Late one night, October seventh to be exact, a large black shape was seen in the air above New York. A few people saw it, and some of those that did actually called the cops, or the news stations. Neither of which answered those calls of course, no decent, thinking alien would come to New York. Or so they thought. So when the ship landed in Central Park, it caused a little bit of confusion. Those who knew it was coming put on their best dress uniforms and barely beat CNN to the site. They waited around and eventually the black ship had a hole open in its side and a small creature walked out. It looked like a child.
"Can you please tell someone that the Queen requests to talk to someone?" the little girl said, smiling cutely. "She said she finds you all very interesting and would like to start a long-term friendship if you're nice people." Then she scampered back into the ship and it closed back up again.
The people looked at each other. Surely someone wouldn't send a cute child out if they weren't harmless. So the Police Chief stepped up and cleared his throat, making a statement to the press about how they would handle this if everyone would stay calm and away from the ship for a bit. Someone had already called the Pentagon and the White House of course, and the politicians were already on their way up. Everything would be fine and there was no cause for alarm. Those that knew the man saw the certainty in his eyes and did as he said. The rest, well, the few fanatics did go find blank signs and painted slogans on them, but the police kept them a little ways away while the press people got everything that they could. It was noticed that tents were being put up in the next clearing, gotten to by a little path, and most major media outlets sent someone over there to cover that area too. An outdoor gathering with an alien? They'd have to see what became of it.
Xander stepped up to the dias, right behind the official from the State Department who had been in on the negotiations. He smiled as the door opened and a slim young woman stepped out. His breath caught, it wasn't who he was expecting, but he remembered how much the sun bothered her so whipped off his sunglasses and offered them to her. "Siblinth," he said quietly. "Welcome."
She smiled at him. "I'm sorry to change the plans, but I had to come."
"Where's your mother?" the State Department official asked, making sure he was turned so that no camera could catch him so no one could read his lips later.
"My mother just died," she told him. Xander gave her a hug. "Thank you." She squeezed him. "It was a trade dispute. She was assassinated."
"I'm sorry," the State Department official said, holding out his hand. "Welcome to the United States of America." He turned to look at the crowd. "This is Queen Siblinth. She wants to talk to someone more official." He got out of the way and Xander offered her a hand to help her down the stairs. Her skirt was trailing on the ground behind her and he didn't want her to trip. "If you'll come this way," he requested. He led her past all the major media outlets, stopping when one jumped out in front of them. "Yes?" he asked.
"Can you please spell your name?" he asked.
"S I B L I N T H. Does that help?" she asked with a smile. He nodded. "Thank you for your consideration. I know some people who had trouble spelling it." She nodded to him and walked on, carrying herself regally.
"Who was the child last night?" one woman yelled.
Siblinth stopped and looked at her. "That was my First Wife's daughter. Her name is Kiara. She's adorable and begged the right to come out and talk to someone." She smiled. "I've already adopted her as my legal heir." She moved on, her nails digging into Xander's arm so she didn't scream with worry. So much was riding on this meeting and it was her first real official act as Queen. She smiled at the two men standing up to meet her. "Hello." She held out her hand, human style. They each shook it and bowed to her. "Thank you." She sat down on the indicated chair and waved to them to sit too. "May we talk?"
"Of course we may," President Bartlett told her. He pointed at his successor. "This is President Hubers. He'll be taking my office in a few months. Is it all right that we included him?"
"An easy transfer of power is always better than an assumption," she noted lightly. A few of the people standing around chuckled. She smiled at this other man. "Are you going to be a just ruler?"
He cleared his throat. "I can only hope so. I know that President Bartlett has set a hard precedent to follow, but I'm going to try." He smiled at her guards. "They could sit down too."
Xander sat down behind Siblinth and to her right, showing that he was there to serve her. The State Department official sat down next to his people, showing that he was there for them. Siblinth reached back and patted Xander's hand. "I enjoyed very much meeting with this one. He told me much about you." The new president looked at him and he shrugged. "He did what he did to ease some fears."
President Elect Hubers nodded. "So I can tell." He smiled at Xander. "I take it that you were the author of those books then?" Xander nodded. "Thank you. They were quite entertaining."
"I merely wrote down what they told me to," Xander said with a faint smile. "They have a fascinating history." He smiled and stood up as Sam Seaborne walked in carrying a tray. "Tea?" he asked hopefully.
"And coffee," he said, putting the tray between the two camps. "Queen Siblinth," he greeted with a smile. "If you need an interpreter, we have people who are already waiting to learn your language." She laughed and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, my Lady." He backed off. He looked at the President. "Josh has already called someone at Food Network to borrow their kitchen, sir," he told him. "Take as long as you want to talk things over." He backed away and left them alone.
Xander kissed Siblinth on the cheek. "I'll leave you alone also."
"Please go check on my wife? She was getting ready." He nodded and headed back to the ship. She looked at the men. "Now that the non-politicians are out of the way, shall we get down to business?" she asked with a smile.
The men both nodded and the talks began.
Xander tapped on the door of the ship, smiling at one of the press people who had gotten under the police line. "Back up," he told him. "Now." The door opened and he looked up at the most stunning looking young man. Pale skin, dark lashes and hair, amber eyes. Skinny but muscled, like most of Siblinth's people liked. Beautiful specimen. "The Queen wanted to know if her wife was ready, First Husband."
The First Husband smiled. "You're assuming."
"Only the First Husband would open the door," Xander told him, starting to smile again. He was going to like this guy. "Is she ready?"
"We both are." He got of the way, letting a slightly older woman walk out in front of him, carrying her daughter. "She's napping," he told Xander.
"That's fine. The path is smooth to the meeting area." He nodded at the ship. "You might want to close it until you're willing to give tours." The door was closed behind them. "Come on, I'll lead you there and then leave you alone." He led the way, ignoring the press. Siblinth could answer all their questions easily and later. He showed them into the tent and then disappeared into the crowd, going back to his hotel room. There was already a message waiting on him from the old President's staff, congratulating him on doing so well. He stuffed it into his pocket and went to go hide. He'd have another part to play later on.
The Pentagon officials all stood together in a group, watching the interplay on a monitor, commandeered from one of the press crews. "That's Siblinth," General Hammond said quietly. "It was supposed to be her mother. I wonder what happened?"
"From what her lips said earlier, her mother died due to an assassination over a trade issue," the female reporter said as she walked in. "How did you know?"
General Hammond looked at her. "Mr. Harris contacted the proper people when he got the offer from them. Who're you?"
"April O'Neill." She smiled. "I don't want to record it, just know some things so I can get a scoop on the later events."
"They'll be eating outside, in that tent, so that no one can insinuate that the Presidents are being controlled," he told her. "They're nice people."
She nodded. "Thank you. Is the press going to be allowed to talk to them?"
"Soon enough," the Joint Chief told her. "Please go away now."
"Hey, as long as you don't damage our equipment, we're fine," she told him, staring him down. She wasn't afraid of him. "Just these two locations?"
"Food's being prepared at that cooking show channel's home," another general told her. "Go bother them, Ms. O'Neill." He looked at Hammond. "Is she a relative to one of your men?" General Hammond nodded. "Thought so. She reminds me of him."
"Jack? He's working for you?"
General Hammond looked at her. "Maybe. Why?"
"Can you please tell him to call me. One of our Aunts just died and she left him some pictures." She waved and walked away.
"Small world." The Joint Chief leaned closer. "What are they talking about now?" He turned up the sound. "Oh, children." He snorted. "Wonderful. I knew Bartlett got off the point, but really, sir."
A woman cleared her throat. "We've noticed that trait in a lot of leaders, it's a stalling tactic so you can judge your verbal opponent," she said quietly. The flaps around the tent they were in closed and were tied off. "It's nice to meet someone who does my job." She held out her hand. "I am Joquan, the head of my Queen's military. I was told that you would wish to talk to me instead of my Queen?"
General Hammond smiled at her. "Joquan, how are you?"
"Quite fine, Hammond, and yourself?"
"Been better. I haven't slept in days over this." He smiled and pointed at his bosses. "These are the heads of most of our military; the other is at home for security reasons. Our Air Force, our Navy, and our Army Chiefs of Staff." They all saluted her and she laughed in delight. "Generals, this is Joquan, who does what she says. They've got some pretty impressive ships. How long did it take you to get here?"
"About a day or so," she said with a shrug. "We took the official ship, which is slower of course." She walked over and sat down. "Come, let me put your minds at ease. I have no want of your brains or your bodies."
The Army's top general looked shocked for a moment, then burst out laughing. "You read some of our alien contact books?"
She nodded. "When Mr. Harris mentioned that there was a split opinion about what would happen, I took the opportunity to read all that I could. I find your Star Trek universes quite amusing actually." She waved a hand at the chairs. "Shall we?"
They sat down to talk military and weapons, impressed with her knowledge.
By noon, one person had figured out who Xander was and was calling for his books. Fortunately, she was in the field and others heard her. There was a rush by assistants to the nearest bookstores, except for one of his fans, who had read them all at least twice. She sat down with her boss and explained everything that she remembered to her. It took a few hours, but by the end, other reporters were listening in while their assistants read.
"Why didn't they announce this then?" one reporter asked, frustrated with her government.
"Because we would have had a long time to panic," the original reporter's assistant told her. "Giving us a slice of their history, and not all the good and noble parts, gave us a good view of them. For those people who figured it out, they're already one up on everybody else when it comes to dealing with these people and they know that there won't be any brain stealing, baby eating, woman raping atrocities going on. It was an inspired plan." She smiled at her boss. "I still haven't gotten my copy of the sixth book. It's on back order. I've heard about it though."
"Hold on," another assistant called. "I just saw a mention of slavery."
The first assistant poured herself some water. "They use it as an alternative to the death penalty, historically speaking. We should probably ask about that now."
The reporters all sighed when they saw who had just pulled up. "Great, Walters is here. Who wants to bet she gets first interview?"
Another snorted. "I bet she's already had one. Oh, here she comes." He stood up straighter. "Ms. Walters. How nice of you to join us."
Barbara smiled at them. "You're right, I already had one, with her mother." All the reporters in hearing distance stopped and looked at her. "Any idea where her mother is?"
"Dead. Lip readers said that the girl said her mother died recently. Assassination."
"Hm." Barbara confiscated a chair and sat down. "I'm not here to steal your thunder. ABC already has an affiliate down here. I'm here to tell you what I know about them for later. Someone called and mentioned that doing so might give them some breathing room later." She looked around. "By the way, they do have security systems on the ship."
"Who was the woman with the red hair that Josh Lyman led away?" one reporter asked. "She looked like she was in a uniform."
"That was probably their military liaison," another reporter told her. "They're shacked up with O'Neill's equipment."
Barbara nodded. "Probably. I've only met the former Queen. Nethisha." Some of the reporters scribbled the name down. "She was quite nice. I really want to talk to one of the telepathic cats, but it won't be picked up by the recording devices we use." She shrugged. "Is there anything I can tell you?" She smiled at the one assistant. "Read them all?"
"All but the last one, it's on order." She handed over a spare glass of water. "We're in for a wait. They're talking children."
"Why does she have a man and a woman in attendance?" a male reporter, known for his arrogance and sleeping around without passion, asked.
"Because they have marriages with both sexes and all spouses are allowed to have children," Barbara told him. "That's probably her First Wife and First Husband. Her First Wife deals with her business interests. The First Husband deals with the family and any publicity for the family. Get to know him very well, you'll be hearing from him more than anyone else." She sipped her water. "How many people went over to Food Network?" A grumble sounded. "No one?"
"They wouldn't allow reporters in, but they're taping for us," a female reporter told her. She must have been up and coming, Barbara didn't know her. "They've got some of their chefs working hard."
Barbara smiled at her. "Good. Hopefully we won't serve them anything poisonous." A few faces fell. "But I'm sure they have their own medical people." She clapped her hands and stood up. "Can I clear up anything else?"
"When is your interview airing?"
"Five days from now. Then Leno gets her from what I hear." She smiled and headed back to her SUV, leaving them to the grunt work.
The reporters looked at each other, then broke out in cheers. This was a *good* thing, a *great* thing. They had aliens that were good! Anyone who could stayed inside the tent to talk and share ideas, everyone else had to go back into the afternoon sun and tape boring updates.
The present President stepped up to the podium and a hush fell over the crowd. He smiled. "Queen Siblinth extends her greetings to you all and would be willing to answer a *few* questions in a moment. Before that, let me say that this has been a good meeting. We have similar interests and can seemingly work together."
A young man jumped out of the crowd. "How do we know she didn't mind-whammy you? They're telepaths."
Jeb Bartlett looked down at him and smiled. "Because they're ethical enough not to do that. They told us which people were telepaths already." He looked around, then back at the man. "If you want, there will be a general education seminar at the end of the week at NYU with an anthropologist who's been studying them since the books came out." The man's mouth dropped open. "It's free and open to the public, and he's willing to add more lectures if needed. I suggest you get in touch with NYU now though as there's probably a limit on how many seats are open." The man was pulled back into the crowd. "As I was saying, the aliens are peaceful, they're nice, and they're more than willing to not interfere with our politics unless there's something that they can't stand, then they said they'd protest," he added with a smile. Most of the crowd sighed in relief. He got out of the way so the President-Elect could take the microphone.
"You know Bartlett and I don't agree on much, but they are very nice people." He grimaced, or tried to smile, one of the two. "There's no need to panic and picket. They want to set up formal diplomatic relations and realized that New York was the best city to do that in." A cheer went up from the New Yorkers in the crowd. "They've offered to trade with us and teach us about their people and the other people that they trade with." Everyone stood still. "No, they're not alone, they're part of a bigger Empire, but the others are waiting to see how we handle this before jumping in and talking to us." A few people nodded. "They are cautious people, have no fear of that, and they don't want anyone to think that they're here to take over. As a matter of fact, they've spent the last few months reading our fantasy literature to see what we thought of aliens. They said to congratulate those who made Star Trek and a few of the others." That got a laugh. "Tonight, we'll be having a picnic here, to alleviate any cause for alarm like that one young man had. We're doing this out in the open so that nothing is hidden. This is too momentous an occasion to mess it up with secrets and lies."
"Then how did they contact Mr. Harris?" a male reporter yelled.
"I don't know. President Bartlett?"
"They contacted someone else first and they suggested Mr. Harris," he said, just in range of the microphone.
"Can you repeat that, sir?" someone yelled.
Bartlett stepped closer. "They contacted someone else first, someone who was watching and waiting for alien contact. That person suggested Mr. Harris." He smiled. "Frankly, I think he did an amazing job taking down their favorite history and putting it out for us."
"Is that why those books said 'as retold by'?" a young woman yelled. Bartlett nodded. "Makes sense at least. He didn't claim they were his."
"Mr. Harris has been a great help," President Hubers told them. "He's given us a lot of insight and even suggested that we do this in the open so you could all see what was going on." The crowd started talking among themselves.
Siblinth and her First Husband stepped up onto the podium. "If we may?" he asked. Both presidents got out of his way. "I am Moracaman, First Husband to Siblinth. It is custom among our people that I speak for my family in all matters. In this though, my wife wants to make a statement." He got out of her way, but didn't let her hand go.
Siblinth stepped up to the microphone jumped when it squealed, turning to Bartlett for advice.
"Back off an inch or so," he suggested gently. "It's resonating off your jewelry."
She did as he said and smiled at the silent crowd. "Hello," she started. "My name is Siblinth and I lead my people. We have heard many interesting things about your people and my mother decided that we should open up negotiations with you. I'm here to make her vision come true, and to learn more about your races. We have found you quite fascinating, what little we know, and wish to be..." She looked over her shoulder at her husband. "What is the word?"
"Friendly?" he suggested. "Happy together?"
"Friendly," a reporter shouted.
She smiled at him. "Thank you. Yes, we wish to be friendly with you and make you happy with us. We hope...." She was shoved to the ground as a shot rang out in the crowd.
"That was dumb," President Bartlett said, his voice audible through the microphone. He noticed a woman in silver coming running and got out of her way too. "She's fine," he told her.
She picked her Queen up and checked her over. "You are unhurt?" she asked, staring down her boss.
Siblinth nodded and reached up to smooth out her hair. "We were warned that there would be some who were not happy with us being here. I'm fine." She turned back to the crowd. The person with the gun was on the ground with a bunch of people trying to hit him. "Please, he is afraid of what we represent," she told them. "Please don't hurt him." She stepped back and took her husband's hand. "We will go back to the ship until it is time to eat."
"Please, stay," President-Elect Hubers told her. "I'd like to talk to you more."
Siblinth smiled at him. "That's why we're all eating together, silly." She walked away, those who had heard her smiling at her retreating back.
In his hotel room nearby, Xander was swearing that the person who had shot at her should be dead. A firm hand reached over and patted him on the knee. "They're fine," Oz reminded him. "Everything's still okay. We'll go a little early so you can talk to her yourself."
Xander leaned against Oz's body, taking comfort from it. "Yeah, but he still deserves to be punished."
"And he will be. See the guys in the suits? That's the Secret Service. That guy's going to be very sorry he did that." Oz continued to pet his husband, gentling him back into relaxation.
The dinner went off without an incident. All the military people grouped together in one corner, all the politicians in another, and the few reporters invited from the crowd tried to take down everything with the microphones they wore. The high point of the evening was when the little girl walked over to the military men and smiled up at them, then told them that they were very large but probably very smart and she would like to know what they did. It got shocked looks and some laughter, but Xander hurried to explain that the aliens' children went on something called 'wander' where they found out what they wanted to be when they grew up. He then put the little girl onto a chair and looked at her. "They do the same things as Joquan, little one. These are some of our top military people."
The little girl nodded and smiled. "Thank you. Joquan is one of my favorite people. I followed her onto her ship last month. She wasn't happy, but it was fun."
Joquan shook her head. "A child on wander is never refused anything," she told her associates. "This is how they learn." She smiled at the little girl. "You may ask them all you want after we sleep tomorrow, Kiara."
"You'll sleep tomorrow?" one of the Generals asked.
She nodded. "Your day is equal to a third of ours so we'll be sleeping about every third day. Tomorrow is our day to sleep, which will give you time to calm everyone else down."
Xander snorted. "I'm sure that both Presidents have messages waiting for them from a lot of other world leaders." He looked at the little girl. "Kiara, would you like to tell me a story?"
She shook her head. "I don't do it very well, but you could tell me one."
"I have a book in my bag," one of the reporters offered. "It's probably a bit older than her age range though."
Xander shrugged. "What one is it?"
"Harry Potter one."
"I think that would be fine," he told her. "We'll sit next to her mother in case she wants to object."
"What is this book about?" the First Wife asked as she walked over.
"About a boy who does magic and survived a terrible tragedy. He lives with an Aunt and Uncle who don't want him but his magic finds him a spot in a great school where people want to get to know him and like him."
Her lips pursed. "I would like to read it first. She is a very sensitive child. Xander, tell her something from our history if you can. She loves those."
"Well, I did hear an interesting story that I never got the chance to copy down. Something about the Drizean War?"
"That would be fine," the mother agreed with a smile. "She loves tales of battle." She sat down and plucked her daughter over, holding her closely.
"We could tell her one of ours," General Hammond suggested. "This man, Admiral Chegwidden, tells amazing stories about our past battles." The Admiral looked at him. "Well, sir, you do."
"I have grandchildren," he said with a shrug. A few of his friends in the group laughed. "How about I tell you about the ....Landing at Normandy Beach?" He pulled a chair over and started a story about the second world war.
Xander slipped away and walked over to Siblinth and her First Husband, bowing to both of them. "She's getting lost in stories of our military history." Siblinth sighed and rolled her eyes. "Maybe she'd like to design instead," he suggested.
The First Husband looked him over. "Trying for my job?" he asked lightly.
Xander laughed. "First, it would be unacceptable. Secondly, she only had a crush on me and she knows I'm very tightly bound to my mate. Thirdly, you'd better be glad my mate isn't here to hear that, he'd growl at you." He smiled. "Be secure, I'm not taking her from you. Friendship, yes, more than that, never." He patted the man on the shoulder. "I really love my husband." He heard Siblinth laugh and nodded. "See, she knows."
"He almost left us alone because some of us thought he might cheat on his mate with one of us," she told him. "It was a tragic day and made my mother quite upset." Xander nodded. "Never fear, I chose you," she told her husband, kissing him on the cheek. "I could have stolen him, but then I would had to fight his mate and I would have lost."
The First Husband nodded and bowed to Xander. "I'm sorry for my distrust but I heard someone else say she was beautiful."
"She is, but among humans that doesn't always mean that they want to sleep with her. It's also a statement of admiration." He grabbed a glass of champagne and nodded at the servers. "They forgot you guys get high on peanuts, don't eat the thing with coconuts on it unless you pick off the little hard brown things," he suggested. He strolled away.
Siblinth called the server over and looked down at the little squares. "What are these?"
"They're a cookie," the server told her. "Coconut topping, which is a large nut from a palm tree, and peanuts sprinkled on the top."
"Which are peanuts?" The server pointed them out. "Thank you. We've found out that are people are slightly allergic to them, they seem to alter our perceptions quite a lot and make us laugh loudly," the First Husband told him.
The server smiled. "I'll warn the chefs and they'll take the rest of them off. If you want, I can remove them from a few of the bars."
"We can do that," Siblinth told him. "We're not helpless." She took one of the bars and picked off the peanuts, carefully putting them aside. She ate a bite and moaned. "What is the stuff in the center?"
"Dark chocolate." He smiled again. "We thought you might like it, it's a very sensual food."
She nodded. "I do. I like this quite a lot." She smiled at him, then offered her husband a bite. He bit and moaned just as loudly. "You'll have to have your chef show ours when it's time to cook for your people." She walked over to her wife and had her taste it too.
"I want one of those," the First Wife announced.
"I'll take the peanuts off one for you."
Admiral Chegwidden groaned. "We forgot, peanuts make them high."
General Hammond shrugged when everyone looked at him. "I included it on my list. Berries, some citrus fruit. Peanuts. And pepper." The server nearest to them nodded. "Got all that?"
"It was on the briefing sheet, sir. I don't know why there are peanuts on anything. I'll ask the chef if you want." Another server said something quietly. "Oh, the chef that made those was late and didn't get the briefing. They just told him not to make berries or orange anything." He rolled his eyes. "We'll tell him." He hurried to the serving van, where the chefs were monitoring the food. "They're allergic to peanuts," he announced. The chefs all nodded, except the one who choked. "It makes them giggly and high. We're picking peanuts off for them."
The chef that made the mistake nodded. "Thanks for the warning. I'll pick off the rest of them back here." He punched the one who had warned him on the arm. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Emeril shrugged. "I forgot. At least it's not a fatal allergy." He was only there to help organize, he was the only one with Presidential Banquet experience, but not being able to cook had bothered him. Didn't they trust him?
The server smiled. "There's been a great run on the chocolate things. They'd like whomever's going to be helping them cook for their dinner in two days to teach them about that too."
"Sure," all the chefs said in unison. The server ducked back into the tent, going back to his duties. When he had signed up for cooking school, he had never imagined doing something like this. Maybe he would specialize in their food, or a synthesis, if they stayed around for a while.
Xander was let into the room where everyone was on the phone and picked up one that was ringing. "White House, New York edition," he answered. "Please hold, I'll see if Ms. Craig is busy." He put the guy on hold and smiled at CJ and Josh, who were walking over to greet him. "It's for you," he told her, handing her the handset. "I can wait. He sounded Middle Eastern and happy."
"That'll change when they find out how these people view women's rights," she assured him. "Great job by the way." She turned around to take the call in private.
Josh led Xander to the coffee machine, smiling the whole way. "That was such a great idea, the tents. Most of the press is even happy with us." He poured himself a cup.
"Sludge of the day?" Xander asked, staring into his cup. "Man, there's a Starbucks two doors up."
Josh shrugged. "You get used to it." He smiled as CJ walked over. "Who was it?"
"Hamid, Israeli branch of Headline News. He wants to talk to the First Wife about her views on the religious battles going on."
"She's going to say that her religion has been stable for longer than we've been standing upright and probably that she can't understand since they're all the same people, but she's heard of such things," Xander told her.
She nodded. "That's what I told him." She smiled at him. "I caught something on camera yesterday and only one other person saw it. It was a guy in leather and one with wings taking two children off the ship?"
Xander glanced around then leaned closer to her. "Bliss, son of Cupid, is married to one of their little Goddesses, Migrid," he told her. She frowned. "They're real, dear, I'm one of Cupid's and Strife's people." He stretched upward and came down with his bracelet in his hand, showing her the markings. "Recognize them?"
CJ stared, then nodded. "I do. From an archeology lesson very many years ago." She shook herself. "So, it was a hallucination and it's all okay?"
He nodded, grinning at her. "Basically. I'll pass that along though." He looked at Josh, who looked lost. "They're the ones who gave me that tapestry, the one behind my writing chair." Josh shuddered. "Sorry."
"That's okay, it was a bit more graphic than I wanted to see." He looked at CJ. "Did we need to do anything else today?"
"Both presidents wanted to talk to him, and we've got many calls to answer."
"I'm going to go do that before I end up locked on that tapestry." He sipped his sludge as he walked away.
CJ smiled. "Tapestry?"
"My writing room has pornographic tapestries hanging around the walls. That one was an orgy on a set of temple stairs. Three guys, a girl, and a dog looking on." She just nodded once. "It's beautifully done."
"I want to see it sometime." She led the way to a door off to the side, knocking on it. "Sirs, Mr. Harris," she announced, letting him get by.
Xander shook hands. "Hi." He waited until the door was closed. "Is everything going okay?"
"Besides some very upset world leaders, everything's fine," President Bartlett told him. Xander frowned. "They wanted to know about this before it happened."
"Oh. I guess that's understandable." He sat down when a hand waved toward the couch. "So, what can I do for you today?"
"Dr. Jackson is doing the anthro lectures at the end of the week," President-Elect Hubers told him. "We'd like you to help him, son."
Xander nodded. "Sure. I'm due on Leno that night though. As long as I can get out there before then. Or I could help with the ones in LA since I know Blair was going to do those."
"That would be fine. Can we tape them and send them on?" President Bartlett asked. Xander shrugged. "You don't know?"
"When Ms. Walters came over to do the interview with Nethisha, she asked me if I was wearing an illusion. I'm guessing that something in her equipment might not pick it up. We'd have to be careful." Both presidents nodded. "Other than that, I'd love to teach what I know. That's one of the reasons I'm going on Leno, besides to keep Siblinth calm. She's a little bit more nervous than her mother was. Oh, her wife," he said suddenly, his smile picking up again. "She was a historian. I saw her when I was helping Blair and Daniel."
"Helping them where?" President-Elect Hubers asked.
Bartlett looked at him. "I'll tell you about that in a few minutes." He looked at Xander again. "Are you sure?"
"She was working at one of their major schools, in the history/civilizations department. They don't separate it out the way that we do." He stood up. "I think she'd do it if you asked her to."
"I'll ask her tomorrow then," Bartlett agreed. "Was there anything else you wanted to tell us?"
"The winged person that CJ picked up."
"That was Cupid. He was picking up his son, Bliss."
"Greek God, Cupid?" Hubers asked. Xander nodded and sat down again. "They exist?"
"As far as I can tell, the rule of the universe is 'if you believe strongly enough it's there for you.' There are still plenty of us who believe in Cupid. I'm one of his devotees, his and Strife's, God of Mischief. But Cupid's son, Bliss, has grown to love one of the off-world goddesses and he's married to her. Her name's Migrid, she's the daughter of the Goddess of Grief and the Goddess of Godly Combat."
Ares appeared behind Xander and tapped him on the head. "Did they need to know?"
Xander tipped his head back. "They caught Cupid and Strife on tape yesterday when they picked up Bliss," he said with a grin. He looked at the Presidents. "This is Ares, God of War, and saver of my butt on more than one occasion."
Ares frowned down at Xander. "That's because Oz never put you on the leash I gave him," he said dryly. He looked at both world leaders and sighed. "Yes, we do exist. For those who believe so strongly, we can even act on their behalf. Xander is one of my nephew and my son's favorite mortals." He patted Xander on the head. "Be good. Don't get stolen this week. We're all having a party for Bliss and Migrid." He snapped his fingers. "Oh, we found out, she's the Goddess of Bridges. It appeared on their naming scrolls when she started for down here." Xander smiled. "When are you leaving?"
"Friday morning. Siblinth and I are leaving together I guess." He looked at the two older men. "I've rented a plane for the trip back, just so we don't have to deal with panicking people. And if she's the panicking one, she can do it in private."
Hubers nodded. "Good idea. Thank you, Mr. Harris, you've been a great help to us in this matter."
"Hey, I don't mind. I like them," he said as he stood up. He shook everyone's hand, and hugged Ares, whispering in his ear. Then he left them alone. He felt the flash of power that hid the encounter from the minds of the Presidents. Both were very religious men and didn't need the doubts right then. He waved at CJ, then left the building. He walked over to the Starbucks and bought the whole room an order of decent coffee, then left for his hotel.
Bartlett looked at Hubers, who was frowning. "He did it so we wouldn't stress."
"I still remember though."
"Well, shit," Ares sighed as he reappeared. "You're not supposed to. You'll be too worried about that and not focused on the necessary stuff."
Hubers smiled at him. "Actually, it eased my mind about my afterlife, son." He held a hand out and Ares shook it. "Do you help our boys in the military?"
"When they ask for it."
"Good, good." Hubers nodded at Bartlett. "Is he something that you hadn't told me about yet?"
"No, but I'm sure the project that I'm going to tell you about has seen him." Ares laughed and nodded. "That's what I thought."
"Hey, we have to protect Xander, he's keeping some of the minor, forgotten Gods, alive." He shrugged and left them alone.
"Yes, he's an interesting boy," Hubers agreed. "I don't normally like gays, but he's quite a man."
Bartlett held in his laughter. The other man could at least see the forest for the trees and he wasn't quite as pigheaded as everyone had said. "Sit down. Have a drink. You'll need it, Richard." He poured himself a scotch and sat down. "We found them because of some other alien technology that creates gateways to other worlds."
"Shit, I *do* need a drink for this." Hubers got up and grabbed a strong drink, then sat back down. "Does that General Hammond run it? I noticed he's been in almost as many spots as Mr. Harris."
Bartlett nodded. "It's his baby. He's the General that the original negotiations were done under. We've worked on this for three years so far."
Hubers slugged his drink back. "Oh, damn, that burned," he complained. "The best though." He put the delicate crystal rock glass off to the side. "Tell me about it, as much as I can know."
Bartlett leaned forward and put his glass down. "You're right, we only know because of our jobs. Even the Joint Chiefs like to ignore this little project in Colorado."
"That's where you went?" Bartlett nodded. "Well. How was their world?"
"They have something in their air that mimics caffeine and chocolate. It's invigorating. That's also where we got the goats."
Hubers laughed. "That's good to know. Think they field them in military maneuvers?"
Xander stopped at the front desk of his hotel and sent flowers to Daniel and Blair. He decided that they probably needed it right about then. He headed up to his room and slammed the door. "I just thought of an issue with my cover," he told his husband, who was reading a new book on the bed. The book lowered and one eyebrow was quirked up. "I don't have a plastic surgeon." He walked over and snuggled in. "I don't have anyone that I can say I went to and no one can say I've been to them either."
Oz grunted and removed the hand tracing figures on his stomach. "So, we'll get one. That's not that hard. We live in the land of plastic surgery. There might even be an immie one."
"Well, I was thinking about something else." Xander lifted his head. "You know how I'm really unhappy with a few things on my body?"
"You're not getting liposuction." Xander smacked him on the stomach. "Ow. Meany."
Xander frowned. "No, not that sort of unhappy, that's needing to get back on the treadmill again. I'm talking about some of my scars, Oz. Those big, nasty looking things that I got from fighting with the blonde one?"
"I know all about your scars," Oz reminded him. He pulled Xander closer. "They can make them disappear."
"I know. That's what I was thinking, and it would help with our next life." He looked up. "People have seen my scars and I can be identified by them."
"Then we'll look for a good plastic surgeon to get rid of those nasty scars for you." He kissed his mate on the nose. "Got any ideas?"
Xander looked at him. "There should be some sort of immie directory of specialists."
Oz snorted. "There probably is at the resort. I can call Steve." Xander shook his head. "Okay. You wanna just ask around?"
"I've been doing that and one person keeps popping up. I was going to call him for an appointment." Oz nodded. "But then we have to explain and...." Oz shut him up with a kiss.
"Then we'll find someone we like and can work with. We'll even put him on retainer to make it look better. We can afford it."
"Well, there's always Switzerland."
Oz shook his head. "No. They can't keep their mouths shut and the press lurks at the good clinics." He rolled his mate under him, but decided he should probably answer the ringing phone. "What?" He smiled. "Sure. Send it up. Or them. Whatever." He hung up and went back to kissing his mate. "You know, you could probably make a pretty good living helping immies change their images from life to life. I know I've had trouble finding something new."
"Green fur wasn't new?"
"Leave my green fur trimmed jacket out of this." Oz gave him one last kiss and got up to answer the door. "Hey, guys." He let them in. "It's the kids, honey."
Xander sat up and waved. "Hey, guys. How are the lectures coming?"
"They're written," Daniel told him, coming over to sit down next to him. He gave him a hug. "Thank you for the flowers. And the suggestion. Josh called me." He let Blair snuggle into his side too. "And then the issue comes up that we want to disappear soon and don't know how."
"We were just talking about that," Oz said, checking the hall before closing the door. "I think he should start a service to help those of us without a clue. Some hair stuff, some clothing stuff, some attitude and name stuff." He came over and laid back down on his husband's free side. "I think he'd be great at it." Xander blushed. "You are. You helped Amanda."
"She was easy, she just needed a makeover last time." He smiled at his husband. "I guess we could do something like that at the resort."
"We'd have to do something like that at the resort. It's the only common place that immies know of," Blair pointed out.
Oz nodded. "Good point." He kissed Xander on the cheek. "I think we could do that, if you wanted."
Xander looked at him. "Let's wait and see how well this first change goes, okay?"
"Okay." Oz looked at Blair and Daniel. "Any good news?"
"No gun-wielding assholes," Blair said.
"Always a good," Xander agreed. "Any picket-wielding assholes?"
"Only a few, they're not sure who I am." Daniel smiled. "I managed to slip past them fairly quickly. Blair wasn't so lucky."
Blair snorted. "They remembered my dis fiasco." He cuddled in harder. "Anyway, we've got the rest of the day off, and we know that you do too."
"Actually, except for the party later, I'm free until Friday," Xander told them. "We can go shopping if you want." Both men nodded. "That's cool." He looked at Oz. "You wanna come?"
"Not particularly, but I'd like some say as to what you're going to become." He kissed Xander's cheek. "Where are we going shopping?"
"Well, I know some great little shops, but I don't really want to deal with them because of why I *used* to shop there." All the men nodded. "So, we can hit fifth avenue or we can ask someone downstairs where we should go shop."
Someone knocked on the door and Oz got up to answer it. He checked and Xander had moved away from Danny and Blair, so he opened it. "Yes?" he asked the hotel security guard. "Is there a problem?"
The guard came in and looked at Xander. "You are him, the guy with the aliens?" Xander nodded. "Our management is very wary about you bringing the idiots with weapons and signs down on us, Mr. Harris, and I've been sent to ask you to switch hotels. Will you do that willingly?"
"Sure," Xander said with a smile. "I expected as much, it would be bad publicity if the sign- waving idiots showed up here. Can I ask you to make me reservations somewhere equally safe?" The guard nodded and pulled out a card, handing it over. "Thank you. Give us an hour please." The guard nodded again and left. "Okay, guys, we're going to the Lafayette."
"Never heard of it," Daniel said, grabbing the phone book to look it up. "Um, Xander, you don't want to go there," he said, handing over the listing. "It's not the best of all places."
"We're staying in a three star," Blair said, reading the listing. "I wouldn't stay at the one they just gave you unless I had to. Good thing that the government is paying for our rooms or we'd be in an equally offensive dump." He flipped through the pages "Hey, try this one. I've heard many great things about it from the Travel Channel. The Righa Royal." He handed the phonebook to Oz, who sat down to call it while Xander went to pack their things.
"They've got a room," Oz announced. "Suite, nice one. Good for you?"
"Great for me," Xander agreed, dropping one of their bags on the bed. "Two more. Come help?" he suggested.
"I will," Blair told him, getting up to go help him. "I know this sucks," he said quietly.
"I expected it," Xander told him with a sigh. "I am a security risk right now. That's why I didn't unpack everything." He stuffed the remaining clothes into a bag. "Go check the other rooms?"
"Sure." Blair grabbed an empty bag and went to check everything else. "It still sucks," he said as he walked away.
Oz walked over and leaned into the bathroom. "We've got a nice suite under your name. They did ask and I told them you were you. They agreed to keeping us anyway." He pulled his husband in for a kiss. "I agree with Blair, it sucks, but we'll deal. The Prezes are in the Waldorf."
"We're in the Avalon," Blair said as he came out of the bathroom. "I didn't steal the shampoo for you." He handed over the bag. "You left room in your luggage?"
"We have things in the laundry," Oz told him. "We'll talk to the check-out people and have it sent to our new hotel." He took the bags from Xander and brought them to the bed, doing one last check himself. He found a pair of slippers and stuffed them into a bag, then took his jacket out of the closet. "Xander, wallet?" he called, noticing it was still on the dresser and Xander was halfway to the door. Xander waved his. "Guess it's mine then." He opened it and it was his. "Okay. Bellhop?"
"Called," Daniel told him. "On the way up." He took Blair's hand and started for the door. "I'm going to go down and get us a car. Okay?"
"Fine." Oz watched them go, then accepted the silent hug from his husband. "It'll be okay. There's no one here who wants to kill you yet."
"Nope, not yet." Xander got free and went to answer the door, letting the bellhop in. "We're checking out," he told him, giving him a five dollar tip. "Take it to the curb, we'll be right down." He followed the young man to the elevator. "We have friends down there waiting on us," he told him as they got on. Oz came out and got the next elevator.
Xander looked around the room, nodding. It was great. A set of doors separated the living room area from the bedroom. There was a discrete fax on the desk. There were even two televisions. "This'll work, and I like the colors. The burgundy and tan is great. Much better than the plain tan we had before."
"Oh, marble bathroom," Blair said excitedly. He got out of Oz's way. "Great huh."
"Definitely good," he said, shutting the door.
Xander shrugged when Daniel looked at him. "It's some sort of ritual, he always has to try the bathroom to make sure it works. Ever since New Delhi." He tipped the bellhop and waited until he was gone to pick up his bags. "Okay, guys, now we have to put it up and go do stuff. After I call Josh and tell him I had to move hotels."
"Got his fax number?" Daniel asked, examining the business machine. "This has a dedicated line." He looked at Xander, who had pulled out a business card and handed it over. "Go get unpacked and I'll write him a short note." He wrote it out on a piece of notepaper then sent it through, smiling at the cute message. 'Other hotel didn't like aliens or me, moved to Righa, floor 26. Fax on desk here at this number. Going shopping now.' He smiled as Xander came back out, showing him the message.
"Coming." He flushed and came out, wiping his hands off. "Gotta say, that's the best bathroom we've had at any hotel yet. Almost as nice as at home in Sunnydale." He took his husband's hand and checked for both of their wallets, which he was the keeper of. "Salon to do something with your split ends or shopping?" he asked as they walked out, with Blair in possession of the key.
"Salon first," Xander said, nodding decisively. "Otherwise I'll end up braiding my hair tonight to hide the fact that the left side broke two inches up." He felt fingers go through his hair and smiled at his mate, who loved to play with it. "I promise I won't get that much trimmed off."
"Good." Oz got on the elevator first, waiting until everyone was on to push the button for the lobby. He waved at the receptionist as they walked past. "He's got his cellphone if it's urgent," he called as they walked past. She nodded and made a note. He stepped outside. "We need a car to hire for the rest of the day," he told the doorman. "We're going to a salon, then shopping, then to a dinner tonight." The doorman whistled and with a wave, a sleek black car pulled up. Oz tipped him, then got in, letting Xander sit very close to him. "We need to go to a salon that takes walk ins," Oz told the driver.
"Yes, sir." He pulled away carefully once the door was closed. "Say, are you guys with those aliens?"
Xander, Blair, and Daniel all raised their hands.
"And there's a dinner tonight," Daniel added.
"That's fine then. I know just where to go." He turned a corner and headed down a smaller side street, stopping in front of a very usual building. No signs, no doorman. "Push the pink button," the driver instructed. "I'll be right here." He watched as the people got out and headed to the door, which opened for them. Hey, they'd be paying well, American diplomats always did.
Xander looked back at the stylist checking his hair. "What sort of training do you have to have to do what you do?" he asked him.
"I went to cosmetology school, a good and reputable one. Then I worked my way up." He frowned at the ends. "You need two inches trimmed off everywhere."
"I know. But you can't go over three. My husband loves my hair," he admitted with a grin. "What about the white streaks?"
"They're faded a little," the stylist admitted. "I can bleach them, but it's going to take forever to separate them out."
Oz shook his head from across the room. "No, don't. Don't worry about it. We'll deal with those some other day." Xander nodded. "But can you do something elegant with it for the dinner tonight?"
"Definitely. I wish I had this much hair to do things with," he said with a smile. He turned Xander around and opened up his sink. "Let's get you wet and then we'll see what we're going to do with you."
Xander stepped out of the back room, his hair carefully braided and draped. Blair and Daniel had both been done an hour ago, but they didn't have hair like his. "How's it look?"
"Great," Blair told him. "Just enough braid to make it controllable and enough loose to not say femme." He waved at the door. "Did Oz get the bill?"
"Yup. He's coming." He turned as the door opened and Oz walked out to take his arm. "Shopping?"
"We've got four hours before we have to be ready," Oz reminded him. Everyone nodded so they went out to the hired car, which was sitting right there for them. The driver smiled and Oz nodded. "Shopping. This guy," he said, patting Daniel on the shoulder, "needs some good dress clothes and my man needs general stuff."
"Armani it is," the driver agreed. "Right near it is a few other good men's stores too." He turned the car around and started back toward fifth avenue. "What took you guys so long?"
"My hair takes forever to dry," Xander told him. "Plus I needed a conditioning treatment." He looked at Daniel, who was staring down into his wallet, and reached over to make him fold it back up. "Don't worry about it, we're not." Daniel looked at him. "You need these anyway. Your old tux fits like a rental." He smiled. "So I'm taking you shopping and we're getting some ideas." Daniel nodded and put up his wallet.
"You don't have to," Blair told him.
"I enjoy it, deal with it," Xander told him, staring him down. Blair nodded and relaxed. "I could be really mean and make Danny help me find something to wear on Leno too."
"I don't think I'm the person to ask," Daniel reminded him, but he was smiling.
Oz leaned forward. "Leave him alone, guys, he's in super spoiling mode. The last time he had one of these fits, he gave the twins close to a thousand books and trust funds for school." He sat back as the car pulled up in front of a glass-fronted store. "Here?"
"Here, sir." He looked back. "Sir, if I may, my fee...." Oz handed him three hundreds. "Yes, sir, thank you, sir. I'll be right here or just down the block if I have to move." He turned back around and turned off the car, picking back up his magazine to read.
Xander hustled everyone inside, smiling at the salesman coming toward them, and his sneer. "I'm Xander Harris," he told him. The man's sneer magically disappeared. "These are Doctors Sandburg and Jackson, they need formal wear."
"I only need a new jacket," Blair put in.
"Shh," Oz reminded him. He smiled at the salesman. "Then they need to browse. My baby also needs something to wear for tonight because I'm tired of his old tux and I need a new shirt."
"Yes, sir, right this way. We have a private room set up for special clients." He showed them in and snapped his fingers, and a young woman appeared with a tray for tea. "Tuxes first?"
"Please," Xander agreed. "We're going to the reception tonight." The man's eyes widened and he hurried away. He looked at his shopping buddies. "Then we'll see what we can find for you guys."
"Me," Daniel said quietly. "I don't....this a much later thing. It's not important yet."
Xander smiled. "You're *how* old?"
"Point," Daniel sighed; he knew he was coming to the end of his time at this present identity, he was too old to look so young. He looked at Blair, who was smiling helpfully. "We'll look." Maybe Blair would change identities with him after all.
Oz patted him on the shoulder. "If you think you're getting out of here without some clothes, you're delusional. Xander's going to be buying most of the store." He poured himself some tea and sat next to his mate, looking at the first model wearing a tux. "Danny?"
Daniel shook his head. "Something more subtle," he suggested.
"Something classy and old money," Xander added. The model nodded and disappeared. He sipped his tea, but grimaced. He hated tea. He handed Daniel his cup and made him drink it instead. When the model came back, he got up to look over the outfit. "I like. Oz?"
"No. Too stiff. Think *really* old money, like European money." The model nodded and went back to get another outfit.
"I liked that one," Daniel told them. Xander and Oz both shh'ed him this time. He decided he'd give up, for now, but he would win this battle.
Daniel looked up at his and Blair's hotel with a sigh. He got out and managed to get most of the bags from the trunk without help, but Blair called over one of the bellhops and they took the bags from him. His lover leaned in. "Enjoy it for the gift it is," Blair suggested as he closed the trunk. It reopened and he pulled out their tuxes. He waved and headed inside, the poor man carrying their bags behind them. He got his lover upstairs and into the bathroom, then laughed. He loved having a sugar daddy sometimes. Xander was just so cute when he was in hyper-spoil mode. Maybe he should have suggested that they stop off at that antique bookstore too? "Nah, that would have been imposing," he muttered as he hung up their tuxes. A quick shower and they'd both be ready.
Xander allowed himself to be escorted up to the room by the driver, Oz, and the bellboy, all of whom were carrying bags. He opened the door and tipped everyone, smiling at the driver. "Three hours," he reminded him.
"Two hours," Oz called. "We have to be there early and we have to pick up Blair and Danny." He peeked back out. "Come on and shower, big guy."
Xander waved and closed the door.
The driver headed back downstairs with a bright smile. It was a very good day for him and it wasn't over yet.
Xander drug his husband into the bathroom so they could bathe together. A shower would mess up his hair, but a bath was just perfect.
Siblinth smiled as she walked into the tent, squealing when she saw Xander and Oz already there. "You came." She hugged them both.
"We were supposed to come," Xander said with a frown. "Why wouldn't we come?"
"Because you moved and didn't tell anyone," Sam told him as he walked up behind Siblinth.
"Danny sent a message to Josh."
"Who's been out of the office all day," Sam said with a smile. "At least you're safe. Where are you staying now?"
"Rihga Royal. Nice suite." Xander looked him over. "You look like you just hugged a cat."
"I did. There's three of them on the ship and one of them inhabited my lap for the last half an hour." He brushed at his jacket. "Do you have a lint roller?"
"I do," CJ told him, handing over the miniature one from her purse. "Snazzy look, guys. Armani?"
"Xander spoiled people today," Oz told her seriously. "All of us got new tuxes." She smiled. "And new clothes, and new shoes, and even some new jewelry." He picked up the end of Xander's braid to show off the tie. "He's not allowed on fifth avenue again this week."
Everyone laughed, but Xander, who was pouting. Siblinth gave him another hug. CJ gave him a hug. Oz punched him on the arm. "Stop it before you make people horny too," he ordered.
"He can't do that, right?" Sam asked.
"Bet me," Siblinth and Oz said together.
He just nodded and finished cleaning off his jacket, then handed the appliance back to his coworker. "I think I'm going to go get some water. Anyone want anything?"
"Champagne?" Siblinth asked. Her husband came over and whispered in her ear. "Oh, all right, water," she sighed. "I doubt I'm going to get drunk."
"It's easy enough to do," Oz told her, smiling at her. "You look quite nice in that."
She looked down at her silver breast cups and black velvet two panel skirt. "We went shopping ourselves," she said proudly. "One of the nice people made this for us just for tonight." She smiled at them, then at CJ. "She was nice enough to help us."
Xander considered the outfit. "It wouldn't be that hard to make. Simple squares with flaps on the sides for the magnets." He shrugged. "It shouldn't have taken anyone that long to do. I could whip you up an entire wardrobe in a week if I had a pattern for your cups."
CJ shook her head. "You never cease to amaze me. You sew?"
"He makes most of our clothes, except the leathers and formal stuff," Oz told her, patting Xander's hand. "It keeps him out of trouble, just like his forge work does." She laughed. "Think I'm kidding?"
CJ shook her head. "No, I think you're very serious. I can't see him getting into real trouble though." Oz nodded, eyes wide. "Really?"
"That's also why he writes. It was either he get the urges out that way or we were going to have to chain him in a bathroom. It was close, I almost couldn't move for a week." He took the offered glass of water from Sam.
"Is that when you got animals?" Sam asked.
"That was after we started sewing. Xander liked fuzzy things so a dog was adopted. Then, one fateful day, he saw an in-store adoption plea from the LA County Humane Society. We brought home seventeen that day. The ferret just wandered up one day and decided she lived there."
Sam shook his head. "At least your life is full of things that you like."
"Yes, it is," Xander agreed with a smile. He looked at the First Husband, who wasn't looking very happy. "You can join us. We don't mind."
"I do," Siblinth said, frowning at him. "I'm very upset with him."
Xander gave her a hug. "It's all right, I'm sure he didn't mean to upset you. Besides, it's better to have him with you than to have him far away and at the mercy of press people." She laughed. "Really."
"Really," CJ agreed. "They'll take a hint that you two are fighting and turn it into the second biggest story of all time."
"Oh." She looked back at her husband. "You may come closer," she told him. He moved up and kissed her on the neck. "Thank you, Moracaman." She smiled at him, then at Xander. "He was worried because you're still so touchy."
"It's just the way he is," Oz told him. "Not all humans are that way, but he'll never try to take your wife."
Xander took his mate's hand. "I'd never leave you," he promised. "And if you ever try to leave me again, I'm going to hunt you down and bring you back in chains and leather."
Sam and CJ both stepped back.
Oz nodded. "Cool with me. As long as you don't break up my decade vacation." He shrugged. "And I'd expect harsher punishment than that."
"Well, I could stick you in the trunk and drive you home myself," Xander said sweetly. Oz shuddered. "Got the point?"
"Definitely," Oz agreed, giving him a hug. He looked at Blair and Danny, who were smirking at them. "Just you wait until you have a fight. He trapped Ray and his man on a train and gave them peachskin thongs to wear when they had a fight." Blair shivered and Danny's mouth hung open. "Yeah, so you might not want to have many serious ones where one of you leaves."
Xander smiled at their friends. "I'd do something unique to what you guys have to get you back together," he promised them.
CJ snickered. "I'm just glad you've never done anything like that and gotten press attention, Xander."
"No, not yet," Oz told her. "I'm sure it'll happen sometime though." He sipped his water. "Where is everybody else?"
"Security's tightened up since Siblinth came," Sam explained. "We've added three new layers to the security so everybody is taking longer. They're over there," he pointed toward where the press had been the day before. There were some invited tonight so there was no mob of newscasters around. "The chefs are already here. The American chefs were really impressed with some of the things you brought. Especially that you were able to kill the goat yourself."
Siblinth smiled. "It tried to bite me," she confided. "And I was stressed. It was a wonderful fight." She smiled as a man with glasses and medium-brown hair walked over with a tray. "The beginnings?" she asked.
"A sample to make sure everything's fine," he told her.
"You're the Good Eats guy," Xander said happily. He smiled at Sam. "Great choice, man. I *love* his show."
"Thanks," Alton Brown said with a smile. "It was really interesting. Emeril was a little upset, until he got to make the garlic dish." He watched as she nibbled on the miniature servings. "Does everything taste right? Your chef said to defer to you."
Siblinth wiped her mouth and nodded. "Excellently done. I thank you for your help tonight."
"Hey, you guys have all different types of food and I'm always willing to learn," he said with a smile. "We've planned to start dinner in about half an hour?" CJ nodded, this was her planning. "Good. Then I'm going to go calm any last minute fears. Graham Kerr said he's never fed a royal or a regal banquet." He disappeared back toward where the chefs were set up.
"That is so very cool," Xander told CJ.
"There was a small fit earlier when Emeril didn't get to fix anything, but he found the one thing that soaked up flavor and added garlic." She saluted Siblinth with her glass. "Thank you for bringing some of that root vegetable down."
"It's a standard in our diet, we weren't sure how you would like it though. When my mother was here, she ate things that were softer and more varied in flavor. She used to rave about this layered, flavorful, red dish."
Oz looked at Xander. "You fed her lasagna?"
Xander nodded. "It was in the freezer, we had it for breakfast." He looked over his shoulder as a few more people trickled in, more of President Bartlett's staff, and his wife. He was behind them talking to his predecessor. "It's going to be a high politics night," he sighed.
Oz patted him on the back. "We'll still be able to talk to Blair and Danny," he assured him.
Xander sighed and sipped his champagne. He was bored. Oz was bored and had gone in search of more interesting conversation. So Xander was figuring out what he wanted to do with his next life.
"You don't look happy," a man said as he walked over to sit beside Xander at the table. "Henry Hallase."
"Xander Harris," he said, shaking his hand. "So, why are you here?"
"Oh, I'm covering this for my organization." He pointed at his press pass.
Xander saw something else and turned the man's wrist over. "I know someone else who had that tattoo." He looked into the man's eyes. "Why are you here?"
"Because such an auspicious occasion, as heralded by some of our own, brought me," he said with a smile. "You do make an interesting note in the chronicles, Mr. Harris."
Xander leaned forward. "Go away. I don't like you." He stood up and walked away.
"Can I quote you?" he called after him, still smirking. "I'm sure Joe would have loved to hear about this."
Xander turned but before he could say anything, Blair was beside him and leading him away. "I want to hurt him," he muttered to his friend.
"Who was he?"
"Watcher." Xander smiled as Daniel walked over to him. "Did you see the guy annoying me?" he asked. Daniel nodded. "Don't go near him."
CJ turned to look at him. "Press problems?"
"More like an annoyance who believes he's God," Xander said mock-cheerfully. She nodded and turned away again. Xander looked at Daniel and tapped his wrist. The other man's mouth opened. "So leave him alone."
"Oz was talking to him earlier," Blair told them.
"I'll warn him," Xander said, smiling at them. Blair held him there. "What? He is mine."
"He's with homophobic assholes right now," Blair soothed, leading Xander over to the refreshments table. "Why don't you tell me about this idea Oz was talking about earlier?"
"He wanted me to help people who need to change their identities." He glanced around. "Like abused spouses," he said meaningfully because they were surrounded by people who wouldn't even begin to understand. Blair nodded for him to go on. "I was thinking about working out of the resort, or somewhere close by."
"That would be a help," a female reporter said from beside them. "How were you going to do it? Down to the credit report level or just a new identity?"
Xander smiled at her. "That's what I'm still trying to figure out. It could backfire very badly on the people I'm trying to help if I don't do it just right and get the right clearances and everything." She nodded, looking interested. "Just a new name and a new persona wouldn't be enough, but getting them set up with a new credit report would probably get me in a lot of trouble if I didn't make sure I could do it first. Even just getting them new identity facts could get me in a lot of trouble."
She smiled. "That's very true, but it is something that the world needs. I know a few people who would love to use your services." She held out a hand. "Ellen Romerson."
"My, you *are* busy," she said with a light chuckle. "First animals, then writing, and now this?"
"I have to do something worthwhile with my money," he told her.
She put her arm through his and walked him away from Blair. "How did you come to that money anyway? No one's ever said."
Xander smiled. "It's not really that interesting. Just a standard....."
"Xander," Daniel called. "Kiara would like to talk to you."
"Excuse me please," he said, getting away from her. He walked over to where the little princess was and knelt down in front of her. "What can I do for you today, little one?"
"You can find me someone to tell me many great stories," she demanded. He mother looked over at her and she ducked her head. "Please?"
Xander looked around. "Well, I don't know most of these people, but I think Daniel knows some stories that are called myths." Daniel nodded. "Could he tell you one?" Daniel shook his head but the princess nodded happily.
"Xander, kids and I don't get along."
"So don't let her sit on your lap. Just tell her some of the myths we have around here." Xander smiled. "Tell her some Greek ones? I'll even sit here and help if you want."
"Oh, all right," he sighed, sitting down across from her. "You know that our people have had many cultures and religions?" The little girl nodded happily. "Well, way back when, about three thousand years ago, there were people called Greeks. They and their country are still around but their main religion has changed. Back then, they worshiped many Gods and Goddesses."
"Just like you do," Xander added. She clapped.
Daniel smiled at him. "Yes, just like they do, and some of the myths we have left from their old religion are very similar."
"Do you have a princess that's stolen by death and forced to marry her?" Kiara's mother asked as she sat down. "I've heard of one."
"That would be Persephone and Hades," Daniel agreed, smiling at her. "Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, who was the Goddess of the Harvest. One day, Hades found Persephone playing among the flowers in a valley near where the Underworld opened onto the mortal realm and he fell in love. He decided he had to have her, and without talking to her mother, took her from the valley. Her mother got very angry though and swore that she would get her daughter back. She stormed off to the leaders of the Gods, Zeus and Hera, and demanded her daughter be brought back. They argued for *months*," he told her. "Finally, Zeus agreed to pull her from the Underworld, to free her from her captor, but Hades had been smart. He had tried to get her to eat the whole time she was down there, but she had refused knowing that it would trap her there. But finally, she grew so hungry that she ate a few pomegranate seeds. Just after she ate them was when Zeus pulled her up to Olympus, the home of the Gods. He had to tell her mother that she could not come back because she had eaten the seeds." He took a sip of his water. "Her mother was so upset that she declared that there would never be another harvest, that the land would be barren and cold until her daughter was returned to her. The mortal realm went through about a year of winter."
"What's winter?" Kiara asked.
"It's when it gets cold and the crops won't grow," Blair said as he sat down. "Demeter decided that the world should be as cold and barren as she was feeling and that the mortal world would suffer for her grief right along with her because the other Gods would have to take her side and help her get back her daughter." He smiled at her. "Now, Hades, overloaded by all the dead flowing down to him, made a decision. He went to Zeus and offered a compromise. He would allow Persephone to go back to her mother's house for half the year. Demeter flashed in and started to scream at him until Hera and Zeus told her what he had suggested. She thought about it, then decided half a year with her daughter was better than none and accepted." He reached over and patted Xander's hand, noticing him start to fidget. "So that's why the Ancient Greeks thought they had seasons. Fall and Winter were when the Goddess Persephone was with her husband, and Spring and Winter were with her mother."
Kiara smiled at her mother. "They're very complicated, mommy."
"And that's only one culture's reasons for the seasons. Each culture explains to themselves why things happen, usually through religions or myths. The Ancient Egyptians had a different myth, partially because they lived in a desert and they didn't really have a winter." Daniel smiled at her. "If you're going to be a great military leader, you should always understand the people that you're going up against. It could mean the difference between winning and losing."
"Or even having to fight," Blair added. "Not having to fight a battle but still winning it is the best solution to all military problems."
The First Wife smiled at them. "You are quite right about that. Not having to fight is always better." She held a hand out to her daughter. "Come, we'll get you one of your books and you can tell them one of your stories."
"Okay, momma," Kiara said, following her mother over to where they had a bag packed with things for her to do during the party.
Blair looked at Xander. "Ignore it," he warned quietly. "If you let that man get to you, you're going to make a scene and you'll be yelled at."
"Someone's touching Oz and looking happy," Xander ground out. "He just copped a feel and Oz moved away from him."
"Then Oz has it," Daniel put in. "Let him handle it." He glanced around, then smiled as Oz looked their way. Oz came walking over, leaving his group after a short explanation. "You all right?"
"Fine. Verbally spanked the guy with roaming hands." He leaned down and kissed Xander's cheek. "Relax, it'll be okay. No one here will upset you any more than they already have."
"Oh, I don't know about that," President Bartlett said as he walked over to them. "Xander, what problem did you have with that one reporter?"
"He was smirking and insinuating things," Xander told him. "I didn't ask to have him removed, I just got up and walked away. I was nice though, I didn't hit him first."
The President smiled. "Good." He glanced around. "Does it have anything to do with that tattoo on his arm?"
Oz choked. "Is that what he was?" Xander nodded. Oz turned to look at the President. "Yes, it does. That tattoo means he's part of an organization that some of us could do without. Nothing harmful, just annoying." He sipped his champagne as a woman walked past them. "We have a non-interaction thing going with them."
"Ah, I see." Bartlett saluted someone with his glass. "Then everything's fine?"
Xander nodded. "As long as he stays away from me, we're all good. And if he doesn't, I promise to keep my temper in check."
"Good. Thank you. It would look bad for one of our top diplomats in this situation to get into a brawl." He chuckled. "Not that I haven't had that same thought sometimes." He walked away, still smiling.
The man Oz had been talking to walked up behind him and put his hand on Oz's shoulder. "Introduce me," he suggested cheerfully.
Xander held out his hand. "I'm Xander Harris, his husband." He smiled as the man removed his hand. "These are Doctors Jackson and Sandburg," he pointed to each of them. "They were brought into the meeting at the same time I was."
Daniel gave him a polite smile. "They're really quite fascinating."
"And they could prove your hypothesis for your dissertation?" he suggested.
Daniel shrugged. "Maybe, but I think that they could probably prove it even without my help."
"And you, *Doctor* Sandburg, I've heard something about your work too."
Blair sipped his water. "Yes, I know. I had to lie at the press conference to give my dissertation enough time to be classified and my subjects protected."
"Would that have been that detective you were with?"
"No, it would have been someone that I was working with at the college. Detective Ellison," he grimaced slightly, "was a very good friend and I was working with him on something else. Cultural influences are usually ignored by the police department and I wanted to see if using some simple anthropological and sociological knowledge would help them when dealing with community issues. It turns out I was right and the knowledge of how different parts of the community reacts gave a boost to the arrest and conviction rate of the department I was working with. It's quite fascinating that no one in the police department ever looked at the causes of crimes, or at the harder aspects of more major crimes, how it's not always about the money. If you'd like, I can forward my findings on the subject to you."
The man smiled. "No, that's fine. It was a minor interest of mine, but it appears that it helped out. Would you be willing to give a presentation on the subject?"
"If asked," Blair agreed. "I managed to screw myself royally when I had to do some quick maneuvering about my diss."
"And the person?"
"Was fine the last time I knew. I haven't heard from them in ages, not since I let them go so they'd be safer and away from the press. The last I knew they were happy though."
"Good. That's excellent. It's good to know that you got that all straightened out. It's not too many researchers today who would give up everything to protect their subjects."
"My subject didn't want to become a lab rat in some government shadow facility," Blair said honestly. "Protecting them was foremost in my mind when I found them. But at least the information is out there when another person with similar problems comes to light. Hopefully, they'll get less press and be able to live a *normal* life."
The man nodded. "Indeed." He nodded at all of them. "If you'll excuse me." He walked away, smiling at some woman.
"Gee, husband," Oz said dryly. "Not at all acting out."
Xander smiled sweetly. "I'm holding in my temper," he said quietly. "I don't like it when people paw you any more than you like it when they do it to me, dear."
Oz leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. "No more alcohol," he said quietly but firmly. "We'll leave as soon as possible so you don't hurt someone, but don't drink any more. 'Kay?" Xander nodded. "Thank you." He drew back and smiled at the returning princess. "Hey, Kiara, how are you?"
"I'm okay, but a little bored. None of these people will answer questions for me."
Xander grinned. "I bet that I could find someone who would. We've got some really nice reporters here." He looked around and waved a thirtyish female over. "April, right?" he asked. She nodded, smiling slightly. "This is Princess Kiara and she needs someone to answer questions for her. I figured that someone of your caliber and intelligence, and ability because I caught your newscast last night, would be most able to help her in an understandable fashion."
"Because I'm female?" she asked.
"No, because you're good," Xander said with a smile, nearly a smirk. "If I wanted just a woman, Barbara's over there, but I think that you'll know more about what interests this little person, who is very interested in military things."
"Well, I did do a stint as a military correspondent," she admitted. "But just because I'm a woman...."
"You're the most qualified here," Oz told her. "Danny and Blair are anthropologists and Xander's a fantasy writer. Almost everyone else is a politician, so no one here can really give her what she wants to know because none of the Pentagon crew is back up today."
April smiled at him. "So you knew I did some military reporting?"
"I overheard you earlier," Xander admitted cutely.
She laughed. "All right, I'll take the compliment in the vein it was proposed." She looked at the little girl. "What can I tell you about?"
"Well, Danny and Blair have said that you need to know the people that you're going against. Do you agree?"
She nodded and pushed her glass aside. "Definitely. Human history is full of wars and battles, but most of the ones that have been lost have been because the person leading the losing side underestimated his opponents."
"You don't have women who make war?" she asked.
"Not many," April agreed. "Our history is patriarchal. Do you know what that means?"
"That means that the men control most everything," she said, happy to show off some of her knowledge. "We have a few cultures like that in the Empire. One of them wears fur and runs around with swords though."
April looked startled. "Really? We have movies about people like that." She shrugged. "Anyway, the biggest and best stories of war are from the Roman Empire."
"Were they around the Greek's time of history?" her mother asked.
April nodded. "Right afterwards. They conquered Greece, Egypt, and most of the rest of the known world at the time. They ruled for thousands of years and their influence can still be felt in Europe today."
"Some of their artwork and buildings are even copied to this day," Xander added.
April nodded. "There's a number of museums in the city that have some of their artwork. One of the local museum's building was even copied off a Roman design."
"And these people were great military leaders?" Kiara asked eagerly.
April smiled. "Some were. Some were great thinkers. Some were great artists. Some were leaders or orators, and some were just people."
Kiara sat up straighter. "I would like to know more about these people."
"Well, for an in-depth version of their history, you'd have to talk to a historian, someone who studied what they left behind. I can only give you a broad base of what little I know."
Kiara smiled. "But you're very good at it. You would make an excellent teacher." She looked at her mother. "Can we keep her around for a while?"
"I'm a reporter, little one, not a history teacher. I couldn't give you one tenth of what someone else could."
"But I like you," Kiara pouted. "You're nice, like mommy and mom. And daddy, but he's a man," she said with a wrinkle of her nose. "He didn't take history though. He took business classes."
The First Wife patted her daughter on the hair. "I'll talk with her about her staying with us for a few days." She looked at the reporter. "It would be a boost to you, wouldn't it? Helping us in these first few days."
"Are you kidding? I'll have the biggest salary in the country if I can get exclusives off you guys, but that would be somewhat unethical because I wouldn't feel right about printing the truth if I thought it might bother you."
The First Wife waved a hand and smiled. "Don't worry about that part. Most of what we're going to be doing is finding an embassy, decorating it, and setting up information centers. None of that should conflict."
April sipped her drink. "I'll think about it," she promised. "I'll tell you tomorrow?"
"That would be fine," the First Wife agreed. She looked at Daniel. "Do you have any stories from that time?"
"Some. Their greatest General was their first Emperor, Julius Caesar. He's the one that conquered most of what the Roman Empire became. He started out in the army and worked his way up to General." Kiara leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands. "He came up with a lot of plans for the army, including building solid roads so they could get places faster."
"It also kept the soldiers out of trouble when there was nothing else to do," Oz put in.
"Would that have been bad?" Kiara asked.
"Sometimes, especially back then, soldiers could go and cause trouble for the populace if they stayed bored for too long," Blair said diplomatically, looking at her mother, who nodded her understanding.
"Tell us about some of the lands he conquered," she requested.
"Well, if we had a map it would be easier."
"I have one of those," Kiara said happily. "I'm learning your geography." She dug in her bag and pulled out a small device, which popped up a 3-D map. "See?"
"Yes, it's a great map," Xander said. He pointed at Italy. "Rome was right about here, in the middle."
"Xander, change seats with me," Daniel said as he stood up. He sat down beside her and traced his finger around Europe. "Caesar conquered all this, and this place called Britton at the time. He also conquered part of this region," he said, pointing to Africa. "Part of that had been conquered by the Greeks, mostly by a man named Alexander the Great, but over time the people who held that territory grew weaker than the Romans so Caesar took it from them." He traced a line toward India. "Rome also took over the trade route from the East. That gave Rome economic superiority as well as military. Some peoples even aligned themselves with Rome to get at those goods instead of because they were conquered."
"And did this Caesar know a lot about the people?"
"He tried. Occasionally, he'd capture someone and make them tell him about their people. Sometimes, though, he fought blindly. There were barbarians in this area, now called Germany, that gave Rome fits for years because of their raiding."
"So, this Rome was very feared?" her mother asked.
"Feared, but also respected. While they had the biggest and hardest military around, they also had some of the greatest thinkers and artisans of their day. Every culture that they absorbed, they learned something from. Though they thought these others were lower beings than the natural born Romans, they did learn a lot from them, especially from the Greeks and Egyptians." A loud noise started on the other side of the tents. Danny and everyone looked that way.
"Why don't you take her and go back to the ship," Xander suggested. He stood up and looked toward where the trouble was obviously starting. He caught Oz's eye, and his sigh, and nodded. He would try to stay out of it, if he could. He, and a few other people, headed that way slowly, taking note of how many scruffy looking people were standing there waving signs and shouting obscene things. They saw him and the shouting picked up. "SHUT UP!" he yelled once he stood in front of them. "If you'd try rationality, we'd answer any and all questions."
"They're going to kill us all and take us as slaves!" one woman shouted.
"First, you can't do those two together," Sam shouted back. "They're mutually exclusive." He stepped up behind Xander and moved him back some. "Secondly, they don't want us as slaves. They have more than enough people to do whatever they want to do, and spare room to do it in. Like Mr. Harris said, we'd be more than happy to answer any questions as long as they're asked in a *reasonable* manner." A few of the people tried to push forward, but the guards held them back.
"Calm down! All you're doing is making asses of yourself!" the Chief of Staff, Leo something or other shouted, again trying to move Xander back out of the way. "Kid, move," he ordered quietly.
"Sir, I can fight with the best of them. Aren't there more important people here?"
Leo nodded. "Just stay back. You're not armed."
Xander opened his jacket to show off his sword sheathe. "I am, but it's not exactly a projectile weapon."
Leo nodded. "Guard the rear then." He turned back to the crowd. "These people have no more desire of taking us anywhere near their children than you do." He stepped forward another step. "They're here to start *trade* negotiations. They think we're like children. They don't want you sexually, mentally, or even physically. They have robots to do most of what you can do."
"Then why are they here?"
"Because having friends is a good thing," Sam reminded them. "Plus, we have some ores that are important to their way of life. Iron is especially important to their medical systems and they're running out. It makes sense when you think about it."
Someone in the crowd pulled a small automatic weapon from under his jacket and started to shoot at the crowd behind the two political appointees. "We'll die before we let them kill us!" he shouted, moving through the crowd.
Xander fingered his sword. He felt a knife slip into his hand from behind and threw it at the man, embedding it in his chest. Not in the heart, and not a killing blow, but more than enough to stop him. "Stop this!" he shouted. "If they had wanted to harm any of you, what makes you think they'd be so open about being here?" The crowd moved away from the injured man, letting a guard check him out. So he stepped forward. "Trust me, if they *wanted* to hurt you, they could very easily sit up on their ships and do it without any of us knowing that they're here." A few people sniffled. "The fact that they're so openly here means that they're *not* going to try and hurt you. Get over it, people, humans aren't top on the food chain and we're not the most brightly lit bulbs in the universe either." He turned away and went to check on his mate and friends.
The crowd shuffled for a few moments then, from the back, a chant started. "Go home! Go home! Evil shall not prevail! They're evil and should be destroyed!" The crowd perked up around the rallying cry and started to push in again.
Xander checked around, then nodded CJ over. "Get your people out of here and make sure the Queen's back in her ship. She's got safety measures." He gave her a light shove. "Do it," he called. "They're coming in whether or not you like it."
"Most of us know hand to hand," she called after him.
"Which doesn't work against bullets," he reminded her as he turned to go talk to the support staff, but Oz had that. "Do you have any other weapons?"
"Just my sword," Oz told him. "A short one at that."
"Me too. My katana's back in the suitcase." He waved Blair and Daniel over. "Where are they?"
"Ship. Everyone else is running for cover," Daniel told him. "We're weaponless."
Xander frowned at him. "Excuse me?"
"They took his throwing knife," Blair told him, looking around. "We're going to head with the civilians to try and protect them. Call us later." He blew kisses and ran off with his boyfriend.
Xander and Oz looked around, almost everyone was out of the way. The Secret Service had already cleared all White House staff that it could. That left a few guards, them, and Sam and Leo.
"Sir," a guard said. "Come with us please. We'll take you to safety."
"Take Sam and Leo first," Oz told them. "We're not helpless." He headed back to the crowd of guards and physically stepped in front of Sam. "Go, you're being evacuated." He felt Sam and Leo both back off and stared down the protester in front of him. "You need to leave," he said calmly. "You can't hurt anyone here without dying."
"Better to die at the hands of pigs than at the slimy hands of aliens." She spat at him.
Oz dodged it. "Okay then." He stepped back and the guards came with him. "They're not slimy. They're just like us, only more advanced. We could learn a lot from them if people like you didn't do things like this."
She laughed. "Then maybe they'll go home and kill each other." She pulled a gun and aimed it at him. Xander got between them and took her hand off, but not before she fired.
"Xander, sword against bullets doesn't equate," Oz reminded him, pulling him back. He watched her be dragged back into the crowd. Some cops were coming their way, in riot gear, with stun grenades. "Back up!" he ordered. Some of the guards followed orders, the others formed a side box around them. They were both grabbed and led away by one of the rear guards. When they were sitting in their rented car, Oz checked Xander over, frowning when he saw the bullet hole in his mate's shoulder. "You okay?"
"Kinda hurt," Xander whimpered. "Hotel," he ordered the driver. "Pay him," he told Oz quietly.
Oz leaned forward as they pulled away, tossing six hundred dollars down onto the seat. "Is that enough?" The driver nodded. "Thank you for waiting for us."
"Oh, I would have left as soon as the mob started running," he said lightly. He looked at Xander in the rearview mirror. "He okay? I can swing you guys to a hospital."
"It's stress," Xander ground out. "I react afterwards and tend to get really sick." The driver nodded and sped up. He looked at his mate. "Who handed me the throwing knife?"
"Some guard. I didn't catch which one." Oz held him gently, putting pressure on the wound so it would heal faster. "Did you catch our friends?"
"They left with the old Prez," the driver said as he pulled up in front of their hotel. "We're here, kids."
"Thanks." Oz slid out and helped his husband out, moving them quickly through the lobby. He was met at the elevator by the head of security. "The mob was being taken care of by police," he told him. "We're fine."
"Sir, your man is shaking like he was shot. I should know, I used to be a cop, had the same thing happen to me."
Xander shook his head. "Reaction. I knifed someone." He pushed the button. "I'll be okay once I take a long shower." The door opened. "We'll be fine. Don't worry about us. We're even going to stay upstairs tomorrow and eat in." He gave the house detective a weak smile. "We're okay." He got on the elevator and pulled Oz with him.
"If you need anything, call the desk and we'll send it right up," the detective offered as the doors closed. The turned to find the manager looking down at him from the balcony above. "They're fine."
"He had blood on him."
"Then he'll call down later, sir." The detective understood that mentality, he had been like that until he had gotten shot the second time. Being stoic was a manly trait that he admired in other people. He walked away, going to make a note on the security files. He would make sure they were prepared in case something happened.
Oz got Xander into the suite and into the bathroom, which was easily cleaned up if necessary, and then tried to get his jacket off him. "Shh," he whispered as he worked. He managed to finally get it off the injured arm and got a look at the wound. "Not that bad," he said objectively.
Xander chuckled. "If you say so. No lightening yet."
"That's okay. It'll give me a chance to get some of junk out of it." He went for a washcloth and wet it down, bringing it back so he could wipe off the wound. He managed to get two swipes into the inside, but Xander had passed out by then. The comforting lightening started in the back, working its way forward, cheering Oz up immensely. Just then, the phone rang. He grabbed the nearest one, a hands-free set specifically for the bathroom. "Yeah?" He smiled. "Hey, Methos. No, he got shot." He worked on getting Xander's shirt off before it melded with his skin and frowned when he saw another wound. "Huh?" The rambling on the other end repeated. "No, he was hurt. Did they? Not really surprised. Oh, there was at least a Watcher there. He pissed Xander off enough to make him want to hit the guy." He sighed when his mate stopped breathing and relaxed. It would be okay, Xander was like him now. "He just slid out," he said, balling up the dress shirt and tossing it aside. He stripped off his own jacket and shirt, then decided to go get dressed in comfortable clothes. "I don't know. Two wounds." He slid into sweat pants and a t-shirt, bringing something else for his mate to wear. He slid off Xander's shoes and socks, then his pants. "Three wounds," he noted, "this one's a graze though." He sighed as he sat down again. "I know, he'll be fine. The lightening took a few minutes to start. No, more like fifteen." He grimaced. "Wonderful. As long as no one comes up to check on us." He kicked Xander's sword away. "How much did you guys get? Really? It was a pretty move, when he took off her hand." He shook his head. "He got shot, Methos, not patted on the back. It was self-defense." He smiled. "Good. We'll be leaving tomorrow probably." Xander started to breathe again and he checked his watch. "Breathing but not awake."
"Well, fuck," Strife muttered as he appeared, half-dressed, bare footed, and hair more disarranged than usual. "What happened?" he asked Oz.
"Mob. Two assholes with guns." He tapped the microphone. "Wanna talk to Methos? He saw it all on the news."
"Nah." Strife squatted down and tapped Xander on the forehead. "Hey, you in there?"
"He got shot, let him rest," Oz advised. He smiled at the voice in his ear's suggestion. "Meth said to play with him, it'd make him come around."
Strife shook his head. "Not likely. You're right, he's outta it." He stood back up. "Want me ta go get someone?"
Oz shook his head. "We heal," he reminded him. Strife nodded and plopped down, staring at the body. "Did Danny and Blair get away all right?" he asked. Methos yelled something in his ear. "Ow!" He hung up on him. Strife raised one eyebrow. "He'll call back."
"You're not looking," Strife told him. "One bullet's still in there, snuggled up next ta his stomach." He reached over and ran a finger over the mostly-taut lower chest. "Right about there."
Oz looked at the wound on Xander's side. "That was a really lucky shot." He fingered the hole but he couldn't reach the bullet. "What do I do?"
"Cut it out?" Strife suggested, holding out a knife. "He'll heal from that injury too."
"But he scars," Oz reminded him as he took the knife. He got to his knees above the body and was about to make a shallow cut when someone knocked on the door. "Can you put him in the tub and fill it with water?" Oz asked as he got up to answer it. There was a maid on the other side. "We don't need anything."
She handed over a stack of towels. "The House Detective thought you might like that. He also said that the store was only open for another half an hour." She smiled. "Is he all right?"
"We found a small graze on his shoulder, you can tell him that. It's fine. I've cleaned it already." He slipped the knife into the back of his sweatpants and it instantly started moving south. "Thanks for these." He closed the door and tried to get it out, but it was in the wrong place. He shook his leg, making the blade scrape his ankle as it came out. He carried it back into the bathroom, smiling at the picture Xander made. It almost looked like he was sleeping. "Again?" he asked.
"Again," Strife agreed. "Want me ta do it." Oz gladly handed over the knife. He had to turn away as his buddy made the incision.
"Ya know, I wouldn't do this for any mortal. Probably not even Jacie." He plucked the bullet out and dropped it on the floor. He used a little energy to clean up the mess he had made. "There we are." He stood up and made Oz look at him. "I like you guys," he said with a grin. "You guys make my life interestin' an' full, but calm it down, 'kay?"
"I tried," Oz told him.
Strife just nodded and grinned brighter. "I know. Take him home, go on Leno, then live quietly for a few months. Then ya can disappear and he can do whatever."
Oz looked at the tub. "He wanted to help people disappear," Oz told him.
Strife giggled. "That's cool. I'll agree with that. He's great at screwing with people's lives. Just relax. It was bound ta happen sometime and what better time than tanight?" He shrugged and left them alone.
"Yeah, but it sucks," Oz muttered as he sat down. "I didn't want him to have to go through this." He felt an immortal's buzz and groaned. "Go away," he called. The door was tapped on gently. "Go away." It was tapped on again. He got up and answered it, glaring at the woman on the other side. "I'm not fighting, my mate was just injured." She handed him a bottle of scotch. "What's this for?"
She smiled. "It'll kill the taste of the metal from where I'm going to slit your throat." She pulled a knife. "We can do this here or outside."
"Lady, I don't care who you are. I just got done with a fight with a mob. My mate's injured. My teacher's on his way out, yell at him." He slammed the door in her face. It felt good sometimes to play childish and unknowing. "More immies per square foot than Paris and London combined," he muttered as he went back to care for his husband. He really hadn't wanted Xander to die a first death. It was always a traumatic thing. He knelt beside the tub and cleaned his mate's body as best he could. He could see the lightening working inside his body and willed it to work faster, before Xander had to wake up and see his new scars as open wounds.
Xander looked around the interior of the plane as he climbed on, smiling at the nice furnishings. Yes, this was definitely a good idea. He really didn't want to have to deal with other passengers today. He sat down on one of the chairs and smiled at Blair as he climbed on too. "Hey. How's it going?"
"Been better?" Blair replied sleepily. He sat down and tipped his chair back, closing his eyes. "If they move me, shoot them," he mumbled.
"Okay," Oz said as he got onto the plane. He stopped to look at Blair for a minute, then shrugged and took the seat next to Xander's. "We're ready." He looked up. "Thanks for the warning," he said quietly. Jace had popped into the bathroom behind him and had told him that the Fates were correcting their Zeus-inspired coldness toward them. Then she had pinched him on the ass and left. He looked at his mate. "This'll be an easy flight," he assured him. Xander was nervous and shaking. "Hungry?" He handed over the paper bag, they had stopped on the way for breakfast. Xander shook his head and handed it back. "You okay?"
"Just a headache," Xander said, giving him a weak smile. "I'm fine, Oz. No worse than usual." He patted him on the arm and buckled up as the plane's door closed. He heard the engines start, then suddenly cut out. "What happened?" he called. This was a private plane and had been checked out before they'd gotten to the airport.
The pilot opened the door and stepped into the cabin. "Sir, there's a Presidential escort here. They'd like a word with you."
"Sure," Xander said, waving a hand. "Open the door." He unbuckled his seatbelt. It was uncomfortable.
"Huh?" Blair asked.
"Go back to sleep," Oz told him. He looked over as Josh stepped onto the plane. "Are we in trouble?"
"Nope," he said with a smile. "But I need to hitch a ride. Siblinth and her crew are taking some sort of atmospheric craft to LA and they couldn't fit me." He nodded at the pilot to shut the door and waited for him to disappear. "Also, I have these," he said, pulling things out of his briefcase so he could hand them over. "Presidential commendations for your efforts last night. Though he was amused that you sent Sam and Leo out before going yourselves, and he did say it was a really good thing that CJ didn't punch you, Xander, for giving her an order."
Xander shrugged. "Yay. She was vulnerable and the press would listen to her. They weren't going to listen to me."
Josh nodded. "Both Prezes said thank you and it looked like you learned a lot from your time serving with the military." Both men looked clueless. "They were told that you acted on the military code of evacuation."
Oz nodded. "Oh. That." He shrugged. "Seemed like the thing to do. Sam and Leo are not quite as expendable as we are."
Josh looked him in the eyes, then leaned back. "Tell me what's going on," he ordered.
Xander glanced at the cockpit but the door was closed. "It's a really strange and long story," he offered.
"We've got three hours," Josh reminded him. He looked at Blair. "I'm sure he already knows."
Oz leaned forward as the plane started to taxi. "I'm immortal," he told him. Josh's eyes got very wide. "Xander picked up some of my abilities when we were bound. Us and the other couple we hang with."
Blair raised his hand. "And my honey too," he added sleepily. He sat his chair upright so he could look at the Junior Secretary of State. "You can't tell anyone though. Otherwise we'll be more hunted than the guy that I helped out for my diss."
Josh nodded slowly. "So, if you had been shot?" Xander pulled his shirt aside to show off the pretty new scar on his shoulder. "You were?"
"I was three times," Xander told him. "One was a graze." He smiled at his mate. "He took very good care of me and everything's fine though."
"How...who...." Josh ran a hand through his hair. "How did you find out?"
"We're all foundlings and we find each other," Oz told him. "Sometimes to kill each other, sometimes to teach each other."
"How old are you?"
"I'm Greek," Oz told him. Josh blinked a few times. "As in Ancient."
"Oh...my...god," Josh said, mouth hanging open at the end. "And...and others?" He looked at Blair. "There are others?"
"There's about five hundred of us that we know about," Blair told him. "I'm just a boyfriend though. Xander broke all the rules, and Oz is really sneaky." He glared at Oz. "How did Xander get Danny's throwing knife? That was my birthday present to him."
Xander shook his head. "Not a clue. It was handed to me behind my back." He pulled a juice out of the paper bag. "Want some? Oz is determined that I'm going to eat my own weight in food today."
"You need the nutrients to heal," Oz reminded him mildly. He knew Xander was going to throw a fit soon, he could tell, he just hoped it wasn't on the plane. Two plane crashes in his life were enough. Xander stared at him. "You do," he offered. "Otherwise you can't have sex later."
Xander rummaged through the bag and picked out a sandwich, taking a bite of it. "Better?" he asked between bites.
"Thank you." Oz patted him on the arm. "How's your stomach?"
"Itches. I'm still healing some." He finished off the small sandwich and reached into the bag, pulling out another sandwich. "Guess you were right, I'm hungry," he admitted before taking the first bite of that one.
Oz smirked internally, maybe there wouldn't be a hissy fit until they got home.
"Are all of you gay?" Josh asked.
Oz laughed. "No, just most of the ones we hang with. There's a few women, some men."
"A world-class jewel thief, some cops," Blair added.
"So, you're just like normal people, only you self-heal?" Everyone nodded. "No one's noticed this before?"
"We change identities," Blair explained. "Their lovers go with them when they have to do it if they care about them." Xander nodded. "He's thinking about how to make the changes happen."
"But I mean, the press, doctors, no one else has noticed this?"
"Oh, a few have," Oz said dryly. "There have even been a few who have tried to take us hostage and figure out what made us tick. They've usually lost the fight." He looked at his husband. "Hopefully, he's going to figure out a way to fix all that so we don't get noticed when we change."
"I'm thinking," Xander said as he finished that sandwich.
"As long as it doesn't interfere with the government, it should be fine," Josh told him.
"We'd have to change a lot of things, including social security numbers and possibly credit history," Xander told him. "That would probably mess with some bureaucrat's toes somewhere."
Josh nodded. "Yes, it would, but it would be a great help, especially if you also helped abused spouses," he pointed out.
Xander nodded. "I'd be more than willing to do that. As a matter of fact, I was planning on doing that as a front for the other stuff we'd have to do. That way immies won't get unduly noticed when they came in." He looked in the bag, then at Oz. "Are there any more bacon stuffed sandwiches?"
"Sorry, we only ordered two," Oz told him. "But there's ham," he suggested. "Or we have just egg. We also had at least one hashbrown in there too." He watched as Xander dug into the bag, then looked over at Blair. "Sorry, man, he's eating yours."
"I don't eat fast food anyway," Blair told him. "It's not real food, it's fake crap with hormones, which I have enough of." He looked at Xander, who had quit eating. "But if your stomach can handle it, have fun, man."
Xander nodded and finished that sandwich. "Good for me." He looked at Oz. "Can we eat at the airport?"
"Sure. There's always that little sports bar in LAX. Or we can drive through someplace out there." He patted his husband's stomach. "The more I feed you today, the better you'll feel by tomorrow. Trust me," he added when his husband looked at him.
Xander nodded. "Okay, I will for now." He leaned over and kissed him. "But I'm eating real food tonight, one way or the other."
"Hey, that's a great idea," Oz agreed. "I'm sure Meth will cook for us if no one else does." He stole another kiss then looked at Josh. "Now do you see why you can't tell anyone and why almost no one knows?"
Josh nodded. "I do and I'll keep the secret." He looked at Xander, then at Oz. "How did you make him like you?"
"It was a bonding spell gone horribly sideways," Xander said with a grin.
Oz nodded. "Definitely gone sideways." He looked at Blair, then at Xander. "Did you want to call Giles?" he asked quietly.
Xander thought, then shook his head. "Nope. Let Ray or someone call and tell him. I'm fine. He knows I heal."
"Is he like you too?" Josh asked. Everyone nodded. "Was that why you guys were together?"
"Giles and I both wanted Xander, we decided to share him. I knew Giles was a pre-immie and I started his training."
"And until Giles went funny, we were doing okay as a threesome," Xander added. "Then he went funny and now he's living in Florida and we're going home."
"And when you have to change?" Josh asked. "Will you send me an email in case we need to find you?"
"We're becoming Canadians," Oz told him. "Way out in the middle of nowhere." He smiled. "We both need the break from humanity for a while." He grabbed Xander's hand when the plane lurched. "I hate turbulence," he ground out. "I hate it with a passion."
"It'll be okay," Blair told him. "We're not falling out of the sky and it'll be okay. If it isn't then tell Danny that I love him?"
Oz nodded. "Will do. We'll try and protect you as much as possible." He renewed his grip on Xander's hand, making it more comfortable for his husband. "Just make it quit humping."
Xander patted him on the arm. "It'll be okay. I'll protect you from a plane crash." Oz looked at him. "What? I'll cradle you and we'll fall together, but I'll be on the bottom."
"You still scar," Oz reminded. Xander frowned. "I'd rather be on the bottom and cushion you."
Xander leaned over and gave him a kiss. "It doesn't matter."
"You guys are so cute," Josh told them with a grin.
"As long as we're not nauseating," Xander replied with a naughty grin.
Xander and Oz opened the door and stopped. No noise. D'Nalia and the boys were supposed to be there. Henri was supposed to be there. Methos and Ray were supposed to be there. Where was everybody? "Hello?" Oz yelled. He found a note on the counter and grimaced. "They left." He waved the note. "Call them?"
"Yes, I want to call them," Xander said coolly. "I want Methos and Ray cuddles." He grabbed the phone and dialed Ray's cellphone. "I died in our hotel room and you run away?" he asked when it was answered. He smiled. "Yay. I want cuddles. Get back here now or I'm going to hunt you down and hug you to death." He handed the phone to Oz and headed for the refrigerator. His husband was right, he was hungry. Dying took a lot out of a guy. "Are they coming back?" he asked when he heard the phone be hung up. He turned and looked at his husband.
"They'll be back in about an hour. They were on their way to LA when you interrupted their flight." He walked over and enfolded his husband in his arms. "You're eating so much to replace the tissue that you had to grow, which took from the stuff that you already had. It'll slow down by tonight," he said quietly.
"I know you wanted to keep that part of the life from me, but it was going to happen some time," Xander told him, hugging him back. "I get into way too much trouble to not have this happen sometime. Just think, it wasn't during a kidnaping," he said lightly. Oz gave him a squeeze and Xander slowly let go. It hurt to die and he had been very scared when he woke up. "Do I read more like an immie?" he asked quietly.
"I can't tell, I haven't been far enough away from you since it happened," Oz said into Xander's collarbone. He rubbed his face on the firm chest, noticing a slight difference in the feel of the muscles - must have been from the healing last night. "Want to have a soak?"
"No, I think I want this." Xander hugged him a little harder. "I wasn't lying, I really do need cuddles."
"Hey, cuddles I can do." Oz walked them to the nearest chair and sat them down, letting his mate inhabit his lap. He didn't remember his first death, but he was sure he had cried for at least a week afterwards, wondering if he was a demon - Methos had told him he had. Xander had it easier, he had him and their friends, plus knowledge about the life. He would be okay, with a little time. "You still wanna go on Leno?"
"Yeah, I owe it to Siblinth to be there to hold her hand if she needs it," Xander said quietly. "But I'm going on last. He promised me." He closed his eyes. "Can we have take out for dinner? And did they say where the girls and the kids are?"
"Methos said he sent them out to dinner on him." He rubbed the tense back. "Methos told me I screamed for a week," he said quietly. "I thought I was going to become some demon."
Xander pulled his head up and looked at him. "You did?" Oz nodded. "I guess I don't have that problem. I'm just worried that I'm going to end up in more fights because of this, or that I'm going to be looked at funny. Or that someone's going to pop up and tell me I'm not human anymore."
"Immies are still human," Oz reminded him.
"I know that, but somewhere I don't *know* that. If that makes sense."
Oz nodded. "It does. We're very different than most humans, if only because we don't die like everyone else." He gave him a squeeze. "But we're still human." He tweaked Xander's left nipple. "No matter how much you tell me I'm not."
Xander smiled sadly. "I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean to suggest that you're not. But you're like a .... a cartoon hero some days. Like one of the x-men."
"So, we're human, but mutants?" Oz asked with a smile.
Xander shook his head. "I'm saying this all wrong."
"No, I understand perfectly. There are plenty of days when I feel like a mutant and the rest of the world is looking at me funny because I'm putting out some signal of abnormality. We all have days like that." Xander nodded and put his head back down. "But most of the time, I feel really human and cranky."
That got a weak laugh. "Thanks, Oz." He closed his eyes. "Can we stay here?"
"Sure. But one last thing? Strife asked us to stay out of trouble for a while."
Xander laughed. "I try. It's other people that get me into trouble."
Oz pinched him on the bottom. "Then I'll keep you away from other people for a while." He settled in for a long cuddle. Xander needed it and he was more than ready to help his mate deal with this. Methos had helped him, and together they had helped Jace. Xander meant more than that to both of them and they'd coddle him while he needed it.
D'Nalia and her boys ran in and he waved at them. "Hey," she said, peeking down at Xander. "Long flight?"
"Long week," Oz corrected. "We brought presents for the boys, they're in the purple bag on the table. Somewhere near the bottom." He patted Xander's butt. "We're gonna be right here."
She smiled. "Good. He looks like he could use you." She walked away. "Purple bag, guys, near the bottom."
"This thing is neverending," Ian complained.
Oz snorted. "No, those are in our closet," he called. Both boys came in and gave them hugs. "Good job, guys. Strife gave us the stories and they were great. Sam's reading them right now." They blushed and ran back to the table try and find their presents. Oz kissed the back of Xander's head.
Methos got out of Ray's way, mostly because he was pushed out of the way as his husband ran into the house. He followed behind him more slowly, sure he was going to get to cuddle the young immortal. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but the strong immortal signature wasn't it. He shrugged off his unease and headed into the living room. He found Ray curled up in Xander's lap, and both of them on top of Oz. He pulled Xander up and tossed him onto the couch, smiling when the young men looked up at him. "You were crushing his legs," he said in explanation as he sat on one side, Oz getting up to take the other. They mashed the young men between them and shared looks over their heads.
Xander looked up. "Did I read as an immie?" he asked.
Methos smiled sadly. "Yes, young one, you do." He stroked his hand through the long hair. "It may ease off though, once everything's back to normal in a few days." He smiled at Oz. "He reads almost as strongly as you do."
"That would figure," Ray reminded him. "We did all share quickenings." He looked at Xander, then back to his husband. "Will I do that if I die?" he asked. Methos nodded. "Are you basing it on evidence of prior bondings or just right now?"
"There's no evidence of prior bondings," Oz told him. Ray and Xander looked at him. "I've had someone looking through the Chronicles and there's no evidence of anybody doing anything like what we did. No sharing quickenings outside of a few immies. No bondings. No matings that made normal guys like you two into pre-immies." He shrugged. "We've searched everywhere. There was a hint of one, but it wasn't clear on anything and they both died at about the same time, about six months after the bonding."
"I guess we'll have to make our own Chronicle," Xander said, trying to sound practical.
"Scares ya, huh?" Ray asked, poking him.
"Yup," Xander agreed easily. He closed his eyes and leaned into Methos' side. "Does this mean I won't scar anymore?"
Methos shrugged. "I guess we'll have to see," he told him.
"Xander was thinking about having his scars removed," Oz told him. "He mentioned it being an identifying mark and there's an easy plastic surgery procedure to cure it."
Methos leaned his head back and thought. "I'd be happier if we didn't have to expose someone else."
"Lyman asked on the planeride over," Xander said quietly.
Ray shrugged. "He's a good guy, he'll keep the secret."
"Yes, he will," Methos said, looking at Oz, who nodded. "At least we'll have a friend in high places."
"He made us promise to send him some sort of notice about where we were going, in case Siblinth or her chosen representative needs us."
Ray grinned. "That's cool. What about Danny and Blair?"
"They're going to be moving on soon too," Oz told him, stroking down his back. "Danny's about to need the plastic surgery excuse himself if he doesn't change." He nudged Xander. "If you wanted to, you could study and do that."
Xander shook his head. "No. Not going to medical school. I don't want to do that." He looked at Methos. "You could do that though. You're a doctor."
"Yeah," Ray said with a grin. "You could do that, it'd be a great service to the immie community."
Methos groaned and shook his head. "Ray, you know I have no desire to serve the entire community. There are too many there that annoy me."
"It would though," Oz argued. "Then we could put you on retainer and pretend to go to you for looking younger. It'd add life to each of our lives and help us with transitions."
Methos grabbed Xander and pulled them both to their feet and took him away from the insanity of those two. Them and their plans. He walked them up the stairs to the main bedroom and laid them down on the bed. "Rest, love. We'll be safe from those two up here."
Xander just snuggled in and closed his eyes again. He was safe.
Giles nearly slammed his foot through the television. They were still running that fight from last night where Xander had to take that dreadful woman's hand. And now they were saying that he had left the city. He managed to control his temper for a moment and took a deep breath. "I will not act against the reporter," he told himself. "It's not her fault that she's stupid and vapid." He poured himself a drink of scotch and looked at the door as it was knocked on. He waved a hand and it opened to show that friend of Oz's. "Richard," he said dryly, saluting him with his glass. "If you're here for a fight, I have to warn you that I'm not the plebeian little creature that I once was."
Richard stepped in and closed the door. "We won't have a problem as long as you leave Xander and Oz alone until they're ready to deal with you," he said calmly. He could clearly see Discord's mark on this man's body. He wasn't strong enough to go against her, but he couldn't let him bother Xander in his fragile state. The boy had obviously died the night before.
Giles smiled at him and sat back down. "I have no intention of hurting him, but I will talk to him whenever he's ready." He sipped his scotch. "I was thinking about going to Vegas for a bit."
Richard shook his head. "Jace's will was enacted. Steve's running it for her on her orders."
Giles shrugged. "That'll be fine. I don't want to run it, I just want to be closer to my mates in case they need me."
"They don't need you," Richard told him, taking a seat. "Methos is still with him. He called me and asked for information. Apparently Xander reads as a full immortal at the moment." One of Giles' eyebrows went up. "We think it'll slowly fade with time."
"Good. I'd hate to have to hurt anyone that tried to hurt Xander." He smiled. "And I will."
"I know you will, but that's why I'm here. They can handle it, Giles." The other man shrugged. "And they want to handle it on their own."
Giles smiled. "Then I'll watch from afar for a while longer. I'm sure I can find something else to do for my patron."
Richard stood up. "Thank you. I'll tell them that you agreed." He bowed. "If you need my help, just ask. I'm still a force for good." He let himself out, going back to his ferrets. He had a great respect for Xander after having raised two ferrets since they were nearly babies. That man had a lot of personal strength and patience, he had raised over twenty ferrets.
Giles sat back and planned for his next move. If he couldn't move closer, at least he could take some of the stress off him. Maybe even do something about the boy's quickening energy.
Xander woke up warm, cuddled, and happier. He remembered what had happened, but for whatever reason he felt better about it now. He looked at Methos and smiled. One of his favorite guardians was frowning in his sleep so he leaned up and gave him a kiss on the lips. "I'm going to go snack," he whispered. The strong arms grabbed him so he couldn't move. "Methos."
"No, stay. Oz is bringing up food," Ray said from behind him. He smiled when Xander looked back at him. "You didn't know I was here?" Xander shook his head. "I guess that's good." He wrapped Xander in his arms too, mentally making a note to ask him if he was working out again since he felt lighter. "Are you feeling better?"
"Much," Xander admitted. "Now I'm just hungry, not worried."
"Good," Methos said as he dropped a kiss on his head. "We've heard from Richard. We think we can leach some of the quickening from you to bring you back to the pre-immie stage." Xander smiled. "Would you like to try? It'll be like it was in Boston."
"Before or after we have visitors?" Oz asked as he walked in with a tray. "Leno's on his way up." He put the tray across Methos' lap as he was the only one sitting right to hold it. "Apparently he's agitated."
Xander shrugged. "I just asked him to hold a show open this week."
"And he is," Oz agreed. "He said Friday was still on." He curled up next to his teacher and picked up a piece of cheese to nibble on. "Eat."
Xander picked up a sandwich and took a bite, then looked inside it. "PB&J?"
"It's about all we had. D'Nalia needs to go shopping, she's doing that now." He took one of the sandwiches and took a bite. "Peanut butter was stale." He shrugged and finished it. "We've got about an hour before he gets here."
Xander finished off his sandwich and picked up another one. "You need to make more."
Oz sighed and started to stand up but Methos grabbed him and kept him on the bed. "We'll make you more in a minute. After we make sure that you're really hungry." Xander pouted at him. "You do tend to nibble when you're upset," he reminded the younger man. "We'll make you more in a few minutes."
Xander finished off the sandwich and shrugged. "Okay, but I'm really hungry." He nibbled on Ray's neck. "I could always eat you."
Ray groaned and pushed his head closer. "I can do that too," he moaned.
Methos grunted in annoyance and grabbed Oz by the balls. "If you do, I'm going to do the same to Oz."
Oz looked up at him. "Is that really a threat?" he asked.
Xander looked over his shoulder. "If you do, can we watch?" he asked with a grin.
"Well, you're certainly back to normal," Methos sighed. He stroked down Xander's butt. "We'll play after the nice Mr. Leno leaves," he promised. "I'll even let you dance for me."
Xander grinned. "Okay." He snuggled in and closed his eyes. "Can we cuddle?" He knew all three men were looking at his crotch to see if he was really alright. He shifted so they could see the hardness. "I'm fine, guys. Really."
"Good. Just wondering," Oz told him. He leaned over and kissed Xander on the back, then pulled back and wiped through the jelly on his chest, eating it off his finger. "Do you really want to eat?" he asked Methos, who promptly moved the tray, rolled him over, and licked the jelly off for him.
Jay knocked again and the door opened before he could pull back his hand. He looked the man answering the door, then shook his head. "Not the current bodyguard?" he guessed.
"Husband," Oz told him, moving out of his way. He looked at the bald, dark skinned man behind him. "We're neutral territory," he assured him.
Xander bounced into sight and smiled at them. "Come out by the pool, guys. We made snacks." He walked that way. As he sat down on his chair, one of the twins brought him some tea. "Thanks, Ian."
"I'm Sean," he said with an eyeroll. Xander looked at him. "Okay, I'm Ian," he admitted with a grin. "We're bugging Mom."
"Maybe you shouldn't," Oz suggested. "She's really stressed with us coming back like this." The boy nodded and ran back into the house.
"Starting a little young?" Jay asked as he walked out. "I never knew that you could start butler training that young."
"The twins are our housekeeper's kids," Xander told him. "They've both just written stuff too."
"You're such a bad influence," Jay teased with a smile. He sat down near Xander, but facing him. "You knew?"
"For the last three years," Oz told him. He nodded Kevin out. "It's okay, man, we try very hard not to fight. It's a waste of energy."
"If we fight, we can't have sex later," Xander told him seriously. Kevin laughed. "Come sit and nibble." He handed the plate to Jay, then to Oz. He took one of the last sandwiches himself and leaned back to eat.
Ray walked out a few minutes later with a larger, fuller plate. He put it next to Jay, far away from Xander's grabbing fingers.
"Ah, the bodyguard," Jay said, smiling at him. "How are you?"
"Much better than we were," Ray responded, sitting next to Oz. Xander looked at him. "I'm stealing him for a few. You can have mine until I'm ready to take him back."
Xander smiled and nodded. "That's cool. I like cuddling with your man." He looked at Jay, who was looking a little shocked. "It's not an orgy, we're best friends. I get cuddles from both of them whenever I need them."
"I guess a mob coming for you would necessitate that," Kevin suggested as he sat down. He looked at Oz, then at the kitchen. "Is there another one of you here?"
"He's like you?" Jay asked. Everyone nodded. "Well, damn. How many of you guys are there?"
"About five hundred that we know of," Oz told him. He looked at Kevin. "Never go to New York. I was in my hotel room and got challenged by some rabid female who handed me a bottle of liquor so I, quote, wouldn't taste the metal as she sliced my head off." Kevin smiled. "She had no idea who she was dealing with. I slammed the door in her face."
Xander looked at him. "Was I conscious then?" Oz shook his head, but didn't look at him. "Thanks, babe. I knew you could have taken her."
Oz smiled at him. "I'm sure I could have too."
Kevin laughed. "Which one are you?"
Methos walked out and looked him over. "Two hundred?"
"Just a little older," Kevin admitted. He looked him over. "I can feel age and you're burning my senses, man."
Methos smiled at him. "Good." He sat down with Xander, handing him a breadbowl filled with dip. "Hopefully this will blunt your appetite." He looked over at Jay and Kevin. "Did you really need to know which one I was?"
Kevin shook his head. "No, man, as long as you're friendly."
Methos chuckled. "Usually." He tapped Xander on the nose. "Eat the bread."
"I want to know why I'm so hungry," Xander complained.
"Did you just die?" Kevin asked. He saw the wince. "Sorry, we saw the footage."
Oz sighed. "Three gunshot wounds. We had to take one out of his stomach." Xander looked over at him. "The guy in black leather did it because I couldn't."
"Oh. That's cool." Xander pulled off a piece of bread and dunked it into the dip, then ate it. "So, what's wrong? Didn't believe me?"
Jay frowned. "Would you? You call up out of the blue and tell me that the biggest story known to mankind was going to be dropped in my lap this week and I should keep a show open. Then the aliens land and I catch a clue." He frowned at Kevin, who was laughing. "Then laughing boy here recognizes you at the landing ceremony, which we were glued to." He smiled. "The picnic was your idea, wasn't it?"
Xander nodded. "That way no one could say that they used some sort of mind control device on everyone. It was meant to calm down the sign-waving idiots."
D'Nalia stuck her head out the door. "Have you seen Sean?"
"Not recently," Xander told her. "He was playing in my room the last time I saw him."
She nodded and ducked back in, then back out almost immediately. "Your publisher called. He said he understood now, but he was going to go to the source now." She smiled. "And that you owed him another story." She disappeared, going to look for her errant son.
Oz looked at Xander. "You do have that half-finished one," he suggested. Xander nodded.
"You're still going to write?" Kevin asked.
"The story goes that I've had some really good plastic surgery," Xander told him. "We're disappearing next year." The other immortal nodded, he could understand that.
"Then what?" Jay asked.
Xander shrugged. "I've got a few ideas and I'll still be writing, just not publishing."
"Well, I can tell you that there's been some backlash against you. We've had some letters from fans saying that I shouldn't let you on again."
"That's why I put 'as retold by' on the books," Xander sighed. He looked upwards. "Why me?"
"Because you like being popular," Oz reminded him. "Next life, you're going to be a recluse, right?"
Xander nodded. "I want to. Maybe do some more traveling."
Oz smiled. "Good. We can do that." He looked at Jay. "Don't worry, he'll be making a statement tomorrow about that. We've already arranged it through the LA Times. A reporter that once interviewed him here about a cop harassing us works for them now and she asked for one."
Xander grinned. "Okay. I can do that. Wanna help me write it later?"
"I want to see this writing room that someone said something about," Jay told him.
Xander slid out of his chair and put his breadbowl down. "Sure. I can give a great tour. You're not allergic to animals, right?"
"Not at all. I have a cat at home."
"Good." Xander led the way into the house, stopping to let them look into the auxiliary library, then the office. He opened the door to his writing room and frowned at the boy sitting in there. "Ian, your mom's going to shit ferrets." The boy smiled up at him. "This is my writing room, and a twin of our housekeeper, whom you've already met." He got out of the older man's way so he could go admire the tapestries. Jay came out with a heavy blush. "It's just such a me room," Xander told him as he led the way to the animals' room, where they ran into D'Nalia. "Ian's in my writing room," he told her as he bent down to pet one of the puppies. "These are our babies and our housekeeper, D'Nalia." He looked at Jay. "I think you probably know who he is."
She smiled and waved. "Pull up a litterbox," she offered. She turned to look at Xander. "Don't introduce my boys to your publisher. I want them to get a contract the normal way so they don't feel cheated of the effort." She stood up and grabbed the bag of dirty litter. "All clean. I'm going to find the other one." She left them alone.
Jay counted then looked at Xander. "Lost a few?"
"A few ferrets got adopted since the last time I talked to you, and a few of the animals have died," he said sadly, letting the puppy go. He stood up. "We've done all we can, but a few of them didn't adapt very well and some of them were old when we got them."
"You went *there*?" Jay asked. Xander nodded. "Oh, man. What's it like? Is it like here? Do the women all dress like that?"
"A lot like here, only less crowded. And yes." He grinned. "They're held up with magnets." He led the way to his sewing room. "This is where I wear out my frustration and boredom."
Jay smirked. "You, bored?"
"All the time," Oz called. "Phone. It's Angel."
"Coming," Xander called. "I'll be back." He headed into the office and picked up the phone. "Hey, man, long time no hear." He listened, then leaned against the desk. "Why?" He shook his head. "If you say it's okay, then I'll deal with it." He laughed. "Thanks." He hung up and turned to find Oz standing there listening. "He said that the problem with Devi's will is over with." He hugged his mate hard. "Thank you for whatever you did," he said quietly.
"I only threatened them," Oz admitted.
Xander pulled back. "But he said that he heard that one of us attacked the family and taught them to leave me alone." Oz shook his head. "Not you?" Oz shook his head again. "Giles?" Oz nodded. "Damn."
"At least he's trying to take care of you," Oz soothed, patting him on the head. "Come on, we've got guests." He led Xander out to the poolside, and handed Kevin a card. "It's holy ground," he told him. "Welcome to all immies." He sat down with Xander and handed him the breadbowl when he reached for it. "We're checking you out later," he told him, watching him eat. He looked over as Jay walked out with a cat. "She's adopting you?" he asked.
Jay sat down and the cat clung to him. "Apparently, she jumped on me and won't let go."
Xander looked at the cat, then shook his head. "We're firm believers that our animals pick their masters. She's apparently chosen you. Will your cat allow it?" He ate another section, then used his fingers to scoop out the dripping dip.
"He will. He's been bored recently." He patted the small kitten. "You're very soft."
"She always is, but she sheds," Oz warned.
"And she likes to sleep against my butt," Xander warned.
Jay grimaced. "Thanks for the warning."
Kevin stood up. "We'd better head back. We still have a show to tape tonight." He smiled at Xander. "Thanks for the information and the safe haven." He looked down when he figured out something had grabbed him. "I can't have animals. My housekeeper's allergic."
Oz looked down at the puppy and shook his head. "He can't take you home."
"Yes he can," Jay scoffed. "His housekeeper will take medicine." Kevin looked at him. "You said she's quitting anyway."
Kevin shrugged. "Okay." He picked up the puppy. "Is that okay with you?"
Oz waved a hand. "She picked you. Just be good to her, we'll be checking."
Ray grinned. "Relax about it, we trust you to be one of the good guys. Or else I'd have to get pissed and come after ya."
Kevin nodded. "Thank you for trusting me." He cuddled the puppy to his chest. "Do you have a carrier?"
"In the closet in the pet room. Take one of the tan ones, they're the oldest." Oz handed Xander one of the sandwiches off the plate when he saw the longing look. "I'm checking you over later," he warned.
Methos looked over at them. "I'll do it. I do have the training."
Kevin looked at him. "Fully, in the present?" Methos shook his head. "Damn. I have a physical next week for NBC."
Methos smiled. "There's a doctor in LA who is one of us. He's working out of UCLA in the pediatrics department."
"Thanks." Kevin loaded his puppy into the carrier and picked it back up, ignoring the pitiful whimpering. "Later, guys."
"Anytime you need to run, hide, or just need a break, go to the resort in Vegas. We run it," Oz called after him. He shook Jay's hand. "We'll see you on Friday. I'll stay in his dressing room, out of the camera's view."
Jay smiled. "That's probably a good idea since you're supposed to be dead, Oz." He walked away with his new kitten.
Xander finished off his sandwich and snuggled in. Until he belched. "'Scuse me."
Methos shook his head and stood up. "Come on. We'll go check you out right now, young man, before you go broke trying to feed yourself." He led Xander upstairs and closed the bedroom door. "Where did you get shot?"
"Shoulder, side, just above the knee with a graze." He took off his shirt to show off his new scars and his slightly sunken stomach. "Oz said I had one stuck and Strife took it out."
"All right." Methos looked over the smooth chest carefully and came to an unfamiliar mark. "Make that four," he said quietly. He looked at Xander. "I'm going to have to knock you out," he warned. Xander nodded so he grabbed his emergency kit and opened it. "This won't sting very much," he soothed, drawing out some of the sedative. He stuck it in Xander's arm, catching him and putting him on the bed in a good position. "Oz!" he yelled. Oz and Ray both came running. "I found another hole. Ray, you won't want to watch." He pulled out his mini surgical kit. "Go steam these," he ordered, handing them to Ray. Xander had a steamer set up in the bathroom because they got hurt so much. "Oz, I'll need you to strip him so I can clean myself and his skin. We'll search for other marks as soon as I'm sterile." He walked toward the bathroom himself, swearing mentally. He didn't want to have to do this. He really wished that there was some other doctor that they could trust. He hated working on his friends. He scrubbed up as well as he could, then slid into his sterile gloves. He walked back out to find Oz circling another mark. "Another?"
"Two more," Oz said grimly. "I've marked and swabbed around them," he said as he stepped back. He watched as Methos looked over the marks he had circled. One was crossed off. "When did he get that?"
"Europe, the last time. It was an accident on a playground." He touched the next mark, then smiled. "Yes, there's a bullet in it." He moved to the next one. "And this one too." He took the kit from Ray's hands, spreading out beside Xander's body. "Ray, out," he ordered. "Oz, you too."
"No," Oz told him. "I'm staying to hold him. If I don't and he wakes up, he'll flinch."
"Fine. But stay out of the way. I can't do this if you're going to flinch or try and stop me." He picked up a scalpel and started on the nearest mark. He saw the flinch, but Oz didn't say anything so he let it go. He had to cut deeply, and the bullet came out with a little coaxing. The next one wasn't quite so nice, it had went in at an angle. "No wonder," he said as he pulled it out. "His body's been repairing the holes since it happened." He dropped the bullet onto the towel Ray had laid out before leaving. "Let me check him over." He watched as the wounds he had made started to heal. "You're right, it's still a little slow in coming." He found another mark and slowly probed it, coming out with another bullet.
"No wonder he's been eating all day," Oz groaned. "I only found the two."
"It could have been hidden by his clothes. His healing could have worked without you being aware of it. You said you didn't get him undressed right away." He checked all the wounds and smiled when he saw they were healing. "We should have a normal Xander by tonight," he pronounced. He stepped back and took off his gloves, throwing them away. He picked up his tools and went to clean them off, letting Oz cuddle with Xander until he woke up. He hated doing this, but it was a good thing this time. He could accept it when he had to. He just hated that Xander got hurt so very often.
Xander hung up the phone and looked at Ray, who had helped him with his statement. "Think that was okay?"
"It was good," Ray told him. "You didn't even lose your temper. How long have you been doing that anyway?"
"The last few weeks," he admitted.
"Since we came back," Oz yelled as he walked past the door.
"Have too!" Oz stuck his head in. "I think you're still coming down from the air up there."
"Or something in the food," Ray suggested.
Oz shook his head. "We brought home some of the food and there wasn't any difference after the diplomatic dinner. I think it's the air." He disappeared again. "We have a flower arrangement."
"Why?" Xander got up and followed the sound of his mate's voice. "Flower arrangement?" He looked at the large bunch of flowers. "From whom?"
"Bartlett's wife." Oz handed him the card. "She's thanking us for not only providing this opportunity, but for giving her a woman she can complain about men to." He walked away. "We're having breakfast in a few minutes. I made eggs."
"Good." Xander put the card aside and followed the tempting butt. Maybe he wouldn't have eggs..... Oz looked really good this morning. Maybe he would have Oz for breakfast. He grabbed his husband and shoved him against the wall, taking his mouth in a harsh kiss. Then he knelt down and ripped open his lover's sweats so he could swallow him whole. He heard giggling but he ignored it. The boys couldn't see anything with how he was holding himself. Oz pounded his fists against the wall but he let it happen. He was good. "I feel better now," he announced, licking his lips as he headed into the kitchen to get food.
Oz groaned as he rested his head against the wall. "Gods, he's back," he complained.
D'Nalia stuck her head out of the dining room. "Oz, I need someone little to crawl inside one of those neverending bags of you and grab my son. Apparently, Sean's been hiding in one of them since last night," she told him with a grimace.
Xander walked out of the kitchen and shrugged. "I can probably get partially inside one. Want me to look?" He glanced at Oz. "I think he needs breakfast before he does anything strenuous today." She nodded and pulled back, letting him into the dining room to help too. He opened the bag. "Are you sure he's in here?"
She nodded. "His brother said it was this one. He also said it was really neat that it didn't weigh more now when he picked it up."
Xander stretched upwards, popping his left shoulder. Then he did his neck and his back. "Okay, just make sure I don't fall in." He opened the top of the bag. "Sean, it's me," he called as he stuck his head and arms inside the bag.
Methos walked in and handed her a rope, then anchored it around Xander's ankle. It was usually used for sex play, but it would do for this rescue. He watched in fascination as his lover wiggled his way into the carpet bag.
"That boy's in a league of his own," D'Nalia said in awe.
"Definitely," Methos agreed. While he waited, a naughty thought occurred to him - he could carry the Xander around in one of those and pull him out for a quick sex fix wherever he went. No passports, and very little maintenance.
"No," Oz said from behind him. "He'd require a bathtub too and the bag would leak." He handed Methos a plate and looked down inside the bag. "What's it like?" he called.
"Kinda dark, but really fun. I found the jeweled cock ring we lost the last time we used this one." It came flying out and hit D'Nalia on the head.
"Just get the son," she called, looking at the toy. "This is really pretty." She handed it to Oz. "I think I saw him wearing that last year sometime."
"Oh, hey, a portal!" Xander called back happily. "Sean, your mother's shitting kittens!" he yelled. The boy slowly appeared out of the opening of the bag. Xander's head popped up. "Did you know that we had a family of something that look a lot like hobbits living in the portal in here? And they're really nice too." His head disappeared.
Oz grabbed the rope and started to pull his husband out. "No, no more portals. Never again, Xander. No more portal and no hobbits, and get out of the bag!" He yanked really hard, bringing an ankle.
"Get out here or I'm going to give all our sex toys to the kids."
"Yes, sir," Xander sighed, wiggling his way until his head was sticking up and he was coming out. He handed over the book. "I found your journal too," he said with a shy smile.
Methos helped him out, dusting him off. Then he snatched the journal and went to eat his breakfast without strange things. Hopefully, Xander wouldn't give Ray any ideas. But then again, having a stored sex toy while they traveled.... It might be worth it after all.
TO BE CONTINUED...