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Offspring In A New Life.

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Offspring In A New Life.






Xander Harris looked around the field he was standing in. It was not a good day to die. Then again, it was never a *good* day to die. Today just might be his day though. And then a female appeared. He looked at her. "Yes, ma'am?" he asked Demeter. Not his version but one from another realm; from the realm he was originally from.

"The ones here are banished," she said. "We must make allowances and plans, nephew."

He nodded. "I'll gladly do what I can but I have...." He waved a hand. "A huge thing to do first and not a lot of time to get it solved."

She looked, grimacing. "What are they doing?"

"They're going to open a gateway and call across an evil greater than the First Evil. Greater than Glorificus. And they're going to sacrifice all those people to the child so she grows quickly into the Goddess of Destruction," he said quietly. "Or so their hymns say."

Demeter grimaced. "Where is your fellow fosterling?" she demanded. He shrugged. "He should be handling this, not you. You are not slated for a job in the House of War."

Xander snorted. "If not, I've sure done a lot of it for no damn reason," he said dryly, staring at them. "I have to kill a kid. I hate it but I have to." He found his rifle. The portal was opening. He aimed and took the shot as soon as she stepped across, making everyone scream and wail in misery. Even the slaves that were going to be fed to her were wailing. "Do I really want to save them?" he asked himself.

"They may have volunteered," Demeter said. "Humans do strange things."

He looked at her. "Not all of them. There's children down there." She huffed. He looked and found a few searching for him. He decided something and looked at her. "Can I ask for a tiny favor?" Demeter arched her eyebrow up. "I need the crystal that's buried about there," he said with a point. They were all over but that one was partially sticking up. She looked and brought it up for him. He did something and added blood, chanting in an ancient African dialect. Then he added something to it.

He flipped that on and threw it at the warriors, away from the slave pens. The warriors who picked it up screamed and then died. The others were splattered with their blood and the blessing curse he had laid into the crystal. It spread from his blood to the ones that bled, to those that got splattered with it. The slaves all started to fight to get free. He nodded and walked off. "Thanks, Auntie Demeter. Let me know what you're going to have me doing."

She stared then at him. "How did you do that? You have no magic. You are only partially a warrior."

He looked at her. "A warrior is one who fights. Even if they weren't trained they're still warriors. I chose to become a warrior so one little blonde girl didn't have to save everyone by herself. And no matter how many times I curse myself for that decision I stand by it because it's important that I stay a hunter and warrior with the slayers," he said quietly. "I will fight for this world, even if they don't want me to, because I'm not ready to die yet.

"There hasn't been a good enough reason." She slumped, staring at him. "Warriors do what we must. The same as those of us who had to train with shaman due to our natural gifts that mean we're easily possessed have to do that job sometimes. I've done more than one honoring funeral of my enemies because they didn't know why they were fighting me." He shrugged. "The same as James does his as a warrior in a whole other war." He got into his jeep, staring at her. "I'm going to get a few beers. Want to join me?"

"No. I prefer wine, nephew," she said quietly. He nodded and drove off. She went home to talk to Ares. Apparently he had seen that when he had read the boy's mind. She hadn't but now she saw just how much of a warrior he was. He'd never do better in any other house. She appeared, staring at Ares. "Are they safe?"

"The captives got free to start a new life and not get feasted on," he said, saluting her with his glass of mead. "He did the right thing, even if he did use shaman gifts. He had a few ways he could've done that. I'm impressed he used that one instead of any others." He took a drink. "He'll be in the House of War." Demeter nodded. "Have you talked to James yet?"

"I cannot find him."

"Hmm. We'll see." She nodded, going back to her temple to think on things. Humans in that other realm were more fragile than they were. Perhaps a few older entities needed to awaken first? Before they fixed the whole oversight issue?

***

Xander found himself at a hut he had never seen before. He'd been here before but no hut. Now, not a large hut but a nice one. Well thatched, well tended garden. He knocked then walked inside when a female voice called out. "Ma'am, the local shaman said to come visit you." He stared at her and *knew*. "Mother."

She smiled, waddling over to him. "Alexander." She hugged him, getting cuddled back. "Give me a few minutes. I've got one last kid to have and then I'm done for good." She went into the back, coming out with a baby and looking much healthier. Still curvy, still had some softer flesh on her stomach, her breasts were enlarged with milk. Her hair was still bound with strips of cloth and the dress she wore didn't hide her shape but didn't exactly expose it either. It was simple homespun in brown and greens with blue trim. Xander smiled and took the baby to hold, making it coo. "He's a good boy."

Xander looked at her, giving back the baby when she reached for him. He didn't care if she nursed the baby in front of him. She wasn't the first he'd seen doing that. He sat down across from her. "You had me sent for, Mother?" he asked quietly.

She nodded. "They're going to have to activate position holders."

Xander nodded. "I saw Demeter during my last incident I had to stop."

She nodded. "You did good. All the slaves were freed to find a real life and families." He smiled. "It's a hard life you live, Xander."

"I know, but if I don't no one else will. No one girl, or a whole lot of slayers, should have that burden."

"No, they should not." She stared at him. "You are of the House of War by birthright."

He grinned. "My father was a chaos god but my mom is one of Bacchus' priestesses."

"I'm sure he's proud of you as well. He always hated the misborn." Xander nodded. "Demeter wanted to put you in something else."

Xander shook his head. "It won't work and she knows it won't work. She wasn't amused earlier when I proved that a warrior does what needs to be done, even if he's not an officially trained warrior."

"There is that point. Would you consider taking over the spot of chaos? It will mean that you're immortal but you may sleep for most of eternity unless you ascend to take on a better form. This mortal shell won't hold it."

"I'm not that normal or that mortal, Mother. The hyena and the mermaid taint fixed that." She stared then tested him. The baby she was feeding squeaked in alarm. Xander smiled and smoothed a hand over his head. "I will not harm you unless you try to take out humanity. You never have to fear from me." She smiled and patted his cheek. "How would I learn to use the powers?"

"It'll be slowly fed to you. We can't just give you the full power of the position. There's a spirit attached to most of them but not a physical, corporeal being. There has to be a physical being and as you take on more and more of the duties, you'll get more of the power and benefits." Xander nodded. "You wouldn't have access to do magic." He sighed and shook his head, staring at her. "I can sense the shaman skills. That's not magic."

"No, it's not the same. Then again, I'm real familiar with chaos mages too."

"I've seen." She gave him a pointed look. He just grinned back. "For now, how many of you from there are here."

"Four that I'm certain of. Me, Tony, James, and Jake."

"Tony is the grandson of War." Xander nodded. "What's he like?" He pulled up his few memories of Tony to let her see it. She could track him from them. She hummed. "Not bad. Not in the house of War. Who is Jake?" He did the same thing and she giggled. "He's adorable."

"He'd make a good replacement for Hermes. He's good at communicating and he's still playful enough for his more wild roles. The only problem would be his escort of certain honored dead."

"I could definitely see that. Would he agree?"

"I don't know but I know I need to butt into their lives to save their asses. They've got someone evil on them. Or I should actually tell James."

"Where is James?"

"No idea. He's still healing and gathering the newly released memories. His mind had been compacted like a trash compactor then whited out too many times."

She nodded. "I heard. Hm. Send James a message."

Xander pulled out his phone to call him. "James, me. Huge big shit but not mine. No, I'm with the Mother. Yes, that Mother. Where am I usually? No, Jake. His whole team is going to have an issue. I sent him the vision I had but there's a slightly psychotic asshole who's playing Caesar." Mother Nature snorted, shaking her head. "He's trying really hard, Mother. For that I'd like to stick a spear up his ass. Especially with his sonic nuclear weapons." He listened to James, he knew who that was. "Yeah, that's Jake's team. Can you? Thank you. Yes, they're about to stumble into it. If you can't get there first, they'll be in Bolivia." He grinned. "Have fun. Jake's a fun guy and one of us. Yeah, that's Jake. Yup, formerly part Centaur. Yup, have fun with those weapons." He hung up. "He'll go help." She leaned over to kiss him on the tip of his nose and suddenly he felt lighter. "Thank you, Mother," he said quietly.

"War does not suit your inner nature, Xander, but sometimes you do what you have to do. You learned that lesson too early."

He nodded. "But it was important and still is."

She nodded. "I can see that. When he's done, have James and Jake come to me." She stroked over his cheek. "Come, we'll nap." He crawled onto the bed with her and cuddled, sighing as he fell into a dreamless sleep for once. "I had hoped your nature would have been softer, child. No one deserves that." She cuddled him. He needed comfort for all he had seen and done.

***

James, also known as the Winter Soldier, dropped out of the trees, nodding at Jake. "Xander sent me."

"I saw that. How can we be sure?" he asked.

"His name is Max."

Jake looked that name up, taking the CD James held out. "Oh, fuck," he said. That made the rest of his team quit staring at James and stare at him instead. "It was right, Clay." He let him see it.

"Xander's not wrong on more than time," James said. "I've already had the kids in the local village removed because he had people out to gather them." Jake grinned. "That's not how it goes." He walked off. "He'll have the weapons in LA in a few weeks. I'll tag the building and then leave. You guys flee before they take you out anyway." They packed up and left.

Clay glared at his tech support geek. "Who. Is. That?" he demanded with a point.

"That's the friend of a friend. Remember me talking about Xander?" Clay nodded once. Jake had babbled about that new friend he had met who did weird, warrior things. "That's a friend of his. He sent him to help us."

"Why?" Roque asked.

"Because Xander has visions, like I got sent," Jake said. He stared at him. "Did you want to end up dead after turning on us?" Roque shook his head. "Then let's go. We can let the Winter Soldier handle it." Clay stiffened, staring at him. "He's been rescued and healed. Long story in his case." He got everything packed up and they left, him and Cougar going to the jeep before anyone. Pooch followed. The team leader, Clay, and his second-in-command, Roque, followed after a short stare at each other. They'd interrogate Jensen later. Especially after they heard that the chopper they were supposed to be evaced out on got blown up by someone that hadn't been Russian.

Clay appeared before his superiors after all the information gathering and sharing was done with, shaking his head. "We got removed first by someone weird that knew what was going on, sir." His superior officer stared at him. Clay stared back. "We've already turned over that information to CID and NCIS because Jensen knew someone there he could trust." His superior officer tried to shoot him, which brought guards. Then he shot himself as the guards came in to stop it. Clay panted, holding his side. "He's a lousy shot," he complained to the general that stomped in. "General, I'm Colonel Clay and that one set my team up to die on purpose for an international arm dealer's fun."

"Can you prove that, Colonel?" the general demanded.

"Yes, sir, and the information's already with CID and NCIS." The general growled. Clay got helped up and onto a stretcher. "We had a Council person help us, sir. That's how fucked it was. Then he tried to shoot me."

"He shot himself as we rushed in, sir," one of the guards reported. "Colonel Clay's not even wearing a gun."

"I knew not to. Someone here was in with that guy Max. I'm not the threat but I'll be damned if I'm going to lose good men to that shit. Guys, let's get me stitches before I have a cranky second?" They nodded and took him off. They had heard about Roque and they did not want to go there.

The general called over to CID, who told it was an open investigation, they hadn't known about that commander, and that they'd be checking more of them thanks to a tip that got sent to NCIS by one of the Council people. The general stomped off to report that the Council was interfering in Army matters. The higher ups at the Pentagon just grimaced but said sometimes it had to happen. When one found out why, he warned his boss Max, but he was found out because of it. The nice people at NCIS had been tracking their phones.

***

Xander looked up from his meditating in the local village when he heard a jeep, getting up and walking over to hug Jake. "Hey. You survived."

"I did." He grinned. "You look like hell."

"It... let's just say that the Army's now mad at me too." He grinned a tiny grin. "Pity about them getting drunk and gambling with demons." Jake shuddered. "They won't eat them but they'll be nicely docile when they're given back some day. Someone will have to pay off their poker debts to get them out of slavery." He nodded at the rest of the guys. "Hi. I'm Xander."

"Thank you for that head's up," Clay said.

Xander nodded. "Not a problem. I'd hate for that to have happened for real. I'm kinda hoping that you guys know decent soldiers who can take some of my job for the Council and the slayers." He grinned. "Let me talk to Jake?" They shrugged. Xander led Jake to the hut.

"Jake," the Mother said, hugging him to her.

"Mother," he sighed, cuddling back. "You're all right."

"I've been mostly fine, baby." She smiled at the fussing grandchild but Xander had her to cuddle and calm down. "You're good."

"I should be. I've had some practice with my slayer's daughter." He settled on one of the stools, letting Jake have his cuddles. Jake wiped off his cheeks and sat down next to Xander, taking the baby to coo at. It made her happy.

"You're very good, Jake. I'm sure you've had the new dream from Demeter?" He looked up and nodded. "Do you have any idea?"

"Not a single one."

Xander nudged him with a grin. "Hermes."

"I... Huh. I might not mind that." He smiled and kissed Xander. "You need that."

"I need many things," he said dryly. "That's just one in my life presently but there's no one here to date since I can't settle down yet."

"I know that feeling." He let her have the baby back. "She's adorable."

"One of the many grandchildren." She smiled at them. "Will you accept, Jake?" He nodded. "Good boy. We'll get you all together soon."

"I found another one. His name's Clint. He's a sniper."

"Wow, that makes two," Xander quipped. "James is too." Jake looked at him. "He was."

"There's nothing on him in the system."

Xander smiled. "He'd appreciate that."

"Yes, I would," James said as he walked in. He looked at Xander. "What did you do?"

"Which time?" he asked with a sigh at the end, staring at him.

"The last one. I have no trouble with you taking down that demon child or the other thing you had to handle with the possessed animals. Though I'm wondering *how* you did it." Xander nodded, swallowing. "What happened?"

Xander shrugged. "I almost called you but by then it was way too late." He stared up at him. "I couldn't get Willow, no matter how hard I tried. I tried to get the girls evacuated." Willow appeared. Xander stood up, glaring at her. "Now you show up? Why didn't you show up when I was desperately trying to get you!" he demanded.

"What? I answer you all the time!" she shot back.

"I tried your phone. No answer. I tried the house phone, got one of the minis who said you were watching tv and weren't allowed to be bothered under threat of being cursed. I tried the emergency stones you gave me to summon help. Nothing." He stared at her. "Because you were too damn selfish to answer, there's three slayers in the hospital locally and two are dead. You could have evacuated all of them since they're just kids but you chose to watch tv and ignore desperate pleas, even when I screamed for you," he finished coldly. "Not one fucking word, Willow. Giles heard and he mourned for them but you...you and I are going to have a talk about irresponsible behavior."

"I am not!" she shouted back. "I'm not irresponsible and I never heard you. It couldn't have been that bad. If you had let the slayers handle it they probably wouldn't have gotten hurt!"

He slapped her as hard as he could. "They were *children*. The oldest one is seven." She flinched, shaking her head. "Yeah! Some of the slayers called into being are little fucking kids!" he shouted with a point toward the hospital. "I tried to get you to save them but your little fit of the day meant they couldn't get away from the thirty *humans* there to kill them for being slayers." He sneered. "Or the backup force that came after them thanks to a few religious nuts." She stepped back, shaking her head. "Yeah. Humans. Guess what, not something a slayer can do anyway." He glared at her. "You are in deep shit with me."

"How did you handle it?" James asked quietly, putting a hand on Xander's arm. Xander shook him off. "Xander?" he asked more firmly.

Xander looked at him. "I did what I had to do and I blessed their bodies and remains to Bacchus. I'm pretty sure he got happy with the new offerings of blood. Then I blew up the others. That safehouse spell I had," he said, glaring at Willow. "Can still be blown up from a distance. That's how most of them died. They couldn't manage to blow it up closer but one accidentally shot something into it from nearby and that made it explode with them in it." She whimpered, shaking her head. "Yeah, it did. For that, they all died. Every. Last. One." Willow disappeared, crying. Xander huffed but sat down. He rubbed his forehead. "I need to go smite her."

"No smiting," Jake said quietly, giving him a hug. "It's hard. Even if it's not your first time."

"No, my first humans I thought were still alive and were new zombies," he said quietly. "Then I blew up the chaos sorcerer responsible." He hugged him back. James awkwardly patted him on the head. "Thanks, guys. I'm...still really fucked up over that."

"I always thought Willow was more of Morrigan's line than of Hecate," Mother Nature said quietly. "Hecate had patience and less temper plus a lot less selfish moments." The guys all smiled at her. "Plus she has the red hair."

"Unless she goes full dark magic then it's black and black eyes," Xander quipped. "That's how I nearly died thanks to her."

"I noticed," Mother Nature said. "I would've kicked her ass if I had been awake." Xander nodded. "Jake, go get your boys set up to camp for the night. We have much to talk about. James, you can rest in here."

"Thank you, Mother," he said quietly. "It's peaceful."

"The nightmares can't come," Xander said, staring at him. "Mine don't." James nodded. "C'mon, we'll let those two talk." He and Jake walked out together. "Sorry if you heard me screaming at Willow," he said to the staring people. "She had a duty to help the slayers, the same as I do, and she fell down on it." He looked at Clay. "We're working out something that's going on. Can you guys camp?"

"We're hiding," Pooch said. "We can camp very well."

Xander smiled. "Thanks, guys. If the short redheaded, huffy woman shows up, just get out of the way. She'll curse you or turn you into something and then be mad at you because you made her do it." They all grimaced. "She's our head witch." He walked off. "Let me go hunt something, Elder."

"Please, Xander. You do it so well." He smiled at the boys. "You're welcome to share our village fire."

"Thank you," Clay said. "We'll protect you while we're here." The elder smiled and nodded, walking off. "Losers, let's camp." They all nodded. Clay pointed at Xander and Cougar followed. He was their camp food hunter. He could easily help. Jake helped them set up then went to talk to the stranger in the hut. He backed out smiling and settled down in front of it with the grandkid he had borrowed. He missed his niece being this age.

"Is she a wise woman?" Pooch asked quietly.

"That too." He smiled. "She's also a healer. Xander's trained as a shaman so he was probably working with her on something." He saw Willow reappear and put the baby back into the hut but away from the doorway. "Willow."

"Who are you?" she demanded.

"Like Xander, I was sent over here to be reborn," he said in Latin. She stared, eyes wide. He shrugged then grinned. "He's off hunting for dinner for the village."

"I did not hear any of those calls."

"That's not his fault," he said. "That's yours. You made the emergency stone. You didn't answer when he yelled. You didn't answer your phone. He tried his best and had to do the worst thing even soldiers like me know about." She slumped. "It's not his fault you did not answer," he said slowly and clearly. "You yelling at him about it isn't going to help."

"Giles wants him home."

"Giles can wait. We're helping him through having to kill about fifty people to save the ones he could." She shuddered and turned green. "If you had answered, he could've had the girls evacuated and side-stepped around it. Instead, he had a battle to protect them. Because no one lets children into battle."

"They don't have the essence if they're that old."

"That means some people consider them a brighter target," Clay said. "Easier to take out a kid that doesn't have gifts." She glared at him. "They'd think it was. They go after normal soldiers instead of special ops for the same reason."

"We don't like military people," she sneered.

"Xander and I like each other a lot," Jake said dryly. "You don't like military people. There's plenty that wasn't in that program, Willow. That wasn't even a hundredth of one percent of the army. There's ten percent of any armed forces branch that aren't the greatest of humans but not all of us and all of us are the sort that would've stepped in to help the girls with their duty and backed them up properly while protecting them." She glared. He stared back. "They would." James came out and Willow screamed then fled. Jake looked up at him. "Did you torture her?"

"No. Not yet. I made some feelings known however." He went back in there, picking up the kid to hand back. He came back out. "Xander?"

"Food," Clay said. "Why are you friends with Xander? Everyone says you're like the boogey man."

James smiled. "Thank you." He walked off.

"Long, long story," Jake said, shaking his head. "Including the fact that he's like I am."

"A geek?" Clay asked. "Or that thing you said about being sent here to be reborn?"

"That." He settled in to tell them about the orphanage and that town in the other realm in Ancient Greece. James could calm Xander down and it was good for him to lean on James since he was clearly the head of the House of War now.

***

James came in that night from watching over the local village. There were some people who weren't up to any good up the road, Xander had pointed them out to him in warning while hunting dinner, and now he was worried. He looked at the Mother, who shrugged. She patted the bed and he grimaced. "I don't cuddle."

"You can sleep up here, James. You need the real rest. I'll make sure you sleep tonight," she said quietly. Xander was against her back, snuffling now and then into her hair. James climbed up almost reluctantly but a night of real sleep without nightmares sounded like heaven most of the time. He carefully laid down but she just rested on his human shoulder and hummed a bit, like she would to one of the kids. He drifted off before he realized it and stayed there all night.

Jake tapped gently then leaned in the next morning, smiling at the picture they made. He put the buckets of water the locals had him carry in next to the doorway and ducked back out before anyone woke up. Xander had his face buried in her hair and one arm around her stomach. He looked happy, he was smiling in his sleep.

James had shifted and was now nuzzling her chest. Still asleep but seeking the natural cure to half of what was wrong with him. He finally latched on and moaned as the milk fixed the semi-nourished tissue he had. He hadn't had a proper meal in quite a while, only eating for survival instead of nourishment. He wrapped his metal arm over her and went at it like it was life's blood and he needed it. Which he probably did. She smiled and stroked over his hair. When Xander woke up and kissed her shoulder, she smiled at him. "Go clean up," she mouthed. He nodded and slid off the bed to do that out back. She let James stay as long as he needed to. His body would tell him when it'd had enough.

He woke up mid-suckle and blinked then up at her, blushing. "Sorry."

She stroked his cheek. "It's the nourishment your body needs to fully recover, James," she said gently. "You're not fueling yourself properly and you're not paying attention to human needs yet. It's all part of recovering." She kissed him on the cheek. "You're not the first. Xander has as well. So have some of the children in the village that got injured." He nodded, looking at his hands. She grinned, nudging his chin with her thumb. He looked at her. She smiled. "Some day you'll find your mated one and you'll bring him to introduce me. I won't mention this if you don't want me to."

He snorted. "I'm too screwed up for that."

"You're not. You've healed a lot."

"I've done...."

"You are a warrior, James. The duty sits heavy, especially when they made you a toy to play with, but you've been one since you were a child when you stuck up for those who were weaker. In that way, you and Xander are much alike." He nodded. She tweaked his ear. "Some day one of my handmaidens will find you adorable as well."

"I'm not."

"You are. Plus very sweet. Some day you'll find what you need." He looked at her. "I promise you will. And I can also foresee that another of the children is near that one."

"What one?"

"I believe Jake called him Clint."

"Huh."

Xander walked in with food, putting it onto the low table beside the bed. "Clint? That's the guy that's with SHIELD, uses the bow," he told James. "I caught him out on assignment but he was bothering someone I really wanted to die horribly so I just walked away after watching. Yeah, he's one of us but I have no idea how to tell him since he didn't feel the pull toward that battle." He kissed him on the forehead. "A protection," he said at the scowl. "Because some day soon you'll have to run back out there to save someone."

"Vision?" she asked, sitting up.

"Yup. Mass attack in New York." He shrugged. "We may be able to change some of it." He shrugged again. "No clue on that yet." He left them to talk. Then he came back. "Who's the blond-ish guy you used to protect?"

"Steve?" he asked, looking confused.

"Yeah, I guess. Used to draw? Wore the spangly uniform?"

"Steve." James was starting to get an old feeling about Steve being in the middle of trouble.

"He's in the battle. Against an alien invasion."

James stared at him. "Seriously?"

"Yeah." He walked back and shared it with her, and she let him see it. "That him?"

"Yes! Fuck!" He stood up, looking at her. "Can you tell when?"

"A few months or so." She smiled. "You'll do fine, James. Including in the new position."

He nodded. "I'd rather it went to someone like Steve. He's...he's *good* and he's moral."

"Since when has war been moral?" Xander asked. James glared at him. "Is it? A lot of it's been about greed, even if there's a good reason behind the war for humanitarian reasons. The higher ups usually could care less about the humanitarian needs. The average soldier may but not be able to because of what they're doing. Look at our current wars. Or the one you were in. Were the prisoners a main target or just a 'we're near there, let's free them' target?"

"The main target was to take out Hitler, kid."

"How long did they know about the camps before they took them out?" Xander countered. "How many could have been saved if they got there sooner?"

"Too many. It's something none of us want to think about. Most of the time we weren't anywhere near there and the prisoners were too weak to escape."

"I know. Was it always that way?"

"No. We could have freed them months sooner in a few cases."

"Exactly. You have morals. That's more than some warriors have. Most of us have really broken ones." James swatted him with the metal hand. "Ow! Mean shit."

"Retire."

"I can't. No one else is going to do that. Not even Ward and the ones they trained. They're using those skills for SHIELD and if a major battle happens they step in. What about the normal patrol things? The handling things down here where there's not enough slayers? No one else is interested in that."

"We can find you one," James said. "Jake might know a few."

"I'd kiss and fuck him if he did." Mother Nature laughed, smiling at them. "I would. He looks like he'd be fun in bed too."

"Yes, I am," Jake called. "We know six or seven who could handle the duty and three are applying with Mr. Giles since they're retired. The others are still active duty and wanted to get the training stuff in now." He leaned in with a smile. "They're probably going to be taking over Central or South America instead of here. Not too many guys are trained for Africa these days." Xander nodded, looking like he got it. "We'll find someone so at least you've got another adult to lean on."

"Thanks, Jake." He walked out to kiss him, making his team laugh. "He found me backups so I'm not the only one. Maybe even someone to come down here someday so I'm not the only one on this continent."

Roque sat up straighter. "How many girls are there?"

"There had been eight, and an infant ninth. Now there's six and the under-yearling. The oldest is fourteen." Roque slumped, staring at him. "I've got them in more protective areas because of the shit that's went on. I do what I can and I make sure they're as protected as I can but I'm only one guy. Sometimes the threat's too big and I end up handling it with people who'd rather kill the demon and the slayers than just the demon. Or there's something like a religious militia group. I've already removed one slayer completely from Nigeria twice. She had went back for a family wedding and we had to move the rest of the family out of Nigeria."

"Fuck," Clay muttered. Xander nodded. "We can help."

"I'd really like that. The last one I had to handle had militia guys and then an Imam called up villagers to take out the girls as well. We were caught between them with no way to evacuate them thanks to Willow. We have three that're sick and two that I've had to mourn."

Clay looked at his team and they all nodded. "We can help with that." Xander hugged him. "Get off," he said but he was smirking.

"Two of them are in Cote d'Azur."

"Shit, pirates," Jake muttered, looking them up.

"No, I took them out last year," Xander said dryly. "They know better." They stared at him. He grinned. "I need the weapons and they were bothering the girls. I haven't been able to fully run the slave market out of the area but I've tried each time I'm near her. The explosives I took off the pirates were handy." He grinned. "Against the two demon gangs trying to capture people to sell too."

Clay grimaced but nodded. "We'll stop there first."

"Thank you. Can you stop at the one on the way and check on her and the baby? She's nervous and won't tell me why. Considering the baby's because I had to pull her out of a war zone...."

"Yeah, we can do that. Give us a map," Pooch said. Xander got into his things, pulling the map he had out to show them. "We'll hit these two. You hit this one," he said.

"I need to hit her soonish," Xander said. "Portents down there are saying something big's going to happen, on the level of a huge demon cult." They all nodded. "I can swing by. She's actually the oldest mini now." They all nodded and made plans. Xander had his few he had to handle. Then they'd meet up again.

Xander walked back to where James was sitting. "You need to warn him."

"He doesn't know about me." He looked up. "It'll kill him."

Xander leaned down. "Then send him an email and sign my name on it."

"Not my style. I need to see him in person."

"You need to stay away from the people who fucked you up," he said bluntly. "No one's gotten them down yet." He grinned. "But I have an idea on that. It would blow your cover but maybe you should show up on his doorstep. Go 'hi, you haven't seen me in about seventy years', wait for him to punch you in the nose, and then tell him to beware of Loki having earth invaded by aliens." Mother Nature was laughing. "Pretend to be a missionary? Suggest he switch from whatever religion he is to the Ancient Greek pantheon?" James scowled. Xander grinned. "Might help some day." He walked off. "I'm going to handle stuff. Mom, I'll be back in a few weeks."

"Yes, dear. Please be careful of that cult. They are not puny, Xander."

"Yes, ma'am."

James shook his head, watching the others leave. He got up with a sigh but he went back inside to talk to the ultimate counselor. She already knew everything and could help him figure out how to tell Steve.

***

Nick Fury was watching a World Security Council meeting, being bored by the speeches, when the head of the Council suddenly said 'hail, HYDRA' and then cleared his throat and apologized, he had no idea why he said that.

That was very interesting.

He went to spread the new regulations and the ideas they were punting around with the staff. Suddenly a bunch of them belted out 'hail, HYDRA'. "What the fuck?" he demanded. "That can't be a spell."

Willow appeared, nodding. "It is but it's one of decloaking." She pointed at Maria Hill. "Try to say it."

"Hai....." She burst out coughing and choking. Willow got her some water. She tried it again but her voice cut off.

Fury looked at the agents then at Willow. "You?" Agents were making sure none of the spouting ones were going to move.

"I'm pretty sure Xander went to a chaos sorcerer and asked him to do it. Something about a vision he never told us about." She shrugged. "I felt it go off and followed it to see what was going on in case it was evil. What's HYDRA?"

"Super bad people," someone said dryly, glaring at the person next to him. "Say it again?"

"I....I.... Sir!" he pleaded.

"Each of you try to say it," Fury ordered, getting security teams up there. He stared at Willow. "When did it start?"

"Two hours ago."

"Fuck!" He stomped off. "Hill, handle this! One of the Security Council is turned!" He ran off to catch him and stop him.

"Wow, I guess they're super bad crapheads." Willow looked at Hill, smiling. "Can I help?"

"Yes, you can. Help us contain anyone who can actually say it." She looked around. "Start by row." She pointed at the one next to her. Anyone who fought got shot in the leg or the arm by a few agents in the back of the room. Romanoff, Barton, and Ward didn't really miss.

Willow walked back there when it was their turn. "Hi, Grant."

"Willow." He saw the expectant looks. "Hail...." He dropped his guns onto the floor. "I still support the slayers, Willow. I want to back them up."

"HYDRA does things like the NID only on prisoners," Natasha Romanoff said quietly.

"Then we'll have to talk about the backup agents," Willow admitted. "Xander might have to get huffy and complain." She looked at the guy. "You're like Xander, aren't you?"

"Am I?"

"The whole reborn thing?"

"No clue." He looked at Hill, who shrugged.

"The battle in DC," Willow said. "I'll ask Xander. He can tell you." She looked at them. They both tried to say it and failed. She smiled. "That's good." She walked off. "I'll talk to Giles and Buffy about the backup agents and Ward, Agent Hill."

"Willow, being HYDRA is treason," she said.

Willow looked at her. "So was being Riley Finn. He's now in Homeland after the UN thinned their hunting program."

"We'll talk about it," she said. Willow smiled and went to tell the others. They all liked Grant and Buffy liked to flirt with him. Proved her tastes in men was still spot on.

***

Xander showed up where James was lurking, shaking his head. "Do it like the girls would. Give him a peek, then disappear. Then show up a few days later looking almost like yourself, let him spot you, then disappear. Let him find you."

James looked at him. "Why are you here?"

"Because Loki's here. It's soon. He just took over Barton."

"Fuck."

"Yup." He grinned, holding up something. "To unbrainwash him quickly. It'll absorb into the crystal. Just gotta get it around his neck."

"I... how am I supposed to do that?"

"Ask Romanoff. The vision showed her doing it."

"Do I know her?"

"Yeah. You helped train her."

"Oh, Natalia...." He stiffened, staring at him. Xander shrugged and grinned. "You go make sure she gets it."

"Yup, I can do that." He waved. "I'm going under the power of the chaos sorcerer who owes me his life." He disappeared, landing in front of a woman on the deck of the helicarrier. "Madam," he said, making her flinch and look at her. He held up the necklace. "It will help unbrainwash him by sucking it from him. Get it around his neck somehow."

"Who are you?" she demanded, not touching it. Her hand was near her gun.

He grinned. "I'm Xander. I'm with the Council. I had the vision of the earth being invaded soon." He waved it. "It'll help. I had it made for him." She took it delicately. "It'll suck out the possession, which is what this is. There's methods to block it later. There's a huge, boring book full of them that only work half the time if you do them during the possession and ten that work really well but are meditative. I got taught them because it's been a problem for me in the past." He smiled. "The slayers can help if you want them to. Have him find me for the meditations." He disappeared.

She looked at the people staring at her, shrugging. "I have not dealt with the Council. They're all weird." She walked off, taking them inside. She had a word with Hill, who passed that on to Fury. The lab took the crystal to look over. She could grab it if necessary.

***

Six days after the battle, James walked into a hospital room like he owned it. He didn't but he was going to beat the ass of the man in the bed. James leaned on the beside rail, squeezing it. "I'm going to teach you how to raid a base properly. Including how to plan things," he said coolly. "Also about how to plan how much ammo you might need and other relevant topics."

"I had to."

"One of those talks will be asking for backup."

"It's a concept I've heard of but not possible this time," Xander quipped sarcastically, staring at him. "Where did you want this mythical backup to come from? Clay and his team were in lower Africa. You were here. I was there. The only reason I'm here right now is because the government there sent me home for a few days so I could recover without people trying to get me back for doing that. A few of the remaining members of that group tried."

"Why didn't you call the local military?"

"Because they were paying them," Xander shot back. "The life of one or two girls, even special ones, didn't matter. They were taking things from the villages to give over in payment so they left the local villages alone. They warned me not to handle it. That another slayer would be called. The commander of the local military even admitted they tried to pick orphans so no one would complain on their behalf." James winced, shifting his stance. "I did what I had to do."

"You ran out of ammo."

"Twice," Xander said. "Sorry but had to happen. They over a hundred extra people I had to knock out enough so I could get the girls out of there and let people handle it. Their enemies were very handy this time. Bradlin was more than *happy* to help me." James scowled. Xander stared back. "At least he'd never hurt one of the slayers."

"No, but still not the point. Did you try calling me?"

"You're busy."

"I'm not busy. Really." He stared at him. "I would've come."

"That was the same day as the invasion and you were helping. You. Were. Busy." He stared back. "I should find whatever nagging spell Willow put on me and end it. That way no one else nags me like I'm their wife."

"I'd never marry you, Xander. You make crap cookies over a campfire." He stood up, staring at him, arms crossed over his chest. "You still could've called. At least left me a message. I had to find out you had been evacuated back here thanks to your cohorts."

"I didn't tell them so I have no idea who did."

"The State Department probably." He stared at him. "You're staying in that bed."

Xander snorted. "Again, not the wife. Hello! Not yours to order either. We're not partners, we're not lovers, and you're not my spouse."

"Are you suicidal?"

"No!"

"Are you certain?" He stared at him again. "You're staying the full time the doctors want you to. Then we'll go over how you assault a base to sneak in and get people out."

Xander shook his head. "I doubt that." Someone walked in. They both looked at him then Xander looked at James. He could see the scared look in his eyes. "There, go nag your actual friend. Since I know you just tolerate me most of the time."

"I don't."

"Tolerate me? That figures," Xander said dryly.

"Be a good boy like Steve here and stay in that bed. We'll discuss what you did wrong in a few days when you get out."

"I can come back when you two quit arguing about your relationship," Steve offered quietly. He was staring at a ghost and the ghost was arguing with the guy from the Council that had freaked some people out.

"I'd never fuck him. He'd never let me on top," Xander said dryly. "I've been helping him figure out the memory thing that HYDRA did to him and helping him heal. He's been helping me with a few things I've had to do in Africa to help the slayers. That's all, dude."

James patted him on the head. "He's got stupid, heroic ideas," James said, glaring at Xander. Who just smiled back. "That're going to get him killed and then no one will be there for the slayers."

"Clay and his guys can."

"Uh-huh. Keep yapping," James warned. "Watch me beat you like a rookie, Xander. I'm a master at hand-to-hand and you're barely trained."

Xander shrugged. "Who said I fight fair?" He smirked and squeezed something. James took the smoke bomb and threw it into the bathroom. By then Xander was out of the bed and out of the window. James followed him. "You should go back to your boyfriend, James. Before he thinks you abandoned him for me or something else weird. Who knows what Fury did to his mind." He concentrated and figured out how to send himself other places. "Ha!" He turned and ran into his mother. "Hi, Mom." He hugged her. "Am I back over here?"

"For now. You're injured."

"I had to take out most of a group of people to get my slayers free. Including stealing their guns when they had more people than expected so I ran out of bullets."

She slapped his cheek gently, dragging him off. "Lord Bacchus, my son has returned to heal his injuries." The partying bacchi all cheered and pulled him down to join their orgy.

"Cool! I need sex," he cooed at one. "No one ever wants to sleep with me."

Back at the hospital, James climbed back into the window and looked at Steve from across the bed. At least there's no urge for Steve to hit him by the look on his face. "He drives me absolutely batty."

Steve smiled because he got that same look many times over the years he'd known Bucky. "That's good to know. Are you sure you're not together?"

"No! He never made me feel happy like you used to."

"You have the memories all back?"

"Three quarters," he admitted, grimacing some. "Every now and then I get a new bunch that open up and I spend the next few days trying hard not to think. Xander's a good remedy for those days. I follow him around and help him handle things." He sat on the edge of the bed. "He wanted me to do the girlish thing and let you catch sight of me a few times."

"I saw you during the invasion. That's why I tracked you down through SHIELD. Director Fury is not amused."

"I'm not amused at HYDRA." They stared at each other. "So.... Cryo storage?" He waved a hand at Steve's unchanged body.

"Arctic ice. Cryo storage?" James nodded. "I... damn, Bucky." He moved closer.

"I haven't been called that in months." He slumped a bit with a sigh. "Xander calls me James. It helps sometimes because I'm not that guy, Stevie. I've...I've done a lot of things."

Steve nodded. "We've both done a lot of things."

"Have yours ended up with puddles of blood?"

"A few times but it was important."

"Mine...I wasn't always in control of that."

"Then that's not your fault." He moved closer and hugged him. "We saw the battle in DC when I asked," he said quietly.

"I was barely coming out of the mental programming then."

"You looked okay with the sword."

Bucky smiled at him. "Thanks." He stared at him. "You okay?"

"I..." He closed his mouth and looked at him. "I'm a bit weird right now."

"Yeah, me too but I think it's because Xander's killing my patience. I used to have patience. Even when I was programmed."

Steve smiled. "Are you sure you two aren't dating?"

"Yup. He cuddles. Not my thing." He stood up. "I need to track him down."

"I...I can help."

"It might mean ending up back in Africa helping the slayers."

"I just learned about them. We met one of them during the war. That little brunette spitfire? She was one. Buffy told me."

James nodded. "Doesn't really surprise me any after meeting Xander's slayers." He put his hands into his pants pockets. "Now what?"

"We can go find your trainee."

"If he was my trainee I'd have him written up so many times for doing what he had to do in the most unrealistic ways," he complained. They checked the room and took Xander's things with them. Xander could get them back when they found him.

***

Xander came back woozy and wobbling but grinning like he was mad. "Hi." He sat down with a wince. "Ow, but better." Mother Nature was giggling at him. "Mom wanted a visit." She nodded. He grinned more brightly. "They had an orgy in honor of my returning."

"I'm sure they did. Bacchus is happy that way, dear." He grinned. "Did you have fun?"

"Yup!" He fell sideways with a sigh and a pleased look. "No one even nibbled."

"That's good. You should rest." He nodded, asleep with his eyes open. She closed them for him and went back to tidying things up. She'd have Jake here very shortly, if not some of the others. That new boy Clint looked promising and cute. She leaned over to pat Xander when he giggled again but it was good to see him goofy and happy.

***

Clay's team's jeep pulled up into the village. A few of the kids went running to tell the goofy one and Mother Nature. She came out to smile and hug Jake, patting Cougar and Pooch on the cheek. "Good afternoon, boys. Pooch, be a dear and call your pregnant wife? She's having some extreme mood swings." She smiled at Jake. "Xander visited his mother so he's still on a goofy high from the bacchi and it's possible his hyena possession came out so he made a slight pack out of the bacchi."

"Well, he's chaos incarnate sometimes," he said dryly. He heard a growl and looked around. "Did he go back to her?"

"It's possible. He was meditating with the local shaman and trainee shaman. The trainee is very thrilled with the idea of joining with a spirit animal." The hyena Xander strolled up to Jake, sniffing him as he walked around him.

Cougar pulled Jake back. "My pack," he growled. Xander huffed but sniffed him too. Cougar gave him a dirty look. "Not for you."

Xander let out a small laugh and moved closer to Jake, sniffing him again.

Jake petted Xander's hair down. "Silly kitten. You can't claim me. You don't like computers." He smiled at him. "C'mon, we'll go hit the river and bathe. You could use a bath. You smell like incense and lust." He walked off. Cougar followed because Xander was making happy hyena noises at Jake's backside.

Mother Nature smiled at Roque. "Sometimes Xander is the most amusing thing ever. Even in my life." She strolled off, her hips swishing a tiny bit. "It's a pretty day. I need to make more of these."

Pooch was calling his wife before Roque could look at him. Roque and Clay walked off to save Jake from the hyena. Jake was taking film to send to James and the guys were splashing Xander to make him want to swim. He really needed to soak the lust smells off him before something tried to mate with him.

***

James watched the film, shaking his head. "We need to work on that former possession." Steve looked up from his dinner, staring at him. He let him see it. "Xander somehow reverted." The diner wasn't all that crowded around them and they had the booth behind him empty. James was sitting so he could see most every angle, Steve had his other sides covered.

"How did he get possessed?"

"All he said was a zoo trip."

"Oh. Okay." He watched it. "Why are they getting him wet? Is it supposed to drive him off?"

"Jake's text message said he had spent time with his mother, who's a high priestess of Bacchus. He probably smells like incense." He put his phone back into his pocket after sending a message back.

"You should probably go check on him?" Steve guessed.

"I can do that but I hate flying to Africa." Steve grinned, eating a fry. Bucky stole one to eat. "What's on your agenda?"

"Slayers. I heard they're going to have something coming up and I was going to help." He ate another fry. "Ward and a few others got permanent duty assignments with them. So they'll die for being HYDRA but it'll mean something."

"That's nice." He shifted to get more comfortable on the booth, checking around them. A few people were staring. He looked at Steve. "You don't even have on the uniform."

Steve looked and grinned at a few, who went back to their meals. He looked at Bucky. "After the invasion, it's happened more often," he said quietly.

"I bet." He texted Jake's phone about the upcoming thing. "Jake said two huge beings, will probably take artillery, and the slayers are confused about using more than swords."

"I can ask Fury," he decided. "Why don't you eat?"

"I don't know. Not really hungry." He shrugged. "I'm good, Steve. Quit worrying."

"The serum makes me ravenous."

"I've noticed that. You're eating like a pregnant woman. Should I talk to someone for you?" he joked with an evil smirk.

"Not likely." He finished his lunch and sat back, staring at him. "Want to come with me?"

"No. I'm still fighting my urge to hit Rosenburg."

"Why?"

"Do you want the whole list or just the top five?"

"Is she bad?"

"She's...self absorbed more than anything. I had to help Xander calm down when he screamed at her about never showing up when he needed her. Just to nag."

"She did?"

"Yeah."

"Shoot." He considered it. "Why do they put up with her?"

"She's their head witch. She backed up Buffy in Sunnydale."

"Oh, that reason. Okay." He sipped his coffee, smiling and shaking his head when the waitress came over to get refills. "Thank you anyway, ma'am."

"You're welcome." She put down the check and left with the empty plates. Steve paid and they left together.

Bucky looked at him. "You're thinking too hard. I can see brain smoke."

"It must need more lubricant then." James snorted but looked pleased. Steve grinned back. "Now what?"

"Now...I hate flying to Africa. I need to enslave someone who can teleport."

"Enslave?"

"To my masculine charm, Stevie. I could never keep a real one. It'd be too much like a pet."

Steve shook his head. "That's not a good thought either." James smirked a tiny bit. "How are you liking the hair?"

"I don't mind it most of the time. Outside the one time the girls decided to put it into a bun on me." He shook his head. "I was out of it and woke up to the final snaps of bobby pins being put into place. Then I had to chase Xander to get the phone to erase the picture."

"Huh." He grinned. "I'll have to see if he has a copy."

"He'd better not. Or of when my hair was in cornrows. A couple of the girls were being helpful."

"Girls can be that way."

"As long as I don't end up one," James said.

Steve stopped walking to look at him. "You can do that? I mean without surgery and stuff?"

"Xander mentioned it once. I asked him what he meant so he told me. Then I went on a 'I should really go end her before she does it again' complaint. Xander stopped me but the next time she turns someone into a girl against their will I'm there."

"Sure. I can see that. Especially if one of us ends up a dame."

"Then I'd kill her extra hard." They shared a look and James grinned. "After I punch her a few dozen times for other things. Talk with Faith. She has sense and was a street kid in Boston. Xander works well with her."

"I can do that." He followed Bucky, just strolling for now. They ended up in Coney Island, making Steve smile. "Some things never change."

"The roller coaster looks a lot less fast now."

"It does, but still fun." He dragged James that way and onto the ride, making him go with him. It was good to enjoy the simple things.

***

James ended up back in Africa thanks to Mother Nature. She pointed at Xander, who was injured, again, and looked shaky. He walked over, kicking him on the thigh, earning a wince. "What did you do this time?"

"Fuck off." He went back to his meditative breathing.

James looked around. "Anyone know what he did this time so we can talk about it?" The villagers all shook their heads but looked away. He looked at Mother Nature, who smiled and pointed at the new graves up the road. James winced. "Attacked?" She nodded. He looked at Xander, then at her. "How many?"

"Troop carriers," one of the elders said. "They wanted some mythical thing they think we have."

"Well of the Ancients," Xander said quietly. "Which is a hellmouth and not moveable. It's also in Tangiers." He huffed, looking up. "They showed up, spilled out, and opened fire on everyone. Go me," he said flatly.

James leaned down to look at him. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly.

"Sore. I hate having to bury and bless them."

"They're not worthy of you blessing them, Xander."

"Probably not but I felt I had to. So I consigned them to Hades realm with well wishes for their torture." He sighed. "I'm fine."

"You're not fine. Why are you so injured?" He looked around. There was plenty of cover and Xander wasn't like Steve, to stand in the middle of a field and fire back in the open.

"Because he had been in the middle of teaching meditative exercises," the senior shaman said, coming over with a basket of leaves and strips of cloth. He handed them to Xander with a smile. "Which is very handy for the young trainee." Xander smiled but it was weak. "Then during it somehow he changed form and shape."

"Willow," he said.

"I'll gut her," James said, standing up to stare at him. "What did she turn you into this time?"

"A girl," the elder shaman said. "We were mostly naked while meditating, only in loincloths. Then he changed into a huge furry beast for some reason."

"No, that was my doing with help from a poker buddy. It was safer than me trying to fight as a girl," Xander admitted. He pulled off his shirt and took off the first bandage to clean up and replace the leaves to draw out any infection, then rewrap it. James huffed but settled beside him to do that. "I can do it," he said firmly.

"Shut up, Xander. You can't reach some of them." He stared at him. "I can help you bandage yourself."

"I don't need it."

James stared at him. "I never did either but Steve insisted. I learned from that." Xander slumped but let him help with them. "All grazes?"

"Two cuts on my thigh from one guy I pounced in furry form."

"Sorry I kicked them then." Xander shrugged. "Stitches?"

"Took me eight hours to get shifted back to female and then a call to Willow from the Mother to change me back. Too late to do them."

"I'm punching her in the nose," James said. "Or I'll let Steve do it. He's going to help them with their next battle." Xander gave him a confused look. "Ward and a few others that were helping them outed themselves as HYDRA thanks to that decloaking spell you had someone do."

Xander huffed but nodded. "Great."

"He's got a permanent duty assignment."

"Even better." They finished the bandaging and Xander got redressed then tried to get back to his meditation. "I can't do this with you staring."

James snorted but looked pleased. "You have in the past." But he did stand up. "Let me get something for dinner for the village." He strolled off to deal with that. On the way he called Steve to let him know. That way someone could punch Willow for him. Before he shoved his metal fist through her skull.

***

Steve hung up his phone, looking at the gathered girls. "A report from some people that ran into Xander over in Africa." He smiled at Faith. "She changes people's forms?"

"Um...not really recently."

He nodded. "Changed Xander into a female during a fight for a village he was in. They showed up and opened fire on the village."

"Fuck," Faith sighed, dropping her pencil and looking at the other slayers in there then at him. "At least he wasn't a kitten." A few girls nodded at that.

"Isn't there something that be done to stop that? James said he got seriously injured thanks to that."

"We'd all like that. Willow's a bit creepy," one of the slayers told him. "Really, really creepy." One of the other girls nodded.

"At least you two were cute pussies for your stress relieving time," Faith quipped, staring at them.

"I didn't want that sort of stress relief," one of them shot back. "I was going out to the bar to pick up my own version that nicely touched me in that special way, not petting me."

Steve sighed but nodded. "Has anyone mentioned that to anyone higher up?"

"The old line watchers are amused," Faith said bitterly. "Apparently we're not the way they think we should be. Giles just sends her back to Devon, who do not a damn thing. X would come back and kill her for us but we might need her." She shrugged. "Kinda stuck with her."

"Have her go work with a few of the foreign houses?"

"We don't need them to be more vulnerable than they already are," Faith said. "They're more likely to be attacked."

"I'll talk to Xander. See if he has an idea that doesn't come with a repeated hitting." The girls all smiled at him. His phone rang. "How did you get my number?" He opened the message and showed Faith.

Faith walked out. "Willow fucking Rosenburg, stop it right the fuck now before you kill another human!" she shouted.

"I haven't killed anyone yet," she sneered.

Faith slugged her. "Really? You wanna talk about how your irresponsible behavior led to two slayers dying?"

"I was not! I needed the night off the same as you girls do. I do a lot more than some of you do!" She stood up to get into her face.

"Then the proper thing to do is to appoint someone to take over your duties," Steve said from the doorway. "Someone to take your on-call so you have a night off."

"You can't do that with the warning spells," she snorted.

"Why didn't you think about that when you set it up?" he asked. He stared at her. "It would've probably been easier then."

"You know nothing about magic."

"You're right but I know how to run a war," he said simply. "Including pointing at people to get them to take your spot when you need a night free of it. The girls rotate. Why don't the magic users?"

"We don't have any others!" she shouted.

"Yet, Andrew was floating muffins earlier for the amusement of the kids in the kitchen. We have two witches here who both thanked me for my prior service." She glared and he felt the magic coming his way. "You magic me and it will definitely draw trouble on you, Willow," he said quietly, staring her down.

Xander appeared, ending the spell. He stared at her. "Beyond that, you have killed a human. What do you think you did to Warren when you skinned him?" She flinched, shaking her head. "People don't tend to live through that, Willow. Or the slayer that ended up at the pound, who is still recovering in the hospital from being gas chambered?" The witch started to whimper. "You. Need. Help. Today." He stared at her. "Before I get you help. I will call in every single poker debt I have to get you the proper help you need."

"I don't need help!" she shouted. She changed him into an infant.

Steve picked him up before the people running their way could step on him. Buffy rushed in. He pulled out his phone to show her the message. She glared at Willow. "We were talking about how you'd set up someone to take an on-call so she could have a night off."

She looked at the baby then at the man. "Is that Xander?" He nodded. "Great." She looked at Willow, who was crying but half of it was stress crying not real tears. "We've got to do something."

"Xander offered to call in poker debts to get her help," Steve said. "That's when she changed him."

One of the senior witches sighed. "We've been guiding her."

Steve looked at her. "Do you want me to comment?" She winced. "It needs to be more than one person doing it so they're not always on-call."

"It does," she agreed. "We also need to calm her down before she magics anyone else."

James and Mother Nature appeared. She took Xander to coo at while James stalked over and hauled her up. "James," she said gently when he pulled his metal fist back. "The world needs her."

He looked at her. "I can give her to the Fates." He ignored Steve's confused look.

"That's evil, love." She patted him on the cheek then looked at Willow. "But the Sisters of Magic should help you, child. Before you keep disappointing me horribly." Willow was staring at her, mouth open. "Am I understood?" Willow whimpered. "Good girl." She took her, Xander, James, and Willow with her. The five women, who looked beautiful but were in fact as grotesque as any other in their gorgon bloodlines, looked at her. "Ladies, this is Willow. She's abusing her gifts but she's important and helping heros.

James looked at Willow then casually punched a hole through the rock wall next to her, making her flinch. "You're. Next," he warned. "This is your only warning." She ducked away from him, nodding. "Good. I'm glad we understand each other, Willow." He looked at the cooing baby. "I haven't seen him that happy."

"It's not often, especially not anymore." She took James with her to the village. She settled in to take care of Xander while the spell worked its way out of him.

The Sisters strolled over to Willow, pulling her over to their fires to learn of her misdeeds and what she needed to be straightened out. They would not disappoint the Mother. If she said this one needed healed, they would help her. If not, they'd destroy her for some of her misuse of their gifts.

***

Jake leaned in when he got there. "Hey, Mom." She laughed and held up an arm, letting him have a hug. "That's Xander."

"Willow."

"Damn." He patted the baby on the back, making him flinch but wake up. "Sorry, Xander. Just me, little guy. Go back to sleep or have some nummies off Mommy Nature. She's good at that." He petted the baby until he drifted off again. He grinned at her. "I saw James seething?"

"Same cause."

"Huh." He straightened up and grinned. "The girls are all safe. We checked on all of them. We fixed the few problems. We had one move because we couldn't take out the local militant group of imbeciles like Xander would've. And when Clay heard how he usually handled it he kinda lost his temper a tiny bit." He grinned. "So she's safer."

"Good. Thank you, Jake."

"You're welcome." He looked around. "Need me to get you anything?"

"Go pull me up some water to bathe him?"

"I can do that." He grabbed the buckets and went to the river. James followed to help. "You calmer?"

"No."

"Rosenburg?"

"Sisters of Magic." He sneered. "She needs punished."

"If she's straightened out the slayers need her," Jake reminded him.

"Which was her reasoning. I'm not that forgiving unless it's something innocent. She changed some of the slayers into pets."

Jake looked at him. "We can let Clay and Roque deal with her."

"Don't tempt me to find her a keeper." Jake giggled but they pulled water up for her. They carried it back and let it sit inside the doorway. Xander was awake and nibbling dinner from her. James smiled. "He looks a lot happier now."

"He does," she agreed. "Because I'm excellent at being a mother." She smiled. "Go find your young man, dear."

"Later. He's working with the girls and he said I freaked them out a lot."

"I suppose that happens." He sat next to her, taking the baby Xander when she handed him off. Xander belched but curled up on James' shoulder to snore at him. It was adorable and it loosened something inside James that he wanted to keep pressed down. It hurt a bit but it felt better. More natural. She stroked over his hair and kissed him on the cheek. "Sometimes you have to let normal things in, or else you end up alone," she said gently. He nodded. "Thankfully I've managed to heal all the deprivation he's done to himself down here." James stared at her. "He's doing the same thing you are, only eating for survival. Though half the time he's feeding the slayer instead of himself." James huffed but nodded. "You're doing it again as well, young man. I do not approve."

"I'm not hungry."

"We'll fix that later." He blushed but nodded. She got up to get her own bath in the back room. Then she came out to bathe the baby Xander and get him settled for a while. She came out to talk to the nice commando boys that Jake worked with, and Clay and Roque. James shadowed her. He was highly protective and it was sweet of him. They'd learn and Pooch did good handling Xander for a bit. It gave him good baby practice before his came in a few months.

***

Jake leaned in to find Xander his normal age, kind of, he looked younger and still happy, and James nursing in his sleep. He backed out and went to gather water, smiling a goofy little grin. It was good for them. Very good for them. James was looking healthier. Xander was looking less skinny. It had to be magic....then again look at who he was talking about. Of course it was magic and it was good magic, unlike the bad magic they kept running into. He spotted the demon and stared at it. It shrugged back. "Why are you here?"

"There is a Well of the Ancients here."

"No, Xander said it's in Tangiers."

"Xander?" the demon asked quietly. "The Knight Protector?" Jake nodded. "No wonder. He is a walking hellmouth." He sighed. "I will make sure none bother this village. It is a sacred spot to us."

"Thank you." He drew up the water and carried it back. He knocked before walking in this time. James flinched awake, blushing and wiping off his mouth. Mother Nature only hugged him. Jake cleared his throat, getting glared at by Mother Nature. "The demon by the stream identified Xander as the Well of Ancients that walks." He put down the water. "He said he'd protect here because it's sacred to them too."

"His hellmouth taint is covered," she said, rolling over to look at Xander. She had kept him asleep all night for his own good. "Oh, I see. Yes, he's leaking hellmouth taint. Why isn't that being covered?" She tested it and groaned. "Willow." She ended that draining spell and the protections on Xander got renewed. "He's missing two but I know he was scared to get them because it could wake the hyena permanently." She grimaced. "We'll have to work on those again. If I remember right, the dye brought it out when he inked them on to try them."

"There's probably another type we could use," James said quietly. "Something from another way of thinking."

"There's got to be. I can look online," Jake offered. They nodded so he left to do that. He wouldn't wonder at James treating Xander like a younger brother. He was good at it.

Xander walked out and across the river, pulling the trainee shaman with him without saying anything. They all looked that way at the blast of energy that got released and then a new rainbow started in the air. Xander limped back looking unhappy but the trainee shaman was babbling something no one understood. Xander sat him down to explain hellmouths to him. That helped and they all learned something. Clay and his team needed to know in case they ran into one forming. Xander noted where all the others were for them.

James was shaking his head but brewing coffee. He and Xander ate and then got back to going over the mystical bullshit that happened on a hellmouth. James had only seen the one in Central America for two days but he had nearly been eaten by a vampire.

***

Steve Rogers was out doing some shopping a few months later and smiled when he caught sight of a familiar figure. He followed it to the rundown hotel, nodding at Xander. "Are you all right? You look like you got burned."

"I did. It's a huge mess of shit in one of the slayers' villages. They had a gas train explode nearby." He waved a hand. "I'm supposed to lure you here because James is going to be here later tonight." He handed him the key. "He doesn't know it yet but he needs time off for good behavior." He walked off. "He'll be here but asleep. Make him eat? Please? He's never eating and she nags if he doesn't." He disappeared back down the stairs.

Steve looked in the room then hurried to finish the shopping and come back. He found James unconscious on the bed. He looked tired. He looked a bit thin. He was covered in soot and mud. So it had been bad. He got some water and a cloth to clean off his face at least. James grabbed his hand before he could touch him, without opening his eyes. "Just me." James blinked at him then drifted off again. Steve smiled, liking this sleep spell for now. He got his face and hands cleaned off. He didn't know how to safely remove the battle vest or pants, and the boots were tied with a particular knot he'd have to cut. He settled in to read a new book he had bought until his buddy woke back up. "Morning," he said quietly.

"How did I get here? Or are you in Africa?"

"You're in New York and Xander said you got sent here for a few days off. I was supposed to make you eat before some female nags."

"Yes she would." He sat up with a wince, looking at him. "Fire."

"He said that when I mentioned his burns. You good?"

"Yeah, just tired." He yawned. "Let me shower."

"Want me to find you something to wear?"

James looked at himself then at him. "My gear bag here?" Steve found it on the other side of the bed and handed it over. "Thanks." He went into the bathroom to shower and clean up. It had been a long few days. He came out freshly clean, in jeans and a sweatshirt that was Xander's since his last t-shirt had been in the fire, that's why he had put back on the armor. He cleaned off his boots then put them back on. Then he looked at Steve. "I could use a beer."

"Sports bar?"

"Too many people," he said quietly.

"Sure, I can manage that. I know a few quiet places." He took him out.

The desk clerk looked up. "Check out's at ten, boys." They nodded. "Want me to watch your keys?"

"No, thank you," James said. He followed Steve a few blocks up and into a silent, dark bar. Only a few people in there and they served food he recognized. James looked at the burger. "It's not goat. I'm very pleased." He ate a bite and moaned. "Better." Steve grinned and dug into his own dinner. James inhaled his and got another order of onion rings then settled in with his beer to relax. "Xander got a call from one of the girls. A gas train derailed next to their village and it had caught fire.

"She had gotten everyone out of the village in time but no one could fight the fire. Xander showed up, diverted the stream for them with some minor explosives, and we worked on it. When the locals finally got there they weren't very helpful and complained more about the train derailing than the fire. One of the train company people sneered about the village being a blight so I got to punch him." He grinned slightly and sipped his beer. "Xander called up the demon the guy had sold himself to and talked him into taking him now because the guy suggested that they shoot all the villagers to cover up the fire."

"Is he going to get into trouble for that?"

"The villagers looked at their slayer who shrugged and said she wanted to see him eaten. They all smiled and patted her on the back and introduced her to some of the new men they had there. Xander reminded her she could find a useful spouse but he had to be able to help her with her duties. She asked about Clay while feeling up his arm muscles but he shook his head, told her he was too old for her." He finished that beer and got another one.

"Most of the slayers are good, nice young women. I helped a lot when I was down there. Including a few that wanted hints on how to dress better and be more classy for work stuff." Steve grinned back at him. "Faith is still a spitfire and she's got a mouth on her but she backs it up. She reminds me of Orchid, at the orphanage?"

"I remember her. She was one hell of a girl." He sipped his new beer and yawned. "This is good. I needed a few days off."

"Want to come stay in my spare room?" he asked quietly. "It's safe there and you only have to put up with Stark."

"I...."

"The others know you're around, Bucky." He reached over to touch his arm. "Natasha told them who you were."

"I...yeah. I might like that. Cheaper than the motel, cleaner probably too."

"Probably. We can get you some new t-shirts too."

"I could use a few. My last one got burned." He finished the beer and they paid their bill before leaving. Steve got his things from the room, there was now a book in there for James to read. He snorted at it but tossed it to Steve. Then they checked out and went back to the tower. It was quiet. Everyone was in the lounge watching tv so they could sneak past them. Steve let him have a t-shirt and a few pairs of boxers, since James didn't have any. He took another shower and laid down, falling instantly asleep again. Steve fiddled around with stuff for breakfast that only had to be baked and then went to take his own shower and go to bed. Bucky had a few nightmares but Steve expected more than those few. It was comfortable when they met up for a dawn breakfast and James went on his run with him.

***

Xander smiled at Mother Nature, who grinned and patted him on the cheek. "You're a good boy, Xander, and you need that too."

He nodded. "Some year maybe. There's no one that'll accept me for who and what I am, Mom." He gave her a hug. "If you find one, send them to me, but I think that's a case of wishful hoping." He packed up and nodded at the shaman. "I'll be back in six weeks. Let me check on the girls." They nodded and he left, going to do that. Clay's team had been recalled to the US when the army heard rumors they were still alive. They had went right to Tony to handle it. He could deal with the higher ups being assholes. Xander had other assholes to deal with.

***

Tony DiNozzo looked up when the elevator opened and someone walked off, coming toward his desk. "Colonel."

"DiNozzo. They decided to try to recall us."

"I think they're in a shitty mood because a reporter found out about Max and all that." He grinned. "I can call and tell them. See if there's a huge problem and put you into our custody if you want."

"Please. I don't trust them or CID. I know your team's straight. Even if your director is bent."

Tony tried not to smile. "Not toward Max at least."

"Yeah, we heard in Africa." He shook his head. "James is back in the US. Xander arranged it with *her*. He's off handling the girls again," he said quietly.

"Good. Though I'd want more than him to handle things." Clay nodded. He called over to CID. "It's DiNozzo. I just ran into a name on a case. Colonel Franklin Clay." He listened to his contact look him up and nodded. "Sure, I can do that." He hung up. "You are wanted for questioning and there's hints that they may want to see you up on charges for dereliction of duty and going AWOL but the Council has stepped in to say they legitimately borrowed your team."

"They did. We've been working with the slayers in Africa. Two of the little kids tried to claim Roque as family so they could claim his knives." Tony grinned, making the right calls. "The rest of us are up the street having lunch."

"We can handle that." He stared at his boss, who was staring back. "Boss, you remember that case?"

"Very well. As far as I heard your team had been honorably discharged to cover up the nastiness, Colonel."

"That's what I thought too," he admitted. Gibbs smirked. "We trust your team. The rest, no."

"Good. We can handle this." He got up and went with DiNozzo. Jake had copies of their paperwork so they were covered there. Gibbs called a contact of his at CID and told them what had happened and how they had the team in protective custody at the moment. She looked it up and screamed at a few of her underlings for being morons. She got them a judge's appointment with a legal representative. Gibbs and Tony made sure they got there. Even though someone tried to keep them from it. Roque was even more deadly after having nothing but hunting and fighting to do for the last year and a bit.

The judge looked them over then took the paperwork from Gibbs. "Only two minutes early, Gibbs. That's not like you," she said as she looked it over.

"Someone tried to stop us," Tony said. "Captain Roque ended that threat before it got bigger, ma'am."

The judge looked at them and nodded. "They look very competent. I've seen their records and they seem competent. Is that why that arms dealer picked you?"

"Apparently," Clay said. "It was never fully stated, ma'am."

"Where have you been?"

"Helping the Council with some of the slayers in Africa. There was only one guy and he knew Corporal Jensen so suggested us."

"It's supposed to be a spiritual trip," the judge said. "Are you all well?" They nodded. "No current illnesses or problems?"

"Pooch has a torn rotator cuff," Jake said with a point at him. "He's in the resting phase of healing."

"That's good." She nodded, looking over things. "I'm seeing proper discharge orders. Gibbs, let the dirty agents in please?" He smirked but did open the door. "Gentlemen," he said. Then Roque turned and punched someone, followed by Pooch and the rest.

"He's not CID that I recognize," Gibbs said.

"He's Max's second-in-command," Pooch sneered. "Formerly Canadian Spec Ops and a homicidal fucker from way back." He hit him again.

The judge nodded. "Then he probably wouldn't have standing in this court," she said, sounding cheerful. "Boys, off him. Gibbs, arrest him." They pulled them apart and Gibbs got him into cuffs since Clay had knocked Wade out. "Good job, boys." She looked at the CID agents. "Your proof?" They handed it over. She frowned. "We have discharge paperwork, gentlemen." She looked at them.

"There's no copies in the system, ma'am," one said.

"We all learned really early on to hoard every single sheet of paper the military gives us," Clay said dryly. "Because of things like filing errors. We usually even make copies of it just in case."

"These are the originals," the judge said. "So no one can say they're forgeries." She looked at the agents. "I've been handed information that you're in the employ of the same arms dealer. I got that before I even heard about this case." She looked at the head of CID in the doorway. "You?"

"I have, ma'am, and their investigation is ongoing. Mostly they're finding they may be." He looked at the others in the room then at Gibbs. "Any notes you want to make?"

"They've been working for the Council," Tony said with a smile. "Helping out the lone watcher in Africa with all the girls. It meant he didn't have to take out another militia."

"Don't remind me," Clay warned. "Xander's a tiny bit nuts. Then again, he's been doing it all on his own for three years." Gibbs shook his head. "He took out two warring factions without guns. He didn't have any bullets. Handmade landmines and bombs." Gibbs stared. Clay smirked. "We *gladly* helped him with the girls so he wasn't the only guy."

"Thanks," Tony quipped. "The girls appreciated it. Oh," he said and snapped. "Pooch, your wife and imminent kid is in Cleveland being a mom to the slayers. Mostly she's adjusting the clothing issues. Apparently there was going to be an attack on your house by the base. Someone called in an anonymous tip to the local PD about them going after her to burn her in the house. They got her evacuated to Cleveland and the PD had officers on the street. Your house only took minor fire damage a few days after it was called in."

"Xander?" Jake asked.

"Has to be. No one else has visions that the head of the Council knows of and that's who told him to take her in as the mom," Tony said with a grin at him.

"Great," Pooch said. "I'll go see her as soon as I can. She's due any day now." Everyone nodded and the judge smiled.

"I see no reason for you to be held," the judge said, looking at the head of CID. "Do you?" She handed over all the papers she had.

"No. The general who tried to bring them up on charges is dirty to the same guy. Their paperwork is in order." She handed back the discharge orders. "They're free to go to Cleveland." He looked down. "Any idea on Wade?"

"He's sick," Jake said, reading the new text message. "Xander's ex said he's sick with cancer and can't get treated any other place because of what he does and who he is." He put his phone up.

"He can get treatment in jail if they allow it," the judge agreed. They got their prisoners together and those two dirty agents got taken into custody as well. By that night, the Losers were on their way to Cleveland in time to greet Pooch's son.

***

Giles came down the stairs for breakfast and found four imposing men in the living room. "Gentlemen, do we know you?" he asked pleasantly.

Jake grinned and waved. "We were hired to help Xander, Mr. Giles. I'm Jake, this is Clay, Roque, and Cougar. Pooch is with his wife at the hospital greeting the new baby Pooch."

"Ah!" He nodded. "Try to keep the girls from flirting."

"They're all too young and too nice for us," Clay assured him with a smirk. "Though we're going to remake your patrol routes so they're not dependable. It'll mean that attacking during it problem can be handled by us." Giles smiled, going to the kitchen. Andrew came out to babble at them about the problems the guys in the house had found. Including the old line watchers. Jake found out why and showed him. He took that to Giles, who handled it quickly and kicked those ones out. Right into the loving arms of Xander's friends who could arrest them...after a suitable time playing with them.

***

James looked up from sharpening his knives on Steve's couch when the air vent above him clanged. "Can't you use a door?" he joked quietly.

Clint Barton climbed down. "Needed the practice." He stared at him. "What rebirth thing?"

"No one's told you," he sighed. "Before the battle in DC did you get any funny dreams about an old village and an orphanage run by Hestia's priestesses?"

"No."

"Huh. The rest did. That's how we spotted Jake." He shrugged and texted Xander, who said he uploaded a file to a certain cloud drive that was protected. He got Clint onto it so he could see it. It included some really good drawings. "I know Xander didn't do those. He uses stick figures." He shook his head and finished off that knife before putting it away again. He watched Clint reread it.

"I was there?"

James looked and pointed. "You were young. Barely babbling and following the big kids around. A few were barely born and got reborn together that way."

Clint shook his head. "Okay. How can you be sure?"

"We kind of glow to each other. That whole sent across realms things glows. Which helped when Xander ran into some that were fleeing their original realm recently." He scowled but let it clear up. "He's a bit unusual."

"I can see why. The reports we've gotten from the locals down there are downright freaky."

"Probably less than half of what he's done then." Clint pulled them up so he could see them. "There's a few I didn't know about," he said, sending Xander a text message about being in trouble for something. Xander quipped back at least it had saved the whole bar of peaceful, important demons that did things like make plants grow. Bucky put his phone up and looked at the archer. "That's not even a quarter of what he's done."

"Shit."

Bucky laughed and nodded. "Yeah. There's days I want to put a leash on the kid but he does the right thing, even if it drives you nuts."

Steve walked in with dinner and a gallon of milk. "What's going on?"

"Got him into the rebirth files," Bucky said. "Milk? Really?"

"I still like milk, Bucky." He put things where they needed to be and brought dinner out to the table. "I can grab you a plate, Clint."

"Nah. I just wanted to know what was going on. Did you have any other information on Xander?"

"I didn't want to look. It seems to make Bucky growl."

"I'm still going to put a leash on him," Bucky assured him. "Then I'm going to tie him to someone like Clay so he's taught what we were in the army."

Steve tried not to smile. "You keep making all these plans for Xander. Is there some sort of reason you'd like to tell me?"

"If you liked guys, I'd introduce you to him," Bucky shot back.

Clint walked off smiling but shaking his head. He looked at Natasha. "Bucky said the stuff you gathered on Xander was only about a quarter of what's gone on."

"I'll look in more places," she said, staring at him. "Did you get the strange looks figured out?"

"Yeah. Bit stranger than I thought. More like Council strange." He went to his rooms to think. It was nice he had a nicer past life. Probably a lot easier too. He looked at the woman who appeared in front of him. He knew what she was. She glowed. "You're the goddess that was at that battle."

"I am, dear." She smiled. "I'm Demeter. The one from your original home." She ran a hand over his hair and nodded. "Have you seen that people fall in lust with you over your arms?"

"Kinda but I ignore most of that before it makes me hide," he said.

She pouted. "Hmm. We were going to nominate you for something in the house of Love. We'll have to consider that." She disappeared.

"What?" he demanded. "Um, ma'am? Would you maybe like to explain that?" he called. No answer. He stomped back to Steve's apartment, pounding then walking in. He stared at Bucky. "Just saw Demeter."

Bucky sighed but nodded. "The ones in this realm are all ascended spirits instead of a corporeal being as it was told to me by Gaia." He ate a bite of dinner, staring at him, willing him to get the point.

Clint's eyes narrowed. "Is that why they had the battle in DC?"

"No, they were looking for the scion of war, whose killing would let them take over their realm and this one. He was reborn in the middle ages on another realm." He ate another bite. "So that still leaves the problem of protection. It's more like you're the figurehead while they're doing the work."

"She wanted to put me in the House of Love!" Clint complained.

"You're pretty enough," Bucky said dryly. "But it's an important thing. Think what humanity would be without those emotions, Barton." He stared at him.

"Where did you get put?"

"House of War," he said quietly. "Xander got put in under chaos, but his dad was a chaos guy. His mom's a priestess of Bacchus. It fits him because he's kinda zany in the wrong way sometimes."

Clint blinked. "But... I'm not into all that stuff."

"I'm not really wanting to be the head of the House either," Bucky said. "Xander was the one that pointed out the qualities that made me fit and the others I can scrunch in as he put it. Make it more what it should be instead." He stared at him. "I don't make that decision. Gaia makes that decision but she's went along with Demeter's plans with Xander and me."

"Where is she so I can go complain to her?" Clint asked. "Before I get called Cupid again."

"You'd have better luck as a male Aphrodite," he shot back. "Cupid liked leather like his dad." Clint snorted. "She's ...find Xander, have him lead you to her. He's been there a few times." He looked at Steve. "She told me to bring you some day when you're ready."

"I....not ready yet," he admitted. Bucky smirked a tiny bit. "Thanks."

"Welcome."

"What does that mean for everything else?" Steve asked.

"Not a damn thing. It means we're the pretty face on the poster because there has to be a physical being in place. That lets the spirit channel the stuff through us." Steve nodded slowly. "Nothing beyond that. No cult to me except the one Jake spotted online. No powers. No temple, though I could go claim one I guess." He shrugged. "It just means I'm the pretty face on the poster. I encouraged her to use you."

Steve shook his head. "I couldn't accept that."

"I didn't want to but the other choices were pathetic." He shrugged. "Gaia's pretty cool but she does make you cuddle." Clint walked off shaking his head. "She also blocks nightmares," he said quietly. Steve shivered, staring at him. "It helped. Me and Xander both."

"That's good to know. I'd...some day I want to meet her."

Bucky grinned. "Some day, when you're ready. She said I'd have found a handmaiden of hers by then too. So apparently some dame we'll meet some day." He ate another bite of broccoli. "Eat, Stevie. It changes nothing."

"I get that." He patted him and dug in. "What's Xander doing?"

"Causing chaos by handling things. He's really good at it too." Steve just nodded and let him handle things.

***
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