw a quiet fit. He came back and found Xander making boxes. "Thanks, kiddo." He gave him a hug. "I'll find somewhere better."
"I can hunt online and weed things out."
"Sure, that'll help. Did you bring a laptop?"
Xander grimaced then shook his head. "Computers and I aren't always the best of friends. Now and then they really hate me. We have one at home and Dad has one. Generally I get online for porn and my email."
"At your age I probably would have too," he admitted, smiling at him. "I'll make a list of what I want tonight." Xander nodded at that. "Good. Let's get you settled in."
"I already made up the futon in your office."
"Even better." He checked the time. "It's eleven?" Xander smiled and nodded. "That means it's eight your time."
Xander gave him a hug. "It's all right. I can amuse myself. Especially if you get me online? That way I can write Willow with an e-card."
"Saves on postage," Tony teased. He went to do that and then go to bed. The boy started an apartment search on one window and went to hunt down an e-card on the other. A teddy bear with a sword one? Well he supposed someone made one. He went to shower and go to bed, thinking about the condo option. It'd mean that he could have a bigger apartment. "Hey, Xander, forty-five minutes from the shipyards," he called.
"How far out are we now?"
"Okay." He amended his search and looked at a few things. "Wow." He left that one running and went back to his e-card hunt. He finally found one he liked and sent it to both of them. Then he emailed himself the link to the e-card. That way he could send one from New York too.
Tony looked around the house Xander had found for rent. "This is nice," he told the realtor. "It's how much a month?"
"Twelve hundred plus electric and water. It's all electric, even the heater."
Tony looked at him. "Okay." He kept going. "Are there any glaring repairs that need to be done? The roof, anything like that?" The realtor shook his head. "Why did the last person move?"
"There is a tuba player up the street." He opened a window and they could hear him tuning up. "And your next door neighbors host a Church on Sunday morning. They were more scared of the church goers since she had to file a restraining order after they tried to burn her for being pagan."
Tony nodded. "That could be a drawback but I'm a Fed and I can charm most anyone." He looked further. "I like this." He smiled. "Okay." He let him do the paperwork and run the background and credit check. Tony gave him his ID number and that got it moving faster. By the time they got to the car he had his whole background done. He smiled and nodded, letting Tony sign the final papers and hand over money. "The rest on payday in two days?"
"That'll work. Why the sudden move?"
"Going condo," he sighed.
"That can happen," he admitted. He handed over the keys. "Make sure I get that other check."
"I will." He shook his hand. "Not like you don't know where I am." That got a laugh and a nod. Tony went to the office, checking his balance. He winced. That would leave him two dollars. He canceled his automatic payments and looked at his boss. "Found somewhere. Checks had best not be late."
"Why were you looking?" Gibbs asked.
"I got told last night my building is going condo. I missed both informational meetings." McGee winced. "Exactly. Thankfully Xander found me a house. Nice, fifteen from here. More than big enough to wander around in when I want to. The only draw back is a church is next door and they harassed the last person. She had to file a restraining order since she was pagan."
McGee looked at him. "That gothic, dark, loud shutters house?" Tony grinned and nodded. "You know the tuba player goes most of the night?"
"I'm pretty sure I can block out the sound from that direction. Movies are wonderful for that." That got a smirk. "They are. And if the church wakes me up on Sunday mornings I'm sure I can be reasonable and block off that noise too." He would want to do that. He made a mental note to teach Xander how to do sound blocking for him. He leaned back. "Boss, anything else on our plate beyond the paperwork?"
"Do the paperwork and then we'll see." That got a nod and Tony got back to it. He knew that house so he was mentally shaking his head. That church was going to drive him nuts or they'd be arrested for harassment. He knew them.
Xander looked over as Tony pulled into the new place. "The ladies next door remind me of the stories I've heard of maenads."
"Wild, drunk women throwing parties with blood?" Tony asked. "Interesting church."
"Wild, drunk women, and wanting blood," Xander offered. He came over to hand Tony something. "Your bank called today." He winced. "I put in three hundred because you forgot you went grocery shopping. Pay me back sometime before I go."
"Welcome. I figured moving would be expensive." He started hefting and toting boxes into the house, going where they were labeled. "Are you using the dining room as your office?" he called.
"Please." He carried in the next box and came out to find three women staring at the truck. "Hi, I'm Tony." He shook their hands. "I heard you met my cousin Xander earlier. He's in town for a few weeks."
"He said you're a Fed," one said bluntly.
"I am. I'm with NCIS. That's Navy and Marine crimes." That got a bit of relaxed tension. "Before you ask, because I heard you were going to, I'm very happy with my church." He handed Xander another box, watching as he walked inside. "Mine's the big one with the purple wallpaper," he called.
"Do you work on the Sabbath?" one demanded.
Tony looked at her. "No one told the bad guys that they can't work then so we have to sometimes. It does the victims no good if we wait an extra day to help them." She gave him a horrified look. "My team deals in major crimes. Homicides, rapes, those things." They stepped back. "So yes, sometimes I do have to work on Sundays. Don't worry, your worship won't bother me in the least," he finished with a charming smile.
"You should join us," the one in the back said.
Tony looked at her. "I like my church. It's comfortable and comforting to me after the bad cases." She sneered. "My minister used to do the same job I do. He understands when you've seen one too many murdered people." They all backed up. "Now, anything else, ladies? I'm a perfectly reasonable and nice neighbor."
"That boy of yours...."
"My cousin? Xander?" He came jogging out, handing over a bottle of water. "Thanks." He sipped it then grimaced. "Refilled from the tap?"
"That's all right. We'll fix that part later. The ladies wanted to know more about you."
Xander grinned. "I'm from Sunnydale, out in California." They all gave him horrified looks. "As a matter of fact, my best friends, Buffy and Willow, might be coming out too." They turned and ran. "Have a nice day, we only bother those who hurt others," he called with a wave and a smile. He looked at Tony. "Demonic." He grabbed another box. "Yes, I created, I didn't fill. I tried."
"We can work on that," he promised. He got another box and pulled it inside. The landlord came over and he handed over the check dated in four days. "To give it time to clear."
"That's fine, Tony. What did you say to them? They just called up wanting to move."
"They were a bit unnerved by my cousin, who's in for a few weeks." Xander bounced out all happy grins and puppyish hopping around. "They also didn't like that crime happens on Sundays."
He laughed. "I figured you could handle it."
Xander leaned on the side of the truck. "I don't know why they didn't like me. I'm from a good little small town in California that's stuck in the fifties."
The landlord grinned. "They're a bit odd."
"I guess. Can I help Tony paint the bathroom to cover up that yellow? Because yellow is bad. It's for sunny and bright girls who bounce and sing to boy bands."
The landlord walked off laughing. "As long as it's suitable and good when you move out, boys."
"Thank you," Tony called, waving a hand. He looked at Xander. "We'll work on your decorating skills too."
"See, I knew I'd learn a lot." They carried in more things and arranged everything by that night. They had to go back for Xander's things and to clean out the kitchen but otherwise it was fine. Xander came back the next morning to clean everything else and get Tony's security deposit back. The landlord was grudging about it and about how Tony had fixed a few cracks for him. Xander bounced into Tony's row a few hours later, handing the check to him. "Yours, oh, cousin mine. Are you still off this weekend?"
"We are," Gibbs told him. "He all moved?"
"Yup but not unpacked." He looked at his cousin. "Want me to start on that?"
"Slowly and carefully. Doing it *that* way means that some of the DVDs erase."
"Okay." He gave him a hug and bounced out, heading back to the house. He found the church moving and dove in to help them, earning some shocked looks. "I only bother hunters," he assured them happily. "Besides, it's this or weapons manuals." He grinned and they let him carry things all he wanted.
Tony got home and helped with the last few boxes, both of them wishing them a good new spiritual home. Then they went inside, Tony to unpack the movies and Xander to work on his redecorating skills. He had the concentration down but Tony nearly winced at some of the colors coming out. "Um, Xander. Are you color blind?" Tony asked finally. He gave him an odd look. "That shade of green goes with *nothing*. Not even the black border you put up." He gave him a hug to soothe the criticism. Then they got to work on what colors he wanted things. He was getting a lot of work on his color matching and concentration skills. Making all the walls the same color was kind of hard when you were just starting out. They finally got done and Xander collapsed onto the couch with a sigh of relief. "I know it's hard work thinking that hard. Pizza?" Xander smiled at him. "Sure. We'll get pizza."
"I finally have money again." He went to make that call and Xander ended up paying anyway since his card was still locked with the deposit being switched over. That was fine though. He got a note from Ares saying to take him shopping afterward. That he needed Xander to look a bit geeky but professional in a few days. Tony handed over the note and Xander shrugged, going to find his clothes. He came down showered and changed into dress pants, loafers, and a decent enough shirt. "That's geeky," he agreed. "Could use a better shirt but otherwise that looks geeky but professional to me." Xander beamed and went to change back, coming back down in pajama pants. "Want to go shopping anyway?"
"Not really. I could use a washer though."
"The old building had one of those," Tony admitted.
"You have the hook ups." Tony frowned so Xander showed him where they were. "See?"
"That's a later buy," he decided. He walked Xander out with him. "I'll show you where the laundry is tomorrow."
Xander looked at him. "Fortunately I got a tracphone so I can do a cab."
"Can't you drive?"
Xander slowly shook his head. "Not yet."
"We'll fix that too. I'll let Don know if we don't get you up to the point where you can take your test." He took him out to do some mild shopping, showing him how things matched better. It was a lesson that had to be stressed sometimes in Xander's life. He still wanted to pair some ungodly created colors with basic neutrals. He finally had to look at one shirt. "I love Hawaiian shirts. I've had a thing for Magnum for years," he assured him. "I don't mind those. That one looks like Bacchus puked after a party at Hermes'." Xander gaped at him then burst out giggling. "I'm serious. It should be criminal. You shall not wear that ugly of clothes. Ever." He steered him away from the print shirts, taking him to the better neutral ones and ones with simple patterns. "Stripes up and down make you look taller. Thinner is better than fatter because fatter can make you look more bulky. You wear polka dots at your own risk. Last time I did, Grandmother nearly killed me ripping it off me." Xander held up a diagonally stripped shirt. "The colors are nice but with your body it might make you look like a hunchback. I only let that pattern on ties, Xander." He checked the name on the wall to make sure the place wasn't called The House of Ugly Shirts or something equally telling. He never had this problem when he shopped here. After the next shirt that looked like a puke pattern with gunshot residue he made him check out with the few they had selected and then took him somewhere better. Before he had a headache from the shirts. He was never going there again!
Xander appeared at Gibbs' call a few days later, looking nice in dress pants, loafers, and a dress shirt but no socks. Gibbs looked at his feet then at him. "I'm a teenager from Cali, Gibbs. Socks are evil unless you're hiking, in San Fran, or very gay."
"Whatever," he decided, taking him with him. "Have you been studying?"
"I got through three of them," he said proudly. "Started on a fourth. I'm in the operating section."
"Good job." He let him into the car and got in to drive. "Tony said you can't drive yet?"
"My grades are pitiful and they won't let me in driver's ed ahead of the kids with 'A' averages. Not that some of them want to take it. Willow doesn't."
"She'll regret that later." He backed out of his parking spot and headed for the Department of Defense's weapons testing ground. "I got special permission with who your grandfather is." Xander beamed and wiggled. "Behave." He quit wiggling. "They think you're on a design team as an intern." Xander nodded. "Also, I want to know what you sense off each one. If you can automatically sense how to use, disarm, or contain it."
"Okay," Xander agreed. They pulled in and Gibbs had to show his ID. Xander smiled and waved. "Hi."
The guard looked at him. "It says you've got an intern, Agent Gibbs."
"That would be that goofball." Xander punched him on the arm. Gibbs gave him a look. "Even Tony calls you that, kid."
"Well, now and then," he admitted. "I can be serious about some things." That got a nod and they were let in. "Especially about hunting. That church was demonic."
"Good to know. They move?"
"Yup." Xander beamed at him. "We even helped to show that there weren't any hard feelings. Then I redecorated on Tony's orders."
"I heard the story of the ugly shirt store," he admitted. He parked and got them out, heading inside to the museum they had in there. He started Xander at one end. "Go ahead, you can touch. They're all disarmed."
Xander looked around and shook his head. "That one's not," he said quietly with a nod at a box on the floor. Gibbs just nodded at that. "It feels like a dangerous thing." He moved to look at the first weapon, running his hand over it. He let it tell him what it was. "It's an ancient version of the RPG launcher?" he guessed. Gibbs nodded. He looked. "Which makes this the control panel." He looked it over, then nodded when it spoke to him. The buttons told him what they did. He looked at the missile. It was quiet so he knew it was disarmed. "If I remember right about the new ones, the payload is in the cone?" he told Gibbs, who nodded again, arms crossed now. "There's no really good way to get at them to empty it out without breaking the cone off since it's sealed and waterproofed." He moved onto the next one. This one made him shudder and back away. "What are you?" He looked it over. Then he stepped closer again. "You deliver biological weapons. Or you have."
"It was used to deliver some seren gas once," an officer said from the doorway. "Gibbs."
"This is Xander."
"I've heard." He came over to shake his hand. "How can you tell that?"
"It's like it emanates slimy feelings, like an ooze coming off it. The last one talked to me, the buttons told me what to do when I touched them. This one...." He took his hand to show him. It gave him a headache but the man looked at him for a minute. "See?"
"I do. Don't touch the box, kid. It's currently under testing and we're not that hopeful."
"I noticed it had that 'dangerous' air that meant it was armed." Xander looked around and pointed at something. "That one did the same thing?"
"Not seren. It delivers an acidic compound that eats organic material." Xander nodded. "You are learning them the mundane way?"
"I am. I'm through my first three books and then I've got Gibbs testing me this weekend."
"Good. Learn how to undo bombs too."
"Could help," Xander agreed, smiling a bit. "Thank you for indulging Grandfather."
"Not a problem. You can't help us if you don't know what you're doing." He left them alone, taking that box just in case. The kid didn't need that. He could go into failed weapons at a later point in time. He heard giggling and came out to find Gibbs laughing. He looked at what he was looking at. "You can hear the elephant story?"
"It's on the plaque," Gibbs reminded him. That got a smile and he went back to his office while those two worked on the kid's skills. Later on Gibbs took him out to the firing range to work on his skills there. The kid already had a good hand at it the mundane way. The special way was done by thought and it was impressive. He hoped that Ares never had to have the kid stop a unit by force. Another guy showed up, lounging against a wall watching him work his way up the gun ladder from small twenty-two to AK assault rifle. He knew that body and he went back to his office quietly. That one had told him once to do weapons instead of being a grunt and he had been right. It had been kinder too since most of his unit was decimated in their next engagement. Xander looked each gun over, breaking it down under Gibbs' careful watch and then Strife explained each piece to him when he asked. Then the boy put it back together, fired it, called the bullets back to look them over and make sure he knew the differences between the others and this one, then they moved on. He was certainly getting a well-rounded education.
Xander bounced in to hug Tony. "I got to play on the firing range too," he said proudly.
"Congrats. I was wondering why you stunk like gunpowder." Xander gave him a sheepish look. "How did it go?"
"It went very well," Gibbs told him. "He can do it both ways on some of them already." That got a nod. "We went through every handgun they had there. He also got to fire off the new test rocket system. It was whimpy and didn't destroy the target fully."
"I'm just happy I hit the target my first try," Xander told him.
"Me too," Gibbs told him, sitting back down. "Driving lessons, DiNozzo."
"Going Sunday to the course the local schools use," he admitted. Xander beamed and bounced. "You look so much like Abby," he teased.
"Do I know her?"
"I haven't introduced you to Abby?" Xander shook his head. "Boss?"
"Go ahead. Let her babble at him. See if she has anything new." Tony got up and walked Xander to the lab, letting him look around. Gibbs smiled a bit. The boy was good. He'd be great soon. He sent a progress report to Don to let them know what they had done and were doing soon. That way they wouldn't overlap.
McGee came back from the lab. "Xander looks very happy."
"He is," Gibbs agreed. "The firing range and he got along very well."
"Good." He sat down. "Why does his town have a high death rate ten months out of the year? Higher than DC and New York together? With a population that we might have in a single neighborhood?"
Gibbs looked at him. "What did you find?"
Gibbs nodded. "Then you found your answer."
Tony came back without Xander. "We're taking him and Abby to Busch Gardens next weekend if we're off. Want to come?"
Gibbs looked at him then at the calendar, nodding a bit. "That's fine. Which day?"
"Saturday? He flies out Sunday morning."
"That's fine." He made a note of that. "He want to pet the horses?"
Tony smiled and nodded. "And ride the coasters with Abby." He sat down. "They're babbling about guns." Gibbs gave him an odd look. "How did she know?" he mouthed.
Gibbs shrugged. "Not a clue. How does she find out anything?"
"Good point, boss." He looked at McGee, who was staring at him. "What?"
"Demons?" he asked quietly.
"Sunnydale," he said. "Are we playing a full round of word association and is this the shrink version or a game for points, favors, or beers?"
McGee frowned. "I got curious about his town, Tony."
Tony nodded. "If you've found that much out, you've pretty well found it, Probie. Ask him." That got a nod. "If you have nightmares, don't come crying to us."
"Agreed." He went back to his last report and finished fixing it then went to talk to the boy. Fortunately he and Abby were talking about slime. "What shoots that?" he asked.
Abby spun to look at him. "Huh?" she asked, giving him an odd look.
"I looked up his town to see if there was anything we could converse politely about."
Xander moaned, holding his head. "You found the demons?"
"I did. I wanted to know why."
Xander looked at him then pulled up a site. "This one is in Greece but the one in Sunnydale is under the library's floor." He let him read it. McGee went pale. "I'm on the protection society."
"Damn," he said finally, looking at him. "So the hunting lessons are to help with that?"
Xander nodded. "Yup. I was okay before but things are about to pick up and I need more skills."
"I hope you can make them calm down again." He clapped him on the arm. "Good luck, Xander, and if you need computer skills ask."
"We have Rosenburg," he said smugly.
"I hate that hacker," he said, shaking his head with a small sigh. "You know her?"
"Best friends since the first day of school," Xander admitted. "She's on there too."
McGee smirked. "Is she why I ran into a demon on the internet?"
"Well, technically that was the computer teacher who was putting some of Giles' books online but it went looking for a love interest and found Willow. We thought we took it off. Is it still there?"
"No. It came looking for friendship before you got it. If not, I'll let you guys know." Xander beamed and hugged him then Abby, bouncing off. He looked at her. "How did you know about that stuff?"
She hit him on the arm. "I grew up in New Orleans. Think about all the strange rumors you've heard about us, McGee."
"Point. Does that mean there's really aliens?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "If I find any I'll tell them you said hi."
"As long as they don't take that as an invitation to be probed." He walked off, going back to his desk to listen to Xander babbling about the firing range and the neat museum.
"So we're on for tracking Saturday, driving Sunday, then whatever Gibbs wanted you for, and then next week with more studying?" Tony asked. "Then next Saturday Busch Gardens?"
"Good. Go change. You stink."
Xander giggled. "Sorry. That laundromat?"
"In the blue building up the street."
"Okay." He bounced down to get a cab back to the house and go change then do laundry. Someday soon he would have to figure out how to do that the non-mundane way too. That and how to cook because he was starved.
Xander came off the plane yawning, smiling at Don and Mac. He hugged them both. "I was very good for Tony and Gibbs."
"I'm glad," Mac told him, walking him off. "Any other bags?"
"One suitcase." That got a nod and they went to get it, finding it with security. He showed them the letter from Gibbs to get it back. "Who got it into it?"
"We noticed the solid masses on the x-ray, sir. You're going into a weapons design program?"
Xander nodded. "I am. This is my training summer to make sure I can meet standards next summer." That got a nod and he was handed back his bag and the plastic bag of manuals. "Did you confiscate some? There's six or seven missing."
"No, sir." That got a sigh and Xander let Mac carry those while he called Tony and they walked out. He put the note into the database for the Feds. Since the signer was one that should be good enough. If not they could jump down his throat.
Xander hung up. "Tony said he put them in my backpack." He looked inside and smiled. "Ah, they slid through to the closet." He zipped it back up and took back the plastic bag to carry out, letting Don have the suitcase. "I also have a lesson plan from Gibbs. He and Tony said I need more work on tracking and driving."
"We can do both of those," Mac admitted, smiling at him. "You were learning tracking?"
"Yup. We both figured it'd help at home."
"It probably will," Don agreed. They made it outside and Xander got into the back of the car Don got the suitcase into. He got in to drive. "You're on my couch, Xander."
"That's fine. I had to help Tony move and redecorate too."
Mac shifted once he was buckled in. "Seatbelt." Xander did that. "What else did you learn?" Xander pulled out the note and handed it over. He looked it over, nodding. "We can keep up with those three skills." He looked at him. "Tony said you needed more color matching help too."
He rolled his eyes. "I like my print shirts."
"We'll see," Don told him. "You get any clubbing in?"
"Two nights and he said I dance like a girl since I was booty popping and things." Don snickered at that. "I'm surrounded by girls."
"We'll help with that too," Don promised dryly. He was sure Tony had tried. "He get you dancing like a guy?"
"Eventually. Then he nearly lost me when a girl wanted me."
"Was she deadly?" Mac asked.
"Not to me. The FBI agent who came to so-called save me thought otherwise and Tony laughed himself sick." Both men moaned. "It's not my fault I draw bad girls. I like good girls I just seem to put out a bad girl attraction aura."
"We'll try really hard to help you change that too," Don promised. He drove them back to his place and got Xander settled in on his couch. "Sorry, New York apartments are notoriously small."
"It's fine." He gave him a hug. "I like you even if you do live in something the size of an elevator." Don laughed at that, giving him a head nudge. "I was told to tell you I can only microwave."
"That's fine," Mac promised. "There's restaurants all over the city." He sat down to help Xander find his weapons manuals from his closet. Half the clothes got sent back to make room for them and it was better. "Okay. Want to get some practice driving or tracking first since we're both off today."
"Whatever you guys want to do," he offered.
"Tracking in the park?" Don offered.
"That could work," Mac agreed. "Can you do it by mundane means?"
"Yup. They taught me that way first and then how to sense traces left by people."
"Okay," Mac agreed. "Come on." He let the boy change first since he wasn't wearing sneakers or jeans. Then they headed out to track Don through the park. Then through a few buildings using the less than mundane means. By the time Xander could do it without looking it was dinner. Don took them out to a deli and then home. Xander snuggled down on the couch, falling asleep during a movie. Mac and Don smiled at each other. He was a good kid.
Xander walked into the CSI unit with a bag. "Hi, Mac said to drop this off to him please?"
"Mac Taylor?" the receptionist asked.
He nodded and smiled. "Yup. He told me to pick this up and deliver it to him since the place didn't deliver and he had ruined his last shirt."
She called him. "Did you ask for someone to deliver you a shirt? Yeah, that looks like him. He's here." She hung up. "Give someone a few minutes. Is that his laundry?"
"No, he called and ordered this one but they don't deliver so he called me because I was out sightseeing and could go pick it up and bring it to him without making anyone leave work from doing important things."
"Breathe," a male voice said, sounding tolerant.
Xander looked at the blond man in glasses. "Hi, I'm Xander."
"Flack's cousin Xander?" Xander beamed and nodded. "He said you were in for some sightseeing and stuff."
"Mostly 'and stuff' but I was sightseeing earlier and Mac ruined his shirt. They said he ordered this one even though I didn't think he wore shirts like this one."
"C'mon, I'll lead you back there. Give 'im a pass," he ordered. She did that and they walked that way, running into a curly haired woman. "Stella, this is Flack's cousin Xander."
"Hi," she said, smiling and shaking his hand. "Mac's shirt?"
"Yup but I think they got it wrong. Unless he usually wears blue print shirts?" Stella gave him an odd look. "I only picked it up."
"Sure. He's in the office, Danny." He nodded, walking him that way. She went to lurk to see what the shirt looked like.
Danny tapped then walked in with the boy behind him. "One shirt delivery boy."
"Thank you, Xander."
"They said you ordered that one."
Mac gave him an odd look then looked in the bag, groaning. "No, not really."
"I didn't think you'd like that one so I got you something simpler." He handed over the bag from his pocket. "T-shirt to go under a jacket like Tony does?"
"That'll be better," he admitted, taking it to put on. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Though that one will look nice. The salesgirl was right about that."
"I take it she gave you the bag?"
"Yup, she said that you'd look very hot in that one and it matched your eyes."
Danny looked in the bag, pulling it out. It was a blue leaf pattern in all shades of blue. "It would look good on you, Mac."
"Not my style. I'll take it back later." He smiled at Xander. "How was the museum?"
"Good. Only one of the mummies tried to get up so I kinda got out of there before it got all the way out and it laid back down," he finished in a positive voice. They both stared at him. "What? All I did was walk in. I was even on the other side of the room when it moved. Some little kid noticed it. Maybe they were doing chaos magic because I don't but I don't know."
Danny covered his mouth. "Breathe between phrases or thoughts," he ordered, moving his hand.
"Sorry, babbling is my second language," he admitted sheepishly. "But I did get something pretty for Buffy and Willow from the gift shop."
"Good," Mac said, smiling at him. "I'm sure the mummy wasn't your fault." Xander beamed at that. "What are you doing this afternoon?"
"Going to the shop Grandfather sent me a card to get into today and then dinner if Don isn't home."
"That'll work," Mac agreed. "I'll see you tomorrow night and we'll see about some time on a driving course." Xander squealed and hugged him then left. He smiled at the amused looking Danny. "He's a nice kid."
"He's bouncy and hyper. Usually that sets your teeth on edge."
"I like Xander. He's a smart boy and he does things like I would." That got a nod and Danny left. "Shirt?" It was handed back so he stuffed it back into the bag. He was going to spank some salesgirl later. He would wonder about the mummy situation later. That was too strange, even for the Greek Gods.
Xander stepped into the shop and looked around. "Wow."
"You lost, kid?" one of the guys behind the counter asked.
Xander looked at him. It was one of his people! He beamed at him. "My grandfather told me to come here. I'm learning weapons this summer." They stared at him like he was odd. He handed over the card. That got a gape and he grinned. "I'm Xander."
"Ares was here," one said quietly, looking him over. "You're the lost grandson?" Xander nodded. "Prove it."
Xander came over to let him see his anklet, getting a nod. "I've got the collar hidden today. Someone tried to tell me how S&M was evil." He unhid it and they all smiled. "Sorry."
"That's all right," one said, staring at him. Xander stared back. "You're not scared of much, are you?" he asked fondly with a smirk.
"I live in Sunnydale."
The others backed away. The one he was talking to checked his wrist. "He's got a pulse."
"I hunt with Buffy," he admitted. "I'm her Xander. Even if she is trying to turn me gay."
The guy just shook his head. "She's a bit strange. We deal with some of the Council and they all say she's strange."
"That's because they didn't get to take her from her mother at birth and turn her into a robot. They like doing that." That got a nod. "So, what'm I here for? He never told me."
"Weapons test." He got up and led Xander into the back, letting him pet and coo at the weapons all he wanted as long as he could identify what he gave him. The one he got wrong he named it by the older version's name. That was close enough for him. He led him into another room, showing him bomb making components. Xander gave him a sideways look. "He said you should know."
Xander nodded, going over to examine things and let him show him how to make and unmake the various bombs he knew how to do. By the time Xander got home that night he was a lot smarter about bombs. He had even taken notes. He walked in and found Don pacing. "Am I really late?"
"Kinda. It's nine." He looked at him then sniffed. "What were you doing?"
"Grandfather sent me to a shop with a few of my followers." He beamed. "I got tested on weapons identification and then learned how to make bombs."
"Bongs?" Don asked hopefully.
"No, not the feel good things that you suck on; the things that go boom prettily and destroy things." Don sat down, covering his face. "He was very nice and told me to tell you not to worry. Grandfather said so."
Don looked at him. "Who were you with?"
"Of the bomb squad," he said dryly, nodding at that. "So he knows?"
"Grandfather talked to him in person and I got my first prayer, hoping I wouldn't bust them. One of the guys there was one of my people."
"Uh-huh. Before you touch anything else, go bathe fully, wash your hands, and put those in the washer to soak. That way you can't spread residue." Xander nodded, going to do that while Don took a clorox wipe to the doorknob. Then he sent a thank you email to the good captain. He could only hope that Xander didn't show off his new knowledge in public somewhere in his city, making him do a lot of explaining to the higher ups. Xander came out to hug him around the neck. "You're not going to overtly show off, right?"
"Nope. I'm going the Intrepid's museum tomorrow." Don smiled at that. "Should I run out for something to eat?"
"I cooked since it was clear you hadn't been home yet. Eat." Xander went to do that, bringing it out to sit beside him. "Used any powers?"
"Nope. Well, my wings came out once when I sneezed. But otherwise nope. He said my wings were very pretty." He ate a bite, getting a nod. "I'm apparently a bit allergic to something in the sulphur bomb he was showing me. He said next time I'd be able to identify the sulphur by sneeze."
"That could come in handy. What about sulphur smelling beings?"
"We don't get too much of that," Xander admitted. "A bit of brimstone and I never realized before it wasn't just the smell that was making my eyes water." He dug in again, eating heartily then hugging Don. "Thank you for cooking."
"Not a problem," he promised with a smile. "This weekend you wanna hit a club with us and Danny?"
"Okay. Should I pretend not to see someone coming home with you? Because you know I don't mind if you and whoever are having the sex."
"No, it's fine, Xander. I'm not seeing anyone." Xander looked at him. "Don't give me that look. We're friends, nothing more. No matter how much Tony's grandmother pushes."
"Okay. Then can I hit on the pretty women?"
"As long as they're not deadly."
"I don't know how to tell that. I don't hit on the ones who're carrying weapons. I can sense weapons but not deadly yet."
Don looked at him. "We'll work on it, Xander." That got another happy bouncing nod. "Settle in for the night." Xander snuggled into his side, getting a smile. "Thank you."
"Welcome." He yawned. "I went a lot of places today."
"Good boy." He stroked through his hair, making Xander fall asleep against him. It was kind of nice to be cuddled this way. Maybe he'd pick up a girl this weekend too.
Xander appeared in Tony's apartment the next Tuesday. He called Tony from the home phone. "I'm back in DC. Because the girl I picked up tried to take me since she thought I was her toy. No, Mac said I had to evacuate for my own safety. She tried to bomb the lab and Don's precinct to get me back." He listened to him complain about that and he had a date tonight. "Not like I care if you're sexing someone up, Tony. I can hide. All I need is a door that closes. I'll be very quiet, I promise. No, if I go home now Giles is going to make me do odd things, like heft books. Willow's email said they were busy scrubbing the library so it could be reblessed this summer. The new principal obviously has a clue and ordered everything in the school to be reblessed." He listened to him. "I guess I could go on a road trip." He looked up. "Grandfather?" He smiled at the card that appeared next to him. "He thinks it'll do me good too. Sure, I can do that and keep in touch. You have a happy date, Tony." He looked at it. "Huh, car rental. Tony, can we get me my license quickly? He included a Hertz card. Thanks, man." He hung up and settled in to do that until Tony got there. Then he bounced out with his backpack. Everything else was back in his closet. Tony gave it an odd look. "Closet."
"Probably a good idea since someone came to ask Gibbs why you had weapons manuals."
"I had them in my suitcase."
"I heard." He gave him a pat. "It's not you. It's bad timing."
"I know." He grinned and they headed out, letting Xander drive to the DMV for the test to make sure he could handle the mustang. He had to take his learner's permit test, then walk out of the building and back inside to go for his license. It was a silly thing but they said you had to leave the building. Xander barely passed, though he didn't scratch up the mustang. He gave Tony a shy look when he came out, holding it up. "I have it."
"Congrats." He gave him a hug. "Now, let's drop you at Hertz. Will they rent to you at your age?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't know. Grandfather said so. I'm guessing he'd know. Or would arrange it."
"Maybe," Tony admitted. It turned out they wouldn't so he checked the balance on the card. He took Xander to a cheap carlot and let him pick out a small, cheap sedan. Xander hugged him and signed everything. They had to go file the paperwork and Xander ended up in a hotel that night because Tony's new girlfriend hated anyone under the age of twenty badly enough to stab them. Then he took off in the morning after popping in to hug Gibbs and give him a new cup of coffee and heal Tony's bite marks for him. Then he headed south and went to play. He was free for six more weeks!
Xander walked into school the first day back and sneezed. "Sulphur." He went to find Giles. "Sulphur?"
"I've noticed that." Xander sneezed again right before someone walked into the library. "Oh, Principal Brown. This is Xander Harris. Xander, this is the new principal." Xander sneezed and walked away. "What are you allergic to? You didn't have that before you left."
"Sulphur," he said between sneezes. He looked at the principal, waving from the semi-safe distance. "Hi. Nice to meet you." He sneezed again and his nose started to bleed. He grabbed a paper towel from the stack behind the check-out desk, working to stop it.
"Go to the nurse, son," the principal ordered.
Xander looked at him. "Then I'll walk past you and sneeze again," he said behind the towel. That got a nod and he got out of the way so the boy could leave. Xander walked into the nurse's office, letting her check his nose. "Allergic to sulphur," he told her before she gave him a new paper towel. With the way he was bleeding a tissue wasn't going to cut it. He sat where she pointed and got comfy. It wasn't stopping very fast. He sneezed again when the principal walked past the door.
She frowned at him. "I don't have you listed as any allergies, Xander." He wrote it down and she nodded, adding it to his file. "How did you find that out?"
"Spent part of the summer with a cousin who's a Fed. He had bomb residue on him from a case," he lied. She nodded, making note of that too. He sneezed again and glared at the doorway. The principal backed off and left that other student there. He waved at her, handing over a tissue for her lesser nosebleed. "Hey," he said behind his paper towel.
"Hey," she said weakly, laying down.
"Hmm. A fainter," the nurse said, coming over to take care of her. "Once yours is done head to class, Xander." He nodded, changing towels. She gave him an odd look. "You're putting pressure?" He nodded, letting her check. "Why won't it stop?"
"More sneezing," he told her.
She sighed and nodded. "Let's try to clear the blood bubble up there to make sure it won't choke you. Blow gently." He did that and the bleeding picked back up but stopped a few minutes later. "There, that's better." He went to clean up his face and the collar of his shirt, then took a few paper towels with him. "I'll have the principal air out the entry." She walked him to his first period class. "He has a nosebleed." That got a nod. "Send him back if it starts again. It's an allergy to sulphur."
The chemistry teacher looked around then at him. "That means I'll have to excuse you from some lessons." Xander nodded, sitting down next to Willow. "That's fine. You're not the first."
"There was a new ninth grader in there for the same reason," he told him. "She's a fainter." That got a nod and he made a note to check on that while Xander looked at Willow. "Hi."
He nodded. "Figured that out this summer with Tony." She nodded. "I've got post cards at home."
"I'll come over later," she said happily, giving him a hug then paying attention again.
Xander watched the notes going on. He was already lost. Though one thing made him raise his hand. "If you combine the last three don't they explode?" The teacher gave him an odd look. "I spent part of the summer with my cousin Tony and he's a Fed. I got to tour a neat weapons museum."
That got a nod. "It would but the three in front of it would temper that. That's why you add it in that order."
"Okay." He went back to being confused. He looked at Willow when the teacher was done and they were packing up. "Huh?"
"Chemistry is like cooking, Xander."
"Uh-huh." He nodded slowly. "I can microwave," he told her.
"We'll work on it. Buffy's got that confused look too." Buffy looked back at her and nodded. "We'll work on it." That got a nod from her too. They left together, going to history. Xander looked at the new teacher, who looked up. Then he sneezed and started his nose bleeding. "Xander! That allergy of yours is horrible! It's not even near the entryway." He let himself be led off to the nurse's office, where he was laid down. With as much blood as he lost earlier, he was now light headed. She went back to the classroom. "Sorry, he's allergic to sulphur. He found out this summer." She sat down, looking at Buffy, who was looking confused again. "What?" she asked quietly.
"Teacher bad," she said quietly, staring at her. The woman stared back so she smiled and waved. "What? Am I annoying?"
"Yes. Go away."
"I can't. I have to have a history this year."
"Out, Miss Summers."
Buffy sighed and left, going to see the principal. She looked at him and felt that same cramping, twisting in the guts feeling. "Is the history teacher one of you and are you harmless or not?" she asked bluntly. He gaped. "Hi, Buffy Summers." She shook his hand and he whimpered. "So, harmless, slayable? Something Giles is going to scream about later?"
"You're interrupting other students' education."
Buffy snickered. "No I'm not. I don't care about you if you're harmless."
He glared at her. "I want you out of this school."
"Tough. I haven't done anything to be kicked out for. I hardly ever do."
"I have yours and Miss Rosenburg's disciplinary...." The door opened and Xander walked in, then he watched as Buffy fell asleep where she stood.
Xander leaned on the table. "I protect this school," he said grimly, his wings coming out. "Am I clear?" He whimpered and nodded. "Good. Go the fuck away. I don't care if you are harmless or not. I don't need the constant nosebleeds and the town needs Buffy. If you think otherwise you're clearly not harmless." He swallowed and nodded, standing up and backing away. "Now, anything else?"
"Who are you?" he demanded.
Xander looked up. "Permission?"
"Granted," Ares' voice floated out.
Xander looked at him. "I'm the God of Weapons and Tactics," he said quietly. The man went orange and nodded, starting to pack. "All of you. Today. As long as Snyder doesn't come back we'll be fine until subs are found." He nodded and packed faster. Once he was gone Xander hid his wings again then woke Buffy. "You napped."
"I obviously needed it then. I'm not sure why. I must be growing." She walked out with him. "You okay?"
"I'm going to air out the library." She nodded, going back to class. He went up to the library and started to open windows. "Before I lose more than the pint I've already lost," he complained when Giles came out of the office. "We did know that the principal and the new history teacher were both hell demons?" He nodded slowly. "Could've warned me about her, Giles."
"I'm sorry, Xander. I didn't even think."
"They're running now. They tried to kick Buffy out." He sat down at the table, looking at him. "I had a talk with him too." Giles swallowed and nodded. "We can hire new subs."
"That's fine," he agreed quietly. "Why are you here?"
"It's this or I'm going to be nagged and probably bleed more. I don't need to lose more blood today."
"Good point." He got a book and handed it over. "Defense strategies that rely on magic."
"Thanks. I spent most of the summer learning weapons and bombs." He dug into the book, reading it slowly. "I haven't gotten into the magic stuff."
"It should cross over." He went to get a few more books for his young helper then went back to his office to make notes on what had happened that morning. Buffy and Willow came in at lunch. "Inedible again? They promised to make things that would be consumed."
"They did." She put a tray down in front of Xander, getting a grunt. "What are you reading?"
"Defense strategies," he said absently, glancing at the tray. "Thanks. Lasagna Mac?"
"Tasted like it," Buffy said, sitting across from him. "Magical defense?"
Willow took the book from him. "You don't do magic."
He took it back. "I have to be able to work with you when you do." He went back to his reading, eating with one hand. "Applesauce," he said, making a face while he scraped his tongue on his teeth. "Way too much cinnamon." He finished everything else and added milk to the applesauce so he could eat that too. "Thanks." He pushed it aside and went back to reading. "What do I have this afternoon?"
"Gym," Buffy said grimly. "Same teacher. People were rubbing sore spots."
"Dodgeball," he complained. He stuffed the books into his backpack. "Thanks, Giles." He walked out with them, going to hand in his tray, getting a nod from one of the lunch ladies. He smiled. "Thanks for letting her bring it to me." He headed for the gym. His schedule said the same as Buffy's did. So apparently they were both on the jock/stupid people track this year. He looked at her last class then his. "Hey, I don't have to do Home Ec." He grinned and went in to change. "Did the nurse give me permission to sit out?" he called as he walked.
"No. Why would she?"
Xander came out. "Because I lost about a pint and a half of blood earlier to a nosebleed. I'm allergic to sulphur. It's still floating around the entry." That got a sneer. "Fine." He went in to change, coming out in his new shorts and t-shirt. He sat down beside Buffy. "You ready for this year of hell?" he asked dryly.
"Oh, yeah. Though I am not in the mood for this today." Two of the coach's favorites from the basketball team were picked and they got sneered at. "Don't hit my face?"
"As long as you don't hit my head. It hurts."
"Sure." They were split up. He ended up with Willow on his team. He looked around. He had most of the nerds on his team. Huh. He took his ball and squished it. It was a bit firm. He looked at Buffy, who gave him a begging look. So his first throw was at her, tagging her on the side. He ducked to grab a ball, missing one aimed at his head. A few others went at his head. That's when he realized he was unconsciously shielding. He lowered it some so he had to duck now and then but got most of the other team out. His team's leader turned on him so he slammed the ball into his face, making him scream and bleed. "There, I feel better now," he said dryly. "If you'll excuse me, I'm still feeling light headed from the blood loss earlier. You'll want to put more direct pressure to stop that nosebleed of yours." He walked off, going to change and sit down. He looked at Buffy, who only shook her head. "I do feel lightheaded from the earlier nosebleed. I went through most of first period with it bleeding."
"Do you have PMS? That's how I feel when I go heavily."
Xander looked at her. "If I do, some God somewhere is probably laughing." That would be Strife but he was saying it wasn't him. The nurse stomped in. "Sorry, I wobbled from the blood loss."
"You should have been excused anyway!" she said, slapping at the coach. "I nearly sent him to the emergency room earlier because I couldn't get it stopped! How dare you endanger his health!" She got him with one of the slaps, making him back away. "You poor thing. Is the coach being stupid and using basketballs for dodgeball against school rules?" she offered, leading him out. "Press right above the bleeding spot. I know it hurts but it'll stop it faster. Then we'll see if it's broken." He nodded, doing that, looking like a whipped puppy.
Willow came over once she had changed back. "Xander, did you do a lot of muscle work this summer?"
"Well, no, but the new car doesn't have power steering so I did a bit when it got fussy. Speaking of, I need to have it fixed again." He shrugged that thought off and they were released early enough for him to get a snickers bar. The protein would help him rebuild the blood he had lost and the chocolate made him feel better. Maybe he did have PMS. He went to his last few classes then back to the library when his last teacher never showed up by halfway through the class. He flopped down with his new snickers bar and started to read again. "I broke someone's nose. Buffy thinks I have PMS."
"I've heard and I agree," Ares said dryly, looking at his grandson. "I froze him."
"That's fine. Did I give Buffy the headache earlier?"
"She'll live." He looked at his grandson. "You feeling better?"
"I'm still a bit light headed." Ares handed over a goblet. "I forgot that stuff."
"For the last three weeks," he agreed impatiently. Xander made a face but gulped it down. "Thank you. Have more tonight at dinner." He flashed out.
Xander went back to reading. He did feel better. Giles came out of his office looking confused. "You okay?"
"A slight headache," he admitted. "Who was here?"
"Grandfather. Since I broke one kid's nose during dodgeball."
"Was that necessary?"
"The coach told them to hit mine so I'd bleed again," he said, looking at him. "Yes. He was the captain on my own team and he tried me. I threw it normal strength."
Giles sighed but nodded. "Try not to harm the other students, Xander."
"He tried first. How long before we get a new principal and history teacher?"
"Within weeks. Someone's already suggested Principal Snyder come back but they've been soundly rejected since he was a bit tied up in jail at the moment." He frowned then let it clear up. "Though they are blaming this one on Buffy."
"Rumors are that since Buffy was expelled from class when the teacher saw her and then the principal packed and ran for his life after meeting her that she knew them from her old school system and had blackmail on them," Xander said dryly, shifting so he could put his feet up. "Why did we keep the gym teacher?"
"I'm not certain," he admitted. "He was never mentioned in the issues." Xander gave him an odd look. "There were complaints but they were listed under a different reason."
"Huh. Incoming fuming person." He went back to reading. "Hi, coach," he said when the door slammed open.
"Harris, I want you in the principal's office," he sneered.
Xander looked at him. "What principal? He fled."
"Now," he ordered coldly.
"Fine." He repacked the books and headed that way, meeting the vice principal for the first time. "Hi."
"Robin Woods, Mr. Harris. What exactly happened in gym today?"
"I asked the coach if the nurse had exempted me due to the catastrophic nosebleed I had earlier that lasted most of first period. He said no, then he told his bruisers to intentionally hit me on it. My team's captain even tried and that's when I spiked the ball into his nose." He stared at him. "Not only would he not have been injured if we had been using the *right* balls but I think that's pretty lousy sportsmanship and he did attack me first. I just ended it."
The Vice Principal looked at him. "You're a bit cold about that."
"That's because the kid tried to stab me last year on his coach's orders."
"I didn't tell him to stab you. That was his decision," the coach sneered.
"No, you just told him to rough me up," Xander said dryly. The coach gave him a horrified look. "Why do you think I wasn't alone that night. I heard you say it."
The coach made a grab for him. "You and your family ruined everything! The power was going to be ours!" Xander got free of him and knocked him backward. He came at him again and Xander punched him, putting him down. He started to cry. "You ruined everything!" he shouted.
"Good, I'm glad I ruined your little plans for power and the ability to get women to like you. It's a good thing I did before more of us got eaten or otherwise destroyed. Not like I'm ashamed of what I do." He stared the older man down. "If you are, that's your issue and that makes you an enemy." He turned to the Vice Principal, who looked stunned. "Sorry. Again, he started, I finished. That's the way I do things. I don't start fights unless I have to in order to protect others."
The Vice Principal nodded. "I can see why that would matter to you. Let me get someone for them."
Xander opened the door. "Gloria, is Bob around? The coach just tried to attack me and I knocked him down." She nodded, calling someone. "Thanks." He shut the door. "The Chemistry teacher's son is a local cop since I know you're not local." He sat down out of the way. Two cops stomped in. "Hi."
"Harris," one said, nodding at him. "What happened?"
"Earlier or this time?"
"Earlier first," he decided.
"Coach told the idiot here to spike a ball into my face because I told him I had a nosebleed earlier that lasted most of first period. The kid tried and I turned around to do it to him."
The cop nodded. "Okay. I can see that. You don't usually start a fight. Jump into one to protect others but not usually start." He looked at the crying man on the floor. "Him?"
"He attacked Mr. Harris saying he had ruined everything and he had lost his power," the Vice Principal told him. "I have no idea what's going on."
"It was my family that got the school evaluated," Xander said quietly, making him shudder. "The coach was one of Snyder's thugs. That's probably the power he was talking about." That got a nod from everyone. "I'll press charges if I need to, Officer Bob. He attacked me. I had to defend myself. I had to hit him."
"That's fine, Xander. Apparently you've had a bad start to this school year."
Xander grimaced. "The nosebleed was an allergy to sulphur. It's only going to get better since I'm in chem with your dad." That got a smile. "Thanks, guys."
"Welcome, Xander," the other one said, lifting them both up. "Are we kicking out our star center?"
"For the day. I'll decide on anything else later," Robin Woods told him. "If you have more problems with the students, I look forward to working with you guys." That got a smile and they left.
Xander looked at him. "Why didn't they move up the English teacher?"
"She turned it down," he said honestly, sitting down. "I know about Buffy, Xander." Xander gave him an eyebrow arched up look. "I'm the son of a slayer."
"That's kinda cool. You should have that talk with her and Giles."
"I plan on that tonight. Are we having a meeting?" Xander shrugged. "That's fine. You do what?"
"Backup, weapons support, and whatever."
"Even better. Let's go see Mr. Giles. I should probably give you suspension for hitting him back."
"I'm not going to let anyone hit me. I grew out of that at ten." The other man gave him an odd look. "The people who raised me were violent alcoholics," he said quietly. "They stole me from my natal family. Who I have back now."
"Oh! And it was the new family that complained. All right." He rubbed over his bald, dark head. "Come on, let's go talk to Mr. Giles." He walked him out. "He's not in trouble," he told the secretary. "The man attacked him in front of me."
She looked at him. "Why the nosebleed?"
"I'm allergic to sulphur."
"Chemistry's going to be fun for you," she teased.
He nodded. "Study hall." She laughed and he walked out. "He hasn't met Giles yet so I'm taking him up there." He walked him up to the library. "Giles?" He came out of the office with Willow. "His momma was an earlier Buffy and Kendra." He sat down and went back to his reading. "By the way, the coach attacked me in the office."
Willow groaned. "Why are they attacking you?"
"Because his parents got his power taken away from him," the man said. He smiled and shook Giles' hand. "Robin Woods. My mother was in New York."
"Yes, Spike killed her," he said. He nodded at that. "Welcome to the hellmouth. Did you come here on purpose?"
"I did. I'd be more than willing to help."
"Let's sit and see how, shall we? Buffy will be here later. She mouthed off to the Home Ec teacher and got detention." Xander shook his head. "This year is not starting off in a prodigious manner," he said, staring Xander down.
"He attacked me," Xander reminded him. "I ended it, I did not start it."
"Fine." He led him into the office. "Would you like some tea?"
"Please. It's been a long day since Buffy made the principal run for his life by outing him as a demon." He accepted his cup when it was ready. "Are there any other teachers I should worry about?"
"Usually just substitutes. The rest didn't get on very well last year."
"I heard." He sipped the tea, relaxing some. "She's a junior, right?" He smiled and nodded. "That's good to know. Does her mother know?"
"I'm not sure," Giles admitted. "I do know that a good portion of the things in town do, both on sight and by name. I'm sure Xander's used that in the past to clear out Willie's Bar."
Robin snickered. "He seems like a good backup."
"He is that and he's learning more about weapons and things to help her more."
"So I heard. I have a friend in DC who warned me he was studying weapons manuals."
"He does very good in that subject. He's very hands-on. He spent most of last year frustrated or confused or throwing the textboooks."
"Some kids are like that." He took another drink, looking out there. "Her other helper?" Giles nodded. "Better than my mother had."
"She's the first who's had this sort of support. It's kept her alive. Indeed, Xander brought her back to life once." That got a shocked look. "That's why there's two. The other one occasionally shows up." He took a drink and sat up. "What can I do to help you?"
"I want Spike more than anything but if you need me I have trained myself over the years. I can help you spar with her or be an additional backup if we need it."
"Watch out for Halloween," Xander called. He grabbed his forehead. "And Angel. He's going to slip." He shook his head quickly and groaned, going back to the books. Willow came out of the stacks and gave him an odd look. "What?"
"How did you know Angel is going to slip his soul?"
"My mother has the occasional vision now and then. Has Buffy told her mother?"
"She said she doesn't want to drag her into it."
"Joyce hinted to my mother that she's seen her staking something."
"Oooh, poopie," she said, shuddering. "I'll let her know. Maybe that would be a good mother/daughter talk." She went to do that, finding Buffy coming out of Home Ec after cleaning the stoves. "Your mother's seen you out hunting," she said quietly.
"Xander said she hinted to his mother that she'd seen you."
"Damn it," she muttered. "Come on, let's tell Giles."
"We have a surprise," she said happily, bringing her that way. "Look, Giles."
"Buffy," the Vice Principal said, smiling at her. "Relax. My mother was a slayer." She gave him a horrified look and he laughed. "A long time ago but I have trained myself to help if I ran into one of you or Spike."
"Wow. That's... Sunnydale makes things odd," she decided. "Giles, has my mother hinted to you that she knows?"
He looked at her. "No."
"Xander said Joyce hinted to his mom that she saw Buffy hunting," Willow told him.
"Then I would probably admit to it," Giles told her. "Maybe she'll quit grounding you for sneaking in."
Xander leaned into the office. "That's why she got grounded for wearing heels." He grabbed his bookbag. "Heading home to eat. I'm starved. Let me know if we need me."
"Of course," Giles called after him. "Have a good night." He looked at Buffy. "I would talk with her."
"I guess I'll do that tonight." She looked at the Vice Principal. "Thank you for telling me and if we need you we'll put you on the roster with Cordy." He shuddered. "She stakes and snarks very well. That's how we roll around here," she said happily, going home. "Later, guys."
"Bye," Willow called. She looked at Giles. "Huh." He smiled. "I should probably go home and see if my parents are back yet. They're due in sometime this month." She smiled at the vice principal. "I do most of her research for her."
"And her homework from what I heard," he said dryly.
"She doesn't always have time."
"Tutor, don't do it for her," he ordered. She nodded, heading out. He looked at Giles. "Do you feel like you're leading a resistance movement?"
"Yes but then Xander annoys me." That got a laugh. "He's very good at annoying someone until they give up and go away. Fair warning because I'm sure you'll be seeing him soon."
"Probably with the way this school year started." He finished his tea. "I've got to find a history teacher. Want to fill in? I know you're more qualified than most people think."
"I loathe the little brats," Giles told him. "Why do you think I work in here? I never see any." That got a laugh and the other man walked off. Giles leaned back, sipping his tea, making notes for later and the Council. This was certainly odd. He hoped the buildup of personnel didn't spell out a future disaster.
Xander walked into the house. "I'm here." He put down his backpack and went to the kitchen, kissing his mother on the cheek. "Why are you crying?" She handed him the ambrosia. "Mom?"
"I don't know!" she wailed.
Xander backed away slowly. "Uncle Apollo, can we please borrow your hands for a few minutes?" he called, making sure he was out of swatting range.
Apollo appeared, looking at him. "Still sick from the nosebleed?" Xander shook his head and pointed. He looked. "Oh. Hormones," he said, smiling a bit. She gaped at him. "Yes, you, stuffed up. Again."
"Daddy!" she wailed. Ares appeared with his sword in hand. She sobbed on him. "The Fates are mean, Daddy."
"She's pregnant again," Apollo told him. "Did the Fates say something about it being a bad thing?"
"No." He looked at her. "You'll be fine," he promised, patting her on the back. Xander put the goblet down and backed away again. "It's all right, Grandson."
"She's crying and wailing. It can't be that good. Even for a woman crying like that is bad."
Apollo smiled at him. "Hormone swings are normal, Xander. Even among us. Last time she nearly gutted your father and me during one." He frowned then looked at her, running a hand over her stomach. "It's a girl and ...." He had to duck her swing. "Hey!"
"Come on," Ares said, taking her with him. Apollo followed back up to his temple. He put her back into her rooms and locked her in. "It'll restrict some of her powers while she's unreasonable."
"I forgot we had to do this last time," Apollo said, frowning a bit. "The other kid?"
"Will be fine. Let me tell his father." He appeared with Xander. "He told you?"
"Are we locking her up again? Last time she nearly killed me, Father-in-Law."
"I'm never knocking someone up," Xander muttered, heading back to the house, appearing to see Buffy and Joyce there. He froze Buffy. "Mom's pregnant. They had to lock her up before she killed others."
She smiled. "I remember wanting to."
"She apparently tried a lot last time. Including my father, Apollo, Ares." She nodded at that. So he unfroze Buffy. "I'm going to be a big brother."
"Why did the headache come back?" she complained. She picked up the goblet and looked at it. He took it and stuck it into the dish washer. "Okay. Ritualy stuff? Willow has one like that."
"Not really. My mom's pregnant. She gave me the smoothie."
"Me too. She's been called back to the main house for a few days. Apparently last time she tried to kill Dad." She giggled at that. "So, why the visit?"
"Thank you for telling her that I had hinted, Xander." Joyce kissed him on the cheek. "Want to come for dinner tonight?"
"I'm learning how to cook," he said proudly. She gave him that 'mom' look. "We all know I can do without parents for a while, Joyce. I did for fifteen years."
"Good point." She gave him a hug and another kiss on the cheek. "You check in with me every afternoon, young man. And no getting hurt. No wild parties. No orgies like I heard you went to last year." He grinned at that. "Good boy." She walked Buffy home, going to make her dinner and check on Willow's parents. They were absent all too often too. She and her daughter sat down to talk over dinner. That way she wouldn't think she was getting away with things.
Xander looked up then around. Then he called Tony. "Spreading the news. My mother's pregnant and being confined for a few days." He smiled. "I'm fine. I promise, no parties. Buffy's mother made sure too. Nope, I'm good with it. Thought I'd start the gossip chain." He smiled. "Thanks, Tony." He hung up and went back to looking in the fridge. It was nearly bare. It had two zucchini and a box of baking soda, plus a soda for him. He drank that, considering the empty freezer. They didn't even have ice cubes. The pantry was bare. He frowned, looking around again. Then he went to check his allowance card. It had twenty bucks. "Pizza or groceries?" he mused, considering it. Ares appeared looking confused. "No food in the house. Pizza or groceries with my last twenty? Groceries would last longer but I love pizza."
Ares shook his head. "Hestia? My daughter didn't shop recently." She came down and looked around the kitchen, clucking her tongue and making things appear. "There, food. Get the car fixed."
"I'm going to." He slunk back there. "Did I piss him off?"
"Her hormone swings make him cranky because it feeds back to Discord," she soothed, giving him a hug. "How well can you cook?"
"I can microwave. I can open a box and put things into a pan and then bake it."
"That's better than some bachelors. We'll work on that, dear." She pointed. "Defrost the chicken. Put it in the white, square baking dish. Add uncooked rice or pasta, the can of mushroom soup, some of the shredded cheese, and breadcrumbs. Cook on three-fifty for forty minutes." He beamed and nodded, doing that while she watched. She created a small cookbook of simple recipes for him, leaving him alone when Hera called for her help. "I'll be watching, dear."
"Thanks, Aunt Hestia." He blew a kiss, smiling when she left. He went back to cooking. This was kinda fun and a lot easier than chemistry if Willow was right about it being like cooking.
Strife popped up in front of where Ares was lounging about two months later. "Unc, Xander's scared of your mood swings but he wants to know if he can get a job," he said.
"Why would he need one? He can make anything he needs."
"Except money for the bills and gas for his car," he said dryly. Ares sat up. "He's been paying for everything for the last few months outta what was left from the life insurance policy. It's gonna run out this month and he wanted to know about an after-school job."
"His allowance card..."
"Was so maxed out they asked him for a payment," he said dryly. Ares groaned. "I do hafta admit he can now manifest fast food." Ares gave him a dirty look. "He figured it out when he got hungry last month and no more food was coming. Since it was rent and gas money or food, he created instead. Also, the ambrosia's not gettin' down there again."
Ares got up with a sigh. "I'm going to fix things." He went to talk to Hera. "Mother?" She looked over from her gardening. "Has it escaped everyone's notice that Xander's not getting ambrosia, no one dealt with the card we gave him, and he's been alone for the last two months?" She dropped her shears, shaking her head. "Strife said he can manifest fast food now. He was wondering about a job. The card asked *him* for a payment."
"I'll deal with that now. Thank you for telling me. Why didn't he?"
"He probably can't get up here without ambrosia," Athena said as she appeared. "Has anyone noticed that Janus got someone into his school to teach history?"
Ares gave her an odd look. "Excuse me?"
"Hecate was crowing that her favorite pair was there and fighting." She shrugged. "I've looked over Xander's school work. It's still abysmal." She smirked at Ares. "You would be proud. He shot one of the demons last night. For a full, non-confirmed God he's doing a lot of things the mundane way." She disappeared again.
"Go talk to your father about his confirmation. Even though he's in training he has a good feel for his areas." She went to handle the credit card and the ambrosia situation. She also called Hestia to go check on the boy's kitchen. Her shriek told her all she needed to know. She paid it off and upped his maximum limit to limitless. He apparently needed it now and then. She went down there as well. "Xander?" He gave her a sleepy look from the table. "Have you eaten, boy?"
"Tired," he said, letting his head thump back down. Hera put some ambrosia in front of him. "Created some, nasty crap."
"Drink it anyway," she ordered. He sat up long enough to drink then laid his head back down. "What's wrong? Do you feel ill? Apollo!" she bellowed. He came rushing down. "What's wrong with him?"
He looked him over then grimaced. "Someone's draining him. Let's add a few shields." Xander swatted at him. "Did you give them permission?"
"Hellmouth divergence spell," he said weakly. "Quit. It'll snap and get worse. I'll be fine tomorrow. Skipping tomorrow but I'll be fine tomorrow."
"HECATE!" Hestia yelled. She came in a flash so she pointed. "The boy is doing *what*?"
She looked then shook her head. "Giles cast it wrong." She undid it and went to yell at him and her other helper, who was already yelling. "Shut up!" They both stared at her. "Ripper, you cast the spell wrong. It was going to kill young Xander?" He went pale and grabbed the table. "Secondly, *I* put Ethan here. You'll need him some year soon. Get over it, kiss and make up, or I'm siccing Aphrodite on you two again. Am I clear?"
"Yes, Hecate," Ethan Rayne said, dropping his illusion. "What can I do to help?"
"We're grounding the hellmouth," Giles told him. "How did I make it bleed Xander?"
"You used to change the polarity of the stone," Ethan told him. Giles pointed at the corner so he went to look, changing it around. "There, that should help." He looked at her. "Check the boy now? We'll recast it." She nodded and he got to work on the spell, Giles coming over to help. "Did Miss Rosenburg help?" he asked finally.
"She did. They're fighting."
"It shows." He finished his part and Giles finished his and the spell worked the way it should. Ethan smiled at Giles. "I told you I had a reason for hiding myself and being here. I'd rather remain unpunched. Would you like me to take the future chaos witch from you to train?"
"No, I'm sure she'll stay straight."
Ethan snorted. "You should take a long look in her aura, Ripper. She's been trying to bleed off Xander and his energy wasn't coming here." Ripper gave him a horrified look. "I noticed it during the last history exam I gave. By the way, she's still doing your girl's homework. It's very noticeable. They're not even trying to hide it any longer." He got up and helped Giles stand, not caring when his hand was brushed off. "Now, shall we act like the professionals we are? There's another witch on staff too. One of us is going to have to take a broom to your young protege's arse soon. I'm about ready to in class." He put back on his illusion and headed back to his classroom to see what he could do about Xander's homework. The boy clearly had brains but this was not his subject or method of learning. Maybe a hands-on project. His grades were horrible this year from what he heard.
Giles went to find Willow and talk to her. After he checked her aura over and told his Goddess so she could drain that godly energy from the lass - before she got into trouble.
Xander woke up that night, looking at Strife. "Hi again."
"Hi." He stared at him. "You pissed off Ares."
"Why did I do that this time?"
"You never said anything," Ares said as he appeared. "I'm not that scary to the family, Xander."
"You're the one with the mood swings," he complained, sitting up against his headboard. "The last time I said something you tried to blast me. I don't need that. Thanks anyway." He looked at Strife. "The spell?"
"Giles set it wrong an' Willow helped," he admitted. "We've fixed her." Xander grimaced. "She was stealing your power, Xander." He made the boy look at him. "Even Hecate yelled at the little witch." That got a small smile and a nod. "Now, let's go eat. Hestia cooked again." Xander grinned at that and got out of bed, following him down to the kitchen. He looked at his uncle. "I'd apologize," he advised. "Xan, in the oven. It's warm." Xander opened it and cooed, taking out the baking dish that smelled so nice. "Plates?"
"Dishwasher." He looked at it then found a big spoon and dished some up. "Am I making you a plate too, Ares?"
"Please." He sat down, making glasses of milk for them and water for him. Xander brought over the plates and sat down to dig into his. He looked at him. "You were right, I was concerned about your mother. She's fairly unstable right now. She's went back to her elemental state." Xander looked confused. "No one explained that to you?" He shook his head, eating another bite, staring at him. "Someone missed some topics," he said, looking at Strife.
"Wasn't my job," he complained. "That's 'Pol's job."
"He's got plenty," Xander said dryly. "Elemental state?"
"Like when you changed into the glowing ball to get that second round of armor off," Ares told him. "The one I had you do was your elemental state and Hera took you back to a soul state. You only do that one when it's absolutely necessary because it's dangerous and you can be tainted in it or even killed." That got a nod of understanding and the boy dug in again. "If you had told us, even a bit, we would have fixed most of it, Xander. As of right now, your credit card is fixed and I think Mother upped your limit. I'll make your father come down tomorrow and turn over the bank accounts we set up for all of your use for things like the bills."
"The landlord wants them to come back or he's going to evict me," Xander told him.
"We can fix that too," Strife told him. "Right now, she's really sick if she can't hold a solid, human looking form." That got a nod of understanding. "You don't care?"
"I tried to see her and I was told it was a bad idea. I'm sure someone will tell me when I can. Until then there's no better healers than Apollo and Asclepias. I have plenty to worry about down here. Like flunking everything and being held back. Or like the fact I kinda ended up kissing Cordy for some reason the other day." He shrugged. "Someone will tell me what I can do to help Mom."
"Right now, you're doing the best thing you can. Making her not worry and staying out of the way," Ares told him. "Mostly she's worried about someone doing the same thing that was done to you. She's creating most of her health problems with the worries going on." That got another nod from the boy. "There's three things we still have to do. We have to confirm you."
"Not formally. You've taken the job but you haven't been sworn in yet," Strife explained.
"So, I have to apologize to Zeus or I have to learn faster?"
"You're almost done with everything I could want you to learn," Ares admitted. "The rest you'll learn on the job."
"Not that I have a big job. I mostly seem to need to look over some gun nutjobs and make sure that they're not going overboard and need to be taken care of. Telling the NRA off for being stupid and panicking." That got a nod from Ares. "Unless you need me for a war."
"True, it's a very minor position in the house," Ares agreed. "You're also the one that people pray to when they make new weapons."
"Then no one must be. I haven't gotten any."
"We'll fix that too," Strife said happily. "You got any idea about temples?"
Xander gaped. "I get a whole temple?" he asked in awe.
"You do and it should be somewhere your people would be near," Ares told him.
He considered it. "Like near the Department of Defense in DC? Or in Alexandria near all the project labs?"
Ares smiled. "That would be a good place," he agreed. "We'll let Tony deal with that for you." Xander beamed. "Now," he said, handing over a cup of ambrosia. "You've been skipping again."
"It hasn't found me."
"I know that. We're fixing that too. We expected your mother to call it to her and she's not doing that."
Xander gulped it, making a face. "I made mine cherry flavored at least." Both older gods gaped at him so he concentrated and refilled the cup, handing it over with a smile. "That's right, right?"
Ares tasted it. "Beyond the cherry flavor, it is," he admitted. "Mother?" She appeared, giving Xander a hug. "This is how he's been getting ambrosia."
She tasted it. "It certainly tastes better." She looked at him. "Most of us don't create ambrosia."
Xander looked at her. "Necessity?" he guessed.
"Probably. Like a child can have absolute belief until he's told otherwise." She kissed him on the head. "Let me finish yelling at Zeus." She disappeared, taking it with her. She handed it over. "How Xander's been getting ambrosia." He drank and spluttered. "He's been creating it."
"He's behind on his education then."
"He's learned his area, just not the other lessons," she said firmly. "Apollo!"
He showed up. "What? I've got a patient in elemental form who's having mood swings fit to destroy us all!"
"Which is why you never told the boy about his elemental form or that he can't make ambrosia?" she asked.
He groaned, slapping himself on the forehead. "I expected Ares to since I've been so damn busy. Sorry!" He disappeared, going back to his patient. Ares would, he was sure of it. He was up to his blond armpits with a pregnant woman with an unstable form.
Ares heard that answer and nodded. "I can give him those lessons." He tapped Xander on the head to pass on the lectures. "That way you don't have to listen to me lecture." Xander grinned at him for that. "Eat." He dug in again. "Anything else I should know?"
"The Cordy mouth suckin' him in," Strife said dryly.
"She said she doesn't do that for boyfriends," Xander told him.
"Nah, just her assigned football player," Ares said dryly. "Aphrodite?"
"Oh, come on. She's busy," Xander complained. She appeared. "Really, it's nothing."
"He's dating the Chase girl," Strife told her with a mean smirk.
She looked at him then slowly shook her head. "I love you, pookie, but please turn gay?" she begged. "We don't want that one destroy us all." She disappeared, going to break Cordelia off Xander. Before there was a mini-Godling on the way. Then they'd have to put up with her forever. She was a bigger bitch than Hera with mega-world-ending-PMS. She might even take Athena's bitchiness spot. Not a good plan for Olympus. She found her and appeared, scaring the boy she was with into getting off. "You don't *really* wanna date Xanny, right?" she asked hopefully.
"He's good in the back seat," she complained. "Who are you?"
"Aphrodite, chickie, and you're way grossing me out with my pookie. No more Xander for you. Okay?" she said with a smile.
"I like his tongue."
"Yay us. It'll be like when Angel loses his soul. We don't need that stress. So no more Xander."
"Then I'd make him gay," she quipped. "Last month he went out with a master vampiress."
Xander appeared, frowning at her. "I was taken, it wasn't a date. Dates don't come with ropes and insane vampires dancing around singing to the stars about how I'd be great with them and make sure they ruled the world. Really. Not a date."
Aphrodite looked at him. Then at her then back at him. "She's cheating on you."
"I knew that. I was waiting on the better sex since she gives it away." Cordelia shrieked and went for him with her nails. "You do!" He shoved her back, scowling at her. "If she says I can't date you I can't. I'm sorry. She'll fry my ass or sell me or something. I don't want to be sold or something. See you in a few days. I'm skipping tomorrow." He disappeared again.
Aphrodite looked at her. "He's right. I'd have to 'or something' him to fix him." She snapped her fingers and the boy was at his house, Cordelia and her car were at hers, and she had forgotten about having Xander. She went to find her son. "Cupie?" He leaned out of his workout room. "We have *got* to find Xander a decent lover who'll protect him."
"Who was it this time?" he sighed.
He gave her a horrified look. "Let's start with the guys. You think maybe Don?"
"No, he's totally straight." They went to look.
Xander appeared next to Gibbs' boat that night, scaring him. "Sorry, I need a good talking to." He sat down, pouting at him. "Aphrodite took Cordy from me."
"Uh-huh. Tony heard why." He put down his putty to look at him. "And? What else is wrong? You look like someone ate your dog."
Xander looked at him. "I don't have a dog. Maybe if I did I wouldn't be chasing bad girls." He pouted worse. "Aphrodite said the only one I could ever be with on a permanent basis was Tony. That's just wrong!"
Gibbs gave him a long look then shook his head. "I didn't want that mental image, Xander." Xander gave him a sheepish look. "Has she told him?"
"I think he's getting very drunk. Oh, I get to set up a temple soon. I was thinking a gun shop near where all the weapons design people are so their prayers would finally hit me and the gun nutjobs that buy there would do the same."
Gibbs looked at him then nodded. "Not a bad idea." He called Tony. "Stay home if you're home. If not, take a cab and go home, DiNozzo." He hung up. He sat down in his chair down there. "What started off this search for a mate?"
"I was snuggling with Cordy and moving up to sex. Aunt 'Dite made her forget all of it."
"That might not be a bad thing considering DiNozzo considers her a soul sucking bitch."
"I don't know, she never did that with me. Only with her assigned football player." Gibbs gave him an odd look then shook his head. Strife appeared with Tony then left. "Hi, future fiancee," he said dryly. "Want part of the stairs?"
"No thanks. She might make me kiss you and then I'd turn into an evil girl too." Xander cackled at that. "When is your confirmation?"
"Next week." He looked at Gibbs. "Wanna come up? It'll be another party."
"We'll see what we're doing," he offered. He looked at Tony. "I take it you know?"
"Oh yeah. Grandma came to brag about how good it'd be and how we would protect each other. Plus if I ever quit NCIS I could run his temples locally." He sat down resting against the boat. "Since we're cousins.... I'm feeling a bit weird."
"Your grandmother married her nephew."
"I'm not one of the major Gods and I don't believe in incest," Tony complained. "Otherwise I would've banged Hebe years ago."
"She's pretty," Xander pointed out. He looked at Gibbs. "So you see the problem of the moment. I'm not even sure I like guys."
"Once you're confirmed it won't matter, all that matters is distaste for the individual," Tony told him. He looked at Gibbs. "Whereas I've tried it and didn't like it back in college."
"Tell your relatives," Gibbs told them.
"We have," they said in unison.
"I can't even see explaining this to McGee after introducing my cousin."
"Family money, that's why most arranged marriages happen," Gibbs said.
"I guess we could tell them about Mom being gone," Xander said grimly. Tony scowled at him. "With her pregnant her form won't stay stable and she's a bit homicidal from the mood swings. They've got her confined in Ares' temple for everyone's good. That's why I've been on my own for the last few months and everyone was ignoring me doing things. They didn't even refill my allowance card so I did it on my own with the rest of the life insurance money," he said proudly. Tony smiled at that. "I managed to do everything for myself except buy groceries last month. I've been creating so I had money for this month."
"I'm very proud, Xander," Tony said, grinning at him.
"Good job," Gibbs agreed. Xander beamed at him too. "Now you know how to budget and things like the rest of the adults around here." Xander nodded at that, hugging his knees. "It's straightened out?"
"More or less. I've still got to placate the landlord. He didn't want social services to drop down on him and fine him for my parents being gone. I pointed out that they don't do that to Willow and they haven't been around since I got turned over. He still doesn't want me living there alone."
Aphrodite appeared looking at the boys. "Boys," she sighed. "If you'd just give in, it'd be so much easier and nicer for you."
"I don't like boys, Grandmother," Tony said dryly. "Tried it and found it lacking in satisfaction."
"Then obviously it was the boy since Cupie likes it better."
"That's Cupid," Xander told her, pointing at Tony. "He's Tony. Different person."
She scowled at him. "I know that, Xander." He shrugged. "You could try it."
"I like girls."
"You like girls who're going to kill the rest of us, pookie." She pinched him on the nose. "Because if you knock one up, they're yours for eternity by Hera's laws."
Gibbs coughed. "Not that I mind you showing up, Aphrodite, but I didn't need to know that much about you when you bend over." She turned and glared at him. "Plus, both boys seem to think that they want women."
"I can turn Tony into one," she said sweetly.
"You do that and I'm finding the biggest walking disease I can and bringing her to the next orgy," Xander promised. "Don't hurt the Tony."
"See, you do love him."
"He's a friend! Not a boyfriend, a friend."
She waved a hand. "Poo. You'll get used to it." She disappeared. "By the way, happy vacation, Tony. We needed someone to watch him."
Tony put his head down on his knees, shaking it. "I'm sorry, boss."
"There are days I realize how boring my life used to be," Gibbs said dryly. He answered his phone when it rang. "Yeah, Gibbs." He listened. Then he shook his head. "I've heard that from him. No, his mother's pregnant and in a care facility for it. She's in a lot of trouble health-wise, Director. I have talked to Xander earlier tonight. DiNozzo just found out as well. No, he's here and we're talking about it. Why?" He listened, then tossed over the phone. "The Director."
"Hello?" Tony asked, listening to him. "No, sir, I could use a few days to go out to check on him but I don't think we need a team assigned to Sunnydale."
"The local reserve base is army," Xander said quietly.
"The local base out there is an Army Reserve base, Director." He scowled at Gibbs. "Sir, I'd hate the LA office and Sunnydale isn't within commuting distance. Three hours." He nodded. "Exactly. No, no bases nearby and I don't want reassigned. Director, to be honest my family is trying to get me to take in Xander as my lover to protect him and the family's assets." He listened to him splutter. "I should go for a few days but not on a permanent basis. I'll let you tell Gibbs that yourself." Xander floated it back. "It's for you, boss."
He listened, then snorted. "Fat chance I'm switching offices, Sir. I know that." He looked at Xander, mouthing 'rocker launcher'.
Xander shrugged. "Necessary. Very necessary."
"Yes, sir, I'm aware of why it happened." He blinked then glared at Xander. "Understatement?"
"The world or not because Buffy still went to jump Angel's bones. Even after she knew he'd slip his soul and how evil he might become. Though, gotta say, minor bitch of evil compared to some, even with the vamp leather pants."
Gibbs listened to the spluttering. "He's here for a conference call, sir. Because DiNozzo's side of the family wants them to marry. They're both complaining that they're straight," he admitted. "No, sir, I don't think we all need to take a field trip to Sunnydale. Why?" He listened. "I'm aware of that. Xander works on that problem, sir. That's how he knew about the needed rocket launcher." He smirked at the boys. "If you insist, sir, but I would rather use my leave time....." He sighed. "If you insist, sir. I know no one wants to piss off his grandfather."
"Ares, don't make them take time off to babysit me," he complained quietly. "It's not fair to their teammates." He got an answer of 'someone has to be there' and groaned. "He likes your Grandmother's plan, Tony."
"That's because I'm cute and one of the few Apollo hasn't tapped yet," Tony said dryly.
"At least we wouldn't have to worry about any baby Xander's," Xander said grimly.
Tony gave him an odd look. "You do know that Zeus and his sons all have the ability to give birth?" Gibbs choked and hung up. "Every last one of them."
Xander scowled and shook his head. "No they don't. I asked, Grandfather said it was a myth."
"Yeah, a myth since he had one," Tony said dryly. "You can have baby Xander's with the right emotion and desire, Xander. Another very good reason since I'd probably top."
"Then there's definitely no butt sex for me," Xander said with a shudder. "Just the thought is ickacious."
Gibbs looked at him. "Have triplets, make everyone happy. Go home. He'll be out there tomorrow."
"I've got a date tomorrow," Tony complained. Gibbs glared at him. "Fine. I'll see you tomorrow, Xander."
"I'm skipping tomorrow so whenever is good." He disappeared from right there, heading home. He found his landlord wandering around. "Nosy," he said dryly, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I didn't hear the door."
"I'm special and I learned how to sneak."
"How's your mother?"
"Worse. Now she's got two docs over her every move and fart." That got a grimace. "I've got a cousin who's going to come stay for a few days. Would that be reasonable since half the family wants me to marry him?"
The guy nodded. "Better than nothing. You are still underaged, Xander."
"I raised myself," he complained. "You didn't realize it until you came to fix the light I told you about."
"How long have you been alone?"
"Two... almost three months," he admitted. "I've done damn good, haven't I?"
"You have but you're still too young. So this cousin?"
"The same one who brought me back."
"The Fed? That's fine. I can accept him. As long as you have at least part-time supervision."
"Not like I throw wild parties."
He looked at him. "I saw what happened at the mall."
"Then you saw the necessary thing being destroyed. Before it ate everyone."
"I did but you still need a guardian who'll keep you off the news." He walked off happier with that compromise.
Xander went into the kitchen to swear, finding all the food back in the fridge. He pouted. He could handle it. He wasn't a child. Tony appeared in a flash of light. "Strife Express?"
"Grandmother, who is going to have wrinkles soon if she doesn't let up on her plan," he yelled up. He looked at him. "So."
"So," he agreed. "We've got six spare rooms, pick one." Tony smiled, heading up to do that while Xander went to attempt his homework. "If I was less ethical I'd do what Amy did and hand in nothing but convince the teacher it was something," he complained.
"I would swat you, nephew," Athena called. She appeared, looking at him. "You're very stubborn. It's a family trait." She sat down beside him, going over the chemistry lesson with him. She had done this in math a few times since he had been found. Those were probably the only lessons he knew how to do. He looked at her and nodded, hearing that thought. She smiled. "At least you're learning something."
"It'll be fine."
"Can you get Aphrodite off my backside? I like girls. Tony's nice but he's not a girl."
"In matters of love only she and Cupid have purview, Xander. If I tried I'd be yelled at for meddling." He pouted. "Stand firm. That family stubbornness is good in this case." Xander nodded, getting back to work. "Good job." She stroked over his arm. "We'll do what we can." He nodded, still pouting. Tony leaned in. "You're here too?"
"Watching over him since the landlord noticed he was here alone. He was going to have someone in social services come get him for a while." He came in to look at the homework, wincing. "I hated chemistry."
"Don't you do sciency things at work?" Xander asked, looking confused.
Tony smiled at the adorable look then mentally swore at the love gods. "Abby does more of that than I do. I mostly measure, take pictures, and pick up stuff."
"Oh." He nodded and got back to work. "I'm never going to do Abby's job."
"That's fine, Xander." He patted him on the head. "I'm up the hall if you need stuff." He headed back to his room swearing mentally at both his grandmother and her son.
Strife appeared. "You made Cupie pout. He said it's not his doing; that was *your* thought."
"I don't think 'adorable' about boys."
"He is," Strife admitted dryly. "Very, very adorable when he's confused." He smirked and shrugged one-sidedly. "It'll happen if it does or they get too pushy. She's gone to Zeus, you know that right?" He disappeared.
Tony sent a prayer to Ares about that. He had to stop that before it got worse. They weren't even well suited. Xander was only seventeen! He didn't even know what job he wanted to end up doing as a cover!
Ares looked at Zeus. "If you make that part of his confirmation you'll kill him," he said quietly.
"He'll see sense before then," he said happily.
"Xander's seventeen, Father. He likes girls. Bad girls but he likes girls." Zeus shrugged. "He's also against being more than friends with Tony because they're cousins and he *was* raised mortal to believe that's wrong. He'll hate all of us if you go with this plan. If it develops on its own, fine. If it doesn't, then they need to get over it. Quickly."
"He'll learn to love him."
"He doesn't think he can stand gay sex and Tony doesn't favor gay sex. Which means they're both going to break their marriage vows and then you're in trouble with Hera," he said patiently. Hera walked in. "Can you please talk some sense into him and Aphrodite?"
"I've been trying with her. They're much alike really."
"Except for the decade age gap, the fact that Tony's only immortal, and that Xander doesn't like boys as far as he knows. Tony tried it and doesn't like boys." She grimaced at that. "That means breaking their bonds. If he makes it part of Xander's confirmation he'll die before he gives in. Or he'll go rogue. Which would you rather have?"
"You're seeing the most dire of circumstances again," Zeus said dryly.
Xander appeared, looking at him. "I'm not marrying anyone without *my* wanting it, Zeus. Not Aphrodite doing it for me, not Cupid doing it for me. If and when I decide to marry I'll be the one making that decision. It probably won't be Tony. He's my cousin and I find that so disgusting a thought that there'd be no need to carry on the family name. Ever." He looked hurt. "I'm also not bearing babies. I also don't like boys. Why in the hell do I want to be the person underneath someone else? If I went for boys it'd probably be on top and sorry, so's Tony if he went for boys ever again. Which he doesn't plan on because it wasn't good before when he tried it. That's beyond the fact that I'm too young to legally marry without parental consent and the fact that if he did, his career and life is over with. His career because they can fire him for being gay and out. The military is that way right now."
Ares nodded, he had forgotten that. "His life because incest is one of those things that mortals will use to burn someone at a stake these days. It's that awful to us. As I was raised one, it's that horrible to me too. If and when I decide to try boys and Tony wants to help me, we'll talk them and I'll probably be very drunk. Which I also hate as you very well know." He stared him down. "Yes, I'd rather die than go to a loveless marriage based on someone else's opinions. Especially the opinion of someone who doesn't know me very well. Not like any of them have spent a lot of time with me. I might take a setup Strife gives but anyone else?" He snorted. "Nope. You can't even name my favorite type of music. How do you think you could pick a good spouse for me? Beyond the fact that from what I heard in mythology class, you didn't want yours either. Unlike you, I'm not going to go willingly. I will kick, fight, scream, and destroy anyone who tries to force me into it."
"We can keep you from being confirmed," he said.
Xander shrugged. "And that means what? I'm already doing my job, Zeus. If that's like graduation, I can get it through the mail." Zeus gave him a horrified look. "You try to force me on someone and I will guarantee that even if they're the most perfect person in the world for me I'd never go for it. That's beyond the fact that I'm too young to marry. It's also illegal where I come from," he said slowly and clearly. "Not even Las Vegas is going to do it for you. Should you try, well, then we'll have a fight won't we?" He waved a hand and took Zeus's lightening bolt. "I am over weapons. All weapons." He crushed it and it fizzled out so he handed it back. "I don't want to fight but you make me and it's on." He disappeared.
"Told you he was stubborn," Ares said dryly. Inside he was cackling. The boy had points. The boy also had some very large brass balls.
"The boy does have a few good reasons," Hera noted. "I would not sanction that marriage unless they both wanted it. It's clear that neither side does at this time."
"He can't do that!" Zeus yelled. "Hephaestus!" He appeared. "Fix that."
He looked at it then shook his head. "I can't, Zeus. Whatever you did to it destroyed it. I'll have to craft you a new one." He looked at him, seeing the horrified look. "What did you do to it?"
"Xander was proving a point," Ares told him. "They're trying to force him to marry Tony."
"Tony's cute but he dates billions of women a year," Hephaestus said dryly.
Hera moaned. "Aphrodite!" She appeared, looking unhappy. "You cannot change their gender desire to make a match. You did that a few generations back and do you remember the problems when your spell wore off?" She pouted. "If they want it, then they will work it out."
"But Xander draws women that can destroy us," she complained.
Zeus looked at her then pointed at his lightening bolt. "He just threatened me and all of us if you should try or if I should try to put it as part of his confirmation."
"He needs someone to take care of him."
"How would he know?" Ares asked. "He's never had one." She disappeared in a huff. "She needs some sanity, Hephie. Isn't that you job?"
"I'll make a new lightening bolt tomorrow, Zeus." He went to comfort his wife and make her see sense. Before she got all of them destroyed.
"Xander?" Ares called. He reappeared, looking at him. "I want to try something." He pulled his sword. "Can you take it from me?"
Xander looked at him then grimaced and shrugged, then attacked Ares to tickle him until he dropped it. He held it. "See?" He beamed and disappeared. Ares flashed out to get it back. "You said...."
Ares snatched it. "Try calling it, Xander."
Xander concentrated. "It loves you. It's part of you." He called to the weapon aspect and felt it answer. "Not while you're living. If it wasn't as comfortable with you." Ares put it down and Xander tried it again. This time it did come to his call. "You override the weapon aspect of the sword."
"So my link overwhelms your call but if something happens to me you can call my sword," he said thoughtfully. Xander nodded, handing it back. "Good to know. Leave Zeus to the rest of us."
"Just stop Aunt 'Dite, please!" he begged. "I don't need to marry. Next time she might try Buffy or Willow."
Ares shuddered. "I'd let you go from life first, grandson." He left, going to talk to the Fates. "Does Xander have a lover later on that the Love Gods haven't messed with?"
All three women nodded. "Not soon," Atropos admitted, letting him see it.
Ares smirked and nodded. "So if and when might apply. Thank you, ladies. Keep them out of it if you can? She's trying to force it now." He disappeared, going back to the study he had been in. "Good news. My personality and link to my sword overwhelm Xander's call when I'm holding it, but if someone steals it again he can find it fastest." They both smiled. Ares had a period when he had lost his sword nearly every year. "I checked with the Fates. There's a love later on. When they're both a bit older. Not now and not Love God related. I didn't look into how but I did ask them to please keep them out of it." That got another nod. "So, his confirmation is on?"
"It's on," Zeus sighed. "Without the restriction."
"Thank you." He disappeared, going to see why Xander wasn't getting half of his prayers. He'd need those some year soon to deal with hellmouth events.
Hera smiled at Zeus. "See, it's not hard to do the right thing now and then." She got up and went to check on the boy before going to bed.
Zeus sulked. He still owed Aphrodite that favor if he couldn't do this for her. He hated owing her. She always asked for bad paybacks.
Xander made it back to school and walked into a warzone. Literally. He ducked the water balloon, sending the next one back at the person who threw it. He made it to the office. "Are we having a celebration to Ares' and Poseidon's names?"
The secretary nodded. "It appears so. We're immune in here."
Xander looked out there, then shook his head. "No you're not." He held the door closed, sealing it with godly powers. "Just stay in here." He walked out the other exit, heading around to the library and then down through it to the main floor again. He watched the carnage, looking over to find a confused Strife next to him. "That was my feeling."
"Unc's really confused."
"Me too. He want it stopped?"
"Yeah." He faded out. "I'd disappear."
Xander dodged a water balloon and created a cold shower over everyone. They screamed and quit fighting. He looked up at the sprinklers that had been turned on then at them. "Are we having a festival to Ares and Poseidon?" he asked the people staring at him.
"He's evil," one girl said. "The Gods will be mad."
Xander frowned. "Which Gods?"
"The Sunnydale Gods," she snorted. "Don't you know anything?"
Xander looked around. "Professor Raynes?" he called. He ducked out of his classroom. "Did I miss a lesson on the Sunnydale Gods?"
"No, they're delusional." He smiled at the boy's confused look. It was quite adorable.
"Ah." He looked back at them and created a boundary, letting them stay there and be soaked. He looked down the hall again. "I can feel about seven more coming up behind you and three heading for the library. Would you like to go rescue Giles like a slightly tarnished knight?"
"Delighted to, my dear boy." He ran that way, dodging a missile. He knew the water balloons had more than water in them. He made it into the library and walked Giles into his office. "We need to shield things from the demonic little ones with the water balloons. They're not normal."
Giles looked out there at Buffy and Willow. "They appear to be." He stepped out and got pelted, feeling the potion work on him. "The Sunnydale Gods do object," he said, picking one out of Buffy's hand.
Ethan came out with a shield up and locked the library doors. Then he prayed like hell to Janus and Hecate. He found out Xander was right. So he set off the single sprinkler above them, using his shield to confine them and the evil water balloons. Xander appeared beside him, damp. "Did you get hit?"
"Hell no." He gave him a look. "I had to shove a few under the water by tackling." He raised his hands and created a wash of light, watching as it came down with the water. They screamed and writhed but the demon finally left them alone. "Good morning!" he said loudly. "How are we today! I like coming back to a war with demons! Put down the water balloons!" They did that. "Thank you! That's the potion to let them in." He walked over and unlocked the library door. "Thanks, Ethan." He headed out, going to disenchant the other students. Cordelia gave him an evil look. "Whine, bitch. You'd rather be possessed and turn into me?"
She shuddered and walked off. "I hate you!"
He blew a kiss. "That's because you don't know what you're missing." The rest of the students finally came free. All but one. He knocked him out and they all shrieked, getting away from the passing out person. Xander released the shields around them when they strained, letting them run. "Go dry off," he yelled. "Class starts soon and you'll all get sick like that!" They headed to the bathrooms, grumbling the whole way about faulty sprinkler systems. He and the step-principal, until the school board named someone, met at the downed student. "He was involved."
"Charming. Let's heft him up. Can you unpossess him?"
Xander looked at him then shook his head. "It was willing. All we can do is hope he'll give them up." He helped him carry the boy into the nurse's office. "He passed out under the sprinkler. I think he thinks he's melting," he told the nurse.
Ares appeared, looking over his shoulder. "He needs a priest, not a nurse." He clapped Xander on the back. "Good job. I'll have the car fixed for you." Xander hugged him and he disappeared.
Principal Woods looked at him. "Did he just appear?"
"Yeah, he's a high priest of Ares'. He's training me to take his place some decade."
"Oh!" He nodded. "Good to know. Good strategy too." He clapped him on the back. "I'll call a priest I know." He went to do that. "We'll have a study hall for the first few classes until most everyone's dried out."
"I'll be in the library." He went to do that, snapping his fingers to turn off the sprinklers. Cordy gave him an odd look. "There's one on in the library. Giles was going to freak. We have a study hall until we're dry. Coming?"
"Eehhh. Maybe later."
He nodded and she left to check on her minions while he went to the library. He drew out a symbol and handed it to Ethan. "What the kid in the nurse's office did willingly. Woods is calling a priest. Grandfather said it was needed."
Ethan looked at it then nodded. "I do know of him. He's not particularly nice." He let Giles see, watching him mutter and walk off swearing in Ancient Egyptian. "And a language lesson, you are blessed," Ethan said dryly.
Xander grinned. "Well, yeah, by Hera and Ares. She even makes really good brownies with Hestia." Ethan went pale and he grinned. "So, what did I miss while I was out? I got my hands-on project done." He dug it out of the backpack he had left in the corner, handing it over. "Here you go."
He looked it over then at him. "This is well below your capabilities, young man."
"I've been fighting off the evil aunt who wants me to marry my male cousin. Give me a break."
Ethan blinked. "One of your aunts wants you to marry a male cousin?" Xander nodded. "Why?" he demanded.
"Because she thinks it'll be good for both of us straight guys. Especially where I draw bad girls."
Ethan just nodded and walked out. "I'll grade this with that in mind, Mr. Harris. Thank you."
"Study hall until we're dry," Xander called after him. Giles handed him a book. "Thanks, G-man."
Giles gave him a look. "I do loathe that name, Xander, and it's already been a trying morning."
Xander looked around then made him a mug of tea with extra in it. "Here, because you had to be saved by Ethan."
Giles took a sip then smiled. "I do thank you. I need the liquor." He walked off sipping his tea with honey mead. It was going to be a better morning soon.
Willow came in. "What happened?"
"Some kid sold himself to some demon and the fun part was infecting others," Xander said as he read. "That's what's in the water balloons. You might want to go gather them."
She looked at his book. "That's on magic, Xander," she said impatiently. "Not yours."
"I gave it to him, leave him the bloody hell alone," he called from the office. Giles came to the doorway. "I want him to read that, Willow."
"Why?" Buffy asked. "He's non-magic guy."
Xander looked at her. "Actually there is some in the family. That's why spells go funny around me. He thinks that if I learn basic theory it'll be less wonky around me." He went back to reading.
"There can't be," Willow told him.
He put his anklet on the table. "How do you think it's grown with me since I was a few days old, Willow?" he asked absently. She stomped off. "Buffy, water balloons before we have to depossess everyone again?" She nodded, going to do that. He sighed, putting his foot back down. "It'd be so much easier if I told them sometimes."
"Probably not. Neither one can keep a secret," Giles said, going back to his doctored tea. He came back out. "Where did you find honey mead?"
"Ethan's bottom desk drawer." He grinned at him. "Since he freaked you out and all...." He trailed off with a grin. "I think that's fair." It also fit very well with Ethan's version of fun chaos.
"Very. Thank you. Next time create it."
"I don't do liquor."
"Oh, I forgot." He went to finish it and lay down for a nap. The children could do without him for a few hours. They could taunt Ethan for not having created that much chaos for Janus. He was sure one of them would.
Xander looked over as Ethan came in. "I gave him some of your mead since you scared the crap out of him by helping him."
Ethan smiled. "A small price to pay for the look on his face." He sat across from him. "How is your education going?"
"Fairly okay. I'm good in my areas. Apparently Auntie H is waiting to teach me other things." He felt someone lurking and looked behind them. "I can feel you, Willow." She came out of the stacks scowling. He looked at Ethan again. "They're doing good with the shielding lessons and those right now."
"As they should. Now and then you do glow a bit brightly to Other Sight when you're tired."
Xander nodded. "That happens I guess. Erin came in looking like a candle the other night, all of it in his hair." That got a smirk. "I haven't met your other self."
"I'm sure he'll get around to it, young man." He patted him on the hand. "Now, the history assignment was well done, but still below your usual effort."
Xander looked at him. "We didn't have food in the house for two weeks, Ethan. My mother's still being cared for. Feel lucky I made it to school."
"Good point. I'll still give you a B for the effort you put into it." Xander smiled. "Been a while?" he taunted gently.
"Sixth grade," he agreed happily.
"Good. Then your next one will be one with more detail, more effort, and less whining at the end." He stood up. "Do it on one of the subjects we'll be covering this term." Xander nodded. "Good lad." He walked out smiling and happy. They could get along. Even though he knew that the Godling would swat him if he hurt Ripper they could get along well enough. It almost made up for the rest of the heathen brats in the school.
"You were talking with Ethan," Willow accused.
Xander looked over and nodded. "Yeah. One of my relatives does magic like him and all the relatives with magic are helping me shield and those things so I don't trip over every single spell in the world. This way I've got some protection. He was checking up on a relative." He went back to reading.
"I bet Giles doesn't know. You whammied him," she said firmly.
Xander looked at her. "I don't need to, Willow. He knows the same members of the family and he's helping them teach me." He put the book down. "I'm sorry if you're having to take a new look at me, but yay. I'd rather have shields so I don't get sucked into all your spells, like the one that nearly killed me recently, and everyone else's stuff. We've got seven witches in this school." She gaped. "I'd rather not be the magnet that draws the power to me. Or the spirits as the case may be."
"I didn't hurt you."
"Willow, I nearly died when you decided to suck my energy while pretending to ground the hellmouth," he said honestly. "Fortunately the relatives realized it and fixed it. Then they reset the spell. Don't believe me? Ask Giles when he wakes up. He's a bit drunk on some honey mead from Ethan's desk to take the sting of this morning and being saved by Ethan out of his head." He went back to reading.
"I say those cuffs you wear aren't magical, they're demonic," she said, grabbing the one around his neck. Then she shrieked as her hand burned. Buffy came jogging in. "It's demonic!"
"It's not," Giles said from the doorway. "Willow, his grandfather is one of the highest of high priests to Ares. Of course it reacted to your magic. You meant him ill." He came over to get a closer look at it then smiled at the boy. "A few have changed."
"Erin a few days back. He said the black and silver thing didn't work as well for me." That got a smile and a nod. He looked at Buffy. "She grabbed my collar."
She came over, touching it with a fingertip then her whole hand. "It's not burning me, Willow. Maybe he's right and it's because you're freaking out about his family teaching him shielding and stuff so he stays out of your spells."
"One of my family knows Ethan," Xander told her. She shuddered. "He's been nice and checking up on me for them. That's why I stole his liquor for Giles."
"I do appreciate that." He got the first aid kit for her hand, turning around to find a god in the way with a head like a hammerhead shark. "Lord Janus," he said, going to his knees.
"Good boy, Ripper." He patted him on the head. He looked at Xander. "We have not met."
"No, we hadn't." He shook his hand. "Auntie H said I should meet you now so we can see if I need to learn from you too."
He looked at him. "No, you don't have much in my gifts. Though you can cause very pretty chaos," one face told him.
The other face nodded. "You have in the past as well. You being stolen caused chaos that rippled for centuries, young one." Xander smirked at that. "It is something not even we can do."
"Sorry to step on toes," he offered.
"Better you than us in that case," the forward seeing head assured him. He leaned down. "Some day that when and if may happen."
"If it does it'll be my choice and his choice," he said quietly. "Not theirs."
"Agreed." He smiled and ruffled his hair. "Tell Ethan he gave us tainted meat." Xander sent that to him, bringing him running. He skidded to a stop by running into Buffy and went to his knees there. "Ah, there you are. We did not want to scare the little beings. You gave us tainted meat?"
"I'll get fresh and give you some of that," he vowed in a breathy voice. "Thank you for correcting me, Lord Janus."
"That's my good boy," they said together, petting his head. "Such good boys. That's why Hecate sent you here. She misses the power you brought together." He smiled at Giles, who turned pale. "When you're ready to move on call upon us, Rupert."
"Yes, Lord Janus."
"Good boy." He smiled at Willow. "Welcome to my service, young lady. It's not often I get crossovers from the purity patrol." She went pale, holding her hand. "Only a chaos witch would dare interfere with something Ares himself set on the favored boy of the line. Even Hera dotes on that one."
"She makes good brownies," Xander told him.
He smiled. "I'll have to see if she'll make me some." He shielded the door. "Do show them soon, young one." Strife appeared, shaking his head. "No?"
"No. As few as possible and these two can't keep secrets. Things keep getting out." He looked at her hand. "That's going to take Hecate to clear up. It's her spell." He looked at Janus again. "Unc said so."
"I foresee them needing to know but not always."
"Then we can lock it away as specific circumstance knowledge so no one panics if I have to do something?" Xander asked.
"I can," Ethan promised. He checked the door, reinforcing the shield since he could feel one of the school's witches out there. His god smirked at him. "The witchly one, sire."
"I know. She's cute, Ripper. Aphrodite is cooing." He disappeared. The shields held.
"Now," Ethan told him. Xander stood up and took off his shirt, letting his wings out. The women gaped and Giles moaned at the full sight. "Thank you." He undid it and sat down looking like a normal teenager again. He looked at both ladies. "He has been blessed by his lineage back to Ares himself."
Xander looked up. "Grandpa." They stared at him in horrified shock. He nodded. "Mom's pregnant and so sick that she's back up there. That's why Tony's staying with me." He went back to his reading. He frowned. "Giles, this gold thingy sounds like a dirty golden shower."
"It appears as such too but it comes from the fingers instead," he instructed, getting up. "Do lock that away, Ethan." He locked their memories while Giles showed him what that was. "Not so different than earlier only for a different purpose."
"I guess that's cool. We nearly done? Ms. Calendar wants in and she's about to shake the door." Ethan nodded, finishing with Willow and doing some other adjustments. Her hand was healed with the fixes and Xander opened the door with a snap of his fingers. Ethan took his own shields back so the power wouldn't be wasted and it was good. She peeked in. "We're not having that bad of a party, come along."
She smiled and walked in. "Thank you, Mr. Rayne."
"You're welcome, sweets." He smiled at her then at the girls. "I do believe you and Willow should have a talk. She's begun to stray."
"I know you're one of us."
"Ah," he said, smiling fondly. "Not quite one of you. I have a more fun calling."
"Janus?" she guessed. He nodded and smirked. "That's why you felt slimy to me that first day." She smiled and walked Willow off. "We'll talk. Is she straying that badly?"
"Oh, indeed." He looked at Buffy, who looked confused again. "What?"
"Why is he glowing?"
"It's the shields on him, ducks."
"I'm not a duck," she complained.
"It's a pet name for a girl," Giles told her.
"Though I can fix that and then you'd adore the water and rain; you'd never have another bad hair day in my class or even a bad breast day when your shirt wouldn't stay at a decorous amount of flashed tit," Ethan offered. She stomped off to help Willow. He chuckled and smiled at Xander. "Lovely morning. Too bad I didn't do it."
"If we have to do it again we'll know why," Xander said dryly.
"Of course not. I'd never repeat. How boring." He left, going back to his classroom.
Giles looked at him. "If you'll discourage her on my behalf I'll discourage her on yours."
"I've been trying. What she saw she saw and she sees into the heart and soul, Giles. That's a direct quote." He looked up. "You can tell him yourself, uncle." Cupid appeared and said something quietly in Giles' ear, getting a nod. "We good?"
"We're fine. Hecate's cackling at how you fixed it. She said you wanted a wet t-shirt contest."
"Always a fine thing," Xander said happily. "Even though I didn't look. Much." Cupid giggled and disappeared. He smiled at Giles. "I did try."
"I know. Thank you, Xander. Can you perhaps steal more of that mead?" Xander handed him the whole bottle. "Thank you. I'll pour some so you can give it back to him later." He went to do that so Xander could give it back when the principal called classes back to order.
Xander walked it in there, handing it to him. "Giles said thank you for the loan." He walked out, going to math.
Ethan shook his head. "He'll remember soon enough." He got back to work grading. It was his free period so he could finish soaking up all the remnants of chaos the wetting down had caused. New leerings. A few people having sex in the bathroom or the gym's changing areas. One brave one in the chemistry lab. All the girls whining about their hair and clothes. One muttering about a winged freak. He took her memories too, leaving her standing in the hall looking very confused. He went to give her to the nurse. "She appears to have suffered a mental slip, love. Here you go, Miss Chase." He sat her down and went back to his classroom.
Robin Woods stepped into the history classroom. "Please no magicing the students, Mr. Rayne."
"She was ranting that Xander was the cause of this morning. I simply removed that thought."
He nodded. "Fine. From now on no more without permission." He walked off, going to shoo students to class.
"Of course I'll ask if I have to do anything *official*," Ethan said with a smug look. "For Janus though...." He snickered. "We'll see what we come up with."
Xander smiled at the assembled family. "No marriage clause, right?" he asked Aphrodite, who shook her head. Zeus walked up to where he was going to formally announce him. "Are we going to name me God over bad girls too?" he teased.
Hera looked at him. "No, that's Ares' job," she told him, cracking Discord up.
"They are drawn to him," Hermes agreed happily.
"It's so I don't have to deal with them," Apollo told him.
Zeus coughed, waving Xander forward. "We are here to confirm our God of Weapons and Tactics, stationed in the House of War. Does anyone object to his calling?" No one said anything. "Again, does anyone object to him being called as such?" No one said anything but Cupid shifted so he was leaning his weight on his other side. "And I ask a final time, does anyone object to this one being confirmed." Xander looked around and Zeus smiled. "So be it." He created a silver challis. "Drink and take up your godhood officially, Xander, God of Weapons and Tactics."
Xander took the cup and drank it all down, not making much of a face. "I'll do my best to do my job well and right." He bowed to him and backed off a step. "Any words of warning from you, the Fates, or anyone else who has visions?" he asked. Discord had suggested it with where he lived and worked.
Hecate moaned, grabbing her forehead. "One. That Chase girl is going to cause more problems."
Xander looked at her. "I can watch for her. Personal, Godly, or just Sunnydale problems?"
"Personal for you."
Xander nodded at that. "Then I'll watch out for her. Anyone else?"
Strife pulled out a dagger to clean his nails. "We're hoping not."
Athena grunted and everyone stared at her. "My feet are asleep. Are we done? Can we get on to the festivities now?" Everyone looked at Zeus and Hera.
"We do proclaim him confirmed and a full God, though he is still learning some of his arts," Hera noted calmly. "Now we may celebrate like the mature Gods we are." That got a cheer from the Muses and the bar was opened for those who drank. Xander cornered Hecate to find out what sort of problem, then he got a soda and went to dance with his mother since she had been let out for a while. It made her smile happily and feel much better to know that she wasn't abandoned. Hera coughed about an hour later. "Xander, dear, you do know that you have to open presents?"
"Presents?" he asked, his eyes lighting up. "I get presents?"
"He looks like a five-year-old at Christmas," Discord joked.
Xander gave her a dirty look. "Were you over the Harris'? I never figured out who was over them." She backed off at that. He smiled at his great-grandmother. "Lead me to my presents?" he asked happily, taking her arm to walk her that way. "Oooooh, lots of presents," he said, cracking some of the other Gods up. "More than I've had in a very long time." He settled down on the stairs next to the table, calling over his first one. The dagger was very nice. "Thanks, Discord. I'll carry it on patrol with me. I needed a new one." He tucked it into his waistband and kept going, finding clothes from his aunts, all of whom said it matched his body very well and wouldn't clash with anything in his closet. He found a leather jacket from Ares. He beamed at him. "To go with the pants that make vampires want to adopt me?"
"That's one way to hunt," Ares joked back, cracking Athena up but Strife gave them both worried looks. "He'll be fine, Strife."
Strife stepped away from him. "I don't wanna be close when the realization hits you two." He handed Xander his. "From me."
Xander looked then sniffled and gave him a hug. "I needed the prank book. Thank you. I'll use them on Willow to make her loosen up." He sat on it before it could be taken and got into his last few, smiling at the rest of the clothes. The last one confused him. "Why did I get a headband?"
"It's an official part of your outfit," Hera advised. "We each have formal robes of state basically. That's part of yours with your official emblem and the House's emblem. The rest we'll decide on."
Xander looked at her. "Is that why Ares was insistent that I learn to like leather pants? Someone said it was the family's dress code. Though, I'll look like the guy who did Riverdance in the headband and leather pants."
Hera coughed to hide her smile. "No, Xander. Not even Ares can wear leather during a formal event." She stroked over his hair. "We only have one or two a century. One of the Goddesses will help you find an outfit for that, which we'll have to accept."
"I call it," Aphrodite called.
"No," Xander said, giving her a look. She pouted. "If you do it, I'll end up in assless pants. Ones with the snap-on codpiece."
She pouted. "You'd look adorable in them," she offered happily. "But they're robes by decree, Xanny. Not pants."
"So?" he snorted. "They'd still be easy access." He looked at Hera. "Are we talking like Dumbledore robes and the pointy hat?"
"Not the hat," Athena complained.
Hecate gave her an odd look. "I still think it's cute that some of the odd ones who want to believe very badly protested that you don't fly on broomsticks that way."
"I'll help him," Artemis said, smiling at Xander. "Nothing too furry, no animal prints, and nothing too slinky."
"Okay." He beamed. "We'll figure it out this weekend? Or are you busy?"
"I'm busy this weekend but we can do it next weekend." She smiled and led him out to talk to him about what was mandatory and what was preference. The music restarted and they got back to the serious business of partying. Xander was a big God now. It was time for a good party.
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